Saturday, November 26, 2011

Dash and Pinch

And this has nothing to do with the boys from high school, I assure you.

It occurred to me recently that I've had a sea change in how I cook. I always prided myself on being able to eyeball measurements -- I'd doublecheck with the important ones and my estimates were almost always correct -- but this year as I've had to start making substitutions to recipes, I've started to see recipes as mere suggestion, starting points. This is especially because I'm largely substituting maple syrup for sugar. The sweetness is not exactly the same and obviously one is a liquid and the other is a solid. There's probably a deep metaphor in this shift, but I can't put my finger on it.


I'm curious to know what things you think most people find easy that you find hard. And vice versa. I've been thinking about this lately, and even more specifically about the things I find hard to fit into my schedule that other people seem to find easy, or at least non-negotiable. For instance, while I walk the dog for probably a couple of hours each day, setting aside time for Pilates or other roll-out-the-mat exercise just falls by the wayside and before I know it, another week has passed without exercise. On the other hand, I hear people struggling to find time to finish a novel, and I find time to read a novel at least once or twice a week.


It's been just over six months since we became dog owners and there's one thing I'm still struggling with - and that is my intuition around how people respond to dogs. Just today, for instance, a dour-looking older woman with a cane limped out of the bank in front of me. I quickly reined my dog in, afraid he would try to greet the woman with his characteristic exuberance. Instead, she turned and called him and nuzzled him and loved him for a good five minutes. Another tottery elderly woman approached us and marveled at him, telling us twice how lucky we were to have him. I wouldn't have assumed this for the world. By contrast, one evening I was at the park with the pup when a man with a small dog came along. His dog was off-leash and was tiny. I called to him, asking if he minded me letting my puppy off leash. He was happy for me to -- until my puppy ran over to his and started running circles around him, at which point the man freaked out. I muttered choice words under my breath as I locked the dog back on leash.

Maybe it's because children start out mostly immobile and even restricted in arms or strollers, and dogs are more actively social than babies, but I could sense the people who liked kids and those who didn't. With dogs, there seems to be no rhyme or reason. There also seem to be even more pet-rearing philosophies than there are schools of thought for raising kids. I'm comfortable for the most part in how we're raising our puppy, but my intuition on how the pup should interact with other people is just completely off. It's weird and unsettling.


This week, my daughter,her friend and I delivered the bags of toys, books and clothes to the refugee family. I'm struggling to find words to express the experience. Both girls rated the experience a 10/10 and want to take the little girls skating sometime. I was deeply relieved that our experience was relaxed, friendly, and laughter-filled. Part of what gives me pause for thought is that this family has extremely well-educated parents who had professional jobs, a maid and nanny before they left their former home. Now they live on the charity of others and do all they can to give their family a fresh start. What I saw -- and I hope they could see that I saw -- was that they were me (sans the maid and nanny -- alas). Shift our government situation to intolerable and unsafe, and all I know of a comfortable life could be gone. I hope if I were in a similar situation, someone would help me -- no strings attached, no benevolent hierarchy to our essential worth. I think that's both what I deeply enjoy about being with refugees and also what calls me to action: while refugees are often lumped in with other people who need forms of social assistance, their realities are often significantly different, surprisingly similar to our own. The best moment of all this week was when the littlest girl, who is 2, pulled out of the bag a baby doll who is black and who has little stubby pigtails. The mother started to laugh. "It looks like us!" she said. And then to her daughter, "It looks exactly like you!" Our bigger girls had spent their time shopping and this was perhaps their proudest purchase. When you see yourself in someone or something else, I think it gives you a little sense of belonging, a sense of home.

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