We Can Come Out Of This Bitter or Better: Preparing For The Resurrection

We can come out of this bitter or better.

Those profound words were spoken last week by my friend Deborah Harbottle. And I’m quite sure no truer words could be uttered at this time.

I personally have now completed week 4 of total social isolation. And here it is Easter weekend. There will be no family dinner, no hugging my son (who I have not hugged since mid-January) and for many, no church service to celebrate the resurrection of Christ. I am not a church-going Christian so that part impacts me very little. What I am struck with is how now, after 4 weeks, we might want to start preparing for our own resurrection. Because I do believe it will come. And when it does we will have to choose.

Bitter or better?

Will we be pissed off that we missed spring and possibly also a good chunk of summer? Will we be resentful that we couldn’t celebrate birthdays, Easter, May 24 weekend and who knows what else? Will we be depressed that we lost our job, our income, our purpose and our freedoms? Will we be ashamed that we put on some weight and drank too much wine? Will we be bitter that the Corona Virus forced us to swallow this horribly sour pill?

Or will we be better?

I choose better even though I know full-well that better is going to take a lot of work. Bitter is easy. Just focus on how much life has changed, how the new normal is decidedly different, how lonely we are, how much we’ve had to give up and how it’s just not fair. Yes, it is easy to succumb to bitter.

But better is going to take some deep, hardcore re-evaluation. And the one thing I know about (most) people is that deep hardcore self-evaluation often ranks up there with root canal work on the pleasure scale. But evaluate we must IF we want this world event to teach us what I truly believe it is meant to teach us.

Okay I said I was not a church-going Christian. But I am spiritual. I enjoy a big connection with The Universe. (I mean that. I really do enjoy it). And this morning on my walk it hit me. The Universe wants the entire world to wake the fuck up.

Shall we check in –

  1. Here’s a pandemic, folks. It will mostly kill older people. Infirm people. People who may not have decades to look forward to regardless. BUT it will also randomly (or so it seems) kill ANYONE. No matter the age, race, religious leaning or general state of health, it just might kill anyone. Including YOU or those YOU love. Shit.
  2. We have to physically distance ourselves from those we love in order to protect those we love. In doing this we also protect a whole lot of people we don’t know. Holy crap. We are being taught (inadvertently) to care for our fellow man.
  3. We are now forced to confront our own reality – whatever it is. Many of us are living in it 24/7 so if we didn’t like it before this is sure as hell not going to make us like it now. Now when there is no escape. Yep. Where do you really want to be? And why?
  4. We can’t go shopping, dine out, invite pals for drinks and dinner or even host a backyard barbecue. If “social” was your jam it can no longer BE your jam. And if you have a summer place forget it. Don’t go. No jamming allowed.
  5. If you are single and alone you are REALLY fucking single and alone now. Maybe it’s time to reach out and facilitate the life you want instead of waiting for it to come to you?
  6. Work, overwhelming prosperity, adulation and/or social status no longer count. The heroes of our day are the front-line medical workers who are risking their own lives for US. The grocery store cashiers and the waste collectors and the pharmacy clerks and the cleanup crews. Actors? Sports stars? People famous for being famous? The folks we worshiped and rewarded with handsome financial compensation? They are not in our reality anymore. Musicians, yes. Authors yes. But the Kardashians of the world have somehow become instantly irrelevant.

But these are first-world problems.

Maybe this pandemic will soften all-world conflicts? Maybe partisan politics will take a back seat to collective care? Maybe some of the members of that 1% billionaire club will lose someone special to this plague and finally realize that money does not guarantee survival? Maybe we will all learn to reach out more, help out more and always be grateful for what we DO have instead of bemoaning what has been taken away?

Resurrection: a rising again, as from decay, disuse … a revival. (dictionary.com)

Mother Earth is enjoying a much-needed rest. Selfish, posturing and uncaring politicians are being exposed for who they truly are. Regular, everyday humans (like you and me) are being forced to find new ways to love. New ways to show up. New ways to be there for those who need us. New priorities to embrace. New realities to evaluate.

I don’t think it’s any Universal coincidence that what could be the defining week of this wake-up call falls hot on the heels of Easter. Forget the chocolate bunnies, daffodils, church services and coloured eggs. Christian or not, I urge you to think about resurrection.

Yours. Our country’s. The planet’s.

How you THINK and act now and in the coming weeks will impact that resurrection profoundly.

Will you be bitter or better?

Your choice.

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Is All This Isolation “Disturbing” You?

“Time is a great healer. But it is also a great disturber.”

These intriguing words were spoken to me last night, during  a video chat with my friend JL. We were discussing these past two and a half weeks of alone-ness. Of distancing. Of just maybe getting to know ourselves and our circumstances a little better.

Ah yes, our circumstances. Those very things we have spent a lifetime either inventing, enjoying or avoiding. And here we are, unexpectedly forced to actually LIVE our circumstances whether we like them or not. We’re a little bit frozen. We can’t invent much new and we can’t escape what is present. If we’re very fortunate we can perhaps enjoy and be grateful for what we have.

I also had a nice chat with my pal K yesterday. I asked him how he and his partner were coping. His reply: “We’re really enjoying the break.”

WTF you might ask? The BREAK?

Yep. That’s what he called it. Because for them this forced hiatus from the “real world” is a break. An opportunity to slow down, rest, reflect, breathe, enjoy each other and NOT be consumed with the day-to-day rumblings of ordinary life.

Because there ain’t nothing ordinary about these times.

Just ask T. T is retired and single. T has no one to “enjoy” this break with except her dog. No job to go to, no colleagues to lunch with, no friends to socialize with and no children to tend to. And T is very, very lonely.

And then there’s W. W is going bat-shit stir-crazy. Because W is a go-go-go gal and when she can’t go, she’s goes nuts. She can’t go to the gym, she can’t play soccer, she can’t work her head off (even though she can work from home) and can’t escape her current relationship. The one that doesn’t much fulfill her anymore. The one she thinks she should end. The one that is now in her face full-time.

THIS is why all this isolation time is the great disturber. So much time stuck in your own reality, your own thoughts, your own house and even your own denial and yeah … you are bound to get disturbed. When our typical distractions are minimized or become non-existent there can be no avoidance. We are forced to confront our circumstances and evaluate them. We are (I hope) compelled to look towards the future with clearer eyes. What IS important? What ARE the true priorities? What WILL we do when freedom is again ours to take for granted?

There is so much interesting stuff going on right now. Skies are clearer. Waters are too. We are finding new ways to connect. We are acknowledging how importance connection is. Boundaries, whether social, economic, geographical or political are blurring. Because we are all equally susceptible to this plague. Some of us will undergo financial hardship, some will weather the storm heroically, some will suffer unbearably and some … like my pal K … will find the silver lining and enjoy the break.

The one thing I’ll put money on is this – when we come the other side, no one will be the same. No one will be unaltered. No one will simply resume.

At least this is what I hope.

No distractions. No denials. No diversions.

But disturbance?

Yes.

Disturbance can be very, very good.

I urge you to allow it. Embrace it. Make friends with it. Even in these dark times.

Who knows what incredible light is waiting at the end of the tunnel?

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Stay The Fuck At Home!

Okay, sorry for the foul language. I do have a potty mouth and believe it or not I do try to keep it in check, but not today. And not because of the Corona virus pandemic – that is what it is (hello Universe). But the morons who can’t quite figure out how to respond to our new normal … well that makes me cuss. A lot.

Yesterday (Sunday) I spent an hour in church. Not a four-walled church or a physical gathering but my own personal temple which happens to be … the great outdoors. I walked in the glorious sunshine, alone and content, for almost an hour. I saw Georgian Bay churning up spectacular waves, I saw ice on the lakeside trees shimmering in the morning sun, I saw the bluest sky I’ve seen this year and I saw an empty church parking lot. Like, a “real” church. Because of course real congregation is now forbidden.

I was SO happy that my communion with a higher power doesn’t need bricks, pews, crosses and altars. So happy that no virus and no government and no law can mandate my fellowship with the divine. The divine within me and the divine all around me. My walk was truly heavenly.

And then today, after a snowy white start and more and more bad news, my province announced we are shutting down. Essential services only. It’s not total quarantine. We can still get food, medicine and wine (thank goodness!) and as far as I know I CAN STILL GO FOR MY DAILY WALK.

But I’m not sure. And I’m not sure for how long. Because the next step is full lock-down. FULL lock-down like Italy.

I cannot even imagine.

I can handle closed stores and limited live human interaction. I can handle ordering my groceries online (I love shopping for food) and lots of phone calls instead of visits. I can handle working from home (I already do) and reading tons of books (yay Kindle!). But … I’m not sure that I will be able to handle NOT walking outside.

Even when I broke my ankle ten years ago, the MINUTE I was able to put my foot down (literally) I was back on the sidewalk. Crutches, cane, the arm of a friend – I did it. Because walking outside is my thing. I don’t own a treadmill and I don’t go to the gym. I walk outdoors. Preferably alone with my music and my soul.

But now I go walk and then I see photos online. Crowded beaches, folks out eating and shopping, stupid American presidents, the list is endless. And I think “I’m going to lose it. I am going to lose my church. Because some moronic, self-absorbed, unaware group of FUCKTARDS don’t want to listen and actually HEAR and then ACT, I am most likely going to lose my church.”

Yes. Poor selfish me.

Stay the fuck at home people. Unless you are one of the amazing and selfless front-line humans keeping our world afloat, PLEASE stay the fuck at home. Don’t invite friends over. Don’t bend the rules just a little. Don’t believe for a minute you are above and beyond. You are not. I am not.

Find your own sanctuary. Dwell in it in peace. Do unto others. Do the absolute best you can do for the human race (and apparently now gorillas too). Do it with grace and gratitude. Just do it.

Stay the fuck at home.

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Why The Corona Virus Will Probably Make Me Fat

So here we are, wrapping up the first week of the Twilight Zone. Last Friday I was shopping for groceries and was astounded at the empty toilet paper aisle. Now, 7 days later, we have come to expect crazy. And we expect crazy to get crazier.

I work from home and live in a small community which (so far) seems relatively unscathed by this pandemic. That’s today. However in view of tomorrow, we have decided to pretty much hunker down, self-isolate and wait. We do bring food to our 85 year-old neighbour and I do go for my daily walk (cutting a very wide berth around anyone I should meet) but other than that it’s just me, my beloved and our pooch, day-in and day-out.

I am fine with this. As socially gregarious as some folks think me to be, I’m actually very content in my own company. Here’s what I am not so content with:

My increasing desire for comfort food.

This past week I made a monstrous pan of bacon mac and cheese. Sure, we brought a casserole dish full to our neighbour. Buy boy oh boy that is EXACTLY what I wanted to eat. Mac and cheese and soup. Every night I make a different cauldron of soup. Creamy potato and sausage, curried veg, oriental noodle … whatever I can think of that sounds comforting. We have ice cream in the freezer and pasta in the pantry. I know how to make almond-flour bread and mozzarella pizza crust. Ain’t nobody gonna starve on my watch!

Now, I am not a girl who is prone to panic. I’m pretty good at maintaining a clear head in times of crisis, I stay logical and forward-thinking and am proud to say I am usually the one my friends come to when they are anxious. So why the comfort eating?

I am going to go out on a limb here and say … for comfort. Yes for comfort. We all need reassurance in these trying times. We need warmth. Hugs. Love. Fulfillment. Alas we’re not allowed to practice physical affection with anyone but those within our immediate sphere.

So we listen to music. Watch television. Read books. Play with our kids (not me, he’s not here and I think too old to play, although we do both love a good board game). We try not to get addicted to our news feed. We try to help out our neighbours. To help out small business in our community. We stay connected via modern technology, we maybe drink an extra glass of wine and we EAT.

There’s nothing wrong with that. Sure, there is something wrong (or at least unhealthy) with gluttony to the point of obesity. But craving comfort in a discomforting time is normal. And when your options for producing comfort are diminished, you do what you can.

For us women there is more yet to come. I mean, we may get a bit chubby but we’re also going to have to give up hair colour. A trip to the beauty parlour doesn’t exactly satisfy social distancing guidelines, does it? I have highlights in my naturally dirty blonde hair and I am suddenly wishing I was grey. Because grey roots wouldn’t show nearly as soon as dirty blonde roots. Oh well … we’ll see what happens. Same goes for pedicures, facials, fake nails, fake eyelashes, Botox, fillers and massages (damn). All verboten.

In the last week I have not worn a speck of makeup. Not even once. I have also not worn a bra (yay!). My hair is in a ponytail, my roots are coming in, I’m praying my most recent pedicure lasts at least 6 weeks and I’m hoping my beloved will take over massage-duty.

I don’t care about the rest of it.

I hope you don’t either. And I hope you don’t get crazy if you put on a few lbs. in the next few months. Walk as much as you can. It truly is the BEST thing for stress (and fitness). If you can work out at home (and want to) then work out at home. Treat yourself to music and books and television. Have an extra glass of wine without shame.

And if a little extra comfort food brings you comfort in these crazy times then please … be comforted. Comfort yourself. Comfort others (if you like to cook). Allow yourself the luxury of just a little indulgence.

These are crazy times. Let’s not add to the crazy trying to be movie starts or supermodels. They are in this too and every bit as susceptible. Let’s be loving. To others and to ourselves.

Tonight we’re having garlic bread with barbecued chicken, tomatoes, grated cheddar and a salad. We are watching “Friends” because it makes us laugh. We will drink (more) wine, walk the dog and slumber soundly in our beautiful bed.

I feel comforted already.

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Trying Hard To Get Untamed … (or How To Learn From Glennon Doyle, Be Still and Just Listen)

I have just started to read Glennon Doyle’s new memoir “Untamed” (out today). With my own memoir coming out in a few months I am obviously intrigued by how other women write theirs. But with Ms. Doyle I am also always intrigued by her perspectives. That girl has made some tough choices in this life and has lived to not only tell her tales but thrive in them. At least now. It would appear that now, living her third memoir, she is finally untamed and very, very real.

As she thrives, I strive. I strive to be authentic, truthful, clear, brave and sensitive. Helpful, patient (damn, that’s a hard one) and vulnerable. Do I always get there? To those lofty destinations? Hell, no. But I strive.

I left this new book today (I’m the kind of girl who will abandon my life completely to read a good book in one sitting so I have learned to ration) after the chapter where the author teachers herself (and us) to “Be Still”. Yes, physically, but ultimately in the pursuit of mental stillness; a place to which we sink until we finally hear our inner voice. Our “Knowing”, she calls it. God, if you will.

I call it my Personal Cruise Director. Because this life is the one and only cruise I will ever take and if I am not available for advice and guidance from my cruise director, think of all the amazing highlights I might miss?

It’s not always easy accessing this inner PCD. There is a lot of distraction on a cruise ship. Some distractions we must attend (the life-jacket  drill!) and some we choose to observe and/or participate in. Getting STILL can be a challenge.

But a worthwhile one. I realized today that I often write this blog after taking a bath. While luxuriating in those bubbles I get pretty quiet. I’m not washing my hair or shaving my legs or getting ready for the day ahead. I am calm. And quiet. And that is when these blogs formulate in my brain. That is when my PCD shows up. It’s never crowded in that bathtub. My PCD is always a welcome guest.

The other great takeaway (so far) from “Untamed” – most women face an immense challenge. This quest to become … well … untamed. Undomesticated. Untouched by society’s dictates and unrestricted in the choices we make. The choices we make to personalize this one and only cruise to our own authenticity. That exact authenticity that we can only come to know when we quiet all the other voices which, over the years, have drowned out the reality that is us. Or in my case, ME.

Which brings me to a story about my ex-husband that I have not (so far) included in my upcoming memoir. My book (The Potty-Mouthed Chef: How To Cheat, Eat and Be Happy) is not the story of a broken marriage. It is the story of a marriage that broke and my journey thereafter. But this little tale is somewhat significant in that, in hindsight, I realize it set the tone for our courtship, our marriage and our wedded life. It is a tale about the TAMING of Vickie.

We were still in the dating phase and we were at a wedding. All his friends. I may have met a couple a time or two but it was ALL his people. When the formalities ended one of his old (girl) friends swooped in and unceremoniously spirited my beloved away, off to reconnect with their old cronies. He glanced back over his shoulder sheepishly as she tugged on his sleeve and then went along. He WENT ALONG with HER leaving me standing there in a hotel ballroom full of people I did not know.

I truly don’t remember how long I stood. I’m pretty sure it felt like a billion years. What I do recall is he finally returned at which time I suggested we slip out to the lobby for a private drink. And so we did.

I was just a tiny bit (read: huge amount) irate. Pretty sure I blathered on for more than a tiny bit while he sat there stewing and fuming. Finally, when my blathering abated, dearly beloved said to me in the coldest tone imaginable, “I don’t need this shit.”

I froze. In fear. To this day I don’t really remember what happened next but those five words froze me in fear. Because he didn’t need this shit. He didn’t need MY shit. He didn’t need me dragging him away from his pals to point out what an inconsiderate jerk he was. He didn’t need it.

Untamed Vickie would have responded, “Neither do I.” Untamed Vickie would have quietly murmured, “I don’t need an inconsiderate jerk for a boyfriend. If you insist on being an inconsiderate jerk and you can’t even take ownership of and apologize for your inconsiderate jerkdom, I don’t need you in my life!”

That is what untamed Vickie would have said.

I, alas, was still quite tamed. And afraid that once again my BIG FAT MOUTH would cost me another relationship with another pretty fabulous (when he wasn’t a jerk) guy.

So I apologized. I apologized for making a mountain out of a molehill. I apologized for my insecurities and my rudeness and my “unacceptable” behaviour.

Sorry … what? What the fucking what?

I apologized for MY unacceptable behaviour.

I salvaged the situation AND the relationship.

Tamed. I was tamed. He tamed me good and plenty.

I don’t do that stuff anymore. You know why? It doesn’t work in the long run. You get tamed for an evening or a week or even fourteen years of marriage. But you never, ever, ever truly get housebroken. Because there was never anything broken in the first place. You were just YOU.

I don’t believe I am savage or uncivilized or even feral. What I am is aware. Mindful. Cognizant of my own truth and my own needs, desires, boundaries and even limitations. There is NO man, woman or child who can interfere with the legitimacy of MY cruise.

Now please don’t go confusing this conviction with selfishness. Trust me, one thing I know is that we all have two inner voices. 1. The Child. I want, I want, I want. 2. As Ms. Doyle says – The Knowing. I need.

The Knowing is what we need. To survive. To cruise the fuck out of this life.

So get still. BE still.

Your PCD is waiting.

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Is An Idle Mind Really The Devil’s Playground?

You’ve heard the old saying, right – An idle mind is the devil’s playground?

Yes indeed, we are not supposed to be slackers. Ever. That puritan work ethic should ring in our ears loud and clear ALL THE TIME. We should go go go and do do do and be productive AT EVERY TURN because God knows we don’t want that old devil playing on our ground, tempting us into unpuritanical pursuits.

Maybe.

But here’s another one I just read – Feeling the need to be busy all the time is a trauma response and fear-based distraction from what you’d be forced to acknowledge and feel if you slowed down.

Now that one I totally get. Because I have witnessed far too many people jump on that never-ending treadmill daily. Not because they have to, mind you, and please know I have the utmost respect for people who work their asses off because that’s how the bills get paid. I’m talking about people who make a decent living and have time for an occasionally idle mind but they CHOOSE to energizer-bunny it all the livelong day. They join clubs and take up hobbies and volunteer and hit the gym frequently and do whatever it takes to never ever have a moment alone with themselves.

I don’t get it.

I once skied with a girl I had just met (let’s call her L) who was incapable of sitting on the chairlift without humming. Or half-singing. You know, that weird (annoying) thing that some folks do when they cannot  abide a moment’s silence. It was a gorgeous late-winter day. The sun was ablaze, the conditions were perfect and the sky was really blue. I was totally content to sit on that chair in silence enjoying the serenity as I mentally prepared myself for the next run. But L absolutely could not. Even when I asked her about her constant need to make noise she still could not stop. The minute there was a pause in our conversation she started chirping.

Was it because she did not want to confront her pain? She was distracting herself from the reality she would have to face in a quiet world? She was scared shitless of that next double black diamond?

I have no idea. But I do suspect that L was a girl who simply could not be alone with her thoughts because she wouldn’t like what she was thinking. Whatever that was.

I have another friend F who never seems to have a moment to himself. Literally. Not to himself, not for his many friends and barely even for his family. Between his high-powered job, his many altruistic pursuits, his hobbies, his sporting endeavours and his love of taking on new challenges, F is one very busy little beaver.

F is also horribly dissatisfied with his marriage.

I don’t think I have to spell out the math on this one.

My father, who was truly the most self-made man I’ve ever known (came from Europe with nothing – no family, no friends, no money, no English), was a HUGE believer in the term “creative idleness”. He taught it to me at an early age. He purported that one must have downtime in order to foster inspiration. In order to allow epiphanies to epiphanize (yes I just made up that word). To process one’s desires, accomplishments, dreams and plans.

I call this two things. 1. Getting in touch with yourself. 2. Getting in touch with God. Or the Universe. Or a higher power. Or your own soul.

Which is pretty much just like #1.

I think that when we fill our heads (and agendas) with non-stop commotion, commitments, quests and business (or busy-ness) we simply expend too much energy to ever find the fortitude to become whole with ourselves. To become whole with our choices, our situations and yes, even our goals. To figure out where we went wrong, what we can do to make it right and even find a way to make those HUGE decisions that may be terrifying and life-altering and yet oh so very necessary.

Essentially, we bury ourselves. And then we wonder why we cannot breathe.

My beautiful friend M is learning. She has long “buried” herself under a mountain of responsibility. Job concerns that keep her up way past midnight. Financial concerns that frighten her into panic attacks. Family concerns that overwhelm her to the point of exhaustion. But M does not allow herself to choose those roads anymore. Because those roads are counter-productive to all that she longs for. Peace. Comfort. Simplicity. A good glass of wine.

M has realized that her job is not the be-all and end-all of her existence. It is a means to an end. The end being mortgage paid and food on the table. M has realized that she can only take one day at a time. Do her best and then allow herself the luxury (and I actually mean NECESSITY) of a good night’s sleep. M has realized that she is not solely responsible for the welfare of her children of her parents.  Sometimes it’s absolutely okay if she passes the buck. M has realized that she is solely responsible for her own well-being.

As are we all.

This means YOU.

So … to coin a newly popular phrase, when someone says to me An idle mind is the devil’s playground, I respond, “Yeah … no.”

EVERY creative thought that has ever entered my brain has entered when I was idle. When I was about to nap or walk in the woods or sit in the sun or lounge in the tub. I can assure you I have never had a creative thought whilst skiing (trying hard not to die), working (trying hard to do my job) or taking care of my loved ones (just trying hard).

And the truth is we don’t all have to aspire to creative thought. I do believe, however, that it behooves us all to aspire to become one with ourselves.

Or God.

You pick.

But I personally have no problem with the devil invading my playground on occasion. Because it is MY  choice what to do with the snake. The beauty is that the snake compels me to CHOICE. To action. To creativity, to affirmation or even just to permission.

And ultimately (I hope) … to harmony.

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How Much Truth Are You Willing To Tell?

I haven’t blogged in a while. I’ve been kinda busy. Not too busy to write, mind you, just busy writing. Editing. Rewriting. Reading out loud and editing some more. And I am now happy (or would that be relieved or maybe even terrified) to report that I am publishing my book. MY BOOK. The one that I wrote.

Well actually, the one that I started writing 12 years ago.

Yeah, sometimes I’m a little slow. But in this case it was never laziness or negligence that rendered me sluggish. It was trepidation. You see, my book is a memoir. Actually my pal C calls it a “cook-moir”. Because it is a memoir which includes recipes.

My book is all about cheating.

In the kitchen.

In the bedroom.

No, not at the same time.

As the word “memoir” suggests (I think) this book will be my memories. MY memories (and therefore my saga) of a tumultuous time in my existence when my marriage exploded and so did my life. But it’s more than a sordid tale of an affair, broken hearts, new love and surprising twists. It’s a tale of my evolution. My jagged journey from desire to disillusionment to discovery. Which I hope is more compelling than my illustrious inclination for alliteration.

The trepidation comes from the fact that even though the names are changed (to protect the innocent; mine remains intact), the narrative is true. At least as true as I recall. But how much truth do we dare tell? How many warts do we willfully expose? How naked are we willing to be as we strut down that very public road?

These are all choices I had to make. And it was hard. Because I didn’t write this book to call anyone out or to blame anyone (except maybe me), to justify my choices or condemn someone else’s or even to seek forgiveness in the public eye. I wrote this book to help.

Golly, Vick, aren’t you just about the most altruistic human being on the planet?! … yes I know it’s what you’re thinking (sarcastically). But the reality is I absolutely had to get to a place of magnanimity before the tone was right. As long as I was sniveling or accusing or even making excuses, my memoir was a kindergarten exercise in self-indulgence. I had to arrive at a place of full understanding and acceptance to actually write a book that (maybe) matters.

But the other thing is – I had to be willing to write the truth. THE TRUTH. Okay, let’s rephrase that to MY TRUTH. Because without the truth my little book is just a racy potboiler drenched in tears. But WITH the truth it is a pilgrimage.

At least I hope so.

The one thing I have always elected to do with this blog is protect the privacy of those included. I never use full names and I even change the initials. Even so, the number of people I have totally PISSED OFF is way higher than I would like.

This makes me sad.

But I also get it. Most people hide behind very heavy cloaks. To have even an inch of that fabric stripped away is disconcerting. Or humiliating. Or both.

I (on the other hand) am just a nude beach waiting to happen. This is a weird and somewhat blessed side effect of spending far too much of your life lying. Or altering the truth. Or hiding the truth? Or maybe not even having a fucking clue of what the truth is.

So … now that my book has gone off to the editor (this morning – yay!) … I am at peace with my truth. I am comfortable with my telling of it. I am satisfied with my depiction of all characters and I am excited to share my work with the world. Somebody’s gonna be pissed, this I know. Somebody’s gonna take offense. Somebody’s gonna be mad as hell that I reopened an old can of worms.

But hopefully somebody is gonna learn something. Somebody is gonna gain knowledge the easy way (reading about it) as opposed to the hard way (living it). Maybe somebody is gonna think twice before making the mistakes I made. And maybe somebody is just gonna try a cheater recipe or two or just be entertained.

Maybe nobody will even read the sucker?

I’m okay with all of this. I’m okay with all of this because I realize now that if I do not tell the truth, my voice is useless. It is only in the baring of my soul, the telling of MY truth and the sympathetic (I hope) portrayal of ALL other players that my voice finds its purpose.

So get ready for “Confessions of a Potty-Mouth Chef: How To Cheat, Eat and Be Happy!”

This baby is 12 years in the making. And she is ready to be born.

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Don’t Say What You Mean. Say What You (Positively) Mean To Mean.

(Stay tuned – there will be a little exercise for you to complete at the end.)

Words.

Clever little things, aren’t they. Tiny soldiers of fortune, marching out of our mouths, waiting to do battle with life. Or ourselves.

Ourselves?

Yes, I’ve just had my first sip. And no, I don’t talk to myself ALL the time. But I do believe we do verbal battle with ourselves at least as often as we do with others. Maybe more. And much like the way we believe we cannot control our thoughts (Yes we can! Go back a few blogs!), we most likely believe (if we give it any thought at all) that we cannot control our internal conversations. Or our external dialogues when the participants are me, myself and I.  Do we ever suspect that our CHOICE of verbiage influences not only our moods, but our actions? Because we should.

Second sip, and perhaps examples are in order.

My pal K looks in the mirror and shrieks, “Damn, I am so fat!”  She steps on the scale every morning and sighs, “Damn, I need to lose thirty lbs.” She joins me for lunch at a bistro and orders a salad with no dressing. “I am obese,” she moans, “so I can’t have a burger, even though it’s what I really want. But I am just so damn fat!”

K is lost. Lost in a sea of negative self-image. And K reinforces that negativity with every sentence that flies out of her mouth, in private or with me at lunch. It’s a constant onslaught of deprecation. And not the funny kind. I just don’t see this as an affirmative approach to living her best life.

And so I offer: “K … do you think you could alter your verbal approach to this weight issue? Make it a little more positive?”

She glares at me, dumbfounded. “There is nothing fucking positive about being a hippo, Vickie!”

(Well yes, there kinda is, because they are endangered and you’d be special. But that’s another blog.)

“Yes, I get that darling and I too could stand to lose a few, but how about tomorrow, when you get on that scale you say, “I am now working on eating less, eating healthier and becoming my best self.”

K gawks at me in disbelief.

Undeterred I ramble on (yes I do it live too): “You are what you think K, and you are what you say. And right now you are angry and miserable. Why not at least TRY being confident and loving, with your words and with YOURSELF?”

K is a dear friend and she trusts me. I know there’s a part of her that absolutely does not want to let go of her “anger” at being overweight. But she also gets that results are most often produced from positive reinforcement. Not endless self-admonishment.

The next time we meet for lunch K has lost 5 lbs. She orders a salad with dressing on the side. When the waiter asks if she’d like dessert K smiles sweetly and replies “Honey, I would love dessert. And I will have dessert again, by golly! But today I am working on eating less and becoming my best and most healthy self. So no thank you.”

I burst into applause. And the waiter returns with a scoop of sugar-free mango sorbet, on the house. We share it with immense glee and leave him a huge tip.

You see, positivity begets positivity. In ALL aspects of life. The Universe is energy and the Universe will always return what it receives.

J is retiring soon. J is looking forward to new adventures but also a little wary. Because J and his wife have been together a very long time and, apart from vacations, have rarely done the 24/7 thing. J suspects the 24/7 thing will be a very messy recipe for disaster.

So what does J email me?  He writes, “I am formulating a game plan for my retirement.”

Not “Oh my God, Vic, what the heck am I going to do?” or “Holy crap Vic, retirement is gonna be hell!” or even “Geez Louise, Vic, I don’t wanna retire!”

No.  J has this covered.  J is creating a game plan.  J is moving forward in his life with optimism.

Is J sharing this game plan with his wife? Doubtful. I mean, seriously, who wants to hear “I dread 24/7 with you, sweetheart, even if you feel exactly the same?”

Words, people, words. Choose them wisely. But choose them positively. Constructively. Because the words you choose will immediately set the tone for your disposition. And J’s disposition, although realistic, is also encouraging. Because J is developing a game plan.

Finally there is C. C is undergoing a painful divorce and often tells me she is hurting. I remember those days. Those days of such torturous heartache, crashing disappointment and abject fear that you will never know love again. I remember those days when it was so easy to get lost in “hurting”. Hurting was automatic. Hurting took no work. Hurting was almost a haven. A harbor where you could float endlessly in a sea of pain.

We all, at times in our lives, need to get through pain. But even here, perhaps the right words can help us.  Instead of “I’m hurting” how about “I am working through the hurt?”

I am not a victim, powerless in this abyss. I am WORKING my way out of this abyss. I acknowledge it. I suffer through it. I dwell in it because I must. I must dwell in it so that I can find my way OUT of it.

“I am working my way through the hurt.”

Just sounds so mush more hopeful, right?

I encourage you to try a little exercise. Pick your most prevalent complaint. Say the words OUT LOUD that encapsulate your most prevalent complaint. Now turn them upside down and say the words that encapsulate your most prevalent complaint with a POSITIVE SPIN.

Here’s mine: “I fucking hate winter.”

Here’s the new me: “Winter is certainly a challenge but in just a few months it will be spring and then summer and golly these twinkle lights are still darn pretty, aren’t they?”

That feels pretty good to me.

Now try yours. And see how it feels to YOU.

I look forward to finding out.

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The Christmas Miracle (and Why Great Expectations Are Never A Good Idea)

 

I have been a Christmas kid ever since I was, well, a kid. I love this time of year. The excitement, the festive feeling, the cheery smiles and the twinkle lights. The music, the decorations and the wrapping of presents. Love it all.

But I think what I always loved most was the hope of magic. The belief that anything could happen. The expectation that something enchanted and unexpected would happen.

Problem was the fates didn’t always cooperate. And sometimes Christmas was just nice. Not otherworldly. Just nice. Not sure why but that somehow disappointed me. Didn’t I deserve magic? You know, like in the movies!

When I had my own child I always strove to make his Christmas magical. Like the year his two favourite Puffalump Ponies (that he had cherished since birth) were worn, threadbare and unable to withstand another washing. He was desolate. Mostly because they were special, lifelong friends and you couldn’t buy new ones. Believe me, we had checked many times. Discontinued.

And so he asked Santa.

That is when Mrs. Claus (me) discovered eBay. And there they were! The ponies were there and all I had to do was “Buy It Now”!

I did. With immense gratitude and a certain modicum of glee. Santa was gonna come through, oh yes!

My son was at the age when skepticism about the whole Santa thing was winning the war against magic. He wasn’t completely sure but he sure as heck had his doubts. Until he opened those two ponies (Bluey and Pinky) on Christmas morning. I will never forget the look on his face. Absolute disbelief, followed by wonder, followed by JOY!

Magic had happened. We were too busy enjoying it to take a picture (oh, the good old days). But it happened. And the facilitating of it was magic enough for me.

Fast forward to my first Christmas as a single woman. My ex and I had already established that our son would spend Christmas Eve with him and his beloved (for her family celebration) and Christmas Day with me for mine. This left me at odds on Christmas Eve. I had spent the 23rd (Christmas Eve Eve) with my family so didn’t want to inflict myself on them three nights in a row. But I didn’t have a beau to amuse me or a son to make magic for.

That’s when I decided on Christmas Eve for Misfit Toys. You know that special island in the Rudolph movie? I simply put the word out. Who wants to come over? Who wants fondue and wine and merriment? Who is a misfit just like me with nowhere to go and nothing to do?

The roster filled quickly and a marvelous night was enjoyed by all. I was incredulous. I had been dreading this hallowed eve. My expectations that it should be filled with family and romantic love had convinced me without these things it would be a crashing disappointment.

Nope. Resounding success.

After dinner another friend and her daughter fetched me to attend midnight mass at our local cathedral. I’m not catholic and not even very religious but I had agreed to go to help them through a rough time. (My friend had just lost her father.)

I was a little tipsy and pretty darn happy and when I walked into that HUGE church (actually a basilica I believe) I was blown away. The grandeur, the music, the throngs, the reverence. It was all pretty overwhelming.

We were late so we tucked in near the back. First my friend’s daughter, then her, then me. Good, thought I. We will cushion her from her sorrow tonight. We are here for her.

Then a tiny little old man tucked in next to me. He couldn’t have been much more than 5’, dressed all dapper in suit and tie with his white hair perfectly groomed. We exchanged smiles as the service began. When it was time for the first hymn he handed me a book. I immediately put it back. “Thank you so much, but no,” I whispered, bending down to reach his ear. “I will share with you.”

His smile lit up the universe.

And so we shared. While my friend bonded with her daughter, little man and I shared and sang. And sang. I’m not much of a hymn singer because my voice is as low as Barry White’s but I did my best. I sang with joy.

When the service was compete and the last carol begun little man looked up at me and said, “One more time to hear your beautiful voice.”

I can assure you my voice was nothing near beautiful that night. I was tipsy and those hymns are so damn high. But the fact that HE thought it was beautiful was the gift I had been longing to receive. Without even knowing it.

When the time came to part I held out my hand for a shake. He just looked up at me and smiled again, holding out his arms. This little man who I didn’t know and would never see again … he wanted to hug me. And so we hugged.

And magic was made. I realized I had been called to that church not so much for my friend (she had her daughter) but for that little man. Who had no one. Alone on Christmas Eve he didn’t even have misfit toys. He had no one. Until he had me.

To this day I count that Christmas Eve as one of the very best of my life. I truly had no expectations. I had not subscribed to that Disney movie magical scenario that when fulfilled would overload my heart with peace and spread twinkle dust all over my head.

I just took care of some other people.

And it was good.

Which brings us to this year.

Yes, I have a beloved and yes I have family and yes my son still spends every Christmas Eve with his father. I also live two hours away from my family and an ocean away from the family of my beloved. We will (as tradition dictates) do Christmas dinner with my family (facilitated fist time ever by my niece and her husband). And of course we could spend Christmas Eve somewhere in those circles too. But I have another dear friend requiring some extra special care this year. So we shall spend Christmas Eve in a hotel. We will meet her halfway and wine and dine her in a restaurant and make as merry as we possibly can. And on Christmas morning there will be a tiny tree and underneath it will be a boat-load of dollar store presents, just waiting to be opened.

She doesn’t know that part. We agreed on “no gifts”. But Santa is magical, right? The rules don’t apply.

Did I ever expect to fall asleep Christmas Eve in a hotel? Nope. Did I ever expect to wake up Christmas morning in a hotel? Nope. Do I ever expect to spend Christmas Eve with my son ever again? Damn straight I do.

But this year I expect nothing. Nothing except friendship. Caring. Family. Love. And beyond that, the Universe can make magic if it wants.

Or not.

I now know that the magic comes in the giving.

And Santa, I am your most humble assistant.

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Taking A Christmas Stroll Down Memory Lane. (Or why the good old days were so good.)

IMG_7061IMG_7062IMG_706325734261_10155049663515785_712387558681536348_od7b623d613ea5296686aa28b15bcb96e25734134_10155049663345785_1631256999125092758_oHere it is, almost December and the season is upon us. For some (read: me) it’s already here. For others it is soon coming. For you Grinches – never mind. It will come whether you like it or not.

I like it. I am a true Christmas girl and I like it. I like starting it early. For that matter I like ending it early. I could quite easily take down all the festoons on Boxing Day and fly south. But the lead-up to December 25, I love.

This year I am feeling extra sentimental. We moved (again) in 2019. For me, this is move #7 in 15 years. Christmas in a new home can be fun (where the heck will we put that tree?) but every time you move, an old tradition evaporates, forcing new traditions to evolve. And the thing about traditions is they are, by their very definition, “born of the old”.

So I am thinking a lot these days about my childhood in Waterloo. And those random Christmas memories flood in like eggnog on Christmas Eve.

(For the record I don’t like eggnog.)

When we were quite young, my mother would give my sister and me some money to shop at the local Five and Dime. In the days when things really did cost five or ten cents. We had 13 cousins and it was our job to purchase a present for each. She gave us $2. You read that right – two bucks and 13 gifts. And we did it! We did it joyfully and excitedly and argumentatively (hey, it was my sister) and with much gravity too. Because this was serious business! We were in charge as Santa’s helpers. And my mother left us alone. It was OUR responsibility.

Oh, how I loved that special Saturday morning in December. Even more so when she (eventually) upped our account to $5. Oh yeah, we were big spenders.

What I loved even more was watching my cousins’ faces when they opened these handpicked gifts on Christmas Eve. After an early church service (more on that in a minute) whoever was close by would convene at my grandparents’ home. There would be zwieback and sugarbuns and I don’t remember what else. Except for that tiny box of chocolates that we each received from our grandma. A tiny box of Pot of Gold. It truly was gold to us. So luxurious. So grown-up. So very special.

Much like the Oh Henry bar we got at church. Because after the Sunday School program (always ending with a raucous chorus of “We Wishhhhhh You A Merry Chrissssssstmas”) each child was gifted with a brown paper bag filled with peanuts. In the shell. Maybe a walnut or two. A clementine. And a full-size Oh Henry Bar!

Can you imagine the delight? The enchantment? The peanuts?

Can you imagine our children (these days) being gleeful over the same?

But I digress …

As I got older (with an allowance) I started facilitating Christmas on my own. I treated myself to my first-ever very own personal Christmas decoration. A skinny Santa. Perhaps I already knew that a skinny anything would be on my Christmas list in years to come? But I saw that Santa and I just knew he had to come home with me.

I bought my own box of Christmas cards. My best friend and I exchanged them daily throughout the month of December. We wrote long notes and shared our Christmas dreams. Oh, how I looked forward to that post every day (delivered at school).

I didn’t have a lot to spend but oh (again), how I loved buying gifts. Especially for my mother. I think I already had it pegged that she might be in cahoots with Santa so I wanted to personally bring her some surprises on Christmas morning. I spent hours at our nearby K-Mart, counting my change, doing the math (the only arithmetic I was ever good at was counting money) and deducing what I could afford. I still remember some of those gifts. Gifts I bought for her with my own (read: allowance given to me by her) money. A gold satin pillow (for the blue-flowered velvet sofa). A candle in a jar covered in plastic wicker (I think it was red, you know, to match the couch and pillow). And the most magical? A pair of clip-on earrings. They were gold with fake emeralds. They were very expensive. Like maybe $8? I would have to forego the stuffed reindeer that I really wanted to buy (for myself).

I forewent. (what the heck is the past dense of forego?)

And on Christmas morning my mother awoke to an exceptional pair of gold clip-on earrings with fake green emeralds which her younger daughter had purchased with hew own (kinda) money so that she would have something spectacular (in my world) to wear with her fancy blue dress (blue and green match, right?).

I had actually forgotten about those. Those earrings. Until this last year when my sister, having purged the final installment of my mother’s belongings, offered  to me a small treasure trove of jewelry. We had already gifted the good stuff so this was the fluff.

The fluff.

The cheap stuff. The fun stuff. The souvenirs and the memories. And the clip-on gold earrings with fake emeralds that her younger daughter had gifted her with one Christmas morning many, many decades ago.

I guess I miss those good old days. I guess my rose-coloured glasses are firmly in place. I guess I am getting old.

I still have the skinny Santa.

I still have many of the ancient ornaments that bedecked not only my family’s tree but my grandparents’ tree.

I have two handmade stockings (one made by my mother, one by my aunt).

Damn, I have no idea what happened to that gold pillow and red candle.

But I now have the gold and fake emerald earrings. (Pretty sure the gold is fake too.)

I also have a funny little beeswax candle surrounded by a fake wreath that my son made for me in kindergarten. Yes, that comes out every year too. The circle of life.

Honestly, I am not a “good-old-days” kinda gal. THESE days are my good days. Today is my best day. Tomorrow will be even better. But I think a little nostalgia this time of year serves us well. We are reminded of where we came from. What shaped us. What we learned, what we gave and what brought us joy.

My son is also a Christmas guy. At the ripe old age of 26 he makes no bones about his love of this season. This weekend we will chop down a tree and decorate it with all those fragile and still beautiful ornaments that have been passed down through three generations. He will delight in unwrapping each one (so will I).

Skinny Santa will waiting in his room. His new room that he has never seen. So will those stockings. And the beeswax candle.

And maybe … just maybe … when we carve the turkey on Christmas Day … I will wear those earrings.

Or maybe I will pay them forward.

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