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Wonder: As a Verb

wonderEven if it’s just holding space while you let yourself remember what it feels like to actively wonder, I hope this post is a gift to you…to reignite your sense of wonder.

The first time I went to Paris, I spent an entire afternoon, from lunch time to the beginning of the dinner rush, sitting at a cafe table at Les Deux Magots in wonder.

 

wonder.won·der
/ˈwəndər/Submit
noun
1.
a feeling of surprise mingled with admiration, caused by something beautiful, unexpected, unfamiliar, or inexplicable.
“he had stood in front of it, observing the intricacy of the ironwork with the wonder of a child”
synonyms: awe, admiration, wonderment, fascination

I marvelled at St. Germain Church across the street, and the way that the french could grow such perfect red geraniums in those iron window enclosures.  How did they water them? Dead head them?

My intention that day was to treat myself to a piece of cake and a cup of coffee and do a little bit of writing like Hemingway and the great writers of the last century.  There were so many things to see from that little cafe chair though! I felt like I needed to stay, to observe, to figure out how the French made everything so, well, French. After the cake I ordered an entree. The waiter, in his black clothes and calf length crisp, white apron, was not impressed. It just made the entire experience that much more enjoyable for me. For kicks, I had him pose for a picture with me…and then I ordered an hors d’heurve and a glass of wine. The second shift of waiters came on, and the new waiter was lovely. He took great joy from my own, and we had a few laughs at the expense of my mediocre, but very enthusiastic french vocabulary.

That afternoon, and many others while I was in my 20’s, I wondered.

won·der
/ˈwəndər/Submitverb
1.
desire or be curious to know something.
“how many times have I written that, I wonder?”
synonyms: ponder, think about, meditate on, reflect on, muse on, puzzle over, speculate about, conjecture; be curious about
“I wondered what was on her mind”

I love that we have a  verb in the English language such as wonder.  Speculate, think, conjecture, disbelieve, inquire, meditate, puzzle, query, question; all synonyms, and yet none have the positive connotation of wonder.

To wonder is to stay young at heart. It does not judge like disbelieve, query or question. It is not out to unveil deliberately hidden truths like inquire or disbelieve.

Wonder is innocent. It is about wonder as a noun carrying over into developing an understanding of; no judgement or tinkering. Just wonder.

This year I hope to exercise my wonder. I think there is a dangerous den to be avoided at mid-life and in old age that looks comfortable, warm and safe. It has a radius of what is familiar.  I’m not attracted to that den at all, or the people in it.

This year I am wondering about;

img_0143-1.jpgFun, new, wine reviewers. For years I followed Billy’s Best Bottles, bought the annual book that reviewed primarily LCBO wines, and sought out the bottles that were highly recommended. Especially the bargain wines. I wondered at his knowledge and the way he incorporated fun and wonder into his work.  I admired him for it. It inspired me. I am loyal if nothing else, and I still follow Billy, and I want to add something new as well.

Writing meet-ups, new restaurants, travel destinations, new friends of every age, these are all things that I will actively wonder about in 2019.

Most of all I’m wondering about what I don’t already wonder about. Those are the things that will be the most important for all of us.  Those are the things that will keep us young at heart.

 

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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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T’was The Night Before Christmas

…and all through the house, not a creature was stirring, except for mamma. Mamma’s are always stirring. Mamma’s are Christmas.

My Mumster always told me that it is the mum who makes Christmas happen, and she’s right. Regardless of the twaddle that our families (biological or of choice) throw at us about not fussing, not having any special baking or meal requests, when you fail to make every single Christmas treat that they like throughout the month of December, you inevitably get the disappointed face asking, “Where are the butterscotch squares,”?  And you feel as if you’ve failed. Coloured marshmallows and butter are my secret weapon…and sprinkles…maybe also rum and a little bit of ameretto.

This year has been different around our house. So much so, that waking up today doesn’t feel like Christmas Eve. Christmas Eve day is my favourite day of the year. I love it. It always begins with a mom-son breakfast, carries on with cookie baking, movie watching, lots of relaxation, decadent food, supper heated from a box (because I’m too busy prepping for Christmas dinner and the throngs of people I feed), and finishes off with a trip to church, with the grand finale being the singing of Silent Night by candlelight.

But not this year. Oh no. This year involves a trip to the airport to pick up my kiddo (who’s flight is now officially delayed) and giving a bed bath to my partner who is unable to move. I can’t lie, if this flight is cancelled or late, I’m going to be searching pretty hard for goodwill-unto men. I’m also kinda over giving bed baths too.

Christmas Eve

In lieu of church, I think I’m going to get loose with eggnog and rum, or perhaps I’ll keep it simple and drag  the Santa gifts out after a few glasses of wine (a few glasses = a bottle). Perhaps this year old St. Nick will be swigging a gin and tonic and enjoying some Branston pickle on cheese…hey, whatever gets you me through the night. I may even get in those hours of editing I’m so badly craving.

I have not been out to the Christmas sock party, the Christmas ugly sweater party, my work Christmas party, my usual friendly visits, or romantic Christmas rendezvous. I will not be going to the annual boxing day open house in Stratford that has on more than one occasion found me  dancing until dawn on the 27th and charming some poor soul into falling in love with me. No. This year is different.

This year, it’s a small, quiet Christmas. As such, I have splurged on the cats. their stockings will be bulging with cheap toys, treats and stale catnip from a bag. Fa-la-la-la-la…..la-la-la-laaaaa!

Yesterday I made rum balls and took the temperature on the stock of supplies for our tiny Christmas meal.  By tiny I mean this is the fewest amount of people I have ever cooked for at Christmas time. Although our mother-son breakfast will be delayed, and I’m not stressing over space to cook for a pile of people, this Christmas is going to be wonderful. Because I’ve made up my mind that it shall be so.

But next year, oh, next year! My social media feed will be rife with the jolly stress of an over-worked, over-tired, over-done-it mamma who can’t wait for the last piece of turkey to be gobbled down so she can get back to a quiet life of not dodging Christmas decorations while trying to bake everything under the sun before heading out to see the lights. I will be revelling in the exhaustion, excitement and over-doing-itness of the season.

But for now, here’s to a silent night, a quiet night, tucked in by the fire with my most favourite creatures on earth.  May you all be so lucky as to have your loved ones close.

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The Longest Night: How To

First of all, let go of all expectations.

The theme is the Longest Night: Finding Light in the Darkness, and is always, always, always held on the eve of winter solstice (December 21).

1)Send out invitations however you like – I use social media and the occasional email.

Given the theme, invite friends whom you feel you can be spiritually naked with.  The more the merrier, or not. It’s up to you. Personally I love having an eclectic group of friends who are intelligent and kind.

2)Each person is encouraged to bring a piece of writing, poetry, artwork, music or visual art to share with the group.  Have them bring copies to give out if they can.

3) Pot-freaking-luck – this not only takes the pressure off of the host, but it offers everyone a chance to bring a special dish that honours the spirit of the evening. Sharing food is an intimate act of friendship.

4)Offer a place to sleep should anyone be enjoying a few beverages or, if you’re in Canada, cannabis.

5)Offer all of the seating you can; couches, chairs, cushions, stools. Basically, form a cozy circle where people can relax.

6) Draw numbers to see who shares first, second and so forth.

7)Begin the evening with a toast, or reading appropriate to the theme. Light a candle as a symbol of the season of mystery and hope.  The joy of the evening is to share, discuss and share some more, taking everything at a leisurely pace.

8)Enjoy one another’s company.

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The Longest Night: Your Invitation

Like most adults, the magic of Christmas wanes with each passing year. This year I’m struggling to grasp that spirit at all, even a tiny shred of it.

I absolutely love getting out for Christmas dinners with my friends, I enjoy strolling the markets, and listening to Christmas music.  I realized just how un-Christmasy my life is this year after reading an update from my cousin this morning about having his first Christmas dinner in the books.

This after waking up and staring at the ceiling of what used to be my writing room, and thinking just that…this does not feel like Christmas.

When I was a young mother, doting on my son, baking, cooking and inviting friends into our home made the season so very special. Long past having a big wish list, I have always used Christmas as an excuse to connect with the people in my life whom I don’t get to spend time with often enough. It’s a special part of the year that carries me through, having reinforced the bonds of these precious friendships.

the longest night

But not this  year. This year I am bound to the house, run off my feet, and honestly, feeling lonesome for those friends.

Loneliness and isolation can make a pathetic woman, and I am anything but that. So this year, albeit late in the season, I’m going to begin my efforts to connect with the special people in my life. The sustenance of kindred spirits during times like this is essential to anyone’s well-being.

In years past, I used to host an event on the eve of winter solstice called, “The Longest Night”, where my friends would gather, bringing a piece of art (writing, music, visual art) to share with the group. The theme was always sharing light in the darkness. Celebrating the darkness where mystery was waiting to be revealed, ideas were ruminating, and reminding everyone that there is beauty even in the mystery of the dark.

So this year, once again, I’m hoping more selfishly than ever that my friends arrive in the darkness, to be received into the warmth of a circle of friends.

 

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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.

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The Hottest Date

writingdateLike sand through my fingers, it just seemed to slip away. Almost like that’s how it was always meant to be. Withered up alongside all of the tidy, check-marked boxes of my responsible, adult life.

It was part of my life that I cherished dearly. It was something that belonged to me and only me. It was the reason I stayed sane and productive and didn’t just get in my car one day and never come back. Don’t get me wrong, I would have taken my kid with me, and I’m sure we would have had an awesome playlist, but you get where I’m going with this.

That little scrap of sanity was my weekly writing date. More often than not, I would find myself at the AGO, or at one of my favourite Starbucks in Mississauga. At the museum it was poetic verse in a small Moleskine, with a glass of wine and lunch. At Starbucks I usually had my laptop and a latte, maybe a scone if I felt indulgent.

It sounds very simple, and not like much of an oasis of luxury, but it was luxurious solitude during a busy time of my life.

Now I have a beautiful writing room with windows and an altar, and enough of my precious book collection lining the walls that I feel justified in my efforts to write something of significance.

But my writing dates have stopped. I’ve stopped taking myself out, and being inspired by other people’s art, or even the regulars at my local Starbucks. And I miss it.

One of my resolutions (I hate resolutions) leading up to (so as not to be an official new year’s resolution) the new year is to take myself out on weekly writing dates again.

I can already picture myself at the McMichael gallery, swallowed up by the beauty of the gallery and the grounds, completely blissful in my solitude. I’m excited to slowly become a regular at my local cafe, where they wonder what I’m writing, but they know exactly how I like my coffee…steaming hot. The hottest of dates are always the ones that kept me creative, interested & engaged. I hope to see you out there fanning the flames of your own creative fire.