Monday, November 18, 2019

The Cake that Crumbled the Berlin Wall

Some events have deep and lasting impact on our memory. The day might have started as just an ordinary, humdrum kind of day, no inkling of what is to come, no premonition. But then something happens, and it is forever seared in the storage rooms of our mind - where you were, what run-of-the-mill thing you were doing that day, that hour when everything changed. 

Most of us have stories of 9/11, that answer, What did you do when the Twin Towers fell? It’s our way of processing and integrating our small, seemingly insignificant personal histories as they intersect with the larger narrative of times and places.

I go back to November of 1989, in the similar way. Back then, while the whole world was transfixed watching the beginning of the fall of Berlin Wall, I was, anticlimactically, spending an extended Thanksgiving holiday break in Tuscaloosa, Alabama enjoying gracious hospitality of my typically Southern hosts.

What has stuck with me through the passage of time from that day was a thought,

In thirty years, when my children ask me, ‘Mom, where were you when the Berlin wall fell?’, I will have to respond, with tinge of despair, ‘In Tuscaloosa, Alabama, watching the whole darn thing on an old analog TV with the rest.’

Some may say that my special superpower is always being at the right time but at the 'wrong' place. The crumbling of the world as I’d always known it that November is not my only example.  
Of course, with 30 year perspective on the tearing down of the Iron Curtain and life in general, it’s rather obvious that the historic event and its subsequent domino effect has solved some problems and created others.

But, my puny existence is too small to speak into such lofty matters.


Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Competing with Horses

If you can't carry the weight of emptiness, 
how are you going to carry the weight of fullness?

If you are not able to descend into failure,
how are you going to be able to ascend into success?

If you cave in under the pressure of loneliness,
how are you going to hold up under the pressures of publicity.

I found these words as I flipped through my old journals this morning.  I hesitate to write them here, as they seem to be too profound to come out of my pen. I realize though, that there is wisdom in us beyond our comprehension at the time it was given. But only the long and arduous climb up to the pinnacles and down into despairs of life itself can chisel those words into the depth of our reality. 

We so easily forget that words, through their deceptive and frivolous use have lost their original power and are not reality anymore. But every once in a while something fresh comes our way, something piercingly true and it is because of this that I write them here, as a reminder to myself, most of all.  And who knows, perhaps someone else may find the humbling blessing and sobering encouragement they carry.

If you have run with footmen and they have tired you out, Then how can you compete with horses? If you fall down in a land of peace, How will you do in the thicket of the Jordan? Jeremiah 12:5

Tuesday, September 03, 2019

Perfect Storm

Being the hurricane survivor veterans of 15 years and counting, we thought we had it figured out.  From Charlie, Jeanne, Frances, Irma, Michael – each uninvited guest coming our way taught us something new. Over time, we’ve developed a routine that encompasses a variety of preparations we tweak each hurricane season as fresh, tested-in-real-life data becomes available to us under the category of ‘Experience’.

One big item we learned early on became house cleaning. I know it sounds counter intuitive to bother with cleaning the house before the hurricane, but short of a complete disaster and losing your house or at least a roof, this strange ritual of housecleaning makes a huge difference in the days preceding and days that follow the storm.  Sometimes we lose power, and sometimes even water supplies can be limited, so having empty laundry basket keeps us from experiencing a different kind of emergency, like no clean underwear. After being surprised by Charlie, our first real hurricane, this became a must for our family, right along removing or securing projectiles around our house.

This year, with monster hurricane Dorian’s path threatening central Florida, we raised our housecleaning to an unprecedented level by cleaning out our garage.  It seemed crazy keeping all our worthless junk safe under the roof while leaving our only vehicle outside exposed to the mercy (or mercilessness) of Cat 5. 

With the car in, we could sigh a big sigh of relief. We did everything we could, the rest is in God’s hands. There was a huge sense of satisfaction knowing,


I even remembered how with the disruption of the routine, and easy access to the stockpiles of convenient (read ‘junk’) food,  the biggest hurricane battle tends to be the one with the bulge. 

“Not this time!”  I was determined and stock piled on peaches, pears, apples and bananas, carrots, celery and home-made hummus.

Then, we waited. And waited. And watched and waited. And started nibbling on our healthy foods while binge-watching weather channel.  The storm was intensifying, getting more threatening, bigger and bigger, and slower and SLOWER, until it stalled over the poor Bahamas battering it heartlessly with Cat 5 squalls.

It was supposed to arrive on Sunday here, and it’s Tuesday and it STILL isn’t here.

We actually polished off our healthy hurricane stash while the hurricane was still hundreds of miles away!! Yesterday we made a quick Walmart run to restock but while we were getting peaches, grapes and milk, I noticed that their Bakery Department must have over-baked and had all these amazing goods on clearance – pumpkin and apple pies, apple fritters, plain donuts and Persian cinnamon rolls... for pennies!!! Who can resist that???

As they say, "The road to hell is paved by good intentions"...

We came home loaded, promising ourselves self-control, then making powerful excuses justified by ‘all the stress that hurricane caused us’… and ‘we were doing so well until…”

And the storm is still over three hundred miles away…

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Rosy Cheek Cheese Pie

I asked my mom for a recipe for rolled filo dough cheese pie, taking notes while on the phone with her. After  we finished the conversation I looked over the recipe and realized what I’d written didn’t look at all like a recipe my mom would give.

To my credit, I noted all the ingredients correctly – eggs and cheese, oil and yogurt, but their quantities meandered from cups to grams to coffee cups (which are not the same as U.S. measuring cups), sprinkled with, ‘the way you like it’, which eventually merged into the final word of precision wisdom, “you know, not too thick and not too runny’.

Mom, I don’t know. And you sure have more faith in my culinary abilities than I do. I thought to myself and before I hung up, I promised I would let her know how the pie turned out.

I followed the general directions that surprisingly enough gave rather promising results, but just as I was about to slip the pie into the oven, I realized I don’t know either the temperature of the oven or the length of baking time.

I glanced at the Celsius/Fahrenheit chart that's attached with a magnet to the side of our refrigerator, noting that 200 degrees Celsius is approximately 400 degrees Fahrenheit, before I called 'mom-to-the-rescue' hot line again.

Mom, what temperature is the oven supposed to be at?

It was a simple question for which my head allowed only two possible answers – numerical answer one and numerical answer two - representing the same value expressed in either Celsius, or Fahrenheit. What I got wasn't even in the ballpark.

What do you mean 'what temperature'? It’s the same temperature as when you bake a cake…

A cake??? When I bake a cake, which is like never, I set the temperature at what the box…. I stopped before I could make fool of myself any further, and decided to showcase my limited baking knowledge.

So, it’s not super-hot like when you bake bread?

No, no! That’s too hot. You don't want to turn it into charcoal. I told you, just like when you bake a cake…

Alright, I got it, I said, making a mental note to check with Betty Crocker on the cake baking temp

For how long?  The time is measured in minutes, hours, days and weeks on both side of the ocean so I thought I was safe.

How long???? As long as it takes! You need to keep checking it while it's in the oven until it gets nice and rosy, like rosy cheeks.

I stand there, the phone in my hand, realizing that between my multitasking English and Serbian,  Celsius, Fahrenheit and timer, I’ve lost something important, and not just in my culinary skills.

I am so grateful I still have my mom, who, without even realizing, not only taught me how to bake a pie, but recovered the precious lost and gave it back to me.

Thursday, August 15, 2019


Used with permission ©Örs Lévay2019

I came across the following post in one of my watercolor on-line groups:

Scrolling through my Amsterdam sketches I found this unfinished and partially smeared pen sketch. Instead of tearing it out of my sketchbook I revitalized it with some watercolor. In real time it took 5 minutes.

Attached to it was a 30 second video showing the process and the result, which, needless to say, was absolutely fabulous.

What caught my attention were the words like 


partially smeared, 

tearing out and, not surprising, 


I love the way artists express life truths through their work.

When I scroll back through my life ‘sketchbook’, I am more inclined to rip the pages out than allow the great Artist to revitalize the old work and turn it into something beautiful.  Thankfully, there are artists like Örs who remind us that there could be a better way…

Perhaps, it may take a bit more than 5 minutes but whatever it takes it's well worth it. 

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Teriyaki Paprikas

I’ll blame it on Buckee’s.   It was in this mega gas station on steroids we came across during our trip that I got inspired to make our own beef jerky. Who wouldn’t after seeing the massive displays of packaged and by-the-pound ‘ mountains of the irresistible deliciousness.

I’ve never made beef jerky before, so it took two half-tries to perfect the product. I thought that was pretty good for a novice. As a result of my second half-try, I had a rather large quantity of home made teriyaki sauce (it was teriyaki flavored beef jerky that I made) left over.  It just so happened that at the time I had some fresh boneless skinless chicken breast that needed a marinade, so I did the obvious, threw the chicken into the marinade, anticipating a making of a chicken teriyaki dish in our near future.

But, today, a need presented itself when I noticed that my potatoes are starting to go bad. Not being of the wasteful kind, I thought,

I need to use these potatoes – I’d better make paprikas.

Being a good Serbian cook, paprikas making ingredients are a staple in our house.  I always have everything I need on hand….everything, I thought, except… I remembered with a shudder, the teriyaki flavored chicken.

Teriyaki paprikas?!!!??? No way! I can hear my mother’s horrified voice of a bona fide culinary purist pronouncing a swift judgment on such unholy union. You can’t put teriyaki flavored chicken into a pot of paprikas!!

I deliberated my options.  I did all the mental gyrations trying to accommodate available ingredients and the time-honored recipes, until I made myself dizzy. The dinner hour was approaching and I had nothing half-edible to put on the table (jerky already long gone).

In a moment of inspired desperation, I closed my eyes and I did the unthinkable. I put teriyaki chicken into a pot of paprikas!

The act of liberation was followed by a rush of excitement and curiosity… Now that the pot is being stirred, what’s going to happen? Will one flavor overpower the other, will they blend together in a fresh culinary symphony…. Or will they end down the garbage disposal along with the carrot and potato peels?

As they say, The proof is in the pudding, so I was keenly observing my favorite food critics, as they were spooning the stew into the bowls.

How is it?, I finally dared to ask. With the mouths full, all I could get were enthusiastic thumbs up.

My big sigh of relief was followed by,

What did you do to it? It taste different – it’s good but definitely different. I grinned, a culinary rebel with a mission accomplished. 

You didn’t put that teriyaki chicken in it, did you? I grinned even more, the ends of my mouth touching the ears.

YOU DID NOT!!! You committed A CULINARY SACRILEGE!!! How could you put teriyaki chicken in paprikas?!!?!! Baba would be mortified.

She doesn’t need to know, does she? I winked,  fishing the extra potatoes into my bowl.  

Wednesday, July 31, 2019


At the beginning of June we set off. 

First a flight to Miami, then to Heathrow. From there we rented a car, took the Chunnel and drove to Bruges, Belguim.  From Bruges we drove to Flanders Field, then headed to  Falaise, France. While in Normandy we visited Omaha Beach, Mont Saint Michele, Paris then drove back to London, this time by ferry via Dover, cliffs and all.  We disembarked in Dover, drove to London and after a day and a half parted ways at Heathrow. Some of us were flying back to the U.S., others continuing on to Zurich, then Belgrade then Vienna then London again, eventually taking a direct flight from Gatwick back to Orlando. 

Upon return we left again, this time to Satellite Beach then back to Orlando, in order to get ready for our road trip to Fort Collins, Colorado via the shortest Google Maps route - about 1900 miles - which we devoured in three days. That's how long it took us to drive back to Orlando, except we stopped to see friends in Allen, Texas that added another 100 miles, totaling the return to a 2000 miles. Today we are back in Orlando (at least our bodies are) and all I can think is,

We were ALL OVER THE MAP! Literally. 

I am exhausted just writing out our itinerary, not to mention everything else. The activities, events, people, relationships,... It would take me months to narrate the rest and I still couldn't even begin to capture the fullness of emotion, the sights, the afterglow...

There is a feature in our GPS I frequently used while travelling, to find where exactly I am on the map. I can wander off any distance in any direction, but when I touch the RE-CENTER, it automatically zooms me back to where I am, with the path to the chosen destination highlighted right before my feet, so to speak..

Sometimes life takes us way outside our natural borders – geographic, personal, emotional, relational. We are all over the map and the end result of the process can be supremely exhausting and paralyzing. I found myself in that state this morning; I don't know what to do, and it's not for the lack of things needing to be done, mind you! Plenty to do, but where to start?

RE-CENTER seemed to be just the right word for the worn out, overwhelmed, don't-know-which-way-to-turn-anymore moment. It zoomed in to the place where our life starts.  Back to the center. Back to the core. Back to the heart.  

Pay attention to the welfare of your innermost being, for all of life springs from there. Proverbs 4:23

Friday, July 12, 2019


We've bumped into Emmet (Emmet, like Emmet Brickowski from LEGO Movie, but I was too scared to clarify) on our morning walk. Ever-cheery, bursting at the seams with health and energy he was loading up the van, when I made a mistake and did a Floridian thing, making small talk by complaining about the weather, already sweltery and it wasn't even 8 AM.

This is NOT hot! Emmet roared.

It isn't?!?!! I was shocked both by the roar and the meaning of it. What is YOUR standard of heat?

He pointed at the van, This doesn't have an A/C and the other day I measured the temperature and it was 114. And guess what, I drank a lot of water and I was just fine.  I am 75 and don't even take an aspirin!  

You look great, 
I couldn't dispute.

And you would, too, if you do these three things.  Before I knew whether I should be offended, he lifted one finger in the air as if to indicate number one:

Stay active -  as you are .... 

It serves me well to be served an unsolicited sermon of sagely advice for my whining, I kick myself on the spiritual shin, even though I know that kicking is wrong unless you play soccer.

It requires higher reasoning powers inaccessible to my brain so early in the morning to argue with him that my commendable physical activity has left me with less than desirable  health track record. That is, unless one aspires to become a survivor, cancer survivor. 

I don’t have to wait for numero dos long because he has already added another finger to the one already raised. 

Number two - never be in a hurry.

Even though I know he is right (at least in theory) I feel my body temperature raising beyond the already complain-worthy point. More often than not my ‘fast’ has been infinitely slower than other people’s ‘slow’, and yet, such pace didn’t make me an embodiment of health and vitality.

Lastly, he raises the third finger, Never worry about anything! And YOU, women, are particularly susceptible to that!

Having delivered, Emmet feels great for being so helpful, and I feel crappy for being so doomed. Funny thing is, I actually had pretty good morning, as mornings go, before we ran into him.

I am almost to our front door, when it crosses my mind. There is only one more thing Emmet lacks if he wants to be as perfect as he believes himself to be. As he drives by with his windows rolled down, I wave back at him, noticing four fingers lifted,

And number four, Never give an unsolicited advice. 

Tuesday, July 09, 2019

Linus and Lucy

We came to Satellite Beach to take care of Linus and Lucy our friends’ Dave and Lisa’s dogs. (No, no Charlie Brown or Snoopy, for right now). 

Linus the Daschund and Lucy the Schnoodle represent the unashamed embodiment of the ‘it’s a dog’s life’ expression, but not in it’s original 16th century meaning.  They live in one of the wealthiest countries in the world, on the second floor of a new condo building right on the beach. The dogs are surrounded by incredible creature comforts, afforded to them solely by the virtue of belonging to the T family.   

Everywhere around us, there is a perfect marriage of tradition and technology, nature and nurture. The view is stunning - the azul above and the blue below separated by a extra-fine horizon line where the two kiss each other. Alexa is playing Vivaldi on a loop. iRobot Roomba is vacuuming the floors. The beds are comfy, the climate controlled interior is tastefully decorated by exceptionally talented, genuine artist with classy flair. The dog’s food bowl is never empty, the water bowl never dry.  Five times a day, we take them out to the fire hydrant where they do their doggie business, returning home wagging their little tails.

I scratch my head, wondering what have these dogs done to deserve such fortune? I don't have to think hard to find people I know and love who can only dream about such luxury. 

Life doesn't seem to be fair. 

If you were here with me, however, along with all the magnificence, you would notice that there is more to these dogs’ life story than meets the eye.  You would see Linus hobbling along, barely able to walk, really preferring to be carried around or just left alone to nap most of the day. None of these glories around him matter, as long as the old dog can rest in peace.

This is where Lucy comes in, an adoptee from previously abusive situation.  The way Lucy works out her fears and trauma is by barking at what she perceives as danger, which is almost everything which really is all nothing at all. This disrupts Linus’ peace and makes him bark and growl, their little dog heaven shattered by the residual suffering of Lucy’s old life.

Linus may think that his life would have been perfect if he wasn’t for getting old and weak, and if it wasn’t for Lucy…

Lucy may think that her life would have been perfect if she didn’t have to drag around her past like a chain around her neck, yanking her to awakened flashbacks with every accidentally dropped utensil, every stranger ringing the doorbell to do human things she doesn’t understand, like spraying for bugs, or fixing the A/C.  So she goes into fits of barking – bark, BARK, BARK!, until Linus joins in.

Despite her behavior, in fact, quite counter-intuitive to it, I noticed that talking to Lucy in a calm, reassuring voice, in the midst of her ‘misbehaving’, telling her things like,

You are a good girl, Luci. It’s O.K. The rattling is just the A/C coming on, you don't need to be startled. You don’t understand what’s going on, but everything is just fine… You are such a good dog, Luci…

Lucy LOVES this kind of talk. She perks her ears, tilts her little head and looks at me, her eyes glowing, begging for more. I know she trusts my assessment of the A/C situation, so she can rolls back to sleep.

Linus doesn't say anything but opens one eye, grateful for his peace restored so he can go back prancing around young and healthy, inside his doggie dreamland.

Saturday, July 06, 2019


It was uncharacteristic of my parents to be so late in picking cherries this year. But this year has been uncharacteristic in many ways.

By the time we got to the picking, the season was almost over which meant that among those few good cherries still hanging on - perhaps even sweeter than usual because of the time spent attached to the tree - there would be many that went bad in all the ways cherries go bad – dried out, worm-infested, or just plain rotten.

The important job of separating the good from the bad was assigned to my four year old great niece, Nera, her dad (my nephew) and me.  Nera took the assignment to heart and with each cherry that landed in her hand, she would ask,

Is this a good one? 

We look, noticing a rotten spot, point it out and have her discard it.  Then she picks another and ask,

What about this one? I ask her back,

What do YOU think? How does it look to you? She peers at it with a squinted eye, and upon careful examination notice a worm hole.

It has worms!, with a loud scream only a little four-year-old disgusted girl can produce, she tosses it out.  

The cherries that passed Nera’s fastidious goodness test went into the bucket until it was full.

It may not seem like rocket science, but to Nera, discernment was a hard, hard job that required superior knowledge, focused attention and lots and lots of practice under patient guidance of those of us, a bit more experienced in telling a good cherry from the bad.

Eventually we pronounced the job done, and took a well-deserved break. The two of us opted for a short walk. We headed towards a place where I knew a plum tree was growing right next to the old gravel road.  It was still early in the season for plums, but I thought if we were lucky we may still find a few that were ripe.

The branches were loaded with fruit, mostly various shades of green, indicating we were too early indeed, but here and there I could detect a handful of yellowish-orange ones. I knew those were ready to eat.  I pointed them out and said,
Nero, pick the yellow ones. They are good.

She picked the first one, still mostly on the pale-green side of the color wheel, and asked,

Yellow? Is this one yellow?

I’d thought I’d gotten away easy, but she reminded me that the noble duty of practicing discernment never ends...

Tuesday, July 02, 2019


On the way to Orlando International Airport in early June my friend Julie, who has never been to Europe, asked if I/we would be willing to send her a photo or two each day of our vacation, so that she, too, albeit vicariously, could enjoy the sights of the old continent.

I took her request as demand (in the noble kind of way) and have placed upon myself, to the best of my ability, to capture with my iPhone 6 camera what my eye could see, so my friend too could get a taste of delicious feast we were partaking in, not just for the eyes, but also for the soul and the spirit.
Little did I know that I was embarking upon truly an impossible endeavor of the most frustrating kind, and this wasn’t for the lack of my exceedingly earnest trying.

Day after day, I was sending the pictures of places, with each ‘send’ my heart growing more and more heavy, keenly aware how woefully inadequate those snippets were to portray what we were both seeing and experiencing.  It felt like I was sending my friend shriveled up potato peels while we were gorging ourselves on cloud-fluffy mashed potatoes doused in pork chop drippings gravy.

Each photo, on Julie’s end, was received with enthusiastic  ‘oooohs’  and ‘aaaaahs’, and genuine gratitude for the privilege of sharing in our experience.

This went on for several days, my frustration at my incapacity growing with each illustrated text.  I felt I was cheating my friend, offering her a poor, pathetic substitute for the real thing we were immersed in every moment of every day. Eventually the pain of this culminated into a revelation of sort.

If it was so difficult for me to describe the diverse glories of poppy fields in French countryside, the curious history of Mont-Saint-Michel, the crunch of the fresh baguette laden with Camembert, the nooks and crannies of old towns like London, Paris and Belgrade, how much more challenging would it be to portray the glories of the infinite God. No wonder our words and our pictures, even those most carefully chosen ones, lead to frustration and keen sense of inadequacy of those who make such attempts.

And yet, like my friend Julie, even a tiny glimpse of His manifest presence is bound to elicit the ‘oooohs’ and the ‘aaaahs’ and a deep sense of gratitude for the privilege of sharing in such delight.

I guess next time, there is nothing else to do but bring my friend along with earnest desire and prayer that she too can enjoy to the full the feast that only 'being there yourself' can procure. 

Monday, May 20, 2019

Recipe for Resurrection

Over the course of next few days I watched my iPod slowly, bit by bit, come back to life. The first day I got the following message,

iPod is disabled
Try again in 365 minutes 

Never have a six hour wait created more jubilation in my life. A wait full of resurrected hope is a magical thing. Plus, 365 is much much better than 25,536,442 minutes which is for how long that toddler disabled his mom's iPad.  I would be 100 years old before I could unlock my device if that was us!

Thankfully, my wait was measly 365 minutes which in no time went down to 308 to 147 to 105 to 96 to 75. By the time 3 minutes came around, my excitement has built up so much I couldn’t let go of the device. The wait was almost over - what will happen next?

Being at Cape Canaveral waiting for SpaceX launch would generate fewer butterflies in my stomach.

The disabled iPod message was replaced with the following screen:

My iPod was alive!!! The fact that it was showing not only wrong time but a wrong date didn't bother me one bit. Considering all the poor thing went through,  I found the handicap negligible and even endearing.

Amazingly, my old pass code worked, and once I entered it, I was greeted with familiar screen.

It took a couple of more days to recover full functionality of the device and all the apps.  But by the end of the third day, it was as good as new, minus the shattered screen and a water discoloration, as if the scars were a reminder of what it’s been… what we’ve been through.

Am I trying to say that this a universal recipe for resurrection?

Absolutely not. 

However the whole incident made me wonder…

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Hope Roasted, Hope Resuscitated

Perhaps it would have been easier if I had something or somebody else to blame for it.   Not that ever changed anything for the better.

So, with perpetrator shoe on my right foot and victim on the left, having already affected more damage than I could digest in one sitting, I got ready and went to work. An Eeyor-worthy cloud was hanging over my head while I interacted with my co-workers, the topic of what happened earlier in the morning quickly becoming the main subject of discussion.

A veteran IT person shook her head,

A wash, two spin cycles and a drier? There is no hope for that iPod except for the hand of God.

I wasn't sure if the comment was hopelessly discouraging or inspiring my faith to rise to new heights. 

When I got home I was feeling so defeated I couldn’t summon energy to tell my family what had happened, knowing they would ask questions like, How did it happen? And who did it?

Sometimes I feel my entire family could work for FBI.

On a dark and gloomy day, even if the sun shines outside,  I don’t want to talk about it, is perfectly acceptable.

Seeing my pain, even if it was of unknown origin, they kindly allowed me to lick my wounds by myself.

The next day as soon as I was alone, I went into the pantry, reached into the rice barrel and retrieved the device. It was as banged up as I’d put it in, and my attempt at pushing the power button proved futile still. 

That night, for some inexplicable reason I plugged the power cord into it, as if to charge.... and that’s when it first happened.

It only lasted a split second, but the iPad came to life, ever so briefly, and then went back to being dead again.  I tried pushing the button several times to no avail, but that little flicker was enough to ignite a tiny spark of hope, by this time as good as dead. 

Friday, April 19, 2019

Do NOT Try This At Home!

Notwithstanding our disbelief, reality has a way of getting its point across, one way or another. 

It took a few moments for my brain to silence the sound of alarm high jacking the higher reasoning powers. At some point a rewind button was pushed and my memory slowly started kicking in, recalling…

the last time I had the iPod in my hand,

inside the right pocket of a jacket I wore that morning,

the same jacket I hastily threw into the laundry as I was closing the lid,

not bothering to check the pockets, since all the previous ones were empty…  

and that feeling of the Busy...

and the Rush...

and the Pressure of so much other stuff I needed to get done...

(what they were now I could hardly recall

and it all felt so stupid and insignificant anyway.)

With this my heart plummeted to the bottom of the damp pile of laundry sitting inside the idling drier, it’s rumbling cycle interrupted.

It didn’t take long to discover the lifeless naked body of the iPod laying underneath soggy jeans and jackets.

I picked it up and put it in the palm of my hand – it’s touchscreen face battered, black and unresponsive, despite my frantic pushing of the power button.

Wake up! Wake up!!! No, no, no!!!  What can I do??? What can I do???

I remembered that some people recommend burying a wet device inside a bag of rice. I never heard any recommendations on what to do with a device that had been through a wash and a spin cycle twice and a partial drier cycle. 

But I had to do something... anything

So I sunk my hand with the iPod in it into a giant old pretzel barrel that we use as a rice container, let the device slip and get buried in the white grave of thousands of tiny rice grains, closed the pantry door behind me, a part of me also dead and buried behind that door.

Monday, April 15, 2019

D is for Denial (or Disbelief)

It seems almost sacrilegious to write about the iPod saga during the most holy week of the year. 

But, I couldn't escape some commonalities between the two stories, so I decided to continue, perhaps highlighting along the way few shared insights in earnest hope that the reader would find them useful and even beneficial. 

Anyway, continuing on with the iPod touch 4th generation....

Having crossed out Laundry Part 1 off my mental to-do list, it took some time before my preoccupied mind registered the unusual banging noise from the washer. I paused the cycle, redistributed some weight that I assumed was causing it, and went on my busy way hopping from one task to the next, feeling rather accomplished.  Despite my redistributing the weight, the banging continued throughout the full wash cycle. It continued through the spin cycle.  And for some reason, I decided that this particular load needed another run through the spin cycle, so I set it off spinning once again.

When spinning and banging eventually stopped (“Ah that darn uneven load of varying weights of jackets!” I told myself)  I scooped the jumbled mess of clothes and threw it into the dryer, set the cycle on heavy, and pushed the start button.  I wasn’t surprised to hear the continued banging now inside the dryer. The clothes were all bunched up and it usually takes some time for the load to fluff up, but even after several minutes the banging continued, sounding even worse if that was possible.

But I could explain it away and convince you too why the noise the machine was making was perfectly understandable and acceptable and should be ignored. 

It’s truly amazing the stories our brains tell us to explain away the most obvious facts.

At the longest last, I went into the laundry room to check again. The moment I opened the dryer door the first thing I saw was my iPod’s now snow-white silicone case, sitting on the top of the wet clothes - empty!

In that instant my little mind slammed its door shut, flatly refusing to believe what my eyes just saw, scrambling to find a perfectly good reason for an empty case to sit on top of the load inside the dryer.

We do that kind of stuff, when the truth is too painful to accept, our mind kicks in and starts making up all kinds of fantastic stories to shield us from the brutality of unadorned facts. 

Disciples did it all throughout the Holy Week, we all do it when one form of crucifixion or another shows up at our doorstep. It just happened to many of us today as we watched the news of the catastrophic fire collapsing parts of Notre Dame cathedral.

Some things are too difficult to take in and have to be processed in bite-size pieces.

Saturday, April 06, 2019

Sorry but Just Too Busy for...

I got iPod touch 4th generation back in 2012 at the recommendation of our 11 year old son. It was my official introduction into the ubiquitous universe of touch-screen, wireless technology.  Day by day, I was discovering more and more of what my little iPod could do, from taking photos to playing music to reading books, to telling time and setting bread and quiche alarms, downloading and sending both e-mails and text messages! Truly, there was absolutely nothing I needed that the little iPod couldn’t do - I was genuinely impressed and grateful.

Now I understand that in the fast-pace technology age, seven years might feel like seven hundred centuries. Or more. Still, despite it’s ancient age, the little iPod kept chugging away year in year out, my constant companion on many of life’s adventures.

Last week I had a particularly busy schedule. This for me means, the busier I get the faster I go, furiously cramming all the ‘regular’ busy along with the ‘over-the-top’ busy.  I could give a compelling speech or write a well-articulated thesis or even a book on why this is such a poor time-management technique and even worse life philosophy.  

But life has a way of speaking its own language, clearer and louder than any sermon or book.

Anyway, in order to be extra-productive before I left for work, I decided to tackle at least one load from the growing mountain of laundry. I hastily threw one item after another, checking pockets for spare change and anything else that shouldn’t go into the wash.  Half way through the process I decided that I don’t have time for this, plus I used my deductive reasoning – all the pockets I’d checked so far were empty so I could safely deduce that the rest of them were empty as well. Thus appeased, I stuffed the rest of the pile into the barrel, poured in a generous cup of Persil and started the washing machine, the calming sh-sh-sh-shhhh of the running water sending me off on to the next thing on my checklist. 

Monday, March 18, 2019

H-ang O-n P-ain E-nds

I guess it was appropriate to start Lent in such a way. The worstest of days, that rolls into an entire week.

Some weeks - not just some days - are like that. They go from bad to worse to the worstsest.

It turns out, we were not the only ones.

Far and near, friends and family, the week unfurled its folds filled with unwanted surprises, one after another.

Somehow, we all made it to Sunday which to the casual eye looked like just an ordinary, humdrum Sunday.

But to us, nothing could be further from the truth. We were like survivors of a shipwreck, each clinging to something - anything! - until we were washed ashore,  nerves shredded, souls banged up, barely holding it together.

As we stood in circle, recounting our hair-raising 'week from hell' experiences, a strange thought crossed my mind,

This feels a little bit like heaven.... Despite all odds we made it! Now we are finally together and telling and hearing each other's stories of life and death, unembellished, unedited...

In that telling, a thread appeared, seemingly out of nowhere.  A shy, unpretentious gift of gratitude.
Not manufactured, obligatory, polite grateful. Definitely not faking-it grateful. But genuine, put-my-hand-on-my-mouth-in-awe-how-lucky-I-really-am grateful.

It's as if each of us, over the course of the worstest of weeks, lost something precious and gained a new set of eyes to see that despite the loss, there was still so very much we have that we don't deserve. That we take for granted day in day out.

And we almost became grateful for the worstest of all weeks...

Wednesday, March 06, 2019

Welcome to Lent 2019

Today is Ash Wednesday, the official beginning of Lent.  

I had horrible night’s sleep last night, largely because of a colossal screw-up that caused our son to miss out on an amazing, once-in-a-lifetime kind of opportunity that had the potential of shaping his future in significant ways.

As much as we may be tempted to point fingers and blame someone, it was nobody’s fault. Or perhaps, we all played a small part in it, inadvertently creating a tiny easily overlooked crack here and another there. All of them combined caused this chance to slip into nether. By the time we realized, it was too late. There was nothing anyone could do about it.

The screw-up ended up having a ripple effect on several fronts. Rattled by the disappointment of this loss, our son left a clear plastic bag with sixteen giant lollipops and sixty dollars inside an envelope with his name written on the front – his school orchestra fundraiser – in the 7th period.   When he tried to retrieve it, it was gone. My kids laughed at me when I pointed out that the rightful owner was easily identifiable.

MOM, do you realize what kind of school we go to??? Do you realize what kind of WORLD we live in???

All this left me utterly drained and beyond exhausted, but presumably, not exhausted enough to get good rest.  I was already awake for hours at six o'clock when there was a loud knock on our bedroom door. Our daughter was asking for advice on how to best treat cat throw-up on her favorite blanket and the armchair slipcover. Some was on the carpet, but my husband was taking care of that bit. Carpet disasters are his specialty.

I rolled out of bed and went to the laundry room.

Her vomit looks like poop! This is going to be the last bag of this kind of cat food, I don't care how many coupons we have, I mumbled looking for Spray and Wash. 

In the back of my mind I was thinking, What a way to start Lent, the first thing to face - dribbling cat diarrhea-looking vomit!  

The little Optimist inside me was hoping that with such a start, things can only get better. At the time, she didn’t know that this, by far, would be the best part of my day.

Monday, February 18, 2019

Heirloom Tomato

Back in September of 2015, in anticipation of my parents arrival to Florida to spend winter with us, I planted some tomato seeds. It was in hope against hope, given my steady track record of failure. A preemptive strike against boredom they threatened would most certainly kill them inside our home in American suburbia.

The seeds sprouted – I’ve seen that before, and by the time Mom and Dad arrived they were the size of respectable seedlings.  That’s as far as my success ever reached. Respectable seedlings.  Only a whiff of a promise of home-grown tomato, nothing more.  

With little else to do, my parents threw themselves into caring for the garden.  Raking, watering, pruning, and tending to the seedlings.  Under their supervision they grew and grew, their limbs stretching tall until they had to be staked, and eventually the first blooms appeared followed by the tiny round balls.  

With my own eyes, I got to see the tomato in the making, and it was … marvelously addictive.

We ate the tomatoes off those vines all through June the following year. Before they left, my Mom made sure to set aside some seeds for the next year’s planting.

Those children were eaten in 2017, and their children in 2018.

I admit at times I was tempted to abandon the whole idea, but it must be in my blood now because sooner or later, despite all objections I can’t help but…It's my version of The Call of the Wild. 

Usually, we would have a few plants, a dozen at the most, which is plenty to ‘service’ our tomato-devouring family.

Last year, the day after Christmas, against all rational reason, I opened the bag of what I guess we can  now 'officially' call 'heirloom' tomato seeds and did it again. As I said, normally we only had few tomato plants which was just about all I could handle. This weekend I counted fifty-six tomato seedlings that have sprouted from a single tomato! Fifty-six!!!  I wonder if we should be a Guinness Book of World records?

We went to the landfill to get compost and I scrounged for pots in the garden corners and the back of the garage.  I washed all that I found and filled them with warm, wet dirt, poking a hole for each seedling, then gently slipping it in.  

Now there is an army of pots on my back patio! 

I can’t help but feel a bit possessive, like a mother with a brood of babies she doesn’t want to entrust to some neglectful stranger. I don’t want them to go to someone who will take them only because they were free (or cheap) and then throw them into a corner of the yard and forget about them until they are all dead.

I want my babies to go to someone who will nurture them, give them what they need and protect them from adversaries of all kinds. Someone who would tend to them until they are filled with blooms and produce a bumper-crop of tomatoes for all to enjoy. 

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Creative Valentine

Yesterday while I was making chocolate truffles as Valentine’s gifts for our kids’ teachers, our 15 year old daughter mentioned somewhat casually: 

I know the names of all the bones in our body.

You do?!!! What are they?  I ask, rolling the dough into a cylinder before I cut it into equal size wheels, to be turned into balls.

Starting from the top she points at her head and begins reciting, 

Cranium, mandible, maxilla, parietal bone, temporal bone…  She keeps going, moving down her body, pointing and naming, naming and pointing.

I am genuinely impressed.  I certainly can’t name all the bones in my body, and if asked, I might miss even some major ones.

When she finally gets to her toes, I tell her that.  She smiles and adds,

I know the muscles too.

No way!!! My eyeballs just about pop out of their sockets. With renewed vigor I roll the truffles - teachers deserve every ounce of love and encouragement no matter shape or form.

Oh yes!, she beams and proceeds to name the muscles. When I blurt out, Gluteus maximus, she corrects me,  

You are going out of order, mom – you have Gluteus medius first.

I laugh and let her finish, now almost worried-impressed.

While I roll the balls – uneven and a bit lumpy – I marvel at God’s outrageous creativity that started with a pinch of dust between his fingers and was fashioned into bones and muscles, organs and their varied functions, vascular and nervous systems, all masterfully connected and put together into a being that can see and hear, eat and taste, breathe and smell, think and understand. 

Feel. Hot, cold, scared, excited, in love, sad, satisfied. 

Able to speak, translate, write poetry, create songs, dance, build buildings, bridges and underwater tunnels.

Able to laugh. Cry.

Transform food into an art form, binary code into Internet, wind, water and electrons into electricity. 

We are made in God's image and our creativity is an expression of his own creative nature. 

Limited and imperfect,

uneven and lumpy,

just a tiny fraction

 broken, mangled and sometimes misguided

but still

rather amazing

reflection of his character and being.

Using our creativity - in its many, varied, uniquely personal forms is one of the best gifts we can give back to him.

In what way can you express your creativity today?