All Mixed Up at ccMixter

Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year

I am not resolute.
I hope for the best.
I linger in the quietness until worry spurs my tightened chest.

I sit among my papers waiting for motivation to rush to me as if I were sorely missed and then, then I could attend to the sorting and the tidying that I glibly declare I shall complete.
What a treat – to start the new year clean.

David cannot wait for 2008.
It's just another year for me -- growth and more maturity.
Perhaps this year I will keep the gray.

I need not reflect.
I hope for the best.
I cherish my daughters and their lovliness.

Not at all tired, I spy a satellite, or a star it seems, in the brief visible patch of sky between
the window and the window pane, and upon that I meditate until I fall asleep.
These days, they are active, my dreams.

Today is not the head.
‘Tis merely, the turn of the calendar page and the date of my age.
I have no intentions to change.

I do not project.
I hope for the best.
I hope for the best.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Death in the Family

My father in law, A. died last Sunday, December 16, 2007. This past week his wife and his children (my husband and sister-in-law) sat shiva for him. Prayers were held at the home every morning at 6:15 and every afternoon at 4:15. There was always a minyan. We had a lot of food. Too much food perhaps. The atmosphere was lively. There were 40, 50, 60 people at the house every evening reminiscing about A. My mother in law, E. veritably held court as people came to offer their condolences and share stories of the subtle, yet influential ways in which A. touched their lives.
My husband assumed the obligations of his grief respectfully and without question. He has not shaved since A.’s death and his beard is peppered and thick already, after only a week. We seem to circulate around each other as he leaves the house early to attend shul.
After ensuring there was enough food in the house for the mourners and the visitors during the week of shiva, I became ill and have not quite recovered.
My oldest daughter has been a woman through all of this. She too cooked and served food. She stayed with my mother in law to comfort her. She got up at 6:00 on the morning to make sure there was coffee for the men who came to the house to pray in the morning. Her heart is generous and kind.
My youngest daughter returned to school after a day or two. She seems fine.
A. was a strong, giving, decent, observant, caring and humble man. He was 85 years old at the time of his death. He lived a good life and died a good death – peacefully, quietly. We are going to miss him.

Sunday, October 28, 2007


I spent three hours in the dentist chair on Friday because I was unable to become numb. I find that ironic, since I have become acutely aware of my overall numbness in general. I am content, complacent and not easily riled. I do experience acute anxiety rather frequently, but it seems to abate with regular exercise and a sensible diet. When I was young, I felt everything so deeply that I was compelled to write, paint, dance, make music -- anything to exorcise those deep feelings that were so overwhelming that my functioning was impaired by their insistence for my attention. How could I work at a normal job when the world's woes were my own? How could I bother to clean the kitchen when my elation was so prominent that I burst with energy? Of course, in my youth I suffered debilitating mood disorders that drove me to self-medication, therapy and an alternative life style. Now, I am settled, mature. I have held the same job for over seven years. I raised children. I am a homeowner and drive an older luxury car. I am tired with responsibility and not at all unhappy. I have that middle class lack of feeling that surprises me because it is so easy to live with. Nevertheless, I cannot get really numb, for which I am grateful.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

What I did This Summer and Death

My 85-year old father-in-law has been seriously ill; he was in and out of the hospital/rehab facility for six weeks. On July 4th, I worked 25 hours straight. I did a natural de-tox program and lost 3-1/2 inches around my waist. A stranger threw a brick at my car windshield while I was driving at 30 miles an hour down a local thoroughfare. I read several books (none of them life changing). I had my hair cut and colored. I lost touch with some friends and increased contact with others. My oldest daughter started a new high school. Last week, I went through drama at work that caused me tremendous anxiety. With great pleasure we celebrated the simcha of my youngest daughter's bat mitzvah. We are still in the midst of the Jewish high holidays, which were are observing in a relaxed manner with deep gratitude for the friends and family who are here with us.

This past Monday the 22-year old son of a colleague died. When I learned the news, the sympathy I felt for my colleague and his wife was deep, palpable. Yesterday was the funeral. At least 300 people were in attendance. (There may have been more -- I am not good at estimating crowds, but there was overflow seating in the hallway outside of the enormous chapel where the service was held.) I did not know the deceased personally, yet the consistency of the description of the deceased in the eulogies and the warmth in the overcrowded chapel made me understand the scope of loss suffered by his family and friends. I felt limited by the parameters of the relationship with my colleague because I want to offer comfort to him and his wife (in part, I suppose, to comfort myself), but I am really just on the periphery and cannot offer true solace -- who can when a tragedy like this befalls a family? All I could do was come home with renewed appreciation for my loved ones.

Sunday, June 10, 2007


I attempted to make a Pavlova. The LA Times Food Section had a feature article on Pavlovas -- crispy, gooey meringue shell filled with whipped cream and fresh, seasonal fruit. It looked so simple and delicious, I thought I would give it a try. Now, I can cook up a storm. As I am cooking, I can anticipate how my ingredients will blend, transforming into a savory delicious dish. But baking is altogether different. Baking is science. The ingredients go into the oven one way and emerge another way altogether. I have no sense of control over the outcome when I bake and have to completely rely on recipes. When cooking, I trust myself to tweak or experiment. If I do no have a particular ingredient, I can substitute with confidence. Baking however. . .well, baking gives me the willies.

Nevertheless, I thought I would try to make the Pavlova. Meringue has no fat. The non-dairy whipped cream I use is low calorie. Berries are full of antioxidants and a family favorite. How could I go wrong?

The first way I went wrong is by not having the right equipment. I notice that many dessert recipes call for an electric mixer. I do not own an electric mixer. I do have an old hand held Braun infusion mixer which I use in a pinch. (I received it as a wedding shower gift 18 years ago and it still runs.) The recipe calls for eight egg whites whipped on medium speed until peaks form, about three minutes. I whipped the egg whites. At three minutes, the egg whites were slightly foamy and still very liquid. I whipped some more. The eggs whites became frothy. I continued whipping. The eggs whites eventually became somewhat solid, creating a soft mound more than peaks. I was sick of whipping and decided to move on.

The recipe next called for 2-1/2 cups of superfine sugar, gradually blended with a whisk. I had the sugar and I had a whisk. As I added the sugar, I thought it seemed like an awfully lot of sugar. However, because baking is a science, I felt compelled to follow the recipe exactly, and against my better judgment blended all of the sugar into the egg whites. The egg whites became a dense, opaque creamy color. The foam and whatever peaks may have existed within the foam disappeared as the mixture began to resemble batter.

I added the corn starch, vinegar and vanilla called for the in the recipe. I had definite concerns that the gooey mass in my mixing bowl was not right. But I followed the recipe.

I was supposed to make a circle on parchment paper placed on a cookie sheet, place the meringue on the sheet and bake it. My mixture was too liquid to put on a cookie sheet, so I poured it into a pie pan.

Because I was uncertain about my meringue, I thought I would try again. So I mixed up another batch, again carefully following the recipe. The second batch was very similar to the first batch despite my efforts to whip the egg white a little longer. I placed the second batch on the paper covered cookie sheet as described in the recipe. It did not lay in a pile as suggested by the recipe. Rather, it spread across the cookie sheet as if I was making cooking bars. It was all an experiment, so I let it go.

I baked the meringues as directed.

When it came time to assemble the Pavlova, I discovered the meringue in the pie pan did not cook all the way. While there was the white, crisp meringue crust at the top, underneath was uncooked egg white syrup. Yuck! The meringue on the cookie sheet was thoroughly cooked, so much so that the the paper cooked right into the meringue.

I was able to salvage some of the meringue from the cookie sheet. I lined a bowl with pieces of paperless meringue I manage to break off the large sheet of meringue that filled the cookie sheet, and I topped it the with whipped cream and fruit. It was delicious -- despite the meringue being a bit too sweet. My family decided we would have been just as happy with simple fruit and cream.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Since I'm in the process of coming out of retirement, I felt it was important to start a myspace page where I could do my music thing like millions of other musicians. I had a regular myspace account so I could comment on M.'s myspace page. But to upload songs, I needed to start a new account as a musician. When I was signing on as a musician, I was prompted to name my URL. I typed in "mrsjoseph'skitchen." Unfortunately, myspace interpreted my URL name as "mrsjoseph39skitchen." How is anybody going to find me as "mrsjoseph39skitchen"?

Kind of like my imperfect kitchen -- I now have an imperfect URL.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Joshua Tree

I chaperoned my daughter's sixth grade class trip to Joshua Tree National Park. We camped in the desert.

The highlight of the trip was the boulder pile. The geography of Joshua Tree is characterized by giant rock ridges that look as if boulders were dropped from the sky to create mountains of stone that line the desert floor. The rocks are rust colored and contrast sharply with the clear blue sky.

We climbed the boulder pile from within, starting at the bottom and making our way through the various passages and rooms created in the spaces between the boulders to the top where emerged high above the desert floor. Some passages were merely the small space between the bottom of an enormous rock and the ground below it. I snaked through on my side, pushing and pulling my body with my feet, my hands, my abdominal muscles. Narrow passages would open up to "rooms" where a shaft of sunlight entering through a high gap in the boulders above illuminated the quartz crystals in the surrounding rock so that the space gently sparkled. It took every bit of my strength and flexibility to pull my way out of rooms that had no obvious exit. More than once, I leveraged my rear against one rock, my feet stretched out to a rock in front of me, and my arms outstretched to rocks next to me, so I could perform a crab-like backward scoot up the rock until I could make it up and over the rock in front of me.

Every single girl on the trip made it all the way through the boulder pile. I was so proud of the girls who worked together to overcome claustrophobia, fear of falling, self-doubt and spider webs to help each other through the course. I was also proud of myself for making it all the way through. I was not afraid, but there were moments that I was concerned about my physical ability to do the climb. (I was particularly concerned that my big fat rear end would not fit through some of the narrow passages we had to make our way through.) I joke with Tony the trainer about being the strongest middle aged mother of two in the Valley. But I don't think it's a joke. . .I really am strong. This opportunity to successfully test my strength made this one of my life's most profound experiences. I can't wait for my next wilderness adventure!

Sunday, May 27, 2007


Someone is going to ask me, "what kind of music do you write," and I'm going to say, "I dunnno. . . .kindofpopfolkadultcontemporaryjazzcountryalternativewhatever."

Much to the dismay of my family, I have been working diligently with the recording unit. I basically have locked myself in the garage/office/studio where we keep the equipment. I yell with exasperation at anybody who opens the door, particularly if I am recording a vocal track. (There are many deleted tracks with a soaring vocal interrupted by the sound of the door opening or the phone ringing or the neighbor's gardener mowing the lawn). I do not have monitors yet so my ears are slightly red and swollen from wearing headphones for hours at a time.

I usually write on acoustic guitar but as I record the songs, they evolve into something altogether different as I negotiate any sonic possibility within my limited instrumental skills. While I can sing, my guitar/keyboard/drum machine skills are very basic. Nevertheless, I am so excited to listen to the rough CDs I have been burning off the unit. My kids can't believe it. "You like listening to yourself," they ask incredulously?

Despite my enthusiasm, I still have a lot to learn. What I really need is a producer. Someone who is comfortable with a middle aged soprano who writes songs that are kindofpopfolkadultcontemporaryjazzcountryalternativewhatever.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

I'm Considering Coming Out of Retirement

After 15 years of not writing or thinking about having my own band, I am seriously considering coming out of retirement. When I became pregnant 15 years ago, I was a struggling artist scraping by to pay for demo recordings and performing in the middle of the week at dive nightclubs in Hollywood to a roaring crowd of three. Once I had my baby, I was so devoted to her that I was disinclined to spend time away from her. I still had to work a day job to earn money; the rest of my time was devoted to her. As my family grew, music as a vocation or even an avocation grew farther and farther away as a possibility.

Not to mention the fact that the demands of my life sapped me of any real inspiration. I no longer had the emotional impetus of infatuation or heartbreak, being happily married and the mother of two beautiful daughters. Once I became a mother, I pretty much stopped being depressed. I also stopped imbibing in inspirational substances. I became pragmatic, exhausted and focused on providing for my family financially and emotionally. That took its toll on me as an artist.

Now my kids are big. I have a job where overtime work is not permitted. I am strong, healthy, energetic. And I have become inspired.

It started when my dear, dear M. sent me some lyrics she wrote and challenged me to put them to music. Instantly, I wrote music, tweaked some lyrics, and turned them into songs that I really, really like. Even my husband, who is extremely discerning musically, like them.

M.'s gesture was a gift. She really helped get me going. Since then, I have been writing regularly. I have enough songs for a set now. I purchased a multitrack digital recording unit and am in the process of learning how to operate it so I can demo the songs. I even started horning in on my daughter's voice lessons. (On days she cannot go for some reason or other, I take her lesson).

. . .to be continued. .

Sunday, April 22, 2007

In God We Trust

We were at A.'s house for lunch. Several people were sitting around the table after the meal having vigorous discussions. At my end of the table, K. brought up the issue of God's involvement in our lives. She does not believe God micromanages our lives. If someone gets cancer, for example, she does not believe that is necessarily God's doing. How could God allow for the Holocaust? She could not understand how tragedy could be intentional or part of some greater plan. She could not reconcile tragedy with God's ultimate benevolance. She had not really thought about how tragedy in the bible is often explained as being the will of God and shown to serve some higher purpose. This idea caused her to think a moment about her thesis, but did not give her much comfort about God's involvement in the world.

R. disagreed wholeheartedly with K. She believes God is present in her life in an initimate way. She knows this, she explains, because every single day she finds at least one penny. When she picks up the penny, it always says "In God We Trust."

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The Bobcat

This weekend I went up to Castaic to practice with G. & S. who graciously invited me to sing with their band at an upcoming show. G. & S. live on a former Clydesdale ranch at the end of a dirt road in the hills of Castaic. The landscape was California chaparral with small shrubs, patches of wild grass, and ragged, crooked trees. The hills remained brown despite some recent rain showers.

While M. has been friends with G. & S. for 10 years, I am just now getting to know them. They seem to be solid, down to earth people imbued with creativity and generous, positive spirits.

After singing together, we sat in the living room of the ranch house. The room had a large plate glass window overlooking the yard. G. & S. leave a children's pool in the yard that is visible from the living room. They keep it filled with water for the wildlife that frequents their property.

While we were talking, their beautiful cat, Cesar, came into the room. Cesar has unusual markings and big blue eyes. Apparently, he is generally slow to warm up, but for some reason, Cesar like me. He jumped into my lap, pushed his head into my hand and insisted on getting my attention. G. & S. were surprised. "He never does that to anybody," they both told me.

As I stroked Cesar, S. described the myriad of wildlife that they have seen since they moved in: deers and fawns, condors, ground squirrels, rattlesnakes, coyotes. She said they have even seen a couple of bobcats that come down from the hills, but they do not see the bobcats as frequently as some of the other animals.

Almost mid-sentence while she was describing the bobcats that come to their house, she interrupted herself, exclaiming, "NO WAY!!! -- look out the window."

Her exclamation caused Cesar to jump out of my arms. G. and I got up from where we were sitting and approached the window. There was a bobcat drinking out of the pool.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Just Living Life

While at the downtown courthouse where I was working on a trial, I ran into a woman, S.S., who I knew when I was seven years old. She is now a high powered, high profile attorney. I am just the paralegal.

(Ironically, M. mentioned to me that she recently called S.S. regarding a legal matter. I actually had no recollection that M. knew S.S. and still cannot recall how M. knows S.S. -- but my selective memory will probably become the subject of a future post.)

I saw S.S. walk into the court cafeteria and recognized her immediately even though I have not seen her for close to 40 years. She is an exquisite looking middle aged woman who looks younger than she is. She was wearing a beautiful overcoat over her expensive suit. Her hair was pulled back. Her features are well defined. She has a big smile. She was wearing big diamond stud earrings and shiny black patent leather high-heel shoes. I waited until I overheard her name mentioned, and then I introduced myself.

"Are you S.S.," I asked.

"Yes," she replied firmly, and not at all quizzically. Being a high powered, high profile attorney I assume she is accustomed to being recognized in public places.

"I am S.A.," I said.

She dropped the purse she was carrying. Her mouth opened in astonishment. She doubled over with surprise and disbelief, sort of swaying as she repeated, "No way. Get out of here. . ."

"You look just the same," she told me.

We chatted briefly and then returned to our respective colleagues.

A couple of days later, I googled her. I read about her career, her achievements. I saw that she I were at both at UCLA, English Department for our undergraduate work. I do not remember seeing her there at all, but imagine we were there at the same time (again, my selective memory which shall be the subject of a future post).

I felt sad because at this point in my life it is hard to imagine that I will have any meaningful career achievements. I have been a dilettante, trying too many things to become an expert at any of them. My interests have not been mere dabbles -- but my lack of fortitude prevented me from really excelling. It seems like every 10 years or so, I switched gears. In my 20's, I passionately pursued creative interests with deep dedication and focus. I was prolific -- writing, singing, dancing, painting. In my 30's, once I started having children, I studied and started practicing as a clinical intern (marriage and family therapy). Just prior to turning 40, financial burdens forced me to switch gears (I was not making any money as an intern), and I found myself working for my current employer where I learned to be a paralegal.

I am just living my life. Like so many others, I am just living my life.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

The Equivocal Love

I asked my husband if he would marry me if he met me now. With an equivocal tone he responded, "possibly."

Saturday, January 06, 2007

The Memorial Service

Today was the memorial service for R. I was not planning on attending because it is Saturday. I do not drive on Saturday because I observe Shabbat. I felt conflicted about not being able to attend because I was friends with R., but more importantly because I knew that M. needed support. Nevertheless, I told M. I would not be able to attend. As I told her, my heart was in my chest because I knew it would hurt her. I also felt residual guilt because I missed her father’s funeral so many, many years ago. When M.’s father died, I was out of town and unreachable (this was before cell phones and constant access to anyone at anytime). By the time I returned home, the funeral had occurred. This has been a sore spot in our friendship – even though I had no way of knowing that he died and certainly would have been with her had I known. This was an opportunity to repair, in some small way, that particular rift. I told her I would go.

M. came to pick me up. B. was with her. I have not seen B. for at least 15 years.
B. was a close friend of R. and M.’s and was part of the circle of friends that spent time together. When we were in college in the early 1980's, there were groups of us whose relationships overlapped and touched each other starting with the core of M., S. and I. Our boyfriends, bandmates and other friends were brought together by the various parties, shows and other events at which we all congregated.

The memorial service was held on a cliff at Point Dume. M. asked me to drive her car. She quietly and intermittently cried during the ride. It was a beautiful day today – clear, warmer, pure. We ran into C. and G. in the parking lot and walked together to the deck overlooking the ocean where the service was to be held. While not terribly rigorous, the walk was about 1/3 of a mile uphill. G. has become quite frail (she is going to be 74 years old this year) and had to slowly ascend to the site. Our slow pace allowed us to appreciate the pelicans that majestically soared above us.

Several people spoke about R. B. commented on R.’s philosophical nature drawing on references to Nietzsche. He described R. as being "cultured," defining "cultured" as one who seeks to experience life fully, directly and with integrity versus a "philistine" who is only interested in immediate satisfaction. R. commented that his talks with R. always inspired him to live a more "cultured" life. I felt that way after just hearing B. talk about R.

One of R.’s brothers articulated the anger and hurt survivors of suicide feel. "You life was not yours to take away," he lamented. Everyone agreed that although R. was well loved, he did not know that he was well loved.

After the service, we went to a local restaurant where everyone drank and ate until quite late in the afternoon. I did not know R.’s family but clearly the four brothers, their significant others and children were hurt and angered by R.’s suicide. I thought they appeared close and loving, and it was not until later this evening that B. revealed to me that there are numerous dynamic rifts in the family – alliances and chasms – that were not apparent today.

I drove home because both M. and B. drank fairly heavily during the afternoon. On the way home, the three of us reminisced about our lives in the 1980's. We agreed that was a splendid time for us – perhaps the best time of our life when everything was exciting to us and subject to deep discussion. Our best memories of R. are from that time and his unexpected death gave us an opportunity to revisit that period. Our sense of loss exasperated by his death and the distance we have traveled from our youth.

Monday, January 01, 2007


We hosted a new year's eve party. Since we hosted a new year's eve party last year, it seems that we may be starting a precedent. I was not intending to host a party, but at least two of my friends asked if we were going to host a party this year -- so we did.

I'm always happy to entertain. My parties are usually quite nice. But, despite all my experience throwing parties, I always get anxious that no one is going to come.

For this party, I sent out invitations via Evite. Evite is an electronic e-mail invitiation service that sends out invitiations, tracks responses, and even lets you send out photos of the event to all the guests. One of the features of evite is the rsvp page which shows who has rsvp'd to the event and any comments they may leave. We invited over 25 couples, but only a handful rsvp'd through Evite. Of that handful, only three rsvp'd that they were coming. There were at least five people who posted on Evite that they would not be coming. Two were undecided. This really disturbed me. I know that I certainly would think twice about going to a party where only three people said they were coming but more than that said they were not. What good is a party without guests? I knew in reality that more than three people were coming to the party because I spoke to them directly -- but the other guests responding on Evite did not have this information. I became anxious -- what if the guests who had not yet responded saw the rsvp list and thought going to this lame party would be a waste of time?

Of course, if the guests did not respond on Evite they would not see that only three people said they were coming and all of this concern is really for naught.

P.S. The party turned out lovely, with a houseful of friends eating, drinking, visiting, playing music and bringing in the new year together.