Friday, April 30, 2010

handling time

I am one of those fortunate people who does not work a 9-5 job. Though I did trek off to a 35-40 hour work week for many years, at some point I realised that I do much better outside of the grind. Not financially, at least not yet, but in every other way, I thrive in a self-directed environment. I suppose many creative people do. As great as it sounds, managing your own schedule can be much more challenging than the 9 - 5 scene. The possibilities are endless, but in direct proportion, so are the opportunities to squander your precious resources, especially time.

This lifestyle is not for everyone, but here are a few things I have found helpful over the years. I don't get it right every day, but I am getting better at it.

1. Know your values. At the end of the day or the week, what use of your time will leave you content and satisfied, filled with a sense of purpose and gratitude? Make sure those things find priority on your schedule, along with all the necessary tasks of life.

2. Think like a boss. Be an employee. The employee in me and the boss in me have regular meetings. The boss decides what projects or accomplishments are important. Together we set reasonable goals for each day that will lead to their completion. If something unexpected comes up, the employee is free to juggle her schedule as long as she assures the boss that all tasks will still get done by the end of the week. The boss is flexible, but firm. She agrees to let the employee take the afternoon off to play in the park on a sunny day because the employee has negotiated to complete her work after sundown, even if it means staying up a little late. The boss and the employee work together to create situations where both of them are happy with the results.

3. Last minute is bad. Leaving things till the last minute invites disaster. I usually schedule tasks to be completed a week or so before they are due. That way I am seldom rushed, stressed, or caught off-guard. My creativity does not flourish under pressure and many things take longer than I think they will. This breathing room leaves time for me to double-check things, embrace unexpected situations, and avoid freaking out if I get stuck.

4. Don't multi-task. It is counter-productive. Some people may be good at this, but I am not one of them. Trying to multi-task just compromises the quality of everything I am trying to do. When I concentrate on one thing at a time, I can give it all my energy and focus; I am, in fact, more efficient and generous with my resources when I am fully present, even if only for a short time. One of the worst things I have done is try to mix people encounters with administrative tasks (like typing an email while talking to someone on the phone). The person can tell that my attention is divided and our interaction suffers greatly, even if I am not aware of it. Multi-tasking can, in fact, be rude and unloving sometimes. My desire is to be the best single-tasker ever, being fully present and engaged in whatever I find myself involved in.

Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might. - Ecclesiastes 9 (Amplified)

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters. - Colossians 3 (Today's NIV)

This is a picture of my friend making apple pear crisp. Mmmmmmm.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

don't forget

I forget things sometimes. I am especially bad at remembering people's names when I first meet them and they introduce themselves. In the past few weeks I have been reading a fiction book that deals with early onset Alzheimer's Disease and it freaked me out a little. Nothing like a little medical fiction to make you paranoid about losing your mind! Anyway, yesterday I was on my way to the theatre to meet Dean for our regular Tuesday night date at the movies. As I was looking at the unseasonal slushy sleet outside the bus window, I was trying to remember the name of some person. I managed to come up with it fairly quickly, but once again started thinking about this annoying selective forgetfulness that I suffer from. And quite unexpectedly came this still, small voice in my head that said, "You don't listen very well."

Really? I wondered if this was true. I have always considered myself a fairly good listener, but the pang of conviction that hit me when I heard those five words made me fairly certain that we had just hit on an issue in my life. After some consideration, I admitted that I don't remember people's names well because very often I am not truly listening to them; I am listening to myself and my inner thoughts instead. Yes, there is also the fact that I am primarily a visual learner and not an aural one, but that tendency aside, I still have a problem with REAL listening. Too often I am thinking about where this conversation is going or how to respond appropriately. I catch myself writing wonderful scenarios, witty comments, or even unfair judgments in my head, and oh look, a pretty bright light over there (yes, I get easily distracted in a busy setting). Sometimes what the person is saying reminds me of something else and away my mind goes, churning out random thoughts on some tangent. What it boils down to is that I suffer from an unattractive obsession with my own story. Ugh!

No, I don't listen very well, and it keeps me from truly enjoying and embracing the people I meet. Yes, I need to develop the discipline of listening, of clearing my mind of all the dialogues and writing projects and reminders that are always whirling in there, and just be receptive. I need to let the words of others, the important details of their lives, land solidly in me instead of bouncing off because my hamster mind is speeding along on its wheel to nowhere.
I want to hear someone's name and savour its delicious and unique sound. I want to take in the precious and beautiful face that it belongs to. I want to engage with the creative and energetic spirit that is offering some part of itself to me and feel what it feels. I want to acknowledge the person's value in time and space and give them their moment to BE - without interruption or distraction. Oh, how I have rushed through the art gallery of living masterpieces, not stopping to appreciate what each one had to offer, never taking time to study the fine brushstrokes and the depth of perspective. Too self-absorbed and too often in a hurry to stop, sit, and really see. And hear.

I know God generously and graciously listens to me every day, even through some long and boring monologues that I have been known to indulge in. I know He can teach me to listen as well. Matte, if you have ears to hear, let them hear what the spirit is saying.
This is a picture of hip waders on the dock at my friends' chalet. It is a quiet place, great for listening.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

sorry

I love forgiveness. Today I checked my online banking status and thought my credit card statement was a bit high. I looked through my last month's purchases and aside from a splurge on books for my upcoming reading course, there was nothing significant that would account for the large amount owing. Well, after a bit of research, I discovered that last month I paid $600 towards Dean's credit card instead of my own (they are right beside each other on the bill payment list). Oops! After I discovered the mistake, I immediately paid my bill, 6 days late, and hoped the interest charges wouldn't be too bad.

Dean suggested that I call the credit card people to explain and make sure it didn't affect my credit rating. Really? That just seemed silly. I made the mistake, I will pay for it. Why do they need to hear my whiny excuses about how I failed to distinguish between two really long numbers on a list? Blonde, distracted moment, pure and simple.

Well, I decided I could call and at least ask how it would affect my next bill, so I did. The woman I reached was very pleasant and listened to my sad story of how I paid one bill when I meant to pay another. That's what she's trained to do, after all. Then she asked what my regular pattern of payment was. I told her I always paid in full. She checked it out and confirmed that I had an excellent payment record. Then she asked, "Would you like me to see if I can do something for you regarding this matter?" What? I didn't even have to plead? She just offered? I said, "Thank you, yes, that would be great." She came back a minute later to explain that I was to ignore any interest charges on my next bill because she was reversing them and they would be credited to my account. Also, my credit rating would not be affected because it was less than 30 days late. It was all back to normal, just like that.

I make mistakes. I am human. I expect to pay for these mistakes. That is justice. That is right. But then this mysterious gift called forgiveness comes along and messes with the whole system of 'tit for tat' that keeps things in equilibrium. I love receiving forgiveness, but it is not always easy. Sometimes I still feel like I should pay for what I have done, because if I don't pay, someone else has to. At times I feel like I got away with something, and I don't like that. I desperately want to feel like I made it right and can walk away with a clear conscience. Sometimes I feel like I need to prove myself or be punished to make sure I learn my lesson before forgiveness will be granted, but then forgiveness would not be a gift, would it? I am getting better at receiving forgiveness. I still don't like asking for it, but I am learning that humility and honesty are part of that equation as well. Forgiveness is good for me. In a strange way, it actually makes me more aware of my shortcomings and my angry, selfish heart while at the same time wiping the mistakes away.

I need forgiveness every day. I am sure that I need it more than I realise or admit. I know I am all too tied to the debit and payment system, relying on my own merits and actions to make things right and keep things in balance. Jesus said: A person who is forgiven little shows only a little love (Luke 7:47). I want to love much, so that means I need to get better at seeing my need for forgiveness and embracing mercy. Why not start asking for it here and now? Why not learn to receive it graciously and humbly as often as it is offered? Open my eyes, Jesus, to see how much larger forgiveness can be in my life. Let it be a doorway to loving richly.

This is a painting by my friend, Natasha. I posted it on my blog earlier this week, then realised that was wrong, so I deleted it and asked for her permission to use it. Here it is now, with permission, with mercy, through forgiveness.

Monday, April 19, 2010

transformation 2

I have a new answer to the oft-asked, "How are you?" My response these days is: "I am in need of some transformation!" The thing about being in a learning environment is that you can come head to head with information that makes you uncomfortable. The question then is: Do I just do my homework or do I grapple with this information at a deeper and more personal level? I venture to say that if we are not up for transformation, then we are not up for study or learning.

The second paper I wrote this semester was for a class that dealt with hermeneutics and ecclesiology (discovering biblical meaning within the context of a faith community). We talked a lot about transformational discourse. I wrote many wonderful words on the topic, but when talking about transformation, watch out! It just might sneak up and bite you in the butt! At two points in this course, it did. Here are my 'Ouch!' moments.

1. We were assigned a reading from Thomas Aquinas, The Ten Articles to be exact. I had read them before and had not found them that interesting. A bit hard to follow, honestly, and cold and scientific. I like a bit more passion with my theology. But before I read Aquinas this time, I read an article by a guy named Candler who talked about Thomas and his work. Wow! This guy loved Aquinas and went on and on about the great stuff to be found in Thomas. Really? By the end of the article, I realised that I had been missing a lot of the gems in Aquinas due to my prejudice. I decided to change my stinky attitude, give Aquinas another chance, and read "Ten Articles" again with fresh eyes. Candler was right. There was a lot of warmth beneath the surface when I bothered to look for it.

I can tell when someone loves what they are reading or studying. They speak of it with passion, they engage with it at a personal level as well as at an intellectual level, they are able to be patient with its peculiarities, and because of this, the insights they discover are often rich and the questions they ask lead them to further discovery. Pride was what had stopped up my ears to Thomas' voice. Love was the amplifier that helped me to hear him more clearly.

2. The second time came for me during the second last class. Everyone was being asked to offer some point that had resonated with them in the course or something they had learned. I had my prepared paragraph before me, stocked with fine words about unity and its attractiveness, but while a classmate was speaking, a sort of veil was removed from my eyes. I saw that I was being offered the opportunity to pursue unity with this group of people. It was something much stronger than being friendly as classmates; it was an invitation to receive them into my life.

I balked slightly at the thought because I knew how difficult it would be to truly commune with people from so many different backgrounds and beliefs and with such varied personalities. I felt a bit naked, and I could sense my integrity being challenged. I wrote in my journal, “I am drawn to unity [and] can write wonderful words about it, but am I up for it? Engaging requires that I go over there and make a friend…instead of deciding that I am not ‘into it’ and it is ‘not my thing.’ It is costly to engage."

Yep. Transformation is expensive stuff. I can't study things like love and truth and unity in a sterile lab or through an objective research paper. I have to be willing to be the subject of the research. Introducing subjectivity means that I need to touch the truth that I am trying to learn.
Here are some quotes from my paper on how this applies to interacting with the Bible:

When I find myself getting frustrated with what I encounter in the scriptures, whether at the apparent lack of detail, the confusing multiplicity, or the vagueness of the language, then I need to step into that place of confession and humility again and let truth judge me instead of the other way around. If we think we have tamed truth, mastered truth, we are deceived.

The Bible invites the reader to jump into its pages and live with the characters and the words that can be found there in order to walk through her own life with greater wisdom and humility. It is a book that is meant to get a bit dirty as we drag it with us through the mucky mud of the pits and valleys that we come across and wade through the murky waters of uncertainty and doubt that swirl about our knees. This is not a holy book in the sense that we cannot touch it. It is a holy book because it can help us see holiness if we will make ourselves subject to its powerful story of love.

Happy transformation!

This is a photo of crab tree blossoms from our front yard in St-Lazare.

Friday, April 16, 2010

transformation one

Yesterday, I handed in my last two papers of the semester. As it happens, they both addressed the issue of transformation. WARNING: when you write about a topic, very often you get to experience it! This should come as no surprise, because you don't really learn about something until you live it. In my Reformation class, I wrote a paper about the journey of reformer, Teresa of Avila (1515-1582).

Here's a quote from my introduction: The simple imposition of structural change or new organizational rules from an external source does not result in any lasting transformation unless these coincide with a radical shift in the souls and in the minds of the persons who are at the heart of change. If there is no one who believes that certain modifications are vital to well-being and if there are none who are passionate enough about these revisions to suffer the hardships that come with the incorporation of innovations, reform will not survive.

Here are the 4 important components of transformation that I observed in Teresa's life (and the lives of other reformers).:

1. Turmoil - A dissatisfaction with the state of things, or the state of their own hearts, often proved to be an impetus for agents of major change like the reformers. I know from experience that when I start to feel unsettled, ill at ease, or have internal anxiety, it is an invitation to transformation, to move forward into something unknown and unfamiliar. Turmoil shocks me out of my comfort zone and urges me to get out of my seat of complacency. Turmoil is my prodding friend that tells me to get off my butt and do something about the situation, no matter how daunting or scary it is.

2. Humility - This is not wallowing in my own wretchedness, nor being weak or cowardly. Humility is seeing myself in relation to God, which makes me realise that I am pretty small and not so good. But, humility is what fosters openness and reliance on God and that's really good! I need to hug humility close all the time and never let it go. It keeps me on track with truth.

3. Surrender - If I don't surrender, it means I don't trust. Teresa described surrender as making your will the prisoner of God. It doesn't mean going limp and being passive: it means that I want what God wants, and that's a whole lot more than I usually let myself want.

4. Tenacity - Never give up. Never stop. Transformation takes a lifetime. There was a period of almost 20 years during which Teresa saw very little progress in her spiritual life, but after that, things started to change! She opened her first reformed convent at the age of 47. Expect suffering, setbacks, opposition, and personal weakness. These things develop courage and patience and strength. Resistance is what builds muscle! It is those who don't abandon the journey that eventually get there. Teresa says: We ought to feel great alarm if we do not find ourselves advancing...for love is never idle. Therefore it is a very bad sign when one comes to a stand-still in virtue.

I never want to be standing still in my life. I want to be strong and steady, yes, but flexible and growing: a tree with deep roots, a strong trunk, branches that bend willingly, and leaves that flutter in the light and make gentle music in the breeze.

Here's one of my favourite quotes from Teresa: My Lord knows that all I desire is that he may be praised and magnified a little when men see how on a foul and stinking dunghill he has planted a garden of such sweet flowers.

May I be a very productive dung hill.

This is some of my research for my Teresa paper, cluttering up my table. I'll tell you about my other paper next time.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

soul refrigerator

I went grocery shopping yesterday and came home with three bags of food. After I unpacked them all, this is what my fridge looked like: really empty. How does that happen? How can I feel so full and ready for any food emergency one moment, and after one quick glance, realise that I have nothing, really?

Today is one of those days in my soul as well. I woke up with gratitude and fullness in my heart, ready to take on this day and all the wonderful opportunities that it presented. Then I caught a brief glance of some emptiness in my life and bam - my buoyancy was compromised. For the past few hours I have been treading water, trying to keep my head in a positive space, bobbing in and out of disappointment, and catching myself whining with pathetic indignity at the cement blocks of other people's stupidity that are tangled around my ankles. When I am staring at the empty refrigerator of my soul, these are my thoughts.

Where do I go from here? Perhaps I should slam that refrigerator shut and never think about its cavernous, aching holes again. Perhaps I should run off to the local convenience store where I can find a lot of beer, ice cream, and pizza to stuff in it. That should stave off the emptiness for awhile. Perhaps I will turn my attention to the food cupboard instead, which is stocked with familiar canned goods and crackers - nothing fresh, but long shelf life has its advantages. Or perhaps, just perhaps, I should open the fridge and sit with it awhile until the emptiness doesn't scare me anymore. I could look around and find out what's really in there, in those drawers that I never seem to open a lot, and on those condiment shelves that go untouched for weeks. I might be surprised at what I find: some things past their expiry dates will need to be tossed, but hey, I had more orange juice than I thought. Maybe I could use this opportunity when it is not laden with fruit to give it a good cleaning. Maybe I could write a list of yummy fresh foods that I really want in my life and make a point of finding out where these can be found.

I am discovering that developing into a mature and solid person means taking times to sit with my pain, my emptiness, and my disappointments. If I don't expose them to the air and give them some time, like all wounds, they will fester and gangrinate instead of heal. It is a discipline of love to sit with someone and let them pour out their soul in a cathartic cleanse, so why can't I have the patience to do the same with myself?

Come, soul, don't be downcast. You are not alone. Invite Jesus to sit here with you and then face the void. Let the anger, the stabbing pain, the dull ache, the wounds of neglect and rejection start to seep out. Let the dullness deflate and crumble; a soft and willing heart is irresistible. Let the hidden fears and scummy lies bubble to the surface and be skimmed off. Come, soul, don't rush away. Come. Sit. Look. Seep. Be made clean so that you can be filled with all things fresh and delicious.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

the prodigal cat

Last night Jazz jumped out of our 4th storey bedroom window. Dean and I were doing our taxes in the office area which is right next to the bedroom when I heard a scrape and a thump, so I wandered over to the open window to see what it was. Though it was dark, I could make out a furry lump on the balcony 12 feet below me. I exclaimed, "Jazz!" and heard a worried meow in response. I rushed downstairs and opened the sliding door. Jazz streaked inside, all four legs moving quickly as she fled from the unpleasant scene of her botched escape. A typical resilient cat, she seemed none the worse for wear except for a bruised mouth from her hard landing.

Jazz is obsessed with going outside. A safe, warm, and loving home where every need is provided for doesn't quite seem to do it for her. She wants to be free! Free to sniff trees, gawk at birds, chase other cats, chew blades of grass, and roll in the dirt. Free to encounter speeding cars and big dogs and bone-chilling winters. Free to do what she wants when she wants instead of always being at the mercy of a master. Like the younger brother in the well-known parable, she has access to everything she could possibly need in our household and yet, I often find her gazing out the window at the possibility of another life, a wild life. And when she gets the chance to, she acts on that impulse, unwise as it may be.

I, too, think that freedom is my right. I hate being told what to do. I like choosing what I eat for supper. I like to decide when I wake up instead of having an alarm do that for me. I prefer to choose what I wear each day to having it regulated for me. I like to decide what I read and write and watch. I like to be the one with the remote control in my hand. I want to choose my friends instead of having people impose themselves on me. But is that really freedom? If we ask the younger son, my cat, or anyone doing whatever they please at any given moment...are they truly experiencing long-term, deep satisfaction from that freedom? I don't think so.

Doing exactly what I want loses its appeal rather quickly. I would rather accommodate my behaviour to align with the desires of someone I love, because now we can do it together. Being the queen of my time is not as grand or as productive as it might sound. I will choose to stay up really late talking to someone about important life issues or get up really early to make breakfast for house guests because I am richer for the shared experiences. If I want to do life in a meaningful and consistent way, it means that my will gets joined to others. Sometimes I like the joining and other times, I find myself chafing against the yoke, like some younger and immature son who wants it all and wants it now. When I struggle against these ties, it is not freedom that I'm longing for; it is impatient selfishness that I want to indulge in.

Freedom is jumping out of a plane safely strapped to a parachute. Freedom is doing a vigorous and graceful dance by following my partner. Freedom is the ability to say "yes" and follow through on it, no matter what it costs. Freedom is knowing that as along as I am in my Father's house, everything that is his, is mine. Freedom is running as fast as I can, the wind at my back, on the road God invites me to navigate instead of dodging traffic on a road of my own choosing.

I love freedom, but let me never forget that freedom is not free. Some think that a lot of money will buy it, but it won't. Some think that working hard and being a good person will eventually get them there, but it will always fall short. Freedom is always in relation to another. Freedom costs me my independence. It means that I freely give myself to be tied to another person in some way, because freedom is not possible outside of the tethers of love. Freedom on my own is not really freedom, it is merely floundering. Freedom is tying myself to someone who can take me places I could never get to on my own. Freedom is attaching myself to one who can make my life more beautiful than I ever could without him.

So the question is not, "Am I the master of my own destiny?" but "Am I free to give myself to love, both as a spontaneous receiver and as a generous giver?" I think if I can say yes to this, then I will never have any desire to opt out, jump out, or run away.
This is a cat we saw one winter day outside of a restaurant; he was looking to come inside.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

10 good distractions

I make lists of things that I need to do every day. This breaking down of huge tasks into Matte-size bites is one of the ways I keep from being overwhelmed by the largeness of life. I have developed pretty good habits in order to stay focused and meet deadlines. One of those important habits is to take time for beautiful distractions. They inspire me, they feed my soul, they bring joy, they grow gratitude, and miraculously, never mess up the schedule beyond repair.

Here are 10 of my favourite distractions:

1. Going for a walk: in the park, around the block, on the beach, to the store, anywhere and anytime there is always something interesting to be seen and I am just so thrilled to be able to walk and yeah, I occasionally break into a run!
2. Playing with the cat: she purrs, rubs herself against me, chases things and is just so darn cute and fun. Sometimes messy and grouchy, but aren't we all? She is a smaller, furrier, stupider version of me, I think. Aww, she is peeking out at me from behind a chair as I write this.
3. Watching the planes fly over my house: it makes me think of exciting places to go and keeps me from looking at my small world all day. I like to wave just in case someone is looking out their tiny window and hoping for a friendly person. Oh, and maybe someday I will learn to fly!
4. Eating a bowl of popcorn: there is only one thing better than popcorn and that is watermelon. Eating any kind of fruit, really, is a great distraction. Chips are right up there as good for your soul as well. I think I will have some right now!
5. Sending an email or a text to a friend just to let them know I am thinking about them: many times they have no idea why I am sending them some random words that make very little sense, but it is usually because my heart is full of love for them and I just need to type some letters to let it out!
6. Calling Dean to tell him a joke or play a trick on him: he always figures out it is me, btw, and rarely gets embarrassed, but I keep trying. I do like to make my man laugh!
7. Watching a music video on youtube: some good jazz or funk, or some heartfelt worship, some music that speaks to the soul.
8. Singing a spontaneous song: why say it when you can sing it? Mostly the cat and Dean get to hear these masterpieces, but something inside me grows confident when I do this! Don't know why, but it doesn't matter. I keep singing!
9. Talking to God about something I can't figure out: sometimes I combine this with #1. He has the ability to calm me down when I am freaking out and comes up with the most creative solutions ever. He is also good at listening and encouraging. What I like is his ability to cut right to the heart of a matter. He also makes me warm and fuzzy inside and feel safe.
10. Dropping everything in order to help someone: this is usually the most challenging one, but the most rewarding as well. My schedule and list are often shot to bits, but wow, it dials my self-centredness down to 1 or 2! And in return, my life is changed as well. Gratitude and joy jump all over this one!

There are many more I could give you, but now I have to get back to my homework. Writing this blog has been #11. Enjoy! I sure did!

This picture was taken on a walk to the point in Waikiki. I wish I had taken this walk more than once.

Monday, April 05, 2010

hair

I had another hair incident this past week. I have been bouncing from hairdresser to hairdresser since my regular stylist, Diana, left the business to go back to school over a year ago. I first tried the owner of the salon where Diana used to work and after a few less than successful appointments (one where she forgot me under the dryer and another where she cut my bangs waaaay too short), I decided to move on. I made an appointment at the trendy salon in the mall and got the oldest guy there, a man in his sixties. The colour was great, but I came out with a high maintenance haircut, the opposite of what I had asked for.

Last week, I was in a bit of a rush because of my school schedule, so when I found a salon which had good online reviews and was just a block from the university, I gave it a try. I walked in and my first clue should have been that the place was empty. Of clients, that is. There were a group of men having some kind of meeting, it seemed. I couldn't understand what they were saying because everyone was speaking Persian. Nevertheless, the stylist had time to take me right away, so I sat down. Her first words to me were, "You must have had a long day, you look tired." That should have been my second clue. She showed me some colours (my roots needed touching up) and when I asked for the lighter shade, she argued with me. That should have been my third clue. I won't even go into her rather sloppy application technique. I am not that fussy about my hair, it is only hair after all, but I was beginning to wonder how well this was all going to turn out.
When I finally saw the result after she washed and dried it, it looked odd. My hair was dark at the roots and light at the ends, kind of dull and ashy looking. I mentioned that it was a bit darker than the rest of my hair and she said she had decided to put in a bit of the darker colour just a bit to make it more natural. I should just wash it a few times and it would be better. She was rather adamant that my hair really needed a trim as well because the ends were very bad. Clues number 4 to 8, big time. I gently refused the haircut, paid her and rushed out to an evening engagement in a darkly lit restaurant, thank goodness, thinking it couldn't be all that bad.

When I finally got home and took a good look at my hair, I saw that the front where my hair tends to be light anyway, had in fact turned a bit green. I washed it four times, but there was no discernible difference. My roots were dark greyish brown, the front of my hair was greyish green, and the bottom half was the caramel blonde colour that I am used to seeing on my head. It was so bad that for the first time ever, I decided that this was not something I could live with. It had to be fixed.

I went to another hairdresser the next day and after a few exclamations of horror at what had been done to my hair, the Russian woman and the young guy said that they were going to make it right and it would look great. I could trust them. The green, grey, dull, dark brown had to be stripped from my hair and then a more appropriate colour could be applied. Throughout the process, the lady kept checking my hair to see how it was reacting to all the chemicals. The guy came over a few times to check on my hair in-between his own clients. The colour turned out to be golden blonde on the top half and caramel on the bottom half. As she was drying it, Tatiana told me it was quite a unique look, one that would be hard to do on purpose, but she thought it suited me very well. I had to agree with her. It looked quite good.

As I am prone to do, I pondered this incident over the next few days, wondering what it was all about. Was I really that bad at picking a good hairdresser? What could I learn from this? Here are my conclusions:

1. Don't go to a hairdresser that starts by pointing out your faults. If he or she cannot see your beauty, no matter how hidden it is that particular day, they will not be able to bring it out, no matter how many faults they try to fix. Everyone has some great quality about their hair, their face, their body, and their personality. This is what we have to do: work with that, enhance it, make it shine, and bring it out of hiding. You have to love hair to be a hairdresser and I can always tell when someone loves my hair. Too often, I can pick out people's shortcomings from a mile away. Where's the skill in that? And then I try to fix them, most often to disappointing results. My job is not to fix people or their problems; it is to love them, see their beauty, and help bring that out so that they can see it and so can everyone else. Faults will naturally be dealt with in the process, but it is never the focus. Beauty is. What is the first thing that I notice about people? Their beauty or their faults?

2. Good reviews are not enough. What other people say may be a good starting point, but it should never make the decision for me. Too often, I am swayed by the opinions of others instead of learning to develop my own ability to discern situations. If I am getting a bad vibe about something, I should take a moment to ask why and re-evaluate what is going on. It is better to walk out and be safe than to stick it out just to be polite or to please people. I don't have to be mean, but I should be truthful as well as faithful to those things that are important to me.

3. I make mistakes. Other people make mistakes. It happens. I am not mad at the first hairdresser and will not go back to make a scene and demand my money back. She was a nice lady, but she should probably pursue further training or switch to another profession. The important thing is that we learn to admit our mistakes and change what we do, no matter how humbling it is.

4. Price and convenience should never be at the top of my list of deciding factors. Quality, dependability, integrity, beauty, and love are a lot more important. Patience is a good thing, too.

This is me and Jazz, two beautiful females.