Saturday, December 27, 2008

what have i done?


File this under "S" for stupid things that women do to try and improve their looks. A couple of friends have recently coloured their hair, and their locks look gorgeously shiny. I coveted their glossy manes, and wanted to acquire some of that glimmer for myself. I found an over-the-counter product today at the drugstore - Clairol's Shine Happy - which promised a clear shine treatment in only 10 minutes! How could I resist?

I don't colour my hair. I'm not interested in colouring my hair. I love my natural colour - which some people refer to as "mousy" - with its God-given highlights and blonde streaks. There are now some healthy grey streaks mixed in there, too. Bring it on, I say.

My hair does look kind of dull, however - at least compared to my salon-treated friends'. I just finished with my box of instant head-bling, and am wondering what could have possessed me to do this to myself.


Notice that I am drenched. That's from the showerhead in my tub - but I'm getting ahead of myself.

First, I read the instructions found inside the box. Dire warnings about not getting the solution in my eyes nearly deterred me before I even got started. How to explain that one to the grandchildren? Yes dearie, I blinded myself trying to get shiny hair...

Armed with a makeshift eyebath should things go awry, I suddenly realized I wasn't going to be able to see during the 10+ minutes my hair was getting glossied, since the solution wasn't supposed to come into contact with metal (my eyeglasses' frames), and, due the abovementioned potential for blinding, the wearing of contact lenses was not recommended.

I memorized the instructions and pulled on the gloves supplied with the kit. Double-checking to make sure I was adding the correct solutions to the appropriate containers, I mixed everything together, and quickly applied it to my damp hair. Got some solution on my forearm, which was immediately bleached white. Decided now was a good time to dampen a towel as recommended in the instructions, and wipe all excess solution from any exposed skin (including my forehead, ears and neck).

Also decided that if I ever do this again, I'm going to leave it in the hands of trained professionals at a salon. Hard to tell if one is giving oneself chemically-induced vitiligo when one can't see two inches in front of one's face.

After the longest ten minutes of my life (which were really only eight-and-a-half minutes, because my scalp was burning and I was tired of waiting), I bent over my tub and rinsed out my hair with the new adjustable showerhead that my parents gave me for Christmas. Proceeded to get water (and possibly some of the solution, I worried) everywhere within a three-foot radius, including the inside of my right ear. Was wearing gloves as the instructions suggested, so I couldn't tell when my hair was clean. Couldn't check to see if the water was rinsing clear (also as the instructions suggested), because I was keeping my eyes fiercely shut in order to avoid blindness. Couldn't have seen anything with my eyes open anyhow, because I wasn't wearing my corrective lenses.

After rinsing for what I hoped was a sufficient amount of time, I removed my gloves to apply the conditioner included with the kit. Squirted the recommended dime-sized amount halfway across the bathtub. Scooped up as much as I could (by feel - still couldn't see) and rubbed it into my slippery locks. Wasn't convinced I'd rinsed out all the previous solution, so after some back-and-forth debate with my inner hypochondriac, who was convinced she was starting to feel a burning sensation in the corner of one of her eyes, I rinsed out the conditioner a minute early and stood up, damp, sweating and swearing with my outside voice.

I just checked my nearly-dry hair in the bathroom mirror; am disappointed to report that said hair does not seem noticeably shinier. My neck, on the other hand, feels itchy and irritated, and the skin on my hands is dry and tight. Maybe this stuff has some potential as a mild skin peel...

Thursday, December 25, 2008

how i spent my christmas eve


I was lying in bed late last night, trying to remember the last time I didn't go to church on Christmas Eve. And to be honest, I think last night was the first time ever. I've gone to church on every other Christmas Eve of my life.

As I approach the new year, I've been reflecting on the year past. Normally New Year's doesn't mean that much to me, since I measure my life by my birthdays, and not by the calendar year. But at this time last year there were many new things just about to happen in my life, including a job that I began in the second week of January, 2008. How strange, one year later, to be leaving that job and searching for another.

It's about balance. I loved the work, but it had taken over my existence. I was doing noble things, but had set aside many of the activities that I loved most, including my creative writing and visual art. In the end I realized I was waking up unhappy more days than not. Life had lost its juice. I yearned to be in a place - live in a place - that would feed my inner callings. Less and less did it seem like that place was Toronto.

As a result, I have upended my life and moved away. Or should I say towards?

I find myself facing new beginnings once more. I am in the waiting place yet again. Exhausted from my move a month ago - all that painting and unpacking! - part of me just wants to hibernate for the rest of the winter. December has been a blur, compounded by frequent commutes back to Toronto for my work with the Chorale.

I've observed a few of my favorite Advent rituals - the Wesley-Knox Christmas concert with Denise Pelley, the RCCO Carol Service - but last night I wasn't ready for Christmas to happen. How did the days go so quickly?

I enjoyed the Chorale's Indigo concerts within the last week, and I've even made it to Sunday services at various churches this month. The music is running through my head. The scriptures have been read in my presence. I wasn't feeling the magic, though.

Yesterday I woke up intending to do some cleaning in my apartment and maybe (hopefully! finally!) unpack my library and set up my meditation/yoga room. My best friend and I had tentative plans to hang out in the afternoon, and then I was likely going to go to my new/old church for Christmas Eve.

When I tried to go online first thing in the morning, however, I realized my phone line was dead. That one event threw a spanner in the works. I couldn't pick up Laurie when she got off work early, since I had to wait around for the Bell technician to show up. When he finally finished, it was nearly suppertime. Laurie wasn't picking up her phone, and her voice mailbox was full.

I packed my bags for my trip to my sister's this morning, and ate some supper. Laurie finally called me back, and that's when I made the decision that I wanted to do nothing more than spend Christmas Eve with my best (and Jewish) friend, working on my apartment.

I fed her some of my supper and put her to work folding boxes and flattening packing paper. Sometime after nine we finished for the night, all my books unpacked and safely in my bookshelves. Both exhausted, I drove her home, and I'm sure she hit her bed as quickly as I did.

The evening couldn't have been more perfect. I got to spend time with one of my favorite people, who sometimes feels left out at this time of year; we laughed a lot; I now have a meditation room; did I mention I got to spend time with one of my favorite people?

Christmas in the past has been about catching that warm fuzzy feeling, for me. I think I'm there...

Sunday, September 28, 2008

castile soap


I have a thing about soap; in fact, I may write a future blog post about my love of soap in general. But today I want to talk about a particular kind of soap - castile soap, also know by the French name "savon de Marseille" (which means "Marseille soap").

Soapmakers in the Marseille region of France have been making soaps in the traditional manner for hundreds of years. The soaps have a pure vegetable oil (as opposed to rendered animal fat) base, and are much milder to the skin than tallow-based soaps. (They're also animal-friendly - important to me as a vegetarian.)

Castile soap was traditionally made with olive oil, although Marseille soaps eventually came to be made with either olive oil (which produces a green soap) or palm oil (which produces a cream-coloured soap).

You can still buy castile soap today, and it usually comes stamped with the oil content (below).


Castile soap is made throughout the Mediterranean region, but the soap made in the Marseille region of France is one of the most well-known. Marseille soap will be stamped with the word "Marseille." I bought this soap yesterday at L'Occitane, a French chain of soap and body care stores.

I'm using this soap in my kitchen, of all places. It makes a great dish soap if you rub the dishcloth on it, then wipe the greasy dishes. This soap is scented with lavender, but I also love the smell of pure olive oil soap without any scent - it's subtle and earthy, and makes me feel virtuous.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

my blackberry


I love my BlackBerry. If you'd told me six months ago that I would get a BlackBerry (and that I would come to feel that I couldn't live without it), I would have told you you were crazy.

I thought I knew myself well. I thought I knew what helped keep me organized, and what would drive me crazy. Turns out I was wrong.

I'm a very visual person, and I like to see everything laid out in front of me. (In an organized fashion, of course.) Don't give me directions; give me a map. Don't tell me something; write it down for me. Don't hide my schedule in binary code; give me some paper and a pencil, already.

But my BlackBerry has become one of my very favorite tools. Yes, it's addictive. (And yes, I'm kind of ambivalent about that part of it.) But it helps simplify my life so much that I'm seriously figuring out how I can afford to keep it, should I ever leave the job it came with. (BlackBerry plans are a little more expensive than those of your average mobile phone. Go figure.)

Why do I love my BlackBerry so much? It does so much - all in one tiny little package.

It's a mobile phone.

It can receive e-mails. (IT CAN RECEIVE E-MAILS!!!) That feature alone blew me away the first day I had it. No more having to log on to my computer when I want to check and see what's going on. (And a lot is going on - mostly business. Which is why I got the thing in the first place - it made sense to the organization.)

It can SEND e-mails. (IT CAN *SEND* E-MAILS!!!) How ridiculous is that? Someone needs a two-word reply on the fly? No problem! I have (dare I say this) responded to e-mails from just about anywhere: the grocery store, the health food store, restaurants, my car (no, I wasn't driving at the time, officer), my bed in the middle of the night, and the while using the toilet.

It has a web browser. I know cell phones have been able to browse for years, but this is the first time I've had a mobile plan with browsing. Brainerd and I were at a choral management conference a couple of weekends ago, and during a session on strategic planning we were able to view, right there and then, the vision and mission statements posted on the Chorale's website, and discuss some changes we needed to make to them.

It's a PDA (Personal Digital Assistant). One of my favorite features (oh, who am I kidding - they're all favorite features) is the address book, because - get this - you can click on someone's name and have the choice of phoning them (at any of their million locations), texting them, messaging them (Blackberry has its own messenger service between users) or e-mailing them. And like all PDAs, it also has a calendar/datebook and assorted sundry functions (calculator, etc.).

It's a camera. (Okay, I don't really use the camera all that much. I have a much better digital camera that I take with me almost everywhere, too. But if I WANTED to use my BlackBerry as a camera, I could. I even used it this morning, to take a photo of a sidewalk I saw during my morning walk, apparently created during Canada's centennial year.)


(1867 - 1967: Yay, Canada! Oh, and BTW, one cool feature about the BlackBerry camera is that I can immediately upload photos to my Facebook profile. Like that.)

It's a clock - and an alarm clock. My watch stopped working a couple of months ago. I haven't noticed. The BlackBerry is with me everywhere, so I always know what time it is. I only wish that it also had a timer. I mean, the alarm is kind of like a timer, except it's not. You have to set a clock time, as opposed to an elapsed time. Here's my advice to the BlackBerry people: BlackBerry people, make a BlackBerry with a proper timer. I love the ring I've set for the alarm, though - it's called ChiGong: a gentle, Tibetan bowl sound. And my ringtone for incoming calls is equally soothing - it sounds like a single chord played on a harpsichord.

It's a GPS (Global Positioning System). Took me a while to figure out how to navigate the map functions, but I still get a kick out of the device telling me exactly where I am at any given moment. Brainerd and I took a research trip to Cape Croker, ON (near Wiarton) last spring, and when we got lost on the winding country roads in the Native reserve, it could tell us exactly where we were. Sweet. The GPS can't give you directions to brand new addresses, however - which I discovered to my dismay when trying to find a friend's house in a brand new subdivision north of Toronto. Might not have helped me much, anyhow: the houses were so new they didn't even have street numbers on them, yet.

It's an mp3 player. (I haven't used that function yet, but I'm sure it's awesome. Awesome.)

My number one favorite reason I love my BlackBerry, however, is that I can create lists on it. Like shopping lists, and To Do lists, and lists of my favorite inspirational quotes. I currently have 29 lists on my BlackBerry, and I add more every week. No more paper lists that I can never keep track of! I always have my BlackBerry with me, so I always have all my lists. I consult them constantly throughout the day, and especially when I'm shopping or packing for trips. My CrackBerry definitely feeds my list addiction.

Number of times I have left my BlackBerry behind in a store or business: 3

(I have a constant mantra now whenever I'm leaving a store: Do I have my BlackBerry? Where's my Blackberry?)

That's about it. I highly recommend the BlackBerry. Mine is a Curve. I've heard iPhones are pretty cool, though. May have to check those out, someday...

Saturday, August 30, 2008

cheese

I have become a cheese addict.

I've always loved cheese - with macaroni as a child, on pizza, on tacos... and as an adult I learned to appreciate some of the finer cheeses, such as creamy Brie, aged cheddar and true Parmigiano Reggiano... but I didn't truly fall in love with cheese until last weekend.

Visiting a winery as part of a choral management conference, I was mesmerized by the well-stocked cheese cooler in the vinter's agreeable little food shop. I chose two cheddars - a horseradish-flavored one and a smoked one - and took them to my sister's that night. The smoked one, particularly, became the focus of every meal I ate at my sister's for the rest of the weekend, and I craved it for days after I left it behind at her house. Even her kids loved it - said it tasted like ham (which made the adults laugh, since I've been a vegetarian for over 20 years).

This week, back home, I have tried to seek out new and different (to me) cheeses, first at my local grocery stores. At Dominion I purchased some standard provolone (long a favorite, although I generally prefer it smoked, and had to settle for plain), spiced Gouda, and a cheddar with olives and red peppers in it. Loblaws offered some more exotic choices, including a chunk of Oka and another Quebec cheese I'd never heard of called Hercule du Nord.

The Oka (pictured on the lower right in the photo above) has been interesting. It came with a gritty orange-ish rind that, upon tasting (I'm usually not deterred by rinds), I learned was decidedly inedible. (I think it may have had ashes or something in it.) Even cutting off the rind didn't rid the cheese of its distinctively strong aroma and slightly bitter taste.

The Hercule du Nord (a semi-soft, ripened cheese like the Oka) has turned out to be much milder in flavour and very pleasant.

I eat my cheese in thin slivers, usually with fruit or tomatoes to provide contrasting tastes and textures between bites. The above cheese was photographed during my al fresco breakfast this morning, and was accompanied by peaches. The provolone (in the upper left) was a perfect foil for the sweet ambrosia of peach juice.

This afternoon I stumbled upon a cheese store that's been open in my neighbourhood for a year or two, but whose threshold I've never crossed. About Cheese is my new favorite food shop; it's filled with really fine cheeses (including several local artisan and organic choices) and other foodie stuff like imported spices and artisan bread.

I asked if they carried a smoked cheddar (still pining a week later), and they let me sample a sheep's milk one from Stratford, ON (photo below, left). Sold. Then, wanting to broaden my horizons a bit, I asked which cheese they've been featuring recently, or were really excited about. I was treated to a sample of Lost Lake organic chevre, which made me swoon with its creamy tartness. I almost asked for a second sample, it was so good. Bought that one, too (photo below, right). They were my supper tonight, with a couple more ripe peaches.

I think I'm going to have to get a second job to pay for my cheese habit; these specialty cheeses don't come cheap. I'm so excited that my summer memories will be tied to these new flavours, though - and I can't wait to try some more cheeses. Remind me to revisit About Cheese again late in the day on a Saturday - today they sent me home with a free loaf of sourdough bread which would have otherwise been thrown out before the store opened again after the holiday. Sweet.

In a recent blog entry, a friend who has moved her family to Belgium was unfavorably comparing Canadian cheese selections to those she's discovered in Europe; maybe she's never been anywhere like About Cheese?

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

the return of my smile

Driving home yesterday from a visit to my hometown, I couldn't stop smiling - not because I was going home, but simply because I was happy. Happy is a good thing. (So are vacations.)

I'm still trying to sort out in my mind what the difference is. Is it just the vacation, or is it something else? (Like the end of my period, and several blissfully migraine-free days?)

Part of it, I'm sure, is from hanging out with my parents, friends, niece and nephew for several days. Being surrounded by people who love you is certainly a balm for the soul.

Another part of it is taking a break from worry - and in my case, much of my worry over the past several months has revolved around my job.

I'm trying to prepare myself for the eventual return to work next week. How can I carry "vacation brain" back into my regular life?

A work in progress...

Thursday, July 31, 2008

kissing a mango


Sitting at my breakfast table
this morning eating two fresh mangoes
I find myself
thinking that eating
a mango is not unlike
kissing.

Warm, wet, slippery
bold nibbles,
smooth flesh,
darting tongue tasting
sweetness.

the retreat - in retrospect

Day One: Monday, July 28, 2008, 2:00 a.m.

“Are you happy?”

That question, asked me by my cousin Lorraine moments before I left her parents’ 50th wedding anniversary celebration two nights night ago, caught me off-guard and has haunted me in the 30 hours since.

First of all – why wouldn’t I be happy? Do I seem unhappy?

Oh, who am I kidding? I have been tremendously unhappy for months. I’m so conscious of it, I’m afraid unhappiness hovers around me like bad breath or b.o., subtly repelling everyone unlucky enough to converse with me during the course of my days.

I have a rewarding job that I love (although I often find it incredibly stressful). I am surrounded daily by amazing people who cherish me, and whom I love.

Why should I be unhappy?

I blame a vitamin B12 deficiency. Which I am afraid I now have. I didn’t realize this until Saturday morning, when I was talking on the phone with my sister, and telling her I was a little freaked-out by what I believed to be a retina (one of mine) in the process of detaching.

Our mother had a detached retina several years ago, and I have since had laser surgery to “staple” the dubious retina in my own right eye. (Those are two words – eye and staple – that should never be used in the same sentence, eh?)

I was in the middle of using the computer when I noticed that I couldn’t read the screen. There were flashing lights in one of my eyes (never did figure out which one), and a blotch like a floater that wouldn’t move out of my centre of vision. When the effects didn’t disappear after a minute or two, I started Googling “detached retina symptoms,” and had scared myself into an almost-certain trip to the emergency department of the local hospital when my sister called.

Turns out she occasionally experiences the same thing whenever her B12 is low. She described my experience exactly, and told me it goes away as soon as she takes some sublingual vitamin B12. I was already scrambling through the kitchen cabinet where I keep my supplements before she finished her last sentence.

The visual disturbance disappeared almost immediately. But I was left with the frustrating realization: my B12 is low. The fact that I even keep B12 in my kitchen cupboard should be an indication that this is not an unfamiliar occurrence. I mean, I’m a vegetarian who has often dabbled in strict veganism. Vitamin B12 is only found in animal products. But I’ve been very solidly lacto-ovo for a few years now – I love eggs and cheese – and it’s frustrating to think that even this has not saved me. (Then again my sister, who has never been vegetarian, is also occasionally deficient. Genetic pernicious anemia, anyone?)

So I’m now taking two B12 pills per day. (Hadn’t taken any for months.) Had another visual disturbance yesterday (again at the computer). Googled “B12 deficiency symptoms.” Depression, brain fog and insomnia jumped out from the list. So there you go. My unhappiness is really my body crying for cobalamin.

Then again, maybe I really am unhappy. I am certainly very much awake in the middle of the night, and that’s not a good thing.

Why am I doing this?

(The retreat, that is.)

I’m not sure. During my regular, workday existence I often find myself craving unlimited amounts of unprogrammed time, in which I imagine I might do any number of restful, relaxing and restorative activities. I crave sleep. I wish I could meditate without the screaming voices inside my head reminding me of all the things I should be doing while I’m wasting time meditating.

I feel a vague sense of unease – maybe even terror – however, as I anticipate the next few days. At the heart of this discomfort is the knowledge – which I tend to avoid voicing whenever possible – that I am lonely. Have I just given myself the ultimate dare? Can I be alone on purpose?

I haven’t figured out all the rules for my retreat yet, although I have a good working list. No internet. No telephone. I was going to try no computer, but then I got this burning desire to write, and the thoughts don’t come out as quickly when I have to transcribe them longhand.

And even then, I suspect I will make a few phone calls (I’ve been a bit negligent in telling my family about my plans, although hopefully my mom and my sister will read the item I posted on Facebook and not be too surprised or concerned).

No shopping (unless I decide to walk to the local health food store for some iron supplements, which I suspect I may also need in addition to the B12). No banking (except when I go pay my quarterly GST remittance).

Should I just give up now?

No. I want to do this. But what, exactly, I want to do is still to be determined. Am I seeking a crucible experience, where I come out the other side transformed and a little shell-shocked? Or do I want a warm-fuzzy experience where I feel at one with the universe?

To be honest, I just want to shut up the voice inside my head that never stops its high, thin whine of anxiety. I want to figure out where the off switch is. And exercise my ability to use it.

I also – and I didn’t realize it until I sat down to write this – want to write. I miss writing. I write for work – grants, reports, PR material – but it’s not the same.

So I’ve turned off my modem and wireless router (in case I can’t control the urge to open Internet Explorer), and have turned on my computer. Like it or not, I have the feeling this experience is going to be documented electronically.

Day Four: Thursday, July 31, 2008, 3:00 a.m.

It has been a good three days. Insomnia obviously hasn’t gone away, even though I’ve tried giving up ginger tea (the only recent change I could think of that might be causing the sleeplessness). But on the other hand, I’m learning to embrace middle-of-the-night wakefulness.

The retreat hasn’t been what I expected, but I have found happiness, regardless. I journaled about my experience for the first couple of days, but in retrospect it is only so much drama and meaningless chatter. I struggled with menstrual cramps and migraines. I couldn’t decide what to do, and bounced from activity to activity (within the boundaries of my apartment, and the constraints of my “retreat rules”). In the end, I spent several hours on Day One reading back issues of my favorite magazines, and that quiet pursuit was finally enough to still my screaming mind.

Day Two, I threw my healthy eating regimen out the window and bought a bunch of treats (ice cream, strawberries, cake) to take my mind off my ongoing physical discomfort (more cramps, more migraines). Paid my GST remittance, bought some stamps. Got in the habit of going for a walk in the late afternoon or evening. Was a little distressed by the fact that I didn’t seem to be doing much spiritual work, but I told myself if I was happy, it was all good.

And strangely enough, I was happy.

Day Three (yesterday) I spent a lot of time working with my hands: cleaning, cooking, trying to pull staples out of a chair I’m refinishing, knitting. For months now I’ve been listening to the Eckart Tolle CDs that Brainerd gave me for my birthday, but not until now have I really started to understand what it means to be present. Or rather, before now I haven’t spent much time actually BEING present. Present is good.

It has been a good three days. I could continue the retreat today, but no longer feel the need. Ultimately, I guess I had to disengage from my regular life in order to find a way to return to it in a new way. I could go back to work today and it would be all different.

I’m going to enjoy the rest of my vacation, though. And I highly recommend Tolle's A New Earth. It would not be overstating the case to say that it has saved my life.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

the retreat - preparations

I'm on vacation.

Other than the obligatory week I usually take off between Christmas and New Year's, I don't remember the last time I actually had a holiday. Oh wait - yes I do. I went to England the spring my nephew turned one. Missed his birthday. He's nine now. 'Bout time I had another vacation, eh?

I am writing this with a splitting migraine, so it's going to be much shorter than I'd anticipated. But I'm doing something that some people might consider very strange: I'm having my own little silent retreat, starting tomorrow, for four days.

I haven't figured out all the details, yet. It's going to be here in my own apartment, and I'm going to try (try!) to avoid the computer and the telephone. I have no television. (Did I say I was going to try to avoid the computer?)

I want the retreat to include yoga, and meditation, and prayer, and chanting, and reading, and maybe some art making.

I just went grocery shopping (not my favorite activity with a splitting migraine) to stock up on food. Other than paying my quarterly GST remittance sometime this week, I'm going to try to avoid stores and businesses. And spending money. And driving. And talking. I'll probably do about half an hour of e-mailing every day, if I need to. No Facebook. (Did I really say no Facebook?)

See ya when it's done.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

how to buy really green

How do you know if what you're buying is really green or not? My favorite eco-friendly consumer advocate, Debra Lynn Dadd, has written a new book that answers exactly that question. Really Green covers easy green principles that anyone can learn, to help each of us understand the kinds of things that really DO help health and the environment.

It contains all the information you need to be able to tell the difference between products with real environmental and health benefits and those with misleading green hype. In this book, you will learn:

* What "green" really means
* The true foundation for defining green products
* The life cycle of green products
* The eighteen basic principles that define what's green
* The five basic types of green products
* All about green packaging
* Various shades of green products
* The cost of green goods
* How to spot misleading "greenwashing"
* How to change your buying habits to be green

Click on this link to find out more and buy the book today!

Monday, March 10, 2008

have you been celebrated today?

I was talking to my best friend the other day, and mentioned an encounter I'd recently had with the employee of a client.

"She adores me," I told my best friend, basking in the remembrance of this woman's affection. "It's nice to be around people who absolutely adore you."

("And if I haven't mentioned it lately, I adore you," I hastily added. (My friend's going through a bit of a rough patch right now.))

It is nice to be around people who absolutely adore you. It's a balm for the soul. Then my friend surprised me by listing all my wonderful qualities before we said good-bye.

(She's a very good friend.)

I now find myself wishing I could return the favour - not only to her, but everyone else in my life who affirms me - and not only them, but also everyone in my life whom I adore.

Like my mom, and my dad, and my sister and her family... and my friends, and my employer, and all the amazing members of the Chorale who've been so supportive of me. And my clients, past and present, who are brave and trusting and willing to be vulnerable...

Have you been celebrated today? I'm giving away adoration for free...

Sunday, March 9, 2008

the annihilation of suffering

I just spent half an hour in a virtuous, self-satisfied (but possibly ill-advised, from an emotional point of view) attempt to send blessings upon the lives of all the men whom I love, but who do not love me back. You know, all the guys I'm still carrying a torch for - or who, for various reasons, cannot choose to be with me in the way that I want (because of significant others or, in at least a couple of cases, sexual orientation).

(What can I say? I have really bad "gay-dar"...)

It is nearly spring (despite piles of snow outside my window), and my heart wants to quicken along with the birds and the bees. The natural world is on the brink of waking up after months of cold hibernation, and I long to be awakened, too...

My ex-boyfriend's grandmother called me a couple of days ago to chat, and after we hung up I found myself in a funk of melancholy - reminded (after weeks and weeks of being blissfully forgetful) of how much I had loved this man, and how much it still pains me that he has apparently chosen a whole new life without me in it.

A day earlier, at choir rehearsal, Brainerd read a passage from Pema Chödrön's book, When Things Fall Apart. A phrase jumped out at me - something along the lines of "desire is the root of all suffering," a well-known Buddhist teaching.

I looked up the reference online, and found this from the scriptures of the Buddha:

"What, however, O brethren, is suffering?...the loss of that which we love and the failure in attaining that which is longed for are suffering..."

And what is the annihilation of suffering?

"The radical and total annihilation of this thirst and the abandonment, the liberation, the deliverance from passion, that, O brethren, is the annihilation of suffering."

Umm, maybe I'll take suffering... LOL

(Read the entire passage, here.)

Seriously, though - while it is agonizing, this longing I feel for the men I cannot be with - would I really wish it away? There is a deliciousness to the peculiar dances of the heart that I cannot abandon.

And then today I found myself reading an article about Rumi in the latest issue of Spirituality and Health, and I discovered that the great Sufi poet had an intense (non-sexual, apparently) attachment to his mentor and teacher, Shams.

I am in love with You.
What's the use of giving me advice?
I have already drunk the passion.
What's the use of candy?
They say, "Bind his feet in chains,"
but they can't bind up my crazy heart.

Shams eventually disappeared, likely fallen victim to assassins. "With Shams gone, the final veil was removed, and the sun (Shams) of Rumi's own heart could be revealed. The love that had been awakened could now be realized as an attribute of Rumi's own self. Rumi would later be able to teach with conviction:"

There is no Love greater than Love with no object.
For then you, yourself, have become love itself.

And so I found myself sending blessings to all the men I love: the ones with wives, the ones with ex-wives and new partners, the ones who swore they never wanted kids and have now become fathers with other women, the ones who are still single but apparently never wanted to change that status with me, and of course Mac, who seems to believe that a career as a singer and happiness with me are mutually exclusive.

I sent them love, and I sent them good wishes for the lives they are now living. I blessed their families and their well-being.

They may not have chosen me... but they may allow me to be revealed to myself...

Sunday, February 10, 2008

to cut or not to cut

Hello beautiful person! This post, with 100% of its scintillating original content, has been moved to my new personal blog, emelgy. Thanks for visiting!

cookbooks

Michelle's top ten favorite cookbooks

I have a recipe-sharing group on Facebook (Share your recipes (vegetarian and vegan friendly)), and a friend recently posted a Wall comment recommending the Moosewood series of cookbooks. At one point in time I had the entire Moosewood series, and I highly recommend them. But I've been downsizing over the last year, and in an attempt to free up some space on my bookshelves I got rid of all but one shelf of my cookbooks.

I used to be a cookbook junkie. (I used to be a book junkie, period.) I read cookbooks as though they were novels - just for fun - and I used to have about 75 of them. I've cut that number by two-thirds. I mean, I rarely USE cookbooks. I rarely use recipes. Most of what I cook I make up as I go along, based on past experience. But here are the 10 favorite cookbooks that I still own:


  1. Unplugged Kitchen by Viana La Place. I am in love with the way this woman - an Italian-American - describes food. Her book is full of descriptions from her childhood, and is also an "unplugged" manifesto; she encourages readers to eschew modern kitchen appliances like food processors in favour of time-honoured tools such as the food mill. (I own a food processor. I don't own a food mill. But I can appreciate her approach all the same.) Favorite recipe: Damiana's Purslane Salad. (La Place's description of purslane piqued my interest, and I was delighted to discover that it grew as a plentiful weed in my father's vegetable patch. I ate a lot of purslane that summer.)


  2. The New Laurel's Kitchen by Laurel Robertson, Carol Flinders and Brian Ruppenthal. A vegetarian classic, this cookbook is also an invaluable vegetarian resource, with tables of calorie counts and nutrients for all the recipes and most of the common vegetarian foods, guidance on how to eat a well-balanced vegetarian diet, and tips for special populations (children, pregnant women). A must-have for any new vegetarian. Also by this author: Laurel's Kitchen Caring: Recipes for Everyday Home Caregiving, a cookbook of comfort food to feed loved ones who are challenged by illnesses such as cancer and AIDS.


  3. The Greens Cook Book by Deborah Madison with Edward Espe Brown. By the celebrated first chef of the famous San Francisco vegetarian restaurant, Greens, this book is a classic of fine vegetarian cuisine. I was encouraged to try making homemade pasta after first reading this book years ago. Highlight: Lots (LOTS) of recipes for salads, soups and homemade pastas.


  4. Raw: The Uncook Book by Juliano. I was raw (eating only raw food) for over eight months several years ago, and Raw was a wonderful inspiration for me (although, as with most raw "cooking," the recipes are quite time-consuming). Highlight: The photos! This book is absolutely gorgeous, and it makes you want to go raw if only for the visual pleasure of the experience.


  5. The Old World Kitchen: The Rich Tradition of European Peasant Cooking by Elisabeth Luard. This book isn't vegetarian, but because it's about peasant food there are plenty of vegetarian (i.e. inexpensive!) dishes. I like simple things. Peasant food fits the bill. And the descriptions of peasant food from the different regions are fascinating. (Plus there's a whole chapter on potato dishes. Need I say more?) Favorite recipe: Colcannon (an Irish potato/kale dish).


  6. Tassajara Cooking by Edward Espe Brown. Tassajara is the location of the Zen Mountain Center, a Zen Buddhist practice centre founded in 1967. This cookbook is not just about recipes, but a "zen and the art of cooking" treatise. A joy to read. Favorite recipe: Carrot Salad: carrot, salt, lemon. (Did I mention I like simple things?)


  7. James Beard's Theory and Practice of Good Cooking by James Beard. Again - not vegetarian, but very, VERY useful. Beard, the one-time dean of American cooking, describes in great detail the reasons behind any and every cooking technique you could ever want to use in Western cooking.


  8. The Joy of Cooking by Irma S. Rombauer and Marion Rombauer Becker. Another fantastic cooking resource; I rarely use it, but keep it around in case I'm ever inspired to make classic favorites like homemade lemonade or apple crisp. Favorite recipe: Lemonade.


  9. Wholesome Harvest: Cooking with the New Four Food Groups - Grains, Beans, Fruits and Vegetables by Carol Gelles. Want a bunch of hearty, basic vegetarian recipes that are inherently nutritious? This is the cookbook to have. I got rid of Diet for a Small Planet years ago in favour of keeping this book, which is much more useful. Favorite recipe: Lentil Apple Soup.


  10. Extending the Table: A World Community Cookbook by Joetta Handrich Schlabach. Written in the spirit of the Mennonite More with Less books by Doris Janzen Longacre, this book is an extravagant feast of recipes (again - not vegetarian) from around the world. The combinations of foods and spices from different countries are what I love about this book. Favorite feature: Descriptions of day-to-day life in third world countries. Very humbling and inspiring.

On top of the above cookbooks, I also have three books I'd love to own, but don't:


  1. Happy Days with the Naked Chef by Jamie Oliver. Actually, I would probably take any of Oliver's books. But this is the one I know. I first saw this book in a client's home, and I used to take it down off the bookshelf in her kitchen every time I dusted - just for the pleasure of flipping through the pages. I've never seen one of Oliver's shows, but I love his enthusiasm for good, fresh food. Favorite recipe: Fresh mint crushed with sugar in a mortar and pestle, which makes an unbelievably beautiful green garnish for ice cream.


  2. Mollie Katzen's Sunlight Cafe, by Mollie Katzen. Katzen was a member of the original Mooswood collective, and the author of several other vegetarian cookbooks. Breakfast recipes to serve all day. Favorite recipe: Hash browns with diced beets. Don't knock it until you've tried it!


  3. In Tuscany by Frances Mayes. Not strictly a cookbook - travel writer Mayes is well-known for her Under the Tuscan Sun memoir - this is a coffee-table visual extravaganza of the Tuscany region with, yes, recipes interspersed throughout the book. Favorite page: The description of "bacci," or Italian kisses. (As in real kisses. Not food.)

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

i have a new job

This entry was posted simultaneously on three of my blogs: an organized existence, the greener cleaner and the rest of my life.

I just found out today that I have a new full-time job: Artistic Administrator for The Nathaniel Dett Chorale, Canada's first professional choir dedicated to performing Afrocentric music of all genres. But through the mysteries of cyber-space management (and the fact that I always save several empty "draft" blog posts in each of my blogs every month), I am not actually writing this post until more than two months later - Sunday, March 16, to be exact.

I didn't write about my new job until now (March) because for most of my first two months on the job I was secretly terrified that I might be fired at any moment. It's not that I was doing a bad job... it's just that I wasn't sure I was doing a really good job. And I wasn't sure if my employer, the Chorale's Artistic Director, Brainerd Blyden-Taylor, thought I was doing a good job, either.

Can I say that I LOVE my new job, though? It's been both challenging and rewarding, and is pushing me to grow professionally and personally in so many ways. At the end of every day I am ecstatic that I get to serve the amazing musicians who can do this:



I am inspired and lifted up by this group of people. This is a very special organization that touches so many lives in a very important way.

Brainerd and I were chatting with an arts colleague recently, and this person mentioned that her own organization had gone for several months without hiring someone for a vacant administrative position because they decided they were going to wait for just the right fit. Eventually someone walked through the door with that special aura about them that told our colleague she'd found "the one."

Later that day I asked Brainerd if he had felt the same way when he hired me - expecting him to answer in the negative (which he did). (Can I say that one of the other things I love about my new job is that I feel I can talk freely to Brainerd about almost anything?) The thing is, it wasn't obvious when I was hired that I possessed all the skills and experience needed to do this job well. Brainerd had made a list several months earlier, though - a list of all the qualities that he wanted in his future administrative head. And the longer I'm at this job, the more he is realizing that I have most of those qualities.

How many jobs have you had where you've felt you were the answer to someone's prayer? It's pretty sweet...

I'm still doing organizing and eco-friendly consulting on the side, but I'm pretty selective with the clients I take on now. Feel free to contact me about a project you'd like help with, and if I can't do it myself, I will refer you to someone I can.

(And don't be afraid to hold out for "the one" while you're at it...)

Sunday, January 6, 2008

for the love of listening

I was driving down Mount Pleasant Avenue in uptown Toronto this afternoon when I passed by a small chocolatier’s called LeFeuvre’s. I have vivid memories of visiting this shop just over a year ago with my ex-boyfriend, MacKenzie.

Mac was an actor who did historical re-enactments; he went into schools and recreated characters from Canadian history. His repertoire included a French seigneur and the RCMP officer Sam Steele. His most popular character by far, however, was a First World War infantry soldier based on the real-life reminiscences of Fred LeFeuvre, a Canadian who served with the 2nd Division, 4th Brigade, 19th Battalion.

After the war, Fred returned to Canada and eventually opened his eponymous chocolate shop. Of the many staff which must have passed through his employ over the years, one – a young man named David Morris – took the time to listen to Fred’s stories, and later crafted them into an hour-long monologue that would give Canadian school-children first-hand experience of war.

Dave is founder of the educational acting company, History Comes Alive – and Mac was one of the company’s actors.

I think Fred LeFeuvre (Mac always pronounced his name “Le Fever”) got under Mac’s skin in a way that many of his other characters never did. Dave told Mac about his time spent working in the chocolate shop with Fred, and Mac wanted to walk through that door and see the sights – smell the smells – that were part of Fred LeFeuvre’s daily existence after his life-altering war experiences.

All Mac knew was that LeFeuvre’s – the shop – was located somewhere along Mount Pleasant. I was so new to Toronto at the time that I had no idea where to tell Mac to look. We traveled downtown on an errand, and on our way back we finally spotted the tiny storefront in the main commercial area along Mount Pleasant, south of Eglinton.

Mac was like a little kid – he could hardly contain his excitement. It was early evening, and the impenetrable December darkness had already descended. We weren’t sure if the shop would even be open, but hadn’t counted on the popularity of chocolate in the last-minute rush towards Christmas.

I remember how the aroma of the store embraced us in a heady, hot bath of bittersweet. There was no staff in the front of the store, but a door was open to the workshop in back where the chocolates were made, and a tired woman got up from her creations to step behind the counter, waiting to serve us.

Mac is a naturally gregarious guy, and he quickly sought to engage the proprietors – whom he knew were no longer connected to the LeFeuvre family – in conversation. But they were busy filling last-minute orders, and weren’t interested in indulging Mac’s curiosity, or listening to his story.

In the end, Mac simply bought several boxes of chocolates for family and friends, and we were pushed back out into the cold night.

There’s a quote that I came across a few days ago, from a woman named Barbara Ueland. She says: “Unless you listen, you can’t know anybody. Oh, you will know facts and what is in the newspapers and all of history, perhaps, but you will not know one single person. You know, I have come to think listening is love, that’s what it really is.”

I never saw Mac perform “The Soldier”, as he called it. He stopped doing the character several months ago; the raw emotion of the role tore strips off his beautiful tenor singing voice, and he didn’t want to risk permanent vocal damage.

But I think about the boy who saw things that no human being should ever have to see… and I think about the man who chose to make chocolate – a modern symbol of love – for a living.

I think about the love of a listening ear, lavished by a hired shop boy upon his elderly employer… and the love that hundreds of schoolchildren have spent upon this same man’s memory, via Mac’s proxy.

If love is the currency of exchange for storytelling, it seems to me that stories must be very valuable, indeed. Yet I have spent countless hours listening – to family, friends, lovers and strangers – and never once asked myself what I was receiving in return for my love.

One of the active ingredients in chocolate is theobromine, whose name comes from the Greek roots theo and bromis, literally, “food of the gods.” Among its many side-effects, theobromine is considered to be a vasodilator – that is, it opens the blood vessels – and a heart stimulant.

Call it poetic fancy, but I wonder if stories don’t act in exactly the same way. If stories, themselves, are nothing less than the food of the gods.

Come share in the listening with me…

Saturday, January 5, 2008

the easiest dessert ever

This is one of Mom's favorite things to serve to guests after a simple meal. It's basically just thawed frozen fruit and store-bought cake, but it has a sophistication that will leave even a gourmand satisfied. To see the entire Facebook album with photos and descriptions, click here.

1. Start with some frozen berries - easy to find in the freezer aisle of your favorite grocery store.

2. Sprinkling the berries with a little sugar or honey will help soften them as they thaw, and create a rich juice that's like ambrosia.

3. Buy a pound cake. Mom also uses angel food cake, which dieters will love because it's so low in fat.

4. Slice the cake, one slice per person.

5. Top the cake slices with the thawed berries and a drizzle of the juice. You can also garnish with whipped cream, ice cream, or a dusting of icing sugar or cinnamon. (For dinner last night with a friend, I opted for plain cake and berries.)

scrabulous

Like many Facebook members, I have become addicted to Scrabulous - the Facebook Scrabble craze. I played a handful of Scrabble games as a teenager, but it wasn't until I saw the film Akeelah and the Bee that I realized that there was Scrabble... and then there was SCRABBLE.

After a friend casually invited me to join him in a friendly game of Scrabulous several weeks ago, I have become fascinated with the rules and strategies of tournament Scrabble. I've read up on Scrabble, employed selective use of Scrabble-related tools from time to time, and have enjoyed seeing my Scrabulous scores gradually rise, accordingly.

Many times during a standard game, though, I have desperately wished for a little... flexibility... in the rules. Maybe it's my creative side coming out, but I've often taken a combination of letters like JTAILAE and wondered why, exactly, I can't play a perfectly good pretend word like JAILATE (definition: to put in jail).

I recently played a "Challenge" game of Scrabulous with my first Scrabulous buddy, and I suggested a future game where we could play made-up words (in "Challenge" mode the board will accept words that aren't in the TWL or SOWPODS dictionaries) - provided, of course, that we could come up with believable (or at least entertaining) definitions for our new words.

So here are a few Scrabulous variations that I'm suggesting:

1. Proper Name Scrabulous
So many times I've drawn a combination of letters that have spelled a perfectly good proper name, and of course I haven't been able to play it. In Proper Name Scrabulous, you can ONLY play proper names (of people, places or things - including businesses and companies) or made-up proper names, provided you include an entertaining description of the name in the message section. (Note: Any secondary words that you create in a given play must also be proper names or made-up proper names, with accompanying descriptions if necessary.)

Examples of playable words:

KESHAWN (which is actually the name of a little boy I know)
CANADA
IKEA
RAYMONDI (definition: the proper, collective name of a set of male twins, bestowed by a particularly lazy pair of parents who couldn't be bothered to come up with two different names for their boys ("i" being a pluralizing word ending, of course))

2. Totally-Made-Up-Word Scrabulous
None of the words that you play may be actual words in the TWL or SOWPODS dictionaries. You must, however, make some attempt to create words that are quasi-believable - i.e. that use standard prefixes and suffixes, word roots, or are inventive twists on real words. Each totally made up word must come with a definition - preferably an entertaining one. (Note: Any secondary words that you create in a given play must also be totally made up, with accompanying definitions. Kudos to players who can create themes with their multiple word plays.)

Examples of playable words:

INGUT (definition: a bar of gold after being eaten by a large animal)
REPROSE (definition: to rewrite some prose)
CREWATE (definition: to select a crew for a jobsite)

(I hope it goes without saying that playing "ZWKLDMI" on a triple word score with the definition "what my infant son says after spitting up" is an abuse of this particular game variation. And your opponent's goodwill.)

3. Somewhat-Fake-Word Scrabulous
A syncretized hybrid of traditional Scrabulous and Totally-Made-Up-Word Scrabulous. You may play real words or fake words, and the fake words must follow the rules of Totally-Made-Up-Word Scrabulous, above. You must, however, state at the beginning of the game which version (Totally-Made-Up-Word or Somewhat-Fake-Word) you are playing - and you may not switch versions part-way through a game already in progress.

4. Slang Scrabulous
A variant of Somewhat-Fake-Word Scrabulous, where you may play only real slang or made-up slang words. (Note: Any secondary words that you create in a given play must also be totally made up or real slang words, with accompanying definitions. Kudos to players who can create themes with their multiple word plays.)

Examples of playable words:

DEF
PHAT
SIC (definition: The "cool" spelling of the current use of the word "sick" to mean something really awesome.)

I also welcome your own inventive variations of Scrabulous games. Friend me on Facebook or the Scrabulous website to begin one of these fun matches...

Friday, January 4, 2008

how to feng shui your bedroom to attract a mate

I was talking with an organizing colleague a couple of months ago, and was interested to discover that she was taking a course in the Chinese art of feng shui.

My colleague and I are both single, and she was especially excited to reveal how to arrange your bedroom to attract a romantic partner. (I must say, I was especially excited to hear it.)

Turns out the key is to have two of everything. (Sounds kind of like the theory that "like attracts like".) (Or, alternatively, a good biblical flood plan strategy.)

Here is a photo of my feng shui-ed sleeping area, in which you may observe:

  • One bed. (Ah - but I am a crafty one! My king-size mattress is actually two twins.) (A future note will detail how to avoid falling into the crack between the mattresses while "coupling".)


  • Two blankets. (They're both for me. Everyone knows that guys are always hot.)


  • Two pillows... times three. (I hope six is a good feng shui number. Anyone?)


  • Two throw pillows. (These - like most throw pillows - are totally useless and will drive men up the wall. But at least I have two of them...)


  • Two baskets. (I used to have just one, on my side of the bed. I added another basket for the man - even though he won't know what the hell to do it. (See "throw pillows", above.) I use mine to hold my glasses while I'm sleeping. I have an aversion to stepping on them when I get up to pee in the middle of the night.)


  • Two chairs: his and hers. Mac really loved the masculine one on the right (a plastic Muskoka chair covered by a sheet). So I already know it comes male-approved.


  • Two more throw pillows - one on each chair. (Mac didn't know what to do with the throw pillow. See "throw pillows", above.)


  • Two lights. (They're both on one side, admittedly - but it's his side! He gets manual turn-off rights. (The wall switch is actually on my side. Hee hee.))


  • Two book cases... times two. All the books are currently mine. I will make room for his books - for a price.


  • An even number of books. (Okay, not really. I have no idea how many books and magazines I have, and I am not about to count them. This one item may be reason I have not yet attracted a mate, though. Hmm...)


  • One boom box. But again - on his side. It has two speakers - does that count?

Then there is the small item of the guillotine paper cutter on top of the second-from-the-left book shelf. I have a funny feeling that it is particularly bad feng shui. Perhaps I can counter its negative effects by supplying a second woman in the bed...?

DISCLAIMER: I am not a certified feng shui practitioner. Any information shared in this note is for entertainment purposes only. I will not be responsible for any havoc that attracting a mate may wreak in your life.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

happy new year - or something

This is the story of a New Year’s Eve which unfolded in two (very different) parts - and the story of the morning after.

My story actually begins the day before New Year’s Eve, when I mentioned to my church choir director that I would probably be travelling to London at the end of January to celebrate my father’s birthday.

The choir director commented that my father must be an Aquarian. Yes, indeed he is. (And how does the choir director know this? He is also an Aquarian – his birthday is two days after my father’s.)

I joked that my father’s zodiac sign was the reason that he (my father) and I had always butted heads. (My inside voice groaned: Did I just say that out loud? To the Aquarian choir director I respect and admire?)

When I was a girl, I found an astrological romantic-compatibility chart and was astonished to discover that my parents - an Aquarian and a Taurean - were supposedly a very poor romantic match. The kicker is, my birthday is one day after my mother’s. Also within the calendar boundaries of Taurus.

The conversation with my choir director turned to other things, but I went home from church that morning wondering to myself why Taurus and Aquarius were not supposed to get along.

An internet search proved very fruitful:

“This is an unusual combination, and the association isn’t likely to last long. Taurus is fixed earth and Aquarius is fixed air. The two signs form a natural square between them, signaling challenges and conflict. Aquarius tends to be very social, easy going and willing to try everything at least once. Taurus, on the other hand, is very sentimental and forms emotional attachments to things, feelings and people. Read: they do not like change and usually hate trying anything new. Unless this couple has very compatible moon signs and other factors in their charts together, the combination is very unlikely to last long.”

Another site put it more bluntly:

“Taurus is closemouthed and conservative. Aquarius is unconventional and vivacious. Taurus is lusty and passionate. Aquarius operates on a mental plane. Taurus likes to be home and Aquarius likes to roam. Taurus needs security and Aquarius is a fancy-free loner. Not good for the long term. Aquarius has a careless attitude toward love that will enrage the highly passionate Taurus. Taurus is too possessive and jealous for Aquarius. Taurus loves home and Aquarius loves to wander. Both are stubborn in different ways.”

My memories of the conflicts between my parents bear some of this out. Dad is a gregarious visionary whose idea of a good time is to be out socializing every night of the week. Mom is a quiet homebody who loves nothing better than to curl up by the fire with a good book. Every night of the week.

(I should mention that my parents are still more-or-less happily married to each other after 44 years, though.)

This whole exercise got me thinking. I’m not one to put great stock in astrological predictions – maybe it’s just that I don’t seem to fit many of the characteristics of my sign – but I would love to find a good romantic match. And I certainly haven’t had much success so far.

I was curious to see what kind of man would be considered an appropriate partner for my “lusty and passionate” Taurus. Turns out that Capricorn seems to be the best pairing - with Virgo, Gemini and Cancer trailing somewhere behind. After reading through the combinations, though, I have to say I still felt more drawn to the tempestuous Libra and Scorpio descriptions.

If I am not in a relationship, New Year’s Eve is a non-event for me. I’m not a party animal (see the “homebody” bit, above), and the turning of a new year is, for me, less a holiday to celebrate than an opportunity to spend time in quiet introspection.

Which is exactly what I planned to do this New Year’s. I whiled away the first part of the day working at creative pursuits and cleaning my apartment, and then, with the suddenness of a switch being turned, I became quiet.

I listened to music. Really listened – just lay on my bed, absorbing the sounds.

I had a bath - an amazing, luscious, restorative bath.

The bath alone deserves an entire chapter. I rubbed myself from head to toe (well mostly – I didn’t do my hair, which later turned out to be a good thing) with oil, in the ayurvedic fashion.

Then, slicked-up with extra virgin (I smelled like freshly-tossed pasta, especially since I also added immunity-enhancing oregano oil to the water), I lazed in the hot tub for nearly an hour.

Romans used to clean themselves with olive oil, scraping it off with a utensil called a strigil. Many religious traditions still practice anointing - smearing grease or oil on body parts in ritual ceremonies.

I wanted to feel cleansed; I wanted to feel blessed. I was well on my way to both, relaxing in damp languor on my bed after emptying the tub, when I got a phone call. It was 10:30 p.m.

Domenic, a business associate with whom I’ve been working on a new project, was five minutes from my place. Did I want to go out?

Now, Taureans supposedly hate change and spontaneity.

Ha!

I was all over Domenic’s invitation, and when he called five minutes later to say he’d arrived, I was only two or three minutes from walking out my door.

(Ohhh, but I’m a low-maintenance woman!)

Dom took me to his favorite pub, where the music was loud, the live band was smokin’, and the celebrators were…fifteen to twenty years younger than me, on average.

I looked especially hot (if I do say so myself) in a long, slinky black skirt paired with a crisp, fitted white shirt buttoned too low in the front, cuffs turned back, a delicate pearl necklace around my neck. Not too shabby for someone who’d been wearing sweats and a t-shirt when the telephone rang.

Wispy tendrils of hair delicately framed my dewy face. (Thank you Jesus, I didn’t rub my head with the oil.) The music at the pub was so loud I couldn’t make myself heard unless I leaned in and spoke into Dom’s ear.

Crammed into a standing-room-only corner, I looked up into his warm eyes…and heard him say he was a Capricorn.

Now, my story could go several ways here - and if it were fiction, I know which ending I’d choose.

The reality is, Dom is still pining over his last girlfriend, and I’m still pining over Mac – plus we have a good business relationship that doesn’t need to be complicated by a little boot-knocking.

I did entertain some brief (cough) thoughts, though… (and thank goodness Dom has an aversion to reading, so is never likely to see this…)

I wondered how the New Year’s kiss might be negotiated, but when the time came he very politely bussed me on both cheeks in the Italian fashion. We went for a walk in the newly-falling snow when I’d reached my tolerance for amplifier-induced tinnitus, and I told him for the millionth time that his ex was only going to continue to disappoint him if he continued to revisit that relationship (a foible of his).

We waited for people to come move their cars so Dom could get his Range Rover out of the alley where he’d parked, and I went home exhausted, deaf and (once I’d bolted my apartment door at 2 a.m. to the accompaniment of my upstairs neighbour horking for ten minutes straight) cranky as hell.

“Taureans are quiet, gentle people, but they know their own mind. The thought of too much action can sometimes make a Taurean feel physically sick.”

No shit.

It was not the night I’d planned. I don’t regret spending time with Dom – he needed a friend after his ex took off to a New Year’s event without him. We talked about business, he talked about his fears and dreams…and I woke at 7 a.m. to the sound of the alarm clock that I’d forgotten to disable.

Is there a lesson in all of this? If there is, I hope it includes the observation that I’m more flexible than my horoscope gives me credit for.

Dom asked me at one point last night what I thought he should be looking for in a woman. I didn’t have a good answer for him at the time, but in retrospect I should have fallen back on the stars:

“[Taurus’] lovable and trustworthy nature relaxes the usually serious Capricorn boy, and [she] really bring[s] out his sense of humor.”

For me, I’m tired of looking through all the compatibility charts, searching for maybes. Whatever this New Year brings, I hope it includes relationships of all kinds – relationships with deep, sustaining love and respect on both sides.

(And maybe a playful attitude towards sex - with the right partner, of course...)