Saturday, February 28, 2009

Something to Count On

Saturday morning in my house follows a fairly regular routine. I am up first (always) and while Doug and Emma slumber, I have the place to myself. I stay in my pajamas, read the Saturday Globe and have breakfast at my leisure. From time to time I look out the dining room window and watch the keen walkers and runners pass by (my guilt over this lessens with each passing year) and for most of the year, not much differs. However, once the weather starts to warm up sometime in May, I move my routine to the deck so I can listen to the birds and soak up the morning sun and admire my garden. My longing for the shift starts to escalate around this time every year. Although it is only February 28, there are already little signs of the change in my garden. Little pointed tips have begun to emerge (barely) but face the continuous slap of old man winter whenever they try. As an avid gardener, I rejoice in what will soon come as it does without fail every spring. In fact, this year seems even more important to me as my need for some cheering up seems more urgent than ever before. Since last September, the doom and gloom around us has really wreaked havoc on my spirit and nothing picks me up like my garden in the spring. To hold me over until then, I keep little glimpses of spring around inside the house. A pot of daffodils in the living room, a hyacinth in the bathroom (nature's air freshener) and a little mini iris on the kitchen window sill to entertain me while washing the dishes. Small indulgences like these are an elixir to me. I will find other ways to make cuts to the grocery budget to have these things around me. This morning's paper was especially harsh with stories of the worsening economy. Earlier in the week a piece by Niall Ferguson (doomsayer extraordinaire) forecasting inevitable eruption of Civil Wars around the globe was further highlighted in a piece about said doomsayers and the history of previous doomsayers from 1929. Some of their predictions materialized, others did not. Reading all this day after day after day is enough to take the wind out of anyone's sails. I take it a step further and read a weekly forecast - The Merriman Analysis - a well-regarded business astrologer subscribed to by many corporate leaders on Wall Street and abroad. Had I heeded his advice back in October, I could have stopped our own personal losses before they got worse, but who do you believe? I actually do think there is something to the planet's alignment and the effect it has on our lives, but my husband just thinks it's kooky. When you get right down to it, the future is anyone's guess, so even though Pluto is in Capricorn from 2008-2023 (a planetary event that only occurs every 248 years) indicating massive changes in economic structures and boundaries, what good is this information if most of the world just poo-poos it? So, I think I"ll just forget worrying about the stock market and stick to something I can depend on - the changing seasons and my Saturday morning routine and count my blessings while I still can, for this too shall pass (just not as quickly as some would like to think).

Friday, February 27, 2009

A Symphonic Experience

In an effort to further my daughter's musical education, I took her to the symphony last night. The TSO was performing The Damnation of Faust accompanied by The Toronto Mendelssohn Choir, The Toronto Children's Chorus and an assortment of other vocalists in the leading roles. I thought that since the orchestra was joined by a story, it would be a more appealing introduction to her first symphony experience. This is a kid who has seen We Will Rock You four times now and thinks I grew up in the best era of music - rock! (she is right about that much). My motivation as a parent is to try to give her all the things I never had growing up as most parents want to do. The closest I got to classical music as a child was in Bugs Bunny cartoons and Sunday afternoon band concerts at Montebello Park in my hometown. My kid was going to be a culture vulture if I had anything to do with it! Over the years since she was old enough to sit still in a theatre or concert hall, her father and I have introduced her to many ballets, live theatre productions and even enrolled her in drama and ballet classes - all the things that had been missing in my own childhood. The symphony seemed like the next step for her as she has asked recently if she could take cello lessons. I counted 20 cellos in the orchestra last night, pointing out to her that if she was serious about this latest desire, she should pay close attention to them. She rolled her eyes and said - "I know the cello Mom, I'm not dumb!" Pardon moi, I thought, I didn't realize she had downloaded her ipod with her favorite cello music - some young female Japanese cello player, who apparently is her inspiration to learn the instrument. So, I shut up. The concert began and we both followed along in our programs as the presentation was in French and we had to read the translations as it proceeded so we could follow the story. The concert went 2 hours and 3 minutes without an intermission and to say we did not get fidgety would be an understatement. Emma had pointed out earlier that a large majority of the audience were "old folks". That's when it struck me - you have to be an "old folk" to truly appreciate the symphony! Don't get me wrong, I love the spectacle and the beauty of the gathered musicians and the sounds that emerge from their instruments, but it's not rock n' roll! At the end of it all, I was proud of her for the effort she made to understand the story and for not asking me what time it was every 10 minutes. She is a trooper - I'll give her that. And unlike her older more mature mother, she managed to stay awake the whole time. (I only nodded off for about 10 minutes somewhere in the middle). On the way home she said, "well, mom, that wasn't exactly our best night out at the theatre, was it?" "No, I said, but we had a nice mother/daughter night together and that's always a good thing." She agreed (I was grateful for that) and said maybe we'll stick to live theatre." Amen!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Raising the White Flag

Working in the world of interior design for many years, I always felt pressure to dress stylish,(I tried) wear my hair in a current style, (my hairdresser tried) drive the status car (never bothered trying), keep my own house on trend, (it looked good in 1995) and keep up with all the latest and greatest in home decor.(I kind of did do that one.) But I gotta say that since all this melt-down in the economy has occurred, I really feel like the pressure is off. Since business is so slow, I haven't had a need to shop for new clothes (no where to wear them), I now have a chance to grow out my short hair, (no one will see it go through that ugly phase), my new modest Saturn Aura Hybrid seem tres PC (hulking SUV"s and Hummers hanging their headlights in shame all over the neighbourhood) and my own house with all its warts and aging appliances feels downright virtuous. (not to say I am not still longing for a set of those cherry red front loaders!). I can breathe a sigh of relief because in my mind, the competition is over. I have raised the white flag. Thank god for that. What the hell has everyone been thinking these last 16 or 17 years? I remember what I lived like before that - it was right around the time I met my husband and I lived alone in a small 2 bedroom apartment, drove a used VW Jetta, still scrounged second-hand shops for unique pieces of furniture and shopped on Spadina for bargain clothing. I had few things of any great value and although I always wanted nicer things, I am quite certain I never would have gone gazillions of dollars into debt to have them. (once I ran my Visa up to $1200 and it took me ages to pay it off - seems laughable now). Essentially, I spent what I earned and even saved a little. Although my husband and I have never lived beyond our means, (ok-so we have a line of credit - but we pay it off every year at bonus time) I have been truly awed by people much younger than we are who have racked up so much debt over this time period, that it must be difficult to sleep at night.....and for what? Are they happier than me? I doubt it. When did "things" become so important that logic blew right out the window and "more, more, more" became the mantra of the masses? I for one am going to enjoy this next decade of living real, living truthfully, living thriftily (way more challenging and rewarding than whipping out a maxed out credit card) and with any luck, our kids will become the most balanced, spiritually evolved generation and protectors of our planet. They won't have to feel the pressure to compete for things like the generation before them. And that's a breath of fresh air.

Tips for Troubled Times

In an effort to move"toward thrift and away from excess", I have come up with a few ideas that some of you may not have considered. That message was conveyed in a recent u tube video that I came across that sort of summed up the way I have felt for quite some time - even before all this economic mess started. As an interior decorator I have always struggled with the "excess" I have witnessed over the years. As fun as it was spending other people's money on things I could never afford myself, I always had that nagging voice in the back of my head that wanted to remind some of my clients that the fabulous Fortuny lamp they just had to have was worth enough to feed a small village in Ethiopia for a year. But, since I was part of the equation, how could I judge? Now that those same splurges are considered gauche and shopping for sport is considered politically incorrect even for those who still have money to spend, I find myself in need of some budgetary cutbacks in my own life. So, here are a few things you can do too...... It's a great time to go vegetarian. My 14 yr old daughter stopped eating meat last September - what great timing - tofu and beans are way cheaper than kobe beef and organic grain-fed chicken! Now's the time to really embrace the multi uses for vinegar and water - and improve your carbon footprint at the same time! Ladies, ladies, ladies - I recently disovered "Root Touch up" - now I only need to have a salon dye job every 3 months! DRUG STORE COSMETICS - say no more! Forget expensive gym memberships - invest in Wii Fit and get outside and walk, run - whatever - the fresh air and sunshine will invigorate you and you won't need to compete with anyone but yourself. Cancel your weekly newspaper subscriptions - keep the weekend paper if you like, you'll be saving trees, money and freeing yourself up to get out and walk (see previous tip). How many magazines do you subscribe to? - get rid of them (with the exception of any home decor mags) and get rid of clutter at the same time - buy one offs on the newsstand when you are interested in the content. I could go on and on but I think I will stop here and make this a weekly blog feature with new tips each time. Besides, I need to go grocery shopping and I haven't clipped my coupons yet. Later.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Cougar Story

Last week someone sent me a u tube video titled : Cougar Barbie. It was mildly amusing. I may have found it more amusing if I myself had not been called a "cougar" last year when I was in New York for my 50th birthday. I was power-walking. I had walked all the way to ABC Home and Carpet from my hotel near Central Park - it's about a 2 hr. hike one way. I really wanted a good work-out after all my culinary indulgences the last 3 days and I was starting the trek back when a young man handing out leaflets for a sample sale blocked my path and stopped me. He gazed into my eyes and as he pressed a leaflet into my hands, said lustily - "Ooooo mama - you're a cougar! " I went left, he stepped right, we did that little "trying to pass by each other dance" and I was off. As I continued my brisk pace up 5th Avenue, I started to smile. Then I started to laugh so hard that I worried people might think I was some kind of deranged street person, so I tried to contain myself. Had someone just referred to me as a cougar? Was it possible that I still had a little "sumthin goin on"? Well, I had just stopped in and checked out this great cosmetic store - one of those places that makes everything with natural ingredients and the girl there had blushed up my cheeks and glossed up my lips, so maybe that was it. Or maybe it was the bleached blonde hair I was sporting. The riskiest dye job of my life in honour of my 50th year. What ever it was, I was bloody taking it as a compliment and although I don't exactly look like "Cougar Barbie", (no leopard print skirts for me and my boobs don't hang to my ankles....yet) maybe, just maybe, I still do have a little "sumthin goin on" afterall.