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.

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.

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.

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

Things I Want My Son To Know #21 ~ Love With All Your Might

I didn’t know it at the time, but my parents were my first loves. As I get older I realize how much I love them, how much I have taken their presence in my life for granted. In facing the proximity of loss, I understand how much I will be losing.

I have come to love my friends. Learn this soon and remember it. Hold your friends close, cherish them, stay in touch with them and don’t let them go. Your friends will tell you the truth even if you don’t like it, your friends will bail you out, your friends will cover your butt and keep you company when you need it. You will tell your friends things you may not tell your wife, and that’s ok. Love your friends back.

When I was young I didn’t know anything about faith. Now I do. Having faith is about loving the God of your own understanding; believing that you are not alone. Love God with all your might by striving for great faith; with it life is much easier. You can talk to God when you can’t tell things to your friends or your wife. Treat this relationship with the same love you give to all your relationships.

And then I learned about perfect love, the day you were born. You will be stunned by how much you love your children. You will think you have never loved so much when you meet the person you decide to marry and you will be floored to discover the extent to which that love pales in the reflection of how you feel about your children. You will never understand how much we love you until you have children of your own. Love your children with all your might, and tell them often how much you love them.

When you forget about unconditional love, remember your pets. Your cats and dogs love you unconditionally, asking only in return that you do what they can’t do for themselves. you forget to feed them, they still love you. You accidentally lock them in a closet, they still love you. You step on a tail, its forgetten in seconds. Take a leaf out of their book and remember to love the people you love without question and without expectation.

And then there were all those “first” loves. Even having had two prior husbands, I don’t really remember being “in love”, but every one felt wonderful at the time. And I have learned from every relationship I have ever been in. No matter how much the end of a relationship hurts, no matter how afraid you are of failing, or having it end, you have to love with all your might. If you don’t you will miss knowing how wonderful it is to be in love, you will miss the feeling of that first kiss, and you may miss finding the one person you were meant to be with. You know your dad and I have had our ups and downs, but I know that he is my “meant to be”. Even when I want to kill him, I can’t imagine my life without him. You will never know how that feels if you don’t love with all your might.

Love is risky; all kinds of love. Our prayerbook says that “it is a terrible thing to love what death can touch” and that is true indeed. When you open your heart, it can get hurt. But you have to love with all your might, you have to keep your heart open, otherwise how will all those people find their way in?