Saturday, May 7, 2011

Transitions and a Poem for Mother's Day

Tomorrow is Mother's Day. This Mother's Day, I'm in the midst of a huge life transition, much of which has to do with being a mother, and for the first time in my life, I'm actually enjoying this transition. This has not always been the case - I've always struggled with them, thinking I had to speed up in order to get to the next place, only to discover that this just caused way too much anxiety for me and anyone unfortunate enough to be along for the ride.

But a change is happening - yes, THAT change with all that goes with it. And THAT change is finally teaching me to just give in to the larger powers that be and when I feel a transition happening, to just let it happen.

I don't want to reveal too much about the transition because I like the suspense, but as of June 1st, Mamazblogging will morph into a new world. For the past four or five years, I've been writing on this blog mostly about being a mother. Specifically, about being an older mother.  It's been a great journey, but my world has expanded back out again and I'm wanting to not only write about motherhood from my quirky point of view, but also about the other things that get me out of bed and also keep me up at night.

As I enter into Mother's Day, a day usually fraught with guilt, tepid brunch food served by grumpy waiters (I can say this because I was one of those grumpy waiters in my youth) and another pair of pajamas. It's also a day to bask in the glory of this path and responsibility and blessing.

Call your mother, your stepmother, your grandmother, your best friend's mother. Call your sister, your sister-in-law, your aunt, your godmother, your stepmother. Call your adoptive mom, call your mentor mom. Call your neighbor. Call a new mother. Call a mother whose child is a soldier. Wish them a Happy Mother's Day and ask them to tell you what it is like to be a mother.

I will wake up in the morning and be showered by my beloved children's tender gifts and cards. But before I do, I wanted to try to get into words who and what I am as a mother. It's for my kids, my friends, my husband, my family. It's for me. It's sort of my farewell to Mamazblogging and a hello to the next stage in my life.

I Am A Mother: Motherhood Squared

I am a mother. I am a mother who has three daughters. I am a mother of twins. I am a married mother. I am a white mother. I am a Jewish mother. I am a mother who is straight. I am a mother with GLBT friends. I am a mother who is 52 year old.  I am a mother who has young children. I am a mother who works. I am a mother who plants sunflowers. I am a mother with crabgrass and dandelions. I am a mother who yells too much. I am a mother who cries easily. I am a mother who misses her father. I am a mother whose father lived to three days short of 98 years old. I am a mother who loves her mother. I am a mother whose mother is almost 80 years old. I am a mother who father escaped the Nazis. I am a mother whose father’s mother and youngest brother were killed by the Nazis. I am mother whose mother’s mother fled the Pogroms. I am a mother who touches. I am a mother with three cats, one dog, a tortoise and a dozen fish. I am a mother who loves to cook. I am a mother who hates to cook. I am a mother who hates to clean the house. I am a mother who does the laundry. I am a mother who takes her children into her bed. I am a mother who writes. I am a mother who sings. I am a mother who dances. I am a mother who loves baseball. I am a mother who volunteers. I am a mother who loves kissing her husband. I am a mother who loves making love. I am a mother who does Yoga. I am a mother who owns her own business. I am a mother who is an aunt to eleven nieces and nephews. I am a mother who loves the ocean. I am a mother who loves the mountains. I am a mother who drinks coffee in the morning while the rest of the house is asleep. I am a mother who drinks tea in the evening when the children are in bed. I am a mother who is hopeful. I am a mother who fights for her kids. I am a mother who loves her children’s friends. I am a mother who has a soft belly. I am a mother with curly auburn hair covering my gray. I am a mother who wears red glasses. I am a mother who has hot flashes. I am a mother who has night sweats. I am a mother who desires kindness. I am a mother who does not believe in not believing. I am a mother who reads the newspaper. I am a mother who reads books. I am a mother who reads to her children. I am a mother who loves the smell of a used bookstore. I am a mother who wears her father’s watch. I am a mother with a too short temper. I am a mother who is impatient. I am a mother who does crossword puzzles. I am a mother who loves to walk. I am mother who hates to fly. I am a mother who makes bread. I am a mother who does not know how to knit. I am a mother whose house is too small. I am a mother who lived in New York City. I am a mother who was born in California. I am a mother whose parents were immigrants. I am a mother whose windows need to be cleaned. I am a mother with bright green curtains. I am a mother who is married to a kind poet.  I am a mother who breastfed three children. I am a mother who has blue eyes, like both my parents. I am a mother who lives in Colorado. I am a mother who lights Shabbat candles. I am a mother with arthritis in her toe. I am a mother who loves dark chocolate. I am a mother who wants to be a grandmother. I am a mother.

Monday, April 18, 2011

An Apple Peel for Passover

In less than an hour, Passover will begin in our part of the world. The kids have changed their clothing at least three times, I'm still in my clothes from the day and we need to leave for our service and seder in less than 30 minutes. But before I do, I have two things to share, two gifts that just landed in my lap and which will define how I enter into this particular Passover.

The first is a stunning piece of writing by Rabbi Heather Altman, author of a gem entitled "The Yoga of Passover," published in LA Yoga Magazine. In it she writes of how every Seder is like stepping onto the mat in a yoga class:

"Sitting down for the annual Passover seder is like stepping back on the mat for yoga practice; cumulative experiences of familiarity, probing and deepening take each diner to a unique place. Attention on breath teaches us that our inhalation relates to intentional intake. The ritualistic actions of the seder unite intention and practice the moment we place a taste on our lips."

I began today, the work week, and the entry into Passover, in this way - on the mat. As I worked my way through the postures, the concept of transition and the "narrow" places that represents the Exodus came into my breath. What narrow places have I traveled through this year? What narrow places am I in right now? The beauty of yoga is that it teaches us to create breath and space around our narrow places, from tight hamstrings to shallow breathing, and that it is possible, no matter what position, place or circumstance we find ourselves in, to find an oasis of relaxation.

The second gift came in the shape of a long red apple peel. I love making Charoset and of course, eating it. I love how the smell of apples, cinnamon, honey and red wine all come together in a familiar way that always wakes up my senses. After I washed the apples, I got out the peeler and remembered how much my girls love snacking on the peels. I also remembered how my father used to be able to peel an apple in one long, unbroken peel. I used to watch in wonder as the peel got longer and longer, wanting to grab at it, but knowing that would spoil the magic of it all. He used a small paring knife and methodically would turn the apple into the edge of the knife until a perfect spiral of skin and white apple meat sat coiled on the plate. He'd nod his head and I'd take it and raise it high in the air, lowering it into my mouth one spiral at a time.

One of my daughters sat at the table doing her homework while I peeled the apple. I placed a perfectly coiled, unbroken peel by her hand. She looked up and smiled. "Just like Grandpa Leonard used to do, right, Mama?" Right, honey.

To keep the unbroken breath, the unbroken traditions, to sit through the long seder with the same mindset as I have on the yoga mat. To embrace the narrow so that we can open to the expansion that is waiting. With all the patience of an apple peel.

Chag Sameach.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Sticks and Stone May Break Our Bones...


When I was a little girl, my older brothers figured I was game for just about anything. And they were right. Most of the time this amounted to daring me to eat a worm, or a watch a really scary movie without having a nightmare, or some physically dangerous stunt. As the only girl, if I wanted to feel a part of their group, I had to constantly prove I was able to keep up with them. So explains my sometimes tougher than necessary veneer. These daily dares were just a part of my growing up and for the most part, or as far as my lately gone foggy menopausal memory serves me, they never really got into much trouble for getting me to jump when they yelled, JUMP! But one time, one sweet time, they were given a dose of karma that still makes me smile. It involved them teaching me to hold my middle finger in a certain way and then toddle over to my father, who was water the ever thirsty yucca plant, and share with him my newly found digit flexibility. I can still see them hiding behind the juniper bush, snickering away while I innocently walked over to my dad.

"Daddy?"
"Yes, honey?"
"Look!"

I pulled my hand out from behind my back and very proudly put my hand, with my middle finger sticking straight up, high into the air. 

"Where did you learn that!," knowing full well that his four year old daughter didn't have access to that kind of information. "Ricky and Mark!" 

The snickering stopped. They tried to make a fast escape, but my father, even at only 5'7", towered over them. He let them know, in no uncertain terms, that if they ever did anything like that again, there would be hell to pay and he made them pay it. 

Fast forward to me at almost 16 years old. I had been invited to go to hear Diana Ross at the Los Angeles Forum, but I'd stayed out too late the night before with my boyfriend and had since been informed by my mother, that the concert was out. With tears streaming down my face, I stood on the lower stair case landing and screamed at her, "YOU ARE SUCH A BITCH!" I ran out of the house and peddled away on my ten-speed, determined never to come home again. I think I made it to my friend's house, where I called my father and informed him that if SHE didn't let me go to the concert, I was never coming home again. I didn't go to the concert and I did come home. I apologized to my mom and got and earful from our housekeeper who had known me since I was a little girl and who let me know that she was really disappointed in me. 

Fast even further forward to yesterday. I was getting ready to take the girls out for a bike ride. One of them was brushing her hair in the hallway and we were laughing about something silly. Still in the throes of laughter, and because even if I do close a door, they usually just come in anyway, I pulled off my pajama top to put on my jog bra and shirt. She looked up at me and got a look that I will not soon forget on her face and then proceeded to say something disparaging about my appearance. I won't go into the exact words, but it was harsh enough, and surprising enough, to make me gasp. I told her to go to her room and informed her sisters that our bike ride would be a little delayed. 

I closed my bedroom door and sat on my bed. My heart was beating fast and tears were forming. And then I had a flashback to my standing on the lower landing and screaming those words at my mother and the look of sadness and anger that came across her face. I wiped my tears and went into my daughter's room. I asked her how she thought her words made me feel. "Mad." I told her, no, just really, really sad. She apologized and then I brought her back into my room and read her the following quote from Pema Chodron ("No Right, No Wrong"), which had been shared widely on Facebook that day: 

"People need to see that if you hurt another person, you hurt yourself, and if you hurt yourself, you're hurting another person. And then to begin to see that we are not in this alone. We are in this together. For me, that's where the true morality comes from."

I told her I accepted her apology and asked her to remember kindness as the center of our family. I'm sure I'll get much more practice in this as we enter into adolescence, much more. But for yesterday, and today, I'm grateful this piece of wisdom arrived at just the right time.


Sunday, January 9, 2011

Three Glimmers of Hope - For Christina Green and her family

I hesitated before I began writing this post, but as I wiped away the tears after reading the many touching articles on Christina Green, the shining nine year-old girl slain in yesterday's tragic events in Tucson, I knew I needed a way to navigate through my fury, confusion, sadness and rage.

Many things struck me about Christina Green's short life. She was an excellent student, loved baseball, dance and was on her student council. But her birthday is what made me, and so many others, stop in their tracks. 9/11/01. Christina Green was born on the day of one of the most tragic days in United States history.

I don't know Christina Green's family, but I believe I share a sense of the impossible hope they felt on that terrible day.

The morning of September 11, 2001, our family woke up to a fairly typical fall day. We were sleepily moving into on our day, drinking coffee, getting Mila ready for day care, and me ready to go to work. Our phone rang at 8:15 a.m. and our dear friend and neighbor, Steven Taylor, asked us if we were watching the news. I told him we never watched the morning news and he said, "Turn on your T.V. They're bombing New York City."

I found the remote and switched on a random news channel. Jack and I held Mila and watched as the first World Trade Center collapsed like a sand castle at high tide. I don't remember if I hung up the phone or not.

Jack's brother lived at the time in Brooklyn and bartended in the city. One of our closest friends worked at the WTC. Another lived in Battery Park. We'd lived in NYC for close to ten years and left many friends behind. We frantically got on the phone and started to call, in some frantic moment of thinking we'd be able hear their voices. We didn't get through to anyone right then, but throughout the day, word filtered in that all our friends and family were alive. Incredibly shattered emotionally, but alive. One friend recounted watching the people who threw themselves out of their office windows. The friend who worked at the WTC spoke of being separated from his fiancee for hours before they knew each other was all right. After hours of seeing the towers collapse, over and over again, Jack made me turn off the T.V. We had an appointment to get to that afternoon.

I was a little over three months pregnant and we had a checkup with our nurse midwife. Jack, Mila and I arrived at the doctor's office, which surprisingly was still open. The waiting room was solemn, with the buzz of a the news playing on a local radio station in the background. We were ushered into a room and I changed into a dressing gown.

Our nurse midwife, Sherri, came into the room. Without saying anything, we hugged one another. She brought in the sonogram machine and rubbed the cold jelly on my tummy, all the while explaining to Mila that we were going to listen to the baby's heartbeat. She placed the pad on my belly and turned the volume up. A whirring series of rhythmic beats filled the room. "My angel," Mila whispered. Less than a second later, another series of rhythmic beats filled the room.

"Hmm...that baby is moving really fast," Sherri said.

I'll never forget the quixotic look on her face as she said that. It was a look that at its core held a secret and a smile.

We went through the rest of the examination.

A few weeks later we went to have an amnio, since I was approaching 43. In stunned silence, we watched as two round shadows showed up on the screen. We were having twins.

The quixotic look on our midwife's face made total sense. The baby wasn't moving fast; there were two babies. Two baby girls. Twin girls whose heartbeats we heard on 9/11/01. Two glimmers of hope in the face of such tragedy, confusion and sadness.

Those twin baby girls will turn nine years old next month. Like Christina Green, they've been studying US government. One of their classmates is the son of our state representative, who visited their class and talked about how laws get made. I remember their excitement as they came home after meeting him and coming up with a list of laws they'd like to see made.

I cannot even imagine the pain Christina Green's circle of family and friends are experiencing right now. I can only pray that they are able to find comfort in one another. We don't know one another, and chances are we may never meet, but unknowingly, we shared three glimmer of hope on 9/11/01. Theirs in the birth of their glorious child, Christina. Ours in the fleeting sound of twin heart beats.

Our lives cross in ways we sometimes know of, but more often than not, our lives ripple across an interconnectedness that sometimes remain unknown to one another.

How do we explain to our children the ways hatred enters a heart and leads to shattered lives? We can't, or at least I don't have any answers. The only answer, the only balm for the wounds of our spirit I have comes in the words of Martin Luther King:

"Nonviolence means avoiding not only external physical violence but also internal violence of the spirit. You not only refuse to shoot a man, but you refuse to hate him."

Light a candle. Pray. Breathe. Create space around the negative feelings this tragedy bring forth. Express loving kindness toward yourself and our world. Today and everyday.



Tuesday, November 23, 2010

In Praise of the Family Meal

This time of year, I fall in love with my kitchen. It's a basic kitchen with none of the fancy appliances so many have taken for granted. But despite the fact that my oven runs too hot or too cold and the electric coils have to be forced back in with the end of a stainless steel spoon every time I turn them on, somehow I manage to cook up some pretty yummy dishes.

The weather has turned cold, the leaves are off the trees and the chill makes me want to bake, cook, saute and stew. Banana chocolate chip muffins, care of Cat Can Cook, have barely made their way into the girls' lunchboxes after being gobbled right out of the oven. I hope that Cat Can Cook won't mind, but I've just substituted pumpkin for the banana in honor of this time of year when opening a can of pumpkin can send me into a suspended state of ecstasy.

But I recently made a dish for dinner that summoned up all my childhood dinners. It had been a long week in which we were dragging ourselves towards the Thanksgiving break. I'd opened and closed the refrigerator at least a dozen times without any idea of what to make.

I went back to my desk to finish up some the day's projects. After working out of the house for the last few years, I'm now happily operating my PR consulting business out of our home. As I closed up my computer dinner inspiration hit me. Tuna patties. Why tuna patties? Well, I was in the mood for something shaped like a burger, but since turkey burgers had recently democratically voted off our menu and we've cut down on our meat intake, I was seeking something tasty and economical. I ran to the pantry. Bingo - four cans of fresh Crown Prince Natural Tongol Tuna.


Every Monday for countless Mondays, my mother made Salmon Patties. In my freewheeling, anti-establishment twenties and thirties, I used to make fun of my mom for the weekday menu she adhered to, but now, as a parent, I completely bow to her culinary organization and strive to do the same. As a child, I relied on that menu for a way of framing my week and my memory has enshrined this menu in the following way:
  • Monday: Salmon Patties
  • Tuesday: Meat Loaf with a hard boiled egg in the middle
  • Wednesday: Chicken and Rice with cream of mushroom soup
  • Thursday: Baked Halibut
  • Friday: Roasted Chicken
I loved all these meals, with the exception of the Baked Halibut. Thursdays I would beg my friends to rescue me from the inedible Baked Halibut cooked in tomato soup with canned green beans. But the rest of the week, I looked forward to them the predetermined meals and gobbled them up. The food was hearty and heart-felt and every night of the week (except for the nights I was able to escape the Baked Halibut), our family ate together. My father would arrive home by 6:30 p.m. and after he'd changed out of his work clothes and washed his hands, we'd sit down together and share our day.

But back to the Tuna Patties. One of my recent goals has been to limit the number of unneccessary trips to the market, a carryover from years in New York City and spontaneous meals. I go to the market once a week and try to make our meals out of that week's shopping, which requires meal planning (back to Mom's weekly meal menu) and limiting the whim-based eating habits of my single days. Sometimes we'll give in to something we really want to have, but I was so damn tired that I couldn't bear the idea of going to the market and besides, I liked the challenge of creating from what I already have. I looked around the kitchen to see what else I had and spotted an acorn squash, rice and garden mix salad greens.

Having never made Tuna Patties, I was a bit lost as to how to begin, so I looked online for Salmon Patties. All the recipes I read online called for fresh salmon and that wasn't going to happen. They also were so busy being something other than the simple fish patties of my youth that I closed my computer and opened up our much used copy of the "Joy of Cooking," page 267. The recipe was refreshingly simple in ingredients and steps. Wanting to keep the simplicity of JofC's salmon cakes, I added a few items to it to account for the substitution of tuna, which tends to be milder in taste. I also needed to make it gluten free, since that is my dietary necessity. Below is my version of Tuna Patties, which will probably change again as my mood and pantry changes:

  • Four cans of low sodium Tongol Tuna, drained and flaked
  • 1/2 - 2/3 cup crushed cornflakes
  • 2 slightly beaten eggs
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Juice of one lemon
  • Dash of wheat-free soy sauce
  • 1/8 tsp paprika
  • Dash of dill
  • 1/4 tsp curry
  • 1/4 tsp cumin
I drained the tuna, reserving the juice for our three cats, who scurried into the kitchen at the sound of the opening cans. With the juice being lapped up by them, I flaked the tuna and added the crushed corn flakes, eggs, salt, paprika, pepper. I added fresh lemon juice, a dash of wheat-free soy sauce, dill and a touch of curry powder and cumin. It took a little bit more of this and that before the mixture was the right consistency to be formed into patties that would hold. On the electric griddle, I placed the patties and let them brown gently on each side and then popped them into the oven to stay warm.

The acorn squash, cooking away in butter, maple syrup and cinnamon, welcomed the tuna patties into the oven, which today seemed to be cooking a bit on the low side. I tossed the salad with some tomatoes, red onion, avocado, olive oil and balsamic vinegar and made a light tartar sauce. I poured myself and Jack a glass of red wine.

The kids finished their homework and help set the table.

We sat down and before I knew it, all eight patties were gone. Happy customers, as we used to say in the restaurant business.
Don't get me wrong. I don't mean to present our dinner time as some paradise of calm, or of philosophical conversations on the meaning of life. Most of the time, our family meals are loud, silly, full of not so great table manners, eaten too quickly and with too many requests for dessert. But on this particular night, the dinner stars aligned for a simple meal that all of us enjoyed together. And there was much peace in that simple fact.

Perhaps because I'm doing more writing (and editing) these days, I tend to see the day in terms of punctuation. I look at breakfast as a colon, opening up to the demands of school, work, music lessons, and homework. Lunch is the day's semi-colon; a pause in the action, hopefully done at the table and not at my desk. Dinner? Sometimes dinner is a question mark and the accompanying anxiety that occurs at not having an answer.

But this particular night, with four cans of tuna, dinner became a period, a time to take a full stop. This particular night, a simple tuna patty was our period, allowing us to stop and join together for a little while before the day was done. Before we finish our last chores of the day and collapse together in our separate sleeps. One more chance to connect through sustenance. I cherish our family meals and will insist on them as long as I can.

The family meal doesn't need to be an exclamation point, although once in a while that is a terrific thing to do. The family meal just needs to be a period, that's all.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Talking about the Laundry on Sears Blog!

Happy to post a link to my pithy washer and dryer love tale - How Bikram Yoga gives our washer and dryer a workout! Enjoy! And while you're at it, if you live in Longmont and always wanted to try Bikram, come and enjoy a free day of classes at Bikram Colorado/Longmont!

http://www.mysears.com/mysears_blog/Bikram-Yoga-Works-out-Mom-Dad-and-Washer

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Ode to Chipped Bowls and other Stoneware

Ode to A (chipped) Blue Bowl
I know this might seem really silly, in these days of economic uncertainty, political fighting and out of control stress. But today, in the midst of all this, I'm spending a lot of brain space on my stoneware, or more specifically on my chipped stoneware. Am I alone in having a really difficult time in letting go of a chipped cup, plate or bowl? I do.

The bowl in the above picture has been sitting on our kitchen counter for two weeks, ever since I noticed that the chip was now growing into a crack. The chip has been there for quite some time and despite what my domestic goddess-wannabee side tells me, I just haven't been able to part with it. I love this bowl, which has held countless delicious meals, such as my beloved partner's killer Putanesca sauce long adapted from a friend, or a steaming bowl of chicken soup. It's the kind of bowl you hold in your hand because it stays warm, with a perfect shape and concavity. It's the kind of bowl to display because the color is the deepest shade of blue I've ever dreamt of swimming in.

The bowl is a simple one, with no brand stamped on the underside. In fact, I don't even remember buying it. The bowl probably belongs to a friend from a long ago dinner party from when we used to have dinner parties that lasted until early morning. It might have held a fig and olive tampenade, since it is not big enough to hold a full meal.

I've let go of my favorite coffee mugs, which my family will tell you I'm very particular about. They must be large, wide mouth and able to go into the microwave without burning my hand. I let go of the black, blue and white geometric cup that was part of a stunning set of dishes bought for a Valentine's Day when money was low. I still get to enjoy the pattern with the plates, so the letting go was easier with that one. I've lost track of how many chipped cups that now sit in the garage, neither of us able to part with them. How many of them soothed sleepless nights with teething babies? How many of them represented warmth and home on early winter mornings when I pull myself out of bed while the rest of the house stays asleep?

Much is made these days of the food we eat. Local, organic, seasonal, artisan. Yes, it is all important, but until today, I've thought little on the role our stoneware plays in bringing it all together to represent home, family, warmth and love.

I love this bowl and while I know it can't hold food any longer, I just can't part with it. The wishful craftsperson says to me, smash it and use it for that much thought about mosaic backsplash! But I'm not ready to shatter the perfect circle-ness of it, not just yet.

So to honor this perfect blue bowl, I'd like to offer up that Puttanesca sauce recipe that filled it (and my stomach) to the brim so many lovely nights. Pair it with a good glass of red wine and simple salad of arugula, tomatoes, olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

Jack's Putanesca Sauce (which he is WAY overdue to make)
Adapted from our dear friend, Joseph Calderone

Ingredients:
Anchovies, lots of them, chopped
One sweet yellow onion
Three cloves of garlic, mashed
One cup pitted Kalamita olives
Two large cans of chopped tomatoes (we love Muir Glens Organic Fire Roasted)
Fresh oregano and one bay leaf
Dash of whatever red wine you'll be drinking while making this sauce
Salt and pepper to taste

Cook the anchovies with chopped olives, mashed garlic and sweet onions in plenty of olive oil. Rest your forearm on the overhead stove because you'll be stirring this a long time. Let the anchovies, olives and onions cook until they all turn a nice purply brown, but make sure you don't brown them. The consistency should be silky. Add two large cans of chopped tomatoes, fresh oregano, bay leaf, dash of red wine, salt and pepper. Stir until all the flavors are married and turn the heat down to simmer, cover 3/4 of the way and cook for as long as possible. When you're ready to serve, boil up some linguine - we use gluten free - and serve in your favorite bowl, topped with fresh parmesan reggiano. Enjoy!

I do have plans this winter break to finally make that backsplash, with my beloved blue blue holding the center and which will made up of all the chipped cups and dishes, bowls and plates we haven't been able to part with.

Until then, the blue bowl will stay intact, atop our kitchen counter, as a daily reminder of our daily comforts and that which give us sustenance. Buon appetito!