The Book Club

I’ve always liked the idea of a book club but I never got invited to join one (could it be my company is not as sought after as I thought?) so I decided to start my own. I scouted out friends and neighbours whose company I enjoy and who I believed would enjoy such a gathering. I selected a book, and sent my email invitation to all 8 participants. (I wanted to keep it small and intimate) Our first meeting was this past week and it was a great success! (I think) Two members were unavailable for this first meeting, but that’s to be expected – there’s bound to be conflicts when you’re trying to coordinate numerous schedules.

On the day of our meeting I stocked up on the essentials; wine and cheese, then waited for my fellow bookworms to arrive. I wasn’t sure what to expect.  Is there an agenda to these things? What are the rules around hosting a book club meeting? I read the book and bought the wine – isn’t that enough?

One by one my friends started arriving and with each addition, the volume of voices increased until my kitchen was alive with chatter and laughter. Some brought their book, along with notes they’d made for discussion (gotta love a keener!) others immediately launched into a hearty debate about who did what, and why the author was remiss in certain details. Two members bought the book but hadn’t yet read it so they just sipped their wine quietly until the subject moved to another topic, which it invariably did throughout the night.

Even Jesus made an appearance….yes, Jesus. He crashed my party! One member, a lovely woman of very strong catholic faith kept trying to find connections between the book and the bible but since she was one of the two who hadn’t read the book she struggled to convince us. (Ok, it didn’t help that we had two atheists in the crowd) Maybe if Jesus had read the book?

Our conversations strayed constantly. Who’s having their kitchen redone, why is the neighbours garbage still at the curb after being rejected 3 weeks in a row, and how much wine does it take to fully review a book? The ‘keener’ tried several times to interject with questions that brought us back to the topic of the book, and’ Holy Member’ kept quoting the bible in an effort to take us down another path. Now I should mention that this is all done in the spirit of fun and friendship. Our ‘Holy Member’ is strong of faith, but completely harmless, i.e., she doesn’t push anything, rather she simply loves her religion and wants the world to know. We playfully indulge her passion, and she in turn, takes our ribbing in stride. And the ‘keener’, well, she keeps law and order. This is a Book Club, after all, so some effort should be made to acknowledge the book. Eventually however, she too, gave up and just drank the wine, letting the conversation go where it wanted.

At the end of the night after we’d drunk all the wine and answered all the questions we’d had about the book, the neighbours, and Jesus, we called it a night, agreeing to meet again next month.  A new book was chosen by another member and the location of our next meeting  confirmed. Commitments were made by all to actually read the book, but we also agreed there’s no penalty for just enjoying the social aspects of the book club. Oh, and we also agreed unanimously that Jesus can join our book club if He wants to, but when it’s his turn to pick the book, it can’t be the bible, and He has to bring the wine!

Book Club


Inspiration is that impromptu burst of creativity that motivates us to do or be something, and that which inspires each of us is as unique as the individual. I’m an observer. I like to people watch because I often pick up on things others don’t always see. So many of us spend our time scanning the crowd for a quick summary and in doing so miss some valuable messages and insights. In fact, the people who inspire me the most are the ones who don’t even know it.

I am drawn to those who exude confidence because they are either very comfortable with who and where they are, for legitimate reasons, or they’re so cocky from imagined self-importance. Either way they present an inspirational learning opportunity; one for insights as to how they became so admirable and confident, and the latter is just good entertainment.

I am also deeply sensitive to insecurity, vulnerability, and pain, maybe because as a child growing up I was often lonely. We moved, a lot, and this meant I was the new kid at school every year. Not an easy role for a kid who wasn’t terribly outgoing, so I sought out those who weren’t popular, the underdogs, because I knew they wouldn’t turn away a new friendship. At least that’s what I counted on and for the most part it worked, for all involved.

What I did learn from these friendships was that we all have something to hide, something we are self-conscious about, and I got pretty good at reading people for these deeper sensitivities. As I aged I put this ‘instinct’, (for lack of a better word), to work. Instead of simply recognizing a need, I tried to address it in a meaningful way and offer help. Sometimes it meant just being the sounding board; the one they can confide in without judgement. Sometimes I was able to connect them with an avenue of help they may not have found on their own. And sometimes it was simply a matter of helping them to see the good in themselves. Lord knows, we all need a boost every now and then.

Seeing that I could read an individual, sense a need, and provide some form of relief or assistance proved to be a mission for me. Maybe it’s my purpose in life. All I know is there’s a whole population of inspiration in this world just waiting to be tapped and each successful hit is like watching a flower bloom in slow motion. And it’s a beautiful thing.

Some are inspired to write poetry. Some play music or perform. Others are driven to positions of power, for various reasons. And some are content to be the ‘forgettable’ in society, lowly in rank and wealth, because that’s not what inspires them. We all serve a purpose, we all have a need. Maybe we all just need to tap in to our ‘observer’ to see what inspires us to take action. Find what moves you, that which motivates you. Whatever inspires you to do something positive for another may well be your purpose in life. At the very least it can only improve that small section of the world you occupy, and that’s never a bad thing.


Vegans and Veggies and Meat, Oh my!

Eating has become quite complicated. It used to be you could go to any restaurant and the menu was pretty straight forward; an assortment of meals comprised of a meat protein, starch, and a veggie. (i.e. hamburger, fries and a pickle) Now, however, menus are flagged with stars, asterisks and warnings, all catering to a variety of food preferences and allergies, and I challenge those who claim to have the food ‘allergies’. Some are legitimate, I’m sure, but how could there suddenly be a huge population of people who suffer from celiac disease? My entire generation grew up eating everything and rarely did anyone react to gluten (which is in pretty much everything we eat) Recent statistics show that 6 to 8% of children under the age of three have food allergies and 4% of adults have food intolerances. That sounds about right, but it’s not high, not high enough to justify the numbers today claiming to be ‘allergic’. So what’s going on? Are people just looking for attention, or is it ‘trendy’ to have special dietary restrictions.

When I was growing up the choices were simple. You ate what was offered or went hungry. There was no ‘option’ of avoiding animal products, nor were you accommodated for personal preference. I hated liver but my mother made it once a week because it was believed to be nutritious, so she made me sit at that kitchen table until it was gone, and sometimes it took me hours to get it down.  (from the day I married and moved out on my own liver has NEVER entered my home) I was not allergic to it (I wish!) I just thought it tasted disgusting, still do, but it never occurred to me to claim an allergic reaction. (my mother wouldn’t have bought it anyway…allergies weren’t allowed in my house) My point is, I was exposed to everything and as a result I believe I have a tolerance for everything.

Vegetarians are not new and their numbers are growing rapidly. (heaven knows why, it’s so boring) I have a number of friends and family who’ve chosen the vegetarian lifestyle but I laughingly note their occasional lapses. I have one friend who is a staunch vegetarian…except for bacon, she eats that. Another friend has to have gravy on her French Fries, beef gravy, that’s ok. And far too many ‘vegetarians’ spend time searching for meat flavoured substitutes. (If you’re looking to replicate the flavor of meat….maybe you’re not a true vegetarian at heart)  Personally I love veggies and eat them every day. I just accompany them with a pork chop, or chicken thigh because I don’t feel veggies alone are flavourful enough, and food is very important to me, so I feel for those who’ve cut them out of their diet because I believe they’re missing out, and if you have to ‘cheat’, you’re not a true vegetarian.

The biggest challenge in my mind is the vegan diet. It is soooo restrictive and drastically limits the options you have. (I would recommend just giving up food altogether. It’s easier)  Chegan, short for “cheating vegan” references someone who eats vegan nearly all the time, but deliberately slips up—usually in the presence of pizza or ice cream, although they’re numbers are few. (Apparently true vegans don’t cheat with food; for them it is almost a religion. They even avoid circuses and zoos, as well as wool, leather, cashmere, silk, or any cosmetics or cleaning products that had been tested on animals. A vegan painter will even avoid using traditional paintbrushes….just think how many would-be artists have had to switch their career path because they couldn’t use a paint brush?)

I know of a young girl, a devout vegan, who truly walks the walk. She refused the gift of a leather purse from her mother in law, who brought it back for her from Europe, because ‘she couldn’t wear the skin of an animal’. (No problem, I took it cause it matched my leather boots) She seeks out ‘organic’ nail polish because it wasn’t tested on animals (I’ve never seen an animal with nail polish?) She makes her own gluten free bread, candles, and soap, and while I have to respect her commitment to an ‘animal product free’ lifestyle, I can’t help but wonder why she would want to make so much work for herself. (what is this, “Little House on the Prairie”?) And don’t even get me started on the food. Vegans live on beans, tofu (which tastes like Styrofoam), leaves, and mushrooms. There’s only so many ways to cook a mushroom before you run out of ideas (it’s a fungus you know) Thank heaven the vegan diet allows, dark chocolate, Smarties, Oreos, and Jujubes, otherwise why live?

I suppose we all have our personal convictions and we do have to acknowledge the health benefits of the vegan/vegetarian diet. They do tend to live longer (but if you can’t enjoy a decent steak, why would you?) They are less likely to suffer from heart disease or stroke, and they spare the lives of 30 animals per year. (I’m sure every time a vegetarian cracks open a bag of lima beans, somewhere a herd of cows is breathing a sigh of relief)

I appreciate their quest to live in harmony with our animal friends and I respect their choice to enjoy a plant based diet. I too support cows, and pigs, and chickens (…I just prefer them with roasted potatoes and a side salad)

A wise woman I know once said if it you can harvest it from the ground, pick it off a tree, or shoot it while it’s running, it’s yours for the taking. To each his own. Bon appetit!


Mid Life Crisis

One could write novels about mid-life crisis, and everyone’s story is different. In fact, the only common bond between all of us is the fact that we ALL go through it. We all reach a point in our lives when we realize our youth is fading, and many of us do crazy things to cling to it. Some are as subtle as finding new hobbies, hairstyles, or dress. Others go right off the deep end.

My mid-life crisis was when I turned 35, much younger than the traditional age range of 45-55. I was married, had 3 young children, a job I didn’t love, and a very routine life. My apathy for life then was a direct result of my complete lack of adventure, or so I thought. I had friends who’d traveled extensively, graduated from university, lived on their own – they had stories to tell, and memories to recount; memories that were funny and interesting. I’d lived with my parents up until I married at 22. I had a job in an office. I had 3 children and moved to the suburbs. By all accounts my life was perfect, and it was, until I turned 35. Suddenly I questioned everything that I believed made me happy. I regretted not going to university. I wished I’d lived on my own or maybe with a roommate. I longed to see the world, and that I couldn’t accomplish any of these things because my path was already chosen, made me question my happiness and time was running out!

My attempt to recapture my lost youth was I think, subtle. I dispensed with my conservative clothes, replacing them with a wardrobe entirely of denim. I highlighted my hair and invested in funky glasses, big framed, dark lenses with glitter on the sides. (my husband said I looked like Aristotle Onassis) I drove my aged and tired Honda Accord, complete with 2 car seats and  a booster, like it was a convertible Corvette. (ok, work with me people, my mid life crisis had to be on a budget) I played Chris Deburgh CD’s over, and over, and over (no idea why) Maybe because he often sang  about ‘other worlds’ and I thought his messaging aptly described my state of mind. In hindsight I think I looked and acted pretty foolish but my little ‘crisis’ only lasted about 6 months. Eventually the denim proved too stiff for daily wear and I longed for my stretchy pants. Chris Deburgh made way for Gypsy Kings and Frank Sinatra, and my tired old Honda finally died forcing me to take public transit. The dream was dead.

Ok, not quite the glamour I envisioned in middle age but I truly believe I escaped unscathed. Men seem to suffer more of an identity crisis or the feeling of entrapment in middle age. Women, on the other hand, seem to weather the aging process better. Maybe it’s because we’re so busy caring for a spouse, children, a home, a job…we just can’t indulge in a total  breakdown and that’s probably a good thing because the cost of some of the things I’ve seen people do in mid-life, is high.

Men have been known to buy a new sports car, change careers and take up with younger women in their quest to cling to their youth. They adopt a ‘new look’, maybe dye their hair, shave their head, grow a beard, pierce their ear and sport a pinky ring. They decide the wife they once adored is now looking older, complain she always tired and no longer ‘interested’ in them, and they determine she is no longer interesting. So, they catch the eye of some cute young thing (and sadly there is a huge population of  women willing to take up with a married man) and before he knows it he’s head over heels for her because she makes no demands of him. She’s fun, and sexy, and caters to his insecurities, and before he knows it he’s left the wife and the kids for his new life with Barbie, the perfect doll, and he feels like he’s twenty again.

The wife is devastated, but she survives. (ok, she washes all his shirts and underwear with a red towel, maybe drives over his new camera a few times, then sweeps the bits back in to his camera case, replaces his Viagra with a muscle relaxant,,,,,then she moves into survival mode) But survive she does and eventually she finds happiness again. The desertion of her partner has made her stronger, more confident, and with this strength and confidence she has become more interesting. She has a new circle of friends, maybe a new love interest, and the respect of her children, her friends, her people.

He, on the other hand has now married ‘Barbie’ and after the honeymoon she tells him she wants to start a family (funny that never came up in conversation before) and to appease her he obliges, naively thinking things will be different. She won’t tire, or age, or nag, no no. She will remain fun and sexy and devoted to him.

Or maybe not.

And before he knows what’s hit him he’s helping out with night feedings and car pools instead of sipping Margarita’s at an adult all-inclusive resort. The children from his first union are now grown and no longer dependent and his ex wife is enjoying an active social life. She joined a gym, took an art class, started a gourmet cooking club, and now spends her weekends with friends. She travels, skis, hosts dinner parties, and every fibre of her being reflects her confidence. In short, she has come full circle and is now enjoying the fruits of her labour. (bet that whole denim thing isn’t looking so silly now, huh?)

He looks at Barbie, who complains she’s tired and she says he needs to cancel his golf game to help her with the kids. And he has to sell his sports car because it isn’t family friendly, i.e., the car seats don’t fit. Vacations to visit her mother now replace those romantic adult all-inclusives, and he realizes he’s trapped.(ain’t that a shame)

He looks longingly at his ex wife and envies her new found freedom. She looks amazing. She’s happy, and fun, and sexy, and he’s……miserable, and suddenly he feels very old and very tired of life (I‘m tearing up) but he has made his bed, and now must lie in it.

Now, this isn’t every mans’ tale, but it’s much more common than we’d think. Coping with aging isn’t easy but it’s necessary because we can’t avoid it. We can take a subtle route and simply irritate our family and friends for several months before we snap out of it, or we can uproot our lives, abandon those we truly love and go off the deep end. To say we go temporarily insane in middle age is an understatement. Some of us go bloomin’ nuts!  At the end of the day, it’s how we deal with the aging process that determines our happiness. Dying your hair, piercing your navel and buying a sports car might seem outrageous but it leaves your life and relationships intact. Age is going to hit us all, despite our feeble attempts to cling to youth. If you made your choices in life with a younger, sound mind, they’re probably still the right choices now. Aging might take you off your chosen path, but only briefly, so ride it out. Don’t mess with a good thing because you can’t recover what you’ve thrown away.

mid life crisis

Sentimental Me

I was on a mission recently to purge. My house is too cluttered, there’s just too much stuff, and I don’t need nor do I use most of it. I have a closet full of clothes, yet I tend to wear the same old favourites over and over. I have enough shoes to outfit a family of centipedes, enough purses to match each pair of shoes (ok, this is my weakness) and so many knick knacks, there’s no room for dust to settle around them.

Now, I wouldn’t say I’m a hoarder; I don’t keep every thing I come into contact with, unlike my husband. Now he’s a hoarder! Every scrap of paper he jotted something on, he has. Some date back years, so far back he can’t recall what they mean, but he has to keep them because ‘if he wrote it down he must’ve thought it important enough.’ (oi vey!) We have old letters and photographs, yearbooks, and trophies that belonged to an old friend who passed some 10 years ago and my husband has to keep them, all of them. His widow didn’t even want them but they’re in my house because my husband has to keep everything.

When I married him 37 years ago he had a 30 inch waist. He now boasts a healthy 36 inch girth but he still has some pants in his closet from when he was leaner because ‘they’re good pants…why would he get rid of perfectly good pants?’ I reason that maybe they’d fit someone who needs clothing and suggest we give them to the needy, but no, they’re his, and he’s going to keep them, for heaven knows what. He has a pair of shoes from an uncle who passed 45 years ago. They’re 2 sizes too big, but ‘they’re good quality….they don’t make shoes like this anymore’ and so they sit in the back of the closet, collecting dust. And God forbid I should offer them to someone who might use them, someone for whom they’d fit. No no, they’re his and he can’t use them, but he can’t part with them either. This type of hoarding is an illness.

Now I’m no saint. I have clothes that no longer fit but I keep them because I like to think someday I’ll fit into them again – I see them as incentive, not clutter, and these items are few, one or two at most.

Funny isn’t it, the things we cling to? And there’s nothing wrong with cherishing something of sentimental value as long as we realistically draw the line between what is truly of value and what is just clutter. I have 2 laundry baskets full of family photographs, some 40 plus years worth, and I can honestly say no one has looked at them for at least 10 years, maybe longer. So why are they here? Every now and then I pull the baskets out and start sorting determined to organize them. My intention is to toss the many, many duplicates and reduce the overall hoard to 3 or 4 albums. I create a ‘keep’ and ‘toss’ pile, but as soon as I start going through them a flood of memories come crashing down and after just a few hours my ‘keep’ pile is huge and the ‘toss’ pile is virtually non-existent. Discouraged at my lack of progress, I toss all of them back into the laundry basket and stuff it back into a closet.

I’ve always enjoyed sewing and so did my mother. She had several pin cushions and tin boxes for threads. (Actually, my mother was the master of hoarding. There wasn’t a square inch on any wall where she didn’t hang something and every table and shelf in her house held numerous decorations. She really liked stuff! Ah, but I digress) I suppose no one really needs more than one pin cushion and I have a large drawer that can easily house all my threads but sentimental me can’t let go of those little reminders of my mother. These little knick knacks meant a lot to her.

I have table linens that belonged to my mother or mother-in-law that I never use because they’re either too worn or don’t fit my table, but I can’t part with them because they conjure up memories of beautifully set tables and happy family gatherings. Ok, so maybe I’m guilty of a little hoarding myself. The things that bring us joy are worth keeping. Those that don’t seem to serve any purpose, like old clothing, another’s photos and year books, scraps of paper with meaningless notes, they need to be purged. It’s just not healthy to hold on to everything for no reason.

I guess what we each find of value is very personal thing and letting them go can be a betrayal of our memories. That said, Sentimental Me has no problem purging most useless items….like shoes that don’t fit, photos of some else’s life, pants you haven’t a hope in hell of fitting in to again, and…….uncooperative husbands!

sentimental me