Dining Alfresco

eggcrackingThere are two types of people, those who prefer to dine al fresco and those who don’t.

Those who truly do, know the glory of stretching out on the grass and delighting in the most simple of food while watching the world go by. These types of folks like wild, rambling conversations, a good drink, a solid sleep and the company of like-minded people.

I’ve been known to be one of those people. Often, and without reserve.

This morning, after having been swatted away like an irritating insect by my loveliest of lovely men ever, I decided I’d forgo further snuggling, suck up the fact that I was not living with a cuddler, and head to the office early.

As you all know, lengthy, relationships with the less fair sex have never been my strength. Relationships of purpose and pre-determined length (preferably no longer than three hours at the outside), nonetheless meaningful however, have been my go-to preference. I’m a woman with diverse tastes after all.

But since having nestled into a loving, long-term relationship, my own gifts to give have been called into question by a relentlessly ironic universe. As I was propelled through morning traffic my mind wandered to wonder what exactly it was that had me feeling unsettled, unsure and quite frankly, a bit like hitting the accelerator in a panic and turning off onto the highway to faraway-parts-unknown. Parts that would surely include a beach, icy gin, and quiet sunrises.

My first email of the day was a monthly or bi-weekly or quarterly, or whatever-the-hell-time-frame-they- plop-it-out newsletter from an employee assistance program. This month’s topic? Relationships.

I.Kid.You.Not.

Oh, the irony, and before 8:00 a.m. no less. Le sigh…black coffee and silence pleases plebs, momma’s got some thinkin’ to do.

At the top of the newsletter were the politically correct number of Caucasian, African-American and Asians (three in total, sorry Native Americans, Drag Queens and everyone else, you remain represented and marginalized by the ‘big three’). However, someone in marketing goofed (or not), because they were all women.

Excuse me?

All women? Only women need this information about relationships; professional, familial, friendships, romantic? Say it ain’t so.

For a moment I thought about the lovely handsome man who was slumbering in our bed, oblivious to having tossed off the morning-snog bowline and giving me the equivalent of a one-legged-flat-footed send off from shore after having taken my paddle, map and water and shoving me out into the pre-dawn,swampy, wilderness.

Ok, ok, I might exaggerate a little bit, but I’m a woman of great imagination, and I want to be sure you understand the depth of my feeling. But I digress…

The irony of the morning send off and morning email was not lost on me. Not lost on me because women so often are the gatekeepers of relationship health. My mumster’s wise words of wisdom have always been, ‘Men will treat you how you allow them to treat you“. In other words, don’t take any shit, and be prepared to reel in your line,go to another fishing hole without haste, on your own steam, without looking back and wearing something that makes you feel wonderful. Thanks Ma.

But why did it bother me this morning? Most mornings, I’m happy to leave my delightfully delicious man-steak peacefully slumbering with his light snore and adorably messy hair, knowing he’s safe, resting, happy, and refueling his manliest of manly love-machines.

It wasn’t until this afternoon while I was driving around, finding (or losing, depends on how you look at it), my religion that it dawned on me.

My ah-ha moment? There was this beautifully haggard, out-of-time man sitting, back against one of the only trees generous enough to provide shade. His legs were stretched out in front of him, one laying long against cool grass, the other bent, over which he rested his arm. He was chomping on a sandwich and watching the world go by. It could have been 2015 and it could have been 1815. It didn’t matter. He was in the moment, being fully alive and human.

This man was the answer to that nagging question the bitch of insecurity had followed me with from my bedroom to work this morning. I am that man. Well, I’m really not that man, but you know what I mean right darlings?

I mean, I’m the kind of woman who does that kind of thing every day. I’ve never given it a second thought. I come home and revel in being naked, sliding on a pair of undies after my after work soak, pulling on a t-shirt, and drinking, writing, or entertaining the less fair sex into the wee hours of the morning.

I’m that guy!!! I’m the Alfresco diner for Christ’s sake!!!

Somewhere along the way during the past few months I’ve lost him her.

Immediately I decided to ditch my suit, and cling to a patio chair while being administered cold gin and tonics and listening to Jimmy Buffett.

Instead I came home, mumbled the residue of the angst that has been holding me prisoner, collapsed into bed for two hours and awoke looking like the Pillsbury Dough-boy in a coral-coloured tunic.

Tomorrow I’ll do it with more flair and a double G&T. I will welcome my self back gently and with wonderfully tacky beach music.

Ah yes, sometimes it just takes a slow drive, a few weeks of madness, and a true love to rock a lady to her core.

Sometimes all it takes is, having a long, slow meal outdoors with some great wine, the delightful company of your lover,  tossing our worries to the wind, and taking in the world just as it is, no more and no less.

Here’s to dining Alfresco and always finding a soft shady spot to land.

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Seeing & Knowing; Why We Write

breaking your heartThere have been very few moments in my life when someone has looked me in the eye, and I know that they know exactly how I’m feeling in a moment of despair. Seeing and knowing in the spiritual sense is powerful for the object of that seeing and knowing.

I had one of those moments recently. It was powerful, brought me to my knees, and made me realize that no matter how much I have overcome, that I’m still human, vulnerable and need, just as much as anyone else,  to feel like someone, somewhere has my back.

Memories come quickly sometimes from places in my past that I thought had long ago been dozed, graded re-forested and landscaped in a fabulously bohemian way.

Lately it’s been a grand parade across a never-ending stage instead of a dreamy oceanside stroll. Images, words, and scents evoke my white-blonde-pig-tailed, tear-streaked-cheek childhood as I stir dinner at the stove, rinse my face at the bathroom sink, and even pour a beer after a long day.

My story is being played out again even though I didn’t clap for the encore, and I’m rewriting it all in my head as I’m held hostage to it all.

For the folks out there who have not had the pleasure of experiencing crisis, trauma or what it’s like getting by one day to the next without knowing when it will ever end, trust me, it’s a wild ride darlings.

Wild as in it is a teacher of the most grand kind who takes you through a crash course on self-awareness while you’re still not quite awake to the world and barely dressed. It can make you tough, and it can make you so damn tired that all you have the energy to hope for is to feel numb. It can harden you so you lack empathy or compassion, or it can rip open your heart so you bleed life and love and kindness all over your world.

As a writers we can write out our suffering in the lives of our characters. We can re-write those sights, scents and sounds that evoke so many memories and what-if’s.  The brilliant part is that we are able to create something which expresses the bittersweetness of life out of something dark and painful. Laughter usually follows deep and cool on the heels of human folly.

But it takes guts to go there. It takes time, space, and friends who tolerate the depth of crazy that it takes to keep diving into and crawling out of our character’s heads. Because they’re our  pretty little heads, our jumbled thoughts, our answer’s to all of the what-if’s that have ever kept anyone awake at night.

Going back to where I started with this post, when my friend looked me in the eye and I knew that they knew what I was going through, it was the closest I came to feeling like it was ok to sink into my characters and writing like slipping into a deep, warm bath.

I knew that I had to do something or I would drown in this endless ocean of memory. Please toss me a pool noodle and whip me up a gin and tonic. This is going to take some time, and I’ve worked up quite a thirst.

But You Said…

"My idea of good company is the company of clever, well-informed people who have a great deal of conversation." ~Jane Austen~

“My idea of good company is the company of clever, well-informed people who have a great deal of conversation.”
~Jane Austen~

I say a lot of things. Actually darlings, so long as this little conversation is just between you and me, I speak entirely too freely, too much and too often.

I’m a woman who believes in living a life of her convictions, but sometimes those convictions rearrange their own little order on my top ten list, and well, frankly, it’s hard to keep track of. Pass the bourbon

For instance, I’m all for nature and preserving our environment, but I’m skeptical of the effectiveness of our recycling programs and political platforms from which they come neatly tied in biodegradable green-bags. I’m an animal lover, but frequently find myself muttering things like, “Those damn squirrels  buried their peanuts in my clematis pot again!”

Often I say things like; I would never do that, and then I do just that. Usually after a few drinky-poos and some goading by my shenanigan loving gal-pals.

The reality is that everything that we say, do and think is circumstantial, and we’re nothing less than fallibly human at all times, despite our perceived pedigree or status.

Pedigree, now there’s a word for you. I never ever thought I’d use that word with reference to human beings. It just seems so, oh, I don’t know, disgustingly bourgeoisies. Ick.

Often it is our engagement in intimate relationships which allows us to be more vulnerable than fearful.

It is here where we find ourselves peering into the dimly lit mirror of our personal ethic, and what we see is mostly a murky reflection of what we have been taught by the generations of women who came before us; a sure, unquestioning knowledge of what is and what isn’t. It is a visceral seeing and knowing beyond skin and bone.

So often, as time and circumstance wear like water against rock, the things that we once said become half-truths or nothing. We are forced to concede to the mystery of what it means to exist in a world in relation to other people who also evolve, devolve and change.

If you find yourself in a situation that is causing you to rethink your position, opinion or values, consider yourself one of the lucky ones. Life is either encouraging your growth, or insistently dragging you to a higher level of being.

So if someone insists that you once said something or other and points out a contradiction in your actions, take time to consider why you might have changed your mind. Do you still want to? Do you wish to remain true to those ideas, or has your experience taught you something new?

Regardless darlings, whatever you said, should not have gone unsaid. It is in the saying, the discussion, the long, rambling, twilight  confessionals where we learn who we are and share our very best selves.

An Ode to The Men In Our Lives: How I Wish Time Would Find Us

timewouldfindusIf I had my way, time would find us waking, well-rested just before sunrise.

We would brew our coffee and settle in somewhere outside on the grass to watch the world slowly wake to the splendor of another day.

We could contemplate the world in silence, side by side.

I wish that time would find us oblivious to its’ greed and persistent wasting, so that I could lose myself in the marvel of contentment which is the companionship of your body and soul, not wondering, or knowing that nothing is permanent and that these will be counted as some of the best days of my life.

I wish that time would find us innocent once again, before we knew disappointment or the difference between dreams and what must be.

Time would not find me painting my complexion on, over tired skin and tired eyes.

My hair would grow long and I would give it permission to be wild and unruly, and something that you tangle in your hands when we kissed, bodies relaxed from sleep in the middle of the dark night, when the rest of the world thought we were sleeping.

I wish time would find us so utterly lost in the wonder of our kitchen; food and buttery fingers just waiting to be savoured and kissed, taken in like a great blush of satisfaction and indulgence.

I would feed you, my beloved, with sweet things, and wine and the delicious abundance of every season. You would kiss it all back into me, and we would collapse in a heap of delighted satisfaction, lost in the shared rambling of our thoughts.

It would find us vulnerable and shaking. It would know our fears and tears and sorrows, so it could truly delight in our joy and silliness, because we’re good at all of that.

Time would find us as we are now, with me quietly taking in  how the sunlight touches your long, masculine legs and the way that you consider everything, filtered through the glasses that rest on your perfect nose, and twirl it around on its axis until it all makes sense in the beautiful way you absorb the world.

Time would find us lost in the deep soul-knowing that comes from loving with a tender fierceness which  takes courage and just a little bit of recklessness.

It would find us right here, as we are now.

A Good Excuse for Ladies Who Lunch

clunyFrom the beginning of time human beings have gathered around food; hunted, gathered and prepared as a community while sharing stories, passing down wisdom, and nurturing the divine within each person.

Food then, is not just nutritional sustenance, it is a tangible vehicle through which we come to know and care for one another.

Our lives have become so busy that the cultivation, preparation and intake of food has been condensed to a faceless speaker and drive-thru window. Not good.

I work too much. I rush too much. I eat too much pre-packaged, prepared, processed food, and it makes me sad.

For the “Ladies Who Lunch”,  it’s been ten years, maybe twelve. We’re not really quite sure, and we don’t really care darlings.  What we know is that every year we can count on Summerlicious and Winterlicious to encourage a ‘Ladies Who Lunch’ afternoon of catching up with one another over a slow, delicious meal.

You see, sometimes a gal just has to get together with her pack of women. You know, the intelligent, beautiful gals who raise her up when she can barely lift her own head and who raise a glass to her every success, even if that success is just making it through the day without flipping the bird with her well-manicured hands.

We take time out of our busy lives to connect  with other intelligent, compassionate and kind women who know the same joy, pain, frustration and daily triumphs that women feel deep down in their bones.

Lately I’ve been neglecting moi. Yes, I’ve been time-starved. It’s made the-little-old-laid-back-lush that is yours truly, anxious and neurotic. The freak show that is currently performing in the three-ringed circus of my mind is a shit-show of the most grand order, requiring pharmaceuticals, but settling for the odd gin and tonic after a long day of being held hostage by the nine-to-five grind.

Summerlicious with the girls is something which requires planning, research, multiple telephone calls, and always last-minute-begging to change reservation numbers and times. It’s the event-planning equivalent of herding horny cats during a midnight rainstorm. But we’re fabulous cats, and it’s always worth the effort. Besides, it’s a wonderful opportunity to practice patience and not-being-attached to outcome.

Given my state of mind this year, I was pretty sure that I was going to forgo the event unless someone else picked up the ball and organized the event. Alas, I decided at the last-minute to create the event in the most simple way possible. Choose the venue, make a reservation for six, and go forward. Usually I take requests for locations on a first-come-first-to-be-called basis, and then dial a zillion numbers until I find a place which will take a Saturday Summerlicious reservation for a dozen or so. Not easy.

We started with a reservation for six and ended up with eleven ladies at our table. Cluny Bistro was more than gracious accommodating our group (We will all be back, and appreciate your patience). Some arrived early, some arrived late, but in the end, we all managed to take a few hours out of our busy lives to connect and share that face-to-face interaction that I’ve been so starved for, for so long.

Lunch with the ladies is something we say we’re going to do, but never get around to doing it. One of my friends and I have been planning lunch together, and had to think back almost four months since our last visit. Four months is pretty darn good. This year I’ve had multiple reminders that taking time to spend with friends who nurture me is something I’ve neglected for far too long. Months turn into years, and years and years…

Summerlicious may be a marketing ploy to open our wallets and spend more money, but we’ve used it as the excuse we need to come together, try a new restaurant and remind ourselves that our friendships matter, that we do not need to exist as solitary, stone angels who do it all.

What’s So Sexy About a Man & Four Pounds of Bacon?

baconmyheartThere are some things that men just do better than women; revere bacon,  for example, or enjoy standing over a hot grill on a blistering hot July day (see: Chicks Shouldn’t BBQ), nursing a cold beer or two and contemplating the state of….whatever.

As I type this sparkling gem of wisdom, I have a man cooking lunch in my kitchen.

No, it will not be the beautifully plated jasmine and chicken-that-took-hours to catch, pluck, butcher, marinate and pair with a white burgundy that I was accustomed to in my early years of man-tertainment.

Lunch today is a bacon-wrapped grilled cheese sandwich, which has been researched, coveted and shopped for by the Y-chromosome carrying members of the household, and I’m not going anywhere near the kitchen. I have a manosaurusrex loose in there, and I’m just going to stay outta the way darlings.

Am I ok with it? Am I ok with men being men and the gender stereotypes that straighjacket us into believing that boys will be boys; irresponsible, insensitive, sloppy and a never-ending succession of stupid decisions that they can’t be responsible for because they’re fathers never loved them enough? No. I am not ok with that. Mostly because I’ve given birth to, and raised a boy.

Men and women are equally responsible and irresponsible, sensitive and insensitive, sloppy and tidy, and both make a considerable number of bad decisions until they grow up enough to realize that maybe, just maybe being loving and kind isn’t such a bad thing.

So what does this have to do with bacon?

Bacon seems to be the BBQ of manliness to the modern man. You know the ones, right my sweet little peaches? The ones we’ve kicked the metaphorical shit out of by unraveling the male psyche and fluffing it up with metrosexuality, cosmetic lines for men, and horror-of-horrors educating our women to rule the world of not only home, but work too.

Yes, yes, yes, I know this is a binary analysis of the sexes. We all exist on a continuum of gender. I just happen to live by the wonderful grade-four French slang; Chacun a son gout.

My gout just happens to be for the manly, never-been-touched-by-GQ Magazine-seasonal-fashion-must-have-anxiety, hairy-chested, red-hot-pulsing-slice-of-testosterone-propelled-man-steak-who-thinks-bacon-wrapped-grilled-cheese-lunches-are-a-good-thing-to-do-for-his-woman kind of man.

Ok, so I get that  he’s not doing it for me, but he’s got a grin on his face beautiful enough to light up the room. No, I’m not hallucinating as the smoke from flaming bacon grease fills my lungs. He is smiling and he is happy and he’s willing to share that with me. What more could a gal ask for?

If you are a  bacon-loving man’s man, do not try to be anything else. We love you just they way you are.

Whining – Just Part of the Service We Offer

margarita

“Realize deeply that the present moment is all you ever have.” ~Eckart Tolle~

For two days I’ve walked past a Mexican restaurant in Montreal, and craved one of the deliciously boozy looking margaritas.

Yesterday we stopped, a little detour on our way home to a planned wine and cheese picnic in the park. We spotted a cute place on the crowded patio, and made our way over to a street-side, table-for-two.

That’s when the whining started.

I’m going to try and be crystal clear with regard to my description of the little prick who ignorantly tried to dissuade me from sitting at my preferred table.

Tisk, tisk, tisk, he said, shaking his man-bunned head back and forth and eyeing me up like I’d just dropped my drawers. “We hate it when you sit at a table that hasn’t been cleared.”

“Funny,” I said with my signature sweet-smile plastered on my face, and my eyes locked to his, “As a paying customer, I don’t mind at all.” Followed by an unsolicited, ” Dirty. Wiped with a dirty cloth,” from Mr.-Nobody-Likes-Me-Everybody-Hates-Me-I’m-Pissed-At-The-World-Because-I-Must-Be-A-Grown-Up.

First of all, to all of you bearded and non-bearded, man-bunned, hipster, fucking beatnik wanna-be twenty somethings out there who think that the world owes you something – get real darlings. That doesn’t just go out to the young folks, I’ve encountered people of all ages who adore carrying a chip on their shoulder. It’s their preferred accessory, but it ruins an entire wardrobe.

To the whiners: Upon careful consideration from eons of generations who have come before you through hardship, and 1980’s neon, you are owed sweet-screw-all.

Your condescending manner is a flashing sign advertising your lack of authenticity in a world you presume to know. Because you had to pay for your own education? Because mommy or daddy didn’t love you enough? Because no one gave you a hand-out? Well sweetie, join the club. It’s called adulthood. You know what makes it better? Margaritas. On a patio.

How you participate in the land of the real world determines the quality of your character. This little connoisseur of two-star restaurants clearly held a much higher opinion of his limited practical and spiritual experience of the world than anyone else on the planet. The same goes for his pal who served us.

After Mr. I-think-I’m-worldly-and-all-knowing tisked his opinion out loud, and I smiled a saccharine smile, he murmured an opinion to his waiter-buddy (in french no less, assuming I couldn’t grasp the not-so-subtle innuendo that I was a supreme douchebag), and then we were left to wait, and wait and wait for our order to be taken.

That’s ok though. You know why? I’ve been a server before too. I know what it’s like to work for a paltry wage, and make the rest up with tips. I know that it sucks. Been there, done that, clawed my way through school, jobs and life. What I learned very quickly was that being a miserable twatcycle didn’t make it any easier.

After two hours we had been served an appetizer and with three ignored attempts by my partner, we finally had our second round of drinks. Oh, and the taps weren’t working, which made the cerveza selection less than titillating. The food was mediocre, the margaritas however, satisfied my craving, and my choice of partner, well darlings, you know I only accept the very best.

My happy hour was not ruined, but the waiter’s attitude was. You see, it takes awhile to realize your self-worth, and these two young gentlemen had yet to discover their own. Self-worth means showing up for your job, whether it’s serving tourists margaritas, or leading a country, determined to have a positive impact. To engage with another human being is sacred work, and each of us have that opportunity every day.

When you connect, instead of whine, you offer so much more than a product or service. You offer a caring piece of yourself to another human being. To these young men, the only thing that mattered was a bizarre power-play of master and servant, and collecting a pay cheque.

I stopped for a margarita. It sated my craving. I enjoyed the relaxing atmosphere of people-watching on a street that was new to me.

I did not leave a tip. The only tip I may have considered leaving was a well-written diatribe on how not to be an asshole. Whether it would have been written in French, English, or illustrated Sesame-Street style, I doubt the message would have been understood.

A missed opportunity to connect was not on the radar of this poor-me-tag-team. No tip though, ah, there’s the rub.

Choose Joy or Die

formI truly believe that we choose joy.

After you fish your rolling eyes from the back of your head, keep reading, because it’s not as pithy as it sounds darlings. I have not lost all sense and let my brains fly out the window of my being.

You see, we like to think that we have control over the world, and what we do in it. To some extent that’s true. We absolutely have control over how we react, bring ourselves to meet the world every day, and whether or not we are open to being vulnerable to our darker side.

Almost 10 years ago during a business meeting with a mediator, they uttered the words, “You will never, ever feel like you have enough resources for all that you hope to accomplish.

Often, these words have come back to me during times of crisis; emotionally, professionally, financially.

I’ve decided that I will keep these words, in my psyche in the stuff-that-is-fundamentaly-correct-pile, right next to lime juice in my gin and tonic, and going commando after a long day at work.

Great things have been done in this world by people who have not had the resources which we are conditioned to think that we need for success; a loving family, money in the bank, and a traditional education. I really believe that the most amazing inventions, concepts and changes have come about as the result of hardship and feeling just the teeny-tiniest-feeling-of-being-uncomfortable. Think of athletes, leaders of social change, and although I’m loathe to use big-business as an example of true success, some of the brightest business minds were not made by doing what they ‘should’. No, my sweet little peaches, they were made because they followed their hearts and took chances.

Choosing to be joyful is much the same.

When I wake up in the morning, there a zillion reasons to be fretful, anxious, insecure and unhappy. But life is far too short for that kind of misery. There are also a zillion reasons to nurture joy, to embrace the simple, but wonderful things that we are graced with every day.

Sure, we’re all going to have rough days. We’re all going to let our trains-of-thought rumble through old, dark tunnels every once in a while. We’re going to revisit mistakes, missed opportunities and regrets, but by doing this, we have a chance to change the course of our next days and weeks and years. Without joy, we choose suffering, and suffering is just a prolonged version of dying. Choosing suffering is a repetitive, painful choice to tortuously kill off our human spirit by reliving  a life of missed opportunities instead of living in the moment and stepping forward into the future.

If we choose joy. Deep joy. Real joy. The kind of joy that we may even sacrifice some of our old patterns and bad habits for, we may feel vibrant, whole, and like we’re really living. Think about it darlings…do you choose joy?