40 years to learn

2 years ago, I had 20 thoughts that took me 40 years to learn. I’m happy to say they still ring true.

22 more thoughts coming up.

Based on a True Story

There’s less than one week till my 40th birthday. Oh, have I mentioned that already? Well, anyway, it’s on Friday, October 25th. I’ll give you a moment to mark it on your calendar.

I’m making a big deal of it. Since the beginning of the month I’ve been talking about it all over the place, reminding my friends and family daily about this upcoming milestone. Perhaps over-celebrating it will reduce the impact when those big numbers – in Roman numerals that’s XL – actually hit.

Physically, I’m noticing my age. Not just on the surface, like wrinkles and age spots, but functional things like failing eyesight and a chronically sore left knee.

But I’ve recently come to view the aches and pains not as a sign of what’s to come, but as the sign of transition. This is what trade-off feels like. Wisdom for beauty via pang, spasm and twinge. And…

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Thankfulness or Blessing, Which Comes First?

Of course, if I were sitting by a beach, in warm summer temperatures, oh how thankful my little heart would be. I would take a selfie of my feet in the sand by the surf and definitely post to insta. You’d all wish you were me. #blessed

That’s a familiar look of thankfulness.

I’m wishing for that kind of thankfulness this morning, which is the farthest place from where I am.

Continue reading

I believe in the dining room table

This is a post I wrote almost a year ago now about our dining room table, a piece of furniture well-used. It is now situated in a new space at our new place, which feels just right. I have hosted a couple dinners now, just this week the birthday party of one of my best friends, who used the table as a platform for her fantastic sense of humour and stellar story-telling skills. I believe in the dining room table.

Dinner Party with Friends

Based on a True Story

I’m writing this in our dining room at a table, a holy gift.

We purchased this table thanks to the generosity of our Barrie Free Methodist Church family. On our last Sunday there, before we were to head to Toronto, they gave us notes of encouragement and gifts of money as a send-off. We were overwhelmed by this show of love–I wept for three days straight after reading the cards and still get teary when I think of it. We knew instantly that we would use the money for an item that would extend the legacy our church had offered to us over the years – one of love, hospitality, and a sense of home.

This table, upon purchase, was instantly put to good use. Right away, it showed signs of wear and tear as we welcomed guests into our new space and to the table. I always suggest we meet here instead of going out for coffee or tea. Already this table is the…

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Give Yourself Permission – Part II (The thing about it is…)

Give Yourself Permission

The other night over dinner, our family had a conversation about other things (riffing off my last post) people might consider giving themselves permission for.

I explained that these would be things people do or don’t do because of some unnecessary pressure. I asked them to think deeply about something they might suggest people give themselves permission for.

“Fart” and “poo in public” came out of the mouths of certain members of the family. They had a good long belly laugh about this while I waited, arms crossed.

“Family, please. We can do better than this.”

Secretly, I agreed that they should give themselves permission to do these things, but I certainly wasn’t going to.

Which is a good reminder that considering decorum is part of the task. It is important to give yourself permission with regard to how it might affect others. It should not be the exclusion of others’ peace and frame of mind.

If you are a person who is highly relational, giving yourself permission can be a difficult task. Women inherently struggle with this – which is why we do too much all the time.

Giving yourself permission should be necessarily thoughtful, but, ideally, it should give you a freedom that then promotes freedom in others.

Giving yourself permission is about delineating false guilt from real responsibility.

The fam finally came up with one serious submission: Give yourself permission to fail.

Thank you, family, for the fodder on the dinner table and for my blog. I’m proud of you again. Go back to the events of your day.

When we start a new journey or take the step of pursuing our vision of where we believe we should be, we never do this alone. We drag people into it with us. Start a new business, you need customers. Start a new ministry, you need volunteers. Become a missionary, you need supporters. It is your supporters, volunteers and customers that feel like a responsibility, what keeps you tied to your vision, even when the tide changes.

There is a time to let go. Often those people we’ve brought with us are the barometer of our success. Their joining us gives us wings; their leaving deflates us.  They are most often the reason we won’t let ourselves fail (even when the barometer is speaking loudly that you’re already headed there.)

Reconsider that you are accountable to your followers, not responsible for them. There is a difference. As I see it, responsibility means your efforts are about controlling others; accountability means your efforts are about benefitting others.

Yes, it is important that you put your money where your mouth is. You must consider who you are leading and to where you are leading them. But when it isn’t working out – or it has worked out and now it’s not – there is a time to give yourself permission to stop and learn the lessons that have come from your attempts.

Our true responsibility is to listen well.

This is the beauty of faith in Christ. Believers don’t have to continually assess the risks and benefits when we follow him in simple obedience. Our striving is only to hear from the Holy Spirit. He carries the burden and ours is light. When his voice is loudest, the weight is lifted and our failures (every last one of them) are redeemed.

Our failures can actually clarify our vision; we see purpose beyond the success of our dreams. Our ultimate goal is his will realized, because he makes beautiful things out of dust.

The vision was never just for you; the lesson wasn’t either.

This might be time for a new vision, that says to others, “learn something incredibly valuable from my mistakes.”

I’ve known pure and utter failure. I have discovered that devastating defeat is almost always a disguise for good and necessary change . On the other end of it, having moved past failure in many forms, I no longer fear it, but embrace the lessons that come with it. Those lessons are: pray to the Father, reach out to Jesus, listen to the Spirit, walk humbly, and take others with you, through the failures too.

Others may perceive the Spirit’s whisperings in your ear, the result of his guidance, to be failures, but know that he is taking you on a path of rich experience and joy that will bring you to a place of deep gratitude and worship. 

Give yourself permission to fail. And some time after that, give yourself permission to celebrate your failures.

Give Yourself Permission – Part I

Give Yourself Permission

Today, I want to give you permission to give yourself permission to:

1. Not round up to the nearest dollar when pumping gas. I don’t actually know why this is a thing. Surely filling the tank to the tippy-top with $0.37 extra gas does not get us additional mileage of any significance. In fact, the time and mental energy we waste through this exercise is of way more value than hitting point-zero-zero at the pump. When we go to a restaurant we don’t ask the waiter to round up our bill with a few more mashed potatoes, do we? “Just a bit more, a little bit more, just a smidgen, ooh–and now you’ve added too much, darn it.”  No, give yourself permission to stop when the pump stops, pay the attendant, and drive to your destination.

Unless you get great joy from rounding up, in which case, I say carry on.

2.  Stop reading the book you’re not enjoying. It is fair to say that some books require time to get into. When a book doesn’t resonate right away, it is often worth pushing through to find the gem at the centre. But sometimes it is just not working for you no matter how hard you try or how many times you re-read those pages. Maybe it’s time to put that book down for good and take the pressure to read it off your shoulders.

My personal rule is to give a book the Three-Chapter-Try. If it hasn’t grabbed me by then, it’s not for me. I’ve also closed a book forever after three sentences. Be guilt-free about this.

3. Go on a vacation with your spouse without your kids. Why haven’t you done this yet? It’s the best thing in the world once you get over the initial worry or wishing the kids were with you. (Husbands, give your wives a day or two to settle in the first time you try this.) On your kid-free vacation, you will face your spouse, look at him/her in the eyes again and remember that you’re in this together and actually so in love. You’d forgotten for a moment because you’ve been so busy with the kids.

If you’re worried that your kids will be upset, I can tell you they’ll actually love it even if they whine a little because they’ll love the effect. Kids are crazy-thrilled when their parents are in love. They are stressed that you’re arguing and they are sad when there is tension. They pretend to be grossed out when you kiss, but do it anyway. I’m telling you, they’re giggling while they say “ew.”

Make this a regular thing.

4. Book NOTHING in your calendar. This is for those of us who are victims of our own busy-ness. To those of you who said yes because Tuesday was free and now you desperately wish Tuesday was free because Wednesday through Monday are filled to the brim. Get out your calendar, consider your immediate future, and write NOTHING in regular intervals. With marker if you’re a hard copy fan. Develop a wish list of breaks, find your rhythm. You can do this.

Now, when you’re over-booking yourself this fall, as you tend to do, making plans, scheduling meetings, promising phone calls, you’ll see NOTHING in there, bright and bold. (If you’re brave enough, tell the other party involved that you CAN’T that Tuesday, you’re busy doing NOTHING.) You will so look forward to that date! I’ve got NOTHING planned in my calendar for the very near future. I’m giddy just thinking about NOTHING!

5. Admit you don’t know. In a world pressuring you to pick sides, it’s OK not to know. It’s OK that you want to spend time and consider all sides without jumping on or off bandwagons. It’s even admirable. You don’t need to share an article, you don’t need to stand on a soapbox, you don’t need to find someone to be horrified at to show you stand for something. You don’t need to busy yourself gathering up evidence to prove a point you’re not sure about. You actually probably know as much as everyone else.  But your admitting you don’t know helps the rest of us understand that there are nuances and complexities to these things. We’re too busy dumbing things down into one-line slogans and memes to notice. You’re doing us all a service by admitting you don’t know yet. So be unabashed about it and maybe more of us will feel free to admit we’re not sure either. That’s where true dialogue begins.

National Return Your Friend’s Book Day

National Return Your Friend's Book Day

It turns out that all you need to create a National Day is to pick a day on the calendar, announce it and then spread the word.

Announcement: Today is National Return Your Friend’s Book Day.

Admittedly, my motivation for creating this National Day is a last ditch effort to let some of my dear friends know I’m missing precious treasures on my bookshelf that I lent them many months, even years ago. I know where these books belong, their memory lingers in the 1-2″ spaces on my bookshelf. But so much time has passed, there is no easy way to ask for them back.

And as far as I know there’s no statute of limitations for when a borrowed book transfers ownership, but that is too often how we play this dilemma.

I get the shame and embarrassment attached to waiting too long to give a book back. How does one broach the subject after so much time has passed?

I’m embarrassed that I even care. I like to think I’m a generous person and I love to loan out books. I’ve even forgotten many books or to whom I’ve handed them out. But there are a select few I remember and regret letting them pass out of my hands. I have spent time convincing myself that I would have/should have just given those books away anyway. Surely I would have bought those books for my friends. But recently, I admitted to myself that I’d be thrilled if they chose to give them back.

If I care so much about missing books, I should just go and buy them again, right? But there are physical aspects of each book that are surprisingly beloved. I remember that quote on the upper right-hand side that made a real impact – I dog-eared that page. I read that one on our vacation, the perfect souvenir of rest. There is the one I believed in and bought before everyone else did and I didn’t love the new design once it went big. There is the one that was touched my Grandma’s hands that I want it back in my hands. This nostalgia has no added value, I realize, but I can’t rid myself of sentimentalism when it comes to certain books.

Book lovers, you know this!

Confession: I’m an offender too. Writing this little post convinced me to comb my shelves for those books that, simply put, belong to another home.  Here’s the note I wrote accompanying a book I’ve had on my shelf for over three years and am returning by post today. Perhaps you can use it as a template yourself. Change the words in red to suit your own situation.

Dear Alice,

I am returning your book What to Say When You Talk to Yourself, which I have held onto for far too long. You felt I should read this book as it is one of your favourites and I could tell you wanted to share in the joy it gave you. I feigned interest at the time, causing you to suggest I borrow your copy. I don’t doubt you wanted our conversation about Self-Talk Starters to continue after I’d read it. I accepted your gesture as a kind offer of friendship and had every intention to follow through on reading it for that reason. The truth is, even though I’m sure I could benefit from the wisdom in this book, it has not captured my attention or time in the way that it has yours. It turns out I prefer to talk to other people.

I would like to return this book to its proper place on your bookshelf. Forgive my thoughtlessness. You have been kind not to mention it, or maybe you couldn’t find the words. I hope my actions won’t stop you from lending it to someone who might need to learn to talk to themselves in the future.



Get your books back! Spread the word!

204 months – a gushing birthday letter to my 17 year old

Dear Mallory,

For 17 years we’ve been your parents. Man, we parents really lose it during the teen years, don’t we? We used to be super attentive and excited about your little pinky twitching. We used to laugh – even cheer – at your flatulence! How times have changed. We used to tell anyone within earshot about your latest developments, like when you FINALLY rolled over at 8 months (too many people heard about how you really liked to sit as a baby), how your first word was “watch” at 9 months (how did your little mouth wrap around such an obscure reference), how you got most of your other words all mixed up and backwards, like “phone-miker” instead of “microphone” or “beltseat” instead of “seatbelt,” many of which have found a permanent place in our familial vernacular.

We actually used to make appointments with our friends to show you off. Ha! They thought we were there to visit with them, but we just wanted to show them what you were up to. I don’t even know if they rolled their eyes at us because I was too busy looking at you.

We were nuts about you and everyone knew it.

Here’s the thing – we’re still nuts about you, so at what point did we stop celebrating your milestones?

Mallory at 204 months old

Think about it. Now, at 204 months, you’re  walking across full rooms without help. You’re walking to the bus stop,  you’re walking to school. You’re walking, walking all the time and we never mention it all. It’s got to be disappointing that we don’t notice all that walking you’re doing.

You don’t just say “watch” anymore, you say mouthfuls of words! You’re talking not only to people, but on devices too! You’re expressing emotion and voicing opinions. You’re using your words ! Why aren’t we celebrating this?

Let’s talk about how you no longer just sit and roll over. You play SPORTS. Your father and I hardly know what sports are.  Here you are tapping into these latent skills and excelling! You got 98% in P.E. last year.  How’s that even possible, are you an Olympian? You’re on the volleyball and badminton teams and you were on the BOYS BASEBALL TEAM last year. At 204 months, you are showing up your immobile kin and you’re showing up society. Barriers, inherited and societal, are to be overcome! Good for you, 204 month old!

What about the driving! We put a steering wheel in your hands and told you to press go with your right foot, and stop with your right foot again–no, that’s the gas, yes, that’s the brake–and you didn’t look back, except to check your mirrors. I watch you take it all so seriously and try not to inhale too quickly when you’re taking the corner wide. You’re DOING THIS. You’re transporting us to A & B [somewhat] safely. How do you exist?

Mallory Driver

Truthfully, you’re not even overly keen on driving, other than to recognize that it’s probably a helpful tool should you want to leave the city. But you love being in the city. You navigate the transit system like nobody I know. You don’t even stick to the subway lines, you’re on buses and streetcars, alighting and transferring left, right and centre. A week or so ago, you did more touring of Toronto in one day than I have done in my lifetime. You tell me it’s easy – you just need fare and the TTC app and the city is your oyster. But just because you make it look easy, doesn’t mean it is! Don’t negate the fearlessness and aptitude required to tame the Red Rocket like you do. You are a super hero.

Mallory in the city

If the goal of parenting is to move one’s children towards independence, we realistically stopped parenting you at month 40.

You have delighted us consistently over the last 204 months.

Mallory Sign 1

But I want to be clear about this. Our delight may look like it’s about what you do, but it’s actually about who you are.  All those cheers for your baby flatulence weren’t because we hoped you’d win Fastest Farter in the West, but because it showed us that you were healthy and functioning properly. We’d hardly care about that 98% in gym except it reveals something about your character and how you like to challenge yourself.

If our love were dependent on what you do, how would we handle that time you got 27% on a test or the way you have totally forgotten how to make your bed over the past couple of years. Even those things reveal something (as you explain that for all the sleeping you’re doing in this season of life, it makes almost zero sense to make a bed).

If I were to encapsulate who we see you becoming, who God intended you to be, what comes most to mind as your enter your 205th month and 18th year, I see you as an adventurer and lover of life. You are very willing to try new things and even seek out new experiences. Truly, and now is the time to say it, I credit you for making every single one of our moves – even the one to Ghana – a joy. To see the world through your eyes, to watch how you embrace the challenges, well, you help us all adjust and probably curbed a freakout or two.

At 204 months, you find yourself in yet another new home. While I’ve been tempted to grieve the change, you’re excited about living in a high-rise – a community of a couple thousand people in one building. You’ve already invited your friends over and went on a mission to find out where the heck the gym was and discovered that the penthouse floor is really just the same as our floor only at the top. You’re learning, learning, always learning. I want to celebrate that – that as long as you’re curious about the world around you, you will continue to grow and develop. New things every month – this is life you live and we celebrate.

I love how you love God, openly wrestling with deep questions without losing your trust in him. You teach me, young one! The way you love others, deeply, loyally and how you think big, important thoughts that the world needs to hear… how am I so privileged to sit at the table or on the couch or by your bed, your only audience, to hear from you? Sometimes I’m afraid to talk because it means you’ll stop. These are golden moments.

Your Daddy and I have many secret conversations (we’ve cut down on the appointments with friends to brag about you) where we actually get giddy about how precious you are.. Our hearts burst or hurt in the rhythm of your own joy or pain. We see you becoming that girl, that young woman God made you to be.  This birthday, my only advice to you is to keep going!  You’re doing it, you’re WALKING!

And we’re celebrating!

Mallory Selfie

Happy Birthday, Mallory!

Love, Mommy

P.S. Have I mentioned how you can laugh at yourself.

Mallory 204 Months Old

Behind the scenes photo…

Mallory Behind the Scenes 1

Literally, “behind” the scenes.

The power of a hug

A Facebook status repost from last week in honour of National Hugging Day

High stress in the Cockram family tonight. Girls have big projects due yesterday and I’m revamping my talk for Saturday for the 50th time. And here we are when everything is due, between the three of us, we can’t understand the instructions, can’t find a stapler, the printer ink runs out, we’re in each other’s way, the hands on the clock move faster, the phones are ringing and beeping, and no one has the emotional resources to help each other.

Between us we’re quivery chinned or frantic in the eyes and all feeling slightly car sick. I stopped speaking in full sentences a long time ago because, do I have to?

Then Fifi walks by and accidentally gives me a hug, because hugging is a habit to her. She didn’t mean to, though, and pulls away to return to her stress. But that tiny act of reaching out is contagious and she comes back when I call her and we promise to get it together.

Hugs, so cute and so powerful, one of the biggest reminders of what’s important and one of the best ways to say “you’re important.”

Where’s J-M in the midst of all this? Out getting printer ink of course and it’s taking him a really, really long time. He’s a smart man to know just when to leave. But he’s missing out on these hugs. Now look at me, I’m smiling and getting my kids ice water and giving them kisses on the forehead.

I’m going to talk about hugs on Saturday instead of beauty maybe. Everything is going to be just fine.

Going Grey @ 7 Months: What’s Underneath

This is my brother, Mark.

Mark Grey

He thinks it is a terrible idea for me to go grey.

I’ll give you a sec to think that one through.

I asked J-M if it would be wrong to post Mark’s picture, seeing as I’d be ungraciously outing him for an obvious double standard. J-M paused, then suggested I should add arrows.

Now we’re talkin’! Like this?

Mark Grey Arrows

This guy thinks I shouldn’t go grey. He says it’s a TERRIBLE idea.

Interestingly enough, it’s only been over the last few weeks that I’ve discovered just how much I am greying like my brother, with those J. Jonah Jameson silver temples.


That has been an interesting part of the experiment, realizing what weirdos your hair follicles are. The right side of my head is much whiter than the left. There are parts that are mostly brown (at the back) and only a little bit of salt with the pepper at the top of my head and bangs. If I had a brush cut, I’d look like my bro, but since I wear my hair down and long, it hides the grey underneath and it confuses people. Sophia suggested I tell people I’m going mousey greyish brown instead.

I have turned a corner since my last update. It happened quite by surprise when a friend tagged me in this article showing 26-year-old actress, Zosia Mamet, who decided to colour her hair “antique grey.”

Zosia-Mamet - grey hair

I don’t even know who Zosia Mamet is. Wait, now I do, I just Googled her.

That’s another side effect of aging, I don’t recognize anyone on magazine covers anymore. While I’m in line at the drug mart, People Magazine tells me they’re famous, so they must be. But as far as I’m concerned they just look like the girls who go to my kids’ high school. Mallory, isn’t that girl from your math class? You should tell her to put on a sweater. I feel a small comfort when I see Julia Roberts or Jennifer Aniston in the magazine stands – yes, I recognize these people – and Oprah’s a constant, so that puts me at ease.

Anyway, Zosia’s new hair has made her a little more famous in the middle-aged circles as this article was shared around Facebook. My first reaction was, “No, no, no, no, no, no! Grey does not belong to the young! She has not earned this!”

Crazy, right? Since last month I was sad-ish about it and this month, I’m defending it as a prize. My reaction showed me that I do indeed believe that grey hair is a treasure, only for those who have been through some significant years of experience. Through such experiences, we have also received stretch marks, wrinkles, minor sun damage, and, hopefully, a bigger, better understanding of the world around us and our place in it. Grey hair is an honourable, outward expression of our inward maturation. (Wow, does it feel good to feel good about grey hair again.) But when young adults or teens colour their hair grey it feels like a white lie.

But if that’s true, if the young do not “deserve” Gun Metal Grey, do the middle-aged deserve the Medium Roasted Chestnut or Luminous Honey Golden Blonde?  I suppose fair’s fair – we started this, borrowing from our youth, we can’t be upset if the young want to mimic old age. Perhaps we should be complimented.

Then, another friend sent me this article that grey hair is an actual, bona fide trend for 2015!


Grey Hair Leads the Way for Beauty Trends in 2015

I let myself become thrilled that I might be TRENDY. I encouraged my baby sister to go grey too!

“Becky! What do you think! Everybody’s doing it!”

I told you, I don’t have any grey,” she said.

“Oh no! Poor you!” I said.

I’ll let you know she is also against my growing out my grey, but posting her picture doesn’t have the same effect as posting my brother’s. But she’s still cute, so… here.

Image by Stephanie Ironside (Iron & Bragg)

Image by Stephanie Ironside (Iron & Bragg Photography)

Now I’m starting to see this in a couple different ways. When grey hair goes trendy and the starlets and young ones try it on for size, it could actually be a good thing as it puts a premium on grey hair, perhaps a small improvement from when we were collectively devaluing it (if not for others, than for ourselves). Maybe it gives us the push we need to explore it for our own heads or embrace it when our friends/siblings do.

After reading the Zosia article, I contacted my hair stylist. “Barb, can we do something about this? Can I just colour my hair grey??” I was elated to think that I could cut out the time-dragging part of this experiment and move straight to trendoid!

Barb is not only the best cutter and colourist, but she is a good friend and I’ll tell you why. She asked very tactfully if it wasn’t important for me to go through the whole process? She could do it – strip my hair and then add a fashionable granny grey toner to it… but it wouldn’t match my current hair growth, of which I have already put in seven long months. More importantly, it might be skipping a valuable process – the learning that only comes with the experience of growing it out. I was trying to skip out on the meaningful stuff.

Wasn’t she kind to remind me of that? To actually turn me down so that I can reach my goal for my hair and for my soul. It’s selfless really.

You know, another time (more recently than I like to admit), I asked her if I should get a perm and she didn’t laugh at me. She’s a keeper.

So this is me, with my mousey grey brown hair roots and J. Jonah Jameson temples hiding underneath, at 7 months.

Grey - 7 months with arrows

By the way, that’s my friend Sharon with me in the pictures on the right. She is my exact same age and not a stitch of grey. Poor thing.