Buona Pasqua

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Bless Andrea Scher and her Brave Blogging, we are dabbling in audio blog posts… if you didn’t know I notoriously struggle with the sound of my own voice. I really believe that I could write all about Easter Sunday yesterday but the words just wouldn’t give you the same feeling that an audio rendition might. So here goes…





Spring – Things I Love

2015-03-29 13.29.33-2The fact that spring has arrived has almost everything to do with my ability to shake off the loss of my hour, not your hour mind you but my hour. Everywhere I look there are tiny green shoots poking through the earth. Today may very well be the last time I wear the big red coat that scrapes and swishes making a racket as I walk each morning. Toti Nonna no longer has to wear the sweater or vest or raincoat. I can tell she’s thrilled at the prospect. It’s also the last time we’ll walk through the meadow at the green acres for fear of the tick infestation, I’m pretty sure she’s ok with that too.

There’s no time to wallow in lost hours there are things to be done. The strips of insulation must come off so windows can be opened. The deck is swept and the furniture is in place. The old Adirondack chair has gone to dilapidated chair heaven. The garden needs to be uncovered and Easter is coming.

Easter is a big deal in Italian families, it’s a big deal for all Roman Catholics but the Italian people are in high gear in the kitchen. I am lucky enough to host Easter at my house, you’re shocked I know, and the cooking is traditional and reminiscent. It’s a food tradition frenzy beginning with my Gramma’s Easter bread. I don’t know that all families make this bread, I have a feeling this was her normal bread kicked up a notch with black pepper and the blessed palm from Palm Sunday.

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The Palm is historically a problem for me. I no longer go to mass especially when the twice a year Catholics come out, as my mother would say, so I have to rely on someone else to bring me the palm for the bread. My sister and her husband used to go to mass but since he left us she no longer feels comfortable going on her own. So now it’s up to my cousin Nancy to keep me from stealing it from the church decorations like I was forced to one year. I know, I’m not sure the theft negated the blessing but everyone seemed fine throughout that year. God love her she came through this year to keep me from going straight to hell. I always say God ain’t mad at me but that might have crossed the line…just sayin.

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So now it’s back to Aunt Millie’s recipe box and pulling everything out and getting going. I use Aunt Millie’s recipe, if you can call it that, because this bread has a long ago special memory for me. The recipe is in my handwriting from when I was first married. I remember taking the notes as she was making the bread because only she could make the bread (they are such a pain in the ass that way) but she talked all the way through it so I couldn’t get in that much trouble getting it all down. When I look at the card now I think if ever I gave this to someone they’d just look at it and scratch their head but when I look at it I’m back in her tiny kitchen on 47th in Astoria. So if you want to learn from me I guess you’ll have to take your own notes too.

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There aren’t many ingredients but it requires time. During each rise there were stories, whether she made the bread at her house or at our house there were stories. Her and my mother would argue (about everything) how Mama never made it that way, or Mama used to do it this way. Mama didn’t use that much pepper. You get the picture…my mother thinks mine tastes just like Mama’s. I only this year told her I use Aunt Millie’s recipe….oh. See, what you don’t know doesn’t bother you as they both used to say.

The smell of the bread baking is incredibly nostalgic, it swells my heart, makes me yearn sometime for those days, and worries me that it will disappear one day for good. Sigh… Along those lines I send a loaf to my cousin Jack in South Carolina. He is so damn grateful and we have a wonderful chat each year about this being the best one yet and it tastes just like Gramma’s…ok we’ll just leave it at Aunt Millie learned from her mother.

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My mother and I split the other loaf and we enjoy it right out of the oven with butter. Then the rest of the days we toast it with butter. The taste is completely different when it’s toasted, the pepper is more pungent and the crust is even crispier. The butter must melt down your chin or you’ve done it wrong. The smell of this bread toasting brings me back again to Astoria and Aunt Millie’s little apartment. I stayed there once and we had toasted bread for dinner and toasted bread for breakfast and went into the city to see the Sound of Music when it opened at Radio City Music Hall. Almost fifty years later I remember every smell and every taste and every detail. That is the power of food memories and traditions.

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And so my cousin’s bread will arrive on Wednesday and we will have our annual chat about the old days and how happy we are that we’ve lived it and loved it and “if God spares us” (as every Italian in the world says before they talk about the future) we will chat again next year.

Next week as we gather around my table there will be other Italian food traditions on it and there will be my tiny little family and my extended family of favorite Jews. Our feast will be all encompassing and we will tell stories of Easter and Passover and family and friends. It will be spring on Stowe Lane officially.

Buona Pasqua





The But List


But is one of those words that annoys me. I know…among some of the other things annoying me this morning. It’s one of those words that wakes up the universe and tells it to do an about face. That can be a good thing like “I want my god damn hour back but I’m sure I’ll figure out how to do without it beautifully.” Did you hear that universe, a little help would be good on that one. Or someone who says I got my bonus but it was less than last year because of that shitty boss of mine. You say you’re grateful but not so much. That kind of but will bite you in the butt, the universe heard you you know…just sayin.

Here’s a list of my favorite but quotes cause that’s really all I got today without that very precious hour that they took away from me yesterday. Working on it…but it might take a minute or two (listening universe???).

Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated. Confucius

Correction does much, but encouragement does more. Von Goethe

Everyone thinks of changing the world but no one thinks of changing himself. Leo Tolstoy

Isn’t it funny how day by day nothing changes but when you look back everything is different? C.S. Lewis

You’re mad. Bonkers. Off your head…but I’ll tell you a secret…All of the best people are. Alice in Wonderland

Forgive your enemies but never forget their names. John F. Kennedy

A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control. Proverbs 29:11

Hatred is never ended by hatred but by love. Buddha

Yesterday is but todays’ memory and tomorrow is today’s dream. Khalil Gibran

The secret of change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new. Socrates

Be quick, but don’t hurry. John Wooden

Many people die at 25 but aren’t buried until they are 75. Benjamin Franklin

At some point, you have to realize that some people can stay in your heart but not in your life. Unknown

Life is not a problem to be solved, but a reality to be experienced. Soren Kierkgaard

I’m a kind person, I’m kind to everyone, but if you are unkind to me then kindness is not what you’ll remember me for. Al Capone

No one saves us but ourselves. Buddha

The voyage of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes. Marcel Proust

We make a living by what we get but we make a life by what we give. Winston Churchill

Peace is not merely a distant goal that we seek, but a means by which we arrive at the goal. Martin Luther King Jr.

And there you have it the universe listening in both directions, for the good and for the lightning bolt moment. It’s a tiny word that bridges your intention so make sure you know your intention before you utter it.

Find though she be but little, she is fierce. Shakespeare.

The Long Way Home

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Must have passed the entrance to this forest a hundred times without ever giving it a second thought. To be clear I’m not a forest person unless, of course, it’s enchanted then I’m all in. But on a cold early Saturday morning with the sun shining down like it was already spring we just couldn’t resist.

Well, I couldn’t resist, Toti Nonna wasn’t all that crazy about the idea…at first. The ground was still hard from the winter but it had a bit of give under our feet where the grasses were beginning to thaw. There were felled trees to climb over and the smell was earthy like when you first turn over a garden. Toti explored with her nose to the ground looking up only to find herself standing on a log. She figured out that leaping over logs was much more fun than standing on them.

The sun looked like fans cutting through the trees. It reminded me of driving home from visiting himself after his accident at that certain time each day when the rays of the sun spread out like a fan. I used to call that God coming to earth.

We came to a stream that cut across the path, Toti leaped over first and thankfully there was a rock I could use to get a bit closer to the other side before my “leap”. The distance to the other end of this tiny forest wasn’t more than three quarters of a mile and breaking out onto the grass of one of the large businesses was a little deflating. But for that grand total of twenty minutes we were two old girls exploring nature.

For Your Eyes Only

for your eyes only012Everybody’s got a thing. You know, that thing that is so tightly wrapped and tucked away in the corner of your self-protecting part of the brain. It peeks out once in a while only to be tut-tutted back where it belongs far from the earshot of the logical thinking part of the brain.

As part of Brave Blogging, I had the privilege of listening to an interview conducted by Andrea Scher with her writing teacher/mentor/friend Laurie Wagner. Aside from the easy talking with my friend while she’s waiting for her flight style it was full of writing tips, gems and an assignment: The blog post no one will ever read. Wild write it, just go, pen to paper, no holds barred. No right or wrong, no is it good enough, just truth, this is how it is.

I listened to the interview several days ago and I knew it started to grow in me when I began waking up at 4 o’clock in the morning head spinning with pen in hand and notes strewn all over the bed. It became the perfect storm when the interview combined with a very matter of fact statement I heard from someone recently, they said, “I knew everything had changed”. I knew what I had to write, I knew I would fill a legal pad with several decades of heart wrenching examples of exactly how that one thing changed everything.

It’s easy to be brave at 4, 5, 6 in the morning, it is exhausting, and it is exhilarating to find and go to your edges. However, what you begin to realize is that at your edge lies the edge of someone else. If we are all connected then this must be so. It was all true, every word, and the truth indeed sets you free but I couldn’t find it in my heart to impact another with my truth even if they’d never know it. I wouldn’t take that chance.

Part of the interview addressed, “when it’s not your story to tell”. This isn’t someone else’s story, its’ mine but I’ve gained enough from just writing it, the need to publish it seems overkill or someone else’s spirit kill, or negating the good work of simply taking it out of its protective covering, showing it the light albeit 4am lamp light, and NOT putting it back.

My favorite sentiment from this interview, “…the way you walk through the world is the way you walk through the page…” Thank you Laurie I will carry this with me always, it smacks of building an ordinary legacy.

I encourage everyone to try this, writer or not, for your eyes only. Find a spot, a pad, a journal, construction paper it doesn’t matter. Your favorite pen, crayons, marker just NOT your computer. Let those new connections that are created in the brain run wild from you taking pen to paper. Just go, get out of your way, unpack that thing or one of those things that you’ve so securely tucked away and have at it. You may find your aches and pains subside, your anxiety abates (I spent 4 hours in a meeting at the National office, which I swore I would never do again, without a bit of anxiety), if nothing else you will feel lighter.

I ritualized this for myself by rolling it up and throwing it in the fire the following evening. Watching it spark up the flue doesn’t mean it didn’t happen it simply means I unpacked and let it go. Doesn’t mean I won’t remember it from time to time either, I’m sure I will. There is a saying, you don’t see things as they are, you see things as YOU are (Anais Nin). Surely this will make all the difference.

Suffice to say no one will ever see that post but the sentiments, lessons learned, truth of it and feelings about it may very well become fodder for the blog. My edges will be grist for the mill, my experience a resource and my integrity in letting it go part of my ordinary legacy. I am better for having done this…