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.

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Misfit Thanksgiving – Getting to Know You

give thanksI had the pleasure of getting to know an acquaintance much better last night as our Thanksgiving celebration wound down into the quiet evening hours.

I had known this gentleman and his wife for years, but never really had an opportunity to speak to him. He discussed community, politics, religion and generally, the stuff that makes the world go ’round.

This is the beauty of what I have come to call our, “Misfit” get-togethers; gathering people together who are kind and intelligent to share an evening of, well, true sharing.

The definition of Misfit is; One who is unable to adjust to one’s environment or circumstances or is considered to be awkwardly different from others.

As we age, being around people we actually like is a big deal. It’s rejuvenating, fun, and renews our belief that good triumphs over evil. Being surrounded by thoughtful (as in they think independently, and care about how they impact others), intelligent people with a true sense of who they are and how they show up in the world every day is something that I am thankful for.

Most people define themselves against their first experience of ‘them’ and ‘us’, basically, how and where they fit into the family unit.

For some, family gatherings are just another uncomfortable event they feel they have no choice but to attend. Others have tossed decorum and bunk to the side, and have decided to live a life less complicated and simply spend time with people they actually like.

As we charge full-steam ahead into the season of holidays that seem to be tied to family tradition and sanguineous relationships, don’t forget that it’s all a load of crappola.

These traditions of gathering are an opportunity to spend time with the like-minded, differently-minded or whatever-mined, kind, loving, wonderfully diverse people whom you call friends. If you have been invited to our home to share a ‘misfit’ holiday with us, know that you have my respect, and that I like you.

The good people whom I like; they are my family of friends, and for them, I am truly thankful.

How to Get Up & Get Going For Fall

The older I get, the easier it is to make up excuses not to do stuff.

It’s easy to come home, go through the motions and then fake like a boob and get stuck on the chesterfield all night.

It was thanks only to my genius Summer-To-Do list that I accomplished anything fun this summer. You see, my summer turned into a bit of a gong-show, thanks to my self-indulgent je-ne-care-pas, and a schedule only five-star anal-retentive could memorize.

I managed to accomplish all but one of the fun-things on my list. I’m ok with that though. It’ll give me a starting point for my 2016-Summer-To-Do-List.

So, with the proven success of making a list of fun stuff to do,(spontaneity is best, but what the hell, I’m Type A) I am going to formulate an Autumn To-Do List. This will not include anything that I don’t want to do, like finish most of my Christmas shopping, grout cleaning or dragging out our winter clothing.

1) Host our annual Friends’ Thanksgiving Dinner

andrewnamecard

2) Spending a day at one, or a number of, our local Niagara Winerieswinetour

3) Purchasing 12 bottles of wine directly from said wineries

bottlesofwine

4) Hallowe’en Hay Ride, corn maze, or some such shenanigan…

corn maze

5) Road trip with someone who makes me laugh

roadtriplaughing

6) Smores in the fireplace

fireplacesmores

When Nothing Matters, It Matters Most

Toast 1Despite having a career which could easily see me lost day and night in the good and meaningful work I am blessed to be able to do, the energy I have to do that work comes from making time for rejuvenation, shenanigans, and spending time being nurtured by the people who love me.

Stirring honey into my tea today, I overheard a woman exclaim that she was feeling overwhelmed, and complaining that going away for a holiday just made it harder to come back and get up every day to get back to work.

I slipped my wooden stir-stick into the trash and stole a quick peak at her from under my luscious locks. She was a bit younger than me, and clearly, unbalanced.

That’s not a cynical observation.

She looked to be carrying the weight of the world even though she was sipping a gourmet beverage in an upscale coffee shop with a friend willing to listen. “Why is life so difficult“, her high shoulders seemed to be whimpering. I know shoulder language, because more often than not, my own shoulders are tensed right up to my ear lobes, and the margins in my life are tighter than cycling shorts on a man smack dab in the middle of a mid-life crisis.

You read that right. Men in cycling shorts should never happen. Ever.

Anyway…

Balance; the-shoulds-of-a capitalistic-society verses the shoulds of, Deep-down-I-am-a-free-thinking-spiritual-lush. Recently I’ve been up to a little ‘make herself happy’  balance plan.

laughingwomenFood, wine and friendship, the great triumvirate of happiness. Combine those three, and I’m a happy woman.

Before I allowed my joy to be stolen by a grand conspiracy of single-parenthood, economic necessity, and surrender, I was the queen of food, wine and friendship, the duchess of do-it-all-and-then-some, the grand-dame-of-damn-that-woman-can-dance. Oh yah, I lived in and for the moment.

That was long ago and far away, but not an impossible attitude to resurrect.

Trying to be a responsible-adult-woman, the final strike was entering into a relationship with a man who ruined all three for me; food, wine AND friendship.  I carried on in the relationship because that’s what I thought I was supposed to be doing when in fact, I was supposed to be doing whatever the hell I felt like.

Life as I knew it and dreamed it was over when that relationships ended. It was both heartbreaking (there would be no big, happy family or new babies) and emancipating. Turns out, I’m not sure I was ever convinced, other than the apparent security, that a traditional relationship was best for me after so many years of doing everything on my own.

More than a man who needed to lead, it turns out I need a man who values laughter, discovering new food, wine and ways of making sure moments matter even if it’s just sitting in companionable silence. I thought I had  someone like that making a place in my life this summer, but I was mistaken. Must have been the wine.

On my way home from the office I stopped on a whim and picked up a couple of bottles of wine to hold me over until the vintage release this weekend. I found a much coveted Italian varietal, and another which conjures a warm, no.  Wait. Not warm. It conjures memories of an electrically charged, white-hot  and carefree love-affair, aptly birthed in Sonoma, California and named Folies a Deux.

I will take my charming new find to be uncorked at a French restaurant tomorrow evening to share over a meal and wonderful conversation.

Being excited to try new wine, try new recipes, make time for friends, writing, and maybe a little tryst in a land far-far-away means I’ve got the groove back I thought I had lost.

"We all begin as stringers..."  ~ANDSHELAUGHS~

“We all begin as strangers…”
~ANDSHELAUGHS~

What on earth was I thinking? When you’ve got it, you can never lose it.

Get out there and be fabulous darlings. There is exquisite wine held hostage in bottles just waiting to be emancipated. There is savoury food waiting to dance on your palate, and friendships that need rekindling.

I also have a suspicion that there are delectable men who are worthy of wooing us, just waiting for our school-girl hearts to bow to the sage wisdom of serendipity.

 

 

 

 

My Secret Life

There’s nothing like a little bit of Leonard Cohen to ignite creativity…

Do YOU know???

I know my limits

Happy V.D. From the Happiest Place on Earth

"A ship at harbor is safe, but that's not what ships are made for."

“A ship at harbor is safe, but that’s not what ships are made for.”

No, the happiest place on earth is not Disneyland.

Provided nothing terrible has happened, as you read this, I will be sunning my buns on a sailboat in the Caribbean Sea with some of the best kind of sailors a gal can find; Parrotheads.

The happiest place on earth therefore, is sitting on my deliciously voluptuous buns on a sailboat, somewhere in the middle of the ocean.

Never forget that we carry the happiest place on earth with us my darlings. As importantly, never let the men in your life forget that either.

That being said, I will hopefully be falling in love with a tall, icy gin and tonic, whilst you are back on dry land suffering through another dreaded, red and pink Hallmark-holiday-hell. By the time 1p.m. rolls around I’ll be concerned with sunblock, sand in unseemly places and how much ice has melted in my drinky-poo.

Now that I’ve given you the ultimate suggestion to escape the holiday, the reality is that you may be stranded, land-locked, and without lover to turn you winter-white skin, pink in all the right places.

If you do have a lover to kiss your valentine’s boo-boo’s better and woo you with flowers, champagne, chocolate and the appropriate measure of throbbing, ever-ready flesh, stop reading right now. Just go enjoy yourself.

If you are alone, single, and think crawling into  the fetal position with a box of leftover Christmas chocolates is your only option, do not despair! Andshelaughs has come to the rescue.

If you have paid any attention to my ranting and raving, you should have at your disposal at least two back-up-boys to choose from. Either will do in a pinch. If some sordid company is all that you crave, give a call, crack the wine, and soak in the tub until he arrives at your door. No outfit planning necessary. Do set the mood though – candles and booze go a long way toward the illusion of love.

Should either of these options be unavailable, feel free to resort to Bridget Jones videos, junk food and bourbon. Sometimes it’s those evenings that make us realize the Y-Chromosome blessings in our lives.

I am toasting you from the sunny south my lovelies! Happy V.D!

Winterlicious 2015 – Let’s Review

first we eatEvery year for the past decade, I’ve organized a Lady’s Winter/Summerlicious dinner for the Ladies Who Lunch. There are usually between 6-12 of us who use this culinary celebration as an excuse to get together and try a new place.

Trying new restaurants gives us another card to play in our social repertoire, and when we’re impressed, we return; for birthdays, anniversaries, dates and weekend lunches that involve a bottle of wine…or two, depending on the deeds we need to dish with our dear ones.

Winterlicious was a wash with business for me. Alas, I was only able to get out to two new places. I’m sad to say that this year, everyone, including myself, my ladies and my kiddo, were underwhelmed by both the food and service.

Before the restaurant world whines about bad tippers and losing money on the endeavor, I would like to say that it’s a fair shake for diners and staff alike. If you don’t like Winterlicious don’t participate. If you don’t enjoy facilitating a happy dining experience for people, please, for the love of digestion, get a job somewhere else.

Today I spent a fair amount on lunch at  Archeo in the distillery district after braving the freezing rain and slick roads. It took an hour and a half to get there, and not once did a server ask how our meal was, nor were we offered a beverage once the meal started. Apparently coffee and tea with dessert is passé, because it wasn’t offered at all at Archeo, and only as an afterthought last week at Hush.

Both restaurants served French fries with meal options, yet neither offered condiments such as wonderful vinegars or tangy mustards for their sandwich choices.

The fish and chips at Hush were sad. The batter had the potential to be wonderful, it looked crispy, but was flavourless, and lukewarm. The accompanying bacon and apple slaw was as outstanding as the fish. The spicy edamame beans were not spicy, and the soup was bland as well. Nothing tasted hot, fresh or flavourful.

Nine of us at Hush were served barely warm meals, but the service was at least friendly.

At Archeo, the food was hot, which is really the least you should expect when dining. The bruschetta was flavorful but served on the same mass-produced bread as the chicken parmesan sandwich. Both the tiramisu crème brule and chocolate pudding were delicious. Unfortunately the service was so cold that by the time dessert came, we were chilled by the poor service.

Our meals may have been hot at Archeo, but the service was as cold as the blizzard outside. Instead of ordering wine, and lingering over coffee this afternoon, we headed back down the street and stopped at Balzac’s for a little something ‘to go’.

An impromptu stop at  Le Saint Tropez  during Winterlicious,(not a Winterlicious meal) reminded myself and my gal-pal what service was all about. We did not have a reservation, we were not there for a multi-course meal, but we were welcomed warmly and sincerely. The waitress/server knew how to have an engaging conversation. That kind of four-star service and delicious food, will guarantee we come back again and again. It’s the kind of place you can count on for a special occasion.

Our 2015 Winterlicious experience was underwhelming indeed. We will however, look forward to Summerlicious 2015, hoping that the restaurants live up to the wonderful food and extraordinary service we enjoyed at Destingo last year.

Until we see you at Summerlicious, Bon appetite!

 

 

When the Amazing C is Silent

"Only your real friends will tell you when your face is dirty." ~Sicilian Proverb~

“Only your real friends will tell you when your face is dirty.”
~Sicilian Proverb~

You’ve read about her before right? The Amazing C?

She’s a funny bird, but I love her.

Unlike my bestest friend who has known me since I was a virgin, the Amazing C came into my life later; After a marriage, a divorce, once-tight abs and my belief in fairytale endings had all faded into the sunset.

She’s my soul-sister in suffering and absolute fabulousness. She, more than anyone else understands my world of work, and understands when words are inadequate to describe the suffering of a higher calling.

She also understands how that relates to raunchy escapades, a bottle too many, and emotions that run so deep, even you don’t know they’re still there.

I like to believe that although life pressed the ‘normal’ button on our life-cycle, when we next meet face-to-face for a girls weekend, we will remember what it’s like to be ‘delicates’.

You likely have a friend just like the Amazing C. Don’t you think it’s time to make the effort to reconnect?

All women have years that pass quickly and deplete their buckets of empathy. We’re all  trying to keep up with daily life. But in doing so, we lose ourselves just a little bit. Reconnecting with our friends helps us rekindle that spark that made life exciting and cast a long shadow on fear and self-conscientiousness.

I’m off on another little globe-trotting adventure where I hope to re-connect with my creative, dynamic and energetic self. Maybe I’ll find that delusional girl with stars in her eyes who I used to be. I’m sure she’ll be there with your twin-double, cleavage at the ready, drinking martinis with sexy Scottish rugby stars.

When I get back, let’s do something stupid together again.

 

So She Drove, So She Drove, So She Drove

wildandsingleOh, the weather outside was mild

And she was feelin’ kinda wild

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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