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Stay Humble My Friends

coffee-cold-mug-winter

Humble. That’s the best we can all try to be right now.

Humble enough to be still, kind, and for the love of all that’s holy, quiet.

If I were a medical professional in the midst of this pandemic, I think that during my time off, earplugs would be as important as any personal protective gear during my time ‘on’.

You know what I’m talking about, the incessant chatter of  how this pandemic is spreading, what the symptoms are, and how long it will take before we can all get back to thoughtless, mass consumption.

After a most stressful five days of dealing with a sick person, a young man’s plea for a place to stay after being illegally evicted due to fear of the Coronavirus and worrying about my own job, I woke up this morning snug and warm among my fluffy duvets.

Bliss.

Until the chatter started. A thoughtful phone call to check in on my sick sweetie turned into an amateur COVID 19 medical conference right there in my bed.

I jammed an earplug in the ear that wasn’t on the pillow, took a few deep breaths, and then gave up before frustration set in. Earplug out, I padded down the stairs to enjoy a hot cup of coffee in the solitude of morning.

This, after drifting off to sleep in the wee hours of the morning, wondering about the outward object of ‘adoration’ in the context of rapture…it’s ok, you don’t have to understand. All you need to know is that I was delighted to have had some time to submerge myself in the type of writing and thought that is all encompassing.  Something bigger than myself. 

The stress of the day washed away with my wordplay, and the ability to surrender to whatever comes next flexed it’s muscle and settled around me like a cocoon. I fell asleep with pen and notebook on my chest.

 

When you realize nothing is lacking,

The whole world belongs to you

~Lau Tzu~

 

I hope that everyone has that kind of escape right now; something that they love which gives them purpose.  Or even a guilty pleasure to binge on like The Tiger King , a raw example of chattering pride (pun no intended).

Being humble can come from a place of great joy, simple pleasures, or curiosity. Wherever it comes from, it can be a gentle teacher and an anchor in a world that seems to have gone mad. During times like these, humility can offer up a calm raft in the deluge of  uncertainty and change. It can also save you from yourself in ways you didn’t  even know that you need saving.

 

 

 

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Pissing In The Wind During COVID-19

farm womenIt’s a well known fact that when in distress, we revert to our fist language. It brings us comfort, and takes less energy than coming up with words we’re not so familiar with.

My first language is English, but the colloquialisms that I use now are far from my mother tongue. I was raised among proud, country folk and hard asses.

Living in the city has influenced my language to acquiesce to more professional terms such as; Multi-disciplinary, facilitate…with an understanding of complex…blah, blah, blah

Recently, I surprised myself by telling someone that they, “May as well just piss in the wind.”

Not only had I said it, but I said it with passion.  And then I caught myself saying it again.

You may as well just piss in the wind.

You can picture it can’t you, this pissing in the wind?

It’s a satisfying string of  words lending itself to a powerful visual;  Letting it all hang out, and then having it all blow back in your face.

I’m sure it’s the way a lot of you have been feeling lately in the face of COVID19, (like you’re pissing in the wind) and the mostly inadequate measures that ‘we’ have taken to protect our communities. Pissing in the wind.

Crazier than a shithouse rat.

Dumb as a stump.

As useless as tits on a bull.

God willing and the creek don’t rise.

You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.

Sweatin’ like a sinner in church.

If it’d been a snake, it would’a bit ya.

These are just a few of the finer phrases that were familiar to my upbringing in a small village on the north shore of Lake Erie.

Lately I’ve been stressed more than usual. I’m sure you’re feeling it too. Our world is in flux, and there is little, if any steady footing.

These little sayings are homey, and can be comforting. They’re power-packed nuggets of wisdom that colour our conversations and paint a vivid picture. It feels good to fall back on something solid; my first-language.

As we continue to exist in an environment of the unknown, I know that others will return to their first language as well. I can only hope it’s as soothing and entertaining as my own, because if we don’t all stay the hell home, the health authorities ain’t just whistlin’ Dixie.

Wishing you and those whom you love, good health.

 

 

 

 

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Travelling Light: Decluttering

travel lightAfter learning that my friend died a week ago, I wondered what I had to remember her by. Keepsakes are precious and the one I have from her is a tiny tile she brought back from Delft in her Dutch homeland.

Along with my grandmother’s nurses cap, my son’s framed art, and my one photo album, that tile is among  the things that will likely stay with me forever.

You read that correctly by the way. I only have one photo album.

Trust me. After twenty some years working in the funeral business you really can’t take it with you, and those who try to, make it really damn hard on their family.

The burden of leaving a huge pile of stuff for your loved ones to sort through after your death equals a crap load of emotional guilt when they realize that they too, can’t possibly save your precious memories.

Like I said, I have one photo album. When I moved into my current home, I realized just how much I had stashed away during the eight year stay we had at our previous home. I didn’t want to burden my child with having to sift through over 30 albums of meaningless photos should anything happen to me (and it will).  Photos were paired down to one album for myself, and five for the kid.

I kept at least one photo of each of my favourite people. When I open that album, which is rarely, my memories come flooding back. I remember how far I’ve come, who I loved and who loved me back. I don’t need a multi-volume album collection to remember the most meaningful moments in my life.

What I cherish from the days at that old apartment are the memories. The feeling that I get, no matter how foggy the details, thinking of the time  I spent parenting my favourite person in the world.  Nothing can bring those times back.

I’m ready to go. As far as my stuff goes anyway.  What I mean is, there’s not a hell of a lot I’m attached to. Almost everything of sentimental value fits inside a small trunk that I use for a coffee table.  The rest I hold in my heart.

Despite priding myself on my eclectic home, which is filled with framed art created by my friends, and special momentos, I really have very little stuff that I’m attached to.

More important than decluttering is the realization that the things that are special to me are connected to memories that are unique to me. Very few things hold meaning for anyone else, so why should I burden anybody  with sorting through meaningless stuff?

Pass down your stories, not your stuff.

Offer your sentimental items to someone who may also have an emotional appreciation for them. Donate anything that someone else would be grateful to have and use.  If you must, photograph the things that break your heart to part with but didn’t make the final cut, and load them in an album to look at when you need to reminisce.

Let your lightness lift you to new places and spaces.

 

 

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Galentine’s Day

galentine-s-gifts-1575491888I don’t even know when it is? Is it separate from Valentine’s Day, or is it on the same day for particularly empowered femmes? I don’t know…

For me, I try to celebrate what I think is the gist of  “Galentine’s Day” all the time.  I love getting together with my friends to do stuff that doesn’t involve action films starring old men, pvr’d sports, or more testosterone fueled shit like that.

To be honest, being a mother makes getting the gals together tough. We’re beleaguered as much by relationships, motherhood and career as we are by the wacky disproportionate media we’re fed about it all.

According to social media, television, movies, magazines, and people with money, I’m supposed to be unhappy about the way I look, tired of my spouse, unable to control my spoiled children, and be on-call 24-7 at a career that keeps me grinding on the treadmill economy which we’ve all subscribed to.

Urban Dictionary:
Lucy: I don’t have a date for valentines. You wanna be my galentine?
Louise: sure

I’m nothing if not a rebel, and although my waist disappeared about 5 years ago, I don’t feel unsatisfied with my life. Yes, I would like to be independently wealthy, not have to go to work, and have a personal trainer who showed up every morning with a tasty, uber-healthy smoothie and a rippling, masculine 6-pack. Alas, I have toast, and a bluetooth headset to take with me on my walks.

When it comes to Galentine’s, I do feel like women don’t make enough quality time for one another. Hell, we find it hard to take time for a half-hour bath, let alone a weekend away, or regular coffee dates.

As always, I try to make Galentine’s a thing all year long, but on this Galentine’s day (because I have time while the oven is on self-clean and I’m afraid to go very far in case the house goes up in flames), I want to send out my best wishes for all of the gals out there.

May you be surrounded by your gal-friends throughout your lifetime.

 

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Don’t Smell like a bag of Potato Chips? Count Your Blessings

Bubble BathWhenever I’m frustrated and someone tries to make it all better by telling me to be grateful for the simple things, it makes me want to put them in a headlock and give them the world’s biggest noogie.

Seriously, there’s soooo much sanctimonious poo-ha floating around these days, it’s hard to be real. Real as in; being able to express any emotion other than wide-toothed-grinning-joy. We’re human. We feel things, and I heartily believe that if we felt a little more – as in stood up for what we really believe in- the world would be a much better place.

Real is what it’s been around my place for the past few weeks. Real-ly painful. Real-ly restless, and really, well, not normal.  It’s made me…grateful for the simple things.

Slip-on boots that don’t require laces…….stretchy clothes…….slippers…….a warm coat…….get-well cards…….access to the internet…….someone cooking a meal…….being able to watch the birds at the feeder…….going for a walk…….the remote within reach…….

It doesn’t take long before not being able to do simple things gets old.  I haven’t been able to sink into a hot bath in almost a month.  Just prior to that, I had two full weeks of sponge baths. Ick, of the highest order of Ewwww. I also couldn’t wear deodorant because it would infect the incisions. There’s only so much self confidence you can get from breezing a washcloth near your armpits.

But I knew all of this was coming. So I stocked up on mother’s-little-helper and  a fresh bar of my favourite lemon soap in anticipation of the day that I could give myself a proper wash.

When you can finally be confident that you don’t stink like a bag of salt and vinegar chips, well, that’s something to be grateful for. And I know I will be grateful for that every day for quite some time.

It all sounds trite when I write it down. After all, during the first few days, ice cubes in my gingerale and milky tea were like manna from heaven.  And to be honest, I haven’t been ill as in I-don’t-know-if-I’ll-get-better-ill. I am healthy which is why I was able to go through with a pro-active surgery.

Still, being unable to do every-day tasks made me incredibly grateful for things that I usually take for granted  and made me realize how difficult some people have it. I am so very fortunate.

Whether it’s being able to access a place to get clean and safely get some rest, or reach for your morning joe at a drive through window (which I can’t do right now), or carry your groceries into the house (which I also can’t do), I’m going to be one of those annoying, sanctimonious birds who tell you to try to find the joy in simple things today.

It will indeed, do you good.

 

 

 

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5 Ways Not to Be a Weirdo

strangeI guarantee you that someone, somewhere, thinks you’re a weirdo.

“Why the hell are people so freaking weird?!”I ask myself this question a lot. Like, a-lot-a-lot.

Anyone who has to get up, go to work, or interact with another human being during the day thinks the same way.

Mostly weirdness comes into play if you are an ignorant stunner when you’re dealing with  people. Not a stunner like the Hope Diamond. Just stunned. I suspect most weirdos are so ignorant of their surroundings that they think they’re perfectly normal.

Most people who make me think they’re from another planet are the ones who are just on the edge of rude-enough-to-make-me-do-a-double-take, but not so rude as to warrant one of my very calm, but forward diplomatic chats.

Recently, with eyeballs as big as a saucer after walking away from a real weirdo, I realized that most weirdos are likely just victims of our time. Most  have unreal expectations about what is humanly possible based on our instant-access-to-information world. Either they expect you to snap your fingers and so-mote-it-be, or they don’t realize that you can do things as quickly as you can.

Most annoying of course are the people who think you can pull bunnies, doves and miracles out of your ass. Kind of like someone in line for an extra-hot-non-fat-no-whip-double-shot-venti-with-a-carmel-pump getting frustrated with the wait at their favourite coffee shop. Some things obviously take time. Use your new millenium meditation skills and deal with it weirdo. Try to actually think something through.

Now more than ever we live in a world where people have no concept of face-to-face etiquette. As consumers we feel entitled, and as workers we feel stretched. Nobody’s happy.  Weird.

5 Ways To Not Be A Weirdo

  1. When attending appointments, dates or get-togethers, please try to adhere to the same time-space continuum as everyone else in your time zone. In plain-speak- show up on time.
  2. Don’t carry food and drink with you everywhere. This goes for parents with kids. You know they need to eat, it’s not a new development in our evolution.  Plan for it. You know you have to eat. Plan for it. And no, you will not die if you don’t have a paper cup filled with joe or bottle of water attached to your hand.
  3. Be aware of personal space and appropriate length of eye contact. As a matter of fact, make sure you also blink. Non-blinkers are ultra-weird.
  4. Practice the art of conversation, especially the listening portion. Making someone repeat themselves for any other reason than a hearing issue is just strange. Get out of your own little weirdo, narcissistic head and l.i.s.t.e.n. and then act appropriately.
  5. Which brings me to magic #5….be aware and considerate of your surroundings…..weirdo.

 

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In the Kitchen With Granny

Today I woke up and took a good look in the mirror; Fingers padding lightly across my skin, as I lean in to really see myself. I look into my tired blue eyes and know that I look like both of my grandmothers.  I have the round, kind face of my Granny Dorothy, and the body of my Granny Eileen. It’ll just have to do.

The two of them were as different as night and day. Granny Dorothy was an educated woman who married late in life to a sour, strict, everyone’s-going-to-burn-in-hell-baptist.  Her wits and grit kept the bills paid, and her sense of humour kept her alive. Had she been born today, she likely never would have married. She would have worked her way around the world. Alas, the 1930’s had other plans for her.

Granny Eileen on the other hand, was on husband number three when I came along. She’d raised six kids on her own. She was a resourceful woman with a heart of gold who didn’t take a lick of shit from anyone, especially her husband.

Both of these women taught me to make something from nothing.  Whether it was in the kitchen, or out in the world at large. They taught me how a woman could be both strong and kind.

Every year, I keep them close as I plant my garden, and every harvest season, as I take to the kitchen. These rituals keep me close to them. I’m a sentimental traditionalist when it comes to my kitchen. During the summer, I find myself preserving the same things with the same recipes that they did all those years ago.  I throw in a few more odds and ends, just because I find comfort in the routine of being in the kitchen during harvest season.

This morning I slipped on a jersey knit dress that put me in mind of Granny Dorothy. She knew what she was doing with those old house dresses. Simple, tidy, and most importantly when you’re preserving; cool. I listened to interviews with authors as I sterilized jars, peeled and chopped fruit, remembering how my Granny Eileen’s gnarled up hands seemed to be able to create anything.

During the summer months, I yearn for the slow, simple days of childhood summers. I recall the flavour of each stage of the harvest; radish, carrots, and beans snapped straight from the plant and tossed directly into our mouths.  No garden was immune to kids raiding it for a snack. We sucked on sour rhubarb stalks, and cringed at the bitterness of currents. We raided the ditches and gullies, picking raspberries and blackberries when we were lucky enough to find them. Each ripening carried back to the kitchens of our grannies where it was made into something wonderful.

 

Except pastry. I learned how not to make pastry from both of my Grandmothers. Kind of like how not to choose a mate. As it turns out, Granny Eileen  insisted that if I followed the recipe on the box of Tenderflake, my pastry would be just fine. She also lied. Years later my aunt laughted at me so hard tears streamed down her face; Granny used pre-made pastry and was full of shit. Granny Dorothy on the other hand was honest with me but produced pastry with a texture so fearsome that the dog wouldn’t even eat it.  From this I learned that sometimes we don’t always get what we need from family. Sometimes we have to reach out to become wiser and better.

 

The quiet stretches in my kitchen necessary for the process of preserving and canning gives me time to commune with the spirit of these two women. They are with me here in the steam and heat, and smell of cooked fruit. They are with me when I take a jar of something I preserved from the pantry and serve it to my family and friends. My grannies are always with me at my table.