Ordinary Surprises


Seems counterintuitive to use those words together one being the everyday the other being a wonder or a shock or an amazement? But I found a recent business trip filled with them.  Brene Brown, author of Daring Greatly and TED talk on vulnerability gone viral fame says…we’re all so busy chasing the extraordinary that we forget to stop and be grateful for the ordinary.

Not me, I love the ordinary it’s amazing to me, it presents itself in such a quiet and thoughtful way that you can’t help but be in awe of it.  It surprises me constantly with “of course” moments.  See what you think:

The morning of my trip to Boston I realized I hadn’t received a confirmation from the hotel so I called. Rose on the other end assured me that the rooms I booked for my colleague and I were indeed ready for our arrival and that they had mistakenly misspelled Sandi in my email address as Sandy.

The ride up which, had I listened to the news, was supposed to be nothing but torrential rain, possible tornadoes, and aggravation turned out to be partly sunny and filled with interesting conversation. Arriving a bit early left time for a quick sandwich made by hand by a woman who thought it important to pull a tomato from the stand and slice it fresh.  Of course she did.

The meeting was perfect. More teaching than preaching.  More interesting questions from people who were truly interested in the answers. Some levity, some sharing of information, some friendly good natured scolding all to the end of greater understanding and refinement of the “way it’s always been done processes.”  A couple of hours that seemed like minutes later, not your typical grey suit meeting.  Whew.

Work day done, off to the hotel. Lovely, on the water, near a wonderful part of the city we were greeted warmly, upgraded to King, and began our off time with an exhale.  I was so surprised to find my room number was exactly the same as my address on Stowe Lane.  My beloved Stowe Lane.  When I exclaimed I had great hotel Karma the woman behind the desk went on to fill my heart by saying I seemed a person with great Karma in general.  How wonderful, what a terrific way to set the tone for an evening with friends.  Of course it did.

I love a delightful dinner with friends, the people who nourish your soul while you nourish your hunger.  Conversation that is at once animated and relaxing offering up the chance to learn more about each other while cementing the commonality that brought you together in the first place.  The food was delicious and among friends everyone could pick at the other’s plate.  The wine a perfect pairing, the dessert light yet indulgent.  Saying goodbye afterward was difficult but full of promises to meet again as soon as we could.  One last walk through the square to pay tribute to the tragedy of the marathon and we were on the train back to the hotel.  We got off the train about a mile from the hotel to truly experience the night doings in the North End.  The people, the smells of the food wafting from the restaurants the hub bub, then a night cap and a very nice night’s sleep.flag

Morning in the North End is bustling with a different kind of energy. Workers repairing roads, firemen with their coffee outside the stations, restaurants getting ready for the day, and the bakeries sending the smell of Italian cookies and pastries out into the streets.  But first I need my coffee and where better to enjoy a latte but at a tiny little place that had old Italian men at the bar throwing back single shots of Guglielmo espresso.  Relatively new in the US (the brand of espresso that is) these veterans of the single shot were enjoying it so why wouldn’t we.  Why wouldn’t we indeed, with a very charming Italian behind the bar making us feel at home and pulling shots with the finesse of the former Roman barista that he surely was.  Sitting at one of the few tables, listening to the Italian chatter, enjoying the latte made exactly the way the barista wanted to make it (there is no string of types of milk, foam, no foam, etc. necessary here) with just a hint of sweetness from the sugar and the bitterness from the espresso it would be the only coffee required until I got home.

Naturally we needed to head over to Mike’s for pastry and, unlike the night before, it was empty.  The sfogliatelle wasn’t going to be out of the oven for another 20 minutes so we decided on breakfast first but where to go?  The best part of being in the North End early morning is the time people can devote to conversation, Theo’s was the overwhelming recommendation by the staff at Mike’s.  And of course they were spot on.  Now back at Mike’s, with boxes filled with pastry tucked safely out of reach in the back seat we headed home.

I know like I know that the ordinary surprises we encountered, the upgrade, the room number, the ease of the meeting, the loving preparation of the food and the company in which we dined, the friendliness and resiliency of the people, who just recently had been harmed, all made what could have been just another business trip an extraordinary adventure that left me most grateful.

Thank you Boston.




Little League Musings


I had the honor of attending my friend Daniel’s Little League game the other night and it was so reminiscent.  The beautiful green field, the dust, the bugs, the bleachers, the parents (Yogi said it best, “Little League baseball is a very good thing because it keeps the parents off the streets”) and the bench.  I haven’t been to a game in about a hundred years, probably not since himself was coaching, and really not much has changed but then again so much has changed.

The bench was filled with all manner of equipment.  The usual bats, balls, helmets, protective equipment for the catcher, and Gatorade bottles.  One of the things I remember about going to the games with himself was lugging the big orange cooler with the spout everywhere we went.  We’d set it at the end of the bench with a stack of waxy Dixie cups and the kids would go through gallons of water laced with Gatorade at every game.  Who knew plastic bottles filled with the stuff was in our future.

And then there was a girl on the team, not only on the team but on the mound, oh was that fabulous.  Hadn’t seen that before but how would I, not having kids of my own, there was no way for me to know the progression of girls in sports.  My understanding is that girls were formally permitted to join the teams in 1974; we didn’t see it in 1977 when we were attending the games it was far too early.

My friend Daniel was playing first base but he would later find himself behind the plate catching.  The kids were moved around, everybody batted and even though they took quite the beating the coaches were supportive and patient and the kids looked up to them.  To this day, I’m sure that many of the kids who played under himself remember him fondly.  He was a hell of a coach, the wonderful mix of discipline, educating and fun.  They might not remember me, I just kept the book, but I know like I know they remember him.  It never failed that we would be having dinner somewhere and one of them, all grown, would come up to us with wonderful and thankful greetings for himself.

In all the games I attended in the “old days” I don’t ever recall hearing the kids being told it’s still a live ball.  Of course it’s a live ball, what else would it be?  Well apparently a few of the kids get easily distracted.  The live ball thing was a given back then.  Maybe because the kids had only one or two extracurricular activities not the nonstop schedules they have today.  Maybe because the prevalence of ADD/ADHD (or recognition of ADD/ADHD) was pretty much unheard of the kid’s heads were in the game.  And there was practice, there were the endless drills, there were consistent coaches.   Dads weren’t working the perpetual over time hours that are needed today to make ends meet.   Whatever the reason everybody knew the ball was live.  Could not stop chuckling about that all through the game.

And it’s funny how it all comes back to you.  Just watch the ball hit the bat, just hit your cutoff man, don’t try and be a hero, just get on base, singles.  The barrage of baseballisms came back in a flash and so did my Jersey girl.  I can get loud, no surprise to anybody, so when things were really looking grim and everyone got quiet I don’t have to tell you what happened.

I did notice there is now a covering behind the plate so you can’t stand behind and see the pitches coming in.  Oh that used to be fun to second guess the ump, gone are those days.  You can’t yell “swing” now when the pitch is coming in to spur the opposing batter on.  Sorry, I couldn’t help it back then.

I had my camera with me and got some wonderful shots, all easily downloaded and up on Pinterest http://pinterest.com/slc1toby/a-night-of-little-league/ , no such thing as Pinterest then and the film from my Nikon FE had to be developed.  Oh boy…

I must say I had a moment’s hesitation about going to the game, not knowing what might be stirred up in my still adjusting head after my divorce.  I’m so glad I decided to go, for Daniel’s sake and for mine.  Even though there is a K in the book for my marriage,  the further from the later years I get the more I am able to appreciate the wonderful person himself was back then and how his legacy will be cemented for those boys.  I know like I know they were good times worth savoring again.



Happy Mother’s Day from a Father’s Daughter

With two you get eggroll

She loves her Chinese food, me not so much.  She has a million quips and quotes that somehow grew us up and we remember to this day.  She is eighty three and like most people her age she concentrates on herself, some amazing survival instinct of the aged. She truly made a silk purse from a sow’s ear, she scrimped and saved and has a wonderful nest egg, me not so much but she is generous.

In the eight years since my Father passed we have become…something.  Something more than we were and less than we will ever be.  I have developed a certain respect for her charm, her ability to bring people to her and to make them feel…something.  Loved, important, heard, special.  She has a long line of people who will always remember how she made them feel.  Including me.

But she and I couldn’t be more different in many ways.  I am hopeful that I’ve been able to cultivate that ability of hers to bring people to me.  Maya Angelou said today that her second greatest blessing has been her ability to turn people into children of hers.  I’ve had a string of people that I believe turned into children of mine but have now moved on into wonderful and satisfying lives through new jobs, new relationships or reestablished relationships with their own mothers, and new…something.

You never really know the effect you’ve had on people, there are no Mother’s Day calls when people have taken your love and lessons and moved on to send those lessons into their own worlds.  You can be grateful for the love and lessons you’ve received from a Mother you’re only now getting to know, love and respect.   I am grateful for both the sending and the receiving.

Happy Mother’s Day to all.

Brutto Bello

ugly beautiful

Ugly Beautiful was the photo prompt on today’s Treasure Hunt.  The challenge was to find beauty in an unlikely place.   Make it come alive through the lens, see it into beauty.

This is not an uncommon concept.  According to urbandictionary.com:   Beautiful ugly is a term used in modeling, when a model has such striking or odd features that they could be considered quite beautiful or very ugly. This is especially rare, and highly desired, especially in couture shots.   They insist that very few “beautiful uglies” exist, as many are simply labeled unattractive, and unsuitable for any type of modeling.

I wouldn’t know a thing about modeling, having spent a good amount of time shying away from the camera.  But I understand the concept of beautiful ugly, in my case brutto bella.  I don’t LOOK beautiful but I AM beautiful.  There is a distinct difference.  I embody that difference and I’m now learning to embrace that difference.

Being beautiful is about a life well lived, lessons learned, attitude and resilience.  Being beautiful is about others, service and what motivates your actions. It’s about the mitzvah itself I heard a rabbi say this weekend at a bar mitzvah I attended.  My dear friend Linda’s grandson did so beautifully she could have bust.

Beautiful is about being comfortable in your skin while being comfortable in your clothes.  It’s finding your style, enjoying your own company, never feeding anything but yourself.   It’s about passing the mirror and recognizing yourself.  That took a bit of time.  It’s about having your picture taken, over and over again, looking in the lens each time knowing you ARE beautiful.

San, Lina and Toto too

It’s about passion.  Until recently I didn’t know what passion was.  I thought it was grand.  I never understood what all the damn fuss was about.  But I’m getting it now.  When I sit down to write, when I pick up my camera, when I read and when time slips away from me I know I’m engaging in something I’m passionate about.   Can’t quite put my finger on it, I’m not saving the world but in my own backyard I’m doing good things…with passion…more often than not.

Is that to say I never have a good solid stamp your feet pity party?  No, just had one thank you.

It means trying hard not to get stuck in your ways by declaring yourself a lifelong learner.  Remain curious, listen to people half your age, let them pick out your sunglasses, and strive for cool in your own way.  It will confirm you are beautiful, to them too.

Maya Angelou said it best; “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”   Make the people around you feel wonderful and heard and important and they will only ever see you as beautiful.