La Juste Milieu en Toutes Choses

It’s a French saying, about moderation in all things. It’s something I need to remember from time to time, as I’m sometimes prone to extremes. I can devote myself entirely to Little Red, but then the house suffers, or I can completely lose myself in managing our household (dishes and those endless phone calls – if only Earthlink was the only one!) and go days without spending quality time with Little Red. As I’m trying to refocus on finding balance in my life I’ve been thinking back on times in my life when I had very little balance, and when I’ve seen the same in others.


My first piano exam was a very exciting time. The edjudicator was coming all the way out from Toronto, and we got to play in the auditorium of Okanagan College. As you may well expect from a professional pianist employed (or at least contracted) by the Conservatory, he was well-dressed and very brilliant. He had shaggy Beethoven-esque hair, which seemed fitting for him and not unkempt. When it came to our performances he was painfully perceptive for someone whom we’d never before met. He was fairly congenial, too. There was one thing, however, that was just a little off. He had body odor.

I was fairly young at the time, probably about 12, and was living in Southern Canada. I hadn’t yet been to Italy and I didn’t remember the lumberjacks, so he was probably the stinkiest man I had met. (My standards have since changed and I wonder if he would even register on my radar now.)

My friends who had their exams before me had warned me, and I, in turn, warned my friends behind me. When it was over I brought it up in my lesson and my teacher kindly explained that when someone is a focused as he on music, he usually isn’t bothered and doesn’t notice the little things. I was of a dual mind that day on the bench. On the one I hand I admire his genius and wondered if I had it in me to be so brilliant (I didn’t wonder too hard, I always knew I didn’t.) On the other hand I resolved to never be so busy with something that I would not wear deodorant.


For a small school in the middle of nowhere, our high school had a decent amount of foreign exchange students. I think it’s because the Rotary Program was strong. In addition to the exchange students, who came and went from year to year, stamping themselves on our collective memory, changing what we thought on things, and disappearing, promising to keep in touch but never doing so, there was also Ondrej. Ondrej wasn’t an exchange student. Ondrej actually lived in Whitehorse. He was Czech, and fairly new to Canada, but I never asked the situation of his departure. I had known some Czechs earlier in my life, and while I knew their story to be exciting and dangerous I knew it was not the sort of thing you brought up in polite conversationg. Besides, Ondrej only ever wanted to talk about music. With the exception of our graduation ceremonies, I don’t remember ever seeing him outside of a music setting.

Ondrej was a devoted musical excentric. He was a proficient performer on the bassoon, and capable with most other instruments, and he was a fervent composer/arranger. He didn’t comb his hair, he didn’t dress in any semblance of current style, and he, too, didn’t usually wear deodorant, not did he seem to care about any of those things. He was a very nice guy who never said a negative thing about anyone, that I can remember. Yet he was ostracized by most of our school’s population. Without a common bond of music and the opportunity to know who he was, he just appeared wierd and smelly.

(Since moving to the States I have had a new regard for Ondrej. He never talked of himself, but I’m sure he felt so lonely and isolated and misunderstood. No one in Whitehorse spoke Czech. To us he was a novelty, to him he was an outsider. The alienation I have felt at times must be nothing to what he lived on a daily basis. I have so much compassion for him and I hope that wherever he is now he is accepted and happy.)


My pregnant, bionic nose will never allow me to skip deodorant, but I am known for only brushing my hair and wearing make up on certain days of the week, not because of my own genius (ha!) but because of my lack of balance in my life. I’m too focused on other things. I have only lately begun to realize that if I’m not careful, I’m going to be that lady, the poor, unkempt, stay at home mother, who has completely let herself go. I need to remember that finding balance includes making time for myself.

7 thoughts on “La Juste Milieu en Toutes Choses

  1. Sometimes, at the end of the day, when Jody comes home from work, and I realize that I never got around to putting any make-up or anything on, I feel really stupid and bad for my husband. He didn’t sign up to come home to this ugly woman. He wanted the one that kept herself looking nice and played her trumpet all the time. So, I try to at least shower and put mascara on…and deoderant of course. I hope to never be THAT woman either!

  2. i don’t know why i focused on this, but you really asked the teacher fella about his odor? HA! i’m just trying to imagine how that conversation went. i mean… i had a basketball coach one year who was actually allergic to deodorant, and let me tell you- i felt very sorry for the man, but i also felt very sorry for me when i had to face guard him in practice at times.

    in retrospect, i guess someone DID ask him about it, otherwise I wouldn’t know he was allergic to deodorant, but i know it wasn’t me. i am a chicken, i guess.

  3. I didn’t wear make-up on my wedding day, so I guess Nathan was fairly warned on what he was signing up for πŸ˜‰

    I know what you mean. I always feel like I’m running from one thing to the next to the next and in the hurry of everything remembering to bathe the kids sometimes doesn’t happen for several days.

    But I remember to change Jenacy’s diaper *at least* once a day.

    (that’s good, right?) πŸ˜‰

  4. There are definitely moments when I am the same way, get so busy that I feel like I haven’t taken time for myself. I’ve been really trying to watch it too, especially because it does make me feel alot better about myself if I managed to do all these thing, AND look like a normal person. πŸ™‚

  5. At least you know what you want and don’t want in life. The only people who would notice that there are only certain days that you wear make up would be the men in your life, because they see you everyday, and most likely would see you putting it on. Yes, getting all done up will make you feel better about yourself, but making a bond with your child is so much better. I’ve noticed that I’ve been neglecting Carter a lot due to all of the new changes. So, I made it a point to have him sit on the sink and copy what I do. He brushes his teeth with me, and he even does his own hair (not that there’s much to do). That little bit of time we do take together not only shows him a good example, but gives us quality time. I know how good you are with little red. I also know that no one is going to think any less of you when you feel like your life is made up of nothing but chaos. We all feel it.

  6. I remember Ondrej. I never had much pleasure of his company, but the few times I was blessed to speak with him I found him witty, intelligent and funny. He had a way of dealing with the world that I had always admired and wished I could be that way. But you are right. There are times I wondered if he ever had the experience of being accepted by his peers. I was able to meet and speak with him when we were in the MAD program together while in Grade 11. I never saw him much, which given our state of being in close range constantly, I always found odd. He was amazing with music, I will never forget that. I really did find him to be a really terrific guy, deodorant or not. I always felt sympathy for the way the other guys in our class spoke to him and dealt with him. Looking back on it now, it was probably a lack of understanding on their part mixed with some jealousy. It’s got to be hard to be compared to a guy like Andy and expect that you might even remotely measure up. But because he never retaliated, they constantly picked on him. He was in fact an easy target upon which they could place their own insecurities. I know this all sounds like psycho-babble and stuff, but really, he was the easiest target. He was so quiet, so shy and so reclusive, that when he did come into the picture, even the guys who were picked on were suddenly left alone…and they in turn would join the other guys in taunting Andy. I’ll never forget the day he was on stage performing for an audience and his little brother clambered up on the stage and totally stole the show. I’d never seen Andy truly smile before, but he was so funny, and he handled it so well. His brother did it out of consideration for Andy. Thanks for reminding me of a person who I had forgotten about…it made me smile!

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