“Further to Fly”

There may come a time
When you’ll be tired,
As tired as a dream that wants to die.

This is how I see my blog: a dream that wants to die. In keeping it alive, I’m fighting against many hooded blessings: motherhood, wifehood, daughterhood, employee-hood, community volunteer-hood. I push open a heavy door, time and again, to create space for creativity and self-expression, but lately my arms feel like jelly, straining against dead weight.

Further to fly

Today I’m writing from an airplane, far from the comforts of my kitchen. I have to get to a meeting, get back home, do all that must be done – all while resisting that undulating death urge. “Kill the blog!,” it says. “There’s simply no time.” 

Maybe you will find a love
That you discover accidentally
Who falls against you gently
As a pickpocket
Brushes your thigh

Blogging is like a secret love affair during this mid-life crisis, this phase where shit is coming at me from all angles, every waking minute. I cling to The Stranger in Your Kitchen senselessly. I write in my head, when there’s no pen or laptop in sight.

Effortless music from the Cameroons
The spinning darkness of her hair
A conversation in a crowded room going nowhere

Boy, have I had a number of THOSE lately, conversation that went nowhere. Hopes painted across the sky, ideas articulated cleverly, plans listed in great detail. In the end, they were only “conversations in a crowded room going nowhere.” The sting of rejection is unlike any other.

The open palm of desire
Wants everything
It wants everything
It wants everything

“The open palm of desire,” reminds me of a meditation pose: palms open, resting on one’s lap. Desire makes me open and receptive, but also creates hunger and longing.  Thinking about this makes me cry as I peer out from above the clouds. Flying has always been a metaphysical experience for me.

Sometimes I’ll be walking down
The street and I’ll be thinking
Am I crazy
Or is this some morbid little lie

Excellent question, Paul!  Are we crazy? Or, is this some morbid little lie that people gun down children in school and we do absolutely nothing about it? It is some morbid little lie that Yemeni children will die by the millions while I enjoy my holiday turkey and trimmings, my Starbucks Cranberry Bliss Bars and Balsam Fir candles? Is it some morbid little lie that a standoff between two nations should prevent humanitarian organizations from delivering food to innocent people? Paul responds so simply:

Further to fly
Further to fly
Further to fly

A recent loss of memory
A shadow in the family
The baby waves bye-bye

Paul – how did you know about mom’s recent diagnosis, or the shadow between Flora and Cord and me? How were you able to perceive my baby’s subtle changes into womanhood? Is it that your heart has broken once, as mine is now, watching a precious mother slip through one’s hands?

I’m trying, I’m flying

Yes, I am trying alright! I am trying desperately to create hope – for myself and for others. I have joined Amnesty International. I’ve begun “writing for rights.” I’ve joined Everytown for Gun Safety, and also Doctors Without Borders. I’ve made phone calls on behalf of a Rosa Maria, the seven-year old child detained, threatened with deportation, and separated from the comfort of her own mother after an emergency surgery. I’ve collected and redistributed the fruit that Northwest Fresnans didn’t want before it rotted. I’ve stood up like never before, to fight for peace and happiness alongside fellow Buddhists in my hometown. I’ve done all of this, and now I’m flying. I’m flying to another meeting, that is.  And then I’m flying home.

There may come a time
When I will lose you
Lose you as I lose my light
Days falling backward into velvet night

The knowledge of impending loss is so hard to bear. I don’t want days to fall backward into velvet night. I want to hold onto my light, defy my blog’s inner death- wish.

Above all, I want to find the will to keep pushing open the heavy door to creativity, and to life.

The open palm of desire
Wants everything
It wants everything
It wants soil as soft as summer
And the strength to push like spring


“Further to Fly” was written by Paul Simon • Copyright © Universal Music Publishing Group

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Hippocampus is Greek for Seahorse

“Hippocampus, Greek for seahorse…” are the only words I remember from our neurology visit. As we looked at mom’s brain, I suppose she felt compelled to illustrate how aptly they were named.

She sidetracked me with that comment, but I like her anyway. She appeals to the intellect, a welcome change when emotions are crashing like Harvey’s waves, spilling devastation into Granddaddy Ray’s little world.

Recently I’ve read about other old folks dying after (as opposed to during) the big storm, poor minds blown by the upheaval.

As for my brain, well, I have Grand Ray recorded. Just like this here Willie Nelson album I’m listening to, in my kitchen.

 In the twilight glow I see
Blue eyes crying in the rain.

Anyway, the next time I reviewed an MRI, it was Grand Ray’s brain we were studying. In contrast to mom’s pictures – which showed little white pearls – his opened into gaping white holes and cavernous blood pools.

Still, amid the wreckage, I could locate the Hippocampi. Even confirmed it with the neurosurgeon. (Held my tongue on the Greek etymology part.)

Love is like a dying ember.
And only memories remain.

Some of us take short-term memory for granted. Remarkably, Granddaddy’s hippocampi were not damaged by the strokes or trauma. I believe this explains his ability to synch-up with us while lying there asleep – utterly trapped in his body. Willie sings:

Someday soon we’ll meet up yonder
We’ll stroll hand in hand again.

“My uncle survived Hurricane Maria. Despair over its devastation killed him,” wrote April Ruiz in a recent WaPo perspective. She confirmed our family’s notion of an old, weathered brain utterly blown by the devastation lying in a hurricane’s wake.

I do think she’s onto something, but I need more than one Perspective, so I’m offering up myth. (Greek, of course.)

I imagine Granny as Persephone, her ashes weaving themselves into the micro-ecology these last six years. Queen of the Underworld, rising up from Rockport’s Little Bay with her big strong hands, uprooting trees like mere weeds.


Him. Huddling home in Rockport. Harvey hovering overhead.
He casts a net around the underbelly.
Her. Hollering. Demanding his return.
She enfolds him in her whipping embrace.

It’s heart-starved intent – not happenstance – that gives me a short mental break from the devastation, loss, and pain that I witnessed in Harvey’s wake. And, most important, it frees me from the nonsensical loop of Hippocampus being Greek for seahorse.

 Someday soon we’ll meet up yonder
We’ll stroll hand in hand again.
In the land of knows no pardon
Blue eyes cryin’ in the rain.

Goodbye, Grand Ray. Here’s Hoping there’s Honkytonk in Heaven!

Sea Horse

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The Stranger, Part Two

At this point in the summer, my husband and I have begun calling our daughter “Mowgli” after the Jungle Book character she so closely resembles – with her bare feet, tanned body, and the signature matted hair she patently refuses to brush, despite even her dear Papa’s earnest entreat.

Just as all hope seems lost, we receive a mass voicemail from her elementary school Principal, inviting us to check the mailbox for important information about the upcoming school year. Actually, we receive two messages to this effect, and when the second comes through, I say to the phone:

You only need to tell us once, Mr. Principal!
Consider us ON THE LOOKOUT for the promised evidence that you actually intend to take our child for 6.5 hours a day, free of charge (school tax notwithstanding) in exchange for the opportunity to civilize, socialize, and educate her.

So, yes, I’m excited about Back to School (BTS), and I dare you to find me one mom who is not equally thrilled. I’m so high on BTS that I’m even perusing cookbooks to spice up my weekly meal rotations – graciously overlooking my annoyance at those who’ve presented with a bored sick-ness of late.

At this moment, looking at the cookbooks sprawled across my kitchen counter, it occurs to me that it might help to be straightforward with you, for once, even though I did promise obscurity.

My justification is to assuage any fears after the Billy Joel song, to have you know that one meaning of the Stranger is “cookbook writer,” ala:


  • Betty Crocker, everyone’s favorite proper lady who never existed;
  • Giada de Laurentiis, tastiest recipe writer EVER;
  • Ina Garten, whose calm approach to cuisine soothes and delights;
  • Jenny Rosenstrach with her delightful meal-prep militancy;

And even

  • The Armenian women of my grandma’s era, who submitted their best recipes to the church guild for publication, including some of the most awesome, old-school Jello molds imaginable!

With a few of grandma’s friends excepted, I don’t actually ‘know’ any of these women whose work is sprawled out on my kitchen countertop, pages soiled with saucy splatters and such.  That makes them Strangers in my Kitchen (she wrote, fighting the strong urge to next write, “Duh!, which must be attributed to Melissa McCarthy’s brilliant channeling of the spicy one.)

The thing is: I don’t have to ‘know’ these women for them to enter my realm, influence my palette, my family’s health…you get the idea.

I believe MANY people fit into this ‘Stranger’ reference: people with whom we are interconnected (interdependent, even), yet for whom we still hold an idea of Other or Outsider.

And voila — that is one key premise of this blog, in as straightforward a manner as I can bear to write it.

The second big premise is that food unites where words, customs, and ideologies can divide.

Competitors, diplomats, blind daters: they all break bread for good reason.

Whereas for me it’s through food, for Lynne Cox it’s “open water swimming.” Her contribution to Sunday’s WaPo, celebrating the 30-year anniversary of her historic swim, expresses the very point I was attempting to make in Miss Otis Regrets with much more elegance and efficacy than my fancied conversation between an old, disgruntled constituent of CA-22 and her Representative, Devin Nunez. (Perhaps the encounter could have been real, had he not hidden out during his visits home?)

In any case, the idea is that people (regardless of geo-politics) share aspirations, loves, tastes, and values through the simple fact of humanity. So it makes me sad when we alienate our everyday Strangers, with whom we share so much, on account of poor leadership and other devilish functions that seek to pit us against one another in some sick Lord of the Flies type of shit.

But through food (as my blog attempts), sport (as Ms. Cox shows us), even robotics competitions (as we saw this summer) – perhaps we can begin to see the Stranger in our Kitchen for who she really is.

And with that, I must turn a page.

Meatless Monday menus beckon.

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The Stranger, Part One

You may never understand
How the stranger is inspired.
But he isn’t always evil
And he is not always wrong.

Perhaps you do not care how the stranger is inspired, in which case, the above is totally moot. I think, in my sad hours, that it’s a likely explanation for no one ever having asked me about her.

But I’m clinging to my own need to express, without care for Audience. This departure from the marketing mind, the performer’s mind, feels so good to me that I’ve decided to create a loose and abstruse installment about my Stranger, her undercurrent in this alleged food blog, and what it means to me.

It may become clear in time, if you choose to read on, but I cannot make any guarantees.

For now, I suggest reading the lyrics of Billy Joel’s Stranger slowly, perhaps thinking about refugees when you read it, or people who disagree with you on Twitter, or people you hear about on the news.

Another option to not “think” at all.  Queue it up on iTunes or Spotify and just listen. Maybe Venus will carry you underwater while her brother Mercury tells stories about the Other. Maybe loose images will form in your mind, so that you and I can become one again.

Well, we all have a face
That we hide away forever
And we take them out
And show ourselves when everyone has gone.
Some are satin, some are steel
Some are silk and some are leather.
They’re the faces of a stranger
But we’d love to try them on.

Well, we all fall in love
But we disregard the danger.
Though we share so many secrets
There are some we never tell.
Why were you so surprised
That you never saw the stranger?
Did you ever let your lover
See the stranger in yourself?

Don’t be afraid to try again
Everyone goes south, every now and then.
You’ve done it  –
Why can’t someone else?
You should know by now
You’ve been there yourself.

You may never understand
How the stranger is inspired.
But he isn’t always evil
And he is not always wrong.
Though you drown in good intentions
You will never quench the fire.
You’ll give in to your desire
When the stranger comes along.

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