Wednesday, May 30, 2007


Today I found myself in our favorite little breakfast restaurant - listening. The vent over the hood in the kitchen that had the deep and unifying sound of a low D7 chord, providing the background for forks hitting other forks in trays, eggs sizzling on the grill, newspapers rustling, pages being turned with interest or with rage, dishes being hit by spoons, the squeaky door opening every few minutes and slamming shut with the glass singing, the rhythm of deep male voices speaking in Spanish and women laughing in different corners of the room. A knife chopping on a wooden board mixed with the whisking of batter in a glass bowl and then eggs in a metal bowl - such a subtle difference in sound. Suddenly the radio announcer adds to the rhythm and the highs and lows of all I hear. All still united by the low, deep sound of the vent above the stove. Wooden legs being shoved back and forth on the linoleum floor, sometimes hitting metal or wooden legs of tables, the clicking of women's heels, the zipping of a purse, a spoon hitting the coffeecup until the coffee is stirred. It all had a rhythm to it, sounds had beginnings and endings - they had their place and time in the symphony. I hear my heart and I hear my breath. I felt surrounded by the beauty and the harmony of the Universe.
My listening started half way through Daniel J. Wakin's article in the NY Times this morning (Wed, Mar 30, 2007) about Christopher DeLaurenti ( who decided to listen to the sounds of intermissions at concerts and record them. I had always noticed the symphony of sounds in nature, always surprised people were so unaware, but I had never listened in a diner. The school spring concert we went to afterward seemed far less musical.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Memorial Day Weekend

This is the day we remember and honor fallen soldiers. Who the enemies or friends were in past wars gets forgotten over the years. All that remains in our minds is the surrender and obedience of soldiers to something bigger than themselves. The soldier with the heavy machine gun, having killed many before being killed himself, remains to strike me as somewhat innocent. Maybe it is because of the discipline, and the surrender to authority, that a soldier agrees to live by. His willingness to give up his own will and to face death, or a difficult life after war, trusting in something beyond himself.
Today we wonder about sacrifice, obedience, and surrender to authority. We have seen it go terribly wrong too often. And still - the fallen soldier, as well as the still fighting soldier, has my admiration, my gratitude, my compassion and has me wondering whether the rest of us have become too selfish, too obsessed with our own will and comfort, and too busy gobbling up the earth with our consumerism.
We do not yet live in a world where war is unnecessary. Some day we will. It will take many more soldiers to get there. Too many. I thank them all for the peace and freedom they have created so far in the Western World.
From a spiritual point of view I know that freedom cannot be gained without trust far beyond reason, surrendering of one's will, and the willingness to face death or a difficult life. As such, even the Buddhist who would not even kill a fly, hoping for liberation, can learn much from the soldier. And the soldier some day may need the Buddhist to teach him how to still the mind.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Robert's Story

Robert showed up out of nowhere, in a shipyard, emerging out of the storage unit next to BoathouseBooks' unit. In over a decade I had never seen him anywhere around there. The only person I had ever seen was a homeless man who lived in his car, and regularly visited his unit across the yard where he kept his clothes, but mostly mountains of newspapers and magazines - "to prove his point" it seemed. He had that "it's all a conspiracy" look about him. His car was full of literature and notepads, too.
Robert didn't look crazy, just big, and irritable. His car was blocking our unit and we were expecting a gigantic truck with the book delivery. He moved the car, at which point an even taller, bigger, and grumpier guy emerges from their storage container. No words, just looks and grunts.
Our truck pulls in and we soon realize that I ordered a lift-bed truck, instead of a truck and a forklift. Not realizing that there was such a thing as a lift-bed truck, I had assumed that what my friend Fergus in China called a lift-bed truck was what I called a forklift. There was a moment of silence...and realization...that we were in big trouble. A bad case of a native German and a native Chinese making arrangements in English.
Then Robert reappears from somewhere and announces that there are two forklifts around the corner in that shipyard and he'll ask one of his buddies if we can borrow one. He walks off, head down, as if he had the weight of the world on his shoulders. I start wondering who is going to be the one trying to use this forklift. Back comes Robert, and before we know it, he is gingerly and with utmost precision lifting pallet after pallet off the truck and into our storage unit. It was the same sophisticated dance I have so often watched big, burly guys perform with their earth movers or cranes, that leaves you in awe as to the coordination, sensitivity, skill, beauty and balance of it all. Robert knew what he was doing. This wasn't just a regular forklift either, but a kind of magical instrument constantly adjusting its blades to what it had to do.
I still felt a little intimidated by Robert and decided to get to know him better. I wondered whether I could give him a book or two for a kid in his life and ask him if he had kids. "Oh, boy", he says", shaking his head in disbelief, "You just struck a cord there lady", "I don't. But me and my friend, we go to the Children's Hospital in Oakland. Last weekend we took hundreds of Beanie Babies from a lady who used to collect them. But the market has fallen out of Beanie Babies and she donated them. They were all brand new. The kids loved them." He looked sad, and mad, like he had seen a lot of suffering.
"Well', I said, "all those pallets you just moved for us, they are children's books. I'd love to give you a box for the kids. Would you like me to? "Sure, I'll take it. They'd love 'em", he said. "Just leave'em in the trailer. Sorry for the mess in there." And off he went. He had refused a cash tip for his efforts earlier and I was happy he accepted the box. This was a good soul of a man. He was mad at, and at the same time surrendered, to the suffering and injustice in the world. And he had decided to make a difference where he could. Maybe he had lost a child.
I put a box into his unit, and also left a signed copy for him on top of it. I felt sorry that I never asked his name. It turns out that the storage unit next to ours is used for tools by several of the shipyard storage workers. The icing on my cake that morning was when a third "big guy" shows up to get some tools from the trailer. I follow him in to find out if he can tell me Robert's name, which he can. He sees the book on top of the box, likes it after going through it, and asks how much it is. I tell him, he pulls $13 out of his jeans and asks me to sign the book for his son.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

The Big Secret

Just in case someone may be wondering...

The stories I write here about people, are not here to promote the book. The book flies out of my hands wherever I take it, and when someone needs it, I just give it away. Since I started this project three years ago, without any intentions of becoming an "author" or "illustrator", things have been happening worth noting and sharing. The book is almost a little catalyst in my life to engage with strangers and there are a lot of surprises. Those are fun to write about.

This summer I gave Here You Are to several people I have known almost my whole life, and found out that they all were meditated on a regular basis. One even had a meditation garden, and another one had had her child in a meditation play group for several years. I would have never known. People are somewhat reluctant to talk about their interest in meditation, and then so happy to find someone who understands. Understands what exactly?

That we can be happy - without religion, without money, without power, without the perfect life, without anything, even without our loved ones - ( some of the people I am talking about had lost a child, a parent or a spouse recently) - if we just sit silently. It's the big secret.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

The Ultimate Truth

When this claim was made about Here You Are, and put on the dustcover, I kept very quiet. The Ultimate Truth - seems to be a very big thing. The biggest of all! Yet, it is the most mundane, the most simple, and the most obvious. So close and so clear, we miss it, like the professor with the glasses on top of his head.

Just like the professor will chuckle about his exhausting efforts when he finally finds his glasses, you may chuckle, when you get to the last page of Here You Are. That moment is the gift of Here You Are.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Nikki's Story

Nikki is one of my favorite little girls in the world. She is smart and beautiful - the daughter of a Mom movie star turned PhD psychologist and Dad entrepreneur in the gourmet food business. Her life with her creative, innovative parents can be beyond confusing and stressful, if not downright - inspiring. Sometimes it is all too much, sometimes it is all too little, and most of the times it is just right. Nikki has a great life, yet there are days she is just not so sure about it. Those days can turn into long nights, and one night, out of a big bookshelf, she chose Here You Are for her 1am read.
It had such a calming effect on her, it stayed on Mom's night table for all those kind of nights. "Why am I here?" - "to love, of course" she told her surprised Mom. Her Mom ended up giving me great advice on how to go about publishing Here You Are - basically "full steam ahead". The red spine was her idea!

Moritz's Story

Moritz today is a medical student at the University in Munich, one of the most difficult med-school to get into in Germany. Three years ago, he was a philosophy student here in the US, cramming for exams, living on Coca Cola and not much else. The son of a famous physician in Germany he was an exchange student here in his senior year of college. He had a nervous breakdown so severe, he thought his roommates were trying to kill him, and that he was being hunted by the CIA. His parents knew old friends of ours in Germany. They called us in hopes we could pick him up, off the streets of San Francisco. We found him, still thinking his roommates were going to kill us, too. When he thought we were CIA we started to worry. He spent the night. Our kids left to sleep at friends. My husband removed the knives from the kitchen. We made it through the night. The next day, instead of putting him on his flight home to his parents, we ended up taking him to our local hospital. His mother stayed on the phone with us trying to convince him to trust us until she would get here the next day. We all were complete strangers to each other. I wrote "Keep it simple" into Here You Are and gave it to Mo after we left him at the hospital. The nurses said he just kept reading it to calm down. His mother later said the same and wanted me to publish the book. To this day, three years later she keeps asking about it. The books are sitting in customs, on a ship from China, and will be here next week. Next week I will send her a copy.

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Mother's Day

Here I am today - in the middle. Calling my mother, and my daughter-in law on her first Mother's day. Actually she was so busy nursing the little one I had to wish her a Happy Mother's day via my son. All while I was being spoiled by three of my five children who happened to be home. Here we all are - Happpy Mother's day to everybody!

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Nice Lady buys HYR

Today I had to go to get business papers filed. The clerk at the Civic Center, a beautiful lady with gorgeous skin and very loving eyes, was marrying a young oriental couple before it was my turn. Here this shy, young couple was taking this important step, and just like my husband and I, over thirty years ago, was trying to pretend nothing was happening - until the big day ahead, with family and friends. But I could swear I heard their hearts pounding.

When it was my turn everything felt so mundane. But I had brought along a copy of Here You Are, and the lady bought it for her two daughters. "The ultimate truth - I have always wondered about that", she said. "The girls ask me those questions all the time." I told her the answers were between the lines.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Regal Printing ships Here You Are

Fergus Kwong, my patient and reliable friend in China, emailed a few days ago to let me know that my books were on their way, due to arrive here in two more days from today.
( . He and Kishwar, at Lazer Image ( ), who prepared the print ready files, made it possible for "Here You Are" to now be available. Thanks to Fastback Creative Books ( I had been able to put together the book the way I envisioned it, first. Sending this beautiful, hardcover version to Fergus made it all very easy. I would not have found Kishwar, or Fergus, had it not been for my friends, Judith and Gerson Goldhaber, and their book "Sonnets From Aesop" ( Gerson's beautiful watercolors accompaning each of Judith's sonnets, were so well reproduced, I decided to use the same printer.
It took three years to get "Here You Are" to this point and seems somewhat unreal that the publishing part is done. Funny how when the student - me - was ready, the next teacher would appear and things would move forward again. "Here You Are" seems to have a life of its own, and even when I wanted to stop pursuing further efforts in publishing it, a new enthusiast, either a child, or an adult, to my frequent surprise, would show up and urge me to get this book realized. Often with a new and helpful piece of information, or skill to teach me. So in my mind "the Universe was telling me to keep going".
On February 28th, 2007, I signed my name to the printing contract and wired the first half of my payment to China. The same day that, later that night, our first grandchild was born.