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Our little Babushka - the cutest puppy in the world.We first saw her walk out from under a car near our home – a grease-smudged ball of fluffy whiteness.  She was, hands down, the cutest puppy we had ever seen – a tiny thing with little ears, button eyes, and curly tail – a stuffed animal come to life.  Her cuteness was almost unbearable.

We asked her owner – a mechanic under the same car – if she had any brothers or sisters.  He had bought her on a street corner in San Francisco and didn’t know.  The following day, overrun by her puppy energy, he offered to sell her to us.  I bargained her down to $35 and then brought her home as a surprise for Loveleen.  We had a dog!

Almost instantly, she captured our hearts.  When it came to picking a name, it came to me in a lucid ‘aha.’  My special “pet” name for Loveleen was “My little babushka.”  I called her this with much much love and to give it away to this little puppy was no small sacrifice.  Sensing her importance to us, the name was bestowed on her… our little Babushka.

Babushka was indeed a terror as a puppy, relentlessly yanking on my pant legs and Love’s skirts.  She came with us everywhere – even to my construction job.  Her first trip in the back of my truck made her pee, poor thing, but soon after she came to love her windy chariot.

At the time, I didn’t like leashes.  To me they represented control and ownership, and I wanted Babushka to feel free and independent.  There were times, I’ll admit, when I screamed out in terror when cars came a little too fast or a little too close, but her childhood was truly fun-filled with adventure and freedom.

Babushka as a "teenager"As a tiny puppy, we never really imagined she would grow to become a big dog, but in her “teenage years”, those little bent ears stood up, her snout popped out and she grew.  Our little toy became a big toy – now with wolf-like features.

Years later we had her DNA test done and discovered she was an equal four-part mix of Chow Chow, Alaskan Malamute, Akita, and Komondor.  That combo, when flooded with love, is how you make a Babushka.

The reason I’m writing this is because today, fourteen years later, our little Babushka has moved on.  It was hard to know then just how much of a part of us she would become.

Some fun Babushka stories…

One of the first astonishing events in her life happened when we left her in the back of Loveleen’s Karmann Ghia one day to quickly go into a store.  When we came back, I noticed a wet paw print on the seat.  I looked around to see where the wetness had come from.  Did she pee in the car?  After lots of looking, we found the near impossible.  She did indeed pee.  She had gone through a mesh net between the back seat and the trunk area into a jar that was tipped at an angle on its side.  The jar was filled with pee without any spillage.  Not bad for a 3-month old puppy!  Good girl!

Babushka with Sunflowers

Another miraculous event happened that I shudder to even mention.  One day, Loveleen had tied her on the driveway to the back bumper of my truck.  It didn’t occur to her that I might drive off without noticing she was tied there, but that’s exactly what happened.  I had to leave in a hurry and drove off unaware.  Even worse, at this point, not only did we leash Babu because she had become aggressive toward other dogs, but we kept a full body harness around her to keep her from choking herself any time she lunged.

I had driven about two blocks before a neighbor waived me to stop and I looked back in cold horror to see Babu’s empty harness dragging from her leash.

By this time, Babu had become such an integral and beloved part of our lives.  It’s hard to convey how much of our love we had entwined with this little being.  The image of what may have happened to my angel was more horrific than I could ever express.  I turned the truck around in horror to face whatever destiny lay waiting.  When I got home, there she was!  Alive and well, standing with Loveleen in front of our house, wagging her fluffy tail.  I ran out to hug her and to receive her long kisses – both of us knowing just how close a call it had been.  Loveleen had watched in terror as I drove off with Babu running behind my accelerating truck.  That the harness miraculously slipped off her is something hard to explain.  As I held my baby girl in deep gratitude, a praying mantis came from nowhere and landed on my hand.  Grace.  True story.  Thank you.

But the biggest miracle by far was that for fourteen years we were all able to share a deep and priceless bond of love.  I won’t lie.  We’ve been good caretakers.  Babu got her walks every day – she was showered with love and treats, and sometimes went for hikes through the redwoods or rolling hills.  But what we’ve given to her can never compare to what she gave to us.  Babu was a part of our lives.  A big part.  But we were a much bigger part of hers.  She loved us profoundly.  Wherever I went, she would follow.  Whenever I looked up at her, she would be watching me.  Whenever Babu with Wings!we drove home, she would be waiting, always overjoyed to see us.  Her love was extraordinary.

One of my favorite things was getting kisses from her and looking into her innocent eyes while she kissed.  Oh my lord, what a precious being.  Knowing that she was dying, I made sure to do this often.  Though it may sound odd, Babu and I would stare into each others’ eyes while she kissed me – sharing together an exchange of love – two beings radiating all of our love toward one another. The love that flowed was universal and overflowing.  In love, we were true equals.

Babu was blessed to live a healthy life, though her last month was hard.  Most everything began going wrong.  Diabetes.  Kidney disease. Liver disease. Infections.  Seizures.  Loss of mobility.  No appetite.  Through it all, she stayed loving.

We did everything we could.  If she was to die, we wanted it to end on the right note – in harmony with the beauty and joy of her life.  Deciding when to let go is a decision I wish on no one.  That we were able to compassionately make this decision is something most take for granted for animals, though it’s a nearly taboo subject for people.  This is something that ought to change.  It is said that one’s state of mind at the moment of death sets the course for what comes next and is therefore of utmost importance.  What matters most is that one’s mind is with love.

Babu appearance right after death?

This dog appeared before us just minutes after Babu's passing.

Knowing in our hearts that it was Babu’s time, Loveleen drove my truck as I lay with Babu in the back – my arm over her fluffiness, our heads pressed together, feeling the tremendous loss that had arrived.  It was in the back of my truck that she was laid to rest.  I could feel her pure white spirit surround us.  Minutes later, a young dog appeared on the hill above us – a fluffy white dog with a puppy energy and an eerie resemblance to Babushka.  It sat and looked at us as if to say “I am here. I’ve crossed over. I’m OK.  Life goes on.”

All animals – every one of them – are our kin.  We need to respect and treat them as such.  Thank you, little Babushka, for all of your love and protection.  And thanks to all the beloved beings of the world.  Happy 14th Birthday on this Valentine’s Day.  We’ll love you forever.

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Sandra TrujilloA time comes for all of us to pass; perhaps the best we can  hope is to be ready, and go smiling, as Sandra did.

Death is big.  We each comprise the story or fundamental fabric of one another’s very beings – stories stitched tenderly into our own hearts – with no design for removal, ever.

The Story of Sandra is a special one – one that reached its natural conclusion.  In her 34 years, she lived fully and completely and lived out her life to its end, having arrived at a state of absolute acceptance.

We’ll all miss her immeasurably.  In our hearts, miraculously, Sandra doesn’t leave the trauma of an unfinished story – robbed of us before its telling; she leaves instead an exceptional story – one with a happy ending.  Strange though it may seem, we are left satisfied, thankful for having had this explosion of joy grace our lives.

Sandra celebrated her 34th birthday in style.  Friends and family traveled from all across the globe to be in her company – all of us knowing it was her end – and all of us celebrating a Grand Finale… of a life brilliantly lived.

Sandra didn’t disappoint, leaving on a high note, with a HOWL!

AAAAHHHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

Loved by so many… Come, meet Sandra!

SandraTrujillodeMoyano.com

Photos by Ramin Bahrani & Ynez Arce

gift_basketWhen stripped down, Thanksgiving is such an amazing holiday. It’s a day built on being thankful. How great is that? And it’s a day to be with family and the ones you love. It’s a day celebrating abundance and sharing. It’s really the only day of the year that no one wants to see anyone – even strangers – be alone or go without.

The whole turkey association is barbaric and outdated. Aside from that, it’s a definite keeper.

Image from: GourmetGiftBaskets.com

cartoonbacteria04For almost 5 months now, I have had a staph infection that just won’t go away. It was soon after I landed in Bombay during monsoon that a rash first appeared on my chest, which soon turned into a boil. I didn’t know what a boil was, but I knew from experience in India that infections untreated could go very wrong, and I immediately went to see a doctor. He drained the puss and gave me some antibiotics, and that was that. Then another boil appeared elsewhere. I went back to the doctor – same procedure.

Later I developed another boil in my nostril – an extraordinarily painful infection that made the whole side of my face swell. I went to a different doctor, who prescribed another antibiotic and gave me a prescription for a super “big gun” antibiotic just in case that one didn’t work. Neither worked.

cartoonbacteria01_2At first I didn’t know what I had, but only after the boils started to multiply was it diagnosed as staph.

In India, I can afford to see doctors. In America, the medical system is designed primarily as a major profit-making industry (in cahoots with the pharmaceutical and insurance industries), and only secondarily as a health care system. I’ve worked hard in my life, but haven’t done so for money. Thus, I’m one of those people who completely falls through the cracks.

The point of this entry is not to talk about what I’ve been going through, or how the system is unfair, or whether or not I should get a job with insurance. The point is that in going through this experience, it’s become clear that our current system is a health crisis in the making.

cartoonbacteria03What I have is not highly contagious, but it’s contagious. I know for sure because I passed it onto Lovele~en (sorry, Love). Recently, the news has been full of accounts of MRSA, popularly known as the “superbug”. What’s crazy is that MRSA kills dead 1 out of every 5 people who get it – it kills more people in America each year than AIDS.

Since Loveleen got it and has insurance, she was cultured and ours is not diagnosed as MRSA, but clearly it’s also resistant to every antibiotic we are given. This is very dangerous.

To have people walking around with contagious, deadly, antibiotic-resistant bacteria is not a good thing. It will spread, and effect lots of people. Clearly these bacteria continue to evolve faster than we can develop antibiotics for them, and pose a great danger to society at large.

The best thing to do is to treat it immediately and effectively. But here’s the catch. It’s the people like me who fall through the cracks that present the gravest danger to society.

cartoonbacteria05_2It’s not such a big deal to take someone’s culture, do a lab sample on it, and write them a prescription for what will treat the problem. But when a disproportionate, exorbitant price tag is attached to this simple procedure, then many people will choose to suffer through it, or attempt to find their own cures. Suffering through a broken arm, a rotting tooth, or even cancer, frankly sucks – but people, sadly, do it all the time. The people who fall through the cracks will also suffer through MRSA and other evolving contagions – and they will walk around spreading it to everyone. And that’s when our greed-based system will be bitten in the ass by the karma of its own making. Like it or not, leaving people behind is soon to become a major liability for us all.

There is, of course, a solution.

Images from (in order): macmcrae.com, altham.com, folioplanet.com

ticklebugscoverI am very pleased to announce that the Tickle Bugs have officially joined the Gift Economy.  Like any economy, the gift economy is a medium of exchange.  In a gift economy, this exchange is unregulated and based on trust and generosity.  At TickleBugs.com, you can now order a copy of HERE COME THE TICKLE BUGS! and you get to name your own price.  Whatever amount you feel like paying is totally fine.  (Of course, if the price you name is silly, you’ll see what happens.) ;)

It’s a great solution, because it feels good to just open everything up and say: ‘please, come and enjoy these books! Don’t worry about the price; pay what makes you feel happy paying.’  There are only a handful of examples of people doing this kind of thing, but it generally seems to work out, the most publicized example possibly being Radiohead’s new album.

The real value in the Gift Economy is that the interaction between ‘buyer’ and ‘seller’ becomes more familial.  In a family, we rarely charge each other for things.  There is a bond that exists and a medium of sharing.  Everyone looks out for one another.  It’s this same philosophy that brings family economics to society at large.  Whether it works or not is anyone’s guess.  So far, there are plenty of examples of it working.  It’s certainly a noble experiment though, because what you get when it succeeds is a society built around giving and trusting, connected and caring people.

katydid_b_160For those of you who don’t know, Here Come the Tickle Bugs! was written and illustrated by a good friend of mine named Uncle Sillyhead III.  It’s a children’s book that has a tendency of becoming the favorite book in the house, probably because it encourages oodles of unstoppable giggles.  I would love to see every kid between the ages of 1 1/2 to 3 grow up with this book.  The joy kids get from it is priceless.  And it’s a great book for learning to read, up to about age 6.

I also encourage everyone to email Unc himself and order a bunch of books to distribute, especially for the holidays.  It’s kind of fun when you can have people pay whatever they want. :)  His email is Uncle –at– TickleBugs.com.

bigodeFor another great Gift Economy book, check out the legendary Cooking Com Bigode by Ankur Shah — ‘vegetarian improvisational peasant fusion cuisine for the 22nd century’.  A must. :)

atit150x224_3The single-most effective thing a person (that means YOU) can do to stop global warming is to switch to a vegetarian/vegan diet.  Not only will you live longer and feel better all around, but you will actually be reducing the effect of Global Warming.  What Al Gore hasn’t yet told you…

  • In the U.N.’s recent report Livestock’s Long Shadow, scientists concluded that the meat industry generates nearly40% more greenhouse-gas emissions than all the cars, trucks, SUVs, ships, and planes in the world combined. The report also found that the meat industry is “one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global.”
  • Researchers at the University of Chicago determined that switching to a vegan diet is more effective in countering global warming than switching from a standard American car to a Toyota Prius (in fact, it’s 50 percent more effective).
  • Environmental Defense also recently reported on its Web site that if every American substituted vegetarian food for chicken meat in just one meal per week, the carbon dioxide savings would be the same as if more than half a million cars were taken off U.S. roads.

If we ever want to seriously address global warming, we have to acknowledge the catastrophic impact caused by factory farming — wasted resources: land, food, energy, water, rainforest, animal suffering; pollution: feces, water, air, global warming.  The only reason factory farming is generally overlooked as a primary cause for global warming is because acknowledging this inconvenient truth would bring a feeling of shame to those not ready to take personal responsibility.  And that’s most people.

Do you love your planet enough to stop eating animals?

*This information was extracted from a letter to Al Gore from Ingrid E. Newkirk, President of PETA

–> visit: www.GoVeg.com/eco
–> also visit: http://www.veganoutreach.org (source of image)

butterfly

Sandra, the inspirational character behind the LOVE BUTTERFLIES is free from cancer for the third time!!! You go girl!

Before Leaving Los Angeles, we stopped at “The Garage” – the infamous home of Sukh from Be The Cause. We all spent a little time making Love Butterflies for Iris, a co-worker of Loveleen’s who has just been diagnosed with cancer. Iris, we wish you well!

We then went out to lunch at a mostly vegan Vietnamese restaurant called Au Lac. The food was very good and they were super nice. Though we were running a little low on time, everyone agreed to stop at South Central Farm.

southcentralfarmbeforeI’ve been following the story of South Central Farm since I got back and it meant a lot to go there in person.

As we drove up and saw the signs, the utter wreckage of this land immediately left us all broken-hearted.

South Central Farm was given to the community following the ’92 LA riots and since then it has become a vibrant spot, beaming with life. The South Central Farm is the largest urban farm in America – all organic – and has been a source of food for 350 families. Within this plot of land grew fruit trees and all kinds of plants and veggies, including many rare, heirloom varieties. It has been an oasis – a space where children could play freely, safely watched by a whole community, all gardening together.

What’s particularly extraordinary about this space is that it is located in the industrialized area of South Central Los Angeles. The vibrancy and wholesomeness of this spot of Earth comes into clear focus next to the vast, deadened, concrete world surrounding it.

This is yet another story of how oftentimes something so clearly right in the world does not always come out the winner. Last week, South Central Farm was mostly bulldozed to the ground despite the heroic efforts of many to stop it.

southcentralfarmafterWe slipped through the fence and spotted many plants and trees and fruits and vegetables that had survived the brutal assault. We sat down for a moment of silence after being told by a security guard to leave.

The emotional crush that we all felt in being here was intense but can’t possibly compare to the crush that everyone who has put so much love and care and energy into this spot must be feeling right now. The poetry of this space is powerful – the beautiful potential of Earth, so evident here – of all places – yet so violated and tenuous.  I really think this is an important one to win for the planet.

Despite the devastation, this story is not over. Most all the money – 15 million dollars – has astonishingly been raised to buy it back, but due to a misunderstanding, the owner now refuses to sell it. There are court battles going on and hope is still very much alive. I encourage everyone to check out the South Central Farmers’ website and sign up for the e-newsletter to stay up to date on its progress.

photos courtesy of circleoflife.org

sevacafelogoahmedabad_1Something beautiful this way comes. Five of us drove from the Bay Area to Long Beach to be part of the opening of the first Seva Café here in the States and the second in existence.

After a life-altering service vacation to India, the folks from Be The Cause were so moved by the overwhelming generosity they received that they wanted to plant some of that giving spirit in the ground right where they lived – in Los Angeles.

They spent time at the Seva Café in Ahmedabad and fell in love with the overwhelmingly positive energy and culture of giving that they experienced there.

When Sri, who wasn’t even present on the India trip, insisted that this must come to LA, the others all rallied behind him to take this extraordinary step.

The Seva Café is no ordinary restaurant. Business operates anything but “as usual” here as your meal has already been paid for by a previous guest and the bill that comes to your table says “Total: $0.” Seva Café is a shift to a “gift economy” where those who are serving you are doing so because they recognize that it is in serving others that we grow in spirit and in happiness. The place is full of love and you can feel it. It is a celebration of giving and care for others.

sevacafelove_3The beauty of this experiment is that it can only continue if the circle of giving is completed – which requires that guests also join into the spirit of giving and “pay from their heart” – to allow future guests the opportunity to experience this as well. If it doesn’t happen – if people choose not to support it – then it will cease to exist. But for as long as people keep the chain of giving in motion, we all get to experience a taste of a better world that is possible.

Another beautiful byproduct that comes out of such a venture is that it tends to create a community around it. People love coming to the Seva Café because it is such a positive environment. Within this space seeds of service are planted and watered and begin to grow, and before long, an organic service movement is taking root. The trust and responsibilities of taking on a project like this are enormous, but the fruits are exquisite.

Be The Cause took a brilliant, low-risk approach in opening the café. For each Saturday, for the next three months, they are simply taking over an existing restaurant, slightly modifying the menu and atmosphere. By renting it weekly, rather than investing in a new establishment – they can try it out and see how it goes. By setting a time frame of three months, they can test it thoroughly and evaluate whether it is something that is to be continued or simply a worthwhile experiment and adventure that they were able to experience.

When we arrived, we were amazed by the level of organization and preparation that had taken place and more importantly by the amount of love and care that had been put into all the details.

For instance, just like in Ahmedabad, they had created a box for community money. Anyone can put money into this box or take money out of it. Simple as that. I took a peak into this community box and spotted a $20 bill and more money that people had invested into this new community of giving.

Many of the details from the Seva Café in Ahmedabad were revived in Long Beach, like the characteristic flowers and vines that adorn all the signage.

We worked with them to help set up and then everyone went out into the community to clean up the neighborhood – simply to put out some good energy before getting started – by picking up trash, cleaning store windows, washing public mailboxes and trashcans, etc.

wowsignlanguage_1From opening hour to closing, the place was packed. There were so many stories of people moved by the experience that I could go on and on. Everyone served in harmony as part of a deeper, collective understanding and treated the guests with such care. All I can say is that this small group of people masterfully pulled it off and I am just still in awe that they have done it.

Wow. Even the word “wow” has a new meaning now, given by one of the guests, a young Ethiopian woman who was deaf. She came in and sat down, reluctant to participate, but after being gently pulled into the spirit, her happiness was palpable as her grin became one of the biggest I’ve ever seen – stretching from ear to ear – for the entire evening, as she taught sign language (such as “Wow”) to everyone interested.

Wow.

You may remember the blog story from a year ago called “The Butterfly Affect” about my friend Sandra, who triumphed over cancer. There is a great story of how – as a way to lift her spirits – we printed out Love Butterflies and had friends and random people color them and write encouraging messages on the backs. Through an anonymous act of kindness, I was given a plane ticket to deliver these Love Butterflies to Sandra in person. She loved them and they were attached all over her ceiling as a constant source of good energy.

Sandra miraculously beat the odds and continued this tradition, going to schools and getting kids to make Love Butterflies for other cancer patients.

Yesterday morning, I just got the news that after two beautiful, cancer-free years, it has returned again for the third time. In honor of Sandra’s extraordinary spirit, this idea now has a simple website wrapped around it that can hopefully spread this life-affirming practice far and wide, allowing many more spirits to be lifted high at times when it is most needed.

lovebutterflies

Please visit: www.LoveButterflies.org – help spread the word… and try it sometime. It really is a beautiful thing to do.

animeI’m a barbie girl, in the barbie world
Life in plastic, it’s fantastic!

–“Barbie Girl” by Aqua
(sung karaoke-style)

Nora is an adorable, super bright, curly haired ten year old who happens to be my niece. Today is her birthday party. Right now, she is in love with Japanese anime, and is thus having an anime-themed birthday party. Loveleen has been assigned to paint all the party-goer faces Kabuki style and I was asked to sketch everyone as anime figures. We’ll see how that goes…

The coolest thing of all is that Nora, realizing she already has a lot, is asking all her friends, instead of bringing birthday gifts, to contribute to the World Wildlife Fund to help save the bamboo forest habitat for giant pandas in Asia. This was her own wish. Last year she asked all her friends to donate to The Farallones Marine Sanctuary Association. Upon receiving the donation and hearing Nora’s story, the people at this nonprofit were so moved, they said that it
restored their hope in the world.

giant_panda_1How many 9/10 year olds would give up all their birthday gifts to do something so caring?

When my friend, Nirali, heard this, she decided she wanted to donate something also, and sent along a special email to Nora. It’s my hunch that if enough people were to follow Nirali’s lead and contribute just a little to the WWF and also send an email of appreciation to Nora, it may help to boost her esteem in all the right ways.

Did I mention they’re also having a kamikaze bouncy house at this party?

You can reach Nora at: nora -@- chordwheel.com

lunaloveThe month before coming to India, our little cat Luna became very sick. Her kidneys and liver started to fail. It seemed as if she had ingested automotive coolant. The doctors gave her one in a million odds of survival. Loveleen and I did everything we could to keep her alive, feeding her with a syringe and keeping her fluids up through a self-administered IV twice daily. With so many people praying for little Luna, she miraculously pulled through.

A year later, the same conditions have developed and she is now skin and bones, barely holding on to life. It’s definitely a two person job, and last time, with the two of us working heroically, she survived. This time, Loveleen is on her own.

Within a half an hour after hearing how serious things had developed, I got a phone message from a friend saying that 3 of the 10 puppies she is caring for are really sick, and I spotted a homeless man with matted hair, dirty clothes, sitting near a pile of trash, who was so socially withdrawn he wouldn’t even take the cookies I had bought for him. Within that same half hour, I got an email from my friend Yaniv describing how sick he was, hospitalized and unable to move, and then even more tough news after that.

yanivSo many heavy and complex questions arise when it comes to supporting the life of dying loved one.  I suppose at the end of the day, it’s a matter of how much heart you put into whatever comes your way.

If anyone wants to pray for Luna, Yaniv, the puppies, the homeless man… please do… these things seem to work. As there are so many others in perilous states, perhaps make it a universal prayer on their behalf. I’m including you in mine.

moleculeLive an ordinary life, extraordinarily.

Please allow me to introduce Bob and Susie, who had a major impact on my development. You could probably call them my first gurus as they deliberately helped shape my mind.

I think they met in high school, maybe earlier. Like two atoms meant for a molecule, they quickly united and have been as one ever since.

They went to UC Berkeley together in the late 60s, and fit the hippy stereotype. At the time, Bob had long hair with beard and their bodies were temples of purity, as they carefully ingested only the freshest and healthiest of natural vegetarian foods. Their purity was so extreme that spiritual experiences were inevitable.

Though I think their college majors focused on Far Eastern temples, they ended up getting two newspaper routes for income. Bob and Susie were fiercely independent spirits never meant to conform to any 9-5 scene and a paper route gave them a lifestyle of freedom and independence that fit.

vwbookProbably what is most important to grasp about them is that they loved their lives. A lot. They derived so much enjoyment out of the simple things – waking up every day and cleaning their windshields so that the view was crystal clear, brushing teeth to perfection, living in an honest, wholesome way. Bob had an extraordinary intellect and a keen interest in understanding how everything worked. He lovingly performed maintenance on their cars, with Susie as assistant. When problems would arise, they were taken as opportunities to develop further in their understanding and mastery over their Volkswagens. They enjoyed the smile their cars would give after being properly cared for.

They soon realized that since they were driving the same routes every day, delivering one newspaper, that if they were able to carry another newspaper, they could deliver two routes simultaneously driving the same course. Together, they were now delivering four routes, and then I think this multiplied to probably six or even eight. What seemed impossible, they were able to manage, and living as humble newspaper deliverers, doing their own car maintenance, they managed to start saving real money.

Eventually, they also realized that most carriers dreaded the other part of their job which was dealing with the billing of their customers. Bob and Susie eventually extracted this part out of whole districts and offered more simplified and easily managed routes for carriers to take on. They now had employees and were making even more money.

Always sweet and always kind, Susie was also a highly efficient work horse who could take on a million things, get them done, and still make an amazing dinner and take the dogs for a long walk.

The newspaper job was not necessarily an enviable one because, for one, their sleep was interrupted every night, as they had to deliver all night long. Secondly, the news comes out 365 days a year. Having taken on so much, they were no longer in a position to find substitutes, and made peace with the idea that in their lives, there would be no vacations, sick days, or breaks of any sort. This was to go on for decades.

dylanblondeWhile this may sound stressful, through it all, they continued to love their lives. Bob was fond of music and Susie loved to cook. They both loved to go for walks with their dogs, read, learn, garden, grow.

As they cherished the meticulous, so grew their appreciation for quality – everything done with great care – and as their wealth began to grow, they became more able to support the very best, obscure artisans, and things made with the highest attention to detail.

When I came to Berkeley and got to know them for the first time, they introduced me to worlds of great consciousness and care. Bob, the audiophile, would show me his extraordinary sound system and play vinyl Dylan albums, where each scratch of a guitar string could be heard with crystal clarity like it was happening right beside you.

Though I wasn’t as intrigued by these material things as they, the utter love and care they showed me was something I would very much take to heart. I understand that in this world there are very many perfectionists and quality junkies out there, but you have to understand, that they took it to a level so high that very few on earth could match it.

The love of quality was their form of spiritual discipline, and in this realm, they were very much spiritual masters.

I feel bad that I haven’t even begun to truly convey the depth, the love, and the consciousness that they have demonstrated in their lives. Bob would tell me that “as you continue to perform every action with great care, the world is incrementally transformed into an extraordinary place.” In his worldview, there must be no areas of neglect, nothing to be left unattended. Two words he left me with once really seemed to capture this life philosophy…

Everything matters.

laetitiacasta

This is a picture of French supermodel Laetitia Casta.  Man, is she hot or what?

logo_fwbWe were requested to build a website for our current efforts.

Introducing…  FriendsWithoutBorders.org

sunflowerlove2

seekerandsoughtOver the last few years, Ashvin Iyengar has quickly developed a fanbase for his poetry.  I can remember him calling me on the phone to read a poem he had recently finished only to pause several times through, fighting back his tears.  Clearly, his poems come from a place of deep inner truth and are an expression of a genuine search and longing for a lasting happiness.  Perhaps it’s the universality of these poems that makes them so widely appealing to the many people who eagerly anticipate hearing each new one as it arrives.

The exciting news is that his first book of poetry, The Seeker and the Sought, is now in print and will soon be shipped to the US.  For those interested in getting a first edition copy, or to congratulate the poet yourself, you can email him at: seeker_and_the_sought –@– yahoo.com

Here is the first poem from the book:

The Reluctant Student

Finally,
I am ready to learn –
Let the teachings flow.
Let them come in any form
or shape or size.
Let them come bring a smile
Let them come tear my heart apart
Let them come like ripples on a lake
or like a gigantic, tidal wave
or like a tide dying out.
Like light streaming through a window
or a door closing gently.
Like a song, painfully beautiful
or the primal scream of an infant.
Like friends rushing to greet me
or the sound of footsteps receding.
Finally,
the shell has cracked
just a little.