Corner View: Bathroom and Shower

I remember August's first ever bath. That bath is so vivid and clear in my mind. I remember her Papi's giant hands holding her and delicately placing her into the warm water. Her eyes got so huge and she looked at us and trusted us. Her eyes, my heart, his hands. I can still be there, and I hope that I will always have this memory swimming in me for as long as I live. Only a few weeks before, the hours I spent laboring in that bathroom. While taking one hot shower after another and wondering what would happen next and next and the second after that, and would I be holding her by nightfall or the next day or suddenly now, now, now? The footprints left on the floor of my wet feet coming out of the shower still there when I returned again and again.

The bathroom now has two tiny pieces of "furniture":  a wooden potty chair and wooden stool. In the tub sits a smaller tub that will soon be just too small. Then there are the toys and growing collection of plastic containers that miss the recycling bin and instead become tub toys.

























It was this bathroom in Indiana that I first discovered I was pregnant. The road from this bathroom in room 19 to the current bathroom is quite a tale. If I only went from bathroom to bathroom...
























This bathroom in an old surplus store in the oldest part of Baltimore. The building had many lives but the one that still lingered was when it was a bowling alley where GI's would dance and relax. I was almost four months pregnant and really had to use a bathroom and this was all I had available.
























This was the bathroom at a cute motor lodge in Pennsylvania on our way back to Texas. It was December and I was going back and forth with the idea of a baby not born in Texas. It just didn't sit right with me.















The bathroom at a motel somewhere near Ohio where I spent my grouchiest and only uncomfortable night of my first trimester. It was cold. I never warmed up and was wearing my heaviest wool sweater under the covers.

August was supposed to be born at home. In the end my true feelings for my midwife exploded and I didn't trust her enough to birth at home so I asked to be taken to a hospital. I missed that part of the planned birth story where mother and child rest in a herbal bath together as they bond. That special bath happened months later in the shiny tub at a travel lodge in Del Rio. August was three months old when I made the special mother and baby tea soak.  It was summer and I held her in this warm bath taking in the lavender and rose scents. I used the other half in a bath taken at the duplex we rented in Oklahoma just before her first birthday.





I truly had no idea I had so much to say about bathrooms nor did I realize I had quite a collection of photos of bathrooms from my past.

Jane's corner view, Francesca hosting, thank you, Nadine, for suggesting this theme.


Corner View: Attendance


























Just a photo of me. A rare photo. I love all the photos I have with August in them. Priceless.
I am trying a bit harder to get some of these in though.

It isn't often that I am without August. This past Sunday I was as I went around browsing and window shopping with a friend. I felt so light, like I had forgotten my purse. My friend and I joked around and I forgot that I was no longer 26 years old. The Blake Babies played loudly as we drove from one place to another attending crafty Christmas markets. Five hours later, we finally hit shopping centers, having run out of places to go. As we walked around beautiful, pricey party dresses, taking turns telling each other sordid stories from our past, we decided it was time to get home. We missed our babies. Driving home in the dark to Nico's The Fairest of the Seasons, passing through the many phases of me through the years in my mind. I walked into a warm home, dimly lit for the holidays and a sweet toddler playing under the Christmas tree. Where I belong.

Calling Cards

August and I strolled to the park in our neighborhood. I was reminded that there is still a need for calling cards even in this well connected age. There are plenty of places to get them made. Perhaps it is time to consider some. Then again, had I just remembered to use my cell phone...

I remember Mr Gage showing me an old calling card of his. He told me how he'd drop by a friend's house for a visit and if no one was home, he'd leave his card at the door. Slower days, smaller towns, and friends that you feel comfortable enough with to just drop by unannounced.

While at the park I noticed how, over the months, August has become even more confident and dexterous on that playscape. I pushed her a bit on the swing and saw her drowsy face appear. It was time to go. She didn't protest leaving the playscape for grapes and a ride home. On the way back, the breeze through the still green trees caught my eye. They made me present. The walk was one of those moments that will be a future memory because it was so vivid and bright. August singing her favorite song over and over.

We came back to a lit Christmas tree. I sat down to look at my phone and realized no photos were taken at the park, we had no time for photos. It was a beautiful day, much fun was had. I looked at our Christmas tree and the green made me feel present again. There is something in the green around me. While the landscape goes brown, what is left green will stand out. A calling card of sorts,  for me.



Poetry in food

My friend Nadia is a gifted cook. She effortlessly throws together simple, hearty meals full of flavors. She loves to cook and I often remark it is that love that really puts her dishes over the top. Entering her home on a bitterly cold afternoon last week left me with long lasting memories.

Every burner on her stove was going and heating up the room. She had lentil soup just about finished, beef bouillon cooking for dinner, pasta for the children and was frying green bananas. At the same time she had been chopping up lemons, onions and peppers to make chary, a condiment made of fermented lemons. So many warm scents filled the air. It was not the first time. At her house I have enjoyed sambusas made of tuna, tilapia in a simple but exquisitely spiced tomato sauce and a Divine mung bean soup. I asked her if she ever watched the movie or read the book Like Water for Chocolate, I asked her if she was familiar with MFK Fischer, if she ever watched that movie Julie and Julia, watched Chopped, ever wanted to be on Chopped... Instead she just put in front of me a bowl of everything to try.

























There have been only a handful of people in my life who have been able to create a memorable dish from the simplest of ingredients: My Grandmother, my Abuelita, my Oma-in-law, my Abuelita's cousin and Nadia, who is also the most precocious cook I have ever known.

I started to think of how I have known too many who do not know how to cook, and sometimes, don't want to learn because they don't like it. I find it extremely important to learn to put together a meal for oneself, to be able to feed friends and family. In college everyone could make brownies, Rice Krispie treats and maybe spaghetti but no one was putting together stew in a crock pot, or knew how to make a chicken soup from scratch. All animals teach their babies how to hunt and feed themselves. Learning to feed oneself should be high on the priority list. When my child leaves home I hope her skills will include: balancing a check book, knowledge of a trade or craft that she enjoys and can turn into cash when needed, and the ability to create several meals with complete confidence.

One evening Nadia visited me and became hungry. She looked through my refrigerator. That night she taught me how to create capers du oeuf and now it's the only way I want to eat a fried egg.

It's a first...

Two years ago I was preparing for August's First Christmas...EVER! My favorite time of year and finally a chance to share it and make it special. It was very special. What I didn't know then, that I know now is: Holidays will continue to offer "firsts"and they will always be special, daily life is filled with countless first times as well.  It was a realization that came to me so sweetly.




































































I have been kept busy by a very active and chatty two and a half year old. The saddest days thus far have been the three days she fell ill to a virus. Fever of 103 and a full day of general malaise so serious, all she could do was stumble around, cry and fall.  First real illness: hand, foot and mouth.  She has never been so ill that she was uncomfortable or so miserable. She missed what was going to be her first real trick-o-treating Halloween.

It took weeks to arrive at her breakthrough. While shopping for a Halloween costume for her at a thrift store, we turned the corner and she became afraid of the decorations. Halloween themed store aisles and animatronic displays would send her anxiously into my arms saying,"Scared, scared", tearfully.
At the thrift store, as we walked past the aisle filled with the sinister color combinations of red, black and orange, and tried not to pay attention to the giant spiders, spooky masks and witch hats, August stopped and said,"Mommy, it's Halloween! I'm not scared, it's Halloween, it's Halloween!" then pranced and marched down the aisle with a big smile squealing,"Halloween!" Right then and there, as it all clicked in her little mind and started to make sense, her fears quickly disappearing, all I could do was stay frozen in her moment of discovery. It was an amazing experience.  She then decided to be a little witch instead of a princess or a fairy and I just about exploded with pride and all things sweet and motherly.

Her becoming ill on Halloween was made even more gloomy after all the time spent practicing saying "trick-o-treat" and watching videos and cartoons that were Halloween themed. We were so ready but spent the evening in urgent care. The only treats were from the bucket in the doctor's office. Once home she knocked at the door of a neighbor."Knock, knock, Halloween, knock, knock", she said and got a lil candy bar.  I lit her pumpkin and added some sparklers to make it a bit more special for her.

















































For the next week she walked around in her witches hat, carrying her witchy wand and the bucket the doctor  gave her with five pitiful candies. She had no idea what they were or what to do with them but they were treasured playthings until they fell apart, out of their wrappers and finally thrown away.  She also was not letting go of the holiday. However, not all was lost this Halloween season. We did get to dress up a few weeks before and attend a special children's Halloween themed concert. 

























To get passed the Halloween hang-up, we jumped right into Christmas. When she was better, she was introduced to egg nog. August's most favorite thing in the world is now egg nog. She recognizes it on store shelves. Sometimes served with spices, sometimes without, but always with a spoon is how she likes it. Once the last shipment comes in at the end of the season though...does it freeze well?

This weekend I pulled out the Rankin-Bass cartoons and unpacked my Rudolph toys. I use to set them up in my cubicle every year when I worked at the library. I didn't even know I had a set of those toys still in the box, unopened since 2006. I gave them to August to play with and started the cartoon for her. She was so happy when she realized that she had the entire cast all around her. Now it's egg nog and Rudolph, Santa and the Bumble with his star. She knows the words to Frosty the Snowman, We Wish You a Merry Christmas and Jingle Bells.

Perhaps I am just too sappy and sentimental. There is so much imperfection in our daily lives but when it comes to "firsts" I have to celebrate them all, the good and bad, those wonderful and beautiful moments and those painful ones as well. Timing her feverish, rapid breathing, trying to keep her fever from going beyond 103 while she slept was hard. It was difficult being in that moment. The day her fever broke, I looked back on that night as a bittersweet experience. My child was ill and I was worried not knowing what it was she had, but each little breath that flowed in and out for a minute was captured by me several times that night. The stinging heat from her baby soft skin and then on my lips as they touched her little forehead is forever recorded as a temperature of 103. Open to it all.

The Heart Will Remember

We would usually find Granmommy at her kitchen table when we'd stop in for a visit. August would ask for Nilla Wafers and eat one after another until she fell into a slight stupor on the big comfy chair or her couch. She'd enjoy watching August go through her kitchen cabinets and take out the same colorful Tupperware pieces to play with. There was always a pitcher of sweet tea in the fridge, candy in the candy dish and something stamped and ready to be mailed sitting on the table. I'd sit next to her at the kitchen table and the conversation would quickly go to old recipes, sewing, stories of motherhood and her children when they were little or how she loved dolls so much but never really had any growing up. I always wanted to keep on talking.

Her name was Evelyn. She had eyes that were big and round, her face well worn in such a beautiful way and I thought she looked pretty in blue. In many ways she reminded me of my great-aunt Christina and maybe because of that I felt so comfortable around her. She always sent birthday and holiday cards to family, made the birthday cakes, took whatever she had in her wallet and discreetly placed it in the hand of her child or grandchild in need of a small miracle. Filling her shelves and accent table were photographs of her children and grandchildren. Evelyn loved.

The last conversation we had was last week and she mentioned there was a  Halloween card in the mail for August. She said she ordered her some books for Christmas too. I was hoping there would be a few more years of Nilla Wafers for August, more time spent on her couch watching a Dean Martin special or Shirley Temple film, more stories at her kitchen table. I only knew her three years. When she signed the card on a Christmas gift to me : To Tera, Love Granmommy, I felt fortunate and saved it.

I hope August remembers something of Granmommy. I have memories that were created when I was even younger than she is. I hope she feels something warm and tender, I hope her little heart remembers.


Caterpillar, caterpillar...

Today, August came running inside shouting the alarm of "Mommy come, come!" She wanted me to come see a caterpillar on the ground.  She knows not to touch them and I was so happy she understood that lecture I gave her about not touching bugs and asking Mommy to first come look at bugs before touching them. We had been walking along when she suddenly jerked her hand from the wooden railing, there, along it's merry way, was a Puss Caterpillar. It was so odd to catch sight of this creature because I only became familiar with it a few days before and thought it was only found in Florida. One thing I knew, it was highly toxic. However, once it becomes a moth, as most toxic caterpillars do, it is no longer a danger.

We stepped away from it and since it was in a location that August frequented and I never wanted to see that caterpillar again, I killed it with a rock. I felt terrible. I just kept this poor Puss Caterpillar from achieving it's lifetime goal because our paths just didn't cross well. It was a sad moment but also a very scary one for me. This tiny creature managed to make my heart skip a beat and my stomach tighten up.

I wondered if children instinctively knew what to touch or not touch. I wondered what I would had done had I not read that article that came my way (via Facebook, of all places). Would I have stopped and just looked or actually try to touch and handle it? Had I not been there would August have become curious and brave and tried to touch it? It was a pale brown, velvety, almost cute looking thing but at the same time, something about it did register as creepy. The incident was too scary to continue to dwell on. I began my lecture to both of us about the dangers of touching bugs we know nothing about it. I then went home and studied up on toxic plants and insects.

The caterpillar August found on the ground today was dead, the ants were moving it. It was actually a caterpillar that would have become a butterfly and I mourned it. We had just spent time among the Monarchs yesterday at the park. It was a magical experience and I did feel quite blessed by it.  I had not been among so many butterflies since I was a little girl in Del Rio. They really made me feel like everything I wanted to work out, would.

Who doesn't want to become a butterfly? All the suffering and sacrifices, the tough lessons... We all want the ugly to lead to something more beautiful than we could have ever imagined. Reward and respite. Freedom. To fly and not crawl anymore.  Hopefully all hard work will result in a pleasant and comfortable payoff and not get squished along the way, never becoming a butterfly or a moth. When I think of it that way, it's really tragic to see dead caterpillars.

I'm no timekeeper.

Recently I was served a hard pill to swallow. I am no longer punctual. If invited to a dinner party, have a job interview or a doctor's appointment, I try my best to get started as early as possible. I have even succeeded in arriving early. However, if I am invited to a friend's house and given a window of time say 10am-10:45am, more than likely I will arrive squarely between 10am-10:45am and appreciate a having a nice open window of time. This is why:

1. I live with a person who has no concept of time and works at her own speed. August wakes up at 10am. She use to wake up at 11am. Sure, I can put her to bed early, wake her up at 8am or 9:30am and claim she had a full 10 hours sleep or more, but she will still be a cranky toddler. Cranky toddlers make getting ready to leave the house, more difficult. They won't eat breakfast, they follow you around crying and unhappy because their schedule is completely off. However, if August wakes up at 10am, she'll happily eat a breakfast, dress and we can be out the door in ten minutes. Nap time poses a similar problem. Skipping nap time or cutting it short creates a situation that is harder to work with.

2. In my culture, you always arrive a bit later than the designated time because it is polite to allow the host or hostess time to prepare. Things happen, believe me, you appreciate that grace period when hosting.

3. I am not a person who enjoys hurrying anymore. To hurry means to rush things and I am at a point in my life where I do not like to rush things. I like to take things easy. Little hands don't move fast and it's important to let those little hands do all they feel they can do. I anticipate this as much as I can. A noon appointment means I have prepared as much as I can the night before, this way, in the morning, we don't have to rush off.

When I can set an appointment or meeting time, I usually set it for noon. If we take a day trip, we won't be getting out of the house before noon, it will be noon, if all goes well. I explain to friends that we'll be arriving to play dates as soon as we can and I am always relieved when play dates don't start until 10:30am or so.

Eventually, soon enough, August will be on a strict schedule for school and activities. Gone will be the days of our own, loose schedule. Therefore, when I do have to make a date, rest assured it is with someone I trust to be understanding and flexible, a friend, someone who won't get all out of sorts if I arrive a few minutes past the designated time, someone who will add "ish" to the agreed time. I appreciate my group of true friends who empathize because they have children themselves, had children or just prefer to not sweat the small stuff and are open hearted to just seeing me when they see me.

This is a actually a big change for me. I was always out the door and where I was supposed to be on time. It took awhile to adjust, it felt impolite but some things just can't be helped. I let people know if I am running behind. I no longer expect anyone to be on time. I can always fill time and don't mind a wait. In fact, I can say that pretty cool things have happened while waiting. 

I visited a friend today

I visited with a friend today and she showed me how the women in her country protect their skin from the sun, because I asked what it was that some of them were wearing on their faces in her family photos. She brought out a a round piece of wood that looked like a small, well worn tree stump. She then brought out another piece of wood that looked like part of a tree limb with bark on it. She then added water to both pieces of wood and started grinding them together. It produced a fragrant, yellow paste. I put this on my face and there was an instant coolness. As it dried it felt so soothing and refreshing, not at all like a clay mask or any other facial mask I have ever used. The scent became more floral and familiar as it dried and I suddenly realized it was sandalwood. I was wearing a sandalwood paste. I wore it for the rest of my visit and then brushed it off before I left. My skin felt so smooth and I had the lovely scent of sandalwood all around me the rest of the day. I want to make this beauty treatment my own.



















She made us a lunch. We had the most flavorful spring rolls filled with curried chicken breast, vegetables and spices of cumin and turmeric. She made a simple salad and an omelette that we shared. We chatted while her three boys and August ran around, tumbled and played. They were filled with energy after their lunches. I told her she must share her recipe for the spring rolls with me. I need something new and delicious on my plates.

Our late morning visit had now turned into an early evening tea and it was time for goodbyes. August dislikes goodbyes to the point of becoming rude and cranky rather than saying goodbye. She pouted and whined a little before crying and throwing a tiny tantrum. Just as we opened the door she reached for her new friends with arms open and gave each of them a tight hug. As we walked away August had a smile on her face and I was happily inspired. We were invited to come back next week. 

Mommy Eyes

Today I opened up my art supply bin, dragged out the watercolor paper, the only four water colors that had not dried out, it's a five year old box of 12, and all my old brushes. I thought if August saw me painting, she would start painting. She hasn't been fond of finger painting.

August enjoyed dipping the brushes into the water and into the paints. She mixed the colors together, and was painting. I was thrilled when I saw what she was creating. So much in fact, I couldn't concentrate on my own project. Before she was even done I already decided I was framing this one. She seemed to love painting with brushes and it will make it easier for me to get back into it. First, we need more paint.

Two years ago...

A little tidbit left unpublished until now:

August. This is her month, the last days of summer, butterflies, cicadas and fiery sunsets that drown in the humid cornfields of Indiana. This year we are in Texas, where summer still has two more months left. I have yet to smell autumn in the morning breeze. It is still a long way off in these parts.

We are no match for the powerful cicada. Conversations trail off then die under their heavy clamor. They blanket parties and get togethers, hypnotizing everyone. You suddenly find yourself languid.  I used them the other day to put August to sleep. We sat under my grandparent's porch, under pecan trees and just listened. I don't remember drifting off but when I opened my eyes my grandfather and August had both fallen asleep. 

I am different. Four months later and there are no longer photos of architecture, animals, landscapes or the like.  My days are filled with August and they have been sublime. I can't take my eyes or the camera off of her for long. Every moment is something I never want to forget. If only I could save the scent of her head, her little feet and hands.

Labels:

groupings, placement, messes


























I truly enjoying turning a corner of the house and finding what little hands have done. These fresh configurations, arrangements, compositions, little installations, scenarios appear unexpectedly and make me so happy. I photograph them because they last but an instant and I want to keep them. Before we pick up the room I scan it over to see what all has gone on there. A mess is not simply a mess. I find all sorts of surprises that make me smile or laugh. I don't expect others to see what I see through my Mommy eyes, I just enjoy them tremendously.

























Soap

We went to the store because I needed soap. It now had a different name so I expected a different store altogether. I walked in and it was exactly as I had left it. August took to the produce section almost skipping and almost shouting,"It's nice, it's nice!" I turned and spotted the manager.
"Hi', I said, "Nothing has really changed, inside."

I needed soap. She wanted figs. We grabbed a basket and I promised myself, just a few things. Only what I need. Dandelion greens, strawberries, dates, figs, ten huge limes for $1. The soap.

Home again, home again and we had figs. The day went on, dandelion greens at dinner. It's now tomorrow and in my room are five dolls on the floor, all faces I  have known my whole life. My dolls.
August is in her dreamland picking at the day. I picked the rose scented Bee & Flower. I use to buy bars by the dozen. By the double dozen. Rose because it remind's me of my Abuelita. I unwrapped it slowly. Smelled it. I licked it, my dolls made me do it. I placed it in the tub.

I couldn't part with the wrapping. It needs to linger. The gold foil stamp, the paper.

...first created in Shanghai in the 1920's. Immediately that phase of mine with Nin and Duras and Dinesen. Then Simone de Beauvoir. I was nineteen. I looked in the mirror and my hair looked so black. I was about to brush my teeth but found that I was still hungry. There are dates in the kitchen. 

I left my rose scented bathroom. Not really, I left Abuelita's rose scented bathroom with the window that was always open so that while you showered you heard loud street sounds and people talking next door in the dark. The bathroom was the loneliest place. Tall, concrete walls, a high ceiling, to much room. The sound of water hitting tile was heavy. Abuelita was not there. 

The dates in the kitchen? No. Instead, I closed down the house. I noticed that she put the petrified wood exactly where I had it. What a charmer. I sniffed the soap paper as I brushed my teeth. 

August Minutiae





































With every new location August and I re-establish ourselves. Her room gets taken down and is re-assembled, our schedules are re-invented and we add new rituals to our lives.  I am not ashamed to admit that my child occupies all of my heart, most of my brain, my creativity, is my inspiration and tiny companion.  I don't fight this,  I go with it. This is what I waited so long to do. I have always wanted to be a stay at home Mom. I did everything else I ever wanted to do during that wait.





































A few weeks ago I took August to see Peter and the Wolf performed by the ACMC Woodwind Quintet. Once the music began to play, I became emotional. I have always been moved to tears watching any performance. Watching matachina dancers at a parade resulted in a slightly embarrassing moment for me once. I suddenly became overwhelmed and chocked on tears. I would love for August to see matachina dancers. While at Peter and the Wolf, I remained in an emotional through the entire performance because it was shared with August and her Auntie who is also her very own magical Fairy Godmother and mine as well. August instantly recognized the music, got off my lap and wanted to dance. She then hummed along happily with the music, saying, "It's Peter and the Wolf!"


































I have played La Boheme for August since she was a baby because it's my favorite opera and I have listened to it regularly since high school. I didn't expect her to like it or enjoy opera, I was only trying to introduce something new to her that day. When she heard opera on the radio while we were driving around, she exclaimed, quite joyfully, that it was beautiful music. Upon hearing this my heart could not stop dancing. The operas I could share with her just swirled about in my head, La Traviata, Carmen, Tosca,  Pagliacci...We'll see what she likes. Mexican folksongs and The Monkees send her to her room to grab her instruments so that that we can play along. 

































A new ritual for us is to have classical music playing anytime we eat. It's something I enjoyed when we dined at Casa de Luz, a restaurant and health community center in town. There is much I enjoy there and want to bring home. Now that we have a home of our own and the traveling has stopped, for now, we can concentrate on building. I have no plans exactly, I only know that there are things I want for us. There has been no other time in my life when I have wanted to share so much. August's growing awareness has me giddy. I have an endless list of interests and passions that continue to expand and grow because there is this person who is still quite brand new in the world and she wants to know things, I want to know things.

   


































The last time we were living in a city, I was pregnant with August. I took note of all the events, places and resources for children in Baltimore and hoped that when she was ready we'd find ourselves in a city again. I would love my chickens back along with a small flock of goats but for now this is where we ought to be because here we are.

I

I have been reunited with many things I had stored away for three years. As I unpacked I was getting to know the person who packed these things only three years ago. That person is no longer me. Things I thought for sure I had, I never found.  They were left behind, lost, because, at the time, they already were not who I was becoming. I came across some relics carefully wrapped and stored only to unwrap and toss into a box to give away or into the trash. What remains in my new home is all I really need, more than enough of my past. I have three boxes to drop off at a thrift store, I sold books, left quite a bit of  jewelry at a consignment store and still feel the urge to purge. I want to make room for all the new.


Pet Moon

























In the past, when I would spot a full moon high in the sky I'd cry.  I could hide all I was feeling from friends, family, from my art, from my writing and even from myself but not from the moon. On those nights when I had lost track of time and was surprised to find a full moon I could do nothing but stare at it and be completely honest. I'd then confess all my sins to the moon. I'd ask it for favors and was unashamed in admitting all that I really wanted. I would then find myself begging at the moon.

It didn't surprise me to find August calling the moon, asking for it to come out for her.  The moon is her pet moon, her friend. When I saw the full moon hanging from the sky in just the perfect way, we pulled over and I got August out of the truck to see her moon. She waved hello and said to it,"I have a pretty dress on and pretty shoes." She was showing the moon her outfit and catching it up on what it had missed since she saw it last.  It followed her home and along the way she was talking and singing to it. Once we got home August danced around with her moon. I am no longer moved to tears when I see a full moon. Moon finally heard me and I have nothing to ask of it anymore.  I just say thank you every night.


After the roman candles...

For as much as I love fireworks...and I do love fireworks, watching August watch them that night was joy. Having been away from everyone for so long, it was a treat to attend my friend's 4th of July party this year. Her home is a bit magical for me and when filled with people and great food, just a happy place to be.

Inspired to nest.
Inspired to put down roots.
Inspired to share.


Food...and dining




















Lately, food and dining have played a big part in our daily routine. It is very exciting watching a child try foods for the first time even when they don't like the taste. I still remember trying an artichoke for the first time, Mexican plums and bell pepper. Flavors and scents of foods from my early childhood have stayed with me my whole life and are among the loveliest memories I have. Just the other day, under the spell of the cicadas song, I could recall the smell of the peaches from my grandparents yard. The skin is a bit thicker than those found at the store but so is the pink flesh and they are the sweetest and juiciest peaches I have known. The canned figs my grandmother makes every summer is another memory that swims around my head this time of year. Finding a fig tree in a public space is like being bestowed some beatific grace. All good karma results in figs ripened in the sun there for you to pick.

At the bottom of a bag of groceries this afternoon, I found one of those pricey, organic, fancy cans of sardines. We have been staying with friends and my grocery tote doubles as a pantry these days, sitting on a catch-all side table in their kitchen. Something about digging through it and finding what I forgot I bought days ago makes it a tote full of treats. I love sardines, anchovies, kippers and even the canned clams and oysters. I love them with lemon juice and hot sauce. Finding this little can of fish made me happy.

I quickly opened them to eat for lunch, August already started on her afternoon grazing. Rather than serving meals that are too large or heavy, resulting in between meals snacking later, we have fallen into a pattern of a long brunch and then a long afternoon nibble. I will serve a plate with different foods or several small courses instead of one prepared meal. This way August gets her fruits and veggies, proteins and dairy in a way I can keep track of.  Dinner is our only "real" meal with a main course and sides and doesn't last nearly as long as our other meals.

When I sat down to eat my sardines, already swimming in lemon juice, ready for hot sauce, August asked to try some. My very first thought was, she's too little for sardines, but no, she isn't too little for sardines anymore. I gave her one and removed the edible bone afraid it could put her off. She took a few bites and excitedly told me that it was good. I added a tiny bit of hot sauce and she said,"That's spicy, it's good!" I then gave her the rest of my sardines along with some crackers and she instantly scooped up the fish with her cracker. She was thrilled to try something new. I was excited that she loved sardines.

This summer, being in Texas and not in the food desert of Oklahoma has provided us with delicious fruits and veggies that August is trying for the first time. Papaya, figs, cherries are all new to her.  Veggies like Brussels sprouts, broccoli and green beans are wrapped in parchment and cook in butter in the oven.  Just before serving, I add a bit of lemon juice. This is how I get August to eat vegetables,add lemon or lime juice. Being in Austin has given us the opportunity to try all sorts of exquisite foods like blood sausage, pork belly confit and a bresaola that tastes like Christmas. Introducing August to food and dining has been a joy I never expected.


Dinner

Today I started to prepare dinner for August at 3pm so it would be ready by 5pm. I wanted to take my time, no rush. I decided to make her a meatloaf.  I cut the onions into tiny, perfect squares then sauteed them in butter in a cast iron skillet. Then, I grated garlic into the sizzling onions. After I assembled the meatloaf and had it in the oven, I started on the braised cabbage. She loves cabbage so I chopped it up into little pieces and threw it into the skillet.  Lately she needs heartier meals otherwise we end up back in the kitchen close to midnight for a snack. I don't mind. She tells me what she wants to eat and I fetch it from the fridge for her and we end up with a plate of toast, yogurt, some berries. We talk about the day or I tell her a story about myself when I was her age. What isn't a special moment when raising your child?

This evening I served her a slice of meatloaf and sprinkled lime juice on her cabbage and upon receiving her plate she said,"Ohhhhhh Mami". After her second little gobbly bite, she said with her mouth full,"I like this, I liiiiiiike, this!" Then she continued with, "Mmmmmm this is good, I like this!" We sat at the table and I kept saying thank you. I thought maybe I served her too much, it was an adult sized portion. She cleaned her plate and said,"That was good!"  It was the most rewarding experience I have ever had to date. I felt the deepest happiness and so very successful. My meatloaf was indeed good, I thought it was the best I have made. 


The magical power of books...

I have seen this little piece of writing everywhere lately. It reminded me of how my husband got my attention and won me over years ago. He was a handsome stranger who placed In the Inmost Hour of the Soul by Marina Tsvetaeva in my hands then walked away.  It was 1999. That book started something that only a book could start, it took over a decade to unfold. If you want to make a lasting impression, definitely give someone a good book.




















It is important to me that August know what a typewriter is and how it works. She plays with a rotary phone I have and counts as she dials. The smooth, swoosh noise it makes is a comforting one. I still remember the sound my grandmother's number made when dialed, my best friend's, my own home number. I have two Brownie cameras, a Polaroid Land Camera and a few Holgas, I'd love for August to learn to use them all.

The other day, I brought out one of my typewriters to work on a project. August came along, curious and enthusiastic. She gently shoved me aside and started hitting the keys before I had a chance to insert paper. I showed her how it worked and we ended up working on the project together. She was excited about the letters and called out each letter as she'd hit the key. I kept telling her to hit them harder and she finally got the hang of it, laughing when she'd miss them.

Today August picked up my phone, found the camera icon, clicked on it and aimed it at her Aunt Cecilia and said,"Ceeeecil! Then clicked and took a photo." I'd show you that photo but Aunt Cecilia didn't find it flattering. I am constantly amazed at what August learns from just watching me and people in the world around her. At her young age, she has no problem using any modern device. She learned how to use the DVD player by 18 months old, the remote control as well. She was at our laptops well before a year old. This is why I refuse to text. I don't want her to pick up texting from me, it can be a rude and dangerous habit.

I'm not raising a "Luddite", but  I want August to learn to use all those wonderful and noisy mechanical devices, the wind-ups and crank-ups. It's important. We no longer have the option to opt-out of technology.  Maybe my rebellion is in not completely letting go of the old, passing on the swooshes and the clickety-clacks.



Wipe Out (1000th blog post)

Parked at a tienda in a strip mall on a busy corner, from the radio I heard a voice that called himself Cousin Brucie. The show mimicked the old radio call-in shows from another era.  What crossed my mind was the fact it was 2014, Wolfman Jack and Paul Kallinger are no longer on this earth.  I looked around at the strip mall, located in a part of the city that was the outskirts of a town only twenty years ago. Only twenty years ago... Twenty years is a long time ago and it did mostly creep along.

A caller asked Cousin Brucie to play Wipe Out by the Surfaris. In my head flashed my Surfaris record that I bought several years ago. I increased the volume because it would be the first time August heard Wipe Out.  It's a tired song, I thought. It is still full of an optimism and energy from another time yet a very tired song. As it played I looked around. You couldn't be further from the beach, California, surfers or 1963.  From the window I watched young men walking in and out of the store, two cop cars parked over in the next lot and young girls [dressed to send their fathers to an early grave] sauntered by. I was too present to time travel. The song fit the scene. It had traveled forward to 2014 and I witnessed it's short visit.

Empathy

On a less than perfect day for me,  while my head gnawed and churned on the issues du jour,  a little girl came up to August and waved hello. We were sitting at the outdoor cafe when she came right up to us, and August waved hello back. Soon they were giggling and standing next to each other, enjoying putting their hands into the water fountain. The two girls hugged each other, they were all smiles, there were more giggles but no words. Their laughs, giggles, smiles and eye contact were the only means of communication they used.

What a joy to witness this pure encounter between two little humans. Both girls were present and happy, without the baggage that too many years on this planet can offer. I looked around and saw a child asleep on his father's lap but no other children. I looked at every adult in the cafe, my own reflection, and we all looked so burdened, heavy... even while smiling, our auras were languid compared to these light souls. These children actually bounced around in a pattern similar to two butterflies dancing over a patch of clover.  I teared up.

For as much as we adults want to shed our defenses, undress and become once again as little children, it is not possible. So many try to return, but it's a one time experience. A child is a child, we can no longer be children we can only learn from them and be reminded of the magic that is childhood. If you lose your burdensome load and I unload mine, perhaps we can clear our minds long enough to find common ground in how a stream of water feels running through our fingertips, delighting in how it makes the other smile.

We can pause, be present and enjoy the moment but it's not the same. I remember how it once was, when it was new and words were not needed. We all have those memories from childhood and how it felt. Just watching August and her new little friend together made me feel invulnerable. I had a break from all my pressing thoughts and an optimistic surge of energy.  New thoughts, better thoughts, replaced what I had been pondering. August began to cry because her shoes were bothering her, reminding me that happiness, even for children, is  moment to moment. What I want for August and every child is a long childhood, what I want for every adult is less cargo. What could save mankind is less words, perhaps no words, eye contact, being present and practicing empathy.

The Beats have poems for every occasion...

Gregory CorsoLast Night I Drove A Car 

 
Last night I drove a car 
     
     
        not knowing how to drive 
        not owning a car 
     
    I drove and knocked down 
     
        people I loved 
       ...went 120 through one town. 
          
     
    I stopped at Hedgeville 
     
        and slept in the back seat 
     
     
       ...excited about my new life. 
Supposedly one of Corso's mindless, throw away poems. So much right there.

playtime
























Knock, knock.....she opens the door to the dollhouse then shoves the doll back out the door along with the entire contents of the home. Knock, knock...the little wooden homeowners return and begin the difficult task of carrying all their furniture back into the house. Knock, knock...we play a tug-o-war with poor Mr. Doll. So goes the game.

Sometimes the cousins visit...