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Keep Your Fa-La-La-La-La Opinion to Yourself

Last night, after a looooooong day at work (where, by the way, I have learned the very precious currency of living and loving every day), I had to run some errands. After snagging my kitties their favourite food and a few discounted Hallowe’en toys ( they don’t care if the feathers are purple and orange), I stepped out into the  crisp November air into some of the first here-to-stay snowflakes of the year.

It felt like Christmas.

It was a Wednesday evening, and the little strip mall was relatively quiet. There was a calm, cozy feel in the air, and I felt a simple joy. I was drawn into a shop to stroll through the aisles laden with Christmas items. I had a short conversation with another woman who was experiencing the same simple pleasure. There in the aisle, we talked about how she likes to come out early to pick up a few new items to add to her Christmas village for her autistic son to enjoy. She says he is mesmerized by the detail of the tiny village, and the lights.  We shared a small part of our selves as we shared our stories. We brought a little bit of humanity to one another’s life in this busy world.

It was just five minutes of connection. But for me, that’s what the season is about. Moments of connection; Slowing down to reconnect and appreciate the people in our lives who bring us light.

Sounds lovely and perfect right? Which leads me to wonder about the mental health of people who rage against how others experience joy.  Actually, I don’t wonder so much any more as I just wish they’d fuck off.

Yes, it’s harsh, but it’s true. Misery loves company, and joy just doesn’t really give a crap. Joy is too busy shining and casting out shadows.

I’m a Christmas person. I have always chosen joy.

I have already loaded the PVR with scheduled recordings of Hallmark Christmas movies. Although I’m way behind on my shopping, I’m over half way finished. Today I will set up the spare room to be our ‘wrapping room’ for the family so that everyone has access to all of the paper, bows, gift tags, tissue, boxes and thoughtful little gifts that make the season happy for so many of our friends.

I have a menu planned for our Christmas Cottage FamJam. The itinerary for our ultimate Chistmas-in-New-York weekend is set, including hard to get reservations and a reminder to book our appointment at Santaland. It has been plugged in so at midnight on the day that reservations open, I will be up, sipping cocoa spiked with peppermint-vodka and clicking us into the magic of every kid’s fantasy.

I spent days and weeks in the summer prepping homemade gifts to bundle up for my friends, who at this age and stage have every ‘thing’ that they need, but I don’t get to spend enough time with. Gifts are now tokens of friendship, and a lovely introduction into the hours spent during the Christmas season catching up and rekindling our connection.

For those of you who have the opinion that people who use Christmas as a time to reconnect are hypocrites, you are most welcome to your opinion. And those of us who use the season as an excuse to spend time with loved ones, and celebrate the beauty of life, are entitled to our joy.  In the parlance of our times; haters gonna hate.

eggnogJoyful people do not need miserly permission to be joyful, so hold your smug bullshit. Better yet, strap on a nightcap, grab yourself some spiked eggnog, (I recommend Old Tom’s), and chill the hell out. Smug is the opposite of sexy, get over it already.

Those folks who meme the hell out of celebrating Christmas too early (before; Remembrance day, American Thanksgiving, or some other arbitrary chosen date) make me wonder if they need to up their dose. God forbid anyone be joyful and not offended by something. If marking another day is more important for you, gobble ’til you wobble, make your front porch a giant poppy-laden memorial, but for the love of God, get off your lazy meme-clicking ass and do something about it. Celebrate, decorate, bake…live out your preachy preference, and be happy. Happy oozes sexy. Happy can fix all that’s wrong in our little worlds.

Drink the spiked egg-nog, watch the Hallmark movie.

 

 

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Thanksgiving Public Etiquette Challenge

etiquette

“I said….YOU’RE A MISERABLE OLD BASTARD AND YOU DON’T GET TO SPEAK TO PEOPLE THAT WAY.”

Despite the all-caps, I did not yell that to the man across the grocery lines, I simply was repeating in a much louder voice what I’d just said to him, after he responded with, “What did you just say?”

I have to admit it wasn’t my most elegant reproach, but I think it was effective. I’m pretty sure the old coot who yelled at the cashier not once, but twice, will not behave like that in public again.

We had a bit of an exchange that included him telling me that in fact he wasn’t a sad lonely man like I guessed, and that he had a lovely wife. Whom, I responded, had to be a saint to put up with his shit, and was likely at home praying he didn’t return.

So that’s really where this ‘challenge’ is coming from. It’s my, ‘you don’t speak to people like that’ mantra. I mean, people do speak to other people like that, and that’s the problem. Seriously, what the hell is wrong with these idiots? Do they really believe that they can bleed attitude all over everyone and get treated with respect? Why yes, in fact they do, because most folks are polite enough not to make a scene. But that’s where we’ve gone wrong. That’s why there’s such an imbalance these days of entitled morons making the rest of us stressed. In public no less!

While we’re stuck in line exercising our patience on what is sure to be a busy week in grocery line ups and housewares shops, I challenge you to call out the people who make the world ugly. In a safe way of course. I’m not trying to incite violence or screaming matches. What I think the world needs now is a bit of stern mothering. A good look straight in the eye and a demand that they don’t trail around their seething bullshit everywhere. Package it up, and place it neatly back on their lap.

Trust me, misery loves company, but once it’s reprimanded, it tends to crawl back in it’s cave whenever it senses someone who isn’t afraid of it.

Start small if you have to, and then work your way up. That’s how we make the world a better place. Nice matters. A lot.

 

 

 

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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;

 

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.

 

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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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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.

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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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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.