January 11, 2017

Gossip.  For years it has been considered salacious and the stuff of idle housewives. Studies out of the University of California, Berkeley, however, are questioning that opinion.

I personally think that a good gossip session is okay once in a while. It can be a release to share a story with a friend (or two) and voice an opinion.

Sometime gossip can be helpful. I was recently at a lunch with some friends and the gossip that came up was about two people that we all knew. As it turns out it wasnt gossip, it was, in fact true.  Had I not brought it up, I would never have know and could have put myself in very uncomfortable situation.

Okay, maybe not a great example…..but you could see my point?

Gossip is a fact of life. Everybody does it whether they admit it or not. So why not just admit it and enjoy it. According to the study done at U of C, Berkeley when people observe somebody behaving in an immoral way it caused frustration. Being able to share that information helped them feel better.

So go ahead and have a good gossip. It will do you good.

January 2, 2017

Again I am cozy in my warm bed but have committed to an early morning outdoor activity. So (again) I pull myself out of bed and put on my long johns to head out into the cold. Is it possible that it is colder than yesterday?

There is one thing I know to be true. NOTHING is better than a two hour hike in the snow with friends to balance you and put you in the right head space to face a new year of challenges

With topics ranging from work ethic to hair color to parenting to life motivation, nothing is off limits out there. Frustrations are vented and there is no judgement. I heard myself saying many times .

“I know just how you feel.”

In the afternoon I had the misfortune of attending a gathering to honor the mom of another friend who had died on, of all days, Christmas Day. I am now officially in the generation of people with old parents who are dying and it sucks.

Having just lost my mom a couple of months ago it was all very fresh for me. As I hugged my friend I quietly said.

“I know just how you feel.”

The Best Thing in Life is knowing that so long as you have your friends, you are not in this alone.

A Rainy Day Run

“So we’re really going to do this?”

“Yup.  Pick you Saturday at 8:00am.,

“Okay.”

And that’s how it started.

It was kind of drizzling a bit when we got dropped off just beside the highway at the Whyte Lake trail head.  (Elevation 390 ft) There were a couple of cars in the gravel lot but apart from that it was pretty much deserted.  We buckled up our Camelbacks and started off around the corner only to face the first hill.  For the next two and a half hours we would make our way up the front of Black Mountain to Eagle Bluff.  (Elevation 3550).  Ya, that’s right.  Just over 3000 feet.  Up.

eagle-bluffs
This is what we hopes to see……

We ran though the forest for about an hour or so catching up on the last few weeks.  Kids, school, work, stuff.  Okay, so maybe we didn’t run the whole time but we kept up a pretty good pace despite talking non-stop.  The Baden Powell trail is well marked with happy orange squares stapled to trees so finding our way was pretty easy.  Eventually though, through the trees, we could see a rock face and we both knew what was coming next.  If we had thought that we had been going up before we had a whole new kind of “up” ahead of us.

“Shit, don’t look down” was mentioned more than once.  The notes on this portion of the trail mentioned to be sure and “lean in” to the side of the mountain.  Believe it or not we were still having fun.

After the first steep climb through the trees we came out onto a boulder field.  Seriously.  A field of boulders.  Only not a flat field.  A field of boulders on a 75 degree angle.  There were no more friendly orange markers on the trees.  We were on our own.  Crawling over boulders.  We headed straight up but then realized that we didn’t know where the trail picked up again.  I spotted a tiny inukshuk at the top right and headed for that.  A few feet above it the trail started up again.  We looked back down at what we had just covered and considered  ourselves lucky to have made it.

Boulders

Once that was done it didn’t seem that much farther up to Eagle Bluff.  The final push was just trying to find a path up the bluff that had something to hold onto.  By the time we got to the bluff it was raining and the clouds had closed in.  Apparently there is a phenomenal view for the bluff but we will never saw it.  Grey.  Nothing but grey.  Awesome, we climbed 3000 feet for this?

Eagle Bluff
Grey and cloudy but we’re still smiling

Back into the trees we went but if we thought we were done with going up, we were wrong.  Maybe it wasn’t as steep, but it was definitely up.  I may have muttered a few swear words at this point.  The trail was muddy but we were back in the trees and a bit more sheltered.  At some point a guy whizzed (and I do mean whizzed) past us.  Wide wooden planks became the trail over marshy sections that ended our climb.  For now.  Our last half an hour was down a wide gravel path and ended at the Cypress Park Ski Lodge.  The cozy fire, smell of grilled burgers and cold beer sign almost had us calling it a day.  But no.

You see, The Best Thing in Life as that we were only half way done.  Seriously.  Stayed tuned for part two.

I Don’t Care If You Like Me

Whistler 50

I used to walk into a room full of people and wonder if they liked me……now I look around and wonder if I like them.

Last weekend I spent three days with fifteen women.  It was a girls weekend in a local resort.  A few of us spent most of Friday relaxing in Whistler.  Shopping  and drinking beer at the pub. Or both.  A few more arrived in the early evening after work, more than ready to decompress after a long week.  A few more didn’t make it up until the next morning.

Mexican Corner

By Saturday evening sixteen of us were sitting around two tables at a great Mexican restaurant swapping stories about everything from work to kids to travel.  Collectively we had run 160 km (99.5 miles)that day.  Some of us were tired.  Some of us were exhilarated.  Some of us were just happy to be sitting up and awake.  The margaritas were flowing freely.

This was not the first time we had done something like this.  Over the past five years a core group of us, plus a few willing ( and not so willing) additions, have ventured out of our comfort zones to run (notice how I didn’t say compete) in a relay race each year.  Really it’s just an excuse to go away for the weekend without our spouses and kids.  It’s not really about the running any more.  Last year we spent 33 Hours in a Van.

Chick Peas

But here’s the thing.  It wasn’t that long ago that I would have fretted for days about doing this.  Not the running or being away from my family, but spending that much time in close quarters with women that, sometimes, I don’t really know very well.  I would have worried about whether or not I was interesting enough or whether I was accomplishing enough in my life.  I would worry that, perhaps , there would be somebody that would disagreed with my opinion and (heaven forbid) wouldn’t like me. I would worry that I wouldn’t “fit in”.

Now, to quote a wise running companion, I don’t give a rats ass.

Don’t get me wrong.   These women are incredible and I enjoy spending time with each of them for various different reasons.  But do I spend time worrying about whether they like me or not?  Nope.  And I hope that they feel the same way.  The more time you spend worrying about whether or not people like you, the less time you have to get to know them.

For example, I now accept that it’s okay to be away from the pack sometimes.  In fact I’ve found that it can be a saving grace.  It is not unacceptable for me to say “Hey! I’m just going to go for a walk and I’ll meet everybody back at the room”. Maybe you just need some space or maybe you want to hit up the bakery without letting anybody know that you are secretly craving a slice of coconut cake.

Not that I’ve ever done that.

I guess what I am trying to say (not very eloquently) is that it is one of The Best Thing in Life to be able to experience all that this type of weekend can bring by simply being yourself.

PS – that’s not me in the opening picture.

TBT – Kamikaze Friends

J&K wedding

I remember this day so clearly. It was the summer of 1994. My dear friends Karen and Jeff got married in the Rose Garden in Stanley Park. There were only four of us there. Karen, Jeff, me and my ex-husband. (We were married at the time). It was a beautiful sunny summer day and we were young and happy and had no cares in the world.

My ex-husband met Jeff through a friend of his. They were going sailing one day and his friend asked if his cousin could come along. When I got home from work that day the three of them were all hanging out in the front yard drinking beer and laughing at Jeff’s titanic impression on the boat that day. “I’m the king of the world” he screamed as he hung onto the front of the bow.

Jeff and Karen met purely by chance. They were both extras in a movie being shot at Nat Bailey stadium. Karen spied Jeff in the crowd and surreptitiously maneuvered her way a little closer to him. Okay, maybe not so much a “chance” meeting. We met Karen a short time later and the four of us hit it off right away.

We had a lot in common. We all loved tennis and played doubles any chance we got. We all loved to travel. We all loved cooking and good food and spent many evenings cooking and drinking wine together. And then there were the Kamikazes. Frozen vodka and lime cordial shooters. I’m not sure why we thought they were a good idea but they were present at every occasion. How many times we headed out to the tennis courts with wicked hangovers I can’t recall. Oh and did I mention that we ended up living right beside each other?

Karen and I were die hard Martha Stewart fans. This was before she went to jail…Martha not Karen. I still have the Martha Stewart cookbook they gave me on my thirtieth birthday. It’s a bit torn up and stained but every time I open it I think of them.

On the day they got married in the Rose Garden by a justice of the peace there couldn’t have been a happier couple. So in love and so happy to have found each other. Both had been married before and endured difficult divorces. As we drank champagne in a horse-drawn carriage we toasted their good fortune in finding each other. And then we did kamikaze shots. It was kind of our thing.

J&K spoons

The horse-drawn carriage took us along the edge of lost lagoon and down the path to the Tea House. That’s when the picture was taken. Karen and I on the lawn across from the restaurant, overlooking English Bay. Considering it was mid nineties I had some awesome 80’s hair going on. Karen, of course, looked fabulous in her wedding dress.

A couple of years later, 1996, the four of us all went to Mexico together. I had just found out that I was pregnant and Karen discovered that she was pregnant while we were there. I still remember how the two of them giggled when they told us how they had gone into a pharmacy in Cancun and quietly tried to find a pregnancy test that didn’t have instructions in Spanish. Our sons were born two months apart.

J&K hammok

In February of 1997 my husband and I split up. Jeff and Karen were in a difficult position. They were still living beside my ex but found it difficult to accept the things he had down that ultimately ended our marriage. They were both there on the day that I moved into my new home but shortly after moved to Calgary. That was 1997. In 1999 Jeff passed away in his sleep.

Our carefree days were over and the realities of a different life set in. Karen’s birthday is coming up next month. I might just need to go out and by some vodka and lime cordial. The Best Thing in Life is beautiful memories and life long friends.

Coincidence or Kismet?

piano

Do you every think that things are just meant to happen when they happen? That the universe has a plan and you just don’t know about it? Today was one of those days for me. At a time when I was lacking motivation, questioning my decisions and wondering if the direction I was going in was leading me the right way, I had an Oprah moment. You know the one. The quintessential “aha” moment. I wasn’t unhappy, I was just unsure of where things were going or if they even needed to go anywhere. Should I soldier on or reevaluate and make a change? I felt I was lacking a focus. Then I had lunch with a very wise and lovely friend that I had been trying to connect with for months. Coincidence?

A classically trained pianist who grew up in, of all places, Prince George, Stephanie and I met when our kids attended the same pre-school. She started playing the piano when she was two and her piano teacher recognized her talent early on. By the time she was fourteen she was flying down to Vancouver once a month for lessons. She was accepted to Juliard, Peabody and Eastman – the creme de la creme of music schools in the US. After choosing and studying at Eastman she was destined for a career as a concert pianist. She, however, had a defining moment when her panic attacks started to get the best of her. She also never felt the pull that many performers feel for an adoring audience or a standing ovation. Many performers continue for the ego boost, but she realized that the direction she was heading was not meant to be. What was meant to be, was to bring the pure joy of music, that she felt, to others. As a teacher.

Her approach to teaching is truly organic. As I ate the delicious spicy Mexican soup she had made us for lunch, I listened to her explaining how learning music is not just about the notes and the technique, but the feeling you get from playing. She has been known to tell a student to “go and watch water”. The point being, to teach the lightness and finesse of playing the notes. To mimic the way the water flows and bubbles. “Some kids get it, some don’t”. She went on to say, that teaching young kids comes with a unique opportunity to mold the way they approach playing and practicing. Most would start with the easy stuff and go on from there. She encourages them to start with the most challenging part. That is a difficult thing for anybody to do at any age.

water

The most important thing she tries to instill in her students is that music should come from a place of happiness – not from a place of ego. You could win a hundred music competitions and still not understand the meaning of the music you have played. Some of the best musicians play for the pure love of it. If they are able to make a living doing it, then it really is just icing on the cake. The need for a gold star or, in my case, verification that somebody is reading my blogs and that I am making a difference, is a huge stumbling block for me. She reminded me that perhaps there was somebody out there reading my blog and thinking “wow, that’s exactly how I’m feeling too”. I could be making somebody think a different way or see a different side to something. Maybe I’m just allowing somebody to steal a few minutes from their day, read a story and enjoy the way it makes them feel.  Like a piece of music.

As usual I went into this situation with one idea and came away with a completely different point if view. I started out being envious of my friend’s passion for music and the way that she had been able to take that and use it to teach children and left feeling like maybe, just maybe, I too had a path to follow. An opportunity to catch up and learn about her music career turned into a life lesson for me. Go figure. I left her house feeling inspired, rejuvenated and happy to have reconnected with such a kind and insightful friend. Even if nobody is reading my blog, I am doing what makes me happy. Perhaps I am not “over achieving” but my family is happy too. I need to live my life for the joy and not for the gold star. The Best Thing in Life is just letting things happen the way the universe wants them to happen and enjoying the kismet.

Being Kind

As she parked in the parking lot the nerves started to grow. She hadn’t seen some of these people in years. Would they even know who she was? Would she recognize anybody? The receptionist directed her upstairs to the banquet rooms. She made a quick stop in the bathroom to check her hair and makeup. Did she really need to impress anybody? She was happily married with two great kids and a loving husband. Old habits die hard she told herself. When she finally made her way to the room where her twentieth high school reunion was being held, her nerves seemed to disappear and all she felt was excitement.

At the door to the banquet room there was a table covered in name tags and a dark haired woman was bent over putting them in order. She looked up suddenly and squealed. “Oh my god it’s so great to see you. How are you? You look great. Here, I have your name tag. Wow, it’s been so long but you look just the same. I would know that smile anywhere.” As the greeter rattled on she thought “She has no idea who I am.” You could have knocked her over with a feather. She stood before the table smiling and nodding and remembering. The greeter looked just the same too. She would never forget her. Not after that day so many years ago.

It was grade five and she was in Mr. McBride’s class at West Bay Elementary School. She had been outside at lunch playing dodge ball in the courtyard with a bunch of other kids. A silly school yard game but hey, she was in grade five and that’s what they did at lunch time. When the bell rang she ran up the stairs past the library and janitors room to her classroom. As she entered the room she saw one of her girlfriends and said hi. Her friend looked at her, but then quickly looked away and whispered something to the girl beside her. That’s a bit weird, she thought and took her seat. During the rest of the afternoon she caught them whispering a few more times. She even noticed them whispering to another friend as they came back from art class. Hm, wonder what’s up? She thought.

The afternoon dragged on forever but when the bell finally rang she grabbed her bag and coat and headed for the door. “Forgetting something?” Darn, she had forgotten that Mr. McBride had asked her to stay and go over her multiplication tables. She really needed to know what was going in with her friends so she told a small lie and said that she forgot she had piano that day. “Okay, but tomorrow for sure?” Sure, she said, and turned away quickly, feeling guilty. She burst out the door and ran straight into a group of her friends. “Hey, what’s up? What is everybody whispering about?” They all turned to look at her but only one person spoke. “You. We’re talking about you.” The dark haired girl said. Me, why would they be talking about me she wondered? “We’re all really sick of how immature you are. We saw you today on the playground jumping around like a preschooler. What is wrong with you?”

She looked around at the group of fourth grade girls now surrounding her. Some of them looked away, some of them looked at the girl speaking and some looked back at her blankly. Acting immature? She had been playing dodgeball? She stammered trying to find the words to explain what she had done. What she had done? She hadn’t DONE anything. What was going on? She looked at each of them for some kind of explanation. Her face was suddenly hot and her hands were shaking. She turned away and ran towards the bathrooms. She stayed in one of the stalls for what seemed like hours. When she finally ventured out the halls were quiet and empty. She walked home that day feeling hurt, embarrassed and confused.

It was all flooding back as she stood there at the entrance to the banquet room. It was years ago, but at this moment it seemed like just yesterday. The greeter apparently didn’t remember, as she had already moved on to the next person coming down the hall. It hadn’t happened again after that day but she would never forget the hurtful words directed at her. The embarrassment of being singled out and that the dark haired girl had, for that moment, turned her friends against her. She would never know why and it truly didn’t matter. The damage was done with just a few words in only a matter of moments. As she stepped into the room full of her school friends she reminded herself that The Best Thing in Life is to teach your kids to be kind.

The Best Things in Life

The Best Things in Life can be small and insignificant or they can be monumental and life altering. They also happen every day to everyone on the planet. The problem is that we don’t always recognize them.

This month, November 2014, I hope to change the way I look at The Best Things in Life. This month, each day, I will recognize some small (or monumental) thing in my life by posting a picture, link or quote on my Twitter account. Follow me at @seymourmommy to see what The Best Things in Life are for the month of November.

I Made A New Friend Today

group of friends

“I made a new friend today.” A normal thing for a seven year old to come home and say, but what about a fifty year old? As we get a little older it isn’t as easy to meet new people and really connect. Wouldn’t it be great if we could all be as open and carefree as a seven year old? This summer I spent a week in the Okanagan with my daughter. Each day we would go to the lake and set up our chairs. She would look around, find somebody close to her size (smaller or bigger didn’t seem to matter) and go and play with them. Sometimes it worked out and the day was spent with her new best friend swimming and building sand castles. Occasionally, it didn’t work out and she would move on to the next small person. So easy and so unassuming.

A few years ago I was having dinner with a group of old friends. Our conversation turned to a women we had all met at a party a few weeks before. She seemed nice and one of us suggested we invite her to our next dinner. At this point one of my girlfriends said “Sure invite her, but I’m not interviewing for any new friends right now”. I didn’t think much of it at the time and we all laughed at her, but it has sort of stuck with me over the years. When you make a statement like that, don’t you close yourself off to so many new experiences, opinions and well, joys? Who’s to say that the person you met at the event you went to last night isn’t going to be your best friend in the next few years and bring a new perspective to your life. New ideas, fresh outlooks and perhaps even another new friend. Sure, they could be a total nut job, but wouldn’t it be better to find out first before you block them on Facebook?

I feel that the best thing to do at this stage in my life when starting a new friendship is to not have too high of an expectation. I know that may sound a bit cynical, but hear me out. I do not expect to have coffee with you every week. I do not expect to chat with you on the phone every day. I do not expect birthdays present or even a card. I don’t expect any of those things from friends I have known for years, or are particularly close to, so why would I expect them of some body I just met? I’m pretty low maintenance when it comes to friendships. My friends have pissed me off many times over the years and I’m pretty sure I’ve done the same, but you get over it. In a solid friendship there is no judgment and there is no “Did I offend you”? Of course you did, but that’s okay, we’ll move on.

I met two great women this summer. In my opinion, both are strong, independent women with big hearts. I could see being friends with both of them; for completely different reasons. I also got to know some women who I didn’t know very well, a little better. All of this happened very naturally and easily. Again, there is no expectation that we will swap spit or have slumber parties anytime soon, but could I call them if I needed a friendly chat or some support? Absolutely. How do you know if the person you meet is potential friend material? It’s one thing to be able to carry on a conversation with somebody, but to feel like you could spend the day just hanging out and talking means that you have shared values and interests.

Maybe that’s why it is so easy for our kids to make new friends. They are without judgement. They see only a person who likes what they like and can build a mean sandcastle. The Best Thing in Life would be to open ourselves up like a seven year old and make some new friends. At any age.

Camp

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I’ve been thinking about my summer camp experiences a lot lately. Maybe it’s because I was recently near Anacortes and got to enjoy a Washington State Ferry again. It’s more likely though that it’s the hot stickiness of summer that is bringing these memories back. Those hot days when you just want to jump into a freezing cold body of water. Day one of camp always involved jumping off the dock for the swim test. The water was so cold that it took your breath away. It sucked, but it was kind of a right of passage too. If you could make it through that, then you could most likely take on anything the rest of the summer had. And there was a lot to take on.

I was fortunate enough to go to an amazing camp on Orcas Island in the San Juan Islands. Four Winds Westward Ho gives campers the most incredible camping experience in a setting that is, well, almost idyllic. Set on 100 acres of waterfront property, the camp accommodates boys and girls aged 7-14 who stay in cabins or raised tents dotted along the coastline. They all have great names. Crows Nest, Spinnaker and Moonraker are a few I remember. They are very rustic and communal toilets and showers are, shall we say, basic? Camp uniforms are mandatory. Girls wear blue bloomers and midis with white trim. Not the most flattering of choices but so comfy and easy to wear. Boys wear blue board short and white t-shirts. It puts everyone on the same level. Choices of activities included all water activities, crafts, tennis, horseback riding, music and gardening.

I spent four summers at Four Winds. Two as a camper and two as a CT, or counselor in training. During my last year as a camper I had three of the best cabin buddies ever. Our counselor, Diana, gave us lots of freedom and we used it. One night Katie, Jennifer, Dorothy and I stayed up late to bake brownies in the counselors kitchen. It got pretty late and we didn’t want to have to wake up early when the bell sounded at 7:00am. What to do, what to do? I know. Let’s climb up the peak of the lodge and take the clapper out of the bell. So we did. Know what? Let’s put the clapper in the middle of a pan of brownies and leave it on the Head Counselors front porch. I don’t remember if we ever got caught or not.

campers

I met so many cool people over the four summers I was there. Lisa from Southern California who found our Pacific Northwest summers not quite hot enough so she wore a turtleneck to play tennis in. Doug from Seattle who was obsessed with banana slugs. He knew everything about them and may have even kept some as pets in his tent. Scrimshaw (pretty sure that wasn’t his real name) and his wife and two kids. He was a counselor and she was the camp nurse. Kris, the CT leader, had the most amazing voice and guitar playing skills. It was through her that I learned to love the music of James Taylor and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. My lovely friend Nancy who I still keep in touch with even though she lives on the other side of the continent.

4Winds CTs

Gypsy Day came once a summer. Signaled by loud singing starting early in the morning. One cabin starts the process and walks hand in hand from cabin to cabin to tent singing the whole way and forming a long line of camps in their jammies. Once very cabin/tent is picked up and everyone is back to the lodge. Gypsy Day can officially begin. Each cabin picks up their packed lunch (most likely PBJ on pita bread) and head off on their adventure. Hiking Turtle Mountain, sailing to Lopez or canoeing across the sound. The day ends with everybody back at Lodge tired but eager to share the stories from the day. More singing and laughing until everybody is ready for bed.

If you were a sailor, as most at camp were, the ultimate prize of the summer was the Martha Trip. The Martha was a sloop that 6 lucky campers got to spend two weeks on, sailing up Desolation Sound. It was usually senior campers who had proven themselves competent sailors and were looking for adventure. Although I was never fortunate enough to sail on the Martha it was a huge part of camp that everyone wanted to be part of. The tradition was that whoever first saw her come around the point at the end of the trip had to run up to the lodge and rung the bell. There really are too many memories and cool things about Four Winds to put into one blog post. I can only hope that my daughter will one day be privileged enough to enjoy an experience like this.

There are so many benefits to any summer camp but the traditions and uniqueness of Four Winds are somehow magical. I’m actually getting a bit emotional thinking about the time spent there. Looking at the pictures and remembering all the people and the fun is definitely one of The Best Things in Life for me.

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