Chocolate the Elixer of Hope During Trying Times

"“Researchers have discovered that chocolate produces some of the same reactions in the brain as marijuana. The researchers also discovered other similarities between the two but can't remember what they are.”~Matt Lauer~

“Researchers have discovered that chocolate produces some of the same reactions in the brain as marijuana. The researchers also discovered other similarities between the two but can’t remember what they are.”
~Matt Lauer~

It was that kind of day. You know the kind I mean ladies.

The kind of day that makes you want to go home, tear off your bra and panties and get into a snuggly, flannel, nightgown like your granny used to wear and  wander around the house with a cup of tea in one hand and a shotgun in the other.

Don’t lie, you have those days too my fabulous lovelies, your secret is safe with me.

For your enjoyment, I present a list of rather tangy-thought-morsels-and-bits that I had today, thanks to a stress level of 11 out of 10.

1) My teenager was dumb enough to ask whether he could hang out in the lobby of  a building where teenage girls had yelled at him from their window so at least he could be warm….Ah, no. Casanova, the last thing you need to be is ‘warm’ chatting with the type of young lady who yells at boys from their apartment window.

2) Joee (even the spelling makes me bilious) singing Christmas songs just makes his name seem that much more wrong.

4) At a certain age, chocolate really is better than sex.

5) There is actually a question on a parenting forum asking if a toddler can drink tea, and how much. Please refer to the Urban Dictionary for clarification of the adjective ‘dumbass’, or simply go meet the last guy I dated who had kids.

6) Eggnog. I’m banning my local grocery store because they aren’t carrying eggnog yet. You can only get eggnog for a month, and my money goes to the guy down the street who has a cooler full, even though he knows some of it will spoil before anyone ever considers drinking it. Besides, what else can you use to water down your breakfast rum in December?

7) Women who can’t identify as a separate entity from their man give me the willies. These are the same women who think the answer to every vagina-blessed person’s prayers is to find a man. Any man. No. In fact, the answer to  most women’s prayers is to have these she-twits struck with some deeper intellectual intelligence, or be struck dumb.

8) Why on earth something always comes up (you know, like a brain aneurysm) when I’m trying to schedule a night in with my favourite Mr. Grey. Damn you aneurysm! Damn you!

9)Why a 30 minute ‘cocktail hour’ isn’t followed by a 20 minute nap every work day. We’d all just function so much better with this little refresher in the middle of the day and you know it. Yes, even those pretentious bags of poo who annoy the hell out you. Especially them.

10) Why some fabulous woman has not informed me about modular purse organizers before today – I think it’s a conspiracy!

Anyway, I was silently having those kind of thoughts as I muddled my way through the day until I had a surprise delivery at the office. 

A ginormous 1kg chocolate bar from a friend. The remarkable thing is  not that he knew I needed chocolate , the remarkable thing is that he was having an even more tea-tottling-flannel-glad-shotgun-carrying-granny day than I was.

That’s saying a lot, because I don’t think he’s ever even considered wearing a flannel nightgown before today.

So, on your worst days, reaching out and sharing with a friend can make it all feel better – for you both.

Unless he’s trying to make me fat???  That dirty toad! Maybe the world really is conspiring against me??? Nah, chocolate can never be used for evil.

Go ahead, make someone’s day!


10 Signs You Need a New Guy for Christmas

christmas 2007

christmas 2007 (Photo credit: paparutzi)

I’ve spent Christmas’s with wonderful men, and Christmas’s with useless men ( ie more trouble than they’re worth).

After having been asked about difficult romantic relationships, and how to manage them during the holidays, I give you, my gentle readers, a comparative list from which to learn.

I have spent some time at Christmas with the most useless man on the planet in recent years. All was not lost however. This incredible experience has opened my world up to really great, yummy fellas. Better yet, it has given me priceless experience to share with  readers who have lost all faith that really great guys do exist.

Yes, there are a lot of wonderful men out there ladies!

1) Really great guys…fill your dance card in advance. They recognize the treasure you are, and make plans to romance you throughout the season of light.

Useless men…moan about how hard their life is and squeeze you in last-minute. (ie take your company, and precious time for granted)

2) Really great guys…give you a thoughtful gift. It doesn’t have to be expensive, or break the bank, but it’s something they know you like. This means they’ve listened to you.

Useless men…show up with something they’ve obviously bought because they got it at a discounted price, not because they thought you’d like it.

3) Really great guys…will come along for an evening of outdoor romance…skating, watching a night parade, walking the neighbourhood to look at Christmas lights.

Useless men…moan about how much effort it is to pull on their boots.

4) Really great guys…want to meet your friends and go to your holiday parties.

Useless men…act like they’re doing you a favour.

5) Really great guys…will tear pieces of tape off and stick a piece to every finger so you can just pull it off and continue the arduous job of gift wrapping.

Useless men… find passive aggressive ways to have you offer to wrap their stuff. Don’t fall for this trap.

6) Really great guys…have red and white flowers delivered to your office.

Useless men…whine like children about you liking flowers and the pressure they feel to send them.

7) Really great guys…put up a real Christmas tree in your home.

Useless men…dont’ care whether you have a tree or not, they ask you to help put up theirs.

8) Really great guys…feel manly when you warm your cold toes, nose, bum against their bodies.

Useless men…jump back and whimper like an over-tired 3-year-old.

9) Really great guys…pick out awesome, thoughtful, romantic cards…in November…so they get the best ones.

Useless men…pick the first one off the rack and scribble their name at the bottom.

10) Really great guys…want to know about your childhood Christmas traditions and why you celebrate the way you do.

Useless men…don’t care and don’t ask.

I hope this little comparative list helps out all of my wonderful women in training. Heck, I hope it helps you gorgeous guys out there too, but I know the men who read this are the really, great guys.

After all, we know you love us, and want to make us happy. We love you and want to make you happy too. I think there might be a little somethin’ hiding at the back under the tree for you…if you’re a really great guy.



Oh F^@%!<G Christmas Tree

“Next to a circus there ain’t nothing that packs up and tears out faster than the Christmas spirit.”
~K. Hubbard~

“Oh Christmas tree, oh Christmas tree, what a pain in my voluptuous petunia are your branches….”or something like that.

Years ago I acquiesced to city living and succumbed to a fake Christmas tree.

I hate fake trees. I’ve always held them in the same, low regard as fake fingernails and bra padding. You know, kinda pretty until something falls off.

When I grew up, it was common to have visitors throughout the holiday season, “We’ve come to see the tree,” they would say, shaking the snow off their boots and settling in for a visit.

I grew up in a small town, and visitors were frequent and expected. The door was always open, and the tea kettle was always bubbling. Coming to ‘see the tree’, was just a longer visit, with more food, and a little nip of the hard stuff.

Tonight we put up our Christmas tree in the city. Fake needles catapulted to the ground, wiggled  inside my blouse, and stuck to my ample cleavage as I twisted and pulled lights and branches this way and that, twirling the ribbon, and placing the decorations just so.

Aaron Neville crooned in the background, as I honoured Elvis and cursed a blue, blue, blue Christmas  streak under my breath.

As I jerked the vacuum over the carpet and around the obstacle course of re-arranged furniture in the living room, I thought of how thankful I was to be planning so many lovely evenings with my friends this holiday. Not just around our Christmas tree, but the Christmas and Yule trees of others.

Our blue-blue-blue Christmas tree of cursing has not only been the scapegoat for my repressed frustration throughout the years, it’s been a symbol of peace, and shelter and abundance.

Children, friends, relatives, and lovers have gathered around my tree throughout the years ( not all at the same time, oh no – of course not, one must keep the menfolk in their place until they prove themselves worthy of meeting children and friends ). For the children, the friends and the relatives, this tree has strengthened our bond. For some of the lovers, it has been a revealing backdrop to their poor intentions.

People who want to be with you during the holidays are the ones that count. Lovers who have to be persuaded, and people who don’t bother taking time to celebrate are not worthy of your gorgeous greenery.

It’s the ones that make a priority of being with you, who just come to ‘see the tree’, and ask you to drop by and do the same. Perhaps you may even get a little mincemeat pie-faced with your pals by the warm glow of the untangled Christmas lights my darlings.

So this year, as you get picked and poked, and tangled in lights as you’re putting up your Christmas tree, I hope you have some wonderful memories that sparkle brighter than the lights.

And yes my beautiful, festive lovelies, do keep something bubbly on ice for me those friends who pop by.

Too Much Advice Not Enough Lovin’

“Advice is like castor oil, easy enough to give but dreadful uneasy to take.”
~ Josh Billings ~

It was complete synchronicity that found me seated in Nashville’s historic Grand Ole Opry.  I wasn’t supposed to be there, in fact, I was supposed to be in another city, but there I was, enjoying a show that I never expected to see.I’d heard of many of the performers, and was pretty happy to have been able to say that I saw them live, but it was one musician who blew me away with his music and lyrics.

A musician that I’d never heard of, and would likely never have heard of if I hadn’t been there that night.

Mark McGuinn came out on stage and belted out the song Mrs. Steven Rudy, and I became an instant fan.  I bought the album, and listened to it over and over.

At that particular time, my life, in every aspect was in turmoil. Everywhere I turned, I got a whole lot of unsolicited advice, and quite frankly after a while, all that advice got on my nerves.

Last night, having had a recent spat with my new boyfriend Mel (Atonin), I woke up at 3am and one of Mr.McGuinn’s lyrics popped into my head, “You can’t get too much love, but you can get too much advice.” Amen Mr. McGuinn. Amen. The lyrics are from the song, “What if They’d Don it Right”, all about people we admire for their unconventional ways.

When I was younger I weighed the advice of other’s quite heavily when making major life decisions. As I’ve come into my own, as a fabulous, strong, independent gal, I have come to realize that following my heart, asking for what  I need, and expecting adequate compensation for the many skills that I have, is way more important than what anyone else thinks.

In fact, unless I ask for it, I don’t really want  your opinion. I’m betting you feel the same way, don’t you my savvy, intelligent reader?

I’m tired of my married friends telling me how much better off I am single. What I want to say is, “Yah, really, Ms.My-Hubby-Pays-Half-the-Bills-and-I Wake-Up-to-a-Warm-Body-and-Someone-to-Celebrate-Daily-Victories-With, tell me more about how you live vicariously through the glory of my independence.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s no different from my-I’d-rather-not-deal-with-a-useless-man’s-emotional-baggage-and-mommy-issues-self and advising my friends to leave their lying, cheating, useless husbands.

We’re not friends because of the advice we give. We’re friends because of the love we give. So, my advice is….did I just say that?

Anyway, I recommend we wonderful women lean toward the listening and loving when supporting our fabulous friends, and leave the annoying advice giving and attempts at fixing to the men who vex us so much.

Again, ’tis the season. Not the season for material giving or advice. ‘Tis the season for making time for friends and listening. One more recommendation….try to channel your carefree youth. Reminisce and laugh, or better yet, get up to the mischief that makes you so darn irresistable.



Holiday Party Planning

“First we’ll make snow angels for two hours, then we’ll go ice skating, then we’ll eat a whole roll of Tollhouse Cookie-dough as fast as we can, and then we’ll snuggle.”
Buddy the Christmas Elf

I love house parties. Always have, always will.

The thing about house parties is, if you think like me, and most of my pals do think like me, your home is a haven away from the stresses of the world.

A home is a haven that you open to people with whom you have a kindred bond. What better time to invite friends in than during the darkest days of winter?

So, this Christmas, I contemplate the idea of having an open house complete with board games, classic Christmas movies, kids, music and lots of yummy treats.

I like the idea of opening my home at Christmas time to my friends, and relaxing with them, raising a toast to our friendship.

Much like planning a vacation, the best part of party planning is in fact, the planning.

When do I issue the invitation and to whom? How do I fit everyone into  my little home and have the fireplace ablaze without everyone  stripping to their skivies and making everyone else feel weird?

Sparkling mango punch for the adults? Lots of wine and bubbly? Something silly and fun for the kids in another punch bowl, with silly mini gelatin christmas trees and gingerbread men?

This year I was given a beautifully finished (food safe of course my darlings) walnut board to serve charcuterie, cheese, figs, nuts and other delicious nibbles. I can’t wait to decorate it with wonderful sweet and savoury treats for my scrumptiously delightful pals.  Perhaps some sweet potato latkes with aioli, or cinnamon sour cream?

Spicy lamb stir fry with cilantro rice? A lovely ham on the bone? Broiled brussel sprouts for the Brits and potatoes for the country folk?

Cookies and fruitcake. Oh yes!  My granny’s maraschino cherry balls and lots of tidbits of dark, delicious chocolate.

As much as I love the company of my friends, I love the planning.  Tonight I will go to bed, happy with the thought of gathering my friends together, sharing delicious food, and more importantly, sweet, precious, time.

The Joy of Lost Friendship Found

” Confidence is the sexiest thing a woman can have.
It’s much sexier than any body part.”
~Aimee Mullins~

Years ago, on a hot bus in Venezuela, I met a kindred spirit.

Not only did she share my own crisp sense of humour and unique way of filtering the world, she was warm, kind and lovable.

Many relationships, diets, and travels later, the ties that bind had become tattered and weak. Like so many women, we got lost in the realities of day-to-day living; raising chldren, men, and havoc of paying the bills. 

The effort to reach out becomes burdensome when we’re caught up in our day-to-day routines, but my friend did reach out,and I’m ever so thankful….because after all, she’s tremendously delightful. 

Finally, we met again after almost two years of absolutely no contact. We laughed reminiscing, giggled and conjured the mischief that we were so good at in years past.

With true friends, time is but a whisper, and conversation picks up naturally from where it left off.  My friend and I may have a few more battle scars, but the element of fabulous has just aged like a very fine wine.  Friendship is a tonic that can renew our spirit, remind us to keep dreaming, and of just how outrageously wonderful we really are.

Whenever I’ve been out and getting up to no good, I assume this friend’s first name, smile demurely, and let myself carry on like I’m at Gatsby’s on a summer evening. I’ve really missed her.

No matter how gruelling the journey, true friends always come home.  I hope that this season of magic and light brings you the happiness of rekindled friendship.

‘Hard to Buy For’ Gift Suggestions

“Let’s be naughty and save Santa the trip.”
~Gary Allan~

I don’t usually wake thinking of my neighbours, but for the past month, I’ve been thinking about them every morning before the sun comes up. I don’t even know them, but they’ve really been on my mind.

This particular neighbour has blessed our neighbourhood with a whining dog that they put out every morning at the crack-of-if-I-weren’t-still-naked-in-bed-I’d-get-up-and-kick-your-too-lazy-to-walk-your-dog-ass.

What kind of gift do you give to  a neighbour like that to express your gratitude?  I’m sure you have these type of  ‘hard to buy for people’ on your list as well.

As I rolled over and cursed God for giving me such wonderful neighbours, I thought the perfect gift would be a Kijiji advert for a free dog. After all, these neighbours are likely lovely people, what with their desire to share their puppy-love with everyone.

They must just feel guilty about giving up their furry family member because they don’t have time to care for the pooch properly. Yes, I think it will be placing the pup with a ‘loving  home’. Surely this will bring joy to the new owners. Ah yes, the gift of joy. What could be more Christmasy?

Then there’s the ex-boyfriend who just won’t let go. Should I get music? A movie? Perhaps a shirt and tie? No, I  think this year I’ll go with a full-blown paid dating profile, including a published telephone number. What better gift to give someone than the gift of love?

I also feel a particular kinship with the Asian guy who sits across from me at the cafe every weekend. Every Sunday he comes in and plops down beside me ( not before giving me a weird look and then pretending I’m not there). Every Sunday he diligently reads the newspaper, tossing sections on the floor, all the while picking his nose.

We see one another every week, and I kinda feel like I should give him something. You know, like the mailman and the guy who shovels the snow. This year, I’m going to go out on a limb and give the nosepicker a packet of tissues and a private lesson on how to bend over and clean up his public newspaper mess. Hopefully this too will translate into the gift of love, as in, he may have a shot at making human contact if he uses a tissue and isn’t a slob.

Then there’s the young barista boy who thinks I have a cougar crush on him because I’m kind. Getting my coffee has turned into something really weird and not-so-sexy-Mrs.-Robinsonish. I think I’ll bring in my latest love interest so the poor boy can relax. Yes, this year my chubby-little-boy-barista gets the  gift of peace.

Last but not least, we all have the difficult task of buying for our friend who puts their career first. Ahead of their family and friendships, and general human instinct to be kind and ethical. You know who I  mean, a comrade of the same-sex who’d sell their mother’s soul to the devil to get ahead or make buck. I have to confess that this one had me stumped. Until tonight.

“What could I possibly give this gentle spirit that they didn’t already have?”, I asked myself while watching a batch of unattractive men gab over coffee. Networking. Yes! Networking for the woman/man on their way up the corporate ladder. I decided that I would help them pursue their dream of meaningless-status-lording.

Since I am a social butterfly, and they’re socially incorrect,  I will make up really lovely cards with their name and number, generously handing them out with a smile and a wink to  wierd fellows/ladies like the  men who inspired the idea. Yes, the gift of networking. But since it’s Christmas, let’s call it friendship.

‘Tis the season for love, joy, peace and friendship. If you are struggling to find the perfect gift for that hard to buy for person on your list, just give me a ring. I’m sure we can come up with something  fabulous that won’t break the bank, and will be a perfect way of expressing your gratitude.

After all, without challenging relationships, we would have no opportunity to cultivate loving kindness.

Christmas Shopping Etiquette

Today  was the  opening day of a warehouse sale  by ‘invitation only’. Bumper to bumper carts flowed in a steady stream mimicking rush-hour traffic, through aisles packed with Christmas candy, toys, and a plethora of tacky bits and bobs that either lit up, or were rolled in sparkles.

Line-ups snaked down the far aisle, essentially making it impassable for anyone other than those in line to pay.  I chose a shorter line up, and that’s where I got my first taste of the chaos and survival of the fittest mentality that takes over every grocery store and shopping centre from now until the new year. Not 60 seconds in line, I had a cart wedge itself quite firmly in the crack of my bum.

I breathed in, and I breathed out. Ahhhhh, yes. ‘Tis the season.

I have a few suggestions to keep the madness at bay this year as you forage your way through the minefield of holiday shopping. If you area  man, please read to the end where I have a special suggestion just for you.

1) In a check-out line up, keep your cart, or self, at least 30cm away from the person in front of you. Being so close someone can feel your breath on their neck will not speed things up, it will only increase Effexor sales.

2) Retailers need to prioritize their customers. Price matchers who gobble up time need a separate line until the end of January if not forever.

3) Shop in the morning. You got it. It saves loads of time. I’m not a last-minute shopper by any means, other than one more major gift, I’m ready to go, but I still need groceries every week. If stores open early, head out half an hour earlier, pack a cooler in the car to keep things at the right temperature, and you’re all set.

4) Remember the golden rule, be patient and gentle OR just go home.  Breathe, and remember how awful it must be to live as angry and impatient as the woman who has her shopping cart rammed up your butt.

5) Simplify your holiday. I don’t care what so-and-so-thinks. Just do what really brings you and your loved one joy. Go skating, bake cookies, read by the fire, drink wine and make wild passionate love instead of exchanging gifts. Simplifying makes you sexy and lovable.

6) Sing along to the Christmas music in the stores. It’s bound to a) make you more relaxed, and b) keep others at a safe carting distance.

7) Just buy half a dozen extra bottles of your favourite vino, and a few boxes of chocolates. You never know when you’re invited to a last-minute get-together or someone drops in. If you don’t end up giving away the wine or sweets, you’ll always use them later on. What a lovely reward for being prepared!

8) Have your payment ready. Debit? Credit? Store points card? While you’re waiting in line dig through that tickle trunk of a purse you carry and get organized.

9) Drink. Just before you head out into the grand game of getting, take a moment at a restaurant at the mall and have a glass of vino. It will slow you down, make you jolly, and voila – life is good.

10) One of my favourite shopping spots is Make a wish list and encourage your loved ones to do the same. That way you can share lists, and order on-line. I have my purchases delivered to my office, and it cuts down on a huge amount of stress.

If you need a bit more insight into the art of gift-giving, please see “Gifts Reveal the Giver“.

Now, for that little tidbit I promised you wonderful  men; JEWELRY.   It doesn’t have to be Tiffany, and it couldn’t be more simple. We love you anyway, and we love to sparkle for you.

Happy Christmas!

Lest We Forget

Today was Remembrance Day in Canada. We wear poppies sold by the Canadian Legion, and honour our military, past and present, with a moment or two of silence at 11am.

My kiddo and I attended a local parade and cenotaph wreath ceremony.

As the trumpet solemnly wailed the final  notes of The Last Post, three old war planes flew overhead in perfect formation. The crowd bowed their heads in silence, and we paid our respects.

Today is not only a national day to ‘Remember’ our war heroes. It is a day I remember my Grandmother, a woman, who against all odds not only survived, but thrived in the world.

So, it came naturally to me to think of the women who have fought for our freedom here in Canada and around the world. I thought of the women who serve in the military, and the women who stay home and keep us sane when the world has gone mad.

Women lead with an organic sense of compassion and courage. We are ferocious nurturers.  We need to love one another, and stand united. Whether it be in war-time or peace time, women, united have an incredible power to effect change.

In a Globe and Mail article today about sexual economics, columnist Margaret Wente, argued women need to hold out on their lovin’ to make this generation of young men strive to ‘be more”.

Before we waste the  talents of our young women mothering men of the same generation, we need to foster our own courage and be compassionate to the other women in our lives. If we do that, we automatically are courageous and compassionate about helping one another in our roles as women, wives, mothers and daughters.

During great wars, it has been women at home who have sacrificed and fought to maintain  stability for families and nations.

Today I bowed my head in honour of our fallen soldiers, the ones who have survived, and the troops we have defending Canadian democracy around the world.

I also remembered that I am a woman who comes from a long line of women. Courageous, compassionate, and ferociously loving.

The Cover Letter I’ve Always Wanted to Write

“I don’t think of myself as a poor, deprived ghetto girl who made good. I think of myself as somebody who from an early age knew I was responsible for myself, and I had to make good. “
~ Oprah Winfrey ~

We’ve all sent out polite, cover letters with key phrases and adjectives sprinkled about, hoping for a response. Often I’ve wanted to just lay it all on the line, and write an honest, upfront one pager that makes HR scanners go wild and prompts investigation by a living, breathing person.

The cover letter that I’ve always wanted to write; 

To Whom This May Concern,

First of all, if you’ve already decided to give this job to someone you know, like your best friend’s husband, brother or wife, I wish you wouldn’t have posted it because you’re wasting my time.

I have worked as a reporter (yes, I’ve had my own column, had fans and critics), and know how to write intelligently. That should satisfy your requirement  for a ‘good communicator’.

I have also worked in advertising for an engineering company that catered to the police, fire and emergency rescue industry.  I created ad material (brochures, websites, catalogues, trade-show booths, etc.)to be used in more than three countries (and multiple languages), trained the crews on the equipment designed by the company, and managed to negotiate a good working relationship within a multi-generational family business.

I’m a licensed embalmer, and have been a funeral director in the heart of a bustling city. I’ve worked for the Chief Coroner of the province, a Regional Coroner, and somehow managed not to lose my mind, become an alcoholic, drug addict or weirdo.  I’ve arranged funerals, coordinated bereavement care for families, and sold pre-need funerals in people’s homes and at the beside. Besides having the intelligence and skill to do all of this, I have done it with compassion and grace.

My current employ is in end of life care. A lot of this work is done in the homes of people who are dying.  Not only do I assist with the care needs of fellow human beings who are face to ugly face with their mortality, I also negotiate the  painful tedium of office politics without losing my cool.

I’ve been involved in the slow process of health care system change and remain an optimist and creative thinker. I have presented to conferences, government ministries, and private sector donors (including international companies). All of the above have required knowledge and interpretation of multiple pieces of legislation, and professional discretion. Despite working in the face of death and beaurocracy, I remain an optimist, and encourage the involvement of students, and believe in the power of great mentors.

Technical skills? Obviously I’ve got a grip on social media, and the Microsoft applications we all use , as well as Adobe and other databases.

So, I’m responding to your ad because I think I’d be good at the job, and I’d like to move a bit further out of the death and dying scene.  The ANDSHELAUGHS standard has always exceeded any kind of accreditation demand or basic level of service or production.

Speaking of accreditation, I’m a dynamo with policy and procedure writing as I’ve been a co-lead in the private, non-profit and government sector  accreditation projects. I’m a great balance between nerd and a real, live, emotionally competent professional. My personal interests are writing, art, and some outdoorsy stuff.

Before the grand spring-board into bona-fide professionalism, I worked as a waitress, cashier and factory worker to get  my combination of three post-secondary degrees and diplomas. I know what hard work is like.

Go ahead and give the job to your buddy’s sister, or whomever you already have in mind, but if you’re really serious about finding someone to do it, give me a shout.