Friday, January 30, 2009

The Staff of Life

"We need more cooks,
not more cookbooks."

---Charles V.W. Brooks

Bread makes itself, by your kindness, with your help, with imagination running through you, with dough under hand, you are breadmaking itself, which is why breadmaking is so fulfilling and rewarding.

A recipe doesn't belong to anyone. Given to me, I give it to you. Only a guide, only a skeletal framework. You must fill in the flesh according to your nature and desire. Your life, your love will bring these words into full creation. This cannot be taught. You already know. So please cook, love, feel, create.

---Intro to The Tassajara Bread Book, by E.E. Brown

Yesterday, Senora Gomez asked me if I had received the birthday gift from my mother. When parents pass on, they send a gift to those they love on each anniversary of their birthday. Those they love are their children. Each gift is uniquely personal to the one receiving it. It is always given with unconditional love. The more one is open to receiving this gift, the greater the love one gets to experience.

My mother baked bread. She prided herself on her yeast breads. Working with yeast requires patience, and the ability to tap into the flow of the process. Sometimes, she would make bread using those large blue Maxwell House Coffee containers. The tops of the bread would spill over, like great big chef hats.

I recall one time she was kneading some dough on the kitchen table. She was wearing her New York Times cookbook apron, and there was flour everywhere. She kept punching the dough and rolling it into itself. She laughed, and said she took her frustrations out on the dough instead of her kids.

Each Christmas she made those disgustingly sweet fruit cakes, with dried nuts and chopped candied fruit. She made them for the "goyishe" neighbors, as she shared with me that that was what they liked. We would walk together and drop them by.

As an adult, the best I have done so far is making Rice Krispy Treats for the neighbors.

Speaking of neighbors, when our bananas get too ripe, I bring them next door to Cindy. A few days later, we always seem to be the lucky recipient of some delicious banana walnut bread. This winter, however, she and Loren have gone off for some adventures in their motorhome. So, when our bananas got too ripe last week, I ventured into the land of bread making, and tried my hand at banana bread from a recipe I found online. I have to say, it was delicious. I know my mother was guiding my hand, helping me, and encouraging me.

This morning I was downstairs looking in our library for a specific book. I didn't find it, but, instead, I found my mother's copy of the Tassajara Bread Book. As I leafed through it, I cried when I got to page 117. On this page was the recipe for banana walnut bread. The page has stains and smudges on it, from years of use by my mother.

I had been led to my mother's birthday gift.

In this lovely cookbook, among a plethora of yummy recipes, there is also a recipe for Tibetan Barley Bread. We all had feasted on this delicious bread at the Chonor House in Dharamsala, India, during our visit to see His Holiness. The Tibetans are a beautiful people, and this blessed bread is a manifestation of their compassionate nature, and their reverence for life. My intention is to be worthy of being able to create that same love in my bread making.

Go and bake bread for those you love. Bask in the experience. Fill your creation with joy from your heart. The journey is a healing for both the creator of food made with love, and for those who receive your love.

Barukh attah Adonai eloheinu melekh ha-olam,
ha-motzi lechem min ha-aretz.

Blessed art Thou, LORD our God, King of the universe, who brings forth bread from the earth.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

It's a Small, Small World

There is just one moon,
And one golden sun.
And a smile means,
Friendship to every one.
Though the mountains divide,
And the oceans are wide,
It's a small world after all.

It's a small world after all.
It's a small world after all.
It's a small world after all.
It's a small, small world.

---Song lyrics for the Disney theme park ride

Sister Jane was so cute yesterday. She knows I like majestic photos of trees, glorious reminders of the ever presence of the Divine Mother. Well, she emailed me some pics of a "famous" tree in Africa. It has elaborate carvings of animals, and is stupendously grand in girth. I thought about using it for one of my blogs. However, later in the afternoon, I received another email from Sister Jane, the subject matter in all caps, screaming out, "I WAS WRONG!!". Jane had found out that the photo was actually of a tree in Disney World's Animal Kingdom. And, to top was man made. She was mortified that she had sent me this heinous hoax. I am sure it also didn't help that I make her say Hail Mary's when she does something that drives me crazy.

But, I digress.

The tree Disney created was based on Baobob trees in Africa. The other picture underneath is of one of those noble Baobob. And, it is a real one! If you look closely (or click on the photo to enlarge it), you can see a happy person sitting at the base of the tree. She is undoubtedly receiving some truly great wisdom by sitting there.

Speaking of Disney, Walt Disney was a man who created some simple, yet universal themes in many of his rides. It is too bad that corporate greed squeezed much of the magic in later decades. And, yet, Disney's Small World ride has the staying power because of its simple message. His Holiness, the XIVth Dalai Lama, states the same idea when he says, "We are same".

We are same. Love others as you would have them love you. Anger solves nothing. Compassion and forgiveness are the keys to happiness and joy. Like the Dalai Lama, Walt almost got it right when he said Disneyland is the happiest place on Earth. He should have said, Earth is the happiest place on Earth (but then you can't charge admission...sorry, Disney Corporation!).

Once I start singing that theme song, it's hard to get it out of my head when it pops in. I am not complaining, cause it also makes me smile. I drive my dog, Sadie, crazy, but I can't stop myself. Perhaps a Hail Mary is in order!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Schooled by the Best

God could not be everywhere, so he created mothers.

~Jewish Proverb

Today is my mother's birthday. Miriam, daughter of Sarah, was an elementary schoolteacher for over 40 years. I saw a beautiful quote which reminded me of her, "The mother's heart is the child's schoolroom." My mother taught me so much about life, and the importance of continuously seeking knowledge, and to always be kind. She died almost seven years ago, right in the middle of one of her mystery book club meetings.

Patient mother of four.

Wonderful wife.

Joyful spirit.

Powerful lady.

Deeply loved and missed.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Look Who's Boss!

"You want a friend in Washington? Get a dog."

Harry S. Truman

Thursday, January 15, 2009

40 Days and 40 Nights

Sister Cindy forwarded an email to me this morning. It was entitled, "40 Tips for a Better Life in 2009". As I read each tip, I began to realize I was nodding to myself in agreement with the whole list. Across the board. I was truly impressed that someone put together such a noble list of actions and steps that can be taken on a daily basis. All this on one fluid page. A perfect and gentle reminder of all that is good. The list embodies simple daily directions for a state of grace in which to aspire. I was amused when it was pointed out to me that there were actually only 39 tips. Sadie, our lab, gave us the 40th.

Cindy told me she had put a copy of the list on her fridge. Smart girl.

I take my hat off to whoever put this particular list together. The truth in each and every kernel gives me the sense that it was divinely channeled, and without ego.

In my own personal journey, I intend on reading the complete list each day for the next 40 days, focusing on one at a time, and being open to a particular lesson with that chosen tip. Each day a new tip. Each day a new lesson in gratitude. Rinse, and repeat.

As I have mentioned in prior blogs, the universe is literal. If you ask to learn your lessons through joy and happiness, the universe responds in kind. Newton's third law of motion states that, "for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction." If you send out love to the universe, love will come back in kind. The same applies to the lessons you learn. The greater joy one has in learning life's lessons, the greater the learning that occurs, and the greater is the cumulative growth toward enlightenment.

This giving of love, and receiving of love, the give and take with the universe, is just one of the laws of nature, which transcends the laws of man. We are merely humble travelers along the way, trying to figure out how to enjoy giving and receiving as much love as possible...which then follows, the greater the love there is, the greater the presence of Heaven there is in the here and now, on every every every breath (and especially in the bad breath of our dogs that only their owners can love).

Grassyass for sending me such a great email, Miss Cindy!

40 Tips for a Better Life in 2009

1. Take a 10-30 minute walk every day. And while you walk, smile. It is the ultimate anti-depressant.

2. Sit in silence for at least 10 minutes each day.

3. Buy a DVR and tape your late night shows and get more sleep.

4. When you wake up in the morning complete the following statement, 'My Purpose is to __________ today..'

5. Live with the 3 E's -- Energy, Enthusiasm, and Empathy.

6. Play more games and read more books than you did in 2008.

7. Make time to practice meditation, and prayer. They provide us with daily fuel for our busy lives.

8. Spend time with people over the age of 80 and under the age of 6.

9. Dream more while you are awake.

10. Eat more foods that grow on trees and plants and eat less food that is manufactured in plants.

11. Drink green tea and plenty of water. Eat blueberries, salmon, broccoli, almonds & walnuts.

12. Try to make at least five people smile each day - including yourself!

13. Clear clutter from your house, your car, your desk and let new and flowing energy into your life.

14. Don't waste your precious energy on gossip, OR issues of the past, negative thoughts or things you cannot control. Instead, invest your energy in the positive present moment.

15. Realize that life is a school and you are here to learn. Problems are simply part of the curriculum that appear and fade away like algebra class but the lessons you learn will last a lifetime.

16. Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a college kid with a maxed out charge card.

7. Smile and laugh more. It will keep the NEGATIVE BLUES away.

18. Life isn't fair, but it's still good.

19. Life is too short to waste time hating anyone.

20. Don't take yourself so seriously. No one else does.

21. You don't have to win every argument. Agree to disagree.

22. Make peace with your past so it won't spoil the present.

23. Don't compare your life to others'. You have no idea what their journey is all about.

24. No one is in charge of your happiness except you.

25. Frame every so-called disaster with these words: 'In five years, will this matter?'

26. Forgive everyone for everything - including yourself.

27. What other people think of you is none of your business.

28. REMEMBER GOD heals everything.

29. However good or bad a situation is, it will change.

30. Your job won't take care of you when you are sick. Your friends will. Stay in touch...

31. Get rid of anything that isn't useful, beautiful or joyful.

32. Envy is a waste of time. You already have all you need.

33. The best is yet to come.

34. No matter how you feel, get up, dress up and show up.

35. Do the right thing!

36. Call your family often. (Or email them to death!!!)

37. Each night before you go to bed complete the following statements:

I am thankful for __________. Today I accomplished _________.

38. Remember that you are too blessed to be stressed.

39. Enjoy the ride. Remember this is not Disney World and you certainly don't want a fast pass. You only have one ride through life so make the most of it and enjoy the ride.

40. Wag more. Bark less!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Sadie's Princess Whisperer

I love dog people. They know the gift of pure love that dogs bring to humans. Dog people know that these creatures are heaven sent, brought here as daily reminders that heaven is here on earth. This is Ella, Sadie's groomer. Sadie will not let anyone else cut her nails except Ella. And what a baby she is when she does get her nails cut! First off, she refuses to walk on shiny floors. Our house has runners throughout, and she runs across the bare floors, from one rug to the next, like she is crossing a moat filled with piranhas. So, forget the idea of her even entering Ella's store. Ella has to come outside, regardless of rain or snow, or sleet, or hail. And Ella always comes prepared, with the pockets of her smock filled with treats. Sadie gets one after each paw is clipped. She is such a whiny baby till she gets the treat. And, of course Ella lets her take the treat from her mouth. Spoiled, spoiled, spoiled. Thank god for Ella. She is another human under Sadie's spell. Her reach is far and wide. Sadie has trained us humans all so well.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Happy New Year

"Om Sri Ganesha Namaha - Great Lord of Wisdom,
Here I stand with so many decisions to make,
with so many ways to turn.
I beg your Grace.
Please fill me with righteous judgment and clear discrimination
as I lay all confusion at your feet and immerse myself solely in Your Being."

Om Gam Ganapataye Namah
Om Gam Ganapataye Namah
Om Gam Ganapataye Namah
Om Gam Ganapataye Namah
Om Gam Ganapataye Namah
Om Gam Ganapataye Namah

Much prosperity, happiness and joy to all who come upon this blog site. May the blessings of Lord Ganesha be with you in 2009, and beyond.

Ganesha is the remover of obstacles, both material and spiritual. He also teaches us by placing obstacles along our path for us to confront, but always in a loving way. It is widely believed that wherever Ganesha is present, there is success and prosperity. By calling on him (by saying the above mantra out loud), people believe that he will come to their aid and grant them success in whatever endeavors they might be making. Ganesha is the deity of the instinctive mind and of the intellectual mind, science, and knowledge — making him the Lord of Categories. He organizes and clears the mind so that awareness may flow into it. Ganesha is also the Giver of Success, and is associated with general abundance in life. Among all the wonderful Hindu deities, Shri Ganesha is closest to the material plane of consciousness and most able to assist us in our day to day life concerns.

(The above information was compiled from several sites. There is a lot of information about Ganesha out there. Knowledge is power. Keep seeking.)

Let's not forget, Ganesha loves food, and he loves life. What's not to like about that?! Even Sadie knows that she will get more snacks when she keeps Ganesha around her. Smart dog.