Friday, September 25, 2009

Traffic Court

The judge is kind, and funny—joking with some, gently prodding others, “Tell me what happened.”

A young Latino man approaches the bench. Dressed in a pressed black suit, white shirt and tie, accompanied by a lawyer, he stands as the judge reads the paperwork about his case.

“Why are you here?” the judge asks, addressing his remarks to the lawyer. “You could have taken care of this yourself, by mail.”

“May I answer, Your Honor?” the young man asks.

“Of course.

“I asked to appear before you, Sir. You may not remember me… “

“Oh, but I do remember you!” the judge says. “Breaking into a store… a deli, wasn’t it?”

“Yes, Sir, Your Honor—a 7-11. You could have sent me away but you gave me probation. I’m in law school now, because of you.”

“Is that right?” the judge smiles. “That’s wonderful.” He removes his glasses; puts them back on again. “I’m so glad to hear that,” They complete their business and as the young man walks to the door, the judge addresses the room. “This is what happens when it works,” he says. And then he calls my name.

“Is everything okay, dear?” the judge asks gently as I take my place before him, wiping away tears.

“Oh, yes,” I sniffle into the tissue that I am now smart enough to carry. “Fire away.”

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Memoir

It's no where near finished; it's rough around some edges; in other places, it's much too tight.

But it's time to get some feedback...

In the past two years, I've learned that writing a memoir is like trying to catch my own tail--and I don't have a tail. Just when I think I've nailed it down, when I sit back and smile, thinking: That's it! I've got all the themes in place, all that's left is one more pass to even out to rough spots, something happens. There's a shift in my life or my thinking and whoosh, I'm back, staring at the pages, shaking my head.

That said, here's a little piece. I'd LOVE to get some feedback on this--a comment, an email (oscaramyr@aol.com), a tweet... Writing can be, is, a solitary business--which is odd, as writers are, in a sense, in a constant conversation with the book, with the material. In fact, since posting this yesterday, I've changed it five or six times. Having the illusion that you're out there, reading it, compels me to make it better.

-------------------------

“Our life is a faint tracing on the surface of mystery,” Annie Dillard

Light. We’re all chasing it. Capturing fireflies, splitting atoms, sitting in congregations aching toward God. My daughter snaps photographs, and flickering images on film. My son, a traveler, chases sunsets around the world.

My husband, Matthew, is an Architect. Sometimes it seems all he does is capture light. Borrowing it from one room for another, cutting windows into walls of wood, stone and steel.

Me, I write about angels: Stories about rescues, prophetic visions, life altering dreams. I could tell you about lost wedding rings, suddenly found; terminal illnesses healed; disembodied voices shouting life-saving commands, saving people in cars, trucks, airplanes and ships.

My favorites are the stories where mysterious strangers suddenly appear, do something impressive—stop bleeding, catch old ladies, offer reassuring comfort, return lost children to their frantic parents—and then, disappear without a trace.
I have always believed in angels, people often begin their letters or, I’ve never been sure about angels… but I am now!

With a job like this, immersed in the evidence that there are miracles happening everywhere, every day, you might think that my life would be perfect. And it was. It is. It’s just that perfection isn’t what I once thought it would be.

For the closer we creep to any light source—light bulb, star, God—the hotter it gets. I had no idea what I’d signed up for when, inspired by the stories I was reading, and the beauty and the humor of the angels’ responses, I began to pray myself: Please use my life. Help me to experience real joy. Teach me what love really means. And please, oh, please, make it about more than just me.

This book, guided by the angels every step of the way, is a study of the soul and its language; a study of the heart and its essential energy--a story of love refracted through the lenses of: Yoga; the House; the Heart; and the passages of human life.

This book is the chronicle of a journey of transformation, from loving in a way that left me drained, frustrated and sick—with adrenal failure and migraine headaches—to loving in a clear, rich way; a way that has filled and healed me on every level. It's been a a journey from self-sacrifice to true love, and that's meant loving myself enough to say no. As I journeyed, I changed: from victim to author; from overwhelmed SuperMom to Wise Woman, a daughter of the Divine Feminine source that nourishes us all.

This is the story of how I was born again—not in the Christian “Born Again”sense of the term, but rather, born for a second time; born in the way that a person is squashed and squeezed through a tight, twisting space, born in the way that a seed presses toward light, emerging from tightly packed soil into a forest of tall oaks, fragrant pines and dappled sunlight—again.

Late Summer 2007
“The world breaks people’s hearts,” my father says. He’s lying on his bed, addressing his comments to the ceiling because he’s unable to turn his head in my direction. As he rests between thoughts, his face twists, one cheek tightening, an eyebrow lifting; the upper lip rippling across his perfectly straight, white teeth like a wave.
This rhythm of tics and grimaces is caused by Cerebral Palsy, a misfire in the wiring of my father’s brain. It’s as familiar to me as the steady in and out of my breath; yet this is the first time I’ve been able to simply sit and observe it—to really see it—because he is not, as I watch him, watching me.
“Maybe our hearts break because we think things should be different--we think we should be special; we…”
“What do you mean special?” he frowns.
“You know. We think we won’t get old, won’t fall apart, won’t die.”
“I won’t,” Dad says, and I laugh.
Maybe Dad will outrun death; maybe he’ll find a way to stem the tide of decline that’s sweeping through his body. He’s certainly trying.

Unable to simply sit, stand and walk across the room—unwilling to accept or to ask for help; Dad’s developed, over the past few months, a complicated algorithm of movements just to be able to get out of bed, to move to the rolling chair where he takes his meals, or walk the fifteen-foot distance to his bathroom.
He rocks, back straight, arms at his sides until he’s built enough momentum to launch himself to a seated position. Then, jerking his torso to the right, he spins a quarter-turn and kicks his legs over the side of the bed.
With his left hand he grabs his right and heaves it—dead weight--up and over the right side of the walker. If I’m there, I offer to uncoil his fingers from their perpetual fist and place them in a grip around the metal frame. Sometimes, he lets me. Other times, he says, “No, that’s okay.”

He wiggles his feet into his shoes, which he’s carefully left at the side of the bed. One foot is swollen to almost twice the width of the other. But when I point this out, he snaps, “ I know! What do you want me to do about it?”
Holding fast to the aluminum walker, he drags one foot along the floor at a time, inching toward the bathroom, ten feet away. This takes five minutes.
Waiting for his return, I think of Superman and how, though he’s “more powerful than a locomotive,” there is always Kryptonite. I think of Wolverine, the X-Man who can shoot knives out of his fingers—but not without slicing the flesh of his hands to ribbons.
All of this suffering, all of this soldiering on in spite of our pain and limitations: There is wisdom here, in this little room, something about not giving up, about fate, and acceptance and doing what we can. There’s something, too, about love and memory, about family and commitment and taking care of each other. Here in my father’s room at the top of the stairs, I’m listening to a new voice, from the deepest part of my self, whisper: I don’t throw people away.

2
On the little card table where he takes his meals, there’s a heavy glass beer stein with a straw, through which my father, who has trouble using his hands, can sip his coffee, light and sweet the way he likes it. My teacup sits, on the opposite side of the table, releasing steam.
Dad talks, rests, drifts and, as often happens when I visit, I find myself drifting, too—into rooms where we’ve lived, up and down paths we’ve walked, together and alone. I release my hurry up world of magazine deadlines, of teenagers who have to be somewhere on time and my heart begins to pace his, just as I used to pace my strides to his longer, faster ones.
In this memory, I’m sitting on Dad’s shoulders, arms wrapped around his warm neck, my cheek pressed into the wool of his tweed cap. The neighborhood is blanketed with snow. Dad holds my ankles.
In this one, I’m younger, not yet walking. I’m sliding a braided scatter rug across the polished wood floor into and then out of a slash of sunlight. I am fascinated by the dust motes, swirling like stars. I can smell the smoke from my mother's cigarette and the turpentine-soaked rag she uses to clean the oil paint from her brushes.
Suddenly, my father’s face looms before me, a bright balloon that I swat at, delighted. I fall back, laughing, and he catches my head in his hand.


3
The father-daughter bond, it’s complicated. A few years earlier, I consulted a therapist—the fourth in a string of mental health counselors Id visited as I searched for the right person to help me... what? Fix something? Understand something? Leave my marriage? Stay? Though uncertain what I was looking for, I knew what I didn’t want. And so far, each therapist had ended up telling me, in one way or another, “You’ll never be happy until you leave this marriage.” One therapist, a thin woman with severe features and a tight bun (at least that's how I remember her now) had challenged, "What do you see in him?"

I’d heard that this man, Randy Sherman, was different. “He sees beneath the surface,” my friend, Jeanne, had told me. “He sees the things other people miss.”
In our first session, I laid out the ground rules. “Don’t take my side. Don’t buy into my bullshit. I’m going to try and blame everything on my husband, my parents. Make me be responsible for my own life.”
“Okay,” he agreed. “I promise.”
Ten minutes into the session, he interrupted me. “Did you have a brain injury?”
“What?"
"A car accident? A fall?"
"No. Why?"
"it's your speech," he said. tapping his fingers against his chin. "There’s something…”
“Oh, that,” I laughed. “People are always asking me where I’m from. They say I sound European.”

“No,” he said. “You sound like you have some sort of brain damage.”
“I do?”
“You do. It sounds as if there’s some tongue numbness, some loss of acuity in your speech. Are you sure you didn’t hit your head? Did you have a fall—in childhood, perhaps?”
“No…”
“Well, then it’s one of your parents. Which one of them had a brain injury?”
People have always said I look like my father. “No mistaking that smile,” they’d say, or, “Well, now this apple didn’t fall far from the tree!”
“My father has Cerebral Palsy,” I told Randy. “That’s brain damage.”
“That’s it,” he nods. “You sound, just a little, like you’ve got it too. There’s a thickness in the tongue. It’s subtle—a slurring at the edges of words. Can you feel that?”
An hour later, driving home, my tongue feels swollen, too big for its cradle at the bottom of my mouth, too long for my throat.

I’ve spent years distancing myself from my parents. But now, in this year of sitting and listening, of setting aside the urgent rush of my life to attend to the slower rhythm of Dad’s, I sense that I may have turned a corner. After a lifetime of running, as fast as I can, in the opposite direction, I may just be headed back home.

4
When my parents still shared a home, and Dad’s health began to slide he went to the dentist and had all of his bottom teeth pulled.
Why?” I asked. "There was no decay? No problems?”
“It’s easier this way.”
“What’s easier?”
“At the dentist, it’s hard for me to keep my mouth from moving. Hard for him to work with my face moving all the time. This is easier.”
“Easier for who?” Mom laughed. At first, she didn’t mind pureeing his meals—reducing her carefully layered lasagna, her lemon parsley chicken, her sirloin tips in Bordeaux to an unrecognizable pulp. When he asked her to feed him with a spoon, she did, for a while. But when he started snapping: “What’s wrong with you? Hold the spoon steady;” she bristled.
“I don’t have time for this. It may take him a little longer to eat but I have other things to do.”

5
We’re flying down the highway at 70 mph when my husband, who’s driving, decides to clean his eyeglasses. He takes them off, polishes the lenses with the tail of his shirt and puts them back on.
“I still can’t see.” He removes them again. Then, rolling down his window, he commands, “Hold the steering wheel,” and lets it go.

“What? No! Wait!” From the passenger seat, I grab the wheel as my husband, with his foot still on the accelerator, lifts his torso, leans out the window and extends his glasses in front of the windshield, trying to catch them in the spray of the washer fluid which he keeps activating in little spurts, along with the wipers.

“Matt!” I screech, trying to keep the car on the road.
“It’s just for a second,” he calls, the wind carrying his voice away.
“Get…the… fuck… back… in… here!”
“Okay, okay,” he laughs, dropping back into his seat and reclaiming the steering wheel.
Breathless, I stare at him. And then, infuriating myself, I start to laugh.
"Oh, now don’t laugh,” he grins. “It only encourages me.”
“I know,” I punch him in the arm."I know..."

From the back seat, our daughter, Katie, 16, pulls out her cell phone. “This is definitely going in the movie,” she says, texting a message to her brother.

Katie and Max are making a movie. Instead of turning to drugs or cutting themselves (which, under the circumstances, I would certainly understand), they are compensating for their parents’ shortcomings with humor and art.
They write everything down, chronicling our patchwork days and hurried dinners, the strange, cobbled together vacations that we always leave until the last minute to plan, The forgotten birthdays, the day-late visits from the tooth fairy. (She was just so busy and a little bit hung-over from that wedding the night before. And she left a really nice note with a glittery fairy footprint on it, explaining that she just “had so many teeth to pick up”…)
And the way their parents argue, circling the kitchen table:

“What you don’t understand, Amy…”
“Understanding is not the same thing as agreeing, Matthew,”
“If you’d only support me, Amy”
“If you’d only talk to me, Matthew”.

They’ve given up trying to help, given up getting upset. They’ve even given up—for the most part—sighing and leaving the room. Now it’s an art project, an effort to collect the bits and pieces that don’t seem to match, into one taped-together whole that they can consider the way a sculptor might, stepping back from the work, walking around it, studying the way it undulates and catches the light.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Almost Raw Sesame Coconut Oatmeal

This morning, I stepped out the back door in my pjs and bare feet, on my way to snip a piece of fresh mint from the garden for my honeydew/mint slushie. That's when I discovered: it's cold out!

I shivered back indoors, put on my fat wooly socks and my sweater. Then, I made up a belly-warming bowl of Almost Raw Sesame Coconut Oatmeal. Our bodies need whole grains to stay healthy, but on a raw diet, that can be complicated, involving soaking and sprouting.... which is all good, but when we're hungry NOW, what do we do?

This is my compromise with all of that, invented last winter to replace buttered toast.

Almost Raw Sesame Coconut Oatmeal
The recipe makes enough for many breakfasts. Store it in an airtight glass container or large zip-log bag in the back of the frig.


Prepare the mixture:
In a big glass or ceramic mixing bowl, combine:
1 cup Rolled Oats
1/2 cup each: Quinoa flakes, Spelt flakes, Rye flakes (To simplify, I often just use a five-grain, wheat-free cereal from the Health Food Store)
1/4 cup Sesame seeds (I like the toasted seeds, even tho, technically, they're not raw)
1/4 cup shredded dried coconut
1 tsp. cinnamon

Optional: 1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 cup sliced almonds
------------

Serve: Make enough hot water for a cup of tea. Place about a 1/2 cup dry cereal mixture in a cereal bowl. Pour 1 cup hot water over dry mixture. When all of the water has been absorbed, serve.

It's lovely just plain. But I like it with butter or coconut butter/oil and sometimes, a drop or two of raw honey or blueberry preserve.

Enjoy!

:)

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Blog Error

For some weird, inexplicable reason, each time I go into my blog and edit an old post, my subscription management service re-releases a different, older post. It did that this morning--sending out something I wrote more than a year ago. Please forgive the repetition. I'm trying to. :)

Amy

Saturday, September 12, 2009

A Raw Salad I like

Here is a quick, easy and delicious raw salad I've been eating when I don't feel like doing much food prep. What I mean is, I've had it almost every night this week. It's surprisingly satisfying and quite tasty-what with the combination of flavors and crunch. If you're used to eating huge evening meals, you may also be surprised by how full you are after eating this deceptively "light" and simple salad.

Zucchini Julienne with Raw Tomato Dressing
(For one hearty eater or for two, as side dish)

1/2 small zucchini, julienned
(Optional: You can add almost any raw, julienned veggie to this salad. Try processing 1/2 a sweet potato, beet, or 1/4 peeled Jicama. You could also add some shredded red cabbage or greens (Collards would be very nice here.)

2 small firm tomatoes (Romas are perfect for this, or, as it's end of summer, one of those plump and rumply organic heirlooms of any color (or stripe) would be lovely here)
olive oil
salt and pepper
handful of raw almonds
toasted sesame seeds

Note: This recipe involves a food processor. If you haven't got one, use a sharp knife. And don't worry about wiping out the food processor between ingredients. It's all going in one bowl in the end.

1) In food processor, grind almonds and sesame seeds to coarse chunks meal and remove to salad bowl.

2) Using julienne blade (or sharp knife) cut zucchini (and any other hard veggies) into julienne strips (thin, short noodles) Add to salad bowl. (If adding cabbage or greens, change blades and cut into loose thin shreds.)

3) Sprinkle zucchini/nut mixture with salt and freshly ground pepper and a glug of olive oil. Toss together.

4) Briefly process tomatoes, using pulse feature, until you have a chunky puree. Spoon over julienne mixture and enjoy.

If you eat eggs/animal protein, feel free to add some finely diced hard boiled eggs and feta cheese. Or add some diced chicken or flaked, canned salmon or tuna.

Just toss it all together and serve cold with a nice glass of wine.


Enjoy!
:)

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Young Coconut

Today, I opened the top of a young coconut (which sounds easier than it is--involving a hammer and blade or, if you're more brave than I, a cleaver). I poured out the coconut water, eased out the tender white coconut flesh and put it all in a blender, set to Puree.

Then, I drank half with a straw--which was lunch--and put the rest in the frig to make into ice cream for tonight's dinner.

Raw Coconut Ice Cream

2 cups homemade coconut milk (or 1 can organic coconut milk)
1 T. Agave syrup (or to taste)
1 tsp. Vanilla extract

Puree in a blender, pour into your ice cream machine and wait until it's done. Ice cream will have a creamy, soft-serve consistency. Serve with berries or just eat it right out of the ice cream machine while watching President Obama's health care speech tonight.

Some other ideas to try:
Chocolate Ice cream: Add 1 heaping T. unsweetened cocoa powder or use sweetened cocoa and leave out the Agave syrup
Blueberry Cinnamon Ice cream: Replace Agave with honey and add 1 cup blueberries and 1 tsp. cinnamon to blender
Pina Colada Ice cream: Add 1 cup fresh pineapple to blender
Chocolate Chip Ice cream: While ice cream is forming in ice cream machine, stir in 1/2 cup semi-sweet mini chocolate chips
Raspberry Ice cream: you get the idea...

Enjoy!

:)

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Almond Milk

I have a confession to make: I'm a foodie.

As anyone who's ever dated me (or been married to me) has learned, all it takes to make me happy is dinner in a great restaurant and a really good wine (red, smooth, oaky, with very little fruit). Conversation is nice and the richer and deeper the better. But ultimately, it's the meal that gets me... every time. The intermingled perfumes of cumin, cardamom and tamarind in curried rice; the intoxicating scent of fresh tomatoes roasting with garlic in olive oil; wild salmon rubbed with butter and herbs and placed under the broiler... I'm going to stop there because I've made myself hungry.

This summer, I've been studying--and eating--Raw Food. I googled Raw Food, I visited Barnes and Noble and "borrowed" some Raw Food cookbooks while sipping an iced tea (black, no sweetener).

I learned. For example, Did you know you can eat sweet potatoes raw? I didn't.

I invented. For example, Julienne half a raw, peeled sweet potato, half a raw, peeled beet and half a zucchini. I eat it naked (and it's delicious) or tossed with a little EV Olive oil, a handful of sesame seeds and some salt and pepper. (No vinegar required)

I learned some more, about enzymes, metabolism and digestion... But I won't go there. You know how to Google. And this isn't a science lesson. This is a blog post about Almond Milk...

Yesterday, I splurged on a beautiful cookbook. Written by New York chef and restaurateur (Pure Food and Wine) Matthew Kenney and his partner, Sarma Melngailis, Raw Food, Real Life is sheer food porn (no, not that kind of porn-but if you are a foodie, you know just what I mean) with page after page of gorgeously styled color photos and 100 recipes including things like: Tomato Tartare, Macadamia "Cheese", and, to my surprise, Almond Milk.

I'd been buying commercial Almond Milk for about a year and never dreamed I could MAKE it. I thought it was a complicated esoteric process that would require--if not the purchase of a factory--a level of expertise I had no interest in achieving. But today, I made some.. right in my kitchen, in a blender. And then I drank it... and it was really really good.

Almond Milk
(adapted from Raw Food, Real World)

1 cup raw almonds
4 cups purified water
¼ c. Agave Syrup (I used less)
Pinch sea salt
(The cookbook called for lecithin, but I did not have that in my kitchen and the result seemed, at least to me, none the worse.)

Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend on high speed for about two minutes until milk is born with a light creamy foam on top.

Drink as is (kinda gritty but still good) or strain through cheesecloth: Of course, if you happen to have a Nut Milk Strainer in the back of your utensil drawer, use that. (Don't use a coffee filter. I tried, it doesn't work.)

Anyway, have fun.