amuse bouches

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what’s this all about??

we are in Tuscany. after much searching and research we found a lovely villa in the tiny town of castelmuzio, population 48! the garden out back is charming, filled with iris and roses. from there we can see the roofs of many nearby houses and hear the often loud and always expressive voices of our neighbors.
we are here to celebrate 40 years together-of marriage, that is. wow. we are really not quite there but thought this would a great time of year to drop out and live the life, so to speak.
we are spending our days exploring-small villages, gorgeous countryside, vineyards. today we dunked in a thermal bath that has been fed by an ancient spring for centuries. before that we saw an architecturally lovely church in the town of San Quirico -later on it was a simple lunch of bread, cheese, artichokes and eggplant at a tiny salumeria.
our plan is to add to this as we go.
we are already a little late getting started but we intend to catch up.
stay tuned…if you are reading this we thank you for being interested in our journey.

I didn’t die a year ago and gratitude…

I almost died a year ago. Just typing this is astonishing. Reflecting back on it is unsettling and frightening. Knowing what i know now is motivating. 

Bilateral pulmonary emboli - all that goes a long way to saying i had clots in both my lungs. Turns out they were large and threatening. Seems that i likely had them there for a lot longer than any of us realized. As is my wont, I attributed my periodic shortness of breath and general fatigue to being heavier than i should be and made a mental note (the 1000th mental note, or maybe the 1,000,000th mental note) to do something about it.

The emboli arrived on the heels of a series of traumatic and dramatic events. Within a three month span gary had surgery for prostate cancer, my father in law died, my darling sweet delilah was born, my mother died, and we moved from our home of 35 years. Maybe there was something else…but isn’t that enough?

Turns out that the emboli really reared their ugly heads while i was on my way alone to new york to help leah and her family move to the ‘burbs. I had many jobs that weekend - holding a 6 week old baby, giving direction to the movers about where to place furniture, unpacking boxes, making impromptu meals, driving leah and the kids to their new home…all the while i was determined to be as helpful as possible despite periodic feelings of discomfort. i was in touch with my doctor who urged me to get back to boston as soon as i could - and who finally insisted that i come in for a series of tests on a wednesday morning - february 1.

that morning at the brigham i failed a stress test miserably - the first clue that something was really wrong. i could see from the look on the technician’s face that my performance was of concern. she shut down the test rather quickly and moved me on to the next diagnostic event. one thing led to another and following a CAT scan it became clear that something was out of the ordinary. when my doctor told me to stop walking around the hospital and allow gary to push me in a wheelchair i (sort of) realized that i was facing something serious. 

but - the odd part is that i did not understand how lucky i had been it was until much later. perhaps this is the way we humans protect ourselves. perhaps i was just naive. perhaps we did not ask all the right questions. whatever the case, i didn’t really get it! it is only in retrospect, as i read more, share my history with other medical professionals, manage my coumadin and most recently hear the discussion about hillary clinton’s clot that i realize how dangerous this really was. 

all of this leads me to the real topic at hand.

gratitude.

gratitude.

and more gratitude.

the birth of my beautiful eve, the faces of my grandbabies in the florida sunshine, listening to the lumineers, joining pinterest and the twitter community, sitting at sunset on our kids’ stunning terrace in brooklyn, preparing a lovely summer cape lunch, watching the mist over the smoky mountains, planning a “live like a local” trip to italy, hearing barack deliver an epic inaugural address, watching downton abbey and top chef, meditating to the sound of birds chirping and tibetan bowls ringing, photographing cacti in the early morning hours at miraval, watching gary in the garden, laughing at the irreverent joan rivers, anticipating my 40th wedding anniversary, watching asher and delilah share a hug, seeing the annual 4th of july flower arrangements all around our house, walking castle island on my birthday, getting a horse to raise his foot for me, laughing like a crazy person at a silly thing, hearing asher ask me to “make it louder, gram” as michael jackson sings billie jean while i drive him to preschool, hearing gary tell me that he still loves me

gratitude

gratitude

and more gratitude.

i have learned a lot about health this year. with the help of my wonderful “team” - my physician, laurie katzman, my intuitive eating coach evelyn tribole, my hypno-therapist rick miller and my trainer roberto portocarrero i am reconstructing and redefining my vision of good health based on new understandings of current science. i am proud that the data-based measures of my health are dramatically improved. i am relieved to have given up “dieting” forever and to fully understand why i have done so. while i still wish, hope and plan to be in a thinner outer body, i know that the inner workings of my heart and my health are dramatically better than they were a year ago.

i have come to understand for the FIRST time in my life that i feel better when i have exercised and i have begun to look forward to it. i have come to understand that a little is better than nothing and that the goal is progress. i have come to understand that it’s not only about the pounds. i am getting better at doing things i don’t do so well. i have been reading a lot on the mind/body connection. i have also been practicing meditation.

gratitude

gratitude

gratitude

i have come to believe that the journey that i am on is just the right one - even though it has been challenging, even though i have been disappointed in myself, even though i don’t always get it right, even though others may not understand, even though a lot of this trip is INNER and not OUTER. 

my motto is and always will be “I will not give up”. i say this to my trainer when he tells me to do the next hard thing, i say this to myself when i feel tired or defeated. i say this to my health care professionals and my dear dear family and friends.

next week, exactly one year after i didn’t die, i will host a party in my own honor at a lovely restaurant in new york. the invited guests are my children and my husband. at that time i will tell them that i am alright. that i am on my way. that i love them all beyond measure. and that i am grateful for the life i am living.

image

my hands

i’ve always liked my hands. for someone like me, with “body disappointment issues”, my hands are a neutral thing. they are not a size (except for ring size, i guess), it’s ok for others to see them, i can adorn them with nail polish and rings, bracelets and watches if i want (yeah, i know - some of those are actually on my wrist but it is attached)

i have good nails and my fingers have always been long and slender. i got this from my father. even now, at age 96, his hands are still lovely. although they are sometimes colder now when i hold them. they are still nice and soft and comforting to me.

my daughter has gorgeous hands. delicate and slender with long nail beds and a  4.5 ring size!! one of my favorite days was several years ago when an italian gentleman with whom we were having lunch said, “it’s amazing to see that you both have identical hands”. that made me happy.

of late, i notice that my hands are changing a bit. i have arthritis in several of my fingers and that seems to be changing things. i have to tell you - this makes me sad.

my fingers have thickened a bit, my thumb joint where the arthritis is worst is swollen and a bit out of shape. and the skin is getting a bit crinkly. OY. this is hard to accept. they also hurt. sometimes i wear a brace on my thumb to support the joint that hurts. this is hard to accept too.

the oddest hand-moment recently was when i was in a ladies’ room, having just washed my lovely hands. i put them under one of those super-duper-extra-ordinary-wind-producing dyson hand dryers and, lo and behold —— my skin looked like waves on the ocean! i mean, really? the thing was so powerful that it caused the skin to pull away a bit and at the same time make many small ripples on the top of my hand. this was horrifying!! i quickly got a paper towel and finished drying them. i used to really like those machines…..

but, in the spirit of being gentle with myself, honoring the aging process and looking at things in a present light, i realize that these hands have seen and done many things! they deserve a lot of credit, even if they are looking a bit more tired now than in the past.

here are some of the things my hands can do and have done…

-made many great meals

-caressed the faces of those i love

-wiped the bottoms of those i love (!)

-taken my bags to places around the world

-turned the pages of many a great book

-clapped for a wonderful performance

-dried many tears (mine and others)

-held the hand of another as we walk 

-built sandcastles, block towers, played board games and completed puzzles

-waved 

-done chores 

-held onto each other as i meditate

-signed documents, written reports and composed love letters

there is so much more.

i always look at other people’s hands. i think it tells you a lot. my father in law had handsome hands - a bit pudgy, always impeccably clean and soft. this is one of the only things i could ever say was appealing about him - but that’s a post for another day. (maybe)

i have told gary many times that if i am ever too sick to tell him what i need, he should just assume i want him to hold my hand. i would know his hands anywhere - i’ve been holding them for over 45 years. they are warm and kind and have a presence that i find very reassuring. we often go to sleep holding hands.

well - this was a bit of a journey - a handheld journey.

mine are typing as we speak…creamed, manicured, adorned, crinkled, worldly, aching, and all the rest. they are unique - a signature i carry with me for the rest of humanity to see.

i turned 61 and turned the corner too….

on my sixtieth birthday everything seemed just fine. i felt well, the summer had just ended and i celebrated this milestone with family and friends. 

shortly thereafter the shit hit the proverbial fan. 

little did we know - we were going to have a rough year. 

last fall i could not have predicted that we would move, my husband would have surgery, his father and my mother would both die, we would welcome two granddaughters and i would survive a health scare involving bilateral pulmonary emboli (that’s blood clots in both lungs).

now that i am on the other side of all of that my sixty first birthday rolled around. it was this year that i really took stock, taking time for myself and sharing my heart with others.

the gift i gave myself was to enjoy the gorgeous day in my new favorite spot - castle island here in south boston, where we now live.

that’s me below - enjoying the wind, the sun, the smells and the solitude. singing my way around the path, feeling strong, stopping on a bench to watch the kite surfers, feeling the gratitude that comes with a sense of peace and purpose. thinking of all that had transpired over the past twelve months. realizing that my mother would not be phoning to tell me the story of the day i was born - never again. enjoying the pleasure of being alone, yet knowing that i have a loving family at my side, cheering me on.

so after this walk, feeling elated, i went for coffee. i checked my phone and i found this waiting for me:

this is eve - she is my newest granddaughter - just 5 weeks old now.

seeing this DID ME IN- all the emotion of the morning and the past year found its way out of me in a burst of tears.

there is more:

this is why i am alive today - why my birthday means the world to me - why my heart is full - why my purpose is clear - why my decisions are carefully considered - why my future is bright - why my pride explodes….why gratitude and amazement fills me - you get the idea.

didn’t someone sing: ALL YOU NEED IS LOVE..???

i have a granddaughter now and she’s a sweetie (actually now i have two granddaughters but more on that later…this post was drafted a while back…)

yup! i got really lucky. our whole family did. her name is a beautiful as she is - delilah rose. sometimes we call her rosebud….

our little darling arrived in december, just 5 days before her great grandmother, my mom, died. that was a crazy time.

it was hard for me to know where i should go? to my mother’s side or to my daughter’s? to the future or to the past? there was no clear answer. the ultimate question for the baby boomer/sandwich generation or whatever they call us now. i didn’t feel like a sandwich or a boomer - just like a confused grandmother, mother and daughter. 

so - i waited for delilah to arrive, spent a little time with her and her mother and then trekked back to boston to be with my 90 year old mother as she died - sooner than any of us expected she would - peacefully, gracefully and in control of the situation til the end.

waiting for her funeral seemed an eternity. knowing that my daughter and son in law would not be able to attend was heartbreaking. the rest of our family gathered together and tried to help my dad understand just how dramatically his life was about to change. yet, all the while, i was thinking of dear delilah rose. 

it was powerful for all of us to know that she came to us as mom left us. we talked a lot about the cycles of life, the mysteries of transition, the power of change, the hope we felt for this newest family member and how much mom would have enjoyed holding her and hearing about her as she grew. 

leah and eric chose to give darling delilah mom’s hebrew name, d’vorah at a lovely ceremony several months later. 

all through this trying time i chose to join the future, to think about delilah’s potential, her many blessings, all that she had to see and do and learn and wonder about. i chose to think about the fun we would have together and how much i looked forward to being her grandma. i took myself back to her mother’s side as soon as i could and knew it was the right place to be. mom would have agreed.

Table for 9, s’il vous plait…

ok.

we had two kids - lucky us…a girl and a boy. that was perfect.

we had a lot of fun helping them grow up!!

now things are even more perfect.

the girl married a  (fabulous) guy.

the boy married a (spectacular) gal.

the girl and the guy had two babies already - a (wonderful) little guy and an (adorable) little girl.

the boy and the gal had one baby a little over a month ago - a (lovely) little gal.

so - add it up peeps!!

NOW WE ARE NINE!!!

and we are having more fun than ever!!!

thanks, guys and gals!!!!

my husband is a very dedicated and funny napper. this is him on a warm summer day. when he does this our grandson says, “there goes grandpa again”!!

am i hungry or not?????

i don’t always know. i’m working hard to try to figure that out and to connect it to what, when and how much i eat. i know that may sound funny to those of you who do not have eating disturbances but for those of us who do, this question is a good one for us to ask ourselves - over and over again. being curious (even about oneself) is a good and challenging exercise and leads to understanding and possibly even change!

i’ve spent a great deal of time and energy trying to understand myself better. i really believe that a life well lived must involve self-seeking and a constant drive for improvement. this does not mean that the process has been a linear one at all - for me it has been one of peaks and valleys, calm and chaos, pride and disappointment. yet i will not give up on myself. i believe that the better me is just around the corner and that it is my obligation to myself to continue to seek her.

i often imagine that those who know me well wonder about all of this. it’s not something i share easily but i’m trying hard to do that more and better. but it’s obvious that this is one of my challenges. some people have trials which they can keep private -  my tribulation shows itself on my body. and over time there have been many external versions of me! i’ve learned to manage and put my best self forward but i wish i have not had to.

so - i’m taking my hunger temperature more regularly- my barometer is sometimes illusive but i call it home often and better now. my hope, and what i am told by others, is that the more i can get real with what my body actually needs the better off i will be. i trust others who have gone before me enough to believe that may well be true.

wouldn’t it be just wonderful if, at 60, i finally found the way to come to peace with myself?

80$ pasta…

i was at a restaurant in new york a while back.

i was eavesdropping. i like to do that. especially there. you can never tell what you’ll see or hear. i try not to stare.

so - the waiter goes to the next table and offers the group pasta with white truffles from piedmont. i’ve been to piedmont in the fall and i’ve met the trufflers there. i know it takes a lot of stamina and determination to get those rare white truffles. and they are fabulous. i’ve had a shaving or two in my day….

well - back to the story. the waiter offers the peeps the white truffle pasta, he says it has an $80 price tag and they all order it. just like that. just like they were ordering a BLT. no hesitation, no discussion, no fanfare. not a facial twitch or a grimace in the bunch.

gotta love it, right???????

i like the newspaper

i know it’s getting old fashioned. but i still like it. i have two papers delivered every day. here on cape cod, in the summer, the paper is often warm when i retrieve it from the front walk. the paper is married to my morning coffee. they are a happy pair and i am delighted when they are both just the right temperature.

this summer i taught my four year old grandson to like the morning paper, too. we developed a ritual of “reading” the paper over breakfast on our porch. can you imagine how happy this made me? hearing, “grandma - let’s read the paper now” made me squeal inside.

the idea is this - i look for interesting pictures and show them to him and then we figure out what’s going on, or i explain something or he weaves his own story. we’ve seen sand castles, olympic rings, busy vehicles, sad or smiling people, hot dogs, whales and more. i’m careful to screen out the visual detritus of our crazy world.

it’s interesting to note that even though the Boston Globe is the lesser of my two papers in terms of content, it is the better one for interesting photos for my darling. the NYTimes is a bit serious for a four year old, i guess.

i also watch the evening news with Brian Williams just about every day. sitting at the end of the day, often with a glass of wine and my husband nearby, feels like another important ritual.

i am a very visual person. i see things on the screen that i could not fully comprehend by merely reading about them in the newspaper or online. the images are clear, startling, comforting, educational, revealing. i think of the colorado fires and the current drought as two such examples. 

starting and ending the day with news and two of my favorite guys at my side - seems about perfect to me.

home sweet home…

"they" say home is where the heart is. i say home is where the comfort is.

i’ve worked really really really hard to make our home a place of beauty, comfort and warmth. that matters to me - almost more than anything else. 

i want our home to make people feel enveloped, safe, cared for, soothed and comfortable. i obsess about color, form and beauty. i can fiddle with the benjamin moore color decks for days before deciding on the right color for my walls only to change it when i see it in the light.  i scour stores and websites for just the right pillow or lamp or basket. i want beauty and serenity to surround me, my family and our friends. it means everything to me when i can create a space that suits us - one which is unique and has touches of the unexpected.

following steve jobs’ recent death there has been much written about him. one thing i read was a quote by him in response to his displeasure with a proposal a designer was making about a new product—- i’m not sure i am getting it completely right but it’s something like - ”i’ll know it when i see it.” 

YES.  

i get that. totally. absolutely. unequivocally. I know it when i see it. I know it when it feels right and looks right and sits right.

our home on cape cod has been a work in progress. it started out as a small ranch on a lovely piece of property. we could see its future when we bought it in 1993. our dream was that it would become the family heirloom, the family homestead, the place of family memories,laughter, holidays, good food and drink. that our grandchildren would summer here, building sandcastles and memories with their cousins and friends.

we are making that dream a reality. 

your nanny is on her phone

dear new york city parents:

i would like to alert you to the fact that your nanny is on the phone. maybe she is talking to you but i don’t think so. she is talking to someone - often and at length. is this what you want her to be doing?

since she is on her phone it is also clear that she is not talking to your darling child.

she is not showing him a taxi, a garbage truck or a police officer or a beautiful piece of street art. she is not explaining how to cross the street carefully nor is she singing songs.

is this what you want?

well… the truth is that when i see you with your kid you are also inevitably on your iphone or checking something on your blackberry - even on saturday and sunday. 

you are not showing her a taxi, a garbage truck or a police officer or a beautiful piece of street art. you are not explaining to him how to cross the street carefully nor are you singing silly songs.

is this what your child wants you to do?

perhaps you a taking him or her to a wonderful ballet lesson that was recommended on your mom’s blog. or to a great gymnastics class you read about in time out kids. all well and good but your child your needs your undivided attention for more than a minute at a time - to feel like the center of your universe with great frequency. you might want to try and make the trip to the class just as much fun as the class itself!!

so should your nanny -after all, isn’t that what you are paying her for?