Just when you thought my resolution had started its passage to the place where resolutions go to die, I am here to prove you (or me) wrong.
Miss me? Of course you did.
Despite my inability to make it to the BLOGOSPHERE, my culinary adventures have continued. Which - after much delay - leads me to that excellent adventure of Ophelia's Electric Soapbox.....
As the way most excellent adventures work, I found my way to Ophelia's because I utterly failed to follow through on my intentions. I had made a firm commitment to try at least three restaurant's during Denver's restaurant week, which required reservations. No reservations, meant no restaurant visits during restaurant week. What kind of food critic am I? So on the heels of restaurant week I made a reservation for the wrong amount of people at the #1 suggestion on my Open Table for restaurant week. Luckily, my friend had a backup plan.
And that is how we arrived at a youth hostel. What? There are still youth hostels? What do youth hostels have to do with this post?
I've lived in the Denver area for 19 months yet I have been as adventurous as a well-located tree frog. Wait - tree frogs are probably more adventurous than me. So, I was utterly unfamiliar with LoDo, necessitating utter reliance on my friend's app which led us through the wrong door, completely exasperating a young European chap on his way to his own adventures.
And checked in early for our reservation at which point we were cautioned that we must leave by 7pm sharp for the next patrons. That left me less than electrified, but I'm not a dweller, so I focused my attention on the cool interior. A 70s Sci-Fi adventure was playing silently on the large movie screen planted on the ground floor, while a small happy- hour contingent huddled around the cozy bar. The interior had a New York feel, exposed brick and low lights. The hostess led us to a little booth on the 2nd floor with a birdseye view to the stage where a band would play later in the night (way after our reservation was scheduled to end). We climbed into the raised booth which was a bit cramped, but we were excited and felt a little cooler than we should.
On to the best part of any meal - the cocktail paired with appetizer expectation!
Two of us went for the PG 13 (Vodka, Dill, Cucumber, Lime, Soda) while our sweeter sidekick landed on the Never Enough (Gin, Lemon, Grapefruit, Blueberry, Mint). Both were momentarily delightful, but I have found "craft" cocktails are much more exciting to the food and beverage ingénue. I personally prefer a well-made staple to an "inspired" creation. The former being a true measure of the craft while the latter a result of a truly uninspired experiment.
Enter stage right - The Truly Inspirational Appetizer: Green Chili Goat Cheese Cornbread!
Cornbread? How can cornbread be inspired, you ask? I'm a Southern gal who can say plainly that my most treasured food memories include such carbo fantastic concoctions like cornbread, or Great-Grandmother's scratch biscuits. In my "real" life, I typically avoid carbs, but Dear Reader, for your sake, I put aside all my rules to provide you with a well-rounded review.
I have many memories of cornbread. Cornbread is what you ate when things were tight and you needed to fill your belly. You used it to sop up your black-eyed pea juice, or you watched your Pa-Paw dip it in buttermilk (Ew!). But, you could always count on cornbread. And, if you were truly blessed, you had an iron skillet handed down to you from the strong women who came before you, a palimpsest of Crisco, butter and bacon grease. A staple to moor any meal, transformed into a culinary introduction.
And thus was the Green Chili Goat Cheese Cornbread at Ophelia's, perfect texture, perfect taste, hand delivered by a Food Runner who waxed on about its properties in a rehearsed tone, but didn't stick around for questions.
With such a great introduction comes great expectations which were sadly, unrealized. The sublime cornbread was the highlight of the meal. We sampled the Shishito Poppers and Cheese Curds which were Applebee-like. And the Flank Steak entrée and its "off" taste are best left forgotten. My partners in crime enjoyed their hamburgers, but I was left.............uninspired.
So, to my disappointment, and I'm sure yours, the El Dorado of my Colorado Eating Tour seems like a desert mirage, forever shimmering, forever unfound. But of course I exaggerate as I'm prone to do. Onward we go with increased blog frequency (I promise).
Recommendation: Eclectic, kitschy, with no follow-through. If you are in the neighborhood worth it.
Procrastination (insert deep-thought-like pause here). At least one source defines procrastination as putting off something that needs to be done to do something more pleasurable.
Ummm.....I wouldn't say that exactly, Perhaps it's not that simple. I'm not at all excited about writing this next blog and not because this experience occurred in the nascent days of my resolution when I failed to bring a notebook or to take eye-catching pics. Poor reader, I am indeed not afraid of your wrath, disinterest or disdain. If I'm honest, I am a little afraid of being a critic. Yes, dear friends, I hear you laughing hysterically. I am known to be a critical person - though I like to say discerning. I've got ideas about why I'm procrastinating, but let's face it, It's time to stop stalling and get down to business.
It was an icy night in Littleton, Colorado, And, when I say icy, I am not exaggerating. While my friend and I were experiencing Café Terracotta, the inches of ice were accumulating on the roads of the metro Denver area.
I was super excited about this restaurant as it sounded the most east-Coasty, pseudo-Southern of all the Denver restaurant descriptions I'd read. Creative, thoughtful, familiar was the byline on the website. And indeed the beautiful Victorian mansion, framed by an English garden, seemed so.
How did our adventure begin (I think I'm going to make this a thing - describing pre-entry to restaurant - note to self...)? It began with a parking misadventure. As we pulled into the restaurant, I was a bit confused. If I read the situation correctly, there were about eight legitimate parking spots (feel free to correct me, oh yee of factual fairyland). We had made an early reservation to ensure availability, yet there were no attractive parking spots so we decided to park in the adjacent lot. We conscientiously looked for tow signs and the like, but seeing none, we decided to chance it. We had barely made it a step toward the restaurant when a mysterious man emerged from the dark. He was smoking a cigarette and his voice was low......No, not really (I'm preparing myself for the movie version of this blog). He was a Midwestern bloke with pressed jeans, and he politely told us that if we parked there we would be towed. Really, I said, but there are no signs. Really, he said. Was he lying, was he being a good neighbor? I guess I'll never know until someone backs up his story, but we decided not to take any chances. We got lucky and a car was leaving, so we wedged ourselves into one of the eight legitimate parking spots.
Nonplussed (2nd definition), I did a few split leaps as we made our way to the restaurant. I was excited, and the dancer in me takes over in moments like these. I calmed myself down as we walked into the restaurant and announced ourselves to the welcoming hostess. I took a sweeping gaze and decided not to spend too much time looking at the left. What was on the left - HOLD ON! I decided instead to focus on the right which looked a little bit like the above picture. A little, you say. Lighting is everything, I say.
The hostess took us to a booth in the very back - which should be a perfect location for the likes of me. Alas, it was not. I had a bird's-eye view of the open kitchen. The open kitchen, as described on the website, was a choice meant to make the experience interactive. But, dear reader, when is the last time you wanted to have an interactive experience with a Sysco can and an inordinately greasy apron?
Yes, indeed that was what I had been avoiding. It's one thing to be watching the magic and synchronicity that happens in the kitchen at Nola and quite another to see two greasy aprons fumbling around dirty pots. Ouch. Yes, that is what I was afraid of (see introduction).
But, I just tried to avert my eyes. Sometimes the optics don't matter as much as the heart. One of the best Italian restaurants I've ever experienced was a tiny little place run by a sole proprietor in Paris, hidden behind a busy thoroughfare. It's best not to judge a book by it's cover....
So I averted my eyes. The menu was shockingly limited....and pricey. I thought to myself, perhaps this was a wise choice. By keeping the menu limited you are able to put everything you have into a few items. I was really working my suspension of disbelief at this point. Instead of being overwhelmed by the menu like at The Fort, I was severely underwhelmed. When the server came by our table, I asked her for her fav dish. She recommended the short ribs which I clarified was not on the bone (I like to remove myself from my meat experience). She cooed over it, so I made a resolute choice. My friend went for the sea scallops which I couldn't actually wrap my head around, being positioned on a land-locked western plain, but as there were no appetizing appetizers to speak of, we carried on, as they say. We both were hankering for a very dirty martini which was delivered snap-to.
The drink was tasty, but unfortunately as the residue of a busy work day wore off, my acuity came into FOCUS. And, then, that is when I felt it.
Felt it? At first I gingerly touched it, but then I became more bold. What was this spongy thing under our table. I looked at my friend, and said, "Is that foam?"
She looked startled and then did her own hand exploration. "It's foam."
"Why is there foam under our table?"
"For the noise"?
She's a smart cookie, but sometimes I need confirmation. When the waitress came by, I asked the obvious question, "Why is there foam under the table"?
Our very bubbly waitress seemed suddenly deflated, "They say it is for the noise".
"The noise, the noise for whom," I ask, "the Lilliputians hiding in the basement"? I'm not sure why Gulliver's Travels came to mind, but I suddenly had an image of tiny people, cowering in the basement, covering their ears. "If they wanted to dampen the noise, wouldn't they have put something on the ceiling?"
"Yeah, it's disgusting. People will start tearing it off. It gets all dirty."
Hmmmm, I thought. Can't wait for the food!
And, then the food arrived. I know I'm supposed to give you all the details about every bite, but, sorry folks. I don't want to remember any bite of it. The "short rib" dish tasted and looked like a failed pot roast experience I had when I first moved to Colorado and was trying to adjust to high-altitude cooking. The mashed potatoes, on which the meat was positioned, were cold. My friend said the scallops were good, but again, I was having a mental block about scallops in Colorado.
After a few bites, a few more glances at the open kitchen and a few more times of foam-rubbing accidents, I had to go........................
Our very attentive waitress had disappeared, so we ran to the hostess to grab the bill. The bill was almost $200 for a couple of drinks, no appetizers, no dessert and.........foam. I tried not to shove my credit card into her hand and asked about another spot I had read about, Katie's Wine Bar.
My friend and I practically ran out of the door. We decided to dessert it at Katie's, so arm-in-arm (I almost fell), we traversed the icy streets to find redemption.
More on Katie's later, but suffice it to say -
Recommendation: Stay away
Unless, you have a foam fetish.
So, I said I would be back to talk about buffalo antlers, some crazy peanut-butter concoction, and sundry....Wait, you didn't believe me? Actually I might not have believed me. But, here I am.
The #1 comment from the peanut gallery after my last post was, 'Ummm, are you going to talk about food.' And, my response was, I guess I will if I must.
Ok, first side note (probably not the last) - one of the things that delayed my very first post was a fear that I would be terrible at writing about food. I am much more comfortable writing about experiences, developing characters, or describing ridiculous situations. And, I am known to be completely oblivious to my surroundings. In Jason Bourne style I know where the exit is, but in general I feel things more than I see them. I have never spent any time developing my food-describing abilities. In fact, in every creative writing exercise since elementary school, I have struggled with describing objects. I was most successful when I could personify objects (am I personifying a buffalo in the above pic - don't be ridiculous, that's not what personification is). As any teacher worth their salt will tell you, you cannot abuse literary techniques. Anyway - I think I'm going to have to practice to get any good at this. So, poor reader, bear with me, as in prepping this, I've learned that I am going to have to take MUCH better notes, as well as pics. These first few posts may be a little sad in the food-describing category.
Ok, getting back on track - we got a little lost. I mean, not too lost. We just drove a few miles down a very dark and scary road to finally have to do a U-turn in someone's driveway, which is one of the most humiliating things. The good news is that we did not follow Siri's directions or we would have made a left turn down an embankment and into a nice, bubbling brook.
Luckily, we course-corrected very quickly. We had just turned a 100 feet too soon. So after finding our parking spot down the hill from the restaurant, we stepped out of the car into a star moment. No, there was no red carpet, but it was indeed a starry night as are most nights in Colorado. Morrison sits about 5,764 feet above sea level, or at least that's what Wikipedia told me. So, we were a little closer to the stars than in Denver. And, they were gorgeous.
The food, the food, I know. Ok, so they seated us at a nice little spot in a pseudo- corner that was very cozy. We were immediately greeted by the Server Assistant (SA) who was quite charming. The waiter immediately followed, and I was gleeful. I hadn't had an SA in quite some time. You can say what you will about Commander's Palace in New Orleans, but there is nothing like 8 server assistants to make a gal feel important. I was happy with my one.
To start things off, we ordered some boutique beverages from the menu. I had The 1840 Hailstorm Premiere Julep and my friend started with the signature Sangria (wow, these details are exhausting). They arrived in cute little mason jars that were definitively NOT the mason jars of my college days in Alabama. The drinks were delish, and I could see the benefit of having one of those suckers in a hailstorm. Hail, what hail?
I had already decided to be a little more adventurous than usual. Ok, wait, second side note, I am NOT an adventurous eater. Another reason I have my doubts about the wisdom in writing a food blog. My time in Asia, for example, resulted in about a 20 lb weight loss. But, again, I was determined, so I told our waiter, who had less personality than the SA, that we were ready and willing to be semi-adventurous.
We heard the specials (no, I can't remember them. I promise, in about 5 blogs from now, I will) and the entrée highlights, one of which I do remember: The Fort's Game Plate. The Game Plate consisted of a bone-in Elk chop, Buffalo sirloin medallion, and a grilled teriyaki Quail and was served with seasonal vegetables, Fort potatoes, and wild Montana huckleberry preserves. If I was really adventurous I would have ordered that for sure, but I convinced myself that's what any old food blogger would order, sooooo, to be radical, I decided to go with the William Bent’s Buffalo Tenderloin Filet Mignon (which, let's face it, I knew would be more palatable to yours truly, cuz what I've really been seeking since moving to Colorado is the perfect filet).
But, wait, I'm jumping ahead. We decided to start with the Jalapenos Escabeche Stuffed with Peanut Butter, house-made pickled jalapenos with a mango whipped peanut butter, and the
Bison Eggs, pickled quail eggs wrapped in house-made buffalo sausage, served with a raspberry-pepper jam (thank goodness they post their menu online because I forgot my notebook).
Drumroll, I guess I have to be a food critic now. Third side note and the third reason I'm not sure I should be writing this blog, is that I hate to be a critic of experiences. Give me an article, a literary masterpiece or the recent tirade by my boss, and I am indeed a happy critic. But criticizing adventures is hard, regardless of how bad the experience. However, I guess I have to think about the greater good...of my resolution.
The peanut-butter stuffed jalapenos were incredible. There were hints of bacon that made it even more delightful. My only suggestion would have been, more bacon! I'm not typically a bacon enthusiast, but even I had to admit that the flavor worked. For me, The Bison Eggs were a disappointment. They were cold and slippery - probably as they were supposed to be - but I couldn't take the texture. My friend loved them. Back to third side note, I didn't even tell her I didn't like them because I hate dampening other people's experiences.
Another side note (I'm going to stop numbering them), I cannot promise objectivity. There will be things I like that no one should like and vice versa. So, I will try to bring in differing opinions to offset my boring palate.
Off to the entrée....so my bison filet, was well - gamey. So, probably game is supposed to be gamey, but before you judge me, I have had some spectacular bison in Montana that was not gamey. Who knows. This was my inauguration meal. I was excited and not in critic mode. I will probably have to go back for a re-do.
The sides were, well, not memorable. I can't remember anything about them (repeating myself for affect).
Service was impeccable until dessert and our server got bored with us. Our SA continued to stop in, but we had become campers. Little did our server know that there was a famous critic at his table. Not!
We finished off the meal with a signature tart (I think it was apple) and the cheesecake which was indeed light and fluffy.
Besides the minor annoyance of having to ask for the bill, we were thrilled. We tapped dance our way to the exit. But, wait, we had to get our picture taken. Giggling, we asked the hostess, 'Excuse me, ma'am, but we had heard tell about some antlers.'
Voila, a cabinet was opened, and there they were. Antlers were donned, flashes flashed, and our starry night ended in great delight!
Recommendation: Yes, for special occasion when not special for others.
Pure coincidence, it was, that the Inauguration Dinner of my 2017 Colorado Eating Tour occurred on Inauguration Night. In typical fashion, I had no clue. Driving west on C-470 with my friend, I exclaimed over the fireworks that exploded in front of us, "What are those for?"
Ummm, yeah, it was not planned, but we'll figure out the significance, probably at the end of this tour.
It was New Year's Day, and I was taking my weekend drive to Lariat Loop when I decided that I was going to do a restaurant tour of Colorado. I was going to find good food if it meant exhaustively combing the plains and mountains of Colorado.
Anyone who ever read this blog or who knows me is well aware that I'm a wanderer. I've lived in more places than most people visit in their lifetimes. And, my favorite pastime is a good meal with good company and good wine, or insert beverage of choice here.
Soooooo, as much as I absolutely loved the natural beauty of Colorado, I was dying for a good meal. And, I did not want to assume that there wasn't one out there. Let's face it, I moved out here after a happy summer of freedom to a job that demanded (at least) 14 hour workdays, including weekends. My span of experience included one bourgeois suburb and that was about it.
Therefore with Western-frontier determination I decided I would Picard-style "make it so". I would spend 2017 traversing Colorado to find a good meal.
I haven't really made a resolution in a very long time, if I ever did (I will have to check with my sisters on that), so it was a funny feeling driving down Highway 8. 'Am I joining the rest of society,' I wondered. Maybe so.
Fast forward a few weeks, and there we were heading down C-470 to a Colorado staple, The Fort, on Inauguration Day.
When The Fort began construction it was meant to be a private residence in the form of an adobe castle, but due to the cost of construction, the owners decided to re-purpose the ground floor for a restaurant (http://thefort.com/the-history-of-the-fort/). Known for the wild game on the menu, the adobe design and its location near the amazing natural amphitheater Red Rocks, I thought, this is perfect.
And, I was told, they take your picture. 'What?' I hate getting my picture taken as did the friend that I bribed to come with me, but I thought, maybe that was perfect. I know I'm going to have to force myself to do uncomfortable things if I'm going to be successful in my mission. So a little hardship seemed apropos.
So, how was it? Geez, the impatience. Check back soon......more to come on buffalo ears, or antlers (whatever) and peanut-butter stuffed jalapenos.
I’m titling this post in deference to a family friend who posted with the same title. In many ways I actually identify with her/this friend even though we haven’t spoken much over the years. She, like me, made the decision to make New York her home for awhile. I have been told there aren’t many folks that move to New York City (sorry - I don't have the stats on hand) from MS. I forget this – often – but have been reminded of it so many times in the past few weeks as I look for a new job with the purpose of making some sweeping changes in my life. Recruiters say “MS to NY, wow”. Each time, I’m a little baffled. New York had always been one of my dreams, and I have been taught to fight hard for my dreams.
My Katrina story is really part of my New York story. I had moved back to New York in August of 2001 – about 36 days before 9/11. I lived in New York prior to that, attending NYU and working in the financial sector from 1996-1999. I’d moved back to New York in 2001 after abandoning my Phd in English as something that was just not for me. But, in 2005, I finally made the decision that I had to leave New York because paying those NYU loans wasn’t easy and I was tired of working 85 hours a week, living in a shoebox and getting nowhere.
I decided to go to Spain, get my TEFL certificate (Teaching English as a Foreign Language), go to Taiwan and teach and figure out what in the hell an English major was going to do to pay off Sallie Mae (it is a convoluted story). While waiting to go overseas, I was staying with my sister in Memphis.
I remember so vividly when Katrina hit New Orleans. Someone special to me had planned a trip to Destin, FL. I was hoping to go before my departure to Asia as a last vacation, but the minute the levees broke, I knew there would be no trip. Suddenly, it was 9/11 for me again. For those of us in New York during that time, we were living in a city besieged - where getting in and out of your neighborhood was even problematic. The smells we endured for months of the burning in lower Manhattan, the frequent evacuations, the knowing that at any moment everything could change and resources were not a given – all a testament that there was no stability.
Looking at I-55 from the exit of our high-school town, as we contemplated a drive to Florida for a vacation, there was no northbound traffic, just southbound – power trucks, fire trucks, ambulances, from all over the country. I wanted to go southbound -the same desire my sister and her husband had when they went to Beth Israel on 9/11 to volunteer, but were turned away. I had heard they were turning people away in New Orleans – it made no sense for me to go. Looking at the highway that day reminded me so much of watching a lone, empty bus drive up Avenue A with dust from the Twin Towers rolling off of it in waves as we watched from the sidewalk. I was helpless.
My friend still wanted to go to Florida. It was hard to explain to my friend the danger, the reality, that we could not go, there would be no gas, no resources. As the reports grew more dire, no more convincing was needed.
However, my Katrina story is not just my New York story. New Orleans has always been a very special place for me. I’ve always said there are two New Orleans – the one for the sightseers and the one for those who want to experience life. I have spent many birthdays there eating at some of the most wonderful restaurants on Earth, walking through cemeteries, listening to ghost stories, people-watching for hours. What I love most about New Orleans is what I love most about Manila, about New York – standing at the crossroads of so many cultures – seeing the ways they have morphed, seeing the ways they haven’t. More importantly, I love not feeling alien. In all of the cities I mention there were times I felt not exactly connected, but I never felt rejected. I can’t say that for everywhere, and I have been a bit of a nomad.
These past weeks I have thought a lot about space, distance and time. I’ve done a lot of remembering – or re-memorying (ref. -Tony Morrison).
When I went back to New Orleans after Katrina many years later, I did feel sadness, but I knew that what was essential had not been lost (others may disagree as is their right). I still felt all the ghosts and the presence of the synergy of cultures combined.
Thanks K. - for your story of happiness and love found in a city I cherish - at a time when I need to remember all of these things as I make my way along this journey.
She wonders how she fell behind her life,
Or maybe just stepped out beside it.
She watches a woman cover herself in dirty
Laundry and thump pain - morse code -
On the closet wall. This cannot be her body,
Her head beating out messages.
They both see him at the closet door,
His mouth gupping sounds meant to stick
On her with adhesive sincerity. Their
Disbelief does not stop the true-blue
Slime from oozing out of his mouth onto the
Woman on the floor while she watches.
Caught between guilt and repugnancy,
She knows her choices, leave or stay -
And she will stay because she cannot deny
The message. She understands the way back
Into her life is not through his smoky charms,
Python-thick, that wrap around her even now,
But through the slime-covered reality, hiding
Behind linen that needed to be washed a week ago.
Melody Wright, May 1995
It is hard to believe that I wrote that poem twenty years ago. Even more Impossible to comprehend that across so much distance and time I find myself needing to find my way back into my life yet again. In truth, I'm not sure I ever left that closet floor. The person, the thing, the fear-filled me that stood at the closet door may have changed, but I think I'm still there.
For those of you who used to read this blog - we are back.
I've been thinking a lot these days about how when we started this we had so much momentum, such hope. I keep trying to put my finger on the thing that blurred our vision and parked our purpose (thank you Steven Furtik for that last sentiment). There was a family tragedy, my job (s) did consume me and my loneliness overwhelmed me. But, I don't believe that it was any of those things. I believe it was fear, fear that has plagued me for so long. Fear that one day someone will know the truth about me. What truth? There is no one truth and no one thing. It is just a vague concept that has kept me rolling the boulder up the mountain every day.
A recent change in my circumstances has given me time and space to think, to feel, to see that I must get back up and continue my journey back into my purpose, my life.
My sister and I are close to having a first draft of our book. I'm not sure I ever believed we would do it, and I think I've spent twenty years running away from one of my biggest passions.
Today's post is very self-centered, but for those of you who pass this way and stop to read it I encourage you to think about what passion you've buried, whether you have been resting too long and letting fear drive your daily life. If so, stay tuned. Perhaps we can help each other on this journey. I know I need help.
So, hello again.....more to come.
So, my sister talked a little bit about some hard times in our family over the past few months. Suffice it to say that I have felt like a wounded lion who had no idea how to get back up. There were bad days and less bad days. And, to be honest, most days are still not great.
Seems like it was one thing after another, and I had a lot of worry and not a lot of hope. I kept trying to pick myself up, but I couldn't. I had felt so much hope in previous months, so much momentum, that when the hard times hit, I felt like a wounded lion, completely felled. So, how do you get back up when you feel like for sure this time you are down for the count?
The truth - you don't do it, at least not by yourself. You need someone to help you and some faith. That is the one true lesson of my life. For years I thought I could do everything alone. I learned how to protect myself and take care of myself while never asking for help. No matter what happened to me, I didn't reach out. Never. I would help anyone who asked for my help (and most times they didn't have to ask, I offered), but I couldn't ask for a single thing from anyone.
Slowly, but surely I have learned that we need community, we need friends, we need people around us and we need to be able to accept help. And, we also need to be able to let go of our pride and our fear to let that hope and faith in - whatever form it takes.
For me, I have found a friend who taught me how to laugh again. Somehow with my friend everything is funny. She didn't have an easy winter either, but together, we found ways to smile. Even when I didn't want it, she reached out to me and refused to take no for an answer. She reminded me of the beauty of faith and hope. Sadly, she is moving soon, but I even think this is a person I could actually talk to on the phone (I'm somewhat notorious for not liking the phone). Regardless, I know she will be out there and that when I need it, she will make me laugh.
I'm so thankful that I'm finally learning my lesson, and I'm thankful for my friends and family. I think maybe soon, with a little bit of help from my friends and family, I'm going to be able to get up and start trying to pursue that dream of freeing sisyphus and finding my purpose.
As always, comments or emails are welcome: firstname.lastname@example.org.
For many of my last few posts, I have been focusing on the power of positivity amongst other things, but I have not felt very positive this week. I've waffled between anger, sadness and grace. When I first read about the Paterno scandal as is my nature, I had to know the real facts. So, despite piles of work and schoolwork to do I read the 20+ page inidictment and went home and wanted to puke. I was so angry. How could all of these people have been part of this culture of complicity?
It is not my place to judge, but I have to say that over the past few days I have come to appreciate being a child of parents who by their example taught me to not only question authority, but to always look out for the disenfranchised, to protect the innocent. My parents were children of the 60s. With that came the good and the bad. They were not perfect, but they taught me right from wrong and to stand up for what I believed. And, when the not-so-good part of being a child of the 60s broke apart their marriage, I saw first hand the fragility of humanity, how weak we all are and how selfish we can be. So, I really began to question authority. In my life I can say without a doubt that I never idolized any human, or institution, and that most of my mentors were anti-mentors - people who taught me how not to be.
In 2002, I was 29 years old - nearly the same age as the graduate assistant who witnessed the sexual assault of a young boy and instead of calling the police, or attempting to stop the assualt, he called his father and then later told the head coach of the football team. It is easy for me to say what I would have done - I would have pulled that man -twice my size - off that kid. No job, no fear for my own preservation would have stopped me. I can say this because I have unfortunately been in a similar situation before. However, that doesn't give me the right to judge that graduate assistant. I can only thank God he testified truthfully to the grand jury, knowing that he might lose his job.
In fact I have no right to judge anyone in this situation, but I do have the right to call to question what I see as a true failure of leadership in this country and across the world. Yes, we are all human, yes we all make mistakes, but what is it going to take for people to stand up for what they believe, to have the courage of their convictions. Do people even have convictions anymore? Or, are we so blinded by the "success" engine that seems to fuel our everyday lives. Did this graduate assistant fear his own job so much and success path at Penn State that he didn't followup to see what happened?
The great recession was caused by our own greed and belief that we deserved bigger houses, better vacations, more things and the folks who convinced us that we did deserve them so that they could get bigger houses, better things. We felt we deserved this because this is what we think success looks like, what life looks like. But, let's be clear, this is also about the abuse of power and about people who prey on the weak. What drove McQueary's silence and what drove the silence of the janitors who also witnessed sexual assaults are two very different things and they illustrate a fracture in our society between those who have and those who have not.
All I can say, is God help us. When are our leaders in Washington going to stop hiding behind rhetoric and start helping to solve problems? When is the government going to figure out what to do about the housing crisis? What does it take to make people do the right thing. Exposure? Is that our only tool? If no one had ever come forward how long would the engine of Penn State continued to rest on its laurels as a success story of academic integrity and football prowess?
I don't think exposure is our only tool. We have to have the courage to examine ourselves, to understand what is important and what isn't - we have to have the courage to be leaders. Once we have done this, we will be able to stand up and demand that the right things for this country, for this situation at Penn State, are done. We are not powerless. We have a voice. It's time to stop demonizing others, blaming others and become leaders. We can take to the streets like they did in the 60s, we can use blogs to share our opinion, we can write letters to our government leaders, we can vote. But I believe the most important thing we have to do is re-evaluate who we are, the things we live for, what life means to us, what we want life to be, what we want humanity to be. We have to reimagine our current reality and then we have to have the courage to do something about it.
I pray for the souls of all involved in this situation that they discover the true grace of God, that everyone finds healing. But, most of all, I pray that people stop idolizing things and institutions and that people start to realize their own power, their purpose, that this life isn't about a race to the top of the hill. None of us are perfect and we struggle each day with our own weaknesses. But, we need to relentlessly continue to ask ourselves the hard question - what happens once you make it to the top of the hill? As Sisyphus knows, if you are prideful and worship power, all that's left is to go back down and start all over again. Is that the life you want to lead? Is that what we want our example, our legacy to be?
Ok, First I should say that the picture above is by a company called Paradox and doesn't really illustrate my point, but now that I think about it, maybe it does.....
Things are going so well for me right now. I have an awesome new job, I'm making new friends, I started a running meetup group that has gotten great response, I'm going to a retreat today with like-minded folks, my runs have been going well this week and yet yesterday I felt downright depressed. Hormones (sorry gents)? I would say probably if I haven't witnessed this phenomena in me and in some people close to me before.
What is it about me, about them, that when things are going so well, that's when we feel blue. Is it because we are afraid that something might go wrong, that all the good things around us will start to turn into wormy apples, or that the smiling new friend will turn into an evil ghoul (going with the Halloween theme, sorry)? Is it that we feel we don't deserve all the good things that are happening?
Today, I have more questions than answers. I truly don't know why this happens to me. I have some suspicions it has something to do with things that happened earlier in my life (what doesn't?). My early childhood was idyllic and then all of that was shattered by the time I was 6 or 7. But, the pieces are coming back together for the first time in my life. Is this just a legacy that I can change? Can I turn the flashlight on the darkness that I sometmes feel stalking at my heels?
I believe I can. The old me of a year ago would have done something self-destructive yesterday to somehow sabotage the good stuff coming my way. Instead I came home and went to bed early and now I'm writing my post and will soon go to my retreat.
Maybe the picture above does illustrate this paradox....How can we live in a world filled with such wonder and mystery and yet still seek out the negativity instead of accepting the very miracle of our own lives? Pain is real, bad stuff does happen, but we do have a choice about the way we perceive and live our lives....I guess it's time to turn on the flashlight.
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I know the past few weeks I've been on a real positve kick, and I firmly support the positivity principle and have seen so many wonderful things happen in my life recently. But (there's always a but), it's been a tough week. I'm not sure exactly why - if it's that I go to work in the dark and drive home in the dark; if it's saying goodbye to my old team. Or, if now that I'm finally done criss crossing the country every week, I'm settling down and realizing that starting over takes work and it means asking myself some hard questions.
For instance, I have spent the past five years consumed with work and avoiding real personal connections with people outside of work. And, I want that to change, but wanting something and changing it are two different things. Recently I hung out with an acquaintance and shared some of the hard questions I was asking myself - why it is so hard for me to relate to other people, what I really want in the close relationships in life, what my Eiffel Tower is. The last reference is homage to a friend of mine who grew up in some pretty wretched circumstances. After his father died (a fireman), he would often stay in a firehouse because he couldn't go home to his alcholic mother. After years of hard work, he made his way up in a Fortune 500 company. We went to Paris together, and he desperately wanted to go to the Eiffel Tower. I have to be honest I couldn't have cared less about the Eiffel Tower. I wanted to sit in a cafe and listen to street musicians and people watch. But, of course I wanted to go for him. And as we neared the top (after climbing about 700 steps -we had gotten in the wrong line), I could see the joy in his face. Afterwards when we were talking about the trip, there were tears in his eyes because he couldn't believe someone like him who in his mind came from nothing had made it to the Eiffel Tower.
I asked this acquaintance these questions the other night, and pretty soon this person got really sick of me - they hit the wall. It was too much. I admit I have been asking myself hard questions ever since I can remember. I recall a boyfriend saying to me when I was 16 that I was way too serious. I am very serious I guess in that I take living life seriously, but I don't really take myself seriously. I laugh all the time at myself - I mean doubled over laughing - and I try to find the humor in everything. But, I think the serious questions are important. We only get one shot at this life, right?
My Eiffel Tower is the moon. Seriously, I want to go to the moon. This week Richard Branson opened a spaceport in New Mexico which hopes to send a maiden voyage to the moon next year.
Sometimes I feel like a freak because I do ask myself the hard questions often and I feel a little alone in that. I often feel like people don't want to ask the hard questions, they don't want their lives to change - not even change for the better. And, I often feel badly when I see the uncomfortableness for asking other people the tough questions. But, maybe people do ask themselves the hard questions and they just don't want to tell me about it. Who knows.
But, my question for you this week, Sisyphers, is what is your Eiffel Tower? As always, please feel free to comment by clicking the link on the right or sending me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Freeing Sisyphus (aka Melody)
Putting the shoulder to the boulder and taking small steps each day to achieve freedom from the mundane.