My Morning: Sarah the spider, Gratitude Circles and Black Bean Soup

(Served Un-Edited)

South, East and West, South East and West…I call their names as they come to the top. Three little gold fish in a big blue bowl. North died…and so this morning it makes me think how I cannot call on True North today.

I woke up EARLY so I could get to my writing table. But first there was the GIANT ant type creature I had to extract from the bathroom. Then I had to collect last nights dishes from their party strewn locations throughout the house, I cooked up a feast and as is custom in my house, we do not do the dishes on the night of the party.
The party was just Isaiah and I and our kitty, Shiniata, but in the soft starlight, listening to Emmylou Harris, and making yummie food and having fun constitutes a party.

So before I could get to the writing table, I remembered that I had put lima beans on to soak and had let them soak too long. So, I had to drain them and get the soup started. Last night I made Quinoa chicken, Isaiah made homemade salsa, and I got the fixins together for two soups, black bean and white bean. I put the black beans in the crock pot, and so they are done. But now I really should start the white beans. It will just take a minute. Draining the beans I see a VERY feisty spider in the sink. Had I not already dealt with a VERY feisty ant creature I may have tried to get her out of the sink that instant. But the an creature had jumping qualities that had kind of got me jumpy and so I watched and the spider too, was jumping, but not high enough to get out of the sink.  I said to myself, let me drain the beans, I will avoid your part of the big white sink, then I will take you out.  This did look like a biting kind of spider, but I do not kill spiders. So I drained my beans and got soup stuff out the fridge and kind of observed the spider moving about and jumping around. She seemed, well, fine to me. As if I could wait a few minutes to get to her. Very active she was. I put the white beans on the stove, cut the zucchini squash from my Auntie’s garden, I had baked into little chunks, and turned to the sink.

Suddenly, she, the spider fell over onto her back and stopped moving.
My heart was sick. NO no no I said to her – just a minute. So I got the spider and ant catching device, a votive holder and a business card, and tried to get her in without squishing any part of her. She had been SO ACTIVE, showing no signs of total melt down. Well, Shiloh, except climbing the walls while a giant looking lady in a pink bathrobe drains gallons of liquid close to your body . No stress there.

I got her in, and she did not move. Then I brought her out to the succulent garden and put her on a jade leaf and watched. No movement. Then a tear came. I am not even having pms, I thought to myself. I honestly cannot believe I let this happen.
My heart hurt and I felt truly horrible. My waiting had cost her life – who knows how much life she had lived before making it into my afterparty sink full of dishes. What really got to me is that I knew I was going to save her – and just didn’t act on it. And for that reason…she died. I watched her on her little jade leaf. I breathed on her, used a tiny leaf to try to revive her. Nothing. Back in the house, 5 minutes later I went out and prayed for her – holding my hand over her I said, in Jesus Name, don’t die. I have been praying over sick, dead or almost dead things that way all my life.
I feel so sad. How often am I costing precious life to little things of import that are actually part of much bigger things? All the time. But I knew that. I know that every single time I drive my car, I kill thousands of living creatures on the body of my car.
I have to not think about it or I get so sad. I think of how hard their mother worked to hatch them, only to be carelessly lost upon my windshield on my way to work one day. This is not what I intended to write about, but now at least an hour after I had intended to write something that I woke up thinking about, I am mourning the spider I did not listen to.  (I have checked her 5 more times, no movement, her two little front legs spread out in front of her, touching, as if silent prayer)

She was in distress, and I decided she could continue on in that distress while I got my beans started.  When one of my life long goals and visions is to touch suffering with love where I am able. If this does not extend everywhere, then does it extend anywhere? Of course it does. Yes it does. Even if I kill a spider through carelessness.

Which finally, brings me to topic I woke up to write about today:

Doing what we can do.

(Wait, I am going out to check on her. Hear screendoor as I walk out on the porch. Hear my voice now…)

Your alive! Hurray! Your alive!  Hallelujah! Praise Jesus.

I am back at my mac, and I am truly relieved.  She looks sprightly, if a little traumatized, and she has moved to another leaf to continue her healing process. I cannot express my gratitude.

Now I stir the white beans.  Now I taste the black beans. Yum. Now I feed the cat. Now I hear my husband stirring.

Recipe for Simple Black Beans

Rinse organic black beans.
Soak black beans.
Drain and rinse. Drain and rinse.
Fill the crockpot with water.
Add black beans. Set your intention for your soup.
Stir and pray. Stir and pray.
Add Braggs. Spike. Cumin. Curry.
Chop one whole onion finely. Add.
Chop 2-9 garlic cloves. Add.
Chop a whole head of Italian parsley. Add.
Add oregano. Add basil. Add thyme. Add bay. Dry or fresh.
Chop few stocks of celery, small.
Add a whole jalapeno and a habanero (little bit)
Add salt. At the end, add pepper. And rose petals.
At then end, add a can of corn or corn cut fresh from the cob.
This entire prep time should only take about 20-30 minutes and should cost
less than $12 and feed you for days and days.
Set the crockpot to 4-6 hours. Check it in four.
Servee with fresh parsley garnish (saved out earlier) and a dallop
of yogurt, greek if possible, or cottage cheese or nada!
We have it two ways. One as a soup. But second, since we make tortillas almost every day, we have it with breakfast by adding it to our tortilla, and two poached eggs on top! We also might mash it as a refried for burritos!

IF you want to do it a little more savory deluxe, and make a rue, you can sauté the herbs with the onion in olive oil first. I did this for years – but then it is not called simple. Not called hard – but not simple. It is something you can make while in yoru robe in the morning – but if you cook the rue it is just more time and prep.
The above recipe does not include one single other pot. Just a knife and cutting board and crock pot. It is a time thing. I found that I had stopped making my soups for a while because I did not want to make my rue. Now I am famous for my Rue – so to not make my rue – well….so then one day not so long ago, I realized. It will be just fine without rue. Not spectacular, but really really good.  Does everything have to be my best? No, it does not.  I still make my rue, and I make it in big batches and save it so I can add it to soups or other dishes as needed.  I also used to use organic chicken broth – which was costing me $8 for two, so  I stopped doing that to be more frugal –
but you can use the chicken broth instead of water, and it is once again, more savory. But you know what? The same folks have been eating my soup for years and no one notices the absence of real rue, or chicken broth. Saved $8 and about 20 minutes of time.  Still want my rue recipe? It really is good.

Mama’s Rue

Olive oil.
Soy Sauce.
Add white onion.
Fresh everything. Basil, Rosemary, Thyme, Oregano, Parsley at minimum.
Cut real small. Stir in. Pray. Saute’. Pray.
Add little bit of cumin. Add little bit of bay. Add little little bit of cinnamon.
At the very end, but while the whole rue is still sizzling, add a whole head of freshly cut garlic. Stir for 30 seconds.  Turn off the heat.

Then add it to whatever is cookin’! To save up batches of it you can put it into ice cube trays and cover it with saran.

Also what I made last night, super good and super simple. Now here is the thing, I almost never make a meal without making two or three. Because the other two are using the ingredients for soups or lentils or beans.

Also keep in mind that you can always drain hearty beans to make bean salads.
Add salad dressing kinds of sauces and some feta, and voila! One more dish.

Red Quinoa Chicken:

$15 and 15 minutes to prepare.  30 minutes to cook.
Turn the stove to 425.
In a rectangular pyrex dish, coat it with olive oil.
Add 2 inches of water. Stir in braggs.
Stir powdered versions of Tagine kinds of spices like  cumin, cinnamon, paprika, cayenne and cinnamon. Or just buy a Tagine Spice jar, Williams and Sonoma has a great one my friend Nico bought for me. Spike works too (just get Spike to have)
Stir in the Red Quinoa, making sure it goes to the bottom.
Cut 2-3 organic boneless, skinless chicken breasts into 2-3 inch strips.
Put in the dish, and stir it in so it gets coated with the oil and herbs.
Most likely it will be submerged, with the tops sticking out –
so spread it back out once it is all stirred in.
Put it in the oven, no lid.
Check in twenty minutes. Stir it, and perhaps turn the chicken over.
Add a few rose petals. Set the table.
Check again. You are just going to have to check it as all stoves are different. When the Quinoa is done, the chicken is done and your dish is ready to go! Scoup into deep bowls, Quinoa on the botton, Chicken on top, fresh garnish and yoghurt on top if you like. FYI stauss has the best yoghurt for this kind of garnish, besides Greek Yoghurt which is like a ball of cream. Light candles. Pour red wine. Turn on the Be Good Tanya and ENJOY yer’selves!

Since this dish is hearty, I don’t serve a another thing with it, but an addition of lightly tossed spinach salad with corn would be a nice to go along. Another time I will list my salad dressing recipe which starts with a base my cousin taught me when I was 21 and living in my first apartment in San Francisco.

I don’t list quantities or times because it is an intuitive thing for me, so it is different every time. Use your inner intuitive chef! The only thing to REALLY watch for over salting, so be mindful of this – but Braggs is GREAT to cook with, as well as SPIKE.

My experience is that if you always have a soup on or around – there is always something to eat, and to serve guests.  Soup on hand for me, means my household is under control. I feel abundant and prepared. And with most of the soups I make enough to give to the women I work with and my family – and to freeze some.

Just checked on the spider, she has moved again and seems to be doing just fine! Whew…now let’s see, what was it I woke up to write about? That’s right.
Letting it be OK if I do not always do my best.
The truth is that none of us are always doing our best.
The other truth is that most of us are feeling bad about it.
The other other truth is, that we don’t need to feel so bad about ourselves in order to learn to do better.
Because really, the truth is, feeling bad about what we are not doing, usually does not inspire us to do better.  Just doing better, and feeling good about that is what inspires us to do better. By better, I mean our “personal” better. That we are each working, gently towards what is our own version of doing better.

In my work I have found, that the common denominator among women is
that they just feel plain bad about themselves, no matter where they come from.

When I was a young girl, I learned that class and race were two of the major things that separated out people one from another. I remember the day I asked my mom if we were “low class”. Because she was beautiful and stylish, we passed for classes above ours, but that only went so far. Once we lived in Tiburon and I could not fit the “class” so I commuted to San Francisco to the ghetto school where I could be myself. I was 9 and one of three white kids, but I felt, if not at home, at least comfortable in my own skin. I could not “pass” in Tiburon and, frankly I did want to do the work to make up that “class”.

But do you know what is common among all classes of women ( don’t know about the men), is that every class has a HUGE amount of women who feel unworthy and spend considerable time feeling bad about themselves even when they are “doing their best” and excelling! You may know this already – but it continues to shock me year after year.

Years ago I was on a trip to France with a group of women. I was outclassed all the way, but I knew the Leader and she let me make payment plans and lead a meditation to help pay for my trip.  There was one woman, I thought was so lovely.
She was big and strong, with red hair and a firm voice. She had all the big diamonds and little shoes and outfits and mannerisms and ways of being of the rich ladies.  I liked her style, and her humor and how she pulled off being a big lady in a small ladies world. ( I too am a big lady so it aint no wonder that I appreciated her way of taking up space. Did I mention she lived in Tiburon?

One day I told her: You are really pretty.

Anyhow, she looked at me as if shocked – and I am sure without thinking, she said:

No one has ever told me that before.

Now it was my turn to look shocked.

I wondered to myself – how could it be? That  a beautiful woman could go her whole life, and not be told that? Was it because she was big? Unusual? Or had the wrong friends or wrong husband?  But it got me to thinking – and her face in that moment has never left me.

Recently I had a circle for someone very dear to me. Someone who has more friends, that are close, than anyone I have ever met. So I feel lucky that she has chosen me among them. I had a circle for her so that she, and her family who was visiting, could see how much myself, and a few Cosmic Cowgirls who are also her friends, loved her. And  – so that she would feel loved and appreciated. It was  a small simple circle, no ceremony – just a standing circle of appreciation for her. Afterward, in tears, she said how no one had ever done that for her.

Now it is my turn to look shocked. But, it got me to thinking.  So last night while speaking to my mother, and telling her about the circle, we have to spend the rest of our lives having Gratitude Circles for women in our lives so that they get a chance to know how loved they are. And so we began to plan one for my Sister Shannon. How can it be, we can go our whole lives, and not have a circle of women gather to tell us how important we are to them in the company of other women?

Where is all this headed, you might ask. Well I will tell you.

But first I have to make the coffee. Stir the soup and take out the compost.

This is a call to appreciate our lives.
The precious fragile amazing lives we are living.
This is a call to look deeper.
Listen harder. Stop more and look into the face of our beloveds.

Last night Isaiah and I LOOKED into one another and shared our profound gratitude and gave thanks.
Last week Sue Hoya and I deeply thanked one another – I thanked her for her teaching me, and our students. And she thanked me for inviting her to teach our students, who are completely in love with her, so she gets to feel that appreciation!
Last month, I dedicated my new book, On A Wing and A Dream, to my mom.
We ALL have amazing people in our lives. Tell THEM!
And…watch out for tiny living things in your life like little spiders trying to get out of the sink. Hear them.

FYI: the spider’s name is Sarah.

Sarah The Spider

And now for the Gratitude Circle – The Very Basic Guidelines and or Ideas

Call a circle of women together with the intention of sharing Gratitude – either for everyone or just for one woman.
Let them know if there will be food, or if you want them to bring something.
I recommend an after dinner circle , with desert and tea.
Before they arrive, get your home ready. Set up an altar and chairs in a circle.
You can also invite them to bring something to represent Gratitude for the altar.
The altar should have a candle, and you can represent the elements of earth air fire and water and the directions if you like.
When folks arrive, have music playing and soft light.
Invite folks to put their item onto the altar. You can provide paper for journaling and writing out their wisdoms or not.
You can open the circle with a prayer/song/poem and introduce the theme of the evening.
You should establish the circle guidelines, like confidentiality and energy and timeframe.
Then, if you like, you can pass a talking stick, shell, stone, heart or sacred item.
If you are honoring one woman, the Gratitude is about her and what she means to the others.
We do the red thread ceremony where we pass a ball of thread and all hold on – then we share – then we cut –
all with symbolic action, if anyone wants to know more about this – I can write that out.
Ask folks to respect timeframes, and do a check in to start –
then go around again asking for them to share their wisdom/or whatever theme you are working with.
A good closing is to have them share why they brought their item – and when they are done sharing can take their item back,
Make sure to close the energy of the group with prayer – holding hands is nice – or bowing to one another.
You CAN set yourself up as the leader, since you are calling the circle – or it can be a true group experience, but someone does
need to hold “space”.
You can include other things too – like writing or coloring or drawing.
You can include a group line by line poem.
You can smudge with a feather for cleansing and clearing.
You can have women include other women’s names they want to pray for.
At the end, be sure to acknowledge everyone for joining you – and leave with a really good feeling.
At the end, you can also dance – or walk outside together to see the night.

There is almost nothing you can do wrong in women’s circle – except to let folks go on too long – you can
let people know in advance that it is easy to talk too much and that you are going to say, thank you or ring a tiny bell,
or shake a shaker if someone is – that it is nothing to be embarrassed about – but it really can get the energy off.
You can also state clearly that this is not a processing group – but has an intention for wisdom or gratitude, or whatever theme you choose for a gathering.

Them are the basics….

This can be really wonderful, and if you have not done it before, try it!

Please please feel free, those of you who are circle goers, to add to this list!

You can also go to this link, to see the guidelines from Christina Baldwin.

You can also learn more about circle, by visiting:

and here are their circle guidelines. I should have just cut and pasted this but I found it after I wrote mine….

• Create a circle.
• Consider it a sacred space.
• One person speaks at a time.
• Speak and listen from the heart.
• Encourage and welcome diverse points of view.
• Listen with discernment instead of judgment.
• Share leadership and resources.
• Decide together how decisions will be made.
• Work toward consensus when possible.
• Offer experience instead of advice.
• When in doubt or need, pause and silently ask for guidance.
• Decide together what is to be held in confidence.
• Speak from your own experience and beliefs rather than speaking for others.
• Open and close the circle by hearing each voice. (Check-ins and check-outs.)