Monthly Archives: November 2013

The Last Feast

This year’s Thanksgiving feast will be a small affair.  Me and the kid (hubby is working his usual retail hours) will chow down on Cracker Barrel take-out at my parent’s condo.  I’m in charge of wine and pumpkin pie (my favorite courses).

Last year’s feast was at my place out on the patio.  Tall shot glasses and coffee can vases held brown and yellow daisies I asked the kids to arrange for centerpieces.  If you took a still photograph of the table and those that surrounded it you might think it to resemble a modern-day picture of Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper.  But not because there was a man dressed as Jesus, flanked on either side by disciples, and not because there was news of change and fate (although my mother-in-law is real good at bringing everyone down with her latest guess-who-died tale).  It might conjure like-imagery because of the man who created the painting, and that in that painting the guests surrounding the host came from different backgrounds and different eras.

Jesus's Last Supper

Jesus’s Last Supper

Leonardo da Vinci was not only a painter, but an inventor, observer, and experimenter.  He was a renaissance man.  I have often described myself as Jane-of-all-trades, master of nothing.  In my lifetime I have painted, sculpted, observed, experimented, and even invented (those inventions being stories crafted in my brain and poured onto notebook or computer screen).  So in that way Leo and I have a bit in common.

At our Thanksgiving supper I sat in the middle of the table.  That way, I can be a part of the various conversations around me and become included, if I so choose, into any one of them (although at one point I found it necessary to quickly become excluded from an uncomfortable mom-in-law dialogue I’ve heard at least fifty times).  I loved being flanked by my friends and family.  I wouldn’t call them my apostles, even though they are my supporters, my advocates, my champions.  I would call them my “strays”.

In The Last Supper Jesus is flanked by twelve apostles, one of which was Philip.  At my table there was Phyllis, who used to be Phillip.  After the transition she was ostracized by most of her family, except her son Dustin, who was also at our table.  A slight, ex-death metal singer with a great smile and a knack for art, he entertained the kids with his shark drawing and stories of playing music.

My "strays" at Thanksgiving

My “strays” at Thanksgiving

My parents were also there.  They never warmed to any of my stray friends growing up, but in this moment they broke bread with my new ones, with whom they’d become acquainted and fond of over the years.  On the opposite side of them were my friends Bryan and Madeleine, who had no family within at least 400 miles, but who had become more like family to me than many of my blood relatives.  Then there was Debbie, my single, lesbian neighbor, who always brings cheap beer for herself and ice-cream for the kids at any party in the neighborhood.  She is much like a child herself, requiring patience from those around her, but also bringing forth innocence and unabandoned laughter.

When the last of the chicken (come on, it’s tastier than turkey), dressing, green-bean casserole, cranberry sauce (shaped like a can), sweet potatoes, salad, and yeast rolls were scraped and gobbled from our plates, we posed for a group photo before dessert.  And not unlike Da Vinci’s infamous would-be fresco, there were those that came from near, far, and of different ideas and tastes.  But all there to feast together, to tell stories, to listen, to laugh, gasp, question, and remember.

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The Golden Teacup

The golden teacup sat tall and proud
 shing shing clop, shing shing clop
upon a stump in the green, grassy wood
 shing shing clop, shing shing clop.

Soon came a boy of seventeen,
 his feet so tired of walking the mile.
He noticed this lonely cup of gold
 and upon his face came a smile.

"I'll take this unclaimed teacup," he thought
 "and give it to my true love, Meliss.
She'll love me forever and a day
 if she receives a gift like this."

But as soon as he touched the proud teacup
 it spoke many a word so true.
"I do not think I'd do
 such a thing if I were you."

"You see, I am here for the animals;
 from me it is where they drink.
Whosoever I shall fall into the hands of
 will no longer be able to think."

But the boy of seventeen did not believe
 that such a thing could occur.
So he took the teacup anyway,
 that he may give it to her.

Along the wood he did go
 with the teacup in his hand.
He felt he was the best lover
 ever there was in the land.

And when the young Meliss received
 the teacup tall and proud,
she kept it by her bed for days
 and often sang out loud.

But like the golden teacup
 to the boy of seventeen said,
when he came back to visit his Meliss
 he found the poor girl dead.

The golden teacup sat tall and proud
 shing shing clop, shing shing clop
upon a stump in the green, grassy wood
 shing shing clop, shing shing clop.

Teacup

—Written way back in high school. Probably for an English assignment.
I always liked it. Just read it to my son. He didn’t.

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Dreaming Among the Chaos

Dreaming

In the midst of chaos what do you dream of?

Life has been stressful over here the past couple weeks and I have been pretty damn good at keeping cool, keeping calm, keeping positive when others around me seem to be unraveling.  Well I guess it’s my turn to be the loosely-knitted sweater with the one thread that is dangling in the breeze.  It came on so fast.  And just as I was congratulating myself on being so even-keeled.

Don’t get me wrong.  Things are not horrible.  Just a few small sinkholes along the shell-covered pathway.  In times like these when I feel I’m being swallowed, my mind goes to the things I miss.

I miss floating in the salty gulf with the prospect of a nearby dolphin gracefully hurling itself out of the water.  I miss the flashing lights above a dance floor.  I miss dancing wildly.  I miss the Oprah Winfrey Show.

I miss the rousing touch of fingers and hands and lips on the body.  I miss writing down my dreams when I remember them instead of trying to recall them when the details have fizzled with the rising sun.  I miss Haagen-Dazs chocolate peanut butter ice cream.  Can’t find it at my local groceries.  Just as well.

I miss my old, cheap, grocery store-bought flip flops that I busted.  But they are the muse for this blog.  Busted, I mean.  Not when they were new.

So I guess I’m feeling pretty busted right now.  The gulf is cold.  Oprah has her own network.  My friends can’t come out and play.  No massages coming my way.

Maybe it’s time to buy a new pair of flippity flops.  Ones that can help me climb out of the sink hole before it becomes quick sand.  But I’ll still keep the old busted ones.

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In a Crowded Room

In a crowded room
I can pick you out
because those eyes came from me
and see the things I did years ago
towering adults
stuffed animals on low shelves
the smallest, most chokeable object on the kitchen floor
Only it's decades later
and now I'm the mother
But I feel like a child most days
Maybe that's why sometimes it's easy
for me to crawl around the floor and chase you
I feel my heart flutter
when you smile 
when you squeal
And when you throw your strong but
tiny arms around me
I know I could never be happier
So hold on just a little longer
Don't let go
Don't grow too fast
I don't want to lose you
in a crowded room.

— Written for my son when he was just a baby. I told him I loved him shortly after he was born. I wanted him (and me) to know I meant it. Of all who I’ve loved and continue to love, there is no one who has captured my heart like him. And there is no one who has taught me unconditional love like him. There might have been times I didn’t like him, but I’ve always loved him. Retrieved from the archives in response to The Daily prompt: Love to Love You

Ian baby

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NaNoNoMo

So November 1st was the kick-off of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) where writers come together virtually and in coffee houses and wherever else to start, pick-up, or finish a novel.  The goal is to have 50,000 words by November 30th.  Well I knew going in there was no way in hell I would ever be able to meet that goal.  I may be a dreamer but I’m also a realist when it comes to knowing my own strengths and weaknesses.

I’ve been writing poetry since I was in grade school.  Short stories began to formulate in my repertoire soon after.  I was the queen of scribbling it all down on a piece of notebook paper in one fury of creative inspiration/explosion.  Even though I dreamed of being the next great American author I did not have the patience, focus, or commitment to sit down and hammer out pages and pages of a coherent novel.  And re-writes?  Forget it.  When I was done I was done.

The trip that started it all.

The trip that started it all.

I wrote for a community newspaper for a few years and even wrote and self-published a children’s book.  All of these endeavors I am very proud of.  But I’ve always been in awe of those that can write an entire novel.  This has been on my bucket list since I was fifteen and actually started a novel after a life-altering trip to Italy.  I started the thing three times and haven’t touched it in ten years.

Flash-forward to my late thirties and yet another life-altering experience leads me to start another novel.  This time I was for real.  Got an editor and everything.  I was scared of the process of writing dialogue.  Didn’t think it was my thing.  But after my editor told me to visualize the scene in my mind like a movie, I ended up being ok at it.  So I worked on it, some days for hours, some days for ten minutes.  Some days I didn’t sit at the computer at all.  This went on for a year and I had nine chapters and a few later scenes diligently hammered onto Word.  I was compelled to tell this story and I thought about it on my bike rides, while brushing my teeth, and in my nightly dreams.

What HAVE you been typing all this time?

What HAVE you been typing all this time?

Then I took a month or so hiatus when the dreams became disturbing.  I started this blog, which was another writing venture I’d desired for a while.  And wow have I been enjoying it– the writing, the thinking about the writing, the reading and connecting with other bloggers, the taking of photographs and editing them for my posts, the feedback from friends and strangers, the laugh-out-loud moments and those that grab the heart and twist it.  I can’t believe it took me this long to discover this incredible, unfastened world.

But the poor little novel sat untouched, wondering why it was being neglected.  Then came NaNoWriMo and I decided that was a sign to get it back out again.  November 1st came and even though I didn’t get to the computer until 9pm I finished one chapter and started another.  Yay!  I was back in the novel-writing game again.  Each day I took time, no matter how hectic it was around the house, to sit and work on my novel.  I did what was suggested:  I didn’t go over and over what I’d written like usual.  I just wrote.  I didn’t think about perfection or even bang my head on the desk.  I just wrote.  I thought, “I’m gonna do this.  I’m gonna write every single day of this month no matter what.”  Well then came day seven.

Even God took a day of rest on day seven.  In my defense I had the opportunity to spend the day with a dear, old friend.  By the time I got back home and had dinner with my family I was exhausted.  I figured skipping one day was no big deal.  But then I’ve skipped every day since then.  In my defense I have written 3,353 words including this post on this blog during that time.  I had some posts I really wanted to write and publish.  The novel was already starting to feel like work.  It was drudgery and it wasn’t calling to me.  I figured why push it just to get some sort of a word count or because I think I have to do this lest the gods of NaNoWriMo shake their heads in disapproval.  I didn’t want to go crazy like Jack Nicholson in The Shining.  All Work

So here it is, almost the middle of the month.  But I am not giving up!  Hell, I might even write some in my novel this afternoon.  I’m just being honest about my journey and I don’t feel bad about it.  NaNoWriMo got me started on it again– got me over that hump.  I do love the story I’m now struggling a bit to tell.  Perhaps one day I’ll even revisit that Italian tale.  My short pieces are a speed boat; my novel a slow-chugging ship.  Either way, I get to look out and see golden sunsets over a tranquil sea, with a crew of passengers sharing the voyage with me. Sunset Voyage

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Too Deep or Not too Deep

From the Daily Prompt: Inside the Actor’s Studio
On the interview show Inside the Actors’ Studio, host James Lipton asks each of his guests the same ten questions. What are your responses?

  1. What is your favorite word?
    Deep. Because it’s the only word I like the sound of from my own voice.
  2. What is your least favorite word?
    Umm. Especially when every sentence spoken begins with it.
  3. What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally? A skin-caressing breeze, an undeniable adoring gaze from a handsome man, and floating in a body of cool water.
  4. What turns you off?
    Rudeness and complaining.
  5. What is your favorite curse word?
    The mother effer of all.
  6. What sound or noise do you love?
    Birds singing, tweeting, chirping. Except the Whip-poor-will at 3am.
  7. What sound or noise do you hate?
    Whining. Not to be confused with wining, which goes really well with cheese and diffuses the whining of anyone nearby.
  8. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
    Singing in an ’80’s cover band.
  9. What profession would you not like to do?
    A doctor. Too much stress and I can’t stand the sight of real blood.
  10. If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?
    Your grandfathers were right. There is nothing to be afraid of. Now go have a seat at the bar next to Keanu Reeves and I’ll come over later to chat with you about the meaning of life and whatnot.

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An Empty Stomach and Good Walking Shoes

Food & wine

Let the games begin.

Today marks the last official day of one of the greatest events I’ve personally ever experienced: Disney World’s Epcot Food and Wine Festival.  Epcot includes a “World Showcase”, or the world within a theme park.  Every few steps you enter a different country, complete with restaurants, shops, topography, architecture, and street musicians representing said country.  I am not a major theme-park person, mainly because of the crowds and possibility of being coaxed into getting on a ride that will unearth my distressing claustrophobia.  But almost every year since 1999, God, Universe, and Paycheck willing, me and hubby make the short trek to Epcot.  We missed one year for some reason and I felt a pang of emptiness for months and months afterwards.  I think I’m still having after-effects.  Although this year just might have filled that void forever. I will get to those details in a few.  But first:

What you must have, understand, and appreciate before entering the fest:

  1. An empty stomach.  I spent the week before being even more diligent about my diet and exercise.  That way I could eat with abandon and not feel guilty.  If you do not suffer from food-guilt then bully for you.  Eat your heart out, no Hail Mary required.
  2. Good walking shoes.  No, you do not have to wear your boring jogging sneakers or ugly orthopedics if your feet can get away with it.  As a lover of flip flops I chose some comfy sandals that would stay put and also allow the cool breeze to flow through my toes.
  3. A fat wallet.  Just know going in that you will spend too much money.  Disney ain’t cheap but they do it right.  Don’t be one of those assholes who takes the time to get to Disney yet still gripes about the prices.  If you want cheap then Don’t Go To Disney.

    Convenient dining

    Convenient dining.

  4. Flexibility to eat standing up, sitting on a stoop, or using the top of a trashcan as a table.  Hubby and I joke about this, but yes you will end up using one of the trashcan tops as a table.  I like to think Disney is impeccably clean, so the trashcans are probably no worse than the steps, more than likely cleaner.  And by your third sample of wine you won’t give a rip anyway.  If you do spot an empty table, which you will stand at, then consider yourself royalty.  This is a competition, really, so there’s no need to sit down and relax.  Unless you want to chill on the steps of Venice and watch a little girl twirling her purple parasol to the tune of Volare while you sip on the biggest pour of wine ever received at the festival.  It’s Italy.  Would you expect anything less?

    My view close to the little girl with the parasol. She really was adorable. But I wasn't going to be a weirdo and take a photo of her.

    My view close to the little girl with the parasol. She really was adorable. But I wasn’t going to be a weirdo and take a photo of her. So here’s a gondola mooring instead.

  5. A loose fitting shirt.  You will eat too much.  So dress accordingly.
  6. A love for food and wine.  This may seem like a given, but there are those there who don’t get the whole eat-and-drink-as-much-foreign-culinary-delights-as-you-can-partake thing.  I actually heard a woman, who was quite obese, as she was choking down a shrimp taco say to her friend, “God I can’t eat this much food.  This is just too much.”  I also noticed across from the Mexico kiosk (which served the amazing taco) that people were actually eating cheap nachos at this side-street cantina instead of the amazing shrimp tacos at the kiosk right across the street.

    This is just a snippet of what I saw regarding crazy hats. Notice the random Viking in the background. There was actually a whole group of them.

    This is just a snippet of what I saw regarding crazy hats. Notice the random Viking in the background. There was actually a whole group of them.

  7. A ridiculous hat, fluffy multi-colored tutu, silly socks, or matching t-shirts.  These Disney patrons are not messing around.  They are there to have fun and make memories.  That’s what this one lady actually said to me when I asked where her and her six other female family members got their fluffy, multi-colored tutus.  I wore my hair in pig-tails just to be a little funky but that was nothing compared to the Viking helmets, Mickey Mouse hats, karate headbands, googly-eyes, beanies, and electric, flashing plastic dread locks I saw on the top of many a head.  The wearing of such will not only look more normal, but also make you happier.  It’s a known fact.  Disney is the land of funny hats.
  8. Revert back to the playing of Frogger.  When you do need to pee, and you most certainly will at some point, you will have to use your old Frogger skills to get across a sea of merry folk to get to a restroom.  Once again, this is a competition.  This was the first time in my life that there was actually a line for the men’s room.  I looked over at the twitching, beastly characters with no sympathy and said aloud, “Now YOU know how it feels!”  Then I proceeded to get real nervous when in line for the ladies I found out there were only two stalls at this particular restroom and all the women in front of me were nearly clocking how much time each one was taking to finish.  As all my friends and family know it takes me forever to pee so this was not a fun moment for me.  I pictured the flowing stream and dripping faucet well before it was my time to enter.  I think I even unbuttoned my pants in line just to gain time.

    Halfway round the world.

    Halfway round the world.

  9. Pace yourself.  Even if you can “put it away” or have saved up room in your belly for this glorious occasion, you will get full.  So pace yourself.  I was getting full only halfway around the world after an amazing artisan cheese plate.  I know, loser.  So I took a food break for a bit then started again.  Our goal is to go around twice.  The second time hitting up all the kiosks we couldn’t the first time around.  Or we use the second go-around for dessert and hot toddies.
  10. Go with someone who can handle all of the above.  I might not take my hubby to every party (small talk is not his thing) or other gatherings where he might not feel comfortable, but he is my partner in food and wine utopia.  He can keep up with me, genuinely enjoys it all, and doesn’t complain.  In fact I hadn’t seen him move faster or act cheerier than I had in a long time.
They were the friendliest of all the kiosk servers. I think I even got a marriage proposal.

They were the friendliest of all the kiosk servers. I think I even got a marriage proposal.

I don’t mean to dampen the excitement of this splendiferous occasion by spouting off rules.  Because it is such an occasion.  For me, at least. Those were just suggestions for if and when you decide to go.  Of course you’ll have to wait til next year.  I’m already counting the days.

Big pour on the stoop

Big pour on the stoop.

Anyway it was a wonderful day.  The weather was perfect.  The food was the best ever since 1999 when Mexico had those warm, cheese nips.  It was seafood-heavy this year which is right up my alley since I don’t usually eat mammals.

I got crazy and mixed-- Sake and Moroccan chicken roll.

I got crazy and mixed– Japanese sake and Moroccan chicken roll.

Singapore’s lemongrass curry chicken and seared Mahi Mahi with “Singa” sauce rated in our top 3.  The other toppers included the chicken roll from Morocco and get this: the Trick’n Chick’n curry and Chili Colorado from the Terra kiosk, which was all vegetarian.  Even my meat-eating hubby thought it was heavenly.  And their Vegan Vine Chardonnay was probably the best (though not the biggest) pour of all.  There were 30 kiosks and 22 countries represented in all.  Also a cheese cart, coffee cart, brewer’s collection, and desserts & champagne kiosk.  The Moroccan baklava and mini Belgium waffle with warm chocolate ganache melted in our mouths.

Kaiko drummers and sake-- fabulous!!

Kaiko drummers and warm sake– fabulous!!

Yes, it was crowded.  And yes, Spaceship Earth stopped in the middle of the ride as rides always do when I get on them.  But I took it all in stride.  When you’ve got a delicious breeze, culinary delights, and booze involved everyone’s happier, right?  And I only heard one kid cry.

Parade!

Parade!

The competition proved a success.  No blisters formed.  Made it around the world twice.  Even had room for multiple desserts.  Saw a woman in a muumuu.  Got choked up during the evening’s fireworks as usual.  Woke up with a slight hangover.  Ready to do it all over again next year.

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