Summer: Does Pumpkin Spice Belong Here?

pumpkinspiceThe end of summer has a natural melancholy about it, nostalgia seems to like the golden light of sunset and my pumpkin-spice-swilling-compadres seem always ready for the next consumer fix…ho-ho-hold off on the winter holidays please. I’m still trying to sip my September dream of October.

I missed day-one of the Pumpkin Spice season at Starbucks, but you can bet your syrupy sweet, sugary ass that I made it there on the second day.  We are an odd bunch, craving fall when it’s still peach season.

Does pumpkin spice belong here before the kids go back to school? Who’s to say. I mean, it was a marketing campaign that changed the face of how we end our summers, but maybe we can come up with some new ideas;

Peach tea lattes ( I know, it’s been done, but they are damn yummy), please don’t leave me plum lemonade, late summer boo-hoo berry or  harvest melancholy melon???

Perhaps is was Toronto’s above average rain fall and below average temperatures that fooled me into thinking our season had to be longer, or that September would bring with her some sunshine and dry heat.

For a gal who loves her some festive, pumpkin-spice lattes, I wasn’t prepared this year. Nor was I prepared to walk into a shop yesterday and find myself surrounded by Christmas decor, the  Thanksgiving and Hallowe’en stock already having been pushed to a corner.

Late summer is a mix of hanging on to the carefree days of summer, new beginnings and connecting to our ancient rituals around the harvest.

Every year, my middle-aged mom social media feed is awash with ladies celebrating the return of the syrupy-sweet-caffeine-laden coffee that is our generation’s valium. And every year, I contribute to the madness. I covet  no-whip-half-sweet-non-fat-pumpkin-spice-lattes. It’s like a small booby-prize for growing older but not up.

 

 

 

 

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Buy & Sell

wicker chairRecently I was introduced to a phenomenon that I was completely unfamiliar with; the on-line community of Buy & Sell.

For about two weeks I was obsessed. I stayed awake into the wee hours of the morning, fascinated by the crap that people were posting for sale; furniture, baby clothes, shoes, toiletries and other things that I thought most people just donated when they got tired of it.

On-line buy and sell is the hunting and gathering of our times. I wonder if it’s fulfilling some ancient drive to be self-sufficient that we lost after being turned into mere cogs in the capitalist machine?

I could not believe that someone would actually go to the bother of arranging a meet-up to pay for the same soap you can buy at the store. And besides that, who wants to rub stuff all over their body that someone else has cracked open…I’m talking about toiletries here folks, get your mind out of the gutter.

So I gave it a try. I was reprimanded for donating clothing that I myself had posted to see if the on-line system worked. I was accused of teasing other users with my selfish way of donating since one person in the group was offering me $1.

You can imagine my response to the administrator’s accusation of ‘teasing’. I could just picture her with her laptop perched on kitchen table of her two-million dollar Etobicoke home surrounded by the loneliness of Stepford-Stay-At-Home-Wifedom. Pul-eaze darling! Take your one dollar, pseudo-group-policing badge and stick it where the sun don’t shine. I’m quite happy knowing that my suits are being used by women trying to better themselves.

On a more positive note, I did have some adventures. While waiting outside a strip mall for a lady named Dee-Dee who was going to sell me a new vaccuum for twenty bucks, my son brought it to my attention that  the whole ordeal was, ‘sketch’. As in shady as hell. The vacuum being the equivalent of a chocolate bar used to lure middle-aged women into the abductor van of life.

My son leaned against the back of my bumper-stickered car and licked his ice-cream cone, “Look Mom, if some weirdo shows up and gives you a hard time, I’m not really sure I’m prepared to fight.” About five minutes later, a beige mini van with two septuagenarians pulled up and we cordially exchanged cash for the vacuum. “Sketch, mom. Totally sketch.”

I sent my boyfriend on a mission to buy a rug, which I somehow linked to the awesomeness of the-rug-that-tied-the-room-together in the Big Lewbowski.

giphy

My man-friend did not perceive the ;same, high level of coolness as I did. As a matter of fact, he was kinda pissed at me. Until he saw the rug.

Then there was the wicker chair that my son accurately described as smelling like old lady and wet cigarette butts. A little vinegar and water wash and some airing out, and it’s as good as new – the chair, not the old lady.

And then there’s the giant bean-bag chair that I have been coveting on-line for a year. It’s $400, but I managed to buy one for $50 that was never used. I smelled this one before I bought it though. Old lady is much harder to rinse out of a bean bag chair than wicker.

I have always been a donation gal. If it no longer serves a purpose in my home, it gets packed in a box and dropped at the nearest donation drop-off. I believe that someone out there needs it more than me, and I want them to have access to it.  I also believe that I like the idea of making a little extra cash too, especially from items that I over-spent on, and never really use.

Perhaps that’s what it’s all about; Easing our consciousness of how much crap we consume, and how it actually diminishes the quality of our lives.

Maybe that’s why it enraged someone so very much that I had the gall to snub the one dollar offer, and the tank of gass I’d use to meet the cheapskate. The idea that I would rather donate my stuff to someone in need takes away from the glory of the almighty dollar.

 

 

All Grown Up With No Time to Go

woman rushedEventually we all grow up; in different ways, and on different schedules, but I believe that we do.

The faster it happens, the better off we are. That’s my opinion anyway. I’m not talking about having childhood trauma throw you into the world of adulthood prematurely. No. What I’m talking about is growing up and accepting your responsibility as an adult.

This included how you treat other people, and how your actions and words make them feel.

In other words, I don’t subscribe to the bullshit about living ones own life ignorant of the collateral damage it leaves behind like flaming shrapnel. Sometimes being a responsible adult means missing out on, or rescheduling something way more delicious than living up to a responsibility.

For some reason, we have mistaken the idea of self-care with selfishness. Seriously, we’ve reached the tipping point, and it’s pretty ugly.

I’ve witnessed it, and stumbled over my own  expectations of an instagram-worthy life.

Take a look at this:

That is a hell of a lot of work for a bath.  I confess to having a candle-lit set up in my own little piece of heaven, otherwise known as the loo. I’m a social media addict, snapping and posting pics as if my life depended on it.

It doesn’t though. What means more than a bunch of likes is the actual time I get to spend with the people I care about.  It seems to be getting harder and harder to carve out that time, what with shift work, a partner, and a child on the cusp of a big transition.

Self-care is a must, and empathy is also a must. It can be a fine balance when we live our lives with very narrow margins; lack of time, money or other resources.  When we finally develop into a stage of all-grown-upness, it seems as if we find ourselves livnig a life so fast that we have no time to nurture the meaningful connections that give our lives meaning.

Our connection to one another is the most important thing we have, and we musn’t let the world convince us otherwise.

Teenage Head vs. Buddha

be here nowMy sweetie and I are not of the same vintage. We often find ourselves WTF’ing about our friends’ antics, and our choices of entertainment .Yet we persevere, giggle, and learn A LOT.

It was this past weekend at a Teenage Head concert that most of my Buddhist training came back to me. Present moment? Pul-eaze, these folks were hanging on to the past harder than me hanging on to my only child’s innocence.

The present moment was nowhere to be found. Hanging on to beer bottles like the social-teddy-bear-comfort-of-underage-drinkers, fifty and sixty-somethings duded themselves up in outfits that should never, ever, be seen in public. Ever.

Were they having fun, or out there hoping to have the same kind of fun that they organically experienced in their youth? It’s a spiderweb issue, never really to be dissected.

I’ve had the good fortune of being exposed to trauma and crisis. Yes, I did say good fortune. I say that because I’ve witnessed true grace under presssure. Whatever the age or stage, it takes grace to transition to another phase with success and with some modicum of fabulousness.

Which brings me to the crux of what I’ve been thinking about lately; how to remain happy in the present moment, and continue to be spontaneous even as fear disguises itself as good sense and responsibility.

It’s tough. “We get cautious“, my gal-pal said to me during a conversation about how we’re feeling ‘old’.  Just yesterday I was stretched out in a worn blue gown that ties at the back on the pale green sheets of a gurney, being told about parts of my internal organs that were not healthy.

edith-piaf-non-je-ne-regrette-rien-columbia-8I regret nothing; The crazy nights out, my falling in and out of love,  career changes, my devotion to my kiddo, and especially my larger-than-life-sometimes-too-much-for-you personality.

What I do regret though is the caution that has gotten comfy and is taking up space in my psyche.

So, I hope to find joy in new places, experiences and acquaintances, that maybe, just maybe will scare me a little bit.

I beg of you. Let the 80’s hair, leather and old artists go. rade it in for the some half-shaved version  of the now, more sassy leather, and support new artisits. Find something new and fresh. Live in the present moment. Allow your body and your soul to mellow and change. Rejoice in your softening.Read new authors, go see new plays, listen to live music written and performed by kids who could be your own, paint your living room red, learn to code….

Whatever you do, do it with all of your heart, and laugh. Laugh a lot.

 

 

 

A Night Owl’s Meditation Lesson for Morning People

no wormI’m not a morning person. Unless I’m the first one up when I’m in the great outdoors, marvelling at a sunrise, watching mist rise from a placid lake, and listening to the first call of the loons.

But that rarely happens.

So, I’m basically just not a morning person.

I am a night owl. The still darkness is rich ground to cultivate ideas and search out creative genius.

We all have a delicate balance of extroverted and introverted needs, and as a fence rider on almost every element of the Myers-Briggs assessment, I need as much time alone as I do surrounded by other fascinating human beings.

Morning people often insinuate that I’m wasting the day. They gently suggest that perhaps I’m a tad depressed, lazy, unmotivated, or accomplishing less than my potential. Morning people are wrong.

My very naïve beginnings at meditation have developed throughout the years, and my practice is now something I am aware of every day.

Waking slowly, at my own pace allows me to be quiet with the thoughts that come and go from my mind.

It’s easy to be aware of all of the thoughts that come to mind as your head is on the pillow waiting for sleep to wrap her arms around you. Unless you’re dog-tired, thoughts come fast. You can’t help but be aware of their presence in the quiet darkness of night-time.

Morning thoughts are different. These are the thoughts that come out quietly, like a hungry stray hoping for a leftover morsel. They slink quietly into consciousness and scatter as soon as you turn to thoughts of preparing for the day.

be the awarenessThis morning as I woke,I listened to the heart-breaking howl of the neighbours oft neglected dog.  The irony is that if some of my thoughts were sounds, they would have sounded like that baleful howling.

In the silence of my fluffy duvets, snuggled warm and safe, I had time to reach out and hold each of those thoughts gently, examine them, and then let them go.  At peace with my own self, I felt prepared to face the day, and share it with whatever the world had prepared for me.

My not-a-morning-person mornings are a simple pleasure, and a quality of life indulgence.  I have the peace to let my emotions and thoughts speak their truth, and the time to gently make peace with everything, both good and not so good. This is the value of meditation, practice, and the awareness of personal presence.

 

Sink Or Swim; Nostalgia & a Little Shove

mylifeHolidays tend to make us nostalgic. Thank goodness that they’re officially over for 2015.

I can’t count the number of times that I’ve heard, “2015 was a terrible year“. Wow.

I prefer to frame my year as a deli sandwich. The bread was delicious, but the meat of it was a little sour. In other words, the first and last thirds were great (as in; good enough), but the middle really blew.

How often as children did we say a year was terrible? We didn’t darlings. We just did the 10 second countdown to the new year and moved forward with joyful, curious abandon.

sufferingNow we yearn for the days when life was simple and  we still believed in magic. Friendships and family were taken for granted, and happiness was just on the other side of the screen door.

As adults, we tend to overcomplicate things. ‘Be kind and play fair’, seem to have gotten lost in the big, adult personal ethics playbook. And that just stinks. Because it hurts. Yes, people can be selfish and cruel, but they can also be kind, giving, and lovely to snuggle up with. Naked.

As human beings, we all want to be loved. We all need and want strong friendships, a true love with whom we can  share our most intimate selves , and bourbon. Ok, maybe the last bit is all about me, but whatever.

When we lose ourselves in the fray of losing the one person we fell in love with, we feel broken. I’ve been there. It hurts. It’s scary, and it puts a pretty harsh filter on our vision of the future.

Just this summer, I sat, sobbing on my friend’s front step, while she nursed my broken heart and damaged pride. I felt empty, hopeless, afraid and lost.

We live in a world that prizes the individual and yet makes it impossible to live without the safety net of community, family and friends. Yes, the great Western-way-of-life has unfolded into a wonderful cock-up of psychological dissonance. But what do I know? I’m just a girl after all.

I do know this. The holiday season has seen a lot of falling in and out of love; happy hearts and hearts that have been broken and need time to heal, relationships that are worn thin, or worn out altogether.

The beautifully terrifying part of it all, is that the only way to heal a heart is to live life. The very life that has tossed you like a small boat on a big, angry, ocean, leaving you feeling washed up and broken beyond repair.

Cling to curiosity. Let your friends lead you when you are  blinded by tears. Be wary of the seductive pull of too much sleep, lack of self care, and try to remember how good it feels to laugh after you decide to, ‘fuck it’.

As a quasi-Buddhist-lover-of-Christian-ritual, this speaks to me. You have two choices; get up, dive back into that same unpredictable ocean to wash yourself clean, or wallow in the sand getting burned by the sun and possibly gnawed to death by vicious, exotic fauna.

Sometimes you need a friend to role you back into the ocean. In some cases, you need a friend to drag you, kicking and screaming, back to life. It’s called tough love, and we all need it once in a while.

Nostalgia and wishing for a happily-ever-after is a waste of time.

havetimeYou and I both know that more than anything else, this is true; life is short and precious.

Take the time you need to sit quietly with your broken heart. Don’t run away from it, or deny it what it needs to tell you.  Take your sadness and swaddle it like a helpless infant. As difficult as this may seem, you will see that soon enough, you will be at peace with it.

Weep. Cry. Scream into your pillow…and as you take your last gasp of sobbing breath, get ready for a shove back into the ocean of life.

You’ve always been a beautiful swimmer darling. Always.

 

 

 

Christmas Shopping & The Meaning of Life

christmas shoppingThis one goes out to the Costco employees at the Laird Road location in Mississauga.

Thank you for reminding me to be kind and friendly this holiday season.

Your rude behavior and obvious annoyance at being bothered by your customers has made me rethink how I show up in the world every day.

In other words, you’re a shining example of how I don’t want to be.

The art of living truly is about mastering how you show up in the world wherever that place may be; home, work, school, or even Costco.

Trust me darlings, I too would rather be at home relaxing with a cocktail than being locked in a metal, windowless box spending my hard earned money with a bunch of people who feel the same way.

Before you ask, yes, I have worked retail, and yes, I know how annoying people can be.

Also, in case you thought I was independently wealthy, I have to work  as hard as you do for my money.  By the way, newsflash, I can spend hundreds and hundreds of dollars, somewhere else for the very same products. If dealing with customers is such a pain in the ass, try dealing with no customers and no job.

Your brand of misery is the reason why people are giving up their materialistic Christmases of gluttony and trading them in for the simple joy of spending time together.

Spending time and energy buying stuff from people who are rude really doesn’t scream Merry, or Joy, or Peace on Earth.

The more I interact with you, the more I resent spending an hour finding a parking spot, being jostled like cattle through your aisles, and then ending the long-journey-of-consumer-monotony with a cashier who doesn’t know how to engage in a polite greeting, look me in the eye, and throws my conveniently-mega-packaged purchases into my cart like they’re trash.

Wishing that you and yours find the joy of the season where you least expect to find it; your own, every-day life.

 

 

 

The Niqab Debate; A Feminist Canadian Perspective

maninchapsI’ve debated whether or not to write this post.

Let me be clear, the Niqab is a political, social and emotional hot button, and our Canadian Conservative spin-doctors hit the nail on the head when they reeled in this red herring.

This is and is not a political issue. It is because it addresses the clusterf^@k that happens when church and state mix. It is not because we should be focused on the complete erosion of democracy that has been achieved by the Conservative government.

I am by no means a social conservative. I am, however, amongst other fabulous and wonderful things, a feminist.

As a woman, the idea that any faith or culture requires a woman to hide her body reinforces the grand debate about the inequality between women and men.

It’s all bullshit folks. Women, men, and everyone who lives in the spectrum between these binary ideas of gender, deserve to be treated equally according to their achievements, gifts and status as a human being.

This morning, sipping my coffee, I read a social media post, (read it folks- it makes a great point, the twitter handle is @manwhohasitall ), which emphasized how screwed up our culture is when it comes to assigning value to typical gender roles.

The title of the article was; If we gave fathers the same nonsensical advice we give working mothers. Here are a few of the more ridiculous quotes;

TODAY’S DEBATE: Is fatherhood the end for career men?

RISE & SHINE FRAZZLED DADS! Wife & kids asleep? Now is the time to declutter cupboard under the sink & snack on your open pores. ‘Me time’.

Working husband & father? Feeling overwhelmed? YOUR FAULT. Drink more water, get up earlier & dress in your ‘wow’ colours.

Now that we have established the double-standard that still exists for working women, let me dive right in to Canadian politics and culture.

People flee to this country because it has a reputation for being nice, for offering equal opportunity, and not allowing our citizens to slit one another’s throats in the street because of basic human rights such as gender, religion, or ability differences.

You know why that exists folks? Because we separate religion from politics.

Given that the history of the niqab as religious versus cultural choice is debatable, let me hit you with a feminist, Canadian, patriotic perspective; women are sick and damn-tired of being told what to do. As Canadians, we’re sick and damn-tired of people from other countries coming here and telling us that they want the same religious-cultural government that they fled from.

If your argument is that not being allowed to wear the niqab is a religious right, perhaps you can cover your face and symbolically demean women in another country. I would never dream of travelling to Saudia Arabia, wearing a bikini and whining about being persecuted for wearing it. It just doesn’t happen.

I wouldn’t mind if all heterosexual men were mandated to wear ass-showing chaps so I could size up my next pony-ride, but I doubt that’s ever going to happen. Because it’s sexist and demeaning.

I agree with Naheed Nenshi’s latest article in the Globe and Mail which talks about Canada being a country of hope. I do not agree with starting down a slippery slope of mixing church and state via the not-so-subtle misogynistic tradition of devaluing the feminine in the name of religion, a la Niqab.

Don’t give me the ridiculous argument about Hallowe’en or Newfie Mummers. It’s not the same and you know it. You know why?  Because females and males participate equally in both. Because no one shows up at airport security, in a courtroom, or in any other situation with their face hidden. It’s a slap in the face of every woman who has ever had to fight to vote, be legally considered a person, been paid less than a man for the same job, the list goes on and on.

Yes, mandating an uncovered face would be telling women what to do, and men too. It’s also telling citizens that we are all accountable for our actions, that hiding behind religion or cultural traditions which symbolically treat women as the property of men will not be tolerated.

Like it or not, allowing the niqab to be worn in public flies in the face of women’s rights in North America. We have worked damn hard to achieve the reduced level of inequality that we have now.

Misogyny cannot hide behind a veil. Instead, that veil screams to North American women that it is alive and well.

Not Giving a Damn – Radical Self-Care for Givers

giveadamThe love of my life who abandoned me told me that me being a  ‘giver’ was what most attracted him to me. Ha!

That should have had me running the other way. The only people attracted to givers are takers, and quite frankly, it’s boring.

The reality is though, that I am a giver. A giver of my heart in everything that I do. I tend my friendships, bring my best professional self to work, and hope to leave the world a better place than I found it at the end of every day.

I’ve realized over time that that looks a little differently than I used to think it should.

Example; today it was strongly (passively aggressively) suggested that I should abandon my work and go home to tend to a minor sore throat and common cold. In the past, I would have toughed it out, lived on liver-damaging-over-the-counter-pharmacandy and felt better in a month. Smiling all the while of course.

But not today. Nope.

You see, I’m learning to take some of my own advice. Givers tend to utter such sincere statements as, It’s ok sweetie, don’t be so hard on yourself, and one of my personal favourites, don’t worry about it I’ll take care of it.

Years ago I gave up the need to be a ‘giver’. After a really bad, treacherously drawn-out relationship,  I finally learned that I don’t need to be there for people who are only there for me when they need something.

The second two quarters of this year have been a colossal gong-show of loss, heartbreak, being taken advantage of, and frankly my darling buttercups, I’ve had efuckingnough. That’s French for; I’m done.

lucilleballI do not need to be anyone’s savior, free therapist, or emotional punching bag. I could use a wicked massage, night of hot sweaty sex, and a romantic dinner.But that’s in the works as I type this my sweet little peaches…after all, a lady makes sure that her needs are met in order not to settle for second-best.

So, today, at the suggestion that I was too ill to work, I packed up my beautiful black and red leather bag and headed out the door.

After a quick stop to pick up new shoes, and a hair-colour pick-me-up, I spent the afternoon finally taking the advice of a good art-therapist friend of mine.  I used the last of my instant, vanilla-flavoured coffee that’s been in the cupboard since David slew Goliath, and spattered the hell out of some watercolour paper. I scrawled my pastels and turned up my Rachmaninoff  extra-freaking loud.

I sipped tea. I wore tights and a baggy sweater, and I opened wide all of the windows to let the fresh autumn air breeze through our little home.

Photo from a Vogue Photoshoot

Photo from a Vogue Photoshoot

When I was done with that, I spent 90 minutes with Charlie Hunnam on my couch and watched him take his shirt off and stare back at me with his wild blue eyes. Men like that give me faith in my libido and all that it’s done for me over the years. Thank you Charlie.

What I did not do was listen for my phone, respond to energy-sucking messages, or feel that I owed anyone anything. After all, a gal has to take care of herself every once in a while, ’cause there ain’t nobody out there who’s going to do it for her.

What I’ve learned is that when you do it all, all of the time, no one comes to your rescue. It used to upset me, make me feel abandoned, alone, sad and even angry.

The truth is, I don’t need to be saved. No one does.

I just need to let go of the message that our western world sinisterly implies; keep busy, want more stuff, don’t think, just keep going.

Busy is over-rated. Stuff just kills the planet and clutters our space. Rest, introspection and silence seem to go against everything society shoves so beautifully down our  throat. Today I wasn’t swallowing though. Today I pulled the blankie of don’t-bother-me up around my ears and turned my face to the wall.

Today I did not give one single damn. I took care of me, my son, and my mental health. I let my broken heart loose and loved it just as it was; whole, hurting, imperfect and yet, still hopeful. Damn I’m one hell of a dame…

I strongly suggest you don’t give a damn too. Every once in a while, it’s just the medicine you need.  After all, who are you trying to prove yourself to, really?

Lundi Monday