Saturday, February 20, 2010

Mystery Meals

Before I was married, I wondered why we would possibly need my husband's chest freezer. Now I know. He loves to shop, cook and freeze leftovers. I am the envy of women everywhere. Each week, he carefully pores over flyers, then goes out to hunt and gather enough items to feed a family of twelve. Our freezer is filled to the brim. If there's a world wide famine, we're ready. If a spontaneous neighbourhood block party breaks out, we're prepared.

I once had a work friend who brought sealed cans of items to eat for her lunch. What's so unusual about that you might ask? Well, nothing except that none of the cans had labels. That meant that her meals could consist of anything from soup, to my all time favourites... artichokes, black olives or cocktail wieners. She always ate whatever was in the can. One day, the smell of sardines wafting across my already scented egg salad sandwich compelled me to ask.

"How do you know what's in the can if there's no label?"

Looking at me as if the question were ridiculous and the answer obvious, she responded "I don't. My mother and I use the labels to enter contests."

I sat back, too baffled to ask why then, they didn't also use a sharpie to identify the can contents after removing said label.

This afternoon, while hubby was at a conference, I decided to take advantage of the opportunity to use up some leftovers. I rummaged through the freezer for a single person meal. This process required excavating and identifying the remains of one of our previous dinners. Since it is often difficult to cook a small enough amount for two, we have many smidgens of mysterious edibles in plastic containers.

"Aha, I see plastic," I announced to the dog who was watching me curiously.

After a huge struggle between my arm muscles and the top of a tupperware container, the lid flew off like a frisbee and sailed across the room. Fortunately, the meatballs remained inside in a frozen mass.

"Hmmm...meatballs...don't think so." I muttered.

Next"Nope. I'd rather eat the freezer ice."

Then, I found something that looked more promising. I peered inside, ready to give up and sadly determined that it was the same turkey dressing my husband and I had both recently examined. But wait, specks of noodle were visible and summoned me through the side of the vessel. I felt as though I'd found treasure. Only one way to find out I thought...microwave. After heating the container I discovered a delicious creamy beef stroganoff which I proceeded to devour.

So why then don't we use a sharpie to label the containers? What, and ruin the element of surprise?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Time Waits for No Man

Cliches are wonderful things aren't they? We often use them without a second thought. A number of years ago I was in a grocery store pondering the saying "all things come to those who wait". Whilst in my pensive state, I blocked the produce aisle "waiting" for the desired cauliflower, cabbage and carrots to "come" into my shopping cart. I waited. I waited. They didn't co-operate. My visions of veggies with little smiling faces, canes and top hats, dancing toward me from their assorted shelved spots became more and more vivid. They provided me with considerable mental entertainment before an impatient person nearby muttered something about "rude people...inconsiderate...blocking the okra". Who buys okra anyhow? I remained in my trance-like state for a while longer. Suddenly, I was jolted back to reality by the realization that I was too close to the vegetable sprayer. It hit its intended fresh and fibrous targets but also overshot just enough to moisten my newly coiffed hair and dampen not only my fun but my freshly made-up face.

Through this experience, I did confirm what I already knew. I was a little "off" on the meaning of the expression "all things come to those who wait". So I began to consider it differently.

When we are speaking to youngsters we often say "just wait" thereby implying that their childhood excitement and exhuberance is a bad thing. Certainly, we want to teach them a modicum of patience, not to mention good manners. On the other hand, perhaps we could learn from children. During their early years, patience is almost non existent. A minute to a small child might as well be an hour. Next week? Well, forget it. Next month, next year, next Christmas all feel as though they'll never come. Everything needs to happen in the here and now and many of their important events do. Going out to play, having a cookie, watching t.v., playing a game on the computer...all things that they are able to do immediately and all things essential in a child's world.

At some point, children enter the planning stage. By this I mean they discuss and develop their play by announcing things like "let's pretend you're the bad guy and I'm the good wait, I wanna be the cop and let's say you're the good guy who helps him" and so on. They often spend so much time planning, that they run out of available time before they actually play their game. Is this the stage where many of us are stuck as adults? Whereas "patience can be a virtue", yet another cliche, I think a lot of people spend too much of their lives "waiting" and planning for a future that may or may not come. What exactly are they waiting for? Do they even know what they expect to happen at the end of their wait? At what point does the waiting end?

Teens wait to be out on their own, having their independence, own money and living space. Young adults wait for their ideal job, mate and house. Adults wait for the children to be grown and older adults wait for retirement. In fact, some spend all of their time "waiting", as if at some point, a magical time will appear when their lives will be perfect and fulfilled. Some people even plan their death before they consider their lives. I was at a conference recently where the speaker said words something like "Are you there yet and what does there look like?" In my opinion, we should always be "there".

Some time after the great supermarket veggie caper, I concluded that I'm not afraid of dying. I'm afraid of not living until I die. What was wrong with childlike excitement, exhuberance and yes, even a little impatience? I changed a lot of my attitude and perspective. I was through planning and waiting. Amazingly, all things came to me at that point. Why? Because I was no longer passive. I became an active participant in my own life.

Thanks to Violet Fane for these words that I wish I'd written...
"Ah, all things come to those who wait, (I say these words to make me glad), But something answers soft and sad, They come, but often come too late."

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Streetwalking, the oldest....

I haven't always liked walking. In fact, I hated it. I'm not certain at what point I developed an appreciation of this seemingly pointless activity. I know it wasn't during the winter of my formative years when I lived in the north and crossed a frozen lake to attend school. I'm also pretty certain that it wasn't in the spring as I ran home through the woods while encountering assorted mid sized wildlife.

Perhaps it was during the car-less years in the suburbs before my children were born. It was an year, no car, let's see how we survive. The ex and I were fed up with the all too frequent and expensive repairs and maintenance, not to mention insurance. We disposed of the vehicle at a dealership in a neighbouring town, trekked home approximately 5 miles and the rest is history. We became physically and fiscally fit.

The experiment lasted not one, but three years. During that time, walking became the main form of transportation. When it was absolutely necessary, we rented. After buying a house some distance from work, I hiked there and back. Sometimes, laundry would accompany me. I transported it in my car trunk, aka a suitcase, washed dried and repacked it before marching it back home.

It was great when I found a colleague interested in joining me. Each day, I met her part way and we hoofed it to work. Hard to imagine that our feet plowed through some of the most inclement winter weather and, just as when driving, we compensated by leaving home early. Snowshoes might have helped, but I'm not sure where we might have parked them. Eventually, as the weather improved, walking turned to jogging.

Fast forward many, many years. I was a busy single parent. As an inexpensive exercise regimen, I took daily walks with two of my neighbours. We had all joined a weight loss group and enjoyed our evening strolls and gossip fests. The further the hikes, the more successful we were at keeping out of the kitchen and away from snacks.

When I moved from that neighbourhood, I was forced to create a new route for myself. At first, it was somewhat boring and the frequency of my walks decreased dramatically. It was around this time that I discovered the joys of talking books. These became my new walking partners. Besides that, when I became overheated I was forced to stop at the local pub to cool down before continuing on my jaunt. It was liberating, it was literating and it was libationating. Invented words, but it worked for Dr. Seuss.

Last weekend, I saw the movie "Julie and Julia" where Julie tried to cook every recipe in Julia Child's cookbook. It gave me an idea. I picked up a map of Cobourg from the library. There are exactly 250 streets in this town. My plan is to walk the length of every street...just walk. I do not have a set time goal. So, here comes the challenge. Do I also have to walk "to" every street thus repeating some roads over and over, or do I allow myself the luxury of driving to some of them, then walking? At this point, I'm leaning toward option A, walking from my house to and along each street. But then, at this point the weather is terrific for walking.

So the oldest form of transportation, my old hobby, has become a new goal. I'm looking forward to finding out what I learn.