Thursday, December 31, 2009

A reason to live

You know, I've just been thinking. I feel at my best when I'm doing things for other people. When I'm living for something more than just myself. When I'm feeding into other people's lives.

And isn't that the answer for all of us who have trouble finding a reason to live? Isn't that the best place to find a purpose for our lives?

Yesterday I started feeling somewhat down. I felt a need for something meaningful to do. So I put together that awful picture of the cross and the scrunched up woman (see yesterday's post). It didn't feel good. But later, when I posted something that I knew would lift up my readers' spirits, I felt so much better.

Today I want to get together with a friend who's feeling down. Although I care about how she feels and am sad for her, at the same time I now have a very clear thing I need to do this day. It's helping someone, and that gives meaning to my life. It gives me a purpose for the day. It helps me stop thinking about myself and about my own needs.

Where do you find purpose for your life? What gives your life most meaning?

Just sharing

Good morning everyone. I woke up this morning just wishing to share another picture. This one was taken in the Chilcotin area of British Columbia. Aspen trees in fall, with the colourful aspen leaves at the base. Almost look like flowers, eh?

Hope you'll have a great day.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

This is better

I hope my last picture didn't depress you too much. Just can't let that stand on its own. Here's a happier one.

Trying to be creative

MerelyMe, the writer of a blog on Health Central started a discussion today about creativity. I read it just after I had woken up from a nap, feeling very much called to do something creative. Writing some reflections. Playing with photographs. The writing did not come today, but the photography did.

This photo does not at all describe the way I feel or the way I've been feeling lately. It's a composite of two pictures I took many years ago when life was a lot harder and darker for me. I'd like to write something to go with it, but don't know if I should. Shouldn't we write something that reflects a feeling we have in the here and now? Wouldn't that be more honest than dredging out thoughts and feelings I used to have that are no longer part of my truth?

Or would this speak to others who may be in this place? Would it be of value to them?

Anyway, putting this together was an exercise. Perhaps it will fuel more honest expression, expressions that show where I am today.

Hope this doesn't depress you.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Sweet, sweet memories

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas, ready to celebrate the coming of the New Year. I've been wanting to blog. Thought of it many times, but something always kept me from doing so. Laziness perhaps?

What I've been wanting to tell you is that the drastically untraditional Christmas I cooked, the one I was so worried about, though I kept telling myself I wasn't worried, had rave reviews. My daughter-in-law, a cook extraordinaire, award-winning food blogger and writer for the Food Network, even praised it up and down. How good I felt! How happily we feasted! And the wine, a BC Pinot Noir from Mission Hill was perfect.

Tonight we heated up and finished off the last of the sweet potatoes. That dish was so delicious I'd like to share the recipe with you. I based it on a recipe I found on but made so many changes to it I can honestly call it my recipe. The neat thing about it is all the spices: cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger, which I used liberally. Now the quantities are approximate, since I didn't measure carefully at all.

Marja's Sweet Potatoes

4 pounds red-skinned sweet potatoes (yams) peeled, cut into 1-inch pieces
ca 1/2 cup packed golden brown sugar
5 tbsp margarine
ca 3/4 cup orange juice
1 slightly rounded tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
ca 1/2 tsp nutmeg
ca 1/2 tsp ground ginger

Arrange potatoes in a 9 x 13 glass baking dish. Combine sugar, margarine, orange juice salt, and spices in a small heavy saucepan and bring to boil over medium heat. Boil, stirring until sugar dissolves. Pour over potatoes; toss to coat. Cover dish tightly with foil and bake for 50 minutes in a 375 degree oven. Uncover and bake until potatoes are tender and syrup has thickened slightly, basting occasionally - about another 15 or 20 minutes.

This is excellent with ham - for your Easter dinner perhaps?

Thursday, December 24, 2009

The most important thing

You know, the older I get the less I worry about the foods I serve. The less I worry about everything turning out perfectly. I just do my best.

I wonder about how my meal is going to turn out tomorrow. How's all that sweet stuff going to go down? I wonder if my daughter-in-law, the gourmet cook and prize-winning food blogger, is going to laugh along with me if it doesn't all turn out as it should....if it's just far too much sweet stuff.

Actually, I do sound a bit worried, don't I? But not a nervous kind of worry. All will be fine.

The older I get, the more I look forward to the company and not the meal. The togetherness. The sharing. The enjoyment of time around the table, whatever the food.

Just some thoughts as I prepare all I can before tomorrow comes.

Have a happy Christmas day everyone.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A sweet christmas dinner

I'm doing something outrageously different this Christmas. I've decided to have spare ribs insteady of our traditional turkey dinner. Somehow cooking turkey, brussels sprouts, mashed potatoes, and all those things I've always done seemed awfully boring to me. Time for a change. Time for something more colourful.

I will make the spare ribs in the slowcooker. Have it going all day, making the house smell wonderful. Along with the meat I'm planning to serve rice, sweet potatoes with marshmallows, a broccoli salad, copper pennies (sweet sliced carrots) and pineapple. All sweet stuff, except for garlicky bread sticks made from a pane di casa baguette.
For dessert we're having cheese cake, cream puffs, Christmas cookies, and chocolates.

Good thing none of us is diabetic!

Neat thing about this menu is that much of it can be done ahead. I won't have too much cooking to do on the actual day. I can relax and enjoy.

What are you having this Christmas that's different than the traditional?

Monday, December 21, 2009

Radio interview tonight

I should have posted this earlier, but if you read this before 7pm PST tonight, please listen in when I'm interviewed on CJSF radio. You can get it online at live. Or check it out later. The website has links to previously aired broadcasts. This program is Sound Therapy, the December 21st edition.

I'm doing well. Busy enough but not too busy. Just plain enjoying the Season. Hope you're doing the same.

(Sorry. I tried to insert a link but it ain't working.)

Monday, December 14, 2009

Christmas peace

This year's Christmas time is so much better for me than the last several years have been. I'm so grateful. I can't tell you how happy I am about that.

You know, I think what's really helping is the gift my husband gave me last year. Not an ordinary kind of gift at all. He gave me permission not to celebrate Christmas.

I had been doing so poorly, struggling so much with depression, a depression that had started a couple of months before the Advent season. I was truly a mess. Out of concern my husband said to me: "Marja, we don't have to do Christmas this year. We won't send out cards, we won't decorate, you don't have to bake. All we'll do is buy a few gifts for our son and his wife and for your mom." It was such a release to hear him say that. To think I could just forget about all the stress and busyness.

The interesting thing that happened was that within days I started to want to do Christmassy things. We didn't do cards and we didn't put lights on the house. But I did bake a few of my favourite cookies. And we had a tree and decorated the house. I was free to do as I wished.

Then, lo and behold, I decided to make calendars for my friends, using my photographs and bits and pieces from the Psalms. Immersing myself in this creative effort gave me comfort. It took away stressful feelings, making me forget about everything else. I found refuge in the work and I ended up with some very creative gifts for a dozen friends.

I think one of the things that makes Christmas so hard is the expectations we have of ourselves and expectations we believe others have of us. It's that long series of "have to's" that make the season so stressful. Celebration needs to come from a heart that "wants to" celebrate. How else can we truly, with a happy heart, celebrate.

Christmas is a holy time. It's a time to worship. It's a time to love. It's a time to draw close to God and to each other. I'm finding myself wanting more quiet times than ever this year. And those quiet times interspersed between the busy times make the celebration even more enjoyable.

This year I'm enjoying every little thing. I'm busy, but not too busy. I'm taking the days one at a time, with some work and time with friends, and some quiet time to journal and pray, listen to music, or watch a Christmas movie on TV.

I pray that you, too, are able to celebrate the Advent season with a heart that is joyful and at peace. Try not to think about what you have to do, but what you want to do.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Last blooms

I love the look of frost on flowers - on any kind of vegetation actually. These are the last flowers in our garden. The last bit of colour, except for the hollyberries on the holly tree. Winter is really here. It's cold and there's talk of snow in the forecast.

Although most photographers would frown on photographing such poor, half-dead specimens I find a kind of truth there that we shouldn't overlook. Why are people so afraid of focusing on the dying? There's a beauty there. It gives expression to something all of us go through. And if a picture like this expresses something real, something we go through occasionally, then it's just as important to photograph as perfection. I believe in the candid, the authentic, truth. I want real.

If you read my comments on my last post, you will already know that the conference was a wonderful success for me. I met many people, made many good connections, even doing a radio interview with a university radio broadcaster. This was definitely a good place for me - and for Living Room - to be.

I said to my pastor today, "I guess I had nothing to worry about, eh?" But on thinking about that, I wonder if I would have prayed as earnestly as I did if I hadn't been worried about it. The worrying helped me to prepare in every way I could.

I thank God for being with me, for giving me the confidence I had prayed for. I thank him for the oodles of support I received. The oodles of prayer.

Now it's time to focus on Christmas. So good to be feeling well this year. The past two or three years were very difficult for me at Christmas time. This year is different. I've had a few problems in the past few weeks, but I think they were probably situational - stress related to the conference and my husband being away. Now there's nothing holding me back from enjoying the long as I take life one day at a time.