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.

 

Six legs, two wings and a whole lot of perspective

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Yesterday, on my drive to work, I noticed a bug desperately clinging to the outside of my windshield. I know this is a strange opening line for a blog post but that bug, after stubbornly hanging on for the over 5 kilometer ride for me to get to my job, began to represent something much more than just a bug on my windshield.

I had all but written him off during the first kilometer but I became more amused as one kilometer stretched into two, then three, and his sheer determination would not allow him to let go. Wind billowing at his wings, he held on to his place and eventually his tenacity began to rekindle something deep within me. His utter disregard for common sense made my brain kick into a different gear and that bug made me realize how important it is to hold on to the things you feel are important in your life.

bug on a window

Despite the fact I had a few giggles thinking of how that little insect reminded me of Kevin Kline hanging on to the plane at the end of A Fish Called Wanda, I was reminded of an important life lesson by a 6-legged black and red bug with a stinger and an attitude – if it’s worth hanging on to, do everything in your power to make sure you don’t let go.

This somewhat hypnotic suggestion made me want to grasp, not only my writing but, everything else that is important in my life a little bit tighter. It is so easy to take the little things for granted. It is simple to lose sight of the things that may seem arbitrary but will have a deep impact on our present and our future. The really important things, the things worth holding on to, may not be evident in the beginning but the more you focus on the things that mean the most to you, the more you realize everything can be defined in simple terms.

Life is a gift. Life gives us people and things and it is up to us to understand why those people and things have profound meaning in our lives. And it is our responsibility to know what to hold onto and what to let go. A five kilometer ride with a bug desperately clinging to my windshield reminded me of that fact and now, more than ever, I am focused on the things that mean the most to me and the things I am not willing to let go.

On the other side of struggle is always something better

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It took me four long hours to write this post, but this is what I want to say. Life is not easy. Just when everything feels like it is finally going in the right direction, life is that hologram in your window, shaking its head, saying, “I don’t think so”. Life is ironic and unpredictable, but on the other side of every struggle there is always something better. And that something better is the thing we need to hold on to with every bit of strength we have.

I am no stranger to struggle. I have had my fair share of the boots of life kicking me in the face. But, for as many times as I thought the struggle had gotten the better of my resolve, things would always begin to look up. That something better always hung precariously in the distance but gradually inched its way closer to me every day. I let myself believe in the promise of it and I began to know in my heart it was there. And it always was.

Dealing with struggle is not always about pushing through, it’s about letting people in. It’s not about putting on a brave face, it’s about being strong enough to cry in front of people when you need to cry. And dealing with struggle is about knowing, and really believing in your heart, there is something better on the other side of that battle.

Don’t give up. Don’t let anyone or anything other than you win that battle. The world tries to break everyone but the ones who beat the struggle are the ones who take all of their pieces and rebuild a new world and a new happiness. Struggle is strong. You are stronger.

 

Take the time

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“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach,and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”
~ Henry David Thoreau

When you take a week off, and you enjoy every moment of that week, it makes it very difficult to motivate yourself to go back to your routine. I love my job, don’t get me wrong, but what I love even more was learning to put myself first and taking a whole week to do just that.

There was no long distance travel involved, only time spent with family and great friends (Although a few were missing) doing small things that had a big impact. I was even selfish enough to turn my phone off!

Today’s post is going to be abbreviated because its message is succinct. Take the time. Do things for yourself. And spend more time with the ones you love. Turning fifty has reminded me that my trips around the sun are waning and I am going to squeeze every bit of happiness I can out of each day. I hope you do the same.

The week of turning fifty

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For the first time in almost a decade, I have taken time off from work. I don’t really like to travel so I have never taken advantage of the vacation time I have at work, but this year is different.

This week is the week of my fiftieth birthday and I decided it was a significant enough occasion to release myself from the constraints of my job and take some much-needed time for myself. Although Sunday was spent as it always is, making crockpot meals for our local Food Bank, yesterday was spent lounging around the house in the morning and taking myself shopping in the afternoon in search of an outfit to wear for my birthday dinner on Thursday. I immediately remembered how much I disliked malls and shopping for clothes!

Today, although not yet my birthday, is the most anticipated day of my week off. Today is the day I will get my first, and most likely only, tattoo. The thought of a permanent picture on my body never crossed my mind because I could never come up with an image that meant enough to me to permanently etch it into my flesh. But the more I thought about doing something monumental for my fiftieth birthday, the more the idea of a tattoo kept invading my conscious thoughts. When the picture eventually presented itself, it was perfect.

(image credit)

Having lost both of my parents long before their time, this image is the perfect blend of the things that remind me the most of my mom and dad. My mom loved butterflies and my dad loved owls. From where I sit in my living room as I write this post, I can see the framed needlepoint monarch butterflies my mother created in the seventies and the carved wooden owls my dad hung in the living room of our childhood home. I couldn’t think of a more appropriate image to have as a permanent reminder of the two people I loved the most.

Turning fifty is not a burden, it’s a gift. It affords me the chance to look back on a half a century of love, laughter, friendship and memories. Turning fifty gives me the wisdom to prioritize the people and the things that are most important in my life. Turning fifty allows me to ignore the things I have learned from and have been able to leave in my past. And turning fifty makes me truly appreciate the fact I still feel like I am in my thirties.

I can’t imagine a better way to welcome fifty than to embrace the journey I have taken to get here, to hold close the people I value most and to look forward to what is yet to come.