When Jimmy Carter, whose presidency was challenging but whose moral compass always guided him, retired from politics, he became a champion for Habitat for Humanity, continuing to build housing for low-income families well into his 90s. His wife, Rosalynn, worked alongside him, wielding a hammer and leading with grace.
When Audrey Hepburn stopped making movies, she shined her light on UNICEF, drawing attention to the world's neediest children as a goodwill ambassador.
Sometimes, a person's second act has more impact than the first.
The time has come for my own second act. After years of writing and editing for nonprofit organizations, and then food writing, and now food blogging, I'm moving on. Let me explain why, and why now.
1: A few months ago, I spent a long day in the emergency room of one of our very good Boston hospitals, after fainting on my bathroom floor and again, two minutes later, in the bedroom. I didn't have a heart attack, nor do I have any heart defect, but I do have a heart condition called atrial fibrillation, and now I have my very own cardiologist. I tried reasoning with her, promising that I would do whatever it took to undo this, even if that meant eating cauliflower every day. Alas, she told me, that won't help. So instead of cauliflower, I take pills.
While I don't feel that my life will end tomorrow, the whole episode made me take a hard look at how much I've been putting aside until "later", or until retirement two years from now.
2: The election happened. I can't deny that the election affected me deeply, as in hide-under-the-covers deeply. While the result is disturbing to me, what has been more disturbing is the hate and violence that this election season unleashed in our country, and the huge numbers of people made vulnerable, from our Muslim and Jewish neighbors, to immigrants and Dreamers, to women everywhere, to the poor and elderly who depend on a social safety net that is being shredded before our eyes. I've been knitting hats for the march in Washington next month (I'm a much better cook than a knitter), but knitting is not enough.
And so, faced with health issues and a need to act, I have decided to spend this year doing community service, trying to help and support and strengthen and balance the negativity that has risen to the surface in our society. I volunteer a couple of days a week at the International Institute of New England, which resettles and supports refugees and asylees. After I return from Washington, I'll be training to be an ESOL classroom assistant with an organization that works with homeless women who have children.
My husband Ted and I signed up for Boston Cares, a volunteer clearinghouse for projects ranging from serving meals to stuffing envelopes for nonprofits throughout the Boston area. On Martin Luther King Day (which also happens to be my birthday), we'll be assembling STEM kits for the Boston Public Schools, and a few weeks later, selecting books for prisoners, helping Big Sisters Association with office tasks, and working with youth at More Than Words.
And, on a very local level, I joined the board of Friends of Watson Park, a recently formed nonprofit working to beautify a pocket park that offers a quiet respite in my densely-populated urban neighborhood.
Woody Guthrie used to say "People are hoping machines." I'm going to try to be a hoping machine every day.
Though I will no longer be sharing new recipes, the blog will still be here, so you can always search for your old favorites.
And I have a treat for you.
I've almost finished making a book -- a real, in-print, book -- featuring my favorite recipes from The Perfect Pantry. It's an eclectic selection, as you might expect. I hoped I'd have it finished by now, but it took longer than I expected to choose 80+ recipes from the 2,500 on the blog. It will take me a few more days to finish. I'll post here when the book is ready, and I hope you'll want a copy for your book shelf.
Best new year wishes from The Perfect Pantry, with gratefulness beyond measure for your support and encouragement over the past ten years,
For readers who would like to keep up with my second act as I build my volunteering life, I'm posting updates about my progress on my blog Lydia Likes It. You can subscribe by email or add it to your feed reader, by clicking through to the blog. I also share other brief tidbits I like, from anywhere and everywhere. It's quirky and fun, and occasional, and I hope you'll come along for the ride.
Disclosure: The Perfect Pantry earns a few pennies on purchases made through the Amazon.com links in this post. Thank you for supporting this site when you start your shopping here.