365 Things to Look Forward to — Number 27: Shared Photographs

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27. Shared Photographs

A bunch of classmates from high school held a reunion in San Francisco over the weekend. If I had the money, I would have gone, but since I didn’t, all I could do was wait for photographs of the occasion to be posted on Facebook.

What would we do without social networking sites like Facebook? Even before I left the Philippines I was sorely out of touch with anyone from the past, except those I saw or bumped into on occasion, simply because they worked or lived in the same area that I did. Everyone just got out of touch, dropped out of site, dropped out of your life, and all you had were memories of those very brief years spent together.

Thanks to Yahoo! groups, I had a great way of keeping in touch with former classmates, who posted updates, messages, and photos as the years went by. Even if I wasn’t very active in the groups, only very rarely posting a message, I was able to keep up with what was happening to the more active members of the batch. Little by little, the group was built until we had nearly everyone in it, so we are now able to follow what is happening in each other’s lives.

Then came Facebook. The level of “personal” among friends is so much greater. You can see photos from all your friends’ albums and see how they look after so many years, see what they’ve been doing. You can send quick messages, respond to comments or posts, send birthday greetings because a calendar reminds you when your friends’ birthdays are, and share whatever you want.

Through shared photographs, I follow my friends’ lives and vicariously experience whatever they are going through that they choose to post. At first, I was a silent, reluctant user, but since I started “befriending” people I already knew from the past, I have found that there are really so many I know—and don’t know. People I was in close contact with had disappeared for several years, but now I am able to see how they are doing, what they are doing. People I wanted to be in contact with for the longest time, but had no real way to be in touch with on a daily basis, I can now simply send a message or chat with them whenever I feel like it. And then, it feels like time hasn’t really passed at all, like we haven’t really parted ways, because it really is one big social network. And I can share their photographs and share my photographs with them. I marvel at how some have changed…or haven’t changed. I marvel at their children, their homes, their activities. I laugh with them at amusing photographs. I commiserate with tragedies or low moments. I am inspired by the lives they live, by their joie de vivre, by their energy and their accomplishments. And because I know there are some who do appreciate what I do, I post my own photographs and look forward to those comments because all that sharing is food for the soul!

365 Things to Look Forward to — Number 26: Harry Potter!

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26. Harry Potter

First it was the books. A dear friend of mine asked me one day, several years ago, if I had read Harry Potter. Being totally immersed in work back then, I had not even heard of the phenomenon. So he introduced me to the series by lending me the first book, which he promised I would enjoy. Despite work and other business, I quickly finished the book and returned it to him the next day, begging for the next, which he promptly lent me. In two days, I was ready for the third book, which had just been released that year, and as soon as my friend had finished reading it, the book was in my hands. After that, I eagerly awaited each new installment, also eventually purchasing my own copies which I read again and shared with my youngest son.

By the time the first movie came out, my youngest and I were waiting in anticipation for yet another book, and every year that a movie was released, he and I would make it a point to catch it after all the die-hard fans had seen it. We preferred not to wait hours in line for the movie so we watched it a couple of weeks after the opening to avoid the crowds of Pottermaniacs.

When the last book finally came out, it was just when we had moved to Canada, and it was one of our very first purchases, along with groceries and household needs. There were two bookmarks in that book—my son and I would take turns reading it, I when he was sleeping or watching TV or doing something else; he when I was busy with housework or something else. Turning the final page of the final chapter in the final installment was almost like closing the doors on a chapter of one’s life…but that didn’t stop us from waiting for the last 3 installments to be turned into movies and released for public viewing. Indeed, if we could only watch one movie a year, it would have been Harry Potter.

Which brings us to the last installment of movies, which, rather than being just 3 installments, was stretched out to 4.

No, I still have not seen the final film. I eagerly look forward to seeing it, that is certain, and I am a bit sad that I have not seen the last 2 with my son, nor will I see the final one with him. It’s been running 3 weeks now and it is time to catch it, after all the impatient ones have been there. I know I will savour the ending, no matter that I don’t like the way it ends, because it will mark the end of a journey that has spanned more than 7 years…is it 9 or 10 since I first discovered the phenomenon that has enthralled the whole world for a decade or thereabouts?

Now they should get on with the rest of the Narnia chronicles, and the rest of the Golden Compass series so that we fantasy buffs have something more to look forward to.

365 Things to Look Forward to – Number 25: Rent paid

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25. Rent paid

Paying my rent every month has become a bit of a challenge during summer when I don’t have the income from substitute teaching and I don’t have full-time hours at the store, mainly because I can’t work the full-time hours every day, 5 days a week. As a result, I make just barely enough to pay the rent and a couple of bills and hardly anything else. There’s not enough for groceries or eating out, much less any form of entertainment. So when I do get to clear my rent, I am able to breathe a little easier, because that’s one major anxiety gone. Unfortunately, there are a couple of bills that will have to wait to be settled….

Now, I just need to pay my electricity bill and I’ll be good for another 3 weeks or so, when I’ll start worrying about my August bills and September rent. Once school starts again, I’ll be able to get substitute teaching jobs that will pretty much take care of the majority of my bills and I’ll be less stressed out….except for the upcoming concert that I need to put more work into this month.

Sigh.

365 Things to Look Forward to — Number 24: Babies

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24. Babies

No, I am not expecting a baby. At my age, I don’t think I will ever be expecting a baby of my own again. Don’t get me wrong…I love babies, and I would love to have babies. My body just isn’t up for it anymore.

So, why do I look forward to babies? They’re just adorable! Totally absolutely adorably cute little bundles of sweetness and joy.

What brought this on? My son has a photograph of himself holding a baby…his godchild at a christening. Several months ago, my daughter posted a photograph of herself holding a baby as well…her boyfriend’s newborn niece or nephew. A couple of months ago, my sister just gave birth to her 3rd baby, a girl this time; over a year ago, she had her 2nd baby, her first natural-born boy.

And all over Facebook, former students of mine are posting pregnancy photographs and photographs of themselves with little babies. And friends and former classmates in my generation are posting photographs of their grandchildren.

Let’s face it….it’s very difficult to find a baby that’s not cute or adorable, in its own way. They’re cutest when they’ve rounded out a bit–usually around (no pun intended) a couple of weeks to a month after they’re born and their skin isn’t all wrinkly and blotchy anymore. Once their cheeks have filled out and they start opening their eyes, they become just irresistible. They no longer look like fragile little creatures that might break apart the moment you touch them. From then on, until they start running about, they are just the most wonderful and charming little creatures and you just want to hold them and cuddle them, feel their warmth, their silky soft skin, their tiny little hands and feet.

As for the cuteness factor? For arguments’ sake, I’ll say: Arya is a baby. All babies are cute. Therefore Arya is cute. And because All babies are cute, you can put in any baby’s name in the first and last statements and it’ll be true. What I’m not going to argue about is the relative degrees of cuteness. All parents will insist their baby is the cutest infant ever born. Again, I’m not going to argue. I’ll have to say some babies are definitely cuter than others, or better-looking than others. That’s a case of genetics, really. I’ll have to admit I’ve seen some babies out there whose appearance totally repels my aesthetic sensibilities. But I’m biased, okay? I’m a sucker for big bright wide-open eyes, long curled lashes, rosy pink silky smooth cheeks. I’ve nothing against chinky eyes, really…they are actually becoming on some people…babies included. But all my babies had lovely big bright wide long-lashed eyes.

The one thing that all babies do share is the tiny puckered rosy mouth. Funny how a toothless pucker in a baby is absolutely irresistibly darling while the same thing doesn’t apply to toothless adults. It’s gotta be the undeveloped jaws and the undeveloped chin. And, of course, the little button nose that goes with undeveloped nasal ridges.

This fascination with babies inspires me to use them as subjects for my paintings, which is one of the several projects I already have on the back burner of my mile-long stove with hundreds of back burners. Just wait till I’m done with my requirements for the completion of my Diploma and I will be clearing those back burners faster than even I can imagine!

It makes me want to have babies over again.

365 Things to Look Forward to – Number 23: Talk

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23. Talk

I’m not big on talking. But when I have to, I can and will talk.

You might think it’s strange for someone whose work centers on talking. After all, you can’t be a teacher or a trainer or public speaker or actor and not expect to talk for at least a certain length of time. And, most certainly, talking is involved in coffee shop work.

Still, I’ve always been more of an introvert than an extrovert, and my preference is always to listen and observe rather than talk.

But I’m not talking about talking in relation to work here. I’m talking about just talking about anything and everything under the sun, including the sun and what stretches beyond. After all, there are so many things to talk about, and they are, every single one of them, interesting. Unfortunately, there aren’t a whole lot of people who enjoy that kind of talk, and, to an introvert like me, I’d rather not talk if the other party is too dogmatic or critical or complaining.

I enjoy just saying whatever comes to mind and following that or letting it drop. Sometimes the conversation can run into a very serious academic discussion of issues, or sometimes it can become very silly. Either way, it’s fun, stimulating, interesting, amusing and satisfying.

Some of the most tedious talk is when somebody goes on and on about their life, their escapades, their travails, their family, and so on and so forth. Most of the time, you don’t even want to know that information. Sure, it’s the stuff you build friendships and relationships on, but that is such self-centered talk. Sure, it’s the stuff that most people think about or worry about, and most people don’t even have the time to think or worry about anything else, so they won’t talk about anything else, because these are the things that are important to them.

I think, what they don’t realize, is that talking about other things is more therapeutic than they think. How?

One, it takes their minds of their daily concerns. Everybody needs to step back and step away from their lives once in a while and experience something that is unessential to their daily existence. Talk about the poverty in Southeast Asia and they might just see how good their lives are, and instead of complaining about what little they have, they might realize that they have so much more than others.

Two, it’s excellent exercise for the brain. Just thinking about new ideas or ideas beyond what we think about on a daily basis makes those brain cells wake up and creates hundreds of new neural connections. I’m not the brain expert here, but I do know that new ideas stimulate the brain by figuratively expanding the area that is used.

Three, it’s educational. Sometimes you explore ideas that you never thought of or seriously considered and find that your conversational partner has more knowledge than you in some areas. Or, as I like to do when a question comes up that nobody can answer, I do a bit of research and check out Wikipedia or dictionaries or whatever other resource I can find until I am satisfied. Sometimes a short explanation will do. Sometimes I want to know much much more and look for more articles or even borrow books on the topic.

Four, it’s a great way to pass the time! Instead of just sitting and watching TV reruns or taking a nap (don’t get me wrong, these can be great ways to pass the time, but they’re not always accessible) you can do all of the above and pass the time as well. When you’re in a stimulating conversation, you never really notice how time flies.

Five, you enjoy yourself as well. Have I mentioned that it is both fun and satisfying? Unless of course your talk is cut off and you so badly want to put in another word. Still, the satisfaction of learning, acquiring, sharing, thinking and putting your thoughts into words that someone else doesn’t ignore is a pleasure unto itself.

I’m glad I have friends I can talk with.

 

365 Things to Look Forward to – Number 22: Old Songs

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22. Old Songs

Call me sentimental if you want, but listening to old songs can really give me a boost. By old songs, I mean anything from the 70s and early.

Really, old songs are musical. They have decent lyrics, the majority of them, at least, and you can actually sing to them. Also, most of the words mean something–there’s a story or something else there. It’s sheer poetry in some cases. I’ve heard contemporary songs that I wouldn’t call songs, with music that I wouldn’t call music. And how is the endless repetition of an inane word or phrase over and over and over again meaningful or nice to listen to?

Those of you who like today’s music will have to excuse me. I’d rather listen to Astrud Gilberto, Bob Dylan, Cat Stevens, Bread, The Cascades, The Carpenters, Barry Manilow (yes, I’m not afraid to admit it!), Jim Croce, Don McLean, Kenny Rogers, Kenny Loggins, Neil Diamond, Chicago, Abba, and singers and groups of that mettle. I suppose it’s music I can identify with, since I listened to my transistor radio every minute of every day that I could, and that was the music that was playing then. Still, I try to listen to the radio today, mostly at work where the young people are around, and I just cannot appreciate their music, except for some occasional lyrical selections. But those are few and far between.

Even more quaint are songs from before the 70s, particularly from the 50s and 60s, which was music my dad liked to listen to. I just love music by Nat King Cole, Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett and other singers from that generation. They sang, they crooned, they wooed, and women swooned. I even like Elvis Presley, The Beatles (most of their songs, anyway), Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson and more. I don’t even know half the names of the singers or half the titles of their songs, but I love listening to the music. There’s also the folk and country music from that period that you just can’t beat, and some of my favorites in that area are Simon and Garfunkel, and John Denver.

It was only when I started spending more time out of the house than at home that I stopped listening to that music, because I’d usually end up watching TV or going straight to bed when I got home. Now, I’m home most of the time–or at least a good deal of the time and I have time to listen to music again. And thanks to the Internet, I can easily find all the old songs! All I have to do is remember the title (which I usually don’t know) or the singer (many of whom I don’t know the names of–I’d lose any contest with the title “who sang the song???”) or some lyrics (at least 3 words) which is how I have found a lot of the more obscure songs!

And now, I have a playlist that will last me at least 24 hours of those songs from the 70s and thereabouts. I have a 40s playlist, as well as a 50s-60s. I have old jazz music from the 20s to the 80s (nothing can beat Kenny G for relaxing music) and as far as jazz songs are concerned, well, there are so many…I just don’t know the names! (Billie Holiday is one…or is it Halliday? what the heck…I still listen to the music).

That isn’t everything I listen to, of course, as I have collections of broadway, classics and new age music. I left about 250 cassette tapes when I left the Philippines. Now, I’m building up my collection of CD music, as well as old music I find on the Internet. When I discovered that, I became nearly manic, just looking for song after song after song and getting all titillated at the pleasure of hearing some of my old favorites.

And that’s what’s playing in the background now.

365 Things to Look Forward to – Number 21: Day Off!

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21. Day Off!

As a student, I never really appreciated the idea of weekends and summer breaks or Christmas breaks, or semestral breaks because they were fixed and always part of the schedule. Besides, all the way until I graduated from high school, I always wanted to be in school. If I could have lived in school, learning something new every minute of every day, or spending hour after hour reading every book in the library, it would have been heaven.

It was a little different in college, because I live right across from school in the school dormitory and was pretty much in control of my time, besides class schedules, of course.

When I started working, nearly all my jobs involved Monday to Friday work, except my theatre job, at which I worked 6 days a week, Mondays off. But because I love the theatre and every aspect of it, it wasn’t really work, was it?

After so many years of working, I am back at work in a place that is open 24/7, 364 days a year. So my days off are not always on the same days. And I always have something to do on my days off…for instance, when I get Tuesdays off, like today, I have it set aside for tutoring. So it’s not really a day off. Except that today, I can’t get in touch with any of the people that I was supposed to meet…so I suddenly have an unexpected day all to myself! Hurrah!

Baked a pie on my day off...

While I sometimes just want to cool my heels and have a really quiet day off just reading or watching movies on TV all day, I find that there are a million and one things I want to do or have to do. So my days off are full. I bake, cook, paint, read, watch TV, tend to my little rose plant (not worthy of being called a bush), clean, do laundry, do crafts, go to appointments, and just about everything else I can’t do at work. Oh, and yes, write and catch up on computer time. Although I try to do that everyday, sometimes, I only have time to check my email so my mailbox isn’t full of unread mail, and check Facebook for messages, notifications, and all sorts of other things.

...and shared it. Delicious rhubarb and cherry pie!

So, even if it’s an extremely busy day off, it’s a complete change of pace from work in the store, and something I always look forward to. If it were possible for every day to be a day off, I’d never run out of things to do!

365 Things to Look Forward to – Number 20: Helping out a friend

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20. Helping out a friend

Okay, so my friends know that this really isn’t unusual of me. I have gone out on a limb for people who depended on me especially when I happen to be the only who will speak out what others are afraid to say. But when it comes to friends, I go out of my way, and sometimes drag other people along, just to help!

Mind you, it’s not like I plan my day the night before by saying “Hmmm, tomorrow I think I’ll help Annie. I should find out what she needs help in.” Really, most of the time it’s totally spontaneous, and when it all works out, I get a bit of happiness out of it. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t do it so I get to feel good.  It’s completely the other way around: I feel good because I do it.

So my new friend Lori was moving and she was telling me about how she found this cozy basement apartment where she’d finally have her own completely private space that wasn’t just a bedroom. I knew exactly how she felt, because I felt exactly the same way (or quite nearly, I suppose) when I moved into my very own apartment to live in by myself in 2009. It really is the first time in my life that I had a living space that was all mine. No, hotel rooms where I stayed by myself when I travelled to deliver workshops and seminars do not count. The longest I ever stayed in any such place was a week. And those were all temporary.

Naturally, I asked her if she needed any help, and somehow it came around to my saying that Peter has a truck and I’m sure he’d be willing but I’d ask him first. And I did. And Peter, in his wonderfully kind-hearted and generous way, said he’d se what he could do about it…which really means yes.

So early this morning (early for a Saturday morning, that is) at 9:30, I called Peter and let him know I was ready to go. He drove around to pick me up and we drove off to Lori’s place, arriving just as she was getting back from her first load of furniture with another friend she had asked for help from. We were speculating that we could do short work of it if we had another truck, and didn’t a quarter-ton pull up, with a couple more friends to help! So with three trucks and two loads each, we got Lori all moved by around 12:30 p.m. Of course it was a totally unprofessional move, and would have infuriated anyone paying us by the hour, but there were a lot of chat-breaks and periods of trying to figure out how to position the boxes and furniture in the trucks and so on.

Pizza and more chat time after the move ended the morning and we finally broke off around 1:30 p.m., mainly because Lori had to go attend a kid’s birthday party and we had our respective Saturdays to return to.

Needless to say, it was fun, with many enjoyable moments, no mishaps, and new friends to boot. Not that we’re likely to bump into Lori’s other friends, but they do mostly work in town, so we are likely to bump into them.

PEI keeps getting smaller, little by little — or more like my little world is getting wider, day by day!

365 Things to Look Forward to-Number 19: Starting a book

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19. Starting a book

To a certified bibliophile like me, a.k.a. bookworm, one of the most exciting things to look forward to is to start reading a new book. In fact, sometimes the prospect of starting to read a new book is so exciting that I have to hurry to finish the book I am currently reading, just so I can start a new one.

If there’s one thing I can’t resist, it’s a book, especially if it promises to be a good one. Of course there are certain books I just won’t touch or be seen with, but at the risk of being hung by my thumbs by fans of such literature, I will not mention any genres in particular.

I love the feel, the sight, the smell of a new book, especially the hardbound editions. I can’t say much about the smell of a new pocket book, though. Not much stands out to attract my olfactory glands. But the smooth cover, the unturned crisp virgin pages–what a joy.

Not everything is perfect, of course. Many times, your average pocket book has a cover that suggests very little or has no relation at all to the title or the contents. I have to admit, though, that the cover, along with the title, are a main attracting point. There’s nothing like a catchy, fresh, original title that piques my curiosity. Add to that an intriguing cover design, and I’m a sucker born that very minute. If I had the money to buy every single book I am drawn to, I would have the Library of Congress in my living room. Okay, that’s an exaggeration. The PEI Confederation Centre Public Library then. Okay, okay. The Stratford Public Library, maybe.

But really, my dream room is a home library that is covered floor to ceiling in books, with at least three levels, like a tower or an atrium and those quaint ladders running along tracks around the room so you can get to any level quickly. And in that room, a bay window with cushions piled upon cushions overlooking some totally rustic country garden filled with weeping willows and riotous wildflowers everywhere. Maybe a garden bower with a hammock or wide, cozy swing where I can curl up and spend hour after hour reading.

My dream reading world aside, nothing attracts me like a book. You know what I mean, of course. Books have this unique magnetic influence on me, and I have been that way since I was a child. Ask my schoolmates. The best memories they probably have of me are me sitting in the grass reading a book.

Look at me–I still haven’t even gotten to actually starting reading and I’m all excited already!

Seeing a book with a title that totally captivates me, like “where a dobdob meets a dikdik” (yes, that is a book title!) has me so worked up, I just can’t wait to dive in. I imagine all sorts of deliciously fancifully outrageous words with a title like that. Is it obvious? I just love books on words. You won’t believe how many dictionaries I own. Or books on lexical oddities and other lexical explorations. Yes, I am a logophile of sorts. I love the new words I pick up from new books. I relish finding out the meanings of all manner of words and phrases and expressions. What could be more fun?

Don’t get me wrong. Geeky word books aren’t the only things that get me going. I love fiction with a passion, as well. And if it’s a mystery or detective story, you can bet I’ll enjoy it, as long as it’s not something with gratuitous violence and gore or foul language (oh, I’ll put up with occasional romantic interludes if the story is intriguing enough—which means I skip to when the interlude is over—and as long as the foul language doesn’t get in the way of the story, the way NORMAL people talk, pretty much, then I’ll put up with that as well). If it’s overloaded at the very start, I’m just not interested and I drop the book like a hot potato.

Naturally, there are authors I will grab without a second thought, and those that I avoid. Again, I will not mention those I will avoid, but I do love a Forsythe, Le Carre, or Ludlum anytime. There are several new bestselling authors as well, who write mainly mystery and suspense, who I don’t mind reading as well, since my top three don’t write as frequently (and Ludlum won’t write anymore, sigh).

I always read the blurb in the back, in the inside cover, anything before the actual text, and sometimes the first page to decide if I want to read the book. Sometimes, what looks interesting becomes a major let-down before the first chapter ends, or somewhere into the second chapter…and that book gets shelved or returned to the library long before the due date is up.

It takes a certain mood to tackle serious literature, and when I’m in that mood, then I go for the “literature” section in the library or bookstore. Naturally, I do have a few favorites in those areas as well, and there are those I will definitely always be quick to get, such as Umberto Eco, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Isabel Allende and similar fare.

There is a broad range of literature I will read, including poetry, short fiction (I love short stories, too and make it a point to get the Science Fiction annuals, or the Best Short Stories annuals, etc.). I do love science fiction and follow certain mini-series types, such as Terry Brooks, naturally Narnia, and absolutely Lord of the Rings, but I do love reading new books as well and am constantly on the lookout for new authors and new titles that aren’t another title in a long on-going series designed for or from video games or role-playing games.

I also love reference books, art books, cook books, craft books, and how-to books, as well as special occasion books, particularly Christmas books!

I try to imagine what new things I will learn, new stories, new lives I will encounter. Then, when I start the book, I stop thinking forward and just take each page, each chapter as it comes. It’s the hardest thing for me to do to put a book down at the end of a chapter or two because I have to go to sleep or go to work or do something else.

Ah, give me a book and you won’t hear from me for a long long time…as long as I don’t have any other things to do, of course. If I could only do one thing, just one thing for the rest of my life, I would choose to read books.

 

365 Things to Look Forward to-Number 18: Strawberries

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18. Strawberries!

Fresh luscious sweet plump ripe red PEI strawberries. Delicious. Delectable. Heavenly. The moment you bite into one and feel the sweet and very slightly sour or tart flavor oozing into your mouth is a moment you want to preserve…or repeat. Over and over and over again.

This is one of the things I look forward to in summer–when local strawberries are picked and brought to the market or supermarket. I have yet to go to a strawberry farm and pick all I want. That, I am positive, will be a delightful experience. Meanwhile, I enjoy fresh strawberries whenever I can get them.

Sure, we get the extra large strawberries from the US all year round. But they’re not always all that sweet. To be sure, there are the occasional properly ripened ones that are luscious and sweet to a fault. But the majority tend to be bland and crunchy, almost like eating a tart turnip, if they’re not overripe and mushy.

US strawberry next to a 4-inch paring knife

Now Canadian strawberries, and in particular, PEI strawberries, those are something else!

fresh summer 2011 Canadian strawberries

I have always been partial to fresh strawberries. Well, I love fresh fruit. There really isn’t anything like them. But strawberries. They bring back wonderful memories.

When I was pregnant with Bian, I craved strawberries. Mind you, they had to be fresh strawberries. Being in the Philippines back then, where strawberries were not native to the hot and humid lowlands, I had a hard time obtaining them, so they were a really special treat. The next alternative was whole frozen strawberries, which were available in the supermarket that I frequented. Again, that was not always available. So my third alternative was strawberry ice cream. Some nights, I would get up and look for one or the other, and heaven help anyone who was up at the time (or not) because I would not be able to get back to sleep without my strawberries.

I never craved that way before and never craved that way again. But oh, do I love strawberries! So every time there are fresh strawberries advertised in the weekly fliers, I go down to the nearest Sobey’s to get a pint or more of fresh strawberries!