A photo essay of what's been filling up my blog silence.
I see you there, with your screwed-up face and your well-coiffed hair and your impatient gesture each time someone in the line in front of you dares to order one more thing. I was much like you for many years, and once in a while, I see your eyes looking back at mine from the mirror. May I remember that Kindness is Never Wasted. I hope you learn this, too, my Lady.
I almost missed it... but I didn't!
Apparently, it is only "National Tea Day" in Britain today.
"International Tea Day", as celebrated by several Asian and African countries, is December 15.
Me? I'm good with celebrating both. Because the only thing better than one day a year to celebrate tea?
Two days. Am I right?
SAKA: But I'm getting tired of tea, Uncle!
UNCLE: (Incredulous) Tired of tea?!! That's like getting tired of breathing!!!
I just found the most adorable shop on Etsy, with beautiful and original graphic pillow and cushion covers. I highly recommend you check out Soeur à la Soeur . Here is one of my favourites (which, ironically, is very different in style from any of the other pillows I saw in their shop, but this one just seemed like it needed to be posted on this particular blog. I think you'll understand why.)
Yesterday, I wrote this poem and posted it on my music blog. For those of you who didn't see it over there, here it is.
The Reality of Being Me
By Talena Winters. ©2012
Sunday starts the week off busy
My “to-do list” makes me dizzy
Some church, some tea--do you suppose
Today I’ll find time to compose?
Monday, up with both feet running
Clean the house until it’s stunning
Drink some tea and help with school
Maybe take kids to the pool.
Grind the flour and bake the bread
I’d really rather be in bed!
“Wake up my inner songwriter?”
Oops—forgot to notify ‘er!
Tuesday, things don’t look much better
Good thing I’m a real “go-getter”
Or at least, I used to be--
I think it’s time to drink some tea;
Ah, yes! Now let’s help kids with school
And no! We’re not going to the pool.
And why don’t you all go outside
While laundry keeps me stuck inside?
I’ll pretend I’m doing lunges
In between the toilet plunges.
Maybe lyrics will come to me
While boiling another pot of tea.
Wednesday, sleep is torn asunder
By the sound of distant thunder.
Wait, that’s just the children pounding
Up and down the house, resounding.
What do you mean, you’re still not dressed?
And who’s going to clean up this mess?
The dishes done and children cleaned--
Good thing the schedule intervened
To keep the chaos under wraps.
Some tea, and maybe, just perhaps
Another cup. Ah, yes, at last
The school is done, and none-too-fast
‘Cause mommy’s got more work to do
Inside the office, so why don’t you
Go take the dogs out for a walk?
(Is this the cure for writer’s block?)
Thursday starts off with a clang:
Jump up because the cell phone rang--
A customer from Timbuktu
Who didn’t know, here it’s only two!
That’s how it goes on the internet
When you sell online, you can forget
‘Bout “business hours;” ‘cause “work from home”
Means your biz is everywhere you roam.
You’re at your friend’s house, having tea
Chatting quite industriously
When the phone rings, and “back to work!”
Answering questions, feeling like a jerk
While your tea gets cold (a sacrilege!)
And you lurk beside the fridge
Conducting business on the phone
While Friend drinks her tea, all alone.
But really, I am grateful that
My “job” lets me be here, not at
An office, where I’d never see
My friend for an afternoon tea
And more than likely, I would miss
The extra hug and extra kiss
My kids give me as we “do school”
‘Cause growing with them is way more cool
Than all those things I kinda wish
That I might “someday” accomplish.
The time for that will be the day
I watch my collegiates drive away.
But isn’t there some room in “now”
To write a song or two somehow?
Friday morn, I contemplate
If there is too much on my plate?
But no, I’m thankful for my life:
Mother, Teacher, Entrepreneur, Wife,
With dreams that God has given me.
I know that He will help me be
The one I need to be today
To tackle what He sends my way.
So, with another cup of tea
I teach the children “A-B-C”
I answer e-mails and organize
Clean the house and agonize
A little, ‘cause this whole week long
I didn’t write a single song
But no, remember? That’s okay
‘Cause I just gotta live today
Which has enough stuff of its own
Guide these l’il birds ‘til they’ve flown.
Now, looking forward to tonight
At supper, with candles alight,
We’re at the time that I love best
The Sabbath-when God said to rest.
We thank him for our family
And for blessings we can’t even see.
This special night helps blow away
All the “to-dos” I missed today.
On Saturday, I sit at last
Talk to my husband, holding fast
To precious shared time, sipping tea
Letting the week’s worries be.
The phone is off, the ‘puter, too
--Brief respite from the daily zoo.
Reflecting on the week gone by,
I wonder where the time did fly?
My kids grew some before my eyes!
And suddenly I realize
That I don’t want to miss a minute;
My life is busy ‘cause I’m in it.
I’ll knit and sew and teach and clean
I’ll work and play and love and dream.
I’ll sing my songs, whene’er they come
And be thankful that God gave me some;
I’ll live my life, eyes open wide
Enjoy each twist of this wild ride
And thank the Lord that He gave me
My passions, family, friends—and tea!
Many of you have probably noticed the somewhat wistful little note in my sidebar.
Well, look what I got from my mom today:
Thanks, Mom. It's awesome. Not to mention, I could stop at least two wars a day with the amount of tea it can hold.
(Either that, or I'll never need to sleep again.)
I should have known that any friend of Colleen's would be wonderful. I should have been prepared. I should have known that two friends of hers would be twice as wonderful.
Yet, somehow, I was still caught by surprise.
Mindy and Cheryl showed up at my door at 10:30 last night, road-worn, but not too much--because somehow we managed to stay up talking until 1:30 a.m! I had never met them before, my only previous experience having been seeing their names on comments on Colleen's blog. But Colleen is one of those types of girls that when you know her, you would do anything for her, so when she asked me to host her friends as they were passing through, of course I said yes.
They are single, I married with children. But other than that, we have so many things in common--all musicians, Mindy is going into missions, all with a love for Jesus, and all friends of Colleen! Our conversation last night brought me some badly needed encouragement. We laughed, we shared, we imbibed hot beverages. And then we exchanged text messages at 1:30 a.m. while we were waiting for the caffeine to wear off! :-)
When they came last night, they were Colleen's friends. When they left this morning, they were my friends, too.
Thank you, Lord, for the love you give that binds us together in unity.
As if I needed more justification, this article on Dr. Mercola today gave even more of an excuse for me to hang on to my tea habit! From the article:
A four-year study has found that tea slows down brain-cell degeneration, and thereby keeps your mind sharp into old age.
Catechins, a natural compound in tea, protect brain cells from damaging protein build-up over the years, maintaining your brain's cognitive capability.
In addition, the caffeine in tea, unlike that in coffee, contains the natural protein theanine, which counters the normal side effects of caffeine such as raised blood pressure, headaches and tiredness.
Researchers studied the tea-drinking habits of over 2,500 Chinese aged 55 and older and gave them memory tests.
While two-thirds of the tea-drinkers maintained their memory test scores two years later, 35 percent of non-tea-drinkers had a decline in their memory test scores, which indicates cognitive decline.
I was raised with a "community" mentality.
Yes, we were considered "rural", being seven miles from the nearest town. But we lived in a pioneering community whose roots--and neighbourly ties--ran deep. My family, and many others in the area, had been prolific breeders, and many were inter-married with the other pioneering families. So not only was everyone within a five-mile radius your neighbour--they were most likely your relative. (My friends and I used to joke that I would have to move just to find a boy I could date! This didn't turn out to be true, but only because Jason was born in Saskatchewan, and didn't move to Red Deer area until he was in Grade School.)
I sometimes think that the reason driveways tend to be a little longer in the country is that you have a little more lead-time to get the coffee-pot on. You see the vehicle slowing down as it approaches your mailbox, and you holler "Put the coffee on, Martha! Ned's comin' in!" By the time he approaches your doorstep, the fragrant aroma is already wafting on the breeze, and there's no way a good neighbour would turn down a friendly cup with good company. (Everyone knows that's the reason he came over in the first place--to "set a spell.")
Actually, Martha really was my paternal grandmother's name*, and she was probably the personification of this country hospitality in my mind. If anyone ever always had coffee on, and always had cookies in the cookie jar, it was her. Growing up a farm wife, with nine children (eight of which are boys!) and numerous farm-hands and shop-hands around for every meal and coffee break, no wonder she cooked for twenty all the time, and the coffee-pot never ran dry. I wonder what would've happened if it had? Would the household's whole social order have fallen into chaos?
This "pot's always on, and there's always more room at the table" mentality was passed on to my father, and then to me. Jason often jokes that I don't know how to cook for two--which I don't. When it was just the two of us, I'd still cook for about eight and we'd be eating it for the next two weeks, because at that time we did not even have a deep freeze, other than what was included with the refrigerator. Even now, I often (purposely) plan for about double the portion we need. If someone shows up just in time for supper, great! We can throw a few more plates on and we're good. If no one does, great! We can throw the leftovers in the fridge or the freezer, and enjoy another, less labour-intensive meal later in the week.
If you ever happen to drop in on me when it is not mealtime, one of the first questions out of my mouth is likely to be "Would you like some tea? Water? Hot Chocolate? Coffee?" (Okay, the first four questions.) We are not coffee-drinkers as a general rule, but there is something about having a hot beverage in your hand that gives you an excuse to linger, to not rush out the door and back to your busy life. In this day and age where heading over to the neighbours just to set a spell is almost unheard-of, we need these excuses to slow down and catch up with each other. Our door is always open for visitors. (Okay, realistically, not really. If we're not here, we lock the door. I mean, c'mon people. We live in town--right across from some high-density housing! We're friendly, but we're not idiots. But! If you show up before we actually have to leave, you are welcome to hang out as long as you want--just lock the door and turn off the lights behind you!)
When I first moved in here, it didn't take me long to realize that I had some very interesting neighbours. I first noticed it when I saw some of them peeking in the window, hands cupped over their eyes to block out glare, watching what we were doing. One of them had their ear pressed to a glass against the window. I went to the door to tell them they were welcome to come in for a cup of tea, but as soon as they saw me, they bolted--I barely caught a glimpse of their faces.
However, they kept coming back. I would see their footprints in the snow, or the flowers in the front bed might be a little trampled. Sometimes I would even be talking with friends or family in other places and they would say, "Oh, I read your blog watched you do such-and-such the other day."
"Really?" I would ask, a little non-plussed. "Why didn't you knock and tell me you were there? We could have had tea."
"Oh," they would say, looking a little lesser-plussed than myself. I'd feel bad for making them feel bad, so eventually I stopped asking that question. I was just glad they were coming by to see me, even if they didn't stop in to say hello.
I've lived here at the Winters' Day In for over a year and a half, now. Some of the neighbours have managed to overcome their shyness and make themselves known, while some remain, lurking by the window, watching from the outside. I allow this voyeurism--the curtains remain open, and I just hope that someday, they will get up the nerve to come in out of the cold, sit by the fire and drink some hot cocoa with whipped cream on my couch, so I can get to know them a little better.
This is the first day of NaBloPoMo '07. I have made the commitment to post something to my blog every day for the month of November. I would just like to open up the month with this invitation:
Whether you have been reading my blog for a while now, or just started, I invite you to comment on at least one post this month. If you want to protect your anonymity, that's fine--you are allowed to comment anonymously on this blog. Don't fear the security system--it is only meant to protect the WDI from random drive-by shootings, not those who actually want to partake of its hospitality. And do check back--I respond to comments 95% of the time.
You never know--you might find you like it.
*To my knowledge, we (and they) had no neighbours by the name of "Ned".
I learned to like tea in India. Before that, I really didn't care for any caffeinated beverages, with the possible exception of an extremely occasional Sprite or 7-Up. My dad drank coffee, not tea, and my mom drank, well, um, she drank water. Lots of water.
In India, tea is such an integral part of the culture, it would almost have been impossible to avoid developing a taste for it. There is "tea time" twice a day at the school where we worked, as well as in every home that I visited there. If you were to visit someone, the first thing they would do would be to offer you some "chai", even if they were so poor that it meant using up the last of their milk to do so.
Here is where we in North America have made an error. (My Indian readers, please correct me if I'm wrong.) To us, "chai" has come to mean "tea with milk and sugar and a whole variety of spices." In reality, "chai" is the word for "tea." I was going to say "Hindi word for tea," but it's actually the word for tea in every Indian language that I know of, and I believe it is also the word for tea in some African languages. Which language it originated from, I have no idea. Especially since chai with lots of milk and sugar was a drinking custom introduced by the British during the colonial days, since that is how they like their tea.
"Tea with spices" is known as "masala (spiced) chai," and the type of spices used range in variety and quantity, depending on what area--and what household--you are in.
Most of the time while I was there, we simply had chai, which is loose tea in a base of about half milk and half water and a fair amount of sugar, all heated until just barely boiling, then strained into your mug for a cup of creamy goodness. It is a safe way to drink milk of questionable origin, water of questionable origin, and a social custom that bonds families, friends, and strangers. (I remember my shock the first time I saw my friend Chingluan pouring tea back and forth between two mugs to cool it off for her daughter--who was two at the time!)
I'm not sure the reason why, but it was somewhere around 2000 that "chai" became extremely popular in North America. Thus Jason and I began our search for "the perfect chai," the one that would bring back all the flavour and memories we had come to love while in India--our hearts' other home country.
It was a long and disappointing search. We found a few that were close, but still seemed like someone had just gone a little crazy with throwing in anything from the spice shelf. I couldn't figure out why. Finally, when George and Ruth Peters visited us in 2005, I asked Ruth.
"How do you make chai? And what is the spice that you put in it?" She answered that while she usually just made basic chai, occasionally, she would add a sprinkle of cardamom to it (thus elevating it to "masala chai.") This was the answer we had been looking for!
I just about choked when I saw the price of the stuff. I don't know how it compares overseas, but here, cardamom is twice as expensive as every other spice (with the exception of saffron, which is just expensive everywhere.) Fortunately, I really only had one use for it. Each cup required only the tiniest sprinkle for flavour, so in six years, I think I might still be on my first jar. Partly because I soon discovered that I like the tea without cardamom as much as with it, and it became a "luxury" that I rarely partake in--and Jason feels the same. Tea drinkers that we are, our day is usually masala-less--at least as far as tea is concerned!
I'm not sure what possessed me this morning. Most days, I make a "cheater chai" that does not require the mess of loose tea and straining. It is not as strong as the real stuff, but nearly as good. I steep my tea bag (Lipton Red Rose Orange Pekoe is the best we've found) extra-long, throw it out, add a good-sized glob of honey from a teaspoon, then fill the mug up with cream until the colour is pale and delicious-looking. Then I take that first, satisfying sip.
This morning, though, I looked at the concoction in my mug and said "it's a cardamom sort of day."
Some days, the routine of dressing and feeding a family, getting Jude to school on time, making dinner ahead of time, teaching piano lessons all evening, doing dishes, working on my e-Bay business, being wife, mother, nursemaid, teacher, babysitter, friend, daughter, and all my many other hats can just seem overwhelming--like there is no way to live up to it all. Those are the days when my loving husband lets me have a little time to myself to create something beautiful, or go on a walk, or when a well-timed hug from my babies can turn a really stressful day around.
The cardamom was just the perfect touch on what would otherwise have been an ordinary, everyday-sort of cup of tea. Once in a while, all we need is a little masala to put things in perspective.