The Working Class

It's not always easy to find meaningful work.

It’s not always easy to find meaningful work.

The middle class is increasingly being squeezed into the lower class. It’s much like strapping a size 8 girdle on a fat chick. The wee sexy, delicious bits poke out the top end, but the rest just oozes out lower, and is far less tantalizing.

With that comes a broader, deeper, blanketing sense that the world is out to get you. No matter how hard you work, try to save, or hoped your now outdated Bachelor’s Degree would save you, the realization that this is as good as it gets depresses you even more.

Or maybe you don’t reach that obvious conclusion. Maybe you’re just bitter. Maybe you’re too lazy to think about what you read in the newspaper, or don’t see on the news.

But I don’t think that’s the case with you my sweet little dried apricots. No. If that were the case, you wouldn’t be here, with wonderful ole’ me now, would you?

If you work eye-to-eye with anyone (as in any type of customer service, or human services profession), you’re getting the short end of the stick. Someone else is making all of the money, and you’re schlepping their stuff so you can try to pay your bills.

If you were eye-to-eye with the end-user of any product or service, you get the brunt of every interaction. Some are pleasant, and others, well, let me sum it up;

1) People always think that you (personally) are trying to rip them off.

2) That your schedule should revolve around them, no matter what the hour or what the cost to you. (My personal favourite is the line, “Well, I work”, when trying to schedule appointments. I’ve got news for you genius, I do too, and this is when I’m available. ) No one is out to get your personally. We all have our limits.

3) People who disrespect your time. If you’ve set an appointment, you’ve done so for a reason. In other words, you’ve set aside time to pay particular attention to that individual. Being late for an appointment flies in the face of allowing anyone to provide good customer service.

4) Wasting time. If a professional has given you information. That’s the information. Don’t take it to Philosophy-Flipping-101. Just do what you need to do.

5) Leaving multiple messages the same day or within 24 hours for someone just slows down how fast they get back to you. Listening to your annoying 3 minute long whining session more than once is a waste of time, and as annoying as a toddler with a snotty nose and cling-on booger.

A special note to seniors and folks who don’t work…poor planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on someone else’s. Take up a hobby and make a cup of tea. We will get back to you. No one puts you off because they’re trying to tick you off. At the end of the day, unless you’re a sociopath, you want to leave your work feeling like you’ve at least helped someone, even in a small way.

Just a note to everyone out there who is poo-pooing unions right now; Give your head a shake. Unionized environments are quickly becoming the ONLY jobs that are secure, and can sustain a healthy family and social lifestyle. Don’t fall for conservative government fear mongering. Health care, fair wages and working hours are a right we should not have to fight for again.

Businesses are squeezing every second out of their employees until they burn out. If you have a problem with customer service these days, I suggest you get your saggy butt down to an Occupy event.

These are just a few short examples of how our faltering and bourgeois economy is dividing and conquering the working class. When you meet with someone eye-to-eye, as I like to say, you are meeting with another human being just like yourself, who is as worried, stressed and blessed as you are.

So, remember, if you’re meeting with a person, and their name isn’t on the sign above the business, they’re just trying to get by like you and I. Don’t be an asshole darlings.

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It Whispers

whisper2

“Our intuition is where our true genius lies.”
~A. Artemis~

Relax. Trust the process. Surrender. Good things come to those who wait.

The world, and social media sites are awash with pithy statements. Stop. Go. Om.

Along with our waning attention spans ( over half of you have stopped reading this already), our ability to trust our instincts has been lost as well.

Whether you’re stuck in a bad job or a bad relationship chances are you’ve sought out advice about what you should do. Stick it out or make a run for it?

In the past, I’ve had relationships that I’ve known are no good from the start. Hindsight is 20/20 of course, and I can see now that those relationships lasted as long as they did because I wanted a relationship, but the one I was in was not the one.

There have been other relationships that were interfered with by a third-party, and I took that as a sign it wasn’t meant to be. Hindsight reveals that it was  a good relationship and the interfering party was wrong. Not just wrong, but wretched.

Whether it’s a lopsided friendship, job, questionable  lover, relationship with a faith group or business partner, experience has taught me two things. First, engage your trusted friends and colleagues in a conversation to fully explore what may or may not be happening. Second, and most importantly, come to a conclusion and develop a course of action based on your own intellect and intuition.

Sounds simple doesn’t it?

Are the things that are meant to be, supposed to be a struggle, or feel effortless?

Now  it’s time that I must seek some solitude and listen very closely to what my intuition is whispering….perhaps two fingers of bourbon will help….bottoms up darlings.

 

A Literary Life Examined: Part 2

harukias I was saying, my gut instinct was telling me it was time to clear out my bookshelves.

Did this mean that I had an impending move? Perhaps making space in my bedroom and writing shrine meant that I was spiritually making room for my new novel or maybe even a new man?

Ok, maybe it’s as simple as my shelves were double banked, and stacked to bursting, while the piles of books on the floor were becoming dangerous to my clumsy self.

Opening the package with my two newest books, An Initiate’s Journey into Haitian Vodou, and The Nature of Personal Reality, I realized that I didn’t have a place put them, and that I also needed to get out more.

I equate e-books with vibrators. Not the real thing, but they’ll do in a pinch. I clearly needed to make more room for more books, and clear a path for a permanent man in my life.

First, I got rid of the majority of novels. Although I had enjoyed them, I knew that the likelihood of me ever re-reading them was slim.

Kitschy little coffee-table books were next. Although some of them were adorable, and had been given to me by sweethearts and friends, I bagged those up as well. My hope was to rid myself of enough books to get rid of one of four bookshelves.

Well over 100 books have been placed in bags ready for….??? Perhaps a trip to the Salvation Army shop, or maybe stuffed in the shed until the community yard sale? I only know that getting rid of them feels like a weight has been lifted off of my shoulders.

As I sat here writing, looking at my still-full shelves, I had a Dr. Phil, “Get Real” moment with myself. After gulping my last mouthful of lukewarm tea, I got up and forced myself to remove more books from the shelves.

The last of the books to leave were old text books that had belonged to my grandparents. I allowed myself to keep two, An Etymological Dictionary of the English Language from 1909, and a text-book of shorter poems (most are over 4 pages long) from 1924. The poetry book is the same one that my maternal grandmother read ‘The Highwayman’ from when I was a little girl.

As a young parent, I read, The Wonder of Boys: What Parents, Mentors and Educators Can do to Shape Boys Into Exceptional Men, and held on to that book for dear life. Time for that to go….

I let go of my Billy’s Best Bottles annual wine guidebooks. Billy Munnelly, please go back to your pre-2009 style and go back to print. Us writer-wino types miss having something to inspire our cheap-but-cheerful creative wine rants.

My NRSV of the good-ole Bible is my most weathered book, and it remains in place next to a copy of the Tao te Ching, Quarn, Heart Sutra and Bhagavad Gita. Leo Buscaglia, the Dali Lama and Thich Nhat Hanh  bookend the same shelf.

My “So You Wanna Be a Sexy Bitch“, is stacked on my half-read Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy. Been there, done it all, got the bruises. My friend the Amazing C will likely inherit these via snail mail care package at some point, along with a return of unopened sex toys and some Godiva chocolate. My Psychology & Religion textbooks stayed along with the Canadian Press Stylebook, my collection of Jimmy Buffett novels and Leonard Cohen’s perfect musings.

Leadership books concerned with corporate greed or capitalism found their way to the bags, but leadership books that spoke to personal leadership and whole-being stayed.  My dreamer’s dictionary and Animal Speak stayed beside my bed. I let go of the textbooks about early Christianity, literary journals, and the self-help books that I read when my marriage was unraveling.

My running and meditation books stayed, and the Haruki Murakami book, What I talk about When I Talk About Running earned a special place on the shelf of the books I refer to on a regular basis.

The obscure books about the Santeria Religion, sociological history books about the Salem Witch Trials, and Black Skin White  Mask – the book I was required to dissect for my acceptance into a graduate studies program also stayed. Books from my post-colonial theatre class were relegated to the bags-to-go.  Some of the Venetian and Moroccan history books were packed away. I kept only a few, enough to encourage me to chase my dreams, even if my feet feel like lead sometimes and my spirit is a bit ragged.

Books that melted my heart stayed;

The Last Friend by Tahar Ben Jalloum

Barney’s Version by Mordecai Richler

A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway

Bones of the Master by George Crane

Gertrude and Alice by Diana Southam

I kept Roughing it in the Bush by Susanna Moodie, and my collection of Margaret Atwood’s the Journals of Susanna Moodie.

Anything by Anais Nin stayed.

The factual book that made me laugh the most and I’ve recommended to not a few friends, A Walk in The Woods also stayed.

I kept Shakespeare, Steinbeck, Thoreau, Orwell, Neruda, Ginsberg, Neruda, Garcia and two copies of the Great Gatsby.

Sentimentality lends itself well to my ability to empathize at work and in my personal life, but it sure as hell binds up my space with knickknacks and other energy sucking objects.

Anyone stepping back to consider what’s left on my bookshelves would be wise to know my secret; these books aren not intellectual fodder. I am attached to them in the same way that I am attached to the old blue serving plate that my grandmother wrapped and secretly tucked into my suitcase just months before she died.

I keep them here because they speak to my heart’s desires.

A Literary Life Examined: Part I

bookshelfBy the time I was 26, I was already orphaned, divorced, and a parent.

Life, in all of it’s complex mystery was starting over for me. I was frightened, but I was young, and unlike the almost 40-year-old me, I was convinced that the years ahead would be the best, most successful and full of love.

The written word had always held a powerful hold over me. Whether it was a brochure, travel advertisement, novel or text-book, I was intrigued by reading things I didn’t know about, or have any experience with.

So, at the tender age of 26, moving from small town life to the city, I fell in love with big bookstores, fabulously romantic used bookstores, men who had cultivated their intellect and with reading anything I could get my hands on. Tim Sander’s 2002, “Love is the Killer APP”, changed how and what I read;

When we were kids, we loved to role-play, and doctor was one of our best roles.

Try it again today. Prescribe books to contacts like a doctor would prescribe

medications for patients. (p102)

And so it began. My absolutely insatiable adult-appetite for reading. No book, magazine, e-zine, chapbook or greeting card has been safe from my clutches since then.

As a child I read to escape. As an adult, I began to read in order to satisfy my lust to figure things out.

Fast forward to today.

Having been fascinated by men who are primarily interested in their own intellect, I am still single, and surrounded by ceiling-high piles of books.

My graduate studies interests have ranged from South American and Caribbean liberation theology to bio-ethics. I have an English & Religious Studies degree, a professional designation and an advanced something or other for helping recently traumatized folks recover from crisis. I know how to tie surgical knots, Egyptian embalming techniques and how to tie a cherry stem in a knot with my tongue. Men who can discuss politics, psychology, baseball and not get lost in their GQ ego’s turn me on.

“If you go back to a man’s home and he doesn’t have books, don’t f^(K him”, posted one of my social media friends.  Yes, I thought, wise advice. Men who lack a proper bookshelf or a decent stack of books on an appropriate number of seemingly unrelated subjects aren’t really the kind of fella I can have a decent conversation with. Perhaps the quote should have read, “If you go back to a man’s home and he doesn’t have books, don’t expect a thoughtful conversation, just  f^(k him.”

But I digress…..

This morning, with the sun shining high, and the arrival of spring just around the corner, I decided I needed to make room in my room. It was time to hold myself to the sage advice of a decluttering expert, “If it’s not beautiful or useful, get rid of it.” I immediately packed a bag for my teenager and kicked him out…..

Kidding.

By far the most difficult ‘stuff’ for me to part from has always been my books. As a writer, I go back to many of them, rereading for style, content, and most importantly inspiration.  As a professional and speaker, I go back to create engaging presentations and educational pieces. Why on earth would anyone get rid of such an expansive library right in their very own home.

Well, mostly because they (AKA ‘I’),  live in a small 950 square foot garden town home, and the public-library is a 5 minute walk along a lake trail.  Oh, yes, and I’m trying to get over my literary attachment issues.

While leading the cull of words written on paper, I was able to clear out at least 120 books, but there were some I just couldn’t resist keeping on the shelves…..

Stay tuned for, A Literary Life Examined Part II

Savoury Sunday: Family Day In Ontario

"Sharing food with another human being is an intimate act that should not be indulged in lightly."  ~ M.F.K. Fisher~

“Sharing food with another human being is an intimate act that should not be indulged in lightly.”
~ M.F.K. Fisher~

Ok, so today is not Sunday.

Today is family day in the province of Ontario.  It’s more commonly known as thank-freaking-gawd-I-don’t-have-to-get-up-and-go-to-work-in-the-cold Day.

Whether you’re blood relatives are wonderful, or you choose to spend the day with your family of choice, or even in the peace of your own company, it’s a day off, and we all love that.

I offer you a yummy recipe sure to become a staple of  your winter culinary repertoire. Serve this with sparkling apple juice for the kiddies and try some Innis & Gunn Ale to sweeten things up.

 Winter Warm Up Pasticcio

(AKA:Veggie Indian Stew, but Pasticcio sounds so much more delightful)

INGREDIENTS

2 tbsp. oil

1 large sweet onion finely chopped

4 minced cloves of garlic

2 tbsp. minced ginger

2 tbsp. curry paste (mild-hot depending on your taste)

2 tsp garam masala

1.5 tsp cumin

1/4 tsp cinnamon, ground cloves, cayenne pepper

4 cups veggie broth

1 can (795 ml) crushed tomatoes – ( I use 1L of home preserved tomatoes)

1 pkg paneer (375ml) chopped

1 small can of chickpeas (drained)

1/2 cup basmati rice

1/4 cup chopped mint and coriander (use as garnish when serving)

METHOD

1) Heat oil in stew pot and add onion, garlic, ginger. Stir until onions are almost cooked then add curry paste, garam masala, cumin, cloves, cinnamon (adding cayenne is optional). Cook for another minute or two, combining the ingredients.

2)Stir veggie broth, tomatoes and chopped paneer and bring to a boil. Cover partially, and simmer for 15 minutes.

3) Add chickpeas, pepper and rice. Simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring frequently.

4) Serve in bowls garnished with fresh coriander and mint.

Check out some John Mayer while you sip and cook….

Everything is Going Right – You Just Don’t Know it Yet

creative rehabIt’s true. Everything is going exactly how it should be. It’s going exactly how you think it should.

But that’s deceiving isn’t it?

It really is all about the way you perceive things to be. Really it is, I promise.

At least that’s what I tell myself.

Pull up a chair, and get yourself a nice warm cup of tea. Bourbon if you’re a bit of a philosopher, or perhaps a nice little snort of Irish whiskey to warm your insides up against the February outside.

When life collides with the inner machinations of my mind, it gives me cause to pause and let it all trickle in to wherever it’s supposed to settle.

Lately, my full-time gig has not been going as hoped. Don’t get me wrong, I continue to do something I absolutely feel called to do, and I work with the best in my profession.

I also, as it seems, am called to do this writing thing. That wild, unpredictable energy has formed part of my bones and blood since I was a little girl with pigtails and collecting buckets full of crickets.

My living expenses and need to help other people call me to work, my soul calls me to writing. Damn this dissonance of being human!

With my first bookie wookie in the hands of an editor, and my second, being more carefully plotted, I feel the pull to my writing desk much stronger than ever before.

My window opens to evergreens and dogwood. Not bad for a cityscape. A church-window-esque trellis, and the French obelisk  in my urban guerilla garden stand as testaments to milder temperatures, longer hours of sunshine, dishes with fresh basil, and cold drinks adorned by fresh mint.

On the desk to my right, is  a solar-powered windchime which helps bring me back when my creative brain wanders. A  porcelain snail commemorative of a healing sweat lodge keeps the chime company.   The left hand side – a full third of the desk – has been sequestered by my cat, Willie Nelson, who routinely stretches and switches off my wireless capability. With a desk like this, who wouldn’t be tempted to eek out a living by lounging here, lost in the intimacy of language and imagination?

Lately, more often than not, I’ve felt just plain lost. I Facebook, I YouTube, I stare at the squirrels jumping from limb to limb.  My little carnelian stones spin to strike the chimes, and I am reminded to be in the moment.

Impatience gets the better of me sometimes. For this, I recommend my method of  using the f-word and indulging in pleasure of the flesh. Maybe just a nip or two of something strong enough to remind me I’m not dead yet, even if it feels like it on the inside. In extreme cases I recommend bed wrestling with a naked partner.

I have lived long enough to know that despair is a menacing thing. It closes the door on the divine human spirit. So, although in my loneliness I get close to embracing despair, I know that there will always be a light on my path just when darkness is about to fully envelop my thoughts.

Today that light came in the form of an email message from my pal in Brazil. A mother-figure, healer, and spiritual mentor of mine for over 13 years, she sent off an email which started exactly the same way that my email to her was going to begin, “I don’t know why, but you have been on my mind the past few days”.

So often this happens with me, that I intuit my own need to connect with someone else’s. In this case, I had been so busy working that I hadn’t stopped to take time to email. You see, that’s the way it was meant to be. My reaching out yesterday would not have given me the gift of her email which needed to receive.

As I’ve been trudging through the themes and characters of my next book, it has become hysterically  clear that the protagonist’s character has been put upon with my own scheming philosophy of being. Poor darling. I think I shall give her at least one bad habit to take the edge off.

The email from my Canadian ex-pat friend in Brazil comes on the heels of last night’s writing, and weaves together perfectly with my own personal struggle to indulge my passion while paying the bills, as well as the main theme of my book.

The information in her email also happens to be the latch to the hook of my friend’s thesis.

The long and the short of it, my dear ones, is that life works its way out as you are willing to allow it.

Whether a day is good or full of potential and learning is totally up to you.

For now I’ll stick to my writing desk and my day job. I will resist the urge to pack  my bathing suit with the worn out ass  and my toothbrush into my ever-ready carry-on bag, and head to the airport for a one-way ticket to Anywhere Else.

It’s all coming together. I just have to keep putting one foot in front of the other, and surrounding myself with people who are the same vintage of crazy as I am.

Go ahead, pour yourself another tumbler-full. After all, philosophizing is best done in the company of writers, alcohol and a wailing guitar.

Everyone you meet is afraid of something….

In honour of the impending February 14th.
By now we all have been scarred and marked forever by love, and loss. Romance is something for the ages, no matter how young, how old, or how tossed around in the sea of emotion we have been, I like to think that there’s still love out there just waiting to be had….

A Nine Pound Hammer....or a woman like you, either one of these will do

loves something and has lost something. ~ H. Brown

A story of 2 lost souls who may yet reunite.

He wrote this Craiglist message and posted it, hoping she might read it.

subway

“In the winter of 1989 I transferred to NYU from the University of Southern Maine, intent upon studying poetry, nursing youthful fantasies of literary success.

I was terribly nervous about making friends — in addition to submerging myself in a completely unfamiliar, and overwhelming urban environment, I was terribly shy, often displaying a reluctant timidity towards strangers.

You lived in the same dorm building as me — a mishmash of dimly lit and shabbily painted converted office space on West 10th street.

You, and a small handful of high school friends, had come to college together from Chicago. You had red hair, your favorite band was The Replacements, you were studying French, and we were introduced by my…

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