Feeling Reflective

So I’m going to share a new poem with you. Love to hear your thoughts.  Here it is:

 

Optics

I used to think that what I saw

Was an accurate reflection

Of what I gazed upon

My eyes were sharp, undistorted lenses

The resulting picture

Was true, clear and objective

An image I could rely upon

For opinions, attitudes and emotions

It was hard to grasp that others

Might see something quite different

My picture was true, my conclusions fair

Why didn’t everyone see that?

Were their instruments damaged

Or in need of calibration?

Mine, surely, was precise

But life has taught me otherwise

There is more than one consideration

When capturing an image

And what one sees reflects more

That merely what is being viewed

The object of interest

Provides structure, physical data

But what we see and feel

Is far more complex

I now believe that what I see

Is largely a function

Of how I see it

And how I set the scene

My heart, my soul and my mood

Affect the prism of my eye,

Like lighting and aperture change

The look and feel of a photo

I’d like to think

I’m objective and impartial

But I’m just human

An imperfect instrument

In need of constant calibration

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Catching Up/Stepping Out

Hello again; sorry I haven’t written in a while.  Not too much “new” in my life, so I’ve been a little short on motivation to write.  No way to treat a blog, right?  Ok, so here’s a bit of a make up post.

Not a great deal on the personal front, except….I did enjoy a “quasi-date” last Saturday, put together by some mutual friends.  Yes, I will admit to some nervousness prior, but it ended up being a very nice, fun evening of “adult socializing” as my quasi-date put it.  If nothing else, it was good to get out and feel like I was interacting on a somewhat normal basis.  And, for an evening at least, I didn’t feel like I was alone.  I’m grateful it was arranged.

Ok, a couple of things to discuss on the food front.  In my last food reference, I was bragging about the ham/sausage/peas/garlic alfredo penne I had made.  That “success” did encourage me to try again, so, I pulled out the slow cooker and made a really sweet pulled pork, which I served on a bagel (you didn’t think I was going to forget my namesake bagels, did you?) and, with not much else in my fridge, put some yummy applesauce on the plate with it.  When I say really sweet, I mean it both ways.  I made it using Jack Daniels BBQ sauce, which is both tangy and sweet (a REALLY good sauce) and I added some honey as well.  Everything else was pretty much standard pulled pork, but the BBQ sauce and honey made the dish awesome.

That simple but tasty dish was so good, I tried it again a few nights later, this time with chicken.  Same recipe otherwise.  Oh, and this time served on King’s Hawaiian rolls.  THAT is the definition of sweet on sweet. Both pictures follow.  Yum Yum.  Talk soon.Pulled Pork on BagelPulled Chicken

Music and Madness

Hello again.  I wanted to share with my small but attentive group of followers a really curious and perplexing change that has occurred in my life, related of course to the big life change with which I’m dealing.  It’s about music.  Not too critical, right?  Read on…

I haven’t said much in my posts about my family of origin and formative factors in my early years.  Without boring you by getting into a long description, I will say that I came from a large, loud, contentious and extremely unsettled family.  I’m the youngest of seven surviving children (two others died), with an overworked, overstressed, rage-filled, abusive and alcoholic father and an overtaxed, severely depressed, shut-in mother.  Fortunately, I was raised more by my caring siblings than by my parents – but there was no escaping the impacts of the madness that existed in that household.  To sum it up: my friends NEVER came to play at my house!  You get the idea.

Well, in that kind of environment, sanity and survival depend on both adaptability and finding escapes or diversions (both physical and emotional).  Starting as young as 6, I spent most of my days and evenings away from home – roaming the streets, at friends’ places, playing sports and games, etc.  I put off my return home as long as I could.  When I was in eighth grade, I found another type of diversion – music – which I embraced immediately.  I absolutely loved to fall under its spell – it helped me forget about my family madness and stirred my imagination as nothing else had.  I was VERY fortunate that I had an older sister whom I convinced to take me with her on her frequent visits into Georgetown (Washington DC) where she went to places like The Cellar Door and other intimate venues where top-notch talent played (I saw Clapton at Cellar Door).  Of course, the fact that I was well under drinking age was a bit of an obstacle, but one we always managed to overcome.  And yes, I drank, but never much – I was too enthralled by the music.  And a bit scared of the crowd as well.  Until I got older…

As you can guess, music became a life-long pleasure, shelter, comfort and calming influence for me.  I listen to music all the time (prefer vinyl at home, but any way I can get it is just fine), and really count on it to help me keep my equilibrium.  I still think of it as a shield against madness in my life – mine and others’.  So now to my dilemma: I have known and been in love with my wife almost 42 years.  Most of the music I prefer has come into my life during that time frame.  And, the memories and emotions associated with my music are very much wrapped up with her, our relationship and other related aspects of my life (my children, for instance).  And most of those associations and memories are rather painful to me right now.  So, when I’m down or needing some emotional transformation, I can’t really count on my music.  Every time I put on my headphones, I hear something that brings up painful memories and strong emotions about her – about US, really.

It’s a real challenge for me.  I miss my wife.  I miss us.  I miss my music.  I still listen and still love what I’m hearing.  It’s just a lot harder to enjoy.  I have to work at it; so, it has gone from a clear shelter to being something much more complicated.  I love it and need it, but….  I thought you might enjoy/understand better what I mean by looking at this picture. It’s my wife and me posing and playing in front of a Bob Dylan poster.  It was taken quite recently – October 2016 – on a three day trip to “Oldchella” in the desert near Palm Springs.  Great trip; we look happy, right? This was less than three months before our split.  Complicated.  Here’s the pic: Dylan Poster/OldchellaI wrote a poem about all this, entitled “Tangled Up In Blue” (one of my favorite Dylan songs).   The link is here…Tangled Up In Blue

Long post; sorry.  Hope you enjoy the poem nonetheless.  Talk soon.

Back At It

I’m aware that my posts have been rather short on entertainment value of late.  Lots of talk about my emotional struggles and very few shares about food.  Hey, I’m not particularly funny or entertaining when I’m running on all cylinders, so I can imagine the impact of my posts as I’ve been slumping the last few weeks.  If it’s any consolation, it was also REALLY hard to write those posts.  Sorry about my self indulgence; I’ll see if I can pick things up some and find more interesting stuff to share.  Oops, hope I didn’t over commit on that!

I do feel like there’s something stirring for me.  I’ve been more active physically, pretty productive with work and career matters and enjoying some very nice summer weather.  OK, that’s not much to say, but it’s a start.  Better than dwelling on my losses as I’ve been.  And I will definitely take any progress I can make.  Cheer me on.  Whip me on.  Give me pep talks.  Any help is appreciated.

OK, finally, another food mention.  Honestly, I didn’t feel too much like creating and sharing new dishes during my recent emotional slump.  Sad to say, it just didn’t seem worth the effort.  But I am now back at it.  Last night I pushed myself to come up with something that I found appealing.  You know that I love pasta, so I put together a penne dish with ham, sausage, sweet peas, sun-dried tomatoes and a creamy garlic alfredo sauce that I spiced up very nicely.  It was really good – not too heavy but tons of flavor.  The ham and sausage were very complementary, too. Glad I pushed myself on this one.  I was also smart enough to make some extra sauce with all the ingredients added.  So next time, my pasta of choice is all I need.  Can’t wait.  A picture of the dish is below.  Feast your eyes – and don’t hate me.  Hehe.  Talk soon. Ham Sausage Pea Penne

Getting By

I have not made a secret of the fact that I am dealing with a divorce and that I’m sad about it.  So, I get a LOT of people greeting me with a concerned look and the question, “How are you doing?”  Well, early on I was likely to be open and thorough in describing my emotional state.  But these folks have heard all that, so now I’m inclined to answer, “I’m getting by”.  Which IS an honest answer – I’m putting one foot in front of the other and so on.  But to me “I’m getting by” is shorthand for “It’s a struggle” or “I’m trying hard but not where I want to be”  Something along those lines.  Apparently, however, that is NOT what most people seem to hear.  When I say “I’m getting by”, the most common reaction I get is “Good” or “Glad to hear it”.  Like I’ve told them things are going well.  I always wonder “Good?  Compared to what – going crazy, committing suicide (or murder), maybe being homeless in the streets?”  I’m perplexed.

You see, I’ve NEVER been a “getting by” type of person.  I was conditioned from the start that only excellence and achievement were laudable – heck, even acceptable.  I watched my father struggle against incredibly high standards, despite a sub-par education and many other challenges.  And I saw the frustration (and rage) that resulted from his perception that he was falling short. I heard him and my mother relentlessly preach the gospel of excellence. I often experienced his disapproval, even when what I thought was a noteworthy achievement fell short of his expectations (such as, after I graduated from one of the best colleges in the country magna cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa, with a 3.8 GPA, oh, and as an All American swimmer, he told me I could have been Valedictorian if I had tried harder.  That sound you hear is the air rushing from my body as I quickly deflate…).  Now, I have by no means adopted my parents’ standards or expectations, but I have ALWAYS expected excellence of myself, applied myself to that end and often achieved it.  So, to me “getting by” is far from attractive or “good”.  Frankly, it feels pretty dismal to me.  Come to think of it, it kind of feels like what my Dad so vigorously railed against all his life.  Yeah, “getting by” seems like a pretty bad status to me.

But apparently not to others around me.  They say “good” or “glad to hear it”.  Maybe I need to understand why.  Or to think about what it would mean if “getting by” became good to me.  Would I be happier?  Would I struggle less?  I’ve thought a lot about this, and my best guess is that they are saying that as long as my health and sanity are intact, I’m ok and should be happy that I’m making progress and pushing forward.  A friend of mine once stated, quite eloquently, “Being OK is underrated”.  For me, “OK” was never the goal.  It was never particularly desirable, either.  Maybe I need to reassess that attitude.  Like my father, setting expectations that are not realistic or achievable is probably hurting me – specifically, adding to my sadness and poor self image.  And, right now, I really can’t afford that kind of impact on my mood.  So, I’m going to work (for now; it doesn’t have to be permanent, right?) on learning how to accept and embrace just being OK.  And getting by.  That should keep me plenty busy.  And challenged.  Wish me luck!  Talk soon.

 

Alone In A Crowd

It has been pretty rough 4th of July holiday weekend for me – a very LONG weekend at that.  My apartment is located immediately above a major recreational area – containing a harbor, pier, boardwalk and beach plus lots of restaurants, bars, etc.  You get the picture.  Of course, this is a huge holiday, right smack in the middle of summer.  Which means that families are out in big numbers.  I am used to taking long walks with my dogs and bike rides along the beach.  Usually those activities pick me up and brighten my mood.  But for the last 5 days, I have felt surrounded by people, noise, and, most difficult of all, lots of happy families.  Sigh…

Mind you, I LOVE families and especially small children.  I enjoy watching them interact and usually end up thinking about similar times or interactions with my family – my wife and kids I mean.  Until recently that was a really good thing.  But now, I tend to spiral downward into real sadness when I observe other families and think about mine.  I am painfully aware that my family, as I loved and cherished it for so long, no longer exists.  It makes even my best memories hard to enjoy.  So, the last five days have been a real challenge – inundated with the sounds and sights of happy, busy families that remind me of what I have lost.  And nowhere to go to escape it, either – it’s been crazy busy EVERYWHERE.

Today I decided to try and embrace the holiday.  It was a beautiful day and I needed exercise.  So I decided to take a bike ride, enjoy the sun, maybe watch some beach volleyball.  Well, the bike path was jammed the entire way – people riding slowly and erratically, others walking three and four wide, and just lots and lots of bodies.  Not much relief there.  OK, I dealt with that; managed to get a decent ride in anyway.  Felt a little better.  One for the home team.  Next, tonight there was a fireworks show very close to me.  My deck looks right out to the show area, but I thought it would be a good thing to take my dogs down to a big grass area where folks were gathering.  Thought I might feel more a part of things.  The park was very full, but I found a good spot, sat down, played with the dogs for a while and waited for the show.  But the whole time I was very conscious that I was there by myself.  I was surrounded by families, lovers, groups of friends, etc.  And, despite the presence of my two cute dogs (usually a sure conversation starter), not a single person spoke to me.  It was a lovely night, but a really bad experience.  Halfway through the show I headed back to my apartment – where I saw the rest of the show very nicely.

So, I’m not sure what the next step is.  I don’t want to live in the past, especially if doing  so is causing me pain.  But I have so many and such vivid memories of times I cherish – and now miss – that it’s hard to keep from being lost in them.  Most of the time I can minimize the damage.  This week I was overwhelmed.  But of more concern is my inability to enjoy those precious memories without focusing on my losses and becoming morose.  I have a lifetime of beautiful memories I want to keep whole.  I wrote a poem about this very subject.  It is entitled “Preserving The Memories” and its link may be found here: Preserving The Memories

I’ll try to be more up for my next post.  I’m glad to have July 4th behind me, though.  Talk soon.

A New Paradigm

I’m finding that my poetry writing is helping me explore my feelings in a more explicit way than ever before.  The combination of thinking hard about what subject to explore and the search for specific, impactful words pushes me to dig into my emotions so I can more accurately and concisely convey them.  Not easy, mind you, but usually pretty cathartic for me.  Why am I telling you this?  Well, the other day I wrote a poem that caused me to think very hard about where I am in my life and whether my old assumptions and goals were relevant any longer.  It was, to say the least, an uncomfortable process.

I realized how much I’ve resisted letting go of all sorts of things that once guided my efforts and basically defined me (at least to myself) – things that I probably couldn’t replicate today, even if they were good for me.  By things I mean tangible accomplishments as well as attitudes, values and judgements.  For a long time I was “blowing and going” in my life: good jobs, great family, big house, social status, etc.  But I failed to see the cost or baggage that came with those things. Turns out the cost was pretty high – and, ultimately, I tripped over that baggage.

So, as I try to re-establish myself as a newly single 60 year-old man, it now seems clear that I shouldn’t try to replicate my former life – but, damn, it’s hard to leave those attitudes, perspectives and habits behind (I AM 60, after all – you know, old dogs, new tricks and all that).  Not sure why I’m so mired in the past – realistically, I don’t have the energy, stamina or ambition to take on what I did at 30.  And subsequent time and events certainly remind me of the danger of trying to do so.  So, I just need to embrace a new paradigm, a new set of values and goals.  Easy, huh?  Now I just need to figure out what that all looks like.  As always, I’m wide open to suggestions.  Oh, that poem, entitled “God’s Grace” can be found through this link:  God_s Grace

Speaking of paradigm shifts, I tried something new on the food front.  My friend Zack and my daughter Riki have both extolled the virtues of slow cookers to me.  At Riki’s suggestion, I tried something new (for me): yesterday morning I threw two chicken breasts into the slow cooker along with a jar of some pretty zingy stuff – mango habanero salsa.  Left them to cook on low all day (7+ hours), them shredded the chicken back into the pot. The result: a very tasty concoction which I then ate on some fresh flour tortillas.  Very easy to make, simple to serve and eat and, oh yeah, REALLY good.  The salsa was excellent.  Believe me, this IS a new paradigm for me.  I never would have tried something like this in my former life.  Kinda digging this part of the scene!  A couple of pictures of my salsa chicken (in the cooker and plated on the tortilla) are below.  Try it!  Ciao for now…Slow Cook Salsa ChickenSlow cooked Salsa Chicken 2

Two Old Ladies

I know, this blog title is not exactly PC.  But it says exactly what I’m thinking about, so please bear with me…

So, I was walking my dogs the other day and passed by an apartment complex that appears to be oriented to seniors.  Well, as we passed by, on the decks of two adjacent first-story apartments sat two elderly ladies, engaged in conversation across the rail that separated the decks.  When I say elderly, I mean pretty old – easily in their 80’s, perhaps 90’s.  One sat on the seat of her far from pristine walker; the other on the edge of a creeky old chair with a large cane hooked on the back.  Suffice it to say, neither was going anywhere fast.  Ok, so what’s the big deal?

What struck me immediately and with real force is how flipping HAPPY these two octogenarians seemed to be.  As they talked, they were both quite animated and broke out in big smiles and genuine laughter as the conversation went on.  Yes, I made sure the dogs stopped and sniffed just opposite the scene, so I could take in more of it – shameless, but I was really fascinated by the dynamic.  As we were standing there, one of the women noticed us and gave us a HUGE smile and a wave (I guess she likes dogs?).  I smiled and waved back, then moved on.  We walked on to a nearby shopping center and its pet store, where I was looking for supplies.  Mission accomplished, we walked home.  Out of curiosity, I chose to return by the same route.  Sure enough, those delightful dames were still there, talking and smiling, 30 minutes later.  Like I said, going nowhere fast… Hmmm, perhaps it was because they had already arrived??!

The image of that innocent but energetic encounter is absolutely seared into my mind.  I keep asking myself, “How can they be so happy?  Their worlds seem so small, their mobility is limited, they are very late in their years…yet they seem so content.”  It seems significant to me, like I need to learn from what I observed.  It might even help me be a bit more happy than I am today.  But what is the crux of the lesson?  How do I capture some of that magic?  Maybe it’s about acceptance.  Maybe about not requiring so much, or about keeping it simple.  Maybe it’s about the importance of a good friend and real companionship (maybe it’s so notable just because I’m feeling so lonely – eek).  Maybe something else altogether.  I’d love your thoughts.  Meanwhile I’ll keep examining it – it seems well worth some effort.  I’m sure there’s a good lesson there – I just have to see it!

This might be something of a non-sequitur, but I’m adding to this post another poem I wrote.  I guess I thought about it in the context of the value and meaning of a relationship, what is provided to each party, and what happens if needs change or are not met.  I wrote it about the ending of my marriage.  It is entitled “Celestial Bodies”.  The link is here, please enjoy: Celestial Bodies

 

Father’s Day – Thoughts and Food

Hello again.  I’ve been thinking about you, just haven’t been able to organize my thoughts well enough to put together a post.  But Father’s Day just passed and jarred me out of my writing stupor….  So, June 18, 2017 was a challenge to me, and a bittersweet day.  I was VERY conscious of the change that has occurred in my family: while still “Mom and Dad” to our children, we are not together and to me that changes the whole dynamics of the family.  Which, of course, hit me hard on Father’s Day.  I woke up really sad.  I wake up sad most days, but this one had some extra bite to it.

But I said “bittersweet”, didn’t I?  That means there was some sweet in it.  I was so happy to be able to spend time with at least one of my children (only one is here in LA with me).  My daughter came over to the apartment nice and early.  The plan was to walk my dogs, then head out to breakfast or brunch.  Except…. we couldn’t figure out where to go to eat.  I don’t think either of us felt like a fancy brunch, anyway. Then it struck me!  An easy walk away is an old family favorite diner called Ruby’s.  Perfect for me on Father’s Day, because it brought up many many memories of bringing the family here when the kids were youngsters – very sweet memories indeed.  We checked to make sure they served breakfast (they do!) then walked over there – a nice walk along the harbor sea wall.  They even had an outdoor patio so we could have the dogs with us as we ate.  Perfect.  This was NOT brunch fare.  It was good old fashioned family breakfast food, all sweet and heavy.  Like I said, PERFECT for this fat old Daddy.  We had fun, enjoyed the fat food, the sun and the sea air.  A couple of shots of the menu, plus a picture of my cinnamon roll french toast are below.  Very yummy…

Some more sweet.  After eating, we went back to my apartment and started the process of putting my photos and prints up on the wall.  We got a good start on it while my daughter was here, then I finished what I had later in the day.  So fun to work with her on it; good to have some memories up on the walls again.

OK, I wasn’t sure if I was going to share this, but I will.  I wrote a poem to my four children in honor of Father’s Day.  I wanted them to know as clearly as possible how wonderful it is being their Father, and how important that thought was on this special day.  I share it with this caveat: it is NOT one of my more refined poems, but I think that is mostly due to all the emotion that’s in it.  Hard to write when I’m vibrating inside…  It is entitled “From Dad” and you can read it by clicking on the link here…From Dad

The Ruby’s pictures are below.  Try it some time – good food and memories!  Talk soon.Ruby Menu CoverRuby MenuRuby French Toast

Variations On a Theme

On my best days I have a habit of focusing repeatedly and intensely on certain ideas, events, concerns and plans.  When things are not going so well (I’m going to count the present as one of those times), it’s far worse – my tendency to obsess, particularly about my mood or my fears, goes off the charts.  The good news is that I have a very active and capable mind.  The bad news is that I have a very active and capable mind… so, when I’m in a bad place, my active mind takes me and keeps me in some pretty discouraging places.  Which is why I’ve had to work so hard to not lose myself in my grief and sadness and to not let my recent loss define my whole existence.

Man, it’s hard for me to do.  I wake up every morning with my head full of the thoughts that came in my dreams or as I was emerging from sleep (when my defenses are down).  Those thoughts are rarely positive these days.  It’s a bit like the movie “Groundhog Day” – first thing I do is try to silence the noisy alarm clock of my thoughts, then get out of bed and try to find something positive to do or focus on.  I try to make the end of each day better than the beginning.  And then it starts again… You get the idea.

Lately, I’ve been doing it a bit differently.  Rather than try to shove my negative thoughts aside, I let them stay, try to accept them, then try to see them in a different light.  Example: it’s hard to get used to living in a small apartment after 33 years of owning my own home.  Every morning as I awake I’m reminded that I’m not where I want to be.  Try as I might that awareness just won’t go away.  So instead of pretending the thought’s not there, I immediately go look at the view of the harbor I enjoy, or listen to the seals.  I remind myself I’m now biking again due to the convenient location.  It doesn’t turn my small apartment into the home I desire, but it balances the sadness.  I think of it as “variations on a theme” – taking a notion then turning it sideways, upside down, etc.  so I can see different facets.  It’s not easy, but it’s helping!

Which brings me to one more variation on a theme.  In a prior post I shared with you my meatball, pineapple and corn dish – maybe my favorite so far.  Well, tonight, I couldn’t quite motivate myself to come up with a novel new meal, but realized I had some pretty yummy chicken apple sausage in the fridge – and decided to imitate that meal.  I made sausage and pineapple (with curry powder, olive oil and all purpose seasoning).  Not new, but, a legitimate variation on the meatball dish.  Like that one, the sausage was really tasty.  Yum, all gone…  A picture is below.  Thanks for listening.  Bye for now.

Chicken Apple Pineapple Sausage