The Catalyst

A Writing Teacher Writes (plus some writing prompts and recipes)

Just to Love (And be Loved in Return) March 28, 2014

Filed under: Grief,Vignettes,Writing Prompts + — Christopher P. DeLorenzo @ 12:39 pm

The prompts this time were: Scan

Please, God.

Hold me, please.

Can I hold you?

What I wrote is below.


“How is your Dad?” someone asked me at my 30th high school reunion. I was halfway through my second glass of mediocre red wine and wondering why I came at all.

“He passed away three years ago,” I said.

“Oh, I’m so sorry,” they rushed in. “I liked him so much.”

I pressed down that part of me that feels pitiful every time I have the dead parent talk: on Mother’s Day, as the winter holidays approach, on birthdays. I know I’m not an orphan; my parents are dead, but I’m a grown man. Still, I feel compelled to tell anyone who says they’re sorry how loved I felt as he shrank away, how he offered each of his children praise in those last few months of his life.

“I just spoke with Dad,” my brother told me during that time. “Apparently, I’m the best-looking guy on the planet.”

“I know,” I said, “and according to him, I’m the best cook.” We laughed at how lucky we felt.

Sometimes, I tell people that he liberated me from the deep sorrow that comes with a long illness. He died of natural causes at 91: it was his time. “It was a privilege,” I sometimes say, and often when I say this, their faces go blank or their eyes well up with fear. “Anyway,” I want to say, “we all die eventually.”

I’m thankful I had the time with his body that day. I felt lucky to know how his hands felt when they were still warm. Late in his life, he would let me hold his hand as long as I wanted. I’m thankful to have been seen that way, to have been loved, and to be loved, still, by other living, breathing beings.

The day after the high school reunion, I drove around my old suburban town. I visited the empty outdoor halls of my high school and was reminded again how beautifully landscaped the school was. Empty and quiet on that sunny day, the school seemed innocuous. Then I ate a nostalgic meal at the BBQ restaurant across the street.

I sat at the counter with the old men who still read the newspaper and drink cup after cup of coffee. I ate my French Dip sandwich and thought about how lucky I will be if I live to be a very old man, how many more people I will have been loved by, how many more people I will have loved.

I was too full for a piece of one of their famous pies. But I figured I could come back. I could always come back.


Spring Again March 21, 2014

Filed under: Vignettes,Writing Prompts + — Christopher P. DeLorenzo @ 5:20 pm


The prompts this time were for what I call a “shorty-short”: a five-minute writing exercise.

Think pink!                                                                                       

What did the flower say?

It’s spring again, and this is how it feels.

What I wrote is below.


The rhododendron decided to bloom yesterday: big, hot pink stars nestled in deep green leaves. The trumpet flower tree is on a roll, and the jasmine vine has covered the fence; I can smell the blossoms on warm nights, wafting through the open window. The lilac is lagging behind, in competition with the new sprout on the hydrangea. Everything is still green, with only splashes of pink and white.

On a walk today, I passed the little tree surrounded by sweet peas—purple and white—and I made myself backtrack to smell them. Pure pleasure, feminine, light.

I’m basking in the fragrant light of it again, my favorite season, my hands cradling a paper cup of coffee, the sun warm again on my scalp. Spring invites me to sit on a bench outside Bernie’s coffee house and flirt with a tiny Maltese mix, or wave back at a toddler with pudgy hands in a stroller. I’m seeing the world through Equinox eyes. At the halfway mark a light snaps on and I can see my favorite season. There’s nothing but potential. Even the date midweek with the Spanish guy feels like a possible new beginning.

“Don’t get lost in the fantasy of it all,” I tell myself.

But Spring counters that thought with pink inspiration.

“Go ahead,” it whispers. “Dream awhile.”


Carmen’s Frittata March 5, 2014

Filed under: Recipes,Writing Prompts + — Christopher P. DeLorenzo @ 5:25 pm


This recipe is one I’ve put off posting for a long time. I think my reluctance has to do with the fact that this is such a simple recipe; I’m worried everyone will make it, realize how easy it is, and stop complimenting me when I serve it (at one of my Men’s Writing Brunches, for instance).

Anyway, here it is, with a few food-inspired writing prompts to go with it.

Sweet as sugar, Sugar

At the kitchen table

The smell of coffee and bacon


Carmen’s Frittata


2 teaspoons olive oil

1 medium red onion, diced

1 can artichoke hearts, drained of liquid, quartered

1 cup mushrooms, sliced

5 ounces spinach (or one small pre-washed bag) without stems, wilted in microwave or on stovetop with 1 Tablespoon water

1 cup cheddar cheese, grated

9 eggs, beaten with 2 Tablespoons whole milk

2 teaspoons Herbs de Provence

Generous sprinkles of salt and pepper


Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Sauté diced onion with 2 teaspoons olive oil until slightly soft, not quite translucent. Add to a large bowl. Set aside.

In the same pan, sauté sliced mushrooms until they begin to shrink and soften, adding more olive oil if necessary.

Add mushrooms to large bowl with onions, add artichoke hearts, wilted spinach, and mix together. Pour in beaten eggs, and mix in cheese. Pour into a buttered 13 x 9 rectangular baking dish and bake until the top and edges are slightly brown and set, about 35 minutes.

The frittata will appear to be too soft to slice while still hot, so allow to cool. Slice into generous squares, and serve at room temperature.

Note: There’s really no way to mess this up, and you can add any ingredients you like, including cooked bacon, sausage, sun-dried tomatoes, shallots, bell peppers, and any variation of cheeses. Just make sure to sauté the vegetables first, until slightly soft. They will continue to cook and soften in the oven.