Thursday, January 29, 2015

High School

You know those moments when you take a hard swallow and know that life is not going to be the same, ever again? Last night we sat and went through the classes Aidan is choosing for high school. HIGH SCHOOL! This is the little guy who spent most days of his of his toddlerhood, clad only in a t-shirt and diaper, playing in the mud with streams of water and plastic dinosaurs. Sugar Bear to his momma. And now, he's casually tossing around terms like "Chemistry/Physics, the IB program (which is apparently NOT "irritable bowel", in case you were confused.), pre-engineering and advanced humanities. Sheesh. Part of me wants to go back to the diaper days when I knew he was always an arms reach away, but the other part of me swells with pride to see the fella he's turning out to be.

We've spent the last 13 years giving our son wings. We've encouraged him to dream, to learn, to create; to reach. We've told him stories and given him adventures. We've fostered his love for far away places, and people not the same. Along the way, we've nudged, and pushed, and pulled, and prodded, until he could stand on his own, walk on his own, and now, I'm half afraid, he's really going to fly, on his own. I get the sense that this mountain range out our window is going to become too small, to cramped.

The kid who danced with abandon, flinging one arm out in rhythmic slicing motions, is now the young man who still sees the world with enthusiasm and optimism. Who takes sides with the disadvantaged. He has a sense of adventure and daring, the fernweh of his ancestors. He wears the olive skin that hints of Cherokee heritage, his  PopPop's sense of humor, his daddy's smile and generous heart, and my brown eyes.

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Aidan in Georgetown, CO
In the Jerusalem market, the old Arab trying to sell Aidan a dagger, shooed Chris away..."No, no, he is man, you let him choose...". And we will. Even if it means those wings that we've carefully watched grow, will take him far from the nest.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Glass Blowing

Aidan teased me that there weren't going to be any presents under the Christmas tree this year, only rolled up pieces of paper. Because I had discovered Groupon and Living Social. Which combined with our love for giving our kids experiences rather than things, is sort of like a perfect marriage.

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Glass Blowing Class
Just to prove him wrong, there were some other really fun things under the tree. But also, some boxes filled only with paper...

First we drove to Fort Collins and had dessert at the chocolate café, then we went to Loveland for Aidan's glass blowing class.

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Ornament making
The instructor was a grizzled oldish hippie sort. He gave commands with an impatient bark, which I guess is understandable when dealing with liquid glass and a 13 year old.

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Rolling the ornament in the color
The studio was an old shed, on a dirt road behind the train tracks. The three teachers that went in front of Aidan showed him the things not to do. But they did it cheerfully and with lots of teacher type words of encouragement to each other.

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Blowing the glass-while it's rolling.
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Becoming a ball
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Creating the loophole
Fire melting glass until it glows liquid orange, and becomes as malleable as play dough, is really amazing to watch. Aidan loved his experience. He loved the science of it, and the art. Beauty made from glass, heat and air.

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An ornament, made with those two hands.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Raisins and Cinnamon

I used to stand on a chair and help my mom bake bread, mixing flour, yeast, water, salt and honey in a huge silver bowl, until my arms stiff from stirring couldn't turn the mixture anymore. When my mom took the spoon from my hands, I would wonder how she had the strength to stir and stir. She taught me how to knead, and I still use the same rhythm. Turn, fold, push and push. The 5 brown crusty loaves, 4 large loaves and 1 small, would be our bread for the week. Our family of 9 ate a lot of bread, thick slices with cheese or my favorite, just warm from the oven and covered with melting butter, and honey, that ran in sticky streams down my hands.

The leftover bread would often become pudding. Large chunks of bread soaking up milk and eggs and honey, the tops poking out and becoming golden and crispy. Raisins dotting the pudding with stabs of sweet.

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I still make bread, just not as often, testing the water with my finger to make sure it's the perfect home for the yeast, the way my mother taught me. Turning, folding, and pushing the dough until it feels just right, with my sleeves shoved to the elbows. I love how the house smells all warm and yeasty while bread is baking. Comforting. These days I experiment more, this time adding a thick swirl of spicy cinnamon and nutmeg. Poppy seeds and dried currents tucked within the folds of tangy sourdough. Chloe and I sliced thick slices and smeared them with a melting covering of coconut oil, whipped with orange zest and cardamom. And Chris made our weekend tea time treat; bread pudding.

Thursday, January 22, 2015


I think best with something in my hand. I prefer pen and paper to a mouse and keyboard. I love the way a pen scritch scratches on the page, and I really love to write with a pencil, especially a pencil with thick velvety lead. My favorite spots are almost invariably linked to patches of sunshine, and emptiness. I like to be in the rooms that are filled with color, books and art supplies. But I like to dream when I'm alone. In a barren place, of light and shadow, with nothing guiding me or fighting for my attention.

Maybe that's why I love Colorado winter so much. When we first moved here, it depressed me with it's bleakness. Now, I love it. The thing about winter is that it's wild and free, untamable. Summer can be tempered by air conditioning, the pool, and iced vanilla lattes. But winter forces you to take notice, to find yourself small, and not in control. To face the bold scars and imperfections that no longer hide beneath a show of beauty. Winter reveals what spring, and summer, and fall, cover.

And yet, beneath the layers of decaying leaves, and dried up grasses, life is regenerating, preparing to bloom. It's a perfect time for dreaming. This year, I'm giving myself space to dream, and to put those thoughts into words, and actions. And it's kinda scary, but exciting at the same time.

A bit ago, I randomly saw a post for a "dream job" contest for week in Africa with World Vision. And my heart leapt. So I signed up (Chloe says that if I go-she goes, that girl has Africa on her heart.). Because I wanted to give voice to my heart. It's one of those  "how many votes you can get, and how good you are at what you do?" kind of deals.  So check out my video here. And vote, (everyday!). That would make me happy.

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What's in your hand?
And if I don't get to go to Africa, this time, and one of the other amazing people gets their dream job, I'm still going to keep moving forward until thoughts become reality and my feet follow my heart, to somewhere amazing.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

A Review of Simcha Leah's

Sometimes the best things come by happy accident. We ended up in Tzfat (Safed) because I saw a picture in "Fodor's Israel" of cobblestone streets flanked by stone houses with blue doors, red tile roofs, and iron balconies, in a little village called Rosh Pina. That single picture demanded an audience, so we rented a car and drove to northern Galilee and a bed and breakfast in a nearby town called Tzfat. Our jelly bean green rental car labored up the winding, twisting road, more often than not, taking the wrong exit at the roundabout.  We stepped out of the car and were completely charmed. The town itself is perched at the top of a hill, overlooking Galilee with layers of green descending to the Sea of Galilee. Tzfat is one of the four holy cities in Israel, along with Jerusalem, Hebron and Tiberias, and is the home to Kabbalah, Jewish mysticism.

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Tzfat at sundown
Simcha Leah's was nestled in a corner, it's courtyard opening to a cobblestone street and young Orthodox children who frankly assessed our obviously foreign appearance.

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Welcome to Simcha Leah's
The hosts, Dave and Miri, were welcoming and friendly, making us feel instantly at home in our room with bright yellow plastered walls, freshly cleaned sheets and towels that had air dried in the sun. There was the added bonus that they spoke English, having been born in America. The refrigerator was stocked with hard boiled eggs, milk, fruit, and pita bread, and the shower had a seemingly endless supply of hot water.

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The view
Breakfast was a feast that our Williams & Sonoma clad host prepared. French pressed coffee, warm pita bread, shakshuska (eggs poached in a tomato and spice sauce), homemade hummus, olives, Israeli salad, tahini sauce and cucumbers.

At night, after walking the old town, the Citadel (ruins of a crusader fort), and alleyways full of shops brimming with locally made artists' wares, we sat in the courtyard and asked questions over hot tea and salted nuts. Dave Bender is an accomplished photographer and journalist who even offered to lend me his lenses.

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We did make it to Rosh Pina, and we found the cobblestone streets that demanded my attention, but we found much more. The interactions in Safed we had with the local residents, lent a richness to our adventure that would have been lost to us otherwise. From the Russian Jew who brought us into the Citadel's cave like cistern and sang to us, to the Jew from Los Angeles who sold Aidan a shofar claiming that "it had chosen him", to the man from the archeology department who shared his version of historical events, including his favorite spot to give Iran "the bird", to the café owner who soundly made his point, that it cost more to sit and drink our coffee, we were enchanted.

At a literal level, Kabbalah means, "to receive", and that is exactly what we did in this ancient little town nestled at the top of a hill. Our only regret is not staying longer.

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From the Citadel
Simcha Leah's website can be found here.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

New York in the Rain

I went for a girl's weekend to New York City with a friend in early December. We had a hotel right off of Time Square. It felt like such a grown up thing to do, like trying on my Momma's shoes. But I was a little disorientated. I've never been the best with directions, until we moved to Colorado and then suddenly I was grounded; with the mountains in my view, I could never get totally lost. And the  wild patches of open space where you can stand and see for miles, with unbroken sky above and the horizon stretching beyond, helps me breathe. Suddenly, I was surrounded by skyscrapers, the sun nowhere to be seen, and I was completely unmoored.

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I dearly loved all of the yellow taxis on a rainy Saturday
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Near Central Park, after breakfast at Sarabeth's with my oldest brother and sis in law.
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The Metropolitan Museum of Art
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The windows of Bergdorf Goodman
I loved the contrast in this moment when a woman walked in front of me, carrying her blue umbrella, and paused  in front of the red saturated window display.
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Yellow taxis and Tracey
We trudged through the steady rain, ducking into every bakery that we saw, filling bags with flaking croissants, pan au raisins, and crumbly buttery cookies, and warming our hands around cups of tea and macchiatos. When the sidewalks filled, walking became a contact sport, dodging umbrellas shopping bags, and jostling people in a hurry to somewhere important. I followed Tracey's bright orange umbrella bobbing through the crowds as she moved through with an ease that was lost to me. I nearly lost an eye to an umbrella coming in low and hard, but it fortunately deflected off my glasses.

But the palette of the rain, the gray, and the bright yellow taxis with light glinting off puddles, made me feel completely happy, like being in the midst of an oil painting.