EMERGENCY

A year ago, I fell on my face outside my house after going to the movies with a friend. I went to the emergency room, where I spent seven hours and was stitched up. This story comes from this experience.

The wall clock above the check-in desk ticked to 12:36 as a woman in mismatched gray sweats slipped past the night watchmen. January was gone and February 2020 had just rolled in.

The desk attendant asked a stream of questions from behind her yellow mask without glancing at the woman. “Any fever? Been to China in the last month?” She waited for the response that would either send a person to isolation or a seat in the lobby. When the patient didn’t speak, she raised her eyes and noted the slight shake of the dazed woman’s head in front of her. She held an ice pack to her mouth with a trembling hand, the rest of her face hidden by her tangled hair. “Then sign in and note the reason for your visit. Place your insurance card on the sheet—assuming you have insurance.” She shifted her weight from one butt cheek to the other, hoping the distribution would ease the pressure of her bottom hanging off each side of the cushion.

The attendant, whose nametag read Hope Christianson, tapped her pointy pink fingernails on the desk, her voice registering no sympathy or concern. Doing as instructed, Jane dropped her work bag to the floor and pulled her wallet from her purse. She emptied its contents onto the counter, finally finding the pass to acceptance. Hope Christianson grabbed the clipboard with Jane’s insurance card and typed at a pace that indicated she had a long shift ahead of her.

“Wrist,” Hope said, a plastic identification band with the name Jane Smyth dangled from her fingers. Jane Smyth rested her body against the chest-high desk and surrendered her right arm. “They’ll call you soon. Take a seat.”

             Jane swiped the contents of her wallet into her purse and stumbled to the closest chair, gingerly applying the icepack to her mouth to soothe the pain and hide the swelling. She peered out from her hair, matted in clumps from the blood that had gushed from her lips three hours earlier. No one was alone. Under the bright lights, clusters of patients, victims, families and friends draped, slept and leaned across chairs with beige plastic cushions, the easy to wipe down kind. Everyone wore yellow face masks except the two women to her right and a woman in a wheelchair across the room. Jane clutched her purse and work bag tighter to her chest, not touching the chair arms. She looked over her shoulder toward the desk. A nearly full pump of clear antibacterial gel glistened on the counter, and a box of masks hung on the wall near Jane’s head. She balanced her bags and removed the icepack briefly as she reached for a mask the color and feel of a fluffy chick.

The security guards noticed the woman with the icepack for the first time as she gripped a yellow mask, though she had walked past them just moments ago. Now, they saw her exposed swollen and bloody mouth and the fresh wounds on the underside of her arm. The shorter guard, wearing a cap with a white patch and the word “security” in red letters, tilted his head back slightly to give the illusion of height and stepped from behind the podium. “Alguien la golpeó,” Hector said.

Albert, Hector’s imposing partner who had been leaning against the same podium with his thick forearms, reducing his more than six-foot frame, stood erect, hands on his waist near his taser, chest fully expanded. “Bastard.” Albert didn’t speak Spanish well, but he understood Hector’s words. He heard it a couple times a month. The woman had been beaten up.

Neither guard wore masks. They felt it wasn’t right given their position of authority.

Jane felt the guards’ eyes on her and pulled the white strings around her ears, hiding the swelling underneath. She stood, wincing at the pain that shot through her left knee and thigh, and walked the two steps to the pump, squirted its contents into her hand, and returned to the chair. Rubbing her hands together, she inhaled the alcohol scent, using it to jar her memory as to why her leg hurt. Before she had fled her home, Jane had changed out of her bloody clothes and heels into baggy sweatpants and her favorite sweatshirt—its white letters across her chest shouted “WEEKEND.”  Then, she was too focused on stopping the trembling of her body to realize any other damage. Now, she wanted to see what was under the fabric, to understand what happened to her. She trembled from the chill and exhaustion.

“Smyth, Jane.”

If Jane could smile, she would. This wasn’t her night, or now morning, but at least someone had noticed her and was whisking her away from the waiting room of sick people. She pulled her bags over her shoulder, feeling the weight of the laptop against her side as she stood. It was a heavy hinderance that in her moment of panic seemed a practical choice to kill time while she waited at urgent care.

“Smyth, Jane.”

She hobbled toward the voice, a black woman with a clipboard. Jane was certain the woman was smiling behind her mask, happy to be helping her.

“Ms. Smyth,” she said, grabbing her wrist to scan her id band. “I’m going to check your vitals. Now, why are you here.”

The nurse didn’t look at Jane, instead, focused on her machines and clipboard.

Jane watched the woman’s badge swinging across her chest as she moved about her job—Josephine Brown, LPN. Two hours ago, at the urgent care twelve miles away, it was Edwina Marcos, LPN. Edwina and the doctor with more vowels then consonants in his name had sent her away. “You need a surgeon. Go to an emergency room.”

“Ms. Smyth. Why are you here,” Josephine Brown, LPN repeated, this time emphasizing each word as if Jane were fifty years older than her just over forty years.

If Jane’s lips didn’t feel like they belonged on a camel she would have said something like, “Hello, Josephine. Sorry to be such a bother, but well, you should see his face.” People liked it when you said hello and called them by their name. They liked it when you joked in a time of misfortune. But Jane’s words were jumbled in her head, and her mouth felt like it was filled with sticky cotton balls. Instead, Jane pulled down her mask.

Josephine stopped in front of Jane Smyth. “I see.” She put the oral thermometer away and switched to the ThermoScan, which she gently inserted into Ms. Smyth’s ear. For Josephine, the overnight shifts were a drag. The intoxicated, the abused, the accidents, the screaming children. At least this was her first battery. And the poor woman was alone. No one standing by her side. “Anything else hurt?” Josephine asked, this time more tenderly.

Jane lifted her left arm and pushed up the sleeve of her sweatshirt, revealing a trail of scrapes on its underside. Josephine Brown typed into the keypad on a mobile tray she pushed around the room. She asked if Jane felt faint, dizzy, confused, and any other wounds. Not wanting to share the throbbing in her skull and pull down her pants, she shook her head slowly—immediately regretting it. The movement felt like someone had bounced a basketball off her temple. What’s it called? Hole in one? Bank shot? Rim shot? She closed her eyes as Josephine Brown took her blood pressure.

Josephine put her gloved hand under Ms. Smyth’s elbow and helped her stand. “You go sit back down now. They’ll call you soon enough. Take care, you hear?”

Immediate help wasn’t on the way. Jane tossed her bloody mask in the trash and grabbed a new one as she passed by the front desk. She settled back in the same chair, careful not to touch the arms.

A family of four slouched across from her. A toddler curled in the man’s lap, asleep as she should be at this hour. A woman at least a decade younger than the man hung her arm around a boy, who leaned against her as he gripped a Nintendo. She studied their faces partially hidden behind masks. Korean, not Chinese. Don’t worry, and don’t judge.

She knew what was happening in China, and how the virus was spreading. Chinese New Year was canceled for the first time, and every other day for the past two weeks she had checked in with her friends in China through WeChat. They had told Jane to buy masks, hand sanitizer and gloves. Instead of stocking up, she sent them inspirational quotes from her favorite writers. Looking at the patients, Jane knew she had to swipe a handful of masks before she left this hospital.

Jane averted her eyes from the family to the two young women just three chairs away from her. No masks. Jane could see every stroke of their makeup—lips perfectly shaped, eyes surrounded by liquid liner and a thick layer of foundation glittery from powder. She felt like a troll and shifted away from them.

“Ewww,” BettyBeautyInsideOut whispered to MarcelitaBonita. “Did you see that woman’s face?”

“God, she should keep her mask on,” MarcelitaBonita whispered back. “She’s probably homeless or a drunk.”

“Almost everyone’s wearing masks. Why are they all sick?” BettyBeautyInsideOut leaned closer to her friend and continued to scroll through her Instagram feed. “Is your rash that bad? It’s almost three, and I’ve been up for like, almost twenty hours.”

“I can’t shoot bikinis tomorrow with this ring around my stomach.” MarcelitaBonita said as she liked a string of posts of women tastefully shot in bathing suits.

“You are so right.” BettyBeautyInsideOut nudged her friend as she gestured toward the back of the room. “What is that woman hollering about? This place is full of crazies.”

Hola! ¿Quieres mi orina? Hola?”

Hector eyed the woman in the wheelchair at the far end of the room. The old ones were always loca.

“What’s she going on about?” Albert asked Hector. Albert wanted to talk to Carmela, the Chilean nurse with the long braid not the crazy mamacita with two braids. He watched Carmela emerge from the doors that led to the hospital rooms some forty times a shift. It made these overnights bearable.

“She wants to know if we want her pee,” Hector said. “Ve al baño.” Hector waved toward the bathroom.

“¿No quieres? No pee?” The old woman shouted back.

Carmela stood beside Albert, so close he could smell the sweetness of her flowery perfume. “No, mama. No la necesitamos.”

Rosa Gutierrez waved at the pretty Latina nurse, then lumbered to her feet. She mumbled “Dios mío” over and over as she tottered toward the bathroom. She thought her swollen feet and ankles would burst or her lungs would collapse as her breath came shallow. Before she opened the bathroom door, Rosa looked back at her grandson, Roberto Jr., who was laughing at something called TikTok on his phone. He was oblivious to her pained movements, but at least he had driven her to the hospital. Inside the cold cell of a room, she lifted her long skirt and hovered over the toilet, wincing as the urine left her body and the explosion bursting in her chest. Rosa was convinced her daughter-in-law had poisoned her because she had told her that her cooking tasted like a gringa with no senses.

Jane glanced up to see the old lady shuffle back to the wheelchair, holding her skirt up, revealing her red socks and black molded clogs. She looked away as the woman chastised a man in a Def Leppard shirt and a teenager in a jean jacket. The Spanish was too quick for Jane’s aching head. She closed her eyes as the security guard hollered across the room again.

 “Mamacita. ¿Qué pasa?” Albert asked as he stepped away from his desk and toward the argument. “What’s wrong now?”

The old woman’s braids swung left and right as she swiveled her wheelchair toward Albert and the guy with the jean jacket and rock T-shirt. She continued to berate him in Spanish until the man removed his mask, revealing an impressive mustache Albert knew he could never grow. Mustache Man fired back at her, gesticulating with his arms, but to Albert, he seemed harmless as his ass was glued to his seat. “In English, por favor,” Albert said. “Speak English.” Where was Hector when he needed him? Probably talking to Carmela.

“He stole my plug. My phone was charging,” claimed Rosa Gutierrez.

“The Senorita’s phone is charged,” explained Mustache Man.

A young woman seated beside Mustache Man reached for the phone on the ground, her straight dark hair fell forward like coffee pouring from Albert’s morning pot. She carried the phone to the old woman with the cord dangling, her crisp white Nike’s squeaking with each step. She handed it to her, turned and walked back to her chair. Though her face was mostly hidden by her mask and hair, Albert could see she was still a teenager. A mighty fine-looking teenager.

A swoosh of cold air blew across Jane, and she fluttered her eyes open. The hospital LED lights shot daggers through her brain. She winced and shivered. She clutched her bags tighter to her chest.

A man emerged from the double doors. He had the body of every handsome thirty-something actor. Jane shifted in her chair and eased her hold on her bags opening herself up to what her best friend would call “a desirable.” Then she remembered that her face was swollen under the mask and blood had matted her hair into clumps. She shrank into her aching body and watched him stroll to the front desk in his Adidas slides as he cradled his left hand. He smiled with beautifully straight teeth at Hope Christianson. “I think I broke my hand.” He looked down at the attendant and a curl fell from its home among the others, landing across his right eye Jane watched his biceps pulse as he filled out the form.

The two women without masks gawked, their phones frozen in their hands. “What are we thinking,” the furthest one said as she snapped a photo.

 MarcelitaBonita with the rash strolled to the counter, taking a position on the other side of the man as her friend maneuvered to get a photo.

Handsome man handed the paperwork to Hope Christianson, who was far more attentive to his needs then to Jane’s. The attendant shouted, “X-ray, please.” He stepped away from the counter and MarcelitaBonita and brought his good hand to his face.

Jane looked up at him from under her drooping lids as he glanced down at her from his shielded face. She saw what she guessed was pity as he took her in. But then he smiled, shrugged and cradled his hand as he followed the nurse to be x-rayed.

A person should be able to come into an emergency room and be anonymous. Jane closed her eyes from the lights and the looks. She wasn’t interested in the guy, not any man right now. She had officially sworn off all men. A guy was the reason her face was this way. Jane had worked late, gone home, fed her dog, Emerald, changed into her boots with heels, then raced to meet Javier, a customer who came into the bookstore nearly every day for a matcha latte. They almost always chatted, and today he said he was going to the Slice & Pint with some friends. “I’ve never seen you without a tea or book in your hand. If you’re around after work, and your friends want to go?” She thought she had told him “definitely,” but maybe she had only said “maybe.”

She went solo because her one single friend had a date. She had one pint and one slice. Javier didn’t show. Walking up her steep driveway, she stumbled in her rarely worn heels. Agony in her mouth and her head beside the geranium pot. That’s all she remembered. If she hadn’t gone, if Javier had shown, if she hadn’t….”

“Park, Soo-young. Seo-young? The young Park?”

Jane opened her eyes as the Park family of four stood. She caught the mother’s gaze before the woman corralled her family.

Mrs. Park had traveled home a week ago from Seoul where no one was looking at one another. No one was even walking near one another. The virus had hopped onto the shores of Korea and was tearing apart her people. She had joined her husband on a business trip with her two kids, Seo-young and Min-jun, so the grandparents could meet them. She could smell the sick when she entered the apartment her husband had grown up in. She kept the kids from going near halmeoni and halabeoji. But little Seo-young couldn’t help but push the mask aside and put her hands and anything else she could find in her mouth—even though Mrs. Park did all she could to stop her. Mrs. Park refused to see her own parents after, not wanting to take the death with her, and insisted they fly home as soon as they could. Two days later, the Park family were on a plane—and she thought safe. Three days after that, Seo-young developed a fever, then a cough.

Mrs. Park thought no one in this emergency room knew what was coming, but she knew. She’d seen it in Seoul. Before she stepped through the double doors to explain what she witnessed to the doctor, she looked back at the people who thought they were sick but didn’t really know sick until they experienced the virus. Mrs. Park had a small amount of hope in that almost everyone wore masks. The woman with the busted face caught her eye again. Mrs. Park pointed to her own mask, holding it to her face and nodded as if to say: Don’t remove it. No matter what you do. Then she disappeared behind the doors with her sick daughter in the arms of her husband and her son trailing behind them.

A pale blonde toddler toddled in behind a paler woman wearing Gucci sweatpants. The woman gripped the counter and doubled over from her raspy cough. The child clutched Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day to her pajamas and buried her face in her mother’s tote bag.

Jane turned from the woman and her cough, grabbed a handful of masks when the security guards were looking at the pretty nurse with the long braid, and knew this was going to be a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad year.

“Smythe, Jane.”

Mini & Mighty Vegie & White Bean Pot Pie

To be precise: Kale, White Bean, Leek, Carrot and Zucchini Pot Pies!

I’ve been craving Shepard’s Pie since I went to the UK a couple months ago, but since I don’t eat meat, I was out of luck—at least where I was dining. And I’ve been wanting to make chicken-less pot pie, so New Year’s Day, I dug in. And the result? Sensational!

It wasn’t easy, but worth the effort. Which did I like better—pastry or mashed potato topping? Both!! The mashed potato (I used red potatoes with the peel on) is heartier so better on a cold day, but both are splendid.

20200101_173945-e1577946782270.jpgThe beauty with this recipe is options:

  1. Pie crust or puff pastry (easier!) or mashed potato topping
  2. Clean the crisper of all your vegies
  3. Dump in those frozen vegies taking up space
  4. Be intentional with your favorites (like I did—including two types of kale)
  5. Pack a protein punch with white beans or lentils
  6. Pick your favorite spice (I made four versions!)

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Chop all your vegies and place each in the ramekins you’ll be using for your pot pies—efficient! When you’re ready to sauté them, they’ll all be handy. Hint on the leeks—use only the white and light green part, cut it length wise and break open to rinse. Dirt loves to hide in leeks.

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Hint on the beans: I used one can of Great Northern Beans (GNB) and a third of a can of Cannellini Beans (CB). Both are white beans, but the GNB are smaller and absorb flavor more than the CB, but the two together are nice.

 

Before you start cooking, I highly suggest you have your vegie broth, butter and flour handy for the gravy. It’s hard to open that box of broth when you’re whisking away—trust me.

20200101_173738-2.jpgChop your spices and place in individual dishes also. I decided to try different spices since I had thyme and oregano in my garden, and fresh dill in my refrigerator. Dill and oregano are two of my favorite spices to cook with—along with cilantro. I added each of these to the individual pies at the end and marked each with a spring on the crust.

 

After you mix your cooked vegies and gravy, set it aside and take your puff pastry out of the refrigerator. It should be thawed, but still cold when you roll it out. One puff pastry sheet will fit six ramekins easily when rolled out. Any more, you’ll need a second sheet. Hint: place the ramekins upside down on the pastry, dip your knife in flour, and cut around the edges, giving extra space—about an 1/8”.

This recipe makes eight ramekins, but since I only had six, I used a cute mini loaf pan.


White Bean and Leek Pot Pie with Kale and Zucchini

  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil to coat pan
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 leek, white and light green part thinly sliced
  • 1 celery stalk, finely chopped
  • 1 medium carrot or four small bite sized, finely chopped
  • 1/8 to ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 zucchini, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 3 pinches of kosher or sea salt
  • 1 bunch of kale, stems removed, and chopped or torn
  • 2 cups white beans, rinsed and washed
  • Pepper to taste
  • Fresh herb of choice—thyme, oregano or dill (optional but advise), finely chopped
  • ½ stick butter (or substitute for vegans)
  • 3 ½ cups vegetable broth
  • 3 ½ tablespoons flour
  • Egg white, whisked (optional for vegans)
  • 1 puff pastry sheet (or pie crust or mashed potatoes)
  1. Coat the bottom of a large cast iron skillet with olive oil and heat over medium flame. Drop in the onions, leek, celery and carrots. Stir until onions are translucent. Then add zucchini and stir another two minutes. Add red pepper flakes, garlic and salt, stir another two minutes. (If you are only adding one herb, you can add now—thyme and oregano together are nice as well.) Finally, add the kale. Don’t panic if the pan is full—a few stirs and the leaves wilt and reduce. When they are a bright green (about a minute or two), empty vegetable mix into a bowl.
  2. Time for the gravy. Wipe the pan out, leaving whatever wants to stay behind in the pan. Add your butter and melt over low heat, careful not to burn it. Then toss in your flour and begin whisking—don’t stop! Slowly add the broth, whisking all the while—until you’re out of broth. Your gravy should be forming. Turn up the heat and bring to a boil—still whisking, then reduce the flame to a simmer—still whisking. About ten minutes later you can stop whisking as you should have a nice creamy gravy. Turn the flame off.
  3. Add the rinsed beans to your vegie mix, and then add all to the gravy and stir until well mixed. Add pepper to taste.
  4. If using pastry or puff pastry, now is the time to roll it out, measure around the ramekins, cutting with a floured knife an extra 1/8” around. (Mashed potatoes can be made now, ahead, or while you are cooking)
  5. Fill each ramekin to the inner line, leaving about ¼” for the pastry to puff or the mashed potatoes to brim. If adding herbs to make different pies, mix in a pinch of your choice, remembering which was which spiced pie.
  6. For puff pastry, gently lay it over the top and stretch to edges. For pie crust, flute the edges. Insert knife in center for steam to escape. Place the corresponding herb on top to mark the pies flavor. For mashed potatoes, drop enough dollops to cover the filling completely, sealing the edges with potatoes. Sprinkle the potatoes with garlic or paprika and add your herb indicator.
  7. Bake at 375 degrees for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the pastry/mashed potatoes are golden brown and the pie is bubbling to come out.

To store your yummy pies, wrap in aluminum foil or Tupperware and tuck in the refrigerator for up to three days. You can also store in the freezer—but I’ve not tried it!

 

For the love of Hydra: Greek Bruschetta

I fell hard for bruschetta when I went on a fast and furious trip to the Amalfi Coast and Capri seven or so years ago. The fresh, plump tomatoes, the fragrant basil and the olive oil. Oh, the olive oil.

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But in November, I went to Hydra (pronounced he-dra, not hy-dra), the small Greek Island off Athens where no cars (except the mini garbage truck), motorcycles, scooters and bikes are allowed. Where Leonard Cohen once lived. Where the elite park their yachts in high season.

But in November, little is open, the island is at its sleepiest, and locals get to know you quick—wondering why you are visiting at this off-season time. Here, I fell in love with the welcoming people, the chanting monks, the soothing water, the plentiful cats, the fresh seafood, and the ever-present oregano.

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At one of my favorite restaurants (not many were open), I had a surprising bruschetta type dip. What made it different? Subbing oregano (of course) for basil, adding green peppers, and all were finally chopped, almost like a tapenade. Pair it with a cold Greek beer, red wine and grilled calamari and we have a little piece of island heaven. (My mouth is watering thinking about this bit of love.)

 

 

So obsessed I was, I made it for an appetizer at Thanksgiving and for a neighbors Candy Cane Lane party. Both times, it was devoured. Now, I’m sharing it with you. (How holiday does this platter look!)

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To maximize the flavor, get those tomatoes in the olive oil with the oregano and garlic. I chop all organic and ripe tomatoes into small pieces first. If you have access, get a mix of grape tomatoes for the color and tomatoes on the vine, roma or heirloom. Just make the pieces small, no bigger than your pinkie nail (assuming your pinkie nails aren’t dragon nails).

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Place them in a bowl and sprinkle with a little sea salt and enough quality olive oil to coat. Then mince that garlic and chop the oregano and drop it in, stirring in that yummy flavor. While it’s marinating, chop your green pepper and red onion as small as you can, and if you want to add a bit of basil, now is the time.

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After adding these final ingredients, drizzle more olive oil over the mixture. You should have enough olive oil and tomato to create a nice juice. Give it a taste and add more salt (I’m heavy on the salt!) And pop it in the refrigerator. It’s ready to go now, but I like it best after it has settled for a couple hours or even overnight.20191222_165851.jpg

When you are ready to serve, slice the baguette in 1/3 inch rounds. My trick to evenly broil with flavor is to pour a small layer of olive oil in a Tupperware dish, sprinkle in some garlic powder and dried oregano. I drop the rounds in the olive oil (they don’t have to be evenly coated with oil, but mostly), then turn olive oil side up on a cookie sheet covered in aluminum foil. Pop under the broiler long enough to brown.

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This, unlike traditional bruschetta, should be spooned on the bread by the eater—like a dip. If you do in advance, the bread will get soggy. (Note: an alternate to French baguette is fresh pita—how I had it in Hydra—which was more like Naan bread available in America then our pita.)

This colorful dish is perfect for the Christmas table, or a summer barbecue.


Greek Bruschetta

Ingredients

  • 4 sprigs fresh oregano, minced (feel free to add to more sprigs)
  • 4 leaves fresh basil, chopped (optional)
  • 1 clove garlic -minced
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher or sea salt (to taste)
  • ¼ green pepper finally chopped
  • 1 small package grape tomatoes (prefer red, yellow, and purple), chopped
  • 4 ripe tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/4 large red onion, diced
  • 1 French baguette, sliced in 1/3 rounds*
  • Dried crushed coregano
  • Garlic powder

Instructions

  1. In a serving bowl or medium bowl, combine your tomatoes, garlic and oregano with olive oil to coat. Then sprinkle with salt, and add red onion and green pepper. Stir to combine. Store covered in the refrigerator until ready to serve—an hour or 24 hours.
  2. Cut the baguette into 1/3 inch slices. When you are ready to serve, dip each bread round in olive oil spiced with garlic powder and crushed oregano. Arrange into one layer on a baking sheet with olive oil side up. Place under a broiler until the top of the bread is lightly toasted.
  3. Serve with the Greek Bruschetta in a bowl and the rounds placed on a surrounding platter.

Note: an alternate to French baguette is fresh pita—how I had it in Hydra—which was more like Naan bread available in America then our pita.


Confession, I’m not much of a measuring type cook, and I’m not great at writing recipes down… so each time it’s a little different. Don’t be afraid to experiment!

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#PimpMyBio #PitchWars

What happens when you only have time to look at Twitter for 15 minutes in the morn? You miss a whole load of good stuff… including the latest on #PitchWars and what?! #PimpmyBio. Yes, I just spent the last two hours reading tweets and bios and fell for two fellow adult writers—hopefully, you know who you are as I followed you and commented. Well done both of you fellow #menteeshelpingmentees.

Wait this is supposed to be about me! (Insert shot here that might win hearts or at least interest.)

Back of the Hudson

Okay, but random quote… like him or not, The Terminator spoke at my company event (I will not insert photo here) and he said that it really bothers him when people say he is “a self-made man,” because he didn’t get where he is today alone. “It’s not about ‘me’, it’s about ‘we.’”  So all you fellow Mentees and Mentors (insert applause/dancing image ) AS

But this is my bio… so now about me… that’s why you are here, right?

The fun and short story can be found above in the “This is what I am About” link. The Blog Bio. I’ll give the #Pimp version… not too repetitive—and some untold, juicy stuff.

My first book was written and illustrated by me, and published by my kindergarten teacher. One copy only and I own it. Someday it will be in the Trinity Library, not just in a box in my garage. I knew then that I wanted to be a writer.

Fast forward to oh, 10ish and I wrote a story about the smuggling of gold into the U.S. from Canada in candy bars. It was brilliant. Well, it was good.

Shout out to that one teacher in high school (love all you English teachers out there) who inspired me—and I majored in communications and journalism in college.

So about college. I was given the choice of writing about squirrels on campus or music, and duh… I became the entertainment editor of my college paper. Made sense—my boyfriend was in a punk band, all my friends were in bands, and I hung out at clubs. Of course. One of my first interviews was a band from Scotland. I could barely understand a word.

So began a near decade “career” in music “journalism”—one that had me (no name dropping allowed!) waking up in Cleveland on a heavy metal band’s tour bus (“Hello Cleveland!”); jumping out of a plane with one of the biggest grunge bands from Seattle (talk about stepping out of the box!); interviewing one of the loveliest voices that ever lived (and passed far too early) while I was standing in my shower (before you say Hallelujah, he was at his house and I was at mine—he just called when he did and I did what I had to); driving around LA and walking around NYC with the godfather of my favorite music; and that only scratches the surface.

Read my “About” to see why I stepped out of that world… and into my next corporate gig. Still writing, but oh so different. Years later, not saying how many, I’m still there…

Because, drum roll (I prefer Sean Kinney or Stephen Perkins to Neal Peart), I have a son, who is about to be 17. Single mom. College tuition. Do the math.

Finally, my writing. I love to write. I could write stories—or read them—all day. As long as I also had my dogs and tea. My first serious book was a memoir. Love it and may or may not revisit. My father passed and it was far too personal for me to continue. So I tucked it away for the moment. (Insert fave shot of dad and son)

Max and Dad tongues

So I started writing another book in a notebook. And then two notebooks, then three, and another. Mostly on planes. Then I transcribed it. And edited it. And sent it out to an editor (love her) and she helped me. I entered it in a writing competition and it won!! But I felt it needed more work (while being perfect is boring, I’m a bit of a perfectionist) and I was too close. So I tucked it away…

Hi #NaNoWriMo—I did it, really. Spent the last year and half on that book—dual POV mother and daughter story, editing and cleansing and perfecting and then thought, I need a break from Losing Oneself. So hello The Other Side of Normal—I’m back and I have missed you… and I love you!

So for #PitchWars I am selecting The Other Side of Normal. Fiction set in 1980s SoCal punk scene—complete with riots, Mohawks, drugs and mosh pits. Frida hasn’t had a great life—lost her father when she was younger, never fit in as a teen, had some pretty cruddy relationships with guys, and just wants to be “normal.” She falls for a guy (Tom) in a punk band, who is really a “normal” guy—no piercings, boring well-to-do home, studying engineering at university. Of course, the boy next door isn’t always all he is cracked up to be, and Frida also falls for the new singer in his band.

Many aspects of this novel that I love, but mostly the scenery/setting and voice. Frida isn’t really that strong in the beginning, but as she finds herself, and learns to accept her version of “normal,” she grows to be a badass—like her best friend, Kelly, who is the take no prisoners type. I feel for both of these women and believe others will too… and that some of the guys in the book are also really likeable—even those that don’t look like the boy next door. (Insert mock up here!!)

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10 quick facts (if I still have your attention), plus the Spinal Tap 11:

  1. Tenses aren’t my strength. I admit it.
  2. Foreign languages aren’t either, but I can speak a few words of many languages as I work with people from all over the world (Spanish, German, Chinese, Japanese, Scottish (I went there), etc.
  3. This year, I’ve been to Austria, Peru and Chile, and by the end of the year will add Colombia and the UK.
  4. I love to travel, but nothing compares to home.
  5. I believe always learning and growing as a person and writer is key to happiness, success, and being a better person/writer.
  6. I don’t mind public speaking, but don’t like to talk about myself (journalism background)
  7. I was in a punk rock cult movie a lifetime ago.
  8. I still buy CDs. And I still buy books. I have a collection of both.
  9. I also have a large collection of Mexican folk art (Day of the Dead, Frida Kahlo, etc.)
  10. I have dozens of stories I want to tell. Where is the time to write them?
  11. I have two dogs, Kira and Joy, both old and not healthy. It hurts my heart. (insert adorable shot here!)

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Good luck all!! And see you on Twitter or on the bookshelves!

 

My, My… Too Many “Mys”

I’ve spent the last three days combing MY manuscript for the word MY. With first person POV, it’s like I, over used. A crutch. MY crutch.

Starting from page one, I found far too many uses, but after seeing MY highlighted so many times in a paragraph that it looked like those annoying caution lights on your way home–road closed due to flooding. MY overused three times out of 10…. that’s three times too many.

MY use of MY sometimes aids in a too frequent I sentence pattern.

In this usage, opt for MY over I.

  • NOW: I rolled over to check the time on my phone; just after one.
  • UPDATE: My phone lit two minutes after one.

Check those Is. Remove when you can. We all know you are watching, hearing seeing, listening, etc.

  • NOW: I watched the white peaks come and go in the ocean, almost glowing as they reflected the moon.
  • UPDATE: The white foamy peaks came and went, glowing from the moon’s reflection.

Show not tell.

  • NOW: I rested my hand on her hair.
  • UPDATE: My hand rested on her hair.

Back to MY. MY advice, highlight all those MYs and remove those road blocks when you can.

  • NOW: My mom stirred and I rolled back, resting my hand on her back.
  • UPDATE: Mom stirred; I rested my hand on her back.

One more shot at editing MY.

  • NOW: I tucked the dolls into my suitcase with my books, and lifted the fabric of the suitcase to tuck the letter inside. That’s when I found the notebook, worn smooth as if it had been handled hundreds of times.
  • UPDATE: Before resting the dolls beside the books in my suitcase, I slipped the letter in a small tear in the fabric lining of the suitcase, revealing a notebook, worn smooth as if it had been every day for the last thirty years.

What do you think of the rewrites to Losing Oneself? What are your thoughts to the usage of My and I? I’m open to suggestions and thoughts… and observations.

Gimme Danger, once upon a time

gimme-danger

Once upon a time I was teenager hell bent on seeing Iggy Pop at the Hollywood Palladium only I was also hell bent on drinking and missed most of the show, though I saw a lot of the bathroom. No Fun.

Once upon a time I was a teenager hell bent on seeing Iggy Pop at The Whiskey and I didn’t make the same mistake. What a show! Real Wild Child.

Once upon a time I was in my early twenties and was friend’s with Eric, Iggy’s son, as we all hung out at the same dive of a house. And I had seen Iggy several times by now. Gimme Danger.

Once upon a time I was in my early thirties and I interviewed Iggy. We talked about his son and became friends… dinner in LA, dinner in NYC, Austin SXSW, calls before texts, and then lost touch. Real Cool Time.

And then I saw him years later and he said, “I know you don’t I?” Blah Blah Blah.

Ready for my next “once upon a time…” Lust for Life.

 

Amy’s Army: Poem for a Friend

A year ago Friday I lost a dear friend to a cruel disease-cancer. She was gone before her army of friends could process it… and that army is still wrapping their arms around it. She had such a team behind her, a loving family, and a little boy. Cancer didn’t care. I wrote this poem to honor her, our friendship and the team that surrounded her–many putting their lives on hold without a second thought to fight by her side. All because of her generous spirit and beautiful smile.

az-rocks

Amy’s Army

 

I have this friend, her name is Amy.

I met her 25, or so, years ago.

The moment was unremarkable, so much so, I don’t remember when or where.

Maybe some club on the Strip. Maybe over a drink, or five.

No matter, as how is what really matters.

Her best friend introduced us.

I was excited to share.

Jello shots, Thai Elvis, Palm Springs, pantsuits, orchids, Dan Tanas.

Financial advisors and tax accountants.

Baby showers (both ours), bridal showers (not ours), birthdays.

Sweet as Hell, a T-shirt I once made for her in soft pink.

An hour phone call over a man in another land (mine), a brief conversation over a man at a NYC bar (her).

Encouraging talks from one single mom to a hopeful new single mom (her),

Short concerned calls over our mutual best friend (Kat),

Texts and IMs—AmyDeeZ—about shoes and music and stuff that no longer seems to matter.

And finally, a frightened conversation in the early morning hours on a September Sunday…

It takes a village, she said, more than a little embarrassed.

There’s an entire team behind you, Team Amy.

She smiled the beautiful Amy smile we all know.

Remember, you have an army of friends all here for you, I told her.

We all gave to Amy, because Amy gave to us.

To me, Amy is one of my close girlfriends, because that’s how Amy is.

So many years ago, Amy shared Katherine with me.

Then in short time I met more of her best and closest friends, Jill, Cindy and Mindy.

Her loving family—including her beloved Jake.

And over countless drinks and dinners, I heard stories of her Warner Brothers crew, the Palm Springs crowd, her Minneapolis friends, the tennis and UCLA fans, and so many more.

A year ago, in typical selfless Amy fashion, she shared her Army of friends.

And she did it with a sweet smile.

Amy’s Army became TeamAZ

United because of our love for her and her generous spirit, we are all blessed to call one another friend.

Thanks to our American Girl.

 

Inspiration #3 Read, Read & Read

There is only one thing that inspires me more than life: reading.

With every amazing book I read, I’m inspired to write.

With every well-crafted story, I learn.

With every author’s bio, I believe in the possibilities.

If you want to write, READ!

The "H's" and then some

The “H’s” and then some

The following are a few of my favorite books that I have either found 1) inspiring, 2) learned from or 3) thrilled by the author–and in no particular order.

New(ish) as in I read roughly this past year:

Yes, Yes Cherries, Mary Otis (triple threat)

Johnathan Unleashed, Meg Rosoff (love the character building)

A Man Called Ove, Fredrik Backman (character, character, inspiring, inspiring)

Watching Edie, Camilla Way (POV lesson)

Harmony, Carolyn Parkhurst (POV lesson and voice!)

How to Build a Girl, Caitlin Moran (gritty character and badass author)

Butterflies in November, Audur Ava Olafsdottir (inspiring and characters!)

The Woman who Walked into Doors, Roddy Doyle (inspiring)

 

Older (as in I read more than a couple years ago, but not in school):

Confederacy of Dunces, John Kennedy Toole

Geek Love, Katherine Dunn

Anything by Raold Dahl

The Stranger, Albert Camus (okay, I read it in high school, but still love)

Animal Dreams, Barbara Kingsolver (I was living in Minnesota)

Lush Life, Richard Price

Love Medicine, Louis Erdrich (I was living in Minnesota)

The Van, Roddy Doyle (my Irish period)

I am Malala, Malala Yousafzai

 

And the list goes on…. Read on while you write on. The two go hand in hand.

The "Ts" and then some...

The “Ts” and “Vs” and then some…

 

 

 

Inspiration #2 Moments in Life

Palm2Lap top in lap, relaxing as the sun is winding down its day, the shadows from the bamboo cooling the backyard, leaning back in the lounger, I look up and a sea of blue greets me, beautifully broken by my palm tree, whose fronds are gently waving in the breeze.

Deep sigh.

Inspiration #2. A moment so natural, simple, quiet. Awe.

Inspiration #1 Being Open

With an open mind, inspiration can be found, uncovered, discovered, and waiting in virtually every waking (and some sleeping) moment of the day.

I truly believe this — with an open mind, open heart, and good memory (or a pen and paper at hand), I can be inspired by a blade of grass, a glass of beer, or a barely spoken word.

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Inspiring in June 2016:  The sunset over Maas in Maastricht.

 

Inspiration #1: Sunset in a foreign city.

Walking across a bridge in a world away from home, pausing to reflect on the beauty seen for the first time by me, but seen by many others for hundreds of years is breathtaking. The thought that millions of other people have crossed this particular bridge and paused at the same spot to drink in the beauty, hold hands, or even light a cigarette doesn’t cross my mind.  To me it is old, yet fresh–as if I am the first to discover its secrets.