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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;

 

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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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Just Say No

grocery storeI’ve spent the better part of my 40’s scouring the grocery store for Shake’n Bake and marjoram, figuring out that flannel jimmies stick like velcro to flannel sheets, and annoyed at how closely hostility boils at the surface of every-single-freaking retail transaction I make. Hey sweetheart, I’ve worked retail too, so please, save me the passive aggressive bullshit and bag my groceries already.

By all accounts, I’ve achieved an acceptable definition of success; I have had a career most people find fascinating, I married, produced offspring, and divorced. I am in a socially acceptable relationship. Despite the lively shenanigans in my second and third decades of existence, I have remained alive and don’t have a prison record. Success!

I now have nothing to prove to anyone but myself. So I  can finally work on my own definition of success, writing, creating, and spending my time off imparting my hard won wisdom onto my child whilst sipping copious amounts of gin and wearing the grooviest muumuus I can find.

Oh, and I need to shed some of this joy-weight. You know, the kind that comes from trying to be the best mom, gal-pal out for drinks, and stress eating (because a lot of people are selfish assholes). The rest of the people are cool, and should be considered kindred spirits. Good luck figuring out which are which.

If you are a young woman reading this, skip directly to where middle age has positioned me emotionally.  Do not give a shit what others think.  Speed immediately past GO and tear up your Get-Out-Of-Jail-Free Cards. Screw it…just keep doing what you feel you must do, and save yourself a tidy little nest egg while you’re at it. If you can’t save, cultivate your charm. You’ll need it.

This rant comes courtesy of telling myself not to take my own self care seriously, giving up my yoga and writing time until my routine at home becomes somewhat normal again.

As I wandered down a grocery store aisle (for the second time) in search of Shake’n Bake, I realized that what I was feeling was not frustration. Just an aside, Shake’n Bake should be sold above the meat cooler like the wise old grocer did in my childhood village. What I was feeling was not frustration, but resentment. Resentment that it was my precious time being wasted searching for the solution to someone else’s craving for baked chicken.

But the thing is ladies, no one holds a gun to our heads while we frantically search grocery store aisles for 1970’s chicken coating. No. We take it on all by ourselves, and wear our tidy, well-stocked homes as a badge of honour.  I am the only one in my house who ventures to Costco because they know what a colossal time-sucking-black-hole the entire expedition is, same goes for restocking grocery trips and big-box store runs.

As I was finishing my errands today ( on my day off when I should have just ran away with my laptop to some wonderful cafe for four hours) I received a text;

Hey, can you stop by Costco and pick up a couple of boxes?

 

Which begs the question; Seriousfuckingly???

Seriousfuckingly ladies. Just say no.

 

 

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February is For Love Stories – Not Just Fairytales

Aggie the cat was stretched out on the roof, just past the glass of the window that was tipped open to allow her coming and going. Taped to the glass was the vintage orange, cover of Tennessee Williams’, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. You would have had to be a complete idiot to have missed the pun.

It was tucked up in the reading room of Shakespeare and Company that I read, in its’ entirety, Neil Gaiman’s, Art Matters. Amongst all of the old, hard cover, well-bound books that had possibly been in the hands of James Joyce, Ernest Hemingway or even Gertrude Stein, I soaked up the love of storytelling written by one of our contemporary masters.

 

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Valentine’s day is the one day a year that we set aside to tell our love stories. There are very few of us who have lifetime love stories to tell, about meeting, marrying, raising children, and living into our twilight years hand in hand with our soul mate.  But this isn’t the only love story. Love does not follow a script. It follows the heart, and hopefully, if you are lucky enough, you have, by mid-life ,a small collection of stories that continue to inspire you.

Spending time in Paris, tucked up on the old daybeds of Shakespeare and Company will always be one of those stories. The syncronicity of how I met my late, angel-to-artists friend Nick Beat is another.

Stories are the thread that binds the fabric of our collective experience. Sharing them should be treated as a sacred honour, worthy of our full attention. Worthy of dedicated time to gather and share.

February is mostly past. Valentine’s day is over. Our love stories involve more than romance and fairy tales. Don’t forget that. Celebrate all of those things that make you vibrant; tell your stories.

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An Ode to Younger Women

women circle

Let me clarify. This is not a perverted rant from an saggy-testicled male poet. This is a rant from one woman to another.

This afternoon on my way to a photoshoot to update my online identity, I made a quick phone call.

This essentially makes me vintage. As in; I prefer a phone call to a text or any other kind of message.

I called a young lady with whom I work, and consider a pal. She’s younger than me, educated, capable, and way more in touch with how the world works. I am that friend to my older friends, and so it goes.

At one time, I was the younger-more-in-touch-with-reality-and-technology friends. I considered myself fortunate to be present with these ladies. I was deeply grateful to them for sharing their experience and their well-intentioned advice. I learned about becoming the woman I always wanted to be; professional, funny, sensual, and confident. Thanks to these older women I learned to live my life intentionally.

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I still need women in my life who have been-there-done-that, and know how to order a proper cocktail in order to tell their story effectively.  I also find myself now admiring the  younger women in my circles for their enthusiasm, unrestrained hopes and dreams and even their naivety.

To all of the young women out there who are now just exploring their identity as grown-up, professional, artist, or mother, we need you. We need your voice, your ideas, and your participation in all parts of life. You are valuable and loved. You’re part of a community of women, ever-evolving, ever-aging, and always, always, always in need of one another.

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The Year of Meh…

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I love mornings. I hate mornings when I’m woken by anything other than the natural flow of coming out of my semi-conscious dreams. You know, the kind where you’re aware that you’re dreaming, and you can choose your own adventure.

This morning, the official Sunday of my shift work week, I woke up to make a trip to the powder room, and of course, like everyone else, I checked my messages.

I can’t meet you this evening. I’m sick…I’m so sorry about this…

My unfortunate pal had been taken out by the dreaded winter cold and flu. She could not make it to our, “Year of Yes” event tonight, with pre-girl talk at the cool bar next door.  My heart broke for her. A hard working scholar and mother of three does not need the flu. She needs a three week vacation and stiff drink. She needs a year of yes.

I followed this early morning text with a quick message to another pal who was part of the trio of new-year-new-you-mid-life-hot-mammas. I wanted to let her know we were flying as a duo instead of a trio, to give her an out if she needed one….and so begins my year of yes. I was secretly hoping she’d cancel so I could stay in where I have become quite comfortable with wishing I was doing something else. And then I went back to bed.

I’ll take you back to late December/ early January. This year started off with all kinds of grand plans. So much so that about six days in, I sat in my writing chair and had not a small, but a rather substantial anxiety attack. All in my own mind of course, because I live with a functional type of chronic anxiety.

I promised myself a LOT this year. I even dared to whisper to myself  that this was my year of yes.  Not yes to crazy shit that wasn’t true to who I am, but yes to making the time and putting the work in to use my creative energy  for designing new path for my future.

Back to work after a long stint of caregiving, I find myself at the mercy of the needs of everyone besides myself. I would have been delightful had pal #2 returned the text saying that nah, she didn’t want to go to our “Year of Yes” event either. It would have been an escape hatch. But only in the moment.

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I know that surely I would be disappointed with myself tomorrow for not going, despite my fatigue and frustration.  Sometimes we need a team of friends to make sure that we’re accountable to our own needs and desires.

Sometimes our hoorah intentions fizzle out because we see an escape hatch that’s easier than getting up and actually doing the things that we talk about. Don’t let that be your standard. Don’t let your yes turn into meh.

 

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New Year Week Two

Week two of the new year and all is well.

Relatively. I think. And hey, what I think is the only thing that matters when it comes to my own reality…right? Don’t answer that.

A few years ago the big thing was saying YES to new experiences and and opportunities, whether they were scary or not. I think that keeping with my focus for the new year (more exposure to new people, experiences, places and events), it will involve a lot of saying yes.

So,  I said yes to an invitation to meet someone new, and to go somewhere I’ve never been.

I set out via transit (I’m a suburbanite who always drives), and loved this new route. This opens up new ease of access, to places I’ve yet to discover, and also allows me to drink more margaritas.

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I met a lovely new woman who had suggested a Toronto Fringe Festival play (Cannibal), which was well-written and marvellously executed on stage.   We strolled down to Campechano for dinner. I’m not going to rate the restaurant because I totally overdid it on Mexican food this year, and if I have another lime and cilantro soaked ceviche any time soon, I’ll die. Just beware that they are a taqueria, and the menu reflects that.They did have tres leche cake on the menu for dessert (the only dessert on the menu), so that’s something.

New acquaintance, new restaurant, new theatre. Not bad for a night out.

I simply could not leave the King Bathurst area without a spree at Forno Cultura, by far, my favourite Italian and Mexican bakery. I tried a new sour cherry type of strudel and me ta lovely employee who reminisced with me about the good-old-days of Terroni prior to one of the founders’ passing. He graciously provided me with an olive oil tasting to win me over from my Terroni stand-by, and pointed out that the  chef behind the wall of glass, who was calmly cutting blocks of butter into uniform cubes was on Iron Chef and won in the flavour category.

bookshelfOn another excursion to return my flu-addled kiddo to university I made my way to a really cool looking place that combines a very well-curated bookstore, with a cinema, and not one, but two restaurants in the same building. It’s called the Bookshelf, and it’s an amazing place to spend time (and money).

All of this because I said yes.

 

 

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For Women Over 40 – Period.

enhanced-7925-1428613781-1This is a blog about menstrual cycles.

There. That should be enough information for you to decide whether you want to read this or not.

Having reached the age of, well, too old for the pill and too old to be convinced I need extra chemicals in my body, I found myself in need of (for the first time), supplies.  Having opted for the Mirena for years, I had little if any need for pads or tampons. But when my body had had enough, and the Mirena was removed, I needed to get back to the wonderful world of feminine hygiene products. Aside; I despite terrorizing reports about the Mirena, I loved it. The worst part was having it implanted. Removing it was a snap, and my doctor did it in her office. Easy-peasy.

I’m convinced that until men start bleeding from their penises, women will be unfairly taxed for feminine hygiene products.

Introducing the Diva Cup. If you haven’t hear of it, just click on the link there. Promoted as being reusable, and a cost saver (because you simply wash and reuse it), I’ve heard excellent things about it.

The Diva Cup isn’t the only menstrual cup out there, but it’s easy to find.

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Basically, it’s a reusable cup that’s supposed to be inserted into your vagina. It forms a seal and catches your menstrual blood. There’s a little tip on the end (kind of like the tip of a condom, but more solid) that you can, theoretically, grab hold of and pull it out.

To make it interesting, the Diva Cup comes in sizes. Since I’m over 30 and have given birth, the general instruction is to go to the largest size, a size 2.  I picked myself up Diva Cup for the standard $39.99, and took it home, eager to see what it was all about.

First of all, the material is  a lot thicker than I thought it would be. And it gets slippery when it’s wet.  Ideally you’re supposed to kind of fold it in half and slide it up into your lady hot-stove. Ideally.  Let’s just say I had to make more than one attempt to launch my Diva rocket, and I was convinced that despite my age and history of childbirth, that I still had a nice, tight woo-hoo. The discomfort did da lot for my gynaecological confidence.

Maybe I needed a smaller size? After a few attempts, the Diva Cup did make it’s way  to where it was supposed to be. But it was still folded over, it had not opened up into the full circle so the cup could form a seal.

Instructions said to give it one full turn to make sure that it was sealed. Easier said than done. It’s slippery up there! It was like trying to grab hold of a soaped up piece of rubber in a narrow, squishy drain pipe. I’m sure it just takes practice. Having my fingers inside of my nether bits while I’m menstruating wasn’t really a fantasy that I dreamt of living out when I slid the pretty Diva Cup box off of the pharmacy shelf. Alas, there I was, bloody fingers slipping all over the outside of a wet, rubber vaginal insert…already panicking of course about a myriad of things to be anxious about once you have a foreign object jammed inside an orifice.

After monkeying around bent over like a dog digging at mange on it’s stomach, I finally got the seal.  A seal I wasn’t entirely confident of. And then I waited.

Actually, I went to bed. What better way to test the seal than to lay down, roll around and get things moving in the morning.  No leaks. This was a plus. No horrific feeling of having a giant bowl stuck inside of me. I was convinced  that I could get through a yoga class without any concern of leakage or discomfort. Bonus.

Time to remove it.

It was cold last night when I took the Diva Cup for a ride,  and I had snugged in tight underneath my fluffy duvet. Turns out the Diva Cup also snugged in tight. The small little doo-hickey that I had carefully examined prior to inserting the cup seemed to have shrunk overnight.

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Let me just start by saying that I have short fingernails. Shorter than average. I also excelled in microbiology. ‘Nuff said. I’m quite convinced that had I tried to remove this cup, which seemed to have formed a vacuum seal, with fingernails, that I would have broken one off in my vagina.

Getting the damn thing out was difficult. Yes, I was likely tense, but getting ahold of that little tip was like catching a greased pig. Bent over the toilet, I thought that worse case scenario, I could get a pair of locking forceps and pull the damn thing out.

Please see a video on YouTube for an official DivaCup informercial, including insertion and removal.

Having said all of this, I can see the benefits of using the Diva Cup. It does what it’s supposed to do, and it saves money over the long-term. Who really knows about environmental benefits. After all, does the material in pads and tampons degrade more harmlessly and more quickly than medical grade silicone? That, I do not know.

pads.jpgI will be using the Diva Cup again, and hopefully becoming more and more comfortable with inserting and removing it.  I loved the idea of using this while camping and travelling but the reality is that being in a clean environment for removal could  be problematic under those circumstances.

Yes, it is more environmentally friendly, and the cost would definitely be worth it if you are going to use it all of the time. Provided you’re in an environment where you feel comfortable inserting and removing it, I think the Diva Cup could be a lovely addition to an active woman’s lifestyle.

The big plus; Not trying to get to sleep  with a mattress sized pad between your legs, and dare I even go as far as saying, sleeping completely a la mode.