Birthdays

Recently celebrating a significant birthday  had me thinking some serious thoughts. One sobering thought being that birthdays are annual markers measuring significant stages of our lives. I hadn’t thought about birthdays much—it was just an event that I celebrated with family and good friends.

At one stage of my young life, I felt seriously ripped that my birthday happened right after New Year’s. How awful was that? By the time Christmas flew past and then the excitement of celebrating the New Year, along came my birthday which everyone felt too pooped to celebrate back then. Of course, now that I’m a mature and responsible adult with mature and responsible adult friends, logic flies out the window. We celebrate anything but if there’s someone’s birthday, then that’s a reason for party, cake and chocolates.

I can honestly say that I have never celebrated my birthday with such gusto and enthusiasm as I have these past few years. Blame it on the aftermath of Christmas and New Year’s. I like January because we also celebrate Chinese New Year’s at the end of the month depending upon the Chinese calendar. This year, however, Chinese New Year was later as it fell on February 19th, the Year of the Ram. But when it falls in January, the whole month is mine because Chinese New Year runs for two whole weeks—none of this one day celebration for us!

What’s really interesting is that the very young and the elderly are not at all bashful about disclosing their age. Being older is a badge of honour.

My little granddaughter will be 4 on February 28th. If you ask her how old she will be, she will gaze at you with her blue eyes, flash her dimples and proudly declare that she is “sebben.”  That happens to be her older sister’s age. At least I always thought it was but I’ve been corrected as Big Sis informed me, “I’m 8, Po-Po. I was 8 in August.” Whatever happened to my plump little brown-eyed cutie-pie?

My Mom has always been very private about disclosing her age to anyone other than her taxman and her doctor. When Mom moved to her seniors’ apartment and met her many neighbours, it was quite a revelation as all the ladies were eager to disclose their ages—after all, a number were already in their late 90s and four ladies ranged in age from 101 to 104. Mom’s older sister recently celebrated her 95th and her sister-in-law celebrated her 97th last October. Now my very private mother is telling her table-mates that she will be 90 in August.

With two aunts well in their 90s and my Mom almost there, I hope I’ll be blessed with longevity too—barring heart attacks, diabetes, the dreaded falls, the big “C” and whatever else lurks out there. Of course, there’s always the runaway truck/car/train or that big earthquake that’s long overdue on the West Coast or any number of events or other health crisis that may fall. BUT I’m not going to let the “what-ifs” stop me from enjoying my Life to the fullest. My wise Dad use to say, “If your number’s called, then you have to go. Just do everything you ever wanted to do before your number comes up!”

Thanks Dad–I’m finally listening. I’m grabbing Life by the coat-tails and not letting go.  .  .  .

Dark Chocolate Covered Marshmallows

I have this mad passion for dark chocolate covered marshmallow hearts. You know—the after-the-holiday-is-over ones. They’re tossed in a basket and sold  2-for-1 since the store has to clear them in a hurry in time for the next chocolate marshmallow event, which is Easter.

The after-the-holiday-is-over chocolate marshmallows are the best. Of course, they are also called leftovers, but I prefer the term “aged.”  I get several “fixes” a year—the dark chocolate covered marshmallow hearts in February followed by the chocolate covered marshmallow bunnies and/or eggs for Easter. Sometimes, Halloween has the chocolate marshmallow witches while Christmas produces the chocolate marshmallow Santas. Natch, it has to be dark chocolate and since they’ve been around a while, the marshmallow has that chewy texture, not that airy, soft marshmallow that seems more egg whites and sugar than the slightly more set and chewy ones.

Chinese New Year hasn’t figured out the dark chocolate and chewy marshmallow treats yet. Instead we have these molasses Buddha and astrological animal’ shaped cookies; chewy deep-fried Chinese donuts with the red bean or lotus filling and the crispy, braided sesame mini-bread sticks—all of which are very good but they’re not dark chocolate over marshmallows.

On my Friday morning grocery run, I saw the basket of dark chocolate covered marshmallow hearts leftover from Valentine’s. Perfect! Grabbling a fistful and pretending they were for my grandkids, I contemplated in the car whether I should eat one on the drive home or wait.  Hey, marshmallow hearts wait for no man or woman when it’s screaming to be eaten now!  And yes, it was perfectly “aged”—tasty dark chocolate, chewy marshmallow and a mouth that wanted more. . . . . .

Love

Originally posted on In Transition:

Love is not perfect or pristine,

it’s not flowers or candy,

fancy gifts, or diamond rings.

Love is~

messy and sometimes dirty

it’s in the rough week at work

and the cough drops  purchased late at night,

it’s a buttercup picked on the side of the road,

and a bracelet made of clover blossoms,

placed on your wrist with a tender kiss.

©annettealaine 2015

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Dreams

(Dreams was originally posted on Red Room a few years ago and I am reposting it again.)

Dreams are an amazing phenomena.  I’m not referring to the personal goals and ambitions type of dream, but the full-blown, Fuji-coloured, action-packed kind of dreams with bizarre characters and you get to fly! And when I say fly, I really mean, flying where you are soaring high.

I use to get a lot of flying dreams when I was working the midnight to dawn shift in a hospital blood bank. This was a job where blood was cross-matched to transfused into accident victims, emergency hemorrhages, stabbings or anytime blood was needed as quickly as possible. During my shift, there was never a slow moment. By the time I got home to my bed, my dreams were jumbled and I was flying. Several people have told me this was a sign of stress and “flying” was the escape route. When I moved into a less stressful occupation, my dreams had morphed into an adventure series, but I was still flying high.  By then, I was taking creative writing courses in my leisure time. One instructor told me never  lose this edge because my assignments showed an active imagination and unusual creativity.  At that time, I think the unusual bit was the fact that I could just pick up the dream the next night to continue my adventurous and wild ride.

Eventually, as I mellowed and matured, the dreams became fewer and rarely had me flying at all. Instead of stress, I discovered that certain foods would activate the flying dreams. The other night I discovered  the sumptuous taste of slices of hot French baguettes stuffed with a simple cheese and crab filling. I’m not sure if it was the overindulgence of cheese and crab that made my subconscious go into overdrive when my head hit the pillows. As the dream progressed, I wanted to wake up and take copious notes, but I was too afraid of losing the thread of any coherent thoughts. Two things I do remember: I was flying again to escape something dark and evil and my Dad, who died 15 years ago, was telling me I shouldn’t have eaten so much of the cheese and crab appetizer, even though  it was good. My Dad loved stuff like that too.

I do believe dreams are a necessary part of a writer’s creative process. A writer can still be creative without the dreams, but dreaming makes the process so much richer. Having Fuji-coloured, action-packed dreams peopled with unusual characters enriches the imagination. Just take notes and remember where you can fly to retrieve those creative dreams.

The Mom in Me

When you’re a little kid, it’s amazing–or maybe not–what memories are tucked away only to pop out some decades later.

My sibs and I could never slip out of the house without Mom’s eagle-eyes making sure we had our darn hats, “because it looks like rain or snow or. . “;   our awful rubber boots,”because it looks like rain or snow or. . .”; our winter coats even though the temperature was balmy and sunny without any storm clouds in sight; our warm, woolly gloves despite the fact that one or all of us often lost a glove somewhere along the walk home.

The other day I heard the familiar words, “Are you sure you have your hat? It looks like rain and there’s a cold wind blowing. What about your gloves? Do you have them in your pocket? Maybe we should wrap your warm scarf around your neck. . .”

My Mom merely rolled her eyes and laughed.  Oh my gosh, was that me sounding like my Mom? 

Some things just never change.  .  .  .

A Happy Writer

I have always enjoyed writing. And like all writers trying to grab that elusive bit of fame and fortune, I strive even harder to gain my goal because I just know I am close but just not close enough. At last, I have met a writer who puts into words exactly how I feel.     Do tap into a fellow chocolate lover,  Devyani Borade’s recent piece in Writing World:

http://www.writing-world.com/life/happy.shtml

as she has kindly given me permission to repost on my site.  Devyani has the knack of telling it like it is for a number of us!

Also check out http://writing-world.com  for more great articles and tips for writers.

 

James, Never Jimmy

(This was first published on Red Room and it’s a nice one to read again. . . .)

James was the neighbourhood character that every neighbourhood should have. When Hubby and I first met him, he was adamant on how he would be called.

“Puh-leez, don’t call me “Jim” or “Jimmy”–my name is James and that’s what I want to be called.” After a brief moment, he added with a theatrical shudder, “And never call me Jack!”

Once we got past the name thing, James was a fountain of information on where to get a specific bolt, screw or nut; the freshest eggs, “still warm from being pooped out by the chicken;” the lowest-price-but-best-service for car maintenance and repairs; the best craftsmen for painting, cabinetry, woodworking, plumbing, installing floors and so much more.

James was a retired cabinet-maker and carpenter who produced triple A work. And he expected no less from anyone he hired or referred. His standards were high but you just knew that whoever he recommended would do the best work available.

When it came to animals, it seemed James had an affection for all of them—from the wild squirrels that scampered up his oak trees; the dogs that occasionally roamed in his yard; the deer that knew where James kept the deer-food for them; the family of raccoons who carefully crossed his yard without digging up his lawn; the wild rabbits who knew where James left the carrots and greens for them. Of course there were the numerous bird houses James had built and hung in the apple, pear and peach trees. The birds seemed to know not to peck all the fruit, just a few, so James’  trees yield an abundant harvest which he willingly shared with all his neighbours.

We didn’t see James before we moved to our new location, but I did tuck a short note in his mailbox to let him know where we were and to come for coffee. We didn’t hear from him at all–not even a phone call to say he was in the neighbourhood.

Last week, I saw James as we were both exiting the same building. Hearing his name and recognizing my voice, he gave his cheerful “James” smile and exclaimed, “I’m so glad to hear your voice. Thank you for your note with the new address but I think I misplaced it again!” Chatting with my old neighbour, I realized something was amiss. James was wearing dark glasses that wrapped around the sides of his face, yet the day was a somber gray with a fine drizzly rain.

“Are you okay, James?”

“Oh yes, never better but I’m afraid I’m gradually losing my vision to macular degeneration. Rather makes you do things a little differently.”

“I’m so sorry, James. Do you have access to help and support?”

“Honey, have you already forgotten all your neighbours?”

“Oh, I’m so glad the neighbours are looking after you.”

“Got that part right, Sweetheart!  Mal and Bryan drive me wherever I need to go. Betsy and Kathy leave me casseroles and stuff to reheat in my microwave; Mike makes sure my yard and garden is kept neat; Lyssa sends her kids over to sweep off my driveway. I feel very humble to have such caring neighbours nearby. All I can offer them are the fruit from my trees. I was worried about my animals but someone has been leaving carrots, greens and apples for them.”

“I’m so glad the neighbours have rallied ’round you, James.”

“You know, I loved doing what I did around the neighbourhood, but Life was never meant to run smoothly. You get tossed a lemon now and then and really, it’s what you choose to do to make your life better. Do you want lemonade or a rotten lemon? And you know me, I go for lemonade every time!”

“James, do you have time for coffee or are you heading somewhere?”

“I have an appointment with someone who wants to commission me for some cabinetry work. At the moment, I’m referring another cabinet maker to him. She does great work and I’ll introduce her to this client and see how it goes. It’s hard not to do the job myself, but I’ll figure a way to do something later.”

And with a jaunty wave of his hand, James casually unfolded a white cane and strolled down the street–confident, dignified and cheerful–as only James, never Jim or Jimmy could be.