Sunday, February 28, 2010

New Weekly Feature ~ The Sunday Blog of Note

There will be a new weekly feature over here at Confessions of a Dilletante: The Sunday Blog of Note. Every Sunday I will feature a blog I have discovered or have been referred to that I think you, Dear Readers, might enjoy. If you have any ideas or suggestions for a Blog of Note, please send them my way at . I would love to hear from you.

So, without any further ado, the first Blog of Note is: Kalyn's Kitchen . I stumbled upon this blog during a search for some recipes for the South Beach Diet and I fell instantly in love. Not only are the recipes delicious, (I know because I've tried a few) but the pictures accompanying them are beautiful and guaranteed to make you hungry. She also has the site set up so that there are printer friendly versions of every recipe, saving you precious ink.

Hope you like it and enjoy your Sunday!


Thursday, February 25, 2010

Jack and Jill...Bada Boom Bada Bing

Several weeks ago out of desperation and a burning desire to meet new and creative individuals, I did something rash. I joined a writer's group. In D.C. It has been one of the smartest things I've done since having children. I now have a set time once a week for myself to do something I care passionately about, and I get to be with an amazingly talented and creative group of people all at the same time, BONUS!

Every week we have a writing exercise in which we are given certain criteria that we are to then write about for a set amount of time, usually 10 or 15 minutes. It's fun and challenging to put my writing muscles to task in a new way each week, and I am amazed at what the other writers come up with every week.

I'm going to share with you one of the stories I wrote a couple of weeks ago for one of the exercises. Here is the criteria we were given to meet in 15 minutes: You must begin with Jack and Jill going up a hill, and you must end with Jill leaving Jack while crying tears of laughter.

Here is what I wrote:

Jack and Jill went up the hill to fetch a pail of water. the hill was steep but not so much so that Jill had to lift her skirts to make her way up. "I'd like to meet the sadistic bastard whose idea it was to put a well at the top of a hill," Jill thought as she carefully stepped over a cluster of rocks embedded into the side of the hill.

Jack was carrying the pail, he was good about that, always lending a hand when it came time to do any heavy lifting. All he asked was that Jill bend over the well to fetch the water. Usually her bosom was heaving slightly from the exertion of trekking up the slope and she knew what he was playing at as she leaned in over the well to find the rope.

Even if she was five years his junior, Jill found Jack to be teetering on the low end of the maturity scale. Something of a child in grown men's clothes he was, but nevertheless she liked that he listened when she wanted to talk about the different types of clouds, even if he didn't have much to say on the matter.

As she drew up the rope from inside the well, Jack extended the pail, waiting for her to fill it with the cool, clear water. Resting one hand on the rocky ledge of the well, Jill grabbed the bucket that was attached to the rope with the other hand and began to pour it's contents into the pail Jack was holding.

Suddenly, Jill heard what sounded like a wailing banshee or a dying chicken, she wasn't sure which, and she was nearly knocked down as Jack flailed in epileptic terror.

"A snake! there was a snake in that bucket!" He screamed. And stepping backward hastily, he caught the edge of his heel on one of the rocks and fell backward, ripping the seat of his pants clean open and revealing to Jill his bare derriere.

Now who's turn is it to ogle, Jill thought and began to laugh, a chuckle at first, and that chuckle grew until it was a full blown belly laugh and tears were streaming down her face.

* As a side note, do you have ANY idea how many times I had to endure this nursery rhyme as a youth?

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Seeds of Love

*I like a multisensory experience, being of the IN YA FACE generation and all. So, if I were me, and I am, I would press play on this video and listen to it while I read this post. If I were you, well I have no idea what I would do if I were you.

The doorbell rings and Ellie runs to unlock and answer it, which reminds me of a conversation we must have soon: STRANGER DANGER. But for now, I know who is behind the door and we all welcome her in with warm greetings.

Well, Hello! I say and can't keep from smiling. Ellie lets out a passionate whinny as she throws her head back in the air and shakes her hair. She's been a unicorn for weeks now, but lately it's just when she has to talk to an adult. There are toys scattered like land mines all across the living room floor and two baskets of laundry waiting to be folded on the couch. For once, I don't care.

I'm learning to let go of my need to be Donna Reed, June Cleaver, and Martha Stewart all rolled neatly into one urban, blonde, coiffed package. Because none of that matters more than building my relationships with people, and that's what I am doing right now. Asha is my upstairs neighbor; we met at the blizzard party and found we share a common loneliness. So I have decided to invite her over frequently and she has agreed to teach me to cook Indian food; tonight it is chicken curry. She is 70 years old.

Another upstairs neighbor has joined us. She is from Korea and I like her very much.* Our children play together in Ellie's room as the baby watches the women in the kitchen while she eats pieces of cut banana from her high chair. I snicker and think to myself, two months ago you wouldn't have let anyone come into this apartment because it isn't spotless, and look how much you have missed out on. Today, I don't care and it's liberating.

"OK", Asha says in her lilting Hindi accent, "let's get started". She peels several cloves of garlic and an onion with one of my knives and then slices the skin off of a segment of ginger. She then turns to me in the way of an experienced teacher and says, "this is called masala", and in that moment, I feel that something magic is about to begin.

I chop the onion in the food processor and Asha asks me to put it into the hot oil in the pan; I lean over the pan and use a wooden spoon to scrape most of the onion out and into the oil, leaving a few pieces behind. She takes the bowl from me and says, "this is how I do it, I come from a starving country", as she says this her head moves slightly from side to side in the animated way I have seen many Indians move, reminding me a little bit of a bobble head doll. She then takes her hand and scoops out every last piece and smiles at me. I am not offended or hurt by her admonishment. I adore it, I welcome it, I want to learn as much as I can from her, and I make a mental note to practice the head bobbling in the mirror later when I am alone.

Growing up, the kitchen always felt like the heart of whichever home we were living in at the time. It was the common gathering place for my family; a place where stories were shared and food was created, both nurturing our bellies and souls. Some of my favorite memories of my father are from the kitchen. We would cook together, each one of us on either side of the huge butcher block he had fashioned from the discarded lane of a bowling alley. As we chopped and sliced, music was always playing, from French accordion to Dean Martin or Latin salsa, even The Ink Spots made a few appearances. My father would put his knife down and start to dance, and I would follow, both of us making it up as we went along, tipsy with the joy of shared company and food, both of them very good.

I look at the two women in my kitchen right now and think of the distances they have traveled to be here, across the world. They are from places I have only dreamed of, and yet here they are in my kitchen, with me, and we are sharing one of the few things that tie all people together no matter what cultural barriers may separate them: food.

Byung-soon* and I are taking notes as Asha explains to us the method in which we are to cook the chicken. "it is called bhuno", she says, "it is the specific name for the specific method. It is not saute, it is bhuno". And then she shows us how to continue turning the chicken as she scrapes the bits of onion and garlic from the bottom of the pan while the chicken slowly cooks. She lets each of us try, correcting our technique as needed. It is during this interaction that somewhere deep in my heart, I feel the seed of love beginning to take root for both of these women.

Asha is divorced and both of her children live in different states. Much like me, Byong's husband is often gone, working on research at NIH. We are alone, some of us with children, but still left feeling isolated and shut off from the world. Standing in my kitchen we laugh as Asha holds Ari; they coo at each other and smile and I feel a bond forming between we three women from different corners of the world. There are so many things that could separate us: culture, language, age and race, but instead we have chosen to be united in the threads that we share in common. We are women, and we are mothers.

We finish cooking and each test the sauce, dipping our spoons gently into the pot and sipping their contents with satisfaction. It is good, just like the company. They gather their things and prepare to head back to their apartments upstairs. We all agree that we should meet like this more frequently, and I know we all mean it. I tell them goodbye and shut the door, turning to look at the mess of legos and train parts scattered everywhere. Now I will tackle them.

As I begin to pick up the pieces of toys, I realize that love and relationships are living things. And just like a plant we must nurture them and feed them, carefully caring for them and tending to their growth. It has taken me 30 years to come to this realization, and as I look back on my life and all the bridges I have left smoldering in my wake, I am thankful for this epiphany now rather than later. I toss a piece of train into a basket across the room, it lands square inside, and I make a promise to myself to tend the little garden of my new relationships with the love and care of a seasoned gardener.

*I have changed the names of these women to protect their privacy and keep them from going, "WHY YOU BE ALL UP IN MY BID-NESS BEYOTCH!" Because then I'd have to give them a love tap to keep them in line and everyone that knows me can testify that a love tap from me is like being plowed over by a rabid yeah, I'm just trying to keep the peace, spread the love, and all that JAZZ.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Let's Just Call It a Recyclying of Ideas

So, my friend Amanda got this idea from our friend Lauren's sister, who got the idea from who knows where and in the viral trend of those things that go around on Facebook, I am copying the idea.

In the top right corner of this blog you can see a spot with an empty box that says ask me anything. And in it, you can ask me anything, and I will answer you. Yes, my family also reads this blog, but they probably already know the answer to any embarrassing or personal questions I may be asked, because that's how we roll: TMI. You hear that, Mom? That last thing you told me about you and Dad and how it was just like, totally AWESOME...I really did NOT need to know that. But I appreciate that we can share things all the same.

So, choose whether you want to remain anonymous or not, ask a question, and away we go!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Music For the melancholy

Sometimes we seek out music to change our mood, and sometimes we seek it to compliment how we feel like a nice bottle of wine with dinner. Today's dinner is a hearty plate full of dreary gray days that seem to continue on and on, blending into one another. These days are served with a heaping side of snow, piled everywhere a plow can shove it and topped with the black stain of exhaust. We finish our meal with desert. That sweet, sweet sound. The drip, drip, drip that signals that perhaps, just perhaps there is an end in sight to all the white, the gray, the monochrome.

Several people have been asking me lately for some songs that would make a good lullaby CD, and while most of these songs would and could play nicely on a CD of lullaby's; I am feeling much more in the mood to share with you the lyrical wine I have been having with my plate of winter.

So, if you have a minute or ninety, listen to these songs, I think you'll like them...even if there isn't two feet of snow on the ground where you are.

*Ummmm...All I have to say about this is, in my fantasies where I'm a real cool chick and play in a band, THIS is that band.

*This song plays kinda like my moods most days lately: Slow and sad, and then uptempo for awhile.

* I've said it before and I'll say it again. I've never heard a song from these guys that I didn't like...including this one. And I know that it's not from the band, but how bout that picture on the video? That looks like my own personal slice of heaven right now.

*This song makes me feel like a young girl falling in love again, and Oooo boy, I could just eat his voice on toast.

* Sorry about the Letterman intro, but honestly, this was the best quality video of this song I could find. it's worth the listen.

*I first discovered this song on an Itunes playlist someone had made entitled "The Soundtrack To My Life" I loved that...AND this song.

*Here is another song that demonstrates that switch from slow to fast pace but in reverse.

*And here is where the sun begins threatening to burst through the clouds and, if only for a second, my spirits lift. Enter: When In Rome.

* Just the sound of the birds singing in the first half of this song is enough to make me hug strangers for a whole week on the metro.
* And then there's Annie. When I'm faced with a day that's gray and lonely, I just pick up my chin and grin and say...The sun will come out tomorrow

Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Lion and the Stars

It's diaper changing time and I am having a hard time holding her still while extracting the dirty diaper from underneath her and not getting myself smeared with poop in the process. It's the tango that we do several times a day. I hold, she squirms, I twist, she squeals, and then finally, she crawls away and I bow, humbly yet with poise, to the imaginary audience (or at least my dead grandmother, who may or may not be watching).

This time though, before she crawls away, I look into her eyes. Eyes that are changing from gray to blue to yellow and green. Just like mine. I experience a vague sense of deja vu looking into the eyes that have their own body, their own soul, and yet... they are a mirror of my own. I am looking into a piece of myself. If I were to die today, a piece of me, if not only my eyes would keep living.

"You are my lion", I tell her, and she smiles in return, keeping my gaze. We are locked together in a moment that my heart tells me will last forever. "We went through things together, you know, you and me. And you were the only one who knew, the only one who really shared it with me. Everyone, they tried to understand, but when it was dark, at night, and I still couldn't see, it was you there with me. I could feel you squirming inside of me, already fighting, already so strong." I lean in close to her face, she reaches, smiling, for a loose strand of my hair and I whisper to her, "Let me tell you about your name."

I cup the velvety side of her face and tell her, "Your name is Ariane Orion Hayes and you did not have a name until I knew who you were. And I knew who you were before I ever even saw your face." She blinks, slowly and it seems as if she's actually listening, so I continue. "I went half blind you know, when you were in my belly. Half of the world was lost in a fog, behind big, black bars. I spent part of every day in different hospitals and doctors offices, giving blood, getting filled with dyes, being poked, prodded and otherwise treated like a medical anomaly. And there you were; you were always with me, and I stayed calm, for you. Just like me, you were in a situation that you hadn't asked for and that was beyond your control. I only cried once, but then I took a deep breath and blew the sorrow out slowly, in the form of air, between my teeth. It left me, slowly, and I put my hand on my mammoth stomach wondering how you were doing in there. I leaned in and whispered to you, are you OK in there? Kick once for yes, twice for no. You were, for once, still.

I prayed more than I think I ever have in those weeks and a quiet calm came over me. I felt oddly at peace even though the world was still half gone. I think you felt that too because you finally dislodged your heel from my ribs and lowered yourself to meet the world. They told me it was probably because of you that I got sick, but look into my eyes, your eyes, when I tell you that for you, I would have given both my eyes and that awful pinkie toe. No, I would have given my life to give you yours.

They decided they could not wait for you to choose when to make your grand entrance into the world, and just like your sister, your birthday was decided for you: 05-07-09. All odds. We beat them together. They told me that you could very likely be very sick. So when they finally placed you on my stomach, after weeks of wondering how you fared, I took one look at your face, saw you squinting at the bright lights, and I knew you were OK. And then. Then I let myself cry. Joy and relief poured out of my eyes and a sigh erupted from my heart. Me and you kid, we beat the odds, and we did it together."

This is the first time I tell her this story, but I know it won't be the last. It will be told and then retold. Shaped, polished, and embellished until it becomes an intangible part of family lore and lives on after I am gone.

She begins to squirm and I lean one last time and say, "Your name is Ariane Orion Hayes; you are my lion, the holy thing that brought me closer to God. Your name is the constellation that has drawn eyes to the night sky for thousands of years. The Great Hunter; the three stars that I can always find no matter where in this world I roam and when you turn your face heavenward no matter where you are, if we are apart, I will be looking for those same stars too."

She twists, giggles, and then crawls away, innocent to all the heavy things, existing only in this moment, and I crawl after her, relishing this moment too.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Battle of the Wills

I've been meaning to write about this for some time now, but this that and the other have just gotten in the way. Today, however, proved just too much and I had to write about it.

Ellie is an amazing kid. As I've mentioned before her capacity for reason at the age she is at astounds me. She has ALL the answers, and can make a pretty good case for her side of the argument too. Have I mentioned yet that she JUST TURNED THREE? We have been battling lately over many things, and the ultimate argument when you get to the bottom of it is that she thinks she is in charge and I'm just an incidental character in HER game of life.

Well, that was just not going to fly, not because I'm some sort of dictatorial parent, but because my job is to prepare her for the real world and to equip her with the skills, tools and knowledge to navigate the storms and bumps of life. And one of the biggest challenges for her to understand is the system of authority that governs all of us. That we all must follow.

Her father and I fall under God and the law. She falls under us, and because we had to make a concession and give her something to control or she would just lose it, her pets and toys fall under her authority. The chain of command. My husband is in the military, we know a lot about it. One of the primary lessons involved in teaching Ellie about this is cause and effect, real world applications of that. Yes, she can choose to disobey, but there are consequences for that just like in life and she has to be prepared to deal with them.

So, because we have been in this struggle so intensely with her recently, my friend recommended the Supernanny website for it's valuable resources on working with and teaching your children. I read through and printed some of the things off and have began implementing some of them. Here's how it works:

Ellie has jobs that she is responsible for doing every day. They sit in an envelope taped to her bedroom door and every day, with my help and supervision, she takes each card from the DO envelope and when the task on it is completed, places it in the DONE envelope. They are: Get dressed, brush your teeth, feed and water your turtle, fish and dove, and make your bed. She likes having these responsibilities. She feels like a big girl doing her "jobs" and relishes in the accomplishment of finishing them every morning.*

Then there's the reward chart. This is a chart that she can move up on for doing things I think we need to work on like using manners or helping out. When she makes it to number 10, she gets a previously agreed upon reward. We decided to use it for helping Mommy around the house. It has been working like a charm. As she sees herself move up the chart she gets excited and begs me to find more things she can help with (this is the second time around on the reward chart).

I decided to implement the house rules suggested by Supernanny today and drew them up on a piece of construction paper and explained each one to Ellie. Then we talked about the consequences for disobeying the house rules. Time out. I've heard mixed advice on time outs, but I feel like they work, and they're better than me bustin out my special Mississippi grown can of whoop ass on her.

Ellie had no problem with any of the rules except the one about jumping off the furniture, as that has become a favorite past time of hers recently. Let's call it pent up, untapped, blizzard energy. Regardless, it's dangerous and she has almost landed heavily on her sister more than once.

Only moments after I had put the house rules up, Ellie retrieved the construction paper and markers and began furiously drawing and taping away. Soon she had taped four pieces of scribbled upon paper to the wall by my house rules and explained to me that these were HER rules. The first one, she pointed out said, she CAN jump off of the furniture.

The second one? Well that one informed me that she did NOT like house rules and that I HAD to be nice to her.
The third and fourth one involved something about unlimited quantities of milk and candy but I was too busy trying not to laugh to really pay attention.

DO YOU SEE WHAT I AM DEALING WITH? How does one work with a mind like that?

I asked her who had been made the mommy and who was there to protect her and keep her safe. She hung her dismally and drew a line across the floor with her bare foot. In a small voice she said, "You and Daddy." And then you could almost hear the wheels turning in her head as she looked up at me bright eyed and full of hope and exclaimed, "But I'm in charge of my toys and this rule says THEY CAN jump off the furniture!"

"Yes", I said, "Yes they can."

I have a feeling this means I'm going to see Lincoln logs flying from the dresser sometime soon. Oops.

*I have to give my wonderful aunt Joni credit for the DO and DONE jobs. She is a very big parenting mentor in my life and I have logged many hours seeking her advice on a variety of issues. I'm expecting a bill one of these days. ;)

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

These Are a Few of My Favorite Things

I've been snowed in with two restless children and an equally restless husband for almost two weeks now and as I'm sure you can imagine, the mess and chaos has begun to pile up and pour out of my ears.

In addition to tackling my mounting domestic duties, I've begun working heavily on a personal writing project that I will share in greater detail hopefully very soon. So. In lieu of something deep and personal, I'd like to share with you some of my favorite things. Things that, if pressed, I could live without, but I wouldn't want to.

Without further ado, here they are, in no particular order:

My bicycycle. It's an Electra Amsterdam, and it falls just short of being Marrying Material. If I had the shekels, I'd buy one of THESE, but for now, this one will have to (and does) do just fine.

My new and uber-awesome bicycle trailer. Now that I have two young-uns, I had to reconfigure my cycling with children strategy. This thing is truly luxury and worth the price (although I got mine for a steal on Craigslist). I can use it as a trailer and then switch to a stroller when I reach my destination. It has some wicked shocks and I can barely feel myself pulling it when I'm going for a ride. On top ALL that, It can hold about three bags of groceries in it's storage compartment. And the kids? They LOVE it. Summer. DC Bike trails. Get ready for The Hayes ladies.

My Phone. I know that everyone already thinks the iPhone is cool, but this thing has pretty much revolutionized my life. I have to make myself put it in a locked location for large chunks of my day because, well, I have apps that are just begging to be used. Even Ellie asks me to use my phone all the time...and that is a post in itself because BOY has technology come a long way since I was three and played with a toy rotary phone that had rolling eyeballs and a receiver with a CORD.

Green Super Food. This stuff has truly been a life saver. I take a couple shots of it every day and it has kept me from completely going over the edge after nights of crying babies and days filled with endless three year old chatter. It gives me energy (of the caffeine free variety), helps me digest my food ( and that's all YOU need to know about that), and I think it has kept me from gaining any weight over these last two weeks trapped inside.

Holy moly, THIS perfume*. I have quite a collection of perfumes and I'm something of a scent whore. I have never been able to remain faithful to any one scent like some of my friends. That is, until I met this one. It is my scent soul mate and I cover myself with it like a two dollar Lady of the Night. I just couldn't bring myself to use the word whore twice in the same paragraph. Oops, I guess I just did.

NPR. I imagine when my children are grown they will look back on their childhood and recall memories of their mother spending what seemed like hours (because it IS hours) in the kitchen every day preparing food and listening to the familiar and comforting voices of Terry Gross, Ira Glass, Steve Inskeep, Neil Conan, and Garrison Keilor. They are my imaginary friends and without them to tell me stories every day, I might just lose my mind.

Craigslist, Ebay, and This store. They are the trinity in my arsenal of bargain hunting weapons. I go to a store, like Saks or Nordstroms, try on or test the pricey item I'm eyeing and then I search these places for a better deal. and I ALWAYS find it. Now that I've given that secret away, I may just have to smother all of you with a pillow in the night. But not tonight because I already have plans, so sleep well Dear Readers.

Oh, I could go on, but this post has already consumed more time than it would had I just babbled on about something pestering the dark, cavernous recesses of my mind. But for whatever it's worth, hope you liked it.

*Umm, NO, I did NOT spend that much money on the perfume in case you were wondering.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Aint No Party Like a Peoples Party!

It's been a long time, Readers. Are any of you still there?
(That was me echoing into the dark and never ending abyss of the Internet.)

I want to tell you a little story. A story about changes that occur within the heart. About moments easily missed when hidden among other moments that look almost identical. Except that they are not. Like a four leaf clover nestled against all his three leaved brethren, you'd pass it by if you weren't looking closely.

I have been so lonely.
I don't talk about it much because, well, there isn't anything I can do about my current situation. He's gone all the time and I'm here with the kids. The end. Fin.

This past weekend saw the dumping of over two feet onto the Baltimore and DC metro areas. This snow came atop the few inches that we already had. It dealt swiftly and deftly in it's silently falling beauty and rendered hundreds of thousands of people without power, roads undriveable, and people basically, stuck.

What do you do when you're stuck to keep from losing your mind, I asked my Facebook friends.
And one of my friends, Caroline, whom I have always admired for her spontaneous and outgoing ways suggested that I have a party in the lobby and invite my neighbors. I instantly thought it a brilliant idea and began working on a flyer to post in the lobby. But as I sat in front of the computer to type it, a silent and unnamed fear crept up my spine and began to whisper things in my ear.
No one will come.
You will be sitting out there all alone and no one will come.
It will be just like team sports at school and you will be left standing last. Alone. Waiting for someone to choose you... but no one will.

And for a moment I entertained these thoughts allowing the fear to cripple my heart; to freeze my fingers before the keys. But then I stopped and asked myself, who have I become? This is not ME.

There is a joke within my family that you could drop me from an airplane and I would have made dinner plans with new friends before I hit the ground. Maybe this was true. Before. But before when? Before what? I don't know when this shift occurred; when I lost that inner spark that compels me to talk to strangers; to beckon them into my home, to pry gently into their minds. The desire to know the hearts of people and to show them mine. But nevertheless I thought it gone.

As I sat in front of my computer entertaining the slanderous words of the fear perched atop my shoulder and began to consider the person I was: free and so fun; I decided just to BE HER. Because I AM HER. She is ME. And so I flicked fear in the nose and began typing. I affixed one flyer to the entrance of my building and one to the mirror in the foyer, and like Moses's sister watching from the banks of the Nile I waited for someone to pass my note.

People began to stop and look and chat about it and I ran back to my apartment to prepare. I made what were probably the worst cookies of my life due to the fact that some stray, uncooked black beans snuck into the batter somehow and became quite a nuisance when bitten down upon. But I planned to serve them despite that fact. I was also taking my two bottles of Shiraz that I had planned to ration for myself throughout this storm. But what good is wine if not enjoyed in the company of others?

From time to time I would venture into the lobby to peek at my note and see if anyone had taken it down, and at one point I saw an older couple that I had exchanged pleasantries with looking it over.
"I put that up", I said. "I thought maybe everyone would like to get out of the apartment for a bit."
"What a wonderful idea!" they both exclaimed and agreed instantly to contribute to the wine and cookies with a stash of their own.
I thanked them both and we agreed to meet in the lobby at seven.

The clock seemed to move in slow motion, it's hands stuck in invisible molasses, but slowly, surely, it eventually came to rest at 6:45 and I headed to the lobby thinking I would be the only person there.
But I was wrong.
There sat Jack, the male half of the older couple I had spoken with earlier. He sat on the blue, contemporary couch in the lobby with his hands folded neatly in his lap as The Macarena played loudly on a small stereo he had set up near the neatly placed box of Franzia, Dixie cups, and M&M cookies. My heart instantly swelled and filled with a warm love for Jack and his stereo and his box of wine. No, I wouldn't be alone. It would be Jack and Jill, and even if no one else came, the two of us would share in this together.

But then something happened.

People began to trickle in! Introductions were made and smiles exchanged. With each person that showed, my grin grew and my heart expanded. I felt at home within myself again. This is what I was born to do. Be among people. Share in their joy; their heartache.

People would ask whose idea it had been to throw this party and inevitably someone would steer the person in my direction and they would shake my hand or hug me and say thank you and what a wonderful idea it had been.

One woman even stood before us all and with a quiver in her voice said, my name is Carla*, I live in apartment 615 and I have been very lonely, please come visit me anytime. In that instant I knew that the whole thing had been worth it if only for meeting that woman and hearing those words. I have been longing to reach out to someone and share in their suffering if only to ease the burden, to make them laugh. And here she was. And for the rest of the night we stayed close to one another and I saw a glimmer in her eye as she continued to bring people my way to introduce me as Jill, THIS IS JILL, She is our hostess, this is her party.

People continued to come throughout the night, all ages, many nationalities, and each bringing a food or drink to add to the growing assortment on the table. With each new arrival my heart expanded and the warmth of happiness spread like a blush across my face. Sometime in the middle of the festivities I met the neighbor that lives directly across from me. I have only seen her on one occasion and even then she was quick to duck into her apartment and shut the door.

I said hello, touched her arm, and introduced myself. In the first few minutes of talking to her I learned that she had lost her family in Jerusalem only a few years before and as she told me this, tears began to fill her eyes and I felt the mountainous, cavernous sorrow that lived in her heart. I held her hand and asked her if it would be OK for me to come and visit her and she silently nodded. I learned that she is an artist and since moving back to the US, has become quite anti-social. I laughed and said," well, in that respect we share something."

When it was all said and done, I had been thanked more times than I can recall, drunk too much wine and learned a lot about people and myself. We're all lonely and we all benefit from the company of another but so many times we don't know how to reach out and make that connection. Sometimes it takes one of us, taking that step, flicking fear in the nose, and just doing it. And I did it. And I am glad.

There was a unanimous consensus among the group that the party had been a raging success and because of that, we should all meet on a monthly basis in the lobby. I agreed.

Whatever you do unto the least of these......

* I have changed her name to respect her privacy.