We’ve had some snow here in New York City. Okay, so it’s a lot of snow, and unless you live under a rock somewhere, this isn’t exactly breaking news. What seems to be news to many people around the country now is the fact that there are many children in our great city who rely on the public school system for up to two of their meals a day. The school also provides a warm, safe place for them. Think of it as shelter from the storm, but not the literal storm outside.
What if for just once we all decided to go about our day only seeking, and sharing, positive messages? If we surrendered the snark and sarcasm, and treated this life not as our stage, but a gift. What if we spent more time thanking the people we love for being in our lives, instead of highlighting their faults? I wonder if we all spent just one day in this manner if it would become contagious. Or as human beings are we predisposed to find fault in our lives, and those of others?
I started reading Going to Pieces Without Falling Apart, by Mark Epstein, again recently. This was an important book for M many years ago, when we were going through a rough patch. I think it was given to him, or recommended, by a friend, in his path towards trying to find some inner peace. I’ve yet to make it to the end of the book on this second attempt; my mind may be too set in its Western ways of thinking. Epstein’s emphasis on letting go of looking for answers, and just opening ourselves to the idea of acceptance, is something I don’t agree with, or maybe I just don’t understand it fully, yet.
His words have settled into my subconscious, though, and while I’m not yet capable of applying them to myself, they are obviously affecting the way I see others in my life. Last week I met C in Paris for a few days. We hadn’t talked in ten days, and hadn’t seen each other in two months. The lack of talking was simply because he doesn’t have a cellphone at the moment, and doesn’t see any immediate need to get one. I find it both charming and frustrating that he can disconnect from life so easily. In a way, there’s an old-time romance to it. My problem is that I carry the anxiety deep in my heart that it can all fall apart in an instant. As I walked around Saint Germain, collecting groceries for lunch, I had an epiphany—the key to loving him is to simply accept him “as-is”, and not try to figure him out. As I stood across the street from our apartment, conducting a social experiment of whether a car in Paris will stop for a pedestrian (the answer is no), someone sidled up alongside me, and began speaking in English. So bewildered, and excited to hear my mother tongue, I turned to see him standing right next to me. He had been waiting for me to get into the building since I had the only key. My heart fluttered, a smile washed over my face, and every fear that something happened to him was gone. Ever so carefree, he said “I told you I’ll always find you”, to which I shared my thoughts on the secret to loving him. His eyes lit up, and he said “you figured me out, my dear.”
So, maybe, just maybe, accepting what we cannot understand is the key to understanding it?
What would you attempt if you knew you could not fail?
These words sit atop a vintage blackboard in my kitchen. They’re written on a little pencil box I found in Anthropologie a few months ago. I was never one for inspirational messages, but the last couple of years I find myself clinging to them. Even inscribing them onto my skin, as reminders in my darkest moments. Continue reading »
Right about now, you’re probably sick of hearing Christmas songs, especially if you work in retail, or any public place that has been blaring them since before Thanksgiving. I’m immune to this illness, having loved listening to, and singing Christmas carols, since I was a kid. I remember lining my stuffed animals up in my bed at night when I was about four years old, and then leading them in a yuletide chorus—in the summer. True story. Continue reading »
I felt like Tom Ford for 72 hours recently while in Las Vegas. This thought occurred to me, as I settled in for my second bath of the day while staying at the Aria Resort & Casino. Not quite the four baths a day Mr. Ford gets to indulge in, but for a gal who rarely has the time to enjoy a bath, it had me feeling like quite the lady of leisure.
An invitation to attend the 46th Pillsbury Bake Off brought me to Vegas. We had a pretty busy schedule the whole time, but during one chunk of downtime I managed to escape to the spa for an incredible hot stone massage; it was my reward for a very productive three hours of writing beforehand. As I laid on the massage table, an idea popped into my head to start a weekly column called “Treat Yourself Tuesday”. I felt incredibly fortunate that I was able to take those 50 minutes to unwind, and thought about how many of us look out for others, yet forget about nurturing ourselves. Continue reading »
It’s just a bad day, not a bad life. I can’t take credit for such wisdom (I saw it on Pinterest), but I will admit uttering those words to myself as I curled up into a ball, and cried so hard I thought my well would run dry last night. Some days, oh some days, it’s just so hard to digest life. The remnants of the day’s trials and tribulations—helping with 5th grade homework, fighting with a landlord over a necessary refrigerator repair, figuring out babysitting issues, it all just leaves a pit in my stomach.
I try to remember to breath. I try to remind myself it’s just a bad day, but the stark reality of my loneliness in being a single mother sometimes gets the better of me. Throw in a stubborn sinus cold (and an equally stubborn person who refuses to go to the doctor because she doesn’t want to take antibiotics), and it becomes an out of body experience. I imagine standing over myself, shaking my head, wondering what the hell happened. I know I’ll be okay, if I could just get some sleep.
Tonight I’ll try to self medicate with a good night’s rest. Until then, it’s time to soldier on. New rain coats have finally been purchased, and I found the girls snow boots, too. I fed my kids breakfast, packed a homemade lunch (bonus points for the homemade cookies, right?), got them to school on time, fixed an error on Isabella’s attendance record with the main office, and their feet are prepared for winter. Today, I’m going to cherish the small victories.
Whenever M witnessed someone behaving inappropriately, he would ponder the question of ignorance vs. arrogance. The first can be easily corrected if we believe the premise that all behavior is learned. But what about arrogance? In my opinion, arrogance is a learned behavior, as well, but a more deep rooted one. Arrogance is something we either learn from an example set by other important figures in our lives, or perhaps a way to shield ourselves from past unpleasant experiences. Perhaps arrogance is a perverse kind of self confidence, one riddled with insecurities? Continue reading »
I needed a parole from my life back in Brooklyn. An escape where there were no schedules, responsibilities, wants or needs, except for the ones I choose. I don’t take the ability to do this for granted. I’m incredibly thankful to have a mom who helps by watching the girls, and a sitter who pinch hits, too. On the outside, I know my life feels like an adventure. I mean, to be able to jet set to Paris every few months, and cash in a few vacation days away from motherhood—who doesn’t dream about that? The truth is, I’d trade it all for my old life. The one where my future seemed so clear. The one where my best friend came home to me every night. The life where I had at least one person who thought the world of me. Continue reading »
Two years ago, just before M passed away I started another blog, called Simple Scratch Cooking. I wanted a place to share recipes without the clutter of my personal life. I know, it sounds odd even writing that. I created this space for myself five years ago so I could write on my own terms. No deadlines, no schedules, no pressure except the self-imposed kind.
What I decide to share here is done so with a purpose, a selfish one at that. Perhaps this won’t come out right, but what I write here is more for me, than all of you. Can you understand what I mean in saying that? I don’t intend for it to come across as thankless. In fact, I feel incredibly grateful that so many of you have stayed with me on this journey, especially the last two years. The truth is, all my professional experience aside, publishers make decisions based on numbers and statistics these days. Homemade with Love was made possible because of the generous support, and interest, you’ve all shown in visiting me here.
A few days ago, something happened relating to the blog that has not sat well in my mind, and heart. Someone did not agree with my choice of words. They mistook something I said as coming off as being better than all of you. I’m not writing this in defense. In fact, that reader prompted me to do something I’ve been thinking about for a while. At the end of the day, this space is my space. I have no intentions of stopping what I do here, or how I do it. I question myself often as I press the publish button on every post.
This blog may be in the public realm, but the writing I do here is of the most personal kind. Crazy as it sounds, and I’ve said this in a few interviews during my book publicity, but each post I publish helps me free some space in a very crowded mind. A mind filled with a mish mosh of happiness, fear, love and loss. What I’ve been doing here the last two years is leaving a trail of breadcrumbs in a sense of my past, to help get me through the present, and into the future. I can only see that now as I reflect back.
I take no offense to people who fast forward past the post, and go straight to the recipes. My intention with every recipe I create is to make cooking easier, and enjoyable. What I am going to try and balance, though, is a reboot of Simple Scratch Cooking, so you have a place to go if you just want recipes without them being weaved into the personal aspects of my life.
I think this proverbial fork in the road is a win-win, provided I can manage it all. I get to keep writing what, and how, I want. Simultaneously, I get to follow my other passion, which is to continue showing people how easy it is to cook from scratch. Sometimes you might see a recipe on both sites, if it’s one that has a backstory connecting to something that’s inspired me in a more personal way. At some point, I might decide to give the design an overhaul, and maybe this will be a short-lived experiment, yet again. The second book manuscript is due next February, so this will be a delicate balance.
In the case of the blueberry kale smoothie recipe you see above, well, that one is going to live over at Simple Scratch Cooking. It was one of those “let’s clean out the vacation kitchen” recipes, but is sure to be on regular rotation when I get back home. So, go whip yourself up a smoothie, and let’s say cheers to moving forward, and new horizons.
Get the recipe for my blueberry kale smoothie here.
Music Pairing: Come Together by The Beatles
The first time I came back to the Cape after Michael died, it had just been thirteen days. I remember the bay breeze rushing across my face, feeling as though his spirit was enveloping me. I look back on my old posts, and I’m not sure how I got this far. Back then seconds felt like hours, and minutes felt like years. The thought of living a lifetime without him was simply incomprehensible. Still, going to the Cape so soon afterwards provided comfort, and a connection to him.
Last year, I felt hollow being here. Every sunset burned a hole in my heart. I contemplated never coming back, feeling all the good moments here had been used up. I ultimately decided to make the trip back this summer because Virginia really wanted to come. Her memories of Michael are so few, and the Cape is a place she associates with happy family times. So, I figured I’d push through with a stiff upper lip. In my mind, I’d resolved this would be our last trip.
As I stood on the deck watching the sunset last night, something felt different. And then I realized what it was—I was smiling. A real, genuine one. The kind that only happens when you feel happiness in your heart. I wasn’t thinking of Mikey, though. The joy came from simply capturing the beauty of the sun’s warm glow as it tucked in for the evening.
When I woke up the next morning, something else incredible had happened. I stirred from my slumber fresh from a dream about him. I’ve been hoping to see him for so long. We were in an apartment that was unfamiliar, and both packing our bags. I was getting ready to settle into a hot bath, then realized the time. I’d be late for the airport if we didn’t leave right away, so I gathered the girls. Mikey looked at me, and said “I’m sorry I can’t go with you, I have a different flight”.
And then, I woke up.
Just like that, he was gone, again. I’m a little panicked now that he may not be coming back. Ever. And yet, I feel a quiet peace in my heart. As though he has finally accepted the reality of it all, and is ready to move forward, too.
Music Pairings: Summer Wind by Frank Sinatra
The Flip Side: Babe by Styx