Sunday, May 2, 2010

sweet and sour something

I have always hated rollercoasters.  My sister?  She loved them from the first moment she stood on tiptoe to be tall enough.  Not me - there is nothing thrilling about the possibility of dying on an amusement park ride - that's not how I want to go out.

Ironically, I can't escape them.  I am, of course, turning these terrifying and supposedly exhilarating rides into a metaphor at this point.  I feel like all my life I've sought balance and the only way it seems to find me is in the form of presenting me with two extremes almost simultaneously.

I bought these beautiful mini calla lilies at Whole Foods today.  Calla lilies have the most amazing duality and that's exactly what I needed after the day I've had.  Calla lilies have long been used in funeral celebrations and imagery and recently, they have become the "hip" flower to use in your wedding bouquet.  While one could argue that both events mark the beginning of a new voyage, we often avoid that they also represent the end of a different part of life.

When I was finishing high school, I suddenly became aware of the "bigger picture" and the role I hoped to play in it.  Tonight, my husband asked me what I wanted to do with my life and my answer was the same that it was 15 years ago: I want to make a difference.

The boys in this picture are twin brothers.  They are the younger brothers of one of my oldest and dearest friends.  When they were little eleven-year-old ducklings, I was volunteering with the Junior High youth group at my church and I picked them up and took them with me.  To my surprise and delight, they made friends and continued to attend.  When they grew up and returned from college, the one on the left in blue (his name is Dustin) returned to an active role in the church, ironically volunteering with the Junior High youth group.  He is 26 years old and has already served the church more than most people twice his age.

In November of this past year, Dustin was diagnosed with ALS, Lou Gehrig's disease.  His family, friends, colleagues, and the church along with the countless kids he has impacted all drew together.  His best friend created a blog in order to communicate updates on his condition, as well as their fundraising efforts to defray the costs of altering his home now that he was wheelchair-bound.  The most recent post, put up just yesterday, is a letter from Dustin expressing his appreciation of everyone's attendance and hard work for a recent Beef, Beer, and more.  It is beautifully written, and although it's very possible most of you do not know Dustin, I would encourage you to read his words and applaud his humble and ambitious spirit.

Today, Dustin's spirit departed to his forever home.  Although I know it is best and can easily recite the usual cliches about how his pain is gone and he is whole again (I've said these things too many times), it doesn't change the fact that my heart is broken.

Rest in peace, Dustin.  You made a difference.

Now for the upside of the Life Rollercoaster.  Today has been a prime day for existential pondering.  Between the devastating news of Dustin's death and the interaction I had with one of my students today, I have spent hours today contemplating my place in this world and how I am using the life I was given.

I currently have three piano students, two of whom I have been teaching for a little more than 7 years.  The only one who I taught today will be celebrating her 17th birthday in a couple of weeks and she has become a beautiful, talented, and intelligent young lady.  As she nears the end of her Junior year of high school, she is starting to consider colleges, since she'll have to apply over the summer.  When she arrived for her lesson today, she told me she had spent Wednesday visiting a local university:

Eastern University was just a college when I went there.  It was also very small - about 2,500 students, both undergrad and grad students, when I entered as a freshman, but it expanded rapidly over my time there.  The year after I graduated, it was granted University status due to absorbing the Seminary from which it had sprouted in the mid-1950s, as well as creating a few satellite campuses to extend their ministry and education into the city of Philadelphia.

Katie visited my alma mater and absolutely fell in love.  To be honest - you can't help it with a campus this beautiful:

She and her mother excitedly shared their experience, including interactions with some of my own former teachers, who remembered me!  My mind is racing with appropriate songs for her to use for her audition for their outstanding music department, but also with the simple word she spoke today that touched the very innermost parts of my heart.

Me:  So, why did you look at Eastern?
Her:  You.

Kinda makes you feel like you make a difference.

Enough smushiness - I don't want to find out if I've used up all my tears.  I made the Pasta with Beans and Chard tonight.  It's very easy to make and to eat, which Mister and I both needed today.  I don't have any fun stories about dinner, really, but here's a picture:

It doesn't look too different than the last time I made it, but it's still pretty.

This week's menu is pretty diverse - it doesn't stick to any one cuisine and certainly not to any one cookbook.

1. Naked Burritos - this started out as another Use It or Lose It dinner, but it was really good and I wanted a Mexican-inspired dinner so I could follow the advice of this comment and try the Coconut Lime Tempt "ice cream."

2. Greek Quesadillas

3. Yakisoba from The Accidental Vegan.  I teeter on the fence of Japanese cuisine - most of the time that is because of the intense influence of the sea, but other times it's just because I find the flavor combinations bizarre and not terribly enticing.  Nevertheless, every time I've flipped through this cookbook, I've paused to consider this recipe.  The time for contemplation is over - I'm going to give it a try.

4. Seitan Gyros also from The Accidental Vegan.  I may have mentioned one or two [dozen] times that my husband's family is Greek.  He will have you know that the correct pronunciation of the second word is "yee-rose."  I think this will make him happy and it was actually one of the reasons I bought the book, but it got lost somewhere.

5. Chickpea Stew with Fried Polenta from my Vegetarian Times Complete Cookbook.  I have made this several times and it's just easy and tasty.  I'm really hoping we have a cool-down day, because right now, it's past midnight and still in the upper 70s.  This is not hot-weather food, but I really wanted to make it.

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