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.

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

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

Shopping & Me…on Urbandig!

It’s no secret that I love to shop – the hunt and its tangential discoveries, the rush of finding it (on sale!), the promise of transformation, I love it all. And from J Brand skinny jeans to Rocky Mountain Foot Butter to a Goorin fedora, I’ve bought it all. I’ve been teased that Confessions of a Shopaholic’s Rebecca Bloomwood is loosely based on my life – except perhaps for the bits about the enabling roommate and that glossy pink (iLove!) Macbook. I do, however, own more stilettos than you can shake a stick at and have had my credit cards declined at Henri Bendel. Tres embarrassing!!

So enter Urbandig. Urbandig is a cool new app that delivers “off the beaten path” city experiences right to your smart phone and these experiences have been “curated” by hipsters in the know. I knew I had to get on board.

As for my curator credentials, I’m a born and bred Vancouverite and as mentioned, I love to shop. In fact, I believe I am a pioneer in the shop-tourism sector – having travelled to London, Paris, Milan, Tokyo, Marrakech, Toronto, NYC, Chicago, and San Francisco to name a few – like a UN Goodwill ambassador, only I’m spurring local economies. Secondly, I have four sisters and our favorite holiday of the year is Boxing Day. After the tree is trimmed, the turkey gobbled, doodads purchased, wrapped and then unwrapped for every member of our extended family, we wake up at 6AM, zip to Caffé Artigiano for a latte to go and then shop till we drop (dollar bills obviously!) And finally, living as I do, with 4 boys under my roof, there is not much I won’t do for a day out with my girlfriends. And so, as often as we can, my girlfriends and I come together to brunch, shop, spa, shop some more, drink & dance – and as such, planning Girls Days Out are somewhat of a specialty of mine.

With the malls of North America so cookie-cutter boring, there are really just two shopping destinations in Vancouver that I love to waste a day away at – Main Street and South Granville Street. For my Girls Day Out tour, I chose Granville Street as it caters to foodies, shoe lovers, and all shoppers who love good style as much as they love good labels, plus it ends at a world-class spa. Everyone’s a winner on Granville Street!!

So grab a girlfriend (or eight) and follow my Girls on Granville Tour on Urbandig. Meet over brunch at Café Barney or Luke’s Corner Bar (but don’t eat too many breakfast potatoes or you won’t fit into those skinny jeans you covet!) and take a wander down beautiful, historic South Granville Street, I’ll bet you’ll find just what you’re looking for!

Love Lucie

To Do or Not To Do – that is the question

So I’m 6 weeks into my Princess year and I’ve gone to the gym 22 times, cleaned out 7 junk drawers and written exactly 1 blog post.

Obvious priority adjusting jokes aside, it makes me wonder why everyday for the past 6 weeks, I choose to tackle the minutiae that comes along with being a stay-at-home mom instead of focusing on what’s really important to me as my own person. While the low hanging fruit (do laundry, tidy house) offer easy (and gratifying) check-marks on my bulging to-do list, it leaves the tougher and so much more rewarding projects to go unpicked day after day.

To illustrate my point, this was my to-do list on Monday, which I keep track of my Things app for iPhone:
– Run
– Coffee w/ Grade 3 moms
– Buy Groceries
– Shower
– Talk to Lawyer
– Book haircut for eldest son
– Book doctor appointment for eldest son
– Book babysitter for Thursday night
– Write in middle son’s birthday book
– Buy birthday gifts for nanny, niece & nephew
– Send baby gift to friend in London
– Make lasagne for dinner
– Pick up kids
– Meet with youngest’s son’s teacher
– Take middle son out for birthday treat after school
– Write blog post

And despite my detailed organization, I somehow forgot that I had double booked my eldest son on an after school playdate. One at my house and one at another boy’s house. Plus I got so involved chatting with the other moms after school, I forgot all about my meeting with my son’s teacher. At the end of a long and stressful day where I was short with the kids and quick with my friends, I got it all done…aside from the blog post. And that has been the daily pattern for the past 6 weeks and perhaps even longer. This post I wrote in May 2009 suggests that some habits die hard, or at least, very, very slowly.

My to-do list for October 19, 2011
This is my Things to-do-list today:

With less minutiae and my most important task already behind me, I can look forward to the rest of my day. What are you going to do today?

Love Lucie

Summer living is easy, working…not so much

Ahhhh, summer. Just when we’d given up and thought it would never come to Vancouver, it finally did. Waking up to warm, radiant sunshine reflecting off the glorious mountains and the endless sea, reminded every seasonally-affected one of us, why we choose to live in a rainforest the rest of the year.

So the kids are out of school and refuse to go to anything that smells like structure and/or has a teacher, ie. summer camp. And since we spending our first summer in Whistler, we are devoid of playdates and babysitters. So, in the meantime, I’ve become a Denny’s, open 24/7, peanut butter & jelly sandwiches at the ready, squeezing lemons upon lemons for their lemonade stand for which I’ve not yet seen a dime (I swear they are drinking their profits!), wiping counters and sweeping floors to keep the ants at bay. On a daily basis, I’m fending off the inevitable, “Mom, I’m bored,” or “MOM! He hit me!” or “MOOOOOMMMMMMM! He farted on my pillow and won’t say sorry!!!” with encouraging words to work it out for themselves and large glasses of pinot grigio.

There is no time to workout, no time to shop, no time for a much needed pedicure, no time to write, no time for me. As lovely as summer is, I’m counting the days till I get my beautiful life back.

Twenty-four.

See you in September!
Love Lucie

Getting over the Canucks

OK I admit it. I’ve been hiding in a bit of a funk since the Canucks lost in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals. I was just so sure they were going to win. I even had champagne in the fridge and the beginnings of a celebratory post ruminating in my head.

But then they lost. And then there was that embarrassing, horrifying, ugly riot. And I just couldn’t write about that. I had been at Game 7 with my husband where the evening was an utter love fest, for fans and players alike. And although there were no Gary Bettman fans there, the crowd cheered vehemently for the Canucks and gave Tim Thomas and the Bruins a standing ovation. We had no idea that cars were burning outside until we were safely home.

It kind of ruined hockey for me, and for awhile, writing. I had all these great posts in mind, about how being a hockey mom is more Canadian than maple syrup, but I just didn’t care anymore.

But I’m back. I’ve just spent the last three days camping in the rain, hanging around the fire with my boisterous boys, feeding them s’mores and Jiffy pop and I feel great.

Thanks for waiting.
Love Lucie

Confessions of a Shopaholic

Growing up in Aldergrove, a small farming community on the outskirts of Greater Vancouver, was idyllic in many ways. I could ride horseback to school and had hectares of lawn to play tag on. But it was no place for a budding fashionista. Just as young Rebecca Bloomwood’s (from Confessions of a Shopaholic – not a must read by any stretch but a orgasmic must see for any fashionista who loves the thrill of the Visa swipe) shopping addiction was born when her cash savvy mother made her buy sensibly long-wearing school shoes instead of her longed-for bejewelled flats, my addiction was born in the dearth of clothing departments between the local SAAN and Otter Co-op. As soon as I was able to cajole someone into giving me an hour long ride downtown, I converted to the church of Robson Street and it’s cool stores became my drugs, my obsession, my nirvana.

Robsonstrasse, as it was marketed at the time, had a uniqueness all its own – chic boutiques with eclectic collections you couldn’t find anywhere else in town. It was Vancouver’s own version of Melrose Avenue, Canal Street, and the Champs d’Elysses. Long before Vancouver shoppers had Prada, Burberry and Michael Kors, we had Pandas, Chackas, and Parfait to remember a few. I remember buying a great nautical striped boatneck sweater from Panda in the late 80’s that is as close as I’ll ever get to Audrey Hepburn. I later discovered local designer Jacqueline Conoir at Parfait in the early 90’s and love the label to this day.

While I don’t think it was the intent of NAFTA, but over the last 20 years the US moved in and taken over Robson Street. Goodbye Alfred Sung, hello Banana Republic. Goodbye Parfait, hello BCBG Max Azria. Goodbye Vancouver individuality, hello Bebe and Guess and Zara. If you look down Robson Street today, you could just as well be in Anytown, USA. And as much as I love making a run for the border to buy the best that Target has to offer, I’m saddened that with Target’s purchase of Zellers in Canada, the homogenization of the North American shopping landscape is pretty well complete. No longer will I have to try and charm my way out of paying duty at the border. No longer will anyone shriek, “Where did you get those adorable flats?” because soon, Target will be EVERYWHERE.

Maybe I should take up a new addiction. Suggestions anyone?

Love Lucie