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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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Posted in Advice for Writers, Art of LIving, Buddhist Writers, Canadian Writers, Celebrations, Creative Writing, Friends, Friendship, Friendships, Graceful Living, Gracious Living, Healthy Living, Holidays, Joyful Living, Living, Mindful Living, Seasons, Simple Living, Sprititual Living, The Art of Living, Uncategorized, Whole Living, Writers

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.

Posted in Andshelaughs, andshelaughs writing, Christmas, Christmas Letters, Holidays, Meaning of Christmas, Mental Health, Middle Age, Midlife, Opinion, Parenting, Perspective, Uncategorized

How Are Your Christmas Lights?

giphy

In the darkness, the Christmas tree lights are a true symbol of advent. Mystery in the darkness. A sense of wonder.

Advent is my favourite season of the year, even though November is my least favourite month. Layers of grey permeate every hour, and the dampness makes everything, even the ethereal heavy. Besides being a Scorpio, November sucks.

Alas my friends,  then there are the Christmas lights! They’re the first thing that I attend to in the morning, getting down on my knees to find the plug and make the connection. As a young mother, I wanted my son to have the same sense of wonder that I did upon waking and seeing the tree illuminated in the dark, chill morning.  As the mother of a young adult, I want to continue that sense of wonder, the feeling that something wonderful can come of the darkness, that stillness can be a time of self-discovery and that there is joy in silent reflection.  As a partner and caregiver, I hope that my darling wakes up to the lights and feels the very same things.

Realistically, I live in a house with people whom I’m not sure have such a deep, symbolic appreciation of this season as I do.  Whatever.

‘Whatever’ has become a word that pops  up more and more in my silent thoughts. It’s the 80’s baby version of WTF.

The reality is that Christmas has changed for me. I’ve gone from a child waiting for Santa, to being Santa.  I’ve gone from a young woman excited about the romance of the season to an older woman who has officially let all hope of Christmas romance go. I do however find joy helping in any way that I can to fan the flames of that excitement in the life of my friends and family who are in the midst of that, ‘Hallmark Romance’ period of their lives.

This morning I woke up to an email from my Mumster about the energy of the fuss and muss of Christmas, and how this year, her sister will be hiring a cater rather than doing the cooking herself. In her wisdom, Mumster  has deduced that age 55 is the age at which you pretty much get tired of the foo-fur-ah (foo-fur-ah def. bullshit) of the Christmas season.  I’ll let you know if I agree when I reach the spritely age of  55.

Inevitably life changes as you know darlings. Our energy levels ebb and flow, as do our priorities. Health remains our  biggest asset, and it becomes more valuable the older we get.

Although I’m not the marathon baker, wrapper and Christmas-party-throwing woman I was ten years ago, I like to hope that I can keep my own sense of wonder alive through the season.  Sometimes it’s just wondering where the wine went, and how my ass got this robust.

Humor and wonder is what will keep me young. It’s what will keep my eyes open to the little twinkle of light in life that brings happy surprises, belly laughter and passion. This is the stuff of a youthful spirit. Let humor and wonder be your own Christmas miracles, regardless of your age or circumstance.

 

Posted in Advice for Women, Art of LIving, Creative Life, Girl Stuff, Graceful Living, Gracious Living, Guy Stuff, Healthy Living, Life, Life Lessons, Living, Men's Issues, Relationship Advice, Relationships, Uncategorized, women, Women's Issues, Working Women

The Christmas Grocery Shopping Lists; A Guide for Men

man in storeLet’s face it; it’s always one person who bears the brunt of domestic planning. In my home, it’s me. I have lists for groceries, lists for toiletries, lists for separate stores. It takes time, and effort, so trust me when I say that if it’s on a list, there’s a reason.

At this time of year, the last thing I need is someone arbitrarily deciding what we don’t need. What I need is a housekeeper and two months off and exactly what’s on the damn list.

Unfailingly my better half asks me for a grocery list whenever he’s popping into the store. It’s very thoughtful and I appreciate it more than he knows. There is one problem however, quite often he arbitrarily decides that one or two items just simply are not necessary.

This is the core of the secret to executing the list and I’m about to share it with all of you lovely gentlemen out there. The items on the list are dependent on one another. They are a team you see, each playing an important role in a recipe.

rotten zucchiniWhat is a zucchini without eggplant when making ratatouille? It is simply a lonely zucchini, waiting to weep it’s sticky brown death juice into the bottom of the veggie crisper because it’s calling has not been fulfilled.  When that happens, it becomes part of another list; clean out the fridge and likely, get-your-arse-back-to-the-store-and-get-what-we-needed-in-the-first-place.

It’s not just about handing over a checklist of items to be purchased and brought into the house. The food that we share creates an atmosphere at home, whether it’s a cozy night in for the family, or an evening of hosting guests. It takes time and energy to dream up what might be pleasing and enjoyed. When you decide that the list isn’t important, you’re essentially diminishing the significance of the homemaker. It’s a way of telling them  that their work is insignificant.

A long time ago, a spiritual mentor spoke these wise words; “Our partners do really do just want to make us happy.”

If this is the case, buy what’s on the list.

Posted in Andshelaughs, andshelaughs writing, Anxiety and Depression, Art of LIving, Faith, Fearless Living, Graceful Living, Gracious Living, Healthy Living, ideas, Inspiration, Joyful Living, Living, Mental Health, Mindful Living, Personal Development, Psychology, Religion, Religion and Spirituality, Religious Studies, Simple Living, Social Commentary, Spiritual Living, Spirituality, The Art of Living, Uncategorized, Whole Living, Writing Inspiration

The Season of Mystery & Light

street lampI’m early, I know.

Advent is not officially upon us, but the shitty greyness of November sure is.

We are smack in the middle of the time of year when everything is bare, grey, and tired.

Not quite officially Advent, the season of mystery, of waiting, of germinating in the darkness so that we may blossom in the light is definitely upon us.

What better way to embrace it all than to try some new stuff?

This year, it’s all new to me; my home, my relationship status, and most significantly, my role as a mother.  Whatever you call your celebration of light in the darkness that you celebrate, the reality is November is often a month of feeling less than sparkly.

As always, I’m embracing it. All of it.  Well, at least I’m trying to. Trying ‘new stuff’ may help ease the doldrums, but is it the solution? I’m not so sure about that.

Being able to be still in the darkness takes incredible strength of mind and spirit. Allowing yourself to feel it deeply without running from the discomfort may be the secret to rising into the light refreshed and enriched. It may also send you to the psych-ward for a few weeks. Chacun son gout.

I try to remember the significance of the tiny lights twinkling in the cold and the darkness. They are the symbols of hope when we are not sure of our place and where we belong, and sometimes that’s all we have.

 

Posted in Andshelaughs, Art of LIving, Christmas, Christmas Letters, Christmas Lists, Christmas Toronto, Christmas Toronto Things to Do, Fearless Living, Girl Stuff, Graceful Living, Gracious Living, Healthy Living, Humor, Humour, Joyful Living, Living, Meaning of Christmas, Mindful Living, Simple Living, The Art of Living, Uncategorized, Whole Living, Women's Issues

T’was A Day for Decorating & Digestive Discontent

giant red ballsI never get to sleep in. Anymore.

No, I do not have an infant at home. No, I do not work three jobs. I have however, committed myself to a…morning person.

A morning person who just so happens to be away  golfing in the sunny south during my traditional Christmas-kick-off weekend.

At first you’d think I’d be jealous, what with being left all alone for our first real snow fall.  Alas, that is NOT the case.  After having spent the past three months adjusting to  mid-life empty nesting and newly cohibitating bliss, I am gloriously, and might I say well-restedly (let’s just pretend that’s a word shall we – don’t kill my vibe) alone. Ahhh…..

I have been able to sleep in, deck the halls for the holidays, and even took my time shopping yesterday without a grown man whining that he had to get home to watch football.

I had one of those focussed days yesterday. After checking the Michael’s coupons for the day, I thought I’d start early and do my shopping before I came home to tights, a Christmas sweatshirt, my snoozies skinnies and my hair pulled back like a ninja fighter.

I made breakfast, had a coffee and hit the road. I planned a route to a lesser populated area to the north, and listened to a head banging, Chris Botti Christmas jam.

I shopped until I reminded myself of my own mother. Wandering around the same aisles, examining every garland and piece of kitsch until I’m sure one of the salespeople thought that I was out on some kind of psychiatric day pass.

My cart was loaded with 6 strings of bushy evergreen garland, a giant “Meet Me Under The Mistletoe” pillow and various other bits and bobs that I had just the right place for. Oh yah, and my Michael’s 60% off coupon was ready on my app.

At that point, I realized that I was starving. But even more than that, I was in need of giant red balls….for the tree.

Just one more stop and I’d be on my way home. By this time I was really hungry.

Just a quick run in, I decided, and I would treat myself to my favourite fast-food no-no. My quick trip turned into another hour of picking through stocking stuffers, Christmas scented soaps, and big balls…

By the time I paid, I was s-t-a-r-v-i-n-g and thirsty! You know the shopping-mall thirst I’m talking about don’t you ladies? That parched-I’ve-been-hijacked-in-the-retail-dessert-for-way-too-long-I-gotta-have-some-water-or-I’ll-disintegrate-kind-of-thirst.

Hitting a blood-sugar low I muscled my way to my car, guzzled a half liter of water, and got to my fast-food-sin-spot asap. I ate in the car like a ravenous Christmas elf, and polished it all off with a vanilla milkshake.

Now here’s something you don’t know about me…fake ice cream makes my digestive system revolt. In a BIG way, and fast. It was only a fifteen minute drive home, so I wasn’t panicked. What I was, for about a whole five minutes, was sated, and giddy about going home to prepare for the holidays.

And then it happened. My forty-something-year-old-digestive-system said, “Hold up girl! This is not right.”

The half liter of water met the fake-dairy-milkshake at the threshold of my pyloric valve and all hell broke loose.

Two-wheeling it around corners in my 40km neighbourhood, I raced to the garage, only to remember that I’d left the automatic opener on the kitchen table. I jumped out and frantically keyed in the magic code, while skipping around pinching my butt cheeks together.  I backed the care in so fast that I almost backed right through the rear wall. Juggling bags with garland poking out everywhere, and a large sack of kitty litter, I fumbled for my keys.

My neighbour appeared on queue as all neighbours do – at the worst time ever –  on his back deck waving and wanting to chat. All I could do is grimace, try to raise a hand weighted down with in a semi-civilized wave, and slam the door behind me.

No more vanilla quasi-dairy-milk shakes for this woman.

It took me until the Women’s Network Christmas flick came on at 9pm to finish up. I strung lights on the garland for the staircase, the front porch, and decorated the tree. I unpacked the boxes of miscellaneous decorations that grace smaller spaces, and put up the vintage Christmas village. I washed couch cushions and nested like I haven’t nested in a long time.

motherfucker

Don’t get me wrong. at about 5 p.m. I was ready shove the picky, twisty, clingy garland up someone’s ass, not to mention the tangle of 400 lights I was dealing with. There’s a reason people leave me alone to decorate. It’s a marathon of patience, but it’s totally worth it.

Home is a sacred, special place for me. It represents safety and security for myself and my child (ok, so he’s a man-child now, but all mothers know your children are always your babies). Anyone who messes with the safety and sanctity of my home should prepare to deal with the wrath of a woman like me.

Our home is now ready to welcome you for the holidays. I know, I know, it’s not about the decorations or the gifts, but I do love decking our halls to create that feeling of sacred welcome that is too often missing in our busy lives.

I’m already excited to know that my kiddo is almost ready to come home for his Christmas break. I’m eager to cozy up by the tree with friends and family for some precious down-time.  That’s what Christmas is all about. Failte.

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What To Do?

fallkittenI’ve been known to publish some really great seasonal To-Do Lists.  Except this year.

I didn’t do that.

Not for you and not for me.

But I’m ready for one. You see, I have a Protestant work ethic, and am a firm believer in work first, and rest when the work is done.  Which, of course, often leaves me desiring, but exhausted and out of time.

Alas, the really hard work of this year is pretty much complete, and I am left with time to rediscover more leisure pursuits.  Instead of providing you and I wish a seasonal to-do-list-on-a-time-line  of such tomfoolery that we think is Instagram-worthy, such as pumpkin patch visits, applie-pie baking and haunted house touring, I am going to provide you with a list of things that I want to do.

And I hope it inspires you to make a list of your own. Even if you don’t get to it, you’ll be reminded of what it is that makes you happy, and maybe, just maybe, you’ll take a little time for yourself to make your soul smile.

 

Here’s my list;

 

1. Successfully complete NaNoWriMo. Yah, I officially registered to write 50,000 words during the month of November. Why not? After all, I want to finish my damn novel, and I work well with a time-line. This may very well should  be the only thing on my list, but should’s have no place in my life right now.

onceupon

2. I want to go back  to wander the Guillermo Del Torro exhibit again at the AGO. It was so inspiring; a look at the inner mechanisms of a creative genius. Going back is a desperate attempt to have some of that genius-energy rub off on me.

deltoro

3.  A road trip to see the beautiful fall landscape (I’m thinking Collingwood with a side trip to a pal’s place in Thornbury, and the outdoor spa).

Hockleyfall

 

4. A visit to Hinterland Winery. In my opinion a hidden gem that deserves more of my attention. Here I come Les Etoiles!

hinterland

5. Chistmas shopping. Yes,  you heard it. I want to go Christmas shopping. That’s only because I avoid shopping in December like the plague. It sucks, people’s attitudes suck, and all of that makes me cranky. Make it a December to remember (create some memories with your loved ones – do not spend the month craving valium and flipping people the bird in parking lots).

decembertoremember

 

 

6. Cross Stitch. Oh yah. I want the luxury of  enough time to curl up with a hot cup of tea and a few hours of nothing but some needle and thread.

bring me tea

 

7. I would also very much like to make my super-duper-Hallowe’en-popcorn. I make it for my colleagues and my kiddo because even though we’re all grown up, on October 31st, we’re all still little kids just waiting for a treat.

Halloween-Caramel-Corn4-600x400