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What is that taste?

rockin good wayThere are some moments in life that are meant to be savoured; long, lingering, mid-winter dinners spent at wizened harvest tables with too much wine and just enough friendship, being curled up with your lover in a breathless, sweaty limp-from-loving half-sleep on blushing, rumpled sheets or watching the slow spread of delight cross an old woman’s face and creep into her eyes.

These are all delightful moments. These are the moments which reveal themselves without pretense or ceremony  to our cluttered minds.

But there are other moments to be savoured. The ones that are not so easily recognized, cause your brow to crease, and the corners of your mouth to turn down before they turn up.

There have been a few instances in my life where my wee, little, girl brain has spun quickly ’round and come to a sudden, and definitive conclusion after asking, “What is that taste in my mouth?”

Much like a long-ago  Friday evening when I arrived home after a long stretch of twelve-hour days feeling alone and unloved. Don’t lie to me darlings, you’ve also visited that, nobody-loves-me-everybody-hates-me-place.  

Anyway, I arrive home to the quiet, solitude of singledom, kick off my shoes and pad into my boudoir, only to be taken by surprise at the sight of a pair of dust-bunny-ravaged men’s gitch which had been mercilessly dragged from the unholy darkness of underneath-her-bed by the cat.

It was a split second; my brow creased, the corners of my mouth turned down and then up as my girl-brain came to a screeching halt and definitive conclusion; some poor bastard had gone home commando.

And I laughed.

I laughed the tears-rolling-down-your-cheeks-kind-of-laugh all alone in my bedroom. In that moment I knew that the price of my loneliness was worth every second of my solitude.

The man-gitch were most certainly a souvenir from a morning-after that found my first thoughts asking, “What is that taste“?

Usually that taste was accompanied by some fuzzy memory of the night before; dirty gin martinis, laughter, the company of a delightfully sensual gentleman and whatever the flavor of the 3 a.m. craving was. It was usually a granola bar that only half fulfilled its destiny of reaching my tummy. The other bits would be found clinging to unlikely places on my sticky, hungover flesh.

After having spent a much-anticipated evening of mutual adoration with the love of my life, I was drifting off to sleep and thought, “What’s that taste“?

In the sputtering candlelight, wrapped in a once-in-a-lifetime-drifting-off-to-dreamland-full-body-embrace, my little girl-brain did not need to spin.

A slow, smile in all its fullness spread across my face and seeped into my body. “I know what that taste is”, a delicate fleeting thought crossed my consciousness just as it slipped away, “It’s gin, my man and joy. Now go to sleep darling, you have everything you’ve ever wanted”.

We make our memories in every moment. Sometimes they are the brow-furrowing, laugh-until-you-cry-memories that leave you asking, “What is that taste”?

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A Love Letter for When You Feel Old & Worn Out

emptybenchYour voice sounded withered today, like a vine that’s gone too long without the sun; no longer offering fruit but reaching outward, for something solid to cling to and wrap yourself around in order not to break.

Clinging is such an ugly word though, and people our age know better than to cling. Yet, holding is another skill, and that’s one we all seem to be trying to master now. Holding onto: the people, places and memories that give our ego definition. But people come and go and places change. Even memory needs some reminding now and then.

If I could tell you anything now, I would read to you some words I wrote two, three, maybe four or five years ago. I forget exactly when it was that you came flooding back into my memory.  I was so sure then that I would never see you or talk to you again and at that time, I was afraid no one would remember me when I was young and so carefree.

But here we are over a decade later talking about how life is relentless, you battling traffic to a meeting, and I waiting, thousands and thousands of miles away for an appointment with a tax accountant.

Where are those two people who laughed when old couples remarked to us how good we looked together, and asked how many children we had? I remember answering them and laughing, “We have four children.” How very ironic that seems now.

If I could sit next to you again on the sunset bank of a spring river, there would not be tears.  I would want you to know how my memory has kept your boyish smile and jeans-with-no-underwear-first-thing-in-the-morning routine pristine, so I could come back to you over and over again. Sometimes in the blue light of dawn, and sometimes during that lonely hour between afternoon and sunset. There were times that your letters and photographs fell out of their hiding places and suddenly I was staring at your smiling face, and reading your letters.

After all of these years and the wear and tear of living, I would tell you that you were the last man I loved enough to really break my heart. You and I both know now what it’s like to grow more tolerant of loss, grief and the way lives become woven together, fall apart, make way for growth and maybe find each other again or forget completely.

I was so certain when I saw you last, that I would never see you again. Certainty is a fickle thing though. One minute it exists and the next it has vanished, never to land in our consciousness the same way ever again. Now I know that if I were to see you again, I would carry with me that visceral knowledge that  it may be the last time, whether by choice or chance.

Life’s magic rests in the not-knowing, the uncertainty and the ability to really live with all of our senses, in the moment and from the heart.

Words may not convey everything the way a slow, sensual all-the-time-in-the-world kiss that leads to a dreamy weekend of love-making and laughter might do, but for now, these words will have to suffice.

All those years ago you were my best friend and lover. Your laughter, conversation and the way your body moved in the night delighted every part of me. I want you to know this one thing; no matter how much life wears us down or how old we feel, you will always be that handsome, once-in-a-lifetime man to me, and I am grateful for the memory.

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Gym Class Flashback

gymclassThere are few things I can recall being worse at than anything to do with High School gym class. I mean, the shorts alone were enough to make me weep, not to mention the knee-socks.

To say I’m not athletic is to say that Harper Lee is a mediocre writer. In other words, I sucked at gym. Other than basketball, and hitting a baseball, I dreaded that class more than anything, and was so thankful that the high-school-credit-gods decided that one was enough.

During gymnastics class I once did a vault and actually knocked my spotter unconscious with my right thigh. The same girl was victim to a line drive when she was pitching to me, which once again rendered her without response. When she offered to stand up in my wedding, I should have known the marriage was doomed.

Tonight, after a two-week hiatus, I took my chubby little buns off to the gym right after work and hit the cardio class. I hate this class. There is no joyful flailing of flab like Zumba or Urban Rhythms. It’s all very practical and ham-string agonizing.

My first clue that something was up should have been the lack of participants in the room. You see, this gym is busy enough that you have to be banded to attend class. It should have been full, but it wasn’t, and then I saw her. A woman who surely was the doppelganger of my High School gym teacher. The one that generations of students and their parents had nicknamed, “Spade-Face”.

Spade-Face inspired fear in the hearts of all girls with breasts. She was like a drill sergeant in purple and gold (our proud school colours) sweats, whistle and baritone bark included. Just looking at her made me pee my pants a little bit.

So, tonight in my mind, it was “Spade-Face” whom I was at the mercy of, with my middle-aged porcelain white thighs and tailored to fit sports bra.  It was a terrible class. She lost count, screwed up, and had the personality of a torn  gusset from a totally used up pair of panties.

But I made it through, without too much gasping or excessive sweating. I actually felt good when I walked out of that studio.

Spandex – the great fashion equalizer. I may wear a suit all day, and provide ‘expertise’, but when we get to the gym, it’s just my glutes and yours darling, and yours win hands-down.

As it turns out, I really wasn’t that bad when it came to athletics. Nope, like most young ladies who were abused, I just had incredibly low self-esteem, and would rather have worn a moo-moo over my svelte 16-year-old body than have anyone see skin.

Years passed, and I shed the skin of victimhood, to find out that I wasn’t such an athletic anomaly as I thought I was. I loved going to the gym, played squash, and even started running when I was in my mid-thirties. I even have a ‘sports’ injury incurred from competitive paddling. Go figure.

So, with this in mind, I have set some new goals for myself after a bit of a lazy go at living. Wish me luck, and I wish you luck too. This getting older may be harder on the ego and bones, but it does wonders for the spirit when we put it all into perspective.

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Memory: The Greatest Storyteller of Our Time

intotheabyss‘Boobs’. That’s all it said. A text message I received today after a  lingering champagne hazed session of reacquainting myself with a long, lost lover and friend.

What made it so funny was that it came from a number I don’t recognize, likely someone I have known quite well, but deleted from my digital Rolodex of potential back-ups.  One of my BFF’s refers to me  as McBoobs, but it wasn’t her. ‘Boobs’. Somewhere out there, someone’s memory brought a story about my assets back to the front line of their mind, and prompted the ridiculous text.

Memory is a funny thing. It’s sly and agile, hiding itself for so long you forget that it’s there, and then suddenly, it floods your mind, heart and soul like a spring rainstorm, leaving turned earth, and a rainbow somewhere, if you remember to look for it.

storm and rainbowDrifting off to sleep after a conversation and a few tipples with a kindred spirit, my memory reminded me how wise some people can be. Stonewalling is my preferred method of detachment and emotional salve after the crumbling wall around my school-girl heart takes a hit. “You’ve been through a lot of hurt in your younger days just like me. It’s natural.” He gets it, I thought, as I drifted off to sleep. Somebody sees it.

Seeing each other; witnessing the life of friends brings meaning to life. Years pass and friendships either fade or strengthen, and the beauty of lasting friendships is that you know someone out there in the big ole’ nasty world of non-stop striving really sees who you are. They know you.

There’s something about someone having stood by while your soul was formed and hardened in the fire of life. When you forget who you are, these are the people who tell your story back to you, and so it is – this is memory – retelling who we are and how we arrived at this place. Right here. Right now, as we are, fully human and  divinely flawed.

Not often do I go back so far in my memory to recall some of the hardest times of my life. That means I’ve forgotten a lot of experiences that were part of reinventing myself as a young adult. Recently I’ve been drawn back to a time I had managed to all-but forget. A memory or two has been salvaged and laid at my doorstep by someone whom I was sure had forgotten me. It was my choice to pick it up and examine it, or kick it aside until it eventually grew over as part of a wild, tangled landscape. I’m curious by nature, so I couldn’t leave a gift like that unopened.

It’s a blessing and a curse this easy forgetting. I do this when things go wrong with people I love. Hurt turns quickly to anger and then I toss it away like a pebble to the bottom of a deep, cold lake that is incapable of giving up her dead.  Something gone forever unless someone else makes the effort to salvage it and lay it as a gift at your feet.

Storytelling is a great gift given to friends and lovers when they’ve forgotten how fabulous they are. It’s a little spark of madness in the melancholic night of adulthood, and a hit of adrenaline to whet your appetite for living.

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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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Take it Off…All Off!

takeitalloffYou have absolutely no idea how excruciatingly wonderful it felt to slip my tailored suit jacket down my arm and across my back as I kicked off my heels and walked toward my bedroom.

“Good-bye fancy ear-ring,” I said, as my fingertips gripped the back of the clasp…

You will never comprehend how decadent it felt to peel off my pantyhose and know that for two-whole weeks, the only big wardrobe choice I have to make is flip-flops or bare feet.

Sah-weet!

When you wear a uniform or uniform-like attire to work every day, it becomes part of your identity.  Not that that’s a bad thing. I happen to be among the chosen few who actually love their job and the people they work with. Having said that, every now and then, it’s nice to put some distance between your skin and the clinging sheath of your professional persona.

Sometimes it’s just really nice to reconnect with what it means to be a free-creative-music-and-art-loving-spirit, connected to the earth and sea. For me it’s always been the sea. It’s always been the water, and the fresh wind, and the dark night sky and it’s been so terribly long…

Stepping out of my suit and taking off my ear-rings, necklace, watch and rings, I relished the feeling of freedom that comes with not having to.

I write to you my lovelies because I care. If you, like me, get lost in the routine of every day, occasionally get overwhelmed with anxiety and fear of the future, are thankful for all of the blessings in your life, and don’t want to rock the boat, I urge you to resist your fear and make time to reconnect with what you love.

The margins in my life are narrow. My resources are all self-mined and lean toward the depleted side. I look death in the eye daily, and I know that life is short. It’s all a gamble my friends. It’s all water under the bridge to never-never-land. Every now and then you need to take a leap of faith, jump for joy and do something that rekindles the spark that made you absolutely fabulous once-upon-a-time.

As I slip out of my suit and into something the good-lord made comfortable, I raise a glass to the simple joy of saying, “Fuck it”, and then doing just as you please.

 

 

 

 

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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?