Archive for December, 2015

Learn what is to be taken seriously and laugh at the rest. (Hermann Hesse)

At the bottom of the chocolate birthday cake recipe are directions for icing. They advise: frost while cake is still warm. Ah, how time saving! However, while I’m sure I followed the simple instructions, the results appear syrupy. The final product could be high-caloric lava, better suited for a junior high science project.

The time saver has now turned into a messy challenge. My white sweatshirt mimics a Tough Mudder competitor’s. Okay. Is there any way to save this stuff? I work quickly and add powdered sugar, then press the concoction into the top and sides of the cake with the same technique I would use if the icing were made of my grandkids’ clay.

I run out of frosting and don’t want to know how rich this cake is as I make icing of a close-enough color. Voila! The caloric contents of a candy store on one plate. However, divided among a dozen people it may be okay…nibbled…recognized as the dieter’s weekly intake. Provided the outside chocolate layer doesn’t fall off during slicing like shingles during a heavy storm.

In the meantime I learn to take myself less seriously and allow the spasms in my neck to relax despite the nuisance. I take a photo of my creation. It looks better than I expected. Happy birthday, Greg, Sarah, and Claire!

Peace to all, no matter what needs to be repaired. Or eventually discarded. Tomorrow begins another year. Happy New Year to all!

birthday cake

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I had the epiphany that laughter was light, and light was laughter, and that this was the secret of the universe. (Donna Tartt )

Sure, Kate and I should use the food processor to crush the cookies to make the truffles. But rolling them between two sheets of waxed paper turns the task into a game. And that is the purpose of our day—to spend time doing something fun.

Besides all I have is a recipe held precariously in my head. A superb baker, who owns two ovens, told me how to make the delicacies. Last week. I’m counting on my fallible memory.

Kate and I laugh as some of the crumbs escape across the table top. At least the cookies came from the organic section of the grocery. The mess contains fewer unnatural ingredients.

The final results taste fantastic, but won’t make the cover of any food magazine. We don’t take the time to make each ball even. And we run out of melted chocolate.

“Are you going to blog about this?” Kate asks.

“Why not?” I answer. Some of life’s most beautiful moments happen during mundane, messy, silly, and this-isn’t-the-way-it’s-supposed-to-happen experiences. Cookies-smashed-into-cream-cheese-and-scraped-off-with-the-blunt-edge-of-a-knife fit into that category.

As we work I think about how privileged I was to take Kate with me to find last-minute holiday gifts. I tend to be a get-required-items-then-skedaddle shopper. Kate and I stopped to look, to see, to celebrate, to talk over hot chocolate while Grandpa and Kate’s little sister, Rebe, had the chance to swim at the YMCA.

Kate wanted to help Grandma catch up. I feel honored.

The sink looks like it has taken over for a commercial chain of restaurants. Kate and I also made pumpkin bread. The stainless steel appears to be bleeding, in orange.

Then when Rebe comes back with Grandpa she decides she wants to bake, too. She doesn’t want to be left out. I agree only if she takes some of the finished products home with her. More food would end up in the freezer than we could give. Contents would need to be stacked like mortared bricks. For the freezer’s system this would be something like trying to breathe inside a basement wall.

And my waist line doesn’t need to hold what the refrigerator can’t.

After all our creations are completed the girls make a tent with blankets and couch cushions. I play with my granddaughters and crawl inside their play environment, too. I grab a plush toy cow and tell them it gives chocolate milk. Kate readily accepts a pretend squirt. Rebe claps her hands over her mouth and says, “I’m lactose intolerant.” She isn’t. But she has definitely inherited her father’s quick wit.

My neck should hurt more than it does. But perhaps laughter heals in unexplained ways. My considerably-past-middle-age years will return, sooner than I want them to appear, long before I see in a mirror the ridges in my neck. Probably sometime during the clean-up. For now I have discovered a great secret of the universe. The light in my granddaughters’ laughter makes me feel whole.

Kate and Rebe, thanks. Just for being the wonderful girls you are.

May  everyone find peace, love, joy, and plenty of laughter during the holiday season.

laughter words to inspire the soul

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Love as if never getting tired. (Mother Teresa)

My energy level isn’t where it belongs—I choose a get up at 4:30AM, write, start-crockpot-soup and-then-marathon-until-10:00 PM regimen. At mid-afternoon I would crawl into bed and call it a day if I could. Four-year-old Dakota comes to my side. Jay and I are babysitting. I would be fatigued even if my schedule were as blank as copy paper sealed inside the original packaging.

“Play with me,” Dakota says.

He’s wearing his ubiquitous tool belt. I suggest we find something suitable to repair with a plastic wrench. But his pretend mind and mine aren’t in sync yet. Eventually I pick up my iPad. We find scenes from “Home Alone II.” Then he discovers a game where Santa’s beard is decorated—or mangled—in a barber shop. I help him find a razor in the set of game tools. Santa will be bald this year, with green fuzz. We laugh. Dakota’s dark eyes light up brighter than our tree’s.

The world as he recognizes it during each moment, is all that exists.

We are not officially his grandparents. Perhaps, someday, his mommy and my son will marry. In the meantime, I painted him in as the fourth cool snow-person grandchild on our seasonal wall hanging. I bought it several years ago and added the details.

Dakota is two years younger than our youngest granddaughter. The only boy. He creates an even number to our children’s group. The two older girls have already made future family plans for the fuller set, far beyond a reasonable expectation, including home-away-from-home rooms in our house. I don’t care. The girls’ enthusiasm is both encouraging and beautiful.

When Grandpa Jay arrives home Dakota meets him at the door. Jay has achieved rock-star status in this little guy’s eyes. And all Jay needed to do was take him to the YMCA to shoot baskets. My husband wore out long before Mr. Dakota did.

Later Jay fights sleep at our son’s house and Dakota reaches into the refrigerator for two tubes of yogurt—one for each of us.

“Want to see my room?” he asks.

Really I’d rather ask Jay to move over. I won’t. My neck is begging for a hot compress. I feel twice my age, a feminine form of Methuselah reincarnated.

Instead I answer, “Sure.” Mother Teresa did not leave the words “as if” out of her statement about love. Real life limits remain.

The rewards, however, continue.

4 grandkids

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Not what I have, but what I do, is my kingdom. (Thomas Carlyle, historian and essayist, 1795-1881)

At dinner my husband Jay compliments my cooking and then suggests we go shopping soon. For my Christmas gift. “I don’t want to get something you need,” he adds. He knows I have a pair of shoes with heels that have been losing a battle with city sidewalks. The soles would not be road-worthy if they were tires.

“We will get whatever you need; I want you to get something extra,” he says. “Something you want.”

I understand the difference, yet don’t have a ready answer. Certainly, if I think about thing-possibilities long enough I could probably come up with an idea. But what I want most no one can give me. I want more people to get along. I want violence to stop, listening to come first and speaking to arrive second. I want my friends who are suffering to see an end to pain. I want the depressed to see a purpose in their lives, the grieving to find comfort, the people I have hurt without knowing it to find healing. I don’t feel well now. Neck spasms. Lying down and getting up again has suddenly become monumental. Health cannot be purchased and wrapped.

I smile and tell my mate we will shop this week. And we will. Probably. Next week at the latest.

I recall driving through a fog to my small community’s church service. I was halfway down a long winding road, no other car in sight, when I realized my lights aren’t on. I could see reasonably well without them, but turned them on anyway. Light, one small passageway, created a clearer path.

One small change in perspective makes a difference. Perhaps it is not the item, the purchased thing, that matters. The gift is no more than a symbol. I think about the built-in imperfections of life. Many people have complimented Jay and me on our ideal marital relationship. I smile because we live the muddy, you-said-what real as well as the let’s-go-to-a-park fun times. Moments arise when work-it-out hasn’t found a solution yet.

We don’t live in Utopia. We have our moments of discontent. Neither one of us has sprouted angel wings, levitated, or prophesied before the masses. We are 100% human, flawed, and complicated. Mind-reading 101 could help with the misunderstandings, but it exists only in fantasy. One of my characters in “The Curse Under the Freckles” has this gift. But, even this character finds it noisy, distracting, and annoying at times.

I suspect a perfect world would be predictable and boring—even in fiction.

So, I have no idea what toy I will choose on shopping day, but the product isn’t my focus. I imagine a journey with someone I’ve known most of my life, yet don’t completely know yet. Even if that journey includes a mundane thirty-minute mall walk. In the meantime, sweetheart, I’ll take your hand and you take mine.

At ages 69 and 70 neither one of us is too old to learn. From a geological point of view we are infants. From today’s practical position it doesn’t matter anyway.

how awesome you are


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Each minute we spend worrying about the future and regretting the past is a minute we miss in our appointment with life. (Thich Nhat Hanh)

The electricity flashes off about eight in the morning, turns on again, and then gives up seconds later. I’m in the shower. Fortunately there is enough light to turn off the water and grab a towel.

The computer screen is a dull, uncooperative black. Google is as accessible as the inner chambers of a collapsed, condemned mine. At least temporarily.

I’m grateful my car is out of the garage because the garage door doesn’t have a convenient old-fashioned handle. It has a one-track attitude; it responds only to an electronic opener—and intact electricity. Sure, the door can be opened manually. If you are taller than the average fire hydrant.

Apparently the power outage has affected more than our short street. A traffic light at a major intersection is out. I am grateful for courteous drivers. Yes, they do exist. Unfortunately, the-guy-with-the-need-to-read-bumper-stickers-while-driving-seventy-miles-an-hour-three-inches-from-your-bumper demands more attention than the individual who understands four-way stops at a malfunctioning light.

The plot thickens. The electricity returns. About three hour later. But, suddenly we lose our land line, television, and Wifi connections.

A slow, steady rain falls, but no heavy wind, no indication of a thunderstorm. I think about unexpected struggles. Sometimes they are trivial, like a delay in access to my beloved connections to the world. Then again they can be violent, obviously coming from an uncontrollable force. The death of a faithful friend or family member, or a major loss.

And sometimes struggles come from unexpected, uncomfortable change. The slow disintegration of the agility in my hands, suddenly cramping without warning, or a discomfort that works its way into pain. Example: I suspect I pulled something in my left arm during an exercise class, but no length of rest, no amount of heat or cold, helps.

The nagging thought that this pain could be something more than a minor mishap crosses my mind. Not helpful. So, I imagine fear dissipating with the next breath, or out through an ear or… a nostril—don’t care where it escapes as long as it leaves. If something serious is happening let me face it when it is discovered, not now.

I slip my watch onto my wrist and discover that the time is correct. For a change. It may need a new battery. Or the timepiece may be past its prime. No object lasts forever. Uh, hold that thought until later. A lot later.

I discover that the pain in my arm is caused by a pinched nerve. Exercises that require weights will be off-limits for a while. A while may not have a definite end, but it does have one. Eventually.

Our push-back into an earlier non-electronic era ends as well. Apparently, our contact with the outside world had been stopped by a malfunctioning power brick.

So what is a power brick? I look it up and my virus protection warns me that the page isn’t safe. Other links assume I already know what a power brick is. Google images present pictures so diverse I feel as if I am a kindergartner who has drifted into an advanced technology class, or a pre-school kid who has volunteered to guide customers through Home Depot.

Anyone could easily guess I don’t know what I am doing. Let the experts install the master switch that guides my electronic universe. My husband and I thank our service technician and he thanks us for being pleasant customers.

I celebrate re-entry into the current century and take on gratitude.

My watch’s slowness can be faced later. “Uh, silver time-keeper, I’ll pencil you in for a checkup tomorrow at two.” Of course real life could make some other appointments in the meantime. Who knows? One day, one hour, one second as it develops.


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