Refuse to be Passive

Archive for September, 2011|Monthly archive page

Turning of the Seasons

In Uncategorized on September 30, 2011 at 10:53 pm

It’s 12:43 am. I’m still awake. Actually, it feels early considering I was expecting to close at work tonight. Due to inclement weather, however, things were rather slow, and so they let me off shortly before midnight, rather than at 1:30. I’m not complaining. I like sleep.

When I exited the restaurant to go home for the night I was greeted with a blast of cold air. Somehow, in the course of six hours, it had gone from being a lovely Indian Summer style day to a full on autumn evening. The Nutella latte that had so recently warmed me had no staying power against the chill of the night. The breeze held no warmth. As I biked through the darkness, watching carefully for aggressive taxi drivers and slightly drunk pedestrians, I couldn’t help but notice that despite my hoodie and jeans, I was still cold. Despite biking up the hills that normally made me sweat, the burning in my legs did not warm me. It was a slightly sad moment for me. It was the goodbye to summer and hello to true autumn.

Don’t get me wrong, I love autumn. Today I saw my first purple tree and noticed that more of the greens were turning into golden hues; more leaves rustled along the ground. It’s also a time for pumpkin apple oatmeal and cinnamon spice tea. It’s just a shame that this, my favourite season, is closely followed by my least favoured season. While normally I choose not to dwell on that, the air buffeting me this evening made it a hard fact to ignore. There is a time for everything, even the turning of the seasons. If this weather keeps up I’ll have to break out the gloves sooner rather than later.

A Moment of Silence

In Life in General, Uncategorized on September 28, 2011 at 7:10 pm

This afternoon I had a moment of silence. I marveled at the quiet, and the fact that even though I was the only one home, it actually wasn’t quite quiet. There were cars passing on the street, the hum of the refrigerator, the slow breathing of the dog, laying on the couch. And yet, it was silent and peaceful– or at least close enough to it. Moments like these are far too rare to not bask in. I stopped what I was doing and just sat. I wasn’t eating, or reading, or drinking anything. I just basked in the silence.

Silence used to be part of a normal day for me. I lived on my own and quiet time was sometimes in such abundance that it began to feel oppressive. Now silence is such a rarity that if it took on a colour, it truly would be golden. And not that plated gold either, I mean quality gold.

Time has passed since my quiet moment this afternoon. As expected, chaos erupted over dinner. The kids had a bunch of energy, and an extra family of people swelled our numbers to 17 from our already large 13. It gave us a grand total of 6 kids under 10. Talk about a full house! Thankfully I had used three pounds of meat to make meatloaf, rather than my initial intention of two. Also, I’d baked three loaves of bread earlier that day. I had no intention of cutting into them over dinner, but what a life saver! There’s a little less than one loaf left. Fresh baked bread is always a popular option. Granted, my meatloaf was no slouch either! Nor was the rice pilaf or the wild rice salad, or the….well, you get the idea.

But silence. That has eluded me since those brief moments this afternoon when all was calm and well. The kids are currently getting ready for bed, which means that I may once again find a few brief moments of silence prior to falling into sleep.

Words of Affirmation

In Life in General on September 27, 2011 at 6:42 pm

I live in a community of people where there is much coming and going. People are all busy with their respective lives, and sometimes the life of the community gets put on the back burner. We’re so focused on doing our own thing, that doing something as a community can start to feel like a burden. We eat together four nights a week, isn’t that enough?

Tonight after dinner I made some comment about having to help with cleanup, even though I’d cleaned earlier in the day and had helped with dinner prep. One of the people I was helping with clean-up said, “Then don’t do it. Seriously, if you’ve done that much, don’t help with clean up. Who is supposed to be cleaning up?” I said that I didn’t know, but they weren’t there and I wasn’t letting her clean up on her own. Then we started discussing community life, and the way that the smallest things could fester if we let them. Instead, we have to deal with problems like that as a house, head on. She’s right, of course.

I had made a comment to her that I thought our household could really benefit not only from open discussion regarding things like that, but it could also use more words of affirmation, to keep people from feeling hard done by. She asked me what I meant and so I told her a story about something that had happened earlier in the day. The older gentleman who lives in my house had come an commented (complained) that when the family got back after a weekend away, they didn’t say anything about how clean the house was, or notice the floor he had made an effort to sweep. They didn’t say anything about the state of the house, and he felt that was unfair as work had gone into neatening it up for their homecoming. I told him that I thought our house could be a healthier place if we all used more words of affirmation. Words like, “thank you” or phrases like “I appreciate you sweeping up the dog hair.” It lets people know that their efforts are valued. I commented that we all needed to make sure to thank others on a regular basis. He hadn’t ever thought of it that way, but agreed. Then he commented that I always thanked people. I always thanked him for putting away the dishes or for taking out the garbage. Apparently I thank people fairly frequently. Kudos mom and dad. Way to raise me right.

I do think that words of affirmation are incredibly important. I know that for me, hearing that my baking is appreciated can really brighten up my day. Currently I have to ask for feedback whenever I bake, and no one thanks me for it, they just kind of say, “Wow, you must really like baking.” Today I did have someone tell me that my muffins were fantastic. That was great to hear. But not once in the month and a half that I’ve lived in this house have I heard, “Thank you for baking” or “thank you for doing the dishes.” The closest I’ve gotten on that last one was, “You didn’t have to do that” or “It’s not your job to do all the dishes, you’ve done lots already.” Affirmation? Yes. Thanks? No.

So next time you’re feeling hard done by, like no one is taking the time to notice your efforts, stop and examine if you’re recognizing theirs. Are you so inwardly focused that you fail to see act of kindness and service around you? If so, it might be time to reexamine your own mindset and start, as Michael Jackson’s song says, “with the man in the mirror…If you want to make the world (or your house) a better place, take a look at yourself and then make the change.”

I dreamed a dream

In Life in General on September 24, 2011 at 7:08 am

I don’t often remember my dreams. I don’t often dream about men. It just so happens that last night, I broke the mold. Now, the truth of the matter is that dating is not a large part of my life. Heck, it’s barely a blip on my radar. On the whole, I’m content with being single. I haven’t been on a date in a couple of years. And truth be told, I’m content for now to wait on God’s good time.

All that being said, if anyone meets the man I dreamt about, let me know! Not only was he a good height (I’d say roughly 6’4). He had a lovely athletic build– not skinny or scrawny, but not built like a tank either. He was in good shape, although not a body builder with rippling muscles. But what I remember most about his looks was his blonde hair, well defined jaw line, and the sparkle in his eyes when he talked. Funny, I don’t normally find men with blonde hair attractive. I’d say he was somewhere around 32. But for all that he was definitely attractive, there was more to it.

His personality was kind, considerate, and made me feel safe. I know I remember a dream vividly when I can remember feelings like this. He knew how to make me laugh, when to be serious, and how to have great conversation. I remember thinking that I was completely comfortable around him, and that he found me fabulous, just as I was. It was a really nice feeling. Oh, and he remembered what kind of tea I liked to drink when he did a Tim Horton’s run. Who would have thought Tim Horton’s would have been a feature in my dream? My oldest sister was also a part of the dream, and they got along well, which was lovely to see. It’s important that a man appreciate your family, right?

Anyway, all that being said, for the next day or so at least I will be keeping an eye out for this Mr. Right. Who knows? Maybe God gave me the dream so I’d know what to look for! Hehe. This post is so absurd.

Singing in the Rain

In Food, Life in General on September 23, 2011 at 11:34 am

I’d checked the weather forecast before leaving the house this morning. There was no chance of rain until 8:30, which was great as class started at 7:30. By early afternoon we were supposed to have a light rain coming down. I’d biked home in a drizzle before and it wasn’t anything I couldn’t handle. I stuffed my pack cover into my bag to help keep it dry in the light rain on my ride home. I also made sure I had my public transit pass, just in case any of the food I made would prove problematic to bring home on two wheels. It was baking day in class and I wasn’t sure what we were making beyond banana bread.

Sure enough, by 10am it was raining lightly. The drizzle outside the window didn’t deter me. After a week of cutting up chickens, I was in my element–baking. I was whipping up banana bread, cheese biscuits and sugar cookies. I was doing all this under the supportive eye of a professional pastry chef.  She was fabulous, and very patient with those who had never baked before. Apparently cooks tend to not bake and bakers tend to not cook. I seem to be a hybrid of the two, although definitely feel more comfortable baking. Oh, and we also did a port and red wine poached pear. It was okay, but nothing to write home about.

Anyway, after class I packed up my bag, threw on the rain cover, slung it onto my back, and headed for home. I was not more than two blocks from the school when the rain started to come down harder. By the time I was halfway home, it was a definite heavy rain. Not sheeting, but almost there. I was soaked. My hoodie was hanging, heavy with water, from my outstretched arms. Water sloshed around in my shoes. My yoga pants couldn’t have absorbed more water if they tried, and I was infinitely thankful that I’d had the foresight to change from glasses into contact before heading out for my ride.

Now most people would be unhappy about being caught in a downpour on a bike, but for some reason today it just made me laugh. I thought about how absurd I must look, and the fact that I knew that I had a warm and dry home to go to. I thought about the amusing feeling of the water running around my feet. I took joy in the water that my bike tires kicked up, and the fact that when a car splashed me, I didn’t notice because I was already so wet. It was brilliant! By the time I was a few blocks from home I was soaked, singing “Lovely Day” by Out of Eden at the top of my lungs, and swerving my bike back and forth to the music. I must have been a sight. But truly, what a lovely day! When life gives you rain, go to the store, grab some lemons, and make lemonade! Or just go home, have beef asian soup for lunch and ice the sugar cookies you made that morning. Yum!

Another Flatmate Sketch

In Life in General on September 14, 2011 at 3:09 pm

We all face demons. The form that they take may vary, but never doubt that we all face demons. Be kind and gracious to others struggling to overcome fears and temptation, for you too have a struggle.

 

I really didn’t know what to expect. I knew that he was coming back to the community after a stint in rehab. I knew that his time prior to rehab had left people feeling vulnerable and hurt. One member of the community claimed that he had, “no use for him” and made it apparent to all that this person would not be welcomed back with open arms– not by him anyway. And that was made apparent the day the prodigal son returned. One individual refused to even speak to him. Yet the prodigal son took it with such grace and humility that I felt immediately inclined to like him, despite stories I may had heard of his actions in prior months.

 

He’s the type of personal who faces his demons head on, and doesn’t mince words. If he’s headed to a meeting, he’s open about it. If he needs to get out of the house and have a smoke by the lake, he’ll let people know. He’s amiable, although you’re never quite sure where his head is at. He’s not relapsing, but as anyone recovering from an addiction, you can tell that sometimes he’s struggling more than others.

 

Although he’s just shy of 30, he’s got stories that go beyond his years. Most of these stories I’ve never heard, and don’t expect to hear. He guards what others tell him in confidence, and while open about his struggles, he lives in the present, not the past.

 

He presents himself well. You’d never suspect the struggles that he’s gone through, the bad places that he’s been. He stands at about 5’9 and has a lean athletic build. He’s clean cut, sporting spikey brown hair and a five o’clock shadow– the deliberate sort. He’s got a heritage that’s mainly European, but there’s something else in his heritage– Native perhaps? He wears the typical oversized male summer clothes when it’s warm– a clean t-shirt, surfer shorts and flip-flops. When the weather is cooler, it’s a pair of darker denim jeans and a collared, button-up shirt. His look is of a man who is not overly concerned with his appearance, yet manages to have it pulled together.

 

I must confess I don’t know him very well yet. I do know that I appreciate his willingness to do dishes and take on tasks around the house. It’s nice to have someone around who can work with his hands and has time to do so. It’s nice that he’s not always rushing out the door. That being said, now that he’s been back a while, I’m hopeful he’ll find employment soon, so that he doesn’t go stark raving mad. I know how much I dislike the job search.

 

Not much more is known about him at this point. All I can say is I’m inclined to be gracious.

 

A Culinary Adventure– or not

In Food, Life in General on September 13, 2011 at 12:05 pm

“I don’t really like raisins.” ” Are there nuts in this?” “Eww…coconut.” I must confess that when moving into my current home, complaining about baking was the last thing I expected to hear. Most kids would be over the moon for regular homemade baked goods, but these kids seem more interested in President’s Choice Chocolate Chip Cookies. Even their father, who would never say so out loud, only really likes the simple baking. He doesn’t like raisins either. Their mother is pretty open, but I can tell in the first hour whether I’ve hit it out of the park or whether it’s going to be a long road for the baking I’ve just made. For example, I made five dozen peanut butter cookies yesterday. By midnight tonight they’ll all be gone. The adults alone will eat four or five a piece over the course of the evening. Considering there are four adults in the house, and then another two kids, plus whoever is visiting, I suppose it’s not really surprising.

A couple of weeks ago I made chocolate coconut drop cookies and they sat there all week, slowly being munched on by one of the adults, the rest of the house rejecting them for the coconut. Such a shame. Today, I’m experimenting with chocolate banana muffins with coconut. We’ll see how they go over. I tasted the batter and it was delicious. Fingers crossed other people will think so too.

That being said, there’s been some challenges in my baking with adjusting temperatures, liquid, and flour due to the humidity out here. My peanut butter cookies yesterday required an extra 2/3 cup flour. I had a similar experience with my ginger cookies (those also didn’t last). Thankfully, my cooking has not needed much tweaking due to the humidity.

Tonight we’ve got stir-fry on the menu, and we’ll have to see how the tofu goes over. We’ve just had 2 vegans join our community and I think it will take a while for the rest of the community to understand that you don’t need to have meat at all three of your daily meals. That being said, things like Taco Wednesday make for easy adjustments.  Yesterday night we had spaghetti with homemade sauce and most of the adults seemed surprised that you could have such a great sauce without having meat in it. It’s good to broaden one’s horizons. I also made spaghetti squash for me and the hardcore vegan girl who opted out of the spaghetti as it may contain eggs. It was delightful, and once again, a few people tried it and were surprised to find that they enjoyed it. The kids, well they like what they know, and as such, weren’t such big fans of this divergence in cooking. But they’ll learn, assuming their parents don’t let them get away with being picky eaters.

But without further ado, my own personal recipe for Banana Chocolate Muffins with Coconut:

1/2 cup butter

2/3 cup brown sugar

1/3 cup white sugar

1/2 cup egg whites

2 large, ripe, mashed bananas

1 1/2 cups flour

1/4 cup cocoa

1/2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp sea salt (used 1/2 tsp if using table salt)

3/4 cup unsweetened coconut

Cream together butter and sugar. Add eggs and banana. Mix well.

Combine dry ingredients and add them to the wet. Mix until just moistened. Fill paper lined muffin tins 3/4 full.

Bake immediately at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Note: Baking times may vary. If you’re in a drier climate, watch for a shorter baking time.

A Character Sketch

In Life in General on September 11, 2011 at 7:46 pm

He’s a crotchety 74 year old man with a genuine heart for others. He’s opinionated to a fault and complains loudly and often. His big black hiking boots clunk loudly across the hardwood floor and up the creaky stairs. If he comes in late at night, you’ll be sure to wake up as he steps his way up to the loft on the third floor. Clunk, clunk, clunk. The boots are from Walmart, cheap mock leather pieces that have a hole split in the vinyl where the boot bends when he takes each step. His jeans are also from Walmart, a stone wash style that hasn’t changed in the past decade. They’re all around too big for him, and he cinches them tight around his relatively thin waste with an equally cheap black belt. His shirts are nothing special, but nothing horrid either. Right now I can’t even think of what they tend to look like. T-shirts maybe?

 

His hair is rarely done. He only takes the time to comb it when there’s an event to attend or when he’s going to church. Funnily enough, he doesn’t change his clothes for church, just his hair. His right hand is in a permanent brace. He was in an accident and fell on ice a number of years ago. The doctor set it improperly and actually caused more damage to his wrist. He’ll never have use of that hand again. The nails on that hand grown long. The other day I offered to trim them for him. This was a bit self serving, as they were starting to make me uncomfortable. The long, streaky, yellow nails just looked dirty– as if the nicotine from the cigarettes he consumes each day was making itself into the nails on his hand. Oddly enough, it’s not the hand he uses to hold the cigarettes that he smokes down at the end of the block, attempting to keep the smoke from wafting into our home. Due to the lack of use in his right hand he always has at least a 5’o clock shadow, if not a full on grey beard. It makes him look like a backwoods man. The slight hunch in his back makes him look like a tired old man, someone who has seen too much of life. That may be accurate.

 

All this being said, he loves to talk with you, and takes a genuine interest in your life. For all that he grumbles, he also listens. And if you suggest and activity or outing, you can be sure he’ll partake. Whether it’s taking the dog down to the lake for a walk, or taking in a movie at the cheap theatre, he’s always up for an adventure. He’s a little lonely, having no immediate family, even though he lives in a community made up of 16 other people. He is the only senior, and I think it might be a tough place to be. All the younger people are constantly running around, busy with their lives, and his life is slowly winding down. Maybe that’s why for the past year and a half he’s been planning a trip to New Zealand that he never winds up taking. Maybe he views it as his own way of keeping busy, moving life forward.

 

Most days you can expect to find him finger typing at his laptop in the black chair in the living room that sits across from the TV. Often, if he thinks he’s the only one home, he’ll talk to the dog, asking her questions. Then, when he gets no response, he’ll repeat the question multiple times. Dogs may be great companions, but they never seem to speak English.

 

He has definite ideas about the way the community should be run. He has definite opinions about people within the community. He has definite opinions about politics. If it is possible for him to have an opinion on a topic, he will. That being said, he’ll be the first to offer to take you to Timmy’s for a coffee, or to help you with the dishes. He may not be able to wash, but he’s figured out how to dry and put away. While he doesn’t outdo himself in serving the community, he has his niche– taking out the trash, compost, and recycling; cooking spaghetti or the occasional roast (the last one was overcooked and there are still leftovers in the fridge a week later); or drying and putting away the dishes. These things make him feel valued, don’t try to take them away from him.

 

He’s a cheapskate too. If you can’t tell it by his clothing, you can tell when he splurges on a meal. He buys pot roast, potatoes and vegetables. A meal isn’t a meal without meat. But the real splurge is that $20 bottle of wine he bought. No, it’s not your standard 750ml bottle. It’s  a magnum wine bottle holding 1.5 L. A true splurge on wine if there ever was one! But that being said, he’s got a good heart, even if there is a tight hold on the wallet. One can’t help but wonder if it’s not a product of his generation? It’s a generation that has known times of want, and so have held tightly to the little they have. At the same time, it’s a generation that can be generous when it wants to. In some ways, they’re far ahead of the 20-something generation of today which has lots and has forgotten how to be generous. But I digress.

 

This crotchety old man is part of the community for better or worse. I’ve seen both sides and can tell you this thing. Without him, the community dynamics would be different and we’d be missing an integral member. Endearing or aggravating, he has a place in the community.

The Good Samaritan

In Life in General on September 8, 2011 at 9:24 pm

My thighs burn. Nineteen, twenty, twenty-one, twenty-two. I stand up on the peddles of my bike, using my legs to gain momentum going up the hill. I do it everyday. It takes sixty rotations to get up the hill. Twenty-eight, twenty-nine, thirty. So tired. My legs feel like they are going to give out. Thirty-three, thirty-four, thirty-f… Clink. The peddle drops, the chain goes slack. The lack of resistance makes me lose my grip. My left foot falls off the peddle and begins to drag. I frantically try to keep my bike upright, adjusting my handlebars to try to compensate for the current predicament. I pray that there is no street car behind me. I drop my right foot off the peddle and begin to drag the toes of my shoes on the ground, trying to come to a stop without wiping out. I can’t keep control. I head toward the streetcar tracks. Please let there be no traffic behind me. I’ve heard horror stories about bikers getting hit by trams. I head for the tracks and can keep my balance no longer. My bike tips. I hit the ground on my side. My head smacks against the streetcar track. Thankfully, my helmet saves the day and I only hear the crack of plastic. A momentary thought flits through my mind, “Right Dad, and you say there’s no point in helmets.” Or at least, that’s what he said when I was eight. There’s a burning sensation in my legs. I’ve felt it before. Road burn. My legs are so tired that I can barely move. I certainly can’t move out of the line of traffic. I’m not facing oncoming traffic. I have no idea what’s behind me. Up ahead there is a silver Vespa zooming towards me. It’s an odd angle to see it from. You don’t see many views from the pavement looking up.

The Vespa suddenly veers into my lane right in front of me and comes to a stop, effectively stopping any traffic that may try to get past me– not that I think there is any. A young man jumps off his bike. I’m slightly dazed and don’t know what he looks like, but his voice is kind. “Are you alright?” he asks in a concerned voice. A woman on her bike has stopped, as has another young man. Vespa man is kneeling beside me.

“Yes, I’m fine. I’ll be alright.” I try to pick myself and my bike up off the ground. My thighs are so tired that my legs give out beneath me.

“Woah. Let me help you. And I’ll get your bike too.” Vespa guy holds on to my arm and helps me up, grabbing the handlebar on my bike with his other hand. He guides me towards the sidewalk. I still don’t know how much traffic I’ve backed up, but at least I didn’t get run over. The other man and woman are on the sidewalk.

“Do you want me to call you an ambulance? Is there anyone you want me to call?” the young woman asks.

“No, no,” I say, shaking my head. “I’ll be fine. Just a bit of a headache.”

“Are you sure?” She asks.

“Yes, but thank you.”

“Alright. Take care of yourself getting home.”

I assure her I will.

The man on the Vespa looks at me. “You’re sure you’re alright?”

I glance up at him. He’s probably around thirty, reddish hair and is working on growing a beard. He’s quite a bit taller than I am, and looks a bit folksy with an edge of hipster, complete with the big dark rimmed glasses.

“Yes, I’m fine. Thank you for your help. I’ll walk my bike the rest of the way home.”

“You’re welcome. Make sure you be careful on your way.”

“I will. Thank you again.”

And with that he’s off. I glance down at my legs. My right knee has a good slice of road burn, double the size of a toonie, as well as a few other cuts and scrapes. My right leg has only one or two minor grazes. I breath deeply. My day had been going so well up until now. Now my head just hurts. I’m slightly dazed. I don’t even want to try getting back on my bike. I’m just sad. I’m done with the day. I just want to go home. And so, I start walking my bike the rest of the way up the hill. One foot in front of the other. Thankfully I’m only about a kilometer from home. But I find myself thankful for the good Samaritans who took the time to stop and help a total stranger. I may live in a big city, but it only takes a small crisis to prove that people still care.

In Life in General on September 4, 2011 at 12:54 pm

Have you ever watched two squirrels or chipmunks chase each other, up and down trees, along the ground, gaining or losing on one another, taking brief pauses as a pedestrian passes? I did that this morning and all of a sudden found myself narrating the chase, complete with taunts between the squirrels. Sounds weird? Well, maybe it is a little. But don’t knock it till you try it.