So She Drove, So She Drove, So She Drove

wildandsingleOh, the weather outside was mild

And she was feelin’ kinda wild

So she drove, so she drove, so she drove…

It’s been unseasonably mild here, with nary a tiny pile of white, fluffy, hideous snow or ice to be found. Although it makes for romantic scenery to snuggle up by the fire with, while the snow falls outside, snow sucks.

Let me clarify; Driving in the snow sucks, walking in the snow sucks, and shoveling the snow sucks.

Yesterday, as I bee-bopped along the top of the GTA, being tailgated by Rudolph, I was pretty happy. No, wait, it wasn’t Rudolph, it was a mini-van duded up with a fuzzy red nose and antlers. Get off my ass Rudolph, you mini-van driving boxing-day hording freak, it’s Christmas!

Besides the load of work I do leading up to the holiday for our annual dinner, and get-togethers, the December 26- January 1 days are a major part of my holiday celebrations.

Off I trotted to an annual out-of-town open house and traditional too-much-Christmas-cheer overnighter. It took me an hour to get there. Record time, but during that blissfully peaceful hour on the highway I could feel the stress and fatigue get up and start gathering their holiday luggage. Whew. It was delightful and an absolute gift to be a guest in someone else’s home.

In the morning, I woke with a slight twinge of regret, and a bit of optimism. After all, I was off next to lunch at the home of dear friends. After popping into my favourite shops, The Gentle Rain,  for some local honey and Rheo Thompson Candies for the best chocolate dipped cherries in the entire universe, I was back on the road.

I was once again tailgated by  another mini-van driving Rudolph wanna be. I’m sure that the ‘Rudolph’ mini-van  is the preferred vehicle of all of the Cousin Eddie’s in our lives.

Off to lunch with friends who understood  my red-wine Christmas themed over-indulgence from the night before. They once again opened their home to me, and set out a fine and delicious selection, “Please, have some more salmon, it’s good for a hangover,” the host offered.  Artichokes, olives, lox, handmade quiche and a little, white, hair-of-the-dog-that-bit-me.

These visits are what Christmas is about; connecting with the wonderful people in your life whom you see far too little of, but think about daily, and miss like crazy.  The company of kindred spirits is sometimes hard to find in a life of work and single-sports-momming, but during these days I find it and savor the moments.

Today, it’s off to lunch at a small airport just north of the city with another wonderful friend. I’m so happy to be able to travel on clear roads and do all of my catching up with so many of the people in my life I feel blessed to count as friends.

Life is good when we slow down and enjoy the friendships that buoy us up, and make life worth living. For the time to do that, I am truly grateful.

 

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The Magic of Christmas Appeared in the Form of Ambrosia

"Isn't there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?" ~Charlie Brown~

“Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?”
~Charlie Brown~

The magic finally happened for me this year.

I had just put the tacky Christmas goldfish ‘sunshine-Jello-salad’, into the fridge and was stirring together the tacky ambrosia, when I felt the first sparkly jolt.

Christmas?! Yes!

Perhaps it was going through the motions of tradition that brought it about for me this year. On the eve before Christmas Eve, I found some magic. It started with a kind message from one of my oldest friends who helped  me realize that I don’t have to constantly be strong for everyone else.

Just in time for Christmas Eve: my favourite part of Christmas.

To say that it’s been an anti-climactic lead-up to Christmas is an understatement. In fact it’s been a Christmas time to remember. Often these are the years that build character and help us empathize with others who struggle through the holidays.

One well-meaning soul typed a comment about having expectations too high at Christmas time.  This Christmas has not been Christmasy, and it’s not because of any expectation, it’s because of loss. Expectation is an interesting concept, and one worthy of discussion.

We live in a hurried world where sadness and empathy take time none of us want to take. I believe that encourages platitudes about ‘no expectation’ and ‘not being attached to outcome’. Hogwash and pith my darlings.

It’s right up there with; having a stiff upper lip, not crying in front of the children, and keeping yourself busy. I’m a ‘loss’ professional, and I firmly believe in having to fall apart sometimes in order to pull your refined-by-trial soul back together. Sometimes things suck, and it’s ok to say so.

If you think that having rainbows and lollipops poof out of your arse all day long is normal, please send your unicorn to fetch me for your next seminar.

Certain expectations are healthy; to be treated fairly, to be compensated fairly for work, to be able to live freely without discrimination and most importantly, to feel validated when you feel every emotion, including the ugly ones like fear, anger and sadness that make most folks uncomfortable. These are healthy, and necessary expectations.

For anyone who has experienced loss, Christmas can be a really tough slog, regardless of expectation.

As we near the midnight hour, and our corner of the world slows down, I think I will take some time to stop and consider what expectations are helping me move forward or holding me back. Discerning between the two is where the magic happens, because as much as our human brains would like the world to be black and white, it isn’t.

Christmas magic appeared unexpectedly as I went through the motions of making the traditional food that goes on our Christmas table, and I am grateful. Happy even. I’m looking forward to tonight and tomorrow, and am thankful for having people to share the day with.

Wishing you joy this Christmas. Wishing you a soft landing if  you are among those who have experienced loss at this time of year.  Wishing you the wisdom to discern between healthy expectation, and hokey platitudes. If you’re having none of that, I’ll send over a dish of ambrosia for your narwhal.

 

Why It Doesn’t Feel Like Christmas

 

"I close my eyes and drift away into the magic night I softly say a prayer like dreamers do. Then I fall asleep to dream my dreams of you." ~Roy Orbison~

“I close my eyes and drift away into the magic night I softly say a prayer like dreamers do. Then I fall asleep to dream my dreams of you.”
~Roy Orbison~

It has been decided and declared from our home to yours; it does not feel like Christmas this year. At all.

It’s been an odd festive season, and I had held out hope that as the day approached, I’d start feeling Christmasy. I kept hoping for that Christmas miracle I’ve been praying for would manifest in some way shape or form…until this evening as I assembled my ‘goodie’ platters for the office tomorrow.

I thought to myself, “I’ve done everything right. I’ve put up the outside lights. I’ve decorated the house. I’ve entertained and baked. The gifts are wrapped and under the tree, and I’ve stocked the pantry with treats and nibbles, so why on earth does it just suck this year?”

Decidedly it sucks because ‘we’, as in the royal, collective ‘we’ are caught in a vicious commercial and capitalist cycle of bullshit.

There is no break and no ‘taking it easy’ because it’s the holiday season. We work to the limit and squeak out a few days off to catch up with the people most dear to us.  Holiday house parties? Forget it. Who has time for that? Fun office parties? Nope, I’m afraid we’ve taken our professional selves to the edge of robotic functionality with no room for emotion, compassion or humour. Snarky sarcasm has replaced sincere humour as it’s older, wiser cousin. Dear god I miss laughing.

I want to believe in the magic of Christmas. I want to wake up one morning to whatever that Christmas miracle is that I’ve been hoping for, but I don’t have the energy this year to dig that deeply.

Perhaps I will find that magic in the candlelit sanctuary of church this Christmas Eve, after the Eucharist,  as we raise our voices to sing silent night and remember the true meaning of Christmas.

If ever we’ve needed your magic Santa Claus, this is the year.

 

Holiday Flirting Season Kick-Off

redDear Gal-Pals,

Let it be known that I still have that Irish Fire I was known for in my youth.

Although there are men who never learn their lesson, I still believe there are good, fun, and very wonderful men out there, regardless of how poor my judgement, my grand naiveté, or my bubbly fuelled fairytale fantasies.

Ok, maybe the good ones are scarce, but the fun ones are a’plenty, and that’s all a girl really needs.

Let the games begin, and may the best,( very best ) man win…

Giddy-up and happy holidays!

 

Santa Strike: Stuff That Won’t Get Done This Christmas

"Within you there is a stillness and sanctuary to which you can retreat at any time and be yourself." ~Hermann Hesse~

“Within you there is a stillness and sanctuary to which you can retreat at any time and be yourself.”
~Hermann Hesse~

This is one of those Christmases. I’ve had very few of them, but this is going to be counted as one.

It’s 11:25 am, and I am still in my nightgown, staring out at a beautiful sunny sky, thinking of my to-do list, and giving myself permission to mentally rip it up and set it on the Christmas fire.

Having been an eager little elf in years past, people expect my bounding red, green and jingling-bell joy every year; the cards, sweets, treats, carols, and extra little gifties. They expect my home to be clean, neat, decorated and the door to be open. There is always wine and coffee and tea, and time to sit and visit in the midst of the lights on the tree and mantle.

This year, is not one of those years. Sure, the lights are up, there is definitely wine available, and tea or coffee if you prefer, but you’re likely to find me wandering around with a book of Rumi’s brilliance and braless until noon, and I’m ok with that.

You know what that means? That means you have to be ok with it too. Yep.

Instead of good old Bing and Ella belting out classic Christmas tunes, I’ve got Hozier on high, and Sam Smith. If you want treats, the ingredients are in the cupboard, and you can help yourself to my kitchen. While you’re at it, mama would like some Scottish shortbread and some macaroons. The floor could really use a scrub and the dishwasher needs unloading. Too much bother you say? I totally get it.

Sometimes you just have to take a break from being everyone else’s jolly elf. Sometimes you need to just forget about what you think you have to do, and do what your soul is telling you that you ought to do for your own well-being. I’m going to pioneer a new field of study; The Ethics of Self-Care.

Take it from the master of flipping-off-elf-class-101. I’m headed to the tub now for a long soak with my coffee, Patti Smith art book and Eminem. If you need me, you’ll have to drag my pudgy,wet, steamy body from the bathtub, and that won’t be pretty.

The Elusive Christmas Rutabaga

rutabaga

“No Christmas dinner is complete without rutabaga.” ~Andshelaughs~

At 11:30 p.m. one Christmas eve, long, long ago, and about ten kilometers away, I almost tossed away one of the most cherished traditional foods to grace our Christmas table; the elusive Southwestern Ontario Rutabaga.

Had it not been for a squash turned bitter-el-yucko from being grown too close to the gourd patch, I may not be telling you this story.

That evening I had given in to my lovely British boyfriend’s aversion to turnip in favour of squash. I had also ensured that we had his cherished brussel sprouts and enough potatoes to make our mashed and his roasted, along with a sure-thing bread sauce mix for the turkey. Anyway, the squash tasted like bitter-el-yucko (that’s Spanish slang for; it-tasted-like-shit).

So, literally at the eleventh hour, I hustled my chubby bustle to the twenty-four-hour grocer across the street, who would be closing at midnight for Christmas. What was I hoping to find? Not a squash which may have also been contaminated, but  the elusive Christmas Rutabaga. I learned my lesson that year; stick with rutabaga, because it never let’s you down.

You may have read my last post, Caring Less That It’s Christmas. To say I’m not in the Christmas spirit is putting things mildly. So, tonight, unlike most years, I ran out to get the Christmas groceries before the parking-lots become a UFC event tomorrow.

This is not like me. I’m usually el-finito with the Christmas groceries at least two weeks in advance, except for staples like milk and red wine, our pantry is decked out like we’re ready for nuclear holocaust by November 30th.

This year the only items I had stocked up on were sour cream and coloured mini-marshmallows (for my retro 70’s squares). Those darn marshmallows sit on the shelf all year, and then go MIA every year right after Thanksgiving.

I had everything I needed paid for and packed carefully in shopping bags; the orange jello for our tacky jello dish, the pineapple and mandarin oranges for the traditional ambrosia, a thousand pounds of butter for our thousand pounds of sweet treats, five cases of soda, bags of chips, frozen pizza for the teenagers to eat during their lazy days at home, cat food so little Willie Nelson doesn’t starve, tangerines, brown sugar, icing sugar, white sugar, flour, not to mention our every-day groceries that have nutritional value.  But I did not have the rutabaga.

So I stopped at the next store over. No rutabaga.

It took me three stops before I finally got my gnarled up little paws on a rutabaga. Three stores!!!

I like to think that it’s worth the effort. That my son will remember our traditional Canadian food, and that our guests feel like it’s Christmas when they join us on Christmas day. So tonight, I can put my feed up safe in the knowledge that everything I need for our Christmas dinner, and my Christmas baking trays is ready to go.

Once I had successfully captured the elusive Christmas rutabaga, I could cross the last thing off my Christmas shopping list, and there’s no greater feeling. Well, maybe a pedicure and the undivided thorough and proper attention of a good man, but I digress.

Tomorrow is baking day; snickerdoodles, gingersnaps, shortbread, whipped shortbread with chocolate nougat, my 70’s retro squares, a batch of fudge, pineapple squares, biscotti, maybe some caramel corn, and the last drenching of the fruitcake with rum.

Now I bet you’re wishing that bitter-el-yucko squash hadn’t been grown so close to the gourd patch aren’t you? You’re kinda wishing I kept my trap shut and switched to common squash. But I’m not common my darlings. I’m a country girl at heart who loves tradition even more than she actually enjoys the rutabaga.  Go figure.

Wishing you a peaceful and relaxing weekend before the fat-man in the red-suit shimmies down your chimney next week.

 

Caring Less That It’s Christmas

 

"What makes night within us may leave stars." ~Victor Hugo~

“What makes night within us may leave stars.”
~Victor Hugo~

Perhaps it’s because we’re into the longest hours of darkness as we near the solstice, or maybe it’s having felt deeply two personal losses in less than a week.   It could even be the wee little chink in my girl-armor sustained by the careless blow of, ‘The Guy’. Perhaps it’s just bearing the full load of life with no one to lean on once in a while.

Whatever it is, it has me way beyond needing bourbon or bubbly. I need my jammies and a hot cup of tea. Heck, throw in my granny’s quilt and my slippers while you’re at it will ya? And while you’re up, could you please flush my phone down the toilet? Yes? Thank-you.

I tend to enjoy everything about Christmas, even the debut of Hallmark collectibles in July. Yes, I’m sappy like that. I’m a tough old gal, but I do actually have feelings.

I’m a glass-half-full-kind-of person, but not today. Nope. I know what it’s like to have a death in the family at Christmas. I know loss. We’ve snuggled long and hard, and I totally get someone saying, “Oh, you should be thankful because…”, and to them I say, “Really? That’s all you’ve got in your arsenal of empathy. Please shut up.”

What I’m trying to tell you is that this year, it just doesn’t feel like Christmas.

I’ve had some lovely visits, and am so grateful for my friends, but I’m depressed as hell. Depressed as in, if I didn’t have a kid to look after, I’d stay in bed until my skin became one with the sheets, and they-had-to-come-in-with-hazmat-suits-depressed. Knowing there are chocolate caramel biscotti hidden in the kitchen cupboard might save me, but it’d be a close call.

So right now, I could really care less that it’s Christmas. I don’t even want to bake, and the Christmas cards I usually make out for everyone I see on a daily basis? Yah, not gonna happen. Making sure all of the treats and goodies are on a pretty Christmas day table – not exactly fluffing my skirt.

I suppose that darkness goes along with the anticipation of mystery, waiting and hope, but I’m not feeling it. It being the hope part. Mystery and waiting isn’t much fun without the sizzling, fireworks of hope.

Maybe before the candlelight service on Christmas Eve (which is my favourite part of the holiday), I’ll feel some of that Christmas magic and hope. So, my darlings, I’m going to take some of my own advice, and withdraw from the world a bit, and I’m going to remind you that it’s ok to do that too.

Do what you must and let everything unfold without your energy. One thing that life has taught me is that it will unfold all by it’s wonderful, mysterious, self.

The Real Reason for the Jolliness of the Season

bourbon was the reason

Gift Guide for Middle-Aged Women

its cold outside

its cold outside (Photo credit: carbonated)

In other words, what to buy for me this Christmas….just kidding. Sorta…

Although I may not be the same dress size, complexion, or ethnicity as every woman, I offer you a guide to buying for women who are between 38 and 45…or somewhere close to that.

1) Matching glove and scarf sets. Yes, we’re matchy-matchy. It’s our generation. Make it a bold colour with no pattern We will think of you every time we wear it, and have it for at least three seasons.

2) Spa dates. Yes, that’s right, schedule and pay for the whole fandango. If you get us a gift card we may not go. We’re busy you know, sandwiched between generations, working, and trying to juggle it all.

3) If you are buying for  the special lady in your life, just make it easy on yourself and buy jewelry. We like shiny things…that fit.

4) Beautiful mugs, pens, business card holders or a lightweight mirror compact for your purse. All of these things are useful and remind us of you when we use them every day.

5) Booze. Seriously. Something special, vintage or rare. For instance a lovely bottle of scotch, our favourite bottle of red, or even a bottle of fairly priced bubbly. If you are a lover, we will share with you after you’ve performed your mandatory duties. If you are a friend, we will toast with our tipples by the fireplace. If you are our boss, buy us one of each….No, I’m not kidding.

6) Treat us to a live performance, not you doing a randy striptease in your fruit of the loom at the end of the bed darling. No. How about a concert, a play, a Christmas concert.

7) Do something sweet and thoughtful. For example; buy twelve bottles of wine ( all different kinds, some for winter, some for spring, autumn and summer). Attach a cute tag to each one telling us when and where we’ll be drinking it together; “The first snow storm”, “The first day over 30 degrees”, “On our anniversary”….you get the idea.

8) Gift cards from our favourite lingerie shop. Whether it’s our every day bra’s or our finer pink and whites, we like to choose them ourselves.

9) Travel mugs. The be all and end all of every woman’s weekday routine. We like pretty ones…

10) Any trinket or gadget or book related to our favourite hobby….cycling? running? running? needlework? cooking? decorating?

This is just a primer folks. Whether you’re buying for your aunt or your girlfriend, we all love the thought that you put into the gifts that you give to us, and more than a gift, we appreciate the time that we get to spend with you. So don’t forget that.