Posted in Andshelaughs, Art of LIving, Creative Life, Fearless Living, Graceful Living, Gracious Living, Healthy Living, Joyful Living, Life, Life Lessons, Lifestyle, Living, Meaning of Life, Middle Age, Midlife, Mindful Living, Simple Living, Spiritual Living, The Art of Living, Toronto Life, Uncategorized, Whole Living

The Freedom & Joy of Middle Age

lucilleballEurope-bound.

Despite having been ill for over two weeks, running out of sick time, and trying to mother through training camp stresses, I am sitting in a plush, premium lounge waiting to board my flight.

I have layers to keep me warm, prescription inhalers, nasal spray, neo citron and enough green tea in my carry-on to seve a royal court.

There is a freedom about mid-life that I know is precious. And I’m cherishing it darlings. Oh, how I’m cherishing my good fortune. My kiddo who is on the right track, my rather stable career ( despite missing almost a month between being sick and now being away), true friends, and a partner who spoils me when he’s not making me crazy.

In my life I have witnessed women my age fall prey to the pressures of looking and acting like twenty-somethings. I revile that. I have earned every wrinkle, roll and opinion that I have. I’m happy and thankful and also pretty damn impressed with how my life has rolled out.

Your value has never been in your DNA ladies, it is in your heart, how you carry yourself every day out into the world and love.

Do not let the invisibility that comes with loss of youth for women make you shrink and shrivel. Shine brightly from your wealth of experience and knowledge, and always, always, always, say yes to the glass of wine.

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Posted in #TBT, Advertising, Advice, Andshelaughs, andshelaughs writing, Art of LIving, Creative Life, Fearless Living, Food, Food and Wine, Food Critics, Graceful Living, Gracious Living, Healthy Living, Joyful Living, Life, Life Lessons, Lifestyle, Living, Middle Age, Midlife, Mindful Living, Simple Living, Spiritual Living, The Art of Living, Toronto Life, Uncategorized, Whole Living

Classic Style – Keep it Classic

but you said
“My idea of good company is the company of clever, well-informed people who have a great deal of conversation.” ~Jane Austen~

What I’ve recently recognized about the world that we live in is that it lacks imagination. For all of the nouveau trends in food and dress, ‘retro’ is a rather civilized way of making lack of imagination seem trendy.

Style is an easy example. Ankel length, full length, wide leg, narrow leg, graphic prings, stripes, florals…it’s all been done before.  Other than (thank God) changes in more practical fabric, it’s really not that different.

And then there’s food. One of my pet peeves. At a summer luncheon, I was served a house-named caesar salad. It boasted a poached egg atop a large disk of crispy parmesean which required explanation and directions with regard to how to actually eat the damn thing.

Let me be clear. This was NOT a caesar salad. The taste was similar, but it was not a caesar. It was delicious and did not disappoint my senses. The establishment could have at least given this wonderful creation the credit it deserved and called it something unique. As for the waldorf salad in a current epicurian rag-mag, it is not a waldorf salad. A waldorf salad has a specific dressing, walnuts, apples and lettuce. Eggs and cheese and pecans do not a fucking waldorf salad make. Please, for the love of all that’s holy, at least come up with an original  name!!!

My ultimate annoyance is the caesar. Gimme some voddy and clamato. Rim it with celery seed and plop in a celery stick.

When messing with the classic caesar came into vogue over a decade ago, I was sitting at Fran’s in Toronto waiting for my date. We were headed to a Bonnie Raitt concert at old Massey Hall, and I was hungry. A great drink to order prior to a meal (when you’re freaking starving) is a caesar. It’s ok to have a cocktail while you’re waiting, but not so much a meal, and a caesar is pretty much an appetizer in a glass.

So I ordered my caesar and people watched. Enter the spicy bean. Like I said, I was hungry. So, I chomped down on the offending bean and almost died choking. I downed my glass of water, my caesar, and had to order another just to stop from choking again. Please no bean this time. Celery if you have it.

Please, do not garnish my classic cocktails with pretensious garnish that need to be groomed, pampered, handled with cutlery or introduced and explained.

Cocktail bars and great restaurants need not rely on old names for new, delicious concoctions. They need to get creative.  Don’t sell me either caesar unless it’s true. Do tempt me with new concoctions with new names. Imagination is sexy darling, dreadful surprises are not.

Posted in Art of LIving, Food, Food and Wine, Graceful Living, Gracious Living, Healthy Living, Life, Life Lessons, Lifestyle, Living, Meaning of Life, Midlife, Mindful Living, Simple Living, Social Commentary, Society, Soul Food, Spiritual Living, The Art of Living, Toronto Life, Uncategorized, Whole Living

Farmer’s Markets: Hipster Paradise or Community Refuge?

Twelve dollar nut-milk and dairy-free cheese. Fermented cabbage, kombucha everything and an old shipping container decked out with an energy guzzling refrigerator stocked with locally made craft booze.

It’s a hipster haven, and on the surface, it’s annoying ‘AF’ (as my child’s generation would call it).

It’s the farmer’s market at the Evergreen Brickworks in Toronto. A man-made ‘natural’ oasis in the middle of the city.  The Saturday morning farmer’s market is well-curated, and the food court is pretty damn tempting.

To be quite honest, this market had me at Monforte Dairy and Hinterland Wine.

A country girl at heart, I yearn for my connection to the earth. After all these years, I have to admit, that I can come across as a city girl too, and maybe that’s why I’m so attracted to the bucolic civility of a rustic market just off seconds from the Don Valley Parkway.

Rural life tethers us with  invisible thread, connecting us to seasons, the earth, and the natural order of things. There is comfort in that.  I believe it’s the main reason why, even here in the city, where many children and adults  don’t know how to plant a seed or cultivate a garden or preserve food, that every walk of life  flocks to farmer’s markets.

As pretentious as  all downtown markets seem, they’re a sight better than our lives here in a city where anonymity is sweet, but the bitterness of a community lacking heart overpowers that sweetness. Markets are a small gesture of humanity within the  momentum  of the economic machine that is our lifestyle.

Our food sources connect us to the natural cycles of life, and to the intimate relationship that we have with our physical bodies. Food – the great equalizer. We break bread together as a symbol of opening our minds, hearts and homes to those whom we gather with.

Feeling some connection to that food is life-affirming and spiritual nutrition. Even if it just means it didn’t travel across borders to get here, and we received it from the same hand that harvested it.

If you have yet to make your way to your local farmer’s market this year, I encourage you to do just that. I reminds you where we are within the seasons, the community, and the planet as a whole.

Posted in Advice for Women, Art, Art of LIving, Artists, Creative Life, Creativity, Decor, Empty Nest, Fearless Living, Girl Stuff, Graceful Living, Gracious Living, Healthy Living, Joyful Living, Life, Life Lessons, Life With Cats, Lifestyle, Living, Meaning of Life, Midlife, Mindful Living, Professional Women, Simple Living, The Art of Living, Toronto Life, Uncategorized, women, Women's Issues, Working Women

What Are You Good At – Maybe Everything!

catslipper.jpgLast year I attempted to make slippers for my son’s giant feet, but after two tries, I ended up with what looked like a crocheted sleeping bag for our cat. The fat one.

Projects and hobbies are so necessary for me, that I couldn’t imagine my busy life without them. Having lived an adult life filled with responsibility, these small, creative outlets bring me immeasurable joy.

Creativity is essential to the human condition. If you feel listless, find something that makes you smile, and go out and make it. Don’t worry about how long it takes or what the end result is, try to enjoy and trust the process.

Someone once asked me if I was good at anything, given I had so many interests.  It wasn’t a question asked in ernest or with good intent, no, it was sarcastic, and in my twenties, it hurt.

Now that I’m in my forties, I can honestly say that I’m good at a lot of things.  I love doing things that I’m good at, but just as much as doing something I know that I’m good at, I adore figuring out new projects.

This month, my new project is refinishing my old desk (I’ve had it since I was 13). My office at home is completely different than where I work (I’m a funeral director).  My vision is a bright, unmistakingly vamp-fem space where I can work on making people feel their best.

At first I imagined an aubergine desk;

purple

 

That was until my little Pinteresting fingies found this gem;

pink-dresser-desk

 

My colour pallette now looks more like this;

watermelon pink

Va-va-va-voom! “And how can I help you?” I imagine myself asking from behind this little piece of heaven.

Even better than finding the picture,  I found the instructions on the www.allthingsthrifty.com website, including the paint colour and brand (Krylon)

Can I get an, ‘AMEN’?!

Having a hot pink desk would not be a professional decorator’s idea of fine decor, but that’s not what matters to me at this stage. What matters is how I wish to reflect my personality in my home and personal business space, and hot pink it is!

Yes, there will be eye-rolling by my partner, my adult son, and anyone who has zero joi de vivre. Alas, I feel a pink desk coming on.

 

 

 

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Do Not Wash the Floor: Putting on Your Big Hat

tiredwomanDoes it amaze you that the people you live with (aka your family) know where to go get stuff but they can’t remember how to put it away? It kind of makes you twitch doesn’t it? The high level of frustration which comes with lack of respect for your  time.

If I took a survey of all of my women-friends and asked how they were feeling, most of them would answer the same way; Tired.

I’m tired.

Fatigue. It seems to be a running theme among women in their 40’s. Most are smack in the middle of feeling the pressure of their long-forgotten wild selves tugging relentlessly at their heart-strings.  We’re now in the middle of our  lifetime on this earth, and we can feel it in our bones.

We can feel it slip away every time that we clean up someone else’s mess, and every time we sweep the floor.

Time seems to have accelerated just as we need things to slow down.  Something inside of us feels like it needs to be uncaged.  If we listen hard enough, we can hear our goddess call out from deep down in the dark visceral places of our suppressed soul: Let me out!

How the hell do we do that?!

We must use our precious energy to build firm boundaries and defend them with (and for) our lives. For the majority of women, the idea of leaving work, taking time to rediscover and recover their passions is an impossible ideal.  Yet, we must take time away to listen to our own intuition.

Another way to strengthen connection to intuition is to refuse to allow anyone to repress your vivid energies…that means your opinions, your thoughts, your ideas, your values, your morals, your ideals.

I’m a woman of strength and courage, and I even find that carving out time for this self-care is a tug-of-war. We all know that days off are filled with domestic chores which women are expected to do; organizing, planning and preparing meals, laundry, the never-ending business of tidying and picking up miscellaneous crap.

One day, years later, after washing the kitchen and living room floors by hand, she slipped into her very best silk blouse, buttoned her long skirt, and pinned on her big hat.  She pressed her husband’s shotgun to the roof of her mouth and pulled the trigger. Every woman alive knows why she washed the floors first.

Taking time to refresh your spirit in the privacy of your own thoughts is essential. Understanding where those thoughts are coming from, helps to understand why we’re so damn tired.

During busy times, creative pursuits may be put on hold, and our time even more precious. For these times, I reach for a book. A few minutes of quiet time to read words of wisdom from other women always sustains me.

For the these important moments during the day when you get to nourish your divine feminine, I suggest a few good reads;

  1. The Red Tent by Anita Diamant
  2. Every Last Cuckoo by Kate Maloy
  3. Women & Power by Mary Beard
  4. Women Who Run With The Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes ( I confess, I can’t get enough of this book right now…reading and re-reading)
  5. Living Beautifully with Uncertainty & Change by Pema Chodrun

Whatever you do, do not wash the floors. Let someone else take a turn.

Put on your best silk blouse, button up your skirt, put on your big hat and go out into the world.

We need one another at this time in our lives more than ever before ladies, and we need to see our courage and hunger for life reflected back to us by our peers when we aren’t feeling that courageous ourselves.

All quotes taken from Women Who Run With the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype by Clarissa Pinkola Estes.
Posted in Life, Life Lessons, Meaning of Life, Toronto Life, Toronto Star, Toronto Strong, Uncategorized

Toronto Strong – Take to Your Porch

tostrongI firmly believe that change starts at home. Grassroots caring is the most nasty guerrilla warfare of our time.

I woke up to a wall of ‘Toronto Strong’ on social media, but when I looked out my window, there was not a soul on the street. Not a neighbour to be found.

Laundry and dishes and meal planning suddenly took a backseat to the CBC News Network’s coverage of the mass murder that played out yesterday on a stretch of a nearby Toronto street.  Colleagues of mine watched people being mowed down on the sidewalk just outside of their office, and the rest of us watched as the scene replayed over and over on screens all afternoon.

Was it a terrorist? Was it an “involuntary celibate’ (misogynist)? How can we fortify our city against these attacks? These were the predominant questions posed by the media. But these questions merely poke at the symptoms asking for band-aid answers. They don’t come anywhere near getting at the cause of the misery that is murdering our world.

Stay Strong. That’s the overwhelming populace message choking the city today.

Let me offer another perspective; stay vulnerable. Allow your grief and fear and anger an outlet. Let your community of friends embrace you as you grieve and heal.

In a world that has become lost to the miracle of humanity, one that values material success over kindness, community, and the health of our spirit, staying strong may give a message of toughness that we just don’t need.

I concede that if it were my child or loved one callously killed, I would have a rage and hate with limitless depths. It would take a fountain of caring friends to help heal that massive dark hole in my life. We need one another, not just during times of tragedy, but every day.

Our communities have disappeared into subdivisions and condos with closed doors with invisible neighbours. We are too busy fighting a modern-day-material-survival-of-the-fittest to put the kettle on and hang out on our front porches. This is the root of the problem. We are insular and inward looking.

Reaching out and getting to know your neighbours is the first step to staying strong…as a community.

 

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The Afterglow-Or Not; Keeping the Passion Alive, One Closed Bathroom Door At a Time

how beautiful our love isI don’t even know where to begin.

I guess I can start around 17 years ago when I got divorced.

At that time, I decided a few things about my next real relationship. I decided that I would really examine my own self and try to improve. I also decided that the only person that I would clean up after would be a human being whom I gave birth to.

Most importantly I decided that I never, ever….never, ever, ever needed to see my partner on the toilet. I never, ever needed to hear them or smell them. Oh yah. This is a big boundary for me, and my man knows it.

 

With three children in university and college, and all the stresses of merging two lives and two families, let’s just say our communication has been a series of to-do and to-buy lists along with griping about the others living habits. Our intimate communication has been less than five star. In fact, it’s been f-ing horrible.

The long and the short of it is that we committed to re-connecting, and after our hour-of-power-a-la-boudoir, we began to settle in to what I like to refer to as a ‘time of tenderness’. You know what  I mean ladies, when you feel all cuddly and want to talk, and reconnect to the awesome partner you fell in love with. With the bother of passion out of the way, it was clearly time to rekindle our friendship. This is also usually the time that your man falls asleep and you begin hating him again.

So last night, music playing in the background, stretched out feeling blissful, reliving our recent forray into, well, let’s call it the-glorious-climb-to-the-snow-capped-peak…. I awaited my man’s return from our en suite bathroom.

man on toilet

Do not leave the bathroom door open unless you’re sick.

In the candlelit quiet, my heart eased a bit, and I actually felt like a woman, not a domestic workhorse. From the bathroom;

“Hey – do you like The Killers?”

In my head; Sweet Jesus, does the man have a romantic drop of blood in his body?

Out loud; “Yes.”

He then passes gas, tinkles and says, “So do I.”

In my head; Brilliant.  He’s perched on the toilet with the door open. The romance is, officially dead.

…and back we go to the reality of life. Poop. Money. Who’s cooking dinner.

It really takes work to keep a spark alive. Trust me, keep the pilot light lit, it makes it a lot easier.

Remember that you’re friends, and always, always, always, close the bathroom door.