Writing is like being able to put life into a snow globe. It takes the things that are too big and scary and reduces them into a form that I can put away when I want and look at from a distance. It also takes all that’s good in life and captures it into something I can take out when I want and look at close up and keep forever. It makes the bad things into something I can hold…and the good things into something I can hold onto. Both help so much that I need that little souvenir of life.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Of Rolls and Roles

Last Christmas, I baked a thing called “Pumpkin Cake Roll” that I found on this lovely-sounding young woman’s blog: At Home with Rachel.  As I’ve mentioned before, I am not much of a cook. I’ve never made anything like this before…but it turned out to be both beautiful and delicious. (Pictured at left with the teacup given to me by my friend Fran and the tea given to me by my friend Becky…and with the cryptocereus anthonyanus given to me by my friend Nancy in the background.)

As I was making it, I was thinking about the people who think to make…and share…such beauty. Which led me to thinking about the entire history of women. What I started writing—and couldn’t tear myself away from—turned into a piece that I’m hoping to submit somewhere. So it truly was the treat that kept on giving.

Which happens to be the theme of the piece. Seeing something as small as a shared blog recipe reminded me that there will always be those whose wise souls who intuitively understand the truth about beauty: It cannot be held. The paradox is that the more freely it is given, the more beautifully it reflects on the one who released it…and the more bountifully it returns.

“[Miss Maudie’s sunhat] was suspended in a thin layer of ice, like a fly in amber….” ~Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

Sunday, March 21, 2010

That's the Ticket

I would like to thank Becky for nominating me for this most distinctive and prestigious of awards!!!
Here are the rules:

1. Thank the person who gave this to you. (Thanks again, Bec!)
2. Copy the logo and place it on your blog.
3. Link the person who nominated you.
4. Tell up to 6 outrageous lies about yourself, and at least one outrageous truth. (The key here is the "up to" and the "at least." Some people are just born liars!)
5. Nominate up to seven "Creative Writers" who might have fun coming up with outrageous lies.
6. Post links to the seven blogs you nominate.
7. Leave a comment on the "up to" seven blogs you nominate, letting them know you nominated them.

Here goes:
1. In high school, I started a job at the local Squinky Pinky, but it didn’t go well. First they put me in the deli, but I stank at cheeses. Then they put me in produce. Things got out of hand when I dropped a load of bananas, and they really came to a head in the cruciferous vegetable department. So when they moved me to the bakery and I had that flour incident, I thought I was going to get sacked for sure. Instead, they put me out in fertilizers because they found I could really shovel poo.

2. I was once mistaken for the Exorcist girl on a studio set.

3. My Great Uncle Joe was an actor who was the first voice of Porky Pig. He really did stutter.

4. One of the men I’ve met lately steams out his brain fungus using a vegetable steamer, a tarp, and an ionizer.

5. I once strolled into a store with a date, and a man with flaming orange hair, a flaming orange pantsuit, and a flaming orange personality ran up and planted an impassioned kiss on my date’s mouth. When he finally detached and spotted me standing there very awkwardly, he shrieked, “OH LOOK! You have a girlfriend! A QUAINT little GIRLFRIEND!!!”  The thing that bothered me most about the incident was being called "quaint."  Quaint?  Puh-leez.

6. A friend wanted to set me up with an attractive man who had just broken up with the Bromo Seltzer heiress.  The Bromo Seltzer heiress was married, and her husband wanted to cause this guy more than indigestion. BUT, the friend said that Mr. Former-Bromo-Boy had once been in prison, because someone had sneaked drugs on the private plane that Bromo-Boy was piloting, and “you just don’t turn these people in and live.” So Former-Bromo took the rap and went to prison. The friend wanted to know if that bothered me. Bothered me? OF COURSE it bothered me. I was horrified. A pilot? My former husband was a pilot. Bleah.

I nominate Christy

Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn't. ~Mark Twain

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Let the St. Patrick's Day Celebrating Go On! And On, and On....

Good news!  Okay, good news for ME!  I had a dentist appointment, so I thought these up mostly in the shower to take my mind off going to the dentist (even though I am in fact partially Irish, and I do in fact have plans this evening):

Ten Seven TEN Things for Losers to Do on St. Patrick’s Day!

1. Don’t go to the bar on St. Patrick’s Day. Go to the dentist.
2. Wear a t-shirt that says, “Kiss me, too, I’m Portuguese.”
3. Kissing the wearer o’the green is so trite. Kiss the wearer o’the brown instead.
4. Kissing is so germy. Instead, go up to everyone wearing green and simply stroke their sleeve a bit. Don’t forget to use hand sanitizer afterwards!
5. Beer is so...working class.  If you want to be REALLY classy, sip green wine instead.  Make sure it's an Irish one.  If you want to impress people with your wine drinking technique, gently gargle with it. Smack your lips and exclaim, “Ah!” This is called “embibing in the brogué.”
6. Parades get so darned crowded. Instead, stand on a street corner and wave at random people. When an interesting vehicle or weird looking person goes by, clap.
7. Instead of wearing shamrocks, wear a leaf associated with your ancestry. So if you’re Canadian, wear a maple leaf, and if you’re from Guam, wear a banana leaf, or if you’re from Nebraska, wear a corn husk, etc. Or if your ancestry is really mixed, simply wear salad. Or better yet, wear a fig leaf and explain to people that we’re all descended from Eve.
8. Can’t find your shamrock pin to wear? No worries! Simply wear your “slut” pin instead.
9. Spontaneously giggle at the dentist’s office because you suddenly remembered that you own a “slut” pin. Don’t ask.
10. Take a picture of your “slut” pin for your blog.

May the best day of your past be the worst day of your future. ~Irish toast

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Pluck of the Irish

Sometimes I look around, and there really are people who conduct their lives with virtually no regard for other people—and they get away with it. The injustice is so blatant, it feels like an affront to the soul.

And yet, in the end these types drive away the crucial things that they work so hard to deny others:  genuine love, intimacy, and respect. And because they never take responsibility for their actions, they never truly learn or grow. Even when they pretend to have changed negative behaviors, they’ve really only become more adept at hiding them.

Is that why bad things never seem to happen to these people? Because they’d never learn, anyway, so what’s the point? Do they really only exist to throw destruction into the universe so that decent people can learn to solve problems and create?

Because it really does seem like there are good people everywhere who are truly struggling. I’ve been thinking about all of this lately when along came an email from a great friend. It was called “An Irish Blessing.” Sometimes I feel like the universe tries and tries to tell me something, but I’m dense enough that God just lets out a big sigh and has a friend spell it out to me in an email. Here it is. May you enjoy it as much as I did. And happy St. Patrick’s Day.

My wish for you

I wish you not a path devoid of clouds, nor a life on a bed of roses,
Not that you might never need regret,
nor that you should never feel pain.
No, that is not my wish for you.
My wish for you is:
That you might be brave in times of trial,
when others lay crosses upon your shoulders.
When mountains must be climbed and chasms are to be crossed,
When hope can scarce shine through.
That every gift God gave you might grow with you
and let you give your gift of joy to all who care for you.
That you may always have a friend who is worth that name,
whom you can trust and who helps you in times of sadness,
Who will defy the storms of daily life at your side.
One more wish I have for you:
That in every hour of joy and pain you may feel God close to you.
This is my wish for you and for all who care for you.
This is my hope for you now and forever.

-- anonymous Irish blessing

Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this too, was a gift. – Mary Oliver

Monday, March 15, 2010

Once Upon a Time in 2010

Sign of the times: I was subbing in a 6th grade Com Arts class. The assignment was to have the students read aloud an old Irish fable about a magical dwarf who lived in the woods.

“That’s rude,” one child complained. “They prefer to be called ‘Little People.’” He was clearly incensed. From then on, he insisted on reading about the magical Little Person.

It's easier not to be wise and measure these things by your brains ~Live, “I Alone”

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

More (Fragrant!) Bulbs...OR...Don't Just Feed a Cold; Suffocate It!

When my daughter was little, one of her first (and only) attempts at gardening was to plant a few cloves of garlic one fall. The following summer, we had a bumper garlic crop so impressive that it would have made any farmer (or vampire slayer) proud. When I asked my daughter what she planned to do with all that garlic, she shrugged. Turns out she doesn’t actually like garlic; she only wanted to see if it would grow. Enter this soup recipe, which requires an impressive 44 cloves. The roasting helps keep it from tasting like Death by Garlic. Really. Still, I’m sure it’s plenty pungent.

Can’t say for sure, though…. A long time ago I discovered that it has marvelous expectorant properties, so I’ve begun making it when I have a cold in order to ward off the evils of congestion. I’m convinced it dispatches those strength-sapping viruses tout de suite. A side benefit is that you can’t smell the garlic at all when you’re that stuffed up. My biggest concern was that the little Girl Scouts might pick this weekend to deliver our cookies and faint at our doorstep. (They didn’t.)

By the way, though it’s many years later, my daughter’s garlic patch continues to produce each year…mainly because we just never pick it all.

Note to Girl Scouts: The air has cleared here! We’re ready for you!!!

Roasted Garlic Soup

26 garlic cloves (unpeeled)
2 T olive oil

2 T (1/4 stick) butter
2 ¼ c. sliced onions
1 ½ t. chopped fresh thyme
18 garlic cloves, peeled
3 ½ c. chicken stock or canned low-salt chicken broth
½ c. whipping cream

½ c. finely grated Parmesan cheese (about 2 ounces)
4 lemon wedges

Preheat oven to 350°F. Place 26 garlic cloves in small glass baking dish. Add 2 T. olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper; toss to coat. Cover dish tightly with foil and bake until garlic is golden brown and tender, about 45 minutes. Cool. Squeeze garlic between fingertips to release cloves. Transfer cloves to small bowl.

Melt butter in heavy large saucepan over med-high heat. Add onions and thyme and cook until onions are translucent, about 6 minutes. Add roasted garlic and 18 raw garlic cloves and cook 3 minutes. Add broth; cover and simmer until garlic is very tender, about 20 minutes. Puree soup until smooth in blender (in batches), or use a hand-held blender. Add cream and bring to simmer. Season with salt and pepper. Can be prepared a day ahead and refrigerated at this point.

Divide grated cheese among 4 bowls and ladle soup over. Squeeze juice of 1 lemon wedge into each bowl and serve.  Serves 4.

"Good soup draws the chair to it." Ghanaian Proverb

Monday, March 8, 2010


So I just got a letter in the mail from the U.S. Department of Commerce telling me that next week I will get my census form. Is it me? Or does that seem like a HUGE waste of postage to send a letter…telling me that I’m going to get a letter?

I was subbing for a middle school P.E. teacher. It was right before 7th hour, which is usually the last hour in most of the middle schools in my district, but my notes said there was an 8th hour after that. So I asked another teacher if they had an 8th hour there.

Her reply: “Yes. You’re in hell. It just goes on and on here. And after that class period, you’ll discover there’s a 9th."

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Out of the Bleakness

Usually one of my other favorite things in life is throwing open the curtains and blinds on a Saturday morning, especially when it’s sunny out. Not so today. Today I have the cold that’s been making its rounds, and it feels like my head’s been blown full of fiberglass insulation…with a few glass shards thrown in just for fun. My face itches and my eyeballs feel hot and bald. Thank heavens it’s a weekend and I can just lie around.

But when I managed to crawl from my lair of sickness long enough to let the dog out this morning, this is what greeted me. It’s Iris reticulata, always the first flower of the year in my yard.

Ah, hope.

If winter comes, can spring be far behind? ~Percy Bysshe Shelley

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Here's What Makes Meme Happiest; How 'Bout You'm?

The other day, my friend Becky printed a “meme” that she found on another blog, offering it for others to take and do with what they chose. I’d never heard the word “meme,” so I looked it up. Here’s one definition from Dictionary.com:

meme- n. A unit of cultural information, such as a cultural practice or idea, that is transmitted verbally or by repeated action from one mind to another.

Hmm.  Anyway, the meme was simply to list 10 things that make you happy. Fun game. My problem was that there was no way I could keep it to ten. So I cheated and condensed them so much that they got ridiculous. 

So finally I gave up and started listing specific times I remember being overwhelmingly happy, and it was such a nice exercise that I invite you to do your own. What I discovered was that my happiest moments seem rare and precious and have a transcendent quality that leaves me feeling as if I’ve been touched by the divine.

For example, when I lived in Denver I’d occasionally drive up the mountains alone to a spot in Estes Park that was on the very edge of Rocky Mountain National Park. I’d throw a jacket on and change my summer shorts and hike up to the top of a mountain, just beyond the snow line, and look down. That echo of infinite blue mountains and unmelting snow and endless beauty was so completely untouched by humanity that it caught the air in my throat and brought tears to my eyes, and I would find myself standing as still as I could and holding my breath because I was an outsider in a holy place too sacred for something as unworthy as my breathing, even. It was like being allowed to glimpse the face of God. There is always something ironic to me in being so small and humbled as to slip into a spiritual wormhole and become a part of something huge. That's when the human spirit truly takes wing.

And when I felt filled up and grounded again, I would carefully tiptoe back through my own footprints to leave the snow as untouched as possible so as not to sully it with my graceless humanity, and drive home, feeling at once lightened and enlightened.

There is such a thing as perfection...and our purpose for living is to find that perfection and show it forth....Each of us is in truth an unlimited idea of freedom. Everything that limits us we have to put aside. ~Richard Bach