I was born in the year of the horse, according to Chinese astrology, but that has almost nothing to do with this post. Read on and you’ll see….
During my first trip to Santorini in May of 2015, my husband and I came across this handsome devil every day on the way to our hotel from the main beach road.
We always said hello and managed to catch this image. I’m not sure if horses smile and he doesn’t appear to be. Perhaps he’s happy and enjoying the land, visitors like us and the weather, but he’s not running free… something that made me rather sad each time I passed him on the hill. Is he grateful for what he does have? Does he have friend’s, a mate or even a comfortable place to live and sleep? I don’t know, but he is there and he looks healthy and well cared for.
Next photo victim.. Me
I’m smiling, the sun’s on my face, I’m in paradise and enjoying a wonderful vacation with my one true love. Everything is wonderful and I’m full of life.
All of this is true, or is it? (scroll down for more)
It is true however; no one really knows what lies beneath.
I’ve been smiling since the day I was born (nearly) and I enjoy being happy and doing pleasurable things. I counsel friends who are down, have a playful sense of humour, have taken care of my family and husband when they weren’t well and take pleasure in finding perfect gifts for everyone in my life for special occasions or “just because.” I give a lot, probably more than is healthy for me.
I have 3 pockets. I stuff each pocket with things that I don’t need or want while I’m enjoying life and happiness. My first pocket is close to my heart and holds the sadness of losing my father, the second pocket holds my worries… for everything and the final pocket holds my fears.. fears of health and fears of future.
The moment that I walk through my front door after a relaxing and enjoyable vacation or fun event, it’s there again. Me, the “me” that I tucked away in those 3 little pockets. The me that has been struggling “inside” with trauma that has taken over my persona.
My outside (public self) stays positive, optimistic and playful. Nobody realises, I am a great actress and my smile hides a lot of stories.
It comes in many shapes, sizes and colours but it’s best known wearing a red coat and whether or not you believe it to be part of the vegetable family or fruit, it has graced our plates and tables for many years.
So why have I chosen to feature our red friend? Well, I’ll tell you.
Life was simple, free and easy growing up in the states during the 70’s and as a kid, I had the pleasure of regularly visiting farmer’s markets and helping my brother and later on my parent’s tend to an extensive and beautiful vegetable garden in the heart of Northern Maine, New England.
At a very early age, I remember my father bringing home his favourite plum tomato’s and eating them like candy. They were bright red, shiny and were still attached to their vine with soft and fragrant leaves. It’s hard to explain the scent but I guess they smelled like sweet earth to me. I loved them and they were easy to pop in your mouth.
“Where’s the beef?” Beefsteak tomato’s… now this one is the Daddy of all tomato’s! As much as I’d like to say my first experience of this meaty fruit was in New York, I will hold my hand’s up and admit that New Jersey at that time had the best! (sorry fellow New Yorka’s)
Now this is one that can ONLY be enjoyed 2 ways:
cut in half, salted and eaten like an apple
Sliced thick and served on a juicy burger
My summer’s spent in Maine as a child were magical. It was like camping, an adventure of sorts and it helped me to appreciate nature and the simplistic life. What kid wakes up in the morning, picks tomato’s, green beans and sweet peas off of their vine’s and eats them quite happily whilst walking through a maze of blooms to reach a babbling brook only steps away? It was me and I am grateful.
There’s a bit more to this story, which was the motivation for this post. Moving to Northern UK was a culture shock for me in the beginning and I had to adjust to many differences, mainly food. My first tomato experience here was completely different.
Entering the quite reputable kebab take-away… so you can probably gather that I’m pretty darn passionate about food in general. “What would you like on your kebab Miss?” “Oh, I’d like tomato, lettuce, onions and whatever else you have in the way of salad please.” I got home and opened the carefully wrapped package. Orange?? These tomato’s are orange. My husband (who is not entirely passionate about food in general) replied, “what’s wrong with that?”
It’s been awhile since I’ve written you a letter, but I think of you every day.
A lot has happened in my life since you left and the piece of my heart that you took with you on your journey is still felt. I didn’t think it would be this hard… not to hear your voice, tell you about my life and hear your stories (even for the 10th time), but it is.
Your pride, your unconditional love, support and general inquisitive nature…it is a part of what’s missing in my life, my routine and my being. I am not the same person without you, I have lost the one person who made it all better just by listening and being my father.
Life is funny in a strange way…as a child, I never saw an end to anything, only seasons,the last day of school and maybe an ice cream. Those are moments that are enjoyed but their end does not leave a lasting mark.
As I reminisce about times past and the holiday season, I am reminded of how time changes things.. circumstances, people, events and myself. All of this leaves me searching for something and I haven’t put my finger on what it is yet. So this letter .. I’m an optimist but sometimes even an optimist falls. I resisted writing this, for fear that my readers would doubt my optimism, but I’m only human.
I’ve been watching videos I’ve taken of you and it’s almost like you’re here. I wish you were. I have a heavy heart writing this because I have changed since you left. I know that I was lucky to have you in my life and I have wonderful memories of all of the times we’ve spent together. Somehow I feel selfish… selfish for wanting everyone to understand my loss, but I still keep these feelings tucked inside.
I’m in a foreign land, with a man that I love however, my heart is missing family and familiar places to ease my sadness. So I listen to songs that remind me of moments, people and places and sigh.
I’m trying Dad, but there are few that understand my dreams, wishes and wants.
I hope you are safe and not worrying about me. I will bounce back but you dear father have left an large empty space.
Something amazing happened to me this morning.. for the first time since I’ve lived here in the UK, I witnessed a Monarch butterfly land in my back yard and it stayed for quite some time. So I decided to check into the meaning of this, if there was any…. this Optimist is now speechless…
Here’s little preview of what I found, but the full description is available by viewing the Monarch butterfly link added above.
Lessons and Challenges:
The monarch butterfly teaches us that life is short, and that it must be valued. Assuming that we have decades of our lives left (or at the very least, years) is all well and good for things like economic planning, but it is through recognising the fleetingness of human existence that we come to value every day, even those which get us down or which are hard to appreciate.
The human mind is an amazing thing don’t you think?
Throughout the years, I’ve tested myself to see how far back my memories reach, which thankfully land as far back as the age of 3-4. (I’m in my 40’s by the way)
These moments in time are so clear to me, that I can almost picture myself there now. I’m visualising where I was, what I was doing and matching those visions with triggers such as food flavours and scent’s. Yes, I believe that our senses are quite strong.
Since I’m being honest here, I’ll give you a few examples of what I mean.
Milk… it’s good for growing kids and we must drink it. (mom said so) I didn’t like drinking it plain at all… especially after my mom decided to serve it in one of those 1960’s pearl lustre type mugs, which gave it an odd paint-like sour taste. (No, I’ve never tasted paint in case you’re wondering)
So as you can imagine, from that moment forward I opted for nestle chocolate or strawberry quik. I was 4, so you can clearly now understand how powerful taste senses can be. To prove this is not a “one-trick-pony” example, I’ll fast forward to aged 7.
My parents loved to introduce me to old movies as a kid because they grew up and lived through the depression era. Sunday afternoon movies with the parents were great and as I sat on the couch, still in my pyjamas some days,and watching on this particular day Laurel and Hardy, my mom made us both a cup of Jasmine tea (you know, the loose kind that requires one of those strainer things?) This was a luxury item then and probably chosen because it was served at the local Chinese restaurant that my family and I visited for many years.
I probably liked the smell more than the taste but every time I drink it now as an adult, I think of Laurel and Hardy movies and the plaid couch I was sitting on.
Speaking of Chinese food and having grown up in New York, I can’t help thinking of my experience with Pu-Pu. You heard me, and it’s not a typo.. it’s actually a pretty wonderful experience for kids and adults. (Visual with descriptive review below)
Not that I’m drooling or anything.. okay, I am! I was first introduced to this magnificent beast when my parents would take me to our local Chinese restaurant in the suburbs of New York. I was dazzled by the blue, red and yellow flame created with a jelly type substance and the “mini” BBQ effect. Generally, the first item I grabbed was the beef teriyaki stick purely because I could hold it over the fire. Total joy and the hot flame made the flavour explode even more. Next I went for the spare ribs… again, easy to hold over the fire and sometimes I would heat it just long enough to see a little flame appear. Camp fire anyone?
There was a process when enjoying this and boy, did I enjoy it! One of my other favourite items was fried jumbo shrimp, which was coated in batter. This I dipped in what they called duck sauce, although it wasn’t made of duck but rather used on duck dishes… I think. It’s a sweet fruity sauce that is probably made with mandarins, but makes the savoury shrimp all the more tasty.
It was very sad when we finished the platter… farewell tasty tidbits and tiny barbecue.. till we meet again.
Do you have any fond food memories? If so, I’d love to hear them!
Thanks for reading
This blog is a prequel to something new and exciting that I’m working on..stay tuned 🙂
Whether your Father is present or dearly departed, I feel that sometimes, Dad’s Day get’s the short end of the stick.
Okay, so how many father’s day cards have you seen with either a tie, fishing rod, some type of sport or racing car on it?
Countless right? The public are therefore stating that all Dad’s fish, race cars and play sports…. Um nope.. they’ve got it all wrong. I realize that each family will have a different experience and that times have changed due to technology, modern conveniences etc however; there can be many special talents within Dad’s (young and old) and I’m here to tell you about what I feel is important to remember, based on my personal experience’s with my Dear father.
What my father gave to me was precious and I remember each gift as if it was yesterday. It is the gift of time.
Dad had 4 children before me, so he was well versed by the time I arrived but older and a different kind of wiser. When I was growing up, we didn’t have much but there was always “time”, creativity and self-made adventures. As I get older and wiser myself, I have realised that time is definitely more precious than things. Remember one thing, you can always replace a possession but you cannot replace a time or a moment.
So, without further ado and moving on to the celebration of Father’s Day, I present my 10 ideas (a mixture of ideas for kid’s and adults):
Go for a nice walk and spend some time just talking, catching up on life and listening to his stories
Prepare a nice dinner of his favorite item’s (even if it’s not what you would eat)
Make your own card by hand if you’re a kid or if you’re an adult, choose some photos sharing special moments together and showcase on a card
Take the time and experience something new together- whether it’s an outdoor activity or a new movie
If you’re like me and your Dad always insisted on paying for your dinner when you dined out, treat him this time
Make something together, it could be anything from a “mud pie” if you’re a kid or something less messy as an adult that he would enjoy making
Return the kindness and teach him something-perhaps how to do something new on the computer, if he’s technophobic (exercise patience)
Switch off the TV and play a board game
Adult and children alike-if he has his own car separate to mom, surprise him and wash it
And last but not least, thank him for being there and loving you unconditionally
I would like to add that the same love and kindness applies to Father figure’s and Step-father’s and whomever you have considered to be a Dad in your life.
Cities, love them or hate them they are all so different, as I learned during a spring trip to ” Le Gai Paree”.
My expectations were limited and included of course the famous tower and museums but to be perfectly honest, Paris was never at the top of my list for places to visit. In my mind I essentially envisioned the Eiffel tower as a steel structure plunked in the centre of the city and swarming with tourists, surrounded by the typical street cafe’s where you can watch the world go by. I was so wrong and my new love for this wonderful European city will be captured in a flattering and emotional review.
My visit was sparked by visiting my brother who was vacationing from the states. This was a long-awaited one-to-one period of quality time with big bro, which hadn’t occurred between us since I was about 8! He booked a quaint little apartment near the Bastille area, which suited us and housed many local trinkets inside from the owner who lovingly decorated it, plus a balcony to enjoy a glass of wine and of course local cheese! Nothing too fancy, just comfort and basic necessities.
Our first day out was visiting Notre Dame and that first day became so much more, that my feet are still recovering. (more on the power of Notre Dame in a moment) Who could resist 80 degree weather and the new spring blossoms in their amazing Tuileries?! I imagined myself basking in the sun during lunch hour, just like the locals…I was jealous of this luxury and my hope is that they don’t take it for granted. There are gardens everywhere and provide a much-needed rest when exploring.
From the moment we walked out of our apartment door, it was love at first site for me and I was on a mission to explore and inhale every nook and cranny of this friendly and beautiful city. (as suggested by a friend and writer who adores France) We couldn’t resist a coffee on the way to our next destination from a cafe called “Esmerelda” could we?
Walking along the Seine river in the sunshine and watching locals enjoy time at a leisurely pace was unusual but fabulous! Cities are supposed to be fast paced, but the beauty and feeling of love in spring was magnetic. Street artists galore with memorabilia,delicately painted landscapes and a friendly “bonjour.” Next stop, the famous “Louvre” Tuileries and people watching followed by Pont De Le Arts and Pont De Le Concorde (an adult playground of sorts along the river Seine pathway) Ping Pong anyone? Day one was a full one and it didn’t stop here! Eiffel tower……calling all tourists….. it’s the big one now! Steel towered structure with great fame… not at the top of my list but WOW.. I never expected to see what I saw..(am I teetering?) sorry couldn’t resist.
The Tower is surrounded by a lovely landscaped park with perfectly placed wooden benches that ask to be sat on.. small gardens appear in a corner near the tower, which by the way has a small pond underneath it! Locals take advantage of this outdoor space by jogging, cycling or just reading a book under a leafy tree.
The lights, the language, inspiring art, the happy gatherings with picnics and wine along the Seine, lovers celebrating their marriage on the bridges… all of this made my heart and soul swell with joy.
My brother used his french daily and locals were appreciative, patient and very friendly. Before emigrating to the UK, I never imagined that I would visit so many wonderful places and my father would be very happy knowing that I was enjoying exploring the world.
In fact, he was there with me during my second visit to Notre Dame. I’m not a religious person, but the beauty and peace as I stood inside admiring the sun gazing through arches of stained glass was awe-inspiring. As I started to follow my brother whilst he was capturing this beauty on film, I walked by a display of candles that you would typically light and say a prayer or remember a loved one. I kept walking, but something pulled me back… I thought of my father and stood there for a moment and decided to choose a candle just for him. I lit the candle and thought to myself, “Dad, I will take you with me on my travels from here on in and this one is for you and I love and miss you.” I placed his candle in the centre, because anyone that knew my Dad knew that he loved being the centre of attention, especially in the later years.
So there you have it, Paris has the power to bring out love in many forms…beauty, art, lovers and unconditional love found with family and memories.