Forgive me/she/her

Pride month poster

June is Pride month. A few weeks ago, I finally changed my autosignature to include my pronouns she/her at the end. I’ve been meaning to change it for almost a year now, but finally got a round tuit at the hardware store when I was on vacation last week.

I’ve always considered myself an ally of the LGBTQ community and am looking forward to seeing a rainbow-filled feed on my social media channels on Tuesday.

But I confess I sometimes do find it hard to navigate this world of diversity and inclusion. It will be only a matter of time before I make a mistake and will have to ask for forgiveness.

For instance, I was writing an email to my team last week. I have a small team and we all know each other pretty well, so our work emails are pretty informal.

I started out writing my normal, “Hey guys, I’ll need to move our regular team meeting…” But then I remembered reading an article that said “guys” is inappropriate since it implies men and excludes others. I say this to my family all the time so hopefully I’m not insulting Grace and Clare the next time I say, “Hey guys, what do you want for dinner tonight?”

I thought about “Hey gang” but was afraid it might be discriminatory against people in actual gangs or imply they were a bunch of miscreants or hooligans.

I tried “Hey folks”, but then wondered if that had southern connotations, even though we don’t live in the United States, or a rural connotation that might be offensive.

I’ve sometimes used “Hey peeps” which seems pretty harmless, but could be racist towards chickens.

In the end, I just went with “Hey team”. Whew, problem solved.

You see my dilemma.

I know I’m being cheeky and there is a good chance someone who is reading this has already taking offence to me making light of an important subject.

I believe people have a right to be called whatever they want, whether it’s he, she, per, ze/ziethey, or they. Addressing people the way they prefer to be called is simply a matter of respect and is no different than when women started challenging the use of Miss and Mrs. as part of the feminist movement.

Personally, I don’t care what I’m called as long as you don’t call me late for dinner.

I know I have a lot to learn. I will make mistakes. I just hope you forgive me/she/her when I make them.

And to all my LGBTQ friends, I love you just as you are. You are authentic, funny and strong, and I am proud to celebrate by your side, a true ally, this month. Happy pride month, everyone!

Ed. Note: The dilemma of how to address people was encapsulated perfectly in the Saturday Night Live skit, “It’s Pat” in the early 90’s. Here’s an episode where the friends of androgynous Pat throw a birthday party for them. SNL was always on the cutting edge of societal issues. While the character of Pat was a caricature, the humour was in seeing how people with good intentions tried to unearth clues as to how to address Pat.

Coming to grips with the five most terrifying words you will ever ask yourself

Author with her daughters on the beach

One of the best Quora posts I ever read was someone who posed the question, “Is this all there is?” The author bared his soul, sharing his story about how he struggled with this question and how the implications of his answer compelled him to make monumental changes in his life.

For many of us, our lives are never ending hamster wheels. Get up. Work. Make dinner. Squeeze in an hour of exercise. Watch TV for an hour. Do it all over again. At some point, we will inevitably ask ourselves, is this all there is?

I know my answer.  While there are days when life’s routine wears me down, I have lived a good life.

I have watched the migration of the wildebeast and zebras in the setting sun of the Serengeti.

I have strolled along the banks of the Seine, the Thames and the Hudson.

I have explored the stopes of a gold mine thousands of feet underground, and hiked to the peaks of majestic mountains.

I have swam with dolphins, raced through forests on dog sleds, and snorkeled with schools of exotic fish in clear sparkling waters.

I have hiked glaciers on mountainsides and ziplined through the canopy of the rainforest.

I have known the love and respect of a wonderful man who has been my soul mate and partner for more than 30 years.

I have experienced the joy of watching my children grow, from taking their first uncertain steps, to watching their chubby little legs race down our hill to the lake on a warm summer’s day, to blossoming into the beautiful, strong, independent young women they’ve become today.

I have cherished friends who know me better than I know myself.

And I have enjoyed the peace and tranquility of living for almost two decades on my beautiful spring-fed lake and all the joys it brings each season.

I hope life brings more adventures, but if this is all there is, I’m OK with that. I choose to find joy each day in my small, simple life, and be grateful for the life I have lived.

This week’s #HappyAct is dedicated to the memory of my sister-in-law, Karen Gillies who passed away this week and who was taken from us far too young. An amazing wife, mother and friend, she embodied kindness and grace. Karen told us that she had come to accept her fate. I derive some comfort in knowing that Karen would have answered the question, is this all there is, the same way.

 Author at the top of Whistler mountain

Make love a daily ritual

Roses are red
Violets are blue
I promise each day
To say I love you

There are few words in the English language that convey such emotion as the simple, four-letter word love.

Just thinking of the word love makes you feel warm all over, giddy inside, happy and fulfilled.

I made a vow when I was quite young to tell the people I love that I love them every day. You see, when I was 12, my Mom was diagnosed with cancer. I knew the day would come when I might not be able to say those words to her anymore, so we made a pact to say we loved each other every day. She died when I was 19.

I’ve continued that daily ritual in my marriage and with my children. Not a day goes by where I don’t tell them I love them.

If there’s one thing this past year has taught us is, life is short. This week’s #HappyAct is to make sure the people you love know how you feel about them. Don’t leave words unsaid.

Happy hearts day, everyone. And for those of you with a more amorous turn who like a play on words, feel free to make love a daily ritual too!

Living a life of no regrets

I had an interesting conversation with a friend the other night about regrets and the impact they have on our lives and relationships.

Regret is a negative emotion, but it can have positive outcomes. It can give us insight and help us make sense of the world and our place in it, and impel us to make positive changes in our lives.

Left to fester, however, regret can make us doubt our decisions and path in life, and create a devalued sense of self-worth. It may lead to us withdrawing within ourselves and to feelings of unhappiness and depression.

We can regret actions we’ve taken, or actions we didn’t have the courage to take.

It was a heartfelt conversation, and my friend and I learned this the other night about dealing with regret:

  • First, it’s never too late. It’s never too late to say I’m sorry, to reach out, to take action.
  • Accept that sometimes life has its own plan and your path is where it decides to take you.
  • When it comes to regret and relationships, know that the other person’s perception of what happened may be completely different than yours.
  • Forgive yourself, forgive others and move on. We are all human, we make mistakes.

No one lives a life of no regrets. If someone says they have no regrets, they’re lying. But hopefully our regrets are few and we’ve learned from them.

Advice on how to train a teenager

two teenage girls

While normally each week on this blog I share a small act of happiness, from time to time I’ve used this platform to ask for advice in my own personal quest for happiness. This week, I ask you dear readers, to share your insights and advice on how to train a teenager.

Yes, both my girls are teenagers now, and as teenagers go, they are great kids. Respectful, hardworking, funny and driven. I love them to bits.

My beefs are small things, like not making a mess on the bathroom counter, putting their dishes in the dishwasher instead of the sink, wasting food, and remembering to do chores like taking out the garbage.

A couple of weeks ago I got the garbage ready in the morning and left it at the door. All my teenager had to do was pick it up, put it in her car, and drop it off at the end of the driveway on the way to work. I reminded her twice the night before and was pleasantly surprised when she grabbed it without needing to be reminded in the morning. It turns out she forgot to stop and put it out at the end of the driveway, took it to work where it sat in her car in 30-degree heat all day, then put it back in the barn when she got home without telling me. A raccoon got into it, and I spent the whole next day cleaning up the stinky mess in the barn.

Now, as a parent, I’d rate my overall performance at a solid 5. I’ve loved my kids, I’ve been there for them as much as possible, but other than that, I’ve barely scraped by. And I’ve definitely had failing marks when it comes to training them to do things like putting their dishes in the dishwasher.

So how do you train a teenager?

I thought of treats, but making them sit and beg for Smarties or Hostess Cupcakes seems a bit degrading.

Punishment seemed a bit harsh for their transgressions and I learned early on taking their devices away is like cutting off an arm. Plus you’re really just punishing yourself since you have to put up with a grumpy bored teenager nagging you all week.

Then a few years ago, I had an evil, wonderful epiphany. I realized if I’m going to punish the little twerps for bad behaviour, I might as well get something I want out of it.

Most of the time, I’ll assign them chores I don’t feel like doing. But last week I hit a new low—I confiscated my daughter’s alcohol. I’ve been enjoying Grace’s delicious Smirnoffs Peach Bellini coolers by the lake. I know I should be ashamed, and have a moment of two of remorse, but then the sun comes out, I have another refreshing sip, and dive in the lake.

Here’s the rub. Whatever I do, it doesn’t make a difference.

I remember when I was pregnant, I listened to one of those parenting tapes. The psychologist shared a story of how he spent years reminding his teenager to take out the garbage until one week, she finally did it on her own. He described it as a success, which I thought was funny given it took years for the kid to finally see it as their responsibility and actually remember to do it.

His message was they’ll eventually grow up, take responsibility and become adults. But in the meantime, my bathroom is a mess and I’m a glorified maid.

So dear readers, tell me and make me happy, how do you train a teenager? Leave a comment!

Putting the social in social distancing

inspirational message

For many of us, social media has been a haven these past weeks. It has allowed us to stay connected, share fears, laughter, stories and uplift one another.

Here are some of my favourite posts from friends and strangers that have brought little rays of sunshine into my day. Thanks in advance to everyone for letting me share your photos and messages–I used first names only to protect your privacy, but you know who you are!

Two dogs looking at a bed

This photo from my friend Trish with the caption, “Is there any room in that bed? That’s actually our bed—you should be at work.”

The wonderful music videos artists and everyday people are posting to share their talents and creativity. Here is my favourite: a couple at their piano singing a parody of Simon and Garfunkel’s Homeward Bound. Thanks to my friends Leslie and Jill for sharing.

#socialdistancingpickuplines on Twitter:

  • From Will Ferrell @itsWillyFarell: “You can’t spell quarantine without “u r a q t”
  • “Like the last roll of toilet paper, I’d roll with you any day”
  • “You smell so good, is that Purell you’re wearing?”
  • “Looking for your Prince Charmin? I’ve got a six pack”

A quote from my friend Kellie who has been posting #100daysofgratitude on Facebook:

“i thank You God for most this amazing day; for the leaping greenly spirits of trees and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything which is natural which is infinite which is yes.”

E.E. Cummings

This post from my friend Mark who always makes me laugh.

 

 

 

The daily video jokes my friend Jill is sharing on Facebook from her “Great Big Book of Jokes”.

Photos posted by my friend Cathy of inspirational chalk messages on the sidewalk, seen on her morning walk.

sidewalk message "party at my house when this is over"

And finally, these beautiful words of hope, shared by a fellow hockey Mom on TeamSnap posted above.

This week’s #HappyAct is to put the social in social distancing. Keep them coming everyone. Let’s continue to brighten our days.

Learn from everyone you meet

 

Girl with her coach

The first week of September is always a week of mixed emotions in our household. We’re all sad summer is coming to an end, but the kids are excited and nervous to go back to school and dive into their courses and learning.

Usually a few weeks in, there’s the normal complaining about one of their teachers. We’ve always urged the kids to be open and understand that you can learn from everyone you meet, even from people you may not connect with or get along with. I think they’re finally starting to understand this.

It’s a great lesson for us all. I remember one time a friend of mine asking me why I make small talk with people on trains and planes. They said, “You’re never going to see them again, why do you bother?” I looked at them as if they had eight heads, and answered that it was because I enjoy talking to people, and I learn something from every interaction.

I’ve also followed this philosophy throughout my career. I once had a boss who was honestly one of a kind, and so different from me. She was very reserved, you never knew what she was thinking, precise to a T and not exactly a change agent or a communicator, but I learned so much from her and respected her for her knowledge.

I’ve also worked for people that taught me about the type of leader I didn’t want to be. Luckily I haven’t had too many of these bosses. The last-minute, disorganized, all over the map types, or worse, the “do it my way or the highway” dictatorial director (I only worked for one of these and they were gone in three months.) They were important reverse role models in my career and in some bizarre way, I may have learned even more from them than my good bosses.

The kids have learned this in sports too. There has been several times when at the beginning of a season, they’ve said they’re not sure they like their coach—he’s a bit loud or yells a lot or is harsh. But often at the end of the season, once they understand the person’s coaching style and get to know the person, they love their coach and say they’ve learned so much from them.  

This week’s #HappyAct is to learn from everyone you meet. I’d like to dedicate this week’s blog post to all the coaches out there who give tirelessly of their time and energy to help kids be all they can be, on the ice, the field, and on the water. You are doing such a wonderful thing. Thank you! This photo is of Clare and her kayakying coach this summer, Rhiannon Murphy. 

Classic Jack

Jack and Dianna Patch

Last Saturday, friends and family gathered in Madoc to celebrate the life of Jack Patch. Jack was a dear friend of ours who passed away last year. His wife, Dianna had asked me to say a few words that day, but I couldn’t.

I wanted to, but I didn’t know what I wanted to say. That’s because Jack was a classic. In many ways, he was indescribable.

And then one night this week, as I was walking on a country road with the sun shimmering through the trees and the sounds of tinging bats and shouts from Clare’s baseball practice wafting in the distance, the words just came to me.

This is what I wanted to say.

Jack Patch was a classic. He was my Jack.

Jack was my dance partner. When all the other men in the room wanted to sit around and drink beer, Jack would be the one who would get up and dance with two women at the same time.

Jack was a child. Jack always liked kids, including my kids, as long as they didn’t irritate him too much or did what he wanted. I think it was because he never grew up himself.

Jack Patch and boy
Jack with our friend Murray and Libby’s son, Alex as a boy

Jack was a mountain man and MacGyver guy. He puttered. I never saw him move faster than a shuffle, unless the sap was about to boil over in his homemade maple syrup operation.

Jack and Dianna bought 25 acres on the Moira River in the 1980s and built a cabin on the river. We had some great parties in those days, and we were all there to help them when they decided to quit work and build an off-the-grid cabin on the land. That basically gave him carte blanche to build stuff and putter for the next 25 years.

Jack and Dave putting up drywall
Jack and Dave putting up drywall in their home on the Moira River

Jack was an environmentalist. He built trails on his property and did annual counts for species like birds and frogs. He was nature’s friend.

Jack was a dog lover. He always had a four-legged friend by his side. Even as his mind and body started to fail him, his neighbour’s dog Sophie was his faithful friend and helped spark life back into him.

Jack was my skinny dipping partner. He believed swimming trunks were a scourge on humanity and had the skinny dip down to an art of science.

He would stroll to the end of the dock, sit down and dangle his white legs in the water, and slip off his trunks so surreptitiously, only the loons would notice. My favourite picture I ever took of Jack was one I snapped quietly while he was sitting on the end of our friend Murray’s dock with one cheek showing.

Man skinny dipping

Jack was my vintner. Jack was a purveyor of bad alcohol. Bad wine. Really bad wine. But we drank it anyway.

Jack was my comic relief. My favourite Jack quote of all time was on January 1, 2000. Our regular group had spent the millennium New Year’s at Jack and Dianna’s off-the-grid cottage, because if the world was going to end, you might as well spend it with the people you love most and at a place where you don’t need electricity.

We had imbibed in a few too many drinks naturally, and the next morning were slow to emerge from our hovels to see if the world was still intact. I remember Jack shuffling out of his bedroom in his saggy t-shirt and boxer shorts. He scratched his chest and said, “Well, that’s a relief. Now I don’t have to worry about being a 90s man anymore.”

Not that Jack was ever a 90s man. Jack figured out about 40 years ago, that if he didn’t do something exactly the way Dianna wanted him to do it, it would give him a lifetime free pass. That included changing diapers, dishes and just about anything he didn’t want to do.

Jack was a lover of life. He always had a twinkle in his eye, and a wonderful low chuckle of a laugh, the Jack laugh.

One of the last times we saw Jack was on a visit to Pine Meadows nursing home in Northbrook where he spent his last year. It was Mother’s Day weekend, and the staff had brought in an entertainer for a morning sing-along with the guests. The nice singer in a break between songs at one point asked if Jack was my father, or who he was in relation to me.

I simply said, “He’s my Jack.” And he was a classic.

Jack, we love you and miss you. Thank you for all the happy memories. I hope you’ve finally found your happy place where you can putter, skinny dip and dance to your heart’s content.Jack Patch and friends

Ten lessons on love and relationships from The Bachelor

Batchelor meme

With Valentine’s Day around the corner, the girls and I thought we’d share our observations on love and relationships from our favourite show, The Bachelor.

  1. Don’t wear a chicken outfit or sloth costume on your first date—you will probably end up going home
  2. It’s never a good idea to tell two people you love them on the same night
  3. It’s much easier to think you’re in love on a helicopter date
  4. Never date a guy named Juan Pablo
  5. You know it’s going to be a good date if there is a limo or hot tub involved.
  6. If your date asks you if you want to spend the night in the Fantasy Suite, ask if there will be cameras involved
  7. When it comes to following your head or your heart, your heart will always win out (just don’t follow something else)
  8. Wear waterproof mascara, because at some point, you know it will all end in tears
  9. Always choose the person who makes you laugh the most
  10. And finally, if you’re a virgin, The Bachelor might not be the show for you

Happy Valentine’s Day!

What do you do when you don’t like someone you love?

Hilary Clinton quote: You don't walk away from someone you love

This week’s post isn’t really a post. It’s a question, and I’m hoping all of you reading this will leave a comment to share your insights on this question.

Many of us may have someone in our lives who we love, but we don’t like all the time or approve of their behaviour. What do you do in these cases?

A few weeks ago, I read a Dear Amy column. It was called, “Mother seeks cure for daughter’s affluenza”. It was about a mother who found her daughter’s lack of reciprocity, insensitivity and self-centred attitude appalling.

Amy quoted Ralph Waldo Emerson: “The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived, and lived well.”

I’m not sure I agree with Emerson’s statement that our purpose in life is not to be happy, but I think there’s some truth in his belief that if you do the things he says should be our purpose, you will have a better chance of being happy.

Amy had some great advice for her reader. She said always make sure the person knows that you love them, even if you don’t like them right now or their behaviour. Loving without expectation, and through disappointment will liberate you from your harsh judgement and should lead to acceptance.

I’ll add one insight. Try to find common ground. In the world of behavioural psychology, there’s even a term for it, “pairing”. Focus on their strengths and what you do like about them.

And finally, never ever give up on them.

So dear readers, it’s your turn. What do you do when you don’t like someone you love?