Halloween, I really hate it…I think

Or maybe it’s not the actual holiday I hate, rather the ritual of going door to door amassing junk food. Every year I dread October 31st because I just don’t think we’re doing it right.

Now I’m no grouch. I love to see kids have fun. I carve a pumpkin. I buy the candy. I praise each child on how wonderful their costume is, and I wish them all a fun night. I guess what I struggle with is here is what kind of ‘fun’ are they really having? The excitement of dressing up and enjoying the company of friends doesn’t necessarily need the ritual of going door to door collecting candy. Kids of all ages can gather, in costume, and celebrate Halloween in the safety of someone’s home, and any food items acquired there likely don’t need the scrutiny checks parents employ for treats obtained from strangers’ houses.

When I was young we made our costumes and they were not expensive. We used what we had, added some imagination, and presto, we took on a new identity for a day! When I was 19 and working full time, our office decided we’d all dress up for Halloween one year. I was Minnie Mouse and I made the costume myself, black tights with a tail sticking out from under my short red polka dot skirt and the mouse ears complete with a big red bow. Unfortunately, early in the day my tail accidentally dipped into the toilet (I’m not used to peeing with a tail) and before I realized it I flushed and the water pressure was so strong it ripped the tail right out of my tights. OK, it was only attached with a safety pin, but still, that’s some water pressure! (Fortunately my skirt covered the gaping hole in my tights but it didn’t protect me from the draft that would plague me the rest of the day).

Now parents buy costumes for their kids, so no work and no imagination is required. How uninspiring. There was a time when homemade treats were the norm; rice crispy squares, homemade cookies, apples…and kids were thrilled with those. Then a few psycho’s thought it would be fun to ‘tamper’ with treats, sticking pins or razor blades in them (You know you could just turn off your lights and not participate. Why hurt an innocent kid just because you’re nuts?) so parents had to start culling their children’s treats, tossing anything that was ‘homemade’ or not ‘sealed’ for security. Are we still having fun?

I think in a society where child obesity is on the rise we could probably do without a shopping bag full of chemically laden sugary treats. Maybe parents could host a little gathering for their children’s friends. Let them dress up; encourage them to ‘make their own costume’, in fact, make it a prerequisite. It’s amazing how much fun a kid can have when their creative juices start to flow. And coordinate with each parent to contribute one treat so they each get a bag of goodies, and let them go nuts. If they want to eat the whole bag in a night, even better. It gets it over with, and limiting their loot ensures they don’t have a steady diet of junk for the next two weeks.

Even our changing weather patterns have had an impact on the trick or treating ritual. Days are shorter, so it’s already dark to start with and this poses a safety risk for children, i.e. drivers need to be on high alert. And Halloween often comes with cool, even damp weather, forcing kids to wear plastic bags over their costumes to stay dry. How fun is that?

I know of some people who don’t want the constant visitors at their door so they simply place a big bowl of treats on their front step with a sign that says ‘help yourself’. (Is there any kid out there who can be trusted with the honour system when it comes to candy?) Isn’t it time for change?

As I mentioned earlier, I am not a scrooge when it comes to Halloween, because I don’t want to disappoint any kids. They deserve to go a little wild one day a year but I think we could find better ways to indulge them. Let’s poll our kids to see what they’d prefer – I’m betting they’d opt for something a little simpler. In the interim, I will continue to host the holiday with enthusiasm (even when I don’t feel it) because I don’t want to spoil the fun. But no one, and I mean NO ONE is happier than I when 8:00pm strikes on October 31st cause that’s when I toss those pumpkins into the composter, turn off my lights, and settle in with a glass of wine to enjoy MY treats.


Boys and their toys

My husband is an average guy. Like most men he helps around the house, minimally, (I have to tell him when it’s time to vacuum because apparently until I do he can’t see any dirt).  He doesn’t really cook except to make croutons, which is an excruciating process that takes over half my kitchen. He does however, do dishes (I think he sees it as the price he pays for food)  He’s never cleaned a bathroom in his life and likely never will but he does help with the laundry,,,,except folding fitted bed sheets,,,,they really confuse him, so he just rolls them into a big ball and leaves them for me.

In short I’d say he’s pretty typical,,,,until it comes to his ‘toys’, the favourite being golf toys, balls specifically. He can’t have enough. My garage holds all the things you’d expect to find in a garage, buckets, tires, tools, holiday lights, shovels, gardening equipment, etc. The only difference is all of these things have golf balls in them. There’s shoe boxes without shoes, rubber boots and grocery bags full of golf balls, flower pots full of,,,not flowers, wait for it,,,,golf balls. I hazard a conservative guess that there’s well over a thousand golf balls stashed in my garage and it doesn’t end there.

When I was hosting the rehearsal dinner for my sons wedding I had ordered 13 rotisserie chickens. When I picked them I made sure to clear out the trunk of my husbands car so I could line them all up flat across the trunk to ensure there was no risk of them over turning. While driving home with my cargo I heard a whoosh and thumping coming from the trunk but I disregarded it because I knew I’d cleared everything out. When I got home and opened the trunk my chickens were covered in a sea of golf balls. Unbeknownst to me there’s a hidden shelf in the upper back of my husbands car where he stashed dozens of balls, all of which came cascading onto my chickens.

Now I’ve indulged my darling this little fetish because until very recently it never posed any real threat to his safety, it was just weird. (did I mention that he periodically pulls some of his stash out and washes them? He spreads them out to dry all over my kitchen counter then neatly loads them all back into boxes, boots, pots, bags, whatever, and stuffs them back into the garage, or the closets, or the trunk of his car….this guy’s certifiable)

Anyway, recently we were visiting family in Toronto, where he returns once a year to play his home course (I visit with family and friends, which is what most sane people do on vacation) and it was here that his compulsion for collecting golf balls finally posed a risk to his safety.

After playing 18 holes of golf, my husband decided to play another few holes alone and while he rounded the course hitting his balls he scoured the rough for any stray balls to add to his collection (because the thousand balls he has aren’t enough) Eventually he came to a riverbank where he spied a plethora of balls shimmering in the river bed,,,,JACKPOT! No one was around so he felt courageous (or stupid) and decided to brave the currents.

Now I should preface this by noting that the day before we had had a heavy downpour so the river was higher than normal and fast flowing. This would typically cause one to take caution but my husbands obsession with getting those balls over ruled any logic, so he approached the riverbank. Clutching 3 golf clubs in one hand he stepped onto a patch of tall grass,,,at least that’s what he thought it was. Turns out the tall river grass had flattened down from the weight of the rain water and when he stepped onto it he quickly realized there was nothing below, i.e., no ground. Falling forward into his empty step he toppled head over heels into the river. Panicking he focused only on righting himself so that he could get above the water and stand, and when he did he was minus his glasses and one of the three golf clubs he was holding (the latter was a bigger concern to him because it was ‘his new wedge’) He also injured the tendons of his hand, the one clutching his clubs (because holding on to his prescription glasses wouldn’t occur to him)

Now, like most, he was shaken by the events, but not enough to deter him. He gave up on the notion of getting the balls in the water, and his glasses were long gone with the current, but clutching his two remaining clubs he made his way to the edge of the river and climbed out. Soaked through and muddy he did what any normal male would do,,,,,he went back onto the green and finished up his hole.

Eventually he squirshed his way back up to the clubhouse ignoring the curious stares, where he showered and changed into dry clothes. He recounted the tale to a few golf buddies in the clubhouse and mentioned to the boys in the pro shop that he’d lost his new wedge (the fact that he couldn’t see three feet in front of him without glasses was irrelevant) and pitifully showed them his injured hand.

Later that day he was to meet me at my fathers’ house for dinner but it’s hard to drive when you can’t see, so he took the public transit, groping his way to my fathers’ where he once again recited his tale. I pointed out that he was lucky he didn’t hit his head in the tumble and knock himself out – he could’ve surely drowned in that river,,,, but he was till stewing over the lost wedge and concerned that his injured tendons would now affect his grip.

Now this tale does have a happy ending in that we were able to have his old glasses couriered to us (thanks to a kind neighbor who was more than happy to help after she stopped laughing) so he could once again drive. And his missing wedge had been fished out of the river at some point and anonymously returned to his golf bag, so you would think that in all this he would’ve learned a lesson. This could’ve ended very differently, tragically, and it should’ve been a wake-up call, but it wasn’t. Only days after we’d returned home he was out on the course, looking for stray balls in the woods. It would appear that a boy and his balls are never parted, for long. Now a rational mind????? Apparently that was left in the river!


Political ‘slurling’

We are in the midst of a federal election.  I am not as interested in politics, as I should be, I suppose. I just don’t get it….and I really don’t want to, but like it or not, I am exposed to a healthy dose of our political climate for the duration of the election. (which is too bloody long!) So, fine, I listen. And I do honestly try to keep an open mind because this is important (at least that’s what my husband says)  and  (apparently) I have a voice, so I listen. But what I see and hear is never what I expect. Please, help me here, because I’m so clearly missing something. (and I’m missing all my favourite tv shows for these blowhards airtime!)

Every commercial I see features a party leader depicting their ‘vision’ for us, for our country, and how they, as a leader  will ‘bring us to the threshold of success, locally and globally’…..no, no  wait, that’s not it. It should be it, but instead what I see is the start of the temper tantrum.

In the one hour taping, each candidate is allotted a fixed number of minutes to speak their piece, then the microphone is turned over to the commentator who summarizes the events, after which one opponent is declared the ‘leader’ of this particular debate. Sounds fair enough….but this sophisticated plateau rapidly loses ground as soon as the horses are out of the gate.

The first opponent takes the mic and from the minute he opens his/her mouth the political ‘slurling’ starts. (ok, I made that word up,,,,SLURLING. It’s a combination of political ‘slurs’ and ‘hurling’, ,,,’slurling’… pretty good huh?) Anyway, whatever we call it, it happens. The candidates spend all their time trashing their opponents, their platforms, their projected policies, etc. Their committees spend every waking minute searching the archives, public meetings (birthday parties, funerals, who knows where they’d stop) looking for ‘dirt’ on their opponent. And invariably they find something because we are all, at one time, young and stupid, and we do things, we say things, recklessly…..innocently, naively, but that doesn’t matter anymore, because only now is it relevant.

I endure the entire debate (painfully) because I know it’s my duty as a citizen to make an informed decision on election day as to who will represent my interests and the interests of my country going forward. (isn’t it enough I have to endure their commercials?)

Weeks have passed and the political ‘slurling’ has ramped up because when the public do not respond as expected to whatever sordid story the opponent has dug up, they just go deeper. They’ll find more dirt, and if it isn’t dirty enough, they’ll ‘re-interpret’ it on behalf of the public (because we’re so stupid?) No, in defense of the public! And the message here is clear,,,,, if we vote for this candidate, we’d have to be morons.

Does anyone understand my confusion here? I would love to trust, respect, support and revere my political representative. Just find me one worthy of it.

Why do they have to come out slinging accusations instead of boasting about their own accomplishments?  (could it be they have none?)

Why can they not spend valuable publicity time enthusiastically listing the many attributes of their platform, instead tearing down the platform of their opponents? (could it be the opponents have something better to offer and they feel threatened by it???) Just imagine a candidate laying out his proposed agenda and his opponent, saying “Wow, what a great idea…wish I’d thought of that!” or “Hey, let’s work together on this for the benefit of all our fellow countrymen!”  It’ll never happen.

Do they think we are so gullible that we would take what they say at face value? When these candidates look out at their audience during these debates, hurling their accusations against the opponents, do they see ‘stupid’ stamped on our foreheads?

I suppose the political campaign agenda has been long since established. Offer the world, i.e., spew the crap,  knowing you won’t deliver,,,, just say what you have to say to get into office. Once there, dodge all historical issues or any with long term commitments, i.e. do only what makes you look good for the duration of your term….until your next big promotion. Beyond that, just smile pretty for every photo opp.

Now, after the debates I honestly thought I’d vote for the candidate who took the higher road, the dignified one. Unfortunately there wasn’t any because at the end of the day, when the politician smells defeat, they pull out the big guns and that’s when it really gets ugly.

Why would anyone go into politics?

Political slurling

The Four Seasons

Let me begin by clarifying that this blog is in no way about the famous American pop band of the same name. When I talk about the four seasons here I refer to the seasons of life, my life, and because I live in Canada where four seasons of weather occur, I draw on each as a metaphor of sorts.

In the spring of our lives, between birth and age 25 years, we are exploring. Everything is new and exciting, and we embrace each experience with wonder and awe. Just like the new spring blossoms, we are pure and unblemished and beautiful, and the future holds only promise and optimism because youth is beautiful. (I relate this to my childhood where I recall discovering games and school and friends. I played, I skipped, and I loved to sing. I was of average size with very straight blonde hair (it was natural ly blonde then) and I loved my family. My teen years were uneventful, unlike many.  I did not experiment with drugs or alcohol, nor did I break curfews. In short I was a meek and mild young girl content to follow the rules. (my sister was a challenging teen so I guess I figured that was enough for my parents) Home was safe and secure and life was good)

In the summer of our lives, from 26 to 50 years, we experiment with the innocence  of our spring. We are brave and independent, setting lofty goals with confidence because we can conquer anything.  We succeed, sometimes we fail. We evaluate what we want out of life, set priorities then hone our skills to forge ahead on our chosen path. We are still somewhat  ‘green’, like the summer leaves, in that we’ve physically peaked but there is still much room for trial and error and mental growth and maturity. We are confident, cocky even, because we think we know it all, and unlike the spring of our lives our appearance now reflects the wear and tear; no longer pure and unblemished but still beautiful because we are strong and dynamic. (Now this is the season of life I found most challenging. I chose my career path (actually my mother chose it for me – she was quite overbearing,,,,but I digress) Let’s say I ‘accepted’ my chosen career path. I found my partner in life, and I grew a spine. No longer meek and mild I started speaking up for myself,,,, maybe too much? (my husband would say I never shut up) Tired of straight hair I experimented with new looks, perming my hair until it frizzed like a giant brillo pad and restoring my ‘natural’ blonde hair colour. I worked hard and played harder and by the end of my summer my appearance clearly reflected my wear and tear. A little older, a few lines on my face and pounds on my middle, and not always as confident as my cocky exterior displayed, I strutted my stuff. Sometimes I had to face my own shortcomings and much as I initially resisted, by the late summer of my life I found it easier to come clean,,,,and life was good)

In the autumn of our lives, between 51 and 75, (that’s where I am now) we take stock of all we’ve learned. We reflect and sometimes regret the impetuousness of our youth. Most importantly we accept and forgive because by now the cockiness has left us and we now see ourselves more clearly, not always perfect, and honest enough to admit it. Like the autumn leaves we now bear the scars of lessons learned along the way in a colourful display that proudly declares that we’ve finally come in to our own and we’re ok with it.  We now know what we want out of life and we boldly go for it but we tread lightly now because physically we are weakening. (I have found the fall of my life to be the most gratifying to date. I take pride in all I’ve accomplished and let go of regret. Instead of judging or criticizing others, I now laugh at their uniqueness, and you know, that’s very freeing. (Why didn’t I do this sooner?) I stopped stressing over what I haven’t done and celebrate what I have. I accepted, finally, that my hair is painfully straight and gave up trying to force it to curl (I think it’s because I was distracted by all the grey that was now peppering my ‘natural’ blonde) I let the dust in my house collect because I’d rather spend my time laughing in the company of others. And most importantly, I found my spiritual side. Life has a deeper meaning. Like the typical fall colours, I am now brave enough to sport flaming red lipstick and leopard print pants because they’re fun and what others think really doesn’t matter anymore – this is me, and life is not just good, it’s better)

In the winter of our lives, from ages 76 to 100, (should we live that long) we seek reconciliation. Life has given us many opportunities and we acknowledge how we managed them, honestly. We share our hard earned wisdom with those younger than us hoping they won’t make the same mistakes but knowing full well each has a path to walk, and many are laden with hurdles. We no longer regret, rather we span our seasons with gratitude accepting that which we acquired along the way, good or bad. And like the winter, so drab and colourless, we are wrinkled and tired, still beautiful but in a different way. No longer are we strong of body but our wisdom is now matured thanks to the experiences from the spring, summer and fall of our lives. We are, for all purposes, complete and perfect, and we finally see clearly our reason for being here. We find and reflect inner peace, taking our due position in our communities as respected elders. (too bad we had to wait so long, huh?) We have earned this. (frankly, I can hardly wait to reach the winter of my life cause when I do I’m not doing a damn thing! I’m gonna sit back and enjoy the fruits of my labour. I’ll still sport outrageous outfits (maybe more so?) I will speak my mind and let you work for me because I spent a life time working for you. In short, this wrinkled old lady is gonna ride what’s left of her roller coaster ride with gusto,,,,,just try to stop me! There may be snow on the rooftop but there will always be a fiery spirit in the hearth)

And just like the four seasons we have come full circle, and if we are fortunate enough to make it through all four with our noodles in tact we will have fulfilled our life’s purpose. We came in the spring and played. We grew and learned in the summer. We reconciled in the fall. And in the winter we accepted with gratitude all that we’ve experienced. Truth told, it goes by fast so don’t close your eyes for too long lest you miss an important season. Life is good…..so very good!

four seasons

Yoga Revisited

The benefits of yoga and meditation are broadly advertised and the routine is rapidly gaining popularity as a busy population realizes that the practice of calming the mind really does improve your life.

I originally tried yoga a number of years ago on the advice of my physician. She said it would help regulate my blood pressure and ease the stiffness I would invariably encounter with arthritis and aging. (we’re all gonna have this) At the time yoga was trendy. Studios were on every corner and yoga ‘gear’ was widely available. The issue for me, was twofold.  The first was time. Yoga and meditation require us to slow down; each practice requires no less than 40-60 minutes of complete focus and surrender and I found it difficult to allow myself that down time. I’m a doer and if I’m not ‘doing’ something I feel as though I am not productive and being non-productive, in my opinion is being idle, and idle is not in my DNA.

Secondly, I struggled with the average age in most yoga classes, i.e., I was always the oldest in the group by a good 20 years and therefore the least flexible. I couldn’t keep up, and because I was often the only one who couldn’t, the instructors catered the routine to the majority. I went less and less often until I just eventually stopped going altogether.

Ever since I last tried (then abandoned) yoga I’ve struggled with the aches and pains typical of my age, then about a year ago, while on vacation, I noticed a gentleman, a few years older than I practicing his yoga on the beach, unconcerned about who might be watching. This impressed me so I dug a little deeper into my own psyche to find out why. I researched the practice of yoga and meditation and it turns out it’s a very individual spiritual and physical practice. There’s no ‘team’ effort required, or desired and it’s in no one else’s interest how well you do it, or if you do it for that matter. This fellow was oblivious to any spectators nor did he care, and the spectators,,,,,well, they didn’t seem interested either. (ok, now we’re getting somewhere)

One of the things I felt uncomfortable about in group yoga classes was my obvious lack of finesse. I couldn’t manage most of the poses and when I tried I couldn’t contain the gasps or groans that accompanied my efforts. I was self-conscious and felt on display in a very unflattering way.

Then about a year ago, after a strained muscle in my lower back literally laid me up for weeks, I decided something had to change if I was to enjoy life over 30. (ok, well over 30) I’ve always been active so it wasn’t lack of exercise that plagued me. What I needed I realized, was a routine that focused solely on flexibility, and this could only be achieved through a disciplined practice of focus and intention.  This would require patience (which is not my forte) In short, I had to revisit yoga.

The trendier yoga studios that once peppered every street corner eventually closed, leaving only a few that advertised a variety of classes, from beginner, to yoga for seniors, and everything in between. I searched out studios near me, read up on their founders and reputation, then bought a 1 month pass. I was relieved to see a number of people in my age range in the first class, (actually, there was a couple noticeably older) and even more relieved to see that their mobility, like mine, was limited. The instructor guided each move in a very broad sense, constantly stressing that we should work within our own limitations. She focused on breathing techniques to work through difficult poses and offered numerous variations to each pose that ensured anyone, regardless of ability, was included in the class. After the 1 hour session  I felt limber, light even, and I vowed to return the next day for another class.  (amazing what a good instructor can do)

Over the next few months I attended a variety of classes and experimented with the different instructors. Some are much tougher than others and ask you to push your limits, but always in an encouraging and supportive way. And at the end of each class we are reminded to slow our breathing and focus our intention inward, and in doing so we unconsciously prioritize our daily lives. If you truly embrace the practice of mindfulness you will reap enormous gratification from every activity, every day.

My blood pressure is regulated. I can bend over to tie my shoes without straining. I sleep like a rock and no longer wake with stiff joints. But most importantly I see things differently. People and events have a deeper meaning because I no longer simply scan life. Yoga has disciplined me to read the emotion and participate fully in each encounter. I take the time to stop and listen, to appreciate, and this in itself is the greatest feat because the hardest thing for me was slowing myself down. I guess I realized that rushing through life would only bring me closer to death and I’m not ready for that.

Now I don’t want to preach, nor am I on a mission to recruit anyone. I just want to share a valuable life lesson because I wish I’d found this practice sooner. I still can’t do all the poses and likely never will. I still unwittingly groan or gasp in class, but I note I am not alone. I also note nobody notices or cares, so focused are they on their own practice. Yoga is a lifestyle, one I advocate hugely. Love yourself enough to embrace the practice of yoga and meditation. You’ll be so glad you did!

Yoga revisited

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