I received the following letter from through my dear friend Peter Gregory (it's written by his talented daughter, Tara), and now I'm sharing it with you, in the hopes that you'll be inspired to contribute to her work. But first, the back-story:
Peter was my all-time favorite professor back when I was an angsty, wild-child, hot-mess of a college student. He's also the person who introduced me to Buddhism (I received the Five College Buddhist Studies Certificate as a part of my Religion and American Studies double-major). Beyond Beginners Mind and the Beats, through his kindness, honesty, and sense of humor, he introduced me to the practice and experience of compassion, beginning with compassion for oneself.
I desperately needed this at the time I met Peter, which initially happened off-campus, when he asked me, outside a coffee shop, if I could spare some change. I said I'd be happy to buy him a sandwich, but... wasn't he employed? (I'd seen him around campus and assumed he was faculty.) He extended his hand and introduced himself, explaining that he was panhandling as part of a Buddhist movement to bear witness to marginalized populations, and to create positive social change (all proceeds would be donated, of course). I enrolled in his classes immediately thereafter, and he ultimately became my academic advisor, but even more ultimately filled a role I'd sensed (without knowing what I sensed, exactly) was incongruously missing from my educational experience to date: a true teacher. School had always been easy for me, but life had me spinning. Peter never said much, but he always said exactly the right thing, bearing witness to my angsty mess but also to the calm, strength and potential that lay beneath. By the time I graduated, I felt happy in my own skin, and confident that my success need not follow a predetermined path. While I ended up (and it took me several years to admit this) learning a great deal in college, and even having a pretty great experience (many of my friends from that time are still my very best besties), I also think higher education has a way of glorifying predetermined paths to the detriment of those it sets out on them. So, I'm grateful to have emerged with experience and ambition, but most importantly with an open, adventurous mind.
Peter can be credited with a lot of that, and I was always grateful for our paths crossing as they did. I got to know his wonderful wife, Margie (and sweet dog, Maya) before I left for New York, and heard a bit about his daughters, both young adults at the time. I introduced him (and Margie) to Aaron before we got married, and then Aaron and I introduced them both to Kaspar when he was only a few months old; we drove through Northampton on our way to New Hampshire for my grandmother's funeral -- she hadn't, unfortunately, gotten to meet her great-grandson, but she'd been delighted to hear the news he'd been born... and her passing shortly thereafter made the preciousness of our various human connections all that more immediate for me. Peter mentioned, during that visit, that Tara had entered acupuncture school, and that she was loving it; she'd found her calling. We sat and drank tea, traded gifts and then departed; I haven't seen them since. In the whirlwind that followed-- moving to Texas, Kaspar's food allergy stuff, this crazy busy couple of years-- I kept meaning to write him an email, or call, but there always seemed too much to say. (And I felt kind of embarrassed for always having talked his ear off, anyway.)
As we discovered Traditional Chinese Medicine and as it made our sick baby well, I'd forgotten that Tara was in acupuncture school. But Peter emailed me recently, and I instantly recalled what he'd said (also instantly made plans to visit with him and Margie, when we drive again from New York to New Hampshire next week... Just after meeting with a leading TCM expert at Mt. Sinai, no less). These two years have flown by, and so much has happened in all of our lives. I was so excited to hear about what Tara is doing with her TCM expertise (Peter sent me Tara's letter with his email). Although I'm still yet to meet Tara, I feel connected to her family, and to her line of work (for obvious reasons). I also feel a deep connection to the part of the world in which she'll soon be doing that work; practices that developed there have, through connections across time and continents, made my life better, and my heart bigger. TCM, traveling around the globe and back again, has similarly -- especially through projects like Acupuncture Relief Project -- initiated incredible healing. I hope you'll become a part of this chain of connections and help Tara to now reach the people who need her most. Please give what you can -- even $10 will help a real person you've never met but are nonetheless connected to.
May the ripples of compassion between us extend to every corner of the Earth.
Here is Tara's letter.
Dear Friends and Family,
I am writing to ask you to make a contribution in my name to the Acupuncture Relief Project, a free community health clinic in Chapagaon, Nepal. I am excited that I’ve been selected to work there for two months this winter. As a non-profit organization, this clinic relies solely on donations for its existence. In particular, it depends on the fundraising efforts of volunteers such as myself, and my ability to work there will depend on your support. I need to raise $4,500 in donations by September 14th.
In the last four years the Acupuncture Relief Project has provided over 140,000 treatments. Nepal is one of the world’s poorest countries, and with a per capita income of about US$244/year, it lacks many vital social services. The clinic provides the only access many people have to health care, and they often have to travel a great distance to get there. Patients seek treatment for a wide variety of conditions, such as musculoskeletal pain, digestive disorders, hypertension, diabetes, post-stroke rehabilitation, asthma, tuberculosis, recovery from surgery, as well as HIV-AIDS. Acupuncture has proven to be a highly effective, low cost, and safe form of medical treatment.
This August I will be graduating with my Masters degree in Chinese Medicine from the Oregon College of Oriental Medicine, where I have been studying for the last three years. I believe that access to health care is a universal right and I look forward to being part of this project, which offers such a valuable service to the community in Chapagaon. I believe that the experience will also prove invaluable for helping me fulfill my ambition to provide affordable health care to underserved populations when I return to the U.S. To read more about me and my interest in this project, please see my bio at http://www.acupuncturereliefproject.org/volunteer/201213-clinic-team/tara-gregory
Your tax deductible donation will directly help fund the operating costs of this project, including all medical supplies and the cost of local interpreters. Contributions of any amount would be greatly appreciated! Even a small amount will go a long way: $10, for example, will pay for ten people to be treated, and $100, for clinic supplies for one day. To donate please follow this link and select Volunteer Tara Gregory under Select campaign. http://www.acupuncturereliefproject.org/donate Thank you so much for your consideration and support for this project! If you know anyone else who would be interested in supporting this venture, please forward this to them.
This summer has been nothing compared to last year's record-long stretch of 100+ degrees days, but it's still officially August in Texas (and today was officially 104 degrees at 4:30 PM, or so said my car). Which basically means it's hotter than hell outside, which you may or may not know if you actually live here, because chances are you're indoors for most of the day rockin' the non-stop AC. It's a basic instinct, for sure, to move inside when the weather gets hostile, but it's not a great plan with a toddler. Not for season-long stretches, anyway. As much as I appreciate indoor climate control, the New Englander (and, frankly, the World Citizen) in me is also a little uncomfortable with the unsustainable nature of the Texan A/C habit (and its cousin, the car-transport fix); I rebel by turning ours off, opening our windows, and heading outside with el kiddo in the morning hours. I'm okay with being a little warm in the summer time! And I like the backdrop of outside sounds -- cicadas, wind-blown trees, birdsong -- to flow into our days and home.
Last year, the weather really did hit a too-hot spot, and we had cabin fever, for real. This year, the heat is bearable until about 11, when the sun beats down oppressively and it only makes sense (safety first) to head in for a light lunch and a long siesta (with the windows, unfortunately, closed). But before then, I make a point to run the boy around in the fresh (if sticky-hot) air, because littles are meant to run, swing and splash; I refuse to let mine stare at screens all day long. Last year, this meant he was literally drawing on our walls. This year, I know the enemy -- Texas heat -- and I've learned a few tricks for outsmarting it. My motto is I ain't afraid. Read on for our summer survival basics, toddler-style.
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What I wore.
Aaron and I celebrated our THIRD anniversary last night. That may not sound like much, but it's felt like a lifetime (in a good way!); as I told him, the past three years have, hands down, been the most eventful -- and wonderful -- of my life. I think I said the same thing last year. Both times, it's saying a lot. Aaron's succinct summary of our time together? "Three years, two states, one Kaspar." Any way you slice it, we have a great deal to celebrate. It's been a wild ride: we've been blindsided by challenges we never saw coming (and overcome them together), we've seen the best and the worst of each other, and this past year has been a good one for us. As Kaspar becomes a bit more independent, as we both continue to develop our careers, and our lives, in Austin, and as we grow in the natural ways people grow in three years, we've both -- I think -- recognized the value of our relationship and actively invested in prioritizing and nourishing it. When we met (a little over four years ago?), we were both single New Yorkers. I was working in the corporate business world and Aaron was an art handler. I lived in Washington Heights, and he lived in Brooklyn (we found a place of our own in Brooklyn shortly thereafter). I don't think there's any way either one of us could have imagined all of the pieces of our lives transforming into what they collectively create now. Growing and changing (and moving and procreating) together is an art form, really. People don't talk about that much. Yeah, yeah, we've all heard relationships take 'work', but that sounds so damning and heavy. They also just take listening and loving (loving a person, not a set of circumstances), flexibility, and the decision to smile and feel good and be the person you want to be, the person you'd want to be with. We all have that person inside of us; it's very real. But we also have negative, potentially very shitty people within (maybe I should just speak for myself, haha?), and I think, you know, letting this little light of mine shine (or whatever) is a decidedly conscious process. My marriage is one of the major forces in my life that helps me to do that. Not necessarily because Aaron "brings out the best in me," but because I bring it out, for him (and now Kaspar, too.). And for myself, obviously, because who wants to be or feel shitty? No one. I'm also deeply appreciative of Aaron making the same kinds of choices, day in and day out. (Be the light, y'all!)
Okay, so: our date. As I mentioned, I'm slammed with work at the moment, but we planned to go out, and that meant getting to kind of play hookie from my responsibilities for a night. Sweet deal. My friend Jenn and I do babysitting trades (allowing for date nights in both of our relationships, both in terms of time and affordability. Highly recommend!), so she arrived promptly at six to hold the fort down while we were out. I'd just, in the spirit of dates and playing hookie, returned about half an hour before from getting a pedi (also highly recommend, and on the regular) with another good friend, and then had made Kaspar's dinner, showered, and applied mascara in a flourish so we'd be ready to bounce out the door. (Meanwhile, Aaron and Kaspar played. Watching my man in his role as a father is, I should mention, one of my life's great delights... I didn't know just how incredible he'd be at his daddy job when I married him either! Bring on the pleasant surprises.)
When Jenn arrived, Kaspar was eating happily and had no problem seeing us leave (he loves her). We went straight to Uchi -- THE sushi joint of Austin (if also the least sustainable food genre to be found in the city... they fly the day's specials in fresh from Japan!) It was only about 6:30, but the parking lot was packed, and we were told there'd be a forty-five minute wait. No matter. Uchi, I must say, has earned its reputation, which is of mythical proportions; the place is a well-oiled, masterful fine dining machine. We were casually ushered onto some shaded outdoor chairs, where we got into the sushi mood with some awesome sake, toasted our three years, and breathed happy, we-have-arrived sighs.
In what felt like a lot less than forty-five minutes, we were led to the sushi bar, which is WAY better than table seating in a great sushi place, fyi. Now, I love me some sushi and have partaken many, many times, but I still don't really know my way around a sushi menu. Neither does Aaron. They're a little complicated, you know? Cold, hot, raw, sashimi, and how many pieces per this one again? But Uchi didn't for a minute let us feel naive or inexpert. Nope, we were walked through the menu by our drinks server, given recommendations based on our preferences. We then placed our order -- asking more questions and getting excited -- with our "very own" sushi chef, who worked his magic before us throughout our meal. What ensued was a perfectly timed, seemingly-endless stream of amazing, distinct, mind-blowlngly delectable dishes, each with it's personal introduction and description, and each perfectly complimenting what had come before, and was to follow. Sushi is sexy food, people. We ate that raw fish (and drank that sake) like we meant it... and then we ordered dessert. We are officially drinkin' the Uchi Kool-Aid; I don't think I'll be able to settle for so-so sushi again. Honestly, their cold dishes made the regular sashimi (my usual jam) -- although perfect, in sashimi terms -- seem boring. Incredible sauces, I tell you-- citrus and spice and art on many plates. And the service was spot on. Louis, our chef, even made us something special, on the house, that he thought we'd enjoy. By the time we were through, we were pleasantly drunk (well, I was... I don't actually drink very often, and I indulged last night more than Aaron, who was totally fine to drive... don't worry, Mom), and in a dizzyingly, uh, romantic mood.
We'd tentatively planned to go, after dinner, to a comedy show that a friend of mine was hosting, but it was far later than we'd anticipated (we had also planned not to worry about the time at all while at dinner), and we'd missed it by miles. We went instead to a local grill where another friend's husband was playing with his band; we stayed for a little while, socializing and sobering up (again, all me) a bit before heading back home to relieve Jenn and get to 'reminiscing' about our wedding night. ;-)
I realized later that I'd had way too much to eat (and a little too much to drink), but I was able to simply sleep it off... I.e. not throw up. (Kaspar did join us in our bed around 3 a.m... Yes, we're still working on that... but thankfully was pretty low-maintenance and passed out without much fanfare.) All in all, it was a super fun time, start to finish. If this is what growing old with someone is all about, I'm totally sold. Still. Three years, baby! Feels good.