from my kitchen .. criss-cross applesauce


About 7 peeled and cored Spartans cubed small and covered with water just barely with a squeeze of a half lemon, a whole long cinnamon stick snapped in half, some sugar, a quarter vanilla bean, two whole cloves simmered until .. well, it’s a sauce

Add a capful of brandy and stir in with a bit more cane sugar until the alcohol evaporates and .. ::swoon::!

Walking, remembering, the footsteps of those that came before us

One of the cats, Leia, awoke me at the crack of dawn this morning. She didn’t know that today should be treated as a weekend day, and was up at the same time as usual, protesting about her food bowl not being filled with enough food, quickly enough. I shushed her and tried to get back to sleep, but to no avail.

I was up a little after 7, shuffled out to the kitchen to make some coffee and toast some slices of bread, rub them with garlic and smear them with a bit of butter. I sat in on a teleconference call with Jill Badonsky at 9:30 this morning, who mobilized on the tail end of the US election.

I don’t even want to write about that here. I’m still in shock at the amount of prejudice of all kinds streaming out in the aftermath. I have no words for how it makes me feel. In many respects, I am grateful to be living up here rather than there, but there is so much work to do, work that was previously done and accepted as de facto, but clearly there has been as much erosion to it as there has been to the California coastline and the arctic icecaps.

Anyway, back to Jill. My aches and pains are physical in nature, rather than emotional, so even though the push for the work was different, the result benefitted me equally well. My right shoulder has been hurting me since my fall at the end end of July. Another fall last month (on October 20th) reinjured the area that hadn’t yet fully healed (and perhaps created new injuries) and so the pain is once again keeping me from sleeping well, from moving fully, from being strong on my right side. I’m not sure whether one of the medications (a branch of statins that I’m taking for high cholesterol) is contributing to the pain or whether it really is just a question of those injured ligaments taking long to heal properly.

All I know is that I’m growing weary of the pain that I’m in, constantly, and frustrated by the constraints in mobility that these injuries have caused. This body, that I expected to have full and perpetual mastery over, and faith in its resilience to heal itself forevermore, is beginning to show me that my haphazard treatment of it over the years is now biting me in the ass (figuratively, and literally – if only you could have seen the size of the badass bruise on my right butt cheek from my fall on the 20th – it was impressive).

Changes in diet and exercise (though the exercise mostly consists of walking and working a till at my second job, thus standing and moving for hours on end during the evenings and the Sundays that I work there rather than sitting in front of a computer monitor, which is what I typically do when I have some free time – to write) have let me drop a handful of pounds, but I have so much more to go. I fear that it will be quite some time before I have the time and energy to integrate more of it into my daily habit.

I have to believe that there is still lots of time.

Upon waking this morning, I read an announcement that Leonard Cohen has passed. I am saddened by the loss of his creative genius even as I realize that we have our inevitable mortality to contend with. He was 82, still young by many respects. Younger than my mother was when she died, though she was perhaps a few years more frail that she might have wanted to be. She watched me struggle through most of my life throughout most of hers, and in some ways I am grateful that she didn’t have to witness the wave after wave of challenges that continued to lap at my door (and do, even now).

I’ve come to make peace with the fact that life will continue to provide those waves, whether or not I want them. They will come in all forms, and I have no control over them. All I have control over is how I tend to the results they produce within the small scope of my life. All I have control over is what I put out into the world. I say that loosely, because on some days I don’t have any control at all. My reptile brain kicks in and reacts to things in less than favourable ways and I then spend days, weeks, even, regretting what I’ve put out there. However, I can’t take those things back; I can only learn from them going forward.

I got paid yesterday and then paid some bills, picked up some medication. All said, I currently have fifty dollars and change until my next pay check next Thursday. This is my life. But yesterday, on my way home from a doctor’s appointment (at which I received the prescription renewals for the medicines that I would pick up later in the evening), I stopped at A&W at the train station to pick up a burger. I’d been craving one all week but since I paid rent recently, I really didn’t have a lot of money to go around for extra expenditures. I was standing in line waiting my turn when a man that I used to see regularly panhandling downtown stood beside me and asked me if I would buy him something to eat. I was silent for a few moments, and then said “Alright. What do you want?” He told me and walked up to the counter with me to place his request alongside mine.

I am always torn when I do this. I’m sure he’s probably as broke as I am, on any given day, except that I work a full time job and another part time one so that I can continue living in a nice home, to be able to buy good food and provide for some of life’s creature comforts to myself and my son, things like high speed internet and cable, and cell phone service, and in my case, books. I got my new cell phone bill yesterday and it’s in the neighbourhood of $208. I bought a book at the Book Warehouse on Broadway, too, but I’m glad I picked it up because I felt the need to escape into a fictional world after the goings on of last week, and this one happens to be one created by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter (entitled The Long War). I read in the doctors’ offices, on the train. It’s good medicine.

Today I plan to write some more on The Story Wrangler. I have a scene in mind, and want to flesh out more of the plot before forging further into the story. I wish I had the discipline to write to an outline. In some respects, I’d like to see how others have constructed them, be shown visual pictorials of their processes, so that I can better grasp what their process looks like. I tend to let the characters take the reins, for better or for ill.

I have this underlying sense of what the story is to be – how it feels in my body as it’s coming into its own – but I don’t yet have the words or the thought forms to articulate them. This is actually really difficult to explain, but maybe it will make sense to other writers. In many ways writing a story is for me like walking through a lucid dream with a video camera. I know that I’m recording what I am seeing, ostensibly outside of myself, but also that I am in control of what is unfolding before me. Somehow the two are not mutually exclusive.

Time to make another chai tea and get writing. Peace to all of you. xo

The only constant is change

 

bee-kindI’m on vacation today – sort of. I have a 1:45PM follow up appointment with the cardiologist and then start work at the grocery store at 6PM. Tomorrow is a stat holiday so I won’t have to wake up early (though I probably will anyway, because of last weekend’s time change and the cats waking me).

Yesterday I got a text from Gabriel just after 2PM letting me know that Vader had brought in a bird. He’d mangled it quite a bit by the time it arrived indoors, and the bird got loose in my room. He warned me that there was blood on the netting on my window (which he had opened to free the poor thing) and that he’d cleaned the blood off of the window. I braced myself for where else I would find the poor little creatures remnants. Sure enough, there were tiny little droplets on my headboard, on my quilt and one at the very top of my flannel sheet. I found more on the top book of the stack that sits on my night stand (which is right below the window opening). There were a few matted feathers on the floor next to the night stand, and another one by my mirrored dresser, which apparently was the first thing that it tried to fly into (thinking that it was a window). It flew behind the dresser, and Gabriel needed to usher it out (with my besom, no less).

Minutes before, I had just been ruminating on a post that I’d read about letting the sacrifices begin (it had been a tongue-in-cheek remark about virgins, sacrifices and the election). I thought that perhaps we needed to make more of them, and was thinking on what constituted a sacrifice. For Catholics (which I am by baptism but not by adherence, except that I think Mary is the bomb), Lent provides a way to perform a sacrifice by giving something up that is beloved. I thought further that perhaps we have become so comfortable in our affluence (because really, when compared to even a century ago, many of us in the western world are incredibly affluent in comparison) that we have a great aversion to experiencing discomfort of any kind.

I know this because I’ve experienced discomfort many times, and each time it required making an adjustment to what was rather than what my expectations were. It made me all the more grateful for the little that came my way, and forced me to focus on the good that surrounded me rather than on the things that dissatisfied me. This is not to say that I wasn’t focused on improving my circumstances, but that while in the thick of unpleasant experience, the only way to surmount the pull of its darkness is to reframe it in some way, and to focus on the steps that can be taken to make them better.

I realized, when I was having a bad go of things, how crucial the people that surrounded me (near and far) were, that without their help I would have been so much worse off. I learned how to reach out and ask for help, and receive it graciously. Not everyone in my circle was willing or able to help, either, but even knowing that they were supportive in spirit helped.

There will be suck in every person’s life, sometimes worse than others. Many years ago, when I went to a weekend workshop put on by Carolyn Gross (Staying Calm in the Midst of Chaos), I pulled a bumper sticker (she was offering them the way you would a blind card pull) that read “The only constant is change”. The truth of this struck me at the time, and I carry it with me today. The changes may feel minute but they happen, whether we want them to or not. It is our responsibility to work toward building the sorts of change we wish to come about, tiny step by tiny step, if that is all we are capable of.

I think that this human embodiment is an incredible gift. We develop strengths and weaknesses over the course of our lives and have an opportunity, if we so choose, to build on the former and weed out the latter. Fortunately, this is not a one mistake sport. Sometimes the results are disastrous, because we don’t have the needed skills at the time to overcome the obstacles, but they always provide a learning experience, if we choose to sift though the debris and find them. It doesn’t even mean that we will be exempt from making the same ones over again… sometimes it takes several goes before the necessary adjustments are made.

So I leave you with that thought, and wish you all strength, love and hope. xo

Vacation, day 1


There’s a story happening on my window sill this morning. The spider, the fruit fly and the cat who’s over the moon. With joy. To be sitting outside. Or close to me.

I am often in front of the sink, which faces the window. I’m in the kitchen now, making breakfast. Pour over coffee with lactose free whole milk, two cubes of raw sugar and two slices of bread, toasted and buttered. Not the best of menus, but simple and sufficient.

The butter was hard as rock when I pulled it from the fridge, so I cut a little corner of it off and tucked it into the microwave for a few seconds. The temperature has cooled off so much now that butter can safely be stored in the cupboard again without becoming a melted puddle.

I moved to the living room, ate the toast as I sat on the couch. The cat was meowing at the window, “Where are you?”

When I finished eating, I brought my plate into the kitchen and told her, “I’m here; come inside” but it took a few moments for her to decide to join me. I downed some ibuprofen for my shoulder pain. The physio session at noon yesterday (as it has for the last five Fridays) always sets me back a bit in regard to the shoulder pain. Everything feels like it’s raw and on fire, stiff and resentful.

I sat down again in the living room to take my coffee when she eventually lumbered over. She speaks to me in meows, certain that I understand. Maybe I do, now that I think of it. She seems to understand me too.

After kneading and walking across my legs a few times, she finally settled herself down half on the couch, half on my lap, rapt and purring for as long as I rubbed her behind the ears, under the chin.

After a while she left me to go back outside, and I decided that the call of the comfort of my warm bed outweighed the comfort of typing these words out on a keyboard rather than on my smart phone, so my thumbs are doing the hard work this morning.

Plans for today are largely to rest. I am so beyond tired at the moment that I feel a week off (well, nine consecutive days, actually) will barely scratch the surface of my fatigue, but I’m hopeful.

I want to rest but also do some planning, make lists of the things that I want to do so that I can slot them in, so that they get done. Time is so easily frittered away if not paid attention to.

The rain will surely help with getting me to complete the inside tasks simply based on the fact that it isn’t appealing to be outdoors. One of these days I’ll have to invest in a proper neoprene raincoat, pants and some waterproof shoes. Nothing I dislike more than getting my feet soaked, having them be cold and damp. Now that I don’t wear glasses, I don’t mind my face getting wet, and my hair as a fashion statement has been long abandoned.

There is a muscle twitching in my left quadricep. I worked out on Tuesday but that was days ago, so why the twitch now? The mysteries of this body has me in a constant state of both wonder and alarm. What next?

I’ve been invited to a housewarming party later today and I am not sure I will muster the energy to go. I want to vacuum and wash my sheets and bedding (yes, and rest too). And one can’t verily show up empty handed can one, and things are tight this week, especially if I want to do something more than just lay about the house. A social life is sometimes beyond my budget.

And I have loads of books I want to read. And to write, too. My writing habit, established at both financial and personal cost during my year-long writing program, is in a state of atrophy at the moment. I can rationalize many good reasons for not keeping it up, even for a short time, but in the end it’s my heart’s desire that suffers; the passions that set me apart from others whose calls go unanswered. An unrequited love, like the many others that life has pinned to me in some form or other.

So much to do, so little time, and such little order in my life. And ease. Not much in the way of ease, either. Working more provides a bit of financial slack but the lack of time leaves me unrested, or constantly trying to balance fatigue and overwork… hard to fit creativity into there, especially since writing takes so much energy.

Well, not all writing. Not this kind of writing. This is like a one-sided conversation; I can pretend to have an engaged and interested audience, even if there isn’t one. I’m good at suspending disbelief… just ask the cat; she listens to lengthy conversations, saves me from being the nutty one who walks around an otherwise empty kitchen and talks to herself.

Alright… time to rouse myself and brew a second cup of coffee. I can’t be deemed fully human or capable until the second cup is being consumed.

Au revoir! Je vous souhaite une bonne journée.

A life arrested

Opposite of Loneliness

There’s a theory that a person’s emotional development stops at the age at which one starts taking drugs.

Maybe this same theory can be expounded upon to include the whole of a life halted in its development due to a variety of reasons, whether family dysfunction or other external factors – arrested in a paradigm much like Bill Murray’s character’s was in Groundhog Day, manoeuvring through the same damned day until he finally gets it right, gets to move on to the next step, and the next, and so on. Bill’s protagonist has an antagonist who is also an ally, in whom he has a vested interest that propels him forward.

I have no such character assist. I don’t even know how to get started on the business of procuring one (though a huge chunk of my life was spent flailing around in the process of attempting to achieve just that). I was under the (clearly) erroneous assumption that in order to get to the next step I would absolutely have to find that other character in order to move forward with my own story. None of the varied and sundry ways I tried resulted in the opposite of loneliness, but I’ve come to find that I’ve become comfortable with my aloneness.

In this space, I write.
I write my way into corners.
I chase words in circles.

I follow the tail of an idea, of emotions whose teeth have gently clasped onto me, unwilling to let me go. I don’t know know where they want to take me, but I’ve come to trust the process, whether or not it amounts to a great piece of writing, or simply provides an outlet for a jumble of thoughts so that they may reach coherence.

I’ve begun reading The Opposite of Loneliness: Essays and Stories by Marina Keegan. By the end of the introduction (by her professor Anne Fadiman), I was misty-eyed, sorry for fate of the arrested life of someone so promising. Upon reading the first essay (titled the same as the book) tears came anew along with a sense of kinship.

At 52, I can still relate to her words. They were true for a 22 year old, but I’ve come to find that they are just as true now for someone like me, thirty years older. I hold the same hopes, harbour the same feelings of inadequacy. I wonder how much of it is due to the arrested development of my younger self and how much of it is merely a byproduct of the human condition.

The truth is, we are still SO YOUNG, even me, at 52. And in Marina’s words, “…[w]e can’t, we MUST not lose this sense of possibility, because in the end, it’s all we have.”

I do envy something that Marina had which I have in my 52 years of life been incapable of feeling: “remarkably, unbelievably safe”. Perhaps it is a character flaw, perhaps it’s merely a situational anomaly, that I’ve not for most of the years I’ve lived in this world, felt truly and unequivocally, safe.

It has, however, forced me toward a bravery that I am always astonished to discover that I can muster. I’ve overcome many things simply because I had to get to the other side of them in order to remain intact. I may have at times seemed to be spineless, may have sometimes been graceless, and at times been a downright asshole throughout the process, but I mostly always take something away from each of these experiences, whether immediately or through the distance that the passage of time affords.

It would be foolish of me to say that I have no regrets. I have many, and they multiply with every passing year, with each choice, each road taken (or not), but I release them after I think on them and mourn what could have been, and make more choices.

Whether mistakes or successes, life moves along at an incredible clip. This automated and electronically dense world we live in, it speeds along dizzyingly, doesn’t allow us to dwell on things for too long. I can only hope that the choices I am making now will lead me to where I eventually want to be, and that the vision of where that is becomes clearer as I move closer toward it.

We all need allies, though, and I hope to be as good a one as those who I hope to consort with on this journey. As much as writing is a solitary practice, it can not be done in a vacuum. It needs the eyes and hearts of others to keep it true to course. Onwards, then – bravely.

on reading piles, writing


It’s chilly outside today. I can feel the bite in the air hinting at what the fallen leaves that have begun to litter the walkways for the last couple of weeks have been soundlessly saying: fall is almost here. It’s my favourite time of year.

Nothing is more appealing on days like today (or yesterday, for that matter) than to cozy up in a quilt and read. I can’t resist a good book, even though I should be writing one instead of diving headlong into my reading pile.

I read through Harry Potter and the Cursed Child yesterday. Since it essentially is a bound version of the play, it consists mostly of dialog and scene set-up.

I loved the story.

I think we often (as we move through our lives) wonder about the choices we make, and how a different one would have changed our circumstances. This story provides a means for us to vicariously travel along with these characters and see different outcomes. It highlights the perfect imperfection of the human condition, and how much of who we become depends upon those we choose to journey with during our lifetime, and how gracefully we accept our own and others’ periodical defeats.

Prior to even receiving the book (which was an unexpected and most appreciated gift from my son and his girlfriend) I had read through many online critiques of the plot line (and the spoilers, because that’s just who I am). They were a bit off-putting, to be honest, and so when I began to read yesterday I was pleasantly surprised that it was an immersive experience and brought me back into the make believe world that I’d come to love so much.

A week ago from last Friday I took a spill while rushing to the train station between jobs. I injured my right shoulder and it’s been slow to recover. I probably should go to the emergency unit and get it x-rayed but I keep putting it off because I have such little spare time and don’t particularly relish spending it in a hospital line up. I set yesterday as my getting better or going to have it looked at limit and ended up resting instead of going to hospital. It’s getting better but I still can’t properly lift my arm from a certain angle.

I plan on working on one of my own stories today. I have a four hour shift late afternoon but until then I want to get to know my characters a bit better, perhaps write some back story. Maybe I’ll even get to start on the next book in my reading pile. And there will be Dutch Babies for breakfast.

What are you reading these days?