Rather Than Curse the Darkness, Light a Tiki Torch!

We love to share the occasional Murder Mystery, D&D adventure, or Sci-fi party with friends, not to mention New Year’s Eve, Christmas Eve, Hanukkah and Lincoln’s Birthday.  But it was our first Valentine’s Day without the kids to help plan the party, and share in the fun.

Bea was away at school.

…Eli was visiting her in California…

 …and poor Thom was too sick to venture out of the bedroom.

Romance was out of the question, but that has never been the focus of our Valentine’s Day.  Thom and I find many days and ways to express our romantic feelings for each other.  Valentine’s Day has been a day to share with our wider circle of loved ones, and especially our kids.

I worried that instead of this

…the party would look like this.

Rather than curse the darkness, I lit a tiki torch…

…and celebrated Valentine’s Day with an Aloha Party!

 Aloha is difficult to define.  Literally it means ‘divine breath.’  But it can be used as a greeting, a salutation, a farewell.  It is also used  to express ‘love,’ ‘sympathy,’ ‘compassion.’  It’s as versatile as ‘supercalifragilisticexpialidocious,’ but I like it so much more.

So I tossed the invitations up into the air, lit the tiki torches, set up a goody table, and here’s who the trade winds blew in.

Jim and Aarene came bearing papaya, pineapple, and delicious homemade plum wine.  They are horse lovers, storytellers, and co-hosts of Global Griot, a storytelling program on 90.7 FM KSER.  Aarene is the author of two very well received books, Endurance 101 and Sex in the Library.  Jim served in the navy as a submariner before becoming a professional Santa.  (Which explains the chapeau, and perhaps also why he’s drinking a Bosun’s Mate.)

The party was in full swing when Rick and Sue arrived with a huge Pineapple Upside Down Cake!  I was filling orders for drinks and couldn’t get to my camera, but here they are in their Hawaiian plumage at our 1950s New Year’s Eve party.  They are some of the most creative people I know.  Rick is the art director for WildTangent Studios, and an amazing artist/cartoonist (I own a copy of his book!).  Sue is a prizewinning baker and my exercise buddy, which is only fair, since I have to work off the wonderful treats she brings.  For our sci-fi party, it was an ice creamy concoction they called Ketrecel White, which was tasty but potent!   I can’t believe my good fortune in having so many friends who are unabashed geeks.

See that beautiful cake, just left of the pineapple?  It was delicious!

The best parties start in the kitchen.

Seattle storyteller Norm Brecke and Portland storyteller Anne Rutherford caught us up on their news.  Norm spent the week performing “The Lighter Side of Lincoln,” while Anne had just finished a run of a show called “Scenes From the Future” at The Fertile Ground Festival of New Works in Portland.

What a lovely mix of family, old friends, and new friends too.  My cousins Nancy and Ian…

…brought a carload of people, including my brother Lew…

…and their neighbors, Joanne and Ian, who I met while walking around Green Lake with Nancy and Sue each week.  Joanne seemed always to be walking around the lake one way, and we were always walking around the other way; somehow it seemed natural to just start walking in the same direction.  Joanne is an artist, a quilter, a jewelry maker; every time we talk I find another shared interest.  Her husband Ian has been everywhere, and I particularly loved hearing about his travels in The Galapagos.  It was their first visit to our home, but I hope it will not be the last.

Jim and Megan are storytellers too.  They arrived with their daughter Tara, who I was very pleased to meet (she loves games and is quick to catch on!).

Many of the stories Jim Douma tells are the ones he sings.  He is a folk musician and played for years with the Celtic band, Clay Pipes.  He gave me a copy of his new CD, Flying Blindwhich he made with the help of my friend Rob Moitoza, who also produced and engineered my CDs.

Jim wrote the music and words to this splendid heartwarming collection. His daughters Tara and Meredith sang with him, and Meredith designed this striking and beautiful CD jacket.  Jim and Megan have clearly nurtured and passed on their creativity to the next generation of their family!

I was glad to welcome Gene Gousie and Kathy McMullen.  I did my very first professional storytelling with Gene Gousie thirty years ago!  He came to our wedding with his baby daughter Brie in a snuggly and I swear, he hasn’t changed a bit since then!

The party spilled into the living and dining rooms.  People visited, played games, and once again our home was filled with music and singing.

I was painfully shy as a kid.  I always had a special friend or two, and my sister is and has always been my best friend.  But it has taken me years–decades–to build such a lovely circle of exceptionally kind, funny, creative, and pleasantly quirky friends.  What I love best about a circle is that there is always room for one more.  It gives me such satisfaction when two of my friends who don’t know each other ‘click’ and thus the circle grows.

On Valentine’s Night, the wind was blowing and the air was crisp, but the aloha spirit was alive and well, and kept the darkness at bay.

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‘Kākou’ is the word that represents the Hawaiian value of inclusiveness.  ‘Aloha kākou’ means ‘May there be love and kindness between us all.’

Aloha kākou, dear friends!  

All images and words copyright 2014 Naomi Baltuck

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Breaking Up is Hard to Do

Sixty, maybe seventy years ago my father gave a turquoise blown-glass dinnerware set to his mother, my Grandma Rose.  She called it her “mowt-blown china.”   At antique stores I’ve seen similar glassware, said to be from Mexico.

Grandma gave it to my brother Lew, who gave it to me.  Every time I used those dishes, I felt a connection to Daddy and Grandma too.

More fragile than china, they came out mostly for birthdays, Valentine’s Day, or sci-fi dinner parties.


Thom and I were newlyweds when I gave him a mug bearing an excerpt from Rilke that we’d borrowed for our marriage vows.
“For one human being to love another is perhaps the most difficult of all our tasks, the ultimate, the last test and proof, the work for which all other work is but preparation.


Thom had already learned that lesson the hard way.  Before we met I’d had a fear of commitment.  I was so afraid of getting stuck or worse, abandoned, that I rarely went on more than a couple dates with anyone.  I carried my own walking papers in my back pocket and I wasn’t afraid to use them.

Then came Thom. Poor Thom. Dear Thom. Courageous Thom.

He could take it on the chin, and grin.

He was wise enough to perceive the pattern and understand what I was doing even before I did.  He was gentle and patient.  He taught me how to fight fairly and work things out instead of just dumping guys in general, and him in particular.  He taught me that it was okay to ask for what I want, how to negotiate, and not to expect others to be able to read my mind.  He taught me that I could be myself and still be loved.  He taught me that there were men out there who can be counted on, and that I could count on him.  Thom deserves combat pay for sticking it out long enough for me to realize I didn’t want to make him go away after all.   And so I stopped trying.  Best decision I ever made.

So what do these vessels have to do with Thom and me, or anything at all?

 

Almost thirty years ago a dear friend, who may or may not have been related, was visiting and washed the dishes.

Putting them away, she stacked the elegant glass cup inside the Love Mug.  Try as we might, we could not pry them apart.  We tugged and twisted, but were so afraid of breaking either piece that we gave up.  I couldn’t bear to throw them out, so they lived here for the next twenty-five plus years.

It is both appropriate and a little poetic that the same person, without whom there would be no story, was also present for its unexpected conclusion.

A year or two ago, I rediscovered the inextricable pair in the back of the cupboard.  I decided, once and for all, to mend it or end it.  It was like asking a husband to choose between the life of the mother or the child, which is why I’d put it off for so long.  I finally opted to save the heirloom glass, if possible, which was stuck inside the mug.  I told that dear person, who shall remain unnamed, that I’d take a hammer to the mug, if necessary; if the glass were to break as well, so be it.

But I’ve learned a little grease applied judiciously can go a long way.  We drizzled oil in between and pulled, hoping the glass would slide out.  It did not.

We went back to simple lessons learned in high school science.  Heat expands and cold contracts.  While soaking the outside of the mug in boiling water, we filled the glass with ice water.  Still the glass stuck tight.  So it came down to the last resort.  Holding the mug by the handle, I whacked it on the countertop, hoping it would shatter.  Pop! Out came the glass, in perfect shape, and I had my morning coffee in the Love Mug.

There are several morals to this story.

First of all, no one can tease me any more for hanging on to the glass and the mug all those years.  Pay attention to your instincts!

Secondly, you might actually learn something in science class that you can apply to real life (and don’t forget that bit about the grease.)

Thirdly, breaking up is hard to do, but sometimes you just reach a breaking point, where you need to mend it or end it.

Fourthly, once you try everything you can think of, try everything you can’t think of.  Sometimes you have to try everything all at once.  But if it’s something worth saving, it’s worth the effort.

Love is like that.  Thank goodness.

All images and words c2014 Naomi Baltuck

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Fifty Shades of Yellow

Purple is my favorite color, and it always has been.  But I love yellow for its cheerfulness.

It’s my daughter Bea’s favorite color.

And she wears it well, don’t you think?

She isn’t the only one.

Whether yellow comes as a tasteful accent…

…a warm background…

…a pleasing bit of contrast…

…or a big splash of color…

…Ma Nature wears it well too.

…and so do her children.

We’ve borrowed this sunny hue from nature to brighten our homes on the outside…

…and on the inside too.

It shines a cheerful light through the darkness…

…and lifts our spirits.

It warms us from the inside out.

Yellow comes in many eye-catching colors and goes by many names…goldenrod, schoolbus, taxicab yellow…

Maize, saffron, lemon…mmm, yellow never smelled so good.

 Yellow means different things to different people.  Does this signal mean approach slowly?  Or go very very fast?

It might depend on whether you’re coming…

 

…or going.

Is it animal, vegetable, or mineral?

Never mind.   That’s neither here nor there.

Want to dance?

All images and words copyright 2014 Naomi Baltuck

Click here for more interpretations of The Weekly Photo Challenge: Yellow.

The Object of My Affection

It will be thirty-one years next month since Thom and I sent out this wedding invitation.

(designed by my sister Constance, poem by Langdon Smith).

In his wedding vows Thom borrowed this passage from Robert Browning, “Grow old along with me!  The best is yet to be, the last of life, for which the first was made.”   I thought they were sweet words, but I was slender and pretty, with my whole life ahead of me; I could hardly imagine growing old, let alone growing old in concert.   Now I understand their import, and cannot believe my good fortune in having found such a wise old soul in such a young man.

Thom gave me the world.   With him I made my very first trip overseas, back in 1987.  We spent five weeks exploring Britain and Ireland.

We loved traveling so much we went back to Europe the next year.  That was to be the trip of a lifetime, so we hit all the must-sees:  Rome, Florence, Venice,  Paris, The Swiss Alps, Munich, Vienna, Madrid, Barcelona.

But instead of the trip of a lifetime, it became a way of life.

Travel is still a vital part of our life journey together.  I now see myself as a global citizen.  I wonder at the similarities between cultures, and celebrate the diversity.

We have shared this gift with our children.  We took them back to all the hotspots of Europe.  But the kids were good travelers and, with their encouragement, Thom and I have gotten more adventurous.  We have taken them to the Australian Outback, the Amazon, and Turkey.


I’m not surprised that both kids have grown up to be writers, storytellers, artists, and travelers, who are bilingual and trilingual.

Should I ever question my choice in a mate, I need only look at my children.  Through their eyes I see a better world, and am a deeper participant in life.

Dear Thom…

…You have always been and will always be the object of my deepest affection.

All words and images copyright 2014 Naomi Baltuck.

Click here for more interpretations of The Weekly Photo Challenge: Object