Heaven is for real, french dining, conscious uncoupling and a new member of staff

I've had a busy few days. Work is starting to take more of my time (I have things like subtitling conference calls for the book now) and the weekend was a whirlwind. I've spent the last few days catching up on some blog reading.

Saturday morning, I was invited to see a preview of Sony Picture's Heaven is for Real.




The film, opening Easter weekend, is the true story of Colton Burpo, who at age four had a near-death experience that gave him visions of heaven. I was invited to view the film since, apparently, I am an "influencer" in the local Christian community (my ticket was free and I could have filled up at the concession stand but, given that it was 10am, opted not to!) I was not sure I'd like the film. I do not like a schmaltzy version of Christianity and do not think that theological issues can be wrapped up with a bow. I had a feeling that the movie would be emotionally manipulative and I hate feeling played.

I was pleasantly surprised.

The beginning of the film is a bit slow. I've seen Greg Kinnear, who plays Reverend Todd Burpo, in too many smooth and sophisticated roles (Sabrina anyone?) to entirely see him as a failing small town garage door installer and church leader. And I wanted to see more of Thomas Haden Church, who I've adored ever since Wings, and Margo Martindale, who is great in everything she does. The second half is sooo good, however. Margo Martindale is given a chance to use her acting chops and is amazing. And Connor Corum, who plays four year old Colton, is superb. Bring tissues. The movie asks a lot of tough questions -- Why does God let some people suffer more than others? Do non-believers go to Heaven? Does prayer change a situation's outcome? -- without providing pat answers. Any flaws the movie has in the first half are very much redeemed by the end. Which is kind of the way I think God works too.

After the film, I met with my girlfriend and her friends who were all at the screening for lunch. What a delight. We ate at The 3 Brewers, which is a chain from France. One of my dining mates who learned of my French-living year, pointed out that we had a view of la Fitness.

Yes, I know it's really L.A. Fitness, but this is my year of living french…

I had the moules frites and a brown beer (it was the chocolate tones that sold me). Yum!


 The funniest thing - given that we are all Christian "influencers" - was that when we sat down at our large table, the sound system started to play Sympathy for the Devil. When we rose to leave, almost three hours later, the sound system started to play Royals. So we started with the devil and ended with the Lorde.

Saturday night was a hockey party and I met some lovely people.

Sunday, I decided to have a God day. I'm reading Jesus Calling as my devotional this year and it's all about listening to God and not being in control or making plans. So I got in my car with the idea of finding a gift for my mother's upcoming birthday. I got on highways I never take and just sort of went where the spirit took me and had a marvellous and fruitful day. My travels also took me to Alphabet Chocolate in Oakville where I met a potential kindred spirit (and Parisian!) in the proprietress Corinne. I'm trying this thing where if I keep my sugar intake low in the day, I treat myself with one truffle at the end of the day. I stocked myself with a supply of handmade Earl Grey and Lavender truffles.



Then I had the chance to relax…



I was very proud of myself last night. Our GO train downtown was cancelled and instead of waiting for the next one, the kids and I jumped in the car and I braved rush hour traffic. Toronto traffic has become unmanageable. It took me three u-turns, a brief chat with a police officer, and 35 minutes to move three city blocks. But I was still home at the same time I would have been had the train not been cancelled (I was not about to miss the BF's Santa Fe chicken!) In fact, I crossed under the train bridge in my car at the same time my train would have been coming into the station, which I think means I almost broke the space time continuum a la Sliding Doors.



Speaking of which, I'm sad for La Gwyn. She's always been at my age and stage and I thought those kids would make it. On the plus side, I will no longer be the most entitled single mom on the planet. Even though I have my own driver…



Deal of the day

One of my less charming readers pointed out to me that I'm not a "real single mother." Well, this was quite exciting news for me. I spent the balance of the day running around my house looking for the live-in partner or husband that must surely be hiding under the sofa cushions or in the laundry basket.

I turned up nothing but a couple of goldfish crackers and some lego. It's for the best: it might have complicated things with my lovely boyfriend. 

***

I've been zhushing a little to try to bring on spring. I've put out a few Easter pieces from the spring decor storage bin.





I put out some springy flowers in front of my little desk in the kitchen (3 bunches of tulips for $10 at Longo's!)



I've pulled out my Lilac Diptyque candle. Apparently the scent is discontinued so my lovely stockist at Soap and Water on Lakeshore (Plain and Simple Home online) gave me the unused tester when I bought the last one in stock. BOGO on Diptyque is a nice thing indeed!



***

I tried to introduce my children to the glories of Bringing Up Baby. 



They prefer The Next Step, but I do try...

***

The shopping gods were smiling on me today. I have been continuing to clean out my closet and pulled out a few pieces that I wanted to consign. When I was waiting at my favourite local consignment shop in Oakville (By Consignment), I spied a pair of pristine Ferragamo driving mocs in my size.

Tempting.

As I revealed in my "11 things about me" post, I am a pretty major germophobe. I've heard the urban legends of people scoring Chanel at their local Value Village. How nice for them: I cannot do it. I need to go where everything has been dry cleaned and steamed and some pieces are new with tags. I both buy and sell there and it's a really great way of getting some superb pieces at insta-fashion prices. 

Like these babies.



They ended up costing me $18.

Say what? 

OK, I'm cheating a little here. The shoes were $78.40. 





I got them for $18.40 because I had a $60 credit from something I'd sold previously. 

The key to selling pieces at this store is that they have to be in mint condition, only a few seasons old (or vintage pieces that are timeless in style), and a designer label (think Holt Renfrew or Saks.) The owners attend Fashion Week each year and know what they are doing. They price things to sell. Hence the attractive price on the shoes.

I love me a good driving moc. They are the shoes I wear most in the summer as they are so comfortable. These are shoes that currently retail for US$395. They look brand new, which is rare for driving mocs as sidewalks chew through them. I'd be willing to bet they were bought on sale on a trip to the US, worn once or twice, deemed too large or too small, and then sold to me. Some new shoes on sale racks have more wear.

Doesn't it feel good to pay less!










March Breakdown and The Grand Budapest Hotel

It was March Break for the kids this past week. We decided to go skiing locally as we had a hot weather vacation over the New Year. We went to our local ski spot where we had stayed on weekends during the year. Our skiing is prepaid so it was cheap and cheerful.



The skiing was excellent (well, excellent for Ontario, which is a very flat province) but the sleeping arrangements nearly killed me this time. I'm one of those people who needs at least 8 hours of decent sleep to function. And I have a trick neck and shoulder from a bout with shingles. It seemed that the pullout sofa was the optimal place for me to sleep to accommodate our group of 5. I assumed that the sofa bed would be as comfy as it had been before but this particular mattress was entire devoid of stuffing. I had metal coil marks imprinted in my back after the first night. On the second night, I tried to sleep in a double bed with my two kids and the dog. The third night I tried to sleep on the sofa, which was the size of a loveseat. Argh!

Even Serena was unhappy with the accommodations:


I somehow doubt Patricia Hearst's french bulldog ever has to sleep on a loveseat.

The fourth night we went home and I slept like a baby.

The fifth night, at home, Serena decided to help herself to some of the leftover Lucky Charms cereal I'd permitted my children to buy as a special March Break junk food treat in ski country. Said Lucky Charms were not "magically delicious," as advertised, unless magic was what made them reappear at 2am. The gluten and sugar laden cereal did not mix well with Serena's strictly Paleo diet and I had semi-digested pink hearts, yellow moons, orange stars, and green clovers all over my bedding along with a lot of raw lamb. I changed my sheets and comforter and got us all tucked back in when the same thing occurred at 4am and then again at 6am. Having gone through all of the clean bedding in the house, and fearful that the dog would be sick on my mattress, I ended up sleeping on my sofa with a french bulldog on my feet.

Did I mention how much I need sleep?

Luckily the BF rescued the situation by delivering flowers:



He also procured tickets to see The Grand Budapest Hotel. And a babysitter my kids like! Yes, he's a keeper. Wes Anderson is my absolute favourite director (the Coen Brothers and Whit Stillman tie for second place) and I was so eager to see this film, especially after the formidable Tabitha gave it a stellar review.


It was fantastic. Once again, I'd give my eye teeth to live in Anderson's world. Anderson's world is rife with dysfunction and yet it is offset with absolute charm. Oh to be able to shrug off a cruel father, lovesick adoptive brother, loveless marriage, and a wooden finger with a fur coat and eyeliner a la Margot Tenenbaum, or bring a fencing club to a hostile inner city school when one's prep school scholarship runs dry a la Max Fischer.


I think that Anderson's most brilliant character to date is Grand Budapest's M. Gustave who is portrayed brilliantly by Ralph Fiennes. M. Gustave, like most of Anderson's characters, is an anachronism: "His world had vanished long before he entered it. But he sustained the illusion with a marvelous grace." As someone who often feels out of place in this Neknominated world, I appreciate this in spades.

I also appreciate that Anderson does not shy away from tough subjects (a lot of people lose fingers in Anderson films, I've noticed) and yet injects charm and humour in the cracks we all have. He provides, in the worlds of M. Gustave, "a glimmer of civilization in the barbaric slaughterhouse we know as humanity." The Anderson world view is what has always drawn me to blogging. The title of my blog is taken from Philippians, letters to the young church written when Paul was in prison, facing certain execution.
Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.
In other words, in the face of all that is bad, focus on the good. In the face of fascism and border checks and stalking and false imprisonment, focus on Mendls: a patisserie with glorious confections. When one is feeling world-weary, there is Eau de Panache. There is murder and deception but there is also Boy With Apple, and he is worth fighting for if only to hang over the front desk of a semi-abandoned hotel. These things give one strength to fight the real fight.

I find this same world view in the little band of people in the blogosphere I adore. We all seem to  treasure all that is good because we have lived long enough (or hard enough) to see the other side of things. I've come to really love reading this group. Our beloved Tabitha gave me a shout out as well and tagged me to do one of those 11 Random Facts About Me posts. I'm honoured and I shall take up the challenge (this should get the haters going…)

11 Random Facts About Me

1. I'm a germophobe. I will shake your hand. But I will Purell immediately afterward and not even be discreet about it. I know I have issues.

2. I've done stand up comedy and was not redlighted.

3. In high school, I got paid to write obituaries for the local newspaper.

4. I have a finance degree and have worked on some pretty high fallutin acquisitions in my day. I cannot easily calculate a tip at a restaurant. I'm not sure if this means anything significant.

5. I cannot wear thong shoes or have anything between my big and index toes. Ever.

6. I cannot sing. In grade 4, I was asked to stand away from the microphone at a school concert. I never got over it.

7. I debated all through high school and university. You probably don't want to get into an argument with me. But if you do, I promise it will be invigorating.

8. I have every copy of Victoria magazine ever produced and cannot go a month without reading Tatler or Town and Country.

9. I've never had a speeding ticket. Related: I believe in miracles.

10. I'm a big fan of Ayn Rand novels. I attribute this to babysitting for the head of the Libertarian party when I was young. I'm also a big fan of Marian Keyes's work. I'm not sure my babysitting jobs had anything to do with this.

11. I've filed three police reports in my life: two for relatively normal things; one, not so much.

Play along if you fancy!













Enough/Want

Goodness me, I've played hooky for an entire week. I've not been away from the laptop entirely. I've been writing thinky posts about Yerkes-Dodson and talking about things that don't have anything to do with France or bulldogs.


If she's going to ignore me, I'm taking the "My Side" pillow.

I've been in one of those mild funks stemming from the endless winter. It's hard being in a new town even if one had been brought there under normal circumstances. Sometimes I feel like I'm on another planet. So there's been lots of yoga and even a jet peel which is this fabulous thing where they pressure wash your face like they might an ancient stone building. It helps and I'm lucky I can bankroll these salves. To the person who felt compelled to write me to say that I was too privileged, I say, walk in my shoes for the past five years and then let me know how privileged you feel. We are all privileged and we are all broken - both beyond measure. If fancy candles and bags soothe a savage breast, then isn't life simple?

I finished Forever Chic, which is my favourite book about French living so far. It's written by A Femme d'Un Certain Age's Tish Jett who is an American style editor who is married to a French man and resides in Paris. I know, I'm envious as sin too. Her book is both a practical style guide and has a layer of wisdom that your don't find in books written by twenty-year olds.

Jett made me lust after the availability of good conversation in France, where philosophy is a mandatory high school course. I was part of a sort of salon in the city but have yet to find one here. I was bemoaning this fact when I was presented with two opportunities: one to help kickstart a business-oriented group with a girlfriend and another to connect with this group of fierce, cool women via the impressive Che Marville, a women with whom people have been trying to connect me for the past decade. We had a lunch to celebrate International Women's Day and it's one of the first events I've been at where we discussed neither our children's extra-curriculars nor renovations. I feel like I have oxygen in my blood once again.

Sometimes the universe provides you exactly what you need, much as I often fight the notion. Sonya Huber recently wrote How the ‘Trophy for Just Showing Up’ Is Earned for the NYT blog. I felt it applies hugely to our funny little family, particularly this passage:
In “How Children Succeed,” Paul Tough describes “grit” as a key indicator of success. I wanted grit for my son, and he has it. Sometimes he got anxious that he wasn’t the best, and I told him he would rarely be the best in anything in life, and that was fine.

God, what a relief is was to read her words. We may not have rep hockey or straight As or my former bank account, but we have true grit in spades. Rooster Cogburn in well-worn cashmere. And so, as they say, the kids are alright. We don't have everything, but we have enough. And as Molly Peacock writes so gorgeously, want is not so bad.

WHY I AM NOT A BUDDHIST

Molly Peacock

I love desire, the state of want and thought 
of how to get; building a kingdom in a soul 
requires desire. I love the things I've sought- 
you in your beltless bathrobe, tongues of cash that loll 
from my billfold- and love what I want: clothes, 
houses, redemption. Can a new mauve suit 
equal God? Oh no, desire is ranked. To lose 
a loved pen is not like losing faith. Acute 
desire for nut gateau is driven out by death, 
but the cake on its plate has meaning, 
even when love is endangered and nothing matters. 
For my mother, health; for my sister, bereft, 
wholeness. But why is desire suffering? 
Because want leaves a world in tatters? 
How else but in tatters should a world be? 
A columned porch set high above a lake. 
Here, take my money. A loved face in agony, 
the spirit gone. Here, use my rags of love. 


Christmas Traditions: The Nutcracker Ballet

Every year, I take my daughter to see the Nutcracker. (I took my youngest son once, but he loudly complained that there was too much dancing...