Monthly Archives: June 2015

Reflections on Compulsive Behavior




When my father felt unsuccessful in achievement, he mounted his John Deer tractor

Lawn Mower

and mowed the lawn to an even, prickly height of green. He fed his suburban acre of tender stalks. He assassinated any botanical invader. He contained the edges – kept them upright by digging a narrow trench along the driveway and sidewalk borders. He transformed the tiny stems into obedient soldiers in uniforms of pea-green with spines of cellulose.

As drill sergeant and commander-in-chief, he accomplished his strategies to perfection. He stood back and appreciated the fruits of his labor at attention – listening to a language of silent servitude .  .  . in a format of formality – that offered him a sense of place and purpose.

The cutting of the lawn restored his faith in the malleability of life. It allowed him to stand tall and proud as The Grass Commander. Lawn GrassEven though no one heard the communication system. After all, drill training for grass is quiet and Neal was dedicated to control without many words.

Neal and grass spoke the same language somehow.

Similarly, I think that I arm myself with the vacuum cleaner.Vacuum Cleaner- Miele  I use this instrument to silently control the carpet fibers.To make them stand erect and pay attention to me. To respond to my power.

Until I walk away, and they slump back into relaxation. Or succumb to the pressure of feet.

I also use this machine as a form of white noise, as a form of mechanical meditation to calm my faithfully fretful nature. To still my fears of underachievement.

Something about bullying innocent little filaments brings an illusion of power

To the vacuumer

To the lawn cutter

And the grammar of the innocent is so pure:

The order

The system

The structural relationships

All are available for exploitation.

Sometimes power over innocence is all that keeps life standing upright. And Neal understood this dirty secret.

Grass yearns to be lazy with morning dew; drowsy in the mid-day sun; held captive by winter frost. Grass is languid. A temptation that compulsive controllers cannot resist.

And I somehow inhaled the legacy of his silent secret.

The Grind


Mocha Muse has its very own newspaper, The Grind. It may contain a quote, a poem, song lyrics, snippets of overheard conversation or fascinating facts about creativity/life. So, leather sofa in Home Interiorsnuggle into the sofa, unfold the paper and reach for your morning cup of coffee.


Here’s the thirteenth issue. . . just click on newspaper to enlarge, then continue to click until text is readable for you!

The Grind - (6-29-2015) Anxiety Haunts Our Dreams

*Source: UberFacts

Java Jolt – Chock Full O’ Memories


Java Jolt - An Out-of-Tune Life

When I was growing up in the 1950s, radio was the Queen of Media. Especially in my family.

My parents didn’t even buy a television until the late 50s, so, I’m deeply in-tuned to the waves of radio frequency.

So much so, in fact, that I consider it religion within my secular upbringing.

Here’s a little memory of my mother’s kitchen cathedral belching out its radio religion:

Vintage Radio

Every Sunday night at dinnertime, my mother tuned the radio to WOR AM 710 on-the-dial. She blared the preaching of Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, broadcast live from Grace Cathedral Church in New York City.

We chewed pot roast and potatoes in rhythm to Norman’s power of positive thinking. My father claimed indigestion and left the table early. My brother and I had to remain until our plates were clean. We were, after all, eating on behalf of all the starving children in India. Norman wasn’t interested in feeding the poor, however. He was focused upon increasing the wealth and well-being of the world’s wealthiest people. Something seemed askew to me in the theology. Religion and business were married. The electrical charges of thoughts were reversed. Could this be healthy? Ethical? Possible? I wondered.

I recall something dingy in the kitchen lighting on Sunday evenings that never existed on other nights. The light was amber – almost sulfurous. It bore a heavy, sickening weight. It lessened my appetite. I used to think that it was the dread of Monday morning and the return to work and school that I was feeling, but, now I wonder if the radio waves carried a power of acidity – a fog of pollutants – into our kitchen each week.

I much preferred the special Sundays when the immediate relatives would gather for supper at either Toot’s house (my maternal grandmother), or, our house. We would eat roast leg-of-lamb with pan-roasted potatoes and a dollop of mint jelly on the side. There would be salad and green beans almandine. Pillsbury bake-‘n-serve crescent rolls. And dessert. Usually a fruit pie or strawberry shortcake.

These suppers were served at 2:00 PM. Daylight was always present. And even if the kinfolk were feuding, the air was light.

I loved these occasions, especially at Toot’s, because my father couldn’t excuse himself for a football game. And my mother did not have command over the kitchen, so she was forced to relax. We four became equal. And the dining room was so elegant, with antique furniture and lace tablecloths and gleaming silver service sets. It was aglow with the history of love.

Somewhere in between church and daily life was the magic I craved. I vowed to search for it: the place that warded off the bogey men of Sunday nights and the bellowing of Norman. The place that balanced leather and lace.

My Odyssey From a Haircut to a Husband



Is it really possible for a hairstylist’s cape to be a hangman’s halter? A means of unlawful restraint? An instrument of torture and interrogation?

Yes. It is. Especially in the loving hands of Eduardo, my decade+ hairdresser and friend.

Now, let me back up a bit and explain how I ended up in his “executioner’s chair” for three hours of captivity. Several years earlier, I’d suffered through an unforeseen and agonizing divorce that was finalized within five weeks and left me alone, jobless, homeless, and reeling from trauma. To heal my heartbreak, I’d moved to a tiny village about 65 miles south of Santa Fe – the city I’d called home and muse for seventeen years.

This tiny-tot-of-a-town was isolated in the midst of the high plains. And seriously lost in a time warp. It was so similar, in fact, to the spirit of my 1950’s childhood neighborhood, that I immediately felt familiar and embraced.

The town’s name translates from Spanish into, “The Resting Place.” Perfect, I thought. I can hide out, lick my wounds, and remodel an old house as I rebuild my soul. It was lonely enough that I was sure I’d never be at risk to fall in love again. It would just be me and my little house on the edge of miles and miles of prairie.

After three years of a love affair with solitude – of staring at air, of journaling daily with spontaneous abandon, of dating myself – I was feeling pleased that as a woman in her mid-fifties, I could create my own fulfillment and live a peaceful life.

One day, in 2009, it occurred to me that I needed to have my hair cut and colored. A minor outer transformation that reflected my inner shifts. So, I made an appointment with my big-city stylist.

When I arrived at the salon, he ordered me into a smock and then into a chair and then wrapped me snugly with a cape – tightening the Velcro fasteners around my neck with such force, I gasped for what I feared would be my final full breath of air.

Before I could focus, Eduardo spun the chair around so I was facing the mirror and he was standing behind me – armed with his utility belt full of scissors and razors and other weapons of mass re-construction. It was a sunny winter day. One of New Mexico’s unbelievably crisp, cold days with a crystalline-blue sky that looked like it had been colored with a Crayola crayon clenched in the fist of an over-zealous child. Grunge mail boxes in California Mohave desert USAThe sunlight poured in like caramel through the side window. There I sat: snapped, clipped, bound and gagged in its spotlight.

“Let’s give you a fresh look. Lots of layers, releasing your natural curl. A shiny platinum color to complement your winter tan.”

“Yes. Perfect,” I muttered, as I closed my eyes and settled in for pampering.

It soon became clear, however, that Eduardo had a secondary agenda. There arose questions about my social life; hints about the limits of solitude; suggestions about a need for intellectual stimulation.

Him: “You know, girl, a few of my clients have met wonderful men. One is even engaged to be married.”

Me: Silent.

Him: “And they’ve all met these men through one of two online dating sites.”

Me: Silent. Stomach muscles knotting.

Him: “I have one address written down. Let me get it for you.”

Me: Panic.

He handed me a yellow sticky note with a URL scribbled on it. “Here. Take this home with you and give it a look. It’s free. And, who knows, you may find someone in your same town!”

Me: Silently thinking, “And ruin my perfectly quiet life?? Date – at my age? Awkward. Plus, think of how many creeps are roaming the Internet? No thanks!”

Him: “Seriously, girl. I’ve known you for years and I know you needed time alone to grieve, but, I think you’re losing yourself in loneliness. You’re a dynamic person. You need to return to your true self before it’s too late.”

Me: “Are you kidding me? I love my new life!”

And so, for three hours, I was held hostage in that chair until I promised to search the dating website. I agreed just so I could go home to my uninterrupted peace.

The next day was Saturday. That evening, my DVD had not arrived in the mail, so, my private Saturday-Night-at-the-Movies date was canceled. I wandered over to my computer and saw the yellow sticky note I’d carelessly tossed on the keyboard. It haunted me. Enough that I felt compelled to fulfill my promise. To render myself righteous, so to speak.

I typed in the address, waited for the dial-up service to connect, and then read the instructions for browsing. They required that a personal profile be submitted before granting permission to enter the sacred site. A waste of words, I thought. But, eventually, I pretended that I was facing my journal instead of a computer screen, and let spill a lyrical description of myself and my interests.

I submitted it, without editing, and spent the entire evening perusing the options within a 300-mile radius of my town. It was mesmerizing. The photos. The stories. The desires. The lies. It was romance and intrigue I’d never experienced before.

By midnight, I’d found three possibilities. One wanted a woman one-year younger than I. I wrote a brief message anyway, and sure enough – no response. (Oh, I forgot to mention. Being limited to dial-up, I wasn’t able to upload my photo.) So, I couldn’t really blame anyone for ignoring me!

Another man, who traveled the world for his spiritually-based nonprofit, seemed interesting. So, another brief message that met with no reply. (Of course, he’s probably in Tibet with no access to WiFi!)

Yet another man lived in the town where I attended church. His pictures expressed a cowboy persona, but, his writing style was very witty and professional. To him, I sent a flirtatious “wink.”

The next morning, I found a message from him. Lengthy, detailed, and highly complimentary of my poetic profile. With one more trial day remaining, I was able to write back.

We exchanged many messages that weekend and discovered many common interests. When the free trial period ended, I asked if he’d like to continue a correspondence. His response was immediate and positive. I promised to mail photos of myself, so we wouldn’t be unbalanced. But it almost didn’t matter because we’d fallen in love with each other’s words!

After a week, we met and lunched at a café. Turns out that two passionate wordsmiths can be ambidextrous: both agile on screen and nimble of voice.

We dated for nearly a year, surprisingly minus any awkwardness. And in the heart of autumn, we married. In a truly romantic ceremony, we exchanged vows in a white gazebo beneath a starlit Las Vegas night.

Several years later, Hubby and I are still sharing love for each other and for words. Two writers, united in matrimony, with a little help from a catalytic hair stylist.

Who would have guessed that a haircut could lead to a husband, and a new life lived in the magic of wordlore.

The Grind


Mocha Muse has its very own newspaper, The Grind. It may contain a quote, a poem, song lyrics, snippets of overheard conversation or fascinating facts about creativity/life. So, leather sofa in Home Interiorsnuggle into the sofa, unfold the paper and reach for your morning cup of coffee.

Here’s the twelfth issue. . . just click on newspaper to enlarge, then continue to click until text is readable for you!

The Grind - (6-22-2015) Ode to Dad on Father's Day

Many thanks to Ron Sickler for sharing the opening quote in this week’s The Grind. The moment I read his words, I knew that they echoed the ghost of my father.

To read more of Ron’s witty quips and quotes, check out his book, Out of My Mind, From My Heart & Off My Chest!

And in case you’re unfamiliar with Icebox or Zebra Cake, here’s a little sample to tempt your taste buds:  Icebox Cake

It was a staple in my mom’s summer dessert repertoire. Perfect for those hot, humid “dog days” of East Coast summer!

There’s even a Mocha Chocolate version of the original Icebox Cake. It’s far more decadent .  .  . perhaps best served as a winter dessert, accompanied by hot espresso or mulled wine.

Little Beans of Wisdom


Little Beans of Wisdom

What’s Floating in My Coffee Cup?

Other than frothy hearts of cream?

Well, I think that most java drinkers would hope for a smooth, silky elixir to jolt their neurons into a creative, colorful state of existence.

And for those who have followed this series, you might remember that I’ve been exploring the rainbow of coffee bean colors. I delved into blue and purple and a hint of red, but, this time I’m going to step outside of the rainbow . . . into that sky of inky black.

Black has always been a favorite color of mine. Because of it’s spectral all-inclusion. It doesn’t discriminate; it embraces community. It doesn’t scream: “Look at Me, and Me only!” It’s quiet, yet bold. It’s straightforward, yet mysterious. It plays a great background; it props up other colors from pastel to the fully-saturated; it outlines dynamically.

My private world is rather safely outlined in black and I live comfortably inside of that playground.

But now to the coffee carousel. And it’s not filled with painted ponies this time around. It’s noir.

It originates in northern Thailand. From Arabica coffee cherries that are eaten by a troupe of 20 or so elephants living in a refuge. It’s a brand known as Black Ivory Coffee – a majesticCoffee Cup - Antique with Floral Motif (Use for Little Beans of Wisdom) name that suggests imperial princesses sipping the brew from delicately painted ceramic cups in lush gardens.

Black Ivory has been described as “very smooth without the bitterness of regular coffee” and is among the world’s most costly decoctions. It’s available at only a few luxury hotels in this solar system, and, I’ve heard that its price tag is $50.00 (US) per cup.

It’s sounding more and more regal. But what is the connection with the elephants, you may be wondering.

Well, they provide the sweetness through the assistance of their digestive enzymes, which break down the coffee’s protein. Protein = bitterness in the world of coffee.

So, imagine this: A large portion of coffee cherries being turned like a chile roaster inside the stomachs of 20 elephants for up to 70 hours. A fine aroma develops as the beans go a-courtin’ and marry among the other gastro-ingredients.

Elephants are herbivores and their systems use fermentation to break down cellulose, as most human vegetarians can attest to. But we can’t produce splendid, flavorful coffee even if we masticated coffee beans for years.

So, what’s the secret?

If you haven’t guessed by now, it’s elephant poop!

Yes, not for the squeamish, but it’s a fact. The exquisite essence of this dark, enigmatic drink is collected from the feces of elephants.

The expensive price tag is due in large part to the mathematics of an elephant’s gastrointestinal system. How hungry they are, how well they chew, and how far deep into the bush they choose to excrete.

What can be harvested intact is precious, indeed.

And many thanks are owed to the mahouts, the people who are assigned to this family profession in childhood; the people who bond lifelong with their special elephant . . . training, handling, and sorting through their droppings all for the palatial enjoyment of a handful of coffee connoisseurs.

*Source: Wikipedia and other uncredited internet articles.

Anorexic Coffee Shops


San Francisco cafe restaurant

I stepped into a new coffee shop in a nearby town, recently.

It was long and skinny – skinnier than a rail car; tighter than a kindergarten cloak room – with tiny furniture trying to be invisible, trying to make the space less narrow.

The walls were more populated with art work than the floors were with seating arrangements. While the art was fascinating, colorful, and inventive, the shop itself was white with wooden floors and neutral, hand-hewn chairs and tables.

The people were colorless: gray-haired; earthenware clothes.

No music.

Hushed conversation.

A menu of a dozen or so coffees.

One plate of freshly-baked muffins for sale by the register.

I had wanted to sit and write a spell, but, the space squeezed the air out of me.

I wasn’t able to sit down. Instead, I paced the length of the shop like a caged leopard.Leopard in the cageThen drifted outside to my car.

Not even a single word came to mind as I drove home through breathtaking, stark prairie basins outlined by volcanic mountains.

The next day, I went to my local cafe and sat in the front room with the black-and-white checked floor – the square room bursting with people – the room with multicolored tables – with windows on three sides and views of scudding clouds and jagged mountain peaks – with the waitress who is unsmiling and impatiently angry.

The patrons are pudgy and commonplace, but, they laugh and chat and wipe their plates clean with gusto.

I ordered some badass cowgirl meal: A stack of blueberry pancakes, three strips of bacon, a scrambled egg.

Part Paleo; part heart attack on a plate.

But it was delicious.

As I sank deeper into the leatherette booth, I pulled out a book and finished reading it. I wrote several pages of memoir. I won’t try to analyze this contrast, but, well-upholstered, plump cafes seem to relax and inspire me more than skinny, anxious, little rigid rooms with anorexic air.

A little fat and decadence get my creative blood flowing, ’cause, after all, my soul is lean.

Like coffee shop, like life. Try to be too perfect, too contrived and it may be suffocating.

I’m finding my silence with this.

Pray punt this inner debate?

Yea, good call.