Archive for January, 2010

Six Steps to Staying Warm on a Cold Snowy Night

*Take a scalding hot bath with your favorite bath salts – Dead Sea salts are very good. Scrub yourself well with a loofa sponge. Dry off with fluffy big towels, and apply delicious lotion or body oil all over;

*Double flannel yourself – Put on flannel jammies and jump in between flannel sheets; (more…)

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The process of writing is really just like cooking, that is, creating good writing is the twin of good cooking. Last night, at a dinner party for six, I served what was arguably the best casserole I’ve ever made.  Upon reheating the leftovers for lunch today and savoring the flavors of my creation, this analogy struck me clearly in the following points:

1. Follow your instincts. Good advice for much of life, and particularly in the kitchen and at the computer screen. All week I’d been wondering what to serve my dinner guests. The vision of a baked pasta casserole kept haunting me. I never cook Italian; I don’t even own an Italian cookbook. Plus, two of my guests had distinctly Italian surnames, and both catered professionally for years. Nonetheless, the vision was so compelling that I could not think of another dish to prepare; (more…)

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There is nothing, absolutely nothing, for miles and miles along NM 39 from Abbot to Tucumcari, that is not dry and deserted. Woody Guthrie never sounded so good as I cruised the rumpled two-lane past crumbling homestead cabins and splintered windmills. I actually felt Woody, Ralph Stanley and Blind Willie McTell power my silver Nissan Murano with the yellow TOURNM license plate through the fierce winds. I stopped at Annette’s in Roy for coffee and pie. That’s where Sarah Jessica Parker and Hugh Grant had their big date in “Did You Hear About the Morgans?” (more…)

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Not being a parent makes me an especially keen observer of how others parent. It’s a great curiosity, like studying the behavior of a virus under a microscope, or visiting a completely foreign culture.

On a holiday visit to Boulder, I listened carefully to a friend advise her teenage daughter. The young woman’s finals were due to start the next day. She asked her mother whether she should study or go for a long bike ride with her friend. “What is in your own best interest?” the mom asked her daughter.

Wow, I thought. That is a brilliant response. The mom is not dictating to the girl, and even better, she is teaching the girl two important things: 1. Make up your own mind; 2. Learn how to do what is best for yourself. Both these lessons are a departure from the woman’s traditional role; both are necessary for the woman of the future to survive and thrive.

I recently left a teaching job in a junior college where the majority of young women were either single or expectant single mothers. Not only were they without basic writing skills, mostly illiterate in their own language (English), they were without the knowledge of how to succeed in college or the time and energy to do so. No one had ever asked them the simple question: What is in your own best interest?

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Last evening I had the extreme pleasure of hearing Rosanne Cash in the Lensic Theater in Santa Fe. As Saturday afternoon DJ on Raton’s KRTN-93.9 FM hosting “L’il Sharon’s Country Cafe” and admitted devotee of Grand Ol’ Opry roots music, I was thrilled to hear Miss Cash perform from her new roots release, “The List.”

More of an interpreter than a belter, she entranced the packed house with her deep and subtle emotions and her way of giving herself completely to a song. How gutsy of her to cover Patsy Cline material like “She’s Got You,” Hank Snow’s “Movin On,” and “Long Black Veil,” written by Lefty Frizzel and immortalized by her dad. Maybe she waited so long to do this because she had to know with complete assurance she could make them hers.

“The List” comes from a list her father, Johnny Cash, gave her of 100 tunes she needed to know, when she was only 18 and went on the road with him the day after high school graduation. I treasured every word of Miss Cash’s stories about how she toured with Carl Perkins and the Carter Family. She shared that her step-aunt, Helen Carter, taught her “Bury Me Under the Weeping Willow” and other Carter family legacies.

Actually, Rosanne Cash is the personification of the legacy that goes back even further than the 1927 Bristol sessions, when the Carter family and other musicians came out of the woods to make their first recordings. With the passing of Johnny and June, she seems to be stepping into the spotlight of legend herself now.

Even so, her own song, “Seven Year Ache” rocked the house in the highlight of the show. What a fabulous stage the pink curlicues of the faux-Moorish Lensic provides. Plus perfect acoustics.

It’s a long list. There ought to be more recordings to follow.

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Working from home? Whether outsourced, too creative to show up at a cubicle every morning at the same time, semi-retired, lone eagle, bootstrapper, Generation Recession member or simply one of the millions of the new unemployed, it’s a good idea to start your day with oatmeal. Cheap, nutritious and cholesterol-lowering, eating a bowl of oatmeal is almost as good as running four miles in sub-freezing North America. You feel virtuous and good to go. Oatmeal, unlike real mashed potatoes or a chocolate milkshake, is one comfort food that is good for you. I supplement mine with ground flaxseed, dried berries, sunflower seeds, oat bran and cinnamon. All right, a dash of maple syrup. And soymilk heated in the microwave. Did I mention this must be cooked oatmeal, not instant? You must cook your oatmeal to receive full benefits of virtue and nutrition. Now heat up a cup of green tea and take your vitamins. Buy the most expensive you can. You can’t afford to get sick if you are unemployed and have no insurance. Swallow at least eight capsules  – any combination of calcium, multi-vitamin, fish oil, C, guggel ( a cholesterol-lowering tree from India), and so forth – to continue the virtuous feeling.

After putting in an hour checking email, Facebook, blogging, Twittering and so on, get to work for at least a half-hour, or an hour on a good day. No shopping! Remember, you need to make money, not spend it. By that time you will feel the need for a snack or break. It’s good to get up from your computer now & then.  If you reward yourself with another cup of coffee or tea and a small handful of revitalizing nuts, like pecan or almond, give yourself another mental pat on the back. If, on the other hand, you finished off that slice of cold pizza or Hunan eggplant or anything in the refrigerator that is in a white container crying out to be eaten,  think about postponing lunch until after 2 pm.

(to be continued)

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Aging Among Friends

Cher said there was nothing good about getting older. I respectfully disagree. I’m pushing 62, and every day I count my blessings, many times a day. The increasing sense of connection with nature and friends; the ability to walk away from anxiety and betrayal and put them away because I’ve lost a few battles and learned the best healing comes from moving on; the moving beyond the shoulds and guilts and fears and needs that were so powerful they ruled my life; all this could only come from experience, and the only way to get that is to grow older.

“Everything is a trade-off,” my 94 year-old friend Irma Bailey told me.With her fire-red hair and blue eyes, her “wear-it-all” attitude on turquoise and silver, she still looks great. And her sense of humor is percolating right along. OK. So strangers’ heads don’t turn when I walk into a restaurant – well, a few might, if I’m having a good hair day and I happen to be wearing my red cowboy boots. My audience is smaller, much more select. I don’t need to work so hard to dazzle. I don’t need to perform. I am developing, with the years, trust in my woman-womb-wisdom.

Whether teaching a writing workshop, conversing with a friend who could be my daughter, or walking a mountain trail with my dogs, I feel my connection to life, my emotions, my understanding, my actions and my words are increasingly coming from my gut. This is a delicious, only recently experienced sensation I cannot will, but can be open to receiving. Perhaps it is grace. Pondering and processing, taking endless trips inside my head, trying to explain the inexplicable are activities replaced by a beautiful bellyful of insight.

I grew up on the Jersey shore. The image of aging I see is a wave. When we are young, the tide is low. Every little riffle leaves behind sand to stamp a footprint in, build a castle, shells to pick up and collect. You can walk so far out there when it’s low tide. Then comes life, a big wave that catches you and smashes you into shore. You ride the wave and you are the wave. Then the tide goes out again, leaving the water smooth and perfect for taking a good long relaxing swim, when you can move at your own pace and no longer have to fight with all your strength to stay on course.

Look around. By now we know the members of our tribe, those with whom we continue to journey.  Age is the time to slow down and savor. May we continue to share and savor every delicious moment with our dear friends.

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