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New Year – Same Old You

New Year

Now that we’re officially on the other side of the ‘Christmas Holidays’ and the tail end of what was a particularly challenging 2018 at my house, I’m changing some things. Mostly my attitude….I hope.

I’m not doing away with the traditional cookies or opening gifts on Christmas morning. And I’m certainly not doing away with staying awake until everyone else is asleep so that I can lay out the overflowing stockings. Stockings are my very favourite part of Christmas morning.

What I think I’ll do away with is the expectation that when December 25 rolls around something will be magnificent. The reality is that the best part of Christmas is the lead up.

You know what I mean darlings; the dinners out, the gossip over coffee, the visits with people whom you should be spending way more time with because they make you feel special. By the 25th I figure that we’re all ready for the big meal, a good long nap, and a laugh. We mostly are ready for any expectation that people have for us to just fuck off and go take a nap somewhere with a big glass of rummy nog.

About mid-November every year I get the Christmas itchies. I put up the tree, decorate the house, and start setting up a wrapping station in the spare room. I like to be prepared.

What I don’t like to be is disappointed. As long as my kiddo is here on the 24th and 25th, it’s all good. The rest is gravy really, and I should, as a younger, hipper version of myself has often told me, just “calm my tits”.

What I’ve learned recently is that  I’ve put a lot of effort in to the holidays for people who don’t appreciate it.  I get drained and resentful. I’ve decided that as much as I’m willing to arrange get-togethers, I also expect to be hosted as well. I’ve decided that I’m making one Christmas dinner whenever the hell I want to. Since I’m the only one who makes it, decorates it and cleans it up,  I get to decide when it is, based on whatever priority I have. If someone in the flock doesn’t like it, I’m more than happy to show up to a decorated house,  a cooked meal, and leave afterward with a belly full and no offer to help clean up.

This year all I really needed was to have some of the kiddos favourite treats ready in small doses when he popped in to refuel for more socializing with his pals. I didn’t need to bake up a storm for anyone unless I really felt like spending the day in the kitchen. That leaves no resentment, only joy.

As the years pass, and what the Christmas season looks like changes for everyone.  I like to think that I can spend more time with friends, opening the door to those kindred spirits who like to talk about life, art, and experience ,deep into the night around a table of fresh food and oodles of wine.

My holiday plans and expectations are different, but as the new year rolls in, I realize I’m the same old me. Happiest surrounded by the friends I call my family, having creative vision and goals, and still mumming my kiddo even though he’s all grown up.

 

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T’was The Night Before Christmas

…and all through the house, not a creature was stirring, except for mamma. Mamma’s are always stirring. Mamma’s are Christmas.

My Mumster always told me that it is the mum who makes Christmas happen, and she’s right. Regardless of the twaddle that our families (biological or of choice) throw at us about not fussing, not having any special baking or meal requests, when you fail to make every single Christmas treat that they like throughout the month of December, you inevitably get the disappointed face asking, “Where are the butterscotch squares,”?  And you feel as if you’ve failed. Coloured marshmallows and butter are my secret weapon…and sprinkles…maybe also rum and a little bit of ameretto.

This year has been different around our house. So much so, that waking up today doesn’t feel like Christmas Eve. Christmas Eve day is my favourite day of the year. I love it. It always begins with a mom-son breakfast, carries on with cookie baking, movie watching, lots of relaxation, decadent food, supper heated from a box (because I’m too busy prepping for Christmas dinner and the throngs of people I feed), and finishes off with a trip to church, with the grand finale being the singing of Silent Night by candlelight.

But not this year. Oh no. This year involves a trip to the airport to pick up my kiddo (who’s flight is now officially delayed) and giving a bed bath to my partner who is unable to move. I can’t lie, if this flight is cancelled or late, I’m going to be searching pretty hard for goodwill-unto men. I’m also kinda over giving bed baths too.

Christmas Eve

In lieu of church, I think I’m going to get loose with eggnog and rum, or perhaps I’ll keep it simple and drag  the Santa gifts out after a few glasses of wine (a few glasses = a bottle). Perhaps this year old St. Nick will be swigging a gin and tonic and enjoying some Branston pickle on cheese…hey, whatever gets you me through the night. I may even get in those hours of editing I’m so badly craving.

I have not been out to the Christmas sock party, the Christmas ugly sweater party, my work Christmas party, my usual friendly visits, or romantic Christmas rendezvous. I will not be going to the annual boxing day open house in Stratford that has on more than one occasion found me  dancing until dawn on the 27th and charming some poor soul into falling in love with me. No. This year is different.

This year, it’s a small, quiet Christmas. As such, I have splurged on the cats. their stockings will be bulging with cheap toys, treats and stale catnip from a bag. Fa-la-la-la-la…..la-la-la-laaaaa!

Yesterday I made rum balls and took the temperature on the stock of supplies for our tiny Christmas meal.  By tiny I mean this is the fewest amount of people I have ever cooked for at Christmas time. Although our mother-son breakfast will be delayed, and I’m not stressing over space to cook for a pile of people, this Christmas is going to be wonderful. Because I’ve made up my mind that it shall be so.

But next year, oh, next year! My social media feed will be rife with the jolly stress of an over-worked, over-tired, over-done-it mamma who can’t wait for the last piece of turkey to be gobbled down so she can get back to a quiet life of not dodging Christmas decorations while trying to bake everything under the sun before heading out to see the lights. I will be revelling in the exhaustion, excitement and over-doing-itness of the season.

But for now, here’s to a silent night, a quiet night, tucked in by the fire with my most favourite creatures on earth.  May you all be so lucky as to have your loved ones close.

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Modern Christmas: For Empaths & Introverts

What happened to our society? Especially at Christmas time?

Who else remembers a time when November and December were full of social engagements and excuses to dress up? There once was a time that I looked forward to the annual company party, where everyone was expected to dress up, socialize, and participate in some good clean fun…until most everyone drank too much and had to be chauffeured home.

And what the hell is with not playing that wonderful song, “Baby, It’s Cold Outside”? Give. Me. A. Break.

Maybe it’s the new cultural trend of insta-worthy-over-sized sweaters and hands wrapped around steaming mugs of cocoa. Hell, it’s a lot easier to pull off than heels, strapless dresses, and a clearly defined ‘date’. I totally get that everyone has either become an empath or an introvert; a modern way of saying; I’m sensitive, so don’t hold me to your cultural standard of politeness and respectful interaction….the penultimate of victim culture.

Just a tip – half of the fun was watching everyone interact. It was fun to play with our persona’s of  sequined flirts with no other intention than to share a few laughs; to entertain and to be entertained by virtue of our very own selves.

I miss what I so fondly refer to as Gatsby-Socializing. When you were expected to flirt with everyone, the art of telling a joke was appreciated, and keeping up with current events wasn’t quite enough. People actually had discussions intelligent enough to persuade, entertain and engage.

There was no distraction appropriate at the table. I mean really, cell phones at the table are akin to someone in the 80’s taking out a handwritten letter, smoothing it out on their lap, lowering their reading specs, and totally disengaging with the people in front of them. Talk about a slap in the face of civilized behavior.

For a while I thought that the slow fade of high-end socializing was directly related to my age. I was wrong. It’s the result of fear. Everyone’s afraid that they’re going to be fingered for being inappropriate, being blamed for the irresponsible behavior of another adult, and painted with the pariah brush of our I’m-not-responsible-for-my-own-behavior culture.

So get out your cocktail dresses and brush off your dyed satin shoes. Break out your costume jewelry, shake up a mean cocktail. Invite a wild mix of personalities over and watch the magic of real-live human interaction unfold all in the name of Christmas cheer. I’m dying for some superficial and super-fun festivities.

 

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How Are Your Christmas Lights?

giphy

In the darkness, the Christmas tree lights are a true symbol of advent. Mystery in the darkness. A sense of wonder.

Advent is my favourite season of the year, even though November is my least favourite month. Layers of grey permeate every hour, and the dampness makes everything, even the ethereal heavy. Besides being a Scorpio, November sucks.

Alas my friends,  then there are the Christmas lights! They’re the first thing that I attend to in the morning, getting down on my knees to find the plug and make the connection. As a young mother, I wanted my son to have the same sense of wonder that I did upon waking and seeing the tree illuminated in the dark, chill morning.  As the mother of a young adult, I want to continue that sense of wonder, the feeling that something wonderful can come of the darkness, that stillness can be a time of self-discovery and that there is joy in silent reflection.  As a partner and caregiver, I hope that my darling wakes up to the lights and feels the very same things.

Realistically, I live in a house with people whom I’m not sure have such a deep, symbolic appreciation of this season as I do.  Whatever.

‘Whatever’ has become a word that pops  up more and more in my silent thoughts. It’s the 80’s baby version of WTF.

The reality is that Christmas has changed for me. I’ve gone from a child waiting for Santa, to being Santa.  I’ve gone from a young woman excited about the romance of the season to an older woman who has officially let all hope of Christmas romance go. I do however find joy helping in any way that I can to fan the flames of that excitement in the life of my friends and family who are in the midst of that, ‘Hallmark Romance’ period of their lives.

This morning I woke up to an email from my Mumster about the energy of the fuss and muss of Christmas, and how this year, her sister will be hiring a cater rather than doing the cooking herself. In her wisdom, Mumster  has deduced that age 55 is the age at which you pretty much get tired of the foo-fur-ah (foo-fur-ah def. bullshit) of the Christmas season.  I’ll let you know if I agree when I reach the spritely age of  55.

Inevitably life changes as you know darlings. Our energy levels ebb and flow, as do our priorities. Health remains our  biggest asset, and it becomes more valuable the older we get.

Although I’m not the marathon baker, wrapper and Christmas-party-throwing woman I was ten years ago, I like to hope that I can keep my own sense of wonder alive through the season.  Sometimes it’s just wondering where the wine went, and how my ass got this robust.

Humor and wonder is what will keep me young. It’s what will keep my eyes open to the little twinkle of light in life that brings happy surprises, belly laughter and passion. This is the stuff of a youthful spirit. Let humor and wonder be your own Christmas miracles, regardless of your age or circumstance.

 

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Christmas Survival Guide for the Lost Woman: Delegate

opinions

My friends have let me down. I’ve let them down too.

At some point women give up their own selves for the selfless, and mostly unrecognized emotional work of maintaining a home (creating the atmosphere, remembering birthdays, preparing for holidays, and bearing the greater responsibility of relationship nurturing).

Don’t be her. Don’t be the woman we all become at one point or another; a frumpy feeling, sad, uninspired woman who feels like the dishrag that society treats her like.

This Christmas I’m challenging you to connect with your pals, and I’m also challenging myself. In order to make more time for me, and to enjoy the preparations for the holidays, I’ve come up with a few strategies.

 

  1. The word of the year this Christmas is; Delegate.

Make lists….and then give them away. I mean, you single-handedly make the magic happen, at least save some time not shopping and not running errands.

shopping list

 

2) Clear out the clutter.

No, not stuff, people. If you need the whole house so you can spread out the holiday decor,  but your lovey insists on being sprawled on the couch watching the boob tube and basically being useless, ask them to leave. Unless they’re helping, they’re hindering. Vamoos!

joy

 

3) Bake ahead, and if you don’t like baking, don’t.

This year I’m googling ‘christmas cookies that freeze well’, and I’m going to use it. I’m also stocking the freezer with some frozen cheater meals so that I can enjoy my time off throughout the holidays, without cringing when I’m asked, “Have you thought about dinner”. Also, it’s so I don’t tell them that prison dinner might be worth it since I wouldn’t have to cook or do the damn dishes. My eggnot loaf is currently cooling on the counter so it can be frozen.

eggnog loaf

 

4) Be the one who puts a stop to gift exchanges. Other than a few things under the tree on Christmas morning that my loved ones need, will have sentimental value, or are a true ‘Santa’ surprise gift, gift giving falls a long-distance second to just spending time together.

get together

 

5) Make some gal-destinations a priority. Whether it’s a spa date for candy-cane mani’s, or a local church craft sale…make an excuse to get out, wander through all of the delights of the season, and make it a date with someone you’ve been meaning to get together with but haven’t.

one of a kind

 

 

Whatever you do this Christmas season,  make sure you make time to slow down and take in some of what brings you joy.

 

 

 

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T’was A Day for Decorating & Digestive Discontent

giant red ballsI never get to sleep in. Anymore.

No, I do not have an infant at home. No, I do not work three jobs. I have however, committed myself to a…morning person.

A morning person who just so happens to be away  golfing in the sunny south during my traditional Christmas-kick-off weekend.

At first you’d think I’d be jealous, what with being left all alone for our first real snow fall.  Alas, that is NOT the case.  After having spent the past three months adjusting to  mid-life empty nesting and newly cohibitating bliss, I am gloriously, and might I say well-restedly (let’s just pretend that’s a word shall we – don’t kill my vibe) alone. Ahhh…..

I have been able to sleep in, deck the halls for the holidays, and even took my time shopping yesterday without a grown man whining that he had to get home to watch football.

I had one of those focussed days yesterday. After checking the Michael’s coupons for the day, I thought I’d start early and do my shopping before I came home to tights, a Christmas sweatshirt, my snoozies skinnies and my hair pulled back like a ninja fighter.

I made breakfast, had a coffee and hit the road. I planned a route to a lesser populated area to the north, and listened to a head banging, Chris Botti Christmas jam.

I shopped until I reminded myself of my own mother. Wandering around the same aisles, examining every garland and piece of kitsch until I’m sure one of the salespeople thought that I was out on some kind of psychiatric day pass.

My cart was loaded with 6 strings of bushy evergreen garland, a giant “Meet Me Under The Mistletoe” pillow and various other bits and bobs that I had just the right place for. Oh yah, and my Michael’s 60% off coupon was ready on my app.

At that point, I realized that I was starving. But even more than that, I was in need of giant red balls….for the tree.

Just one more stop and I’d be on my way home. By this time I was really hungry.

Just a quick run in, I decided, and I would treat myself to my favourite fast-food no-no. My quick trip turned into another hour of picking through stocking stuffers, Christmas scented soaps, and big balls…

By the time I paid, I was s-t-a-r-v-i-n-g and thirsty! You know the shopping-mall thirst I’m talking about don’t you ladies? That parched-I’ve-been-hijacked-in-the-retail-dessert-for-way-too-long-I-gotta-have-some-water-or-I’ll-disintegrate-kind-of-thirst.

Hitting a blood-sugar low I muscled my way to my car, guzzled a half liter of water, and got to my fast-food-sin-spot asap. I ate in the car like a ravenous Christmas elf, and polished it all off with a vanilla milkshake.

Now here’s something you don’t know about me…fake ice cream makes my digestive system revolt. In a BIG way, and fast. It was only a fifteen minute drive home, so I wasn’t panicked. What I was, for about a whole five minutes, was sated, and giddy about going home to prepare for the holidays.

And then it happened. My forty-something-year-old-digestive-system said, “Hold up girl! This is not right.”

The half liter of water met the fake-dairy-milkshake at the threshold of my pyloric valve and all hell broke loose.

Two-wheeling it around corners in my 40km neighbourhood, I raced to the garage, only to remember that I’d left the automatic opener on the kitchen table. I jumped out and frantically keyed in the magic code, while skipping around pinching my butt cheeks together.  I backed the care in so fast that I almost backed right through the rear wall. Juggling bags with garland poking out everywhere, and a large sack of kitty litter, I fumbled for my keys.

My neighbour appeared on queue as all neighbours do – at the worst time ever –  on his back deck waving and wanting to chat. All I could do is grimace, try to raise a hand weighted down with in a semi-civilized wave, and slam the door behind me.

No more vanilla quasi-dairy-milk shakes for this woman.

It took me until the Women’s Network Christmas flick came on at 9pm to finish up. I strung lights on the garland for the staircase, the front porch, and decorated the tree. I unpacked the boxes of miscellaneous decorations that grace smaller spaces, and put up the vintage Christmas village. I washed couch cushions and nested like I haven’t nested in a long time.

motherfucker

Don’t get me wrong. at about 5 p.m. I was ready shove the picky, twisty, clingy garland up someone’s ass, not to mention the tangle of 400 lights I was dealing with. There’s a reason people leave me alone to decorate. It’s a marathon of patience, but it’s totally worth it.

Home is a sacred, special place for me. It represents safety and security for myself and my child (ok, so he’s a man-child now, but all mothers know your children are always your babies). Anyone who messes with the safety and sanctity of my home should prepare to deal with the wrath of a woman like me.

Our home is now ready to welcome you for the holidays. I know, I know, it’s not about the decorations or the gifts, but I do love decking our halls to create that feeling of sacred welcome that is too often missing in our busy lives.

I’m already excited to know that my kiddo is almost ready to come home for his Christmas break. I’m eager to cozy up by the tree with friends and family for some precious down-time.  That’s what Christmas is all about. Failte.

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What To Do?

fallkittenI’ve been known to publish some really great seasonal To-Do Lists.  Except this year.

I didn’t do that.

Not for you and not for me.

But I’m ready for one. You see, I have a Protestant work ethic, and am a firm believer in work first, and rest when the work is done.  Which, of course, often leaves me desiring, but exhausted and out of time.

Alas, the really hard work of this year is pretty much complete, and I am left with time to rediscover more leisure pursuits.  Instead of providing you and I wish a seasonal to-do-list-on-a-time-line  of such tomfoolery that we think is Instagram-worthy, such as pumpkin patch visits, applie-pie baking and haunted house touring, I am going to provide you with a list of things that I want to do.

And I hope it inspires you to make a list of your own. Even if you don’t get to it, you’ll be reminded of what it is that makes you happy, and maybe, just maybe, you’ll take a little time for yourself to make your soul smile.

 

Here’s my list;

 

1. Successfully complete NaNoWriMo. Yah, I officially registered to write 50,000 words during the month of November. Why not? After all, I want to finish my damn novel, and I work well with a time-line. This may very well should  be the only thing on my list, but should’s have no place in my life right now.

onceupon

2. I want to go back  to wander the Guillermo Del Torro exhibit again at the AGO. It was so inspiring; a look at the inner mechanisms of a creative genius. Going back is a desperate attempt to have some of that genius-energy rub off on me.

deltoro

3.  A road trip to see the beautiful fall landscape (I’m thinking Collingwood with a side trip to a pal’s place in Thornbury, and the outdoor spa).

Hockleyfall

 

4. A visit to Hinterland Winery. In my opinion a hidden gem that deserves more of my attention. Here I come Les Etoiles!

hinterland

5. Chistmas shopping. Yes,  you heard it. I want to go Christmas shopping. That’s only because I avoid shopping in December like the plague. It sucks, people’s attitudes suck, and all of that makes me cranky. Make it a December to remember (create some memories with your loved ones – do not spend the month craving valium and flipping people the bird in parking lots).

decembertoremember

 

 

6. Cross Stitch. Oh yah. I want the luxury of  enough time to curl up with a hot cup of tea and a few hours of nothing but some needle and thread.

bring me tea

 

7. I would also very much like to make my super-duper-Hallowe’en-popcorn. I make it for my colleagues and my kiddo because even though we’re all grown up, on October 31st, we’re all still little kids just waiting for a treat.

Halloween-Caramel-Corn4-600x400