Projecting Sunlight…

T. doesn’t get angry that often anymore. D. maintains that this is because she is too busy wearing out the thesaurus with Annoyed, Aggravated, Bellicose, Belligerent, Caustic, Churlish, Exasperated, Frustrated, Indignant, Outraged, Perturbed…, to actually use such a pedestrian word. But, every once in awhile, anger sneaks up on her and the lava erupts. Usually into incoherent sobbing, much to her disgust, (and the open-mouthed astonishment of those around her). The latest thing that made her ragingly gut-punched, breath-stealingly, word-sobbingly infuriated was a story she heard on The Moth Radio Hour, about a woman who was denied help from her insurance company when her comatose son needed care. Stephanie Peirolo was evaded, lied to, set up, and abandoned by a for-profit system which decided her son was a loss, and wrote him off. As T tried to explain the story to D, she was vibrating, hands were shaking. She burst out, “HOW COULD THEY DO THAT TO HER?”

Things make us angriest in life when there’s no one to hit.

Fortunately(?), along with crying when she’s mad instead setting someone on fire as they might so richly deserve, T also tends to write poetry – once a month, with six other slightly insane people. This month’s offering has razor teeth and shiny claws and it exhales righteous FLAME. Or, it thinks about it, really, really hard, and scowls a lot, anyway.

After the hideous incidents in the story, Stephanie Peirolo went on to make sure that, should someone else need it, there was help for anyone whose criminal-behaving insurance company was violating their rights and keeping them from care. Because she didn’t let the world incinerate her, but held up a torch against the night, that insurance company – and the executives at her old job – can’t get away with their disgusting business practices. It’s not enough — oh, it’s hardly enough — but it’s a start.

project sunlight

How far that little candle lofts its light –
And darkness-dealers cringe against its beam.
Its spark of hope ignites against the night.

“Walk in the light,” shine, noonday-justice bright;
Numinous blaze, come banish spiteful schemes.
How far that little candle lofts its light –

Candescent day this nightmare dream rewrites –
Defies the dark, its thousand points agleam;
Ignites our hope, to burn away the night.

So shines the good, in setting wrong to right,
Against unending gloom and bleak extremes:
So far, that little candle lofts its light.

Illuminating — putting shades to flight
Erasing shadows for a hopeful scene
A flame of hope, which luminates the night.

Deep calls to deep, as zenith calls to height,
In times of doubt, in Stygian extremes,
How far that little candle lofts its light —
A blaze of hope held up against the night.


If you’ve enjoyed this little snippet of What T. Does With Her Weird Friends In Her Spare Time, you might also enjoy the poetry efforts of the other people in the group – some actual published poets: Tricia Stohr-Hunt’s villanelle and cool story about a chateau; author Sara Lewis Holmes taking a page from the birel-ing playbook of Ogden Nash; Laura Purdie Salas’ brilliant science in rock stories; Andromeda Jazmon rhapsodizing about seeds, growth, and — peppers; East coaster Kelly Ramsdell Fineman writing an UNTITLED villanelle reminding us dark winter is gathering light, and Liz Garton Scanlon writing cleverly about King Tut — and beards, in varying meanings of the word.

Thanks to They Might Be Giants, there’s even a SONG about villanelles. Because, poetry.

Happy rainy afternoon,


“How far that little candle throws its beams!”

Sometimes this place is surprisingly – gratifyingly – small-town.

The gas station down the hill and around the block had 9-Volt, Double A — everything but Triple A’s, which was annoying, since wireless keyboards abruptly stop working without them (and it’s always annoying to dig through the Drawer of Requirement in the kitchen and find watch batteries, tiny clock batteries, massive D batteries, and no Triple A’s either), and it was already 9 a.m. While there was a Grocery Outlet on the other side of the post office, it tends toward a random inventory and proves only intermittently useful, so other plans were made, though on the way out the door, there was a pause.

The postman in line ahead said, “You need Triple A’s? I have some out in the truck. Just give me a sec –“

Wouldn’t take paying for it, just waved his hand, slurped his incredibly bad gas station coffee, and got on with the business of delivering packages and post.

As always, the phrase, “so shines a good deed in a weary world,” comes to mind, but this is an inaccurate quote – (thanks, movie-version Willy Wonka). Portia, in Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice Act IV, Scene I explains to Nerissa that her candle is the light she sees, and exclaims how far it throws its beams, then adds – “So shines a good deed in a naughty world.” (The exchange following isn’t as famous, but is still lovely.) After Roald Dahl wrote the screenplay for CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY, the author’s effort at writing his own screenplay (a much more complicated thing than you might imagine) was “helped” along by professionals, who dropped in tons of literary references and changed lines to make Willy Wonka darker and edgier and not the merry little candyman he’d been in the book. Gene Wilder made it fit, too — the world in the film seemed less “naughty” than weary and dark; the same can be said sometimes today.

When was the last time you saw a slightly psychedelic movie with so many literary allusions? Yeah, it has been awhile, hasn’t it?

A weary world, yes. But, when you get free batteries, warm from someone’s mail truck, the weariness lifts, just a bit.

Happy Friday.


…because there truly is a song for every occasion.

Every once in awhile, D. & T. have those random conversations wherein it ends up one doesn’t know what the other is talking about. (Okay, let’s be real, here: it happens far more often than “once in awhile.”)

Late Sunday morning, T. was volubly holding forth on a girlfriend who had married outside of her culture, ending with, “She’s totally against the macho thing, you know, against the whole ‘brown-skinned girl, stay home and mind the baby’ thing.”

“What?” D. asked, who probably had only been half listening to begin with. “Who would even say that?”

“It’s a SONG. You’re the one that taught me the song.”

“Uh, no, I did not. I’ve never even heard that song.

“Yes, you have!”

“No, seriously – I haven’t.

“Um… I think… it was in that movie. It was Whoopie Goldberg, and… that guy. Sarafina?

*D. taps on laptop keys* “That’s… a movie about South Africa. Whose baby is she supposed to be minding?”

“That doesn’t sound right…”

*more digging into the hivemind of the internet*

“Clara’s Heart! I think the kids at [school where T. taught] must have watched that for a class project… don’t know why I thought it was you.”

*D. watches short clip of Whoopie Goldberg singing*”Is that Patrick Swayze? Isn’t he dead?”

“Uh, no, that’s Neil…Patrick… Harris and no, he’s very not dead. Never mind. I’m still trying to figure out, whose babies? That’s got to be the most insulting thing to say to anyone, so why is she singing it to preschool kids?”

*D. on the internet, looking for something else by now* “No idea.”

Well, we still don’t know, and neither of us are willing to watch a movie from the 80’s to find out – but T. wanted to look up the lyrics to the song. Because it was a popular Harry Belafonte song in the fifties, it has turned up on the background music of more than one film. But, according to the Historical Museum of Southern Florida’s “Calypso: a World of Music” page:

“Brown Skin Girl” was composed by Trinidadian calypsonian King Radio in 1946, in response to the presence of American servicemen in Trinidad during World War II. The calypso commented on the practice of soldiers and sailors fathering babies and then returning to the United States. In the song’s chorus, a serviceman tells his paramour:

I’m going away, in a sailing boat
And if I don’t come back, stay home and mind baby.

While its social commentary was typical of calypso, the song undoubtedly became a favorite with audiences because of its infectious melody. Caribbean-American singer Harry Belafonte popularized the calypso in his smash-hit album titled Calypso (1956). Since then it has remained a standard part of the repertoire of Caribbean hotel entertainers. Meanwhile, jazz versions of “Brown Skin Girl” have appeared on recordings by Sonny Rollins and Roy Haynes.”

Both of us were a little sobered at finding the provenance of this lighthearted sounding song. They say that our culture is America’s greatest export… Hm. Maybe not.

“They looked up, and twenty years had passed.”

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This is a week for remembering.

Twenty years ago today, we reached the end of one story, and began another.

The previous story began when T. was a college senior, avoiding 8 o’clock and a very BOOMING-VOICED PROFESSOR who just thought he was the Universe’s ultimate gift and knew it all. T. couldn’t stand his homophobic, misogynistic self (perhaps he wasn’t truly homophobic and misogynistic, but Walt Whitman certainly seemed to bring it out of him…), so though her usual habit was to be on the front row of everything (a holdover from having squinted her way through three years of school before anyone noticed she needed glasses), she slunk to the back in self-defense – the back where Mr. Man in Black, a seriously Goth/shaved hair/eyeliner/myriad earrings/gravelly morning voice wise-guy type sat with his feet propped on the desk in front of him. Despite being so far away from said professor, he would, nevertheless, Hold Forth from the very back row – while the whole class turned and craned and looked at him. So, while T was avoiding the professor and his big, stupid voice, she had Mr. Man next to her, assertively booming up toward the front, and attracting everyone’s attention.

She was not happy.

The professor really was a piece of work, and as a result of the myriad arguments, and other less academic concerns (READ: Eight A.M. when one is nineteen is REALLY early. Some of us love our sleep) Mr. Man frequently absented himself from those 8 a.m. classes fairly regularly. Being brilliant, however, it didn’t matter, he was still making the grades. (Also, the professor had taught at Oxford, and the British educational system is structured so that professors only rarely show up to teach – they have lecturers for that; professors research. So, our professor – minus his lecturer counterpart – was missing class about as often, too – it was really insane that quarter. Anyway.) Once Professor Blowhard showed up and announced an exam, through sheer chance (yeah, right) T ran into Mr. Man and advised him the impending threat to his grades. He wrote his number down (in eyeliner) and suggested she phone him and he could pick up her notes. …and, of course, D. and T. ended up chatting and chatting and ignoring all other responsibilities to chat some more.


A year and a half of chatting, and D and T decided not to end the conversation. And, so, twenty years ago, on a Tuesday afternoon in a skateboard park, with a pop bottle tab for a ring, D&T promised to keep talking… and then, went back to work. Because, bills, people. No one who gets married in their barely twenties actually has, you know, money.

To celebrate the sweeping romance of those twenty years, on Monday, they went to the endocrinologist. As one does. Because, lab tests and appointments wait for no man.

Kent Road Flower 20

Okay, so we’re not the most romantic people ev-ah, but honestly? There’s nothing intrinsically romantic about relationships. They’re work. Even one’s relationships with one’s favorite shoes are work – you polish them, you keep them out of mud and water, you re-sole and re-heel as necessary. In return, the shoes look nice on you; they keep their grip on the pavement, they ornament your steps. It’s a relationship, of sorts. There’s nothing inherently fuzzy or starry-eyed and sparkly about not slamming a door or kicking someone in the shins, when you feel they could so richly benefit from this behavior (and, doing so would so richly enhance your feelings). There is nothing effervescent about explaining something to someone who doesn’t get you, in unloading the dishwasher when someone said they’d do it, and doesn’t, in wiping up after someone else cooks, and cleaning the shower after someone is sick in it (oh, one memorable winter in Glasgow …ugh. Let’s draw a veil). Sometimes, not even the love that you have nurtured is enough. Sometimes, a relationship is all only bloody-minded, jaw-clamped, relentlessly civil, grimly optimistic… work.

Fortunately, if you keep chatting, it all gets easier. Listening, more than speaking. Opening hearts, and not just ears.

Twenty years. Twenty – when some of our friends didn’t even make it to ten. My God, we have been blessed. Thank you.

Auld Lang Syne Again

You made it. You survived the holidays another year, which also means you survived another trip around the sun. A new year…! Technically, this is the last day to wish anyone such a thing, as it’s already Three King’s Day, and we’re meant to just be getting on with things by this point… and so we shall.

Ruby's Cafe 09

Between the endless holidays ads since Halloween, culminating in the Jenny Craig/Weight Watchers/local gym membership drives now, it was a relief to kick off our Holiday Blackout on Christmas Eve, and contentedly refuse much more interaction with media than playing a few games of Lexulous online. We avoided people, too, which isn’t what we usually do, but it was a blessed relief, this year, as we were both stricken with some sniffly thing which actually might have been …a cold. Since we deny the existence of the common cold in this household, we simply blamed the dry air, and made excuses to spend another day in bed with headache medicine.

Ruby's Cafe 11

It was unavoidable to do a bit of traveling, though, and we were happy enough to visit our favorite diner in Laguna Hills, Ruby’s. It’s adorable at any time of the year, with its shiny red and silver decor, model WWII planes slowly flying around the ceiling (one of which D. identified as the kind his father flew in the Korean War), and its vintage Coke ads, but it especially shone with all the holiday decorations flung around.

Ruby's Cafe 13

Ruby’s is like opening a door and stepping back into a cleaner, more technical and much more diverse version of the 1940’s. The earnest looking men wear soda jerk hats and wrap-around aprons, and the women in their fresh red and white pinstriped waitress mini-dresses, white caps, “natural” looking stockings and perky aprons. The service is really, really good, and you don’t often find people under twenty-five in the diner, unless accompanied by people over sixty-five. This might be because there’s a mall next door with other food options, or this might be because there are several doctor’s offices and a VA nearby, skewing the age group to the AARP side of things, but it’s never too crowded, and we’re often the youngest people in the joint. Which suits us just fine.

But, whatever else the decor and other patrons do or don’t do for us, you know we’d never be at a diner if it didn’t have really, really good food. Despite its being a chain, this isn’t just your usual Coke and Burgers joint, nope. We did mention it was by some doctor’s offices, yes? The food there is … healthy. For a given value of health, yes, but it’s got low carb options on the menu, calorie counts and diet cherry Coke. With a real cherry. You cannot help but feel spoiled with a real maraschino Cherry in your diet Coke…

T. always gets their low carb veggie tacos, which are mostly shredded cabbage, tomatoes, lettuce, and salsa with a very few black beans and a whole wheat, handmade taco shell. D. usually springs for the onion rings and a veggie burger of some sort. (You can even get your burger wrapped in just lettuce, if you’d like to cut carbs even more.) There are tons of Ruby’s throughout Southern California — and one in Hawaii, one in New Jersey, one in Vegas and a few more in Pennsylvania for some inexplicable reason — but if you ever get a chance to find one of the fifteen or twenty in SoCal, you should. It’s just one of those places that seems to be a place to be happy…

And, speaking of happy!

Or, happy in the food sense, anyway: we made a new food discovery last month! We didn’t actually cruise the Asian market for this one ourselves; T’s sister dubiously bought a couple of packages and then couldn’t get herself nerved up enough to eat them, so passed them along.

Tofu Noodles

This may look, to you, merely like ramen-ish or pot noodles, but they’re better – they’re ramen-ish pot noodles made out of tofu and yam flour. Given that yam flour has, er… what they call an “organic” smell, you’ll want to rinse these thoroughly right out of the package. “Organic” apparently smells oddly rotten or like wet dog and seaweed, so yay! No, it’s not really appetizing, but keep in mind that tofu is made through a process of fermentation, so there’s that, plus whatever drying and rehydrating process which makes flour from the yam, which may or may not be a yam as the Western mind is familiar with — but it’s all food and safe, so soldier on, foodie.

These faux noodles come in macaroni, spaghetti, fettuccine and other variations from House Foods, and while we can’t speak to the other varieties, we know the ramen-ish stuff is reasonable for stir fry and Asian foods. We made a very simple mock duck, broccoli, onion and orange sauce (READ: marmalade and soy sauce, works a treat) for our first bag. It worked. Perfectly. D. was T’s taste tester in this (by the time she cooked it, she only wanted a cup of tea), and he surprised her by eating his entire serving – twenty calories – with every appearance of enjoyment.

BEWARE, however: from what we’ve read, if you eat these with the idea of real pasta in your head, you’ll be unhappy. Shirataki noodles have no taste but what sauce you give them, but the texture is very different from wheat pasta. Even al dente pasta mushes between your teeth when you chew it… but this has a slight rubbery texture which snaps strangely between your teeth to produce a cognitive dissonance as you chew. Conversely, if you’ve eaten squid, apparently you’ll be okay with this, as that’s one description – that it reminds people a bit of squid, except not so chewy.

(Okay, that didn’t really help, did it?)

Either way, this is not Italian food, but it is good, and worth experimentation. For three grams of carbohydrate and twenty calories a serving, it’s worthwhile for those times you feel like eating your weight in packaged ramen. Shiritaki provides that college-style comfort food without the extra load on your body.

Stay tuned for further experimentation!

So, happy New Year, intrepid traveler through this world. Plug your ears when diet commercials come on. We love you just the way you are. If you’re happy with you, we’re happy with you.

Be well, and stay out of trouble.

A Book Birthday: Happy in Your Head

“Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.”
– The Desiderata

Nope, this isn’t one of T’s book birthdays, but you’ll indulge her excitement as she fêtes a friend-she’s-never-met. She writes lots of book reviews for other blogs, and we normally keep them separate. However, she knows some of you will really love this book, so… enjoy.

Two weeks ago, T. opened an email and read the following line: “If you are, at first, lonely be patient. If you’ve not been alone much or if, when you were, you weren’t okay with it then just wait…you’ll find it’s fine to be alone once you’re embracing it.” She beamed to herself because, she could hear the poet reading the line. Yes. T. is one of Those People responsible for making Tanya Davis’s spoken-word song poem thingy, “How to Be Alone” have five million hits on YouTube. Visually jazzed up by artist Andrea Dorfman, this is a little video many have come back to over and over, the past couple of years. And now it’s a book, out October 22nd.

How to be Alone 2

T first started kvelling about this particular piece of poetry in 2011, around about the time it was one of those short-lived viral video things. It was everywhere, because it was a poem that had come out recently in a Canadian chapbook called AT FIRST, LONELY, and the author, Halifax poet-spoken word artist, Tanya Davis, set it to music and video by the poet with a filmmaker friend, Andrea Dorfman (who also was part of the team working on the book). Only some of what we pass around the ‘net has any staying power, however, and this poem has had that for me. Readers have come back to it again and again. It is the eclectic imagery of the video, yes, the poet’s careful voice, yes, but it is also the words. The words – so lucid, so simple, so heart-full and honest – that speaks to the universal we. Readers wanted to take in that heady balance of perspicacity and intellect over and over again, until it became an intrinsic part of themselves.

And, now we can.

How to be Alone 1

T thought she’d give away her copy of the book as a gift to a friend, but this isn’t that kind of book. It’s the kind of book you get for yourself – but you get two copies. Then, when someone picks up your copy and wants to take it away – which will happen, this is guaranteed – you can be calm enough to say, “Oh, sure, yeah, go ahead.” And you let it go – not like a book that’s going to be borrowed and returned, but like a book that you’ll never seen again, because you won’t. It’s not that type of book.

What it is: a short and concise bedside table book for introverts, one that you can pick up and reread and realize that you’re okay, that, living in your head is okay, and that if you’re happy there, or uncomfortable because you’re not sure it’s what you’re supposed to be doing, and it maybe doesn’t look like what everybody else is doing… it reassures you that Different isn’t fatal.

It’s a coffee table lifeline for extroverts, who might find themselves in the unenviable position of being in a place cut off from their old connections, and find themselves adrift and panicky, unable to pull in the old charm that used to work so well. It’s an under-the-pillow midnight read for the puffy-eyed, heart-cracked and bleeding newly abandoned and broken; it’s a sanity saver for the newly together and commingled – it speaks to all of us who need to find and claim space in our heads – whether it’s because we’re in a life jam-packed with people, or in a world where we seem to rattle along by ourselves – and within are clear instructions as to how.

Those who loved the video may have wondered if the its quirky brilliance would translate smoothly again to the printed page. It helps that the filmmaker is also the illustrator of the novel. Reminiscent of Maira Kalman’s work in the New Yorker and elsewhere, the hand-scripted poetic words convey an intimacy, as if this is a journal you’ve written yourself, filled with brilliance you’re ready to share. The illustrations show the journey of a single sock, a single knitter, a single tree-climber, all surviving their original-and-only-one status in a paired off and lined up world, all thriving on their differences. Especially in this world of political, financial and employment stresses we experience, where lockstep conformity is expected and desired by so many, we need to step back and reconnect with both solitude and sanity, and reaffirm our commitment to originality – even if that means going it alone. This book is an antidote for out-of-focus living. Stick a copy in your car, read it in the waiting room at the doctor’s office, or in line at Starbuck’s, and regain your mental health.

Happy Book Birthday, Tanya & Andrea! This book is out today, October 22, 2013. I received my early copy courtesy of the publicist, and Harper Collins, for which I’m grateful! You can find your copy of HOW TO BE ALONE by Tanya Davis and Andrea Dorfman online, or at an independent bookstore near you!

Still Life With Hot Sauce

Skyway Drive 100

Move your eyes past the clutter of lace, rose petals, sea shells; past the near invisibility of glass plates, past the strangeness of orange sections on lunch-box lids, and a bottle of hot sauce, accompanied by, of all things, a Costco-sized bottle of honey; past the mess of laundry on the love seat. None of this is the point of the shot.

Actually, this shot had no point, except to take a couple of quick clicks to work on some focusing issues. BUT. Look at the color of the sky, out of both windows.

Maybe the best of lives are made up of such serendipity – a momentary glance through a viewfinder reclaims a perfect shade of periwinkle in the midst of the chaos of a life.

Other things to think about this weekend:

  1. Email apnea. Oh, the sucking, black hole of the internet strikes again. Hat tip to the blog of Gwenda Bond.

  2. Is the ordinary too boring?. This piece discusses the concept of “the unexotic underclass.” They might also be known as “the middle class” and — well, just read the piece. It’s a little longer, but well worth the effort of thought.
  3. Never wanted to go to Australia? Too many things eager to kill you there (even solely via heart attack)? Australia says, “No, really, I’m HARMLESS!” with giant pink fluorescent slugs. No, really. You’re welcome.

The Hobbits wish you a blissful weekend, doing what we love best: finding a quiet corner, a hammock, and a book. Oh, and food. Second breakfast, if possible, and lashings of tea. ☺

Spring Has Sprung, The Grass Is Riz

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Thought we were joking about the lawn, didn’t you.

When you have a 4’x 12′ strip of grass that masquerades as a lawn, it’s hard to become too exercised over it getting longish. It’s full of crab grass and clover, and provides us with tiny yellow flowers, and we rather like it the tangle that it tends to be – but we also try not to scare the neighbor too badly, so we’re bound to try and weed and feed and shoo away the mushrooms that grow luxuriantly in a weird patch toward one edge.

Suburban gardens can be so gorgeous. We’ve got such plans for container gardens and bird feeders (high enough so Evil Squirrel Trio doesn’t eat them all again) and bird baths – as soon as we finish doing yard things for others, and get our deck fixed. OY, the deck has been a long project – made longer still by the fact that this is a rental house, and you have to do acrobatics and stand on one leg to get things done, even if they were promised to be done when you moved in almost a year ago. The project was started then apparently it was abandoned for other emergencies in the cold snap of October, so we’ve had to start over with our property manager, getting bids and such. It’s a real pain, but this time we’re going to follow through with the time-honored NAG so it gets done.

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We’ll have late veg this Spring – but that’s what comes of having to rely on the schedules of others to get your garden in! We’re happy enough to go with containers on the deck, flowers and butterfly grasses and rosemary and such. The prevalence of soil sold in tidy bags (no longer called “compost,” and we’ll miss the John Innes, to be sure) makes it all so easy.

Meanwhile the roses are blooming and blooming and blooming. We’re a little amused and slightly worried that each bush is now rocking two kinds of roses… yes, the rootstock, despite our wholesale whacking back this winter, has grown out. One particularly thorny, scrappy white bush has produced such loveliness in terms of smell – and now the perfectly creamy white blossoms – still way too thorn-ridden for “nice” gardens – are pulling that sweetness into more uniformly perfect petals – somehow a slightly different shade of white. Bone white roses? Who knew. And the reds are showing purples and peach centers, white what were huge pink roses are now also… pink and white. Don’t know what to do about this, or if one must DO anything – we’re just deadheading as fast as we can, and taking pitchers of them to friends and the few family members not currently inundated. Our fig tree is leafing up, but no figs on it just yet – possibly because of The Trio of Evil always leaping around in the branches, but we’re not sure. We certainly have bottlebrush and hummingbirds enough for anyone! The aerial battles continue unabated, as do the nosy visitations – these little upstarts rather like hovering while one is near the roses, and woe be unto you if you don’t fill their feeder fast enough. Between the fox, the raccoon, the woodpecker and the tiny dive-bombing hummers, it’s an active yard.

We’re still in the stage of being aware of just how easy gardening is in these parts – the Isle of Albion has so many shades of green it dazzles your eyes, but we’re pleased with any bit of warmth that brings out the shades of golden brown – and also makes the tomatoes non-crunchy. ☺ Contentment in all things, yes? Yes.

& Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark

Ninety-nine-point-nine-nine-nine times out of one hundred, people are okay: definitely quirky, truly strange, undoubtedly weird, and yes, perhaps freakish, awkward, sometimes repellent — but not abusive, not cruel, not insane, not homicidal. Each time I leave the house, I want to remember that. Each time I interact with strangers, I want them to remember that. Each time my eyes meet those of a stranger’s, I want to remember kindness. To that end, I am going to do thirty-one things, ninja-sneaky, to keep faith with peace. Thirty-one things to remind myself that we are people of the light. If we walk in the light, not everyone is out to get us. If we light our lights, we make the night brighter for everyone.

At the New Year we determined that there was something better, perhaps, to focus on in our daily lives than the things the news media wanted us to look at – and while things have continued to happen in news cycles this year, it’s been good to look up and away from where our focus is drawn and to re-see that, around us, most of the time it’s not like that.

Case in point:

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Last Thursday, T. was working on laundry, in a desultory fashion, and between folding clothes and reading realized that she was hearing loud voices and helicopters. She assumed that a.) there was some sort of traffic thing going on, and people were being med-evac-ed somewhere, and b.) that the yard guys for Mrs. Bingham had the radio up really loudly.

Imagine her horrified surprise to go out to get the mail and discover that it was c.) none of the above. There were, instead, nine sheriff’s cars slewed across the road at various angles, cutting off access to the street, and the SWAT team in the driveway of the house across the street.

Ironic that the neighbor had exchanged smiles with us about the turkey antics just the week before. It seemed so odd to now know his name, courtesy of the loudspeaker, and for hours T. heard over and over again, “We don’t want to hurt you. No one wants to go in and get you. Just follow our instructions, and come out with your hands up where we can see them.”

Oh, dear.

From about 2pm – 5pm, this went on, and then as what looked like a tank pulled up and disgorged men in camouflage and helmets, officers began running around. T. almost wanted to take pictures, but was torn between watching, and moving away, unhappy to see crowds gathering on the other end of the barricade that she could see, smoking, and talking in groups as if someone was filming. This is a person’s real life! she railed at them silently, but they didn’t move.

And then, a peremptory banging on her own door. An officer in sunglasses, carrying a rifle, gesturing at her to come out. Another man in camouflage, standing in her bushes, pointing a long gun at the neighbor’s house. A moment of hot panic as T. tried to hurry away, was redirected away from the sidewalk, and cut through side yards and the neighbor’s place, shadowed by an officer behind and an escort in front, still pointing that gun. Relief at seeing D. waiting impatiently at another barricade, in the car.

And, another long, long wait. At least this time we were together. And, D. had stopped by the library, so T. had a book. We sat in the car and cautiously met some of our neighbors, also sitting in their cars. We watched neighbors open their homes to each other, as bathroom and food needs wore on. The police went into homes and grabbed diabetes medication when one neighbor needed it, and spots on the front lawn were generously shared. And we waited. And we waited.

And we jumped – gasped – at the first flash-bombs. And heard the whistle of the gas as twelve canisters crashed through the windows. We waited on edge, in silence. And then… it was done.

The first of the neighbors were allowed into the house on foot at 9:45. We were the last in, at 10 p.m., and then were allowed to retrieve the car from the end of the block at 10:20. Suffice it to say that we were weary beyond bearing. T. slipped into bed and dropped like a stone, while D. prowled the house, watching the activity beyond the bright spotlights, as the officers cleared the scene.

One of us could barely rise the following morning. One of us rose all too early. And thus we have 4 AM Macaroons.

The craze for the 3 Ingredient Cookie has rolled from baby blogs to vegan challenge blogs, and we’ve had various variations on them – oatmeal, banana and raisin, oatmeal, banana, cranberry – even peanut butter. D. went a bit above three ingredients, but the spirit was the same – most of the sweetening comes from banana, and there’s a bit of fiber, a bit of sweet, and a simplicity that works well with a cup of tea.


  • 16 oz. – 1 lb. finely shredded coconut
  • 2 lg. bananas
  • Coconut Banana Maccaroons 1

  • 1 c. Sugar
  • 1/2 c. Flour
  • 1/2 c. Water
  • 1/4 c. Canola
  • 1/4 tsp. Salt
  • 2 tsp. Baking Pwdr
  • 1/2 tsp. Cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. Ginger
  • Chocolate chunks, optional

The beauty of coconut is that it’s spiky, so it’s very easy to mash the ingredients together on this one. It creates a sticky paste, which D. rolled out and then scored with a pizza cutter into tiny, two-inch squares. He then topped each with a chocolate chunk, and baked them at 325°/170° for a half hour on a Silpat. Your time may vary. D. thinks next time he’ll let them brown a little more.

You may think that this story proves counter to the idea that the world is not as dark or bad as the media would have us believe – but it doesn’t. Though they left the house as neat as they could, sweeping the street and clearing away, things were broken when the neighbor was removed from his mother’s house. Friday morning, she stood in the drive and wept, as neighbors gathered round, hugged her, and, with face masks, buckets, and vacuums, took the first few steps to restoring the place to rights. By afternoon, the windows were boarded up, the carpets cleaned, and the beginnings of order emerged. Small doings, perhaps, in the scheme of a life. But, big things, when that life has been so brutally and publicly disrupted.

And though we neighbors were frightened, cowed, horrified and inconvenienced by turns, this was a minor blip in the landscape of our lives. Some people have to live this way all the time. There were dogs and robots and SWAT teams, and no one died. We are unimaginably blessed.

So, we walk on, with hope in our hearts.

EDITED TO ADD: Full story, since many are asking.

Gardening & …Guinea Fowl?!

Skyway Drive 088

From someone who routinely finds typographical errors in all sorts of media, the discovery that the paper misidentified a bird in Benicia as a guinea fowl was a little horrifying.

“But, that’s a turkey!” we protested. And then realized that maybe we’d better have some back-up for our protest, because, after all, we have no biology degrees. Still, the huge, crazy toms currently displaying all kinds of aggro-pretty at 6:30 in the morning on our street don’t look like any guinea fowls we’ve ever seen. And, we’ve actually seen some. In zoos and on conservation ranches, as those babies aren’t at ALL native to this continent – hello, Africa?.

Now, turkeys, oh, yes. They’re from around these parts.

Remember, they were nearly our national bird – eagles do seem a less ungainly choice.

And, anyone in a buckled shoe-and-hat outfit knows that the Pilgrims ate them. (Okay, so that’s a total lie, but work with us, here.)

At this time of year, turkeys are everywhere: moulting, displaying, and viciously protecting that clutch of eggs they MIGHT have secreted somewhere two blocks from here, but next to which YOU ARE OBVIOUSLY STILL WAY TOO CLOSE. All day long, we can hear them making little coughing-barking-chirruping noises, challenging stray dogs, passing cars, and scaring the crud out of pedestrians. Poor tetchy, crazed, irritable wee beasties, being bombarded by our hummingbirds and lambasted by our local skunk (oh, that’s another non-fragrant story. All sorts of excitement going on down our hill on these warm nights – all the windows open – gah!), and glared at by the neighborhood – even at their worst, which has got to be now – (although last summer when they were on everyone’s rooftops may be a close second) – no one’s bothering them. Either we’re all softies, or we can afford to ignore them, in favor of shooing away the non-existent guinea fowl…

Skyway Drive 087

You talkin’ to me? I didn’t think so.

Sonoma County 77

The odd pattern of rain and weather, broken machinery and other annoyances mean that though the “field” had been turned twice, but none of our “crops” are in — STILL! It’s as if we’ve forgotten how to pull this off! Despite weeks of prep, we have no pictures of vigorously growing plants in our yard – and knee-high lawn and rampant weeds in our backyard, oy, but we’re hopeful that finally we can get that all squared this weekend so we can start enjoying the weekends again, and awaiting the fruits of our many labors. Or, D’s labor, anyway.

We’re looking forward to growing some lovely salad greens and some unusual onions and stuff – fingers crossed that we pull it together! Until then…happy weekend, May the Fourth be with you, and Viva Puebla Day, aka Cinco de Mayo, whereon we raise a well-guacamoled tortilla chip to the sound trouncing of French forces by Mexican soldiers in 1862. Outside we go! There is much to celebrate.