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.

 

 

Yesterday was that day

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Once a week, in the midst of our current global situation, I prepare myself for a full-on ugly cry because I know it always lurks in the shadows. I embrace the reality of what we are all going through and become a victim to its weight, enough so that I let it bring me down and send me into wracking sobs to purge the emotion I feel. It is the release I need to climb out of the darkness and allow myself to see the immense light that keeps us all going. And there is so much light.

Yesterday was that day, for me. It wasn’t planned. I wasn’t counting down the minutes until I could cry, I just cried, and it came at the most unexpected moment. I had just watched such a joyful live-stream on Facebook and I cried tears that were filled with more happiness than sadness because I realized that all of us are struggling and trying to make the best of an unprecedented situation. We are all just doing the best we can to make it through, one day at a time.

Life, online, is our new reality. My recent presence on social media has increased at an alarming rate, but this is our now. Social media is our way of holding tight to the people who bring us joy and keep us grasping at snippets of a life we once knew and, one day, we will know again.

Life after Covid-19 will eventually return. It will be a very slow process and one that we will venture into with distrust, at first, but it will return. I’m sure most of us will be wary of shaking hands or giving hugs, but life will slowly evolve back to where we were and we have to have faith in that truth.

I send so much gratitude for those on the front lines, from medical staff to essential services. I send my undying appreciation for those who are self-isolating to flatten the curve. And I send my plea for those who take this situation lightly to rethink your actions and embrace this pandemic seriously. This virus is unforgiving. It is severe. And I would hate to think, one day, you could look back and think yesterday was that day, the day I could have stayed home and really made a difference.

 

 

 

 

 

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.

A blog sundae with a Cherry on top

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In light of what has been happening on social media these days, I have been struggling to come up with a blog post I am not frightened to make public. On a typical day, I can sit down at my laptop with several ideas and bang away on the keyboard until words form sentences and sentences magically transform into ideas. But my writer’s platform has gone from a sturdy stage to a treacherous landscape where I am leaping from lily pad to lily pad over a crocodile infested pond. I am afraid to write. Something that comes so naturally to me has suddenly become so daunting.

I am not sure when I feel like I lost my freedom to say what I want to say. I cannot pinpoint the moment when I became afraid to offend anyone who reads this blog, but it happened. And then I stopped to really think about how I felt and realized I still have a voice, and there is no one person who can tell me my opinion doesn’t matter. If I allow my writing journey to be guided by anyone other than me, I may as well not write at all. My ideas and opinions may not be shared by everyone who reads what I write but I still choose to send my words into the world, knowing there will always be someone who will disagree and have a strong opposing point of view. That is what life is about.

My mother used to tell me “it takes all kinds to make the world go around”. Thirty years ago, her words fell on deaf ears but, even though she has been gone for almost six years, her words speak louder now than they ever did. Every opinion has a passion behind it. I get that now. And I have to embrace the fact that not everyone thinks the way I do, and that’s okay. What is not okay is feeling like I have to choose my words so carefully that I am afraid to speak.

Words have power, that is a universal constant, but words will always be subject to interpretation. How we comprehend those words speaks volumes about our character. Keep speaking your mind, but know your words will always offend someone and there is nothing you can do about that.

 

 

 

 

 

The hitchhiker who didn’t ask for a ride

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If you follow my blog, you will know I have had some strange experiences with animals and reptiles at my home. Coming home to the eight-foot snake in my window after attending the funeral for my best friend was one of the craziest stories I have had the good fortune to tell, but yesterday’s tale is climbing the charts.

My co-worker came in to the office around noon to tell me there was a groundhog under my car. Four of us crowded around the vehicle and attempted to push the furry little guy out with a broom. It would be an understatement to say this creature was extremely uncooperative.

All the cajoling did not convince my new friend to extricate himself from under my car. Instead, he climbed up into my engine block and thought he could outwit us. We couldn’t reach him with the broom handle any more so I retrieved a pitcher of water from the kitchen and flushed him out. He lay on the ground under my car again and it was suggested I roll my car backwards, very slowly, so I didn’t pin him under the tire. The wily little bugger moved with the car so we were no further ahead. Just as I thought we were making some progress, he climbed up over my back wheel and somewhere into the frame of my car!

The afternoon progressed with no sign of the groundhog. We all went on the assumption he had crawled out when nobody was around and made his way back to his den. We assumed incorrectly. 

Fast forward to 7:30 pm. I had been home for a little over an hour and curled up on the couch reading a book. I got up to get something from the kitchen and looked out my living room window. There, munching away on the grass on my front lawn, was the groundhog. He saw me in the window and froze. I moved slightly to get a better look and he scurried back under my car. I put on my bug jacket and sat on my deck waiting to see if he would come back out. He gathered the courage to continue his expedition in uncharted territory and I took a few pictures to prove to myself I wasn’t losing my mind.

He made his way to the other side of the driveway and I can only hope he was looking for new real estate. The darkness eventually enveloped my car and the surrounding foliage. As I am writing this blog post, I can honestly say I have no idea if my hitchhiker has taken refuge from the rain in his new ride or if he found greener pastures to set up a new home. If you see an ad on Kijiji for a 2017 Honda Civic that is pet-friendly, the two events are unrelated.

 

The moving company that should be named Deliverance

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Being a writer allows me the freedom to embellish but, typically, my posts on this blog are steeped in truth and this post is no different.

A dear friend of mine moved on Tuesday. The process to get to the actual move itself was arduous and emotionally draining. When the day finally came to move, the moving company brigade was nothing like I expected. I arrived just as the team began to unload the first truck and everything seemed normal. But all of that quickly changed.

What seemed like a cohesive team of movers steadily morphed into what could only be described as a slapstick comedy show. What should have been a choreographed routine of piling boxes and other items to make the best use of space, became a haphazard placement of boxes in random places. Movers were entering the house and discarding their shoes as they went down the hallway, only to have the other movers trip over those same shoes with the next item to enter the house, narrowly missing the walls with the items they were carrying. To say it was unorganized would be an egregious understatement.

And then there was Peaches. She may only weigh 110 pounds soaking wet but she could lift just as much as her male coworkers. She began the process with strength and confidence but as the seconds turned into minutes, each item she lifted seemed to carry the burden of the weight of the truck itself. She became quickly dehydrated and began to spontaneously shed layers of clothing. The dramatic flair she conveyed with each piece that was discarded, and the voice that could have been created by a helium balloon, took everything from comical to moderately disturbing. It wasn’t until I looked out into the driveway and saw her leaning against my friend’s car, I knew we were in trouble. She was arched over the front bumper of his SUV in the pose of Alex from Flashdance moments before the bucket of water was dropped.

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I realized at that moment we had gone from quirky to surreal. To say she was as high as a kite is to say humans need oxygen to survive. As the move progressed, so did the stages of her buzz. When the last item was removed from the truck, the sigh of my friend’s relief could have drowned out the sound of the passing train.

With the exception of a few items that did not fare the move so well, we thought the process had ended after an equally strange conversation with the man in charge who did not want to leave the house. That was not the case. The moving truck was now stuck in the driveway spinning its wheels on the ice. Thankfully, the rest of the moving team had been waiting to exit en masse and pulled the moving truck out of the driveway. I could swear I heard the sound of duelling banjos as they drove down the road.

Adventures in Day Camp

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When my family moved out of the city, I was seven years old. We had previously spent every summer at our family cottage on Lake Rosseau and this cottage became our permanent residence until we purchased a four-season home in the same town. We still spent every summer at the cottage, a five-minute drive from our house, and life was great.

A few years after we had moved, leaving many of our family members behind, my parents thought it would be nice if I spent some of my summer holiday with my grandparents…..in the city! We lived in one of the most beautiful vacation destinations in Canada and they wanted me to spend part of the best time of the year in Muskoka in the concrete jungle! I was too young at the time to question the reason behind their decision and, with packed suitcase in hand, I climbed into the back seat of the station wagon to head back to my hometown.

The small silver lining of me spending some of my summer holiday in the city was the fact that I had been signed up to go to a day camp. When I was given the run-down of all the awesome activities I would be doing, I had pushed aside the memories of spending most of my summer days in the lake and was actually excited to go to camp.

On the first day of camp, my Nana made sure I had a good breakfast, helped me to organize my backpack and walked me to the bus stop for 8:00 am. Together we stood and waited and, as the bus came around the corner, I could feel my excitement building. We said goodbye and, from the bus, I waved to her as excitedly as Forrest Gump waved hello to Lieutenant Dan from his shrimp boat.

The day camp was a fifteen-minute drive from my grandparent’s apartment. Even at my young age and not wearing a watch, I knew the bus ride had exceeded fifteen minutes. The outlines of the city buildings had faded into the background and the landscape outside my bus window began to look much more like my scenic cottage-country home. When the bus finally arrived at its final destination about an hour later, we were in the middle of nowhere.

Unsure of what was happening, I was the last kid to exit the bus. The Camp Director was standing at the bottom of the steps with her clipboard in hand and when I gave her my name, she looked at the sheet in front of her and looked back at me. She lifted the page, looked at another sheet and looked back at me. My name was nowhere to be found in the list of children expected to be at this day camp. Unlike all the other kids who seemed enthusiastic about their surroundings, inwardly, I was starting to panic.

I was taken to the Camp Office and I fidgeted in my seat while the staff tried to find my grandparents contact information. Had the internet been invented in the 1970’s, this process would have been far more expedited than it was. I don’t recall all the details of the investigation, but I do know they eventually found my camp information in my backpack and discovered I had boarded the 8:00 am bus when I should have actually boarded the 9:00 am bus in the same location. I spent the day with a group of kids I would never see again and was actually thrilled to get back to the city.

The next day, I boarded the 9:00 am bus for my day camp and loved every minute of it. The added bonus at the camp I was meant to attend in the first place was the fact that we learned to sing all the songs from the musical Annie. Looking back at it now, I think the payback for my Nana putting me on the wrong bus was the fact that I sang Annie songs at the top of my lungs for the two-and-a-half hour drive from Oakville to Muskoka to return me to my parents. I’m sure there were many moments when my Grampa thought of throwing himself out of the moving vehicle onto the highway just for a moment of peace.

To this day, I can’t hear those songs without picturing myself with my arm hanging over the front seat and singing like I was Little Orphan Annie on Broadway.

 

The things that go quiet in the night

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The time on the clock read 2:29 am. The waning moon shared its luminescence with the corner of my bedroom and my eyes blinked repeatedly at the harsh difference between the blackness behind my eyelids and the moonlight permeating my bedroom.

love the moon

The sound that woke me was shrill and I tried to convince myself it had followed me from a nightmare. The uneasiness of my dog confirmed the polar opposite of my theory and together we looked out the bedroom window to discern where the awful noise was coming from.

My initial thought was that a baby raccoon was lost and crying out for its mother but it is the dead of winter and they are most likely sound asleep in their dens. As the cry continued, it became much more visceral and intense. My tension escalated and I could not drown out the suffering sounds of nature. There was nowhere I could protect myself from the wretched sound of terror.

The cry eventually lost its intensity and that sound of terror became more and more staggered until it was replaced by the silence of the night.  It took me a long time to get back to sleep.  Between my over-active imagination and my staunch passion for the television show Criminal Mind’s, I’m sure I had created over 200 plausible crime scenes by the time I finally nodded off.

I can only hope whatever predator was outside has moved on to a new hunting ground. And I sincerely wish we will not have to, ever again, listen to the unfortunate nocturnal requiem of the untimely death of wildlife that once felt safe to roam through our woods.

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”.

 

 

 

 

 

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

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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!