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.