Group or Solo

This weekend was a highlight of the year, perhaps the life, for my pre-kindergarten daughter. She finally got to perform in the beautiful theater as a munchkin in the wizard of Oz. We really were not sure because she is so young—even for a munchkin she is little. Despite our fears and her own, she did the work and went on stage before hundreds of people and sang and danced.


I was so proud! She had navigated the whole thing without help from me. Theater productions are just that—productions. There are a lot of people and moving parts. It takes paying attention, and being light on one’s feet.


In a group, it is hard to be precise. Some things are very exact, and some are not. They can seem to change too, some things being loose and when you least expect it, it will be the thing you were supposed to pay close attention to.


She handled it well, all the bustle and barking orders. She was ready to cocoon at home afterwards.


You know what is not a production?



Writing is the opposite of a theatrical production. It is a very solitary activity, and only the writer decides what is important and what is loose. Often, the writer decides that everything is important and clenches around every word.


Which she can do. It is her art and her choices.


There are some kinds of art that take broad cooperation: film, theater, and symphony. Then there are solo artists, like writers, painters or solo musicians.


I have been thinking about relationships and community lately. How does the individual express inside a community?


As an American, I am fiercely individual. At the same time, I know that integrating with a group is essential. It takes both.

For the road

I was carrying too much in my purse, and so my neck was tweaked. I finally made the connection and started using my old backpack to carry all my stuff

Veronica cannot refrain from playing with this backpack. All weekend we kept asking ” where is the iPad?” Only to discover she had put it in my backpack and was carrying it around.

Today, looking for a pen in the many pockets, I discover she has also stored Easter candy in it. She was packing for a long trip!

borscht recipe

When making borscht, begin with the end in mind. Add ingredients in the order of how long it takes to cook. What takes longest to cook should be added first 

Fill a pot with water and put it to boil

Add salt (a teaspoon or so)
Add at least ½ t of dill. You can add more. Dill is very Russian
Some sage is good

I like to take my beef chunks, dust them with flour, and then brown them in a frying pan. Put oil in the fry pan, use a paper bag or a dish to hold flour and coat the soup meat in the flour.

Then put the meat chunks in the frying pan, let it cook on all its sides. Turn off the heat

Put a minced garlic in the pan to warm. This will keep the garlic from burning while you chop an onion. When the onion is chopped, stop and dump the beef and garlic into the water.

Put more oil in the frying pan and turn on the heat again. Sautee the onions.

When the onions are transparent, turn the heat down and add a big soup spoon of tomato paste. At least half that tiny can they come in. mix it up and let the onion tomato mixture get all goopy. Put it in the pot

Chop up potatoes (2-4) 
Chop the carrots at least a cup or more
Slice a beet or two, peeled or not
Slice off some cabbage

Put all these into the pot as soon as you chop them. It should be super bright broth, with the tomato and the beets.

Add a handful (1/3 cup or so) of some kind of kasha (rice, barley, or buckwheat)

Boil it until the potatoes are cooked. 
Taste it and add more salt and dill as you see fit

In Russia, this was a broth-y soup. Here in America, I make it super full of veggies
When you put it in the soup bowls, have sour cream and put a big dollop on top of the soup. For borscht eaters, mixing in the cool smetana (sour cream) and taking the first bite is a great pleasure.
Oh yes, a slice of dense dark bread is additional awesome.

AND make a bunch because it tastes better the next day

tea with who?

I invited two friends for tea: Fear and Doom. They showed up one day on my doorstep and I didn’t know how to throw them out.

Doom was muttering, and when I opened the door to see what the noise was about he and Fear shouldered their way in. Since I had tea laid out for myself I poured some for them.

Doom never stops talking. He has a very deep voice, and it is hard to understand when he mutters. When I take the time to listen in, his voice gets louder and fills the room with the sonic vibration like a prayer bowl.

I don’t want him to speak up. That’s why Fear is his constant companion. Fear interrupts, with a shrieking single laugh “HA!”  Doom is quiet when Fear talks. Fear is very specific, and Doom is abstract.

I can’t say I enjoyed their company exactly, but one can’t drink tea alone.

I did find their conversation fascinating. They are both so well informed. Any topic I might bring up for discussion, they had a lot to add.

The second pot of tea had gone cold because of our non-stop conversation when I heard a knock on the door.

“HA!” shrieked Fear.  She would. Strangers and changes and unknowns always got the same response from her. I laughed at her suggestion that we hide under the table until the intruder went away. We would all fit under there, though. The cloth was long. It would have worked.

I opened the door to a cheerful older lady in a sundress. Her sun spotted arms were soft, and her mostly gray hair was down around her shoulders. “Gratitude! I didn’t expect to see you!”

“Oh, honey, the sky is beautiful today! I want to take a walk with you. Did you know that the jasmine is blooming?”

There’s a sky? I had been inside so long with my guests I had forgotten what the weather was like. Jasmine? My neighbors had climbing jasmine that filled the whole block with scented beauty. Remembering the clouds of aromatic pleasure pushed out all the points I was going to bring up in the conversation I’d been having.

Pink Jasmine.

I looked down at Gratitude. “Isn’t it too cold for you wear that?” and age-inappropriate and in other ways foolish.

“Not if we are moving. The sun and the breeze feels amazing on my skin.”

It did feel good on my face. “I can’t go with you. I have company.” We weren’t done with our tea or our talk.

She peeked around the door jam to see beetle-browed Doom staring into his teacup. Fear startled at being discovered, her thin tapping fingers stirring the many spoonfuls of sugar around in the bottom of the tea.

Gratitude withdrew back to the sunshine-drenched front step. “Honey, they will be fine without you. Come on! Jasmine is blooming and the clouds are casting shadows on the hillsides.”

Cloud shadows on green hills. Pink Jasmine.

I looked back. Fear clinked the silver spoon against my grandmother’s chine teacup. The delicate blue flower pattern was precious to me. I hoped her frantic spoon action wouldn’t break it. She ought to be more careful!

Doom was muttering.

I didn’t want to hear what he was saying anymore.

I grabbed my shawl from the hanger by the door. “Guys, I haven’t seen Gratitude in a long time. I really have to go. Let yourselves out!”

Gratitude laughed her joyful laugh, grabbed my hand and we ran down the path together to find the blooming flowers.







Last week I made borscht for the first time in years. It was tasty

I made enough for me to eat all week.

The story goes that borscht is better the second day. It was better than the last time each successive day.

By Friday ( late in the game) i managed to remember to buy sour cream which notched the deliciousity to a new level

Needless to say, a new pot it boiling down right now in preparation for the upcoming week. I took extra care with it. I dusted to beef with before browning. I gently sautéed the garlic.

This is going to be a really good week


You know what’s the worst? Things that should fall into the blessing category but which drive me crazy

My daughter can be that.

Also my job.

Thinking that I SHOULD feel a certain way about these only makes it worse

Trust and Hope

It’s a lot of fun to be a grownup. Don’t get me wrong, waking up at 5 every day to go to the grownup job is a pain. A SERIOUS pain sometimes. And yet, there are compensations. Driving where I want to go is awesome.

And another thing about being a grownup is free range socialization. My daughter spends her day with age-boxed children in pre- and soon to be elementary school. The education system sets it up that way.

I get to call a variety of people my peers, which I like. All ages. There is a wide playing field in grownup land.  To my surprise, I’ve been here for a while. And my jaded outlook now has some experience to give it depth.

When I was 21 (not experienced) I discovered I was part of a cohort, a generation called X. I was delighted that my learned reflexes were shared in kind by people my age. Everyone was annoyed by the Boomers. Ha! I am not wrong, other people looked at this world and came to the same conclusions.

That was a long time ago, so long that the kids behind me grew up to be my peers now too. The Millennials- what’s up with them?

The annoying thing about the Boomers is the phalanxy cause-driven unity. Causes and ideologies, whether political or business, the ‘this is how it’s done, and this is what we do’ message. Plus their sheer size. I really wish all the money hadn’t burned up in 2008 because maybe they would have retired already and freed up some JOBS.

These millennials who stay at home or get their parents to pay for their college…are you kidding me? For those of us who worked three jobs with as many roommates to get through college, this sounds soft. but okay. I can see that finding one job, let alone three, is a struggle right now.

This article showed me somehting I hadn’t seen behind the go-along-to-get-along smiles.  The Millennials don’t trust anybody:

” Millennials seem …to lack a sense of social trust. Only 19 percent say that generally speaking most people can be trusted, compared to 31 percent to 40 percent among older generations.”

Well. Maybe they are not so gullible after all. They have ratcheted up a notch. And yet, what are all of us supposed to do in a world where you can trust almost no one?
There have been periods in my life where trust is painfully scarce–trust famines.  I found myself in a circumstance, a situation, a relationship or a group where I could not trust the systems around me.

Of course I wanted to hit the eject button and get out. Not possible.

There are long-term consequences from trust famines. Dial the time machine back and we find the generation who lived through the depression. They will never forget the times when they system failed so completely. Grandmothers now who cannot throw away the plastic butter container–you never know when you might need it.

This group? still young. Still fighting. Tolkien said it in The Fellowship of the Ring (a quote tragically missing from Jackson’s movie). After Gandalf dies, the hobbits wail “There is no hope!”

Aragorn replies “We must do without hope.”

Yep. Because we must keep doing. The young adults, in this time, can feel how little the systems and the people running them are trustworthy. And yet we must go on. What else is there? Living must be done. At least we have enough butter dishes; and the butter that goes in them.

Something is missing though. Maybe these Millennials will give it a name and we can diagnose it to start to cure it.

How to explain it?

She watches what I do, even when I’m not watching. It upsets her when I’m upset.

I have no desire to hide how I feel, and I also don’t want to upset her.

Here’s the thing: sometimes I cry when I’m happy. How to explain it to a five year old?

They say there are no tears in heaven. And yet I cry happy tears so often. SO often.

What’s up with that?

I have a theory. It’s the tension. It’s the lingering aftertaste of the memory of how things were once (recently? Long ago?) NOT beautiful and happy.

The half life of the hunger as we are now at a full table. I am at a full banquet, why did I once go without? How could both these things have happened?

so I am pulled taut and the tears spill over.

what if all the memory of lack in heaven is not painful? What if we see everything as making sense? what if the ironic tension is relieved

And so, when I find myself tearing up before my beautiful and curious daughter, I think “why remember the bad times? I can enjoy the right now thing and not need to cry. Here we are and let this fill my heart.”

I am not sure that covers the ground. i’m going to keep working on this theory.