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Monday, December 01, 2014

Granny's Vintage Teapot

The vintage Staffordshire English teapot by Gibsons, which my late granny gave me years ago, became even more of a treasure when she died two years ago. 

Her last words to me were "Are you making tea?" 

I wasn't—I was actually just opening up a can of ginger ale. 

Knowing what I know now, I wish that I'd answered, "Yes, Granny, I am making tea."

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Tea-rotica and High Tea at the Empress Hotel

It's not often that I go to a world-class, upscale tourist destination, but today was a bit different: Niche Magazine hosted an afternoon tea and fashion show event  at the Empress Hotel; a portion of each ticket sold offered support to the BC Children's Hospital Foundation. And because I adore fancy tea situations, and don't find myself in nearly enough of them, it seemed like the perfect opportunity.

Goodies at the Empress Hotel, November 30, 2014

Now, because of my late grandmother's lifelong tea-loving ways, I've sentimental feelings for super-floral china tea cups and teapots. But I am by no means a tea aficionado—I just like a good Orange Pekoe, a fancy tea pot, and Granny-type cups and saucers. Add a few dainty sandwiches with the crusts cut off, arrange them on a tiered tray, and I get giddy. Accordingly, I spend a lot of time on Pinterest collecting images of what I call tea-rotica, and have a little cup and saucer at home that I use ritualistically. (By ritualistically I mean that I have sternly instructed my family that nobody else in this household is to ever, ever use my cup and saucer. Because it's my fancy cup and saucer and it's mine and I will cut anyone who sullies it.)

My at-home fancy teacup and saucer, purchased from a corner thrift shop for less than five bucks.
It currently sells for $38 on eBay.
But I digress.

So, at the Niche event this afternoon, I only took a couple pictures of the food with my iPhone. I would have taken more, but I was too busy putting tea and goodies in my pinwheel hole. I share those photos here now because I want to be able to share my own first-hand tea-rotic pictures on Pinterest. Yes, that's the entire purpose of this blog post: to share these pictures on Pinterest. I feel like I should be a little bit ashamed, but I'm not.

I can't describe everything in this picture; it was a bit of a feeding frenzy.
But check out the chocolate tea-cups with chocolate mousse in the upper right-hand corner. 
Writing this post, I realize that I have enough of an interest in this fancy tea stuff to warrant a more investigative visit back to the Empress. Time for me to get serious. I have questions that need to be answered! Because where else in Canada is tea taken more seriously than at the Empress Hotel in Victoria?

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Season Change, Without and Within

I'll be forty-five in a couple of months, and as the days and weeks inch closer to my birthday, I feel a deep, significant shift taking place. The undercurrents have been there for at least a year, but I feel it more strongly as the season's changed. Leah's moving out again, and Daniel is gearing up for graduation in less than a year and is moving towards his own independence.

Emotionally, I feel great—and how could I not with such a terrific partner? In love, I couldn't ask for more; in fact, I feel almost guilty for how fortunate I am. But even with my most fundamental needs met, I feel mentally and creatively restless.

I'm thinking about going back to school, but I'm not sure for what exactly. I know I need more education, though. I want to power up. I'm not sure what that means precisely. When I consider education, I want to stoke what lights a fire in my belly, soak up knowledge, expand my understanding, and then go out into the world and apply it. The best I can come up with, in terms of defining that direction, are the words community, social justice, and clear communication. Editing is a part of that, and so is having some expertise in self-publishing, but I want—need—more of a challenge, more diversity, more accomplishment.

I want to be excellent. I want to be a leader, an authority on the things I'm good at. I believe in the importance of beginner's mind, but vocationally, I don't want to be entry-level anything—unless I know that it's going to equip me quickly to be a leader.

I'm also thinking about the relationships I have with my husband, my children, my friends, and other people with whom I collaborate both professionally and creatively. I want to use Facebook less and see people in person more. I'm attracted to different kinds of people than I was ten, twenty, thirty years ago. Charisma, style, and flamboyance intrigues me far less than it used to; intelligence, compassion, and mindfulness draws me far more.

At the same time, I'm letting myself do things I've been afraid to do in the past—specifically, burlesque classes, which has turned out to be far more therapeutic than I expected. And I'm growing more comfortable with apparent contradictions: right before my burlesque class, I attend a Zen sit as part of my burgeoning meditation practice.

I want to dance more, move more, write more, read more, and be quiet more. I want to learn how to take good pictures with a good camera. I want to take all the experience I've had up until now and hone it into something excellent, something that makes a difference to others and will leave its mark after I'm gone.

I'm sorting and purging the things that I've lugged around for a long time. It's not easy, because I'm attached to those things and I tend to think of them as part of my identity. Lifelong habits are hard to break; old wounds get picked until nothing's left but scar tissue; weight clings to my body because I put food in my mouth instead of letting myself sit quietly with my free-floating anxiety and remnants of grief.

At almost forty-five, I'm teetering somewhere between stumbling and moving forward. Perhaps that arc of falling could be considered momentum, even if it's a bit clumsy. Mid-life: not a crisis, but definitely a milestone.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Coming Out As Fat

This past weekend, one of my three younger sisters invited me to join her on a float in our city's Pride parade this weekend. It was, of course, fabulous to the extreme—especially since my sibling had recently won the title as the exquisite Mr. Gay Vancouver Island (in her drag king incarnation as Eddi Licious). She honoured me by asking me to participate with her.

I've been a lover of Pride festivities for years. I've enjoyed them in Montréal and Toronto, and find the celebrations here in Victoria to be particularly charming for reasons that are hard to articulate. Maybe it's because the crowds are smaller; the participants, too, seem so legitimately joyful, and not at all jaded. So when I was invited to be on an actual float in a parade that would take me throughout the downtown core in full view of a large population, I decided to go for it, no holds barred. I have a not-so-latent drag queen living inside of me, as evidenced by my passion for all things sparkly and flamboyant. Being on the gayest float in the Pride parade was sure to be a peak experience. And it did not disappoint.

When the music started, and when we pulled out into the street, I felt deep emotion well up inside of me. I actually got choked up as everything came together at once. People danced in the street! They waved flags and clapped! There were smiles and bubbles and cheers! It was so free and fun and beautiful, and it was sparkly and joyful for its own sake. It was as childlike and sweet as playing make-believe, and believing it. I felt like a kid again. I wasn't thinking about what I looked like on that float; I felt completely caught up in the moment, in the people around me, and lost myself in the bubbles and the waving and the laughing and the music. I looked over at my sparkly friend Jodie who also came along with me, and we smiled at one another in agreement: This. Is. Awesome!

I thought of my grandmother, who was in love with drag queens well before the time I was even conceived, and who raised me amongst people from all walks of life. One of my best memories of her in her final years was when we took her a drag performance in Montréal. She was pulled up on stage by the performers, and she made a short speech about how she loved them all—everyone, she said, including the performers and the audience. People lined up after to give her hugs, with lots of young gay men telling her about how their own grandparents had disowned them. Some even cried in her arms.

I love my LGBTQ friends and family. I hate the idea of my loved ones being discriminated against because of who they love and how they express themselves. And so it was an honour to be in the parade. The sight of such care and planning and jubilation and abandon speaks to a place deep inside of me. I love, love, love seeing people be uninhibited and unashamed, especially if they've had to overcome inner and outer pressure to walk in that freedom. It's the stuff that brings me to tears.

So that's why it was a kick in the gut when, upon seeing my picture all over Facebook (and even in a news clip) I felt ashamed of myself.


Because I saw the unfiltered truth: I am fat.

(A quick caveat here: I don't mean to say that "fat" is my identity as a human being. I'm being as straightforward and un-philosophical as possible in this context.)

I didn't have control over the pictures that were taken of me. I couldn't hide my body with angles, highlighting my face and cleavage whilst avoiding my midriff. So the whole city could see the truth: I am fat. BIG. Not theoretically fat—actually fat. Officially fat. And on top of it, I was bedecked in the most ridiculous gear possible. So I was flamboyantly fat yesterday. In a parade. Through the city. On the most conspicuous float possible.

Everybody knows I'm fat now. It sounds silly and obvious, but it's true.

This is not a surprise to me. I know I'm heavier than is healthy for me, and have known this for some time. I don't actually have body dysmorphia. I don't think I'm skinny. But what's a mind-twist is how easy it is for a fat woman to find a million tiny reasons to hide from themselves and others. How profoundly I hide from my husband, my friends, my neighbours, my family, the public, from the world, from myself, in a million tiny ways.

And I realized yesterday, with the pictures on Facebook, that I hide.

See, I untagged myself on my friends' pictures. And I looked away. Even as I sincerely affirm other women as beautiful—and feel it and mean it!—I hide from myself. Even as I see attractive and desirable attributes in others of all genders who are not thin, I rejected myself.

I can't hide anymore. And really, I wasn't fooling anybody. My husband knows I'm fat. People on Facebook who have known me since I was half my size know I'm fat. New friends know I'm fat. People whom I don't know know I'm fat. And yeah, I know I'm fat.

This isn't one of those "Oh my god—I'm fat and I'm going to KICK MY OWN ASS for it and lose all the weight and be victorious!" moments. As I've been saying of late, I've given up on trying to "fix" myself. It just doesn't work. My current goal isn't to lose weight—counter-intuitive, I know—but my goals are to be able to hike again. To run again. To wear anything I want again. To kayak. To dance. To be healthy and happy in my own skin, and to not try to squeeze myself into the image of what I think other people want because I'm desperate for their approval and acceptance. And most importantly, to heal whatever it is that makes me eat to numb the pain and anxiety that has been there for many years. What my body does in reaction to all of those things remains to be seen. Moving more and getting to the emotional roots of my eating habits will probably result in weight loss, but it's important right now that, for reasons I will write about another time, weight loss is not the primary goal.

My reaction to seeing myself in gloriously unflattering pictures—on parade, in every sense of the word—well, there is a lesson in this. It's going to take me some time to work it out without over-thinking, but one thing I know beyond a doubt is that the outcome must be compassion and love, not judgement or shame.

So I thank you, Pride parade, for celebrating diversity and freedom and acceptance and inclusion with such bold abandon—and for giving me the opportunity to recognize exactly to what extent I deprive myself of those very same blessings.

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Ah, to simply be in this existence with a child-like joy and wonder
—but there is much to release in order to be born again into that newness.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

She Sang With Abandon to a Song on the Radio.

About ten years ago, I went to a coffee shop in Parksville to meet a friend. Another patron was there, a woman who looked to be in her early twenties; there was something going on with her that gave the impression that she was developmentally challenged—something in her posture or her speech—but that's not what ultimately drew my attention to her.

"Unbreak My Heart" was playing in the café via a local radio broadcast, and this young woman was quietly singing her guts out to this song. Her eyes were closed; tears streamed down her face; her hands gestured with every word. She didn't seem sad—she just seemed like she was deeply connecting with the song itself.

I'd heard this song a million times over the years—I liked it well enough—but somehow this woman changed the whole feel of the song. It was such a vulnerable, childlike, private display that I was, at first, unsettled, but her freedom and expressiveness moved me so deeply that I've never forgotten her. I hope that wherever she is today that she still has the same unfettered freedom and innocence.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Detritus from a years-old divorce.

A couple of years ago, I passed by the old cabin where my ex-husband and I lived with our two children. There was still stuff left there from our divorce nine years ago; he'd abandoned the car and van that I signed over to him when I went to Toronto. I guess the property owners don't go up to the cabin very often, nor are they motivated to remove those old cars. In the now-rusty station wagon was his old teddy bear that he'd had from the time he was a little kid. He'd left that behind, too.

I cracked opened the car, choked on the stench that filled my nostrils, and pulled out the teddy bear. It seemed so sad in that old, abandoned car, and it was covered in mould. He's allergic to penicillin, so I figured it would be a bad idea to try to clean it up and send it to him. I left it there, sadly, and drove away.

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

On Empathy for Folks in the Media

Today, an acquaintance of mine was talking on Facebook about Honey Boo Boo and her family being in a car accident on Monday night. Some people were indignant about even caring, and criticized the original poster about even mentioning it when there are other people in the world more "worthy" of sympathy or empathy. Another commenter even went so far as to wish the Boo Boo family "poorly" instead of wishing them well. As a follow-up empathy "test", the original poster shared a link to a news story about O.J. Simpson's apparent brain cancer.

People are people. Everybody hurts. I don't wish cancer on anyone. If O.J. has cancer, then my condolences go out to him for the suffering he has to experience. What is required of me beyond that? He's not a "real" person in my mind—he's a media projection with whom I have no relationship. He's too abstract and has turned into a caricature (either by his own choice or by the whole media machine, or both). I mean, of course he's a "real" person, but I only know about him because of the media. By the time I get back to work in a few minutes (after I've finished this post), I won't think about O.J. and his potential cancer diagnosis. Does that mean I lack empathy? I don't think so.

Empathy/compassion/etc. is cultivated choice by choice, I believe. And in this media-heavy, information-saturated age, it's important to balance our intake of such information lest we totally fracture or numb ourselves out on all the people we can cry with or vilify. Every day on Facebook—multiple times a day, even—I see posts that truly hurt my heart, status updates of people dying, people being sick, people wandering off and curling up somewhere and dying. Last night, in fact, I couldn't sleep well, thinking about someone I once knew years ago who was missing for two months and was discovered deceased on New Year's Day. I watched all this unfold over Facebook (and on the news) from the time she went missing in October; I had to unfollow the Facebook page because I was fretting about it *constantly*.

It's best to be cautiously aware of what's going on in the world, but if we're not alive to our next-door neighbour, local barista, co-workers, bankers, as well as our spouses, our children, etc. and their basic needs or potential suffering, then what does *that* say about our empathy? That's a far more accurate, real-world test.