Wednesday, July 24, 2013

On the way home from work tonight, I caught the end of a show on NPR called Hidden Kitchens. Some kitchen memories came back to me, and I thought maybe I should write about them. The first kitchen was in my hometown, Racine, WI, in the house built by my great-great grandfather Albert, which was occupied by 5 generations of my family, including me. When I lived there, my parents, my baby brother and I lived in the upstairs flat, and down the back stairway was the door to my Great Grandma Julia's kitchen. Once, my mom saw fairies tiptoeing on that staircase, but that's her story to tell. I remember the milk chute at the landing next to the back door, and I remember hanging a May Day basket on the kitchen doorknob. Gramma Julia's kitchen had a big sink, white cupboards with glass in the doors, one of those dinette sets with the metal legs and Formica tabletop, and a parakeet in a cage. The sunshine came in, and family gathered there. I remember once eating duck, and sometimes ring bologna with scalloped potatoes. Sometimes it was pork and dumplings and sauerkraut. Gramma Julia's daughter, my grandpa's sister Eleanor lived downstairs, too. She would let me cook with her. Gramma and Eleanor made kolaches - prune, apricot, poppyseed and cottage cheese. Eleanor didn't mind a mess. There could be flour everywhere. When Gramma Julia died, the house went up for sale. I have thought about knocking on the door and asking if I could come in and see what was once my family's home. But I decided I'd rather not see what it looks like now. It stays the way I remember it.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Happy Birthday to Me

Up until about an hour ago, it was my 48th birthday. I think I got about 150 birthday wishes on Facebook, by email and by post! They came from all over the US, plus Australia, New Zealand, Britain, Germany, France, Norway and Hong Kong! What a lucky girl I am!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Getting Mushy

The other night, a friend posted on Facebook (paraphrasing here, both his post and Lynyrd Skynyrd): "If I leave here tomorrow, don't remember me - just love each other." Of course, observant people saw a red flag, and asked if he was okay. He replied that he had lost a few friends recently, but he was okay, just "in perspective."

I knew immediately what he meant. There have been a few events in my life that reminded me of how short and fragile our existence on earth can be. A 27-year-old coworker died in the office with his head in my lap. A friend who had tried to get together with me, but I was lost in my own sadness at the time, took her own life. My wonderful, amazing great uncle Lou was killed in a bus fire (showed over and over again on national news). Even after that first death, but especially the second, I decided to myself that from then on, I was not going to be afraid to get mushy with people.

An undertaking like that takes practice. It can be scary. In the beginning, I was nervous, embarrassed, wondering if people would get the wrong idea, think me weird or crazy. Sometimes my I-love-yous are embraced and returned, and sometimes they are received tentatively as if hidden strings may be attached. But that's okay. I give them anyway. Somewhere along the line, I've found that giving love, giving time, giving gifts, giving in are all easier.

I extend this practice not only to those in my inner circle, but to others as well. For instance, at a recent classical concert I attended, I walked brazenly up to the timpani player and congratulated him on a single perfect note. What I got in return was a smile, an introduction, a handshake, and a buzzing heart.

Back to my friend who began this story. I met John when he was playing bass in one of my favorite bands. I saw him at gigs when he was in town about once a year, and on a memorable occasion when my then-boyfriend and I drove from Wisconsin to Ohio to see them play. Unlike Neil Peart, John didn't have to "pretend a stranger is a long-awaited friend". He always greeted me warmly and took time to really talk. When he got married, he and his Wisconsin-born wife invited us to their family wedding reception. I lost track of John as he moved around for his work, and found him again last year on Facebook.

When I replied to his Facebook post, he wrote:

"Hi Leah! I owe you many thanks for your kindness and your support. You are an angel among men. Love you. You have an amazing heart and a way that makes us all better people. Wish there were more of you in this world."

I am touched deeply by this. Years ago, and for a total of a few hours, I supported this man's music and was a friendly face in the crowd. You never know how much your seemingly small acts of kindness can mean to someone.

Friday, August 19, 2011

A Scare

Sometimes it takes a scare to make you think differently. A couple of people I know have had emergency room visits lately, including my husband. He thought that if he took care of himself, he'd never have any health issues. Well, a 3mm kidney stone floored him this week. My coworker had pain in her left arm and numbness in her face. It made her consider that she might get too worked up about things that don't really matter, or can't really be controlled. A friend of mine discovered that if he ignored the pain that sometimes comes with love, he might lose that relationship altogether. We all have a scare every now and then, but if we can keep our hearts open for the lesson, we can often gain peace and wisdom.

Oh, and a practical note: if you are awakened at 3 a.m. by a bat flying through your living room like my friend was this morning, I have heard that opening a window or door and leaving the room is a good idea. Not everyone has a wonderful upstairs neighbor who will come with a blanket and a tennis racket to help you.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Life is Incredibly Short

Today one of my high school classmates lost his 14-year-old daughter. I have no words.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

It Was a Long Week

There are a lot of kinds of tired. There's the type you get when the neighbor's dogs keep waking you up and then you can't go back to sleep. There's the feeling you have when your yoga teacher kicks your butt one day, and then the next day says she's going to "kick it up a notch". There's the tired from working 48 hours in 5 days. The death of an old friend makes you weary. A couple of months of triple digit temperatures and no rain leave you strangely drained. And then there's the tired you get when you have to have a difficult heart-to-heart with a close friend. But last night I slept well, and today I don't have any responsibilities. My heart is right back to work anyway, sending love to people I care about, and staying open to hear them when they need me.

Thursday, July 28, 2011


Wow, I'm having a hard time getting back into the swing of things. I miss my friends more than I expected. Having your heart wide open is wonderful when you are around loved ones, but makes it much more difficult to say goodbye.

My best moment today was when my husband announced that he had a plan for us to visit all of the 50 states. I still love the relatively new idea that there is someone who considers me an integral part of his dreams for the future.