Sunday, January 31, 2010

Beach Weekend

One blue bucket on an empty beach

The retreating water left a ripple effect in the sand. I wanted to roll on it. But didn't.

The sun won its battle with the clouds.
And people began to come out to breath in the ocean air.
The waves washed away the ruins from the clam diggers at low tide last night.
We took a nice hike along the beach head, through the trees.

The kitchen was brought into service.
The most delicious scallops on a bed of bok choy, fresh asparagus and red, red wine. Oh my!

And a rainbow to guide us home.
What a wonderful weekend.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


Swirling a little in worry. What a waste of time.
This week's sermon (I was too worried to show up in person. Thank God for e-casts)
Good for my soul.

Fed my soul on some fabulous leftovers. Breakfast in bed. A whole day in bed actually.

With a winged creature in my cup to encourage me.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

There's Always Morning

Dear A., your soul was on my heart all night. And so when I looked onto my latte this morning I was not surprised to see an angel. Floating there with her little crossed legs poking out from her gown. Your note last night brought back lots of memory. Memory of the panic, and feelings of confusion and being lost. Of realizing I had to be stronger than I wanted to be or even thought I could be because I was a mom and I had a child. In my home I had a child and so I had to guard my time of meltdown and scary thoughts . Thank God for a child that forces you to be stronger than you want to be.

And then the angels come in. Some of them are just as lost and scared as you are. They will be there when you surprise yourself with the return of laughter. The others you already know. Your family will worry about you. Let them (you can't stop them anyway). Don't waste your time worrying about what you could have done differently or how you can fix things. There's only so much energy and you can't waste it on things you don't have any control over. Spend it on yourself; your day; your relationships; your quiet time; your prayers. Your lattes at your special coffee shop that puts cool designs on the top. Look for the angels there. The pictures you take...(you Must take are good...and the pictures help you see the beauty in this world).

In a few years (sorry, it will take time) you will KNOW that you are where you were meant to be all along. And life WILL be good. Because it will be the life that you made. Or actually, more like the life God made for you that you had to go through all this shit to find. You can have Cabernet soaked evenings and rise to a beautiful view and know that you are OK. That life is OK and you are glad you are still here.

Hugs, -J

Friday, January 22, 2010

Blogging through a Cabernet Fog...

It is Friday. 6:30. I just polished off my third glass of a yummy Cabernet. I am not done yet. Toast yet. But not done. Tonight I shall char. I need to burn down into a little glowy lump of coal. This week was way too grown up. I have had to be well behaved. Tough work shit. Tough friend shit. Tough house shit. Tough shit.

I have fun plans for tomorrow evening. I must remember to take a big glass of water and a few asperin before I pull myself up the spiral staircase to bed. Have much to do tomorrow in preparation for the fun evening. In my home. My home looks like shit. I do not want to feel like shit.

Must remember to DVR Conan. It is 6:35. I will not make it to 11:30. Cannot miss his "Kiss My Ass" farewell.

I am trying to make a pearl out of this little speck of blackness under my skin. Way down under there. It's part of me and apart of me and this is getting way too deep for a blog. But it is a cabernet sponsored blog and so I am showing no respect for my personal boundaries. As I mentioned, this week has been way too grown up. My mouthy little girl is showing no restraint.

I am fairly certain that only three people will read this Cabernet soaked upchuck. I wish you were sitting next to me getting equally appauling. You so lovingly humor me. I love you. Cheers.
(btw, if one were determined to drink until it hurts, the pictured bottle of Cabernet, Novella '07 from Trader Joes, is my recommendation. It feels real good going down.)

Monday, January 18, 2010

Weekend Wrap Up

Last night...breaking bread together (and delicious homemade tamales) with these special ladies.

Squeeze in lunch at Tamarind Tree. Can't get enough of that place.

Bread baking...taking dinner tonight to a family going through some life tough transitions.

Saturday was the police ride-along. I'll put something more specific on that up later.

Good group, including one of the tallest and one of the shortest ladies I know.

Friday, January 15, 2010

I Think I'm Going To Haiti

Someone asked me this morning if I wanted to go. Sometime, after things settle down. Maybe this summer? It was just a seed planted by a friend who had the thought that he should go as well. That maybe his church would sponsor his trip. I have no idea what type of group I'd be going with (or even with a group?) or what I would be doing. I just have a sense that I will be going in some way, shape or form. I may be teaching, building, cooking or just loving on these people. I felt a strong urge to go to New Orleans after Katrina and to New York after 9-11. I wasn't in a position to go then. But this time I may be.

Stay tuned. I may be doing some fund raising. I may even try to twist your arm to come too. I may be figuring out what things are most needed and hit you up to help collect and find donors.

I wasn't going to do any travel this year. Things are tight. Work unpredictable. But if it's a true calling then things will materialize. And so I will look for signs of confirmation that this is part of a Plan.

BTW, as far as Pat Robertson and his totally ignorant remarks go, I really liked THIS response.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

So Much to Read....So Little Time

Over the break I managed to accumulate some good books to read. Some from friends, some from family. Some from the bargain table at the book store. One from our neighborhood ladies monthly wine and whine session. This time we brought books to swap with each other.

As usual I have several books going at once. Typically I have many started...not so many finished. But dear friends, here's my stack. Let me know if you want to borrow any...there's more than I can possibly digest alone.
anthony bourdain's Les Halles Cookbook. Christmas present from Andy. Not too many recipes I'll probably do, but gotta love the guy, who writes this about Poulet Roti (Roast Chicken) "And if you can't properly roast a damn chicken then you are one helpless, hopeless, sorry-ass bivalve in an apron. Take that apron off, wrap it around your neck, and hang yourself. You do not deserve to wear the proud garment of generations of hardworking, dedicated cooks. Turn in those clogs, too."

The Tenderness of Wolves, Stef Penney. "Think Cold Mountain - only colder...Mystery, romance, and really bad weather..." - People Magazine, four stars.

Fiction. Year of story: 1867. First novel for Stef Penney who is British.

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, Jamie Ford. Novel based on true discovery in a Seattle Japantown Hotel. In 1986 in the basement people go through trunks of belongings of Chinese families who were sent to internment camps. The belongings tell stories. Romance, mystery, historic, spans generations.

The Forest Lover, Susan Vreeland. (She wrote Girl in Hyacinth Blue so it's going to be good. "A lavish historical Novel about a pioneering woman artist and the untamed country she loves."

The Short Bus, A Journey Beyond Normal, Jonathan Mooney. Non-fiction. The author, who was labeled "dyslexic and profoundly learning disabled." He moved beyond his labels and he set out to interview others "who had dreamed up magical, beautiful ways to overcome the obstacles that separated them from the so-called normal world."

Say You're One of Them, Uwem Akpan. A collection of five fiction pieces about African children and survival. I am anxious to see how this fits into my experiences in Sudan and Kenya last year.

Broken for You, Stephanie Kallos. I may be the only one who hasn't read this bestselling novel yet. Satchmo has eaten page 242 to 256 so I may have to fill in the blank.

Behind the Scenes at the Museum, Kate Atkinson. Winner of the 1995 WHitbread Book of the Year. Looks to be the story of a coming of age of a feisty British child who overcomes poverty and a broken home. I liked the cover.

Naked in Baghdad, The Iraq war as seen by NPR's correspondent, Anne Garrels.
Non Fiction. I'm interested to see what its like to be a war correspondent. Maybe a next career for me?

And tonight is the kick off of American Idol and so there goes a bunch of reading time. But it's American Idol. Grins.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010


Just a mishmash of things I am finding interesting: Fodder for thought

Taste Envy: I was talking with my co-worker, Rose, who is Chinese, about good restaurants (she's a Tamarind Tree fan too) and the differences between different types of Asian cuisine and in the course of the conversation she mentioned that Asians have a kind of taste bud that non-Asians don't and they can taste a "fifth flavor." I almost drove off the road. She informed me that in addition to the four known flavors (sweet, salty, bitter and sour) Asians are able to taste an additional flavor because they have a type of taste bud that non-Asians don't. I had never heard such a thing. In fact, my first reaction was pure unadulterated envy. I quizzed her up and down: what is this flavor? Well how do you describe a flavor that someone else can't experience. How do you describe color to a blind person? Or sound to a deaf person? She tried to describe this flavor, known as "Umami" which in translation is something like "deliciousness." Well that's helpful! The taste thing is of interest to me. I have a pretty good palate: I like to figure out what ingredients are in the dishes I'm tasting (and I'm pretty good at it). I love to fine-tune seasonings in the kitchen. So learning that I am not able to experience fully what some things have to offer really, well, pisses me off!

Since our conversation I've Googled Umami. It is a recognized "fifth flavor" that is close to "savory," is found in decomposing things (dried mushrooms, seaweed, Parmesan cheese, seafoods) and nowhere did I find anything that said that non-Asians can't taste it. I think that it is probably an old wives tale that Rose bought into. I was relieved, but still wonder. What if I am missing out on a flavor? Just a weird thought. Fodder for some good musing.

(Pet)Parent-Trap: Over the holidays the following story was on the local news. Two black labs who had been boarded at the Petsmart Hotel were mixed up and sent home with the wrong families. It took three weeks before one owner became suspicious enough to check it out. The dogs were swapped back and are still trying to figure out who they are. The story is fascinating. Gotta wonder what those dogs were thinking when they arrived at the new house. Had to figure out where to sleep, what furniture to curl up on, where the back door is, what's in the backyard, what the new food is. And how did the pet-parents feel when they realized they'd been hosting the wrong dog and not realized it? Pretty foolish I guess. But then, if the dog had been away at the pets hotel for a while maybe you credit the change of behavior to that adjustment. Weird. What made this story even more interesting to me is this Pet's Hotel is where I take Satchmo twice a week for "Doggie Day Camp" while I work. This is a wonderful place. I love all the workers there and they love Satchmo. Very much. They are passionate animal lovers. I was so relieved when we went back this Tuesday after the holiday break that none of the employees there have lost their job over the incident. Yet. "Corporate" is reviewing the tapes from cameras within the facility to see if they can find when the animal identities got switched. So there may still be some fallout. Of course the folks there feel terrible about the mess up. But really, if their own owners couldn't tell the difference, how would people doing temporary care be able to. This event reminded me of the hospital's mix up of my sister's second baby: she nursed the wrong baby the morning after his birth. Went through some nice bonding with this new baby. Fortunately Rob was her second child. I imagine the response might have been quite different if it was first baby. The parents of the other infant had to be informed of the mix up. What must have gone through their heads. They didn't know who my sister is. Would you be worried about who nursed your new child? More fodder.

Happiness: I am currently watching a show on PBS about happiness from the series This Emotional Life. "Rethinking Happiness: A look at happiness, what it is and how to attain it." They mix interviews with real people who have learned alot about happiness, people who have spinal cord injuries, a former POW, a woman living with cancer with science and psychology. Fascinating things about how people learn to be happier with what they have when they don't have choices than people who have choices. Impacts of anger. The importance of social connection. People who have been through horrendous things yet if they could go back and take away those horrific experiences they would not. This show is just full of fodder.

Letting Go: I have a work project now that is causing me great grief. The biggest grief is not the project itself but the client. It's taken me a while to figure this guy out. Actually, I haven't fully figured him out but the light is starting to go on. I approached this project in my usual pattern: find out how to get the client what he needs: a permit. I have been especially committed and going the extra mile because it is a project that I really want to see done: a terrific low-income housing project. There are some issues on the project that are really difficult and take some real creativity to figure out what will work for the project that we can get through the City process, and result in a safe outcome. It's been very difficult to find a solution. We've come close so many times. I had been frustrated in trying to explain to my client why some of the things he wanted to do weren't possible. Why the City was rejecting some of the things he was trying to take forward. Etc. I was trying to be his teacher as well as an advocate for the project. The more I tried to get things to work, the more frustrated he got with me and the City and the whole situation. I sensed his dissatisfaction. He actually yelled at me on the phone. We decided to meet face to face so we could look at the plan and he could understand what I was trying to tell him. When we got together, he just took the plan and drew on it what he wanted and directed me to submit. Made it clear that he didn't want to hear anything. And so I did. I turned in what we were told would not be accepted. The City is likely to reject it. Or they may change the way they deal with it and find a way to make it work. There is a lot of pressure on the staff from powers above to get this project through. So it's possible that this will work. I am letting go of this and I'm OK. Recognize that I've done what I can and that this guy is skilled in putting things together, getting things done, getting people to give him what he needs, and for this one that is all I can do. And this may be what is needed to make sure this project happens. Which will be a good thing. For me: it's a chance to learn how to deal with a difficult person. There's lots I can learn from this one. More fodder.

Monday, January 4, 2010


“Memory insists on pining
For places it never went,
As if life would be happier
Just by being different.”

Dana Gioia, Summer Storm

The Challenge

Ten dollars worth of protein. Ten dishes. More with leftovers. Family pack savings, divvied up and stuck in freezer. This plus $20 a week for freshness. Or whatever. But no more. Plus eating up from the storehouses of my cabinets and fridge and freezer. and wine cupboard. I have a lot in those places. Time to get rid of some of those. And save some money.

OK. I front loaded on eggnog. Light. But it is going off the shelves. End of season. And I still have lots of eggnog lattes that need to be brewed.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Are you dating yet?

Why do I change the subject, majorly avoid, get all flustered, want to slap you when you bring up the question “are you dating yet?”

I have been giving this question ponder a lot recently. Probably because it has come up a lot recently, being with family and old friends over the holiday. My avoidance has been so complete that I haven’t got an answer for you. But the fact that I am willing to even type that out gives me confidence that maybe I can explore it a little, and in the exercise of trying to explain it to you I might arrive at an answer for myself.

I will admit that, over this holiday season, the longing for a partner has passed shadow over my heart, albeit fleetingly so. It visited during the Christmas Eve service, as I sat alone, surrounded by loving couples. Most in their 70’s and 80’s. And the really annoying couple, I’m guessing in their 30’s that was right in front of me. He had his arm around her or behind her or holding her hand the entire time. And when the Christmas carols were sung they actually looked at each other and sang into each other’s faces. With a smile. Gag me. And slap me because a little part of my soul went “how about me?”

And when I was taking down the Christmas tree I thought “I wouldn’t mind sharing this task with a partner. It would be easier saying goodbye to the holiday if I had a partner by my side.”

And while watching “It’s Complicated” last night and Meryl’s girlfriends are teasing about how they heard a woman’s vagina grows shut after time if it’s not put in use….

So I do have those moments, VERY fleeting moments, of longing for a partner, a good one this time. And then it is gone.

When I boil it down to why, it all comes down to (as most things do): fear.

It is not a fear of being hurt by someone else. I think I’m just too tough now. I’ll hurt them before they hurt me. Hah!

It’s maybe a little fear of rejection in the first place. I don’t want to finally get the nerve to put myself out there only to find that nobody really cares that I’m out there. Or nobody that is except a really nerdy, creepy guy who wants to get into my bank account.

There’s a big fear of eventually having to stand naked in front of someone who can’t remember that once I had a young girl’s body. That’s really scary. Last night’s movie, “It’s Complicated,” said it well, though Meryl Streep has a really good body for a woman of age. Take her fear times a thousand for me. I tell myself I will get in the dating game when I’ve got my body to the shape that would attract the caliber of men who appreciate fine things. I can’t imagine anyone worthwhile would be the least bit attracted to me in the shape I’m in now. I am aware that that’s’ shallow. That I should care about how he feels about my soul, my character, my values and interests. And all those things are top on my list. But honestly, a guy would have to be at least mostly easy on the eyes to get my attention long enough for me to discover those things about him. So I’m assuming the opposite is true for any guy to be interested in me.

But when it comes down to the most basic, biggest, most overwhelming fear around the subject, I’m afraid if I give myself to another I will lose the self I have. Yes, that is what I finally figured out. My experience is that when I have given my heart to another I end up giving more to the extent that I no longer feel I have myself any more. With my father I end up shutting down, feeling hurt, losing my essence to a point where it’s painful. With Mark I ended up shutting down, feeling hurt, losing my essence. Even with my son I meter my words, tone myself down. But only just a little. In a way I think he likes (most of) my quirkiness. And at least he senses and encourages my creative side.

At his point it is my woman friends, my tribe, including my sister, which nurture, encourage, respect and fuel me. It’s taken a lot of work to get me back. To feel I can be myself with my girlfriends, quirks and all. And the thought of losing that again terrifies me. I do not want to live where I have to measure my words. Where being responsible for someone else’s happiness takes second seat to my own. Where I forget who I am. Where I suppress my own opinions to the point that I don’t have any anymore.

I know there are relationships where the things I fear are not a factor. Where two bring out the best in each other, not stifle it. I know a few of these couples. But they are few and far between. Until I believe that such a thing is possible for me I am sure I will continue to avoid, defend, or even want to slap when that question is asked. Stay tuned.

Holding Pattern

My view for the last few days.

I don't want to grow up. Don't want to leave bed. Stay suspended between the fond memories of last year and the scary shadows lurking on the coming year. In fact I've been staying in bed as much as possible the last few days. Some reading. Some web browsing. Mostly falling back to sleep often. Short sleeps make for interesting dreams. I need to journal them. Which reminds me: one of Andy's gifts to me was a beautiful journal. Which I intend to keep by my bed to note down said interesting dreams. What I love about this gift: he acknowledges that I am a writer. Encourages it.

He is a much sweeter man than his father.

I need to get out of the pajamas now. They are getting a bit ripe.