Sunday, November 30, 2008

Google Sky To Keep Us Humble

Here is something cool and interesting to make us feel both powerful and oh so insignificant in this vast Universe - Google Sky! If Google Earth made us feel powerful like a spying fighter pilot Google Sky will make us feel like Luke Skywalker. Or, frustrated and greedy in that curiosity kind of way, for more detail when we fly up to a planet or galaxy. Then there is that feeling of being lost at sea without a compass or any understanding of what we're encountering, and you just want to hang out in the solar system just so you know - kind of - where you are - "up" or "down" or "sideways" - ideas that lose their meaning.

Then there is that other, though very familiar feeling - of too much Universe to explore when you really should get your work done.

My Favorite Story For Brad Pitt

So Angelina is not pregnant, after all, after just giving birth to twins four months ago. Who would have thought?

But - just in case, here is one of my favorite stories - for "poor, exhausted Brad Pitt":

A man, at the end of his rope, drags himself to the rabbi and collapses at the rabbi's feet and starts sobbing. "Rabbi, I am exhausted, desperate, and can find no way out. My life has become nothing but suffering and a great struggle. I can barely feed my wife and my twelve children. We live in a tiny house with her parents, go without food many days, and the overwhelming demands of our large family threaten to take my wife's health, and mine as well. The noise, the chaos, the need, and the suffering - it is all too much. And then, today - I found out that she is pregnant again, Rabbi. Please Rabbi, I am at the end. Please tell me, what am I to do?" The rabbi takes a moment to think, and then turns to him and says:

"Moshe, just stop! You have done enough!"


Great Quote -

"Expecting the world to treat you fairly because you are a good person is a little like expecting the bull not to attack you because you are a vegetarian." Dennis Wholey

And an Ethical Question -

"If you knew a woman who was pregnant, who had eight kids already, three of whom were deaf, two blind, one mentally retarded, and she had syphilis; would you recommend that she have an abortion?"

I found the above quote and this ethical question in my bookshelves as clippings from old newspapers - from the days before I used the Internet and couldn't copy and paste things into computer files or a blog - which was only a few years ago. I found mountains of clippings like these in my mother-in-law's files as well when we cleaned out her little office after she died. I guess that is what we used to do. Clip and shoebox.

To get back to the ethical question. I believe abortion has to stay legal. I must admit, though, I am getting more and more clumsy at defending my position, especially in light of how this freedom of choice is being abused so casually by so many. As with all freedoms, they come with inbuilt responsibilities. Every time we are irresponsible we risk losing these freedoms.

Like many who are pro-choice - I am against abortion at all cost - yet for keeping it legal for the very unfortunate circumstances in which it might be the most compassionate choice for the child, the mother or a family. Who would want to be the judge of what circumstances that would be? This responsibility is the mother's and it is a great one. So - in summary - anyone's answers to the above question does not matter. It was Beethoven's mother's choice to make, and contrary to what we might expect, she may even have had a choice, as women and midwives in those days knew the herbs one could take to induce miscarriage.

Friday, November 28, 2008

I Am Your Brother...

A while ago, a silly man with a big heart, Renaldo Lapuz, gave this moving performance on the talent show American Idol. Since then hundreds of people have made videos singing his song of eternal friendship and brotherhood. Many videos on YouTube slightly or outright mock him, yet people young and old cannot help themselves - smiling and singing his song, endlessly.

Here are two sincere and excellent versions I fell in love with.

I am your sister...
Your best friend forever
Singing the songs,
The music that you love.
We are sisters 'till the end of time
Together or not, you're always in my heart

Your hurting feelings will reign no more!

You are my brother...
My best friend forever
Singing the songs,
The music that you love.
We are brothers, singing all the time
Together forever, always in my heart
Your heart's hurt feelings,
Will reign no more, no more, no more!

I am your sister, you are my brother!
Your hurting feelings, never will reign no more!!!

Thinking of the girls in Afghanistan and sending them love.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Where The Hell Is Matt

As sent to me by my younger daughter today.

Yoda Wisdom

The powerful nine-year-old Jedi who lives in our house and controls what we watch on TV several nights a week, has moved on from Planet Earth and the Science Channel to Star Wars. "Here comes your favorite, Mom" is how he announces every scene with Master Yoda in it to make sure I stay and watch all the episodes.

"I am not afraid"
"Good. You will be! You will be!

"Ready? Are You? A Jedi must have the deepest commitment. The most serious mind."
"This one, a long time have I watched. All his life has he looked away to the future.
Never his mind on where he was, what he was doing. Hmph...Adventure,
Hmph...Excitement, Hmph...a Jedi craves not these things. You are reckless!"
"Will he finish what he begins?"

"My ally is the force and a powerful ally it is. Life creates it and makes is grow. Its energy surrounds us and binds us. Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter. You must feel the force around you. Here, between you, me, the tree, the rock, everywhere, yes."
"You ask he impossible. I don't, I don't believe it."
"That is why you fail!"
"You must unlearn what you have learned."
"Try not! Do! Or do not! There is no try!"
"Concentrate! Feel the force flow. Through the force you will see other places, the future, the past, old friends long gone."
"Difficult to see. Always in motion the future is."

"Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering!"

"Careful you must be...
The fear of loss is a path to the dark side.
Death is a natural part of life.
Rejoice for those around you who transform into the force.
Warn them do not.
Miss them do not.
Attachment leads to jealousy.
Shadow of greed that is.
Train yourself to let go of everything you fear to lose."
"Do not give in to fear, and hate, and depression" (from another clip)

"Never! I will never turn to the dark side. I am a Jedi, like my father before me."
"So be it Jedi. You will be destroyed, you fool. For your lack of vision!"
"There is still good in you father."

The power of love over evil is accomplished with losing one's fear of death and at the same time holding life's preciousness as one's highest value. A paradox truth where the highest power is powerlessness.

Senators McCain and Obama - At Their Best - Post Election Reflections

The Alfred E. Smith Foundation Memorial Dinner is an annual white tie fundraiser dinner event for Catholic Charities, held at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City, in honor of former New York Governor Al Smith, the first Catholic presidential candidate. The first dinner was in 1945, the year after Al Smith's death.

What many people outside of the US may not know is that as far as stereotypes are concerned - "Catholic" in America used to be equated with "low class Irish drunk". The Klu Klux Klan was after "Catholics" as much as it was after "Blacks" because of competition for jobs and resources. African American and Irish women shared a strong history as servants to the upper classes who looked down on both groups. "First Catholic presidential candidate" - Governor Alfred E. Smith, therefore is a historical figure in the US, much like JFK as the first Irish Catholic President. Of course, by now, we know the historical outcome of this year's election. The US keeps growing and rewarding heroes from its lower social ranks who end up elevating all of us.

At this traditional dinner during our campaigns, the candidates make fun of themselves and each other. The event is shortly before the actual election and tensions are high. We get to see the candidates at their best, and are reminded - that if we can keep laughing together, and especially - at ourselves - there is hope for all of us.

Here are the two speeches in the order given.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Monday's MeditationMom's Moment - Logic and Paradox - 11/24/08

Q: Can free will and the idea of God's omniscience co-exist?

MM: If a nature observer is watching over a forest population of dear, bears, raccoons, etc. and in his wise old age becomes so familiar with everything that he can predict and know exactly who is going to show up where and when and do what - as in "omniscient" - would anyone say that all these animals are not acting out of free will? Or - that he is orchestrating any of the animals' behaviors? Or, causing suffering if they hunt and eat each other, or fall of a cliff?

Just because actions are predictable and based in natural, universal law does not mean there is no free will. There is an underlying free will within the source of all universal laws to begin with. This "law" is love and attraction, free will, which starts on the subatomic level. This law of love is rooted in our longing to re-unite. It is misguided in its action but not in its intention, and makes all of material life possible. Example being the hope to unite in love and ending up multiplying - so two do not become one, but three, four, five, six etc. In other words - this re-union cannot happen on the material plane.

God's will (if you believe in God), and our free will (if you believe in us as separate from God) are just two versions of the same end goal of re-union. We assume that time and space - and with it separation - exists, which in truth they don't. Only to us they do. So we worry about things like "free will" and "God's will". "In truth" - there is neither "God's will" nor our "free will". The whole idea of "will" is a very human idea and invention and based on the desire to manipulate the material world. "No will" is "God's will" if we want to be precise - in other words, total peace.

In our illusion - time/space existence - omniscience and free will do co-exist, but it is a paradox. Paradox - is not illogical, but the highest level of logical insight that can be reached. The distinction between "paradoxical" and "illogical" is vast. Paradoxical insight is wisdom. Lack of logic is simply stupidity. Then there is a third way. If people who do not have the ability for paradoxical insight trust a person who does - they can just have faith. It only gets silly when they try to argue points of faith with a logician, who has not reached the level of paradoxical insight through the disciplined pursuit of truth by logic and experiment. Then it is a situation of the blind arguing with the blind.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Indie Bound

I did not know what that means - even though I should know by now. You can look it up here. Basically it is the idea of supporting small, local businesses - bookstores in particular - in favor of large national chains.

As a small publisher, and author, this is an interesting topic for me. I have nothing but gratitude for Amazon, as well as Barnes & Noble who carry my book. Not only do they carry Here You Are, but also do all the accounting and fulfilling. In the beginning, when I was having trouble convincing small bookstores that my book is a bestseller - as I found out at school book fairs - Amazon and B&N just let me put it onto their virtual "shelves". B&N even approved Here You Are for placement into their New York City bookstore - so that I could just start selling it without having to go around begging for shelf space at small bookstores.

At the same time, though, my very favorite thing in the world of shopping, is going to my local bookstore. It is my true love. What is it about bookstores and guitar stores that just makes you want to be there for as long as possible? They seem to be a retreat that not only provides relief from the hustle and bustle of the world, but also lifts or soothes our spirits, unlike most other kinds of stores.

Amazon takes care of necessary and impulse book buys when I am working online, or when I have a long Christmas list to fill and to keep track of, especially for products besides books I don't have time to hunt for at the mall in stores that may or may not have them in stock. Especially this year, with Amazon's commitment to only sell products that are not entombed in hard plastic casings that need special tools to open, and more often than not, seriously cut your hands.

Nonetheless - it is the local bookstore I love and particularly look forward to visiting several times during the Christmas season. Book Passage in Corte Madera (see my event in August) and as of yesterday - Books, Inc - in the Marina in San Francisco, make me especially happy by carrying Here You Are. It's like getting your kid into a really nice and wholesome school where you know good people show up.

Books, Inc is a great company. After going bankrupt when Barnes & Noble as well as Amazon appeared on the scene, they made a full restart, out of the small, independent neighborhood bookstore concept, and managed to build a wonderful business, preserving for us humans the human scale bookstore you like to hang out in, in your very own neighborhood. Not to forget the Books, Inc. bookstore at the San Francisco Airport - my favorite "Executive Lounge" - where I spend most of my time and money between flights.

Now that a few copies of Here You Are have made their way over to the Books, Inc. Store in the Marina, maybe some day Here You Are will be greeting people - especially arriving ones - at the airport as well. Lots of grandmothers hanging out in the Books, Inc. "Executive Lounge" looking for useful items to bring to the little ones they're visiting.

The question about the small, local business versus the national and international super chains remains a koan for all of us. The Golden Middle Path is to support both kinds of businesses equally and fairly, by enjoying and rewarding them for the different things they do well.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


Drugs have been on my mind ever since we flushed large amounts of Oxycontin Pills down the toilet in Florida. This happens on a daily basis down in beautiful, warm and "better taxes" Florida, when all the elderly who live there die - one after the other - because that's what old people do. The nurses and doctors witness this and sign the forms vouching for the fact that the drugs have been "destroyed". My husband was tempted to keep a few for skiing backaches as well as hip and knee agony, but the nurse didn't let him.

Oxycontin, a potent time release painkiller, was a true blessing for my mother-in-law's long and painful death from breast cancer. It is what it was designed for. It was not designed for parties, nor for fish food - nor skiing, I suppose.

My other "experiences" with Oxycontin are the mother who came to our meditation a few years ago, whose daughter - freshly graduated from Highschool - had just died. She came with her younger son, the girl's twelve-year-old brother. The daughter's boyfriend had given Oxycontin to her at a party, celebrating going off to college. The Highschool diploma somehow didn't help to prevent the decision of opening up a time release drug capsule and taking it all at once, subjecting the brain to life threatening shock and disbelief, simply for the "party fun" of feeling one's body go numb. The risk versus reward calculation went terribly wrong and could have been prevented with a little more respect for, or understanding of science.

Three years later the same thing happened to the son of our carpenter. Both were working on our house at the time, including the friend who provided the Oxycontin as a "gift" one night. The father found his son in the morning on his front doorstep, after he had heard him come home late at night, thinking he was having his usual Friday Midnight Smoke, enjoying the moon and stars, as he loved to do.

Now the poor fish in Florida are on Oxycontin, too - and many other drugs as well. It is illegal here in California to flush drugs down the toilet - but in Florida it is required. Water is water and it circles the globe - so Florida "is" California, for all intents and purposes.

How useful these drugs could be to people who cannot afford them. How harmful to the fish and therefore to our food supply. People in Florida joke about how happy everyone will be on all the anti-depressants and painkillers in the water - leave alone all the illegal cocaine and other concoctions that get flushed down toiltes and sinks in all states, when the police knocks on the door.

Well - now that I may have depressed everyone, most drug use among teenagers - is actually way down in the US, - except for Oxycontin use, which is up 30%, as is Vicodin. See this graph, here. Thanks to people, young and old, who fight drugs with education in schools and on the Internet - often former drug users themselves - as well as our under-appreciated police departments, military units, and government agencies. Lots of good people there who don't make the news, but make all the difference. Thank You.

People come to meditations, or fall in love with "Here You Are" - even heavily tattooed and pierced teenagers - hoping to find a way out of their sorrow and suffering from those kinds of situations. Meditation and ancient teachings can provide this way out, far better than drugs. Losing a child is one of the most difficult paths there is. Most difficult, and therefore also the most precious and sacred of motivations to discover the innermost treasure.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Invisible Rope Trick One and Two

Hope this gives you a good belly laugh for today -

Water Drop Perfection

Moebius Transformation

Thank You, Douglas N. Arnold and Jonathan Rogness of the University of Minnesota.

f(z) = \frac{a z + b}{c z + d}

By August Ferdinand Moebius

Animating math formulae, is like taking sheet music and actually playing the music.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

And Then There Is E8

Claudio Rocchini /e8 graph as 2-dimensional projection, by Peter McMullen

Have you heard of E8? It is quite beautiful and also an extraordinary accomplishment of the human mind. Listen to this announcement in Congress:

It may not be such a recent discovery, though.

On (the Garrett Lisi video below takes 20 minutes but is a pretty good explanation of what E8 is all about) - a woman commented on this talk:

"So, I learned that a circle has one degree of symmetry; a sphere has three; a space whose symmetries are described by E8 has 248 symmetries.

Then I went back to the Kabbalah book I was reading, called The Tree of Life, and read: . . . each one of the five Partzufim, which are in every single world includes all 248 limbs. . .
Another way of saying that is: each level of reality or each universe consists of 248 vessels . . . and these 248 vessels exist everywhere, eternally.

Vessels in Kabbalah are essentially a condensed form of Light or divine consciousness.
It just struck me that Garrett Lisi is saying some things that are similar to what Rabbi Isaac Luria taught in 1570."

A picture's worth a thousand words - so watch these additional short videos to get more of a sense of E8.

The Beauty Of Math

Here is a fantastic website sight called Dimensions that is beyond impressive when it comes to illustrating the beauty of Mathematics. Watching these videos is like listening to music. You don't have to entirely understand it all to appreciate it.

Next time your middle or high school student is questioning the value of spending another moment of his life devoted to his math homework - just let him watch some of these videos. Or - if you are homeschooling - this is "all you'll ever need" - at least in terms of inspiration - to teach math, math history or anything else to do with math.

Math ultimately is a search for truth and understanding , rather than a form of calculation and measurement. It is the koans in math that really make it interesting. Nothing like math to take us to the limits of logic and therefore beyond the mind itself - much like beauty.

I can even imagine toddlers being fascinated by these videos - like listening to Mozart. One does not need to be able to compose such music in order to enjoy it.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Israel Kamakawiwo'ole!

I am not up to date on the music scene at all, so this is an old version of an even older song - but this singer was new to me that day. Since I now have a nine-year-old who finally weighs enough to ride in the front seat - he is in charge of what we listen to on the radio when we drive to school. KFOG is his favorite station.

What catches my interest in music is when it communicates humility, gratitude, especially gratitude born of suffering, deep spiritual insight, silence and peace, or any other form of love that lives at a higher level than romance or heartbreak.

Thanks to the digital age the name of a singer and song title appears on the radio display in my car and I can search for the song when I get home. This is what happened with this Hawaiian giant, singing Over The Rainbow and What A Wonderful World. It sounded so genuine and sweet I had to look it up. To sound true, old cliche songs like these have to be sung by very special people. Thank You, Israel Kamakawiwo'ole!

Here it is - with the lyrics below if you want to sing along


Somewhere over the rainbow
Way up high
And the dreams that you dreamed of
Once in lullaby

Somewhere over the rainbow
Blue birds fly
And the dreams that you dream of
Dreams really do come true

Some day I'll wish upon a star
Wake up where the clouds are far behind
Where trouble melts like lemon drops
High above the chimney top that's where
You'll find me

Somewhere over the rainbow
Blue birds fly
And the dreams that you dare to, oh why,
Oh why can't I?

Well, I see trees of green and red roses, too
I watch them bloom
For me and you,
And I think to myself
What a wonderful world.

Well, I see skies of blue
And I see clouds of white,
And the brightness of day
I like the dark and I think to myself
What a wonderful world

The colors of the rainbow
So pretty in the sky
are also on the faces
Of people passing by

I see friends shaking hands, singing,
"How do you do?"
They're really saying: "I...I love you."

I hear babies cry and I watch them grow
They'll learn much more
Than we'll know and I think to myself
What a wonderful world

Some day I'll wish upon a star
Wake up where the clouds are far behind
Where trouble melts like lemon drops
High above the chimney top
that's where you'll find me

Somewhere, over the rainbow way up high
and the dream that you dare to why, oh why can't I?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Thank You, Jim

My favorite veteran is Jim. Jim carries a little card in his pocket to remember all of our names at the local diner where we often run into each other for our morning coffee. He must be in his late seventies or early eighties. He arrives on his tricycle his wife makes him ride. He is handsome - with a knowing twinkle in his eyes - and you just know he was dashingly good looking in his younger years because he still has that special something about him.

His son made a video about him and his service in the Pacific during WW II. I am very fond of US veterans of WW II. Thanks to them and their friends who perished, Germany was freed from an insane dictator who the German people somehow could not dispose of themselves, even though they heroically tried several times. As a result I grew up in a wonderful country and was free to marry an American and move to the country of my dreams later in life.

So - on this Veteran's Day - Thank You, Jim, and all of your friends. When I find the little card you gave me with your website I will add it to this post.

Monday, November 10, 2008

A Thank You Letter To My Readers

Dear Readers of Here You Are (the Blog)!

Thank You all so much!!! for checking in regularly. I was so amazed to learn that so many people read this blog all over the world. Over 800 readers so far with about 200 checking in regularly every month. How come you are all so shy and don't leave comments? Maybe you just don't have time - understandable these days. Or maybe you don't want your opinions written "in stone" on someone's blog - that's understandable, too. Remember you can always comment anonymously to protect your privacy.

A silent, attentive audience is of course wonderful, and I am very happy.

Well - it is a miracle of our times that what I write here is read in Asia, Russia, Europe, Australia, South America and all over the US, including Hawaii. I was even contacted by a Malaysian Newspaper to contribute to Roald Dahl Day a few months ago, which put my opinion in print on the streets of Kuala Lumpur on a Sunday (see Sept 13th post). I feel very grateful to all of you. Thank You all for your interest. I hope to continue to keep it fun and interesting.

Monday's MeditationMom Moment - Floating Into Nothingness

Q: I used to meditate quite regularly (maybe just for 30 mins or so each day) but I took on some extra work and this prevented me from meditating for quite some time. On Friday night I decided to meditate again, and something amazing happened. It's quite hard to explain so bare with me.

In full Lotus, in a pitch black room by a window I could hear the sound of the wind blowing, as it was quite a rough night outside. I closed my eyes and counted by breaths to clear my mind. My thoughts vanished, and I became mindful. This is a bit weird but, my mind felt like it expanded. I could still hear the wind but it was not a distraction - I was aware of it but was not thinking about it. It was quite a calming situation. My entire self felt like I had floated a few feet above my body, like I was detached from my body and floating in nothingness. This is what I mean when I say my mind felt like it expanded. It was as if my true self disassociated or detached itself from my body. I was in, what felt like a perfect relaxing state of nothingness, like this, for about 4 hours.

I had never experienced anything like this when meditating before. Are any of you fine folks able to explain this to me? This happened again when I was meditating yesterday. To be honest, I have never been so calm and relaxed in my life, since this happened.

MM: Your mind wants an explanation. None is needed. Would you ask anyone for an explanation if you had just had the most calming, relaxing orgasm ever?

That being said know that this stillness and nothingness which is beyond your body and mind, is your true identity, your true Self. As you return to your old self, this old self is looking for an explanation. In a way it wants to own the experience as in "this happened to ME". Ask yourself "To whom did this happen?" At the time there was no-one there - it is the only way it can happen. But in hindsight it seems that it happened to you. This "you" is thinking of something in the past, and maybe hoping for the same experience again in the future.

While you meditate this "thinking you" disappears and you unite with who you really are - THAT. We describe it as this nothingness and peace but it is really quite beyond words. At the danger of inflating your false Self - you are very fortunate at having "achieved" this level of meditation. Drop the idea that you reached some great level of meditation, though, and you will stay relaxed and open to this becoming "you", more and more - as in I AM.

(The complete thread lives here at

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Daily Buddhism Reviews Here You Are

Daily Buddhism just reviewed Here You Are which is an honor. Below find the review and my email back to Brian to give him some background as to the choices that were made regarding our little "You" person in Here You Are.

Book: Here You Are, By Mayke Beckmann Briggs

Reviewed by Brian Schell
Boathouse Books, 42 Pages, ISBN 9780977646913
Buy from Amazon:

There are umpteen-gazillion books out there, both good and bad, concerning Buddhism for adult readers. There are very few good books for Children that involve Buddhist ideas. Books based upon the Jataka Tales are classics, but those stories are ancient and somewhat generic in nature. Modern-day Buddhist children books are starting to enter the market, albeit slowly. This is one of them.

It’s a durable hardcover children’s book with heavy pages and bright colors throughout. The text is short and extremely simple, and even beginning readers will be able to move through the book quickly. The drawings are simple but bright, and mostly involve “You,” the central character in the story. Unlike stories about 3rd-person characters, “You” are the center of attention here. Fortunately, since the pronoun “You” works whether reading the book yourself or having the book read to you, it’s a neat idea.

The subject here is about the main character, who asks the questions, “Who made everything?”, “Why am I here?” and several other ”big” questions. The book does not supply answers to any of the big questions, that’s up to the adult in the child’s life to explain. There are no references to God or any other specific religion. The book could literally be used to introduce any child to the big questions, and the adult must supply whatever answers they feel are appropriate.

I’m assuming that Daily Buddhism readers are going to want to use the book to explain the Buddhist perspective on the questions posed here. The book is fine for that, and there is one section of the book:

Here you are, wondering,

how everything appears out of nowhere like the waves rise up from the sea,

and how everything vanishes into nothing,

like the waves, on a calm summer’s day.

This could lead into a decidedly Buddhist-tinted discussion.

The one and only problem I see with the book are the pictures of “You” (see the cover image). The pictures are all of a little boy, or perhaps a girl with very short hair. I’m not sure whether this was an artistic decision or an oversight. I imagine it would be confusing to try to make the pictures of “You” to apply to everyone. Still, unless you are buying the book is for a little caucasian boy, be prepared.

Thank you, Brian!

That is a very nice and well balanced review. The illustrations do create the boy/girl confusion and it does come up when people review the book. It is on purpose, though, as you suspected.

We experimented with the little boy/girl for a long time. At some point we had both genders and every ethnicity represented in all the various illustrations, but it took the feeling of oneness/wholeness away and turned it into a feeling of many. So reluctantly we let go of all our little Asian, African American and Arab boys and girls, and went with the little Caucasian boy/girl "You" instead. We found that the vagueness of whether it was a boy or girl served children well and intentionally "grew" the hair in some of the illustrations, made the little face as dark as possible, and put a purple shirt on the little "You". We had a whole elementary school for a focus group, a designer from UCLA as a book design consultant, and a PhD Psychologist to help us with all the final decisions.

We watched children of various ages read the book for hours on end and found that they particularly love comparing the facial expressions in the many portraits. Especially girls, and very young kids go back and forth between the portrait pages many times over to do this. The original idea to include so many portraits stems from the surprising success of two mothers who made millions of dollars with two videos of toddler faces that had little kids glued to their TVs and mothers buying these videos for "TV babysitting". At first we thought the many portraits where a perfect opportunity to represent many different groups and were disappointed ourselves when that didn't work out.

The first long, silent hug I received after reading Here You Are to a group of Kindergartners -
( in front of the whole class, no less) was from a little African American boy who had completely identified with the little Caucasian "You". Children have less dualistic minds than most adults and have fewer problems with these issues than adults do. To preserve a feeling of Oneness therefore ended up overriding our attempts to represent various racial groups in the illustrations. It was a koan for us for a while, until children showed us the way.

Thought you might enjoy hearing about some of the background. Hope it doesn't make you feel you should have written the review any differently, though. The review gives a valid warning about the little white boy "You" for people who might be concerned with that for whatever reason.

Thank you again -

All the best

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Where No One Is Missing

We returned from Florida yesterday, sad and tired. Sleep will work miracles once we get around to it. We celebrated the lives of "Buffy and Pa" with lots of tears and laughter, walks on the beach and many hugs. We met many of their friends. Sweet old ladies stopped by with soups, sandwiches and cookies day after day to feed us while we cleaned out their house. Their deaths within two days of each other turned into a romantic love story that made the front page news of the local news paper. Phone calls and condolence cards keep coming, and lawyers are figuring out the estate.

Now it is back to our own lives, but without the occasional conversations and letters from the people who looked over us from afar for all these many years. It feels perfectly natural and perfectly strange.

My mind takes refuge in emptiness - that way I rest from all the memories of the past, the imaginations of where my parents-in-law might be now, their future legacy and all the other stories told all week. As enjoyable and necessary as these reflections all were - my joy is to be in the present here, now were we all are eternal and infinite, where no-one is ever missing, and we all live together as One. Love has taught me this.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Rest In Peace Together

Tomorrow morning I fly to Florida with all my children to meet up with family and friends for Monday morning's funeral service for my mother-in-law. Some family members, including my husband and his brothers have been there already for a few days to make arrangements with my father-in-law who knew all her last wishes.

Finally, everything was organized and in place , and everyone met at an aunt's house for dinner in anticipation of more family and friends' arrivals tomorrow.

It turns out that the service on Monday will be for both of my husband's parents. My father-in-law died in the arms of his three sons tonight after telling a funny story and suffering a massive and instant heart attack. After the joke his eyes just rolled back in his head, and after a few more short, unconscious moments of rapid heartbeats, it was done.

Tonight and tomorrow night they will be lying in the same funeral home together, after a very long year of suffering. One sick, and one sick with sorrow for his suffering sweetheart. On Monday we will say farewell to both of them. So bittersweet. The Reverent said that they had heard of cases like this, but it had never happened in their church. It will be such a difficult day, especially for all the grandchildren.

Here is my father-in-law's favorite hymn, which I found out when I took him to the Mother Church in Boston this summer. His mother was a Christian Scientist and sang this hymn to him at bedtime. She was a well known practitioner, but he had never been to this awe inspiring church. His favorite thing was the soloist singing so beautifully, supported by the breathtaking acoustics of the building itself.

Hymn 211 - O Gentle Presence

O gentle presence, peace and joy and power;
O life divine, that owns each waiting hour,
Thou love that guards the nestling faltering flight!
Keep though my child on upward wing tonight.

Love is our refuge; only with mine eye
Can I behold the snare, the pit, the fall:
His habitation high is here, and nigh,...
His arm encircles me and mine, and all.
No ill, since God is good, and loss is gain.

O make me glad for every scalding tear,
For hope deferred, in gratitude, disdain!
Wait, and love more for every hate, and fear...
His arm encircles me and mine, and all.
No ill, since God is good, and loss is gain.

Beneath the shadow of his mighty wing;
In that sweet secret of the narrow way,
Seeking and finding, with the angles sing:
" Lo, I am with you always," - watch and pray.
His arm encircles me and mine, and all.
No ill, since God is good, and loss is gain.

No snare, no fowler, pestilence or pain;
No night drops down upon the troubled breast,
When heaven's aftersmile earth's teardrops gain,
And Mother finds her home and heav'nly rest.
His arm encircles me and mine, and all.
No ill, since God is good, and loss is gain.

No ill - since all is good, and loss is gain. This is the truth, as found in the Tao also - I'll have to remember that on Monday.