The Book Club

Where do I start. At the end perhaps.

I was walking quickly towards my car. Down the one way street.

The man standing on the patio, smoking his cigarette called out to me, “You look cold.”

“Yes, I am but I suppose it’s winter!”

“True,” he responded and I kept on marching.

I was shivering, I was cold even though my feet continued to sweat from being in my boots and indoors for two hours, having participated in a book club.

I can’t quite say I actively participated. I participated to the point of laughing when things were funny, shared small talk with the person on my right and on my left, when appropriate (only pre-book club, during break and post-book club) and typed tidbits on my iPad.

I was the only one typing and I am sure that was obvious. I noticed other people jotting things down in their note pads, but no typing. Just me. Typing, smiling, laughing, sometimes looking serious (or at least in my head I was serious) and enjoying my time in a circle full of strangers.

Strange. I know.

The discussion around the book was lively with many different ideas and insights shared. I particularly enjoyed the diversity of the group. This is not a “group think” club. At times it was so academically informed that I was having difficulty keeping up with the concepts that, thankfully, were then followed by light-hearted jokes.

And real funny jokes. I always got the jokes!

I arrived a few minutes early. There was a small group of people waiting outside of the auditorium. The librarian was rustling with the keys, finding the one that fit the lock to open the door. Inside the room I sat down on a chair in the circle and willed myself NOT to pull out my phone. The point of a book club is to be social, no place for my phone. It felt awkward (really, I know) so I rationalized with myself that my iPad would be acceptable – I needed access to Google Books in any event!

The man two seats away leaned over towards me.

“DId you read the book?”

“Part of it,” I replied

“It didn’t like the book. I don’t know who picked this book. Look how big it is,” and he pointed to another book club member who had brought along a library copy.

I nodded towards him not sure what to say to keep the conversation going, but no worry, he continued, “They could have at least picked a book about relationships and marriage. EVERYONE likes reading about THAT,” he emphasized.

I didn’t know how to respond. I clammed up. Of course everyone likes talking about relationships and I imagined in my head what the next bits of conversation would be like and I shyly turned away to my open iPad. All of a sudden I couldn’t bring myself to be social.

Shortly after a second gentleman arrived and sat between us. It didn’t take long before the two strangers were talking up a storm.

“There is a woman I know,” the first man was saying, “She met a Canadian man and moved to Canada. She’s a widow now.”

“Oh yes,” replied the second gentleman

“I can, you know, set up a date for you but she’s older,” and then he stated her age.

The second gentleman nodded and I didn’t catch his reply but I’d like to think he said yes to a set-up to the man who likes talking about relationships and marriage!

🙂

Favourite lines of the night:

  1. “Life is random.”
  2. “We tend to blow things out of proportion.”
  3. “If you want to be happy, join a book club don’t buy a fancy car.”

I enjoyed my night and recommend joining a book club even if only to be a smiling typist.

Are your shoes some sort of plastic?

Are your shoes some sort of plastic?

IMG-20130414-01161.jpg It has been way too many weeks since I’ve made time to spend a few hours at my coffee shop and to share a blog post.

Today has not disappointed.

I brought my new book “Lean In”, bought myself a muffin and coffee and found my favourite chair in the back of the shop.

I was quietly reading, when a woman appeared out of nowhere. She stopped in front of me and looked down at my feet and declared, “I really like your shoes. Are they made of plastic or something?”

Not letting me answer, she continued, “I have never seen shoes like that before. They must have cost a bundle.”

I wasn’t sure if she wanted an answer or just wanted to tell me what was running through her mind so I smiled at her.

Turns out she just wanted me to listen as she sat down in the chair beside me and continued on a new train of thought.

Advice, and maybe advice I simply needed to hear from a complete stranger, “You have to listen to your heart. No matter what your mind is thinking, your mind and heart are intertwined,” and she demonstrated with her ring covered fingers.

She wasn’t done, “I like this place, it’s like coming home. You can put your feet up and just relax. Talk to people or just be by yourself.”

She liked talking to people, this was obvious as she sat there sharing thoughts and snippets of her life with me. It was a mostly one-sided conversation and I can count the words I said on my left hand.

She decidedly informed me, “You have a beautiful spirit and a wonderful heart and a beautiful smile, I bet you have a lot of close friends and a really good job”

Then distracted, she looked over at my phone that was blinking, “You should really get your phone, I bet someone is trying to get a hold of you.”

I nodded at her but she wasn’t satisfied until I reached for my phone. She stood up, smiled and said “You have a great afternoon.”

She disappeared as quickly as she’d appeared taking her many rings with her.

On Coffee and Random Strange Men

On Coffee and Random Strange Men

Lately I have been away visiting, unexpectedly of course.

The fun part about visiting is I get to try out new local, organic, free-trade coffee houses. This makes me exceptionally happy!

I do my best to keep the coffee experience as close as possible to what I have at home for the sole purpose of making sure I don’t climb the walls.

See my legs are a little like two pets. When they don’t get walked they get hyper-active, naughty and little mouthy.

So this walking thing keeps them in line and besides it gives me a chance to see the community even if the interaction includes someone yelling in my face, like the man on his racing bike, muttering loud enough that I can hear above my music, “Gorgeous, just gorgeous.”

There was a squeal of a tire and a thump, thump behind me. I didn’t turn around. I can only image behind me was a human pretzel entwined in metal.

I do not fantasize that it is only I who attracts unwanted attention, nor do I delude myself into thinking I am a super model, flawlessly air brushed every time I step out of the shower. It may be possible to airbrush the illusion of ample cleavage and to rid the legs that end at the navel of hereditary cellulite and slim the booty to nothing but honestly who has the time and who cares?

You see it is not just me who is accosted while out on strolls, minding my own business.

It is in fact all women. We all have stories. There is no discrimination to age, shape, size, long legs, short legs, curvy, straight, short, tall, well endowed or flat as a board.

I had an argument with a man a few years ago. He was complaining that women think they’re “all-that”. I am paraphrasing but he must have said something like the following:

“All women just think they are hot, sexy and too good for guys.”

Actually most women think the following:

“Crap I am unattractive, this dress is sooo unflattering, look it’s showing my cellulite *gasp* I promise myself to bike a little harder in next week’s spin class and maybe my female friends will compliment me on my supple smooth skin and be jealous. Oh and by the way all men think they are hot, sexy, God’s gift to women and too good for us!”

Take that bucko LOL. That is how I may have responded but I admit my memory is a little fuzzy. I do remember however being distracted by his enormous ego :).

This whole yelling and telling complete strangers how hot and darn amazing they look isn’t helping with the argument of how men think women organically feel about themselves. I mean it’s no wonder we now have heads the size of giant, country fair winning Watermelon’s!

Right ladies?!?!

Yell at us indiscriminately enough times and we’ll accept that we are purrrfect for every and any man and we’ll continue to work on that stubborn cellulite for our fellow female friends only. 🙂

Of all the times I’ve been creepily yelled at or followed; from the weirdo wearing a cow-plop hat strattling his white scooter pushing with his legs three feet behind me to the man who chased me down the road yelling for me to stop to talk?!?!?! (Seriously has this ever actually worked?), my all time favourite experience and yes I accept this is weird that there is a favourite! but there is one.

It was the man on the bike with a basket and a bell.

He was leisurely biking towards me, weaving all over the path, I am guessing enjoying the late afternoon sunshine. He was pedalling an old bike with a rusted basket on the front and a bike bell on the right handlebar.

As he got closer he started dinging his little bell to get my attention. I ignored him.

When he got within earshot he said,

“You look great, you really do.”

When I smirked at him and gave him the “screw off” look clutching my illegal mace and anticipating the typical negative reaction of “b*tch”, he instead slowed down his bike stopped and quietly said, “I really meant it, I am not looking for an acknowledged approval, I just wanted to let you know that you look nice.”

And with that he pedalled away.

Maybe it was his soft eyes or how he said it – I didn’t feel verbally violated and if he had of turned around his bike and asked me out for coffee I might have just put away the mace and said “Sure.”

Ya, we’re complicated 🙂

My Sexy, Hot, Romantic…

We have established I have an affinity for meeting interesting people and having … conversations.

Trust me, I do not seek it out.

Today’s conversation was actually handed to me, like a baton in a race. I wasn’t in some obscure place, no I was being part of regular society.

I am not sure how the conversation started before I was pushed into it, I just know I was being asked my opinion on colours.

“Do you think beige or green. I mean green is much friendlier.”

“Yes, I’d have to agree.”

“See I am not sure. I have this beige fabric with green vines. Its like green like leaf green.”

“Uh-huh, do you think all the shades of green would match.”

She turned sharply towards me, “God made green, it all matches.”.

Point taken – what a dumb question!! I should have known better.

“Well in that case, I concur you should definitely go with green”

We weren’t done however.

“It’s for my balcony,” and off she went describing her balcony. Her hand cut faux-grass. The cooking section. The eating section and the apres eating section.

“Sounds lovely.”

“Oh it is, its romantic. All my friends tell me that.”.

She pulls out her flip phone and searches through her camera’s photos. She finds the balcony and shows it to me.

“See, isn’t it gorgeous.”

“Oh yes, it looks fabulous,” all the while I can’t see a thing on the thumb print of a screen with the sun blaring down on us. Why oh why was I prolonging this conversation!

“Well you know what is really romantic.”. She pauses. “My living room. Its HOT. Its SEXY.” She is obviously out doing herself.

I want to jump in and help her with more descriptive words like Steamy, Erotic, Erogenous, Suggestive.

Instead I lean in close and flippantly insinuate to her that her romantic, HOT, SEXY room was surely seeing some action and not going to waste.

She chuckles and …

After a moment to catch my breath, I successfully remove my foot from my mouth and bid her adieu.

Peter the coffee shop prophet

It’s Saturday and the coffee patio is full with people. There is a couple, a man engrossed in his novel, a women who is serene with her long salt and pepper hair floating in the wind, the two knitting club women who are whispering (They understand that to have a private conversation in public, one must whisper, their whispering makes me smile), and rounding it out is the man with his bulldog.

The couple is sitting up against the wall chattering away about nothing in particular. She’s young and exuding excitement towards life. He’s slightly older, listening to her random chatter about a vegetable platter she is planning on taking with them to an afternoon barbeque. I am not sure if she’s really interested in the carrots, celery and plum tomato’s that they have left over in the fridge or if she just wants to make noise and be noticed. I can’t decide. She is being noticed, maybe not heard, but certainly noticed.

The sun is warm and it feels good on my shoulders. I am sitting at a table reading the news when two gentleman arrive – together but not together. The tall blonde suggests to the older man that he is willing to share his table. I notice that the seat the blonde is offering the older man is in the sun and without any warning I am blurt out,

“You are also welcome to share my table and sit in the shade if that is what you prefer.”

What am I thinking!! Both men turn to look at me in amusement? or sheer shock that I opened my mouth?

“Well thank you, I’d like very much to share your table.”

Oh boy. Well what can I do now? Leave? That’s silly. I’ll manage the situation that I created for myself.

“I must warn you that I might laugh every once in a while.” I know people find this uncomfortable, my random laughing at what I am reading, thinking or seeing and it is just easier to be upfront about this mild turrets-like syndrome. I’ve tried my best to be serious, to be sterner with myself while out in public, but it hasn’t worked so far.

“What do you mean by laughing.”

I don’t respond and go on reading my newspaper. We sit in silence and I ignore him.

He has a backpack and he likes riding his bike in the sunshine. So why is he sitting under the shade? Who knows, I’ll go out on a limb here but he probably wants to chit chat.

He notices the bulldog on the patio and turns around and strikes up a conversation with his owner, a distinguished older gentleman with shocking white hair.

“Winston? I was thinking that would be a good name for your dog.”

“Ya, he’s waiting for his mommy”

“I used to have a sheep dog, so much grooming. I had to put it down because she had hip dysplasia. I guess it’s pretty common in that lot of animals”

“Ya, I think its pretty common for all dogs now-a-days.”

“Hmmm”

He is getting his nerve up, striking up conversation with people around him and he turns to me,

“What’s your name?”

“Dawn” I lie. Well it is a thin lie. It’s half the truth so I can live with myself. I didn’t say something like Jane, Francine, Nicole or better yet Joan Jett!

“I am Peter”

“Good to meet you Peter.”

“I am one of the original disciples, a prophet, you know that? Just don’t ask my mother about it”

No I don’t plan to really get that friendly with you, friendly enough to meet your mother who I assume is likely in her 80’s.

I laugh but don’t look up, I haven’t decided yet if this man is crazy. I mean he looks well adjusted, he is reading a copy of the Globe and Mail, he wears sunglasses, he is appropriately clothed for the weather and he sports a watch with a black leather band with a gold rimmed face.

Peter the prophet does not have a lot of patience and eventually leaves out of disappointment at the lack of conversation.

I kindly wish him a nice afternoon to which he replied, “Yes and good day to you, and perhaps you’ll be more chatty this afternoon.”

Perhaps, perhaps not. I want to introduce him to the girl in the blue dress, she has lots of things to say and perhaps he’d have enjoyed her conversation about vegetable platters.

Joie de vivre

It’s past my bedtime, but I am so tempted to post today, plus tomorrow’s lunch and dinner is in the oven and it would be very wrong to go to bed and let it burn. I know this post is going to go a little all over the place and I apologize in advance.

This weekend turned out to be a little bit like a parabolic graph and it’s a wonderful feeling when strangers, acquaintances, friends and family all mysteriously come together to add sunshine and sprinkle a little humour here and there.

We wont talk about the low point of the parabolic (I just love this word, sorry!) weekend, because it’s really unimportant. The important part was learning something and well, seeing the bright side of what looked like a lot of doom and gloom 🙂 . We don’t like doom and gloom, they are terrible words and even worse feelings.

What was so wonderful about the weekend? It’s really hard to explain. It’s more of a collection of events at the beginning and end that are linked together by a connection of belonging, attachment and a certain kind of Joie de vivre.

I spent two evenings out with girlfriends, both long overdue and needed.

However, it was the second evening’s coffee adventure that we ladies were interrupted by the unlikeliest (another word I rather enjoy) gentleman who couldn’t resist sitting next us (we were hogging the couches). We warned him that the material we may end up discussing would more than likely be a little offside and maybe offensive for his ears! He said he was prepared. He had two older sisters, a girlfriend who shared more than enough with him and besides he was going to be listening to his MP3 player.

Must I tell you, more than once we saw him smirking at our conversation that included a game of comedic charades. We were laughing so hard that no matter how high he turned up the volume of waves crashing into the surf, he eventually gave in and joined the discussion. I just wanted to tell this story, because well, never sit beside a gaggle of women! You will either get annoyed and leave or be forced to join the hokey pokey conversation!

What I really wanted to talk about was the Joie de vivre. I am sure it can mean different things to each of us individually.

Just over three months ago I decided I had too much free time and needed to fill in my off-days at the dealership. My sister highly recommended taking up a part-time job at Pier 1 Imports. I landed a Sales Associate job, was given a nice blue apron and spent a few days going through training.

If you are like me you are thinking training, really, it’s a Retail sales associate job. Why would anyone need a few days of training, don’t you just have to greet people, cash them out and send them on their merry way?

You’d think that right? I certainly did.

Well Pier 1 Imports it turns out is more than just a retail sales job. I like to call it my paid volunteer job because that is exactly what it feels like. Who knew that working in a retail store making minimum wage could have any impact changing how one views the world?

It has for me.

It’s this job that I have met many intriguing women; from the people I work with to the customers who come into the store looking for something new to spruce up their space. Everyone has a story, something learned and most are willing to share a tidbit here and there.

The store is more than great merchandise that has a rich background. It exudes a culture that permeates the entire organization that I can only imagine a handful of companies ever truly get to enjoy. It is one giant army spread across the globe marching towards a common goal. I have never experienced anything quite like this unity, their message and vision is consistent, authentic and believable. They have One Voice.

What amazes me the most is Pier 1 has perfected the process in which to induce a positive emotional response from their employees that draws out their strengths and creates a strong team.

So what’s all this post have to do with the Joie de vivre.

I realized tonight while sitting in our late evening staff meeting that it’s pretty nice to be part of something that holds so much positive energy (I have no idea if energy is the right term here :)). To not only have a strong, positive social network of women and men in my life, but also to have the opportunity to work with a group of people who have a Joie de vivre. People who are looking beyond status quo and have choosen to be part of something that values who they are and what they can offer.

I am doing my best to be realistic and not romanticize this job but perhaps it’s giving me an avenue to consider my dreams a reality. I have not always chased my dreams, I am guilty of putting them in the cupboard, shutting the door and leaving them there to collect dust.

It wasn’t until last year when I was hilariously chased down Queen Street by a gentleman looking for my number that I realized what a terrible mistake I was making. I honestly believe some of the most ridiculous things happen for a good reason and that story is one of them! You are all wondering, yes he did get my number and we did share an afternoon or two at the local ice cream shop talking about life. It was a curious conversation worth having with a man twice my age that got me thinking about my Joie de vivre.

To me, Joie de vivre is when we are able to let go of the pressure and the expectation to be anything different than who we are in our hearts.

When I left home for college, my mom had sent me a note that said something like this “We will miss you and I am sure that the people you meet will enjoy you as much as we enjoy you.” I discounted it for many years, what joy could I possibly bring anyone when I was not even happy myself.

Today I realize that we are most enjoyed when we are at our best and being at our best is when we are willing to be ourselves and by being ourselves we will find our Joie de vivre! 🙂