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.

Let the sunshine in

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I had not realized I was suffering from the winter blahs until this past Saturday. I have successfully maneuvered myself through many winters and this one, although highly unpredictable, seemed no different. How wrong I was.

Saturday morning, I awoke to the sun beaming through my bedroom window. I was initially confused by the brightness in my room as I had become so used to the monochromatic mornings of December and January. I had not registered what the beautiful light represented.

The mercury reminded me the morning was frigid so I accomplished all of my needed tasks as the sun continued to warm the day. When I got home in the middle of the afternoon, the temperature was much more comfortable than the morning and all I wanted to do was sit in the sun. It was at that moment I realized I had nothing to sit on. I had sold my patio set last fall and had not thought about my winter sun tanning until now. I raced to the local hardware store and bought what seemed to be the only folding chair in stock in February.

I opened up my new purchase and set it to directly face that glowing ball of goodness in the sky, I closed the gate so I wouldn’t have to be concerned about my dog, I poured a glass of wine and I sat. And I sat. And I absorbed ninety minutes of glorious sunshine.

The warmth of the sun was welcomed like an old friend we spent some time getting reacquainted. It is a long-standing tradition in our family to cover ourselves in layers in the middle of winter and soak up some much-needed Vitamin D. I’m sure my parents were smiling as I carried on that tradition. The photo below is circa 1975 ish.

As the sun sank into the horizon, I reluctantly folded my chair and went inside. Besides the noticeable pink hue in my cheeks, there was an immediate change in my demeanor. I was invigorated. I felt happy, effervescent even. I went from feeling like I had been sleep-walking through the last few months to feeling recharged. My mood was elevated and I spent the rest of the day smiling for no reason.  At least now, I have the chair ready and the next time that sun is out all inside tasks take a back seat. You’ll know where to find me.

 

The good, the bad and the grossly unfair

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Death is selfish. It lurks in the shadows. It hides in a realm of certainty somewhere between acceptance and denial and it feeds on our inability to process its inevitability. It waits for nobody. It heeds its own agenda and it gives no signs of compassion. It simply reaps.

This past weekend began on a good note. I left work on Friday with plans for a full day on Saturday with a friend and things quickly changed. My weekend went from good to bad as Mother Nature unleashed her winter fury in the wee hours of Saturday morning and obliterated any plans for travel on Saturday. Since my car is still in possession of its summer tires, our plans were thwarted and I was home-bound for the day. While I made the most of the day by making soup and catching up on some reading, my disappointment still tainted my afternoon.

After a good night’s sleep, I awoke Sunday morning with a renewed faith the day would be great. With my shopping list in hand, I loaded up a grocery cart with items to make Freezer Crockpot meals for our local food bank, surrounded myself with a group of volunteers and we created twenty-eight meals that will each feed a family of four. The good that afternoon far outweighed the bad from the previous day.

When I got home a few hours later, I was greeted by the news an old friend has passed away on November 2nd after a brief battle with cancer. I was unaware of his passing until today and missed the opportunity to attend his funeral service. Even though my car is equipped with only summer tires, I would have driven through those early snow storms to pay my respects to Doug and his family.

He was a wonderful man. Charismatic only touches the surface of how animated his personality could be. He was quick with a smile, eager to share a laugh and truly one of the most genuine people I have ever had the good fortune to meet. To say he will be missed is an egregious understatement. I spent a great deal of Sunday night in tears, crying for the loss of Doug and the fact that so many people are taken before we are ready to say goodbye to them. Fuck cancer.

 

The woes of a summer cold

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I am usually a happy person. I can find the positive in most situations but when I get sick in the summer, all bets are off. I can tolerate heat but humidity is my sworn enemy and the combination of humidity and sickness for me is too much to bear.

It hit me in the wee hours of Sunday morning. Being a person who is hot all the time, waking up at 3:00 am feeling extremely chilled is never a good way to start the day. I had a fever of 101 but I thought I should go to work anyway. I lasted an hour. I came home, spent the day on the couch and was grateful that Monday was my day off so I could battle this bug properly by getting some much-needed rest.

I slept like an Olympic sleeper on Sunday night and woke up Monday feeling like I had won the battle. I was wrong. By Tuesday morning, the fever had gone but the bug had relocated itself in my throat and my chest. Once again, I thought I should go to work anyway. I lasted four hours. By the time I came home, I felt like I was swallowing razor blades, the fever had come back and I sounded like a man.

I don’t get sick very often but when I get sick, I get sick. It is now Thursday evening and, as I write this post, the sore throat is almost gone but the cough is not. The germs that are still residing in my body have decided to move from my chest to my head and they have plugged both of my ears so I feel like I am living in a fishbowl. I have moved on from the age-old “feed a cold, starve a fever” to the “drink some wine and take some Alleve”. Hopefully tomorrow morning is the day I wake up and find out this bug has left the building!

 

The results are in….

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In mid-June, I went boldly where I had never gone before – I went to a Sleep Clinic. My doctor is doing her due-diligence to help reveal the potential cause of my high blood pressure and she wanted to find out if Sleep Apnea may be the culprit. I wrote this post about my experience of trying to actually sleep so the study would be effective.

As it turns out, during the nine and a half hours I was incarcerated hooked up to the monitors, I got an assorted six hours of sleep from which they could extrapolate their results.  I do have a mild form of Sleep Apnea, but nothing that will require me to wear one of these while I sleep.

sleep apnea mask

(image credit)

I suffer from what they refer to as ‘fragmented sleep’ which is on the mid-to-low-level of Sleep Apnea. The amount of deep sleep I got was on the lower spectrum of what they refer to as normal but I was attached to over three dozen wires and made to sleep on my back. They should be grateful I slept at all under those circumstances, otherwise mine could have been the shortest sleep study in their history.

The fragmented sleep was something I was expecting. I have a brain that is extremely averse to shutting down. Falling asleep some nights is easier than others, but when I wake up at 4:00 am my brain immediately launches into hyper-drive and it is next to impossible to quell the rush of random thoughts. I am lucky if I can get back to sleep before my alarm sounds at 6:30 am.

The doctor at the sleep clinic gave  me a prescription for a sleeping pill that I will happily decline to take. As soon as he said the word ‘addictive’, he solidified my objection to taking the pills in the first place. Some of my best ideas for stories, or for my books, come in those wee hours of fragmented sleep and I would hate to still the rushing waters of creativity.

For now, I will be focused on more exercise, perhaps some meditation and whatever else I can do to still my brain so I can get a better quality of sleep.  Worst case scenario, book number two will be written before the anticipated deadline and I will have larger bags under my eyes!

 

 

Party on Weight, Party on Girth! ~ Part Duh

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A couple years ago, I was in the same mindset and wrote this post and here I am again. Like most people who struggle with their weight, I have good moments and bad moments. Working in hospitality gives me even more of a challenge having to be around food all day, every day. And the icing on the cake (yes, I had to use a food reference) is that we just hired a new chef at the lodge and have been tasting all of his wonderful creations.

It has not escaped my attention that my body is not as willing or able to break down many of these treats complimented by cream sauces and bacon. Many years ago, I followed a very regimented plan where the only processed foods I ate were the meals I processed myself. I knew exactly what I was putting into my mouth and I could pronounce every single ingredient.

I have been slowly getting back into the way I used to eat. Every week, I make five or six salads in a mason jar for my lunches. It is a quick process to prepare lunch for the week and even easier to grab a jar and know I am having a very healthy lunch. I am going to make my own granola tonight for my breakfasts and my body will react well to the fact there are no preservatives that it has to figure out how to break down. I don’t need any more random ingredients stored in fat cells because my digestive system can’t come to the proper conclusion on how to dispose of the mysterious ingredients.

Weight and Girth (thank you Saturday Night Live) have been jamming in the basement of my viscera for far too long and the eviction notice is waiting to be served. Today I had my last Peameal Bacon on a bun from my Aunt and Uncle’s restaurant, at least for a few months. My fridge will be stocked with fruit and vegetables, whole foods and water.

It’s time to start the party in another room in my body and let Weight and Girth take up space in someone else’s basement. And by sharing this with everyone who reads this blog, I am making myself accountable to kick those two out on the street.  Party on Weight, Party on Girth…..just not in my world anymore. Schwing!

When good things happen to good people

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I believe in Karma.  I hold faith in the fact that good deeds will be rewarded in kind and bad deeds will not go unpunished.  It is extremely uplifting when you are able to watch someone very close to you have those good things happen.

It is one thing to give so much of yourself to make others happy, but it is another thing to lose your happiness in the process.  It is a gradual slope and the journey down that road is almost unrecognizable. Suddenly, you are in a place where you never expected to be and you wonder how you traveled so far down without even knowing you were on that path.

The nice thing about life is there is always a choice. Watching someone make that choice to put themselves first and really feel alive again is a reward in itself.