Scones

It’s a dark, rainy Sunday, although it could be any day of the week, I’m on vacation and barely aware of what day it is. Moe and I are having a cozy couch day watching Harry Potter movies. I swear he was actually watching for a while, but then the call of the cat nap was stronger than the call to defeat Voldemort. A kitty’s got priorities.

photo 1-1Anyway, a rainy couch day calls for delicious baked goods so I tried out a recipe for dark chocolate ginger pear scones.

I didn’t have any ginger to grate so I added extra candied ginger. I found they needed the full 20 minutes in my oven.

The result – simply delicious, warm and comforting with a cup of coffee, kitty, and The Half Blood Prince.

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Stolen Salad

Hurrah! I managed to recreate the summer pasta salad that I like so much at Pete’s Frootique.

My eyeballs identified the main ingredients when I first saw the lovely dish among the offerings at the Frootique – tortellini, cherry tomatoes, string beans, and parm. My taste buds told me there was lemon in the mix. And the label told me the one other ingredient – plain yogurt.

I’ve not had much success recreating dishes without a recipe but I thought I’d give this a try. So I cooked about 3 cups of store-bought cheese tortellini, blanched about a cup of chopped string beans, and tossed them with about 1 1/2 cups of whole cherry tomatoes. I zested some lemon into it and added more than just a sprinkle of parm.

Then came the guessing game of the dressing. I combined the juice of one lemon juice with a couple of tablespoons of plain Greek yogurt. It was runny, so I dumped some out and added another heaping tablespoon of yogurt. Final proportions were probably juice of half a lemon and about 3 tablespoons of yogurt.

Mixed it all up, portioned it into containers for grab-and-run work lunches, and waited. By 11:18 this morning, I was starving and desperately curious to know how it turned out.

Spectacular! I’ll be making this stolen salad again and again.

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Mother’s Day

Had breakfast in bed this morning. Lots of women would be doing the same today, breaking into smiles as little ones totter in with a tray of oddly shaped pancakes, dandelions in a vase, and scribbly handmade Mother’s Day cards.

I made my own breakfast. Ate it with my fur baby nestled against me. Watched a movie on my laptop.

It’s not what I’ve always wanted. It’s what I have.

The ache I feel every Mother’s Day. Every time I hear someone is expecting. Every time I see parents with their kids. Every time they beam about their families. Every time they complain about how hard it is.

That ache led me to marry the wrong guy who turned out to not want what I want. It led me into the world of step-motherhood which, believe me, is not anywhere near the same thing as motherhood. Mother’s Day only hurt more during those years.

Now I’m faced with a choice: pursue motherhood on my own through adoption, or accept that it’s not going to happen, grieve, and move on. The trouble is, having made such a terrible life decision to enter into the wrong marriage, I have no confidence in myself to choose well.

So for now, while I work away on my masters degree, I sit in a limbo of indecision. I’ve shoved this down into the depths of my mind. It surfaces from time to time and I shove it back down again. I will have to confront it, though. I can’t simply let the passage of time make the decision for me.

To all the moms out there, despite my ache, I am truly happy for you. You’ve got one of the most important, hardest jobs on the planet and, I’m certain, the most rewarding. When it gets tough, hold onto the knowledge that you are so lucky to have this job.

For me, for now, Moe gets all my loves. Every last one. If I post a few too many pics of him on Facebook or tell too many kitty stories, please forgive me. He’s what I have.

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Resilience

Well hello there. Haven’t posted here for a while. I’ve been focused on my daily gratitude posts, which I invite you to follow.

I’ve had the word resilience in mind for weeks now. As I watch the news from Fort MacMurray, it seems an appropriate time to jot down some thoughts about it.

bounceThe main thing folks fleeing that fire have been saying is that things – homes, cars, the flatscreen tv – don’t matter. People do. As long as they are safe with their families, nothing else really matters.

That’s the mindset of a resilient person, the mindset that will help them bounce back. And we all have more capacity to bounce back than we initially think.

When life throws tragedy at us, we discover that we’ve all got something deep down inside that helps us find our own ways of dealing with it. I’ve lost a brother and a marriage. I couldn’t tell you exactly how I slogged through the muck to recover from those traumas, but I did. They added layers to who I am, deepened me.

So when I have to do it again – and I will have to do it again, and again, and again – I know I can.

I don’t know how. There is no roadmap that can be hauled off the shelf from one experience to tell you exactly how to get through the next. Just like it’s different for everybody, it’s also different every time.

But somewhere in those layers that I gained, there must be something akin to muscle memory that says yeah, we’ve been here before. And even though we’re blind with pain, we can feel our way through, over, around until we find the way out. It can’t be rushed. It has to be allowed to happen in due time.

And it will.

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Transformation

charlie brownLast night, I went to a concert that’s becoming a new Christmas tradition.

Halifax is lucky to be the adopted home of Jerry Granelli, the drummer in the Vince Guaraldi Trio that played the score for A Charlie Brown Christmas which first aired on CBS 50 years ago. He was paid $68 and got no royalties for the work, so he can be forgiven for turning his back on it for many years and cringing when he heard in airports and shopping malls.

In 2013, however, he had a change of heart (not unlike another grinchy holiday favourite). He pulled together a pianist and a bassist (he is the only surviving member of the original trio) as well as a children’s choir and they performed these holiday standards that you’d have to live under a rock to not know.

Now in its third season, the concert is being mounted across the country. I’ve been there every year, reveling in this music of my childhood that sparked a lifelong love of jazz. I have a LOT of Christmas music, and a LOT of it is jazz, but this album is my all-time favourite.

There was something new this year. Something that got me right there.

This year, Jerry told the audience how the story for the Charlie Brown special came about. He’d only just learned it himself. It’s based on Hans Christian Anderson stories like the Ugly Duckling, where an unlikely character becomes the hero.

Cue the iconic little tree with its single red ornament.

I think we all feel like the Ugly Duckling now and then. And we like the idea that it (we) can be transformed into something beautiful.

Last night, I didn’t just like the idea. I felt it. I embodied it.

When I went to the first edition of this concert, I’d only just sold the marital home and moved into the condo that I’m still not crazy about. I put up a tree and baked but there was no merry that year. I just couldn’t muster it. I was deep in my grief, mourning the loss of all that I’d hoped my life would be.

peanuts 1Last night, I felt full of possibility. I could see many paths and many open doors in my future. The fact that I’m not yet sure which ones to choose is ok. I’ll figure it out as I go. Because I can. There’s nothing stopping me.

Sistabuttafly is still in her cocoon but she’s transforming, getting ready to take flight.

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Annivorsary

It’s my first annivorsary today.

Anniversary of divorce = annivorsary.

I knew it was coming up this month but had to look up the date. And I’m quite pleased about that. Clearly, I don’t have the exact date branded on my brain.

The way the wedding date is. The way the date of my brother’s death is.

It’s the strangest thing to see those dates on a calendar, a poster, an invitation, or a carton of milk. It’s like they don’t belong anywhere except in my emotion.

IMG_20141117_105822For the first annivorsary, I’ve baked another decadent chocolate cake with chocolate orange buttercream icing to mark the occasion because marking  occasions is part of how I deal with them. Plus I like cake. I have no tears, just cake.

Next year, I hope I will only have a vague notion that the date is sometime in November.

And I won’t look it up.

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Remembrance

REMEBRANCE-DAYEvery year since I was old enough to pay attention, I’ve watched the national act of remembrance on CBC. I’ve also marched in the town parade as a Brownie and Girl Guide, and played in the high school band for services. But it’s the national service that has always hit home for me.

Today, I stood in my living room as the national anthem began. At the first notes, the tears started rolling down my cheeks, as they always do. I stood and sang out loud, in English and French. And the tears continued, through the Last Post, From the Fallen, the Reveille, to the laying of the wreaths. Through a mother’s grief, the thanks of our youth, and the memories in the eyes of our veterans.

I cry because I don’t think I would have the courage to do what so many have done for me.

Oh, I wouldn’t sit idly by. I’d dive head first into some kind of wartime support, and I don’t mean to diminish the importance of those supporting roles. But to rush into battle, overcoming every ounce of a human being’s survival instinct to run from danger and, instead, run straight into it – I don’t think I could do it.

I don’t have any relatives who fought overseas with me in mind. I didn’t grow up with first-hand stories from a grandfather who fought for my freedom. So the thought that so many strangers did this for me – there isn’t anything more humbling.

They did it for the future of not only their families and friends, but of everyone in their country. They did it because it was the right thing to do.

All I can do is be deeply thankful, not take this hard-won freedom for granted, and always remember.

And someday, I won’t be watching on CBC. I’ll be in Ottawa to lay my poppy and pay my respects at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

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Margie

I’m going to the funeral of a special friend from the YMCA this morning. I’d like to share my letter to her family:

margieDear Kelbrat Family,

Please accept my deepest sympathies on Margie’s passing. A bright light went out in my world when she passed last night, and I want to share with you how much your daughter/sister/aunt has meant to me.

I met Margie in 2002 in the pool at the South Park YMCA. I was brand new to the Y, substituting for the regular instructor for a couple of months. Margie was a regular in the class. There was also a woman who had health challenges and seemed to be having difficulty coping with them emotionally. She was disruptive in class and made a couple of dismissive remarks to Margie. I saw the storm cloud come over Margie’s face, so I put myself between her and this woman in the pool. As we jogged back and forth, I caught Margie’s eye and gave her a wink. The storm cloud immediately changed into that devilish grin that I’ve come to love so much.

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Margie (far left) during the very last aquafit class at the South Park YMCA. She wouldn’t have missed it for the world.

From that point on, Margie and I have been fast friends. She was the life of the party in aquafit classes. Early on, I nicknamed her The Ring Leader because her infectious smile and goofing around got everybody in the class going. She always cheated with abandon during the games and drills I set up, and we all loved watching her glee while doing this. Every once in a while, she’d let out a wise crack that would have all of us in stitches.

I always enjoyed talking with her about this and that in the lobby of the Y before class. She was the unofficial greeter of the Y, talking to everyone who was coming and going. Often she’d be enjoying a coffee or a treat…potato chips, plaintain chips, or cherry Certs. Or she would be knitting with Juliana, another aquafit instructor.

It was through those chats in the lobby that we learned some details about you, her family. I became a consumer of Brother’s pepperoni out of loyalty to Margie. We also learned that she was paying full price for her YMCA membership and connected her with staff to complete the paperwork for getting that cost partly subsidized.

When I lived in West End, I’d sometimes hear a familiar voice calling my name in Sobeys, or run into Margie in Halifax Shopping Centre where we would have an impromptu coffee. I’d sometimes ride the bus home with her after class. We’d exchange stories about our cats and shoot the breeze.

Some of our conversations were more serious. We did our best to support Margie when she had challenges at work and at home. Margie was also there for me when I lost my brother 11 years ago, through the loss of two dear cats who were like children to me, and through my brief tumultuous marriage which crumbled two years ago. While her intellectual capacity may not have been 100%, she understood a great deal and her heart was huge. Her empathy during my tough times helped me pull through.

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Margie in her wig, post-chemo, getting another knitting lesson from one of the other aquafit instructors.

I have a great deal of admiration for how Margie would allow herself to have a moment of frustration and then picked herself up, dusted herself off, and focused on the positive. When the Y was closing, she worried about losing her social connections, but we told her we’d make sure we still got together. She wiped away a tear and said, “That’s right! I’ve still got my Y friends!” During her illness, she was relentless in her focus on getting better so she could get back in the pool with us.

I will forever keep that admiration in my heart, and do my best to follow Margie’s example. She is the face of the YMCA for me. And if she could tackle the challenges that life presented her with a grin, then so can I.

Special thanks to Barb for your willingness to keep Margie’s friends informed in the past week or so. I know it’s a difficult time for you and greatly appreciate you responding to questions from Juliana and Linda, who passed on information to the rest of us.

I’m enclosing some photos of Margie and her Y friends over the past year and a bit. While visiting her on Sunday, I’d promised to bring them to post on the bulletin board in her hospital room – I was going to bring them today, but she passed before I got the chance. If you would like electronic copies, please don’t hesitate to contact me at (personal contact info).

This Saturday, I plan to line these photos up along the side of Centennial Pool where Margie last joined her YMCA friends for aquafit. Another of her Y friends, Hugh, will be teaching the class and we will all be sharing our stories and memories of Margie while we splash and play like she always did. When the new YMCA opens in 2018, I will be back as an instructor and plan to dedicate my first aquafit class to Margie, the most spirited participant I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing.

Sincerely,

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Let it go

I finally got rid of my wedding dress. Quite unceremoniously.

I was housecleaning and preparing for a dear friend’s arrival for a visit — a friend who’d stood for me at my wedding, in fact. It was one of those times when the usual weekly cleaning morphed into full on purging.

As the bags for Sally Ann piled up by the door, the thought occurred to me — I should just add the dress to the pile. I’d been trying to find a more meaningful way to part with it. It didn’t seem right to sell it. I didn’t like the idea of taking money from a bride-to-be for a dress that seemed cursed. I’d found a woman who uses material from wedding and prom dresses to sew tiny gowns for still borns, but she had too many donations and not enough storage space.

There was even the giddy idea of doing a trash the dress thing — jumping into the pool at the old YMCA wearing it with all my Y friends to support me (and keep me from drowning). But I hadn’t committed to that idea before the building was closed.

Two weeks ago in the midst of my purging, the moment was just right to let it go. I didn’t try it on again. I didn’t handle it any differently than the bags of clothes I handed over to the guy at Sally Ann. I just let it go.

It reminded me of indoor rock climbing. Really.

The first time I did it, it turns out I was able to scamper up an advanced wall without much difficulty, but a more seasoned (and extremely competitive) fellow in our group couldn’t do it.

I watched how he was climbing. It looked like he was trying to be uber strategic about every move he made. Because he took so much time trying to choose the perfect next knobby thingy to grab, his body got too tired to complete the climb.

I didn’t put that much thought into it. I took a quick scan of the available knobby thingies and made a decision, then another quick scan, and another decision, and so on. The point being, it’s a strain on the system to hold onto something (physical or emotional) too long. You have to let go and keep moving forward…or up.

Cats are great helpers for purging old wedding things.

Cats are great helpers for purging old wedding things.

With that done, tonight I moved on to all the other wedding things I’d packed away in a bag and tucked out of sight in a closet. I kept the CDs of photos and video, a photo frame (minus the photo from the engagement shoot), and the guest book, tearing out the few used pages. I kept the rings but tossed the boxes. I kept the length of silk that came with the dress. I filed some important documents. I read all the kind words my friends and family wrote in cards (and found some money!), then bundled them up for recycling. I dumped the dried bits of bouquet into the compost and said goodbye.

Let it go.

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Nonniversary

Today is my nonniversary. The non-anniversary of my wedding day.

*sigh*

lilacsBut the other day as I was walking along thinking about this approaching date, I got whiffs of lilacs on the warm breeze and had this thought:

This is so much better than that.

Pushing through all the mess of extracting myself from a marriage I never should have gotten into is so much better than having stayed in a place where I didn’t belong. A place where I was losing my sense of self.

Today, I may not know exactly where I’m going, but I am intact. No part of me is slipping away.

This is so much better than that.

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