More Endorsements

Lima: Tears of Joy & Sorrow!

Categories: Adventure, Buddhist Practice, Gourmet, Mindfulness, Oncology, Personal Growth, Psychology, Relationships, Spiritual, Travel - Tags: , , , , , , ,

Prudencio, Tania Harriet & Margarita

Prudencio, Tania Harriet & Margarita

This emotional roller coaster, these tears of joy and sorrow, this laughter, all within 48 hours, this is NOT JET LAG. It is the joyous proximity to celebration of a new life, juxtaposed with the sudden confrontation of the possible death of a friend, both of whom we have specifically come to South America to visit.

But here and now, the poignant celebration of a new life. We touched down in Lima at midnight on Sunday, exactly one year to the day later than we were expected. After the usual scurry of pre-departure preparations for a six-week absence in So America and Cuba, we arrived in Lima after 22 hours in transit, and exactly one year after we expected to arrive. The surprise sight of Prudencio waiting for us with his bride Margarita and their baby daughter, Tania Harriet, my Aymara Indian baby namesake, awaiting arriving international passages straining at the rails, simply and totally dissolved me.

Loving Newlywed Parents

Loving Newlywed Parents

I had not seen Prudencio for ten years, not since I was the one at LAX awaiting at the rails for him among arriving international passengers after he’d returned to us from his visit home to his family in Chicuito,, his Aymara pueblo on the banks of Lake Titicaca, in Peru. But in 2004 Prudencio, even with the ten year visa we’d helped arrange for him to visit us, was quite harshly denied re-entry by US border officials.

That was one of the penetrating traumas that preceded my diagnosis of breast cancer, and that introduced me to the visceral experience of powerless disenfranchisement that the majority of third world people experience daily. As I waited eagerly for Prudencio to emerge from customs, the hours dragged on with no word. US Border Officials refused to reveal anything about Prudencio whom they had detained in a darkened room behind closed doors, while, I later learned, they threatened him and his whole Peruvian family if he did not confess to whatever trumped up charges they accused him of, before loading him on a return flight to Peru.
In the intervening years we tried several times to clear this up, to no avail. So this is the first time we have seen each other in ten years, and why, upon seeing him waving and smiling as we emerged from customs after midnight, I dissolved in tears of joy and relief.

Since then we have spent nearly every waking hour together while we are in Peru. They show up at our hotel mornings after what turns out to be typically long bus rides across several zones of the city of Lima on the Metro with Baby Tania Harriet. We spread out over the two queen beds and on the floor of our large hotel room for hours, sharing photos, catching up, exchanging presents, and reading aloud in Spanish from one of the dozen or so classic children’s books I have brought my namesake, year-old Tania Harriet, long before she will be interested in reading!.

Reading Curious George in Espanol

Reading Curious George in Espanol

Listening to Ariel's iPad Reading of "Ferdinand"

Listening to Ariel’s iPad Reading of “Ferdinand”

Margarita crotchets booties for Daughter Ariel and her partner Kate’s baby boy due in June. Ariel has recorded a dramatic video reading on my iPad of “Ferdinand” in her fluent Spanish; Prudencio read us my favorite story of “Frederick”, and we stumbled and laughed through pidgin Spanish escapades of “Curious George on His Bicycle”. We visited museums together and their immaculate modest house outside the city, appreciating anew the struggles he faces supporting his family with his work in housekeeping at the downtown Sheraton Hotel.

P1020506The last day we played in our shallow hotel swimming pool, introducing Prudencio, Margarita and the baby to their first time ever dog paddling and “swimming” before taking them out for a celebratory final dinner at “Rosa Nautical”, a fancy and delicious seafood restaurant on Lima’s Pacific shore.

All in all, a delicious and wonderful visit before we set out on the rest of our long awaited return to Latin America,, and next, our also long-awaited reunion with travel buddy and English Expat friend, Kevin Poulter in Santiago.

Sperm Shopping!!

Categories: Adventure, Conscious Living, Family, Parenting, Personal Growth, Relationships, Women's - Tags: , , , , ,

Sperm Shopping!!

Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner 21st Century~~This has to be the shopping trip of my life. Just Imagine!!

Solid Partners: Mamas-To-Be

Solid Partners: Mamas-To-

After wishing, hoping, trying to find her life partner first, my beloved gay daughter met and fell in love with Kate.  And now for Ariel’s 40th Birthday, they have decided to go for it.      Since she was little, Ariel has always loved and been naturally gifted with children.  She baby sat, volunteered as a pre-teen at her own former pre-school, Hill and Dale, worked for Head Start, then received her elementary teaching credential and her Masters in Human Development and taught for years in Echo Park as a bi-lingual teacher, then earned then a certificate in Non-Violent Parenting, and is now on staff at an Echo Park non-profit that teaches and supports compassionate child-raising, working with parents, teachers, and child care providers.Heeding the ticking of her bio clock, she has finally realized if she is to become a mommy herself, now is very much the time.  And so, after consults with fertility specialists, other gay women, lots of web surfing, and charting of temperatures, some jet assists from USC Fertility Center, this amazing shopping trip!

Ariel says if she is going to be a mom, she really needs her own mom’s support, and that starts with “sperm shopping”!  So, she in her living room in L.A. and me at my desk in Santa Cruz, we’re surfing the web together.  It is amazing and moving to dive into the Lesbian owned site where hundreds and hundreds of carefully screened young men of all ethnicities, physical traits, interests and backgrounds have offered to donate their sperm for women planning alternative families.

Mama's and Daughters: Ariel & Me--Gratitude!

Mama’s and Daughters: Ariel & Me–Gratitude!

There are boxes to check eye color, hair color, hair type, skin tone, height, weight, ethnicity, education, and, most importantly “WTBK” or “willing to be known”.    We all agree that WTBK is a basic requirement. That means not only are the donors willing to be interviewed extensively on video, but they also agree to be available to meet at least once, if, when their progeny reach eighteen, they want to meet their biodaddy.

Ariel and Kate have narrowed down their search to five candidates when she invites me into the quest. It is incredible.  Almost spine-tingling, actually, to “meet” the young men on camera who may provide the sperm for my first biological grandchild!  It’s right up there from my era with Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner? Way outside the conventional Pasadena white-gloved box I grew up in.  I don’t have to cook, worry about what to wear or what to talk about when I meet each “suitor”—I just listen, reflect, respond, try to keep my mouth shut until asked—and try to pull from my best clinical skills—to discern character and genotype that will provide my daughter with a wonderful baby.  For a moment, I privately muse to myself, “If I only had been this mature and conscious myself!”   (There are, however, some notable differences between twenty-something and forty-something, not to mention the 1960s vs the 21st century!)

I love their choices.  We decide that someone from a somewhat similar gene pool will give their child one less hurdle to cross, and for Ariel and Kate, heart, humor, warmth, intelligence and athleticism emerge as very important.  But “their five” appear to have all of that! I’d LOVE to cook dinner for any and all of them, and get to know them, but I will have to settle for sidelines in cyberspace and gratitude to the conscious young men who donate their sperm so gay women can raise families, and definitely, to have been invited in on the shopping trip of my life.  Trust me, it’s lot easier to pick out a pair of shoes than a sperm donor.

Silent Spring

Categories: Adventure, Animals, Biking, Buddhist Practice, Cancer, Conscious Living, Family, France, Health and Fitness, Horses, Psychology, Relationships, Travel

My life has been so blessed overall–but I/we surely got dealt our lifetime ration of yuck over the past six months!!

In January, my beautiful young Rocky Mountain Horse, Shambhala Sunrise, died ;  our local property “caretakers” did the opposite of taking care of us and our property, instead figuring out how to destroy our yurt, and bilk us and the state of California, no more said about them, but we don’t miss them; the son of a (unbeknownst to us uninsured) roofer fell off the roof of our ranch in the Sierras; my truck was vandalized and my wallet and ID was stolen by a ring of sophisticated identity thieves; we had to cancel our long awaited trip to visit our godson in South America when my beloved husband, Jim, was diagnosed (mis, fortunately) with colon cancer; my new horse bucked me off twice and fractured my collar bone.  I didn’t feel like talking much about it all!  IT seemed like a good time to observe “SILENT SPRING” and wait until the dark clouds passed over.

Today, in celebration of the end of that Silent Spring, we are back on track-marking the end of the winter of our discontent and celebrating our 30th Anniversary with a tandem bicycle trip following the Rhine and Moselle Rivers,  More to follow!

A Beautiful Gift of Friendship

Categories: Adventure, Buddhist Practice, Conscious Living, Endorsements, Meditation, Women's, Writing - Tags: , , , , ,

“Pulling Up Stakes: Stepping Into Freedom”–an ink and watercolor drawing by Linda Johnson Roesch

Words cannot begin to describe the surprise, amazement, delight and gratitude that I felt when I opened a large mysterious package recently.  I was agog.  I have loved our adventures and I have loved writing about them, even to the extent that writing is part of my meditation practice.  Editing and publishing my first personal book was challenging, scary and exciting.  My readership is considerably smaller than  Cheryl Strayed’s who is living the writer’s dream, whose book “Wild”, about redemption hiking the Pacific Crest Trail be selected by Oprah for her book club. www.cherylstrayed.com/wild_108676.htm

My gratification as a writer is more private, though very deep.  And I have thoroughly relished invitations to speak with readers at book clubs.  Those readers really have great questions leading to wonderful discussions, and opportunities to relive experiences and explore life lessons learned.  More than enough conditions for happiness…..

However, this surprise package thrilled me to the core.  The beautiful watercolor and ink painting arrived unbidden, created by my high school classmate, artist Linda Johnson Roesch. San Marino High School Class of 195www.smnet.org/comm_group/smhs1958/WhatAreTheyDoing/

 

Linda lives in Vermont and we have only seen each other a couple of times since high school, but she got wind of my book, Pulling Up Stakes: Stepping Into Freedom, and bless her, was so inspired reading the book, that she took up brush and watercolors and created this mosaic, listing every single place mentioned in the story–and most of the characters including each of my children, and she signed it with an ink drawing of a llama with wings, an homage to the cover art.  Without saying a word, she packed it up, shipped it west, and gave me the deepest thrill a friendship over decades and across the continent could possibly bring to an author.

Cheryl Strayed, were you any happier when Oprah called you?  I am sure  you were in bliss, but this inspired act of generosity surely nourished my bliss as well.

Together, we Step Into Freedom practicing random acts of kindness.  Thank you SO much, Linda, Dear Friend!

How To Find Solace In the City

Categories: Adventure, Buddhist Practice, Conscious Living, Meditation, Mindfulness, Personal Growth, Relationships, Self-Improvement - Tags: , , , , , , , ,

It is so easy to get caught and stressed, and yet so precious to be able to find opportunities for calming the mind, breathing and smiling, and centering.  For example, Tim Kreider writes in the New York Times about “The Busy Trap” (http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/06/30/the-busy-trap)  and how we too often overload our schedules and run around lamenting how over busy we are, just to avoid the fear of space, quiet, down time–the true ingredients of creativity. “More, more, and more” has long been the American way of life (or, should I say the American way of death…?) but there are (dare I say?) more and more of us pursuing a quieter, calmer path.  As Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh so sapiently offers:

DONT DO SOMETHING….  JUST SIT THERE…..

          Cultured Asians have long understood the value of solace and respite, and to that end, have created sublime gardens to foster peace, calm and tranquility.  This fall, while traveling on the book tour, we have savored three such beautiful gardens:  the Chinese and especially the Japanese Gardens at the Huntington Library and Art Gallery in San Marino, California–(about a block from where both Jim and I grew up), and the Chinese Gardens in Portland, Oregon.

In each, we found peace and quiet and such a clear privileging of aesthetics and beauty over any other value.  Time spent in an urban garden as even a brief respite from the busy-ness of urban life can be as refuelling as a day in the wild.  

 This lovely scene is from the Japanese Gardens at the Huntington Library in San Marino, CA  Japanese Garden – The Huntington Library www.huntington.org › Gardens

The Chinese gardens in Portland provided welcome respite from a busy schedule on the book tour in the Northwest–In Portland, we did a “meet the author” at Annie’s Bloom’s Books.  Annie Bloom’s Books | Your neighborhood independent bookstore. www.annieblooms.com/.   We stayed at the beautiful Portland hillside home of Lilio Aragonez, one of my favorite colleagues from teaching days at Beverly Hills High School a few decades ago!  We adventured around the city with Maina Ptolomy, one of my high school buddies from San Marino.  So book touring was always an adventure combined with kicks and old home week.

Taking only a whole city block, these gardens invite us to step into the home of a Chinese scholar and calligrapher, pausing by contemplative ponds and bridges.Lan Su Chinese Garden is one of Portland’s greatest treasures—a powerfully inspiring experience that takes one through time, offering a window into Chinese culture, history and way of thinking.

Lan Su Chinese Garden   www.lansugarden.org/

Entry mosaic invites the eye to contemplate patterns and rhythms while walking in meditation

A seasonal array of Chrysanthemums reminds one of the falling leaves, the coming of winter and consciousness of time passing…

Entering the welcoming courtyard,  looking through the keyhole gate, we are invited to look inward, to leave the city’s hustle and bustle behind and to enjoy time for contemplation, for focusing on aesthetic beauty and on both timelessness and time passing.  As Thich Nhat Hanh teaches, “I have arrived, I am home”  and “No Coming, No Going…..”

Each vista is calming, centering, lovely…

Don’t Lose Your Cool in the Warmth of the Holiday Season!

Categories: Buddhist Practice, Conscious Living, Family, Mindfulness, Parenting, Personal Growth, Relationships, Spiritual - Tags:

        Tis the season to be jolly, right?  Sometimes, doing our best at this time of year to be kind, and generous and thoughtful, remembering our friends, our family, our neighbors, wanting to reciprocate that random act of kindness that went unacknowledged, sometimes we just discover ourselves running out of gas, spread too thin, uber stressed.

I remember the coup de grace of this pattern, a time, way back when, when I was a single mom, a full time graduate student, and trying my best to do it all and to make the holidays wonderful for my two children, Gabriel and Ariel, then probably seven and five years old.  My kind mother, a creative grandma sewed an advent calendars for each of  them.  the calendars each had twenty-four little pockets with each day numbered from December 1 to 24, and each pocket was to hold a small surprise to be opened every day until Christmas.  So, writing papers and meeting deadlines for grad school, I also did my best to find forty-eight wonderful tiny surprises, and wrap each in tissue paper to fill their calendars.  Of course in addition, there were gifts to buy for the whole family and many friends, stockings to fill, holiday cards to create, write and address, lights to hang and a tree to decorate.

Gabriel and Ariel delighted in helping glue family photos on the cards, baking cookies and decorate the tree, hanging ornaments as high as they could reach, but we had a high ceilinged living room and a very tall tree, so they could only do so much.  At night, after they were tucked into their beds and sleeping, I got a tall ladder out of the garage, set it up, and began working my way up the tree with ornaments (many of course hand-made to make them more meaningful–Martha Stewart, are you hearing me?).  As I reached the top of the tree and the top of the ladder, to put the star on top of the tree, I teetered, lost my balance and fell to the floor in a crumpled heap, alone, sobbing, overwhelmed, and utterly exhausted.

Big life lesson!  Can you relate?  Anyway now, our extended family,  Jewish, Buddhist and Christian, celebrates the holidays very differently.  We rotate holidays, taking turns to host and decorate a tree.  For gifts, except for little children, we have a drawing, each of us drawing the name of another family member.  We have each submitted the name and contact information for our favorite charity (If you are feeling generous, mine, which I founded locally, is Bread for the Journey, a non-profit that raises money to bestow micro-grants to seed creative projects to serve the underserved in our county: www.bfjsantacruz.org).  We give one  generous donation to support the charity of the family member we’ve drawn.  So conscious, so simple, so nourishing!  So respectful of our intention to consume less, be lighter on the planet, and to celebrate the season with unfettered love and generosity.

So, my gift to you, this holiday season, Dear Reader Friends, is the gift of Stepping Into Freedom!  Stay cool, keep it mindfully simple  and be warm!

 

 

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