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

Meatballs to the Rescue

I’ve been maintaining a very busy schedule the last several days – intentionally so.  I struggle most to keep my equilibrium and deal with my depression when I’m inactive.  Then, I tend to think too much, usually dwelling on loss and sadness.  Truth is, I’ve become kind of afraid of being in my mind.  So, I try to keep active and avoid excessive rumination about my situation.  I know, avoiding something isn’t a way to resolve it.  But it’s what I need to do right now…  So, I stay busy.   Sometimes a little too busy.  I haven’t been getting much sleep this week, so last night I went to bed extra early, hoping to start the week with some energy and a good attitude.

Unfortunately, I didn’t sleep well and woke up feeling lonely and down.  Yep, back on the treadmill – long morning walk with the dogs, laundry, catch up on bills, walk the dogs again, etc.  Then, inspiration – in the form of food.  If you remember, in an earlier post, I shared with you the spaghetti dish I had made with pineapple teriyaki chicken meatballs.  It was tasty, but the meatballs weren’t truly mine – I bought them that way.  Later I started thinking that meatballs should be made, not bought.  So today I decided to make some.  I used turkey instead of chicken, but otherwise they were pretty similar.  Then I thought, hmmm, copying meatballs is not real bold, so I spiced them up.  Cooked them in olive oil, all-purpose seasoning, curry powder and some maple syrup (among other things).  As I was doing it, I started laughing – all I was doing was throwing in things I like and hoping it came out.  I wonder if that’s what Gorden Ramsey does??  It was kind of fun.

Well, I got lucky again – they turned out way better than I expected  Sweet but spicy with a nice sear to them.  And the pineapple plumped up and absorbed some juices.  I added an ear of boiled corn.  A very satisfying meal.  And one I had fun with.  I feel much better now!  I’m attaching two pictures – one of the meatballs and pineapple in the pan, the other on the plate with the corn.  Feast your eyes and enjoy… Talk soon. Meatballs and Corn 2Meatballs and Corn

Stuck In My Memory

Well, I’m really slacking on the food front; nothing to report today.  Sadly, I even resorted to picking up a pizza this evening.  But I guess that is part of the freedom that has been foisted upon me – I get to make those calls (or to say it differently and quote “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” – “There’s no rules in a knife fight” …hehe).

So, I’ll bring you up to date on my transition – and share a poem I just wrote about it.  As I said in my last post, I’ve been seeing my wife a fair amount – getting things done for the divorce, at a neighborhood party last night, etc.  She always seems glad to see me and to be very excited about the future.  Including talking about how we will be such close friends, a big part of each other’s lives, etc.  No criticism intended – if that is the way she is experiencing this, good for her.  Me, I can’t seem to generate either the enthusiasm or that kind of focus on the future.  Truth is, I’m pretty stuck.  I’m so aware of the things I’m losing that it is hard to see or be excited about the future.  And making it worse is my crazy, detailed memory.

I’ve always had the ability to remember things in precise detail and from deep in my past – all the way back in fact.  That, unfortunately, includes things I’d rather not remember as well as those I do.  I think it was sparked, in fact, by some very traumatic moments I experienced starting as a 5 and 6 year old.  I suspect I became especially retentive of details (including dates, colors, facial expressions, etc.) as some sort of defense mechanism.  That memory has served me well in school, business, etc., but in times of emotional challenge, it becomes very hard to manage.  This is one of those times.  It is SOOO hard for me to block out memories of our family together, of times with my wife, of the love and tranquility I felt we enjoyed.  You get the idea.  I think it’s a big factor in the difficulty I’m having moving on and looking forward.  I wrote a poem about it, just this evening, that I will share here.  One disclaimer: typically I would go back and re-work a poem several times before sharing it, and have not done so with this one, so please excuse me it if it seems kind of rough.  But I felt like writing about this in the blog and wanted you to see the poem.  It’s entitled “Gravity”.  Please click on the link to read it.  Thank you!  Gravity

My Dilemma

Hello all; did you miss me?  Of course you did!  I missed you, too…which is why I’m back. Sorry, no food news today (still basking in the glory of that awesome stew…).  But still plenty to share.  I’ll try to keep it short and not too whiny.

I spent a fair amount of time with my wife today –  we still have a number of projects we are working on together as we move forward in our decoupling (her preferred word).  We own a beautiful small RV we both hoped to use much more than we did.  Unfortunately, we now need to sell said beautiful (and expensive) RV.  We’ve both put significant effort into it, but lately the burden has fallen more on me.  I finally reached a point where I felt like the effort wasn’t yielding appropriate results, so we agreed to turn it over to a professional RV dealer to sell on a consignment basis.  That involved driving it to the dealer an hour south of us.  My wife met me there and we drove back together, plus  spent some time in my apartment sorting through things I had removed from the van.  All very nice, pleasant and cooperative (as our divorce process has been throughout).  But, therein lies the seeds of my dilemma.

As we were driving back, we talked much like we used to; a tragedy in a friend’s family; updates and thoughts on our children; Trump, of course, etc.  It was very comfortable.  In fact, it was far too comfortable.  I think of John Mayer’s song, “Comfortable’, where he says “…our love was comfortable, so broken in…”  That’s how it always felt to me. And felt for a while again today.  But as our time together was ending, I started to worry.  It felt so good to slip into our old, comfortable way and dialog.  But I realized that this is EXACTLY the relationship and comfort I can no longer have – not for more than a moment.  It is precisely this comfort and companionship that I miss so much and which makes this transition so excruciating.  Frankly, I miss it that much more for having enjoyed it briefly today.

Hence the dilemma: do I avoid/prevent such interactions to protect myself from the inevitable post-interaction letdown?  Or, do I take the treat, allow myself to enjoy the time and just deal with the consequences after?  Is my life richer for having her in it, even in such a limited fashion?  Or am I better off avoiding the pain from the inevitable letdown and the increased sense of loss in the aftermath?  I’m sure there are other options; those are the two that seem obvious to me right now.  Not so obvious is the answer… Wow, experiencing this cataclysm has certainly given me a very different perspective on what I valued in my old life and what I hope I might have as I build a new life.

As I said, no food this post, but I do have a poem for you.  It’s about how my wife and I met and how our love grew… until it didn’t.  It’s entitled “Inception”.  I hope you enjoy it.  Just click on the link below.  Thanks.Inception

A New Week

I can honestly say that the last two weeks were brutal for me.  A constant, oppressive feeling of discouragement and anxiety. Not to mention working hard to get very little done.  Very much like quicksand, I suspect (I fortunately have never had to deal with THAT peril!). I’ve written about it, so I won’t go into it again, except to say that I am pulling out all the stops to get out of that place.  Wow, living like that really sucks…

So, I’ve decided to get into action as much and for as long as I can – see if I can move the needle some.  Hoping to both distract myself with activity and give myself something to feel good about.  I doubt it will happen overnight, but I’m game to try for a while.  Wish me luck…

I’m off to a pretty good start.  I had mentioned in a prior post that I was going to try making a chicken stew from a recipe my friend Zack had given me – thanks, Zack!  My daughter came over last night, so I tried it out.  It was QUITE an experience.  Zack takes his food preparation very seriously, and the recipe reflected it.  Much more complicated and ingredient-laden than I expected.  And I had to deal with using a “junior-sized” crock pot, so it was necessary to adjust all the quantities.  Seriously, the ingredients alone took up more than half a letter-sized page!  But the directions were very clear and detailed, so I dove in.  This was not a simple “throw it into the pot and let it sit” recipe…I was searing the chicken, creating a vegetable, spice and flour gravy in the fry pan and THEN putting it all into the crock pot.  What a relief – that should have been it.   But I am a crock pot rookie, and WAYYYYY too impatient to let something sit unmolested for five hours.  Looked at it after two hours…hmmm, not much happening; seems dry.  Three hours, texted Zack “should I add broth?” Four hours stirred it again and, yes, there was some liquid, oh good.  You get the idea.  I’m a compulsive mess.

The stew, however was anything BUT a mess.  It turned out great!  Not quite as good as Zack’s efforts, but pretty close (remember, I’m just learning).  My daughter was very complimentary (perhaps just being nice?  I don’t think so, but…).  We really had a nice evening and meal together.  Topped it off with some excellent locally-made ice cream.  Yummy and fun.  What a good way to kick off the week.

It has continued positive today.  Got some important stuff done, took my newly tuned bike out and went for a nice ride along the beach.  Modest distance; a shake down cruise of sorts – but it still felt great.  Hoping to build on that tomorrow.  Hey, one step, one day at a time, right?

Special treat: I’m attaching two pictures of the stew (yes, I’m THAT proud of it): one while it was still in the pot after cooking, one with it on our two plates ready to be consumed.  Feast your eyes…. If I get a bigger pot, I might have some left for you next time.  Bye for now.Stew in PotStew on Plates

Feeling Crabby…

So I made myself some crab cakes.  Not planned, just a happy coincidence.  Or in this case an unhappy coincidence?  I’m not sure what to call it.  At any rate, in addition to the funk I’ve been struggling with in recent days, today I found myself feeling very irritable.  I was mostly irritated with myself – for not dealing with things better, for not making progress on getting my new life in order, for canceling on a trip to see some good friends and my son back east…you get the picture.  I was irritated with the world in general, as well.  I was REALLY having a fun day.

I forced myself to focus on things that might help me feel better.  I picked up my newly tuned bike from the shop (VERY excited about some bike rides along the beach); took a LONG walk with the dogs, wrote some (pretty dark) poetry and cleaned up my place.  In the middle of all that I started thinking about dinner.  Well, I love crab cakes and haven’t had them in a while, so I decided to take a crack at making some for dinner.  It was a rush job and I had to scramble for ingredients – no bread crumbs or Panko, so I crushed some Ritz crackers for the outside.  Combined that with some lump crab meat that I chopped smaller, got creative with the spices (that means I can’t remember what exactly I put in…) and got lucky.  Not my best effort yet – they were a bit softer than I prefer, and not quite as flavorful as I hoped – but they were still pretty decent.  Added a quick salad (romaine topped with baby heirloom tomatoes – tasty – and a bleu cheese dressing), my favorite beverage (lemonade) and I had a pretty effective “pick me up” meal.  Like I said, I LOVE crab cakes.  And I felt good about not caving in to my bad mood. And about getting a little creative.  Hmmm, food as therapy.  Gosh, I think I might be turning into a Foodie!

If there are any suggestions for flavoring a crab cake so I can improve next time around, I’m all ears…The picture of my crab cake meal is below.Crab Cakes

Expanding Boundaries

I haven’t written in a couple of days because not much is happening.  Neat, huh?  I continue to battle against my sadness and anger, which makes it hard to be adventuresome, much less bold.  And, not much energy on the food front either.  But something happened today that I had to share.  A friend of mine was kind enough to give me his recipe for some amazing chicken stew.  I decided to prepare it this weekend for my daughter and son-in-law.  So, I looked at the ingredients and set out for the grocery store.

Well, I was only in the store about 5 minutes, struggling to find the first item on the list when I realized something: there was literally NOTHING on that list that I had shopped for in a long, long time.  Some, never.  It was all good, wholesome, tasty, spicy or cooking staple kind of stuff.  Not the juice, bread, yogurt, cheese and dessert purchases I typically made.  Two realizations followed.  One, this shopping excursion was going to take me a bit longer than I had planned.  Second, here I was in the grocery store, having a thoroughly unexpected adventure.  So I took my time and enjoyed it.  Who knew?

Since that story was kind of about the nature of change and my reaction to it, I’ll share another of my poems with you.  It is entitled “Change”.  I know, not a shocker.  Still, I hope you enjoy it.  Just click on the link below.  I’ll let you know how that stew goes later…  Here’s that link: Change