Saturday, February 26, 2011

A little sunshine

The sun is out. In my hometown it is the Great White North and they are digging out from a foot of snow. So I will take a little sun today in New Jersey as it has certainly been a very gloomy week!!!

Time is sweeping by. My daughter and her friends gave us a rare photo shoot before heading to a Bat Mizvah. I know I'm not Jewish and don't have any childhood experience with this, but when did a religious celebration turn into a fashion show or prom? They look so grown up. Suddenly I will blink my eyes and they will be dressing for their real prom... hopefully with well-mannered dates and the same sweet girls.
Ready to dance the day away....
Meanwhile on this sunny Saturday, my son needs some entertainment besides Pokemon shows and my Dad needs to get out of the house. I'll take them to RVCC's planetarium for a matinee. We're fortunate to have a planetarium just a few miles away. In less time that it takes to drive to Manville and see a movie (and for less money) I can take Grandpa, N and N's friend to the farthest reaches of the universe. Yes, it defeats the purpose of a sunny day, but N has shown an interest in Astronomy, so we'll cultivate it and see where it leads. Besides,we'll be spending the afternoon looking at suns, just not our own.

Tomorrow and next week - more rain in the forecast, both literally and figuratively. I am looking forward to a spring full of optimism, after too many clouds in Winter 2011.  Spring seems to bring endless opportunity for sunshine and growth. Sign me up!

Friday, February 25, 2011

A difficult week...

Dear blog readers,

See below. I have blogged about her many times recently (anonymously). What the obituary didn't say was how full of life El was, even to the very end. If you feel inclined to doing a random act of kindness, I encourage you to contribute to Lucy's college fund. She is a bright cookie and definitely college material! (Since this was published in the paper, I am breaking my tradition of using initials in this blog, except for political figures).

Kiss your loved ones. You just never know what life will throw you!

BSM

Eleanor "El" Skaar, 51, lost her heroic struggle with breast cancer on Wednesday February 23, 2011 at home surrounded by her loving family. Born in Summit, El was raised in Meyersville and has resided in Martinsville for the past 15 years. For 18 years, El was an international financial manager at AT&T in Basking Ridge. She later became a grant writer for the Cancer Hope Network, an organization she was strongly devoted to. She was a devout animal lover, had a great passion for the outdoors and traveling, and especially loved entertaining for her many friends and family members. El is predeceased by her father Anthony J. Caporaso. She is survived by her husband Donald V. Skaar; daughter Lucy E. Skaar or Martinsville; mother Doris E. Caporaso of Warren; brother Dan Caporaso and wife Kathi Neville Caporaso of Whitehouse and sister Dolores Caporaso of Hillsborough. She is also survived by her in-laws Victor and Vivian Skaar of Montgomery; sister-in-law Kristen and husband Jeffrey Banko of VA and brother-in-law Jeffrey of Montgomery.

Visiting hours will take place on Sunday, February 27, 2011 from 2-4 and 7-9 PM at the Bridgewater Funeral Home, 707 East Main Street, Bridgewater NJ 08807. Prayers will be said 9 AM at the Funeral Home on Monday, February 28, 2011, followed by a 10 AM Funeral Service at Stonecrest Community Church, 11 Technology Drive North, Warren NJ. In Lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to Lucy's Educational Fund, payable to Lucy Skaar UTMA, P.O. Box 21 Martinsville NJ 08836.

Published in Courier News from February 25 to February 26, 2011 


Remember El like this. It was taken at her 50th birthday party about a year ago.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Beyond my comfort zone

(Not pulled straight, it's even in real life)
I am knitting a sweater for my husband and have been for more than 18 months. It is a very intricate pattern, it was a lot of yarn to lug around and the pattern isn't even in English, so today when I was trying to figure the next step, I couldn't tell whether I was supposed to do a certain sewing stitch... but that made even less sense, of what, I didn't know.  The final (hopefully correct) version: pin an arc to mark the neckline, sew (with a machine) around the neckline and CUT (as in the knitted yarn) out your neckline. YIKES! The technique is called steaking and I'm proud that I managed it without fainting. This time... Managing something successfully gave me an instantaneous confidence booster.

It pushed me to apply for a couple of jobs that are outside my comfort zone, too. Why should I be stuck with the same old, same old?

It took weeks to get the gumption to do this. I've knit lots of sweaters before, but I always got help with the hard parts. Getting better at something means you learn to manage the hard parts on your own too.

Some challenges you can't manage on your own. Here's to trying to rise to the ones that you can.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Now what starts with the letter C????

COOKIE STARTS WITH C.... Let's think of other things that starts with C... (two year old curly girl adds her name)

C is for ... C - - - - - - (add my daughter's name) that's good enough for me...
C is for C - - - - - -, that's good enough for me...
C is for C - - - - - - ,
C is for C - - - - - -, that's good enough for me...
Oh C- - - - - -, C - - - - - -, C - - - - - - starts with C!

Can you hear in your mind's ears a young mom singing this hundreds of times in the car, trying to entertain a 2 year old girl driving through the hills to my in-laws' summer house, about 3 hours away? It's one of lots of associations I have with public television and radio.

Today I am remembering that CUT also starts with the letter C. But it's not as good as a cookie!!! There are many articulate arguments to keep PBS all over the internet. One was recently in the Seattle Times and another on the Huffington Post. But there is a website that is organizing the movement to keep PBS - it's 170 Million Americans or www.170millionamericans.org. I've signed up, have you?

My kids are past Dragon Tales, Clifford or even Arthur (Sigh, I LOVED that show), and www.pbskids.org has been replaced by Facebook and Wizard 101.

They are rediscovering PBS. N is for NOVA. My future Scientist (N) has a show that challenges his brain far more than I could. My daughter and her friend recently watched a Pilot Guide program on the Slave Trade just as they were learning "the real story" in US History. My son's teachers use PBSs programming (recently Bill Nye the Science Guy) as an enrichment opportunity, since the formal enrichment program has been cut from the curriculum. PBS picks up where the schools leave off. Enrichment for everyone - any age, almost any field.

This doesn't even take into account my one true love... NPR... but this is about how PBS impacted my kids...... and as their brains and interests grow, let's hope PBS will grow with them.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Why I love my dog... reason #2094589

Diego is not especially well-trained, but he does have one useful trick.

When it's time to get the kids out of bed, I call out "Diego, wake the kiddies" and he comes scurrying from downstairs, even when he's also sleeping, jumps on their beds and licks them until they get up. It's also a labor of love of sorts, quite literally, but very different from mine.

Priceless moments in my so-called life that make the harder days manageable.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Labor of Love

It's Saturday morning and I'm mad as hell at myself: I forgot to buy milk. The smell of strong Cafe Verona fills the kitchen, perhaps the house, but without milk... the best part... coffee is just... bitter and hard.

But really this anger is a distraction. My real emotions cannot be described as I plan my day. MR and I are taking our daughters plus ES's daughter shopping. Most of the time I love the thought of bringing my daughter to look for dresses. These dresses, however, are not for a party. Not for a bat mizvah, sweet sixteen, wedding, confirmation... nothing like that. These dresses should be black, tasteful and "appropriate". In our impossible feat of trying to help ES's family get through this tragedy, we are taking their daughter and ours to buy her dress. I can't even write what it is for - how do you take a 12 year old girl to buy a this dress? BTW ES is still with us, but the family is very well organized and this is a "practical favor" for them so they aren't rushing later. Hopefully together with her friends, it won't be as awful for poor LS. It also reiterates that her friends are there for her!

I remember looking desperately for a dress for my own mother's funeral. Like our girls I needed shoes too. It was so hot - in the 90s and very humid. I had nothing appropriate in my suitcase. I was still heavy from having had a baby and I felt flabby from nursing. The dress I bought was the opposite of how I felt: it was light and airy, and I've worn it again, because my Mom was very practical and would have wanted it that way.

On Sunday when I wrote a list of things I was going to try to do for others this week, I wasn't even thinking about this. And now I realized it's the most important thing we'll do this week. LS and our daughters will remember this forever. I'm not about to forget it either. Note to self: don't yell at the girls today!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Half way there...

Dear MC,

Thank you for organizing the tickets to the Bon Jovi concert. My fingers are crossed that they don't sell out.

I've spent a lot of time the last couple of weeks thinking about what constitutes a friendship and I'm grateful for my e-town friends!

As I see my daughter building new friendships in middle school I remember how my life magically transformed when the Washington elementary school crew adopted me into their world, starting with RG and SA, and later LB, BP and you.

And thank you for sharing some of the best memories of my life... including dancing to this song on a "floating disco".



How lucky are we who can continue to build on them and make new memories with our friends, and now, our families too! And still dance to the same awesome song.

Love,
Poppet

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Dream job and life's choices

In 1994 I was extremely lucky to land a job with exactly the organization where I wanted to work. (We'll call it A). It was entry level, which I see now was perfectly appropriate, although at the time I delusionally thought I should started in a higher position. It was then I learned the expression to "pay your dues, then move up!" Yet I was THRILLED. I loved being in New York City, but hated being poor in the City. My cubical, in the high-rise I called "my office" sat just a few blocks from the UN and I often walked the fifty blocks home to the apartment I shared with two other girls on the Upper East Side.

My joy was short-lived. A eliminated my position just 2 1/2 months after I started. Instead of looking for new work in Manhattan, I returned to my fiance in Seattle. I became a travel agent and we ended up leaving the West Coast and I worked for A's largest competitor at the DC headquarters. (If you've been able to follow, I moved back and forth from the West Coast 4 times in under six years - I think I had 12 addresses in seven years!!! Maybe I should write "expert packer" on my resume?). We had a baby, but working sixty hour weeks with far too little compensation to hire a nanny (and our whole house was smaller than our current kitchen and living room!) forced us to think outside of the box. We quit our jobs, took a risk and moved to T's homeland where family values were a national practice and not just useless rhetoric. T got hired by a multinational company within 2 days! Eventually - after 18 months - I got a great job that I truly loved, C got a brother, and we moved here... I worked at Rutgers for a while, and now I write from home.

There are lots of what ifs in this world. Everyone has them! What if I'd stayed in New York and looked for a similar position? I'd have worked my way up, I'm sure. Instead today I'd be happy with that same entry-level position at A (of course, my salary wouldn't cover train fare).

The CEO and President position at A is open. I think I have three of the 20+ qualifications they are looking for (I speak/write English, I believe in the mission of the program and I am flexible).  I'm 40 and have few qualifications for a job that has been a dream career since I was sixteen! Having kids is great. I am not wishing them away. I know I'm lucky. I just wish I'd made smarter long-term choices so that instead of writing this blog I were writing a cover letter that a search committee would take seriously.

Normally I'm optimistic, but today I feel I'm too old for that entry level position I so loved. Companies want bright-eyed and bushy-tailed 20 somethings. Not jaded, but clever, 40 year olds.



Gary Moore, Rest in Peace... I don't think you had A in mind when you sang this song that I danced to 20+ years ago. Then again, neither did I!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Sad

I feel melancholy after seeing my friend who was very weak. Although she said she felt well, she was far worse than I've seen her. Her family has been through so much. Their home had an unspoken sadness over it today.

So if you think I'm going to write about something political or otherwise provocative, come back another day.

And please, kiss your friends while you can!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Preoccupied...

I spent much of the day preoccupied. Until about 5:30 when I heard terrible news. Then I woke up!

The Poppet-Family has had several near-misses over the past few years. We had the big near miss on I-78. My husband nearly killed our son when he ran himself over with a pick-up truck in our driveway last year (I wasn't allowed to blog about it). And last month we nearly lost our dog.

Today there was a shooting in Bridgewater next door to where I shop nearly every day for the fresh bread my family so loves. In fact, I had left the store only an hour and 15 minutes before. While this is more a coincidence than luck, I feel especially grateful tonight that my family is under one roof.

If my day had been moved forward one hour....... I'd have been in the right place at the wrong time, and I'm so grateful that at 4:45 today instead of Wegmans, I was home, running late. As usual...

I feel for Roy's** family, who weren't so lucky and tonight find themselves dealing with this tragedy. I'm worrying about them right now.



Oh - and here's a friendly tip for BW news organizations: Next time there are reports of a shooting in the area, please remember that people would like to know one thing, above all else: is there someone armed running from the scene? For several hours there were lots of rumors, and very little information.

** Edit: I changed the jewelry owner's name from Ray to Roy as I noticed my mistake from the newspapers. My confusion may also be due to the fact that the Wegmans in my hometown also has a jeweler in the same strip mall. There I am certain the name is Ray's! That is also a family business and not a chain.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Salt & Light

As many of you know, I am not the most convinced Christian. But lately I have been attending church pretty regularly - when I don't have anything else to do for my friend, I can ask God to help her family. And I ALWAYS get something meaningful from a good sermon.

Today's readings were very meaningful. The Psalm was something my sister and I sang at a summer choir camp in Canada in 1985 and reading the English text I could hear it in my mind's ear the music in Latin. The Gospel today was straight our of Godspell and brought me back to our 1987 high school performance. So I heard this in my mind's ear as the Deacon read from St. Matthew. Very different musical places to go in a short period of time...

The sermon focused on how we can serve others and how sharing these good works can inspire others to do their own good deeds. Please don't take this as bragging, or as a way to make you feel guilty. Ask anyone who knows me knows I have plenty of bad qualities too. Some people call me as loud and arrogant. Last night someone called me closed-minded. My kids would say I can be pretty mean. A close friend called me a boyfriend thief. Sharing this is just a way to "let my light shine before men so that they might know some kindness again." If my good deeds make you want to go out and do something nice for a stranger then it's a good thing. We all have things we can do for others.  I know you have some too!

Even acts of kindness sometimes need a plan. Here's mine:
Teddy's heading to Africa
  • Remember the stew?  It's getting a 2nd chance to make a first impression. I'm bringing it to a neighbor (whom I don't know) who has cancer. Last week I gave my name to someone saying I'd be willing to help bring them food. I figured I wouldn't hear back... but I did. So it'll be stew for that family on Tuesday.  There are plenty of places for you to bring food - SHIP or the Food Bank are two wonderful resources helping those in need. I'll also try to bring food to my friend ES and her family (see link above).
  • I'm hoping to finish knitting a teddy bear today. You can click here for more information. It will go to Africa to comfort children of families affected by AIDS. A kid who doesn't have toys will love Teddy.

  • I'm also working on knitting a baby blanket for donation. I started it several months ago and haven't gotten very far, even though it couldn't be easier. Not even knit-purl, it's knit, knit, knit, knit, knit, knit....
  • Today I'm donating my time to my alma mater interviewing potential students for them. This helps the school find great students, and helps the kids get a competitive edge.
  • Yesterday I translated a letter from someone's great Aunt "in the old country". This allows her Mom to keep in touch with the family and hear their news.
I'm not saying I won't benefit from my own altruism. But if it helps inspire you to do something for others, then this blog was time well spent.

Enjoy Superbowl Sunday! Have some extra goodies for me. I have good friends/family rooting for both sides this year, and I've got no favorite - so may the best team win!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

New Finds for New York with kids...

We had to do an errand in New York City yesterday. It included bringing a signed and notarized document to an office in Manhattan - and just as I was leaving for the city, I realized I had the WRONG document notarized. I figured it was an omen for a bad start to a day of things going wrong, but that wasn't the case.

Let me share with you six fun hours in the city.

We walked from where we parked on 49th St and 10th Ave to the office we needed to be at on 50th St and 3rd Ave. I always park at the same lot. It's very convenient to the tunnel, to mid-town and it's not expensive. For five hours I paid $12! It seems so cheap that I wonder if it was a mistake since I usually pay closer to $20?

The meeting was at a consulate to renew my son's foreign passport. Normally the women who work this office are... um... less than warm and fuzzy - but we hit the jackpot. M was lovely! She accepted the incorrect document and she took N's picture, saving me the time and money to get pictures taken, and she carefully went through everything with a smile.  Her co-worker had the bedside manner that I expected, so I'm grateful I got the luck of the draw. N's friend and his buddy, and TA (his mom) waited VERY PATIENTLY for about an hour.

Then we walked. And walked. TA introduced me the holy grail of candy stores: Dylan's Candy Bar. OMG! I could have stayed there all day!!! They had everything!!!! All I have to say is I'm so sad that their cafe was under renovation or else we would have never left. Thanks TA for the tip! We spent 30 minutes going through the candy options. I proved my own strength in willpower when I didn't try their chocolate fountain - where you could dip rice-crispie treats or make s'mores. I found it painful to resist the 1970s candy in the basement, but I'd already bought myself a treat that I am saving for then end of my 10-week diet/exercise plan. (I'm just ending week 4).

We didn't find the restaurant I had planned on, nor plan B (California Pizza Kitchen, which I thought was in the 60s around 3rd Ave), but we did have some of the best pizza I've ever tasted at East Side Brick Oven Pizza (3rd Avenue between 67th and 68th Sts). Maybe I was simply too hungry but it was GREAT, and two slices with toppings, a soda and a bottle of water were about $10.

Entering the exhibit
A quickie cab ride through the park ("It's so much faster than walking" - which I would have done in the summer) and we were at the American Museum of Natural History. We arrived much later than I had planned, so we focused on The Brain exhibition. It was truly fabulous!!! Equally interesting for both kids (but not too young, the 10 year old boys were a great age) and adults, I enjoyed every minute of it.

What happens when neurons meet?
Last, but definitely not least, my friend shared with me a gem of the city. Wafels and Dinges. OK, so this was so NOT part of my diet.... but it was irresistible. I finished N's Liege wafel with the spekuloos spread... spekuloos is like a sweat gingerbread-nutella sort of taste. YUM YUM YUM. My friend "tricked me" (ha! it was suuuch a hard sell...) into sharing her chocolate covered Brussels wafel. My verdict: get the Brussels wafel with the spekuloos spread... but don't take my word for it. Try it yourself. Just not the day before a weigh-in (I was still down 2 pounds this morning) so you can enjoy your wafel without a side of guilt!

Introducing spekuloos
Back in the car and a small-traffic miracle. Leaving New York City at 4pm on a Friday: NO TRAFFIC!!!! Not in the tunnel, not in Newark. By the time we saw minor traffic, we were already in the Martinsville area and we took a slight detour home.

Worth the wait!
The kids were great sports. We walked over 2.5 miles (I checked on Map My Run). Although they originally were begging for a trip to ToysRUs, it was such a nice day that they forgot to even miss it.

My kids are lucky. We are in New York City many times a year so finding new and fun things to do is always positive. Both my kids have devoured their candy from Dylan's, so I expect that we will have to get back there... in about six weeks' time when my diet is over, or when the restaurant reopens in April.

"It's good to want things!" I tell my kids nearly every day. That goes for adults and candy stores, too!
Its a great day that ends like this!


****
Update: So of course we brought C & T a bag of goodies each from Dylans. C gobbled her candy corn lickedy split, while T apparently was pacing himself. But when he just asked me "What happened to my candy?" (not as accusatory as it seems here), I answered honestly. "Diego got it!" Guess that will teach him the same lesson we are trying to teach the kids... don't leave your stuff where Diego can reach it, or you might not like the way things end up.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

I'm Ok, You're OK... but are "We" OK? Part 2

I've spent about 20% of my life outside of the US. During my second time studying abroad I experienced anti-American demonstrations thrown in my face. It was a cold and snowy January, and it seemed both the sentiments and the weather would never change. 

Maybe I was naive (I was only 20), but I was shocked at the passion with which Europeans showed their hatred toward the US! I thought we were allies, since I living was in a NATO member country.

I arrived in Europe for a year's study the day after Iraq sent it's troops into Kuwait. "KRIG?" covered the newspapers that week in July 1990, but I didn't experience open anti-US hostility until the US attacked Iraq the following January.   Protesters weren't just demonstrating in European capitals, but in the tiny village where I was one of two American students. I heard daily criticism by the other students, radical or not, and I was shocked by the images of anti-Americanism that flooded the papers and TV. It wasn't just in the mid-East that people were burning our flag! Throughout the world, America as a country and a concept was criticized for attacking Iraq. Students would say to me "Bush says it's about spreading democracy, but everyone knows it's about oil and religion..." When they'd ask my opinion, I felt very conflicted. I didn't like what my government was doing, but I loved my country! I spent so much time debating American politics (and explaining a foreign policy that I disagreed with) that I stopped speaking English when we were in a pub or disco. It was asking for too much attention and I was only looking for a quiet beer with friends.

About 11 years later, the cycle returned. Again I was living abroad. This time in a city of 115,000 people which is the capital of the country's oil industry. The city was worldly and pro-US ("they know where their bread is buttered" I used to say). Yet after months of pro-US sympathy in the wake of 9/11, sentiments changed overnight when we attacked Iraq again. It was now familiar territory: I defended my country, but despised its foreign policy. Even today much of the world sees the US as a de-facto occupier of Iraq. Many people believe that getting rid of Saddam Hussein doesn't make us great liberators, but rather chaos-builders.

Shortly after 9/11 I received an e-mail from the US Embassy telling citizens who live abroad that for our own safety we should not flaunt being American. "Don't wear sweatshirts with college logos and don't speak English audibly in the streets." I hadn't spoken English in a bar in years  because drunk people stupidly spew all sorts of incorrect crap about the US. It doesn't matter where you live on the planet, there is one thing that is equal for all: you can't talk logic with the drunk. Political or not and the Iraq war was a hot topic.

Every single day you can read something anti-American in most European papers. It's almost comical how people who never lived in the US or even set foot in our country have such strong, negative opinions on all things American. It can get very tiresome to spend years correcting people even if I sometimes partially agreed with them. My German friend Stefanie once told me she thinks the entire world should be able to vote in US Presidential elections simply because what happens in Washington effects the entire world. Although I wouldn't go that far, she has a point.

But one thing I stand by. No matter WHAT the government is doing. No matter what weird thing happens in some village in Utah by some crazy fundamentalist with seventeen wives or what new crazy law someone has dug up in a sensationalist paper, or what shooting episode is still in the news I still go back to Europe each year. And sometimes I still have to explain something misunderstood. Yet I still think critically about what is being said.

People in Europe consider America to be a very violent society - how many episodes of shootings in high schools, banks, hospitals and on the street do we have here? Even some parents don't think Bridgewater is safe. I was criticized for letting my 5th grader walk down the street by herself. Many Europeans assume all Americans carry weapons because people support the right to bear arms (not to mention what they see on fictional TV series). Lots of Europeans LOVE American TV but HATE Americans because of what they see on it. Who can blame them for worrying? I opened one (online) paper just to test my theory of daily negative US news. The first story I found about the US (that wasn't a reaction to the events in Cairo) was of a 38-year old man shooting a bunch of people in Detroit*, before shooting himself. Violence and hate from our country is always available in their daily papers.

It's hard to be an outsider. It's hard that people know I'm from a place that people love to hate. Not just in strange countries that we can't find on a map or spell, but our allies in Western Europe. Ask any German or Belgian, Italian or even a Brit what they really think about our country. You might not like what you hear. It makes it hard to represent our nation. For even though I'm no diplomat, every time I leave our country, I am representing you. Just as I may always think that all Italian guys are skirt-chasers based on one bad experience. When in a wedding in Japan a few years ago, I felt very tall and fat, and very, very foreign. So I hope I didn't drink too much, I ate my chop sticks without offending the locals and my manners were impeccable because people were watching me.

But there is another side to this story. Lots of people I know in Europe, and in Asia, and in South America love the US both in concept and in practice. One of my friends says that while she prefers to live in her home country, the US is the best place to vacation on the planet. How many high schools and universities are flooded with foreign students who want to learn from our teacher or professors and be in classes with our students? Look at the companies in our area - with employees from every continent, including Antarctic penguins disguised as scientists, we do offer competitive job opportunities. I'll never forget one night in Spring of 1991. I had been crying after some drunk bully was yelling at me about the Iraq war at 2am in a night club. A guy asked me to dance. While we danced, he told me, "Lots of people here are criticizing your country. They have short memories! I know that our country today is built on your country's generosity." He was, of course, speaking of the Marshall funding that rebuilt postwar Europe. I couldn't tell you what the guy's name was, or what he looked like. But I'll never forget the conversation.

My point here is that sometimes it's good to look in a mirror to see what others see in you. It's hard to be the outsider. It's uncomfortable to know that most of the people around you don't agree with what your country is doing. It's alienating. But at the same time it is enriching too. I learned a lot about myself. And who knew these feelings from a frozen January, 20 years ago would come back to me as I think of our issues today. I guess the images from "a strategic ally's" violent streets (Egypt) together with the cold air have brought back images long buried under piles of papers on "my kitchen counter."

I get it....




*NB This was written a few days ago, and posted 2/3/2011, I couldn't find the link when I went to publish this post today. The story regarded a shooting at a police station in Detroit.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Another snow day?

Our frozen tree, our frozen walkway, our icy driveway

The cold, wet and miserable weather is still a metaphor today, although my thoughts are on another subject than yesterday.

Why is life so unfair?

Why is my friend still suffering from her fight with cancer. She's slowly withering away. (Not that I want the alternative, I just wish she weren't so sick!). I have to remember she would do anything to be well enough to shovel the driveway, even walking to the mailbox would be a huge feat for her today. Here I moan to myself "my aching shoulders!"

Earlier, I was wondering why children always congregate here on snow days. I can't remember a snow day when both my kids were elsewhere. Today N has 2 friends over. They are playing inappropriate video games that "good moms don't allow 10 year olds to play". Lunch was an unhealthy mac-n-cheese followed by a vanilla-pudding chaser. Sodas to drink. But that's the risk when you outsource your kids to me... bad supervision and poor judgment.

Lamenting that kids congregate here (maybe because I let them play COD for several hours) I realize I have absolutely NOTHING to complain about. Having the house filled with kids is a blessing, not a curse! Just ask Mr and Mrs Jem. Another failed IVF - with all the emotional turmoil and disappointment - and across the country I am complaining  that the kids are always here... instead of remembering: how lucky I am that kids want to hang in our living room (hopefully not because of the video games and snack-drawer), or build forts in our yard.

As I edit this one last time, I realize another good thing in my life that I'm often complaining about: Diego... and specifically his fetish for shoes (I just had to yell "LEAVE IT!" to another slipper. We almost lost him 3 weeks ago... I'd rather have him safe and healthy than any shoes. 

So instead of seeing all this ice and thinking What a NUISANCE! I'm thinking how beautiful it is. It's not always in my nature to turn around the negative. But I'm learning. Sometimes the easy way, sometimes through others' struggles. There's a reason they call life a journey.  
Close up.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Seeking warmth in freezing rain

Tuesday's homemade stew (recipe below)
For me the weather today is a metaphor, so I posted a Facebook status asking about food. I have received lots of literal replies.
Ice storms call for stew. What does this other storm call for??
What is the best "food for the soul" when a freezing rain seems to be covering us from the sky?  I feel unable to escape it's reach even in the warmth of my home.

It's soft and warm. A future hat?
Is fixing a seam a metaphor?
I'll turn to what I've always turned to. Knitting and cooking. I'll be making something with my hands for people I love. When despair and frustration and hate seem to permeate everything, you have to look to yourself and your loved ones for safe haven. Sometimes you only have yourself... and soup.

For knitters (about two of you who read this blog), Pam MacKenzie gave a great tip today for a knitting book that I intend to buy. I want to make a sweater like the Joining in Friendship Sweater where the cables symbolize friendship. But not tonight. I'm not risking the icy roads for a book.

For those non-knitters, I happily share with you the recipe for my stew. As with all my stews I don't measure. I put in what I have until it seems like I've put in enough.  You can start with the ingredients I'm listing.

Brown the meat with garlic and onion (no onion for us, but it's usually a must), then throw in the rest at will. Potatoes, celery, tomato paste (I used 1/2 jar of diavolo for an extra kick). As you see I also have mushrooms and cabbage and carrots. I flavored it with dried cumin and oregano, nutmeg and basil, plus whatever was in the sauce. 2 cartons of beef broth. Simmer for as long as you can. Mine will for 3-4 hours. Salt and pepper to taste.  Eat with people who make you feel good.

Make it your own with the ingredients that your family loves. Eat with fresh bread. We will have Wegmans batard.

And after I publish this, I'm doing a media blackout. No e-mail, no facebook. That may work better than stew.  I'll be back in cyberspace tomorrow.