Full circle — A bowl of oatmeal

by Kathy Larson

As a kid I ate a lot of oatmeal. Our family was large — eight kids, my mom and dad, usually a dog and one or two cats — and we were poor. Not destitute poor, or heartbreakingly poor, but with my dad being a Corporal in the Canadian Forces and my mom employed solely in the raising of us, well, there just wasn’t a lot of money.

Staple foods were a large part of our diet. Bread, potatoes, pasta, root vegetables, canned vegetables, hamburger, hotdogs, bologna, apples, oranges — these made up the base of many of our meals. And then there was oatmeal. Until I was in my teens and the financial situation got a little better in our house we had oatmeal almost every day for breakfast.

You’d think my brothers and sisters and I would hate the stuff, but there’s not one of us that does. For sure, they don’t eat it every day anymore, but in talking to them recently they all said how they love a bowl of hot oatmeal (with lots of brown sugar and milk, of course) every now and then.

The stuff my mom made was always the Quaker brand 5 minute oats — she could whip up a big pot of that in no time and we would all help ourselves from the pot as we filed downstairs each morning before heading out the door to school or play. The bag of brown sugar was on the middle of the table — a big old picnic table my dad had assembled in the kitchen — the only thing big enough to seat us all at — along with a bag of milk in its little plastic holding jug.

Bagged milk! Still sold in Ontario. Not sure about Manitoba where we grew up. It would be delivered twice a week to our door, two three packs at a time, and still we would run out in between. Eight kids — thats a lot of bones.

For a while after I left home I didn’t eat oatmeal at all. It was beneath me. Oh, the ridiculous ideas we have when we’re young. Then I got married and started a family of my own and oatmeal entered the picture again. It was the perfect food for a toddler — and I could put anything in it — bananas, strawberries, chocolate syrup — and my son would gobble it up. The only thing he wouldn’t eat in it was raisins. He would spit those at me every time.

Though I started out making the quick-cooking oats just as my mom had, one day I switched to buying the instant type oatmeal. It came in so many flavours and was so ridiculously fast to make that I couldn’t help thinking what a no-brainer it was. It was shortly after that that my son decided he didn’t like oatmeal anymore. And I had to agree with him, I no longer liked it as much, either. It didn’t taste like oatmeal should. It was gluey and salty and chemical tasting. I went back to making the stuff I had to cook myself, but the damage was done and pouring from a box was just simpler, so we switched to cold cereal. To this day I don’t think my son has ever eaten oatmeal again.

About 15 years ago my husband went through a phase of eating oatmeal. Every. Single. Day. He had read an article about what a super food it was and so once a month while watching Star Trek on television he would make up a month’s worth of little plastic bags of oatmeal mixed with raisins, craisins, nuts, dried fruit and artificial sweetener. Every morning he’d grab one of these bags, nuke his oatmeal in the microwave and eat it as he made the drive into town to work. We went through a lot of lost bowls during that phase. Eventually, he grew tired of eating the same thing every morning and those little bags of oatmeal languished in the pantry til well beyond the best-before date.

Despite not having oatmeal as a breakfast staple anymore I always kept a bag of it on hand. For cookies, to add to meatloaf, to add to bread when I baked it and for that occasional nostalgic moment when I longed for the feeling of comfort and home that nothing but a bowl of hot, brown-sugary oatmeal could supply.

Lately, I’ve returned to eating oatmeal most mornings. A couple of years ago my doctor prescribed cholesterol medication and that got me thinking about how to avoid having to take it. (Unfortunately, according to my doctor and a bunch of on-line research, avoidance isn’t good practice) so I grudgingly take it. Still, it made me take a hard look at what and how I eat and I’ve made changes. One of those changes is to include oatmeal in my morning routine.

Just about every day, after my morning glass of water and my first cup of coffee are out of the way, I make myself a bowl of oatmeal. I add a handful of seeds and nuts, some dried fruit, a teaspoon of brown sugar and splash of some form of milk alternative.

It’s not the same as mom used to make, but it sure is inspired by her.

Crockery

by Kathy Larson

I don’t mind
the crooked bowl,
the cup with a chip, or
the mismatched plates.

It’s the life I chose.

The life I love.

These small
imperfections
These minor
flaws
Are daily reminders
that though
I thought
I sought
perfection,
Perfection,
it turns out,
is just
a bunch of
crock – ery.

Van Morrison and my heart remembers

by Kathy Larson

I asked Google
to play some music.

She chose
Van Morrison.
And a memory
of you pops like a tiny
iridescent bubble.
I see you, smiling,
that Mennonite rebel
farm boy
who swept me off the dusty streets
of our small prairie town
and into the front seat of his
souped-up ’67 Dart Swinger.
Oh, I loved you.
Loved your wild hair,
your cupid-bow smile,
your dusty, brown shoes
with the platform heels.

You were trying so hard
to break free,
be different,
but your plaid shirt
and dirty jeans
your sad eyes
and the weekends spent at home
on the farm:
you knew.
We both did.

At 15 I thought
I was a woman,
At 19 you thought
you knew what it was
to be mature. To be
a man.
Oh, I smile at that.
But never laugh, no,
never laugh.

I heard,
years ago,
that you made a life for yourself
on the farm.
Beautiful Mennonite bride
beautiful Mennonite children
to carry on the legacy
you thought you could deny.
As sad as that makes me,
I’m happy for you.

But, today
when I heard that familiar, raspy voice,
the one that you introduced me to,
I couldn’t help but wonder
how you are
and if your heart
remembers.


Early Morning

by Kathy Larson

The more things
change. . .
The
more
they
stay
the
same.

Doing dishes at 5:30
on a Saturday morning
is not one of them.

I left
the kitchen
in a mess
last night
after eating
takeout pasta
and watching
a movie
we’d seen
before.

Too tired.
Too lazy.
Too bored.
To clean up.
Like I should have.

Ah, well.
Something to do
this morning
when all the thoughts
crowding my head
refused to let me
sleep.

There’s something
that hasn’t changed.

I stayed home; my politicians didn’t

Talk about starting the New Year off on a sour note. Politicians all across Canada decided to take ‘well-earned and necessary’ vacations during the holidays. Even though they knew it was wrong.

I don’t believe any of the bullshit excuses that have been offered to explain away their stupidity; it all boils down to one thing and one thing only — elitism. Because they are in positions of power the rules just don’t apply. They all know that the little people (you and me) are powerless to do anything about their transgressions. And, so what if they get their hands slapped? They still got a tan, still got to enjoy swim-up bars, sun, sand and an escape. Yeah, they’ll face a few angry letters and phone calls, but, in the end, it will be business as usual. They’ll continue to take our money and our trust and laugh while they’re doing it.

I have taken government restrictions seriously. My family and friends have done the same. We gave up gathering together to celebrate EVERYTHING because we were told it was our responsibility and our duty in order to protect the most vulnerable amongst us. I have been sad, angry, depressed, morose, miserable, and fearful for the better part of a year. I want to plan holidays, I want to travel across Canada to visit my mother and siblings, I want to go out for dinner; I want my life back.

Should I just say to hell with it, I’ve done enough? Start ignoring the restrictions, stop wearing a mask, hop on a plane, defy government orders?

Or should I become a politician? Apparently, it makes you immune in a pandemic – no shots required.

Christmas Countdown — Day ?

by Kathy Larson

Predictably, I am behind in my goal to write every day about the Christmas/holiday themed movies we’ve been watching. What can I say? Life happens.

But I am here now, at the keyboard, attempting to remember everything we’ve watched and what I/we thought about it. Here goes: (these are in no particular order)

  1. Big Bake Holiday — I watched an episode of this just to see what it was all about. As the name suggests it’s about baking big things. In this case it was cakes, and they had to have an animated feature. The three teams who squared off in the episode I watched made a shotgun house in New Orleans complete with a working iconic street lamp; a California beach house with a little pink convertible that glowed in the dark; and the team from Thunder Bay, Canada(!) made a Japanese pagoda with a top that rotated. It was interesting to see how these bakers accomplished their designs, but the most amazing thing about it all for me was the fact the cakes were edible. That was an important criteria, and I guess, for people who have enough money to hire someone to make them a 4 or 5 foot tall cake with movable parts and working lights it would be an expectation. The team from Canada won, which made me smile, but I won’t be watching this show again.
  2. Black Christmas — we decided to mix things up a little and watch a horror/slasher movie. This wasn’t dreadful, but it wasn’t good, either. I was saddened to see Cary Elwes, of The Princess Bride fame in this one. Elwes is a good actor, I don’t know why he continues to make such dreadful movies as this one and The Purge series. Anyway. . .
    . . .this movie takes place at a college, Hawthorne College, to be exact and it is Christmas break. Most of the girls have left for the holidays and the plot centers around a few who either not going home or taking their sweet ol’ time getting on the road. Girls start getting mysteriously, and hilariously, killed, but no-one notices until it’s too late. There is a plucky heroine, who has suffered terribly in the past at the hands of a not-so-nice super-popular guy from one of the best fraternities, and her band of merry sisters, who save one, are all dispatched by the evil bad guys led by, you guessed it — Cary Elwes.
    Like I said it’s not dreadful, but unless you’re desperately in need of a switch from holiday goo, I’d avoid this one.
  3. The Holiday — this one is favourite of mine. I’ve seen it several times and it always makes me laugh and cry and feel really good when it’s over. Cameron Diaz, Kate Winslet, Jude Law, and Jack Black are the primary characters and Eli Wallach stars as an old Hollywood writer who Kate Winslet befriends.
    Released in 2006 it is the story of two women who are terrible at being in love and who decide to swap places for the holidays and try to forget about the men in their lives. Iris (Kate) is from Surrey, England, while Amanda (Cameron) is from, you guessed it, LA. It’s a sweet, rather predictable story, but the acting is wonderful and Kate Winslet is a joy to watch. As is Jude Law — that man is gorgeous! You’re not going to go wrong cuddling up with someone special to watch this movie.
  4. Santa Fake — this is a puzzling little movie. It’s available on Prime and was released in 2019. It stars Damian McGinty (Celtic Thunder), John Rhys-Davies, Jeff Fahey, Heather Morris and Judd Nelson.
    This is a story about a young Irish lad come to America who gets mixed up with a New York crime boss, ends up on the run and then disguises himself as a shopping mall Santa Claus in Santa Fe, New Mexico in order to avoid the hitmen sent to kill him. It sounds like it should be a helluva lot of fun, but it’s actually just kind of a mess. McGinty sings — thank goodness — because that makes sitting through this holiday mess of a movie more than a little tolerable.
    This is family friendly entertainment, it’s gentle and humourous and it’s not going to make you think too terribly hard. If you watch this one, you’ll probably be scratching your head at the end going: whaaaat?
    The bonus of watching this one? Doing a YouTube search after for performances by Celtic Thunder. They are amazing.

    Hallelujah!

Christmas Countdown — Day 5

by Kathy Larson

On day five we watched Love the Coopers. If you haven’t seen this one it was released in 2015 and stars Diane Keaton and John Goodman. They are a 60-ish couple whose relationship is in crisis and they are hosting what is to be one final family Christmas before they part ways. There is an eclectic cast of supporting characters that make up their extended, slightly wacky family.

This is a fun, funny movie, not too heavy on the syrup and with just enough charm that you don’t mind watching it again. Are the Coopers maybe a tad too wonderful? Perhaps, but we don’t really mind as we watch their various stories unfurl and they all find the happily ever after ending that we want them to find. This is Christmas, after all.

The performances in this movie are all good, all believable. Diane Keaton always amazes me with how beautiful she is and how absolutely effortless her acting seems. John Goodman does a good job as her husband of 40 years who is only giving up on their marriage because he can’t seem to get her attention anymore. All the other characters are well acted and believable, even if they are a little unbelievable. Even Rags, the dog, who narrates the story and is voiced by Steve Martin, is impeccable. He is a beautiful looking dog, has incredibly expressive eyes, and steals scenes while he’s stealing food off plates.

It was nice to curl up on the couch with my blanket and mug of warm cider and watch this one. I laughed, I cried and then I went to bed feeling I’d been fairly entertained.

Love the Coopers was playing on standard cable, but we opted to find it on Netflix so that we didn’t have to watch a bunch of commercials. Hope you enjoy it.

Are those sleigh bells I hear?