Saturday, December 13, 2008

A Tribute to Thistle Farms

Not sure where this post belongs - here or on Hamida the Herbalist. It actually bridges both blogs. While reading Victoria magazine January/February issue, I came upon a story about a business and project that is fantastic.

It's called Thistle Farms and it's a non-profit that assists women survivors of violence of all sorts, who learn to produce natural beauty products. This is similar to an idea I had many years ago while working at a women's shelter as a client advocate.

While the services we provided assisted women and children to get away from domestic violence, we were not able to help them much after they left. Many of them depended on the income from the violent partner. The "luckier" ones were on welfare before they came into the shelter. All they had to do was change their address. The ones with no means of support often felt forced to go back to the bad situation because someone was paying the bills. I always thought that we needed to provide or create programs where women could both acquire skills and earn a living while still being in a semi-protected situation.

Thistle Farms in conjunction with other organizations appears to have made my dream a reality. At least for women in Tennessee.

I would love to help create something like that here where I live. It should include a farm where the residents could grow the herbs used in the products and as much of their own food as possible. There would be so many benefits.

When I worked at the shelter, I found that many of the women did not know much about nutrition or cooking from scratch. They ate a lot of fast food or prepared food - both bad for them and their children in so many ways. But they just didn't know any different. These foods are not only useless nutritionally, but also expensive. I managed to bring in Nutritionists from the Agricultural Extension Office to teach food preparation and healthier eating habits. We also got free organic vegetables from a local farm. Half the time the women didn't have a clue about what things were or what to do with them. I don't blame them. Our modern lifestyle encourages media consumption at the expense of living full lives.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Jodhaa Akbar for Christmas

Yes, I have put up another ad for the Christmas season. I have no problem promoting Amazon, because I totally support reading. I love movies too and you can buy them there as well. In fact, I just watched an incredible movie, one of the most beautiful films I have ever seen. I will buy a copy for sure.

It's from India and is in an Indian language with English or Arabic subtitles. It is 3 hours and 45 minutes yet I was sorry to see it end. Jodhaa Akbar is based on the lives of real people and takes place during an opulent period in Indian history.

The music, costumes, and sets are so incredible. It made me want to be young and in love for the first time. Of course, in their case, it helps that they were the richest people in the land as well.

Basically the Emperor Akbar, a Muslim, marries Jodhaa, a Hindu princess during a time when there was much war and strife around issues of land and religion. Yet, Akbar allows her to keep her own religion and culture while living in a Muslim palace. In fact, in time he rules that there will be total religious tolerance in his empire.

Perhaps India needs to go back to its own history (and so do we Americans) to remember these founding principles of tolerance and acceptance. They both respect each other and therefore expand themselves and learn new ways of being, without sacrificing their own traditions. Others try to force them to reject or limit, but they don't go along with that. Instead their love grows as they come to understand each other more. Inspiring.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Grateful for my childhood

Hope everyone had a good Thanksgiving. Mine turned out much better than I expected. I knew the family I was visiting had a little girl, but I did not know about the boy. They were the most delightful, intelligent and well-mannered kids I have met in years. Victoria and Morgun (supposed to be Morgan, but dad was so worn out after the whole birth thing, he couldn't write straight when he filled out the paperwork). I guess the hospital staff didn't question it. Duh! I guess they are so used to misspelling or 'creative' spellings of names, they don't even notice anymore.

And they had two dachshunds that were the sweetest little things. I got my face washed more times than I care to count. Yes, I know their mouths are "clean", but that's hard to remember when you see where else they've been. Midway in the day they were lolling across my body on their backs gazing up at me in such an adorable way.

Earlier, as I was getting ready to go in the morning, I noticed a commotion out on the highway. Many cars and people. I thought perhaps the neighbor up the road was having a big dinner and people were parking along the highway. But no, it was another car off the road and in the ditch. They were trying to help before the CHP came. Funny, I hadn't heard this one go off. Usually there's a squealing of tires then some type of crash. I write a about this on Hamida the Herbalist, Issue of the Week for last week.

I guess no one was hurt as they did not call the police. It made me even more careful driving that day.

We had the usual Thanksgiving dishes, including pumpkin pie made from scratch.
Throughout the day I thought about Thanksgivings past. This has always been my favorite holiday, but not necessarily because of what happened. I just liked it, that's all.

Since my parents divorced when I was around 7 or so, and they both felt I should get the benefit of both of them, they decided that each year they would schedule the holidays in advance. One year Dad got me for Thanksgiving, Mom for Christmas - etc. The next year they would switch.

I always preferred Dad for Thanksgiving, since he married another "American" and they would have "real Thanksgiving". That is, turkey, dressing, yams, pumpkin pie. My mother's people would have "Italian Thanksgiving" which meant tons of food, but no turkey or dressing. Yams? No way. It was more like roast beef with lots of garlic and a mountain of spaghetti.

For Christmas, Mom was best since her family was so huge and I had so many cousins, it meant I got a ton of presents. If I was not going to be there, it seemed I got fewer presents. Also, we would spend ALL DAY eating! I mean it. We'd get to grandma's around noon (after Church) and stay at the table until 10pm or so. We usually had two meals plus desserts, nuts, fruit etc.

Between meals, the men would go out to smoke and play horseshoes, or stay in and play cards, while the women cleaned up the first set of dishes and argued. Us kids would go outside and try to get grandpa's bull the chase us out in the field, then hope to run back through the huge gate in time. What fun! Or we might try to play "baseball" out in the yard near the barn. You had to be careful not to end up in the cesspool, that was inconveniently situated in the yard. We mostly used the outhouse attached to the barn for a toilet, so the cesspool was not as bad as it might have been. We thought nothing of this. It had a structure consisting of mountains of lumber over the top. The only reason I ever knew there was a cesspool there at all was when something went wrong one time and my uncles had to uncover it and fix something - a pump I guess.

Even though I was an only child until my mother remarried and had another daughter, I was part of a huge extended Italian (Sicilian) family. We spent most of our lives visiting each other. There was always something. Holidays, birthdays, showers, weddings, baptisms, then later funerals. My grandparents never spoke English even though they were in this country for nearly 75 years. They had green cards.

I am so grateful I grew up like this. I feel so fortunate. It makes it very difficult to handle holidays now, however. It doesn't feel right unless there are at least 20 people at the table.

At Dad's American Thanksgiving, I had all the great traditional food. When my first step-mother was around, we usually went to her sister's house. They "had money" so they really did it up right. Even the booze they drank was expensive. They had a huge house and their kids, my step-cousins had every great toy you could want.

I'll never forget the year step-mother no.1 made dinner at their house in Fremont. I was already on my own by then and my best friend from high school, who was now my college housemate was with me. Her parents had gone to Texas for the holiday and she did not want to go, so she came with me. Oh God! Dinner was to be around 2, so we went over there around noon. Step-mother no.1 as still in her bathrobe, drunk and stuffing the turkey. We realized it would be hours before dinner was ready, so we drove over to my aunt Annie's in Livermore where my mother was for the day. We ate there and hung out for awhile. Then we went back to Dad's where things were moving along. We had a few drinks to ease the pain. Finally, we ate. Ugh! Misery. Raw turkey. Finally we got out of there. Before we went home, we stopped at my aunt Frances' in Hayward and, of course, ate there. We had eaten 3 Thanksgiving dinners that day!

Whenever I begin to feel sorry for myself - living alone, no children, I think back on that day. All of it. The bounty of food, the family, the dysfunction, the driving around trying to appease all my relatives, the embarrassment of having my friend see that part of my life, etc. and I am grateful that at least I did not duplicate the dysfunction. My father married again. That time to another alcoholic and the last Thanksgiving I had with him, he had to cook it all himself because she was so bad off. My Dad never cooked, but he wanted "a real Thanksgiving" so much he went way out of his comfort zone to try to make it work. Bless his heart.

I know my parents did the best they could. They were the generations that came after the immigrant generation. Children of immigrants who were between cultures. Trying to fit in - "be American". Since my father's parents came here single to work and planned to return 'home', they learned English. WWI broke out and they had to stay here. They met and married. They were from two different countries - Ukraine and Poland.

My mother's parents came from the same village in Sicily. They were married with two children when they came to the U.S. There were lots of Italians in S.F. already, so they could work without having to learn English. They were not forced to assimilate, so they didn't. They were able to retain much of their traditional culture all of their lives.

I knew all my grandparents and learned a lot from them. I am grateful for this as well. I miss them all.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Wishful thinking....

Sorry I was wrong about Obama's birth year. He was born in 1961, not 1964. But, the Voting Rights Act that Lyndon Johnson signed was in 1964 and it did cause another uprising especially in the South as thousands of people tried to register to vote.

Someone emailed me that Martin Luther King, Jr. was killed in 1964 and that is wrong. He was killed in 1968 the same year as Bobby Kennedy. I remember both events very well.

After Nixon was elected, I stopped voting for nearly 20 years. My friends and I all expected that Nixon would put us in concentration camps. Many of my friends were arrested for their anti-war activities - on other pretexts. "The Movement" went underground. Many just gave up. Others became more militant.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

44 Years Ago... and now Obama the 44th President!

I have decided that I'm taking Sunday off. Getting out, going for a ride, visiting friends, going for a long walk, whatever. This blogging thing can become quite addictive and when you add two on line classes to it and an on line business.... I'm definitely becoming a dull girl. More like a 'duh' girl. Really. I've gotten so I can hardly speak sometimes.

So, this past Sunday, I went to a Wellness Expo in Sonoma, then out to dinner at East West Cafe in Santa Rosa, then to a movie.

The Wellness Expo was 'research and development' since Hamida the Herbalist must keep up with what's going on. I saw many old friends and made some new ones. Of course, Linda Ann was there with her incredible and magical jewels. She is also a Feng Shui practitioner and I know her jewelry is blessed. It emanates such loving and compassionate energy. Go see at her website.

There were way too many 'readers' of various types. Some were downright scary looking. SO SERIOUS! Some sat there looking like they were trying so hard to connect to another world, it almost made me laugh. And what's so bad about that is... that I believe in these things. Unfortunately there are too many people trying to make it 'look' so mysterious when actually it is perfectly normal and natural.

After dinner, I went to see The Secret Life of Bees, a great movie made from an even greater book. It has been my experience that movies rarely are as good as the book they came from, and, sorry to say, it was also true in this case. I was disappointed with the movie. But even though I anticipated this possibility, I wanted to see it on the big screen.

One thing that I realized while I watched the movie that I hadn't gotten when I read the book is that when Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights act in July of 1964, that was a month before Obama was born! Amazing! It also struck me that it was 44 years ago and Obama is the 44th president!

Part of the movie is about racism in South Carolina during that period and how the voting rights act caused uprisings in the South. Here we are 44 years later with an African-American president and a bunch of 'stuff' has been stirred up again. What I fail to understand is how the granting of civil rights to any group of people takes away from others? If one is free, aren't we all free?

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Hope Restored

Today I am so proud of America. We finally did something right!

I remember as a child listening to the radio before going to school and hearing all what was going on in Little Rock, Arkansas. It hit me so hard I dreaded driving through there 23 years later. Then Birmingham, Alabama and Mississippi and all those terrible things that happened in the 50's.

My mother taught me to accept people and I couldn't understand what was going on. It set me on a path to work for civil rights, sometimes actively, sometimes behind the scenes by my example.

When I was 12, my best friends and I campaigned for Kennedy by holding signs at a rally downtown Hayward when Nixon came to give a speech. A man came up and offered us a dime to leave.

When Kennedy created the Peace Corps, I decided that some day I would go and I did. I was 27 and I was an ESL teacher. I went to Zaire and taught at the University in Lubumbashi. I have to admit, I learned more than I taught. It was a challenge to be in the minority, but it gave me a little insight into how it feels.

Even though I was expecting to return to the U.S., I remembered the story of my grandmother who only planned to come to America for a couple years to earn money to send back to her parents, then return home. WWI broke out and she was not able to return to her family in Poland and had to make a life here. So... I was preparing myself for the same thing. What if I couldn't go "home" and had to stay there and make a new home?

That was a long time ago, but through the years, whenever I was in a position to stand up for someone, challenge racism, or offer support, I have done so.

When I lived in Louisiana, I came up against racism on a regular basis. It shocked me. Here it was the 80's and this XXXX was still going on. I really couldn't believe it. Having lived there and seeing it for myself, the way people were treated after Katrina didn't surprise me. The only difference was that the rest of America saw it too, finally. Louisiana was the most backwards place I had ever lived. It was like they were in a time warp.

Let's face it folks, there hasn't been much to celebrate lately. But this election of Obama has made me so happy. I believe, if nothing else, it has inspired young people and that is the most important thing anyone can do.

Election day I found out that my polls were closed and I was supposed to vote by mail. I don't like voting by mail, so when the ballot came, I thought I had an option, so I tore it up. Fortunately, I was outside when my neighbor was walking her dogs and we discussed the ads that Google posted without my knowledge or consent.

KPFA was broadcasting about election issues and gave out a hotline number if we had problems. So I called and found out that I had to drive 15 miles to the County Center and the Registrar of Voters Office. I did it because it was too important to miss. Even though I felt sure my one vote would not make that much difference, I wanted to be a part of history.

I am so glad I lived long enough to see this.

Someone said something that night that was very significant:

Rosa Parks sat so that Martin could march.
Martin marched so that Obama could run.
Obama ran so that my children can fly.

Monday, November 3, 2008


Dear Friends and Readers
I have been out of town for two days and I see that Google has taken the opportunity to post an ad that I DO NOT SUPPORT. I removed it from this site and must now go to my other sites to see if it is there also. I am so sorry this happened. If any of you have been following me, especially on Wise Women of the West, which is more personal, you know that I accept everyone. We are All One. Where ever there is Love, it is a Holy Union and sanctified.

Please forgive me for not knowing about this sooner, but I was at the 2012 Conference in San Francisco and just had all my paradigms updated.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Whatever Floats Your Boat

I haven't been posting this week except for my Issue of the Week on my herbal blog because my 'sweetie' has been visiting from Mexico where he lives on his boat. This the fulfillment of his life's dream. He wanted me to go with him, but I couldn't hack living on a boat. So.... I've been down there twice this year and he's been up here twice.

Anyway, I wanted to write a bit about the conference I'm going to in San Francisco Halloween weekend. 2012 Conference, San Francisco - Shift Happens.

Many years ago, I was working on a PhD. in Mayan Studies at Tulane University in New Orleans. I have been interested in the Maya for at least 40 years. I taught courses on Mayan Hieroglyphs and Mayan Culture through the Extension program at Sonoma State University.

Because of my academic background, I was always skeptical of "2012" stuff. I knew it was the end of a calender period of 5125 years, but it was the end of a cycle within many many cycles and so, as such, no more significant than the end of a millennium for us. Of course, each time a millennium ends, people in modern culture have predicted an 'end of the world'.

I'm not sure why I decided to check out a book by John Major Jenkins entitled 'Maya Cosmogenesis: 2012'. I don't recall the chain of events right now. This led me to an Internet search, which led me to this conference, which I have decided to attend.

The book is incredible. He has integrated the anthropological and archaeological information with astronomy and some 'New Age' teachings. In some cases, he makes logical leaps that are not necessarily appropriate, but in the long run, his results make total sense to me.

He makes the case that the Maya knew about the precession of the equinoxes and rather than designing their calender on a historical or mythological beginning, they worked backwards from an 'end date', Dec. 21, 2012. This is when the Sun will line up with the Galactic Center of our Milky Way Galaxy and this will be visible just before sunrise at particular latitudes.

His argument is well backed up by data and it is convincing. So what? you might well say. Scientists have determined that the center of our galaxy is a 'black hole'.

Wikipedia has this to say:
"A black hole is a theoretical region of space in which the gravitational field is so powerful that nothing, not even electromagnetic radiation (e.g. visible light), can escape its pull after having fallen past its event horizon. The term derives from the fact that the absorption of visible light renders the hole's interior invisible, and indistinguishable from the black space around it."

The Maya saw this black hole as the womb of the Great Mother, thus the place of Creation. The Sun was the Father. Thus when the Sun and the GC came together, Creation happened. This occurs every 26,000 years.

In light of this information and the scientific data regarding black holes, we may well ask ourselves what will happen. According to Jenkins, it is not just a finite period of one day, but rather of years leading up to and following the actual alignment. We are already in that period of years. In addition, in Mayan calendrics, time cycles overlap. They don't just end and begin. It is not 2007 on Dec. 31 and 2008 on Jan. 1. Rather there is a period of time toward the end of the year that overlaps with the beginning of the next year. Time is seen as cyclic, not linear.

Could all the upheaval that is occurring in society at this time be part of the "Shift"? I think so. Many institutions have been under scrutiny and some are crumbling or changing. Many people are living in fear these days about their future. The Earth itself is undergoing rapid change due to Global Warming. Where will it all lead?

I invite your comments.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Happy Birthday Wise Women of the West!

What a great way to celebrate our one year birthday! Late in the day yesterday we decided to enter the most recent Entrecard Contest and...... and.... WE WON! Not first prize, but hey! 10,000 points. is great. Winning a prize is great. Thanks Entrecard for the acknowlegement and what a lucky break it came on our BIRTHDAY!!!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Altered Events Blog - One of my Favs

I love this blog for a number of reasons: 1.Her posts are regular and frequent;
2.She uses photos and other graphics that are interesting and load quickly;
3.Her crafts are unique and magical;
4.The blog is informative and has useful adverts, offers, and links.
5.I love the holiday countdown widgets on the bottom of the page and
6. She supports a lot of bloggers and artists by linking to them and their work.

The blog is not only personal, but also features and supports others. It is great to find yourself mentioned in one of her posts. It makes me want to create costumes and jewelry, just to be featured there. LOL It is inspiring.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Tour of Morocco - Feast for the Senses - Fez Sacred Music Festival

Next May, 2009, I'll be leading a tour of Morocco, one of my favorite places on earth. I have posted a complete description of the tour on my website.

The tour will include highlights from my trips there plus some new features. Some of the places we will go are not on the typical tourist tours.

If you want more information add a comment to this post and I will get back to you. The deadline for deposits is coming up soon and we only have a few openings left. Don't miss this one. A trip to remember.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

My Top EC Droppers for September

Thanks so much to my top-droppers. I have been so busy doing other things lately I haven't reciprocated. Sorry about that. Now that the weather is changing I will probably be on-line more.

Stir The Cauldron
Happy Thoughts, Happy Tot
2 Witches Blog
Designing Hilary
My gypsygoods
Communique by Ivanhoe
Greener Pastures
The Homesteading Housewife

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Faubourg Treme

Sunday I went to see a film at the Sonoma Film Institute, which is located on the Sonoma State University Campus. It was called "Faubourg Tremé: The Untold Story of Black New Orleans". Here's the synopsis they wrote:

"This first-person documentary by New Orleans natives Dawn Logsdon and Lolis Eric Elie brings alive the long history of Black New Orleans through an in-depth look at one historic neighborhood, the Faubourg Tremé. Elie, an award-winning New Orleans newspaperman, bought a dilapidated house in Tremé in the 1990's, and through the process of renovation became obsessed with the area's mysterious and neglected past. Progressive and racially mixed from its founding in the late 1700s, Tremé represented the largest community of free Black people in the antebellum Deep South. Elie interviews residents, artists, scholars, even a few historical reenactors to uncover Tremé's prominent place in the national struggle for civil rights. Shot largely before Hurricane Katrina and edited afterwards, the film is both celebratory and elegiac in tone." (2008, 79 min.)
It can be ordered from the website.

It was a great film. Well worth seeing. In fact, I will probably buy a copy. It truly captured the community spirit that exists throughout the area. Treme is now known as the 6th Ward.

There are many small neighborhoods within the larger suburban area. They are often named after a street or subdivision name. Within those neighborhoods, families have lived for generations. They don't leave. Where else is there to go? Part of the tragedy of Katrina is that these traditions which have lasted for sometimes more than 100 years, were disrupted in such a way that they can never be regained. In some ways they limited people, because it's hard to break away from family. These neighborhoods functioned like traditional villages. Everyone had their place. Secure, yes - Progressive, usually not. They had a culture all their own which was rich and unique.

I lived in New Orleans and nearby suburbs for 8 years from 1981-1989. It was quite an experience and one I will never forget. For part of the time, I lived across the river in Westwego, a small township at the end of the Huey Long Bridge. Though minuscule in size, it had it's own court and judge, and police department. If you lived there you had to pay for a special sticker for your car. I was surrounded by people who considered me a 'Yankee.' One of the customs was that as family members matured and married, they just moved into the house across the street or next door to their parents and so just yelled out to each other when they wanted to talk. My husband, from New England, and I had a lot of trouble with this.

There were many little parades which started from the parking lot of the Catholic Church at the end of the block and wound through the 5 or 6 square blocks of the town. They had bands and tiny floats and threw candy at you. Mardi Gras behavior happens frequently down there.

Westwego was segregated with blacks on one street and whites on another. When my husband and I rented to a black family, the neighbors called the police every day until our tenants just couldn't stand it any more and moved. One time I had a tenant (white) who didn't pay his rent. I went to the 'judge' who ordered an eviction, then came to the house in person, opened the door of the apartment and proceeded to throw the tenant's furniture out into the street. I couldn't believe it. This would never happen in California. I protested that this was not okay with me, but the judge said it was entirely within the law.

I never thought I would be able to leave New Orleans because it grabs hold of you in a way that cannot be described. I felt glad to leave when I did. But....I have always missed it for a quality that is way beyond words. It's a feeling, a sensation. With the destruction of these neighborhoods, the dispersal of all these people and whatever 'they' decide to put there in place of what was .... it is over. On the other hand, New Orleans being a very Plutonic place, has risen out of the ashes (read floodwaters) like the phoenix, many times before. It won't be the same, but it could be wonderful.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Today is Pirate's Day

While doing my daily dropping (ECs) LOL, I found out that today is

Pirate's Day. I have no idea where that came from. But
in case you think I have no sense of humor, I thought I'd add this

'test' so you can find out if you are a pirate.

You Are 75% Pirate

Shiver me timbers! You be a tried an' true buccanneer.

Yer likely the captain - shoutin' orders to scrub the deck or walk the plank.

If anyone questions yer shipmate skills, ye'll jus' crush the'r barnacles!

Ye have been flying the Jolly Roger fer a long time. So long that you likely be havin' a bad case o' scurvy.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Seeing the Light

Even though Fall has always been my favorite season, but it is also been when the most painful things have occurred in my life.

September is a challenging month for me. Sept. 12, 2005, my mother died; Sept. 20, 1980, my father died. Over the years, many of my cats have died in September. Last year, in September, my sweetie sailed away to Mexico, where he still lives on his boat. He has no intention of returning to the States except to renew his visa.

Last week, on my mother's Urs (return to the Beloved), I went to see the Chihuly exhibit at the De Young Museum in San Francisco. My mother used to take me to the De Young when I was a child. In fact, we had my birthday picnic there when I was 9 or 10. In May, San Francisco can be foggy and it definitely was that day. We took lots of pictures which I still have. Me and mom, my aunt Frances, my cousins Frank, George, Kathy, and Charles. The Japanese Tea House, the De Young Museum, the Aquarium. Part of my childhood. Part of my present.

I miss the old museum, but I have gotten used to the new one. Now I am a member, so I get in for 'free' along with a guest. I got the two tickets then found two women, about the same age as me and my mom. I asked to older woman if she was going to buy a ticket. When she said yes, I gave her my 'mom's' ticket, saying "on behalf of my mother, I'd like to offer you this ticket." She was flustered for a moment, not quite getting it, but finally her daughter said thanks.

When I first heard of this exhibit, I was not that interested in seeing it. But I began to hear so many good things about it, I thought I should see it. I decided it was a good place to 'take my mother' for the day. It turned out to be perfect.

As I looked at the magnificent glass sculpture, I remembered that my mother had started collecting glass art in the last 10 years of her life. She had all kinds of glass baubles in her house - vibranty colored and light-filled. She would have loved the exhibit. It was the perfect way to celebrate her. There was one piece about 20 feet high that was a glass version of the vision she gave me when she died. The pieces in the picture above are up to six feet high.

I started thinking about the artist. How does someone manage to maintain a goal like that? Especially when they are just beginning. What sustains them? Did they say at 12 years old - 'I want to be an artist' and the universe supported them until they became famous? I always wonder about this. Most of us have dreams - then 'reality' makes us do boring, soul-deadening work to 'make a living'. It is more like 'making a dying'. We end up middle-aged with all our dreams like dead leaves at our feet and wonder what happened to our life. I guess an artist is sustained by his/her vision despite poverty or solitude.

So, while viewing this exhibit, I started thinking about what I had wanted to be as a child. A writer. I used to read a lot. In fact, I had read everything of value in the children's section of the library by the time I was 10. I knew the librarian. She let me check out books from the adult section. So, by the time I was 12, I had read all of the classics of American and English literature. I had two best friends, Beth and Katie, and we challenged each other to read 'the list'. We discussed the books and wrote poetry and plays using the themes and characters in the books. We didn't cheat and say we had read something if we hadn't. We became the playwrights for our class and often wrote plays that the class or even the school performed.

I was inspired by Little Women, Louisa May Alcott. When I realized this was partly autobiographical, I was fascinated. I read all her books, believing I was following her life. I decided that this was what I wanted to do. But my life was not as interesting as hers, or so I thought. Actually her life was not that unusual. What made it different was that it took place a hundred years ago. Yet it had inspired dreams and fantasies in me. So I learned the value and power of writing and I wanted to do it too.

When I got older and faced my future, I didn't want to marry and have children, because it was so mundane. I wanted a life of adventure. I have had a little of both. I have done things that few of my contemporaries would even contemplate. On the other hand, my choices have made other choices impossible. Now, when my friends are grandparents, I can't really relate. I never had children - by choice.

Now that we are moving into Fall, the light has changed and it has already gotten cold. I am melancholy. I have a daily practice of meditation and self-examination. I have been questioning and evaluating my decisions over the past year. What will I do with the rest of my life? I decided, after the other day at the museum, to pick up the novel I started a few years ago and start working on it again.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Limited Time Offer from Amazon

By following this link, you may be eligible to buy the Amazon Kindle, a reading device which has more than 160,000 books, newspapers and blogs available, for a $100 discount.

Forestville Town Social

Last Thursday, Wise Women of the West participated in the Forestville Town Social and Business Expo. I had a booth featuring my herbal products and cordials. There were many more booths than last year and not as many people came. I didn't make as much as last year, but I did meet many great people and from what I heard, I did much better than others. I got a little carried away as I usually do, talking with people and was not paying as much attention as I should have and either I dropped some of my money or someone did not pay (or both) Yikes! I don't think I dropped it since surely someone would have said something.

I remember one exchange that was odd and I'm not sure the woman actually paid me, yet let me give her change. When I added up my sales and the money I had, it was that amount that was lacking.

I was up half the night counting and checking and I was definitely short. I really did not want to believe that someone stold from me. I make all my products from scratch, using high quality ingredients locally grown and gathered or brought back from other countries I visit. In all cases, there is a great deal of time, expense and effort in making them. I create my own recipes - many come from inspiration. All are unique.

Any artist or craftsperson who tries to sell their creations at fairs knows how much work is involved. It is a labor of love. But that does not mean that you want to just give it away. I was both hurt and disappointed. And of course, I blamed myself for not being "more business-like" and or more careful.

The woman herself may not have realized she didn't pay me. It may not have been intentional at all. This is what I prefer to think because it gives me more peace of mind.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Happy 80th - Little Mother

Today would have been my mother's 80th birthday and, knowing her, she would rather be where she is than say she was 80. Bless her heart, she passed away three years ago. She did not accept aging very well. She fought it tooth and nail. Her death was a shock to everyone who knew her.

We were packed and ready to go on a trip back to where my grandparents came from in Sicily. She had been complaining about her feet hurting. It interfered with her tap-dancing. Yes, at 75 she had fulfilled one of her lifelong dreams of being a tap-dancer and performed regularly as a member of the Golden Follies at local functions in the Hayward area. In fact, they had a big show at Chabot College and it was filmed.

She had named me after Judy Garland because when she was a kid, the Wizard of Oz had inspired her with the dream of singing and dancing, which she was unable to fulfill herself. Like many parents, she tried to 'force' me to do what she felt she could not do. Believe me, when I saw her dancing on stage for the first time, I was overjoyed. For her, that she had made her dream come true, and for me, that I was finally off that hook. She had just danced a few weeks before.

She also rowed a whaleboat with a crew of women older than her once a week in Lake Merritt, Oakland. They were on the boats by 8am every Wednesday morning. She had to drive about 20 miles to get there. She had just been there a couple of weeks before.

She was president of her local chapter of the Native Daughters of the Golden West, traveling all over the state for their fund-raising program for children who needed medical care.

She was an incredible woman to have as a mother. We were more like friends. Only 20 years apart, there were more years between her and her oldest sister, than between us. She was the youngest of nine. She had seven older sisters (who always had a comment for everything she did), but she loved them all. One of her greatest dreads was that she would bury them all. God bless her, she didn't have to.

As a kid, she taught me to eat right, by example. We always had fresh fruit and vegetables in the house. We never had junk food around. Soda and ice cream were treats we only had at birthday parties. She cooked at home every day, even though she always worked outside the home, usually full-time. She believed that a woman should have job skills and be able to be independent, to take care of herself.

She would come back to kill me if I told you of the adventures we had together during the 60s. Knowing I will see her again someday, if not tonight in my dreams, I won't say a word.

When I was 48 and she was 68, we both went sky-diving for my birthday. I have a video of her floating through the air. She looks like she is totally blissed out. That same year we went to Crete together and had a marvelous and sometimes challenging trip.

We laughed until we wet our pants more than once. I haven't laughed like that since she died. We smoked cigarettes and drank brandy together, knowing it was no good for us. She nagged me all the time about my weight and the fact that I never exercise. She became a weight trainer at 24 hour fitness at 68! I'm 60 and I'm lucky if I can walk 1/2 a mile.

About a week before our trip, her blood pressure went sky high. She had my sister take her to the emergency room. They admitted her. When I got there, they said they wanted to do tests, but she would probably be going home in a day or two. Apparently, before I got there, they had told her that she was going to be on dialysis three times a week, would have to stop driving and would need an oxygen tank.

My mom, who had been driving the tour van for the senior center full of people my age - not being able to drive! No way. During the early hours of the next morning, she tried to leave like a lady. Her heart just stopped. But, not having her DNR done yet, which she planned to do when we got back from Sicily, they brought her back and put her on machines. She never regained consciousness, her organs shut down and did not come back and so after 3 days she went into the light. Her boyfriend and I stayed with her day and night for those 3 days.

Hurricane Katrina had hit only a few days before she went to the hospital. I used to live in New Orleans and knowing my mother, she watched it all on T.V. thinking about what 'could have' happened to me if I still lived there. She was like that. Worrying about what could have, should have, might have been. Also, her name was Katherine. I know she cried when she saw all the people suffering, she had a huge heart and a lot of compassion. I believe that Hurricane Katrina broke my mother's heart and when she saw that no one was helping people, she just wanted to get down there and do something herself. She had planned to join the Red Cross Relief program a few years before, but hadn't gotten around to it. She was probably sorry she wasn't there - playing with the kids; cooking and serving food.

After she died, I felt like part of my body was permanently removed. My life has totally changed. Gone the 5 hour phone calls, the laughing, the crying together. I have never cleared her voice messages off my unified messaging system, but I haven't listened to them either. I can't face dealing with her belongings which are stacked up in my house and in storage. Everytime I open a box, her perfume fills the air and I am sad again. She loved expensive perfume and I will say this for it, it lasts.

I ask for her help all the time. I hear her 'nagging' me every day. I miss her something terrible.

Happy Birthday, Little Mother. Thank you for everything.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Upcoming Tour of Morocco 2009

Now that the eclipse is past (see my astrology blog for more about that) I am ready to announce my upcoming tour of Morocco for 2009. It will feature the best of the three trips I've made there plus the Fez Sacred Music Festival 2009. They have not set the program for next year yet, but you can visit the website for this year's program.

I have been wanting to create and lead my own tour for quite awhile now and with the help of friends, it is set up.

Click here to view the brochure.

This is going to be a very special trip. Send the deposit now to secure your spot. You still have plenty of time to save up your blog earnings (LOL) for the rest of the trip.

Hope to hear from you soon. If you have questions, leave a comment.

Friday, August 15, 2008

In His Own Words

My cousin Frank wrote an account of this experience. Here it is...He sent it to us in an email and I thought I would post it just like that. He's the one in front wearing the white hat.

"Dear Family, Friends, and Running Buddies,

I wrote for somebody that wanted the complete story of my run. I thought I would share it with you all.

The 2008 San Francisco Marathon: Call it an epic adventure or a story of survival.

At the start the weather was cool and comfortable. There was magic in the air. Thousand of runners were gathering in the dark with the city lights adding a nice glow. The excitement was building and we were ready to go. The music engulfed us. The elite runners took off at 5:35 and the waves of runners followed. That moment it was great to be alive and in the City. The smell of fresh bread greeted us on our way then came the smell of stinky crabs at Fisherman's Warf. We ran along the waters edge on the bay and then up to our first speed bump, a short but very steep hill. No problem. We ran past Fort Mason and through Chrissy Field. We were then faced with the most daunting hill up to the bridge for about a mile. No problem. Then on to the bridge where they split one lane for runners to go both ways. It was a problem. To add to it, there were wind gusts so strong our bibs were almost ripped off. We were just happy to be running across this treasure. The only problem was a lot of people didn't understand runners etiquette which was needed to transverse the tight roadway. At times I and others felt like yelling "lead, follow, or get out of the way", but I remained jovial and darted around the wafflers with my pace group. My brother Steve and nephew Rafey greeted me on the bridge and snapped lots of pictures. After the bridge we faced the second biggest hill for about 3/4 mile. No problem. The training really helped on these two hills. We then got to coast down a hill for a awhile and then off to flat stretch. We entered Golden Gate Park and ran up a slope/hill that lasted forever. At the halfway mark my legs reminded me of the hills I ran. And then out of the blue a "convergence". All of the Half Marathon runners that were running the second half descended on us. Again no runners etiquette. Again, I was thinking "lead, follow or get out of the way". This did slow me down somewhat. We continued through the park and around Stow Lake which is quite scenic. It was a real familiar site. I was making good time. We ran down Haight Street. It was a nice run all the way to Market Street. I was in good shape. We went through a flat stretch which was not scenic. Miles 22, 23 and 24 included industrial/commercial buildings and three hills. I got over the first hill keeping pace and feeling good with just a little heaviness in my legs. Hills 2 and 3, not so good. The scenery didn't help. Mile 25 was beautiful and inspiring but my legs were cramping due to all of the challenges along the way. It was my slowest mile. No matter what, I knew I had to finish strong for the last 1.2 miles. I sucked up the pain in my legs and I came racing in. I totally sprinted in the final .2 There were plenty of people cheering including family and my Pace Group. I am not sure how I did it but I did. I did have my "dark side" moments. My goal was to break 4:30 but I am happy with the 4:39.24. My brother Steve thought under normal circumstances I would have run 4:20. The culmination of all the hills and slopes were really challenging. The training did prepare me for the hills but you have to experience them to really know. It is something you have to process and work through as you go. I hope you enjoyed my story. I am now doing a lot of walking to help me recover. The only injury I have is one black toenail. I am plenty sore but in a good way. I will start running in two weeks. Next up: The San Jose Rock 'n Roll Half Marathon in October. It is smooth and flat. I can really gauge myself with this one. To follow is the Honolulu Marathon in December. I will be training with some of my running buddies for this one. I have truly been bitten by the running bug. May you all be bitten by something new and exciting in your lives.

Peace, Love and Joy


Thursday, August 14, 2008

Frank my Hero!

He did it again! This time he ran 26.2 miles over the Golden Gate Bridge and around the city of San Francisco.

While I was writing about "buckets" and barely able to walk from here to there, my 'hero' and cousin, Frank was training for, then running, the SF Aids Marathon. Bless his heart.

And now, he's getting ready to do another one! in Honolulu. He's says he's got the bug and loves running.

I've caught a bug too, blogging. In my case, it entails hours of sitting on my duff and loving it! LOL

In his case it means running his duff off! LOL He says he last another 12 pounds. He weighs less now than he did in high school. Here he is at the finish line. Still on his feet - amazing! How do they do that! Hours of running? Amazing! Makes me tired just thinking about it. Well... someone's got to do it. More power to you.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Momma Mia? in Greece?

Now that I have 4 blogs and a website, as well as producing my herbal products etc., etc., in other words, my own business, I work more than ever. And it's fine because I am home and I am my own boss.

I have promised myself that I will take Sunday off and I usually do. This past Sunday, I went to my dream analysis group in the morning, then went to a movie.

Somewhere, I had heard that Momma Mia was worth seeing. Wellllll. I almost walked out demanding a refund. Dumb, dumber and dumbest. Sorry. I was so dismayed at what is being doled out in the name of entertainment. The only redeeming features, for me, were seeing Meryl Streep singing and dancing, and the scenery. It takes place on a Greek Island. I like Meryl Streep and it was impressive to see her dancing her butt off and belting out songs. I think it really was her singing, but I can't say the same for some of the other actors.

I was also upset that they had their timing so off. They imply the mother and her three boyfriends knew eachother in the Sixties. However, the daughter is only 20 and the music is ABBA. Sooooo. that's Eighties right? Very confusing. I hate it when they mix up stuff like that when the players (me and other Boomers) are still alive to consult. I mean, the Sixties!!! It wasn't that long ago!

The songs went on way too long. Meryl looked bored singing her own songs! Of course, there is a lot of fodder for the pre-teen set. I think they make most films with 10-12 year old girls in mind. Now, I know the economy is in trouble, but did I miss something? Who controls the money in this country? Oh right, forgot for a minute, children.

Oh yes, my last complaint. Momma Mia takes place in Greece. They don't say "Momma Mia" in Greece.

The other redeeming feature, I laughed myself silly through most of the movie. I guess that was worth the senior discount ticket price.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Harry Potter and the Return of Knitting

I don't know about you, but once I started reading Harry Potter, I was hooked. Now I wait for the movies. J.K. Rowling has something new!

The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J.K. Rowling Available for Pre-Order
Thursday, July 31, 2008.

The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J.K. Rowling is now available for pre-order on Amazon. This book of fairy tales was written to supplement the Harry Potter series and will be published in two new editions on December 4, 2008. The Standard Edition features all five fairy tales from the original The Tales of Beedle the Bard, a new introduction by J.K. Rowling, illustrations reproduced from the original handcrafted book, and commentary on each of the tales by Professor Albus Dumbledore. Amazon’s exclusive Collector's Edition includes a reproduction of J.K. Rowling's handwritten introduction, as well as 10 additional illustrations not found in the Standard Edition.

It is my belief that the Harry Potter books and movies contributed to making knitting popular again. Prior to them, hardly anyone knitted anymore and when you looked for yarn, there was little choice.

In the early 90s, I remember being in a class for docents at the historic site where I worked. The lecturer asked the class, mostly retired women over 65 and me (43 at the time), how many knitted. Two people raised their hands out of around 30. I was surprised. I thought surely these older women knew how. My mother tried it once and dropped it. Bless her heart, she did start with a very difficult pattern and small needles.

In the 70s, knitting declined except for crafts people. You were lucky if you could find anything but acrylic worsted weight yarn in more than 6 colors in most shops. Then Harry Potter came out and Mrs. Weasley who was always making "jumpers" scarves and hats for her kids and Harry; plus the needles that knitted by magic (wish I had those) and soon we were awash in hundreds of colors and textures.

I predicted that after everyone had made 3 scarves for everyone they knew, the whole thing would die down again. Which it has. It's one thing to make a scarf, quite another to make a sweater. Most people don't have the patience it requires and most people are not willing to redo it multiple times until they get it right.

When Harry Potter first came out, there was a lot of conrovery about it. Even here in Northern California - supposedly the land of fruits and nuts - some schools banned it. Can you imagine?

On the other hand, I visited Salt Lake City, Utah a couple of years ago and heard a local teacher being interview on the radio. He said that he used Harry Potter as a motivational force in his classes. Kids took a renewed interest in all subjects that were taught at Hogwarts. While kids did not show any interest in Chemistry, they were fascinated by Potion-making. Kids who had poor penmanship and didn't want to write by hand anymore, really got into Calligraphy. Botany became Herbology, etc., etc. There was an article in the local newspaper about how teachers were successfully using Harry Potter in schools just like this guy on the radio. Clever and innovative.

I was a bit surprised at this reaction to HP in Salt Lake City, while at home the debate was still going on as to whether HP was 'evil' and 'dangerous to young minds.'

Monday, August 4, 2008


It was the second post I did on this blog. It was called "Roadkill...." I thought it would get a response from postal workers, but it didn't. Anyway, here we go again. UPS left a 46 pound parcel on my doorstep Thurs. late afternoon. Wrong address, wrong name, wrong town, wrong zip code. This would never happen at the Post Office. The carriers know every address on their route and often everyone who lives at each address. If they can't find a house (because mailboxes are frequently far from a house in the country or woods) they don't leave parcels on front porches of any house they can find. They don't do it and keep their jobs that is.

This is the fourth time UPS has misdelivered parcels to my house that I know of. Twice my parcels were either left at the end of a dirt road in the middle of winter, when my house is clearly visible all around or dropped in the road (parcel containing glass), reported as delivered while they returned it to the sender three days later. Then twice they have left other people's packages on my porch.

So here we are, Monday, and they finally came back to get it. They didn't knock or leave a note that they had come, they just took it. I know because I was here. But just suppose I wasn't here and actually the parcel was stolen? Then whose fault would it be? Would they accuse me? Not a good way to do business.

I see they finally have gotten some new trucks, but they have not improved service.

Meanwhile my letter carrier, has had his route cut. That means he works 5 days one week and 6 days the next week. He gets 2 days off one week and 1 day off the next. And less pay because the "evaluated" time is shortened. Rural carriers are paid by the day, no matter how many hours it takes.

And people still make "going postal" jokes. How would you react to this treatment?

I met a psychotherapist the other day who leads groups for postal workers. He said he used to include them with others, but soon saw that they had special problems and needs, so he made separate therapy groups just for them. He said he could hardly believe the stories. I told him I don't know what they told you, but even without hearing, I will say this: based on own my experience working for the Postal Service, they are all true.

It's a shame that given the responsibility and the huge, yet fantastic job they do, they still have to treat their employees so badly. They might say the reason the service is so good is because of their employee policy. Who knows.

I prefer to see it the way I saw it when I worked there. I was told that carrying the mail was like a sacred trust. It was not just a job but a tradition, part of the founding of this nation. Benjamin Franklin started it here, but the phrase "Neither snow, nor rain, nor sleet, nor dark of night shall keep them from their appointed task." was said by Herodotus way back during the ancient Greek period when couriers ran documents from one town to another.

Most of the time, I carried junk mail and tons of catalogs, but sometimes, it was a card to Grandma for her birthday from a child in Iowa. The address might read, "Grandma Jones on Westside Road." Well, I sorted that mail everyday and I knew who Jones was on Westside Road. And I knew she was old enough to have a grandchild, so even though the address was incomplete, I could get it there on time. Or the people who waited by the mailbox, expecting a check. I knew my arrival would make them happy, because I knew I had it in my tray.

Christmas was especially good. Yes, we killed ourselves walking up endless slippery steps in the rain, but when someone opens a door and sees a load of boxes from family members all over the country and you are the one carrying them, you get all the smiles. Those were the kind of moments that made all the xxxx I got from management or even fellow employees, bearable. And yes, sometimes I actually miss it. But not right now and not on 100 degree days.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

My Top Ten EC Droppers for July

Stir The Cauldron
Goddess Blessings
A Bit of This and That
Robin's Woods
2 Witches Blog
People You Need to Know
Enchanted Cauldron
cooking with kuting
Blue Turtle

Since I can't figure out how to get a "real top-dropper widget" on my page, I'll just do it this way, since I want to give credit to those who have been so diligent in dropping.

Where I live the only Internet connection available is dial-up. I'm lucky if I can get 30 drops a day on my two blogs that have Entrecard. We are allowed 300 each, but I'd have to do this 24/7 just to get 100. Believe me friends, I'd love it if I could get to all of my Favorites everyday. Then there is the issue of posting, adding things that could generate income AND having a life.

Those of you who don't have EC are missing out on a very effective way to generate traffic. My traffic has tripled since I got involved in Entrecard.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

July at the County Fair

Hadn't realized how much time it's been since I posted here. So busy networking with Entrecard and BlogCatalog, no time to write. And now that I've separated into three blogs, I find I'm actually writing more on Hamida the Herbalist.

Thursday and Friday I volunteered with the Master Gardeners at the Sonoma County Fair in Santa Rosa. We always have a demonstration garden and the theme this year was Making a Rain Garden. This includes using the rainwater that comes off your roof in the winter in a specially constructed garden. I found out that 10 inches of rain falling on a 1000 sq. ft. roof results in 6,000 gallons of water. Most homes in the U.S. are twice that size. All this water goes down the storm drains, through pipes and ends up either in lakes, rivers or the ocean. Moving over pavements and roads it picks up toxins such as oil, rubber, chemical fertilizers etc., which go with it to the body of water. The volume often causes flooding. The water is polluted and so when it floods, it carries the pollutants with it.

If we could catch and use the rain where it falls, it would both raise the local water table and help to naturally purify the water.

While the usual displays, games, rides, souvenirs and junk-food were in abundance, there were signs, even here that things are changing. The number of people who were interested in our demo garden was amazing. Many people wanted the plant lists for bringing beneficial critters into their gardens like hummingbirds, bees and butterflies.

And they had a small Green Pavilion featuring companies providing services such as solar power, alternatives to plastic, composting and energy saving appliances. And it was packed with people.

The Democratic Party exhibit had a bumper sticker for Obama that said: GOT HOPE?

There were cakes and jams being judged in the Home Arts Building; roses and flower arrangements in the Garden Building. There were sheep, goats, cattle and hogs being auctioned by a real auctioneer; children sheering their sheep hoping to win a prize. There was an area that smelled like hay and manure, and another of BBQ and popcorn. It all brought tears of joy to my eyes.

Monday, July 14, 2008


On my other blog Hamida the Herbalist, I feature an issue of the week. The issue this week is Gratitude.

I found myself writing quite a bit about this, so this time, I moved the comments here and kept the flower essences there.

Let me begin with a personal account. I had to go to Tiburon yesterday to pick up some items at the Wooden Boat Show for a friend who is out of the country. Lately, I have been staying home more than usual for a number of reasons: 1) I am conserving on gasoline; 2) I don't like driving much anymore; and 3) I am busy and content at home doing what I'm doing. It was around 120 miles round trip and it was a beautiful day. I figured since I was out, I might do some window shopping and maybe 'hang out' in Tiburon - a high-end place with 'cute' boutiques etc. But I found that when I looked around, there was nothing there that interested me. In fact, all I could think of was getting back home. I looked at all the people on the street and nothing pulled me. I was not attracted to the scene. In fact, what I saw felt empty and meaningless, whereas my home felt alive and full of magical possibilities.

As I was driving back, as fast as I could get away with, I saw all the traffic, bumper to bumper going south back to San Francisco and the peninsula and I thought to myself, as I often do, these people spend their week commuting to work, then their 'days off' driving around looking for amusement and distraction. Do they ever 'stay home'? Why not? This led to the next set of thoughts which was that staying home, staying put is considered not cool or interesting when there's so much to see and do out there.

So I asked the questions: What's wrong with what you have? Don't you enjoy it? Why keep looking out there for more, different, new? Will any of it ever be enough? Many years ago, I did some research on the phenomenon of dissatisfaction that is so strong in the modern world. Why this constant need for more etc. I read a lot about the role advertising plays in making us feel that what we are or have is not enough. We are too fat, too ugly, too old, too stupid or whatever... so we need....this or that. It goes on and on. It is endless. I came upon a book that was a revelation because it talked about how the government funded research in the mid-30s, as the Depression was waning, to find out how to 'jump-start' the economy again. They needed to get people to spend money again. After the failure of the banks, people lost confidence. After going through the Depression, many people had learned to be frugal and do without. People didn't want to spend money as freely as they had before.They wanted to hang on to it. Now, the government wanted to stimulate industry and get people to spend again. A report came out that showed how psychology could be used via advertising, to make people want things, by creating dissatisfaction in their minds about themselves and their lives.

As with many other things that start out benign, but become malignant, the program was extremely successful and has led to the uncontrolled consumerism of today. We are trained to be dissatisfied from birth. It is normal for a child or even (especially) a cat to be considered a 'fussy eater'. Are there any fussy eaters in a drought-ridden African country?

Dissatisfaction is considered so normal in the modern world that, in fact, satisfaction is 1) considered unattainable or 2) considered a sign of stupidity or backwardness.

Shopping has become a recreational activity, whereas before, it was a way to get necessities. All of us have more than we need. But NEED has been redefined to include things that make us happy, things that make us feel good. It is an endless process because in order to be okay, we need the latest electronic device, hairdo, handbag, chocolate truffle etc. On and on. We are never content with what is. How would our lives be different if we were satisfied?

What if we said to ourselves every day, I have everything I need. I am content with myself and my life. To me, this is the basis of gratitude.

For flower essences that can help with Gratitude, see my other blog:

Interestingly, as I was doing my daily 'drop' routine, I came across Michael Nolan's blog Frugal Living Tip of the Day which is Thankfulness
Find it at:

Sunday, July 13, 2008

So Now For the Bucket

Took this test and was surprised, since I have not exactly been, nor am I now, a saint. Since I didn't expect to live this long (60), I'm wondering how it will be to live another 27 years.

I am going to die at 87.  When are you? Click here to find out!

Do you want to know? What difference would it make?

In 1970 or so I remember wishing on a star. I wanted to know how my life would turn out, what I would do etc. I actually got an answer. The star said, "What would you do if your knew? Would it change what you are doing now? If yes, then change it anyway, without knowing. If no, then all is well and you are where you need to be.

At that moment the answer was "No" since all was well at that time.

I have always used 'Death as an Advisor' after reading Carlos Castaneda's first book, The Teachings of Don Juan, which came out while I was working on my B.A. in Anthropology. I was actually studying Mesoamerica - a term anthropologists coined for a culture area which spanned the U.S. Southwest down to the northern part of Central America. Like others in my generation, the book intrigued me and I got the bug to study Shamanism.

When I did, I realized that Shamanism as it relates to a particular group of people, is rooted in history, language, geography, culture and ancestry. Traditionally, shamans, healers, or other holy people, were chosen by their community. No one in their right mind would walk in and say they wanted to be one. And, no amount of money could buy you the job.

For me, it was impossible to become a Huichol shaman. I might become a Sicilian one (if such a thing existed - Ha! Ha! or a Ukrainian or Polish one - also part of my ancestry).

Since one one my goals in life was to have a happy death, periodically I would look around at my life and ask myself, "If I died right now, would I have a happy death?"

If the answer was NO then time for a change. If YES, then I kept doing what I was doing.

Since it looks like I've got another 27 years, I think I better look around at my current life and answer the question once again.

Friday, July 4, 2008

My Most Memorable July 4th

This morning as I sat outside drinking my morning coffee and appreciating the silence, I was so grateful for my life. I love it when there's a legal holiday because the sound of commuting traffic echoing in the narrow canyon where I live is absent.

I am grateful for my home, my garden, my current life. I know I am lucky compared to other people. I have seen some of those other people, both here and in other countries.

I began thinking of past July 4ths and the one that stood out was 1976. At the beginning of the year, I was in Africa in the Peace Corps. I regretted not being home for the Bicentennial, but my contract was not yet completed and there was no way I could leave for a vacation at that time of the year.

One thing led to another and I got so ill I had to be "med-evaced" out of the country and ended up in George Washington University Hospital in D.C. having surgery. The night of the July 4th celebration, a group of hospital staff and I watched the Bicentennial Celebration out of the window of my hospital room bathroom. I sat on the toilet seat, the best and only seat in the house, and marveled at how Fate had brought me home for this memorable event.

That night I was proud to be an American. I was glad to be alive (since I had gotten so ill in Africa I didn't know if I would live). And I was relieved to have been able to leave to get the medical attention I needed (which didn't exist where I was). It had taken days to get out of the country, because they would sell tickets but not make reservations. Each day it was first come, first served. People just lined up and pushed and shoved until they got on. Each day, accompanied by someone from the American Embassy, I would go to the airport, wait, and not get on. It was getting drastic as my medical condition worsened.

Finally my chance came. They thoroughly searched my belongings and when they found a coin that I had kept for a souvenir, they accused my of taking their currency out of the country, which was against the law. Fortunately, the embassy person intervened. The plane was already beginning to taxi along the runway. It stopped as I ran towards it. When I got on that PanAm jet, I cried. I felt like I was already on American soil.

My time in the Peace Corps did more for my patriotism than anything else I have ever done. Even though the country I was in was not so bad off (then), it was still such a drastic change from home. I used to dream of being in Safeway. I'd reach for something and it would vanish before I could touch it. In my PC country, "super-markets" had row after row of empty shelves. Sometimes there would be a whole row of one thing, because they had gotten a shipment. We expatriots stock-piled and hoarded. If something came in, the word got round and everyone would run to the store to get it. We had money, but there was nothing to buy.

We had to go to a nearby country for sugar, coffee, flour, gasoline. I had a friend with a land-rover and we made supply runs every few weeks for ourselves and other people. Nothing illegal, just basic foodstuffs. The locals subsisted on manioc, greens, palm oil and pilchards. But few Europeans or Americans could hack a diet like that on a regular basis.

I think that all young people, when they graduate from high school or reach 18, should spend at least one year in a third-world country, so they can appreciate what we have here. Not just the material wealth, but all of it. I have written before about how my students in Africa were hungry for knowledge. They didn't let "poverty" get in their way. They were enthusiastic about learning. They didn't mind if they had one pair of shoes as long as they could get to class. Many people had no shoes.

What does it take to keep America strong?

For me it takes education, appreciation, understanding, compassion and acceptance of differences. It does not take killing, maiming, torturing, force and fire-power. We will never regain the world's respect the way we are going, nor will we gain its love.

These days when I travel, I find myself in the position of having to explain why America is so evil and corrupt. I feel I have to separate myself from the policies of my government, when I live in a democracy. How can we possibly be an example to the rest of the world - which used to look up to us? People in other countries can't understand why we had a coup d'etat and didn't run into the street to stop it.

Now they are talking about Iran.

What are you doing today? Having a BBQ in the backyard with your family? Enjoy. It might be your last.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Another part of us has moved

I started an astrology blog -

I moved the astrology posts that were here and added some new ones.

As a give-away, to promote this blog, I am offering a free report called The Sky Within to the first three people who make a comment and include their birth data and email address. I will not publish these comments, they are only for the promotion. Include your date, time and place of birth (name or gender not required) and your email address, so I can send you the report. The report is by Steven Forrest, a well-known astrologer. To win this report, you must include all the required information.

Go the blog and read the post about a New Day, for more information.

For those who don't know, the first part of us that moved was the herbalism, which can now be found at

Here we will continue with cultural commentary, travel, movies, books, ideas, and observations.

Friday, June 27, 2008

My Bucket List

As I've said before, I haven't had T.V. service for 14 years, because of the location of my house. There is no cable and it's not worth having a satellite dish, because I don't spend that much time watching. I do have a set, though, and a subscription to Netflix. Since movies are so expensive these days, I tend to wait 'til they come to Netflix before I see them, which could be as much as a year after they come out. Oh well.

I just watched "The Bucket List" with Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson. And, of course, I started thinking about the bucket list I made for myself when I was a kid. Here are the things on the list that I have done so far:

Sky dive
Join the Peace Corps
See the Pyramids
Travel on the Nile
Go on a camel caravan into the Sahara
Become a Whirling Dervish
See the Taj Mahal
Travel all over Mexico
Study Mayan Hieroglyphs
Have a small house in the woods where I can have a garden

Here are the ones left to do:

Write and publish a best-seller
Get an Academy Award
Get married in Machu Picchu
Travel on the Amazon River

Not bad. A couple of those on the to do list might not get done, but so far, my life has been pretty miraculous, so I'm not ruling them out.

Although I have not written 'a book', I have had some things published - articles about California Indians in News From Native California, and articles on Benicia and the Historic State Capitol there in the Solano County Historical Society Journal. I also worked on the illustrations in a book on Mayan hieroglyphs written by one of my professors at Tulane University, which was published - called A Grammar of Mayan Hieroglyphs by V.R. Bricker.

While I did not become a professional epigrapher or Mayanist, I learned enough about Mayan hieroglyphs to teach courses at Sonoma State University.

And I did write the script for published video that shows daily at the Sonoma Barracks - part of the Sonoma State Historic Park in Sonoma, California. It's called Mariano Vallejo and the Northern Frontier and has to do with the role Vallejo played in early California history. In fact, the town I live in now was once a land grant given by Vallejo to an Englishman who "Mexicanized", which was what they had to do to own land in California in those days.

What this meant was: 1. They had to become Catholics, 2. They had to speak Spanish, 3. They had to marry a Mexican national, 4. They had to become citizens of Mexico, 5. They had to change their name to a 'hispanicized' version - John became Juan, etc. There were a few exceptions, but they are rare. Things have changed a bit since then.

Another thing most people don't know about early California history, is that the California State Constitutionwas written in English and Spanish, since most of the signers were from the land-owning majority - who were Mexicans and all documents that came out of the legislature were bi-lingual. This state was bi-lingual from its creation.

I doubt that my video will win an academy award, or that my publications will become best-sellers, but they are all published and out there in the world with my name in or on them.

The two things that may actually prove more difficult are those two travel destinations which are extremely challenging physically and I doubt I'm going to get married again. LOL

There may have been other things on that list from time to time, but whatever they were, they were not important, since I totally forgot about them. In general, I'd say I got to do more than was on my list, because there are many other places I've been and things I've done than were on those lists. I can truly say I am satisfied with my life.

I never wanted children since, even as a child myself, I knew the world was over-populated and that my children or grand-children would suffer from the effects of pollution, lack of resources and degradation of the planet. And I was right.

Because of who I am, I can't help thinking that 'the end' of life as we have known it, is upon us. For the past week, here in Northern California, the orange sky and the smell of smoke due to the numerous forest fires has had all of us coughing. My cats are freeking out. I have been having nightmares.

The SF Chronicle had an article on the front page today about the dying bees and how much we need them for our food supply. One quote was "How would our federal government respond if 1 out of every 3 cows was dying?", Maryann Frazier, a bee expert from the University of Pennsylvania.

These days, all I want is to see bees, birds, and butterflies in my yard. When a hummingbird hovered in front of me then flew directly to the plants I had put in just for her, I knew I had done something right and she was thanking me.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Part of Us Has Moved

As of a couple of days ago, I created a new blog called Hamida the Herbalist, which can be found at . It was time to do it. Soon I will be creating a separate blog for astrology. That way, those who want those specific topics won't have to wade through the rest of it. To make the transition sweeter, I'd like to offer sweets. An offering of chocolate. Take the test and see.

You are Milk Chocolate

A total dreamer, you spend most of your time with your head in the clouds.

You often think of the future, and you are always working toward your ideal life.

Also nostalgic, you rarely forget a meaningful moment... even those from long ago.

I'm am totally loving this blog stuff!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

It's that Mercury Retrograde Thing Again

After the previous posting, I realized that I used an expression "dying before death" without sufficient explanation. I assumed (and you know what that means) that it was "self-evident". Sorry. Of course, as with all spiritual teachings, there are a number of ways to explain it. The way I understand it is this: that it is much like the Hindu and Buddhist ideas of non-attachment. Be "in the world, but not of it." Participate in life to the full extent, but know that there is more to life than what you perceive with your five senses. Do your duty, but do not be attached to the outcome (Bhagavad Gita)
Carlos Casteneda's Don Juan said to see Death as an advisor. Live as if you have all the time in the world with the knowledge that you could die any moment. If you knew you only had six months to live, what would you change about your current life? Sometimes our outer circumstances may be impossible to change, but we can always change our attitude about them.
In other words, be unattached to the things of this world, learn to let go (eventually we have to let go of everything, even our bodies), and come to know the spiritual realm while still in this world through connection with God, The One, The Source, Unity or whatever you call it.
And as Sponge Bob would say "Good luck with that!"

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Acceptance: Transmuting Loss to Gain

Haven't posted for awhile because I was focusing on getting ready for All Things Herbal, an herb fair and sale benefitting the Herb Exchange, in Sebastopol. Made three new products. Bottled, wrapped and sealed for days. Made clever new labels and informational sheets. Made handouts for my astrology business. Then woke up with the worst lower back pain I've had in years. Could hardly move. Was not able to go because I knew I was incapable of unloading the car and setting up my canopy and tables, or lugging all the boxes of product. Oh, was I disappointed! Hopefully those who showed up as a result of the 100 emails I sent, were at least happy with the rest of the event.
But then I realized that this disappointment was an opportunity to practice acceptance. Acceptance of what is. One of the most powerful teachings of Sufism is one referred to as "dying before death". While its meaning may be self-evident, its practice is both difficult and rewarding. In this instance, it was a letting-go of "my plan", and submitting to the reality that I could not walk, let alone "lift that bale". Although on a much smaller scale and hopefully short-lived, my temporary disability reminded me that many people every day all over the world, are faced with major changes in their lives due to sudden illness or injury. Death itself often comes suddenly and with no concern for what people may have hoped to do on a particular day.
My disappointment was followed by guilt, shame, and self-judgement that went something like this: "If you had done.... if you had not done..... you always xxxx things up..... why can't you get your xxxx together", etc. I listened for a couple minutes then realized that this was not constructive. With Saturn conjunct my Ascendant right now, self-criticism is highly available. I called a friend who had invited me to her grand-daughter's birthday earlier in the week and told her that since I was not able to do the herb fair afterall, could I come to the party.
So I went and had a delightful time. It was an interesting group of people, mostly adults since Maya is only 1 year old. She lived her first year with her paternal grand-parents in Tunisia and is becoming a tri-lingual child. Throughout the day, we spoke 5 languages (I love this) and the complete tree of Abraham was represented (I love this too).
We all got along although we sometimes did not share eachother's beliefs or opinions. And we said "why can't the world be like this?"
So a day that started out as a loss, turned out to be a gain. All because of a change in attitude. A turning point where grace allowed me to reframe my thinking.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Mercury Retrograde Again

Mercury went retrograde on May 27 in Gemini and since my Sun and Uranus are both in Gemini, I am really getting the effects. Plus we had a New Moon in Gemini conjunct my Sun and Uranus is squaring my natal Uranus. My birthday was on the 30th and here's what happened: 1) I got an email from a man I dated 34 years ago and don't ever want to see again, but my current boyfriend, who is in Mexico right now, totally forgot. 2) I got a phone call from a woman whom I've known for nearly 50 years, but none of my current friends called. 3)I got locked in my 4 year old Lexus and had to crawl over the console to get out of the passenger side, then after I got it fixed, I backed into a concrete wall (nothing happened though), 4) I finally cleaned the outside of my microwave and after setting off all the touch buttons, it broke - moral: never clean things (I like that).

Yesterday, after spending many hours doing blog stuff, I decided to make several separate blogs, each focusing on one thing, but, is it a good idea to do that during Mercury Retrograde? Probably not. So, I will wait until June 20, when it goes direct again. The message for me is to slow down rather than going along with the impulse to speed up. Mercury, as messenger of the gods, brought information to human beings. As a god of trade, I think he is especially significant for the Internet, which is fast becoming the way people do business. More and more, people are finding ways to make money on the Internet. Honestly, though, I wonder just what it is they are selling. I find some blogs to have no content on them whatsoever.

When I go launch separate blogs, one will be on Astrology, another on Herbalism, and I will keep the one I have now that is considered a mixed bag. Sort of like me.

For an affordable astrology reading see the many reports I feature on the astrologer page of my website