The Christmas Grocery Shopping Lists; A Guide for Men

man in storeLet’s face it; it’s always one person who bears the brunt of domestic planning. In my home, it’s me. I have lists for groceries, lists for toiletries, lists for separate stores. It takes time, and effort, so trust me when I say that if it’s on a list, there’s a reason.

At this time of year, the last thing I need is someone arbitrarily deciding what we don’t need. What I need is a housekeeper and two months off and exactly what’s on the damn list.

Unfailingly my better half asks me for a grocery list whenever he’s popping into the store. It’s very thoughtful and I appreciate it more than he knows. There is one problem however, quite often he arbitrarily decides that one or two items just simply are not necessary.

This is the core of the secret to executing the list and I’m about to share it with all of you lovely gentlemen out there. The items on the list are dependent on one another. They are a team you see, each playing an important role in a recipe.

rotten zucchiniWhat is a zucchini without eggplant when making ratatouille? It is simply a lonely zucchini, waiting to weep it’s sticky brown death juice into the bottom of the veggie crisper because it’s calling has not been fulfilled.  When that happens, it becomes part of another list; clean out the fridge and likely, get-your-arse-back-to-the-store-and-get-what-we-needed-in-the-first-place.

It’s not just about handing over a checklist of items to be purchased and brought into the house. The food that we share creates an atmosphere at home, whether it’s a cozy night in for the family, or an evening of hosting guests. It takes time and energy to dream up what might be pleasing and enjoyed. When you decide that the list isn’t important, you’re essentially diminishing the significance of the homemaker. It’s a way of telling them  that their work is insignificant.

A long time ago, a spiritual mentor spoke these wise words; “Our partners do really do just want to make us happy.”

If this is the case, buy what’s on the list.

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Christmas Survival Guide for the Lost Woman: Delegate

opinions

My friends have let me down. I’ve let them down too.

At some point women give up their own selves for the selfless, and mostly unrecognized emotional work of maintaining a home (creating the atmosphere, remembering birthdays, preparing for holidays, and bearing the greater responsibility of relationship nurturing).

Don’t be her. Don’t be the woman we all become at one point or another; a frumpy feeling, sad, uninspired woman who feels like the dishrag that society treats her like.

This Christmas I’m challenging you to connect with your pals, and I’m also challenging myself. In order to make more time for me, and to enjoy the preparations for the holidays, I’ve come up with a few strategies.

 

  1. The word of the year this Christmas is; Delegate.

Make lists….and then give them away. I mean, you single-handedly make the magic happen, at least save some time not shopping and not running errands.

shopping list

 

2) Clear out the clutter.

No, not stuff, people. If you need the whole house so you can spread out the holiday decor,  but your lovey insists on being sprawled on the couch watching the boob tube and basically being useless, ask them to leave. Unless they’re helping, they’re hindering. Vamoos!

joy

 

3) Bake ahead, and if you don’t like baking, don’t.

This year I’m googling ‘christmas cookies that freeze well’, and I’m going to use it. I’m also stocking the freezer with some frozen cheater meals so that I can enjoy my time off throughout the holidays, without cringing when I’m asked, “Have you thought about dinner”. Also, it’s so I don’t tell them that prison dinner might be worth it since I wouldn’t have to cook or do the damn dishes. My eggnot loaf is currently cooling on the counter so it can be frozen.

eggnog loaf

 

4) Be the one who puts a stop to gift exchanges. Other than a few things under the tree on Christmas morning that my loved ones need, will have sentimental value, or are a true ‘Santa’ surprise gift, gift giving falls a long-distance second to just spending time together.

get together

 

5) Make some gal-destinations a priority. Whether it’s a spa date for candy-cane mani’s, or a local church craft sale…make an excuse to get out, wander through all of the delights of the season, and make it a date with someone you’ve been meaning to get together with but haven’t.

one of a kind

 

 

Whatever you do this Christmas season,  make sure you make time to slow down and take in some of what brings you joy.

 

 

 

The Season of Mystery & Light

street lampI’m early, I know.

Advent is not officially upon us, but the shitty greyness of November sure is.

We are smack in the middle of the time of year when everything is bare, grey, and tired.

Not quite officially Advent, the season of mystery, of waiting, of germinating in the darkness so that we may blossom in the light is definitely upon us.

What better way to embrace it all than to try some new stuff?

This year, it’s all new to me; my home, my relationship status, and most significantly, my role as a mother.  Whatever you call your celebration of light in the darkness that you celebrate, the reality is November is often a month of feeling less than sparkly.

As always, I’m embracing it. All of it.  Well, at least I’m trying to. Trying ‘new stuff’ may help ease the doldrums, but is it the solution? I’m not so sure about that.

Being able to be still in the darkness takes incredible strength of mind and spirit. Allowing yourself to feel it deeply without running from the discomfort may be the secret to rising into the light refreshed and enriched. It may also send you to the psych-ward for a few weeks. Chacun son gout.

I try to remember the significance of the tiny lights twinkling in the cold and the darkness. They are the symbols of hope when we are not sure of our place and where we belong, and sometimes that’s all we have.

 

T’was A Day for Decorating & Digestive Discontent

giant red ballsI never get to sleep in. Anymore.

No, I do not have an infant at home. No, I do not work three jobs. I have however, committed myself to a…morning person.

A morning person who just so happens to be away  golfing in the sunny south during my traditional Christmas-kick-off weekend.

At first you’d think I’d be jealous, what with being left all alone for our first real snow fall.  Alas, that is NOT the case.  After having spent the past three months adjusting to  mid-life empty nesting and newly cohibitating bliss, I am gloriously, and might I say well-restedly (let’s just pretend that’s a word shall we – don’t kill my vibe) alone. Ahhh…..

I have been able to sleep in, deck the halls for the holidays, and even took my time shopping yesterday without a grown man whining that he had to get home to watch football.

I had one of those focussed days yesterday. After checking the Michael’s coupons for the day, I thought I’d start early and do my shopping before I came home to tights, a Christmas sweatshirt, my snoozies skinnies and my hair pulled back like a ninja fighter.

I made breakfast, had a coffee and hit the road. I planned a route to a lesser populated area to the north, and listened to a head banging, Chris Botti Christmas jam.

I shopped until I reminded myself of my own mother. Wandering around the same aisles, examining every garland and piece of kitsch until I’m sure one of the salespeople thought that I was out on some kind of psychiatric day pass.

My cart was loaded with 6 strings of bushy evergreen garland, a giant “Meet Me Under The Mistletoe” pillow and various other bits and bobs that I had just the right place for. Oh yah, and my Michael’s 60% off coupon was ready on my app.

At that point, I realized that I was starving. But even more than that, I was in need of giant red balls….for the tree.

Just one more stop and I’d be on my way home. By this time I was really hungry.

Just a quick run in, I decided, and I would treat myself to my favourite fast-food no-no. My quick trip turned into another hour of picking through stocking stuffers, Christmas scented soaps, and big balls…

By the time I paid, I was s-t-a-r-v-i-n-g and thirsty! You know the shopping-mall thirst I’m talking about don’t you ladies? That parched-I’ve-been-hijacked-in-the-retail-dessert-for-way-too-long-I-gotta-have-some-water-or-I’ll-disintegrate-kind-of-thirst.

Hitting a blood-sugar low I muscled my way to my car, guzzled a half liter of water, and got to my fast-food-sin-spot asap. I ate in the car like a ravenous Christmas elf, and polished it all off with a vanilla milkshake.

Now here’s something you don’t know about me…fake ice cream makes my digestive system revolt. In a BIG way, and fast. It was only a fifteen minute drive home, so I wasn’t panicked. What I was, for about a whole five minutes, was sated, and giddy about going home to prepare for the holidays.

And then it happened. My forty-something-year-old-digestive-system said, “Hold up girl! This is not right.”

The half liter of water met the fake-dairy-milkshake at the threshold of my pyloric valve and all hell broke loose.

Two-wheeling it around corners in my 40km neighbourhood, I raced to the garage, only to remember that I’d left the automatic opener on the kitchen table. I jumped out and frantically keyed in the magic code, while skipping around pinching my butt cheeks together.  I backed the care in so fast that I almost backed right through the rear wall. Juggling bags with garland poking out everywhere, and a large sack of kitty litter, I fumbled for my keys.

My neighbour appeared on queue as all neighbours do – at the worst time ever –  on his back deck waving and wanting to chat. All I could do is grimace, try to raise a hand weighted down with in a semi-civilized wave, and slam the door behind me.

No more vanilla quasi-dairy-milk shakes for this woman.

It took me until the Women’s Network Christmas flick came on at 9pm to finish up. I strung lights on the garland for the staircase, the front porch, and decorated the tree. I unpacked the boxes of miscellaneous decorations that grace smaller spaces, and put up the vintage Christmas village. I washed couch cushions and nested like I haven’t nested in a long time.

motherfucker

Don’t get me wrong. at about 5 p.m. I was ready shove the picky, twisty, clingy garland up someone’s ass, not to mention the tangle of 400 lights I was dealing with. There’s a reason people leave me alone to decorate. It’s a marathon of patience, but it’s totally worth it.

Home is a sacred, special place for me. It represents safety and security for myself and my child (ok, so he’s a man-child now, but all mothers know your children are always your babies). Anyone who messes with the safety and sanctity of my home should prepare to deal with the wrath of a woman like me.

Our home is now ready to welcome you for the holidays. I know, I know, it’s not about the decorations or the gifts, but I do love decking our halls to create that feeling of sacred welcome that is too often missing in our busy lives.

I’m already excited to know that my kiddo is almost ready to come home for his Christmas break. I’m eager to cozy up by the tree with friends and family for some precious down-time.  That’s what Christmas is all about. Failte.

None of this F*ing Matters

nothing mattersIt was a comment on my desire to keep a tidy, welcoming, cozy home.  And it was correct.

In the end nothing matters.

We’re all on a path to the same destination; our mortality. I mean, who better to realize this than a mortician? Who better to appreciate libertine values?

In the end, does anything really  matter?   I suppose not, if you think about it. We all end up dead and sure as shootin’ the world carries on.

Who cares if your dirty undies take up space next to a sports bottle that has leaked on the white carpet? Only an asshole I suppose. I mean, after all, we’re all just getting older, and we all just want to be happy, right? So, who cares if all of the linens, dishes and groceries get tossed in various and sundry places? It keeps things exciting right? Besides, what’s life but a grand adventure?

There is no better quality of life than looking for shit because you haven’t the time to be organized or respect shared living space. Joie de vivre etcetera….

Bullshit and wrong. Absofuckinglutely wrong.

The same people who who claim to be chill, free spirits are the same people who expect you to respect what does f*ing matter to them; golf, football, bubble baths, not being woken up during their weekend naps, a welcoming home, the daily crossword, listening to the weather, being on time, morning coffee, evening tea…which means they expect you to respect them.

I was reminded that people who do not respect me do not care about what f*ing matters to me, and that costs me precious time.

“None of this fucking matters. I just want to be happy and live my life. You should try it.”

If you hear this, be sure to remind yourself that if you are loved and if you are respected, the little things that f*ing matter to you, will f*ing matter to them. The end.

 

 

The Afterglow-Or Not; Keeping the Passion Alive, One Closed Bathroom Door At a Time

how beautiful our love isI don’t even know where to begin.

I guess I can start around 17 years ago when I got divorced.

At that time, I decided a few things about my next real relationship. I decided that I would really examine my own self and try to improve. I also decided that the only person that I would clean up after would be a human being whom I gave birth to.

Most importantly I decided that I never, ever….never, ever, ever needed to see my partner on the toilet. I never, ever needed to hear them or smell them. Oh yah. This is a big boundary for me, and my man knows it.

 

With three children in university and college, and all the stresses of merging two lives and two families, let’s just say our communication has been a series of to-do and to-buy lists along with griping about the others living habits. Our intimate communication has been less than five star. In fact, it’s been f-ing horrible.

The long and the short of it is that we committed to re-connecting, and after our hour-of-power-a-la-boudoir, we began to settle in to what I like to refer to as a ‘time of tenderness’. You know what  I mean ladies, when you feel all cuddly and want to talk, and reconnect to the awesome partner you fell in love with. With the bother of passion out of the way, it was clearly time to rekindle our friendship. This is also usually the time that your man falls asleep and you begin hating him again.

So last night, music playing in the background, stretched out feeling blissful, reliving our recent forray into, well, let’s call it the-glorious-climb-to-the-snow-capped-peak…. I awaited my man’s return from our en suite bathroom.

man on toilet

Do not leave the bathroom door open unless you’re sick.

In the candlelit quiet, my heart eased a bit, and I actually felt like a woman, not a domestic workhorse. From the bathroom;

“Hey – do you like The Killers?”

In my head; Sweet Jesus, does the man have a romantic drop of blood in his body?

Out loud; “Yes.”

He then passes gas, tinkles and says, “So do I.”

In my head; Brilliant.  He’s perched on the toilet with the door open. The romance is, officially dead.

…and back we go to the reality of life. Poop. Money. Who’s cooking dinner.

It really takes work to keep a spark alive. Trust me, keep the pilot light lit, it makes it a lot easier.

Remember that you’re friends, and always, always, always, close the bathroom door.

 

 

 

 

Soldiers of Love; Little Old Ladies

Happy smiling senior woman showing her apricot tartI’ve been accused of acting like an old lady.

This was only after I’d gone (what seemed prematurely) through my own mid-life crisis…in my 30’s.

You see, mine has been a full life; a career where I’ve seen more trauma, death and mystery than any binge episode of the most popular television series,  a made-for-tv-movies childhood and a plethora of mischief with lovely men.

There are few things I feel that I yet need to do.  The very saying, bucket list, makes me cringe. What a bunch of pretentious, assuming crappola. Every day should be your bucket list, without assuming you have time to carefully plan a list.

What I’ve come to understand at this stage is that little old ladies are often zenned out in their own little worlds of comfort; cooking, crafting, singing, baking, volunteering, doting on their children and watching Hallmark movies. They live for gentle moments of comfort.

This reality hit me when I was speaking to some younger women at work who had inquired about my career. It’s been a wonderful winding road that served my role as a mother very well. But there’s been an unusual amount of exposure to trauma, violence, and death. Which entitles me to take comfort in ‘little old lady things’, like baking.

Women who like to live their lives amidst creating a comfortable, quiet home life are sometimes the toughest broads on earth.  Like me.

We have been given the misnomer of the weaker sex  all the while proving that really we are the strongest. This is  despite gender inequality, violence, sexual abuse and economic discrimination. It is the women who are strong enough to offer our families the unrecognized emotional work required to create the sanctuary of  home where we recharge with love and kindness.

Never underestimate the power of little old ladies, especially the ones who arrived at old-ladyhood prematurely. Underneath the homemade cookies and blankets, we are fierce.

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.

 

Vulnerability vs. Stupidity

mice and cat

 

Facebook was kind enough to send me a memory from a year ago.  I must have shared this while feeling rather on-top-of-the-world and likely somewhat smug about it all. Mea Culpa.

vulnerable

I do agree with the statement – Wholeheartedly, but today I feel much differently about my vulnerability than I did then.

I’m feeling rather stupid. You know, that lovely nausea inducing feeling of shame and embarrassment. I absolutely believe in vulnerability, and generally, when it comes to little things, like asking for help at work or sharing my  experiences with someone down and out to help them feel better, I’m good at it.

But the big things I’ve been vulnerable with have come back to bite me in the ass. Instead of feeling safe, secure and loved, I feel ashamed. I feel worse off, and the weight of the world is now resting on my shoulders way more heavily than it did a year ago.

It begs the question of how we know when to expose our bellies to a world full of people with emotional swords.  The answer is something we all know; we don’t, we never will, and it’s always a risk.

Years ago I thought that it was worth the cost, you know, all of that hokey nonsense about in order to receive great love, we need to take great risks. At this age,  I’m not so sure any more. I kind of like the idea of curling up in a big ball and keeping my war-weary heart safe and sound.

Weigh whom you share your weaknesses, needs and dreams with. Be as sure as you can that they will honour you where you are  most fragile.

Wishing you  great friends who will cherish your vulnerability, and in turn, trust you with theirs. Kindness, kindness, kindness. May it reign.