mulberryshoots

"Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?" ~ Mary Oliver

the worst and the best . . .

DSC_0197I’ve begun to notice how impressionable I am in the moods that come over me as I begin my day. For instance, I often look forward to reading the “Food” section of the NYTimes on Wednesdays and the “Home” section on Thursday mornings while eating my breakfast.

“the worst”: This morning, I read a very long article about a woman who wanted to open a Yaddo-like cultural retreat at her beautiful stone dwelling in North Stamford, CT. The trouble is, the writer of the article, Penelope Green, was so disdainful of her subject and her topic that her descriptions were sarcastic and demeaning throughout the piece. I had a rare reaction, one almost of disgust at the lack of objectivity and writing integrity that I have come to expect from this newspaper which is my daily bread. There was such a heavy, dispiriting tone throughout the entire spread that I wrote to PG as well as to the NYTimes Editorial comment section asking why they would think we readers might be enlightened by such presumptuous writing.

In a bad mood, I cast about for a way to start my real day of wanting to make some progress here at home and was reminded of a cookery book soon to be published this Fall in October by Mimi Thorissen. I looked up her blog to catch up on what was going on and was surprised to learn she had recently given birth to a daughter named Audrey and also had found a new/old house of her dreams which they would move into and also turn into a small bistro restaurant which she had always wanted to run.

“the best”: Her blog, Manger, is filled with incredibly sumptuous photographs of cooking, house and home, her children and the countryside. What a welcome antidote to the poison of the cynical and smug Penelope Green article earlier in the day!

So, there you have it in two extremes: the very worst in human nature, making fun of someone who’s naive intentions are held up as the ultimate in pretentiousness and across the world, someone who is so beautiful (even post-partum) and creative (e.g., stuffing potatoes with beef and tying them back together with string!) whose passions inspire us to reach for what’s best in ourselves rather than settling for the worst.

Which will it be?

 

“divide and conquer” . . .

eeecec835f56f1ed14e49b4a1501af7cWhen you get to be my age, you start to reflect on situations that were less than wonderful and then, burdened by our heavy-duty psychological culture (truly American, I think) we try very hard to either “work things out” or at least take a stab at “forgiveness” in order to be happy. After reading a bunch of stuff, I’ve come to a more reasonable approach that allows me to let go of that kind of baggage much more easily!

Which, is truly to “Let it Go!” like the “Frozen” movie–but here’s the catch: for me, I had to have some kind of intellectual hook or rationale for freeing myself from my self-induced beliefs about forgiveness duty. Guess what I discovered?

That resistance to forgiveness might be a resistance to feeling love for yourself within. And if you examine this little thought, why bother to jerk yourself around to forgive someone if you don’t care or feel love for that person in the first place? If someone did you in and they’re not part of your life anymore (like professional back-stabbing or thoughtless family members who will never change) who cares anymore? Just let ‘em all go!

Right? If you love someone, they’re worth figuring out how to get along with better even if it means you have to be patient and it might take a long time. If you don’t care inside about them as being valuable to you, then stop chinning yourself onto some kind of high bar of personal resolution that doesn’t really matter in the end

So, if you’re still reading this little post, my “divide and conquer” perspective is to divide off those who really don’t matter to you in the end, and concentrate solely on improving those relationships that do. If forgiveness is part of it, so be it even if you can’t figure it out right away. (Sigh of relief.) Much more satisfying to build upon love than anything else, don’t you agree? Sounds simpler, at least for me.

 

summer “lite” . . .

pea soup 1

Did you know that today (Friday, July 25, 2014) is supposed to be one of the “top ten most beautiful days of the summer?” When I heard that on the weather report last night before going to bed, I wondered to myself how they knew what other days (and how many?) might be coming along until September 22nd when Fall officially begins? Never mind, I thought, it’ll be nice just to know today is special, weather-wise that is.

peas and asparagus 1So, to take advantage of this sunny, dry, cool but warm day, I thought I’d use up the bag of shelled fresh peas that I’ve been saving in the fridge and make an asparagus-pea soup to have for supper tonight. I’ve also been wanting to make a zucchini bread ever since I stopped at the farmstand yesterday and they were sold out of zucchini bread although loaves of banana-nut and cranberry-nut breads were lined up in neat rows.

The last time I made a zucchini bread was a few years ago when we had a bunch of pianists over to play works in progress for each other. One of them, a twenty-something youth with acne on his face, ignored our protocol not to show off, and then tried to make up for his immodesty by complimenting me on how good the zucchini bread was. I’ve chatted with another pianist recently about the baffling phenomenon that pianists can’t seem to play for each other without becoming competitive. But that’s a post that I will hopefully avoid writing about.

zucchini bread 1In any case, music and cooking sometimes go well together and today, since it’s such a fine day, I might play some Bach and work on a Beethoven Rondo that Paul Lewis, an English pianist, has recorded. This afternoon, I’ll make the soup and let it chill. And if I have enough zucchini, I’ll bake a couple of loaves of zucchini bread–some to have with the soup for supper and some to give away next door to G.’s family and downstairs for our medical student before he goes away for the weekend. I like to make recipes that are classic, and zucchini bread 2while I’ve bought a couple of non-gluten flours and xanthum gum, I think I’ll use half regular flour and half blue cornmeal flour for the zucchini bread.

I’ve been thinking about keeping things simple and staying close to home in terms of what I’m thinking about these days. That is, to get the hardware removed from my ankle, a screw that goes through my tibia and fibula next week in outpatient surgery. I hope the bone/ankle will heal enough so that I can bear weight on it before going on a trip to Puget Sound in early September.

So, our summer meals are less fussy these days: last night, we had bean soup and BLT’s on cracked wheat bread that I brought back from a bakery in Concord. There’s nothing better than a ripe tomato, fresh lettuce leaves, bacon and this bread. Tonight, we’ll have cream of asparagus-pea soup and zucchini bread. This weekend, I might make fresh corn crepes to go with something on the grill.

So summer “lite” is here for awhile: less heavy meals, reading for fun and maybe even some serious goofing off (whatever that might happen to be.)

 

family feud . . .

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If you live in Massachusetts, New Hampshire or Maine, you have probably seen news reports about the groundswell protest of workers and managers employed by the Market Basket grocery store chain (71 stores!) that erupted this week. It pits two cousins in a long-standing feud: Arthur T. Demoulas (the fired CEO) and Arthur S. Demoulas (the non-business cousin) who managed to shuffle the Board of Directors so that his arch-nemesis, the very popular CEO (George T.) was fired by the new board a month ago.

Lest you think this is a folk tale (Robin Hood?) where the working level employees support a fired CEO, personal loyalties to him are stronger than worrying about being fired themselves. One article said that the reason Arthur T. was so popular is that he made personal connections with workers in all the stores, visiting them regularly, providing good benefits and profit sharing through the years. The company, whose revenue was $4.6 BILLION last year, “had no debt (!); low prices and treated its employees like family.” How’s that for an uncommon formula for success?

But what is the fight actually about? You guessed it: money. The cousin, Arthur S. Demoulas, wants $300M. to be paid out from the company’s coffers to a few “shareholders” (8-9 people in the FAMILY, guess which side?) Arthur T. Demoulas (the fired guy) says taking that money out will decrease benefits and payouts for the working people at Market Basket.

The cousin who wants the payout is purportedly one of the 8 richest people in Boston whose personal wealth is estimated to be around $1.6 B. I guess that’s not enough for him if he still wants a share of the $300M payout. What, I wonder, do you do with all that money or what does money buy you when you have that much? What about those family members waiting for their cut of $300M–that’s about $30M apiece if it’s divided evenly. This is crazy, don’t you think?

The thing is, there doesn’t seem to be a win-win resolution to this uprising. The new Board can’t really do anything without losing face. George S. holds 51% and the folk-hero George T. holds 49%. Doesn’t sound too promising for Robin Hood, does it?

The two new Co-CEO’s are supposed to figure something out but their public letter a couple of days ago to employees hasn’t cut any mustard as far as the demonstrations each day show. Firing top managers with decades of experiences hasn’t softened the rebellious workers at all, just the opposite. Besides, one of them was the CEO of Radio Shack, a business that is on its last legs. . . why would they hire HIM to run an already super successful business when the one he’s leaving is going down the tubes? Does this sound Shakespearan to you yet?

Oh, and guess who the judge was who awarded the cousin’s family the big payout in the 1990’s? Judge Maria Lopez–you know the one, who was shown on TV yelling and pointing her finger at a criminal, lambasting him for something and then leaving the bench?

The one factor that nobody’s talked about much is, (drumroll) the customer. They show the empty stores and the picketing employees but we, the customers, are not on the scene except for a few who are trying to shop. Many of us are watching this unfold on the news. I shop at the Market Basket in Gloucester and occasionally at the one in Oxford. The customer loyalty for MB is unbelievable. When I lived in Rockport in a winter rental, you could hear the locals buzz about a new MB that was being built on the hill on the way into town TWO YEARS before it actually arrived.

Every time I go there, there are at least 22 cashier aisles with their stations lit, checking groceries full time. Go into the Stop and Shop or Shaw’s in the same town and there might be two or three cashiers because there are no customers buying stuff! If you lifted a map like a scrabble board and tilted it, most of the customers would slide into the Market Basket location. Do you know why? Because I can buy two bushy bunches of thin, fresh wonderful scallions, two bunches for a dollar at MB. At Shaw’s here in town, your only choice is a cellophane wrapped single bunch of scallions for $1.79 and they’re also not fresh. THAT’s the difference!

Demoulas vs. Demoulas has been going on for twenty years. It’s an inter-familia feud. Jarndyce vs. Jarndyce was an infamous case in the book, “Bleak House” that Charles Dickens described in depressing detail, playing itself out in the 19th century and resulting in no gain to anyone in the end except for the lawyers.

So, who knows how this will play out. Something way bigger, it seems to me, might save the day: like a white knight with enough money to buy everybody out and start anew by restoring the model that worked before: no debt, low prices and treating the workers like family. Who does that in this day and age?

The real outcome will be whether the customers who have a long history and deep loyalty to Market Basket will come back to its stores once the dust settles, and whether it will matter who is in charge.

 

brotherly love . . .

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I’ve been interested in reading what has happened to the wide-flung family that George Howe Colt describes so well in his book, “The Big House.” It’s amazing what you can discover on line, particularly obituaries when the older generation begins to pass away.

For example, Aunt Ellen Singer, whose marriage might have put her parents at odds with her and her five offspring, was banished from the big Wings Neck house while she was growing up, through her adulthood and even into her sixties. Then, one of her children, Mary Forbes Singer, and her investment partner fiance, David, got married and managed to pull off the purchase of the old house with varying concessions from others (e.g., Aunt Mary, who lived in a small apartment in Montreal delayed payment of her share.) It is there now, much reduced in size, modernized into a year-round home in which Aunt Ellen drew her last breath. And you thought “Howard’s End” was ironic about houses?

In his next book, “Brothers . . .,” the George Colt writes about how he and his three brothers grew up, their personalities, their rivalries and how they turned out in life. Interspersed in separate sections, are vignettes about other famous brothers: for example, Thoreau and his brother, John Wilkes Booth and his brother, the Kennedy and Marx brothers.

While historical brothers serve as interesting biographical filler sandwiched in with his family’s story, I found the chapters about his brothers to be the most interesting. They were so full of humor, wit and insight that I began thinking about what is truly so special about the Colt family. And that is love, dear reader.

Although they each have their individual hard times during puberty and college, they grow apart and then, they start to grow together. Their parents also have their hard times with alcoholism and growing apart. But everyone stays together and then they come together. Later in life, they really love each other and show it in so many thoughtful ways. Is this a kind of loyalty that stems from the Boston Brahmin culture they come from, calling each other long distance during suspenseful Red Sox games, holding a vigil with their parents when Ned, a foreign correspondent, gets kidnapped by the Taliban?

While I was reading and noticing the connections filled with love and caring, I began to look around me to consider if there are similar examples in people that I knew. We were an immigrant family during the McCarthy and “communist scare” era, struggling from the get-go to make a life for ourselves against rampant discrimination all through school. Our Chinese parents were close-lipped about how well we did in school and grudging about how we could have done better. That they were unhappily married for as long as I knew them didn’t help.

Other friends of mine had families of hardship in one way or another: very large families (13 children!); father figures who were stern and notorious for being harsh with their wives and children. Another friend and her siblings were children of divorced parents from another country who were raised by nannies, in private schools and hardly knew each other, never mind cared much about each other. Plus, they were British–stiff upper lip and class conscious, you know.

So, back to this gregarious, successful and very humanitarian family of Colts. They had largesse as part of their upbringing. There was enough money for most of them who wanted to study at Harvard to go. They were well educated and read books all their lives–or at least had an opportunity to read them. They were sports people–they swam, sailed, played tennis and grew up with word games, charades and the like. They ate breakfasts cooked by their father, not a maid, waking up to the smell of bacon, Jones sausage and toast spread with Keiller orange marmalade. They had the good fortune to have a huge summer house to visit every year of their lives, some of the years, the house even lay empty because nobody could make it that year. They had so much quality time spent together in summers at the house on Wings Neck and growing up in Boston.

I’m not saying that wealth produces love, but in this family, they had the resources to spend a lot of quality, pleasure-ful, fun time together growing up. And they made something of themselves too. One is a foreign correspondent, one is a physician who runs a medical residential program in Maine; one toils at a school for the blind and takes care of his parents nearby. And George, the writer who almost won a National Book Award with his volume, “The Big House” is married to Anne Fadiman, (her father was Clifton Fadiman) whose book about a medical crisis between the Hmong and western medical profession in California, DID win the National Book Circle of Critics Award. Can you imagine being a part of such high achievers?

The four brothers are in their sixties now, the father has passed on and the mother still lives in an assisted living place in Easthampton. Not surprisingly, they have banded together to build a time-share house on the Cape for their four families to spend their summers, now that the big house on WIngs Neck has passed along to another branch of the family.

So what about love? Why are some siblings so close and loyal to each other. And others are closed, competitive and even mistrustful of each other? I think it’s due to the attitude of the parents themselves. If they openly favor certain siblings, there often results a conflict between pairs within families: mother/son versus father/daughter. And some are left over and out of it too, for better or worse.

And if there’s not much love in the air to be observed while you’re growing up, then, how does one get an idea of what it feels like or looks like? Conflict between parents, whether it’s open or muted, sets the tone for everyone growing up. The kids always know the lay of the land. Anyhow, if you had love in your childhood, you’re really lucky. If not, many of us look for other ways to make up for it. We just don’t know how to go about loving people ourselves very well. Sometimes, it takes years of practice.

Meanwhile, reading about these brothers is inspiring, even if all you have are sisters.

 

 

“the big house” . . .

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Although I’ve had this book, “The Big House” (written by George Howe Colt) on my shelves since it was published a decade ago, I’ve just recently found and read it again. It is a poignant memoir about a huge weathered house on the Cape that has been in his family for almost a century.The first few times through, I was put off by the somewhat lengthy digressions that he makes about the “white WASP” Brahmin society from which he derives. Everyone goes to Harvard. Everyone, it seems, has money that they don’t have to earn. There is a degree of genteel snobbery towards others as well. And there’s plenty of marital discord, infidelity and alcoholism, not to mention mental illness to go around.

This sounds rather harsh, but perhaps it’s because I am one of those immigrants who drive by these majestic homes along the North Shore or on the Cape, where the “big house” is located on Wings Neck looking over Buzzard’s Bay and wonder to myself “who are these people” who live in these homes? Now we know, at least for this particular huge house near Woods Hole on the Cape.

DSCN1692Truth be told, my own home lies within a “big house” too. It’s a Queen Anne Victorian house built in 1899, at the turn of the century a few years earlier than the Wings Neck House, built in 1901. Colt’s family is one of those lucky ones where real estate overlooking the ocean is built by an ancestor, then handed down for almost a century for future generations to live in, rent out or to wait until such time that it is sold, the proceeds divided among the survivors.

Reading Colt’s description of what their “big house” meant to him, his wife, children and his large family of fifteen cousins over the years gives an insider’s look at their family. He describes times when an S.S. Pierce truck would pull up to the house, unloading staples like Keiller’s orange marmalade in grey pottery jars; Jones’ breakfast sausage and enough bacon to serve the hordes for breakfast every morning. Also beautifully described, because the author is a writer by profession, is his love of books, particularly his descriptions by title, depth and variety of books shelved in every room of the 13 bedroom house. When it’s his turn to pick something to keep from the house, it is the turn-of-the-century volumes of Dickens he read as a child while lolling on the chaise longue in one of the sitting rooms of the house.

There are estrangements between husbands and wives and financial constraints that hinder the family’s wish to keep the big house in the family even though taxes and repairs are a yearly burden. Yet, this large family holds itself together with a pervasively gracious consideration for each other that permeates the ending of this great house. The last quarter of the book is worth re-reading just to witness how the family interacts with each other as bids come in from developers who want to raze it to the ground and name a subdivision after their family, “Colt’s Pointe.”

I will let you read the book yourself to see what happens to the house, letting you know that it is not unlike the outcome of “Howard’s End,” that beautiful novel where a house becomes a living character in a story that has its own destiny, out of reach of what people want or don’t want to happen, no matter how fiercely they struggle with each other as tragedy unfolds.

As for living in our big house, I look around me to appreciate again the hard work and resources that have been poured into renewing this place, the quality of the woodworking and materials and most of all, that we have the good fortune to live in the spacious vaulted space with skylights that it provides us with. And on a smaller scale, books shelved everywhere.

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Reading about a big house on the Cape has re-ignited my appreciation of our own house: the cherry floorboards up the original staircase with cherry bannisters, the wide board pine floors on the upper floor where we live, the cedar shake siding that clads the house, handcrafted copper gutters and downspouts, the stained glass windows on the first floor that abut the wisteria bower where a family of cardinals live.

Life is long, I am wont to say. Rather than cramming as much as we can into our day because we are fearful that “life is short,” and could be cut off at anytime, I am impressed over and over again by observing how life unfolds when we seem to have virtually nothing to do with the outcome. I don’t know why I landed here in a second marriage after a long, unhappy first one that had left me high and dry. Nor did it seem possible for G. and me to make such a fitting home for ourselves relatively late in life.

All I know is that our glass is more than half full and when we partake from it, it’s helpful to remember the effort that has gone into making it so. And to be thankful.

‘unexamined life’ . . .

a twilight zone . . .

a twilight zone . . .

Gee, today, I read a comment in the NYTimes that someone writing about herself was ‘self-absorbed’ because they wrote in the first person. I began to wonder if that’s how I come across in my posts when I ruminate about things that happen in my life. When is a journal or memoir besmirched by the characterization of being ‘self-absorbed?’

There’s also a saying you may have heard, that “an unexamined life is not worth living.” What’s the balance between the two? Here’s what I found online about this line which Socrates penned so long ago:

I’ve always been fascinated by Socrates’ bold statement that “The unexamined life is not worth living.”

He doesn’t mince words. He doesn’t say that the unexamined life is “less meaningful than it could be” or “one of many possible responses to human existence.” He simply and clearly says it’s not even worth living.
Why does he make such strong, unequivocal statement?

Socrates believed that the purpose of human life was personal and spiritual growth. We are unable to grow toward greater understanding of our true nature unless we take the time to examine and reflect upon our life. As another philosopher, Santayana, observed, “He who does not remember the past is condemned to repeat it.”

Examining our life reveals patterns of behavior. Deeper contemplation yields understanding of the subconscious programming, the powerful mental software that runs our life. Unless we become aware of these patterns, much of our life is unconscious repetition.

and finishes with this sentence:

It’s a radical act to stop and contemplate your life. But according to Socrates, it’s the only game that really matters.

Food for thought!

 

 

 

 

 

“DIY” . . .

DSC_0415Yesterday, I went to the movies by myself and saw “Begin Again,” with Kiera Knightley, Mark Ruffalo and Adam Levine. It was full of surprises. For one thing, Adam Levine was terrific in portraying his character. Keira Knightley, looked lovely at some angles, but sometimes also has a smirky pose that appears on film that does her no favors. Mark Ruffalo seems to be visible everywhere these days in a kind of career renaissance after playing the good guy on “13 going on 30″ with Jennifer Garner. In between that movie and this one feels like a couple of decades, but whatever. Most actors nowadays are standing in line to test out their pilot TV series no matter how gruesome or dumb the concepts are, e.g., “Extant” with Halle Berry.

But back to the surprises in the movie. (here are some spoilers): Ruffalo and Knightley work together on a project that serves them both well professionally but they don’t end up in bed (or even kissing) each other although they do look longingly at each other every once in awhile. Adam Levine’s character craps on his relationship with Knightley although he is sorry afterwards and he wants her back: she longs for integrity of her songs more than she wants him back. In the end, you realize, dear viewer, that the whole movie is about how compromised a creative work (e.g., original song) can be when people (bad marketing and money-mongers) want to make lots of money off of other people’s creativity. It turns out that the creator of a song or a writer of a book receives ONE DOLLAR out of the TEN dollars per unit spent on marketing, publicity and production/distribution.

So what is the moral of the story? Stay true to yourself. Don’t compromise. Keep being creative about your own work. Protect the integrity of your own work from money mongers and parasites who hook onto your creation and then steal it to make it “more marketable.” That goes for lovers and ex-lovers who take your song in order to make it “bigger.”

Surprisingly, some of the songs Kiera Knightley’s character supposedly composes and then sings are not all that bad. They have a kind of poignantly musical tonal space that is appealing a lot of the time. What I liked best was the actress who played the classical cellist who mouthed the words of the song during each of the gigs. And her brother was funny too, the prodigy violinist, each working for no upfront money but for a cut of the proceeds on the back end should there be any.

Which brings me full circle to the moral of this little film. Instead of handing over her project of songs performed all over NYC to a big-name record company, Knightley’s character decides to upload it online and SELL IT FOR ONE DOLLAR. It doesn’t hurt that they get a big record honcho who is a friend of Ruffalo’s character to publicize it online in a Twitter post.

So, it takes off, right? 10,000 purchases on the first day? At a dollar a pop, (which is all they would have received anyhow by letting record producers “remix a couple of tunes” etc.,) this is Do-It-Yourself (DIY) to the MAX! And the proceeds are PURE. The big-bad-middlemen are cut out of the picture altogether and the proceeds are shared by all the musicians who worked for nothing just to be playing music and participating in this project.

I drove home thinking I should just write what I want to write, stop worrying about publishing or who might or might not want to read it; and sell it (whatever it turns out to be) for a dollar online.

BINGO, now that was worth the price of admission.

‘stay-cation’ . . .

Pilgrim century chair and table . . .

Pilgrim century chair and table . . .

Last night on Chronicle TV, a married couple with no children reveled in what they called a “stay-cation,” toasting each other with glasses of wine and snuggling up on the couch together. To balance it out, the show also featured a family with three children under the age of three: a little girl and her infant twin brothers. Lots of adjustments and accommodations there, including a day a year to celebrate the Mom as a special appreciation for all she had to handle all the time.

When I was their age, I had three children under the age of five. Three daughters born about 22 months apart, one after another. I can’t tell you that it was easy. I remember taking lots of naps and trying to do something interesting for myself like going antiquing to furnish the house and then later to be a part-time dealer of early New England furniture and accessories. I did pretty well for a time too, because that was so long ago that you could go to Brimfield, a huge flea market, with $25 in your pocket and still have some fun.

Now, many collections bought and sold with only a few things that I’ve kept (large early wooden turned bowls on the soffit in our kitchen, an 18th century gateleg table with a replaced top, a few other pieces of redware and yelloware are all that’s left.) I love those pieces, though. They add character and charm to our 3rd floor flat in this Queen Anne Victorian house that we call home.DSCN3725_2

Which is what this post is actually about. With the kids grown and on their own, one granddaughter who is starting Johns Hopkins University, and another one about to turn four and playing with paper dolls, we’re lucky to have family that is loving and with whom we keep close contact. But who don’t live near us. Which means, dear reader, that the concept of a “stay-cation” is upon us all the time if only we’d recognize it as a way of life rather than something special just for a brief time.

I did this morning, as I made a marinade for some baby back pork ribs that will sit on the kitchen counter until G. makes a charcoal fire tonight and grills them for our supper. Two large artichokes that I bought at Market Basket are ready to be cooked and then dipped in curry mayonnaise as our starter while the ribs are cooking. A plain ruby lettuce salad with some fresh mushrooms and cucumbers in a vinaigrette dressing will finish off our meal.

my own kitchen stuff . . .

my own kitchen stuff . . .

The thing is, it’s going to taste better than anything we could go out and pay money for in a restaurant. And it will be just the way we like it.

It’s also easy to prepare, using my own utensils, condiments and ingredients. Furthermore, the timing is up to us–we can cook it and sip a glass of chilled rose wine while we watch the news, or even keep the TV turned off. In other words, we can do whatever we want to on this Wednesday with a light breeze coming in the windows, still cool before we decide whether to turn the AC on or not.

I’ve worked for thirty years in biotech start-ups, a late career that was both challenging and rewarding. It required me to see the big picture and to manage the minutiae of operational details that teams require for success. Jobs like strategic planning and project management are elusive management jobs that can be turned over to younger (cheaper) labor when you’ve reached an apogee where you’re valued and also paid too much. So sooner or later, it comes to an end, thankfully, and all of a sudden, you’re retired. Well, I’m glad of it and it came at the right time for me too.

The reason I’m writing about life as an ongoing “stay-cation” is that I’ve been trying very hard to take vacations near the ocean, mostly: in Truro two years ago and in Brewster on the Cape last year after Christmas. Rockport, MA. was also a winter rental destination for a number of years. We just returned from a weekend stay over the 4th at a quiet, studio rental in Rockport. It was quiet but the tourist traffic in town made getting around tedious and slow.

Each of these “VA-cations” required tons of planning, packing kitchen things and bedding; cars loaded with boxes of groceries, equipment and so on. Just to have what we liked at home in another place for a few days. Not to mention the sometimes expensive per-night rental fees. But it was worth it for the most part. Or so I thought until recently.

There are lots of food posts on this blog so it’s pretty obvious that I really love to cook for my husband and family. And I’m pretty adventurous too. Just today in the NYTimes food section, there’s a recipe for individual summer squash souffles that looks just terrific. I think I might make them to go along with some marinated lamb kabobs on the grill for a supper here with a piano colleague on Friday.

In the meantime, I’m heading out to the local liquor store this morning to fetch a bunch of empty boxes so that I can cull out more books to donate to the local library. And stop at the grocery store to replenish our supply of charcoal and stock up on Perrier water with plenty of ice and fresh lime. My daughter, C. gave me some tart cherry juice by Knudsen which was so refreshing (and good for reducing joint inflammation, e.g., gout, arthritis.) When the tart cherry concentrate I ordered arrives from Amazon, I think I’ll try mixing it with some sparkling water or soda with lots of ice (a special luxury!)

So, I’m well on my way to laying out a framework for the idea of a permanent “stay-cation” here at home. It’s much more convenient and enjoyable with everything we need right at hand. For example, the new grey and white foliate sheets I ordered that match my college-age granddaughter’s new duvet cover are laundered and hanging out on the clothesline.

So, what do you think? How about if we try out a “stay-cation” frame of mind, every day?

‘never too late’ . . .

DSC_0688Yesterday, I read a charming essay in Vogue magazine, written by a daughter whose parents, after thirty years of an arranged Indian marriage, had finally fallen in love with each other. Humorously told, it depicted her own search to be “in love” with someone after observing her parents’ newly found happiness, and how it felt different from the man she was dating at the time. She calls her older brother, Arun, who lives in Seattle who says he also “can’t believe it.”

It turns out that her father, a successful surgeon with an outgoing personality had finally succeeded in overcoming or breaking through their mother’s natural reserve and they fall in love with each other after their children are grown and have left them alone together in their middle-age. What a wonderful concept for those of us who may have deep reservoirs of love for our spouses and who also have deep pockets of misery left by unkind parents and/or an abysmal batting average with ex-husbands or boyfriends.

Last night, I was watching Nicholas Cage and Bridget Fonda in the movie “It Could Happen To You,” playing the Cop and the Waitress (Charlie and Yvonne) who are thrust together by Fate. Near the end of the film, Yvonne says that “nobody’s ever loved me before,” as a reason for why she’s awkward about falling love with Charlie. Coming on the heels of reading the “never too late” article about a couple together for over 30 years falling in love with each other, I felt a satisfying little surge of hope for all those people out there who still have a chance to be happy, even if they don’t know how to open up to their spouses.

These vignettes also remind me of a couple that I’d been acquainted with for over thirty years: she was an antique dealer living in Bolton, MA. who had a quirky, very individual sense of primitive antiques that made many of us flock to her little shop on the ground floor of her little stone house. We all knew she was very unhappy in her marriage with Bill because she talked and complained about it all the time. How unhappy she was, that is.

I ran into her AND Bill in an antique shop in New Hampshire about five years ago when I was passing through with another antiquing friend. Astonishingly, she said out aloud to anyone within earshot in the antique barn full of household detritus that she couldn’t be happier now in her seventies. . . because she and Bill had fallen in love with each other for the first time even though they each now had health issues and no money to speak of.

So, there you go.

It is possible for us to fall in love for the first, or even the second time with our spouses after years of annealing relationships which haven’t quite made it to nirvana. In fact, I believe that once the thunderbolt has occurred to us that maybe “nobody has ever loved me before,” and in spite of whatever kinds of moats and defenses that we put up around ourselves, we can decide whether to let the drawbridge down. And reflect upon whether to finally let someone inside the fortress of our inner selves.

I don’t want to sound over melodramatic about this but it does strike my fancy that it indeed may “never be too late” to listen to lines from movies or to realize how hard we might be making life for ourselves when what we most want can indeed be found in our very own backyard.

Now, there’s a romantic story if I ever heard one!

 

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