NaNoWriMo – My First Time

writersclockI’ve been writing, and chiding myself for not writing enough for what seems like a life time.

Often my blogs are a ritual of sorts before I get down to the real business of writing my novel.

My poor novel.

It’s been neglected for a couple of years now, and it’s time I either gave it wings, or set it free to find someone else to write the story. I am a believer in the vision of creativity that Elizabeth Gilbert explains in Big Magic ; Either use it or lose it, and I’m on the very precipice of losing it.

Already there is a movie in the theatres called, Mother. That’s the main character of my novel, and just a couple weeks ago I met a dog named Clover…another character in my novel.

The universe is sending me signs that it’s time to write or drop my pen. So, I’ve decided I must make a serious commitment to my writing.

This is the year I commit to NaNoWriMo. This is the year the rest of the things that tug on my shirt tails for attention get a swat.  This is the year that I re-establish myself as a regular at a local coffee shop and get lost in my own little world of characters and creativity.

…and all that I can think is…YAY!!!

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Inspiration: As Far As You Can Carry It

Artists know that inspiration comes in waves; sometimes in the gentle, steady rhythm of a lake waking up to the sunrise, and other times overwhelming, crashing into you like the Pacific coast tide.

The thing about inspiration is it’s only as good as how far you can carry it. After all, we can only balance so much. The mundane tasks of everydayness often take up both hands.

In her book, Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert talked about inspiration as a living thing, that moved on if it wasn’t nurtured in our care.  What she had to say as a professional writer resonated with me, and made me feel a bit better. Careless with inspiration, but at least not the only one.

As a full-time working, single mom, my second novel kind of bit the dust. But I’m nothing if not resourcesful, and optimistic too. Instead of trying to twist it into some kind of tome, I’m going to use what I have and craft a short story. I’m also hoping that by doing this, the inspiration my be wooed back, and stick around for the long haul required of a novel. I know if that does happen, that the success or failure of the project will depend on me; on my dedication, devotion and prioritizing.

Either way it will be fine. The inspiration will be freed; to move on, or to take up residence in the pages of my creation.

Inspiration comes my darling friends, but how long it stays with us depends entirely upon how long we are able to carry it.

One in a while we have to reassess what’s weighing us down in favour of what lifts us up.

Women’s March On Washington: Your Sisters In Toronto Have Your Back

rock-the-world

Snow Days & Simple Things

My blogs are generally my writing warm-up. Some writers paint, pray, meditate or cook. I write.

This morning as I pulled open the blinds to let  the blue light of morning into our little home, I was grateful to be inside where it was warm. My writing coach, Willy Nelson, blinked as he stretched awake from the warm folds of his new, fleece blanket, and Dinger, our in-house mad-man sat up from his lolling on the living room rug.

As I dug through the laundry pile to find my favourite slippers, I decided that today, I would share with you some very simple things that bring me great joy. Let me clarify; this will not be a deep, meaningful post. It will truly be about little things, such as Willie Nelson leaving the comfort of his snuggly blanket to keep me company at my desk.

My hope is that my writing warm-up, will warm up your spirit on this dreary, icy, cold and wet winter day. My wish for you is that  you are able to rest in the gratitude of simple things.

10 Simple Things I’m Thankful For Today

  1. My Snoozies skinny slippers (also the skinniest thing about me). Seriously, best, most cozy couture for your tootsies.

snoozie

2. Vanilla flavoured President’s Choice Coffee. De-freaking-licious, especially on a morning when the snow and ice make going to Starbucks seem about as sensible as taking a trip to Mars for a margarita.

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3. My internet connection. Seriously! I can stay in touch with friends, research and feel connected all from the solitude of home without having to if I choose not to. Email, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram…

4. Well designed, super-sized coffee and tea mugs. Not the ones with wide brims, that any science amateur knows will cool down before you get to the last drop. By well designed, I mean they actually keep your coffee or tea  hot while you swill down a bucket sized portion.

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5. A great story. Too often people gravitate toward the obvious and logical as we age. Stories stir our creativity and open our minds.  I will indulge in one today; The Witches of New York by Ami Mckay.

witches-of-new-york

6. Beautiful lotion to make my skin feel less like a cold-blooded reptile during the dry, winter months. I’ve fallen in love with Lush’s Charity Pot.

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7. A view of nature. Laugh if you must, but it’s rare in the city. Even though I have a small space, the green space that is right outside my window is soul-soothing.

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8. Little knick-knacks that remind me of special people and places.

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9.  Silence. Yes. Silence is so necessary. I promised this wouldn’t be a deep, meaningful post, so I’ll leave it at that.

silence

10. Bookshelves filled with writing from great authors like M. Scott Peck, Maya Angelou, Pema Chodron, Caroline Myss, Charles Bukowski, Leonard Cohen, Atul Gawande, Margaret Atwood, Haruki Murakami, Rupi Kaur, Diana Gabaldon, Simon Sinek, Carl Jung, Thomas Moore…and being able to dream about having a library at home one day.

library-home

Taking The Plunge: Are You Ready

I’m poised at the top of the high-diving board, toes gripping the edge, face forward, not looking down, but focused straight ahead. I steady my breathing, push down with the weight of my body and leap into nothingness making what could be a tragedy, look elegant and beautiful.

jumping-off-cliffsMost significant accomplishments take commitment. Making them a priority means letting some other things slide. Like writing a book, building, maintaining or repairing relationships, or even washing the floor.

Time is precious, and if you’re doing one thing, it means you’r not doing another.

So, the last time I wrote a book, I waived an excited bon voyage to you my darlings, took a blogging sabbatical, and wrote like a fiend.

I think it may be time again. Time to quit procrastinating, worrying about the time I take from other parts of my life, and put skin-to-the-keys as it were.

The only problem is, that the last time I was excited. I was confident, and I had a head full of ideas.

This time I’m not a novel-writing-virgin. I know the blood, sweat and tears frustration that comes with tearing myself away from re-reading and over-editing. Not to mention my editor did die during the editing of my last book .

I will let you know when I get ready to jump. Any encouragement before then is welcome.

The Stillness of August

storm cloudsThere is something to be said for stillness.The way that the long, close days of August build up in the atmosphere, slowly unwrapping the ribbons on a parcel of thundering rain.

The trees look up, waiting on behalf of the parched land below. The sky, in slow-motion turmoil does not look down. It only simmers and rolls until finally it splits open. The trees and tired earth receiving their blessing in torrents, gusts and rivers, flooding the cracked earth.

Travelling Light: My Very First Travel Companion

mapTravelling companions can make or break a travel experience. Or so they say.

I wouldn’t know. I’ve only ever travelled alone, but for one wild weekend in the Bahamas with my BFF, and we shall never speak of that again.

Pretty soon I’m off on an adventure with my sweetie-bear, my puddin’ pie, my hunk’a-hunk’a burning man love…you get what I’m talking about don’t you ladies?

Basically what I’m saying is that having passed the age of 40, I’m travelling for the first time with a man.

There are only two words for it; Yu Ikes.

Seriously.

Just the thought of it makes me giddy. Because giddy is my inappropriate nervous reaction.

Sweet Jesus. As I look around my hotel room, I see a sight that only a busy, single parent of an active teenager could smile at. My bra is hanging over the corner of the television screen. The large garbage can that is meant for the main living area is full of ice and wine. A French version of a popular food and drink magazine is drying out beside the sink (it got soaked by a half open bottle of coconut water while I was struggling to carry everything in from the underground parking garage), and deep purple remnents of said magazine are stuck to the towel that is hanging from a hook meant to hang up jackets in the entrance. There is a wet creamer package sticking half out of a coffee bag, and my shoes are scattered on the floor. Don’t even attempt to try and picture what the bathroom looks like afer a full-on gal-sprawl of cosmetics, towels, panties and hair accoutrements.  It’s pretty only in a way that that Parisian artists of the golden age could appreciate…while on opiods.

So this travelling without a companion has been a wonderful freedom that very few of my gal-pals have been able to enjoy. I totally get loving this freedom to not give a crap about anyone else’s space or comfort. After all, when you travel alone, your ‘stuff’ is all in one place and nobody bothers the organized chaos. There is also no cleaning up after anyone else either, which is a heavenly bonus. As is the fact that there is no one else’s schedule, priorities or aversions to be considerate of.

There is also no one to share it all with either. Not the messy bathroom and bra and the television set stuff – the good stuff. Well, not unless you go out and find someone to enjoy it with, but I digress.

Simply put, I need some valium and a good whack of booze to get me over my nervousness. But maybe a hug from my sweetie will do. I’ll let you know how it all pans out, hair accoutrements and all.

 

Cloud-Watching; Dreaming Back to Life

clouds

We are all music makers and the dreamers of dreams.

A brown painted fence. A gnarled and sprawling crabapple tree. The sky. Blue like the lake that was just a short walk away; always changing, wide open, endless and without possibility. This was the sky that was the object of my meditation as a child. It was second only to the endless landscape of water which met the horizon, always leaving me feeling full of hope, like the world had so much to offer.

In my grandparents side yard, facing a brown-painted fence, with my bum resting on the criss-crossed vinyl weave of lawnchair mesh, my bare feet dangling, not able to touch the ground, I would let my head fall back so I could take in the changing shape of the clouds.

Often my granny would be sitting next to me in deep daydream mode.Through squinted eyese, I could see airplanes  break up the serenity  of the sky, or the confusion of clouds twist and reform over and over again. Old before my time from witnessing so much of the of the broken world of adults, I remember often saying, “Granny, I wish I were on that airplane going somewhere far away.”  And just as often,  she would reach out her hand to mine and matter-of-factly reply, ” Me too. But you know, you always have to come back. No matter where you go, you always come back“.

I was never one hundred percent sure what she meant by that, but it made me just a little bit uncomfortable. I liked to think that one day I could just pack and up leave without coming back for anything, ever.As an adult, I know that she’s right. The things that we want to escape from and the things that keep us up at night, travel with us wherever we go; loss, love, fear and joy. They are silent, uninvited, travel companions.

This morning I had a rare opportunity to wake without an alarm. But I did wake with alarm. A difficult dream, but not horrific enough to drop in the bucket of nightmares. Dreaming now is left to rare moments when I forget my obligations, or when I wake slowly, aware that I’m dreaming, but not yet fully awake.

Quite often when our minds wander, daydreaming, lucid dreaming, or dreaming during our sleep cycles, they either bring great escape and offer wish fulfilment, or they take us back to unresolved elements of our life that dare rap on the door of consciousness for some attention. Such was the case this morning.

We are all still the child who daydreamed at the way the wispiness of the clouds changed shape from seashell to fire breathing dragon. We  all carry universal fears and dreams in our tender hearts.

I have learned that my granny was right though. No matter what I do; degrees attained, professional accolades, adventures sought and conquered, we all have to come back. We come back to our own selves, time and time again; vulnerable, fearful, curious, and always looking for the tiniest spark of hope.

 

 

Customer Service: The Art of Joy

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Goose. Yep. That was the message delivered from the ‘Animal Spirit Guides’ deck that was gifted to me this past Christmas.

Goose? When I think of a goose, I think of the absurd waddling they do, their plump bodies, and the way that they disguise their natural survival instincts with the appearance of total oblivion to anything other than pooping on paved park paths and wandering in circles.

This was my first week back to reality after two weeks of holiday time, away from the office, social media, housework, parenting, and anything else that required attire more formal than a bathing suit.

Having been a good-girl, I came home with some extra spending money, and decided that I could afford to treat myself to a dress that I saw while visiting The Bitter End. So, I ordered it. What ensued has been a miserable experience with HiHo Clothing’s Customer Service department, and an even more frustrating time with UPS. Lessons learned; just buy the damn dress, use FedEx, buy local.

What does this experience have to do with the Goose totem? Well, frist of all, I thought of the saying, ‘Silly
Goose’, which in my wee little girl brain means a doddering woman who is naive, and weak. Drawing the Goose totem also meant just taking an inward glance at my own attitude. A return to ‘real life’ always means kicking into high professional, domestic, and everything-else high-gear. In short, it sucked.

But why?” I asked myself over and over. Why did it feel so icky to be back to a life that I had created for myself? I love my job. I love my kid. I don’t live in a castle, but I also don’t have to shovel my own snow or mow my own grass, so it all evens out.

Satisfaction. That’s what I think it boils down to. I am very rarely satisfied with what I have, and continually strive to be better, to have more, to do more. What a lunatic!

Which leads me to believe that the atrocious lack of customer service at HiHo and UPS is a result of people showing up do to a job, get a pay-cheque, and leave to get back to their real life. It also likely means that the employees likely don’t have a great working environment, but that’s just my opinion. Rarely do satisfied employees metaphorically flip you the bird by hanging up on you or not responding to email. Satisfied employees have time to address customer questions and respond in a way that makes everyone feel warm and fuzzy.

Newsflash; Your job is your real life. Those moments on the clock are about being yourself and being of service to others, whether it’s solving problems, creating something brilliant, or cleaning up a bathroom stall so we don’t all die of some poop-bacteria-related disease.

So, as I caution you against the exceptional lack of customer service which abounds, I also challenge you to take a little look inside and ask yourself if you too are being a customer service asshole (that’s French for being useless).

Watching myself transform into an uptight-bot within 24 hours of arriving back to my ‘real world’, I took the advice of the Goose. I slowed down, took a look around and marveled at just how far I’d come, and with that attitude, I carried on with my week, trying to be kind, at work, home, and everywhere else. Most importantly, I reminded myself that it’s ok to relax, breathe deeply and trust my own value.

Doing that doesn’t make me a weak, naïve woman. It makes me healthy, helpful, and energized.

So go on ladies, dare to be a goose. Dare to create a life you life with joy.

Water: The Element of Truth

Marina Cay, BVI

Marina Cay, BVI

When I was a little girl, I fell in love. I fell head over heals in love. With a boat. My beloved allowed me to romp and roam, never do my hair, or care what I wore. There was a freedom in that loving that was so innocent and complete, that it has stayed with me, and never left.

In my youth, I would spend hours climbing down the clay cliffs along Lake Erie, and sit on the rock wall watching the waves roll by. Stormy weather was always my favourite, when the water seemed to speak to me, and the timeless knowledge of stillness that it taught would seep deep into my tender bones.

It never left even as I moved further away from a shoreline. The water has always had a pull that some call seductive. In my case, it’s a matter of survival. For too long I have been landlocked; working, momming, worrying about what comes next.

Estrangement from family at a young age is a wild and wonderful thing. Although there is no anchoring in genealogy or tradition, it gives you the freedom to heal and create a life of your choosing. Having done that, I have a visceral knowledge of the famous lyrics, “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose“.

So, as I felt my breathing become more shallow, my anxiety at the breaking point, and my heart void of the ability to recognize hope or joy, I took a leap of faith. Instead of a sterile all-inclusive getaway, I put my money and my favour on a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be part of a crew of 8 on a sailing adventure through the British Virgin Islands.

A sailing course would have been a good idea, but I tend to jump in feet first. Sink or swim. Love it or hate it. I (gulp)…committed.

I did very little of the ‘sailing’ and a lot of learning. Having had some experience on a boat with regard to the importance of speed and preparedness, I did what I could, and tried to stay out of the way.

JVD White BayYears of counseling and working in crisis situations has given me a keen sense of relationship dynamics, and having a new group together in a confined space for a period of 10 days is a telling crucible. Boats and water have a wonderful way of distilling our personalities and revealing the most miniscule cracks. Flaws that were easy to ignore on land, burst open and whether you like it or not, you’ve gotta face whatever it is.  Water has a wonderful way of washing away the superficial crud of every day. It is a truth-revealing element.

During this particular adventure, I gained a new respect for people I’ve known casually for a long time, a clear picture of who the new folks really are, and let’s just say the ugliness of another was rinsed to sparkling, and filed in the ‘Barnacles of Life’ pile and left to dry in the sun like discarded sea-creature entrails.

The ocean is vast and claustrophobic all at once. Once upon a time someone told me that when they stood on the cliffs and looked out over Lake Erie that they were at the end of the world. I knew that we were not kindred spirits. When I stood on those same cliffs and looked out over the lake with nothing but water, horizon and sky, I always felt like I was just at the beginning of everything.Sunset Boat 3

When I was a tom-boyish ten year old, with wild hair and sunkissed skin, I often dreamed of one day living on  a boat and being rocked to sleep by the sound of the water lapping at the hull. As a workaholic adult, I finally got the chance, if only for a couple of weeks.

It was just enough to reset my mind and body. It was enough to throw open the weathered shutters of fatigue and allow sunlight to shine on hope again.