Friday, April 17, 2020

Memory of Mother

Saturday May 9th, 2015

Spent some time with Nicole, Ella and Big little CJ (Christian) this afternoon. I took them to Van Wagner’s beach in Stoney Creek where we spent some good time, walking on the sand, skipping stones, photographing birds and each other, taking selfies then off to the ice cream parlor for some black cherry, chocolate and cookies ice cream.

I packed some blankets and healthy snacks but never got around to it because—we all wanted ice cream!

This little outing drained me, but I drummed-up enough strength to go for a 5-mile walk to Bayfront. I purposely left my camera at home. Took a shower when I got back and convinced Sean to take me to Ola Bakery downstairs for an Americano and something sweet. I didn’t have time for coffee this morning and I feel a little sluggish and a bit of a headache.

Taking a 20-minute nap was my plan when we got back to the apartment. Immediately after I laid in bed, something shifted. Memories of my mother came pouring in—so were my tears. I long to be embraced by Mother. I long to have a conversation with her—feel her close to me—touch her beautiful skin—inhale her scent and tell her how much I miss and love her. Even as I write this piece, my tears flow—unstoppable.  The lump in my throat won’t go away. I wallow in her memories, and the feeling of emptiness remain.

Suddenly, I was being pulled out of bed by some unexplainable energy. Grabbed my purse and keys—ready to be led by this energy—a visit to the cemetery! Unfortunately, Sean had made plans with his long time friends. He noticed my tears. I tell him why. Although he was willing to let me have the car, I wasn’t about to spoil his plans with friends of whom he rarely spend time with. Tomorrow, on Mother’s Day, I’ll make the drive. My energy was on overdrive—this poem is the result of that creative energy wanting to be expressed.

Memory of Mother on Mother’s Day

she knew he would be home soon
from where, she had a good idea—
all day and into the evening
she’s been reaching into
a hiding spot inside the rice bin
where she stashed her bottle
of whiskey—taking swigs
as if an elixir that would
wash away the feeling—
the pain—anxiety—the fear
of what might come
when he gets home—
tired and drunk

or is it what comes after
that she tries to numb
that if she took swigs after swigs
of whiskey, she will
develop thick skin

his words whip like barbed wire
his hands quick to throw slaps—
punches and hair pulling—
she begs him to stop
but he doesn’t hear her
he whips, he grabs, he slaps
until she’s down
on the ground

a little girl cowers in the
corner of one room—helpless
hands clasp to both ears
she breathes—deeply
whispers to no one in particular
she promises to be good—
be different—
to her own children 
when she’s grown up
                just make this go away

she’s the little girl
     who wanted to be good
the perfect little girl
     who was favored
the little girl who sang
to her daddy     during school recesses
the little girl who pulled her daddy’s
whiskers until he fell asleep
          he was mellow—

she’s the little girl
who wanted to please everybody
the little girl 
who bears the weight
of the whole world

she’s grown up now
but still remembers—
she’s stronger—
she’s not perfect
but there's one thing she has—
                     her Self!

Rest Well Mother

Unedited, I wrote this poem the night after a visit to my mother whose lifeless body lie in a hospital bed. Later that day, she died of liver cancer. This poem captures the true essence of 'our' time together at that particular moment—December 26, 2007.

Rest Well Mother

you lay in a hospital bed
a thousand thoughts run through my head
your eyes are shut
your mouth shows no movement
I know the words I speak
go through one ear and out the other
but you know
I’m right here by your side

last night I was here
you opened your eyes
looked right into mine and said
you've always been
the beautiful one
your words linger in my ears
like a song stuck in my head
there to reside for eternal years

open your eyes
look at me
and tell me more
tell me how as a little girl
I made you laugh so hard
until your sides hurt
tell me how you felt
when I hugged you
and told you how much I love you

now I only see a tear
rolling down your soft cheek
I thought I also hear a bleak whisper
drowned by the hum
of hospital monitors
wires and tubes
                    they feed you

I try to accept the fact
that this is all real, not just an act
but I can’t and I’m fed up
so I’ll just keep my mouth shut
I can only hope for the best
that your pain will subside
if it makes you feel better
I too burn with ache deep inside

how can I say I feel your pain?
when the truth is, I feel numb
secretly in the dark I cry in vain
thoughts of malady that you succumb
words of hope floats around you
like a school of disoriented birds
denial is in full strength brew
given the circumstances in regard
give yourself permission
                                   be tired

be guided by the bright light
you have served your purpose in life
though my heart will bleed in sorrow
as you slowly fade away
I know deep down inside
you are hurting in more ways than you show
as cruel as it may sound
I have to bid you goodbye
there are no more words to find
rest well my mother, don’t cry
your children
your children's children
will be just fine

rest well my mother
I'll meet you on the Other side

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Saturday, October 13, 2012

MySpace—a Few Years Later

Wendy is a friend I met online in 2006 when by fluke I was led to open a MySpace account—a social network that later became more than just—a social network. More on this later . . .

Tonight, I also met Earl, her husband of 30 years? He bought dinner. It turned out to be a very lovely evening. I came home—my heart spoke . . .

Wendy and Patty

'twas a rainy Saturday night
two women and a nice looking man
shared a table by the fire place
at Faloney's
Ancaster's steak and smoke house

She's my friend Wendy
she calls me Patty
the nice man is Wendy's Earl
he likes his coffee
he builds litter boxes
out of fluffy grass

two women and a man
who woulda' thought
he may even had some fun
we talked about Facebook
MySpace and even books

My grilled salmon was perfect
Wendy's grilled basa looked great
Earl's pulled chicken
dripping sauce
invading the bed of fries
would it be okay
to reach over
for the closest fry?
I wondered.

we talked
we ate
we drank
then it was late
but no, wait!
kodak moment

Earl aims and shoot
Wendy examines
No! retake
we're not done yet
out in the cold
Yes! It was perfect
made it to a FB profile page

Thank you Wendy
Thank you Earl
the dinner was lovely
the company exquisite
let's do this again
soon, and not a year later!

Saturday, October 13, 2012
Faloney's Steak and Smoke House, Ancaster

Monday, July 2, 2012

Guide to Treating Guilt

The Clinician's Guide to Treating Guilt
The Guilt Cure proposes a new theory of guilt that can be very helpful to therapists. It puts guilt in a totally different perspective that can help alleviate the pain and suffering it inflicts. Existing theories of guilt are based on the conventional idea that guilt’s primary function is in the protection and maintenance of morals. While guilt certainly contributes to the protection and maintenance of morals, most guilt, in fact, stems from thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that violate no religious, divine, or legal ordinances. Thus, guilt is far more morally neutral than we would ever suspect. Guilt’s moral neutrality stems from its more important psychological role in the creation and maintenance of consciousness and in the workings of the self-regulatory system of the psyche. It is consciousness of guilt’s significant moral neutrality that helps alleviate its pain.

This seminal body of work about the psychological implications of guilt reaches deep into humanity's collective experience of guilt and finds persuasive psychological reasons for guilt's role and purpose that go far beyond conventionally held religious explanations. The Guilt Cureexamines the many faces of guilt, including its  function in the creation and maintenance of consciousness, its place in the self-regulatory system of the psyche, its effects on our psychological development, and its impact on our mental health and wellbeing.

Order from the Publisher - Fisher King Press        Order from

Monday, March 5, 2012

"Help . . . my mother is driving me crazy!"

That was the phone call I woke up to this morning. My fifty-three year old friend Jo is a little stressed today.

She's single, lived at home her entire life until a little over a year ago. She decided it was time to unfold her wings, take 'em for a test-flight and meet life on her own—head on. She bought a two bedroom condo in November 2010. It took her all this time to realize there's a healthy amount of freedom in leaving home and being on your own. In her own place, she was finally beginning to enjoy life differently, and often she'd have friends over just to hang out, share some laughs, lovingly pick on one another, drink a little, eat a lot and sing karaoke all night. Freedom was good and she was loving every bit of life.

She barely had time to process her leave-taking when things took a sudden turn. In the fall of 2011, her mother left her matrimonial home, by choice, and moved in with Jo. She's not the only child but, the only single child. No threatening daughters and sons-in-law to rain on her mother's parade.

The first time Jo confided in me about her mother, I took her frustrations for granted. I listened, but did not hear her. "Just leave her be. She's old and doesn't have much time left in this world. You'll miss her when she's gone. Don't pay attention to her . . ." I dismissed her feelings and acted as if I knew her mother like I knew mine. Her mother is not like my mother and I did not know her like Jo did. My mother never rejected my friends nor listened in on my telephone conversation from another extension. She never cussed about my friends or meddled with how I lived my life. She didn't ask where I was going or whom I was going out with or what time will I be home. She trusted and supported my judgment and kept respectable boundaries. There was mutual respect. I miss her beautiful soul more than words can describe.

I don't know much of what goes on in Jo's household, but I know the kind of person she is, and making up stories like this is just not her style. I can't help her about the swelling family dysfunction, but can lend an ear for support and openly give my personal opinion when asked. There are seven children in the family—all married except Jo. None of the other siblings are offering their home to their mother. It's a sticky situation because the mother receives a healthy pension and is financially capable of getting a place of her own. She's eighty, and here's one sad part, "If I rent I won't have any money left for casino."

Friday, March 2, 2012

The Pink Room

It's pink! I need to repaint it before Sean moves in. That was my first thought when I saw the second smaller bedroom to an apartment we viewed back in November. Except for the white baseboards, and the trimmings that hugged the two small bedroom windows, the entire room was pink—not baby pink or cotton candy pink but a brighter rosy pink. I like pink, but this was going to be Sean's bedroom. 

Contrary to popular belief
We moved in. Sean didn't care much that the room is pink. It's his bedroom and he likes it. He is actually quite content in his bedroom—his own little pink sanctuary. His own creative oasis—to work—paint—write—sing—strum his guitar—listen to music and stream Lost videos—or just, simply be.

It took nearly three months before it got repainted—Sky Blue.

Two weeks ago, I've been itching to paint. What I had in mind was acrylic on paper. So from the black duffle bag, I pulled out a pad of paper, paint brushes and paint tubes but they just sat on my kitchen table for days. No image was coming to me—until a few days ago—the image of a small bedroom in the color of sky blue—'azzurro' in italian—a word I later learned from an italian friend. All along, my desire to paint was not of acrylic on paper but wall paint on pink walls.

Sunday afternoon the time is 5:30, I assemble my paint tools in the empty pink bedroom. I need music to do this kind of work. The headset attached to the iPod gets in the way. It has to go. On top of a wardrobe sits my laptop that plays shuffle music from Abba to U2.  It's 7:30. I feel hunger pains. I am too hungry to keep the momentum. To wash my hands, change my clothes, or check my appearance in the mirror is a drag. Keys in hand and some pocket change, I descend two flights of stairs, out the front, and enter the next door immediately to the left—into the bakery.

There is a good number of patrons enjoying their cappuccino, lattes and pastries. I suspect a few wonder what planet I come from by the way they look at me. I move forward to the counter and asks the bakery owner, Victor for 200 grams of prosciutto and two buns. He walks to the back. A few seconds later he comes back and asks if I have a good knife upstairs in the apartment. The answer is yes and the result—a two pounder prosciutto hock, absolutely free. I pay him 70 cents for two buns. It must be the drywall compound powder I was covered in, and the azzurro paint that generously smeared my hands and dotted my nose that gave me away—hard at work, and hungry! My landlord and I share a mutual regard. I fix up his place—he makes sure I'm healthy and be around to pay the following months rent.

My stomach is content and I go back to the pink room. In the background, Celine Dion is singing Halfway to Heaven. How fitting. I look around, and the pink room is now half blue—the color of sky—the color of heaven, so and I've been told as a little girl.

The bedroom is now the color of light sky-blue. But something  is wrong. The beige drapes I picked up at Walmart clearance rack has to go. 

Monday, February 20, 2012

Teenage Life Crisis

If midlife crisis exist, so does teenage life crisis, at least in my world. I'm not talking about me as I didn't have much of a teenage life growing up under the influence of a father who came from a very strict Spanish blood and family upbringings. To this day, I could hear his voice echoing in some nights. "I don't believe in daughters dating or having boyfriends and long engagements! You are at once to be married as soon as I find out you have a boyfriend!" My father actually made me believe—he can tell when a girl had been kissed, a girl can get pregnant by kissing, riding a bicycle will rob you of your virginity. But this will be in another blog post.

My younger son turned eighteen last June, and in another four months he will be nineteen, the age where you can legally drink at a bar and enter a Casino here in Ontario Canada. At this point of my blog, I hope and pray to the cyber gods he and his brother will never come across this blog piece I write about them. If so, I will be confronted with . . . well, I'll cross that bridge when I get there.

My youngest son is eighteen and has no girlfriend! Not that there's anything wrong with that, but he's missing out on being goo goo eyed over a cute girl who could be a potential girlfriend he can take home to mama—someday. He's not a bad looking young man or a troubled child—he's just the complete opposite. Sean is a handsome young man with such a gentle soul and he tells me, the latter is a trait he acquired from me and it's not to his advantage when it comes to girls. I'm not sure what he was trying to tell me but I suppose in this day and age, perhaps some girls prefers the more aggressive type and it is not what he is. I want more than anything for him to have a girlfriend already! A few months ago, I was singing a different tune, but since he had his ears pierced last month, "the girls love it," he exclaims, I thought something has to change. He needs a girlfriend! Who am I to tell him what he needs? He has to figure this out on his own.

His older brother is just as handsome, but sort of—the more aggressive type. Just before Christmas in 1998, at age eleven when he was in grade six, he had his first 'love' for a girl. Her name is Josie. One early evening, he approached me in the kitchen while I was fixing dinner. This is how the conversation went:

"Mom, how much money do I have in my bank account?"
"Umm, I don't know, why?"
"Well, I'd like to buy Josie a Christmas gift."
"Who's Josie?"
"A girl from school that I really really like."
"What are you thinking of getting her for a gift?"
"A diamond ring."

I don't remember exactly what happened after that. Everything seem to be a blur. But when the clouds were lifted, I vividly recall sitting down, and  holding him by the hands, I carefully walked him through some very important facts and details about a girl and a diamond ring. In the end, he went shopping with his aunt to buy a set of silver fashion jewelries for Josie. He got over this quickly.

Around the same time the following year at age twelve, he came up to me again and . . . well, this time no diamond ring in the conversation but a different scenario with a different girl. Believe it or not, another Christmas came and same ol' story with yet another girl. Her name is Victoria of whom he still friends with to this day. Josie's mom, Lucy and I became friends and occasionally, I see Josie. It was last year when I finally had a chance to tell her about my conversation with my son, some thirteen years ago about a diamond ring. She thought it was funny and sweet and she went on to tell her friends who will tell theirs . . .

My youngest on the other hand seem to be having a hard time implementing a relationship with a girl. He seem to be attracted to girls who like someone else. Other girls like him but his feelings toward them is not the same as what they feel towards him. "I don't feel anything for her but friendship, and I don't want to lead her on," he says. A girl I will name Boots liked him at one point, but he didn't like her at first. Then he started to like her, but then she started liking someone else. This Boots girl has a friend named Di who has a boyfriend. Sean and Di are always hanging out and if I didn't know any better, I think they are an item. I didn't know any better—they're just friends. Then there's Sara who keeps Sean on the phone till wee hours, but they're "just friends." Oh, how can I forget Kaelan, Emily, Alexandria, Christina, and what's the other girl's name again? Teenage life—teenage crisis—So complicated!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Art Crawl

Art Crawl was something unfamiliar to me until a few months ago when I started hearing about it from my two sons Phil and Sean who are, in my opinion avid art crawl-ers. Sean would try and switch a day off work just to attend this every second Friday, monthly social event. Phil may have had skipped work a time or two just to be in the crowd of mostly young and a handful of not-so-young art crawler folks.

A little over two months ago, we moved into a small two bedroom apartment on the street that hosts Hamilton Art Crawl. Tonight was my first unplanned Art Crawl experience by accident when we went for dinner at Ola Bakery that became like a second home to us. Lo and behold! The place was packed with art crawlers and Friday evening regulars, and a table for one was not in sight let alone a table for three. The owner ushered us to sit with a nice looking young man—a regular and a friend of his—seated solo at a table for five, polishing off a sandwich. After a brief but not awkward moment of introduction, Alex proceeded to take smaller but still healthy bites of his sandwich while managing to fill us in on bits and pieces of his family history. He grew up in Hamilton and used to live in Stoney Creek with his mom and dad until his retired parents decided to split their time between Portugal and Canada, so he ended up moving to downtown core of Hamilton. When asked what part of Portugal he was from, he looked up at a map of Portugal that was posted on a wall next to him and conveniently got up from his seat and pointed his index finger to Aveiro.

As we visited while waiting for our BBQ chicken dinner, the front door to the bakery opened and closed while people piled in and the tray of the ever popular custard tarts was quickly thinning down. Across from our table, a group of loud regulars composed of a few men and a babe with half exposed chest, were far from having a 'nice' conversation the way they were throwing words at one another but I tell you, no eye contact was happening for the woman. Imagine this: A woman sitting among men and while she spoke with hand gestures, a group of synchronized heads bopped along. Additionally, the stronger the hand gestures, the higher the bouncing of the twin balls and the bopping heads. Thankfully, our dinner arrived and my partner was able to avert his attention from the pair of giant meatballs.

Alex finished his sandwich and got up to leave as more art crawlers came in for their evening sugar fix, and a full tray of fresh custard tarts was now placed in the showcase. Taking a break and leaving his wife and employees to manage the growing crowd, Mr. Victor came and sat with us to enjoy his chamomile tea and shared us some of his family history. Two hours later, we were on the street art crawling it too! Art stores, coffee houses, bars and more, are open to the public until midnight to fill the eyes and appetite of interested patrons. It was a beautiful crisp night and the slight pour of white flakes coming down made me imagine walking along the Central Park of New York. I could have kept walking until my ears and nose became numb and cheeks beet red but opted to walk slowly home.

September 10, 2011, a portion of James Street was closed off to accommodate Supercrawl, an annual event that celebrates the diversity of Hamilton’s James Street North district, our multi-disciplinary arts community, and the incredible spark that results with our unique mix of cultures, businesses and creative people. It's a free afternoon and evening of art, dance,  music, or anything one's little heart desire, from 1 PM till Midnight.

The Art Crawl last December that we had planned to experience didn't pan out. We were grumpy and exhausted from the move, we had fallen asleep before 7 pm—slept through the loud music that was playing downstairs at the Bakery.

January Art Crawl didn't appeal from the quiet street that appeared down below. March promises a new beginning for the Art Crawl year. We have been told today that a Columbian musician will be performing at the Bakery. I look forward to art crawling on the eve of Friday March 9. I'd like to reserve the best table on the house for this event, please!

Below is a short list of what's available on James St. N:

This Ain’t Hollywood
Artword Artbar
Blue Angel Gallery
Books & Beats
The Brain
The Factory Media Arts Centre
Hamilton HIStory + HERitage
Hamilton Artists Inc.
James North Studio
Loose Canon Gallery,
Mixed Media
Tribal Gallery
Ola Bakery

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Motherline

(Recent recipient of the for Obama Millennium first prize writing award.)

Our mothers are the first world we know, the source of our lives and stories. Embodying the mysteries of origin, they tie us to the great web of kin and generation. Yet, the voice of their experience is seldom heard. The Motherline describes a woman’s journey to find her roots in the personal, cultural, and archetypal realms. It was written for women who have mothers, are mothers, or are considering motherhood, and for the men who love them. Telling the stories of women whose maturation has been experienced in the cycle of mothering, it urges a view of women that does not sever mother from daughter, feminism from “the feminine,” body from soul.

Here what a few reviewers have had to say about The Motherline:

“(In) this perceptive and penetrating study . . . (Naomi Ruth Lowinsky) imaginatively applies Jungian, feminist and literary approaches to popular attitudes about . . . mothers and daughters and movingly, to personal experience.”
—Publisher’s Weekly

“A combination of years of scholarship and recordings of personal journeys, this book belongs in every woman’s psychology/spirituality collection.”
—Library Journal

“In this accessible volume, Jungian psychologist Lowinsky explores the pain that women feel when their mother-love is undervalued or erased.”
—ALA Booklist

In addition to The Motherline: Every Woman’s Journey to Find Her Female Roots and The Sister from Below: When the Muse Gets Her Way, Naomi Ruth Lowinsky is the author of numerous prose essays, many of which have been published in Psychological Perspectives and The Jung Journal. She has had poetry published in many literary magazines and anthologies, among them After Shocks: The Poetry of Recovery, Weber Studies, Rattle, Atlanta Review, Tiferet and Runes. Her two poetry collections, red clay is talking (2000) and crimes of the dreamer (2005) were published by Scarlet Tanager Books. Naomi is a Jungian analyst in private practice and poetry and fiction editor of Psychological Perspectives.

Naomi Ruth Lowinsky has recently been awarded first prize in the Obama Millennium contest for her poem “Madelyn Dunham, Passing On” in which she imagines the spirit of of Obama’s deceased grandmother visiting him as he speaks to the crowds in Chicago after his election. The poem will be published in the literary magazine New Millennium Writings this fall.

The Motherline: Every Woman’s Journey to Find Her Female Roots
—ISBN 978-0-9810344-6-1
Published by and available for purchase directly from Fisher King Press.
Also available from your local bookstore, and a host of on-line booksellers.
Publication Date: June 1st, 2009

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Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Cries of pain

to you I will not bow
nor blink an eye
cruelty and deceit
you’ve crushed my spirit

how dare you speak
of twisted lies
you have no remorse
of my constant cries

midnight shadows
lurk in the dark
through the windows
moon dressed in cloak

your sharp words like a dagger
pierce through my heart
your sweltering hand
harshly grips my neck

I cannot breath
my body limps
engulfed with heat
from limb to limb

roughly you swing
one hand over
the loss of your bearing
made you crave for more

swing after swing
infused your ignition
hostility becomes your ally
increasing with passion

blood gushes out
as I cry in pain
no one hears me
there’s none to gain

my eyes completely shut
from the wild clout they took
yours become wide
I can feel you are hooked

you left me in a heap
as you walked out the door
I rock myself to sleep
in a pool of deep horror

let the night be over
let the music begin
for when the morning comes
the birds will sing
the sun will come
so will the day
I will not bow

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Saturday, June 5, 2010

Ralph and his Magical Zucchini

Ralph has 22 zucchini plants, so we were told. I can't tell you more about Ralph because I barely know him, but he's got lots of zucchini, tomato plants and apricots. Word is, he's got money too—lot's of money. He lives alone and probably lonely—or not. He came by the house the other day and dropped off a bag of these fast growing green giants. He was telling us how one day they're just little buds, and like magic, the next day, full-grown greens ready to fulfill zucchini lovers' appetite. He said, you can literally see them grow if one stood long enough to watch. I wonder if he's done that before and spent the night with a zucchini plant. Did I already say he lives alone?

So yesterday, for dinner, I whipped up zucchini stir fry. First time! Organic extra virgin olive oil, garlic, green onion, tomato, thinly sliced pork, shrimp and julienne zucchini. Of course salt and pepper to taste. If the stench of fish sauce doesn't bother you, use that in lieu of salt. If you've never used fish sauce before, consider yourself warned! Serve over steamed white rice....mmmmm... buono!

Today, here's something I made. First time, too! Surprisingly, it turned out amazing if I may be so blunt. Here, try this!

Naughty Nutty Zucchini Bread

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 1/4 cups white sugar
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 cups grated zucchini (do not drain off liquid)
  • 1 peeled and grated apple or crushed pineapple
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts makes it Nutty
  • a jigger of fruit liquor makes it Naughty (totally optional)

  1. Grease and flour-dust or sugar-coat two loaf pans. Preheat oven to 325 degrees
  2. In a medium bowl, mix and sift, flour, salt, baking powder, soda, and cinnamon. If you don't feel like sifting, it's okay.
  3. In a large bowl, dump eggs (without the shells of course unless you want your zucchini bread to have that extra crunch), oil, vanilla, and sugar and get to work and develop good muscles with your whisk. Mixer works wonder especially if you're lucky to own a Kitchen Aid. Is it creamy? Yes? Then stop! Slowly add dry ingredients to the mixture, and beat or mix well. If you want to look like you've slaved yourself over these, go ahead, pour the dry mixture in one heap, and turn the mixer on high. 'Have a blast' (no pun intended). It will be very sticky, but this is not the time to worry. Stir in (do not use a mixer at this point) zucchini, apple and nuts until well combined. Pour batter into prepared pans. Now worry. The oven is hot!
  4. Bake for 30, rotate pans, and bake for an additional 15-30 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pan for 20 minutes. Remove bread from pan, and on cooling rack. If you're like me, cut into it when it's still warm. Slap a generous spread of butter and let it melt in your mouth. Ah, this is soul food! Stays moist for days and they freeze well.
When baking, don't be afraid to use your imagination and be creative but most of all, have fun! Very seldom I follow a recipe to a T. Some turn out to be flops and most turn out to be good, and better the next.

Tomorrow, pork and zucchini kebobs.

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Thursday, June 3, 2010

A night spent in the garage

It was just a few minutes before midnight after a long three and a half hour drive from the coast when I pulled into the driveway of the totally empty Grangeville house. A long refreshing shower was in order and I know this was the place to take one. As I enter the side door from the garage, I announced my presence to the emptiness with a tune from the 1982 movie, Annie that went like this, 'the sun will come out tomorrow, bet your bottom dollar that tomorrow, come what may . . .' Forgetting the line that came after that, I decided to whistle instead. I imagined Mr. Warbuck probably whistled better than I did and would have had a better way of masking his fear, if any. Flashlight in hand, this tune carried me throughout the round to make sure all four walls and windows of each empty room were intact. When satisfied and convinced myself that all the bad spirits have left the empty building, I opened the garage door and by design, backed the car into the garage in case of a quick and easy getaway . . . well, now is not the time to think about ghosts and goblins. I rummaged through a small suitcase in the trunk to find a fresh set of clothes to change into.

Not wanting to alarm anyone in the neighborhood, I decided to leave all the lights out except for the lamp on auto timer that was lit on the kitchen counter. It gave enough light in the hallway to the bathroom as long as the door was left open. So, left open it was. The much needed shower was soothing, and instantaneously washed my fear away. It was short-lived—so was my shower. Thinking I heard a scuffing noise from the kitchen, I quickly rinsed, shut off the water, dried off, dressed, brushed my teeth, all in a matter of five minutes. 'Forget the lotion' I thought. Gathering my belongings was done in a jiffy. I already knew where to spend the night—in the car—in the garage.

Like a stranger in the night and making sure that no traces were left in the house, I made for the car, locked myself in, and did a quick check. Flashlight, keys, garage door opener, cracked-open windows for air, and to fill the hunger pain—a Fiber Bar. I decided to opt out on the latter in case it did its job before the sun came out. The thought of having to run to the bathroom in the dark made my stomach more nervous. After a long hard day, it wasn't difficult to doze off as soon as my head hit the lumbar pillow that often traveled with me in the car.

I'd like to think I was already fast asleep and just dreaming about the noises that came that night and the people peering through the dusty, spider web-covered-blinds that hung sloppily over the garage window. I've always wondered why a window and such a large one in a garage. In the 'dream,' an older woman was peering through the crack of the car window inviting me to go inside where it was more comfortable while Papa and Meme paced outside by the window calling out my name. This seem to have gone on forever until I woke up at the first crack of dawn. My mobile phone read 5:16 a.m. Drowsy, a bit confused and aware of the ever presence of knots and kink in my neck, I sat up and decided to move to the passenger seat. Placing my computer bag on the floor and reclining the seat, I was able to get a good stretch and slept till 8 with no interference. I should have taken the passenger seat from the start.

The house that goes back three generations was under the care of property management and I didn't want to be found in the premise should he show up with prospect renters. It was still early, so I decided there was time to put lotion on after my morning shower.

As I roam the dairy farm town that morning and right through the early afternoon, hunger pain struck so I decided to stop at Panera for a bite to eat. As I situated myself comfortably in a booth with an Asian salad and a turkey panini, I decided to write about last night's dream. The night's experience in the garage was so vivid that when I was about to start typing on my computer, the most unusual thing happened. I had hairs standing up and it made me wonder . . .

I never had the opportunity to meet her, but they called her Grama Van.

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Wednesday, June 2, 2010

A Place I call Home

What is a Home? How should a Home feel like? Where is Home?

Not sounding like a nomad, these are some of the questions that come to mind when I'm battling with 'nostalgia.' I once had a home—a beautiful home. Not so much in a physical or structural sense but the unmistakably oozing warm feeling of homeyness. Toys strewn and two boys running around making their presence known. The occasional loving and sometimes not-so-loving screams of defense from one child to the other was their way of relating and making sure that someone especially a parent was listening. The fuss made over a spilled hot chocolate on a rug that had every flavor of each day's family meal only played a small part on a chapter about growing pains and growing up. The aroma of home-cooked meals that permeated the walls including a hand woven wall decor that hung ominously above the family room brown sofa was hard to forget especially after a two day cook-a-thon in preparation for a Christmas eve dinner and later finding out that the offensive-to-some smell during Midnight Mass was made up of the family's Christmas dinner menu. My eyes wander among the various ethnic groups during an Advent hymn as I try to match the different smells that lingers in the packed church. I can bet the 'collection basket' that a perfect match each time was right on the money.

Sounds like a stinking chaos? But it's my definition of 'Home'—a real Home! Not according to Merriam Webster or Wikipedia or anyone else for that matter. I yearn to be in that kind of home again. A place to call my own, to do whatever I darn well please. Where without fear of complexity, bacon will sizzle in a frying pan and tilapia fish baking in the oven will send out a stench as far as the Carmel river runs. Where I could freely walk around naked and not have to worry about anyone seeing my unwanted hanging love handles as a sign of a well-fed soul. So maybe the latter is just a bit much and won't stand a chance but it's definitely going on my Bucket List.

Here's a letter I wrote to a friend shortly after the move to a place that briefly felt like Home:

Yes, we’re just about settled in at our new place. What I love most about the area is the beauty of nature that surrounds us. Looking out from our third floor apartment living room windows are lush green mountains with a few houses randomly slapped on them. From our small veranda, if allowed, one can almost touch the various birds that land on the huge pine tree with limbs that partly dip into our balcony. Yesterday, a Wood Pecker worked a hole and today was a Blue Jay that landed on a large pine cone. Directly behind the apartment building, although pricey, is a nice little market to make a quick run for basic necessities. Yes, they even carry a lot of organic produce and serves a variety of hot meals for the Village yuppies and worker bees. This small quaint village of Carmel offers about half a dozen wine tasting outfits and a variety of cozy restaurants and a neat little library where a free membership was issued without any troubles.

Tourists flock here mostly on weekends, and soon, the entire summer. Waking up to the song of birds and the scent of pine trees that travel through the slightly opened windows along with the rays of morning sunshine is refreshing especially when mixed with a hint of eucalyptus flowed in from the nearby trails. At night, the chorus of frogs can be heard from a river a mile away. That, combined with the sound of the neighbor's soothing wind chime is something that makes me wish of breezy nights.

About 4 miles into the mouth of Carmel is Garland Ranch Park where we hike. Among many wild animals, it is known to inhabit mountain lions, rattle snakes and poison oaks. Fortunately I have only encountered the latter and quickly learned to recognize their season colors and avoid them. I hike alone when a partner is unavailable . The feeling when on top of the mountain looking down at Lupine loop that marked my starting point, and the winter green mountains that cradle the village is exhilarating. No fear for mountain lions will take that away. Not even the two-legged creatures they strongly warn female hikers of.

It was an honest feeling that seem to have dissipated too quickly by a force of random disposition. The recipient of this letter responded with a "wow" and adding "this was written beautifully and very descriptive. Thank you for allowing me to participate and giving me the feeling of being there."

I hope to someday feel like I have a Home again, and where? Who knows. Like the healer of all wounds, Time will tell.

This photo of a mother Dove with her two babies on a glass pie plate is a classic example of 'being Home.' The 'pie plate-turned-nest' sat on a corner pillar of a patio gazebo built between the house and a swimming pool. The Dove, oblivious to the small gathering in the gazebo cooed as she played with her babies.
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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Fire, where's the fire!

It was three o'clock, early Sunday morning on May 23, 2010, I had just turned off the reading light after a few chapters of Tatiana de Rosnay's novel, Sarah's Key and barely dozed off when I heard my name excitedly called out from the living room. Disoriented from the intrusive sudden awakening, the first thing that came to mind was 'fire', where's the fire! Literally, there was a fire. Hungry flames engulfed a building among the few homes that were randomly slapped on the mountain not far from our apartment complex. It looked mean with a promise to full destruction. I felt a sudden pang of sadness as we stood from our third floor apartment living room window watching a horrific site and can't help but wonder and worry that there may be people trapped in that towering inferno.

As we stood by the window for what seemed like an eternity, it was apparent from the movements of revolving red lights, that fire trucks were having to drive back up and down the hill to what we suspected was due to poor water supply in that location, therefore water had to be hauled in from the nearest point of origin.

Later on that day, we learned from the local news that it was the Robles Del Rio Lodge—a vacation destination that sat idle for more than a decade that was completely destroyed by the fire. Sadly, Carmel Valley California had just lost an iconic structure to what the local newspaper reported, 'Fire officials called 'suspicious blaze'.' Although the building can be replaced, the artifacts that were once held inside will never be seen and admired again. But fortunately, no one was injured in the fire.

Never before have I witnessed anything like it. My mind was racing with the consequences and the 'what ifs' as I stood and watched helplessly. It wasn't difficult to figure out when the water supply had run out and when it was in full blast judging from the rise and fall of the blaze. Spent from this awful tragedy, I decided to go back to bed an hour or so later. Sleep didn't come easy and when it finally did, it didn't last very long. It was shortly after 8 when I woke up and immediately got up to see the progress made by the fire crews. A thinning smoke rose and danced with the obvious slight morning breeze into the horizon. I felt at ease knowing that the blaze had been successfully extiguished and the unharmed fire crews were able to contain the fire. This triggers a childhood memory about a time I was asked what I wanted to be when I grow up. "A firefighter." I beamed with purpose.

It is a brand new day, a sad day for some, but for the most part, no one was injured and in some ways, it is a good day! Thank you to the many men and women who have chosen firefighting as a career. Truly, you make a difference!

Patty Cabanas , is the co-editor of Feasts of Phantoms and Sulfur Creek, and copy editor of several Fisher King Press publications, including The Sister from Below and Re-Imagining Mary. Her Out of the Shadows book cover design, have garnered rave reviews from a chorus of Jungian enthusiasts. Find out more about Fisher King Press at and Genoa House at

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Friday, May 14, 2010

Farmers Market

It's Thursday—Farmers Market day on Irwin Street. I've had my first Farmers Market experience at the coast last summer. It was good but not like my experience on Irwin. The previous night, my 'sorta like' dad was talking about his day at the opening last week. Just listening to him made me ache for that same experience minus the aching and blistering feet. "Can you take me with you tomorrow"? what sounded like a little girl's voice excitedly asked. "We leave at about 5 to get a good parking spot" came the immediate reply. The last thing I remember before falling asleep that night was my grandiose plan of taking in as much of the day including a sno-cone, funnel cake and corn-on-the-cob.

Oh how sweet it is! Shortly after 5pm the next day, I walked the sidewalks and the blacktop of Irwin Street. To my right was my 'sorta like' dad and to my left was my 'sorta like' mom who skipped work as an RN because I like to think she wanted to take me to the Farmers Market too. The crowd was thick and the delicious aroma of different food was playing 'catch' with my increasingly excited nostrils. We caught the smell of steaming jambalaya 3 tables down and soon had our first flavor of the Market. The man at the next table was not so lucky and displayed an empty food shelf as the work of a dysfunctional portable fryer. He supposedly has one of the best fried food at that event. It must be my lucky day! I've been spared a few steps into coronary.

As lady L and I walked and browsed the line of tables, our plastic spoons rhythmically worked from the jambalaya to our mouths until we hit the bottom of the container. We had no trouble finding the next Market flavor at a table that offered Portuguese donuts and rolls. Few tables down, a clump of politicians was quickly paced by many people including myself. At the corner intersecting two streets were two side by side long lines that were hard to miss. My 'sorta like' mom, Lady L walked the long line for funnel cakes while I patiently took the longer line for roasted corn-on-a-cob. We smiled and waved at each other as we got closer to our respective windows. Corn-on-a-cob on a stick was first bathed in butter then liberally smothered with mayo then generously sprinkled with parmesan cheese and for a little bit of heat, finished with a quick dash of cayenne. We needed to sit down to thoroughly enjoy our newly acquired taste buds pleasers. But wait, at the next table, I see giant sno-cones in all sorts of flavors. I walked up and ordered a favorite flavor—mango. It was a difficult task to juggle a corn-on-a-cob on a stick with one hand and a sno-cone in another and not expect an accident. Well, I lost the top of my sno-cone to an avalanche and it hit the crook of my arm then slid right down to the sparkling rhinestones of my left shoe. I was more upset in losing the best part of my sno-cone than the sticky yellow syrup that landed on my new shoe.

I found Lady L sitting on a pile of bricks that made a flower bed and I joined her while 'sorta like' dad chatted with Bingo and his girlfriend named Mary something. We sat there and devoured every bit of what we had while we laughed at the scary thought of shrunken feet. Perhaps it's just a scary optical illusion when one gains weight and see that their feet seem to have shrunk.

Next, we checked out the array of fresh produce. We see the first 'Organic' sign at a table. The three of us looked at one another and smiled. JR, was with us then! Later on, a bunch of organic freshly rooted garlic, non-organic daikon radish, kettle corn and another container of Jambalaya are among the items that went in our free bags compliments of a local hospital.

Stuffed and fully content, we slowly made our way to the car. People stopped and chatted with my 'sorta like' parents while I mused myself watching people dance to a live country music. On the dance floor, a woman in her 2 sizes too small green t-shirt that exposed her bulging waist line when she raised her arms was dancing with another female whose bra size appear to be...well let's just say my minus A cup was no match for her triple D , and beyond. This is one of those times when I say "life is just not fair." I looked away but only to the site of a man who wore his funnel cake including whipped cream topping and strawberries when he completely missed his mouth trying to shovel in a much bigger piece than his mouth was capable of taking. My little mishap wasn't that bad compared to his ultimate food accident of the day! He won the medal and wore it too!

That night, I slept soundly like a little girl who appreciated the many blessings of simple pleasures in life!

There's a story behind the words 'sorta like' which I am going to blog about 'sorta like' soon!

Patty Cabanas , is the co-editor of Feasts of Phantoms and Sulfur Creek, and copy editor of several Fisher King Press publications, including The Sister from Below and Re-Imagining Mary. Her Out of the Shadows book cover design, has garnered rave reviews from a chorus of Jungian enthusiasts. Find out more about Fisher King Press at and Genoa House at

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