About pujakins

I am a poet and teacher of meditation, with a fondness for words and a husband I love dearly. I write a regular column in my local newspaper and another on the internet. My hope, both in my life and in my writing is to encourage people to see things in way that will help them to live happier, healthier lives.

Your Way or My Way

Heartwings Love Notes 1058 Your Way or My Way?

Heartwings says, “Deciding which way can be something to ponder.”

Every relationship has its conundrums. Some are fraught with contention, others are not, yet all provide opportunities for participants to learn and grow. For instance, I was brought up to be tidy. I didn’t used to be as a child; are there any children who are naturally so? As of yet, I haven’t heard of any. Some children who are taught to be neat learn to like it, others do not, of course, yet all will one day, most likely find themselves contending with the opposite of their preference.

For instance, I like my bureau drawers to be tidy so I can see what is in them when I want to choose my clothes for the next day. Being fuzzy of mind when I wake up, I prefer not to make any unnecessary decisions. Believing this to be a desirable state for bureau drawers, I used to make sure Stephen’s bureau was tidy too. Toward that end I would periodically refold and replace his sweaters and tee shirts until his bureau drawers were all organized. One day it occurred to me that he didn’t seem to want to keep them this way, and I stopped. He never complained.

I am grateful that he uses our hat rack/clothes pole to hang up his clothing. The fact that it tends to pile up there is none of my concern, or so I have come to understand. What is important for me to remember is that his way and my way do not necessarily have to coincide.  As long as his clothing, no matter how much, is not draped over the furniture or piled on the floor, I’m happy. The decisions that come from preferences are different from those that have to do with circumstances.

We grow up accumulating preferences, habits, and ways to do things. Then we find others differ. This might be an issue or it might not. What matters is that respect and support need to be part of a healthy relationship. Stephen respects my desire not to trip over his garments and I respect his desire to have his drawers the way they are. I support him by not insisting his clothes be hug up in the closet, and he does the same when he does the dishes or hangs the indoor laundry that doesn’t go in the dryer.

Respect for one another’s beliefs as well as habits is also vital within all relationships. The divisions within our current world view are not healthy for our society because all too often there is a lack of that respect. When we support one another’s ways, it may be possible for us to live in peace. May it one day be so.

May you find good ways to resolve personal differences.

Blessings and best regards, Tasha Halpert

PS, please write to me with any comments or suggestions. It is my great joy to hear from readers with their thoughts and opinions. Please do. My email is tashahal@gmail.com. For more Love Notes, visit me at my web site at http://www.heartwingsandfriends.com

The Beauty of Fall

Heartwings Love Notes 1057 The Beauty of Fall

Heartwings says, “When your eyes are open to beauty, your heart is too.”

Driving the country roads of New England is a nice experience most times of the year, but the fall presents an especially glorious season to do so. I was reflecting on this thought recently, as I drove Stephen and me to a town not far from our home in North Grafton, for our Covid Booster shots.

It was a bright, clear sunny day. We traveled on roads lined with trees expressing their fall exuberance. The noontime light shone through the brilliance of their red and yellow leaves. It was heartstoppingly beautiful. After we’d had our shots, I decided it would be fun to not go straight home but to have a meander—what I call a wandering adventure, in further traveling the lovely roads.

Though I hadn’t been on these streets before, knowing the area sufficiently, I didn’t fear getting lost. We drove down one astonishingly bright, curving tree lined road after another, marveling at the sights that unfolded. Both of us were enthralled with what we saw. I sent up a little prayer of gratitude. It was so peaceful, yet so exciting!

For a moment in time that stretched on and on, I had no thought for the troubles of the world, what we’d have for lunch, or anything beyond the present moment. As I drove, from time to time I’d point out an especially wonderful tree or vista. It was easy to keep my eyes on the road because that was where the action was anyway. Fortunately, there was no one behind me to grow annoyed at my somewhat slow pace. If there had been, I would have pulled over and let them pass. I was in no hurry to get anywhere. 

Fall has always been my favorite time of year. I cherish it, not only for its beauty but also for its interesting weather. Like spring it is a back-and-forth time of year. Cold alternates with warm as the season progresses. It’s coats one day and shorts the next. Having been born in the fall may have something to do with it. Also, there are the holidays to look forward to. Furthermore, as an adult I enjoy the opportunity to sleep better and longer as the dark hours take over from the light.

That night as we got ready for bed we talked about the glorious vistas, as well as splendid individual trees we had seen on our drive. I reflected how thankful I was for the opportunity to take the time to do the trip. Experiences like those are precious. Those of us who are fortunate to live where they are frequent are especially blessed. I hope to keep New England as my forever home.

May you find delight in the fall wherever you dwell.

Blessings and best regards, Tasha Halpert

PS Are you having a nice fall? Do you welcome it? If not, or if so, tell me why, I so appreciate readers’ comments. Let me know what you think, I am eager to hear. Write to me at Tashahal@gmail.com. Go to www.Heartwingsandfriends.com for more Love Notes.

Heartwings Love Notes: Lentil Soup and Kitchen Hints

Heartwings says, “Experimenting in the kitchen leads to useful results.”

I have always enjoyed cooking. I even did when I never knew how many would be sitting down for dinner. And I even enjoyed it many years ago when certain children, imitating their father, would turn up their noses at whatever was on their plates. Be that as it may, it’s true I didn’t inherit this love of cooking from anyone in the family. My mother was of the “food is just for nourishment” school of thought. One grandmother cooked for her dog, but for herself, rarely. The other hired cooks for the household and guests.

Once I married, I had more freedom to cook and eat as I wished. Of course, when my children entered the picture and joined the family dinner table, I was no longer as free. Enlisting their help as they grew more competent was a treat and even of real help. I taught every one of them to cook, even the boys. I used to listen to NPR’s Reading Aloud, I think it was called, with my son as we prepared food. Later, I focused on staying within a limited budget, attempting nutritious family meals on little money. Like now, eh?

As I got older, I began to care about calories. Now I like to do what I can to cut out unnecessary ones. My first hint is something I’m quite proud of. When reheating something, prep the frying pan you will be heating your leftover in, with a thin skim of water. Let it start to bubble and add your ingredients. Your tasty odds and ends will not burn and may benefit from added moisture. I often combine smaller portions of left overs from different meals to form new ones. Anything with rice does especially well when you use water. Voila, no additional fat calories.

Lentil soup is an easy and nutritious as well as an economical soup to have on hand. My next hint is this: Save the cooking water from any vegetables you cook except broccoli. It’s too strong a taste to use. When you measure out 6 cups of water for the soup, start with the veggie water. It adds richness and good taste. Add 1 cup of lentils and bring to a boil, reducing to a simmer once it has boiled. Now add around one cup celery, one of onion, using hint #3, scissors to cut celery and even to reduce onion if you rough chopped it and want it smaller. Add carrots if you wish, hint #4 is save time and energy by using carrots cut and peeled and made to look small. (Baby size?)

Next add herbs and spice of your choice to taste: thyme, lemon pepper, ground garlic, some salt, and or cumin, mustard powder (strong, so less of this), ginger, curry, and or your favorites as you wish. Do cook at least an hour, and more is even better. Tastes great next day, and keeps well for additional meals. This serves at least 4 generously, and can be doubled for sure. Bon Appetite!

May your time in the kitchen be joyful and nourishing,

Blessings and best regards, Tasha Halpert

PS I so enjoy hearing from readers . Please email me at Tashahal@gmail.com or comment here. All suggestions, likes, dislikes and comments welcome and I will respond, thanks.

Heartwings Love Notes 1055 Decisions Can Be Tricky

Heartwings says, “Sometimes decisions can change with better information.”

We like where we live now, and we have lived here for eight years. It is convenient and cozy. It holds one good-sized room and a bedroom with a galley kitchen. It tends to get easily cluttered; however, we are accustomed to that and so are those who visit us. What just about everyone comments on is the most difficult aspect of our second-floor dwelling place: our stairs are steep and narrow. Fortunately, there is a strong banister to cling to, which I do. I also suggest to visitors that they do the same.

In the past I simply considered the stairs good exercise. Then I found them getting arduous. Parkinson’s had reduced my mobility, making the stairs more challenging. It became difficult both to go up and to go down. What was worse, I could no longer carry anything more than my cane. Stephen had to lug everything by himself. And the stairs weren’t easy for him either.

We began to seek a ground floor apartment and encountered nothing we either liked or that fit our budget. When we sought help at the Senior Center, we were told about a residence home in Whitinsville. My helpful daughter made an appointment for us both and we went to see it: an independent living situation set within a lovely pre-civil war mansion built by the owner of the original Whitinsville mills.

The amenities for residents included meals, snacks, laundry, electricity, heat, and housekeeping. It seemed ideal; however, the living arrangement consisted of one room only, with a bath. A lovely place to live, with generous rooms for relaxing, dining, and so on, it would mean giving up most of our possessions, or putting them in storage. Also, no one else in the residence was gluten intolerant. I could not ask the kitchen to make meals for just me, plus the danger of cross contamination.

Regardless of that, we said we move in and began preparing. What we didn’t yet know was what the price would be for two, versus one person. Over the next while as we waited for that information, we discussed how we would do this. I found myself filled with regrets on a daily basis for what I’d lose: making our meals, most of my wardrobe to fit the small closet space, the books I could not have with me, and more. Stephen was being stalwart and kind as he coped with what he could not fit into the space.

Then we were given the price. It was more than we had expected or planned for. How much did we really want to do this. This new factor completely altered the perspective. Much conversation ensued. Things changed in our minds. The illusion of leisurely living, with everything taken care of faded when confronted with the reality of what was not physically, mentally and emotionally going to work, so we declined–with a little regret and a big sigh of relief.

May your important decisions be guided by your truth,

Blessings and best regards, Tasha Halpert

PS Tell me about your decisions, and how they have been for you. I love it when readers share their stories. Please write me at tashahal@gmail.com. For more Heartwings, check out www.heartwingsandfriends.com.

Heartwings Love Notes 1054 Where are my cookies

Heartwings says, “Sharing is caring and easy to do.”

My first husband and I had five lively children, and to pass the time while I cared for them, as well as to make them happy, I baked cookies several times a week. The trick, however was to make sure everyone got his or her fair share. To do that in a good way, I counted up the cookies and divided by five, saving a few over for the grownups. On the list of amounts per child, each one was to check off the ones taken. Most of the time this kept the peace.

I used to do the same with any expensive fruit, like peaches and plums. Everyone abided by this setup. No one wanted to feel the collective wrath of the rest of the family if they didn’t. Fairness was an important principle that I wanted to be sure my children learned. I made it a priority for everyone to get their fair share.

 In addition, to help make each child feel cherished and special I used to take each in rotation for a trip to the destination of their choice. But not just that, I made a rule that when we were out, my time would be devoted exclusively to the child—I would do no errands or other personal activity. They remember these fondly.

I tended to discourage competition within the family, and rarely if ever compared any one of them to another. This was not how I was raised. My mother was a very competitive person and my father was somewhat this way also. Perhaps this was due to the prevailing attitudes of their generation. Regardless, I did not think it helped siblings to become friends when they were always being presented as being into competition.

I am happy to say my grown children are all good friends. They share one another’s lives in positive ways that my sister and I were not encouraged to do. For example, I remember discovering something really nice she did for my mother that neither told me about at the time, and I found out quite by accident.

If there were more sharing in today’s world, there would be a better use of resources. I recall once suggesting to a neighbor that we invest together and share in a power mower; she looked at me as though I had two heads. Sharing is caring, both for the planet and for friends and neighbors.

There are many ways to share that cost us little to nothing in cash or time. On the internet, there are informational blogs on many subjects that one can read and add to. Parkinson’s individuals, for instance can be of help to one another this way. Volunteering in a variety of ways can be another way to share. Some organizations, like the Rotary Clubs, are very giving. Regardless how you spend your time, remember, if you do bake cookies, your neighbors might like some too.

Enjoy sharing the best way you can, and there are many to choose from.

Blessings and Best regards, Tasha Halpert

P.S. Suggestions, comments and thoughts are always welcome. I treasure your emails. Please write me at tashahal@gmail.com, and I’ll happily answer.

Beware Always and Never

Most if not all of us have a tendency to use certain phrases almost by rote. We may not use them on purpose, mindfully, but as a matter of habit. My mother had one. Almost invariably, when she could not find or had misplaced an item she said: “Somebody stole my…”. When I realized I had picked up this habit, I began curbing it.  I was making it more difficult to find the missing object. After all, if someone stole the item how could I ever find it? This is one example of a catch phrase, one that often becomes habitual.

Another example is the use of “always” and “never” when either complaining or scolding. “You always forget to shut off the light,” for instance, or “you never let me know when you’re coming.” Using these words is counterproductive and unnecessarily critical. They do little to no good to communicate what a person is trying to get across. Furthermore, they are probably not accurate, but are actually an expression of feelings rather than being a fact. Most everyone, whether they use them or not, probably remembers someone who consistently does or did.

I certainly heard these words from my mother over and over again. For most, especially parents, they are simply a habit of speech. What is important to remember is that they do not help. They often make things worse. They usually make the person addressed feel defensive, and then they are apt to deny doing or neglecting the act in question all the time. Too, the words, instead of helping to resolve the situation being discussed, will usually perpetuate the negativity of the conversation.

How often growing up did one or both of your parents use the words “always” and “never” to describe some act they hoped to correct. How did it make you feel? Did you feel criticized, perhaps unjustly? When another adult uses the same words, it is even worse. I try hard not to speak them because I don’t like how I feel when someone says them to me. They feel to me like a judgement of my character or my efforts. They feel unjust and arouse a sense of protest, making things worse for me and for the other, as well. If I make an effort to be conscious of what I say when I am speaking, it is easier to stop unhelpful but habitual words and phrases from being spoken aloud.  

Too, these words can cause hurt. There is no need for them. Instead of being an honest statement of how someone feels, they are an apparent criticism, pushing the argument along. What might be better and more effective would be to say, “When you forget to lock the door, it makes me feel …” or “When you forget to turn out the light, I get upset because it is a waste of energy—or drives up the electric bill.” This approach helps to heal the situation, not make it worse. When we become aware of this habit if speech, we can communicate more effectively, and everyone benefits.

Keeping the Sabbath

The Bible says: but the seventh day is a sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. The origin of the word Sabbath has to do with rest. The interpretation of rest is of course whatever is given it by the Bible, or by those practicing it. For myself, it means nothing so stringent as not doing anything, as the Hebrews and too the puritans interpreted it, but instead, of enjoying the day free of specific duties and obligations.

The early settlers to New England took their Sundays seriously. People could be punished for doing any sort of work not permitted by necessity—cows, after all don’t stop producing milk nor animals go without feeding just because it’s the seventh day of the week, or the first, depending on your interpretation or your religion. While the Sabbath originated in Hebrew culture as a day of rest, it became a universal practice for the Christian world at large, migrating from Saturday to Sunday in 400 AD.

When I was growing up nothing commercial was open on Sundays except the drugstore. Church, of course offered services which we attended. Few gas stations served the public, and it was important to plan the Sunday drive on a full tank if possible. There was no running out for groceries if you didn’t already have them, and the Sunday roast beef, leg of lamb or chicken was part of the day in ours as in many households. My father would stop at the drugstore on his way home from church to pick up a couple of quarts of ice cream, packed tight by hand into round cardboard containers at the soda fountain counter. To this day Stephen and I always enjoy ice cream on Sundays.

The idea of the Sabbath was that a day to rest, a vacation from chores and duties, was good for human beings. I have for many years taken Sundays as a day of rest. What that means is that I don’t do any unnecessary tasks that day: no laundry, cleaning, or other housework or similar duties. I try to do only pleasant activities like writing, and of course sending out my column and Stephen’s. Resting for me is more about taking my time to do what I wish to do than sitting down or taking a nap. It could mean baking something or trying a special recipe just for fun, or even going somewhere nice for a walk and to take photos.

I was inspired to write this column by one of my daughters who phoned us up on a Sunday morning we had taken to sleep in. When I said the reason we were sleeping in was that it was Sunday, she said “Oh, but when you’re retired, every day is Sunday.” I told her we took Sundays as special days, and explained briefly. Being retired for me doesn’t mean a rocking chair, it means I have the privilege of choosing what I want to do when I want to do it as long as I am mindful of deadlines, of course. I do love Sundays, and cherish the guilt free duty-less hours they hold. 

Tasha Halpert

The Value of Everyday Tasks

Bridge of flowers poppies, bigI used to chafe sometimes at my lists of things to do—sigh and say to myself, oh if I only had more free time to write poetry or organize, edit and tidy up my writings. It seemed to me that what I thought of as my daily or sometimes weekly drudgery took too much of my precious time and energy and I resented it.  However, that was before the onset of the pandemic and the seeming disintegration of all that has constituted daily life and living, both personal and for my country.

Now, strangely, the things that make up my lists–my duties, have become precious to me. While Stephen does his part in keeping up with the daily chores, I no longer mind doing them. They help me cope. The news these days is so terrifying that it does not bear thinking about. The future is cloudy at best. As I get older each tweak of an ache or pain could mean some kind of incipient illness. Life is fraught with pitfalls holding deep despair. When I focus on the feeling of the hot water on my hands as I scrub the egg from our breakfast plates, I am greatly comforted.

It’s such a little thing to make sure I get all of the egg off the plate, yet the task needs my full attention. There are other things that function the same way. Doing the laundry or watering my plants, for instance. Though I no longer have a garden to tend, I still have plants, and they require my full attention. Actually, my email is sort of like a garden these days. There are plenty of weeds to be removed: ads for goods I might have bought at one time; people urging me to vote for or contribute to a candidate; notices from organizations seeking my support—the list is endless and so are these pernicious, persistent weeds.

Then there are the garden’s plants to be watered and sometimes fertilized: my friends far and near need to be emailed and responded to. There are helpful articles or other information to be forwarded for friends’ edification and/or enjoyment. There is news to be shared of each other’s activities, and of course doctor’s notices to be reviewed. Once again, the list goes on. A garden of any sort needs daily attention. If I leave it for too long, it piles up to an impossible extent, and I can’t tend it properly.

As I move through my day, I keep my focus on these humble chores. They act as a kind of shield against all that I cannot control or do anything about, or that which has not happened and indeed may not. Again and again rather than think about an unknown, possibly dire future, I return my thoughts to what comes next on my list of tasks. And from time to time I gaze out a window at the lovely sunlight filtering through the green leaves and the pretty blue sky above, or even the rain, and I give thanks that in this present moment, all is well.



Little Pleasures Gone Missing

Queen Ann's Lace with BindweedThe daily and weekly routines Stephen and I once had have been lost to the Covid 19 virus. Things we took for granted–trips to the library, going to the movies, eating in restaurants, and more have all been sacrificed to our safety. We must avoid exposing ourselves to a virus that can take a life with one simple breath. Although I have been alive for many years, this is like nothing I have ever experienced. I find it remarkable how my life has changed from what it was a mere few months ago. If you had told me last fall what my life would be like today, I might not have believed you. I certainly could not have imagined it.

I did have peripheral experience with a polio epidemic when I was growing up. I remember summers of rampant polio cases in the 40’s. Prior to the vaccine that eradicated poliomyelitis, many children succumbed to it. There are still adults today with legs crippled from polio as children. One of my sixth-grade classmates caught it. As I recall he was paralyzed and placed in an iron lung. I have a memory of seeing him in it, only his head visible. One parent I knew wouldn’t let her children drink any water that wasn’t bottled. She even made them brush their teeth with bottled water. Children, who were especially vulnerable, were supposed to avoid the beach also, though I am not sure why. Perhaps it was for the same reason we avoid crowds today for fear of Covid 19.

Losing our small pleasures is an insignificant price to pay for staying safe. Wearing a mask in public is a courtesy Stephen and I are glad to practice. It is like saying, “I care about you, stranger, and I want us both to stay safe. How long will it be before Stephen and I go to a movie theater again? I have no idea and I won’t even try to guess. The Spanish flu of 1918 took many lives and lingered even into i920. My own grandfather died from it. My grandmother, as was the custom, wore black for seven years. My mother told me that was the reason my father never wanted her ever to wear black.

It is strange to me that the tenor of our days has so altered. Before the onset of Covid 19, My life held few surprises. I never thought twice about going to the library or to a movie—and suddenly, I no longer could. It was just not there to do. Fortunately for us, Stephen has collected a quantity of videos o all kinds, and we could even make our own popcorn if we wanted. Yet I have come to understand that it’s not the film but the experience: going to the theater, sitting with others laughing or weeping, that I miss. I can get takeout from a restaurant, but I don’t get to hear the other diner’s murmur of conversation or get to chat with the waiter. When the day comes that we can mingle freely, without face coverings or fear, I will rejoice. Until then, while I may mourn my missing enjoyments, I’ll not risk my life for them.

A Cake for All Occasions

Grandmothers 3, cakeMy mother wasn’t one for desserts and she didn’t like to bake, so if there was something to be made in the oven, she occasionally enlisted my help. I was also allowed in the kitchen of a friend who visited her grandmother in the summer. Her grandmother had a cook who was kind enough to let us mess up her tidy domain, so my friend and I spent happy hours making brownies.

In those days my repertoire was limited; however, I was always happy to be allowed to bake. I still enjoy it, though these days my time is more often devoted to writing than to baking–and there are always the calories to be considered. Lately it’s been too hot to do so, but I needed a cake for Stephen’s birthday, so I went looking for my special recipe: Vinegar Cake.

While it is counterproductive to start the oven in the midst of the summer heat, this cake won’t take long. Quickly put together, it is easily made into whatever kind of a dessert you wish to serve. When I made it was for Stephen’s family birthday party, there were only a few of us to enjoy it. It is such a simple recipe that if you are pressed for time, as long as there is enough time for it to cool, it can be made shortly before you need it. Being without eggs, it is good for vegans. Do not be put off by the title.

Preheat oven to 350, grease an 8X8 square baking pan. This cake is fairly thin, and is nice and chocolaty. It really needs no frosting, but I include a recipe in case.

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour—gluten free baking replacement, or wheat based

1 cup sugar

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

3 Tbs cocoa powder (I added another) plus more for dusting top

1 Tbs vinegar

1 Tbs Vanilla Extract

1 cup warm water

6 Tbs Vegetable oil

Mix dry ingredients in a medium bowl, mingle wet ingredients. Make a well in the dry ingredients and add all of liquid ingredients. Mix well. If batter isn’t liquid enough, add water a tablespoon at a time until you get a thin batter. This cake is very moist. Bake in greased 8X8 pan in 350 preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes or until a wooden pick in the center comes out clean and edges have pulled away slightly from the pan–this could take up to 35 minutes. Or bake in cupcake cups, a little less. Dust to your satisfaction with cocoa powder. I used a sieve and stirred the cocoa powder in it to make it come out evenly.  Serves 16 cut in squares, or makes 12 cupcakes.

If you are using a gluten free flour or don’t want lumps it might be good to sift the ingredients together. It makes a better texture for the cake. For a simple frosting, mix 1 cup confectioners’ sugar with 2 Tbs soft butter and add 1 tsp vanilla and some milk or cream until spreadable. You can cut it in half and make a layer cake to serve 6 or 8.