If you have consciously or serendipitiously arrived here, welcome. I’m Fran, aka Redondowriter, and my interests include family, friends, writing, reading, art, computers, storytelling, spirituality, photography, animals—and exploring the layers of everyday life.
My friend Jim sent me this link and I have listened to it over and over. It's Ray Charles, Jerry Lee Lewis and Fats Domino live in a spontaneous concert in the Netherlands in September 2006. Though I am staying in on this New Year's Eve, I would definitely go out--and even drive or fly long distances to hear this Boogie trinity perform in person. When I was in college at San Jose State, I remember sitting in peanut heaven in the civic auditorium for a Fats Domino concert. I'd been into clubs in L.A. and San Francisco to hear the "locals" like Joe Houston and Big Jay McNeeley, but Fats was my rite-of-passage concert.
Though I have the tutorial right in front of me to imbed the code for the player in this post, it isn't working. But here's a link that will take you there.
Ray Charles and Jerry Lewis, followed by Fats Domino.
Have a safe and happy new year.
As I begin to pack away Christmas gifts, I finally have the time to sit with each one and really think about the gift and the giver. My youngest son Tony has surprised me with many spiritual treats over the years because he knows I like those kinds of gifts. This year he gave me something I really wanted: Thich Nhat Hanh’s Present Moment, Wonderful Moment gift box set with a book and 52 inspirational cards to go with it.
The book opens with this phrase: “Everyone has pain and suffering. It is possible to let go of this pain and smile at our suffering. We can only do this if we know that the present moment is the only moment in which we can be alive. How wonderful to be alive.”
This little book and the cards are short verses called gathas to recite during routine daily activities. They are meant to help us return to the present moment and dwell in mindfulness. There are gathas to start the day such as brushing your teeth and even using the toilet. There are other verses for meditation and for eating mindfully like cleaning the kitchen, drinking tea, preparing the meal. Daily activities include touching the earth, using the phone, using the computer, and even recycling. In other words, every moment is touched with grace.
I am the kind of person who needs constant reminders and reinforcement to remember my spiritual practices. Tony’s gift will help me do this. Each part of the book and the cards, too, could also be prompts for journal writing. I can see their potential for the work I do with others in groups, too.
When I was younger, working full-time and then some professionally, plus dating and socializing post-divorce, it seemed like it was go, go, go all the time. Sometimes I wished (as I did when I was raising kids and lived in traditional family life) I could just have quiet time with nothing to do. You have to watch out what you pray for. I am often alone now and will be on New Years eve this year, too, as I was on Christmas eve. But, I am often with people, too. I have the best of both worlds though I'm well aware that I have an existential loneliness built into my personality. Sometimes I feel alone when I am in a crowd, but when I was with my friends, I felt cozy, safe and sponge-like. Everyone shared so many different things about themselves and what they are doing. I was deeply woven into two different communities, soaking them both up, and grateful for it.
This morning our gourmet group of some 30 years got together for brunch with all of us bringing things to share. I made fresh smoothies from guava juice, strawberries, bananas, Trader Joe's Greek honey yogurt, a little milk and some crushed ice. The main dishes were recipes from the Mast Farm Inn in North Carolina--including eggs with crab and sausages. Our hosts, Mary and Don, who have a cozy condo overlooking the Pacific in Rolling Hills, had stayed in this inn recently. I paced myself knowing I had a dinner party to attend at 6 p.m. These people are the salt of the earth and we ended our gathering with our used book exchange. We decided a few years back that since we essentially had everything, we would do our bit for the planet.
The dinner event was hosted by an old friend who is one of my role models for growing older. She's the one who got me involved as a volunteer at the Malaga Cove Library. She and her husband have lived for 40 years in an unpretentious home high on a hill in Palos Verdes with a to-die-for view of the city of Los Angeles, the ocean and what is called The Queen's Necklace. Those are all the cities on the coast looking north until the mountains turn the bend in Port Hueneme. Pat made a great prime rib dinner with Bearnaise sauce, twice-baked potatoes, broccoli and a fresh salad. For dessert we had her renowned coconut cake. Pat and Bill and the seven others of us who work together at the library had a grand old time. More salt of the earth people.
Dare I weigh myself tonight? I don't think so. But what was the most important aspect of both meals were the dear, dear people I was with. I did not feel even remotely lonely today except for the hour I spent in the Del Amo mall for an hour with hundreds of others. Yeah, I know. My kids and grandkids say, with big grins on their faces, "Mom/Grandma, you are weird!" It was such a wonderful day that I almost feel guilty--almost, but not quite.
When I was preparing food for Christmas dinner, I turned to a few of my old church cookbooks from days long gone by, and to my accordian file where I keep personally hand-written recipes or ones cut from newspapers and magazines. My youngest son, on Christmas afternoon, asked to see the old church cookbooks because many of the recipes were submitted by the moms of his friends. He was flooded with nostalgia--and so was I. My granddaughter and I have long talked about writing down grandma's recipes, although to tell you the truth, I am not known in my family for being an outstanding cook. On Dec. 26, I got those cookbooks and the file out as well as a few of my truly antique cooking utensils passed down through the family. It is my intention to begin typing in the favorites and to have a family cookbook by this time next year.
You can see an old meat mallet for tenderizing, a metal cheese cutter with an adjustable wire, a tea baller shaped like a teapot, and an ancient garlic press from my former husband's grandmother. That's the tip of the ice berg.
These days, as often as not, I simply go to the Internet, choose a recipe, and my lifetime's collection of recipes lay dormant. Many of my casseroles are simply in my head. But, then I want to make some of the old tried and trues: Rosie's Chinese chicken casserole, Freddie's pots de creme, Karma's Bernaise sauce, JoWan's apple crisp, and Carol's Christmas walnut balls. Like the stained book covers you see here, the handwritten recipes are dog eared and stained.
But there was my mom's handwriting on some of her favorites and also handwritten recipes from many relatives and friends, many of them gone now. I can't believe I'm going to type this, but I'm teary so it must be true: I miss cooking for others. All those years when I was cooking for a family three times a day and frequently entertaining, I thought I'd be happy if I never had to cook again. And now I find myself alone and cooking for yourself is not nearly as pleasurable as cooking for others.
Tomorrow morning I'm going to a brunch where I'll contribute smoothies and tomorrow night I'm invited for dinner to at a friend's home. We humans are definitely archetypical-hardwired. We like to eat together.
I get take out from the local Mexican and Chinese places a few times a week and make my mainstay tuna casserole or a hearty soup. I throw a chicken in the crockpot and supplement Cookie's dog food and make a variety of quick chicken recipes through the week. I buy stuff from Costco and freeze it, doling stuff out in single servings, or I go to Sprouts Market's deli and take home prepared meals.
When my kids were young, I planned my meals a week in advance and rotated what we had over a two-week period. Pasta in some variation was always a mainstay; my ex is Sicilian after all. The swapped recipes and those church cookbooks were actually sacred but I simply took it all for granted.
My sister Betty's 84th birthday is tomorrow. She is the one in Tumwater, WA whose husband died last May. He loved Betty's cooking and she did a lot of it; unfortunately, since last Christmas, he no longer enjoyed food and ultimately couldn't eat at all by mouth. Betty stopped cooking, but she cooked her first "company" meal for her friends on Christmas day--and my sis is a really good cook. Lazy me needs to have friends over now and then.
Please share with me how you incorporate your old recipes into your cooking routines. Some of you who read here are alone, like my sis and me are. What are your tips to make meal prep and eating more mindful? I'm ashamed to admit it, but when I'm alone, I park in front of the TV to watch the news, with Cookie munching her food from her bowl at my feet. I want and need a food transformation.
Kathy, if you read here, I want Bill's mom's recipe for the cherry jello mousse. Thanks for bringing some over.
For some reason I cannot fathom, my wireless Internet connection has slowed down to what feels like my beginner's 28.8 modem years ago. I moved my computer equipment from my bedroom to the next bedroom over in August and it slowed down some then. But, lately it has literally taken a freaky nose dive. I went to my Mac users group last night and received some suggestions, but if I don't solve this thing on my own in the morning, I'll have to find a Mac tech.
Fortunately, my work is only 6 miles away and I can go there tomorrow and do a little surfing, but for now I can't even do my blog walk, much less the research I want to do on Deer Stag slippers and shoes. I managed to pick up a few pairs in my size at Mervyns today (I braved the after-Christmas sales this afternoon) and my poor old feet are now happy feet.
It seems so stupid to write the trivia I just wrote when the world has lost a leader today. I awoke to the news of Mrs. Bhutto's assassination and though it came as no surprise, I feel very, very sad nonetheless. And I feel scared for the people of Pakistan and scared for all of us; the terrorists got a big notch on their belts. Her assassination also triggered memories of the 1960s--JFK, MLK, RFK and it was hard today to focus. Thus the dumb ass post Christmas shopping spree. (Don't think, don't feel; just consume.) When JFK died, I was very young and idealistic and his death began my slow descent into cynicism.
When I finally fell into bed with journal and book last night about 10, I was utterly exhausted and in a lot of physical discomfort in my feet and knees. But, what made it all worthwhile was family and particularly the joy of the little kids.
This is Henry, Fritz and their dad in Manhattan Beach, CA sharing their toys via video conferencing with their cousin Zach in Washington state. Though only 20 months, Zach "got it" and all the boys were busy talking and showing each other their toys. I got such joy from this experience--and all the family did. My youngest son's family, my daughter's family, and my eldest son Joe's family, though many miles separated us in actuality, it felt like we were all in the same room. Except Joe showed us all the snow outside of his window and we were sunny, clear and in the late 60s in So Cal. Our day began with brunch and the opening of presents at Tony and Gretchen's home.
This is Zach in Washington looking at the book his grandma Fran sent. And thanks to Flickr and our webcams, I got to see a lot of what was happening in two places at once.
Thanks to aunt Chris, Henry and Fritz showed off their matching skunk slippers, which were on their lists for Santa. I received several nice gifts including tickets to a February evening with my daughter and granddaughter to see Wicked in Hollywood.
As for me, another Christmas has passed, 70 now. Tonight a very cold Santa Ana is blowing, I just got back from my South Bay Macintosh Users Group meeting, and I have saved three presents to open in a few minutes. Tired as I was, I am so grateful that I have family in the area and that we were able to spend a lot of time together yesterday.
All day and evening I have been aware of the fact that this is the shortest day of the year, or the Winter Solstice. I was happy to go to Rainy Day Thoughts and read what she had to say and hope you will do the same.
As for me, after wrapping packages tonight, I retreated to my living room where my "little tree" is next to the fire place. This is my scaled-back Christmas with a tree that I could totally handle all by myself. I lit the tree and some candles, then wrapped up in a favorite afghan and wrote for a little while, reflecting on this day and a little on my life in relationship to others. But, I only wrote a little, frankly. I'm writing here, just for a few minutes, and then I'm retreating with a book to my super scrumptious warm bed. I've had enough insight for one day and night, I guess. Who was it that said the unexamined life is not worth living? Well, sometimes the over-examined life can be problematic, too. If I reflect too much during this season, I remember Christmases past and I get far too nostalgic. I keep telling myself, "This is the way a healthy, divorced 70-year-old woman creates Christmas"--and so it is! It's not what it was, but it is what it is--and I am grateful to be on this planet.
Talk about special gifts. My friend Barbara, who loves the poet Mary Oliver’s work as I do, has purchased tickets for us both to see Mary Oliver at UCLA’s Royce Hall on Feb. 2. I am looking forward to seeing and hearing Oliver very, very much. As I grow older, I find it imperative to have milestones to look forward to. When I was younger, I had so many things to look forward to that I took them for granted. I continue to minutely read Oliver’s latest book “Thirst” which touches me so much because we are women about the same age and I identify with her grief, the passage of time, and slow return to religion with new eyes. This poem is the one that grabbed me today and the picture is one I took at Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park in the summer of 2006.
The Place I Want to Get Back To
in the pinewoods
in the moments between
and first light
came walking down the hill
and when they saw me
they said to each other, okay,
this one is okay,
let’s see who she is
and why she is sitting
on the ground, like that,
so quiet, as if
asleep, or in a dream,
but, anyway, harmless;
and so they came
on their slender legs
and gazed upon me
not unlike the way
I go out to the dunes and look
and look and look
into the faces of the flowers;
and then one of them leaned forward
and nuzzled my hand, and what can my life
bring to me that could exceed
that brief moment?
For twenty years
I have gone every day to the same woods,
not waiting, exactly, just lingering.
Such gifts, bestowed
can’t be repeated.
If you want to talk about this
come to visit. I live in the house
near the corner, which I have named
Mathematics was not my thing as a young student; I had the traditional math block that many girls in our culture seemed to have in that day and age. I took algebra in high school, but I never took geometry and somehow slipped into college without it or trigonometry, and even picked up a B.A. and M.A. passing through. With calculators, and rudimentary mathematics, I seemed to have proceeded through life in general, but now the Universe is knocking on the door and saying, “Don’t miss the underlying meanings of geometry.”
To my surprise, when I last visited my spiritual director, Betsy Caprio at the Center for Sacred Psychology, she had a nice tray nearby with crystal geometric shapes she is using as another potential tool to tap into the unconscious. Betsy is a Jungian art therapist and has long used the classic Jungian sand trays and archetypal objects for student Jungian and art interns as well as directees who want to explore archetypes.
This is what Betsy’s geometrical shapes look like sitting in their tray. You just say geometry to me and I freeze, although I’ll admit I am naturally drawn to certain shapes, particularly the circle, spiral, and the triangle. Betsy gave me an extremely detailed four page handout about accessing our unconscious with geometric shapes. I could understand it, if not the exact mathematical principles. Betsy does not use a computer, but she drew all the shapes and then typed and hand-wrote a primer for sacred geometry, complete with bibliography. She is a scholar, just an old-fashioned scholar sans computer.
Crystal Links was another. Wikipedi says, "Sacred geometry is geometry that is sacred to the observer or discoverer. This meaning is sometimes described as being the language of the God of the religion of the people who discovered or used it. Sacred geometry can be described as attributing a religious or cultural value to the graphical representation of the mathematical relationships and the design of the man-made objects that symbolize or represent these mathematical relationships. The golden ratio was often used in the design of Greek and Roman architecture. A contemporary usage of the term describes a supposed re-discovered mathematical order to the intrinsic nature of the Universe that is represented in crop circles and in ancient architecture such as the Great Pyramid and Stonehenge."
To my delight, on Saturday I went to the unveiling of a new public sculpture donated by the Long Family Foundation at the main library in Palos Verdes. Commissioned by the Longs, Brad Howe is the sculptor. The big cover was pulled off the sculpture and voila, this is what we saw:
Yes, I recognized sacred geometry when I saw it. A naming contest called it "Balancing Knowledge" and as I looked at it hard a long up close, touching and tapping it, it kind of reminded me of me balancing my life.
Here it is all around me and I didn't even know. In her handout, Betsy suggests that we observe our doodling—that our unconscious automatically veers toward shapes and that is certainly true of my doodles. And like dreams and their symbols, geometric shapes are symbols, too. And all these shapes are archetypes connected to God, Universe, Master Plan, or whatever you want to call it, whether we know it or not--or care about it or not.
So, what does your doodling look like? Have you ever considered using geometrical shapes as a meditation, or self-exploration tool? Hmmm.
Last night my friends and I made our yearly trek to Disney Hall for Chanticleer's Christmas concert. Chanticleer, the renowned San Francisco Men's Chorus, was well worth the drive in an unusual rain storm where traffic creeped. We built in a few hours just in case and I'm glad we did. Thanks, Barbara, for driving. My friend Hazel's daughter is the Executive Director of this choral group which tours around the world throughout the year. Our special treat this particular year was the after-concert reception in Disney's Founders Circle for a Patina buffet and rubbing shoulders with the group and with Disney Hall's top donors, courtesy of our friend's daughter. I actually recognized a few people, but the men in the chorus freely mixed with us. I just love this group.
Chanticleer was recently named the 2008 “Ensemble of the Year” by the editors of the Musical America International Directory of the Performing Arts, the first time a vocal ensemble has been so recognized. Want a taste of Chanticleer? This video is from the Today Show on December 3, though you do have to endure one Toyota commercial to get to it. If you visit Chanticleer's website above, you can listen to other pieces as well.