Between Apathy and Apoplexy

T.M.I.

When I first came across the acronym I didn’t know it’s meaning, so I did a quick internet search to find out. As you probably know, Too Much Information, is the meaning of TMI. That the answer to my question was delivered to me by the mother of all TMI was painfully ironic.

I confess, I’m addicted to information. The cell phone in my pocket has more computing power than was used when we first sent a man to the moon … and I have access to all that power! Instant real-time weather reports, news from around the globe, stock reports, and ceaseless opinions posted to various social media sites. But that is just the beginning, there is the endless deluge of political chicanery, reports of terrorism, conspiracies and corruption, cruelties beyond imagining … and it never ends. I’ll be honest, if the headline hints at atrocities to children, I stop there and read no further. I don’t want those images bouncing around in my brain. Yes, sometimes it feels like my head is going to explode.

At the other end of the spectrum is just not caring about anything. I mentioned apathy on my Having Skin in the Game post, but it goes beyond that topic. Would life be simpler if I didn’t care about anything but myself? Perhaps. But I can’t do that. I’m not touting that as a virtue. I want to believe that I’m part of a vast majority of people who do care. Continue reading “Between Apathy and Apoplexy”

Life Lessons from a Biker Bar

“We should go there sometime,” Mrs. Poppy said, pointed to a simple one story building surrounded by cars and motorcycles. My response was the same as if she had pointed at the moon and said, “We should go there sometime.”

“Sure,” I replied, considering the probability of arriving at either destination statistically the same. Sure, seemed like a safe answer. It confirmed that I had heard her suggestion, but was noncommittal, neither affirming or denying. And it was a whole lot better than the first thought that popped into my head. One should never answer the suggestion of your spouse with the words, “You’re crazy.”

Weeks went by, we drove past the building again. And again the suggestion was made. This repeated itself several more times during the summer. One night, returning home from a party at a friend’s home and approaching the building, the suggestion was made again. This time it was not, “We should go there sometime,” but “I want to go there.” There was a minimal amount of food served at the party we had just left, but ample amounts of wine. This may have played into the weakening of my resolve, but I offered up one last defense. “I’m wearing linen pants, one does not walk into a biker bar wearing linen pants.” Continue reading “Life Lessons from a Biker Bar”

The Summer Dog and Memory Threads

Memory is a complicated thing, a relative to truth, but not its twin. (Barbara Kingsolver)


Hearing a certain song can grab you and yank you back through years and decades to a particular place and time. Spinning Wheel, by Blood, Sweat & Tears instantly takes me back to 1970 and a souped-up Corvair owned by my high-school buddy and next door neighbor. The car was filled with our friends, that song was blaring from the eight-track player concealed in the glove compartment.  The sun  had set, but without air conditioning, the hot, humid, mid-summer air in St. Louis necessitated that the windows be rolled down.  This allowed us to hang our right or left arm (depending on our seating geometry) out of the car and pound on the roof, keeping time to the crooning of David-Clayton Thomas. We were young, life was good, and that memory is firmly etched in my brain.

But hearing is not the only sense that can trigger a memory rush. Any of the senses; smell, taste, hearing, touch or sight can be a catalyst to take us back in time. In this case it was this photo, discovered while going through my dad’s old 35mm slides. Finding it was an unexpected treat, a serendipity of the highest order as I didn’t know this moment in time had been captured.

I was ten-years old in this photo, the summer of 1965. Continue reading “The Summer Dog and Memory Threads”

The 67′ Pontiac and the Comfortable Silence

Mom never drove a car.

To be totally accurate, I should say, I never saw her drive a car. She claims that in 1931, at the age of 16, she went to the drugstore in whatever small town in Texas her family was living in at the time and exchanged a dime for a drivers license. Apparently at that time, proving a proficiency in driving was no more necessary to obtaining a driver’s license than proving a proficiency in fishing was necessary to obtaining a fishing license. Whether or not she actually drove is unknown. No one in the family has any recollection of that happening. Two years later she married and received not only a husband, but a chauffeur. That union lasted 78 years and Dad did all the driving for 75 of those years until he passed the keys over to my brother at age 95. That Dad did all the driving was for the best. Dad was the pragmatist, rooted in logic and a good sense of direction. Mom was the dreamer, the artist, and had no interest in navigation or driving. It was a good arrangement for Mom and Dad and everyone else on the road. Continue reading “The 67′ Pontiac and the Comfortable Silence”

One Brick at a Time

At some point you realize you’ll never win the Nobel Peace Prize, the Pulitzer Prize, find a cure for cancer or even the common cold. You wake up every morning and prepare to go to work where you will not win any major awards, where your co-workers will not hoist you on their shoulders, marching around the office chanting your name, where it seems that you are not making a difference, where your job appears almost meaningless. Day after day.

You may wake up to the sounds of a crying infant or toddler, knowing that your day will be spent within the boundaries of your house, changing smelly diapers and preparing food for an unreceptive audience. Day after day after day after day.

Behind us and before us are a string of days beyond our reckoning. Behind us are the records of everyone who has ever lived, from the most famous to the most obscure. People who have made history and the majority who have not. The majority who have struggled to survive, with no recognition, no accolades, no mention in the history books, yet day by day they persevered, they made a life for themselves and their families.

Before us are days that can’t be seen or accurately imagined and the number promised to us is unknown.

We do not own the past or the future, we only own today. Each day we, along with everyone else on the planet, are handed a brick. Each day it is the same size and weight. It weighs 4.5 pounds. It is 3 5/8″  deep, 2 1/4″ tall and 8″ long. It is also 24 hours or 1,440 minutes long. It is ours to do with what we wish. We can choose to just toss it aside onto a heap of its brethren, it is just another brick, it is just another day. Who cares? Who notices? What does it matter? Continue reading “One Brick at a Time”

Waiting for Spring

Dinner was simmering. It was chili. Well, chili-ish, it was missing a few ingredients I thought I had on hand (tomatoes). Thankfully the grilled cheese sandwiches saved the day (one slice of cheddar, one slice of provolone, you’ll be a hero).

I stepped out on the front porch.

Tonight was the eve of the official first day of spring. Breathing deeply, I could smell the earth and the scent of emerging growth. Our porch, like the one pictured on the home across the street, runs the length of the house. I’ve a theory, totally unsupported by research, that world peace could be achieved if everyone had a front porch. A place for reflection, a spot to enjoy a cup of coffee or tea and watch the world that is your community go by. A place for sitting. A place for greeting neighbors. A place for watching the sun rise or set.

I’ve walked out of our front door onto the porch thousands of times. I’ve seen that tree an equal number of times. I have walked under it’s shade more times than I can remember. Tonight I was struck by its anticipation.

Our house was built in 1890. I’m guessing the house across the street can’t be too far off that timeline. The houses here in my neighborhood of famous Ferguson were constructed pre-bulldozer. The lots weren’t leveled, the basements were dug by hand, and unless a tree was in the exact location a house was planned, it was allowed to stand.

I’m not smart enough to tell you the species of the tree in the photo or its age. But I can tell you it’s dang ancient. It towers over a two-story house that most of us would consider old. It has stood by a street that was once dirt and provided passage to horse and buggy. It now stands sentinel over paved roads and automobiles. It has provided shelter for hundreds of generations of birds. It has withstood storms and tornadoes. In this current season, its gaunt limbs are raised in supplication. It waits for spring.

I too wait for spring. It is a time of waiting, a time of Lent. Then comes a time of new growth, a time of resurrection. A time of hope.

I really don’t like winter. Okay, let’s be honest, I hate winter. It’s cold, duh, it’s lifeless, colorless, and generally depressing. But without winter would I truly appreciate spring? Without barren seasons, would I truly appreciate fruitful ones?

I walked back into the house. I was greeted by the smells of mediocre chili, the chatter of a loving family …and hope. Spring is coming.

Peace, Poppy

 

Of Head, Heart, Steinbeck and Zombie Mistakes

“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up your men to collect wood and give orders and distribute the work. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.”
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, author of The Little Prince.

Sure, there was the Apple stock that I bought at $30 and sold at $36, congratulating myself for being so very smart and clever to make a 20% gain, but in general, I don’t have many regrets. I’m not much for digging up past mistakes, there are so many it would be a full-time job. It’s better to keep them buried. Besides, I’ll make some fresh ones tomorrow, I don’t need zombie mistakes following me around too.

The quote at the beginning of this blog illustrates that there is more than one way to get a task done. One way is through logic, through process, through delegation. In other words,  by using your head. The other way is driven by yearning, by passion. In other words, by using your heart.

A few regrets that I do have are those of the heart and represented in this blog; cooking and writing. I started cooking about nine years ago. I still love it. Do I wish I had started sooner? Yes, of course. But the regret here is pretty minor. I love coming home and turning on some music, pouring myself a glass of wine and start slicing, dicing, sautéing, simmering, roasting, broiling, whatever it takes to create a meal for my family. I enjoy it so much I want to stretch it out. This does not always go over so well with my family when their stomachs begin to rumble.

I started this blog thinking I would be focusing on cooking. But a successful cooking blog relies on exact measurements and precise steps not to mention some good photography. By the time I’m done, no one in the family wants to wait around while I stage a great photo, they want to eat! Then there is that exact measurement and precise step thing. My cooking technique more closely resembles a Jackson Pollack painting than a Rembrandt.  I sling ingredients around like Jackson Pollack did paint. By the time I’m done, I can barely remember what ingredients I used, let alone how much.

And then there is writing.

I grew up without a television, possibly the best thing to ever happen to me as it turned me into a reader. Our family Saturday routine went something like this. Shortly after it opened, I was dropped off at the local branch of the St. Louis County library system. This was the early sixties when it was safe to leave your child unsupervised for hours at a time in the library. I searched for undiscovered titles and repeats from my favorite authors. By the time my parents returned to pick me up, I had 5-7 books checked out and ready to go. When next Saturday rolled around, those books were finished and I was looking for more. I read adventure stories, science fiction stories, Dr. Doolittle, Danny Dunn and anything by Elizabeth Enright. I always read several grade levels above my actual grade, not because I was smart, simply because I just read and read.

Then one day I picked up a copy of The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck. Continue reading “Of Head, Heart, Steinbeck and Zombie Mistakes”