Reflections on the Ida Floods

Today I drive down Harrison Street in the passenger seat (approaching Franklin Ave with Passaic Ave behind) and my heart breaks seeing the accumulation of ruined things placed curbside, house after house. Mattresses and lamps, furniture, black trash bags in heaps. You think you have it bad, but someone always has it worse. Driving through the intersection of Franklin and Harrison, having seen a photo or two of it severely flooded a few nights before, and my heart breaks for the businesses, likely already struggling due to COVID, the owners now having to deal with cleaning up what may in fact be the sole lifelines to their own livelihoods. I wonder if their homes have also been devastated as well.

I wasn’t out and about in the neighborhood to do a tour of the damage, but was coming home from the laundromat with my brother who was driving. We had made a pitstop, picking up a few bottles of Cherry Coke at 7-11; A rare, indulgent, but well-deserved treat for the both of us. We reminisced about the last time we drank a Cherry Coke; It had been awhile for both of us. The family washer and dryer and hot water heater are completely shot and non-functioning. More will be revealed, but it’s safe to say we’ll be without for a few weeks at least. Maybe longer…There certainly will be more laundromat trips in the meantime.

Many of our family’s things are also curbside, if they haven’t already been taken by the garbage truck that conveniently came the day after the rain. I won’t even begin to list but I mean: a trunk my mom bought with Nonna and my dad on Canal St in Chinatown, right before they were married. That sits curbside now. Soaked and ruined. My 88-key Suzuki piano from my childhood, unsalvageable toys, ruined pictures and papers turned paste, old school papers I was proud of, elementary school writings, American Idiot confetti that rained down from Giants Stadium that I gathered up and stuffed in my pockets from September 1, 2005, my wisdom teeth, as well as greeting cards from friends and family I had saved that meant something to me – Many from Nonna. I cried a lot when the water finally receded from the basement. Almost 2 feet total had accumulated when it was all said and done. “This is our lives!” I cried to my mom the day after, despondent and inconsolable. She had to throw out a wedding album she had given to Nonna; It had found its way back to us after she died. It was falling apart and impossible to save. And even though it wasn’t even my mom’s copy of the wedding album, I became emotional. Because it was Nonna’s copy. That was hers and now it’s in the trash.

I’m not here to lament. I mean, I’m devastated. And I’ve cried about it. But I’m trying not to get lost in the quicksand that is grief. Because I can get lost in it. I know myself well enough to know that. There’s this strange dichotomy and different levels of reality I currently find us all living in: The affected and the unaffected. And it’s…strange. Makes you feel a little bit like an alien walking through a slightly different dimension.

We are saving as many photographs as we can, the discs of our CD and DVD collections (tossing away the cases). We recovered my diplomas, but their cases are completely ruined. My mom has been trying so hard and painstakingly to save what she can. There are dropcloths throughout the first floor of our home to protect the wood flooring from water as we make the many trips up the stairs to take the wet things out and to the curb. This daily trek we now must make until there’s nothing left to remove. The dining room and kitchen tables are full of damp photographs drying out.

Tragedy and crisis are always strange. And even though this is personal and I feel incredibly affected by it, I do try and look at it with a birdseye view; Here is rebirth, here is cleansing, here is renewal, here is starting over fresh and clean. It doesn’t make it any easier, but…the thoughts are there under the surface. I will admit there is excitable family chatter about remodeling and finally making good on all those plans we had to better the basement, move things around, make the house better and nice.

And we can talk about global warming, better preparedness for next time, etc. We can go on a George Carlin-esque rant about “stuff” and “things”. We can play “coulda, woulda, shoulda” and spit regrets until the sun comes up five mornings over. But this happened. This is reality. It rained too much, too hard, too fast and our homes were overwhelmed. Tomorrow will not change cold hard facts. I am saddened by my own situation, as well as the situation of my community and neighbors. Overall, these two years have been insurmountably difficult and this event just feels like an added weight.

Approaching Franklin, I see the waterline, leaves and debris on a now ruined chainlink fence right before the stoplight, right after Ravine. CVS is home to three dumpsters now. I was just in there few days ago to get eyedrops and the manager helped me when the self-checkout froze. She was so nice and sweet. I told her this was my neighborhood CVS and she hoped I’d be back soon. I promised her I would.

Black Lives Matter

Hi Everyone –

I want to take a moment to thank those who have been continuously posting BLM-related information / resources / content. Social media can be incredibly draining for me, but due to this constant stream of information I have been donating, reading articles, signing petitions, watching documentaries, and overall doing my best to stay actively engaged and informed; I’m hoping to soon get some books into the mix as well, and also plan on looking into how I can better support Black businesses.

The degree of racial prejudice and injustice in this country is profound. The other night while watching a bit of news, I got emotionally upset – still – over the death of Trayvon Martin. I forgot how long ago that happened (2012). I think Trayvon’s death, followed by the death of Michael Brown (and the subsequent uprising in Ferguson, MO) were big turning points for me personally as to how I started to truly realize racial injustice was still happening in the world. It frustrates me when I reflect on when I was in school (in a predominately white neighborhood), the issue of “civil rights” seemed to be ultimately resolved, and we never talked about Malcolm X – which I believe should be a mandatory insert within the American historical narrative.

I’ve been very careful (and have had deep discussions with others) regarding the (at times) potential performativity of social media posting (text and pictures, whether conscious or unconscious) about these issues. I apologize if this comes off as performative. I also realize that another white voice thrown in the mix may only make for more “white noise”, but despite that, I would like to put my singular voice forward and confirm my solidarity with Black Lives Matter and BIPOC everywhere. These killings and abuses of power deeply distress me. The American mythology I grew up with, as well as what I consider to be my identity as an American citizen have become disrupted, broken, and called into question largely due to the inequality Black people (as well as immigrants and other POC) endure and suffer everyday. I think for awhile now, I have been vigilantly educating myself on issues of race (past and present), while also having deep, meaningful, and at times uncomfortable conversations with others, particularly regarding complacency and white privilege. I like to think that if you truly know me, this confirmation and affirmation of my stance should not be surprising.

I also would like to think that if you truly know me, you know how much of a Star Trek nerd I am. In all its iterations, that show has always projected diversity and acceptance, especially at times when it was not politically convenient. That is the kind of future I always strive for and seek. In Star Trek, the foundation of Vulcan philosophy is IDIC: Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations. I reflect on that phrase often .

Another reason I wanted to share this post is to also make a list of all the places I’ve donated to / petitions I’ve signed thus far; This is a growing list. I’m sharing this information to encourage others to do the same, if you haven’t already. If you are able and willing, please take a look at these links below. If you’ve been following me, you know I recently released an EP and I’ve donated every cent I made (most recently to Breonna Taylor’s family (via GoFundMe), and prior to that, to the W.H.O.). I want to let you know that I’ve been really trying my best to contribute and do my part as a white ally, and I hope this post will encourage you to have conversations with others, get active, learn, and push yourself outside your comfort zone.

I recognize we are still living in a pandemic, despite states reopening. So if you have been protesting, thank you. If you’ve been learning, signing, conversing, and donating like myself, thank you. Let’s continue doing so to demonstrate our solidarity to Black lives everywhere in order to enact positive change. Thank you for reading if you’ve made it this far.


Petitions:

Amnesty International – Justice For George Floyd: https://www.amnesty.org/en/get-involved/take-action/george-floyd-police-violence-usa/ (6/3/20)

Change.org – Justice For Breonna Taylor: https://www.change.org/p/andy-beshear-justice-for-breonna-taylor

Color of Change – Justice For Breonna Taylor: https://act.colorofchange.org/sign/justiceforbre-breonna-taylor-officers-fired/ (6/13/20)

Color of Change – Bob Kroll Must Go: https://act.colorofchange.org/sign/sign-petition-bob-kroll-must-go/ (6/17/20)

Color of Change – Justice For Elijah McClain: https://act.colorofchange.org/sign/file-criminal-charges-against-officers-who-murdered-elijah-mcclain (7/6/20)

Donations:

Black Visions Collective https://www.blackvisionsmn.org/ (6/1/20)

GoFundMe – Official George Floyd Memorial Fund: https://www.gofundme.com/f/georgefloyd (6/2/20)

NAACP – Empowerment Programs: https://www.naacp.org/empowerment-programs/ (6/4/20)

GoFundMe – Justice for Breonna Taylor: https://www.gofundme.com/f/9v4q2-justice-for-breonna-taylor (6/7/20)

GoFundMe – Official Gianna Floyd Fund: https://www.gofundme.com/f/gianna-floyd-daughter-of-george-floyd-fund (6/9/20)

ACLU: https://www.aclu.org/ (6/12/20)

GoFundMe – I Run With Maud: https://www.gofundme.com/f/i-run-with-maud/ (6/13/20)

UltraViolet Action (working in coordination with BLM Louisville seeking justice for Breonna Taylor): https://secure.actblue.com/donate/taylor0615_sbs? (6/17/20)

Equal Justice Initiative: https://support.eji.org/give/153413/#!/donation/checkout (6/22/20)

Please also check out https://blacklivesmatters.carrd.co/ for even more resources.


I’d also like to add a list of media that I’ve encountered throughout my life and found inspiring, informative, and helpful. I recognize the list is not large, which is a combination of this is what came to me off the top of my head, and knowing I have a lot more work to do. There are better lists out there you can find with a simple Google search. I’ve bookmarked a few links that I’m planning on scrutinizing more closely, and would be happy to share if you need:

Books by Black Authors I’ve Read That Changed My Life:

Everything Maya Angelou Ever Wrote

The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Alex Haley and Malcolm X

Born A Crime by Trevor Noah

Films by Black Directors That Changed My Life:

13th – Directed by Ava DuVernay

Mudbound – Directed by Dee Rees

12 Years A Slave – Directed by Steve McQueen

Malcolm X – Directed by Spike Lee

Do The Right Thing – Directed by Spike Lee

Black Artists Who Have Changed My Life (in no particular order): Sammus, Talib Kweli, Black Star, Pharoahe Monch. Lizzo, Beyonce, Jay-Z, A Tribe Called Quest, Public Enemy, James Brown, Queen Latifah, Killer Mike, Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Duke Ellington, Tupac, The Notorious B.I.G., Ray Charles. Also Kehinde Wiley. The list goes on…

Inside ‘Muscle Memory’

On Wednesday, May 20th, 2020 I released an EP entitled Muscle Memory. In this post, I will discuss the history of it’s inception, as well as its musical influences and meaning.

PREFACE

The story of Muscle Memory begins on Christmas Day, 2017 –

My cousin Alessandra is an incredibly talented drummer, and I’ve always wanted to record music with her. After spending Christmas Day together with our families, at the end of the night we found ourselves chatting, hanging out, sharing songs, and began to talk about recording music together. I knew of a studio near me in Woodland Park, NJ called The Den and decided to reach out. In the past, I wanted to book time, but had always been somewhat trepidatious to bite the bullet, fearful and anxious on both an emotional and financial level. It’s something I had never really done before. But I knew I had these songs I really loved and thought had potential, and I wanted to give them the full studio treatment.

Everything I released as an artist prior to this point (with the exception of one or two tracks) had all been self-recorded from my very humble home recording environment, using a Macbook (with ProTools and/or Logic) and an Mbox Mini. But over the years, hardware aged and died, hard drives failed, software became outdated, and eventually I didn’t have the means to record at home anymore. And at that time, I didn’t have the money to just go out and buy more gear So with that situation in mind, and having already talked to Alessandra, I emailed The Den my most recent recorded material as a point of reference for my sound (These were my Unreleased Demos – which I had recorded in hopes of getting those songs professionally recorded with some musician friends/acquaintances of mine circa 2014-ish?, but those plans fizzled out and never came to fruition). I soon got an email back from Matt Maroulakos, and we set a meeting for the evening of Thursday, January 11th, 2018.

Around this time, I was in my last semester at Montclair State and remember driving over to the studio after work (from my on-campus IT job). The sun having gone done hours before, I remember the crisp, cold air of the night and driving 46 West to the nearby studio, the sky already blue-black and filled with stars blinded by light pollution. The meeting went well and I remember Matt showing me around the studio. We had a good conversation about my influences, the songs I was thinking about recording, and how I wanted my cousin Alessandra to get involved and drum for on the recordings for me. Afterwards, we parted ways and I recall leaving feeling really jazzed and excited about making music.

Over the next few months, it became apparent that because of my and Alessandra’s physical distance (she goes to school in Boston), along with our own busy college schedules, that it was going to be incredibly challenging, if not practically impossible, not just to meet up to record, but to also write and practice these songs. Not knowing any other drummers (and not being a drummer myself), I became focused on others things and kind of forgot all about The Den, chalking it all up to, ‘it wasn’t meant to be’.

At the end of May / beginning of June I got an email from Matt following up. Had I connected with my cousin? How were the songs coming along? I had just graduated Montclair State a few weeks prior and that summer my schedule was ridiculously loaded with me working sometimes five or six days a week. But I started to think about this. Maybe I could make this work, even if just on my days off. Even if Alessandra and I couldn’t collaborate, Matt had given me some info on his drummer friend (the great Dana LaMarca). If I could maybe get him to play on the songs, that is if my songs were good enough at all, I could still do this. I soon sent Matt a voicenote for a song called, “Gotta Get Out” and decided we’d do a one song trial-run to see how it went. We then looped in Dana on email, went back and forth with dates and musical references, and eventually settled on having our first session on Sunday, August 11th. The tracking for “Gotta Get Out” went so well, I soon decided that I wanted to do 4 more songs and self-release a 5 song EP. This is how Muscle Memory was born.

RECORDING

Most of the guitar you hear on Muscle Memory is Matt’s 1996 ES-135 hollowbody Gibson (which I loved playing). “Gotta Get Out” has a little bit of what I like to call my “Franken-Strat” on it (my 2003-4 Fender Squier that’s had a recent-ish setup, with a new input jack, new pickguard, and pickups installed over the years). The acoustic guitar on “Gotta Get Out” was recorded with my 2012 (?) Tanglewood Sundance (which I have now since sold). The beginning acoustic guitar on “I’m Feeling Lost” was recorded with Matt’s Takamine in the control room; I sang the first line through the talkback mic to get that distorted-ish sound. The beginning (and end) acoustic guitar parts were recorded using my Takamine (G-Series) in the space between the live room and the control room.

Bass was recorded using a natural wood, really heavy Fender P-Bass, (also Matt’s), and the primary guitars on “No Wonder She’s Alone” and “All Your Books” were played using my hella-heavy 2018 Gibson Les Paul Traditional,  but which I bought for myself (on sale, baby!) over the course of recording this EP. I wanted to do some Jawbreaker-esque / “Condition Oakland”-esque spoken word stuff laid over the solo for “No Wonder She’s Alone” (I was going to use a Janeway monologue from the Star Trek: Voyager episode, “Fair Haven”), but Matt and I ultimately decided against it and I think that was the right choice. That sort of thing could still could happen in the future though, either with another song and/or another piece of dialog. I recorded all the vocals to this EP (perhaps with exception of “Gotta Get Out”) using a Shure SM7B microphone with the lights off in the live room.

We recorded the tracks in the following order: “Gotta Get Out”, “Talk Me Down”, “I’m Feeling Lost”, “All Your Books”, “No Wonder She’s Alone”. It’s amazing to me how much the structure of these songs evolved over the recording process, and how I hadn’t really finished writing the lyrics to “No Wonder” until after we recorded it. A lot of the guitar solos, fills, and bass lines I would figure out on the spot, or write at home and then bring it back for the next session. I almost recorded a song called “A Funeral March”, but decided it wouldn’t be the best fit for the record and that it was a little too rhythmically ambiguous for my first, legit studio recording (imo). Also, Dana absolutely killed it on drums. He went into recording these songs with a recorded voicenote of me singing over an acoustic guitar and nothing else, and a list of song references. That was it. We had one rehearsal for “No Wonder She’s Alone” since the transitions between the sections were a little more complicated than the other songs. Everything else was done on the spot and he basically wrote the parts your hear on the EP in the moment.

Muscle Memory was recorded over the span of a year, between August 2018 and August 2019, all on my days off from work. Matt started mixing in September, and Mike Piacentini began the mastering process soon thereafter. The album’s been done for a few months now, but I chose May 20th to release it because it is the shared birthday of my maternal grandfather and Captain Kathryn Janeway, both whom have shaped my life in a multitude of ways. But perhaps that is topic for another post. 🙂

MEANING

The term “Muscle Memory” is used when describing the way our bodies and minds remember how to do something over a period time; By repeating that action over and over again, it eventually becomes so second-nature, we don’t even have to think about it anymore – We just do it, we just know how; It’s learning via repetitive motion. It’s a term I found myself saying a lot before and during the course of this recording process. Hell, I still use it now. When I think about all my musical knowledge, self-taught or otherwise, it’s all muscle memory to me.

But then while considering what to title this EP, I began to think about how muscle memory can have a negative connotation too, as in behaviors where we’re constantly unfair to ourselves (or to others). Muscle memory kind of can became this “negative mantra on loop repeatedly” (See I’m Feeling Lost!). When we do this, we risk getting stuck in mentally unhealthy thought patterns and self-sabotage; Negative behavior and negative thoughts can start to feel normal after awhile, dragging us down and effecting our mental state, making us constantly anxious and at times, depressed. If we go through the motions enough times, it can start to feel increasingly difficult to break out of these “prisons of our own design” (see No Wonder She’s Alone). These are things I have struggled with all my life.

But as the great Carl Sagan once said, “We are made of star stuff”. And if that is true, then we as human beings, whose origins start in the stars above, we must then have the power to transcend that negativity and become better somehow. If it’s already in our DNA, it must be ancient history, ancient muscle memory and maybe, just maybe, we can tap into that powerful potential and in turn overcome any trial whether emotional or physical. This is what I attempt every morning when I wake up and get out of bed. This is essentially what I would like the listener to take away from this EP.

INFLUENCES

These are songs that influenced me, whether rhythmically, sonically, or emotionally. The hyperlinked song titles lead to a Spotify playlist of the referenced tracks listed below:

“No Wonder She’s Alone”

  • “I Could Be With Anyone” – Kevin Devine
  • “Feel Like Rain” – Motion City Soundtrack
  • “Nothing Left” – John-Allison Weiss
  • “She Doesn’t Get It” – The Format
  • “Chia-Like, I Shall Grow” – Say Anything
  • “Shiksa (Girlfriend)” – Say Anything
  • “American Hearts” – Piebald

“Gotta Get Out”

  • “Cemetry Gates” – The Smiths
  • “The World Has Turned And Left Me Here” – Weezer
  • “Kiss Me” – Sixpence None The Richer
  • “Upstate Blues” – Into It. Over It.
  • “You & Me & Mt. Hood” – Pet Symmetry
  • “The Last Lie I Told” – Saves The Day
  • “State Trooper” – Bruce Springsteen
  • “Shatter Your Lungs” – The Get Up Kids
  • “Capital H” – Motion City Soundtrack
  • “It’s Summertime” – The Flaming Lips

“I’m Feeling Lost!”

  • “Midnight: Carroll Street” – Into It. Over It.
  • “Atoms Smash” – Weatherbox
  • “Scattered” – Green Day
  • “Radio Hive” – Weatherbox
  • “Connecticut Steps” – Into It. Over It.
  • “Kick-Flips” – Weatherbox
  • “Ghost Malls” – Weatherbox
  • “shoes (the sneaker song) – Oso Oso
  • “Let It Happen” – Jimmy Eat World
  • “Familiar Theme” – Somos
  • “Revelation” -Balance And Composure
  • “Permanently Lost” – Somos
  • “No Eq” – Into It. Over It.
  • “Third Engine” – Saves The Day
  • “Wearing The Tie” – The Early November
  • “Lives Of Others” – Somos

“Talk Me Down”

  • “Bastards of Young” – The Replacements
  • “Kill” – Jimmy Eat World
  • “Take Our Cars Now!” – Saves The Day
  • “The Shape of Love to Come” – Say Anything
  • “Familiar Theme” – Somos
  • “No Amount of Sound” – Into It. Over It.

“All Your Books”

  • “get there (when you’re there)” Oso Oso
  • “Call Off The Bells” – The Early November

FINAL THOUGHTS

I’d like to confess that lyrically, this is me at my most vulnerable. There are songs on here that still scare me a little. Aside from the overall intended message of this EP (see above re: Star Stuff), what I hope the listener can glean from listening is that they’re not alone and that it’s okay to feel hopeless and helpless and weird and in-betweenish. Making this EP was an invaluable learning process in terms of recording, writing, feeling, and emoting. I also find that these lyrics can (and will) take on new meanings, especially in how they now exist within the climate of this current pandemic-affected world we now live ourselves in.

THANK YOU

Creating this album would not have been possible without the support of my parents and my brother John, as well as the few friends I played this for and sent this to over the course of the recording process. I am so grateful for you all. Also thank you to all the artists listed above for creating wonderful, deep, thought-provoking, and captivating music. You are all my heroes. Creating this piece of art, this document of my life has been an unforgettable experience. Thank you Matt and Dana for your talents, and also for being so incredibly patient and professional. This project would have been impossible without your help and coordination.  I’m excited for the future. Thank you for bringing this baby to life.

CREDITS

Guitar, Bass, Vocals – Roe O’Brien

Drums – Dana LaMarca

Xylophone on “No Wonder She’s Alone” – Roe O’Brien

Tambourine on “Gotta Get Out” – Dana LaMarca

Violin on “All Your Books” – Nicole Scorsone

Produced by Matt Maroulakos and Roe O’Brien

Recorded, mixed & engineered by Matt Maroulakos at The Den Recording in Woodland Park, NJ

Additional engineering provided by Shane Furst and Dylan Saraciniello

Mastered by Mike Piacentini

Cover Art by Dominic Sylvester

All songs written by Roe O’Brien

baking again

When I first started this blog in 2013 or 2014, I had just graduated college, and was in the midst of depression, entrenched in daily personal crisis – What I used to describe as me “floundering” about. I guess I was searching for purpose, a place to belong, and perhaps some life meaning after being released from the talons of higher education. I like to think I have transcended that particular journey. And since that time, there have been many tears, life lessons; so many relationships have changed. Back in those days, Nonna was still alive, living with my family and me, but it wasn’t until after she passed that I realized how much she gave me, just on a day-to-day basis: Stability, structure, and of course, unconditional love. I also refer to this part of my life as my “domestication” period, due to the fact that I was home all the time and started to get more involved with cooking and baking. I felt like I was helping, chipping in, doing my part, doing something. Besides caring for Nonna, there was also a time when my mom went back to school. My dad was working, my brother was still in school. The family was stretched a little thin at times, but we made it work. And I felt like I was contributing when I would cook or bake. It felt good to put on some music and make a meal and see enjoyment and contentment on the faces of my family during and after eating.

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Nonna and I, Easter 2014

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Easter 2015

Baking in the afternoons when Nonna was home was always such a wonderful delight. Her eyes would light up at the smell of lemon or cinnamon; She’d call me her little “massara” – a Sicilian word that essentially means “Renaissance Woman”; Meaning, you do a little of everything, a Jill of All Trades, if you will. It’s a word a believe truly defines me. I loved sharing food with her.

Not long after she died, I remember attempting to bake something. It might’ve been a cake, but I don’t quite remember. But I ruined it, messed it up, measured incorrectly. Made some sort of mistake that required everything to be thrown out. I was saddened and absolutely devastated. And aside from having to scrap the recipe, I realized I wasn’t baking out of joy or desire or love. I was just kind of doing it – quickly, hastily, anxiously; without care. Since then (which may have been 2015 or 2016), I have not felt the impulse to cook or bake. Until today.

Of course right now during this pandemic, everyone is at home who can be at home (/should be at home), and it seems like everyone so far has spent at least some time baking, whether it’s bread or sweets. I happened to be off from work today and was casually talking to my mom at the breakfast table this morning. While we were talking, I got up to make a cup of coffee. After I put the grounds in my usual one-cupper cradle, I opened the cabinet to get a mug (which is where we also store our teas) and was wonderfully overwhelmed by the scent of blueberry (This was Harney & Sons’ Paris tea, which has a wonderful blueberry lemon flavor). That tea, combined with the aroma of the coffee suddenly had me thinking about lemon blueberry muffins. My mom’s been baking wonderful things since we’ve been home such as chocolate chip walnut banana bread (oh my word, it is so good), and so I mentioned to her that I wouldn’t be opposed if she decided to make blueberry muffins when she turned to me and said, “You know, you can make them too”. And it was almost like it had never occurred to me that I should do it. Of course I should and could – and I did!

Quickly searching a recipe, I took out my ingredients a little bit at a time so that I’d be ready to go once I finished my morning routine: Smart Balance and 2 eggs to get them room temperature so the SB was easier to melt and the eggs weren’t cold from being in the fridge. Then I took out blueberries, which we just bought at the supermarket yesterday. After measuring (just to be sure) I gave them a good rinse and dried each one (I’ve put wet blueberries into muffin batter and it is a mistake that will dilute your batter!) After getting in a little exercise and shower, I returned to the kitchen. “Amor Eterno” by Rocio Durcal has been stuck in my head for the past few days – one of Nonna’s favorite songs that we had put on her playlist. So I queued up the Spotify radio for that song and got to work soon thereafter.

There is something about baking that reminds me of yoga in that, anything could happen; You start with your mind in one place and it can end up in a totally different place when you finish, perhaps a little more calmer and Zen than you knew possible. There’s also the potential of screwing up / mistepping, and it’s all about how you handle it; Staying calm, breathing through it (which I clearly did not do, or was in the right headspace to do so 5 years ago). I get into a zone when I bake where it’s just me, the recipe, and the ingredients. It’s a time to be with your mind as is, see what comes up, and just focus on making, creating. And so I made these muffins and was pretty excited about it. I loved watching them bloom in the oven and taking them out to cool once they were done. My family really liked them, and that gave me pride and joy and a sense of contentment.

IMG_20200430_145941And so I keep reflecting on this personal fact that this is the first time I have baked something, and really wanted to bake something since Nonna passed away in August of 2015. Sometimes the grieving/healing process is long, but it is happening – I am healing. There are so many parts of me that are works in progress; I like to think a lot of us can admit that about ourselves. But sometimes it’s tough when you can’t see it or feel it happening, so it feels like it not. But it is. I think as long as we keep moving forward, and keep waking up in the morning our traumas will heal, our sadnesses will become mellowed, and our love will be come deeper. Nonna’s birthday was a week ago, yesterday (April 22). She would’ve been 92. Every day I miss her tremendously, but am glad she is in a better place now (and doesn’t have to worry about COVID-19, dear Lord!). I like to think she’s still guiding me and watching over me as I continue to “flounder” around some more, whether in the kitchen or elsewhere. It’s just another day in quarantine out here. Let’s all continue to persevere and make sure we express our love to our family and friends everyday, and always remember those who have gone before us whether through music, baking, or just sitting in reflective thought.

morning details.

I wake up this morning without veiled stubbornness keeping me in bed. The sensation is an unusually positive one, perhaps having something to do with the fact that I set my alarm from 7:00 and not 5:00 AM. Though a linger for a few minutes, I eventually rise. Greeting my already dressed father Good Morning, I move next to the dog, sound asleep on my parent’s bed. I kiss him and pull a blanket over him so he’s not cold and remind my mom of the time, as she is also sound asleep.

Moving downstairs and greeting my brother, I determinedly sit down for my meditation (because some mornings it’s hard). After brushing my teeth, I move some items into my bag I’m bringing to work today and take out my jacket, scarf, and gloves. I pour a 5 fl oz glass of Kombucha (which I like to drink in the morning when we have it), and sip it while I dress in one of my thickest sweaters. It is the coldest day we’ve in awhile. I am thinking about making coffee. I again remind Mom of the time before coming back downstairs. This time she’s more agreeable.

Doing a very quick light makeup application, I come into the kitchen to make coffee and have my usual breakfast of sliced apple with cinnamon and peanut/almond butter. As I am getting ready to grind the coffee beans, a mouse trap goes off in the pantry – we soon learn, set off by the dog. Thankfully he’s okay, hasn’t eaten the bait of provolone cheese, and is just a little startled. I chastise my mom; She has been trying catch this rogue, singular mouse for weeks with no results. I tell her the trap is useless and she should get rid of it, for fear of the dog hurting himself. She is resolute and cannot be moved. We pass in the kitchen like two icebergs for about 5-7 minutes, before I let the moment go and mention how the new rug we’ve set down in here is actually doing a great job at keeping the kitchen a little warmer in this frigid weather.

Coffee is brewing. I whack the top of the machine of our single-cupper a couple times to make the slow drip-drip-drip transform into it’s usual constant stream. Slicing my apple and measuring my almond butter, I take my breakfast to the table and retrieve the coffee, now nice and warm and ready for me to drink.

“So are you going to talk to me or am I going to have to compete with your phone?” I snarkily remark to my mother, who is very engaged with her device. These comments are common, as is the behavior. I’m constantly getting at her for being on the phone too long, being too absorbed with it and ignoring the world around her.

“What do you want to talk about?”

I feed the dog a little spot of almond butter. “Literally anything.”

We get to playing the Good Morning Jazz playlist on Spotify – from her phone, because since I updated to the new iOS, I haven’t properly reconnected my phone to the Amazon Echo in our kitchen.

She’s taking the dog to the vet today. Nothing serious. I think just a little checkup, maybe some nail trimming and to inform him of Mario’s new chicken allergy we’ve discovered. Not sure if she’s driving me to the bus or if I’m taking an Uber/Lyft there. I suppose we’ll all figure it out soon.

I place my dishes in the sink and continue to sip my coffee. The jazz music continues to play. I am typing details to a morning I probably would forget the details of if you were to ask me about it three days from now.