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!

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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

Spa Day!

Let me start by declaring a shocking truth about myself. I am NOT a spa girl. I don’t have the time, the money, or the patience to succumb to a day of lazy luxurious pampering. Over the years I’ve been given gift certificates for spa days offering everything from deep massage to mud baths and I’ve either given them away or utilized them for pedicures and even those only recently. I’ve always done my own manicures and pedicures and to this day I’ve yet to find an esthetician who can do it better than me. As for massages and mud baths,,,,,I just don’t like the idea of them. (OK, maybe I don’t really understand them) Unlike most people, I do not find massage relaxing. In fact, I find it hugely irritating. I think it’s because I’m uncomfortably ticklish and all the rubbing and prodding just makes me squirm, but given the increase in the number of new spas opening it would appear I am the exception, not the norm.

Clearly women love to be pampered and since I am a woman I decided to give it one more shot, if only to help me bond with my female friends. (surely I’m missing something?) I scouted out 3 local spas that are in close proximity to my home and reviewed their menu of services, (which was surprisingly diverse) and I was really shocked to see the kinds of treatments available. A basic facial seemed the safest route for me, a ‘spa novice’, but I would soon find out a ‘basic’ facial was hard to find.

Choices included a HydraFacial; this boasts ‘vacuum’ technology that creates a vortex effect to remove impurities while simultaneously introducing solutions that exfoliate, hydrate and infuse your skin with antioxidants”  (what?) That sounds like a lot of big words for a facial and it is recommended that one would need a minimum of 6 such sessions for best results. Each session costs $250.00. That’s a lot of money to vacuum my face. Next.

Then there’s Microdermabrasion. This procedure uses an abrasive surface to gently ‘sand’ away the thick outer layer of the skin to rejuvenate it. (you’re going to ‘sand’ my face, mmmm, I don’t think so) On the upside this procedure costs less than vacuuming your face, but not much, and it sounds like it would hurt. Next.

A chemical peel is a skin ‘resurfacing’ (sounds like they’re paving a road) procedure in which a chemical solution, usually Glycolic Acid, is applied to the skin to remove the top layers. (mother Jesus, are you kidding me, acid, on my face?) The skin that grows back after a chemical peel is smoother and younger looking. (nothing like a little acid to the face to give you that glow) Chemical peels are used to treat wrinkles, skin discoloration and scars. Now I do have some experience with this procedure. My mother in law was very self-conscious about some age spots on her face and had this procedure done a number of years ago. I remember her face was beet red and looked really sore. In fact, she looked like a burn victim. It took weeks for her ‘new skin’ to surface and when it did I can’t say I noticed much improvement. Needless to say this procedure held little appeal for me and since I’m not interested in vacuuming, sanding or peeling an portion of my face I decided the facial route was not for me, so I moved down the menu.

‘Full-body’ massage typically includes your arms, legs, hands and feet, your neck and back, your stomach and buttocks and, they go on to stress, ‘it doesn’t have to include your sensitive areas’ and,  they say  ‘area around the breasts is usually massaged but not the breasts themselves’. (They call this massage? I call it foreplay) Maybe we’ll just skip the massage section.

A Mud bath is a skin treatment performed by covering an individual’s skin with a thin layer of rich, dark mud, or by immersing them in a pool of liquid mud. This mud typically consists of seaweed, volcanic ash, clay and other mineral rich substances that are mixed with natural or spring water. (Ok, you can fancy that up any way you want but mud is mud and the thought of having to clean it out of your body crevices conjures up an image most unappealing – where’s that ‘vacuum’ technology’ now?)

Interestingly though, this procedure is considered sanitary despite the fact that the mud is ‘reused’. (how gross is that?) It has to do with the amount of natural salts found in the mineral mixture. (ok, I’m not convinced) Salt or no salt, I’m not comfortable with the thought that the mud on my face could’ve been ‘elsewhere’ on another stranger. Besides, my only benchmark for the benefits of a mud bath is the common pig. They live in mud and look at their skin. Nooooo thanks!  (OK, I’m running out of services here)

I suppose I could look at waxing but even that service has expanded its’ parameters….just read the description of the ‘Brazilian Bikini Wax’, it’s guaranteed to make you bellow like Tarzan.

Now I love the thought of being pampered but I struggle with the definition of the word ‘pampered’. I just don’t see the appeal of rolling in mud, succumbing to a near sexual body rub, or having any portion of my body, least of all my face, vacuumed, scraped or peeled. Am I weird? In the absence of any like-minded women, I’m afraid I have to acknowledge that maybe I am.

At the end of the day I decided not to book anything at a spa. There’s too many choices there and none of them hold any appeal to me. So much for bonding with my female friends! Maybe I’ll just find a nice pottery class instead.

spa day

Parenthood is a life sentence

You’re in it for life, the good, the bad, and the ugly. It’s not for everyone and it’s not for the faint of heart.

I recall a young man I worked with some years ago who was married but childless by choice and his reasoning was interesting. He was the 2nd eldest of 11 children so it fell upon him and his elder sister to help rear the others. By the time he married he felt he’d already raised his children because from the age of 13 he’d been ‘recruited’ to help with the parenting.  (ok, I have to interject here…No woman should have to endure 11 pregnancies,,,what are we, machines? I suppose there’s the odd one who actually enjoys perpetual reproduction but surely they have to be the exception and I suspect his mother his would be easy to spot in a crowd. She’ll be the one with her bladder hanging between her knees)

Now his choice to remain childless is fine, if it was a personal preference. But if it was a result of his having to play the role of parent in his young life, that is most unfortunate. To foist the responsibility of raising a family on a young man, simply because his parents chose to over produce is unfair, and selfish on the part of those parents. I get that for many birth control, or the lack of it, is a religious choice but at some point common sense has to factor in. How effective a parent can you be with a large family? (as in this case 11) How much one on one time do you have to spend with these children? And they do need individual attention. More so today than ever.

I squeezed 3 humans out of my body and that was enough. I fell in love with each one as they arrived but I didn’t delude myself into thinking they’d be perfect, or that at age of majority they would move out of my charge and into the world after which I could wash my hands of them and ride off into the sunset. It never works that way and that’s because children, no matter how old need to be nurtured, and as much as you might have a plan for them, they have their own agenda. They didn’t come in to this world simply to please us. They will not be molded into the perfect beings we want, nor will they ever entirely remove themselves from our sphere of responsibility because once you bring a child into your life, you’re in it for life and too late you find out the worry never stops.

As infants you worry about illness or developmental challenges. As children you worry about their integration into school and bullying. The teen years bring a whole host of potentially frightening scenarios; everything from learning to drive, to peer pressure and drugs. Finally, they mature and marry or partner up with someone who cares about them and you temporarily have that sense of accomplishment – your work here is done. You have effectively passed the torch to another who will love and cherish your child. Or maybe not. Maybe they’ve chosen a career over marriage and that’s ok cause either way they have found their niche in life and they are happy.

But maybe the marriage/partnership doesn’t work so you worry about that. And of course, as responsible adults they have jobs, jobs with stress, and you worry about their happiness and their livelihood. Maybe they start a family and that brings you pride and joy. But now the cycle of worry begins again because our children’s children will face all the same challenges they did, the very ones you worried about; illness, development, schooling, friends, their life happiness, and you worry,,,because you are still a parent.

Now I’ve painted a gloomy picture and I didn’t mean to, because with all the worry of having children so comes tremendous joy. The tears you shed over their hurts and losses, the nights you stayed by their bedside watching over a high fever, the fear you felt the first time they went out at night with friends. All these are accompanied by the shared ‘firsts’; the first step, the first day of school, the first job, the first date. And through all these shared successes you found the time to laugh together, to learn from each other and before you know it, you forged a friendship moving from the role of parent to friend; this is the most rewarding part for me. At least I think that’s how it’s supposed to work.

I think this is what I learned from parenting, that it can be exhausting, and challenging, and expensive. It can also be exhilarating, rewarding and fun. I guess it’s what you make of it and we all do the best we can with the knowledge we have. Your children will not always do what you’d like but if you raised them to act responsibly and exercise good judgement, you have to trust that they will do what is right and respect them enough to give them free reign. Your work really is over, it’s just the worry that lingers, and that is the life sentence.

At the end of the day, the effort we put forth in raising our children is no less an accomplishment than those who commit their lives to finding cures for disease, or ending world hunger. Everyone contributes to the society we create and parenting is no less worthy. It’s just more personal.

If you’ve chosen to remain childless, good for you – not everyone’s life path includes 2.5 children, a cocker spaniel and the house with a white picket fence. If however, you’ve chosen to share your life with a child(s) fasten your seatbelt cause you’re in for the ride of your life and it’s a full time commitment. And once you’re in, there’s no going back.

Make the time or find the interest in mentoring your child because being a parent isn’t easy but it is a gift, and if you can’t find the joy in rearing your child, you’re doing it wrong.

Parenthood

Through the eyes of another

While at the hairdressers recently my stylist mentioned how much she enjoyed the blogs I wrote about my husband – they made her laugh. Like any dutiful wife I support my husband because he is truly a wonderful person; bright, kind, funny, just an all round great guy…… but I’m not blind to his faults and I get a kick out of making light of them. We shared a good laugh about husbands in general and she happened to comment that it would be interesting to read a blog written by my husband about me, and that got me to thinking.

Do we ever really know how we are perceived by others? I’d like to think my husband would describe me as smart, witty, fun, industrious, thoughtful, beautiful, even tempered……mmm??? Ok, he might not use that last one but you get my meaning here. I think we all like to see ourselves through the eyes of another in only positive ways. We acknowledge our flaws but we’d also like to think others overlook them when assessing our worth.

When I really give it honest thought I have to grudgingly admit that maybe, just maybe, I’m not as flawless as I’d like to believe. (can that be?) My husband has, on occasion, indicated that I could be impatient sometimes, and set in my ways. (Actually his exact words were short tempered and stubborn as a mule but I ‘softened’ them because I’m sure he didn’t mean it) Now I interpret that as my being a quick thinker and determined. He says I can be outspoken and impulsive. I see that as confident and decisive.  He says I can be overbearing and somewhat domineering. I say he’s wrong. He says I spend recklessly. I say he’s cheap. (could this all just be some big misunderstanding?)

Maybe there’s just too many adjectives in the English language to describe a single trait (or flaw), or maybe it’s individual interpretation of the words that change the meaning. Whatever the case, I think it’s safe to say we all see ourselves differently from how others see us and we are all capable of justifying our behaviours to cast us into a more favourable light.

At the end of the day I think we all want to reflect the image of the perfect person; the good  Samaritan, the thoughtful partner, the well behaved and loving son/daughter, the supportive parent, and it goes without saying we just assume that all perceive us as smart, engaging and beautiful, right? Because we are, aren’t we?

The answer is yes. We all have our flaws. Whether we see them as such is personal interpretation and it’s sometimes, like my husband, we misinterpret certain characteristics labeling them as flaws, when really it’s just the observer reading me all wrong.

old lady and rolling pin

Don’t look back

I guess “old news” is like reading a history book. The facts are the reality and cannot be changed, and the hard part is facing the fact that reality isn’t always pretty. I’m the first to admit I am not a history buff. I hated studying history in school. Reading about the past was, in my mind, boring and most importantly, unchangeable, so why dwell on it? (I was so disinterested with history in high school my teacher offered to give me a passing grade if I promised not to retake his class…..ah, but I digress!) Over the years, many, many years, I came to learn that past experiences really do play an important role in our future. I also learned that letting go of the past isn’t always easy, but it is necessary if we are to move into that future successfully.

The experiences of our lives have fashioned the very beings we are today, good and bad, and what seemed intolerable in the past is now just that,,,,past…….so why is it so hard to move on? If ‘whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’ why can’t we embrace the bad experiences in appreciation for the lessons they provide?

Because we’re human; bursting with a variety of emotions, and riddled with insecurities.

My life isn’t always perfect. I’ve had ups and downs. I’ve felt great joy and tremendous pride. I’ve also endured immense pain and deep disappointment, but I survived. I rode on the crest of the highs with gratitude, and absorbed  the pain of the lows with tolerance, because giving up was never an option and I knew that after every storm the sun really does shine again. The latter insight I gained with maturity and experience.

Do I have any regrets? Yes and no. Yes, because I’ve said or done things in my lifetime I wish I hadn’t. And no, because those very same experiences, the ones I’d rather forget, gave me cause to reflect on what kind of person I was…….and more importantly, the kind I wanted to be.

You can’t change what was, you can only learn from it – I guess that’s the true value of the ‘history lesson’. Move forward with confidence and the knowledge that every day presents a new opportunity to do right by yourself and don’t look back. That’s old news, and your future is only as bright and sunny as your optimism will allow, so give it free reign. Cut the baggage loose and the rest will follow.

Forget the past.

Just remember what it taught you.

Old News

The Handyman

I married for love but I would give my kingdom for a handyman! (actually, I always secretly hoped my daughters would marry someone in the trades, a plumber, electrician, a mechanic even, but no such luck. Both went white collar, just my luck!) Home repairs are a never ending task list and if you have to hire someone for every little chore it almost defeats the purpose of owning a home.

My father was handy and could manage any home repair. He just had an aptitude for, well, everything and I miss being able to just call dad when I needed a repair. Now I should point out, I’ve managed a number of home repairs on my own, thanks to a curious mind, ‘How to’ videos, and a cheap husband. (he flinches at the thought of paying for any home repair. In his mind it’s better to just live with it and when it really becomes unbearable, move.) Now, I don’t want to harp on his short comings because he’s really a great guy. He’s just painfully inept at home repairs. Is that a birth defect? Or maybe it’s a ‘selective’ deficiency, you know, you don’t do well the things you don’t like. Either way it’s an expensive inconvenience.

Now he has tried some home maintenance over the years. When we were first married we had pigeons nesting on our small balcony rendering it useless for our own use. Animal control advised us to toss the empty nest over the balcony. The pigeons would relocate their home upon returning to see it was gone. Sounded easy enough. The trick was getting near enough to scoop up the nest in the midst of all the pigeons – there were a lot (these things travel in hoards) and neither of us was keen on getting pecked by a bird. But, it had to be done, and the chore fell to the man of the house.

Unfamiliar with how to deal with any wildlife, he ‘suited up’ to ensure he was protected should any rogue pigeons attack him. He wore knee high rubber boots, my oven mitts, a long trench coat, and in the absence of a helmet for face protection, he propped a bucket over his head. (I wish I’d thought to take a picture!) After steeling up his courage he opened the balcony door and walked with determination toward the flock of birds. He grabbed the nest in a flurry of squawking and fluttering, and turned to quickly toss it over the balcony. As he did so the bucket perched on his forehead fell over his face and he stumbled slightly, over his rubber boot, and ended up tossing not only the nest but one of my oven mitts and the bucket that was his headgear. Not quite the smooth maneuver we had planned but it worked. The pigeons were gone and did not return, and all it cost was one oven mitt, a bucket, and a little humility.

Over the years he has tried random home repairs but most failed miserably and he eventually gave up trying the tough stuff, leaving it to myself or, if I couldn’t handle it, a professional.

Most recently he made to replace a light bulb in one of our driveway lampposts. Seemed simple enough. Now, I should preface this by saying (because he brought it up later) that I had recently thrown out an old 5 foot step ladder we had. It was left in the home we currently occupy and was rickety and unreliable. It also didn’t go as high as we often needed so we had recently purchased a 8 foot extension ladder and I had planned to replace the old step ladder in time. (apparently not soon enough) In any event, I was at the computer as I saw him head down the driveway with the new extension ladder. He said he needed to replace a bulb in our lamp post. I foolishly didn’t give it another thought.

A few moments later I heard a crash and the shattering of glass. Glancing up from the computer I sensed what had happened so I got up and headed out the door and down the driveway. There he was, getting up from the ground with skinned knees, a light bulb in one hand and a puzzled expression on his face. “This ladder is too long for this” he declared, and looked at me accusingly.  I don’t know how but somehow I kept from laughing. Maybe it was because I was biting my tongue so hard it bled. This 175 pound man propped an 8 foot ladder up against a six foot lamp post then expected it to hold his body weight as he climbed up to reach the burnt out bulb. Needless to say the post snapped and all 4 lanterns crashed and shattered. The ONLY salvageable piece left was the new bulb he was to replace.

Now, I could point out the folly of his strategy but that would be wasted on one so completely unfamiliar with home repair. Suffice it to say we now have a new lamp post and it only cost $440 plus the new bulb and the cost of a new step ladder (apparently all this happened because I threw out his ‘bulb changing ladder’)

Some people are handy, some are not. My darling husband, who is smart and funny and kind, is NOT, and if there’s one thing more expensive than hiring a professional, it’s letting ‘someone who’s not’ tackle the job!

Handyman

Drama Queen

There are those who walk with drama, constantly…… they seem to be surrounded by a whirl of emotion and turmoil. They attract it…they seem to thrive on it, and you have to wonder why because it’s exhausting. It depletes your energy and permeates the mood of all who come into contact with you. Those who thrive on drama can bring down a room just by entering it; so far reaching is their negative energy, and unless you can effectively surround yourself with a shield of emotional protection, you are better to avoid these people. They are, in short, a complete downer!

We’ve all encountered the over-sensitive individual. They read too much into any conversation and interpret everything as a personal criticism of themselves. They see only the darkness of the tunnel instead of the light at the end – a misguided interpretation of the situation and a complete waste of energy.

I suspect those craving drama are really just seeking attention and in the absence of constant accolades they embellish the simplest of situations to create a flurry of emotion at which they are always centered.  They are the victim, always. Every worldly woe is their burden to carry……”poor me look at what I have to contend with”, and if they left it at that it wouldn’t be so bad, but they don’t. For some reason they feel compelled to share their drama  with everyone and if they can’t engage enough sympathy they ramp up their sob story and expand their audience falling short of screaming at the top of their lungs in the middle of a crowd, “Look at me, I’m suffering and I need to suck you all into the vortex of my agony!”  Needless to say these people eventually drop off the top of a guest list. There’s a shock.

Then there’s the person who ‘feels’ another’s pain and suffers right along with them. They empathize too much taking on the burden of a situation as though it were their own because….. they don’t have enough drama in their own lives? (For heaven’s sake, get a hobby, or get a life….if only to get out of the drama of everyone else’s.) These individuals stress over everything, anticipating the worst and living in a constant state of high alert because a crisis is always just around the corner.

Could it be that those who live in constant drama do so because they need a distraction from their own deeper issues?  Or is it that they just want the attention, negative or otherwise, that comes with drama? Maybe it’s genetic, or maybe it’s just habit – if you grow up in an environment riddled with emotional drama it has to rub off on you (children learn what they live)

Regardless of how or why drama plays a role in some lives, it’s a cycle that needs to be broken because the energy spent on drama could be so much better utilized anywhere else. Deflate the overblown balloon of drama when you can, and when you can’t, just avoid the company of Drama Queens altogether…. cause life is too short.

Drama Queen

That Lovin’ Feeling

My husband plays cribbage with a group of men. Recently one of the group passed, quite suddenly. They resumed play a few weeks after, at our house, and naturally the first topic was the loss of their friend. I happened to mention how sorry I was and on a practical note, I added that death is inevitable and someone needed to go first. My husband without skipping a beat, leaned over, touched my arm, looked tenderly into my eyes and said, “ok, you first”.

Ok, not the typical display of tenderness one might expect, but I know my husbands’ playful attempt to lighten the mood was in fact a very personal display of his affection for me. That’s his sense of humour.  (Granted it’s also the cradle of idiocy but it drew some chuckles and it is his way of expressing warmth)

A dear friend complained to me that her husband wasn’t as ‘romantic’ as she’d hoped. He was a good husband, father, and friend. He adored her and she him. He just didn’t understand what it was she wanted from him. Now only a woman could understand this, she wanted those little extra touches. Opening her car door for her, (open any door for that matter), offering to help with the household chores, planning a date night, telling her she’s beautiful even when she’s  spent the day in her sweats cleaning. Any of these small gestures would go such a long way in nurturing that romantic need in her, but he just doesn’t get it.

The couple agreed to each plan a spontaneous surprise for the other, something to reignite that spark, that something special that would bring a smile to their eyes.  She planned a ‘naughty evening’ to entice him; dumped the kids at Grandma’s for the night, bought a sexy nightie and a bottle of wine and laid herself out for him for the evening. He surprised her with a ‘Thighmaster’ and a six week membership at a local gym because she had complained about gaining weight on her rear and he thought she’d really appreciate that he’d been listening. (kind of brings a tear to your eye doesn’t it?)

Ok, so the guy isn’t romantic, but he is practical. She grudgingly acknowledges that she has voiced her concerns about her weight on occasion, so he gave her what he honestly thought she wanted. How can that be bad? It’s actually pretty considerate, not smart, but considerate. Interestingly enough these two have found their happy medium. He still tries (and fails) to perform those little romantic gestures she craves, and she has learned to laugh about it, accepting him for the lovable lout that he is.

Expressions of love are as unique as the individual. Some are tender, some are playful, some are humourous, and all are delivered with a very personal intention. We might not always get the gist of their meaning but you have to appreciate the effort,  because they all, one way or another, inspire that lovin’ feeling, so just revel in it, and don’t complain about how it comes…… just be grateful it does.

That lovin feeling