Sunday, May 26, 2013

Make New Friends...

A few proverbs or phrases from my childhood have stayed with me over the years. One came from a simple black and white handcrafted needlepoint that my mother had hanging in our hallway (it now hangs in my home office). It reads: "Let Me Live in the House by the Side of the Road and Be a Friend to Man.”
            As a kid, I thought this was a rather strange idea, but the older I get the more it resonates. What could be more honorable, more giving, and more important than just living by the side of the road and being a friend to whoever passes by? Offering a place to stay, or a cool drink, or a listening ear? The individual who originally wrote the words (I later found out they were penned by a poet named Sam Walter Foss) that inspired this needlepoint didn’t say, “Let me live in a mansion on top of a hill and make scads of money.” Or, “Let me rise to the top of my profession and be known all over the world.” Or even, “Let me achieve great success.” Nope, the idea is to simply be a friend to man. I can’t think of a worthier goal. (It could be updated, of course, to mankind, womankind, or as my son once suggested, to "the man.")
            Along those lines, there was a motto/phrase/song we used to say and sing in Girl Scouts (yes, this is going back a ways). They probably still sing it (those of you with little girls can let me know). It was simply “Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver and the other’s gold.”
            I always liked this saying, but again, as I grow older it means more and more. We meet so many people in life, and new faces come and go. Of course, some new faces stay, and we are blessed when we come upon a new friend, a new person to learn from and with whom to create new experiences. New friends are like bright, shining stars in our lives.
            But I have a lot of old friends, too (and sorry, old buddies, but some of you are really getting up there). Sometimes, I realize, I’m so busy with the new friends I’ve met in recent years at the various activities I’ve become involved in, that the old friends get a bit neglected. Sometimes I forget to call. My dance card gets full. My in-box is laden with important emails from all my new contacts. My Facebook page is evolving.
            And then I remember my Girl Scout days: "Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver and the other’s gold." That’s when I give a call to my trio of longtime friends, Francine, Barb, and Pan. That’s when I dial up my sister (who is my very dear friend as well as my sibling), or my beloved niece, or re-connect with the women in my (sadly now defunct) writer’s group, or make an effort to have lunch with a mom I saw every day when our kids were growing up together.
            New friends are miraculous, silvery, shimmering gifts from the universe. But old friends, my friends, are forever, and should never, ever be ignored, taken for granted, or forgotten. In this, for sure, the Girl Scouts were spot on. And though I don't like to preach, sometimes I need a reminder, and maybe you do, too.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Spice of Life

They say variety is the spice of life. I just got a new spice rack—my architect/son designed and constructed it for me. After a lifetime of rummaging in messy drawers and dark cabinets in search of the perfect spice it’s a pleasure to see my spices all neatly lined up in a row. This beautiful piece is constructed out of barn doors from the 1800s and metal; it’s way cooler than anything I could have imagined or purchased in a store.
            Since the rack has been up, I’ve been thinking a lot about spice (I may even be inspired to do some cooking later). But more than that, I’ve been thinking about how particular spices are used for certain things. I could probably really mess up some brownies by lacing them with cumin or crushed hot chili pepper. But these spices taste really good, respectively, in lentil soup or on pizza. I love sprinkling dill on a salad, but I’m not really sure how good it would be in a pancake. So, it makes sense to choose and use spices wisely.
            On the other hand, food (and life) without spice can be pretty dull. I can’t think of anything more boring than food without salt, pepper, thyme, or basil. Along those lines, I’ve noticed that life gets pretty bland when I stick to the same routines. I know some folks who refuse to eat Thai or Lebanese food and who won’t try Kundalini or hot yoga. They don’t like ballet, or contemporary music, and won’t step out of their comfort zones. But while I admit that you can really ruin your day (and your dish) by choosing the wrong spice, it’s also important to experiment. Who knows? Maybe dill in a pancake would be awesome, after all.
Now that my spices are in full view I intend to get a little more adventuresome with them. Hopefully, this will extend to other parts of my life as well. Routines and rituals are fantastic (especially for toddlers), but I like to spice things up now and then. And a world without oregano…well, I just couldn’t face it!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Motherhood's Milestones

In honor of Mother's Day, I thought I’d take a quick look at some of the milestones in a mother’s life. After all, we’re always talking about children’s milestones—learning to walk, the first tooth, the first successful trip to the potty! As mothers, we have our share of milestones, too (some of which, you'll notice, are experienced in tandem with our children). On our special day, here are a few that come to mind for me. I’m sure you have your own unique list as well.
~ The first time I left my first baby with anyone other than my husband and ventured out without him (the baby, that is) was huge. As I recall, it was when my eldest (now 29) was two weeks old. I left him with my best friend and her husband in my apartment while my husband and I went around the block for coffee. I wonder how many times I called home during that 30 minute excursion. I don’t remember but something tells me it was a lot.
~Learning the lesson of not interfering. Yes, this was a major milestone for me, but thanks to advice from my husband’s aunt, I learned that sometimes trying to fix something just makes it worse. Kids have to learn for themselves, and we can’t always swoop in to rescue or change things. This is a hard lesson to learn indeed.
~The first time my sons took me out to dinner and one of them whipped out a credit card and paid was a huge milestone. Wait a minute, you mean... you have your own money!? This is a miraculous milestone indeed. He even asked if I'd like another decaf or dessert.
~Losing your own mother…and finding out that you can go on without her. Yes, this is a biggie…and the transition takes several years (if not decades). When my mom was alive, there was almost no problem that she couldn’t help me with (or at least listen to), expecially when it involved her three grandchildren. Her passing was a profound loss, but it also taught me that I indeed had the courage and resolve to face life even without her (of course, she’s always in my heart).
~Standing strong when your child goes off for the first time to sleep away camp, or abroad to study, or as a young adult phones to tell you he/she will be working or studying in Hong Kong, Qatar, or Africa (insert faraway location of your choice) for a month, a year…or more.
~The first date (or phone call from a girl/boy). Yes, this is huge for the child, but it’s also a big milestone for the parents. It’s shocking to realize that the infant whose diapers you were changing only yesterday is suddenly considered “hot” (and I don’t mean he needs his swaddling removed). Watching your offspring drive, date, fall in love, and do all manner of crazy things during the adolescent years is a major milestone for parents. But in some ways this phase of the teen years (though long maligned) is quite lovely, especially if you are a mom who is a fan (as I am) of blasting, crazy, rock n’ roll music.
~Along with the firsts, are the lasts. The last nursing. The last play in the sand box. The last walk to school…and of course, the last making of the infamous brown bag lunch, which in itself is true cause for celebration, and is perhaps not quite so bittersweet as the others.
~Well…you get my drift. Milestones are part of growing up, and part of our evolution as mothers, as well. Happy Mother’s Day to all!   

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Too Much Information

Do you ever feel like we know too much? Sometimes, I just want to shield myself from my computer screen, from the radio, from the television and the cell phone, and the constant bombardment of the Internet. Is there a place to go to get away from it all? To run? To hide? Is there some way to create a block or barricade that simply says “Do Not Enter”?
            Ultimately, I believe the answer is no. You can run, but you can’t hide, as the saying goes. Sooner or later, even if you refuse to watch TV (as I do), the facts, the news, and particularly the bad news are going to catch up with you. There is no lasting cocoon, so man up or woman up, because when push comes to shove you are going to have to open your eyes and look at what is here, there, and everywhere.
            That said, I believe there is one place left where we can be safe, silent, and protected at least for a time: Within. When I steal away from the real world to meditate—if only for ten minutes—I experience a sense of inner calm. If we could teach children everywhere to do this I believe we would have a different world. If we could teach people to connect to silence every day, to turn off all their gadgets and screens, we might be able to hear our own voices (and I don’ t mean the crazy ones!). I mean the voice of the self that so desperately yearns to be heard.
            Is this just loony yoga-speak? I don’t think so. Science points more and more to the benefits of meditation. Quieting the mind, it turns out, is actually good for the brain (one Kundalini yoga meditation has been linked to a decreased risk of Alzheimer’s).
            I am not a religious individual in the traditional sense by any stretch of the imagination. But a moment of prayer is not such a bad idea. In fact, I think ten minutes of silence or meditation could really change, and possibly save some lives. The energy and hum of human beings living their lives is a beautiful thing. But so is the silence…if we can only find it.