Monthly Archives: November 2016

Candles and Cake

 

img_1700Happy Birthday to my FHB!  He is known by many other monikers, Daddy-o, Saba,  and The Big Guy.  He reluctantly accepts a bit of fuss about his birthday, and tries to shy away from the attention, but the truth be known, I know that he feels the love inside, despite the outward resistance and eye-rolling.  He also loves his birthday cake which this year was particularly good, lemon with whipped cream.  Pretty predictable, that man,and that’s  just fine.  Getting older, versus getting old is always a bone of contention.  One you embrace and the other you hope is still 25 years away.

My FHB and I are very different people.  Beyond the obvious, I am a foot or more shorter than he is, and he has brown eyes and I have blue ones.  He also has a beard, and gratefully, I do not.  He is someone people remember, and I am someone who believes that I am invisible.  We have diverse interests, he likes sports and television and I would rather be at the dentist than watch sports on television.  He can sit and just be and I don’t sit down for too long and scurry around like the White Rabbit.  He hates board games and cards and we once had a huge disagreement when I coerced him into a game of Scrabble and we battled about whether “paints” is a word when you add the “S”.  I know it does not make any sense but we never played again and I have been told, we will never, ever, play that again. He hates scary movies or movies about deep family issues and states that I just watch them because they are reminiscent of my work.  Probably true.   I am corny and silly and can talk in many voices (not languages).  I am obnoxious at times and despite trying to convince him that this is part of my charm, the eyes roll and he sighs.  It does not stop me from doing it again, of course. That is the essence of being obnoxious.  He is precise and thoughtful when undertaking a project. He mulls things over and keeps a lot of thoughts inside.  He is quiet but observant.  He is many things I wish I could be, but know that I am not.  That is part of the balance of our relationship.

On the plus side, we both love music and nature and current events (although some current, current events are just too painful to discuss).  We enjoy travel both exotic and local and can make an adventure out of something simple, like the search we do every fall for the perfect and most delicious cider donut.  We are both creative but not competitive despite his need to give me a second opinion on something I believe is just fine the way it is.  We are both one another’s sounding board and critic and sometimes the best time is spent not talking but just sitting with silence, in a place that feels safe and familiar, listening to the traffic outside our loft or at the ocean listening to the rhythm of the the waves.  I shame him to be silly sometimes, because life is far too short to take anything but the most serious situations, too seriously.  His values are my values.  He is very intelligent and that is part of what I connect with.  He knows so many things about so much that a conversation is often a door that I have opened, full of surprises I didn’t know I  could explore and learn from.  When we met, one of the criteria for a partner was my looking for someone I could share a muffin with. It was important to me (albeit weird) to know what part of a muffin he would choose, the top (MINE) or the bottom.  He said that we could split it in half and he would be content with either.  It was a pivotal moment.  Life comes at us and we have no solution for harnessing time.  Sometimes the big things are worth clarifying in a relationship and sometimes you learn to let  little things go.   But his toothbrush is his toothbrush.  I am also pretty sure that adding the “S” to paints is legit.  I’m learning to let go of things like this, can you tell?

So happy birthday to my Big Guy.  He blew out all the candles (we extrapolated so as not to set off smoke detectors).  Now onward to the next one.  Happy to celebrate and I’ll always bake the cake.

See you Friday!

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My Happy Place

 

I have had a song in my head for the past three days.  It keeps me company and has a beginning phrase, and a short middle passage and then it ends on a happy note that is final, but in a lovely way.   It is not a song you would be familiar with since I created it.  I’ve been trying to distract myself from it, but it’s with me.  It’s what one would probably call a little ditty, if one was around, whoever one is. You know who one is, a cousin of they, them, and everyone.

It is nice to daydream of places that make me happy.  It is easier to imagine the places I have been, rather than consider what it would be like to be in new places that I have never visited. That, to me, is more work and challenges my imagination. When I go to my happy place, I know where everything is, what the weather is like, and who is there and what I am going to do.  It is a vacation of the mind.  This is very different from a being out of my mind, which is somewhat like a virtual voicemail that says “I’m currently out of my mind, so leave a message and the likelihood I will get back to you is as good as winning the lottery without buying a ticket”.  This kind of mental vacation is good for you.  It is a conscious attempt to revisit something that holds you.

In the past, I would have identified my place as somewhere near the ocean.  I like seeing the waves and tide going in and out and knowing what is past the horizon and watching the birds, and sometimes the people who are in my line of sight.  It is calming and constant.  More recently, I travel back to last summer at the goat farm my FHB and I spent some time visiting.  It was oppressively hot and dry and the heat beat down hard as I helped milk the goats and clean up after the horses.  It was hard work and physical labor, which is not something I have ever done, apart from moving fourteen times, and packing and unpacking.  That is about the extent of hard work of a physical kind.  I can smell the hay and the dirt and feel the heat off the animals as they try and flick away the mosquitos and flies.  I sit and watch the farmer tend the goats with care and affection and call them each by name.  In a short time,  I learn their names and personalities.  I want to know them again. I want to be there.  It still has such a strong hold on my heart.  The unfortunate part was that we were the last guests to visit as the farmer was moving his herd to a warmer climate down south.  Vermont was getting far too cold and too hard to make a living , so heading out made sense for him.

This is probably one of the memories that I have held onto for a longer time than others.  It became more than a vacation and turned into an awareness.   We can’t always look past what we have seen, despite trying.  It becomes more of our own fiber, and part of who we now are.  My takeaway is that we are constantly growing and refining what we are about.  This is one of those happy places, I have to build on to understand why it has impacted me to such an extent.  We have to allow these “intrusions” access to  our minds.  Between the goat farm and the song in my head, I feel quite busy and I welcome them both and anticipate that they will evolve into something I will figure out along the way.

This long weekend is always my favorite. It is like Saturday and Sunday and then another Saturday and Sunday.  How great is that!  Hope your weekend is good so far.  Don’t save me any pie. I am so full.

 

 

How we love one another

Turkey noodle pot pie.  That’s all I have to say.  That was a total and complete culinary disaster.  Even the dog refused to eat it, and the dog was not a fussy eater.  I thought I was being clever and creative.  Sometimes, leftovers are better left alone.  With Thanksgiving just about upon us, I have thoughts about holidays and family and those who become part of our families.  I think about how we often try new things (see above) and family, because they love us, will give it an all out try and yet sometimes despite good intentions, we end up with epic failures. These are the stories families like to tell, of past and now humorous food and social disasters.  I have had plenty of them and after a little bit of good natured reminiscing and poking, I can say that these are the things that make celebrations more celebratory.

I truly enjoy cooking and Thanksgiving ranks as my favorite holiday.  The menu is standard and the preparation is organized and well thought out.  The timing is perfect, except when it is not.  For several years, my sister and I shared the “Joy of Cooking” (old standard cookbook reference) at her house.  She would buy the turkey and fixings and we would start our routine of peeling, boiling, mashing, baking and of course watching the  Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade.  Then there was the year that the turkey just didn’t want to be cooked.  Dinner was scheduled for four p.m.  Family and friends were hovering (which I might add is not always helpful or wanted, just saying).  That sucker just didn’t cook.  Turn the oven up, turn it down. Cover it, uncover it and short of calling the ladies of Butterball for consultation, we pondered.  More appetizers, until there were none.  There were a lot of questions, and concerns.  Now it was about 6:30 and the idea to stick a fork in it found that it was still tough.  For a few moments we wondered if this bird was not farm raised but something that ran through the woods near the farm and invited itself in to be sacrificed for our dining experience.  I think we may have decided that we would serve dinner slowly, first a soup course, then a salad, followed by checking the damn turkey.  We put the sides on the table with some delicious rolls and creamy butter, nice and warm with the hope that people would be too full for turkey.  Not the case. I believe people do that stretching your stomach exercise which is the same one that people do who are planning to participate in a hot dog eating contest.  Eventually, somewhere between “I am out of my mind” and “I think at least the breast meat is done”, we began to serve the bird.  It was pretty cooked, but not perfectly cooked.  As we sliced the breast meat, we then put the bird back into the oven for another few minutes of “tanning”.  It was the longest dinner on record.  Everything else was great, but somehow, my appetite waned.  My brother-in-law made a lovely toast to the chef(s).  Always a gracious host. The wine flowed and maybe that made the meal more delicious. It becomes evident that Thanksgiving is about family and friends, and less about the food.

Stories over the dinner table can relive those moments of past meals and bring smiles and peals of laughter.  We show love to one another with the gifts of tolerance and generosity.  We share the best of the memories as well as the tales that reflect  the vulnerabilities  and foibles of human error.  We never blame it on the chef, we just blame it on the tough old bird.

Wishing each one of you a day of peace, and reflection and comfort with the people who love you no matter what.  Happy Thanksgiving.

Have a great long weekend.

 

Tempting the fates

Curiosity is part of my everyday routine.  I like to catch people off guard by asking pointed questions.  It might fall under my idea of small talk since my questions are usually off topic, and when I am trying to be sociable and engaging, my mind wanders off and I might ask “what superstitions did you grow up with?”.  It is quite amazing to find that people are very quick to respond and describe a belief that they follow based in nothing but dogma.

In our home, growing up, dropping various pieces of silverware, meant that we could expect a visitor. A fork was a woman, a knife was a man, and a spoon a child.  My mother would pronounce “Company’s coming!” and we would look expectedly at the door for the bell to ring and confirm what we had been told.  We did not question it but we also probably did not test it on an empirical basis.  We just acknowledged that it was so. This went along with putting shoes on the table meant an arguement, and the corollary  which proclaimed that opening an umbrella in the house would bring bad luck, never mind poking someone’s eye out. That of course was the parental rule of sharp objects that I am sure most people grew up with.  So, we were careful with shoes and umbrellas. Actually I am not sure why anyone would put shoes on the table in the first place, but I was not going to tempt fate.  I observed the spilling of salt and then throwing salt over one’s shoulder at a friend’s house and it was done with such fluidity, I was hesitant to ask, until curiosity forged ahead and I was told that  spilling salt was bad luck and throwing the salt would reverse it.  I just filed that in my people are strange folder in my mind.  Yet, once again, I considered that, on the off chance I did happen to spill salt, I had a back up plan.  Just in case, I put the salt far away from where I would sit, when I would visit. We didn’t do it at my house but that was more about  the thought that putting salt on food after it was cooked meant you were insulting the cook.  We would talk about something good happening retrospectively so that the evil eye wouldn’t come and undo the good.  If by accident, you said something positive, you would then make a spitting sound three times, which would sound like  “toi, toi, toi” and that would banish the possibility. I found it absolutely fascinating listening to my mother and her sisters  talking  about something  normal (?) in  conversations but as soon as one of them said a statement that could be construed as too good, one of them  would have to make that awful spitting sound to eradicate the bad luck, and then they would just continue on where they had left off.  It was almost like a dance move.  I was mesmerized.  It was magic and I was watching it in vivo and could not explain it.

My FHB had this habit in the past of sneezing and then pulling his ear right afterwards.  I watched the first few times, and then I had to ask what I was seeing.  He responded in a rather matter of fact tone that his mother had done this and it was a thing.  He thought he remembered it as something to do with bad luck and superstition, but didn’t really think about it, and it was as automatic as my saying “Gesundheit” when he sneezed.  So imagine 1) large and loud sneeze of the seismic type 2) pulls ear  3) I say “Gesundheit” 4) cha cha cha.  I was now a part of this ridiculous ritual.  Jump right in, the water’s fine.

We all try and control what we can.  So much is way beyond our pay grade, we just have to figure out other ways to not allow the world to spin off its access into disaster.  Thus, we follow the rituals we have witnessed and now perpetuate.  Why, because we do.  Why don’t we stop? Well, just in case something happens and we don’t do, we don’t want to be responsible.  We take comfort in small ways.  It makes the bigger decisions and questions less frightening.  In our house, salt is in the spice cabinet, umbrellas are in the car and we just temper the possibility of things going badly, when everything seems to be going well, by quickly changing the subject.  There is no spitting.  One has to draw the line somewhere.

Have a good weekend. Please say thank you and you’re welcome.  Please don’t say “no problem” because then it is one.  Just one of those pesky rules.

 

My Backyard

When you live in a loft apartment (that used to be a old mill), you don’t have a lawn to mow, a porch to sit on, a garden to tend to or a driveway to shovel in the dead of winter.  It is a mixed bag in terms of responsibilities and pleasures.  It was an adjustment that my FHB and I had to come to terms with as we went from several acres in a sleepy town, to the grittier part of a city with a lot of attitude and character and a bit more vitality.

Once you have made that leap, you go through a period of time missing what you had enjoyed, and then come to the realization, that your backyard is as large as you want it to be.  On weekend days we get in our car, and head to greener pastures, literally.  Travelling less than about ten miles in any direction allows us to see nature, the ocean (actually Buzzards Bay) and ponds, woods and meadows, filled with cows and other farm critters, few people and a serenity, far from the streets where we live.  We live in a harbor town, New Bedford, which is a fishing seaport, with the largest dollar catch in the country.  The Port of New Bedford, Massachusetts is America’s #1 Fishing Port.  It is less than a mile from our apartment.  We can’t see it, but often we can smell it and despite its sometime less than fragrant aroma, it is the lifeblood of the city.  The city is steeped in so much history, including a stop on the Underground Railroad, and the city that became the story of Moby Dick and the whaling industry.  It is a contrast of former whaling captains’ mansions, some renovated to the way they looked in the 1850s and others in disrepair, badly in need of attention.  It is a city with many  former manufacturing mills,  some of which have been revitalized as loft apartments and artists’ studios and others that are empty and silent, holding the history in their brick facades.  The people are as diverse as the surroundings with the mix of many cultures and languages and people whose families were part of the beginnings of our country and those who are new to  the city from places far away looking for new opportunities and safe harbors.  We have a national park in the middle of the city that just celebrated its 20th birthday.  We have a harbor filled with scallopers, lobster boats, trawlers and clammers.  They dot the harbor as the boats head out to bring home the catch that sustains the city and the  fishermens’ families.   The ocean challenges the fishermen with hard work and risks and one learns to respect the ocean as its master.

The farms surrounding the city are being resurrected to help sustain the communities with local products. The farm stands of summer and their harvest, now come indoors to winter markets to provide fresh vegetables and meats and delicious honey and jams.  The synergy of green and grit create a balance of which  we can avail ourselves.  This area has become home for me over the last forty years.  I have seen the growth of my children as well as the growth and mix of  the communities both  city and rural.  Not an easy life, nor an easy assimilation and yet, my own commitment to help us keep going, in a climate undergoing changes and challenges that are really, really hard, mirror the people of this area.  Tough times, tough folks with hearts that may be rough in spots, but, under the grit are the souls of those that came before us, who made it work and continue to work, day in and day out.

Have a calm week.  Be kind.

 

Reincarnation

 

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Who among us, as pet lovers have not made the statement that “In my next life, I want to come back as my __________ (fill in the blank, be it cat, dog, or hamster)”.   I’m on that gravy train.  Life as my cat is oh so sweet.  Life as any of my past pets has definitely impressed upon me that life can be easy if you live with me.  My FHB might disagree but that’s a story for another time.  Currently we are a one cat household.  If I could read my cat Paka’s mind, that is just fine with her.  A definite only child syndrome. She did have an older cat sister, but Lucy passed away after almost 2o plus years last December.  Paka is six years old and when she arrived in our house, she was seven weeks old and Lucy really wanted nothing to do with her. Another only child mentality.  Over time, Lucy began to tolerate Paka and sometimes cleaned her,seemingly  haveing momentary maternal feelings.   That would usually be followed by hissing.  Siblings under the fur.  We all grieved when Lucy died, but somehow, life does go on and Paka loves being in the driver’s seat.

It must be nice to have breakfast prepared every morning in your favorite dish with fresh water on the side.  Paka stands in her spot near her food and I feel eyes watching me as I wash her dishes, drying them carefully (they are porcelain) and filling them with something I wouldn’t eat just by smell alone. But then again, I do not share the same palate as my feline.  Breakfast appears to be serious business as she gets right to it and when I wake at 5:40 a.m. she accompanies me to the bathroom, in part to make sure I don’t dilly dally (a term my mother used incessantly) and get to the task at hand.  She then watches us from some place on high, be it a kitchen stool at the island, or from the top of an antique buffet that my maternal grandparents brought from Germany that was made in 1912 for their wedding.  Nothing is too good for Paka.  The sun has not yet risen by that time so she finds the softest place on the couch, usually warm from my FHB’s derriere, after watching the latest news as he gets ready for work. It’s a nice arrangement. Soft and warm space, prepared with her in mind, I am sure she believes.

We leave in the morning and she somewhat sees us to the door, and on some occasions we forget something and go back minutes later and she is already in her spot dreaming of her next meal.  We of course, are out there working to make sure she has the best food, or rather the food she likes best.  Have you ever watched people in the pet food aisle spending a lot of time and sighing over the choices for their cat? Usually these are the folks that engage in conversations that start with “….I don’t know why I bother, she hates everything!” and then proceed to discuss the merits of chopped versus grilled versus pate’.  I usually do the stealth move of reaching, grabbing quickly the usual (stuff that includes cheese) and try not to maintain any eye contact or it’s over.  Litter is another issue.  Paka is not too vocal except when she indicates her need to have the box changed.  Usually she disappears, as she is a social cat and is always nearby.  Then I look for her and find her sitting in the bathroom, in the dark, near to her litter box just staring.  This is when I realize that I have been sent a mental message  ”  It is about time that you stop thinking about yourself and think about me and my needs.  Have you looked at the box lately?  It’s disgusting!  When are you going to change it?  Do you think I can lift 20 pounds of litter?  Do you understand that you work for me and it’s not the other way around?!!!” or something like that.  She supervises this process and I realize that I am apologizing for not being there for her and meeting her needs. Then I realize that I am in a relationship with someone who seems to have seriously narcissistic tendencies.  My next realization is that I must like it in a strange way because when all is well, Paka sits on my lap, or next to my hip and we are both  content.  I definitely will be considering how I come back as my cat in the future, and also how to make sure that the cat food choices are more to my liking.

Have a good weekend.  Keep yourselves and your pets safe.  By the way, Paka means “cat” in Swahili.

Pragmatism, controversy and granddaughters

Often,  the complexities of the world we live in, result in confusion and misunderstanding.   We are forced to look in the mirror and determine what we see.  We remember that the reflection in the mirror is sometimes an accurate view of what we  believe we see.  Sometimes it is distorted and our minds attempt to perceive it in the way that is familiar and comfortable.  Sometimes it is just uncomfortable and disquieting.  I sit with that feeling tonight after a day of discussion, controversy and angst.

I am a pragmatist.  I recognize that at any given moment, things may spin out of control despite my attempts to maintain balance and order.  The elements of reason and prediction clearly have gone awry.  Marshall McLuhan pronounced that “The medium is the message”.  That was in 1964.  That was a lifetime ago but very prescient.  Every day we do our lives, to the best of our ability and our hope  is that if we stumble, we can try again the next day.

I have two amazing granddaughters.  They deserve the best world we can give them.  That is not measured in possessions but in opportunities and experiences that enrich and offer a just and true life.  We do not have a moment to look back to see what we stumbled over.  It happened and we are already a day away.  We must keep moving and focus on making it better.  Somebody’s fault, everybody’s fault, nobody’s fault Doesn’t matter. Let’s get going. Time’s wasting and we have no time to waste.  I am grateful to have a place to write my thoughts.  We still have that choice.  If I don’t understand you, I am still willing to listen to you.  Maybe I will hear you.  Maybe that’s a start.

Thanks for reading.