Recipe for “редькa” – a home remedy for coughs

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Have you ever heard of редькa (pronounced Red’ka)?

Folk recipes are an integral part of Russian culture. We are a superstitious lot, and the long-standing conflict with religion has never been a problem in that regard. Despite being so very Canadian and believing wholeheartedly in modern medicine, I can’t help but think that there must be truth in the healing powers of old.

When I was growing up, the best cure for a persistent cough in our home was neither Buckley’s or Cepacol, no, it was black radish with honey, also known as “Red’ka”. If you’ve ever seen a black radish at the supermarket and wondered “what do I do with that?”, here’s your answer!

As a root vegetable, it’s full of vitamins and nutrients, but the best and most delicious way to pull out its powers is by cutting a large whole in its centre, filling it with honey, then putting its cap back on and letting it sit for a while. Keep your black radish propped up on a glass or an egg holder on the counter and watch its healing powers drip into an elixir worthy of Professor Snape’s potions class.  The honey makes the concoction sweet and delicious while the radish gives it its nutrients and helps sooth the throat. You can keep refilling your radish with more honey for a day or two, then cut a new one!

Today, I made this concoction for my foster child. He’s five and has asthma. His throat can use as much soothing as it can get. Cutting through the black radish and filling it with honey was a kind of magic I rarely experience: A connection to the women before me, women in small cold villages, buried under 30 cm of snow, finding ways to support their families when the closest doctor was miles and miles away and the only means of getting there was horse and buggy. The smell of the black radish’s innards was familiar, it smelled of my mother’s kitchen, of childhood and long winter nights, of connections forged before I had the inclination or the need to find words for them, of tradition. When you’re a foster parent, traditions are difficult. The child in your care has had so many other influences, starts and stops, but the little things allow me to remember that I’ve come from a tradition too, and that even if it’s just for today, I can pass it down.

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5 years later?

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Happy international Women’s Day!

The 8th of March is a huge deal in Russia. Women get flowers and chocolates from all of the men in their lives and from one another. We celebrate all the things that make us unique and different. In recent months, Russia has decriminilized domestic abuse. I can’t help wondering how a country that so celebrates womanhood and motherhood can do such a thing – but this is a question of policies, ones that do not represent the desires or realities of all Russians. If you watch the news or television shows, you can’t help wondering what kinds of people live there – let me tell you what kind of people live there: All sorts, good and bad, rich and poor, happy and unhappy. The higher one zooms out, the less one sees the intricacies, the complexities and the endless shades of grey of a culture and country.

For the past few years, I’ve been hard at work building a career, each day laying a brick down for the foundations of the kind of life I want. Each day, I’m working at making myself into the sort of person I want to be now and in the future. I meditate. I don’t eat meat. I try to get more sleep. I practice my breathing to reduce my exorbitant anxiety levels. I try to be a good friend, a good daughter, a good wife. I try to be a good cat owner. It never seems enough but today, a day to celebrate women, I wanted to remind myself that I am enough. Both on that macro objective level and on the micro-detailed zoom where all of the flaws and insecurities stand out, I am enough. When tomorrow comes, I’ll face the world just like I do every day, just as all women should have the opportunity to do. Today, I have to remind myself to be grateful because I have the power to be what I am, the privilege of being educated, loved, hard-working, capable, and most of all in a place that allows me to be me, to pursue the me I want to be.

Thoughts on Writing: Never Care Too Much & Never Stop Caring

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Some thoughts on time and permanence

Some thoughts on time and permanence

It’s been a long time since I’ve sat down to blog.

There are many reasons for this, most involving nights of writing very long reports for the office and equally long assignments for school, but the real reason is, of course, that I wasn’t sure how to phrase the changes that have gone on in my life. I wasn’t sure how being so preoccupied with everything would effect my writing and it made me apprehensive. The other reason was that every time I tried to write a post, WordPress would crash, deleting my  post and discouraging me from committing any more thought and emotion into something that would subsequently be deleted.

Much in life is like that though, isn’t it? In the past 4 months of trying to ground ourselves in our new apartment, Patrick and I have been building shelves, reorganizing cupboards, investing into making our new place feel more like home. It’s a work in progress… but whenever we set something up, we both stand back and look to one another for confirmation that yes, this makes it more like home now – and when his friends come over, we show it to them too. They assure us that “it’s a great spice rack” and “yes, that painting does cover the weird hole in your wall”. We put up pictures, we straighten books on shelves. Throughout that process, we both know that this apartment is a temporary place for us. After all, we can’t spend our lives throwing money at a landlord and dragging our laundry down 4 flights of stairs, it just isn’t how I imagine adults to live! When I think about moving though, I think “but we just set up that new shelf for my teapots!” and it makes it all feel so pointless.

I feel much the same way about my job: I’m frustrated that every month, I have an article published in a journal under someone else’s name and that no one will ever know that I have an archived body of published work. I seek praise for each report, I feel immense frustration when I’m told that a report isn’t “up to my standards” or that my “heart wasn’t into it.” The criticism is sometimes fair, sometimes heavy – but I invest an immense amount of energy and emotion into my work and I care about its comments and reviews. Unfortunately, I can never hear client reviews so I hold on to the scraps I am given from those whose names are published and the praise they receive for it.

Grades have been the same. I haven’t accepted anything under an A this semester and accepting a B+ in my hardest class left me in a sour mood. Of course, I know it’s about the learning and I know that no one will probably ever ask to see my transcript but I just can’t help but feel that those grades are on me, not on my work. I care too much, I rework, I struggle to make myself proud.

Perhaps that’s the key here. Maybe if we could all care a little less about something lasting and care a little more about it happening at all, maybe we would be happier.

Maybe knowing that nothing is permanent would encourage us all to seek out new experiences and allow us to just write on.

 

 

 

Incoming Student Life

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It’s my final week of full-time employment at my current job. In a few weeks, I’ll be a full time student for the first time in 2 years. In many ways, “Student” is perhaps one of the most defining terms I’ve ever been ascribed. Almost all industries and groups recognize that a student is a very particular type of creature; it drinks coffee, it doesn’t sleep much, it goes out on weekends, it’s generally carrying a book.

The reality is, of course, that none of those things (minus the book part) really apply to me. I cradle coffee mugs more than drink them, I need a minimum of 6 1/2 (okay, 8) hours of sleep to be functional and I’ve never limited going out to any particular part of the week. More often than not, I prefer to stay close to home on Sundays – it allows me to enjoy my me-time to the fullest while everyone else is busy!

That said, I carry my student-status with great care. I love being a student! It’s a place of comfort, of instantaneous affirmation, constant learning and convenient companionship. Student life is a bubble that’s imposed on us so early that it comes to me as easily as spelling out my name. I know this isn’t the case for many, but I do feel that academic institutions create a safety net for coming-of-age that no other institution offers. Work is filled with instability and risks, possible failures and real-world consequences. School, on the other hand, offers constant guidance, achievable results and the constant possibility of greatness right behind the Academic Gates. 

A little whimsical? Absolutely. 

10 No-Nos of Leadership (According to a Subordinate)

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Some might argue that I’m in no position to discuss leadership. I’m 23 years old, I’ve never led anyone or anything but myself. I have never had subordinates and never run a business. Nonetheless, it seems a hot topic these days and I do feel I can bring a few ideas to the table, though I wouldn’t claim that they would be anything new.

1. Pick an approach, make a decision and stick with it. It’s very hard to take direction from someone who changes their minds constantly. I do believe in flexibility of course, but it’s important to feel that the person you follow has convictions and principles and aren’t making decisions willy nilly. Otherwise, people don’t trust your decisions or directions. They start wondering where they’re going…and where you’re going too!

2. Be transparent. I understand that not everyone needs to know everything about the business side of things, but a trusted leader is one that is understood by his followers. The only entity people follow in blind faith is God, and even then you’re encouraged to ask questions! (Depending on your particular belief system) No one enjoys being a pawn in a plan they aren’t even made aware of. It creates resentment and instability.

3. If you act casual, so will your employees. I’m sure you remember high school. People may have resented strict teachers and appreciated those that let them slack off, but no one ever came up to a teacher who let them watch movies in every class and thanked them for the impact they had on their lives. “You really inspired me with your “I don’t care what you do, I just want my pay check”” attitude, said no one, ever. I’m not suggesting bureaucracy or overly formal decorum but if you share your personal life with your subordinates, you can expect that the next time their personal lives are troubled, they’ll bring it to the office too. Be honest, you started it!

4. Don’t badmouth anyone. Ever. If you have disputes with clients, employees or even the guy at the coffee shop, don’t come into work and vent your frustrations at your underlings. If you’re having trouble with someone, make it private. If your subordinates often catch you making negative statements about their colleagues, they suspect you’re doing the same thing about them. On top of that, it makes you look like you’re too cowardly to speak directly to the person concerned. Don’t flaunt your gossip. Your captive audience won’t see it as a sign of strength.

5. Loyalty is earned through time and effort. Loyalty is not something you obtain through gifts or favors. It’s something you earn by showing respect, being a good listener and being fair to everyone around you. Subordinates will talk, they will listen to one another’s stories and decide how well their captain is running the ship. If you’re unfair to one, they will all know and they will all be a little more hesitant next time around.

6. Don’t flaunt your position. Someone much wiser than I has mentioned this “The greatest leaders are those who had not intended to be leaders.” I believe this to be true. The binding cause (whether it be cause, objective or company) is the goal. Your leadership means that others are following you to attain a goal, not to bring YOU up as a person. They all have their own goals, be aware of them and make them feel that those are cherished as well.

7. Never state assumptions as facts. If you THINK something is a certain way, add that into your sentence. Phrases such as “X is Y.” are difficult to argue with for your underlings as they aren’t necessarily in a position to undermine your authority or feel comfortable in telling you when you might be off track. Therefore, be careful with X is Y statements. They do sound assertive, but even leaders make mistakes – and you’ll avoid quite a few of them if you leave room for interpretation or opinion. No one says you have to follow the advice, but it’s to your advantage to listen and assess.

8. Don’t make broad generalizations. This seems obvious but often isn’t. Colloquialisms and expressions are full of broad, sweeping statements that sound appealing but don’t apply in every situation. For instance, “introverts aren’t good managers”, “Red means passion.”, “Asian people are shy.” These kind of slips may seem like honest mistakes but they are, in fact, demeaning and counterproductive. At their worst, they can be interpreted as prejudice, otherwise they just make you look ignorant.

9. Don’t tell your subordinates about them – let them tell you about themselves. There’s nothing more frustrating than having your boss tell you about your personality, your preferences or your feelings. If it’s about your performance or some sort of assessment, great and perfectly appropriate. Otherwise, keep your opinions on my Jungian colour code, my horoscope, my orientation, my belief system or my preferences to yourself. I may not have an accurate sense of self, but I suspect that those who have authority above me don’t have a stronger sense of me than I do.

10. Be kind. The line between being a pushover and being kind isn’t as thin as you might imagine. Kindness doesn’t mean that you won’t fire anyone or that you won’t tell people what to do – people who work for you expect to be told what to do, so long as what they’re doing is helping you reach the overall goal (see #6). Be kind in every aspect of your life really, it makes following you a treat instead of a chore.

Those are my thoughts, let me know what you think! Any I’ve missed?

The First Week of Living in the PM

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The PM here refers to “Patrick&Maria’s”, although PM is also appropriate because the only time I get to actually see my place is after work. Surprisingly, a whole lot of worrying and squabbling can get done between 6pm and midnight. In the spirit of honesty and paving the way for future couples, here’s a non-inclusive list of concerns from our first week as a couple-home:

1. Parties or “the Nerd Herd”

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This is a picture of Patrick and his best friend James right after the move, playing risk. I decided not to upload the entirety of the herd but suffice to say that I did not expect there to be more than 7 random men in my living room day in and day out. Don’t get me wrong, they’re all great guys but I’m far from being used to having quite this much testosterone around. On this, we definitely needed to compromise: Warn me when they show up and get them out of here by the time I’m tired. Oh and NOT every night!

2. Orphan Friends or “mi sofa is not tu casa”

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I don’t know whether others have had this problem but Patrick has friends that have been sleeping over at his parent’s place frequently. They come over, plug themselves into the PS3 and then NEVER LEAVE. The next thing I know, they’re in my house longer than I am, eat my food and find a moment to complain about some lack of spices in my kitchen or the fact that yes, we didn’t own a pan and therefore cooked scrambled eggs in a pot. The worst part is, these men are generally charming and polite with me and I would never otherwise have any issue with them…except when they’re in my apartment rent-free more than I am. More compromising conversations ensued (once Dupree left – when we had to go out and he didn’t have the keys).

3. Gas stoves or “Let’s Not Blow Ourselves Up.”

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Though many of you may have had gas stoves before, we had not. The first two days comprised of us only being able to cook without worrying about potential death by following these steps:

  1. Prepare pot full of water.
  2. Squeeze self behind stove and pull red lever to start the gas
  3. Roll up newspaper, hold it in pliers
  4. Light paper
  5. Quickly turn gas on
  6. Light burner before newspaper burns your fingers
  7. Stick pot of water on open flame
  8. breathe deeply

It was a good thing Patrick’s parents then showed us the little primers inside the stove that allowed us to actually just…light our stove and over and cook like regular people :). The advantage of a gas stove? Marshmellows on a stick! Homemade smores! mmm

4. Internet

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Deciding to go local, I chose Colbanet and Patrick convinced me that getting a landline of sorts would make sense. I had thought getting a local company would make things easier. I thought wrong. Hooking up internet is always irritating, stressful and expensive. THere’s no way around it, you just need to bite the bullet and get on with it. One of us had to be home between 8-6 on a weekday, the modem had to be delivered within those times…and so did the other 3 pieces.

5. Feeding Ourselves

Eating out at restaurants may be expensive, but so are groceries! We’re going to have to learn to cook and have some form of a cooking schedule. I’m a vegetarian and Patrick isn’t, though he rather enjoys vegetarian food. I drink soy milk and he’s used to Skimmed regular…talk about trying to balance.

The main thing we’re learning I believe, is that moving in with someone doesn’t change your habits. Changes have to be conscious and deliberate. Compromises must also be deliberate; you both have to sit down and decide “I’ll do this for you if you do that.” I’m not sure I can ever dissuade him from leaving socks everywhere, but a girl can dream. May all your moves go as smoothly as mine! 😉