What To Do?

fallkittenI’ve been known to publish some really great seasonal To-Do Lists.  Except this year.

I didn’t do that.

Not for you and not for me.

But I’m ready for one. You see, I have a Protestant work ethic, and am a firm believer in work first, and rest when the work is done.  Which, of course, often leaves me desiring, but exhausted and out of time.

Alas, the really hard work of this year is pretty much complete, and I am left with time to rediscover more leisure pursuits.  Instead of providing you and I wish a seasonal to-do-list-on-a-time-line  of such tomfoolery that we think is Instagram-worthy, such as pumpkin patch visits, applie-pie baking and haunted house touring, I am going to provide you with a list of things that I want to do.

And I hope it inspires you to make a list of your own. Even if you don’t get to it, you’ll be reminded of what it is that makes you happy, and maybe, just maybe, you’ll take a little time for yourself to make your soul smile.

 

Here’s my list;

 

1. Successfully complete NaNoWriMo. Yah, I officially registered to write 50,000 words during the month of November. Why not? After all, I want to finish my damn novel, and I work well with a time-line. This may very well should  be the only thing on my list, but should’s have no place in my life right now.

onceupon

2. I want to go back  to wander the Guillermo Del Torro exhibit again at the AGO. It was so inspiring; a look at the inner mechanisms of a creative genius. Going back is a desperate attempt to have some of that genius-energy rub off on me.

deltoro

3.  A road trip to see the beautiful fall landscape (I’m thinking Collingwood with a side trip to a pal’s place in Thornbury, and the outdoor spa).

Hockleyfall

 

4. A visit to Hinterland Winery. In my opinion a hidden gem that deserves more of my attention. Here I come Les Etoiles!

hinterland

5. Chistmas shopping. Yes,  you heard it. I want to go Christmas shopping. That’s only because I avoid shopping in December like the plague. It sucks, people’s attitudes suck, and all of that makes me cranky. Make it a December to remember (create some memories with your loved ones – do not spend the month craving valium and flipping people the bird in parking lots).

decembertoremember

 

 

6. Cross Stitch. Oh yah. I want the luxury of  enough time to curl up with a hot cup of tea and a few hours of nothing but some needle and thread.

bring me tea

 

7. I would also very much like to make my super-duper-Hallowe’en-popcorn. I make it for my colleagues and my kiddo because even though we’re all grown up, on October 31st, we’re all still little kids just waiting for a treat.

Halloween-Caramel-Corn4-600x400

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Why I Open My Door At Thanksgiving

give thanks…because I’m truly grateful for the abundance of friends in my life.

My Thanksgiving celebrations are always potluck, jeans and t-shirt style. I put on the turkey, and everyone else brings something to share. That way no one has to do a lot of work and I’m not too stressed out to enjoy my friends.

Potluck is also a good conversations starter; Mmm! I love this! Who made it? What’s the recipe?….and the conversation goes on from there.

That’s what life is about.

I’ve been through hell and back as a child and as a young woman. Throughout all of it, I’ve had wonderful friends who are each, in their own way, unique and perfect.

Holiday times used to be sad for me, lonely even . I was often new in town, without family, and I felt very alone. As time went on, my new friendships deepened, and although I went through times of despair and loneliness, my friends would always show up in ways that helped me understand what was really important.

So at Thanksgiving, many people are caught up in family tug-of-wars about who goes where and who is hosting what. Or, maybe they have no family at all.

Autumn is the time of year when we start turning inward. The changing colour of the leaves wave us into shorter days and cooler nights. We cozy up inside, in big sweaters and under cozy blankets. We begin the journey into a season often spiritually described as one of mystery and hope.

I open my door at this time of year so that friends have a place to come and relax. My friends are my family, and I love them all.

I don’t have much, but I hope I offer a safe space to be yourself, laugh, and be nourished; both body and soul.

 

 

 

Nice Matters: A Shout-Out of Gratitude

peonyToday I’ve written a bit about mean, so let’s shake that crappy mojo. I’m going to  write about something more important; nice (aka kindness).

Kindness matters. It’s part of that grace thing that I’ve been trying master for a few years.  We get it right sometimes, and we get it wrong sometimes, but what matters is that we strive to get better at it.

It’s good for us. Just as good as a healthy diet, or eight hours of sleep. Nice makes our bodies happy and our spirits calm.

Lately there has been a lot of nice in my life. My ‘crazy’ family and friends have been generous in their support of my son’s flight from the nest. He as been encouraged, supported, and cheered on. As a mother, there is nothing better than knowing your child is thriving and that they have a solid support network or friends, mentors, coaches and family. Thank you for being nice.

I’m taking a little longer to adjust to the transition. I tear up daily, and am struggling with the transition of being totally dedicated to my kiddo to being totally dedicated, but from a distance. My friends have been kind and gentle and supportive. Thank you for being nice.

I have flooded my social media feed with proud mom moments and not once has anyone told me how annoying it is. Thank you for being nice.

This is a challenging transition year for me, once again wondering where I will live, work and mom from in a year. In advance to my friends and family; thank you for being nice.

 

 

Mean People Suck: Don’t Let Them Suck the Life Out of You

ugly buzzardNice and mean. Two simple words not often given enough credit for how important they are.

Nice matters. Mean sucks.

Today I’m going to be writing about mean, because recently someone has taken all of the vulnerability I shared with them, and been very mean.

In the past 24 hours I have been told that my friends and family are crazy. That’s pretty damn mean when the person spewing bile knows that mental health struggles that have gone on due to physical, sexual and emotional abuse throughout my family and friends lives.  The security of my home has  been threatened and I’ve been told some nasty, nasty things from a person who was dear to me.

But I’ve done mean. I survived it in my childhood home, in the workplace and even relationships. Which is to say, that my ability to overcome it is great. In other words, when someone is mean, the only thing I know that I can do is to disengage, and enter survival mode.

And how much fun is that? It isn’t. And I’m too old for this shit quite frankly. I’m due for some free-spirited, joyful living, and that’s exactly what I’m going to do.

When someone shows me how ugly their spirit really is, I choose not to invest my time or energy there. After all, I’ve got more important shit to do, like create a non-fiction masterpiece, and have wine-soaked discussions with kindred spirits. Fuck mean.

If you’re out there with someone who is a nasty little troll, whether it ‘s at home, at work, at school or in the community, try your best to disengage. Try your best to identify the hardest times to control your reaction. Focus on what you love; your art, your job, your pet, your kids, your daily walk around the block….

beautiful birdMean sucks.

Remember, mean belongs to the person spewing hate. It doesn’t belong to you, so don’t carry it. Take a deep breath, envision yourself surrounded by light which protects you from anyone else’s bullshit, and step forward into your own life.

 

 

To The Next Family Who Moves Into Our ‘Ghetto’ Apartment

Home-Quotes-21Dear Family,

My son and his friends often referred to our little apartment as, ‘ghetto’.

As in; not the mortgaged palace of a dual income family, decorated in the safe fashion of the day (grey/beige).

It’s the home where I raised my son.

It’s  the home where I painted his childhood room the brightest shade of lime green imaginable, and where we wandered outside into the courtyard , wearing our pajamas,  to look at the full moon.

I left our little ghetto pad to move closer to work when my kiddo launched into young, adult life. I moved to a three bedroom, townhome,  where homes sell for well over six zeros.

 

The ghetto apartment that you are about to move into is as much a home as any finer four walls that you will ever find. I daresay, that it’s likely the place where I spent the very best years of my life,  relishing every moment of motherhood.

We roasted marshmallows over real wood fires in  the fireplace, hosted full houses of friends at Christmas and Thanksgiving. We had nightly rendez-vous to the kitchen for tasty midnight snacks, and it’s where we knew we could come and close out the badness in the world when we needed refuge. By the way, I left you some dry firewood in the shed so that you can enjoy some fires this winter, when the wind whips wildly outside the patio door.

During the finer weather, we had ‘happy hour’ together; Gatorade, water, or whatever else we nursed while talking about the events of the day. It was a plain patio, but it was good therapy.

You are moving into the home where the kitchen doorway is marked in pencil with my kiddo’s growth chart. It’s small, but every night I could poke my head outside of my bedroom door into the darkness and listen to the soft sound of my kiddo sleeping safely.

Your ghetto home has some colourful neighbours; the man with dementia who hollers like the devil, the young ladies whom I think may be prostitutes, the fitness fanatic, and the little old lady who pokes her head out of her second floor patio door to let me know she appreciates the beauty of the flowers that I plant every year. Please plant some flowers for her and put up some Christmas lights – she’s lonely.

I spent some of the best years of my life in that ghetto apartment, and I think that my kiddo did too.

Not only did I pack up boxes and boxes of our stuff, but I also took the important things with me when I moved too; heart, attitude and love.  All of this so that I could make the new four walls home. Home is about heart and not place.

To the family moving into our ghetto home, my wish for you is that your time there is as deeply satisfying as it was for me. Spend time there. Sit on the edge of your child’s bed and giggle with them. Give them a cool soak in the old, worn out bathtub when they get fevered, and be sure to  run out into the courtyard in your pajamas to look at the moon.

Abounding Grace & The ‘F’ Word

angrywomanFor months, maybe even years I wrote about how I had observed the incredible life-affirming beauty of grace in action.

I wrote about people overcoming heart-shattering loss, adversity, and hardship with incredible grace; without fists to the sky, without making the lives of those around them miserable, without despair.

I wanted to be able to handle shit that way. I think we all do. What I have discovered is that we don’t necessarily want the practice that it takes to be graceful. In other words, it takes hardship to to learn how to navigate the rough rapids of change with some savvy and style; Without using the ‘F’ word, without letting the shit show shadow all of the other other elements of our lives that we have to be thankful for.

As I have been chronicling in my mid-life-move blog, Andsheshines, (Be sure to subscribe!!!)

I believe I’ve finally leveled up when it comes to coping. You can read about some of my experiences in the great adventure of preparing to empty-nest,  moving in with a man for the first time in two decades, and everything else that goes bump-in-the-night while those stages of life march onward. Time waits for no woman, and I’m going to ride my time like the wild woman that I am.

Making Space: The Genius of Silence

coffee lakePractice makes perfect.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve relied upon this little nugget of wisdom as a parent when my kiddo whines about not being able to do something. My response has always been; “How do you think I got so good at it? Practice makes perfect; get to it.

Yesterday I was anxious. The kind of anxious that feels like you have a thousand bees buzzing in  your head telling you all of the things you need to do, have to worry about, and can’t control. I was miserable; inside and outside.

Fortunately for me, I had a few hours of quiet time at the end of the day .Quiet for me is heaven. Quiet in the morning gives me time to meditate, and to take in just how fortunate I am.  It’s never a process whereby I sit cross-legged on a cushion wearing a mala made in Bali or a tunic made of hemp. No. It’s simply sitting with my thoughts.

Last night, in the quiet of solitude, I was able to spend some time reading the words of Thich Nhat Hanh.   It reminded me that my practice is not perfect. Far from it in fact. Just because I studied at the temple, attended dharma classes and go to silent retreats does not mean that my meditation muscle is exempt from a good workout on a regular basis.

As adults, we forget that our health as a whole is something that we need to practice on a regular basis.

It’s time for me to make space for some of the books and advice that I’ve gotten in the past. It’s time to make an effort again putting theory into practice.

It’s time for the genius of silence, and for my practice of peace to become a little bit more perfect.

Just Because You’re Supposed To Doesn’t Mean You Should; Maiden Mother Crone

maiden mother croneI’m old now. Ok, not really old, but older, and women in their 20’s and 30’s think I”m the wise old owl. I kind of dig it.

I’m the lady younger women come to for advice, to air their worries, and that they see as some kind of icon of independence, strength and compassion. They also think I’m eccentric, old and clueless at times. It’s a fine balance,and I think I can handle it.

At the root of all issues for most young ladies and old alike is the fine balance of fulfilling our practical obligations and doing the things that make us feel good.

We slip into our roles as caregivers in a Stepford-kind-of-way. So much of what we do falls into a less-than-conscious way of being. We do because that’s what we’re supposed to do; because that’s what everyone expects.

And then we lose ourselves to all of that. We simply do not have time to do the things we love. We don’t prioritize it. Women’s soul-work is not valued. We become mothers to our partners subtle demands. Guilt can be sinister and subtle.

So, to the younger ladies who come to me with their relationship, career and creative struggles, my one piece of advice is to do what makes them feel alive, and make sure they have a solid resume to support themselves.

I’m as guilty as the next woman when it comes to romantic ideals, but I’m older and wiser now.  If a partner tells you they’re not good enough for you; they’re not. If they tell you they’re not sure where the relationship is going; it’s not going anywhere. Embrace what brings you joy and go do that .

 

Bottom line, do not stop prioritizing the things that bring you solitary joy. For me it’s writing, painting, going to art galleries and camping.  Stick with your tribe. You need your girlfriends and you need to keep your own zest for life alive.

crone poem

 

Sports Moms – When It’s Your Turn to Be Inspired

football benchAbout two weeks ago I was brought to my knees by sharp pain and then was overcome with panic.

I thought I had a heart attack.

A little thick around the middle, and always in the kitchen, I made a quick decision to become more active. Not running-marathons-and-and-eating-kelp-sandwiches-active, but more active.

Flashback a billion years to all of the summers, winters, springs and falls that I sat on the sidelines cheering on my athletically gifted kiddo. I drank a lot of tea from drive-thru windows and kept the company of other parents doing the very same thing.  As he ran and played, I was plopped in a lawnchair, making sure that when he looked up, Mom was there. I also spent a lot of time in the kitchen, cooking at 11pm after late baseball games so he went to bed with a full tummy. So my  butt got a little chunky.

I have been all of the following; a baseball mom, a football mom, a cricket mom, a basketball mom, a curling mom, a badminton mom and  a did-you-do-your-homework-mom.

During the past two weeks, I have developed a greater appreciation of my child’s experience during his childhood of sporting.  How much did my presence feel like pushing? How much did it feel like support? I guess I’ll never really know.  What I always hoped was that he was doing something he loved, that made him feel good, and made him feel proud of himself. I wanted my boy to have confidence.

What I do know is that pushing through the discomfort of new levels of physical movement takes some grit. Trust me, I’ve had to have grit a’plenty during my lifetime, but it’s been a mental grit. A determination to get through one day at a time. Physical grit, not so much.

My body has always had a comfortable ease about it. I was built for hugging, cuddling, and lounging during long, philosophical conversations about religion, politics and gender equality issues.   Wine adores my body. So does chocolate, champagne and puff pastry.

So I’m swinging a golf club for the first time, and running my ass off, and sweating. Like a man. It’s not pretty, and parts of me actually hurt.

I can’t help but think of my son. I think of how hard he as worked to accomplish the things that he has. He’s on a national sports team, plays a bahzillion sports, and maintains his grades, and also puts up with a rather flamboyant mamma.

My old bones ache in places where I forgot it could possibly hurt in the first place, and it reminds me of how hard my son has worked and what strength and grace he’s had to develop in order to accomplish  it all.

Running at my little gym, I have an extraordinary view of a public play-space and just beyond that a beautiful lake in the middle of our bustling city. I watch parents come out and play with their kids, some of them shooting baskets, and others, likely tired single-moms like I was, sitting in a chair and keeping an eye on their kids as they play.

portable locker roomI want to go out there and tell those weary parents that it’s all worth it; that team sports and athletics are worth every early morning, every weekend taken up with tournaments, and all of the leaving early and working overtime that has to happen to make it work.  Not because it just keeps their bodies healthy, but because it develops character and forms strong bonds of friendship. I want to tell those parents that gaining an extra ten or twenty pounds is not the end of the world. Missing your kids’ childhood is.

So, this afternoon, when what I really want to do is nap with the cat. I will likely be running my little 30 minute marathon, because my son sets a damn good example and if he can push himself to do it, damn it, so can I.

When you raise an athlete, there comes a turning point where you are no longer their inspiration. Instead, they become yours. It’s a very hard feeling to describe. Pride doesn’t quite cut it, but joy comes close.

 

 

Saturday Morning Coffee; Child Killers & The People Who Have to Be Nice To Them

saturday morning coffeeLast night I had my sweetheart, his son, and my son together around the table to enjoy a meal together for Easter. With young adult children and their crazy schedules, family time is precious, and to have both families blend together during these holidays is a true joy.

Simple things like having dinner together every day, and making sure you say, “I love you”, before you head out the door are mandatory at my house. Maybe a little too obsessively-compulsively so.

You see, my career is death and dying. The fragile nature of life is not lost on me, and maybe I have some PTSD going on. Ok, I do have some of that going on,  but I think that’s normal under the circumstances.

Easter dinner with the kids was extra meaningful for me in ways that I’m sure people who don’t work around loss and trauma will never know. Nor should they.

This morning I sat down to my little window, with my coffee and kitty mentor, Mr. Willy Nelson. I cruised over to www.thestar.ca and read the article about Ontario’s Chief Pathologist, Dr. Micheal Pollanen.

Basically, the crux of the article was that Dr. Pollanen has been guilty of confirmation bias;

Among them was confirmation bias — reaching a conclusion and working backward to find evidence to support it, and professional credibility bias — being unwilling to change an opinion once stated.

 

Fine. I get it, and god forbid I was on the receiving end of a case where a professional reasoned that I was guilty and then tried to prove it. Basically, you’d be screwed.

But the point of my little blog here isn’t to crucify Dr. Pollanen. I worked with him. I didn’t really like him – let me be clear, that’s my personal opinion. He seemed to be book-smart-brilliant, and socially awkward. But most of the doctors down there fit that description.

At the Office of the Chief Coroner, one finds that ego-with-a-capital-E runs rampant, and the term Doctor warrants a god-like-untouchable-status to anyone who doesn’t have the same credentials. Humility has no place there. There are few exceptions.

The reality however is that those coroners are human too, and I would argue, because of their perceived status as stronger, more intelligent and wiser-than-the-average-bear, they are at higher risk for PTSD, burn-out and the other psychological monsters-that-go-bump-in-the-night. Sure, they have  access to support, but there is no system in place to monitor it. There is no formal support in place to insure that the mental health of  professionals subjected to the most brutal trauma imaginable is cared for.

During my training, a past Chief Coroner ended his lecture to my graduating class by telling us that if we ever felt that we needed counselling or help coping with trauma, that we should suck it up because that was our job. This was hands-down the worst advice I’ve received in my career.

I too have seen the trauma of a child’s lifeless body marked by abuse, accidental injuries or what appears to be a cold-blooded homicide. I’ve looked into the teary eyes of grieving siblings who are too young to have know what grief feels like.  I’ve done it many times, it’s part of my job.  Unless you’ve physically had to take part in the autopsy or preparation of the body, you do not have any idea what it’s like to be a professional in death care, so stop judging and proselytizing.

You don’t know the deeper level of concern that we bear when our child or spouse takes the car, or is running late. Working with trauma brings you face to face with the fickle nature of mortality every. single. moment. of. every. day.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not excusing Dr. Pollanen, I’m simply empathizing with him. You might want to try it sometime.

Ask yourself this; In a courtroom full of adults unwilling to admit that they either abused or neglected a child to the point of death, I wonder what the average reader of the morning paper would do? Part of me likes to think that they would rage and deliver a little eye-for-an-eye justice, the other part of me is a passive Buddhist.

So, as I sit here this morning, sipping my flavoured coffee, looking out at children in the courtyard giggling and scurrying during the annual Easter Egg hunt, I ask you to think of Dr. Pollanen as a human being who has dedicated his life to making our society a safer place.