The good, the bad and the motivating

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Being a writer affords me great excuses for supporting technology and having an online presence. If I am EVER going to find an agent and get my first novel published, freely giving my time to the soul-sucking internet is a requirement. Social media is at the top of marketing tools, especially for writers like me who are wanting to keep a dialogue going about their writing with as many people as possible. I am confident I can keep my phone in my pocket during meals or cocktails with friends, but it is never far from my reach.

When I began writing my second novel (still in progress), I cancelled my satellite subscription for the second time and then took it one step further by sending back my receiver. I thought I was being clever by vanquishing the distraction known as television but an unfortunate series of events led me to discover Netflix and Amazon Prime. Now I am faced with the same demon, but it has a different face.

I can remember watching The Jetsons as a child and thinking how preposterous it was to have a digital diary and a robot who cleans the house. And yet, here I am in 2019 and I can ask Alexa to play my music, broadcast the news and weather as well as “dropping in” on friends who also have Alexa. I can have Siri control pretty much anything in my house and access any information I require just by speaking to him through my phone and my friend has programmed his robo-vacuum to clean his house according to the grid he has programmed.

But as much as I thought technology was controlling my life, my birthday gift of an Apple Watch is helping me take back control of my life. Ignoring the fact that I can text or email from my watch and use it as a walkie-talkie with other Apple watches, this brilliant piece of electronic supremacy can monitor my health and encourage me to get off my ass and be more active. It’s even motivating me to make healthier choices with my cooking.

I’m a big fan of golf because the only person you really compete with is yourself and it is the same with physical activity. If I walk three kilometers on Monday, I’m not comparing my achievement with anyone else but I’m certainly going to try to walk a little further on Tuesday. And herein lies the genius of this particular technology. It is making me want to get healthier. It is diverting my attention from mindlessly looking through Facebook posts and making me focus on myself. It gives me reminders to stand up from my work desk every hour. It gives me a fireworks display if I complete my rings every day and it gives me awards if I go above and beyond my requirements.

I’m sure my watch is frowning at me this morning as I delayed my walk due to the nasty weather. But, rest assured, I will be seeing those fireworks later today!

 

Mastering the Masters Menu

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For anyone who has ever heard of Tiger Woods, yesterday was a monumental day.  I know this first hand because a friend of mine is well-versed in spinal fusion surgery after having the same surgery done a couple of years ago. There is no easy road to recovery.

Spinal fusion surgery is not like getting your tonsils out. This procedure helps to alleviate chronic back pain by connecting two vertebrae that were once separate working parts and eliminating the movement in between them. For Tiger to have that surgery two years ago and come back to win the 2019 Masters Tournament is astonishing!

In true form, I planned my Masters menu and even included a “wedge” salad. I had planned to do my meal preparation in the morning and put the final touches on at my friend’s house while watching the tournament but Mother Nature had other plans. Tee times for the final round were moved to Sunday morning due to an impending storm so my meal prep was done in my kitchen with my laptop precariously perched on my far counter so I could watch as I cooked.

Shrimp Cocktail is always on the menu and I opted for Spinach Pinwheels (shown above), Wedge Salad with homemade Fresh Herb Dressing, Meatloaf Sliders, Crockpot BBQ Ribs and Creme Brulee Cheesecake Bars. It may have been a bit of overkill for the small guest list, but it was delicious. I even had a few pinwheels for breakfast this morning and the sliders are teed up for lunch!

Here is the recipe for the pinwheels for those who were asking. Happy Monday everyone!

Spinach Gruyere Puff Pastry Pinwheels

It’s like Spain, but different

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My community food project has come to a temporary end. Each winter from October to April, I organize volunteers to make freezer crockpot meals for our local Food Bank. They have been extremely well-received by the Food Bank clients and I have had an overwhelming response when it comes to getting volunteers to prepare the meals. Yesterday was no different.

The local RBC gathered eight people to come and help with the final chop on Sunday and, as well as donating their time, they donated $1,000.00 to the crockpot project that I call Dollars for Dinners. I had assumed all of the choppers were RBC employees until I was made aware the husband of one of the employees is the Mayor of one of our local communities.

The more I talked about the inception and growth of my project, the brighter the glow of the light bulb became over his head. Before the hour of meal preparation was over, he thought it would be a great idea in the fall to have all of the Mayors of our communities do a chop together. Instead of the “Running of the Bulls”, it will be the “Chopping of the Mayors”.

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I’m excited for this idea to become a reality. This, I’m sure, will have some sort of media coverage which means more light to be shed on the poverty in our area as well as a great opportunity to get more donations to help our neighbors survive the winter season!

The week of turning fifty

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For the first time in almost a decade, I have taken time off from work. I don’t really like to travel so I have never taken advantage of the vacation time I have at work, but this year is different.

This week is the week of my fiftieth birthday and I decided it was a significant enough occasion to release myself from the constraints of my job and take some much-needed time for myself. Although Sunday was spent as it always is, making crockpot meals for our local Food Bank, yesterday was spent lounging around the house in the morning and taking myself shopping in the afternoon in search of an outfit to wear for my birthday dinner on Thursday. I immediately remembered how much I disliked malls and shopping for clothes!

Today, although not yet my birthday, is the most anticipated day of my week off. Today is the day I will get my first, and most likely only, tattoo. The thought of a permanent picture on my body never crossed my mind because I could never come up with an image that meant enough to me to permanently etch it into my flesh. But the more I thought about doing something monumental for my fiftieth birthday, the more the idea of a tattoo kept invading my conscious thoughts. When the picture eventually presented itself, it was perfect.

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Having lost both of my parents long before their time, this image is the perfect blend of the things that remind me the most of my mom and dad. My mom loved butterflies and my dad loved owls. From where I sit in my living room as I write this post, I can see the framed needlepoint monarch butterflies my mother created in the seventies and the carved wooden owls my dad hung in the living room of our childhood home. I couldn’t think of a more appropriate image to have as a permanent reminder of the two people I loved the most.

Turning fifty is not a burden, it’s a gift. It affords me the chance to look back on a half a century of love, laughter, friendship and memories. Turning fifty gives me the wisdom to prioritize the people and the things that are most important in my life. Turning fifty allows me to ignore the things I have learned from and have been able to leave in my past. And turning fifty makes me truly appreciate the fact I still feel like I am in my thirties.

I can’t imagine a better way to welcome fifty than to embrace the journey I have taken to get here, to hold close the people I value most and to look forward to what is yet to come.

The moving company that should be named Deliverance

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Being a writer allows me the freedom to embellish but, typically, my posts on this blog are steeped in truth and this post is no different.

A dear friend of mine moved on Tuesday. The process to get to the actual move itself was arduous and emotionally draining. When the day finally came to move, the moving company brigade was nothing like I expected. I arrived just as the team began to unload the first truck and everything seemed normal. But all of that quickly changed.

What seemed like a cohesive team of movers steadily morphed into what could only be described as a slapstick comedy show. What should have been a choreographed routine of piling boxes and other items to make the best use of space, became a haphazard placement of boxes in random places. Movers were entering the house and discarding their shoes as they went down the hallway, only to have the other movers trip over those same shoes with the next item to enter the house, narrowly missing the walls with the items they were carrying. To say it was unorganized would be an egregious understatement.

And then there was Peaches. She may only weigh 110 pounds soaking wet but she could lift just as much as her male coworkers. She began the process with strength and confidence but as the seconds turned into minutes, each item she lifted seemed to carry the burden of the weight of the truck itself. She became quickly dehydrated and began to spontaneously shed layers of clothing. The dramatic flair she conveyed with each piece that was discarded, and the voice that could have been created by a helium balloon, took everything from comical to moderately disturbing. It wasn’t until I looked out into the driveway and saw her leaning against my friend’s car, I knew we were in trouble. She was arched over the front bumper of his SUV in the pose of Alex from Flashdance moments before the bucket of water was dropped.

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I realized at that moment we had gone from quirky to surreal. To say she was as high as a kite is to say humans need oxygen to survive. As the move progressed, so did the stages of her buzz. When the last item was removed from the truck, the sigh of my friend’s relief could have drowned out the sound of the passing train.

With the exception of a few items that did not fare the move so well, we thought the process had ended after an equally strange conversation with the man in charge who did not want to leave the house. That was not the case. The moving truck was now stuck in the driveway spinning its wheels on the ice. Thankfully, the rest of the moving team had been waiting to exit en masse and pulled the moving truck out of the driveway. I could swear I heard the sound of duelling banjos as they drove down the road.

A pinch of something extra

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“I’m just someone who loves cooking and for whom sharing food is a form of expression.” ~Maya Angelou

A great portion of my time off is spent in my kitchen. It is the place I feel most like myself and can let the rest of the world revolve as it wants to outside my kitchen walls. My father loved to cook and was one of those talented people who could open the fridge, combine a bunch of ingredients and come up with something really tasty. (don’t ask about the scrambled eggs made with eggnog – that was an epic fail)

My mom was also a good cook but was very much a recipe follower and rarely threw caution to the wind when it came to her ingredients. My brother and I both grew up watching the family dynamic in the kitchen and quickly began to love cooking. My foray into kitchen triumphs began with my Easy-Bake Oven and I remember my brother in his teens making homemade crepes for our family for dinner.

Cooking, for me, really is a form of expression. It allows me to connect with others on a level far beyond conversation and it lets me share myself with other people. There is no bad day that can’t be made a little better with something yummy that has been made at home. There is an invisible ingredient that makes it taste so much better than any food you can buy at a store or a restaurant.

If I ever have a bad day or want to make someone else’s day a little bit brighter, you know where I’ll be.

When tomorrow starts without you….again

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These three days are my worst days. Every year I think I can gloss over them and blog about something entirely different until I realize how cathartic it is to blog about these three days.

Today, March 7th, marks the fifth anniversary of my mom’s passing. When I think about the fact there have been one thousand, eight hundred and twenty-five days since I was jolted from sleep by the call that would change my life forever, I am astonished. I can live that morning over like it was just yesterday and feel the same gut-wrenching emotion I felt on that day. I remember having no feeling in my face and having trouble speaking to the poor woman delivering the devastating news to me at 7:00 am. I recall with great clarity how much my hand shook when I called my brother to let him know and I can almost count how many painful seconds went by as we cried together on the phone and said nothing. It was just yesterday, but it was five years ago. Time is funny that way. It can take moments and stretch them into what feels like an eternity.

Tomorrow is my bridge day. It is the day between the anniversary of losing my mother and losing my father. Saturday, March 9th, will mark the thirteenth anniversary of losing my dad. Although I have been able to replace my memories of him on his best days with the memory of watching him take his last breath, the latter image still seeps into my mind more often than I would like to admit.

The thing I have to remember to hold closest to me is the fact that tomorrow will start again, and though it comes without the presence of my mom or my dad, it starts again. And thankfully it starts again with the memories of them both and all of the wonderful moments they left for us to remember them by. Tomorrow starts again with new moments of joy, new memories to make, new tears, new friends, new adventures and new reasons to look forward to the start of another day. And although tomorrow may start on a sad note, it stills starts and it holds the promise of becoming something wonderful.