Meditation or Medication?

My belly is full of coffee and brunch, my turns in Words with Friends are all played, and I’m up to date on Facebook and Instagram. I have run out of procrastinations.

I sit down to meditate in my bedroom. I want to love mediating. My husband and kids say they’ve noticed it makes me calmer, and nicer. During the actual act of meditating however, I feel anything but calm. I have so much to do, my thoughts vibrate like popcorn kernels simmering before they explode in the microwave.

And yet, I sit in my chair in my darkened bedroom, cross legged like Buddha himself. I put my iPhone on the ottoman in front of me and push play on my meditation app, which is aptly called, Meditation. I start by breathing slowly and purposefully to quiet myself as I’ve been taught. The app gongs to signal the start of the “active meditation” and I feel my belly resting on my thighs. I activate my core and berate myself for surrendering to the call of the cinnamon bun. And then I remember my task and package that thought away.

I start saying my mantra, working it over like a pearl in my mouth and then find myself wondering if my teenager is up yet because he’ll need to eat before he goes to work in two hours. And then I stop myself and package that thought away.

And then I start to wonder what my mantra means. It’s in Sanskrit, and I was told I’m not supposed to share it with anyone and that drives me crazy. But I’m a writer so I start riffing on the word adding ‘ings and ‘ables until I remember what I’m here to do.

I worry that I’m wasting my precious me-only time and chant more urgently, insistently trying to crowd out the other thoughts that keep sneaking in – Did I turn off the stove? Where are my rings? Twelve minutes is a long time. OMG the visa bill is due!

I long for a pencil and a pad of paper to write my thoughts down, so that I might later noodle why they entered my mind at that time. Are they necessary? Are they urgent? Am I going insane?

I sigh again and tune into radio silence. I recall Dan Harris saying in his book 10% Happier that “meditation the longest and strongest high he’s ever had”. Maybe I’m paraphrasing, but that was enough to make me buy the app. My life is actually pretty awesome, but who doesn’t want 10% more awesome?

The gong rings again to signal I’m nearing the end of meditation. I have 30 seconds left to return to earth (which I never left) and here I finally find some stillness but the final gong rings again to usher in the rest of my day and I cling to Eckhart Tolle’s definition that “one conscious breath in and out is a mediation.”

Let’s call that a success. Namaste.

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Vote for Kindness

Like most Canadians, I have been following the upcoming US election with equal parts incredulity and hopelessness. I can’t vote but I can’t stop watching the endless barrage of news, satirical commentaries, and memes about both candidates. This election seems to be more like a streetfight, where one of the candidates refuses to bar any holds. But it’s the feverish quality evident at the Trump rallies that scares me the most, and it seems that fever might be contagious. While Karry Vernon Corbett’s racist tirade was actually caught on tape, it makes you wonder what happens when the tape is not running.

A few months ago, I was in the car with my twelve-year-old son, driving along Bellevue Avenue to pick up his friend and take them to basketball camp. It was a beautiful morning, a dazzling sunshiney day that makes good moods mandatory. I have picked up and dropped off this friend about 200 times so far and have always stopped my car at the top of the driveway before it plummets toward the below grade garage. As I’ve never been comfortable reversing up that steep driveway and there’s never any street parking available, I chose to momentarily block the sidewalk as his friend enters or exits the car. Per usual, there was no traffic this morning, so there were no witnesses to what happened next.

While my son went to get his friend, I was fiddling with my car’s Bluetooth, having found an 80’s Slacker Radio station on my iPhone. I didn’t notice a middle-aged man and his bulldog go around my car but I did notice my son looking back at me from his friend’s front doorstep with an incredulous look on his face. When the boys got back to the car, my son asked, “Did you hear what that guy said?”
“No.” I responded, “What did he say?”
“He said, ‘That’s a sidewalk, you f***ing Chinaman!’ ”

My jaw dropped. “Oh wow.” My immediate response was to lash out at this stranger, but I realized these boys were watching me, and my hurt bloomed into anger as I replayed all the little slights I’d endured over my 47 years as a Korean-Canadian.

A jogger went around my car, as I pondered what to do. Sorry! I yelled, but she couldn’t hear me for her headphones. I reversed out of the driveway/sidewalk and drove towards camp. The man and his dog were just 100 feet ahead, and before I could think about what I was going to say, I slowed the car beside him, rolled down the passenger window and called out, “Excuse me, sir?”

He turned to look at me and I continued, my voice wavering slightly, “What you said back there was very….” I paused, trying to choose my next word carefully – was he racist or ignorant – but settled on, “Unkind,” as it was the truth.

His eyes widened, as if shocked I could speak English. With his leathery skin and shock of platinum blond hair, he looked like an angry Guy Fieri. Apoplectic, he shouted, “I don’t care, it’s against the law to stop on the sidewalk!” and yanked on his bulldog’s leash to stop him from pooping on the lawn they were standing in front of.

“I’m sorry, I was just there for a minute,” I stammered.

“I don’t f***ing care! You should know the bylaws of this city!” he screamed, spittle flying from his mouth.

Aware of the two bi-racial tweens in the car, I simply restated, “Well, what you said was VERY unkind,” and drove off, heart pounding in my chest, wholly unsatisfied with my Flight over Fight response.

I was born in Vancouver nearly five decades ago, and I can count the number of times I’ve experienced abject racism on one hand, which is a good, but unfortunate statistic. But racism also presents itself in other, more subtle ways. An eight-year-old once asked me, “Can you see up here?” stretching her arm up to around the height of my forehead. She was referring to my almond-shaped eyes, innocently wondering if I saw the world in widescreen format. And last summer, a friend joked about posing as me to claim a prize I’d won and mimicked me by pulling up on the corners of her eyes. Honestly, most days I don’t even notice my race, I have a beautiful life filled with meaningful work and beautiful friendships that don’t notice my race either, but there are other days when unkindness can feel like another paper cut. And believe me, it guts me to know that my paper cuts are nothing compared to what others have endured in their lifetimes.

It’s shocking how one person can justify making the leap from observing an innocuous traffic violation to slurring the offender’s ethnicity, but one only has to watch a Donald Trump rally to know that kindness has ceased to matter for some. While it’s possible that I’d encountered a curmudgeon having a bad day, I wonder if there’s something larger afoot. A movement where a petulant, racist, misogynist can make a legitimate run for the White House by saying all sorts of unkind things and emboldening others to do the same.

We’ve all endured unkindness based on our gender, ethnicity, age, religious beliefs, where we live and how we look. But for every slight, we must remember that we’ve also given and received a thousand kindnesses. Smiles, held doors, Facebook likes and other courtesies are the threads that knit our diverse communities together and make them thrive.

I grew up thinking America was Canada’s big brother – bossy at times but respected and watched out for everyone’s safety. The America on the news this past year is definitely not the one I remember. Trump spewing (and then denying) hateful arguments pitting Us against Them have no place anywhere, least of all the White House.

Dear America, please vote for kindness. The world needs a Kind America, we all do.

Moving and moving on

The house we’ve lived, loved & laughed in for the past 12 years has been painted, polished and staged with pots of fresh orchids. It’s almost unrecognizable. Gone is the clutter and 12 years of stuffed animals. Gone are the nicks in the drywall from countless hockey games in our foyer. Gone is the carpet with the red wine stain from that “adult toy” party and the blue Children’s Advil stain when my youngest son just couldn’t keep it down. In addition to new carpeting, we painted the house inside and out, and thanks to some pesky woodpeckers, replaced the roof. After just 4 frenetic weeks, we put our beloved family home on the market and crossed our fingers that it would sell. The market is slowing everyone warned us, hurry up so you don’t get caught holding two houses.

Our hard work paid off. We received an excellent offer the day we listed. But as relieved as we were to receive the offer, it was like finally deciding to have a family, getting pregnant on the first try and then being utterly overwhelmed at the irreversibility of that decision.

It’s a bit late now I realize, but I’m not ready to move. We’ve conceived and raised 3 kids here. Their heights are marked on a doorframe, which is now painted over in Benjamin Moore Satin Latex in Oxford White, but if I close my eyes I can still see each of them on their birthdays trying to stand as tall as possible while I marked the wall behind them with a Sharpie. Even Sharpies aren’t permanent after all. The dents in the drywall from wayward slap-shots have been filled in and painted. “The house looks new, you’d never know that 3 boys lived here!” my friends say, and my throat tightens.

I’m not ready to move. We’ve hosted innumerable birthdays, thanksgivings, wedding and baby showers and all kinds of celebrations here. Will Santa know where to find us?

The modern house we bought came fully furnished (the sellers are divorcing and wanted to take nothing), so my traditional furniture had to go. I’ve been selling it on Craigslist for 10-20 cents on the dollar to young families and people starting over. This will make the move easier, my friends assure me, but my house now resembles a bowling alley, with nary a chair, couch, or coffee table to stub a toe on. We eat sitting picnic-style on the hardwood floor surrounded by moving boxes marked, “Kitchen – Cookbooks” or “Rec Room – Games.” The house is nearly empty and still I’m not ready.

I’ve got 13 more days to get ready to transplant 12 years of roots. I think I’d better pack the kleenex last.

Love Lucie

Home Sweet Porn

My husband loves to surf the real estate listings late at night. Call it his porn, if you will. At least once a week (for as long as I’ve known him), Stan surfs for beautiful homes out of our price range for “research” purposes, for when we finally build our dream house. He used to drag me to Open Houses of places he had no intention of buying, so he could look at an AGA cooker up close, and assess for himself the difference between Pennsylvania Bluestone versus Italian Travertine tiles in a real-life application.

Me, on the other hand, I am inertia personified. I’m like an oak tree, strong, sturdy with a deep and fibrous root system. When we moved into this house from Calgary, I told my husband that I will be leaving it in a pine box. I love my beautiful sun-drenched craftsman house, with its 180 degree ocean view, spanning from Mt. Baker to Texada Island. Each of our three sons have lived their entire lives in this house – their heights etched in indelible ink on their bedroom door frames at every birthday. So when Stan takes me to look at other houses for “research purposes”, I feel insincere at best, and sometimes downright grouchy. As such, he’s been going to Open Houses solo for the last 5-7 years.

A few weeks ago I was going through the daily deluge of flyers, coupons and other direct mail pieces courtesy of Canada Post, when I came across a real estate brochure and noticed a modern house (his favourite) situated on a lovely cul-de-sac that our friends used to live on, so I pointed the house out to Stan. Imagine my surprise when he invited me to go view the house with him!

But I was curious, so I went along. And it sure was a beauty. On the golf course for Stan! With a writing nook for me! A gaming room with a door to keep the sound in! A pool table and a pool! It was a grown-up haven for our growing-up boys and their ensuing entourage, and Stan and I simply loved clean, modern look. But it was still out of our price range, so we thanked the realtor for his time and went home.

Two days later, the price dropped by 20%. Apparently the owners were divorcing and eager to move on with their lives, but we took this as a sign that even the universe supported this move, so we snapped it up.

Now onto culling twelve years of handmade birthday gifts, university textbooks, Webkinz stuffies, Pokemon cards, Beyblades, clothes, throw pillows, half-empty perfume bottles and I begin to wonder if it was the house I loved, or its lack of clutter?

Garage sale notices appearing here soon!

Love Lucie

Show Me The Bunny!

Last October, I joined Forma Athletics’ running group. The group is led by Dustin, who runs like a gazelle, but with a gorgeous smile and a nicer backside. Every M/W/F Dustin and our rag tag group of moms can be spotted sprinting down lanes, slogging up endless hills and pounding the pavement alongside the gorgeous north shore mountains. I’m usually in the back half of the pack, sweating like a pig, just trying to survive the workout.

In running with this group of mostly marathoners, I felt compelled to sign up for two half-marathons this year (since we were training towards them anyways) – the BMO Vancouver Half-Marathon followed by the Scotiabank Vancouver Half-Marathon just 7 weeks later (which by the way, equals a marathon in my math books!). I’ve run 4 half-marathons before but it’s been 3-4 years since I’d logged more than the occasional 8K run, and I’ve never run 2 half-marathons in one year.

In March, my training became seriously hampered by my love of a good night out with my girlfriends and a weakness for white wine. So as is my nature, I began to downplay my time goal for the BMO half. I told my personal trainer Ainslie that my goal for the BMO half was simply “to feel good, in order to save my energy for a personal best at the Scotia half.” While I don’t like to admit this about myself, if I know I’m not going to be satisfied with my results (in anything), I tend to not try as hard, so that my “failing” can be blamed on lack of effort rather than lack of ability. Crazy and self-sabotaging, I agree.

And this is what Ainslie emailed back to me.

“Bullsh*t. Why wait for the next race to go hard?

I want you to giv’er sh*t!! You have trained a lot for this race and you
are not only ready to take it on and complete it – you are ready to add a
little pepper to your step. Sometimes it’s scary to go for it, believe me
I know!

It’s far more satisfying to give a full effort and feel like you ran your
best than to hold back on the throttle and wonder if you had more in the
tank. Believe me. I know you a little more than you may realize – you are
always the first one to say something’s impossible, then you’re also the
first person to conquer it and surprise yourself.

Find that 1:55 pace bunny and RIP it’s ears off!”

Ainslie is wise beyond her 26 years. She did not give me room to hide behind myself. She challenged me to be awesome and I went for it. It was a beautiful day for the BMO Vancouver Half-Marathon and I ran my sturdy little legs off. I’ve never ran so far for so long and felt so good.

I drew energy from:
– the cheering crowds (what kind of people give up a Saturday sleep-in to cheer on strangers at 7AM? Angels, that’s who!),
– the gorgeousness of Vancouver on a sunny spring day,
– my kicking Coldplay infused playlist,
– the 10,000 runners themselves (some ran for loved ones lost, some ran with funny messages like, “If you can read this sign, I’m still ahead of you!” and “This is not sweat, it’s liquid AWESOME!” and still others ran simply because they can)
– and of course, my girls!

Inspired by Gabrielle Bernstein’s piece, “A Bit of Bragging Looks Good on You,” I’m proud to report I ran a 2:03:33!

Watch out Scotiabank Half-Marathon bunnies, I’ll be gunning for you!

Love Lucie

My Pet Peeve

As anyone with kids knows, every kid wants a pet. My eldest has been asking for a pet since he could say dog. I am allergic to cats and dogs, but that doesn’t bother him in the least. We gave him a goldfish when he was four and that appeased him for awhile. Until one morning a few months later, when he was found swimming sideways with just one slow moving fin. There my husband and I got a crash course in bereavement in children – they become inconsolable, wailing, flailing creatures that shed rivers of snot all over your new Lululemon hoodie. And we learned that this is definitely not the time to ask when he was last fed.

When it became clear that Fishy could not be resuscitated, we told CJ it was time to send Fishy off to Fish Heaven, but he started shrieking when we started to tip Fishy’s odorous bowl contents into the toilet. Pierced eardrums notwithstanding, we quickly agreed more decorum was needed to properly say good-bye to CJ’s beloved 2 month old pet fish. We drove to the beach, with CJ cradling Fishy’s bowl and floating remains on his lap, giant tears periodically plopping into the cloudy water. We parked and our little procession marched sombrely out to the pier. It was a suitably overcast day, Stan said a few lovely words about Fishy’s short but beautiful life and on CJ’s command, hurled him out to the sea (where he quickly became a snack for a Seagull but I digress). My normally stoic, rough and tumble boy lived on the edge of tears for the next week or so and most definitely did not want another fish to replace Fishy.

Now CJ’s two younger brothers have joined in on the fight – they are all begging/ demanding/ cajoling/ whining/ petitioning me for a dog. Or a cat. Something they can cuddle, which eliminates snakes, birds and all rodents (thank GOD!) from the running. They don’t care that CJ and I are allergic. It seems that every other day a different kid proudly struts around the schoolyard with the cutest puppy in his arms, while the other kids go green with envy. My kids want to strut like those kids. I want my kids to be those kids too, but I can’t be that mother. I can’t. My days of handling excrement are over. Plus those puppies get big in a matter of months and they really do get less cute. Every day I see hapless moms being dragged up and down these North Shore hills, yelling at their clearly hearing-impaired doggy to “stay.” I can see that dogs are just clumsy, rambunctious, adorable, loving toddlers that never grow up. So why would I voluntarily go back to sleepless nights, toilet training, having to hurry home to let the dog out, organizing dog-sitters and a daily crotch-sniff?

Call me selfish, call me mean (my kids do) but I’ve heard enough about Marley & Me to know that your giant, drooling, hairy toddler-esque dog shouldn’t predecease you. After Fishy, I know I just couldn’t handle it.

Love Lucie

Hanging with Friends is not enough, I’m coming home

Two days in isolation (except for Facebook and Hanging with Friends) in Whistler can do strange things to a girl. I feel like I’ve taken a vow of silence, leaving my thoughts to have a battle of wits in my head.

In between the fits and bursts of producing 5000 words these last 36 hours, I:

– ate cauliflower steak on the couch in front of the TV
– caught up on this season’s The Bachelor (get rid of Courtney Ben, she’s bad news!)
– drank so much coffee I couldn’t fall asleep for hours
– chain-snacked on gummy bears
– checked Facebook constantly
– got so bored that I cleaned the toilets

Reminding me that the best part of a business trip is coming home.

Love Lucie

Giddy ‘up!

I’m positively giddy today.

My hubby has seen the signs, picked up on my cues, perhaps even read my blog and given me two days of solitude at our cabin in Whistler, BC.

The view from my "office" today

He even called it, a “business” trip since I’m always complaining that he always gets to go on business trips and I have three essays on motherhood to complete by the end of this month. So while I write, he’s going to take care of it all – taking the kids to lessons, feeding them (takeout, I’m sure) and getting them to school on time. And me, well I have two delicious days.

Two days of not yelling at my children to hurry up/remember this/flush the damn toilet/I don’t know where your homework is. And two days of without the grumpy feelings that reverberate in both the yeller and the yell-ee. Two days where I can actually hear a pin drop – if there was anyone here to drop a pin, that is.

Two days of not being a short-order cook. I won’t be making lunches, snacks or dinners – I will not have to referee the best piece of chicken in a tug-of-war nor will I witness the vegetables being scorned and dumped into the trash. I have two days of eating what I want, when I want. In the cabin’s fridge, I have a nearly full bottle of pinot grigio, half a wheel of camembert and a giant head of cauliflower threatening to go bad. I’m actually looking forward to cauliflower steak with cheese sauce tonight and I have no one to complain about the off-gassing this inventive combination will inevitably produce.

For two days, I will not enter the laundry room. I will spend two days living in my pyjamas, taking writing breaks by singing along to all the sappy love songs on my iPod, unperturbed by that canned laugh track that follows the Suite Life of Zack & Cody around.

I have three essays due by the end of the month that could launch my nascent writing career and my husband has taken away all my excuses for not getting them done by giving me these two days.

I’m giddy over this gift of me-time, and I know that the reason I’m giddy is because I get my crazy beautiful life back in just two days. And I know that they’ll miss me, especially when looking for the peanut butter tomorrow, because I took the jar with me.

Absence really does make the heart grow fonder, I promise to savour every delicious minute of it!

Love Lucie

Living with Leftovers

I’ve been in a bit of a mood lately. After skipping my morning run last week to drop off an emergency cheque at the accountant’s because somebody at the CRA noticed a missed tax instalment, I came to a startling realization – I’m living in my family’s leftovers.

Looking at our family’s time as a (delicious chicken pot) pie, I noticed that my husband get first dibs on time – he has to go to work in the morning and he comes home around 6 for dinner. He has to go on business trips, networking functions and conferences. He goes to the gym in the evening and sometimes he works late. The kids get second dibs, they have to be at school by 9 and then picked up at 3 and chauffeured to various lessons, birthday parties, swim meets and playdates. And then there’s me – a stay-at home mom who gets just 5.5 hours each day to clean, cook, shop for groceries, do laundry, pay the bills, volunteer, organize, shower and write. I do have my book club and dinners out with girlfriends, but these too have to fit among the leftovers or its up to me to find a babysitter. This realization even makes me wonder if my new career – writing – has been chosen because it fits so well among the leftovers. Except when it doesn’t. Like when I’m working on a particularly moving scene in my novel in between life’s interruptions and I end up with a sentiment that could only dream of gracing a Hallmark greeting card.

So it’s time to step up and take the first piece of the (mmm, apple) pie for me. Not all the time, mind you but definitely some of the time. As a good friend reminded me, I am not the glue holding my family together. They would survive without me. I am not irreplaceable. And as brutally honest a statement that may be, it’s incredibly freeing to give myself permission to choose my own adventure. I encourage my kids to live up to their potential, why shouldn’t I?

Love Lucie

New Year, Same Old Me

I love January. I love the pristine newness of a brand new year as it lays before me, even if the only evidence of it is just a new wall calendar. I love that symbolic blank slate and it’s unlimited potential for the amazing and the wonderful.

Being raised a good Catholic girl, to me the morning of January 1st feels a lot like coming out of the confessional freshly purged of my sins. I’m 3 Hail Marys and an Our Father away from heaven – hooray! That is, until I sin again. But until then, I feel…perfect.

Outside the catholic church (where I now reside) it’s not often we get the chance to start over, but on a wall calendar, you get to do it every 12 months. As we say goodbye to the previous year’s missteps and mistakes, we pledge, perhaps high on champagne and the promise of a new year, that we’re going to get it right this time. That this year, we’re going to be thinner, prettier, nicer, funnier, happier, or most simply put, better.

The only problem with this clean slate approach is that I’m the same old me – the same soft, dimpled (not in a remotely cute way), perpetually sleep deprived, grumpy that I’m a taken for granted wife/mother/friend/ sister/daughter/chauffeur/volunteer that I always was. I still waste too much time on social media and reading People.com, I still obsess about getting rid of my stretch marks, I take on too much, I fall short, I’m vain, I envy, I begrudge, I yell, and I’m slow to forgive. And I realize this is true shortly after the champagne wears off and I have another 353 days before I can wipe the slate clean again.

So this year, on January 17th, I resolve to be good enough. That’s it. To be me and (this is the tough part) to be happy with it. No 30 day challenges for me – fitness, dieting or otherwise. No more saying no to shortbread. These are things I know I can accomplish. I have, in fact said yes to shortbread 3 times today. The trick is, and will continue to be, to not beat myself up about said shortbread. And to continue to do the things I love with abandon – run, write, hang with my family and friends.

Perfection is a lonely place, frequented by skinny, hungry and therefore, grumpy people. I think I’m finally realizing I’d rather be fat and happy.

Love Lucie