Working III

It’s hard to believe that Tupperware parties still exist. My cabinets over-flow with reusable containers from takeout meals. They are perfect to use for left-overs and were free. So why buy tupperware? But people do. According to this radio spot I heard on NPR this morning, Tupperware remains a booming business. I confess, this broadcast made selling it sound a little bit fun. “Maybe I could do that,” I confess thinking for the briefest moment.

After all, I am a sucker for kitchen gear. I particularly appreciate having just the right tool: the slotted spoon,  the pasta claw, a really good garlic press, the deep pyrex dish for my panade. If I sold Tupperware I could be self-employed and perhaps so successful at hawking the stuff, I’d win a car.

Who am I kidding? This is not how I want to earn money. No offense to anyone who might be involved in this business, but I cannot imagine going to a company convention where people dress up like Dolly Parton. Definitely not my style.

Then again, college payments are in my near-future. It sure wouldn’t hurt to supplement my income… and those green little green containers are just right for left-over hummus.

Attention Must Be Paid

20 years ago, my world was the war zone of Bosnia and Croatia. At first, arriving with the UN as a peacekeeper, I felt sure the world was paying attention and action would be taken to end the bombardment of Sarajevo. I was wrong. The siege went on for years.

Do your eyes glaze over when reading about wars? Sometimes, mine do too. Food and gardening blogs are certainly more enjoyable. Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Haiti, Sudan — the stories dispatched from these places are overwhelming and disturbing. Beyond sending money to organizations that provide assistance, (MFS is my choice) what can we do? I don’t know. The resulting feeling of impotence sucks. So I may switch my screen or turn a page to order seeds for my garden or catch up on trashy celebrity gossip or the latest buffoonery in the primary.

But this disturbs me: I spoke with people this week who knew nothing of the recent deaths of the war correspondents in Syria. Three brave and excellent journalists were killed because they believed they needed to tell the world about the terrible situation there. To be only vaguely aware, not so interested — feels shameful, and deaths of Marie Colvin, Anthony Shadid and photographer Remi Ochlik — who  lost their lives in getting the story out — even more heartbreaking.

I do not have what it takes to bear witness as, NYTs photographer Tyler Hicks writes so  movingly about his friend and colleague here. I salute the brilliance and insight we lost with these deaths — and vow to pay attention.

A Homecoming (Of Sorts)

This was the plan: I would have my baby in beautiful Cambridge, England. Not too far from N’s family in England, but most importantly, home to Chloe, a friend I’d made on the job at UNICEF-Croatia. A breast-feeding specialist as well as a mid-wife, I couldn’t imagine anyone else I’d rather have deliver my baby. There was no way I wanted to give birth in Zagreb where I was still living, especially after my obstetrician there prescribed tranquilizers for me, 6 months into my pregnancy. As a program officer for UNICEF I’d been in plenty of hospitals in Croatia and would prefer not to cross a maternity ward threshold as a mother-to-be.  Then, my husband landed a plum (and turned out, very temporary) job in Brindisi, Italy.  The baby’s due date was August 1. There was time.

In early June, I left Zagreb and joined N in the small town of Ostuni where he’d splurged on an incredible villa. I picked cherries and limes from the garden, filled vases with just-cut roses. I read and napped on the balcony, gazed at the fields of sunflowers and the shimmer of the Adriatic Sea in the distance. Seduced by the beauty and bliss of the place, I quizzed Chloe about what she thought about staying in Italy for the birth. She suggested a comparable choice might also be Sarajevo — still very much under siege. Southern Italian hospitals were poor and birthing attitudes very behind in terms of best practices for the mother.

So we stuck to our plans. I would depart for England in early July. There, I’d finally read the final chapter – about the 9th month – and face up to what I was in for. I’d bond with other pregnant women and learn to breathe and pant correctly. I’d eat fish and chips to my hearts content and revel in finally completely understanding everything said around me for the first time in almost 4 years.

Molly had other ideas: she was born almost 2 months early on June 13 in a tiny hospital in Ostuni. Whisked away from me to Brindisi Hospital, I barely glimpsed her, did not touch her. Chloe was right about the momma-care (it sucked) but not the neonatology department of Brindisi Hospital. Fancy facilities aren’t everything and the doctors and nurses who took care of (including singing to) my too-early Molly, were superb.

As I write, my daughter is back in Italy for 10 days with her high school’s Italian class. I mentally track her there – imagining what she is seeing, hearing, smelling, eating. I know she must be falling deeply in love with Italy. I can’t help but think she chose to be born there. The Puglia region is not on the school itinerary but Florence is – where I purchased a pregnancy kit that read “Si”. In Rome now, she probably sat on the Spanish steps, threw coins with her wishes, into the Trevi fountain. If the weather cooperates, she will visit Capri. We lost our camera on the boat back to Naples where her birth certificate and first passport were issued. Molly will cross the country by bus all the way back up to Venice, and every mile passed will pull her more deeply in love with this place of such rich beauty and spirit, this place where she first glimpsed the world. And in so many ways, this is a wish come true.


Sick Day

I called out sick today — something I never do. I am sick — but was actually worse on Christmas eve — sneezing and achey. Christmas day was not much better nor the next two days — but knowing how crazy things were at the store I didn’t call out, being the responsible employee that I am.  Shoppers/returners have calmed down and my usual niche of responsibility (schools, corporate customers, authors) is quiet during this week so today, I honored my stuffed head and scratchy throat with an overdue day off. Lovely.

I lingered in bed, getting up only briefly to walk a pleading Tetley before retreating back under the quilts with a cup of tea and a book. Bliss. I so rarely get to see the day’s light in this room — fractal shadows of winter branches flickering across the ceiling.  Relishing the quiet of the house, I wander downstairs to make another cup of tea and leisurely nibble something from the fridge. Except to retrieve the mail, I never stepped out of the house.

I could have dragged myself in today but who would benefit from my miserable, hacking presence? I have to remind myself that I am not saving lives — no one will die because of what I do or do not do in a bookstore. (well, unless it’s the Heimlich maneuver!)

Looking Up

Today is my first day ‘off’ in 8 days. Frantic, grueling days of holiday retail. By the evening, I arrive home exhausted and wound up like a ‘Chatty-Cathy’ with a stuck string. Even after a glass of red, the reel of the day still whirrs through my head keeping me from my longed-for slumber.

I marvel at people — including a few of my colleagues — who work more than one job and routinely put in 50 to 60 hours a week or more, sometimes 7 days a week. And I’m grateful that other than this time of year, I don’t have to. I really enjoy the constant buzzing of people around books — just not for 8 days straight. Being ‘on’ and rushed does not make for good living — at least not the kind of living I’m interested in.

But thanks to my dog, I discovered a quick-fix.  A simple thing to do, almost like an instant-meditation. When Tetley first scratched at the door insisting he needed to go out, I complained a bit but pulled on a jacket, clicked on his leash and went out into the night.  The moon was almost full and spectacular in the night sky. I looked up and kept looking up. Just that – looking up – the beat of my heart slowed. I feel this any time I look up – to gaze at trees, a bird soaring across the sky, the clouds.  Such a simple thing – looking up – calms and inspires me to breathe deeply. Perhaps it’s the reminder of things greater than myself?



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