Tuesday, September 23, 2014

How to Effortlessly Throw A Simple Luncheon ( A Novella)

Hahahahahha. Go read Martha. I don't know.

If you want to do it the hard way, read on.

First beg invite Susan down from the Cape to celebrate the Bday.

Then invite 18 to 20 other friends to join us.

Find a tempting recipe by Sam Sifton and decide that it sounds easy and will feed many without a great deal of work.

( insert laugh track)

Susan arrives Friday. We head out to eat Thai food and idly discuss the menu.

Get up early(ish) on Saturday, bask in the sun, drink coffee, make shopping list, be surprised Indian butter chicken actually includes butter. Lots of butter, and heavy cream.  Express amazement. Susan begins to worry. Did I even read the recipe through?


Start at farmers market, purchase $$$ cream and $$$ tomatoes for salad. Go to Starbucks. Drive home to drop off cream but find road construction going on and such confusing detour instructions decide to drive on to large Oriental market to get vegetables and spices.

Make a stop at the Vietnamese shopping center for lunch, find Moon festival in full swing.
Carry heavy plastic bag of $$$ heavy cream into restaurant. Ask them for more plastic bags and please put in cooler till we've finished lunch. They kindly agree.

Eat delicious lunch, retrieve cream and reach market in spite of my directions. Other driver very unhappy with our turn. Lets Susan know it.

Enter market where we load up on mangoes, mustard seeds, fresh herbs and bags of onions. Susan is carrying the increasingly heavy bag(s) of cream. Ice beginning to melt. 

We make it home. Unload. Head out for Trader Joes and Whole Foods. Forget rice. Remember rice.

Pick up $1.00 tablecloth from drycleaners. Originally a slightly stained, highly wrinkled linen mess, for $20.00 it is now a thing of beauty, luckily other flea market find good to go. These cloths and that damn recipe were inspiration for party.  Direct Susan to gas station, apparently bad directions again. Second man yells at her. We whiz by gas station. I finally speak up. Weren't we going there I wonder? We laugh hysterically, time is beginning to speed by.

. Grab Starbucks, drive home,unload groceries, settle down in front of TV to relax and watch a little college football, drink our coffees and eat yummy fruit scone from farmers market.

Phone rings, it's the flower shop. The party I booked for next Saturday the 27th, is this Saturday the 20th. Have panic attack. Susan starts car, we arrive at shop at 5:30, driver out the door with 25 arrangements by 6:30.

Stop apologizing and go home. Check out rash on stomach. Hope to hell it's hives not shingles.

Run out to World Market, buy napkins, pick up pizza, go home. Water plants in dark. Eat pizza. Marinate pounds of chicken thighs. Susan chops onions. They are so strong she wipes eyes with paper towel. Towel so abrasive she ends up blackening her eye. Very carefully cut mangoes for chutney, realize no sugar in house, Susan runs out to the Giant, no one yells at her. Chutney ready at 11:15pm.

Take half a valium, go to bed.  

Sunday morning. Good God. Susan starts chopping pounds of onions, 12 tablespoons of ginger, innumerable gloves of garlic.  I water garden, cut flowers from everyone's yards, fill vases, clean up patio, pick peppers from neighbors garden and tomatoes from my garden. Susan chops peppers and burns the tips of her fingers so severely she has to keep Googling ways to stop the pain.

While I start to cook, Susan and little roommate bring chairs down from attic and up from basement. Two 9 foot tables already in place, 20 chairs at the ready. Carlos, my neighbor, comes over, cleans back deck, moves bags of soil and mulch from front patio to under deck. Brings over folding table for buffet. I run the vacuum and mop kitchen floor, Susan chops vegetables for salad as I shower. I make salad dressing while she showers.

The former Mr. Baby and mother arrive with bottles of wine, beer and bags of ice, plates for appetizers, Mr. B's father arrives with samosas and other Indian nibbles.
 Suddenly it's 2:00, show time.

We greet, we laugh, we talk, we eat. Chicken disappears. Chutney applauded. Friends have made 3 birthday cakes. Three I tell you, carrot, raspberry almond and apple. Big bowl of whipped cream with raspberries. Singing, pictures taken, phone numbers exchanged, a bit of gossip too.

7:30 it's over. The dish and clothes washers full, chairs back in attic, cats back in house, feeling back in Susan's fingertips, rash definitely hives. Whew.

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

I get by with a lot of help from my friends.

And a box of coffee from Starbucks.

( Thank you all for your birthday wishes. Sorry you couldn't join us. You could have brought your own chairs. And forks)

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Pocketfull Of Miracles

Isn't it funny when what could seem like a BIG deal, for example, a really BIG birthday (sshhhh Shelley), turns out to be the best thing ever.

It's got to be a change in attitude.

I remember my birthday last year, 6 months out from my breakup feeling shattered and slightly shamed. Why, because I wasn't in a relationship for my birthday?

Did I think I was less of a person for being single? Less deserving of cake?

If so, this past year has proven that theory to be completely false.

I have learned so much. Not to let fear guide my decisions. Not to be afraid to ask for help. To listen to what I need and want and when it's possible to give it to myself. Not to be afraid to say yes. Not to be afraid to say no.

To let new people into my life and as a result have my life color enhanced by their presence.

I survived a breakup, shoulder surgery, flying, riding metros at rush hours, traveling alone to meet people I only knew thru the internet. I did this with the help of loving friends, a sense of humor, a daily dose of gratitude and the support of you.

I am finally becoming the person I want to be.

For this I am extremely grateful.

I'm not even halfway there, but I'm learning to love the journey. Empowerment is a glorious thing.

Does anybody remember that Dixie Chicks song, "The Long Way Around"?

Story of my life. maybe yours too....

 Now I'm gonna crank up that song, run a hot bath, slip in a dollop of Laura Mercier amber vanilla honey bath gel, sent to me by the ever missed Elle, (merci cheri), and chant thank you to the universe.

Then a good nights sleep.

Now that's happy birthday making.

xo J

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Remembering 9-11

I'm just home from work and I took a stroll down the hill to pay my respects to the  Pentagon and remember all those that died that day, in Arlington, New York and Pennsylvania.

In my world, on 9-11, the conversations always turns to "where were you on that day". I imagine it does in other cities and countries around the world.

I'll tell you my story.  It was not my personal tragedy but it had a profound impact on our country and our vision of ourselves as invincible.  It lodged a ball of fear in my heart I am slowly breaking through.

Tony and I had just closed on this house on September 10th. It was a lengthy, messy closing, with his name misspelled on every page.

After hours of initializing every mistake and sitting through all the other trauma that makes home buying so stressful, we  stumbled out of the lawyers office about 9:00pm.

Starving and already sick to death of the house we decided to skip our own home inspection in favor of food and sleep.

The next morning was a perfect blue skies, sunny day. We agreed to go check out the new house after work. I was watching the Today Show at home when the first tower was hit. It was Lauer And Courig hosting, they didn't know what was happening. Those were the days of innocence. I left for work, none the wiser.

I was at the flower shop, in the basement, when our driver came running in and told us to turn on the TV.

We did, and time seemed to stop. The second tower had just been hit. I called the shop owners who were vacationing on Nantucket and urged them to find a TV.  By the time the call was over, Flight 77 had hit the Pentagon.

I called Nantucket again and told them we were going to close the shop. but yet we stayed together for several more hours, underground in what we call the hell hole. We felt safe there, together.

When I walked out of the shop, it was eerily quiet. No cars, so planes overhead, no cell phone ringing, our world had shut down.  It was still a beautiful day but now the very air seemed filled with fear.  What next, everyone wondered.

There was a steady parade of silent suit clad people walking down Lee Highway in Arlington, trying to get home. The carried the jackets, briefcases and silent phones. It was like a long, funeral procession.

Highways were closed. bridges were closed, Starbucks was closed.

I went home with several friends from the shop, we sat outside at the table, everyone making frantic phone calls that went nowhere.

I felt selfish wondering to myself if our house was even standing. It turned out to have been in the flight path but the only thing that was down was an old diseased maple tree in the back yard.  All its branches fell off and buried themselves in the ground.

When our street was finally opened to traffic, several days later, we walked around the tree in silence, wondering about all the holes in the ground around it and where they could have come from.

For weeks after, as we worked on the house, there was a steady stream of  military Humvees driving past and people from every state, parking on our street, to walk to the hill that now holds the Air Force Memorial, carrying armfuls of flowers and photos to honor the dead.

In 2002, I planted white cottage yarrow to commemorate that day. It's still blooming.

Every year we do a grave blanket for the widow of the Captain on Flight 77, who died along with all his passengers when the crashed into the Pentagon. I spoke to her on Tuesday.

She told me it never gets easier. I told her we will never forget.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

On Leaving One's Comfort Zone.

And going to Baltimore.

Not that Baltimore is outside my comfort zone, I have a crush on that city.

But in order for me to go there I had to climb every mountain, ford every stream, follow every rainbow.....well you get it.

I had to take a lot of public transportation.  At rush hour.

And if any one remembers, it was just last year I got over my fear of the metro, flying, and other methods of transportation that were not in my control.

In other words, everything but walking, riding in cars with friends or taking my little local bus.

But luckily I had spent the past year forcing myself past these self induced fears.

And with every trip I took, came the courage to take another.

So if the only way I could see my ex, Tony, with his partner and their two children. Nora, two days short of her third birthday, and the new 8 month old Sam, who had  all flown in from Oregon for a week of friends and family time in Pennsylvania was to meet halfway in Charm City, the mountain would move.

It took a bus to the metro, 2 different subway trains at rush hour,( a totally new adrenalin rush for me) and then the comfort of Amtrak to get me there. A cab ride to the Inner Harbor and there they were.

And it was worth every flicker of uncertainty. 

When I told one of my workmates where I had gone yesterday, she listened with her mouth open.

This is not the Jane I know, she said.

But it's the Jane I used to know, years ago, when every day was a possible adventure, when life was experienced first hand, not just through a book or a movie.  When the whole world was my garden.

So I'm bringing her back.

She's more fun.

xo J