coming out of my shell

coming out of my shell

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Affinity, revisted

The Mangroves
As I said before, I am living now
in a warm place, surrounded by
mangroves. Mostly I walk beside
them, they discourage entrance.
The black oaks and the pines
of my northern home are in my heart,
even as I hear them whisper, “Listen,
we are trees too.” Okay, I’m trying. They
certainly put on an endless performance
of leaves. Admiring is easy, but affinity,
that does take some time. So many
and so leggy and all of them rising as if
attempting to escape this world which, don’t
they know it, can’t be done. “Are you
trying to fly or what?” I ask, and they
answer back, “We are what we are, you
are what you are, love us if you can.”
by Mary Oliver

This poem helped me so much when I was new to Florida and homesick for the northern forests. I wonder how many people she touched and comforted with her "not so fancy" poetry? 

I originally used this poem in a post called Affinity as a Euphemism for Belonging that I posted in 2015 when I was homesick and lonely.  I had not yet learned to write shorter posts or stick to a single theme.  It wears me out going back and reading it. Now I could get three posts out of that one. If we are lucky, we live and learn like Mary Oliver. Rest in Peace, poet.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Pictures from my morning walk: 14 Jan 2019

It is a beautiful "winter" day in Central Florida today, so we went for a morning walk on the West Orange Trail.  We usually bike this trail, but it was a cool 62 degrees (Fahrenheit) so we opted to walk instead.  I'm glad we did.  I love to walk.  It gives me a chance to take pictures.  Here are some of the things I saw this morning.

Red berries on a branch that had been severed
from the bush.  I found it even more interesting than the live one.
Bananas growing in the wild.  The bananas growing at my house are green,
so I was happy to see these red ones

Chaos, it is so beautiful

I'm a sucker for slapstick humor

Please note I'm posting a chronicle of my banana tree's first ever bloom via a
series of photo posts over at my other blog:

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Putting away Christmas

The older I get, the more Christmas becomes a life gauge. Each year I touch and consider my past.
  • Owl ornament my ornery friend Maggie gifted in 1983. She died in 2006. I'm still a bit afraid of her.
  • Cardboard box to store ornaments. We originally received the box in 1996 when we ordered a printer. The printer is long gone. The box remains.
  • Needlepoint bell niece K made when she was a child. She'll never know how touched I was to get it.
  • 1970's/80's salt dough ornaments daughter M made. She's forever my baby, my child, my cranky teen.
  • Every ornament our grandchildren made/painted/bought for us. Especially when we can't figure out what it is. They go front and center.
  • The salt dough ornaments husband T made that are so hideous, so utterly ridiculous that we laugh and hide 'em in the back of the tree. He's a good sport.
  • New ornaments from R, the daughter who is my husband's oldest, and a daughter of my heart.
  • Yellow cat ornament Chilly Hollow gave us millions of years ago. She's still a friend, a reader of this blog, and an irreverent smart alack.
  • Ornaments Syracuse friends bought and pretended were from their son, Coop. Ha, we never fell for it.
  • Vacation souvenirs, baubles and tchotchkes.
  •  The glass Santa from Sharon, who died in 2015. Each year I hold it and try to believe she's still alive.
  • I really must stop, this is getting too long. I could go on for pages.  Suffice it to say that every ornament has a story to tell and circumstances to describe. 
    Santa ball from DebbieK, Tibetan ball from Choklay and Nyima, Icon BVM from Oldest Sister

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Bacon and plenty of it

In the time-honored spirit of excessive winter holidays, I made a killer brunch on Christmas day. It was delightfully over the top. Of course, if we ate like that every day it would kill us. On Christmas we throw caution to the wind. Depending on your beliefs, this is a time for joy and celebration in hopes of welcoming the sun or son. I'm a firm believer that to bring back the light, we must eat and drink with abandon and without regard for things like fat, salt, weight gain, or cirrhosis of the liver on this one magical day of the year.

We feast on biscuits with sausage gravy, and potato and cheddar cheese frittata with a variety of salsas. There is citrus salad, sliced avocado, a bloody Mary or two, and the King of Food, bacon and plenty of it. In years gone by, I slaved at the stove frying up strips of bacon. The popping and spitting bacon grease ruined many a Christmas sweatshirt, and the house would smell of bacon for days. That is not a bad smell, bacon; but it gets old.

In recent years I have seen recipes for baking bacon in the oven to avoid the mess. This year I thought I would give it a try. I preheated the oven to 400 degrees, lined a large cookie sheet with aluminum foil folded up all around the edges to catch the grease. I put baking racks on top of the foil and carefully placed bacon to ensure I used up every single blessed strip. I loosely laid a piece of foil on top to keep my oven clear of splatter, and then baked it for about 25 minutes. The recipe said 10 - 20 minutes, but I was nervous so I let it go a little too long.

It was good, although not as greasy or succulent as fried bacon. How long you bake it determines how crisp it gets. I left mine in long enough that it practically disintegrated in your mouth. The pieces broke when you tried to pick them up. There wasn't any leftover so I am assuming it was good enough, but next time I'll shoot for 20 minutes.

Fried, not baked: better

Friday, December 21, 2018

Christmas 2018

I can't help but notice Christmas brings out the best in people. So, why can't that last?

During weeks leading up to this holiday, color-blind donations are made to give poor children Santa presents and warm clothes. Food drives are conducted by churches and civic organizations. Everyday people fill boxes to distribute to families less fortunate than themselves. Then comes the New Year and we revert to our selfish, hateful, fearful selves. Doesn't that seem odd?

Shouldn't we be good and do good every day? Holiday generosity could easily translate into supporting social programs providing food and healthcare for children each day of the year. Hey, let's support job training programs that provide real skills to their parents while we are at it.

Geez-o-Pete, we could love our neighbors regardless of color, religion, country of origin, or who they choose to kiss under the mistletoe. We could even celebrate differences because they are so damn interesting. The recipients of our kindness wouldn't even need to be citizens. This love stuff is crazy! Once unleashed, who knows where it might end? Love may be a Bizzaro World Pandora's box.

I'm neither perfect nor a Christian; however, I have always liked Jesus for the radical social justice superhero he was. It seems like some of his followers don't take his teachings all that seriously. Why is it that Buddha and Krishna had better luck with their followers actually following through with the whole love thing? This makes me wonder where Christianity went wrong. I'd appreciate your thoughts on this. 

And extra points for anyone willing to point the finger (not the middle one) at St. Paul.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Kentucky Bourbon

We recently visited Louisville, Kentucky. There is a lot to see and hear about horses and the Derby; however, Louisville is all about bourbon. It seemed every restaurant had an extensive bourbon list. Distillery advertisements abound. This made me want bourbon with all my heart. What could I do? 

We were happy (and fortunate) to attend an event at the Pendennis Club, a lush private gentleman's club which is apparently the birthplace of the Old Fashioned. I also had a bourbon based slushy at a fantastic barbeque joint downtown. I drank a variety of bourbon infused drinks at the trendy 8UP restaurant overlooking the city late one night. Okay, maybe two nights.

We were intrigued by tales of the elusive  Pappy Van Winkle Family Reserve 23 year-old bourbon that sells for a small fortune, if you can find it. It's all very hush hush and on the down-low, a brilliant marketing strategy. The distillery making Pappy Van Winkle only releases stock once a year.  Small-batch, indeed!  In fact, this is what they say on their web site about finding it: 

"We know our whiskey can be difficult to find, so our advice is to ask retailers in your area if they expect to receive stock, and if so, how they plan to sell it. Many retailers use a lottery or a waiting list to sell our stock. We recommend you get on as many waiting lists and enter as many lotteries as you can.

Best of luck!"
We visited a candy store (Art Edibles) featuring small-batch bourbon truffles made by the first and only bourbon-certified chocolatier in the world. The salesperson gave us each a free Old Forester truffle to eat and then talked us through the resulting taste sensations as if we were embarking on a guided imagery meditation. It was transcendent. I may never be the same. 

We went to the Old Forester Distillery one afternoon for a tour. An image now burned into my brain is of a vast vat of fermenting whiskey, steamy hot of its own volition and bubbling away as it worked magic unto itself.  It lives.

Saturday, December 1, 2018

The Most Famous Reindeer of All

The other night, while driving our 6 year old grandson home, we made up silly and a slightly naughty lyrics to Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer. For instance, "Comet" became "Vomit," "Cupid" became "Stupid," and Rudolph became the "Snot Nosed Reindeer." We pulled out all the stops, using as many gross terms we could imagine to make a 6 year old boy laugh out loud. When Grandpa substituted Shitzen for Blitzen, I thought little N would bust a gut. Good times!

I don't remember my grandparents doing things like this. I fear I am a bad influence. I always knew I was with my friends, but I figured I'd outgrow it long before I became a grandmother. Guess not.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Alright already, I cleaned.

This post is for my blog-friend Sabine, who is often the voice crying out in the wilderness. 

Baby Sister texted to thank me for posting about our mother, and we reminisced about childhood holidays. She remarked on the work Mom did to stage those holidays. She said how thankful she was Mom made the effort because it provided lovely memories. Baby Sister waxed poetically about pulling out Mom's good china and setting a beautiful table under Mom's direction. Sheesh.

mother was a great cook, but a lousy housekeeper.  She's famous throughout our extended family for her messy house. So for her to summon up the energy to discard all the accumulated junk on her dining room table was a monumental act of love in itself.

Great, I thought to myself as I squirmed uncomfortably in my chair with the phone to my ear. Now in addition to cleaning like a crazy woman, I had to go through the boxes in the garage to find the good china?

I muttered a stream of swear words that would make a sailor's eyes pop out, pulled my lazy #%* off the couch to start cleaning the house and digging out the china. I made the effort not because I wanted to, but because my grandkids deserve Thanksgiving memories of a beautifully set table at their grandparent's house.
The things we do for love, right?

Is that all? Well of course not! I'm a sneaky old woman and I'm leading up to something more important than cleaning; climate change. If we don't start making the changes to deal with this, there won't be a future for our grandchildren, great-nieces/nephews.

Why bother? Well, why bother breathing?!

Climate change WILL be at the top of the list for the new Democrat majority House of Representatives in the U.S
While they deal with the big issues, we must muster the energy to overcome our cynicism and despair on the home front. We can start creatively imagining new ideas, new industries, alternate economies, better and more effective political strategies so there will a reasonable future for those we love.

Call me naive, but to me there is nothing more important right now than this: reuse, recycle, re-imagine,
rethink, and redesign. Please make the effort.

Popeye would do it.  Bluto would not. Be like Popeye.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Do I have to clean my house for Thanksgiving?

I can't believe Thanksgiving is this Thursday. It is as if I went to sleep last July and then woke up this morning. What a wonderful and personally satisfying interlude this election cycle has been. I'm looking forward to more of the same in 2020. 

But now I have to come down to earth and face the cold hard truth. I'm going to have to clean my freakin' house in anticipation of a big family dinner. Let's just say the housework has been a bit neglected and a serious holiday cleaning is in order. Yikes. It will take me days. I better get crackin'.

I'm sure it is hard for readers outside the U.S. to understand Thanksgiving, unless you are Canadian. Then you have already been through yours and you know the drill. But the rest are probably wondering what's the big deal with this Thanksgiving thing, and why don't we just wait until Christmas for Turkey? I don't know. We just don't. We're American, for better or worse. 

Thanksgiving is a family-based holiday, but not commercialized or decadent like the U.S. version of Christmas has become. It is about food, memories, and love. Or at least that's what we tell ourselves. I bet a lot of the people who will celebrate on Thursday dread it like the plague because they will have to sit next to their mean-spirited aunt, or their racist father. Politics, religion, and unresolved emotional themes will ruin yet another family meal in some households. Oh well, as long as the food is good. It is really the best meal of the year.

I love Thanksgiving food. Thinking of mashed potatoes and turkey gravy, moist cornbread stuffing with nuts and dried fruit, homemade cranberry sauce, and all the rest make me happy. A special memory is my mother's pumpkin pie. Oh, Ma! I miss you so.

She never bought canned pumpkin. Nope, not my Mom. She bought small pie pumpkins, split them in half, cleaned out the seeds and baked the pumpkin in the oven before scraping it out and making the pie. THEE pie. The perfect pumpkin pie. It was totally different than one made with canned pumpkin. Hers was luscious; darker, complex, textured, better in every way.

Everything was usually made from scratch in her house, but certainly always on holidays. She would even make homemade bread for Thanksgiving. We topped it off with jellies and jams her and my father "put up" (i.e., canned) every August.

I have had dreams about her three times in the past two weeks. In truth, this is what the holidays really do.  They conjure up ghosts.

My mother in pink, 1988

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Counts and recounts

Well, the thing about elections in Florida is that they never seem to end. We came very close to winning the Governor, Senator, and Agriculture Commissioner, but on election night it seemed we lost. 

However, over the next few days they kept "finding" votes that were not counted.  Seriously.  So now the Agriculture Commissioner candidate who was declared the loser last Tuesday has more votes than the so-called winner. Both the Governor and Senator races are within one half of one percent difference between candidates. 

The result? Probably automatic recounts for all three races. It will be weeks before we know the results or who the true winners are. But at least now if we lose, we'll know the truth. And we'll know the places in Florida that need to be held accountable for incompetence at best, and fraud at worst. 

In addition, we now have a cadre of seasoned progressive candidates who will try, try, again. The only thing better than winning outright, is coming back after a loss and winning the second time around. Winning isn't always clear cut; however, win or lose, this progressive energy feels like a huge victory for Florida. 

In the meantime, we took back the U.S. House of Representatives! We are powerless no longer. Hang on to your hat.