Friday, August 22, 2008

Mom's Noodle Kugel

My parents were a very social couple. When they would go out to dinner parties, Mom would make for me one of my favorite dishes, her stuffed cabbage. Mind you, she wouldn't actually "stuff" the cabbage. In her creation, she had them in layers, with chopped meat and raisins and lots and lots of red pepper flakes. She would use the same white Corning casserole dish with the blue design on the side, and the heavy glass lid. I always ate a huge bowl of this manna from heaven. The sweetness of the raisins in contrast to the spicy pepper was to die for. The other favorite dish of mine was her noodle kugel. There are two kinds, the sweet, which is what most people think of, with raisins and cinnamon, and the savory, cottage cheese, Parmesan,and scallions, which is the kind she made. I am not a good cook. My one claim to fame is my Rice Krispy Treats. People don't realize that there is such an association of love with that treat, that I can't really screw that one up. But, every so often, I need to make my Mom's noodle kugel (though definitely a version that pales in comparison and is not "guest" worthy), and stuff my face. Even the word, kugel, is the perfect definition of onomatopoeia, as the word evinces a warm, fuzzy feel. As I like contrast, the flavors of the Parmesan cheese with the sesame oil make for great mouth feel. But, more importantly, is the tie of the dish connecting me with my Mom. Total comfort food. That's the kind of food mom's make for their kids. Pure love is the main ingredient. So, today, as fitting on the Sabbath (which was important to my Mom), I appreciate her, and all the hardworking Mom's out there. In the perfect world, every day is Mother's Day. Shabbat shalom, shayne maideles.

Here is a picture of my mom, Miriam. Every weekday, she would schlepp home from teaching elementary kids, then don her New York Times apron and make us dinner. Sometimes she was so tired she didn't even change out of her dress and hose. Tired or not, when she smiled, all was right with the world.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Gratitude is Beatitude

"Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are they who mourn,
for they shall be comforted.

Blessed are the meek,
for they shall inherit the earth.

Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they shall be satisfied.

Blessed are the merciful,
for they shall obtain mercy.

Blessed are the pure of heart,
for they shall see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they shall be called children of God.

Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."

Gospel of St. Matthew 5:3-10

As a nice Jewish girl, I have to say I got a feeling of calmness when I first read the Beatitudes. It is nice to know that truth transcends all religion. However, I initially had a question about the use of the word "poor in spirit", but after doing some research, I read that it meant to be humble. I am down with that. Then, I had a misgiving (questions, always questions!) about the word "meek" describing those who will inherit the earth. I think today's definition of meek as wimpy or spineless, makes this a tough concept to sell. But, when I replace "meek" with "gentle", it makes a lot of sense to me. So many people are out there these days being mean bullies, and setting lines in the sand. Nothing is ever accomplished in anger. Gentleness and kindness work every time. It takes gentleness to have gratitude. And, when one embraces gratitude, the spirit sings out and vibrates at its highest, and thus embodies a state of beatitude, exalted happiness and unconditional love.

I am posting a picture of Ganesh, Mister Happy Camper. He represents enlightenment, which goes hand in hand with exalted happiness. Jesus, Buddha, Ganesh. Different image, but same energy. As His Holiness the XIVth Dalai Lama likes to say, "We are same." One spirit. One heart. One world.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Oh, the Places You'll Go!

"Be who you are, say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind."
— Dr. Seuss

My mother was a dedicated elementary schoolteacher. She would always bring home books for us to read. She preferred the ones that had the stickers on them that showed they were chosen for a Newbery Award or the Caldecott Award (ever the teacher!). I read a lot when I was a kid. I remember lying on my bed, over a two night span, devouring this massive large print version of "Gone with the Wind". (N.B. I know it's grammatically correct to underline books, but this blog site doesn't give me that option.) One of my favorite authors was, and is, Ted Geisel, who, under the pseudonym Dr. Seuss, wrote the classic, "The Cat in the Hat". And, of course, in an honor to all mothers, Seuss is Geisel's middle name, and, more importantly, his mother's maiden name. If my memory of this event isn't fuzzy, my Mom took me and my brother to hear Dr. Seuss read some of his books in the early 60s at the Menlo Park library. It is amazing to realize that Geisel wrote books that captivated (and still captivates) readers, regardless of age. I think that talent is the mark of a true storyteller. To be able to create a story that teaches all ages, is a sign to me that the writer is delivering parables that are synonymous with life's journey. He has that magical touch wherein his tales have an uplifting redemptive quality without being preachy. For instance, he wrote "The Lorax" in response to people polluting the land with garbage and forsaking the mighty Truffala trees ("I speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues."). The library in one lumber town in California even tried unsuccessfully to get this book banned. Other books of his dealt with many issues, including discrimination ("The Sneeches"), and nuclear proliferation ("The Butter Book"). As one who learns many lessons from our animals, I do love that Dr. Seuss delivers his messages using animals as his vehicle. The Cat in the Hat is a cat. As Sadie, my lab, points out, cats can be mischievous creatures, who are conflicted at times in their relationships with humans. Knowing my ten year relationship with Max (aka Barf Boy), our oftentimes feisty Tabby, I can see her point. While writing this entry today, Sadie told me that Dr. Seuss was never actually awarded a Newbery, or a Caldecott. However, after delivering this dissonant inducing bit of trivia, prior to retiring for a nap in the sun, she left me with this sage Dr. Seuss bon mot, "You can get help from teachers, but you are going to have to learn a lot by yourself, sitting alone in a room." Funny dog.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Releasing Your Inner Mojo

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” --Marianne Williamson

I have always loved this quote. My friend Marcia and I were exchanging emails this morning. We went to college together many, many moons ago. We both lived in San Francisco after college, but then she moved back East and we lost touch. It has been such a treat to reconnect. We were writing about mantras and she wistfully said she had lost hers, or at least that the one she used wasn't working for her. As I write that, I smile, thinking about that funny scene in the classic movie, Annie Hall. Woody Allen is trying to find the Diane Keaton character, at a trendy new-age party in L.A (where everyone is wearing white!). He overhears a guy talking in a panicked state on the phone to his psychiatrist saying he forgot his mantra. The dictionary says a mantra is a prayer or invocation. To me, the above quote is like a prayer or invocation. I think sometimes people say their mantra over and over, but forget to breathe it in and incorporate it as a part of their being. I don't have a personal mantra per se, but I do know how happy I feel when I start singing the gospel song, "This little light of mine." The song takes its theme from Mathew 5:16, "Let your light shine before men, that they may see your fine works and give glory to your Father who is in the heaven." I read that while it started out as a gospel song, it eventually became identified with the civil rights movement of the 50s and 60s. I must have heard it as a young child from the Paul Robeson records of my liberal, "march on Washington" parents. Looks like my mom and dad gave me a wonderful gift (among many), and for that I am grateful...and will now belt out the song at the top of my lungs, complete with hand clapping. Having had her snack and gotten her needs met for this hour, Sadie doesn't seem to complain, though dogs can't roll their eyes.

P.S. Dave, via Jane, thank you for sending this glorious picture. Letting our light shine is our birthright and a priceless gift.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Gratitude, Joy, and Magic - The Perfect Recipe for Happiness

While on my walk the other day, I stepped into a used bookstore that was closing down shop. A sucker for used bookstores, I had to go in. At the counter was a big glass jar, like the kind they keep candy in with a little scooper to get at the pieces. Inside were little coins with different energies written on their back, and symbols on the front. As usual on my walks, I was instantly mesmerized by the variety of pieces and the different energies. I couldn't decide on just one. I loved the one that had a beaming, smiling sun on it on one side, and the word, Gratitude, on the other. It felt good. Then I picked a smaller one with a faerie on it, and the word, Magic, on the back. Had to have that one. Next was a small one with a flower on one side, and the word, Joy, on the back. Had to have that one as well. Then I started to think about getting some for clients and friends. I kept swimming my hand through the pile to pick out those same three energies again. Had to have mostly Gratitude, then an even number of Magic and Joy. They felt a good kind of heavy in my pocket as I walked home. As the Source is very literal, and funny, magical lessons, of course, were to follow.

The next day I walked around with the Gratitude piece in the pocket of my shorts. Throughout the day I was magically reminded of how grateful I felt for everything that I was experiencing about that day. I had been fortunate to get to go on a downtown walk (sorry, Sadie) with Reverend Martha. We walked for five hours, enjoying each other's company, the trees (always the trees!), the beautiful river that flows through Portland, and, the glorious day that we got to experience together(not to mention a scrumptious turkey and asiago cheese sandwich on a freshly baked baguette made by a local artisan). We both were filled to the rim with gratitude, and even more so, as we shared our pain after walking by a homeless man sleeping in a bag near a bridge.

A friend recently asked me about who Reverend Martha was, as I had mentioned her in a prior email. I said she was a mentor who has magically come into my life and is someone who truly "walks the walk". I described her as an articulate being with heart, humility and humor. I just love smart and funny people who are kind. After sending that description, I sat outside with Sadie and thought about those three words, humility, heart, and humor. Then it dawned on me that those three words can be interchanged with gratitude, magic, and joy. Humility, humanness, and gentleness, to me, is gratitude, a gratefulness for being alive, and blessed. Heart to me equates with joy, as being full of heart is synonymous with being full of joy. And, lastly, humor, to me, is pure magic. I carry around with me (and "in" me) a picture of His Holiness, the IVth Dalai Lama, in the middle of an uproarious laugh. When this picture was being taken, he was talking and had made a joke. He paused, and then said out loud, "I made a joke", with the biggest smile on his face. He then started to laugh with such joy, at which all of us joined along. Every time I see the picture (having it hanging in several places around our home!), I cannot help but laugh again as well. I am meandering, but to get back to my original thread (not that I veered off too far), humor makes for a happy journey, and the journey is the ride. The Source, Mother Love, Mother Earth, Jesus, whoever you choose, is there teaching us to embrace joy, to be open to the magic of it all, to genuinely be grateful, and to breathe in all three with each inhale and to breathe out all three energies with each exhale. Those three energies are integral in helping us appreciate, and embody, the gift we are given. Over time I am sure I will be learning more, as the layers keep revealing themselves. At this time in my awareness, it seems to me, the perfect combination for enlightenment (or the process of intention toward that goal)consists of gratitude, joy, and magic, in equal proportions, albeit, with an extra dollop of gratitude for added sweetness.