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When the Community Board is Empty

Most of you know that I have recently moved. I live in a very strange community that has come to make me appreciate the effects of foreign property investment on our ‘communities’.  In effect, all of the empty grand homes in our neighbourhood  are mostly empty, with lights on timers, regular professional landscaping, and someone who clears the local newspaper and flyer delivery from their front porch. There is no neighbourhood here, only bank accounts in the form of houses.

It robs us of community. It robs us of mom and pop shops able to keep their doors open to provide goods and services for the neighbourhood.

Yesterday I popped in to a local  Starbucks for a delightfully refreshing iced drink, and while I was waiting for my sweetie’s pour-over, I turn to the community board as I’m often want to do.

This is what I saw;

A picture is worth a thousand words. Nothing. There is regularly nothing related to community posted on this board. Despite there being a steady stream of people in line to buy their caffeinated bevvies at all hours through the weekdays and on the weekends, there is little if any sense of community.

I’m a writer, and admittedly, I’ve spent way too much time in coffee shops picking away at my keyboard, and I’ve spent way too much money on coffee. I have however honed a keen sense of place while I’m out and about mooching free office space.

I have never (not even once) settled into this location for my hour long writing sessions, arranged for a meeting with friends, or lingered any longer than it takes to make my Sunday-morning-one-bag-in-one-bag-out herbal tea.

This weekend in Toronto while getting settled in to a workshop, I was recommended to a coffee shop just down the street from where we were gathering. And this is what their community board looked like;

 

img_1025
Mallo – Located at 785 Bathurst Street. Worth becoming a regular meet-up spot. Definitely make time to try their absolutely delish menu.

I stopped, took off my coat, enjoyed a cup of tea, and ordered one to go. The staff were so friendly, and vibe was so great, that I came back again after my workshop and tried their menu with a pal who was in the neighbourhood. $70.00 later I felt like I had a new place to add to my favourites. Lesson learned; a sense of community translates to profit.

Earlier this week, I was back in my old stomping grounds at my favourite Starbucks in Mississauga, and their community board looked like this;

community board

 

When your community boards are empty at informal meeting spaces like coffee shops, there is a fundamental problem within the local community. There is a disconnect.  People go out to write, to gather, and to get their over-priced half-caf-low-fat-made-exclusively-for-me beverages because they are craving connection as much as they are craving sugar and caffeine.

When your community board is empty, I challenge you to go out and find one that is overflowing with posters for yoga in the park,  poetry readings, amateur nights at the local coffee house. I guarantee you’ll be a happier, healthier person.

 

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The Longest Night: Your Invitation

Like most adults, the magic of Christmas wanes with each passing year. This year I’m struggling to grasp that spirit at all, even a tiny shred of it.

I absolutely love getting out for Christmas dinners with my friends, I enjoy strolling the markets, and listening to Christmas music.  I realized just how un-Christmasy my life is this year after reading an update from my cousin this morning about having his first Christmas dinner in the books.

This after waking up and staring at the ceiling of what used to be my writing room, and thinking just that…this does not feel like Christmas.

When I was a young mother, doting on my son, baking, cooking and inviting friends into our home made the season so very special. Long past having a big wish list, I have always used Christmas as an excuse to connect with the people in my life whom I don’t get to spend time with often enough. It’s a special part of the year that carries me through, having reinforced the bonds of these precious friendships.

the longest night

But not this  year. This year I am bound to the house, run off my feet, and honestly, feeling lonesome for those friends.

Loneliness and isolation can make a pathetic woman, and I am anything but that. So this year, albeit late in the season, I’m going to begin my efforts to connect with the special people in my life. The sustenance of kindred spirits during times like this is essential to anyone’s well-being.

In years past, I used to host an event on the eve of winter solstice called, “The Longest Night”, where my friends would gather, bringing a piece of art (writing, music, visual art) to share with the group. The theme was always sharing light in the darkness. Celebrating the darkness where mystery was waiting to be revealed, ideas were ruminating, and reminding everyone that there is beauty even in the mystery of the dark.

So this year, once again, I’m hoping more selfishly than ever that my friends arrive in the darkness, to be received into the warmth of a circle of friends.

 

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What Are You Good At – Maybe Everything!

catslipper.jpgLast year I attempted to make slippers for my son’s giant feet, but after two tries, I ended up with what looked like a crocheted sleeping bag for our cat. The fat one.

Projects and hobbies are so necessary for me, that I couldn’t imagine my busy life without them. Having lived an adult life filled with responsibility, these small, creative outlets bring me immeasurable joy.

Creativity is essential to the human condition. If you feel listless, find something that makes you smile, and go out and make it. Don’t worry about how long it takes or what the end result is, try to enjoy and trust the process.

Someone once asked me if I was good at anything, given I had so many interests.  It wasn’t a question asked in ernest or with good intent, no, it was sarcastic, and in my twenties, it hurt.

Now that I’m in my forties, I can honestly say that I’m good at a lot of things.  I love doing things that I’m good at, but just as much as doing something I know that I’m good at, I adore figuring out new projects.

This month, my new project is refinishing my old desk (I’ve had it since I was 13). My office at home is completely different than where I work (I’m a funeral director).  My vision is a bright, unmistakingly vamp-fem space where I can work on making people feel their best.

At first I imagined an aubergine desk;

purple

 

That was until my little Pinteresting fingies found this gem;

pink-dresser-desk

 

My colour pallette now looks more like this;

watermelon pink

Va-va-va-voom! “And how can I help you?” I imagine myself asking from behind this little piece of heaven.

Even better than finding the picture,  I found the instructions on the www.allthingsthrifty.com website, including the paint colour and brand (Krylon)

Can I get an, ‘AMEN’?!

Having a hot pink desk would not be a professional decorator’s idea of fine decor, but that’s not what matters to me at this stage. What matters is how I wish to reflect my personality in my home and personal business space, and hot pink it is!

Yes, there will be eye-rolling by my partner, my adult son, and anyone who has zero joi de vivre. Alas, I feel a pink desk coming on.

 

 

 

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You Are a Goddess Born for the Act of Creation

danu
DANU  – This multi-faceted aspect of the Divine Feminine is experienced as the air we breathe, as the river that nourishes all of life, as the bounty and abundance of earth and as the cosmic energy of universal wisdom.
A Triple Goddess, which means she is able to take the form of the Maiden, the Mother or the Crone, and a Divine Lady who is the essence of the earth, the air and the essence of water, Danu is able to embody the form/energy suited the situation.  Here she brings the power of versatility and teaches us to honor and respect diversity within ourselves and within others and reminds us to honor each stage of our physical life.

Collage therapy, Goddess meditation, writing prompts, textile arts, embroidery, pottery…

All of it. I want to get my hands mucky and dirty and calloused and spend my time doing aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaalllllllllll of it.

Or at least pulling myself out of a career of death and dying. Not completely of course. I mean, I’m in my forties for goodness-sake! I’d be foolish to leave the stability of a pension and good benefits (not to mention an awesome team of colleagues). this I know to be true, and we (you know who you are ladies) need something else.  Something  that we can find joy in which allows us to sip from the spiritual fountain of youth, or make a few extra bucks to fund what we would all like to become our annual Central-American-Beach-Rehab. Ok, that’s my dream, but I’m sure you have your own.

Being creative is generally frowned upon in our culture. Go out of the house with wild hair? Wear something unique? Sing your way through the work day? Yah, not so cool, and possibly a good way to have yourself committed.

I think most women at my stage go through this. Whether you live in a hovel or a palace, life becomes routine. There is comfort in routine, but there is also stagnation. We become sexless, and our femininity is starved. Being spiritually and emotionally vibrant goes a long way toward health.

My daily challenge is to let-it-go.

Letting go of all of the time-gobblers that suck the life out of me.

The time we’re  not at work too often becomes perfecting the comforting space of domesticity. Food prep, folding  laundry,  tidying up; It’s become the hole in my spiritual bucket.  Yours may be binge-watching, trashy novels or napping.

Let me be clear. Our need  to create is not a whimsy, or modern construct. There is evidence of creativity dating as far back as our human history.  It is part of our essence.

My need to create is always there though, simmering under the surface, sometimes boiling over and making the kind of mess that anything repressed tends to do. Goodness knows I don’t need any more messes to tidy up.

I will continue my daily struggle to find balance between being a responsible adult and a wild-at-heart free-spirit, why don’t you join me?

Let yourself transform into the creative goddess that you are; let your hair grow, buy the funky jacket, relax into comfortable flip flops, and damn it, spend time in the comfortable, wild space of creativity.

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Sneak Peek

peeping tomYou’ve been asking about what my next novel is about. Here’s a little sneak peek;

How do your write about magic when the protagonist doesn’t know anything about it herself?

Well, you just write. You dream it up, because nothing has to make sense. Sense is over-rated and we often forget that.

Sometimes the best existence is just feeling; living in the moment as a big, fat, YES!

Sometimes witches don’t wear black velvet dresses or have long, black hair. No. Sometimes they wear jeans from the church rummage sale and men’s white undershirts.

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Inspiration: As Far As You Can Carry It

Artists know that inspiration comes in waves; sometimes in the gentle, steady rhythm of a lake waking up to the sunrise, and other times overwhelming, crashing into you like the Pacific coast tide.

The thing about inspiration is it’s only as good as how far you can carry it. After all, we can only balance so much. The mundane tasks of everydayness often take up both hands.

In her book, Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert talked about inspiration as a living thing, that moved on if it wasn’t nurtured in our care.  What she had to say as a professional writer resonated with me, and made me feel a bit better. Careless with inspiration, but at least not the only one.

As a full-time working, single mom, my second novel kind of bit the dust. But I’m nothing if not resourcesful, and optimistic too. Instead of trying to twist it into some kind of tome, I’m going to use what I have and craft a short story. I’m also hoping that by doing this, the inspiration my be wooed back, and stick around for the long haul required of a novel. I know if that does happen, that the success or failure of the project will depend on me; on my dedication, devotion and prioritizing.

Either way it will be fine. The inspiration will be freed; to move on, or to take up residence in the pages of my creation.

Inspiration comes my darling friends, but how long it stays with us depends entirely upon how long we are able to carry it.

One in a while we have to reassess what’s weighing us down in favour of what lifts us up.

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Blowing Out the Candles

candlesOn the eve of my 4o-plus-somethingish birthday, I cannot help but reflect upon the lessons I have learned this year. In theory I’m an expert.  In practice, however, that’s another story.

I do believe that the difference between theory and practice is the key to successful living though darlings, because bridging that gap is the difference between annoying should-sayers, and the people who shine brightly and inspire the rest of us.

Grace has been a concept I’ve wanted to put into practice  throughout the past few years. There are  times I have failed miserably; my birthday breakdown at a bar while trying to sort out my mother issues; my insecurity as a partner, my ability to maintain a positive attitude in light of the every day demands of living. Yah, I’ve failed a few times.

But I have learned a few things from all of that bluster, and I’m old enough to take the liberty of sharing them with you;

  1. I have spent way too much time on my hair.
  2. We allow ourselves to be led by a false economy and fabricated news. Does it feel right? Do it. Does it feel wrong? Don’t. The world would be a better place if we all followed the golden rule.
  3.  If you love your body, it will love back. At a certain point you realize your body feels better when you eat this and not that; when you do this and not that.  It loves water and apples and decadent butter cream chocolate from your favourite Chocolaterie. It does not like to listen to people incessantly rambling about fad diets or extreme routines. Love your body, let it gently communicate to you, and it will love you back.
  4. Kindred spirits aren’t terribly hard to find, but it’s terribly hard to be vulnerable enough to get to know one.
  5. Create things. Anything. Creativity is your human spirit making itself present in the world. Let it sing, paint, write, carve, stitch, bake….whatever! Let your mind wander and your spirit reveal itself.
  6. Do not let bitchy people ruin your day. Attitude is contagious – be sure to protect yourself.
  7. Nobody’s watching. Seriously. Just relax.
  8. Change is scary, but constant. If you can be excited through the fear, you have life licked.
  9. You need friends of all ages; older ones and younger ones, and people who transcend age. You need nurturing and affection and the awesome healing power of human touch.
  10. Flannel jammies, hot tea and a good hobby to keep you occupied are three simple things that are highly under-rated.
  11. Always, always, always buy the shoes.