Strange rites of passage and no bullshit: Welcome, 2017!

Running toward a no-bullshit 2017!

2016 is in the rear-view mirror. Last night, we attended a New Year’s Eve party at a house we’ve been lucky enough to be invited to for the past several Dec. 31sts.  The host (a guy about my age) remarked that, “We’re old enough that the people who influenced us are starting to die off.”

William Christopher as “Father Mulcahy”

The observation was his response to my sharing that William Christopher, the actor who played Father Mulcahy on the sitcom “M.A.S.H.,” had joined David Bowie, Prince, George Michael, Carrie Fisher, Debbie Reynolds, Greg Lake, Keith Emerson, Pfife Dawg, Sharon Jones, Leon Russell and others in wherever it is we End Up after we’re Not Here. (I am not discounting that we simply become ash or worm fodder, but given that death remains a Great Mystery, remain open to any and all possibilities.)

Which is one reason (shoutout to Eddie Izzard), I baked and brought a cake to the party.

(“Cake or Death,” the video, starring Eddie Izzard. Embedding was an issue, so here’s a link.)

The others were:

  1. At last year’s party, I didn’t have a job. This year, I do. That alone is worth cake.
  2. My first run at this particular cake – four layers with lemon curd filling, covered in seven-minute icing – was a month ago for my book group. It turned out well, but I wanted to try it again with a few tweaks. (ie: Upping the tart factor to showcase the lemon and getting the icing to not be so runny. I succeeded with the former, not so much with the latter.)
  3. There’d be a guaranteed gluten-free dessert, which could be my little secret.
I need to figure out how to make the icing less runny.

The party seemed less crowded this year. One difference was the absence of vote trollers. Last year, going into an election season, there were a lot of “bright young things” (quotes intentional) sparkling up the front room, willingly engaging with anyone they considered worthy (each other) and pretty much ignoring the rest of us. I’m not entirely sad that the only bright young things there this year were the regular wonderful ones, and not just because (huzzah!) it meant more grilled tenderloin for the rest of us.

This  is from another party featuring tenderloin. I didn’t take any pictures last night.

Tenderloin and cake aside, it’s good to assess where we’ve been, where we’re going, and what’s happening around us at various points along the way.

Which, for those of us old enough to have children in their 20s, 30s and 40s (whether or not we actually do), might be causing a few … twinges.

In keeping with the food theme, here’s some “where we’ve been,” featuring adult children and elders.

Those children are adults, with all the responsibilities and privileges that word carries. And, at the same time, as Kevin wisely observes, the generation-up people we saw as heroes and role models – and some similarly-situated age peers – are dying within the time frame of a normal life span. (Some are at the younger end of that spectrum, but still within the boundaries of “normal.”)

Getting old enough to die at the point where no one is shocked at how “too young” you were is a strange rite of passage. I don’t spend a ton of time brooding about what that means, but I would be lying if I said I never thought about it at all.

Me (right), not brooding. And probably not acting my age, either. 

As what is shaping up to be a surreal and potentially interesting interval in the life the world as we know it, or to put it more succinctly, 2017, commences, I’m trying to keep an open mind about things.

One certainty that is becoming clearer is making the best use of the time I have in front of me. Part of that involves making more words, more cake, taking the best possible care I can of the people I love and of the world in which I live.

Regarding that last, loving the world in which I live means doing my bit to create the one I want to leave for everyone else. Seeing the world as it is and not as I want it to be isn’t easy. Talking honestly about it isn’t always politic. But unless you’re willing to look at – and call by name – what’s happening in front of you, you’ll never be able to change it.

So, 2017, here’s a toast. L’Chaim and no bullshit.

Rare steaks, raccoons and what Jewish mothers feed bees

Our Passover Seder last month was, for the most part, an unparalleled success. We fled Egypt from the dining room table and ate a lovely dinner that everyone seemed pretty happy about, although Mom’s “get up and go” got up and went shortly after the meal started. We helped her to the car. Sweetheart drove her back to the nursing home while the rest of us chanted the blessing after meals (okay, so not all of us chanted, but some of us did), opened the door for Elijah and read Psalms of Praise.

The part that wasn’t so successful, for me, was a meat thermometer failure. The roast ended up medium rare, way more done than I like. I’m a rare kind of person. And I love a rare kind of person. The kind of person who, a month after making an offhand remark about taking his beloved out for a fancy steak dinner, makes a reservation at a really fancy steak house.

“So you can get the rare meat you missed at Seder,” he said, as we raked up brush in the yard between watching the bees fly in and out of the hive on Saturday. Up until then, it had still been cold or rainy and not terribly nice. Bees don’t like going out in that kind of crummy weather any more than people do.

So I’d been worried about my fuzzy amber-colored pollinators. This past week though, when we opened the hive for the second time since installing our two-pound package of Carniolan bees, we discovered some great news.


In a new hive, brood is the best thing you can find. It means the bees have accepted their queen and she is laying eggs. Brood means baby bees, baby bees mean more bees, and if they’re making more bees, they have enough to eat.

So, Hurray for our queen, Latifah of the Backyard Hive!

Also, I got stung for the first time. A bee flew into the back of my pants and probably freaked out. I pulled the stinger out and iced it. It didn’t hurt too badly. Alla, whose father and grandfather kept bees, says you’re a real beekeeper when you don’t notice the stings. I’m not there yet.

Beehive with top off
This is what you see when you lift the top off the hive. You loosen the ends of the slats, which are actually the tops of frames on which the bees draw comb and fill it with brood. (They also store nectar and honey in comb. Comb is kind of like an all-purpose storage facility if you’re a bee.)

I suppose I should get a suit at some point, but right now my only protective gear is a bee veil. Sweetheart doesn’t even have that. He coaches me from the sidelines between blowing puffs of smoke at the bees to keep them from getting any funny ideas about attacking while I’m lifting frames and looking to see if things are okay.

In other exciting beehive news, a raccoon tried to open the hive sometime this week. We’re pretty sure it was a raccoon because the rock on top of the hive was on the ground next to it. The top was jostled but not pulled off, which would make sense if whatever was trying to pull it off could only do it while sitting on it.

The raccoon rolled the rock off the left side of the top, then sat there trying to get the top off. I don't know if raccoons understand about gravity. Or physics.
The raccoon rolled the rock off the left side of the top, then sat there trying to get the top off. I don’t know if raccoons understand about gravity. Or physics.

The raccoon was probably after the sugar syrup we’re feeding the bees until we know there’s enough in bloom for them to get food on their own.

I’m not sure I’ll know before the bees do. What I am sure of is that that won’t stop me from trying to figure it out. We were en route to the restaurant when I realized I was scanning every patch of open space for dandelions and other blooming things. And it had nothing to do with pretty flowers.

It was because I’m a Jewish mother with a beehive.