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.

Stay in touch!

Things I Want My Son To Know #23 ~ Value Every Life

The whole country is rejoicing that our armed forces finally got Osama Bin Laden; and well they should. But there is something troubing about the over the top, hysterical parties celebrating death; it is somehow unseemly. The interviews with the first responders who survived 9/11 have a very different tone, and we should learn something from that. They are glad but subdued, they know its right but know it won’t bring anyone back. In general, a death for a death is not a good policy if you really think it through. But, as usual, I digress.

What all this is really about is that we should not celebrate death, we should celebrate life. When you pass a homeless person on the street, don’t laugh or make fun of them; try not to look away. Each of those people is or was the loved one of someone, a son, a daughter, a father, a brother. They are not homeless and dirty because they chose it as a way of life consciously or rationally.

When you meet someone you dislike, try to listen to their point of view; try to understand how they came to it. You may never agree but you may learn something. How people got where they are is extremely instructive about how they think and feel and why.

When you think about crime and criminals remember that nobody is just the one worst thing they have ever done. You don’t want to be judged by the one worst thing you have ever done. They are also sons and daughters of parents who loved them in many cases; in other cases they were the children of terrible abusers. Either way, it is not just about the crime.

When you meet a farmer in overalls, don’t assume you are better then he because you wear a shirt and tie to work. Farmers feed us and, hopefully, take care of the earth. It is terrible hard work, often with little reward. Listen to what he has to say; you will definitely learn something about work ethic and committment.

When you meet the President, whether you agree or disagree, you should respect the office and the terrible obligations it presents. You should be able to hold a conversation ~ be well read enough and know enough about your world to speak with intelligence.

In every case, value what is good in people and don’t dwell on the bad. In every case, be a good listener and you will be a good learner, you will understand people just a little better. In every case, be able to talk to people. When you can talk to a homeless woman on the street and to the President with equal interest, and everyone in between, then you will be a well-rounded person.

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Practical Advice For My Son #4 ~ How To Make A Roux

I have told you before, you can put almost anything in a good cream sauce and look like a genius cook to a date. To make a good cream sauce, you need to make a roux. I’ll bet you didn’t know how it was spelled, despite almost four years of French class. And we have been over this a few times, but I really don’t expect you will remember, so I am putting it here. Of course if you would like to call home and ask your mom, you can always do that too.

You need to melt 2 tablespoons of butter over medium heat. Then add two tablespoons of flour, preferably Wondra, which is extra fine and will help you not have a lot of lumps but any flour will do. Normally you would whisk this up but I don’t really expect you to have a whisk, so take a large fork, use it flat and stir in circles against the bottom of the frying pan. Hopefully this is not a nonstick pan or it won’t survive many tries at this. Let this cook, stirring pretty frequently, until the flour turns golden brown. Once it is nice and golden, add 1 cup of milk and stir (whisk) constantly. You can use half milk and half broth if you like, it will be less creamy/thick and a bit more liquid, like a different kind of sauce. You can double this recipe, just keep the proportions the same. Generally I put a few drops of worcestershire and a few drops of tabasco to give it a bit of flavor. Salt and pepper will do.

You will want to let it bubble gently and it will thicken. If its too thick, add broth or milk. Generally speaking, a few sauteed boneless, skinless chicken breasts, some egg noodles and you are in business. Or some precooked shrimp (you can buy a bag) and some nice rice pilaf (comes in a box) and you are in business. Add a bagged salad and a storebought desert and poof! fabulous dinner for two.

If by some chance you want to make comfort food, one of your favorites, just buy a rotisserie chicken and cut it up and put it in the cream sauce, make buttered toast and voila! creamed chicken on toast. Remember if you add frozen peas, they will melt and add water so make your sauce a little thick.

A good roux can go a long way, there are many things you can do with a cream sauce. You can even put it over pork chops, or whatever. Experiment with flavors; just remember to smell things before you put them in… if it doesn’t smell good, if it doesn’t smell like it would go together, don’t do it.

Just remember 2, 2 and 1. Two tablespoons, two tablespoons and one cup. Roux is just one of those things that is good to know in life. It’s an easy trick that will take you far; like most things it is simple once you know how.

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Things Your Father Wants You To Know #3 ~ Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff

I think its fair to say that your father sweats the small stuff; the smaller it is the more sweat. And it causes him a lot of angst. He is truly a mensch when it comes to the big stuff. If he wasn’t, we wouldn’t have you! We had just moved in together and I called home and said I was bringing home a teenage girl who needed a foster placement ~ no big deal. Call him in the middle of the night for an emergency, he is up and out in a heartbeat; but leave a dish in the sink and his head explodes.

So more than almost anything he would tell you… don’t sweat the small stuff, it will just raise your blood pressure. And more importantly, it is almost all small stuff. There is very little that you will face in life that is actually life threatening. There is no question that you will face things that will force change in your life; change is not bad, it can just be very disconcerting. Fearing change can cause you to make bad decisions; trust me, we know. Most decisions, fortunately, are not irrevocable. The good news is that faith will carry you through most change, and most change won’t kill you; small stuff.

With any luck you will never go to war. Hopefully you will not face life threatening illness, catastrophic accident or the untimely loss of a loved one. But you cannot count on these things; these are the big things. You will sweat these things, they are hard, painful and demand your attention. These are the things it takes time to recover from, the things that leave scars on your heart. Pretty much everything else is small stuff.

If you remember that it is all small stuff, you will have an easier time in your relationships; the necessary compromise will come more readily. If you are able to let the small stuff go, you will waste a lot less emotional energy on things that don’t really matter. You will be able to survive any tragedies that come your way. If you don’t sweat the small stuff you will have the emotional space for the things that really do matter… your loves, your passions, your joys.

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Things Effie Wants You To Know #1 ~ Give Yourself A Break

Having empathy for others is a great thing; and you have it in abundance. Your heart is always hurting for someone else that has been hurt. Sympathy for other is also a good thing but not as good as empathy; feeling sorry for others is not as important as feeling for them.

Having sympathy or empathy for yourself is even better. And self-pity, self-indulgence and patting yourself on the back don’t count. What matters is that you not be too hard on yourself when you make a mistake, have sympathy for yourself; everyone makes mistakes. Have empathy for yourself when you are having misgivings, doubts or fears. It is important to be kind to yourself even when you are disappointed in what you have done or accomplished; when you feel you have failed.

If you do your best, then you have done your best. And if you have, give yourself a break because that is all anyone can ask of you, including you.

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