Sunday, November 28, 2010

Home of Creativity

All families have their own set of internal values. Being honest. Helping others. Giving back to the community. Getting an education. Being smart. Being funny. Working hard. Being a good friend. Etc. And families certainly value more than one thing. It’s not about either/or choices. Like all families, ours has a variety of values. This holiday weekend, I was again reminded of how much we value creativity. The life of the imagination is so dear to us, so important, like food (of which we also had an over-abundance the past few days). Yesterday Akili and I spent several hours doing a photo shoot of still-lifes that could be potential cover art for my 2011 forthcoming book. Ron spent several hours doing a photo shoot with our daughter so that she could have some decent head shots to use to get work as an extra in movies in L.A. It’s amazing that us photography teams could hear each other over Sudi playing improvised piano (which he recorded using two enormous high-tech microphones he checked out of the equipment library at college for the weekend). We did get some quiet when Sudi went back to his room to work under headphones on another music project. Then the house got too quiet, so Ron filled in by DJing us with R&B and Soul Christmas music (he has a Christmas music library about as large as the planet Venus). Before dinner, I took a few minutes to post a new recipe to my recipe blog. I remember once, when I had just published The Call to Shakabaz, and I felt like I was using a much higher percentage of my brain than I had ever used in my life, and I mentioned a creative idea banging around in my head to Sudi and he replied, “Mom, you need to stop having so many epiphanies.” His words have often come back to haunt me. Today, my three most outstanding epiphanies returned to their own lives. At least until Christmas. There’s a lot our family can dream up before then.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Week of Thanksgiving

I’m looking forward to having my children home for the holiday. I’ll be cooking all day Wednesday and loving every minute of it. This morning Ron and I will be over with Kol Ha’Emek Synagogue making bag lunches for the homeless as we do when it is our synagogue’s turn. The irony of hunger in the midst of such abundance never ceases to give me pause. I am feeling even more thankful than ever this year as my dad recently came through a surgery in good shape, I am rising in my fantasy football league (go Vick), and, best of all, my publisher promised to send me a contract sometime this week. That will be a major milestone in my life. I self-published my first book. Since I don’t have the money to do that again, I was forced to find a publisher. I am most pleased with my luck in that department. This book is one I started writing in 1994. It’s a good thing someone is publishing it or I would spend my whole life writing it. Still pondering the title, but of one thing am certain, it will be taken from a quote by Milan Kundera that goes as follows: “The struggle of people against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting.” Stay tuned. I’m sure I’ll have much more to say about this new adventure in my life.

When I emailed my children to let them know that it’s really happening and the contract is on its way this week, I told them that with three such wonderful children, having a publisher publish one of my books at long last is really just icing on the cake. Funny how it all changed. There was a time when my sole purpose in life was to publish a book. It’s still high up there on my list and I won’t lie, I have longed for this like a thirsty woman longing for water in the desert, but if it never happened and my children thrived in life then I would have been pretty satisfied.

I know that many native people suffer through Thanksgiving; but for me the holiday has transcended its history and has become a time for pausing to feel grateful for family and friends and the bounty with which I have been blessed. It’s about giving thanks. My intentions have transformed the holiday from a historic event to a family celebration. And it has become so for our family and the friends with whom we share every year. Wishing you much to be thankful for this week and throughout the year.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Looking for Lettuce in Chicago

Now that I have been home for a couple of weeks, I can look back on my vacation with a little perspective. One of the vacation stories that we have found ourselves recounting most often to our friends in Cali is the day we went in search of lettuce. I have a habit of eating a giant bowl of lettuce for lunch every day. Usually it’s organic baby lettuces with a bit of crumbled feta cheese and balsamic vinaigrette. After having gone for a couple of days without my salad, I was having salad withdrawal. Ron took me in search of lettuce. We were in a good neighborhood of Chicago when we spotted a grocery store and pulled into the parking lot. I am not exaggerating when I tell you that there was no lettuce in this grocery store. Vegetables yes. Green beans. Sorry limp broccoli. Bags of grated cabbage with a brown tinge. No lettuce. In the whole store. If memory serves, we tried the next store we passed also and again had no luck.

My ingenious husband then searched Whole Foods (better known to us at home in Cali as “Whole Paycheck,” which is why we usually never shop there) in our GPS device. We found a Whole Foods not far from where we were and headed there directly. I confess that I was ready to check in for the rest of my stay in the Midwest. I didn’t want to leave. It smelled like home in that store. Fresh produce. Good herbs and spices. There were heaps of gluten-free food and we even found gluten-free bagels (Udi’s) for the first time ever. We bought steamy cups of fresh organic coffee. Cheese. Apples. Grapes (from Mendocino County). My lettuce of course. And more. I even found my favorite lip gloss (Alba’s coconut) – yum. Since our return we have had many conversations with fellow Californians about how lucky we are out here to have such fine food. When you hear about compromised food sources in the ghetto in big cities and unjust food access issues, it’s not a lot of baloney. It’s true. We couldn’t find lettuce in a good neighborhood in Chicago, let alone in the ghetto. Many of my in-laws live in economically disadvantaged neighborhoods and you can’t find decent produce (sometimes ANY produce) at all in these places. If you seek out quality produce by leaving the neighborhood, you discover that it’s too expensive to afford on a low income. How can people stay healthy under these conditions? Answer: They can’t.

With Thanksgiving coming up, I invite you to visit my recipe blog for some vegetarian, gluten-free, and/or vegan recipes to use at the holidays. I'm posting recipes specifically for Thanksgiving in the weeks leading up to the day. Click here.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Michael Vick Back Again

I believe that people can change. Bigger than that, I believe that there is a pattern to the sequence of events in life, a pattern beyond our comprehension, but that we can change the pattern by our actions. On an everyday working level, I believe people have choices and that they can learn from their mistakes or from consciously opening up to a different or larger perspective. That is one reason why I love Michael Vick (Philadelphia Eagles Quarterback for all you football neophytes). Here is how I see it. Vick grew up in a Southern culture in which many men in his family and many men who were his role models engaged in dogfighting, so he never questioned it, until he was arrested for it. There is no doubt that he is guilty of cruelty to animals and breaking the laws against dogfighting. So he served his time in prison. He was forced to confront the ugly underside of the culture he grew up in. He was publicly humiliated. He was exiled. And he grew and changed and learned. And he became a good man as a result.

He has said that he understands that some people will never forgive him for what he did. He has said that he is ashamed of it and truly sorry. I believe him. He has donated large sums of money to animal rights causes. He speaks out against dogfighting and cruelty to animals. He speaks to schoolchildren regularly about his experience, about dogfighting, and about the fact that people can change if they put their mind to it. He is a very different quarterback these days. He is not as cocky, although he clearly has the physical athletic skills he needs to perform at a remarkable level. He makes no assumptions. He has said that his work ethic is entirely different. And it shows. He takes nothing for granted. He works hard both on and off the field. Today, he’s back out there, having been given the clearance by the doctors to play after an injury he suffered several weeks ago. It’s the new Michael Vick. Stepping out on the field again. I have heard him say, with deep emotion, that he once thought he would never play pro ball again and that he’s deeply grateful for this second chance. I love him. Bring it on.