Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Bless or blessed?

Our local Christian radio station (KTIS) sponsors a campaign called the "Drive-Through Difference."

They encourage you to pay for the person's order in the car behind yours as you're going through a fast-food or coffee-shop drive-through - a random act of kindness.

I did this once. I only had time to very briefly see the reaction on the young woman's face as she pulled up to the window to pay for her order. She looked into the back of my car as I pulled away, her eyes wide with astonishment.

I hope it made a difference in her day. I hope it touched her heart. But if it did, it surely paled in comparison to the feeling I received. It changed MY day.

So did I bless, or was I blessed?

Yesterday was laundry day for me. Living in a condominium, the ten units on our floor share a washer and dryer in a common laundry room. It's kept neat and clean by all of us, and often serves as a great visiting place. We have no set schedule, no reservations; it's more or less "first-come, first-served."

Yesterday as I carried in my basket of laundry and headed toward the washer, this is what I saw:

I floated through my laundry with a warm, fuzzy feeling in my heart. It changed my day.

I don't know who the giver was.  I have a suspicion but I won't ruin it by asking.

Those little random acts of kindness pack a lot of power in their punch. I urge you to try it sometime. Something as simple as a load of laundry.

So, what is your conclusion? Do you think that my kind neighbor blessed? Or was she blessed?

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

We day

You've heard about my "Me Days."  I've written about them before.

(Which reminds me, I haven't had one in a very long time.)
Well, my husband and I have occasional "We Days."  Only not often enough, we decided.

They're like other couples' date nights. Only we're not ones for going out at night, so we have "we days" instead.

We had one last Sunday. A perfect-weather, lazy Sunday afternoon. Cool but sunny; great light, fresh breeze; no traffic into downtown St. Paul.

We started on a mission to purchase tickets to the Ordway Center. It was the first day that open ticket sales (versus the subscription series) were offered and I wanted to make sure I got the best seats for seven of us - my daughter, daughter-in-law, granddaughters and great-granddaughter. We go every year. It's my Christmas gift to the girls.

This year is the first year we've added the 4-year-olds. The performance is Cinderella.  How we could not include our little ones for Cinderella?

Tickets in hand, satisfied with both the seating and the prices, we strolled from the Ordway, past the historic and grand St. Paul Public Library, across Kellogg Boulevard to be delighted with the new landscaping at the Science Museum.

Or new to us, as we don't get there very often.

In addition to beautiful gardens in full bloom, they've added a lookout platform which affords a wonderful panoramic view of the Mississippi River.

From the platform, I could see my friend, Carol's, houseboat, bedecked with bright geraniums facing the river. A few years back, she put her house up for sale and moved there full-time. A professional writer, she added a second story studio. No stranger to the river, sailing is her passion.

Below the platform, on the ground walk-out level of the museum, is a wonderful labyrinth. We watched, mesmerized, as a young woman was making her way through the lush green maze.

I wondered if she was pondering or praying, or simply enjoying the beautiful Sunday afternoon, as we were.

Leaving the Science Museum, we strolled back along Market Street, admiring the gardens at The Saint Paul Hotel, with its doormen with top hats greeting guests and passers-by.

We headed around the corner, down Fifth Street, topping off our late afternoon with a soothing glass of wine and scrumptious wood-fired artisan pizza at Pazzaluna, dining outdoors on the street patio.

It was dusk as we headed home.  A bit heady from the wine, perhaps, but mostly feeling the glow of the simple time of an afternoon spent together.

Our We Day. We really must do it more often.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

My memory log

Being a woman who enjoys writing, I've kept a journal for many years. Every so often, I might read some of my earlier entries. For the most part, though, they remain untouched.

My journals are my memory logs.

On the rare occasions when I do re-read them, bygone events, heartaches and joys are all recalled. I relive the happy events of weddings, babies born, perfect weather days, lunches or walks with friends...and just everyday, simple joys.

And I realize how challenges and obstacles have been overcome, some with the mere passing of time; others with healing tears; and some with the willing, but uncomfortable, effort to change.

We are all creating memory logs. They may not consist of words in a journal, but they are all there, safely stored in our minds, ours for the taking when we wish to pluck them out.

Sometimes I like to even remember (and write about) smells and sounds to accompany my memory log. The fuzzy head of my newborn daughter, the fragrance of the first spring tulip, the rain lulling me to sleep, the crack of the bat at my son's T-ball game. They're all there, in my memory log.

So what we do with today...the activities we'll engage in, our response to adverse events, how we celebrate the joyous ones, our encounters with others, simple acts of kindness given or received, how we acknowledge people we meet, how we express our love, listening, speaking and learning...these are the things building our memory logs. These are what determine what we will recall later.

I realize that much of what I've written and re-read in my journals are things that seemed mostly insignificant at the time, but mean much more to me now.

So as I start my day today, I'll be aware of those seemingly insignificant things that are all being stored away for later.

In my memory log.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Bowtie chicken cranberry salad

Chicken Cranberry Salad

Following my last post, I received requests for the chicken salad made for my Book Group luncheon gathering at my house.

This picture was taken after the group left and shows only the remains of the salad. The bowl was heaping as this recipe makes a large amount.
Bowtie Chicken Cranberry Salad
3# bag of frozen chicken breasts - bake on cookie sheet and allow to cool; then cut into pieces or shred.
1 package (16-oz) bowtie pasta - cook, drain, toss with a drizzle of olive oil
Combine pasta, chicken, and the following:
1 cup chopped pecans or toasted walnuts
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
3/4 teaspoon pepper (I use lemon pepper)
1 package (5-ounces or more) Craisins
3/4 cup chopped celery
1/2 to 3/4 cup chopped red onion (adjust amount to your taste)
Prepare the dressing:
2-1/4 cup (or 22-oz. jar) mayonnaise (I use part Miracle Whip)
1/4 cup vinegar
2/3 cup (or to taste) sugar
1/2 cup milk
2 tablespoons poppyseeds (I use a bit more)
Combine all and toss gently. Chill before serving.
I made the salad the day before, and served it with brandied cranberries, homemade Grainery pickles, freshly baked dinner rolls, strawberry-infused lemonade, and sugar cookies.

Bon apetit!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Curled up with a book

Tomorrow my Book Group is meeting at my house for lunch and a review of our current selection, Island Beneath the Sea (Isabel Allende).

I am the discussion leader.  I have not yet finished the book.

So this morning, I made chicken salad, cranberry relish, homemade rolls, and lemonade. Cleaned the kitchen, dusted and vacuumed. Put odds and ends (junk) away that were sitting around where they never should have been, but you know how that goes. Or maybe you don't.  Maybe you put things away in their proper place right away.

Yeah, right....

So now I am ready to curl up (I wish I had a box of chocolates) and finish the book. Why do I always have to have everything in order and all my chores done before allowing myself to sit and read or knit? Maybe it's a Lutheran thing.

Besides being my favorite author, Isabel Allende has outdone herself with this book. I almost hate to finish it. Then it's done and I will miss it. It's just that good.

Set in the late 1700s in France, Haiti, Cuba and New Orleans, it contains a rich history of the settling of Louisiana as a colony of Spain, then France, and finally America.

It's the story of Zarité, known as Tété, a young slave purchased by a wealthy sugarcane plantation owner, Toulase Valmorain, as a concubine for his own pleasure and whims.

Against a merciless backdrop of slavery in the sugarcane fields, their lives become more intertwined and interdependent over the years. Though battered and treated cruelly, Tété survives with her strength of character, and her voodoo beliefs, which are later mingled with Christianity.

The island beneath the sea is a place where "rhythm is born...it shakes the earth, it cuts like a lightening bolt and rises toward the sky." Such beautiful prose. Typical of Allende's style.

Isabel Allende wrote two of my favorite books, Daughter of Fortune and Portrait in Sepia. Now I have a third favorite.
So if, tomorrow, I am to lead the discussion, I better finish the last twenty-seven pages....

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Queen for a day

How many of you remember the bizarre 1950s show, hosted by Jack Bailey, Queen for a Day? 

Four women were selected for each show, requesting a prize, such as a washer and dryer, to help them overcome some personal tragedy. They would elicit support from the audience by telling their sad story. Hankies in hand, they would sob as they recounted their misfortune.

The audience would then decide, via an "Applause-O-Meter," which story had affected them the most, and the winner would be deemed worthy of the title "Queen for a Day."

The winner won her prizes, and was bedecked in a sable-trimmed red velvet robe and a jeweled crown.

This was the most pathetic, ridiculous show of the 50s. It was also extremely popular and ran for fourteen years, into the 1960s.

Imagine, sharing your personal tragedies with the public, trying to outdo other contestants with your story, hoping to produce enough sobs to win the prize.

My younger sisters produced a fabulous and hilarious take-off on this show in our neighbors, the Bergs, basement. They invited parents and other neighbors to come view their show, complete with popcorn and chairs set up in theater-fashion.

My sister, Edie, played the role of "Mrs. Myron Tashisky," a fictitious name. Since "Mrs. Tashisky" was from the south, my sister adopted the appropriate drawl (Miz M-a-hron Tashi-sky).

Mrs. Tashisky had the most horrible sob story you could imagine. All she hoped to win on the show was a wringer washer for her eighteen children! Of course, her heart-wrenching story went on and on with great drama.

To further emphasize her distress, she unrolled and unrolled a giant roll of toilet paper (she couldn't afford Kleenex) to dry her tear-filled eyes as she recounted her distress, until there was toilet paper all over the stage.

Of course, Mrs. Tashisky won. Just to put your mind at ease.

Thankfully, we've come a long way since I Love Lucy (still one of my favorite shows, by the way) and Queen for a Day

But we have lost a lot, too.  My all-time favorite show, Andy Griffith, depicts a gentler, more sensitive time in Americana. I wish we had that back.

I watch very little television, preferring my own select DVDs to entertain me as I'm knitting in the evenings.  With two TVs in the house, my husband watches the other one, almost drowning out all other sounds with shooting, swearing, or engaging in....well, you know...

He likes action. The louder, the better, apparently.

I, on the other hand, wish for the 50s back. At least for the more tame television.

But definitely not, Queen for a Day.  That can well be buried in the past and stay there. Right along with The Newlywed Game.