Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Price of Good

There are times in my life when second guessing devastates me. When balance becomes nearly unreachable, when the demand is so much greater than the resource...the only solution is truly a miracle.

Do you believe in God? In His design to make within us....more? More than needed, more than necessary? More than the required, the basic...the obligatory. In a swamp of "barely" and "nominal," when "good enough" seems to replace quality, I am so grateful for those who are and do and give--more.

I received a call last night. Such an incredible friend--and when we rang off, I wept. Quite simply, she does foster care. In addition to adopting a son who was born addicted and carries the repercussions of that, she has repeatedly opened her home to those children who have no where to go. I am stunned by this. They wreck her things, scream, yell, lie and steal....and she loves them with a depth that is beyond me.

She has a brother and sister now. An abhorrent history of sexual and physical abuse, they bring more baggage with them than a child should ever have to shoulder. She's had them a year....and it's killing her. Her health is rough, she's gone back to school to open employment opportunities, and while every marriage has its moments--the stress of three children, life and school and visits and court dates and uncovered expenses....is wearing the flesh from her heart and the patience from her husband. She is so tired. I was rather relieved when she told me they had decided to ask the state to find another family.

And then, last week's visit to the father.....and signs of physical contact. Distraught 3 year-old sobbing and screaming and punching...a hospital visit and medical exams. Tears are streaming down my face as I type this...how, how does a soul sink there? How can it be such a long process to prove, try, defend...2nd chances, broken promises, therapy, deception. Legal tape and procedures and....ultimately, frustration.

There is no one else.

How do you make such a choice? When is the cost too high? From a distance it is a simple thing to offer an opinion....but could you send that little girl back into the dark? Even as your own family is barely keeping above water? I am in agony for this situation, for the innocent children who have been so damaged, and for my closest friend who is entwined.

This world saddens me at times. I can almost fathom the madness of the great artists and poets--if you stare too directly at the dark for long, it seems to close in. And so we have sunrises and seasons and green twigs that bloom lovely. Fireflies and fuzzy kittens and the taste of oranges.

And each other.

Within us sleeps an amazing potential to change and grow. Unlike any other breathing thing on this planet, we can literally alter the universe. Inside how and what we choose is immense power...if we do so with intention. And sacrifice.
Being comfortable is rarely paired with giving.

Ag has changed my life. She has challenged me, humbled me....inspired me. I've never met someone who loves so fiercely....and is so much more.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Amazing....and Elusive Grace

Mercy. Clemency. To pardon the undeserving. The act of forgiveness.
How often in our somewhat careless society to we ask for grace? Weekly? Daily? For some, hourly? As we stumble over each other's feelings, drop the proverbial ball, or mishandle our responsibilities--we apologize. We explain. We excuse. But is this the same as grace?
"Giving grace" is forgiving one who has NOT apologized. (either by choice or opportunity) There is no groveling, no begging or bootlicking. No atonement...no reparation. It's the driver that cuts you off at the exit. The abhorrently rude woman at the bank who jumped line and then gave you "the look." The market cashier who dropped your carefully chosen, bruiseless golden apples into the bag like pond stones ensuring them to be a brown mottled mess tomorrow. (wretch)
I do actually forgive easily. I'm the one who always has a "perhaps" waiting to eradicate blame. "Perhaps he's late to the hospital and his wife is having a baby." "Perhaps she has a migraine." "Perhaps they're lost..." From the irresponsible to the downright ill-mannered, I can usually come up with a possible explanation for "why" whatever thoughtless event has occurred.

With. Others.


And therein lies the mess. *sigh* I don't, I cannot, I am seemingly unable to give grace to myself. Floating in this vast sea of love and forgiveness--I am choking on self-recrimination, drowning in personal disparagement. The repeating reel playing over and over in my mind, what I could have said or should have done, becoming a mantra that deafens reason, mutes anything even resembling sweet intangible grace. It matters not the size of error....just that it was mine.
I am not alone.
Within this quagmire of culpability I have much company--mostly female, I admit. Is it in our chromosomes? Our blood? I do know men who feel intense guilt, but usually not for the aeons that my fellow women seem to suffer. The masculine ability to wrap the situation up in a neat package, tie it with string, and tuck it away in "storage" stuns me. How do I learn this? Is there a class I can take? Can we start a support group? "Love Thyself..."
I've always known that grace was elemental--irrevocably essential--in every relationship. And yet I am surprised to discover at this point in my life....that this is also true of myself.

And so, as this holiday season is creeping up simply loaded with opportunities for faux pas, disasters & mishaps, I am determined to be gentler to myself. More understanding...

Sometimes I actually do have a smashing headache after an exhausting day and I know there's a stain on my sleeve and I burned the pastry and I've completely forgotten the directions to the party.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Soup Afterglow

Within the plastic isolated globes where we have all begun to live--our wireless connections weaving tangled patterns in an invisible sky--sometimes I feel I'm holding my breath. Waiting for human contact. Warmth. Flesh. And so as the evenings begin to freeze and we dig out the sweaters and flannel, every year I rebel.

Rise up all ye dismal and grey! Denounce thy autonomous ways and come hither....to SOUP!

Yes, this year was the fourth annual North Hills Soup--a party inspired by the hearty, the liquid, the creamy marrow-infused, herb sprinkled, lucious joy that is soup.

For weeks I search for new recipes, tweak old ones, simmer and bubble my afternoons away in our tiny kitchen. (not kidding there--one of this year's quotes was "This is a one-butt kitchen!") I force my family to eat the rejects, harass the neighbors to taste new ones, and whittle the list down to four or five winners. This year I made a spicy Thai peanut shrimp with lime and cilantro, sausage beer & cheese with Guiness and chorizo, butternut bisque, and smokey cream of potato with all the cheese, crumbled bacon, and chives you could load on. As my co-host bailed on me THREE DAYS before the party (she usually brings several soups too--my husband asked how upset I was....I told him I erased her from my cell phone) I had loverly pals that brought a wedding soup, matzah ball, and a white chili. YUM. O.

The invites are a simple postcard I design each year that read: "Bring a bowl, a spoon and a friend. Kids, wine, bread and cheese welcome!" (it's like a contest with the bowls--one year a rather clever fellow brought a muffin tin so he could eat six soups at a time, last year the dog food bowl was a hit and this year it was a tie between the transformer cereal bowl and the finding Nemo complete with a hinged lid and flippy tail) We start at seven and end when the last guest is satiated--usually around 3:30am. It's a simple "Come when you can, leave when you must" that can be worked around other engagements and leaves everyone happy while spreading the guestload throughout the evening.

The music is smashing as my husband is a genius at mixing Santana with the muppets and Moby. From Prince to Michael Buble', Chemical Brothers to Martin Sexton & CC Adcock--it's an eclectic surge of auditory pleasure. There's a guest book to sign and a ballot to vote for your favorite delicacy. Piles of bread and baked brie and goat cheese and scrumptious vittles cover the dining room table, the buffet holds dozens of bottles of wine, and the line into the kitchen for your next dip is an excellent place to meet new friends and catch up with old ones.

We always awake the morning after to a house full of kids that are not our own. I finish off the merlot while making a mountain of pancakes and bacon and dancing to the still playing music. Last year we had over 120 soupers and I've yet to read through the guestbook, but last night was a fantastic collection of intellect, wit, and charismatic souls that laughed and danced and connected in a tradition of simplicity.

I relish the Soup. It revives me, reminds me that the world is made of flesh and breath, not manufactured compounds and synthetic fibers. Our house is not grand, the unfinished trim of a doorway incomplete, the paint chipped in the hall--but this does not hinder our festive camaraderie. For the truth of the Soup, the revelation, is that if you wait until "it" is done....whatever your "it" may be, you will miss out on the authentic happiness that is "now." We all have scuffs and brokens and imperfects...but this is exactly what ties us together. Our humanity.

I made eggs benedict this morning with leftover roasted garlic bread and fully intend to finish the herbed goat cheese on crustini for dinner.

Oh, the sweet reward that is.....the Soup.

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Asterisk of Idiocy

There are moments when I am on the verge of offense....the edge of outrage...oh, the audacity of it all!

The commercial begins with a jaunty blond in a short black skirt and bad leopard print, dashing about some design-challenged suburban hut gushing, "I only paid for carpet for this ONE room and got THIS one AND THIS one for (drum roll please) for.....FREE!" Yes folks, there are enough idiots out there to actually warrant this type of brain washed jabber taking up 30 second spots during our evening entertainment. I'd like to meet one of them in person. Do they wear funny hats? Shuffle when they walk? Exactly how much can you legally overprice something so you can give something else away for "free?"
I'm thinking about starting a taco stand. "Buy one $10 taco, get four....."
Then there's the beauty asterisk. It's that lovely little star on the front of the bottle of shampoo under the words, "95% fewer split ends!" Once you actually dig out your microscope, turn on the florescent lighting, put on the reading glasses and squint like the local chinese opium lady (what--you don't have one of those?) you can read the words, "Compared to hair washed in gasoline." Aie Karumba! Now that's a beauty promise!
The diet products: "Burns twice as much fat!*" (compared to those who are paralyzed in a coma)
"Removes 85% more dirt!*" (than a wet tissue and spittle)

"92% preferred taste!*" (over sawdust with cat urine and mold spores)

Um.....can we draw a line? Can we just quit the bull? Shall we hog tie anyone who buys this crap? It's more than politics and mortgages--the fine print is killing our brain cells as well as our common sense!
And by the way, this blog is preferred 98% more than the one on pustules and venereal diseases.