Saturday, March 31, 2012

Right Now

Starting Earth Hour early so kids are awake to participate...otherwise, it's 8:30-9:30.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Day 3: Nashville

Gommie and Pop had breakfast at the delicious Loveless Cafe, where Mama and I once ate and highly recommend--eggs, grits, ham, red-eye gravy, biscuits, jams!!  They are now on to Knoxville and the Cumberland Gap, by way of Franklin, TN, home of my great-great-grandmother (?) and Civil War sites.

Happy Trails . . . and welcome to the Eastern Time Zone!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Family Lexicon

  1. What do you call that long sandwich filled with meats and cheeses?
  2. How do you refer to a fizzy drink in a can?
  3. What kind of food has the brand-name Manwich?

Depending upon where you live, you'll answer those questions differently (and if you are in England, you might not even know that last one.)  Recently, the Dictionary of American Regional English (DARE) was completed, after more than 50 years (see here for 100 of their entries, including Adam's house-cat and mulligrubs).  It got me thinking about my own family's peculiar words and expressions, both regional and personal, some of which I've chronicled below, a few of which I was shocked to find in the 100 entries.  Interestingly, I believe Pop coined many of them and I don't think the Hungry family has made up any new ones. Yet.

  • swazu--an unplanned side trip, with connotations of fun, exploration, and freedom
  • tump--to turn/dump over (I think this is mainly on the Texas coast)
  • "calf-rope"--a cry to cease and desist, like "uncle," in children's games (in DARE!)
  • "le ruse to catch meddlers"--temptations
  • fixin'--getting ready to
  • "a chicken's gonna sit on your lip"--the only response to pouting!
  • Yahooti (spelling uncertain)--the house elf/creature that causes mischief like missing socks or misplaced items
  • cattywampus--the characteristic of being in disarray (i.e. "the sheets are all cattywampus!")
  • epizootus--illness
  • nor'ther--thunderstorm heading south
  • lagniappe--something extra, in a positive way (also in DARE)
  • "Christmas Gift!"--the equivalent of "Merry Christmas" said as a greeting on Christmas morning (also in DARE)
  • "love you like a rock"--hard, strong, stable, indestructible, forever
  • "alligator gets the baby"--a game a friend of my dad's came up with one summer, kinda like chase (Aunt Banana was "the baby.")
  • "slide for life"--a game the same friend came up with one summer, metaphor about taking risks
  • "family fun at its finest"--ironic.
  • "Phi Beta Papa"--declaration of Pop's intelligence, practicality, or resolution of something challenging
  • "nicest time of the day"--dusk; a quiet reflection on the day
  • "Bammie's cruise"--a boat ride across the bay, around, and back, best at the "nicest time of the day"
  • "FW"--a prostitute of French persuasion, used as an adjective to describe perfume, clothing, decor that is rich, opulent, tawdry
  • "That's a baby."--when you don't know what else to say (esp. because of the Golden Rule!)
  • "Guess Who?"--the usual way to sign a greeting card to a loved one, started by my paternal granddad
  • "Championship!"--like "cool" or "great"; I think this originated with that same friend of my dad's, whose nickname actually was Champ.

I would say:

  1. A sub or sometimes a hero.  (And I just don't get the use of "grinder" here in CT.)
  2. A soda (I grew up calling it a Coke, regardless of the flavor.)
  3. A sloppy joe.

Right Now

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Today the Green, Tomorrow the World!

I promised to post about my health/body only if something extraordinary happens.  I don't really want to dwell, or rescind my no-body/health-discussion rule, just celebrate virtually a little:

I drove a few minutes to the town green near my house today.  I shopped at the drugstore--a magazine, a chocolate bar, an iced tea, and bubbles for the kids--and thought it was the best store ever.   I got back in the car and drove a few minutes home.

Yep.  Sitting.  Driving.  Shopping.

All by myself.

In the Papers

Haven't done an "in the papers" in such a long time.  This is short but what I've found today:

In Memoriam

Adrienne Rich, poet and feminist, 1929-2012
(see obituary and also here, on Mombian, from "Invisibility in Academe")


Living in the earth-deposits of our history

Today a backhoe divulged out of a crumbling flank of earth
one bottle amber perfect a hundred-year-old
cure for fever or melancholy a tonic
for living on this earth in the winters of this climate.

Today I was reading about Marie Curie:
she must have known she suffered from radiation sickness
her body bombarded for years by the element
she had purified
It seems she denied to the end
the source of the cataracts on her eyes
the cracked and suppurating skin of her finger-ends
till she could no longer hold a test-tube or a pencil

She died a famous woman denying
her wounds
her wounds came from the same source as her power. 

Pizza Picnic

Okay, so pizza delivery is not the standard picnic food, but we made the most of it, on the floor of the living room no less.

Followed up by a "Phineas and Ferb" movie marathon before bedtime.

Sometimes, abandoning the routine is just the ticket.

Wizard Basketball

That's right.  Not chess or Quidditch.  But Wizard Basketball.

Bud made it up yesterday.  Hogwarts students play basketball but use spells to get their shots and block others.  Spells like "reboundus."

Our team, of course, beat the Slytherins.

Day 1: Heading to Arkansas

Gommie and Pop are on the road!  They are heading to Little Rock, Arkansas to visit the Clinton Presidential Library.  

Safe driving!

(And good luck surfing with your new smartphone!)

Right Now

Thunder and a few dark clouds.  Hoping for some spring showers . . . .

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

On A Lighter Note . . .

Check out some hilarious cartoons by David Sipress about Buddhism, meditation, and mindfulness.

Only If You're Up for It

If you've lost a pet, you might consider reading this touching article, Joe Yonan's "The Death of A Pet Can Hurt as Much as the Loss of a Relative," which is, for different reasons than the usual, NSFW.

Pema Power

The light in him sees the light in her.

1,700 Miles and What Do You Get?

"Another day older and deeper in debt."

You can also get from Houston to Connecticut.

Which is exactly what Gommie and Pop are doing:  driving here!  They leave Houston soon and will be in CT by Good Friday, with numerous fun stops along the way (I know about the one in TN, but I think they're doing Gettysburg either coming or going).  Pop is even talking big about heading to Acadia National Park, though we keep telling him that, while it's warm in Texas (mid-80s warm, as I understand it), it's not quite the tourist season in New England yet (usually by the beginning of May or even Memorial Day, just like in Door County, WI).

If they tell me, I'll keep you updated on their progress--but sometimes they go incommunicado on these long drives. I think Pop likes disappearing--he has always been attracted to the folklore of the free and wandering hobo.  Though, Gommie has a smartphone now and we all know the allure of those!

We wish them a safe and enjoyable drive and hope they are not too tired to enjoy Easter and spring break when they get here.

'Cos Bud wants to play basketball and Sis wants to go horseback riding!

Monday, March 26, 2012

No Showers But Pretty Flowers

With the early warmth, it is one of the driest springs I have ever known.  Our yard is dusty, sending up winds of dirt with every step.  Still, the flowers bloom.  But with fire warnings frequently, I hope those April showers come soon.

Right Now

Waiting for a friend to come.  It.  Takes.  So.  Long

Putting out the Yard Art

A Good Day

I had looked forward to Saturday for weeks:  my first meditation class!   With Sharon Salzberg!  To prepare, I talked with other meditators and the studio to check on accomodations for me (could I stand in the back?  were there places to lie down?  do they have breaks?).  I practiced getting up and down off the floor, tried to extend my sitting time, read Sharon Salzberg's Real Happiness, even practiced meditating without falling asleep (harder than you think since I meditate lying down on my side!).   I got a yoga mat, put on my comfortable black pants, packed my lunch of apple and granola bar.

And then Saturday was here!  Mama and the kids dropped me off at the studio in Hartford and then they headed to lunch at the Rainforest Cafe and then to the Connecticut Science Center.  I was immediately in an environment quite alien to me (not "ancient astronaut alien," but still  unfamiliar).  First, I took off my shoes right at the front door and walked around the whole place in my very white socks, just like everyone else--even the bathroom!  I was surprised that my socks were still quite white at the end of the day.  I wandered the boutique, filled with stylish yoga clothes and accessories, which were modeled by many of the other class participants. Tight, stretchy black pants, earthy-colored fitted shirts, rolled-up mats of various kinds carried in special bags with the latest Gaiam pattern, green smoothies and tea drinks in various bottles, Mother Goddess and Chakra jewlery.  I felt a little intimidated and out of place because it was all so unfamiliar to me. 

I quickly found a good spot in the large studio, against the back wall where I could spread out my yoga mat and positioned a chair so I can get up and down.  There were about 100 other people, mostly women, mostly white, mostly older than me, but still some men, people of color, and younger people.  I got to chatting with a woman who is studying to be a yoga teacher and was attending this class as part of her training.  We continued to chat at each break.

In walked Sharon Salzberg, renowned Buddhist meditaiton teacher, co-founder of the Insight Meditation Society in Barre, MA, and author of several books. She wasn't in robes (I don't believe she holds a dharma lineage, though she has studied in Burma and India), nor was she exceptionally earthy (no beads or shawls or such).  What preconceptions I had!   I was reminded that there is the Buddha inside everyone  Because she looked like she could be my neighbor.  She has a very soothing voice, neither high nor low, and not breathy like NPR presenters, and with enough character to keep you focused.  I had been listening to her guided meditations on CD and her voice was exactly like that in person.  

In fact, she told us several stories, including one about her voice.  People often tell her that they like her voice and she likes that.  But she recognizes the Eight Vicissitudes of Buddhism (pain/pleasure; gain/loss; praise/blame; fame/disrepute) and knew that with fame came disrepute.  She was told by the teachers of a class that she was to visit that the members of the class had said her voice was annoying; the teachers couldn't bring themselves to announce her upcoming visit!  "Good voice, bad voice, one voice," she laughed.

There were lots of stories and lessons:

  • discussion the rural origins of Buddhism and the use of farming metaphors ("cultivating the ground")
  • the oral origins of Buddhism and the use of lists for memory (a list of lists at the bottom here)
  • definition ("what you place your heart upon") and types of faith (bright, verified, and abiding)
  • the connectedness of concentration, mindfulness, and lovingkindness
  • how meditation does not require beliefs, is portable, and . . . one other thing I just can't recall!
  • Buddha's advice for sleepiness during meditation, including open your eyes, tug your earlobes, and take a nap!
  • the wise cabby who got stuck in traffic taking her to a Thich Nhat Hanh lecture, for which she apologized to him.  He said, "You did not cause the traffic.  Neither did I.  It just is."  "Why did I need Thich Nhat Hanh?!" she wondered.  Though she told us that someone else ponders, when stuck in traffic, "I am the traffic."
  • proliferation as the unencumbered multiplication of thoughts or add-ons
  • the meaning of mindfulness, which is paying attention to current circumstances and our reactions so that we do not act out of conditioned habitual responses, or "small moments many times" and "looking with quiet eyes."  
  • beginning meditators and mindfulness, who asked if, when they hear the fire alarm, do they just note it and continue meditating instead of having aversion and acting in response?  She said, "I'd get up."  Apparently, when she began meditating 40 years ago in India, it wasn't fire alarms but elephants walking towards you on the road!   
Most of this can be found in her books and my short list does not in any way do justice to her explanations or delivery; it only captures the breadth of what she touched upon.

In between it all, we had breaks and lunch.  I purchased some tidbits in the cafe--crackers, coconut water, oat and fruit protein bar--and ate them with my apple; later, I got a coconut-almond-rice milk shake by Amazake.  I browsed in the shop, picking up a new book, a new bolster, and a bracelet.   The bolster I had tested during meditation, which I spent on the floor either on my side or on my back (I stood for her discussions and Q&A, pacing some on my mat, but without my shoes, on the hard floor, I didn't last that long; the bolster supported my bent knees--other people sat on them, or put their legs on the chairs, or lay flat, or knelt on cushions, almost as many postures as people.)  I even spoke to Sharon during the first break, thanking her for offering the teachings.  

Most powerful were the five sittings we did, each about 20 minutes.  She guided us through the first one, just as on the CD and we did three more on our own.  The last one was metta, or lovingkindness, meditation, again guided by her, like on the CD.  I'm not even sure I can put my experiences into words, only that it was some of the most centering, energizing, inspiring meditation I've done.  Sure, my mind wandered from my breath and the phrases frequently--so much stimulation in the day (and there were 100 other people coughing, shifting, etc)--but I brought it back each time.  "That is the practice," she repeated, "the moment of starting over is the practice."  I got a lot of practice!  More importantly, I've meditated each day since then, so the class revitalized my practice.  "If you described your Saturday--I watched my breath and started over  when I got distracted--that's a good day," she said.
It was, both physically and spiritually.  And I can't wait to try something like it again.

What Is It?

A funny new European whisk?

No, a head scratcher.  Mama and the kids bought me one at the Connecticut Science Museum this weekend.

And it's wonderful!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Best Recipe Ever

For "Anxiety Soup," by Alice Walker.  Have some soon.

Hunger Games

No, not the movie or the book it is based upon (though, they are all the rage among YA and their parents).

I've been thinking on mindful eating again as I continue my personal Buddhism book club (earlier this week, I finished Salzberg's Real Happiness; more on that later), this week with Zen Roshi (wise or old teacher) and pediatrician Jan Chozen Bays's Mindful Eating.  I've only just begun the book and corresponding CD, but have already had several a-ha moments, particularly participating in the basic mindful eating practice of experiencing a single raisin.  Bays extends the classic practice of looking, touching, smelling, tasting, biting, chewing, swallowing, and savoring a raisin to new territory:  the exploration of different kinds of hunger.  These are eyes, nose, mouth, stomach, cellular, mind, and heart (and apparently thirst is a type of hunger; these are more theoretical than scientific, I believe).  You are encouraged to consider each as you progress through the practice, noting if you are hungry, say, with your eyes or if you are satisfied in your heart.  As I chewed on my craisin and then again on an almond, I became very aware of mouth hunger, that my mouth likes new input and sensations before my mind or heart, much less my stomach, does; that's probably food as entertainment and distraction.  Curious.  I'm really looking forward to more of the practices, including making myself a meal as if I were a guest (you know, pretty plates and such) and fasting (for more general information, visit The Center for Mindful Eating.)


"Murph," Sis groans, stretching out the syllables.

"Murph!" Sis punctuates the air, excited or annoyed.

"Murph, Murph," Sis says affirmatively.

It's her all-purpose word, both good and ill, clear through context and delivery.

Where did she get it?  Mama.  Mama copying our cat, Morgan, who would "murph" when hassled.  Mama thought it was funny and would poke him sometimes, then would copy him to the kids.  Sis has now made it her own.

Sounds of Spring

Ah, spring.  Laughing children, chirping birds, power tools.

The men--and, yes, it's men--have been out and about my neighborhood the last two days.  The man behind us power-washed his deck for several hours yesterday, most of the morning and all of the afternoon; my teeth practically vibrated the whole time.  Just as he finished up, the very tidy man up the street was blowing the last remnants of fall off his yard.  He's precise and worked until almost dark.  This morning, the people next door are mowing.

Winter, even with snow blowers (which no one needed this year), is just so much quieter.  But with power tools and my open windows, spring is very loud.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Six Languages

No, I'm not hexalingual.

I was reading Nicholas Kristoff's recent "Politics, Odors and Soap:"

“The Righteous Mind,” by Jonathan Haidt, a University of Virginia psychology professor, argues that, for liberals, morality is largely a matter of three values: caring for the weak, fairness and liberty. Conservatives share those concerns (although they think of fairness and liberty differently) and add three others: loyalty, respect for authority and sanctity. . . . Another way of putting it is this: Americans speak about values in six languages, from care to sanctity. Conservatives speak all six, but liberals are fluent in only three. And some (me included) mostly use just one, care for victims."
No wonder we don't communicate well or understand each other sometimes.

I can't do the whole article justice, without just quoting it all here, so check it out.  It's a quick and thought-provoking read, as is, I imagine, Haidt's book.

Happy 35th Anniversary, Bloodroot!

I've posted many times about our favorite restaurant, the legendary vegetarian-feminist Bloodroot (that's a flower here in New England and on the Eastern seaboard).  We knew of Bloodroot even before moving to Connecticut, having found their original cookbooks The Political Palate in Women and Children First bookstore in Chicago.  When we moved to Connecticut, we realized Bloodroot was near enough to visit and so we made our first pilgrimage.

You arrive at the low, eclectic building on the back waters of Bridgeport through the winding residential streets led forward only be clear directions or awareness of the tiny little signs at critical turns.  Outside there is often one of Bloodroot's resident Maine Coon cats lounging on the patio.  Inside, the space is divided into a few different areas:  the entry where you place your order, the small bookstore with lesbian/feminist/green/liberal/food texts as well as weaving supplies and a few looms out (they offer weaving classes, which I've taken twice--search "warp speed' posts), and the dining room, with its wonderful wall of old photos of women (some are relatives and relatives of friends; others are just there), mix-and-match old tables and chairs, and weavings hung from the exposed wooden rafters.  All along the wall to the restroom and around the serving window are opinionated posters, both theirs and others.  I love the one about being kind to our sisters of size by not discussing calories while you eat!  The one about children--unruly ones won't be tolerated--kept us from bringing the kids there for years.

Bloodroot grew out of the lesbian-feminist movement of the 1970s and sought to eliminate inequality in its restaurant:  there is no serving (and no tips).  We had heard, even back in Chicago, that Bloodroot was severe in their rules and beliefs and were a bit nervous during our first visit.  Now, co-founders and owners Selma Miriam and Noel Furie are nothing if not committed to their ideals (which are outlined in the introductions to their new cookbooks), but they are welcoming to all and will walk newcomers through Bloodroot's unusual ordering structure, in addition to answering questions about the menu and chatting tableside midway through your meal (it's usually Selma and we've talked about homemade Chinese food in Mama's family, labor and childbirth, books to read, lesbian theorists, places to eat in Washington DC, and so much more).  Once inside, you place your order with the person, usually Selma, at the desk after consulting the day's seasonal, local, international vegan/vegetarian menu on the chalkboard.  There are always soups, salads, entrees, bread, and desserts, plus some fruity sodas, herbal teas, and now wine.  Then you pay, give your ticket to the person at the window (often Noel), choose your table, pick your silverware, even pour your own water and scoop your own butter as you wait for your name to be called.  You fetch your food in courses and bus your items when you're done into waiting receptacles.  It was this that caused us the most anxiety because rumor had it that they'd get snippy if you did it "incorrectly," for instance mixing forks and spoons.  That, of course, is hogwash.  You toss the trash and extra food, put silverware down below but not segregated by type (I've asked!) and plates and glasses in the big tubs.  Done.

Besides, it's all well worth the food.  We almost always each get one of everything so that we can try two soups, two salads, two entrees, and two desserts.  I couldn't even begin to list favorites having had some many different things over the almost ten years we've been going.  Well, I do have a few that appear regularly enough:  the open-faced grilled cheese sandwich available at lunch with the simple side salad dressed in fruity oil and  . . . something else, maybe lemon, that is so refreshing; the rich and smooth cream of mushroom soup with Sherry; the hearty oatmeal-sunflower bread always available and best with the soft butter; the off-menu brandied fruit over ice cream that they "feed" each week and have for years so that it is a strong alcoholic treat; the blueberry tofu mousse (or pumpkin) that is substantial in its creaminess and not too sweet (similar is the cranberry kissl).  There are numerous other dishes that I annotate in my complete set of their cookbooks--yep, almost every dish they serve has an available recipe (and those that don't will be in the upcoming calendars!).  They want you to love their food and make it yourself.  Food is community.  And the best food isn't trendy--not raw, not foam, not low-fat or low-carb or what have you--but the kind of foods that people all over the world have been making at home for centuries.

Which is exactly what Selma said last night in her annual speech to the gathered, adoring friends of Bloodroot in celebration of their 35 years, after thanking patrons, staff, and Noel.  She talked about their trip to Istanbul (they go away for two weeks at the end of February every year) and the amazing food they found (you can read her post here).  Noel talked about how travelling expands our understanding of others and thus ourselves.  We all clapped for them and their achievement of creating such a wonderful place that, as one long-time friend said, was sacred for us and them.  I am so grateful to have found them, not even mainly for the food, though it is through their inspiration that I became a vegetarian and am now mostly vegan (not that you have to be; they love omnivores, too!), but for the space, the community, the home, they've cultivated and created.  It's like nowhere else I've ever been.

Then they had their usual anniversary raffle--famous Chocolate Devastation Cake, pan of lasagna, cookbook set--and I actually won my own anniversary t-shirt.  I'm so excited.  And will wear it proudly!

Bloodroot's 35th Anniversary Menu

March 21, 2012
[dates are keyed to cookbooks]

Fassoulada 1980
Mulligatawny 1984
Lemon Lima Bean 1993
Escarole and Garlic 1997

Shredded Root Vegetable 1980
Caesar’s Wife 1993
Marinated Tofu 1984
Spinach Salad 1993

Noodle Souffle 1980
Eggplant Spinach Lasagne 1993
Tempeh Stuffed Baked Potato 1984
American South
creole/curry spiced “chicken” casserole
created for our 35th Anniversary

Queen of Sheba Cake 1980
Chocolate Devastation Cake 1993
Brown Rice Pudding 1980
Vegan Chocolate Ice Cream 2007

Most of these recipes appeared in print in one of our cookbooks:
The Political Palate, 1980
The Second Seasonal Political Palate, 1984
The Perenial Political Palate, 1993
The Addendum to the Series, 1997
The Best of Bloodroot, Volumes One and Two, 2007/2012 which gathers all
our favorite, now corrected recipes.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Punch and Cookies

The planning started last night during our picnic:  Sis wanted a lemonade stand (our first, well, after the maracas).

Except she doesn't like lemonade.  And so she decided on Zinger Punch.

And oatmeal cookies.

$4 each.

I agreed to all but the latter, talking her down to 50 cents each.

Before school they made the signs; during school, I made the oatmeal cookies from the recipe on the Quaker Oats box.  When they got home, they rushed to set up, hauling the table, cookies, punch, signs and  other items I'd gathered (coin jar, napkins, cups, little trash can, tape) to the corner.  Sis said she was so excited that she almost burst at school and almost ran to the bus before class was dismissed.

They had their first customer in under a minute.  And continued to have customers, about one every ten minutes, for the next two hours, netting close to $15 (which, as you can imagine, didn't begin to cover it; but that's not nearly the point).  Sis and Bud were very  polite, carefully explaining the offerings and the prices, even going so far as to explain how to make Zinger Punch (that's a liter of Sprite and 3 Red Zinger/Celestial Seasonings tea bags in the fridge for 8 hours or so; we went through 2 plus almost 4 dozen cookies--the kids got a lot of both);  when they weren't serving, they were waving to whomever drove or walked by--who could resist that?  Some did, of course, but I pointed out that money wasn't the object, the fun was (except the one time I reiterated that in front of Mama Teacher and got it all messed up, "It's not about the customers, kids, it's about the money!").

There were some very special customers indeed:  Mama Teacher and CJ, birthday girl/babysitter M (who got a freebie), older babysitter M (no, not collegiate M, high school M), and perhaps most surprising of all, their first-grade teacher!  Yep, she came by with her daughter and dog and bought punch and cookies, chatted with the clearly overwhelmed and elated kids, and watched them play a little basketball.  Bud had apparently told her we were having the stand and she said she might stop by.  So wonderful that she actually did.  We're grateful to all of our customers.

The only thing we didn't do--which was my oversight, because I didn't think they'd actually do much business--was to determine a charity for the money.  So we're choosing between autism awareness (for CJ) or cancer (particularly an upcoming fundraiser to help cover the medical bills not covered by insurance of our dear friend Miss M).

I have a feeling we'll be doing many more of these, though!


For yesterday's first day of spring, we had our first outdoor picnic of the season:  sandwiches, veggie chips, celery, carrots, and strawberries in the late afternoon warmth.  Sis had ridden her bike and gardened; Bud played basketball and jumped on the trampoline down the street.  We ate, marveling at the flowers and even the bugs.  And tossing our strawberry tops as far as we could!

I even managed to get up and down off the picnic blanket on the ground, just another thing to celebrate!

Singing My Meditation

A few weeks ago we had a special music service at church led by UU musician Sarah Dan Jones, who wrote the singing meditation, "When I Breathe In."  Combining spoken and sung word, she explored how to create community through music--ingathering, prayer, social justice, celebration, and the like.  She sang with the kids and led us in rounds and we swayed and clapped (on the 2-4 beat) in that slightly stiff UU way.

I like to sing and enjoyed the service very much, probably more so because she was so encouraging of regular singers like me.  Singing has been on my mind recently, with All Together Singing in the Kitchen, "Glee," and our new keyboard.  And I'm trying to incorporate singing back into our and my day.  When the kids were young, I'd sing so much more--clean-up songs, getting dressed songs, wake-up songs, lullabies, blessings at mealtime--but somehow that has been replaced by the iPod.

I'm especially intrigued by the idea of singing as a meditation, having picked up the book Singing Meditation: Together in Sound and Silence by Ruthie Rosauer and Liz Hill, which explains what, how, and why.  I read the whole thing in one sitting and found it intriguing, even though I didn't need the chapters on becoming a leader or leading a session.  But the discussion of the perceived tensions between text and music, the connection to the divine through tonal vibrations, the interplay between sound and silence, the forms of silent spirituality (prayer, meditation, and contemplation), the discussion of singing prayers in history throughout the world, the exploration of  current singing traditions from kirtan to Taizé, the outline of the typical Singing Meditation gathering, even how singing is something we've abandoned to the professionals that we should reclaim, were all thought-provoking.

Taizé.  I had seen that word on the banner of a local church for years now and vaguely wondered what it was, never investigating.  Now I know.  Taizé is an ecumenical Christian community in France dedicated to creating peace through worshipping in chants and now a worldwide movement in song and prayer directed at youth.  The Singing Meditation group seeks to create a similar practice specifically for UUs.

Now, I don't find that UUs are great hymn singers and are rather reserved in general, though so many members are trained musicians (both at my last and current congregations).  But we all seem to find value, meaning, and inspiration in music. Interestingly one of my most powerful memories of my early church-going was singing in my Southern Baptist church choir's production of Come, Messiah, Come.  I loved the showtune-like songs ("Come, Messiah, Come.  Come chosen one of Israel . . . " and "This is the day that the Lord hath made/We will rejoice and be glad!"), I loved the story (kids in an orphanage in the Holy Land at the time of the Crucifixion/Resurrection!), I loved the performance (and my costume!). But a few negative interactions--a kid in the audience making fun of me in school the next week, another kid warning me about ever signing up for choir in school because they made you sing outloud, not getting a part in my high school musical when my best friend did--turned me off singing, though I did try to reclaim my voice as a member of Chicago's lesbian-feminist chorus Artemis Singers (I made great friends but wasn't a great singer; luckily, they were open.).  And I always loved singing around the campfire in Girl Scouts.  Now, I am shy about singing in church at times, very aware of my not being able to read music or sing in tune.  I want to reclaim some of that earlier joy.   I'm looking forward to including more song in my daily practice, including some of my favorite songs sung in UU services (as far as I can recall; my hymnal is missing):

  • "Enter, Rejoice, and Come In"
  • "Come, Sing a Song With Me"
  • "Come, Come Whoever You Are"
  • "I Hear Music in the Air"
  • "Where Do We Come From?  Who Are We? Where Are We Going?"
  • "Keep On Moving Forward"
  • "Walk in Beauty"
  • "What Could One Little Person Do"
  • "How Could Anyone?"
  • "Singing for Our Lives"
  • "Finlandia"
  • "Blue Earth Home"
  • "Wake, Now, My Senses"
  • "Fire of Commitment"

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Happy Spring!

Deja Vu

It's happening again:  the minister of our new UU church, the church we officially joined just a few weeks ago, is leaving to pursue a wonderful new opportunity.

I'm devastated because I had so looked forward to getting to know her, having been inspired by the dedication, compassion, and intelligence that she so clearly exhibited from the pulpit.

And I just don't know if I can go through another congregational upheaval.  It ruined so much about our last church for us.

I'm just sad.  But I wish her the very best and know she'll be wonderful wherever she goes.

Never Too Old

Me or the kids, for some parenting/family advice.  This time, as usual, from one of my favorite bloggers/authors, Zen priest Karen Maezen Miller.  In her recent post, "Routine and Ritual," she explains that these are the two things parents need, reframing them as time and attention.  What ever child needs.  Check it out--it's a great reminder of what we all know.

Monday, March 19, 2012


Roughly, the kids have 575 Saturdays before they turn 18 and, presumably, leave the nest.

That's 575 more weekends that we'll spend together as a family.

What do we all want to do together?  Discussing Dr. Harley Rothbart's No Regrets Parenting, Motherlode blogger KJ Dell'Antonia mentions that we have 940 Saturdays with our kids.  She continues,

Dr. Rotbart knows that the days are long, and that telling a parent to “seize” them — when child A is singing “Come on, vamanos! Everybody let’s poop!” and child B is hitting him with her “Dora” doll in the drugstore aisle while child C wants to know what a “Tampax” is and child D just took off toward the Band-Aids — is just asking to get punched in the nose. It’s the years that are short, as anyone who has ever looked at the calendar and tried to figure out how it got to be March already when it was just New Year’s yesterday can attest. Dr. Rotbart writes to help us turn painfully long minutes into funny moments, and he does it practically, in one- or two-page essays on everything from ice cream sundaes to college counseling. It’s short, it’s sweet, and it’s more about being a parent than it is about actually parenting the kids themselves — no star charts here. 
We've already had approximately 365 Saturdays together, all but about 100 of them recorded on this blog.  We've flown kites, watched movies, gone to zoos, built giant sandcastles at the beach, built fairy houses, baked, grilled, played baseball, blown bubbles, drawn in sidewalk chalk, ridden bicycles, built Legos, gone for car naps, visited the Renaissance Festival, been to DC and Boston and Texas and NYC and Chicago, explored Old Sturbridge Village, gotten ready for Easter and Christmas and Halloween, had six birthday parties, hosted Groundhog Day brunch and Applepalooza, watched dolphins swim, watched the Olympics, eaten dim sum, been to art and science and natural history museums, played with grandparents, made ice cream, built snowmen, made snow ice cream, raked fall leaves into piles for jumping, gone to kung fu, attended church events, played with neighbors, sold Girl Scout cookies, taken baths, cut toenails, painted toenails, cleaned, gardened, jumped in rain puddles, had game night, looked at the stars, played with flashlights,gone boat riding, gone fishing, read Harry Potter, read poetry, pet the cats, seen ballet, gone to a puppet show, played piano, had singalongs had dance parties, . . . . what does that leave?

Here are some things I'd like to try to do together (some suggestions are from Mama, Sis, and Bud) in the next 11 years of Saturdays, in no particular order and clearly not exhaustive (fancy things are easier to think of than quotidian):

  1. Broadway show
  2. Philly
  3. Florida for Disney World, Harry Potter land, and Lego Land
  4. canoeing
  5. snowsledding
  6. lighthouses in Maine (Mama, too)
  7. and in the Carolinas
  8. Colonial Williamsburg
  9. remember the Alamo!
  10. meet Cousin Hungry
  11. plant pole beans
  12. remove training wheels (Sis)
  13. family bike ride (Mama)
  14. tea in London/visit Lambeth
  15. and gelato in Rome
  16. the Alps (Mama)
  17. walk on the Great Wall of China (Mama, too)
  18. kung fu classes in Shaolin (Bud, too)
  19. UU family camp
  20. slumber parties
  21. teach the kids to drive
  22. Prom!
  23. take language classes
  24. and music lessons
  25. tie dye
  26. sleepaway camp
  27. New Orleans
  28. climb Montauk light (Mama, too)
  29. eat cherries in Door County, WI (Mama, too)
  30. Thanksgiving Day parade in NYC
  31. and fireworks on 4th of July
  32. and New Year's in Chinatown
  33. and Radio City Christmas Spectacular
  34. and Groundhog's Day in Punxsatawney
  35. and Pumpkin Blaze near Sleepy Hollow (Mama)
  36. stay up for New Year's (but not in Times Square)
  37. professional sports games--WNBA, maybe football or soccer
  38. help build a house with Habitat for Humanity
  39. volunteer in a soup kitchen
  40. beach clean up
  41. do a charity walk
  42. Project Linus
  43. lemonade stand
  44. letterboxing or geocaching
  45. sukiyaki night (Mama)
  46. fondue night
  47. deep discussions over long meals
  48. more family readalongs and singalongs 
  49. sleep in!
  50. watch kids at sports/music/whatever competitions and performances
  51. make mozzarella cheese (or ricotta)
  52. build something together--birdhouse, bookcase
  53. sketching trip
  54. photography outing (Mama)
  55. scrapbook our outings
  56. swim (Sis)
  57. do fingernail polish (Sis)
  58. Antarctica to see penguins (Mama and Bud)
  59. Boston for a week (Sis)
  60. Gettysburg again (Sis)
  61. sleepover with grandparents without M&M (both kids)
  62. overnight at natural history museum (Bud)
  63. ride a ferry (Bud)
  64. a really big picnic somewhere (Bud)
  65. go camping (Sis)
  66. Thailand (Bud)
  67. milk a cow
  68. Indigo Girls concert
  69. Shakespeare/concert in Central Park
  70. ice/rollerskating
  71. Niagara Falls (Mama)
  72. whale watching
  73. see oldest building in the world (Bud)
  74. San Diego Zoo (Mama)
  75. Shenandoah (Mama)
  76. Anza Borrego State Park (Mama)
  77. Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve (Mama)
  78. Key West/Miami (Mama)
  79. Nova Scotia (Mama)
  80. Thai vegetable and fruit carving (Mama)
  81. see origami tree at AMNH
  82. see a meteor shower from the beach 
  83. Grand Tetons (Mama)
  84. Hawaii (Mama)
  85. models and/or model trains (Mama)
  86. transcontinental train ride (Mama)
  87. "Family" days in P'town on the Cape
  88. sleep in a lighthouse
  89. sail on a masted ship
  90. stay at the Grand Hotel in Mackinac
  91. paint a mural
  92. Ellis Island/Statue of Liberty (Mama)
  93. Cloisters (Mama)
  94. compost and collect rainwater
  95. Death Star Lego (Mama)
  96. Lord of the Rings trilogy (Mama)
  97. and Gone with the Wind
  98. role-playing games (and Gen Con?) (Mama)
  99. La Boheme at the Met
  100. make a souffle (Mama)
  101. make a family chalice
And that's just a start!

Nothin' But Net

Basketball has been the game of choice for the last few weeks, with Bud roaming from neighbor to neighbor to play with others' balls and baskets.  Neighbor Boy insists, "My house, my rules," which annoys Sis, who then won't play.  Bud has talked basketball with Pop, who played in high school and even went to the Dr. Pepper tournament, and with Mama, who played on a team that came in second in her league; even their current babysitter M is on her school team and will play ball on scholarship in college.  We all watched some NCAA on tv during lunch out.

On Sunday, after church, haircuts, and lunch, Bud wanted to play basketball.  Mama and I looked at each other and she made a turn to the stores.  We had been planning on buying a hoop anyway so Bud could play with Pop over spring break, and it was a gorgeous day.  So yesterday found us buying youth-sized balls (standard brown, purple, and primary!) and a stand-alone hoop for younger people (net from 5.5-7.5').

Mama erected the stand and backboard while Sis colored in chalk and rode her bike and Bud practiced dribbling.  Finally, we could  play (It.  Takes.  So.  Long.)  Mama and Bud took turns shooting and then Bud and I "played."  We were the Penguins against the Snakes and I kept up a running commentary on our games, as best as I could (it's been a long time since I've watched basketball).  "Swoosh," driving to the basket, rebound, lay ups, three-pointers, "nothin' but net."  He thought it was great.  They even went outside early to play before the bus arrived (and the bus arrived just before Neighbor Boy headed over to play.  Sigh).  

I like it because with the basket at about 6.5', I can slam dunk!

Driving Down Memory Lane

It was a Sunday of reminiscing as we sat over lunch and remembered similar lunches over the last several years.  Several.  With the kids turning seven in less than four months, it is actually "severally."

It started when we went to get their hair cut and a toddler was getting his first haircut.  Ah, first haircuts.  I delayed that so long (I can't recall how long, but it was later than everyone else).  I didn't want their hair cut, didn't want them to stop looking like babies and start looking like kiddos.  I liked their long wispy manes.  But eventually I gave in.  And we went to one of those kids' salons that took pictures and gave clippings and such, which are tucked safely in baby books.  And, in truth, I hated it and cried all the way home.  Hated it, hated it, hated it.  And was sorry for a long time that we'd cut it; now it doesn't really matter, but I was distraught then at this early milestone.  It wasn't the first haircut but third or fourth that elicited the expected objections, particularly from Bud; then, he went through a giggle phase.  Sis has always sat as still as as statue.  But nobody slept the way Aunt Banana would!  Haircuts aren't a bit deal anymore, and much more frequent as they both now like their hair short.

We went to lunch after haircuts on Sunday, to the "salad bar" restaurant which was one of the only places we could take them when they were sensitive to wheat, dairy, eggs, and nuts as toddlers.  We could always get grapes, tomatoes, ham, olives, and baked potatoes there, our chosen after-church lunch place for a few years.  We had it down to a science, snagging salad almost on the way to our seats!  Mama would do a lot of the feeding while I ate because then I'd take over and then take the kids outside, where they would pick up rocks, barely, and throw them a few inches, the best they could do.  Sometimes, they'd want to take the rocks home.  Mama would finish eating, fill a plastic restaurant cup with our iced teas, and head to the car.  People often commented how well-behaved the kids were, how cute--they certainly were used to eating out at an early age!  And now they eat lobster, sushi, hibachi, kebabs, chicken marsala, and so much else.

We'd drive for the afternoon nap most Sundays, "driving to Massachusetts," we called it.  Gas was cheaper then and it was all we could manage to do as exhausted parents with twins, relishing the quiet alone time as the kids usually fell asleep in the backseat.  We often discussed and debated the sermon, made grandiose plans, vented, whatever came to mind, that is before I fell asleep after the halfway mark.  We saw a lot of CT on those hours-long drives.  Sometimes, especially towards the end of the car nap era, Sis would fight to stay awake, twirling her hair, sucking her fingers, and kicking her feet.  Bud would almost always fall asleep, hands behind his head in the tell-tale sign of tired, head flopped forward in his 5-point restraint car seat in the position we called "losing his neck."  They often threatened to wake up when we turned back home and so Mama knew all the smoothest exist turnarounds off the highway and we'd hold our breath, hoping they stayed asleep.  Without fail, though, Sis would wake up as we got off at our exit.  Sometimes they were grabby in that just-woke-up way, or chatty, or contemplative, or hungry.  And to think now they want audiobooks and never sleep in the car.

Good times, then and now.


Next door, my neighbor is dying, and might be dead, since there are no longer many cars out front, though I haven't seen a hearse.  His family vigiled all weekend, with the aid of a visiting priest and, I believe, hospice.  His son-in-law said it had been a rough few months and I had seen the ambulance come at least once.    He's in his nineties, I think,and has lived in that house more than half that time, since the late 1940s-early 1950s.  We have only spoken once or twice, as he was hard of hearing, but he often tootled around his garden and did minor house repairs, such as annually painting the porch.

At the same time, the house of his next door neighbor, with whom we had been friends, has finally gone up for sale, after being in the family since around 1930.  It's where she grew up and then raised her own kids, telling us about the peach orchards and fox holes, foundry and "new developments."  She had suffered much poor health recently and moved to be with her son several months ago, though she swore she would never leave.  It would probably please her that she lived longer than her neighbor, even if she moved and he didn't--she said that they hated each other and sometimes even called the cops on each other, though they had mellowed some more recently.

End of an era . . . .may the families be comforted.

My Mujadara

I like mujadara, a Middle Eastern (versions can be found from Turkey to Egypt, with the first published recipe in Iraq in the 13th century and most often associated with Lebanon) lentil and rice dish raised to new heights with caramelized onions.  And today I faked my own version because I had cooked lentils I wanted to use up.  Surfing for a recipe, I made up my own in my rice cooker.  The hardest, meaning longest (as Mama says, "Is it hard or is it just work?"), part was the onions, which had to be stirred and watched (and I still gave up before they were dark brown).  But they really give the dish its character.  It made a delicious lunch, with enough leftovers for a few days.


Mommy Hungry's Rice-Cooker Mujdara

2 cups white rice
2 cups cooked lentils (brown or whatever)
1/4 teaspoons cumin
1 cinnamon stick
1-3 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons salt, divided
2-4 onions
1-2 tablespoon oil (grapeseed, olive, whatever)

Place rice, lentils, cumin, cinnamon stick, garlic, pepper, and 1/2 to 1 teaspoon salt in rice cooker.  Add water according to machine temperament (my takes about 2 cups for this; Ar-Ma Hungry's hint is to add enough water to cover the rice plus the thickness of one finger horizontal on top of the rice--it works!).  Set to cook white rice.

Meanwhile, heat oil in skillet.  Add onions, sprinkling 1 teaspoon of salt on top, and cook on medium-low to medium heat.  Watch onions and only stir occasionally in order to let them brown.  If they get to dry, add water.  Cook til brown and sweet, about 45-60 minutes.

When lentil-rice and onions are done, stir together and season to taste.

Mommy Hungry

Lords of the Dance

Marginally Celtic in ancestry, with traces of Welsh and Scottish if my aunt is to be believed (and I like to think so), we celebrate St. Patrick's Day mainly so we can bake soda bread, each corned beef and cabbage, and listen to bagpipe music.  All of which we happily did on Saturday. Sis helped with the soda bread, divided into three loaves based on caraway seed/raisin add-ins (Mama takes all, Sis none.  Bud and I eat raisins and shared a loaf).  We accidentally tripled the sugar for--chalk it up to a glare on the iPad; it was tasty-sweet!   The favorite activity, however, was actually singing "Lord of the Dance."  Which is not really Irish at all--with lyrics written in 1967 by English songwriter Sydney Carter to accompany the American Shaker tune "Simple Gifts," the song is a first-person account by Jesus, from birth to resurrection.  Still, if it's good enough for Michael Flatley, it's good enough for us.  We sang the chorus over and over again with Bud eventually showing us the Irish step-dancing he learned at a school assembly.

"Lord of the Dance"
I danced in the morning when the world was begun
I danced in the Moon & the Stars & the Sun
I came down from Heaven & I danced on Earth
At Bethlehem I had my birth:

Dance then, wherever you may be
I am the Lord of the Dance, said He!
And I'll lead you all, wherever you may be
And I'll lead you all in the Dance, said He!
(...lead you all in the Dance, said He!)

I danced for the scribe & the pharisee
But they would not dance & they wouldn't follow me
I danced for fishermen, for James & John
They came with me & the Dance went on:

Dance then, wherever you may be
I am the Lord of the Dance, said He!
And I'll lead you all, wherever you may be
And I'll lead you all in the Dance, said He!
(...lead you all in the Dance, said He!) 
[ Lyrics from: ]
I danced on the Sabbath & I cured the lame
The holy people said it was a shame!
They whipped & they stripped & they hung me high
And they left me there on a cross to die!

Dance then, wherever you may be
I am the Lord of the Dance, said He!
And I'll lead you all, wherever you may be
And I'll lead you all in the Dance, said He!
(...lead you all in the Dance, said He!) 

I danced on a Friday when the sky turned black
It's hard to dance with the devil on your back
They buried my body & they thought I'd gone
But I am the Dance & I still go on!

Dance then, wherever you may be
I am the Lord of the Dance, said He!
And I'll lead you all, wherever you may be
And I'll lead you all in the Dance, said He!
(...lead you all in the Dance, said He!)

They cut me down and I leapt up high
I am the Life that'll never, never die!
I'll live in you if you'll live in Me -
I am the Lord of the Dance, said He!

Dance then, wherever you may be
I am the Lord of the Dance, said He!
And I'll lead you all, wherever you may be
And I'll lead you all in the Dance, said He! 

Friday, March 16, 2012

What Do You Think?

Another poem . . . .

Handwriting On The Wall

A weary mother returned from the store,
Lugging groceries through the kitchen door.
Awaiting her arrival was her 8 year old son,
Anxious to relate what his younger brother had done.

While I was out playing and Dad was on a call,
T.J. took his crayons and wrote on the wall
It's on the new paper you just hung in the den.
I told him you'd be mad at having to do it again.

She let out a moan and furrowed her brow,
Where is your little brother right now?
She emptied her arms and with a purposeful stride,
She marched to his closet where he had gone to hide.

She called his full name as she entered his room.
He trembled with fear--he knew that meant doom
For the next ten minutes, she ranted and raved
About the expensive wallpaper and how she had saved.

Lamenting all the work it would take to repair,
She condemned his actions and total lack of care.
The more she scolded, the madder she got,
Then stomped from his room, totally distraught

She headed for the den to confirm her fears.
When she saw the wall, her eyes flooded with tears.
The message she read pierced her soul with a dart.
It said, I love Mommy, surrounded by a heart.

Well, the wallpaper remained, just as she found it,
With an empty picture frame hung to surround it.
A reminder to her, and indeed to all,
Take time to read the handwriting on the wall.
--Anonymous (but quoted here)

A friend sent me the above yesterday because she loved the message.

It made me cringe.  I know I'm supposed to be touched that the mom regretted the yelling and framed the art as a reminder, but it's just too--real?  reminiscent?  sappy or maudlin?   Perhaps I like my reminders couched positively, you know, if the mom looked before she yelled and put it in the frame, missing her mistake just in time.

What do you think?


Looking for poems for our Daisies to recite during a field trip to the local senior center (where they'll distribute these crafts), I came across several gems.  Not as thought-provoking as Toni Bernhard's spring quotations, they cheerfully evoke the season, which has been bumping us around from chill to rain to warmth and back again:

by Anonymous

I'm glad the sky is painted blue,
and the earth is painted green,
with such a lot of nice fresh air,
all sandwiched in between.

Mud by Polly Chase Boyden
Mud is very nice to feel
All squishy-squash between the toes!
I'd rather wade in wiggly mud
Than smell a yellow rose.

Nobody else but the rosebush knows
How nice mud feels
Between the toes.

Rain Clouds by Elizabeth-Ellen Long
Along a road
Not built by man
There winds a silent
Of camel-clouds
Whose humped gray backs
Are weighted down
With heavy packs
Of long-awaited,
Precious rain
To make the old earth
Young again,
And dress her shabby
Fields and hills
In green grass silk
With wild-flower frills.

Good-by My Winter Suit by N.M. Bodecker
Good-by my winter suit,
good-by my hat and boot,
good-by my ear-protecting muffs
and storms that hail and hoot.

Farewell to snow and sleet,
farewell to Cream of Wheat,
farewell to ice-removing salt
and slush around my feet

Right on! to daffodils,
right on! to whippoorwills, 
right on! to chirp-producing eggs
and baby birds and quills.

The day is on the wing,
the kite is on the string,
the sun is where the sun should be--
it's spring all right! It's spring!

Spring by Karla Kuskin
I'm shouting
I'm singing
I'm swinging through trees
I'm winging sky-high
With the buzzing black bees.
I'm the sun
I'm the moon
I'm the dew on the rose.
I'm a rabbit
Whose habit
Is twitching his nose.
I'm lively
I'm lovely
I'm kicking my heels
I'm crying "Come dance"
to the freshwater eels
I'm racing through meadows
Without any coat
I'm a gamboling lamb
I'm a light leaping goat
I'm a bud
I'm a bloom
I'm a dove on the wing.
I'm running on rooftops
And welcoming spring!