There’s an Empty Bed in the Pink Shed

 

Max the dachshund

“My little dog—a heartbeat at my feet.”― Edith Wharton

Dear Reader:

I’m going to miss the little heartbeat at my feet. It’s been three days since Bart died in my arms, but I’m still looking for him. He followed me everywhere, and there’s no substitute for that. (Heaven forbid my husband should start following me around!) We have three dogs, but Bart was mine. He needed me.

Oh my goodness, how Bart loved it when he’d hear me grab the keys to my shed from the kitchen drawer. He’d run straight to the back door and wait to descend the stairs down to the pink shed. He had a well-worn bed  (he liked to chew on the corners of it) under my desk and he’d patiently wait until the writing part of my day was over. Then I’d put him in my lap while I read or enjoyed a cup of tea in my cozy chair. Bart is featured in two of my of my most popular posts:  See The Nose?! and My Dog’s Favorite Books.

I’m so glad to have had the absolute adoration of my cuddly Bart for nine years!

Michele

 

On Acceptance

“All I’m saying is, kindness don’t have no boundaries.”

Kathryn Stockett, The Help

 

Dear Reader:

Yesterday I felt a memory. It hurt almost as much as it did seventeen years ago. I was discussing religion with a friend and it brought to mind something I’m sure I wanted to forget. How many words does it take to describe how horrible it feels to be judged? Not many.  And yet choosing the words is so difficult for me, even now.

I’ll start at the beginning. My father converted to Catholicism shortly after marrying my mother, and my siblings and I were raised Catholic. But when my brother, Matt, met his wife he joined the congregation at her non-denominational Christian church, and his new church family came to supplant his birth family. It was not difficult to understand why:  we were raised in the “classic” dysfunctional family. You know the kind; we looked so good from the outside that no one could believe it when we fell apart.

I understood my brother’s desire to believe and to belong. I had moved away with my husband and started a family and a life separate from the drama that was a painful part of my past. I was mothering a newborn as Matt was beginning his married life 300 miles away. We had always been close, but for three years we saw each other only occasionally. We exchanged birthday greetings and the obligatory holiday wishes through the mail.

Then my brother called to tell me he’d been diagnosed with cancer and had only a few months to live. My husband, young daughter and I arrived on his doorstep the next day.  We were met at the door by a man I did not know. He introduced himself as Bruce, a close friend and the pastor of Matt’s church. We stepped into the small living room of Matt’s ranch house to find him comfortably settled in his favorite chair with his dog in his lap. He looked great; he was smiling. After the three of us exchanged hugs, Bruce suggested that my husband and daughter take the dog into the yard for a romp. Matt grabbed a ball and joined them, and Bruce and I were left alone. That’s when I discovered that Bruce was serving as a sort of gatekeeper to determine who could spend time with my brother. He was applying a religious test to anyone who didn’t identify as an evangelical or born-again Christian.

He asked me to describe my relationship with God. I told him I was Catholic. He asked if I had acknowledged that I was a sinner and asked the Lord for forgiveness.

“Of course,  I’m a sinner. Aren’t we all?” I answered.

He pressed on:  Did I understand that my brother would be going “home” and could I support him in this journey? I felt like crying, but I was steel. I told him that Matt and I had always been close and that I loved him dearly. I assured him again that I considered myself a Christian. Bruce left shortly after our conversation and we enjoyed the day with Matt. My “Catholic credentials” had been deemed satisfactory.

I will never forget how it felt to be held in judgement. I thought I had, but yesterday the immensity of it came back to me with full force. There were people who felt they had the moral authority to decide whether I should be allowed to spend time with my own dying brother. Well, I confess, I judge them as well,  and I find them to be lacking in compassion and grace. My opinion of evangelical Christians was formed by that single heartbreaking experience.

Since then, I’ve been careful when I interact with people who I know to be Christians. But for some reason, this week, after all these years, I opened up to the wife of one of my husband’s closest friends, a woman with whom I’ve also grown close.  I’d been careful to avoid talk of religion with her knowing that she attends a Christian church, but when we found ourselves alone our conversation turned to things we hold dear, such as family. She mentioned her faith and I found the courage to share my memory with her. She disavowed the isolationist position of the members of my brother’s church. While she shared some of their beliefs, she could not exclude us as her friends. I was not steel; I felt tears come to my eyes.

Making judgements is part of being human, but it can be humbling to reflect on the moments you’ve been judged. It can be a reminder to work to consciously choose acceptance of others over rejection.

When I woke up this morning I found myself thinking of the waitress at a restaurant I frequent.  She’s Mexican, and one day she told me that since our president came along she’s been concerned about what people think of her. Are they wondering whether she’s  legal? Did they think she should go back to Mexico? I thought of the day I was discussing colleges with a friend and she said that she and her daughter were researching the rising incidence of anti-Semitism on campuses out of concern for her daughter’s safety. I reflected on a discussion I’d just had with a young man who lost Facebook friends when he announced his engagement to another man. Suddenly my mind was filled with the faces of those who had been judged and hurt.

Perhaps we should all regularly call to mind those times in our lives when we’ve been deemed unworthy so that we may  be less likely to inflict that kind of pain on our neighbors.

Michele

 

 

 

 

 

Your Life in Six Words

IMG_4181

 

 

Dear Reader:

Today was housecleaning day in the pink shed… translation: a bit of dusting, a lot of moving stacks of books around. There are so many that I am constantly re-discovering titles I’d forgotten. This morning’s find:  Not Quite What I Was Planning: Six Word Memoirs. What a fun book! It’s a collection of famous and not-so-famous peoples’ memoirs in…you guessed it…only six words!

Here are a few of my favorites:

Maybe you had to be there 

Roy Blount Jr.

Asked to quiet down; spoke louder

Wendy Lee

Me see world! Me write stories!

Elizabeth Gilbert

Couldn’t cope so I wrote songs

Aimee Mann

Brought it to a boil, often

Mario Batali

I couldn’t resist the challenge of writing my own mini memoir:

seeking: home 

found: love

shared: truth

Take the six word challenge today….and share if you dare!

Michele

 

 

My Blogging Friend

Dear Reader:

Back in December, I was on Maui Time reading Blog Inc. by Joy Cho and deciding if I should go public. Googling me yielded no results. I had no Facebook page. I had only just begun to read blogs.

The surf and the sand mixed with the Christmas carols, and Joy’s assurance that blogging could give me “friends I never knew I could have,” gave me the motivation I needed to launch fromthepinkshed.com.

Less than four months later, I can already say that it has been fun and fulfilling and I do have friends that I never imagined I’d have! One of the first connections I made was with Tamara Jare at My Botanical Garden. Her photography and original art inspired me. She resides in Slovenia and if it weren’t for WordPress we’d never have met.Today, I received a beautiful piece of her work that I’ll be framing and hanging in my pink shed.

Social media is as imperfect as the world it resides in, but I’m glad I decided to join the conversation. As I always told my daughter, most people are wonderful! I’m so glad to have discovered a whole new set of friends.

Michele

 

My Favorite Kitchen

m-Two-cups-of-coffee-on-wooden-table-000044323704_Large

Dear Reader:

I started another writing course this week through Stanford Continuing Studies; I’m having trouble with it. When I write to you, I decide on the topic. But, today,  I’ve been given a writing prompt that I must adhere to!  You, dear reader, now have the opportunity to read my first submission to the class: an essay about a “memorable kitchen” with a bonus recipe!

 

I’m not much of a cook, but I do love to eat so it seems appropriate that the only kitchen I ever really loved was a kitchen that I did not cook in. It was very small and it existed in a different time. One could move between the sink, table, stove and refrigerator with just a few steps. It was brightly lit with three windows counting the one that occupied the top half of the back door that led to the herb garden. There was no dishwasher or microwave, but the phone resided there on a tiny table adjacent to the stove.

This kitchen was alive. I can not picture it empty and yet, of course, it was …when Nonnie slept. I had many meals there and, without exaggeration or exception, they always satisfied me. I could tell you about the dough that was handmade, rolled and cut on the kitchen table or the sauce that simmered on the stove all day. I could try to convince you that a simple vegetable soup with a bit of pasta and meat could be a culinary delight. Or I might conjure up the image of crispels frying in a pan of oil until crispy and then covered in powdered sugar or warm honey and enjoyed with coffee.

My grandmother spent most of her days in this room. It delighted her to cook for family, friends and, of course, the clergy. She prepared meals for the priests at her church often and the bishop was thrilled when his visits coincided with her food deliveries. (Priests lined up to give the eulogy at her funeral!)

Her kitchen was akin to an artist’s studio, but she generously shared it. It was calming and reassuring to simply sit and watch her mix, roll, cut and fold. She completed these repetitive tasks with great joy and precision. She did not require participation in the task at hand, but she was glad to have you step outside to pick the herbs she needed or to allow you to take over the task of frying or filling.  Often, I just sat, though, and fully appreciated the warm companionship she offered while she worked.

Truly, I loved everything Nonnie cooked and baked, but it is a small meal in a mug that I remember most fondly. I would love to share the recipe with you!

 

Nonnie’s Beaten Egg Breakfast

Ingredients:

  • strong coffee
  • egg yolks
  • brown sugar
  • milk
  • and a loving companion

Brew the coffee while warming the milk slowly in a small saucepan. Crack and separate the eggs placing a yolk in each cup. Add a bit of brown sugar and beat the yolk and sugar together. Slowly, while stirring, add the hot coffee to the eggs to temper them slowly. Finish with warm milk to taste.

 

I remember many mornings spent with Nonnie enjoying this simple, sweet pleasure. I lived with her for several months after my parents divorced and I started college. Those coffee mornings gave me the sustenance I needed to pursue my future independently and the love my grandmother gave me remains with me to this day.

Thanks for reading!

Michele

 

 

 

 

 

I Believe in the Mayor of London, Sunscreen and Smiles

IMG_1362 (1)

Dear Reader:

I believe in pretty packages… generosity, feminism, friendship and flowers…art, whimsy, birdwatching, dogs and truth…long lunches and dinners on pretty dishes. I believe people don’t change but that the people we’ve loved and lost become part of us. I believe in Disneyland and Christmas and that my life has been blessed with a few angels in the guise of a teacher, counselor and grandmother. I believe in the power of personality, words, coffee, sunscreen and lipstick. I believe in smiling and asking for what I want because most people like to help and I like to get what I want. I believe in California and Californians. I believe in London and its mayor. I believe in creating a beautiful home and celebrating and entertaining frequently. I believe in the young and the old… modern and classic and that everyone has a story.  Most importantly, I believe in my own strength, the love of my husband and the beauty of my daughter.

And, of course, I believe in pink, as Audrey did!

What do you believe in?

Michele

P.S. And, I believe as Crash Davis does, that “there ought to be a Constitutional Amendment outlawing the designated hitter.”