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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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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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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February 5, 2009 at 3:39 pm (Memoirs) (, , )

Heart on Fire

Heart on Fire

Yeah – if you live in my neighborhood, you know me or at least have heard about me in line at the co-op, or Sunday morning at the farmers’ market. I’m the one whose house burned down. It has now been 18 months since it happened, so people are starting to forget. That is a good thing. The nosy questions from people I hardly know are fizzling out. The freaked-out phone calls from estranged friends who have belatedly heard the news, have all but ceased. No more conversations quickly stopping when I am spotted at the dog park. For the most part, I am being treated normally again.
However, I am not as I once was.
I am stronger and more fragile.
I am more compassionate and less tolerant.
I am more outspoken and quieter.
I am profoundly changed.

It is time to write it down.

They say that everything you need to know, you learn in kindergarten.

Everything I know for sure, I have learned since walking out of a burning house 18 months ago.The rest, I’m still trying to figure out.
Welcome to Kindlingarden!
It is an honor to share my thoughts with you on this blog.

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