Thursday, December 5, 2013

Thoughts on charity....

... fatigue.

The mailman always leaves me a most curious collection of stuff.   This week alone, no less than 10 solicitations for charity.  Give here, give there, save this, save that, help here, help there.  I sort my mail in the garage, next to the recycling bin and most of these land in the bin, without opening.   The director at work is soliciting for donations for a big charity, Facebook has lots of ads for charities.   Even my junk email folder has solicitations.   The funniest one was from an agency that basically said give-us-your-money-so-we-can-tell-you-what-charities-to-give-to.  Really?  I do stay away from the large national charities ....   I'm not interested in supporting the 6-figure lifestyle of their CEO's.

I wish there were fewer needy people in the world.  I wish I had the funds to support more causes.   But truly, I'm in charity fatigue this year.  

Do I donate?  Yes.  But I do it with a clear heart and not from guilt or peer pressure or because of sob stories.  And to several charities to whom I can give with an open heart and true joy.   

Several of my dearest friends, with whom I've exchanged small gifts for oh....  at least 40-50 years...  have agreed this year that we would not exchange.   We know the love we share with each other, and if I see something or get an idea that just screams to me, I'll do that.   But overall, this year is dedicated to my grandchildren and their parents.   I'm careful with giving (not stingy, but careful and aware),  I'd rather give something made with my hands and my heart than with my checkbook or Visa card. 

Where can I do the most good?  That's the bottom line for me...   Om Shanti Om.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

23,675 Days

My mom died long ago, April 19, 1979 to be exact.   I always thought she was 65 when she died, but for some reason, I wanted to know how old she really was ...  because I don't remember.  Since my 65th birthday is on the horizon, I felt strangely connected to her life at this point.

So I did some searching and found this site on which I could calculate her age...   and there I found that her life lasted 23,675 days.  From June 14, 1914 to April 19, 1979.  64 years, 9 months, and 26 days.   Sheesh, I thought, I'm getting close.

So using my birthday of January 10, 1949, I started plugging in some dates.  And tomorrow, November 4, 2013, the 23,675th day of my life.   As of mid afternoon, I will have surpassed her life span.


How have our lives been different?   I'm still nimble and flexible (thank you, yoga), I don't have old lady hair (at least I don't think I do), I'm still working full time.   When she was my age, she was dying of colon cancer, and mostly unaware of her feelings and energy.  I'm alive and healthy, and hopefully more and more aware of emotions and the energy that propels us.

I feel great sadness for her.  She never got to see her grandson grow up, get married, and become a father himself.  She never got to see her daughter (me) get a master's degree, or move forward on a career path that now spans over 40 years.   She was emotionally hobbled, and I think very unhappy with a lot of her life.   I don't ever remember seeing her cry (my dad either for that matter, even at her funeral).  Her life was short.

Sometimes I'm still angry that she died so young.  She and I had gotten much closer after my son was born.  We'd talk for hours on the phone.  I took great joy in making clothes for her (the year of the famous Christmas bathrobe).  I've missed having a best friend as I moved into adulthood.  And she was all of that.   She loved being a grandmother.  She would so relish in being a great grandmother.

I was orphaned by the time I was in my early 30's.   My dad died four years after my mom.  I wasn't there when either of them left their bodies.   I still think it was their final act of parental love, believing that they needed to "spare" me the sights and sounds of death (though, as a nurse, I've witnessed many transitions and I'm not afraid of them... ).  

I do have a sense of gratitude for all that she was to me and did for me.  I know that they were great sacrifices along the way.   We didn't have much money, yet they managed to save for my college education, among other things.  She, above all, supported my dreams.  She wanted better for me.....

I still miss her.   And in her memory, I hope to move forward to uncharted days with gratitude for her memory. 

Sunday, September 22, 2013

My White Thumb....

OK, so I'm a really bad blogger.  My last post was in February... spring and summer have come and gone, and fall is in the air.   It's been a busy few months with the arrival of my twin grandchildren (OK, yes, I'll post pix later!) and a trip to the east coast to see some dear friends.  

Along the way, I've been reading a lot of Michael Pollan.   Yes, he's my current crush.  I love his take on food and his deep understanding of the evolution of food and our relationship to it.   While I was in PA, I ran across his newest book, Cooked.  When I got home, I ordered it on Audible and have been entranced ever since.   He uses the framework of the elements to describe the ever changing landscape of food and preparation.    For air, he got into bread baking... and now I want to do that too!

My history with yeast breads has been somewhat less than illustrious.  Somehow the act of adding dry active yeast to warm water and making bread had always been a process shrouded in mystery, an event that never quite succeeded.   Even those pre-made loaves in the grocery store eluded me.   I became the queen of doorstops.   And I never baked bread again.

So after reading/listening to Cooked, I decided to give it a whirl.  And found a recipe I thought I could follow and someday, master.   Pollan, bless his foodie heart, uses a homemade sour dough starter for his artisan breads... but me, I gotta try the yeast thing.

Therefore, armed with a recipe for pita bread, I set off on the journey.

First batch, 2 weeks ago.   Used whole wheat flour (all I had in the house) and the dough actually rose.  I took pix with my phone to document the event.  But the dough was very wet at the start and it took a lot more flour to even get close to what I thought was the desired consistency.   But it was edible if not dense.

Second batch, last week.   Used 2 c of white unbleached flour, 1 cup of whole wheat pastry flour.    Better, but still not like the pretty pictures on the webpage.    

Third batch, today:  Left out oil and honey on the advice of an experienced baker...  maybe that's weighing it down.     A bit more puffy, but didn't rise as much as with the oil and honey.  Still not bad (I just ate the first one).

So now, I want to find out why I can't make puffy pockets like the recipe shows.  And there is no middle part to stuff with yummy tabouli or hummus. 

I live at 7000 feet, so I add a bit more salt and a generous measurement of yeast to account for the thin air.    I find that the dough tears while kneading and I'm not sure if that's too wet or too dry.  Back to research... and another batch next week.

Hmmmmmm....   the yoga of breadbaking.  It's all about the practice.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

The Holding of....

... two opposing ideas.

I was driving to work the other morning.  I had awakened in a less-than-stellar mood, somewhat dismayed at returning to the chaos of a brutal week at work.   I was just sort of off my game.  I hadn't slept well, I was tired and I knew that the day would be busy and offered no respite.  

When I got in the car, I tuned my ipod to a specific chant, one that I knew would soothe whatever was churning inside.   The chant is about 12 minutes long, the perfect length for garage-to-parking-lot travel.

Here's a link to the chant:   Shantala singing "Baba Hanuman"

There was average traffic on my usual route.  I chanted along with the recording and noticed that I was navigating traffic without angst and my mood was settling as I drove. 

Long ago, I had heard a quote (I know not where)... Serenity is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in the mind without conflict.  The quote is sequestered in my desk on an elderly post it note.   I had to find it (and the exact wording) when I got home.

I had been holding two ideas all along my short commute.   The magic of bhakti and the navigation of traffic.   Now to maintain that as I move thru the day.  It became a grounding point.   I didn't always feel serene, but the day did seem to move a bit better.

Sunday, January 20, 2013


... with Buddha.

When I first opened Lunch with Buddha by Roland Merullo, I had the distinct and comforting sensation of being embraced by a loving family after a long absence.   I blogged about my love affair with Breakfast with Buddha and have revisited the book several times while waiting for the sequel.  I've read or listened to random snippets in the meantime... always finding new wisdom.

Lunch brings a similar scenario.  Otto Ringling, our reluctant hero, and his brother-in-law, the Buddha-esque Volya Rinpoche, travel in a rumbling elderly pickup from the Pacific Northwest to Dickenson ND.  Their adventures along the way serve as vehicles (pun intended) for Rinpoche to teach subtle but profound lessons.  This journey has a strong undertone of grief (I won't spoil the plot here, suffice to say I sobbed through Chapter 8), yet, as the story reveals, the connections we form and cherish often transcend physical life.

I applaud the quiet humor that Mr. Merullo provides...  these journeys take me from laughter to tears within a few pages. 

After living in Spokane for several years, I could easily relate to the geography of this journey.  The vast open landscapes of the northern plains often remind me of the landscape of the mind.  At first, that which appears to be mundane and/or cluttered (whether it be with scrub trees or miscellaneous thoughts), hidden treasures can be found when we look closely.

I love how Mr. Merullo brings the stories to conclusions without closing the door.  In Breakfast, we knew that Otto had made some deep decisions, even though we weren't told what they were.  I knew.  And now, Lunch concludes with a similar hook, one that made me smile and feel deep and abiding satisfaction.  Even though we aren't told the next chapter, we know.

Mr. Merullo has a gift for character and story....   lyrical prose, quiet metaphors that speak loudly, and characters that truly come to life.   The question remains:  What time is Dinner?

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Where were you....

...on Sept. 11, 2001?

Of course, that's the question on everyones lips today. 

As I got up this morning, I thought back to that day.  My son was active duty Air Force and stationed in Korea.  My daughter in law was asleep in the guest room, and their roommate was asleep on the living room floor.   I took my coffee to my studio to turn on local news and there was Matt Lauer with a pale face, talking about the first crash.  I awakened the sleeping ones who rapdily decided to quickly leave for their home in Phoenix, knowing that my son would call his wife as soon as he could.

We all have our remembrances of that day, that week.  It was one of those life events where we each know where we were and who we were with when we heard.  Like JFK's assassination and the Challenger explosion.  Why is it that we don't remember the good days in the same manner?  Oh we remember the births of our children, graduations, weddings, and the like.  But we don't seem to be able to capture that almost cellular memory that we possess when tragedy strikes.

I wonder about all the news coverage that ran for days after these events.  Is it necessary that we revisit the horror and allow ourselves to be re-traumatized with repeated viewings of a story that cannot possibilty have any other ending?  Yet, we were all glued to the tube as replay after replay, viewing angle over viewing angle replayed with unrelenting frequency.

I'm sure they replayed it at some point today on some news channel somewhere.  There were stories about survivors today.  I didn't watch them.  That may sound uncaring or even cynical.  But I won't allow myself to re-imbed those images.   I offer compassion for those who were lost and the families left behind.  Re-living it would not be productive for me.  Or for many others.  We won't forget this day.  We do not need to re-live it. 

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Which way do I.....

..want to go?

I love this intersection.  Look closely at the traffic lights.  (Click on the photo for the bigger image) One points left, the other right, and there are enough arrows and directions to confuse the uninitiated.  But it makes me smile every time I see it.

Every moment is a choice.  That thought came to mind during my yoga practice tonight.   Each pose, each breath became a choice to remain conscious and present.  I sometimes wonder about the choices that others make (and that whole discussion could get pretty severe and depressing), but I'm reminded that I can only really consider the choices that are on my path. 

I took the day off yesterday.  After a weekend of county fair and other festivities, I needed a day to catch up and be nice to myself.  I went to my favorite teacher's yoga class, ran errands, and ended with a lunch date with a friend.  We talked a lot about meditation since we are both exploring it and delighting in the things that we are realizing through this practice.  It's a choice to seek silence, to listen deeply, and to know that all the wisdom is contained within.  I didn't believe that at first, but the more I meditate, the more I see that its true for me.