Archive for month: March, 2012

Bread for the Journey

Categories: Buddhist Practice, Conscious Living, Dining, Mindfulness, Personal Growth, Spiritual - Tags: , , , , , ,

Everyone needs a bit of bread for their journey—and especially now in these challenging and hungry times.  But when it is possible to offer some yeast to make lots of loaves rise, to provide education, sustenance, or pathways out of poverty for the disenfranchised, and to do it locally by finding enterprising “bakers” with creative ideas for community projects, well, that’s a great thing.  And that’s what Bread for the Journey is all about!

Four years ago, on a Buddhist retreat in beautiful Inverness, I met Brandy Sacks, then one of the principal administrators of Bread for the Journey nationally.  He inspired me to help start a local chapter in Santa Cruz County, and so a couple of years later, we have a strong local chapter (Bread for the Journey of Santa Cruz County) with four of us founding members (myself, Sooz Kohen, Carolyn Blackman and Jerilyn Kass, now the BFJ national President) plus Shamim Famoso (a strong new recruit with plenty of business savvy from her years as a senior administrator at Cisco Systems) for our board.  We’re the “Yeastie Sistahs” or Caretaking Council as we like to call ourselves and we’ve raised enough cash (bread) to already offer yeast (micro grants) to eight enterprising projects to serve the underserved.

It turns out practicing generosity offers the generous an expansive pleasure, almost as much for the giver as the grant recipients, the same way yeast makes bread rise.  It’s terrific!!  So two years ago, I decided to make a paradigm shift and turn our annual September Harvest Party into not only a party for friends and family, but a fundraiser for Bread for the Journey of Santa Cruz County.  At first I was a little worried about how guests would feel about being “invited” to make donations to our cause, but when they heard about who we are and what we do, and especially when they actually met several of our grantees and heard their inspiring stories, they actually expressed gratitude.  It’s wonderful to support the Red Cross or United way, but you’d never have a chance like we offer, to actually meet and personally greet the recipients of your generosity, and to hear what they are doing with their grants.  It’s inspiring and, as I said, expansive all around.

So last Sunday we celebrated BFJ big time with a gorgeous day, “CPR” a great live Santa Cruz band (they donated their music as well), about 100 guests and one of our grant recipients, Lightfoot catered the party. We met three of the disadvantaged and delightful high school kids on the Lightfoot grant, who are learning careers in food services—organic gardening, menu planning,  healthy eating, food prep, serving, etc.—mingling with the guests and impressing everyone.  Our friends and family danced their shoes off, savored great eats, opened their hearts and pockets and we received almost $2,500 in one day!





So, check us out and join in the joy of sharing generously—it’s a healthy high antidote to low times.   Click on the link for Santa Cruz County and read some of our grantees stories, and send us some “$$$Bread” and “like” us on your FaceBook page!

Prometheus Chained On a Blorock

Categories: Conscious Living, New Age, Personal Growth, Psychology - Tags: , , , , , , , ,

I’ve climbed Kilimanjaro!  Got gazillions of initials after my name, managed to make  soufflés rise and even found my kid’s kindergarten’s runaway bunny that time we bunny sat him over the Valentine’s weekend.  But this is way HARDER!  I feel dumb, antideluvian and crippled, sometimes completely overwhelmed by this social media project.  Anybody else out there ever identify with me on this?

I love to write.  That’s not the problem.  I love to communicate with friends. The problem is I was just born too many decades too soon to believe I’ll EVER feel at home tweeting and posting and linking.  It’s humiliating.  I remember back in the day when I bought my first answering machine and my dad (probably my age as I am now) was so flummoxed whenever he’d call and instead of a live person got that “newfangled piece of…”, that he’d just shudder into the phone, take a huge end-of -the-world sigh and thrash the receiver into the cradle.

And here I am, shuddering and whining and ready to toss my mouse.  I feel like Prometheus Bound, chained upon a rock, doomed to perpetual angst in an unending time warp.  Not that I’ve brought anything like fire to mankind, but chained to the rock resonates for me today, trying to figure out how to swim into the 21st century of social networking.  I’ve made a vow to join the world and learn this stuff.  But my computer is scaring me, like Pandora unleashing a box of undecipherable cyber evils .


Hmmm, I may feel chained to my rock but I just realized…Wow! it’s a great relief to be able to vent in a blog rant.  Maybe I’ll even hear back from some empathic readers.  That would be encouraging to learn I’m not alone here. Now, will I ever be able to figure out how to send this out into cyberspace!?

Babies & Bon Bon de Beau Beaune II

Categories: Adventure, Animals, Family, Parenting, Pets - Tags: ,

What a re-entry.  We got home last Monday from our great tandem adventure, exhausted, jet-lagged and struggling with colds.  Coming through customs, we get a phone call from Seth, our new ranch caretaker in Aptos, regretting that he can’t pick us up today as planned.  His partner, Leilani’s water broke this morning and their long awaited baby is due to be born in our new yurt.  Wow!  How auspicious can that be.   Their baby is about to be born!  What a blessing.

We manage to locate a shuttle to carry us, our bike bags, duffel full of dirty laundry and weary bodies, home to Santa Cruz where we unpack, crash and wait for word about the progress of Leilani’s labor.  Her mother is there with Seth and their doula. Jim and I awaken at dawn Tuesday morning to see the lights still on in the yurt. Labor progresses slowly.  Jim, heading out to reset his bio-clock with some coffee from Starbucks, hears the screams of Leilani’s intense labor, and pales.  He was one of those dads in the day when many men squeamishly avoided delivery rooms.  Decades later than Jim’s birth experience, Seth, Leilani, the doula and midwife are thrilled to be able to birth this baby at home in the yurt, where we are too far from any neighbors for anyone to hear whatever noise Leilani wants to make to ease her laboring.

Hours pass and finally, just before noon, an unshaven new dad comes stumbling down from the yurt in the oak grove on the hill behind our house to announce that their son, Nathan, has arrived!  It was a difficult birth, and the midwife will be here for several more hours looking after mother and baby to make sure they’re both OK, but within the next few days, both are doing well.  With our colds, we dare not visit the yurt yet, but Seth brings his camera and gives us a great slide show—from laboring mom in the birthing tub to the birthing stool to the crowning, to the emergence of a beautiful dark haired boy, quickly named after his maternal grandfather.

Yesterday, four days later and both feeling much better, Jim and I set out north for Sonoma to pick up our new pup.  On the way, invigorated by the success of our tandem trip and impressed by the improvements we have seen in other tandems since we bought ours almost ten years ago, we stop at Crank 2 to look at new tandems and feed our fantasies.  Just about sundown we finally arrive at Cheryl, the breeder’s house and there he is….the most adorable little black fluff ball imagineable.   She lifts him out of his crate and as soon as his four paws hit the ground he romps over straight for Jim and me and jumps up, tail wagging, total body wiggling gleefully, and running back from Jim to me, back to Jim then to me.  We are besotted.  He is just like his uncle Tashi, athletic, sweet, engaging and funny.

Bon Bon de Beau Beaune (“Beau” for short, pronounced “bow”) immediately follows me wherever I go.  What a great little pup.  Cheryl gives us all the papers, instructions, a little bag of the food he’s used to and helps us settle him into his crate in the car.  We wave gratefully to her for making this all work out so perfectly, and set out to spend the first night with him in Sonoma with our friends Maggie and Peter at the cottage in their vineyards.

Peter is a great winemaker and we enjoy a celebratory bottle of his vintage Zin with a delicious dinner of fresh wild salmon and vegetables from their kitchen garden.  Beau settles in like a perfect little guest.  Any worries I’d had about not being able to pick him up at the “ideal” 8 weeks, evaporate.  At three and a half months he is socialized, calm and so easy.  He plays with everyone before dinner then quietly naps in his crate while we eat.  Cheryl has said that he sleeps through the night in his crate, saying, “Just take him outside before bed and when he wakes up and then every two or three hours.”  It works like a top.  Here we are, guests of Maggie and Peter, and this brand new puppy doesn’t chew on anything or have a single accident.  He just plays and sleeps, and we don’t hear a peep from him for eight hours the first night.  In the morning, I take him out  and he discover’s Maggie’s chicken coop.  He sits, enthralled, cocking his head this way and that, as the chickens cluck and scratch and flap around, forgetting for a few minutes, that he hasn’t peed or pooped since before bedtime.

Before breakfast, Maggie carefully introduces their two big older dogs, Oso and Ivan, one by one, to Beau.  At first, he quivers with terror, they’re so big.  But in moments, he discovers they’re friendly and off we go for our first hike through the vineyards.  He roars around with the big guys like he’s totally at home.  On the hike we meet probably five other vineyard dogs and their owners out for their morning hikes.  He makes five new friends and keeps us all giggling.

So much new energy.   What a re-entry: new babe and new pup.  We silently make a bow of gratitude to Jullay, thanking her for teaching us how wonderful it is to have a dog, and telling her that little Beau is a tribute to her and to Tashi, and a permanent reminder of a great trip to France.

Mindfulness Practice

Categories: Buddhist Practice, Cancer, Conscious Living, Meditation, Mindfulness, Personal Growth - Tags: ,

Yesterday, I took a nap in the late afternoon sunshine up on the upper deck of the Amadeus Symphony. Falling asleep listening to Thich Nhat Hanh’s recordings on my iPod, I hear the one that nearly always stops me in my tracks, bringing me back to reverence and the present moment.  It is a seven minute recording of Thay chanting with a full orchestral background, his gatha or poem about the power of listening to the bell.   Since I first heard it, whenever I have been on some kind of edge, I make sure I have my iPod to play it.  So, for example, I listened to it while being wheeled into the OR on a gurney for my first and subsequent breast cancer surgeries, then during chemotherapy, then, when Jim had his most recent near death bike accident when he was hit by a car and thrown fifty feet down the road.  During the hour drive to the emergency hospital where the ambulance took him, I played Thay’s gatha over and over.  Most recently I played it, on the gurney en route to my emergency hysterectomy a year ago.  It always calms my mind and brings the deepest comfort and connection to my Buddhist practice.

This is the gatha he wrote and sings on that beautiful recording:


May the sound of this bell penetrate deep into the cosmos.

Even in the darkest places, living beings are able to hear it clearly

So that all suffering in them ceases and they transcend the path of sorrow and death.

The universal dharma door is already open.

The miracle happens: A beautiful child appears in the heart of a lotus flower.

Just one drop of this precious water is able to bring

The refreshing spring to our rivers and mountains.

Listening to the sound of the bell, my body relaxes, my mind eases,

And my breath brings me back to the island of mindfulness that is my true home.

Following the sound of the bell, in the garden of my heart the flowers of peace

bloom peacefully.

When I awaken, refreshed from my nap, I suddenly realize that today is actually the tenth anniversary of taking my first vows at Plum Village, Thich Nhat Han’s Monastery in Bordeaux.  What an auspicious anniversary, to celebrate ten years of life-changing Buddhist practice and to be here in the South of France again to silently renew my vows.