The Church of the Fish

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Times have certainly changed.   When I began my career in the hospitality industry, food allergies were not even a blip on the culinary radar.  The kitchen was, for a Chef, a playground with no rules.   But all of that has changed.

These days, I make a point of asking each person making a reservation at the lodge if anyone in the family has any food allergies or food restrictions that we should be made aware of before their arrival.  The answers always weigh more heavily on the ‘yes’ than the ‘no’.  And although some of the guidelines we are made to adhere to are more preference than necessity, the kitchen now has to deal with a list of these instructions for each week of our summer season.

Now, while I completely comprehend the severity of an ingested or inhaled allergic reaction to a food, it does not negate the fact that I am more than moderately amused by the inability of our Sous Chef to pronounce one of the more prevalent choices in the current realm of dietary options.  A Pescatarian is a person who does not eat meat but will eat fish.  And each time I have the opportunity to add that choice to our “allergy” list for the week, my smile cannot be missed.   As I walk into the kitchen with that list, I calmly await the moment that she will read the list aloud and say the word “Pescabyterian”.

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According to Karina, somewhere there is a church for vegetarians who occasionally eat fish.  And that latest hotel guest, that new addition to our list of dietary anomalies, is a member of its congregation.  Each time she reads the list aloud, the words Pescatarian and Presbyterian become intertwined and I am reduced to a public school version of myself, unintentionally (not really) laughing at the combination of the two expressions.

Pescabyterian – a member of the religion of vegetarians who consciously choose to eat fish.

It may be juvenile, but this marriage of words helps alleviate some of the stress in our summer.  It gives us the freedom to laugh at the increased amount of tension in an already volatile environment.  And it allows a break for laughter in a scene that is meant more for drama, creating an oasis of calm in a sea of chaos.

One simple word, whether Webster chooses to recognize it or not, has the power to change the trajectory of our day.   Let’s hear it for the Pescabyterians!

Stuart Smalley said it best

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Most of us are hyper-critical of ourselves.  I am certainly guilty of that crime.  We are truly our own worst enemy.  We over-analyse the most minute details about ourselves and never give a second thought to the perception that others may have of us – a perception that may be the polar opposite of how we see ourselves but much closer to the truth.

We have become a society of comparison.  We gauge our success, or perceived failure, by how we think we measure up to those around us.  We judge ourselves by their opinion and not by the standards we set for ourselves.  What we fail to take into consideration is the amount of effort we put into each day by just being ourselves and how difficult that journey can be.  It takes a person with a strong moral compass and courage of conviction to follow the direction in which they feel will allow them to be the most comfortable and to genuinely be themselves.

Too often we allow our actions and our decisions to be swayed by outside forces.  We ignore that little voice inside our head and we succumb to the white noise around us that berates us for those actions.  But that initial behavior represents our true self.  Those nuances of our personality are what set us apart from every other person on this planet. Those are the things worth cherishing.  Those subtleties are the little details that friends and family will hold onto long after you have left this Earth for your next journey.

It would be easy to conform into a stereotype that you feel would be welcomed by society, to make decisions that would be accepted by the masses, but you would be doing yourself a disservice if those choices were not right for you.  Hold true to the things that make you who you are and know that the important people in your life appreciate the choices that you make.  We all need a little daily affirmation – because you are good enough, you are smart enough, and, doggone it, people like you!

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Living a thousand lives

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“The man who reads lives a thousand lives before he dies, said Jojen.  The man who never reads lives only one.”

 George R.R. Martin, A Dance With Dragons

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There is something divinely quieting about a good book.  It can take all of the external forces in our lives and make them seem non-existent for a few moments. Losing ourselves in a great story line can give us a temporary escape from reality and take us on a journey to a life outside of our own.

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Although authors don’t write with us in mind, their words can give us a momentary reprieve from the demons that stalk us throughout our busy days, those demons who try to dwell in the hours that we would like spend in solitude. When you open a novel or turn on an E-reader, the chaotic minutes that you have survived during your work day cease to exist and the outside world becomes a distant memory.

If you are one of the fortunate few who can switch your work brain to the “off” position, you allow yourself to become fully involved in the plot line that the author has created. You send yourself on a journey far beyond the realm of your existence.  The words on the page seep into your mind and you become lost in the world of fiction.

Those words, the way they are woven into a complex story line, allow us the ability to sink into a place of imagery and intrigue.  Those words have the power to enlighten us, torture us, amuse us, make us cry and keep reality at bay as long as we will let them.

We owe it to ourselves to relish those moments of escape.  We need to permit ourselves to embrace the worlds beyond our own and tune out the brash sounds of our real lives by bathing in the dulcet tones of fictitious adventure. Do yourself a favor…..grab a book, turn off the television and let yourself be transported by the rhythm of words.  You will be surprised at how simple it is to live a thousand lives.

 

Cry Baby

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“There is a sacredness in tears – they are not the mark of weakness, but of power.  They are messengers of overwhelming grief, and of unspeakable love.” ~ Washington Irving

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Having shed my fair share of tears in my life, this quote struck a chord deep within my emotional register.   It has always been easy for me to saturate my cheeks with salty tears and I come by it honestly.  My dad wore his heart on his sleeve and many times that same sleeve was used to wipe his tears as he watched movies, TV shows and even commercials.   When my apple fell from the family tree, it landed right at his feet, and I’m sure that made him cry as well.

My mom was very private about her crying, although she didn’t cry frequently.  She would gracefully leave the room and gently close her bedroom door.  There were never heavy sobs heard from the other side of that door but her swollen, red eyes the next morning are what Crime Scene Investigators refer to as ‘evidence’.

Sometimes being able to cry so easily is a gift, a genuine release of emotion that feels much like a cleansing.  But the burden of  not being able to control the moments that those tears appear can also be slightly detrimental and result in having my friends, family and co-workers questioning my stability and well-being.

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I will never regret being an empathetic person, a cry baby.  I love that I can feel so deeply that life, whether it be my life or someone else’s, can have such an intense impact on me.  And I can take solace in knowing that the people who understand this about me, the people with whom I choose to share those emotional moments, have inevitably shed the same amount of tears with me.

Time in a bottle

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Is my hourglass broken?

Are the grains of sand in my time capsule

so infinitesimally small

that time goes faster than it should?

Most days, time is irrelevant.

But when those hours are important,

when those minutes have meaning

and those seconds truly count,

time races by,

turning the moments that we relish

into time we are made to reflect,

turning the present

quickly into the past.

But as those moments pass by,

as those seconds hastily morph into hours,

I can only smile,

knowing that those hours that passed so swiftly

were well worth the short time

that I got to enjoy them.

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I just wanna be me

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“Always be a first-rate version of yourself and not a second-rate version of someone else.” ~ Judy Garland

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I spent much of my youth trying to be the person everyone would like.  I was never ANY version of myself because I wasted too much time being concerned with who others thought I should be instead of becoming the person I was meant to be.   Eventually I was able to break the cycle of trying to please everyone.  I stopped feigning interest in things I had no real passion for and focused more on me.  I slowly distanced myself from the users and spent far less time crossing the Great Lakes for people who wouldn’t jump over a puddle for me.

In my wisdom and older age I have learned a few things that I really like about myself.   I speak three languages – English, sarcasm and profanity – and I am fluent in all three.  I love to write.  I don’t just do it because I enjoy it.  I write because words bleed from my brain and my head feels like it will explode if I don’t expel the stories trapped inside.  And I have learned to write without needing anyone else’s opinion or approval.  What flows from my brain to my fingertips is what I publish on this blog and I’m very proud of the words I have shared.

I enjoy my solitude and am happy with the company I keep, whether I am home alone or spending time with friends and family.  I love to cook and it doesn’t matter if it is a table for one, I will take the time to create a dining experience and not just ‘have some food’.

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(my dinner last night)

Music is a big part of my life and my playlist spans the recording alphabet from Abba to Zeppelin.  I could live without television but I could never have a life without movies.  I will still cross oceans for people but I am much more selective when it comes to deeming who is worthy of my epic journey before I captain the ship.

I am the person I am now because I fought to become this version of myself.  I stopped letting outside voices influence my decisions and started hearing the only voice that should matter – mine.  It took a while to get here but I have enjoyed the journey and am really liking the view.  Thanks Judy, I like your advice very much.

Thyme and time again…

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It is a painfully contradictory reality in my mind, but this is truly my favorite time of the year.  Sure, the leaves are gone and the landscape is a gloomy blend of brown and grey.  It’s depressing.  And sure, the clock has slipped backwards by sixty minutes and it gets dark at 5:00  pm.  That’s disheartening as well.  But I have to look at the bright light that now greets me in the morning when I wake up at 6:00 am and think of all of the good things that happen in my life this time of year.

When the doors of the lodge close for the season and the work clock slows to a turtle pace, my life clock has the freedom to pick up its momentum and I have much more spare time to spend doing things for others.

There is something inherently fulfilling about being able to give my time and my skills to causes that have taken up residence in my heart.  Last winter was the first of hopefully many that groups of locals gathered to make freezer crockpot meals for a family who lost their home to fire while in the hospital delivering twins.  We banded together, gave our Thyme and our time, and filled their freezer with a few months worth of meals.  So many of the group commented on how wonderful they felt being able to help.

And this year will be the fourth year I have organized a Toy Drive for the local children.  To say the response has been incredible would be an egregious understatement.  My heart swells so much when the time comes to pack up the toys for delivery that I am overwhelmed by emotion.

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I had always looked at volunteers in silent awe.  I knew they must feel some reward to give their time, their generosity or even just their smile or a touch of their hand to help someone’s day become a little brighter, but I had no idea how truly euphoric the feeling was until I began giving my time.  And now that I have had a taste of that….I will always want more.  If you have never had the chance to do any volunteer work and the opportunity presents itself to put up your hand to help, in any way, I promise you won’t regret it!