Food Inspiration

This winter hibernating inside and with a schedule full of dialysis treatments and physio sessions I found myself needing some invigoration. Some purpose…while I focused on getting stronger. So I fell in love with reading again. Hunting down recommendations from friends and beloved authors newest novels.

I also found myself once again inspired by food. We have always tried to eat healthy and from scratch. I grew up this way with a mother who loved to cook and prided herself on feeding us homemade meals everyday. But like many things the inspiration ebbs and flows depending on energy levels, busyness and many things. But this winter I found myself reaching for new cookbooks, and new cuisines for ideas and new spices to incorporate in our food. I enjoyed preparing meals for dinner as a achievement and accomplishment to my day. Nothing fancy, as we try not to blow our entire budget on fancy ingredients but I found myself seeking out new indian spices, asian sauces, vinegars and oils. Trying to make my own version of curry and dahl, so I could keep it mild and flavorful and not too hot so I can’t taste my meal. I made up my own version of a pad thai, with ground pork and rice noodles that has become a favorite at dinner time. I tried a congee, and egg drop soup and found new simple comforting meals to enjoy. I was gifted an airfryer during the year and tried my own chicken strips with waffles, parmesan crusted eggplant and some other fun “fried” foods. Reaching out to international flavours, I found seeking out other cuisines “simple dishes” made for something new for us. And often other than some new seasonings, they were made from things we had in our cupboards.

Now… as Spring and warm weather is finally upon us.. I am once again invigorated by all things fresh and seasonal. I am a big believer in whole foods and also seasonal cooking. Fresh and local is what spring, summer and fall in Canada is all about. Winter is a bit more tricky as I don’t have space to freeze or can too much but now that spring is here.. I am eager to find the local produfoodcollagece around me.

This week I purchasd the first asparagus, and have already had some roasted w butter and salt. Nothing compares. I can feel an asparagus soup and asparagus rissotto on the horizon.

It makes me happy that while in this period of transition with days at the gym, dialysis treatments and doctor’s visits I can still find space and time to focus on healthy food for me and my husband and find enjoyment in the process.

PS

Taking this course this spring. I have taken many from Heather, and always enjoy the inspiration. I do them with a great friend who lives in  Vermont and we share the

 

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http://beautythatmoves.typepad.com/beauty_that_moves/2017/04/country-kitchen-a-seasonal-visit-to-the-center-of-home.html

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Harm from Helping

I read the headlines of the “sixty’s scoop’ hearing in Ontario and the judge ruling in favour of the plaintiffs and it felt like a win for the journey of reconciliation in child welfare. The headlines soon faded in my stream of Facebook news and posts, and the editorials and articles online were hard to find amongst news of President Trump’s latest antics and the winter storm in Atlantic Canada.

But the news has remained with me. Today, I spent some time reading the articles and googling related discussions; its seems like a victory for the survivors of the colonial child welfare legacy, it seems like recognition of the role of the government and social work in the traumatizing history of the field but it is also a drop in the bucket. There have been discussions of reconciliation in child welfare for the last decade; papers and conferences but really I still feel that there is so much to be done both at the macro level and on the level of individual social workers and the families we work with.

I feel passionate about this. I feel the weight and importance of truth and reconciliation, of the self identity of Canadian aboriginal peoples, of the touchstones of the reconciliation process. As a non aboriginal social worker I have felt drawn to do my part, and try and be part of the change needed in the field and in society in general.

But have also felt overwhelmed. What can I do, as a practising child protection worker? One gets lost in the busyness of day to day work in one’s receptive agency. Although there may be token discussions, teachings, and attempts at alternative interventions, it seems like on the whole, its marginally discussed and never follow through on.

And now, i again ask myself, where do I go from here. How to push my field and my colleagues into a real painful discussion of the realities of our professions’ history and how going forward it needs to be more than court cases and compensation. It has to be a clear understanding of the harm that can come from helping. What we have done, what we continue to do.

Yes, we, social workers have defined our selves as helpers. The helping profession. But as helpers one can do harm, and understanding this, will make us stronger and more open to better service in the future.

This fact or struggle is not new to me. I have felt it before. I worked and studied in the field of international development. I have traveled to learn and work with people in lands and cultures different than my own, and seen the good, bad and ugly there.

The maybe simplistic but nevertheless less true story still always holds true for me. We must beware of the good we try to do and what people really need.

You may think a village needs a well, and you are solving all the problems by giving them one all paid for. But what happens when you leave and the well breaks, and no one there has the skills to fix it, or you never thought of the polluted river as proving other services to people and how by just giving a well you have not addressed any of the other issues people are dealing with.

With development work, there are still ongoing debates on types of aid, development that really work. On the dangers of voluntourism, trying to help out and doing more damage than good.

I feel such a similar struggle here. Social workers are often quick to feel attacked when we try to address the history of our profession and the harmful outcomes of our helping ways.

But we must be able to face this, and engage in discussions with survivors and those healing from the generational trauma of these realities to understand and move on in better ways.

Where do I start? I have asked my self this. I must start with where I am now.

And my journey is shaped by the people I have met and who have changed me and showed me their strength and determination.

Last year, in my temporary role researching child welfare records and helping people understand their individual history with their local child protection agency I worked with an aboriginal man. It was a humbling and profound experience meeting with him in a coffee shop and sharing his painful youth in bits and pieces of facts I had been able to locate, a few dates, names, places, clippings of adoption attempts…
He shared his own journey, trying to now write down some of his past, having finally reached a time in his life where he felt proud, and confident in who he was, going through his own reconciliation journey. This history was necessary for himself, to understand his own past and own child welfare journey, for good or bad it had shaped his life forever. This meeting felt like important work to me. I knew it then and still feel it now. Barely a blip in the busyness of daily child welfare urgency it was real and had pain and hope and childhood all mixed up together. Reconciliation.

I also remember a women I met my first year as a child protection worker. A client, an aboriginal women, a mother struggling with generational trauma, addictions, abuse, so many things but through it all wanting to do right by her daughter and herself. I spoke to her and her partner once or twice over the years, She reconnected with her daughter went back to school, became a social worker with a MSW and works in the field now I believe. Wanting to change and challenge the system from within. Living the pain, seeing the unfairness she still wanted to be a helper, a change maker and do something. I think of her often and feel such strength from her journey.

I do take pride in my own journey to becoming a social worker, my own journey as a listener, facilitator of change and yes hopefully in some ways a helper too. But I try to balance this with the harm individually or collectively we can do and have done. This reconciliation journey needs to remain in the forefront of child welfare work and hopefully this hearing is the beginning.

 

 

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My boots.

This past autumn. if you were on Instagram, you may have seen a few of these pictures. I even googled it and there it was on the list fall photos you will see on everyone’s social media. What picture you may ask? The my boots in the leaves picture, or boots in autumn… it the shot taken of your own two feet, sporting your usually knee high or ankle boots, with colorful leaves all around on the ground. Nothing is wrong with this picture of coarse. Nothing at all. Infact. I have a pair of boots I love, you know the ones, the ones that you bought when you really wanted a pair of high boots, but they were always to expensive and not necessary and then one day, you just did it and bought a pair, paid too much and loved them so.boots

I had a pair of those, and wore them with skinny jeans or black leggings. They were loved.

This fall past, mine did not get worn, they did not even get brought up from the basement where they spend the summer months. I thought about them often and of those pictures on the Instagram feed but did not get the chance to take my own photo.

I lost my leg this fall. My right leg below the knee. It was very sudden and not at all expected. A small injury that felt like nothing, turned into something big overnight and before I knew it, surgeons were visited and surgery date booked and panic ensued. Then it was over. The panic left and reality settled in. No more boots, no more many things.

Everything has gone well, and my body adjusted and in fact feels quite good these days but life is different in a wheelchair and will be different once I get my prosthetic leg. Many things have changed and in some moments I do feel some grief. I allow myself a moment of sadness for the loss. Before looking up and thinking of walking next spring with my prosthetic leg down by the river. You know I think I will take a picture of that.

 

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having enough

Thinking a lot about happiness. In these times, in this society it feels like everything has to be “right now”. Instant gratification. A weird type of insanity we live in that everything is available and accessible to us all the time, every day. If we feel down, or upset, well we can go outside our door, and buy a coffee, grab a milkshake, we can buy a new tv or go on a vacation at a moment’s notice. When we plan our meal, shopping lists or time off everything is possible and available to us. We don’t think about waiting until we have the funds or until that special time of year. If we want an item whether its food, or something else we can get it. It is the on the store shelves or on amazon.ca. It creates such an insanity around us, where our identity becomes harder and harder to separate from others, from what we see available around us or what other people have.

need-vs-wantWhat we need vs want becomes blurry and the pace of life becomes full of quick fixes, instant treats, cravings that we seek to satisfy.

But this is not the way it is everywhere in the world, or for everyone around us. There are many reasons, people slow down, or places where availability is nothing like what we experience here. I have felt that recently, isolating myself due to my mobility restrictions. I feel the slowness and the purposefulness of waiting until I have a chance to go out, carefully making a list of necessities for a friend to pick up, or saving money for necessary medical items.

In some places you wait weeks until eggs are available again due to food shortages, where you save up two months to buy the pair of jeans in the store, where you preserve your food in cans and jars so that you have some when its cold and nothing grows outside.

Joel comes from a place where he experienced some of this. Although his childhood was full and plentiful, during his adolescence Cuba went through a time of scarcity and he remembers life changing, having to live without and make thing last longer. He has taught me about the value of his possessions. He doesn’t seek out a new shirt every couple of months and it doesn’t occur to him to seek happiness in the acquiring of things or desire a trip through the drive through for another coffee in the afternoon.

Of Course, I don’t aspire that we all live without the necessities, or that we don’t desire that everyone has access to what we have around us here. But there is something to be said, for slowing down, saving up, for waiting, for focusing on our needs, and fulfilling our wants at a different pace.

I feel the need to keep things with value, and let go of so much else. Trying to keep consumption in the background. The priority is time together and enjoying every day. When we do consume we try to keep shopping lists simples and balance out basics with treats, and not fulfill our every desire on every trip to the store.

The new year feels like a good time to reflect on these things….

 

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What about “the partner”?

What is commitment, marriage and for that matter Love?? What does it really mean to be chronically ill most of your life which forces you to change so many plans and make so many sacrifices.. what does that mean to the loved one, the husband, the partner, the one not ill at all, in fact perfectly healthy.. do things change?

Yo bet they do.

Our marriage, our love has changed, in many ways become stronger but it has suffered as well.

I think about:

  • all the drives to appointments and hospital visits – when I am silent in the passenger seat holding my abdomen, or wincing in pain or just passed out with exhaustion.
  • The waiting in waiting rooms…
  • the meal prep and grocery runs, whether alone or together….
  • all the heavy lifting, the heavy chores around the house, things that used to be done by both..
  • the restless nights, lack of sleep as he lies awake worried
  • monitoring low blood sugars, high blood pressures
  • reminding me of medications and vitamins
  • the piggy back lifts up the steep stairs when I can’t make it up the stairs or just need that extra boost
  • this is a big one.. leaving his job and staying home, despite judgements from others “why is he not out there making money etc” (now sure he has some other reasons as well for this choice) but no one really understands, his sacrifice to be with me, near me, to be there when all of a sudden I need to go to the ER. To drive me to countless appointments during the week. To be in the next room when I go to bed early and lie there groaning with pain. To rush downstairs when I need more insulin or pills.

I was sick when we met in Cuba, even thought I was working there, I had some health issues, one even sent me home that year and I came back after recovering. I had the liver disease when we met and he knew it would become more serious. But we married anyway. In love and full of hope he followed me to Canada to start again. He supported me through the liver disease worsening and the transplant and recovery. That was almost 5 years ago now. But it didn’t end like expected or at least stabilize. No, there was more to come. The kidney diagnosis came and we realized it wasn’t‘ getting better and it became a life of more doctors and more medications. Its a never ending thing. But he has been there. And is still here beside me.

For a long time I was an insecure bride, especially with the illness issue, I would question his willingness to stay with me, even push him to go back to his home country or pursue some adventure far away. I struggled with accepting unconditional love, loyalty and all that good stuff.

I do now. I know. I feel. I understand. Love is full of struggle, its deep and difficult. It can be painful and sad. It’s ache makes me yell and get angry sometimes, and cry in moments when I feel the rawness of mortality.

A while ago I wrote in my journal “Love is the ache I feel when at the end of the night just before I fall asleep, I roll over and lay a hand on my husband’s back as he is sleeping and feel the love and the possibility of loosing it” so true I think now. It is my worst fear – not being there beside him.

Even now with my illness and restless nights preventing him from always sleeping in our bed and we whisper our good-nights though the wall I feel the love all around me and feel blessed that I have him.

Joel is a great man. He is funny, strong, very smart. He is quiet and loves to be alone. A homebody but also a great storyteller, loves animals and has grown to enjoy Nature. I love his intellectual side, and his brilliance with financial analysis, numbers, and all that. I love that in many ways he is a child, in a man’s body. Laughing and playing with the dog on the floor, requesting his favorite food – burgers and milkshakes!!! We have had great adventures. Car trips, cooking together, watching movies, time in the park. I dream of more trips to Cuba to see his home, going to Europe and seeing some more of Ontario’s Parks.

But for right now it a day by day thing. Its finding joy in preparing dinners, its laughing at our dog and putting music on full blast to dance around the room for a minute.

This is my marriage. My continuing journey in true love. My partner Joel is the man I choose and the one who stands beside me.

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Ingredients needed for a great meal..

We eat everyday. Food sustains us. Especially with chronic illness.. food is important – a necessity. But it can also be messy and difficult. Appetite goes up and down. Some days you barely want to eat and other days you husband gasps as you ask for seconds and third helpings. Then there is the irritable bowls, and the cramps, diarrhea and bathroom disasters. But its all part of the messy world of health troubles.

The bonus. I do love food. Healthy food. Real Food. In university I was and well I still am fascinated with food politics and even did research into agriculture politics and trade etc. I am am passionate about food education, supporting local farms and education our children about where food comes from.

But here at home, the daily grind of meal prep and routines can be frustrating. There is no break.. one needs to eat every day. ( Lets not even start about the dishes)

Usually we try to make a couple of meals a week and in between eat leftovers, something from the freezer and once in a while we eat out.

What’s the key I think to myself.. what makes for a good food day?

  • Mix of leftovers and ingredients, perhaps some ideas from a recipe
  • Being together in the kitchen. My husband is great at meat prep and making “sofrito” ( Spanish name for the chopped onion, celery and sometimes green pepper which forms the basis for most sauces, soups and stews) and I am the “concept person” and organize the meal and collect ingredients etc…this team work forms the basis for a great meal!!
  • A few candles
  • ice water on the table
  • satisfaction as we see each other ask for or help ourselves to second servings
  • the thank you we say to each other at the end of the meal , feeling the connections and satisfaction of creating and enjoying a healthy meal

Some days… I tackle some baking, scones, cornbread, muffins, gluten free cheese puffs.. other days I go all out and make my favorite raw chocolate truffles. But mostly its putting on some music, rolling up our sleeves.. and once again making some yummy, easy , healthy food for our bellies.

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my word for 2016 …Create

word picture createcreat each day

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Down and up again.

I may get knocked down but I get up again… never going to keep me down.

Definitely one of my mantra’s .. I say it to my self many times as go through the ups and downs of my disease.

I wasn’t sure if I would come back to this page. Weeks turned into months, of not writing or glancing at the site and letting time just go buy without the reflection this site brings.

I spent summer of 2015 in the hospital. Dialysis bringing with it more than I bargained for. Nerve Pain and Nerve Damage.

Difficult. I won’t go into it. But two months of hospital life has its tole. Yes its a break from reality and day to day tasks but its lonely and isolating and the pain is well pain.

Also being limited to a wheelchair was difficult. There was a brief time I saw my mobility flash before me and disappear as an ability I had. But it came back. Work and time. Now mostly with a cain I make my way still wobbly and slow. But getting there.

Down # 2 for 2015….

Christmas Eve… the fridge and freezer full of ingredients ready for celebration meals with my husband and with my family and I have my ideas set for some restful Christmas days with food, movies, a few gifts and visits with friends.

Then boom. Pain. ER trips in the middle of the night. IV’s . Pain medication. Infection and well… hospital admittance. Peritonitis. An infection in my abdomen. Twelve days later I’m home again.

I feel weak, and somewhat disillusioned. I come home to a new year, cold winter temperatures and snow on the ground. Having missed the festive days, I am reluctant to take down the Christmas tree just yet and let myself enjoy its twinkling lights a few more days.

Slowly, I will resign myself to the new year and let its newness give me that boost to get going. I can invite family to a new year’s dinner and pull out that lentil loaf out of the freezer. I can still make the recipes I had in my head and can call up the friends to deliver the gifts.

I can and I will get back on “the horse”. I will make the phone calls and emails.. go to appointments and get a back to work plan in the works… 2016 here I come.

Here’s that song…

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Forced Slowness

A few weeks ago I was listening to this interview on Q on CBC radio. I stole the title of this blog post from the interview title as it resonated so strongly with me. Stuart Murdoch was being interviewed abut his music group – Belle and Sebastian’s new album and his life journey. The part that stuck me was the discussion about his struggle with ME – or chronic fatigue and how it it influenced his music and his life. He talked about a new life creeping in. Being forced to stay home, stop working and slow his life down. He likened it to being a “pensioner” and planing your day around small things. Dealing with the bare bones of life and laughing about it while still being violently positive. Wow. Violently positive. Can’t say I’m there yet. But this forced slowness thing. That is me right now for sure. It works some days. In between the pain and the treatments. I take each day as it comes. I embrace the spring sun. I sit outside on the porch and drink my tea in the morning. I stretch, do my exercise and try and make it to the park regularly even if its just to lie on the grass and embrace the green around me. Today I baked my first bread from scratch. Its in the oven now so I won’t say its worked but it looks good so far. I have been trying to focus on eating well, whole foods, reading a good book and being satisfied with simple things. Short outings or trips to the store. Volunteering for some transplant events in my community. Drives to see my brother play music and conversations with friends over coffee. I do worry my world gets too small, and try to keep eyes and ears open to the world outside my slowness bubble. I discuss, watch news and catch up on documentaries about things happening. I know NDP won in Alberta – wow! I follow the refugee crisis in Syria and the shipwreck in the Mediterranean. I worry about the families of the victims in Nepal. I also follow and know my co-workers are still dealing with the daily toils of full time social work in Kitchener Waterloo and all that that entails, with recent work changes and stress I know that things can be difficult. But here in my world, at least for now, I try and embrace this forced slowness and let it teach me knew things. gratitude

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Easter

Easter is one of those yearly family holidays. In addition to Christmas and Thanksgiving, Easter traditionally means traveling to see family and enjoy some laughter, food, eggs and chocolate.

This year I find myself reflecting as I often do about family, community and what it means to me.

People who know me probably know I grew up in a small family, with all extended family and relatives overseas. To far for holiday visits and Sunday dinners. I imagined different realities –  what I thought was the norm.. the grandparents close by, the Sunday meals, the big happy mess of everyone around.  Since  then of coarse I have discovered and understood the various realities of family and circles of support we all have and that nothing is perfect or simple.

I continued to live my live in somewhat of a small bubble.. and have struggled on and off with defining my family, how to bridge distance and isolation to create a community around me or that I feel a part of.

I have been blessed to meet incredible friends during my various adventures of work and school and I treasure the memories of times together very dear. But realities mean that years pass when I don’t see them and only catch glimpse of their lives on Facebook or in an occasional call, Skype video or email.

Recently with illness coming again and some hard months behind me, I find once again I ponder the age old dilemma of belonging.

A recent conversation reminded me of the work you have to do, to create and maintain you own community. As with any worth wile endeavor, relationships need care, effort and communication…

For me my supports and community goes beyond just blood relations. I feel lucky to have friends, co-workers, family who I enjoy spending time with, sharing a conversation or a meal.

But another element of the friends/family reality is not to expect too much. To support and enjoy and give your love but not wait for immediate returns or gratification. The love will return in its own time and surprise you with its brightness.

Focusing on your own happiness is the key, fining your own joys and projects to inspire and keep you busy. Maybe spring and Easter brings on all these wonderings.. with so many possibilities and new beginnings around me.

This week I tried something now. A few years ago a friend told me about “Meet Up’s” and how she used this internet site to connect with new friends when she moved to new communities for school or work. In her case she focused on knitting and hiking.. and often made new connections to broaden her community. I decided to give it ago and joined a language meet-up in my neighborhood where Spanish speakers get together for a coffee and conversation. Success!

So as Easter weekend nears, my hu1e3cb85a14d99d52bff35842ccac28b4sband and I are planning to enjoy a Easter brunch in our community and most likely a nice hike with the dog if the sun shines. And for me that sounds perfect.

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