In an ideal marriage, two halves blend to create a more perfect whole, where individual characteristics complement rather than overpower each other. It’s a delicate balancing act, much like combining ingredients to create the perfect dish.
Lillian, the chef and proprietor of a small but elegant restaurant, runs a cooking school in the kitchen on Monday nights, the one evening the restaurant is closed. Lillian intuitively knows how individual ingredients will blend to create something perfectly balanced and pleasing to the senses. She teaches not just cooking, but how to respect the process. Her students learn to understand each ingredient’s unique qualities so they can foresee how each element of a dish will play off another, melding with but not overpowering more delicate flavors. It’s more about gut-feel cooking than it is about blindly following a recipe. Her students learn that creating the perfect dish is the result of slowing down and being mindful, cooking with all one’s senses, feeling one’s way through. Lillian’s cooking lessons become life lessons.
Erica Bauermeister has created a little masterpiece of book. It’s sensual and rich, subtly layered like the flavors in Lillian’s exquisite dishes. The prose is lyrical but readable and earthy. Bauermeister created characters that you want to get to know, and more importantly, want to continue having a relationship with once you’ve reached the last page. She hit upon the perfect balance of backstory and present-day narrative to deepen and round out her storyline .
I devoured this book. It was delicious.
Rambling as the wheel of the year completes its rotation:
A new year, full of promise, tantalizes and teases from the pages of my freshly opened calendar. We wish each other Happy New Year, often with fingers crossed. Happiness is so elusive, and yet our expectations never change. A fresh new year, full of promise, is about to unfold before us. The threshold we stand on today, between the old year and the new, offers the opportunity review, reconsider, release the negative, reaffirm the positive, and resolve to do better, to be better, to cross all the Ts and fill in all the blanks by next New Year’s Eve. To face next New Year's Eve with no regrets. If I am nothing else, I am an optimist.
I keep a photo diary of sorts. My pictures prove it happened, prove I was there, reassure me that I am not alone, allow me to relive the moment again or, give me a second chance to appreciate an occasion or a gorgeous vista or a friend’s visit, when I might have been too busy being in my head to be fully conscious of it all the first time around. I love my pictures. I will put together a photo book for 2012. It will make me smile.
I hope my journey up life’s learning curve is at least commensurate to the rate at which my hair is turning grey. I continue to learn, about life, about myself, about maintaining the right balance of ‘power’ (for lack of a better word) in a relationship, and about the world around me. I hope this next year will bring me more opportunities to expand my knowledge base and grow as the compassionate human being I so want to be.
This past year I resolved to move out of my comfort zone, and I did, more than once. I am a stronger, more confident person for having done so. I have great memories (and pictures) that I would otherwise not have. This past year I reaffirmed my priorities in life. I have given my time and energy very freely to others, but I have also taken the time to draw in and put my needs first when necessary. I learned about balance, which has meant learning to sometimes say ‘no’. This new aspect of my personality was not appreciated by everyone. This past year I made stronger connections. Some acquaintances became friends. I also faced the fact that a relationship I had hoped would deepen into a lifelong friendship probably never will. The potential was there, I thought, or maybe I misread the signs… it doesn’t matter… it is what it is. This year I learned to say ‘it is what it is’.
I’m ending this year happy and content with life, and I am looking forward to the new year ahead. I’m old enough to finally have perspective but young enough (at heart at least) to have goals still to achieve, passions to pursue, talents still to unearth, new relationships in my life that have the potential to develop into friendships, relatively good health, a husband who is supportive and does his very best to understand me, and material comfort enough to remind me that I am blessed and should never complain. Life is good. I believe that I can wish you all “Happy New Year” and truly mean it, and my fingers are not even crossed.
The unexpected heat faded the snapdragons but brought the Palo Verde trees out in bloom a few weeks early. All over Tucson, the showy Palo Verdes brighten our subdued landscape with brilliant clouds of yellow. The prickly pear cactus are blooming as well. Must admit that when the desert shouts out spring, it almost makes up for the dreariness of the dust-bowl summer that will follow.
Spent the day working in the yard: raking, trimming, moving rocks, and finding space for a few more plants. "Where?" you say. Mainly in the planter. I've filled up almost every available spare inch in the garden. The planter, however, was looking a little ragged. The quail have been visiting the petunias to enjoy a salad course before moving along to the seed block for their entree. Seems that what the bunnies don't like, the quail do. I replanted with hardier, larger plants in the hope that a bigger plant can withstand some 'pruning' and maybe the quail will decide to share and leave some for me.
Just got back from a three-day jaunt with a friend, up to Snohomish, WA. It rained the whole time we were there. We loved it. Washington residents kept apologizing for the weather, and we kept reassuring them that we'd just left 102-degree heat, so overcast skies and the constant, soft rainfall were heaven to us.
WA is GREEN. Yes, green in all caps: startling, blazing, almost overpowering green. The countryside around Snohomish was a mixture of evergreens and Spring-green deciduous trees. No one has to install irrigation systems as part of their landscaping. Lawns were already lush. The homes in the historic neighborhood where we stayed were surrounded by yards filled with flowering shrubs, gardens bright with tulips, and fruit trees in full bloom. I never put my camera down. I was in plant heaven.
my desert garden:
one of the amazing trees we saw in the northwest (WA) - a Tulip Tree
Gabby was a true public servant in the traditional sense of the phrase: she unselfishly served her state, her constituents, and her country with an open heart and an open mind. She did not cultivate divisiveness, as so many others do. She didn't encourage an 'us against them' mentality, but worked to bring opposing sides together to compromise on issues for the good of all.
Gabrielle Giffords is a true American. She understands that being American is not an ethnicity but is a state of mind: a philosophy, a way of life. There is no one like her. She has been a beacon of light signalling the way home in a country, and particularly in this state (AZ), that has lost its way. It breaks my heart and diminishes my hope for our future to see her light dim.
- Current Mood: sad
I never open a new wall calendar until New Year’s Day. A new calendar is a fresh start to a new year, filled with promise, and I relish the anticipation. I release the calendar from the bounds of the clear wrap, and turn the pages for each month, taking time to absorb each stunning photograph and to note the dates of birthdays and anniversaries, mentally penciling-in the tantalizing white squares for each day, happily planning my life.
This year, though, my first thought on New Year’s Day 2012 was not of opening my new Australian Terriers calendar, nor was it a day-dreamy prediction of how the year might unfold, but instead my first thought was of Gabrielle Giffords. I thought about her waking up last New Year’s Day, full of optimism and brimming with ideas, ready to serve her constituents and country in 2011, only to have her life shattered by a madman with a gun, eight days later. My first act of 2012, after brewing my coffee, was to make my husband breakfast and serve it to him in bed. Believe me when I say that this does not happen on a regular basis.
If there is any connection here at all, it would be the hard realization that life has a way of spinning us off our axis faster than a hurricane can fell a tree. It was in the pre-dawn hours of New Year’s morning 1998 when my husband got the call that his mother had passed away. Up until that moment, we had been blissfully celebrating New Year’s Eve. It was 4:00 a.m. July 4, 1999 when I learned that my father had just died, found sprawled in his bathroom. He died alone. An unexpected phone call from a relative in 2005 sidetracked my life with the news that my stepfather had been sent directly to the hospital from the doctor’s office: leukemia. He was my mother’s caregiver: a role I was to take over. Early morning phone calls still make my stomach contract. Life as we know it changes in an instant. The light from sunniest day can be sucked into a black hole with one phone call, one blood test, one summons to the boss’s office, or in the time it takes to check one’s lipstick in the rear view mirror. And we’ll always say, “But the day started out so well. It was just an ordinary day. I didn’t see it coming.”
And so my second act of 2012 was to vow that I would make every effort to enjoy the peaceful, uninterrupted hours or days we are given. They don’t last. I would take time to rejuvenate, to appreciate, to listen, and to celebrate, even the simplest of life’s moments. I would work to create a strong foundation of pleasant and joyful memories to sustain me when adversity strikes. This would create the foundation upon which I would anchor my psyche so I would be able to bend not break, when life throws its next, best-shot curve ball. And we all know that it will, despite the purity of the spotless new calendar and naive belief that ‘this year will be better’.
On Monday, the second day of 2012, I spent six hours helping my son clean his house. My son is dealing with energy-draining stress in his life right now: work stress, personal relationship stress. I can’t fix any of it, and I feel helpless. But what I can do is take some of the load off him by stepping in and helping with some of the chores that, at the moment, he has neither the time nor energy for. You do what you can and that’s all you do.
Tuesday I hurdled the first obstacle of 2012: Bank of America’s mortgage department. I looped through BOA’s daunting, automated-phone-answering hell for what seemed like eternity. I was passed to, from and between departments, including customer service and a complaint department, for two frustrating hours: a process I am convinced is designed to make irate callers give up. Not this caller. I can be as tenacious as a terrier tracking a rat when I am trying to get an issue resolved (let that be a warning). After telling my story to the fifth or sixth listener, I was finally directed to someone in the CEO’s office: an intelligent being who was ready to take charge of the situation and address the issue of my son’s home- mortgage refinancing falling through the cracks in late 2011. She was ready and able to turn us over to someone competent who could start the process. A moment to celebrate for sure.
Sticking like Velcro to my resolution to take the time to rejuvenate when stressed, I concluded day two of 2012 with a dance lesson.
Wednesday, the fourth day of this new year, I signed on with a personal trainer. Working out with weights is all about living in the moment. There is no room is your head for anything other than focusing on breathing and making it to that last rep. I can do this.
Thursday, January 5, I re-connected with my main and favorite dance instructor, who left the studio in early December of 2011 to strike out on his own. It takes almost two hours out of my day for the round trip to drive to a studio where he can lease floor time as an independent, but dancing with Mike is worth it, and I’m doing this for me. This is my year to enjoy the moments and make the most of the good times. Dancing with Mike is one of the ‘good times’.
On the sixth day of January I took the time to walk around my back yard and check in on my plant friends. The roses were in full bloom. They are as confused as the rest of us with the odd weather patterns. We chatted about pruning and frosts and the spring cleanup that I’ll start in February. I filled the bird feeder. I tried to see the amusing side of the fabric our neighbor-from-hell has hung in her shrubs and draped above the length of our adjoining back wall. She doesn’t want to have to ‘look at us’. She doesn’t add to life’s good moments. I took a deep breath and relaxed, but made a mental note to deal with this new annoyance later (remember the tenacious terrier metaphor). And, that evening I danced. I planted a smile that I didn’t feel on my face, but it eventually filtered down through my being until it became genuine. Lesson learned here. We can make the moments better with some minor attitude adjustments. We control what we can.
Saturday the seventh day of the new year was a day of running errands and household catch-ups for David and I. We stopped to enjoy the beauty of the day and completed everything on our list unhurried and unharried. It was a good day.
On the eighth of January 2012, I watched with the rest of country as Tucson paid tribute to those who lost their lives on January 8, 2011. I couldn’t bring myself to dive into any of the public events. I held close to my husband and snuggled with the dog and the cat. (I only wish our warring political parties could come to the same plane of coexistence as my dual species pets.) Do I think the tragedy of that day has made Tucson a kinder, gentler place? I don’t know. I still see a frightening divisiveness between Democrats and Republicans, which continues to cut through the fabric of friendships and neighborhoods. I am less easy and more watchful when I go anywhere public now. What I do know is that, that day has left scars.
Days nine and ten passed uneventfully, and I am grateful for that small blessing. We danced; David had a safe drive up to Phoenix for a business meeting; I had a chance to catch up with an old friend.
On Day 11 I had a two-hour dance lesson with Mike. My dancing goal for 2012 is to enjoy the process: to laugh, to smile, and to work hard, but not to let either my self-consciousness with my aging body or my drive for perfection with technique erode the joy. I want to be there for the drive more than the destination.
On the twelfth day of January, I watched two adult Javalinas cross six lanes, plus turning lanes, of busy city traffic. They strolled passed the six crosses on the north side of the street, oblivious to the momentous events that took place a few feet away, one year ago. They wandered into the parking lot of a medical center, which is situated right behind the Safeway on Ina and Oracle: the same Safeway shopping center where Gabrielle Giffords was shot and six others lost their lives. The animals crossed this busy street innocent of the danger. Drivers stopped to let them pass. That infamous corner might now become the place where I saw the two Javalinas defy death rather than the place where death took six lives and unthinkable circumstances changed another’s life forever. I can’t explain why, but the sight of these animals blissfully foraging in the planter of the medical center on the south side of Ina Road somehow gave me hope. I took it as some sort of sign. Life goes on. May they live long and prosper.
- Current Mood: contemplative
- Current Mood: contemplative
- Current Mood: chipper
Hooter races to his cat tree, leaps to the ledge and wraps his paws around the 'trunk'. Play stance. Time to dangle leather shoelaces and strings of feathers for him to grab. This is the game where the eyes glaze and shift and, if you get your fingers to close, you WILL get nailed. Humans have to learn the rules.
When he reaches around my chair and taps me with a paw, he want to play 'the feather game'. Once I'm up, he throws himself on the floor close to the nearest feather (I bring bird feathers in for him). I dutifully pick it up, drift it through the air - sometimes close enough for him to swipe (claws retracted this time), then I reach up high and let it go, so it can drift slowly downwards where Hooter grabs it with both paws. He never tires of this one.
The dinner call is frantic. He comes looking for me, calling and beckoning. I am to follow. He races to his food table in the computer room, looking over his shoulder as he runs to make sure I am behind him. One pounce and he's in front of the dish. "EMPTY," he shouts. "EMPTY. OMG. How can this be?". I pick up the dish and he runs after me, talking all the while I open a new can and replenish his bowl. Then he runs ahead of me, showing me the way to his table. Talking, talking, talking. I place the dish; he digs in, and purrs while he eats.
Hooter's collar is cut too short. Once it's fastened, there isn't enough fabric to tuck properly through the metal loop. Occasionally it slips off. He has not always been amenable to my putting it back on. Every time I explain to him how the tag lets everyone know he has a home and that if he ever got out of the house, we could find him again. The collar means we love him. Yesterday it fell off somewhere in the house. This morning I was woken up by the sound of deep, worried cat howls. I jumped up, afraid he was ill. Hooter was beside my bed, with the collar trailing from his mouth. He had found it brought it to me. He stood patiently while I put it back on. I couldn't believe it.
So... for those of you who think animals (animals other than us) don't think, plan, figure things out, or communicate, I'm telling you now to just give it up. It just makes us look more like stupid humans than we already do.
- Current Mood: amused
My reading time fell of the map along with my writing time; however, I have managed to squeeze a few books in this year. Here's my list to-date (minus the few that I started and decided not to waste time finishing or reading in depth):
Floating in my Mother’s Palm by Ursula Hegi, Kate Vaiden by Reynolds Price, A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth, Daughter of the River by Hong Ying, Cat’s Eye by Margaret Atwood, A Three Dog Life by Abigail Thomas, The Hidden Diary of Marie Antoinette, Plum Wine by Angela Davis-Gardner, Forms of Shelter by Angela Davis-Gardner, Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See, Shanghai Girls by Lisa See, The Hindi-Bindi Club by Monica Pradhan, The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion, Siam by Lily Tuck, Wild Ginger by Anchee Min, The Girl in Hyacinth Blue by Susan VreelandMost of my time has been absorbed with dancing: prep time for a Spotlight performance in May and a dance competition (my first) in early June. I'm hoping to slow the bus down a bit for the rest of summer and just catch up with 'real' life. I have a guest room to paint, piles of unfiled papers to sort through, a dog and a cat who are demanding more play time, and a list of pending projects long enough to send me back to bed, exhausted before I even begin.
Must upload some new photos to use and userpics too, which means I have to upload some photo-editing software to meet the size requirements. Oh yes, forgot. Another reason I haven't been around - computer issues. Machine crashed in the spring sometime and I'm now up and running on a new one.
So, anyway, Hi to everyone. Will catch up 'in person' soon, with comments to your posts. Hope life has been treating everyone well.
One from the Spotlight, held at the studio in May.
Maybe it's the unusual proximity of the moon to Earth, but lately I've been super-charged and on a refresh, replace, renew, revisit binge. I've been spending money like I have it. I’ve rearranged furniture, added new art pieces to newly painted walls, and replaced everything from landscape plants to major appliances, including the kitchen sink. Yesterday, Bruce--my fabulous home repair guy--installed my new microwave; today the new stove was delivered, and on Monday, Bruce comes back to install that new kitchen sink. Replacing home appliances every twelve years isn’t exactly extravagant, but I’m one of those make-do and save money types ---more of a fix it and make it last kind of person than the the type to toss and replace. Lately though, I need change and I need new. No, change isn’t the right word. It’s more about not postponing things, not waiting for tomorrow or putting things off until next year or until retirement or until….. Between age catching up with me and the threat of nuclear fallout from the reactor mishap in Japan, tomorrow just doesn’t stretch out as far into the future as it used to. I need to do things now.
I bought a Tanzanite and diamond ring at the Tucson Gem&Mineral show. I've been coveting Tanzanite for fifteen years. This year I couldn't walk away and say 'maybe next year. That is not me. I’ve signed up for a ridiculous number of ballroom dance lessons and for a Spotlight in May (a studio-run recital done in competition format) and for my first competition in June. If I am going to do this sort of thing, I can’t postpone any more; 2011 has to be the year. My hands have begun to hurt from arthritis, and I’m fighting tendonitis in my heel from asking my body to do things it might not have even wanted to do 30 years ago. If I end up unable dance as much next year or the year after that, at least I’ll have the memories of this year (as long as the mind isn’t the next thing to go). I don’t mean to sound either cynical or pessimistic. I’m truly not. I’m actually in a very good space, more in touch with and accepting of reality. In fact, this living-more-in-the-moment thing has been very freeing. I’m becoming a new person.
The ‘life is too short' mentality has spilled over into other aspects of my life. Where I was once very ‘Jane Fonda-ish’ in my zeal to politicize everything and felt it my duty to enlighten those misguided souls dwelling in the dark cave of Republican short-sightedness, I am now more inclined to take a deep breath and remind myself that hitting someone over the head rarely changes their perspective, it just gives them a headache. I’m more concerned with how I live my own life than with how others live theirs. And, it's just not worth the aggravation.
Some old habits can be hard to change though. I’ve a history of re-arranging my calendar to suit my friends' schedules; of taking vacation time from work to participate in a non-working friend’s activities, even if only as a spectator; of putting off something I need to do in lieu of taking care of a friend's latest crisis (real or manufactured). Lately, however, a new me is emerging, and everyone isn't happy about it. I’ve stopped manically nurturing non-productive friendships. I guess you could say that I’ve become more conservative with where I spend my friendship dollars. Time is short, and I’ve started spending more of it doing the things that nurture me rather than supporting everyone else’s emotional needs. Some friendships had become as lopsided as the sinking Titanic. You know the kind I’m talking about: the girlfriends who need friends to be cheerleaders, throwing roses from the sidelines and dispensing ‘Atta girls’ while they detail their latest accomplishment without stopping for breath. These are the same ladies who never seem to have the time to bring the conversation around to asking you how things are going in your life; the assumption being that no one else could possibly be doing anything of comparable interest. Then there are the girlfriends who, when alone, call constantly to schedule lunch dates, time for a movie or a drink, or to let you know they’d love an invitation for a holiday dinner or need someone to take care of them when they are sick, but the second a new man enters their lives, the phone goes dead. Yup. You know the ones. Lately I’d rather put my energy into nurturing my relationship with my cat. It might mean more alone time, but that’s OK; I really like my cat.
The upshot of all of this is that I’m more content, more satisfied with life, less aggravated, less stressed, and I’m enjoying both my alone time and quality time with the friends who have a broader understanding of the connotation of the word.
I know I am too security conscious to ever become a total live-for-today person or a reckless spender. I get to the end of my self-imposed spending leash and I choke. I will never be able to totally turn off my sixties, save-the-world mentality, and I have to confess that I thrive on nurturing others. But, the new me is becoming as comfortable nurturing myself and is learning to shrug off the old "I'm being selfish" Catholic guilt. Life is to short. I only wish this epiphany had hit me about thirty years ago. Just imagine what I would have saved on Tums alone.
- Current Mood: contemplative