Monday, November 30, 2009

miss you now

For I.Z.


"It's at night, when perhaps we should be dreaming, that the mind is most clear, that we are most able to hold all our life in the palm of our skull. I don't know if anyone has ever pointed out that great attraction of insomnia before, but it is so; the night seems to release a little more of our vast backward inheritance of instincts and feelings; as with the dawn, a little honey is allowed to ooze between the lips of the sandwich, a little of the stuff of dreams to drip into the waking mind. I wish I believed, as J. B. Priestley did, that consciousness continues after disembodiment or death, not forever, but for a long while. Three score years and ten is such a stingy ration of time, when there is so much time around. Perhaps that's why some of us are insomniacs; night is so precious that it would be pusillanimous to sleep all through it! A "bad night" is not always a bad thing."
~Brian W. Aldiss (fiction author)

how common is the uncommon


All men whilst they are awake are in one common world: but each of them, when he is asleep, is in a world of his own.

~Plutarch (Greek historian, essayist, biographer)

something to put your tea in

I just found these gems on

Folded Pigs
Skull & Cross Utensils Cup

I just purchased the Skull & Cross Utensils Cup for $15. The more I think about it I may just have to purchase the Eat Your Heart Out Mug as well.

A cup may seem like a strange place for me to appreciate the humility of one's bones or heart however I do cherish tea and as it enters the system I often think of the journey it takes.

Also, the artwork is just damn cool!

Folded Pigs
Eat Your Heart Out Mug

Baco! Baco!

Bacon Love by Mike Geno

Why is this so freakin' awesome? You can purchase this print for $20 at AllStarPhilly.

Most of you who know me know that I think food is so random and often hilarious. Well, I love random things and I love it when food can be made into art.

Pop Rocks Cupcakes

Pop Rocks Cupcakes by Boots In The Oven!

Pop Rocks Cupcakes

1 jar (16oz.) cashew butter
1.5 sticks unsalted butter (room temp.)
1.5 cups powdered sugar (well sifted)
5 oz. milk chocolate, melted
pinch salt
11 oz. Pop Rocks (about 33 packs)
Plus several more packs for garnish

Cream together the first 3 ingredients until light and fluffy.

Fold in melted chocolate and salt.

Fold in Pop Rocks.

This yields enough to fill a double batch of the cake recipe.

The nut butter coats the candy and keeps them super poppy for a least a couple of days.

Once I had the finished product, I poured it into a pastry bag and used this excellent method for filling the little cakes from Baking Bites.

Then just frost, and top with extra Pop Rocks

FireCracker Cupcakes

FireCracker Cupcakes from Noble Pig!


All-purpose flour, baking powder, salt, unsalted butter, sugar, eggs, vanilla extract, milk, rainbow candy sprinkles, blueberries, raspberries and POP ROCKS!
First, sift together 2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour, 2-1/2 teaspoons baking powder and 1/4 teaspoon salt. In a large bowl cream together 1-1/2 sticks unsalted butter and 1-1/4 cups sugar until fluffy, is increased in volume and is lightened in color. About three minutes.

In another bowl, with an electric mixer, add 8 eight yolks and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Beat until the mixture is thickened and pale in color, about four minutes. Add this to the butter-sugar mixture and mix to combine.

With the mixer on low, add a third of the sifted dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. Once mixed, add half the milk (1/2 cup) followed by another third of the flour. When well mixed, add remaining milk, mix, then add the remaining flour.

Fold in a 1/2 cup of rainbow sprinkles.

Line cupcake pan with liners and fill with batter. I fill mine to the top but 2/3's full would work as well. Bake at 350 degrees for 22-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Transfer to a wire rack and let them cool completely before decorating them.

While waiting let's make the whipped cream. You will need: Heavy cream, powdered sugar and vanilla extract.

In a large bowl, add 2 cups heavy cream, 1/2 cup powdered sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. Beat with an electric mixer on high until thick, about 4-5 minutes. Whipped cream should hold it's shape and not be runny.

Pipe or dollop on the whipped cream and garnish with blueberries, raspberries and generously cover with POP ROCKS of course!

Or leave the POP ROCKS off and serve everyone with their own pack of POP ROCKS, which I think is more fun.

Firecracker Cupcakes
adapted from Patrick Decker

2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2-1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 sticks unsalted butter
1-1/4 cups sugar
8 egg yolks
2 teaspoons vanilla, divided
1 cup milk
1/2 cup rainbow candy sprinkles
2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup powdered sugar
About 3/4 cup blueberries, to garnish
About 3/4 cup raspberries, to garnish
Lots of Pop Rocks

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Line 12 muffins tins with paper baking cups.

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt, then set aside.

In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to cream together the butter and sugar until the mixture is fluffy, substantially increased in volume and lightened in color, about 3 minutes.

In another large bowl, use an electric mixer with clean beaters to beat the egg yolks and 1 teaspoon of the vanilla until thickened and pale in color, about four minutes.

Add the beaten egg yolks to the butter-sugar mixture and mix to combine.

With the mixer on low, add a third of the sifted dry ingredients to the wet ingredients.

Once mixed, add half of the milk, followed by another third of the flour. When well mixed, add the remaining milk, mix, then add the remaining flour.

Use a silicon spatula to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl to ensure all ingredients are mixed in. Gently fold in the sprinkles.

Fill the prepared muffin tins with batter. Cook until a skewer inserted at the center comes out clean, about 22-25 minutes. Do not over bake.

Transfer to a wire rack and cool completely.

Just before serving, in a large bowl combine the heavy cream, powdered sugar and remaining vanilla. Use an electric mixer to beat until thick.

Dollop or pipe whipped cream over each cupcake, then garnish with blueberries and raspberries.

Sprinkle each cupcake GENEROUSLY with POP ROCKS.

and yet we all hold a paintbrush

"Poetry is the impish attempt to paint the color of wind"

---------Maxwell Bodenheim

sugar sugar


"If you are bitter at heart, sugar in the mouth will not help you."

---------Yiddish Proverb

Sunday, November 29, 2009

bouquet of color on the drive home


When i'm driving home late at night, i enjoy looking through the windows of homes i pass by. It's amazing how much you can actually see from the street. Pictures hanging on walls, furniture, people eating dinner, laughter.

As the traffic swishes along, the tail lights, the head lights, the traffic signals all make a bouquet of color. Like fall leaves.

There are so many people in the world. And sometimes as i observe, i wonder what they are thinking at that exact moment. I wonder if they are happy, i wonder how close they feel to the people that they know.

oxygen and books

"Plant trees. They give us two of the most crucial elements for our survival: oxygen and books."

- A. Whitney Brown (writer, comedian)

dusk does it to me

Shadow of Light #2 by Csaba Jekkel

Every day, usually between the hours of 3 and 6pm. Without fail. When the sunlight lessens.

I enjoy sunsets, but if you turn away from a sunset you'll notice how the light dresses the buildings and trees. This time of day can be quite difficult for me. It feels like time is dying and I feel pressure to either mentally or physically prepare for the next day of events.

Once I'm well into the evening and the sky is completely dark, I feel fine. I've adjusted and I can attempt to enjoy the rest of the night. It's just that short period of time that grabs my face and demands my attention. Is there anyone else who experiences this?

Vegan Cobbler For All

I just put up a post offering two different cobbler recipes. I figured I'd search for something a bit healthier. I have yet to try this recipe myself but I'm eager to make it.

Vegan Cherry Cobbler
Recipe by Media Thinker

serves 4

crumb layer
1 cup coconut
1 cup mixed walnuts and almonds
3 prunes
4 dried apricots

Process everything until crumbly. Set aside.

fruit layer
2 cups jarred sour cherries, drained very well
2 prunes
6 dried apricots
dash of cinnamon
dash of cardamom
honey or sugar (optional)

Process everything until smooth or only slightly lumpy. Sour cherries can be a bit too sour, so sweeten to taste with honey or sugar.

Layer the fruit and crumb mixtures into clear glasses for a fancy individual presentation, or make a big bowl for family style pig-out.



Vegan Peach Cobbler
Recipe from Post Punk Kitchen

If you really don't want to to deal with all the peeling and chopping, you can use frozen peaches if you thaw them, but don't tell the food police I told you that.
9x13 baking pan
large sauce pan
big mixing bowl

For the Filling-

4 pounds ripe peaches, peeled (if desired) and thinly sliced
3 tablespoons unbleached white flour
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
Zest of 2 lemons, finely grated
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ginger powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

For the Topping-

2 1/2 cups unbleached white flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup applesauce
2 tablespoons canola oil, plus some oil to brush the surface
1/3 cup maple syrup
1 cup soy milk
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Make the filling-

In a large sauce pan, cook the peaches over low-medium heat, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the juices are being released.
Sprinkle in flour, toss to coat.
Add remaining ingredients, mix together and let cool.

Then make the dough-

Preheat oven to 400
In a large bowl mix together dry ingredients.
In a seperate bowl wisk together wet ingredients, plus the lemon zest.
Slowly pour wet into dry, mixing together dough with a wooden spoon or a firm spatula. Do not over work it.

Then assemble the cobbler-

Pour peach batter into 9x13 baking dish (if you have glass, that is best). Spoon dough mixture over the top, spread with a spoon. You can brush the top with a little oil, or spray it with a scant amount of oil (with real oil, not the aerosol kind).
Put in oven and cook until peaches are bubbling and top is relatively firm, 15-20 minutes.
If you have some crystallized ginger it is a really nice addition to the topping. Finely chop 2 tablespoons and add it to the dough while adding the wet ingredients.


Vegan Blueberry Peach Cobbler

Recipe by Kansas City Vegan Examiner

½ cup flour
½ cup uncooked old fashioned oatmeal
½ cup brown sugar
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
½ cup soymilk
¼ cup vegan margarine
¼ cup white sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
½ cup cold water
3 cups fresh peaches, peeled and sliced
1 cup fresh blueberries
1 tablespoon vegan margarine
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium bowl, mix together the first four ingredients. Add the soymilk and the ¼ cup of vegan margarine, cutting it in and mixing till smooth (although it will be lumpy with the oatmeal).

In a large saucepan over a medium high heat, mix together the white sugar, cornstarch, and water. Add the peaches first and cook till bubbly, about 5 minutes. Add the blueberries and cook another 5 minutes. Add the 1 tablespoon of vegan margarine, lemon juice, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Mix well and remove from heat.

Pour fruit mixture into an ungreased 1 ½ quart baking dish. Spoon the batter over the top of the fruit. Place the dish in the middle of the oven and bake for about 30 minutes or until the crust is brown and cooked all the way through. Remove from the oven and let cool for about 15 minutes before serving. Delicious topped with frozen vanilla Rice Dream or Silk vanilla yogurt. Enjoy.

As written above, this recipe turns out nice and soupy. If you prefer your cobbler/crisp less soupy, consider increasing the cornstarch and/or decreasing the water. Also, this recipe lends itself easily to doubling, in case you need to bring a big pan of something yummy to your next potluck or office or church meeting or social.

With written permission for use and adapting for vegans, Leanne’s Peach Berry Cobbler/Crisp from Leanne Ely, the Dinner Diva, at, formed the basis for the above recipe for vegan peach blueberry cobbler/crisp, which is especially delicious when using fresh local peaches and blueberries from the farmers market.

cobbler for all


Peach Cobbler

Recipe by Paula Deen


  • 4 cups peeled, sliced peaches
  • 2 cups sugar divided
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 8 tablespoons butter
  • 1 1/2 cups self-rising flour
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • Ground cinnamon, optional


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Combine the peaches, 1 cup sugar, and water in a saucepan and mix well. Bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat.

Put the butter in a 3-quart baking dish and place in oven to melt.

Mix remaining 1 cup sugar, flour, and milk slowly to prevent clumping. Pour mixture over melted butter. Do not stir. Spoon fruit on top, gently pouring in syrup. Sprinkle top with ground cinnamon, if using. Batter will rise to top during baking. Bake for 30 to 45 minutes.

To serve, scoop onto a plate and serve with your choice of whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.



Blueberry Peach Cobbler

Recipe by Emeril Lagasse


For the topping:


  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 6 tablespoons sugar divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons cold vegetable shortening
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream

For the filling:

  • 2 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • 2 pounds fresh or frozen peaches, peeled, pitted, and sliced
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 2 cups fresh blueberries
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Vanilla ice cream, for serving

For the lime/ginger whipped cream:

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons minced candied ginger
  • 1 lime, zested

For the topping:

In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, cream of tartar, 4 tablespoons of the sugar, and salt. Cut in the butter and shortening until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add the milk and cream and stir just to combine. Do not overwork the dough. Pat the dough into a flattened disk, wrap with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until ready to bake the cobbler, at least 1 hour and up to overnight.

For the filling:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter an 8 by 11-inch casserole dish with 1/2 tablespoon of the butter.

In a medium saucepan, combine the peaches with the sugar, water, cornstarch, and lemon juice and let sit for 15 minutes. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and cook, stirring frequently, until sauce thickens and peaches have softened, about 7 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons butter, blueberries, and vanilla extract. Transfer to the prepared baking dish and set aside while you roll out the dough.

On a lightly floured work surface, roll the dough out to a thickness of about 1/2-inch. Using a 2 1/2-inch biscuit cutter, cut as many circles of dough as possible and arrange them evenly over the top of the peach-blueberry mixture. Sprinkle the tops of the biscuits with the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until biscuits are golden brown and filling is bubbly and thick around the edges.

Cool for 10 minutes before serving. Serve warm with ice cream and lime/ginger whipped cream.

For the lime/ginger whipped cream:

Add the heavy cream and the sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fixed with a whip attachment. Whip the cream to soft peaks and then add the candied ginger and the lime zest and continue to whip until whipped cream consistency.

cupcake weather

Cupcake Weather by mfarmand

Shirley Temple Cupcakes from Fuji Mama

Shirley Temples are a pleasurable drink for me and often what I'll order when I'm out with friends who drink. I don't drink alcohol and even though Shirley Temples are often considered to be a kiddie drink, I think they're awesome!


And I suppose like a kid I think the more cherries the better! I could eat an entire jar of them!

Richard Perry/The New York Times

Ok, maybe not THIS much.


The actual Shirley Temple scares me half to death. She very much reminds me of what every stage mom yearns for.


I came across a website that offered Shirley Temple cupcakes! All photo images are also from Fuji Mama.

Shirley Temple Cupcakes
Makes 30 cupcakes

2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/8 tsp. salt
1/2 c. shortening or butter
1 3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
4 egg whites
1 1/3 cups buttermilk*
Zest of 1 large lemon
1 package (4-oz.) Strawberry/Cherry/Raspberry Flavor Gelatin

1. Grease and lightly flour thirty 2 1/2″ muffin cups or line with paper liners. Set aside.

2. Stir together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside.

3. In a large mixing bowl beat shortening, butter, or margarine with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add sugar and vanilla; beat till well combined. Add egg whites, one at a time, beating well after each. Add dry mixture and buttermilk alternately to beaten mixture, beating on low speed after each addition just till combined. Stir in lemon zest.

4. Pour half of the batter into medium bowl. Add dry gelatin mix; stir until well blended. Spoon half of the white batter and half of the pink batter, side-by-side, into each prepared pan. Swirl batters together using a teaspoon.

5. Bake in a 350 degree Fahrenheit oven for 20 to 25 minutes or till a wooden toothpick comes out clean. Cool on wire rack.

6. Cool thoroughly and then frost with frosting of choice.

* If you don’t have buttermilk on hand, substitute sour milk in the same amount. For each cup of sour milk needed, place 1 tablespoon lemon juice or vinegar in a glass measuring cup. Add enough milk to make 1 cup total liquid; stir. Let the mixture stand for 5 minutes before using it in a recipe.

** To make them look like a Shirley Temple drink, bake the cupcakes in small glasses and style the frosting to look like whipped cream (use a star tip). Add a straw and a piece of red candy (like a red M&M) to look like a cherry.

Butter Cream Icing

3/4 cup butter
3/4 cup shortening
4 2/3 cup powdered sugar
1 1/2 tsp. lemon juice
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/3 cup water

In large mixer bowl, combine butter, shortening, and powdered sugar; beat until very creamy. Add lemon juice and vanilla; mix until well blended. Add water and mix until very light.

pimping girl power and logo stuffing hip hop

and the music industry mafia is pimping
girl power

sniping off their sharp shooter singles from their
styrofoam towers

and hip hop is tied up in the back room
with a logo stuffed in its mouth
cuz the master's tools will never dismantle the
master's house

-------ani difranco (from her song Serpentine)

Oprah and Jay-Z disagree when it comes to the n-word

I was in the doctor's office the other day. I rummaged through the magazine selection and picked up an issue of Oprah magazine. Turns out that I had picked up the August issue. In it Oprah interviewed rapper Jay-Z.

Oprah: Speaking of conversations, when I met you a few years ago, we discussed our disagreement over the use of the N word and misogynist lyrics in rap music. Do you believe that using the N word is necessary?

Jay-Z: Nothing is necessary. It's just become part of the way we communicate. My generation hasn't had the same experience with that word that generations of people before us had. We weren't so close to the pain. So in our way, we disarmed the word. We took the fire pin out of the grenade.

Oprah: I was once at a Jay-Z concert, and there was a moment when everybody—including white people—was screaming the N word. I gotta tell you, it didn't make me feel good.

Jay-Z: That's understandable.

Oprah: But it didn't seem to affect you. You were having a good time up there onstage.

Jay-Z: I believe that a speaker's intention is what gives a word its power. And if we eliminate the N word, other words would just take its place.

You know, hip-hop has done so much for race relations, even with its ignorance—which, by the way, we do have to take some responsibility for. But even without directly taking on race, we've changed things just by being who we are. It's difficult to teach racism in the home when your kid loves Jay-Z. It's hard to say, "That guy is beneath you" when your kid idolizes that guy.

Oprah: I'll give you that. But when I hear the N word, I still think about every black man who was lynched—and the N word was the last thing he heard. So we'll just have to disagree about this.

Jay-Z: It's a generational thing.

Jay-Z says it's generational and that the power of the n-word is all in how one executes it. To some degree I agree. One can use the word "nigger" out of context and its hateful power does not exist if it is not aimed. However, I do not think that using the n-word in rap music has defused anything.

Just when women embrace the word, "bitch", "slut", or "cunt", or when gay men and women embrace "fag" or "dyke", the use of the word "nigga" has not assisted the decrease of oppression.

Despite the fact that I am not black and am not a child of the 50s or prior and I did not experience the heat of the civil rights movement, I still think of separate water fountains and lynchings whenever I hear the n-word.

At a certain point I thought...well, what do I know, I'm not black therefore I do not know what it is like to be a part of the community and to use it in a communicative manner.

Eventually, I changed my mind once again. Whenever, I heard the word used in a rap song I never get the sense that there is a sense of camaraderie but rather a sense that the rapper is attempting to intimidate and appear tough. Sometimes I get the feeling that some rappers feel that they aren't deemed credible if they don't use the word somewhere in their lyrics.

In other words I'm just not a fan of reclaiming language. Using the n-word doesn't defuse history nor does it change attitudes towards the present and future. Education does. Leading by example does. How bout' we try that?

it all started with a peach

Today has been peaches. It began with a Jamba Juice peach smoothie.

From flickr user sonya phillip/wax and wools

Saw a movie with a friend but stopped at a fudge shop. I'm not fond of fudge but I bought a peach italian soda.


On the way to my car I past by hedges that had various types of hibiscus and other flowers I wasn't quite familiar with. I picked a peach colored flower.

On the way home I stopped at a Japanese market to purchase some rice candy. I decided to pick up some nori (seasoned dried seaweed strips) and Calpico.

Calpico is a non carbonated soft drink. I found peach flavored Calpico and the Hello Kitty image made the drink appear all the more yummy. I should note that the image above is not my hand.


I decided to keep the peach theme and purchased some peach flavored Kasugai gummy candy.


You'd think I'd be sick of it but at the end of my day I stopped for some peach ice cream. I only wanted a taste of it so I just had a tiny scoop in a custard cup.

I also only took a little swig of the Calpico.


I decided to whip out my peach tea from my cupboard. Thank goodness it's caffeine free, or otherwise I wouldn't be able to drink it tonight.

As I was searching for images for this post I found this above piece. I remember seeing this long ago on and always thought I might purchase it and frame it onto a canvas. I think it'd be a great piece for my kitchen.

I think tomorrow I should eat an actual peach.

Serotonin around my neck


I have come across a website that sells quite interesting jewelry. sells silver necklaces in the shape of molecules. While they are expensive (between $75-$85) I find many of the pieces to be beautiful and interesting.

Serotonin Molecule Necklace

Serotonin is a modern symbol of happiness as serotonin molecules interact with receptors in the brain to induce feelings of happiness and relaxation.

Silver Dopamine Necklace

The neurotransmitter dopamine acts in the pleasure center of or brains and motivates us to desire pleasurable activities such as eating and kissing. The feelings that accompany being in love are due to an increase in dopamine. In addition dopamine is critical for movement control, memory, attention and problem solving.

The website offers other variety such as molecule structures for estrogen, caffeine, chocolate and endorphins.

I just ordered myself a Serotonin necklace. I think it beautiful and representative of humility. A symbol of how human, how simple and how complex we all are.

words and reasoning from the suicidal

by Dorothy Parker

Razors pain you
Rivers are damp
Acides stain you
And drugs cause cramp
Guns aren't lawful
Nooses give
Gas smells awful
You might as well live

In a former post I mentioned that I have been revisiting a book entitled Night Falls Fast: Understanding Suicide (by Kay Redfield Jamison) in a vain attempt to find some closure in regards to a friend's recent suicide. I suppose closure occurs in time and re-reading the book comes as a result of not really knowing what else to do.

The book not only explores why individuals choose to take their own lives but also connects the topic to the history of suicide.

"Later in the century, the superintendent of the New York State Lunatic Asylum described patients who had committed suicide by drinking boiling water, pushing broom handles down their throats, thrusting darning needles into their abdomens, or gulping down leather and iron. To kill themselves, the suicidal have jumped into volcanoes; starved themselves to death; thrust rumps of turkeys down their throats; swallowed dynamite, hot coals, underwear, or bed clothing; strangled themselves with their own hair; used electric drills to bore holes into their brains; walked off into the snow with no provisions and little clothing; placed their necks in vices; arranged for their own decapitation; and injected into themselves every substance known to man, including air, peanut butter, poison, mercury, and mayonnaise. They have flown bombers into mountains, applied black widow spiders to heir skin, drowned in vats of beer or vinegar, and suffocated themselves in their refrigerators or hope chests." "More recently there have been several reports of suicidal men deliberately trying to infect themselves with the AIDS virus, and a disconcerting number of people who provoke police officers into killing them, a practice known as 'suicide by cop.'"

While these methods may actually be morbidly entertaining knowledge to some, I see them as a testiment to just how grave and tortured some individuals have felt in their life time.

Anyone who has taken an SSRI (serotonin reuptake inhibitor) which is an anti-depressant type probably (or should I say hopefully) knows how seretonin works in the brain.

"Serotonin, a chemical found in plants as well as in ancient invertebrate nervous systems, is widespread in the bodies and brains of mammals, including humans. It acts in diverse ways: it controls the diameter of blood vessels, affects pain perception, influences the guy, plays a role in the body's inflammatory responses, and causes platelets to clump. More significant from a psychiatric and psychological perspective, however, serotonin is deeply implicated in the roots of depression, sleep regulation, aggression, and suicide." "The association between serotoin and suicide is further supported by postmortem studies of the brains of individuals who have killed themselves. The evidence is strong that there are serotonin abnormalities in the prefrontal cortex of the brain, an area strongly implicated in the inhibition of behavior. Reduced serotonergic functioning in this part of the brain may cause disinhibition, which may in turn result in acting precipitously on suicidal thoughts and feelings."

Is this supposed to act as a console? No and even though science may prove to be accurate it doesn't feel like enough to explain the reason why my friend is not here.

One 15 year old boy wrote this poem years prior to his own suicide:

Once..he wrote poem
And he called it "Chops,"
Because that was the name of his dowg, and that's what it was all about.

And the teacher gave him an "A"
And a gold star

And his mother hung it on the kitchen foor,

and read it to all his aunts...

Once...he wrote another poem.

And he called it "Question Marked Innocence,"

Because that was the name of his grief, and that's what it was all about.
And the professor gave him an "A"
And a strange and steady look.

And his mother never hung it on the kitchen door
because he never let her see it..

Once , at 3am....he tried another poem...

And he called it absolutely nothing,
that's what it was all about.
And he gave himself an "A"

And a slash one ach damp wrist,
And hung it on the bathroom foor because he
couldn't reach the kitchen.

The more I read, the more I remember, the more I think that my friend didn't have to die. And all my education as a psychiatric social worker, all his own knowledge as a mental health crisis worker, and all intuition as a friend, wasn't enough to convince him to remain on this earth. It wasn't enough to get him to see that there was enough to live for.

I often wonder if he had just made it through the night, that the light of day may have made him think differently. Perhaps it wouldn't have kept the idea of suicide out of his head though. I still don't understand why the idea of suicide sustained in his head long enough for him to fully carry it out. I don't understand why the idea of suicide felt like a viable option. Despite the science that backs it up, my own reasoning is suffocated by emotional plea. I still cannot come to grasps with WHY...and I don't think that his death will teach me that. It may teach me many things but not that.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

trying to understand...still..

Two months ago a close friend of mine committed suicide. Almost immediately after I initially received the news I told myself that it was useless to really attempt to understand why he did it. I think this is more attributed to intellectualizing rather than allowing myself to really be affected, to really feel the impact.

In these last two months I've found the mourning process to be quite strange. I've cried only twice but had many difficult days where it has taken all my strength to push forward through daily routines and days of work.

Just recently I remembered a book I had read a year or so ago entitled Night Falls Fast: Understanding Suicide by Kay Redfield Jamison. I thought perhaps reviewing it might assist me.

"Psychological pain or stress alone - however great the loss or disappointment, however profound the shame or rejection - is rarely sufficient cause for suicide. Much of the decision to die is in the construing of events, and most minds, when healthy , do not construe any event as devastating enough to warrant suicide. Stress and pain are relative, highly subjective in their experiencing and evaluation. Indeed, some people thrive on stress and are at sea without it; chaos and emotional upheaval are a comfortable part of their psychological lives. Many individuals at a relatively high risk for suicide - for example, those with depression or manic depressive illness - functional extreely well between episodes of their illness, even when in situations of great pressure, uncertainy, or repeated emotional or financial setbacks.

Depression shatters that capacity. When the mind's flexibility and ability to adapt are underminded by mental illness, alcohol or drug abuse, or other psychiatric disorders, its defenses are put in jeopardy. Much as a compromised immune system is vulnerable to opportunistic infection, so too a diseased brain is made assailable by the eventualities of life. The quickness and flexibility of a well mind, a belief or hope that things will eventually sort themselves out - these are resources lost to a person when the brain is ill."

In short when one is depressed one is irrational. But is the thought of suicide so irrational? I dare to ask myself this question in a difficult attempt to play devil's advocate. I have never had the desire to die. I have always wanted to see how the story ends, to know that during trying times I would always push forward. Now is THAT odd? Is it odd to have never considered suicide?

I maintain that suicide is largely irrational as what had held value in a person's life is often pushed to the side when one beings to contemplate their own demise. The idea of remaining alive does not maintain itself even knowing that family and friends will have to accept the aftermath. In fact many individuals who take their own lives truly believe that their loved ones will be better off without them. Can we agree that that thought is certainly irrational?

When a person comes to the point where they are ready to die at times the person is actually quite calm. Can we also agree that calmly planning one's death is also irrational?

"In its severe forms, depression paralyzes all the otherwise vital forces that make us human, leaving instead a bleak, despairing, desperate and deadened state. It is a barren, fatiguing and agitated condition; one without hope or capacity; a world that is a A/ Alvarez has put it, 'airless and without exits.' Life is bloodless, pulseless and yet present enough to allow a suffocating horror and pain. All bearings are lost; all things are dark and drained of feeling. The slippage into futuility is first gradual then utter. Thought, which is as pervasively affected by depression and mood, is morbid, confused and stuporous. It is also vacillating, ruminative, indecisive, and self-castigating. The body is bone weary; there is no will; nothing is that is not an effort, and nothing at all seems worth it. Sleep is fragmented, elusive or all consuming. Like an unstable gas, an irritable exhaustion seeps into every crevis of thought and action."

Despair. My friend's explainations of his despair didn't seem to warrent death and his intelligence I suppose was not enough to block his emotional woes. I suppose reading what I already know can help reaffirm my insecurities however, I don't think I will ever understand.

Even before my friend's death suicide has for quite some time been an intriguing concept for me. It has not been of intrigue in some morbid romantic manner but rather because despite my own personal life experiences and those that I have been near, I have not been able to wrap my brain around the concept. Perhaps I never will. But as a mental health professional and as a human being and friend I will continue to try.

I miss my friend..

when you know better you do better

Fallen by Susan Hodgin

"I don't know if I continue, even today, always liking myself. But what I learned to do many years ago was to forgive myself. It is very important for every human being to forgive herself or himself because if you live, you will make mistakes - it is inevitable. But once you do and you see the mistake, then you forgive yourself and say, 'Well if I'd known better I'd have done better', that's all."
---------------Maya Angelou (poet, writer, educator, activist)