Soup for the soul

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There is something comforting about being safely tucked inside on a snowy winter’s day.  What makes it even better is having homemade soups simmering on the stove and having the house smell like home.  It is a nesting feeling for me being in my kitchen and having the aromas of what I chose to create permeate my house.

I love to cook and I absolutely love to make soup.  My dream would be to have a restaurant that focuses on soup and fresh-baked biscuits and goodies, allowing me to get back into baking and making wedding cakes again.  I also love to play Scrabble and I thought if I ever was able to own a restaurant, each table would have a Scrabble board and I would call my restaurant “Alphabet Soup”.

This weekend, I have been creating big pots of soup to portion out for meals and keep in my freezer, as well as give some to my brother and sister-in-law for their lunches.  Some soups are staples and the recipe is followed to the letter.  Others are made on a whim whenever I feel the need to pair flavors and see if it works.  These were the flavors this past weekend:

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  • Cream of Mushroom Soup with Sherry
  • Cauliflower, Pear and Blue Cheese
  • Broccoli, Peach and Brie

I keep holding the dream of having my own restaurant close to my heart.  Every dream needs a time and a place to come to fruition.  Perhaps now is not the time and maybe this is not the place, but I continue to hold onto my dream in the hope that it may become a reality.  Soup maker by day, writer by night.  What could be better?

 

Life gets in the way

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I made myself a promise that I would post a blog every day through the  month of November and, although I gave it a good run, I have failed.  Yesterday was the first day I didn’t post something and, although I feel slightly disappointed, I am not going to beat myself up about it.

Trying to find something to post about every day is difficult.  Sure, I could rely on old posts or memes to get me through but that would not be me and yesterday was a busy enough day without having to make time to create a meaningful post.

Having posted every day for 18 days in a row has been a blessing.  It has re-awakened my passion to write.  It has helped me to harness that creative flow within me and has given it a chance to speak again.

Life gets in the way of our best laid plans but, if we can keep the big prize within our sights, we can overcome any obstacle to make that plan a reality. I want to write.  I want to be published, and life is not going to get in the way of that.  Even if  I miss a day or two of blogging, it just means my creativity is being stored for the days that my words will have more meaning.

Me scribere.

 

I hope I’m that witty in my 80th year

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I have been volunteering my time to help our local library with a project they created.  In honor of Canada’s 150th birthday this year, the library is creating a book dedicated to telling the stories of our senior residents and I have the good fortune of interviewing some of the seniors to help tell their stories.  A few of the seniors on the list have chosen to write their Muskoka memories with their own flair and one of our local professional photographers is also volunteering his time to take pictures to capture the faces of our history.

The age of my interviewees ranges from early 70’s to a remarkable 94 years old.  Each interview is notably different.  Some people don’t let me get a word in edgewise and others have to be coaxed along with many questions to tell the story of their journey.  But each one of these interviews is compelling.  I knew the project would be interesting but I never realized how much I would really enjoy hearing each Muskoka tale from beginning to end.

I have never been a history buff but hearing the tales of how our fellow residents came to spend their lives in Muskoka is fascinating and my interview last night was nothing short of amusing.  Our banter was infused, not only with historic bits of his past but, with moments of his life that were told from a whimsical perspective.

I have at least two dozen more interviews to go and I am looking forward to each and every one of them.  I can only hope that, if I am able to participate in something like this in my later years, I can bring as much fun to my life story as I have heard from the people I have had the pleasure of getting to know through this project.

 

Hope is the most important thing

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I was speaking to a guest of the lodge yesterday who is currently embroiled in a nasty divorce.   He skimmed over a few of the distressing low-lights of his battle and said something during our conversation that really struck me.  Responding to one of my remarks he said, “Hope is a dangerous thing.”

I thought about his comment for most of the morning.   I carried it with me throughout my day at work.  It followed me while I was delivering meals to the Food Bank and even while I was walking my dog after work.  How disheartened he must feel thinking that to hope that there are good things waiting for him in his future is a treacherous slope to climb.  How unfortunate that he is so skeptical of the one thing that he should embrace – hope.

Hope is not a dangerous thing.  Hope is the most important thing.  It is the thing that provides the light at the end of that dark tunnel.  It is the thing that gives us the aspiration to dream of something better.  And it is the thing that makes what we see through the windshield so much more important than what we see through the rear-view mirror.

Hope is anticipation.  Hope is longing.  And hope is having enough faith in our choices to think that leaving the stressful things behind allows us to carve a better path for our future.

I know that he will never see this blog post but, Richard, my wish for you is that you are eventually able to see the goodness in hope.  It will support you in ways your relationship never did and it will give you the chance to have the true happiness you deserve.

 

 

If I say I’m fine….I’m lying

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Many memes and many jokes (mostly at men’s expense) have skirted around the fact that if a woman says, “I’m fine”, there is an emotional undertone that means something far beyond being fine.  My experience with the phrase ‘I’m fine’ has completely surpassed that, to the point that nobody in my immediate family uses those two words to describe their current state of being.

Both of my parents were alcoholics and suffered through a myriad number of complications through their later years.  It is an ugly disease with ugly consequences.  The worst part of watching the effects of alcoholism deteriorate a human body is having that person tell you that, while they are suffering numerous symptoms and contrary to every doctor’s diagnosis, they are fine.  Fine is no longer a word I use to describe how I feel and for very good reason – it’s bullshit.

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I sent a text to a friend yesterday to ask about their well-being and was given the response “I’m okay”.   Although it was not the tried and hated response of “I’m fine”, it ranked right up there and it made my Spidey senses tingle.  I knew there was more going on but I also knew not to push.

When you get a text message from someone you know on a very personal level, the inflection in their voice is heard loud and clear above the silence of a text message.  The only thing I can do is be here when they need to vent, to be present when they realize that I know they are not “fine” or “okay” and just be ready to listen.

 

I will love you until….

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After watching a few back-to-back episodes of Hoarders yesterday morning (yes, you may roll your eyes now), my Sunday chore list became exponentially longer.  What started as a routine house cleaning day turned into a fridge and freezer purge, the breakdown of every cardboard box within my reach, two dump runs and a full afternoon in the kitchen making healthy lunches and soup for the week.

As I spent that time in my kitchen, my iPod playlist shuffled through every type of music you can imagine but the more I listened, the more the songs reminded me of my mom.  I have been thinking about my mom a lot lately.  She had a huge heart and she would continually think of little things to do for people just to see them smile.   She would spend the weeks leading up to Christmas baking until she could bake no more.  Her house always had the essence of fresh-baked cookies and squares and the Christmas tins would be piled high on her dining room table.

Her favorite day was not Christmas day but the day that she would drive, or later be driven, to all of the places where she would deliver her goodies.  The local Hardware store, the post office and the local veterinarians would excitedly open the tins to see their favorite type of cookie and their reaction was the only present she ever truly wanted.  My mom was the type of person who would learn those little things about you and she would make sure that those little things made their way from her home into your heart.

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I was reminded of this wonderful quality when, during my furious Hoarder-inspired clean, I was rearranging some things in my kitchen.  There in the midst of my jar of utensils was a lone yellow rose.  I had long forgotten the bouquet of flowers my mother had given me so many years ago.  She had stealthily used my key to leave the flowers on the island in my kitchen and attached to the fragrant arrangement was a simple card that read, “I will love you until the last flower dies”.  I thought it was an odd message but after really looking the arrangement, I saw the flower in the middle of the bunch.  It was a lovely yellow rose, but it was artificial.  It would never die.

That was my mom.  And those little nuances that made her who she was are the things I miss the most.  Some days I’m fine, a phrase we are no longer allowed to use in my family, and some days, like yesterday, the emotion snuck up on me and I could not control the flow of tears.

But it is not just the rose that reminds me that she will always be with me.  My mom is somehow still able to pull strings and make wonderful things happen in our lives that we never expected.  And it is these things, the things that only my mom would know, that make the gestures so special and so meaningful.

To say I miss her is a gross understatement and  I hope she knows that I will love her until that last flower dies.

Remembering a post about Remembrance

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This was written two years ago and I could not think of a better post for today, so I am putting this out there for those who read it to read it again and for those who missed it to read it for the first time.

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Undoubtedly, you’ve seen them.  The men and the women of the Royal Canadian Legion Branches have been doing their duty, standing at local businesses with their trays of poppies, collecting donations.  I see them every year.  I donate several times every year and I am proud to don my poppy to show my support.

But Friday morning, November 6th, 2015, will stand out in my memory as the day I was truly humbled and I knew precisely what I would be thinking during my moment of silence on Remembrance Day.

My friend Karen was enveloped by her navy blazer, her hair neatly braided, and a bright red poppy radiated from the lapel on her jacket. But that bright poppy was no match for her vibrant smile as she stood in the rain with her tray of poppies strung proudly around her neck.  When I asked her why she was standing in the rain as opposed to being under the shelter of the covered entrance to the store, she paused briefly, looking into the sky while summoning her response.  When she replied, it stopped me in my tracks and hit me right in the heart.   She said, “I don’t know.  They stood out there for us so the least I can do is stand out here for them.”.

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For a few seconds, I was frozen in my spot.   I smiled at her and continued into the store to buy my morning paper.  I reflected on what she had said to me and, once out of the store, I stopped and chatted with her in the rain some more while I donated the rest of my change.

The thought of what she said still brings a tear to my eye every time I recall her voice saying that brief but overwhelmingly gracious line.  That sentence was profound.  One simple line put Remembrance Day back into perspective for me.

So easily at 11:00 am on the 11th day of the 11th month, we all take a moment to share silence to remember the fallen, praise the heroes and thank those still serving to protect our basic rights and our freedom.  But how much do we think about what those soldiers really endured to fight for us?  How deeply will we let our brain delve into those dark places to be able to scratch the surface of the atrocities the fighters of those World Wars, and the many conflicts since, have been made to bear?

As the previous generations fall into the past and subsequently we skip quickly ahead to the next epoch of humanity, how many stories of our fallen ancestors will continue to be shared?  My maternal grandfather died of a heart attack long before I was born.  He served and I know so little about his sacrifices for our family and our country.   His stories of bravery seem to be tucked away with his photographs and his absence.

Hearing Karen’s thoughtful reasoning behind standing in the rain with her tray of poppies made me want to research the time my grandfather spent serving his country.  I want to feel that connection on Remembrance Day and I want to share that legacy with my nephews so their generation will understand what it means to show courage in the face of adversity, so they will appreciate what it means to sacrifice yourself for the greater good and how bravery is defined by doing something you believe in, no matter what the outcome.

To all of the men and women who are currently serving, to all of those who have served in the past and to those who are finally enjoying the peace they fought so diligently to preserve, I salute you and I thank you.  And at 11:00 am on the 11th day of the 11th month, I shall bow my head and take a moment to truly appreciate everything I have because all of you made it possible for me to have those things.