Sunday, December 23, 2012

Buddha in front of the Christmas Tree

Buddha in Meditation in front of the Christmas Tree

So many of my good friends from around the world have sent me Christmas Greetings.   I am grateful to be remembered at this time of year by people who do not share my ethnic heritage and am deeply impressed by their thoughtfulness.

Our global greetings, blessings, prayers and well wishes are the same no matter where we are from.

Peace, Health and Prosperity!

May we be the conduit by which these prayers are made manifest throughout our world for the benefit and well being of us all!

Wishing you all a happy Christmas, Losar, Lunar New Year, Eid-al-Adha and Kwanzaa!  (I'm a little late for Chanuka and Diwali but I hope that it was spectacular!)

And Happy Holidays to all of you who's traditions I have yet to discover!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Gun Control and Mental Health Care

When I am at home in the US people always ask me if I am afraid to travel by myself in Nepal.  When I am abroad foreign friends say to me, Aren't you afraid to live in the US.

On December 14, 2012 two schools that were attacked by insane people.  One was in Sandy Brook Connecticut  and the other in Chengpin Henan, China.  In the US the man carried a gun.  In China the man wielded a knife.  The 22 children in China survived but 20 children in the US did not!

This following statistic is from the CDC and includes the number of all deaths in the US attributable to firearms whether accidental suicide or gun violence in 2011: 31,347 people.

This is from the Wall Stree Journal, 8 December 2012 -
"The reported number of people treated for gunshot attacks from 2001 to 2011 has grown by nearly half."

We need access to affordable mental health care for the health and well being of our entire community, and we need effective gun control in the US now!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Turkey Disasters

Every year Thanksgiving is a bit of a nail biter.  It is not the emotional dramas that play out between family members and guests, but more a question of the special dietary concerns of each person plus the timing!  It is not that I try to please everyone at once, but I do like to have at least something on the table that each person can eat so sometimes I have to be able to put a last minute item on the menu.  Some years the problem has been teenagers who are vegetarian but don't really like vegetables and some years it is allergies and gluten free diets or people who can't chew or digest seeds or just need everything pureed.  But usually, the culprit is the turkey.  MSG, salt or other solutions, hormones, antibiotics, inappropriate feed mixtures or just the simple cruelty of how the turkeys are raised creates a toxic disaster that some of my friends and family will not tolerate.

For the cook however, organic free range turkeys have a few issues beyond how dry they are.  First of all the price!  I could get an average 13 pound grocery store turkey for $13 or I can get someone's free range pet for $70.  One year we bought an organic turkey that seemed reasonably priced but when we got it home we found that had no legs. ???   Another year I received and organic turkey frozen solid the evening before Thanksgiving.  A very nice and expensive gift, however, if you are gifting a frozen turkey, think 3 days in advance at least.  My hands got freezer burn trying to get the giblets out of the neck.  Lots of running water was involved.  Two years ago I got a fresh free range turkey from a local farm.  It was not just covered with pin feathers!  It had full feathers good enough for a quill pen protruding from the wing tips.  I worked on the turkey for two hours with a pair of pliers before I could cook it.

This year I have solved the problem.  Only omnivores are coming for dinner.  I don't even have to buy Himalayan sea salt to brine the turkey.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Sudenly Singing Bowls!

I have sold singing bowls for years.  I encountered them on my first trip to Nepal in Patan Durbar Square.  Pradeep, the singing bowl man, sat in front of a thousand bowls where the Patan Museum is now.  Usually, we would not negotiate in public.  Instead he would take me to his warehouse and I would sit on the floor with a cup of tea and play every bowl one at a time and choose the most harmonious bowls.  It took hours.  Most of the bowls that I found were Nepalese singing bowls.  They were large and dark, the color of tarnished brass.  Some of them were even painted dark around the bottom with a kind of tar like substance.  I have also seen the same substance on metal water vases when they have cracks in them.  Another style that I often saw were the thin golden colored bowls from Bhutan.  They had a lighter vibration, a thin but soothing sound.  Then I discovered the Manipur singing bowl and fell in love.  These were usually short golden bowls with multiple harmonies.  They were clearly well used bowls!

Over time one supply after the other of these old bowls has dried up.  Now it is extremely expensive for me to get the older bowls.  I do find some really fantastic bowls that have been formed in the original way out of the old broken bowls. Don't worry, I have saved one special old bowl for myself, the rest have gone to people who will cherish them.

Recently in the US bowls have been used for healing.  It has been interesting to watch the mythology of these bowls explode in the last 20 years.  I can't tell you about all of the present uses of the bowls because the stories vary from person to person.  What I find very interesting is that in the last month I have had more demand for these bowls than at any other time during my past 20 years of doing business.  What's going on?

Below is an explanation of singing bowls for those who are not familiar:

At the forefront of this picture is an old Tibetan singing bowl with two reconstituted bowls behind it.  Old bowls like this one are not being produced anymore.  There are new shinny bowls with interesting decorations but the metal composition is different, so is the tone.

‘Old’ means that no one really knows when it was made but perhaps between 1800 and 1950.  When you find old bowls the edges are smooth from use.  There are usually identifying marks on the bowl.  These ,marks are like putting your name on your lunch box.  Usually it is a couple of hash marks or a simple design.  I sometimes see names carved on the outside of a bowl instead of patterns. 

Other than clothing, a prayer wheel, and a prayer mala, the singing bowl might have been a monk’s only possession.  Everything that the monk needed he could obtain with his bowl because it was his begging bowl and the bowl out of which every meal was consumed.  It very vividly represents both the physical life of the owner in providing for his physical requirements as well as the spiritual life of the owner as a meditation tool.  Bowls were also used to present offerings and anything that is given as an offering should be given in a harmonious vessel.
When a high ranking teacher passed away, his bowl may have been used to help find his reincarnation.  They might take a few bowls to a potential candidate and ask which of the bowls belonged to him.

This antique bowl and similar bowls were created in the monasteries of Tibet, Nepal, Bhutan and northern India.
Each bowl was individually spun and hammered from a combination of 7 metals called "bell metal."  These metals are gold, silver, mercury, copper, iron, tin, and lead.

Each bowl produces a unique set of harmonies when it is played.  To play the bowl hold the bowl in an open palm.  Do not clasp the bowl with your fingers because it will dampen the sound.  With your dominant hand, hold the stick straight up and down and drag the stick around the outside of the bowl firmly, in a clockwise rotation.  If your bowl doesn’t play rotate the stick faster and more firmly, if it rattles, slow down.  You may strike your bowl gently to fix a focal point in meditation or to end a meditation but you should not hit your bowl every time you play it.  Larger bowls are often played by simply striking the bowl with the heel of one's hand or using a felted dowel. It is believed that the many harmonic sounds from the bowl are the vibrations of the prayers which are chanted as the bowls are created and that it's resonance should magnify and carry your prayers and intentions while you are meditating with the bowl.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Inevitability of Change

We are unhappy because we seek happiness!
One who encounters all situations with equanimity,
shall find happiness inevitably. - Param Pujya Ma

This has been a fast paced summer of great changes.  My apologies for abandoning my blog for several months.  

My summer went like this:
May 19, 20  - Atlanta, GA
May 26, 27- Brookline, MA
June 9,10 - Nashville, TN
June 16,17 - Cleveland, OH
July 2,3 - Takoma Park, MD
July 7,8 - Cincinnati, OH
July 13,14,15  - Virginia Beach, VA
July 28,29 - York, PA
August 4,5 - Hyannis, MA
August 18,19 - Atlanta, GA
(My car has achieved 200,000 miles in 7 years and I am travel weary.)

Change is the very nature of existence.  Fear of change is our obstacle rather than the change itself.  We can be slow to accept changes but they will come even to the unwilling and we will learn to walk a new path.  I am currently making transitions from the stone age to the information age and I am finding the transition more painful than I would like to admit.  It is true that I need to let technology do my driving for me, but I will miss the long visits to artsy gift stores around the country.  Many of the places that I used to visit have not weathered the economic storm.  What remains are shops with a strong presence online who access customers around the globe.  The transition to globalization is very old news but for those of us who relish trips to places where there is rarely electricity and entertainment is a front porch chat, there has been a very deliberate foot dragging.

Here's what is happening.  My postcard show announcements will completely disappear by the end of this year.  They will be replaced by an email list serve.  If you want to know when I am coming to a show near you you will have to subscribe.  I will still be traveling for the near future.
Sign up here,

As a bonus, you will be notified when we receive new shipments or if we are having a spectacular sale.  That's it!  I won't send you junk mail every day or even every week, I promise.

Unsubscribing is also easy if you would prefer not to receive more email.  A simple click on "opt out" in any mailing will opt you out.

The big changes to the web site will take several weeks but soon anyone who wants to make a purchase, either wholesale or retail, should be able to click on the item and get it in about 4 business days.  I will certainly make a big announcement when the changes are complete.

Learning can only happen in concert with change.  May you experience peaceful transitions as you encounter the flowering of enlightenment!


Sunday, April 22, 2012

Up a Creek without a ...

I have just finished cleaning myself up after our Earth Day contribution.  Our family participated in a local creek clean-up.  After a few years and several volunteer groups, I am happy to report that our section of Doan Brook was looking pretty good.  I did run into a small problem however when my 9 year old son urgently needed a toilet.  We popped up out of the creek gorge in our bright yellow worker's vests carrying bags of filthy garbage on a major road in Cleveland with not a clue where we should look for a public facility.  Luckily, I saw two men leaving their house and so we ran across the boulevard and asked to use their toilet.  They looked more than a little surprised but did not hesitate to let us in.  It made me wonder: if two strangers showed up at our door and asked to use the bathroom under what conditions would I be willing to return the favor?

On the way back I started thinking about public toilets in urban areas.  They used to be more common but now they are very rare.  I know that I always see signs in the city saying "You can't use our toilet unless you are a paying customer."  It makes me wonder where are homeless people supposed to use the bathroom.  People always complain about the smell in parking garages and so forth, but really, what are the options?

My son and I hurried back down into the ravine to catch up with our group.  Unfortunately, I missed a step while crossing the stream and got a full bath.  It was at that moment it occurred to me where the homeless might be going to relieve themselves.

I found this lovely synchronicity in my inbox when we got home.  It is from someone who knows that I have written about the lack of sanitation in third world countries before.   They asked if I would post it.

Lack of Sanitation
Created by:
Happy Earth day Everyone!  I hope you found and excellent way to celebrate.

Monday, March 26, 2012

A 20th Century Woman

A faint jingle always preceded her and made our little bodies wiggle with anticipation. Aunt Edith opened her door to a linen and lace covered table set with elaborate displays of freshly baked cookies and perfect little sandwiches, crusts removed. As always, the house was in immaculate condition. Truly a feat for a woman nearly eighty years of age. For our part, we used our best manners and sat quietly while tea and glasses of juice were poured.

Aunt Edith was easy to love. She was beautiful; her hair was always coiffed to perfection in soft silver swirls. Around her brilliant blue eyes were lines that expressed a life of love and laughter. Even without prior notice, she seemed always prepared to entertain with delicate treats. She, herself, would never arrive at anyone's house either unannounced or empty handed. Where there were children, her bags always contained an exotic treasure, stacking dolls from Russia or rice paper candy from Japan, perhaps just a few foreign coins, but always something.

It was not just her sweet demeanor and generosity that kept us all in line, it was more her dignified presence. She was an accomplished woman, and she knew it. She was the quintessential modern woman of the 20th century. Born in 1897, she was 23 when women in the US got the right to vote. Raised on an Ohio farm by a single mother of 5 children she learned hard work and discipline at a very young age. Instead of marrying she got her PhD in Home Economics from Ohio State University and spent her life teaching women on farms and in Universities how to save money, clean more efficiently, and prepare the healthiest possible meals for families with limited resources.

Women of her generation generally either had careers or families but not both. Although she was very beautiful, and my mother told me that she had many gentlemen callers, she valued her independence. Perhaps she learned from her mother and from caring for her 4 brothers that a man to look after is not always a blessing. So at the end of her life, her house and property were her own, and she was very proud of this. She had enough money during her final 20 years to travel anywhere that she wished.

Her memories of these trips danced around her in the jewelry that adorned her body. On her right wrist she wore charms from Europe. In her ears were articulated fish earrings from Thailand. Around her neck were mummy beads and a gold scarab from Egypt. But by far, my favorite piece of jewelry was her golden coin bracelet from South Africa worn on her left wrist. It was simply beautiful and it brought to her mind adventurous tales of wild animals and stunning landscapes. There is no doubt that her stories influenced my passion for both jewelry and travel. Without the strong and adventurous woman of our past, we simply could not be the women that we are today.

Thank you Aunt Edith!

*Inspired by the One Minute Writer.

Friday, March 2, 2012

I'm not OK!

“What would you do if a gun man came to your school and started shooting kids?” I asked my children.

“I’d hide behind the door,” my older son said.

“Do you think that all of your classmates could get behind the door with you?” I wondered aloud.

“I know, I’d jump out the window.” my younger son said.

“I hope you wouldn’t jump from the second floor,” I told him. “I think that I would tell everyone to push all of the desks and chairs in front of the door. And, I would tell someone to call the police on their cell phone.”

“Do you think you would ever go back to your school if something like Chardon happened at your school?” I asked

“Nope, no way!” They agreed.

Dear God! Do I really have to have this discussion with my 9 year old and my 14 year old?

Back in 2010 I wrote about living in the center of the DC sniper attacks. At that time I had one preschool child. Parents drove to the door of the preschool and the teachers would send one child out at a time at pick-up in the hope that only one parent and child would be vulnerable to attack. The school was completely locked down and there was no way to enter without the proper password.

When we moved to rural PA in 2007 it was less than a year after a gun man had killed Amish children at school only 38 miles from where we moved. To enter our little country elementary school, parents had to be buzzed in one at a time. Parents were not allowed to hold the door open for the parent behind them. Inside, they would have to present their license in the office. The license was scanned and checked by a security database before they could enter.

My children were too young then and oblivious to the reasons for these procedures. At that time, I kept the dark details to myself, but this time my children are completely aware. The news is all around them.

My eldest son was date/‘texting’ a girl with whom he had been in theatrical productions. She attends Chardon schools only 25 miles from where we live now. One of her friends was Daniel Parmertor, the boy who was first to die in this latest school shooting.

“How is she?” I asked.

“She texted she was not OK, and she didn’t want to talk about it,” he said.

“Give her some time,” I told him.

What reasons can I give to my children so that they can understand what just happened? Are they safe? When I look at what has happened around us I think perhaps not. We in our very normal suburban homes have been so close to these horrible disasters. I read the statistics and they say that violent crimes in schools in the USA are down, but here we are again, another person out of their mind with a gun. Guns are still too easy to access in the US and mental health care too difficult to access.

Our nation… our global community needs to spend more time meditating on how everything and everyone is interconnected and less time simply watching and mindlessly reacting to the horror of the moment. Compassionate thought should guide our every action, become our daily practice, and this will create our better future.

Please make it your mission to counter every act of random violence with a thoughtful act of kindness!

Peace in all your good endeavors.

I send my love and prayers for healing to the Chardon community and the many grieving families affected by this tremendous tragedy.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Talented Boys

I was looking back through my old posts tonight and I was wondering what happened to my time? I used to write...

Moving back to the city was a blessing for my boys. We enjoyed the animals on the little farm in PA, but we missed the social aspects and opportunities of the city. There is never a dull day around here and I wish I had the time to tell you all about it. I am still traveling to shows on weekends. When I am home during the week I work with my customers in the morning while the kids are at school. As soon as school lets out I am so busy being the chauffeur and cook that there seems to be no time left in the day. Right now Joshua is in two plays and Sean is also in a play. Both boys play instruments and have lessons as well. Parents are expected to get the kids to practices, provide the costumes find the donations and provide the programs etc. Just like millions of other mothers I'm working two full time jobs. But, Oh the Joy! There is nothing better than seeing my talented boys in action.

Click here: Josh singing and Wayne playing at a block party.

*This is especially for my friends in Nepal who have never met my children.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Missing Nepal

I'm really missing trekking in Nepal this year!

I'm afraid I can't afford to go this year and that is really sad because the Shree Navavi Jayee Library that so many of you helped create in the Rasuwa district will be dedicated in a formal ceremony on January 25th, 2012. I want to let all of my friends in Nepal know that I am with them in spirit. I am honored to have been able to be a part of such a worthy project. Certainly all of the people who will be able to use this new library must be very proud of the efforts of their community. The village was able to obtain books not only from Room to Read but also through assistance from the Joy Foundation and donations from the Indian Embassy. I will be praying that the library is well used and that I will be able to see if for myself some day.

May you all enjoy peace and prosperity!

-Jennifer Gerard