Communities of friends you may never meet in person and a "come to Jesus" morning

In the past, I've written enthusiastically about the friends I've made through my involvement in the Food 52 web site. For a while, the wise, knowledgeable, sassy voices of these women were obscured behind user IDs and perhaps a blurry thumbnail portrait. I admired them from afar and got to know them to a degree. Now, I know their names, the places they call home, a bit about their families. We trade funny tweets and tipsy emails, travel tips and words of support, a little snark here, lots of love there, and I feel lucky to call them pals. Meanwhile, today was my last official writing class. Each Sunday since January, a small group of women has called in to a joint conference, to read our own work and provide feedback on others. As with the F52 community I've established, my writing peers vary in age and are from all over the country, and I think I speak for at least a good handful of us when I say we've become friends. The women are so interesting and funny, each with such different perspectives and stories to tell. It was a true pleasure to get to know them more each week, in the way you can when people open themselves and trust.

I'm struck repeatedly by the fact that I may never meet these women though I hope that's not the case. I would love to walk Florentine (or MT) streets with Cyn, meet Suzanne's pugs (and offer her mine), visit Karen in Australia, garden and hang out with Laura in NM, stroll through old Boston haunts with Catherine, talk Louisiana with Lili. There is so much bad in the world today, so much partisanship, meanness, violence and intolerance; it's easy to understand why some become suspicious, disengage, presume. But to do so is unwise for it shuts you off to so many possibilities, including new friends, unexpected generosity, experiences that make you bigger and better and happy you stayed open.

Lili, a Louisianian who is so charming and likeable and peppy that I am reinvigorated with love for my home-state every time I speak with her, has taught cooking classes for 20 years and recently launched the Delightful Palate, a culinary product she created and now sells. She asked to send me some, and I was thrilled. Despite her admonitions to the contrary (sorry, Lil, I'm getting there), I've thus far used her goodies only as salad dressings. Oliver loves the Balsamic Garlic Honey on his lunch salads, and tonight I drizzled my composed greenery with Lili's Wild Mayhaw Berry. Isn't this pretty?! Shaved fennel and watermelon radish with candied kumquats, young chevre and toasted walnuts. Wonderful!

shaved fennel and watermelon radish salad with chevre, candied kumquats and toasted walnuts

I really felt like cooking this evening so candied a new batch of the aforementioned kumquats, steamed some Carolina gold rice and roasted some King salmon en papillote with shaved Meyer lemon. Dinner was simple and healthy yet in no way austere, the kind of meal with which you honor and care for yourself but in a celebratory way.

King salmon en papillote with Carolina gold rice and Meyer lemon

I've long subscribed to the notion that a dinner alone is still all the reason (perhaps more the reason) for putting your best foot forward. A bowl of cereal just doesn't cut it for me in terms of a solo meal post-breakfast. And sometimes after a long and taxing day, a great meal is the best antidote for hastening recovery.

Tom left the house at 6:20 this morning, 5:20 really you damn daylight savings. As an aside, can we just rid ourselves of daylight savings (DS) and the penny? Let's put one cent and a written memory of springing forward and jumping back into a time capsule and say sayonara. Parents everywhere will be so pleased as DS does little for anyone beyond screwing up children's sleep schedules. The penny does provide ample ammo for fountain-tossing but otherwise nada.

Anyway, the boys and I made the pancakes and then got ready for an all-community Meeting for Worship at Jack's school. If you are unfamiliar with the Quaker Meeting, it is a worship service practiced in silence. All the students, from the littlest darlings through the high school seniors, participate in a 20-30 minute Meeting every week. Though we are not Quaker, I find the appreciation for and practice of silence to be an extraordinary benefit to us all. The ability to sit comfortably in silence, alone or with others, takes practice and is a treasure flying too quickly out the window in the face of billions of iPhones and their ilk. I still remember the days before I had a cell phone, the freedom in not being reachable at every moment, the fun of checking email after half a day and seeing what had come in. Bygones. The point is, I was looking forward to this morning's Meeting even though Oliver had never attended one.

We had a casual Come to Jesus conversation before leaving for campus: "you both know how to be quiet even though you often choose not to; now is the time to show me what you know", etc. The intensity of this message heightened as we approached the meeting house: "do you remember what I've told you? J, you should be pro at this after 2.5 years; please be a fabulous role model for Ol." As they burst from the car like photons in the Hadron collider and began running towards and jumping on any multi-dimensional surface, my Come to Jesus became slightly hysterical and threatening: "If you do not lower your voices RIGHT NOW, dessert will be gone forever." I know, absolutes are a terrible parenting technique but I was already on edge and there's only so much you can do to maintain calm.

They were amazing during our 25 minutes at Meeting. I could not have been more proud.

And then, like a geyser that was finally able to breach land's surface, their mouths erupted in such an overwhelming display of concurrent-loud-babble that I started sweating. We had another CtJ about volume and the fact that I have only two ears.

Truly, anyone who could harness or replicate little-boy energy would be awarded the Nobel for something. Maybe a buffet of Nobels, say Physics and Peace. Hell, maybe Economics too if you could figure out how to feed these small, ravenous engines on any regular person's income.