Cooking and Crying

December 26, 2009 at 7:14 pm (healing, Inspiration, Memoirs, Rebuilding) (, , )

My Magic Kitchen

Cooking and Crying

It hits at odd moments when you are doing something normal.  The universe decides to remind you of how friggin lucky you are.

So here it is the holiday season, and it is all about cooking for my husband and I. We cook for gatherings that happen in our home, and are asked to cook for most other gatherings we attend as well. Rum-glazed bosc pairs, vegetarian matzoh ball soup, roasted winter vegetables over couscous, roasted beer can chickens, an apple cider brined turkey, tabuleh salad, mint and dill cucumber salad….I’m full just reading about it!

I am so pleased that our friends and family enjoy our cooking, and I believe that breaking bread with others is a sacred act.

But cooking is more than that for me. It is a reminder.

After my house burned down in August of 2007, I was naturally afraid of flames. I had seen fire at its most destructive, and had barely escaped being consumed by it myself. I did not light candles, go near fire places, sit near camping fires, or cook on a gas stove for months.

Then one cold winter day in our little rental house, I had a craving for matzo ball soup. I am a vegetarian, so I couldn’t just go to a deli to get the soup – it would have had chicken in it. I had to make the soup myself. I remember my hands shaking as I lit the burner that first time.

Now I cook most days with out a second thought, but once in a while I am reminded and I am grateful to be healing.

They tell me that this last batch of matzoh ball soup was especially good. It had a secret ingredient – tears of joy!

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Sparks in Winter

December 7, 2009 at 2:55 am (healing, Inspiration, Memoirs, Rebuilding) (, , , )

"Earth Hamsa", R.Cross 2009

Sparks in Winter

Traditionally winter is the time to go inward, to be introspective , to live off of the summer and autumn harvests, to stay in and hibernate, and to get into a torpid state. In other words, it is not generally seen as a time of creation.

After two years of “healing myself” since my house burned down, I am feeling creative again. I am blessed to have employment that pays me to write songs with children, but that is not the same as creating my own art, music, food etc.

This time it has come in the form of a series of Hamsas. The Hamsa or Hand of Fatima is a protective ornament and symbol found in North Africa and the Middle East. It is usually displayed on the walls of homes or worn as a charm.

The idea of a protective ornament for the house really resonates with me, so I created a series of hamsas based on the four classical elements of Fire, Water, Earth, and Air. On the back of each hamsa, I have added this Hebrew blessing for the home:

Birkat habayit

Bezeh haššaˁar lo yavo ṣaˁar.
Bezot haddirah lo tavo ṣarah.
Bezot haddelet lo tavo bahalah.
Bezot hammaḥlaqah lo tavo maḥloqet.
Bezeh hammaqom tehi brakah

Let no sadness come through this gate.
Let no trouble come to this dwelling.
Let no fear come through this door.
Let no conflict be in this place.
Let this home be filled with the blessing of joy
and peace.

This winter and always, may you have a balance of the four elements in your life and peace in your home, heart, and spirit.

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Alternative Gifts

November 29, 2009 at 10:13 pm (Charitable Organizations, Inspiration) (, , )

Gift of Winter

I admit it. I hate the whole obligatory gift-giving of a bunch of crap that people don’t need and may not even want. And if it’s something for the kids in your family – they probably have plenty of toys, video games etc. Is this how our love is measured? I certainly hope not. So I offer up some alternatives for this holiday season :

For the adults or the mature young adult, check out the Alternative gift fair in your area. You can donate in your loved-ones names to a variety of Local, National, and International organizations, and it is tax-deductible. From your local soup kitchen, to providing winter coats for Native American kids living in North Dakota, to providing vaccines for children in Africa, this is a great “good karma” way to give.

Support your local crafts people and merchants – especially those featuring the work of local artists and fare-trade products. Stay away from department stores.

Give a basket of fresh locally-grown produce from your neighborhood farmers market or co-op.

Give an EXPERIENCE instead of a material object. Local theater, musical events, classes, and workshops make for wonderful memories.

Give a gift certificate for a spa treatment, massage, pedicure etc.

You get the idea. Let’s reclaim the holidays with meaningful gift-giving. I feel that warm and fuzzy feeling returning …oh wait.. that was just the dog lying on my feet !

All links below are for venues, services, and events in the DC area,

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November 17, 2009 at 8:48 pm (healing, Rebuilding) (, , , )


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

An artifact or artefact is any object made or modified by a human. In archaeology, an artifact is an object recovered by some archaeological endeavor, which may have a cultural interest. Examples include stone tools such as projectile points, pottery vessels, metal objects such as buttons or guns, and items of personal adornment such as jewelery and clothing. Other examples include bone that show signs of human modification, fire cracked rocks from a hearth or plant material used for food.

Burned Guitars

I won’t lie to you. There are still days of struggle. I have spent the last two years trying to figure out who I am since the fire. When I am working with the children writing songs or making art, or working as part of the stage crew at an event or festival, I am part of a creative process. I exist as is evident in the art and music that my senses are witness to. I am grateful for life-affirming employment.

But when I come home, part of me is longing for my artifacts, and they are gone.

I am not talking about clothing or cooking utensils I used to have, I am longing for the art and music I created. Some proof of a prior existence – my music awards, my Art Guitars. When I visit friends and relatives, I see the proof. Many friends and relatives still have my guitar pins and ornaments. My mother has an Art Guitar that we created together when she was recovering from breast cancer. For me, creating art and music, has always been how I make sense of the world.

I took a trip to Portland, Oregon this past summer to visit my dear friend E, who I had not seen in 10 years. On this visit, I met E’s daughter for the first time, and I was struck by how much E’s daughter reminded me of E’s mother. Then E said something to me that really hit home. She told me that I was one of only a handful of people in her circle of friends who had known her mother when she was alive. I hold memories that are precious to both of us.

The memories we share with our loved ones are perhaps not tactile proof of our history, but maybe in a way, they are artifacts too. Proof of a life.

P.S. I bought some art supplies

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The Critical Decision to Get Up and Walk the Dog

March 12, 2009 at 2:01 am (healing, Inspiration, Memoirs) (, , , , )

Rach & Beau

The Critical Decision to Get Up and Walk the Dog

That first night after the house burned, my husband and I stayed across the street with our wonderful neighbors Jacques and Veronique. They immediately opened their home to us, and gave us their basement guest room to sleep in. They had an amazing way of quietly providing us with everything we needed. I will love them forever because of the humanity and unconditional love they showed us.

We hardly slept that first night. We held each other. We cried in the privacy of that little basement room.

The next morning, I remember being astonished that the sun actually came up again – amazed that there was another day.

It must have been around 6 AM. Our hosts were still asleep. That’s when we made the big decision.

We decided to get up, walk down the street to where our dog was staying, and take him for his morning romp.

I know that sounds like a very minor and mundane action, but it was literally our first major step towards healing our lives. The magnitude and majesty of that morning walk stays with me even to this day.

The sacred routine. The sweet greeting from our dog. The beauty of our neighborhood at the end of August. The morning air still cool. The birds chirping noisily. Seeing the newspaper being delivered.

The news. The world. People. Life. It was all still there, and so were we.

I knew then, as I know now, that we were going to be alright.

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It’s Not Easy Building Green

March 3, 2009 at 4:39 am (healing, Memoirs, Rebuilding) (, , )

It’s Not Easy Building Green

After the trauma of the fire, and after assessing the extensive damage to the house, we decided to save the structure of the front and façade of the house, and rebuild the rest, (since most of it was gone anyway). We received what we believe was a fair amount from our insurance company to rebuild our home. We wanted to build where our hearts and minds were – as “Green” as possible.

We were very lucky to be able to work with a wonderful contractor who had worked with many of these great new building materials.

We would have loved to have had the funds to build a solar-powered house using totally sustainable materials. Instead we did some research and did what we could afford.

The first step was getting to know what materials were out there. A friend recommended a visit to Amicus Green Building center. It’s a great place to see and touch samples, and the staff is friendly and very knowledgeable. However, Amicus is pricey, so we ended up writing down the names of the materials and products we liked, and then going on line to find cheaper prices.

I believe that the prices of all these materials and products will come down when the demand for them goes up. I’d love to walk into a Home Depot some day and see sustainable and domestically manufactured materials everywhere. To their credit, they have started an Eco-Options product line.

In the mean time, here’s what we were able to do:

Insulation made from denim scraps

High efficiency toilets

Low VOC interior paint

Solar tube lighting

Solar attic fan

Bamboo flooring

Energy Star appliances

Water Filtration (No more bottled water)

Refurbished clawfoot bath tub

Silestone kitchen counters

I also recommend these Great Green sites:

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Healing The House

February 26, 2009 at 7:31 pm (healing, Inspiration) (, , , )

house-blessing2Healing the House

There are rituals for just about everything – the birth of a child, graduation from school, initiation into adulthood, love commitment to a partner, christening of a sea-worthy vessel, swearing-in of a president, reaching the top of a mountain, a loved one’s transition to death, but what ritual do you perform when your house burns down?

When I was 10, my family went to Jerusalem for my brother’s Bar Mitzvah, and to visit my Uncle and his family. My brother’s ceremony took place at The Western wall. I remember seeing people placing little pieces of paper into the cracks of the wall. My mother told me they were putting prayers in the wall. That idea resonated with me then, and it still does now. I have always believed in the power of writing down intentions, so when it came to doing a ritual for the house, a clear idea emerged.

After removing dumpsters full of burned and melted debris, the remains of the house consisted of charred studs and floors where there still was a house at all.

The amazing construction team had to shore-up what remained in order to start framing out the new part of the house. As soon as it was safe to enter, we were in there with 2 of our nephews performing our “after the fire house ritual”.

We first thanked the house for sheltering us and our friends and family for so many years. We thanked it for providing a safe and nurturing place. We thanked it for providing a place for us to do our music and art. We thanked it for providing a place for rest and healing, joy, laughter, and tears. We thanked it for being a welcoming and sacred place for us. Then we got to work….

Each person was given some turquoise paint and a brush. Turquoise has always been a healing color for me. We went as a group from room to room speaking and painting our positive intentions on the beams and studs.

To know that those positive words live inside the walls of my house, is a constant reminder of what a miracle it is to get a second chance to rebuild your house and your life.

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The Big Safety Net

February 24, 2009 at 5:28 pm (Inspiration) (, , )

The Big Safety Net

Safety is not what I thought it was. It has to do with how your spirit rolls along.

It has to do with the hands that catch you, the voices that reassure you, and some kind of inner super-hero that makes you brave enough to put one foot in front of the other when you are not sure that you even have feet.

For many months after the fire, I felt like ether, steam, and the thinnest layer of cellophane.

Barely here, and yet confident that somehow I was safe in the universe.

Safe in the universe because we are part of the universe.

The universe accepts you when you have (seemingly) lost everything. It is the greatest feeling to be held by the Big Safety Net.

It is like being oxygen. So insignificant and anonymous, and yet, a huge part of what drives life itself.

As I live and breathe, I live and breathe.

It’s cool to be a molecule !

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February 20, 2009 at 9:19 pm (Inspiration) (, , )

22 Fire Goddesses

In my quest to understand and process being a fire survivor, it has helped me tremendously to view fire in a variety of contexts. I love learning about different religions and belief systems, so in this post, I give you 22 Fire Goddesses.

They represent 16 different cultures/religions, and a wide variety of types of FIRE. There are destructive fire Goddesses, hearth and kitchen fire Goddesses, sacred fire Goddesses, healing and nourishing fire Goddesses, and even a Goddess who protects against fire. There are also many fire Gods, but I’ll save them for an upcoming post. Please leave a comment to let me know which Fire Goddesses I left any out.

Agnayi –Hindu goddess of fire

AibheaogIrish Fire Goddess

Aodh – Celtic Fire Goddess

Arani – Hindu Goddess of Fire

Brigit or Brighid – Irish Goddess worshipped in Celtic polytheism

Caia Caecilia, also called Gaia Caecilia – Roman Goddess of Fire, the Hearth, Healing, and Women

Chantico – Aztec Goddess of fires in the family hearth and volcanoes

Freya- Norse Goddess of fire and the domestic arts

Fuchi,-Japanese Goddess of fire

Gabija – Lithuanian Goddess of fire and of the hearth

Hestia – Greek Goddess of the hearth

Ida– Hindu goddess of fire and devotion

Itzpapalotl – Aztec Goddess of Fire and Birds

Li- Chinese Goddess of the nourishing fire

Mahuika – Maori fire Goddess

Nantosuelta – Gaul Goddess of nature, the earth, fire, and fertility

Oya – African Fire, Wind and Thunderbolt Goddess of the Yoruba Tribe

Oynyena Maria – Polish ,”Fiery Mary,” a fire Goddess who assists and counsels the thunder God Piorun

Pele – Hawaiian, the Goddess of fire, lightning, dance, and volcanoes.

SekhmetEgyptian Fire or Sun Goddess

Stata Mater – Roman Goddess who protected against fires

Vesta – Roman Goddess of sacred fire, the hearth, home, and family

To learn more about all kinds of Goddesses, check out the amazing work of Hrana Janto.

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Mountains of Things

February 19, 2009 at 4:51 am (Memoirs) (, , , )

Mountains of Things

When all of my stuff got destroyed in a house fire, I naturally gained a new perspective on material possessions.

After the fire, it became almost unbearable to go into a retail establishment. It was overwhelming to have to think about choosing from such an over-abundance of items. Fortunately, I have a very patient friend who would call me up and say things like, “Today I am going to take you to get a pair of socks”. She’d pick me up, we’d go to a store, run in, get one or two items, and then try to get out of there before I had a melt-down.

When you have lived in the same house for 17 years, your material possessions become filled with life, energy, and stories. When you are surrounded by mass quantities of brand new mass-produced objects, it can feel like the life is being sucked right out of you. So many objects in need of human attention can be absolutely overwhelming. I still struggle with “retail panic” to some degree, but I have not cried in a store since November.

I am now happy to have less stuff and to be working on having consciousness about living an uncluttered life.

Here’s a little song I wrote called, “I’ve Cried Everywhere”

*Sing it to the tune of “I’ve Been Everywhere”

I’ve cried everywhere, Man

I’ve cried everywhere, Man

I’ve cried at the mall, Man

A melt-down and a bawl, Man

I’ve shed ten-thousand tears, Man

I’ve cried everywhere

I’ve cried at farmers’ markets, Target, JC Penney

Kmart, Wal-Mart, the check-out line at Safeway

In my throes at Trader Joe’s hiding behind the mangoes

CVS, Costco, especially Home Depot

I’ve cried everywhere, Man

I’ve cried everywhere, Man

I’ve cried at the mall, Man

A melt-down and a bawl, Man

I’ve shed ten-thousand tears, Man

I’ve cried everywhere

I’ve cried at CVS, Sears, IKEA, and Lowes

At the Macy’s super-sale on all women’s clothes

PetSmart, Old Navy, Marshall’s too

While shopping at Whole Foods into the tofu

I’ve cried everywhere, Man

I’ve cried everywhere, Man

I’ve cried at the mall, Man

A melt-down and a bawl, Man

I’ve shed ten-thousand tears, Man

I’ve cried everywhere

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