Sunday, December 21, 2014

Christmas is Food!

Normally, a food post this time of year might have included a dish my family has made since I was a child, or the sugar cookie recipe my children adore and swear of none better, or Tony's traditional Christmas Eve  dinner of kung pao chicken. Though all worthy foods, I must give homage to the simple foods that currently sustain me. They are natural, healthy and food for the Gods. Literally, in ancient Greek lore, pomegranates were considered food for the Gods. Pomegranates are delicious plain, but Kristi recently served pomegranates soaked in fresh orange juice. Unbelievably delicious. I try to keep a bowl in the fridge. My potluck dish of orange-juice soaked pomegranates was a hit last night at the neighborhood Christmas party. Pomegranates are also full of antioxidants.

Seasonal pomegranates days are numbered and I'll try to enjoy them until late December, hopefully longer.


  This fall, I discovered how much I love sweet potato slices. Almost better than Norman Love Chocolates (if you really want to splurge, google it- Fort Meyers Florida).


Back to the humble sweet potato. Peel and slice, drizzle with melted coconut oil and bake to perfection. It takes watchful time because each slice cooks at a different rate. The photo shows how I like them cooked best--just the perfect combination of crispy crunch/softness.

If you ignore the chocolates, there are two food ideas to help you through the Christmas feast without the food overload. A votre sante!

Saturday, December 20, 2014

video

Bergdorf Goodman

Before you see the splendor and the glamour of one of New York City's oldest, premiere department stores~~a reality-check story.

The Four Seasons gifted a $100 gift certificate to BG, or rather, BG gave to the hotel, the gift certificates to give patrons. How exciting! I'd failed to pack a pair of gloves and the New York City streets were brutal without them. With the gift certificate, I could pick out a new pair of gloves. The glove counters were the first display as I stepped in from the windy cold. The first pair of gloves I picked up were pricey. No problem, there were so many gloves to choose from. A whole case of gloves. Gloves displayed on a multitude of counters. All the prices were way beyond and just beyond my gift certificate allotment.

 I'll go to the kids' section; surely there will be plenty to buy for $100.The first pair of pants that caught my eye were soft, beautiful and trimmed with fluffy, fake fur. I checked the price-$50. Then I put on my glasses-$500. Whoa.

How silly of me to expect a free gift. Nothing is free. We always have to give back-or a portion~it's the law of the universe. I settled on a pair of gloves~that would cost me a little bit-a fraction of the full price.

Anyway...the money I shelled out for a beautiful pair of gloves was well worth it because of the time I spent in front of the Bergdorf Goodman Christmas windows. They were spectacular--as were all the Christmas display windows in NY city Christmas. It's a highlight tradition of the Christmas season and I read that Broadway set designers are often invited to design department store windows.I only wished I'd had time to see them all.

I hope the magnificence of each window comes through!


 These are all life size mannequins
 Tribute to Sculpture
 Dance
 If you imagine that the mannequin is six feet tall, which it probably is, it gives an idea of the scale.
Tribute to Music

 A mini window
 Theatre themed window
 Mini window
 The window's theme is architecture.
Literature themed window

The budget for each of these windows must be a mini-fortune! Hence, I'm thankful for the woman who can walk into BG and spend $5000 on a dress and not think twice. She's helped to fund a beauty that everyone can enjoy regardless of where they can or cannot afford to shop.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Christmas Traditions

There should be more, but the precious, validating moments of good parenting are scarce. So, when I have one, it's treasured. This validating moment came while visiting my daughter's house who is in the trenches of parenting three children.

I noticed the stack of books all wrapped and ready to unwrap and read each night before the big Christmas day.  She's carrying on the tradition I started when she was just a child.

Each Christmas, I'd add a new book or two to our Christmas book collection and every year, we'd unwrap a book each night and read that book. Unwrapping a present everyday in the days before Christmas helped to alleviate that unwrapping anxiety I suffered from as a child. Since there are no small children left in my home, I've passed on those books to her.


She then mentioned that her family would start delivering creche pieces to a neighbor. I was flooded with memories of my little family sneaking into the cold and doorbell ditching pieces of a creche until the final Christmas Eve when baby Jesus made his doorstep appearance. "Like we used to," I said and she became still, paused and remembered.

Each Christmas I would buy an inexpensive creche (nativity set) for this purpose. In the days after Christmas, I would find creches in the half price sale for next year's delivery. Depending on how many pieces, wisemen, shepherds, angels,~~we would allocate the nights and deliver a piece each night.  We would carefully choose the family who we thought would enjoy the ritual. Anonymously, we enjoyed the imagined surprise and meaning we brought to each family.

Yesterday, I had another cherished parent-reward moment. I was on my way to fulfill a new Christmas tradition I started with my grandchildren. I take them shopping to purchase their  family's gifts. When my twenty-one year old daughter recognized and told me how cool the shopping idea was--I promised to take her children (when she has them) Christmas shopping for her and her future husband. Given that that day is many years away, I imagined her children and myself as a much older woman passing through the store aisles. That I will be an older woman is the way of life for which I have no control. What I do have control over is how I spend that aged life: fulfilling traditions, spending time with precious ones yet to be born,  and loving those memories I can create.

Whether or not they are appreciated.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Get High

 I first noticed it in my sister more than in myself. Giving has always made me happy, but my sister's transition from regular old self to extreme joyful self, made me take notice. Maybe I've always been sensitive to my sister's moods. Maybe growing up with her, I've seen her in her worst moods, so I recognize her best moods. Maybe I was responsible for some of those worst moods as the little annoying sister...

Whatever it is or was, I recognize when my sister is high--high on joy. And it's always there when she is giving: love, money or kindness.

It's helped me formulate the idea that giving is a kind of high. There's nothing like it and giving is safe, safely addictive and no one ever gets hurt, or ill or weak, or certainly no one ever dies from an overdose. Or goes to jail.

Giving isn't only money. It includes time, kindness, gifts, consideration. Thinking of others more than ourselves is kind of counterintuitive, yet when we least think of ourselves is when we gratify ourselves the most.

 On my recent flight home from New York, I sat next to a young man who was traveling to an MBA executive schooling interview. He was an accountant/web manager at Macey's, had a wife and three small children. Conversing for a half hour, I knew he was a safe, good man. After learning he would have to take the airport train into the city, switch trains, and then his friend would have to drive late in the night to pick him up at the station, offering a ride was the only thing to do. And because I wasn't driving home alone, I felt comfortable offering him a ride to his destination.

As we neared the train station where his friend would pick him up, it seemed only right to take him a few more minutes to the house of his friend where he was staying.

It was a tiny dark house and we learned the friend just had a new baby. Our little effort had helped everyone. We said goodbye, he was grateful, and I was surprised at my own joy.

The funny thing is when we give wholeheartedly, we forget about ourselves and so the high is always a surprise. And there's nothing like unexpected joy.

What a high. Give and get high.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

To Thine Own Self Be True: WEIGH

My daughter picked me up from the airport and I thought she looked particularly beautiful. She's always beautiful to me, but tonight it was different: she had just come from the company of someone special. Ah...the love glow she had.

So...I was surprised when she said, I've been eating and exercising while you've been gone. And...her sister had taken a photo of her that helped her see she wasn't in top-notch form.

Why is it that when I live in my body everyday, my wake-up call is also a photo taken by the same daughter. Why is it only after I lose a little weight that I realize how badly I needed to lose weight?  It's called consciousness and mysteriously, we can somehow lose body consciousness. I think I've figured out a way to help myself stay body conscious~~weigh myself. After a twelve day vacation and 21 days into the holiday (Thanksgiving included), how else have I not gained the quintessential five pounds? Actually, I just read the average holiday weight gain is 7-10 pounds.

Daily weighing is not for everyone! I've known too many precious people who've suffered from everyday weighing right along with their eating disorder--which is another kind of unconsciousness.

Essential admonition for the day: Be true to thine self, just find out how to be true in the most individualized, healthy and happy way.

I especially love the double bonus from self-truth:

"To thine own self be true, and it must follow as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man." Polonius to (not conscious enough) Hamlet~~ William Shakespeare

This object used to be my enemy, but now I see it as a friend. In part, because it tells the truth.


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Gifting

Ah Christmas! I love it. You love it. Family. Decorations. The lights. The love. The Gifts!

The hardest part for me: the gifts. Many Christmases past, I've been paralyzed by my erroneous gift-thinking--my gift ideas aren't unique enough, thoughtful enough, nice enough; too utilitarian, not practical enough--not this or too much that. Am I spending enough money? Too much?

Paralyzed over gift giving for some dear neighbors, I relaxed when one of those neighbors delivered a simple, small box of mints. Ah ha, gift giving is the opportunity to say, Hey, at this special time of year, I wanted to remember you. The one simple gift helped me to change, but instead of over-worrying, the pendulum swung too far and I shifted my buying, baking, worrying until the too few days before Christmas. I know, I know.

This year, I've decided it's also important to give myself a gift, and I don't mean a new pair of shoes or jeans. A gift of peace and growth. This year I am giving myself the right, the joy, to not let other people's bad energy enter my space. The idea came while walking on a crowded New York sidewalk. The tip of my sister's umbrella nicked the head of an older woman. My sister had already passed when the woman reacted with spiteful, angry words. It wasn't pretty. I stopped and apologized to the woman telling her my sister didn't mean to hurt her. I asked if I could help her in any way. The woman's anger didn't affect me. Shifting her angry energy into genuine care is what, I believe, allowed me to escape the negative energy.

It was a miraculous moment when I realized I wasn't fazed at all, when normally the encounter would have been upsetting. For the rest of the week, I practiced deflecting any negativity that came my way. I'm not cured, but I've made progress and I'll continue focusing on this as a Christmas present to myself.

What's the difference between this Christmas present and a New Year's Resolution?

We so often make a desired positive change into a kind of chore or a goal that much be reached. I much prefer that happy, life enriching goals be considered a gift~a Christmas gift to myself.

I've always been intimidated and lackluster for making New Year's resolutions. Perhaps I will consider changing resolutions too, into New Year's gifts.

Monday, December 15, 2014

When Two Lives and the Christmas Season Intertwine

This was previously posted in January 2014-but it's a lovely Christmas story, so I had to re-post.

 



 Aaron is a psychologist. He has loving parents, grew up in a stable home, and counts his life as blessed. He's married, has a child and he and his wife are saving for their first home. Because money is tight, they decided to forego Christmas presents for each other. Christmas would be the new house.

Aaron works in a school for second  through eighth graders, where the children cannot function in a regular one-teacher classroom. The classes are small; eight students are paired with a teacher and an in-class helper.  Student rage and the consequential outbursts are common. Physical restraints are the norm.

 Clyde is an eighth grade boy who attends Aaron's school. He's been there since second grade when he was moved from a traditional classroom because of excessive bullying, hitting and desk-tossing outbursts. Cyde's move to the school coincided with his parents' breakup when each angry parent pitted him against the other, when the father pitted him against his brother, when his mother left him in the care of his non-working, angry, violent father.

In the two years that Aaron has worked with Clyde, he noted that during the colder months, that everyday Clyde wore the same hand-me-down sweatshirt from his older brother.  Aaron noticed not only the smell and the ragged condition of the sweatshirt, but he noticed the sweatshirt because he loves sweatshirts. Because of this, his wife broke the Christmas gift rule when she found a beautifully constructed sweatshirt she knew her husband would love.

When Aaron found the sweatshirt hidden in the trunk of the car, he knew it was his Christmas gift. He asked his wife's permission to use it for a different purpose. When he explained his desires, she too couldn't be happy if her husband chose to keep it.

On the last day of school before Christmas break, Aaron met with Clyde to say good-bye. Clyde hadn't been able to control his anger and was being sent to a tougher, tighter-controlled school for children with behavioral problems. It was yet again, another rough patch in Clyde's life. But before he said good-bye, Aaron handed Clyde a gift. Aaron explained how money was tight but he wanted Clyde to have this gift. This tough boy, kicked out of yet another school, opened his package and cried.


Sunday, December 14, 2014

The Open Door


Dharma Comics, Leah Pearlman

Saturday, December 13, 2014

12-13-14

Today is December 13, 2014,  and it is a great day to have a party. I hadn't thought of it until someone mentioned she was going to a 12-13-14 party!

I was in class on 10-10-2010 and at 10:10 and 10 seconds-we took a photo, countdown included.

I search for some meaning in these two days of coincidence, but at first glance, that's all there is: coincidence. But in a way, that's all there is to the other special days--the days we happen to be born on, the days we choose to marry, the day Christians chose to celebrate the birth of Christ, the day our country designated as the day of our independence. Really, they could have been other days.

The greater purpose to coincidence is finding meaning and specialness to our days, our lives. We want a reason to celebrate, a reason to making the moment significant. Significant moments create a significant life. I've found a way that makes every day significant and a reason to celebrate.

Every night at 8:00 p.m, my cellphone chimes with a reminder. I know the sound, I pick up the phone and read the self-sent message: Have I seen the hand of God in my life today? Often, when the chime rings, I am in the middle of a conversation or a task, but it still causes me to pause and sometimes in that second I remember the tiniest detail. More often, I'm away from my phone, but always returning, I'm always reminded that everyday is a day of celebration, because everyday God has a hand in our lives.


Friday, December 12, 2014

A Big Apple Christmas

The angels at Rockefeller
The rink at Rockefeller
A friend recently mentioned that the first visit to New York City was like drinking from a fire hydrant.

This week was my first Christmas season in New York and in spite of the rain and wind, it was lovely. My visit was like drinking from a warm cup of whipping-cream-topped-hot chocolate, sprinkled with colored sugar!

video

The light show projected on Saks Fifth
video
A Christmas tree complete with snow at Lee's Art store on 7th

The Tiffany Jewelry Store with diamonds ( of course)
The Four Seasons lobby

The sidewalk Christmas Tree lot

 One night after the theater, we couldn't hail a cab in the light snowing night. Finally, we opted for a pedicab, but it could only fit three. I jumped at the chance to walk at my own pace back to the hotel, stopping for the light  show at Saks Fifth Avenue, the crowds and lights at Rockefeller Square. I was bundled in a coat, hat and scarf and enjoyed the soft snow illuminated by all the lights.

Oh but the crowds!

I have always found New Yorkers to be kind and patient. My first visit was with a friend from Connecticut who frequented the city, and even she was surprised with our many kind encounters. "This isn't the New York I know," she said. But, it was in 2011, after 9-11, and people change, even a whole city after such devastation. That I was kind and expected people to be kind in return, perhaps was a key. How much of a person's behavior depends on expectations?

How much control do we have on another's behavior? The night after we couldn't find an after-theatre cab, we arranged for a car to pick us up after the play. There was a little confusion finding our driver: it was hard for my sister to hear the driver on the phone while walking down 45th (an especially congested, loud street after a play-but most New York streets are busy). Though he was only across the street standing next to a white truck, my sister was looking for the man driving a white truck. When we waited to enter his car, he scrambled to clear the front seat and change the backseat arrangement-he hadn't expected four of us. When we got in the car, he was shaken. After a few minutes, big sister leaned forward and touched his arm, " We are so appreciative of you coming for us." Kindness beget kindness and when we reached the hotel, we realized we'd had more laughs with our driver than we'd had at the comedy (more on that later).



Wednesday, December 10, 2014

A Soft Reef

Most of our lives, we've looked for the perfect beach and we've found more than our share. Pink sand, black sand, sand like powdered sugar, sand that squeaks. So when we landed on this seemingly rockier-than-usual beach, it was just another kind of beach; but I made an important discovery heretofore unknown!

The soft reef is the best for running! It's sort of a mini parkour workout. On a purely sandy beach that isn't packed, I've sunk deep into the sand which makes running difficult. On the soft reef, underneath the sand, there may be hard rock-- the perfect cushion for running.

The inconvenience comes when trying to find the perfect place to enter the water, but there's always a place.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The Crab In The Kitchen

We come home to a dark house after dinner out. Younger sister turns on the light and jumps back as something scurries.

"It's a rat! Its a bird." She continues watching at a safe distance, the rest of us at an even safer distance, afraid to go any closer.

The interloper is a crab.

I can handle a crab. I pick up a big bowl, grab a place mat, and a large spoon to direct the crab into the bowl. After he's captured, I'll carry him to the beach if I can determine he is a sea crab, or to the front yard if he is a land crab.

Ahhh, this crab is more savvy and more at home than I realized, and he out-moves me and disappears into a nice large crack between the stove and the cupboard.

"It's gone," I announce and put the crab catching paraphernalia back onto the shelves.

No one goes in to the kitchen for the rest of the night.

The next morning, older sister is first up and into the kitchen. The crab is waiting for her in the sink. She wants to retreat but she remembers, "I've been to Africa!" This is the qualifier for bravery she needs. When she approaches him with the bowl, he rises up, his claws held high like sharpened swords, but she stares him down with her memories of bats in her bedroom and almost spending the night in the Serengeti. She repeats her mantra, her battle cry, "I've been to Africa."

I'm amused and inspired by the courage conjured to remove the crab. I think about my own war cry when courage is needed. Though I haven't used it in a while, I recall it immediately and the many times I had to whisper or declare out loud, "I'm not afraid of you, I've raised four daughters. Hi-ya!"

Monday, December 8, 2014

Thanks

I love my grandchildren a bushel and a peck--actually a ton. This love equates serving and giving to these precious little souls. I give and serve without expectations--but....boy....when they appreciate my actions, it melts my heart, sends me to the moon, makes me want to hug, squeeze them to death and do everything else in the world for them.

Max's eleventh birthday:

"Max, what do you want for your birthday? Would you like to go shopping? Like I take Anni shopping for her birthday?"

Max thinks.

"Äre there some things you need? New pants, shirts? Anything?"

Max isn't very excited about shopping.

"Grandma, I would like to make a diorama."

"Ok. What does that entail?"

He tells me about a friend who made a diorama and how she got most of the things to make it at Hobby Lobby. I've never been to Hobby Lobby, but it sounds fun.

We plan the big day. Great Grandma is in town for Thanksgiving so it's a special treat to have her along.

Max brings along the miniature Hummer he is using to scale the diorama. He's put some thought into this.

We find the section and Max is extremely thoughtful. I think the project is going to cost a bundle, so I'm surprised when he's conscious of price and investment too. He goes for the simpler kit to first get the hang of things. I'm proud of this little guy who loves to build and create.

The shopping cart is full and I'm focused on the completed task and getting everyone home safe when I feel arms wrap around me and I hear his soft and tender words, "Thank-you Grandma."

I would swim around Cape Horn through shark infested waters for this child who felt gratitude.

I am pierced with the power of gratitude and it seems so clear why God asks us to acknowledge his hand in all things. It's because of gratitude. I picture a loving Heavenly Father and when I am grateful for even the slightest of his many blessings--he too is delighted and is inspired to love and give even more because one of his children is grateful.