Mixing Pots, Missing Dots, Freudenfreude Hopes and (Incey Wincey) Nopes

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Join us for a bit of Monday morning mischief and malarkey as we romp through the treasures we’ve found this past week!

First, Mixing Pots.  There is a recent study linking a variety of subjects, discussion of life and ethics in class, and meaningful interaction with professors in a liberal arts degree all part of baking a successful life. Do you watch how-to videos? Here’s an unexpected recipe you wood probably like, for your recipe box. What do you think of when you read America is “a cultural melting pot”? Photos taken of people travelling through Ellis Island in their native dress is fascinating. What’s the weirdest thing you have seen in a vending machine?  This student filled one with 360 hand-thrown, glazed and crafted ceramics.

Secondly, Missing Dots (which may often come before or after mixing pots?)  This advice to “stop trying to be creative” may seem counterintuitive – or even very seductive – but still may provide some dots on your own creative journey maps (hopefully away/faster towards those “Here Be Dragons” areas). The recent blizzards stopped some hospitalised children’s plans to go outside, but a scrubs-clad wonder filled in the gaps to make snow possible inside.  Family history tends to be full of frustrating gaps – this search tries to find Abuelitas and the goal to “trace my father’s family back to legitimate births”. The struggle of our current family be just as unchartered, though reading (or even writing) the letter your teenager can’t write you may give a glimmer of hope and direction.

Next, Freudenfreude Hopes. Freudenfreude is the delight in the success of others, which is much better for you (and humanity) than schadenfreude, and is celebrated with a great example that reaches from Australia all the way around the world.  If you had your own wave of freudenfreude in the pages of Pride and Prejudice, you may like this illustrated version.  Also glorious and thick with success (however eventual), we have an illustrated missionary journal, about Brittany Long Olsen’s mission in Japan.

Then, NOPES.  I guess, though, like this 99 year old woman found out, waking up in Miami with a South American jungle cat called a kinkajou isn’t THAT bad… definitely compared to this INCEY WINCEY NOPE find – armies of spiders 50,000 strong. (WARNING: I didn’t read this last one, I quickly scrolled and leaned as far away from the screen as possible as I did so…Link contains spiders!!!!!)

Finally, a gorgeous First Draft Poetry from Melonie, inspired from freudenfreude and thoughts of a dear friend.

Son of Germany
For Rich Jackson on his birthday.

He wasn’t born there,
but his life was called
to green –
postcard farms, sweet grass,
tall trees like absinthe umbrellas
over the forest ground,
the wind’s breath silently
moving grain this way,
that.

He ran the damp paths
breathing in his chosen home,
spreading lungs with the air, round and generous
as an umlaut in the back of his throat.

He spoke tenderness
to slick babies hungry for life,
tiny fish from the river of God,
holding them
as the country held him – soft and strong,
an ancient echo,
a fossilized fern,
the thrust of a trout’s tail.

He wove all the colors of Germany
into his soul, spinning rows
of yarn-like memories
until they were
tight, even, and sure-
knit and pearl, knit and pearl-
black, red, gold-
a sweater to keep his heart warm,
a strand long enough to cover an ocean.

When he left,
the moist earth mourned
for his music.
It longed for open windows,
grey shutters flung wide,
funneling the exuberant organ’s antique notes
deep into the ground.

There is a deep hollow in the
space he left behind- a carved out tree.
His homeland grieves
for the touch of his feet, his breath, his hands-
It longs for the green of him
to fill the rattling spaces
of the now empty house,
waiting for him to come home.

SEASONS of Salted Perspectives

Teresa Herbs

Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? — Matthew 5:13
***
The grey sky drizzled and, despite my umbrella, an hour after I’d greeted a friend for lunch, my clothes preserved dampness against my skin. I didn’t have time for this detour, but I trusted her recommendation and so sloshed my way into the adjacent shop.

I couldn’t believe my eyes. The wall was covered in salt. Salt of many colors.

Salted memories. Salts of possibilities.
***
As newlyweds in a shoebox apartment almost three decades ago, my husband and I pinkie-swore to eat only healthy foods: no sugar, no fat, no salt. (No flavor.) We forced down weeks of unwanted leftovers neither of us wanted (even when fresh-served). Before long, we relented.

Oh, what a difference a few key ingredients made!

Teresa garni

Still, we were on a college couple’s budget, so when recipes called for celery-, garlic-, onion-, or seasoning salts, I balked. Unable to justify their counterparts’ bottled costs, I stirred in chopped portions of the appropriate veggies and tossed in a pinch of salt from a generic cardboard cylinder.
***
When our kids were little, I faced a meal-maker’s dilemma. Granddaddy’s health required strict sodium limitations, but he was a proud Southern gentleman who wanted food with flavor. (Translation: Everything needed a little more salt.) It was up to me to find the wherewithal to make it savour-ful while obeying his doctor’s commandment: Thou shalt not salt.

Shopping took forever. I compared sodium content on every label.

I didn’t have time or space or energy to cook separate meals for Granddaddy and the rest of the family, so I attempted to create palatable foods everyone could be happy put up with. So-called salt substitutes tasted awful. In those pre-Internet days, I experimented with alternate seasonings. The absence of flavor-enhancing salt screamed for the inclusion of herbs and spices, but Granddaddy had no tolerance for anything he called “spicy,” like the meekest of salsas labeled “mild.”
***
I dropped my firstborn off at college and dropped in on a friend from my own college days. Sitting at her kitchen table, I picked up a shaker and asked, “Did one of your kids put salt in the pepper shaker?” If not, I didn’t want to consider the source of the visible speckles.

“It’s natural salt,” she said. “It includes the extra minerals most companies process out to make it look white.”

Hmm. Hadn’t occurred to me that salt — its absence or presence — might have other health-related elements to it.

It cost more, but after following up my friend’s assertions with my own research, I bought it that way, too.
***
In the first months after my husband died five years ago, the flavor of food was irrelevant. If I remembered to eat, I ate. What it was or how it tasted didn’t matter. For a time, I tasted only the salt of my tears, but I stopped noticing that, too. Sometimes people asked why I was crying when I hadn’t realized I was. I knew I had a lot to live for, but life, for a time, lost its savour.
***
A few weeks ago, my thirty-years-ago college roommate — the woman responsible for me meeting my late husband — came to town. We ate lunch at Disney Springs (a complex owned by Walt Disney World but located outside its theme parks). It was harder getting there than I anticipated. Traffic, weather, construction, and mentally reviewing incomplete work tasks meant a stressful commute. I practiced deliberate, calming breathing (… in-two-three-fourout-two-three-four …) as I made my way to our meeting place.

The moment I saw my friend’s face (and soaked in the warmth of her hug), my morning stress slid into the rain-shedding puddle at my feet. Our meal was almost as delicious as the act of catching up in person.

Before we parted ways — she to return to her final Florida itinerary and I to return to quality time with my daughter and tending client projects at home — my friend suggested I take a few minutes for myself, by myself, to browse a few shops — just for fun. She thought I’d especially enjoy one filled with seasonings and spices.

So, convincing myself a few more minutes away from my to-do list wouldn’t hurt, I stepped inside — and came face to face with the inanimate wall of salts that nevertheless spoke to me. I grinned and pulled out my phone, taking pictures (like the tourists around me) of flavor combinations I’d never considered from parts of the world I’ve never been to. “I could make that,” I thought. “I could go there …”

One day, I will.

What are your salt memories? Where might salt inspire you to go?

Reflections on the &

th-1747 years old this week. It’s a strange place to find myself. I am definitely not considered young anymore and I am (hoping) that I wouldn’t be considered old. 24 & 13, 20 & 17, 40 & 7. It is a space “in between,” – the “and” of a compound sentence. My life before this time was focused entirely on young children, diapers, meals, cleaning, carpooling, grocery shopping, etc. It was so busy that there was never much time for reflection. Conversely, I can see the future laid out like a long line of train cars. My oldest is leaving home in the next year. Things have shifted. I can feel it in every moment. I am waiting for the day when he walks out the door and the heavy dark void walks in and takes up residence in the corner bedroom. Then, all the children will quickly follow – one by one they will leave until my home becomes one of silence. No one ever talks about being here. It’s a moment in my life where I am curling and crossing in on myself. I am living in the ampersand. Alfred Corn critiques a poem where he runs across the & in the middle of a phrase. He finds it irritating and that the & breaks his concentration. “It sparks a cognitive blip, which I immediately get past, but I’d actually rather not have to go through the process, even though it’s very short,” Corn says. This sounds achingly familiar.

How can the pain of separation be so mixed with happiness? I want my children to move on – grow up – have wonderful lives. But I also want them to stay and cuddle with me on a lazy Saturday morning, talk in the kitchen late at night, or take different characters’ voices while reading fairy tales together on the sofa. I want them to have relationships and jobs and grandbabies, but I never want them to leave my house!

Perhaps John Reibetanz said it best in his poem,
“the plump, open armed ‘&’ waving goodbye
from the end of the old-world alphabet
like an innkeeper framed in doorway candlelight,
farewells swelled with hopes of come again.”

How have you dealt with this “in-between” space in your own lives? What advice can you give a woman to face the future with joy and not longing?

Book Recommendations Galore From Segullah

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Behind the scenes (and often right out the front too!) we at Segullah love books, and will often discuss and recommend them left right and everywhere.  Just before Christmas there was a discussion around what book recommendations we all had for certain types of readers.  Each dot point is a staff member’s suggestion, with stars after a title indicating how many additional staffers recommended it as well. Note that some areas overlap, with books only listed once.

Hopefully the list here will provide you with some suggestions if you’re looking for great reads and/or to use that Audible, book voucher or discretionary funding!

1) loves history, biographies, and literary fiction

  • I found Swimming to Antarctica to be a little known gem that has stayed with me for a long time. It’s a memoir from Lynn Cox, an American long distance swimmer who set the world record for the English Channel twice-once when she was 15, and the she went back to reclaim her title when she was 16. Her crowning achievement was swimming from the U.S. to Russia (there are apparently 2 islands a mile apart in the Bering Sea, one is American, the other is Russian– who knew) during the Cold War. It’s a pretty cool book for somebody who likes autobiographies.
  • I also thoroughly enjoyed Katherine Graham’s autobiography about her life as the editor of the Washington Post, but I don’t know if somebody without ties to DC would enjoy it as much.
  • Pope Joan (Donna Woolfolk Cross) is a cool historical fiction based on a legend of a pope who gave birth during a processional. Meticulously researched, it’s got very nice prose.
  • At the end of last year there was also an annotated biography of Laura Ingalls Wilder called PIONEER GIRL published by the South Dakota Historical Society that would also be a great gift book.
  • ROSEMARY (Kate Clifford Lawson) was a fascinating look at the life of Rosemary Kennedy. H IS FOR HAWK (Helen Macdonald) was a beautifully written memoir, albeit a little slow and ruminative in places, but would be good for a more cerebral reader interested in single female British college professors who turn to falconry to help deal with grief (as well as the life story of T.H. White, author of “The Sword in the Stone,” who was also a falconer.)
  • THE BOOK THIEF (Markus Zusak), or THE CURSE OF CHALION* (Lois McMaster Bujold), but most of all I recommend OLD MAN’S WAR (John Scalzi). I recommend Old Man’s War for lots of people, especially guys. Yes, it’s usually found in the sci-fi section, but it’s clever, witty and deals in humanity.

2) literary fiction or beautifully written creative nonfiction Continue reading Book Recommendations Galore From Segullah

Seasons: To Get (or Not Get) a Pet

I have something to confess that might be heresy.

I’m not a dog person.

While I’ve met several very amiable dogs, none of them have inspired in me the intense need that seeing a fat baby did (still does–but don’t tell my husband). Admittedly, puppies come close. I might even be temped if I didn’t know they got bigger.

Some of them even scare me. I still, seeing a large and strange dog while I’m out walking, have been known to cross to the far side of the road. My mom thinks some of this is due to the fact that my first encounter with a big dog was a Saint Bernard who, when I was 18 months old, bowled me over, stood on me, and licked my face. I think it might be due to the time in fifth grade when a stray dog got onto the playground at school and attacked another little girl, biting her on the head and face. (I know this is a rare incident, but it means I’m wary around strange dogs).

My not being a dog person hasn’t been much of an issue till now in my life: for the first part of our married life, we lived in rented spaces or other people’s houses (hi, mom and dad!). Even after we bought our own home, our kids were still very small. But now we’ve entered the stage of life where my kids are desperate for a pet–and not just any pet. They want a dog. Continue reading Seasons: To Get (or Not Get) a Pet