Friday, July 24, 2009

Confessions of a Cerealaholic

I have a confession to make....actually I could make several, like I have a bad habit of not closing cupboard doors behind me, but there is one I need to get off my chest. I'm a Cerealaholic.

There, I said it, now everyone one knows.

I grew up in a family of 6 (two parents, 4 kids). My parents did not have an abundance of money to spend on raising 4 kids so in the morning cereal consisted of a big box of Corn Flakes or Rice Krispies and often those bland but hugely economical and extremely large bags of puffed wheat. I didn't really care, I ate it all. I did not know Breakfast is the most important meal of the day (which it is), nor could I understand those people who said "I just can't eat anything in the morning." When I got up in the morning it was directly to the cereal cupboard, whereupon I would grab whatever box was up there and probably leave the cupboard door open. Sometimes on cold winter days my Dad would make us hot Oatmeal, Red River or my favorite, Cream of Wheat. When we visited grandparents in Kalamazoo Michigan they would buy us Kix Cereal, something we could not, and still can't, get in Canada. I still remember one drive home in the back of the VW Van with kids running amok as we did not have to wear seatbelts in the 70s and eating a box of Corn Flakes dry, stuffing handfuls into my mouth and crunch, crunch, crunching away.

Then there are those decadent sugary cereals. We were never allowed them as kids. I suspect because they were expensive and 4 kids could wolf down a box in one sitting. But, oh, how I longed for Cracker Jack or Frosted Flakes (They'rrrrre Great) and my all time fave, Cap'n Crunch! I Love, love love Cap'n Crunch. Nevermind the bad spelling, nevermind the fact it contains 13grams of sugar and 230 mg of salt and no fiber to speak of; in my mid40s, I still adore Cap'n Crunch.

Old ingrained habits die hard so once I had children of my own I would also buy the economical, big boxes of Corn Flakes or Rice Krispies and would pass by those heavily laden sugar cereals. I wanted to set a good example for my own kids you see. But at Christmas time I would buy each of them a box of the most sugary cereal, wrap it up and put it under the tree. They make for a cheap Christmas present you know. My kids are now 18 and 21 and they still insist on their box of cereal under the tree.

But now, I buy a box of Cap'n Crunch even when it isn't Christmas, just because I love it so. In fact, I just polished off a couple of boxes this week (they were on sale). I can't help it, I'm a Cerealaholic.

Friday, July 17, 2009

A Sense of Place

Everyone longs for a sense of belonging, that they are with people who understand them and they are adding value to this earth. But I also need a strong sense of place. If you are wondering what I mean by that, don't feel bad, so am I; Let me try and explain.
I'm acutely aware of my surroundings - not only what it looks like but what it smells like, and what if feels like. Like most human beings I'm attracted to beauty and balance and I love a home with these attributes. When I'm watching a movie I will be just as interested in the setting as I am in the plot and characters. I love the different smells in my house - cookies baking, warm summer dusty smell, coffee. I love little vignettes and attempt to set them up here and there. Yet all this will fall flat if the vibe in the house is off. Consider when you walk into a room and there is an underlying sense of tension and anxiety versus a room filled with peace.
I believe I inherited this from my mother. When Sheldon and I were moving into our first house, an Old Victorian, she wanted to see it, empty, before we moved in. She just wanted to walk through the old girl and take her all in, get her sense of place and history before we started to put our own stamp on it.
This sense of place sometimes haunts me. For nearly 20 years after the fact I would dream about the house I lived in as a teenager. I would walk through every single room, right through the basement and up the back stairs. Every inch of that house seemed to be embedded in my memory and was wont to leave. I would sit on the old water radiator in the living room and look out the window or perch on the stone step on the front porch. It was quite exasperating after a while and has only been the last 5 years or so that the house on Shuter Street is finally fading into the distance!
So this leads me to a conversation with God - one I bring up every now and then. Why, God, do you have me working in an office of cubicles with very few windows and those that are available are sealed shut? I have an about sending me to see some of the wonders you created - how about Italy or the somewhere in the mountains? You know how much I would appreciate them!! God has not seen fit to open up these opportunities (yet) but I can still enjoy the beauty and sense of place wherever I am. I can try to add beauty and provide a peaceful haven to my surroundings. And, if I don't get to see the wonders of the world, I suspect heaven is going to knock my socks off!

Friday, July 10, 2009

The Worst Critic

Tell me if this sounds is a typical start to my day. I'm heading somewhere and get out the door, probably into the car when I realize I've forgotten my lunch/keys/something. "Oh!! You idiot!" I mumble to myself under my breath and I berate poor self as I head back into the house to find whatever I'm missing.
I don't know about you but I probably critic in this fashion least twice a week. I've forgotten something or misplaced an item or generally did not arrange my schedule well or made a bad judgement error "You big dummy!" or maybe something worse is running through my head.
We can be pretty tough on ourselves. Our own worst critic. But why don't we in the same equal value praise ourselves when we figure something out or pull off a whole arrangement smoothly. Why don't we say to selves "Oh, how clever of you!" and "My aren't you a genius!" Believe me, I don't have those types of conversations. But we do, on a daily basis, get things right. We even have moments of brilliance!
Years ago, we had a monster dog named Sam. Sam was a 135 lb golden lab built something like a football player. He weighed more than I did and well, if Sam wanted to go somewhere or do something far be it from me to try and stop him. One morning I was foolishly walking Sam on a leash down the street. I could see coming towards us, another dog and owner out for a walk. This was a problem. I knew Sam was going to probably go running to either meet or eat the dog coming closer and there was nothing I could do about it. I could cross the street but that would not stop Sam. Mere cars meant nothing to him (he was once run over by a truck - I mean right over his back side. He rolled over got up and headed into the house). Then the lightbulb went off, a moment of brilliance! There was a signpost beside me. I wrapped Sam's leash around a couple of times, pulled it taut and held on tight. Now I had leveridge! The other dog and owner had crossed the street (a wise move) but as they came closer Sam barked and barked, lunging for all his might. I held on and voila - I had done the impossible.
Now I'm not suggesting you begin preening your ego, but let's go a little easy - acknowledge the things we do right, even those flashes of genius and lay off calling ourselves idiots or dummys or whatever when we mess up.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Summer Reading

It is as clear to me as if it was yesterday. The thrill of learning how to read. The wonder I felt when those words in the Dr. Seuss books flowed together and made funny, funky rhyming sounds in my head. Once I mastered the ABC's I was hooked and soon moved on to devouring whatever the country school library had to offer. So off I went on every adventure with Nancy Drew and then overseas for a wild ride with the Black Stallion on a deserted island. I have a few favourites from childhood: "When Marnie Was There" sticks in my head and I'm still looking for that book. "White Summer" was a story about a young girl who moves to the country - I read that one a few times. When I was about 8 or 9 my father would sit the 4 of us down in a circle (my two other sisters and one brother) and read Lord of the Rings to us. I re-read them when I was a teenager and then again in my 30s. In fact in my lifetime we have had one cat named Gandalf and two cats named Frodo! I still have a love for a good fantasy filled with mythical creatures and faeries, dwarves and magic in the woods.
But the days of having the time to read, read, read for hours and hours and hours seem to be as elusive as Tinker Bell as we get older - except in the summer, when I'm on holidays. Let the summer reading begin.
I'm all for self-help and books to increase my knowledge or encourage spiritual growth but in the summer bring on the pure enjoyment of a good story. I want to find myself immersed in a magical land where characters and creatures of all kinds invade my life until I look up and find I'm actually in a tent with sunlight flickering on the nylon or in a car speeding down a highway. I love classics too, like Jane Austen and C.S. Lewis, George Eliot or Wilkie Collins.
I wish you all a warm sunny summer (especially if you live in a climate where winter pervades half the year), and lots of time to read. Stretch out in a hammock, lie down on a damp, sandy towel on the beach or let someone else do the driving and read the hours away! Read what you like but my personal suggestion is leave the indepth, self-help, how-to books for another time and immerse yourself in a tale filled with mystery, and magic, wonder and excitement.