Gratefulness Therapy

Yesterday, Goodreads sent me an update on one of my favorite authors — Nora Roberts. From what I can tell, Nora keeps a blog through Goodreads, and yesterday, her post discussed all the things she is currently grateful for. She then told her readers to take turns posting their own lists. Most people posted in the comment sections. I thought I’d post mine here.

In these moments of uncertainty and actual physical jeopardy, I’m first grateful for my health and that of the people around me whom I love. I am fortunate to be able to say that no one in my family is currently ill, and although both my daughter and I were earlier this Spring, everyone is now healthy and (in my case) getting my pre-summer fat on in full swing.

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I’m thankful for the amazing place where I live, and the gorgeous Spring weather we have been having. There are few places more beautiful, in my opinion. Right now, with the reduction in traffic, I’ve also noticed that the air is incredibly crisp and clear, the lake cleaner than I remember it ever being.

I’m thankful that we live in a technological age so that while I’m home for an unknown period of time, I can take advantage of Zoom meetings so I have a reason to comb my hair and wear makeup, long drives in the car to keep us healthy but sane, social media communication to keep me in touch with the free world, telephone, music, microwaves, toilet paper, internet, laundry machines, electric lighting and plumbing… you name it. We are so fortunate at this time in history to have so many conveniences at our disposal.

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I’m thankful I discovered Matt Harnacke and his gorgeous horse Emporio a few months back. Eye Candy for the quarantined soul. https://www.instagram.com/p/B-48UGkn6gS/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link

I’m so thankful to have writing in my life. I absolutely love having the opportunity to tell stories, and right now, I’m very grateful that the novels I’ve been writing are being well-received. I’m thankful to the readers and to those of you good enough to leave your kind words of praise. You have no idea how inspiring that is, and how it keeps me going with the next project. Recently, I watched a Kenny Chesney video that spoke of the one thing you’d like to give the world. At different times in my life, that would have been differing things. Right now, I’d give stories. Story lets me take the world that is, imagine the world that could be, and link the two.

I’m grateful that my dog loves me unconditionally. She is my little buddy. She is loving this time with us home all the time. She is loving going for walks with my daughter. I’m also grateful that my soft, fluffy, uber-handsome cat has learned some personal boundaries and no longer sleeps on my head at night.

I’m grateful to have a teenage daughter who, although hating being stuck at home when she could be out with friends or playing volleyball or soccer or being at the mall or even being out finding a job, is doing her best to keep her spirits up, and her attitude positive.

I’m thankful for free Ebooks, and for reruns of The West Wing and Bones, and for other people’s music playlists, since I’m sort of sick of my own.

I am thankful to have time on my hands — probably for the first time since I was a teenager. I have finally had a chance to catch up with all the marketing I needed to get done, to update my website, to write some E-letters. I have finished writing one novel, and am 15,000 words into the new one. I also released a third earlier than planned. Next week I start editing the novel launching in July, and yesterday I started taking business courses through Linkedin learning. So far, I’ve had a quick info session on how to use Gmail better, a course on story telling for marketing, and a documentary on urban planning through technology. (That one is for a character in a book. I don’t have plans to tackle this myself any time soon). Soon, I’m going to buckle in to learn how to use Instagram for business.

I’m also thankful to own my own home and have low associated costs of living in this time of financial uncertainty. I’ve been making plans for low-cost home improvements I can tackle these next few weeks. I started hacking away at the overgrown bushes in my yard, and also plan to create a garden area. I am going to re-purpose a pair of truck rims left over from when my son sold his beater truck and turn them into summer planters for flower gardening. I’m going to repaint the peeling paint on my front patio, get the staple gun out and fix some spots where the patio carpet is coming up, and fix the screen door so that if we are still quarantined here once summer hits, we can get a breeze flowing through the house without letting the dog get out.

I’m also going to have a go at fixing the roofing on the patio. The corrugated roofing panel blew off in a wind storm awhile back, so I’m going to have a go at replacing that. I’m going to get some inexpensive patio furniture and a new barbeque and set up a little outdoor eating nook.

I’m thankful because I haven’t had the time to even catalogue all the things needing to be repaired around here, let alone tackle them, and now, for the next few weeks, I actually have time to start attending to them. As well, I’m thankful that I work for a company which prioritizes the health of its staff, so my needs are being provided for during this crisis.

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I’ve been thankful to have the time to cook proper meals, although with just myself and Sheena here, they sure do stretch a lot longer. So, I have a freezer stocked with leftovers — and I’m thankful for that, too. I’m also thankful for this book of muffin recipes that I get to try.

I’m very grateful to have people who are still working while I am home. On the flip side, I’m thankful to finally feel rested after a long time of working one job, then coming home and working a second.

I’m thankful for all the health care workers and the essential service workers, and I am so glad to be Canadian. We live in a great country with universal health care, and a government who has been proactive and also has been reflective enough to re-work assistance which has been incomplete or inadequate. I live in a country that is taking care of its citizens, with a leader who is taking this virus seriously. I am thankful for Canada, and for the job Trudeau and our other leaders are doing.

I know there are people who are grieving, and I know there are tough times ahead as the economic engines of our world start to reignite. For now, all my needs are met, I am healthy, I have time to accomplish so many things, and I live in a wonderful part of the globe.

So, that is me. What, in the middle of these stressful times, are you thankful for?

 

 

Sunshine and Staying Inside

Today, I am having an odd reaction to self-isolation — I am feeling an intense sense of gratefulness and love which I can’t seem to shake.

Don’t get me wrong, I haven’t felt that way everyday, but today, the sun is out, and even if I am sitting inside, my heart feels as bright as the sky outside my window. I’m going to enjoy this feeling while it lasts. I know it might not.

My elder daughter turned 23 on February 23, and that morning  a group of us all went out for breakfast at Denny’s. My younger daughter woke up that morning with a serious headache a sore throat and no appetite. She was annoyed, because she’d been looking forward to the breakfast. We didn’t really think much of it beyond that. She’d been to a volleyball match down at the Coast and I figured she picked up the flu at the tournament. I knew she was really sick when she voluntarily stayed home from the afternoon’s practice.

She missed several days of school and another practice mid-way through the week, and I played nursemaid. Even after she got better, she was exhausted and finding it hard to keep up with the volleyball training. With her being an A-type personality, I reminded her she had been sick — she should expect to be dragging a bit until her energy fully returned. It took her over a week. Eventually, though, she was back at full-power.

Approximately two weeks later, I had an appointment to get my taxes done, and for no apparent reason, I couldn’t stop coughing all the way through that appointment. I didn’t feel sick at all, but as luck would have it, I’d been scheduled to have an interview for a promotion that afternoon before my shift at work. People had started to talk about Coronavirus — it was already significant in China and heading that way in Italy — so I called in to see if they still wanted to go ahead with the interview. She postponed.

But I wasn’t sick. So, I went to work. I kept going all that week. By Thursday, I felt like maybe I was coming down with something — achy, and my temperature regulator seemed off. But, I certainly didn’t seem to have any of the dramatic symptoms being described in the news. Friday the 13th, I woke up with a crazy headache, and nothing I threw at it helped. If you’ve read my previous blogs, you know that by the end of my shift that day, I knew I was sick. My throat was raw, felt a lot like strep throat. I got my shift covered for the following day.

And I really was sick. It felt like the flu — but different. I honestly don’t know what I had. But to make a long story short, I missed another shift, then another, and I was still coughing. By then, the virus had started to explode around us, and I really didn’t know what to do. Ultimately, I drove into work, then once I got there told my boss, I just don’t think I should be here. It felt socially irresponsible. She sent me home, 811 told me to stay there, and my company committed to paying two weeks of salary so I could self-isolate. Then, three days later, my store location closed completely. Which means, now instead of two weeks of salary, they have me covered for four weeks. After that, I suppose I am with the rest of unemployed Canada — thankful for Prime Minister Trudeau’s commitment to keeping the population cared for.

At first, I was too sick to do be anything but tired. Then, my appetite came back. Then my energy. Then I started to get productive.

My daughter’s volleyball league cancelled first one match, then another, then all of them. Season over. Her school, which is on spring break, is also on indefinite leave. The possibility exists that they might go online, but with libraries closed, this may not be a solution for everyone. Sheena is used to going mach ten at all times, and now she is home, no school, no sports, no friends — she has been amazing about it, but it is hard. Could be worse — we both recognize that — still, if I don’t find her something else to do other than bake, I am going to weigh 300 pounds before this is over.

Like everyone else, I spent way too much time watching news reports. Because of my novels, I recently joined Twitter, and that place is like a warzone — one I find myself too easily pulled into.  The Stupid Things People Say may just be my next book title, and it is going to be based on the anger all over the Internet.

I’ve kept in touch with a customer from work. I follow his photography on Instagram. He recently said to me, “I don’t think things are going to be the same after this.”

I think that might be true. I think after this, there is going to be a lot of grief and anger people are dealing with. Some people are going to lose a lot. That is going to be hard to accept. I mean, how do you get angry at a virus? Or a DNA sequencing glitch, or whatever this thing is. How do we get angry at something so small stripping us all of our facades of invulnerability, our vanity and arrogance, our beliefs in superiority and invincibility? How do we get angry at an illness when it shows us that the world is not what we thought it was and reminds us that our place in it is so insignificant?

It is so much easier to be angry at the guy who bought out all the meat, or the toilet paper hoarders, the politicians, Donald Trump. Not that there aren’t consequences to actions, not that people don’t say dumb and objectionable things on Twitter and Facebook, not that some leaders aren’t more adaptable than others, more wise than others. The thing is, as I’ve listened to the news, perused social media, stayed indoors despite the sunshine and have limited my social interactions with family to virtual ones, I keep realizing that we are all in this together. Some people are taking this more seriously than others, some are sick and some are not, some may lose and some may not, but I’ve realized, people say dumb things and do dumb things because they are human. Because underneath the bluster, they are afraid. No one knows how to handle this perfectly.

I’ve realized that underneath the hoarding, the bulk buying, the social media venting and cursing there is selfishness, yes, there is ugliness and frustration, also yes, but mostly there is fear. It is one thing we are all experiencing. It just looks differently on some of us than on others. Maybe not everyone is afraid of getting sick and dying, but everyone is wondering what it all means, what will our world look like after all of this ends.

We are the same.

There seems to have been the beginnings of a shift — or maybe today was just a good news day or I am more optimistic now that I am feeling healthy again — but I am reading more good news than bad today. People who have been fighting the illness are recovering. Others are finding creative virtual ways to connect through online arts groups, chat groups, etc. Whitespot had a drive-thru breakfast to raise funds for the food bank, someone organized a drive-by birthday party parade for children who are unable to have birthday parties — and complete strangers are parading their vehicles past birthday children with banners and balloons. Bauer is now making masks, a family run vineyard is teaching their children about business in their vineyard while they home school.

The police, other front-line workers, doctors, nurses, grocery store clerks and other essential workers seem to be getting more veneration than I’ve personally seen at any other time in history. As is right. I’m sure people will be back to hating soon enough, but right now, I feel so much deep gratitude for these people who are continuing to work to keep us all safe and healthy and fed — even while their own lives are jeopardized and their own families are experiencing all the strains the rest of us face. Perhaps Americans experienced some of what I am feeling after 9-11, but this is a greater level of awareness of all the societal elements working to improve my personal well-being than I have personally experienced before. Within these moments of stress, I feel this undercurrent of gratefulness for the country where I live, the policies we live by, the politicians and others working to get us all to the other side of this pandemic. It is a warmth of feeling that supersedes the daily worries.

I had a video chat with my co-workers this morning, and it was great. I miss them all. Today was a moment of connection I didn’t even know I needed. Yesterday, one of the members of my book club sent out an email saying let’s go virtual, and one of the technologically inclined guys in the group suggested zoom — says it is easy.

This morning I felt a degree of appreciation for being part of these social groups that I normally overlook. I mean, I always like everybody, and I’m glad to know you. This morning, I just felt like I had to restrain myself from gushing out how much I love everyone — which seems to be my mood of the day. Hey, family, hey friends, hey complete strangers I’ve never met — I love you! We are all part of the same team — team beat the virus and team human and team Earth. I don’t know that I’ve ever experienced this sense of universal connectedness in quite the same way — and it took dismantling everyone’s daily lives and putting us all into isolation to make it happen.

I’ve spoken to my sister more this week than probably in the past month. Normally, we both live very busy lives. Right now, we get to check in everyday.

My eldest son’s wife called me for a soup recipe last night. They are stuck in a tiny bachelor suit apartment and there is a confirmed quarantine in their building, yet they seem happier than ever together — which is amazing to see.

My elder daughter’s boyfriend told me he loved me (you touched me, David – sob).

I learned something I didn’t even know about my younger son — he likes to do puzzles. What?? I hate puzzles, unless it is the puzzle of figuring out what happens next in the book I am writing. He does not get that from me.

He got it from my mom. She was sappily thrilled when I called her this morning to tell her about the mark she’s left on her grandson.

And my youngest? Last night when I was going to bed she was up making these amazing chocolate chip cookies. I had them for breakfast. Help. Somebody save me.

Last night I stayed up late playing on Canva and generally procrastinating on novel writing. I created a new release announcement — and seven bookmarks featuring the covers of seven different novels. They are my next series. I’ve only got one written so far, but I’ve got plans.

The night before that I was up until — well, I am not even going to tell you that. I started off researching the costs of hiring someone from Fiverr to read my books in order to create an audio book. When I realized how expensive it would be plus listened to a lot of really droning narrators, I decided, hey, I used to record songs, I have all the gear, I will just download Reaper and narrate the things myself. So, then I was up for hours recording myself narrating snipets of my novels onto my phone just to see how I sounded.

It is not the easiest thing to do, lemme just say. I speed up. I stumble over words. I add verbal stressors in places they don’t really belong — hats off all you actors! You make it look easy. And yet, after awhile, I thought, hmm, not too bad. I could do this. My favourite was the snippet I wrote for my art heist novel. Every third word was an f-bomb. Apparently, I make a decently convincing villain. Of course, then I thought, hey, why not call up my friends from the actor’s studio. Delphine. Jerome. I work with one of them. I watched the other grow up. They could do this…

I vibe on the creating. I get lost in the creating. I don’t even notice that it is two in the morning and I am still creating. I’ve informed my boss that I have reverted back to my preferred sleeping patterns and will need to be reintegrated gradually when that day comes.

I know that this pandemic fight isn’t over. There is a longer struggle ahead. I know I may not feel this cheerful tomorrow, and even by tonight I may be back to the unbearably snarky comments people who are afraid make to one another on twitter. Fear, I’ve realized, often looks a lot like hate. But right now, for today, I keep realizing another level and another of what is truly important and what is not. People are. Toys are not. Health is. A tan is not. Friendship is. Family is. Encouraging others is. Creativity — whether in innovative ways to fight this disease, in traditional ideas of writing, singing, painting, drama etc. (adapted to a virtual stage) is. Drive-by birthday parades definitely are.

Trying to love better and understand better and empathize instead of villainize — these all are. So, maybe Dan will be right.

Maybe, when this is all over we will remember what is and is not important.

And life as we know it will never be the same.

 

Breaking Bread: Kelowna’s Taste of Home

 

Breaking Bread.

According to the Urban Dictionary, “To break bread is to affirm trust, confidence, and comfort with an individual or group of people. Breaking bread has a notation of friendliness and informality, derived from the original meaning regarding sharing the loaf.”

Another, simpler definition of the term is, “To share a meal with someone.” This comes from Writing Explained, an online site for writing instruction. They go on to state:

This expression means more than just eating; it is sharing a sense of brotherhood with someone or some group of people. It is a significant event that fosters some meaningful connection and cooperation.
Perhaps you are enemies; breaking bread with someone indicates a sense of forgiveness and moving forward to the affair.

Writing Explained (https://writingexplained.org/idiom-dictionary/break-bread-with-someone) states that the term breaking bread has Biblical origins, originating with the story of Jesus blessing, then breaking 5 loaves of bread — and feeding 5000 people. Then, according to Mathew 14:20, “They all ate and were satisfied. They picked up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve full baskets.” Considering Jesus had twelve disciples, there seems to be a moral in this number. First they fed others, then there was a basket full left over for each. Later on in his life, Jesus would refer to broken bread as his own body. Famously known as the last supper, the instruction given that day was to “eat in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19).

Food is about so much more than simply fueling the body. That’s why, every year at Christmas, I make the same cookie recipes — they remind me of the continuity of family celebrations.

Some of my recipes were taught to me by people no longer alive. I think of them every time I cook them. My English grandmother passed on roast beef and Yorkshire puddings, my Irish grandfather passed on potato pancakes, and my German Aunt (still with us – hi Auntie Marion!) passed on borscht and plotz — a white cake topped with fruit and butter and sugar crumbles. I still have Anne’s chicken wings and Lois’ chocolate chip cookies and Grandpa’s pastry written down in the little red notebook that I started in my early twenties, when I first moved away from my parent’s home.

I remember fondly the church potlucks of my youth, and Nellie Romeyn’s (my first boyfriend’s mom) Flying Saucer Cookies. I also remember the casseroles the church ladies brought our family when my grandmother died. I was thirteen at the time. And I remember Rie Beugelink, who had a tablecloth cross-stitched with all the names of her dinner guests on it. This inspired me, and when I bought my first home, I painted a patio bench and had it signed by all my house guests that first year.

Food reminds us of who we are, of our histories, our traditions, of relatives and homes which have gone before us. It bonds us. The smells and flavours of shared culinary creations take us back, and when shared, they build our united futures. All of which is why I was thrilled to receive the invitation to attend Kelowna’s Taste of Home event, and to stop in on my way home after work on Saturday night.

The event was held in the New Life church building on Harvey, which is an interesting choice considering the building’s original purpose after construction was as a farmer’s market. The main room of the building has two levels, and flags from around the world now hang from the top floor.

The Global Citizen’s event, which is in its fourteenth year, was packed. I had to park a block away, and almost let the blustering cold wind and my post-work lag change my mind about attending. Once inside, I was so glad to be there. It cost a dollar at the door to get inside, and then I handed over five dollars for food tickets ($1 each) and wove my way in through the crowd.

Vendors representing different countries were arrayed around the edges of the room, while the centre was set up with chairs where it was possible to sit and watch entertainers in traditional costume perform dances from their corners of the globe. It had been advertised that food items would cost between one and three tickets per item, and so my first goal was to do a full pass of all the vendors and decide which foods I would sample. I stopped halfway through, though, to film the Chinese dragon dance.

On my second pass, I purchased my first item. For one ticket, I received a dinner roll sized plate heaped high with pumpkin lentil stew (on a bed of rice) from Columbia. I’d never tried this dish before, and found it to be a delicious mild curry-flavoured meal. For a dollar, it was also quite filling.

Although I wanted to try the Venezuelan pastries and the Caribbean jerked chicken, I wandered past Thailand and Venezuela and Mexico, Japan and Taiwan and the Caribbean, mostly because the lineups were long, and there was easier places to wait.

I found myself standing in Israel’s line waiting to be served a cheese Knish with berries, which also cost me $1, and tasted great — not tart, but not too sweet, either. Because Syria was located next door to Israel, I next purchased a skewer of Falafel for $2. I passed on the hummus, though, as that would have taken my last ticket. The food was delicious — far tastier than the falafel I’d purchased this summer at the Kelowna Fruit Market, although, I have to admit, my motivations for that purchase were entirely political sentimentality. Israel was next to Syria. That, to me, simply had to be honoured.

With one ticket remaining, my options were a bit limited. I could have purchased tea from Taiwan, or an energy ball from Venezuela or gone back for seconds in Columbia. Instead, I decided to support the home team, and bought two somewhat gooey maple tarts from the ladies who were looking a little bit lonely at the Canadian booth.

I’d filled my stomach – and I was, indeed, full — with an interesting assortment of cultures. I didn’t get to try the bannock from the First Nations Booth, and I’m not sure what was being sold from Greece, although I did see some Kalamata olives on one lady’s plate. I didn’t get any gelato from Italy, but I did see that the servings they were giving out were quite ample. You couldn’t get as large a dish for as small a price in an actual ice cream shop, I can vouch for that.

On one of my passes around the food booths, I ran into my boss and her husband. Ady is from France, her husband, a local chef, is from Australia. They are expecting their first child, and at work this week, she was mentioning that since their baby will be born in Canada, the child will be legally entitled to three different passport options. I am second generation Canadian — my English grandmother was one of the first war brides to arrive after World War 2. And yet, here we all were, sampling meals from other people’s homelands.

With my stomach full, I found a spot to watch and photograph the entertainment. Peru had taken the stage, followed by Ukraine, and then Japan. I heard that Mexico was dancing at 7:30, but I knew I wouldn’t be staying that long. I didn’t expect it to be tears which sent me running for the door, though.

The Ukrainian dancers were part of a local dance club, and as a result, they had sets of dancers of various ages performing. This extended their time on stage a bit, and at some point as I watched, my eyes strayed from the performers to the crowd. At New Life church, the stage is accessible by a set of carpeted stairs which run across the front of the podium, and my attention was suddenly captured by the scene there. Children with various skin and hair colours, with various ethnic backgrounds and in various different traditional costumes had stationed themselves in an undulating line along the staircase. Sitting together, seemingly oblivious to exterior differences, or historical animosities, or cultural variation, they watched the performers. This, I thought, as I felt myself choking up, is the world as it is meant to be. This is a picture of my country, of my global community.

And I am very proud to call myself Canadian, eh.

 

The Memory of Eggs

 

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Today, for breakfast, I made myself hazelnut-flavoured coffee, yogurt with fruit, and poached eggs with goat cheese, slices of red pepper and sprinkles of rosemary. It made me think of my friend, Susan.

Susan was my sister’s friend first, and when she moved from Alberta to Kelowna, she looked me up. My children were young then, and I was in University, so life was busy. I don’t remember how many times we saw each other, but I have this one beautiful memory of having dinner at her place. Susan is an artist, and that night she set my children up with paints while I admired all the amazing work placed in her home. Since I was studying fine arts at the time, this was a boon to the heart. Unable to find the work her teaching degree entitled her to, Susan left the Okanagan for Vancouver a few years later. Our loss, their gain.

Continue reading “The Memory of Eggs”

Kelowna Farmers Market

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I walk onto the grounds of Kelowna’s Farmers Market after leaving my car in a shady spot at Orchard Park shopping centre and jaywalking across Dilworth Avenue. Unless you count Granville Island Market, I’ve never been to a farmers market, and I don’t fully know what to expect.
The day is warm, although smoke from forest fires burning to the North are fuzzing Kelowna’s horizon with haze. There are air quality warnings, but I’m not smelling smoke, my throat feels fine, and I think the haze may even work to my advantage as it reduces the sun’s glare from the photos I intend to take.

Walking in, I pass a rack full of locked bicycles. One has the rider’s helmet snapped onto the bike lock chain, and I think fond thoughts about living in a city where it is safe to leave your helmet with your bike. This, I think, would not have happened at Granville Island.

Two women stand talking under the shade cast by a maple tree. I pass them and head toward the bright red tent with a bold-font banner advertising HENNA! on the side. Inside the tent, a woman who looks right for the part paints the hand of a young girl in a pink ballcap and pink shades. I snap a quick picture, and my attention is immediately diverted to the teenage juggler performing for a group of spell-struck children. As I watch, one of the girls steps forward and drops a coin into his hat.

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“Thank you,” says the juggler without breaking stride. He switches from balls to pins, and another child asks, “How did you get so good at that?”

“A lot of practice,” says the juggler, then stops temporarily as his young audience is pulled away. Continue reading “Kelowna Farmers Market”

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