Archives for category: Health & Wellbeing
Channeling my inner Sinead O’Connor. Someone once asked me why I wore so much make-up here. I’m not. It’s no more than usual. Only there’s no hair or anything on my head to distract you….

This woman’s experience, to be exact.

There’s been a lot of talk lately – although more of it about one man’s actions than alopecia itself. So here’s a little something about experiencing alopecia. Please bear in mind everyone who experiences this does so differently. We all have unique comfort levels, priorities, insecurities, opinions, needs, etc. etc. etc.

I’d been working at Vancouver 2010 for about three years, and there were another six months to go before Games. Vancouver 2010 is by far one of the best work experiences I have had (and I’ve been lucky enough to have many wonderful work experiences). That said, it was 3 1/2 years of constant deadlines. What made this job hard wasn’t the work itself, it was the relentless nature of it. I was part of the incredible Brand & Creative Services team, and workload just got bigger and more complex as the Games approached. There was never a down time. I loved it.

I had also been in a long-distance relationship for about a year, with a man living in the UK — which brings its own ups and downs, challenges and rewards.

I thought I was handling it all pretty well, with a regular routine of yoga, working out in a boxing gym, swimming, time with friends – all the good stuff.

Then our incredible Design Director Leo passed away from a massive heart attack – he was 39, younger than me. Leo and I sat in the same pod of four, and worked closely together on a number of pretty incredible projects – many still in production at the time. The first ten days after he passed, I found my shoulders up at my ears. Full on tension, all being sent to the top of my head.

As soon as I, and my shoulders, started to relax, my scalp started feeling funny. Then it was on fire. I noticed hair in my hands as I washed each morning. For some this is “normal.” For some it’s a daily thing to find hair in their hands when they wash, doesn’t mean anything unusual is going on. Not so for me. For me this was a clear sign something was up.

Pre-alopecia me. Hanging out with The Ladies Who Dine.

I started asking my friends if they noticed anything – could they see that my hair was thinning/falling out? They all said no. Ben, who is over 6 foot tall, assured me that all looked well from his angle (I’m 5’3″).

Still, it kept happening, and soon it was even more obvious to me that something was up.

I now had a bunch of complicated feelings battling inside me:

  • For years I’d watched my mum and her sisters have their hair thin as they aged. Was this karma for those not-so-nice thoughts I had about that? About not wanting it to happen to me?
  • Was there something seriously wrong with me? Was there a serious physical issue?
  • Was everyone looking at my head and judging my hair or lack thereof? (Yes, I am aware of the self-centred nature of this…clearly people have better things to think about than the hair on my little head…but still, the thoughts, the insecurity, the fear…it takes over at times. I am only human.)
  • “Snap out of it” I’d tell myself.

Around and around it went.

Pre-alopecia, with my sisters and mum.

After a couple of trips to my doctor, the word “alopecia” became part of my vocabulary. My first visit was too soon for it to be obvious, on my second it was clear. At about this time I started wearing cute little hats/toques every day. That’s how self-conscious I was. That’s how thin my hair was getting. I walked around in fear of losing my hat, or of having someone yank it off. I just did not want anyone to see what was happening on my head. I did not want to field questions, or talk about it. I wanted to wake up and have everything back to “normal.”

Next came the appointments with dermatologists who specialize in scalp/alopecia. The one I really wanted to see didn’t have an availability for two months. Alopecia isn’t life-threatening – there’s no sense of urgency or emergency. However, I was a walking mass of mixed emotions, afraid I’d break down if anyone said anything to me. I didn’t want to wait two months to have alopecia confirmed. I wanted confirmation so I could figure out what to do about it and move on.

I ended up seeing someone at St. Paul’s Hospital. What an experience that was… It’s a teaching hospital, and I was greeted by a medical student who asked why I as there. I explained and took off my toque. He left to get the doctor, who came in, took one look at me and said “I’ll be right back.” A few minutes later he entered the room with five students, asked them to look at me and give their opinion/guess as to what my issue was. Hell, the thought of that still makes me feel a little sick, and it’s been 12 years. A bunch of words were thrown out by the students – most of which I don’t remember, other than “Lupus.” Lupus? Come on! The doctor finally interjected, confirming it was alopecia. He then spoke about what could be done to help, the first step being injections of corticosteriods all over my head. The students left, and he proceeded to administer the shots. Mostly they didn’t really feel like anything. However there were a few spots at the bottom of my head, just above my neck, that hurt.

The doctor noticed the tears in my eyes and said, “Oh, you’re crying!” My inner voice wanted to scream “NO SHIT I’M CRYING! I’VE JUST BEEN TREATED LIKE A SCIENCE EXPERIMENT, WITHOUT EVEN ASKING ME, AND NOW YOU’VE JABBED A NEEDLE INTO MY HEAD, MULTIPLE TIMES!!! Instead, what came out of my mouth was “Don’t worry about it, happens a lot these days.” With that, I left.

Had he asked me before getting the students in, having them shout out guesses, and discussing me like I wasn’t there, I would have said yes and it would have been a totally different experience. Instead, I left feeling like I was some kind of weird, whacky science experiment.

I never went back there again. Luckily the other docter I wanted to see had an opening come up a couple of weeks later. Thankfully it was a much better experience all around.

My niece Ellie, rubbing my head. People loved rubbing my bald held, and I was very much okay with that. I love having someone play with my hair, except I don’t have the kind of hair people like to play with….so this was a nice treat.

There was now about a quarter of my hair left, and it was time to decide what to do. For the record, I have never had a thick head of hair. Having only a quarter was not a pretty sight. My hair was cut in a bob just above my shoulders, with bangs, which didn’t help either. So, what to do?

I went to a store specializing in wigs made from real hair. I tried on every kind of hair style and colour I could. I’d say it was “fun,” but it was all still too raw for me. I’d always wanted long, thick, curly hair. It was one of the first wigs I tried. In that moment I learnt why it is I do not have long, thick, curly hair. It looked ridiculous. Too much hair for my little face. I took pictures of myself with the various wigs on, which I sorely wish I still had. Unfortunately they were lost when my laptop fried the following year.

I wasn’t convinced a wig was the thing for me. Didn’t matter which wig I had on, I felt I was playing dress-up. It didn’t feel like me. And I don’t know how to be anyone other than me. The thought of feeling like this day in and day out didn’t sit well. Besides, I started every day either going for a swim, to a hot yoga class, or working out at the gym. What the hell would I do with the wig then? Certainly wasn’t going to wear it.

I’d already started contemplating just shaving it all off, but that was a scary prospect too. Me, a woman, in her 40’s, walking around with a bald head?

After talking to my long-time hairdresser Haul, he opened his salon for me on a Sunday evening, so nobody else would be there to witness this. I really didn’t want anyone to see me without my hat on. We brought a bottle of wine in order to make this as ‘celebratory’ as possible, and chatted as we always do. Then he said it was time to take my hat off and do it. “I look like I’m a cancer patient,” I said. “I’ve worked with plenty of cancer patients,” he replied. I sat down, and took my hat off. As I dialed my sister Hélène so she could “be there” as it happened (she had been encouraging me to shave my head), Haul got to work. Chitt chatty Haul was gone, and before I knew it, half my heald was shaved. As my hair fell to the floor, so did my worry, so did the stress of the the 2 1/2 months leading to this moment.

It was also a relief to see there were no strange bumps or dents or acne on my head. Seriously, you don’t know until it’s all gone!

Haul and I looked at each other, smiled, and agreed that we should have shaved my head a long, long time ago.

We also joked that he should have started with the middle of my head and given me a comb over, and taken photos. There’s no way I could have done that though – not until all the hair was gone and I was happy with the woman in the mirror looking back at me – could I have joked like this.

From a photo shoot. Shiny bald head. Baring all. This is me.

Haul had also booked a family in for hair cuts, well after he knew we would be done. We decided to put my toque back on, and when the mum and her two teenagers arrived he introduced us. He told them he’d given me just about every hair cut and colour out there (true story), but it was the first time we had done this…and he lifted my toque, exposing my freshly-shaved head. The 17-year old son said “wow, that’s sooo cool!” And with that, with the acceptance of a teenage boy, my confidence started coming back. For the record, his mum and sister also said they liked it. It’s just he was way more effusive in his reaction.

Now came the test of “wearing” this new non-hair-do daily. I was nervous as I walked into the office that Monday morning, still sporting a toque. Then my friend Julie asked me to take it off so she could see what it looked like. Julie’s reaction was so heartwarming, as was my friend Carla’s. Carla was sat at her desk, and upon hearing Julie, turned around and said “You look so beautiful.” More insecurities dropped. I didn’t wear my hat again that day.

The next morning I walked into my gym wearing a sporty Nike head cap. My trainer Richard looked at me and said “you shaved your head, why are you wearing that? Take it off.” So I took it off – hey, after years of working out with Richard, I was used to following his orders! He said I looked great, others who came into the gym said the same.

After that, the only reason I wore a toque again was temperature. It was November…you realize quickly how much heat you lose from your head when there’s nothing covering it.

My friends Terry and JoAnne throw a themed Christmas party every year (non-COVID year, of course). When Terry said he wanted the theme to be “bad hair, bad make-up” I said YESSSSS! I knew exactly what I’d do. One tip: be careful of using carpet tape to adhere a wig to your freshly shaven head. I cut out the bald area of the wig and needed to make sure it stayed. Another party-goer looked at me and said “Wow, you go all out for a party!” I didn’t have the heart to tell her I’d been shaving my head for two years. I left this party and went to another, hosted by Carla. Hers was not a themed party. Hers was a pretty party. I walked in with the comb over wig on. I didn’t know the first two people I saw as I entered, and the look on their faces was priceless. I smiled and said hello. Carla heard me and replied “Lise is here!” Then she walked around the corner, saw me and exclaimed, “Take that thing off!” Oh man, this still makes me laugh so hard.

Even though it was barely 2 1/2 months from the moment I initially noticed hair loss to shaving my head, it was a long road to get there – filled with doubts, tears and “why?” questions. The road also included a lot of support from family and friends. Friends who introduced me to others who had alopecia with whom I spoke and learnt. When I told my friend and boss Ali that I was going to shave my head because of alopecia, she sent me an email with photos of her “favourite super model, who was known for having a shaved head.” Shawn, a co-worker and friend, told me I was “rockin’ the bald look.” My friends Laura and Vicky, who looked at me in disbelief when I told them I’d gone to the wig shop, and said “Why did you do that alone? We would have gone with you!” In truth, although I took some physical steps on my own (well, ALL physical steps that is), I was never “alone.” With me, battling the fear, the insecurity, the “why’s,” was the support of my friends and family.

Even with all this support, it wasn’t always roses and sunshine. I remember looking at myself in the mirror one day, and seeing a woman with black boots, jeans, a black t-shirt and a black pleather jacket.
“Be careful,” the voice in my head said. “You don’t want to look too butch.” Whaaaattt??? No matter what, the insecurities have a way of popping back in, and sometimes with the craziest of statements.

I got used to my bald head quickly enough. And then, I lost most of my eyebrows. Weirdly, they fell from the inside out – leaving just a few brow hairs on the sides. A bald head was one thing. No eyebrows on top of that was another. I went into MAC and was taught how to draw my brows. Problem was, I apparently have a tendeny to touch my face a lot. The first time I drew on my brows and went out for dinner, I got home and noticed I’d smudged them all over my forehead. Clearly this wasn’t going to work. I just needed to get used to having no brows. Fortunately, they came back quickly.

On the plus side, I never needed to shave my armpits or legs, and it did give me the best “bikini wax” ever.

They say alopecia is an auto-imune condition, inflammation that causes hair to fall out. The dermatologist I saw for well over a year told me it was likely a gene I have, and an emotional stresser set it off. That made sense to me. My completely un-scientific explanation is that after Leo passed, I held a ton of stress in my shoulders, pushed it all up to the top of my head, and fried the inside of it. No wonder my hair fell out.

For some, alopecia comes in a spot or spots on their head. For me it was all over, and it was aggressive. For some, alopecia is a life-long condition. For me, it lasted about two years. Let me tell you, I was naiive at first, thinking that it would all come back immediately after I shaved my head. The body, however, needs time to heal.

The photo shoot I ended up doing to comemorate this time in my life led to an article in Best Health Magazine. My photographer had been in touch with the magazine about a different article and had submitted some of my photos. They chose to do an article about alopecia instead. Thank you Cathy Empey – I am forever grateful for these beautiful images.

Although my hair is back, I often consider shaving it off again – especially when summer comes. Let me tell you I LOVED my little tanned head! It also makes dealing with sweaty summer days easier when you don’t have to “worry about your hair.”

All this to say…like most things in life, alopecia is a very personal experience. Although shaving and walking around with a bald head felt right for me, it won’t for others. Although wearing a wig or hat or scarf every day didn’t feel right for me, it will for others. It’s all good – everyone needs to do what works for them, what makes them happy.

To those of you who approached me at a time when I just didn’t have it in me to talk about it, I am sorry. I did, and do, appreciate that you took the time to ask. It’s just that sometimes I got tired of answering the questions. I’m still only human.

Lastly, I really wish I’d written down all the interactions I had with strangers while I shaved my head. Not one of them was mean or insensitive. I leave you now with a few of my favourites.

Vancouver 2010 – behind the scenes at the nightly medals ceremonies at BC Place, watching them on the monitor backstage. Thank you Byron for capturing that moment for me.

1.The first time strangers said “God bless you” to me. I was producing the medal ceremonies at BC Place, and decided to go into the audience to watch. Two women sitting behind me got up after the ceremony and said “God bless you and your family.” Confused, I looked at them and repeated the same greeting. As I ran up the stairs to the concourse level and my office, I stopped and thought “ooohhhh! They think I have cancer, that’s why they said that!” You see, eventually you forget you are walking around with a shiny bald head, because it becomes “normal” to you – at least it did for me. So when these women said “God bless”, I couldn’t figure out why. It took a few moments to come to me.

2.The time I was at the Ukranian Centre with The Ladies Who Dine for perogi night. An older man (also with a bald head) came to me and asked what I did to get my head that shiny. It was so cute. Unfortunately for him I didn’t have a secret to share. I’d shaved in the shower that morning, and it was just shiny. Before leaving, he looked at me and said, “I knew it would be okay to ask. My wife and her friend said I couldn’t, but I knew it would be.” Yes. Totally fine to ask.

3.The time I was in Mexico post Games, at Bikini Boot Camp (now that’s a way to rest!). A fellow boot camp attendee looked at me and said, “Why did you shave your head?” We talked, and eventually she also asked, “Don’t you like how I just came out and asked?” Yes. Yes I certainly did. It was just a question, one borne from genuine interest. Natalie became, and still is, one of my favourite people and good friend.

4.That time I did a photo shoot, and my bestie Julie came with me “to creative direct” and lend moral support. It was a long drive out to the valley for this shoot. I had decided I wanted to commemorate this time. Like I said, I naiively thought my hair would all be back quickly. Julie not only came with me to the shoot, she came with me to pick up the cd with the photos when they were ready, and sat with me at Olive Garden as we looked through them and ate lunch. I’m so happy I have a photo of the two of us that day. That shoot also provided me with the photo I use as the banner for this blog site – it’s perfect for “random thoughts from Lise’s head.”

With Julie at the photo shoot. The support and love of friends and family – and even strangers – means everything.

5.That time I was walking through Yaletown with my friend Sheena, and a man who had been sitting at a café jumped up, tapped me on the shoulder and told me how awesome my shaved head was. He went on to say he felt it was wonderful to see a woman with the strength and confidence to do that, and that I looked great. I’m pretty sure I looked like a deer in headlights at the time — I don’t do well when surprised like that. However, whoever you were, I very much appreciated it.

6.That time an older lady stopped me in the grocery store parking lot. She said she had been diagnosed with cancer, was considering shaving her head, and wanted to know how it felt. She had to be in her mid-sixties. After asking her how she was doing, and saying I hoped all would be well, I assured her it felt great. Then she asked, “But what do the men think?” I looked at her and said, “The young men like it.” It’s true. Men my age usually didn’t say much – likely skirting it because they thought it was cancer (which is why I appreciated the actions of the man in the moment described above). She shrugged her shoulders and replied, “Well, that’s good for you….” I smiled and said, “No, that’s good for EVERYBODY.”

If you have stayed with me to the end of this, thank you so much. Hopefully I’ve given you a little insight to what it means for a woman to face alopecia.

Be well.

Photo by Anete Lusina on

I love me a good massage. For that matter, I love me almost every kind of “therapy.” Massage, chiropractic, acupuncture, reiki, reflexology, cranial…all of it. This is foremost on my mind today as I have spent the past six weeks dealing with recurring pain in my right lower inner calf. One day I can barely put any weight on it, the next it feels better. At times it just feels “off”, not painful, but not right. It’s been frustrating. Along the way I’ve seen two chiropractors and a massage therapist twice. They all provided temporary relief, but it just didn’t stick.

Then I had the session that I think finally resolved things. I went to someone who practices Chinese medicine, combined with other techniques that include chiropractic adjustments and cranial therapy. I’ve gone to their centre in years past while in Montréal, and when I received the email saying they were open, I called.

I’d forgotten that they would start by warming my back muscles – using their knuckles and elbows to massage both sides of my back, from shoulder to foot. Then they get in between each vertabrae as I exhale. After flipping onto my back, it’s time for some traction and cranial work. This is usually done with two people, one at my neck the other putting one hand under my back and one over my heart, right shoulder and right side. It’s always my right side apparently…

This time it also included some soft movement of my hips and pelvis – possibly the cause of the pain in my right leg. One hand was placed under my lower back, the other across my lower belly and right hip. Once that was done and I found myself lying on my back, my body already felt so much better. My body was returning to its normal state.

Sometimes I think it’s a ploy – put me into a place of deep contentment and relaxation, and then CRACK. With my muscles, and entire being, at ease, my skeletal system is ready for adjustments. This starts with a move I don’t always enjoy. Cotton is placed in my mouth for me to bite on. Ethan’s hands cradle my head – one on my neck and the anther under my jaw – and YANK! a quick tug that I feel all the way down my spinal cord. This time, it brought relief to my lower spine and tailbone. It’s the first time I’ve actually enjoyed this maneuver. The “cracking” of my neck, upper, middle and lower back that ensued created longer and louder “cracks” than I’ve ever heard before. Clearly my entire body was wonky.

Not anymore. I left that session feeling better, both body and soul – albeit in a zombie state for the remainder of the evening. I slept well and woke up to a new day, feeling better than I have since May 9th. So grateful for that.

The number of therapy sessions I’ve had over past month and a half has made me think about the value of touch. It can be incredibly reassuring, relaxing and healing. And in pandemic times, as a singleton, these moments are few and far between. Shall I thank whatever happened to my knee/leg/hip/sacrum for providing some? A little silver lining maybe?

I have always loved having someone lightly move their fingertips across my back as I fall asleep. That sweet touch just lulls me into the world of happy dreams. Just ask my ex-husband. I would always say “please draw on my back.” Eventually his response became “I hate your back. I love you, but I hate your back.” Thankfully, he usually acquiesced. The time I dated a man who automatically did that, without me ever asking? Well, I thought I’d found “the one.” (Clearly not only because of this, but it sure did help!) Apparently drawing on my my back as we cuddled and fell asleep wasn’t quite enough to make that relationship last. Damn shame.

The very first time I went for a massage my therapist had a book in her office tilted “Hands That Heal.” Lisa was amazing, with hands that certainly healed. I would leave her office feeling like I was walking on clouds – both physically and mentally. She always said “don’t drive!” I wish I hadn’t lost track of her. Last thing I heard, she’d moved to DC. Lucky are those who enter her office.

All that to say, hands certainly do heal. I’ve had a regular regimen of massage and acupuncture for years now, and I won’t be changing that any time soon. As I settle into life in Montréal, and discover my “maintenance team”, I am ever thankful to those that help me maintain a healthy and strong body and mind.

Photo by Ryutaro Tsukata on
Vancouver’s Kits Pool. One of my favourite places on the planet. I was swimming one evening, as the sun was going down. One of three people in the pool. All of a sudden, Canada’s Snowbirds flew by, in formation. Gorgeous.

3, 2, 1, breathe. 3, 2, 1, breathe. 3, 2, 1, breathe. As my body glides through the water, I feel weightless. My entire being is smiling.

There’s something about swimming that, for me, is incredibly meditative. I sit in meditation every morning, but this is different. Breathing every third stroke means my mind is focused on only that. Other thoughts happen, however they don’t stick around. I can’t dwell on them, because, well, I don’t want to drown.

Not only is swimming wonderful for me physically, it’s effect on my state of mind is beautiful. No matter how I feel before I jump into the pool, I feel better when I jump out. If I’m down before, I’m happy after. If I’m stressed before I jump in, I’m relaxed when I’m done. If I’m happy before, I’m even happier after.

When I jump out of the pool, I feel like my belly flattened during the swim. It hasn’t, but I don’t care, I hang onto that feeling as long as I can.

It wasn’t until I lived in Vancouver and discovered Kits Pool that swimming became a regular thing. A lengthy 137 meters of bliss. To put that in perspective, Olympic pools are 50 meters in length. Located on the beach, it opens the May long weekend and closes in September. I started going regularly, almost every day.

So as this May long weekend came and went, I traveled to Kits Pool in my mind. Some friends were there in person. Lucky them!

When I first started going, as much as I tried, I couldn’t freestyle an entire length. I needed a coach. A friend told me about Steven, a former competitive swimmer giving lessons at the Vancouver YWCA. I signed up and was amazed at how learning a few techniques completely changed my swim. We worked on all four strokes, which made it even more fun. Kits pool became a breeze. Not having to turn until 137 meters meant I could really get lost in the swim.

I look back fondly at my summer of “funemployment”, when my friend Stu (also not working at the time) and I were at Kits pool every day. We “laughed” at those who had to be at work. By the end of that summer, I was a whole other shade of brown, my skin so tanned that my lily white butt glowed in the dark. I remember waking up from a nap on the pool deck, looking around, seeing someone close by and thinking, “that woman in a black bikini is here every day. Doesn’t she work?” I then paused, took a look at myself and laughed. There I was, in a black bikini, not working, at the pool every day. I eventually met her at the yoga studio I frequented, and we had a good laugh. Turns out, she was working – early morning hours meant she could swim in the afternoon.

I eventually signed up for Intro to Masters Swim classes at the YWCA – preferring to try it out in a more relaxed environment before committing to an actual Masters. My first Masters was at the West Vancouver pool, which started at 5:30am! Thankfully I lived a seven-minute drive away. I could roll out of bed at 5:00 and be in the pool on time.

Steven then convinced me to join a Masters Swim group where he was a member. “The coach is Russian, really good, and works all four strokes,” he said. As much as I shouldn’t have been in the same pool as Steven, I joined. There were four lanes filled with former German and Canadian national team members, and me. Thankfully I was always in a lane by myself. I did the same drills as everyone else, just nowhere near as many. I loved it.

The last time I was in a Masters Swim, I joined with one of my besties. I would pick her up in the morning, we’d swim, then head to the office. We’d been doing this for months when she said something about it being the gay and lesbian masters club. I stopped her mid-sentence. The what? Not that I gave a shit, I wasn’t exactly rolling out of bed at 6am to find a guy. Nor was she, as she already had a boyfriend. It did, however, explain the looks we were, and weren’t, getting.

In the years I’ve spent working and traveling around the world, I’ve always been able to find a pool.

In Istanbul I really lucked out. There was an indoor pool right beside our office. One of my coworkers came with me to translate as I met the manager to set up a membership. When told everyone had to wear a bathing cap, my objection fell on deaf ears. My hair was super short, and I never wore one. When the manager insisted, I asked if men with hair on their chests, shoulders and backs would be wearing a full-body wet suit. They didn’t find it as funny as I did….but seriously, these men have more hair on their body than I have on my head!

In Baku, Azerbaijan, I joined a club near my apartment. Rarely were there other women swimming lanes. If there was an empty lane when I arrived, I jumped in and nobody came near me. Local men did not want to swim with a woman. Worked for me! I love it when I get a lane to myself.

Aaahhh, the memories.

COVID hasn’t been pool friendly. But that’s changing now. The local YMCA is open again, accepting limited numbers for lane swims. So I’m back in, pretending to be at Kits pool. Come June 24th there’s a local outdoor pool opening, and I can not wait to try it out. Seriously though, it could be open now, it’s certainly warm enough!

3, 2, 1, breathe. 3, 2, 1, breathe. 3, 2, 1, breathe. A must in the pool, and a lesson for life outside the pool too. It’s always a good reminder to just breathe.

Kits pool, Kits beach – here’s to being back there again. Meanwhile, thanks for all that you have given me!

Or what I like to call “Reinventing My Wheel

Transformation. Re-invention. Re-definition. Mid-Life Crisis. Call it whatever you like. There are times in one’s life when one decides they want something different. There’s something about a new calendar year that can prompt these thoughts. This year, with the “slow down and breathe” aspect of the pandemic, it might even be more of a thing.

I have experienced a few of these moments – not all of them coinciding with a new year. Allow me to speak a little about some of them.

I graduated high-school at 16. Living in the province of Quebec that would normally mean two years of CEGEP before going to university. But that wasn’t for me. I knew what I wanted to study – Journalism – and I knew where – Carleton University in Ottawa. If I could get into university and study what I wanted, why spend two years of my life in CEGEP? 

It’s not like my high-school years were so fantastic that I wanted to extend those. I was awkward, a little nerdy, shy, and lacked confidence. One day the boy I thought was the cutest in school asked me why I wasn’t going to CEGEP in Lennoxville, “that’s where everyone’s going,” he said. I just looked at him and replied “that’s exactly why.” 

I don’t know which one of us was more surprised by my answer (he knew how I felt about him).

Even at 16 I was aware that I could go to a different city, away from those I had spent my high school years with, and completely change who I was – nobody would have any pre-conceived ideas about me. And I liked that.

Time For A West Coast Transformation, via London…of course…

After my three years at Carleton University I decided to go on a UK adventure and spent a year in London (I fell in love with the accent in grade five when I saw an English movie called “Melody” on t.v. – I’m still a sucker for the accent). It was a fabulous year of discovering a new city and country, hanging out with friends, going to nightclubs (mostly The London Hippodrome by Leicester Square, which has since been turned into a casino…yuck), and experiencing my first real love (did I mention I am a sucker for a British accent???).

I was able to enter the UK on a “working holiday” given that I am Canadian and part of the Commonwealth. The money made really mostly went to hanging out with friends in pubs and going to nightclubs…and hair product (clearly!).

I remember the moment I decided it was time to come back to Canada – I was at a Brian Adams concert at the Hammersmith Odeon theatre. As soon as he and his band came onto the stage wearing jeans, t-shirts and boots I thought to myself “it’s time to go home.” But I didn’t want to go back to Ottawa, the Eastern Townships in Québec, and I didn’t want to go to Montréal.

So with a bag of clothes and $200 cash, I flew to Vancouver. I had never been, however it just seemed like the place I wanted to be.

New city, new life, “new me”.

I stayed in Vancouver for over 20 years; gathering new friends; getting married (and divorced); working in the art world, design world, and eventually the world of the Olympic Games. 

Taking advantage of the West Coast and Vancouver’s lifestyle, I developed a love for swimming. I had always loved being in the water, and decided to take swimming lessons so that I could improve my technique, and actually know what I was doing when it came to swimming lanes. I also started running with a group of friends, and managed three half marathons. I started working out in a boxing gym, which I miss like crazy (don’t worry, I do not spar, as I detest striking humans, but give me some pads to punch and kick and wham!). And of course I got into yoga. I used to say that the combination of boxing and yoga kept me in balance – one to take out my frustrations and another to get ‘zen’. 🙂

Kits Pool – my favourite spot. 137.5 metres of swimming bliss.

Nobody who knew me as a child would have described me as “athletic”, including myself. I loved all sports, was an avid fan, knew just about everything there was to know about them, but I wasn’t any good at them – the proverbial “last one picked for the team.” This was definitely a “new athletic me” (and I still do all of this as much as possible).

International Adventures.

After 3 ½ years with the Vancouver 2010 organizing committee, I decided I liked the nature of working in events – you work hard for a pre-determined amount of time, the event is delivered, and then you can take as much time off as you want before moving onto the next event. So for the past 7 years this is what I have done.

This time the “new me” was an international events specialist, and I was able to discover new countries like Turkey, Azerbaijan, UAE, Qatar, Argentina, Columbia, Greece, Russia and Japan. Seeing so many different countries and cultures really does enhance one’s overall life experience – giving new perspective and appreciation for a great many things (not the least of which is the sheer luck of having been born a Canadian).

Sunset over Sultanahmet. I started calling Istanbul “the love of my life”. I get back there as much as I can. Well, pre-Covid I did. Now I wait until I can do so again. If you go deeper into my blog you will find many on this city. I can’t seem to write enough about L-Istanbul.
I was fascinated by Moscow’s onion domes the first time I saw them on TV. It felt surreal to see them in person. So beautiful! See my Moscow blog for more info – if you feel like it.

Covid-19 Induced Transformation.

With Covid-19 and the postponement of the Tokyo Olympic Games to 2021, the project I spent a year working on came to an end. 

This time I chose to come back to Montréal, and found myself contemplating my next “re-invention”. 

I decided to take some writing courses. I’ve always enjoyed writing and have wanted to get back to this blog, which I started some nine years ago (but wasn’t really writing in, at least not consistently). When I first looked at the courses offered by Concordia University I saw that writing and sharing one’s writing for review and critique by the class was part of the programme. 

Oh oh…what???  People will read what I write and critique it…to my face? Not sure I am comfortable with that idea! 

The thought of this really made me nervous and uncomfortable. However, I have come to see that it really is quite fun. We all write and share, and there is a lot to be gained from having people react and comment on what you have written. You also gain as much by listening to what others write.

Although much of the work is done on computer, I still love the physical act of putting pen to paper.

While I still continue to be involved in events, I feel the winds of change. So the question is “what’s next”? In my previous re-inventions, I have always had a clear idea of where I wanted to go, or what I wanted to do. This time, not so much. 

So I am concentrating on doing things that I enjoy, and will see where that leads to. Sometimes you just have to jump and see where you land.

If you are feeling the itch to change things up again, here is what I “know” – based on my experience:

  1. When you hear a little voice inside telling you to make a change, try something new, try something you have always wanted to do – do it. Follow that voice. 
  2. Do NOT follow the voice in your head that doubts, questions and tells you “you can’t do that!” Although it sounds like that voice is trying to protect you, it’s really only curbing your potential. 
  3. Talk to a few trusted friends. We all need a few key people to be our supporters, cheerleaders, and sounding board.
  4. Some people will tell you what you are doing is crazy – and that is just fine. Lots of new things are viewed as crazy. And remember, we all have different values and comfort zones.
  5. If it feels a little uncomfortable, that’s okay. Moving through that discomfort is what helps you grow and see what you are really capable of.
  6. Do it safely – on your terms and in your time. 
  7. As long as whatever you are doing does not hurt you or anyone else…it’s all good.
  8. Know that the only person that gets to decide who you are is….YOU!

At the end of the day, you are not actually becoming someone “new” – you are tapping into one of the many wonderful things you are. No need to label it.

I heard something recently that put a smile on my face… If you don’t try, then you will never know where try will lead you. So give it a try…see where it leads you and have a shit load of fun along the way!

On the ferry from the Europe side to the Asia side of Istanbul. If I hadn’t listened to that little voice inside that said I wanted to try working on events (instead of a “steady” job with a company) I would never have discovered the beauty of Istanbul. I would not have the amazing friends I made there – and what a shame that would be.

Happy New Year everyone!

I may be a little late in saying that – it’s because I have been struggling somewhat with this post – what to say, how to say it.

It seems there is more to ponder this new year than in previous. 2020 has been a challenging one for many. I have heard and seen a lot of “good-bye to the worst year ever” type of messages and posts – and mostly from people who do not have to struggle to put a roof over their heads, food on their tables, and who don’t have to worry about whether or not they will make it back alive and unhurt, every time they leave their homes.

Perspective…. Perspective is key.

I know that this is different for all of us – and whatever our feelings and fears are about this pandemic we need to understand each other.

As much as it is okay to say you are scared and depressed and need help, it is also okay to say that you are doing quite fine. I spoke with the Ladies Who Dine last weekend, and when I said that for me 2020 was actually a pretty okay year, one said she was happy and relieved to hear me say that – because it is the same for her. Why can’t we say it’s been an okay year???

Every year has its ups and downs, struggles, delights and lessons learned. Every year has moments of “the worst ever”, “the best ever”, and everything in between.

It certainly didn’t end up being the year I thought it would be – with the project I was working on coming to a halt and a return to Canada much sooner than expected in April. Thankfully my circumstances are still very good. And I am keenly aware that I am very fortunate. I have also not lost anyone to Covid-19. I know a few people who have caught it, for some it was really rough, for others not so much. Yes, I am indeed lucky. And I am grateful.

I have been working full-time since I graduated from university at 19. I’ve worked hard, been lucky, have seen and done a lot, and met many amazing people – in many wonderful places.

So as I look back at 2020, I see in it the gift of time.

Time to just “be”, relax and restore.

Time to get back into the regular, morning, practice of breath work and meditation.

Time spent with family and friends – all physical distancing precautions taken when in person, and lots of video chats.

Time out in nature – walking, running, cycling – moving my body and marvelling at the beauty around me.

Time to do things that I enjoy and am curious about – like writing, taking a few courses and heck, why not try some voiceover coaching sessions? It’s fun.

Time to read…actual physical books, which has always been my preference. With travelling so much the past seven years, my tablet was best for reading – but it’s just not the same as holding a book in my hands.

Time to have all my “stuff” taken out of storage, unpacked and put into place – which is leading to precious moments reliving what I have been calling my “charmed life” for years now. Ooohhhh the 80’S!!!

Time to just slow things down for a little while and enjoy things like canning fruit, baking, a little home DIY, and of course some quality (and not so quality) streaming of movies, shows, etc.

It is my hope that we can all remember to slow down a little, enjoy and be grateful for the many blessings we do have – the so-called “little things” that are much greater in meaning and worth than we sometimes remember. When things “get back to normal”, let’s remember to stop every now and again, and enjoy and be grateful for what we have.

Let me leave you today with two of my favourite prayers/meditations. I highly recommend taking a few quiet moments regularly to just sit, breath and repeat these words to yourself. It creates positive, loving energy – and there can never me too much of that! Let’s face it, the world needs a lot of it right now (and not only for pandemic-related reasons…).

1: Buddha’s teaching on loving kindness:


Weak or strong

Long, medium or short

Tiny or enormous

Visible or invisible

Nearby or far away

Born or unborn

…May all beings, without exception, be joyful and happy

2: Loving kindness meditation. Think of someone, see them clearly in your mind’s eye and send them the following thoughts/wishes:

  • May you be safe and protected (repeat 3-10 times)
  • May your body be healthy and strong (repeat 3-10 times)
  • May your mind be clear and at ease (repeat 3-10 times)
  • May you be loved (repeat 3-10 times)

You can do this for: someone you really love, of whom the mere thought fills your heart; someone you love, maybe not quite as much as the first person; someone to whom you feel indifferent; someone who really challenges you; yourself (don’t forget to do this for yourself too!). You can do all of these, or a combination, or one of them. You can even just send this out to the world, without focussing on anyone in particular.

Then sit with the loving energy you have just created, and take that with you for the remainder of your day or night.

Stay safe, be smart, stay healthy.

Let’s work together to move past the pandemic.

Let’s work together to create a world where EVERYONE feels safe, seen, heard, cared for and given every opportunity to have a wonderful life.

And let’s get to a point where this single lady, living alone, can hug her friends again! I miss hugs….

Meet Betsy. She’s a beauty!

I decided to add cycling to my regular thing this summer. With all the bike trails in the Eastern Townships, and easy access from where I was staying at the time, it was a temptation I could not resist!

I was already using the trails to run, and wanted to go further afield – literally, in fields, in the countryside, which was so nice.

And I’m not a serious cyclist. Nope. I want to meander around on my bike and explore the area. That is why I chose a classic cruiser. There’s nothing quite like having the wind on your face as you ride down paths and the feeling of freedom as the wheels glide below you – especially when you are heading downhill. All of this surrounded by Mother Nature’s beauty.

There is an estuary you can ride around, a lake, a river and farmland. Stopping at the bench on the top photo was one of my favourite things to do.

Cycling is also a great balance to the running – working the inner thigh muscles which helps support my not-so-great knee joints. Running builds the outer thigh muscles, so this is a good way to try to even things out, or at least build up some inner thigh muscle strength.

But really…it’s about feeling free and light when on the bike. And about discovering lovely little spots like this one:

Sitting on a rock at the river’s edge, listening to the sounds of the water flowing by and the birds singing…aahhh, so peaceful. As I watch this video and hear the sounds, I’m transported back. No wonder the first humans (and non-humans for that matter) who found this spot decided to settle close by.

Luckily there is much to discover along these bike paths. On weekends there can be a lot of people around as families and cycling groups take advantage of the sunny skies and warm temperatures. It was fun to see everyone take advantage of the trails. I even started to feel like a local when people asked me for directions!

There are also a number of sculptures along the paths, a nod to the industrial beginnings of this area. Industry isn’t what it used to be as times change and different priorities come into play. I do like that the city has included these in its art programme.

When I came to Montreal at the beginning of August I replaced the bike paths in the estuary and countryside with those of the Lachine Canal. I’m not super comfortable riding my bike on busy streets, so haven’t done much of that. Although I did ride all the way to Verdun (not terribly far), using as much as the canal path as I could, then riding in the bike lane on the city streets. I stuck to the less traveled roads and was really quite proud of myself.“Look at me! I’m riding on the city streets!” Some days it doesn’t take much…ha!

What I also like about riding and running along the canal is that you see the old industrial buildings – some of which have been converted to condos, event spaces, and restaurant. And at times you get both a glimpse of this history and of the high-rises downtown (which are certainly increasing in number these days).

The canal is also a great way to get to Old Montreal. It’s about a 45-minute walk, and maybe 20 minutes by bike (depending how often I stop to enjoy the views).

Old Montreal wasn’t bustling with activity this summer, thanks to Covid and a drop in tourism. Meandering the cobble-stone streets admiring the beauty of the old buildings was quieter than it would normally be in summer.

As fall sets in I know my bike rides are numbered and Betsy will soon be coming indoors. When that happens, I will look at her and long for the days I can ride again.

PS: for those cyclists who ride these trails and fancy themselves in the Tour de France…. You are NOT. I know that’s a shock to the system, but it is true. So settle down, chill. There’s no need to cut people off. And when you get to a foot bridge that has a very clear sign that you are to dismount and walk your bike across. Just get off your damn bike and walk!

It’s really very clear people!!!!
Never have my legs looked soooo long!

Running Wild…

A little over a year ago I experienced something totally new. All of a sudden, out of nowhere, I had massive feelings of overwhelm and anxiety. Crazy butterflies and unease in my solar plexus and belly, loud heartbeats, excess ‘electricity’ coursing through my system, and heaviness in my chest. I have NEVER felt that before. I am, and have been, someone who is pretty calm, cool and collected, and who doesn’t stress much.

Then all of a sudden…WHAM!

Let me tell you I did not enjoy it – at all.

I knew well enough that what I was feeling wasn’t about what was happening in my life – every feeling was disproportionate to what was going on. Extremes like I have never experienced before.

So I did all the things I know of — reached out to my Five Element acupuncturist to do some energy clearing, saw my Traditional Chinese Doctor, started taking herbs, saw my chiropractor (she does much more than adjust my skeleton), did yoga, breath work, meditated, and started working with a hypno therapist. Basically – anything to NOT feel this way (well, except for drugs and alcohol – that’s a firm no for me!).

Bear with me – I know it’s a long intro to get to the running bit. I just wanted to be clear what was happening.

During one of the treatments with my Chinese Doctor, she told me that she really felt what was happening was physical – I wasn’t doing anything wrong or making bad life-decisions. I can not tell you what a relief it was to hear her say that. She also told me that I needed a lot of cardio…that I needed to move my body more.

And that’s what I did. I headed back to Tokyo, where I was working, and made sure I ran every morning. Even if I had only 15 minutes, I headed down to the gym (I was still living in a hotel at that time) and ran. I quickly understood and felt how much this helped. That little bit of cardio in the morning helped moved energy through my nervous system, which in turn meant I felt better.

This isn’t the first time I’ve run regularly, but it had been a while. And I have definitely been running more consistently than ever. Over the years in Vancouver I ran three half marathons (each one slower than the previous one…what??? That’s not the way it is supposed to go! Ha!).

During my first half marathon the leaders of the actual, full, marathon came running by, leaving me in the dust. I was amazed at how they seemed like they weren’t really touching the ground…such a smooth, gliding stride.

Let’s be clear – I am NOT that. I am ‘heavy’ on my feet, I step with purpose. I don’t really enjoy running itself, but I like how I feel once I am done. So I do it. And a lot of times it’s a constant mental battle to keep going and ignore the “why am I doing this?”, “I’m so slow”, “I suck at this”, etc. going through my mind.

I love running along the dyke in Richmond – with views of airplanes coming and going from Vancouver International Airport, the mountains, sea planes, birds – all of it on a dirt path which is much better for my knees.

When I first started running in Vancouver it was with a group of friends. We met on either Saturday or Sunday morning, ran, and then went for brunch. It was really all about the brunch… Lots of laughs, long talks, ups and downs (and that’s not just the terrain). I miss my Vancouver running buddies. The half marathons I ran were with them.

This time however, it’s me running on my own.

On the plus side, it’s a great way to clear the mind, work out any frustrations, and help balance out my nervous system and hormones.

It is also a fabulous way to discover new cities – or rediscover familiar ones.

Watching Mother Nature do her thing is also a benefit to running regularly. It has been a while since I spent time somewhere with such distinct seasons and I loved seeing spring turn into summer.

It is amazing to see the transformation and growth – all within a few weeks.

One of the advantages of being in a small town, surrounded by countryside is that you sometimes end up with running mates…

As my work has had me travelling regularly over the past year, I was able to use running as a way to see and experience new routes in new cities.

I had the opportunity to spend time in Lausanne – and running along Lake Geneva (Lac Leman to the French) was a treat.
The International Volley Ball Federation – I mean really, what kind of money does an international sport federation have to be able to call a place like this “home office”? And what you can’t see here is the tunnel that was created from the office to the lakeside path. Crazy!

I was also able to combine my trips to Lausanne with visits to my brother and his family in Germany. A different terrain, and equally as beautiful.

Farms and fields.
Sunflowers and rooftops.

I have left Granby and am back in Montreal now. And I am happy to be living close to the Lachine Canal, which means I can continue to run by water. I’ve come to realize that I need some kind of nature on my runs – and if at all possible, water. As thankful as I am to the big beautiful trees in Tokyo, I always have loved the water. One day I will find the perfect combination of both big trees and water!

As much as I hated the overwhelming and sometimes somewhat debilitating anxiety, I am thankful it lead me back to running. Oh, and did I mention the anxiety was replaced by very deep dark sadness for a while?Ya, that was fun. And when I say dark, I mean dark… Ugh. I was constantly reminding myself to just keep going, that this wasn’t permanent and that it would pass.

Thankfully the darkness has gone and the anxiety is also pretty much gone.

Running is now firmly part of my morning routine and one that I have come to cherish – time in nature, moving my body, moving energy, and feeling better all around.

Do not misunderstand me, there are NO plans for half marathons or anything of that sort. Just a regular shortish (4-7km) run. That’s all I need and want.

All of the above said…I have a bone to pick with Mother Nature, the Universe, God…all of them. First you say “no Lise, you can not have children”, and then you say “but you still have to go through the crazy hormonal shifts”. I cry foul! That is one warped sense of humour…

I will continue to run. Run through the wild ride that life throws my way. Keep my body moving and in good shape so that I can keep mobile and healthy as long as possible.

Run baby run – one step at a time.

P.S. I have been in Ottawa the past few days for family reasons. A great example of getting out for a run and rediscovering a city I once lived in.

I was lucky enough to run by the Rideau Canal locks when they were at work, letting two boats through. Fun to watch – and I was okay with the little break from the run 🙂

Where to call home?

I pretty much always “feel at home” wherever I am. I’ve always thought this to be a good thing, and it is. It also makes picking an actual “home city” a bit of a challenge.

Here’s the thing. I’ve been lucky that work has allowed me to go to other countries and cities and discover more about what this awesome planet has to offer. That means I am also fortunate enough to have amazing friends all over the place. So if “home” equals being surrounded by friends and family…well…I’m not sure that narrows the question down for me!

Sometimes I think “I’ll meet a guy, and that will decide where I live”. Or “Work…I’ll find work that excites me and means I have to live in a certain place (for more than a year…), and that will decide where I live”. So far, neither of those “plans” have worked out very well.

So…I keep going back to places that really feel like home for me, and that is:

1.Vancouver – I  have called this city home for over 20 years now. I have amazing friends and people I consider family there. I know who my “maintenance team” (doctor, dentist, TCM, chiropractor, massage therapist, workout trainer, etc. etc. etc.) are. I know where my gym is (kick-ass boxing workouts at Contenders…ouch…and so good!), and I know where my pools are (Kits in the summer and Hillcrest in winter). These are people that can not be “replaced” and who make time for me when I get back to Vancouver – no matter how long I’ve been gone.

2.Montreal – well, Montreal and the Eastern Townships, to be precise. This is where I grew up. I have tons of family here, and I have some pretty amazing friends here as well. Having moved away when I was 16, my time spent in this part of my country has recently increased, and as I get to know it more, I love it more.

3.Germany (my brother’s house, to be specific). Definitely a home away from home – with the added bonus of spending time with my brother and his family. You spend that much time with little ones and its harder and harder to leave. Doesn’t hurt that they live in a beautiful little village, and it’s easy to get to.

4.Istanbul….you didn’t think I’d forget about my beloved Istanbul did you??? I’m not sure how to describe my love for this city. I also have some amazing friends who live there and who welcome me back every time I visit. Last year ago I spent 6 weeks in Istanbul. Glorious. When I do that again I really need to take some intensive Turkish lessons. The little I know gets me by, but it isn’t enough.

Meandering through Istanbul’s neighbourhood streets early on a Sunday morning.
Kahvalti – Turkish breakfast – my absolute fave! Especially the menemen (eggs scrambled in tomatoes with peppers) and bal kaymak (heavy cream drowned in honey) – delicious!

I spent much of the past year in Tokyo – getting to know another city, another culture. So in my little head, Tokyo was “home” for a little while (cut off short by the Covid-19 pandemic and an early end/postponement of the project I was working on there).

My Tokyo abode – At just under 400 square feet – no waste of space in this apartment! All of it very cleverly thought out.
This space quickly became my little sanctuary. And then…believe it or not, two of us worked at that table for a few months. Good thing we know each other and like working together!
I loved discovering “little streets” away from the high rises and main avenues.

Which brings me to now….I find myself back in the Montreal/Eastern Townships area with time on my hands and thoughts in my head about “home”, and the desire to take what little I own out of storage. I don’t have a ton of possessions, but I do have some and for the most part they have been stored in Vancouver for the past seven years.

Given the current Covid-19 realities, Montreal is my pick for now. Making the move into the city next weekend, and looking forward to discovering more about what the city has to offer and creating my home base. Then the unpacking and rediscovering of the items I put into storage will come. Fun times ahead!

Montreal’s Atwater Market – soon to be my neighbourhood.

PS: while looking back through photos and picking those to go with this post I am reminded of what a charmed life I lead. Massive smiles on my face and gratitude in my heart!


It was quite the month. Filled with challenges, learnings, new friendships, laughs, tears, ups and downs. So pretty much anything and everything you can think of! The desire to do a yoga teacher training intensive course is one I have had for a while now, and nearly did a couple of years ago. This does not necessarily mean I will end up teaching full-time, but you just never know. I simply wanted to get a deeper understanding of yoga – which is something that always helps ground me and makes me feel good.

I found Samahita Retreat two years ago. It was recommended to me by a friend who knew I was looking for a place to go in Thailand post a week-long conference in Bangkok. She mentioned that a mutual friend had done her yoga teacher training at Samahita. After viewing their website I signed up for a yoga retreat and Samahita’s Yoga-Core-Cycle programme. I loved it. So when I found myself with some time on my hands I was pleased to see that they had a YTT course within my “time off”. It was great to find myself back in this familiar place, with friends I made 2 years ago still here.

the room

The main yoga shala, where we spent much of our days. I love this room.

I’m not sure what I was expecting out of the month…but let me say that I got so much out of it. The first two weeks were crammed with anatomy classes, introduction to yogic philosophy, morning meditation, pranayama (breath work) and asana (physical yoga practice/postures), asana studies (where you break down each of the poses and talk about the right way to go into them, be in them [BE IN IT!!! – as Paul would say], come out of them, adjust people in them), and Sanskrit studies of the names of the poses and chants . There is soooo much information coming that at times I wondered how I would remember it all, let alone truly absorb it all , and then pass the anatomy exam!  I will admit that I also asked myself what the heck I had signed up for on a couple of occasions.

The third week is filled with yoga philosophy (Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras) – an introduction really as there is so much in the sutras that a lot more study is required to truly get a grasp of it all. This week saw discussions on “why are we here”, “who/what are we”, “what does it all mean”, “nothingness”, “non-reality”, “fear of losing all that we have/fear of death” and so much more. Oh ya, a few nights of calming the brain down was required for sure. And at the end of the week, exam #2 – Sanskrit chanting the pose names, kriyas, pranayamas and preparatory exercises. When I first saw the list I thought there was no way I would remember them all. And then as I was doing my self-practice (asana) just before the chanting oral exam, there was this energetic balancing to centre where it all just fell into place. Trust. That word came up many times – trust that this is exactly where I was meant to be; trust that those teaching the course know what they are doing and how to get us to the finish line; trust that it all comes into place and that I am more than capable of it all; trust that I was exactly where I wanted and was meant to be and just let go of any pre-conceived notions and desired outcomes; trust that it all will fall into place – just as it is meant to be. Now there’s a life lesson…don’t have to control it all? Don’t have to know exactly what happens when and how? Just let it all happen? Oh, OK, sure thing, that’s easy for this Scorpio born the year of the Dragon… Hahahaha…

The day after we took exam #3 – Philosophy. Thankfully I was calmer by this point.

Week 4 – teaching exams. I’ve lead some classes before, so this wasn’t the first time I did so. However – the environment of an ‘exam’ is so very different. Someone is watching you “teach” your fellow students. And we all know the sequences, so they know what pose is supposed to come next. Way more pressure than actually simply teaching a class. I stressed way more than I needed to going into the 2 exams, and was pretty pleased with my performance. As always there is room to grow and things to learn – and the beauty here is that this will never change. Always a student, never a teacher.

lise grad

Well…certified to teach, but there’s always more to learn, so forever a student. A student of life.

Through it all there are a myriad of emotions coming and going  – particularly in the morning contemplation around gratitude (where are you in your life, what are you grateful for – the good, the challenges, the lessons, the people), forgiveness (asking for forgiveness from those you have hurt, forgiving those that hurt you, self-forgiveness) and asking for help/guidance for whatever it is you need that with. Most of my tears came in the “gratitude” contemplation. I have said for years now that I lead a “charmed life”. I truly do. And I am grateful for all of it.

There is so much more to be said about this experience, however the words have not yet formed – the thoughts continue to evolve and ruminate. More contemplation required. More asana practice required. More breath work required. Not that any of it is “work” actually – for me it’s simply a glorious way to start the day. Then it’s the challenge of taking it all with me from my mat through my day.

One thing I can say is that the people I met here are amazing. An intense experience for all of us, and strong friendships made. People from all over gathered here and I am so lucky to have met them all. I miss you my beauties!

Samahita – thank you. All the wonderful people who shared in this experience with me, thank you. I have learned so much from all of you and could not have done this without your support, smiles, jokes and encouragement — special shout out to those attempting the tongue lock by using a chopstick…

#Charmed Life.    For damn sure!


LWD_the ladies2

Ladies Who Dine – in the Okanagan

It all started the summer of 2005. For over a year I had been spending a fair amount of my evenings out at the Lumière Tasting Bar in Vancouver (sadly, it no longer exists). After hearing about one of my evenings there with some friends, two of my newest (and soon to be closest) friends decided they wanted to go as well. That first evening at Lumière started something that the three of us had never imagined. Twelve years later we still get together regularly for dinner, drinks, heartfelt conversations, laughter and the love that three close friends share.

Oh how I wish I had written all of it down. I can see it so clearly. When we started on this road we had three rules:

  1. We do this once a month (at a minimum)
  2. We go to a different restaurant every time (what a great excuse to experience Vancouver’s immensely diverse and wonderful food scene)
  3. NOBODY ELSE JOINS. Admittedly we did have a couple of ‘guest appearances’ in the early goings, but we quickly decided against those. It completely changes the dynamics of the evening. So it’s a protected evening (or lunch, or tea) now. Nobody else is allowed in.

And eventually we started calling ourselves The Ladies Who Dine.

What I should have done from the outset was document the restaurant, the food, the wine (or other drinks) and the conversation. Looking back now I believe all of this would make for a great read. Each evening its own chapter. We’ve covered just about every topic over the years.

There have been tears shed over a multitude of life’s challenges: relationship issues; we all lost our mothers; one of us lost our father; fertility issues; the agonizing decision of whether or not to have children; being told that bearing children is not something you will ever be able to do; being a busy mum of a beautiful little autistic girl; health scares (thankfully nothing serious); you name it.

There have also been many a celebration of life’s achievements: new jobs; travels to various parts of the globe; anniversaries; birthdays; books we have enjoyed; new discoveries that put smiles on our faces; again, you name it.

There are increasingly discussions on the state of the world and what we want for our lives – not only for ourselves, but for everyone and for the planet.

And there has been laughter. Oh so much laughter!

We even took the Ladies out on the road. Our first trip was to BC’s Okanagan region, for some wine tasting. Our first weekend away gave us an even deeper glimpse into each other’s little idiosyncracies – one of us travels with our own blanket and pillow; one of us is a very light sleeper; one of us occasionally snores; one of us sleeps with earplugs; one of us doesn’t care about showering and walking around the rented apartment naked. And the best part is, we are comfortable being ourselves because we know there’s no judgement, just acceptance. Well…with a well-timed joke here and there!

That first road trip ended up with my little Escape blowing up on the highway in the middle of nowhere, on our trip home. After what felt like an eternity on the side of the highway with cars speeding past us, the tow truck showed up and the 3 of us huddled into the front seat with the driver. We asked for the finest hotel Merritt had to offer (it was the closest town) and we were taken to a motel where the morning breakfast area was also a pizza joint by day/night. It’s the only time in my life I have seen a hotel room with 3 queen beds…all lined up in a row. After asking the tow truck driver which hotel was the best in town, Lady1 asked him “and does it have a spa?”. We broke down laughing, but the driver, not so much. It remains to this day my only “trip to Merritt”. I don’t think I could top it! And I certainly couldn’t top our rescue. I am extremely lucky to have many wonderful people in my life. Two I call my “surrogate parents”. They allowed an 18-year old university student to live with their family as a live-in babysitter my last year of university, and they remain my second family to this day. I’m a wimp when it comes to car trouble. I don’t know the first thing about mechanics and I always think it’s obvious and I’m being taken advantage of. One call to David and he offered to come and pick us up – that is a 4 hour drive to get us, help me sort out getting my car back to my trusted mechanic in Vancouver, and drive us home. He was our knight in shining armour that day, we told him so and we still refer to him as such.

On our second road trip we discovered that we need more than one room in a hotel – after one of us spent much of the night sleeping in the bathroom tub (she insists it was quite comfortable) while another snored away. Suffice it to say that we booked a second room for the following night.

Over the last 5 years this lady has spent much of her time working internationally. So our Ladies Who Dine evenings have become less frequent. We get as much time as we can  when I am in Vancouver – it could be dinner, lunch, tea, even a movie. The LWD outings are one of the first things I schedule when I book my trips back to Vancouver.

And now we approach road trip #3! The Ladies are Dining in New York City! Next week we take on NYC for four nights. One of us has put together a spreadsheet outlining our daily itinerary. There is, of course, a broadway show. There is a comedy club night. There are dinners with friends (it is a welcome exception for someone two of us know, and don’t get to see very often – and well, over 4 days we can include a guest or two to some of the outings). And there will certainly be stories to tell (hmmm, and quite possibly some to keep secret). Stay tuned!