Sunday, January 30, 2011

Prayer enlarges the heart. - Mother Teresa

Saturday, January 29, 2011

the big fig newton of life

The kids at least act amused when I tell them about the great ad campaigns of yore. The plop plop, fizz fizz of Alka Seltzer and I can't believe I ate the whole thing! Wendy's Where's the Beef, which made Clara Peller a star at 80-something. The stunning tv spot about pollution with the tear running down the cheek of a Native American man. A personal favorite: The Big Fig, with a guy in goofy costume doing a silly dance. We did it at the bus stop and packed Fig Newtons in our lunches. They've got the inside on the outside and the outside on the inside, went one line of the song. We had dinner with friends last night, one a psychiatrist, and talked about the very same thing. Not about cookies, but people. And how the inside often shows up on the outside, in ways that can be wonderful or not. But are always a reminder that the two parts of whole work best together.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

bouncing back

Some weeks come at you both barrels, packing a double dose of disappointment. Twenty-twenty hindsight kicks in. Bitter pills of regret are swallowed. Bile rises up. And there's no way around it except straight through it. Which feels pretty bad. Wallowing in it is exactly what I want to do. Until I don't. Until I am ready to let myself to fall into the soft pillow of comfort provided by others, both known and unknown, and by life itself. I hear my mom saying "Rise above it." A certain angel picks me up and dusts me off, providing clarity and encouragement. Coffee and a plate-size cookie appear on my desk at work. The sun comes out. Perspective returns. While taking a basket of laundry down to the basement, I spy an old jumprope. Sometimes happiness skips a few beats. Then comes bouncing back.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

a few good things about winter

To those of you out there with your hand-knitted sweaters and rosy cheeks, cheerily sipping steaming mugs of pomegranate tea apres skiing or sledding or simply braving an icy trip to the grocery store: I am not your kind. Winter, to me, must simply be endured until the first crocus peaks through the muddy spring ground. But sunny days help. So do tangerines and a peony-colored cashmere scarf, a January birthday to celebrate, homemade chocolate cake, stacks of books beckoning, windows cleaned to a sparkle, the Nordstrom catalog with bathing suits and shell necklaces and espadrilles, a dog who'll pull you out on a walk, Girl Scout cookies (Samoas, Tagalongs, Thin Mints) and, of course, Valentine dreams.
(Yellow Books by Vincent van Gogh, 1853-1890)

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

hop to it

Apparently, National Letter Writing Week was January 9th through 16th and I missed it completely. But these Lunar New Year stamps come out on Saturday, so I will get a sheet or three and commemorate it after the fact. Beneath the paper cut design of a rabbit is the Chinese calligraphy symbol for one. Kumquats are traditionally eaten for good luck and hope. Instead of a price, the word forever is in the bottom right corner of the stamp. I can't pinpoint exactly why, but there seems something kinda' joyful about this being The Year of the Rabbit. Time to get a jump on it.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

want-to-do list

Sometimes it's even more important to make a want-to-do list than the common to-do list. This weekend, mine includes reading this great book, recommended by my friend Margaret.
Also, a quest for the 'best club sandwich ever,' purportedly at Jim 'N Nicks Bar-B-Q.
And time for dreaming. Lots of dreaming.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

stir crazy

When a snow storm's predicted, lots of people flock to the grocery store for bread and milk. I'm the person in the produce section, shopping for pineapple and fresh ginger. Or over on aisle 9, trolling for coconut milk and curry. Because when the landscape's a sheet of ice and gray skies loom, I need sunshine and spice. And if it has to be created in my own kitchen, then so be it. This recent storm yielded two new favorites. First was a simple curry soup from Jamie Oliver's new cookbook, Jamie's Food Revolution. Then, in the January issue of Everyday Food, this sunshine in a glass:

Pineapple & Ginger Smoothie
Blend 1 cup frozen pineapple cut into 1-inch pieces, 1-inch piece of ginger, peeled and minced, 1/2 cup low-fat plain yogurt, 1 cup pineapple juice, 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon. Serves 2.

Monday, January 10, 2011

winter landscape

Six inches of snow and still falling. It's the kind of winter landscape that Ezra Jack Keats depicted so simply yet brilliantly in The Snowy Day, winner of the 1963 Caldecott Medal. Serendipitously, the 2011 Caldecott award was given out today, this time to illustrator Erin Stead for A Sick Day for Amos McGee, which I can't wait to read. There was a beautiful poem by Denise Levertov in my in-box on this snowy day and just now I came across these lines in New Year's Day, a poem by Valerie Worth: '. . . Time to consider the world afresh . . . to study the sober snow.' Today there is time to read, to study the art in a picture book, time to gaze out the window at the falling flakes or bundle up for a snowy walk. Maybe even make a snow angel.

Saturday, January 8, 2011


I always hold a few paperwhite bulbs back to plant at the first of January when things seem stark and winter bleak. The spring green shoots and fresh white blossoms are an instant lift and a symbol of growth. Think of measuring children with pencil marks and dates on the back of a pantry door. For adults, change mostly take place on the inside. And we get to choose: grow or stagnate, shrivel, die while living. The funny thing is, growing is the thing that makes you feel oh so alive, even young. And hopeful like a crystal bowl of paperwhites in a January windowsill.

Friday, January 7, 2011

taste of grace

Here in the south, we love our barbecue and we love a good story. Coleman's Home BBQ Sauce is a perfect mixture of both. I met Eugene Coleman a year and a half ago when Arkon and I were working on a brochure for Moore Place, the Urban Ministry Center's model to end chronic homelessness here in Charlotte. His story includes a medical mystery, a descent into substance abuse and eventually living under a bridge, a magnificent doctor, an encounter with an angel at a Bojangle's restaurant, a deep and abiding friendship, fear, sorrow, desolation, hope, joy. And, now, barbecue sauce. Not one for talking about himself, what Eugene has is a real gift for listening. Our interview, scheduled for 20 minutes, turned into a conversation that could have gone on all afternoon and remains with me like a blessing. All profits for the BBQ sauce will be donated to fight homelessness. It's delicious. Filled with the spice of life.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

For all of it's Times Square, glitter ball, confetti strewn arrival, January settles in with a hush. Ornaments are packed away, except for a few small birds too sweet not to keep in the windowsill. It's a nesting time, time of austerity and Jane Austen, resolutions and nature's revelations. Don't forget to walk in winter sunshine for a daily dose of vitamin D. For supper, there's creamy cauliflower soup with a sprinkle of bright paprika.
(click on image to enlarge)

Monday, January 3, 2011


Such a great movie. Fascinating, historical, finely acted. You're sure to love it, too.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

bubbling over

If there's ever a time when the world feels like your oyster Rockefeller, it's at the beginning of a new year. Say what? You haven't made any resolutions? I'm here to help! Because how can you expect to have a wonder-full year if you don't tee it up? Resolutions are nothing more than goals of a hopeful heart, little leaps of faith. And with those two things going for you, heaven's the limit. Resolve to:

. . . Clear the cobwebs, loosen the knots, air your laundry (best done with the help of a wise therapist or blank journal)
. . . Pick a word, any word. The thing you need or want most in your life: courage, creativity, calm, connection. Let it be a mini-mantra to pull you back on course when veering into ennui.
. . . Pick one thing that bugs you about this world (pollution, poverty, racism) and do something, however small, about it: pick up a littered playground, donate a case of peanut butter to the food bank, make a friend from another culture.
. . . Grow like a hollyhock in a sunny summer garden or wither like a neglected philodendron in a windowless office. These being the only two options available to any of us.
. . . Be choosier this year. Choose gratitude, kindness, intellectual pursuit over the crass alternatives the world offers up.
. . . Love the one you're with. Yes, this means you. Then everything else will fall in to place.