Grace in the Moon

This is for the dVerse prompt, “Grace.” Things were off for my New Year’s Eve and New Year’s, but I was struck by the brilliant moon. I felt there was a message there, if only I could hear it.

 

The moon hums with a fierce light

glowing

throwing

pale white heat

we do not hear or feel it,

the insistent beat

on rural roads or city streets,

though she hums aloud

we’re lost in darkness

lost, frozen, under this

tenebrous cloud

 

but if we stop,

listen for a space

(pause)

here in this unknown place

look upon a well-loved face

find here, see, a bit of grace

in love constant, shining like the moon

like her humming tune,

hear the whisper in the wind,

hope is coming, listen, soon

 

 

Advertisements

Past and Future: Tanka

Well, it’s been a strange and not wonderful start to the New Year. My mom is in the hospital. Our Internet has been down for about a day and a half. I am trying to catch up now with e-mails, posts, and work. No Monday Morning Musings this week.

This tanka is for Frank Tassone’s New Year Challenge. I wrote it a few days ago, but this is the first chance I’ve had to post it.

 

calendar page turns

on cusp of past and future

time unchecked flows on

 

streams of shimmering light beams

paused in prismed memories

 

The_Future_Began_Here

“The future began here.” This week’s picture was taken by ESO Photo Ambassador Babak Tafreshi at ESO’s La Silla Observatory. The bright lane of the Milky Way can be seen streaking across the skies above the Chilean Atacama Desert, beneath which sits the New Technology Telescope (NTT), one of the ten active telescopes located at the observatory. . .Wikipedia Commons

 

 

 

 

Ringing Out the Year: Going to the Movies with the Smiths Redux

Embed from Getty Images

 

Those of you who follow my blog know that I enjoy going to the movies, and that I often mention movies I’ve seen.  In my WordPress 2015 Year in Blogging summary, I discovered that a February post, “Going to the Movies With the Smiths” was my most commented upon post this year. In the post, I discussed seeing Still Alice and some other “sad movies.” In one of those strange coincidences, just after I read my summary, I saw Stephen Liddell’s post about his top ten movies of the year, which reminded me of some movies I had seen and enjoyed earlier this year including The Imitation Game, The Theory of Everything, and Far From the Madding Crowd.

In the past couple months—the time of year when often the serious Oscar contenders arrive in theaters–my husband and I have seen some wonderful movies. For the most part, they were not movies with lots of action. The movies relied on well-written scripts, nuanced performances, and good editing. There were no superheroes, unless you put investigative reporters, astronauts, and those who challenge social mores in that category, which I suppose I do.

Of the recent movies I’ve seen, I would place Spotlight and Carol in a tie for best. They were totally different types of movies, but both were beautifully done. Spotlight tells the story of the Boston Globe’s Spotlight series that exposed the enormous problem of sexual abuse crimes by clergy within the Catholic church, along with its systemic cover up, which involved not only church hierarchy, but also government officials and organizations. Focusing first on Boston, the movie then reveals the global scope of the problem. The movie does not ignore the suffering and trauma of the survivors of the abuse, who the reporters methodically track down.  One of the movie’s taglines was “Break the story. Break the silence.”  Directing a great cast, Tom McCarthy achieved a movie that was tense and exciting, an amazing achievement for a “newspaper movie.” The audience in the movie theater applauded at the end. I felt like we all let out a collective breath, a feeling that though just a beginning, some justice had been done.

Carol is based on a novel by Patricia Highsmith. It is about two women who fall in love in 1950s New York.  Cate Blanchette and Rooney Mara give superb performances, as they convey so much with merely a glance. Kyle Chandler as Carol’s bewildered husband also does a fine job, as does Cory Michael Smith as the nerdy, creepy “notions” salesman. It is one of those movies that envelopes the viewer in its world. The score is fantastic, too.

Brooklyn and The Danish Girl were my next favorite movies. Both were also have outstanding cinematography and boast wonderful performances by the leads and supporting cast. Brooklyn is the story of an Irish immigrant (Saorise Ronan) to 1950s Brooklyn. It explores homesickness, love, and family—as well as what it meant to emigrate at that time. The Danish Girl, which I’ve written about in another post, is about artist Einar Wegener, who had one of the first sex-change operations in the 1930s. Director Tom Hooper elicits elegant and heartbreaking performances from Eddie Redmayne as Einar/Lili and an even more compelling performance from Alicia Vikander as Einar’s wife, Gerda, also an artist.

Other movies we’ve seen recently and enjoyed include The Martian and Bridge of Spies. I still want to see Trumbo, Room, and, yes, The Hunger Games. (You weren’t expecting that one, were you?) J Well, I’m also looking forward to the new Star Trek movie next summer. See, I’m not a total movie snob, as my sister refers to me. I’m also intrigued by Anomalisa, Charlie Kaufman’s new movie featuring puppets.

I’m a fan of old movies, too. On Christmas Eve, my husband and I watched, or perhaps I should say re-watched, It’s a Wonderful Life. It may be a bit schmaltzy, but the 1946 Frank Capra directed movie starring the perfect Jimmy Stewart is a true classic.

So what movies have you seen recently? Do you have a favorite genre?

*****

Thank you to all who read my blog, and especially to those who take the time to comment. It has been a true joy getting to know you. Welcome to my new readers, too!

I don’t want to end this post without acknowledging my five top commenters in 2015:

Marian Beaman Plain and Fancy Girl 

Luanne Castle, Writer Site

Rachel Carrera

Frank of A Frank Angle 

Rowena of Beyond the Flow Who keeps me up to date on all things Australian.

Do check out all of their wonderful blogs!

Happy New Year! Wishing all of you—health, happiness, good friends, the opportunity to see wonderful movies, to read fantastic books, and to enjoy the goodness of life.  And of course, let’s all wish for world peace.

See you in 2016!

 

 

Love and Marriage: Ringing Out the Year with Love and Traditions

Tevye: “Is this the little girl I carried? Is this the little boy at play?”

Golde: “I don’t remember growing older. When did they?”

In August, my older daughter got married. It was a wonderful celebration of love and joy as family and friends enveloped the two glowing brides in a bubble of warm wishes, while sharks and other aquatic life looked on–since the ceremony and reception took place at an aquarium. In October, my sister and her long-time partner married. It was also a love-filled, joyous event. The brides barely managed to get through their vows without crying as family and friends encircled them on the ballroom floor. The reception included some wild and crazy dancing. Yes, some of it was mine.

A few years ago, I never would have thought my older daughter or my younger sister would be able to marry. That they can is wonderful, and yet, completely natural—because why shouldn’t they be able to legally marry the people they love?

Amidst the grays of December and the brightness of seasonal festivities, our family experienced another outpouring of love marked with tears, laughter, and a sparkling token of promise and affection.

On Christmas Eve, my younger daughter’s boyfriend proposed to her. She struggled to say “yes” through her tears of joy. As we later heard about and saw in a video, these two trained actors could barely form words. My husband and I and a few other family members knew the proposal was coming that day, but my daughter did not. After the proposal, which took place in a favorite restaurant, the happy couple returned to my niece’s house, where they had had brunch with our family earlier in the day. My daughter didn’t know all of us would still be there. (We watched Fiddler on the Roof, the obvious choice for a Christmas Eve movie, while we waited for them to return.) When she and her now fiancé walked in the door, we yelled “surprise,” –my mother still not realizing what had happened–and there were many tears of joy shed—followed by a smiles, laughter, and a toast to the newly engaged couple.

In the weeks leading up to the proposal, I had been referring to my niece, other daughter, her wife, and I as “the yentas,” as we struggled not to ask details or give advice to my daughter’s boyfriend. So, of course, I had to write a silly parody skit of Fiddler on the Roof as an engagement gift. It was titled, “A Kitten on the Roof.” (I mean, of course it was, what else would I call it?)

I won’t share it here, since it is filled with family jokes that would not make much sense to people outside of our family, but here is the beginning:

“A kitten on the roof. Sounds crazy, no? But you might say that we’re all kittens on the roof, trying to keep our balance with a bit of hissing and clawing. Sometimes life is crazy weird, but at other times it’s all cuddles and purrs.”

My younger daughter and her fiancé were both theatre majors in college, and they performed in some plays together there. With their theatre backgrounds in mind, this is the coda to my silly skit:

This is the end of Part I. This play runs in many acts over many, many years. Be prepared. There will be laughter and tears. Props will appear and disappear. Settings and lighting will change. Cues will be missed. Actors will come and go, but the characters, Sheryl and Eric, remain constant—at least to each other.

So, as you can tell, my holiday season was wonderful! I am so happy for my daughter and her fiancé. I know 2014 was not a good year for many people. I have friends who have lost loved ones. I know horrible things have happened in the world. But for me, 2014 is the year of love and marriage. And there will be another wedding soon.

* * * * *

Wishing all of you a very happy new year filled with cuddles and purrs and very few occasions for hisses and claws. I wish you long life and happiness. I wish all of you the ability to take joy in old traditions and/or the ability to create new ones. I wish for you to receive at least one good surprise in 2015. I wish all of you the presence of people who love you. Wishing all good things for all of us in 2015!

To us and our good fortune

Be happy be healthy, long life!
And if our good fortune never comes

Here’s to whatever comes,
Drink l’chaim, to life!

–“To Life” From Fiddler on the Roof

IMG_1586

My husband and I at our older daughter’s wedding at Adventure Aquarium, Camden, NJ.

 

Apples and Honey

IMG_1780

Apples and honey

on the blue kitchen counter.

Round braided challahs,

waiting to be sliced.

Soup is simmering,

and tables cleared.

Preparation done.

 IMG_1747

Guests arrive

in a swirl of

arms, legs,

hugs, and kisses.

Mom’s walker

appears

before she does.

I pull;

my brother gently pushes–

she’s in.

One cat dashes

up the stairs,

vanishing for the evening.

The other watches us

with his huge eyes—

What does he think as the

sun-dappled day turns

to cool moonlit night?

Try this wine.

You don’t like it?

No—

it’s like bubbly, sweet air.

My daughter and I look

at each other

and open the red.

 

Snapshots of a moment;

pause to remember.

 

Family and friends

around the table;

the symbolism of

the new year explained.

Pre-teen eyes roll–

when do we eat?

Golden pumpkin soup,

salad with pomegranate seeds,

noodle kugel,

brisket and chicken, too,

because. . .well, just in case.

If my stomach is any indication,

this is going to be a very good year!

Love and laughter.

That’s what holidays mean.

 

Kids scurry away from the table.

Talk of youthful “adventures.”

Kids return—

Ooops! Change the subject!

Change—

the subject now!

 

Laughter.

Mouths covered by hands.

They both do it.

Is it genetic?

 

Latin scrapbooks

and “Footloose” dancing

across wooden floors—

the innocent joys of

being high school nerds.

Own it.

But you were always

incredibly poised,

and wise beyond your years.

 

Apple Cake, Flourless Chocolate Cake, Baklava--Early Celebration requires extra desserts to ensure sweetness for the year! ;)

Apple Cake, Flourless Chocolate Cake, Baklava–Early Celebration requires extra desserts to ensure sweetness for the year! 😉

Desserts!

Yay!

Extra sweetness

for the new year!

More wine?

Coffee?

I can’t eat another bite.

 

Guests leave.

Tables back

to their usual spots.

No Disney dancing

cups or magic cleanup.

But wouldn’t that be great?

The vanished cat

runs down the stairs,

hesitates at the kitchen,

stretching his long legs–

he sniffs,

and yawns.

Did I miss anything?

Love and laughter.

The joy of a holiday dinner.

Snapshots of life.

Pause to remember.

I got special cards! <3

I got special cards! ❤

 

Because of our schedules, our family gathered for a dinner to celebrate Rosh Hashanah early this year. Wishing all of you health, happiness, and sweetness for this new year–and throughout your years!

Empty Nests, Friendship, and Bread

With the start of the new year, our younger daughter moved into her first post-college apartment. I suppose I am now officially an “empty nester,” although I dislike the term. I understand the analogy of the fledgling leaving the nest, but guess what? The nest is not empty—my husband and I are still here! Everyone understands what the term means, but it is a cliché.  I will miss having our daughter living here. Yes, she is and will always be my “baby.” I love and adore both my girls. I will miss our fun TV-watching nights when we would chat about friends and catch up—often while eating a special dessert. My husband will miss having her in the car with him on the ride back and forth from work. BUT, just as her sister was, our younger daughter is eager to move on with her “grown up” life. She is happy and in love—and how can I not be happy for her? 

Neither daughter is now living at home, but they are still in our lives. They will always be my daughters, and I will always be their mother. They are wonderful, talented, kind, smart young women. It is ok to miss their presence in the house. But I am not devastated, I am happy for them, and feel lucky and grateful to have them in my life.  Some of my friends no longer have their children. That is devastation. We will still see both of our daughters; we communicate regularly by text and phone. We can SKYPE or do Facetime. It is the end of a stage in all of our lives, but it is also the start of a new one.

On New Year’s Day, not knowing when our daughter or her boyfriend were going to arrive at our house before their move the next day, I decided to bake some bread and make a pot of soup. That way, the food would be ready at any time, for whoever wanted it. I decided to make a curried red lentil soup—the golden color symbolizing prosperity in the new year—and the touch of sweetness and the spice added further symbolism, while the touch of coconut milk gave it a bit of creaminess that was perfect for the cold, winter day.

I decided to make Honey Wheat Berry Bread. It’s our daughter’s favorite, and I made one loaf for her and one loaf to have with dinner. The recipe comes from Anna Thomas’s The Vegetarian Epicure (1972). When I was in high school, a friend—my then boyfriend, now husband’s best friend—gave me this book because he knew I liked to cook. As far as I can recall, it was simply a random present, and I realize now, how kind and thoughtful that was. The book is now tattered and falling apart.

 Image

I am fairly certain that the wheat berry bread recipe was the first recipe I made from the book, and that I then presented the friend with a loaf.  In those days, it was an adventure trying to find wheat berries. It usually meant a trip to a “health food” store. Now I can find them at my local grocery store. When I made the bread on New Year’s Day, I was inspired by another blogger (check out Shanna Koenigsdorf Wards’  recipe for Spiced Fig and Apple Bread on her blog Curl and Carrots) to add fruit to one loaf, leaving the other loaf plain for my daughter to take to her new apartment. After kneading in the cooked wheat berries to entire amount of dough, I divided the dough into two portions, and added dried cranberries, golden raisins, and about ¼ cup of finely ground walnuts to one loaf. I have to say, it was scrumptious, and delicious with goat cheese! But this bread is even good eaten dry.

So my history with this bread began with an old friendship, received inspiration from a new blogger acquaintance, and became a new home gift from mother to child. I think I will have to rename it New Year Friendship Bread. And I will have to look up the old friend’s phone number and give him a call!

So ring out the old and ring in the new. Let’s see what 2014 has in store for all of us–hopefully, good friends, time with cherished family members, and lots of good bread!

 Image

Honey Wheat Berry Bread (aka New Year Friendship Bread)

Adapted from The Vegetarian Epicure by Anna Thomas

½ cup dry wheat berries

1 2/3 cups milk (it works with almond or soymilk )

1 Tbsp. (1 package ) yeast

1/3 cup honey

2 Tbsp. butter

2 tsp. salt

5 ½ -6 ½ cups whole wheat flour

½ toasted wheat germ

Dried fruit and nuts as desired

Simmer wheat berries in 2 cups water for about 2 ½ to 3 hours, or until the wheat berries are tender. Add water as needed. Wheat berries can be cooked ahead of time and stored in a container in the refrigerator for a couple days.

         The recipe says to scald the milk and then let it cool to room temperature. I think it’s fine to simply warm the milk. Make certain it is not too hot before adding it to the yeast. Dissolve the yeast in ¼ cup warm water. Add the milk, honey, butter, and salt. Stir in about 4 cups of flour, and mix until smooth. Add more flour and the wheat germ. Knead the dough and place in a greased bowl to rise for about 1 ½ hours until doubled. Punch down, and knead in the cooked wheat berries—and fruit, if using.

         Divide the dough into two parts, form into loaves, and place in greased loaf pans. Cover and let rise for about 45 minutes. Bake in preheated over at 375° for about 45 minutes. Try not to eat an entire loaf by yourself in one sitting.

Laugh, Dream, and Celebrate

“Laughter is timeless, imagination has no age, and dreams are forever.”

–Walt Disney

 

About a week ago I woke up from a dream. It involved some sort of complicated story line that unfortunately I don’t remember—because I think it was probably a pretty fabulous story. Then again, maybe not. I do remember that in the dream I was trying unsuccessfully to get Google maps to work on a phone (which appeared to be covered in some thick yellowed plastic, like an old fashioned cellophane wrapper). I was not panicking or frustrated in the dream, merely trying to find my way.

 

I’m taking that as a metaphor of life.

 

Most of us struggle to find a path–or at least a clear set of directions–through the paths and by-ways of our lives.  And it’s best not to panic. Sometimes it’s even fun to meander, or take a brief tour into uncharted territory.

 

During this time of year, everywhere you turn, there are articles about New Year’s resolutions. Both ordinary people and celebrities give advice. Guess what? I don’t have any. My life is not your life, and who am I to presume to have answers?

 

In recent weeks, I’ve become somewhat overwhelmed by the many projects that I am working on—and that all seem to be due at the same time.  (Why DID I agree to write that book review, too? I guess I better read the book soon.) It’s hard to fit everything in, to be a good daughter, mother, wife, and friend—and to give equal time to physical and mental pursuits.

 

 So this is a reminder to myself—one step at a time. It will get done.

 

For over thirty years, my husband and I have celebrated New Year’s Eve with some dear friends.  Almost every year we’ve had Chinese food; sometimes take out, sometimes in a restaurant; sometimes with children, sometimes without.  When our children were small, we spent the night at our friends’ house, and then had brunch together the next morning. That started our tradition of New Year’s Day Cinnabons. (Yes, I’m a good baker, and I could bake my own cinnamon rolls, but that’s not the tradition! Remember how I like traditions?) 

 

So here is another reminder to myself—take time to remember and nourish (in both ways) friendships.

 

And here is probably the most important reminder—don’t forget to laugh every day, to have a bit of fun—and don’t forget to dream.  (OK. It’s also important to eat chocolate, but I don’t need a reminder for that, and you probably don’t either.)

 

I will do my part to give you a chuckle, as a New Year’s present. Here is one I just saw today. It’s from a collection of jokes sent in by scientists to the Guardian. I’m not a scientist, but I like it because it’s about books and typos—you have to admit, typos can be pretty funny.

 

A new monk shows up at a monastery where the monks spend their time making copies of ancient books. The new monk goes to the basement of the monastery saying he wants to make copies of the originals rather than of others’ copies so as to avoid duplicating errors they might have made. Several hours later the monks, wondering where their new friend is, find him crying in the basement. They ask him what is wrong and he says “the word is CELEBRATE, not CELIBATE!”

A Happy New Year to my family and friends—including those in the blogger world.  I hope you all find peace, love, and happiness in 2014.

Thanks for reading!

Merril/ Super Momma/Aspiring Queen of the Universe

25

Happy New Year: Ring Out the Old, Ring In the New

Ring out the old, ring in the new,

   Ring, happy bells, across the snow:

   The year is going, let him go;

Ring out the false, ring in the true.

 –“Ring Out, Wild Bells,” From In Memoriam

Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Like Janus, the double-faced Roman god of doors and gates and beginnings and endings, I find myself looking back at the past year and forward to the year to come.  This year I’ve become more aware of my own mortality. I’ve spent many hours reflecting upon the good and the bad in my life.  Over the past year, I’ve tried to appreciate all the good things in my life, especially my family and friends.

 As Tennyson directed, I’ve tried to ring out the false and ring in what is true to me.

 I can’t eliminate the noxious jeremiads that dominate politics in the United States right now. I can’t end all wars and bring world peace. I can’t keep all women safe from men who want to beat, rape, and mutilate them, and who want to deny them education and rights.

 But–I can keep my own words civil and listen to the ideas of others. I can hold back anger and passion to use when they are necessary and warranted.

 I can give aid and assistance to women and organizations that help women. I can promote education and the arts. . .because knowledge is power, and music, art, and literature nourish the soul.

I am a writer. I can write.

 Happy New Year! May 2013 bring all of you health, happiness, and peace.