"My Story Lives is a cornucopia of hope and optimism in the midst of challenging and sometimes dark circumstances. You're doing great work!" Dr. Mel Waldman, Psychologist'

"In my opinion, this is one of the BEST LITERARY sites ever created!!" Camincha, San Francisco Bay Area poet and writer

Monday, July 28, 2014

Mystical Mistical Pond!

This is the pond after a heavy heavy rain.

What a gift Mother Nature is.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

A NYC church praying for deceased soldiers

Strolling along 29th Street in Manhattan the other day, I came across a very moving project. It is the work of Marble Collegiate Church, best known for once hosting the sermons of Dr. Norman Vincent Peale.

In 2006, the church decided to start praying for all the American soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. Every soldier's name and age are typed onto a piece of paper, and slipped into a plastic sleeve. The name tag is then tied to a long golden ribbon which hangs on the wrought iron gate outside the church.

The church also prays for the thousands of people in Iraq and Afghanistan who have perished. Those ribbons are blue.

Finally, green ribbons denote prayers for peace.

The railings are crowded with ribbons. Seeing the names of the soldiers -- most of the whom were in their 20s and 30s -- really brings home the painful loss of life connected to the wars. The project is reminiscent of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C., which names more than 58,000 soldiers who either died or went missing in Vietnam. The names are engraved on the memorial's black granite wall.

The church has worked hard on the prayer project and they are to be commended for raising our awareness.  The ribbons force you  to think hard about war and the terrible loss of life that goes with it.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Perfect Day, Count the Ways

My mother said it best: today is a ten out of ten day. Crystal clear blue sky, perfect temperature. With all the rain, the garden is lush with lilies: yellow, butterscotch, salmon, orange and my favorite, sizzling red.

The only problem on a day like this is how do you take it in? Never mind saving it, how can you savor it?  Maybe the only way to enjoy this day is to stay in the now, breathing in and out and counting the special moment as a blessing.

One of my blessings is having a small pond, filled with giant bullfrogs. Incredible the sounds they make. Back and forth across the pond, the deep humming sounds coming from these frogs sounds like some crazy symphony instruments warming up for the performance!

As day ends, light turns the maple leaves a brilliant green. The pond is bright and shimmery. No better place to be.

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

By Camincha

It is always summer when Alba thinks of Miraflores. The sun is always shining when Alba thinks of Miraflores although she knows very well it wasn’t so. The fact is that the climate was capricious, in the summer often foggy, cold, grey with a fine garüa, a mist, good for vegetation but not for Alba because she liked to go swimming and the garüa made her cold when it settled on her skin and frustrated, especially if she had plans to go to the beach to swim, which she enjoyed. But she and her friends would go anyway and walk into the freezing water, some days not even holding on to the rope set there for those worried that the violent surf would rough them up, tumble them, push them against rocks and deposit them bruised and cut on the stones under the surf. So what’s that got to do with caigüas (a plant that bears fruit similar to bell peppers.) Both happened in the summer.

After swimming, still shivering, they would make their way to the dressing rooms. Still damp, and by then hungry, their wet hair sticking to forehead, shoulders, neck, clothes, they carried their heavy uncomfortable bags with their wet towels and bathing suits up the hill to El Malecón (seawall.) Hug good bye before going on walking to their respective homes. Alba felt lucky, she had only four more blocks to walk to her house at Porta Street where a delicious lunch of caigüas stuffed with meat, black olives, bits of hard boiled eggs, sauté onions and garlic awaited her. Or caigüas soup. Or purée of caigüas. Caigüas stew. Caigüas...cooked in as many ways as was possible for they grew in such profusion that mamacita had started to invent some recipes of her own.

This situation with the caigüas came about because their house front was flushed with the sidewalk, no front garden. But mamacita loved to garden. And was good at it. Knew all the plants -- the secrets of roses, dahlias, geraniums, carnations, lemon trees, tomatoes, potatoes, onions, garlic, corn. She grew all of these in an eight by eight space in the center of the house built for that purpose. She also put to good use the three and a half square feet of dirt next to a wall in the middle of a raised cement border walkway that nurtured a jasmine so fertile that it had spread all over and looked like a beautiful lace tapestry. The little yard and the small patch were full of black, rich dirt that mamacita kept fertile by periodically mixing it with compost made of blending chicken droppings with vegetable cuttings and crushed eggshells. And caigüas? Oh! the caigüas. Well the compost, the black dirt and the regular watering she gave it produced, out of a few seeds she had dropped on it, an enormous amount of succulent caigüas. And they harvested them in such abundance that years later were still talking about it. It was a miracle the jasmine survived the intrusion.

Alba remembers mamacita directing the servants to fill boxes and baskets with caigüas and sending them to friends and neighbors and finally to the owners of the vegetable and meat store on their block that smelled of fragrant herbs and fresh meat. Owned and operated by two Chinese men who if Alba happened to go by while they were having lunch could be seen eating a couple of light color sticks in one hand, from porcelain bowls they lifted to their mouths, while their dark eyes above the bowl peered at her. The Chinese did not live in Miraflores, Alba knew this because she had seen the tall men get off the bus from Lima at the corner of Avda 28 de Julio and Porta half a block from her house early in the morning and walk in their gaunt manner. Their heads up in the air like testing the wind trying to divine what the day would be like. Deliveries on time? Enough sales to cover the expenses? But on the day of the caigüas Yin Yin and his partner had a smile on their faces for Alba’s mother sent the caigüas as a gift.

Meantime The Baths, which is what everyone called the beach at the foot of the cliffs in Miraflores had very little sand, mostly stones that hurt your feet so it was necessary to use sturdy foot wear and certainly a thick towel to lie on. It was rough, some days more than others. Like when the rope that ran from a pillar at the edge of the surf to about a hundred feet into the ocean was helpful to the timid and not good swimmers. Because when the tide was high the waves that angrily came to explode at the beach sometimes were monumental. Other times they had lost their strength just as they arrived and barely rolled in playfully before going out again. But the ocean was always cold, thinking of a warm lunch of caigüas in any form was most welcomed.

Camincha is a pen name for a writer living in northern California. 

Friday, June 27, 2014

No More Poisonous Dog Treats From China!

It just so happens that I was all out of dog treats yesterday (we have been using a ton of them in a wonderful new puppy class with our darling Poco) when this story popped into my inbox. It was a petition asking me to join thousands of other pet owners who want Target to stop selling poisonous dog treats from China.

I have stopped buying just about anything that says "made in China," but it never occurred to me to be on the lookout for tainted dog treats on the pet store shelves. 

Thankfully, a woman named Tracey Bagatta, from Center Moriches, New York, 
    1. has launched a petition campaign to make sure that nobody's pet joins all the others who've gotten sick or died eating jerky chicken pet treats. According to Tracey -- whose own two dogs got sick this way -- a total of 5,600 dogs, 24 cats and three humans have gotten sick from the contaminated food (why three humans I'm not sure.)
    More than 1,000 dogs suffered "horrifying" illnesses before succumbing. Those who survived will have lasting health problems.

  • Tracey's dog Ginger was so sick with bloody diarrhea and vomiting that she made two trips with her to the vets' ICU. Tracey's second dog, Sophie, was tested, and her liver enzymes "were off the charts!"

    Even though they survived, both dogs -- like all the rest of the pets affected -- will have lifelong liver problems and will require daily meditation just to stay alive.

    The FDA is now actively investigating the problem and has issued warnings and cautions to consumers. Meanwhile, a class action lawsuit is in the works, to set up a fund to compensate pet owners who have suffered this tragedy. 

    What is the poison? So far, nobody knows. But it doesn't matter. It's time we sign Tracey's petition and spread the word as far and wide as possible. Make sure you know where you are buying your treats!

    So far Petco and PetSmart have removed all China-made treats. But Target has refused to do the same? Why?

    Please sign the petition right away. It reads:

    Dustee Jenkins, VP of Public Relations, Target
    Jeff Jones, EVP, Target 
    Petco and PetSmart just took the lead to remove all treats from China to protect our dogs and cats from future tragedies. Why won't Target do the same? PROVE that you care about pets – and that we can trust you! Stop selling pet treats made in China!

    [Your name]

    Spread the word. Tell all your friends. And while you're at it, call Target corporate headquarters yourself and tell them to get their butts in gear and throw out this disgusting pet food.

    Later today, I'll be going to my favorite pet store in Great Barrington, MA -- called Pawsh -- to buy Poco's favorite chicken treats. But it makes my heart ache to think of all the heartbroken people who have lost their pets in this sad sad way!!

    (P.S. Pictured here are (top) my pupster, Poco, and my daughter Lindsay's adorable Milo.)

    Friday, June 20, 2014

    Hummingbird Mind

    There are two hummingbird feeders outside the window and

    every so often, one iridescent green bird comes soaring to the feeder, setting its long thin beak into the sugary water. Sometimes, one hummingbird will dive bomb another, trying to lay claim to the feeder.

    I sit in meditation near the feeders, aware of the birds as they come and go. I hear the soft thrumming of their wings as I try to stay present with the in-and-out of my breathing.

    But today, like so many days, I find my mind defying all attempts to quiet it down. My mind keeps bouncing from one thought to another, chattering endlessly. It skips from thought to thought faster than the hummingbird’s wings.

    It’s so difficult to meditate sometimes.

    Eventually, I get up off my meditation pillow and go into the house and get my camera. I sit on the grass watching the birds, camera poised on my knee. 

    But I have no luck with the photo either. (The one pictured here is one I took another time.)

    Maybe I will just try meditating again later. 

    Monday, June 02, 2014

    I Promise Not to Publish too many Baby pictures....

    I know I know, grandmothers go overboard sharing photos of their revered babies.

    I promise I won't overdo it.

    But I had to post this one. Because no matter how many times I look at it, it cracks me up. And in the spirit of sharing a good laugh and an incredible baby, here you go.

    When my daughter Jocelyn, Ronen's mom, posted this photo, she wrote:

    "Oh, the night I just had...."

    Friday, May 30, 2014

    Who Is Hans Hofmann?







    Here is some of mine:

    Friday, May 16, 2014

    More Paintings...

    My teacher tells me that it's about time I get a website for my paintings.

    First you have to frame them.

    Then you have to have someone who knows what she's doing photograph them. Then you have to have a web designer capture the viewer's imagination with a dazzling website.

    I might do it, but then again, I might not. It's all very very expensive and hard to justify when you aren't selling any work.

    But I do the painting for the love of it, and that's what matters most.

    Monday, May 12, 2014

    What Baseball Team Will He Root For?

    Of course he's cute.  He's a baby. But not just any baby, he is my grandson Ronen, who officially turns three months old today, May 12th.

    How did that three months slip away so fast?

    Here he is rooting for his father's favorite baseball team.

    Ronen doesn't know it, but he's got a long history of Yankee's to contend with in this family: his uncle Noah, his aunt Lindsay, his grandfather Richard, his great grandfather, Rick, and yes, his G-ma (me) too. At one point, his mother (Jocelyn) was a huge fan -- she used to wear her Yankees cap to high school in Massachusetts where there were a ton of Red Sox fans. She also had a huge stand up poster of Derek Jeter in cardboard standing front and center in her bedroom in the old days too. Alas, these days it looks like she might be switching allegiance!

    But all of the rest of us are going to keep trying to persuade little Ronen to be a New York fan.

    What do you the chances of us winning him over are, considering his father (Evan) will probably be taking him to Fenway before he turns one year old!

    Well anyway we'll love you no matter what team you like, little Ronen.

    Happy Happy Three-Month Birthday Ronen! You have made so many people so happy already!

    Love, G-Ma Claudia xo