Sunday, June 17, 2018

As Seth Writes: Don't Put Clinkers On The Bottom ...

Yes! The last sentence here – "If the farmer is the sort of person who won’t put the clinkers on the bottom, she’s earned our trust" – called to mind the annual purchase of Roma tomatoes that Mom and I make.

For many years, we went to a particular farm stand, not nearby, to buy half-bushels of Roma tomatoes for the pasta sauce we make each year.

The quest was always a bit of a crap shoot. Depending on the season, there may have been either a dearth or surfeit of tomatoes. Timing really was everything. Sometimes, we were shut out. We had to pay a deposit for the bushel basket and then either forfeit it or make a return trek to claim it. And we weren't allowed to sort the tomatoes. Now, granted, the last person to buy a bushel shouldn't get a bushelful of tomatoes that are either under-ripe or past their prime but here's a crazy thought, farm-stand people: Don't include those in the bushels in first place, as Seth suggests.

One year, having been shut out, we made our way down the street, stopping at every farm-stand-looking place in our quest to find our 'maters.

We ended up about a mile away at a farm stand with several half-bushels of Romas. They were lovely. A helpful guy asked us which basket we wanted, fetched a cardboard box, and upended the basket into the box. (No need to pay a deposit here.) Logically, the tomatoes at the bottom of the basket are most likely to be a bit unwell, what with all that tomato weight resting on top of them.

He proceeded to pick out the yucky tomatoes and then replace them with nice tomatoes from another bushel.

And then he carried the box to Mom's car and put it in the trunk.

I tipped the guy a couple bucks, which he appreciated.

And we made kick-ass sauce.

Guess where we buy our tomatoes now? Guess where we don't even bother to stop anymore?

One business lost a customer forever. One business gained a customer for as long as it or we are around.

All for a handful of tomatoes. But really, for what the handful of tomatoes represent.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Intention ...

Upon finishing Seth's latest episode of Akimbo, "It's Not About The Chocolate," I continued sipping my coffee and pondering what it means to care about our work and, for that matter, whatever it is we do.

I do things as I do them because that's what I do. Yesterday, I was at Mom's and one of my brothers came by to zip around on the lawn mower and cut the grass. Afterward, he weed whacked spots that he couldn't reach with the mower – he weed whacks in advance of mowing, which makes sense, but he weed whacked after, too – and then he grabbed the leaf blower to clean up the stray grass on the sidewalk and driveway. Mom looked at me and said, "I'm so glad you kids aren't afraid to work."

I mentioned that I'm prone to my share of lazy days but she clarified that when we do something, we do it well. Correctly. Completely. We're not "It's good enough"-ers.


So this morning, upon listening to Seth, my mind drifted back to Christmas many years ago when I was dating a guy who lived in a high-rise and everyone on the floor left gifts for every other tenant. It was charming. He'd arrive home to find little somethings hanging from his doorknob or tucked into the nook of the door frame and door. Some folks bought things – I remember a box containing glass swizzle sticks from Pottery Barn – but one person baked. (At least one person; I may have missed some of the offerings.)

Now, being my mother's daughter, I don't eat anything made by anyone I don't know but the gesture was sweet.

And I judged it against my standard.

The person had made chocolate chip cookies, which by their nature are not "neat" cookies. They don't tend to spread evenly so the end result is often amoeba-like and can be, well, homely. The cookies had been placed into a zip-top sandwich bag and then that bag was placed into a little handle bag and hung on the doorknob.

As I sit here this morning, I'm pondering the story behind that offering. Maybe the giver didn't have the resources to buy a gift for everyone at Pottery Barn. Maybe he or she really wanted to share something homemade. The packaging was logical: zip-top bags keep cookies fresh. And most folks always have it on hand. Maybe the person wasn't able to easily get to the store. Maybe it wasn't a slapdash attempt to participate. Maybe it wasn't about getting off cheaply. It takes time to bake cookies. More time than it takes to pop into Pottery Barn and buy seven of the same thing, assuming an assistant wasn't sent to complete the task. Maybe it was the purest expression possible, a seemingly humble offering given with great love.

I am not given to materialism. My car is a 2003. (I have a great mechanic.) Every year when Christmas rolls around, if folks ask what I'd like, I tell them: nothing. Truly. I have so much. And they do nice things for me all year long, be they helpful tasks or picking up the tab for dinner and a movie. But we exchange at least token things and they want ideas. So, OK, this is a DVD I'd like to own.

But I'm delighted to receive handmade gifts. My cousins sent scarves for everyone one year. One bought the yarn, the other did the knitting. Some of my most treasured possessions were made for me by my niece and nephews when they were wee. Time and effort are worth more to me than the largest sums of cash. When my eldest nephew was six, I believe, he wrapped a shoebox for my mom. There's nothing in it. He just covered the box with scraps of paper and ribbon and each year, she places it under the tree. It is one of her most prized possessions. One of my brothers gave me "coupons" for help around the house, one work day each season. He'd help me regardless but that was my favorite gift from him this year. (He also bought the DVD. And other things.) There's a lot I can do and I could probably learn to do other things but he can change the oil in my lawnmower, thanks.

I do what I do the way I do it. Others don't. Because they do things that they do the way they do them, they way they learned how. The intention is the key. And when it stems from a place of love, it's perfect.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Just the Funny Parts ...

As I've written before, I don't write reviews. I don't want to divulge. That privilege belongs to the author. They've put in the work. They've earned the right.

But I am happy to let folks know, "You should read this!"

So: You should read this!

As my smartphone addiction has grown, my ability to focus has waned. I'm trying mightily to reverse that trend and read more books again.

I heard about Nell's book through Linda Sivertsen's the "Beautiful Writers Podcast." As a rule, I don't like to know about things in advance: I don't reading movie reviews. I try to avoid trailers. But my podcast addiction gets the better of me so I listen to Linda and her guests, then read, then listen again.

Just shy of the halfway mark last night, I tweeted about Nell's book and mentioned that I was breaking for dinner. She replied that I should skip dinner and keep reading. Alas, I had already eaten, so I replied to her that I'd forego sleep instead.

I did eventually sleep but I picked up reading first thing this morning and delayed doing anything else until I finished.

I have always loved learning about process and going behind the scenes. Nell has so may tales to tell. And as I continue to noodle around with a memoir, I'm happy to read really fine examples of the form.

It is encouragement of both creativity and empowerment. In this bright environment of #MeToo and #ERANow, I value brave voices more than ever.

That some are funny helps, too.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Well, This Is Just One Of The Most Awesome Things Ever ...

Sunday, June 03, 2018

Brief Twitter Thread As Blog Post ...

I saw this story ...

... and had a few things to say: