What’s Love Got To Do With It

With Valentine’s day arriving, we are programmed to think about Cupid -romantic love. So the very word love causes us to immediately think about flowers, holding hands, long walks on the beach, snuggly nights, and so forth. I think that’s ridiculous.

To begin with, romantic love does not have to be about any of those things. It can be about sharing, communication, trust, respect, intimacy, affection, listening, supporting. It is also about dialogue, arguments, compromise, and so much more. Yes, all the romantic things are nice, but they are not always necessary – except maybe the hand holding.

KNOW LOVE – NO LOVER

But what about those of us who do not have lovers? Me, I sleep with a cat. Or alone. So what about love? When we think of love, we forget about the love we experience every day. About those friends who know us and love us anyway. The ones that support us in our madness, our joy and our sorrows. The ones that bring food when you need it. That hug you no matter what. What about the friends who tell you the truth even when it costs them your anger – these are far and few between and they surely love you.

For me, a lot of it is about the women in my life. I have a remarkable group of friends. But I have also grown up enough to appreciate the men who are my friends and expect nothing from me but my friendship in return. Now that is truly a gift.

For some of us, there is the love of a higher power. Some people find it in religion, some in spiritual practices and some in their own brand of faith or belief. That is the love that allows us to see miracles on a daily basis. The miracle of breathing, the miracle of the sun setting and the moon rising, the miracle of the stars, the miracle of the wind on our faces and the scents of the flowers.

So, Valentine’s Day has very little meaning for some of us, Hallmark holiday that it is. Of course my programming says it is nice to be recognized on these holidays, to have a lover repeat their avowal of love in some tangible or overt act. Me, my cat, and I will spend a few extra minutes loving each other on Valentine’s day and that will have to be enough.

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The Nature of Love

 

So, my friends.  We always think, when we hear the word love, of romantic love.  And don’t get me wrong, romantic love is a wonderful thing if it is part of your life.  But it is wrong thinking to think that romantic love is what should always be top of mind when you think of “love”.

My cats love me, in their own peculiar way.  They need to be close a lot of the time when I am home because I often am not.  They groom me and bring me various live and half-eaten prey to show how much they love me.  Dogs, fortunately, do not bring prey but theirs is a most unconditional form of love.  They do not care what you do or when, they just love you.  Cats are a little pickier but always come around.

And religion, ritual, spiritual practices tell me that G-d loves me.  The best version of any of these tells me that my concept of a G-d should be loving and caring and not punitive despite some of the biblical allegories that might drive you to believe otherwise.  I choose to believe that if there is a power greater than myself, it is caring; that the universe means me no harm.  Bad things happen, they are part of life not the vengeful creations of a punishing G-d.

Despite my own insecurities and self-doubt, I know today that my friends love me.  Now there are the women.  They are the friends whose love is wrapped in sympathy, empathy and hard truth.  They are the friends that fill my house with laughter when we play cards and whose paths, in many cases, parallel my own.  They are the friends that understand what my life is like at the present time and that is  a priceless gift.  Then there are the men.  I have learned that it is indeed possible to have really stalwart and steady male friends without the need for tension, chemistry or romance.  They have brought me meals, listened to me rant about the shortcomings of certain other men in my life.  They show up to fix things or reach things I can’t.  They refer me to services I need as a single homeowner.  They have my back all the time and don’t laugh at me as much as the women do.  They are the friends that just show up and care whether they understand or not. And men and women alike, I love them back.

And there is my son, with whom I am friends.  He is the friend that showed up every day to clean the pool and take out my trash when I couldn’t.  He is the friend that knows me inside out and doesn’t take any bullshit answers. He is the friend that thinks I should have romantic love in my life. He is the friend that shares his fears and understands mine.  We have come to this wonderful adult place.  And of course, he is my baby and I love him more than I will ever love anyone!

So, romantic love – it would be nice. But I have, as you can see, lots of love in my life; and it is good.

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Agreeing to Agree?

I have had a couple of experiences lately that, a year ago, would not have inspired much thought on my part.  But this week, they did.

I was with a friend of mine, someone with whom I never discuss politics because we have very significant differences of opinion.  And it is a sign of the times that we don’t talk.  I remember a time, not so very long ago, when I could break bread with a table full of friends with divergent opinions and we could have a civilized, respectful, if spirited, discussion.  Because of the polarization of our society, our country, we had tacitly agreed to disagree because on a personal level we like each other very much.

To my surprise, we had a discussion, albeit brief, about the fact that our world is in shambles.  We agreed that the public life of our country is, currently, a circus.  So, apparently, we have now somewhat less tacitly agreed to agree.  And we have started to see Republican politicians expressing consternation over where we are, something I would not have thought possible six short months ago.

But I had another experience, one that I think has become commonplace in our culture.  I allowed myself to be drawn into a political discussion, something I avoid like the plague these days.  And I listened, I think politely,   and I tried to express my opinion, as quietly as I could.  The response I got was to be interrupted and told that I am silly, my views are silly and it was silly to discuss my views.   This I think has sadly become the norm, where it isn’t even worth agreeing to disagree and there is no value in listening to one another.

If the hope is that we can return to civil discourse, to respectful disagreement and to the collegial solving of problems, then that first encounter gives me hope.  Those few “moderate” Republicans quietly wondering give me hope.  The election of women, transgender and gay candidates around the country gives me hope.  Perhaps we are agreeing to agree so that someday, again, we can agree to disagree.

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Friendship and Food ~ Why do it?

Having a dinner party, or in a more modern vernacular a dinner, even when the food isn’t perfect.

First, set a beautiful table – because it matters.  Looking at a table ready for guests is almost as good as a table full of happy guests.   Next, create a menu.  All my friends know that I like to try new recipes on them and despite not knowing the results they willingly accept the risks.  So far, I haven’t poisoned anyone that I am aware of and have only had to take my guests out to eat at a restaurant once; a particularly bad grilling experience. Be bold, be creative, try new things, maybe even a theme.

Next, remember why you have dinners and invite people you love, or people who are interesting, or people you want to get to know.  Think about the chemistry; do you want interesting smart conversation, or intimacy, or just a bellyful of laughs.  And by the way, I always tell my guests it is never about reciprocity.  I don’t care if I ever see the inside of their homes, I do this because I like to.  It is for me really, they are just the incidental beneficiaries of my joy.

Ok, so plan ahead how you will cook.  Is there anything you can do in advance?  Of course I am assuming you have already shopped.  And what is your timing?  Are there any pre meal rituals, add in the time.  Make coffee before dinner; in my age group more decaf than not.  And don’t get too ambitious, it is a recipe for failure.

So my last dinner definitely not go as planned.  Hoisin glazed baby back ribs took almost an hour longer than expected.  The rice was done but stayed warm.  The stir fried green beans, thankfully didn’t get started until it seemed reasonable, but they were nevertheless in danger of overlooking.  The pickled cucumber salad was cold and didn’t suffer.  But really, nobody cared.  A glass of wine, good friends, good conversation, a bowl of steamed edamame, it was all good.

Once again nobody poisoned, the food was okay and we laughed until we cried and thoroughly enjoyed each other’s company.

[tweetshare tweet=”So don’t worry too much if your house isn’t in perfect order, allow yourself the time and space to just sit and enjoy.  Don’t worry if the food isn’t perfect, your friends won’t care.” username=”TrienahM”]

This is why I do it – a table full of food, laughter and love.

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Upside Down? Pineapple…..

So here began an adventure in old fashioned cooking.  I received a text inquiry from a dear friend as whether my husband and I could attend a small birthday dinner for hie wife on Saturday night.  As is the custom in our circle of friends, I asked what I could bring.  In response the text came back – Pineapple Upside Down Cake.

I thought he was joking, it seemed a very odd request.  It turns out, however, that this is his wife’s favorite cake.  Apparently he had faith that I had done this before, which I had not, but I appreciate the faith in my cooking prowess.  There appears to have developed the mythology along my friends and acquaintances that I can cook anything, hard to live up to! As a result, of course, the challenge was taken up, the search for a recipe began.

After much recipe reading I settled on one with none of the delicious toxic maraschino red dye number something cherries and extra pineapple made in the old fashioned cast iron skillet.  It starts with a kind of brown sugar caramel in the skillet with the pineapple rings laid in and all the spaces filled in with crushed pineapple.  A batter made with coconut oil is then poured  over and it is baked until golden brown, cooled and turned out onto a plate.

Despite 2 teaspoons of baking powder I was a bit surprised by how little it rose but it was satisfyingly brown and pretty (of course when it comes out you are looking at what will be the bottom). It was quite delicious, moist due to the extra pineapple and just enough for moderate slices for 10 when made in a classic 10″ straight sided cast iron skillet.  If you want seconds, you had better make two.  But everyone should have their favorite on their birthday.

Upside down and tasty
Upside down and tasty
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