When I can’t cope, I cry and then I cook

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A lot has happened in my little world over the last three months. I won’t bore you with the details as most of those have been documented in previous posts if you want to go back and read through them. Imposed quarantine and my immense fear of the Coronavirus aside, the calendar year of 2020 has felt like a battering ram and I am the feeble wooden gate, splintering with every blow.

I have always been the person who was very quick to hatch a Plan-B. I don’t dwell on the details of what just happened. My brains kicks into overdrive and I immediately search for a plan of action to move forward. But something in the way my neurons have always fired in the past has recently changed. For the first time in my life, I feel completely overwhelmed and uncertain about where I go from here and that, for me, is the true sign of how affected I am by what is happening in the world right now.

I try my best to process all of the information presented online but when those reports become too staggering to deal with, I purge my accumulated emotion and I cry. I make no excuse and I don’t fault myself for my behaviour, I just cry. Once I have released the intensity of those feelings, my focus shifts and I want nothing more than to be in my kitchen. I have recently renamed my kitchen my “solace room” because it is the only place where I can feel a true sense of peace.

Today is no exception to that rule. My dueling crockpots and my Dutch oven will be filled with a myriad number of items that will produce the combined aromas of onion, garlic, bacon and a collection of other ingredients that will eventually become an assortment of soups and stews I will share with others. One person, in particular, will have his freezer filled with these items as a dear friend has just been diagnosed with advanced brain cancer and is awaiting the plan for his course of treatment.

So, this morning, I am shutting out the socials, and the rest of the planet, to bring my focus into a world I can control, into a world where I can be helpful even if it is on a very small scale. And as the onions caramelize and the bacon is rendered, I know I will cry more tears today because it is what I need to do. I can only hope when this pandemic is over and we are able to live our lives again, I can say I was able to recognize the best parts of myself and know that I gave everything I could to make things a bit better for the people I love when they needed it the most.

 

 

I don’t care where it came from

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Emotion has always been the driving force behind the need to write my blog posts. Putting words to a page allows me to process emotion in a way I feel most comfortable. This post is going to allow me to vent some frustration and attempt to understand the vast divide between the people who get it and the people who never will.

It is currently Monday afternoon, as I write this, and in the past thirty minutes I have admonished myself for habitually touching my face several times. It shouldn’t matter since I have been staying home and have obsessively washed my hands approximately thirty times since noon, but I’m still trying to do my part to flatten the curve.

I have cried so many tears thinking of the front-line workers in essential services, the truck drivers, the first responders, the police, the fire departments, the paramedics and the many doctors and nurses who are forced, too frequently, to decide which patient deserves to be put on the only available ventilator. Day in and day out, they enter a war zone to save as many lives as possible.

Shortly before I felt the desire to write another blog post, I received a comment on Facebook from an old acquaintance (who I have since unfriended) sharing his theory that the virus is lab-made and everything will be fine in a week. His rhetoric was written in response to a meme I had posted about adhering to the government-imposed social distancing and self-isolation. He continued his nonsensical comments by saying he would not allow the government to tell him how to run his household and the “hype” surrounding the virus isn’t warranted.

Let me just say this, and I apologize for the profanity that will follow….at this point, I don’t give a shit where the virus came from. It could have been created by a university student, bored in their molecular biology class for all I care. My biggest concern is that it is here, and it is killing people. The “hype” surrounding this virus has crippled our existence and forced those of us, who understand the concept of how this virus spreads, to stay home and hone our skills on social media, pick up sewing again, read the book we have been meaning to read or to teach ourselves how to bake homemade bread. My family lives two minutes away and it would be SO easy to drop by for a quick visit, but those visits are now reduced to me say hello from my car window across the road from their driveway.

I spent a great deal of time calming myself before I wrote this post. It would have contained an exaggerated number of expletives had I not taken many deep breaths before putting my fingers on the keyboard. The “hype” surrounding this virus has already killed upwards of 74,000 people, and those are just the registered deaths. Those who have succumbed to the virus were people like you and me. They had families and friends, and their deaths will not go unnoticed.

This isn’t over. This virus isn’t finished with us. More people will die and they could be people we know and love. And if I follow the inane thought-process of the ignoramus who is not following the guidelines of staying at home, I hate to think how much soap I would need to wash my hands of the blood of those I may have inadvertently infected with my utter disregard for the severity of this pandemic by NOT staying home.

My government does not run my household. My heart and my head run my household. And if I, for one second, thought I could potentially help even ONE person by staying at home, you can bet your ass, I will choose staying at home. Every. Single. Time.

 

 

 

 

 

It’s okay

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I know myself. I know I will feel this global crisis at a molecular level because that’s how I feel everything. I’ve been called an empath but, regardless of labels, I can only say I suffer from the human condition very deeply. I am a minuscule fragment of the blanket that covers us all and that blanket seems to be unraveling when it should be binding itself tighter than ever.

Over the last week, I have done my best to follow the guidelines of social distancing and self-isolation. Sadly, the one thing I did not do was to ignore social media. Although there are so many positive posts and people sending uplifting messages of hope, there are countless people who Just. Don’t. Get it. This is MY forum and, for those who DO get it, I want to tell you it’s okay.

It’s okay to feel overwhelmed. The world is closing down around us and the sudden onset of panic is inevitable. Those who embrace the steps we need to take to flatten the curve will welcome the closure of all non-essential services. Those who don’t grasp the significance of those steps will continue to spew nonsense and put the rest of us in jeopardy.

It’s okay to feel emotional. I went for a forty-minute walk today, with musical theatre tunes blaring in my ears (thank you, Collabro), and I cried for the duration of my walk. I cried for those who have already succumbed to Covid-19. I cried for those who will still fall victim to this new pandemic. And I cried for the people who think those of us who are taking this so seriously are misinformed.

It’s okay to be scared. I’m petrified. I’m not so scared about the disease itself, but I’m truly frightened for the result that will come because of the ones who choose to believe that their actions will not have a harmful effect on others. They will. Your inability to see the larger picture is utterly disheartening and inevitably harmful.

It’s okay to be mad at people who just don’t get it. Not everyone thinks the same way but, as my mother used to say, we need to take the higher road. For all of you who choose to think this is nothing, think again. Communities, cities and provinces are shutting down to thwart the spread of this disease. Put yourself aside and think of the bigger picture. You could prevent dozens of people getting sick by staying home. By simply not going out in public and potentially spreading this virus, you can prevent the influx of people gathering in our hospital waiting rooms and reducing the number of fatalities by lessening the amount of human contact. Sure, you think you may not be infected but what if you are asymptomatic and spreading the virus without even knowing.

It’s okay to be silly. I’ve put my Christmas lights back on. It may be a ridiculous gesture but, to me, it’s a symbol of happiness. This small, albeit frivolous act gives me a ray of hope that everything, one day, will really be okay.

Applying my salve

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Like most people, I lose myself sometimes. I get so caught up in the emotion around me I forget the things I should be focused on. Nothing brings me back to myself like cooking. I find great solace in my kitchen. The world around me disappears and my existence is renewed by the smell of a combination of ingredients that transport me to a place I had professedly forgotten.

Life has a funny way of throwing countless distractions in our direction and it is up to us to tune out those interruptions and concentrate on the things we value most. Family and friends are always at the top of my list and cooking has consistently been the thread that weaves together all of the important people in my life.

My fondest childhood memories are richly steeped in the images of our family kitchen and my love of cooking was absorbed through osmosis. Whether it was my mother methodically following a recipe, my father taking every ingredient from our refrigerator to see what he could randomly create or my brother making delicious crepes from scratch, cooking has always been the one thing that holds a piece of each of them close to my heart.

Last night I got home from work and knew the only place I yearned to be was in front of my stove. Nothing else mattered. As much as I wanted to tackle the “to-do” items on my list or write the next five hundred words in my novel, cooking was the only avenue that would afford me the true escape I needed. The onions were chopped, the bacon was rendered and my house began to, once again, smell like my home.

In a collection of minutes, the chili was simmering on the stove and the cheesy beef tortellini was set to cook in my crockpot. All was right in my world and the chaos of the universe outside of my existence had been laid to rest for the evening. Cooking is the salve that heals my wounds. Whether it is a simple salad dressing, a comforting stew, a tasty casserole or a perfectly cooked sous vide piece of beef, cooking will always have enough positive energy to undo anything negative in my life.

 

 

 

 

The Art Of Reading Through Tears

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I knew it was a risk. I had been told about a book called The Art Of Racing In The Rain and had all but ignored it…until now. I began reading this book in the waiting room of my Honda dealership while passing time during an oil change and brake pad replacement. It was a fitting scene.

The book is narrated from the perspective of a dog who belongs to a race car driver. Although I am not a race car driver (perhaps only in my mind), the irony of sitting in a car dealership while beginning this book was not lost on me. I devoured the first half of the book in two hours while waiting for my car to be serviced. I sat in a small, sparsely furnished area with three very large men and openly wept while devouring every chapter I could of this novel.

There is an underlying joke between my friend and I that we would be gold medal winners if the Olympics ever created a competition for crying. Sitting in the waiting room of that car dealership while reading this book was certainly my qualifying round. Initially I did my best to conceal my tears, but these three men were on to me from the appearance of the first glistening tear that tracked its way down my cheek and they made every effort to not make eye contact from that moment forward.

I have a dog who recently turned twelve and has health issues, and the narrative in this book hit very close to home. Every well-paced paragraph reminded me that I may be mere moments away from having to realize every truth written in this book about an aging pet. It was eviscerating, but strangely comforting.

This book gave me a gift. I now know that I will have the strength to make that tough decision because it is what is best for her, not for me. Her comfort and her dignity come before my need for having more time with her. And as I cry writing the end of this post, I know it will be one of the most difficult decisions I will ever have to make, but one that has to be made….for her.

 

Holding my breath

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Without even realizing it,

I had been holding my breath for you,

wishing nothing but good things

and feeling like my heart would break if yours was burdened.

looking up

Bearing a weight that was not mine to bear,

I kept my chin up,

looking to the stars for a wish,

relying on the divine breaths of the many who watch over us

to watch over you as you slept.

 It was no surprise when my tears fell,

allowing a small fraction of the weight you must have felt

to lift from my shoulders.

 A burden not my own,

but a burden worth bearing, just the same.

 Your struggle is not mine,

but I keep the pace and walk with you,

there to listen when you need an ear,

and there to be an embrace

in the moments you need a hug.

I will continue to hold my breath

until you feel it is okay for you to exhale.

(image credit)

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

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!