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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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A Literary Life Examined: Part 2

harukias I was saying, my gut instinct was telling me it was time to clear out my bookshelves.

Did this mean that I had an impending move? Perhaps making space in my bedroom and writing shrine meant that I was spiritually making room for my new novel or maybe even a new man?

Ok, maybe it’s as simple as my shelves were double banked, and stacked to bursting, while the piles of books on the floor were becoming dangerous to my clumsy self.

Opening the package with my two newest books, An Initiate’s Journey into Haitian Vodou, and The Nature of Personal Reality, I realized that I didn’t have a place put them, and that I also needed to get out more.

I equate e-books with vibrators. Not the real thing, but they’ll do in a pinch. I clearly needed to make more room for more books, and clear a path for a permanent man in my life.

First, I got rid of the majority of novels. Although I had enjoyed them, I knew that the likelihood of me ever re-reading them was slim.

Kitschy little coffee-table books were next. Although some of them were adorable, and had been given to me by sweethearts and friends, I bagged those up as well. My hope was to rid myself of enough books to get rid of one of four bookshelves.

Well over 100 books have been placed in bags ready for….??? Perhaps a trip to the Salvation Army shop, or maybe stuffed in the shed until the community yard sale? I only know that getting rid of them feels like a weight has been lifted off of my shoulders.

As I sat here writing, looking at my still-full shelves, I had a Dr. Phil, “Get Real” moment with myself. After gulping my last mouthful of lukewarm tea, I got up and forced myself to remove more books from the shelves.

The last of the books to leave were old text books that had belonged to my grandparents. I allowed myself to keep two, An Etymological Dictionary of the English Language from 1909, and a text-book of shorter poems (most are over 4 pages long) from 1924. The poetry book is the same one that my maternal grandmother read ‘The Highwayman’ from when I was a little girl.

As a young parent, I read, The Wonder of Boys: What Parents, Mentors and Educators Can do to Shape Boys Into Exceptional Men, and held on to that book for dear life. Time for that to go….

I let go of my Billy’s Best Bottles annual wine guidebooks. Billy Munnelly, please go back to your pre-2009 style and go back to print. Us writer-wino types miss having something to inspire our cheap-but-cheerful creative wine rants.

My NRSV of the good-ole Bible is my most weathered book, and it remains in place next to a copy of the Tao te Ching, Quarn, Heart Sutra and Bhagavad Gita. Leo Buscaglia, the Dali Lama and Thich Nhat Hanh  bookend the same shelf.

My “So You Wanna Be a Sexy Bitch“, is stacked on my half-read Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy. Been there, done it all, got the bruises. My friend the Amazing C will likely inherit these via snail mail care package at some point, along with a return of unopened sex toys and some Godiva chocolate. My Psychology & Religion textbooks stayed along with the Canadian Press Stylebook, my collection of Jimmy Buffett novels and Leonard Cohen’s perfect musings.

Leadership books concerned with corporate greed or capitalism found their way to the bags, but leadership books that spoke to personal leadership and whole-being stayed.  My dreamer’s dictionary and Animal Speak stayed beside my bed. I let go of the textbooks about early Christianity, literary journals, and the self-help books that I read when my marriage was unraveling.

My running and meditation books stayed, and the Haruki Murakami book, What I talk about When I Talk About Running earned a special place on the shelf of the books I refer to on a regular basis.

The obscure books about the Santeria Religion, sociological history books about the Salem Witch Trials, and Black Skin White  Mask – the book I was required to dissect for my acceptance into a graduate studies program also stayed. Books from my post-colonial theatre class were relegated to the bags-to-go.  Some of the Venetian and Moroccan history books were packed away. I kept only a few, enough to encourage me to chase my dreams, even if my feet feel like lead sometimes and my spirit is a bit ragged.

Books that melted my heart stayed;

The Last Friend by Tahar Ben Jalloum

Barney’s Version by Mordecai Richler

A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway

Bones of the Master by George Crane

Gertrude and Alice by Diana Southam

I kept Roughing it in the Bush by Susanna Moodie, and my collection of Margaret Atwood’s the Journals of Susanna Moodie.

Anything by Anais Nin stayed.

The factual book that made me laugh the most and I’ve recommended to not a few friends, A Walk in The Woods also stayed.

I kept Shakespeare, Steinbeck, Thoreau, Orwell, Neruda, Ginsberg, Neruda, Garcia and two copies of the Great Gatsby.

Sentimentality lends itself well to my ability to empathize at work and in my personal life, but it sure as hell binds up my space with knickknacks and other energy sucking objects.

Anyone stepping back to consider what’s left on my bookshelves would be wise to know my secret; these books aren not intellectual fodder. I am attached to them in the same way that I am attached to the old blue serving plate that my grandmother wrapped and secretly tucked into my suitcase just months before she died.

I keep them here because they speak to my heart’s desires.

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A Literary Life Examined: Part I

bookshelfBy the time I was 26, I was already orphaned, divorced, and a parent.

Life, in all of it’s complex mystery was starting over for me. I was frightened, but I was young, and unlike the almost 40-year-old me, I was convinced that the years ahead would be the best, most successful and full of love.

The written word had always held a powerful hold over me. Whether it was a brochure, travel advertisement, novel or text-book, I was intrigued by reading things I didn’t know about, or have any experience with.

So, at the tender age of 26, moving from small town life to the city, I fell in love with big bookstores, fabulously romantic used bookstores, men who had cultivated their intellect and with reading anything I could get my hands on. Tim Sander’s 2002, “Love is the Killer APP”, changed how and what I read;

When we were kids, we loved to role-play, and doctor was one of our best roles.

Try it again today. Prescribe books to contacts like a doctor would prescribe

medications for patients. (p102)

And so it began. My absolutely insatiable adult-appetite for reading. No book, magazine, e-zine, chapbook or greeting card has been safe from my clutches since then.

As a child I read to escape. As an adult, I began to read in order to satisfy my lust to figure things out.

Fast forward to today.

Having been fascinated by men who are primarily interested in their own intellect, I am still single, and surrounded by ceiling-high piles of books.

My graduate studies interests have ranged from South American and Caribbean liberation theology to bio-ethics. I have an English & Religious Studies degree, a professional designation and an advanced something or other for helping recently traumatized folks recover from crisis. I know how to tie surgical knots, Egyptian embalming techniques and how to tie a cherry stem in a knot with my tongue. Men who can discuss politics, psychology, baseball and not get lost in their GQ ego’s turn me on.

“If you go back to a man’s home and he doesn’t have books, don’t f^(K him”, posted one of my social media friends.  Yes, I thought, wise advice. Men who lack a proper bookshelf or a decent stack of books on an appropriate number of seemingly unrelated subjects aren’t really the kind of fella I can have a decent conversation with. Perhaps the quote should have read, “If you go back to a man’s home and he doesn’t have books, don’t expect a thoughtful conversation, just  f^(k him.”

But I digress…..

This morning, with the sun shining high, and the arrival of spring just around the corner, I decided I needed to make room in my room. It was time to hold myself to the sage advice of a decluttering expert, “If it’s not beautiful or useful, get rid of it.” I immediately packed a bag for my teenager and kicked him out…..

Kidding.

By far the most difficult ‘stuff’ for me to part from has always been my books. As a writer, I go back to many of them, rereading for style, content, and most importantly inspiration.  As a professional and speaker, I go back to create engaging presentations and educational pieces. Why on earth would anyone get rid of such an expansive library right in their very own home.

Well, mostly because they (AKA ‘I’),  live in a small 950 square foot garden town home, and the public-library is a 5 minute walk along a lake trail.  Oh, yes, and I’m trying to get over my literary attachment issues.

While leading the cull of words written on paper, I was able to clear out at least 120 books, but there were some I just couldn’t resist keeping on the shelves…..

Stay tuned for, A Literary Life Examined Part II