19 July, 2010

Patisserie 46

Patisserie 46 was anticipated with delight. When Rustica left the neighborhood I felt betrayed and abandoned. I had come to depend on their scones to appease my longing for London. I know clotted cream will be more difficult to replace, but at least I had access to heavenly scones like the ones we ate in the basement cafeteria of the Tate Britain. Patisserie 46 held the promise of decadent pastries like the ones eaten at LaDuree on a drizzly evening ending a day of retail therapy at Harrods. It was the first full week of July that I noticed people sitting outside the south Mpls location, suggesting to passers by that it was open for business. I recruited my son to assist me with an initial assessment. The pastry case held a limited assortment of selections, but there were many breads from which to choose. I decided on a coconut cream creation with a traditional macaroon on the side. Sitting under the trees on the East side of the building was a welcome moment in my adjustment to the boot cast weighing down my broken left ankle. I swung my heavy metal and plastic contraption, secured with 5 wide bands of Velcro, up and onto an extra chair next to the rose colored impatiens. The metal running up each side of the cast hit the iron garden chair with a satisfying clanking not unlike a jail cell door slamming shut. Looking at my iron braced broken ankle propped awkwardly, I slowly leaned back to catch the sun filtered through the leaves on my face. Sipping iced mango green tea, sharing my maiden voyage to eat pastries in a new rival for my LaDuree loyalty, I listened to a man who loves me and relaxed. It is easier to let go of my resentment around Rustica's move when I have a choice like Patisserie 46. Perhaps that is the secret of letting go: noticing what you have now, in this breath.

09 July, 2010

crabgrass isn't crabby

A broken ankle slows you down. It changes your perception to the world, especially your world, and your activities. And the value you place on the things you do. Some are obvious like your gross weekly income and itemized expenses. The others are subtle, with value which is easy to miss, like watching the butterflies in the garden or releasing the flies that have gotten into the kitchen but do not know how to get out. They find their way to the screen and bang their bodies against the net until they are exhausted and drop to the sill. I can almost hear their whimpering, "let me out, someone, anyone, help me." I think poorly of them. Scornfully assessing their intelligence as less than the butterflies caught in my front porch. I notice that I am more eager to assist the hysterical creatures fluttering against the glass in confusion-and I do not blame them for their mistake. I'm just as convinced of their virtue as I can guarantee that those flies are up to no good, simply waiting for an opportunity to bite me. I have no photos of flies or their younger siblings, the maggots. I rarely acknowledge their value. Images of English roses, cardinals, monarch butterflies, French pastries all have space on my hard drive. Yet a broken ankle provides an opportunity to observe what has been unnoticed, not worthy of noticing, for so long-and to compare monarchs to houseflies, and roses to crabgrass.

08 July, 2010

Like a Bridge...

Each of us is a bridge spaning destinations. We are not the destination itself, although we may pause to catch our breath part-way across. But then we move on. I was quite fond of the story about the 3 Billy Goats Gruff as a child and never tired of hearing the descriptions of the horrible hungry troll perpetrator and the innocent goat brothers trying to get to the other side. The guardian ad litem program has crossed a bridge of it's own. No more independent contractors, and the kids previously assigned to contractors have been re-assigned to volunteers. Like me. The United States and Somalia do not recognize children's rights, and we have no plan to cross that bridge in the future. Kids in the child protection system rely on guardians ad litem to speak for their best interests. In the meantime, when they are lucky, their parents are willing to whole-heartedly work a court ordered case plan to prevent their parental rights from being terminated. And the kids receive services to help them recover from sexual abuse, violence, and neglect. Most people look the other way, missing impressive ability for resilience our children exercise. Our children, not those children, those people. These kids are my kids friends, they interact with each other they will carry the world on their shoulders together when it is their time. They will build bridges and maintain our communities. And they will find a place for the hungry, desperate trolls in our lives so that all the goats can eat.

07 July, 2010

Broken Ankle at Chez Jules

"When I got divorced many years ago, I wondered whether I had just made everything up -- including myself."
And that's exactly what we do: make it up. Sometimes alone, but mostly our creations overlap other people's creations and these creations change at different rates and in a variety of directions. It feels little like "Calvin-ball", with the rules changing and no notice. And we make up our own reactions to other people changing their rules, breaking their contracts, wanting something more, or different. If this is true, then we also make up constipation, broken ankles, and child slavery. Sometimes it isn't intentional, it's just a side effect, but it can still be uncomfortable. Not a problem if uncomfortable is something to which you are acclimated. Take DV. If domestic violence is your lived reality from childhood, you will believe it is normal and perhaps inevitable, and make up a life that fits into that system. When you reexamine the belief you may replace it with something different. A broken ankle is a horrible thing, painful and inconvenient. Loss of income i rides shotgun. No one would want to make up something like a broken ankle. I wouldn't, and I didn't, but I did want the summer to slow down and seem to last forever. I wanted a stay-cation, to watch DVDs,and hang out with my peeps. I wanted fires in the fire pit, less time on the road, and daydreaming. I wanted someone else to clean my house, buy food, and make pitchers of iced tea. I wanted to read for fun, be in the garden without gardening, and go over my accounts without falling asleep. And I wanted a pilates personal trainer to tell me what to do for a change. I wanted to write for hours instead of squeezing it in between tasks on my to do list. I wanted to sit on the back deck and watch the goldfinches in the bird bath. And I wanted to be free of guilt, shame, and self-reproach.
Do we make up our marriages, our divorces, our relationships, ourselves? We certainly make up our own parts, and hope they fit with what other people around us are making up. And then, if they don't work together, if we are unhappily cast as a domestic violence victim, instead of a respected business partner someone's identity falls away. Usually some measure of pain is involved, like with my broken ankle. But, as usual, it could have been so much worse.

06 July, 2010

Crema Cafe Chocolate cake a la mode coconut

The day I broke my ankle I was on my way to Crema: June 20th, Father's Day was especially lovely. We were walking. As a single parent my kids celebrate both Father and Mother's Days with me. After sharing a meal we were on our way to dessert. Visions of cakes and a generous selection of Sonny's premium ice cream danced in our heads. There is something so right about dark, dense layers of chocolate cake held together and sealed with chocolate ganache. Some of us like the ice cream on the side, barely touching the cake, forming a pool around the slab as it melts. My personal preference is ice cream on top, so it soaks into the cake as it melts. Carefully moving the ball of frozen cream, eggs and sugar to the peak of the cake slab, I wait until it is soft enough to spread. It melts evenly, more or less, and is absorbed, and consumed slowly. After each bite there is a pause to notice the explosion of flavors, textures, temperatures. Five of six bites is enough for the moment. And, as I pack the remaining portion "to go" I bring my attention completely to the present moment. It is more than enough: sitting in the late afternoon sunlight, across from the man-boy who loves me. I relax, sensing the underlying value and truth of being. This experience is enough, we have enough, I am enough. It seems so obvious and easy in this kind of situation, but I am not always aware of my incredible privilege without comparing situations. Lucky me, I broke my ankle and discovered I am still enough. In pain, frustration, and limited mobility, I am still surrounded by sunshine, flowers, and
the people who love me.

Cherry Pie from Chez Jules

Where I come from cherry pies are a big deal. And pie crust is made from scratch. My dwarf Montmorency cherry tree is nearly 20 years old-slightly younger than my kids-and overshadowed by a nearby birch tree. The tool to remove the cherry stones reminds me of a stapler, reminds me of the sexual imagery associated with cherries and reminds me of the three million+ daughters who are victims of genital mutilation each year, violence against women by women, grandmothers, mothers and daughters; elder sister against younger sister. Visions-impaired, the pattern continues. The natural state of a woman's body becomes taboo. Sexual pleasure and gratification become entangled and confusing. Childbirth occurs with increasing discomfort and pain. All births are surgical procedures in the most primitive form. Female mortality rates increase as women bleed to death. The red juice, blood of the cherries, spatters my skin as I work my way through the over-ripe fruit. Then cornstarch and sugar sweeten and thicken the juice which cannot coagulate on it's own. Rolling out the butter dough for a flaky, melt in your mouth crust we move from middle to edge, turn, repeat, turn, repeat, turn, repeat, occasionally flipping it over and sprinkling with flour. It becomes a meditation; this becomes a prayer: tender pie crust, tender mercies, tend our children.

05 July, 2010

Breakfast at Victor's 1959 Cafe

"This old man, he played one, he played nick-nack on his thumb with a nick-nack, paddy-whack, give the dog a bone, this old man came rolling home."
This 83 year old man came rolling into my home after celebrating his cousin Bill's 80th birthday. Bill's living in long-term nursing care at the present moment: wheelchair, diapers, seeing impaired, hearing impaired, speech impaired, eating impaired. I remember him from his earlier years with the St Paul police department, but haven't seen him for 35 years. The two cousins had lost track of each other until a lovely day in late June. It rocks the world as my Dad watches his generation drop away. Each funeral triggers his inner alarm clock and brings him to the state of awareness, grace, and gratitude: last meal, last trip, last embrace, last chance. Our time together is often at a table with food. Last time we were together we decided on Victor's. Cuban. His first time. Maybe his last. My Dad takes food and meals very seriously. He grew wondering when the next meal would appear. He was blessed: he didn't actually miss many meals except by choice. And to this day he makes an effort to show up at the table, not just on time, but a little bit early. Not eating is an indication of ill-health, decline or deterioration. "Off your feed" is his expression. Eating out enhances the ritual. There is a playful reverence in the gesture. Picking the restaurant, selecting your meal, choosing companions. Witnessing his cousin's limitations caused anxiety, increases his awareness of the present moment. and intensifies his gratitude. "I'm older than he is," he reminds me. "Please don't let that happen to me."