My Marshmallow of Hope

“I just want to go to the Vancouver Public Art gallery or see something inspiring,” a friend of mine said. “Life has gotten to be a bit mundane. Work. Home.”

I felt for her. It’s been over a year since I even left the rock we call home. I live on the Sunshine Coast in British Columbia, Canada. While it is part of the mainland, not an island, it is only accessible by ferry or seaplane. I haven’t traveled, gone shopping or even popped down into the States where our family lived.

But I had one thing that gives me hope, which I shared with my friend, “You need a marshmallow.”

Humans have this amazing ability to look forward. We look forward to events, holidays or even a night in without the kids. When we look forward with hope and expectations, we call it dreaming. The very art of anticipating something on the horizon can excite us and lighten our daily grind.

And surprisingly, our daily grind became a bit more stale when everything ground to a halt during COVID. As I continue to “hold the line” by wearing masks, social distancing and reducing unnecessary trips, I have also been smothered by this “meh” feeling. The feeling that life has lost its sparkle. There’s really nothing to anticipate other than another St. Patrick’s Day at home with my husband and cat. We walk the same paths everyday.

It’s just waiting. Waiting for the vaccine. Waiting for normal. Waiting for it to be over.

And then I found a marshmallow.

It is so named for the Stanford marshmallow experiment, a study on delayed gratification in 1972 led by psychologist Walter Mischel. Basically, a child was offered a choice between one small but immediate reward, or two small rewards if they waited for a period of time. A marshmallow. (Or a pretzel stick based upon the child’s preference, but who wouldn’t want a marshmallow?)

My husband and I decided that when it was all over and we felt safe to travel, we would leave the rock we called home and explore some place new. Walk on new paths. Listen to live music. Feel like our world is a bit bigger.

We have started researching walking paths and the best towns to visit in Switzerland. We ordered books off Abe Books about the country. We’ve watched walking tours on YouTube. Our daily walks are now training sessions, bringing us one step closer to our marshmallow.

The wait time is now more of a prep time. The “meh” has been replaced by anticipation. The longer we wait, the better the reward.

A marshmallow could be a party in your backyard. Flying to see relatives. Attending a hockey game. Focus on something in the future that you can plan for, dream about and feel hopeful about. It’s best if it is something that needs a bit of research or saving up for — something you can work towards in the meantime.

It’s what will get us through the waiting and the “meh”.

A Lesson in Mindfulness, Courtesy of My Hand Blender

This post may be short and sweet for my usual mad skills at typing has been greatly reduced due to a hand blender mishap.

Long gory story short, my left index finger touched the area of the small home appliance you should never touch while the index finger of my other hand was on the pulse button. Within a few nanoseconds, the pad of my finger was minced and my nail cut through.

Our kitchen, hallway and bathroom looked like a crime scene. The husband was unhappy. The cat went into hiding under the bed. Needless to say, it didn’t make my 10 ten things to do on a Thursday night either.

When the incident occurred, I was making a royal sauce for an Indian tofu dish and had just put naan in the oven on a pizza stone. I was watching the tofu as it crisped up in a pan of hot oil . . . and blending the sauce. During the down moments, I was washing dishes and listening to French Cafe on Spotify.

After three days

See the problem?

My mind was pretty much working so far ahead, it wasn’t focused on basic safety awareness. Like don’t touch the blade of the hand blender. EVER.

However, a week later, my finger is smothered in triple-anti-bacterial gel and heavily wrapped. In fact, I had a self-made foam finger for the Super Bowl.

I continue to learn the lesson of mindfulness. While cooking, I am only cooking. I am unable to do dishes and watch the stove. This is mainly due to the extra-large pink Rubbermaid glove I have to put on to keep my foam finger dry. It’s an art to put on and take off – so no multi-tasking.

Typing has also taken on a particularly exhausting procedure. Most of the words you have read had to be re-typed seven times. Every time I hit the letter R, the letters E, F, T also appear.

We’ll add patience as something I am currently working on, too.

The art of slowing down and living in the present was something I thought I had down, coming from a year of semi-lockdown life with COVID. That is not the case and this grasshopper with a giant foam-covered finger has a lot to learn.

PS – Please excuse all typos. You know the story.

The Best Diet I Have Ever Been On

I’ve been on a lot of diets. Ones where I cut out sugar. Ones where I have eliminated carbs. Fat-free. Meal replacement. Counting points.

But the best diet I have ever been on wasn’t even related to food.

I have cut news, online and television, out of my daily intake.

Best thing I have ever done.

We are what we consume. Yes, this includes food, but also what we read, watch and listen to on a daily basis. It slowly becomes the words, mantras and catch phrases that leak into our conversations at the dinner table or over the fence with neighbours.

News is meant to be sexy. It’s meant to pull you in by engaging your emotions – more often than not your rage. It plays upon the fears.

The more distant the news source (international and national), the more it focuses on the sensational stories that shock and awe. The local town paper usually covers the pancake feeds, the upcoming school board elections and controversy over the new bike lane. Not exciting — but most of our day to days aren’t. They don’t need to be drama filled to be fulfilling.

Truth of it is, the news that directly impacts us can be summed up in a few minutes. Its the content that compels you to make a donation to the local food bank, volunteer for the upcoming foot race or avoid the street under construction.

If it doesn’t compel you to action and only ticks you off, its not news. It’s just meant to fire you up and keep you coming back for more.

In the world of news, the closer to home the better the info and more well-rounded the content. It’s not just doom scrolling but a bit of sunshine about your community.

“You have to stay in the know.” Some have pointed out that burying my head in the sand and keeping out of the loop is not the best course of action. To me, that’s a story being fed to you by the news. Look at the story we tell ourselves to continue flipping on the nightly news.

You can stay informed, without being in the news loop.

Give it a whirl. Reduce your daily news intake and see how you feel. You may start to notice that it wasn’t something you relished in the first place.

Putting the Whimsical Back into Birthdays

“Where would you like to order for your birthday?” I asked my loving husband a week before he was to turn forty-five.

“As in takeout,” he sighed.

The two of us had plans for one of his favourite, but not quite so elegant, dinners. We had created a shopping list of ingredients and “must haves” for a DIY Nacho Bar on our kitchen breakfast bar, down to the chopped green onions and avocados for homemade guac. But that was only one meal and I was looking for help in rounding out the eats for my other half’s special day.

“Can we just leave it open? See what the day brings?” He asked. Without actually saying it, I knew what my husband really wanted for his birthday.

He wasn’t looking for something special to eat or the ability to travel. He wasn’t looking for a present or card. He was looking for the impulse . . . the whim. He was looking to be able to inject a bit of unprepared, unplanned and unorganized frivolity into his birthday.

No. It was a bit bigger than that. He was looking to do it for the first time since his last birthday.

I don’t blame him.

I create weekly meal plans and submit our lists online for pick-up at the local IGA. I order our Friday Night Beers online and pick-up at the liquor store. Date night is a movie from CRAVE or one we have recorded off the cable Hollywood Suites. Everything is prepared, planned and organized.

In short, there are no surprises. No whims. No impulse trips. No packing up the car and hitting the open road. No unexpected.

“Sounds like a plan,” I responded to his request. Well, a plan that isn’t a plan.

While the ingredients for the nacho bar have been submitted for pick-up and I already ordered his favourite IPA, I am leaving our lunch meal empty. Open. For whatever the day brings. Surprise us.

Surprisingly, just doing that, has given us both something to look forward too. The anticipation of the whimsical has put the whimsical back into the birthday. For both of us.

We all need whims. Something for both of us to remember long after he blows out the candle on his specially ordered, planned and prepared (but still utterly fantastic) birthday cake.

Decorating 2020

How will you remember 2020?

This year, my husband and I are making plans for a holiday season on the home front. With most of our family in the States, we will be spending a rare year with just the two of us and our furry cat in Canada.

The two of us are working on a holiday menu that highlights favourite traditions from both of our families. We are creating playlists on Spotify for upbeat background music during our “couple cocktail hours.” Merry. Bright. Simple.

We went out and got a tree – a simple pleasure that we often skipped due to our travels during this time of the year. Between US Thanksgiving and Christmas of a normal year, our house was mostly vacant and the cat doesn’t appreciate having a piece of outdoors indoors. Or at least not in a way that his humans appreciate.

Our tree stands in the window to our lane way, a beacon of light and sparse decorations. The two of us have contributed hand me down trinkets from our parents’ trees or old school made ornaments. We have ornaments from the year we were born or highlighting our past hobbies.

Mike, as it was later told to me, looked at the tree and wondered what trinkets or ornaments would mark 2020 – the year everything was put on paused, changed and rerouted.

Truth of it is, we will all have a different memory of this year. For some, it was a year of betterment. For others, it was going into work during a time of fear, anxiety and uncertainty. For some, it was isolation from family members, friends and those who kept us rooted in our community. For others, it was a time to try making sourdough or learning French.

Mike had considered purchasing a mask ornament. Or a mini rolling pin on a string. Sure it was part of it, but it didn’t really reflect the bigger picture.

For us, it was a year of simple. We reduced our shopping to the essentials. We had one weekend trip away from home, and not the trip to Europe we had anticipated. It felt like we were learning to do more with less, including making masks out of the leftover table runner fabric from our wedding (seven years ago). What used to be a date night out is takeout and a movie in.

It meant changes. It meant reducing our connection with family and community (in person). It meant making big deals about holidays and celebrations. It meant getting creative to maintain our mental health and fitness.

Mike decided that our tree needed something that reflected the holidays and our year. Merry. Bright. Simple.

He purchased vintage-style indent and reflector ornaments plus a string of tinsel broken up with the same style of glass ornament. It contained the same vintage look of our other ornaments, but was purchased to add the “merry, bright and simple” exclamation point to our 2020 year.

The year we had to buy ornaments for our first tree in Canada.

2020 was hard. It was lonely. It was heartbreaking. But it also had hope. Love. A sense of community. And a few lessons on how I could be a better person.

Merry. Bright. Simple.