Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake

Memoirs are not my favorite genre and the last time I read Anna Quindlen, she scared me away with the desolation of her novel,  Every Last One, but a good friend suggested that I read Quindlen’s memoir – Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake.

Not willing to wait out the long library reserve list, I escaped to a Barnes and Noble to nurse a double espresso while reading the red covered book with a flap that boasted “You wouldn’t believe how cheaply I can do a kitchen renovation” – sounded promising.
So, Anna became my morning coffee companion.

As she chatted about friends, school, religion, and children, I realized we have a lot in common. I squirted coffee out my nose laughing at her wanting to lick the brownie bowl without sharing with her small children. (One of my first published pieces was about licking the cake batter bowl.) Although I admired her handstands and one-arm pushups, she did not inspire me to do the same, but her admonition to “drive out fear” is advice worth keeping. When was the last time you did not try something because you were afraid of the outcome?

After a while, I took Anna home with me and discovered her mother had made her pepper-onion-egg sandwiches just as mine had for me. I listened intently as her life changed when her mother became ill when Anna was 19, and suddenly realized the significance of her theme of loss in most of her novels.

Quindlen’s memories have a universality that will resonate with anyone who appreciates “the examined life,” but I made an unexpected connection – just as my friend suggested I would. As for that kitchen renovation, she took the words right out of my mouth…

A safety net of small white lies can be the bedrock of a successful marriage.

Book Review: Every Last One

What’s in a Face…?

Ever catch yourself in a reflection, or see a picture of yourself when you were not posing?  Did it look like what you thought you look like?

art by Sandra Cohen

Denise Grady, science reporter for the New York Times, notes that “people make instant judgments…we often judge unconsciously…”  I had noticed an elderly woman seated across the room from me in the botany lab, but later when I was introduced to her in the student lounge, and we engaged in lively conversation, I did not recognize her as the same frumpy gray-haired person in the class.  Her animated interest in the readings disguised her – I only saw her eyes, and was surprised to find she was the same person I had dismissed earlier.

Grady reviews how the face ages – better for some, but not as good as we’d like to believe – an indicator of health and experience, both good and bad.

My favorite piece is her ending:

The mind-body mismatch can sting in other ways.  A graying baby boomer told this story about himself.  He was standing in a crowded subway car in Manhattan when a pretty young woman seated nearby, caught his eye and smiled.  He smiled back, pleased to think that maybe he still had the right stuff after all.  Then she offered him her seat.

Read the article – here