Holidaze’ Backwards Gaze.

IMG_9707Another year almost complete, cookies everywhere I look, twinkle lights, car accidents within feet of each other near the mall, the frenzy is upon us! How to stay present, sane, and joyful in the midst of traffic, lines, and expectations (most often self imposed)? It’s time to practice all that we’ve begun throughout the year, returning to morning routines, meditation, slowing down to breath and to laugh. And making lists helps too.

2018! What a bizarre year. How was yours?

One year ago I was preparing for a trip to India, finishing my improv and writing classes in LA, packing my car to drive East on I-40 for my Christmas trip home and the idea that I would soon move back to New Mexico permanently was nowhere on the horizon. Already that life seems like a dream. I recently hung my California license plate on the wall in my studio after finally re-registering my car in NM, as proof that it did happen, but the dreamlike quality remains.

After the initial chaos of the move back, life is finding a groove and I once again feel in the flow. 11:11 repeatedly appears, the perfect opportunities come from nowhere, old friends resurface, and only now does the level to which I was forcing things in LA seem clear. Not that it was bad. Great jobs came along, I met wonderful people, took classes, lived in a cute apartment, and overall had little to complain about, but the flow was missing. My  life felt manhandled and like something to figure out and to solve, rather than to simply be in.

But, it is also clear that it was something I had to do. I now know without any doubt that “wherever you go, there you are.” There is never anything out there (a job, a relationship, a city) that can magically create joy and contentment if it doesn’t already exist inside. We always come back to ourselves whether we like it or not.

I’m currently mulling over words for 2019. As most of you know, I intuitively choose one for each year and invariably they set the tone for the coming year. Love was my word for 2018 and when I chose it, just over one year ago, I had an inkling that though I would have loved for it to herald the arrival of an amazing new romantic relationship, it might end up being more about the self-love kind. Bingo.

And here I am, with two weeks to go before a new year begins, feeling so full of gratitude, contentment, joy, and cookies I could burst. All that I took for granted prior to moving (like my washing machine and driveway), all that I discovered and experienced while in LA (improv, storytelling, being on location for two months in sublime Northern California) and all that I want to create (an integrated life) are coming together and aligning beautifully. And I don’t take any of it for granted.

Scattered around my kitchen table, along with cookie recipes, shopping lists, and wrapping paper, are lists of words… Alignment. Commitment. Fun. Flow… I’m waiting for the 2019 winner to rise to the surface.

What’s your word for the upcoming year? What do you want to create?

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Gratitude + WTF

There is something about Thanksgiving that I just really, really love. Besides the pie, the cozy fuzzies, and the tradition. I love the craziness of it all.

I worked until 8 tonight and on what other night would I ever come home after working for twelve hours and decide to make a dessert that had terms I needed to google? When else would any of us drive for hours to argue about politics with people we don’t like very much (but do somehow love) and cook gigantic birds when we order takeout the other 364 nights a year?

I swore I bought everything I needed at the grocery store on Sunday and, yet, where was I at 8:10 tonight? Trader Joe’s.

“Do you sell tin foil?” I asked my cashier, hopefully.

“No, oh my god, I hope my wife remembered to buy some. We should, we really should have it. Do you mind if I have Siri text her while you’re swiping your card?”

Bouquets of flowers, bottles of wine, frozen pumpkin cheesecakes… the store looked like a herd of elephants had just run through, though the festive vibe made it seem like a friendly herd. Most shoppers were carrying baskets rather than pushing carts, the true procrastinators or, more likely, the guests; responsible only for appetizers, pie, flowers, and beverages. Maybe a baguette.

I am currently waiting for my hazelnuts to cool. I was supposed to bake them for 10-15 minutes or until their skin darkened and cracked. At that point I need to wrap them in a clean towel and rub them, so their skin comes off. So far, it’s been 20 minutes and the skin isn’t sloughing, no matter how hard I rub. Like a woman in a Turkish bath, scrubbing away, these guys won’t budge. I’m about to put them in the blender with the rice flour, skins and all, heaven forbid.

But, see what I mean? It’s funny.

I just googled ‘fruit curd’ upon realizing I had no idea what my recipe was talking about.

And all over the country people are stuck in traffic or airports or on the couch next to weird Uncle Joe. They are googling gravy recipes, calling their mom or missing their mom.

I will never forget a newscast I saw years ago on the Wednesday night before Thanksgiving. “What is it you love most about Thanksgiving?” the newscaster asked a bunch of people stuck in an airport somewhere. Mom was the overwhelming answer. And pie.

But, back to my hazelnuts and curd.

Wishing you and yours a Smagikal Thanksgiving and, whether you’re home alone, with friends or mom, roasting a turkey or making a tuna sandwich, baking a pie or trying that new 26 step recipe that seemed like a good idea last month, may the craziness make you laugh!

If you want to try the New York Times Cranberry Curd Tart with me, let me know how your skin sloughing goes!

https://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1017817-cranberry-curd-tart?grocerylist

Life Taken for Granted

Moving back into my little house in my little city, I was reminded of a story my mom told my sister and I when we were children about Nasruddin, the wise fool found in much Eastern folklore and especially popular in Sufism.

One day a neighbor approached Nasruddin, lamenting the fact that his house was too small for his large family and asking Mulla Nasruddin for his advice.

“Yes,” replied Nasruddin, “do you have any chickens?”

“Yes,” said the man.

“Bring them all into the house,” Nasruddin told the man. “And if you have any geese or ducks, bring them in too.”

“But, it’s already so crowded, I don’t understand how this will help.”

“You asked for my advice. This is it.”

The man went home and brought his 10 chickens into the house. The next day he returned to Nasruddin.

“It’s awful,” he said. “They’re dirty and loud and it’s more crowded than before.”

“Good,” Nasruddin replied. “Now, do you have a donkey? A horse?”

“We have a donkey,” the man said.

“Wonderful, bring him into the house as well.”

“But…ok” the man replied.

The man returned the next day, looking more exhausted than before.

“It’s worse,” he said. “Between my wife and kids and in-laws and the donkey and chickens, it’s just much, much worse.”

“Wonderful,” Nasruddin replied. “Do you have any goats? Pigs? Dogs? Cats?”

“Yes, we have all of these animals.”

“Terrific. Please bring them all into your house.”

“But, I don’t see how this… ok.”

The next day the man returned, looking worse than ever.

“I haven’t been able to sleep” he told Nasruddin. “And now my family is all mad at me for bringing in the animals. Everyone is fighting more than before. The animals are eating all of the food. There’s not enough room for us in our own home.”

“Great,” Nasruddin smiled. “Now go home and put all of the animals back outside.”

Wearily, the man agreed and walked home.

The next morning the man reappeared, smiling.

“Mulla, your plan worked perfectly. Last night we all slept, no one is arguing, and everyone is very content in our little home.”

I’ve always loved this story and think of it often. How easy it is to take our lives for granted until that which makes them up is changed or removed and we are left realizing how good we had it.

Before moving to LA, I never gave my driveway or washing machine a second thought. I was bored with low overhead, believing that my life was too easy and that I wasn’t pushing myself hard enough. So, I traded my home for shared walls, shared laundry, and street parking, increased my overhead by half and made the move.

It was fun, it was new, and it was a change, which is maybe what I needed most of all. And then it was old, the same, and normal. As life goes. “Wherever you go, there you are.” I came to realize how mellow I am and how mellow the life I love is. I cook. I blog. I work. I go to the movies. I visit friends.

The museums and concerts in LA are great, as is the shopping. There is more of everything to choose from. The food is amazing. But, when it came down to it, too much choice actually made me slightly catatonic and I began to crave routine and simplicity over excitement.

Now, back in my funny little desert city, with it’s empty streets, quiet night life, and my own personal driveway, you’d think I’d won the lottery. I’m perfecting my yogurt recipes, riding my bike, and relishing not having to work as much. Sometimes it takes giving something up to realize what you had and to remember that simple can be great.

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Always

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(photos made by me, November 7, 2016)

Two years ago, I woke up on election morning, in LA. The Cubs had won the World Series  just a week before and as I went about my morning, I thought about what I would say to my 5 year old nephew that night, when I called him on the phone.  I would tell him how cool it was that his normal would be going from an African American president to a woman president and that, of course, the Cubs always won the World Series, not just every 108 years. I couldn’t wait to call him.

That night I went to a friend’s house to watch the returns come in. I brought a bottle of wine. The polls had just closed on the West Coast. “It doesn’t look great,” she said from the kitchen. “Oh, don’t worry,” I waved her off, “it’s still early.” But, then it wasn’t early. My friend stayed in the kitchen, unable to watch the unfolding reality. I covered my eyes and slumped deeper into the couch.  I left a few hours later, in a blur of disbelief, unable to comprehend that a racist, homophobic, xenophobic, misogynist narcissist, completely lacking in intellectual curiosity and empathy, had just been elected by my fellow citizens. Late that night a friend called me on the phone, sobbing.

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(photo taken by Colleen Hayes, November 8, 2016)

I awoke the next morning crying and the reality set in. I went to get coffee in an attempt to confirm that the world that had existed yesterday, still did. Los Angeles was a ghost town. The few people I saw on the sidewalk looked like zombies. Some were crying. I remembered a similar feeling of shock on 9/11, but with the distinct difference that on that day we had been attacked from the outside, whereas on 11/8 we had done it to ourselves. I don’t remember so much public crying in 2001.

And, now, here we are. Election Day, 2018.

Two years of confirmation to how bad it really could get. An old, rich, white, male club in its death throes, clinging to power as the world around them changes and evolves. Make America Great Again; an idea grabbed onto by so many, as if there is ever a way to go backwards, to a time of privilege for few and oppression for many. As our greatness was called into question, one thing was sure; the muck was rising to the surface and a level of bigotry of which I had been totally ignorant prior to 2016, shocked me daily and continues to do so. The level of privilege I had been granted because of my race, economic class, and sexual orientation became blindingly clear.

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(selfie, July 4, 2018)

Who are we? Who do we want to become? The macro imitating the micro. Involved, kind, present, and compassionate. As we practice these ideals in our households, they  permeate into our neighborhoods, towns, cities, states, country, and finally planet. There is no other way, that I can see.

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(photo taken by me, January 21, 2017)

I’m antsy right now. I am blogging to keep from checking my phone, social media, or listening to the news. I voted. I donated. I asked others to do the same. Now, I wait.

It’s a beautiful, autumn day outside. I’m going to go for a bike ride. I’m going to make lunch. And, because of the PTSD I still feel from watching the results two years ago, I may go dancing instead. I have faith in you, my fellow citizens and humans. Love will always win in the end. Even when the road looks dark and the way unclear.

When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants and murderers and, for a time, they can seem invincible, but in the end, they always fall. Think of it- always.

-Mahatma Gandhi

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And VOTE!

 

 

Dead Can Dance

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The Guest House-

This being human is a guest house.

Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,

some momentary awareness comes

as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!

Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,

who violently sweep your house

empty of its furniture,

still, treat each guest honorably.

He may be clearing you out

for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice.

meet them at the door laughing and

invite them in.

Be grateful for whatever comes.

because each has been sent as a guide from beyond.

-Jellaludin Rumi

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Do not stand at my door and weep,

I am not there, I do not sleep.

I am a thousand winds that blow.

I am the diamond glint on snow.

I am the sunlight on ripened grain.

I am the gentle autumn rain.

When you wake in the morning hush,

I am the swift, uplifting rush

Of quiet birds in circling flight.

I am the soft starlight at night.

Do not stand at my grave and weep.

I am not there, I do not sleep.

Do not stand at my grave and cry.

I am not there, I did not die!

-Anon

Feliz Día de los Muertos.

Besos.

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Zucchini Deliciousness

It’s like I just got home from a year of crazy. And now, suddenly, it’s fall, the end of 2018, I’m living back in my house, just returned from my trip East, and for the first time in a long time, maybe since last year, I feel settled. Like I can exhale. Like I didn’t know I’d been holding my breath until I no longer was. And, while I think about all of this and it soaks in, I decide that instead of making a fire, because suddenly it’s cold and flannel sheets with tea and slippers seem like a good idea, I decide that instead of that fire, I’ll bake.

Gluten Free Coconut Zucchini Bread

1 C sugar

2 eggs

2/3 C vegetable oil

1 t vanilla extract

11/4 C gluten free flour mix

1 t baking powder

1 t cinnamon

1/2 t xanthan gum

1/2 t baking soda

1/2 t salt

2 C shredded zucchini

1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional)

1/2 C shredded coconut (optional)

Preheat oven to 350

Mix eggs and sugar in large bowl. Add oil and vanilla, mixing well.

In a medium bowl, mix all dry ingredients.

Add dry ingredients to wet ones, mixing well.

Then add zucchini, nuts, and coconut, mixing well.

Transfer to a lightly greased 9×5″ bread pan.

Bake for 1 hour or until knife inserted in center comes out clean.

Let cool. Enjoy!

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Our Known’s Last Days

I’m riding on a train from Providence back to New York and out the window the trees are just beginning to change. The sky is grey and, after a hot, sticky beginning to the month, temperatures plunged and today was 45 degrees cooler than Wednesday.

Last night, I stayed with friends in Westport, Massachusetts, in a beach house built from a kit in 1890, happily never updated or insulated. After eating lobster casserole at The Back Eddy in Westport and sitting in front of a propane heater to watch the Red Socks play game 1 of the ALCS, I climbed into bed wearing two wool sweaters, a hat, wool long underwear, and socks. It was 48 degrees, inside and out.

Fishermen, autumn’s chill, sweaters, swans in the pond.

On the train back to the city, watching beauty whizz by, while I read an article in NY Magazine about the recent climate report… http://nymag.com/intelligencer/2018/10/un-says-climate-genocide-coming-but-its-worse-than-that.html1 degrees bad. 2 degrees really bad. 3 catastrophic. 4 or more (towards which we are currently headed) apocalyptic.

A world without fish, coral reefs, snow, sweaters, enough food for billions… drought, fire, hurricane, mass migration, famine, starvation.

So big.

So beyond the imaginable. So far from the changing leaves, lobster, and last night’s lavender sunset. How did we let this happen?

The reality that the system of which we are part and on which we depend is failing and that no matter how quickly we change our ways and create solutions, our future will certainly look drastically different from our past and present.

A brand new baby in her mother’s arms across the aisle from me. Almost 40 years my junior. What will her world look like?

Twelves years. 2030. Twelve years is a blink, a snap of the fingers, the turn of a page, nothing. That’s how long the world’s scientists have given us to turn the boat around and avoid the iceberg, of which there won’t be any more, but you get the point.

The alarm has been sounded, the reality is here, and as I watch New England’s autumn leaves blur by, the beauty takes my breath away.

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