Tuesday, November 29, 2011

the pause that really refreshes

I was bustling about a blustery downtown. Fitting in personal errands between work errands, trying to keep my receipts straight, and trying to keep the rain out of my eyes and my heels on the slippery sidewalk. It was not a comfortable shopping experience, even though I was in some of my favourite stores doing one of my favourite things - buying bits for creative projects. I was tired, cold, nervous of my slippery boots sending me gracelessly flying, and suddenly aware I'd skipped lunch. 

And then I peered through the window of a creamy, inviting haven. A real English-style (a la Victoria) tea shop in the heart of Chinatown. i've been trying to drink  more tea and less coffee, and this seemed like perfection a I peered through the window. As soon as I stepped inside, the world calmed. It was warm, dry, the epitome of welcoming, and brimming with charm. I actually squealed a little when I saw the stacks of real China tea cups & saucers balanced beside shelves of China tea pots of all sizes and designs. Classic bikes line the high walls, their baskets stuffed with bright red roses. 

I ordered a treat - how often do you see flourless chocolate cake that's actually cake, not fudge? - and it was the perfect accompaniment to a steeped pot of loose leaf blueberry black tea. The shop was empty when I came in, but soon a grandma and her adorable 3 or 4 year old grand-daughter entered and order their own pots of tea and a little plate of cookies to share. Grandma taught her protege how to hold the strainer, how long to let the tea sit. They chatted about her little sister, and coming there some day with her. As we sat, one of the owners brought around a tray of warm-from-the-oven ginger cookies ... so sad for me to have to refuse.

I can't think of a nicer way to spend a few minutes re-freshing, re-charging, and resuming the day. The decor was so homey and quaint and the owners/servers seemed to genuinely care about their products and their  customers' experiences there. I don't often write 'business reviews' and that's not exactly my intention here. I just wanted to share with you a perfect moment in an otherwise blustery, chilly, harried day. I can't wait to take STG there ... soon!

If you're in Victoria and looking for a great afternoon break, why not pop into Venus Sophia for a little spot of peace. 

who are you?

This week's RemembeRED prompt ... Everyone has a favorite photo of themself, whether it’s a childhood snapshot, a professional graduation or wedding photograph, or a close-up taken amongst friends. Some say a photograph steals the soul. This week, show us yours: take us into the moment that photograph was taken. Show us who you were then and what the photograph means–in 300 words.

I don't recognise myself in this photo, 13 years in the making. I can remember the satin gliding over my skin. I can remember slowly relaxing into the comfort of the white cotton duvet on the bed. I can remember the reassuring, relax, encouraging voice of the photographer. But I don't actually recognise the long, strong, lean legs, or the direct, confident eyes. 

The first time I heard of 'boudoir photos' I was unhappily married, unhappily over-weight, and looking for something to make myself feel better about ... everything. When I mentioned it to my husband, his responses included key phrases such as (in no particular order) 'slutty' 'waste of money' 'I can see you anyday' and 'why would anyone want pictures of a fat cow.' I guess somehow the fact that I wanted the pictures for me was lost on him ... or perhaps that was encapsulated in 'waste of money.' Bygones ... I knew that at some point my money would be my own. Only when my money was my own, splurging on photos of myself, when there was barely enough for rent and food at times, was not an option. 

Thirteen years later, the dream came to life. I'm still over-weight, but loved and more frequently happy. I had one hour with the photographer, some coaching ahead of time, and a discrete hotel room. I was far more nervous than I expected. And far more pleased with the results. And, it turns out - those 200 photos - they really are for me. 

Monday, November 28, 2011

review, of sorts, of an author I haven't read, but will

You can tell I've come straight from reading The Bloggess again, because my title is so long, and has commas, which I don't think I've ever done before. It's okay though, I love The Bloggess nearly as much as I love run-on sentences. 

View on Amazon
The author referred to in my unusually long title is one Chuck Palahniuk. Who, you might ask (as did everyone I invited to come with me), is Chuck Palahniuk? Well, he's the author of, amongst many other things, the short stories and novels that lead to the movies Fight Club and Choke. In the interest of full-disclosure and post structure, I will here admit that I have never read anything Palahniuk has written, but I shall soon correct that. I did enjoy Fight Club, the movie, quite a bit as a unique narrative form and creative story - one of the few that has truly surprised me in the last twenty years. But more to the point, the tickets were free. I won them on Facebook in an instinctive response to someone asking a trivia question I happened to know the answer to. And, Fight Club is one of BB1's favourite stories and I thought he might be able to use the tickets. What happened about that is a blog post in and of itself. But back to the point ... 

In the end, STG came with me to the reading, - it was his first, and pleasantly it was the best one I've ever been to. For some people that might not be saying much, but there was a time when I was the poster girl for literature studies at my tiny little university, and attended poetry and book readings what seemed like every few days. So ya, my expectation of book readings is that they are somewhat dry and redeemed only by the relative talent of the author in question ... or their willingness to buy me a glass of wine. 

Not so with Palahniuk. Somehow he manages to be creative, edgy, human, current and accessible all at once. He was refreshingly free of cynicism, despite (or maybe because of) the darkness of some of his writing. His 'reading' was an event - it included participation games that sent almost half of the audience home with an inflatable of one type or another, six people clinging to free books, and many more people munching on king sized chocolate bars during the reading. His answers to the Q & A period were thoughtful, respectful (except perhaps to the fool who asked if he was a dog or cat person - come on!), authentic, revealing, and encouraging. The two short-stories that he read very much left me wanting more, and I look forward to picking up as many of his books as I can. 

What really struck me in his answers and in discussing his stories was how autobiographical, or more accurately rooted in and springing from his life they are. I often stop myself mid-story for feeling like what I'm writing is too 'true-to-life' - even though I know that when I'm inspired by life my writing is its most compelling. So it was hugely affirming for me to hear that someone as accomplished as Palahniuk actually had to take anti-anxiety pills to tell two of his most personal stories. I'm not there yet - that goes without saying - but seeing into Palahniuk's process was enough to tell me that when I can barely stand to write or read a story, I'm likely on the right track. I started a story I really want to tell - a story I really like - early in November, and I can see now that it is the story I need to tell now. So thanks for that, Chuck Palahniuk. And for an entertaining evening. And for the Bounty bar STG shared with me.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

the gift of advent is hope

It's time. I bemoan the constant creep of Christmas marketing earlier and earlier into the retail year because I truly think the magic of Christmas is best preserved by keeping it to a specific season. For me that season lasts from advent to New Years' Day, which makes today the beginning, for me. It's time to kick into gear on collecting gift ideas, digging out the decorations, and considering what new recipes to try for Christmas baking and which old die hards we can't do with out. 

And while I enjoy all of that, none of it has anything to do with what I love about Christmas - the advent themes that remind us to focus on hope, love, peace, joy and Christ. And I'm sure that even the many of you who don't include Christ in your Christmas will still agree that there's always room for more hope, love, peace and joy in our lives.

HOPE. Four little letters. This year hope for me is contained in two phrases 'It gets better' and 'It came to pass; it didn't come to stay.'

The first phrase has been widely popularized by a campaign to combat the high rate of suicide among gay teens. People of all backgrounds, mainly gay, lesbian, bi and transgender, but also speaking to all kids who are routinely bullied, tell their stories in video with the hope that more children will choose life. It's a project I greatly admire and support. It means a lot to me to know that people are standing for our young people to choose life.

'It came to pass; it didn't come to stay' is a saying that I first heard from DivaMoe's momma, and then mine repeated it. It's a great saying for grandmas, even of the northern Canadian variety. It has a charming, backwoodsy ring to it that goes with oatmeal and rocking chairs and wool blankets ... not that either my mom or DivaMoe's are the rocking chair & oatmeal kind of grandma - ha! There have been days when that saying was all I clung to - my temporary mantra. It kept me moving forward when I didn't know that I could. And it held true - life is better than it was 6 months ago. What came to pass didn't come to stay.

And that is the gift of hope. It has people choose to keep on going, to choose life and forward movement and keeping on. And that is the first gift of advent. 

Saturday, November 26, 2011

it's time to light the lights

Tonight I was transported. I was moved, touched, and inspired. And I was transported to a scratchy theatre seat with little padding. I was swooped up and carried back to 1980, to a small town theatre where I was introduced to one of my first and most lasting heroes.

I was reminded tonight why I so admire my small green hero - his tenacity. His leadership. His willingness to overcome his own limitations and fears and pursue his loves and dreams. He showed me then - and reminded me tonight - that no matter where you start from, and no matter what has happened since then, you really can live your dreams. He reminded me that your dreams don't matter if you have to leave the one you love to pursue them. And he and his friends reminded me that everything is better with music.

As a small town girl who dreamed of singing and dancing and acting and being famous, the story of a singing and dancing frog from a Louisiana swamp who makes it all the way to Hollywood was all I have ever needed to witness to think maybe it could happen to me too. And catching up with Kermit and his friends was the perfect medicine tonight.

I've been over-the-moon excited ever since I first heard a new Muppet movie was coming out, and the more I heard the more excited I got. As high as my expectations were, it did not disappoint. Not in the least. It was new and fresh and 100% loyal to the Muppet tradition of gentle preaching, encouraging songs, campiness, and more cameos than you can shake a stick at (just WAIT 'til you see who all is in this movie!).

The opening/closing 'big' song is a definite winner. Catchy and easy to pick up, witty and very seat-danceable (here's a little snippet): 

I doubt it will ever recreate in me the reaction I have to "The Rainbow Connection" - but that was my song in my generation and 'Life's a Happy Song' may be some young girls song now.

In fact, then new movie revisits The Rainbow Connection - among other beloved favourite Muppet tropes - and from the opening chord I sang along with a tear in my eye. I don't think the other people in the theatre minded. Mine certainly wasn't the only voice in the audience.

It's no secret that my spirit's been a little flat of late, and few things like music boost it. This song in particular - with it's connection not just to that small town theatre of long ago where a frog taught me it's okay to dream, but also of singing my BBs to sleep and hoping they dream to - never fails to remind me to believe. In love, and dreams, and magic and myself.

Please go see The Muppets. You are not too cool, or too grown up, or otherwise immune to its charm & wisdom. We need all the hope we can get these days. At some point in the movie, someone says the Muppets are no longer relevant. That what people want now is bashing each other in the head and cynicism. That statement is sadly recognizable, but the point of the movie - one of many good points - is that people really DO still want the Muppets. We want music and laughter and team work and family and hope.

Oh, and by the way ... mana mana ;-) 

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

it had to happen sometime

I just got off the phone with BB2. He's good - living his life in another town. Working hard. Taking care of himself and his home and Sweetie. He's only 19, but he's so suddenly an adult. 

We had a nice chat, mostly talking Christmas plans - which is no simple equation when we have to consider his Dad's family Christmas, Sweetie's 2 parents separate Christmases, and then even just our Christmas involves finding out what's up with STG & his kids, waiting for G&G to get home from Mexico to find out their plans, and hoping against hope that he'll get the right days off. 

He was in a happy mood - he and Sweetie had just gotten back from buying their first bunch of Christmas ornaments and they are looking forward to getting their first tree. And all of a sudden it occurred to me - those special ornaments I have bought him every Christmas since he was born ... they are his now. It's time to package them up, send them to Langley, and find new ornaments to fill in my tree. 
It's a bitter-sweet moment. The intention of that tradition, one my mom started for BB1's first Christmas but that I took over, was always that when the BBs have their own trees the ornaments would give them a start on their own trees, and a connection to Christmas past.

It's been fun - there have been some great ones, like the light-up Mickey Mouse & frozen bowl Pluto that they opened in Vancouver International Airport as we awaited our Christmas morning flight to Disneyland, and the blown glass soldier from when BB2 was in cadets. And there have been 'oh man I'm out of money and still need to get ornaments' Dollar Store and craft options. Many are from craft fairs. Some are a little worse for wear. Most tell a story from the year that reminds us where we've been and what we've done. Some are lovely and generic and just because.

Turns out we don't really have one for every year. Their dad kept some that were discarded when someone else took over trimming that tree. A few have broken. But for 22 years they've been the highlight of my tree. 

It's not the end of the tradition - the BBs will continue to get an ornament in their stocking until there are grandbabies for me to dote on instead ... and maybe even then. I guess there's time for new highlights. Maybe an 'our first year together' ornament for STG and I. Or something just for me.

Everything is as it was intended to be. BB2 is putting up his first tree, and it will be trimmed with as many of his special ornaments as I can find. And I will pine (or more likely Douglas fir - ha!) over the bare spots in my tree this year. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

middle-aged wisdom (no, not from me)

I don't normally read all the way through email forwards, but for some reason this one caught hold and seemed like just what I need. I did a little more poking around, and it seems (according to the author herself) that the Internet has prematurely aged Regina Brett. Some part of me wants her to be 90. Because, as we all know, wisdom is preserved for the aged, and if we can be this wise in middle-age, then what's my real excuse? Someday I hope she will be 90. Right now she's 54. Also, the list is supposed to have 50 entries ... somehow it's become edited ... I suppose there were some lessons in there other people didn't want to learn?

None the less, I paste here, for future reference as a little life barometer, the email in its incorrect entirety. And a link where you can learn more about Regina Brett and her middle-aged wisdom. 
Written by Regina Brett, [not] 90 years old. This is something we should all read at least once a week!!!!!

"To celebrate growing older, I once wrote the 45 lessons life taught me.. It is the most requested column I've ever written. My odometer rolled over to 90 in August, so here is the column once more:

1. Life isn't fair, but it's still good.
2. When in doubt, just take the next small step.
3. Life is too short to waste time hating anyone. Change the way you think.
4. Your job won't take care of you when you are sick. Your friends and family will. Stay in touch.
5. Pay off your credit cards every month.
6. You don't have to win every argument. Agree to disagree.
7. Cry with someone. It's more healing than crying alone.
8. Release your children when they become adults, its their life now
9. Save for retirement starting with your first pay cheque.
10. When it comes to chocolate, resistance is futile.
11. Make peace with your past so it won't screw up the present.
12. It's OK to let your children see you cry.
13. Don't compare your life to others. You have no idea what their journey is all about.
14. If a relationship has to be a secret, you shouldn't be in it.
15. Everything can change in the blink of an eye, but don't worry - God never blinks.
16. Take a deep breath It calms the mind.
17. Get rid of anything that isn't useful, beautiful or joyful.
18. Whatever doesn't kill you really does make you stronger.
19. It's never too late to have a happy childhood. But the second one is up to you and no one else.
20. When it comes to going after what you love in life, don't take no for an answer.
21. Burn the candles, use the nice sheets, wear the fancy lingerie. Don't save it for a special occasion. Today is special.
22. Just because you believe you are right, doesn't mean you are. Keep an open mind.
23. Be eccentric now. Don't wait for old age to wear purple.
24. The most important sex organ is the brain.
25. No one is in charge of your happiness but you.
26. Frame every so-called disaster with these words 'In five years, will this matter?'
27. Always choose life.
28. Forgive everyone everything.
29. What other people think of you is none of your business.
30. Time heals almost everything. Give time time.
31. However good or bad a situation is, it will change.
32. Don't take yourself so seriously. No one else does.
33. Believe in miracles.
34. Your job is to love your children, not choose who they should love.
35. Don't audit life. Show up and make the most of it now.
36. Growing old beats the alternative -- dying young.
37. Your children get only one childhood.
38. All that truly matters in the end is that you loved.
39. Get outside every day. Miracles are waiting everywhere.
40. If we all threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else's, we'd grab ours back.
41. Envy is a waste of time. You already have all you need.
42. The best is yet to come... (Can’t wait to find out what! )
43. No matter how you feel, get up, dress up and show up.
44. Yield..
45. Life isn't tied with a bow, but it's still a gift.
46. If you don't ask you don't get. 

Thursday, November 10, 2011

truth or dare

Yesterday someone on Twitter was playing truth or dare, and I jumped in and said 'truth.' I'd seen some of his dares, and wasn't feeling like getting out of my seat at the moment, so ... truth seemed easier. Due to some 'glitch in the matrix' (his words, not mine) I ended up getting two truth prompts:
  • What's something you wish your twitter followers realized about you that they don't know right now?
  • What story do you wish you would blog about, but wouldn't dare?
And the prompts brought up an issue that swirls around every once in a while - when you're an open book, where do you draw the line?

A friend of mine on Facebook announced yesterday that she's leaving Facebook for a while for personal reasons. I use the term 'friend' in the Facebook sense - she's a girl I went to high school with. It was a very very small high school, so in many ways everyone in our class was friends. But she's not someone I hung out with, or who I had much interaction with. She was more popular than me and as 'in' as there is room to be in a class of 45, and I was mostly just interested in surviving and getting out of town. But through the magic of social media, after all these years we've reconnected. I have insights into her life, and inferences about why she's leaving Facebook that I'm probably not actually enough of a friend to know about. And I think she has the right idea.

What I realised through Kris' prompts is that I have tended to leave very little unsaid on my blog or on Twitter. Less so recently on Facebook - it hasn't felt like a particularly 'safe' space, and I haven't wanted to be terribly revealing there. Most of the really deep stories I have left are not mine to tell - they belong to my BBs and may or may not come out when they are ready. And many of the things that seem revealing - my fears and insecurities, for example, I think people already know. Anyone who has been paying attention knows I struggle with depression and have for many years. Anyone with any sense of interpretation can see that I can turn anything less than "A+ 100% we love you!" into an utter rejection and failure. People have read about my bumpy  search for love and finally finding it.

There are a couple stories I want to tell that I'm incorporating into my  novel so that I get to say them and protect the 'innocent' (mostly so I can hide behind the veil of fiction). But otherwise, I think the move is towards more subtlety. I can be authentic and self-expressed without revealing everything.

As dear Joan Holloway says "Leave a little something to the imaginations, girls."

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

knowing makes no difference

I knew.

Sitting in the back seat of the white Lincoln Town Car my Dad had rented for the occasion. As my hands, clad to the elbow in white satin, slid apart no matter how tightly they grasped each other. As my dress – so much more satin meringue than I had ever imagined wearing – billowed around me, the train cocooning my legs. I knew, in that back seat, hands wringing, satin wrinkling, praying my most fervent prayer:

“Please, God, please. I promise not to doubt you again, if anyone says one worth that suggests I don't have to go through with this. Please, God. Make them speak. Make mom turn her head and see my horror and regret. Make dad feel my pleading eyes burning into the back of his head. Make my maid of honour comment on my most unusual silence.”

I knew - as the Town Car pulled into the church parking lot filled with satin and silence - that the vows I would say that day were a lie.

I knew.

As the first birth control pill circled the drain. Within weeks I knew, as I felt my breasts ache and stretch and then felt BBs first fluttering movements. I knew that he didn’t want a baby, yet. That he didn’t feel the same unbearable ache of loneliness in that frozen damp village we’d landed in. I knew, as I planned and dreamed and sewed and read What to Expect When You're Expecting

I knew that ultimately I’d be raising that baby alone, so it was my decision to make.

I knew.

Staring absently at the marriage counsellor's ugly yellow teeth. As I tried to ignore that he was talking to my chest again. As he rattled on about wifely duties, and commitment, and not saying yes unless you mean it. I knew as my husband reiterated his favourite highlights of that pointless conversation on the drive home. I knew. At long last I really truly knew.

And after ten years of knowing, I finally stopped waiting for permission and left.
*remembeRED is a weekly memoir writing prompt from Write on Edge that will now be a regular part of this blog 

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

all booted up

I don't know when I became a boot wearing girl. Heck, growing up in snowy frigid  Northern BC I wouldn't even wear snow boots in winter. Between inheriting my dad's muscly calves, and adding my own layers of fluff over the muscle, stylish boots haven't often been an option. 

I tried to pretend for a long time that I was fine wearing ankle boots but ... really ... we all know those are just for fat girls who can't wear real boots. As a young mom, and then a returning univeristy student, there wasn't a lot of money or need for stylish boots, and I wasn't a particularly stylish person.

But somewhere, somehow, over the last 10 years - maybe it's living in Victoria, or maybe it's losing some weight, or maybe I've just come into my own in my 40s - I have become a boot girl.

Ankle boots, yes, because they are blue suede, and lovely, and remind me of Glasgow where I bought them, and they are now a style statement rather than a consolation prize 

But also calf hugging black stretchy boots that massage gently with every step and whose solid square heel and kicky square toes say "Heck ya, I'm tall, and I'm wearing these boots - deal with it!"

And sexy blood red boots with fun polka-dot seams that look like trouble

And comfy almond toe brown boots that do nothing for my ankles but everything for my spirit with some fantastic curves and buckles. 

Delicate grey suede boots that murmur gathered femininity with the click of each kitteny heel.
and now I'M A PIRATE YOU BETTER WATCH OUT over-the-knee/fold-down boots in black leather, with laces that shiver his timbers.

Oh, by the way, I finally own winter boots ... now that I no longer live where real winter happens. 

Yes, I am a boot girl now. And a shoe girl. And a bags girl. I don't collect any of them indiscriminately. I don't have insane piles of them that people comment on. But I have them. And want more of them. And each pair and each bag says something different about the many sides of me.

That was fun! 

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...