Archive for category: Relationships

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!

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!

 

 

Looping Yosemite’s High Sierra Camps

Categories: Adventure, Conscious Living, Health and Fitness, Hiking, Horses, Relationships, Travel - Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Wonderful opportunity!  Reservations for the High Sierra Camps are hard to come by.  You have to win a lottery and my psychoanalyst colleague Francine has been trying for years.  The appeal is enormous:  Yosemite National Park; beautiful trails high above the valley floor, some intersecting with the JMT (johnmuirtrail.org/) and the Pacific Crest Trail (www.pcta.org/); camps about every 8-10 miles with tent cabins, restrooms, and a dining/cook tent to prepare meals so you need only a day pack; you don’t have to carry a full backpack!

In 2012 Francine’s number came up for a group of six hikers and we were lucky to be among them.  Just try to imagine a group of (mostly office-bound psychoanalysts representing southern and northern California) planning a challenging 5 day hiking trip, then throw in the fillip of the hantavirus threat (http://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/hantafaq.htm), and you’ve got a guaranteed flurry of preliminary emails, a classically contagious mix, not of the virus, but of the sixty something and seventy something hikers’ anxieties.  What shall we  bring? Carry?  Wear? How much training had we better do? etc.

Fortunately for me, one of our number, Susan, recently married to John and new to distance hiking, was sufficiently worried about carrying a pack and her back pain (an occupational hazard for we of the seated psychotherapist set) that she called ahead and discovered, lo and behold, a mule could be arranged to carry any and everything a hiker didn’t need on her person during the day (i.e. dop kit, camp shoes, book, flashlight, sleepsack, extra clothes).  So, for a a fee, Roamer the mule freed us to hike completely unburdened by anything other than our 2 litres of water, rain gear, cameras and lunch. Thank you, Susan and Roamer and his charming mule skinner accompanist.

Jim, Francine, Mary, Harriet, Roamer, Susan and John and our lovely “muleskinner”s horse Ready to Roll On!

Day One:  After a good dinner and comfortable bed in our tent cabins in Tuolomne Meadows, inauspicuously visited by a deer mouse scuttling across our packs during the night, we loaded our packs. Just in case we sprayed them all with Lysol and gave Roamer what we didn’t need; we set off in high spirits to hike our “shakedown day” about eight or so miles to the camp at Glen Aulin.  We stopped for lunch overlooking Tuolomne Meadows, setting the bar for each days picnic as a site of beauty and welcome rest.  By late afternoon, we reached Glen Aulin Camp, situated at the base of a spectacular waterfall.  Out came the blister first aid, aspirin, some scotch, comfortable shoes–no showers because throughout the loop the water shortage this season was too extreme–handiwipes instead of showers, and in my case, my favorite “Ticket to the Moon” purple parachute silk hammock (ticketothemoon.com/).  I climbed in and, gently swaying by the waterfall, relished reading Caleb’s Crossing, Pulitzer prize winning author Geraldine Brooks’ story of life in the 17th  century colonial settlement on Martha’s Vineyard.

Day Two:  Setting out for Mae Lake Camp. With my Garmin GPS I soon learned that the old artistic rusted cutout trail marker signs underestimated distances by 10-20%, so we averaged 10 miles per day between camps and with detours for spectacular views and picnics.  Today we had a good long 1,600 foot climb up out of Glen Aulin with views of dark red Mt Dana and Mt Conness marking the Sierra divide.  Because of the drought and our September days, we missed seeing some of our favorite Yosemite wildflowers, Lemmon’s Paintbrush, sticky  yellow Monkeyflower and Sierra Gentian.  Another year!  By the end of the 10 mile hike, we were all sweaty and tired and so happy to come upon beautiful Mae Lake that we all stripped and dove in.  It felt fabulous.  Only later did we see the “no swimming” sign—it turns out in the drought, the lake is needed for the camp’s drinking water.  Tasty!

 

Two beautiful shots taken by Mary Herne of (L) the sunrise coming up behind Mae Lake, and (R) the shimmering reflection on Mae Lake’s surface at sunrise.  No evidence, fortunately, of our inadvertent rule breaking swim.  Just beauty.

 

Day Three: Mae Lake Camp to Sunrise High Sierra Camp, following the original Tioga wagon road to Tanaya Lake, we climbed up the trail on a series of steep switchbacks  to Clouds Rest Junction.  Other hikers coming the other way assured us we were almost at the top and we must NOT miss taking a cut off west from the junction to a perfect overlook site for lunch.  Jim, Mary and I did that and even though we were tired from the climb, were SO glad we did. The overlook provided a dramatic vista of the valley carved by the movement of Tenaya Glacier, formed when a portion of the Tuolomne Glacier overflowed its basin into Tenaya Lake and down Tenaya Canyon. Oohing and Aahing, munching on our peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, we could look out over Half Dome and El Capitan from our perch. Returning to the trail inspired, we hiked the rest of another 10 mile day into Sunrise, a camp Jim and I had stayed at years ago, hiking from Vogelsang High Camp in the other direction.

Each tent cabin has a wood stove and bed space for six, but because several less-intrepid hikers than we had cancelled, we spread ourselves out nightly in two tents and kept cosy over the cold nights.

                                                                                           Jim, Stoking the Wood Stove at Sunrise

Day Four:  Sunrise is aptly named as it is situated on the edge of a huge meadow rimmed by peaks, a perfect place to get up early, which Mary and I did by starlight the next morning, the last morning on the trail, to meditate bundled up in parkas, long johns, blankets and booties, and watch in silent awe as the sun slowly lit up the peaks and crest, bringing in warmth and the day.  Sad to anticipate parting with our friends and the high Sierras, we set out on our last day’s hike back out to Tuolomne Meadows.  It was a gorgeous hike past Cathedral Peak and an opportunity for another beautiful side trip down to picnic on a huge granite outcropping overlooking Lower Cathedral Lake.  Switchbacking down the trail back to Tuolomne Meadows, another 10 miler, and we were thrilled to find the bus stop at the trailhead juncture with Tioga Road for the shuttle bus to save us an additional two more miles back to our starting point.  

The last  night over dinner and breakfast the last morning, we celebrated our friendship, our accomplishments, our courage in not cancelling the trip out of fear of a deer mouse, and our hopes to win the lottery another year for a return journey.

 

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