all the world’s a stage . . .

I’ve said over and over again to whoever paid attention that the key to appreciating life lies in your own attitude. After hearing a line affirming that fact in the movie reviewed in my previous post, I can’t think of anything offhand that doesn’t depend on what we choose to bring to the experience. I thought about it as I was driving home yesterday from a meeting of my new writing club. One of the members, Polly, is a petite, silver-haired senior in her eighties. She’s one of those charismatic people I think of as born story tellers. Though she doesn’t call undue attention to herself in a crowd, as you get to know her you realize she’s not sleep walking through life, she’s always living an adventure. I always say to her after a long absence, what new adventures do you have to share with me, Polly, and she always has at least one. It may be how she decided to get out the step ladder and fix that malfunctioning security alarm system herself. After struggling with screwdrivers and socket wrenches and the sort, she soon felt frustrated enough to call the people who designed the system and ask them to walk her through it–what color wire goes here, etc.–so she could fix it herself rather than calling on her busy adult son. Then there were the trips she’s taken with her grandchildren–two so far, involving three adult grandchildren–and the beautiful stories of their serendipitous adventures together. I’ve no doubt traveling as adults with their grandmother–with an age-span of 60+ years–has surely given them a much larger picture of graceful aging than society does in general. In fact, I began to realize early on that Polly sees the world much differently than I. Being a former dancer and teacher with a flair for drama, Polly’s world comes choreographed where mine comes with stories.

I love the occasional glimpse into the world as others see it, and I get that opportunity–seeing Polly’s choreographed world–regularly at our monthly writer’s meeting.  Yesterday, when she shared two more adventures, I suggested she should be sharing with a wider audience than the four of us at the meeting, but she demurred suggesting a certain aversion to computers in general. So I begged, and she graciously agreed to be my guest blogger for today’s Wintersong. I hope my readers will be inspired through it to take a second look at ordinary people on an ordinary day. After all, wasn’t it Shakespeare who said All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players. 

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When discussing a good way to get an idea for a story, one of our writing group members suggested that we go to a restaurant and sit close to others in order to listen to bits of conversation. When shopping at Costco the other day, I decided to have lunch. I forgot about sitting close to others and, as is my habit, sat as far away as possible from others. I could not hear any conversations–just the general cacophony of the crowd. In watching those around me, I began to be intrigued by an elderly couple who came into view.

When the gentleman started to sit down, his wife–with a sweeping gesture of her arm and index finger–pointed to another place, he raised himself and went to the spot she had designated. Right away we know she is “Mrs. Take Charge.” He then took something from his pocket–a Kleenex, a rag or a handkerchief, not sure which–and proceeded to clean his eating area with a rotating motion; first it was clockwise and then counterclockwise. She sat down across from him, but not for long. She popped up in jumping-jack fashion, turned away from him toward what I saw were the free napkins, and darted across the room. She returned with a wad of napkins. Standing in front of her plate, she began pressing the top of her meal with a handful. She pressed and released, pressed and released; it was similar to a plié and releve at a ballet barre. I think she was squeezing the grease from her meal while her husband continued to clean his area of the table. I watched their gestures–she, going down and up; he still going in a circular motion–as if I were watching a dance recital. That was just one table.

When glancing to the right there was another table, this one with a large family. Their gaggle of small children were like a pail of worms on fast forward. Under the bench and around the table, back and forth they’d go. Every once in awhile one would stop and cling to a parent. There was a constant and rapid circulation of little people. Here I am in this scene, watching Mrs. Take Charge and her obedient spouse, and the squirming children. Out of the blue comes a woman with big thighs and breasts laboriously pushing her heavy cart. She flopped down into a seat, exhausted from the effort of managing her cart and huge self. All I could think of was that out of this scene there was an idea  for a new dance! To think, one eight-inch all-beef hot dog on a roll topped with sauerkraut with a 16 ounce drink–my lunch–and all it had cost me was $1.50! The “extra” was watching what strikes me now as the makings of a dance program. And the show was all free!

please forward to 20 friends . . .

“you have been invited to be part of a recipe exchange. We hope you will participate. Please send a recipe to the person whose name is in position 1 (even if you don’t know him/her) and it should be something quick, easy and without rare ingredients. Actually, the best one is the one you know in your head and can type right now. Don’t agonize over it; it is one you make when you are short of time.”

Sound familiar? Chain letters always promise phenomenal return for small effort. The simplest lists a random number of people and you’re instructed to send something to the top person on the list. In this case, it’s a recipe. Then you remove the top name, bring the second person into the top position, then add yourself at the bottom, then send the same email to 20 of your friends. Theoretically you’ll receive 36 recipes in return, and since there are only two names on the list now–the person who sent it and yourself you’ve just added–the turnaround should be quick.

There are other chain letters, too, those that promise good luck (or money or other enticement) to anyone who sends the message to others–usually within five minutes–and bad luck to those who don’t. Those I ignore. The recipe exchange I’ve tried before, however, and I can’t recall a single recipe I’ve gotten back. Years ago–before self-stick stamps and envelopes and word processing software–these same requests came in the form of hand-written letters, faithfully copied X-times and stuffed into X number of hand-addressed and licked envelopes and stamps. I honored those a few time too, and only remember a trickle of returns–one or two at most–after I’d spent money, time and effort on stationery, envelopes, and stamps. The only plus I can see is that I was contributing to the coffers of the U.S. Postal Service.

Something interesting, or pathetic–depending on how you choose to look at it–has happened over the past couple of decades. The sad truth is, I really don’t have 20 email friends who would want to participate in this kind of thing. When they want a recipe, they go–as I do–to, food blogs, or personal recipe book collections. I suspect also, this may be the consequence of moving around the country–all for legitimate reasons of course–over the past 40 or so years, at least in my case. Even though I’ve gotten better at saying no as I’ve grown older, it’s still not easy. It still feels bad when I decline these innocent chain letter requests. I’m getting practice though–twice in just the past several weeks. So I’m compromising here, trying to make myself feel better by sharing the most recent recipe I’ve tried with not just 20 friends but the whole web-wide world, as the letter stated, something quick, easy, and without rare ingredients, one I know if my head and can type right now from my head.

Hubby and I both enjoy a bite or two of something sweet after dinner, but we both know too much sugar is not good for either of us. So I made chocolate-covered banana bites. They were being sold in Costco a few weeks ago and I reckoned I could make them at home easily and cheaply, without all the preservatives. Most women I know could have figured it out on their own, but the idea may not have occurred to them yet. Here’s how.

(1) Take three ripe bananas–those showing little brown spots on their yellow peel–and cut into bite-size pieces between 3/4″-1″. Lay them in a single layer on a wax-paper-covered cookie sheet (foil would work too). (2) Pop them into the freezer for an hour or two. (3) Melt a 12-ounce package of semi-sweet chocolate chips over a double boiler. TIP: Place over HOT–not boiling–water and stir occasionally until melted. (4) If the chocolate feels too thick for dipping, stir in enough vegetable oil (for me 3/4 tablespoon worked well) to thin. (5) Since the banana bites are frozen, it may be difficult to poke a toothpick or fork tip in, so you’ll need to figure out the best way to drop them into the chocolate, twirl about to cover, and retrieve without getting hot chocolate all over yourself. A teaspoon worked for me. (6) Dip them out and arrange, again in a single layer, without touching each other on that cookie sheet. They’ll dry with a sheen after a moment or two. (7) Put them into a suitable container and store in the freezer.

Next time you crave a little something chocolate or a little something for your sweet tooth without over-indulging, reach in and grab one or two, and pop them into your mouth. Or you can wait a few moments ’til the insides thaw a little if you like. The chocolate stays firm. As you indulge, you can rationalize how good bananas are for you–all that potassium and stuff–and satisfy your chocolate craving all at the same time, and with minimum guilt.

UPDATE: After making this the second time, I discovered it’s best NOT to freeze the banana bites first. If you don’t work real fast, the frozen banana causes condensation that causes the chocolate not only to get too thick, but it loses its sticking power. So, next batch, NO PRE-FREEZING, and that eliminates the problem of what tool to implement in dipping and dropping. A fork works just fine.