Friday, October 24, 2014

Chaos, Kindness & The Flood of Garlic.

To write this, I wrote it five times -- and then a sixth.  It was still a mess.    

I printed it out and with my green pen I scratched out everything.   

Well, almost everything -- so I could start again.

I haven’t been able to think straight – too much on my mind.  I needed a little something.   

Then I woke this morning thinking of garlic.

If you use a little garlic it is amazing.  It adds that special something to everything you eat.  It is almost magical the way it transforms a dish.    

For some, garlic is their favorite thing.    Like water, they can't live without it.  It gives our food – depth.  It makes things interesting.  

But too much – indigestible.   It keeps vampires, friends and even lovers at a distance.
(although, I read once that it’s okay if you both have it….)

If you use too much garlic it masks the flavors of everything else.  It tastes like chaos.    Your senses became flooded – they are only aware of the garlic.

I haven’t been able to write because my brain is flooded.   I have a lot of worries – like my father and his mother before him, I am a worrier.  

There, I said it. 

You will probably tell me that I am irrational -- 

-- but it is my birthright.

I could make a list.  
In no particular order…
my broken pipe 
my patients.
the coming winter.
The Middle East
School shootings.
I have a bathtub in my doorway.  Don’t ask.
I worry that my house will not be organized.
That my house will not be clean.
That I won’t have time and energy to do it all.
  That I will forget my Italian
  That I will forget Hebrew.
That I will forget what I just said.

That I will forget what I just said.
Er...that I will forget what I just said.

  That I will use too much garlic.

   Strangely, I am not worried about the upcoming election.
   But I worry that I am eating too much salt -- too much sugar.
   I worry about gluten.

   I worry that I will say something to offend someone.

   Yes, it seems that I am very self-involved.   In fact, I worry that I am too self-involved.

   But I do worry about hunger.
   I worry about homelessness.   

I worry that I am worrying too much.  
Sometimes it is all – too much.    

I used to be a super straight thinker.   Now, it’s all a mess.

I am too much garlic.   Chaos.
I need whiskey.

There was another time when everything became a bit too much.    

God told Noah – build an ark.    Something big is coming.    A flood – a Mabul – is coming.
Mabul – chaos, confusion, cataclysm.  Deluge.  

Way Back when God created the world, everything was in chaos.
When it was time to start to make a world, God made a list –   

(God was awesome at creating --  lists.)
one:    separate order from chaos.
two:    separate dark from light.
three:  more garlic.

Now, Chaos is returning.  
Winter is coming.

Back In the time of Noah,  God gave blessings freely. 

Blessings come down from heaven – in the same way that water is a blessing because it rains down from heaven. 
Oh how the blessings flowed!:    kosher dill pickles, pesto, hummus, moussaka, baba ganoush, chicken with 40 cloves of...garlic.)    
The blessings gave life depth.  Made life good.

But people took advantage.   They became selfish.  They gorged themselves.

They became violent – fighting over the pastrami.

And they didn’t even bother brushing their teeth.   

God was horrified at their behavior.
You like my blessings?  You like my garlic?  You like depth?
Sure, I’ll give you depth.   Go ahead and drown in it.

When it began, it was too much,    Flooding, chaos, confusion. 
The very same thing which had nourished us was now killing us.

Like the dish of an overambitious cook, everything was too much.
The world was drowning. 
It was as though God took out a big green pen and scratched out everything -- well, almost everything – to start again.

Chaos,  Noah.   There will be Chaos.    

And before those fragrant cloves begin to fall from the sky,   
Come into the ark.  Bring the animals, bring your family.

Bring Tums.

Build me this ark,  Noah, this teyva – this boat, this box.

It will be,  God says,  almost magical in the way it will transform you.  It will protect you.   I will protect you.   I will give you a taste of The World To Come.  

I will give you whiskey.

You will see how a lamb will be safe from a lion…
Where there will be no predators.
Where even people will not prey on each other -- for a corned beef sandwich –

Or even if only for the pickle.  

When there is chaos, when there is deluge, when there is too much worry, when things fall apart, when it is all much too much and when you are drowning -- it can house your souls and keep you safe.

When the world falls apart I will keep you safe.  
I will keep you safe.

Chaos and flood are not just about marinara sauce.
   It feels like chaos and flood when the waves of trouble in your life are rising – when you lose your job, your health, your safety and your home.

Grace, shelter, the ark are about saving us from the storm that will always come – no matter who you are and your place in life.

There is too much out there.   
There is too much to taste.  
Too much to stomach,
There is too much to feel.   

Man, we are under water.

Our senses are flooded.   Our hearts are flooded.   
We have too much to think about.
Too much to do.   

Too much to feel.
Too much worry.   
I could make a list!

You know what I need?   
I need an ark. 
I need a place which can shield me from the chaos.   
I need protection from confusion.   

I need protection from myself.

I need a place where I can begin again. 
  I need a place where I can think straight.
I need a place where I can be with my family.

Where no one fights over the food.

Into every life a little rain will fall.    
Most of the time a lot more than a little rain.

And sometimes a lot more than a little garlic. 
Sometimes there will be heartburn.

Sometimes there will be fire.   
There will always be illness & there will always be death.   

But it is ok – not to be ok.

We will need shelter.
We will need alka-seltzer. 
We will need an ark.  
We may need the Divine….
We will need a little whiskey.   

We may also need a green pen to scratch things out and start again.

We will need kindness.

And we will need each other.

(as delivered at Temple Beth El in Madison, Wisconsin on Friday, October 24, 2014)

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Call Me Sudsy Malone.

Usually this time of year -- as the darkening begins --
I feel myself beginning to withdraw.

Although I do realize that this is the normal time of year for melancholy, I find myself spending a little more time at home, sorting out closets, cleaning drawers, etc.

I have come to realize that I have SAD:

Shampoo Accumulation Disorder.

My life is abundant.
I am wholly blessed with teeny little bottles of personal cleaning products.

My illness began years ago, when we were students.  

Back in the time when the call of "Free Pizza" could tempt us from three counties away and we lived on grocery store ramen soup mixes -- at 19 cents each, and if you stir in an egg....well, hey!  That's protein!

If we had to travel and we would all split a hotel room or the like...and IF little bottles of shampoo were provided for our use....then...

I would, upon checkout, tuck them into my bag.

This seemed like an innocent-enough obsession, or so I thought.  I thought to myself, time after time, 'well, I did pay for them...' and so it would go, me thinking to myself that perhaps I would need them someday.   Perhaps there would be a time that I wouldn't have time to get any shampoo, would not be able to afford I was saving them for a rainy day -- sort of like my grandfather and his post-Depression pencil stubs.

Innocent but crazy -- like all those ladies who steal sugar packets and artificial-sweetener packets from restaurants -- slipping them surreptitiously into their handbags --

Yellow and pink and blue -- the colors of petty crime.

I wouldn't exactly say that I am a criminal -- I am only guilty of foamy infractions.

But to open up the drawer to see it overflowing with samples -- let's just say that I have a serious addiction.  

Why is it that I think that I never have enough?   Why is it that my mother-in-law used to fold up sandwiches in napkins, hiding them in her purse, only to forget about them?

Why did my father save styrofoam and bubble wrap and why oh why oh why was there ever a need for a reality television show called Hoarders?

This is about letting go.

Just as a tree -- at this time of year -- lets its leaves fall, fully trusting that in the spring more will grow, we have to trust that somehow the world will offer a sandwich, bubble wrap, more sweeteners than we ever, ever should have --

And plenty of shampoo.

This obsession is ultimately about trust and fear.

Let go of these pencil stubs.   Life will offer me a way to express myself.

Release these sugar packets -- my life is already filled with sweetness.

Share the bubble wrap and styrofoam...I feel safe and protected without them.

Let go of old, outmoded ideas, clutter, things we no longer need.
Trust that we will have what we need.

I am packing away the itty bitty bottles to repurpose....
trusting that I will be able to wash myself and my soul anew.

I will be able to start again.

Like the trees...

I will have what I need...

for spring cleaning.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

On the Sixteenth.

We wanted to see Picasso's Guernica one more time so we headed out early, after breakfast, to the Museo Reina Sofia.

But, alas, it was closed.   We sat a bit in the sun, watching other tourists who, like us, didn't pay attention to the museum hours, react -- and then regroup -- as they decided what to do next.

After a bit we began to walk up Santa Isabel -- a happy accident.

We passed little bookstores -- some markets -- and we went in.

NOTE TO SELF:  When traveling, find the groceries first -- before eating out -- that's  what corazones di lechuga romana are....romaine hearts.

Candy store -- five kinds of potato chips.

We go in.  The eleventh pew is closed.   There is a crane and the signs that someone is making repairs.  Some people are sitting, their eyes closed, their lips moving in prayer.

We sit.  We sit.
We wait.

You can hear the workmen...but you cannot see them.

Drills and hammers and such.   But no words.   No one is speaking.

The paintings around us, beautiful, have faded.

The gold is old.

There is, nonetheless, magic here.
Something, it seems, in this little Santa Isabel church, needs to be fixed.

It is being repaired wordlessly.
It is being remade.

The part that we don't see -- behind the wall -- is being redone.   It is being sustained.

Someone is working so the magic can last longer.

Of course, if you wish, you can give a euro to light an LED candle for a loved one.
(Are those little LED's as spiritual as the real flames?)

But they, nonetheless, do some good with those euros:

"Pan de San Antonio -- limosnas para los pobres"
The bread of San Antonio -- alms for the poor.

Someone, years ago, built this church.

Old white brick.

Someone, some ones -- pieced together this church,
brick by brick,
so the residents of this town would have a place
to restore their souls.

From time to time we need to go into ourselves.
From time to time we need repair.

Perhaps we will be sitting, wordlessly.
Avoiding the eleventh pew.
There will be a crane there.
And guys -- fixing stuff.

We will be repaired.
There will be hammers and drills.
But no speaking.

We sit.  We sit.
We wait.

We cannot see those who will fix us.
The paintings will be faded.

The gold -- old.

Us in our worn and torn-ness.
There is magic nonetheless.

We also were constructed --
brick by brick.

And now we are being re-made wordlessly.
We are being strengthened.

Someone is working on us so our magic
can last longer.


We walk out into the sunshine, the two of us.
We go back out into the world.

Into the light.

"Estar a tu lado es SoƱar"
to be near you is to dream.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Madrid ‘sin gluten’... Celicioso!


 People seem to want to give me cake.

Now I don't want you to misunderstand.  I like cake, truly I do.

In fact, I love it.

Cake always makes me think that it is my birthday and that it is all about me which I am foolish enough to believe, even now.

Perhaps it is the chemistry that I like in cake:  adding dry ingredients to wet and then something to create a lift and heat -- and well, that sort of begins to sound like one of my hair appointments....

But ah, I digress.

For a long time it has not been possible for me to eat cake out -- because of dietary restrictions, medical and otherwise, so I make cake on my own, when I crave it -- and it is usually lemon and poppy seed, or vanilla, or chocolate with or without zucchini -- and vegan...

And always gluten free.

This past year, in fact, I was shocked, amazed and completely touched that for my birthday my friend Jean delivered a huge lemon cake.  It is quite a thing to have someone else put in all that effort -- just for you.

Really, amazing.

Then I came across an article while researching my trip to Madrid, that there was a strong public information campaign afoot in Spain, opening many more doors for the something-like-forty-eight-thousand medically non-gluten Spaniards, not accounting for 'sin gluten' lifestylers and/or touristas.

It was in doing this research that I found Celicioso, in central Madrid, just off the Gran Via.

Of all the exciting things we had planned for the town -- and in all the ways I wanted to explore (and we are truly explorers of towns....), this was a place I did not wish to miss.

To say that my Spanish 'es malo' is an understatement.    What I lacked in accent and vocabulary, however, I made up for in gesture and charm, I hoped.

So, the first day that we walked into Celicioso I felt as though I had died and gone to heaven.   Every time I sat down in a restaurant I had to announce (somewhat apologetically)to the server "soy celiaca"  which, because of the national PR attention, made many nod in acknowledgement and then in apology because there were limited choices in my dining experience...

Celicioso was and is welcoming and warm and amazing.   
They offer cakes and cupcakes and sandwiches and breads and teas and coffees and tables and music and wifi, and, and, and.....

All offerings are free of gluten, made from a combination of corn and rice flours -- many are free of sugar and some, additionally and happily, are vegan as well.

That day we shared a palmera (puff pastry palm coated in white chocolate) and a vegan chocolate raspberry cupcake.   Plus two cups of good tea...not as easy to find for us there.

Of course we loved it.

So successful was our first time there that on our last day, just before we left, we headed out one more time, on the metro....getting off at Gran Via...
and making a left onto Calle Hortaleza and stepping in.   

The same people were there to serve us as five days earlier....and when they asked us which was our favorites (this time getting a lemon-lime and a vanilla mascarpone) answer, in my much-improved Spanish was "todos" -- which caused them to giggle.

(of course, everything)

And when we had finished our snack and got up to pay -- on our way out the door we were handed a bag -- a happy little white bag which we carried back down the street, down to the metro and on the train up to Cuzco...

A happy little white bag which contained something unexpected...
A gift of cakes!

I don't know the names of those nice people and they didn't know mine -- but I thanked them with a million 'gracias's' and smiled and blew them kisses.

(probably completely out of cultural context I am sure that I embarrassed myself, as usual).

But it seems, that people want to give me cake.

I cannot promise that you will be gifted with cake but I can promise that little Celicioso is in itself a gift.

A lovely gift indeed.

Just go.



Calle Hortaleza, 3, 28004 Madrid, Spain
+34 915 31 88 87