self love

LOVE AND MARRIAGE

Thirty years ago, when my former husband, Dave and I were in our pre-marriage engagement stage, we had a boat we kept in Newport. It was like a floating camper for us and gave us full access to the fun of Newport, RI in our mid-twenties. Drinking and walking, this is what we did. A lot.

It was on one of these excursions with too many margaritas in our bellies when we walked into the estate jewelry store where we had previously found my engagement ring. The store was owned by two women who were excellent salespeople. We walked in that day to say hello and in the meantime saw two incredible rings. One of the rings was a chunky blue topaz in the center oreo’d with a yellow citrine on each side of the topaz. It was a bold antique ring that I wasn’t quite ready for, but loved it just the same. The other ring was a small elegant row of amethysts on a simple gold band. I playfully (and drunkenly) tried them on, then took them off and we were on our merry way. Back to the boat for a dizzying sleep, but a safe one and this is a fond memory.

The next day or two, Dave came home with the amethyst ring as a surprise for me. This was who he was, a great gift giver and a kind soul and the further away I get from my marriage, the more I focus on these kindnesses rather than what didn’t work. I am enjoying the maturity of this and appreciate that I can focus on the good parts of the twenty years we were together as I grow older. There seem to be more good parts in these reflections backwards and I am grateful for this.

I am not sure what happened to the amethyst ring, but I wore it a lot. I loved this ring, but I have thought about the blue topaz with the yellow citrines often over the years thinking that maybe someday I would have one designed to replicate it. Thirty years later this ring must have had some superpower because I have continued to reminisce about its whereabouts. Maybe because the boldness of the ring is much more who I have developed into as a woman approaching my mid fifties.

Jewelry doesn’t usually have this type of impact on me, I am not a big jewelry person, but clearly this ring left its imprint. It very well could be the memory of its goodness in the early discovery years in a marriage. A young naïve couple filled with hope and dreams about a utopian future ahead. Then you get married and the future changes. Life comes at you and before you know it it is thirty years later and you are not sure how you got HERE. Births, deaths, floods, divorces, home purchases, moves, cancer, new boobs, and here I am.

HERE I AM.

I have found myself. I was lost, now I am found, just like the song says, but I didn’t even know I was lost. In fact Being Lost isn’t really a negative; lost has given me a chance to go looking for the place, the space, the road. To get THERE. To get HERE. Here is saying yes more. Not living in plans and too many appointments without making the appointment with myself too. Saying yes to a random dinner with a friend and making an impromptu date for the next day to wander through a local exhibit at a museum we had all been meaning to go to but when we got there the following day, we learned that we had missed it. Put it in the “I’ll get to it tomorrow” pile as we do with so many events that show up in our inboxes.

So we made the best of it and wandered to one of the stores we had been meaning to visit in our little town. It was a small antique, vintage mixed with new odd combination of sunglasses, jewelry, clothes and knick knacks. We had a great time and as I went to make my way out of the store, my eye caught a sparkly bauble in the case. It was a phenomenal ring, Bold. Big. Hearty. And it was blue topaz and yellow citrine, but reversed from the ring I started this story with. Citrine in the center, blue topaz on the outsides.

“Can I try this on?” I asked excited. I thought I saw the price tag say $144. This seemed reasonable for the beauty that stared back at me hoping eagerly to find its way onto my finger.

The owner hesitantly took it from the case and looked at the price several times before handing it to me. I could almost sense that he thought the ring may be mismarked.

When he finally gave it to me after what seemed like five minutes, and it slid on my right ring finger like it was home again, I asked him if the stone was yellow citrine.

“I don’t know.” he replied. “I was not here the day this arrived.” He looked a little concerned that I was actually going to purchase this ring after asking him the price and hearing him say $68.00.

I wasted no time and quickly ran to the ATM across the street (because he was not taking credit cards in this day and age, hard to believe). I bought the ring, slid it on my finger and realized that if I were to get married again, this would be my wedding ring. So I sent a text with a photo of the ring to my long term partner that read the following:

Michael, if we were to ever get married, I would want this to be my wedding ring, but since we are never getting married (because neither of us ever want to, FYI) I am marrying myself. So happy wedding day to me. And I really meant this. I felt like I made the decision with this full circle opposite ring on my finger to marry myself. I MARRY ME. The thing about Michael is he totally gets me and got this immediately. I am sure he is grateful he has a partner who mutually feels the same regarding marriage. We are committed. Together. This is plenty.

The funny thing about this is that when Dave and I were divorced, I always thought I would take my wedding ring and engagement ring and have them made into a new ring that I would wear on my middle finger and call it a FREEDOM Ring. I never got around to that. I loved my wedding ring and my engagement ring and I couldn’t bear to break it apart. And as much as our marriage didn’t stay put, I loved my experience of the good and the bad of marriage. It made me who I am today and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I didn’t need a FREEDOM ring. I am free. Not because I am not married, because I do think that in a healthy relationship married or not, you can be free too. My freedom comes in the physical and mental layers I continue to shed along with layers of EGO that simply no longer serve. This is because of the work I have done and the life I have chosen.

This is a cause for celebration, this is a cause for a wedding.

To me. Till death do us part.

#imarryme

Uncategorized

SUNDAY MORNING GLORY

SUNDAY MORNING GLORY

Sundays. Homemade freshly ground black coffee, a warming soulful fire and two newspapers waiting for me. Rising early, a little music in the background, my partner sitting next to me on the couch opening the local paper first to catch up on what is going on in our little state of Rhode Island. I sit here this morning writing with so many choices in my morning and feel fortunate and at peace. There is something so snug about this calmness; it is a life nugget that is not always present- or maybe it is, but I don’t always isolate it as a special moment.

Today I notice. I only have forty five minutes before I have to get up from this couch to go to my 8:00am workout. I love my Sunday am workout with my crazy trainer and friend, Kathy; she has some nutty workout concocted. The goal of the group is to together burn 10,000 calories in this hour and fifteen minute class in our Patriots gear with head banging music screaming out of the speakers. I frankly can’t believe that this is part of who I am now, but as much as I love sitting on the couch, it will be waiting for me after the class with a much better feel under my body. I love sitting on the couch on a cold wintry Sunday of the morning of the Superbowl after a workout with nothing planned except writing, reading my new book from the library and getting ready to open the New York Times. I also have my ingredients ready to go to cook my contribution for an impromptu Superbowl gathering at my friend’s house tonight.

The Patriots playing in the Superbowl brings up some great memories for me from my former life. Well before we had our son, Dave and I actually went to the Superbowl in Atlanta, well before Atlanta was referred to as “Hotlanta.” The game was from the 1993 season, Buffalo Bills and the Dallas Cowboys and we were going with my friend and his wife who had gotten us tickets. Back then they were six hundred dollars a piece, no chump change for sure. This was when the Superbowl was still in January before the marketers got a hold of it realizing that one extra week would mean extra dineros. We were still newly married just celebrating our three year anniversary.

This was BEFORE. Marriage and Life are like this- so many BEFORES, time stamping our lives. Before we had our son, before we even were thinking of having children, before my brother was diagnosed or even had any indications that there would be a diagnosis. We had just bought our first home in the summer of 1992 so taking a trip like this was a splurge, but it fulfilled a dream for my former husband. I was that new young wife filled with the hopes and desires to live a rich wedded bliss so this was an exciting trip for us.

I remember thinking of the opportunity in Atlanta back then. There wasn’t even a bagel shop anywhere to be found. Atlanta was just getting ready for the summer Olympics in 1996 and there was an ‘up and coming’ not yet realized buzz in the hot Georgia air. Dave and I loved it so much, we were actually considering moving there. We had a realtor and everything picked out and were ready to dive in with our first big wedded risk until I remembered upon my return that there was no water to speak of, no ocean. Funny how I forgot about the missing ocean while I was traipsing around the streets of Atlanta. This Pisces chick couldn’t imagine my life without a fifteen minute ride to any beach so I caved in my decision. Dave would have taken the risk; there were a few moments like this I kyboshed in our young lives. I often wonder if I had some premonition of the isolation that would have come from a drastic move with someone I loved yet really didn’t have a lot in common with ultimately.

Come to think of it I wasn’t much of a risk taker back in my late twenties. I just wanted the safety, security and calmness of the home life I had ripped from me in my teens. I wanted the picket fence and the satisfaction of a good partnership, this was all part of the BEFORE. I worshipped the dream and the many lessons soon to follow that I surely didn’t know about yet as we made our way exploring the streets of Atlanta. We were starry eyed back then and we were happy to live in that starry eyed world of BEFORE. It was satisfying and exciting in some ways and I have watched with delight my young team beginning their lives with the same naivete.

Going to a Superbowl was a once in a lifetime for me and like the deep appreciation I had watching Dave be an amazing father to Michael, I watched him at this game more than I watched the game. Ironically, I don’t even like football. When we were down there I actually contemplated selling my ticket and sitting at the bar instead. Football games are wasted on me, I have never understood the game, still don’t, but I do appreciate the pomp and circumstance of the Superbowl so I went and was really glad I did. Just watching Dave’s face made me so happy. This was one of the many BEFORES. When life simply was, before I realized that the small rumblings of dissatisfaction would eventually unwind my notion of marriage to the person I thought I would be with forever. When our son was born, he was like a good luck charm as his birth on December 27, 1997 was the weekend of the first big time the Patriots at last began showing promise. December 28th they would be playing a playoff game against the Miami Dolphins. I don’t think my former husband could have been more ecstatic.

I watch my son’s love of all things sports and television. I watch his connection with Dave and the camaraderie they share because it just so happens that Dave ended up with a child who loves sports as much as he does. I don’t know what he would have done if Michael was into art and music or something other than sports instead. I have some friends who have children who could care less about sports. Not Michael. He is all sports and has been since his first T ball game. Not surprising since his birth was when it all started.

So much has happened since that Superbowl, but this is life coming at us. We have those juicy markers reminding us of all of the diamonds in the rough, the pleasantries, the traumas, the dramas, and the rediscovery of ourselves in the process if we are open to the lessons. I never realized that the Superbowl I attended in January of 1994 would be the last January of the life as I knew it. The next major life marker put me in a new frame of mind just six months later when my dear brother was diagnosed with a rare form of lung cancer and our lives would never be the same. Young death changed me, but so does LIFE and having our son two years later was the gift that keeps on giving. So as I get ready to actually watch the Superbowl this year without putting the TV on mute as I read the paper, (sacrilege, I know), I wholeheartedly celebrate the BEFORES because in all of them, the AFTERS are so sweet.


the day after Michael was born and a happy face the year they won their first Superbowl, 2002, only five years later and the rest is history including that other New England team we call THE RED SOX.
recipes

BROCCOLI CASSEROLE

BROCCOLI CASSEROLE

Dearest Michael,

There are some recipes that I must share with you because of the experience of the recipe and not necessarily because I have the memory of you eating or loving it. Some recipes are like this. They just have a secure place on a table, constant and like clockwork that to leave them out would almost be an insult to their time spent. This is one of those recipes, but the story of this recipe is equal to the deliciousness of it and so here it is, hopeful that it continues on your own table if only for a symbolic gesture and memory of time past.

I always had the fantasy when Dad and I bought our first home that I would have a neighbor I could easily borrow sugar from. You know, the Ethel of Lucy and Ethel or the Betty of Wilma and Betty. This was in 1992 and I was 27. I was living in the fantasy world of the innocent influence the television shows of my youth had on my belief systems. Neighbors I could hang out with, have a cup of coffee with in the morning or a glass of wine in the evening. One I could borrow an egg from, or walk into the house like family. Perhaps it was the fantasy because my own teenage home life was so disrupted. I clung to the notion that family life could be a television show without realizing I was thinking that way.

When I met our neighbors, Karen and Bob, they were about five years ahead of us starting their lives out with their two children and after a few years, we started to become great friends. We camped together, we dined together and they became our alter family. When I became pregnant with you, Karen was always checking on me like the maternal soul she is. She and I would escape on Sundays to a variety of shopping adventures while Dad and Bob would glue themselves to football games we wanted no part of. We would combine families and spend New Years Eve together with you and their kids, Ally and Matt, making fondue at Karen’s and then heading back across the street to our house for hot fudge sundaes to watch the ball drop.

Our life in their home mixed with our home was rich and joyous. Karen and Bob and their entire family were the main reason for this fullness. I loved them and they loved us and after all these years, we are still super close even though even though you do, I don’t have the luxury and ease of living across the street from each other anymore. When I moved out I not only had the sadness of breaking up my own family, but really ending an era of an ideal neighborhood experience. Leaving Dad also included leaving Bob and Karen as there are so many moving parts to making really courageous and tough decisions like the one I ultimately made. It was really important to me that Dad keep the house so you would have not only the stability of your family home but also the security of Karen and Bob across the street. Knowing this made my decision easier for sure.

Like family, Karen and I love to talk food and recipes and we shared many holidays and dinners together over the twenty years I lived across the street. Both Dad and Bob also liked to cook so we always had some delicious food fest or plan going on whether it was a backyard barbeque or some fabulous mystery dinner party Karen would creatively put together. We also shared some of these dinners at Karen’s twin sister’s house or her mom, Phyillis’ house when she was still alive.

One of my favorite old fashioned dishes that Karen made for every Thanksgiving is BROCCOLI CASSEROLE. It is rich and creamy and delicious and I can never replicate it as well as Karen does, but it is one of my favorite dishes to make when I “head south” in the food department going off the wagon of my no dairy rule.

Like macaroni and cheese, it is a comfort food. BROCOLLI CASSEROLE transports me back to their table, back to my morning walk in my pjs with my cup of coffee in hand to say hello where there was always an open door and open arms waiting to welcome me and my own family like their own.

Love Mom

BROCCOLI CASSEROLE (as copied from Karen’s text message when I asked her for the recipe again because I can’t find the one she gave me over twenty years ago after the first time I had tasted this.)

TEXT FROM KAREN (my comments are in italics)

“So I don’t have recipe, I just wing it but here goes.”

1 stick salted butter

Flour enough to make a rue (recipe to follow in directions)

Milk (whole) maybe a 1 1/2 or two cups enough to have consistency of a loose gravy

1 (8oz) bar (block) of cream cheese

Garlic power not a lot just enough for background taste of garlic (fresh works too just a clove minced fine)

Black pepper same as garlic

Fresh parmesean cheese couple of tablespoons 2 to 3 (or more)

Either chopped frozen broccoli or fresh cooked and chopped- if use frozen get water out with paper towels (use strainer and press paper towels or a clean cloth on to broccoli to squeeze water out as much as possible)

Unseasoned bread crumbs (ritz cracker crumbs are even better)

Directions

Melt butter over low/medium heat make sure you don’t burn butter or milk will curdle

Add flour to make rue (probably start with 1 T this is just so you get a thickening base, you may need to add a little more, but the flour needs to be added and made smooth before you add the milk or it will get clumpy)

Add milk as much as needed to make loose gravy (stirring constantly)

Season mildly with garlic powder (or fresh) and black pepper

Add cream cheese and fresh Parmesan cheese to thicken milk gravy if gravy is to thick add a little more milk

Broccoli if fresh cook in water and chop up if frozen get all water out (as previously stated above)

Put broccoli in bottom of casserole dish

Pour cream cheese milk gravy over broccoli

Cover casserole lightly with bread crumbs

Melt little bit of butter and drizzle over crumbs (you can also melt butter and add crumbs to it then spoon over the casserole)

Cook at 350 until bubbly

I LOVE YOU (and so does Karen, this I know for sure)

karen and me after a fun day in the barn doing art among other things, Lucy and Ethel for sure.
recipes

HUMMUS

HUMMUS

Dearest Michael,

When I was only twelve, my grandparents, your great grandparents, took me on an almost one month trip to Israel and Italy. I have a clear memory of being asked if I wanted a full blown Bat Mitzvah or instead a trip to Israel with my grandparents. Typical of “clear memories” at twelve years old, I am not really sure if this went as described, however, I can’t imagine after seven years of Hebrew School and Sunday school, a Bat Mitzvah as the first grandchild of Isabelle and Herbie would have not been in the consideration pool. Frankly I am surprised I was given a voice like that, but I was considerably relieved because (if you can possibly imagine) the reason I didn’t want the Bat Mitzvah was because I didn’t want to get up in front of people and sing. I’m guessing this is funny to read because you know how much I love being in front of an audience. I love to speak publicly, so this may come as a surprise. The fact is though, this bright voice of mine as it is now was developed since that time and like most any pre teen with the notion of missing a few weeks of school, I jumped at the chance without a second thought.

What I didn’t know on my trip was that my parents were in the throws of their own despair trying to work out what would soon become the end of their marriage. I have no idea what my seven year old brother, Michael, your uncle you never physically knew, was witnessing as I was swimming in the Dead Sea and traipsing through Florence. Fast forward to your beautiful entry into our lives. I knew when you were born that my goal was to have you experience the same trip before or after the Bar Mitzvah I was surely not going to let you out of. The ironic thing was that I too was in the same despair my father was in as I contemplated the end of my own twenty year marriage. I really struggled with breaking up our family unit and I kept pushing the call to move on further out and away from any hard decision.

When an opportunity came up to be part of our friends, the Andreozzis, own family trip the November before your Bar Mitzvah, I jumped head first in. Of course I asked Dad knowing his response would be, “I am not going to Israel,” with that small town fear we so often hear when we talk about traveling there. I knew that would be his answer as I am sure you also understood and off we went for the first time not having Thanksgiving with Dad. He was so sweet about it though because he did understand how important this trip was to me and how important your Bar Mitzvah was too. As we traveled through Israel, we really had such an exciting time. I loved seeing your mind open to the world, to a different culture and language. I was so elated to see you and your friend, Chris jump into the different types of food and eagerly try Shawarma and lamb, hot peppers and the Hummus. Ahhh, the Hummus. Once one tries Israeli or any real Middle Eastern Hummus for that matter, it is virtually impossible to ever have store bought again.

I hope when you have your own kitchen, you will always make this from scratch remembering your trip to Israel as fondly. Even though the end of this trip was in many ways a deciding factor for the end of my marriage and your own family experience, as you had known it. I really hope you know that the decision was not entered lightly. Dad and I loved each other, we still do and we love you. We just were seldom a good fit as we both had such different ways we viewed life and our world. You though were the gem between us and we were always on the same page as parents. Food was one of our common denominators too and Dad’s recipes will be making a grand entrance in these writings. Dad and I still remain close as we always will when two grownups who act that way can be mature enough to take the good and leave the not so good at the door. Dad and I have done this and we hope that is your memory as you blast forward and falter backward in your own relationships.

The melding of two people for a long period of time takes lots of ingredients to work. When two people marry at 24 and 29, there is so much time ahead of them to work its way in with the inevitable changes that will occur. Your uncle Michael dying so young changed the way I viewed my world and it never went back. I think that some of this anguish made me look at life much more precariously and I lived with an attitude that had layers of young grief behind it. This, like life and time, is all because of the wisdom of retrospect; I never understood these changes as they were happening and likely Dad didn’t either. You, my love were both a distraction for us and a connector and I have not one regret of ever being married to Dad. I loved being married and I loved the wackiness of thinking that my hippie wild on the outside could live in a traditional role almost like a reparation for my own parents failure that I never really got over until I left too.

Marriage seems like a simple task when you are in love and planning a wedding at a young age. Once you get started in the early years, adjusting to the blend of two personalities, looking for a house, deciding on jobs and so on, the intricacies start to appear. Hummus is simple in its ingredients, but the blend has to be just right or else it can be bitter from the wrong olive oil, too garlicky by too much, bland by not just the right amount of spice or too sesame tasting by using too much Tahini or buying a generic one instead of an authentic. This, my love, is life; you play around with it, you season it, you leave stuff out, add too much of something else and then you end up with what you created by all of the ingredients. I can’t do life for you. Dad and I gave you the best foundation we could both together and apart and your job is to take what you need and leave the rest. I surely hope that we left you with a lot to take.

Like a good pesto, homemade Hummus (notice I capitalize it because it just deserves a capital H.) is food of the Gods. There are so many varieties, but I have perfected my own over time since our trip and this recipe I give you today is that joy. There is something magic about New York Pizza or Bagels, New Yorkers often say it’s the water. Israeli Hummus is the same. No matter how much I perfect my recipe, it never tastes like it does in Israel. Perhaps it is because once you go to Israel, it calls you back time and time again. Maybe it is the Hummus.

Love Mom

HUMMUS

Traditional Hummus calls for chickpeas. Here is my note on the chickpea decision. If you can use fresh, please do. The great thing about fresh is once you cook them, they can be individually stored in containers or Ziploc baggies in the freezer, they keep for a few months easily and this will be your go to “can” for the next few batches. If you are in a pinch or craving Hummus, but don’t have time to make some fresh chickpeas, then a can will do, but always drain and rinse well before using.

Also a note on the Cuisinart- I have a clear memory of Grandma Ann buying her first one and it was kitchen changing. I have had the same one since I was married and I hope that mine ends up in your kitchen eventually. Like a great knife, you must have a good food processor and in my opinion, the Cuisinart is the best.

2–3 cloves of garlic

Fresh Herbs, a small handful (I use cilantro and parsley generally, but basil is nice too)

Chickpeas (about 1 overflowing cup)

Lemon, 1 freshly squeezed

Tahini, 1 heaping teaspoon of good Tahini (I always buy mine at Sam’s Bakery in Fall River, Mass., the best one I have used- Keep it in the refrigerator, it keeps for quite awhile)

Hot Sauce (I use Red’s) a few dashes

Olive Oil — a good one

Fresh ground salt and pepper

Zahtar, a generous teaspoon. (I have never made my own because the Zahtar at Sam’s Bakery in Fall River, Mass is so delicious, I always have a big container of this right on my counter)

I am giving you a more precise direction here, my love, to get you started, but truth be told, I am so familiar with this mixture, I throw everything into the Cuisinart in one pile and pulse away. Do the recipe as I list for your first run, then once you get used to it, follow my lead and trust that mixing everything together in one shot will be easier and just as delicious. This is also a great base. I have changed it up over time by adding artichokes, or roasted red peppers. There are so many possibilities and because your taste buds are trained well, trust your additions and your imagination.

Put garlic in Cuisinart and mince well. Add fresh herbs and pulse in with the garlic.

Add chickpeas, tahini, hot sauce and lemon and pulse until mixed.

Add olive oil until you get to the consistency you like. Start with about ¼ cup and keep adding until just right. Like lots of life decisions, this is a personal decision, you will get a feel for this the more you make the recipe.

Add Zahtar, salt and pepper and pulse a few times.

Now taste it and decide what it needs. More lemon? probably. More salt? Maybe. More hot sauce, be careful here, hot sauce in Hummus is for the background. Just play around with it until you get to the spot where you are transported back to Tel Aviv or our first meal in the Old City of Jerusalem. You’ll know.

I LOVE YOU