Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Ozzie Loves Omlettes

Ozzie loves Omlettes because every time I make one, during the flipping, a little puddle of egg lands on the floor.  Lately I've been expanding my interest, and hopefully, skill in preparing various Italian, French, and Mediterranean dishes.  My all time favorite dish from Italy is Chicken Piccatta.  I grew up eating French since my father lived in Paris during his time in the service.  It makes me smile to remember how involved he would be in the building of sauces and how attentive he was about the meat and vegetables.  He loved Julia Child because she translated so many mysterious processes that were until then, an exclusive secret of those who spoke the language.  I learned from him, standing at the stove, side by side, as he whipped eggs and melted real butter to glaze the pan for omlettes, and when he patiently stirred the wine as it reduced into a sauce that sent everyone into a famished state just from the aroma.  He made soup with a variety of vegetables he grew in his beautiful garden.  If anyone wants to know the real secret of how to stay thin and eat really really well, the answer is soup.  Growing up we dined on a variety of Dad's soup from a pot that seemed to never empty.  The great thing about soup is that it keeps getting tastier the longer it bubbles on the stove.  And the flavor and steaminess of broth always comforts one in a feeling of love and appreciation. 

This morning I dined with Ozzie, sharing an omlette layered with a divine slice of cheddar and a few bits of onion.  My friend from New Orleans had recently gifted us with a can of French Quarter coffee with chickory, so I was really feeling spoiled.  I love mornings better than any other part of the day.  Especially a balmy summer morning, when my windows are open to birdsong and the scent of blooms and dew soaked earth.  As day marches on, it is bound to bring a series of tasks and expectations.  But the morning is mine.

Monday, June 25, 2012

To My Friends in Russia

Dear Friends in Russia,
For the first time I have been brave enough to peek at the map which shows my where my visitors are.  Did you know that more Russians read Knees and Paws than Americans?  Sometimes for every one American, three Russians come to visit me.  And even though you are silent, I want to say thank you for reading, and welcome!  You don't know this, but I have always been fascinated by the Russian culture, history and the land.  I was wildly crazy about ice skaters Ekaterina Gordeeva and her beloved Sergei Grinkov.  I also thought that the Peter and the Wolf story and music by Sergei Prokofiev was the most magical story of childhood.  There really is so much that I could be learning from you about life in Russia.


Sunday, June 24, 2012


Wind is a kind of miracle.  It was the reason that Orville and Wilbur Wright successfully flew.  Near the landmark of their first attempts at controlled human flight, Richard and Elliot went to hang gliding school to celebrate Father's day.

Hang gliding school at Jockey's Ridge is kind of like kindergarten for glider pilots.  Here, you learn safety, take off and landing.  You are rarely set off in any direction without an instructor.  There's not much time in the air to learn to navigate turns or feel what it's like to steer into the wind.  But it's flight, even for a few moments, and I can say from experience that any moment of personal flight feels incredibly wonderful.  Someday, we hope to navigate bigger gliders, over more space.

Two brothers from Dayton Ohio who helped us all experience the miracle of human flight inspire me.  The quote at the base of their memorial tower reads: "In commemoration of the conquest of the air by the brothers Wilbur and Orville Wright conceived by genius achieved by dauntless resolution and unconquerable faith."

North Carolina license plates are stamped with the phrase "First in Flight."  While the actual flights took place in the windy Outer Banks, the men who brought their gliders were from Ohio.  Both states have museums to commemorate their genius.  My brother lives in Dayton and will celebrate his upcoming marriage on the grounds of the Wright Brothers Memorial this July.  We are thrilled to share in this wonderful event and look forward to soon being reunited with our family on this happy occasion.  With a graduation, a wedding, two vacations and Elliot's birthday, I'm full of energy and gratitude for the many fantastic things that continue to unfold.  Every week there are new friendships, new opportunities, appreciation for good health, delicious food and abundant life all around.  This weekend, a new family is moving in next door, in the house of our late friend Tom.  The young couple have a two year old daughter.  The young man is beginning his residency at the local hospital.  So far this couple immediately engaged us in friendship; we like that they are sociable, bright, articulate and active. 

With all the exciting activity, I'm also embracing the ordinary parts of life.  Strangely, I'm looking forward to cleaning the bathrooms, running the vacuum, and washing the dishes left over from last night's cook out.  Elliot is working on building a mini golf course in the back yard using boxes and found items.  Ozzie is resting and enjoying this quiet peace of a Sunday morning.  Before I break the silence with my scrubbing, I hope to join him for a little while, with a cup of hot coffee and my latest summer read: My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George.  The best part of homeschooling is that I get to read all the good books I missed when I was young.

Happy Sunday!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012


Today is the first day of summer.  For the next few months we'll relish the miracle of air conditioning, seek the shade, fill up our little pool, hydrate hourly and paddle our kayak in the hope that we'll feel even the slightest breeze.  Just when I'm suffering under the anvil of a noontime sun and dense, suffocating humidity, I will remember how I spent the last three weeks of spring.

This month we paddled our kayak on the pristine waters of  Hamlin Lake, where shores are protected, fish are plentiful and giant white swans perform a graceful water dance, making playful circles around their fuzzy gray cygnets.  In our boat, heavily burdened with three adults and a 75 lb dog, we shakily made our way out into the expansive blue of Lake Michigan, where seagulls dove and squawked above our heads.  Near the mouth of a river that spills into the largest of the Great lakes, we stopped for a swim. This body of fresh clear water allows one to swim with eyes wide open, where fish are magnified and the sandy bottom slumbers in a wavy motion, swishing slightly with the touch of our toes.  On the beach, all sound is muffled.  We sat with glistening droplets of water on our skin, marveling in the silence and the endless blue upon blue horizon.  Families with young children splashed nearby, but it was as if we were in the middle of a silent film.

This month we walked along a bay and into a harbor on Lake Huron, where gentle breezes lift all the hair on one's head with each swirling whoosh of air.  A few people were out, making us feel connected to society, yet far removed from the congestion and impatient striving of our bustling city.

This month we also jumped into the rolling, crashing waves of the Atlantic, tasting the salt on our lips and feeling the rub of exfoliating sand.

This month we drove over bridges spanning the Abermale Sound, where last year we pulled blue crabs out of their hiding places using string and turkey necks.

This month we've also paddled out into our city's reservoir, where swimming and construction are not allowed.  We also swam with our friends at the local pool, and shared a crowded splash at the Y.

Summer has just begun, and already I have lived this season to the fullest, seeking relief in bodies of water.  So much that was troubling me has now been washed away.  This month I've dived down deep, floated along, struggled against the current, held my breath, splashed about, submerged my being, touched the bottom and rose to the surface for air.

I have also discovered that sometimes, the most heavenly body of water can be found inside one's bathtub at home.  While my senses and my soul have been refreshed and recharged from travel, the bathtub at home is the perfect temperature for my overheated suntanned skin, a perfect sanctuary from the elements of sun and wind.  Here there are no sharks or jellyfish, no rip currents or stray fish hooks.  There are no sharp rocks or shells to scrape the bottom of one's feet, nor careless souls who let their dogs pee on the sandcastle you built with your son.  There is only peace and quiet and cool refreshment.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Sliding into Summer

These were taken on the last day of second grade in our little home school.  It was the most fun year of school we've ever had.  I'm encouraged to keep diving further in to this journey. 

Yesterday we spent the day at the pool.  It was the last day of our time as caregivers for our friends, and luckily I'm not feeling sad or bereft because I'm confident we'll be seeing them on a regular basis.  Today I'm retired from nanny-hood. 

It's also our fourth wedding anniversary!  I can't believe how fast the time is flying.   Richard changed my life and my entire outlook by saying a single sentence.  He said this single sentence to me while my tears were soaking the clean cotton of his t shirt.  He said a single sentence and for the first time in my life, I believed it.  He said "Of course God loves you, Jenny."  And then I began a long climb out of a dark hole.

I had made a terrible mistake.  A devastating, life changing mistake.  But with those words, I could manage to keep looking forward.  My then friend, and later on husband, comforted me with something so empowering that no college degree, no material success, no public award could ever outshine it.  He dug up something buried deep inside.  The will to live.  And live with joy.

We were smokers then.  I remember our long talks out on the little porch of my single bedroom apartment.  We sat among the huge, blooming pots of flowers I grew, inhaling, exhaling, flicking ashes and stubbing out the butts.  We were totally engrossed in conversation and absolutely gob-smacked at the connection we kept discovering on ever deepening levels.  I learned that he graduated summa cum laude but never attended his graduation from college.  What a moment that would have been.

I'm still learning what lies beneath his outer persona; which still thrills me. 

I might have a few complaints about the frustrating parts of life, but on the whole, I'm grateful for so much.  It's important to acknowledge when things are affecting the joy that we could be having so we can move on. It's critical to  remember how we are ultimately responsible for our own happiness.  We can take the fullness of life and find something beautiful to focus on.  It really is our choice.  I could complain even further about how every time we go out, there will be  someone to say "don't do that! That's invented fun, and we cannot allow you to throw a tennis ball to the children as they leap from the diving board, because it's not something we have seen before and it may be a liability!"  I could go on crying and whining and throwing my little inner temper tantrum about how REGULATED we are as a society.  Or, I could just keep inventing fun and asking people to look up a written rule that states that it's not allowed.    Living in such a law burdened society, it now becomes my responsibility to live freely by challenging every single objection to my freedom. 

This year, Richard and I are celebrating our anniversary with a little road trip.   Here's to love and freedom, and happiness!  Take what comes your way with a smile!  The dark clouds do fade into bright sunlight.

Happy Father's Day to all the dads too.  I hope you have a great weekend!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

What a Few Can Do

Advancing technology is not always a good thing.  At least not for the keepers of the light at Big Sable Point Lighthouse.  Built in 1867, the lighthouse needed a keeper to maintain the three wick float burner that glowed from the fuel of lard oil.  It was a tough job to work in the 112 foot tower during the brutal winter, a job made more difficult and isolating as the light house was only accessible by water.  The light beamed  20 miles out into the water, saving ships from potential disaster, and comforting those returning home.  The lighthouse and the keeper's quarters later became a life saving station.  From 1867 until 1968, keepers and their families lived and worked at the lighthouse, separated from the world by a vast body of water and miles of dunes.  As technology advanced, the shoreline diminished, setting into motion a series of disasters.  Over time, the fog signal building, an oil house, a generator building, a barn, a boat house and a storage building were all lost.  Once the light became fully automated, the Coast Guard periodically staffed the station until it was closed in the early 1970's.

Once closed, the vandals arrived.  The interior of the house was severely damaged, letting in drifts of snow.  The sea wall collapsed soon after, endangering the tower.

A few people thought these accumulating events were a tragic ending to a significant and valuable asset to the community.  In 1987, thirteen people formed the Big Sable Point Lighthouse Keepers Association and began the first of many restoration projects over many years, including the repair of the steel sea wall to save the tower.

In the hands of a few people who care, Big Sable is now listed on the state and national registers of historic places, and is maintained entirely by volunteers.  After commenting on the fantastic opportunity it must be to live and work at the lighthouse, I was invited to apply to be a lighthouse keeper.  In fact, people from all over can apply to be a keeper, and reside on the upper level of the keeper's quarters for two weeks.  I was given information to begin the application process, and it is something I hope to be able to do.  There is no fee to be a resident keeper.  Contributions of time, effort and passion for the history and preservation of the lighthouse is now the fuel that keeps the light alive and shining.

The keeper's quarters once were home to three families and their children.  It's not easy to convey the feeling of refreshment that one experiences upon arrival.  Because of the remote location, I deeply felt the sense of time standing still.  Keepers are allowed to drive to the site by car, but visitors must walk or bike the 1.5 mile sand road.  Without the sound of traffic, I immediately felt a sense of peace.  Perhaps it was once a place where the keepers and their families felt lonely, cut off from the rest of the world.  Perhaps they felt liberated and free.  I'm guessing that it was a mixture of both. My reentry into the land of traffic and noise has not been as pleasant or exciting as it once was, after living for years in the northern woods.  Ten years ago I was excited to be in a place that was busy all the time.

Being at the lighthouse reminded me that I need both places to satisfy my soul.  I need equal measures of community and solitude, no matter the conflicts that this brings to my life.

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