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Small Town Kids & The People They Become

I'm often asked where I'm from, and my answer is always the same, "I'm from a small town you've never heart of".
I’m often asked where I’m from, and my answer is always the same, “I’m from a small town you’ve never heart of”.

Before you read this post, I want to issue a tiny little challenge; List four or five things that haven’t changed about your personality since you were a kid.

If you’ve had enough challenge mumbo-jumbo in your life, just ignore that and carry on reading.

This afternoon I was reminiscing, with a nostalgia spurred on by a copy of L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Avonlea. It was on the bedside table of the guest bed where I spent the weekend.

You see, I was the world’s biggest Anne of Green Gables fan when I was a kid. I lost myself in her novels, away from the dysfunction of small-town family life.

“Wow,” I though to myself, “I haven’t really changed so much from the little girl I used to be”.

The professional, educated, independent woman I am now has worked hard to come out of that small-town shell. I’ve had to work hard to girder my heart and bolster some self-confidence. But the average Josephine wouldn’t know that. They just know me now.

So I made a mental list. Yep, I made a list of all the things that aren’t so different about me even though life has proven to be a maze of steep ups and downs.

1) I’m still terrified of snakes.

2) Obnoxious people still make me turn inward and cringe.

3) I remain a quiet observer with a mind that works overtime processing the power dynamic and motivation behind what people do and say.

4) If I say I’m going to do something, I do it.  I still judge people who don’t do that very harshly.

5) When it comes to matters of the heart, I’m a hopeless romantic.

6) I believe that people are good until they prove me wrong, and then they’ve lost my respect f.o.r.e.v.e.r.

7) Pigtails are the most ludicrous thing to do with a little girl’s hair, or an adult woman’s hair for that matter.

8) Storytelling is an art that brings magic to our lives.

9) I still love long, hot, baths and singing at the top of my lungs while I’m enjoying them.

10) The best sleep I get happens between fresh sheets that have been hung on a clothesline to dry.

11) I’m most happy near, or on the water.

12) Finally and most importantly, I’m still a daydreamer. I still hope that we can change the world, one small act of kindness at a time.

Today as I was driving in the first above zero temperatures we’ve had since December, I got to some of that daydreaming I’m famous for. I was lost in thought about an old school chum of mine.

When you grow up in a small town, there are very few changes to your peer group. Most of the kids who started kindergarten with me were the ones that I graduated with thirteen years later. Very early in our lives we became part of an established pecking-order, and the only way you could change that was to leave and become anonymous so you could become who you really were.

schoolyardI’m not sure why, but I was reminiscing about springtime in the school yard, and my mind wandered to a day on the school playground. I remembered how boy #1 (now fighting cancer) swung the bat and hit boy #2 in the temple, splitting open his flesh and leaving him with a scar.

For some reason, with the sun streaming through the windshield, I wondered if he still had that scar, and I thought that even though we grew up together until we were all old enough to leave, we really didn’t know one another at all.

You see, most of the scars left with small-town kids don’t leave a mark on their face, but leave the shrapnel of becoming, deep down in their heart, where no one can see it, but they stumble over  it years later.

I was a shy, nervous child, always ready to run or cry. As a teenager I was loud and over-confident. These days, I rarely cry, and on the inside I don’t need to remind myself so often of just how far I’ve come since the scars were left where no one could see them.

In the warm Canadian spring sunshine today, I thought of you, and hoped that you became the man you always hoped you’d be.

 

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The Hardest People to Care For

"Courage doesn't always roar. Sometimes courage is that quiet voice at the end of the day saying, 'I will try again tomorrow'" ~Mary Anne Radmacher~
“Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is that quiet voice at the end of the day saying, ‘I will try again tomorrow'”
~Mary Anne Radmacher~

Are you one of them? A professional caregiver; nurse, police officer, paramedic counselor, doctor, mortician, social worker., firefighter, soldier..???

If you fall anywhere in that professional-soup, you are likely one of the most difficult individuals to care for .

After a trying week and anxiety that has registered off the scale and into the stratosphere, I think I may finally be coming back to the land of the living.

I’ve had a couple of friends offer me the equivalent of a pat on the back and kick in the ass. Not really what I needed when dealing with trauma of the ugliest kind, and top of my own personal issues.

What I did not need was a ‘Lol’, or a, “Yah, but you’ve felt like that before”, or a, “You always land on your feet.”

What I needed turned out to be a  blessing that came out of the blue; another human being who knows what it’s like to see the things that I see, and yet maintain a professional demeanor and carry on with life when what you really want to do is vomit, curl up in a ball, and have someone rock you like a baby.

Caregivers and those of us who deal with human mortality on a daily basis are the hardest people to care for.  We can recognize patronizing bullshit a mile away, and smell apathy like a hound smells a panicked raccoon. We recognize personal authenticity and we know when someone could care less. We’re also too worn out to call you on your bullshit most of the time, so you’re safe.

We are the most difficult people to care for, because we know all the theory, and suck at self-care practice. We also are the most loyal friends. It was my best pal of over 25 years who listened, and said just the right things. She didn’t try to make it better or lessen the trauma. It was another pal who recognized my despair in a well-timed-once-a-year-email response who surprised me the most. Although we haven’t seen one another in over a decade, he too knows what it’s like to be woken by nightmares and have your day interrupted by unwelcome thoughts and images.

You already know to avoid your half-assed friends and lovers, but if you need reminding, just try reaching out to those folks when you really need support. They will teach you all you need to know about who is important and who is not.

If you are one of us, ‘the hardest people to care for’, I urge you to seek the support you need. It may be reaping the benefits of a decent EAP program or even as simple as a coffee with your truly good friends and the  colleagues who share the same joy and pain of working with the underbelly of what it means to be human.

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Some Things Never Change

ladies nightLast night was officially the final celebration of my birthday.

Tonight my head and my tummy are telling me that I’m not as young as I used to be, and that maybe, just maybe that last half-bottle of wine was a bit too much.

Moderation be damned, it has been far too long since I laughed that hard. It doesn’t matter how old you get, how much education you have, whether or not you’re a mother or a wife, we all have a spiritual need to laugh, be silly, and lighten up.

Some things never change. We talked about our careers, finances and the men in our lives, or in my case, not in my life and we laughed at one another’s stories because we totally ‘get‘ it.

We took silly pictures and checked out who’s who with regard to available single men that may be interested in dating yours truly.

I’ve known some of these ladies for a long time now. I’ve seen them when they were carefree, and when they were fighting to get through very dark times. To see them laugh; fall back and belly laugh – made me happy. I couldn’t have asked for a better birthday gift than the company I shared last night.

One by one my pals said their good-byes, until finally one lady fell victim to the chesterfield’s seductive pull. Myself and another pal ended the night with some one on one gal talk. It’s been too long since we’ve seen one another, and it was nice to have a few quiet moments to catch up with one another.

Our conversation wove through the evening and the wine bottles. We talked about haircuts and clothes, men and old flames. We laughed about the absurdity of everyday life, and what it means to be a mother, wife and singleton. It wasn’t much different from all of those nights that my best friend and I used to come home after high school dances and talked about boys, school and what kind of life we hoped we’d have in the future . It’s just that now, my gal-pals and I have way more experience to draw from and that much more perspective.

Each of us has the trappings of what we thought it meant to live life as an adult, but all of us are still just girls at heart; still dreaming, hoping and trying to get through our days.

 

 

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The Delightful D

gracefullyYou’ve all heard about the Amazing C.

Well, today you get an introduction to the Delightful  D.

Unlike the Amazing C, The Delightful D met me following my wild and reckless years.

You know, the ones during which I had yet to discover the better judgement I was supposed to possess.

These were the years that I thought nothing of entertaining entire Scottish rugby teams, nor returning to my hotel room at 6am just in time to catch a ride back from whence I came to recover the matching panties to my aubergine-leopard-print bra.

No, the Delightful D met me as I am now. Past the hay-day of my well-spent youth, and diving headfirst into middle age, and the I-Don’t-Care-What-Anyone-Thinks-Of-My-Fabulous-Self years.

It’s been a very long time since I’ve  made such a fast, endearing friendship.

Our gal-pals provide a backbone through all stages of life; during  childhood, the teen years, young adult years, and early days of marriage and babies.

They are our confidants, therapists, fashion advisors, and dependable shoulders-to-cry-on. When life gets us down, they buoy us up.

Tonight, I picked up the Astounding D and we did some shopping and girl talking.  It was only an hour or so, but it was so wonderful to spend that hour with a good friend who listens without fail, gives me her honest opinion, and makes me laugh.

It has been years since I had a friend so close by that having a walk, girl talk, cup of tea, or pizza and beer with was so simple. Good friends remind us that giggling is ageless and the bond between women is timeless.

So, to the Delightful D, keep on being who you are, with no apologies.

Just in case you’re wondering,  both tops fit perfectly – thanks for encouraging me to go ahead and buy them both. After all, what are gal-pals for?

 

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The Amazing C Strikes Again

"Talking to an old friend makes you realize just how much your life has changed and how much your dreams have remained the same."
“Talking to an old friend makes you realize just how much your life has changed and how much your dreams have remained the same.”

I need a girl talk and The Amazing C can’t talk. Get your vagina out, ” I said as I inched my way through traffic.

If I could do that, I’d be in front of the mirror. Seriously. Can you hold on? I have to get in my hammock and need to switch phones.”

That was my alternate  gal-pal. As you might have guessed he’s sans girly-bits, but one of my very best-of-all-time friends. He’s my surrogate girlfriend and I love him like no other man.

It has been an eternity since The Amazing C and I have had a chance for a long, giggly girl-talk like we used to have. I do have the Delightful D who has earned an honoured place in the fairytale of  Andshelaughsland, and I don’t know what I’d do without her. The Lovely L has been in my life for over 25 years, and I couldn’t be without her either.

Having said that, The Amazing C is the only, I mean ONLY, pal who can appreciate the things that I have to talk about right now. The reason is that she is the only gal-pal who worked in the same, mythologized industry as me, and knows about the unique stress and satisfaction of the calling.

My oldest friends are all busy with their hubbies and children, while I remain, the sole single gal on the scene, doggedly working at her career.

Which, incidentally my darlings, has paid off, as I haven’t been this fulfilled at work since, well, since I was young and naïve.

Despite lack of doting, hunk-a-hunk-a-burning-I-love-you-so-much-I-can’t-possibly-make-enough-love-to-you in my life, I’m still satisfied. More importantly I’m old enough to appreciate that this isn’t happening at the same time as my intense relationship with work.

Despite texting, and trying unsuccessfully to connect via phone (we live 729 km apart), The Amazing C and I can’t seem to get it together. Either I’m working, or….well, working or she’s momming.

So today, when I tried to eek out some girl-time on my way home, she said, “Can’t talk now. At GT Boutique”. I wasn’t surprised, but I was disappointed. Again. The let-down goes both way with us, but we continue to make it work.

“Ok, bye. Luv ya.”

“Luv ya back”….click.

Le -girl-sigh.

BUT….The Amazing C called back because she knew I needed to talk to her and only her.  We talked for less than 10 minutes. I heard about her crisis at work, and she heard about my ‘holy-crapoli’ revelation. When you have such a good friend for such a long time, sometimes that’s all you need.

 

 

 

 

 

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Christmas Countdown

 "I don't care. We'll decorate it and it'll be just right for our play. Besides, I think it needs me. " ~Charlie Brown~
“I don’t care. We’ll decorate it and it’ll be just right for our play. Besides, I think it needs me. “
~Charlie Brown~

Whether you like it or not, it’s that time of year.

I’ve seen countless pithy social media posts whining about holding off on Christmas celebrations until after Remembrance Day.

Pish Posh!

Celebrating anything after Halloween and before Remembrance Day does not minimize the solemn honouring of the men and women who have fought to keep our country free. Rest assured, that on November 11th, I will be not only wearing my poppy, but attending a memorial service.

Note to the cynics out there who are rolling their scrooge-like eyes; I finish my shopping before the end of November. My idea of Christmas is not fighting over parking spots and being elbowed like a pinball through the mall.

As I begin to squirrel away special gifts for my near and dear, and drizzle more rum on the fruitcake, I am giddy with the thought that I might be fortunate enough to celebrate all  of the following between now and the new year;

1) Coffee chats with friends over eggnog lattes, caramel brulee lattes, or even a glass or two of wine.

2) Leisurely shopping to finish up the last few gifts that I need to buy.

3) Writing Christmas cards and receiving Christmas cards.

4) Mistletoes kisses

5) Hearthside humping love-making

6) A toasty shot or two of bourbon or scotch with my writer pals

7) Escaping into the world of Christmas romance novels

8) Baking every kind of cookie you can imagine

9) Outdoor, night-time skating

10) A night-time parade

11) Civic tree-lighting, carol singing and outdoor Christmas markets

12) Our annual visit to the craft show with my mumster

13) The first night admiring the lights on the Christmas tree

14) Donating to my local food bank and  the Salvation Army

15) Christmas afternoon and dinner with my friends

16) Communion on Christmas eve and singing Silent Night by candlelight in the sanctuary

17) Watching my favourite Christmas movies; White Christmas, Christmas Vacation, The Sound of Music, It’s a Wonderful Life and A Christmas Story

18) Hosting dinners and gatherings

19) Listening to Christmas music

20) Always having ‘room for one more’ when it comes to sharing the spirit of the season.

21) Raspberry Schweppes gingerale

22) Hot apple cider

23) The smell of cloves and pine

24) Invitations to parties and dinners

25) Listening to the Christmas story read in our candlelit church

26) Watching the Charlie Brown Christmas special

 

……what are you looking forward to this Christmas?