Does anyone else get nervous when filing their taxes? I’m claiming charitable donations for the past five years this round, as my educational deductions are finally gone. As such, I have this weird feeling that I’m going to be audited. Even if I am, I do have the paperwork to back it up, and yet, I’m still nervous about hitting submit. Tonight, I’m just going to have to take one last look through it, take a deep breath, and push the button.
Archive for April, 2011|Monthly archive page
I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about life lately– where I’ve come from and where I’m going. Come August I’m quitting my desk job and following my passion for food all the way to Toronto to go to culinary school, with a program specializing in becoming a personal chef. My student line of credit from my undergrad degree isn’t paid off yet, and in a completely uncharacteristic financial move, I’m opting to go back to school anyway.
When I was young, my family was playing a board game. I was a stickler for not buying unless I had the cash. At the end of the game, I would either just come out head, or would loose by a good bit. On this day, I was losing rather badly. My father talked me into taking out a whopper loan, citing that sometimes you have to go into debt to get ahead. My twelve year old mind was dubious about this concept, but I trusted my father and opted to go all-in. I then proceeded to go bankrupt. This struck my father as hilarious.I was horrified. I was a failure! And he’d lied to me!
Ever since then, I’ve been careful financially, choosing to never live beyond my means and making sure I kept up on all loan payments, and paid of my Visa in full at the end of the month. As a result, I have a stellar credit rating, so maybe that was a good lesson. That being said, when I graduated from university I decided I’d live tight, although not uncomfortably, for the next 5 years, pay off my loan, and go from there. It’s only been three years. I still have $12,000 left in debt, and I’m going back to school. Why? Because time is precious.
Lately I’ve seen a number of my friends have their friends pass away. These people have been in their late 20s and early 30s. It’s really made me think about whether I want the next two years to be spent behind a desk when I know it’s not where I’m meant to be. I’m scared of biding my time, and then having the timer run out.
And so, currently, an uncertain road stretches before me, out to the horizon. I’m thankful for an adventurous spirit that encourages me to grab hold of opportunities. If I didn’t, there’s so much I could miss out on. Now is the time for me to realize that if I don’t take a chance, it may never come again.
I often have ideas that fall flat on their face. I try to start up a dinner or cooking club, and it all comes to naught. But once in a while I hit an idea that just seems to be what people are looking for. Then, watch out, or you might get trampled! I offered to do some meal prep or baking for friends who would reimburse me for the cost of the ingredients. That way I’d get to try my new recipes without having to worry about my wallet or my waistline. Apparently this was an excellent idea, as I’ve had a little more interest than I’d initially anticipated. Ah, the sweet smell of success and the panic following behind it…
It’s halfway through April and there’s snow on the ground. Yesterday we got 10cm heavy snow. You know, the kind that sticks to everything and is great for snowball fights? The kind that gloms on to your brush for cleaning off your car and forces you to use two hands just to muscle it off. The kind that makes you worry that maybe it was so heavy that your car hood got dented in? It’s hard to believe it’s April. It’s hard to believe next week is Easter. Where are the daffodils and baby bunnies, aside from in the stores? Okay, let’s face it, I’m not sure Edmonton could handle a burgeoning bunny population, and we never get daffodils. This isn’t England after all.
Last year on this day it was 24 degrees outside. Lunch would have happened around the picnic tables, and people would be basking in the return of sunlight. The chatter would start with how lovely it was to be outside again, and how this was like paradise. We only get weather like that a few weeks a year. A few balmy days between the bitter cold of winter, and the sweating heat of summer. And yet, those days of warm sun on my face, and clouds drifting lazily across the sky are not here yet. The forecast for the next week calls for mixes of cloudiness and snow. Not exactly what I think of when I think April. But I guess that’s what you get when you live in the great white north. Ah well, c’est la vie. At least they haven’t turned off the heating at work yet.
I have a friend who is into fondant and the like. She loves decorating cakes, and I’m always really impressed by the work she does. I’m amazed that quality like that can come out of a domestic kitchen. She made a comment the other day about doing basket weave, which left me wondering how exactly one does do a basket weave. Thus, today, I Googled it. Goodness. I should have remained blissfully ignorant. It’s not rocket science, but how time consuming it must be! It’s a very nit picky process, and I had to read the instructions over a few times before I could grasp what it was actually saying. Then, once I processed how one does a basket weave, I began to understand why specialty cakes are so darn expensive! The time and care that goes into making a cake like that is intense. I, personally, had I decorated a cake with a basket weave, would be horrified when someone sliced into it. All those hours making it look perfect! All that frustration when things didn’t go according to plan! All the preparation and patience! All of it demolished with a few quick slices. And then someone saying something like, “Wow, there’s a lot of icing on this cake,” at which point they scrape off the lovely basket weave and leave it in a pile on the side of their plate. I’m in pain just thinking about it. Goodness. It’s a good thing I’m going to school to take standard culinary arts and not cake decorating, or I might just want to hurt myself. *sigh* That being said, I truly admire the people who have the patience and consistency to do things like that. They’ve got to be rather analytical, detail oriented people with a good dose of creativity. Creativity I’ve got. Detail oriented? Sure, but not to that extent! Analytical? Good with math and fractions? Not really, but I can do it. At least it’s not conics!
The city I live in doesn’t actually have a Neighbourhood Pride Week, but I’ve decided that this week will be it. I’m inviting everyone who reads this blog to take the opportunity to partake in an activity to encourage neighbourhood pride. Specifically, for those of us living in areas where the snow has recently melted, choose to make a difference by grabbing some work gloves and a garbage bag. Head to the nearest boulevard or play ground, or school, and fill that bag with the garbage that’s been hiding under the snow. It doesn’t take long, but makes a huge difference in how the neighbourhood looks. If, right now, you are able, shut your laptop or turn off your computer screen and get outside right now. Make this a family activity, and let your kids know that it’s important to make an impact on the community in which you live, and it doesn’t have to be some big flashy event. Acts of service, like picking up garbage are what builds community and builds on the potential to make our neighbourhoods truly great. If you know your neighbours, invite them to do this with you. If not, what better way to meet them and go door-to-door and invite them to take part in creating neighbourhood pride!
I was reminded once again of how life is fleeting.
Yesterday evening a friend of mine went to a funeral. The funeral was for a man in his mid-30s. Just the week before he died in a car accident, he’d been discussing with some of the people closest to him, how he hoped that when his time came, the funeral would be packed– standing room only, with overflow needed. That’s exactly what he got. It is truly sad that he got it so much earlier than ever anticipated, but how wonderful to have that dream come true! How amazing to have such a profound effect on those who surround you.
Then, this morning, the paper’s front page blared the headline that 2 more students at Queens University had died, making a total of 6 in a little less than a year. The campus is shocked, saddened, and searching for where to go, and how to deal with the questions that arise. Why Queens? Why now?
Both of these stories have reminded me how precious life is. We only get one shot. One shot to make a difference. One shot to make it count. And the thing is, we never know when the buzzer will go.
I never cease to be amazed at the importance of community, and how often our culture fails to see it. We’re like horses with blinders on, so focused on our own needs and desires that we forget about those around us. And the truth is, that in serving others, you’re also serving yourself. Nothing feels better than helping someone out.
Yesterday, the woman in the upstairs suite invited both me and the other basement tenant for chicken stew. We sat down to a meal together and chatted. The stew was alright, but the talk was what made it really enjoyable.
The woman in the upstairs suite has an adorable little toddler, who gets in the way all the time, and constantly wants attention– as toddlers do. Mom was about at the end of her string, so once dinner was over, the other tenant and I offered to wash up the dishes and watch the toddler so that she could go take a shower. She gratefully accepted.
See? Community. We serve each other. Free meals, a helping hand, that’s what it’s all about. In the winter, if my car got stuck, this woman’s husband was out to help before I even had a chance to ask. When the tenant across the hall needs to blow off steam, or even cry, she knows that she can come over and I’ll have a cup of tea waiting for her. And once every couple of months we have a household potluck and movie night. We all make a dish, eat together, and enjoy a movie. I must admit, that as the time for this little community comes to an end, I’ll be sad to see it go. The other downstairs tenant moves out at the end of this month, and I go in August. Hopefully, we’ll take with us what we’ve learned in this place about the importance of community, support, and serving others.