A Fine Dish

dish (v) to emit a ready flow of inconsequential talk... babble, blab, burble... chatter, dither... gab, lallygag... natter, patter, prattle, rattle on... yammer, yawp...also...chew the fat, shoot the breeze, sling the bull.... and (n) a container to serve food -or- the food contained in the dish ....(archaic slang) a hot mama

Location: Rock Creek Township, North Carolina, United States

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Is There Anybody Home?

Hello? Hello? Is there anybody in there? I have moved. You are welcome to stay here and look around. I will be at my new place, A Fine Kettle of Fish at wordpress. Want to take a short cut? Go through here.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Since I'm Already Here--For What It's Worth

There has been some discussion locally about the idea of state governments apologizing for the institution of slavery. Some local blogs have chimed in (sorry, you'll have to google it yourself) and our local paper has printed some letters for and against. I did take the time today to offer this on our local paper's interactive editorial page.

As a caucasian woman whose ancestry can be traced to the more recent hejira from Sicily to the deeper lines of Iroquois and 17th century English adventurers, I offer this.

I acknowledge that slavery in all forms is wrong and reprehensible. I acknowledge that great suffering occured to individuals who were forcibly removed from their homes, transported in abhorrent conditions and sold as product. I affirm that the institution of slavery as it occured in the United States of America and as it continues to occur on this earth is an embarrassment and an abomination.

I acknowledge that there have been systemic and multigenerational effects stemming from this morally unjustifiable practice. I recognize that there have been changes and some progress made to rid our society of practices that were legally and/or socially acceptable but were unjust. I also recognize that this process is not complete.

I regret that the history of the human race is marked by instances of human beings mistreating other human beings. As a citizen of a country that purports to recognize equality among inhabitants, the fact that this dehumanization was raised to the level of a legal institution is incredible.

I cannot change the past nor can I offer hope for the future. I affirm at this time, that in this, the present moment I will treat all beings with respect and kindness.

A Brave White Chick

Last week I 'performed' in the talent show at my place of business. Incredibly, I've been asked to post the text. The format is not meant to make you think that I in any way consider myself a poet--I left space so I would remember to breathe, thereby avoiding a messy collapse on stage.

We have some extraordinary talent here at A&T. This makes it really incredible that I am on this stage because I am anything but extraordinary. I am stunningly ordinary. So you can imagine my surprise a couple of weeks ago when Mabel Scott stopped by my desk and encouraged me to sign up. The short answer was 'no' but as we were talking I had a vivid image arise, a deep remembrance. Later that night I wrote it down and put it in a safe place.

My grandparents had a neighbor,
Edna Schmalzl,
who let me toddle behind her
as she kneaded the earth
around her tulips and daffodils.
Mrs. Schmalzl was an impressive lady,
tall, white haired.
She had lost one husband each
to the World Wars
then went and outlived her third.
To me,
this bone thin woman
was the height of strength and elegance and mystery.
One day as she worked the soil
in yellow gloves with a tiny shovel
it began to rain.
I waited, a little worried.
We were in the back of her yard,
so far from her house!
She was imposing
yet I worked up the courage to pull at her skirt.
"Mrs. Schmalzl," I said. "Don't we have to go inside when it rains?"

Mrs. Schmalzl sat back on her heels.
Looked at the ground.
Looked at me.
Looked at the fallen wreck of a carriage house at the edge of the adjoining pasture.
She scanned the sky.

"And miss that?" she asked, pointing with her spade at a rainbow arcing across the heavens.

"A rainbow! Where did that come from?"

"It's in your eyes, Miss Muffet," she said.
"You can weather any storm
if there's a rainbow in you eyes."

I had to wonder why such a vivid image and a deep memory chose to arise at that time, with Mabel Scott speaking to me across from my desk. And I realised. Mabel Scott is our Aggie meterologist. She knows when it is going to rain and when it is nice enough for us to stay outdoors. She knows when we really need to close all the windows. But always, no matter what the weather, she is looking for that good news. Mabel Scott has rainbows in her eyes.

(There was actually some applause before I got to say)

Thank you.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Neuroscience and the Adolescent 101

"What you need to understand is that the part of your brain that is active when you want something is different then the part of your brain that is active when you get it."

Chris may have been listening but he didn't want to hear what I had to say--just as no one standing in the line that snaked out of the DMV and into December's late afternoon gloom cared. For his fourteenth birthday, Chris endured two rites of passage--first trip to DMV and a visit to a tattoo parlor. To celebrate the anniversary of my giving birth to him, I got to watch.

"It's like this, bud. When you want something there's an area in the depth of your brain that starts to pulse with electric activity. It's like a strobe light going 'want, want, want, want.' Now it doesn't really matter what your head applies to that want. It's not saying 'want a million dollars,' or 'want world peace,' or like you, 'want my ears pierced.' All its doing is saying 'urg. want. now.'

Now you've wanted your ears pierced since, um, when?"

"Like, five, six."

"Right. You've had this habitual pulsing activity deep in your brain all day every day since, well, since you were a baby going 'want' 'want' 'want' 'want' and when you were 5 or 6 another part of your brain started saying - 'look, earrings, shiny.' Your brain found an 'it' to go with the want. So now you have this back beat going wannit, and the harmony going 'earrings' Get it? 'Wannit, earrings. Wannit, earrings. Wannit, wannit, wannit, earrings.' That's been going on in your head for 8 years."

Chris is kind of smiling now.

"So this is part of you. You've lived with this song in your head for years and you think once you get your ears done it'll be over. You'll be satisfied. All of your patience and rational arguments and persuading and more waiting is finally coming to bear and you will be happy for the rest of your days. Satiation time."

"Yeah, I'll be happy when it's all done."

"But you won't be satisfied."

"I swear, mom, this is all that I want. This is it. I'm really happy about this."

"I know, darling, and that's why we're standing out here in the cold. But what you need to understand is like this. You've got the 'I wants' going in the deep ancient reptile part of your brain. OK. And you have the 'it' part somewhere in your lobes. Now when you actually get what you want, the acquisition part, what do you think happens in your brain?"

"I stop wanting it because I've got it."

"Nyet. That's not how it works. When you get something your brain shoots off fireworks that fill your skull with feel good happy chemicals and you feel like you just ate a whole pan of Girardelli chocolate brownies. But still, you're not satisfied. See acquisition, acquiring stuff has nothing to do with the 'I want' part. The 'want, want, want' may get drowned out for awhile but it keeps sending out that back beat. A week from now, a day from now your lobes will latch on to something else, your 'wannit' will say 'yeah, something new, pay attention to me' and you'll be right back where you started. Acquisition never satisfies desire."

His smile indicates that a part of him knows that this is true, but he can't admit it and risk not getting what he has been reaching for so long.

"I don't think you're right, mom. Once I get this I won't ever want anything again," he tries to say but can't keep a straight face.

"Word, dude," a voice interrupts from the bundle of coats and scarves in front of us. A dark bald head emerges, the lobes decorated with 1/2 inch cubic zirconian. "What she say, 'acquisition never satisfies desire?' Your mom's got the real Truth, little man."

And as he turns away with a smile I see mothers in line nodding their heads, college students grinning and teenagers rolling their eyes.

Word. It's the truth.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

The Groaning Board

Not going to do it, not this year. No darn turkey, no pulling out the heirloom china, no baking, no stirring, No SIRREE BOBBO! It's too much work for one person. My schedule doesn't allow it. And who cares? It's just another meal. My mother used to say "food should never take longer to prepare than it takes to eat." Now, being a food-ie, I don't necessarily take it to that length. But come on. The Thanksgiving meal is serious work. The breads, the pies, the endless side dishes that take the hands of a Hindu goddess to make them come out at the same time. And an oven stuffed full of turkey for 6-7 hours? Standing around basting? Please.

And that's what they said, my husband and kids. Please.

Ha. Not good enough. I am not budging.

OK. Please, and we'll help.

Uh, run that by me again?

We will help.

You think? OK. Who wants pie! WE DO, WE DO.

And on Wednesday each of the kids made a pie.

Who wants stuffing? Oh absolutely, so on Sunday I had extra hands for kneading and shaping the bread.

And side dishes of course. Everyone pick a side dish. Spinach puffs! Asparagus tips with hollandaise! Scalloped potatoes au gratin!

Remember, you have to help make your side dish.

Uh, boiled carrots! Green beans with mushrooms! Baked spinach with feta cheese!

Much more manageable. OK. I budged.

So you see we had a simplified version of Thanksgiving this year. From left to right, Cranberry Orange Nut Bread (mom), Ceasar Salad (Sam), carrots (Chris), stuffing (mom and kids), spinach quiche (Helen), Turkey (mom), squash stew (mom), mashed potatoes with bechamel and cheddar cheese (Sam and Chris), sesame green beans and mushrooms (mom), and scalloped potatoes (mom). Later we had pumpkin pie (Helen), cherry pie (Chris), and peach blueberry pie (Sam).

I am thankful for the cooking gene and three kids who are willing to put all of those lessons in the kitchen together. Sadhu, sadhu.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Growth and Intention

My family is plastic. No, that sounds like they are cheap and artificial. Made up. that is so far from the truth. I mean that my family members have plasticity, they change, they grow, they heal and progress. Many people know about my mother and her wonderful artwork. They do not know that she set aside her artistic ambitions for the twenty or so years that it took for her to raise us. She put down her paintbrush after my brother was born and didn't pick it up again until I was seventeen. She started her watercolor career in her 40s and in three decades has reached national prominence.

This openness to growth and change well after the brain pan has set a course toward pudding is not genetic. My brother-in-law has shown us all how it can be done and in a pretty dramatic way. Charles, who has been married to my sister for 22 years, recently created a possibility for his life. At this time, it is at the level of intention. I am hopeful that this intention manifests as a reality before the opportunity falls away.

Charles is the youngest of five boys whose mother is dying of cancer. While the process of a parent passing on is a normal part of life, his case is unusual. He and his four older brothers have not been in the same room with their mother since Charles was just one year old. The brothers ranged in age between one and six when their parents divorced and their mom left. While their dad tried to hold the family together he found it impossible to keep a job and manage a succession of inconsistent childcare providers. Foster care became their only recourse. It was not possible to keep the brothers together; the boys were separated and bounced around from one abusive foster home to another. It is my understanding that only the oldest brother, Robert, was fortunate to be in a single, stable, loving foster home. Charles and his other brothers had a very different experience. During these very difficult years the support that kept him intact was the occasional contact he had with his natural family. As often as he could, Charles’ father would make a more than 100 mile loop to gather all of the boys from their various placements and spend the day with them. Charles developed an acute understanding of what it means to be part of a family. Appreciation through scarcity; the snub nose pressed against the bakery window.

Charles grew into adulthood having had no contact with his mom. He had grown to believe that he didn't need her after all. He knew that at some point he would hear of her passing but this thought had no emotional impact for him. In fact, he had used the fact of his mother’s abandonment as an excuse for his troubles throughout his difficult teenage years and early adult life. He carried this baggage with him throughout his adulthood and early middle age. Then one he unpacked his bags. Charles made a phone call that changed his life.

Charles decided to leave the past in the past and talk to the woman who birthed him. He did this with faith and positive intention; he couldn’t have known how she had dreamed for almost 50 years of hearing her baby boy's voice. He displayed incredible courage and was alone in this effort because, remarkably, society supports his estrangement from his mother. After all, she had left the family. No one took into consideration that she may have had some valid reasons to do so. Even the most well meaning friends as well as some of our extended family couldn't understand why he would reach out to his mom because after all, she was the cause of much heartache in his life. I hope that they are realizing that since that first contact so much healing has begun. Charles realized that blame defined many of his actions and is now learning to release blame. The weight he carried from his past has lifted and he has a powerfully loving outlook.

The possibility that my brother-in-law is putting out to the universe is that somehow he and his brothers, who are all over the country, can all come together and be with their mother for the first time since they were all very young children and to do so before she passes. All these men are in their 50's now. This intention, while powerful on a spiritual and emotional level, is a logistical nightmare. The practical aspects of bringing five men and their mother, all of whom have limited means and are scattered from west to east and from north to south seems impossible. From a practical standpoint, how can five men, all of whom are at different points in the living and healing process and their mother, who is now at the end of her days, come together in one place at one time?

Charles’ dream is powerful and to our family it has been a teaching of love, forgiveness, gratitude and the benefit of truly leaving the past in the past. Charles and my sister have the shining standard of a beautiful, loving, committed marriage and their love for each other grows daily. He's come so far in his personal healing and longs for the next level to begin when all the Wellcome boys can come together with their mom.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

School's Out

Click anywhere in white area for slightly clearer view.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Nearest Book Meme

This comes from the incomparable Laurie of slowly she turned fame.

1. Grab the nearest book.
2. Open the book to page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the text of the next 4 sentences on your blog along with these instructions.
5. Don’t you dare dig for that “cool” or “intellectual” book in your closet! I know you were thinking about it! Just pick up whatever is closest.

The nearest book to me is The Anapanasti Sutta by Ven. U Vimalaramsi. It doesn't have 123 pages so I am taking this from page 93, the last page in the book.

May suffering ones be suffering free
And the fear struck be fearless be
May the grieving shed all grief
And may all beings find relief.

May all beings share in this merit
That we have thus acquired
For the acquisition of happiness.

May beings inhabiting space and earth
Devas and Nagas of mighty power
Share in this merit of ours.

May they long protect the
Buddha's Dispensation.

Saddhu! Saddhu! Saddhu!