Saturday, October 27, 2012

Hurricane Readiness: Freezer Edition

This summer, a freak storm called a “derecho” ripped through Maryland, Virginia, and DC, pulling down hundreds of trees and leaving our neighborhood without power for a full week. I think the overall damage to power lines may have actually been worse than with Hurricane Irene. BGE's response was chaotic and disorganized and their customer service abysmal. I did my best not to abuse the telephone representatives, since obviously they couldn't fix any wires for me, but when one of them told me I should be better prepared for power outages and maybe I should get a generator if it happened often... I may have gotten a little rude. I still can't believe that the power company had the balls to tell me essentially “Yeah, we can't guarantee power to your neighborhood, so you should buy a generator. Oh, and keep paying those extortionate bills, please.”

We are planning on buying a whole-home generator eventually, one that runs on natural gas and would switch on automatically, but they're quite expensive and need professional installation, so we don't have it yet. That means I need a backup plan to save my food.

When the derecho hit us, we had recently filled up the freezer with stuff from Costco. Like many people, we use our freezer to stock up on meat when it's on sale, and to store leftovers after cooking in big batches. Just ask my pal Tasha how useful a freezer can be. Unfortunately, that means that if the freezer dies or the power is interrupted for too long, we lose a whole lot of food and, by extension, money.

Once it was obvious that the power wasn't going to return quickly enough to rescue our food, we filled up a large Rubbermaid storage bin with the more valuable stuff, like chicken breasts and tilapia fillets, and drove over to my brother-in-law's place. He was kind enough to give us space in his big upright freezer, allowing us to minimize our food losses. Since we only had the one big bin to use, we left some items behind in our freezer along with bags of ice to keep them cold. What was left was mostly things that weren't as expensive to replace or that could handle being thawed and refrozen, like bagels, cheese, and frozen fruit and vegetables. Unfortunately, it did not occur to me that the frozen fruit and vegetables, once thawed, would be very wet and squishy. Also unfortunately, the bags they come in are not completely watertight. Maybe they are when they come from the manufacturer, but once they've been shoved around in a freezer for a while, they develop very tiny holes. Holes that don't become a problem until the stuff inside is melting in an inadequately cooled freezer, releasing brightly colored juices all over the goddamn place.

Blueberry juice, for the record, is very difficult to get out of a freezer.

This weekend, we're waiting uncomfortably under the threat of another hurricane, Sandy, who is aimed directly at the Mid-Atlantic region. We're being told to expect several days of heavy rain and strong winds, because she's a very large storm. Landfall is predicted to occur Monday night somewhere between Virginia and New York, but the impact on the whole region is expected to be pretty huge. I'm obeying all of the rules of hurricane preparedness, except for buying eggs and milk and bread, because without power, those are fairly useless to have around. Why in the world do people buy those up when a storm comes?

This time around, I'm trying to avoid as much food wastage as I possibly can, so I have a plan. First, eat the food. And don't buy more. That's the easiest way not to waste any. I skipped my grocery run this week, knowing the storm is on its way, and we've been trying to cook up freezer foods for our meals. Spaghetti and garlic bread. Chicken breasts and pierogies. Lots of ice cream.

Then, a triage of the freezer contents. Here's what the freezer looked like on Friday evening. Pretty full, and very messy.

I pulled everything out and piled it up on the counter. I took out everything that could stand to thaw and re-freeze, and moved it to the second freezer we have in the mud room. It's not as good as the kitchen freezer and will probably lose its cold much more quickly. In the kitchen freezer, I used metal baking sheets and pans to contain any foods that might leak. Stuff I care less about went into the back of the freezer, and the meat, fish, and pastas that I'd want to rescue are closer to the front. Nearly everything is in a container of some sort, which will make it easier to retrieve if we need to move it to a neighbor's generator-powered freezer, or to a family member's place.

Here's the freezer after all that work.

I also bought a case of water bottles, both for drinking and for stuffing into the freezer for use as ice packs. They'll help keep the freezer cold longer when the power's out, and then they'll still be drinkable. They also fit into small spaces very well, so they work better than a big bag of ice. A full freezer maintains its temperature much better than an empty one, so I could have left the bagels and things in here, but I also want to be able to grab and go when it's time to transfer the food. Having the trays in there will make it easier to select what we want to bring, depending on the space available to us in someone else's freezer. I plan on consolidating important fridge items as well, just in case.

I've done all I can to be ready for the storm. I downloaded the American Red Cross Hurricane app for my phone, so I can get alerts and information. I programmed my phone with numbers for BGE, homeowner's insurance, and my employer's emergency information line so I can see if work is closed. I also have those numbers on a board in the kitchen. I have a full tank of gas in the car. I have cash, because if the power outage is huge, some places that may be open may not be able to take credit or debit cards if the system is down. I've got enough kibble for the cats, and some food for us, although last time we were powerless we just went out to eat all the time since most places got their power back within a day. If necessary, we can cook on the grill. I have enough of my medications to get me through a few weeks – I won't need that much, of course, but medications weren't something I had even thought about until someone at work brought it up. If I were right at the end of a bottle of something and needed a refill this week, it might be a problem. We have plug-in storm flashlights in almost every room so that we can have light at hand when the power dies. The big flashlight battery is charged in the garage. I've moved all the candles and matches to a central location so we don't have to rummage around at night to find anything. We'll be moving trash cans and plastic flower pots into the garage in case the wind gets really bad. We'll sleep downstairs so trees can't fall on us. We have a ton of water bottles, wine, and board games.

There's nothing else we can do now but wait. And keep eating.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Writing Assignment #2

This week's assignment was a challenge for me. I'm glad, as that's why I signed up for a class - if I'm not challenged, I'm not improving or learning. The homework was to show the class a character, and to use dialogue to help paint a better picture. I hate dialogue. It's hard. Making story people sound like real people has always been the weakest area in my writing. Either they sound stiff and artificial, or everyone sounds like me, and neither of those makes for a particularly compelling bit of writing.

I decided to use a bit of my recent tribute to my grandmother, and convert it into a short scene with dialogue. This way, I also took on the challenge of rewriting a piece in a new way. My teacher recommended that exercise last week after the class heard my piece about the elephants. My classmates thought it seemed too calm and detached for its subject matter, and that the story was emotionless. I'm disappointed, because my goal was to express how surreal the moment was, and I liked the end result. What did you think of it? I'd really appreciate more feedback, if anyone wants to speak up, for good or for bad. Eventually, I will rewrite the elephant story with more excitement and expression, just for the practice, but this class is short and I don't want to present the same story two weeks in a row.  

Here's what I'll be sharing with my class this week.

A Cuppa Tea with Momo

I settled in at the kitchen table, nudging the cat from her nap on the seat cushion. Momo stood by the stove, whistling teakettle in hand, and turned to me as I tucked my purse under the chair.

"Shall I make us a cuppa?"

I opened my mouth to decline the offer, but thought better of it. To decline a cup of tea from Momo was to invite an offer of half a cup.

"Sure," I answered her in what I hoped was an enthusiastic voice, "I'd love some tea."

She turned back to the stove and poured the boiling water over the tea bags in her old Corningware teapot and hummed to herself about what one ought to do with a drunken sailor early in the morning. She lined up two mugs on the counter and very carefully poured the hot tea into them, using a bent finger to guide the teapot's spout. Her tea was always served in sturdy, sensible coffee mugs - never a dainty China teacup for my Momo.

She placed my full mug of tea on one of the woven placemats as she eased herself into the chair across from me, sighing with a smile as the weight came off her tired feet.

"One lump or two, my dear?" She took the sugar bowl in one hand as she lowered the spoon into it, and then shifted her hand to hold her mug as she brought the spoon full of sugar towards it. She clinked the spoon around to mix it in, then reached towards my cup.

"I got it, Momo," I said, gently taking the spoon from her hand and adding my own sugar.

The radio by the window was tuned to the CJAD talk station, and she reached over to turn the volume low so we could enjoy our tea. The calendar on the wall nearby was turned to the right month, I noticed. My aunt was doing a good job keeping Momo organized. Some of the large-print dates were circled in bright red marker. Doctor's appointments? Birthdays? There wasn't room in the boxes on the calendar for all her notes, which found their way onto Post-its and scratch paper stuck to the wall and countertop, everything in bold black marker so her eyes could make sense of the letters later.

"Have you had lunch yet?" She raised a fluffy white eyebrow in inquiry and placed her hands on the edge of the table to help push herself up.

"Oh, Momo, don't worry about me. Please, just tea is fine." I held up my cup with a smile to prove it.

She ignored me, standing with a quiet "oof" and walking towards the fridge to have a look inside. She pulled the door open decisively, rustling the scribbled reminders held onto the surface by round rainbow magnets.

"I've got some yogurt," she said,  holding out the cup to show me. I could make out a blueberry on the label, peeking out from between her fingers. When I made no response, she turned back, burying her head in the fridge, and called out "Carrots! I've got some carrots and there's got to be some dip in here somewhere! What do you like, ranch? Or how about a nice toasted tomato sandwich?"

"Momo, really," I protested. "I'm okay. I'm not hungry. Come drink your tea!"

Unconvinced, she moved to the pantry and moved things around on the shelves until she pulled her hand back out clutching a yellow box.

"May Wests!" She shook the box and the snack cakes rustled inside. I sighed.

"Okay, I'll take one."

Triumphant, she tore open the box, pulled out a cake, and plunked it down in front of me with a grin. She waited as I ripped open the cellophane and took my first bite.

"So," she began, cradling her tea in both hands and leaning her rough elbows on the table, "How's work these days?"

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Schrodinger's Grief

October will never be the same.

It's always been my favorite month, without fail, for as long as I can remember making lists of my favorite things.

October in Montreal is beautiful, with red maples and golden birches dropping their leaves to dance in the chilly breezes of fall before being crunched by happy feet. Burning daybreaks made more radiant, reflected in frosty windows and seen through the fog of a warm breath. Autumn colors brought out, in coats and sweaters and corduroy, reflecting the jewel that the world is becoming before it will fade to the quiet grey of winter.

October is for my birthday, for memories of carefully-counted candles in chocolate cake, wished on with closed eyes and extinguished to the sounds of singing and applause. It's for turkey and cranberries, for family and friends giving thanks for our blessings as we enjoy each other's company around a full and crowded table. It's for carving pumpkins and putting tiny Kit-Kats into the outstretched bags of fairies and superheroes.

It's still all of those things, of course. The world goes on as it used to. But this October changed me. I have never known grief before this, and I haven't decided yet how I will deal with it. Much of it is very personal, and I'm not ready to share everything with the world, but there's too much hurt right now for me to keep from writing, and I think it's therapeutic to share, at least a little.

Some moments, I am able to see my loss through the lens of logic, and understand that death and loss is part of life, and thus not fair or unfair, not cruel. It simply is. Momo is gone - nobody took her from us, and she didn't abandon us. She was old, and she was sick. She died. That is the way of things.

But loss stretches into the future as well as the past and the painful present. Once gone, a person can't change and grow and laugh with you. You're left with a static past that will never change unless you start to forget. You've reached the end of the book. There's no sequel, no way to know what could have happened next. That is what I mourn more than anything. That there will be no new memories.

At any given moment, the logic and the pain coexist uncomfortably inside me. It's Schrodinger's grief, both present and absent, the current moment's truth only detected if directly observed. Like Schrodinger did with his cat, I hold my grief in a small box, windowless. I am afraid to look, to examine my grief, because I am equally afraid to learn that it's alive or that it's dead. If I can carry it with me, this box, and never look inside it, maybe I can remain forever in this middle ground between being paralyzed by the pain and forcing myself to forget it while surrounding myself with other joys.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Cranberry and Apricot Pork Chops

This is a variation on a recipe I've posted in the past: Cranberry Pork Chops.

The reason for the variation is that halfway through making dinner, I discovered I did not have any marmalade left. Oops. I did have apricot jam, however, and I've had success using that with pork before, so I decided to smash two recipes together and hope for an edible result.

It worked!

How to make delicious happen:

4 pork chops
1/2 to 3/4 cup fresh cranberries, halved
Apricot jam, 3-4 tablespoons

Preheat your oven to 350.
Season the pork chops with salt and pepper, then brown them, for about 2 minutes a side, in a pan that can be transferred straight to the oven. I like to use my favorite Le Creuset Braiser for this sort of thing. Sometimes you can find those at Home Goods at a steep discount, and I'm sure other brands are good too, but this one is was a gift from my Mom and it's gorgeous and I try to use it often.

While they're browning up, a small bowlful of halved fresh cranberries with enough apricot jam to hold them all together, which in my experiment, came to about 3 tablespoons.

Once the chops have some color, put a dollop of the cranberry goo on top of each one. Add a few tablespoons of water to the pan (enjoy the sizzle!) and then transfer it to the oven, covered, for about 20 minutes. Check the temperature with a meat thermometer - pork chops come in varied thicknesses and yours may take longer to cook through.

If you've got some liquid left in the pan, move the pork chops to a plate and put the pan back on the stove to boil off and thicken the liquid into a sort of gravy. Add another dollop of the apricot jam if you want it sweet and syrupy. I did, and I loved it!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

We're not terrible people. Really.

Driving home late one night, Dave complained of a scratchy throat. Being the good wife that I am, I offered him a mint or a Lifesaver to take his mind off the scratchiness. He selected the Lifesaver option, so I dug one of my individually-wrapped, assorted-fruit-flavor sugar rings out of my purse and unwrapped it for him. I held it out for him to take, but he opened his mouth and said "Ahh", with his tongue out.

"Really? You want me to feed it to you?"

He nodded and grunted in the affirmative, tongue still out.

I put the candy on his tongue, at which point he drew it into his mouth and said in all sacriliciousness: "Body of Christ." I tell you, you can take the Catholic out of church...

"Wow, honey, if that's the body of Christ, he's got some serious diabetes."

He shrugged. "Hey, he's made up of all those white bread wafers. Nothing but carbs will do that to a person."

"So, refined carbs were Jesus' downfall?"

He considered that for a second. "Yeah. That and the Romans."

Monday, October 15, 2012

Writing assignment #1

This week's writing prompts included "incidents that stand out in my memory", and offered examples of parades and circuses. This event sprung immediately to my mind, and although it's a short piece, I'm going to be happy to present it in class this week.

Elephants on the Nydeggbrucke

On a foggy alpine morning in Bern, my friends and I rose early for a visit to the Barengraben before taking the train up into the mountains for the day. The city still seemed to be asleep. The narrow streets were almost empty of traffic and the sidewalks were bare except for a few early risers clutching steaming cups of coffee. The tall closeness of the buildings in the Swiss capital blocked out much of the surrounding view, so when I heard a commotion coming from somewhere nearby, I couldn't locate the origin of the foreign voices. I rushed ahead, turning a corner and losing sight of my friends.

I blinked. I gaped.

I ran back towards my friends, who were keeping a leisurely pace a block behind me, and I shouted to them.


My companions looked at each other, not sure I was sane.

“Elephants!” I repeated, racing back to the main road for another look.

We gathered on the damp sidewalk with other bleary-eyed tourists and confused locals, to watch the elephants walk by. A procession of five huge Asian elephants was being led down the street to cross the Aar river by way of the Nydeggbrucke bridge. There were no banners, no marching band, no circus clowns in giant shoes. Just five elephants, being led quietly down the streets of Bern on a sleepy morning. The elephants wore no costumes or blankets. They didn't walk trunk-to-tail like they do in cartoons. Their legs weren't shackled together, like all of the elephants I'd ever seen performing in the circus. They simply plodded slowly forward, towering into the grey sky, each following the other at a short distance. Men who I supposed were their trainers walked alongside the beasts, holding riding crops in their hands to correct their course if necessary.

I don't know where the elephants came from, or where they were going – I only spoke enough German to order bratwurst and beer, so I didn't think to ask anyone around me for an explanation of what I was witnessing. Given the dazed looks of the others on the sidewalk, though, I suspect everyone was as confused as I was.

We followed the silent parade across the bridge and watched them walk on into the morning as we stopped at the bear pit to eat our pastries.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

For Momo.

My grandmother, Mabel Mills Blais, known by all as Momo, passed away last weekend. I have been wanting to write her a tribute, but how can I condense a whole life onto this page? The magnitude of that task intimidated me all week and kept me from trying, until I realized that it's not my job to chronicle every detail of Momo's long and fascinating life; at least, not right now. Everyone who knew her has their own version of Momo to remember, and all I can do is share my Momo with you. The Momo who will live on in my memories.

My most comfortable and familiar Momo memories center around her kitchen table, where we'd sit and chat when I came to visit. Standing ready by the stove, nudging one of her rescued feline friends from the counter, she'd ask “Shall I make us a cuppa tea?” Refusing the offer got me nowhere – half a cup was always her next offer, as though the thought of a guest in her home not drinking at least a little tea was unconscionable. Officially, Momo herself only ever wanted half a cup of anything. She just had to drink through the top half to get to the bottom half, that's all. When the tea situation was settled to her satisfaction, she would clink mugs and spoons and shift the whistling kettle while she hummed to herself about what one should do with drunken sailors*. Always sturdy, sensible, big coffee mugs for Momo's tea - I never saw her using dainty teacups. Dainty just wasn't her way. 

Momo's mugs of tea always came with offers of food: cookies, May West snack cakes, toasted tomato “sangwiches”... Despite years of my best efforts to convince my grandmother that I do not like sliced raw tomatoes as a sandwich filling, she offered me one every time I was in her kitchen. I can't decide whether my preference just never registered for her, or whether she was getting a good laugh out of it. I'm inclined to believe the latter. Still, I have to wonder – what if I'd said yes, just to throw her off? Did she keep fresh tomatoes in her kitchen all year, season to season, just in case I called her bluff?

We talked about everything at that table. Sometimes politics, sometimes family goings-on, and always a discussion of something she'd heard on the radio. CJAD talk radio was her constant companion, always droning on in some corner of the house at all hours of the day and night. When her eyes started to go, the radio meant even more to her, and she'd relate stories from the radio programs as though she'd heard them from good friends. Whenever I came to her with a problem or a complaint about something at work or at school, she'd think for a moment and ask “Do you ever listen to Dr. So-and-So on CJAD? They talk about that sometimes. You should call in.” I often sighed, quite rudely and unfairly, when she asked me about the radio programs, because I never listened to anything but music stations and she knew that. It was the tomato sangwiches all over again!

She did watch TV sometimes, most of it absorbed through her closed eyelids while she rumbled the couch cushions with her snoring. If someone tried to turn off the TV while she was installed, she'd wake with a jolt and protest that she'd been watching that, and resting her eyes! And you know, if you quizzed her, she could almost always tell you exactly what had been happening on the screen.

Momo never had a problem sharing her opinions with you or with anyone within earshot. She was a woman who loved a good debate, and would shamelessly shift sides in a discussion if it meant it would keep the conversation lively. Looking back on those moments now, I can't help but think that I've got a bit of her in me. I see all sides of every argument and can play the Devil's Advocate and rationalize almost any position, if I'm given a chance. I see now that all those cups of tea with Momo had more of a role in shaping my personality than I ever realized at the time.

There's so much more. More than I could ever fit here and more than I could ever really relate to those who never knew her. So many little things about Momo and about the big house in Longueuil. The Crayola-red and -yellow tulips in the front garden. The white stone lions on the front porch, who made such comfortable chairs for the grandchildren having imaginary adventures. Holding out peanuts for generation after generation of backyard squirrels (all of whom were named "Chippy"), and throwing stale bread out to the "dickie birds". 

Her home was always a home to all, with family members holding a lifetime, unrestricted Golden Invitation to come and stay as needed. Nobody would ever be turned away - even the Jehovah's Witnesses who came to the door were accepted for a chat, and every stray cat who ever sat on the porch and meowed for food was given love and a warm home to purr in.

We'll miss her. She was strong and opinionated, kind and witty, and it's obvious that her whole family carries parts of her with them. You won't be forgotten, Momo. Toodley-pips, and God Bless.

*Her preferred method of dealing with one was to kick 'im in the belly and bust his boiler, whatever that means, but I can't find a reference to that line anywhere other than in my memories.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Cuppy Cakes a la Momo

This isn't a recipe. It's a fond memory and a sweet tribute to my grandmother, Momo, who left us this past weekend after 91 rich years in this world. I've been working on a written tribute, because I feel it's something I need to do, but this week has been very difficult. The words aren't lining up right, so I turned to food, as so many people do in painful times.

These "cuppy cakes" were Momo's specialty, as far as my siblings and I were concerned. "Cupcakes" could mean almost anything, but when someone said "Cuppy Cakes", you knew exactly what was waiting for you. They never stood a chance of surviving overnight once they were made.

They're just simple chocolate cupcakes, made from a box mix, with holes cut into the tops to make room for homemade, lightly sweetened whipped cream. They always lived on a shelf in her fridge because of the whipped cream filling, and we kids would try to be subtle about sneaking back over to open the fridge door for just one more... Sometimes the simplest things are really the best.

They just seemed like the right thing to make this week.

Friday, October 05, 2012

I Killed My Oven

Remember my intelligent wall oven? The one trying to speak to me in Morse code? I think I killed it.

I was tired of hearing the oven screaming at my delicious green beans, so I went to jiggle the part that I always jiggle when I need to silence the irritating alarms. I must have jiggled harder than usual, because this time the whole thing fell out into the oven, trailing ancient wires and insulation with it. The best part? The alarm was then permanently on. One frayed wire had come loose from its connector on the part, so I tried to jam it back into place with my oven-mitted hands, with little success. I couldn't get it to stay in place, and even when I held it there, the alarm wasn't shutting off. The shrieking wouldn't stop until I turned the oven off - as soon as I tried switching it back on, the alarm came back, no matter what I did with those wires. It was a few minutes before I realized that I was playing around with wires that may be hot in a couple of different ways, and I gave up.

Dave made a valiant effort at fixing it, but it's beyond our abilities. Looks like I'll be exploring the art of microwave cookery for a while. I wonder if any appliance repair guys will know how to fix a 30+ year old oven, or if we need to consider moving up our kitchen remodeling plans.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

My Class

I took a big step outside of my comfort bubble last night. Ever since I escaped shift work and started my new day job, I've been muttering about taking a class of some sort. Frustrated with my endless procrastination, I dedicated an afternoon to searching the internet for online professional certificate courses to push my career along, but became discouraged when I found that legitimate courses are very expensive. But I was tired of always saying I wanted to do something, and never doing it, so I decided to start small instead of giving up. Baby steps aren't much, but they're better than standing still. I registered for a writing class at the community college.

My first class was last night. I wasn't given any information beyond the name of the high school where the classes were held, so all I brought with me was a good pen and a slightly-used yellow spiral notebook, figuring that I'd at least have the basics covered. Notebook in hand, I stepped nervously through the front door to the school and was greeted by a helpful volunteer who showed me to my classroom.

The desks were tiny, arranged in three neat rows facing a chalkboard half-filled with a teacher's precise handwriting. I saw that the class was reading and analyzing Nathaniel Hawthorne's Scarlet Letter, and I smiled to myself, thinking it was probably just as well that I never had to read that one at school, or I wouldn't  have enjoyed it. Sometimes, reading too much into a book takes all the joy out of reading the book.

I was alone at first, twenty minutes early on purpose so that tardiness wouldn't add to my anxiety. The door was behind me, hidden at the end of a short hallway, so each time I heard the click of a new student arriving, I had to turn and wait to see who would appear. One by one, my five classmates came in and chose their seats. It's a very small class - only six women - and I am by far the youngest student. It feels strange to be taking a class about memoir and legacy writing when I'm not really old enough to have much of a life story, especially when I'm sitting there beside women in their seventies and eighties who have done so many incredible things.

When the teacher asked us to introduce ourselves and tell her why we were taking the class, I told everyone that I'm a Canadian import who came here for love, and that I love to write and want to learn more about it so that my blog will be better and maybe someday I'll write down my family's interesting stories for my grandchildren to read. I then had to explain a "blog" to my oldest classmate.

I hope I like the class, and I hope I do well. It's not for credit, but I will feel better if I can notice a difference in my writing, or at least in my approach to writing, by the end. We do writing exercises and share our work, which terrifies me. How strange that I can put my work online and not feel anxious about how it will be received, but reading a paragraph to the class makes my voice tremble. But it's not a challenge if it doesn't push me, so I'm going to do my best.

The first bit I read aloud to the class was the result of the teacher's instructions to find an important moment in my life and write about it for ten minutes. No other guidelines, just put something on paper and share it. I wrote about my first date with my husband, and while I would definitely go back and polish it up before presenting it to the world as an example of what I can do, it made the class laugh, and writing it made me happy.

I'm not sure whether I will, or whether I even should, share the results of my writing exercises with the internet. Who wants to read my memories, anyway? The important thing is that I followed through on a goal I set for myself, and I'm trying to be creative and find a way to grow a little. Wish me luck.