coming out of my shell

coming out of my shell

Friday, February 15, 2019

We are the lucky ones!

Yesterday I received Valentine's Day flowers from my three grown-up grandchildren who live up north. You really have to know a bit about our short but profound history to fully understand how touched I am. 

I've written about this before, but let me summarize: My husband, T, did DNA testing in late spring 2017 to determine his ethnic heritage. When he received his results, he was surprised to find he had another daughter, named R. He contacted her within 10 minutes of reading of her existence, and immediately they began to build a relationship. This is a relationship that flourished and continues to grow and deepen for all of us who are related to this man and his oldest child. Sometimes these things don't work out; however, we are the lucky ones.

At one point I was complaining that there was no familial name, no role to label me. Why? Because I'm a self-indulgent and needy monster, of course. The love I feel for our family and everyone in it is over the freakin' top!  I'm not the birth-mother. I'm not the familial grandmother (they already have grandmothers who were quite wonderful). I'm not really a step-mother, either. So what am I? Can we PLEASE make this all about me?

Luckily, R thinks I'm funny. So when I complained to her about this (and yes, I really did complain to her about this because I am a self-indulgent and needy monster with absolutely no filter) she said I could be her Fairy Stepmother. Well, alright! See why I love this woman?  It turns out her 3 children are equally as lovable.

The card that came with the Valentine flowers says:

"Happy Valentine's Day, Fairy Grandmother!
  Love, The Fairy Grandchildren"

BIG smile. Thanks, SM, AC, and MC. I love all of you, too.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

To forgive or not to forgive, is that the question?

  • At what point do we forgive people?
  • What must they do to earn forgiveness?
  • How does one atone for the wrongs they do?

Friday, February 8, 2019

Decluttering against all the odds

I have been trying to rid myself of things we no longer need or use. If you are a pack rat you will easily understand the deep emotional ties some of us have with, well, just about anything. It is hard, even painful, to de-clutter. "Things" can represent memories, a life, or old friends. Voluntary parting with things involves fear, anxiety, love, anticipation, regret, and despair. ALL of these emotions hurt my heart. I want that to change. 

I went through this 5 years ago when we moved to Florida. We had been in our NYS house for 24 years. It had both an attic and a basement, if you catch my drift. At the end, I became as familiar with our rented dumpster as I did with the Salvation Army donation center.

What I am finally realizing is that we didn't do enough. We brought too much to Florida. Sheesh.

I vow here and now, before the entire blog world, to get serious about downsizing my belongings over the next 6 months. There, I said it. Now let's see if I can do it.

Feel free to share what motivates you to let go. Climate friendly tips are especially welcome, and will result in a few weeks off for you from purgatory after you die. I'm almost sure of it.


Thursday, January 31, 2019

When company departs

Visitor season in Florida is going on full force as the frozen Northlanders make their way south to warm up. This natural phenomenon also warms up our hearts.

The only downside to visitors is the ridiculous amount of food that is leftover when they leave.  Honestly, I try my best to stuff them like sausages when they are here, but legally I am unable to force feed them. Or at least that's what my husband tells me.

T's daughter R (my fairy stepdaughter) left this morning. It was hard to see her leave because we love her so freakin' much and enjoy getting to know her. So I was sad when we walked into the house after dropping her off at the airport. Sad is a very dangerous state to find yourself in when there is half a pecan pie AND a third of a red velvet cake in the fridge. Or potato chips in the pantry. Oh wait, aren't there a couple of pints of ice cream in the freezer, too? 

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.