Archive for category: Family

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!

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!

 

 

Llama Drama: An Opportunity for Practice

Categories: Adventure, Animals, Buddhist Practice, Conscious Living, Family, Health and Fitness, Hiking, Meditation, Mindfulness - Tags: , , , ,

All Black Llao Llao Grazing by Matlock Lake

Arriving in bliss with the llamas and our dogs, high in the John Muir Wilderness, we chose a relatively off the beaten path lovely lake to set up camp for our week.  While the Kearsarge Pass trail gives access to both the John Muir Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail and thus sees lots and lots of backpackers this time of the summer, Matlock Lake is a hidden gem.  We are the only ones here.  It is in a basin surrounded by gnarled weather bent White pines and granite outcroppings against a backdrop of jagged minarets.  From here we can explore Flower Lake,  Gilbert Lake, Heart Lake, and Bench Lake.

Packing with llamas gives us some luxuries backpacking must deny, such as a commodious tent, extra thick sleeping mats, a hammock, a table and two low Crazy Creek chairs, my small inflatable boat the “H.M.S. Sassenatch” launched summers ago on Crabtree Lake into Bench Valley, as well as fresh fruits and vegetables and other delectables.Feeling immeasurable gratitude for all their exertions in making this possible, I wanted to offer the llamas something in exchange.  Down by the banks of the lake I saw a wonderful garden of fresh green bunch grass, their favorite.  I could liberate them from their stake out line, up the required 200 feet from the lake, and let them enjoy an hour of grazing while I paddled across Matlock Lake in my little boat on a reconnaissance mission.

Paddling H.M.S. Sassenatch with Beau and Tashi on Matlock Lake

Jim had warned me that that he had seen Kalmia Polyflora,a toxic form of heather,  the same noxious neurotoxin that had killed Llao Llao’s grandmother Hopi on a pack trip many years ago.  I had seen a bit of that plant down by the lake but felt that there was so much good bunch grass available for the llamas that they wouldn’t eat it, especially if they were only allowed to graze there at the lakeside for an hour.

Last night we climbed into our tent early, read for awhile, buttoned Tashi and Beau into their bright red fleece sleeping jamis and fell fast asleep.  That is, until I was awakened by my muse to write ” The Zen of Llamapacking in the Wilderness” as Jim and the dogs snored on.   I finished writing just before turning out my headlamp to go back to sleep.  But not quite!  I heard a disturbing noise.  Was it a llama choking and sputtering?  I knew it could be the worst.  Terrified, I pulled on my camp mocs and jacket, and rushed out of the tent to discover my worst fears realized.

Llao Llao was frothing at the mouth, just like his grandmother Hopi had done before succumbing to paroxysms of neuromuscular trauma and death.  OMG.  At least this time I had fully stocked our llama emergency first aid kit and was prepared with activated absortive charcoal, a camelback and tube for intubating a poisoned llama, as well as an injectable bio-sponge to absorb toxins from the gut.

At first, so chagrined that I had not heeded Jim’s admonition, and dreading the inevitable “I told you so.” I hastily mixed the granulated charcoal in water in the camelback and tried to administer it by myself to the downed llama.  As soon as I approached Llao Llao with the hose to intubate him, he got to his feet and I knew I couldn’t wrestle 325 lbs of even a sick llama by myself.

I had no choice but to swallow pride and wake up Jim for help. Torn between terror about losing Llao Llao and dreading Jim’s reprisals, I called out imploringly to him.  Aroused, he snarled, “I knew it!” but pulled on his pants and shoes and came to my side.  Realizing we had to figure out a way to immobilize Llao Llao’s head and incredibly strong neck, I haltered him and led him to a large granite rock, pulled his head down onto it, wrapped the lead rope under and around the boulder and handed the rope to Jim to immobilize him while I tried to get the hose down his throat and into his stomach, not his lungs.  Not easy at all, as naturally he fought with all his might and when I did snake the tube in he tried to grind it up with his molars.  He didn’t try to bite my hand inside his mouth per se, but I did get some cuts but somehow managed to pump quite a bit of the bladder full of charcoaled waters into him.  We released his head and watched for awhile, until we figured there was nothing more to do for him but pray.  Charcoaled water all over my clothes and feet, I looked like a refugee from a coal mine.

Jim couldn’t resist telling me that I had shown way too much hubris.  Meekly, I replied that I thought it was misguided compassion more than stubborn pride. Nonetheless, deeply sobered, I realized it was definitely time to practice, to breathe, to meditate, to embrace humility and calm, not get feisty and defensive.  So, exhausted, we returned to our tent and fell back into deep slumber.

The following morning at daylight we checked on our patient and to great relief found him standing and even tentatively chewing his cud.  To be extra safe, remembering Hopi,’s prolonged fatal poisoning ordeal, we repeated the procedure this time with the orally injectable bio-sponge.  The whole drama was such a practice opportunity!  Breathing in my humiliation, breathing gratitude that a potential tragedy had been averted, and that Llao Llao would not die, I realized that compassion and gratitude must be tempered by good judgement and common sense.

Confirming the crisis had passed, I was able to feed and water the llamas then stake them out far from the lake and the heather.  Assured they were cared for, secure and safe, we were able to actually take a great day hike, climbing to the top of spectacular Kearsarge Pass at 11,804 ft.  Surrounded by jagged minarets, we found a new vantage point overlooking our breath-takingly beautiful high Sierra world!

Jim & Me with Tashi & Beau on Kearsarge Pass

 

 

 

A String of Pearls: Summer’s Beautiful Days

Categories: Adventure, Animals, Buddhist Practice, Family, Gourmet, Health and Fitness, Hiking, Mindfulness, Self-Improvement, Spiritual, Travel - Tags:

After yesterday’s potentially life-threatening “Practice Opportunity” with our llama, which, gratefully he survived,  we have had day after day of bliss and beauty.  No Internet, no phones, no appointments , just clouds  to  watch forming and reforming across the Cerulean blue sky, hours drifting  lazily by. Nowhere to go.  Nothing to do.  Don’t do something, just sit there!

Beautiful Summer Days Roll By Like Pearls

Time in the high Sierras, for me, is like the most replenishing meditation retreat. I practically never look at my watch to see what time it is.  I find myself living solely following the rhythms of nature and of my body, awakening to the sun, we nap or rest or swim in the lake  when the sun is high and hot. We go to bed when it is dark, and find ourselves sleeping deeply, like hibernating bears, snug in our den (tent). I wake up, refreshed, remembering dreams more vividly, finding my dreams far more compelling and meaningful at high altitude.  I have time lying in the tent to reflect on them, adding the gift of reverie and introspection as the sun slowly rises.

Swiss Fondue and Fresh Veggies, anyone?

Because this campsite on Matlock Lake is so gorgeous and blissfully private, we decide not to pack up, pull up stakes and move on as we have usually done in the past, but we’ll stay here and take day hikes to the surrounding lakes and passes.  Thus days have a simple routine defined by carrying water for the llamas and the dogs, filtering it for ourselves,preparing meals (grain in each llama’s grain basket, dog food in the dog’s little bowls, making coffee, serving granola and fresh fruits in our breakfast bowls), sitting, meditating, then reading, talking softly, holding hands and intermittently smiling appreciatively, then washing the dishes, carrying more water, sitting again, watching cloud formations magically shift and observing the change of the light throughout the day from bright fresh dawn to the warm alpenglow following sunset.

We hike or fish when it is cool and we feel invigorated.  The days literally glide by according to our own bio-rhythms and the patterns of nature, stringing a sweet Sierra necklace of pearls of each present moment, one after the other.

                                                                            Summertime, and the Livin’ is Easy...

 

Guest Blog from Ranger Rick, Kings Canyon National Park

Categories: Adventure, Family, Hiking, Mindfulness, Relationships, Travel - Tags: , ,


                                           One of the Rae Lakes in the Eastern Sierra

Rick Sanger has been a dedicated ranger in Kings Canyon National Park with the National Park Service for almost twenty summers.  As our neighbor Jim Van Verth’s college roommate years ago at University of California at Santa Cruz, in the off season “Ranger Rick” occasionally comes to visit Jim Van Verth in Aptos, where we met him last year.  It was Ranger Rick who, after meeting our llamas, inspired us to plan this year’s summer High Sierra llama trek into the Rae Lakes in Kings Canyon National Park.  So, on August 1,  after driving truck and trailer the day before across the Sierras to Lone Pine from our “Twin Brooks Timber Llamas Ranch” in Auberry, CA, Jim and I will load up Miwok, Zuni, Sequoia and Jambo’s packs as well as little packs on our poodles Beau and Tashi, and head up out of the Onion Valley trailhead over 12,000 ft Kearsarge Pass, giving access to the spectacular scenery of the Rae Lakes , where we’ll spend a week camping, hiking, fishing and refueling our souls with Sierra energy.

Serendipitously, just yesterday, Jim Van Verth sent me this update from Ranger Rick about a 72 year old Sierra hiker which I invite you to enjoy.  I loved it because my Jim Wheeler at 75 has been backpacking in the Sierras since he was 12 when his dad made him a backpack out of plywood and canvas!  That same dad, Doc Wheeler, invited me on my first backpacking trip 32 years ago and introduced me to his son Jim.  The rest is all in Pulling Up Stakes: Stepping Into Freedom.  And I just celebrated my 72nd birthday–so let’s hear it for “Hiking Endless Summers”!

“Hello All!!!  I’ve started my summer season this year, Suzanne and I are stationed at Charlotte lake, a change from the past 3 years.  It is pictured above.  Sorry I don’t have stunning images to send, but I do wish to offer up this story from a hike last week.

On my way up Glen Pass I noticed an older man descending from above me very slowly, being especially careful each time he weighted his left leg.  When we finally were close enough, I asked him if he was OK.  “Oh, I’ll be fine,” he said in a gentle southern accent.  “I’m 72 years old, I’ve been hiking in the Sierras for 60 years, and I think this is just Mother Nature’s way of telling me I should start to slow down.”  We introduced ourselves, Paul Kirk was his name and he thought my name sounded familiar but we weren’t able to place where or why.  He then explained in the most eloquent diction how beautiful the sierras are, and how what he valued most in himself he felt had come from his ventures into these mountains.  “whatever my wife finds attractive in me, I am sure it has come from these mountains.”  He said, “I encourage many of my associates to come and hike here, but I warn them that the person who leaves these mountains will not be the same as that who entered, but will be the better for it.”  

            I really wished I had a recording of his speech, it was so articulate and impassioned.  He then related a story of a book he had purchased when he was 7 years old, a book filled with symbols and figures that he knew nothing about, but he was keen on mathematics and purchased the book for 50 cents along with its book cover “It was 1947, and covers of that sort were quite in vogue at the time.”   He was as curious about the cover as the figures in the book – it depicted a most striking mountain scene, the likes of which he had never seen or imagined growing up in the south.  He asked his mother about the picture, “what mountains are these?  What can you tell me about them?” His mother took a long look at the picture, but confessed she was unable to tell him anything about the picture.  She did offer though, that it could be a painting, and that the artist was perhaps trying to portray the most beautiful mountain scene he could conjure, one with the most perfect proportions – the way mountains should look. 

It was years later, that he began hiking in the sierras.  And it was in Evolution Valley, stepping out of the forest to view McClure Meadow that he stopped in his tracks, instantly recognizing the view in front of him as the very same as on the book cover from many years ago!  “I was with my brother, with whom I’ve hiked throughout my life. But now he has suffered several heart attacks, and I am sorry to say is not doing well.”

            “That” I said, “is where I know you from!  I met you and your brother 10 years ago on the San Joaquin with your wives.  You had a 50 year old picture of the two of you skinny dipping there, appropriately blurred in photoshop of course, and you had returned to the area to find the exact place where the picture had been taken!”

“Yes,” He said, “you are correct. That was me.”

 

UA-27644110-1