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lastsupper

The engine that drives our lives and our memories, is generally fueled by food, and ironically, not always the real deal-a-meal…pictures are just as effective.  I can’t remember a time growing up with my family, that didn’t have a pie somewhere, you see, Mom rocked the pie empire! There were also both her deviled and pickled eggs and sugar cookies and my mother-in-law was there with spaghetti sauce, borscht and green salad, along with countless others. Later, when I had my own family, my special cinnamon rolls were as expected as the handmade fondant chocolates, affectionately known as colored candies! Even as the years continued, just seeing pictures of those moments instantly transported us, and laughter and love again filled the air – even if the intoxicating aroma and calories were missing.

Home was where the heart was, and getting there…all trivial sayings aside…was indeed through the stomach.  There was, however, another time when my little engine could be found, in a different state, with a large wooden table and a German Chocolate cake.

I never really knew my Grandmother, she lived out-of-state and visiting her and my Grandfather, was a yearly or alternating year visit, during which time we tried to know each other a little better as she aged, and I grew away. There was however, always macaroni and cheese made with Cheez Whiz, a product I had no clue about, but delighted in the gooey flavor, so different from the homemade cheese-crusted wonder, that my mother made. Dinner there was a Summer celebration of love, trying to hold together as much time as possible, and then like dessert, it was over.

Looking back on that chocolate cake, I now understand her excitement as she baked it, knowing her family was coming, and for a brief time everything would be right in the world. I can imagine her making the frosting, sad at how she missed all the beaters and bowls never licked, or fingers that spoiled the results before serving. I also know the taste wasn’t as sweet as it could have been, since it was only a production for the moment, and not a weekly or monthly get together, where lives were shared, loved, compared and enriched. However, it was the best she had to express her love, and she did it very well…obviously, since it still affects me at 54.

Then, as life unveiled and presented itself to me, I realized that I too was becoming a chocolate cake. Sadly,  I had always assumed there would be meals and gatherings, spiced with cinnamon and smiles rolling into the years, leaving pie in the sky dreams and memories. But alas, like a recipe, things  don’t always turn out according to plan. Even now, the cake has been reduced to mailed or on-the-run cupcakes, which don’t require long visits, attention or commitment. I guess it is a good thing I had the foresight to print my cookbook years before, insuring my food would go on…even if the traditions and me didn’t.

This is an odd conundrum, since we long for the comfort and memories of our youth, but in our haste to live life to the fullest, forget to make them for our children. I guess that is why the biggest day for pizza delivery is Christmas – because all those special dinners, buffets and gatherings have been reduced to nothing more than Mom’s house or Dad’s house, hurry home to our house, or out-of-state can’t get to the house, better Skype the whole thing and pretend you were together events. In doing this though, we confirm a generation of youth  lost  between a stale, albeit a creamy frosting center. They will also never have anything to leave their families, and even worse…nothing to look back on, nourishing their soul as they face life, and the questions and curiosities that might have once been answered over a piece of pie.

Some of the best discussions and understandings in my life came at the kitchen table or at a campsite near toasted marshmallows. Stories and history I would have never known and have honestly needed as I matured, were given freely, and shared with a love that was priceless. Remembering happy faces after a meal, kisses still warm from coffee on aging lips, and little children with eyes bigger than their stomachs, hoping to finish a plate piled high, still fill my heart.

Yes, there is a lost value to the perishables of life…food that won’t last, parents and grandparents that pass away, and children who grow up too fast. It is a shame that we can’t put a use before date on them – or maybe just stop using them in general, and share life together. Regardless, however, some of us  can still remember what we had, and like other products no longer made, offer a chuckle or wayward desire, wishing for one more taste.

Holidays may be set aside for celebration, but it is everyday we should celebrate the feast of family, that which we have been given, in memory of life…especially when so many hearts are starving, just wishing for such an offering. Maybe that is why The Last Supper stands out in the Bible…maybe the message we were to have gotten was more than what appeared as just face value? After all, what really is the value of the face no longer sitting across your table…especially if it was the last time?

beaver

Life…trying to be the best we can, and with any luck getting recognition for what we are able to accomplish. However, many are caught up more in the drama of either loosing what they once had or never being known, than who they really are (to themselves that is) forgetting to live each day to the fullest.

The all knowing Wizard of Oz was no more than a lost man from a carnival, landing in the right place at the right time, eventually becoming larger than life. However, all he really had to fall back on was luck and illusion, which he unfortunately believed (until a small dog revealed the error of his ways, and as we all know it was “curtains” after that.) Yes, he got his moment of false glory…but then what? The chapter ended and so did he, because he worked too hard to keep what wasn’t real.

Likewise, years ago the actor Michael Paré, (can we say hunk!) starred in a low budget movie, with now cult status, that had lukewarm acting, but a blockbuster soundtrack. Clicking my playlist for Eddie and the Cruisers I still get Goosebumps. I see Eddie’s muscular arms, tightly ensconced in a black t-shirt, and his hair across boyish eyes, which caused more than a few midnight fantasies. The scream of the sax, the rip of the guitar and I am there! However, that is illusion at its best, because the band was John Cafferty & the Beaver Brown Band, and they look nothing like Eddie, the God of Rock, who will forever be seen in those lyrics. They did all the work, had the talent and made the soundtrack memorable…but who remembers or even knew them? There wasn’t a curtain to pull, or a Tinman and little dog to demand a reveal for Michael Paré, so forever, like many others, he will be known best for something he didn’t and couldn’t do.

Aside from the fact that the Coyote was Ugly, the biggest hit of Leann Rimes career, will always be associated with a young Piper Perabo, dancing on a bar being sprayed with beer in nothing short of a love story and wet t-shirt contest. Granted $$$ royalties were paid to Leanne, but when everything is all said and done, when someone says Can’t Fight the Moonlight, the first thought won’t be her blond hair and soft face. No different than Flashdance…when every young female over the age of 10 wanted a torn sweatshirt, ugly dog and welder’s torch, and a moment to dance! So of course we think of the real dancer, Marine Jahan…umm no…we think of the beautiful and innocent eyed Jennifer Beals, pounding the stage and our hearts, to a rock beat that was the soundtrack of the 80’s. Again, right place, right time and oh yeah..right now!

When you think about it, for every “Working Girl” named Tess, there is a Millie Vanilli looking at the spot where a Grammy should be. So is it true that having the experience is 90% of the accomplishment? What is that 10% of silent fame? Heck, you got the prize,  you just won’t have an audience to eventually disappoint, when you no longer have that elusive 15 minutes of favorite flavor and  become mortal.

The use of actors and actresses and body or voice doubles is nothing new, some of the most memorable moments in entertainment have been done by those never getting the credit they deserve. However, the irony of Eddie and the Cruisers is the entire premise of the film, is a man running from his ability, fame and talent, only to find in the end that he returns where he belongs, truly facing the music. That is after all, the illusion of life and our dreams, no matter how far we go, how hard we try to change, we are just a basic one soul intended for this one world, and in the end it can only be hoped we achieve what we were intended to, despite any perceived glass walls or body doubles taking our ideas, stepping in and replacing us in situations we earned a place in, and taken credit for ideas and dreams that they will never know themselves.

It makes you wonder, which is more difficult to deal with once that music ends, and we all find ourselves home without ruby slippers. Would we really rather have the acclaim for what wasn’t ours, living with the emotional disappointment of knowing we were not who people thought us to be…just wishing we could reach the stars so many thought we shined? I have been frustrated and sidelined in life and business, seeing many personal “what could have beens,” knowing I did have the right stuff, just never the chance…and I wince, remembering it taken from me for another’s pat on the back. However, at night when I close out the day, turn the page and reflect on what I have done, I am left with the satisfaction knowing what is right, who I am and what makes me that person. It is almost a prayer, letting me shut my eyes in peace and sleep.

So is it is better to have tried, and accepted what you got, than to have never tried at all? Well, Mr. Shakespeare I have to say yes, and even if no one asked for your autograph or recognized you in praise, the drive, desire and knowledge will forever be yours. After all, who else matters at the end of this life? Our character and what takes us into each day is the one thing that we ever really own, and it can never be faked by someone else….even if they might get an award for it.

Life through Terry Cloth

terry clothI bought new towels!   Now that isn’t really something deserving of a comment, much less an award…however, in many ways it was a confirmation of my life, and emotionally where I am currently seated, and no…before you say it…I am not all washed up

Many times in my life, certain inanimate objects have come into focus, almost representative of my life and the direction it is taking.  Towels appear to have such symbolism, although I have no idea why…personally, I would have selected Sean Connery if I had been asked.

When I was getting married at the ripe and stupid age of nineteen, I had a shower…not a bath don’t get ahead of me.  My mother-in-law wanted to set up a registry, and asked what color towels I wanted.  Seriously…at nineteen who thinks of towels?  Anyway, I remember thinking of the first two colors that came into my head, green and orange…OMG why?  So of course, we painted the bathroom a light green, and I got towels…towels, I might add, which lasted longer than the marriage.  Either that was some great Terry Cloth and JC Penney should be proud, or they weren’t used much…even if I was, but those are details I won’t blog you with.

Years later, when I had literally thrown in the towel and started life again, this time on my own, I bought bath sheets. For those who don’t know, they are expensive, oversized and thick terry cloth towels, that everyday towels look at with wash cloth envy.  I also bought them in black, something I had always wanted, and saw them a confirmation if my new life.   Yes, life was good, money was good, job was hard, but for once, everything was in the black.

A few years later, my mother called me very upset, she and dad had gone to the mall to get me a birthday gift and he got lost.  She had waited in their truck, and after too much time had passed, a man came out to find her, saying Dad was extremely disoriented, and sitting in the open area of the mall. After they were home, I went to see him, and he didn’t remember what had happened, just that he needed to buy me towels…seriously?  The incident as I look back was when he began his final journey of age, and I would eventually stop working to be there when they needed me.  However, I did have beautiful white and yellow towels in my bathroom that I never knew I needed, but he HAD to buy for me.  They were almost like a ray of sunshine breaking through white clouds next to the black ones I loved.  Even though I missed the symbolism, they were reminding me of the good in my life, as I journeyed through many years of darkness and emotional pain.

After my somewhat recent divorce, I abruptly cleared out my stained, bleached, hair dyed and faded black towels, (one green one was still valiantly hanging on some 33 years later!) and bought new ones.  The day I hung them up and looked at how they were on the shelves, there wasn’t a mismatched one in the lot and I felt the same way.  For the first time in my life, I was in control and order of my life, I was accountable to nobody else, and well…it felt good.  Indeed, my emotions may have been rung out, and left to dry more than a few times, but I finally found my place, absorbing the world and people around me.

As I look at those new moss green towels – I know green…who knew? I think of all the times in life when something is spilled, a woman goes into unexpected labor, an animal is hurt or a baby is splashing in water deliriously happy, and what is it we say?  Get me a Towel! I don’t believe it is just a coincidence, there truly is something behind the power of the Terry Cloth that makes a situation better, or at least memorable for the person in control.  I guess for now, however, it will remain one of those questions that God and I discuss someday, after JFK, Jimmy Hoffa, Area 51 and Dodo Birds.

I’m not sure what the next turn in my life will be, however, I am almost certain that before the final curtain, there will be a towel somewhere, and I will probably need it, to again absorb something important.  Regardless, it’s a sign I have grown comfortable seeing, and have truly learned that life isn’t always a beach, even if you do have a great towel.

house

Ownership can be a wonderful thing.  There is a first key, first car, first house and even a first that we don’t own but are part of, like jobs and relationships.  Heck, even that first pet is right up there on the top of the leader board.  When we truly have ownership in something it has a value fare more than anything monetary… it makes us feel WE have value.

Today, in the world of business, everyone is “owning it” simply put – take responsibility. I guess even Mr. McKay and his Sharks had to admit that it was time to change the water…even if the philosophy never changes.  Step up to the plate, make it yours, take ownership, be a responsible, face the consequences…you know the drill.

It is funny, because I hear the phrase all the time, and yet when it really matters in life I see it ignored as just part of the evolution of life.  What do I mean you ask?  Well, where do you live or where did you live?

If you were like me, a child of an era no more, you grew up in the family house, that was just called “home” …you know, like the one Dorothy wanted to get back to so badly … “there’s no place like…”  Later I married, and where I lived was called the kids house according to my parents, more often than not.  When we did have children, it was still the kid’s house, but my own daughters, for a short time…. called it home.

Then we all got divorced.

I remember the first few times I heard the expression Mom’s House and Dad’s House from my daughters, but emotionally damaged myself, it didn’t sink in enough.  I can’t remember now the times that they just said home or our house and that make me sad. Now, I again sit on yet another evolution of separation – yeah there is anxiety involved believe me – you go this way and I will go that way kind of thing.

Children anymore actually refer to the places they live as mom’s house or dad’s house almost exclusively, including the ones who aren’t coming from a broken home.  I listened as kids talked around me one day, and realized how they gravitate towards one parent more than the other and take ownership! It is almost that any port in a storm kind of feeling, be safe, pick a moving buddy, go to higher ground – well you get it.

I guess security is one of those things no one owns anymore – are any of us ever really secure? Even at my age, living alone, I refer to my residence as “the house”’ – a shell where I live and very little else most days.  I guess that is because home for me was an aging place with forsythias growing in front, a sagging porch roof and a bedroom window that faced west, letting me hear the trains at night.  I was secure then, even if the front door was unlocked most of the time.

Owning something that you can’t quantify is hard to explain to a generation of tangible wealth, but the best explanation comes from the heart.  You know when you are there, you are welcome, loved and wanted, and the best way to describe it is home… and it doesn’t belong to any one person, it is instead a shared understanding, that if the door closes a window opens and there is always room at the table for one more.

hug

Plop…when one falls on their face it is usually an embarrassment in a crowd of friends, or strangers that could later have something to talk about over lunch.  So of course doing it at 2a.m., alone in my bathroom lacked any such panache. Nevertheless, when I came too after fainting from the intense pain of a migraine, I realized….I was alone.

Sure, having someone around with that proverbial bowl of chicken soup or a laugh hidden behind are you alright? Is always nice to have…but even more than that, is the hand offering to pull one soul up to the level of another…regardless of the circumstance.

Years ago, I helped run a food bank and it was a life changing time for me, able to see firsthand, the price put on human dignity, much like the dented and unlabeled cans donated for their nourishment.  In a world that has come as far as it brags it has on social media, why is it so difficult to extend a warm hand to those who have fallen, are alone or just in need?

Watching the faces I grew to know and love at the Food Bank, their thankfulness for even the smallest amount of food or personal necessities, was always met with humble thanks and an honest connection of friendship. There were babies I watched grow up, toys I brought from home for older kids, and always, I made sure they knew I saw them first, and not the empty box I attempted to fill.  Sometimes being down on your luck is no different than being flat on your face, and so much is in the balance if a hand is waiting.

Laughing at the commercial for emergency care, with the woman who has fallen and can’t get up, there is something to be said, not for the emergency situation, but the emptiness of the moment…not knowing who would ever know…who would even care.  Social media needs to find an app for that, like adopting the invisible dog from our laptop or checking in a 24 hour security system, to see if the facets are still running.  Guess we get what we pay for, or in my case the price that just ended up being paid.

Children are a gift we are allowed to bring into this world, there is no guarantee however, that we will be a part of their lives once they are grown…whoever started that particular myth should be stuck into their Betty Crocker cookbook and baked!  Friends can come and go at a moment’s notice, only a few ever hang on for the long haul, and just because you marry with the ideas of long term honesty and happiness, doesn’t mean there is a guarantee.  Life just happens….we live it and die in it every day.  However, wouldn’t it be nice if we did it with just a little compassion for those sharing the road?

How hard is it to lighten the load of another with a simple act of kindness? To maybe let a hurting soul know they matter or to offer some dignity back to someone who has all but lost what they once had? And please no – not a Facebook message, like or text! Enough, with the invisible non-caring acts of pseudo companionship.  Labels, titles, names and status have all but ruined what should be a world of hope, enlightenment and love.  I can’t do that because…you might think differently of me if I did…I didn’t want to get into their space….you must be kidding….. 

We have 24 hours to get through the day, for some it is easier than for others, but the bottom line is when we all end the day, it is in darkness…. so why continue it into the daylight? That my friend, is a panic button long overdue for activation.

Cupcakes and contemplation

feb614Well, that annual event has again occurred…the anniversary of me, otherwise known as a birthday.  So many cupcakes and white cake ago, which today swirl the bowl in a punch line many never live to see…but I’m here…and so are 54 years of memories.

My mother was the original homespun Martha Stewart of birthday parties, so much so I was actually set-up and called into the principal’s office in 6th grade, after a girl hadn’t been invited and wanted revenge. Go figure…guess 1972 was rougher than I remember.  There were always plastic nut cup baskets with candy…like me now, vintage… and selling for $9.99 a piece on eBay, cake from scratch and ice-cream (also homemade) that melted too fast, but oh how the flavor lasted.  I also remember the faces, and a few of the gifts, a Partridge Family Album, Little Kiddles, comic books and once a do it yourself ear piercing set that put my mother on her ear!  The times were as simple as the games we played, and the prizes from the drug store, which mom wrapped so carefully.

By the time I accepted the mantle and was planning birthdays for my own girls, times were different and the evolution of ‘loot bags’ and boy/girl invitations had changed dramatically.  However, the family version was still innocent, with cakes featuring a special ‘gift’ that often themed the party. Oh, the year it was Little Mermaid!  There sat Ariel amid long strands of pulled sugar seaweed…no one noticed the burns on my hands were as red as her hair, which was okay because my daughter was thrilled.  Birthdays after all are a celebration of life for everyone, all those faces and places that made up the village that got us to our place on the calendar.

As we age, birthdays have benchmarks like 13 – 16 – 18 – 21 – 25 and dreaded…..30, which put us into society as useful members that hopefully make a difference.  However, once we’ve joined, unless it is AARP there aren’t as many cards sent, the parties are more political and those nut cups have points attached, limiting how many we get.  Yes, things just aren’t as sweet as the memories we unwrap when the day arrives.  However, we were born, we grew and we lived, and with any luck we will have accomplished something important before the candle burning at both ends goes out.

I was luckier than most since my father and I celebrated in the same week, three days apart and later as a grandmother, the two day bridge between my only granddaughter and me is a gift in itself.  I’ve been able to look not just at my own life as it has changed in a year, but to celebrate those I love, excited to be a part of their moments and yes, commemorate all that living!

This year, I will again celebrate with a furry companion, her second attempt at grabbing cake with me, and I will remember those before her, that barked and danced in excitement sharing my day in years past. I’ll have mom and dad here in spirit, remembering gifts too crazy to admit too, and tears too special to forget and especially those that didn’t celebrate as many as they should have, leaving this world too soon.  After all, It isn’t passing the cake, opening a gift or anticipating the perfect card that makes a birthday special, and it isn’t even the person the day honors, it is instead, all that got them there and the delight and happiness in those that helped, and are able to express it. You see we are often the best gift someone has ever has had in their life, and although we get the cake, they will forever do the celebrating.

So here is to the partially baked cake or messed up frosting given from the heart, the stories how mom almost didn’t make it to the labor room in time, the child laying on the floor embarrassed at the singing of Happy Birthday and countless other memories, which make us who we are in the eyes of others and confirm in our heart and soul, that yes… we have indeed lived…and in gratitude to those I love, I say thank you for what has passed and what is still to come.

oh lumps

Years ago, the concept of absolute perfection was so far from our grasp, that it made the jump into science fiction and horror on the big screen … if you aren’t old, that is what we used to call the movies.  Nevertheless, that perfection looked at us from stunning silhouetted beauties, muscles from Brussels and homes that did everything but live for you.  What a world we thought was awaiting us, as we peeled back the thin tin foil on our new fangled TV dinner, wondering why there weren’t any lumps in the “real” potatoes.

Perfection you see used to be that small silver area where we had hopes and dreams, thinking maybe someday we will have done something or been worthy enough to sit on that shelf, while everyone else can applaud.   Although the time allotted is brief, afterwards we  feel as if we can go on to bigger and better things, having been perfect at least once.  It’s an incentive program with great returns actually.  However, what happens when perfection is the norm and anything less is trashed before it ever hits a shelf?  In case you are wondering, I’m talking about life in this very overworked New York minute.

Life wants success, drive and ambition, however, the incentive of getting there has changed from dangling a cheap carrot to something now costly and 24 karat, something very few of us can attain.  If you don’t look the part of perfection, have your skills in line or live the ideal life, you don’t fit into the scheme of things and never get a chance to show what you can do.  In short, unless you have figured out how to bitch slap Stepford men and woman into stopping for a reality check, you might as well hit the concession stand.

How does anyone learn, experience or develop without the ups and downs, or the flaws and failures that were once built into life?  Satisfaction comes from knowing you did it right, knowing you tried your best, with faith that the third place purple ribbon will be a first place blue the next time.  We may not have been the best, but back in the day, we were still a human race wanting to make life better for not just ourselves, but others as well.  So what happened?  Why do we all have to be perfect before we even try?  Hasn’t anyone noticed the deadly failure rate in people?  Emotionally, physically and spiritually people are just giving up, walking away and taking frustration out on one another… and that makes for a perfect storm if you ask me.

I am not perfect by any means; I’ve got scars from business, love, hate, friends, family and more! However, I see them as what has brought me to the place in life where I am, and they are dots on my map as I move forward, reminding me, welcoming me and warning me, as I hope to attain something close to perfection each day.  I also like lumps in my mashed potatoes, reminds me they are real and fresh, and someone, if not me, has made them with love, which after all is the perfect way to serve a meal.  Flawless may be unique and appreciated in a moment, but lumps, bumps and occasional thuds get the best attention, the warmest hugs and the funniest giggles, so you won’t have to look far to figure out where I prefer to be.

The other day, I used a USB turntable to record some vinyl into MP3 files (not bad for old chick!) Once they were done, I played them back, suddenly returning to the journey my soul had taken once with 8 track tapes, phone booths, silly putty and comic books, televisions with 3 channels and root beer floats and I liked it. It wasn’t the songs themselves that really made the journey complete, it was the recorded sound of the needle as it played in each groove, offering a slight kiss of static into the arrangement, sneaking past the perfect processor of my laptop.  The songs weren’t perfect, but it was my life…which, for the record hasn’t ever been either.  Needless to say, when a well meaning friend offered to replace my work with some fresh MP3 recordings that were indeed worthy of the Grammy Awards, I passed.

I hope today you find a lump in your potatoes, a peanut not yet ground in the peanut butter or one of those great oranges with additional slices inside.  Maybe if you are lucky, you’ll read a newspaper and find one side of it blank or the traffic lights will blink out of whack when you drive past.  Regardless what it is, I hope imperfection finds you today and you smile, laugh at yourself or the moment and then share it with someone.  Life is serious, but it doesn’t mean we have to take it seriously – so enjoy that hole in your sock, broken make-up brush or occasional blemish, because you will know you lived today!

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