Sunday, February 26, 2012

Winter Over the Ocean...

I closed my eyes and took a slow, deep breath in. Sinking onto the porch swing, I was startled at how clear and swirling the air felt this morning.

   WhoooooOOOOOOSHHHHH, creak, creeeeak-tic-tic-tic... 

The trees bent and stretched in the wind; practicing the yoga of ages flown past. 

The air was really crisp and fresh, almost salty. The same smell you find in Nantucket or New Hampshire when you're on a boat, far out, in cold weather. 

The air was.... unpredictable. 

As though Marry Poppins could come floating by with her carpet bag and her umbrella. As though something out of a children's movie could come sweeping in a rush down the street, leaving behind icy-blue sparkles and freezing time in it's wake.

 It was the sort of outdoor feeling that you get gazing up at a night winter sky.... stars glowing as though they really had footlights and fresnels time-set and flickering on and off behind them.

 There was... magic in the air... and it was broad daylight... 

 In books, when a character is overexcited or usually, scared, they "half-expect," to see something, or for something to happen that would complete their picture of fear or wonder. That's how I felt this morning... I wouldn't have been surprised to see Terry Pratchett mosey down the sidewalk in front of my house, or for a large, huge draft horse to come pawing at my screen door, his front end with barely enough room to fit under the porch... or for a Phoenix to come swooping to my kitchen window.

I absolutely LOVE moments like this. Small snatches of seconds that one feels anything at all is completely and entirely and probably possible.

I remember a feeling I had once in high-school, I'd just finished a french exam with S.B. (an AWESOME teacher) and I felt so wonderful and light, that I quite literally skipped out of the classroom and paused, my soul humming with energy as I seriously considered the consequences I would face if I decided to follow my sudden impulse to hand-spring and backflip up and down the hall... I felt such a delightful rush and the muscle, bone, body knowledge that yes, at that moment, I could without a doubt be able to flip my way entirely down the hall and not hit anybody... just as I had my books thrown down and my hands in the air, a teacher popped out of a classroom. 

I stopped, my hands straight up over my head,  and looking up, met her raised eyebrows with a smile. 

  "Just stretching," I said cheerfully. She glanced at my left foot in front of my right, my hands a little to uniform (damn gymnastics) and blinked, as if to say "Yeah right, this is a new one," and with the deeply tired sigh of someone who has to be around pesky teenagers all day, turned and walked away from me down the hall.

   Oh well...

I had a dance professor once talk to me about the knowledge some little kids have. They just know they can do something, and they really can. They've perhaps never done a cartwheel, but they just decide to do it, after seeing someone else do it, and poof! They can do it too.

I was one of those kids. Anything to do with me moving my body-- dance and cartwheels and flips, I had no fear... unless heights were involved... had to be careful when you were above the ground. I lost that ability to relaxedly and confidently "do stuff," somewhere around age 11. Reality set in, and I learned I could get hurt if I messed up. 

Oh to have no fear and complete body knowledge again...

Time takes a lot of those magical powers away from you. Most people wouldn't even attempt a somersault, let alone a cart-wheel, past their teenage years, and it's a pity. Falling and rolling around on the grass is one of the great joys of life--- it doesn't matter if your legs and arms don't respond the way they used to, and are no longer made of rubber as they were when you were small. It's about moving in your own space and body and enjoying the little lift and exhilaration that occurs when you step out of your safety zone.

I wish I felt that way all the time. But then, I probably wouldn't appreciate it... or I'd just get arrested for doing backflips in public places...

I'm trying to recommit to some of those things I loved when I was younger. To enjoy the sensations of movement in my body, even if the only dancing I have time for that day, is while I'm cooking (it's impossible for me to stir anything - pan, pot - without standing on one foot and rolling my hips. It got pointed out to me by a frisbee friend (D.S.) once when we were making butternut-squash soup together, and I have to admit, I'd never noticed it before) or doing mundanely normal things around the house. 

I don't move like a "normal person," according to J. He always tells me that for some reason, I have to dance around when I do things... he likes it, finds it cute and attractive. I'm just glad he's tolerant of me tap dancing as I wait in the check-out line of the grocery, or when I suddenly decide to skip through a parking lot, or pirouetting  as I bring a mixing bowl down from the shelf with an arabesque to set it on the counter. I can't stop doing it (just as when I find myself singing or humming and I didn't remember starting) so I'm just thankful he accepts it and finds it somewhat endearing.

I'm sure someday, if we have kids, it will embarrass them to pieces when they have friends over. I've accepted this. I don't care. It's more fun than "moving like a normal person," and I really have no control over it, so dammit, I'm going to enjoy it.

I just find joy in movement and music. I always have. I'm a cheerful person! I like to wake up early and stay up late and nap through the heat of the afternoon. 

My friends and family often comment on how annoyingly pleasant I am most of the time. It means that when I'm upset, or find myself slipping into a negative mood, it's that much more of a contrast, and that much harder for the people I love to be around me. 

People I've just met, who've had to call me for one reason or another, frequently comment on the answering message on my cell phone. They say things like,

   "I've never heard a more cheerful and pleasant happy greeting! It's so... you!" 

  It's true. My voicemail is cheerful, optimistic and warm. I try to make sure it's always that way when I re-record it. I feel that's the best representation of how I want to be spoken to and treated, so why not?

I'm not saying I'm a gosh-darn Disney-Princess-Cheery-Sickeningly-Sweet-Saint or anything... I just try to stay optimistic, happy and ready to roll with the punches most of the time. Everyone in the world has bad days, bad moods, and gets upset occasionally. Nobody's perfect and I fail a lot, but I try not to get down on myself (I'm very self-judgmental and at times self-deprecating, which sucks) to the point where it ruins my day. 

Life's too short for that.

This morning, I took a sip of my tea and breathed in again, more deeply than before.

Yes. It smells like chance out here. Like infinite possibility. 

The same smell as winter, rolling out over the ocean. Whenever I miss the water (if CO had the sea, I would probably never leave) I remind myself that the wind currents are just like the water currents. We live in a sea of atmosphere, and imagining the enormous ocean of air, the sky a mirror of the wet blue beneath, is comforting.

Tides will rise and fall, flow in and out. Waves will continuously sculpt the sand beneath, and the whales will sing their souls to the deep... 

 Anything and everything really, truly, is possible.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Chocolate Cherry Cake...

   "You've got to clean that G.D. FAN!" Mum stated sternly, glaring at the thin layer of dust on the ceiling fan above.

 We were all sitting in the kitchen, perhaps the better (or worse, in my case) for wine; my paltry 1/4 of a glass on par with everyone else's start of their second.

   "Well, let me put it simply and plainly: I just haven't gotten around to it. SO there! ," I smirked back at her, jumping right into the skin I wore as a teenager. Never mind that she's soon to be 67 and I'm 28: we still have difficulties keeping our adult pants on around one-another.

   "What? What?!" bellowed my Dad, looking around innocently; his hearing aids were conveniently sitting on the dresser in the back bedroom.

   "I SAID, SHE NEEDS TO CLEAN THE FAN. DAMMIT, WHY AREN'T YOUR HEARING AIDS IN?!  You're doing this on purpose," my mother said dismissively, waving her hand at him.

Dad just gave her his trademark devilishly-toothy grin and stared at her with his eyes scrunched up.

He was, after all, pleased with himself for pissing her off.

J and I just looked meaningfully at each other, and completely failed at not laughing.

This is how my family works. We love each other, we pass judgement in a kindly way, and sweetly tell each other what we think someone should be doing, because that's what folks who love you do: boss you the heck around. (Hopefully J and I can change this tradition with our kiddos, but you never know....)

When I was little, my parents were amazing. They still are now, but as most everyone knows, there comes that time in a person's life, when their parents go from amazing to horrible, right in the middle. Usually it happens when a person becomes a teenager; all of a sudden, parents don't know as much as you thought they did. After all, no one tells kids or parents that there's no 'automatic knowing,' system to raising children or parenting.

I grew up in a large family. I say that, because though I don't technically have blood siblings, I still grew up with my cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents, great-aunts, great-uncles, second cousins and so forth, all around me.

You know that old adage, "It takes a village to raise a child?" Well, it's completely, utterly and complicatedly true in my opinion.

Getting back to what I was saying about this droop in the early beginnings of adult-hood in parental intelligence... or so it seems....

When I was 16, I had my first date. I asked him out. He was older than me. In fact, he was almost 18, and in the land of teenagers, there are miles between ages 16 and 18. Rivers, valleys and mountains too. However, I liked him, quite a lot. He was a theatre techie and we'd worked together on sets, lights - you name it. Late nights amongst amiable company make for swift ties in the theatre.

I'd been so terribly nervous to ask him out... I didn't even have his phone number and being as we were two grades apart (he a junior and myself a freshman... I have a November birthday which put me as the eldest in my grade, and he had a December birthday, so likewise for him) that day at school, I'd agonized over how to ask him.

It's not as though we had a free band or lunch together, let alone sometime for me to get him by himself to ask him to be my date.

We'd finished rehearsal and I was waiting to get picked up. I remember it was dark outside. I'd stayed later to do my homework in the library after we'd left the theatre; my dad was working late, and he was the one who was coming to get me.

I had this boy's his e-mail, because of theatre related things. I decided to e-mail him... he was a techie, he'd approve of that.  I grabbed my bag and walked over to the computer lab.

  Breeeeeaaaatheeee.... I'd been holding my breath.  Can I really do this? I thought to myself. What if he thinks I'm a joke or something.... what if he just laughs at me? What if I'm too forward, asking him out instead of waiting for him to ask me? What if he tells all his friends about it and I get teased for the next two years straight?

I'd asked people out twice before. Once in 7th grade (horrible, horrible mistake) and once in 8th grade (he said yes to attending dance, but then wouldn't dance with me once we got there.  It ended with me basically breaking his heart and asking to be friends because, well he wore the same cologne as my grandpa, he refused to dance and we just weren't getting anywhere). So, I had a classically 50/50 success rate.

 Yes, I was that girl. To be honest, I didn't really care that I was the one being assertive; let's face it, if things got left up to boys who were my age, we'd all be punching the person we liked in the arm and telling them they had cooties to get the message across.

A.B. was older and *gasp* more mature than most guys, 17 year olds included. Yes, I'd e-mail him.... I waited for the computer to boot up.


I logged in with my student ID and signed into my e-mail.

   "Dear A.B.".... I began.

   TAP, TAPPITY, TAP-TAP.  KNOCK-KNOCK-KNOCK.  I turned to look at whoever was annoyingly drumming on the glass of the computer lab; the end of the wall was the windowed-hallway in front of our school office-- and all the air left my lungs.

   A.B. stood there grinning and waving at me, his bag slung to one shoulder.

   OH. MY. GOD...! I thought to myself, having a completely girly moment and blushing from head to toe. Waving back at him I smiled sheepishly, in what I'm sure looked like an agonized manner. He's so tall. He looks so cute. He's SOOOOOO going to turn me down...

"Thank God he doesn't know what I'm doing," I said aloud through my smiling teeth. A.B. winked at me and mouthed "See you Monday," on the other side of the glass before turning and continuing out.

I let the air escape from my lungs. I'd been holding it again. Well, it's my birthday and he knows that, so maybe he won't shut me down on my birthday.

I finished the e-mail and pressed "send."

Well, it was done. There's no "unsend," button, so now it was a wait and see sort of thing. Besides, tomorrow I was having some friends over for my birthday. A bunch of high-school girls eating ice-cream and chocolate would help me forget that I'd just asked an upperclassman out.

For the dance. A big one. A formal. Called: The Crystal Ball.

I didn't much care for the name, but you know, nothing wrong with puns...


  "H! PHONE! It's a BOY!" My dad shouted up the stairs. Giggling ensued madly.

 "SHUT UP! He doesn't know you're all over here. NO LAUGHING! QUIET!" I screeched as I made my way over to the phone upstairs in my dad's office. I could barely reach the receiver as I was surrounded by my friends and they were all hysterical that I'd a) Asked A.B. out, b) Given him my phone number to receive his response, and c) That he was calling the night they were all here to bear-witness and able to console or celebrate with me after the verdict was stated.

  "Hello?" I said, trying not to sound as though my heart was going to beat out of my chest.

   "H? It's A.B." he said smoothly. His voice was so deep.

   "Well, I figured." I said giggling in spite of myself. It's not like many boys call this number... ooh, did that sound snotty? CRAP!!!!!

   "I got your e-mail..." he said. I detected a hint of a smile in his voice. Ok. Don't sound eager....

   "Yeah? I hope it was okay that I sent it to you...." I said quietly. A giggle threatened to escape from several of the girls squeezed against me and the receiver.

    "H, I'd love go to the dance with you," he said. OH HOLY HELL! He emphasized the word "love," he'd LOVE to go with me! YESSSSS!!!

  Placing my hand over the receiver, I realized that all my girlfriends were staring at me bug-eyed with lolling expressions, hopping from one foot to the other; like true friends, they were just as excited as I was to find out whether he shot me down or not.

He said YES! I mouthed to them. It was too much. SQUEALS ensued. WOOHOOO's erupted from the girls, and despite my hand over the receiver, I KNEW he'd heard the symphony of whooping in the background.

  "A.B.?," I could hear him chuckling. Well, if he'd thought he had no audience, now he knew.

  "Yes. You have friends over don't you? Birthday right?"

  "Yeah. So-- hold on---," I paused.

     OK EVERYONE! Go downstairs and start the movie, I'll be down in a minute.

  "Sorry about that," I murmured, "Um...."

  "Well, since the dance is in February, and it's November now... we should hang out before then, huh?" he crooned.

   "Sure!" I said brightly.

   "We should also probably talk about the age difference between us. What do you think about it?" he asked seriously.

   "I don't think it's an issue at all. If people don't like it, well, it's not their problem really, is it?" I countered.

   "I feel the same way. It's no big deal," he said warmly.

   "Great," I breathed back at him. God, I was turning into such a girly-girl. Ugh.

   "Well, why don't we hang out tomorrow night? I've got to cover a SLAM poetry gathering in Burlington, would you like to come with me?" he offered.

   "Yeah, that sounds great," I said.

   "Super. It's a date then. Have a fun night," he said... there was that smile I could hear in his words again...

    "Ok. Bye A.B. Thanks for calling," I said softly.

    "Thanks for asking," he purred back.  We hung up and I steeled myself to go downstairs and meet the girls.



That was the beginning with A.B. We dated for 2 ish years and I wouldn't change anything about it. At multiple times in my adult life, he's been there for me, and I for him. Through other relationships, tragedies, more relationships, job internships, tours, job offers and more - we've sought each other's advice and support.

I attended his wedding last year to an amazing, wonderful girl named C and they have begun a fantastic life together, and I hope to have them for a visit soon.

A.B. remains to this day, one of my dearest friends; he'll stay so for as long as we both have breath.

It's funny... when my folks first met my fiancee, they said he reminded them of A.B. I consider that to be a HUGE compliment, and a great honor. ;-)

I'm sure A.B. will pop up more in here... there are too many funny stories, like our first date, that simply shouldn't be left out.

But now, I've got to go make chocolate cherry cake, because my mum is telling me "You PROMISED and I DON'T SEE IT in the OVEN!"

Duty calls.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Feel the Floor...

I trudged down the concrete path; picking my way carefully so as not to slip down the steep, winding sidewalk. The icy wind cut into my cheeks, nearly blowing off my hat and sneaking it's sharp, cold fingers through the folds of my scarf. The trees whipping and groaning as the wind berated them about.

Finally, the steely-gray-blue door came into focus through my tear-frozen eyes. Struggling with it's weight, I pulled mightily and slipped inside.

BLAM! The wind slammed the door behind me. Warm air engulfed me as I stepped into the sanctuary of the building. Walking down the narrow dark hallway, over the squishy mats,  I pulled open the second blue door with the slit of a window - crosshatching metal glinted inside the glass.

With a deep sigh, I felt my body lift up, the space of the studio wrapped around me and exploded pleasantly, expanding my energy like a delicious airy ocean, the ceiling feeling miles above, the blue cold air shining through the skylights; but it was warm in here.

Dropping my bag, I walked over to the music cabinet.

   "Damn," I whispered to myself.

   It was locked. I'd have to go upstairs.

Well no matter, the second studio was still high and open - a solitude of sweet space, somewhere I could move by myself without fear of interruption.

I went back out through the door and up the creeky, too-narrow stairs I'd passed on my left as I came in. Feeling another wave of freedom, I breathed deeply as the floor level passed my eye, hip, and I finally found myself standing at the end of the studio, the mirrors stretched out to my right along the edge of the wall, the marley light not dark in this space; the same skylight style windows cascading grey, cold light above to the left.

Dropping my bag on the chair by the music cabinet and slipping off my shoes so the marley would be protected, I stepped sock-footed toes first, my feet arching deliciously, onto the floor. Pulling out the permanent fixture of the old boom-box from under the shelf, I dug through my bag and found the disc I was searching for.

I slipped the CD into the chamber.

Click. Cccsh, cccsh, cccsh, whiirrrrrrrr... the music, playing softly, began to fill the room with the warm, lilting, rich sounds of the cello.

I threw off my winter gear and placed my shoes on top of my coat. I slid to the floor and closed my eyes, leaning back so I could feel the flatness of the wood covered marley against my arching, extending and flexing, relaxing spine.

Streeeeetch... arms up over my head, feet pointed down extending the line of energy, I  felt my ribs pull and separate gently; my muscles in delight at the new spread and opening, but twitchy as well. I kept breathing... in and out... all the time feeling the floor.

Firm pressure against my body; hard, soft, firm, the floor was support, reminding my muscles to flex and release; to build and hold the scaffolding of my bones,  to keep my movements supple and strong and light or heavy, but never too loose.... still...

To let go. To begin spinning and dropping, throwing my body around-- that was part of it too. The studio was only place I could release everything. The only space in which I could freely escape my emotions and send them out of myself into the space with the sound of the music and the rush of motion. No matter what was going on in the world of higher education: exams, expectations and interactions; here was safety.

I began organically to move; closing my eyes to feel the vibrations of the notes and chords in my body; the cello glided along my frame. My organs and tissues were drinking in the key signature; the mood of the piece flooding into my bloodstream, filling my muscles and lungs with it's essence. The rhythmic bowing and the time signature was tapping through my bones, I could feel it's persistence in my fingers, toes and jaw, even my pelvis.

I could also physically feel my insistent need for motion- I had to move, I had to open myself to the music and fling it out through my body.

   Not yet though... just breathe... feel your energy's hyperactivity rushing around your system and restrain it until you're warm. Keep the excitement and feel it fill you to the core.

The dance floor had always been my sounding board. I could leap here. I could turn. I could slide and thrust and flow and feel my strength and motions contract and release. I could put all of myself into the movement without fear, without judgement: This was no class. No constricted emphasis on strength, specific motion, or complete training control; here I could take all that discipline and set it free!

 I could move with no rules.

This was no ballet, or jazz instruction, no pure tap, no swing, no ballroom, no hip-hop, no modern, nor lyrical... this was me. 


This space was the place to re-claim my soul, feel my body and move it. No where else in the world did I have such creativity as this; the deep and pure pleasure of feeling myself in my system and the utter delight of moving however I might for the expectation of No. One. Else.

Here, it didn't matter that my heart had been broken. That I couldn't sleep because of the gaping, tearing hole in my chest. That the guy I really, truly loved had broken my trust. It didn't matter that I felt angry with myself for swallowing lies and being nice about every injustice I was feeling. Here it didn't matter that I had to go about my studying, make the grade, write a thesis, deal with interdepartmental spats. Here it didn't matter that I felt alone and misjudged and confused about what the hell I was doing at University. Here it didn't matter that I was only allowed to do the work they wanted me to do; instead of what I knew I was capable of. Here I had to please no one. Not even myself, because this was not a time for self-judgement.

R, C and K had told me to go to the studio. Reminded me that I could take myself back. Take back the effort and energy that I was throwing into my classes and at my professors and give it back to myself.

R, C and K were the BEST. ROOMMATES. EVER. As well as being incredible, amazing, intelligent, understanding and compassionate women. They still are...

 But right then: I wasn't in class.  I wasn't on stage. I wasn't presenting, performing or working for anyone.

The smell of the dust and leather and metal and wood hit me. Here was salvation.

The floor was solely mine. I could dance for the mirrors, the light, the windows, the bricks, the air itself; perhaps a few squirrels would stop to watch me. No fellow-students.

The music changed; the rhythm shifting to a low pulse - sharp, steady, like blood pumping in my ears.

I began to dance, and so set myself free.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

It's Fall Again... No, Wait... Just February in CO.


The wind began a little bluster, which grew into a nice gust and a whisper of a winter gone-by (it's cheeks puffing slightly at the effort) swept through the crinkly, spindly branches of the buck naked trees.

A small pile of dirty, snowy leaves shivered and shuddered in it's wake; they'd be blown about if they weren't icily stuck to the frost. Leaves always want to be blown about, they're made to catch the wind, sun and rain, like delicate little energy panels that flutter.

Outside the air smelled musty, smoky and cold; like a kitchen hours after bacon has been fried-- the old smell of past things still lingers on the breeze, waiting, inevitably to return.

   The frying pan shall again sizzle fat and melt butter,
   The house will again smell of succulent food,
   The oven shall bake sweet and savory pastry again,
   The clock shall again tick comfortingly the hours, minutes and seconds as they rush by,
   The people will gather, part, gather and part again,
   The animals will again snuggle gently for warmth; sleeping through the cold if they can,
   The leaves will burst with buds into flower, then dance until they can no longer feel the beat of the music and gasping for breath that will not come, they'll shrink, lose their succulence and become wisps of their former selves, only to at last take the final swirling leap to the ground below... all, over, again.

  This morning, the smell of apples frying delicately in butter filled our house; sweet, cidery perfume mingling with the salty suggestive smell of onions carmelizing... also in butter.

  Butter, my friends, is delicious.

   Having been a vegan for 3 years, and a vegetarian previously (for around 15 or so) I once eschewed butter; this golden, salty, sweet, full-flavored fat was stolen from cows and I could not abide eating it, while the little calves were put on formula... or worse.

 Today though, I am not going to talk about dietary agendas, revelations, convictions or what is morally right and wrong for me as an individual; there's too much sadness, struggle and difficulty in residence there at the moment.

  Right now, I'm going to talk about the comfort of cooking, the excitement of preparation and in short: the ecstasy of food.

   We must eat to live. It is a necessary component of being a living, breathing, creature. In my opinion, we need these basic elements to survive:

Shelter: I live in a house built in 1903, with one normally pleasant, elderly ghost of a woman who lived here previously.

Water: I don't drink as much as I should, but I drink a lot more than I used to.

Love: I give it and receive it as much as possible from people, animals and the universe.

Food: I cook. Every. Single. Day. Food is one of the greatest joys of life - sustenance, pleasure, excitement, interest, work and imagination are all filled and boundless within food.

Elimination: Everybody Poops. Go read the book of the same title.

Understanding: Without understanding, there can be no acceptance or sharing - not of oneself, not of other people, not of anything. Misunderstanding lines up with frustration, which borders anger, which does not beget goodwill or respect.

Expression: Holding energy in changes the path it moves along. Holding anything, will alter the state it's in; as well as the state of the container.

These things may seem extraneous from time to time, but I'm willing to bet that everyone and everything needs them to survive.

I first began to cook when I was four. I believe I ended up with flour all over myself, the kitchen, and the adults trying to teach me how to do whatever we were doing. Each memory I have of helping to prepare some meal or tasty-tid-bit is a LOVELY, damn good memory.

I wish I could remember exactly every meal. Instead, I can recall the exact flavours of the dishes I loved - but I've no idea the number of times I've tasted them.

I also remember meals, snacks and times with food that were awful - I've spoken about this before - bad mood = bad food. Say it with me, "BAD MOOD EQUALS BAD FOOD!"

Good job.  (I'm a firm believer in positive reinforcement.)

Cooking is something that is constant in life, though most people don't cook to save themselves the tire, hassle, mess and above all, time.  We're taught that time = money, and no one has the time to make a pie-crust from scratch (Flour, water, fat, salt) let alone make biscuits, cookies, cakes, casseroles, salads, stews or really, any dish that requires even a small amount of chopping, mixing or stirring. People like to take something, zap it in the microwave and eat it. Quickly. TV dinners are still extremely popular, as are frozen bagged meals.

"If you can boil water, you can make this!" 
"Just add water, empty the packet contents into the pan, and VOILA! INSTANT- DINNER!"
"Cook on high for 2 minutes. Turn. Cook an additional 2 minutes. Stir. Let cool. Enjoy!"

This is NOT cooking.

GASP! Can she SAY that? Is that true? I'm adding a heating element to edible things, that's cooking, isn't it? 

No. It isn't. Don't try to pretend that pushing a button on a microwave, or just because you've found you're capable of turning on the oven or the burner (good job) is cooking. It. Is. NOT.

Cooking means taking basic ingredients (read, things you KNOW are food - fruits, vegetables, fats, herbs, spices and proteins) and preparing, seasoning and combining together with a heated or non heated element that results in something delicious from SCRATCH that will nourish your body, mind, soul and spirit.

Cooking is not adding a flavor packet to a something boiling in a pot of water. It just isn't.

Julia Child is AMAZING. I love the book (as well as the movie) of "Julie and Julia." It's good stuff. However, most of us probably couldn't follow a recipe in "Mastering the Art of French Cooking." Most of us have difficulty following the high-altitude instructions (oh wait, usually there AREN'T ANY) on a box of noodles.

I am blessed, because I grew up in a family where cooking was taken for granted. We cooked most meals, special occasion foods, and even basic bread ourselves. It wasn't until my mom got extremely busy with her work, that we had the occasional frozen entree dinner, and believe me it did NOT taste like my mom's REAL version.

In this day and age, with everything labeled "HEALTHY," and assigned numbers for it's nutritional content, we forget what food really is. Food is grown, not poofed into existence. Things like popcorn, tortilla chips and potato chips can all be made ridiculously easily at home, but we don't have the time.

Well, if you end up stuck with a bunch of crappy food allergies, you MAKE the time.

I had asthma until I was about 25 years old. I was born almost a full 3 months early and they told my folks I'd be the kid who had immune deficiencies my whole life; that I'd be on allergy meds, steroid creams and inhalers and all of that stuff. That my system "would never work properly." Well, it's not true. I have FOOD allergies. Rash causing, sniffles inducing, coughing, puking, sneezing, itchy, hive-y, pimply, ASTHMA triggering food allergies.

Now I'm dealing not only with the food allergies, but the effects of 25 years of corticosteroids and allergy drugs that were forced into my system. Suppress, suppress, suppress...

 I don't have asthma any more. I rarely have eczema, hives, sneezing or coughing fits (unless I have a legitimate cold, or come in contact with mold, dust-mites or something I'm allergic to that was in the food I ate).


Sometimes I cry about my lot in life; I'm sure we all do from time to time. It's part of being a person with feelings. I occasionally become angry with my body, with all it's high-maintenance B.S., but the truth of the matter is, it's me. It's my body and I have to take care of it and love it, and trust it to somehow communicate to my consciousness what's going on inside it.

I have been forced to know, explore and understand every single thing that goes into my mouth. If I don't pay attention, I have unpleasant reactions, and my body punishes me for deliberately thwarting what it's told me it needs.

Life isn't about shortcuts. Food shouldn't be short-changed or played around with (unless it's experimenting with a new ingredient or recipe). What we eat, where it comes from, whether it's sustainable, fair-trade, humanely raised and harvested: THESE ARE IMPORTANT.

Everyone needs to COOK more and UNDERSTAND more about where their ingredients come from.

A roommate of mine used to subscribe to cable T.V. (we don't have a T.V. at home anymore) and I used to watch the Food Network. I love the Food Network. It's fun to watch. However, I once saw an episode of a "cooking show," by accident (I don't like the way this female does her show --- I won't name names, but her first and last names start with the same letter and rhyme with Achel A).

She was "teaching," people how to "cook," by taking pre-made, frozen foodstuffs and baking them in the oven; to go along with boiling frozen peas. She was speaking slowly and smiling at the camera, exclaiming things in her raspy, abrasive voice and cheerfully spreading out the "food," on the cookie sheet.

This is utter and complete crap. I give her kudos for doing what she believes in, but clearly, I beg to differ on her definition of cooking.

 Firstly, boiling peas is defrosting them so they're edible. It's not cooking.  It's step one to making a meal with a side dish of peas, or to adding peas to a soup or other dish.  Secondly, taking something store-bought and warming it in your oven is not cooking. If people at home (watching the show) don't know how to boil water and turn their oven on, then the state of our food preparation system is in deeper trouble than I thought.

This "chef," thinks that quick frozen meals are cooking? I think NOT. How someone can get paid for following instructions on the back of the bag for a quick fix meal, is beyond me. I find it insulting to my intelligence, and I think that shows such as this one, touting basic re-heating methods as cooking are pathetic and dreadful.

Teach people the trick to dicing onions! How to julienne carrots! How to peel garlic! How to season things properly! About the smoke points of oils and fats! Which pan to use for what! The importance of tasting ingredients from start to finish!

Those things are important. Not how to gosh darn defrost ready-made, preservative laden, trans-fatty, highly processed "food." That stuff shouldn't even pass for food. If you look at a label and you can't pronounce the ingredients, put it back.

Buy some veggies, sea salt, protein and fat and COOK dammit!

It does NOT take that much time. Maybe an extra 2 minutes to chop. You're still throwing it into a warming/hot skillet/pot/pan. It will taste better, it's better FOR your body, and it's FUN!

You are what you eat, and all that entails. Give your body food. Give it the basics. Don't muck around with "I don't have time," this and "it's too complicated," that. Your body is the most important resource you have- your very LIFE depends on it.

So treat it well, take it home and cook it dinner to show it how much you care. Your body is your "one and only," after all.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Just Beneath the Surface...

   "Nnnnnngggggggfffffff," I whined as the alarm clock began it's bleating noise. I wasn't thrilled about waking up this morning.

Despite the fact that we'd said we'd sleep in, J had forgotten to change his phone's clock setting and it was JUST. TOO. LOUD.

I groaned as I opened my eyes to a huge, furry, orange body. Obie had sneaked up next to my pillow, and was stretched out like a fuzzy, long, scarf next to my face.

My whole being felt raw, buzzy and unsettled.

Yesterday was Valentine's Day. Also, J and my anniversary. We had a nice evening; low-key, a little alcohol, chocolate, and a movie. However, we'd stayed up late, and I was tired this morning.

 I have also been feeling emotional. I think it's the New Moon, or some hippie-crunchy-woo-woo-crazy Energy going around. My heart center was supercharged, and not just because of the holiday/anniversary.

Valentine's Day has never been a big deal for me, but it is a holiday I enjoy. I think it's sweet most of the time. I don't hate it when I'm single, I don't dread it and put pressure on my partner. I think of it as it was when I was a kid. It's fun, you get to tell people they're cool (or spread the love) and revel in the fact that people are being sweet and kind to each other, and you have an excuse to eat large amounts of candy.

When I was little, I both loved and disliked what many people call the "Hallmark invented holiday," because when you're young at school, Valentine's Day usually means exchanging little cards with Snoopy on them holding a heart with chocolate taped to the back.

 It was a day of anxiety too, because the person you inevitably would risk "cooties," for, just to sit next to (and maybe hold hands with) almost never liked you back. You'd cheerfully give out Valentines with little notes written on them, and then, at the end of the day, you'd frantically search through all the ones you'd received and read and re-read the pencilled-in writing to see if you could get "I really like you in a more than just friendly sort of way," out of "Happy Valentine's Day," or "You're the coolest! -- Insert Name Here."

I remember taking a shoe box and covering it in construction paper to make my "mailbox," so that we could all have a place to discreetly "deliver," Valentines to each other. It was a happy, red, pink, white and purple free-for-all. I remember making the same construction paper loop-chains that we made for Christmas, only we used 'teacher-approved Valentinesy colors,' and there was lacy-doily-stuff everywhere.

The windows were covered with hearts, clouds, cupids, balloons and all manner of too-cute creatures making goo-goo-eyes at each other. Little boxes of conversation hearts were commonplace. I used to LOVE them. My mom would always have a big vase of flowers and bowls of chocolate and the little hearts on the kitchen table at home.

I also, have always felt inexplicably silly and stupid on Valentine's Day. The tiniest of things embarrass me when this day rolls around, and I think it's due to the fact that deep down, I am a closet hopeless romantic. I don't like getting gifts, I cry when someone surprises me, and I suck at taking compliments--- even though I truly appreciate all of these things!  I've been working on some of these issues  for years, and I can now manage to turn only medium-reddish-pink instead of beet-red when someone tells me something nice, and I can even burble back a sheepish,

    "Gee, thanks."

A lot of people feel pressure on Valentine's Day; it's the day to tell that person you haven't been able to speak a full sentence around, how you really feel about them. The day to proclaim your undying devotion to your significant other. The day to propose something ridiculous or life-long committing all in the name of: L-O-V-E.

Usually, for me, embarrassing things happen on Valentine's Day.

When I was 12, it was on Valentine's Day, that puberty hit and sent me for a loop. How embarrassing. To become officially an "adult," physically. At school. With everything covered in BRIGHT RED HEARTS. Ugh!

Or the time I was 6 and the boy I liked told me that redheads "freaked [him] out!" I'd saved my favorite Sesame Street Snuffleupagus valentine card for him. Ha! Yes, rejection is a frequent thing on this chocolate-covered-cherry holiday, assuming you have the guts (and sheer stupidity) to put yourself out there to begin with.

Ain't love grand...

Then there were the frequent V.D.'s that I spent alone. Not hating the cutesy couples that seemed to pop up all around me, but happy for them in the loneliest, saddest, most mournful of ways... while at the same time playing it "cool," and pretending that I didn't care at all that I was by myself.

Or, the celebrations of this holiday that I had with various partners, where I'd get something (or nothing) that really let me down.

You have to understand, if someone makes me something, even if it's one sock without a match, I will LOVE it because they put in effort and cared enough to try. I don't need a dozen red-roses, a box of chocolates and expensive jewelry-- in fact, those things make me really, really, nervous. I just want to know I'm cared about and that there was effort put into the gift.

Here is a list of crappy things I've gotten on Valentine's Day:

1) A box of his favorite candy (flavors that I didn't like at all).
2) A beanie baby, with no card, no explanation and no tag. (For all I know he stole it from his younger sibling).
3) A Valentine's card with just his name inside. No "Love, ____," just his name. (I also ended up having to pay for dinner because he "forgot [his] wallet."
4) One white carnation. (I hate carnations, they make me think of funerals.)
5) An expired coupon to the movies. (He'd had it for 2 years).
6) Stood Up (He forgot we had a date.)
7) Nothing. (He forgot to even say "Happy Valentine's Day.")

Now, conversely, I've had many WONDERFUL Valentine's Days. One year all my single friends and I all got together, ate candy, watched movies and played games. I have also had some pretty great homemade-let's-cook-together suppers; an incredible giant handmade card covered with foam stickers, hand-drawn hearts and the reasons I'm awesome; a really cool drawing of me; a nify, delicate little necklace and pink roses; and one AMAZING first date (hence, our anniversary yesterday).

All in all, I really like Valentine's Day. No gifts are necessary (unless things are hyped up first, making me anxious, and then a big, fat, NOTHING is delivered).

February 14th is simply a day to celebrate joy among people in a sometimes cutesy, mildly embarrassing way. It's pleasant and reminiscent of youthful fun to spread hugs, love, chocolate and little candy hearts.

I try not to dwell on the depressing feelings that come up, or the let-downs that swing by, or the my-sweetie-has-to-work-and-I'm-all-alone-blues.

I just smile, make my pink, red, white and purple construction-paper daisy chains, cut out my lacy-doily hearts, write my silly, lengthy poems, and spread the love.

Whether I'm alone or not.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Good. Strong. Coffee. Breathe it in kid.....

There are some things I can't help, but remember the smell of when they float to my nostrils now. Certain fragrances that hold memories for me that are absolutely inescapable.

Folger's and Maxwell House coffee for example. Any brewing coffee will do, but specifically the large, blue or red coffee cans... the kind you used to make stilts out of when they were empty, as a kid. That smell is morning at either grandparents' house.

Mimi's kitchen always smelled of freshly brewing coffee, lil' smokies (a kind tiny of sausage Kansans are rather fond of which smell curiously like a mix of butter, brown sugar, and bacon... or maybe that's just because that's what she cooked them with) and wheat toast.

There was also a lingering smell of pipe smoke and cinnamon about her house. Grandpa W smoked a pipe before he died (when I was four) and Mimi always had cinnamon bears about her person. And the overly sweet, dusty smell of Equal packets.

 In fact, we as kids, were designated to guard her purse (usually my cousin C had that honor; he was the eldest and had therefore earned the right) and gather the following whenever we went to a restaurant: blue equal packets from the little bin on the table, a few extra napkins from the shiny silver holder, jam packets and peppermints, toothpicks, or whatever they have for the taking as you leave.

I learned later that sweet, little old women also love marmalade. Specifically the little packets of it found in diners throughout the United States. It is, in fact, like gold to them. Perhaps there's some sort of underground black-market bidding that goes on, largely in cases of marmalade, gathered in secret from diners across America.

When I was working more than a few jobs at a time, right after I graduated college, I worked in one of these diners. I got harassed by grouchy (and sometimes sweet) old men all day long, harangued by middle aged women (nothing against my fellow ladies, but some members of this demographic are the worst to have to serve... they insist you botched their order, despite the fact that you wrote it down and read it back to them before putting it in with the kitchen, and they always skimp on tip), and sweetly thanked and winked at by couples and singles of all ages.

We were ALWAYS running out of marmalade. We had to hide it in the back of the jelly cabinet, because on several occasions, people, usually elderly ladies, would go to the jelly bin and grab packets; marmalade being the ultimate goal.

Mimi's car always smelled of Wrigley's Spearmint gum. She quit smoking I think around the time that D and I were three... or maybe five... I was old enough to remember her going outside to have a cigarette and I still really like the smell of tobacco... except the really cheap-o brands... not sure which they are, someone told me once it's "Pall-Mall," brand of cancer-stick that smells like doggie-doo on fire, but I've never run a burning sample, and I don't care to.

Mimi also liked to use all manner of Chap Stick brand (usually the black original flavor),  Jergens and Eucerin hand lotions and Carmex lip pot. I also remember her, on special occasions, using something (I think from Crabtree and Evelyn) that smelled of Lily of the Valley or something similar. A very light, delicate almost honey-suckle scented cream. Mimi always smelled good, no matter what.

I am unable to smell any of these without recalling some scene from my childhood.

Grandma B's kitchen always smelled of instant Folger's coffee (the little glass jar with the green lid) which is a distinctly different smell, almost like that of the foil covered paper sealing the top of the jar... not unpleasant.... and fried bacon, eggs, Lipton's Breakfast Blend hot tea and white toast.

I also associate sauerkraut, boiling sausages or hot dogs, frying, carmelizing onions, melting salted butter and cherry pie with Grandma B.

Her house also had the smell of old spice wafting about (my grandpa C) as well as the sweet whiff of Worther's Original toffee candy, holiday ribbon candy (she almost always had a bowl of it), spice gumdrops, and Wrigley's Freedent gum.

Grandma B always smelled of toilette body pouf powder; I think it was Estee Lauder brand or something expensive smelling. I also associate fondly, the original Lysol smell and Pledge polish as well as Aqua Net hairspray.

In fact, Mimi used this too, so I just take it for granted that grandparents everywhere smell of perfumed chemicals on Sunday mornings. Grandmothers also smell this way upon their return from "the Beauty Shop," just having had their hair washed, set in curlers, dried, teased and sprayed until the fluffed curls were springy.

Grandpa C's hands always smelled of Dial soap, and the bedroom he shared with my grandmother always smelled of Lever 2000 soap; clean, manly, spicy and not sharp, but not subtle either.

Grandma B also used Surf and Tide laundry detergent and bounce dryer sheets.  Her house smelled of clean cotton; that fresh, salty, spicy, sweet mix that happens when you open the dryer.

Mimi used Dreft, downy and bounce as well. Her house smelled of clean baby, but not the intoxicating and borderline asphyxiating smell of baby powder; more the soft, fresh, and flowery-warm nurturing and comforting smell.

Both houses smelled of sunshine streaming through windows, warming up the rooms.

Both sets of grandparents had designated bathrooms by sex; his being (in both houses) off the back bedroom, and the one belonging to Grandma not Grandpa, was in the middle of the house off the front bedrooms. Curious, how there was the same set-up in both houses.

Crown Royal, Scotch, Vodka Martinis and iced tea all remind me of Mimi.

Wine, port, Diet Dr. Pepper and lemonade all remind me of Grandma B.

It's amazing to me how almost every single member of my family has a designated smell in my brain.

I make "Christmas coffee," almost every morning - I just lace the freshly ground coffee beans with cinnamon, because that's what my mother does on Christmas morning, and I like the smell so much that I do it every morning.

My mom smells like cinnamon, vanilla, soap and something deeper. Her smell is warm.

My dad smells like Gillette Edge shaving cream, linen and soap. His smell is clean.

My great aunt Babe smelled of oatmeal cookies. I could keep going, but I think I'll stop there. I  could go on and on about the smells of people I know. It would be impossible to cover all the bases. Chances are, if I've met you, I know what you smell like.

I wonder what I smell like now? What I'll smell like when I'm a mom and a grandma? I hope it's something pleasant, like chocolate and oranges. Some combination of comfort food and freshness.

I believe if you really want to know what someone smells like, their scent sits in the hollow of their throat just below their neck and above their clavicle and sternum. It also floats behind the ears and inside the crooks of their elbows, and at the nape of the back of their neck, or on the top of the crown of their head.

I've been told I smell like sugar cookies. I'm not quite sure if that's true... but I do believe it's possible that  I smell of butter, sugar and vanilla because I bake and cook a lot.

I wish I really knew what my inherent smell is. I'm sure there's some chemistry, some process that can imitate, or mimic the smell of a particular person and their pheromones.

J's nose isn't "sensitive," or I'd ask him to smell me and tell me. He tells me I have "the most sensitive sniffer of anyone [he's] ever met," and since my dad used to tease me when I was a kid, telling me I was "part dog," because I had to smell and sniff everything, maybe he's right.

I just want someone to smell me and tell me I smell inherently good and describe the elements of my scent to me. That's probably a slightly insane request, but I'd really like to know.

Someday I'll find out.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Channeling Granny Weatherwax!

   "Mmmmggggrrruuummmmphhhhh," J sighed, as he rolled over onto his side and scooted back against me.
   "What time is it?" I mumbled, burrowing my face into his back and pulling him closer.

   "Five-thirtysummingggggmmmphhhhh," he growled, "mmmmmm, you're so warm," he finished.

   "MrrrrOOOOOW, brrr, brrrr, bRRRR, BBBBRRRRRRRRRR," purred Seuss, who had managed to slither his way between my shins and J's calves, wiggling into the narrow space slot, smiling contentedly with himself.

   "Aaaaaaooooow, RrrrrrOW, AAAAAAow," murmured Obie pawing my hip with his huge ginger mitten; already demanding his breakfast.

   Pad, pad, pad.... BIFF, hiss, HISSS, CHIRP! Thwap, SSSSHOUUUF, BIFF-BIFF-BIFF, bite, bite, grab, TACKLE, THUDITY-THUD! 

    The cats fell off the bed.  Peace for a few more minutes at last.

   Suddenly, I felt J shift and a very BRIGHT, GLOWING WHITE LIGHT was visible through my eyelids. Sneaking a peek through the slits of my eyelashes, I saw the source of the offending, blinding luminescence: J was checking his cell.

   "I'm not ready for you to get up yet," I murmured, giving him a squeeze. He flipped towards me and pulled me into his chest.

   "We have to get up in 3 minutes," he whispered, kissing my forehead....

   BLAM! Tick-tick-tick-WHOOO-PHOOO!  I plopped the heavy cast-iron skillet onto the stove and ignited the burner.

  "You having coffee or tea this morning?" J said grinning at me while he twisted open the can we kept our beans in.

    He was too cheerful. Normally I'm the cheerful morning person. Not this morning though, my dreams had been all wonky and I hadn't slept well.

   "Definitely coffee," I said frowning quietly. Chuckling, he grabbed me into a backwards hug and kissed me on the cheek.

 Everything inside the kitchen felt too bright this morning. I flipped off the overhead light in favor of the above oven lamp, pulling up the shades on the kitchen window to let in some of the lavender-gray darkness. Ah, sweet shadow....  Spurting some oil into the pan, I turned it to medium high and grabbed the smaller skillet resting behind the burner on the right, slid it to the front burner and christened it with oil as well.


"This burner scares me every time," I said grumpily to no one in particular.

    "MMMRRRROOOOOOW!," screeched Obie, padding up to my knee and placing his paws half-way up my thigh, glaring at me with his giant yellow, orb-like eyes.

    "That's nice Obie," I said sullenly, pushing him off. Seuss was watching like a little angel, which he's not, from the kitchen table... where he's not allowed to sit.  "GerrOFF THE TABLE!" I hollered at him, threatening him with my wooden spoon. He blinked and tilted his head at me as if to say,

   "Put my breakfast on the floor, and maybe I'll have a reason to get down!"

   I shuffled over to the icebox, grabbing three eggs out of the till and a red pork-chop off the plate. Ugh, raw meat.

   SSSSSSSSSSSSSHHHHHHHHHHHHHhhhhhhhhhhhhhh! The pork-chop hissed, dancing in the oil as it hit the pan. I flicked on the fan to clear the air, cursing at myself as a tiny drop of hot oil hit my right knuckle. After a few moments, I put the heavy lid on, listening to the meat snap and crackle inside it's blackened walls.

   CLOMP CLOMP CLOMP! KaaaCHOO, CREEEEEEEEAAaaaaak, whined the door, J's boots thudding up the protesting stairs of our side porch.

   "How are the chickies?" I asked more politely than I felt.

   "Just fine Darlin," was the reply. I grabbed one of the eggs and cracking it, shlooped it into the pan, following with 2 more. Tapping them carefully with the wooden spoon to break their yolks, I returned to the chop. Removing the hefty lid, I grabbed the tongs and flipped it, waited until it felt seared enough, and slapped the lid back on.

   "Is it horridly cold out?" I asked innocently.

   "It's pretty cold. Supposed to be cold and snowy today."

   "All DAY?" I said incredulously, moaning inside.

   "Let me check," he said scooting into the library. "Just until NOON!" he called from within the depths of our books. Swirling his eggs around the pan, careful not to scrape them, I deemed them ready and unceremoniously dumped them onto a plate. I flipped the pork-chop again. It was almost ready.

   Obie was practically hopping up and down stiff-legged as I snatched a can of organic turkey cat-food and leaned down to his bowl. Seuss joined in on the chorus of 'YAAY! You REMEMBERED US!' meowing.

  Having gulped down his eggs, J stood up and strode over to the sink to drop off his bowl just as I was pulling his chop out of the pan.

   "I don't think this is pork..." I said confusedly. "Do you think it's done?" I added.

   "Hmm. It looks more like beef to me," he agreed. I cut into an edge of the meat. "Looks done just fine too," he said, tasting the small bite.  I cut up the hefty slab... yeah, pigs aren't this big... and put the steaming food into a thermos for him to take. Tossing it into his bag as he glided by, he grabbed his books and computer from the living room and stuffing them into his pack, he zipped it up. Unzipping his coat, he gave me a warm hug and a kiss.  "Have a nice day Darlin," he said looking down at me.

   "You too Sweetie. Stay warm," I cautioned him. Swinging his bag around, his long legs took him swiftly through the house and out the front door with a wink and a wave.

Grumbling to myself, I ambled into the bathroom, washed my face and grabbed my thick sweatshirt. I found some thick cotton socks, and tugged those on, along with my baggy jeans. Grabbing my green mittens, I went tramping through the house to locate the broom.

   "It's time," I said firmly to myself. Flipping my hood up and steeling myself against the expected chill, I swung open the front door, put the bristles down and began furiously sweeping left to right.


Yes. I use a broom to sweep the snow. Our town has some stupid rule that the sidewalk must be cleared of snow by some certain time EVERY time it snows.

 What are we supposed to do if we leave for jobs at 7:00 AM and it snows until noon? I don't know.

However, considering that the city has time to send me a formal letter of complaint about the height of one weed in my yard (they said it was over 12 inches, and I went out and measured it and it was only 6 inches), but they don't have time to leave citations for people parking and blocking us in our own driveway, or to remove some little kid's stolen bicycle from our front yard, or to friggin' PLOW THE ROADS THEY'RE RESPONSIBLE FOR, I don't have much sympathy for where my tax money is going or for their hoity-toity decrees.

In Vermont, we know how to plow the roads. It doesn't happen once a day. It begins around 4:00 AM, and folks in plow trucks go in cycles every hour or two, as long as the snow falls. They continue plowing and sanding to keep the roads SAFE ALL DAY LONG.

HERE, in Colorado, the city thinks it can just plow once--oh, and they don't plow up into people's driveways, to part the snow to the sides, no, no, they plow you IN and create PILES of snow in front of the cars as well as IN THE MIDDLE OF THE ROAD so that it's even MORE dangerous---or twice a day. Then, they wonder why everyone is skidding off the road.

Don't get me STARTED on how some folks in Boulder with their ALL-WHEEL-DRIVE SUVs think that 2 inches of snow is TOO HARD TO DRIVE IN... I kid you not, I watched someone abandon their vehicle the first year I lived here when I was downtown. On Canyon. In traffic.

Digression over.

I had to clear the damned walkway as MANDATED by the CITY.

We do not have a snow shovel. I don't know why, we simply haven't purchased one yet. So, I went outside, like the little heathen witch I am, to sweep the front steps and sidewalk. I'm sure I looked crazy and I'm sure that when I'm an old woman, a broom will still be handier than a shovel at some point.

After working like a mad-woman down the side walk on either side in front of the house, I swooshed over to my little yellow VW and began to sweep the snow off of her body too. I caught people staring at me as they were driving by, and I don't care one sweet rat's patootie.

Then I came back inside,  and my chore done-- poured myself a large cup of coffee, to which I  added copious amounts of dark chocolate and almond milk, and sat down to write this and sip my Florentine (poor man's mocha).

I'm sure Granny would be proud of me -- sweeping the snow with a broom seems like something she would do if she had too; maybe I'll write a letter to Terry Pratchett and find out.

I also feel that sweeping the snow is something Mimi would've done... well, actually, that's not quite true... she probably would've bellowed at one of us (grandchildren) to get our turkey-butts outside and clear her walkway so that no one in the neighborhood would slip and fall to their deaths in front of her house. That sounds a bit more like it.

Someday I'll be a sweet, cantankerous old lady with a sparkle in her eye, cinnamon sweets in her pocket and a broom for sweeping little behinds out the door instead of snow off the porch. Until then, I just get to practice looking eccentric without the protection of age or grace.

My day is far from over. I have to make my breakfast, clean and tidy the house, do some more laundry (it never ends), finish the dishes, make some lunch, do some work, get ready for rehearsal tonight, and somewhere within all that try to make it to the grocery.

I don't think I'm going to make it to the market, to be honest. Luckily, I've plenty roasted veggies left-over from last night and J can cook the other chop when he gets home.

All I can say is... it had better NOT snow anymore because I already DID the dang' WALKWAY!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Sometimes, I just don't feel like it...

   Hiiiisssss, gurgle-gurgle, ping, ping, ping, bubble-bubble-bubble....
I sighed at myself and lifted my old tea kettle. It wasn't a fancy kettle, but it beat boiling water in a pot and risking the dangerous into the one-cup-funnel pour which I frequently used for hot-chocolate.

 The kettle used to be a creamy, gray-buttery porcelain. Now it just looked like a really well-loved tea pot. It had a nice brown-blackened belly from sitting directly on the fire, it's smooth surface shiny and comforting. The bamboo handle was warm from it's copper hook attachments to the clay body, and it felt sturdy and solid as I went towards the cup; none of this sloshing around from having a handle on the side business.

I poured the not-quite-boiling water over my loose-leaf green tea leaves, or 'yerba-mate.' The smell of hippy... I love hippies... I kinda' am one... earthy, fragrant steam wafted up to my nostrils.... mmmmmmm... smoky, roasted, warm and with delicate leaf, flower and amber notes. This tea would accompany me nicely on my walk this morning.

Okay: Scarf? Check. Hoodie? Check. Awesome fuzzy-hooded gray coat with thumbholes? Check. Hot beverage? Check. 

CRUNCH! Squeak-snap-CRUNCH-crunch-crunch!

So. Cold. 

   I muttered to myself about my ridiculous idea of taking a shower this morning instead of the way I usually do: at night, as my damp hair whipped out of the two hoods and into my face; effectively blocking my view as I tried to make my way carefully down the sidewalk... which was covered completely with ice...

Marching briskly to the end of the sidewalk, glancing left and right, I prepared to cross.


   "MARTHA STEWART LIIIIIIIIVING!!!" I shouted. The road had just attempted to kill me. 

[Yes, that is often the way I curse; I used to teach dance to small children (actually ages 3 through 18) and swearing is not really welcomed by parents. I also say: Sugar Plum FAIRies, SUBaru, FUSter-CLUCK, Mother-Trucker, Sweet BARnaby and anything else mundane that jumps into my head, such as book titles, the names of famous people, horse breeds, and many other random nouns that can be used as adjectives.]  

   When a body hits ice, it's not like hitting dirt, or even concrete. It feels harder, colder and more unyielding. Concrete at least has a surface texture; you don't notice the impassive strength underneath. Ice just freezes you, and helps to remind you you're alive, by pressing your bones against your softer parts and meeting them forcefully through the tissue, like a hard, cold, too-tight pinch. Ice bruises, and burns, and as if that weren't enough, it further humiliates it's victims by sliding them farther along it's surface after they've fallen down.

   However, this morning, my 'Martha,' exclamation saved me. I just slid forward and waved like an idiot, dancing the way most people who aren't penguins do when they're about to fall, and awkwardly recovered my balance.

   Well, that was it. I'd had it. Sometimes the universe is telling you something. If you wake up and you feel like staying home, do it. Everyone needs time off. Never mind that I hadn't walked in the morning since Thursday, if I ventured outside in the A.M. and took a few steps, that is by definition a WALK outside in the MORNING. So there.

   I carefully turned around, puffing slightly at this point; my frozen hair sticking to my cheeks, and gently goose-stepped back over the distance I'd just traveled without moving at all, and back on to the comparative safety of the sidewalk. Even the little squares of concrete weren't really safe, after all. Everything was knobby, crunchy and SLIPPERY as all get-out. I paused, and took a deep sip of my tea. The warm fragrant liquid slid down into my belly, instantly warming me and comforting me. It was at that moment that I thought to myself,

"This counts. I walked. A short walk, but still, a walk nonetheless. I can now go inside and drink my tea without danger of falling and spilling it all over myself." 

Through the gate. Crossed the yard. Tediously tiptoed up the steps to the front porch. Unlocked the door and,

   WHOOOOOOOOOOSHHHH, warm air hit me full force as it escaped from the house. Our thermostat is set at 68 degrees. That tells you how COLD it was this morning. Tossing the door shut behind me, I sank onto the sofa, closed my eyes, and breathed in the aroma of my tea again.


I love tea. I love coffee too. I love just about anything hot and drinkable that goes in a cup. My cold beverages, however, cannot simply be cold. They must contain ice. Iced-water has ice in it. It's not just water that you happened to have sitting in the icebox (and by icebox I mean, refridgerator. Icebox is more fun to say, and I grew up with it, so :-P).

I don't understand this phenomenon of people wanting "chilled water," when it tastes so much better with real ice-cubes in it. However, this practice of mine may stem from the fact, that in Oklahoma, where it gets over 100 degrees in the summer, things simply "chilled," don't stay that way very long.

  My cousin N and I used to argue about this ice-cube preference, especially when our family was headed to the movies. N thinks that ice is the way consumers get cheated by restaurants, theatres and food-service places, because the more ice they put in, the less drink you get. He likes to watch carefully while the concession-attendant in the movies is filling the cup with ice, and holler, "THAT'S ENOUGH," so that he gets his full allotment of sugared, fizzy water. He's probably right about the whole ice costs less than the soda they charge us for thing, but I still think drinks taste better when they're really, really cold and slightly diluted.

  Each to their own, whatever floats your boat, and I don't give a hoot if you want ice or not; I'm ordering it. This brings me to how people like to eat other things. For example, I cannot eat commercial ketchup, being allergic to corn and therefore high fructose corn syrup, so I like the organic stuff. Annie's is my favorite. I like to mix it with hot sauce, and vegan aioli (garlic, sunflower oil and lemon juice) so it has a sort of creamy Heinz 57 steak sauce taste. This mixture is what I enjoy on my french fries (which I don't often have, but find quite delicious).

My partner, J, finds this disturbing. He doesn't like the way I constantly 'doctor,' my condiments. I don't like that when he's at work he cooks his eggs in the microwave (he has to if he doesn't have enough time to eat breakfast before he leaves) because it smells funny and he comes home smelling faintly of eggs-in-the-microwave. Besides that, microwaves bother me in general. If pregnant ladies aren't supposed to be around them, what makes my uterus safe around it? So we don't have one in the house. Nor do we have reusable plastic containers. Besides, microwaves are a P.I.T.A. to clean, and they always smell of whatever was last cooked in them.

All my nalgene bottles from college are now spare change collectors. I'm serious, they no longer serve as my water carrying receptacles. I hate the way plastic tastes and I don't think it's meant to be reused as many times as most people do. We use mason jars. I also reuse our bhakti chai jugs and glass containers that have proper screw-on lids. All of this may seem impractical, but dammit, I detest plastic; the way it smells, stretches, leaches, deteriorates... and it makes food and liquids taste extremely strangely.

Ok, enough about containers. Back to the way people like things. Everyone likes things the way they like them: plain and simple, or flavored and complex. J hates pickles and olives. I love them. I don't like the smell of raw meat or eggs, it doesn't bother him in the slightest. However, we both love each other and get along and that's what life's about. Part of being with someone means accepting that disagreement happens all the time, over everything. It's the fact that you love someone ANYWAY that matters.

J will never understand why I hate immediately cleaning out the cast iron pan we have designated to cook eggs in (it smells too strongly, I have to wait until it's dry.... and harder to clean) and I will never understand why he forgets to clean out the coffee grinder after he's put the fresh coffee from its well, into the filter.

Life. Goes. On.

Plus, having learned each other's little quirky idiosyncrasies we now have things to sweetly tease each other about (ONLY good-natured teasing of course) and we make allowances and compromises for each other all the time. I actually love compromises; it keeps me from becoming too set in my ways.

He keeps me on my toes, and if I wasn't on my toes a bit, I'd have shitty balance, and who wants that?

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Carpe diem, carpe noctum...

  " It smells like snow out here," the thought struck me like a butterfly would if it had landed on your shoulder on a breeze-less day.

The sky was gray; not plain gray, but gray with a purple, black, charcoal lining.

Gray which soaked into the clouds trying to reflect the morning sun's rising. Gray that seemed to cloak the trees and their gnarled, dancing branches in a hooded veil of silver. Gray that caused the street-lamps to have a golden, haloed glow even at 7:03 in the morning.

It felt like the witching hour, as though if I said the wrong thing, the crow following me this morning (and he did follow me, cackling every once in a while along the length of my walk) would swoop down, land on my shoulder and berate me for disturbing the moment.

The trees seemed to breathe, as though if I turned my eyes away for a moment, they could exhale in relief, only to have me look back at them, now holding my own breath to see if I could note their gently, slowly, minutely waving trunks, the roll of their breath expanding downwards from the sky.

Time felt still, as though I had stumbled upon a scene forever frozen by my presence. The magic could not float on the mist, nor crackle from branch to branch, nor gust over the crow, waiting to float on its currents.

The trees this morning seemed more alive to me than usual. Trees are always alive.

They are the ancients holding the wisdom of the earth. Just as the elephants, sea turtles, whales, and other enormous, seemingly ancient species have knowledge of soulful things that we humans can never quite grasp.

Even the smallest mite has a world all to it's own that we can perhaps never even begin to fathom. The trees, the animals, the living creatures who can't manufacture plastic; these beings are the wise ones...

Glancing up and down the street I felt a chill begin at the top of my head and trickle slowly down me. Not an unpleasant shudder, like that when you're looking closely at something and recognitive danger hits you full in the face...

   "What's that inside that sun umbrella? It looks like a giant rock fell in there.... NOPE! THAT'S A HORNET'S NEST! AAAAH, RUUUUNNNN!!!!"

I frequently have had those moments stun me; nature has defenses that I've a deep and thorough respect for.

This chill, however thrilling and goose-bump raising, was one of awareness, of acknowledgement that the mysteries live on unnoticed every day. The magic in the world resides and pulses, filling up all the gray areas that we take for granted.

I absolutely LOVE trees. I am a self-proclaimed tree hugger; J has even taken pictures of me doing it. Touching a tree is such an amazing experience. The smell, the texture of their barky-skin, the sounds they make, the breadth they hold, the energy that envelops you around them... trees are wondrous, amazing and breathtaking creatures.

When I was a little girl, I lived in the great plains. I felt as though the center of things was where the earth met the sky, and again where the ocean met the sky. In our front yard, we had lush grass and a very, VERY tall soft pine tree. It's sap was delicious smelling (but tasted spicy, bitter and thick) like cinnamon, cardamom and vanilla with a hint of fresh cedar laced earth.

I used to spend hours with that tree, leaning against it's bark (ruining my clothes because sap is not easy to remove) staring up into its branches while lying flat on my back on the ground - the upside down feeling washing over me like some sort of physiological high from my imagination. I still like to lay on my back and zoom upwards in flight, climbing from branch to branch without any fear of falling; just the dizzying sensation that I was up at the top of the tree, riding it's energy like an invisible surf.

That tree had the best hand-holds, foot-holds, and seat. It's first two branches were strong and sturdy; big enough to swing up and sit very comfortably on, but not so big that you couldn't reach around to get a good hold, not too high so that you had to gasp to see if you'd make it into the tree's arms. Those first two branches were supple and comforting. I would lean against a hollow in the trunk; it fit my torso perfectly, as did a dip in the branch my weight was supported by. I'd snuggle up to that pine, breathing in it's smell, sending it warm wishes, love, my secrets, hopes and fears.

When we moved away from that house, that yard and those trees, I cried. I cried myself silly. I felt as though I couldn't bear it; it was such a jolt, a ripping shock to be taken away from the nooks and crannies of nature in which I felt safe.

Years later, as an adult, I went back to that house. The owners had painted it a horrid neon-creamy-peach color; it glowed. In the daytime.  That wasn't the worst part of it all. Not the ugly plastic just under life-size greyhound statues they'd put by the flagstone walk. Not the tearing down of the lovely built in porch swing which they'd replaced with a stripey-awning covered monstrosity. Not the empty, desecrated flowerbeds, which we'd had full of pansies and holly, no.... my tree...

They'd cut it's first four branches clean off, and again removed more limbs further up.

I lost my self-control. I felt enraged, angry and hurt. Walking slowly up to my tree, tears streaming down my face I whispered gently, wrapping my arms as widely as I could around the golden, silvery trunk, noticing the sap pools, rivers, like crusted, gooey dried blood on it's sides.

  "Maybe it was diseased..." my dad said softly, putting a hand on my shoulder.

   Impossible. No sign of rot, no tent-worms, no mites, not even ants were crawling on it's surface. I simply couldn't bear any more. I wanted to protect the tree, to carefully and meticulously dig it up, rent a truck and bring it home with us.

  I kissed one of the large, smooth scales on it's trunk, now flaking. Whispering again to my old, dear friend,

   "I never would have let this happen. It doesn't matter, except that it does. I love you. Grow strong, send your roots deep.  You'll grow even more beautiful branches, and I'll come back to visit. I promise," I vowed breathlessly, my throat swollen, my jaw tight because of the constriction of upset.

   I have been back to that tree. The last time was around 4 years ago. I owe it another visit soon. Perhaps this time when I turn down the old familiar street, the tar patched lines gently beating a rhythm with the tires on the gray pavement, I'll see that place again.

The house will be painted a new whitewash, the old 1920's bricks gleaming like new, freshly in the sun.

The flower bed will have purple pansies and marigolds and tulips, winking at me as I pull to the front curb, just before the driveway. The poplars will shimmer at me, their two-colored leaves flipping back and forth in greeting.

A new swing will hang from the end of the pillared flagstone porch, anchored in the ceiling.

The only thing framing the steps will be holly bushes, honeysuckle and red-earth colored planters holding little handfuls of geraniums.

My tree will be glorious. Strong, smooth knots where it's old arms used to be, there will be new branches beginning, supple, young and sprouting confidently. It's shade will again make a large, sacred, special circle on the ground, and I'll lay down,
                                              gaze up into it's depths,
                                                                               and sigh.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Tall fair stranger...

   Creeeeak TAPity-TAP-Thud, the screen door chattered behind me.

The air outside was cold...not bitterly cold, but the kind of cold that flushes cheeks, sparkles eyes and mists breath, so that anyone walking about in it has a sort of forced, hassled-cherub look.

My sneakers patted along the pavement, I used one sleeve covered hand to tug on the strings of my hoodie, nestling my ears against the thick, heavy, cotton.

Rounding the corner, I saw a figure approaching, silhouetted in the light morning clear.

Instantly,  by the stranger's coloring, demeanor and stature, I was reminded of my good friend B.R. He got married the summer before last - beautiful wedding to a sweet girl. He's a really good guy; fun to be around, handsome, and just generally wholesome (though he can swear readily and well, despite his cheery nature).

   "I miss B.R." I thought casually to myself. It felt forever since his wedding (at which my friends K, M and I had a fabulous time. I swing danced and hung out with B.R.'s amazing uncle a lot of the time too).

The gentleman approaching (and I say gentleman because that's definitely what I consider B.R. to be, and this guy was echoing loudly of him) was wearing a khaki coat, a yellow-green-ish scarf, jeans, leather shoes, and carrying a messenger satchel. His light sandy coloured hair was being blown gently in the wind, reflecting gold, and a blue button-down, striped shirt was peaking out from beneath his wrappings. Perfectly pink flushed cheeks against the pale of his skin,  gave him quite a youthful, angelic appearance.

He was attractive; in a graduate student, tall, intelligent, pure and energetic sort of way. Definitely not a 'bad boy,' style, unless I missed something.

His eyes were bright green and twinkling as we prepared to cross-paths on the sidewalk.

   "Hello," he said lightly, with the gentle suggestion of embarrassment and a quickly hiding smile.

   "Morning," I said softly back, grinning at him. I was most likely looking like a cross between a bag lady and a cheshire cat, with my hair wispy around my face from the wind, my cheeks framed by my hoodie and encircled with my purple-plaid scarf.

Maybe I should dress up more for my early morning excursions... he certainly looked put together. We were both carrying the trade-mark first (or perhaps second) cup of coffee (or maybe it was tea, who knows. He could be an English Breakfast or Prince of Wales -- my favorite black tea-- type of guy). He seemed as though he was in a hurry, but would've normally enjoyed a chat with a perfect stranger on a sidewalk.

   People are fascinating to me. Every once in a while, you meet someone new who reminds you of someone you already know; someone from your past. You then begin to have multiple associations towards these two people; you like the new one because they echo the old one, of whom you have fond memories and past experiences with.

This guy I passed this morning on my jaunt is probably absolutely nothing akin to the way he's being painted in my head.

However, since I'm probably not going to run into him again (though, who knows) I'll never find out, and thus I feel safe in my assessment and projection onto him.

Perhaps I'm wrong and we'll have coffee and become friends and discuss our significant others over hot beverages... but I doubt it.

Anyway, I think that we attract energies in our lives; we are drawn to people with one or more vibrations that we need. We feel happy and warm and comfortable around them. Conversely, there are people we attract who exist to teach us something, and not all lessons are easy and pleasant, but we all move in cycles in our lives. I think we'll keep repeating our patterns until we learn to change what truth we're believing, performing, assuming or ignoring about ourselves and our actions and reactions.

Now, I'm going to go have cake and tea for breakfast.