Obrigado

6e9a9_ipanema-rio-brazilWalking on the path next to the beach the other day, I passed by three people sitting on a bench – a man and two women, all in their 20’s, good looking, speaking to each other animatedly, all talking at the same time. I slowed as I passed them to see if I could identify the language they spoke, a game I often play with myself. As soon as the sounds came into focus, the lush, round vowels and the soft “shhhh” of Portuguese washed right over me, and I was instantly transported to a beach in Rio de Janeiro. Delicious.

Without thinking, I spun around and walked right up to them, smiling, standing, watching and waiting for them to stop speaking. When they did, I apologized for interrupting, and said I just wanted to know which language they spoke. The man said Portuguese, and I smiled and said I’d thought so. I told them I’ve been listening to a lot of Samba music lately (though really more Bossa Nova if truth be told), and the sounds of their voices made me feel like I was inside one of those songs. As I spoke, I swayed back and forth, and they laughed, which made me happy. I told them I think Portuguese is one of the most beautiful languages in the world, and they all smiled broadly.

The two girls said “Obrigado” — thanks. I asked them to repeat the word, said it back to them with another smile, turned and continued along on my walk.

My, that felt good. To just show up and be in the world, to interact with strangers and share a moment. Let’s have more of that.

Drive On, Sister, Drive On

This is a piece I wrote for The Writer’s Studio (TWS) Reading Series, part of SFU‘s Continuing Studies Program.  The reading, which is open to students, program alumni, and regular folk like moi – writers across all genres – took place on June 5, 2014 at the Cottage Bistro in Vancouver, BC.

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A Nod to Namaste

Namaste.  My highest self greets your highest self.

Photo: Kalyan Kanuri

Photo credit: Kalyan Kanuri

A few weeks ago, as I settled into my yoga class taught by a substitute, a soft-spoken tattooed transgendered person named Raven, I had to admit I was having one of those “How Totally Vancouver” moments.  It was a great class.  My shoulders went places I never knew they could (and probably shouldn’t), and I left feeling very “grounded,” as I do every time I walk off the mat.

Though technically I think my first yoga classes were at my gym in LA in the early 1990’s, I started going to yoga classes in earnest in the late 90’s with my friend Norene, when we were both working for a social venture start up in San Francisco called Education Partners.  Our office was in the KQED building in a funny part of the city, wedged between Potrero Hill and the Mission, but with no real neighborhood identity of its own (at least at the time).  Norene was going once or twice a week to a yoga class just down the block and I decided to give it a try too. Continue reading

Insta-Seder

photoIt all started so innocently.  Yesterday, I casually mentioned to My Beloved, who is not Jewish, that tonight was the start to Passover, which meant that we’d have a good use for the chicken stock she’d made the other night… we could eat it with matzah balls!  You see, last year, for the first time in the 2-1/2 years we’ve lived together, we hosted a seder for some friends, and among other Jewish delicacies, MB made the most delicious matzah balls — a total hit, especially considering she’d never done it before!  (“Chicken soup and dumplings,” she said tonight. “No biggie.”)

We’ve been invited to a large seder tomorrow night, so I wasn’t planning on doing anything special at home tonight, besides eating matzah ball soup.  I’d said I’d bring charoset to tomorrow night’s gathering, but haven’t seen kosher wine anywhere (no booze in supermarkets here, and the nearby liquor stores wouldn’t carry much), so figured I’d deal with making it tomorrow. At least this weekend I’d had enough forethought to pick up a box of matzah when I was at the only nearby supermarket that I know carries Jewish food, but that was as far as I’d gotten.

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Happy Cat

photo

Laila – pronounced like the Hebrew word for “night,” not the Eric Clapton song.

I’ve written about the changing seasons before, and how profoundly they affect my mood. Of course, that’s a profoundly unoriginal observation – we’re just part of the world, we humans, we animals, we plants, we living beings, and so we’re affected by shifts in light and dark and cold and warmth around us.

Rather than restate the obvious, then, let me just say this. I’m happy that spring is almost here. I can feel it in my bones, this readiness for a new season.

2014 is a big year for me, already, and bound to be so for the coming months. I’ve got one of those milestone birthdays coming up, the kind that ends in a 0 or a 5 (not that I’m trying to be coy, but a good friend told me that a lady never reveals her age, and just for this minute, I want to see what it’s like to be a lady). These birthdays seem to bring with them a certain reflective urge, or so it is for me. But lucky you, you won’t hear all of my reflections here – not just yet, at least.

For now, the only reflection I have to share — and this is a huge one — is that I am happy. Here. Now. Happy with every part of my life. Thankful, as I have written recently, for my family relationships. Thankful for my health, and that of my beloved community. Thankful for my home, my work, and yes, even my cat.

Change is in the air, and that feels great. And being almost 50 never felt better.  (Damn, that was a fast turn at being a lady!)

Oscars Redux

800px-81st_Academy_Awards_CeremonyLast night, the world — and I — tuned into the 86th annual Academy Awards.  We watched “12 Years a Slave,” “Dallas Buyers Club” and “Gravity” walk away with most of the big awards. Notwithstanding the fact that I haven’t yet seen any of those films, and I thought Ellen was a bit of a disappointment, I was basically glued to my TV from about 3:30 (to get in some early Red Carpet action) until 9:00 when the broadcast ended.

If you read about my personal history with Oscar, you’ll understand that I grew up with an almost religious reverence for this event.  Even after all these years, the ritual is important to me… even if the meaning isn’t quite clear.  Was it ever clear? Continue reading

Checking My Balance

checkbookMy father taught me how to manage my money.  For this, I am grateful.  I’m the first to admit, I probably could have paid more attention to the lessons once we got past (1) How to Balance Your Checking Account Using a Pencil and the Grid on the Back of the Statement and (2) The Non-Negotiable Task of Paying Off Your Credit Card Bill Monthly.  Though I may not have turned out to be a finance whiz, at least Dad helped me nail down a few basic prerequisites for responsible money management.

Beyond tracking my checkbook balance, my dad has taught me a lot of useful things through the years.  Like every father, he has offered lots of advice — in many cases, even good advice.  (I’d like to meet the parent who has always given perfect advice to their child – if you have their number, could you send it to me, please?)

Mostly, I’m thankful to my dad – and my mom too – for teaching me how to take care of myself, and for passing on their values, combined and individual, particularly the ones I’ve assimilated into my own. Continue reading

First Thanksgiving

DSC_0104It’s my first Thanksgiving of the year.  I’m always thankful that I get to celebrate this holiday twice every year! Tonight, we celebrated with a homemade meal of delicious baked chicken (poultry is poultry, right?), applesauce, cranberry sauce, kale salad with Hollyhock’s yeast dressing, and mashed potatoes drizzled with oil made from basil from our garden.  When I’m done writing this, there’ll be a piece of freshly baked pumpkin pie and whipped cream waiting for me.  Mmmmmmmmmmmm. Continue reading

It’s In You to Give

BloodI must say, this is one of the best taglines I’ve ever seen (and now that I work with a company that creates brands, I’ve seen my fair share). I spotted it last Saturday morning at Canadian Blood Services, where I donated blood.

I love giving blood. It’s something I look forward to doing every 56 days, which is as soon they let you give again. I love that they tell me that I “only” have to wait 56 days – which actually sounds much longer than eight weeks – and could they possibly sign me up for my next appointment while I’m here? Why not, I say, and just like that, I’m a regular donor. Continue reading

Oh Holy Night

rosh-hashana-can“L’Shana Tova!,” my relatives and friends are saying as they greet each other tonight.  “Happy New Year! And,” some add, “may you be inscribed.” The whole expression is, “May you be inscribed in the Book of Life,” but I suppose we’re just too busy around the Jewish High Holy Days getting the gefilte fish ready to have time to finish our sentences.

The Book of Life is a bit of a fuzzy concept for me… I’ve forgotten the orthodoxy about it that I was taught as a child (we were Reform Jews, not that kind of orthodoxy, but still…). What remains with me is the sense that during these “Days of Awe,” we are given an opportunity to reflect on how we are coming along on the road to our holiest purpose. Continue reading