Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Allegory of Materialism

December 24.

Her daughter wanted a digital camera and “Viva La Juicy” perfume; her son wanted a skateboard and new ear buds.  She had been up late comparing prices, now it was time to hit the stores.

She was frazzled, exhausted, anxious. So much to buy, so little time. She honked her frustrations out at slow drivers on her way to the mall.

She got everything she wanted.  She yelled at the groggy-looking salesman in the tech store until the ear buds went down to the online price. She snatched the last box of Viva la Juicy from right under the nose of another woman who was eying it greedily.  She came home and shooed her children out of the kitchen so she could throw together some confections for the neighbors and create a picture-perfect Christmas Eve dinner for her family.  “Peace on Earth,” read a greeting card on her refrigerator.  She didn’t have time to read it.  She was too busy fighting a war in her heart.  A war for perfection.

The neighbors came caroling a few hours later.  Her children ate her Christmas feast.  They read the Christmas story. She stayed up late and wrapped each present with color-matching bows.  She had a headache that night when she went to bed, but she felt relieved. Everything, indeed, was perfect.

December 24.

Her son was away in the city at university.  During the few hours of Internet she got each day, she checked her emails to see if he’d be able to make it home.  The tribal warfare in her village had gone on for three days now, and all she wanted was to have her family all together safely.

She had been up late discussing peace talks with the tribal leaders, and she was frazzled, exhausted, anxious.  Eight people had died already, and if the leaders didn’t hurry and act, it would surely be more.

She had no money, but she had a phone that worked during the hours of electricity, and she called her friends and asked about their families. She visited the elderly in her village to make sure they were OK.  She found out at last that her son was on his way, and she rejoiced.

When her son arrived, she prepared a small feast to the abrasive carol of gunshots outside.  She clicked her tongue. Sometimes she felt that the whole world was at war, but in her heart this night, she felt peace.

She had almost nothing, and nothing was perfect. But she had her family and friends.  She had the good Lord watching over her. And she was happy.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Ode to beets

I am compelled to write this evening because my husband – the computer scientistic GENIUS – is writing in HIS very own blogly space!  Which he started last night!  And could I just sit idly by and let him post away while I did nothing to improve my very own blogly space??  That would only be viable if I knew how to program alien shooter games.  And I don’t.

The fact is, I’ve been meaning to tell you all for some time now about the borsch.  K and I both spent good little portions of our lives living in Eastern Europe, where we were both introduced to the exquisiteness that is the beet.  And ever since it began to get nippy outside (for us this was early September), we have reminisced about shapkas and drunk taxi drivers on New Year’s and army tanks that shovel snow and… heavenly and oh-so-richly-red borsch.  With a huge dollop of sour cream.

So when a co-worker of mine recently said, “Oh, I have a million beets! Want some??”  I think I may have scared him a little with my emphatic enthusiasm.  I proudly brought them home and showed them to the husband, who was so emphatic himself that he tackled me (only in an attempt to wrestle the beet bag from my grasp).  And then we made borsch.

Beets are actually really horrible-looking vegetables when they’re first pulled from the dirt, like little hairy gnomes with dirty bottoms.  The Russian folk of olde probably couldn’t get their kids to eat them, so they figured out that when you peel them and grate them and make them into a soup, the kidlets would do anything to get that goodness all over their little tunics and milkmaid dresses and shapkas.  And hey, I’m right there with those little Russian peasants.

For when the borsch was simmering and it was almost time to eat, our house filled with the warm smell of a hundred different small apartments in the cities of Lithuania.  I could almost hear the chatter of a dying language coming from a tiny kitchen with nothing but a table, a stove, and a few 3-legged stools.  I opened the lid to the soup and a redness fit for royalty greeted me, bubbling gently in a pot.  And then I really was there, hiding out from a harsh Lithuanian winter with a Lithuanian grandma’s slippers on my feet, looking out the window of a tall gray building for my New Year’s taxi.  And Kendon saw that soup and heard the rumble of a faraway Soviet tank, on its way to clear the roads so he could visit a similar old woman with the same soup waiting for him on her own stove.  We ate our borsch with huge dollops of sour cream.  Then all at once we were at home with our memories and at home with each other. And nothing could be more delicious.  

Step 1: 

Step 2: 

The result: heaven.

Monday, December 5, 2011


Kendon and I have been married for a year.  A YEAR.  So to celebrate 365 days of still liking each other, we got all dressed up and reserved our own private table at Beni Hana’s, where Ramon from Mexico gave us the most spectacular display of dancing shrimp and juggling knives and onion volcanoes that a person on their first anniversary could ever possibly hope for.  We held hands under the table and tasted garlicky meat off each other’s plate and reminisced and gave each other presents.  Besides the fact that neither of us announced it on Facebook, I’m pretty sure it’s exactly what a first anniversary is supposed to look like. 

These festivities came and went over a week ago.  Oddly enough, though, today is the day I feel like I truly understand what it means to be married for a year. 

That’s because today I’m the opposite of all dressed up.  In fact, I bear a striking resemblance today to the creature from the black lagoon… minus the fangs and with a bathrobe instead of green teutonic armor.    Currently I am stopping after each sentence to make my now-customary fog horn sound into a dwindling roll of toilet paper, creating a pile of snot rags that is creeping steadily up to the ceiling.   I haven’t combed my hair in two days, my lips are cracking off my face, and I rotate at night between being feverishly hot and ripping off the blankets, to shivering so hard that our room shakes and pictures fall off the wall.

Oh yeah. And the husband still finds me sexy.

Over the last few days, he’s remained by my side through three Disney movies and several chapters of Ender’s Game (our post-Harry read-a-thon).  He’s made me soup and bought me medicines.  He tucks me in and massages my sore muscles and forces me to gargle salt water.  I’ve started to call him Nurse Bagley, but then again, a mere nurse would not go so disgustingly far as to steal slimy kisses in between foghorn blasts. 

So that’s how I know what first-anniversary love feels like.  It’s a feeling that the tallest onion volcano could never hope to replace.  It’s the kind of love that really does endure in sickness and in health. 

So while I avoided Facebook on the anniversary, today I would like to publicly express to the Internet that I have been married for a YEAR to the kindest, bravest, most disgusting man on this good planet.  (I had to throw in the last one.  Seriously.  Only a grossy would want to kiss THIS on the mouth.)

Oh, and in case you're interested, here's some photographic documentation of our actual anniversary:

We are in love.

Can you find the onion volcano among the shrimp and raw beef?

Ramon was a good chef.  We're thinking of adopting him.

Guess who I made this for as a happy anniversary gift? (Hint: It was not Ramon.)