Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Maybe There's Another Way

Love. It's a word we use so often. It permiates our world. Every greeting card on the shelf, commercials advertising everything from orange juice to luxury cars to antacids, our clothing, television and music... We love gossip. And reality television. And mean jokes. And terrible food. We say it when we don't really mean it and we use it as an excuse to behave badly. To an outside observer, it would seem like we love everything and everyone - even when we don't.

But with all the events of the last few days, I wonder...

There's a lot of talk about guns and violence and entertainment and surprise and fear and outrage and loss and sacrifice. So much talk about root causes and political change and mental illness, psychosis, and our failure to recognize what may be lurking in the shadows - or worse, what could be lurking in plain sight.

We are quick to cry, quick to blame, and quick to fear. We are quick to latch on to horror and scandal. I dare say... we love it. These moments that, horrific though they may be, create an illusion of camaraderie, a sense of security bathed in and solidified by fear and trauma. We are all a part of it. Together. And if we forget - even for a moment - everywhere we turn, a new newspaper article, radio, television or internet story is there - chomping at the bit to remind us. We eat it up. We savor it. We love it - even though we don't.

These are the days I am so grateful for the ability to unplug. To sit quietly in the moment and savor the beautiful. Take some time for the people and moments that bring true joy and true love into my life. I am grateful for the moments that have been good in my life. And I am grateful for the bits that have been extremely difficult. I am grateful for the people who have brought blessings to me. And I am grateful that I have family and friends who deserve to know that I truly care for them.

Perhaps we could do more by tuning out the outside world for a few minutes. Showing those around us how to show love and empathy toward each other. Maybe if we spent a little more time listening to the quiet voice in the background and inside our hearts instead of the loud voices on the television, we might find a way to a new kind of life. One better than we could ever imagine.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Q & A: Perfect Day

{Moleskineh, a photo by Amir Kuckovic on Flickr}

I love the idea of a diary. I love reading through it and reminiscing about all the things of big and little consequences. It is one of my favorite things. I have so many of them from over the years... and I truely cherish them. But... I'm also kind of lazy these days. I love the idea, but currently I lack the diligence and discipline it takes. So little while ago, I picked up this little gem. And I'll be honest... it's been awesome.

Some questions are silly, some feel serious. Some are specific to the moment, while others are a wee bit more thought provoking. My favorite so far...

What are the ingredients for a perfect day?

For me it's simple:

A Perfect Day

early morning sunrise
hazelnut coffee, Starbucks chai, or, more likely, earl grey tea
quiet breakfast
backyard/patio/stoop/sunny nook, as available
friends and family
fresh food
a good book
music (this song definitely comes to mind)
beautiful sunset

Mix all ingredients together to taste. Serve with a side of introspection and a dollop of wit. 
Repeat daily or as often as humanly possible. 

When The Wine Runs Out

In this house, we drink wine with dinner.  And lately, more often than not, post-dinner conversation is spiced up a bit with the sweet/slightly awkward sounds of the glass harp.  Mostly it's me.  Sometimes the madre joins in.  Most of the time, Dad tries, ultimately gives up and looks a wee bit disgruntled.  


One of these days, he's gonna get it. But in the meantime, we'll try to stifle our giggles.

A Bit Of A Funk

The past couple days have felt a bit ... off.  Nothing overtly bad, but there's just been something about them that make me wish it was mid-November and I could snuggle up in a cozy sweater with a cup of super hot chai.  With snow.  Lots of snow.  

Without a set schedule, I'm floundering a bit.  Ignoring the easy items on the to-do list in favor of lazing around and watching waaay too much television.  I haven't read in a couple weeks, have been forgetting to charge my phone, and with all this relaxation, my sleep schedule has just jumped ship.  
Yesterday, I received some news that I wasn't expecting and am still trying to find my way through my thoughts. There are decisions to be made and I'm not sure I'm ready to make them.  

Much to my surprise, I'm actually really glad my summer will be cut short this year.   I go back to work officially in two weeks and school will begin shortly thereafter.  And I'm grateful.  I'm hoping this sense of routine and purpose will help calm some of my nerves and break the funk.  We'll see.  

In the meantime, I'm still holding out for sweater weather... 

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Busy Busy

Oh it is surreal.  The week has flown by and life in Nebraska really has been good so far... so much so that it almost makes me a little nervous.  I realize that doesn't make a lot of sense, but it's true.  In the past few days, I've done more socially than I have in months.  I'm tired, sweaty most of the time, and slightly hungover from the sheer amount of fun that's been had.  The drinks have helped a bit, too, I suppose.  

It's been a week of coffee shops and farmers markets, drum corps and music and budding new friendships, reconnecting with old folks and great friends over sushi and open mic nights and karaoke, jazz on green grass in the open air, baseball games at sunset, fireworks, cheap drinks, long days and late nights.   

It's been a week where problems beget budding solutions, good conversations solidify relationships and entirely too much HBO establishes new obsessions.  

With beginnings like these, I can't wait to find out what the next days and weeks will bring.  

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Midwest Summer Bliss

Some of the most wonderful things happen when you go home again.  The past week has been fairly uneventful, but it's also been kind of great.  It is a typical midwestern summer - hotter than anyone could have imagined and beautiful.  I've been able to spend time with some great old friends and have even started to sow the seeds of new friendships, new experiences, new opportunities.  

Everywhere I go, I'm greeted with little ghosts.  Ghosts of memories and experiences and friendships and laughter.  Some of the memories are sad or tender, some are rather hilarious, but most are simple.  Satisfying.  Enough to bring a smile to my face over and over again.  

I wonder how those who've never left handle it all.  I am nothing if not nostalgic most of the moments of my day.  But I wonder...  If I'd never left, never traveled away to school, out of the country, out of state, out of sight, out of mind... I wonder if I would be feeling this way.  These moments where the mere act of walking into a Target makes me giggle at the memories of a single outing with friends over 13 years ago.  The pang I feel when I pass by a certain intersection and still look for the wooden cross at the side of the road, long ago removed.  The indescribable happy-sad feeling as I pass by the playground where I first fell in love.  The little memories of people and places and moments in time.   

I hope I'm not the only one I shared these memories with who feels this way.  But either way, I'm greatful that I remember.  That these little moments have the power to slow me down and help me appreciate the where's and the what's and the who's of my life.  

So in this moment, when the summer evening breeze is cool and refreshing and sounds of music float out of the sunset and fill my ears with memories and new found experiences alike, I can look around and recognize it for what it is.  Bliss.  

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Q & A: Where Do You See Yourself In Five Years?

It is amazing how much can change in such a small span of time.  Not measurable things, perhaps, but things nonetheless.  Every now and again moments of change jump up and smack us in the face... but more often then not... well, they don't.  

This week, I discovered this little gem of a book: Q & A; 365 Questions, 5 years, 1,825 Answers.  The premise is simple.  Answer one question per day for an entire year.  When the year is up, start again.   Each page has space for five years' worth of answers.  Despite the small size and small response space, this little book holds huge promise.  A sort of journal for the commitment phobic, if you will.  Low commitment, big results.  Genius.  

The ability to see how we've changed from year to year is such a gift.  And I'm super excited to get started. Every now and again, I'm planning on sharing some of the questions and responses here; but mostly, I'm excited to look back.  To see how those little day to day moments and moods and frustrations have changed over time.  How I've changed.  

So much has changed in my life this year - this week, even - I can't imagine where I will be in a year.  I can't imagine what kind of place I'll be in physically and emotionally.  I can't wait to see where some of these changes will lead me.  And I'm super excited to have a way to document and compare these moments as the year goes by.  Who knows?  I just may end up with a legitimate answer to the worst interview question of all time... 

Where do you see yourself in five years?  

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Book Lust: The Friday Night Knitting Club

{photo source}

Kate Jacobs' debut novel, The Friday Night Knitting Club, is by all rights and circumstances, categorized as chic-lit.   The vast majority of the characters are female.  They struggle with their roles as single parents, as trophy wives, as widows and long-distance wives.   Classic chic-lit fodder: not especially intellectual, challenging, nor surprising in plot.  But there is something about it... something that sticks. 

The story is primarily Georgia's, a single mother in New York City, whose knitting shop begets a motley crew of personality and energy as the supporting women come together through their love of knitting and are surprised to find support in each other as each of their lives are challenged in unexpected ways.  

"Young people... never really thought about the generations ahead being the same as they were, she knew.  Every pair of lovers thinks they invented sex.  No one wants to consider that at seventy-two, she'd like to be kissed quite thoroughly by a man who loved her, that she still felt desire, and that not having anyone to whisper to under the covers was louder than silence."  

Told in a straight-forward style, Jacobs' voice exhibits a deftness of style and honesty that is not often found in her genre.   The story is told with a light touch, a subtlty that creates a sense of depth and reality in an otherwise cliched fictional environment.   Despite the fairly large number of story lines and character developments, Jacobs' plot moves, not because of the characters themselves, but as a direct result of the place Georgia has created.   

The Friday Night Knitting Club is an homage to the power of a place.   Interweaving personal narrative, wisdom in the guise of knitting lessons, and a splash of  modern-day New York "Steel Magnolias," Kate Jacobs has successfully created a space for her characters to find their true voices, laugh, cry, and ultimately begin to heal wounds that cannot be touched with words alone.  

Friday, July 6, 2012

And The Living Is Easy

Oh, summertime.  The perfect time for simple food, good friends, and a relaxed mind.  Sometimes easier said than done, but always more easily reached through the kitchen.

The caprese salad is a summer classic.  Fresh ingredients fill your kitchen with earthly aromas and bright color; simple and satisfying.  Putting a smile on my face and my belly.  If you haven't sliced and chiffonade-ed your way to summer bliss yet... the time is now.  It will make you happy, too.  I promise.  

Classic Summer Caprese Salad

1 ball fresh mozarella
2 fresh tomatoes from the garden or farmer's market (if store bought, opt for on-the-vine)
handful fresh basil leaves
good quality olive oil
good quality balsamic vinegar
s + p to taste

Slice tomatoes in half and remove all seeds using a spoon.  Using a bread knife (for awesome control and easy slicing every time), slice tomatoes thinly and put aside.  Using a paring or chef's knife, slice mozzarella ball into slices the same thickness as tomatoes.  Arrange  tomato and cheese slices on serving dish in an alternating pattern.  Stack basil leaves in a small pile, roll lengthwise and hold.  Chiffonade the rolled basil to create thin strips.  Sprinkle over tomato and cheese slices.  Dress lightly with olive oil, balsamic vinegar and salt and pepper to taste.  

Serve cool to room temperature as a side dish or light and refreshing main course.  Yum. 

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Don't Stop Believing

A Photo An Hour - July 4, 2012

Holidays are two parts party, one part normal day.  We tend to remember the big moments, the moments that fill our proverbial photo albums and make excellent stories for years to come.  But the good stuff, I believe, is what happens in the befores and afters.  A photo (sometimes more) an hour:  Wednesday, July 4. 

9am:  Garfield-approved breakfast al fresco.  I adore dinner leftovers for breakfast.

10am: Enjoying a quick jaunt about the garden.  There is magic in flowers and sunshine...  

11am:  Writing up the week's wish and to-do lists.

12pm: Violets and my favorite bauble sparkle in the sunshine.

1pm: Fourth of July Parade in beautiful Ralston, Nebraska.  This is the parade I always loved.  The biggest and best in the city.  It is the quintessential midwest small-town homage to America.  And I love it.  Even if it was 104 degrees.  Even if I got a scorching sunburn.  From sitting in the shade.

2pm:  The parade continues - Happy 100th Birthday Ralston.    

3pm:   Sometimes it's so hot you just have to sleep it off... 

4pm: Simple summer caprese salad. 

5pm: The table is set for an evening with friends and family. 

6pm:  I often marvel at the motley crew that ends up around my family's dinner table.  When I was younger and angst-ridden, I remember thinking my parents were incredibly lame.  They never went out.  Never did anything.  I couldn't have been more wrong.  Their door is always open and their table is always waiting... friends are never far behind.  It is the best kind of socializing.  

7pm: Excellent white wine with a heavy splash of Sprite - a most refreshing spritzer on an incredibly hot day.  

8pm: The remnants of a delightful berry trifle. 

9pm: It ended with a bang.   Fireworks make me so incredibly happy.  Big, professional shows and neighborhood shenanigans alike - I love the smell, the sound, and the look of them.  Such an impressive way to end the day.  

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Technicolor Wonder

Because EVERYTHING is better followed by fireworks!!  

Happy Fourth of July to you and yours!  Spend it with someone special... 

You Know What Happens When You Assume...

Moving is hard.  Starting over is hard.  Changing jobs is hard.  Sacrificing independence for the greater good is very hard.  Reality often pales in comparison with assumptions and expectations.  

Just a few days ago I packed up all of my worldly belongings and moved across the country.  It's been very stressful and a strange start to this new life.  The kitten is so cranky.  Issues that I couldn't conceive of have dropped into my lap and have given me great difficulty.  

But such is the nature of the beast.  In the next few days, hopefully the world shall settle in a bit and feel more... mine.  Unpacking will lead to emerging from the house.  Emerging from the house will lead to fun things.  And when more fun things are done, who knows what will come of them? 
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