Advice · Advice for Writers · Andshelaughs · andshelaughs writing · Art · Art of LIving · Artists · Canadian Writers · Coffee Shops · Coffee Talk · Creative Writing · Fearless Living · Graceful Living · Gracious Living · Healthy Living · Joyful Living · Life at Starbucks · Living · Middle Age · Midlife · Mindful Living · Motivation Advice · Opinion · Poets · Professional Writers · Simple Living · Social Commentary · Society · Songwriters · Spiritual Living · Starbucks · Starbucks Canada · The Art of · The Art of Living · Travel Writers · Uncategorized · Whole Living · Writers · Writing · Writing Inspiration · writing prompts

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;

 

img_1025
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.

 

Advertisements
Advice for Women · Andshelaughs · andshelaughs writing · Art of LIving · Comedy · Coping · Fearless Living · Feminism · Feminist Culture · Feminists · Girl Stuff · Gracious Living · Healthy Living · Humor · Living · Middle Age · Midlife · Mindful Living · Motherhood · New Feminism · Opinion · Personal Development · Perspective · Philosophy · Professional Women · The Art of Living · The New Feminism · Uncategorized · women · Women's Issues · Women's March on Washington · Women's Rights · Working Women

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.

 

 

Advice for Writers · Andshelaughs · Canadian Writers · Midlife · NaNoWriMo · Opinion · Perspective · Uncategorized · Writers

How Being a Gen-Xer Benefits Janu-Edit

Janu-Edit is a month long edit-fest, and I’m totally into it. Hell, my generation of 90’s coffee slurping pseudo-BA-educated, blazer and scarf wearing peers practically set us all up with the perfect place to write and edit.

I’m into Janu-Edit  because I have a brand spanking new first draft of a novel that needs some…tweaking before I send it out for real editing.  By someone who hasn’t lived through the hundreds of pages agonizingly trying to squeeze out an outline without getting lost in the novelists world that characters create in their head.

My favourite place to write has always, hands down, been a busy corner of one of many Starbucks locations tucked safely inside of a Chapters or Indigo. With so much condescending talk about Millennials, we’ve forgotten about my generation – the Gen-Xers. We are the reason that pretentious, over-priced coffee houses who allow you to sit and use their space for free (other than buying the coffee and mass produced pastry), exist.

For the past number of weeks I have been bound to the house, hours out are a precious commodity, and as my time as a caregiver comes to an end, I feel the need for a change of scenery, for a uplifting events, and kindred exchanges of friendship.

Today I escaped to begin the arduous process of picking through my first draft. During a ‘happy new year’ phone call to a jaded pal, she proclaimed that her new year’s eve inspired  the conclusion that, as she so delicately phrased it, “all men are shit.” Quite a conclusion to clear the path for a fresh, new year.

Don’t worry darlings, I didn’t forget where I was going with this post. I wrote the last two paragraphs to tell you this;

My coffee shop escapes are a rich resource for character development.

Once I settle in connected to power, wifi, and caffeine, I generally can sit for hours, only getting up and purchasing the obligatory coffee every hour or so in order not to become a parasite. While perched at my window seat (my favourite place to write, sip and observe), my gaze followed a middle-aged man who strolled in through Starbucks and went straight for the magazine rack.

Would this man be aware of my friend let’s say, eyeballing him with abject hatred, because he was a man? The grey hair on his head was balding. He sported  undone work boots, blue jeans (clean, and in a traditional dad cut that left all manner of physique to the imagination), and an orange construction coat with the reflective yellow X on the back.

This isn’t the kind of guy who buys six dollar coffee. And he certainly wasn’t the type of man who automatically strolls over to the copy of Birds and Blooms on the magazine rack. Not if you’re thinking in stereotypes. Stereotypes alone can only get a writer so far, and then you need real character. You see, real people (just like characters) have all sorts of quirks and habits that need to be worked out, and often times these quirks come out only as authors write them into situations where they are interacting with other characters, or even more interestingly, with only themselves.

Pausing to look up at the world that’s going on in that little microcosm of a literary coffee shop inspires character, and the coffee caffeinates. Coffee culture has always been alive and well throughout the world, bringing friends together and demanding space to generate ideas. In my little corner of Canada, Gen-Xers breathed new life into the coffee shops that are home to so many artists and writers.

sweater and scarfThis month I’m on a roll, feeling right at home curled up in my stereotypical cozy sweater and scarf, sipping a latte, or herbal tea, and looking very serious about what I’m working on.  Janu-Edit doesn’t stand a chance against this stereotype, I just hope my quirks don’t get in the way.

Andshelaughs · andshelaughs writing · Art of LIving · Christmas · Christmas Letters · Christmas Lists · Christmas Toronto Things to Do · Fearless Living · Friends · Friendship · Graceful Living · Gracious Living · Healthy Living · Joyful Living · Life · Life Lessons · Lifestyle · Living · Meaning of Christmas · Meaning of Life · Midlife · Mindful Living · Opinion · Perspective · Simple Living · Social Anxiety · Social Commentary · Society · Spiritual Living · The Art of Living · Uncategorized · Whole Living

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.

 

Advice for Writers · Andshelaughs · andshelaughs writing · Art of LIving · books · Canadian Writers · Creative Life · Creative Writing · Creativity · Fearless Living · Graceful Living · Gracious Living · Healthy Living · Inspiration · Joyful Living · Living · Middle Age · Midlife · Opinion · Perspective · Professional Writers · Simple Living · Spiritual Living · The Art of Living · Travel Writers · Uncategorized · Whole Living · Writers · Writing · Writing Inspiration · writing prompts

Making Room in My Jeans for Enchantment

distractionBecause of my inability to focus, my jeans are getting snug.

As in, I’ve gone beyond muffin-top to mid-section-souffle. I’ve been home a lot lately, and although I’m busy as stink caregiving, I have lots of time on my hands while I stay up way too late and overthink everything.

Today, while having a meltdown (likely a bloodsugar low), I ate another of my beautifully decorated sugar cookies, gave myself a tummy-ache and got to thinking while I laid down to sweat it out. Perhaps I should just really focus on what makes me feel good.

And what is that?

Well, it’s my writing, my inspiration, or ‘enchantment’ as Elizabeth Gilbert refers to it in her book, Big Magic, (a book every creative soul needs).  Given that my nervous baking habit has made me pack on pounds and feel like crap since I’ve been at home for the past number of weeks, I couldn’t help but listen when my nauseous tummy and tight waistband went from a whisper to a scream; “QUIT BAKING THIS SHIT!!!”…and in a much more kind, caring voice, “Do what you love sweetheart.”

One idea from Big Magic that stuck with me the first time I read the book is,

However, I’ve always had the sense that the muse of the tormented artist – while the artist himself is throwing temper tantrums – is sitting quietly in a corner of the studio, buffing its fingernails, patiently waiting for the guy to calm down and sober up so everyone can get back to work.”

I have a lot of interests; baking, cooking, reading, writing, yoga, gardening, being an enthusiastic sports mom…and the list goes on. These are the equivalent of my temper tantrums. Convincing myself that I don’t have enough time to write is akin to a temper tantrum.

I’m so funny.

I have time to do most of my hobbies, except write.  Why??? the only explanation I can come up with is that my upbringing as a hard-working-protestant-country-girl saves the best for last. “I’ll write after I…..” And then the day is finished. I have no energy left for the good stuff.

It’s hard to think of a tortured artist baking and decorating cookies, but it’s my very civilized-flirting-with-diabetes form of torment. But it is no more. No more half-hearted attempts at making slippers, meringues, paintings, blankets or any other whim I get snagged on while cruising Pinterest.  No more tummy aches and sugar lows. No more cursing myself for my jeans getting even smaller.

In Big Magic, Ms. Gilbert talks about enchantment, and whether you meet it with the resistance of the stereotypical tortured artist or like gracious host who makes room for it.

I’m going to try and be the gracious host. And that includes not wearing pants that are way too tight.

Advent · Andshelaughs · Art of LIving · Coping · Creative Life · Fearless Living · Friendship · Friendships · Graceful Living · Gracious Living · Healthy Living · Joyful Living · Life · Life Lessons · Lifestyle · Living · Meaning of Life · Mental Health · Middle Age · Midlife · Mindful Living · Opinion · Personal Development · Perspective · Self-Care · Simple Living · Spiritual Living · The Art of Living · Uncategorized · Whole Living

Always Say YES!

lovesomeone

During a quick lunch with my Mumster the topic of keeping oneself vibrant while in the midst of feeling stuck became a theme. I like to think that our conversation was inspiring to us both. Just having a quick visit with a kindred spirit, helped my sense of well being.

As some of you may know, my day-to-day life has changed recently. I now find myself in the position of stay-at-home-caregiver. It’s the longest time I’ve ever been away from work, and frankly, it’s like living in a thick fog.

Anxiety has its’ natural place during times of transition and healing. I wish I had someone here to give me a hug, offer me a passionate escape, or a giddy drunken Christmas date night.  But that is not so.  What I have is myself; the stalwart, courageous, positive, kick-you-in-the-ass-just-enough-to-keep-you-going-all-day fabulous woman that I am.

The first thing I reluctantly gave up being here doing what I’m doing, was my sleep pattern. I’m a natural night owl, and later nights are always the first thing to come galloping back into my life  when I’m not on my work-home routine. If  I could force away the anxiety of wondering how I’ll adjust when I do go back to work, late nights aren’t a bad thing.  Mostly because just last night, head on the pillow, I was lulling myself to sleep, silently re-telling the stories of my literally ‘shitty’ day,  and it came to me! Novel number 3! Late nights are a breading ground for creativity, and that’s heady stuff.

Quietly, I got up in the darkness, crept past the orange-pink glow of the salt lamp, and made my way to my notebook, scrounging a pen from the medication log on the nursing cart in the makeshift hospital room that is now the living/dining room.

I curled up under my favourite wool blanket from Ireland, and wrote a basic outline, including main characters, and a handful of their personality quirks. I then pounded back a piece of lemon cake, the crumbs at the bottom of a bag of dill pickle chips, swigged back a hot cup of tea, and then went back to bed. Inspired.

That’s the same way I woke up.

Not only do I have a full novel to edit, I have another one ready to be born, and butter softening on the counter for a batch of sugar cookies which I will decorate in layers over the next two days for the sole purpose of doing something other than letting my brain rot. I have a list of books to read, and have managed to finish 3 of them, and I”m slowly grinding my way through the fourth (  a dense book of essays).  I also have wine. And whiskey. And tea.

These things are enough.

Enough to keep me motivated, creative and vibrant (under the circumstances).

Yes, I miss my yoga classes. I miss taking my time and poking about my favourite shops. I miss even going for a flipping walk! But these are not things I have control over right now. I can control what I manage to do while I’m limited to the house with brief periods of respite and so can you.

advent

As I’ve written many times, the spirit of Advent (waiting with wonder in the darkness) is one that resonates deeply with me. It reassures me of an idea that I believe in; out of the darkness and the muck of life, sprout the most fruitful of ideas and experiences.

If you are feeling stuck, take a few minutes to yourself. Grab a notebook and pen; jot down unfinished projects you’d really like to finish. Maybe it’s a new skill you’d like to learn  or  a book you would love to tuck in to read from start to finish.  Just let yourself relax into some kind of stillness of mind that will accompany you on a journey of wonder and discovery.

Most importantly if you have friends out there who offer a different perspective, a couple hours of respite, a moment of escape, always, always, always say YES!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Andshelaughs · andshelaughs writing · Christmas · Christmas Letters · Holidays · Meaning of Christmas · Mental Health · Middle Age · Midlife · Opinion · Parenting · Perspective · Uncategorized

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.