When We Lose Our Neighbours

greed economyI’ve lived here four and a half months, and said hello to exactly three neighbours. It’s amounted to a total time commitment of under 10 whole minutes. 600 seconds.

Earlier this week a news story broke about a house fire and the resulting fatalities. A single mother and two children living in a multi-family house died.  The house is  suspected to have been scraping under the radar of housing regulations, as most affordable housing does.

A neighbour was interviewed saying that he lived ‘nine-steps-away’, but had never met the family. Just nine steps.

And therein lies the problem. We no longer have a sense of community. We are no longer neighbourly. We no longer have the energy or resources to care for others.  We no longer have the inclination to take the time to build relationships with other people. Our world is losing its humanity in the great race to keep the economic machine rolling.

eat cake

Recently the raise in Ontario’s minimum wage has people divided over the benefits and drawbacks. Primarily the arguments are about the ability of businesses to ‘catch up’ and make profits. What is lacking in the conversation is what has been happening to the most vulnerable people in our communities for a very long time; decreased access to safe housing, health care, and the resulting social maladies. What is also lacking is a discussion regarding the  ridiculous wealth acquired by those who say they cannot afford to pay a fair, living wage.

The short-sighted argue that by raising minimum wage, the vulnerable will become jobless, and their situation worse. And they’re right. Unchecked greed will make all of it worse. Protesting for and protecting the vulnerable can only create a stronger community. It’s what neighbours do. It creates community. It prevents bad things from getting worse.

The word neighbour seems to be going the way of the word chesterfield. Perhaps we’re unwittingly becoming more like our neighbours to the south than we’d like to think.

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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.

 

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

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.

 

 

 

All Grown Up With No Time to Go

woman rushedEventually we all grow up; in different ways, and on different schedules, but I believe that we do.

The faster it happens, the better off we are. That’s my opinion anyway. I’m not talking about having childhood trauma throw you into the world of adulthood prematurely. No. What I’m talking about is growing up and accepting your responsibility as an adult.

This included how you treat other people, and how your actions and words make them feel.

In other words, I don’t subscribe to the bullshit about living ones own life ignorant of the collateral damage it leaves behind like flaming shrapnel. Sometimes being a responsible adult means missing out on, or rescheduling something way more delicious than living up to a responsibility.

For some reason, we have mistaken the idea of self-care with selfishness. Seriously, we’ve reached the tipping point, and it’s pretty ugly.

I’ve witnessed it, and stumbled over my own  expectations of an instagram-worthy life.

Take a look at this:

That is a hell of a lot of work for a bath.  I confess to having a candle-lit set up in my own little piece of heaven, otherwise known as the loo. I’m a social media addict, snapping and posting pics as if my life depended on it.

It doesn’t though. What means more than a bunch of likes is the actual time I get to spend with the people I care about.  It seems to be getting harder and harder to carve out that time, what with shift work, a partner, and a child on the cusp of a big transition.

Self-care is a must, and empathy is also a must. It can be a fine balance when we live our lives with very narrow margins; lack of time, money or other resources.  When we finally develop into a stage of all-grown-upness, it seems as if we find ourselves livnig a life so fast that we have no time to nurture the meaningful connections that give our lives meaning.

Our connection to one another is the most important thing we have, and we musn’t let the world convince us otherwise.

A Love Letter to Middle-Aged Men

shaving-brushesThere’s a running joke between the more experienced ladies in the office, and the young singletons. It goes something like this: We used to be attracted to  older men – until we got older.

Women get ugly and men get creepy. That seems to be the stereotype. I can’t say I know many creepy old men. I tend to avoid them like syphillis and fungal infections. My tastes rather lean toward the educated and emotionally intelligent gentleman. You know, the kind who might have a bit of a belly, but a beautiful heart.  Someone who still believes in romance, intellectual conversation and the value of intimacy.

I mean really. As we age, who truly wants to see us naked? Any of us? Sure, put Chris Pine shirtless on the big screen any day. But don’t ask me to be intimate with him. I could see myself making him a peanut butter sandwich for lunch and giving him a pat on the head as heads out the door to play, but not in my bed thanks.

I prefer my middle-aged, intelligent yet man-dumb, gives-a-crap-about-how-he-shows-up-in-the-world-every-day guy any day. And that my darlings, is hot.

There’s a lot of media out there that leads us to believe that men and women’s attractivness declines with age. I disagree.

Snuggling in with a middle-aged man has it’s advantages. First of all, they have come to some understanding that women will always think they are somewhat man-dumb, and are thus more open to communication.  They are more in tune with their  out-of-tuneness than younger men and are, at the very least, consistent.

Pay attention gents, we don’t want you to look any different than the day we met you. We don’t need you drive an expensive car or take us shopping. We just appreciate you for meeting us half-way, even after life has tossed you around a bit. We get it. We’ve been there too.

Yes, we see through bullshit at this age and we call you on it. We know you wouldn’t respect us if we didn’t. We don’t have time for that stuff.

gartersBut we do have time to appreciate your body and your soul. We think you’re sexy, and yes, we even fantasize about you.

We love the way that your your hairy old chest feels under our palms, and how your experienced body feels curled up next to ours.

We appreciate  who you are and where you’ve come from. We see you as a whole person; your intelligence, your emotions and your physical self. We can appreciate the scars and how hard you’ve worked and still see you as sensual and sexy and worth wearing our garters and stockings for when we go out for a romantic dinner.

We appreciate that you have earned your stripes as men, not boys. We have busy lives which keep us vibrant and we know how to prioritize a man who prioritizes us. As long as you share this adult handling of partnership, you are like Gods to us. We want to see you happy, satisfied, and we crave your touch.

Yes, we are as cynical as you, and yet we are still as hungry for fun, excitement and adventure as you. We are your intellectual and emotional equals and we want you. No Porsche required.

 

A Night Owl’s Meditation Lesson for Morning People

no wormI’m not a morning person. Unless I’m the first one up when I’m in the great outdoors, marvelling at a sunrise, watching mist rise from a placid lake, and listening to the first call of the loons.

But that rarely happens.

So, I’m basically just not a morning person.

I am a night owl. The still darkness is rich ground to cultivate ideas and search out creative genius.

We all have a delicate balance of extroverted and introverted needs, and as a fence rider on almost every element of the Myers-Briggs assessment, I need as much time alone as I do surrounded by other fascinating human beings.

Morning people often insinuate that I’m wasting the day. They gently suggest that perhaps I’m a tad depressed, lazy, unmotivated, or accomplishing less than my potential. Morning people are wrong.

My very naïve beginnings at meditation have developed throughout the years, and my practice is now something I am aware of every day.

Waking slowly, at my own pace allows me to be quiet with the thoughts that come and go from my mind.

It’s easy to be aware of all of the thoughts that come to mind as your head is on the pillow waiting for sleep to wrap her arms around you. Unless you’re dog-tired, thoughts come fast. You can’t help but be aware of their presence in the quiet darkness of night-time.

Morning thoughts are different. These are the thoughts that come out quietly, like a hungry stray hoping for a leftover morsel. They slink quietly into consciousness and scatter as soon as you turn to thoughts of preparing for the day.

be the awarenessThis morning as I woke,I listened to the heart-breaking howl of the neighbours oft neglected dog.  The irony is that if some of my thoughts were sounds, they would have sounded like that baleful howling.

In the silence of my fluffy duvets, snuggled warm and safe, I had time to reach out and hold each of those thoughts gently, examine them, and then let them go.  At peace with my own self, I felt prepared to face the day, and share it with whatever the world had prepared for me.

My not-a-morning-person mornings are a simple pleasure, and a quality of life indulgence.  I have the peace to let my emotions and thoughts speak their truth, and the time to gently make peace with everything, both good and not so good. This is the value of meditation, practice, and the awareness of personal presence.

 

Home for the Holidays; Wherever Your Heart Is

wanderingI’ve lived in this place too long. Perhaps I’ve just lived in my own head for too long with very little meaningful companionship.

Christmas is a time of reflection. We tend to let our minds wander to our relationships with the people and places we love.  As I do that, I realize that I’m at home nowhere and everywhere all at the same time.

As a child, I never felt at home when I was at home. That helped me cultivate feeling at home within myself, wherever I landed, or lived.

“I could never live in the city,” or “I could never live way out in the boonies, ” are the common things people say when we talk about the benefits and drawbacks of city vs. small-town living.

More common at this time of year is; “What did you ask for, for Christmas.”

To which I think a very mature and calm, “WTF”?

Seriously, at this age is there anything a person really needs?  I have everything I need, so what could I possibly want that anyone other than myself can give me?

Sure, I want my every-day luxuries; my favourite French perfume, champagne in the fridge, a good book, a formal dress, good shoes, and a piece or two of very fine chocolate hidden away for emergencies. But I look after that myself darlings.

Right now, what I want is to run away.

The question is from what and why?

In my experience it’s because I’m searching for fulfillment. Looking for somewhere I feel more at home than home. It’s happened a few times, but I’ve been pulled back by responsibility.

At this  mid-life juncture,  I can’t move, and I can’t afford to take half a year off to find myself in a sailboat on the Caribbean sea, or wandering the cobblestone streets of old Europe.

I’m counting down to when I might throw this city living in, and hide away in the country by a lake. Or perhaps I’ll move to the heart of a city, ditch the car and commute for a bachelor pad and a subscription to the theatres.

In order to fully think all of my options through, I might need to pack my trusty carry-on and make a last minute skip across the pond.

Who knows how this wanderlust and dissatisfaction with life will play itself out.  It’s the classic theme that literature reflects so well; leaving home to find yourself.

Since my nature to nurture is not being fully realized as a singleton, maybe it’s time to go on an adventure to mine the joy I know is hidden somewhere deep within myself, make a plan, and have something to look forward to.

This Christmas, one of my wishes for you is that  you find yourself at home, wherever you are.

 

 

Saturday: Smooth Sailing

smoothsailingSending out a tune to help start your day…

The older I get, the more I appreciate days that go smoothly; decent traffic, good health, a roof over my head and food on our table. Don’t ever forget that a dash of  flirty fun and sassiness adds some flavor to the smooth sailing too darlings.

Yes, smooth sailing is smiling and laughing and letting yourself be yourself.

It has been a week of learning, fresh starts, and a long exhale…

Hoping that this song by Leon Bridges helps start your day in a positive way…

Giving Yourself the Moments

pandaplay

“Realize deeply that the present moment is all we ever have.” ~Eckhart Tolle~

Simultaneously I was voice-dialing my mumster and buckling my seatbelt when I was caught up in a moment.

Not a moment of city-driving-get-the-hell-outta-my-way. It was a moment of, “Ahhhhh…..” As in; big sigh of relief. Big sigh of, “I feel like I’m starting to pull myself together“.

After a long day, feet-throbbing, and 5:00 a.m. starts, I felt good. Satisfied, content, like maybe, just maybe I was ok.

As you all know, life has a way of knocking us around, and shaking our confidence. It also has a way of forcing you to surrender when the only fight you have left in you whispers, “I give up,” and then rolls over, gives your broken heart the finger, pulls the blankie over its’ head and goes to sleep.

Tonight, tired but happy, I gave myself the moment.

I let myself be grateful for just being where I was, simply in the moment. Grateful that I had a mumster to call, a kiddo to go home to, and especially that I have enough courage to keep moving forward.

We can only ever be certain of change, that our emotions can carry us to the most dark, frightening depths of the human condition and the loftiest heights of elation.

When we are in the moment; not anxious of the future or analyzing the past, we realize that it’s ok. We’re ok. Life is ok; As it is. Nothing less and nothing more.