Quote of Inspiration

I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree in the story. From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked. One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor, and another fig was Ee Gee, the amazing editor, and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America, and another fig was Constantin and Socrates and Atilla and a pack of other lovers with queer names and offbeat professions, and another fig was an Olympic lady crew champion, and beyond and above these figs were many more figs I couldn't quite make out. I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn't make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.

Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar



Sunday, June 26, 2011

Signature Cocktail....

I finally made, drank and basked in my own signature cocktail. I researched a lot of cocktails to find just the right one.

Now, you may be wondering why a girl needs a signature cocktail and who on earth even has one? Well, people in my family have them. My sister's signature cocktail is a Pimm's (Pimm's served with ginger ale and/or lemonade and heaps of fresh fruit and cucumber....it's DELISH). Her husband's signature cocktail is red wine, which he drinks every night and which he wears every night at the corners of his mouth, sort of like a Frenchie Joker from the Batman & Robin movies.

Okay.....I'll let you take a moment with that mental image.

Anyhoo.....my other sister's signature drink is the Hot Toddy (whiskey, honey, lemon and black tea). She serves this when it's cold and wet outside, which means she can serve it year-round since she lives in the Pacific Northwest. She also serves Hot Buttered Rums, but I think the Hot Toddy is her signature. And it's so 'her.' If you met her, you'd understand.

My husband's signature cocktail/drink is Shiner Bock beer, from Shiner, Texas. He will drink other beers....but only if he has to. If you come to our house, you'll be served Shiner. If you don't like that, you can bring your own. We're strictly a Shiner or BYOB house in these here parts. (I don't really talk like that, just so you know)

My Father-in-Law drinks Courvoisier, which he refers to as 'the spirit that lives in the glass.' He's a good time after a glass or two of that stuff. He also really likes it when I whip up some Hot Buttered Rums for an after-the-kids-go-to-bed treat.

My mother has yet to identify a signature cocktail. She'll be tempted to steal mine, but she can't have it. She'll have to find her own. If I was to chose a cocktail for her, I'd chose something strong and classic, like scotch and soda or something like that. She is married to a manly-man now, and they live on the Oregon coast, so a stiff drink goes very well, I imagine, with the stiff winds of that particular area. I can picture her in the lovely window seat she has on her second floor, watching the ocean waves crash against the rocks, perhaps an elusive submarine emerges, and she drinks her scotch and soda and is happy to be indoors.

Well, that's just my suggestion.

On to my own cocktail. It's been a long time coming. First, it's part gin & tonic. I fell in love with the classic gin and tonic in college when we would drink it during the summers. My best friend at the time, Lori, and I would drink it before we'd go out for the evening, with loads of lime, and when I drink it now it makes me feel young again, young and Texan and on the verge of dancing the night away at The Midnight Rodeo.

Fast forward about 15 years and I'm in a liquor store on Bainbridge Island picking up tequila for my Brother-In-Law's birthday bash. He's the red wine drinker, but he also has a 'thing' for margaritas, which he serves on the rocks and so strong it could take the taste buds right off your tongue. So, I was there in the store and ready to pay and low-and-behold I saw a tiny bottle of the loveliest, most exquisite kind. It was all delicate and fluted, and I picked it up and bought it. Actually, I bought two. That night, at the big fete, we opened the bottles and passed around the liquor for everyone to try (communal style out of a brandy glass, cause that's the kind of people we are), and it was just the sweetest, most delicate thing I'd ever tasted. It's quite strong alone; though I'd drink it that way if need be. It's almost like a syrup, really; though the website says it has only half the sugar of most liquors. It's difficult to explain except to say it's like drinking a bouquet of sweet-smelling, late-blooming flowers. (I'm not sure what that means, by the way, but didn't it sound good?)

It was...........St. Germaine.

Have you heard of it? I hadn't. It's French (love it already) and made of elderflowers by some adorable French men who actually take the elderflowers to market by BICYCLE. I mean.....if that's not the dog's tuxedo?

Here is a photo so you can see just what I'm talking about:



Cute or cute?


Here is a photo of the bottle itself:


Lovely or lovely?

But St. Germaine alone couldn't be my signature cocktail. So, while perusing the St. Germaine website, I came across their recipe section and what did I find there??????

The St. Germaine Gin & Tonic.....two parts gin, one part St. Germaine and three parts tonic.






And just like that....my front porch became a little bit brighter. Signature cocktail....check.

PS - any photography tips are welcome....for your own sakes, people.

PS(2) - I keep seeing motorcycle sidecars up and down the Carolina highways and it's as if they're taunting me......

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

On my way.....



I am on my way to pick up the liquor to make my signature cocktail. After much thought and research, I have chosen one cocktail in particular to master and always have on-hand.

I looked at all sorts of cocktails over the last week or so. I think it should be sort of timeless, classic, nothing too flavored or syrupy or smacking of short skirts, late-night outings at bars and clubs and a morning hangover. Nothing Sex and the City.

So, I narrowed it down in my mind, and then I spoke to my sister, Andrea. Andrea is very confident and doesn't waffle over decisions (except slipper tubs and shutters). She knew straight away what she thought my cocktail should be, and interestingly it was exactly what I thought of first and ultimately came back to myself.

So.....I'm off to buy the necessary ingredients and give it a try. I'll make a lovely little tray tonight when Ray gets home.....because a signature cocktail should be a drink one drinks regularly.

That's what Andrea says, and I agree.....which is kind of what our lives as sisters have been like.....Andrea making strong pronouncements and me standing next to her, nodding my head, one hand sort of stuck in my hair, saying, "Uh huh, Uh huh."

I'm off..........more later.


Monday, May 23, 2011

Correction


Apparently kings reign and horses have reins. Ouch. And I was an English major. I stand corrected.

The Love Fig

I haven't written about this fig, because I was afraid it was fleeting, my new-found love. I thought it would be much like many other adventures in my life, super-exciting at first and then...a gradual slow-down. I've done a lot of that in my life, and now I'm more cautious. I feel I must take my time to see if something will stick with me, if I will love it even after it's hard.

I have been reading a book entitled The Intentional Family, and the author argues that something isn't a ritual until you've gone away from it and come back to it....and I love the idea of that. I love it because, as a perfectionist, I always feel that whatever it is I'm doing must be done right, perfectly, the first time. If not, then I simply wasn't meant to do it, am not good at it or can't fit it into my life. I don't allow for ups and downs.

Okay....onto the fig.

I began taking horseback riding lessons three weeks ago. It was all very flurry-like because it happened so quickly and without much thought. I just saw the trainer at the local spring street festival, and she had lesson times available at the exact time I had kid-free hours available, and we set it up and it was done. I arrived at the stable on the designated day and time, and Cackie was there, waiting for me.

Cackie is my trainer. Isn't that a total horse-training name? I don't know why I think it is, since I have no experience at all with horses, trainers or people named Cackie, but it fits very well in my mind. Cackie, the horse trainer.

I had no idea what to expect. The only thing I knew was that I wanted nothing to do with English riding and would insist on Western riding lessons. I once attended a horse show in DC, and I was more than horrified by the whole dressage bit, where the horses were prancing about the ring in all sorts of humiliating attire. No, I'd rather do barrel racing and wear fringed chaps than do any of that.

Cackie teaches English-style riding, saddle seat. Only.

Okay. I wasn't going to make a fuss, and the barn had shaggy barn dogs that were slightly mangy (in a rustic rather than dank way), and the horses were peeking out from their stalls to see who I was, and I couldn't very well turn tail and go home simply because I didn't like the saddle. I said nothing. I loved it all too much, and I wasn't even on the horse yet.

Cackie asked me, "Have you been on a horse before?"

I said, "Oh yes, I rode several days on a trail ride in China."

She kind of looked at me, and I assured her that when I said "I rode" what I meant was that I sat atop the horse (with much help getting me up there) and then let him do his thing while we rode through the mountains of Sichuan looking for camp. I never used the reigns. I never said anything to the horse at all, other than a few bits of encouragement that I'm sure he felt were condescending and tedious. Anyway, I told Cackie, "I don't even really know how to get up on one of those things."

She thought that was pretty funny and assured me that by the end of our lesson, I'd at least know that much.

I got up on the horse, Ace, and Cackie told me that she was going to teach me to post.

What?

Post.

This is when the rider moves up and down the saddle to the rhythm of the horse's trot. It sounds simple. It is not simple.

Add to this that an English saddle has no horn, and what on earth did I have to hang onto for dear life?

Add to that that Cackie wouldn't let me use the reigns until I could post not only without them, but without using my hands to hold on to anything....anything. Just my thighs. Just rest them on my thighs.

I figured it would take me about a year to do that.....but I gave it my full--force effort. I focused. I rose up and down in the saddle, wobbling more than a bit and sort of flopping about while double-boucning in the seat.

"Don't double bounce," Cackie called out. "Pretend the seat is on fire."

By the end of the first lesson, I was posting with no hands.

I know.

I have had five lessons so far. It is more fun than I've had in years. YEARS, I tell you. I can't hardly think of anything else, and when I'm home all I want to do is cook and clean and play with kids so that when the next lesson comes around, I am free to focus entirely on the lesson, the horse, the posting up and down with no hands. It is exhausting, physically but also mentally. I use all my attention, focus and determination to do well. I really want to do well, not because I want praise, but because I want to learn more. I can't learn more if I don't master each step, and I desperately want to do that. It is thrilling. It is totally unpredictable (for me), and just when I think I've got something down, Cackie says to me, "Okay, here are your reigns."

Lordy, it's just lovely with the reigns. There is more control. I can steer the horse (poorly but somewhat). Ace seems to know we're in business and gets to going at a faster clip when I have the reigns. I sit up higher and post better with the reigns. And then....just when the reigns are so exciting I can barely stand it.....Cackie says, "Okay, let's use a crop."

I could go on. Instead, I will just post a short video here. I will say, in my defense, that by the end of this lesson, I was riding without the lead. But what does it matter. All of it is just so thrilling. I get to go again tomorrow. I have no idea what I'll do in a week, when the kids are out of school and I might have to postpone the lessons. I will figure it out. I must.

Here is the video.....Cackie, Ace and MamaP.



video


Thursday, May 5, 2011

Knitting.....fussy fig.

I went to the knitting shop today, and Liz (my friend's aunt) told me emphatically that I cannot start to knit a sweater until I do a gauge.

That is, I have to determine if my yarn and needles will make the same size pattern that is called for. I have no other way to better describe it. You knitters know what I'm talking about.....

It's something I have avoided, and it speaks to an issue I have with myself that I'd like to overcome. Much like egg whites in a recipe, I am fearful of doing anything I don't already know how to do and that I am uncertain I will be able to do well. I know, for example, how to knit a baby blanket. So that's what I do. I knit baby blankets. But I'm fairly certain I'll mess up a sweater or socks or gloves, so I just avoid it and knit more baby blankets....or I cook egg-white-less cakes.....or I learn only Chinese (instead of a much more practical language), or I refuse to play any sports in public. Okay, you get the point. So, this sweater is more to me than a sweater. It's a chance to go further into a subject area I'm not particularly comfortable or confident with and to actually learn how to do something well instead of being a crafting dilettante.

Anyway, I'm doing the uber-popular Shalom cardigan. Over 4,000 people have knitted it on Ravelry, and everyone says it's simple and cute. I agree about the cute part. I think it looks cozy and not super complicated and a great project for the beginning knitter.

The woman who wrote the pattern has a blog, Involving the Senses, which I like. She makes me want to add pottery to my list of figs!

Anyway, I'm going to do the gauge tonight and take it back to the shop Saturday to see if I need different needles and/or yarn. At least I got to spend an hour today getting to know Liz, and I'm getting to work on my sweater!

MamaP


Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Quote 21 of 52




I found this today, a Swedish proverb. I want to take it on my bathroom mirror to start each day.

Fear less, hope more, eat less, chew more, whine less, breathe more, talk less, say more, hate less, love more...and good things will be yours.

MamaP

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

New Figs....

I've been gone a long time. Here's the truth....I'm not sure yet how to download photos from my phone to my new Mac (which I love, which is genius). So, I've been lazy about postings related to the last figs I plucked.

BUT, I'm determined to do it this week. It will be so simple and easy I'll kick myself, and I'm prepared for that.

Until then......new figs.

Saturday, on a lark, I took the kids to a street fair in town. I normally don't like that sort of thing: a hot day with crowds and junk food. The only part about that picture that is redeeming and compelling is, of course, the junk food. But as I'm trying to eat healthfully and give my body a chance of being able to get around at the age of 50, I'm forgoing hotdogs and funnel cakes. But, my kids wanted to go. As it turns out, street fairs in small, charming southern towns are delightful. It was a beautiful day. The kids were amazingly well-behaved. The hotdogs were hotdogs. And the people were all sweet and kind and there was nothing dodgy at all. We had a wonderful time.

AND......two things happened.

First, I came across a woman in a booth who has a riding stable 25 minutes from here (I now live in horse country). She gives beginner riding lessons. But she didn't have much time available in the mornings. She only has Tuesday and Thursday mornings.

She frowned.

Inside my chest, my heart did a little jig. I happen to ONLY have Tuesday and Thursday mornings available.

"It's fate," she said, taking the words out of my mouth.

Okay, but here's the best part. I was worried about the cost, since private riding lessons run $65/hr. around here. She gives them for $25/half-hour, with the entire half-hour on the horse, so the lesson runs longer than that. So, I will be going twice a week (when possible), and it will only cost me $50/week.

I start next Tuesday.

I know.

I know.

I will be reporting back. I wonder how long it will take me to be able to get on top of a horse and ride, at a gallop, freely, my hair flowing........

Okay. I'll stop.

Second fig. This is complicated but stick with me. I served in the Peace Corps with a girl whose mother is from the exact small southern town I now live. Her mother has passed away, but the girl's aunt and uncle still live here. The aunt works in a knitting store here in town.

I stopped in on Saturday, on our way back to the car. The woman, the aunt, wasn't in, but it turns out she teaches an drop-in knitting lesson/tutorial on Thursday mornings at 10:30.

I know!

So, this Thursday, I'm taking my big ball of yarn, my needles and my sweater pattern and getting started. GETTING STARTED.

Whew......

I'll post again with more details and results.

I've again got momentum.....

MamaP

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

A Poem for Bobby Wade

Morning (for Bobby Wade)

Each morning, still dark

An hour before wakefulness

You come, tiny feet

Padding up the stairs quickly first

Then slowly, you crawl

Into my bed, your back to my chest.

You scoot, settle in

And you say to me in the softest voice

Good morning, it’s time.

I lean over, kiss the wiry strands of your hair

And beg, not yet.

Turning to me with a decided grunt you kiss me

So gently, on the cheek

That my heart cracks open like a coconut shell

Making room to love you more.

Monday, April 18, 2011

A Poem for Maggie

Maggie's Poem:

Periphery


I see you when you

Think I’m not looking, when I’m

Scrubbing dishes, standing at the

Window, your arms and legs a hundred

miles a minute through the grass

Of the backyard, your hair

In a stream of gold behind your neck, your feet

Carrying you from one end of the earth to

Another.


I see you when you

Are alone, dancing to jazz standards in

A ballet leotard, pink with glittered straps

Across the carpet of your room

Elbows slightly bent, toes pointed

You learned in class, head and chin

Tilted up, you leap across the carpet

Taking flight, during a supposed

Nap.


I see you when you

think I’m too busy, between

moments of direction

Do this, don’t do that, are you

Listening to me? Between morning oatmeal,

Lunchtime questions (how do dogs pick things up?)

And evening books, when you are eager to know

If Alice makes it back up that

Hole.


I see a girl with eyes that wonder

Everything, stopping to see that a bird does

In fact have a red breast. I see a

Girl tenderly touching a blade of grass, just one

To see if it’s soft or coarse or nothing

At all. I see you, Maggie, from all angles,

All sides, right and left, up and down

Every corner of your soft heart and curious

Mind.


I see you. It is everything else that is

the periphery.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Fig 29 of 52

I spend a lot of time thinking about the meaning of life. I think about what I'm supposed to be doing, what I've done in the past and what my future holds. I think about potential 'other' lives and I wonder if I've learned enough in this life that my next life will be a good life. I worry that I haven't learned enough in this life, and I fear that in another life I'll come back as a heroin junkie because I'll STILL have to learn lessons about control, fear and letting go.

In the midst of all this thinking and wondering and fearing and anticipating, I miss the point of today. I blow by the now, and maybe the lesson is that the now is the only thing that matters after all.

If I stop and look at the now, I see one thing: my children. I see them and I feel them, and sometimes I lie in bed at night and cry, because it's only when I am quiet and still and can feel the weight of all my chores and projects and goals lifted off my shoulders for an hour that I take the time to really see my kids and appreciate them and feel the love of being their mother.

I want my kids to know what I feel for them, and I want to take the time to express it (for myself as much as for them) in the only way I am able to fully express myself: through writing. So, I have written them poems, finally, after years of wanting to do it.

It took years because I was afraid my poems wouldn't be good enough. I was afraid that later in their lives, my kids would pull out the poems I wrote for them and laugh and read them aloud to a wife or husband and they would kind of smirk. I'm not sure why I have this fear, because I can't imagine doing that if someone wrote me a poem, particularly a parent. And I can't imagine my kids doing that either.

And anyway, life can't be about trying to anticipate another person's response, immediate or down the road. Life can only be about what we feel and know to be true, in this moment.

I'll post the poems later today......when I have a quiet moment.

MamaP

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Quote 20 of 52

Basically, anything Maya Angelou says is worth quoting. I particularly like this:

Life loves to be taken by the lapel and told, "I am with you kid. Let's go."

I mean, that sounds pretty good to me.

MamaP

Pilates Update.....

I went to meet Gingy last night, the Pilates guru in town. She has a lovely little studio on the 2nd floor of an old apartment building, overlooking downtown.

As I took off my jacket and slipped out of my shoes, I said, "Gingy, let me be honest. I don't want to tone a little and feel better. I want to cut the crap. I want the saddlebags gone and the tummy pulled in, and I'm willing to work for it."

She looked at me briefly, for a split second, and then she broke into a wide smile and said, "We are going to work well together."

I spent nearly two hours with Gingy, although we only probably worked out for one hour. We chatted while we worked, and we chatted after we worked. It was a lovely few hours, particularly as I'm new in town and don't yet have any friends. Gingy and I had a lot in common.

Now, regarding the nitty-gritty of the workout, let me describe it as best I can. We used the machines the entire time. The exercises are very much like the exercises you might do in a Pilates video (think Windsor Pilates), except that you're using resistance bands attached to the machines, so there is a little added umph factor. And there isn't as much tendency to flail around on the machines, because your limbs are attached to straps and/or a bar. We did several leg exercises, which were familiar to me from Windsor Pilates. For example, we did leg circles. Only with the machine, instead of just circling your legs in the air, your feet are attached to a long strap, and the strap is attached to resistance, so when you move your leg in that wide circle, you're pulling weight. Add to that the up and down motion of the pad your lying against, and it's a much stronger, more fluid workout. You're not just sitting on the floor swinging your leg. You're moving up and down while circling your leg, which is attached to a weight. Same but different.

We did about 5 leg exercises, and Gingy was mindful of my form and of how my toes were pointed and/or flexed. It's easy to ignore that part of the equation in a video. If you're focusing simply on getting that leg around in a complete circle, you can forget altogether the position of toes, but toes matter and when you do leg circles with proper toe form, it really does add a whole other dimension to the practice.

We also did arms, again with the resistance bands, and we did abs. The ab exercises, in a sort of cat position, were lovely and I usually hate abs and didn't hate these at all. Everything is just very fluid and deliberate. That's a great word for Pilates: deliberate. Particularly if you're working with a trainer, who is focusing on your form and whether or not your abs are pulled in and flat while you're working your legs. I mean, it just feels like one whole complete package instead of focusing on one part of your body.

We did a little cardio, which consisted of lying on the pad, feet on a flat black surface at the end of the machine (sort of like those lying squat machines at the gym, where you press your feet flat and push up and down like a squat). Except that instead of pushing up and down, you jump up and down (still lying). So, it's like a little ballet jump (toes pointed), except you're lying down and your machine is still attached to resistance. I know. It's confusing. I will never be a Pilates technical writer.

We did about 10 different jumps, feet in different positions, landing in different positions. I could feel my legs the entire time, all the muscles worked from different angles. My heart rate got up there (nothing like Tracy of course), but nothing was hard or too difficult. The word that comes to my mind: gentle.

I know Gingy was going easy on me because I have a tendency for lower back pain and because it was my first time. I think I could stand a lot more resistance and a tougher regime, which I'm sure she could accommodate.

I asked Gingy how often she thought I should do Pilates to get a lovely, lean, sculpted body. She said: 4 times a week while adding other exercises to my program like biking and running. She said the key is to mix it up so the muscles never get used to one thing. She said to bike once a week, run three miles another day, do the mini trampoline the third day. Then, do Pilates 4 times a week. She was pretty sure that with that regimen, and with eating well, I could achieve pretty fantastic results in no time. I admit: I was sold on it myself. And it sounded exciting.

Then, just when I was getting depressed considering the cost ($50/hr. minimum), Gingy said to me, "Would you consider being my workout partner?"

My little brain lit up in all the right places and I heard: ding, ding, ding, ding.

"Yes," I said, not sure what that meant but knowing it sounded really great.

Gingy explained that she used to work out with a client on more of a buddy basis. She still looked at the woman's form and came up with a plan for each workout, but she also worked out with the woman, so that she could fit her own fitness into the day, which is difficult for her to do with a day full of clients (she teaches as many as 10 hrs. per day). She said she could help me and teach me, but she could also workout beside me and we could keep each other motivated. For this, she would charge me $25/hr. instead of $65/hr. or, if I bought large numbers of sessions, $65/hr.

I nearly fell over with excitement. Finally, my chance at Pilates in a way I could likely keep up with for months instead of weeks. I agreed readily, and we set about making our schedule. Since my husband works and is often out of town, and since I have only two mornings a week when both kids are in school, we decided evenings were best. She didn't have mornings open, but she could work out each evening at 6:30 or 7. I thought I could swing that, but I was clear that my husband would some days be out of town or have to work late. Fine. We agreed we'd work the schedule each week and go from there.

I got into my car beyond excited. Beyond.

Then, I got home. And my husband said: No.

I could give you the blow-by-blow, but that's tedious even for the two persons involved let alone those of you in the blogosphere. So, I'll just say, he had some legitimate points. Who wants to work a long day and then come home only to have his wife leave for an hour, so that he has to put kids in the bath and then to bed? And it was going to be about 3 nights a week, give or take.

And he said: No.

Since I can't do Pilates any other time right now, I will have to wait until a time when both kids are in school and I can work it into my schedule.

To say it's disappointing is an obvious understatement, but I am learning that life is about compromise and that one fig that must be put on hold doesn't mean I can't tackle another one with enthusiasm and zest. Life can't be about the perfect moment.

So, I do look forward to private Pilates lessons one day (hopefully with Gingy at her discounted rate). I think I may love Pilates enough to end up teaching it, which would be exciting and lovely. I think Pilates could do for my body what is difficult to do at home, simply because it's hard to focus on form and precision when one is focusing on just keeping one's leg in the air. I think Pilates would be fun to do with other women, and I think it's somewhere in my future.

Until then, my disappointment is somewhat eased by the fact that I have Tracy Anderson's videos, which are fabulous and which (if I focus and practice consistently) will give me great results and keep me fit. I'm really glad I spent the one hour with Gingy, even if it was only the one hour, because it reminded me how important it is to be mindful of my body while I'm exercising, no matter the exercise, to slow down, to focus and to enjoy. I will take this approach with me during my own home-workout routines and, hopefully, in my life in general.

And, as a parting note, when I feel disappointed or discouraged, I find it helpful to sit down and write a short list of what I'm grateful for, as a reminder of how bright my world really is. To that end:

1. I'm grateful that everyone in my family is healthy and that our bodies are all fit to take on something like Pilates....or running down a hill......or climbing on monkey bars.....or climbing into bed.

2. I'm grateful my husband has a job, that we don't have to worry about his losing his job and that we don't face the stress of an uncertain employment future.

3. I'm grateful that we found this place to live, which is so charming and lovely it makes me want to cry every time I go downtown, like yesterday when I was with my son and realized that our little town still has people selling the local paper on street corners. Is that charming or what?

So, there you have it.

MamaP

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Another fig.....


Tonight, at 6:30 PM, I have my first personal Pilates session.

I have to take a deep breath because when I received the confirmation e-mail this morning, it included the fees per session, and I've been thinking about it all morning.

These figs are getting expensive.

A one-time session, private, is $65. If you buy in bulk, it does reduce the cost to $550 for 10 sessions or $1,000 for 20 sessions. So, you can get down to $50/session. The sessions are 1 hr. long.

Obviously, the reason I've never before done private Pilates is the cost. I mean, if I go three times a week, at the discounted rate, that's still $150 per week. PER WEEK. That's $600 per month. Per MONTH. That's enough to rent an apartment. That's more than my car payment. That's more than I spend in one month on food for my entire family. Okay, now I'm getting depressed.

Yoga is only $150 per MONTH, not per week. Granted, that's not personal, private sessions. But still. STILL.

Okay, now I'm freaking out again. And this is why I've never done this. And frankly, I think it's a pretty good reason. I don't have $600/mo. for Pilates. And even if I did, I'm not sure that's how I'd chose to spend my money. BUT.....

There has always been a lingering suspicion or idea, hanging out in the back of my mind, that Pilates is the end-all-be-all of exercise, a marriage of mind and body - the gold standard. Now, I've tried yoga, and yoga is lovely except that I started to lose muscle tone and gain weight when I stopped doing my normal workouts (Tracy Anderson) and started doing yoga. And if I'm going to spend an hour and a half a day working out, I'd like to see some lovely results.

Tracy Anderson, however, does nothing for my mind. In fact, some of her expressions I think are actually negative. For example, she talks about being 'skinny' and 'tiny' and getting rid of 'trouble areas.' I don't like to think of being tiny and I certainly don't like to think of my body having problem areas. Also, Tracy's workouts aren't particularly gentle - well, the cardio isn't. They're tough. And you have to do them everyday.

If what people say about Pilates is true, you can miraculously change your body in only three sessions a week. Three.

I'm not sure I believe that. But it's time to finally see for myself. I'm going to discuss everything with my new Pilates guru, Gingy, tonight and see what she thinks - how often does she think I need sessions, can I do work at home, how many days a week should I work out, and should I be adding cardio to the mix?

Also, Gingy (according to her website) is quite interested in overall and nutrition including a focus on raw foods. I really can't wait to talk with this woman, to hear her ideas and experiences and to see where she thinks I should be heading for overall health.

I'll post back after my session to discuss my impressions, my plan and how the heck I think I may be able to fit all of this into my life.

Stay tuned......

MamaP

Monday, April 11, 2011

Done.....

and delicious. By George, it worked! The angel food cake was a big success. I think the berries I served it with were an excellent choice, soaked as they were in sugar and Grand Marnier.

For the record, a child who eats his weight in such berries, dripping in liquor, is decidely happy after dinner. I believe he's running amuck as I type this.

Pics of the lovely cake:







MamaP

In the Oven

I want to workout during naps today, so I threw together the angel food cake while my son played on the kitchen floor. The cake is now in the oven. Let me just say, that was a lot of sifting, and since I didn't have a hand mixer, I used my standing mixer the entire way through.

I don't have high hopes. While most recipe reviewers said the cake is fab, one woman said her came out a heaping flop of a mess, and I somehow think this will be my future.

26 minutes to go.....

A few pics.....

This seems like a waste, but I can't think of how a dozen egg yolks would fit into a healthy diet.....



The batter, in the pan.............



I'll let you know how it turns out.........hopefully well and we'll all be eating it with Aunt Andrea's famous berries after dinner!


MamaP

Today....a new fig.

Today is a good day. It's a day for figs.

I am headed to the grocery store, where I will be buying a carton of eggs, setting them out at room temperature and preparing to make an angel food cake.

As part of my healthier eating program, I am trying to make one dessert a week for my family. Then, when the dessert is done, it's done. I hope this will make us more mindful of what we're eating, less inclined to eat packaged junk and give a certain festivity to our treats that just doesn't happen with a carton of ice cream or a box of store-bought cookies. I also want to include my kids in the process of baking, so that they get to enjoy the entire process. I find food is so much better and feels more special when I make it myself.

To that end, angel food cake.

Why angel food cake? Well, it's like many things in my life that I avoid. I had a bad experience. I once made an angel food cake, early on in my relationship with my husband. We'd only been dating six months, and I wanted to make a nice dessert for dinner. I spent several hours making the cake, a Martha Stewart recipe (those can be really hit or miss) that had berries swirled through the cake.

The entire thing was a flop. And by flop, I do mean FLOP. The cake just kind of caved in on itself, in a big flopping heap of sugar and egg whites.

I felt like a complete failure. I know some people would laugh or think the recipe was off or shrug and go buy ice cream. For me, however, it was just really disappointing, standing there with my deflated cake, nothing for dessert, my then-boyfriend trying to cheer me up with false words of encouragement.

From that point on, if I ever saw egg whites in a recipe (ever), I turned the page. I refused to even try. It's those dodgy egg whites that turn a simple recipe into a mine-field of culinary pitfalls.

Okay, well, I know that's a little dramatic. Still, it's true. I avoid egg-white recipes at all cost. And really, it was likely just that recipe. Or maybe it was simply a bit of technique, easily fixed. Whatever it is, it's time to overcome it and stop fearing the egg white.

Also, I really need a good angel food cake in my culinary repertoire. It's relatively healthy and low-fat, and it's best paired with fresh berries. So, it's time to face my fears (there really are fears) and try again.

I'll let you know how it comes out.

MamaP

Friday, April 8, 2011

Pics of Fig #50


Here are pics from the Nordstrom website of what I bought. The dress is shown in blue, but I got black.






Fig #50 - Timeless Dress

I didn't mean to buy the perfectly fit, timeless dress. I only meant to stop by Nordstrom's dress department and try to find something for the annual Founder's Day Dinner, celebrated every year to commemorate the founding of West Point. We were going to attend, and I needed a dress. The dress code was sort of hodge-podge (unusual for the military, but we were in CA after all).

So, I was looking for something along the semi-formal lines. I hit the dress department of Nordstrom and within minutes, my excitement diminished and I thought: really? People buy this crap? And let me say, it was real crap. Cheap fabric. Awful cuts. Dodgy buttons. Way too much in the way of sequins, and the dresses were mostly really short. Like, inches above the knee short. Who wears those?

I felt suddenly very old, like when my grandmother bemoans the state of anything modern: clothing, manners, vocabulary. Then, just when I was about to give up, I saw the designer clothing section. It's small in Sacramento, but I stopped and looked and thought: maybe, just maybe, there is something to it.

Here's the thing: I've always considered designer clothes to be a rip-off, a testament to vanity and an indication that our society has become wealthy enough to be bored enough to shell out thousands of dollars for clothes that, frankly, I don't think look any better than J Crew.

But, given the offerings I'd been subjected to view, I shrugged and thought I had nothing to lose. I'd try a dress on, see that it wasn't such a much and head home. I took three dresses into the dressing room (and let me tell you that the saleswomen in designer dresses is a different breed than her dodgy-low-end counterpart). I took an Armani, a St. John and a Dolce and Gabana. The D&G was a corset-style dress, which I thought was slightly trashy but was willing to try on simply to say I'd done it. So, I started with that. I slipped into it and the girl helped me button it up the back. And then she brought me a pair of Christian Louboutin heels (the perfect size - how did she know?). I slipped into the shoes and turned around to the mirror. WOW. WOW...............wow.

The dress fit perfectly. It was tight in the right spots and not so snug in the other spots, and just when you thought a corset dress might be slightly tawdry, it hit just below the knee, which made it seem....almost.....possibly....ladylike? I walked out of the dressing room and into the main dressing area, where they have the three-way mirrors. A woman came out of another dressing room, and she stopped right there and stood there with her mouth open and looked at me and said: you have to buy that dress.

This caused a few other doors to open, and all these women came out in various states of bra/panties/jeans half pulled up, and they all agreed. I had to buy the dress. The dress....was.....amazing.

I felt like a million bucks. Really. I went back inside and tried on the Armani. The quality of a designer dress, I realized, is undeniable. No loose strings. No dodgy length. The fabrics simply slide over your skin like silk, not clinging but fitting (I realized then and there that there is a difference). The Armani was lovey, but it was ever-so-slightly boxy for my frame, and while I didn't dislike it, I didn't love it.

Then, I tried on the St. John's. It was simple. Black knit, tank top, knee-length. I slipped it over my head and it fell to my knees in one simple swoop and along the way it decided to hit every curve I might want to accentuate and bypass any curves I may want to hide. It felt like pajamas. It fit....perfectly. I slipped into the Louboutins and walked out of the dressing room. This was the dress. It was THE dress. It was perfectly cut, made of soft, supple fabric, it didn't but fit like a glove, and it was knee-length, which is perfect for me. It could be paired with a cardigan, a suit jacket, a wide belt. It could be paired with pearls, a wide bangle, a broach. It was subtle enough to go with anything and special enough to make a statement.

It was also $700. I know. To be fair, the other two dresses were both almost $1,000. So, really, it was a bargain, right?

I thought about it. I called Ray. He laughed but said to buy it if I loved it that much. I hung up and thought about it some more. I bought the dress.

Then, I went downstairs and walked into the designer shoe section and bought a pair of Prada heels.

I tried on two pair: Prada and Cole Haan. On my feet, side by side, you can't tell the difference. They're both black, patent-leather, slight platform. They look identical, in fact. But oh Lordy....the feel. It's like the dress. The cut of the shoes.....the Prada.....is amazing. You know when you wear heels and there is that gap between your ankle and the back of the shoe? And it looks like your stumbling around in your mother's heels?

Ya, doesn't exist in Prada heels. The shoes feel like they were made, then and there, by a pair of Italian shoe elves who know my feet like they know the back of their tiny little elf hands.

So, I found not only the perfect, timeless little black dress, but I found the perfect, timeless black heels to go with it.

And the irony of it all: we ended up not going to the dinner after all!

But the dress is there, in my closet, and I sometimes walk around my room in shoes (you don't stumble and teeter around in Prada) and feel like a million bucks. So, you know, it's worth it.

MamaP

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Another Poem

I read this the other day, in Keillor's collection (which I'm still reading): Good Poems.

I love this poem, perhaps because I'm always in the process of either settling in or thinking of leaving. I wonder what I'll do when, one day, my husband leaves the Army and I'm able (and/or forced) to choose one place to call home. I have no idea where it will be, and I wonder if I'll start to feel that urge to move again once I've settled there for a few years.....

Anyway, this poem seems to speak to me right now, as we try again to settle into a new place, with all of the inherent excitement and struggle that comes along with a move.

where we are (Gerald Locklin)

i envy those
who live in two places:
new york, say, and london;
wales and spain;
l.a. and paris;
hawaii and switzerland.

there is always the anticipation
of the change, the chance that what is wrong
is the result of where you are. i have
always loved both the freshness of
arriving and the relief of leaving. with
two homes every move would be a homecoming.
i am not even considering the weather, hot
or cold, dry or wet: i am talking about hope.

*************************

My favorite line in the poem: "....the chance that what is wrong is the result of where you are."

MamaP

Friday, March 18, 2011

Fig #39: Leg Waxing

I decided to have my legs waxed for my husband's return from war. I know. Maybe I should have planned a party or at least a night out, but all I could manage was a leg waxing, which was decided upon one morning while I happened to drive past a European Wax Center next to Trader Joe's. I was post-yoga, wearing knee-length yoga pants, a tank top and patent-leather ballet flats. I roped another mom into swapping kid-watching duties, as she wanted a pre-cruise waxing herself. She was going for a bikini wax. I was not.

When you get your first-time wax with European Wax Center, you get a complimentary wax - lip, brows or underarms. I was there for my legs, of course, but since I got a free hair removal thrown in, I chose underarms. Fifteen minutes later (who knew you needed an appointment?), I was told to strip down to my underwear.

Wait. WHAT?

I only needed my legs waxed, after all, and my armpits. What on earth did she need to have full-access for? The waxer (I'm sure there is a professional name for this, but I didn't think to ask), just smiled and looked at my yoga pants with a hint of resignation.

The worst part of having oneself waxed, by far, is standing there in a freezing-cold waxing room, with a woman (thank God it was a woman) you've never met, who is at least ten years your junior, in a nude-colored maternity thong and the evidence that you have never waxed before, anywhere.

Okay, well, that's her job, right? And I have to say she was a gem about it all. Very sweet and non-judgemental and efficient. So, we got down to it.

European Wax Center uses their own wax, which is very thick and kind of blue and requires no fabric strips at all....just the wax, which is applied with a large tongue depressor (and a bit of flourish). It then hardens and is ripped off one's body in a fell-swoop.

It HURTS. I mean, it hurts. It's as if you can feel every little tiny hair being ripped from its home, and each little homeless hair is screaming and clinging and begging not to go. I like to think they're all like little tree-hugging environmentalists chained to their favorite Redwood, facing down a large bulldozer with brave determination.

Okay. It hurts. I ended up only doing half a leg, because let me just tell you that it doesn't take just one little waxing. No. When you've never waxed at all, you must have several layers of wax applied and ripped off your leg to get each and every last hair, and it only hurts less each time because you become sort of numb to it. My legs were bright red. She kept applying more. She tried to distract me with the art of conversation (I think I've about got her signed up for a stint with the Peace Corps), but there is no getting away from the pain of this experience.

The legs were done. Sigh. Each leg was waxed about five or six times, certain areas more than others, stubborn hairs dealt with appropriately. Then my legs were rubbed down with some sort of soothing lotion (which was offered to me for purchase later), and my hair-removal-friend prepared for my underarms. You can imagine my fear and trepidation. I knew, now, what I was getting into, and I also knew my underarms had to be more painful than my legs.

I was right. It hurts more, if you can imagine, albeit in a different way. It's hard to describe. It's as if the different hairs have different personalities and respond uniquely to torture.

I had to have my underarms waxed 7 times each to remove all the hair. By the end I was sweating. I was holding my breath. It was like the moment just before a pap smear, when you try to be all calm and nonchalant but inside you're thinking: hell. not again. i've already had two kids for pete's sake.

I was done. The hair-removal woman was very excited. I tried to be very excited too, because this was my first waxing experience, and I was assured I'd love it, become addicted and be waiting with heady anticipation for my next appointment. But it was hard to imagine any such feelings with legs as red as lobster tails and pits to match.

The disappointment set in when I got home, took off my pants, showered and applied lotion. I had....stubble? Could it be? Yes. There was stubble. I had a friend feel my legs (I know), and she was also surprised. An avid waxer, she assured me there should be no stubble. "Baby soft," she said, and we both shook our heads. Hmmmm......

I was pretty sure I could get a softer, closer result with a plain old-fashioned razor. And truth-be-told, even the hair-removal expert at the Wax Center admitted she did her own legs with a razor at home. Still....I'd paid my money.

That night, I got out of the bath and was drying off when I felt my leg throbbing. I mean, it actually hurt. I looked down and was shocked to see swelling, redness and a blue streak between my calf muscle and ankle. I looked closer. I saw a large vein bulging and throbbing at the surface of my skin, and the entire area was red and hot.

As some of you may remember, I have a thing about the veins in the backs of my legs, and I realized with horror that the waxing had actually pulled a vein to the surface of my skin, and I had a slight panic attack with the idea that it may never go back. I may have a large, bulging vein there for....ever.

Beyond the cosmetic, what if I'd done something terrible to that poor vein and then it shut down the flow of blood to my feet and I started getting some kind of awful, poorly-circulated blue foot and I had to start wearing support hose and orthopedic shoes?

I swore then-and-there to never wax again. Ever. Not only had I possibly damaged my body, but I'd done it at great pain and expense (okay, $40) all so I could have stubble.

I was done. I swore it off. I admonished myself for another small, petty beauty treatment that highlighted my vanity. I shook my head, literally, and made myself a solemn vow: I'd never again do anything to my body that I couldn't do in the comfort of my own home.

And then.....just when I'd settled it all in my mind and felt noble (much like my tree hugging friends), I happened to raise my arms above my head and was shocked....amazed.....overjoyed?

I had NO ARMPIT HAIR AT ALL.....nothing. No hint of a 5-o'clock shadow. No stubble. No dodgy razor burn. No bumps. No red spots. Nothing but smooth skin.

They were the underarms of the Hollywood elite. I was Halle Berry, SJP, Nicole Kidman......I was shamelessly smooth.

I spent the next two weeks in awe of my armpits. They remained smooth and baby soft for weeks. Not hours. Not days (please). But weeks. And when the hair grew back in, it wasn't all short, prickly and dark. It was soft, dewy baby hair. Even if there was hair there, it wasn't offensive and unseemly. It was....lovely.

And just like that, I became addicted to waxing. The 411 on waxing? No legs (ever) again. I'll likely never muster the courage to get my bikini line waxed, and Lord help me if I ever consider the full down-under, which involves (I've been told) getting up on all fours, buck-naked. No. No, no.

But my underarms? Oh.....yes. Yes, yes, yes. I will be back...for my underarms.

Some things are worth the pain.

MamaP

Friday, March 11, 2011

Quote 19 of 52

I realize I have a lot of quotes to make up. In fact, I'm getting a little tired of the quotes. I may substitute some poems for the next few weeks instead....I mean, how many inspirational bits does a girl need? They're all starting to run together. But maybe I'm just overwrought with moving, living out of a hotel and facing the thought of unloading my entire life in another town and another home after four days on the road with two kids and a husband who says things like: dear, you don't have to drive it like you stole it. (referring to the car, of course).

This morning's quote I love, however. And I think it's a helpful reminder for me, particularly when it feels my life isn't quite my own, what with the Army and the moving and the fact that my husband brings in all the cash.


How wrong is it for a woman to expect the man to build the world she wants, rather than to create it herself.

Anais Nin

With that, I'm signing off and heading south....taking the kids to Disneyland. This is going to be fun-fun. I can't wait.

MamaP

Monday, March 7, 2011

Fig #8 - Finding My Signature Scent

As figs go, and as life experiences go, finding one's signature scent shouldn't be difficult, thought -provoking or enlightening. It should be simple and fun, take maybe an afternoon, and when one is finished with this task, I can't imagine one should feel anything other than a small sense of satisfaction and pleasure.

Not so for me.

I began my search at Nordstrom, and that was a little disappointing in and of itself. If I had lived in a larger, more glamorous city, I would have begun my search at Neiman's, Saks or (if I were in Paris, for example) a small, independent perfumerie with a little women in an Hermes scarf who could take one look at me, sum up my personality as intelligent chic and come wafting out of the back of her shop with the perfect blend of delicate florals, a hint of spice and a touch of something none of us can really put our finger on.

I started at Nordstrom, with my daughter sullenly in tow, and I just said this: I want to find my signature scent. I like floral perfumes that are light and classic. I don't like musky scents that are heavy....you know, like 'Opium' from the 80s.

The salesgirl gave me a dozen samples. Chloe. Prada Orange and Prada Iris. Several Chanel (I really, really, really wanted my signature scent to be Chanel). Gucci. Hermes. Versace.

The salesgirl gave my daughter a sample of a Coach perfume, which was very sweet. I mean, I wouldn't wear Coach but little M. was in heaven.

Okay. I took them all home in a little silver bag and put them on my bathroom counter and began plucking them out each morning (my eyes closed) and spraying them at my neck and wrists and then spending the day sniffing on and off to tell if one or the other took my breath away and screamed: I.Am.Yours.

I liked them all. Some were heavier than others. Prada were especially clean and crisp. I never wore one and then felt, later in the day, that it was awful or gave me a headache....I never wanted to take a hot shower and be done with any of them. And yet, none of them grabbed me, made me want to throw down $100 for a tiny bottle and call it my own.

One afternoon my daughter wanted me to share her perfume sample, which I'd all but forgotten about. I indulged her and sprayed some Coach 'Poppy' on my wrist, doing a mental eye roll because let's face it: I'm not a Coach 'Poppy' kind of girl. I'm a Chanel kind of girl. I'm a Prada kind of girl.

I didn't think a thing about it until I sat down to watch 'The Good Wife' that night (I so want to say that I sat down to read a copy of The New Yorker instead), and I was sitting there and I realized that I was smelling my wrist, over and over again, and I couldn't stop. It was lovely. The smell was lovely and I didn't want to stop smelling it. I remembered then that I'd sprayed on the Coach that afternoon, and I sat there watching 'The Good Wife' with my wrist all but glued to my nose.

I went back to the Prada, Gucci and Chanel for two more months. I tried very hard to love them. My husband returned to the States, and I tried very hard for him to love them so that maybe I would love them even more. Finally, I went to Nordstrom and asked for my own sample of Coach 'Poppy.' I put it on one afternoon before car shopping. I forgot about it, of course, and as I was shopping for a new car, I kept thinking: wow, this dealer has great smelling cars.

Of course, it was me.

And so it is that I have found my signature scent: Coach 'Poppy'

When I wear it, it smells like me....only better. (Should I be in marketing?)

I love the way it mixes with my skin and my own natural scent. I love smelling my clothes after I've worn it. I just love it.

I realize some stuff about me that maybe was lurking in the back of my head (as all realizations usually do) about who I am, how I view myself and how I want other people to view me. I know that sort of thing shouldn't really be illuminated via a perfume, but for me that's how it happened.

I have to ask myself why I want a signature scent to begin with, and when I do ask that question I realize that I want OTHER people to view me a certain way: classic, timeless, established. When I think of women for whom these adjectives are used (Grace Kelly, Audrey Hepburn, Michelle Obama),I want to be like these women, and maybe a part of me feels that if I set all the exterior conditions, I will be.

So I try to buy cashmere, wear neutrals, keep my heels a decent height and remember to polish my nails and trim my cuticles and forgo the red. I wear my hair in a classic style, try to limit the make-up and carry a buff-colored leather handbag that I'm sure will last a lifetime. And even if I am not aware of it every minute of every day, I am, in my own way, trying to create a certain kind of person in myself.

That woman does not wear Coach 'Poppy' - which is only a degree or two separated from Britney Spears and Jessica Simpson.

Except, I do. I wear Coach 'Poppy.' I love it. I can't take my wrist away from my nose.

So, when the move is final and we are settled, I'm going to head to the mall and plunk down my $100 for a bottle of perfume that maybe doesn't fit into the idea of who I want to be but that fits in perfectly with who I already am.

MamaP

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Back....with apologies.....

I am back and with a big ol' SORRY for being absent for 2 months. Life has been hectic and eventful. My husband returned from Afghanistan, we've been given new orders to move and I'm actually on the east coast now looking for our new home. Most of you who read this blog already know this, but for the passerby, this is my best and strongest case for my silence.

The good news is that even with all these changes and big events, I've managed to tackle a handful of figs. I know! A handful.

Here is a list of what I've experienced over the past two months:

1. I found my signature scent. I can't wait to blog about it.

2. I tried absinthe.

3. I bought the perfect, classic, timeless dress (and heels to go with it).

4. I visited Grandpa Bob.

5. I visited Napa.

6. I had my legs waxed.

7. I visited Yosemite.

WOW. I just made the list and now I realize how much I've done and I'm feeling that I kind of rock!

I learned a lot from each one. Some lessons were poignant and some were less-so. All of them were an experience, and I'll try to write about each one over the next few weeks. I'm also plugging away at 'Good Poems' and loving it. I read a few poems to my husband each night before we fall asleep, and it's a really lovely little way to end our nights. He lies in bed with his eyes closed, his hands clasped at his chest, above the sheets, a little corpse-like but quiet. He doesn't admit to liking it much, the poetry, but he chuckles now and then so I think he's getting something out of it. It's like trying to listen to self-improvement tapes while you sleep I guess.

For those of you who remain faithful and check in, even braving O'Keeffe's slightly dodgy photo....thank you. Really.

MamaP

Monday, January 3, 2011

Quote 18 of 52


Today's quote I found because I was looking for a different quote by Georgia O'Keeffe. But then I stumbled on this quote, and I love it. I mean, it's simple enough, but it sums up how I feel and how I'd like to live.


I've been absolutely terrified every moment of my life - and I've never let it keep from doing a single thing I've wanted to do.


Georgia O'Keeffe

New Year.....

Usually, as I ring in the New Year, I write out a list of resolutions. I like to be somewhat specific about it, as in exercising a certain number of days a week, or getting a certain number of hours of sleep or reading a certain number of books. I love numbers and lists, so it's a lovely combination. But this year, with my list of figs already in full-swing, I feel much less need to write out resolutions. I suppose my resolution is to simply keep enjoying my list....

To that end, I've been reading more Good Poems. Here is another that struck me:


What I Learned From My Mother
Julia Kasdorf


I learned from my mother how to love
the living, to have plenty of vases on hand
in case you have to rush to the hospital
with peonies cut from the lawn, black ants
still stuck to the buds. I learned to save jars
large enough to hold fruit salad for a whole
grieving household, to cube home-canned pears
and peaches, to slice through maroon grape skins
and flick out the sexual seeds with a knife point.
I learned to attend viewing even if I didn’t know
the deceased, to press the moist hands
of the living, to look in their eyes and offer
sympathy, as though I understood loss even then.
I learned that whatever we say means nothing,
what anyone will remember is that we came.
I learned to believe I had the power to ease
awful pains materially like an angel.
Like a doctor, I learned to create
from another’s suffering my own usefulness, and once
you know how to do this, you can never refuse.
To every house you enter, you must offer
healing: a chocolate cake you baked yourself,
the blessing of your voice, your chaste touch.

_____________________________________________

That is it,the poem. I included it on this blog because of my strong reaction to it. I was in a bath, actually, when I read it, and I had the stongest urge to actually rip it out of the book. I hated it. Really hated it. I thought maybe it was because I have a sinus infection and maybe it was because I was tired and had read several poems already. I have realized that I can only read five or six at a time before I start skimming and before it gets tedious or overwhelming. So, with that in mind, I read the poem again the next day and the day after that. I really dislike this poem.

I hate that she used the word 'maroon' to describe the grape. It's a purple grape. And I don't like the use of the word 'sexual' in relation to the seeds. Grape seeds aren't sexual, particularly when preparing them during a time of mourning. I don't know. The whole thing sounded very self-involved to me (says the woman writing a blog about her own self-induced project to live a more meaningful life).

End of story: I just downright hated this poem. I don't dislike it. I don't shrug and think, that't not for me. I've done that with several of the poems in this collection.

No, I actually feel disturbed by this poem and want to, as I've said, tear it from the book.

Isn't it funny? Our reactions......

MamaP
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