Showing posts from June, 2011

Limits and limitations

I have a friend who is likely to interrupt protests or hesitation with an accusation that one is simply defending one's limitations. Of course, he is often right. Often we do defend our limitations with passion and perseverance. We like to know who we are, even when it means we cannot win.

On the other hand. . .

Once upon a time, I faced a scholarship panel who asked "If you can do math, why do you want to take English?" And I was as impassioned as only a very young person can be in defence of not having to do something simply because I was capable of doing it. In the end, I did take one university math course (theoretical calculus) but I did eleven years of university English. I picked the language that talked about the things that were important to me.

At the seashore, there are no limits, and the water washes endlessly against the shore and draws back again. The river runs between its limits, and moves. . . to the sea.

I love English literature and it speaks to all …

One day in Paris

We thought it would rain this morning so we decided that it was a good day for the Musee d'Orsay since both mom and I love it. There is no direct way to get there from the hotel by Metro, so we thought we would is mostly downhill.

On the way, we admired shoe stores and patisseries with equal enthusiasm. I had started tube day by crossing the street and buying a small baguette studded with chocolate. We had it with tea in our room. We bought the kettle yesterday because I do not feel pampered if I want a large mug of tea and can't have one.

A market had appeared where none was before. I should have bought scarves but it was still so early in the day. I should have bought the little pink dress with smocking for at least one of the baby girls who will be in my life this fall. I have some commitment issues.

We made our way down towards Shakespeare and Company - not to buy books or even to go in, but just because it is there. We found the street with the oldest church i…

Golfing with My Dad

When I was about 13, old enough to feel quite grown up but not old enough for a summer job, I started playing golf.

That's not quite true. When I was 13, golf became a serious activity I did with my dad. Before that, we had several summers of wonder at a tiny golf club where it was perfectly safe for kids under 12 to take off for 9 holes without parents. I don't remember much about the golf at Briarwood: I remember mothers sitting by the pool, and kids playing for hours and hours and hours.

Golf with my dad might also take hours, but it was a different experience. Golf was serious, and I often ended up as the only kid in a foursome of men. We played at Credit Valley Golf Club in Mississauga. During the week, I learned with kids. On the weekend, my dad and I went out into the blazing valley heat to be golfers.

It was tense. First, I couldn't hit the ball very hard, so I was always "up" and always worried about holding things up. Second, there is a lot o…

In search of something undefined

Once upon a time, as it has happened many times, a young man set out to seek his fortune. He was lucky that he lived in a time when people set out to find their fortune by walking. Walking changes what you see and what you think. It gives you time to notice things you would miss from a car or an airplane.

The young man set off in spring, when the sun was shining and the air was soft. Sometimes it rained. The grass was brightly green, and the trees were newly green, and there were birds and flowers and smiles all around. It was good times, and some days he almost forgot to seek his fortune because it was almost enough just to be alive and walking in the springtime.

Summer came, and the ground grew drier and the air grew hot and damp. The young man started to think that he had been a lot of places and he still had no idea what his fortune would look like or where he would find it. He dreamed of his fortune every day while he walked, and every day it looked different to him. Sometimes…

Running things from the field

When I was in high school, there was no girls soccer program. While women's soccer was growing rapidly in the club system, it had yet to find its way into the high schools. By the time I was in grade 12, I was playing and coaching soccer all summer. I wanted to play at school, too.

I decided it was time to launch a school tournament. I was 17, and I was playing and coaching rep soccer. I was in charge of publicity for our local club and I was a qualified referee. I had passed the first level of the national coaching program (at the time, that involved a written test, a practical test, and a referee's test). Running a tournament was in reach. All I needed was a staff sponsor. A friendly history teacher agreed to become our "coach."

We began a round of communication with the local club and with other schools. I don't remember how many teams entered, or who won the tournament.

I remember standing on the back line of one field, playing defence. I was also coaching…

When I think about the happiest days in my life

I have been blessed. I have been happy for long stretches in different parts of my life. When I think about happy days, lots come to mind.

The happiest came when my boys were very small. I remember days and days when my first kid did happy all day long. I remember that it was a revelation that happy was not just something that happened to people (like good luck or chicken pox): it was something that could engage all one's attention and action. Toddlers do happy with all their minds and bodies and giggles.

The next time that bubbles to the surface is quite different. Many of us remember our undergraduate university days with affection. My time at Trent was a period of such rapid and joyful awakening to both a wide, wide world and a deeper self. I chose Trent because it had a great English department, a great record for producing excellence in the arts (not just starting with it as many programs still do), and small classes where people learned by talking to each other. I chose…

Sand and surprises

The first storyteller I remember hearing, often and vividly, is my mom. Her stories are so much a part of who I am that it's difficult to tell the difference between a memory and a memory of her stories about me and my brothers. The memories of my sister are a little easier, because I was old enough to hold her childhood almost as close and precious as my mom did.

When we were little, we lived in Vancouver and we went to the beach. I remember the coast as a place of surprises, a place where you could wake in warm sunshine and drive high enough into the mountains to toboggan (even in June). I remember the endless suspense of the traffic jams on the way to Stanley Park and gazing longingly at the drive-in. I remember looking for four leaf clovers with my grandfather.

Once we drove south into the States. I remember being sure that 60 degrees farenheit was warm enough for swimming in the ocean. Once we stopped so my brother could be free of the car (he was always carsick), and f…

Two men crossed the finish line at the same time

If you had been standing near the finish line, you would have seen them cross, matching stride for stride, exactly equal. Their finish was so close that you might have imagined they were friends running together. But they were just two men who finished the race within sight of the winners but not winners themselves.

For every race, there are many more finishers than there are leaders or winners. We hear the stories of the ones who win, inspirational stories about how hard they prepared, how much determination they gathered, how focused they stayed. We seldom hear the stories of the two men who finished, within sight of the winners but not winners themselves. We assume that if the finish is the same, the stories are the same.

But if we were to go back to the beginning, we would find that the stories were very different. We would watch one man running for miles with his son on a bike beside him, urging him on. We would watch the other leave a comfortable office to pound the miles …

Searching for a story

I am sitting here with the intention to write a story for my blog. I've just completed The Story Factor by Annette Simmons, and I am resolving to use more stories in my writing, as easily as I use them in a training room.

It's funny, but I don't remember how we picked Charlottetown for our honeymoon. I know we picked Halifax because I wanted to go to Dalhousie but decided, for many reasons, that Western made more sense. So the week before we packed up to move to London, ON, we got married and headed first for Halifax, then for a few days along the southern shore of Nova Scotia, and then to Charlottetown.

My memory of the island begins with my husband's aunt driving us north to meet family, then dropping us off at the side of a road. Presumably she was more confident that the bus would arrive than I felt as I watched her drive away. It's a funny moment for a city kid: standing with luggage in the middle of nowhere, trusting that a bus will come.

It must have come…

Just hanging out together

It's one of the first hot days of summer (even if the calendar won't catch up for a few weeks), a day that feels like it was made for just hanging out with a good friend. A long walk through a park or along the lakeshore, a patio, a backyard bbq: the perfect way to spend sunshine and heat and green grass. Just thinking about it, you can feel yourself unwind as your mind begins to wind its way back. . .

Do you remember the day you walked and talked and didn't talk, until you stopped for a drink. And then walked some more?

Do you remember sitting outside and eating and drinking and wishing you could stay right where you were?

Do you remember watching the clouds in the sky, and letting your thoughts shift with their shapes?

Whether or not it is sunny and hot as you read this, it has been hot and sunny as you read this. And whether or not we have met, you have been my friend and companion on this perfect, sunny day.

Finding yourself through multiple descriptions

I have been talking to people who train and facilitate about how they know what they are doing is working and how they decide what to change to get better. A wise friend suggested that we all need a mirror. Maybe we all need lots of mirrors.

In one of my favourite fairy tales there is a princess who is beautiful that a thousand mirrors could not show all of her loveliness at once. We are all a little like that princess. We know that parts of ourselves that we know, and there are always lots of aspects of ourselves and our relationships that other people see and we do not see.

There are two factors at work. One is that we inevitable see what we are looking for, not all of what is in front of us. So that even when we are aware of aspects of ourselves or our connections to other people or to contexts, we miss stuff. We see what we are looking at and get distracted from the whole of the picture. What is right in front of us can still be invisible to us.

The other factor is that uncons…