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Bad Neighbours & Stubborn Feminists

creepy neighbourThis afternoon I came home to a dead bunny.

It had been tossed over the fence and into my backyard. Intentionally.

My right-wing, conservative sweetie isn’t convinced. Mostly because he’s not the one who takes the brunt of my miserable neighbour’s passive-aggressive-patriarchal misogyny.

I am. 

This is not going to be a popular post for any of my fellow left-leaning social-idealists. Mostly because I live in a little pocket of the city that has been sold out from under our feet to foreign investors. And the ‘foreign’ part comes from a part of the world that doesn’t value human rights, especially not women’s rights. As a matter of fact, (and it is a fact), female offspring were often offed in favour of males. Hey, facts are facts and it’s best to face them.

I knew where the dull-eyed, disemboweled bunny  came from because the day before, my asshole-misogynist neighbour pointed out that there was a dead rabbit on the sidewalk in front of our house.  I don’t walk down that sidewalk every day, so it may have been there for a while, but it didn’t look or smell like it. I know death. I know what it looks and smells like.

I don’t think the neighbour knows I’m a mortician. I don’t think he knows that dead things don’t really bother me. But miserable old pricks do.

Anyway, after he pointed the animal out to me, I shovelled it off to the curb so that the municipality could pick it up. I shovelled it into a small pile of leaves, which made it really difficult to see. I want to point out here, that it was me, not the man of the house who didn’t shy away from cleaning up the carcass from the public sidewalk. I watched as the neighbour walked down the street again to find out where I put the rabbit.

So, today, when I came home to find that same bunny (that was well camouflaged on the side of the road in the little bed of leaves) in the middle of my vegetable gardening area, it didn’t take long to know who put it there.

throw stones at frogs

It was the-dink-next-door who told me to clean up the leaves in the front yard last year, but waved and smiled to my man. Same jack ass who told me to shovel the garage entrance and doesn’t whisper a word to my sweetie.

Anyway, creepo-neighbour-dick-wad, had to walk onto the road, pick up the rabbit, cross back over the sidewalk and then swing the rabbit over our fence. I am infuriated.

And I’m about to become the world’s most annoying neighbour.

In a civilized culture, we contact the municipality, and they safely clean up what is basically road kill (although from the look of this, it was a coyote who caught and chomped the upper abdomen of the little bunny). In the civilization I grew up in, we do not throw dead animals into the neighbour’s yard because we’re passive-aggressive women-haters. But we do take psychopath people who do that kind of thing, to task. And I have every intention of doing just.

Unless we come up with some really great protection against foreign ownership of Canadian property, and create a market that reflects housing needs and affordability based on the local economy, we’re in for big trouble. And by we I mean women, and by god, especially marginalized of women.

I don’t think it matters in my neighbourhood that I’m a woman, or a homosexual, or trans. I think it matters that I’m not a man. Being politically involved, and realizing the impact that our unaffordable, but competitive real estate market can have on the values we hold dear, becomes very important for anyone who values human rights.

Picking up the dead rabbit and tucking it into the compost bin was a more respectful option than grabbing it by the back feet and nailing it to my bastard neighbour’s front door, or playing a game of throw-a-bacteria-infested-carcass-back-and-forth. After all, the spirit of the animal deserves some respect.

Even though I resisted my urge to educate my neighbour about what is neighbourly behaviour and what isn;t, while holding the dead rabbit against his face, this is not over.

 

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I hope it happens when I’m looking anything but the picture of feminine helplessness. As a matter of fact, I hope it happens while my hair is still wild from bed, and I’m in a loud, unflattering muu-muu. I like to make a statement. And that statement will be; I don’t give a fuck what you think of me, and I’m not to be crossed. Especially by a man whom I could snap in two with my unfeminine big-boned frame.

Perhaps however,  it will happen while I’m in dirty yoga gear that doesn’t quite fit, after a long-hot, day of gardening, hair stuck to my sweaty forehead, and garden spade in hand.

made bail

Regardless, I have now committed to be the neighbour who plays great female vocalists right up until 11pm on my brand-spanking new outdoor blue-tooth speaker. I’m thinking Maggie Rogers or Janis Joplin or Sinead O’Connor, just loud enough to be heard through closed windows and above his television. I will likely add some pulsing strobe lights on the garage eaves for good measure, and invite my feminist friends over to have enthusiastic, unfiltered conversations in the back yard.

I will make a point of making my point. And I will do it often, over and over and over again.

What was it that, that cool 80’s girl-band sang about? Oh yah, “It’s a cruel, cruel summer.”

 

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Keeping “Community” In My Personal Economy During COVID 19

My doorstep is a source of constant ding-donging, and parcel delivery.

Wth my son’s recent acquisition of a condo, he’s ordered the domestic accoutrements that he needs to make himself feel at home. My sweetie, the only one of us who is not deemed an essential worker, has been working from home, and enjoying the freedom of not having to go out to expose himself to the virus. He’s taken to ordering the cats’ wet food to be delivered, along with miscellaneous foofurah that will make him happy.

I admit that I do order from Amazon from time to time. I’m currently waiting for datura seed that I could not find at any of our local on-line offerings.

Mostly though, I’ve been trying to order from stores that I want to see open their doors again once this quarantine/shut-down/pandemic is over. Once a week I order from one of my favourite places.

I’ve placed a couple of orders with Wonderpens. Admittedly, I’ve never attended their location before. It was a thoughtful gift of fountain pen and fine writing paper notebook that hooked me.

 

It’s their Instagram feed @wonderpensstudioshop that keeps me interested and up to date with the products that they have available.  Their products provide me with quality stationary to that makes my writing feel more like an indulgence than work. From personal notes to novel outlines, I love using their high quality offerings.

When things call for something sophisticated for the palate, I turn faithfully to Hinterland Wine Company . Find them @hinterlandwine on Instagram.

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‘Things’ these days, include A lazy Sunday lie in with brunch at the kitchen table, or binge watching old seasons of Game of Thrones. I always believe that you should have a bottle (or two of bubbles at the back of the fridge for occasions such as these. So why not indulge in something delicious and local?  Hinterland has been a favourite of mine since they opened. This week, it will be my treat to order a few more bottles to have on hand.

I first fell in love with their bubbles on a not-so-romantic getaway with a man whose company required copious amounts of alcohol just to keep me from pushing him out of the car…but I digress.  What kept me loyal and coming back to Hinterland for a visit was the charm of Vicki Samaras when she personally delivered a case of Les Etoiles, a few months later when I was single and able to enjoy their fine fare in the peace of good company.

Years later, when I took my sweetie to Hinterland in Prince Edward County, it was a giggly surprise to learn that Jonas Newman, Vicki’s husband and business partner, used to be his neighbour in Toronto. Small world. Delicious bubbles. What more could a gal ask for?

Pizza.

Another business that I enjoy ordering from appeals to a more base instinct; hunger.  Since I live in Markham, I don’t have much of an excuse any more to make it down to Terroni to pick up my very favourite pizza; The C’t mang.

c t mang

Admittedly, I’ve only ever ordered take out twice from Terroni. I prefer to sit in, mostly solo, and enjoy the pizza with a glass or two of wine from their delicious wine list.

But maybe a downtown road trip is due. After all, my favourite spot to hang out and drink craft beer happens to be Left Field Brewery. When they were open to the public, you could take in your own food to enjoy with their brew. Tucked in a sweet little spot in the east end of Toronto, it’s a cool place to hang out. In fact, last year for Mother’s Day, that’s where I took our twenty-something kiddos to hang out for a few hours.

left field.jpg

 

My personal favourite is their Bang Bang, a dry hopped sour.  The atmosphere is great for a casual meet up with friends, but barring that ,now that we live in the age of COVID, why not order some for delivery and hang out on your own back porch in the sunshine?

And speaking of back porches, the other local haunt that always cheers me up with it’s greenery and outstanding customer service is Kim’s Nature (Instagram @kims_nature). Curb-side pick up is available for your gardening needs. And really, who couldn’t use a little earth therapy? Seriously. Gardening, getting your hands damp in rich soil, and watching the lifecycle of a flower and vegetable garden are good for the soul.

 

I’m hoping that they open their outdoor garden centre this year if business conditions allow. Why? Because out of all of the places I’ve shopped in this neighbourhood, Kim’s nature have the heartiest plants and wonderful staff.

And I can’t forget my go-to take out when I’m hunkered down at my esssential workplace. It’s Abruzzo Pizza that my tummy begs for when it’s craving carbs and deliciousness. Located a short drive from work, It’s a family-owned business that has been around for just shy of 40 years. If it’s your first time ordering, get the Abruzzo Special. Get a party size, because you’ll want seconds and thirds.  Check them out on instagram at @abruzzo_pizza

Abruzzo

 

If you’re in the GTA, I hope that these suggestions inspire you to look into some of my favourite places and direct your spare cash to indulge in some of their treats.  If you’re not in the GTA, I hope that it inspires you to think locally and support your communities.

First and foremost though, especially for those of you who may not be lucky enough to still have a pay cheque coming in and are focussed on the necessesities, I hope you are well. I hope you have a strong, connected. loving community of support.

 

 

 

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Is It Over Yet?

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“If you’re brave enough to say good-bye, life will reward you with a new hello.” ~Paolo Coelho~

 

I don’t know why, but this holiday season seems like it’s never going to end. Maybe it’s because I’ve had to work through it? Maybe it’s because I kick it off so damn early, and this year I was spoiled by being NYC in December? Maybe because I’m eager to step into a fresh new year and play with some of the options available to me?

I think it’s that one. The last one. 2019 was somewhat of a slog. 2020 feels like it’s ready to polish off the rough bits and end with something shiny and new.

Parts of me feel dead, which make the joyful and silly parts seem all that more delightful.  I feel like it’s time to pull my middle-aged ass out of the rut of what-I-should-be-doing-and-thinking-and-spending-my-time-on and getting it on track with my natural chutzpah.

I was gifted many books this Christmas, and among them was a copy of Grit.  By a person who scored about 30% on the Grit scale. I scored a 95.

It was a classic case of here-I-bought-this-because-I-want-it, not, this-made-me-think-of-you. I had read about 50 pages of anecdotes before deciding it was time to put away the Christmas decorations.  The giver of the book tossed a hissy fit over having to actually get the Christmas tree back in the box, and marched out in a huff. I was the one who wrestled with the picky branches until they succumbed to the original packaging and was set neatly aside until next year. Don’t talk to me about grit.

As a matter of fact, don’t talk to me at all if it’s going to involve anything related to what I should be ; doing, eating, or spending my energy on. Only talk to me if it’s necessary, or you’re telling me something soul-deep, or funny, or charming. Talk to me if you’re excited about learning something new, or if you need someone to listen, or you’re confessing some delicious sin.

In 2019 I had way, way too many conversations about all of the should’s.  I had way too many days that felt like I was going through the motions and not really alive.

In honour of a new decade, I closed the cover on Grit, and cracked open a copy of Kissing the Limitless that has been sitting on my writing desk for two years. Two. YEARS.

I booked a drag brunch with some gal pals, sipped my bottomless-mimosa and watched those beautiful women who have worked so hard at their craft, and their life, come out and entertain a crowd of people hungry to feel something. Anything.

The end of a year always lends itself to some self-review.  This year I’m asking; what parts of my self have been suffocated this year? How did it happen, and why?

By 2020 I will have answered those questions, which leaves the rest of the year to be fabulous, to indulge in all of the delights that make me feel alive emotionally, spiritually, and physically. Buckle up.

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In the Kitchen With Granny

Today I woke up and took a good look in the mirror; Fingers padding lightly across my skin, as I lean in to really see myself. I look into my tired blue eyes and know that I look like both of my grandmothers.  I have the round, kind face of my Granny Dorothy, and the body of my Granny Eileen. It’ll just have to do.

The two of them were as different as night and day. Granny Dorothy was an educated woman who married late in life to a sour, strict, everyone’s-going-to-burn-in-hell-baptist.  Her wits and grit kept the bills paid, and her sense of humour kept her alive. Had she been born today, she likely never would have married. She would have worked her way around the world. Alas, the 1930’s had other plans for her.

Granny Eileen on the other hand, was on husband number three when I came along. She’d raised six kids on her own. She was a resourceful woman with a heart of gold who didn’t take a lick of shit from anyone, especially her husband.

Both of these women taught me to make something from nothing.  Whether it was in the kitchen, or out in the world at large. They taught me how a woman could be both strong and kind.

Every year, I keep them close as I plant my garden, and every harvest season, as I take to the kitchen. These rituals keep me close to them. I’m a sentimental traditionalist when it comes to my kitchen. During the summer, I find myself preserving the same things with the same recipes that they did all those years ago.  I throw in a few more odds and ends, just because I find comfort in the routine of being in the kitchen during harvest season.

This morning I slipped on a jersey knit dress that put me in mind of Granny Dorothy. She knew what she was doing with those old house dresses. Simple, tidy, and most importantly when you’re preserving; cool. I listened to interviews with authors as I sterilized jars, peeled and chopped fruit, remembering how my Granny Eileen’s gnarled up hands seemed to be able to create anything.

During the summer months, I yearn for the slow, simple days of childhood summers. I recall the flavour of each stage of the harvest; radish, carrots, and beans snapped straight from the plant and tossed directly into our mouths.  No garden was immune to kids raiding it for a snack. We sucked on sour rhubarb stalks, and cringed at the bitterness of currents. We raided the ditches and gullies, picking raspberries and blackberries when we were lucky enough to find them. Each ripening carried back to the kitchens of our grannies where it was made into something wonderful.

 

Except pastry. I learned how not to make pastry from both of my Grandmothers. Kind of like how not to choose a mate. As it turns out, Granny Eileen  insisted that if I followed the recipe on the box of Tenderflake, my pastry would be just fine. She also lied. Years later my aunt laughted at me so hard tears streamed down her face; Granny used pre-made pastry and was full of shit. Granny Dorothy on the other hand was honest with me but produced pastry with a texture so fearsome that the dog wouldn’t even eat it.  From this I learned that sometimes we don’t always get what we need from family. Sometimes we have to reach out to become wiser and better.

 

The quiet stretches in my kitchen necessary for the process of preserving and canning gives me time to commune with the spirit of these two women. They are with me here in the steam and heat, and smell of cooked fruit. They are with me when I take a jar of something I preserved from the pantry and serve it to my family and friends. My grannies are always with me at my table.

 

 

 

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Worst Case Scenario – Just Take a Nap

free spirit

Recently I had a back-stabbing event. You know, the kind most people finish with in seventh grade?

It got under my skin. At first it upset me, and then I remembered M. Scott Peck’s famous work, People of the Lie.

His work was my first exposure to understanding the age old question, “What the hell is wrong with you?!” The sad truth is that some people cannot accept joy or joyful people. They are suspicious of anyone who isn’t as miserable as them. Darkness always seeks to extinguish the light, and to that I say; shine brightly darlings, don’t pay any attention to the banshees scratching at your back. Carry on and blind them with your dazzling spirit.

I’m too old and lazy for retribution. Besides that, being bitchy is bad for my middle-aged complexion. I’m on the other side of the hill of time now, and I want to enjoy it.

Long ago I decided that when someone was cruel to me, I would not let them win. By win, I mean I would not fall into the trap of doing anything harmful to myself; binge drinking or eating, negative self talk, or not doing something I was looking forward to.

riverIt’s been a great philosophy for me. Often I accomplish a lot of wonderful things when I’m pissed off. Creativity gives me the opportunity to birth something fun and new. Creativity is truly a slap in the face to any demons that hunt us down when we’re vulnerable.

During my quiet time, I have made things, and written things, and tended to my garden. I reclaimed the magic in abandoned ideas. I lived fully and completely in-spite-of,  and sure enough, it has turned into joyful abandon.

Keep writing my darlings. Keep painting and drawing and stitching and singing and dancing and making the world a happy place.  And if you’re just too tired of the bullshit, take a good, long, nap.

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Sweet Summertime

Summer solstice is almost upon us. You know, the phase of this trip around that sun that marks the true onset of summer.

We’ve all seen the social media posts with funky patio lights and carefree al fresco dining; vintage glassware, impossibly perfect outdoor furniture (that would wither with one rainfall), and no mosquitoes.

This side of 40, we all know that it’s never that perfect. But it can come pretty damn close.  The secret to enjoying summer, or anything else at this stage of the game, is a certain dude-ish je ne sais quoi.  A few flowy, funky, retro tops to hide a multitude of middle aged sins, and plenty of liquids.

The idea of cottaging, camping and celebrating everything that can be celebrated is a great idea, but the reality can be a little tiny bit exhausting.

So I’ve created a little backyard oasis which includes a couple of sets of dated christmas lights which are now trendily referred to as ‘fairie lights’, a water feature from my partner’s ex’s house, and a load of carefree climbing vines.  I added a few palms just to remind myself that when winter arrives, so do the snowbird deals to the Caribbean.

Creating your own, personal oasis leaves plenty of time (no snakey fifty kilometre traffic nightmare into the muskokas or Haliburton Highlands) to tear off your work-a-day clothes, throw on something loose, pour an icy cold gin and tonic and turn up the Jimmy Buffett in the backyard (before and after work, although you might want to substitute coffee before work).

In order to make summertime a little bit more summery and a lot less hectic may I recommend a few of my mid-life-mid-summer-secrets?

  1. The muu-muu. Call it a caftan, or whatever you like, but it’s a lifesaver. No bra. No panties. No public entertaining in this either, but you will feel somewhat goddess like with a generous heap of nonchalant I-could-give-a-craplessness.  Mrs. Roper to the rescue.

2. An easy cocktail. I recommend a simple gin and tonic. Either Tanqueray with Lime, or Hendricks with cucumber. Either works. Poured over ice, it’s simple and refreshing.

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3. Non-alcoholic beverages. Let’s face it, middle-age and empty nesting lets us fall into a relaxed way of being that does not always require assistance. A simple pitcher of pink lemonade in the refrigerator or a sumptuous hot tea can do the trick. My favourites include T by Daniel’s Night in Rio, or Tazo Wild Sweet Orange.

yellowtea

4.  A damn good book that you can sink your teeth into. This could be a post unto itself, but I’m going to stick with just one book for now. If you are a mid-lifer, empty-nester, or a woman who feels like change is on the horizon, I highly recommend, Women Who Run With The Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes.  Reading this will make you 100% confident wearing your muu-muu. I promise. No gin required.

women who run with the wolves

5. Fire. Yes, that’s right you need some fire. It’s primal, it’s hypnotising, and it can bring you back to yourself after a long day at work. If you have the space, try a firepit, maybe a chimenea, and for smaller spaces, try a little fire-pot.

chimenea

6. Soundscaping. A water feature can add that lovely trickling sound that makes you think that you’re somewhere other than your urban cage. If there’s no room for that, or no budget, try some of the 1990’s Dan Gibson Solitudes tracks cranked up to drown out the neighbour’s nattering,

Celebrating the sunshine is quintessential to summertime, and creating your own oasis optimizes all of that joyous vitality that the season brings. Wishing you the relaxed kind of muu-muu, gin-drinking, pink lemonade, feminist-reading kind of summer you deserve.

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How to Know When You’re Old

You know you’re getting old when…

You’ve become the person you used to look to for guidance. No where is this more evident than in my career.

I began a second career in my late twenties. Yah, I know that sounds outrageous, but it’s true. I was passionate, interested, engaged and enthusiastic.

If aging has taught me anything about the above qualities, it’s that I miss my enthusiasm the most.

growing older but not up

 

Don’t get me wrong, I get excited about things, but they’re different than they once were. After all, just this morning I actually uttered the words, ” I almost fell over when I met him. He looks just like a guy I used to date. Turned out he was a murderer.”

How much enthusiasm can you have for anything when you’ve had that kind of experience? I mean really, that kind of over-the-top-outrageousness wears thin after a while. Coming home to a cat, and  reheated take-out becomes heavenly.

And that’s how you know you’re getting old.

Yesterday my shift partner (whom has worked with me through a company change and six years) asked if the noise of our younger colleagues got to me. I had to admit that it did. I asked him, ” You know why it bothers us”?

“No,” he said.

“It’s because we’re old” I said with a little grin. “We’re the old ones now, and we used to be exactly like them.”

He nodded as he laughed and walked away muttering something about it being true.

And that’s how you know you’re getting old.

Last week I had an evening planned with one of my best gal-pals. I bought her tickets to see Jerusalem. The day-of, I received an email which I considered a warning. The gist of it was that running time of the play was three hours, so prepare to sit for a loooooong time. I was pissed. PISSED! Three hours?! What on earth could possibly be so good that I needed three hours to experience it. Goodness knows I didn’t want to be out all night. What I wanted was to go home, put on jeans and a sweater, and have some god-damned peace and quiet.

What I got instead was a very pleasant and unexpected reminder of just how amazing getting out really is for my creative spirit.

I thought I was so over the  restaurant and theatre thing in Toronto. Seen it. Done it. Don’t need to do it again.

When you start thinking like that, well, that’s how you know you’re getting old.  What makes it true is to continue to think that way and to act on it.

So yes my lovelies, we are all aging, but old really cuts to the bone.

As I age, I realize that I have to make an effort not to poo-poo what I assume I already know. That’s what makes us old from the inside out. Pushing back against this resistance of futility will keep me youthful, vibrant and creative, even if my outsides don’t look like it so much any more.