Sunday, May 22, 2011

Five Minutes from Home, A Carefree World

Last summer, my husband and I discovered a new way to enjoy the outdoors: frolf. Anytime we need to get outside but don't have energy to plan, we jump in the car and head to Kenneth Rosland Park. In 5 minutes' time, we're on the first slab of our neighborhood's 9-hole frisbee golf course. We've done this a handful of times, and it's always provided just what we need, an easy hour enveloped in green.
Without fail, we represent the oldest crew on the field, easily 15 years "wiser" than the groups preceding and following us. In fact, this is one reason I enjoy the sport. Evidently, when I'm surrounded by t-shirted 20-year-olds on a sunny day, I tend to adopt a carefree attitude myself. Yesterday, waiting my turn on Hole #2, I glanced behind me and observed four young guys performing an exaggerated warm-up at the course start. One-upping one another with their showmanship, they took turns: one squatting to the ground with a disc held high, the next executing a kind of musical-drama, dance-skate move, legs and arms pumping straight, discs in both hands. I defy you to witness this and not embrace a jovial spirit, if only for an afternoon.
Though I'm fond of stepping into the world of twenty-something frolfers, I can't help but note that I am not one of them. I appreciate my job and husband and house and all the responsibilities that go with them, but I'll never regain the college-aged excitement of having nothing but possibility ahead. It wouldn't occur to me to volunteer, grinning widely, to scale a thin, 30-foot tree to retreive a stragers' disc, unlike the player who rescued my errant throw last summer. I can, however, make a habit of coming here and other places that bring me joy. It's a matter of revising my routine, then allowing myself to appreciate what comes next.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

A Sunny Walk to the Market

A couple of times today I was tempted. Lying in front of the TV sure sounded comforting. After all, I devote my weekdays to a job that continually creeps into my evening and weekend thoughts. Though I appreciate passion for work, I often feel like the proverbial off-balance, three-legged table in need of a stabilizing force. And so today, though the courduroy of the couch beckoned, I chose instead to get outside.
I happen to find the idea of walking to the grocery store charming. (Who's with me?) And so, I scanned my favorite recipe site, decided tonight was the night for cheesy meatballs, grabbed the backpack from the basement, and made sure my walking playlist was ready to go. I then set out for the market just over a mile from home, conveniently sitting adjacent to the creek parkway between here and there.
Once outside, happily warmed by the 60-degree sun, I powerwalked more quickly than I'd intended, disappointing myself when I realized the store was only a few blocks away. At that moment, I approaced a pedestrian bridge that had been under construction all last summer. Though it would lead me away from where I was heading, I decided it was too inviting to pass up. For the next 45 minutes, I enjoyed my diversion, wandering wherever I chose, enjoying the immaculate homes just off the parkway.
Eventually, I felt ready to head to the store, where I selected my items, including, of course, multiple cheeses--cottage, ricotta, mozzerella, and provolone. On the way home, still energized by the light and leafiness surrounding me, I imagined that the dog walkers, bikers, and runners I passed were just as happy as I was. Two hours after I began, I returned home in the mood to cook. Now, the oven is beeping, and it's time to try out the new dish.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Fudge Pie and Folk Songs

Cooking and music: This is the combination that filled my afternoon. Is something as simple as this enough? Today, for me, it was. I feel a sense of peace as I write this evening, continuing to hit repeat on a few songs from my cooking playlist, the ones that had best accompanied my afternoon mood of quiet contemplation and spinning beaters.
As I whipped the cream for the fudge pies cooling on their racks, overtaken with calm, a ballad came on. A stark voice punched through my portable speaker and enticed me to listen with all my attention. Like the the hum of the hand mixer, the song knocked my heart free. Anyone who's been in love has experienced the interplay of individuality and togetherness, but few of us could express it as beatifully as Carrie Elkin does in "Landeth by Sea:"

I can just see you, whilst you sail across the waters
And the winds will knock your heart free
You’ll take the pictures of life as a sailor
And you’ll send them to me
You’ll write me a story about waves that came crashing
And how they helped you find peace
I’ll write you a story about my garden of daisies
And tell ya it’s where I’m meant to be

Cause you’ve found your quiet now
And I’ve found my quiet
By landeth and by sea
But one can’t exist without the other to feed it
What’s that say about you and me
I’ve been meaning to ask
About you and me

Grateful for the opportunity I had to relish in the quiet I found, now it's time to wrap up those pies and head to the rellies' for dinner. . .

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Fighting the War in I-Rack

Today was Race for the Cure day here in Minneapolis. I, an official member of Team Emma's Boob Bloggers (celebrating a girlfriend who's been cancer free for a year), enjoyed taking part in the community spirit. All along the 3-mile route we encountered examples of strangers and friends unabashedly supporting one another.

A sucker for community events, I was struck by so many things: a residence where someone had saturated tree limbs with hand-tied pink bows, the church group shaking cow bells and quipping cheeky encouragements, the drum corp implementing choreographed routines, and the endless number of groups with witty, breast-themed shirts. (Yes, I stole my post title from one group, wearing camo.)

The event also helped me feel closer to my sweet momma, who's been a healthy breast-cancer survivor for at least 12 years. Since she's in Atlanta and I'm here, I couldn't take her to brunch, but at least I could wear a sign in her honor, my way of holding her close, relishing her wisdom, openness, and honesty. My mother adores birds, unable to keep herself from pointing out every colorful variety that happens by any window she finds herself near. Just now, typing about her, I glanced into our backyard and noticed a scarlet cardinal, one she'd no doubt have seen a full minute before I did. If only she were here!

Ah, well, I'm aware how lucky I am to be able to miss my mother from across the country, as opposed to the streams of people today wearing signs of memoriam, thiking of those they once held dear. So, tonight, as I ponder today's slice of life's good stuff, I can't help but be glad I took part in something greater than myself, this open-armed community that walks and runs and laughs and cries and, above all, hopes.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Falafel, Momos, and Not Chicken McNuggets

Don't you love those times when staying away from the TV is easy because you have something inherently better to do? Last evening, four of my work friends and I sprang from the office and headed to the Festival of Nations, an annual event held within walking distance. Billed as "the largest and longest running multicultural festival in Minnesota," it turned out, for us, to be an excuse to graze a tableful of food.

Within minutes of arrival, our task became simple: Claim a giant table, split up, wander among 40 booths representing different countries, grab what appeals to each of us, return to home base, and let the feast begin. I'll tell you, if I ever find myself stranded somewhere in an international bazaar, these are the ladies I'd want along with me. Here's what made its way to our table:
* A Falafel (Egyptian)
* Momos, Steamed Veggie Dumplings (Tibetan)
* A Spicy Meat Patty (African American)
* Hummus with Pita (Egyptian)
* Perogies (Ukranian)
* Lumpia, Veggie Egg Rolls (Indonesian)
* Bakwan Sayor, Veggie Tempura (Indonesian)
* A Banana Spring Roll (Indonesian)
* A Mango Lassi (Nepalese)
* An Enormously Fluffy Eclair (French)
* and perhaps my favorite, fried patties on a stick labeled "Not Chicken Nuggets," which turned out to be lovely coconut balls called Carioca (Filipino)

Our conversation flowed comfortably, as we reached across each other to sample a bit of this and a bit of that. Even retelling the experience now is enjoyable. Afterward we scoped out an array of jewelry and a seemingly endless selection of jumping marionette-style stuffed toys. Next, we took in some dance demonstrations. Some of them served as a comforting backdrop as we chatted about everything but work, and others, like the Vietnamese Dragon Dance, mesmerized us with color and drama.

Here's to starting the weekend with curiosity, intention, and friends old and new.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

When Rest Gets In the Way

What's the greatest obstacle to living life with intention? For me, it depends on the day. Some days, the answer is easy: time. Discipline (or more accurately, utter lack thereof) and habit are biggies for me. But on a day like today, the answer is more subtle. All day, I looked forward to sitting down to write, but the hours dissolved, one by one, almost concealed somehow from view.

Perhaps I shouldn't be too hard on today. It did, after all, include two (yes, TWO) choices to spend time with people who matter to us. My husband and I enjoyed brunch with friends, then drove to the burbs to see our 15-year-old niece's volleyball tournament. By the way, the girl can spike!

So what's this emptiness that's followed me since we returned home? It's possible I have a theory, but only because I've been trying to figure it out for for three paragraphs already. I want to spend time on the doing, the actual taking part in the world. But on the days when one of us isn't at our best (tiredness, depression, or anxiety, anyone?), a girl's got to rest. The simple act of taking care of ourselves is one of the most important things we do. I get that. Now, if only I could learn to let go of the (myriad, meaningful, stupendous) things that didn't happen because of it . . .

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

What's With All The Movement and Noise?

"I write entirely to find out what I'm thinking, what I'm looking at, what I see and what it means." --Joan Didion

Perhaps there are people in the world who can read that sentence and not be endlessly fascinated. I am not one of them. I remain so captivated by hearing about various writers' motivations, in fact, that I actually caught myself earlier this week worrying what would happen to me if I realized one day I was no longer interested in such things. (Nope, there's no neuroticism here, honey!) As such, I was grateful this weekend to discover an organization devoted entirely to encouraging and supporting women who write blogs. If you haven't already, ladies, you must check out

I absolutely love the idea that women, all over the world, feel so compelled by a certain something that they actually take the time to sit down and write about it. I remain impressed and awed by the sheer number who have made this happen. Granted, one could easily make the argument that writing a blog is insignificant because the process is so accessible, practically everyone can do it. To be sure, easy access and quality assurance don't exactly form a blissful union, but that's not my concern here. Instead, here's what I see.

I see a light that lives inside, faint at first, covered in shadows. Slowly, quietly, unsure of where it wants to go, the light begins to move. Listening, watching, sensing there's a place for it outside, the beam starts to journey up. Expanding now, a little less hidden than before, the beam surprises itself and starts to buzz. Partly wishing it could turn around and go back, the light realizes it won't stop moving, faster, louder, harder to ignore. Just where is it heading, and why? As much as it wants an answer, a reason for all this sudden movement and noise, even the beam knows that's not what's important. Not right now. All it can do is try to get used to the feeling.