Emotional Armour by Deborah Clague

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My intuition has served me well over the past few years.
It has offered guidance, warning, assurance.

I trust it.

I trust it more than the attrition of an honest man or the poetry of a player. It is because my instinct is so well-honed that the future has become unnerving for me. Just out of view, but with its shadow looming, I sense a darkness approaching. 


Every Fall, I return to Winnipeg to visit my mom. I enjoy spending Halloween with her and witnessing her glee as she decorates the house with all things frightful (this year included a life-size skeleton and dangling paper pumpkins that she hung above the doorways, similar to how one hangs mistletoe at Christmas). She is also immensely happy handing out candy to the neighbourhood kids that come to her door, informing me of every detail of their costumes. It is somewhat contradictory to the level of detail that is provided for other areas of her life though. Areas that concern me greatly but that are laughed off as comical circumstance.

At the start of my visit, my mother reminded me about how she structures her week. There is often a bus trip to the nearest shopping mall to stock up on groceries and other items of need, never want. My mother lives frugally. On one recent occasion she was terribly embarrassed by tripping and falling as she exited the bus. She blamed construction that was adjacent to the stop but was quick to praise the driver who got up to ensure that she was okay. I prodded further, but she quickly dropped the subject and the conversation was closed. 

Once might be a folly, but a few days later she told me of another incident of tripping and falling as she exited the bus. "I bruised my leg," she stated with a slight laugh "but I'm okay." I sensed that these were words she told herself for reassurance but that she was, in actuality, scared. Scared of aging. Scared of being alone. Scared of the unknown. My mother has been an absolute trooper in her life of undeserved tragedy. I feel especially protective about her wellness and peace of mind. 

"You need to visit your doctor, mom. You need a check-up. I don't want you getting hurt."

This didn't go over very well and, as before, walls went up. Her tone becoming increasingly agitated by my questioning of her ability. And so I dropped it, not wanting to risk congeniality for the sake of argument. But as the week wore on, I continued to look for signs in her language that may be speaking to a bigger truth. 


I think a lot.
About things great and small.

It is in this solace with my thoughts that I realize something is amiss.


I was very excited to spend one evening cooking with my mom. Me. The mooch who never even made my own peanut butter sandwiches growing up now showing my mom that I can create a dish worthy of Gordon Ramsay's praise. He's one of her weird crushes. Another I have to mention, because it's so cute and needs to be recorded for posterity, is Josh Flagg of Million Dollar Listing Los Angeles. She knows he's gay. She enjoyed watching his wedding on the show.  

As I started prepping vegetables, I watched as my mom struggled to set the oven. Her eyes trying to focus, her finger shaking slightly as she contemplated which buttons to press. 

"Do you need help?" I asked. 

"NO." she replied firmly. "I know how to do it."

I continued seasoning the potatoes we were about to roast while also observing. It took her a long time to perform a task that I assumed she did regularly. I tried bringing the matter up again, albeit indirectly, but my mom realized my trickery and again communicated that she was fine and not to bother worrying about her. It is hard not to though. My mom is one of my reasons for living. The love in my heart exists for her. She is the only connection to my past and the living embodiment of memories from a bygone era. 

In addition to being greatly concerned about her physical and mental health, I harbour my own fears while watching her.

I am also scared of aging. I am scared of being alone. I am scared of the unknown. 


Of late, my intuition has been gently telling me to ready my emotional armour. It has a few chinks in it. I trust it will be strong enough for whatever lays ahead. 

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Book Recommendations by Deborah Clague

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Zen in the Art of Writing
Written by Ray Bradbury

Writing is my favourite hobby. This blog was started about a decade ago just to give me a place to share my travels and photography. Since then I've experienced much growth and now utilize this space on the web as a means to articulate and record all facets of my life, good or bad. While this has provided much practice, I do want to write an actual, honest-to-goodness published book one day and have started learning from the masters in terms of refining my craft. Author Ray Bradbury is a prolific writer who has published scores of stories, novels, plays, poems, films and musicals (he even helped develop the Spaceship Earth ride at Disneyworld!). His essays in this book detail an approach to life where the muse is ever-present and feeding into one's imagination. Not a small task (especially when writer's block is present) but his candor and style of speech were very engaging and inspiring. 

Favourite line: "The one person irreplaceable to the world, of which there is no duplicate. You." 


The Crime Book

Once a year or so, I go through a phase where I read up on true crime. The psychological aspects of it are fascinating to me, even though the feats of evil that some are capable of genuinely horrifies me. In fact, of all the books I've ever read there have been two where I had to immediately rid them off my property out of a weird fear that the negative energy contained within their pages would somehow manifest in my life (for the record, those books are "Invisible Darkness" by Stephen Williams and "On The Farm" by Stevie Cameron). This book by multiple authors and published by DK is more palatable in its writing and reference, acting as a summary of history's darkness without getting into too much detail. I always enjoy the design of DK's releases and look forward to reading more books from this series. 

Favourite line: I never really read up on the Italian Mafia so that section was a trip on organized crime. 


Pornland
Written by Gail Dines

I read this book after watching an engaging TedTalk by the author, who holds a PhD and is also a professor of sociology and women's studies in the U.S.. In both, she examines the damaging effects of hardcore "gonzo" pornography on society, how it influences men's behaviour towards women and subsequently women's view towards themselves. Pornography itself is not a bad thing; sex is not a bad thing. But misogyny and violence are. This book intelligently details how all are connected. 

Favourite line: "A sexuality based on equality ultimately requires a society that is based on equality."

Homecooking: Roasted Turkey and Rice Soup by Deborah Clague

I've never been a big soup fan. Soup is never something I seek out when I dine at a restaurant and I've never really had one that I felt like raving to friends about. But that was before I started learning how to cook ... now, soup – fresh, made from scratch soup – is one of my favourite things to make and indulge in.

Today was a snowy, cold Saskatchewan day so I made a roasted turkey and rice soup that included Canadian heirloom garlic*, white onion, carrots, celery, freshly squeezed lemon, grated ginger, bay leaf and a special summer savoury seasoning from Nova Scotia that was gifted by a colleague. It was healthy, hearty and absolutely delicious! The flavouring could not be more perfect and left my tummy feeling so good. This dish will definitely go into regular rotation for me this winter. 

The base was another easy-to-follow recipe by twopeasandapod that I modified to my tastes. 

*I am totally becoming a garlic connoisseur. The robust flavour of this particular variety is amazing. 

I squeezed one last bit of fresh lemon into the soup before serving with garlic bread. 

I squeezed one last bit of fresh lemon into the soup before serving with garlic bread. 

Preparing the ingredients. In total, this soup took two hours to make from start-to-finish. 

Preparing the ingredients. In total, this soup took two hours to make from start-to-finish. 

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by Deborah Clague

I had one of the most amazing weeks of my life and there are a number of people that have helped me get here. They know who they are and I thank them deeply and sincerely for all they've contributed to my life. I wouldn't be where I am today without your friendship, wisdom and love. 

Time to level up. 

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Fireflies and Blue Jays by Deborah Clague

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I grew up in St. Norbert, the southernmost suburb of Winnipeg, Canada. My childhood home was across the street from a forested park in which I played nearly every day as a child. I could even be found there at dusk and the early hours of night. It might not seem safe to me today, to be this solo kinder adventurer, but back then I enjoyed exploring and living primarily through my imagination and instinct (which, it could be argued, I still do today but with the added insurance of adult wisdom). My mom still lives in my childhood home and whenever I visit I take the dogs for a walk through that same forest, down those same paths. I marvel at how much smaller it feels and how much my perspective, figuratively and literally, has evolved over the years.

There was an experience I had underneath its canopy a few years ago that has stayed with me. While I'm sure a scientific explanation can be found, my mind, at this time, refuses to believe it was nothing short of supernatural. Magic tends to happen in the dark and on this night, I needed a breath of fresh air hoping that it would help ease me into the sleep I had been sorely deprived of. It had been a hard week. Specifically, the time in between my father's passing and funeral. The time where one remains in denial at the loss but the reality of its permanence starts to set in. I took his dog, Reggie, a 90lb lab-cross, for a late night walk. As we made our way through the stillness of the forest, I noticed something caught in his thick, black fur. It was a firefly. Before taking it off, I stared at it for a bit. I hadn't seen a firefly since I was a pre-teen and they lit up the campground we were staying at while on vacation in Montana. I had never, EVER, seen one in this park. I would have remembered it. I would have made a point to regularly partake in this show of nature if I had. As it flickered, I noticed a few more and then the forest became alive with them. It was surreal. I felt it was a sign. A farewell from my father perhaps. The bioluminescence of the insects acting as a beacon to remind and reassure me that life is, indeed, beautiful and that he would never be too far away. 

He hasn't been. 

It is now 2017 and I have not seen them since. Not at any hour. Not in any season. I have, however, noticed some new creatures frequenting the area near my childhood home. Like a pair of blue jays that have nested nearby. They are beautiful birds and not uncommon but I don't recall seeing them around these parts before ... 

Homecooking: Pumpkin Cinnamon Buns by Deborah Clague

Guests at my house have a four in ten chance of sipping out of a mug with my dog's face on it. 

Guests at my house have a four in ten chance of sipping out of a mug with my dog's face on it. 

As mentioned in a previous post, I have had a few disasters in my kitchen while learning to cook. Just last week, I tried using up the remainder of the Moroccan spice blend I created on an exotic version of fish-and-chips. My potatoes ended up dry as heck and the cod I used just wasn't the right choice for this particular culinary experiment. I was disappointed as it made its way into the bottom of my trash bin, however, I look forward to attempting it again. Just as I didn't stop after I made my first disastrous batch of pumpkin cinnamon buns. 

I love cinnamon buns. Like, I REALLY love them. They are in my top three of desserts (next to Italian tricolour cookies and authentic French eclairs), being both delicious and bringing back memories of yesteryear when the sticky roll played a supporting role during some pivotal moments of my life such as at social gatherings or after poignant break-ups when I stuffed my face with them. The absolute best cinnamon buns are located in Winnipeg at KUB Bakery. The insides are ooey-goeey and the surface is covered with a delectable apple topping. This is the benchmark I'm aiming for. 

As I was visiting my mom during Halloween, I thought I would make a seasonal variation with pumpkin to share with her. I have never had these before, much less made them, but I found an online recipe that seemed easy to follow. Seemed. Perhaps to a more seasoned chef, it would have been but I have never worked with yeast before and my first dough was a dry mess that kept breaking as I tried to knead it: 

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I suppose I could have let it harden a bit more and made a soccer ball out of it. Oh well. 

I aborted that mission and decided to try again the next day using a new recipe by The Pioneer Woman that a colleague provided. My dough ended up perfect. The only changes I made were adding raisins and subtracting the glaze topping in hopes of also subtracting a few calories (although this dessert isn't healthy by any means; the amount of butter is insane). It was a very fulfilling process to make this from scratch. While the end taste wasn't entirely up to my expectations – I want to be as good, or better, than KUB – recipients who tried the buns really liked them. Now that I know the base, I can play. 

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🇨🇦 by Deborah Clague

Congratulations to Canada's newest permanent resident, my good friend Dr. Paul, who already takes to our long, cold winters better than I do. 

Congratulations to Canada's newest permanent resident, my good friend Dr. Paul, who already takes to our long, cold winters better than I do. 

Homecooking: Moroccan Baked Chicken by Deborah Clague

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I've decided to "share my work" as I learn how to cook and bake. Every week I try something new. In some instances, like this example that I made from scratch this weekend, the results are amazing – the combination of spices was fragrant and flavourful. At other times though ... the results have been a bit disastrous (will get to this another day). Regardless, in less than a year, I feel I have made great progress. 

For Moroccan baked chicken, I used an easy online recipe by The Stay At Home Chef for the meat portion and my trusty 'Posh Rice' cookbook for the rest. This has become my main go-to resource for dinner. There are infinite ways in which to dress up this staple and I am on a mission to try them all. This version incorporated basmati with allspice, red onion, garlic, cucumber and chicken stock. I bastardized the original recipe slightly and substituted pine nuts and pumpkin seeds for sliced almonds, and cranberries for pomegranate which I couldn't find in the grocery. Once done, I garnished with fresh coriander. 

I'm in the process of limiting meat intake but when I do, I use certified humane. This is a personal choice which might seem naive but I believe that if an animal is sacrificed for my pleasure, then the least I can do is support a better life for it while alive. This chicken was marinated overnight with a mixture of lemon juice, smoked paprika, cumin, turmeric, cayenne pepper, cinnamon and ginger. The following day, I squeezed more lemon juice overtop and placed pieces of the fruit with the chicken in the oven for forty minutes (400 degrees). 

My dinner companion was greatly impressed and proceeded to eat all the leftovers the following day, leaving me to make a sandwich. While I might normally be annoyed, I made him do handyman work in my condo all weekend so I figured it was a fair trade (bartering is another skill I am mastering). My own personal review is that this chicken was some of the best I've ever eaten. The marinade was perfect. I will next attempt it on some of my other favourites. 

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