Amazing Grace–a happy human condition.

I have this habit of seasonally taking stock in things.

In the fall, I tally how much wood I have for the fireplace.

In the winter, I measure the amount of scotch in storage.

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In the spring, I size up what made it through the harsh winter and then I toss whatever didn’t.

In the summer, I keep my fingers crossed that I was one of those things that survived the spring cleaning.

My birthday is this week, and each year when it arrives, the first thing I do before sticking a toe out from beneath the covers is to make a balanced body account:

Anatomy-wise, what is still chugging along cooperatively? What is barely keeping up? What buckled under the pressure and was left on the side of the road and is currently being pecked into bite sized morsels for turkey vulture vittles? If I find that the scale hints even slightly in the positive direction, I will roll over and begin my morning ablutions. If I have a deficit, I will try again in an hour.

I have been lucky thus far. Rare has a birthday come and gone with me spending most of it hitting the snooze button. I have been criticized much of my life for being uncommonly, uncomfortably and annoyingly happy. But this quibble regarding my nature is inaccurate. It’s not that I’m continually popping perky pills, it’s much more simple than that.

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I’m grateful.

And gratitude can be a heady drug.

I cannot walk by a blooming bush or a cluster of planted posies without detouring in order to inhale a lungful of their inebriating fragrance. Occasionally, I find I am nose to nose with another individual who is not particularly thrilled with me overseeing his work, and can make a painful point about territorial rights.

I can easily be swept away by the colors that explode around me: greens that are so intense they are nearly pungent, hues of blue that suggest a depth of travel for which there is no end, blushing bursts of color that flare across fields and hillsides beckoning the eye and tossing in an extra heartbeat to my normally steady rhythm. I am a sucker for a rich palette, whether displayed on canvas, or within a shock of teenage hair; it is eye candy and I am drawn to it hungrily.

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My appetite for conversations with the small brood I care for is insatiable. I want to know what they’re thinking, how they’re thinking and if they’re thinking. Their learning process has been so different than mine, so foreign to my intuition and intellect, that I find myself wanting to study them like an entirely new species. And they are. Their alien intelligence is something I may have paid for, but am denied access to. Still, I am granted the license to observe and appraise, to curiously examine, and to marvel at the mechanisms of learning. I also marvel at the fact that most nights I am not face down in my soup, having exhausted all reserves of energy in attempting to follow their rapid fire, warp-speed conversations about topics I couldn’t even classify. Copious amounts of their words are not in my lexicon.

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They are a foreign species, but I’ve found I have a taste for the exotic. Another tick on the gratitude graph.

My appreciation scale widens further with the component of a truly savory experience. The phrase Food and Wine is one of the greatest string of words mankind has thrown together. With every adventure into a grocery store, a restaurant, or even my own refrigerator, I am continually caught by delighted surprise with what is available and creatable. I am also caught by surprise—not the delighted kind—with what is available and creatable.

Yum and yuck.

Ultimately, whether I am drawn to something new, something bold, something blue, or something old, the notion of feeding my body, feeds my soul. And many times I have found myself tempted after a particularly delectable adventure to turn to someone next to me and ask, “Does this make my soul look fat?”

Fingers crossed it does.

Lastly, true sensation–the ability to feel both physically and emotionally–is not without risk. At one end of the spectrum floats blissful nirvana. The other is the lead weight of despair. Somewhere betwixt is balance, but the gamut is wide with a breadth and depth that needs to be explored to claim the title of ‘a life well-lived.’

And this is what I seek: the taste and touch, the sights and sounds, the extraordinary, the humbling, the awakening, the challenging, and that which steals your breath away, but hopefully returns it.

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If I stop to think about it, I’ve been spinning in a reeling pirouette from the moment I was a cluster of human cells. Rightly so, I should be dizzy enough to ask for pause to untangle myself from the one way spiraling road trip, but thankfully, I am determined to remain in my seat.

Each day I continue to purchase a ticket, find an open stool, and buckle up my safety belt.

Destination: Life

~Shelley

 

June Gotta Have a Gott winner

In January, Rob and I announced that his sketches will be available toward the end of the year in the form of a 2015 calendar! And our readers would get to be the judges and voters for which doodles they’d like to see selected for each month. We’ll reveal the winners one by one, and come November, If you’ve Gotta have a GOTT, you can place your order. Jump on over to see the cartoon winner for June!

Don’t forget to check out what we’re cookin’ in the Scullery and what we all talked about down in the pub. Plus, you can see more of Robin Gott‘s humor–all from the only pen carved from a human funny bone.

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A recipe for a delectable life.

I find it hard to fathom that one more year has blown by and I’ve tacked on another 365 days worth of eating way too much, sleeping way too little and spending countless hours attempting to teach my dog to talk. Funny enough, I’m sensing the future will be much of the same. I’m not big on change and everyone agrees that the hound is making forward progress with his sibilance.

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I mentioned last year how one of the first things I do when waking on my birthday is to take stock.

Acknowledge things that work: check.

Acknowledge things that don’t: check.

Acknowledge things that squeak … yeah, that one is a growing list, but … check.

There were times in my life when making a splash with my birthday was worthy of planning and fuss, but the older I grow the more I often feel that this yearly rite is more enjoyable as an inner nod to the growing number of trips I’ve made around our sun.

Giga coaster: The first Giga coaster, the 310 ...

The way I look at it is that it’s similar to an amusement ride we’re all sharing and none of us can get off. Ever. Lungs taking in air or not, the ticket was purchased and has no foreseeable expiration date.

And although there may be times when we feel dizzy from the speed, overcome with exhaustion from hanging on, and close our eyes to what’s become a blur as we round another corner, this yearly journey is also filled with flashes of sheer exhilaration, eye-opening perspectives, and heart stopping moments that bring you to your knees and fill you with unimaginable gratitude.

I think back to those first remembered birthdays—the ones filled with confetti cake, sugared air and ribboned boxes—and try to conjure up the innocence. Like the sweetest of berries and the most ambrosial fruit, the years of childhood are delicate, and their flavors, fleeting and rapturous, leave you wishing it was possible to preserve them, lovingly labeled in six ounce jam jars, safeguarded in the pantry for blustery, bone-chilling nights.

Once we’ve emerged from the cradle of youth, we begin ticking the boxes of societal benchmarks, placing an ever increasing amount of importance on a yardstick that has been whittled partly by time grown wisdom and the rest by Hallmark and overly invasive but overwhelming successful marketing campaigns.

Fourteen (553x800)Hey! You’re double digits!

A teenager at last!

Sweet sixteen!

Now that you’re an adult …

Twenty-one! Let’s have some fun!

The big ‘3-oh,’ the big ‘4-oh,’ … HALF A CENTURY?!Thirtyfour070713 (648x800)

But there’s still all that middle ground that needs to be covered, all the numbers not snazzy enough to be grandly celebrated, fussed over, or worried about. Thirty-four and sixty-two and fourteen are pretty “blah” digits that have no dedicated section in the greeting card isle, but should that make them any less significant? Any less worthy?

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Maybe someone could make the argument that distinction is a good thing, that if every birthday were a monumental celebration, they might not feel so monumental any longer. Maybe we need the milestones to bring a flavorful variance to the day. Maybe having your favorite black-out, chocolate chunk, chocolate cake every day sounds like a great idea until about day six or seven when black-out becomes cross-out and cross-eyed.

I might just have to offer myself up to science on behalf of us all to test the theory. It’s okay. I don’t mind. I’m sure it would make a fascinating read in one of the fancier periodicals like The New England Journal of Medicine Specifically Related to the Cacao Bean, or maybe peer reviewed in Nature and Science and Chocolate.

I’ll keep everyone posted for its release.

Regardless, what I find more important with each passing year is the resolve to be fully present. And although this has nothing to do with bow-tied boxes, it has everything to do with gifts.

I want to notice more within each flip of the calendar month, each crossed off master task list day, and each fleeting moment that combines together to create them all.

I want to steep myself within the joy, marinate inside the fear, fester around in turbulent anger, bubble about within surprise.

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And by doing so, I feel I’ve made a marvelous feast of a life. In fact, I long ago tossed out the powdery confetti cake in favor of its unctuous chocolate replacement. But it’s not just a chocolate cake anymore; this cake is drizzled with blissful caramel, mixed in with tooth-cracking toffee, spiced with hot-headed cayenne, and packs a bombshell number of calories. Is it clear? Joy, fear, anger and surprise? It’s all mixed in together. It’s the sum parts of my whole year baked into a forkful or two. Or five.

They are put together for a reason: so I remember to take it all in. The good, the bad, and the ugly.

They are the ingredients of life.

And they are worthy.

~Shelley

Don’t forget to check out what we’re cookin’ in the Scullery (here) and what we all talked about down in the pub (here). And to see more of Robin Gott’s humor–all from the only pen carved from a human funny bone–click here.