The Bliss Blog

The Bliss Blog

Walking Each Other Home

“We’re all just walking each other home.”-Ram Dass

On March 27, 1924 a child was born to Henrietta and Edward Hirsch. Her name was Selma Rose and in the midst of a large extended family, which included an adoring older brother Jim, as well as 12 aunts and uncles on her mother’s side alone, she thrived. She used to tell me that she was shy around new people because as a child, her playmates were mostly my uncle and her many cousins. They all lived within a a few block radius in Philadelphia and would spend many summers at the Jersey shore in a rented house where marathon Monopoly games would ensue. My mother was a devoted daughter who, after her own father died when she was 18, lived together with my grandmother until her death right after my 4th birthday. When my parents married in 1956, my dad moved into the house in which my mother had been raised. In 1961, a  year and a half after I was born in 1958, the four of us moved to the New Jersey suburb of Willingboro. My father used to say “I didn’t move in with them, she didn’t move in with us, we all lived together.” They had an atypical in-law relationship. She was involved, but but not invasive, offering mother love, but not smother love.  When she passed, she left a space, but not a gaping hole. My parents held her in memory and would invoke her name and example, as if this ‘third parent’ was still a presence in many ways. As my mother aged, I saw more of my grandmother in her and would marvel at some of the stories she shared about my “Giggie” (since I couldn’t pronounce grandma, or anything sounding remotely like it and the name stuck:).  Even the neighborhood kids referred to her that way. The first time I visited my mother in the hospital less than a year before she died, I saw her as a vision of  my grandmother lying in the bed, with oxygen and all the healing accoutrement surrounding her.

I have precious memories of my second day of kindergarten, when my mother walked me almost all of the way there. It was only four blocks from 123 Pheasant Lane to the Pennypacker Park Elementary School and on the first day, she accompanied me door to door. On day two, she walked me to the end of the street, or so I thought. Later, she told me that she stayed far enough behind, so that I didn’t see that she really followed me to the school, so I would feel like a ‘big kid’ and she could still be sure that I arrived safely. On day three, I was flying solo!  And so it was throughout my life. She remained close enough for support if need be and yet, unobtrusive and non-interfering. Yes, she kvelled (Yiddish for bursting with pride) at the successes of my sister Jan and me and yet, didn’t take credit for them. She and my dad encouraged excellence in all we did, but didn’t push. We were both competitive swimmers and she always told us that once it stopped being fun, we weren’t going to do it anymore. It never stopped being fun and I was on a team from ages  11-18 and then coached for three summers that followed.

She encouraged me to follow my dreams, and in many ways, helped to shape the creative aspirations of the woman whose words you are now reading. She fed us books as if they were just as vital a form of nourishment as food, affection, praise and guidance. We were surrounded by word-wisdom and the library felt like a toy store to me, a magical place where a library card was a key to a treasure trove. She would take us there each week for story hour and to bring home stacks of books that I zipped through, hungry for more. She would read to us and we to her.

In the last few months of her life, I once again resumed that ritual, except I was the one entertaining her by reading cards and letters friends and family sent to her, as well as chapters from my then-book-in-process. She did alot of kvelling then and reminded me that she would have enjoyed them even if she wasn’t my mother. That was high praise for sure.  She loved to sing and her favorite which became mine was Nature Boy, sung by Nat King Cole. In the last few years of her earthly incarnation, we would often sing it to each other.

Tomorrow, as I celebrate her 88th birthday…not sure exactly how I will honor her memory, I am beyond grateful to have been born to her and my father (pictured on their dream trip to Israel). Recently my son Adam and I watched family videos from my childhood and I marveled at how young and beautiful she had been and in more recent images, how she had aged well and was lovely still. Adam had shot a mini-video of her wheeling her way on her walker through the hallway in her Ft. Lauderdale condo the summer before her passing. It is the only recording I have of her voice and as he saw what I was typing, he encouraged me to watch it again. It took less than a minute, but it was just enough to bring on a tearful trickle and wistful smile. Although I was not with her when she passed, on November 26, 2010,  I felt that, just as she had walked me to school, I was indeed walking her Home,  watching from a few steps behind.

Happy Birthday, Mama-cakes!

“The greatest thing you’ll ever learn, is just to love and be loved in return.”

http://youtu.be/-_m0etqUNg0 Nature Boy

 

Sharon Katz and The Peace Train

                                                                                                                        
I have known Sharon Katz, for likely the last decade and am re-energized whenever I am in her presence. She of the fire-y red hair and the passionate persona, for music that speaks from the heart and to the heart of peace and social justice. An aural activist, Sharon lives in both in South Africa and Philadelphia. Her group called Sharon Katz and The Peace Train, entertains, educates and joins hearts and hands world-wide.
How do you live your bliss?
My bliss is about being thankful for what I have.  I remind myself each time I wake up that I’m alive and to be present in the moment.  Then there is the knowledge of my mission to make a difference in people’s lives through the music that I play.  And playing the music itself.  What could be more blissful?
Please speak about the journey you took from your homeland of South Africa to being a world citizen.
As a teenager I traveled illegally to Black townships near my home town of Port Elizabeth (now called Nelson Mandela Bay!) to visit my actor friends who were working with Athol Fugard.  I first left South Africa in 1978 to go and live in Lesotho where I lived and worked in remote village for a year and I gathered so many wonderful songs, singing with children daily.  I later traveled to the United States in 1981 to study music therapy in Philadelphia returning to South Africa after Nelson Mandela’s release from prison in 1990.  It was then that I started The Peace Train musical production and mounted a 500 voice multicultural childrens choir to herald in the new non racial Democratic South Africa.  Then in 1993 we traveled around the country with the children and the band for two weeks and that was the original legendary Peace Train Tour.  After that tour I traveled South Africa, West Africa, the Middle East and United States for many years with The Peace Train and around 2000 formed a band here in the USA.  It’s been a journey ever since with tours, performances and workshops around the world and back to South Africa constantly.  It’s nice to think about myself as a world citizen because I feel that my message of peace and reconciliation is one that is very important for the world to hear. But my journey from my homeland always takes me back to my homeland and that is my joy.  I’m a truly proud South African and counting down the days for when I will be home again soon!
How does music feed your soul?
My soul IS music and music IS my soul.  The one cannot exist without the other.  Music is my life force.  It is the act of self expression that ignites a spark within me and through that spark I can light a fire in another soul.  Whether it’s a classroom of young people or thousands of people in a stadium or a hundred people at a house concert.  Also listening to music and watching others that I admire in performance – that is a wonderful treat and can inspire me for weeks and months.
What power does it have to transcend language and politics?
Transcending language is easy because music is a language.  I’m amazed that when I sing in Zulu or any other South African language, people “get it” through the rhythm and the harmonies and you’ll see people jumping up to dance and participate.  Music is a spiritual force and energy and thus it transcends everything including politics.  However in my opinion music has the power to unite people and as we saw in South Africa my home, music was the force that gave us hope and enabled the masses of oppressed people in my country to have the strength to resist the evil regime and survive.  In that sense music transcends politics because it is above and beyond politics and has the power to reach into the human spirit to keep that spirit alive.
I love your interactive concerts during which you can’t help but sing and dance along. What is like for you to be on stage and watch your audience perform as well?
Now you make me smile Edie!  Because this is the most fantastic thing I can ever experience.  When you see that you are creating joy you can feel nothing but elation.  I always feel that I was given a gift and that I’m very blessed and honored to be using that gift to make people happy.
How can people ‘jump aboard’ the Peace Train?
Jumping aboard means coming to a concert to feel the spirit and hear the music.  People who have gone to Peace Train concerts say that our concerts are an experience and an encounter.  When you are there in person you can understand what we are singing about which is really about unity and togetherness as members of the human race.  We use South Africa and Nelson Mandela as examples of human beings abilities to put aside what happened in the past and move forward with forgiveness and joy into the future.  Jumping aboard can also mean coming with us to visit South Africa which we do annually with a group of about 20 friends and fans.  In fact we have a tour going to South Africa from the US departing on August 7th and there are still a few slots open!  People should contact me at SharonKatz2000@aol.com if they want to come on the trip.  OR better still come and see us at World Cafe Live on April 29th and meet us in person!
I would love for you to let our readers know about the amazing fundraiser project in which you are engaged that will be happening in Philadelphia on April 29th.
Oh YES!  We have a fantastic fundraising event taking place at World Cafe Live on Sunday April 29th. Its a noon concert, dance party, HOT LUNCH, with The Peace Train incredible new all female band, and special musical guests including childrens choirs! It’s a fundraiser for children who have so little in South Africa and many of whom have lost their parents to HIV and AIDS and some of whom live in child headed households.  We completed building a school in one of the poorest areas of South Africa with the help of audience members who came to our concerts. Now we need to buy books and beds for some of the neediest children.  So please do come out and party with The Peace Train for a wonderful cause.  We’ll also show some slides so you can see what our work is all about.
Tickets are $50 which can either be purchased by sending a tax deductible check to Friends of The Peace Train, 7207 Bryan Street, Philadelphia, PA 19119 or by buying tickets directly from World Cafe Live at worldcafelive.com
Band Photo:
Left to Right:
Lee-Sa Dawn Robinson (drums); Lynn Riley (saxophone) Wendy Quick (vocals, dance) Sharon Katz (vocals, guitar) Monnette Sudler (bass)
http://youtu.be/9sAfjDlh2B0  Jikele Maweni Siyahamba by Joe Mogotsi performed by Sharon Katz and The Peace Train

The Sexy Vegan

 

Do cookbooks come any better than this?  Imagine a guide to healthy eating that would juice you up, slim you down, help save the eco-system AND enliven your sex life? The Sexy Vegan Cookbook: Extraordinary Food From An Ordinary Dude  just may be able to do all of these things. Written by Brian L. Patton whose playful Youtube videos are funny, delicious and informative, this 239 page culinary composition is bound to thrill your tastebuds.

He opens the book by by acknowledging his parents for conceiving him, his girlfriend for being his taste tester, and Chef Lou  who hosted a cable access cooking show, where he made a simple to replicate pasta dish  for inspring him to become a cook.  Along the way, he gleaned recipes for creating healthy, nutritious meals that also served to heal the planet . Citing  reasons to become vegan, including a substantial weight loss for himself, Brian is a consciousness educator as well as chef. Just so’s you know…vegans consume no animal products, so the recipes subsitute ingredients that have the same consistency as their critter counterparts. A friend who is vegan has said that he won’t eat anything that “has a face, a butt or once had parents.”

Lest you imagine that eating vegan style is boring, Brian will disavow you of that belief with recipes that bear monikers such as The Real Man’s Quiche, Bourbon Tempeh Sliders, The Green Goblin (ice cream), and alcohol infused drinks with titles such as The Knucklehead, The Get Busy and The Arnold Bomber. Being a tee-totaler myself, I might attempt these drinks ‘virgin’ .

As I perused the book, I will ask my son who is the cook in the family to explore these recipes in particular:

New England Blam Chowder pg 62

The Beany Tahini Burger pg 114

Barbecue Ribz With Smoky Elbows and Cheese pg 136

The Luigi Pizza pg 162

Peanut Sauce pg 204

Dive into decadent delight with this book!

 

www.thesexyvegan.com

How High You Bounce

I am a ‘Tigger'; no doubt about it. Most people who know me would agree that I am bouncy and high energy (sometimes, I wonder if annoyingly so:)  and in possession of a sense of optimism that defies circumstances. I learned the art of resilience throughout my life, seeing it on par with strength, or perhaps even a wee bit more powerful. Some people are so resilient, they seem to be made of Silly Putty and rubber bands and stretch back into shape when they most feel like they could be bent out of shape. Think about the circumstances you have faced and how you have shown up in those events. Have you sunk low or bounced high?  Who was on the ‘trampoline’ with you? Did you judge yourself for wherever you were on the resilience scale or were you accepting of the woman or man in the mirror? Are you willing to stretch a bit beyond comfort zones?

I wonder if this has already been done, but I have long thought that it would be fun to develop a psychological test that would ask these questions:

Who is your favorite Winnie The Pooh character?

Who is your favorite Peanuts character?

Who is your favorite Wizard of Oz character?

 

For me, it’s a no brainer…the aforementioned jungle feline, Snoopy and a toss up between the Scarecrow and Toto.

Snoopy appeals to me because of his vivid imagination that can turn a doghouse into an airplane and the way he does his happy dance. He is also unafraid of showing his emotions, laughing and crying with equal ease and he loves to tease Lucy with a great big ol’ slurp on the face.

The Scarecrow was Dorothy’s first friend in Oz and was a wayshower, sometimes not even sure which direction he was to go , but open to various options. He would sometimes lose his stuffins’ as he stuck up for those he loved and he gladly faced fire for Dorothy.

Toto pulled away the illusion of The Great and Powerful Oz as he surely as he drew back the curtain and revealed the man standing behind it, working the levers and switches. He was a truthteller.

Take a few minutes to give yourself this quiz and ask about the significance of your choices and how they reflect the human being who is in your clothes right now.

http://youtu.be/dJFyz73MRcg The Wonderful Thing About Tiggers

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