A few things: May 2023

Today is the 127th day of 2023. Since January 1, 2023 there have been 200 shootings in which four or more people were injured or killed by guns.

There is no consensus definition for the term “mass shooting” in the U.S., and that lack of agreement works to the advantage of the gun lobby (divide and conquer…). Mass shootings differ from mass killings, defined as four or more people killed.

USA Today’s “Mass Killing Database” analyzes U.S. events since 2006, segmenting public shootings, private shootings (““A guy who kills his wife and children and sometimes then kills himself is the most common type of mass killing,”), and other mass killing events. Mass events that involve guns kill an average of seven people, whereas mass events involving other mechanisms (vehicles, knives, fire) kill an average of five people.

Liberal gun laws in the U.S. make it easy for people who want harm other people to do that in the most efficient, lethal way.

As Heather Cox Richardson wrote yesterday:

The idea that massacres are “the price of freedom,” as right-wing personality Bill O’Reilly said in 2017 after the Mandalay Bay massacre in Las Vegas, in which a gunman killed 60 people and wounded 411 others, is new, and it is about politics, not our history.

Heather Cox Richardson, Letters from an American, May 6, 2023

And, as Ronald Brownstein wrote, last year, in The Atlantic:

Even though the NRA has weakened institutionally, its influence inside the GOP has been magnified by the reconfiguration of American politics along geographic lines. When Congress, during Clinton’s first term, created the national background-check system through the Brady Bill and later approved a ban on assault weapons (which has since expired), significant numbers of congressional Democrats representing rural constituencies opposed the legislation, while significant numbers of Republicans with big suburban constituencies supported it. But three decades of electoral re-sorting has significantly shrunk both of those groups. As a result, when the House passed its universal-background-check bill in 2021, only eight Republicans voted for it, while just a single Democrat voted against it.

“The Real Reason America Doesn’t Have Gun Control;” The Atlantic; May 25, 2022

My view:

If you vote for elected officials who accept gun lobby funding and resist sensible gun reform, then you are contributing to this problem. Those officials are not going to change their stripes. The solution is to stop voting for them.

Yes, I understand; reading that statement may make you feel uncomfortable.

Yes, I understand; the notion of gun reform may trigger a strong fear response. The NRA and related lobbying groups and PACs have invested millions of dollars into stoking that fear.

So, ask yourself: Who profits from the status quo, and what’s the ultimate price for our nation? Unless you’re willing to stop voting for the people who get paid to choose guns over common sense and majority public opinion, then you are choosing to make it easy for bad actors to kill people, including children.

Acknowledging that unsettling discomfort, let’s move on to other things…

May is Mental Health Awareness Month.

Mental health (health=well-being) gets tossed around as much as any hot-button topic these days, with fever-pitch appeals to prioritize mental health and equally loud appeals to “toughen up and get over it!”

Me? I’m on team TAKE CARE OF MENTAL HEALTH, whether that means regular time to meditate, reflect, and renew, sessions with a therapist, or some other regular practice that keeps the mind-spirit-body connection in balance.

Here’s a Mental Health Toolkit to give you ideas, if you need them.

In the financial position to make a donation in support of community mental health? I’m on team KINDRED PLACE, where a team of exceptional therapists and parent coaches helps every family that needs a little help getting along – which is pretty much everyone – and provides income-based financial assistance to do that.

Reluctant to take the therapy plunge? Here’s Lori Gottlieb on NPR’s Life Kit with tips about getting g past the stigma and making that first appointment.

Live long and prosper.

ICYMI, Willie Nelson turned 90.

“All of the sudden, it didn’t matter if you were a hillbilly or a hippie, everyone was a Willie Nelson fan,” [Owen] Wilson said of Nelson’s late-blooming emergence as a singing superstar when he left Nashville, Tennessee, and returned to his native Texas in the 1970s. “Even the Dalai Lama is a Willie Nelson fan. It’s true.”

“Willie Nelson inhales the love at 90th birthday concert;” Andrew Dalton writing for AP News.

There are too many YouTube posts from the two-day concert to catalog them all. If you’re going to watch only a few, here are my (not surprising, to some of you) picks:

Hard to top Willie leading an all-star rendition of “I’ll Fly Away” and then singing happy birthday to himself. But Kris Kristofferson with Rosanne Cash and with Norah Jones (who plays a great tribute to Bobbie Nelson before the duet) is pretty great, particularly for anyone who, like then-5th grade me, fell hard for Kristofferson in the 1976 A Star Is Born remake.

King Charles is now officially King Charles.

If you have, like I have, a 15-year-old, incontinent dog, and if you are also in the bridge year between your mid- and late-50s, then you, too might have already been awake at 4 a.m. to catch some of the coronation festivities live on the Tee-Vee. Maybe you, too, felt the split-personality pull between “Ooh! The Pagentry!” and “Oof, the parade of rich and disconnected….”

My headline takeaway? There’s no perfect form of government. Actually, there’s no perfect form of anything. Also, I love that little mischief-making Prince Louis.

Other Things of Interest …

Will A.I. Become the New McKinsey? A thought-provoking take on A.I., workers, capitalism, and the economy. Here’s a snippet:

“People who criticize new technologies are sometimes called Luddites, but it’s helpful to clarify what the Luddites actually wanted. … The Luddites were not anti-technology; what they wanted was economic justice…. The fact that the word “Luddite” is now used as an insult, a way of calling someone irrational and ignorant, is a result of a smear campaign by the forces of capital.”

Will A.I. Become the New McKinsey?” Ted Chiang; The Atlantic; May 4, 2023.

Psychologist Lisa Damour on kids’ mental health:

“And what we know is that the single most powerful force for adolescent mental health is strong relationships with caring adults. And I think we need to really lean into that, that we need to make sure that every teenager is connected to an adult who has their back, and that that teenager feels really gets and cares for them. And so this is something we can all do. You don’t have to be the parent. You can be the boss or the mentor or the neighbor or the uncle….”

“A Closer Look at the Declining Mental Health of Kids;” All Things Considered; May 6, 2023.


It’s spring. Time for spinach cake.

If you’ve been here for a while, then you’ll likely remember this recipe, as I’ve written about many times. The original recipe comes from David Tanis’s 2008 A Platter of Figs and Other Recipes. Both the book and this particular recipe are enduring favorites.

Three notes in preface to sharing the recipe again:

  1. The original recipe calls for fresh-from-the garden spinach and leeks. Adaptations call for fresh-from-the-garden spinach, or nettles, or chard, or some combination of spring greens. Emphasis is on freshly picked. Indeed, fresh spinach and leeks yield an end result that is the A+ divine essence of spring. AND if what you have access to is cello-packed spinach and store-bought leeks, THEN SO BE IT. Don’t let perfect get in the way of enjoying life.
  2. I’ve used, at different times, whole milk (as the recipe indicates), 2% milk, half and half, and a combination of milk and heavy cream. That cream makes for a richer, more luscious end product should be obvious. That skim milk would defeat the entire purpose of cooking should also be obvious. So, use what you have on hand (totaling 2 cups, ish), provided that it has some milkfat.
  3. No, I don’t use freshly grated nutmeg, because I don’t have it. If you do, then use it. If you don’t, then use ground.
  4. Actually, four notes. Instead of using a pie dish, casserole, or skillet, you can bake in individual ramekins (6-8 of them), preferably in a water bath, but you don’t have to be fussy about that.

Spinach Cake
adapted from David Tanis


  • 2 pounds spinach leaves (washed and dried, if using fresh from the market) (substitute nettles or chard; kale is likely too fibrous, but if you’re feeling adventuresome and have 2 pounds of kale that might otherwise go bad, then forge ahead and report back)
  • 2-3 leeks
  • 2 Tablespoons (ish) unsalted butter (or 1T butter and 1 T olive oil)
  • 4-6 eggs
  • 2 cups whole milk (or dairy with fat — mix of 2% and cream? You bet.)
  • Nutmeg
  • Salt
  • Parmesan, Romano, or Asiago cheese


  • Skillet or Dutch oven
  • Blender (standing or immersion) or food processor
  • 8-10 inch pie plate, skillet, or casserole dish (or small ramekins, if making individual dishes), buttered

Preheat oven to 375/380 degrees.

Clean the greens, if using fresh, and pat them dry. (Need instructions? The Kitchn to the rescue.)

Slice the leeks (white and light green parts) into rounds (quarter inch, give or take), rinse them, then put them in a bowl of cold water and swish them around to knock off the dirt and grit. Let them sit in water until the dirt and grit sink to the bottom of the bowl, then lift the leeks from the water without disturbing the gunk that has settled.

Heat the Dutch oven or skillet; add butter (or butter and olive oil – which is what I use) and heat until it’s nice and frothy.

Add the leeks and cook, stirring, until they soften, trying not to let them brown. If your stove is like mine, then you might need to turn down the heat. Sprinkle a generous pinch of salt and equally generous pinch of nutmeg (or grate a bit – you’ll do this several times), and give it a good stir.

Add one-fourth of the spinach leaves, sprinkle with another pinch of salt and nutmeg, and stir until the spinach wilts; repeat with the remaining spinach, seasoning with each addition. You’ll want to end up with a mixture that is slightly over-seasoned but edible. NOTE: You could use this mixture, as-is, to fill crêpes or stuff mushrooms.

While the leek-spinach mixture cools, butter your dish(es) and prepare the egg/dairy mix. Break the eggs (recipe calls for 6, but I’ve made it with as few as 4) into a bowl and pour in the milk. Whisk to combine.

Stir the egg/milk mixture into the leek/spinach mixture, then use an immersion blender to, well, blend it. OR pour the egg/milk mixture into a blender jar, add the leek/spinach mixture, and then blend (careful to vent the top if the mixture is still warm). OR, if you temporarily forget that you own an immersion blender, and your blender-blender broke during the pandemic, and all you have handy is the Magic Bullet that your children asked you to purchase during their middle school “smoothies for breakfast” phase, then use that tiny hand-held blender to blend in batches, combining in big bowl at the end to make sure the final product is a uniform mix.

Pour into your dish(es), sprinkle/grate a bit of cheese on top (not too much), and bake in the preheated oven — 20-25 minutes if using individual ramekins and 35-40 minutes if using one pie plate/skillet/casserole. It’s done with a knife comes out clean. It should be a little brown on the top, but not too brown.

Let it rest while you make a salad or whatever you feel like doing for 15-20 minutes.

It’s at least as good cold, the next day.

It tastes like Stouffer’s spinach soufflé, only better.

Art. Harder.

“Rich Soil,” a sculpture exhibit by San Francisco artist Kristine Mays, is at the Memphis Botanic Garden through October 1, 2023. The pieces, inspired by Alvin Ailey’s composition “Reflections,” are installed throughout the 96 acres of garden. So you can walk, contemplate, photograph, contemplate, and breathe.

Here’s what it looked like to me, on opening night.


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