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When the Community Board is Empty

Most of you know that I have recently moved. I live in a very strange community that has come to make me appreciate the effects of foreign property investment on our ‘communities’.  In effect, all of the empty grand homes in our neighbourhood  are mostly empty, with lights on timers, regular professional landscaping, and someone who clears the local newspaper and flyer delivery from their front porch. There is no neighbourhood here, only bank accounts in the form of houses.

It robs us of community. It robs us of mom and pop shops able to keep their doors open to provide goods and services for the neighbourhood.

Yesterday I popped in to a local  Starbucks for a delightfully refreshing iced drink, and while I was waiting for my sweetie’s pour-over, I turn to the community board as I’m often want to do.

This is what I saw;

A picture is worth a thousand words. Nothing. There is regularly nothing related to community posted on this board. Despite there being a steady stream of people in line to buy their caffeinated bevvies at all hours through the weekdays and on the weekends, there is little if any sense of community.

I’m a writer, and admittedly, I’ve spent way too much time in coffee shops picking away at my keyboard, and I’ve spent way too much money on coffee. I have however honed a keen sense of place while I’m out and about mooching free office space.

I have never (not even once) settled into this location for my hour long writing sessions, arranged for a meeting with friends, or lingered any longer than it takes to make my Sunday-morning-one-bag-in-one-bag-out herbal tea.

This weekend in Toronto while getting settled in to a workshop, I was recommended to a coffee shop just down the street from where we were gathering. And this is what their community board looked like;

 

img_1025
Mallo – Located at 785 Bathurst Street. Worth becoming a regular meet-up spot. Definitely make time to try their absolutely delish menu.

I stopped, took off my coat, enjoyed a cup of tea, and ordered one to go. The staff were so friendly, and vibe was so great, that I came back again after my workshop and tried their menu with a pal who was in the neighbourhood. $70.00 later I felt like I had a new place to add to my favourites. Lesson learned; a sense of community translates to profit.

Earlier this week, I was back in my old stomping grounds at my favourite Starbucks in Mississauga, and their community board looked like this;

community board

 

When your community boards are empty at informal meeting spaces like coffee shops, there is a fundamental problem within the local community. There is a disconnect.  People go out to write, to gather, and to get their over-priced half-caf-low-fat-made-exclusively-for-me beverages because they are craving connection as much as they are craving sugar and caffeine.

When your community board is empty, I challenge you to go out and find one that is overflowing with posters for yoga in the park,  poetry readings, amateur nights at the local coffee house. I guarantee you’ll be a happier, healthier person.

 

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Just Say No

grocery storeI’ve spent the better part of my 40’s scouring the grocery store for Shake’n Bake and marjoram, figuring out that flannel jimmies stick like velcro to flannel sheets, and annoyed at how closely hostility boils at the surface of every-single-freaking retail transaction I make. Hey sweetheart, I’ve worked retail too, so please, save me the passive aggressive bullshit and bag my groceries already.

By all accounts, I’ve achieved an acceptable definition of success; I have had a career most people find fascinating, I married, produced offspring, and divorced. I am in a socially acceptable relationship. Despite the lively shenanigans in my second and third decades of existence, I have remained alive and don’t have a prison record. Success!

I now have nothing to prove to anyone but myself. So I  can finally work on my own definition of success, writing, creating, and spending my time off imparting my hard won wisdom onto my child whilst sipping copious amounts of gin and wearing the grooviest muumuus I can find.

Oh, and I need to shed some of this joy-weight. You know, the kind that comes from trying to be the best mom, gal-pal out for drinks, and stress eating (because a lot of people are selfish assholes). The rest of the people are cool, and should be considered kindred spirits. Good luck figuring out which are which.

If you are a young woman reading this, skip directly to where middle age has positioned me emotionally.  Do not give a shit what others think.  Speed immediately past GO and tear up your Get-Out-Of-Jail-Free Cards. Screw it…just keep doing what you feel you must do, and save yourself a tidy little nest egg while you’re at it. If you can’t save, cultivate your charm. You’ll need it.

This rant comes courtesy of telling myself not to take my own self care seriously, giving up my yoga and writing time until my routine at home becomes somewhat normal again.

As I wandered down a grocery store aisle (for the second time) in search of Shake’n Bake, I realized that what I was feeling was not frustration. Just an aside, Shake’n Bake should be sold above the meat cooler like the wise old grocer did in my childhood village. What I was feeling was not frustration, but resentment. Resentment that it was my precious time being wasted searching for the solution to someone else’s craving for baked chicken.

But the thing is ladies, no one holds a gun to our heads while we frantically search grocery store aisles for 1970’s chicken coating. No. We take it on all by ourselves, and wear our tidy, well-stocked homes as a badge of honour.  I am the only one in my house who ventures to Costco because they know what a colossal time-sucking-black-hole the entire expedition is, same goes for restocking grocery trips and big-box store runs.

As I was finishing my errands today ( on my day off when I should have just ran away with my laptop to some wonderful cafe for four hours) I received a text;

Hey, can you stop by Costco and pick up a couple of boxes?

 

Which begs the question; Seriousfuckingly???

Seriousfuckingly ladies. Just say no.

 

 

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An Ode to Younger Women

women circle

Let me clarify. This is not a perverted rant from an saggy-testicled male poet. This is a rant from one woman to another.

This afternoon on my way to a photoshoot to update my online identity, I made a quick phone call.

This essentially makes me vintage. As in; I prefer a phone call to a text or any other kind of message.

I called a young lady with whom I work, and consider a pal. She’s younger than me, educated, capable, and way more in touch with how the world works. I am that friend to my older friends, and so it goes.

At one time, I was the younger-more-in-touch-with-reality-and-technology friends. I considered myself fortunate to be present with these ladies. I was deeply grateful to them for sharing their experience and their well-intentioned advice. I learned about becoming the woman I always wanted to be; professional, funny, sensual, and confident. Thanks to these older women I learned to live my life intentionally.

giphy-5

I still need women in my life who have been-there-done-that, and know how to order a proper cocktail in order to tell their story effectively.  I also find myself now admiring the  younger women in my circles for their enthusiasm, unrestrained hopes and dreams and even their naivety.

To all of the young women out there who are now just exploring their identity as grown-up, professional, artist, or mother, we need you. We need your voice, your ideas, and your participation in all parts of life. You are valuable and loved. You’re part of a community of women, ever-evolving, ever-aging, and always, always, always in need of one another.

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Don’t Make Me Break Out My Mom Voice

giphy-1If you don’t know me, they refer to me as Mrs. Doubtfire at work.  I’m not as old as Mrs. Doubtfire, but we have the same boobs and demeanour.

I prefer to be kind and sweet and doting even, but don’t mess with me. I’m one mother of a tough broad, and I’m not afraid to let you know that, in a very kind, diplomatic way. In other words, I’m very good at the subtle, ‘fuck-off’, and not shy about the not-so-subtle.

Which brings me to my current state of being; extremely tired of being a whipping post for other people’s problems.

Which is draining. I no  longer want to be subtle about the fuck off. Nor do I want to be having to deal with anyone’s el poopo. I’m too old for that.

What I really want is to go about my business in a conscious way with other people who are doing the same. As one care provider who comes into our home put it, “Don’t get old and grouchy”.

I want to get old and more giddy, giggly, hippie-like in my approach, and perhaps even increase my alcohol  and muscular flexibility tolerance. It may seem like one goal is not compatible with the other, but I disagree.  Lower inhibitions and increased relaxation should surely result in a more yoga-like groove.

Also, I’m looking for a small camper van that I can paint lemon-yellow and pack full with a duvet, some good books, tea, red wine, some Jameson Whiskey, and a bottle of good bourbon. You know, for the nights you want to feel like you’re dying. Also there should be ibuprofen. I’ll call the camper Mellow Yellow and make use of the horn.

If you inspire me to feel like you’re putting me on the spot, or making me feel uncomfortable because you’re being an asshole, I will unleash the Mrs. Doubtfire fire, and quite frankly, that takes way more energy than I want to expend on you. Not only will I be annoyed, but I will be verbally annoyed.

Going forward, let’s all approach one another as if we’ve just come from the worst berating ever, shall we? Perhaps some gentleness, kindness, and common, public courtesy.

We are, as the old saying goes, all fighting battles that others cannot see.

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Do Not Wash the Floor: Putting on Your Big Hat

tiredwomanDoes it amaze you that the people you live with (aka your family) know where to go get stuff but they can’t remember how to put it away? It kind of makes you twitch doesn’t it? The high level of frustration which comes with lack of respect for your  time.

If I took a survey of all of my women-friends and asked how they were feeling, most of them would answer the same way; Tired.

I’m tired.

Fatigue. It seems to be a running theme among women in their 40’s. Most are smack in the middle of feeling the pressure of their long-forgotten wild selves tugging relentlessly at their heart-strings.  We’re now in the middle of our  lifetime on this earth, and we can feel it in our bones.

We can feel it slip away every time that we clean up someone else’s mess, and every time we sweep the floor.

Time seems to have accelerated just as we need things to slow down.  Something inside of us feels like it needs to be uncaged.  If we listen hard enough, we can hear our goddess call out from deep down in the dark visceral places of our suppressed soul: Let me out!

How the hell do we do that?!

We must use our precious energy to build firm boundaries and defend them with (and for) our lives. For the majority of women, the idea of leaving work, taking time to rediscover and recover their passions is an impossible ideal.  Yet, we must take time away to listen to our own intuition.

Another way to strengthen connection to intuition is to refuse to allow anyone to repress your vivid energies…that means your opinions, your thoughts, your ideas, your values, your morals, your ideals.

I’m a woman of strength and courage, and I even find that carving out time for this self-care is a tug-of-war. We all know that days off are filled with domestic chores which women are expected to do; organizing, planning and preparing meals, laundry, the never-ending business of tidying and picking up miscellaneous crap.

One day, years later, after washing the kitchen and living room floors by hand, she slipped into her very best silk blouse, buttoned her long skirt, and pinned on her big hat.  She pressed her husband’s shotgun to the roof of her mouth and pulled the trigger. Every woman alive knows why she washed the floors first.

Taking time to refresh your spirit in the privacy of your own thoughts is essential. Understanding where those thoughts are coming from, helps to understand why we’re so damn tired.

During busy times, creative pursuits may be put on hold, and our time even more precious. For these times, I reach for a book. A few minutes of quiet time to read words of wisdom from other women always sustains me.

For the these important moments during the day when you get to nourish your divine feminine, I suggest a few good reads;

  1. The Red Tent by Anita Diamant
  2. Every Last Cuckoo by Kate Maloy
  3. Women & Power by Mary Beard
  4. Women Who Run With The Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes ( I confess, I can’t get enough of this book right now…reading and re-reading)
  5. Living Beautifully with Uncertainty & Change by Pema Chodrun

Whatever you do, do not wash the floors. Let someone else take a turn.

Put on your best silk blouse, button up your skirt, put on your big hat and go out into the world.

We need one another at this time in our lives more than ever before ladies, and we need to see our courage and hunger for life reflected back to us by our peers when we aren’t feeling that courageous ourselves.

All quotes taken from Women Who Run With the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype by Clarissa Pinkola Estes.
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Knowledge is Power – Why Our Children Need to Learn about Their Bodies

kidsKnowledge is power.  When someone tries to deny another knowledge, they are denying them power: Power to make informed decisions, power to question, power to think independently, and power to live a full life.

If you’re not promoting knowledge, you’re promoting ignorance, and boy oh boy, isn’t that easy to take advantage of?

This morning I was reading a thread in a social media post where someone I presume to be a Christian conservative went on a rant about the evils of teaching sexual education to our children.

We live in a world where childhood sexual abuse is a reality. I know what it’s like, and it haunts you for years. Had we had the language and body awareness to speak about it, perhaps it would have stopped. Not only that, perhaps it would have stopped for the next generation as well.

If you are uncomfortable hearing a child talk about their body, perhaps it’s you who has the problem.

We live in a world where (primarily, but not exclusively) girls are raped on a regular basis.

You’re concerned about the words ‘anal intercourse’ being used in public schools? Well, I hate to put a kink in the rays of sunlight your almighty is shining down on you, but these girls are raped up the bum and taught that anal sex is not sex. You know why? It keeps their ‘virginity’ in tact so they can remain virtuous for their husbands. Yah.  Not to mention the health concerns that result from unprotected and non-consensual sex.

And Child-brides, it’s a real thing.

child brideLearning about our bodies gives children the opportunity to protect themselves, and the language to do that.

So don’t start trying to tell the world how damaging learning about the human body and sexuality is. We are humans who thirst, hunger, lust and need rest. Understanding these parts of our humanity only serve to make us better. Like a healthy diet and knowing how to balance our cravings at the dinner table, learning about sexuality helps us learn how to rejoice in our bodies instead of being ashamed.

If you’re reading this and shaking your head, thinking I’m a bra burning feminist who serves the devil, rest assured, I love my bras. They protect my voluptuous and glorious breasts. And seriously, how can you know the divine if you’ve never experienced darkness?

If you get angry hearing that our children are learning how to protect a part of life that can be beautiful and is often violently taken from them, just sit with this question for a while; what are you so afraid of?

 

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Why Bother Reading Chick-Lit

jewelsofthesunMixed in with bag of qualifications and academic letters is an English degree. I’ve studied and written and read some of the best literature on the planet according to the almighty ‘They’.

I have also read a lot of smut. During certain moods and times of the year, I devour Harlequin novels like a Canadian eating blueberry flapjacks. Over the years I’ve come to appreciate the benefits of reading a genre that most people won’t admit to enjoying.

Alas, I will come out of the chick-lit closet and admit that I’m a lover of lovers, love-stories, and happily-ever-afters.  Go ahead and look down your long, literary noses. I can take your criticism, because I know that somewhere out there in the crowd of literature snobs are the bazillion hypocrites with reams of chick-lit stashed under the mattresses.

This afternoon I picked up another Nora Roberts novel, Jewels of the Sun. It’s an older novel, but, like most other things that I read, including philosophy, religious texts and business books, it has come at the right time and I can relate to it;

All the signs were there, had been there hovering and humming around her for months. The edginess, the short temper, the tendency toward daydreaming and forgetfulness. There’d been a lack of motivation, of energy, or purpose.

Most working women can relate to feeling like this at some time or another. I happen to work in a profession traditionally (as in from the dawn of time) dominated by men. Work isn’t just work, it’s working to change the entire language of what it means to be a professional.

As a barely middle-class, well-educated  single parent, just keeping up with the demands of every day living is exhausting, so much so that I forget what it means to be feminine. It is an indulgence that I can not often afford to feel or express.

When I pick up a piece of chick-lit, I can escape into characters who mirror exactly what I’m feeling;

Every morning the simple task of getting out of bed to dress for the day’s [work] had taken on the proportions of scaling a mountain. Worse, a mountain she had absolutely no interest in seeing from a distance much less climbing…

Imagine, she thought, not having to talk to anyone for several days in a row! Not being asked questions and expected to know the answers. Not making small talk…No schedule that must be adhered to.

Not only are there characters written who normalize the exhaustion I feel, but they have lovely old crones who are well rooted in the goddess of the earth dishing out advice;

…Still, it’s a good spot, the hill, for looking inside yourself ot your heart’s desire. You look inside yours while you’re there.

Ah yes, the sweet temptation of foreign vistas and solitude.  We all need a bit of prodding to leave our comfort zones and get back to our own authentic selves. A gal can only get by on daydreaming in local coffeeshops or long-hot-candle-lit-baths-so-you-can’t-see-the-grime, for so long.

While I begin the final countdown to my own time-out on the sea, I will internalize the advice of the old granny in the book;

…don’t stand back too long and watch the rest of the world. Life’s so much shorter than you think.

…and don’t we know it.