Fresh Perspectives

Bread

Two are always better than one.

It’s into the second week of December. This is the time of year, where for many of us, our schedules change. This change comes upon us quite inconspicuously, or under the radar, so-to-speak. Unless of course we are talking about shopping malls, where we are bombarded with Christmas music the day after Halloween—a little too early for my liking. Other than that Christmas comes to us like a sniper in the night. Before you know it, it is peering in our windows, in the form of a Great Aunt holding a fruitcake that has been left to ferment so long, the children are not allowed near it.

For the most part, Christmas generally sneaks up on us. It shows up while we are still in pyjamas, hair darting in all directions, barely taking that first sip of morning coffee. Usually we are overwhelmed by the omnipresent feeling that we’ve forgotten something or someone, and are left wondering if there may be enough time left to finish what it is we haven’t.

There is so much to do around this time of year; often we feel stressed trying to take care of it all. On top of all the “normal” things we need to take care of in life, there are office parties to attend, friend and family visits, gift buying, house decorating, classic holiday movies to watch, and so much food to buy and prepare. The list really is endless when we think about it.

That last one, about food preparation, that’s the one I love to do. Cooking and baking are two things I love equally. I find the process much like that when I paint. There is always a point where I am so immersed in it, I can hardly think of anything else. You could say it almost has therapeutic or meditative qualities to it. When we lose ourselves in the process, that is when it is no longer a job to do, but a pleasure to do, uhhh… unless I burn something. Should that happen, then it is not a pleasure at all. And all those therapeutic and meditative qualities? Well, they fly right out the window along with the smoke that sets off my smoke detector. Lucky for us, food burning in our house rarely happens.

I just baked two loaves of rosemary and Parmesan bread—successfully. (And no, I do not use a bread maker, for those of you who were wondering.) True, they will most likely be long gone before Christmas, but my first two loaves of the season never make it that far. The point is this is not a chore for me. It is something I love to do. I don’t know whether it was always something I loved to do, but for now it is, and that will do me just fine.

We change throughout our lives. Where we started is definitely not where we are going to end up. Those changes that happen to us happen on a continuous basis. We change our mind, we change our look, we change how we feel about something or someone, we change our jobs, we change where we live, we change who we hang with, and we will keep on changing until we die; although, some would argue we keep changing after we pass. Either way, the fact that we change so much is probably the one innate consistency we can depend on. We can only hope they are positive changes. “Change for the better” may be cliché, but that’s only because there is truth in it.

There is also truth in the fact that I am guilty of being a negative Nellie, when it comes to doing jobs I don’t especially like doing. So imagine, if I just change my perspective to thinking I get to do these things. My mental wall around certain chores I don’t especially like doing could come down. My time spent doing anything remotely chore-like, could be time well spent, and not considered a waste of time. My new-found positivity towards chores could lead directly to lower stress levels and all-around better health. Chores don’t seem so awful anymore. Okay, maybe drying Tupperware still sucks, but on the whole, I can look at chores from an entirely new point of view to help me get the through the chores I normally don’t like doing.

So, all that said, I choose not to add stress in my life. I choose to be happy doing all those things I get to do, rather than treating all these extra Christmas season time bandits like chores given to me by my mom when I was ten. If we think of chores as something we want to do because we can, and not as something we must do out of a sense of duty, it not only changes our perspective greatly, but it also changes our attitude.

It is especially around Christmas time that our perspectives and attitudes should change for the better, not the worse. If I say to you, “Yaay, I get to go gift shopping today!” instead of “Uggh, I gotta’ go to the mall and fight my way through the crowds of people to buy Christmas gifts.” Whose gift would you rather receive?

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Five for Friday

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Back again with Stephen King.

Ha! I bet you thought I forgot. Nope, today you get a double post from me; you lucky people!

As promised, another instalment of Five for Friday, wherein I will try to post, every Friday, until the well runs dry, something I am grateful for. So once again, in the interest of good feelings, and general all-around happiness, here you go.

This week I am grateful for my job, because there are so many who are not so fortunate; my health, because without it, things could be difficult; books, because I love a good story; social media, because otherwise I couldn’t share as easily with all of you; and laughter, because it really is the best medicine.

What are you grateful for?

 

The Ride

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The really “steep” alleyway.

A bit of panic started to set in, as not once did it occur to me to ask anyone how to stop.

I think I was about six when I got my first bike. It was a shiny, metallic green bike with training wheels. I learned to ride it in the back alley. This alley, by the way, was a dead-end kind of alley. The dead-end part was made up of a towering, impenetrable, cement wall, where only the force of Mother Nature pushing weeds up through its base could get through unscathed. That wall was towering to me, because at six-years-old, everything is towering. (Now, as an adult, at five feet one inch, I am not much taller than I was back then, but I like to think I now have a more refined ability to make sensible decisions.)

It seemed like a good thing at the time to listen to the two brothers, who lived two apartments over, when they said, “You just point and go.” It was Alan that insisted I start from the top of alleyway. “Going faster will help you stay straight.” (Little did he know, but that is probably another story.) 

Alan was eight, and his little brother was seven. They always had something going on—a game, a scheme, an experiment, a way to take over the world—and I wanted to be a part of it, because I thought they knew everything.

It seemed easy, and I’d be lying if I said I was not scared, but I was also anxious to try it out. The thing about “trying it out” was that the beginning of our alleyway was a fairly steep hill that started out at the street level and made its way down to the back of the lower apartments. Let me be the first to acknowledge, my perspective of “steep” at six is much different than what it is now.

“Are you guys sure?” I asked, not entirely sure if they were kidding me.

“Ya,” interrupted David. “If I could do it, so can you.”

“Ya, I’m sure. It’s easy.” Alan pointed up the hill. “You just start over there.”

There were no helmet laws back then. I didn’t even think of any possible, problematic outcomes. Why would I? I was six. I was just trying to make my way in my little world by trying to impress the neighbourhood kids.

Looking up the hill, I didn’t feel any better; nevertheless, I pushed my bike to the entrance of the alleyway. I asked Alan if I was at a good spot to start from—like it really made any difference. I was really trying to delay the inevitable. I slowly turned the bike around and hopped on the seat. Of course it would have been way better had I tried out my bike on a flat surface, but what kind of bragging rights would that produce. Nope, it had to be pedal by fire. No guts, no glory and all that. And besides, with that mindset there was no alternative. It was either go, or be forever branded as a chicken. Generally, six-year olds do not like to be called “chicken,” and I was no exception.

I picked up speed pretty quickly on that hill. Wow! This is so fun, I thought to myself as I easily passed by the first apartment building. There were five in total. By the time I got to the third building, I realized I would have to stop fairly soon, or else my new bike and I would become part of that enormous wall.

I needed to do something really quick. My first thought was to immediately stop pedaling, but my bike was the kind where forward momentum kept the pedals turning, also known as a fixed-gear bike, or as I now like to call it, a six-year-old-shin-busting-ankle-biting-below-the-knee-chopping-blood-inducing-bike from hell.

I tried to stop any way I could. First, I stuck my legs in the pedals, you know, like one would jam a stick in the spokes of a wheel to stop it from turning. Not the smartest decision I have ever made; it hurt like hell. On the upside, it kind of helped. I did slow down, but not enough to totally avoid the wall. Then, I tried to scrape my sneakers along the pavement, hoping to create enough friction. Fortunately, I noticed the potholes in time, so that method was quickly abandoned.

Time and space had also quickly abandoned me. Before I new it, the wall was way too close for my comfort level, so rather than hit the wall head on, I instinctively turned the handle bars. I turned them so much, I ended up almost doing a full 360. When I finally stopped, gravel flying, and weeds tangled in my back tire, I could not believe my luck. I was still upright! My rear wheel was slightly bent, but I was still upright!

“Wow, you even hit the wall and didn’t even fall!” exclaimed Alan, slapping his hand on the cement wall.

“Whoa! That was so cool! How’d you do that?” asked David.

Fully realizing that my coolness level went up a few degrees on the cool-o-meter, I said, “It’s a secret. I can’t tell you.”

Problem was, it was such a secret, I really couldn’t tell them how I did it, it just happened that way. I could not have reproduced that stunt, if they paid me to, nor did I want to. I was still shaking from the sudden stop, but I knew I had to play it cool.

The first day out on my new bike produced some scrapes and scratches on both it and me. I told my mom I fell. What really happened on that sunny summer day in the back alley, no one will really know, but I am glad I survived to tell the story.

All names have been changed to protect the guilty.