Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Sweet Non-Synchronicity*

Sometimes the puzzle pieces—the ones that dropped on the floor or got wedged behind the sofa cushion—show back up on the table.

Sometimes the loose threads—the ones that unraveled or resisted clipping—get caught up and woven into the tapestry.

It is such sweet non-synchronicity when they do.

Due to a combination of full days, an upcoming training event, the holiday next week, and some accumulated comp time set to expire soon, I will be spending most of the next twelve days away from the office and, for the most part, away from my job. I truly love my job, but I recognize that I am deeply in need of this break.

So is it mere happenstance that the puzzle pieces are starting to show up on my table?

Deidra started it. Oh yes, I have no qualms about pointing the finger squarely at Deidra and saying, "You just had to write that, didn't you?" (And then for good measure, she turned around and wrote this too, which was just icing on the cake.)

Then Bradley Moore posted this at The High Calling. I read the paragraph about the National Audubon Society listing What We Are Not Doing and got so excited I sat up straight. When I finished Bradley's challenge to evaluate our activities in light of our goals, I felt a jolt.

About the time I was reading Bradley, I received an email from the library telling me the book I had ordered, Love Does by Bob Goff, had arrived. I'm not sure who out there in Bloggerville wrote about the book and inspired me to track it down (perhaps I read a review of it at The High Calling), but here it was. I opened it last night "just to try it" and am already halfway through it.

And then Leslie just had to post this in the middle of the night last night. (Leslie lives in Alaska and was gloating a bit, albeit very nicely, about the 22 hour day they just had.) Leslie hit a home run (as she is wont to do) with her discussion of how she rejects the notion of a day (or a life) cut into a thousand pieces and strives to live a "single-hearted" life instead. (Leslie is new to the blogging world, but she is a graceful and seasoned writer. I met her electronically when ordering her book, The Spirit of Food, which, come to think of it, I first heard of through Deidra.)

So there are threads from Deidra to The High Calling (which Deidra lead me to too, come to think of it) to Bob Goff (possibly via The High Calling) to Leslie (via Deidra).

These threads are coming together.

I am at a place in my life—temporarily, I fervently hope—where I am feeling that each day is cut into a thousand pieces. I am busy with a home project, the legal clinic is growing in leaps and bounds, there are two holiday concerts coming up, I am part of a team that just launched a new community initiative, and I am tired.

Bone tired. The type of tired I don't want to think about too long or too hard.

And yet, at the depth of my exhaustion, there are all these threads coming together. Deidra challenging me to put my dreams out there to God. Bradley Moore urging me to leverage my time and efforts towards those goals and dreams that "will actually make a difference in the long run." Bob Goff daring me to have "a secretly incredible life in an ordinary world." Leslie quietly exhorting me to do what I do "not out of mindlessness and instinct, but out of heart."

It is late morning as I write these words. We are promised record heat these next few days, but the house, open on one side, closed on the other, is still holding the sweet, cool air of last night. I took the time to bake a cake for Sam's birthday tomorrow and it is cooling on the racks in front of me. I am sitting at the kitchen table penning these lines, still wearing my favorite apron, now lightly dusted (not for the last time!) with flour. There are three small vials of bubble solution on the table as well. They caught my eye during an expedition to the store for supplies to finish the project. They reached out and said "whimsy" (one of Bob Goff's favorite words), "summer," "lighthearted." I was listening.

I still cannot see the tapestry, for all the threads are not yet together. I still have not completed the puzzle. But I am ready to open myself to the solution, to the completed thread.

*Note: When I first posted this, I used the phrase "synchronicity" to mean the coming together of connected events. As it turns out, "synchronicity" is a Jungian phrase describing seemingly related events that have no important causal connection. My point is the opposite: these were related events and occurrences (readings in this case) that do have a greater causal connection.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

If This Is the Living Room This Morning, Then...

I went downstairs a few minutes ago to find the living room looking like this:

and this:

and this:

The music started at the northwest and ended in the southeast corner of the room.


If this is the look of the living room this morning and there are percussion parts papering the living room (while Warren finalizes section assignments), then the next event coming up must be this:

Jaime conducting the Central Ohio Symphony on July 4th

I love living in the percussion section. I love being married to the Symphony. And I love the 4th of July! 

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Dad Stories

At the March concert this year, a family with several young children ranging from elementary school to middle school (maybe middle school), sat behind me just over my left shoulder.

I could hear them crunching chips loudly. One of them dropped a cardboard box of something; I heard it clatter on the floor. There were giggles and barely suppressed whispers. Occasionally there would be snorts of laughter, quickly covered up. I could not see but I could sense a great deal of squirming.

Then I heard their father hiss in a low voice, "Behave NOW." His words were followed by a nanosecond of quiet, then more giggles.

Those giggles catapulted me back to my childhood. Suddenly I was 7, I was 8, and we were eating out in a real restaurant (as opposed to a drive-in).

We didn't eat out a lot when I was little, given the number of us and the tightness of my parents' budget during those years. So when we did, it was a Big Deal. The time I remember most clearly was coming back from a day in northern Kentucky when we had been visiting family. Usually, we ate well when we were down there, but for some reason, that didn't happen this day and my mom and dad realized they would never make it all the way home without feeding us.

So there we were, all in a large booth at what was probably a Frisch's Big Boy, my parents probably ordering for us so we did not unwittingly blow the bank. It was probably something simple: burgers, fries (which could be shared). There were even drinks—maybe a Coke, maybe (maybe) a milkshake split between all of us.

Drinks with straws.

It was my older brother Dale, braver than the rest of us, who dared to go after that one last, all but unattainable drop in the bottom of the glass at the end of the meal. It was certainly Dale who looked at that drop, looked at his straw, and decided to risk everything.

How could he not?

My dad, who always sat ramrod straight when eating, sat up even straighter when he heard the first slurp of the straw. "Stop slurping," he hissed in as loud a whisper as he could manage without drawing attention to our table.

Dale was not done, though. There was still a little bit left in his glass. And, buoyed by his example, I was also ready to take on the challenge.

Slurrrrrrrrrp. Slurrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrp.

We tried to slurp quietly, but there is no such thing. Dad was on us in a minute. "I said, 'STOP SLURPING,'" he growled in a somewhat louder whisper, in agony that someone—a waitress, a patron, perhaps—someone would soon be turning around to wonder who had brought these little hooligans to such a nice dining place.

We must have been just out of arm's reach, because my dad was not adverse to administering a quick rap to the head to get our attention. It must have driven him mad. He had a whole litany of mealtime rules, ranging from "no elbows on the table" to "close your mouth when chewing" to "sit up straight," and here were two of his children—his own flesh and blood—humiliating him in public with their atrocious table manners.

He hissed louder, between gritted teeth, "I am NEVER taking you out to eat again."

That threat just caused Dale and me to giggle. Never taking us out to eat again? Ha! We didn't eat out ever, so what kind of threat was that? We tried to hold our giggles in but they came slipping out, just like they did for those kids at the concert in March. We had slurped our drinks, we were being hooligans, and we were getting away with it. 

Well, we were getting away with it until we each got a swat on the butt when we were marched to the car by our still steaming dad.

My dad will be 79 this summer. I have not slurped a drink in his presence for many, many years. I am not sure I would dare to. But every time I do slurp a drink (Dad was right: I am an incorrigible hooligan), I think of him and that long ago restaurant meal.

Dad stories. Those of us who grew up with a dad of any shape, size, or temperament, have a million of them. On this day of the year, we tend to remember them a little more: the good ones, the bad ones, the ugly ones, the outstanding ones, the screamingly funny ones.

Dad stories. My son Ben will become a dad this August, and Ramona will start accumulating her own Dad stories. May there be a million of them.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Angels Unwares

Friday afternoon
I do not think it coincidental that certain acquaintances—you know, those ones that you have pretty much pegged as to personality and role in your life because you only see them in specific settings—suddenly surprise you by revealing a wholly new and different side.

While making a stop at a bank this morning, I greeted, quickly and in passing, someone I kind of knew in a community organization. I was just being "nice" by saying hello. In short, this was someone I do not know terribly well and only have the lightest of interaction with on any random day of the year.

To my surprise, this person started chatting vigorously, first about small things such as running errands, and then leapfrogging to larger topics. In a few seconds, we were having a quick, intense discussion about time, about personal possessions and their ultimate meaninglessness ("I still have my father's 8th grade report card," the individual, probably on the other side of 65, said), and about death and dying. All upbeat, all surprisingly simpatico with my own views, and none of it what I would have expected from such a brief encounter from someone I really didn't know. 

We parted on exuberant terms, each of us buoyed the way you in the way you are when you have a discussion—with a stranger, an acquaintance, a friend—that touches you deeply. 

As I walked home, I found myself thinking of the Bible verse about entertaining angels. "Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares." (Hebrews 13:2) I do not believe I was chatting with an angel back at the bank, but I would not discount the encounter having been blessed with the brush of angels' wings. I imagined a few downy feathers drifting down over us, not unlike the tiny ones that connect under out bed when we use the down comforter all winter.

We have been through a lot of changes and challenges around here lately. While most of them have been positive, all of them have added to the already full pace of our lives. Add to that the two holiday concerts, approaching with the deliberate acceleration of a steam locomotive, and you have a pretty good picture of where Warren and I are these days.

While I write this, sitting at the kitchen table, Warren is expected through the door shortly, so we can go volunteer (for the Symphony) at an annual pig roast put on by our senior organization, Council for Older Adults. From there, we are slipping down to Columbus for the first of the summer movie series. Tonight, it is "Casablanca," a film I love. As I write this, I can glance over and see a stack of notes on a very special project I plan on starting this weekend. And as I write this, my son Sam is in a car somewhere between there and here on his way to Ohio.

Last summer, I also wrote about angels, angels with big feet. Hump, diddywim tum...Hump, bump, stunt. I wrote that I could use some of the angels shaking things up in my life.

One of my big footed angels is on his way home right now. 

Sunday, June 10, 2012


From the blog, Business@Bird,

A good book is a gift.

A week ago, while at the library, I ran into Rayna, who I used to live across the street from when the boys were growing up. She told me that she just read and returned a novel that she had found both unsettling and excellent. Together we walked over to the desk and I checked it out based solely on her avid recommendation.

(In return for Rayna's book suggestion, I recommended Joan Didion's Blue Nights, which will shatter all but the most obtuse reader, but is so beautifully and precisely written that one has to finish it.)

Rayna's pick was City of Thieves by David Benioff. It is a slim novel. All but the opening and ending chapters takes place over the course of a week in and around Stalingrad during the siege in World War II.

I started the book in the early evening last Thursday with the thought of reading some that night and some the next night.

Well, that was the plan. Instead, I stayed up late Wednesday reading the book all the way to the end. I was so taken with the book that I wrote Rayna a thank you note the next morning for putting it in my hands and in my life.

On the heels of City of Thieves, I  began reading the first of two volumes of The Making of a Writer, the published journals of Gail Godwin. I had not read any of Godwin's writings, but came across these on my own after reading a recent review of her work, Heart, by Darla, who blogs at Bay Side to Mountain Side. I like journals; I like reading writers on writing. A match made in heaven, I figured.

I figured wrong.

I found Godwin's endless recitation of her life in her mid-20s—working in Europe, dating every man she came across, drinking, eating out, complaining of work, agonizing over her writing—to be so tedious and self-absorbed that I finally threw in the towel and sanchezed* Volume 1 after reading some 75% of it. I have no intention of reading Volume 2: a quick perusal of it promised more of the same.

Godwin writes constantly about the dullards she is forced by necessity to work with, socialize with, or live with. "Dullards" is her subjective analysis, of course. I found myself thinking that if I had to be around her and listen to what appeared to be an endless stream of egotistical prattle, I too may have avoided her at all costs and earned the dullard rating.

As it was, I only had to set down the book and walk away.

To get back on track in the world of book, I read (let's be honest—breezed through) a book I had picked up as a lark at the library: So Many Books, So Little Time, by Sara Nelson.

It turned out to be the perfect tonic.

Sara's romp through a year of her personal reading is lighthearted and humorous (except when it was serious and thoughtful). What made it so appealing is her deep and fundamental love of reading. Sara Nelson gets reading. She gets writing about reading. In writing about her passion for reading, she could have been writing about me. I filled three pages of my current commonplace book with quotes from Sara.

I finished her work in one day (well, Warren had a long rehearsal Saturday morning and that was the only book I brought along). I felt restored by the time I turned the last page Saturday evening. I was ready once again to fling myself headlong into the churning sea of books.

Up next is wild, by Cheryl Strayed. It was already on my "find and read" list on the strength of the recent book review in The New York Times. When a colleague (an avid reader himself) raved about it and offered to lend me his copy, I did not hesitate.

As I write out these words, I am sitting through a second rehearsal before the church service in which Warren is playing later this morning. wild is 25 miles away, waiting for me at home.

"To read a book is to have a relationship," wrote Sara Nelson.

I can hardly wait.


*"Sanchezed" is a verb created by my former law partner, Scott Wolf, an avid reader himself. Early on I explained to him that life was too short to spend time reading books that you were not interested in or had started but lost interest in. Until then, Scott was in the equivalent of the "clean plate club" when it came to reading. After he accepted the notion that one could set aside a book unfinished, he called the process "sanchezing a book." Sometimes a discussion with Scott starts out, "Remember that book about boats I was reading? Sanchezed it." 

Friday, June 8, 2012

Feathering the Nest

When Ben was born, his grandmothers helped feather his nest.

Abuela Sanchez crocheted a soft throw to tuck him under for a nap.

Grandma Shirley cross-stitched a nursery rhyme that hung over his crib. (Yes, I have the cross-stitch piece put carefully away, but I did not crawl up into the attic to take a picture of it.)

With Ramona's arrival less than 90 days away, there are starting to be signs of feathering activity.

I bought a little tie-dye dress at our local Arts Festival in mid-May.

And I have already sent books out to Portland, with many more to follow.

The blanket, the dress, and the cross-stitch will soon head west as well.

Grandmother Susan,  Ben's stepmother, recently took Alise out on a baby clothes shopping spree. Jenna, Alise's sister, admits to being eager to buy baby clothes and "cute bath toys."

I have no doubt that Mona, Alise's mom, has already started buying items as well.

We are all helping to feather the nest.

Alise is no slouch at feathering her own nest. Recently she sent us all pictures of a project she had just completed for Ramona.

These will be Ramona's first (well, probably her second, per Alise) moccasins.

Ramona Dawn will be a member of the Little Shell Chippewa tribe. With Alise working at the Native American Youth and Family Center (NAYA) in Portland and given her family's involvement in tribal events back in Montana, my guess is that Ramona will have a fair number of powwows and other Native American events under her belt before she ever takes her first step.

Whenever and wherever Ramona Dawn takes those first steps, she will be taking them from a well-feathered nest, full of books and dresses, bath toys and moccasins, dreams and hopes.

And full of love.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

The Rest of Chicago

There was more to Chicago than the Alumni awards last weekend. How could there not be? Chicago is the city of my youth and it has never left my heart.

I first set foot in Chicago in September, 1974, as a freshman at the University. It is my singular good luck that I first saw the University of Chicago, in all its Gothic splendor, and met Katrina on the same day. They are forever melded in my mind. Even though she and I have traveled far from Hyde Park (the University's neighborhood) and the gauche eighteen year olds we were, I never see the campus without thinking of Katrina.

Which is why it was perfect that Katrina was in Hyde Park herself last weekend. As a member of the Alumni Board of Governors, she chaired the awards committee. (Truth be told, I knew months ago that Muriel was receiving the award.) Katrina had duties and obligations on Saturday, and Warren and I had a meeting with Muriel, but Katrina and I nonetheless found time for a meeting, a hug, and a walk across campus talking furiously the whole time.

The campus was beautiful and all three of us commented on that beauty as we walked. It holds memories―memories of Katrina and me dancing and singing our way across the quad ("The minute you walked in the room, I could tell you were a man of distinction, a real big spender. Hey, big spender, spend a little time with me..."), memories of exiting Cobb Hall after a movie into a misty spring night and being overwhelmed by thoughts of Warren (he will know why when he reads this post), memories of walking across the Midway on a silent, cold winter night and seeing the full moon rise up, terrible and large, and hang over the IC tracks at the far end of the Plaisance.

We met up with Katrina's husband, Ed, near Harper Tower, and Warren and I gave Ed and Katrina a ride to their downtown hotel. The talk never ended. It was too fast, I wanted more, and I was thrilled to see Katrina at all. There were more hugs on Michigan Avenue as they got out of the car; Warren, watching the traffic in the rearview mirror, said tersely, "get back in the car now!"

Warren and I spent the night in Oak Park, where a century plus ago a young architect by the name of Frank Lloyd Wright began to turn architecture upside down. As a freshman, I had lived across the street from the Robie House, one of Wright's masterpieces. The predecessor (and to me the handsomer house) is in Oak Park:

So is what is undoubtedly my favorite structure in all of Chicago, if not the world:

It is a ticket booth—an original!—from the 1892 Columbian Exposition. I find it simply incredible that someone has an original ticket booth in their side yard.

Sunday morning before leaving for Ohio we drove back into the city, to meet another friend for breakfast. John is the same age as my son Ben, and is one of "my kids" from when I used to coach Destination Imagination. He now lives and teaches in Chicago and we were meeting at Ann Sather's.

Well, that was the plan. And a good plan it was, too, except for the fact that John got assaulted after parking his car and before entering the restaurant and it was some 30 or 40 minutes before he could rush into the restaurant, disheveled and wild-eyed, announce he had been assaulted and was filing a police report, and run back out.

I was so distraught that I had to order a second serving of what are surely the most amazing cinnamon rolls in the world:

From the blog Lucky Taste Buds! 
We never met up with John. We had to head home long before he completed the reports, so we left him our good wishes and a gift certificate for the breakfast he never got. There will be other trips to Chicago and other times to sit with John and enjoy breakfast.

The drive from here to Chicago or Chicago to here is a bit under six hours. We took a little longer coming home on Sunday. We meandered deliberately to a small cemetery in a small Indiana town which my great-great-great grandfather helped settle in the 1830s. Henry is buried there and we found his grave fairly quickly.

And we meandered again to drive a portion of the Lincoln Highway, the original US 30.

In recent years, most of US 30 in Ohio has been "improved" into a four-lane freeway and routed around the small towns and cities it once fed. I understand the reasoning behind that: the "new" US 30 is able to carry far more traffic, especially semis, swiftly and more directly than the original roadway. The small towns are no longer congested with diesel fumes and rumbling trucks.

But, oh, what we gave up when that improvement occurred.

We drove the portion of the Lincoln Highway that went into Van Wert, on the western side of Ohio. We came into town through an old residential section, slowing our pace down to match the narrow street. We rolled through a portion of the downtown, much of it shuttered, we drove past the courthouse.

We were driving on what William Least Heat Moon called (and immortalized in a book by the same name) "blue highways." On a blue highway, you will find the local doughnut shop. On a blue highway, you will find the hand lettered sign, "Fresh Eggs," at the edge of a farmhouse. On a blue highway, you will see the small stores and not just the strip malls.

On a blue highway, you will find a piece of this country's, and perhaps your own, past.

My life is threaded with blue highways and they are my preferred routes for travel. Back in my student days, I would sometimes take the Greyhound bus from Chicago to Delaware and back again. The bus in those days only traveled the blue highways. I knew the look and feel of downtown Fort Wayne, of Van Wert, of Delphos and Lima and Kenton.

Driving on the Lincoln Highway decades later, after a weekend in Chicago in my old haunts, I felt the faint touch of the past, light as moth wings, whisper against my face. I raised my hand as if to brush the memories away, drove on through town, and onto US 30.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Forging Anew

This past weekend found us making a quick trip to Chicago for the best of reasons: friendship.

Saturday marked the 71st Annual Alumni Awards ceremony at the University of Chicago. Muriel Lezak, who just happened to be my first mother-in-law way back when (it was a very short-lived marriage when I (and he) was very, very young), was receiving a professional achievement award for her lifetime of work in the field of neuropsychology, which she practically invented. Muriel will be 85 this summer: how could I not be at Chicago to watch her receive her tribute?

After no contact whatsoever for many years, Muriel and I reconnected a few years ago after I learned that Sidney Lezak, her husband of many, many years, had died. Sidney was a legend in his own professional arena, first as the US Attorney of Oregon for 22 years and then as a tireless advocate for mediation and other forms of alternative dispute resolution. I sent Muriel a brief condolence note of my warm memories of Sid, and through that very small door, she and I reached through and created a new friendship. Warren and I had coffee with her in Portland in 2008 when we were there for Ben's college graduation, and we continue to exchange cards and notes sporadically.

As I said, how could I not be in Chicago to watch her be honored? 

Muriel's youngest child, Miriam, was attending with her mother. I last saw Miriam in 1980 or 1981, when she was all of 21 or 22. Would I recognize her? Who had she become? As it turns out, I recognized her immediately, as she has her father's features and smile. And who had she become? Well, I would learn that too.

We managed to make it to the ceremony on time, despite getting to Chicago a little later than we had intended and despite my having the wrong start time fixed in my mind. I am glad we were there. I am glad Warren was sitting beside me, holding my hand.

After the ceremony and after the recipients had a luncheon in their honor, we met up with Miriam and Muriel at the bookstore. We sat outside and talked in pairs: Warren and Muriel,  Miriam and I. Then we switched: Warren and Miriam, Muriel and I. Two hours later, we said fond goodbyes and went our separate ways. Muriel was en route to the Ukraine with two of her older grandchildren; Miriam was headed back to Boston and her own family.

What played through my mind as we all sat there talking was that I was now older than Muriel was when I stopped being her daughter-in-law and that Miriam and I were both older than Muriel when I became her daughter-in-law. It was both interesting and difficult to look back over that long stretch of years and try to remember the young woman I was then.

In so many ways, Muriel, who has always been opinionated and outspoken, has not changed, except in age. She still will not hesitate to tell you immediately what she thinks of your political opinions and why they are wrong if they differ from hers, what she thinks of your life choices and why they are wrong if they differ from what she would have chosen for you, and what you should be doing in the near, intermediate, and far future. (This was a bit of a challenge for Warren, who blinked in surprise when Muriel all but insisted he had to travel to Europe before it was too late. "When you're dead, you're dead for a long, long time," she exclaimed.)

No, Muriel has not changed a bit.

The one who has changed is, of course, me. I have changed through maturation, through life experiences (both good and bad), through my marriage to Warren, and through my living with cancer. I wince at recollecting just how painfully young and introverted and unformed I was back then. Small wonder I was often intimidated and silenced in Muriel's presence.

I am reminded, sometimes daily, of Wilma Mankiller's observation about herself after surviving a deadly auto accident: From that point on, I have always thought of myself as the woman who lived before and the woman who lives afterward. When I was with Muriel and Miriam on Saturday, I thought "I am the woman who lives afterward." 

And what of Miriam, you may ask? Miriam has become a fascinating and mature woman. I told Warren on the drive home the next day that I would like to forge a friendship with Miriam, independent of who we were so many, many years ago.

Some years ago, in the heat of an argument with my then spouse (my children's father), he accused me of dragging my friends through the decades with me. That was the phrase he used: "you are always dragging your friends along through the years." He could not understand why I insisted on keeping in touch with old friends from my past and that became a running thread in our unraveling marriage.

When it comes to Muriel, and by extension, Miriam, I didn't drag them along through the years with me. They were a part of the past that, in the case of Muriel, became a part of my present. We didn't pick up where we left off: that was over and done. Rather, we forged a new relationship on the ashes of the old.

It is too soon to tell whether Miriam and I will do likewise. Saturday opened a door, a small door, and time will tell whether we reach through it to the other.

I plead guilty (and will forever) to the charge of dragging my friends with me through the decades. Katrina (who I also saw on Saturday) and Warren are two prime examples. Others, like Muriel, have come back into my life, like a missing patch on a quilt.

Or a sturdy bracket forged from an old one that no longer fit, but had never quite been set aside.

Miriam, April, and Muriel in Chicago

Friday, June 1, 2012

Little Bits

Tonight is First Friday, which is our downtown's "come support our local merchants, stores are open late" monthly event. The June theme is "Artful Spaces," which is a self-guided tour of some of the rehabbed (and not yet rehabbed) spaces in our historic buildings. The Symphony office is in downtown storefront space and is part of the tour. Warren will be downtown for most of the evening, which means I am also likely to be downtown for most of the evening.

Earlier in the week a call went out for "small and light" snacks for the Symphony to have available. I emailed back that I would bring something, something at that time being pretty undefined in my mind.

As I told Warren, I was leaning towards brownie bites, which are uninspiring but easy. I knew it was something I could knock off in under 30 minutes. It would fill the bill fine. On the other hand, for me, it felt like a low road through an obligation I had willingly undertaken.

Then I received an email from my son Sam. In it, he mentioned he had been doing a lot of cooking. Sam wrote: I've also been cooking huge meals for my housemates which is incredibly enjoyable; preparing and cooking and sharing food with people is one of the finer points in life for me as of late...Cooking for/with large groups is wonderful.

Sam is right. The act of cooking (or baking) and sharing food is one the finer points of life. Just reading his email stirred my enthusiasm and interest in the communion of eating for the first time in a long time.

I thought about "small and light." I thought about small.  I thought about something that would make a little bite, a little bit of a snack.

A little nosh.

What about empanadas? Little, tiny empanadas?

What about little empanadas with my own apple pie filling?

What about little apple pie empanadas with a sugar glaze on them?


It is Friday afternoon and the empanadas are out and glazed, drying while I finish this.

Okay, I admit it. They look great. I hope they are a hit tonight. (Okay, I confess. I ate one. Yes, they are incredible.)

2012 has been a more difficult year than I had hoped for, so far. Don't get me wrong. It has been full of blessings, full of love. There are still seven months of it to spend, one of which will bring Ramona Dawn into our midst. But there have been some moments and some issues that I have had to struggle through, or watch Warren struggle through, or struggle through with him. As a result, 2012 has been exhausting, and it is only half over.

I didn't want to make the apple pie empanadas with exhaustion in my heart and my hands. I wanted to make them in the spirit of community, in the spirit of sharing.

As I cooked down the apples for the empanadas, as I rolled out the pie dough and filled and crimped each one, as I dipped each baked one into a glaze, I tried hard to stay in the moment. I was baking to feed the guests who will come through the office tonight.  I was baking to give those who came and noshed a taste of sweetness, a taste of community.

I was baking to share.

As I moved further into the process, I set my spoon down and filled them with my fingers. I need to touch and shape them myself. By the time the last tray hit the oven, my heart was full.

They are just little bits. They are just little bites of apple and dough. Just little noshes.

Just little bits that have filled my heart today.