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Sometimes You Have to Do More To Have Less

donate.jpg“The Year of Less”, by Cait Flanderswas a great read. Well, it was actually a listen.

I’ve learned that my schedule doesn’t allow as much time to read and write as I would like, so I’ve taken to listening to audio books.  If you’re not convinced, and you love great fiction, give Ann Patchett’s the Dutch House a try.  Narrated by Tom Hanks, it’s a book that makes me wish I would have read it while nestled in my reading nook, savouring each and every chapter.

Listening to The Year of Less  was a much different book, part memoir, part economic decluttering advice, it coincided with falling into a near rhythm of working during the COVID 19 pandemic.  As you have likely experienced, feeling like we have control over anything at this period of time is almost impossible. This little gem of a book was perfectly timed for a mid-life-pandemic-inspired, pivot.

And that’s what I’m planning on doing. As annoying as I find the word ‘pivot’ right now (kinda like tribe and squad were whored out to the hipster masses during the past few years), I’m hoping to do just that, using shelved skills to pave a way to the future.

But first I must declutter.

Clutter distracts me and exponentially multiplies my already high-anxiety. Cait Flanders’ experience decluttering her desk and clearing out more pens then she could ever possibly need at one time struck a cord with me.  I’ve decided that all I need at my desk are my fountain pens, a couple of pencils and some basic office supplies. The itch to clear out my office supply drawer is pretty intense right now.

But I don’t have time for that. It’s late, and today I already cleaned out the bathroom vanity. Three small bags of junk later, I feel that I’ve at least got a running start on the decluttering.

My next step is clearing out my office supply drawer.

And then I’ll attack my closet(s). My clothes’ closets. Seriously, as a professional who wears a uniform every day, there is absolutely no reason to hoard a full,  walk in closet of clothes that I’ve either outgrown, or just don’t wear.  Nor do I need the piles of shoes that have not been unpacked since my last move.

All I know is that with an impending move, I don’t want to have to declutter while I pack. I want to be able to pack by putting lids on the containers under the sink, piling things in boxes neatly labelled with the room they belong in, and make a minimalist move into a new home.

This involves uping my gig game. Getting my copywriting and wordsmithing services up and running. It means taking a few more courses so I can set up a home business. It means keeping focussed while I’m not carrying on my long-time professional career.

It’s gonna take some focus and more work to achieve a ‘year of less’, which I hope results in a future of more. More of what is meaningful to me; time, family, joyfilled work. Less of the rat race.

 

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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.

hinterland.gif

 

‘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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The Frustration of Privilege

giphyI feel like a marshmallow snowman who was put down too close to the fire; blotchy and expanding at a frightening rate.

I stress eat at work. This week, a family sized package of Cadbury eggs  all but disappeared.  If you look at my suit pants which no longer zip up all the way, or the sagging ass of my ‘Rockstar’ jeans, you can appreciate where the chocolate went.

I’ve spent some time complaining about people who aren’t taking this pandemic seriously. It makes me sound holier-than-thou, and to be honest, I’m not. I’m a  middle-aged woman who misses her privileged normal.

Today would have marked my annual arrival on my favourite island. Right now, I’d be slipping under crisp, white sheets in an air-conditioned room, tipsy from rum punch, and nursing an almost-sunburn.  Instead, I’m ironing white dress shirts to take in to work tomorrow to get me through a week of death and destruction.

This whole social distancing thing is getting to me. It’s not because I can’t stay home. Au contraire. I fascinate myself. I can keep myself wonderful company in solitude. As a matter of fact, it’s my preferred state. I’m a writer, a reader, a baker, a needleworker, a gardener, and the toatler of tea.

When I’m in the mood for company, I prefer gin for conversations, and bubbly for the type of communication that doesn’t require words. I miss going out to write, to watch the world go by, and catch people’s idiosyncrasies while they’re not watching.

I miss feeling like a woman worth taking a chance on. I miss my pedicures, and spa days. I miss all of the things that I habitually do outside of my home.  I miss face to face conversations that have no agenda that take place in the kind of coffee shops that make me feel like an intellectual. That’s where the richness is.

I’m tired of tech and texts. I want to be close enough to someone I find interesting, that I can see the tiny tells that give them away. I miss connection.

I want certainty back. My little brain has never been good at flexibility. My father used to say that I would have made a great drill sergeant. I like order. I like procedure, protocol, efficiency.  None of this working-the-front-lines has any of that certainty right now. And I’m struggling with professional suppleness.

Today I almost upended a twelve year old on her bicycle. On purpose.

As she ran her tires up my back leg, I was required to take the headphones out of my ears and interrupt Tom Hanks’ soothing voice as he read Ann Patchett’s, The Dutch House to me. Her parents, I decided on the spot, were useless wankers.

I value my walks as private time. My house is a sanctuary of peace, except when there are two, twenty-somethings back at the nest and  a hubby who works from home.  During this time of duress, I like to have my phone conversations in private while I’m trying to walk off some of the Cadbury eggs.

giphy-1I take extra long, extra hot baths and use a plethora of face masks to try and erase the worry from my face.

I drink more; lemon water during the day to stay hydrated while breathing that hot, heavy breath through a mask, tea at night to calm my nerves, and on the weekends, I lean pretty heavily on gin to maintain my charm.

I want a weekend away in a hotel suite with a fireplace, and a giant bed with layers of fluffy white duvets. I want to be spoiled rotten with fine dining, really great wine, and a new piece of sparkly jewelry to remember the weekend by. I want the freedom to wake up late and not worry about what doesn’t get done just for a day or two.

In the past I had a small reserve of men upon whom I could call to relieve some tension; the olympic athlete, the bookworm, the suave European charmer, the hippie ( I always liked the hippies), the businessman, the stupid but handsome younger man….

I’ve traded them all in for one man whom I have accepted adulthood with. Lucky him. Being bound to our homes and workplaces, we’re getting a chance to get to know one another…again. Lucky us.  He has taken to his own long walk regime, a headset that signals silence, and watching television in another room.  I have established a hidden stash of gin.  Everyone’s happy.

As this social distancing continues, I’m reaching out to other funeral director friends from around the world. It hasn’t taken long to gather a list of friends who may be wanting to sit on a white-sand beach with me when the world heals, and celebrate with slushy drinks and suntans.  How’s that for privilege?

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Sanctuary of Your Car & 3 Movies that Might Save Your Sanity

car
Whoever is delighted in solitude is either a wild beast or a God. ~ARISTOTLE~

 

I wanted to start out by telling you how very fortunate I am to be able to slip into a state of zen about this whole pandemic. I wanted to charm you into believing that once I leave my workplace (as a funeral director – stressorama), that my home is a haven of peaceful solace. Instead, I offer you your vehicle as a hide-out, and your bathtub as a time machine – steamy water, candlelight, music, and memories of a delicious past….

The reality at my house (and likely the majority of others) is, that it’s a circus of emotion; sometimes gratitude is the pervading atmosphere, sometimes, tension, fear-turned-irritablility-and-anger, and sometimes happy-hour at unlikely hours. Mostly, it’s a combination of all of those things, depending on who’s in the room. Like now for instance…It’s just after 3pm, and I’m full-on gin and tonicing into the evening.

I’m trying to quietly hide in my writing/library room with a headset on (the universal signal for ‘please fuck off and don’t talk to me, I’m busy’).   Trying to get some peace and quiet (while CNN is blaring in the living room and my sweetie is passively aggressively putting away dishes because he thinks someone else should be doing it), requires new strategy.

While we mostly want to choke one another, there is one thing that has saved us all. That one thing? It’s  comedy.

My top three COVID classic comedy selections  (in no particular order) include;

The Big Lewbowski

 

lewbowski

 

Hot Tub Time Machine

 

hottubtimemachine

 

 

 

Mastermind

 

masterminds

 

Feeling helpless is clinically the worst case emotion for anyone exposed to trauma. The only thing that we can do now to act, is not to act (in other words, for the love of God and my desire to go camping this summer, stay the hell home), it’s tough to stay sane.  Maybe a good laugh will help release some stress, and get you focussed on ways, however small, that you can be of service.

 

 

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Building Pandemic Panic Resistance

squirrelSquirrels are jacked, Wish sells sex toys, and I found the perfect shade of lipstick at Sephora Canada for twenty-eight bucks.

If someone told me a month ago that I’d have the time to discover these little things, I would have told you they were mad.

Had I not been respecting this physical-distancing protocol, I never would have equated the relative muscle mass of a squirrel’s front haunches with the thick, muscular neck of a wolf, because I never would have had the time to stare out the window and wonder about something other than the demands of my own day.

I also never would have clicked on the promos from Wish, and discovered that they sell clothing, male chastity devices, as well as plastic parrot solar lights that would be fantastic for our Parrothead soirees – the lights, not the sex toys. The outline of a third book likely wouldn’t have unfolded into anything other than the outline either.

Luckily our household hasn’t been as adversely effected as others. Everyone is still working, everyone is still getting paid. Everyone is going a bit bonkers adjusting to being at home together.

Incidentally, I think that social media is going a bit bonkers right now too. Currently, it’s a five minute distraction at most for me. The same with the news. Once a day is enough to keep me informed, without making me paranoid.

After two weeks of being glued to news updates, being terrified of what I’m being exposed to at work, about a week ago I shut down the newsfeed and the unnecessary obsessing.  Now  my sweetie has fallen ill and I’ve raised my white-flag of surrender.  I will not subject myself to the massive influx of emails and private messages about COVID 19.

As always, I have a new writing project simmering, a pile of books on my desk waiting to be read (the ones I had previously designated as beach-reads for my annual Central American beach holiday), and a needlework project half finished. Perhaps it’s a Gen X thing , but I think I’ll just tuck in and ride this out, taking it day by day.

I have settled nicely into the routine of surrender.

It’s lovely to have time to sip my first and second cups of morning coffee bundled up on the patio in the fresh air. It’s blissful to have the time to  wonder about squirrel anatomy, who the wonderful guitarist is down the street, and to allow the poetic flow of words to dance in my imagination so that I can write it down on paper a little later on. Not being able to go out has been a wonderful retreat.

Next week, a new, temporary shift schedule starts at work to help adjust to the demands of our new reality. I will not be having leisurely, morning coffee save for weekends.

If you’re stuck in a rut of scrolling through social media, watching the news spool over and over, might I suggest staring out the window for a while, and noticing the little things that otherwise go unnoticed.

 

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Intimately Yours

leloIntimate pleasure in the form of a mascara wand.

Not that it’s new, but hearing about it on The Shopping Channel  – TSC, was certainly a different experience.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not here to preach about sex toys on late night television. In fact, I watched in awe as a plasticized sex therapist delivered a most 1950’s-housewife-narrative regarding the ‘pleasure objects’ up for grabs.

I actually learned something new. Apparently there are products to tone your vagina. And they have a very buttery texture.

Had I not been four glasses of wine into mourning my uni roommate’s death, I may have had a different reaction. I may have been indignant that the beauty industry had weaselled their way into my vagina. I may have ranted unabashedly about  saggy testicles that hang out in the open exposing us all to their hairy, wrinkled homeliness.  Tone the surface my vagina? Seriously.  Like I’ve got time for that. Besides, at this age, the men of my vintage need reading glasses to see anything that close-up.

As it were,  the sound of my friend’s hysterical giggles filled my imagination, and I became glued to the late-night sex-toy drive.

Where I grew up, The Shopping Channel was akin to Amazon. It was the first sit-in-your-flannel-in-the-middle-of-the-night-and-order-shit-you-don’t-need home-delivery service. I know many a country-bumpkin with simulated gemstone finds.  Now I have to wonder if they were all the most sexually satisfied, oppressed women in South-Western Ontario. Maybe I’ve been wrong all this time.

As the women on the show (host, sales rep and sex therapist),  discussed the very buttery texture of the vag cream, not, incidentally to be confused or used as a lubricant, I began to admire their command of very precise language.

These women were trying to sell a 2020 audience less phallic pleasure objects so that we didn’t intimidate our partners.  Less threatening, as in; it seemed like they assumed everyone was heterosexual, and women who used sex toys had to hide them from their men in order that said men’s masculinity could be unrealistically held above all else, as sacred.

There was just so much wrong with this.

I laughed, thinking how my friend and I would have laughed until we cried.   I could hear her beautiful giggle, and her gasping, “What the actual f@*k?!”  between laughing fits.

I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t recommend  the sex therapist who hosted. I don’t think anyone needs to be encouraged to feel any more self conscious about their sexuality than they already are, especially when it comes to being less threatening to the phallic brutality that has dominated the lives of women since the dawn of time.

I might however recommend what I’m going to call the  mascara wand vibrator to slip into your make-up bag for weekend getaways.

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Reminder: Women’s Day is Every Day

International Womens Day HistoryJust prior to quitting time on Friday, I got a call put through to my desk . It was the kind of phone call that we all dread.

My best friend, the woman I lived with during my university days, giggled with uncontrollably, and knew me before I was married, had a child, or knew the weight of being a responsible adult, had died.

We hadn’t seen each other in too long.

As with many conversations between women my age, our last digital conversation this week had ended with, ” We should get together soon.”

That was the last thing she wrote to me. My friend, who was going to be a great novelist.  Who giggled as we staggered home from middle-of-the-week-nights out,  and egged me up onto the stage on my 21st birthday to sing a Hank Williams song.

We won’t be getting together soon. I’d feel sorry for myself, but my heart is breaking for her children who will not be seeing their mother again.

In honour of Women’s Day, I waxed my mustache.

She would have liked that. She had my sense of humour.

My friend was one of the first women who shared my passion for feminism and free speech.

She was there for me when my mother couldn’t be. What I mean is, my mother was one of those women who felt trapped her entire life because she was a woman. She never had an opportunity, or the support we often give one another as women, to realize our worth, our power, and our innate depth as women.

International Women’s Day is a day I try to honour every year for that reason.  My best friend and I spoke up, protested, railed against the patriarchy if only in our university theses and ability to drink anyone under the table during informal debates.

And then life happened.  We got married, went back to school and had children in alternating patterns, and time became an enemy.  Time is the greatest of gifts, and we all need to be more careful how we spend it.

During Women’s Day and Mother’s Day, my phone lights up with messages and thoughts from friends and colleagues. I have the best women friends.

On this Women’s Day I am so thankful to be going out with friends as a balm for my grief.  My gregarious friend will be looking down on me, or perhaps even the devil on my shoulder, while I swig a cold beer and toast her joi de vivre.  Women’s day also involves receiving token recognition from  organizations that keep the systems running in such a way that ‘Women’s Day’ is necessary.

Women very much live in patriarchal construct of time. This mostly includes honouring the  9-5 grind on top of fulfilling the much undervalued drives of mothering and our need for connection.

Let Women’s Day remind you this year of how important it is to spend time with our gal-pals. Let it be a reminder for you, above anyone else, to prioritize and respect the energy you put in to how you spend your time.

Happy Women’s Day to all of my dear friends, regardless of gender and age.

Go out there, and make some memories. Remind us all that we have safe harbour, infinite potential, and reasons to laugh until we can’t catch our breath.