What To Do?

fallkittenI’ve been known to publish some really great seasonal To-Do Lists.  Except this year.

I didn’t do that.

Not for you and not for me.

But I’m ready for one. You see, I have a Protestant work ethic, and am a firm believer in work first, and rest when the work is done.  Which, of course, often leaves me desiring, but exhausted and out of time.

Alas, the really hard work of this year is pretty much complete, and I am left with time to rediscover more leisure pursuits.  Instead of providing you and I wish a seasonal to-do-list-on-a-time-line  of such tomfoolery that we think is Instagram-worthy, such as pumpkin patch visits, applie-pie baking and haunted house touring, I am going to provide you with a list of things that I want to do.

And I hope it inspires you to make a list of your own. Even if you don’t get to it, you’ll be reminded of what it is that makes you happy, and maybe, just maybe, you’ll take a little time for yourself to make your soul smile.

 

Here’s my list;

 

1. Successfully complete NaNoWriMo. Yah, I officially registered to write 50,000 words during the month of November. Why not? After all, I want to finish my damn novel, and I work well with a time-line. This may very well should  be the only thing on my list, but should’s have no place in my life right now.

onceupon

2. I want to go back  to wander the Guillermo Del Torro exhibit again at the AGO. It was so inspiring; a look at the inner mechanisms of a creative genius. Going back is a desperate attempt to have some of that genius-energy rub off on me.

deltoro

3.  A road trip to see the beautiful fall landscape (I’m thinking Collingwood with a side trip to a pal’s place in Thornbury, and the outdoor spa).

Hockleyfall

 

4. A visit to Hinterland Winery. In my opinion a hidden gem that deserves more of my attention. Here I come Les Etoiles!

hinterland

5. Chistmas shopping. Yes,  you heard it. I want to go Christmas shopping. That’s only because I avoid shopping in December like the plague. It sucks, people’s attitudes suck, and all of that makes me cranky. Make it a December to remember (create some memories with your loved ones – do not spend the month craving valium and flipping people the bird in parking lots).

decembertoremember

 

 

6. Cross Stitch. Oh yah. I want the luxury of  enough time to curl up with a hot cup of tea and a few hours of nothing but some needle and thread.

bring me tea

 

7. I would also very much like to make my super-duper-Hallowe’en-popcorn. I make it for my colleagues and my kiddo because even though we’re all grown up, on October 31st, we’re all still little kids just waiting for a treat.

Halloween-Caramel-Corn4-600x400

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Why I Open My Door At Thanksgiving

give thanks…because I’m truly grateful for the abundance of friends in my life.

My Thanksgiving celebrations are always potluck, jeans and t-shirt style. I put on the turkey, and everyone else brings something to share. That way no one has to do a lot of work and I’m not too stressed out to enjoy my friends.

Potluck is also a good conversations starter; Mmm! I love this! Who made it? What’s the recipe?….and the conversation goes on from there.

That’s what life is about.

I’ve been through hell and back as a child and as a young woman. Throughout all of it, I’ve had wonderful friends who are each, in their own way, unique and perfect.

Holiday times used to be sad for me, lonely even . I was often new in town, without family, and I felt very alone. As time went on, my new friendships deepened, and although I went through times of despair and loneliness, my friends would always show up in ways that helped me understand what was really important.

So at Thanksgiving, many people are caught up in family tug-of-wars about who goes where and who is hosting what. Or, maybe they have no family at all.

Autumn is the time of year when we start turning inward. The changing colour of the leaves wave us into shorter days and cooler nights. We cozy up inside, in big sweaters and under cozy blankets. We begin the journey into a season often spiritually described as one of mystery and hope.

I open my door at this time of year so that friends have a place to come and relax. My friends are my family, and I love them all.

I don’t have much, but I hope I offer a safe space to be yourself, laugh, and be nourished; both body and soul.

 

 

 

Don’t Speak to Me That Way

mean manLately, for some reason, the universe is reminding me what it’s like to have to stand up for myself.

I mean, come on! I’m middle-aged for goodness sake! Apparently not too old to learn though, and life likes to teach lessons in depth as we move on…or so it seems.

Differences of opinion and disagreements can be interesting, enriching and even enlightening. That is if the people involved can communicate – you know, if they can listen. That’s a BIG part of communicating; I hear what you’re saying and understand how you feel, now let’s see how we can make this work. In life; work, home, school, politics…it’s really the best way.

But it doesn’t often work like that. Often it’s heated, and as I’ve learned lately -mean. Mean can throw you off.  Mean trumps anything that actually gets said because it’s scary, and meant to be intimidating and oppressive.

Screw mean.

We’re too gloriously wonderful to let mean people make us cower, shrink, or make us believe that we’re crazy. It’s called gaslighting, it’s emotional abuse, and it won’t stand.

When meanness is a stream of relentless arrogance, it’s easy to get tripped up and argue. Trust me, don’t get sucked in, and if you do, pull out as soon as you become aware that you’re caught in an energy-sucking game. That’s what happened to me recently. I got sucked in, and then I realized what a shit-ball-of-a-circus-conversation was happening. I wasn’t as angry about the issue at hand as I was at the way I was being spoken to.

Sometimes it takes a firm shout/yell or even a scream; YOU DON’T GET TO SPEAK TO ME LIKE THAT.  Don’t ever speak to me that way.  Repeat as necessary. Step forward into their space and let them know you will not be treated in such a disrespectful way, you will not tolerate their meanness, and above all, you will not be broken.

Your energy is too precious. Your gifts are too sacred.

When someone is mean to us, we tend to let our emotions rule when really, it’s pretty straightforward and logical. Save your emotions for joy, love, sorrow, grief, and the things that make us human. Do not spend them on someone who is undeserving.

Meanness will not be tolerated.

Keep that in mind. Repeat as necessary.

 

For Women Only: Tips For Staying Youthful Looking

Granma-hippieWaking up and checking our smartphones is a sign of the times I think.

I check to see if my kiddo needs me. I check to see what the schedule is like at work, the weather, how many of you read my latest post, and what some small-minded arsehole of a man has decided I need to know about making myself beautiful.

Ok, the last point – I really don’t wake up to read that. I am exposed to it.

This morning, while scrolling through my feed Cheech Marin shared a post that suggested what not to do to stay youthful looking. Some of the tips included;

Do not wear jersey anything

Do not wear long hair.

Don’t wear loose fitting anything, but don’t wear skinny jeans either

Don’t wear chunky, funky frames for your glasses.

Don’t wear a specific shade of pantyhose.

Although some of the suggestions may feel right to some of the women out there, it all felt a little too 1950’s-keep-your-ankles-crossed to me.

And really, Cheech Marin is sharing this? Cheech, I’ve got news for you; grown women don’t give a shit what you think, and perhaps you might take a look in the mirror? Oh, no, I’m not going there and being nasty about his looks. Nope. That’s not what this is about.

Cheech, like everyone else on the planet is beautiful because of his smile, his authentic style, and his way of being Cheech, nothing more and nothing less.

Which brings me to the essence of what I want to say; screw everyone else’s ideas. For instance, I demanded a small piece of chocolate cake for breakfast…

Ok, maybe make healthy choices for yourself so you don’t end up with gout, but do be (doo-be-doo) sure to enjoy this life.

phyllisMy suggestions for staying youthful for women and men;

Don’t let your weight hold you back from anything. Back fat and belly rolls do not mean you deserve to be holed up in the house alone. Laughter and curiosity are healthy, no matter what your size.

Wear your hair however you damn well please, and don’t worry about it all day long.

Make-up: Do whatever makes you feel good. Some days I’m glam, some days I’m  ma’am.

Clothing; Are you comfortable? Yes? Then that’s good.

Pantyhose – do whatever floats your boat – men, women and everyone on the spectrum.

Jersey fabric – absofreakinglutely.

Eyeglasses; You likely will need them as you age. Wear something funky, wear something classic, just fucking wear them so you don’t have to ask someone else to read menus or street signs to you.

Do not be so infatuated with yourself that you miss out on the wonderful world around you. Do not be a navel gazer…

And that my darlings is your list to help you stay youthful. Look outward. See the world, and engage in it. No one cares about your hair, or your panty hose, or the shade of your frames. We do care that you are clean, authentic and kind.

Don’t stink.

Be true to your personal values.

Be nice.

Sports Moms – When It’s Your Turn to Be Inspired

football benchAbout two weeks ago I was brought to my knees by sharp pain and then was overcome with panic.

I thought I had a heart attack.

A little thick around the middle, and always in the kitchen, I made a quick decision to become more active. Not running-marathons-and-and-eating-kelp-sandwiches-active, but more active.

Flashback a billion years to all of the summers, winters, springs and falls that I sat on the sidelines cheering on my athletically gifted kiddo. I drank a lot of tea from drive-thru windows and kept the company of other parents doing the very same thing.  As he ran and played, I was plopped in a lawnchair, making sure that when he looked up, Mom was there. I also spent a lot of time in the kitchen, cooking at 11pm after late baseball games so he went to bed with a full tummy. So my  butt got a little chunky.

I have been all of the following; a baseball mom, a football mom, a cricket mom, a basketball mom, a curling mom, a badminton mom and  a did-you-do-your-homework-mom.

During the past two weeks, I have developed a greater appreciation of my child’s experience during his childhood of sporting.  How much did my presence feel like pushing? How much did it feel like support? I guess I’ll never really know.  What I always hoped was that he was doing something he loved, that made him feel good, and made him feel proud of himself. I wanted my boy to have confidence.

What I do know is that pushing through the discomfort of new levels of physical movement takes some grit. Trust me, I’ve had to have grit a’plenty during my lifetime, but it’s been a mental grit. A determination to get through one day at a time. Physical grit, not so much.

My body has always had a comfortable ease about it. I was built for hugging, cuddling, and lounging during long, philosophical conversations about religion, politics and gender equality issues.   Wine adores my body. So does chocolate, champagne and puff pastry.

So I’m swinging a golf club for the first time, and running my ass off, and sweating. Like a man. It’s not pretty, and parts of me actually hurt.

I can’t help but think of my son. I think of how hard he as worked to accomplish the things that he has. He’s on a national sports team, plays a bahzillion sports, and maintains his grades, and also puts up with a rather flamboyant mamma.

My old bones ache in places where I forgot it could possibly hurt in the first place, and it reminds me of how hard my son has worked and what strength and grace he’s had to develop in order to accomplish  it all.

Running at my little gym, I have an extraordinary view of a public play-space and just beyond that a beautiful lake in the middle of our bustling city. I watch parents come out and play with their kids, some of them shooting baskets, and others, likely tired single-moms like I was, sitting in a chair and keeping an eye on their kids as they play.

portable locker roomI want to go out there and tell those weary parents that it’s all worth it; that team sports and athletics are worth every early morning, every weekend taken up with tournaments, and all of the leaving early and working overtime that has to happen to make it work.  Not because it just keeps their bodies healthy, but because it develops character and forms strong bonds of friendship. I want to tell those parents that gaining an extra ten or twenty pounds is not the end of the world. Missing your kids’ childhood is.

So, this afternoon, when what I really want to do is nap with the cat. I will likely be running my little 30 minute marathon, because my son sets a damn good example and if he can push himself to do it, damn it, so can I.

When you raise an athlete, there comes a turning point where you are no longer their inspiration. Instead, they become yours. It’s a very hard feeling to describe. Pride doesn’t quite cut it, but joy comes close.

 

 

I Need Your Help: Podcasts & My Fat Ass

rsbushesBefore I go on a rant, let me point out that the purpose of this post is to get your feedback…

This morning, on my day off, my precious day off, I woke up early to annoy my kiddo before he set out for school and maybe, just maybe get in a nice walk and some writing.

So, it’s raining, and some big goof ball in a blue shirt just walked all over my daffodil greens while using his  leaf blower. Not only do I subscribe to the theory that the use of the leaf blower is evidence regarding the downfall of civilization (I’m sure Donald Trump has one to shoe away the leftover talcum powder that he spritzes his undies with apres shower).  I also subscribe to the theory that some giant lanscaping a-hole should know enough to not be blaring that ridiculous contraption prior to 9am outside of bedroom windows.

Anyway, with the drizzle and the bad atmosphere at my little writing window, I decided to make my way to the treadmill next door and walk a bit while my laundry was laundering.

Why? Well, because I’ve been unwell and rather inactive lately. Walking is easy exercise, and frankly, I need it.  I’ve done classes, punished my body with hard workouts and long runs, but I just can’t seem to work up the chutzpah to spank myself into fitness submission lately.

I’m more in the mode of loving the goddess. Which means my taste in music has changed. In fact, I want to listen to stories. As a writer, I do believe that we are nothing but the stories we tell ourselves, and that sharing our stories is the spiritual equivalent of excellent nutrition.

Which brings me to my latest fascination; Missing Richard Simmons. It’s a Podcast about the theories surrounding the disappearance of Richard Simmons.

Not only am I fascinated with this story, I’m a big fan of Mr. Simmons. Despite a terrible relationship with my late mother, I fondly remember her telling me to get off my fat, ugly, ass and sweat to the oldies with her. Ah, yes, Richard Simmons.

I’ve listened to TEDtalks and CBC writing podcasts, but there’s something about this one that has me hooked. Maybe it’s the anticipation of an answer about why such a charismatic man decided to duck out.

But I’m almost finished with the series, and I want more really great stories; nothing sinister or dark, just a really, good story and a sincere desire by the storyteller to enhance our lives. With this, I feel like I could walk forever. Fitness could be my bitch.

Please share your podcast suggestions to keep my butt and my heart in shape. Also accepting DVD copies of Sweatin’ To the Oldies. Not kidding.

PS – To GK – give up your argument about massive amounts of leaves, give up the wasted fuel and instead give the neighbour kid thirty bucks and a rake.

 

 

 

My Culinary Relationship with Mother Earth – We Be Jammin’

rearviewmirroI remember the year the apple blossoms froze on the trees. It was 2012. We didn’t have fresh Ontario apples that year, and the prices sky-rocketed.

That was also the year I stopped making apple juice.

So what?

Well darlings, I’m a country girl at heart, and a big part of enjoying the seasons is enjoying whatever our harvest yields. A big part of showing love and coming together as friends and family is sharing a meal together.

The lack of apples impacted a generations long tradition of baking apple crisp, apple pie, applesauce and apple juice.While I live within the rushed pace of the city for now, I stay connected to the seasons and to what matters most by enjoying the tradition of preserving. Apples are the end of the summer fruits, and it was a strange feeling knowing that something as stable as our seasons and harvest were being affected by the impact of consumerism (aka global warming). Our harvest seasons are part of the essence of who we are and the organic rhythm of life.

flat of berriesStrawberry season signals for me the start of true summer. Rhubarb is spring. Of course you can’t forget asparagus and radishes. With the appearance of little white blossoms and bright, juicy, red fruit, I know that the strawberries cometh and that it’s time to enjoy in abundance what the earth provides, and squirrel away the rest for winter.

Yesterday I took a beautiful drive out into the country, got a flat of strawberries, and came home to make my first batch of jam. Next will be raspberries, and this year there will be beets, peaches, pears, tomatoes, and salsa.

 

 

pouring jamEvery year, I think of my grandmothers and my mother, who carried the tradition and taught me how to do these things.  I remember standing on a stool to stir the jam as it cooked, and when we used to use wax to seal the jars.

I remember hot jam slathered on homemade bread. The smell of granny’s kitchen when she made her chili sauce with the cheesecloth sachet of spices simmering in the pot, and being told countless times to go get another jar of this or that for whatever was on the stove. We used to count the number of jars of jam, tomatoes, beets, etcetera in order to ration them until the summer came again. It was never because we couldn’t afford to go to the store to buy more, it was because we subscribed to the rationale; who the hell would eat a can of fruit or vegetables plied with preservatives and chemicals that tasted second rate at best, when you could eat something that tasted good and wasn’t laden with other goop? It just didn’t make sense. And it still doesn’t to me.

There are few people my age who know how to do these things anymore, and I wonder what they must be missing out on, counting summer by work-weeks instead of by the season; strawberry season, raspberry season, plums, pears, apples, squash, tomatoes, cucumbers…

This might even be the year that I get back to making apple juice. Just the thought of hot cider by the fireplace makes me want to cuddle with someone. During the winter months, there’s nothing like opening a jar of peach jam to remind you that soon, summer will be upon us again. Or maybe it’s a jar of tomatoes for a rich, hearty stew.

jam 1Living in the city for the past 16 years, you’d think I’d prefer the convenience of buying something off the shelf, but I don’t.

I love the slow process of gathering, preparing and preserving my own food, knowing that it’s fresh and wholesome. Knowing that what I’m eating and what I’m sharing with the people I love is the best that I can give them.

Wishing you a bountiful summer, and an extra pair of hands in the kitchen.

 

To-Do Lists; Faking it ‘Til You Make It

autumtodoBalance is hard to maintain.

I’ve tried pilates balls, running, meditation, hard work and hard partying.

Last night an old pal asked me what was on my Fall To-Do List. After I told him, it felt kind of mediocre. A little pathetic even. They were simple, fun things, with nothing that really deserved a blue ribbon or a mug shot on a trade magazine.

But those simple things do matter.  It’s the little things that string together moments which define a life.

Wandering off the beaten path at the McMichael gallery last week, a dear pal and I talked about the year we’ve had. When I discussed my summer and autumn to-do lists, his remark was a chuckle, “It’s like faking it ’til you make it“. And he was right.

Hardworking, intelligent, emotionally capable folks, (like moi) tend to be good at isolating themselves when they feel vulnerable. I have learned through experience just how important it is to call out for a lifeline and grab hold.

My friends have answered that call as best they can, given their own chaos and capabilities.

A relatively new pal suited up at the last-minute and humoured my desire to participate in Nuit Blanche. Others have shared coffee, baseball games, girl talks and gone shopping with me ( I hate shopping).

My seasonal to-do lists may seem forced, but so far so good. Each day my heart mends a bit more. 

 So far each item on my simple lists have provided me with connection to other wonderful human beings, and that my darlings, is what life is all about.

Lay Your Body Down;What To Do When You Don’t Know What to Do

faintingI’m not the kind of gal who runs from trouble. What I mean is, when the going gets tough, I stick in there. Always have, and likely always will.

You see, for the people out there who don’t know what it’s like to be ‘free’, I direct you to a line made famous by Janis Joplin but written by Kris Kristofferson;

Freedom’s just another word for nothin’ left to lose

In other words, I’ve never had anyone who’s had my back and the only ‘thing’ I have to lose is my sense of self. Even though I come from a long history of a-holes (that’s French for lunatics and weirdos),  I’m the woman who always shows up, smiles and does what needs to be done.

Some days I hate it. I hate that people have so much damn faith in me. Some days I’d like to be the southern-belle who swoons and takes to her bed until the villain knuckles and offers her an icy mint julep and the keys to happily-ever-after.

Anyone who knows me knows that I would never do that. I’d be the southern-belle with mud on her skirts and a villain by the balls short and curlies with a shot of bourbon at the ready, and a poetry salon going on all the while in the parlour.

I live and love in a fiercely loyal way. It can be heartbreaking and it can be beautiful. As my darling cousin reminded me, “When you love, you love BIG, and there’s nothing wrong with that.” In other words, I fall completely head over heels and give 100% of myself. If I’d only invested in a tissue company, I might be able to stop my nine-to-five and open my home to artists and their muses…alas my sweet peaches, I digress…

Coming from a painful upbringing, I value ideals more than I do material things: friendship, honesty, loyalty, and stick-to-it-ness. I fight for what is good and right. I fight for the ideals and people whom I love.

Lately I’ve lost a lot. A lifetime of lost hope, and maybe even a future I was so looking forward to.

A wise grief therapist, in a Southern Baptist drawl reminiscent of an old-time, passionate, protestant preacher once said,

You will need to lay your body down

Walking up the stairs to my office a couple of weeks ago, those words came to me.  I realized that I have not had the opportunity to do this. More importantly, I’m out of practice and I’m not very good at it. But I try.

You see, when you’re ordained with the heavy knowledge of the human soul and its suffering, it’s not a job you can retire from, or hand to anyone else. It is simply yours to hold with all of the suffering and joy that comes along with it.

But you can rest. You can lay your body down; for ten minutes while you try to calm your mind, or two hours while your physical self recovers from being at battle with your anxiety. You can take time to feel the pain that you had no control over coming into your life, and you can release it. You can choose not to carry what is not yours and to replenish your own self in order that you may continue to love those whom have earned a place in such a completely loving heart.

There have been many, many tears lately. Years ago I thought that I didn’t have any left. I was wrong, but as I allow my emotions to wash over me, I remember my Sifu’s story of a woman weeping in meditation. She said nothing, simply rubbed the woman’s back until she stopped sobbing. This kind of emotional release is exhausting, and soon wears us out. Like meditation, we are aware of the rise, the expression, the pain and the release of these things that remind us we are fully human, just as we notice joy and laughter and love. The painful things suck though, and we’d be more than happy to avoid them. But this is life darlings, in all of it’s stunning and frightening mystery.

So, just a little note from an old gal who feels like she’s had her heart and soul ripped out, don’t ever give up on what you believe in. Don’t stop making wishes on old dandelions that are waiting to be blown out into a universe waiting to answer your prayers.  Don’t give up on love, on friendship or on bringing something good to the world every day, even if it’s just having the courage not to quit.

But do lay your body down, and please, remind me it’s ok to do the same.

The Courage of Vulnerability

wetkittyYou know you’re tired when….

…it’s a relief to be sick so you can sleep

…you’d rather come home and go to bed than take someone to bed

…you wish you’d collapse so someone would finally take care of you

Maybe you’ve had a week like that? A month like that? A year like that? A lifetime like that?

Most strong, independent people have a hidden wound that keeps them going somehow. They’ve learned through heartache that vulnerability can be a dangerous thing and despite adversity, they keep on showing up and taking on the world alone.

From time to time, it’s impossible to be  everyone’s smiling face for the day.  You just can’t do it any more.

No matter your training, your practice, your dependence on cheesy motivational sayings, sometimes you just feel inadequate.

Tired, old, fat, ugly…whatever your personal self-inflicting wound weapon of choice, you use it on yourself.

Regardless of how awful you feel about yourself, there’s someone out there who can relate.

Hopefully they offer a sympathetic ear, and know enough to hold off on the advice, or, my personal favourite, the ‘suck it up cupcake’ followed by a thousand reasons you should be thankful, or worse, a thousand reasons they have it worse off than you.

What’s important is to recognize that you feel this way for a reason, and that reason is most likely that you are physically, emotionally and mentally exhausted. As in exhaustipated.

Be gentle with yourself. Wear your fat pants. Have a nap. Take a day off. Don’t pick up your phone. Cancel a date with that soul-sucking social contact. Eat that chocolate bar. Take yourself to the spa. Order take-out.  Accept someone’s offer of kindness…

Yah, that one can be pretty hard to do when you’ve perfected the independence thing. Sometimes courage doesn’t mean being someone else’s savior. It means being vulnerable so someone can be yours.

Sure, it means exposing yourself to possible pain, but it also means exposing yourself to great love.

Sometimes someone extending a kindness can be so touching it feels as if your heart is breaking. But you have to let yourself be vulnerable in order to let someone else help raise you back up.

Try it, you just might find out that being vulnerable isn’t as awful as you think.