Things to do with a hand blender that aren’t chutney: Vol. I

It takes a special type of self-absorption, that or near-total desperation, to make one reach out to a mother of newborns and demand her help. Immediately.

But that’s where I found myself last weekend. Tired of raking clean forks across my itchy pregnant midsection, I was ready to crowd-source my discomfort and ask some been-there/done-that kind of women for advice on soothing a third-trimester tummy that itches like a verdant private patch of poison ivy.

So I emailed my friend at 3 p.m. central standard time. I didn’t want to bother her. What with her nursing week-old twins and raising a toddler and also trying to bathe, eat and sleep infrequently herself, I was sure she’d be too busy to respond to my third-trimester-with-singleton woes.

Not 30 minutes later, and from the front lines of a post-partum English evening, she responded.

A simple salve for stretchy times

Because this friend is a private sort of person and I have neither requested nor received permission to share her personal writings to me, I post below only the recipe portion of our correspondence:

“I whipped together like 2 cups of coconut oil (the solid kind) with a table spoon of vitamin E oil, and a few drops of lavender oil (or whatever smell you like or none). Literally whip it together with a hand mixer and it will become like a soft body butter and should stay soft if you put it in a jar or back in the container your coconut oil came in. You could try that maybe?”


Call me. I will spare you a few drops of lavender oil. That stuff is not cheap.

Without incident or delay, lavender and Vitamin E oils were procured. I brought out the hand blender, sullen yet shiny after months of neglect. One kid asked, betraying only a hint of “Now-what’s-for-dinner?” anxiety: “Mom, are you making more chutney?”

“No. A belly rub.”

I followed the recipe exactly. After a few seconds on the lowest setting, the mixture slackened and smoothed itself from a lumpy, lard-like consistency into a friendlier, creamier-looking substance. Bedtime was approaching and I was ready to apply the cream and settle in for some peaceful sleep. Peaceful sleeping now means several hours of bizarre pregnancy dreams, interrupted by bathroom breaks and foot cramps that feel like stage three labor in your feet and calves. I have highly arched feet. When that first pinch hits my ballerina-like arch, I am out of bed and flexing like an Olympian in seconds. Cold floors also help.

Please don’t think I am complaining. If I had to choose between 15 minutes of foot labor and this recurring dream wherein I give birth to a balloon baby that deflates before my eyes every time someone walks into the hospital room, I will take the physical torture every time. Balloons are for animals, magic shows and properly supervised kids’ parties. There their charm ends. Also, they are acceptable in science class and at pool parties.

From chutney to coconut oil

Well, the simple salve worked. It just did. Cool but not too greasy, it dulled the itch slowly, though my spider’s web of scratch marks lingered. As the weekend progressed, I resumed the use of silverware for dining purposes. I marveled at the compassion  of a friend who would reach out across continents and from the depths of new milk, slumberless nights and not-so-sleepy newborn twins to soothe my petty discomfort. It felt good to grip my hand-blender once more and fantasize about new recipes, to remember the bite and bliss of chutney-cheese sandwiches and remind myself I can make it all again and again. I just need to get myself together and buy some more green goods. Or as my husband calls it: “$8 of cilantro. Plus the mint!”

‘Secret Fit Belly’ reveals her secrets

Update: In an editorial meeting today I grabbed desperately at a ballpoint pen, retracted its tip and started to scratch. It was a slow build-up from the morning, when the itchy sensation had first returned in fits and jabs – like barely-there grazes from a sharpened, wool-covered needle. Then they lengthened their path across my body, staying longer, reaching deeper. I withdrew my hands from my keyboard every other sentence or so to scratch, rub, pluck a new Brillo pad from the box under my chair.

But in the staff meeting, that was when I realized: “This is not normal.” When I asked myself: “Where did my simple salve go wrong?” I had a flash of common sense. By now, the itchy sensation was more akin to a low-grade fever burning across my midsection. An inflammation or crop fire – not a tickle! Could I be allergic to my pants?

Yes, I can. About two minutes after I pushed down the “Secret Fit Belly” stretch panel on the only pair of pants I wear anymore (because, like, they still fit), the feverish itch began to subside. The staff meeting resumed. When I got back to my desk, I could type whole paragraphs (lucky readers!) between scratch breaks.

I was allergic to my made-in-the U.S.A. maternity jeans. I still haven’t found the exact breakdown of fibers in this coveted and lucrative “Secret Fit Belly” material, but I know something in that patent ends in “ex.” I now wear the pants slung lower, looser, and only with flowing tops that might look Greek-chic on a taller lady, but function more like Colonial-era nightgowns on me.

Oh well. I have a new DIY body butter and a loving and lovely friend abroad. I made two batches of chutney this weekend and served friends a chatty chaat dinner while Nina Davuluri took the crown in a pageant most of us don’t care about, yet found ourselves talking about this week.

America is full of surprises. So is the Secret Fit Belly stretch panel.


No, You Can’t Be Morrissey

Some seven weeks ago I made the decision to forgo exercise, writing, home-cooking and advocating in order to commit to pursuits less pleasant but more pressing. These have included cleaning my basement, dusting crown molding and light fixtures, freelancing, book-packing (a-hem, donating) and the keeping and care of woodland salamanders.

When I’m not overwhelmed by all of the above, I take time to smell the roses, water our parched hydrangeas and think about names for a fourthcoming child. It’s fun and it’s proof that you can never run out of opportunities to disagree with your life partner.

Agatha. Eve. Lakshana. Solomon. Anahad. Nelson. Daphine. Celeste. Orlagh. Charlotte. Rolihlahla. Niall. Savni. Parnali. Charvi. Muriel. Jane. June. Yes, a girl would be grand but I will love whoever comes our way. I just hope this new person comes with a set of eyes, a head of hair or a newborn complexion and constitution that clearly signals: “Yes, I must be named X.”

There is another category of names, all proposed by my second child, that go like this: Harry, Hermione, Ron, Ginny, Fred, Legolas, Eowyn, Gimli, Dobby, Aragorn. Tonight I called his bluff and feigned genuine interest in Gimli as a frontrunner. The son’s eyes widened and his senses returned. “No mom, not really Gimli. That was really a joke.”

But for two weeks, one name has been at the top of my mind, yet I’ve hesitated to bring it to the tip of my tongue. It’s an unusual name, more of a surname, really – but not without precedent as an old Gaelic boys’ name. It means “Choice of the Sea,” and isn’t that lovely when you think about a child being raised, watered, biked and sunned along the shores of one of the world’s Great Lakes? Also, that name is Morrissey.

I trotted it out tentatively at first. I knew the judgement would come swiftly and with no reservation from domestic VIPs: My first children.

“You can’t name this baby Morrissey,” said my middle schooler. “It, like, would not work. He’s so old.”

But you can’t take too much parenting advice from someone who thinks black soccer shorts are suitable attire for games and for funerals, in summertime and in winter, and believes Akon to be the world’s greatest R&B performer. Also he found “The Book Thief” boring and barely made it through chapter two before quitting. This troubles me.

The other two kids were similarly dismissive. It’s hard to tell if they found the suggestion genuinely awful, or were just succumbing to sibling-induced peer pressure. Sibling condemnation is a powerful force in the minivan. Whether car chatter is about changing the radio station or casting a vote for where to eat dinner, the oldest too often wins.

I sort of mentioned it to my husband. He sort of thought it had potential, as a middle name. But as a first name? He did not appear game.

I grew quieter in the days that followed. Morrissey Jane, for a girl, would meaningfully combine the name of one of my favourite entertainers with the name of my long-deceased, never-met grandmother. It would be quirky and classic, a reminder of the golden age of popular music – some cynics say the final golden age – meets gorgeous Gaelic. My surname is alliteratively Irish, my freckles are fertile. These traits belong only to me and are nearly all that remains of my watery Midwestern Irish ancestry. Please, please, let me get what I want this time: an Irish baby!

But every deliberation turned to doubt. What if this baby is a boy? What if this baby has a lisp – mild or pronounced? What if she is less of an extrovert like me, more of an introvert like dad? Will she always want to explain “Choice of the Sea! In Gaelic. Also, my mom really likes ‘80s music. Yes, I know Lake Michigan is freshwater, not saline. But, well, Mom?”


1 album, 16 songs, 29 weeks

What if all my kids, fourthcoming included, really do hate the Smiths and Morrissey?

There were other scenarios to consider. Morrissey has said some disparaging things about Asia. This could be problematic for an Asian child named Morrissey. Our family eats more bacon than I am comfortable with. If Morrissey Senior ever met Morrissey Jane, he would probably not be flattered. Say something to her like: “You’re a murderous carnivore named Morrissey? Not my problem.” Also, he makes beautiful music but says things about hyperemeisis gravidarum and immigration that I disagree with. “The Queen is Dead” is a near-perfect album, I believe. But naming a child after someone who publicly wishes the queen dead? Probably not.

“He’s too imperfect,” said my husband a couple nights ago, after we were two of four people attending the local screening of “25 Live,” the Morrissey concert film.

I was already letting go of the name. Pretty much, I already had. Any name is a serious decision. Every name brings with it unintended consequences, which range from the serious to the unexceptional. In the early ‘90s, my new eighth-grade teacher didn’t make it through the Ms on the class roster before looking up: “I am telling you, Angela must have been the name the year you kids were born.” People always mispronounce my son’s lovely, old fashioned Hindi name, but he handles the situation with patience and just repeats his name more slowly. “With a V at the end,” has become a family catchphrase. Unintended but manageable and minor consequences, all these.

Recognizing no name is perfect and dream names die hard, I decided to workshop “Morrissey” one last time. I am friends with another unabashed, deeply opinionated, word-nerdy Moz fan. She shares his birthday! I asked her, kind of casually, what she thought.

“You can’t,” she said, after being briefly, empathetically captivated with ‘Choice of the Sea.’

“I didn’t even know that,” she said of the name’s maritime origins.

But she agreed that Moz sometimes says the darndest things, that even if Morrissey-the-name were 70 percent inspired by how it sounds and what it means and how double consonants are kind of a thing in my family, people who know the musician would only, could only think of that. And their thoughts would vary. Wildly and rightfully so.

Favourite musicians can be guilty pleasures, not unlike eating crispy bacon on a BLT when you know all the words to “Meat is Murder.” We all have them, and they can say so much about where we draw lines in diet, ideology, lifestyle and love. You can love a musician who sings: “America … where the president is never black, female or gay … you’ve got nothing to say to me,” (words which could only be Moz’ own) and hear that refrain in your head as you sweat your way through the D.C. subway four years later, headed to Barack Obama’s inauguration. You might find other aspects of that musician’s politics appalling.

If you feel it’s safer to avoid politics or popular music in favor of less polarizing small-talk possibilities, ask anyone who ever has named a child what they almost named that child(ren). You’ll probably get a gem of a story about why they went with Rowan, not Rohan, or Sophie instead of Isobel. Better still, asks folks what their name means to them. To me, for years, my given first name was an everyday reminder of the name that got away: Crystal. It had been choice no. 2, but my dad says my mom didn’t want anyone calling me “Cryst” as a nickname. The name they gave me worked: no one ever does call me Cryst!

Maybe someday my kids will croon along to Morrissey in the minivan. Middle child loves the common-sense absurdity of “Some Girls are Bigger Than Others.” “Suedehead” will be by mine forever. I will work on getting us off the cheap pork and onto smaller, pricier packs of low-nitrate bacon. The cost difference alone will force a rationing affect upon us. But I can promise this one thing: My fourthcoming child will not be named Morrissey. My introverted husband, my extroverted friend, my judgmental 12-year-old and me:

We all agree. Right?

Lost Recipes, Quotes, Deleted Posts from the southside

Sunday morning I woke early to write a warm, endearing, totally heartfelt and original post to relieve any guilt I felt about not buying my husband a Father’s Day gift. Yet. To a larger extent, this Pulitzer-caliber post talked about the weird stuff I am finding in my basement, with carefully edited photos of that weird stuff.



(Hey Lightbox app, the 1970s called to get its ’70s retro photo filter back. Not going to happen. I overuse that editing effect all the time.)

It also contained a few bits of tid about my home’s previous owners, about whom I know little save that they were very DIY and made all kinds of things themselves: the house they sold us, dresses, diapers, Ruth Hoffman’s Peanut Krunch Cookies. I know this because the house, which we unknowingly bought about 25 percent furnished, has left clues to our predecessors’ lives in obvious and not-so places. 


I don’t know what Peanut Krunch is, exactly. Is it these overpriced cookies all mashed up? Chopped peanuts? A retro peanut butter? Please reply.

Home, Stuffed, Home

If you want to know what it’s like to buy your first home at 25 percent furnished with a ten-day-old and a three-year-old, it goes like this:

  • Sign closing papers
  • Get key
  • Drive to house after your attorney takes you out for celebration luncheon
  • Nurse newborn child in car for five hours outside new home
  • Open door with sleeping child firmly in hand
  • Weep weep weep upon realizing the house is full of stuff, and only about 70 percent of it is stuff you packed.

In the years that have transpired we’ve slowly unpacked, added a third kid to the mix, went to graduate school and gradually got over the shock of owning the previous owner’s stuff. We got over “stuff shock” through a combination of using, donating, selling, forcibly gifting and/or delivering these items to a city-sponsored hazardous chemical drop-off at my old high school.

Obscure but unforgettable quote

Perhaps “God and Cudahy don’t make junk,” as Mayor Glowacki told hundreds of high schoolers at suburban pep rallys way back when. But Cudahy High will accept junk in its parking lot when sanctioned by the MMSD. 

Anyway, point is, in the act of uploading a seventies-filtered photo of a ’60s era doorbell I found in my basement, I lost my draft of that Sunday post. Seven hundred words vanished and my husband still didn’t have anything for Father’s Day. Briefly and desperately, I thought about giving him the doorknob in a cool gift bag. But I had already showed him the doorbell, and it was basically half his. Even as a gag gift, it would fall flat.


I opened a dusty drawer and there these were.

Can I get the old magic back?

For days now, the memory of that post has haunted me. Every night I think I’ll try to recapture its magic and nostalgia, reconstruct the alliteration and adjective trios that made the whole thing read just like something you might find in a “People” magazine “Greatest Generation Special Issue.” 

But I’m moving on. Instead, I’m sharing with you a recipe for Ruth Hofmann’s Peanut Krunch Cookies and a few photos.

“Ding Dong!”

Hear that? It’s the 1970s calling, and they totally want to hang out in my kitchen.

Ruth Hoffman’s Peanut Krunch Cookies

1/2 cup butter

1/2 cup peanut Krunch (not really sure what this is)

1/2 cup white sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 egg, beaten

1.25 cup flour

3/4 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

Bake at 375F for 10-12 minutes. Makes four dozen.

About Last Night’s Receipt

Over the last 36 hours I’ve mentioned Dunkin Donuts (DD) several times, from Facebook to office talk, and I have been there once. Three things became immediately clear:

1. Dunkin Donuts is off-the-wall crazy the first Friday of summer vacation

2. Their new lemonade donut looks intriguing and I like the concept, but if it’s not a vodka-lemonade donut then forget it. Infused custard in a donut is marketing genius!

3. Not everyone has watched the heinous, head-scratching “Dunkin Donuts Rant Goes Viral” video, proving that Internet memes do not reach every person within breathing distance of you. Context remains useful even in the Internet age.


If I had been there…

Well, I did watch that awful Taylor Chapman video. Her ripped-from-a-racist-reality-TV-show style proved her worthy of the harshest criticism leveled at her since she posted her eight-minute consumer rights manifesto last weekend. I was appalled by a couple things: her overall personality; her comfort level in wielding compound slurs that were both racist and misogynistic; AND, the cashier’s unfailingly polite demeanor as he tried to make amends for the night Neethi did not give Taylor a receipt. 

After the second f-bomb, I would have asked Taylor to leave until she cleaned out her mouth and dropped the “being under cellphone surveillance” business. At least I think I would. Our best imagined idealized versions of ourselves often are inspired in response to the injustices others face. “If I had been there…” I’m aware that such portrayals are not always accurate.

Don’t get mad, get donuts

Instead of getting more mad or getting even, I got a 25-count box of donut holes at my nearby DD the next morning. Though trademarked under the name “Munchkins,” I’m a little put off by that word and avoid it even in consumer conversation.

Like the DD in Taylor Chapman’s internet-meme-turned-nightmare, my local DD is owned by folks who are from India. Besides the grocery store I frequent to buy my “Chutney Challenged” groceries and my living room, the airport-area DD is the only place on the south side where I’ve met other Indians and Desis. For this reason and because my skinniest child inhales DD’s bacon-egg-cheese wraps and mini potatoes, I often bring the kids there after sleepovers and such.

Most folks have to read my kids’ names, first and last, to get any sense that they are multicultural. I don’t think my kids much care. I don’t think they need to. Multiculturalism need not have a “look,” nor must it be worn on any person’s sleeve. But when I visit their schools, classmates will ask me “Is your son really Indian?” “Is Child’s Name Here’s grandma really from India?” Both answers are yes, and my husband is not the step-dad. Nothing against step-dads. So, anyway, their background must be a topic of class conversation on some level.

Fleeting cultural connection?

But one time, at the DD, the owner noticed two thin, patterned gold bracelets on my right arm as I handed her a $20. These are modest but unique bracelets my husband’s grandmother brought to me after our daughter was born. They’re so small that once I put them on, they rarely come off. “I like your gold,” the woman told me. She gently held my wrist and asked another woman to come and take a look (good thing this was not the first Friday of summer vacation). They conversed. Like a monolingual American, I can’t tell you if it was in Hindi or Urdu. She asked me where I got them. “My grandmother.” I am sure that within that transaction there was another moment of connection. But there were also other customers. We agreed to have a good day.

This was two years ago. Two weeks ago I saw her for the first time not at the DD, but at the Indian grocery store. I tried to catch her eye, but I am not sure that she saw me. I’m not sure it matters either, but that doesn’t mean I won’t be dragging my kids to the the DD again soon, or to the neighborhood taqueria where they can flex their Spanish-language skills. I don’t know exactly how those kids of mine will turn out. Who can know this? But Internet-Video-Race-Baiters I’m sure they’ll never be.

Hopefully this post makes folks hungry for equality and respect, not donuts! But if you are craving carbs, I always get great service and a receipt at the DD by the airport. Cinnamon is my favorite.

Sorry, There’s Been a Lot of Soccer.

Is this the part where I tell you that I’m sorry I’ve not been blogging at all, because I am busy finishing my momoir: “Allergeeze! How to Raise Kids with Emotionally Crippling Food Allergies and a Sense of Humor.”

Because that statement would be only half true.

What is true is that lapses of progress and achievement happen. In fitness and in fiction, I’m experiencing a major slowdown. I have put my Cross Fit membership on “hiatus,” I have eased my aching back into a ten-minute mile, I am mastering the technique to washing one’s hair only four times/week and have bought a new pair of American-made (!) denim to wear four times/week (on the days I wash my hair) to replace the other jeans that I wore into the ground with such devotion that their knees are white and the hems drag behind me by several inches.

But there’s context to all the above, sort of (“I’m a riddle in nine syllables,” kind of thing and this fourth syllable is exhausting), and anyway I am still here. Making chutney and bhel puri, but not much else. 

What I mostly want to say here, however, is a sincere “thanks” to folks who have reached out to read, like, follow and forward this little blog of mine. Several people even said they have read some of my professional, promotional journalism as of late and found it “fun.” Now that is a true compliment. Promotional journalism can be painful sometimes. It’s this creative half-life where you get paid and get benefits to actually write. Paying the bills with one’s talent feels good, after all, and it’s a privilege. But when you write and draw connections and make people sound fabulous in print/online from 9-5, this can compromise the stamina and creativity one needs to turn into a bedtime Baudelaire. Can I write a kid-lit novel between when my kids go to bed and my husband starts to snore? Not sure… 

And yet, enough! Thank you for reading and remarking. Like the very best of small gestures, those few words straight from you or the “like” of a Facebook button can mean a lot. I hope I’ve done something like that for you, recently. If you’re anything like all the other wonderful people I know, you deserve it. 

Doors Opened, Records Revealed

In friendly conversation the other day, someone asked me: “So how do you like your Charles Ramsey now?”

I was like “huh?”

Then he told me one of the Seymour St. heroes has a drug and domestic abuse record.  He had served time, repeated offenses, gradually got back to “okay” terms with his ex-wife, and helped save four people from a domestic abuser/abductor whose depravity is another category of torture that prosecutors, media, moms all struggle to label. Anyway, the details of those earlier years are not Hallmark Hall-of-Fame film material. At all.

I mumbled something about, how, well, you know, nothing he did before devalues the five to ten minutes of neighborliness he and Angel Cordero displayed on Seymour Street Monday night. My convo partner couldn’t disagree, but I nonetheless felt caught in this “gotcha” game where people who rush in to praise – especially to praise the heroes who don’t look like the heroes we think we’ve been waiting for – are punished as the dust settles and background checks come back. Messy.

I still think the guy is a hero, just as I still think the police work left boulder-sized stones unturned, no matter how badly many law-enforcement officials wanted to find Gina De Jesus and Amanda Berry. No matter how hard they worked, no matter how hard police work is. Allegations that neighbors called – cops say they didn’t – will be fully reviewed, I hope.  One story noted that someone close to the abductor’s battered ex-wife, now deceased, encouraged police to investigate Ariel Castro in the girls’ disappearance. It’s another chapter in this tangled and sad and stunning case that begs the question “how?” I really hope that’s not true. And if it is…

…none of it undoes the nice things that anyone writes this week about Mr. Charles Ramsey. I am a mom with a blog, and my credentials begin and end here.

I, for one, will soon get back to writing more about Indian food. And I will test (aka background check) all my recipes. But when I don’t write about cooking, I won’t make it a standard practice to background check someone who clearly did something good before I praise them for doing that good thing. Folks who want to read from the experts, maintain some emotional distance, think more deeply and more critically than me — they have lots of other reading outlets to choose from.

We Don’t Need Another (guy) Hero?

Yet some things about my writing of this last week have troubled me.  Among them, why am I so into this male-hero angle? What about the three women in that house? Delivering and reviving a baby in the dead of night, seeing no sun for years, having the courage to continue to test their captor and his aluminum front door at great, gruesome risk to their lives?

I write less about them, I think, because I want to know as little of their ordeal as possible. After telling her family members not to ask about her captivity, Gina De Jesus must see some of the darkest details of her life splashed on every front page. We still have not seen a photo of Michele Knight, whose physical and emotional losses sound the most devastating, and that’s fine with me. Not being an expert, I nonetheless speculate that healing is easier when people are on a need-to-know basis about your medical, psychological, reproductive trauma.

The mayor of Cleveland has asked the media not to “leak info.” Agreed.

Let’s keep some things between the women and girl who are finding their way home, and their families and counselors. Let’s agree they are heroes, and contribute to the Cleveland Courage Fund if we want to and if we can.

Thanks, Mom


Life happens at the corner mailbox.

Those who can’t send money, or choose not to, well keeping your eyes and ears open is free and it can really work. Here I think of mom, who stopped a domestic abduction at the mailbox on my sleepy suburban corner decades ago. She heard it, she saw it, she asked me to watch the car from the safety of our yard while she dialed 911. The authorities came, the child was separated from the parent, another relative was called in.

Until Tuesday, I had forgotten all about that. Happy Mother’s Day, mom, and thanks.

Open the Door

Monday night I read about Elizabeth Smart’s latest talk at Johns Hopkins University. Just a few hours later news reports were filed from a west Cleveland neighborhood about three girls. They had been missing for 9+ years and found Monday night just miles from their homes and their mint-condition childhood bedrooms. How?

I think “how” is a better question than “why.” But I’m asking optimists and realists and fellow feminists to disagree. Whether it’s a sleepy southside suburb with German, Irish, Polish names or a rundown urban neighborhood where last names rarely start with “Mc” or end in “ski,” girlhood is a risky business. As long as there are girls they will be looked at, yelled to, talked about, boundary-tested and propositioned. “Luck” is being able to walk away with a girlfriend, to ask your mom what that guy was talking about, to have your high school expel the star athlete who was saying things to you that made you feel awful but you didn’t even know why.

But how do things get worse, so very much completely worse, 10 years worse, never-coming-home worse for some women and girls? As much as anyone is thinking about that trio of women and one girl in Cleveland tonight, we’re also talking about Charles Ramsey. The neighbor who likes his McDonald’s and thought he knew his salsa-playing neighbor and is so damned astonished by the story he jumped into as one of the only people in the right place at the right time since that first girl, Michele Knight, was kidnapped.

‘So I opened the door’

CLEVELAND-articleLargeAmerica is in love with Mr. Ramsey’s heroism and his urban musings. The McDonald’s, the ribs, calling the reporter “bro.” That hair! But by far the most remarkable thing he said in his first interview is this: “You know, I figured it was a domestic violence dispute. So I opened the door.”

How often do we read about and hear about domestic violence as the very last kind of violence to attract third-party intervention? Anyone who has read about the tragic, tell-tale domestic-violence case of Zenia Haughton knows not even a rifle, a police file, a kicked-in door, slashed tires and a restraining order are enough to convince some folks – experts included – that a domestic violence situation is happening. And needs to be stopped.

So who the hell is this Mr. Ramsey? Just walking into what he thinks is some man-woman kind of dispute and busting down a door?

He’s a hero, he and Angel Cordero. Nosy neighbors. Ramsey heard something, but didn’t put down his lunch. He just took it with him, walked out of his house and onto the porch of 2207 Seymour Ave.

I think it’s been about 48 hours since the stories of Amanda Berry, Michele Knight and Gina De Jesus broke. Mr. Ramsey, a dishwasher, has been famous for a couple days.

What we’ve learned about these women in the last 24 hours is, blessedly, very little. I hope that the news comes slowly. Very. Their families will hear it first, when their daughters and sisters are ready to tell them. The trained investigators will interrogate with caution and compassion.

The most important news, I think, we already know. Four or five times a crack in the secrecy surrounding 2207 Seymour Ave. drew in suspicious neighbors. It brought cops to the side of the house and onto its porch. It got the home’s owner and alleged captor fired from his job. It showed us a little girl standing alone at an attic window. It convinced a neighbor or two that Ariel Castro was “not right.”

Mr. Ramsey says he feels bad that he lived there for a year, knew Ariel Castro and sensed nothing unusual. He shouldn’t. He caught on a lot faster than the professionals who were seeking out Amanda Berry and Gina De Jesus for more than ten years. But not Michele Knight.

Yelling and banging from inside the house, lunchtime fast-food deliveries, rumors of women in the backyard – these are red-flag reminders that we don’t need to be experts or psychics or mad geniuses to know when something is very wrong. Would the Charles Ramseys in our neighborhoods please stand up, take a bow, and promise to never move away?

Two Girls Remembered

Their stories probably could not be more different – the two girls I knew in Cudahy and the three women I don’t know in Cleveland. Different in circumstances, outcome, time and place. But every time I read about girls who come home I think about the two I barely knew who didn’t: Jessica and Anna. I remember stick-straight hair and brown curls, badminton and jump rope. That we shared teachers and a zip code. I’ll never stop wishing I’d been a little kinder. Asked a few more questions. Paid better attention.

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Chutney Challenged

Designed for experimentation, not expertise.


Designed for experimentation, not expertise.

still in sirsasana

Designed for experimentation, not expertise.

Farm to Table Wisconsin

– Reviving the bond between community and farmer

Everything Everywhere All of the Time

New and improved obsolete irrelevance.

Namita's Kitchen


Crappy Pictures

Designed for experimentation, not expertise.

Foodie Brooklyn Mom

My obsession with food, living in Brooklyn, and being a mom