Lent: Prayer, more than just meditation

Lent: Prayer, more than just meditation

I prayed with the sincerest intention I could remember. It was the extended version of the Rosary and I prayed it while my dad was having surgery to have a pacemaker installed. I read a bunch of literature on the subject leading up to the surgery and from statistical standpoint it was a fairly easy procedure and I had nothing to worry about. But I was nervous and scared about the faintest possibility of any complication.

Praying the Rosary helped put my mind at ease and in that sense I was comforted. I never thought I’d publicly be writing about the positivity and power of prayer, but I can tell you that it helped. Religion done the right he way is a guidance on how to live at peace and in service to others. It makes me wonder what went wrong and where. Why has it sometimes been used to do more harm than good, and when did it become something potentially archaic and shameful.

My dad’s surgery went well and he is coming home today. I could say we were lucky. I could say I’m grateful to the universe. I could say I’m grateful to God. It felt like more than just look and we understand about the universe about as much as we understand about God (if we’re being honest). So why not just say it was God and have faith in the teachings that are part of my heritage.

Lent: The Rosary as meditation

Lent: The Rosary as meditation

Photo by RODNAE Productions on Pexels.com

A gift and personal reasons led me to do some research on the Rosary. I haven’t prayed it in years even though I grew up praying it with family and during 13 years of Catholic school. Until a few days ago, the idea of it seemed out of place and antiquated. As I read articles on its history and purpose, I became intrigued by Popes and Saints throughout history referring to it as a form of meditation. It got me thinking about how is it that meditation and mindfulness in today’s society can borrow so freely from some religions and shun others. Why is it that Buddhist and Hindi practices are trendy and praised, but Christian meditation practices have come to be shunned?

I decided to pray the Rosary every day during lent as an offering during this time of year in addition to a few other things I’ve decided to give up. It’s a little sad that I feel the need to be courageous to even post on this topic. So I’m hoping this time will help me as a self-reflection.

If there is one good thing about this pandemic it is that it has brought me closer to family and the traditions I grew up with. Before the pandemic I had started to view special days of the year as nothing special. I remember a few Decembers ago that I was driving with Christmas music playing in my car when I was overcome by a feeling of sadness that I had drifted away from my traditions.

I don’t want to make my little corner of the internet sound preachy, but I’m thinking of focusing on this aspect of me throughout Lent.

Celebrating with Pouilly-Fuissé

Celebrating with Pouilly-Fuissé

In my previous post I mentioned being invited to interview for a job I’m interested in. That first interview went well and I was invited for a second round. That second round was today with a couple of interviewers and I came away feeling even more excited. I feel like I made a great impression and I came away with a good impression of the company and the position as well! I don’t want to get my hopes up, but it may be too late for that. My mind is already imagining myself in the new role and how to go about telling my current coworkers if I end up taking the job. Oh how I wish this job to come true.

Regardless of me getting the job or not, I feel quite proud of myself for feeling so confident and comfortable during my interview. So to celebrate, I opened up a bottle of wine and watched a short opera. The wine was a 2016 Domaine Luquet Pouilly-Fuissé Bois Seguin. The opera was Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci. I spent some time reading up on the wine trying to understand more about the grapes used and the region it comes from. The French label their wines by region and not grape variety like we do here in California. So I wasn’t quite sure what kind of wine I was about to drink. It was a Chardonnay from Bourgogne (Burgundy) and an exquisite one at that. In that past I would have probably said that I liked Pouilly-Fussé over Chardonnay, but knowing better now I would say I prefer this particular French Chardonnay over a typical California Chardonnay. The French oak barrels that they’re aged in produce a more delicate and pleasing taste for me. I read further about the typical flavors of the region and I could definitely detect a few notes of apple and a hint of citrus. The color was a deeper amber color that tells me it was a slightly older wine. Researching and learning all of this is why I love wine. 🙂

As to the opera…Pagliacci is a masterpiece and one that I feel deeply. It tears me up and gives me goosebumps. I’ve noticed that I appreciate opera more and more as I get older and at first I thought it was because it is an acquired taste that I’ve learned to appreciate and I know much more about it now. While that may be partially true, I believe the biggest reason for my interest crescendo is that I’ve had more life experiences now. It’s hard to identify with the characters and feel their pain if you haven’t gone through the life experiences depicted in these works of art. When I see a performance of Pagliacci, it stirs up old wounds of heartbreak and betrayal. It sounds masochistic, but I instead find it cathartic. When you hear the deep emotions portrayed by the music you feel comforted that others have felt the same thing to and that it’s all part of the human experience.

Who celebrates like this over a job interview that you don’t know the outcome of? Well, I do and I love it!

Even the wine I wanted to hate was outstanding.

Even the wine I wanted to hate was outstanding.

Let me start from the beginning. I put on a new set of clothes—I suppose I should call it an outfit—to go into the office. It was khaki slacks, a blue dress shirt, and a thin vest to keep me warm. Yesterday was quite hot and today was about 30 degrees colder and we even got some hail. I walked into the my office feeling like a million bucks and as I opened my email I saw a message congratulating me on landing an interview for a job I’m very interested in. Then I got the news that my dad was being released from the hospital today and I could go pick him up. He spent a few days in the hospital but is doing very well now. This was one fantastic day so I promised myself a bottle of wine when I finally made it back home.

So I uncorked a bottle of a 2016 Muga Selección Especial Rioja. I paid about $45 for it a few weeks ago—more expensive than my usual, but certainly nothing to write home about. I was at Total Wine and saw this Muga bottle and looked through my old messages on my phone. Wasn’t this the bottle a former friend of mine once told me was his favorite? It was. I was curious but not excited. I met this friend in Madrid years ago at the suggestion of a mutual professor. We had dinner and toured Madrid and continued our friendship for a few years after that. But boy was he a pretentious fucking asshole when it came to food and wine. So I bought the bottle to see what it was all about and tonight I had two glasses of it. Damn, the motherfucker was right! It is one of the best wines I’ve ever had. I am cringing as I write this, but I am now a Muga fan.

I should have probably played the lottery today because even the wine I wanted to hate turned out to be outstanding.

24. Patting myself on the back

24. Patting myself on the back

I can’t remember the number of times I’ve written on here about productivity and I would get annoyed reading someone write about it over and over. Today, however, was one of my good days on the productivity front so I will take the liberty of giving myself a virtual pat on the back in the form of this post. To round out my productivity-focused day, I will end it here and read my book on organization before going to sleep. 🙂

23. Wind-driven imagination

23. Wind-driven imagination

We had some very strong winds these last couple of days and last night was the last of it. The highest recorded wind speed in my immediate are was 78 miles per hour and 140 miles per hour up in the mountains. These were what we locally refer to as the Santa Ana winds—offshore winds that come in from the desert and speed up as they force their way around the mountains and down the passes. Some sources say that these winds were originally called Satanás winds (from the Spanish word for satan). They are definitely some hellish winds. In the summer they tend to fuel the wildfires, and other time like this weekend they bring down several trees and power lines.

They make driving a little more difficult and make you weary of tall trees. However, my mind being the way that it is had me imagining myself on some far off alien world with fierce windstorms and I was taking shelter inside some research facility as the winds howled outside. Not unlike what you see in those research outposts in Antarctica. That’s one experience I would have like to have had. Living on that continent for one year and see the sun circle around you just above the horizon during the peak of summer and to see the days where no day ever comes. It fascinates me think of places on earth that can be that otherworldly.

22. The Vox Kitchen

22. The Vox Kitchen

It has been a while since I tried a new restaurant because of its ranking. I stopped paying attention to reviews and ranking since the passing of Jonathan Gold. I loved reading his reviews and eagerly awaiting his annual list of LA’s top 101 restaurants (my roadmap to LA’s gastronomic landscape). Adding to this was a financial reset I needed to do, lost friendships, and new beginnings. I stayed away from social media for the most part and I had not posted anything food-related since I went to Dubai in 2018.

Last week, I felt the urge to post photos from my dinner at Napa Rose and I was surprise at the positive response I received from old friends. One of them was excited to see the my food posts were back. I felt nostalgic for times past, but I don’t regret stepping away from social media for a few years, and I certainly don’t regret taking a break from going to so many restaurants. It sounds counterintuitive, but the trust is that I’ve gained a much better appreciation for food after cooking from home more.

Today’s lunch at Vox is a prime example. I was able to identify far more ingredients in the bone-in short rib soup now because I’ve used many of the ingredients countless times. I would have never been able to identify the enoki mushrooms and would have had no clue on where to buy them. The lychee lemonade would have merely been delicious in the past with not much thought as to what lychee could be. Now it’s one of my favorite fruits and I know how to look for good ones when they’re in season.

I’ve been enjoying my last few posts about food—both on here and other social media—and perhaps it is time to start doing this again regularly.

21. An ordinary day and an extraordinary keyboard.

21. An ordinary day and an extraordinary keyboard.

Today is just one of those days where I really have nothing interesting to write about. It was normal, uneventful and I love it that way. The most exciting thing is probably the new portable folding keyboard I had delivered today. It’s about as long as an iPhone and not much wider when folded and can be paired with up to three devices. I mainly got it to use with my iPad for quick I bought a new hight adjustable stand for. The whole set up now looks like a tiny iMac. The keyboard also has a built-in trackpad. I can now fold everything and pack lightly. For even more portability, I can pack only my new keyboard since I can also use it with my phone. There are so many people that use their phone to reply to emails, but not me. 80-year-old me (at least I feel that way in these cases) prefers a full physical keyboard. Now I can reply to everything to my heart’s content without having to suffer through the software keyboard.

So there you go. I’ve typed this all using my new keyboard. I should probably take a picture, but it’s late and I don’t want to turn the lights on.

20. Chile guajilla, epazote, y tomatillo

20. Chile guajilla, epazote, y tomatillo

These are just a few of the ingredients I used today. All very authentic Mexican ingredients. It was for a meatball soup I did today that turned out very flavorful and it was a joy to make. I’ve come to develop a deep appreciation for the raw natural ingredients that go into making a dish and love shopping around different stores to source the very best.

It’s a bit hard to believe I would be excited about vegetables, but they can be quite amazing. Beyond their flavors and nutrition, there’s a story of where they originated from, what cultures domesticated them, what cultures adopted them, etc. Even the names tell a story. Take tomato for example: Tomato comes from the Spanish word tomate, which in turn comes from the Nahuatl word tomatl. The tomatillos above are the native variety the Aztecs called tomatl. The Aztecs then cultivated this fruit to be sweeter and red and called it xitomatl which we know today in English simply as tomato. Many Mexicans today will refer to the green ones above as tomate and the red ones as jitomates.

Isn’t food and language beautiful?

18. I’m nobody! Who are you?

18. I’m nobody! Who are you?

I’ve obviously been terrible at keeping up with my writing, but I swear I have a rough draft for each of the days that I’ve missed. I’m just looking for a quiet opportunity to plug away.

I decided to publish today’s before the other ones because I stumbled upon a piece of poetry that I identify with so well. There are few things I love more than being a nobody. I always strive to attract as little attention to myself as possible and be lost in a corner somewhere.

I’m Nobody! Who are you?
Are you nobody, too?
Then there’s a pair of us – don’t tell!
They’d banish us, you know.

How dreary to be somebody!
How public, like a frog
To tell your name the livelong day
To and admiring bog!

-Emily Dickinson