Thursday, April 22, 2010

"Earthly Compassion"

On Earth Day especially, our thoughts turn to our planet and all of its glory with the hope and concern that it will endure far beyond our comprehension of years.  However, when I think of the earth, I think of all of its inhabitants and how we all need to do our part in caring for one another.  I recently sent out an email to all in my contact list asking for clothing donations so that we could deliver an abundance of blessings to a local rescue mission here in Orange County called "Village of Hope".  Village of Hope is a part of the Orange County Rescue Mission, and if you are interested in learning more about what this wonderful organization is accomplishing, please take a look at their website:
Well, the response that I received was awesome to say the least as I would come home day after day and find bags of clothing on my porch. Thank you so much for anyone who donated as you are assisting me in the teaching of this very important virtue to my children, but you are more importantly clothing many individuals who genuinely need it!  Here we are, about to set out to deliver these gracious donations...

What an awesome experience to get out of the car and have the mission volunteer say to me, "Hold on, I need to get a bigger container!", when he saw all that was in the back of my car.  He brought out a wood flat with a large container where we placed all of the clothes, shoes, and toys.  I wanted the kids to pose by the container so that they could get a visual of the "giving" aspect and how wonderful it feels.  A forklift then appeared and drove the container into the warehouse.  Giovanni wanted to see what was in there as he is fascinated with forklifts.  We went to the door, and he and Sophia looked up in awe at the stacks and stacks of shelves with boxes, containers, food, etc.  I explained how all of what they saw is going to help families and individuals someday soon in order to make their lives happier.  A certain smile appeared on their face as if to confirm that they not only understood, but felt as if they were a part of that.  Mission accomplished.

Monday, April 19, 2010

A "Simple Truth"

We have a collection of books on our shelves in the children's playroom, all of which are worth holding on to for one reason or another.  I am drawn to books that are inspirational, or reminders of how we should live while experiencing this relatively short life.  Life should not be as complicated as we make it.  Life should be appreciated for the time that it is vibrant, and respected at the time of its expiration.  However, unfortunately, our human nature is to worry and stress when most of the time it turns out to be wasted emotion.  The choice to be positive no matter what the circumstance, is just that:  a choice. 

I periodically like to trust the universe with sending me a message so I do silly tests or trials...such as, randomly opening a book and reading the first thing I lay my eyes on and accept it as what I was meant to read at that given time.

So, this morning while straightening up the kids' playroom (notice I didn't say "cleaning it" because that will take a day or two!), I looked to our bookshelf and reached for a book called "Simple Truths" by Kent Hurburn.  I closed my eyes and opened to a random page.  Surprisingly, I opened to the "Parenthood" section, and here is what I read:
"When you experience parenthood, the whole world remakes itself before your eyes. Nature aligns itself. You understand your parents more and honor them more for the love they gave and the struggles they had. You see your own imperfections cast in high relief, because you know how much you want to do things right, and how hard it is to know what it is you should do. You feel the unity of generations cascading into generations from the beginning of time. You feel something in the world that is more important than yourself. Your life suddenly becomes centered. Your own failings are cast in high relief, but so are your own strengths. You know what it is you believe in and must pass along. If you have a chance at parenthood, look upon it with a sense of mystery and awe. You are given the joy of watching life afresh, and the chance to help another human being take flight into the richness and mystery of life. The very clay of which our world is made is, for a brief moment, placed in your hands."
Now if that doesn't sum up what parenthood means to me, and all of its complexity!  However, with the complexity comes the simplest of truths:  Love is the meaning of it all, and is defined in the deepest sense as that between a parent and child. 

I hope that our children will love those in need, and will want to reach out to them whenever they get the chance.  A smile, a simple act of kindness, a donation of food, clothing, or money--simple things, a simple truth.  Every one of us can make a difference in the lives of those in need.  Hopefully our project will set that example for our children, as Joe and I attempt to pass along our strengths more than our failings. 

May you go out and shed a little light and love on someone today!  It's so easy to do...

"Come on people now, smile on your brother everybody get together and try to love one another right now."--The Youngbloods

Sunday, April 18, 2010

April Showers

"Shower the people you love with love, show them the way that you feel...things are gonna work out fine if you only will"...--oh, the soothing voice of James Taylor!  How true these lyrics are!!!  Especially the "things are gonna work out fine" part, as we just come off the heels of "TAX DAY"!

I stop at a stand-still at times when I hear Sophia laughing at something she finds very funny -- her laughter is infectious, and my first thought is that "she is going to be a great friend."  I know the belly-aching laughs that my friends and I share and have shared over the years, and these are true moments of happiness.  As I watch Sophia grow, I know that I will often be reflecting back to the times my friends and I rolled on the floor with giggles that lasted for minutes on end..."Hello, Ms. Prata, can I just say "Wash and Wear haircut?"; or Heid, "The blue boat and radiator fluid?"; or Lor, a certain Ms. Holls with squinty eyes and padlocks on the fridge?"; or Goona, "The famous drive-thru at McDonalds?"; or Madi, "Why don't you put on your Nikes and get on your bike..." Oh, the inside jokes and memories that never lose their luster...

Three of my dear girlfriends have birthdays in the month of April, and one of them is actually on tax day, so April is a special and heart-warming month for me. I love my friends, and I hope to always shower them with love. So, here is a wonderful recipe to share with you all in honor of the girls who keep me laughing, who authored so many hilarious memories, and who know more about me than I do myself at times.

From "Cooking Light" magazine:

"Balsamic Chicken Breasts with Roasted Tomatoes"

1 pint grape tomatoes
1 tablespoon honey
1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
4 (6-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Cooking spray
Balsamic vinaigrette salad spritzer (such as Wish-Bone)

1. Preheat oven to 450°.

2. Combine first 3 ingredients in a small bowl; place tomato mixture on a foil-lined jelly-roll pan. Bake at 450° for 12 minutes or until tomato skins burst and begin to wrinkle, stirring once. Transfer tomatoes to a bowl, scraping juices into bowl. Stir 1/4 teaspoon salt into tomato mixture.

3. Place each chicken breast half between 2 sheets of heavy-duty plastic wrap; pound to 1/4-inch thickness using a meat mallet or small heavy skillet. Sprinkle chicken evenly with 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper.

4. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add chicken; cook 3 to 4 minutes on each side. Place chicken on individual plates; coat each breast half with 2 to 3 sprays of balsamic spritzer. Spoon tomatoes evenly over chicken.

--I served this with orzo pasta tossed with sauteed zucchini as the magazine suggested.


There is nothing worth the wear of winning, but laughter and the love of friends." -- Hillaire Belloc

Friday, April 9, 2010

The Fragility of Us All

The main thread that ties human beings together comes from the spool of feelings and emotions.  We all have them, we all feel them. 

Some of us are woven with the strongest of string in that we come from a family full of love, kindness and good fortune.  Some of us are sewn together with multiple pieces of fabric in that we have been adopted or perhaps have moved from family to family like in the life of a foster child.  Some of us have been wounded, abused, forgotten, neglected, hurt, or abandoned.  Some of us are so privileged that we have no idea how to even relate to one less fortunate, and our ego is largely out of control.  Some of us are so poor in pocket, but millionaires in spirit.  Some of us are generous, some are stingy.  Some are grateful, some are selfish, some are pessismists, and some are optimists.  The point is that although everyone is different, we are more alike than we think.

Every person on this planet has a "story"..the tale of where their life began, what they experienced along the way, and where they are today if they are still here visiting Earth.  I get teary-eyed when I pass a homeless person on the street because the first thought I have is, "That person is somebody's son/daughter."  Society wants to look at them as "the homeless", but they are individuals who obviously have had a rough existence.  I think of the moment of their birth:  Was their mother as ecstatic as I was holding him/her for the first time, or were they unwanted from the get-go?  Were they at once on the path of greatness and someone killed their spirit along the way?  Were they once motivated and responsible, but gave up on themselves?  Were they once healthy, but drugs and alcohol robbed their body and brain?  So many questions, not one right answer, because every story is different.  Where it is the same lies in the fact that everyone has "feelings" and "emotions".  I know that the prison population would be much smaller if those criminals really loved themselves enough to stop hurting others; if they believed in themselves enough to not take the path of least live and do "right" each day rather than justify their "wrong" by blaming their circumstance.

Anyway...these are my thoughts today after driving my neighbor friend to her chemotherapy appointment.  Her story is that she is a loving wife and mother to her adopted five-year-old son, and she has cancer.  She has a very aggressive form of cancer, as I am so reminded by the portable chemotherapy machine which every few seconds make a static-grinding noise as it drips into her body while I drive.  Her strength and attitude are heart-warming.  She is destined to beat this horrible disease all the while knowing it is in her brain and many other organs of her body.  Her feelings of devastation are held at bay by her choice to be optimistic.  I am blessed to be asked to assist from time to time with taking care of her needs.  I will never know what it is she is feeling, I can only imagine...I can only try to help.  My attitude is:  If one is not suffering, help one that is; If one is not poor, be generous to those that are; If one is not homeless, help those that are; and the list goes on.

The recipe for today is titled "Sicilian Grilled Chicken"--we all know that the Sicilians are famous for their strength, albeit perhaps the "organized" strength if you know what I mean...ha ha ha (Joke...just kidding..really, Tony Soprano, I am just jokin'... fugetta bout it)!

Sicilian Grilled Chicken (from:
1/4 cups almonds
1 TBSP Amore Garlic Paste or 2 large garlic cloves
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup packed fresh basil leaves
1 cup chopped fresh tomatoes
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano
2 TBSP Amore Sun-Dried Tomato Paste
2 TBSP extra virgin olive oil
4 boneless chicken breasts

In a food processor or blender, combine and chop the almonds, Amore Garlic Paste, basil and salt and pepper to taste.  Add the tomatoes, cheese, Amore Sun-Dried Tomato Paste, water and oil and process until finely chopped.  Heat a barbecue grill or grill pan.  Brush with oil.  Salt and pepper the chicken and place on the grill.  Cook 4 minutes or until just cooked through.  Transfer chicken to a platter.  Spoon on the prepared sauce.  Serve hot or at room temperature.

This received unanimous THUMBS-UP!