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Saturday, June 19, 2010

Meal Planning on the Cusp of Goodbye

Right now I am procrastinating meal planning this week. We are exactly one week away from packing up the trailer and hitting the road North, and so how do you plan for meals exactly, when you know that in just a few days you will be packing up your kitchen utensils and will be emptying out the cupboards of food?

It feels like a jumbo rubix cube the size of my kitchen. If I move this, will it snap into place over here? If I pack this will I need it later to cook? If I don't buy anymore deli meat, will we run out and be scrounging around for lunches before we leave? It's a matter of not wanting to waste, but also not wanting to be left hungry and spending all our money to eat out.

And really the psychological puzzle of planning our meals this week is just the face of the much deeper emotional puzzle that lies underneath. We have been scheduling dinners with friends in order to 1) not have to cook this last week but also and more significantly to 2) say "goodbye."

And here are the flips and turns of my heart when I think about this next week: "If I say goodbye to them on Tuesday, will I wish I could say "goodbye" again on Saturday as we're pulling out of the parking lot? Will a dinner together be enough to bring closure or will I in a month be wishing I would have said "goodbye" in more significant ways? Is a cup of coffee here and a fruit salad there enough to wind up all the memories we've accumulated these last seven years? Is it enough to release this geography which has become our home?

A week ago Friday night, Dwayne and I spent the evening in Silver Lake with some friends. We met at Mae Ploy, one of the first Thai restaurants we visited in LA. The memory goes something like this: it was our second visit to Mosaic, and at the end of service a couple in front of us turned around to shake our hands. She was petite with tight jeans and long, silky black hair, he was talk and muscle-bound training to be a fire fighter.

"Do you want to go to dinner with us?" she asked.

Dwayne and I looked at each other stunned. Never before had we had perfect strangers invite us to dinner. "Sure," we said.

"Okay we'll take you to this great Thai place," she said and we followed them out of the dark corridors of the Los Angeles Entertainment Center and onto the lights of downtown.

We sat in Mae Ploy last week, seven years after our first visit, with new friends, and remembered the warmth and energy of our first encounter with LA.

We have lived so much of our lives in the small corners of LA over delicious meals. What about the first time we ever ate fish tacos at Wahoo's standing on Manhattan Beach Blvd, feeling the pulse of waves and people washing around us? Or our favorite nook at Par's restaurant, where one night after a particularly gravely argument Dwayne and I sat side by side and shared the best Lamb Shank I have ever tasted?

Or then there was the first time I ever tasted Caprese salad in the breezy back yard of a friend in Redondo Beach. I kept eating and eating and eating those delicious white puffs of mozerella with little tomato orbs drizzled in balsamic vinaigrette. The tangy, salty flavors jumbled down with the laughter and chatter of an evening surround by our Southbay small group.

What special memories. It seems hardly possible we are leaving them now.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

My Weekend at a Monastery: An Open Journal

Three weeks ago, I had the amazing opportunity to spend the weekend at Prince of Peace Abbey on retreat. Dwayne booked the weekend for me as a Mother's Day gift/ "thank you"-for-supporting-our-family-for-the-last-two-years-while-I've-been-in-graduate-school gift.

Really, I couldn't imagine a better present for me. It was an introvert's oasis.

I texted Dwayne on the first night there. "Checked in, went to Vespers, heard the monk's chant, ate dinner at 6 in the silent dining room, then walked the Way of the Cross Prayer Walk. Wish you were here."

My very extroverted husband wrote back, "Sounds awful!" I knew we were both cracking up in our respective parts of Southern California. He was up in La Verne watching Noelle for the weekend, and I was perched on the top of a hill in Oceanside, the blue roof of the monastery stretching away to the right, and the ocean disappearing over the horizon to the left.

But really, Dwayne's text captured the truth of the weekend more than he realized. The root word of "awful" is after all, "awe" a term we use all the time when we talk about things that are inspiring or sacred. And that was exactly how I was feeling about my first time ever at a monastery.

Here are my journal entries from he weekend:


I am here now. I got my key. My room is tiled floor with cinder block walls, but it is clean and smells welcoming. I am comfortable. One of the monk's knocked on my door this afternoon and showed me how to "turn on" the floors. It's supposed to be cold tomorrow and the floors heat up. Lovely.

What I am looking forward to most this weekend is writing and writing to my heart's content. But I am also looking forward to letting myself just be with God. I hope the two can coexist.

I feel anxious at the thought of unwinding, of going through the weekend and not getting anything done, of the thought of taking the time to sink down.

I think its funny to be anxious of these things. An indicator of the key to which my life has been tightened recently. As the Cantor chanted tonight in Vespers, "O God come to my assistance." And everyone said in reply, "Lord make haste to help me."


Didn't sleep very well first night at the Abbey. I had lots of dreams. Kept waking up expecting to hear the bell for Vigils at 5:30am. It's a comfortable bed and a comfortable room, so that's not why I couldn't sleep. I couldn't sleep because of a restless mind. It was like my brain was on hyper drive.

Jackie's words (My Spiritual Director), keep coming back to me: "it will take a while to unwind."

There is no TV, no internet here and it's freeing. I have plenty to do just with the writing and the prayers. I'll go to Holy Mass at 11am. Last night, as I was unwinding, TV shows kept popping into my head. It feels like junk to me now, not entertainment, like things to pull out of my mind so that I can relax. I feel lighter here. It feels like my soul is drinking up water. Getting refilled.

I'm starting to rethink the way we do things at home. I don't want Noelle's head to be full of junk. I want her to know homeostasis, ground zero, the quiet place.


Just got back from Holy Mass. Incredibly intimate. I was the only one there who did not know when to bow, stand, cross herself. In some ways I felt I was intruding on a deeply personal experience for all there. The Priest (Friar? Not sure what he's called) spoke and I was struck by how his messaged centered on Jesus, alone. So many sermons in the Evangelical churches I've visited focus on Christian living. There is a difference between those two sermons: Christ vs Christian living.

This message today lasted about 10 minutes and soothed my soul. It focussed my eyes back to Jesus the Risen Lord. There was much talk about peace. At the end we turned to one another and said, "Peace be with you." People kissed each other and shook hands. I needed that. Need personal peace right now. Beautiful.

I did not take communion as I already knew, thanks to Kristen Sipper (a friend from work who is a devout Catholic), they will not serve anyone who doesn't believe in transubstantiation. Kristen likes to joke that she's a vegetarian, except on Sunday when she eats Christ's flesh.

It occurred to me as I was watching them prepare the wine and bread that every day these monks, and believers sitting in the pews, witness a miracle. A true blood and body, tangible miracle and everyday they ingest that miracle.

What an amazing way to stay physically connected to your faith, to carry it not just in your mind and heart but in your body as well.


Time spent writing over the weekend:


5pm: Vespers
6pm Dinner
6:30 - 7:00 Way of the Cross Prayer Walk
7:30 - 10:00 Wrote
10:00 Bed

7 am Wake-up and shower
7:30 Breakfast
8 - 10:45 Wrote
11 Holy Mass
12 Lunch
12:30 Texted Dwayne
1 - 2:30 Took a Nap
2:30 - 5 Wrote
5 Vespers
6 Dinner
6:30 - 7 Way of the Cross Prayer Walk
7:30 - 10 Wrote
10:30 - 1 am Read (_The Possibility of Everything_ by Hope Edelman)

Total Hours spent writing: 10!!