Category: Inspiration Spice

This post is a really great reminder to me of things I have forgotten. I realized that as I’ve gotten older, I’ve become more judgmental, more critical and less generous of spirit. This essay reminds me to step back and remember what I value.  May I always remember to see everyone eye to eye.

Eye to Eye.


“The opposite of a ‘nice girl’, I learned is a ‘good woman.’ Being a good woman means trading the safe, passive, people-pleasing behavior of niceness for the dynamic power of true goodness. It means moving from the weakness and immaturity of girlhood toward the strength and maturity of womanhood…A good woman knows she cannot be all things to all people, and she may, in fact, displease those who think she should just be nice. She is not strident or petty or demanding, but she does live according to conviction.”

“I was thirty-nine years old when I walked into my counselor’s office and said, ‘I’ve been working so hard to keep everybody else happy, but I’m so miserable I want to die.’ I spent the decade of my forties digging out of that hole. Now, nearly midway through my fifties, I’ve discovered that growing up is an ongoing process – I have not yet arrived. Still, I have learned some things on the journey to becoming a good woman.” – from ‘nice girls don’t change the world’ by Lynne Hybels

Sunny morning brunch - and the first day of the rest of Grace and Jim's life together...congrats!

I was in Atlanta, Georgia this weekend for a very good friend’s wedding and had the opportunity to spend some quality time with college girlfriends whom I never quite realize how much I miss until I see them again. From them I get the comfort of family, but also the encouragement and wisdom of a sisterhood that I easily forget I need as I go about the busy-ness of my daily life. Similar to the Spice-sisterhood, but of an older vintage, which also means I’ve drifted from them a bit further in time and distance. But not in spirit and love. It was such a lovely time. And an amazing wedding. I cherish weddings in general, but most especially those of people I have seen grow through the awkwardness of all the relationships that came before “the one”.

I stayed an extra day for time to myself and this morning, I wandered into the bookstore of one of those mega-churches – I was a few minutes too late to attend service, but looked around at the books and tapes to see if anything caught my eye. I’ve lately been thinking a bit about what I’d like to do about the spiritual and religious aspect of my life, so it was rather timely and appropriate. I ended up picking up a book by Tim Keller, whose sermons I remember fondly from when I attended his Manhattan church in the mid-90s. I was surprised to read the bio on the backflap to find that he had started Redeemer in 1989, just a few years before I attended my first service there in 1994. And now, they have thousands of congregants, five services weekly, and several spin-off churches! I look forward to reading his thoughts as I always enjoyed his direct, logical, and meaningful messages.

The other book I picked up was from the “women’s section”. A short and sweet book by Lynne Hybels, the wife of another mega-church pastor. I read it all within 20 minutes during my flight back to Chicago. The first quote above sums up the basic idea. About growing from people-pleasing to being true to yourself. In Lynne’s case, being true to herself is all about following God’s will. Maybe it is for me, too, in a way – or maybe it’s something slightly different. Either way, it’s a hard thing to remember and understand for many women – that being good doesn’t always mean being nice. From that I extrapolate a little and would also say, sometimes being a good woman might make you a bit of a b*tch in some people’s eyes. So, if I’m committed to being good and true to myself, I can’t keep stressing about being that other thing that offends some in society.

The second paragraph I included, too, because it reminds me that as much as I sometimes regret the youthful years that are so far behind me, there still really is so much ahead. And Lynne’s journey that came at a stage in her life further along than I have even yet reached, reminds me that – the best is yet to come. We learn more, grow wiser, and our lives become better, richer and more rewarding. I will try to remember to look forward to that! Even as I know I’ll still occasionally look back to the lighter years of youth. I realize now that the reason I can now look back and value the simplicity with which my younger self viewed life and, yes, regress a little and try to recapture it’s essence through pop music and young adult blogs, is that I am looking at that era through my older eyes. Older eyes that only now recognize how truly lovely girlhood and it’s promise of the unknown future really is. But it doesn’t mean I want to go back, if going back means losing all that I have experienced and learned since.

So many different things can inspire the perfect moment. I sometimes latch onto a scene in a movie or a phrase in a song that just resonates into this romantic idea or concept that I keep coming back to. You know that perfect phrase in the song that says so much more than just the words themselves mean? Right now, I’m listening to the Grey’s Anatomy soundtrack from Season Three, which includes that amazing season finale song, “Keep Breathing”…so many moments I could pull from that whole soundtrack to talk about.

The moment that has inspired this post is a scene from the movie “Because I Said So”. You may have missed this movie from a few years ago – Mandy Moore as a young single professional chef, Diane Keaton her meddlesome mother, and some guy who plays her adorable hipster boyfriend? I’ve watched this one a few times. A lot of themes that resonate with me in different ways, but the particular scene I’m trying to get to comes when the two relationships she’s been juggling both go awry – she dumps the one she realizes isn’t for her, loses the other because he finds out she’s been dating someone else. At the same time, she stops speaking to her mother because she finds out her mother has been meddling in the background the whole time. At this point, she’s mostly alone, having turned away from her primary support system after losing both of her charming boys. Then – a scene with her sitting down for dinner at her kitchen counter – she lays out the plate, pours a glass of wine, puts her napkin in her lap, tops her salad with freshly ground pepper and then digs in alone. There is something so lovely and poignant in that scene. To me, it is the loneliness, partially self-imposed, balanced with the bittersweetness of a determined independence in which she still recognizes her own worth by taking care of herself with a carefully prepared meal. As opposed to the more common image of the sad lonely person camped out on the living room sofa in sweats, eating meals out of bags and boxes.

But what does any of this have to do with my looking for the perfect salad dressing? Well, that image occasionally inspires me to assemble such a meal for myself. Tonight, I prepared a pan-fried trout, a salad, and poured myself a glass of prosecco. For the salad, I scrounged my fridge for interesting ingredients and I found a nice simple combo of romaine, grilled peaches, and pecans. But then, I had to dress it. All I could think of was to toss in a bit of rice vinegar and sprinkle some salt. It wasn’t half bad, but I realized – I do not have an instinctive sense of how to dress a salad. Does anyone have some basic go-to dressings they use when preparing a simple salad at home that they could recommend for me? What are the basic building blocks on which I can then layer my own flavor ideas? A good salad can be such an amazing meal. I love the part of trying to dream up what different types of produce, cheeses or nuts to combine into an exciting new flavor combo. That part I can get. But the dressing part has me a bit at a loss…

What I love the most about the idea of taking the time to create a full meal for myself and sitting down to focus on enjoying just the meal is what that image says to me about taking the time for yourself. To treat yourself as well as you’d treat an honored guest. I think it’s important for us all to think about – whether you tend to spend most of your time working for an employer, taking care of children, or providing for a spouse or significant other. We take all this care to do our best for other people and things in our lives. I think it’s just as important to put 100% into our efforts to take care of ourselves, too. It’s different from treating yourself to a spa day or new purchase. Because it’s not just spending money on yourself, or paying someone else to pamper you – it’s putting real time and effort into giving yourself a lovely treat. A treat that would be even lovelier for me if I could just learn to make the perfect vinaigrette.

Girl Power Inspiration of the Day

Never grow a wishbone, daughter, where your backbone ought to be.”–Clementine Paddleford

I wanted a perfect ending. Now I’ve learned, the hard way, that some poems don’t rhyme, and some stories don’t have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what’s going to happen next.
Delicious Ambiguity.
— Gilda Radner

I can barely believe this is truly happening at the damaged nuclear plant in Japan. Right now as I sit at my silly desk. I can’t breathe for trying to imagine the heart of these people. I have no words.

In Lima, there is a park called Parque del Amor – the “park of love”. Right on the coastal cliffs, it is designed with beautiful mosaic tiles and an erotic sculpture titled El Beso. Ok, not exactly erotic like some ancient Peruvian sculpture – that’s another story altogether! Lima’s location on the coast affords an amazing view of the sunset from everywhere. Some travel reviews I read said that the smog in Lima tends to obscure the view of the sunset, but I didn’t find that to be the case at all. The sunsets in Lima were gorgeous. We visited the park on March 11, the evening that the coast of South America was on tsunami watch. I took two videos – this one is the shorter one that shows the moment when the glowing dot of the sun just falls below the horizon. I suggest watching the video with the volume down. Perfect for a one minute meditation.

Images of the tsunami

There have been so many crazy images of devastation. Many of the areas of Japan that were stricken by the tsunami look so hopeless, as if they can’t possibly be fixed again. And yet, there are also so many heartwarming stories. People exhibiting patience and endurance, though they are homeless, hungry, and cold. Instead of looting, sharing. And the power plant workers? Staying to do their jobs, risking their lives, in the hopes that they can prevent nuclear disaster. I can’t even imagine what kind of strength of spirit that takes. Then, among all this, I saw this video. Simple, but inspiring. It’s Japanese news, so I don’t understand what they are saying. It’s not flashy, like US news tries to be. But first, you see the mangy dog, who looks dirty, wet, cold, and a little bit scared. The news reporters seem to be trying to figure out what he is doing amidst all the devastation…and then you see the other dog he is with. How many people are able to express the simple loyalty that a dog so instinctually expresses?

When there are signs of goodness, loyalty, and strength of character in the world as demonstrated throughout Japan during this horrible time, it inspires me to be better and do better. Share without resenting, love without desiring, give without wanting, be without needing. These things are hard to do in our modern world. Because we learn that survival is paramount. And to survive you need to get and win for yourself and your family. But, maybe, at the core of it, winning is about being as human as you possibly can bear. And that being human, ultimately, might actually be about being good rather than evil. In today’s world, that can be the hardest to believe, because there is so much evidence to the contrary. To see any evidence of innate goodness – is what inspires me.

Important events come in threes? Well, I’m now on my second major life reminder for the week…with the first being Mrs.Cannoli’s reprinting of the inspiration poem the other day. That poem was even more striking due to the fact that more than one Spice noted its importance to her earlier in her life, including me.  Anyway, the second event – after eating my meat pastry on my last day in Peru, I met back up with fellow Peru travelers before heading off to my midnight flight. One of the best things about this trip ended up being all of the wonderful and welcoming people I met. A strong reflection of a person is the company they keep – the bride and groom were not only amazing hosts themselves – they also have some of the warmest friends I have ever met. So, on the final afternoon, I met up with the newlyweds and one other couple they know from LA, since we were the only ones left. First for lunch and drinks at a restaurant called Pescados Capitales. If you ever find yourself in Lima, Peru, and have a thing for ceviche – I highly recommend this place. I have tried some supposedly Peruvian restaurants in NYC before, but they did not come close to doing justice to the cuisine. Peruvian ceviche is flavorful, but still allows the flavor of the fish to come through. Highly seasoned with familiar-tasting ceviche flavors of citrus, onion, cilantro, but the fish is cut in much larger pieces – chunks, really – so it doesn’t seem like the flavorings are there to cover fishy flavors. All of the fish and produce in Peru are shockingly fresh and delicious. Fresh mango, papaya, melon, strawberries every day at breakfast – like none I’d ever tasted before. Better even than the fruit you can get in California.

Along with the eating was drinking…and after the boys had a few Cuba libres (the real deal, as they serve actual Cuban rum in Peru!), their friend started telling me things that he could see about me and my life. I’m not sure why he felt compelled to communicate to me his insights, or why he was seeing them. Earlier in the afternoon, he had mentioned experiences he and members of his family had had in connecting with the spiritual world. Whether testing a Ouija board as a kid, or the feeling of a spirit pass through the room when his mother criticized a native mask hanging on the wall. I don’t know that I’m a believer in any of the rituals or belief systems that surround such things, but I do acknowledge that a spirit world exists. One that I do not understand or have much access to. Anyway, after we left the restaurant and were having drinks at the next location, he starts to tell me things…

First, he asks me if I’m recently divorced, or just out of a serious relationship with someone I had been living with. Yup, bullseye! He sounded worried that he was freaking me out, but I’m pretty open minded about these things and was really curious about what he was going to tell me. He sensed that, for the last two years, I haven’t been doing what I should be doing, that I’ve been off track. That pretty closely matches the time period in which the relationship was essentially ended/in the process of ending. He said that the main reason I was in this relationship for so long was directly connected to my relationship with my parents. That one or both parents always made me feel like whatever I accomplished wasn’t good enough. And my relationship was in direct response to how that made me feel. How could he have known – that one of the things that I really valued in my relationship with M was the way he always believed in me and valued my abilities and talents? So, check, bullseye again. He then told me that this relationship was still holding me back from moving on. Which I must acknowledge as true. I just don’t feel ready yet. Then…my sleeve caught the straw in my drink and I spilled it. Right into my purse. Which freaked HIM out, because he had asked me about M’s sign earlier. And, as M is an Aquarius, or the water sign, the water going into my purse was a significant message. I’m not sure exactly of what…a sign of M’s continued influence in my life? A sign of something to come? I have no idea. He seemed to not want to talk about it anymore. His final comment to me was that his image of me was with tire marks on my back. Not in my professional life, but in my personal life only, I let people run over me and take advantage of me. That one surprised me a little and I’m not sure I agree with. Maybe he was still talking only of M.

He then said he was done talking about me, and moved onto generalities, and the idea that there are true vampires in this world and in our lives. The vampires among our friends and families that suck out our lifeblood and who we need to cut off. His wife did temper it with the idea that it’s not exactly about cutting these people off entirely, but of managing the relationship, such that they don’t have the ability to drain us of our energies. It was funny though, because, right before she said that, I was thinking that there are often people in our lives, particularly family members, that we can’t just cut out.

His words made me think and I ended up shedding a few tears on the car ride to the airport. His wife had warned me that he had made one person cry before. I wasn’t upset exactly, because it wasn’t like he really told me anything I didn’t already know. But in bringing these thoughts to the surface again, I was reminded that there are still things I need to work on in order to continue to move forward in my life. And I was oddly comforted, too. Because I was reminded that, whatever powers there are, watching over or walking with us, they do occasionally reach out with these reminders. These reminders comfort us in that, whatever life is about, there are forces that will try to keep us on the right track, despite our wanderings and failings.

After a While

Although I do keep up to date on current events, especially juicy celeb news (“Duh, WINNING!”), I will admit I am not much of a newspaper reader.  Home delivery is expensive and I’m not going to go out of my way to buy a paper.  But when I lived at home, I would read the newspaper my grandmother brought over every day.  OK, fine . . . I only read the comics, but still, I was flipping through the paper!  And in my local paper on the same pages with the comics were the crosswords and advice columns.  I remember coming across this poem probably about 20 years ago in either Dear Abby or Ann Landers or one of those columns.  It really spoke to me because I felt it represented the feelings of a teenage girl (which is what I was at the time) and I still remember it to this day.  I’m a very sensitive person and at times when I feel I am getting too emotional over people or situations, I look for this poem. It talks of life and love and the notion that things do get better, and to rely on yourself more than you rely on anyone else for inspiration or self-worth.  It may sound a little sad at first reading, but I think it’s a very empowering piece for women of any age.

After A While by Veronica Shoffstall (1971)

After a while, you learn the subtle difference
Between holding a hand and chaining a soul,
And you learn that love doesn’t mean leaning
And company doesn’t mean security,
And you begin to learn that kisses aren’t contracts
And presents aren’t promises,
And you begin to accept your defeats
With your head up and your eyes open,
With the grace of a woman, not the grief of a child,
And learn to build all your roads on today
Because tomorrow’s ground is too uncertain for plans,
And futures have a way of falling down in midflight
And after a while, you learn
That even sunshine burns if you get too much.
So you plant your own garden and decorate your own soul,
Instead of waiting for someone to bring you flowers.
And you learn that you really can endure…
That you really are strong
And you really do have worth
And you learn and learn…
With every goodbye, you learn.