Books by Patti Liszkay
"Equal and Opposite Reactions" http://amzn.to/2xvcgRa
and the sequel, "Hail Mary" https://www.amzn.com/1684334888
Available on Amazon.
This week Tom and I are in Los Angeles visiting my daughter and son-in-law and our two grandbabies.
Last night a package arrived at their home from Amazon addressed to both my grand daughters.
The package held this beautiful box:
...Inside of which was this lovely little tea set:
The girls were delighted with the surprise and, remembering the "tea party" we'd had last week during their visit to Columbus with some friends of mine and some of their grandchildren at Coffee Time,*:
...my 3-year-old grand daughter Makaila immediately wanted to play tea party with her parents and little sister.
As soon as she woke up this morning the girls wanted to have another tea party with their dad.
I promised her we'd have more tea parties later today with Grammie and Grandpa after their parents left for work.
This tea set was a wonderful idea and a thoughtful gift. There's only one problem with it: We have absolutely no idea who sent it.
No card, packing slip, or paperwork of any kind accompanied the tea set. The only information we have is a USPS tracking number and return address on the box from Amazon Fulfillment Services, 3837 Bay Lake Trail, Suite 115, North Las Vegas, Nevada .
Justin and Maria have no idea who to thank for this gem of a gift. They don't know who to tell their children to thank. They're troubled to think that the giver may think that their gift was not acknowledged or appreciated or loved.
And so they are intending to attempt to contact Amazon to try and track down the sender of the tea set. But this may take time, especially with today being New Years Eve and tomorrow being New Years Day.
But in the meantime I'm trying to help by sending out this message on the ever-so-slender thread of a chance that someone reading this post might know something about the mysterious tea set.
So: Did anyone out there send a beautiful little tea set to two little California girls?
*Coffee Time is a charming locally -owned cafe and pastry shop on Johnstown Road in Gahanna, Ohio:
It's spacious and cozy at the same time and as it has a children's play area. It's a great place for parents of small children to meet for an outing:
So, people of Gahanna, go visit Coffee time if you haven't already!
Last Sunday morning Maria, Justin, the two grandbabies and I arrived at the Los Angeles airport from Columbus - Tom arrived, too, but on a different flight - heavily laden with suitcases, car seats, a stroller, and all the other accoutrements necessary for transporting small children on a cross-country flight.
Despite a layover in Chicago our trip went smoothly enough. Until it came to our taxi ride from the airport to Maria and Justin's house in the South Bay area.
Our taxi driver was a well-dressed but surly dude who appeared to be in his mid-fifties and of Eastern European nationality. He exuded hostility as he loaded our many pieces of luggage and impatience as he waited while Maria and Justin buckled the car seats and kids into the back seat of his vehicle.
He was dressed in black dress pants and black shoes, black dress shirt sportily unbuttoned at the collar and a nice black suit jacket, attire that seemed to evoke a higher calling than delivering bedraggled families home from the airport.
Nor did he sweeten up as we began the trip home. Once we were all loaded in and on our way Justin perfunctorily asked him how he was doing.
"Terrible", he barked, "Terrible!"
And though none of us really desired to hear the details of his terrible day social etiquette required that we ask him "Why?"
"Because all I get today is short fares! In this traffic short trip takes me an hour and I'm making no money!" He furiously banged on the horn for no discernable reason.
Or maybe he hit the horn to express his ire that we, too, were a short fare.
He drove like a demon, maybe trying to escape some hell of his own. I imagined that we were in the presence of a fallen-out-of-favor member of the Russian mob who'd been sentenced by the boss to driving a mob-run taxi as punishment for some mob misbehavior.
Anyway, when we arrived at our destination and I proceeded to slide my credit card through his machine the taxi driver snapped, "I take only cash! Now I lose ten-percent! If I know you use credit card I don't take you!"
"Give him a good tip," Maria whispered to me.
But I was already intending to give him a good tip. In fact, I gave him $10 on an $20 fare.
Why did I give this gargolye on wheels such an undeservedly generous tip?
Well, I don't know. I guess I thought that if I repaid this person's meanness with undeserved generosity that it would give him a change of attitude and transform his bad day to a good day. And give me the feeling of satisfaction of having done a good deed.
And besides, nasty as he was, I guess we all kind of felt sorry for him.
I did, however, want to tell this taxi driver that maybe if he were nicer he'd make a lot more in tips, and that his nasty attitude was probably the reason he wasn't making much money.
Of course, I didn't tell him that. Just in case he did happen to be a well-dressed disenfranchised gangster.
But then it hit me - his rude miserable behavior didn't stop me from tipping him greatly!
After thinking it over I wondered if it could be that his surliness actually brought in more tips? That when people are angry it's human nature for others to want to conciliate them, make them feel better? that it makes us feel better to try and make people feel better?
Could this guy's crazy-angry high-fashion Russian mafioso act be that? - just an act to garner pity-tips? Or even intimidation-tips?
I kind of hope so. I'd hate to think that anybody was really as crazy-angry as he appeared to be.
We’re now approaching the finish-line of the holiday season, which for many clans, mine included, is the season of much feasting (see post from 12/22/2014).
Our family’s final feast of the season was the annual day-after-Christmas reunion of Tom’s side of the family, which our branch always hosts.
We ate. Sometimes it just feels right in the kitchen:
Then we sat around and talked or played:
Then we ate some more.
Then the relatives left and we munched on left-overs while we cleaned up. And munched again after we cleaned up.
So it was all good and ran pretty much according to the standard operating procedure for the typical day-after-Christmas feast.
Except for one detail: I didn’t do any cooking.
I had the whole thing catered by Olive Garden.
If this does not initially sound earth-shaking to you, understand that planning, cooking, and presenting - with ample help, of course, and weeks of advance preparation - lavish buffet-style meals with a dozen different savories and again as many sweets for 20, 30, 50 (at Tom’s 60th birthday party), even 100 ( at Theresa’s wedding reception) has become part of my persona. Birthday parties, team dinners, graduations, showers, wedding receptions, you name it, I’ve cooked and baked for it. Sometimes when people hear about the number of guests I’m cooking for they tsk-tsk that I’ll never be able to do it, that I’ve surely bitten off more than I can chew. To which I tut-tut right back that of course I can do it.
And I always have.
I’ve never used the services of a caterer – all right, except for one time when I thought I’d try sneaking in a batch of Noodles ‘n Company pasta which quite frankly did not pass muster, everyone found it decidedly second rate, so I went back to serving my own angel hair pasta with tomatoes, garlic, and olive oil.
When I’m not being advised that I should quit trying to cook for such large crowds I’m being told that I should totally open my own catering or dessert business.
So for me to hand over the day-after-Christmas feast to The Olive Garden was, in fact, cataclysmic. Not to mention shocking for the guests, to whom I’d given not a clue beforehand that the spread to be laid out before them would not be my own.
But for the first time ever it wasn’t my own. And here’s why:
At 12:30 am the Saturday before Christmas I sprang up in bed in the middle of a brain storm. I don’t mean a brain storm in the sense of a productive whirling of good ideas, but a storm of stress and anxiety in my brain caused by the fact that this holiday, for the first time ever I bit off more than I could chew. All the warnings over the years of the naysayers had finally come home to roost: I couldn’t do it!
I’d planned too many meals, too many guests, too much work without regard for the fact that this year with my all my children - my primary source of labor in assembling feasts - out of town, busy with their jobs or with children of their own, for the first time I would have no one to help me put together the requisite - at least in my mind - mountains of party food.
Nor did I feel that I could recruit Tom to help with the food as he always has his work cut out for him with the house-cleaning and last-minute logistical details.
And so now I’d hit the wall, unprepared, in the middle of the night a few days before all the days of feasting were to begin:
Sunday night: dinner for 11
Christmas Eve: dinner for 24
Christmas Day: a big special brunch for 7
Day after Christmas: lunch for 12
Not to mention all the breakfasts, lunches, and dinners between the party meals.
As I sat in bed stressing and sighing Tom finally rolled over and asked me what was wrong.
“I can’t do it!” I moaned.
“Can’t do what?” he asked.
“The holidays! All the cooking! All the food shopping! I just can’t do it!”
“So we’ll cancel all the company,” Tom said calmly.
With the petulant logic of a three-year-old I wailed, “But I don’t want to!!”
“Then why don’t you just have all the parties catered? Order all the food out.”
“What?! ...Order the food?...out?!”
“Yeah. Why not?”
“Why not?! ...Because, because….how expensive would that be?”
“But... I’d have no idea where to order from.”
“There’s gotta be a hundred restaurants in Gahanna.”
Finally I got down to the meat and potatoes of the matter: “But everybody expects me to cook. They all look forward to my meals. They’d be horrified and disappointed if I served restaurant food.”
“They won’t care,” said Tom. “Order the food out. And by the way, I’ll fix dinner tomorrow night so you don’t have to worry about it. Spaghetti okay with you?”
“Yeah,” I replied in wonder at the prospect of the yoke of cooking being suddenly lifted from my overly tense shoulders, “spaghetti would be awesome.”
It took me a few moments to accept that it might actually be acceptable for me to order out food for our company. But only a few moments.
In fact, so freeing was the knowledge that I didn’t have to cook that by the next day my brain had ceased storming and I was able to calmly think through what was left to do for the upcoming feasts and come to the realizations that:
1. It was mostly in my mind that I was behind the eight-ball. In actuality I already had much of the food preparation done, and
2. in spite of their work, child-care and house-cleaning duties, the rest of the family who were in town were able and willing to jump in help me with the food-prep duties. All I’d needed to do was make my need known.
3. The Sunday night, Christmas Eve, and Christmas day meals were actually already pretty well prepped and ready to go. The only meal I’d need to order out was the 12-person day-after-Christmas one.
And so I looked around at the local offerings and settled on ordering the Day-After-Christmas Feast from the Gahanna Olive Garden.
OMG, it was sooooo easy!
A couple of clicks to the online menu and, voila, an Olive Garden feast for 12 was promised to be ready for pick-up and payment on the exact day and time of my choosing.
I chose to pick-up on December 26 at 11:40 am:
12 servings of salad and breadsticks for 12
6 servings of Chicken Marsala with potatoes and carrots
6 servings of Beef and Tortellini
12 servings of lasagne
Everything was waiting at the gahanna Olive Garden, hot, bagged up and ready to go at the appointed time. My bill, with a tip, came to $199, about $16.50 per person, except that the order they gave us included more food than twelve people could possibly eat - there were mountains of salad and breadsticks! - and so we ended up with sufficient left-overs to give some to Tommy to take home and also to hold Maria, Justin, Tom, myself and the two grandbabies over in meals until yesterday morning when we all left for Los Angeles, where Tom and I are staying for the week.
So how did the Olive Garden food go over with the relatives once they recovered from the initial shock that I’d had the day-after-Christmas feast catered?
And so ran the comments on the catered meal.
Sometimes we overestimate our indispensability.
(See yesterday's post)
Last night, Christmas night, I had the opportunity to be among the millions who watched "The Interview" thanks to the decision of Sony Pictures to release the movie on youtube pay-per-view and a few other online venues starting on Christmas Eve, the day before the movie opened in a few hundred independent theaters across the country.
So I paid $5.99 to youtube, linked my laptop screen to the TV screen, and Maria, Justin, Tommy and I settled onto the family room couch with unmuted excitement to watch the movie of the moment.
As it turned out, Maria had been spot-on in the less-than-glowing assessment she'd given the movie the day before. (See the last line of yesterday's post).
Granted, there were some funny moments in "the Interview", but they were only moments. The movie, as a whole, didn't snap, crackle, or pop.
But then the point of watching "The Interview" last night was never to enjoy a quality movie experience. It was to be part of something, an event, a moment of American solidarity, part of a counterstroke against a dictator who thought he could oppress our right free speech and artistic expression by threats and intimidation.
And regardless of the quality of the movie it was neat to be watching it and feeling in solidarity not only with the millions who, like us, were watching it online, but with those who'd stood in lines that snaked around blocks to buy up every last ticket from the sold-out theaters. We were all of us making a statement together. A hands-across-cyber-space kind of thing.
It did feel kind of surreal, though, watching this comedy about Kim Jong Un who in real life was behaving the same way as the character in the film because of the film. It kind of felt like a movie within a movie.
It would seem that someone now needs to make a movie about this movie.
One thing I will say on behalf of "the Interview" - and if you haven't yet seen it and are planning to you might want to stop here because this might be a bit of a spoiler - It had a good plot-turn at a moment when one of the characters pointed out that the CIA has been getting it wrong all these years: that the way to bring down an iron-fisted dictator isn't to assassinate him - he'll only be replaced by the next henchman in line - but to make him look really silly in front of his people.
Maybe there's some truth to this thesis.
Maybe that's why "The Interview" stirred up such hostility in Kim Jong Un. Maybe it jabbed him in his Achilles Heel.
I was as outraged and demoralized as everyone else in this country last week when Sony Pictures announced that it was pulling its Christmas Day release of "The Interview", a Seth Rogan comedy that makes fun of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, because of a cyber attack on the company followed by a threat from North Korea that a terror attack would be carried out against any theater that dared to show the film.
Sony's capitulation to North Korea's threats felt like surrender, subservience, and suppression of the one thing that we as Americans, for all our many and deep differences, hold dear to our hearts: our freedom of speech and expression. Half of us may absolutely hate what the other half has to say, but our right to publicly say whatever we want runs deep in the marrow of our bones.
But here we were now cowering in fear and compliance because of the threats of a malevolent dictator 6,300 miles away.
And so when the news broke the day before yesterday that Sony had announced that the owners of 200 independent movie theaters in this country had stepped forward and proclaimed that they would not be shut up or shut down by North Korea, that they in fact would show "the Interview" as scheduled Christmas day, I for one received the news with a rush of gladness and a surge of pride and my heart gave a patriotic cheer.
This morning during our Christmas family brunch I was discoursing on the fact that these 200 theaters thumbing their nose at a tyrannical power that attempted to bully our country was a victory for freedom and justice. I said I believed that this was good news for a Christmas day, or any day. I added that we should be proud that two independent theaters in Columbus, The Gateway Film Center and The Grandview Theatre, are among the venues that would be showing "The Interview."
"Think about it," I said, "today our country is going to win a victory without a war."
My daughter Maria sighed, "And all because of a sh**ty Seth Rogan movie."
Tommy setting out the Christmas Eve Feast (see post from 12/23/2014)
Merry Christmas, everyone!
Last week one of my Facebook friends wrote a post to the effect that the closer we get to Christmas the grouchier and more rude some people in her workplace have been behaving and that this workplace behavior has been getting her down, especially as we think of Christmas a a season that calls for goodness and peace.
My own prognosis for this social behavioral unpleasantness is that people are getting stressed out over the demands of the holidays.
Furthermore, I now confess that I made that prognosis based on personal experience, having suffered a couple of stress-induced "Grinch moments" myself over the past few days.
Thankfully, they've mostly happened in the middle of the night as I've lain in bed wide awake wondering how I'm going to manage to get everything done that needs to be done to pull off all the holiday activities that were no one's idea but mine to undertake. ( I do have this propensity for grand plans).
Last night in the middle of the night I had one of those Grinch moments.
My visiting 18-month-old teething, still jet-lagging grandbaby began wailing and would not stop. And so as I was just lying awake in bed stressing and Grinching away anyway I figured I might as well get up and give my exhausted daughter and son-in-law a break by taking over crying baby duty.
I wrapped up my little wailer in a warm blanket and brought her downstairs the began walking the floor, which calmed her.
Then I settled us into the rocker in the family room and began rocking while surveying the state of affairs in the family room, which supposedly would be full of company the following night:
The whole downstairs was in pretty much the same state as the family room. And besides the mega-mess that would have to be cleaned up I had a day's worth of cooking to do.
Then I looked into the little round face of my granddaughter, her eyes fluttering the way babies' eyes do when they're almost asleep.
I looked back up at the mess around me.
Then the thought came to me: This is a gift. All of it. The mess, the work, the friends and family I'm fortunate enough to have coming over on Christmas Eve to share gifts of food and music, and above all the sweet baby now sleeping peacefully in my arms, who along with her 3-year- old sister, was the author of my currently messy house.
But at that moment the mess didn't matter. Because I was awash in the realization that it's a blessing to have a purpose-filled day, work to do and people to do it for.
And today will be a busy, purpose-filled day. (see yesterday's blog).
1. First feast: Last Sunday night, dinner for 11.
Cheese potato casserole
Green Beans Almondine
2. Second Feast: Christmas Eve, dinner for 23.
Veggies and dip
Guacamole Dip and chips
Hot turkey and hot roast beef sandwiches on fresh-baked rolls
Mini-Nathan's hot-dogs, Chicago-style
Justin's famous broccoli
After the Christmas Eve Feast the plan is that we will again waddle over to the piano and sing yet more Hannukkah songs and Christmas Carols. (We all just like to sing).
3. The Third Feast: Christmas Day, breakfast for 9.
4. The Fourth Feast: Day After Christmas, lunch for 14.
A monumental surprise, to be announced.
It's December 23, 10:53 am. Time to get back to Krogers.
It's now been a year since I started writing "Ailantha".
My first post was Friday, December 20, 2013. Here's what I wrote in that first post, in which I explained the title of my blog:
Ailanthus Altissima, called either Tree of Heaven or Slum Palm, is a tree that thrives in places where no respectable plant would grow: in vacant lots, between the broken glass in alleys, up through rubble and cracks in the sidewalk. It is widely considered an urban blight, an ugly invasive eye sore, and because of its tenacity, campaigns to rip it from the face of the planet are ongoing and expensive. But there are others out there who praise the Ailanthus for standing up to the asphalt and concrete and bringing a bit of welcome shade and greenery, a little oasis for passersby. So what is Ailanthus? Occasional oasis or tenacious blight? And which will its spin-off Ailantha be?
For the first month I published a post every day but then cut back to five days a week.
Over the year I've missed two days, once because I was traveling and didn't have access to WIFI, and the second time was on Thanksgiving, when I ended up having to throw in the towel and accept that I wasn't going to get my blog out. It was just one of those days. Last Friday was also one of those days that almost got away before I got my blog posted. I did finally get it out, though about 8 hours later than usual. That could happen again, especially over the coming holidays.
There were a few other days when I almost didn't get my post out, times when I stayed up until well after 1 am in the morning spinning my wheels, producing only awful writing.
And yet every time when I woke up the following morning and re-read what I'd written, it always read better than it had in the wee hours the night before and so I'd do a little polishing on what I'd written, send it out, and remind myself that in the end if my writing wasn't the best on the planet it didn't really matter, that all I'm really doing is sharing a few details of or observations on life that maybe a few of my fellow human beings can connect with.
My average post is 600-800 words and each post typically takes me four hours to write.
I don't have time to read books anymore and my Netflix-watching has been cut back to a minimum. I'm not sure what else I used to do with the rest of the time I now spend blogging each day. I guess I'm proof of that truism that work expands to fill the time allotted.
So I'm not a fast writer, nor does writing come easily for me. Still I feel like I'm a writer first and foremost, even though I've never been able to make a living at it and it's not even what I'm best at. I believe I'm better at teaching piano than at writing. And yet I feel more like a writer than a piano teacher. I've got Salieri Syndrome (see post from 1/16/2014), a term I made up for when you're good at what you believe your true life's vocation is, but not good enough to make a living at it. So you do something else for a living, something that you're better at than what you believe your calling is.
Which begs the question of whether what you believe your true calling to be actually is your true calling.
Anyway, my resolutions for the coming year are:
1. to only write my blog on the days when I have something to write about and
2. to never again stay up past 1 am working on the following day's post.
For the past year there's never been a day when I haven't had something to write about. In fact, I have over twenty titles of drafts that I ended up not even using, there's been so much to write about.
As I finish up this post it's December Monday, 22, 12:42 am. I'm already feeling a squishy about keeping my second resolution.
Last night, I celebrated my first Hannukkah night.
When my daughter Maria, who was raised a Catholic, married Justin, who is Jewish, they had a blended Christian-Jewish ceremony under a canopy:
....presided over by a rabbi
...and Pastor Doug Warburton from my church, Peace Lutheran:
Since then theirs has been a marriage of blended faith traditions, which they've carried on with their children.
So this this season their home has a Christmas tree as well as a menorah.
Last night, the third night of Hannuakkah, Maria, Justin, and my two grand babies, Makaila and Sienna, arrived in Columbus from Los Angeles.
So along with our Christmas decorations I'd put up some Hannukkah decorations and an electric menorah in anticipation of celebratiing the nights of Hannukah while they're here.
We began the evening with a turkey dinner, a meal of thanksgiving for their safe arrival and for their visit.
After dinner all of us who were present, Justin, Maria, Makaila, Sienna, my son Tommy and me moved to the living room to begin our third night ceremony using candles that Justin had brought and the menorah that Sienna had made at her pre-school.
Hannukkah, also known as the Festival of Lights, is celebrated over eight days, commemorating the ancient miracle of one day's worth of oil burning for eight days in the Temple in Jerusalem.
And so for each of the eight nights of Hannukkah there is a candle-lighting ceremony in which one more candle than the previous night is placed in the menorah and lit. The higher candle in the middle, known as the shammus candle, is also lit each night.
Last night being the third night of Hannuakkah, 3-year-old Makaila, with her dad's help, lit the shammas candle and the three Hannukkah candles while her Dad said the prayers:
"Barukh atah Adonai, Eloheinu, melekh ha'olam."
Blessed are you, Lord, our God, sovereign of the universe.
After the candles were lit and the prayers finished, I played some Hannukkah songs, "Rock Of Ages", "Hannukkah, O Hannukkah", and the "Dreidle Song",
...and we all sang along.
Then it was time for the Hannukah gifts for the children - each night of Hannukkah the children get a small gift.
I gave the girls "Hello Kitty" flashlights in honor of the Festival of Lights.
They were a big hit.
Then our candle-lighting ceremony was over and we had only to let the candles burn all the way down, as is required.
We'll have another candle-lighting ceremony tonight and for the next four nights of the Festival of Lights.
It's a beautiful ceremony.
Continued from yesterday...
Night was falling on Michigan Avenue when Tom and I decided to walk the four blocks from Michigan and Illinois out to the Navy Pier on Lake Michigan.
The Navy Pier was lit up outside:
...though the view from the pier was far nicer outside:
After walking around the pier for a while we decided to head back to town and, what luck, we were able to catch the Navy Pier holiday trolley, a free fancy trolly that transports people back and forth from Michigan Avenue to the Navy Pier:
When we got off the trolley at Michigan Avenue we decided to walk back to the loop so as to enjoy the Christmas lights one last time.
....from where we took the el and then the bus back to Bucktown, by which time it was time to eat again so we went to an Asian noodle restaurant down the street from our hostel called Penny's.
Tom ordered beef and red peppers over rice and a beer,
...and I ordered beef noodle soup:
Tom liked what her ordered well enough, though we both agreed that my soup - which was really tasty and delicious - was the better of the two dishes. I guess the moral of the story is that if you go to a noodle restaurant you should probably stick with the noodles, right?
After dinner at Penny's we started walking back to the hostel, but Stan's Donuts was on the way so of course we couldn't pass by without stopping in.
Evidently everybody else had the same idea. Stan's seems to be the place to be on Saturday night in Bucktown.
After our farewell-to-Chicago doughnuts we headed back to the IHSP hostel
It was our last night, we'd be back on the Megabus back to Columbus early Sunday morning.
As we were walking down the hallway to our room we passed a nice Australian girl we'd met.
"Uh-oh," she teased, "here come the grown-ups!"
Only on the outside, thought I.
by Patti Liszkay
Buy it on Amazon:
by Patti Liszkay
Buy it on Amazon:
"Equal And Opposite Reactions"
by Patti Liszkay
Buy it on Amazon:
The Book Loft
of German Village,
Or check it out at the Columbus Metropolitan Library
I am a traveler just visiting this planet and reporting various and sundry observations,
hopefully of interest to my fellow travelers.