Saturday, November 30, 2013

Black Friday – A Giving Day of Consumption

In my attempt to maintain some authenticity in my daily life, I have been searching to find new ways to celebrate special occasions.  Although I often question the origins of the Thanksgiving holiday, I have always enjoyed the traditional meal, especially as a child as it was prepared each year by my mother.  As an adult it has been a source of pride that I can take all that my mother taught me about being in the kitchen, and make a meal that friends and family will enjoy.  I have loved taking her recipes, and tweaking them slightly, given that many of them included red meat, which is not a part of my daily diet. Throughout the years I have also included various religions into my winter holidays, knowing that various friends and chosen family members come from different traditions.  For my children that meant celebrating both Christmas and Hanukah.  This year the winter holidays will begin in my home on December 8th as I honor the Buddha’s enlightenment, decorating an indoor Ficus tree to represent the Bodhi tree under which the Buddha sat.   
During the past couple of weeks my mail box, and email box, have been flooded with advertisements for the big sales retailers were preparing for Black Friday. Never having been one to take my kids shopping on this mad sprint of a shopping day, my two teenage sons were questioning what exactly this holiday was.  I found it kind of amusing that the day after Thanksgiving had become it own special event, almost taking on holiday status.  My younger son kept telling me that the local Game Stop was offering a new game he was wanting for half price.  Having just taken him to this, his favorite “gamer store” a couple of days prior, it wasn’t on my radar to find myself back there on such an all consuming and hectic day.  Yet as Friday morning came upon us, the pleading began.  “Dad, it’s only twenty five dollars.  I’ll never be able to buy it at that price again.  Think of how much money I will be saving…”  Okay, enough.  Let’s get in the car and get this over with.  Little did he know that I had other plans that included Black Friday consumption, but I would give him more details later in the day.
This year Thanksgiving included three all inclusive turkey meals, all made with love and care.  The first was a meal in my father’s home last Sunday, where each of my brothers’ families and I arrived with various parts of the traditional meal.  I loved that each brought something prepared in their own home, and with pride, shared it at the table my mother served all of her Thanksgiving meals prior to leaving this world a little over a year ago.  It was a day filled with great food, much laughter, and quiet acknowledgement of those that were no longer at our Thanksgiving table.  The next meal was in my own home, where myself, my husband, my two sons and a couple of friends, gathered on the holiday to share in a smaller intimate meal.  The house was lit mostly by candle light, which gave the evening Thanksgiving meal a cozy feel, and allowed us to experience this celebration in the warm glow of the good will being shared.  The third Thanksgiving meal was slightly different, and one that took us out of our comfy home, and onto the streets.
Often time when we hear the word consumption, especially this time of year, we think of it in terms of economics.  We hear on the news almost daily about how much money this year’s consumer is expected to spend on this day of all sales days, Black Friday.  Sometimes when we hear the word consumption we think of horrific events, such as a wild fire consuming miles and miles of beautiful forest or family homes.  Other times, such as in the hours after our own Thanksgiving meal, we might lay back on the couch, unbutton the top button on our pants, and begin lamenting on how might have consumed a bit too much.  Yet how often do we have the opportunity to experience Black Friday consumption, yet take away no food or products whatsoever?  How often are we able to watch other people consume, maybe while our own stomachs are growling from a lack of the evening meal, and experience such joy at the same time?
This Black Friday my family was offered the opportunity to join many others at the local Buddhist temple in preparing yet another Thanksgiving meal.  The environment was a bit more intense than that of my own kitchen, as there were some twenty-plus people squeezed into a very small space, cleaning and chopping donated organic vegetables to make salads, and packing deliciously warmed turkey and stuffing into individual meal containers, all while others were carrying boxes of meals from the temple kitchen out into the back of the several cars parked along the street.  We broke into groups and caravanned across the city to go where the meals were most needed, out on the streets.  The night prior was a very wet one, so we knew that the hundreds of folks that slept along our city streets would have endured a less than comfy one known to the rest of us.  With a smile on our face, and a respectful offer of a warm day after Thanksgiving meal, we met each individual where life had brought them, sharing what we had.
It was a joy to experience this with my husband and two sons.  It was lovely to interact with new people, some I recognized from my weekly meditation class, and others whose path I had yet to cross.  There is something that is both powerful and simplistic in the act of giving.  It both feeds our being, and nurtures those that are in need.  It’s also an act of humility, as throughout our own journey in this life, we both suffer and have need for such kind gestures. 
It is my hope that I will continue to be blessed with such opportunities.  Opportunities to give, and opportunities to observe others consume, that which they have need for us to share.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Safe & Sound

It’s been a long time since I last wrote on my blog, or posted much of my thoughts online.  I had made a decision awhile back to take a break from writing, and spend a bit more time just living quietly and less public.  Truth be told, it was a difficult time, as our family was going through a very rough time.  Thinking about it now I can see some parallels in my life, timelines that have a way of repeating themselves.  Now I’m not one to put much importance in numbers, dates, or coincidences, yet they do appear in my life, and often it isn’t until later reflection that I notice them.  Back in 2007 I was living in San Francisco, in a steady relationship with my partner Mike, and right at the 18 month mark we were faced with a life changing challenge.  Abel and I had been together about the same amount of time, and were facing some serious family challenges at home; ones that make you question your sanity at times.  Back in 2007, and now in 2013, I wondered if I had the strength to get through all of it, and wondered why my life has been so difficult.  I’m typically that person that others quickly remind that God doesn’t give us more than we can handle.

 “Oh really?” 

In my way of thinking I can keep up the fight, keep moving forward, and keep up with my attempts to remain optimistic, or just simply crumble in defeat.  I know that people consider me strong, and don’t often see the truly vulnerable side, yet it is there.  Back when Mike was around, and we were going through some challenges with the children, he would often remind me that he was there for me, and with me, and that I would no longer have to face such challenges alone.  Well, he was there for me, and for a short time I wasn’t alone, but as most know, his life was taken away too soon.   Needless to say I was devastated by his death, and I was left alone to continue parenting my children with each of their special needs.

September 2011 arrived, and I met a wonderful man.  2012 brought that man into my home, and further into the lives of my children.  He moved into my home, and began taking on the challenges of learning what it’s like to parent special needs teens and young adults.  Soon after, he began uttering a familiar phrase whenever I was at my lowest of lows.  When my heart and body tired of being the strong one, and tears would get the best of me, the phrase would be spoken by him, “you are no longer alone.”  I know that Abel said those words out of love, and they were meant to comfort me, but initially they brought on fear, fear of loss.  How could I learn to trust that he would always be here, and that I truly would not be facing such challenges alone?  I would remind Abel of how Mike would say those very words, and how hard it was to accept and trust them.  I trusted Abel’s love, and I trusted his support, yet I didn’t trust that force that was beyond us, that which could possibly take him away. 

Abel is a patient man.  Able is an understanding man.  Don’t get me wrong, he is human, and he has his own insecurities, yet he is constantly willing to remain beside me, holding me in his arms.  Abel knows that I have been hurt by life.  I know that he has been hurt by life.  Yet in going through the ongoing challenges this past winter, and always finding him by my side, I realized that I can trust him, and I can learn to trust what life has brought me.  I realized that I was now safe and sound.

It was February 13, 2013.  It was a night of lying in bed beside him, talking heart to heart about the many challenges we were facing each day, and speaking of our love and devotion for each other that made me ask Abel a simple question.

“Will you marry me?”

I can honestly say that I took Abel by surprise.  I can honestly say that I took myself by surprise.  I knew that I wanted to marry this man, yet I had been waiting for a special day two months down the line.  Yet because of what we were sharing that night, it became the perfect moment to ask this important question.

“Yes,” his simple response.

From that night forward we began planning the day that we would exchange vows.  At the time it was no longer legal here in California, yet we didn’t care, we trusted that it would work out in the end.  We began planning in spite of the unknown, and then we were handed a gift by the Supreme Court, our wedding, our marriage, would be legal.  I experienced that same gift with Mike many years ago when the California Court provided us the same opportunity.  In 2008 there was a brief opportunity to marry the man I loved, and become his husband 11 months before his life was taken away.  Both times in my life, when I didn’t know if the privilege would be mine, the gift of time opened the door to marry the person I happened to fall in love with.  Our plans were now safe and sound.

Now many know that we are engaged, yet most don’t realize that we are to be married this Saturday.  We decided to have a small ceremony here at home, and for that reason I needed was placed in a delicate challenge.  You see, I have the benefit of having so many loving and supportive friends and family that could not possibly invite all the people that mean so much to me.  I consider myself very fortunate to have people who love me scattered not only all over the state, but all over the country, and through my writing now all over the world.  My decision was to gather those that live locally, keeping it to friends nearby, and to my family member that I grew up with in the old neighborhood.  I made this decision knowing that those that are present can represent all those that have touched my life throughout the years.

We are planning a Buddhist-Hindu fusion wedding that best represents the practice of our combined spirituality and view of life.  I hope to share more of it later with each of you, as it feels like a perfect presentation to those who join us in celebrating this new beginning for us.  Keep us in mind on that day, and know that our hearts will be filled with the combined love that we have gathered from all who have touched out lives along the way.  We will be paying homage to those who are no longer present, yet who remain as an active part of our inner being.

Give Love.

Be Love.