On Letting Go

In 2017 I resolved to let go of people, places and things that I would feel compelled to fix. Mind you there usually isn’t a request for me to fix something/anything I just feel, well, compelled.  I don’t want to feel responsible for the care and feeding of anyone but me for the foreseeable future.  I do, however, reserve the right to jump back in if I can’t help myself.

In order to do that I need to listen more and speak less.  It’s true that on some occasions I speak louder with silence than I do with words. That is if anybody notices.

This has been an interesting (in the there’s more under the surface kind of iceberg analogy of interesting) week for me. It provided an opportunity to put my new found listen (or in this case read) more, talk less technique to the test.

To put some historical perspective on this, several years ago the world lost a fabulous human being.  I was incredibly lucky to call him mentor and friend, as were many, but even more I was privileged to become family. When he passed away a small group of colleagues who felt the loss especially deeply bonded together over their grief and love of this man. We became a club which by definition is an association dedicated to a particular interest or activity. And that we were, until we weren’t.

As is the fate of many clubs this one met less and less often and seemed to lose track of its original purpose which was to emulate the man.  To emulate this man was to laugh, chide and hold each other accountable when one or another got outta hand.  It was not unusual to hear him say, what the hell is wrong with you, or snap out of it, or just plain WHATTT, and pull you back into reality.  He understood reality, things change, time marches on, and you can either go with it or bitch about it.  He wasn’t a fan of bitching about it.

And so when the “reminder” (complete with copy of the obit) came over email that he would be gone seven years this Saturday my spine twisted.  First, no shit.  Second, I am the last one that needs to be reminded of that because I am still living the legacy he gifted me.  Here on Stowe Lane we say his name every day, there is no better legacy than that.

Then there is the inevitable let’s get together, but I can’t. I just can’t. I’ve come to know that I can no longer listen to the same conversation over and over as it does nothing to help me (it does nothing to help them) it makes me feel “compelled”.  It is completely contrary to the man.

Don’t get me wrong he loved a good piece of gossip, what’d ya hear…but he laughed at it and moved on.  And so when the angst started showing through and the lists of people who had been wronged made its way into the email stream I knew that the intent of the get together was not going to be to celebrate the impact he had on our lives but to discuss the perceived slow and painful decent of the company (a company that has been good to me because he showed me how it worked).  WHATTTTT?

And so I said nothing.  I was silent. I have loved these people the better part of my career and they are still in my heart for the support they provided me when I needed it, but if I’m going to move into the third act of my life in the coming years I can’t bring this with me. I just can’t, especially since the silence went unnoticed. You are missed my friend…

Ghost Gardens

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In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt. ~Margaret Atwood

I couldn’t take it another minute, I had to get dirty. I had to make my way to the nursery, not the big box store where they wouldn’t know a frost date if you paid them, to look around… I had to venture into the greenhouse passed the sign that said STOP it’s too early to plant these to see what I could see, to smell the fertilizer and take in the rows of color.

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I have to be in my garden, my tiny little piece of land with shitty soil and no sunlight, in order to fully recover from the winter.  There is only so much I can do now, no tilling or turning or mulching in or pulling volunteers or dividing or sowing seed is necessary anymore. And it’s the anymore part that sometimes gets to me.  Sits me down on the step to wonder what ever happened to my lovely Oaktree Garden?

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This was the second time this year I became nostalgic about my once upon a garden. The first time was during an episode of Parts Unknown: Detroit with Anthony BourdainIn all the ruin that has become Detroit there are “ghost gardens” in and around the abandoned mansions that once were manicured to perfection.  And I wondered what ever happened to my lovely Oaktree Garden.

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Himself mentioned once that it still comes back each year.  Perhaps Sydney Eddison, Horticulture magazine, was right when he said, “Gardens are a form of autobiography.” Perhaps I, too, have left a ghost garden. That thought gives me some solace even though I believe it may have come back with a lesser vigor.  It is no longer tended with the blood sweat and tears that came from the life and frame of mind that conceived it.

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On that same street, right next door is another beautiful garden that I truly hope endured.  My friend and fellow gardener, Harumi, could make anything grow.  She was generous with her knowledge and her cuttings.  I remember to this day the dew on her lady’s mantle and the lilacs and wild iris.  And Benno’s vinca!!!

It occurred to me that ghost gardens are all around us, there is a tiny tulip that comes up on the other side of my porch each year, planted by someone that received it for Mother’s Day.  Same with the two or three hyacinth that come up along another porch in our complex, of course I had to ask…

I wonder if Jeanette’s garden comes up on Woodside Avenue in some form or another with its rhubarb and pumpkins and gladiolas.  I wonder if anything finds its way to the surface from my Grandmother’s garden on Taylor Street.  The fruit trees are gone, but I’m sure the hosta and lily of the valley have remained.  I hope…

I was comforted to look around my tiny little garden space to see the hosta peeking through, the redbud is about to bloom and the wild ginger has sprung back to life.  There is hosta in the front, too,  along with the sedum poking through and the wild geranium and columbine and sweet woodruff.  I’m a bit worried about the hydrangea but worry comes with gardening…

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When I move on from Stowe Lane I believe I will leave behind yet another ghost garden, somehow solace comes in knowing; we come from the earth, we return to the earth….And in between we garden.


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.

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I am participating in thirty days of Brave Blogging with Andrea Scher and, oh, a couple of dozen other bloggers this month. Ordinary Legacy is getting a shake up and you’re invited. I’m not even sure of what’s going to happen and isn’t that fabulous?

Our first prompt is one that is oh so interesting but…when the 25 Random Things About Me got put out there I got put out, or should I say I got all balled up. Because, in all the years that you’ve been reading this blog I found it hard to come up with anything random about me that you don’t already know, I have random-ed you to death.

So instead I’m going with twenty five of the things I say most often, Sandi-isms. For those of you bursting in my door at any given time you know these aren’t random they’re just what I say. But now, for the first time, you’re getting the down and dirty what does she really mean when she says…

  1. Fabulous– My most common answer to how are you is fabulous.  It’s hysterical to me that people respond by saying really? As if I couldn’t possibly be fabulous.  Or, oh sure, me too with sarcasm dripping from their tongue.  This reply comes from my dear friend Cookie who could make it sound like either one of those and several others that really can’t be discussed here, but I just say fabulous because mostly that’s how I am. Not everyone believes me but ok.
  2. Couldn’t be better– A not so common answer to how are you that really means couldn’t be better.  I have good health, a wonderful family, friends, job, home, and life.  I’m telling you I couldn’t be better.
  3. I’m all balled up– Suffice to say on those rare occasions when everything is upside down, I’m off schedule, not feeling well or any combination of the these, I’m all balled up.  I don’t like to elaborate because I feel like the more I bitch, the more I’ll get to bitch about.  I don’t think the universe understands all balled up so it keeps me out of trouble.
  4. What’d ya hear? – This one gets me in trouble sometimes when I really want to say how are you? Gets me in trouble because people actually tell me…mostly its gossip I really don’t want to hear but I asked.
  5. See you when I see you– I don’t say goodbye.  I just don’t say goodbye.
  6. Who loves you more than me? This started with all the kids when they were little. I don’t have children but I’ve got nieces and nephews and beautiful strays.  I say it to everyone now and they all have the right answer: nobody!
  7. Puttering– My most common answer to what are you doing.  This is my FAVORITE thing to do.
  8. Just sayin– My “told you so” just sayin.
  9. Chickapeeps– My favorite way to call any dog, no matter what their name is, and it works.  Inflection is my friend…
  10. Gramma’s– In answer to that look on Toti Nonna’s (my so ugly she’s adorable terrier mix) face when I’m gathering stuff on Sunday morning.  Where are we going that look says, GRAMMA’s.  When it comes to dogs inflection is definitely my friend.Toti 6.jpeg006
  11. Because I said so that’s why– In answer to that look on Toti Nonna’s face when I’m standing at the front door holding her rain coat.  She’s not a fan…
  12. Komen ze bitte– I work with Germans.  Come please. Nough said.  This was once reserved for the dogs but now I just use it on, I mean with, everyone.
  13. Come come come– This is the follow-up to Komen ze bitte if no one comes fast enough.  Again, mostly dogs but well now you know.
  14. Whew– my answer to any rant I didn’t expect, didn’t need to hear, TMI, like that.
  15. Because???– My answer to, you have to……….whatever.  If it sounds like a demand I’m questioning right out of the shoot. I don’t do well with demands, former life leftover issues I’m sure.
  16. Come and eat– My favorite invitation to everyone. Nothing makes me happier than to cook for people and have them around my table sharing stories, laughing, filling my house with soul.2015-04-05 12.08.46-5
  17. So blah blah blah, yes? There are some people who simply can’t answer a question.  So I help them by giving them the answer I usually want at the end.  They usually say…yes. Done.
  18. Get a hold of yourself– In answer to some ridiculous request, the second part is – and don’t let go.
  19. Can’t help myself– When I say something completely honest with such vigor, I surprise even myself. Sometimes the words just come out, you might be gathering that from this…just sayin.
  20. I have no words…because it’s better than saying all the words I really do have.
  21. Seriously?-nough said.
  22. Let me see if I have this right? I get a lot of ridiculous requests, I need several rebuttals.
  23. Wow– A really lot of ridiculous requests.
  24. That’s what I’m sayin– Somehow I just can’t say I agree.  This just works better for me.
  25. They should live and be well– And last but definitely not least the phrase that is saving my Karmic equity on an almost daily basis.  For those people who have done me wrong, hurt me or my people, run their mouth with nonsense I say they should live and be well.  In my head this translates to…wait for it…they’re DEAD to me.  Universe handled, karma intact.

And there you have it, Sandi-isms revealed…so we have an even playing field going forward leave me a few of yours in the comments. Stay tuned.


Body of Work

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By definition a body of work is generally reserved for writers, artists, scientists; people who are producing tangible evidence of their efforts. Their existence is solidified by their body of work, it doesn’t have to be good it just has to exist. A body of work becomes a legacy for that person.

I’ve been pondering the term body of work, even though I’m a writer and have created a body of work, I wonder does it always have to be tangible. Can a body of work simply exist without one being able to touch it?

Now I’ve got you thinking because maybe you haven’t created anything tangible… My guess is your body of work exists in the same place I go to for inspiration. Your work may be kindness, teaching, listening, curiosity or just plain making your way in the world. You may not even know you’re doing it but you are, again good or bad, and you may never know the impact of your body of work.

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Unless of course someone brings that together for you. I had the rare opportunity to have dinner just recently with all the people who inspire me, challenge me, and love me. I was able to look around the table and know that what I do is important, I am making a difference to this small and wonderful group of people who I could not live without. And without exception they are making a body of work by being a body of work. They are raising children, spreading kindness, teaching, loving and making the world laugh. They are carrying on legacies handed down by fathers and mothers and teachers they’ve known and perpetuating good in the world.

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Just living is your work, we are all doing the work and we are all leaving something to show for it. Even if it can’t be touched.