One time…

8 02 2015

One time in high school when I think I was in grade 9, we were all in the gym for some sort of assembly.

We all filed in; everyone seating themselves on the pull-out bleachers as the generic high school popularity hierarchy dictates. Cool people there, not-so-cool people here. The in-betweens, well… they sat in between.

I found myself sitting one row above and to the right above the VERY COOL GIRLS. Directly below me, about two rows was a girl named Emma. I was generally ambivalent about Emma. I eagerly desired to be one of the VERY COOL GIRLS, but as I have said before, my high school career was at best a function in trying (and failing) to fit in and then me just giving up and accepting that high school popularity wasn’t meant for me.

But I digress. My buddy sitting next to me (another one of the NOT SO VERY COOL GIRLS) said something to me and I guffawed loudly, and unknowingly spit my gum out of my mouth. It sailed through the air and landed smack dab in the middle of Emma’s pseudo 80s girl mullet.

She reached back and touched the gum and I…. I (was and am one of those people who laugh at the most inappropriate times) collapsed into a fit of laughter that my inner I WANT TO BE COOL self started trying her damndest to get me to shut the fuck up. But no. Giggles and mirth issued forth, like a real asshole I kinda sorta was.

All the VERY COOL GIRLS noticed (naturally) and gave me a variety of dirty sneers and looks that only meant one thing.

My entrance to their club was NEVER GOING TO HAPPEN.

My giggles petered off, the assembly went on, I approached Emma after and tried to help her get the gum out of her hair. SO hey, Emma… wherever you are, girl I am so sorry…. I hope the peanut butter I suggested worked…

And I… I still laugh at the most inappropriate times.





Spice

26 01 2015

When I was growing up in the ‘Wood, my foray into the culinary world was about as extensive as moose steak and mashed potatoes. The most exotic meal I knew of was Jigg’s Dinner, coveted by my bestie-Newfie-transplant-friend Lisa, OR the much-drooled-over in advance of the oft-made Pepper Steak, otherwise known as The Only Thing I Ever Saw Melissa Cook. I can still hear her say “Mmmmm…. Pepper steak,” as we cooked it on Saturday afternoons. We ate mostly healthy food back when I was young, but in retrospect, it might have been a tad limited. I wouldn’t say bland as I did grow up with a lot of homemade yummy goods as well as hunted meat, but the foreign aspect, the worldly aspect, the spice aspect…… it was missing. This isn’t to say it was anyone’s fault. It was the late 70s and early 80s in a small coal mining town. It just was the way it was, good or bad.

We all used to laugh about some of the kids in our class whose parents had immigrated from India, in our 80s sadly-acceptable-racist-ways, making fun of their abundant use of curry. Hahaha, we’d laugh, wrinkling our noses at such a foreign scent, never ever knowing the wonder of that spice. There was one day I recall that I went to my friend’s house: we tried on saris, I wore glass bangles all up my arms, and ate the most amazing sweet rice I have ever tried and this strange fudgey stuff, that I think now might have been Halva. My gastronomic juices began flowing, I believe on that day…. The strangeness of the flavours and textures made me curious about food.

I was lucky enough to travel a bit and I came to realize the astonishing fact that the Eye-talian spaghetti and meatballs I grew up eating (yes, absolutely DELICIOUS but still) bore no resemblance to the pasta I ate in Italy. Then I tried risotto. I was all “this is the best thing I have ever tried ever” and promptly gained 20 pounds eating gelato and chocolate and bread and pasta and mortadella. The brie in France was a creamy passion I fell in love with instantly. I tried duck for the first time. Sadly, I DIDN’T EAT ANY GOUDA IN HOLLAND! I regretfully realize now that my youth didn’t have the brains to sample more… Why didn’t I go to Spain? Or Greece? Ugh….. the mere lack of food experiences make me wistful. And eager to travel more.

I have slowly learned how to embrace cooking and the one thing that has made this a much easier path is my new gas stove, giving up fear of the unknown and just going for it. And wow, the fun I’ve had!

I enjoy cooking, I put on my iPod, pour my wine and COOK. It’s like a weird meditation for me, searing and sauteeing, chopping and peeling, dancing and adding flavour.  Salt and pepper liberally tossed around and onions softening in a melted butter orgasm.

I secretly love Anthony Bourdain. Yeah, he’s my pretend boyfriend.

The Food Channel is my weakness. I’m learning ever so slowly and my foray into the world of food, hopefully, won’t end any time soon.

So here’s to cooking, to dabbling in the unknown, to trying new things and treasuring the old.

 





Acceptance

7 12 2014

Well, it was almost a year ago that I chose my New Year’s word. Rather than go through the silliness of a resolution which literately ends up being thrown to the wayside, I took a friend’s advice and chose my Word for the year.

As soon as I saw her facebook post about choosing a word, Acceptance popped into my brain out of nowhere. I pondered it for days, wondering if any others would rear their literary and karmic head, guiding me onto a more compassionate level of human understanding. But no, Acceptance was the only one that clanged and resonated for me. At the time I thought it would be accepting others…. Acceptance of my boss’s moods, that cranky cashier, the kid who teases my daughter. Or that I was feeling left out of some of my friends’ lives, with me working almost full time and not being in their immediate circle. Or any of the other external sources of worry and fret.

No. I wasn’t prepared for the truest meaning of Acceptance; to be drawn inward like a long slow inhale. As I ventured through this year, I was met with several hurdles to cross. Mostly physical within my own body and mind. I realized as I navigated pain and a desperate feeling of being let down by my own body that I was to accept what was. It never meant that it was the way it was to be forever, and even now as I mumble my way through chronic pain and this ongoing irritation of what SHOULD be rather than what IS, I humbly realize that I must accept.

Accept it, rest and acknowledge. Accept and allow. Accept and move forward. Accept and respect. Accept and honour.

It has been a year that I met with several instances of physical issues, mostly my lower back and stomach. Throw in chronic migraines and other odd and sometimes alarming symptoms are usually met with me panicking and imagining the absolute worst. But there was that word… It just kept popping up for me, time and time again.

I accept that I will never deadlift.

I accept that my body is starting its aging process in a way that threw me for a loop.

I accept I need to nurture my self and give in to rest.

I accept I have a hard time listening to advice.

I accept that I will always have pain.

I accept that I can and will continue on with my healing.

I accept that I am still strong, just in a different way. I will never have the washboard stomach of a 20 year old, and I accept that maybe, I just don’t really need to.

I am now starting to wonder what word will blast and burrow into my mind for this upcoming year. I am anticipating it with a child’s wonder. What will my innermost self tell me what I need to know? And how will that guide me?

 

 





I’ve never been raped. But….

31 10 2014

I have been catcalled, told to smile while walking down the street, been in a bar and had my neck licked by some fucking idiot. I have felt afraid to walk home, I have feared about where I was, I have been in many situations that, later, I wondered sickly to myself “what if'”? I have had men expose their penises to me. I have had my breasts grabbed, my ass groped. I have had a man follow me home. I have been called CUNT. BITCH. SLUT.

What if that guy chose to grab me around my throat? I’m not as strong as he was, he could have pushed me down, lifted up my skirt, punched me and violated me.

What if I was raped? Would I be brave enough to report it? Would I be ashamed? Would I be believed? Maybe I was drunk, maybe my heels were too high, maybe I laughed too loud and made eye contact that was perceived as sexual. Maybe signals were sent?

Would it be my fault? Would you think so? Maybe I touched his chest while I laughed.

Maybe I smiled while tilting my face down and glancing upwards at him, the “come hither” look.

Maybe I licked my lips. Maybe I tousled my hair.

Maybe I kissed him.

All of that… all of that does NOT matter.

It is alarming to me to hear people ask questions about WHY? Why were you there? Why did you drink so much? Why did you dress like that? Why didn’t you tell anyone?

Look, we all know better. We all know the statistics. Violence against women is NOT a fable, it is NOT a ploy to demean men, it is NOT a lie. It is REAL.

The sooner everyone accepts this, and starts the long walk towards ending it, the better. Dialogue with our daughters and our sons starts now. No more slut-shaming, no more victim-blaming. No more asking why doesn’t she just leave him? Why she didn’t say anything?

No more defending someone famous because his radio career might be ruined. NO MORE.

Let’s talk. Let’s all talk about this.

Let’s start asking HOW. How can we fix this? How can we educate everyone about women’s rights and equality? How can we end the stigma of rape culture? How can we understand the cycle of abuse? How can we help?

How can we all help?

Ask yourself this.

How?





Fewer and farther between

18 10 2014

I glanced over from the kitchen today and my heart stopped for just a moment.

There it was.

For one split second, a single heartbeat, with the autumn light cast upon my daughter’s face, there echoed her smile from years ago. I saw her three-year-old smile. I saw, only for a moment, the remnants of her child’s face. In a blink of an eye, it vanished, and there she was smiling at something, her almost grown up 13 year old face, as lovely as ever, glowing and beautiful.

I froze, my heart caught, my throat squeezed, tears rose up. I recalled that fuzzy bunny of mine, her white-blonde hair and stubborn personality, her fervent love of me, her kindness and sprays of giggles that she offered up every chance she got. Her joy when she was excited relayed through a delightfully excited way of walking, kicking each step as her feet couldn’t seem to contain her spirit. My heart ached with a depth I cannot convey.

Oh my lost little ones, I do miss you both so much…. yet here now they navigate through adolescence. My son’s voice as deep as his father’s, when once it was as soft and pure and sweet as vanilla ice cream. His face now rises above mine as I speak to him. How did he get so tall? His cheeks, once so full and chubby, they beckoned for kisses and his arms, soft and hairless, wrapping around my neck for hugs. Now his face is thinner, his shoulders broad, his chin sprouting whiskers. I wondered during his toddler years what his man-face will look like and now… now I look at it daily.

It is no slight thing to watch your children grow. Wobbly newborns, smiley buddha-babies, frustratingly curious toddlers: we bear witness to their courage and faults and uniqueness as they discover who they are.

I love the age they are now, I hesitate to even ponder the idea of having babies now. We have freedoms now as a family, freedom to allow us to go zip-lining and skiing and hiking. We can all get into the truck without diaper bags and car seats and sippy cups and barf buckets. We can watch movies together that aren’t of Disney or Pixar or Dreamworks. (I can’t tell you how glad I am that I never have to watch Frozen or Cars IV or whatever is out right now, these mass-produced money-wringing Hollywood ploys). I can now see clearly who they are, though their future is as fogged up for me as it is for them.

But that treasure the Universe handed me today, that tiny immeasurable gift of what once was and what is now has resonated beyond anything I can explain. That glimpse into the past as the present gave way for just one brief touch of time gave me such bitter-sweet joy.

 

 





Influence

25 08 2014

Over yonder in Facebook Land, I was nominated by my friend Jennie to list the 10 most influential books I have read.

It really got me thinking about that. Not my FAVOURITE, but my most INFLUENTIAL. (Fortunately, a few of them are not either, but both)

Books are what I would bring on a deserted island with me. They are essential to my life. Like so many others, I get lost in the words, time can pass with my nose buried, kids can repeatedly ask me questions with no response from me, my mind often wanders during my busy workday back to the pages of what I have waiting for me on my nightstand. Sometimes all I have with my book is a precious 1/2 hour before falling asleep.

These 10 books I’m listing have grabbed me, made me think, delighted me, horrified me. I have re-read all of them, some to tatters.

1. Anne of Green Gables – Of course this is on my list. My love for this sweet red head, for Matthew and Marilla, for the love that finally is brought to the surface between her and Gilbert and that friendship that I coveted for myself with Diana and Anne. How I wished as a child that I too would have a bosom friend. And I sure wish I could try raspberry cordial at least once! I went through two copies of this book.

2. The Stand – epic, horrifying, fascinating and alarming in its possibility of actually kind of sort of maybe happening to the world. Maybe not King’s finest writing, but whoooooooaaaa did it ever freak me out. And when he came out with the unabridged version that included an extra 400 or so pages, it thrilled me to BITS.

3. The Handmaid’s Tale – this was my virginal foray into the wonderful wacky world of my beloved Margaret Atwood. I have since gone on to fall in love with many of her books. Her precision of words in ways that no one could ever write, how succinct she can convey those indescribable emotions and her off-hand humour and unbelievable skill as a storyteller gripped me from page one. This was my first dystopian novel. I still wonder what the handmaid’s real name was, did she make it out? Did she have her baby? Who is in the Network? And May Day has always meant something different for me since I read this book.

4. I can’t remember the name of the book – but it was a collection of short horror stories, all gathered up in a cheap paperback, probably bought at the check-out at the drugstore. There was one story in that book that thrilled me to bits and looking back now, it seems as it was a cheesy,  ridiculous (and probably not well written) little tale of two best friends sleeping in, of course, a creepy house. When the one friend decides to investigate that strange thumping dragging sound downstairs, well, there was no subtly in that foreshadowing. Nothing was better for me at age 10 when the best friend returns to the room, without her head and the friend is sent into madness in a screaming hysterical fit.

5. Gone With The Wind – ah, this book. I can’t read it now without being disgusted by the racism but that story of Scarlett and Rhett was and is the most frustrating love stories ever. Those two…. I mean, come ON! Rhett could have done so much differently, and he was just as childish as Scarlett was. I do take it into consideration of when it was written, and when I did first read it around the age of 13, back in the early 80s, sadly, the race thing wasn’t as unacceptable as it is now. Still, it has stayed with me ever since.

6. Roots – now this one was my eye opener at a young age, still wrapped in my white privilege and not a lot of awareness of the true nature of the world and its history. I would re-read a section, sickened and somehow hopeful that I hadn’t read that right. I questioned it. The white masters didn’t really do that to the slaves, did they? And I would read it again, and my stomach would drop. This was the first book where I wept when I finished it. And what a finish it was, in the heart of Africa as he described being surrounded by Kunte Kinte’s tribe. The laying of the hands still gives me goosebumps to this day.

7. A Fine Balance – oh, Rohinton Mistry. You write so well, but so sparsely. Why oh why don’t you write more books? This novel is wonderfully nuanced, dreadful, joyful and so bloody epic. The depths of each character make me feel as if I would know each one if I saw them on the street. And the way he describes things. His style is butter, it’s soft and creamy and delicious to read. It truly envelopes the reader. The heartbreak, the love and the true human spirit is captured in these pages.

8. The Valley of Horses (and the predecessor, Clan of the Cave Bear) – let’s not mince words here. This was all about the sex. Primal cave man sex. My friends and I would giggle and squeal over sentences such as “like a bee, he dipped and tasted”. Ayla and her time with the Neanderthals was a good story, but her sex scenes with Jondalar were just what my burgeoning teenage lust needed. I sure wish I knew what that hand signal looks like (wink wink nudge nudge).

9. The Little House series – I can’t pick one as my most influential, mostly because it is truly just one long story of Laura’s life. I can still quote sections of each book, I still feel Laura’s anger at Nellie Olsen, I still feel all misty eyed at Almanzo’s subtle courtship. But for me, the whole thing is so wonderful because it was real. That family really lived and travelled and played the fiddle. Mary really did go blind. One day, I wish to travel to Laura’s home and actually see the fiddle, the platter, the organ. I still have the whole series as a complete set, bought by my mom for me at a young and obviously impressionable age.

10. Left blank on purpose. I know another book will come along and fill this spot and knowing that I haven’t read it yet is the biggest thrill yet.

Here’s to books and the love of reading. I’d love to hear your top ten!





Liquid memory

1 08 2014

The rise and fall of seasons is my life’s heartbeat. With each turn of the planet brings echoes of seasons of the past. The whisper of woodsmoke on a crisp fall morning or the blast of spring air rushing in the window: doesn’t really matter what it is, but these flashback moments evoke in me memories of long ago. Truthfully, they can fill me up with giddy anticipation or blanket me with melancholy.

But every year, every single year as the snow melts and the days lengthen, that sun shines strong and the heat grows, I grow too. I am more than me in the summertime. My roots cling deeper, my existence is more tangible. I feel more, I laugh more, I love more. Summer awakens something in me that slumbers the rest of the year.

The way I mark my summers now are by epic swims in the lake. I call these my prodigal swims.

These are what I recall when it’s dark at 4 pm. I cling to them, knowing that yes, summer will return. The memories of water dancing around my body, quenching my spirit, the balm to my very cold soul in mid-January. (and, yes, I know I go on about how much I love winter. And I DO! I love skiing and all that winter brings, but let’s be real here. Nothing beats sun-kissed shoulders and warm summer days.)

My favourite time to swim is in the evening. I sometimes run and reward myself with a naked cool down dip at my chosen spot along the edges of Queen’s Bay. The water here, I don’t know. It’s magical somehow. Slightly warmer than The Arm, of course, but there is a profound happiness I get by plunging myself in the water. Baptism? I could go as far as using that word.

These are long and relaxed swims, as I slowly move out far and deep into the Bay. There is distant hums of boats narrating these evenings. The flies hover over the surface, which by this time is usually like liquid glass. If I am lucky, rainbow trout and kokanee rise up to feast all around me. I swim, as the lake smell permeates my skin. It is a scent of warm air, of clean water, of fresh fish. Of joy.

I am usually alone. I consider the half hour swim a gift to myself. One where I don’t have anything to do but just be. I float on my back, filling up my lungs and I dangle on the surface, my eyes closed, ears submerged. I relax as much as I can. The water muffles the sound, and sometimes I lose myself in it, and when I do open my eyes, I am always slightly surprised that I haven’t really moved that much, because I feel transported in some meditative way. Transcendental enlightenment through H2O.

I always swim when I get the chance. I don’t want wintery regret, thinking I didn’t swim enough during the summertime. I am ravenous with these swims, they nourish my need. I am fulfilled. I am me.

 

 








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