... Because everything I learned about living a good life, I learned in my kitchen.

I won't always show you recipes, because I don't measure. You can't really measure life, so how can I teach you that?

On our journey I will share stories of self-reflection as we cook and reminisce. The kitchen remains to be my "hall of epiphanies" . Stay with me as we explore the depths of our cooking pots, and of our soul...



Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Iron Sharpens Iron. Do you agree?

There is an English proverb that tells us that behind every great man is is a great woman.  I feel blessed in that I grew up seeing it both ways.  My Dad also made my Mom a greater woman.  He was supportive and encouraging, but he also challenged her to do things she didn't think she could. 

As time passed in their lives and in their relationship, they could look back and see how they built each other up, and in doing so, built a strong family with confident kids.


My parents brought their individual talents and God-given gifts, and made us into a unit- a well-oiled machine that ran on fundamental principals.

Both lived by Love, Compassion, Discipline and Loyalty.  These were the ideals that they had in common. 

My Mom was the Spiritual rock of the family who taught us to find God inside of ourselves.  This was essential because we are a blended family.  My mom and I are Puerto Rican.  My [step} Dad was born in Ireland, Irish from grandma's side and German-Russian from grandpa's side.  He was also Jewish and my mother is Christian.

Rather than either of them converting, they taught us both and let us decide if and what we wanted to practice as we grew up.  I gravitated toward Christianity and worship with Abuela, Mamita.  My brother, gravitated toward my Dad's Jewish roots, and now practices Judaism as an adult.

You can imagine that growing up in my home as a kid in the Bronx, NY was interesting and fun.  There was never a dull moment.  On one side of the apartment mom talking to us in Spanglish, "Mira!  Cierra la window!"  and then you had my Dad singing Yiddish songs.  We tried our best to observe and learn about our family's traditions.

My Mom is also very detail-oriented and determined. I remember being in the fourth grade and doing my homework on the  dining room table so that I could be close to her while she cooked in the kitchen.  Now, you have to know that I absolutely despise Math and I always have.  I used to tell my mom all the time how after college, I would never need this type of math again.  A bit of irony that I end up in a career that encapsulates finance and math.  A whole lot of math.  As always, my Mom was right.

This particular evening, I was doing division examples for math homework.  My mom would walk by every so often.  I would say about 4 different times she asked me to write neater and to align the columns.  She also asked me to stop erasing on the paper so much, causing it to smudge.  I didn't listen.  On the fifth time that she walked by to check on me, she took my paper, crumbled it in her hand and walked away with it.  "Start over." she said, and I knew by the look on her eye that it was no time to argue.  I was hurt, upset and confused because I'd worked so hard on it, and it wasn't easy for me. When I asked my mother why she'd done that she said, "At the top of that paper, you had written your name.  I want you to learn to take pride in that name.  In life, when you put your name on something always make sure that it's your best work and worthy of carrying your name."

Another mom-moment was when I was in a panic about making it into a specialized high school.  The entrance exam was known to be very difficult, even for straight-A students like me. My Dad had cautioned me, "You've grown up being a big fish in a little pond, if you go to that school you will become a big fish in an ocean.  Can you do it without losing yourself and who you are?  You have to make that choice."
What my mom said next, impacted me for life.  We were in Alexander's Department store on Fordham Road, in the Bronx.  She could tell how nervous and anxious I was about the upcoming exam.  As we were descending on an escalator, my mom looked softly at me and asked, "How many kids go to that school right now?" 
 "About 2,500."  I answered in despair.
My mom sharpened her gaze at me and asked, "Well, if 2,500 kids passed the exam and made it in, what makes them different than you?"


From my Dad, we learned to be practical, pragmatic, plan ahead, to laugh (sometimes at ourselves) and to be very organized.  None of these were in my nature, and I had to dedicate myself to learning these skills.

By nature I am chaotic and impulsive.  Anyone who knows me for the past ten years or so would disagree with that statement, but what they fail to see is that I had to work so hard and commit myself to learning discipline and to be practical.  Motherhood has a way of speeding up those lessons.

As a couple, my Mom and Dad had many encouraging conversations and moments of  inspiration.  Many of those moments my brother and I were never privy to.  What we did see was their individual growth over time.  As adults, we can appreciate all of it as we look back on our family and on who they were as people.

A man said this to me recently, "Iron sharpens iron."  He was making the point that a woman and a man have the potential to build each other and help take each other to previously unreached horizons.  I do agree with that.  I grew up seeing it and watching that unfold.

As a woman, I believe that both people have to get to a place where you can be open and vulnerable to each other, enough to let your partner support and help build you up.  If you are unable to be vulnerable, if something holds you back, then you are unable to become a team.

team
tēm/
noun
noun: team; plural noun: teams


  • two or more people working together



verb
come together as a team to achieve a common goal

synonyms:join (forces), collaborate, get together, work together;


As a single woman, I hear a lot of my married friends vent and I can compare it to my own personal experiences.  What I have learned is this, in order for iron to sharpen iron, you cannot be afraid of how sharp the sword..  

What you have to gain is an army of two, a protector, loyalty and Love.  You just have to be willing to be open and to walk in Truth. 

Sure, death feels imminent, but so does eternal life because as we grow older we realize that there is only eternal life, in the freedom of loving and being loved. 

... And so shall one man and one woman sharpen each other.


In order to achieve our potential, we cannot do it alone, and must be willing to endure and withstand intensity.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Pumpkin's First Birthday Without Him

It didn't matter what my friends call me.  To my [step] Dad, I was always Pumpkin.  When I was a little girl, it was Princess Pumpkin.  He went as far as to buy me a beautiful and delicately ornate gold tiara, with diamond rhinestones.  It was the most beautiful thing I'd ever seen or touched, my crown.  I felt so beautiful every time I played alone in my room and put it on.  And every time I looked at it, I felt so incredibly loved by my parents.

We lost my Dad on January 7th of this year.  I haven't had the words to say it or write about it.  Music hasn't sounded the same, and I hadn't smiled from the inside, for weeks.

My only comfort is that he passed peacefully in my mother's arms.  She whispered loving words to him and comforted him, telling him how loved he is and will always be.  Then she asked him not to be in pain any longer.  He always said how he never wanted to leave her alone.
He took his last breath only after she promised to find him again when it was time.


Part of the reason why I'm at peace being alone is because when you grow up watching two people that are truly in love and devoted to each other, most other things pale in comparison.  My mother is a strong woman, independent and very lady-like.  My Dad was loving, with a brilliant mind, devoted.  Their lives, together and individually, exemplify honor. My Dad really was a good man.

After he passed, I was incapable of writing a eulogy, until the actual morning of his funeral.  I was up and ready early.  As my mom, brother and daughter were dressing, I sat in his chair with his pen and a pad of paper he used for random notes.  I felt him, and it came to me.

I had recently read a proverb that said that the richest man is he who figures out that the highest prize is to love and to be loved in return.  My dad was a very wealthy man. 

This man had a brilliant mind, but what set him apart was that he figured what was important in life, long before most people do.  My Dad made sure that he invested himself in his family.  He was consistent in showing his love every day.

In the end, in that moment when someone is writing my eulogy, that's really all I want.  That my life will be a testament that every single day, I showed love, without expecting anything in return.  If I am loved back, then like my Dad, I would have gone with all the riches to be had.  In the end, that is all that we can take with us.  The love we gave, and the love we received.

He was a 3rd generation military man.  One of the hardest parts for us was hearing the cry of the soldier's trumpets as they played Taps, or when one of the soldiers knelt down in front of my mom and handed her the folded flag, that later soaked in our silent, falling tears.  Watching my brother kneel at his grave saying his final good-bye ripped out everyone's heart who was there.


His service, burial and the way that we chose to remember him was so lovely and a perfect tribute to him. The Jewish and Christian sides of our family came together with love and grace to honor our Dad.
Kaddish

One of the most meaningful parts of this day for me, was my father, Carlos who came to the funeral to honor my step-dad.  They always got along to so well, and respected each other.  They both chose to honor my mother and I, by setting an example of how a man should be.  Instead of ill-will, they chose to partner and co-parent for my benefit.  The result?  I was raised with two fathers that adored, cherished and honored me.  When a father does that for his daughter, she learns to see herself this way, and accepts nothing less from the man in her life.  How can I when I grew up with the example that these two men set for me?  I thank God for my parents daily.  All three of them.

I embrace every year that goes by, and thank God for the blessing.  However, it hit me like a ton of bricks, that I wouldn't hear my Mom passing the phone to him and him saying his usual, "Happy Birthday, Pumpkin!".

Recently, I was caught up in running errands and went to call him to ask him a question.  It had completely escaped me that my Dad was gone.  I had reached for my cell phone and had even begun dialing.  In an instant, a paralyzing and cold reality came over me.  I stood in a supermarket aisle, shivering with tears streaming down my face.  That was my defining moment that my dad Pat was gone.  The second was on my birthday, knowing that never again will I hear his voice sweetly wishing me a happy birthday.

Heart-broken all day I was struggling for a way to turn it around. I remembered what a great sense of humor my Dad had and how he always made us laugh, and remember what was important.

I came home and decided to connect to him the best way I know how.  He was an amazing cook and when I lived at home, we spent a lot of the time in the kitchen cooking and talking over techniques.

My friend had just let me hear a song yesterday that made me smile, and took me to a happy place.  I put that on while I was cooking.  And it made me smile again.  It's just that kind of happy song, silly like his humor.  I'm sure my dad would have liked it.  Especially knowing that he was Irish and my Mom is Latina. 
He was always saying how he loved his Puerto Rican girl.  My dad was always madly in love with my mom. 

I played the song and toasted to him while making a nice dinner for my baby girl and I, picturing my Dad relaxing peacefully on a beach, waiting for my Mom.



Tuscan Pasta with Cajun Crab.. why not?

Easy meal.  Buy the fresh pasta from the refrigerated aisle in the market.  I love fresh pasta so much better.  Cooks in about 3 minutes after being added to boiling water.

Add olive oil, a pat of butter, sliced cherry tomatoes and diced onions.  Simmer.  Add in pasta after draining.  I used angel hair.



 In a separate pot I had water boiling with a large tea bag that I filled with assorted peppercorns and Cajun spices.  I added garlic, fresh herbs, salt and fresh lemon juice to the water, then added snow crab leg clusters.

Melt butter, add salt and freshly crushed garlic.



It went so well together.  My Dad would have loved this.  I chose crab legs because my daughter and I absolutely love them, and because my Dad's favorite restaurant when I was a kid was the Crab Shanty on City Island.  It was a family tradition.  The family went there after the funeral to honor and remember him.  Everything about it, felt right. 


It turned out to be a lovely evening with her.  At one point we were both quiet and she said, "...I miss him too."

In that moment, I could swear that I felt my Dad.  That he was there.  And that if I listened closely, I would hear, a whispered  "... Happy Birthday, Pumpkin."

Monday, December 9, 2013

A teachable Spirit...



I have a lot of time off this December. Come to think of it, I have most of the month off. I saved my vacation time out of habit. 
For many years, I was used to saving my days off in case my daughter had a medical emergency.  It's a blessing that for 2 years now, she hasn't had anything serious.  For 2 Decembers in a row, I've had the chance to just slow things up a bit and download all of the feelings and life lessons that I've been blessed enough to experience during the year.

Today is a very cold, overcast day were I live.  The air is crisp and even in the warmth of indoors my nose is cold and pink.  Tall Pine trees glisten with frosted diamonds everywhere.

This is the first day in such a long time that I woke up with absolutely nothing to do for the entire day.  That's a pretty neat feeling.

I opened my eyes and prayed as I always do.  I begin each day with gratitude and count my blessings.  I've also learned to expect each day to become an array of wonderful moments and sweet surprises.
"..Go out in Joy and be led forth in Peace." - Isaiah 55:12

I asked myself how I envisioned this day to turn out.  All I wanted to do was to slip into a big comfy sweater, soft jeans and furry boots.  A hot cup of black coffee in hand, at the library just letting my thoughts flow through me.  ...And here I am, doing exactly that.




One of the things that I've learned to pray for is to become a "teachable spirit".  Too often in my life I tried to stay away from negative experiences or people.  Looking back, I learned important things from each of them.

Now, I pray for the wisdom to navigate through those experiences but also to learn from them. For me, it feels like an on-going effort to be transformed by the renewing of my mind.  Every day and under different circumstances, I have to almost re-train my thoughts to look for the best in others and in myself.

I always approached life with a plan and strategy.  Yet, the more profound my faith becomes, the more I depend on the Lord unveiling the steps of my path moment by moment, in His divine time.  That's one of the hardest things for me to do, because it means that I have to relinquish my sense of control.  It also means that I have to choose to be patient.  The right things for me will come at the right time, and whatever is not right will slip away regardless of how I may try to hold onto it. 

Faith is a commitment.  It means that you patiently expect what you dream of with an open heart, knowing that your joy will manifest even if not at the present moment.  Your moment will come.

Now, when faced with a decision, I merely pray and open my heart.  I try my best to treat others how I would want to be treated.  That doesn't always work, however.

I've learned that we can try to control our own actions, circumstances and thoughts.  When you add another human being into the mix, you're adding in variables that remain out of your control.  That's humanity.  We're all on this journey trying to do the best that we can.

Sometimes we cause others pain.  Sometimes it's cast upon us.  At some point we have to make a decision about it.  It's easy to know how we feel, but it's so much harder to determine what to do about it.


When the light of this life is extinguished, do we want to look back and know that we lived by principle, and worried about how others see us?  Or do we want to reflect on a life lived with love, support and that positively touched the lives of others?

I choose the latter.








A family of 2...

It's funny how life turn out sometimes, no?

I am such a "family" person.  I'm in my happiest state when surrounded with the people that I love, just doing the simplest things.  I love to just "be" and share the same space with a loved one. 

I grew up with a family and grandparents that I love so much.  My family members all had a deep influence on who I became, and how I appreciate life and my culture.

Sometimes, I feel badly that my daughter doesn't have that connection or those influences, immediately around her.  I moved away and made a life for us here because I thought it would be a wonderful place to raise a daughter.  She is surrounded by nature, has excellent educational opportunities and is exposed to a slower and more peaceful way of life.

Is it worth it?  I grew up in the hustle and bustle of New York City, in one of the worst neighborhoods in the Bronx, but I turned out pretty okay.  My parents kept me as safe as they could and instilled values in me to more than make up for what I was seeing all around me.  I had a lovely childhood, with wonderful memories.

What really brought it home for me was this past Thanksgiving.  We had a lot going on and were unable to travel down to spend the holiday with family.  I know how much she enjoys Thanksgiving so I decided to make a big dinner, with all the fixings, for just her and I. 

We were invited to spend the holiday with friends, and I considered it.  Ultimately, I decided to stay at home, with just my daughter and I.  Why?  Because I wanted to instill in her that although we are just  2, we are still a family.  A family of two. 

We had a good time chatting together while we were cooking, and we kept up our traditions.  For me, that was the most important part, that we were able to do that together.

As a parent, we can only hope that what we teach our children, and share with them, will be remembered. We can only do our best as parents.  One of the best gifts my mother has given me, is that she always talked to me.  She talked to me about everything and anything.

In so many ways, she prepared me for life.  There were times that I didn't completely understand what she was trying to get across to me, but later in life it made sense.  Because she talked to me, I was prepared. I didn't always end up doing things as she had recommended, but I had the valuable insight she offered to me, from experience, to prepare me to make strong choices when the time came. 

Last Tuesday night, we were having one of our usual "kitchen chats" as I cleaned up after dinner.  My daughter asked me why I'm strict.  

I took a sec or two to see how I could best explain. I told her that as much as I love her and feel responsible to her and for her, I feel the same love and accountability to the 23 yr old, 36 yr old, 53, 65 &  88 yr old person that she will one day become.  It's my job to love and protect all of those stages of her future self, even if she's not worried about them at the moment. I am. I care. 

You could SEE the light bulb come on over her head, she smiled and got up and gave me a hug. We talked some more. I think she gets it.


I pray that when my time comes, I made a difference in her life the way that my Mom has made a difference in mine.



Monday, October 28, 2013

Comfort takes time...


Do you know why I despise dating?  Because it takes me a long while to get comfortable with someone. It takes time to see if that person is legitimately all of the things that they say that they are.  Actions speak louder than words ever can.  Cliche but true.  I want you to show me what you are.

I appreciate your words, but it's what you do and how you handle even the small every day decisions in your life that determine who you are, and who you will be to me.

That's why being comfortable with another person takes time. Even when it doesn't work out and you're back to the drawing board, you have to stay committed to yourself and be prepared to wait.  I love that expression, "Hurry up and wait..."

In the meantime, keep being true to yourself and what you want.  Settle for nothing but the best, especially if you treat others honorably, you equally deserve that same treatment from yourself.

This weekend, rather than wrestle with the disappointments that come with dating, I chose to spend time with good friends and loved ones.  I had such a fun time!  I was in the mood to cook and entertain, which my sister and my mom jokingly refer to as my "Nesting" state.

It's a joke, but it has some truth to it too.  I do enjoy making a beautiful home, cooking and nurturing my loved ones.  If it brings me happiness to do so, and it allows me to show the people that are important to me love, bring it on!

Friday, I had my sister over.  I had such a great time!  I ran home for lunch and threw some chicken tenderloins that I had marinating in the fridge.  I put those in the crock pot with peppers, onions, a dash of wine and added some curry seasoning.


 Then, I threw in some organic brown rice in the slow cooker with a can of Goya pink beans, a bag of frozen corn, 2 envelopes of Sazon, oregano and pepper.  I added 2 table spoons of homemade Sofrito too. 

Once I got home from work, that smelled delicious. I took some corn tortillas and filled them with the chicken that had been cooking in the crock pot.  I smothered that in shredded cheese.  Then, I added the juices that had cooked with the chicken, sofrito and a can of fire roasted diced tomatoes.  I let that cook in the oven for about 25 minutes.

That was so delicious garnished with avocado, sour cream, queso blanco and shredded Mexican slaw (multi-colored cabage, cilantro, lime, red onion).  Then I topped them off with a special SPICY sauce made with a can of Goya Chipotle peppers and sour cream.  The peppers are so smoky and spicy, so add in sour cream to your liking to make it either spicier or less.


It went delicious with white wine.  We had sparkling peach Moscato. I love that girl for how she makes me laugh.  It was a great night!





Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The Lonesome Bride...

When you wake up in the habit of praying every morning, you sometimes wake up amidst conversations with God.  Most of the time, I express gratitude.  Sometimes, I wake up asking why.  This morning, I woke up mid-thought, declaring that it would be a better day.

It's funny, really. Things are better than they have been in a really long time. The thing is this, sometimes when we get what we pray for it's terrifying.  You see, I know how to lose things.  I learned how to let go.  I learned how to grieve in peace.

What, then?  What do we do when we get a glimpse of happiness and joy approaching around the corner?  It sometimes means that you are about to succumb to trust.  Trust in another.  Trust that your joy will not be short-lived or based on false pretense.

My parents always said, "This too shall pass".  They meant that the rough times will soon pass and that things will get better.  Somehow I taught myself to hear it differently.  I taught myself that when I start to feel joy, that too will pass. It's life.  It's a fact.  I'm not being negative.  I'm being real. Everything ends.  Pain ends, joy ends.  Right?

Or is that a cowardly view of what we are meant to pursue in this life?  Joy and peace.

I've learned that both are within each of us.  We spend a lifetime pursuing happiness in another, when really it's inside us the whole time.  Why then would we, do we, need another.?  I don't know why, but I do know how it feels to crave for human communion with another.  A level of intimacy that surpasses anything that is worldly.

This morning, in my drive in to work, a procession of tall and regal oaks adorned the road.  They were dressed in their most elegant autumn attire shining brightly in hues of red, greens and gold.  They stood tall and proud as one would stand about to welcome a bride to the altar.

And then I remembered the lonesome bride, dressed all in white that was about to grace us with her divine presence.  Winter was approaching dressed in her gown of diamonds and snow, and I wondered what mysteries she is about to reveal....

Photo from fanpop.com

Monday, July 1, 2013

The Day Love Found Me on the NYC Subway...


My heart was wide open that Saturday morning...  

That alone is uncommon for me.  If you know me, you know that my heart lives in a nearly impenetrable fortress.  
Notice that I said nearly?  
...A child's smile, the way my daughter's hair smells, a dog's loyal, loving gaze.. those things can melt my heart.  Most other things I keep far, far away.  

Why?  I concede, that to some degree it has to do with fear.  Fear, of getting hurt maybe?  
... But if you know me that may not make sense to you.  For the most part, I'm pretty bold and fearless at what life has thrown at me.  

Or, perhaps I'm guarded because God has put in my heart what I truly want.  And I am willing to wait for it.  
Now, I'm not just talking about romance here.  I'm referring to everything that is important to me in my life;  love, family, friends, career and my goals. 
 At 38, I realized that I don't know how much time I have left on this planet.  Knowing that is enough to make me never want to settle for something that my heart & mind are not truly committed to.

Since I woke up that morning, I couldn't contain my smile. June 8th, 2013.  This was the day of my 20 year High School Reunion!  I meditated and reflected on my life in a very profound way.  My heart swelled with gratitude at all of the blessings what were bestowed on us.  I felt privileged and humbled all at once.  Even taking into account the most difficult moments, I realized what a beautiful life I have been blessed with.  The people in my life have been a gift to me.   I woke my daughter up after our bags were all packed and got her and our dog ready for our fun drive to New York City.  First stop was the Bronx where my parents live.  There, we caught up for a bit, and then it was time to get ready for my big reunion.  I had decided on a black pant suit, gold sparkly heels and a matching purse.  I thought it was a sleek and elegant look to go with, without having to wear a cocktail dress.  

Why not a dress?  I love dresses.  I have tons of them.  I think I could run a boutique out of my walk-in closet.  ...That point will become relevant soon.

I chose the pant suit because I wanted to take the subway into the City.  I didn't want to be too dressed up on the train.  I contemplated driving, but besides the issue of finding parking, I really felt like I wanted to be  surrounded by the comfort of my hometown, my people, where I feel at home.

I felt excited. I admit it took me a good 5 minutes to figure out how to purchase a Metro Card from the blasted machine.  There was a transit cop standing right by me who I caught chuckling at my dilemma, without offering to help.  As handsome as he was, I toyed with the idea of kicking him in the shins with my 6 inch heels.  I decided against it seeing how (1) it would have been unladylike, and (2) he could probably have me arrested, and that would have been the end of my High School reunion.  Karma caught up with my devious plot because I once again got stuck.  This time trying to slide the card and pass through the turnstile.  I looked back, indignant.  Already knowing what I would see.  He tried to break eye contact when I looked at him, but I caught the miserable SOB chuckling again.

I furiously clicked my heels all the way up to the platform of the El-Train.  My beloved #4 train.  Famous to many for being on the NY Yankees Stadium line.  Sentimental for me because that train holds so many familiar memories for me and my friends who I grew up with.  Where I grew up, there was no school bus.  We had to take the subway or the bus in to school.  As a kid, you learn a lot about life by keeping your eyes and ears open on the subway.

Once I got up the platform I stood gazing out at my neighborhood with nostalgic longing.  A warm breeze covered me from head to toe, blowing my hair into my face on both sides.  6pm and the sun was shining strong and bright. 


Despite my stoic stance, I was taking in all of my surroundings.  Sights, sounds and people.  The train made it's fiery, thundering entrance into the platform.  We boarded and took our places randomly dispersed throughout the subway car.  We all pretended not to notice each other, for the most part- but we did.  Many of us were very well-dressed, adorned with fancy shoes and handbags. 

In a space with about 40 human beings, the only connections that were being made were with the electronic devices that we were all armored with.  No eye contact. No smiles.  No talking.  And, that suited me just fine.

I got off that train and walked over to connect to the 2nd train that I needed to take.  That platform was underground, with a type of suffocating humid heat.  There I waited longer than I'd hoped for.  Heat and impatience breed all types of negative tempers.  You could cut the tension on that platform with a knife.  

Suddenly the sound of Scottish Bagpipes filled the air.  It didn't matter if you wanted to hear it or not, it was there, and it was loud.  Thankfully, the performer chose to play a sort of rhythmic lament and that somehow made me think that is what empathy would sound like, if it had a sound.  It would sound like this street performer's melodic song...  

At that moment, I felt compelled to show him my gratitude and put money in his can to thank him for his soothing melody.  I know that it isn't smart to take out your wallet and mess with cash in the subway but this man reminded me of the musicians that kept playing while the Titanic was sinking.  That platform felt like the Titanic and that humid heat was sinking us all into misery.

That was precisely the moment where I met him.  That's when so many things came full circle for me. 

A homeless man was approaching slowly, limping.  His clothes were very dirty.  He looked weathered and tired.  In my heart, I wish that I could help all of them.  My heart hurts to see people suffering.

Ironically, he approached me with caution.  I assure you that if you see me, I don't look dangerous at all.  Serious, maybe.  Yes.  But dangerous, no.  Yet, he approached me with what felt like a lot more caution than he had approached others on that platform.  When he reached me I looked at him. Although my heart was breaking, I tried not to show it out of respect for him.  Homeless or not, he was still a man.  And even a man in his circumstances has pride.  In that moment, I didn't want him to see my heart hurt because I wanted to give him the respect that he deserved as a man.

He was an older gentleman.  The skin around his eyes were especially wrinkled, like someone who had spent a life laughing and loving a lot.  In contrast, his eyes seemed glazed over, like the eyes of someone who had cried so much that there were no longer any tears left to cry.  In his face, I could imagine a life that had come full circle.  Joy and pain.

He pointed to his cardboard sign around his neck written with a black sharpie.  It said how he was mute and deaf, was looking for work and needed help.
Now, I realize that some people use gimmicks for this.  I realize that you can't help everyone.  More than anything, I follow my heart first, and caution second.

I took out my purse and handed him some money.  In some way, he seemed surprised, as if he didn't expect this.  He pointed to the sign where it said,  "God Bless you and Thank you", and made the Namaste sign with his hands as he walked away.  I nodded and then did something that caught me even by surprise.  I smiled.  Not any smile, it was a huge heart-felt smile and I returned the Namaste gesture to him as well.
At this, he stopped and looked at me, really looked at me.  
He looked into me. 
I felt it.

He signed with his hands, and tried to mouth with his lips, "You are beautiful."  Without pause, I signed and said, "And so are you.  You are beautiful too."  At this,  he covered his mouth with one hand, and put his other hand over his heart.  For a few moments we just looked at each other.  Then he signed, thank you.  I nodded.  What followed this, was pretty amazing to me.

He asked me for a hug.  And, I did. 
I hugged him, sincerely.  
When we broke the embrace, his eyes were visibly glazed with tears.  And he thanked me.  I said, "No, thank you for that hug."  He stood there as if trying to reconcile the moment.  

You wouldn't believe that precisely then, the train pulled in.  I said goodbye and entered the train taking a seat where I was facing him standing outside.  His hand still remained over his heart, and his eyes still glazed with tears, except now there was an incredible smile on his face too.

It was only then that I realized that the people on the train were watching us.  Some in what seemed like disbelief or disapproval.  The terrible smell of his clothing, lingered on my jacket.  Strangely, I appreciated the reminder of what had just taken place.   As the train was about to pull out, he waved and signed "I love you".  I smiled and waved, mouthing, "I love you too" through the glass window.

Only when the train pulled away, and he could no longer see me, did the tears start to roll down my face.  They wouldn't stop.   They fell onto my shimmery gold purse, making my tears sparkle in the light. I wiped my face and thanked God.   I prayed with so much gratitude.  One may think that perhaps I was attempting to help him when I gave him money.  No. 
It was him who helped me

In a world that has felt so cold, and so electronic for so long, this man's smile, embrace and humanity breathed life into me.  That vulnerable soul penetrated the walls that keep my heart distant.  In that moment, I allowed myself to get close to someone in a way that I hadn't in so long.  That moment was a gift, and in his own way he taught me so much.

When I got off the train, I walked a few blocks to the locale for the reunion, where I'm sure many of us were focused on where life brought us, what we do, kids, home, timeshares... and I looked down at my sparkly gold shoes as I walked.  It hit me hard.  None of it matters, if we are not connecting with each other as human beings.  None of it matters if we are not focused on the things that make a difference.  In the end, the only thing we get to take and keep is how we made each other feel.

June 8, 2013.  It was the day of my High School reunion, but it was also the day I felt reunited with me.  

... And with you.

The Gold Purse making it's appearance at my 20th High School Reunion..  One of those sparkles holds the remnants of a tear, from just 2 hours before...



Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Melo-Drama, Bollywood & Fish...

Scene:

I have my hair clipped up and sort of coming down at the sides.  My eyes feel heavy and tired.  The muscles in my neck and shoulders are so tight.  In the background, you hear an Indian soap opera playing on TV, because the truth is that I'm hooked on Bollywood.  

I have no idea what they're saying for the most part, yet I watch the soaps and own a DVD collection.

Like the Spanish soap operas that many of us Latinas have grown up with, they are full of drama, suspense, over-exaggerated facial expressions, unbelievable fashions, cleavage & lots of make-up.  At any given moment, someone may break out into song and dance.  Often, the themes center around love, hate, passion and forbidden love.  And all of those things, orbit around a secretly dysfunctional family dynamic.

Sound familiar to anyone?

One of my favorites.  My daughter, my niece and I can sing every lyric (and have no idea what we're saying..)


Maybe, just maybe life seems like a little bit of a let-down, or disappointment at times when you grow up watching such intense story-lines and drama.  It took me a long time to find pleasure in life's ordinary moments rather than a flashy display of grandiose emotion.

Keep your expensive gifts, and dramatic displays.  Instead, hold my hand, push my hair away when it falls in my face.  Share the silence with me and let it resonate emotions that don't even need to be said.

Yes, it would seem that it took years to un-do all of the expectations that those Spanish Novelas weaved in my adolescent mind.  What makes love powerful is the gem that lays hidden in the bond between souls, not the display case. Sometimes that bond transcends time, and distance.  It's how loyal we choose to remain to that feeling, and how we choose to honor it.

On the up-side, I'm entranced by most things exotic and take so much pleasure in watching Bollywood movies or novelas.  The colors, the language, the dance..  You've probably guessed that my kitchen is subject to this same passion.  I enjoy taking something simple and giving it an exotic flair.

I want to romance your palate, and your senses.

Recently, I had my friends over for some much needed girl-time.  I decided to make what I call Caribbean Curry Fish on a bed of Jasmine rice and some fresh, hot Roti on the side.  The taste of the curry fish sauce and fresh veggies and herbs, tingled your lips and dance in your mouth.  So good!

Girl-time on the porch


Next time you're feeling adventurous, break out in song and dance like a Bollywood movie, and give this dish a try...



Caribbean Curry Fish (Sofrito-Style)


Swai Fillet washed in water and a little vinegar 


 On a large piece of aluminum foil, drizzle olive oil, a squeeze of lime and pepper, sprinkle garlic powder & a small amount of sea-salt.


Place the filet that sheet of aluminum foil, and drizzle olive oil, a squeeze of lime and pepper, sprinkle garlic powder & a small amount of sea-salt- this time on top of the fish.


  Surround filet with fresh spinach leaves


Lightly cover the filet with good quality curry powder to taste.  
I like a lot...


Add in fresh-grated ginger


  Add hot pepper or sauce (optional)


   Cover the filet entirely with red onion, multil-colored peppers, and mushrooms


   Top off with fire-roasted red peppers


.   Wrap & seal aluminum foil, cook in oven for about 35 minutes

   When ready, top off with a slice of fresh lemon and chopped cilantro , rosemary and basil.


Serve with a side of steaming jasmine rice and roti.