Things were going on as swimmingly well as possible, even as this global pandemic still has us sheltering-in-place.
Until….yet another challenge presents– in what seems as another mountain to climb– to get to the other side of a semblance of normal (whatever that is anymore.)
And yet, mine is minuscule compared to many stories with devastating outcomes.
That said, still…in the middle of the night, when pain was shooting through my left eyeball, I found myself whispering that if I didn’t have any bad luck I’d have none at all.
To recap the last month: first there was the root canal less than a month ago. Peachy keen fun that was. Then there was a tooth extraction and bone graft a week later in preparation for a dental implant. None of this planned of course! The silver lining in all of that was four days of being face down in mashed potatoes. I honestly thought that was rather lovely as eating bowls of mashed potatoes is not normal fare for me.
I even sailed through the post oral surgery stuff quite nicely, without the need of taking strong painkillers.
I’m so badass!
Until this weekend.
It began with strange headaches…quite unusual for me…progressing to pressure and tingling. Then Saturday morning I wake up with a rash on my forehead.
“Lord have mercy this hurts,” I tell my husband in passing just before leaving the house on our early morning walk with The Poodle.
“What hurts?” he asks.
“I’ve got this stupid rash that showed up overnight.”
He takes a look and his response is immediate.
“That looks like Shingles.”
I thought my head was going to explode….and not just from a bout of shooting pain. Shit! Why now?! Why at all?! And, why on my face of all places!
“For the love of God what’s next?!” I yelled, as I chugged down a glass of water and Tylenol.
“Well…It is the year of the cicada.”
In fairness, he was immediately consoling and understandably worried too. You’ve got to get that looked at before it gets closer to your eye.
My thought in that exact moment?
I need to make a trip to the store for Bob Evans garlic mashed potatoes.
So kind reader….This morning I had my first ever virtual doctor’s appointment. It was surprisingly pleasant though admittedly, for this 62-year old, surreal.
“Yes…it looks like shingles is what you’ve got alright.” confirmed the lovely young doctor. I tell her I had received a shingles vaccination six years ago but, after a quick Google search, I learned that particular type vaccine was only good for about five years. The new vaccine, Shingrix, I learned, works wondrously better but it is not always easy to find. The doc this morning confirmed this.
Hopefully, as soon as this bitch of a development clears up I will be able to get the new vaccine.
Lest you think I might be ready to throw myself off a tall mountain, fear not! Yesterday, for the first time since March 14th I was thrilled beyond belief to able to purchase this much coveted item. I am, over the moon with gratitude.
Who knew toilet paper could elicit so much joy and excitement?
…and no, I do not refer to a narrow spade for cutting the roots of plants and weeds.
Rather, it’s the lovely potato that I refer to. The deliciously starchy root vegetable that I once proclaimed–as any silly five year-old might–I would marry because I loved it so much.
So…six days ago I had to have a tooth extracted (a molar…number 31, to be precise). No…not the best thing to have to do in any circumstance, for sure, but even less so during a pandemic. I have to say the oral surgeon’s office was excruciatingly thorough in following Coronavirus safety protocols. I couldn’t get into the building without answering basic questions on my health and travel status (travel? Are you kidding me?) and my temperature was taken with a nifty digital thermometer that simply hovered over my forehead. Every office staff member was masked and someone was wiping down every counter, pen, chair and magazine stand literally every ten minutes. It was so exhaustive that I was surprised that the staff weren’t attired in hazmat suits.
Two hours later, the extraction complete–which included a bone graft (a synthetic material packed into the extraction site) as the first step in preparation for a dental implant–I was on my way home. I exited the building, out into the bright sunshine and crisp-cool breeze, with the right side of my mouth packed in gauze. My cheek was already beginning to swell significantly, and my head was pounding but I was so thankful to have that “little” ordeal over with. After a stop at the pharmacy for pain medication (which seemed to take forever) we were homeward bound. Once there, I plopped myself into my favorite chair and welcomed The Poodle who remained in my lap for hours until throbbing pain forced me to get up and take a pain pill. Still, I was happy to read, finishing Lisa Wingate’s emotional story based on true events Before We Were Yours and then starting former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley’s book: With All Due Respect…and even happier dozing with the warmth of my poodle-love curled in my lap.
It would be close to eight o’clock in the evening before I felt the first pangs of hunger. I hadn’t eaten anything in twenty-four hours.
“Do you want chocolate ice-cream or mashed potatoes?” asked my husband.
I’ll try the potatoes was my reply.
Not even ten minutes later I was presented with a small bowl of Bob Evans garlic mashed potatoes. I ate those first small spoonfuls in a painfully slow and hesitant manner as the swelling (despite icing the area) was still significant. But, Oh My God dear reader, let me just say….
…those spoonfuls sent me straight to heaven.
“God these potatoes are amazing” I said groaning with pleasure. I could eat this for the rest of my life and be happy.
And indeed, for four days straight, following the soft food regimen necessary after oral surgery, I ate heaping bowlfuls of Bob Evans mashed potatoes. Loaded, garlic mashed….sour cream and chives mashed….or just plain mashed….
I was…and still am…in spud heaven.
If you’re looking for something new to soothe your soul during this pandemic, I highly recommend going face down in mashed potatoes.
Unless one has been living under a rock for the past couple of months it’s painfully obvious that we’re all living in some pretty challenging, downright frightening, times. In my neck of the woods (some twenty miles from our nation’s capital) we’ve been doing the whole stay at home thing and social distancing since March 15th. I’ve seen my sister and her family twice since then and she lives two doors down. We’re washing our hands with never before OCD fervor and, since we cannot find even one roll anywhere, we’re counting toilet paper squares (not naming names here but…someone in my house is becoming OCD about that too). We are also watching entirely too much Netflix and T.V. And, don’t get me started on the bathroom weight scale. Okay…get me started; I’ve gained five pounds and naturally, I’m not too pleased with myself. Even my Apple Watch is disappointed with me: You’re Usually Farther Along By Now….get moving…it practically shouts.
And, to make matters just a tad more complicated I am experiencing significant tooth pain. My issue has been brewing since last September. The periodic pain forced several visits to the dentist and one to the endodontist. Oddly, we weren’t able to definitely pin point which was the affected tooth (there were two candidates) so the last advice was to simply keep monitoring the situation and of course return when the pain started to get more frequent. Months have now gone by with nary a twinge of pain.
Until a week ago.
Yes indeed, you’d be saying. Great timing. Let’s have a dental issue return during a global pandemic…when practically everything (including my dentist’s office) is shuttered…until June!
Despite the dental office being closed I was fortunate that my dentist returned my measured (read: not frantic) call yesterday. However he confirmed he cannot practice, per CDC guidelines and our state Governor’s edict, until June. Before my head could pop off in disbelief he advised to go back to the endodontist and he would initiate the call. Thank God! Apparently endodontists are considered essential care workers. I was all set to see him in the morning.
That was on Thursday of last week.
So, I’ll admit to having a crying-in-my-soup moment. Between the throbbing tooth pain, not seeing or hearing from family, and having the routine of life upended with no clear light at the end of the tunnel I was a five-minute mess. Not only has year-to-date has been less than stellar–an understatement— but I went into the Easter holiday with a root canal.
After my five minute melt-down, and, as I nursed the throbbing pain in my mouth with tea and Advil, I happened to be reading a book review for Fortitude: American Resilience in the Era of Outrage by Dan Crenshaw. He’s the Navy Seal who was seriously wounded in Afghanistan in 2012. He spent many grueling months in rehabilitation including extended periods of time harnessed face down in a hospital bed. He lost one eye, which is now covered by a black path. In 2018 Mr. Crenshaw went on to win a long-shot victory, becoming a U.S. House of Representatives congressman for Texas’s second congressional district. The book (which I am set to read) explores how he was able to be resilient in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds and how prevailing cultural ills and whatnot are occurring due to a decline of resilience, also giving rise to victim-hood as a virtue. What I gather from a brief snippet of reading is that his “calm and serene” attributes, formed in part by his Navy Seal training, have served him incredibly well.
I suppose this book review caught my eye because during my five-minute meltdown it was clear I needed to put my own challenges during this time of global crises (which are more than just tooth pain) into perspective. Things could always be worse….much worse…and they are and have been for many souls around the globe. I realized too that my meditation practice, though fraught with distraction during the last several weeks, has helped immeasurably. I just haven’t been giving myself enough credit (a serious character flaw). So, yes indeed: my five-minute meltdown would have easily been a far longer and dismal pity-party, say a year ago. And besides, I am human after all and even the Dalai Lama gets testy, though on rare occasions.
Unfortunately, that root canal revealed a root fracture which means the tooth needs extracting. I hear the news with a strange calmness. It is what it is. After I made the call to the oral surgeon to schedule the extraction, I try not to worry about the expense of yet another dental implant (I have had two already) particularly as we watch our retirement savings go on their roller-coaster ride or hear more incredibly bad news about the economy. Instead, I keep downing Advil and Tylenol to manage the pounding in my jaw and I remain thankful that I have a roof over my head, that most of my family and friends are safe and that my poodle-love is curled at my side, snoring away.
On This Easter Monday, I count my blessings, and there are many.
I know what you’re thinking. Yes…I know what is going on in the world. But the coffee shop was open…and, well, my soul needed a moment.
This Starbucks moment was a few days back when I needed to get a few items from the grocery store. Just days prior to this visit store shelves were empty. No meat, produce…not even one single potato to be found. It goes without saying that the cleaning supplies aisle was completely bare and I was surprised too that the bread and milk aisles were also nearly wiped out. I will never forget the anxiety of that moment. Unlike so many in the world, in all my years, I had never seen anything like that.
So…As I did during my previous visit, once in the store, I engaged in the new normal; I wiped down the grocery cart not once, but twice. I was relieved to see that the produce aisles were decently stocked. As I made my way through the store I used additional wipes during several more aisle stops including just after paying for my items. There was a certain electricity in the air that made my heart pound. Maybe it’s just my imagination? Maybe it’s just that the weather is going to change? In any event, the feeling had me walking quickly back to my car. Before I even reached my car I realized that I had been practically holding my breath during the fifteen or so minutes in the store.
Honestly, I felt as if a weight of a hundred bags of sand had been placed on my chest. A mild panic was brewing…
My morning had already been fraught with enough anxiety –for a variety of reasons too raw to share– and I needed to quell what was bubbling to the surface.
A treat of sorts would surely work, I reasoned. Hence I headed to the place that often soothes my soul.
After loading my two bags of groceries in the car (no hoarding here!) I walked over to Starbucks. Upon entering the coffee shop I immediately saw that things were in full-on social distancing mode. Well, that IS a good thing. All tables and chairs had been moved to the wall and stacked so as to not be available for use. There were three baristas behind the counter but only two customers to serve. Perfect! I can get a cup of coffee (i.e., support a local business during an economic meltdown)…say hi to another fellow human being (naturally, adhering to social distancing protocol)…and leave a nice tip too for the barista who is no teenager (that is to say, I reckon she’s got mouths to feed).
Immensely thankful for my espresso fix I got my coffee and left the shop. But, before heading directly to my car, I chose to stand outside in the sun for a moment drinking in the warmth from both coffee and the late morning sunshine. As I did so, a rather imposing looking dude with his tiny white fluffy dog sat at a table just outside of Starbucks’ doors. I moved myself over a good distance way, say fifteen feet, and took a sip of coffee. I noted the guy with the dog had a cup of coffee in one hand and was on the phone with his other. He seemed plenty agitated with whomever he was talking to. I only caught a word here or there as I was more intent on watching a tiny bird hunt for crumbs on the sidewalk. After a moment or two I can hear that he ends his conversation with, “…anyway, I love you.” Not a moment later he looks over at me and practically yells, “This world is going to hell!”
For a second, I thought of bolting for the car. He seemed to me on the cusp of becoming unhinged. In fact, I’m sure he could flatten me with just a look. Still, he’s got a cute fluffy dog at his feet and he just told someone “I love you” so….let’s give this moment a chance.
“Well, yes…these are surreal times we are living in,” was my measured response.
“I am retired military—twenty years of doing service for this here country,” he says banging his hand on the table. His coffee cup takes a bounce but he catches it before it falls. “This whole thing is some twisted shit and it’s freaking me out. I am used to order, discipline…being in control! And right now, ain’t nothing going right!” he said shaking his head.
“I feel ya. It’s all pretty crazy. I’ve had a difficult morning myself,” I offered. “But you know what, I realized in a moment of bubbling panic that constant listening to the news and opines on social media wasn’t serving me one bit. I mean, ya gotta be informed, right? I get it. But still, I just had to stop…step back…take a breath. And, get coffee. Well, I also have to take more than a breath and keep repeating my little phrase.”
“You’ve got a phrase?” he asked looking at me with keen interest.
“Oh…well yes. It’s nothing special and I am sure you’ve heard it before. I just keep saying This Too Shall Pass. Honestly, it is helping me to not get so wound around the axle, especially during these crazy times. I’m not perfect at keeping the anxiety at bay…really, I am not…but every time I stop and catch the rising panic with a deep breath and my phrase, well, it helps in that moment anyway.”
“Yeah. I tend to get worked up real good because of my deployments,” he said. “I am getting counseling for it. It ain’t been an easy road…and…well, I’ve stopped drinking,” he added.
Resisting the urge to give this guy a high five (for obvious reasons) I gave him my brightest smile possible, saying: “Awesome for you! Keep up the good work. It’s one day at a time. Just takes deep breaths when you feel the wave of anxiety start to take over and keep saying over and over This Too Shall Pass.”
“Thank you for that,” he said.
I waved goodbye and headed to my car.
I‘m so glad I took a moment with a complete stranger. I’d like to think I gave him something positive to hold on to for the day, at the very least, for a few minutes. And, truth be told, the brief exchange lifted my spirits too. Both of us, without a doubt, feel levels of vulnerability and certainly undeniable fear–it sure seems that everything is spinning out of control and we are helpless souls in the thick of it all. Every moment seems to grow heavier with worry. Worry for my Italian family. Worry for my children…my family…my neighbors, worry for our own financial future, and so on. For each of us, our survival is being radically threatened and the stress of it is overwhelming; it would be all too easy to shut down and simply throw in the towel as it were. But, connection is crucial to humanity. We cannot survive without it. The reality is social connection–human touch– during these frighteningly surreal times is certainly much more difficult, but thankfully, not impossible. Taking time to offer kind words and smiles (with social distancing in mind) as well as frequent text messaging and talking to friends and loved ones by phone, Skype, Zoom…whatever flavor of technology… will most certainly get us through waves of panic to calmer waters. Humor and silliness helps too. So does coffee…
Everything is going to be okay (one way or the other). I’m certain of it. I have to be.
It’s how I feel about the past several weeks so far, on so many levels.
First, I should explain Bah-shiznik. I learned not long ago that “Shiznik” is an actual word. Who knew? In case you, my kind readers, didn’t know, Shiznik is a slang term as noted in both the Urban dictionary and the Online Slang dictionary. As a noun, it means: that’s just some sweet S**T….as in awesome or cool.
My variation, which I’ve been saying for a number of years, came about in a moment of singing my sorrows in the shower. In an effort to reduce expletives in the course of challenging moments, I came up with what I thought was a fictional word. In my little world, bah-shiznik means, quite the opposite, as in: that is just some terribleShit: NOT awesome.
What began in Wuhan China in late December of 2019 has gone global and it’s just bah-shiznik, for everyone.
So, best laid plans for a Spring get-away have been officially cancelled…all two weeks of it and, perhaps our back-up plans B and C, which is…well…just bah-shiznik. As you can imagine, we are in a bit of a funk at my house…and my sister’s too…as that get-away would have been a lovely break for us to visit family in Europe. Our destination would have taken us to one of the hardest hit places of COVID-19 outside of China, Northern Italy. Indeed, as of the end of February, Italy has been hit harder than anywhere else in Europe by the Coronavirus, with the second highest number of fatalities in the world. At this writing, all of Italy, affecting some 60 million people, is on total lock down. Images of Italy are surreal. The streets are empty of both locals and tourists, shops are shuttered, schools and universities are closed. Life has, it seems, come to a complete standstill. San Marco’s square in Venice is a ghost town as are many other popular tourist cities and towns in Italy. Even Pope Francis, fighting a cold but fortunately testing negative to the virus, is using live-streaming to deliver Mass. He is even asking priests to visit Coronavirus patients despite the entire country under order of lock down. And, It goes without saying that Italy’s economy is in danger of collapsing amid this crisis. This is just bah-shiznik.
We were all excited about plans to stroll through the streets of Rome for three days before taking the train north to spend Easter with our Italian family in the Friuli-Veneto region. Our last visit “home” was about four years ago but that was underscored by heavy hearts because my mother had just passed. This trip promised to be lighthearted, joyful and adventurous.
My heart is heavy as I think about it all. Naturally, we are quite concerned for our beloved Italy but more-so for our Italian family. To date, there have been more than 600 fatalities in Italy and there are over 9,000 Italians infected. Though our Italian friends and cousins are in fairly good health and practice optimal lifestyle choices, they are nonetheless at increased risk due to age. We know the lock-down is making life incredibly difficult for them and we feel a certain despair at not being closer to help in any way. Still, we keep in contact via messaging, sending photos and video clips that hopefully brings cheer to their day.
In the meantime, back on the home front, we’re washing our hands til they practically bleed. There is my nephew’s band concert to enjoy, coffee breaks at Starbucks, and long walks with The Poodle. Mostly, we’re doing our best to stay calm and level-headed through the panic (sometimes warranted but mostly insane, in my humble opinion) that has gripped the world. Thank goodness for my solid meditation practice. If you need a phrase (mantra) to repeat over and over again feel free to consider my mantra of the week: This is just bah-shiznik…but this too shall pass.
The Poodle took to barking early this morning. It’s not a usual thing for him to do. In fact, he’s usually curled tight into a ball, sound asleep in his bed, so much so that I literally have to pry him out of it for his morning walk. His carrying on so early in the morning brought me back to Valentine’s day just weeks ago. On that morning a hard knock on the door just after sunrise would be the reason The Poodle bolted from his cozy spot barking like crazy as his nearly twelve year-old legs tumbled the rest of him down the stairs. It’s a wonder he didn’t wind up at the vet’s office.
I had been making my bed before the silence of the morning was interrupted. For heaven’s sake…who could that be? I wondered as I looked at my watch. Making my way down the stairs I spy, through a window by the door, the reason for The Poodle’s exuberant barking….
Ah…but who else! It’s Alexandre-the-Greatest.
I opened the door to a beaming smile and my nephew presenting me with a delicate orange rose surrounded by baby’s breath followed by a hug that surely shook the earth….at least, it shook mine. Love poured out of this terrific young soul and for that brief moment in time my entire being was in the pure awe and enjoyment of it.
On this morning however, there was no knocking at the door. In fact, all was quiet on the western front as it were. Espresso in hand, I looked everywhere for a reason for the harsh break of my usual morning calm. I’ve no idea what got my Poodle love into such a tizzy; there weren’t dogs barking in the ‘hood nor was the paper being delivered. I could have yelled at him to stop, as I have done on more than one occasion out of head-splitting frustration. His bark is loud and deep for a medium sized boy! But on this morning I held my tongue and instead, issued soothing hushes followed by my whispering in his ear: Thank-you…um…for bringing whatever that was to my attention.”
No…I cannot be undone by such deafening barking. I know this is just a moment in time….an annoying one to be sure, but one moment all the same.
You see, I’d just read a faithful blogger’s post about the passing of her own Poodle-love and it knocked my heart into my gut. Her Poodle-love Sam was the heart and soul of her writings…of her life…and as a volunteer service pooch, it was clear Sam brought joy to a wide community of folks, from those in hospital to those living around the block. Hearing of someone losing their four-legged love naturally makes one think of the rainbow bridge that looms on the horizon for their pet. Yes, it is ever on my mind even as I struggle not to live in fear of that inevitable day.
As I walked The Poodle later in the morning the sun was struggling to break free of clouds. I hurried faster than usual to keep warm, much to The Poodle’s dismay. As I reached the bottom of the hill, right at the lake, I stopped to see if our resident beaver was anywhere to be seen. “Hmm….not today,” I say to The Poodle. A wisp of melancholy welled up inside of me as I stood watching the ducks glide effortlessly through mud-colored water. I thought of Poodle Sam and even my California friend who gave wings to my journey into Poodle love. Through earbuds, I was listening to David Darling’s Solitude— and of course my thoughts took a unexpected turn down a long ago path–as if to match the gloomy sky–and so then I was stuck in the past….
Many years ago, as I struggled with the end of a marriage I went to an astrologer to have my chart done. Providing only my birth date, birth place and time I was hopeful that she could give me a scintilla of understanding as to what the hell was happening with my life and why. When I met with her weeks later for the reading, she told me a lot of things– which for the most part were spot on–including something that affected me so viscerally that to this day it still bubbles to the surface every now and then (like today) and not in necessarily in a good way.
“You are crucified when it comes to love.” It is not meant to be….
It made sense to me given my childhood and a host of other things.
As much as I’d ruminate on that for years afterwards–and believe it’s truth when stuck in my own pity party over one thing or another–I can, in this decade of my sixties, believe otherwise. Whew….Isn’t that lovely! How could I not with this Poodle happily trotting, albeit slowly, by my side! And, I’d be blind not to see love in the dried remnants of an orange rose …or even in the eyes of my husband after tense moments in a day that compels him to say “you are my home.” I could go on and on kind reader, but I’m sure you’d be bored silly. Let’s just say that in moments of doubt, sadness or fear…in moments when heart and soul are a tangled mess on contemplating life without hugs and goofy smiles…orange roses and bottles of red wine…or poodle love and sister hugs…and everything else too numerous to name — I remain humble and grateful that, contrary to anything written in the stars, love just is. And, yes….I am unabashedly greedy for more in whatever nuance comes my way.
Kind reader, I feel compelled to correct a sentiment from my previous post. There, if memory serves, I lamented about how it took hours to put up Christmas decorations on, for example, the foyer staircase but only two minutes (if) to take it all down. I was dragging my feet, if you recall over even getting started on packing away Christmas for another eleven months. My family will attest that I usually have everything down and put away with lightning speed on January 1st! But this time around was different. Chalk it up to this whole aging thing I suppose. I simply was not ready to stop my nightly ritual over the past month of sitting in the near darkness of my living room to admire the lights and decorations on the Christmas tree and fireplace mantle. I wanted to keep all the Christmas memories alive from years past, swirling in my head and heart..yes, even the not so good memories. I did not want to forget the stories of some of my most treasured tree ornaments: The ornament from our week in Hawaii or our long weekend in Alaska… or the two that represent baby’s first Christmas, nor the ornament purchased years ago in a German Christmas market on a frigidly cold day in December….
…so many ornaments (simple and inexpensive, I might add) and with each, a recollection dear.
So, when I took the tree down on January 6th, I managed to spend as much time (if not more!) with its “undressing” as I did in its adornment. I didn’t plan it that way but after five minutes into the process, it evolved quite naturally and I think it may become my new post holiday ritual. It came, however not without caloric implications. Sigh.
Indeed, I do believe I actually gained a pound in my effort to slow the process of putting away Christmas (which is not quite how I wanted to start my New Year’s fitness resolution). How did I accomplish such a feat you may wonder? My strategy was genius–so it seemed at the time–and took the better part of the day. So, if slowing things down is on your list of things to try, say for next holiday season, here is what you must do:
Take one or two (max) ornaments down from the tree and take special care to wrap them just so and place them thoughtfully, mindfully, in the appropriate storage container…
Then take a break. This step is paramount. Step one was, after all, emotionally taxing…
Fix yourself a cup of coffee and grab a holiday cookie. In my case, I had a large holiday cookie tin filled with homemade Pizzelles.
Sit down and savor the cookie whilst admiring the tree. Then, of course, you’ll need to spend time cleaning up the powdered sugar that has fallen everywhere.
Return to step one to begin the process again.
So, I have packed it all away, save for the outdoor lights which is not in my job description (hint, hint Rocket-man!) and am officially kissing Christmas 2019 goodbye. Now begins, in earnest a scaling back on all things coated with powdered sugar and the like.
I’m okay with that. Christmas 2020 is 351 days away. Besides, patience is a virtue, right?
No…It’s not due to fatigue, although I am tired from a small get-together I threw on Friday evening. It’s been many moons since I’ve properly entertained, and it was a spur of the moment decision, so I was anxious about the whole thing. I was relieved to have my sis’s help hours before folks started ringing the doorbell. While the planning, cooking and cleaning was a wee bit stressful since I was out of practice, in the end–I’m happy to report– it was all a delightful success. We noshed on an assortment of Italian munchies I had put together such as an Italian version of deviled eggs–uova in funghetto— which are boiled eggs bathed in a spicy tomato sauce. Polenta bites and dips of delicious sun-dried tomato and chickpea and spinach and artichoke were a hit. It was the muffaletta sliders that would steal my husband’s heart. Stuffed with my favorite Italian “deli” meat, mortadella, as well as provolone, soppressata, cappacolla, and a heavenly olive tapanade, he would have eaten a dozen of them before guests arrived if allowed. My heart went for a new recipe I tried of stuffed mushrooms–so delicious was this recipe that my soul was singing with joy as the smell of garlic, cheese and white wine permeated every room in the house.
…and don’t get me started on dessert. Between my ricotta cheesecake squares, pecan pie from Mom’s pie shop in nearby Occocuan, and homemade pizzelles at the hands of my nephew Alexandre-the-Greatest, you can, kind reader, understand why I am not hopping on the weight scale anytime soon!
To be clear, I’m dragging my feet for an entirely different reason than post-party “hangover.”
I’m simply not ready to pack Christmas away for another eleven months.
I believe I am not alone in thinking that this holiday season flashed by in blink of an eye. For me anyway, It is still a blur of lights, wrapping paper, bows and pomegranate martinis. Furthermore, it confounds me every year that it takes days to decorate for the holidays but minutes to take everything down! For example, it took me the better part of an hour to get Christmas greenery with lights and pretty silver bows to look just so on the entryway stairs. It took two minutes to take it all down. Two minutes!
Now It is the last night of the twelve days of Christmas, the eve of Epiphany when the Magi visited the newborn baby Jesus, carrying with them gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. There is an intentional slowness about me today knowing that tomorrow morning I’ll be taking the Christmas tree down and once again, packing away with a certain tenderness, mixed with nostalgia, all the ornaments and Christmas decor. I struggle too with memories of Epiphanies long ago when my children were young. How excited they were about the coming of La Befana, the Italian good witch…an old woman flying around the world on her broom bringing sweet treats and small gifts to children everywhere. In our home, on the eve of Epiphany, I’d leave a basket by a window and watch with delight as the kids found La Befana’s gifts of candy and a small toy the next morning.
Sigh. My eyes well up with tears as I type. So many memories. It’s all good though…even the less than stellar holidays. I’m lucky to have them all…so much better than the alternative!
So kind readers, Happy New Year! Cheers to 2020. May the year be filled with love, joy, kindness and even 2020 insight. But, more importantly, may there be an abundance of blissful moments for you and yours.
Where has the time gone? Or, more importantly, you may be asking (no worries if not)…did I fall off the planet?!
Regrettably, it has been awhile since I’ve put pen to paper, so to speak, but yowza has time flown! November is but a blur. How is it possible that Thanksgiving has come and gone? In fact, really….Did November happen at all? I may have been abducted by aliens or temporarily sucked into some black hole in the universe because…honestly my normal routine, for inexplicable reasons fell by the wayside. I fell off, for example, the gym wagon preferring Hallmark Christmas movies to pumping iron. Nor did I make homemade tortellini for our Thanksgiving meal, something I have done for a handful of decades.
For goodness sake…did I even eat turkey and my favorite stuffing?
Oh silly me. I kid. Why yes! Whew! My waistline knows for sure!
Through the fog of sweet treats and libations memory serves (thankfully) that turkey and all the delicious trimmings, to include a pecan pie to die for, was enjoyed at my house. As a matter of fact, Sis and Company hauled their dishes to share through the modest pathway that connects our back yards. Of course, we ate ourselves silly and as we did so our lively chatter included everything from tortellini making strategies, what gifts were left to purchase and wrap and Christmas traditions, past, present and future.
Which brings us to a few days shy of the end of December. Where in heavens name did that entire month go? Remnants of holiday ribbons and bows that adorned packages are piled in a glass bowl still on my coffee table. As I regarded them this morning over my second cup of coffee I realize I’m stunned. What? Christmas is over? Christmas– and with it, the sounds and sights of the season– has come and gone?!
Poof. Just. Like. That. Gone for another year.
Still…If I sit very quietly with eyes closed, the days leading up to Christmas return. I listened to Christmas music and hummed my favorite carols from morning to night. I gushed like a kid over the twinkling, bright holiday lights that lit up everything from neighborhood trees to greenery on our mantle. And I smiled from ear to ear when I attended my nephew’s holiday concert. Oh the joy in his parents eyes, and mine, to watch our little man play his saxophone!
Yes, I hold dear all the sweetness, love, joy, laughter and holiday lattes as well as a few tears thrown into the mix too…because, well…it is that time of year! It never fails, nor arguably should it; the time of year when we often reflect upon not only a host of Christmas memories from long ago but also on a lifetime of relationships with family and friends. The good and the bad and everything in between.
So….this Christmas eve had Sis and I in my kitchen kneading pasta dough. Nothing quite gets one into deep rumination like kneading dough for eight to ten minutes, by hand. Sure, I could use dough hook to do the deed but it is so much more satisfying to put heart, soul and muscle into the dough.
“Mom would be so proud that we are carrying on her tortellini tradition,” said sis as she pressed the heals of her hands deep into a ball of dough.
Eh, si cara I thought as I reached for the bag of Tipo 00 flour. “Yes, and she’d really love our new tradition from the past four or five years… the “tortellini wars”… with our Italian family in Italy,” I said. Indeed…my favorite cugino of all time, Paolo, had just days before messaged from Italy. “Tortellini Team Udine” had thrown down the gauntlet preparing a whopping 516 tortellini!
Lord have mercy! Who is going to eat all that tortellini? Are they feeding the Italian Army?! There’s no way we’re going to beat them this year,” I thought.
Sis, in a deeply pensive mood, lamented for a moment as we kneaded away. “I’m so glad my young son loves helping in the kitchen,” she said. “It makes me sad though that after I’m gone there will be no one to carry on this holiday tradition.”
“You don’t know that sis,” I said stopping for a moment to take a sip of red wine…because….well, one cannot possibly make tortellini without a glass of wine nearby. “He loves helping us with tortellini and he’s getting good at rolling the dough through the pasta machine and knowing when the thickness of the pasta is just right to begin the next step in the process: adding the filling and folding the dough into the requisite ring (belly button) shape. Mark my words sis, all that you do, especially during the holiday season, willnot be forgotten by that great kid of yours. And, truth be told, I’m still amazed that my daughter holds certain traditions dear. With our less than ideal relationship I would have never thought it possible that she too would carry on the pasta-making tradition.
This seemed to lift my sis’s spirits. And so, on Christmas eve, with some extra hands to help (my nephew, and even my husband!) we got into a steady rhythm with peaceful Christmas piano music in the background as we worked, churning out 496 tortellini–my half filled with a leek mixture and my sister’s half filled with a finely ground mixture of mortadella, prosciutto cotto (the cooked variety) and pork loin. Yes, dear reader, this mixture proved to be absolutely divine with butter and sage!
And indeed…I will confess that my competitive spirit kicked in. So much so that since some of my prepared leek and parmigiano filling remained after I ran out of dough, I was fully enthusiastic to knead up another batch of dough to move us triumphantly over the finish line to a first place victory. Alas, my team was apparently exhausted and were a sip of red wine close to revolt (full disclosure: we would have been perilously close to missing Mass) so my plan was summarily overruled. Harrumph.
Next year, Tortellini Team Udine!
As 2019 comes to a close I can only let out a long, slow breath filled with infinite gratitude. The next moment could bring heart wrenching pain or joys beyond belief; there may be harmony or incongruity, love or extreme dislike (you get the gist) …that is the journey of life. Really, the mess of it all is not for the faint of heart. Still, up or down, great or small, I’m eagerly anticipating it all. So tonight, as I ponder on past, present and future, I’ll raise a glass to those I’ve lost, to those who are still here and to whatever awaits in the new decade.
As I walked in the woods this morning I reflected on my current funk. Waking up to post-election news of Northern Virginia started my day off blue, exceedingly blue, and that’s not the color I had in mind. I was content enough with purple. There’s a balance in that, I thought, as I stood for a moment to watch a heron perched high up in a tree. I supposed he (or she) was surveying the lake below for something decent to eat.
As I took a deep breath of the cold morning air I let it out slowly. The mantra, This Too Shall Past surfaced again; it seems to be my recurrent sentiment as of late. It bubbles up countless times a day now. Actually, I’m grateful that it does; it keeps me grounded in these deeply polarizing times.
I’ve never worn politics on my sleeve which is odd I suppose considering that forty years ago I graduated with honors from the University of Colorado with a degree in Political Science. After all these years…after marriage, kids, a divorce, remarriage- in a word, life--I still think back to those four college years. Back then, my mother complained on more than one occasion that university life was turning me into a “bleeding heart liberal.” In truth, my easily swayed nature during those years simply gave in to the student masses, that, and the need for a good grade. I’ll never forget the one “C” I had on a pol. sci. paper was due to my opposing opinion on an assigned reading. That’ll teach you. The game is: tell the profs what they want to hear if you want to get a good grade. So I did, sweeping conservative leanings well under the carpet.
Still, I considered myself a moderate then..not right, not left but somewhere in the middle, which, on the whole seems perfectly rational given that I am a Libra.
My funk in this moment really isn’t about “losing” per se. Sure, I would have liked my candidate to win. My disappointment is really over a loss of civility. It’s been on a downward spiral for years now, starting well before our current President was even considering a White House run. Can’t we not be kinder, more civil, to one another even as the “color” changes? One cannot say, for example, “I’m sorry your candidate lost,” and be done with that. Instead there is rallying, tribal, sophomoric chest pounding combined with social media comments that are beyond the pale. Take that you evil “red” (can’t repeat) , or…Democrats won you fascist rag. The sentiment is: We are going to slay you now that we have ALL the control. There is not even a smidgen of pretense to worktogether anymore. Our polarization has, in my humble opinion, limited our future and we are weaker for it.
How will this blue, Hear-Me-Roar, chest pounding, get anything of substance accomplished?
Add to that: Seriously, is it really necessary to stomp on the heads and hearts of those who believe–or voted– differently as your victory cry? Don’t get me wrong, toxicity is rampant from the “red”camp too. Social media comments from the right side of the isle have been just as egregious as those on the left. This whole incivility business, as well as our current state of extreme ideologies has me wanting to curl up under a warm fuzzy blanket with a stack of escapism books and my Poodle-love snuggled at my side….at least through the end of 2020. That, and a fabulous bottle (or two) of Cabernet. Okay…and dark chocolate as well.
Have no fear kind readers. I know what I must do.
Smile…and just keep on saying: This too shall pass.