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November 30th – Time to Commit to Christmas Carousing

women-coffeeThere’s nothing I admire more than a woman who doesn’t whine.

Perhaps a well matched wine to a hearty meal or a really comfy pair of walking shoes, but strong women always have a special place in my heart.

Whenever I get discouraged, down on myself, or frustrated, I think about how few women I know have overcome the adversity I’ve faced and kept it all together.

And then I automatically think of my mumster. The woman who took me under her wing when I was a rowdy thirty-something year old.  In my adult life, I never had a mum.  It kinda felt weird taking on a new one seeing as I was an adult already. But it was a good weird. It took me a while to understand that depth of kindness, even though I knew what it meant to be a mother.

Last night I came home from a weekend away, working on a relationship that only middle-age could inspire. Mumster had been here overseeing the household and my giant kiddo. The first thing that I noticed when I walked through the door was that the house was clean. Clean! My kiddo was still alive, and the kitties were happy. Prior to going away I had been working long hours, staying in the city, and trying to make everyone else happy. Mumster to the rescue.

Come to think of of it, it has been mumster to the rescue in a lot of cases; old broken down cars, old broken down hearts, and old broken down patterns of coping.

As busy as life gets, I think of her every day, I just don’t take the time I should to let her know. So, at Christmas time, I look forward to our visit, our time together, and giving her a thoughtful gift just for her.

I also like to take time to see the other fabulous women in my life; my bestie the Lovely Mrs. L, my crazy aunties, Cindy, Darleen, Virginia, Carrie, Karen….the list is long and beautiful, and yes, Carlo and Colin, rest assured, you are both considered one of the girls. You too Dennis.

Even though cynics criticize Christmas revelers as hypocrites for getting together only in December, I have to make a statement on the other side of the line. I really don’t care what the excuse is, I’m grateful for it and I will use it to connect with the people I love for as long as I’m able. Amen and hallelujah to that darlings, now pass the nogger and throw on your santa suit ’cause mamma loves to celebrate!




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Please Mr. Postman

pinterestpostmanThere are few things more precious to me than receiving a handwritten letter. It’s rare now, but the beauty of ‘slow’ is underappreciated.

I’m not talking about the notes you scrawl on sticky pads to remind your colleagues of something or other. I’m talking about real-live letters in the post.

Two of my dearest friends still bother to send letters and packages, and when they come, I set aside time to open their letters, and read them when the house is quiet and I’m finished with all of the ‘musts’ of the day.

Life is busy. I make my personal calls while I’m commuting. Tonight Siri dialed the Amazing C, and she told me that today she mailed a package to me.I now, have something to look forward to on Monday when it arrives. What better way to end a 14 hour work day than with a promise of a little hand-written happiness?

I have letters that were written to me over three decades ago; from family, friends, and pen-pals whom I’ve never met. I have every letter my ex-husband ever wrote to me.

This weekend, I had a long-lost love on my mind, and decided I’d pull out the letters he had written to me once-upon-a-time. For years I kept them in the same place, in the post-office package that he first sent to me, including the four printed photographs he’d carefully chosen.

Much like a journal, old letters can shed light on who you are, where you’ve come from, and maybe, in my case where you’ve gone wrong or right.

Love letters. Something I believe you should never throw away. Unless they’re from morons, and then by all means, have some strange burning ceremony and include their gochies if you have any hanging around your boudoir. Highly therapeutic darlings.

So this weekend I searched until I found these darn letters, and reread everyone. The question that was burning in my mind was; Did he ever say it? You know what I’m talking about, “I love you”.  I was looking for it because lately I’ve been asking myself some pretty tough questions about relationships.  I know, I know, it’s enough to ruin a girls’ complexion, but there you have it, I’ve been prancing around with much on my mind.

Now let me tell you, just the day before I had been speaking with a friend and telling them how rare it was for me to cry any  more.

Life has battered me about ruthlessly; body, soul and heart. I’ve seen humanity at it’s best and worst, and tears just don’t come anymore, and if they do, it’s often it’s in the dead of night upon waking from some breathtaking nightmare. Clearly I need more booze, followed by a lifetime membership at Psychoanalyst’s Plus.

Life lessonsSo, as it happened, I was about a page into these love letters from a tall, dark, handsome hunk of juicy mansteak, stretched out on my white duvet with the sun shining in my window  when I saw them. Those three words written in his all-capitals-block-letter-handwriting unlocked the classified secret code to my tears.

As I sobbed, and I do mean sob and sniffled and bawled, I read the rest of the letters.

The written word is so powerful, especially now when techno-language has bastardized the beauty and art of precisely chosen words.

Re-reading those letters from so many years ago was like putting on new prescription lenses. The world made more sense, was reflected more clearly, and I was aware of just how much I had let myself miss out on because of my past.

Time really does speed up as you age. Reviewing the past via written letters, can inspire longing nostalgia as well as hold a glowing torch, illuminating the future. Handwritten notes have the energy of spiritual alchemy that is missing in instant messaging and even the spoken word.

When life has been sour, it is very refreshing to read the sweet words of love and friendship.

Sweeter still is when reflection helps you understand something about your own self that you’ve been trying to figure out for a very, very, long time.

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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.


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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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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The Love of a Good Woman

embraceThe love of a good man, woman, or anyone is a rare and beautiful gift.

Too often we ignore the precious friendships that we share with truly loving and giving people. These are the angels in our lives who provide sanctuary for us to disclose our vulnerability, dream without feeling foolish, and provide hope that our heart’s deepest desires will, one day, come true.

After having this many trips around the sun, we all surely have known betrayal,  been wounded, and felt a fool a time or two.

We have all have fallen in love, fallen out of love, and wished for it to find us again.

I do believe that regardless of age or battle-wounds, that it is possible again,   though I dare only whisper it in the quiet of my own midnight thoughts.

Constantly I am reminded by the people I have been blessed to have in my life; do not give up on the love of a good man, or a good woman, or a good anyone,  just because you’ve been hurt before.

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Do You?

Christmas lights backgroundLate at night, long after I should have gone to bed and should have finished my to-do list for the day, I often turn off all of the lights but those on the Christmas tree,  and spend quiet time on my own.

These moments are too infrequent, and wrought with what if’s. However, if I’m still, and if I let go of everything that I’m clinging to; my fears, my worries, my lists of wants and needs, I can still touch that place I thought I left behind when I was a little girl.

Growing up in a small town, I did not know the indulgence of city parades and rows of shop windows. We had a small grocery store, with the original French doors and hard-wood floors. Produce and meat were weighed, measured and priced on the shelves, and were all passed along a simple groove-worn counter top without a conveyor. String hung above the cash register to wrap and tie parcels, and your bags were still packed in brown-paper bags and carried to your car for you.

I grew up in a land where time had, for a few years at least, been stopped.

Each Christmas the grocer’s wife would decorate the store window with the same dollhouse filled with miniature furniture and smiling dolls. It was the picture of a perfect family. Mom rolled out dough on the kitchen table while the kids and dog looked on. Each detail was perfect and so very tiny.

As a little girl, I stood, mesmerized by the scene before me, and the creation of my own imagination.  How wonderfully perfect it must have been to live in that house of smiling dolls, with the warm fireplace and kind faces.

Beyond the store window, I knew there would be paper-wrapped stands holding clear plastic bags of French creams, snow balls, ribbon candy, and my very favourite; chicken bones, the hard cinnamon candy with a chocolate centre.  Beyond that, during the holiday season only, there were bins of loose nuts and those wonderful tangerines!

While my mother and grandmother would shop, I spent a lot of time looking at the doll house in the window, imagining and dreaming, and hoping.

Those precious years of endless, hopeful dreaming  slip away without us realizing. As a teen, I worked in that store every summer, and eventually, one-by-one, the businesses closed, including the grocery store and the tradition of the doll house.

When I hear about ‘believing in the magic of Christmas’, I don’t so much relate to the little boy born in a manger. That may horrify some of you, but it’s true.

The magic of Christmas for me has always been the effort we make to stop time for just a few hours; to slow down our ever-busier lives that slip by faster and faster as we age. The magic of Christmas is now, more than ever, the miracle of making time for one another and really taking time to share, listen and care.

I do still believe in that.

Each Christmas my hope is that whether at my home, or when I’m visiting with friends,  that the joy, hope and magic I believed was happening in that miniature doll-house that decorated our old-fashioned grocery store window, does still exist among us today. Even if it’s only at Christmas time when we pause, reflect, and give thanks to the people who make our hearts feel as happy as I imagined those little dolls to be.

I still believe in the magic of Christmas. Do you?

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Always Like it’s the Last Time

nikbeatThursday night I shed my suit and slipped into my nightie with a glass of wine, and a quick check-in with my friends via social media.  It had been  a hectic week, and I was already toasting Friday afternoon.

‘RIP…..’ jumped off the screen and sucker punched me in the gut. My dear friend, fellow poet, creative genius and  editor was dead.

Just like that.

My mind reeled back to the last time I saw my friend.

We sat together in the member’s lounge at the AGO, sun streaming through the antique glass windows, distorting the view. He had ordered tea, and as usual, our conversation rambled to nowhere in particular, but deep down to the soul-stuff that fuels us. What a beautiful way to remember someone as genuine, creative and fully present as my friend.

In grief, we must look backward in order to move forward. It’s painful, but it’s an inevitable truth.

When I worked at a hospice, we often preached about treating every interaction with a client or family as if it were the last time we would see them. We did that because good-bye’s are always difficult, and sudden. Every day and every interaction had the imminent potential to be the last time.

It sounds like a depressing way to live, but it is, in fact, a fantastically liberating way to be.

Regardless of my own philosophy of living in a way that honours the human spirit, I inevitably screw up, get selfish, and have regrets. My brain is quick and sharp, and my tongue even sharper.

But with the people in my life whom I cherish, I have very few regrets, if any. Sure, there’s always room for improvement, but generally, I do the best I can with what I have.

That’s it though isn’t it? We always wish we had more; one last conversation, a hug, and some warning that now is the last time.

When I read that my friend was dead, instinct took over and I reached out to his best friend. Another wonderful, gentle and kind spirit whom I knew would have to dismantle his daily routine, and rebuild his life and heart  around the cavernous vacancy left by such a wonderful man.

“Why,” he asked. “How do I live without someone who’s been my brother for 23 years?”

He told me he wished he had given his friend one last hug, and I wished I had spent more time with my friend, had reviewed his edits, and learned more.  But we can’t go back, and I’m not so sure that we would be better if we could.

Sure, we might be able to have that one last squeeze, or ‘I love you’, but really who could live with the anxiety of knowing too much? We’d all be quivering piles of raving madness. The beauty of the human mystery is not knowing, and the persistent invitation of our collective existence to become better every day.

Beneath the heaps of distraction we invite into our lives, we have a primitive knowledge of our own mortality and, we have to live with that always.

No matter how many times we ask, we will never know why. No matter how much we wish we had one last hug, ‘I love you’ or ‘thank you’ we are never guaranteed that chance. We must live now, in the best way that we can under the circumstances. Having experienced great loss in the past, I have also come to realize regrets are pointless, and forgiveness the greatest gift I can give myself.

Like a forest annihilated by fire, covered in ash, so too do our losses force us to be fallow and lifeless for a while as we replenish our selves to allow for new growth. Life is unrelenting and beautifully bittersweet that way.