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When We Lose Our Neighbours

greed economyI’ve lived here four and a half months, and said hello to exactly three neighbours. It’s amounted to a total time commitment of under 10 whole minutes. 600 seconds.

Earlier this week a news story broke about a house fire and the resulting fatalities. A single mother and two children living in a multi-family house died.  The house is  suspected to have been scraping under the radar of housing regulations, as most affordable housing does.

A neighbour was interviewed saying that he lived ‘nine-steps-away’, but had never met the family. Just nine steps.

And therein lies the problem. We no longer have a sense of community. We are no longer neighbourly. We no longer have the energy or resources to care for others.  We no longer have the inclination to take the time to build relationships with other people. Our world is losing its humanity in the great race to keep the economic machine rolling.

eat cake

Recently the raise in Ontario’s minimum wage has people divided over the benefits and drawbacks. Primarily the arguments are about the ability of businesses to ‘catch up’ and make profits. What is lacking in the conversation is what has been happening to the most vulnerable people in our communities for a very long time; decreased access to safe housing, health care, and the resulting social maladies. What is also lacking is a discussion regarding the  ridiculous wealth acquired by those who say they cannot afford to pay a fair, living wage.

The short-sighted argue that by raising minimum wage, the vulnerable will become jobless, and their situation worse. And they’re right. Unchecked greed will make all of it worse. Protesting for and protecting the vulnerable can only create a stronger community. It’s what neighbours do. It creates community. It prevents bad things from getting worse.

The word neighbour seems to be going the way of the word chesterfield. Perhaps we’re unwittingly becoming more like our neighbours to the south than we’d like to think.

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Why Your Terrible Breakfast Offends Me

"Let them eat cake." ~Marie Antoinette before the French Revolution~
“Let them eat cake.”
~Marie Antoinette before the French Revolution~

Not you, dish-rag of a girl behind the counter, nor you, 65ish waitress with the second-hand Target sweater and hair clip.

Nope, you two have my respect. You’ve earned it. Over and over, you’ve earned it. Day in, and day out, you’ve earned it.

Say what you like about what money can’t buy, it can buy a whole lot of peace of mind and privilege. That’s why it’s so coveted, and so hoarded by those who have it. If it was as worthless as all the popular memes want us to believe, people would be way, way, way more generous.

Why your terrible breakfast offends me is because YOU are likely a greedy-money-hording employer from hell. I’m guessing, but it’s an educated guess.

More than once favourite restaurants have changed hands, and I believe that one of my favourite breakfast spots, Artisano’s may have also changed ownership, or perhaps the management has just dumped the concept of customer service? I’m not sure. I am sure that I will not be going back, nor recommending it based on my own personal experience.

Any time front-line staff don’t produce excellent products or customer service, it’s likely because they don’t have the tools or energy to do it. After all, who likes to feel second-best after a long day at work? When I say tools, in this case I mean decent food to use and enough staff. When I say energy, I mean; the staff likely get treated and paid like hell.

Yah, a bad breakfast is a first world problem, but it’s the symptom of a larger problem. First of all, if you’re raising kids, and working, you likely have to stop somewhere to eat at least once or even twice a week, simply because the demands of work and the demands of trying to have your kids get ahead mean you have no time and a whole whack of  extra blood pressure. Why? Simply put; the Have’s now have more, and the Have-Nots have even less. And yet we’re not protesting in Canadian streets. This both intrigues and frightens me.

ewwwSo, when I get a chance to actually enjoy a meal, and I’m paying YOU for it, I’d like it to be well-cooked, fresh and hot. That’s the least someone should expect. Your burned bacon and rubbery-older-than-dirt sausage and cold as hell eggs suck. No salt or pepper. Clearly those are extravagances.  Besides, when the food is burned, old and cold, salt and pepper are really just putting lipstick on the pig aren’t they darlings?  And if you’re looking at the photo, that’s not pepper, it’s grit from the grill. Ewww.

Staff to bring you those things after you ask? Can’t be bothered. Breakfast is a completely indulgent meal to enjoy on a Sunday morning; with hot coffee and a newspaper, there are few things that make me happier.

I do not blame the all too commonly underpaid staff who are working their buns off to pay the bills. I do blame employers who skimp, penny-pinch and do so at the cost of the health of employees and customers.  This is why your terrible breakfast offends me. This is why I will not be back.

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Personal Leadership & The Leaders Who Lack It

wolfbreathThere is nothing worse than a person with power who lacks leadership. Take, for instance, most world leaders today. Most are egomaniacs with a side of masochism. Et voila! Welcome to the modern world of faster, more and who gives a damn.

This is your call to action. Each day we wake up and participate in the false global economy, and dawdle off to our nine-to-five so we can pay our bills, we have a choice. We can silently let the world and all of the unfairness in it go by, or we can choose to act in a way that honours our human instinct ( I do believe it’s an instinct) and follows the golden rule. In other words, we can be selfish wahoos, or individual leaders standing up for what’s right.

There have been times in my life when I’ve come home from school or work, ready to throw in the towel.

I have what I believe to be reasonable standards when it comes to how I treat other people, and how I expect to be treated. I expect to be treated with respect, and like to do the same to the people I encounter on a daily basis.  I do my best not to complain, gripe, gossip or bring negativity to the room when I enter it. After all, isn’t it nice to have a conversation that doesn’t make your gut clench with anxiety or reach for a tissue? Yes, yes it is.

Sometimes, ok, a lot of the time, we are in situations with ‘leaders’ who have about as much couth as a coyote in a henhouse. The ability to lead has very little to do with experience, education or seniority. It has to do with personal philosophy, spiritual cultivation, and knowing oneself. Now expecting those qualities from someone, my darlings, is having high expectations.

As I’ve aged (and yes, leaders with no leadership ability is exactly the type of thing that ages me), and matured, I’ve come to realize that trying to change, explain to, or negotiate with a person in power who lacks leadership is a complete and utter waste of time. It’s like wearing mascara to the steam bath. It just gets messy and ugly in a hurry.

The issue becomes not whether you can change someone else, it becomes how well you are able to know yourself, and control your own reactions. I had two great pieces of advice given to me when I was a teenager chomping at the bit of independence; first of all, you don’t go anywhere if you don’t step forward, secondly, and I quote, “Sweetie, there will always be assholes.”  I grew up in the country, this wasn’t really considered cursing, it was just a matter of fact.

If you too find yourself spending time brooding over someone who consistently and more frequently displays a lack of true leadership, don’t do anything. The reality is, you need to do and say nothing. You need to buck up, carry on, and not let anyone rock the firm foundation of who you are or what you stand for. You do not need to argue, rant, run or cry. When it comes to jobs and relationships, give it a thorough analysis, because wherever you go, an idiot will be there. I’m not saying stay in an abusive situation, but try not to take it personally.

Eventually, you do learn that it really isn’t you, it’s them, and oh my, how they must suffer living in such misery.

By doing nothing, not reacting, or buying the kind of crazy that leadership-lacking-leaders are selling, you create this little zone of discomfort. It’s in that zone, when leaders cannot affect your own control over yourself, that they get a little woozy. You see, they thrive off your discomfort, and when you cut that little supply of nourishing misery off, they starve.  If none of their bullying tactics work,  it may prompt a little self-reflection. Don’t bet on it though. Just bet on yourself, and don’t forget sweetie, “…there will always be assholes.” Don’t let them recruit you.

YOU LEARN

by: Veronica A. Shoffstall

After a while you learn the subtle difference
Between holding a hand and chaining a soul,
And you learn that love doesn’t mean leaning
And company doesn’t mean security.
And you begin to learn that kisses aren’t contracts
And presents aren’t promises,
And you begin to accept your defeats
With your head up and your eyes open
With the grace of a woman, not the grief of a child,
And you learn to build all your roads on today
Because tomorrow’s ground is too uncertain for plans
And futures have a way of falling down in mid-flight.
After a while you learn…
That even sunshine burns if you get too much.
So you plant your garden and decorate your own soul,
Instead of waiting for someone to bring you flowers.
And you learn that you really can endure
That you really are strong
And you really do have worth…
And you learn and learn…
With every good-bye you learn.

Do not let a leader who lacks personal leadership spoil your day. As the great Jimmy Buffett once sung, “…breathe in, breathe out, move on…”

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Take it Off…All Off!

takeitalloffYou have absolutely no idea how excruciatingly wonderful it felt to slip my tailored suit jacket down my arm and across my back as I kicked off my heels and walked toward my bedroom.

“Good-bye fancy ear-ring,” I said, as my fingertips gripped the back of the clasp…

You will never comprehend how decadent it felt to peel off my pantyhose and know that for two-whole weeks, the only big wardrobe choice I have to make is flip-flops or bare feet.

Sah-weet!

When you wear a uniform or uniform-like attire to work every day, it becomes part of your identity.  Not that that’s a bad thing. I happen to be among the chosen few who actually love their job and the people they work with. Having said that, every now and then, it’s nice to put some distance between your skin and the clinging sheath of your professional persona.

Sometimes it’s just really nice to reconnect with what it means to be a free-creative-music-and-art-loving-spirit, connected to the earth and sea. For me it’s always been the sea. It’s always been the water, and the fresh wind, and the dark night sky and it’s been so terribly long…

Stepping out of my suit and taking off my ear-rings, necklace, watch and rings, I relished the feeling of freedom that comes with not having to.

I write to you my lovelies because I care. If you, like me, get lost in the routine of every day, occasionally get overwhelmed with anxiety and fear of the future, are thankful for all of the blessings in your life, and don’t want to rock the boat, I urge you to resist your fear and make time to reconnect with what you love.

The margins in my life are narrow. My resources are all self-mined and lean toward the depleted side. I look death in the eye daily, and I know that life is short. It’s all a gamble my friends. It’s all water under the bridge to never-never-land. Every now and then you need to take a leap of faith, jump for joy and do something that rekindles the spark that made you absolutely fabulous once-upon-a-time.

As I slip out of my suit and into something the good-lord made comfortable, I raise a glass to the simple joy of saying, “Fuck it”, and then doing just as you please.

 

 

 

 

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An Open Letter to Mothers With Young Children

"Mothers are the people who love us for no good reason. And those of us who are mothers know it's the most exquisite love of all." ~Maggie Gallagher~
“Mothers are the people who love us for no good reason. And those of us who are mothers know it’s the most exquisite love of all.”
~Maggie Gallagher~

I was you once – giddy with affection and unconditional love for my child.

Every moment was a miracle, and every second I could kiss, cuddle, snuggle or coo my little one, I did. Unapologetically.

I see you out there, proud as punch as you push your strollers and post your photos on social media of your naps, and first steps, and messy little-helping hands of your budding cookie bakers.

Don’t stop.

That’s right. You read that correctly. Don’t stop falling in love with your babies.

I’m the middle-aged woman you pass at the coffee shop, or in the shopping aisle who stops to tell you how beautiful your baby, toddler or young child is. I’m the woman who coos over the outfits and little faces, and even the tears.  I’m one of the kazillion middle-aged women who look at you through their newly increased lens prescription and says; “Enjoy them while they’re young.”

Don’t stop being amazed at every new stage. Ever.Don’t stop wondering how they are when they head off to school, and don’t stop bothering them for a hug, or stories about their day when they become teenagers. Trust me, they will challenge you sometimes.

Whatever happens and whatever they get up to, don’t stop being the ferociously loving mother that you are.

I’ll be honest with you. When my child turned three, I was tempted to see what the return policy was. Four was better. Like a light switch being turned on, the ‘terrible three’s’ (it was three not two) turned into the fabulous four’s, and I had my angel back.

It’s true, every age and stage holds some surprise. Some stages, much like the prize your potty-training-darling hands to you while proudly shouting, “Poo-Poo”  are less satisfying than others. Sometimes you will despair at how you will get through the day; emotionally, physically, financially. Sometimes, you will have nothing left to give. But that’s when us older gals come in.

We’ve been there; the smiling photo-posting-proud-as-pie times and the lonely-how-am-I-going-to-do-it-times. Pick up the phone, talk to us in line at Starbuck’s, or at the grocery store. We’ve been there sister, and lived to coach you through it.

For now, just keep doing what you do. You’re great at it, even when you’re not sure you’re doing it right, you are.

~Enjoy them while they’re little. They grow up too quickly.~

 

 

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Why It Doesn’t Feel Like Christmas

 

"I close my eyes and drift away into the magic night I softly say a prayer like dreamers do. Then I fall asleep to dream my dreams of you." ~Roy Orbison~
“I close my eyes and drift away into the magic night I softly say a prayer like dreamers do. Then I fall asleep to dream my dreams of you.”
~Roy Orbison~

It has been decided and declared from our home to yours; it does not feel like Christmas this year. At all.

It’s been an odd festive season, and I had held out hope that as the day approached, I’d start feeling Christmasy. I kept hoping for that Christmas miracle I’ve been praying for would manifest in some way shape or form…until this evening as I assembled my ‘goodie’ platters for the office tomorrow.

I thought to myself, “I’ve done everything right. I’ve put up the outside lights. I’ve decorated the house. I’ve entertained and baked. The gifts are wrapped and under the tree, and I’ve stocked the pantry with treats and nibbles, so why on earth does it just suck this year?”

Decidedly it sucks because ‘we’, as in the royal, collective ‘we’ are caught in a vicious commercial and capitalist cycle of bullshit.

There is no break and no ‘taking it easy’ because it’s the holiday season. We work to the limit and squeak out a few days off to catch up with the people most dear to us.  Holiday house parties? Forget it. Who has time for that? Fun office parties? Nope, I’m afraid we’ve taken our professional selves to the edge of robotic functionality with no room for emotion, compassion or humour. Snarky sarcasm has replaced sincere humour as it’s older, wiser cousin. Dear god I miss laughing.

I want to believe in the magic of Christmas. I want to wake up one morning to whatever that Christmas miracle is that I’ve been hoping for, but I don’t have the energy this year to dig that deeply.

Perhaps I will find that magic in the candlelit sanctuary of church this Christmas Eve, after the Eucharist,  as we raise our voices to sing silent night and remember the true meaning of Christmas.

If ever we’ve needed your magic Santa Claus, this is the year.

 

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I Believe: Christmas Miracles

"Believe in love. Believe in magic. Hell, believe in Santa Claus. Believe in others. Believe in yourself. Believe in your dreams. If you don't, who will?" ~Jon Bon Jovi~
“Believe in love. Believe in magic. Hell, believe in Santa Claus. Believe in others. Believe in yourself. Believe in your dreams. If you don’t, who will?”
~Jon Bon Jovi~

For weeks I have been waking up, and saying a little prayer to the universe before I step out of bed; Please give me the strength to get through this day and the grace to find beauty in it.

This morning I had a phone call from a friend whom I’ve lost touch with. We had a difficult conversation earlier this year which ended, badly?

I’m not sure if it ended badly, or just ended where it needed to end, so I left it alone and thought that time, like it always had, would lend some clarity

…but let there be spaces in your togetherness and let the winds of the heavens dance between you…

~Kalil Gibran~

After reaching out with a Christmas card (yes, I still send them), I had a phone call from my friend. Maybe that was a Christmas miracle? I can’t help but think so. He left a beautiful message and caught me up on the important things including his health, book, and new love in his life. I was overjoyed that perhaps the rickety bridge to our friendship was still in tact.

I’ve had a few of those calls this year, from people who have drifted from my life just due to the demands of daily life with family and career. I’m so thankful for this time of year when something more powerful than the rat-race pulls us together again.

The past two years have been difficult. This one has been difficult in a good way. Busy in a good way, and at the same time exhausting and an emotional marathon of isolation.   I’m tired of worrying about how we’ll survive the next day, and the one after that. I’m tired of being tired.

So after a day of spoiling myself and hoping that my visit to the Alex Colville exhibit,my favourite  shop, Wonderworks, and our favourite bakery, Forno Cultura, I went to bed in full surrender. My only request was that whatever happened next, ‘be gentle with me’.

This morning I woke up in the quiet of my room. I could tell that the day was going to be another grey, drizzly day, and already I was thinking ahead to the demands of the week and worrying about how I would make it all happen. “Magic,” I thought to myself and snickered a bit.

But that’s what this season is about isn’t it? Magic.  We’re almost smack-dab in the middle of the darkest days of the year. All of the seeds we have planted are working furiously to take root and get ready to blossom, making beauty appear like magic from the fallow darkness.

Mystery. Magic. The magic of Christmas. A Christmas miracle. Hmmm?

So my daily prayer to the universe changed this morning; Please give me the strength to get through the day and the grace to find beauty in it. Please send me a Christmas miracle…

…and then for good measure I added, “…that I can recognize and am not afraid to accept.”

I rolled out from under my fluffy white duvet and let my feet hit the floor.

Any time now universe, any time…