One Word at a Time Will Get Me On My Way

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Now that I’ve made the promise to myself, that this year, this 2019, I would do things differently, think new thoughts, try scary things and break through some of these fears and self-doubts that I’ve been wearing all these 72 years, I’m finding that it ain’t as easy as writing the words. I didn’t think it would be a breeze, but I had convinced myself that I was ready and even eager to take this challenge on. I thought I was ready to propel myself into this adventure but forgot that all of those fears were still sitting inside of me waiting to rear their ugly heads and put the brakes on my otherwise rosy plans.

All this self-recrimination started when my good friend, M, sent me the seat sale for Westjet. She didn’t write anything, just sent me the advertisement. We had talked about it earlier in the week and she had told me that their sales were fantastic. So her intentions were all good and I had told her — and myself — that this year I was going to travel. Go Someplace Where I’ve Never Been Before, I boasted. Get myself back to an ocean somewhere in this world. I was going to pack my bag and head off to one of my great unknowns. But I couldn’t do it that day. I couldn’t be spontaneous and just pick a date out of the blue, pluck my credit card down, and plan the trip afterwards.

I was greatly disappointed in myself. I felt like I had, in the first month of this new year, negated all my promises. I sent M an email and asked her if she thought my reluctance to just go-with-it and get a reservation was a sign of my “old demons” rearing their ugly heads. She wrote back that only I could answer that question.

That made me feel worse.

I had to do something to pull my spirit out of the toilet. So I decided to put the whip back in the closet and stop the shaming voice inside my head — which, as you probably know, is utterly worthless. Instead, I took a smaller, but a very important, step towards my 2019 goals. I started reading one of the books on my Ann’s 2019 Reading List.

Earlier this year — can you even say that when you’re still in January? — I decided, as part of this New-Ann-In-2019, it was time to wean myself off of the steady diet of period mysteries I have been reading for the past ten years or so and challenge my mind with something a little more substantive. I knew I couldn’t be trusted to pick out a new reading list on my own. I’ve had too many disappointments in the past. After reading glowing reviews of books in the New Yorker or in the paper, I would eagerly put them on hold at the library. By the time they came in, I couldn’t figure out why the hell I ordered it as I struggled to get beyond the first fifteen pages. (My friend, L, told me never to trust book reviews, “They’re written only to sell the books, Ann.”)

So, this time, I didn’t put my reading future into the hands of strangers. No, instead, I sent an email to a bunch of my wonderful, eclectic friends, and asked them for the titles of their two, or three favourite books. The results have been amazing. I have a list of 24 books so far that are as varied and interesting as the people who gave them to me. There are classics I’ve never read, a trilogy on witches and vampires, another trilogy described by the friend who recommended it, as an “Indian soap opera,” tell-all memoirs, a heavy Canadian content that I have avoided reading these past 23 years, and lots more. I probably won’t like them all but I’ll read them all. It’s another one of those promises I made myself.

And, there are added bonuses to this method: 1) I have my friends right here to talk with about the books afterwards and, 2) when the time comes when I do make that reservation to go someplace I’ve never been before, I’ll not have to even think about what I’m going to take to read on the trip.

Now I’m off to start Book II on the list.

How do I Mark 25 Years of Being in Oh Canada?

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Five years ago, as I was approaching my 20th year in Oh Canada, I wrote that I would be doing 20 new things to celebrate my 20 years of living here. But, alas, after one blog, my best laid plans fizzled out to nothing. It’s not that there weren’t a plethora of places and things and adventures in Toronto that I had never even thought about let alone tried. No, I just got stuck in my old routine of not venturing forth and pushing my comfort levels just a wee bit beyond the place where they’ve been for most of my life.

But, that doesn’t mean that I can’t do it now, eh? So, it’s five years later — so what? Really, what better time to embark on adventures than now. Here I am at the beginning of a new year, a new decade and marking a quarter century mark of living here in the True or Whatever North. I’m not going to give a number to these adventures, just to recognize them when they happen.

So in this new spirit, I decided for the first time ever in my life, to take a cooking class. For years, my shyness and low estimation of my culinary abilities, kept me from the kitchen classrooms wherever I was living. All of my cooking has been trial and error and following recipes in a cookbook. I’m not a bad cook just a predictable one. But this year I decided I wanted to start cooking things I’ve never tried before and I wanted to start cooking more vegetarian dishes. So I Googled — how else — Vegetarian Cooking Classes in Toronto and was not all that successful since most were far too expensive for my budget or in far and distant areas of the city. I have learned that if a class I want to take is not easy to get to I just won’t go.

But then, I remembered the Continuing Ed classes that the school board runs. Over the years, I’ve taken many of their offerings — yoga classes, drawing, improvisation which was great fun and Spanish numerous times. So there I went in search of a vegetarian cooking class and found it — Vegetarian Indian Cooking. It was perfect — food I had never cooked in my life, a cost I could afford and, most important, a place easy enough to get to from home. The one negative was that it didn’t finish until 9:30 pm which is ridiculously close to my bedtime. But enough, I said to myself, you can do this once a week.

So last Wednesday, I took myself down the hill on the bus and walked to the old high school, then up the three flights of stairs and, then, down a long, long, long hallway to get to the kitchen classroom. When I walked in, I had that old dread I always feel going into a room full of strangers. But, this time, I left it at the door and took a seat. Needless to say, I was the oldest person in the room. Most were 20 or 30 somethings but, hey, it didn’t matter since we were all there for the same reason. The instructor informed us we’d be cooking food from Northern India since that was where she was from. She also emphasized that we’d be doing the cooking not her. She passed out recipes, gave a very short demonstration on chopping skills and how to rinse rice and lentils then told us to make up our teams and start cooking. I was teamed up with two of the 20-something guys and an older woman.¬†Oh, I forgot to mention, I really hate to work in teams so that, too, was going to be a new and different thing.

We decided the order we’d cook the dishes and collected the ingredients for the Aloo Gobi (potatoes and cauliflower) and the Dal Fry. The boys commandeered the stove while the two women chopped. They were very pleasant and ok to work with but later, when I was putting together the Jeera Rice I did mention that perhaps they might let the women try their hand at the stirring and control of the fire. The best part of all the cooking was the incredible smells of the spices wafting up from the dishes and tasting them all at the end.

As I walked back down that long, long, long hallway and those stairs, I felt good. I felt good that I was there doing something new and not at home watching TV and drinking that third glass of wine. I also felt good because I realized how very comfortable I was putting together these recipes and being in that kitchen. It was like an appreciation, finally, of how much I instinctively know about cooking.