When I was in the Peace Corps (Poland, 1997-1999), I had a friend who described her mother in one sentence: “She’s always struggled with her weight.” This sentence made me sad. Not because I was sad for the woman that “struggled with her weight” but because, it just seemed sad that this is what the description of any woman could be boiled down to.
Several years later some teaching friends of mine started having their students write 6-word memoirs –as a lesson in concision and meaning-making– and I thought of this sentence: “She’s always struggled with her weight.” I thought, that could be my 6-word memoir. “She always struggled with her weight” could’ve been my mother’s 6-word memoir as well. And, again, I felt sadness – not that we “struggled with our weight” but that we wasted our time struggling with our weight, that our experience of life – in all of its richness and complexity – could be boiled down to those six pathetic words.
So, when my mother died, as I’ve written about at length on this blog, I was determined to re-make my memoir. THAT was not going to be the way I was going to go. I WOULD NOT “struggle with my weight” any longer – MOSTLY because “struggling” DOES NOT HELP. Struggling does not create lasting results or lasting happiness. The only thing, I determined, that would help first and foremost and forever more was Love. Loving myself enough to allow myself the fullness, the complexity, the richness of life in ALL of its many many possibilities rather than limiting myself to whatever number happened to be appearing on the scale on any given day. Loving myself enough to stop struggling. Loving myself enough to look at myself and say, with total belief, “You are Perfect and You are Enough EXACTLY the way that you are right now.” NOT 10 pounds or 20 pounds or 30 pounds from now. Right. Now.
Until this moment (process, really) of loving myself, I saw my mother’s cooking and her need to feed her family copiously as an enemy. And, true, many of my mother’s best recipes are not especially healthy – but they taste SOOOO good -- and we were raised to eat them until we were WAY past the point of discomfort. STILL, hidden under all of those calories and unhealthy eating habits was the main path to lasting healing and health – the ability to cook. My mother gave me this. And what’s more, she gave me NOT just the ability to cook but the ability to cook with love.
Thus, after accepting that Self Love was the first step to healing and re-writing my sad little 6-word memoir, I resolved to cook with love.
Of course, cooking well and with love is all very well and good but if one continues to shove whole bags of potato chips in one’s face and having pizza eating contests which one may have to eat an entire large pizza to win, one may not be reaping the true health benefits of cooking well and with love. So, then, it was also important to resolve to eat with love. Because if one truly loves one’s self, one stops eating the pizza long before the point of needing to unbutton one’s jeans in order not to vomit.
And thus, “cook and eat with love,” became my tag-line and my au revoir to the multitudes reading my blog posts (all 14 people) in their quirky and, I like to imagine, charming infrequency. And #cookandeatwithlove became MY hashtag (boy was I excited to get a hashtag) on the queenprincessofmojo instagram account. Cooking and Eating with Love was what I was doing by myself, and with my readers, in the kitchen I shared with the beautiful memory of my beautiful mother – MoJo’s Kitchen – which was also the original title of this blog.
A few days ago, though, my niece Ashlee started her own blog, something she has wanted to do for some time. Amazingly, Ashlee's blog is very similar to what I originally envisioned for THIS blog but... oh lord, I could NEVER be that concise NOR that focused (LOL!). Though I don’t know if Ashlee would necessarily put herself in “MoJo’s Kitchen,” she is also definitely sharing some kitchen, somewhere with the beautiful memory of my beautiful mother. She even used part of MY tagline for her blog title “Eat, With Love.” Maybe she’s not even aware that this is part of my tagline. I’m fully aware that as readers and writers, a phrase often creeps into our mind that feels so comfortable, it often comes out again in something we feel is totally original to us. I almost sort of love that about reading and writing. But either way, whether she used part of my tagline intentionally or not, I am honored. But even more than feeling honored, I am thrilled that there is another blog-kitchen celebrating my mother’s recipes, my mother’s cooking, my mother’s legacy. Because she (and the family she created -- and fed) really couldn’t possibly be celebrated enough.
Because here are some different possible six-word memoirs (biographies, really – but I’m trying to build parallels here, people, so stay with me) for my mother:
She gave the gift of cooking.
She gave the gift of love.
She taught us all to cook.
She taught us all to love.
Her generous cooking will keep healing.
Her abundant love will keep healing.
This blog, from the moment I entered “MoJo’s Kitchen” to my audacious coronation as the QueenPrincess to this moment right now, has brought healing into my life (as I suspect Ashlee's will bring to hers), because I am FINALLY beginning to learn the lessons my mother really wanted me to learn (which have nothing at all to do with a number on a scale):
1) Love Yourself and Others,
2) Cook with Love,
3) Eat with Love.
“JodiAnn, my baby, my fish, my peanut,” She says, “It’s all about the Love. ...Now… Vaya Con Dios”
Okay Mom. …Mom, isn’t Ashlee’s blog so great?
“I love it. You should tell everyone about it.”
Good Idea. …I love you.
“You too, Peanut.”
Write your memoirs (and your recipes and your wishes and your spells and your own private thoughts) with Love, my people.