WISHES WERE HORSES … CEE’S SHARE YOUR WORLD

SHARE YOUR WORLD – 2016 WEEK 10

What would you ask for if a genie granted you three wishes?

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Health for me and those I love. And universal health care for absolutely everyone.

Wealth sufficient to live comfortably without a constant struggle.

Wisdom to understand what it’s all about. All of it. Everything.

What experiences are most meaningful to you?

Everything is experience. Everything has meaning and value. Every breath is an experience. As you age, it’s hard to remember the details of what happened along the way, even when it seemed terribly important at the time. If nothing else, age puts everything into perspective. Even perspective.

I don’t believe any single life experience is the “aha” moment.

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As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

  1. I wanted to be a cowboy, but I lacked a horse. And to be fair, there’s not a lot of positions open for girls from Queens.
  2. I yearned to be a ballerina, but I was a klutz.
  3. I thought I could be writer because even when I was very young, I was writing stories and stuff. Writing won the toss. It was the right call.

A life path is not exclusively about what one wants. It’s also what you’ve got to work with. Like talent. Creative vision. Ambition and drive to succeed. Plus so many other qualities you never know about — until you need them.

Complete this sentence: The best day of my life was … I have no idea. Really. I don’t. I can tell you my favorite year (1969). But best day? No clue. At this point, the best day is probably tomorrow.

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HEAR NO EVIL

Photographs by Garry Armstrong

I hate eavesdroppers and eavesdropping.

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It’s been a real issue in my world, because for most of my life, I’ve shared my home with others. Sometimes family or friends. Often whoever needed a place to stay. Which means privacy has often been at a premium. Avoiding eavesdropping has required dedication — a conscious effort to not listen, even when I can. But, the thing is, I don’t listen.

Here’s why.

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It’s a terrible thing. Intrusive. Mean-spirited. Just like blackmail, but with no payoff.

Eavesdroppers are usually gossips too. And paranoid. Maybe they don’t start off paranoid, but eavesdropping distorts reality. You hear a snippet, think you know the story. But you don’t. Really. You don’t.

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The fundamental problem with eavesdropping is you never hear a whole story. Moreover, whatever you hear is without context. Pieces, fragments, bits. Which inevitably don’t mean what you think.

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If I accidentally stumble into someone else’s conversation, especially if I think it might concern me, I cover my ears and run. I do not want to hear it. Maybe they’re telling each other what a great person I am and how much they admire me. The odds are against it.

I think it’s a Murphy’s Law because eavesdroppers only overhear negative stuff — or, at least, what sounds negative. Overheard snippets grow like poison mushrooms in the dark. Those words stay locked in your brain, possibly for a lifetime.

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Eavesdropping will make you miserable. It will destroy your relationships, make you doubt yourself and distrust everyone.

No one hears anything positive when eavesdropping.

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So, should you find yourself within earshot of someone else’s private communications? Block your ears. Turn up the music or TV. Flee the scene.

You’ll be glad you did.

MY FAMILY COOKBOOK – ELLIN CURLEY

I have a home-made family cookbook that spans three generations and two continents. It is as much a family album as it is a cookbook. It contains recipes from my teens through today. It contains recipes from many people, including my grandmother, mother, and others who played a big part in my life.

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The cookbook started when I was getting ready to leave home for the first time to go to law school. While I was growing up, my mother had many cooks, none of whom had the patience to teach an eager little girl. So at the age of 22, I could barely boil water.

But I loved food. I was dying to finally learn how to cook. My mother, though she rarely chopped or seared anything herself, was obsessed with food. She went to bed reading cookbooks and magazine recipes and when she died I found boxes of clipped out recipes that had never made it into her personal cookbooks. The recipes that had made it had been lovingly pasted into large three-ring binders, divided into categories like a regular cookbook.

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I realized that getting my apartment gave me the opportunity to learn how to cook while I was also learning how to be a lawyer. Before I left home, Mom and I went through all of her cookbooks and we picked out the recipes that were the best, simplest and hopefully the most fool-proof for me to take with me. I photocopied or typed these recipes at a time when the new, revolutionary feature on my electric typewriter was white-out! The advantage of the photocopied recipes (other than not having to type them) was that they have my mother’s handwritten notes all over them. “More garlic” and “more seasoning” were common comments. Suggestions to “try” this or that were also scattered throughout.

These days, when I look through MY giant cookbook, I see her handwriting and hear her words and share the recipes with her again and again.

I learned to be a decent cook during my 1970’s law school years, though many of my best desserts involved jello products. Since then I have collected recipes from various sources, including from loved ones.

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My kids’ other grandmother and their Aunt are well represented in my book, as are friends and restaurants whose dishes we loved so much we had to make them at home.

“Christine’s Beef with Horseradish Sauce” brings back memories of a family picnic with four young children in the idyllic English countryside. “Meryl’s Passover Cookies” evoke memories of shared holidays over the years.

Now I have a separate dessert cookbook, with no jello in it at all. Most of my newer recipes are printed out from the internet. Looking through my cookbook is not only a way to decide what to have for dinner. It’s also a way for me to reconnect with my past and with the people who made me the person — and cook — I am today.

A CHRISTMAS SURPRISE

A family plus one holiday tale

by Richard Paschall

72-Christmas Eve_013Kyle was coming home for Christmas. He was bringing with him his college roommate. The boys met during freshmen year and became fast friends. Somehow they maneuvered the dorm manager into assigning them to be roommates for sophomore year. There was no one on earth Kyle would rather spend time with than Michael.

So, he was glad Michael agreed to come to dinner on Christmas Eve. This was in exchange for Kyle agreeing to go to Michael’s parents’ house on Christmas day for dinner. Michael was going to make a big announcement to his parents and of course Kyle had to be there.

Kyle’s father had slipped into a den on the east side of the house. All of the family noise was a bit more than his reserved nature could take. Kyle’s sister, Mary, who was 8 years younger than Kyle, was louder than usual, and no matter how many times grandma told Mary to “quiet down,” things didn’t get quieter.

The threat of Christmas carols by Mary and Uncle Roy was enough to drive dad into the den. There, he immediately made haste to the bar where a glass of sherry seemed to be in order. Dad only drank a sherry on special occasions and this certainly was one of them.

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It was dark now and the neighbors across the street had turned on their Christmas lights. Almost everyone on the block had a nice display so the street was well-lit. Kyle’s dad was drawn to the window to see the lights, look at the gentle snow flurries and enjoy a moment of peace. As he stood there sipping his sherry and waiting for Kyle to appear, he finally spotted his only son walking quickly down the street with another young man right behind. As they got to the walkway that led up to the house they stopped to exchange a few words. Then a sight took dad’s wondering eyes totally by surprise. Kyle kissed the other boy. It was not a short kiss, but long and passionate which they both seemed to enjoy.

Soon Kyle rang the doorbell just to announce their arrival before he put his key in the lock and opened the door. Off the entrance way on the left was a door to the den. Kyle’s father was standing in the doorway just staring at the two. Kyle’s mom came through a big archway on the right that led to the living room. Mary was close behind and eager to see her brother and his friend. Uncle Roy and grandma did not vacate their seats. They knew the rest would join them soon.

First Kyle walked over to his father and said, “Dad this is my room-mate, Michael.” The roommate held out his hand and the father shook it. “I am pleased to meet you, sir. Kyle says such wonderful things about the family.” Kyle’s dad just sort of nodded at that, while studying this stranger in his home. The silence was out of character for the head of the household and a bit of a surprise to everyone except Michael, and that is only because Michael did not know him.

Then Kyle introduced Michael to his mother and his “little brat sister” Mary. Michael held out his hand to each in turn but the little brat held out her hand instead as if he was supposed to take it and kiss it, so he did and she squealed and ran from the room. At that Kyle’s mom offered to introduce Michael to the others. Kyle’s father then announced to all, “We will join you in a moment.”

With a more serious tone, father said, “Kyle, would you step in here for a moment, please?” This was not a question but rather a command of the type Kyle knew was not good. As the father retreated into the room Kyle followed. Before turning around dad said, “Close the door.”

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Kyle only took a few short steps in before his father turned around. He looked at him as if he had never seen him before. It was the strangest look Kyle had ever seen from his father. “Kyle, is there something you should be telling me?” the “official business” dad said in an odd businesslike tone. Kyle figured it was some sort of trick question but knew he should answer it anyway.

“No, dad. I don’t think so.” This clearly was the wrong answer. His dad did not say a thing but his body language spoke volumes and Kyle became as nervous as a first grader who has been caught stealing Oreos from the kitchen. Now the master of the den, the commander of the car keys and the payer of his tuition walked slowly to the window, looked around the outside and turned to Kyle.

“You know, son, that there is a great view of the neighborhood from this window. You can see all of the beautiful Christmas displays across the street. You can see a nice Christmas snow flurry. You can see everyone walking down the sidewalk and turning up the walkway toward the house.” At that Kyle’s father fixed his sights squarely on Kyle and said, “So now is there anything you should tell me?”

Kyle stood motionless as his dad threw a stare at him that went right through and hit the door behind. It took Kyle almost an entire minute before he realized what his father had seen from the window of the den. All the while, that whole long minute of time, Kyle’s father stood there waiting.

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Kyle wanted to begin “I’m sorry dad…,” but nothing came out of his mouth. He was so nervous and so afraid of his father’s reaction that he could say nothing. It is not that he wanted to be silent, he just couldn’t speak. Fear of saying the wrong thing paralyzed his tongue for the moment. Finally Kyle’s father just nodded that same nod he gave Michael when he was introduced, walked around Kyle, opened the door and walked across the foyer to the living room.

Kyle was knocked off his spot when his mother’s voice came floating into the room. “Kyle, don’t be rude. Come join your guest.” Kyle shuffled across the hall and searched around the room for Michael. He did not look at anyone else as his eyes avoided everyone but Michael. At that moment, with a room full of family, he had no way of telling his mate that he needed a hug and he thought he might need to cry. After a little small talk by grandma and Uncle Roy, Kyle’s mom asked them all to go to the dining room. Christmas Eve dinner was ready.

“Michael, you sit right there next to Kyle and Kyle will sit next to me. I have this end of the table and Kyle’s father will carve things up at that end of the table. Uncle Roy will be there next to you and grandma and Mary will be on the other side.” At that the little brat sister ran around the table and dropped herself on the chair opposite Kyle. She looked at him with a smirk as if she knew his little secret and was going to blurt it out if he did not stop calling her a brat.

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Everyone sat in silence until Kyle’s mother looked down the length of the table and said to her husband. “Sweetheart, will you say grace for us?” There was a long, awkward pause before he said, “No. Tonight Kyle will lead the prayer.” At that instant Kyle prayed that something, anything that made sense would come out of his mouth. All eyes were on him as he began, “Bless us, oh Lord…” The words that fell out of Kyle’s mouth were for blessing and thanksgiving, but in his heart he was praying for acceptance. That became the only gift he truly wanted for Christmas this year.

LOVE IN THE AFTERNOON AND EVENING

Love gone wrong isn’t funny. Relationship disasters are disasters. Although I have as good a sense of humor as anyone, even many years later, this stuff still hurts. There’s something bizarre and wildly inappropriate about being asked to tell a “funny relationship disaster story.”

Certainly none of mine were funny nor any of my friends whose lives were broken into pieces. Whose hearts never stopped aching for the losses.

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When relationships — especially marriages — go wrong and break, bodies litter the battlefield. If anyone is laughing, maybe it’s those divorce attorneys who take other peoples’ misery to the bank.

The children aren’t laughing. The men and women who find themselves with no partners when they expected to walk into the sunset holding hands … they aren’t laughing. I’ve hugged myself during the worst of times and held the hands of my good friends when they realized their worlds were gone, blown away leaving only darkness and dust.

Funny? Not.

A NEW VOICE FOR SERENDIPITY! INTRODUCING ELLIN CURLEY

I was delighted when Ellin offered to write some pieces for Serendipity. Good friend, passionate animal advocate, gourmet cook … a women who has done a lot of living and has made the best lemonade out of life’s lemons.


CHANGING THE PAST

by Ellin Curley

I’ve always been fascinated by the concept of time travel. I’m particularly fond of the fantasy of going back in time, knowing what you know now, and changing some pivotal moment in your past. I used to wish fervently for this fantasy to become a reality so I could undo some of my Top 10 “mistakes” and bad judgement calls. Many of those involved my first husband – like deciding to marry him and deciding — multiple times — to stay with him when reason told me I should leave.

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I’m a logical person. The problem with this fantasy is I would have to accept the drastic changes in my personal time line which would inevitably flow from new and improved life choices.

The biggest and most obvious change is obvious: if I didn’t marry my ex, I wouldn’t have my children. I can’t imagine life without them, so, scratch that option.

If I leave him after I have my kids, life still changes so dramatically the odds of my ever meeting my current husband are virtually nil. I’m not prepared to give him up. He’s the best piece of luck I ever had, the best decision I ever made.

What this adds up to? I seem to have reached a point in my life I never thought I would achieve: at peace. Knowing all the crap I went through led me to where I am now. Made me into who I am.

My husband and I often talk about how, without the angst in our past, we wouldn’t have appreciated each other when we did meet. We’re pretty sure we wouldn’t have gotten along nearly as well without having had to pass through the sturm-und-drang of our first marriages.

It turns out I don’t really wish my past would go away. Not anymore. I wouldn’t have minded it being a bit easier, leaving fewer scars. Even so, I’m content with where I am and who I’ve become. Whatever the price I paid, it was worth it.

FRIENDS OLD AND DEAR

I’ve been a little out of touch. A good old friend from Arizona is visiting for a couple of days. We haven’t seen each other in person for eight or nine years.

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We’ve had a lot of laughter. A lot of catching up to do. And of course, I had to do the 10 cent tour.

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Needed to do a bit of traipsing around the valley. A peak at the Blackstone River, visit a dam or two, see a bit of the canal.

Never enough time, too much to say.