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The Longest Night: Your Invitation

Like most adults, the magic of Christmas wanes with each passing year. This year I’m struggling to grasp that spirit at all, even a tiny shred of it.

I absolutely love getting out for Christmas dinners with my friends, I enjoy strolling the markets, and listening to Christmas music.  I realized just how un-Christmasy my life is this year after reading an update from my cousin this morning about having his first Christmas dinner in the books.

This after waking up and staring at the ceiling of what used to be my writing room, and thinking just that…this does not feel like Christmas.

When I was a young mother, doting on my son, baking, cooking and inviting friends into our home made the season so very special. Long past having a big wish list, I have always used Christmas as an excuse to connect with the people in my life whom I don’t get to spend time with often enough. It’s a special part of the year that carries me through, having reinforced the bonds of these precious friendships.

the longest night

But not this  year. This year I am bound to the house, run off my feet, and honestly, feeling lonesome for those friends.

Loneliness and isolation can make a pathetic woman, and I am anything but that. So this year, albeit late in the season, I’m going to begin my efforts to connect with the special people in my life. The sustenance of kindred spirits during times like this is essential to anyone’s well-being.

In years past, I used to host an event on the eve of winter solstice called, “The Longest Night”, where my friends would gather, bringing a piece of art (writing, music, visual art) to share with the group. The theme was always sharing light in the darkness. Celebrating the darkness where mystery was waiting to be revealed, ideas were ruminating, and reminding everyone that there is beauty even in the mystery of the dark.

So this year, once again, I’m hoping more selfishly than ever that my friends arrive in the darkness, to be received into the warmth of a circle of friends.

 

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The Hottest Date

writingdateLike sand through my fingers, it just seemed to slip away. Almost like that’s how it was always meant to be. Withered up alongside all of the tidy, check-marked boxes of my responsible, adult life.

It was part of my life that I cherished dearly. It was something that belonged to me and only me. It was the reason I stayed sane and productive and didn’t just get in my car one day and never come back. Don’t get me wrong, I would have taken my kid with me, and I’m sure we would have had an awesome playlist, but you get where I’m going with this.

That little scrap of sanity was my weekly writing date. More often than not, I would find myself at the AGO, or at one of my favourite Starbucks in Mississauga. At the museum it was poetic verse in a small Moleskine, with a glass of wine and lunch. At Starbucks I usually had my laptop and a latte, maybe a scone if I felt indulgent.

It sounds very simple, and not like much of an oasis of luxury, but it was luxurious solitude during a busy time of my life.

Now I have a beautiful writing room with windows and an altar, and enough of my precious book collection lining the walls that I feel justified in my efforts to write something of significance.

But my writing dates have stopped. I’ve stopped taking myself out, and being inspired by other people’s art, or even the regulars at my local Starbucks. And I miss it.

One of my resolutions (I hate resolutions) leading up to (so as not to be an official new year’s resolution) the new year is to take myself out on weekly writing dates again.

I can already picture myself at the McMichael gallery, swallowed up by the beauty of the gallery and the grounds, completely blissful in my solitude. I’m excited to slowly become a regular at my local cafe, where they wonder what I’m writing, but they know exactly how I like my coffee…steaming hot. The hottest of dates are always the ones that kept me creative, interested & engaged. I hope to see you out there fanning the flames of your own creative fire.

 

 

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Inspiration: As Far As You Can Carry It

Artists know that inspiration comes in waves; sometimes in the gentle, steady rhythm of a lake waking up to the sunrise, and other times overwhelming, crashing into you like the Pacific coast tide.

The thing about inspiration is it’s only as good as how far you can carry it. After all, we can only balance so much. The mundane tasks of everydayness often take up both hands.

In her book, Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert talked about inspiration as a living thing, that moved on if it wasn’t nurtured in our care.  What she had to say as a professional writer resonated with me, and made me feel a bit better. Careless with inspiration, but at least not the only one.

As a full-time working, single mom, my second novel kind of bit the dust. But I’m nothing if not resourcesful, and optimistic too. Instead of trying to twist it into some kind of tome, I’m going to use what I have and craft a short story. I’m also hoping that by doing this, the inspiration my be wooed back, and stick around for the long haul required of a novel. I know if that does happen, that the success or failure of the project will depend on me; on my dedication, devotion and prioritizing.

Either way it will be fine. The inspiration will be freed; to move on, or to take up residence in the pages of my creation.

Inspiration comes my darling friends, but how long it stays with us depends entirely upon how long we are able to carry it.

One in a while we have to reassess what’s weighing us down in favour of what lifts us up.

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Snow Days & Simple Things

My blogs are generally my writing warm-up. Some writers paint, pray, meditate or cook. I write.

This morning as I pulled open the blinds to let  the blue light of morning into our little home, I was grateful to be inside where it was warm. My writing coach, Willy Nelson, blinked as he stretched awake from the warm folds of his new, fleece blanket, and Dinger, our in-house mad-man sat up from his lolling on the living room rug.

As I dug through the laundry pile to find my favourite slippers, I decided that today, I would share with you some very simple things that bring me great joy. Let me clarify; this will not be a deep, meaningful post. It will truly be about little things, such as Willie Nelson leaving the comfort of his snuggly blanket to keep me company at my desk.

My hope is that my writing warm-up, will warm up your spirit on this dreary, icy, cold and wet winter day. My wish for you is that  you are able to rest in the gratitude of simple things.

10 Simple Things I’m Thankful For Today

  1. My Snoozies skinny slippers (also the skinniest thing about me). Seriously, best, most cozy couture for your tootsies.

snoozie

2. Vanilla flavoured President’s Choice Coffee. De-freaking-licious, especially on a morning when the snow and ice make going to Starbucks seem about as sensible as taking a trip to Mars for a margarita.

frenh-vanilla-coffee

3. My internet connection. Seriously! I can stay in touch with friends, research and feel connected all from the solitude of home without having to if I choose not to. Email, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram…

4. Well designed, super-sized coffee and tea mugs. Not the ones with wide brims, that any science amateur knows will cool down before you get to the last drop. By well designed, I mean they actually keep your coffee or tea  hot while you swill down a bucket sized portion.

giant-mug

5. A great story. Too often people gravitate toward the obvious and logical as we age. Stories stir our creativity and open our minds.  I will indulge in one today; The Witches of New York by Ami Mckay.

witches-of-new-york

6. Beautiful lotion to make my skin feel less like a cold-blooded reptile during the dry, winter months. I’ve fallen in love with Lush’s Charity Pot.

charity-pot

7. A view of nature. Laugh if you must, but it’s rare in the city. Even though I have a small space, the green space that is right outside my window is soul-soothing.

lake-aquitaine

8. Little knick-knacks that remind me of special people and places.

snail

9.  Silence. Yes. Silence is so necessary. I promised this wouldn’t be a deep, meaningful post, so I’ll leave it at that.

silence

10. Bookshelves filled with writing from great authors like M. Scott Peck, Maya Angelou, Pema Chodron, Caroline Myss, Charles Bukowski, Leonard Cohen, Atul Gawande, Margaret Atwood, Haruki Murakami, Rupi Kaur, Diana Gabaldon, Simon Sinek, Carl Jung, Thomas Moore…and being able to dream about having a library at home one day.

library-home

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New Year’s Resolutions for People Who Have Their Priorities Straight

winter-tableTime changes people. I’d like to think that it’s mellowed me and smoothed down some of the rough edges. Not all of them though, the coolest women I know have some pretty groovy edges.

Today I was snuggled in under my fluffy, white duvet, snuggled in between cozy flannel sheets coaxing myself to get up and press the button on the coffee maker when I got that little tapping glass signal that a text message had arrived.

It was from my best friend; The woman I met the first day of high school as we hunted for our new lockers and found ours side by side. We’ve been through a lot together, mostly in spirit and via telephone as we live at a distance from one another.  She never fails to make me smile, or let me know she cares, and I hope I do the same for her. When was I going to see her during the Christmas holidays…hmmm….good question. You see, I’m a mortician, and death is far too graceful to care about holiday time.

At this time of year, I am more aware than ever that I don’t see my friends as often as I would like; Vicki (my mumster) and her crazy sidekick Jim, Cindy and Jacques (my fabulously stylish friends), Virginia (the magic woman who is connected to the universe), Virginia (the crazy pet lady), Darleen (a woman who knows how to conjure the teenage girl in me), Carlo (a woman trapped in a man’s body with more empathy in his babyfingernail than most people have in six lifetimes), my cousin Mark ( one of the only people I share DNA with that I’m not ashamed to call family), my Auntie Penny ( a woman I admire for her zest for life and ability to mix a grand cocktail…. 

Instead of writing about not seeing the people who matter in my life, I think it might be the time to whip up some resolutions for the new year…

  1. Set up social time with all of the above listed people who matter in my life.

  2. Finish my second novel.

  3. Publish my first novel.

  4. Work toward my goal of getting out of this crazy cycle of socially accepted bullshit in order to live in the country in a house with a huge harvest table so all of my friends can gather on a regular basis for intelligent conversation, support and life affirming connection.

  5. Practice my ukulele more.

  6. Write more poetry.

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Life As Poetry: A Lesson From L. Cohen

bubblesI woke up this morning and don’t you know it, that tiniest bit of fear about change had crept in while I was sleeping.

Change often is an uncomfortable process that yeilds beautiful results – if you let it.

So, as I padded around in my bare feet looking for my glasses, I paused to open an email from a couple whom I consider kindred spirits.  It inspired me, motivated me, and chased that little inkling of fear right out of my heart. It reminded me that my life ought to be more like my poetry; free flowing and without too much overthinking.

It’s time for change. It’s time to give my creativity, ‘land, lots of land under starry skies above,’. It’s been fenced in far too long.

I have work to do, and what better way to get motivated to clear physical and existential space than to listen to the wisdom of Leonard Cohen???

Wishing you a beautiful day…xo

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Taking The Plunge: Are You Ready

I’m poised at the top of the high-diving board, toes gripping the edge, face forward, not looking down, but focused straight ahead. I steady my breathing, push down with the weight of my body and leap into nothingness making what could be a tragedy, look elegant and beautiful.

jumping-off-cliffsMost significant accomplishments take commitment. Making them a priority means letting some other things slide. Like writing a book, building, maintaining or repairing relationships, or even washing the floor.

Time is precious, and if you’re doing one thing, it means you’r not doing another.

So, the last time I wrote a book, I waived an excited bon voyage to you my darlings, took a blogging sabbatical, and wrote like a fiend.

I think it may be time again. Time to quit procrastinating, worrying about the time I take from other parts of my life, and put skin-to-the-keys as it were.

The only problem is, that the last time I was excited. I was confident, and I had a head full of ideas.

This time I’m not a novel-writing-virgin. I know the blood, sweat and tears frustration that comes with tearing myself away from re-reading and over-editing. Not to mention my editor did die during the editing of my last book .

I will let you know when I get ready to jump. Any encouragement before then is welcome.