A Litany of Thanks


I heard this poem by Max Coots recited on Sunday and saved it to share today.

 

Let us give thanks:

 

For generous friends…with hearts…and smiles as bright as their blossoms;

For feisty friends as tart as apples;

For continuous friends, who, like scallions and cucumbers, keep reminding us we’ve had them;

For crotchety friends, as sour as rhubarb and as indestructible;

For handsome friends, who are as gorgeous as eggplants and as elegant as a row of corn, and the others, plain as potatoes and as good for you;

For funny friends, who are a silly as Brussel spouts and as amusing as Jerusalem artichokes, and serious friends, as complex as cauliflowers and as intricate as onions;

For friends as unpretentious as cabbages, as subtle as summer squash, as persistent as parsley, as delightful as dill, as endless as zucchini, and who, like parsnips, can be counted on to see you throughout the winter;

For old friends, who wind around us like tendrils and hold us, despite our blights, wilts, and witherings;

And, finally, for those friends now gone, like gardens past that have been harvested, and who fed us in their times that we might have life hereafter.

For all these we give thanks.

 

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Adventure in Argentina


 

On March 3, I left for a two week trip to Argentina to visit my former exchange student and his family.  On March 4, Gaston met me at EZE airport in Buenos Aires.  I took the red eye from Houston to EZE, ten hours but an easy direct flight.  Little did we expect then that we would be spending a considerable amount of time in an eye clinic in Cordoba, the city where Gaston lives and attends engineering school.  We spent most of three days in Buenos Aires, then flew to Iguassu to see the famous falls. Several days later while waiting on a four hour late plane from there to Cordoba, suddenly I could not see clearly in my left eye; large pieces of black something floated all around and everything was blurry.

At nine the next morning we walked the five blocks from Gaston’s apartment to the most advanced eye clinic in Cordoba, a private clinic open on a Saturday morning. After experiencing multiple eyedrops in both eyes, seeing several doctors,  being subjected to all sorts of modern machines and tests, I found out I could not see because my left eye was quite inflamed with lots of fluid which made it nearly impossible for them to see what they needed to make a definite determination.  They gave me a prescription for the inflammation and told me to return on Monday morning and to be as quiet and calm as possible to facilitate healing.  That nixed the planned road trip Gaston’s parents and I planned to start that same Saturday.

Some blessings are unexpected.  While I would have seen more of Argentina than I did with a longer road trip–ultimately we took a shorter one, I would not have spent a relaxing, fun weekend with the whole family at La Finca, the family place in the country outside of Cordoba–photos later. I became acquainted with family members and friends, lived their typical weekend life, ate Argentinian food, all things I would have missed if we had been able to follow our original plans.

On Monday some of the inflammation had cleared so they could see that I did not have a retinal detachment–my main concern.  The doctors cleared the way for a shorter road trip and told me to come back Thursday morning.  At that time they were able to determine the exact problem and told me to make an appointment with a doctor here in the states because I would not be in Argentina when the final solution needed to occur.

Three trips to the clinic, seeing multiple doctors plus a retinal specialist twice all cost a total of 110 dollars.  Tomorrow morning my left eye receives a laser treatment and then I am told I will be fine; I visited the doctor here on Monday.  He told me exactly what they had told me.  I can only begin to imagine what my Monday trip to this doctor and the laser tomorrow will cost.  At times I wonder if it would not have been better to stay in Cordoba another week, pay the extra flight cost, and receive the laser treatment there.

Tomorrow photos of Buenos Aires and our adventures there will appear after I return from the retinal specialist’s office.

Note:  at a lecture last evening I saw a friend who is originally from Germany.  After she heard my healthcare adventure in Argentina, she informed me that she has to use very expensive eye drops.  They are so much cheaper in Europe that she and her husband, she is in her 80s and her husband 92, fly to Europe regularly to get the drops.  Even with the cost of these flights, they save several thousand dollars each time.

Gratitude


Thanksgiving brings so many thoughts, including thoughts about the divisive political discourse in the country now.  However, it seems more productive and in keeping with the day to focus on gratitude.  As I write this I think of both personal and broader things for which I am grateful, one of which is that I live in a country where divisive political discourse can actually and legally occur.  Now to the more personal (even though I think the personal is political, I will not focus on that)–here is my starter list:

-my family–daugher, son, and grandson; daughter and grandson will join me shortly to prepare a traditional Thanksgiving dinner.

-my mother’s pumpkin pie recipe which my grandson will help me prepare when he arrives; he says it is the only pumpkin pie he really likes.

-my job which I truly love–teaching public high school; my students frequently make my day.

-where I live in beauty truly on the Rim of Wonder.

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-my health

-my friends

-my ability to travel to all sorts of fascinating places

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-a life I love

 

Happy Birthday to Suzanne Gelber Rinaldo


Suzy and I met as freshmen at Grinnell College in Iowa.  She was from a suburb of Cleveland and I from a farm in Northwest Missouri.  We decided we wanted to be roommates the following year.  We remain friends still after all these years even though we usually live far apart except for a brief time when we both lived in Rhode Island.  She married David Rinaldo, who attended Grinnell with us.  At least once a year one of us goes to see the other.  We seem able to pick up conversations as if we had just talked a few hours before.  Last year my daughter, grandson, and I drove to California and spent five days with them.  This year they will come to see me.  We remain the perfect example of that trite phrase, best friends forever, BFF.  On the left side of my fireplace a tiny painting she gave me when we were in college still hangs.  I wrote this poem about it last year.

 

The Gift

 

On the wall for forty years,

a copy of some famous painting:

almost everything a strange dark

shade of blue, a blue not quite

blue, the merest hint of green,

antique cupboard, curved table

base, ladder back chair, window

frame, even the tree outside.

 

The only exceptions:

white table cloth,

newspaper in the lady’s hands,

her pale pink floral dress with tiny

darker pink flowers,

large copper antique teapot

in the cupboard, the black and copper

pots on top.  Her teacup, saucer, plate

of toast, white and blue, an old Danish pattern.

 

I’ve kept the gift,

hung on too many walls to count.

My college roommate, the giver, said,

This reminds me of you.

I look at it, all these years

have wondered why.

We’re still friends.

I’ve never asked.

 

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Friends and Flowers


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On my way home from work today, I stopped by a friend’s house to get some Black Eyed Susans.  She and her husband run a bed and breakfast with a spectacular garden in the back.  Iris of every color are blooming, yellow, lavender and white, peach, every shade of purple, and one a combination of colors I have never seen before.  The lavender and white combined in one flower I gave her in the fall of 2012.  They rebloom and spread rather rapidly.  Because of that and the fact that I cannot bear to throw any away, I have them by the barn and here and there.  Some do better than others–a lot of the soil here is either clay or caliche or a combination, not very conducive to anything but the toughest.  She has a rose bush taller than I am which means it must be about 5’6″ or 7″.  Another deep red rose was already blooming.  She gives me flowers and I wait and see how they do or if the deer or bunnies will eat them.

Today’s weather brought perfection, a rare treat of just the right temperature, sunshine, and no wind.  When I arrived, her husband was napping in the garden in a lawn chaise.  He got up, we all walked around the garden, looked in the koi pond, and commented what flowers seemed to flourish more readily than others.  Many flowers which do well in town either die out here in the country only twelve miles away or fail to thrive.  They just sit there and do nothing.  She and I have shared flowers for years, flowers and conversation and wine.  We all decided to sit town and share some wine and cheeses and crackers and visit.  They travel widely and always have tales to tell.  He is from Jordan so we discuss world events.  Part of today’s conversation centered on Boko Haram and the differences between Shia and Sunni.  He is Sunni and I used to be married to a Shiite.  Often we discuss extremism and how it harms everyone, regardless of religion.  None of us understand the hatred some people seem to feel toward others who are different from them either my race or religion or ethnicity or gender.

As soon as I returned home and changed into gardening clothes, I fed Rosie, and planted the Black Eyed Susans with a big dose of water and root stimulator.  Who knows if they will make it.  I will wait and see.  If they do, they will contrast nicely with the purple of the catmint and the white, tiny, native Blackfoot Daisies growing wild among the other plants in my little garden.  What more can a person wish for than spending time with good friends among the flowers.  And a little wine never hurts.

 

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My Happy Mother’s Day


 

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Mother’s Day filled my heart.  First, when I awakened in the morning, I made coffee and opened this computer.  When I logged into Facebook, I found this pronouncement from my daughter:

“I’m so thankful to have an amazing, talented, smart, ambitious, honest woman as my mommy.  You made me the person I am today and as I continue to grow, I see things you taught me passing down to my son.  I’m the mom I am today because of the mom you were to me.  I may not always show it or tell you but I love you so much.”  I nearly cried; I am not a crier.

The flowers arrived Saturday from my son who lives twenty hours away if you drive.  Look at these flowers!!  Fantastic.

Then my grandson gave me a handmade card about 5 by 8 inches with this long note some of which follows:

“Happy Mother’s Day.  I know your not my mom but your my mom’s mom so your a mother so happy mother’s day.  Thank you for giving birth to my mom because if you wouldn’t have, I wouldn’t be alive right now so thanks….Thank you for all the things you do for me.  You always watch me.  Your always nice even when I’m mean and you spoil me.  I love you and happy mother’s day. ”  He is ten.

Then today I received a totally unexpected thank you card with a note from a young man who stayed with me a while last spring just before he graduated from college with an A average.  He was experiencing an extremely painful time then.  His hand written note:  “Happy Mother’s Day!  It has been one year since I graduated from college.  I would never have made it without you!  Thank you for the great help in my most difficult time.  You are the small ray of sunshine that really brings me hope!  Thank you!”  I felt overwhelmed.

The bottle in front of the flowers above is Versace perfume–Mother’s Day present from my daughter.

 

 

Commitments, Hosting Benefits, and What We Take for Granted


Shortness of post is necessitated by the time.  Why bother?  Nearly three weeks ago, I committed to writing daily.  Blogging seemed like a logical means to accomplish this.  I expect others and myself to follow through on commitments.  So here I am writing in the middle of the night.

Tonight I hosted a fund raiser for the Hilltop Senior Center here in Amarillo.  We tried to sell tickets in advance but not all that many sold.  The Director of the Center and I became a bit worried, but continued with planning, hoping some would show up even if at the last minute.  They did.  We had great Mexican food donated by Braceros on Sixth Avenue, wine, my wonderful well water, cheeses, fruit, and cakes.  Even the silent auction proved to be a great success.  However, nature became the real star of the event, nature and my dog Isabella.  Unlike earlier in the week when the wind shrieked to 6o miles an hour creating several days of endless dust, today the wind laid low, the sun shone, and it was hot.  This morning the heat went on and this afternoon the air conditioning as it rose to past 90.  Thirty degrees difference between night and day is rather typical here and some days, like to day, this difference increases to nearly forty.

At dark the stars seem so much brighter out here in the country.  Many of the guests walked back and forth on the patio, looking for different constellations.  People came inside for a while only to go back out and look at the stars and the crescent moon.  What I take for granted daily, became a wonder for my company.  As I write this, I think about all the things each of us take for granted, things we eat, experience, feel daily.  How often do we really take the time to appreciate these things, to realize that although they may be ordinary for us, for others they would be incomparable blessings.  So now as I finish this, get ready for bed, and snuggle into my cool sheets, I will meditate and give thanks to the universe for the wonder of the stars.

 

Friends


This day, like many, has flown by in a whirl wind.  On May 3, I am hosting a benefit for a local senior citizens’ center.  We will have a silent auction, food, and drinks.  Over one hundred invitations have been sent, but only a few have actually bought tickets in spite of the fact that quite a few people have told me they plan to attend.  Customs vary in different parts of the United States.  When I lived east of the Mississippi River, people actually religiously responded to request for an RSVP.  Here in the Texas Panhandle, not so much.  At this juncture, I have no clue how many people will show up.

About two and on half hours ago, my friends showed up with the forks and spoons and plates and wine and auction items.  These items currently reside in one of the guest bedrooms and the garage.  We decided to have some wine and then I dug out cheese and crackers and some more wine and more cheese and crackers.  And we visited.

A downside of United States life for me is the pace.  Everything is done in a huge hurry.  People even gulp their food.  I especially notice the difference when I spend time with people from other cultures who take hours to eat dinner and visit.  When one of my best friends from India lived here and I invited others over, we took hours to eat and visit.  Recently, when a US friend brought his exchange student from Italy over to ride my horse and his daughter and wife showed up as well, we rode, and then fixed dinner.  We cooked, visited, and ate leisurely.  The young woman said she felt so at home because we were spending time, visiting, cooking, everything leisurely.  I frequently cook dinner very late by US standards, e.g. eight o’clock at night.  When my exchange students from South America lived with me, they thought this was normal.  People there eat late by standards here.  My daughter tells me I have become more and more like all these people from other countries with whom I spend time.  I laugh.

Tonight’s experience further validated my belief in the value of friends and time spent with them.  This was not one of those planned, elaborate events.  We just sat, drank, ate, and enjoyed the pleasure of each other’s company.  It was wonderful.

 

Dinner Parties and Commitments


When I committed to writing daily and then blogging, it never occurred to me that this might entail writing in the middle of the night after hosting a dinner party and then cleaning up.  Some people just go to bed and clean up in the morning.  Yuck!!!  Who wants to wake up to a big mess with bits of food solidified to plates and remnants of red wine looking like dried blood in the bottom of wine glasses.  No me.  So here I am fulfilling my commitment to write daily.

Usually, I invite a lot of people over and work like crazy or give up and do potluck. This time I decided on something simple for six friends (three couples).  One friend is a vegetarian so everyone ate vegetarian.  The menu included homemade refried black bean casserole–the favorite of two of these friends.  The recipe for this dish is on a previous blog post.  In honor of my former exchange student son, Gaston Luis Zulaica del Sueldo, I made one of my best salads ever.  When he lived with me, he made salad almost every night, spectacular, colorful salads.  I made a mixture of Jasmine and several other kinds of rice and the following casserole which has no name so guess I will need to invent one.

Vegetarian Casserole with Soyrizo

Pour enough olive oil into the bottom of a heavy casserole dish to cover it.  Thinly slice purple potatoes (I think they are called blue, but they look purple to me), and cover the bottom with a layer of these.  Cover the potatoes with a layer of chopped onions, then a layer of coarsely chopped poblano peppers–I added a few halved and seeded jalapeños.  The next layer is soyrizo crumbled to completely cover the previous layers.  If you are not vegetarian, use chorizo.  Repeat the previous layers.  Combine 3 T of flour and 1 cup milk.  Pour over the top of the casserole.  Bake until the potatoes are done.  You can make all this several hours in advance and pour the milk mixture over it just before it goes in the oven.  I actually used the grill outside on low to bake it this time–warm day and did not want to heat up the house.  We finished off dinner with chocolate chip mint ice cream with Chambord poured over the top.  We also enjoyed a while dessert wine called Electra.

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Salad a la Gaston

 

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Good friends.

 

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Trivia


This marks week one of my commitment to write for at least twenty minutes every day.  A good way to “force” myself to do this is to blog daily.  In this past week I have heard from new people and received more comments than usual.  I had something already written out and then decided against posting it.  Because I am at least one hour behind on what I planned to do when I arrived home from work, this blog may be a bunch of trivia, depending on what you consider trivia.

I had not planned on cleaning my barn in preparation for fifty 100 pound bales of hay, but when they told me they would deliver Wednesday instead of Friday, it changed this evening’s plans dramatically.  I had to move the remaining hay from last November’s delivery to a different spot because I do not want “old” and “new” hay mixed.  100 pound bales do not weigh all that much less than I do so moving them is not all that easy.  Once moved, I sweep the loose hay up, lay down pallets, and sweep up everything.  I do not like hay to lay directly on the cement floor of the barn.  All that took over an hour.  Then it dawned on me that I should probably eat something.  Time mandated simplicity so I made a salad. Suddenly it reminded me of salads Gaston used to make.  Gaston lived with me for six months–a handsome exchange student from Argentina, who rode horses, played the piano while I cooked dinner, and then when I gave the word, made beautiful salads, kaleidoscopes of color, orange, red, green, yellow, purple.  Tonight, in a rush, I finally managed to make a salad as beautiful as Gaston’s.  In addition to his other assets, Gaston’s name is a song for the ears and the heart:  Gaston Luis Zulaica del Sueldo.  I love his name so much that it is the title of one of the poems in my new book of poetry, “On the Rim of Wonder”.  His counselor at school here loved it so much that she insisted on practicing it over and over and over to get it right when she announced it at graduation.

Salad eaten, once this post is complete, I must finish the baby blanket I promised today to deliver tomorrow.  More than eight years ago, I taught freshmen English.  One of my students, who has since gone to college, graduated, and now works for the school district where I work will soon be a father.  His wife, through her work as a neonatal ICU nurse, became a good friend of my daughter’s.  Their baby is due in a week or so.  I am running out of time.  I MUST finish this tonight.  Since I have to get up at 5:30 to get to work on time–I work 25 miles from where I live–it would seem that since it is now 7:49, I had better quit writing this and get to work.  Tomorrow I promise more exciting material.