Soup’s on

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Summer is a crazy time for me. The lodge is busy and I have the knack of having a multitude of side projects in the works while surviving my busy summer hospitality job. Some days feel like a smooth paddle on a calm lake and others feel like a roller coaster ride through Hell. By mid-summer, I am physically and emotionally drained and I need something to make me feel centered again.

Writing is a good place to start the process of realigning myself. Writing is cathartic. Typing words onto a screen makes the rest of the world fade slowly into the background until there is nothing left but me, my laptop and my imagination. The minutes and hours I spend writing make me happy and bring me to a level of calm that is somewhat hypnotic. There is only one other thing that can take me beyond hypnotic to being completely detached from reality and that is cooking.

It is 38 degrees today with humidity and my gut told me that it was the perfect time to make a summer corn and zucchini chowder. When my parents were still alive, the times we spent in the kitchen together were some of the happiest moments of our lives. My mom was the queen of baking sweet treats for everyone and my dad loved to cook. My brother and I inherited his passion for creating tasty dishes and homemade soups. My dad was never one to use a recipe, unless he was making Martha Stewart’s Shortbread, and his food was almost always delicious…..I will save the story of his scrambled eggs made with eggnog for another day.

To me, there is no greater satisfaction than creating something from a bunch of random ingredients. Individually those ingredients can taste good, but when you combine them in a way they compliment the flavor of the others, that is sheer bliss. The bacon is fried, the onions are rendering in the bacon fat and the rest of the ingredients are ready to be thrown in. The result will be a tasty summer chowder that would make my dad proud.

At the end of the cooking process, I will sit down to a comforting bowl of soup for dinner and feel thoroughly decompressed. My mind will be back in its happy place and I will relish the memories of my mother calling us for each and every dinner, regardless of the menu, by saying, “soup’s on”.

 

 

 

 

 

Getting to know you

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Last night I tried to delve back into writing book number two. The story is still in my mind but the characters have shied away slightly since I have been absent of late. Coaxing them to let me back in was like being on a first date. I wanted to reach out and hold their hands but they shied away not wanting to get too close too fast.

The writing process is a very unique thing for each writer. I don’t have an established outline to follow. I know the story, I know where it begins and where it will end but the characters are the ones who will tell the story and take me along for the ride.

When I sat down at the computer, I tried to put myself back into the mind of Shane Armstrong. When I described the scene when he went to relieve himself, his words spoke louder than mine and I changed the line to say he took a leak. Clearly, Shane and I will have no problem communicating as long as I listen to what he tells me. He will introduce himself to me and I will get to know him on his terms, not mine.

ONE ELEVEN is going to be a bumpy ride for a while but, once we establish a chemistry, Shane and I are going to craft a gripping tale of a man who can travel through time to different points in his past and his future to help catch a serial killer he knew when he was a child. Until recently, Shane had forgotten all about what Karl did when he was a kid but those memories are going to come flooding back with a vengeance and Shane is going to be the one who ends his killing spree and I’m the one who gets to tell his story.

 

 

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!

 

 

Do more of what makes you happy

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The weekend had arrived and I had my to-do list all mapped out.  Friday would be the day of chores since Saturday was going to be our first big check-in and the start of family season at the lodge.

As luck would have it, Friday turned into a spectacular day of weather.  In the cooler hours of the morning, I took my garbage to the dump and ran my errands in town.   I arrived home knowing that my list of chores had not been completed but when I saw the sun shining on my deck, my list of chores suddenly changed, as did my outfit.  I opened all my windows, donned some shorts and a t-shirt and went outside to bask in the sun for as long as I could.  As fate would have it, my neighbors chose to embrace the day as well and burn everything they wanted to dispose of and the smoke penetrated every ounce of air I was trying to breathe.  My dog and I quickly made our way indoors and wistfully closed the windows.

I stood inside, my head going back and forth from my vacuum to my laptop and I surreptitiously neglected my remaining chores.  I opened my laptop and sat down to write what would end up being over three thousand words for my new book.  My dog was still shedding even though I had her shaved, my carpet looked like my dog had exploded, more dust had settled on every surface in my home and my dishes were still waiting to be put away but I didn’t care.  I deferred the menial tasks to concentrate more on the things that truly make me happy.

My vacuum will still be in the same place on Sunday.  My dog will still be shedding and the dust particles will still be dancing in the light that filters through my windows.  But, just maybe, those words that flowed through me on Friday would not have waited for another day.

Do more of what makes you happy and do it often.  Life is much too short to spend it doing things that don’t truly inspire you and make you feel like you are living your best life.  I spent a great deal of my past living for others and now it is time to put aside the things that can wait and focus on the things that consume my thoughts and make me the happiest version of myself.

I’m starting to question my intelligence

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I have always been proud of the fact that I have a great deal of common sense.  Sometimes I have moments of cleverness that make me happy that I have the ability to formulate logical and reasonable assessments of a situation. Lately, all of that has changed.

Tired of hearing the Squirrel Grand Prix up and down my walls at 6:00 am, I decided to take action.  I bought a live trap with the thought that it would be easy to trick a few red squirrels into it so I could re-home them.  I was wrong.

I was lucky on the first round.  I came home to find a large black squirrel in the trap and we went for a nice drive to a golf course about 10 km from my house.  It was surprisingly calm during the ride but once the cage was out of the car, it was quite anxious to begin its life in its new home. One point for me.

I put some nice, plump cashews on the spring trap and set it out before I went to bed. I peeked out the window the next morning to see the trap had been sprung but there was nothing inside. I used peanut butter to attach the cashews to the spring trap with the same results. I knew the trap worked since I had imprisoned a few chickadees in the process. The status of the hunt was moved up to Defcon 3. I took a small mason jar and placed it inside on one side of the trap with the nuts inside the jar. I made sure the trap would close with the jar inside. I put the trap close enough to a beam on my deck so the little buggers would have no choice but to enter from one side, climb over the plate springing the trap in the process and making me the victor. That did not happen.

When I went out the next morning the trap had been sprung, the nuts were gone and the little shit squirrel had defecated in the jar as a way of saying, “screw you, lady”. Defcon 2 – I was at the point where I was going to borrow my brother’s wildlife night-vision camera so I could see how this was happening.  That squirrel had to be the rodent version of Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible to get in and out of there without getting caught. It probably was licking its fingers after its meal and reached through the side of the trap and set it off – just to spite me.

Defcon 1 – Someone made a suggestion that made complete sense. Why had I not thought of this? I went to the local Home Hardware and purchased some Krazy Glue. If I was knowingly going to feed these furry creatures again, they were going to work for it! But the dynamic changed. They were on to me. Those nuts sat glued to that tray for two weeks and were buried in our mid-April snowstorm. Once the snow had melted and the elements had broken down the glue, the little bastards came back, took the nuts and left.

The only stage left after Defcon 1 is war. Wish me luck, I’m going in.

These kids today….

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Many of the kids in today’s world scare me a little.  It’s not that I find them threatening, by any means.  I just worry for their future since so many of them just don’t seem to get it.  They have been too sheltered.  They have been too coddled.  And they have had so many things done for them that some just cannot do anything for themselves.

But there are a few who shine a small ray of hope that all is not lost for their future.  They are self-starters.  They learn by example.  And they are able, at a young age, to think outside of the box.  This blog post is about a kid who completely altered the box.

During an all-inclusive vacation with his family, “Tony” (the name has been changed to protect the guilty) took it upon himself to bend the rules of the resort.  Upon check in, adults are given orange wrist bands and children are given green wrist bands.  This is to distinguish whether or not guests of the resort are allowed to partake in the adult beverage portion of the all-inclusive vacation.  Tony was absent-mindedly playing with his band and realized that one side was green and one side was white.  A light bulb clicked on in Tony’s brain and he ran to find his golf bag.  He reached into his collection of colored Sharpies and proceeded to color the white band orange.

A few hours later, Tony’s parents got a call from the Front Desk telling them that Tony was with security and they were asked to meet them at the reception desk.  When they arrived, Tony showed the signs of having had a few cocktails before being busted.  Ironically, Tony still had a cocktail in his possession and continued to drink it while his parents talked to the security guard.  Laughter ensued and pictures were taken of Tony with the security guard.  Apparently, what happens in Mexico doesn’t necessarily stay in Mexico!

Today, “Tony” turns eighteen.  There is one full calendar year before he is of legal age to drink.  I know there will be more moments until his nineteenth birthday that he will bend a few rules when it comes to imbibing in some alcoholic beverages but, I have to say, I have no doubt that his quick, analytical brain will take him a long way in this life.   Happy birthday, buddy!!

 

My greatest love affair

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I can’t recall our first meeting but I can tell you it was love at first sight.  My curious gaze met his warm, brown eyes and the rest is history.  I was a year old, and he was a stuffed bear, but ours is a love story for the ages.

Me and Winnie

When I couldn’t fall asleep, Winnie was there.  When I was excited to read my new poem or short story, Winnie was there.  And, sadly, when my roommate’s dog escaped her confines and ran up to my room, Winnie was there.  After some moderate facial reconstruction and many tears on my part, Winnie, or a new version of his former self, was still there.  He is still slightly angry that he had bad plastic surgery.

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He may have slightly faded with time, as have I, but he still remains the same stoic character that I have come to rely on over the last 48 years.  We celebrate our birthdays together. My mother created Winnie from a 1965 McCall’s pattern and he was my gift on my first birthday.  Although I have the benefit of one extra year of wisdom, each year is just as special because he is there to celebrate with me.

He has been my confidant, my best supporter and the shoulder (albeit padded) I know I can cry on whenever I feel the need to shed a tear or two.   He, like me, has experienced an encyclopedia of reference material when it comes to life events but we have come out remarkably unscathed.

Happy Birthday Winnie!  May the scars of our past help carve the road that leads us into our future.