Monday, September 29, 2008

Warmest Wishes

Happy Rosh Hashanah to my Jewish friends! May you be inscribed in the Book of Life for a good year. Eid Mubarak to my Muslim friends celebrating the end of Ramadan! May the sacrifices you have made compel happiness in your homes, fill hearts with love, and breath peace throughout our planet.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Make Me An Instrument of Your Peace

I really didn't want to go to this Interfaith Prayer Vigil tonight. While I'm absolutely down with the cause, I'm not so much a church kind of girl. I kept questioning why I had to go and dreaming up different scenarios that would provide me an out.

Within the 30 minutes prior to me leaving to get to the service my bad attitude took over completely and I was a total jerk to my favorite person, taking out my frustration about having to go and the death penalty in general on him. It was after 1am where he was and he was bewildered yet patient with my rage. He has always handled my wild mood swings that mirror execution schedules better than anyone else.

It was strange that my outlook fell so far so fast; this weekend has been a good one for me. I have been more active and taking care of things in my life this weekend than any since my favorite person departed across the ocean and sand. I actually got some important life details in order and I was proud of myself for continuing to stay motivated and not succumbing to the couch and bad TV.

I drove the church feeling guilty for being shitty to someone I love and still dreading the doors I was about to enter. I plotted how I would sit in the back and leave before it was over.

But when I got there I was immediately greeted by women who I love and respect dearly and beyond them was a beautiful, age and ethnically diverse community. I sought out Mary Sinclair and sat down with her, our mini-SCHR contingent. The minute Rev. McDonald started talking I felt the weight lift from my shoulders and I immediately reached for my phone to text my sheepish apology to the one faraway who I had just mistreated.

There is something about being in churches that makes me let go a bit. It doesn't always happen, but when it does it's unmistakable and familiar. I remember sitting in a church at Berry College - it was after midnight and I was miserable and pacing the grounds and saw a window partially open. I pried it wider and squeezed through into the dark, empty chapel. I sat alone in a pew and cried, then shimmied back out the window feeling so much better.

Today it was a couple pieces that got to me. Denise and Etsumi, two Buddhist monks that I've known since my first days in Atlanta chanted - their drumming and throaty calls were like a cool compress. But it was when Rev. Morgan led us in the Prayer of St. Francis that my head fell to my chest and the tears started flowing.

I cried for Troy, for Martina and all their family. I cried for the family of the slain officer who want justice and healing so badly. I cried for Mary Sinclair next to me and the loss of her dear Lewis. I cried for my own foolishness, self-centeredness and inadequacies. I prayed with my friends, for the first time in a long time:

Lord, make us instruments of your peace;
where there is hatred, let us sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master, grant that we may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.


I literally could not find gas to buy yesterday. Everywhere I went I was greeted by gas stations that looked like vacant lots with blank prices on their marquees indicating they were fresh out.

I don't want to belabor the most thoroughly-covered Atlanta news story by writing about my experience in our gas shortage, but I am surprised by my own reaction to it. And I'm usually level-headed, okay, even inappropriately dismissive of the concerns of the consuming masses. For those outside of Georgia that cannot fathom what they are seeing on the national news, there are some great photos from the AJC of the long queues for car blood transfusions.

By the way, I followed what the newscasters said would help the crisis - earlier this week I had half a tank, I didn't have far to drive, so I didn't panic and top-off my supply. I drove slower and I braked less. And I got down to the red yesterday and there was still no gas to be found.

The anxiety permeated. I fell asleep thinking about gas, I dreamed about gas, I woke up before 9am on a Sunday and gas was my first concern. We Americans are so used to having everything at our fingertips and I was surprised at my own level of perceived crisis when I couldn't access what I wanted/needed.

Granted, I can rationalize it by saying that I needed to make sure I had enough in my tank that I would be able to get to death row in the event of a bad decision from the US Supreme Court for Troy Davis, but I'm sure we all can rationalize it for things that are equally important: getting kids to school, driving to work to have a paycheck so you can eat, visiting a loved one in crisis- there's a million justifications for panic.

I searched online for sites that said which stations had gas - mostly I found sites that told you where to find the cheapest gas which is totally not useful as price doesn't matter if there is none to be had. Finally, I came across the Twitter discussion where people were posting live updates of where they had found gas.

My story ends well, I have an almost full tank - the Kroger on Moreland station cuts you off at 10 gallons, and I have a 14 gallon tank. I waited for 30 minutes in a long line that went up and down the parking lot aisles - and this was at 9:30am on a Sunday. I think people were skipping church to get gas before it all runs out!

And now I find myself questioning the errands I had planned on running today - is it really worth it to expend my precious gas to go to the far north side of the city to get that painting framed? Wouldn't it be better for me to just stay home and organize my bathroom cabinets that I've been procrastinating on for 6 months instead?

This shit is bananas.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Cooking Makes Her Happy

This is a painting I did a couple years ago that lives in Ela's house now; she calls it a Kitchen Goddess. For me, I think it will always be called Cooking Makes Her Happy. It was a one-hour painting (more like one afternoon) that I did on a night like tonight: a night that I spend content and complete cooking in my home.

It's so funny how we lose track of the things that ground us the most when our pace is that of hummingbirds. Listening to the new Jenny Lewis and the old Yeah Yeah Yeahs records in my kitchen while making Potato Leek Soup and Baked Zucchini was more satisfying to me, just plain me, than anything else this week. I even had a theme that guided my recipe choices: my favorite herb, Herbes de Provence - a savory blend of rosemary, thyme, marjoram, basil, bay leaf and lavender that's used a lot in French and Irish recipes.

I stood in my usual spot to the right of the stove chopping, mixing, flavoring and tasting. I felt complete and peaceful and stopped moving for a few moments to make sure that the calm was real.

Some of my favorite memories of growing up are those simple, mundane evenings sitting down to dinner at my mother's kitchen table. She always lays out a spread, a main dish with sides that compliment and enhance it and each other. She approaches food preparation for us, her loved ones, effortlessly but with the coordination of a stylist. I have seen myself so many times in the mirror to the left of my seat of the dinner table, reflected as a mural with the ones I love most and the meals that nourished our bellies and hearts.

Potato and Leek Soup

This is one of my very favorite soups. I often make this soup on a Monday night and eat off of it for the week- it gets better each day. Though I made it tonight with the Baked Zucchini, I often like to eat this with ceasar salad and a big hunk of sourdough bread.

I've been making this recipe for years and I feel like the addition of the Herbes de Provence is what perfected it. Whenever I make creamy type soups I always use fat-free evaporated milk raher than cream or even regular milk. There's something about the texture of evaporated milk that adds a depth and creaminess- and without all that fat - that compliments the blended potatoes so well.

3 large or 4-5 medium potatoes
2 large or 3 medium leeks
2 tablespoons margarine
4-6 cups of vegetable or chicken stock
1-2 Tablespoons Herbes de Provence
1 can of evaporated milk

Clean the leeks well, dice them up and toss them in a stockpot with the margarine. Cook them down for about 8-10 minutes. Scrub and dice the potatoes - I leave the skins on for the nutrients and it becomes really soft anyway.

Add the potatoes to the pot and add enough veggie or chicken stock to cover them completely. Add salt. Cook for about 20 minutes then remove from heat.

Ladle two-thirds of the broth and veggies into a blender or food processor and blend well, then add back to the pot (you may have to do this in a couple steps). Add the can of milk, sprinkle the herbes de provence over the top and salt and pepper to taste.

Stir well and reheat slowly. Allow to cook on very low heat for another 15 minutes and serve.

Baked Zucchini with Herbes de Provence

This is an extremely simple and surprisingly tasty dish. The herbes de Provence give it a hearty flavor that even satisfies meat-cravings if you're trying to be veggie.

3 zucchini, sliced into discs
Olive oil
Herbes de Provence
1/4 cup breadcrumbs
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
3 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lay a single layer of zucchini slices in a pie dish overlapping each other a little. Drizzle olive oil and sprinkle salt (I like sea salt) and herbes de Provence over the top. Then repeat each step in layers until you're out of zucchini.

Bake in the oven for 30 minutes. While its baking, mix together the bread crumbs, parmesan, and olive oil. Spread on top of the zucchini and bake for an additional ten minutes.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Sleeping well

No doubt due to the last-minute halt to the killing of Troy Davis, I finally slept well last night. I dreamed about cupcakes and my mother, and when I woke, the sound of the wind and the birds outside my window told me without a doubt that it is finally Fall in Atlanta.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Calling for a Strike for All Execution Staff- Refuse to Kill Troy Davis!

This morning, the day before Troy Anthony Davis is scheduled to be put to death by lethal injection, Georgians For Alternatives to the Death Penalty, the Georgia State Conference of the NAACP and fellow supporters gathered at the Georgia State Capitol for one last united stand to call for a halt to his execution. He is scheduled to be executed on September 23rd at 7:00pm at Georgia Diagnostics and Classifications Prison in Jackson, Georgia.

At the press conference, speakers appealed to the basic humanity of individuals who each play roles in executing Troy Davis, a possibly innocent man, from the nurses who prepare his IV injection, to the private medical company that gets paid $18,000 for each execution, to the warden of the prison that houses Georgia’s Death Row. Below are my remarks:

The execution of Troy Davis is immoral and wrong. Almost all of the witnesses against him have recanted. The courts and the parole board have failed to use their power to prevent this imminent miscarriage of justice.

However, Troy Davis' execution cannot take place unless human beings at the Georgia Diagnostic Prison make it happen. But they can refuse to kill Troy Davis!

WE CALL for a general strike or sick-out by all but a skeleton staff of the Georgia Diagnostic Prison on September 23rd. If you work on that day, you will enable the prison to carry out the execution of an innocent man. Remember your humanity!

We specifically call on Warden Hilton Hall to refuse to carry out the execution of Troy Davis, because he is innocent. Warden Hall, remember your humanity. Do not follow your orders. You have the power to stop this immoral execution. Use it!

We call on the prison nurses, who prepare the IV lines through which lethal chemicals will flow through Troy Davis' veins: Refuse to participate in the execution of Troy Davis, because he is innocent. You are human beings who have the power to stop this immoral execution. Your oath is to facilitate healing, not killing!

We call on Deputy Warden Henry Brooks to refuse to prepare the lethal injection drugs for injection into Troy Davis' veins. You have the power to disrupt this immoral execution. Remember your humanity and refuse to participate!!

We call on the prison guards who are assigned to strap Troy Davis to the lethal injection table: Refuse to carry out your tasks tomorrow! You have the power to stop this immoral execution. Call in sick!

We call on the members of the Injection Team: Strike! Do not follow your orders! Do not hit the buttons that start the flow of the lethal injection chemicals. If you refuse to participate, you make it that much harder for this immoral execution to be carried out.

We call on Dr. Carlo Musso, President of Rainbow Medical Associates, the organization contracted by the Georgia Department of Corrections to oversee executions to decline the estimated $18,000 that his firm receives per execution, and not allow ANY physician associated with his company to participate in the immoral execution of an innocent man, Troy Davis! Remember your humanity! Your oath is to facilitate healing, not killing!!

All of you are human beings with the power to refuse and resist participation in an immoral execution of an innocent man. We implore you to use this power, and use it tomorrow.

Georgians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty (GFADP), Georgia’s umbrella coalition for organizations and individuals opposed to the death penalty. GFADP members will hold vigils across the state on September 23rd in protest of the scheduled execution. For information on these vigils, visit

Thursday, September 18, 2008

San Francisco in September #1: Sea Lions make me use too many exclamation marks!!

I know its like the most touristy thing ever to go to Fisherman's Wharf to see the Sea Lions when you come to San Francisco, but it still of my favorite things to do. I love these massive beasts SO much.

The Sea Lions of Pier 39 started coming in 1989 (ironically the year of my my first ever visit to San Francisco) after the earthquake that year. I thought they had always been there, but I suppose "always" is relative.

They are SO funny. They have territorial fights on each of the platforms. One guy will try to jump up on one and the guy who is already there will shove him off with his flippers and giant neck and ultimately there will be a huge splash! And they bark like crazy! They never shut up! I took a movie of them that i will post when i get back, you will laugh. The boys can grow to be 850 pounds! And they grow this weird lump on their forehead- the bigger it is the more dominant they are. Oh my god, I love them so much...

(better pictures will be posted when I get back- I forgot my camera cord so I can only post pics taken with the cell phone.)

Friday, September 12, 2008

Outrageous. Awful.

September 12, 2008, 5:30pm

Georgians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty Condemn Parole Board’s Decision to Deny Clemency to Troy Davis

Atlanta – Georgians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty (GFADP), Georgia’s umbrella coalition for organizations and individuals opposed to the death penalty, reacted to the decision by the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles to deny clemency to Troy Anthony Davis, even though seven of the nine witnesses against him have since recanted or changed their story. He is scheduled to be executed on September 23rd at 7:00pm at Georgia Diagnostics & Classifications Prison in Jackson, Georgia.

Said GFADP Chair, Sara Totonchi, “We are horrified and ashamed as Georgians to see our state revealing its bloodthirst by executing Troy Davis, when so many questions remain on whether or not he is innocent. Executing Troy Davis is callous, careless and irreversible. The state should be slowing down to address the well-documented, serious problems with a system that irreversibly takes human life, rather than rushing to carry out an execution of a possibly innocent man. This case is proof positive that the death penalty should be abolished.”

Please visit for updates on citizen actions in opposition to Troy Davis’ execution.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Do this right now.

Do it. Send a text to 90999 with the message "Troy" and a letter will be sent on your behalf to the Georgia Parole Board asking for mercy and clemency on behalf of Troy Davis, a possibly innocent man who has been on Georgia's death row for the last 18 years.

It's that easy to take action right now, thanks to the great work of Laura Moye and all at Amnesty International.

Earlier this evening, 850 people gathered at the Georgia State Capitol to call for justice for Troy Davis- 7 out of the 9 eyewitnesses who helped convict him have since recanted their testimony; there has been abundant evidence of police and prosecutorial misconduct.

Tomorrow morning the Parole Board will consider his case and sometime between now and his scheduled execution date of September 23 they will decide his fate.

One of the most amazing, chilling, beautiful and difficult moments of tonight's rally was while Martina Correia, Troy's amazing beautiful sister, was speaking, Troy called her cell from death row and spoke to all who were gathered about the need to keep fighting for justice, for all people in prison, not just him. He sounded hopeful and calm and spoke eloquently and forcefully.

Troy and Martina's strength amaze me. Despite all that is going on with her brother, Martina still managed to check in with me this week because she was worried about the well-being of someone we mutually care for who is locked up. Here is Martina was speaking about her brother's case at a rally in May:

Please also take a moment to send a letter on behalf of Jack Alderman, who is scheduled to be executed on Tuesday September 16th. The Parole Board denied him clemency without even allowing him a hearing. It is stunning, shocking, that Georgia would give the most severe, ultimate, permanent punishment without even hearing the condemned's appeal. Please send a letter to the Board asking at the very least for a hearing for Mr. Alderman.

Thanks so much, friends.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

What I Want to Be When I Grow Up

I learned this morning while listening to Morning Edition that I am incredibly jealous of Mary Edwards' life. She is a fish biologist who has a passion for salmon and spends her days learning about their life cycle and courtship rituals. Where she shines though is the amazing portraits she takes of the salmon swimming underwater:

I have loved salmon for awhile now, have painted them, dreamed about them, read their folklore. I love them for many reasons, that they swim upstream against the tide; that their life is a circle, with their birth and death occurring in the same place in spite of a life of travel; their association in Irish mythology with knowledge and wisdom; their beautiful colors, both in the water and yes, on a plate.

But having grown up in Chicago and now living in Atlanta, the opportunity to see salmon live was limited to family trips to Alaska and the Pacific Northwest, which is where Mary Edwards spends her days with her waterproof camera. On her website, Mary describes salmon as "creatures of liquid light", words that could have only been put together by someone who has seen that liquid light up close and regularly.

The piece I heard this morning tells a pretty amazing tail of her life and days spent wading through water, shooting millions of pictures, then coming home and digitally enhancing the colors to make them as beautiful as possible. There is an ethereal, breathy light in her lovely images. They capture a world that I would happily spend my days in.