Sunday, December 29, 2013

Reading and Watching in the Slow Days of Winter

By nature I am a contemplative woman. My best days are spent reading or viewing a thought-provoking film. For me, character development, a theme that resonates or poses an interesting question and a setting that is created with the fine strokes of an artist are the elements that I seek in a book, film or play.

This week, I discovered a film Cycling with Molière (Alceste à bicyclette) on Netflix. Set in Île de Ré, a rainy holiday town in France, the film is a character study of two actors rehearsing Le Misanthrope while actually playing out the roles in their real-life interactions. The premise is that the two actors will take turns playing the lead role, Alceste the Misanthrope and the supporting role of Philinthe, the more optimistic friend. You need not have read Le Misanthrope to appreciate how this alternation is reflected in the off-stage antics of the characters. However, if you have studied French Language and Literature, you will find Fabrice Lucchini hilarious as he tries to explain the alexandrine to his colleague, a star of daytime television (played by Lambert Wilson). I wasn't able to find the alexandrine scene on Youtube but this rehearsal scene brought tears of laughter to my eyes. For those who need to be transported to France, this is a film that can be watched over and over.

Yesterday, I came across an interesting quotation from an article about Caroline Heilbrun, an exceptional academic, feminist, philosopher and novelist. I was first introduced to Heilbrun's writings
through her mystery novels written under the pseudonym of Amanda Cross. I have just purchased Heilbrun's The Last Gift of Time, a work that discusses life in the seventh decade. 

Women, I believe, search for fellow beings who have faced similar struggles, conveyed them in ways a reader can transform into her own life, confirmed desires the reader had hardly acknowledge--desires that now seem possible. Women catch courage from the women whose lives and writings they read, and women call the bearer of that courage friend. [p. 138]” 
― Carolyn G. HeilbrunThe Last Gift of Time: Life Beyond Sixty

After posting yesterday's blog about the connection between blogger and reader, I came across this quote which expresses so elegantly what I have come to believe in my own life.

Funny, I feel like I have been lazy when I spend days in reflection. I must have a closet to clean or
laundry to fold. What do you do or not do during the slow days of winter? Is contemplation one of your "guilty pleasures"?

Saturday, December 28, 2013

New Year, New Directions?

I just received a renewal notice for my blog. It's been almost a year of blogging for me. Being in my sixties seems a bit like being an adolescent except the future seems shorter and there are the inevitable losses.

It is almost a year since my father died and our lives have gone on. Life is like that, I guess. When I was a girl at school, I used to think that if my name disappeared from the class list, I would soon be forgotten no matter how hard I tried or how successful I was.

Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.- Thoreau

Since I was a young student, this quote by Henry David Thoreau has caused me to stop and think about  
what I was doing and why.  I have been retired for two and a half years and right now I feel a little lost and lonely. Hardly a day goes by that I don't think about teaching. I don't miss the sameness of going to the job but I miss the "big ideas" and the possibility of touching the life of a young person. The Arts One professor who chose to read Walden with his first year students did not know how it would affect me. When I chose a story for children, I always hoped that a least one child would feel even a momentary connection.

When I write my blog, I hope for the same connection with my readers. I am not a wardrobe guru, a gourmet chef or an interior decorator. What I have to share are the challenges and the delights of being an almost 62 year-old woman. I face the next year with lots of uncertainties:will I continue to travel if my husband doesn't come, do I need to find a new way to teach, will I grow my grey hair out  ( I really like The Hostess' hair)…. The list goes on forever.

As I think about almost a year of writing, I recognize the dedication of those bloggers who have continued to share their lives with others over several years. Although I started to read blogs only 18 months ago, I feel a connection to a community of bloggers. 

I don't know where the next year will take me:geographically, emotionally or spiritually. There are no roadmaps for ageing wisely and graciously but I know that I will continue to learn from the experiences  of others and I hope that at least one reader will read my words and feel a connection.

An afterthought: when I retired, a gifted student that I worked with presented me with a Thoreau mug which is part of the legacy of my long ago Arts One professor.

Only through our connectedness to others can we really know and enhance the self. And only through working on the self can we begin to enhance our connectedness to others.
Harriet Goldhor Lerner

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Christmas Outing

Nutcracker at the Christmas Market
Yesterday, my daughter and I donned boots, hats and gloves to visit the Christmas Market in downtown Vancouver. It is the first time that I have been to the market and the first time for many years that I have been downtown at Christmas with my daughter. Daughter works shifts and as I get older, my trips to the city are fewer.

When I was a child, our family drove downtown to see the Christmas windows and lights.  As there were no suburban shopping centres, this was my family's major outing of the year. We had no fast-food restaurants at that time so a dinner out was a cause for celebration and very good manners. We wore our best clothes as we were likely to have our photo snapped with Santa Claus.

When my daughter was young, her father and I liked to take her to see the Nutcracker ballet every year.
We dressed up in our finery to attend the production. I have always believed that music and dance are an important part of young children's experiences. To this day, my daughter enjoys a lot of live theatrical and musical productions. 

As I get older, I am less likely to purchase the lovely ornaments at the Christmas Market. We don't always put up a tree in our apartment as I am not a fan of artificial  trees and we have no visiting children. 

Christmas ornaments from Germany.
My daughter and I had a happy outing day with lots of memories and very little expense. Today is the Solstice and the coming days will surely be brighter.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Add a Little Razzle Dazzle

Hand painted snow flake
A number of years ago, I lost a very good friend to cancer. In the late eighties, when she was losing her hair because of her treatment, she discovered nails. She found that lovely nails made her feel better about herself. I have very fragile nails and I do housework so glamorous nails have never been part of the equation. Sunday, as I was facing more domestic upheaval, I skipped church and drove myself to the local nail bar. I intended to have just a manicure but I now have gel nails. My fingers look so long and lovely to me. The technician was like an artist with a tiny brush and actually painted snowflakes on on my nails.

I have been recording my food (and drink) on My Fitness Pal for 2 weeks and have lost 5 pounds and 2 inches off my tummy. Button blouses are buttoning without the little wiggle. I have had a number of social occasions and some sad days so I am feeling positive about my results. I have been very much inspired by The Hostess' amazing results and realize that it is all about perseverance not magic.

Tomorrow, Maman and I are going to a Blue Christmas Advent service. Our local Anglican and United
churches are holding a service for those who may be a little sad in the holiday season.  What a great idea! I do believe that there are many opportunities for support whether church-based or community-based. Tonight, I am going to another carol singing party at the home of one of my travelling partners.
I haven't seen her since we parted company and I went to Tucson. It seems like a lifetime ago.

If you have noticed disappearing posts on my blog, it is because I am uncertain. Right now, I am dealing with somebody else's mood disorder. I have dealt with it before and cannot be sure of the outcome this time. Part of me wants to write about this illness that destroys families and relationships but I have a concern because mood disorders often come to a head with hypomania and then a hospitalization. Everything settles back down, drugs are tweaked and on we go until next time. No one knows why or when. If this sounds familiar to you, you are not alone!

In the meantime, I have snowflake nails.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Lightening the Load

We are in the dark days of Winter, soon to come out the other side. Whatever our beliefs or traditions, this time of the year can be difficult. Right now, I am feeling a little bit brighter because I have tracked my food for one whole week on My Fitness Pal. It's interesting to me to notice the nutritional composition on my meals and to see just where the extra pounds are coming from. I have had to plan my meals a little more carefully and I am struggling with my wine consumption but I know that in the end it will pay off.

In most situations, I am a woman who perseveres. It is one of those qualities that all of my family share. My home life is tumultuous right now. The obligations of the season and the tension between Monsieur  and me is making life stressful. We are often told that this should be a "happy time" and that we should not "spoil it for others"but for both Monsieur and me, it is the first Christmas after the loss of a parent. Since my mother is still alive, there is something of an expectation that we can compensate for the loss of my dad. The last two Christmases have been hard ones for my mother: Dad went into Extended Care on December 23, 2011 and died January 4, 2013.

Tonight, Monsieur and I are attending a potluck dinner with my small Church group. I have not attended a  gathering with this group before but have prepared a healthy dish of green beans, pearl onions and toasted almonds. There will be Christmas music and activities as well as the meal.

This Sunday, the minister likened the journey to Bethlehem to the journey of life: there are joys and sadness that we cannot imagine. With faith and acceptance, our loads will be lighter and the brighter days will come.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Home Again!

Learning to take a selfy
Back home again and resolved to eliminate excess of all sorts. I was able to function in 400 square feet in the casita and I am finding our 950 square foot apartment rather crowded. During December, I am taking stock of which items of clothing that I actually wear. Today, I am wearing my Breton shirt and a scarf that I bought in Guatemala. Monsieur and I will be having  coffee with neighbours and going grocery shopping for some healthy food. We are both joining Weight Watchers on Thursday as our middles are definitely expanding.

Our holiday calendar is starting to fill up with Christmas parties, choir concerts and Monsieur's gigs. I am easily overwhelmed by social activities and need  to listen to my own voice. Too much food, too much drink and too many people make Madame uncomfortable.

Someone shared a great TED talk video with me about generosity and happiness. If we remember this throughout the holiday, our lives will hopefully feel less stressful.