Thursday, December 31, 2009

An Ode to 2009

Twas the night before Jan first, two thousand and nine, A voice deep within me said things aren't so fine, I knew it was time to make changes and fast, So I made resolutions and vowed past was past. Not sure what was needed, I thought and I thunk, One thing I knew surely, my life was a funk. The world was evolving, leaving me far behind, Social media took hold, it's what I would find. I joined Facebook and Linked In and started to Tweet, And old friends appeared in my life - it was sweet. Writing this blog got my creative juices flowing, Not long after that, my weight loss got going. The recession had put my business on hold, So I figured it time to make change, make it bold. The offer I got came out of the blue, It almost seemed really too good to be true. Never one to look a gift horse in the mouth, I accepted their offer, sent my business south. Rejoining the work world, employed by another, Took bravery and compromise, now I'm one busy mother. The gains have been many, The losses much less, Life as I once knew it, Is history I guess. The changes I made in my bod, hair and work, Have bettered the Debra that here used to lurk. Two thousand and nine and the change that was great, Has been more than welcome, not a moment too late. So I say unto others, go boldly, go forth, Resolve to be different, Make changes for growth. You'll never regret it, change makes life more exciting, Get out of your slump, live your life 'stead of dying. Always remember, this quote I've loved dearly, Life's no dress rehearsal, now I see that more clearly. To you and to yours, Happy New Year, be healthy, May 2010 find you happy and wealthy. Whether you measure your wealth in dollars and cents, Or if success in your mind means something more, May this be your year, May you shoot, may you score!

How was your path to 2010?

Check back here for my year in review tomorrow. Cheers! Decomama

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Forget the sugar plums and pass the Almonds please

And another one bites the dust. Christmas 2009 is over. This year was a bit of a departure from the last few years as I was unable to devote the full-on "Martha" approach as I have in the past, and "lo and behold", everyone survived! There are not several tins of leftover baking sitting around for another week that would slowly but surely be devoured by New Years. That's a positive thing for my waistline. In fact, now that I think about it, I don't recall EVER fitting in a work-out on Christmas Day in my life, but this year I did. While sugar-plums were still dancing in their heads (my daughter & husband), I was in the hotel gym, all by my lonesome, ipod blasting, sweating off the mashed potatoes and gravy before I had even lifted a fork to my mouth. Even after I indulged later that day at my mothers, I noticed I could still hold my abs in without too much effort and I didn't feel like I wanted to lay down and die after dinner. My plate was full, and I even had an extra helping of my mother's famous cole slaw and a second scoop of turkey dressing, so it's not like I didn't eat more than usual. I did. But then I stopped. I ignored the cookies, the chocolates and the ice cream. That would have surely sent me over the edge. And that has been my secret weapon all year this year. The elimination of sugar. White death. It has never agreed with me. I have always known it. This year I finally came to terms with my addiction and said adios to my personal poison and I feel soooo much better having done it. Now I have the rare indulgence versus the daily affair I used to have with my evil nemesis and the results have been welcome. Whoever coined the phrase "have a treat" when referring to sugar had it all wrong. It is not a treat when it lands on your ass in the form of fat, which it inevitably does. And sugar's close cousins - pasta, bread and potatoes are happy to land there too, so I have reduced my relationship with them as well. I still eat them, but in smaller quantities and less often. I have adapted the "deck of cards" theory with protein too. Any meat or fish or poultry is fine, as long as it does not exceed the size of a deck of cards. Everything else is up for grabs. I eat plenty of fruit, vegetables, nuts, foods with healthy fats like avocados, olives, nut butters and even the occasional saturated fat like butter on popcorn. It's all in the choices I make. It only took a couple of weeks of sugar withdrawal before I no longer craved it. It still tempts me from time to time, but if I cannot resist, I have one or two bites of a dessert or one piece of chocolate and move on. I know if I have more, I won't feel good and that is what keeps me in check. It will be nice to start the new year without the added 5-7 lbs I normally would. Instead of resolving to lose weight this year, I will resolve to maintain my weight and improve my fitness level. Now, if I can just find that fountain of youth, I'm all set.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

You can open ONE tonight!

One present on Christmas Eve. That was the rule in my house growing up. But which one? My brother and I would scan the pile under the tree. The gifts from Santa would not be there yet of course, but there were still plenty to choose from aunts and uncles and grandparents. God forbid you should choose a box that contained clothing or something you couldn't actually play with. In the early years, Christmas Eve meant visits from relatives, Bing Crosby crooning on the record player, a good soak in the tub, my hair curled into rollers for church the next day and the ONE GIFT. I recall choosing a couple of duds - some game I had never heard of or new pajamas, so each year I became more selective until I learned eventually that there was one gift I could always count on to please me. Christmas Eve always warranted a visit from Great Uncle Ken and Aunt Laura. I was in awe of them. They were childless and rich. (compared to us anyway). They never bothered with toys. They would come bearing gifts with cold hard cash attached to them. And not coins or one dollar bills. Initially there would be a fiver attached, then as years passed it became a ten, and then years later it became American greenbacks (they spent the winters in Florida). They would attach these crisp bills to a nice gift pack of Laura Secord Chocolate and sometimes there would be a little trinket mixed in with the candy. Once I got a little faux gold chain bracelet with small carved wooden mice charms attached. They had little leather ears glued to them. I loved it. I know five or ten dollars doesn't seem like much, but in 1963, it was a small fortune in my mind. I would spend days dreaming about how I would spend it. I recall one year when I was about 10, taking that money and buying my first LP - Herman's Hermits - There's a Kind of Hush...all over the world tonight. You remember the song...I hope. (If you don't, you're too young to be reading this blog). Their gift provided not only a good tooth-rotting experience, but the opportunity to spend the rest of the evening dreaming. Laura Secord chocolate was a treat back in those days before more upscale candy companies like Godiva arrived on the scene here in Canada. I even recall being impressed with how it would be presented, all wrapped in cellophane and ribbon. Not your everyday penny candy. And there would always be a good quality candy cane in the middle - not like the crappy ones that hung all over the Christmas tree, a solid jaw-breaking stick that could last for days if you stuck it back in the wrapper when you tired of sucking on it. My daughter continues the same tradition, except in our case she gets to open one gift on the 23rd because in recent years since the Santa myth has been shattered, we open our gifts after dinner on Christmas Eve. That way everyone gets to sleep in on Christmas morning and we have more time to get ready to make our way back to my childhood town and my parents house for dinner. She will have Godiva chocolate in her stocking and her monetary gifts will far surpass the five or ten dollars that so impressed me as a child. I wonder what she will have to say about it all when she reaches my age and if her memories will be as precious to her as mine are to me. Time will tell.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

This one REALLY missed the mark!

Last night I was painfully reminded why it is a bad idea to see a movie over the holiday season. Not one for line-ups, I put my aversion aside and lined up. The problem with that was, I lined up for an utterly lame movie as all the movies I am interested in seeing right now don't get released on the big screen until Christmas Day. My daughter was in the mood for a night out with mom however, so I said, "pick something we will both like or something we will at least agree upon". She had already seen Avatar last weekend, so she suggested some flick starring Hugh Grant and Sarah Jessica Parker. I had seen a trailer or two, and it looked mildly amusing, so off we went to see Did you Hear about the Morgans?. I do consider myself a bit of a movie buff, but I am no expert. I often like movies that have been panned by the critics and I tend to like sappy romantic comedies that are generally never considered Oscar worthy. Based on what I knew of this flick, I figured it would fall into the SRC category. I liked the actors and it was an SRC, so what did I have to lose? For starters, Hugh and Sarah was a bit of a stretch from the get-go. Separately, they are great, together, not so much. She has never been able to move beyond her role as Carrie in Sex and the City, and Hugh has finally reached an age where his boyish bumbling is completely unconvincing. I could see the pessimism behind his (now wrinkled) eyes and he seemed to be almost tortured at even having to be on a movie set instead of the golf course where he apparently now spends most of his time. The script was so pathetic, I wondered what failing film school student had written such crap. It was written and directed by Marc Lawrence (remind me to find out his credentials and NOT send my daughter to the same school). Twenty minutes in, I was nodding off as there was nothing to keep me interested, much less engrossed. There was zero chemistry between the lead characters and even less chemistry between the couple that were supposed to represent true love (Sam Elliott and Mary Steenburgen). Like I said, on a good day, any of these actors can pull off a decent performance, but this was quite obviously not a good day for any of them. I started getting restless leg syndrome about 3/4's of the way through this one and it was all I could do to actually finish watching this sad attempt at film-making. The premise of the film was two native New-Yorkers, a separated couple, (Sarah and Hugh) witness a murder and are forced into a witness protection program and sent to some small town in Wyoming where the city-slickers are faced with life in the country. The cliches abounded and there was not a single unpredictable moment in the entire movie. Even the mildly amusing lines were delivered poorly by Grant and Parker. I would have preferred staying home and watching old Sex and the City episodes or any of my collection of great Hugh Grant movies. In fact, it is just about time to pull out Love Actually - a Christmas tradition in our house. Just cover up the kiddie's eyes in the odd scene and you're good to go. Don't line up for this one folks. No need to hear or know anything about the Morgans. Trust me.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

This Year, she came Back

Christmas cards. Lavish light displays. Over the top interior Holiday Hall Decking. Christmas Baking. Chopping down your own tree. Christmas Open Houses. I used to do all these things. Now they are a distant memory. Welcome to the world of full time work. I admit it. I am incapable of "doing it all". For those of you who are - well - you are better time managers than I. How the hell do you do it? Maybe by next year I will figure it all out. In addition to my new job, I also decided 2009 was a year of shifting priorities. I decided to make myself a priority. Doing that has meant that many of the things I used to dwell upon, like my house, my garden and my family take a back seat to my attention to my health and fitness. So now my house is messy, my garden is full of weeds, my Christmas decor is a half-assed effort, there isn't a single fattening Christmas cookie in the Santa cookie jar and my Christmas cards might not arrive until the New Year. Will the world come to an end? Will my family starve without chocolate macaroons or pecan shortbread? Will my friends suffer from open house withdrawal? The obvious answer is no, no and no. But I will likely live longer, look better and I do feel 10 years younger. Despite how difficult it has been for me to shift the priorities, I am pretty sure my new "to do" list will be the better path for me, my family and my friends. The old Deb is back and she likes it. Hope you all do too.

Friday, December 18, 2009

I'll settle for a two-pack

So I was just about to step on the treadmill to work off last night's party and figured I would take a minute to blog a weight update. As we all know, this is the absolute hardest time of the year to stick to a healthy eating plan, but last night was the last official Christmas Party I have been invited to with the exception of Christmas Day at my mothers, so I think I can safely say I made it through without too much damage. I just stepped on the scale and I am up two pounds. Not bad considering I have five fetes under my belt. As one friend's husband once said, "that's nothing more than a good dump". Crass as that sounds, he is not far off. I prefer to sweat them off and with any luck, I may be back in fighting form by Sunday. Just picked up a copy of a magazine I have never read - Oxygen, a women's fitness magazine. If the women in this rag don't inspire you, nothing ever will. I haven't seen that many female six-packs in one place in my life! I thought I was looking OK until I flipped through this collection of photos. I used to think buff and pumped up women looked almost alien, but these gals look hot. If I could even get half way to where they are, I would be ecstatic. A two or four pack maybe. They make it seem possible. However, upon closer inspection, I noted that the majority of the ads in this magazine are for over the counter weight loss pills, protein powders and concoctions I didn't even know existed. Surely steroid use is common in this crowd as well. One product called MPower claims to be the "only supplement designed to immediately stimulate mitochondrial biogenesis - a natural "energizing" process that burns fat and increases energy. Wow - send me a case of it! The woman in the photo is a mass of tanned muscles - surely a result of quaffing back this stuff every day. Yeah right - and 4 hours a day in the gym. The ad doesn't mention that though. I didn't know it existed, but apparently there are women who work as "fitness models". That's right. They are used exclusively for these types of ads and so that is their job - to look fit and tanned and muscled for a living. Well, shit, I could look like that if I had all that time to spend in the gym every day too. It's like the winners on the Biggest Loser. They spend 6-8 hours working out every day - who wouldn't lose weight rapidly? As it is, I struggle to find an hour a day for my fitness regimen. I'm down to 2 hours a week of tennis and golf is now just a pleasant memory until next spring. I could do more I suppose, but when would I find time for the rest of my life? When is what we are finally good enough? I'll let you know when I figure that out.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Sparkly, pretty and Utterly Useless

I found them! I finally found them! I have been through 10 large plastic bins, at least 8 cardboard boxes, every bloody drawer in the house and tonight I found them. Why I put them in the hanging mesh pocket of an over the door closet organizer, I will never know. Apparently by the time I bought them last January, I had already stowed the boxes and bins away for the season and it seemed like the most likely place for them. God knows what I was thinking. I guess I was just looking for a slot they would fit in, so it never occurred to me that come Christmas 2009, I would have zero memory of where I put them. I only knew that I had purchased them. I remembered it clearly. I was at the R.O.M. for a belated birthday lunch last January with my dear friends Margot and Janet and we did a little browse through the museum gift shop after lunch at C-5 and a peek at the "Diamond Exhibit" and it was late enough in the month for them to have marked them down by 75% - a steal for sure. Usually if you wait that long into the after- Christmas sales, there's nothing left but garish coloured lights no one wanted or boxes of glass ornaments with at least one broken bauble, like a cracked egg among a dozen, but these beauties were still hanging around - literally. They were perfect. The most realistic icicles I had ever seen. Heavy, long, crystal clear - you could almost see the drops of melting ice water dripping from them. A pretty sparkle of silver dust capped the tops and they hung from delicate little strings - I had a picture in my mind immediately where they would hang. There were only five left and I scooped up every last one of them - odd numbers being the ideal grouping for the scene I had conjured up in my mind for Christmas 2009. My plan was to hang them outside on either side of the front door, in the recesses of the side lights, 2 on one side and 3 on the other to form an asymmetrical display of fake winter chill. I would hang them at slightly different heights to add to the realism. Normally this would have been done a couple of weeks ago when I hung the wreath on the door and filled the urns with greenery and hung the lights, but since they were MIA until tonight, they will have to be a late addition to the holiday decor at the front door. Or maybe not. Now that I have unwrapped them and revisited them, I find them so pretty and sparkling, I am afraid that if I hang them outside, the wind and sun and weather will wreak havoc on them and ruin them. I could hang them inside, but then they would look like fake icicles, and they really do look so real they deserve their chance to fool the world. So, I guess I will take the chance, allow mother nature to have her way with them and with any luck they will last the season looking like their real counterparts. In any case, they will last longer than the real thing would and I will enjoy seeing them glistening at the front door when I come home every night. With the price I paid, I suppose they are disposable if need be and it will be one less thing for me to pack away until Christmas 2010. Besides, if I don't hang them outside - what else would I do with them? Things like this fit into the "utterly useless" category if you don't use them when they should be used. I suppose I could keep one in the car glove box if I ever needed to defend myself - their weapon-like shape and pointed tips would be enough to scare off any would-be attacker. They are almost too heavy to hang on the average Balsam or Fraser fir, so that's out of the question. So, it is decided - these utterly useless spikes of icy acrylic will hang at my front door, useless and beautiful like so many other shiny baubles that have come before them until it is time to go into hiding for another year. At least next year, I will be able to find them. Maybe.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Visions of Overalls Danced in her Head

"I see television - you talking on television and I see Mike Holmes. You are either working with him or for him or something along those lines - but you are definitely on TV." That was one of the many things a psychic told me at a reading last week. I asked her if it was really Mike Holmes or just someone who looked like him. She insisted it was actually him, so I said, "Well, I'm not sure how that will all pan out, but maybe if he loses the overalls." Seriously, what's up with that Mike? It was kind of novel in the beginning, but they must be getting a bit tiresome by now, no? Time to change things up a bit I'd say - how about a simple pair of Levi's, a black concert T-shirt from that Stone's concert you went to in the 70's and a tool belt hanging loosely around your waist? ANYTHING but the damn overalls! Mike, you need a wardrobe consultant. Hey, maybe that will be my association with him. I will appear on his show, and I will do a wardrobe makeover for him in between drywall mudding and grout applications. Yeah, yeah, I know I am an "interior" decorator, not an "exterior" decorator, but once you have an eye for design, it can pretty much cover the gamut of all things tasteful, and clothing design and interior design go hand in hand in my mind. So, I'll make the offer once Mike, right here, just so it's official, any time you are ready for a little consult, you just give me a call and we'll talk. Or lunch. Maybe we can do lunch and really hash things out. But please don't come in your overalls. They don't go with sushi. (that's what I want for lunch - just so you know.) And, will the next psychic I see please tell me she sees me on television with George Clooney or Hugh Jackman or .....well you get the picture - no offense Mike.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Did you do your Homework?

I'm thinking if I had known that having a child would entail having to repeat Kindergarten through grade eight again, I may have re-considered. I hated school the first time around and I have zero desire to go through it again. Now that my daughter is in her second year of high school, I figured I was off the hook in the "homework help" department, but Noooooo - not yet mama! Don't get me wrong, I love my kid - would lay down and die for her if I had to, but I draw the line at coming home from a long day at work and going back in time to the days of book reports and essays and science projects. I have been there. Done that. Don't want to do it anymore. I already handed in all that crap once. I already procrastinated until the night before a deadline. I already hung my head in shame when the teacher handed me back a lousy mark. I don't need to go through it again now. Why should I have to? I pay good money for my kid to go to school. I am not a teacher. I never wanted to be a teacher. Truth be known, I am not a very good teacher. I am impatient and uninterested in most of the subject matters. I could care less about periodic tables, trigonometry or geological rock formations. I learned it and forgot it once and have no desire to go down that particular road of higher learning again. I can tolerate anything to do with English literature, drama or classic American novels, but she doesn't seem to need so much help with that stuff. Go figure. I recall my own mother helping me ONCE in my life with homework. It was in grade 4. I had to make a plaster of Paris map of South America on a sheet of Bristol board. She helped me mix the goop, trace the outline of the continent and make little flags out of paper and toothpicks with the name of each country on them. After all that, she had to help me carry it to school so it would not crumble into a million pieces. It was bright green and showed the mountain ranges in elevated points like stiff egg whites form a peak after you beat them long enough. I thought it was a masterpiece. She probably hated every minute of the project and couldn't wait until it was done. Bet she even cursed the teacher who assigned it for months after. She had it easy. Just the one. I have had more than my fair share of these "projects" over the years. The styrofoam solar system, the aboriginal long house made meticulously out of little twigs and sticks cut down to size from our own trees and shrubs, complete with little people and animals wandering through the village. Or how about the power point presentation of the history of Astronomy? That was several nights when I could have been doing something I LIKED doing. It begs the question, will she stop needing my help by the time she is in university? Please - tell me it won't be so. What have we done to our kids? Can they do nothing on their own? I did it all by myself. No one helped me. Sure, I may have scored some higher grades if I had enlisted some help, but I managed somehow, didn't I? And...the money! Every project seemed to require a trip to the craft supply store for endless supplies that would never be used more than once. What happens when families on tight budgets can't afford these extravagant trips to Mastermind or Scholar's Choice? Heaven help we could make something out of flour, water and food colouring - all things we have on hand in the average kitchen. That would be far too simple. No wonder "parenting" has become a verb. We do way more than our parents did. The only time my parents got involved in my homework was when they would occasionally ask - "Did you do your homework?" Yes, I would lie. All done. That was it. They never asked to see it, review it with me, quiz me on dates, names or places. Their only job was to ask if we had done it. It was up to us to face the consequences of poorly thrown together assignments or missed deadlines. It prepared us for the real world. It prepared us for life. We may want to re-think our motives and stop the helicopter blades. We aren't doing them any favours. That much I know for sure.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Bloom is not off this Rose

For the first time in many years I am heading into the Christmas season with a little room under my belt for the dreaded extra 5 pound weight gain that can occur over the holidays in the blink of an eye. Not that I intend to intentionally pack on those extra lbs., but the possibility exists. Not only am I in a good position from that point of view, I am also feeling pretty damn good about hitting the party circuit. My clothes are not tight, I have been working out and don't have to stand in front of my closet trying to figure out what to wear that will best camouflage my butt or my stomach. In fact, a few recent purchases have actually hugged my body in all the right places making me feel - dare I say it - sexy and fierce. A woman in the admin department where I work told me I looked like a "sexy little thing" today, two words I have not heard uttered in the same sentence in a very long time. At least not to describe me. Sexy AND little. I gave her a hug. Many years ago when I first learned about astrology, I read all I could get my hands on about the subject and one of the things I learned about my sun sign was that Capricorns were typically "late bloomers". Without getting into discussing my actual age, (OK, I'm 51), I can honestly say I have never felt better in my life. A combination of weight loss, increased exercise and general regular maintenance of my teeth, skin and hair have all paid dividends in making me the best I can be this year. Possibly the best I have ever been, because although I may have been in good shape from time to time over the decades, I was not necessarily balanced in mind and body the way I am now. In Deepak Chopra's new book, Reinventing the Body, Resurrecting the Soul, this exact subject is discussed. It sounds like the perfect book for me right now. I am definitely putting this one on my Christmas list. Even my tennis game has improved. I am faster, more agile and my mind is in win mode. It seems to be working. I took the word lose out of my vocabulary and replaced it with win every time I play. I have rarely lost in months. I am on what one might call a "real roll - a winning streak." Let's just hope I don't go the way of Tiger Woods - he may keep winning at golf, but his reputation just took a major hit. For now I'll just settle for making it through the holidays without adding back 5 lbs. Wish me luck.

Friday, November 27, 2009

I was just Stimulating the Economy.....Really I Was

In an effort to stimulate the economy in my own small way, I went out last night to do a little Christmas shopping. I had a small list, so it was quite simple really, but it was almost impossible to stick to the list when I saw so many things out there in the land of consumerism that called out to me.....for me. It was easy to justify my purchases - why I could even give them to my husband to wrap up and place under the tree for me and then on Christmas morning I could feign surprise when I open them. "Wow, how did you know I wanted that necklace, you clever man?" Or, "Gee, you remembered I said I always wanted a pair of black fur ear muffs!" See. Easy. But that IS what happened. I should have known better than to park outside Holt Renfrew causing me to walk through that store on my way out to the parking lot. I had managed to walk in through it unscathed, but by the time I was leaving the mall, I had a couple of hours of "practice" shopping under my belt and still had room for at least one more bag in my arms. I had tried on some inferior ear muffs in a couple of other shops whilst I knocked off a few other items on the list, be had not succumbed. Why is it, the most expensive shop always seems to have the most perfect version of what you are looking for? They were comfy and warm and less bulky than the fake fur versions I had tried on and they were soooooo soft and lovely. And only just a little over double the price I had been willing to pay elsewhere. I had to have them. "Wrap em up," I said to the clerk. Trouble is, with all higher end shops, they take longer to wrap up than regular shops. Like that scene in Love Actually where Mr Bean takes forever to wrap the necklace for the "other woman" placing the cheating husband (Alan Rickman) in a most precarious position as his unsuspecting wife approaches, I had too much time to let my eye wander about. There it was - hanging there, the necklace I soooo needed to go with a new suit I had just purchased a week earlier. I tried to ignore the call as Miss Perfect Wrapper, neatly folded and caressed my new ear muffs into their little bed of tissue and sealed it with a logo sticker. Then she pulled out a box assuming it was a gift. I didn't stop her. It was a gift...to me. I slowly, painstakingly made my way over to the trinket I so desired. "Should I try it on? I asked myself. I would have to unzip my coat and take off my scarf - more effort than I felt like making. The clerk looked over at me. "Isn't it beautiful? It's from Italy." Now it not only held the appeal of matching my new suit to a tee, it held a bit of an exotic fashion appeal as well. "Aaahh, what the hell?" I figured. I was still waiting for the wrap job on the first item and I had the time. I unzipped and de-scarfed and exposed my bare neck, inviting this chunky Italian treasure to rest upon my throat. It was bold and artsy and suited my mood, but not necessarily my budget. "It's on sale," piped up Miss Perfect Wrapper, "and it's the last one." I didn't need much more convincing, even her oooohing and aahhhing over how great it looked on me with my hair colour and so on was unnecessary. I already knew the moment it landed on my neck, it was going home with me, much like I used to know when a man was in my youth. I tried it on again when I got home and so far - no buyer's remorse. Merry Christmas to me!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Life is Short - Shorter for some than Others

A woman I went to high school with died two weeks ago. I learned about her death when I spoke to my parents the other day. I always have a bit of a shock when I hear of someone my own age dying. How is it possible? I am not at all ready to die. I don't know what her life's path was like really, other than what I would hear from time to time from my parents who still live in the same city as she did. Turns out she had a brain tumor - inoperable - fatal. The doctors told her to get her affairs in order two months ago. She was married, two kids and too young. What went through her mind in these last two months of her life? How terrifying it must have been for her knowing her time was up. Did she live those last sixty days or so like each day was her last? Did she wrap up her life like a tidy package to leave some sort of memorabilia behind for her children? I never ever ran into her after high school. I couldn't wait to get out of that one-horse town. That's how I saw it at the time. It was "no-where ville" as far as I was concerned. Once I had traveled through Europe at 19, I could never be satisfied with small-town life. I had bigger fish to fry, people to meet and places to go. I was "outta there". She stayed behind and created a life there for her and her family. She took the safe route. I took risks. She married her high school sweetheart and I heard through the grapevine that she suffered ill health in her forties and enjoyed her drink - maybe a little too much. Is that what killed her? Did she lose her joie de vivre along the way? Did the seemingly safe route steer her into an early grave? Sure, there was a distinct medical reason for her death. People will say she was unlucky or unfortunate. Her number was up. But I have to ask the question. Did it have to be? Was she so stuck in her life that she lost her reason to live? Did she let the grim reaper in? Perhaps even invite him? If you put any faith in the power of positive thinking or mind over matter, (as I do), it begs the question, does it not? In You Can Heal Your Life by Louise L. Hay, the notion that you can change your thinking to improve the quality of your life is worth considering. Hay explains how limiting beliefs and ideas are often the cause of illness. Hay would site the probable cause of brain cancer would relate to deep hurt and longstanding resentment or deep secret grief eating away at the self. Did my high school friend suffer from this? Could a closer examination of what was eating away at her have helped save her life? Perhaps by avoiding such a look inside her soul by escaping into an boozy haze she paid the ultimate price. Had she failed to find meaning in her life? In the book Finding Meaning in the Second Half of Life, author James Hollis suggests "the goal of life is not happiness but meaning." And "those who seek happiness by trying to avoid or finesse suffering will find life more and more superficial." He goes on to say "life is not a problem to be solved, finally, but a series of engagements with the cosmos in which we are asked to live as fully as we can manage. In so doing we serve the transcendent meaning that is meant to be brought into being through us...in fleeing this fullness of life, we violate our very purpose." Had she lost her purpose? Or did she never really understand her purpose? I cannot help but recall how vibrant and beautiful she was at 17. That is how I will always remember her. I can't help but wonder if part of her purpose was to remind me and others how precious this life is with her dying. Maybe she finally knows this...now.
"We all had that sense of who we were for a short time in childhood, and then it got lost. It is possible to get it back and to live a larger life if we are humble enough to confess that what we have been doing with our lives has not proved sufficient. The loss of alignment with the soul is both the origin of suffering and the invitation to its redemption." -James Hollis, Ph.D. and author

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

It may just be the best Decade yet!

I came across an editorial that has stuck with me in More magazine last week while flipping through some back issues that were laying around in the lunch room at work. The topic was fashion and what women should or should not be wearing in any given decade of their lives. There was a quote from some supposed style guru that declared that women over 45 should "never" wear short skirts. The 48 year old editor did not agree with that and was shown in her editorial wearing a short skirt with opaque tights and I had to agree that she looked great with her slim figure and gorgeous legs. I also have seen women wearing short skirts that obviously do not own a full length mirror or they never would have stepped out the door looking so hideous. It's like any rule in fashion - it can be broken if you have the body to get away with it. Think Demi, Mrs. Robinson, Madonna. (pictured above). But, I digress. The part of the editorial I particularly enjoyed was the coining of a new phrase describing women in their 6th decade. Welcome to the "fuck-you fifties". I liked it. I liked the way it rolled off my tongue. I liked the way it made such perfect sense to me. I stopped and pondered how it summed up the way many of us feel at this age. Empowered. Strong. Fearless. Confident. We have little to lose now. We have stopped trying to impress. We are older and more experienced in every facet of life, but still young enough to embrace possibility. The "fuck you fifties." It's now or never ladies, make the most of it.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Oh Brother!

Tomorrow my baby brother turns 50! Seeing the words in print seems almost bizarre to me. How could my kid brother be FIFTY??? But he is and that means I will be (horrors!) 52 in December. Now we are both officially half way there if we both live to 100. (what are the chances?) When you think of it that way, it doesn't seem so bad, trouble is, our aging bodies won't have quite the same spunk they did for the first fifty. I certainly don't feel my age. In fact, I feel quite good these days. I have lost a little weight, I am healthy, I just started a new job. All in all, I feel fairly energetic and fit. My brother has always been a sporty, outdoorsy guy, can still clean my clock on the golf course and although we haven't stood on opposite sides of a tennis net in recent years, my guess is he would still give me a run for my money there too. When we get together (not nearly often enough) we always have a few laughs, a few drinks and never run out of things to talk about. I love my brother. He is way more laid back than I am, rolls with the punches better than I do and is an all around good guy. He got married young, had his two kids young and now he has an empty nest, his dream cottage and many years of golf and fishing (two of his fave activities) ahead of him. He is married to a great gal and they have always seemed meant for each other. I'll go out on the limb and say I think my brother is a happy man. Growing up, we had our share of sibling spats, nasty verbal and physical altercations until one day we decided to form a pact. We decided to form a bond, a team if you will. Us against them. I would not rat him out if he did not rat me out. To our parents. It was the best decision we ever made. After that we got along famously. We would tell my folks we were going to church on Sunday morning - this was when I was 16 and old enough to drive. We would park out front, one of us would slip inside and grab a bulletin (proof we had gone) and then we would go anywhere BUT church. Kill an hour, then head home. I haven't been to church since, other than the odd wedding or funeral, and I have never looked back. Once in a while, he would catch the eye of one of my girlfriends, or one his friends would be interested in me and we would help things along. We were less than two years apart, so the age difference was minimal. Eventually we went our separate ways, he went to work on the oil rigs in Alberta, I moved to Banff and when he would finally get some time off, he would head down for a few crazy days with me and my friends in Canada's party capital and we had some pretty wild times. Once he met his wife, he settled down a bit (OK - a lot) and before long he was a married man and starting a family. We haven't lived in the same city since and that is regrettable. I miss him. I wish we lived closer and I am not really great at keeping in touch often enough. (social media is not his thing.....c'mon Rick, get with the program buddy!) and since I communicate almost exclusively that way, it means I actually have to pick up the phone and call him. I keep vowing I will do it more often, but I haven't been so great at following up on that promise. Just so you know bro, I do think about you often and even tho we don't talk as much as we should, you are always there. You always will be. Happy Birthday Rick. Fifty looks good on you. Not as good as it does on me, but pretty good nonetheless! Gotcha!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

It's not always better Late than Never!

PLEASE tell me that by the time I turn 70 something I am not just for the first time saying - "I finally feel like I can do what ever I want." I heard these exact words this week from a client who had been a widow for 6 years. My first thought was - "good on you honey," followed by - "what the hell took you so long?" She told me her husband had been dead for 6 years and this thought had only just occurred to her this week. She told me she spent all of last Monday in her pajamas for the first time in her life and that she lambasted her self a bit on account of it, but she "damn well did it anyway." I could tell she felt empowered by this sudden realization that she could live as she wanted without having to report to anyone, take care of anyone, or for that matter, get dressed for anyone. But considering she was on the proverbial "down slope" of life, I also found it kind of sad that she had spent her entire life in service to everyone around her to the exclusion of her own wants and needs. Although she presented a fairly upbeat and chipper attitude, I detected an underlying regret that she had lived her life as she felt she "should" or how others "expected" her to live. She was spending money decorating her home for the first time in 45 years (it was obvious..... I saw it) and nobody was stopping her or telling her she was being "frivolous at her age". As much as she delighted in this freedom, I could tell she was struggling with the voices from her past as well as voices from her present (the meddling daughter-in-law, who would prefer to be inheriting the money she was about to spend). For the first time in a very long time she will surround herself with some new and pretty things and even though she may not live long enough to see her new sofa and chairs through to their 45th birthday, she will at least not have to endure the thread bare chairs she and her husband bought in 1964. This type of "merry widow" spending is not uncommon. I see it all the time. These old gals wait until their stingy, cranky old husbands croak and they finally control the purse strings. Better late than never, I suppose, but I just have to say - "LADIES, STOP WAITING!" Tell that son-of-a-bitch(while he's still alive) you don't want to wait. Whether it be for new furniture, or a trip to Greece, or whatever it is that you dream of doing or having. This life is NOT a dress rehearsal. Don't wait until you wake up one day and you don't have the energy or enthusiasm or your health is shot. DO IT NOW! Do not pass go, do not collect $200. Grab your brass rings and let er rip! What's the worst thing that could happen? If he turfs you out, you'll be better off anyway. If he moans and complains, let him. Who knows? He may even be so taken aback by your new found confidence and power, that he just falls in love with you all over again. The bottom line is.....you've got nothing to lose...... but yourself.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Tis the Season, Hope I can Help

No sooner have the ghosts and goblins been stashed back in the garage for another year, then out come the ghosts of Christmas present to replace them. In honour of the upcoming holiday season, I have made an effort to re-introduce my picks for Christmas Decor here on my blog page - see sidebar. I try to keep the prices within reason, so you won't see me featuring expensive Christmas-themed fine china or Swarovski Crystal ornaments at $100 a pop, but you will find affordable trinkets and most are available to order on-line at the company websites making your shopping easy and quick. My only criteria for choosing the items you see here is visual appeal and price - something I actually get paid to do for people, so take advantage of it - consider it my Christmas gift to you - my dear readers, a thank you for reading my musings all year and your much appreciated comments. I have not been writing as frequently as I once did, as life has kind of gotten in the way these days, but as I settle in to more of a routine with my new hectic schedule, I hope to be writing more. But no promises. (Pomegranate Feather Wreath featured above - Pottery Barn $79 U. S.)

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Me and Herb Tarlek - we're like this!

As much as I hate to admit it, I am pretty good at sales. Over the course of my life it seems that no matter what business I am involved in, I have been required in one way or another to sell something. How can you be good at something you hate? Apparently I am not alone. The most recent issue of People magazine - the one with the Andre Agassi on the cover - addresses this exact phenomenon - turns out one of my favorite players of all time actually hated playing tennis. Great at it, but hated it. I could relate. Of course one MAJOR difference between me and the sexy Mr. Agassi is that he made WAAAAY more money playing a sport he hated than I could ever hope to make in sales. I have been selling shit since I was 14 years old, starting with cosmetics behind the counter at Super X Drugs in St. Catharines. It wasn't long before I graduated to more sophisticated products like G.I.C.'s and Short Term Deposits (thought I'd die of boredom doing that) so before you knew it, I was hawking half price chicken wings and cheap draught beer at the local bar while I was going to university. That was after a three winter season of slinging Tequila shots and mixing B-52's behind a bar in Banff. My first REAL job out of Journalism School seemed more promising, but as it turned out, a P.R. job for a microbrewery was nothing more than a glorified beer sales rep - I just got to write promotional propaganda to go along with it. So, thinking I needed to do a job that didn't involve late nights and alcohol, I ventured into the world of advertising. Advertising sales, that is. What could be more soul sucking than trying to sell empty magazine pages? OK, maybe there are a few jobs out there that are worse and less fulfilling, but for me, that was pretty much rock bottom. I didn't even think the magazines I was trying to sell space in were any good. In fact, they sucked. Try getting your heart into a job like that. No matter how much money or promises of promotions they used as an incentive, I just couldn't sink my teeth into that one. So, I moved to Vancouver. This time, I worked in the design business and you guessed it - selling more shit to people who didn't need more shit for a crap hourly wage, plus commission. It was dog eat dog at that place - or should I say design consultant eat design consultant? Same thing. At least I enjoyed being a bit more creative and surrounded by lovely things all day. It had its merits I suppose. Maybe it was time to go back to school. So I did. I needed legit credentials to run my own Interior Decorating business and that is what I did for the last 10 years. The problem with that was, I wasn't much interested in marketing - AKA - selling myself, so my business sort of stumbled along, never really setting the world on fire, but kept me busy enough and brought in enough income until last fall and the lousy economy affected my little shop to the point where I knew it was time to make a change. So here I am now, 3 weeks under my belt at a new job. This time, I am able to utilize my design skills, so that makes me happy, but of course, I still have to sell my clients all the stuff I recommend on the floor plans I create. It's as though there is a price to pay for what amounts to getting paid to sit in art class all day. I knew there would be a catch! Perhaps it is my destiny. No matter how hard I try, or what direction I move in, it always ends up the same way. I have to convince someone to buy something. I am good at it. I know I am good at it. My husband knows I am good at it, past bosses have recommended my skills at it, people who know me tell me I am good at it. Now I just wish I could actually like it. I feel your pain Andre, I really do.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Banff Buddies Reunite.....30 years later

Thirty years seems like a long time, no? I certainly sounds like a long time. When you think back on the last thirty years of your life, it's pretty likely much has transpired. Marriage(s), the birth of kids, the death of parents, career changes, residential moves - all-in-all, quite a few of those big life changing events have occurred. I thought of this as I met a couple of old friends that I had lost touch with over the last 15 years. Despite the fact we had not seen each other in a very long time and they had experienced many of these events, I tried to put my finger on what had not changed. Sure, we looked older to each other, but as I was trying to figure out how to put it into words, one of my friends nailed it. Our basic essence. That had not changed. We all still possessed the spark. The thing we saw in each other so many years ago. The thing that drew us to one another. The thing that made us laugh. We were older, but still could see each other as we had then. We were younger, more adventurous, more energetic, perhaps taking risks we would never consider today, but as I sat across the table from these two women, their laughter and their joie de vivre was alive and kicking. It was though no time had passed at all. What was inside all of us then, was still there. We were 21 again. It was magic. It was uplifting. It was fun. The relationships we are a part of daily or regularly sometimes fail to remind us of that youthful essence. We see the persons we have become and less of the people we once were. There is something about a nostalgic trip down memory lane with old friends that reminds us of our essence. It puts a bounce in your step. We all agreed we had spent some of the best times of our lives together - memories that will bind us forever. It was like a shot of adrenaline. I think everyone should make a plan to look up an old friend right now. Today. Find them on Facebook (like we did), call them up, just find them. If you liked them then, chances are you still will. Whatever it is that draws personalities together, is not something that should be taken for granted. I missed some pretty big events in their lives and they missed some of mine. It didn't have to be that way, but it was. We decided we wouldn't let another 30 years go by before we got together. Let's hope we don't.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

My most valued commodity......Time.

Now that the full-time working world owns me, I am really needing a lesson in time management. I always thought I was a pretty efficient time manager, but now in retrospect, I see I was pathetic. It's easy to manage time when you have lots of it available. With far little than I used to have, I am finding there really aren't enough hours in the day. The first thing I have had to do is set my priorities. Even that has been challenging. Keeping my health and fitness at the top of the list requires determination and a good dose of selfishness, the latter something I am not entirely comfortable with. As a mother, wife and "home" manager, I usually fell somewhere around third or fourth place on that list. Since I made myself the number one priority earlier this year, keeping my position at the top is not the easiest thing in the world. The house used to grab waaay too much of my time and the results of putting it at the very bottom of the list now are....well, obvious. The mum filled urns at my front door are dead. That look worked for Halloween but now I'm thinking, not so much. The 5 and 6 foot high perennials in my garden, also dead now, sway back and forth in the breeze, dried and brown and crisp, longing to be sheared and placed in their compost graves. High winds yesterday coaxed piles of leaves down from the trees and now they blanket my yard and garden, begging to be raked and bagged. And that's just the outside. This morning as I rummaged around for some breakfast, both garbage bins were overflowing, smelly and demanding to be emptied. As I pulled the fridge door open, my hand stuck to it, the mystery sticky substance on it, signalling to me it needed removal. The cutting board was covered in crumbs left behind by someone other than me, and clutter on the counters needed to find a way home - lost in their present locations. My husband had made an attempt at laundry yesterday while I was at work, and while appreciated, it was incomplete and my daughter's school shirts had not been collected and added to the mix. There were 3 damp soiled hand towels on the bar next to the sink in the bathroom, damper wash cloths piled on top of them like clingy companions, and over-used bath towels hung willy -nilly (not folded neatly and hung properly) over the larger towel bars, screaming - launder me! The ironing board has set up permanent residence in my dining room, as it is needed daily now and putting it up and down everyday seems like a waste of time. Maybe I'll hide it back in the basement when company comes or for Christmas - whichever comes first. Christmas company is unlikely this year, since I have one day off - Christmas Day! I know - maybe I'll forgo the tree this year and just decorate my ironing board - I can start a new trend. Maybe I should have set up my new treadmill in there too - it would put a whole new meaning to the idea of "running around" getting ready for the holidays. Don't get me wrong, I like my new job and all - I just can't help wondering about the world we live in here in North America. The Europeans have it right - they place value on holiday time and the notion of "busyness" is not exalted and praised the way it is here on this continent - especially our neighbours to the south. Perhaps a one way ticket to Spain or France or Greece is the answer. Working oneself to an early grave - that must be an American expression. Hope they don't mind putting it on their headstones.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

I'm thinking I may have been the cat?

As it is Halloween today - and I have about 9 minutes available to write this blog - just let me tell you a quick story about one of my most memorable Halloween nights. I was 6. Earlier in the day at school, I began to feel quite ill. I was lethargic and feverish and had all the early symptoms of the flu or a cold. But it was one of the biggest and most exciting days on the calendar for a six year old and I was damned if a little fever was going to stop me from heading out that night to go trick-or-treating. When I got home, I avoided my mother like the plague, lest she place a hand on my forehead and discover my raging fever. When it came time to get into my costume, I realized things were getting worse, but I plowed ahead. It was the first time in my life my mother had given in to my request for a store-bought costume. You know the ones with a plastic mask with 3 small holes cut out for eyes and mouth. I don't even recall who or what the character was, but I knew I had to wear that mask. That mask was like a sauna on my face within minutes. I remember I was still too young to go out without my father and he escorted me from house to house. With each set of steps and winding sidewalks I was becoming more and more ill, weaker and weaker, and the sweat dripping on my face beneath that mask was more than I could bear. I finally had to ask my father to take me home before I collapsed and to this day I cannot believe I didn't. I ended up in bed for three days, unable to eat a single piece of candy. But it was worth it! Happy Halloween to all of you who still enjoy it.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Creating Space for Growth and Change...it's Free

Want and need. Want or need. This is the question. Once you start to ask yourself this question when considering a purchase, it is amazing how much less you actually buy. I work in a world where want usually wins out over need more often than not. Two weeks into my new job where I am surrounded by beautiful things all day long, I wondered if I would be drawn back into my old desires to own them. Sure, it would be nice to see some of these things in my house, but do I need them? No, of course I do not need them. A woman I will call Jewel, came into the showroom today, full of desire to own some more beautiful things for her own home, that admittedly was already full of gorgeous things. She told me her husband did not understand why she needed more things. She told him, "Honey, it has nothing to do with "need", and everything to do with "want". I understood her. I understood her husband. What makes us so illogical? What makes the wanting win out? Why can't we just enjoy looking at the beautiful things and resist the urge to own them? And once we own them, how long before they lose their meaning? We live in such a consumer driven world. Despite the state of the economy, despite the recent consumer caution to spend, the desire to own the beautiful things still drives most of us. It was only a matter of time before the wanter's wants drove them back into the stores in search of that next beautiful thing they felt they just had to own. I am not saying there is anything "wrong" with owning beautiful things (god knows I spent a good portion of my own life in pursuit of them), I'm just asking why? I am at a stage in my life where I want to rid myself of "things". I want to pare down and de-clutter my space, my mind, my body. I crave a sense of simplicity that can only be attained by empty space. Space in my mind, space on my walls, space in my closets, space in my stomach. It is in that space that I will find some room for contemplation, serenity, ease and room for growth. So, as I spend my days surrounded by endless temptation to add, rather than subtract, want, rather than need, I will remind myself that giving into the temptation will not point me in the direction I crave and that inner growth requires room, not more "things". It does not mean I cannot enjoy the scenery along the way, I just don't have to "own" it. I've been heading down this path for some time now, much to the surprise of some people around me who have always known me as a "wanter". Many of those people expected me to be heading into a world of free-fall spending when I took my new job, but I knew the opposite was true. They all asked me - "So, Deb, what kind of staff discount do you get on all the beautiful things?" It had not even occurred to me to ask that question when I was hired. It did not matter to me. It was not why I took the job, nor was it a consideration. This is the new me. The old me would have been anxious to know such information. My biggest concern was how much time I would have for vacation. Their less than satisfactory response was nearly a deal-breaker for me, but I decided to give it a shot anyway. In time I may discover if vacation time is a want or a genuine need. Besides, it may help me. If I have no time off, I will have little time to spend. A win-win I'd say. Maybe.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Sea Shells as Metaphors for Life?

Scanning my bookcases a few days ago, I came across a little book an old friend from Vancouver had given me for Christmas one year when I lived there called Gift From The Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh. I recall when I received the little volume that I read it, liked it and tucked it away, knowing it would be a keeper - end of story. Over the years, I would notice it tucked in amongst the rest of my precious books, always noticeable not for it's largess, but for the fact it was so small compared to the other hard cover books I have saved. It never conformed to the rest of the books on the shelves that dwarfed it in size, but I always knew it was a giant in terms of meaning. The dust jacket design is a photograph of sea shells lying in the sand, the hard cover of the book a serene shade of ecru, with a delicate lavender coloured ribbon marker attached. I had not re-read Gift From The Sea since my first pass through 17 years ago. Knowing it would be a quick read, I took it to bed with me a couple of nights ago and read half of it before falling asleep the first night. I was struck by how relevant it seemed to my life right now, more so perhaps than it had the first time I read it. Lindbergh's book was originally published in 1955. How could a book about one woman's "meditations on youth and age, love and marriage, solitude, peace, and contentment," written by a fifties housewife possibly pertain to my life in 2009? Incredibly - her book, with it's timeless validity, will likely remain a classic well into the next century as it has in this one. Anne Morrow Lindbergh, if you didn't already know, was the wife of Charles Lindbergh, the famous aviator and the mother of five children. She raised her family in Connecticut and summered on the Maine coast. In one of her solitary escapes to their rustic beach house, she penned this book using various sea shells and their unique shapes as metaphors for different stages of life. Her insights more than fifty years ago could apply to any woman today, surprising in their uncanny relevance to middle-aged moi. Perhaps because Morrow Lindbergh was about the same age as I am now when she wrote this book, I find it so compelling. The final chapter of the edition I have was added by the author exactly 20 years later as a new edition was being published. Her reflections two decades later were described as "embarrassed astonishment" that her essays had spoken to so many women. Just as her book was still valid to a new generation of women in 1975, trust me when I say, it is equally valid in 2009. Gift From The Sea, required reading for - "Mid-life Crisis Coping 101".

Sunday, October 18, 2009

And a voice from the heavens bellowed..."LOWER YOUR STANDARDS"

OH - MY - GOD! I had no idea. I sort of did, but not really. My first week of full-time work is behind me and I am in serious shock. I knew it would be a big adjustment going from running my own show to being accountable to a "boss", but what I hadn't counted on was how little time would be left over for my life outside of work. How do all you women who work full-time ever get anything done??? In a mere five days, my life as I once knew it vanished. I had no time for my family, no time for my house and no time for myself. I spent the week immersed in a learning curve that took up 12 hours of my day. That includes getting ready for work, driving to work, working, and then driving home from work. Terrific! After that I had a whopping 4 hours before collapsing into bed just to do it all over again the next day. Two of those hours were spent cooking, eating and cleaning up after cooking. After that I spent approximately one hour planning wardrobe, food and other details for the following day for myself and my daughter and my husband. The remaining hour was spent doing various things like reading, watching TV, grooming, laundry and ironing. This cannot be happening to me. When am I to play tennis, power-walk, exercise, shop, run errands, go for a massage or a pedicure, or socialize? Maybe I am a lousy time manager I started to think. In my defense, I was under the weather with a virus all week, so my normal energy level was low. But I got to thinking, I was going to have to make some changes if I was going to survive this new way of life. And today, it came to me like an epiphany as I was folding the third load of laundry on my "day off". LOWER YOUR STANDARDS! It was like a voice from the universe. It was so loud and so clear, it made me wonder why I hadn't thought of it already. As I pulled six pillowcases from the dryer, the voice got louder and louder. Normally, I would toss the pillowcases into the "iron" pile. I like my pillow cases ironed, the cotton is softer afterward and I have a wee anal thing about how nicely they look all folded and stacked in nice piles in the linen closet. "Hmmm, " I thought, "is this really necessary?" Will anyone in my family die if the pillowcases are not ironed? I reached into the "iron" pile and pulled them out and started folding them. Forget the ironing, they would be fine the way they were. I had just effectively "lowered my standards". Then I started thinking about all the other ways I could eliminate chores and tasks I once had time for, but were not entirely necessary. I won't carve pumpkins for Halloween, I'll just plug in one of those fake electric ones. I won't fill vases with fresh flowers or bowls with fruit, I'll use fake ones. (OK - not the flowers - I just can't go down that road, but the fake fruit looks pretty convincing these days) I will reduce ALL ironing to the absolute minimum and the whole family can look a bit rumpled - who will notice? I will start buying pre-washed and torn lettuce (oh yeah - I already do that) and I will try those little packets of already sliced and diced veggies. I will hire a lawn service to cut the grass, a gardener to clean up the flower beds and rake the leaves and get my cleaning lady to come every week, instead of every other week - one week for cleaning, the next for ironing and laundry. Now I was on a roll. I will use the treadmill while I am watching my one hour of TV and kill two birds with one stone. I will enlist my daughter to start doing more chores - a long overdue notion anyway. I may have to play more singles tennis rather than doubles as getting four together is harder work than finding one partner and it will have to take place either super early in the morning or late in the evening. I will never again venture into my daughter's room to gather laundry. Eventually she will run out of clothes and do something about it....that is my hope. I will hire someone to string up the Christmas lights, put up a fake tree, buy ready-made urn inserts and shop on-line for the gifts. I will become the anti-Martha. It was never possible to compete with her in the first place, now I have an even better excuse. I will book standing appointments for hair, nails, massage, naturopathy and mine and my daughter's other assorted health care visits for early mornings on my days off and maybe, just maybe, all of this will give me enough time leftover for writing my blog, writing my novel and reading. Now I just need to figure out if I will have any money leftover after I start paying people to do everything around here. The windows need washing, the car needs detailing, the living room needs painting.....the list goes on. Let's hope the new job feeds my need to be creative - that could make it worth the sacrifices. I'll keep you posted. In the meantime, I'll be "lowering my standards". So - get used to it. Martha has left the building.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Clearing my throat - literally!

This is likely to sound a bit ranty and whiny so if you're not up to it - stop reading right now. You know how when everything is going your way and the stars seem to be all aligned and you have that overwhelming feeling that nothing could possibly go wrong and then it happens. Shit. As many of you know, I landed a new job a few weeks back and my start date of October 13, at the time, seemed like an eternity away. I had what seemed to be all the time in the world to get organized, psyched, and generally ready for the HUGE shift in my life that was about to take place. I had more than three weeks. Week one sort of slipped by filled with lunches, tennis matches and general celebrating with friends. Week two approached and I had decided to start purging my office and do some shopping for a few new duds to wear to my new job. That's when it happened. The shit. It started innocently enough with a sore throat and a little cough. I immediately upped my Vitamin C intake to 3000 mgs. a day and carried on. I kept up my fitness routine, even thought it seemed to take a bit out of me, I ignored the fatigue. Within 3 days my little cough turned into "Holy shit - I think I just hacked up a piece of my lung!" By day 8, I wondered if I had any lungs left at all. I envisioned wobbly chunks of reddened swollen raw chicken encased within my rib cage and every time I felt a coughing spell coming on, my entire body would stiffen with fear of the onslaught of pain that was about to accompany the fit. I reluctantly paid a visit to a doctor at this point thinking I either had H1N1 or some other form of the flu that could possibly be treated with drugs. No luck - "It's probably viral," he says. He took a swab anyway and sent me home with a recipe for chicken soup. By day 11, I started getting really pissed. I had 3 days before my new job was to start and I had done none of the things I had planned. My workout routine had been reduced to tossing phlegm filled tissues into the trash can (2 points each) and lumbering back and forth between the kitchen (where the chicken soup lived) and the family room TV. I never actually retired to bed for a day and in retrospect, I probably should have, but I had things to do and places to go and as it now seemed I would never get well, I figured I may as well get used to my new seemingly chronic condition. Thanksgiving weekend arrived and I was still not getting any better, in fact, it seemed I was getting worse. On Tuesday I had to be better. I just had to be. I was not. When I got up in the morning, my voice was practically gone, my throat was nearly completely closed and the coughing was as deep and disgusting as ever. I had to ignore it all and go to work. I went armed with throat lozenges, tissues, an assortment of herbal teas and the hope that they would think I actually sounded better this way - sort of all raspy and Demi Moorish. At least I looked nice in my new outfit - maybe they wouldn't notice my tuberculosis-like hacking. I managed to get through the day fairly well - and fortunately they did not allow me to interface with clients - I would be training - sitting at a desk all day, watching videos and reading manuals. Thank god for small miracles. Just got through day 2 and I hesitate to get too excited, but I detect a slight shift in my lungs. (god knows there can't be much left in there to expel) and I ALMOST feel like doing a few bicep curls. However, I won't. I'll wait at least one more day before I push myself and see what happens. Hopefully - no more shit.

Friday, October 9, 2009

The Turkey Flu - catch it if you can!

Thanksgiving. Thanks and giving. The perfect opportunity for me to thank and give. This particular Thanksgiving will be fairly low key for my little family. My parents are out west visiting my brother and his family in Kelowna, so any traditional get together is not going to happen. It is at times like this that the small size of our little family really hits home. Three of us. My daughter has no idea what large families are all about and unless she marries into one, she may never find out. When I hear about some families horror stories of family get-togethers, maybe that is something to be thankful for. Whenever I watch movies with large family dynamics played out before me on the big screen (Family Stone comes to mind), I am envious and thankful all at once. At least I don't have to deal with quirky or annoying personalities that are only part of my life because I am related. The truth is, and this is just a hunch, we all have family members that we would never choose as friends, but because they are blood relatives we have to put up with them a few times per year. Being the only daughter in my own family of origin made me value my girlfriends - aka - surrogate sisters, even more so, as I have had the luxury of choosing every one of them. For that I am thankful, once again. On this particular Thanksgiving I am also thankful I do not have to entertain and cook a big turkey dinner as I have been struck with this godawful virus that is going around and my usual energy is completely depleted, so another thing to be thankful for has been presented to me inadvertently I suppose. That's 3 thankfuls. Moving on to the giving part. Hmmmm, let's see, Oh - I know - by being under the weather, and not having to cook a big feast, I am giving myself and my family the opportunity to sail through a long weekend (that is usually marked by copious amounts of mashed potatoes, gravy, pumpkin pie and whipped cream), without gaining 5 pounds. That's a pretty good gift when you think about it. Yeah, I know, I'm a hero, don't mention it. I will give my daughter the gift of sloth. Since she need not be anywhere at any certain time, she can sleep in as late as she wants every day of the long weekend. I could score big points with that one. Still, it is a gift, sort of. For my husband, I give him a break from his share of the cooking (sometimes a larger share than mine) and also a solid 3 day break from any obligations whatsoever. And.....as I am not up to a round of golf either, his bank account will get a rest as well. I am such a cheap date when I'm sick. So - that's 3 gives. My virus is really resulting in lots of thanks and lots of giving. Maybe I have the turkey flu - an apparent close relative of the swine flu. It only strikes at Thanksgiving and possibly again at Christmas. Or is that just wishful thinking?

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Just Plain Sick of it All!

For many years of my adult life I have enjoyed the changing seasons and the opportunity to decorate my house according to the holidays. For example, the obvious ones like Christmas and Halloween have always been my chance to really go all out with lights or wreathes or floral displays, but I find the whole thing more of a bore now than anything. I used to worship at the altar of Martha Stewart in the 90's. I relished the arrival of her magazine every month and although I never actually copied her ideas, I was inspired by them. I preferred to use my own imagination and did. For the last couple of Christmas's and Halloween's I have found the whole push to deck the halls and carve the pumpkins just another chore versus something I enjoy doing. I have tried to analyze my disinterest and I have come to the conclusion that a big part of the problem is not the erection of the displays, but the eventual need to take it all down. Sometimes I have received a helping hand from rowdy teens with a penchant for smashing pumpkins or light bulb thieves with nothing better to do than snatch my spotlights or unscrew little coloured bulbs. Once I actually coated all the low lying bulbs with a thick coat of petroleum jelly (an idea a neighbour suggested) to prevent the ability to grip the little bulbs. (it worked by the way). I just wish these holidays were less frequent so I would have enough time in between to actually miss them. It's the notion that time seems to go faster as we get older I think. I vote we only celebrate each holiday every three years, so it would seem fresh again. And of course, there is the whole commercialism aspect of it all that really annoys me. I have been through strings of fat coloured bulbs, clear strings of mini lights, massive swaths of net lights, rope lights, and the most recent creation - those dull-ass LED lights. Even those have been through a couple of incarnations now. When people complained they were too dull compared to their old twinkly lights, they came out the next year (after we all bought them) with the "new improved, brighter version". Landfills must be piled sky high with tangled masses of lights of Christmas's past. And what of pumpkin carving? Whatever happened to a jack-o-lantern with triangle eyes and noses and a bunch of jagged teeth? Oh no - that is no longer good enough. Now we have to spend 3 days with stencilled templates creating detailed witches flying past the moon or exact replicas of the entire cast of a Harry Potter movie. I used to do all that, but now I suffer from Halloween and Christmas burnout. Not only did I carve intricate scenes on pumpkins, but I created and sewed costumes and erected elaborate fall displays with gourds and scarecrows and autumn flowers. No sooner would all that come down and the Christmas extravaganza would begin in earnest. I suppose part of my current lack of enthusiasm has to do with the fact that my daughter is no longer that little girl who was fascinated by all the holiday hoopla. Although I was never quite totally Griswold, I came pretty close. Now, I am leaning toward Scrooge. If I didn't risk being egged and soaped, I would just be one of those creepy houses that turns their lights off on Halloween night pretending not to be home, but I will inevitably give in to the pressure to shell out despite my secret desire to just forget the whole damn thing. It would be great if the kiddies were all cute and polite, dressed up as fairies and pirates, but now I also get these roving bands of 16 year olds carrying pillow cases, not wearing costumes, ringing my doorbell and expecting candy. Who the hell are these kids? They are scarier than the ghost and goblins. I have to wonder what their motivation is. They can't possibly be interested in mini-chocolate bars and tiny bags of chips....can they? I think they are more likely casing the joint, so they can perhaps come back later and get what they really want. It does beg the question, doesn't it? Shouldn't they be at a house party getting wasted with all their other under-aged peers? - not out trick or treating like 5 year olds? That's where I would have been at their age. Anyway - I digress. I got to thinking about all this as I drove to Stratford yesterday past some lovely old farms in the country. There were several farms with large displays of pumpkins for sale. Normally I might have stopped to pick up a few, but I just couldn't muster up the enthusiasm. It bores me now. What we need are some new ideas - some new holidays perhaps. Or....how about we combine all the holidays into one? Make one big effort for one a year and have it done with. We can call it "Gonutswithdecorations Day". I'm in.

Friday, October 2, 2009

You're all goddesses to me.

I have a bone to pick with just about every female I know. It's time we stopped being so hard on ourselves. I am surrounded daily by some of the most impressive, talented, vibrant women anywhere and I am continually amazed at how self-deprecating most of us are. We are truly our own worst critics. Take my friend Cindy for instance (aka Halifax Broad - see link to her blog at the end of my sidebar). If you are a regular reader of her blog (and you should be) but don't actually know her, you might have the impression that she is a fat, unattractive booze-hound with a chip on her shoulder the size of Nova Scotia, but you would be wrong. Far from it, she is a tall, blonde (natural blonde), athletic, statuesque pretty gal with a disarming smile, and possibly one of the most creative and funny women I know. (and a devoted and loving mom to boot). Don't let her caustic, bitter blog delivery fool you. This woman has it going on and it's just a matter of time before the world figures it out. (and some fortunate man discovers the passion of his lifetime). And that's just one. I have other friends who think they're too fat or too skinny or too unaccomplished, too old, too unfocused, too, too, too. It matters not what their individual complaints aimed toward themselves are, the point being, they are all wrong. We are all wrong. We need to boost our own egos, blow our own horns, speak our own truths and stop the negative self talk once and for all. Life is hard enough, the challenges a constant and our time here short - too short to waste one more minute focused on our supposed flaws. We need to do it for our daughters, our sons and ultimately for ourselves. In the meantime, I plan to remind my circle of amazing women how great they are and maybe in doing so, will help them believe it too. Let's all just stop the madness. Perfection is an illusion. Be yourself ladies - it's all good.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Let her go mom - just let her go

I have often wondered if I don't give my daughter enough credit when it comes to her social skills and manners. As parents, we don't always see how they interact in the world when we are not present to encourage them, correct them, or speak up on their behalf. It is as though I can't imagine she has a voice of her own sometimes. I know I am guilty of treating her like a child in this regard and that is why it came as such a lovely surprise today when I got a call from the volunteer co-ordinator of a local seniors' residence where she is about to start spending some time. As part of her high school community service requirements, she will spend a couple of hours a week helping out with various social programs for the residents of the home. Last night she attended a three hour orientation that introduced them to the facility and the staff and briefed all the volunteers on their duties and responsibilities and the minimum commitment they expect. When I dropped her off, I did the usual motherly lecture - be polite, shake hands, try not to appear too shy, ask questions, pay attention and on and on ad- nauseum. She was about to fly alone on this one - I was not staying with her to hold her hand - she would be making her own impression without any input from "mom". When I picked her up 3 hours later and quizzed her as to what she had learned - she was vague and not too forthcoming. It had been a long day for her and it did not surprise me that she was tired and didn't feel like talking about too much. I let it alone. She has one more interview prior to being given a work schedule. She still has to be interviewed before she knows if she will be chosen for the job. So, imagine my delight when the co-ordinator called to change her appointment time and then proceeded to tell me how lovely she was, and how she had presented herself confidently, was polite, mannerly and attentive and thought she would fit nicely into their volunteer group. Was she talking about my daughter? Don't get me wrong - I think very highly of her as well, (as have most of her teachers) but hearing it from another adult that had no reason to praise her, other than wanting to share her opinion with me was one of those "proud mother" moments that are all too rare and most welcome. Like I said, I really don't give her enough credit and this was a little wake-up call for me. She's way more ready to fly than I think. Not that my work is done, but I may be getting closer to retirement here than I realized. All these years, you wonder if all the nagging and teaching have sunk in and then something like this happens and you get your answer. She's turning out OK. Better than OK.

Monday, September 28, 2009

The Long and Winding Road to Authenticity

We shall not cease from exploration And the end of all our exploring Will be to arrive where we started And know the place for the first time. T.S. Eliot
I recently came across a book on my shelf called The Hard Questions for an Authentic Life. It surprised me when I came across it because I had completely forgotten buying it. It got put in the collection pile on the bottom shelf of my night stand and never resurfaced until a recent clean up. It was as though when I bought it, I wasn't quite ready to tackle some of those questions, but a little voice in my head told me to buy it anyway for some future date. Lately, I have been considering that very concept, asking myself if I do indeed live my life authentically and where I might be able to tweak it a bit. We all play roles in our life that can feel natural, or in the case of some, not so natural. I think we all want to present ourselves to the world as decent, kind and caring citizens and most days I think I do. But what of some of our other roles? The role of mother has presented it challenges along the way. Setting a good example for everything, everyday, in every category can be a stretch on the best of days. How many times have I stopped myself from using the "F" word or flipping the bird to some rude driver or held back a criticism in the name of being a shining example for my daughter? Now that she is a bit older, I do let the occasional profanity fly but it always seems like it is outside the "role" I have created - the one I decided from the onset I wanted to present to her. But have I been authentic? Is that woman who I really am? I have a friend whose mother has a mouth like a truck driver and whenever I have met her, it amazes me how she lets it rip in front of her daughter, in front of me and in front of anyone who happens to be within earshot. This is not some trail-trash broad either. In fact, she is quite wealthy, self-assured and funny as hell. I admire her. I come away from an encounter with her thinking - wow! - she really doesn't give a fuck what anyone says about her and that she is authentic. Of course, it goes beyond potty-mouth and the brazen courage to spew whenever you feel like it. And frankly, it would be inauthentic for me to let the fucks fly whenever and to whomever all the time. I do think some boundaries are necessary in certain social situations and certainly in work situations, but I suppose one could reach a stage in life where none of that matters either. I don't think it would be respectful to speak that way all the time and I do choose my moments. So what is authentic for one person is not necessarily authentic for another. The book is divided into chapters or areas of your life to examine. Family. Friendships. Intimate Relationships. Work. Money. Creativity and finally Spiritual Life. There's a lot to cover. The questions are long and require quite a bit of thought and honesty. It could take me months to answer them all. I have a bad habit of flipping to the end of a book to read the final paragraph and in this case the final question. The last question in the book is What would I want to be written in my obituary or said about me in a eulogy? Maybe after I answer the gazillion other questions leading up to that one, I will have the answer to that one or a least a clearer idea of what I would want it to be. I do know I will want at least part of it to read that she lived life to the fullest and didn't waste time living in fear of the opinions of others. I think I'm getting there, one blog at a time.