Archive for September, 2009
My dad had given us an enchanted childhood. Because he had a sweet tooth and was at heart one of us, he believed in making our birthdays and holidays magical; he was, and still is, a wonderful cook and fantastic storyteller. Imaginative, playful, a prankster. Dad was a weaver of words, and those he spun around us at bedtime, until we fell asleep and dreamt of floating castles and impish fairies. I have very vivid memories of family trips to the sea, the mountains and the countryside, where he took us on walks through fields of blood red poppies or ancient forests, and bought us the sweets we craved without much prodding.
I suppose that’s what attracted me to my hubby right from the beginning. He had that great sense of adventure, that love of life, that playfulness, and that attentiveness that I’ve associated with great dads. And he turned out to be just as I thought he would. He’s patient, kind, gentle, loving. But most of all, he makes each day magical with his stories, his observations, his ideas, and his creations. I love that he’s a stickler for rituals and traditions, for family time and family meals, for walks in the woods and on the beach, for building sandcastles and flying kites, for kicking the ball and patiently teaching to kick the ball, for watching birds and watching people, and for believing in the potential in all of us. Daddies are precious!
Last night I came across a list of things I had written as a sweet, innocent sixteen year old to my future grown-up self. Some serve as a reminder to have fun and are painfully naive, others are a plea for future enlightenment and I am shocked at my younger self’s subconscious awareness of them. My Tanti Marie had a saying that loosely translated says, the soul always knows what it yearns for. Was she ever right!
There are about eighty points on there, and to be honest, some are just too embarrassing to share, but a handful of them wouldn’t hurt. Here it goes and I’ll start with the silly ones first.
1. Visit the North and South Poles. This was one of the silliest things on there, and I cannot imagine why I had written it other than that it was obviously summer when I wrote the list, and the A.C. must not have been working.
2. Take up painting. I tried that, and while I believed myself to be the next Picasso no else shared in that belief. Who likes to be unappreciated at one’s art? Not me.
3. Take a course in computers. Huh?? Oh, I see, it was written 21 years ago!
4. Learn about period furniture. This is an obvious one since I have loved design as long as I remember, yet sadly I still can’t tell my Louis’ apart.
5. Learn to tango. I married a dancer. Not really, but he’s forever waltzing me around the house, and it does take two to tango. Enjoying the pun a little too much. Time to move on.
6. Explore the coral reefs. Hello! I must first learn to swim!
7. Be less selfish. I am working on it every day.
8. Learn to manage my money. I have had a tendency to live large. Living within my means is a relatively new implementation in my daily life, which really focuses on what’s important ( traveling, dinners with my family, jeans, books, eclairs, cappuccinos, splurging on a few purses and shoes, throwing a dinner party once in a while), and does away with the unimportant (eating out just because I’m too lazy to cook, trendy clothes that I won’t wear more than a couple of months, a big gas guzzler to just get to work and back, Starbucks - I apologize to all who love it, but in my arrogant opinion Starbucks coffee isn’t real coffee, and unless I have a splitting headache from a lack of caffeine in my system, I will not give in to it).
9. Take an accounting course. This would have been a smart choice twenty years ago. I should have written this in big block letters and taped it to the fridge.
10. Accept the fact that I am getting older. WHAT. THE. HECK.
Dawn’s about to break, and the warmth of the bed is calling. If any of you have written reminders to your future selves I’d LOVE to hear what they were. Have a wonderful weekend!
My love affair with purses started the summer before first grade. Upon one of our Sunday afternoon outings in the city center, I was struck dumb by one of the most beautiful sights my young eyes had seen thus far: a red patent leather purse. Round in shape (this was the seventies) and with an outside pocket containing a little doll, I just had to have one exactly like it. For the following weeks, I was an obsessed child imploring my parents nicely, and sometimes not so nicely, about my need to get one.
Eventually my wish came true, and with my red patent leather purse I also received a pair of red patent leather Mary Janes. Imagine my joy! I wanted to wear the shoes and the purse everywhere. I suppose that was the origination of my showing off, although it’s hard to tell as I’ve been a show off as long as I remember. Yet my mom wouldn’t allow it. They were only for church and visits to friends and family, where they could be properly appreciated. And because we lived in a communist country and things were difficult to come by, her reasoning made sense.
Over the years I’ve accumulated a variety of purses that have been objects of intense love at one time or another, but which have lately been gathering dust on the shelves. Yet, I can’t bear to part with them. The memories they hold are many and precious. Girlhood, womanhood, motherhood. Specific moments and specific contents within, are ingrained in my mind.
I suppose there’s plenty of psychological explanations for my love and need of a beautiful purse, yet who cares about all that? I’m too busy enjoying and loving.
I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. (Henry David Thoreau)
Monday morning dawned cold and clear, a streak of pink across the sky. I lay in bed a few extra minutes, loving the warmth of the sheets, hubby’s arm around me, and my youngest darling who had snuck in our bed sometime during the dark night. It had been a restless night, characterized by much tossing and turning and checking of the time. As we were preparing the kids for bed we had received horrible news. A close family friend had died after almost a year of fighting for his life. He had been young, younger than me, and had left behind a wife, siblings, and aging parents.
And he had worked so hard, a most diligent student of life. First at his studies, then at his job, then at his marriage, and finally at what was slowly killing him. We were expecting this call to come sometime in the future. He had been doing so well lately, and the spark of loving life hadn’t left his eye. The news left us speechless, our thoughts meandering over the years of our lives.
How many of those we had lived carelessly and ungrateful for the miracle life is? We had hurt the ones who love us in our indifference and selfishness. We had worried about ridiculous things. We had overlooked nurturing relationships in favor of making money. And shouldn’t it be the other way? Why is it that the suicide rate had increased during the present economic situation? For that reason alone: a genuine lack of spiritual and human connection. When what one places one’s hopes in disappears, what is there to turn to?
As I am preparing to say my last goodbyes to our friend, I am making a promise to myself. I will tend to my relationships; I will be more thankful; I will forgive more quickly and apologize to the people I have hurt; I will love unconditionally; I will kiss and hug my loved ones even more; I will measure my words; I will act with compassion; I will stop worrying about transient things and instead focus on the eternal; I will live with a sense of gratitude and not one of entitlement; I will seize every opportunity to see the beauty around me and revel in God’s gift of life. And finally, I will live. I will live passionately.
I will seek elegance rather than luxury, refinement rather than fashion. I will seek to be worthy more than respectable, wealthy and not rich. I will study hard, think quietly, talk gently, act frankly. (William Ellery Channing)
On this, the eve of another birthday, I have come to the realization that my life is so marvelous and filled with love and blessings that I do not mind getting old, all that much. For many years I have dreaded birthdays because I dreaded getting old and wrinkly. It seemed so unfair and humiliating. Throughout my teens and twenties, I had worshipped the sun’s rays, not so much because I liked their feel on my skin, but rather because of the glow they gave me. Once I reached my thirties it seemed so silly and pointless; nonetheless, I was addicted.
I remember a summer a few years back, when I went tanning every single day. It was fashionable. Being tanned, that is. And I wanted to be fashionable. I admit it, I have been successfully brainwashed to believe in the importance of fitting in. But anyway. Fashion is important to me. And just so you know, I’m quite the fashionista - in my own mind.
In the spirit of a wish to be elegant, which I’m assuming is a wish for every woman past thirty-five, I have given up tanning. Wouldn’t you know it, but my skin is all the better for it. The love I have for myself has matured - I hope, but honestly only time will tell - from an obsessive, all-consuming love into a forgiving, accepting one.
And really, all I want on the eve of my eightieth birthday - besides recognizing my face in the mirror and my children’s face around me - is to look at the reflection of my wrinkled face and not regret a single line.
half cube butter
4 large cloves garlic
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary or 1 tsp. dried
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh thyme or 1 tsp. dried
sprinkle of dried crushed red pepper
2 cups chicken stock
½ cup heavy cream
4 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
lots of baguette slices
Heat the butter in large pot over medium-high heat. Add garlic and sauté until fragrant. Add the tomatoes and let the butter and garlic blend with it until it becomes almost a sauce. Stir in the rosemary, thyme and dried crushed red pepper. Add chicken stock and bring it to boil. Reduce heat and add the half-cup of heavy cream. Simmer uncovered until soup thickens slightly, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in basil. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Preheat broiler. Brush baguette slices with some olive oil. Transfer to large baking sheet. Broil until golden. Serve alongside soup.
Now, I am really not a cook which is a shame, for I sure love to eat. And more than anything else, I gravitate to those foods that take time and patience. I’ve read and heard some amazing women say that the trick is having a few fabulous recipes up one’s sleeve to whip up at a moment’s notice. A few for every season, I suppose is best. Enjoy!
A few days ago while speeding on the freeway to make it to an appointment for which I was already very late, frustrated and annoyed at the drivers I felt were responsible for my lateness, I got to thinking about the sort of things that we trick ourselves into believing make us happy. Things like vacations, financial freedom, getting a certain client or certain contract, having the kids get into the ‘right’ schools, losing ten lbs., and so on and so forth.
Yet the more I thought about it, the more I realized that while these things do bring about a certain feeling of satisfaction, when I want what I already have, I feel the greatest joy and peace. Nothing can replace my children’s smile, my husband’s hand in mine, my beautiful garden, my mother’s daily wisdom, that favorite book, that first cup of coffee, that moment upon opening my eyes and realizing that I have been given another day to spend with the people I love.