Celebrating the 80th Birthday of a True Renaissance Man—our Friend Elie Alcheck

Abraham Lincoln once said “In the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.”

Our friend, Elie’s 80th surprise birthday party was held at the Oshman Family Jewish Community Center in Palo Alto at 6PM. Cecile and I were privileged to be among
the honored guests. As we emerged from the underground parking lot we could hear the soulful sound of a saxophone player echoing from the Center’s courtyard where cocktails, wine and appetizers were being served.
By 7:30 PM, we all got the word that Elie was on his way up with his wife Yael. Excitement and anticipation was in the air. “Surprise!” we all yelled out. Elie’s face registered shock, confusion and joy all at the same time. He was lovingly greeted by family and friends. As we walked through the doors into the ballroom, Eli’s Band was on stage ready to go (not to be confused with Elie).
The theme for the evening was travel. We had been given Passports with our names on the front and Cecile and I were assigned to the “France table.” There was a photo of Elie on the inside with the words: Elie and Yael think Paris is the most romantic city in Europe. 

It can be difficult to appeal to a multi-generational group of people, but Eli’s Band—Eli Buzglo Entertainment from LA had everybody on their feet with their incomparable high energy performance and music selections throughout the evening. They were one of the best live bands we’ve ever seen in these types of Life Cycle celebration venues. They are probably the only band out there who could keep up with Elie, our high octane octogenarian friend who puts all us guys 15 to 20 years younger to shame on the dance floor. As we poop out, he's just getting started. He indeed has always been the life of the party. The food and dessert were superb and if you didn’t have a great time, you had to be brain dead. This was an extraordinary celebration.

About Elie: No one would argue the point that Elie is a true Renaissance man. He is curious, creative, and a risk taking real estate entrepreneur. Throughout his career
he has displayed perseverance and self-discipline. He has a thirst for knowledge in many fields and always welcomes new, enriching experiences. He has shown excellence in intellectual, artistic, physical and social fields. He and his beloved wife Yael are patrons of the arts, supporters of their community, and have a deep love for opera and travel.

Elie’s parents were born in Salonica, Greece that is steeped in Sephardic culture, foods, songs and the Ladino language. Motivated by the desire to learn more about Jewish life and his family’s roots and their experience there, he, Yael and their family traveled there a year ago.

Born in Tel Aviv, in 1959 Elie ventured out to California to study nuclear chemistry at UC Berkeley, receiving his BS in 1963 and PhD from USC in 1968.
While attending Berkeley, Elie founded the Educational Student Exchange (ESEP), the largest charter flight operator for students in the USA until 1972.

After returning to the Bay Area from LA in 1969, Elie entered the field of land and property development and acquisition, which and his family are still currently involved in.
Elie carries with him the spirit of Zorba the Greek within his heart and soul, that teaches us to live each day, and enjoy life even when things don’t always go our way.

After listening to the loving speeches given by Yael, and his sons and daughters, and after blowing out the birthday candles he gave a speech that was both wise and loving as it pertained to embracing life as one matures. “By the time we reach 50," he's said, "there should be a cease and desist order placed on birthdays. After all, each of us is going to have one,” he added.

“As we mature, we may not be able to do the things we used to do. We may not accomplish all the tasks we set out for ourselves. We may no longer look how we used to.
But, I want to you to know that age is just a number. It requires some change in our activities, exercises, and eating habits (Elie is a confirmed Vegan). It requires visiting doctors more often.” That being said, he expressed profound gratitude for his beloved Yael, who has brought him blessings from the first time they met and has continued for 40 years. “Not only do we love each other, but we are best friends.” he added.

While Elie and Yael were in Greece a summer ago, he picked up a quote from Socrates who once said: “If you marry the perfect wife, you will become a happy person. If you marry
the wrong wife, you become a philosopher.” Apparently, Socrates had a sense of humor. But, he also taught that “an unexamined life is not worth living.”
The irony is that Elie “is” a philosopher, who was bestowed with a certificate of philosophy. As he once told a childhood friend he is very happy with his life. When he looked at a photograph when he was 18, he said to himself, “Hey! You’re the same person except life has enriched you with tremendous experiences, gave you a wonderful wife, blessed you with wonderful sons and daughters and phenomenal grandchildren and prosperity. You have lived the American Dream.”

When we do an inventory of our lives as the years fly by there is always a question of all questions we ask ourselves. If we had it to do over again, would we do anything different?
Elie, who was asked this question by a friend said: "Yes! That included his “successes, failures, and mistakes because they made him the man he is today. Calling upon his family to come to the front of the stage, he ended his speech with a Hebrew prayer to thank God for all the blessings he and his family have received and expressed gratitude to all who came near and far to help him celebrate another milestone in his life.

Elie, Cecile and I want to wish you Mazel Tov! May you live til 120. As you know it is a Jewish Blessing which in Hebrew is Biz Hundert un Tsvatsig. This is not intended to wish you the attainment of a particular numerical age, but that you should be blessed with the mental and physical faculties that come along with maturing in age. We wish this for you and your family.

Taking Daisy to the "Blessing of the Animals" Celebration at St. Andrews

“Our pets offer us unconditional love by accepting us just as we are every minute of each day.”

The Reverend Channing Smith invited me to attend the “Blessing of the Animals” Sunday service at Saint Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Saratoga, CA. This was my second year. Last year my attendance with Daisy, our son Jason’s dog was memorialized by an article that appeared in the Los Gatos Times Weekly and the Saratoga News.

The origin of the Blessings of the Animals dates back 800 years ago in honor of my namesake: St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals. Francis is my middle name, given to me at birth by my late parents Frank and Maria Augustine at my Baptism. St. Francis was the ultimate “animal whisperer.” He is mostly known for preaching to hundreds of birds and brokering a peace between a ferocious wolf who was terrorizing a small village. His sensitivity to all living things being a part of all Creation is reminicent of the Buddhist teachings of expressing loving kindness towards all sentient beings.

Outside the church, just before the service I bumped into Ann Waltonsmith, former mayor of Saratoga and her husband Rick who brought their two gentle donkeys, Betsy and Ike. Over the years my wife Cecile and I got to travel with Ann to Japan and China with a group from Hakone Gardens.

I got to pet and pose for pictures with Betsy who seemed more interested in taking a bite out of one of Daisy’s unused plastic poop bags.😎 Very much involved in our community Ann and Rick used to give children rides around and through the orchard during Saratoga’s Blossom Festival.

As Daisy and I made our way to the front of the church, a young woman looked smilingly toward me and Daisy with a hint of recognition. She said: “Daisy,” right? “Yes!” I answered. Her name is Danielle. We recollected that we first met at last year’s Blessing of the Animals. She is depicted here cuddling with her dog Rosy in the pew. Daisy and Rosy are both six years young, Chihuahua-mixed breed rescue dogs. I also reconnected with the folks at Kitten Cattitude Rescue, founder Adrienne (Addie) Jacques and volunteer Darelle whose non-profit organization I support.

Toward the end of this special Sunday Service, pet owner-companions were called up to the front of the altar to receive the traditional blessing in the spirit of St. Francis. When it was our turn the congenial Reverend Channing Smith gently placed his hand on Daisy’s little head while repeating a short prayer. 

Once again, I was amazed how curious and calm Daisy was in the midst of crowd of people and animals. As affectionate and loving as she can be, she can also be very skittish and feisty at times around people and dogs she doesn’t know. I was also surprised how relaxed and joyful I felt attending these events. As I’ve told family and friends, I have never witnessed a service in any tradition as joyful as this one. I could only conclude that the magic of St. Francis rubbed off on us. After all, as the story goes, animals and birds alike were susceptible to his great charm, love and gentle manner. He was their friend and protector.

Aside from the United States, ceremonial blessings of companion animals occur throughout the world including Australia, Canada, Scotland, and Spain. They are celebrated in some form or another in diverse religious communities including Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Shintoism, Unitarian Universalism—to name a few. Secular communities that respect the rights and welfare of animals are acknowledged internationally around this time on World Animal Day.

More about St. Francis: The man who would be saint, was born Giovanni di Pietro di Bernadone in 1181. Later, his father, a wealthy cloth merchant gave him the nickname, “Francesco” or Francis. Many of the stories and legends surrounding St. Francis deal with his love of animals, his caring for the natural world, his dedication to the poor and as a man of peace. He gave up a life of wealth and privilege to serve others. It was these same virtues that inspired Pope Francis to take his name.

Photo: Next to the last photo of Rev. Channing Smith taken in 2017 Blessing of the Animals

The Augustines: Just Published in the October Issue of Riconanda Hills Digest

by Cindy Gum & Connie Palladino

Dennis grew up in the tough, blue-collar town of Hoboken, New Jersey the birth place of Frank Sinatra which overlooks the NYC skyline in the 50s. Back in the day it was a cross between “West Side Story” and “On the Waterfront,” he said. Cecile grew up in the West Rogers Park in Chicago. They met at a student party while Dennis was attending the former Illinois College of Podiatric Medicine. Cecile was on a blind date that wasn’t going well. She shared her adventurous summer travels in Italy and he shared stories of his many trips to Sicily visiting relatives. In that instant a romantic flame was lit. 

Cecile taught 4th grade in the tough inner city of Chicago, where weapons checks were mandatory. “She had a sweet, gentle and kind demeanor,” Dennis said, “and it was no surprise that her students adored her,” he added.

The Augustine’s moved to San Jose, CA in 1975 where Dennis began practicing outpatient minimally invasive foot surgery in a converted ranch house near the public Rose Garden. Later the office was incorporated into the Park Avenue Foot Clinic. Cecile was the office manager and together they built one of the most successful operations of its kind in the country. They have two grown children, Jason, 37 and Michelle, 31, who is pregnant with their first grandchild.

The Augustine’s decided to downsize from their 5,000 square foot palatial estate in Saratoga, California, over three years ago. Like many people who wind up at RInconada Hills, they were tired of the upkeep and were looking to simplify their lives. “We love the tree-lined walking trails, the stunning one acre lake, ponds, waterfalls, wildlife and living in harmony with nature,” Dennis said.

The retired couple have been together for 46 years, are best friends and still very much in love. They have traveled all over the world. Earlier in the year they went to Myanmar (Burma), Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. Last April, they took a week long riverboat cruise on the Mississippi River from New Orleans to Nashville with their friends and longtime residents of Rinconada Hills, Nelson and Susan Bye.

Aside from their love for travel, the Augustine’s are avid yoga enthusiasts. Dennis, a former yoga teacher received his teaching certification 18 years ago at “White Lotus” in Santa Barbara. He also attended three-week silent Mindfulness Meditation retreats at a Buddhist monastery outside Mandalay in Myanmar from 2005-2010.

A former watercolorist with the Saratoga Community of Painters and a former saxophone player with the Saratoga Community Band, Dennis’ current interests are focused on swimming, bicycling on his new electric assist bike, reading, and writing. His is the author of several published books including Invisible Means of Support: “A Transformational Journey” and “Gifts from Spirit, A Skeptics Path” that he wrote in the early 90s. The former, is a tribute to the late mythologist and scholar, Joseph Campbell who was known to encourage his students and readers to: “Follow Your Bliss.”

Newsletter Cover Photo: Courtesy of John Perry
Photo of Cecile & I taken in Bangkok during Ancient Kingdoms Tour with Overseas Adventure Travel 2018


Celebrating a Wedding of a Magician and his Bride at the Paris Hotel in Las Vegas

“I can’t keep calm we are going to Vegas, Baby.”

Cecile and I attended the wedding ceremony for her cousin Charlene’s daughter, Julie Perkins and her beloved groom, Kevin Pernick in the Chapelle du Paradise at the Paris Hotel in Las Vegas. It was opulently appointed with tall columns, intricate gold leaf designs, crystal chandeliers and angelic cherubs depicted on a blue-sky ceiling. Though we were physically in Las Vegas, the bride and groom bursting at the seams with romance and good cheer were easily transported to Paris, the “City of Love,” and took their guests on their journey with them. One of the family members named Beck officiated the ceremony. I’m not much on destination weddings per se but Las Vegas is the exception as there is so much to do in the entertainment capital of the world.

I never saw a groom so happy to be married. “Thank you for marrying me," Kevin said to his lovely bride.” The couple met online six years ago at Barney’s Beanery in Pasadena, California, followed by a magic show at a theater in Los Feliz. By day, Kevin—whose stage name is Kdog—is a hearing officer for the IRS Appellate Court and by night he enjoys doing close up magic tricks at the Close up Gallery, at Magic Castle in Los Angeles. Kevin has rubbed shoulders with Shin Lim, the card magician act from Season 13 of America’s Got Talent who was the winner of the million dollar prize and the headline of a show in Las Vegas.

After having a drink at the Hexx bar, we made our way to the post nuptial reception that was held in a private dining room at Mon Ami Gabi, a classic French bistro and one of the most popular and beloved restaurants on the Las Vegas Strip. The food and service were beyond good and the entertainment for the evening was an Elvis impersonator who serenaded the married couple and guests with some of the great classics of the King of Rock and Roll.

Live in Las Vegas: Visiting the Enchanted Wonderland at the Bellagio Conservatory

“There is both whimsy and wisdom for those willing to look beneath the surface of the messaging of this amazing exhibit”

Each season, the Bellagio Conservatory and Botanical Gardens are transformed into a whimsical wonderland by the creative hard working botanical staff for people of all ages. Like everyone else who was there, Cecile and I were in complete awe of the intricate, distinctive, and stunning floral display. Ironically, even though it can be at tad congested at times—after all, it is Las Vegas we are talking about—it offers a rare oasis of tranquility and respite from the busyness of the strip and casinos.

In the South Bed, the Bellagio has brought back the Enchanted talking tree that greets guests as they walk in. Look a little closer and it appears that its' eyes are following you. In the North Bed, guests discover two stunning tigers that stand 10 feet tall with foxes nearby. It is a subliminal reference to the famous Chinese idiom, “A fox exploits a tiger’s might,” which is a tale of a fox about to be devoured by a tiger. The sly fox cons the tiger to follow him around to show the tiger what a big shot he is, and in so doing everyone runs away. Impressed, the tiger lets the fox live, never realizing people were fleeing from him, not the fox who had assumed the tiger’s majesty. Duh! 

However, the 2018 seasonal display, entitled “Falling Asleep,” featuring a bigger than life sleeping goddess in the West Bed, made of natural materials like hydrangeas and oak leaves, left us feeling awakened and transported into another realm as one would experience by watching a Harry Potter film. 

The exhibit as a whole was inspired by Demeter, the “Goddess of the Harvest" who was the most generous of the great Olympian goddesses in Greek Mythology. She was much beloved by her service to everyday people for teaching them how to grow, preserve and prepare the grain. She was seen as the nurturer of humankind. She empathized with the universal human experience of suffering and grief—as she experienced herself. It is a message to all of us to stand firm for what is good, decent and right, especially when we encounter adversity, when powerful and/or misguided forces conspire against us. Moreover, she also teaches us that even during times of great sorrow, we can experience great joy.

Postscript: the Harvest display runs through Nov. 24, 2018 and the popular holiday extravaganza runs from December 1 through January 6, 2019

Source: about the tiger adapted from the Category Archives: Bellagio Conservatory

Couples Baby Shower at Rinconada Hills & A Letter to Our Unborn Grandchild

It was so exciting seeing and helping some of Michelle and Kyle’s friends set up the intimate banquet room with decorations, photos, flowers and catered food.
It made the anticipation of having a grandchild all the more real. When Mary Roy, a dear friend and former patient of mine from Sacramento heard our daughter Michelle being pregnant and heard she was due to deliver the end of November, she wrote: “How beautiful, I’ve been wondering when you’d announce the most wonderful miracle and joyous experience of your senior years! Wow!!! Be ready to have the opportunity to be so close and participate in her development. It is so amazing. I can just imagine those little arms around your neck, what joy! Contratulations!

Letter to our Unborn Grandchild

It’s hard to believe that in 10 more weeks you will be here—a new life, a new baby—made of stardust. It is not too long ago your parents (our beloved Michelle and Kyle)
sent us some amazing images of you when your mom was at the doctor’s office. You were just the size of a raspberry. Later, your features began to appear. Seeing you, made us visualize your mom and dad and the family's joyful anticipation of your entrance into a new world. The excitement that you are almost here is almost
too much to take all in. But, give us a chance precious one. For where there is love there are no barriers. Your mom and dad wrote in my birthday card last month: “We can’t wait to watch you take on a new role as Grandpa to little ‘Baby Lewis.' She already loves you.” Of course it goes without saying that if your grandma Cecile is as good a grandparent as she was a mother, you are in for a special treat. Grandma is "kvelling" right now, which someday you will learn is derived from Yiddish, which means to be “delighted,” and “to gush or swell with joy.”

As I write these words, your grandmas and grandpas pray that you grow, develop and continue to be nurtured within the warm, watery wonder world that your mother’s body has created for you and is your current home. But, once you are born to the outer world you will see light and motion and make out images and soon begin to make eye contact with those who love you, and see color and hear sounds, like the singsong voice of your mommy and daddy, your grandmas and grandpas as they talk to you and sing you lullabies, and so much more. You will fill a space in the hearts that we didn’t know existed—PURE BLISS. We can’t wait dearest one.

Postscript: On this auspicious day it was also Michelle's other mom, Kim's birthday. Happy Birthday dearest Kim!🎂🍷🎈🍾♥️

Dinner at Capers & a Nostalgic Musical Review by the Bee Gees Gold Tribute Band

“We write songs about people and situations; we tell stories in our songs, but we don’t give sermons.” —The original Barry Gibb on songwriting

Our friends Sophie and Bernie Weinzimmer invited us and friends Steve and Susie Brenner to join them for dinner at Capers Restaurant, a casual American bistro. This was followed by a nostalgic performance by the Bee Gees Gold Tribute Band starring John Acosta as Barry Gibb, at the historic Heritage Theater presented by Frequency Entertainment. Considered the ultimate Tribute band, the International sensation who have toured around the world arrived here direct from Las Vegas, bringing the look of Barry, Robin and Maurice along with their incredible harmonies and legendary songs of the 60s and 70s.
The Bee Gees were the first Australian act to top the US charts in 1971 with "How You Mend a Broken Heart." 

Some of the top songs performed were “Staying Alive,” one of the modern day feel-good funky movie songs of all time that was written to celebrate surviving during tough times. And, “Night Fever” a strong disco single which was incorporated into the 1977 movie "Saturday Night Fever," re-kindling flashbacks of my fellow New Jerseyite, the incomparable John Travolta. The audience was engaged, dancing to the music that re-ignited forgotten memories of yesteryear and leaving everyone smiling and with sore hips.

Some trivia about the Original Bee Gees:
Maurice Gibb was a champion paintball player. Unfortunately he was a champion alcoholic whose marriage to Scottish pop star singer Lulu dissolved on the rocks of heavy drinking. He used to get hammered with Ringo Starr.

In 1967 Robin Gibb and his fiancé at the time survived Britain’s sixth worst train disaster. The original Barry Gibb, age 70 still performs on stage with his son. 

Photo credit of the original Bee Gees, the folk/rock/pop sensations: Chris Walter/Wireimage at the 1977 Music Awards

#beegeesgoldtribute #saturdaynightfever #barrygibb

My Encounter with a Majestic Deer in the Open Meadow at Rinconada Hills

It’s been said that if there is a race between a lion and a deer, the deer often wins because a lion runs for food and a deer runs for its’ life. Purpose is often more important than need.

Cecile and I were just beginning our early morning walk. She was trailing behind me with Jason’s dog Daisy.
Suddenly, I heard a loud rustling noise in the bushes far to my right, and the flash of a large animal appeared through the trees. It was a stag. Startled, It made a sharp turn across the road to the left. I could hear its hooves making contact with a long white catch basin as it clumsily tried to gain its footing. It rumbled across the terrain like a 350 pound thoroughbred then disappeared into the bush.

I walked further down the path hoping against hope to get another glimpse. After all, a deer sighting of this kind is not a common occurrence on this large tract of land where we live. Just as I was ready to give up, there it stood, out on the open meadow on my left, maybe 40 feet between us. It stared back at me, as if daring me to make the first move. It's elegant rack etched out against the back drop of the field and the trees like a king of the forest.

Time seemed to stand still. I retrieved my camera hoping to capture its image before it fled. I snapped a few shots.
By this time Cecile and Daisy had caught up to me and I pointed to this majestic creature. I had wished I had a greater zoom lens, worried that my iPhone camera wouldn’t capture its essence. Then, I told myself to relax, experiencing this moment in time with this beautiful creature is the “essence.” 

I felt like I was in a dream like state, watching something unfold that was surreal and imbued with some sort of meaning. In Buddhism, the deer symbolizes harmony, happiness, peace and longevity. If one were to look up the symbolic meaning behind “stag,” you’ll find repeatedly that the animal represents an in-between state, a world connecting dreams and wakefulness—the world of intuition. The antlers are like a crown, that grow beyond the body, bringing it closer to the sky revealing its sacredness. The fact that the antlers fall and grow again also makes the deer a symbol of regeneration.

Antlers are said to act as a spiritual antennae, urging us to be more mindful of our thoughts and perceptions and directing us to a higher state of awareness. In this faced paced world of technology it seems to be a message worth heeding.

Dinner & Reconnecting with Friends Overlooking our Tuscan-Style Stone Patio

"Good Food, Good Wine, Good Friends, and a Deep Sense of Gratitude, Life is much too short for anything less.”

I am convinced that nothing brings people closer together than food. Cecile, Jason and I enjoyed an intimate low-key dinner with friends, Jan and Gary this weekend. With all the prep work done earlier in the day, we all had plenty of quality time to spend together. We began with an assorted cheese plate including a creamy Brie and crackers with a rich and decadent organic sour cherry spread we had acquired at the farmer’s market earlier in the day. There we sat sipping wine out on our newish Tuscan stone patio overlooking the Romanesque fountain adorned with the head of a lion, two cherubs and our newly replanted garden. 

Jan and Gary share our love for travel. Like myself Gary is a bit of a raconteur (French: storytelling in an amusing way). I like to write stories and Gary loves to tell them.
He was born in the great state of Hawaii as evidenced by the Aloha shirt he was wearing. He loves local theater, art, golf, biking and socializing.
As he said: “Having an active network of good friends is a primary ingredient of a satisfying, healthy life.” Amen to that!

After the appetizers, I placed the fresh Salmon that Cecile had marinated and wrapped it in tin foil and placed it on the grill to steam while Gary and I walked around the lake of our gated community. This was his first time at our new downsized humble abode and the rustic walking trails Cecile and I have come to love.

Cecile had a fine meal waiting for us that included fresh heirloom tomatoes with Burrata Mozzarella cheese, fresh corn salad, sautéed green Padron peppers, rainbow potato roast, and teriyaki glazed Salmon.

In terms of libations, Jan and Gary made a generous contribution to the table: two bottles of wine, and a special belated birthday bottle of Sangiovese for me.

Jan was happily sporting a colorful scarf we gifted her for her really belated birthday. Time and circumstance had kept us apart for some time and we were savoring being together. 

For dessert we enjoyed a blueberry loaf, Lemon sorbet and Babka cake, that are common in the Eastern European Jewish tradition. You may recall the Seinfeld episode where Jerry and Elaine miss out on the last chocolate babka while at the bakery and had to settle on the cinnamon babka which Elaine considers a “lesser babka,” but Jerry begs to differ. We had no such conflict as we offered both cinnamon and chocolate to our guests and they were both yummy.

Celebrating Cecile's Beloved Cousin Joyce's 90th Birthday In Sacramento

 

Celebrating Cecile's Beloved Cousin Joyce's 90th Birthday In Sacramento

"Generosity is a practical expression of love.”—Gary Inrig

Labor Day weekend is not exactly the best time to travel to Sacramento or anywhere for that matter, but when we were invited to join in the celebration of Cecile’s cousin Joyce Berger’s 90th birthday celebration, we were all in. We have so much respect and love for Joyce, we wanted to be a part of the festivities.

It has been said that the spring of generosity never runs dry for the person who willingly gives from the heart. This describes Joyce to a T. 
When Cecile and I first moved to California, it was Joyce and her late husband Bill Berger who helped us find our footing when we were looking for a place to live and open my Podiatric Medical and Surgical practice in San Jose. They referred us to a family friend who was a realtor in our area that found us the perfect place in an old neighborhood near the Rose Garden district.
In the early years when we would drive up to Sacramento to visit Joyce and Bill and their son Jeffrey, they invited us to stay at their home and whenever we went out to eat with them they always picked up the tab. They wouldn’t have it any other way. Sometime later while Joyce was still mourning the loss of Bill, we invited her to join us in London and Rome and we had the most amazing, memorable time. 

Throughout the years we became aware how Joyce helped many family members who fell on hard times or had some missteps in life. She has a heart of gold and I would say she is generous to a fault, but there is no fault in being generous of heart. Her first impulse is to give whether it be to her community, her synagogue, friends or family.

Cecile and I checked into the Larkspur Suites near the Mosaic Law Congregation, a Jewish Synagogue where a ceremonial blessing (Kiddush) was being sponsored on Saturday morning in honor of Joyce’s 90th Birthday. Rabbi Reuven Taff, the spiritual leader of the Conservative Temple led a vibrant, uplifting service, sprinkled with humor, warmth, love, scholarly readings and Hebrew chanting. Taff trained at the Theological Seminary in NYC, Received his B.A. in Religious Studies from California State University (Northridge), pursued his rabbinical studies in Israel where he ordained in 1988. And, last but not least in 1999 he was honored by President George H.W. Bush to preside over and conduct the first annual White House Chanukah Celebration with the President, Vice President and their families. Joyce loves her rabbi and the feeling is mutual.

An informal luncheon (Oneg) for about 200 congregants and family members followed the Service—once again sponsored by her son Jeff and family. We were invited to Joyce’s home for dinner along with some of her friends, neighbors, and family members who came in from Northern and Southern California, Detroit, MI, Chicago and Macedonia. It was so special to see everybody. 
Some of the photos include Joyce with Cecile and I, Joyce with her loving granddaugther, Ariella in front of the birthday cake, Cecile and I with Ariella and various family members who I have come to love over the years and spent many a Thanksgiving with in Chicago while I was attending Podiatric Medical School. Marrying into a Jewish family has been a blessing.

From one Virgo to another (our birthdays are two days apart), Happy Birthday dear Joyce. We will never forget you and Bill for helping Cecile and I on our way up the ladder in life. “Biz hundred un tsvantsig,” which you may know is the Yiddish expression for “May you live to the age of 120,” alternately meaning wishing you good health. We love you!

Spotlight on Cindy Walker: Certified Yoga Instructor, Life Coach, & Dynamic Retreat Leader

                                      By Dr. Dennis Augustine (DPM-Ret.)

“The success of yoga does not lie in the ability to perform postures but in how it positively changes the way we live our life…”—Desikachar

Cindy Walker has been involved with yoga in one form or another for over a quarter century, and in the process has become a well seasoned certified yoga instructor with a loyal following at Yoga Source Los Gatos and Bay Club Courtside in the South San Francisco Bay Area.

As a former certified yoga instructor myself and a dedicated student of this practice for 30 years, I can say without a doubt that Cindy is one of the most gifted yoga teachers in Silicon Valley. 

Though I have taken several of her classes off and on over the years, I wasn’t able to attend her popular 8 AM Sunday morning class at Bay Club Courtside, as I reserved that time to attend an ongoing group sitting meditation session at the Insight Meditation Center in Redwood City. 

This changed however, a few years ago, when my wife Cecile and I downsized our home. Focusing on settling into our new townhome we had very little time to make the forty-five minute commute. This freed me up to take Cindy’s class. I thought it would be temporary. But, after a few weeks went by, I discovered I was experiencing better results from her class than sitting meditation at the center. Cindy’s slower, more mindful vinyasa flow approach to yoga with an emphasis on energetic breath work is akin to a moving meditation really resonated with me. As a result I became one of her regular Sunday morning students.

One of Cindy’s favorite wisdom quotes is by Goethe, an eighteenth century philosopher, novelist, poet, playwright, who once said: “When you trust yourself, you will know how to live.” Cindy tells her students that, “Yoga trains us to reduce the mind’s constant chatter, concentrate on living in the present moment, and focus on what’s most important in our precious lives.”

Her first introduction to yoga was during her college years. She was instantly awakened to the many benefits yoga had to offer, including stress management and a dramatic improvement of her general well-being. In effect, yoga revealed her inner guide, her inner therapist and her body-temple became her sanctuary. 

What distinguishes a good yoga teacher from a great yoga teacher? One could argue it requires superior technical abilities, a great resume, and excellent communication skills to articulate the posture sequences and philosophy of yoga. Cindy certainly has all that and more. She holds a BA in Movement Therapy & Psychology, the prerequisite number of hours of certification through the Yoga Alliance, and has received a number of other yoga certifications including Restorative and Yin Yoga from some of the top teachers in the country. But, what truly makes her a great yoga teacher is how she makes her students feel during class and the residual positive afterglow that carries over to the rest of their day. 

When a student attends one of Cindy’s mixed level classes, you can expect a well choreographed eclectic blend of different styles of yoga and an amazing, full body workout. This is accompanied by a cool tunes playlist ranging from jazz, Afro-Caribbean beats and Indian chants to name a few, invigorating breath movement, guided imagery, playful humor, and ending the class with zen meditation and a deep relaxation pose. 

After years of showing her students how to build muscle strength, improve flexibility and balance, Cindy, a compassionate observer of the human condition, saw a need to help heal the mind. This led her to become a certified Life Coach which she describes as “Yoga of the Mind.” The goal is to assist her clients to overcome everyday obstacles that often get in the way of discovering their authentic selves. 

She accomplishes this by creating the space for clients to recognize and let go of old patterns of thinking and unhealthy belief systems. She then guides them in creating newer and healthier ways of seeing, that allows them to discover peace and inner joy that is not dependent on events that happen outside themselves. 

Through “The Art of Living Life Coaching & Yoga Services” Cindy is available for private one-on-one and group classes, Skype sessions, and conducts workshops, teacher trainings, mentorships and retreats in some of the most tranquil venues throughout the Bay Area. To learn more about this amazing teacher and healer, check out her website and see her contact information below:

http://yogaandtheartofliving.com

email: cindy@y-tal.com

phone: 408-234-6430

 

The Perfect Trifecta: Hiking, Biking & Restorative Yoga

"Movement is a medicine for creating [a positive] change in a person's physical, emotional, and mental states."—Socrates

We are blessed to be living in one of the most hospitable climates and picturesque areas of the world. The day began with an early two mile hike with Cecile and Daisy on the 100 acre grounds where we live. We bumped into neighbor John Perry who recently sent me the attached photo of a Belted Kingfisher resting on a boat dock post, a bird he has been attempting to photograph for four years. 

Later in the morning I drove over to my friend Jimi Hunter's abode off Highway 9. He invited me to join him on another biking adventure on the Los Gatos, Monte Sereno and Saratoga Foothills. The former competitor biker knows these areas like the back of his hand. With the exception of Highway 9 and a few other busy streets we explored the quiet roads less travelled. We stopped in front of the large brick home on Chester Avenue that Cecile and I, Jason and Michelle spent some of our most precious years.

We bumped into a biking club. There were about 15 of them sweating, huffing and puffing. Jimi and I were on electric-assist bikes. 
“You want to get guys like this mad,” he said, “just pull out in front of the pack,” he added with a devilish smile. Within a block from these bicyclists, there were two workers fixing underground pipes. One held a Slow Sign. He waved, smiled, and yelled out to us, “Now that's the way to ride a bike if you can afford to buy one.” Of course there is a presumption that when you use an electric assist bike you’re cheating. Au contraire my dear friends. It is not so different than when we went from regular bikes to three to ten gear shifts, when we were kids. Technology has made it possible for guys like me in my late sixties to re-enter the biking world, climbing steep hills, and loving it. 

We all need healthy exercise activities in our lives that take us away from our computer keyboards or driving even short distances in town. Many of us have explored astonishing little only to witness life passing us by.

We have been up to Montalvo Arts Center many times. The historic villa and surrounding grounds once belonged to the late California Sen. James Phelan. I used to do varying watercolor renditions of the Villa with the Saratoga Community of Painters. We used to refer to it as the “Big House.” When I first moved to California in 1975 I had no idea that the surrounding 175 acres was a county park.
Villa Montalvo was the last but certainly not the least place we explored.

We went to Mr. Pickles for lunch. One sandwich can feed a village. We then went back to Jimi’s home, put the bikes back into his garage. He pointed out the abstract painting that was done on his garage door by one of his former students. Tibetan Prayer flags hang under the car port. We sat around his Buddha fountain and garden, feeling satisfied and grateful for pushing ourselves to commune with nature, exercising our bodies, getting a little sun and breathing in this precious air. I went home for a well deserved nap and went to a 6 PM one-hour restorative yoga class, and captured the this sunset between the trees. Ahhh! Life is good!

I went home for a well deserved nap and went to a 6 PM one-hour restorative yoga class, Ahhh! Life is good!

Reflections on my 68th Birthday, My Bronzed Baby Shoes and a Day of Celebration

My I-Phone was a abuzz with birthday greetings yesterday morning. I want to thank all of my family, friends and yoga teachers for all your good wishes.
I realized I had overslept and missed my 8AM yoga class—but hey it’s my birthday, I told myself, why not? I saw a birthday card and a little booklet Cecile left for me over my sink basin that was entitled 1950: Remember When…A Nostalgic Look Back in Time. 

The richness of life is not only realized in savoring each moment but in recalling the memories, hopes and dreams of my parents who literally taught me how to stand and walk on my own two feet and they left behind a keepsake to prove it—my baby shoes they had bronzed—a tradition that goes back for many generations, and has become an interesting family heirloom (see photo). 

The history of bronzing goes back to before the 6th century B.C. It was originally used to bronze statues, picture frames, dishes and other household items.
Since 1934, the American Bronzing Company has bronzed over 14 million baby shoes for sentimental, loving parents who wanted to memorialize their baby’s or toddler’s first steps.
In other words to freeze a special moment in time. My bronzed baby shoes are a reminder that my parents loved and nurtured me.

I took a late morning swim at Bay Club Courtside with my new Finis Snorkle and a pair of goggles and Finis Duo Underwater MP3 Player that was gifted to me by good friend Jimi Hunter who uploaded it with 800 songs. I had the entire lap pool to myself, unusual for a Sunday.
After swimming some laps I picked up Cecile and Jason and we went to Effie’s Restaurant that serves breakfast all day long. The person in the booth next to us was also celebrating his birthday.

When I was born in 1950 the average Life Expectancy was 68.2 years I had told a radiologist name Richie at the club. “That means you have 2 more months to live it up,” he joked.
But, since I was born the updated Life Expectancy models show that I have 16.9 years of Additional Life which would bring me to 84.9. My late mom lived until 88 and my dad as many of you know lived two weeks shy of 101. “You have great genes,” my friends tell me and my response is always the same: “As long as I don’t get hit by a truck, I will fine.😎Don’t get me wrong, I am not a fatalist. But, as we all know life happens when we are busy making other plans, so my motto is to live life like there is no tomorrow.

After gifting me a Nike Elite Gym Bag, Jason and Alex treated us to a colorful, sumptuous birthday dinner at Furusato Japanese Restaurant, one of our favorite places to eat.

Considering "furusato" means nostalgia for a past and generally speaking “one’s hometown” with connotations of a place that is not a city, but a memory that invokes a strong sense of nostalgia with warm and positive emotions it seemed a fitting place to celebrate both the past and the present moment. 

Photo of me standing on the limb of a tree with my trusty little camera-taken in Sicily when I was 7 years old.

Lunch with a Friend at LeQuy French Vietnamese Restaurant

After taking a yoga class and a swim at Bay Club Courtside this past weekend, I met my friend Jimi Hunter at LeQuy for lunch, located in a strip mall in Campbell, CA.

I ordered Pho (pronounced fuh) which many people know is a Vietnamese noodle soup consisting of broth, rice noodles, herbs and thinly cut meat (or chicken) that comes with a side bowl of fresh raw Thai basil, bean sprouts and hot green peppers that you can add to the broth if you choose. There are also vegetarian versions. Jimi had a vegetarian dish with tofu and crispy noodles and we shared the very addicting Avocado Spring Rolls filled with rice vermicelli, fresh veggies and tightly wrapped in rice paper. 

I never knew what the word “Quy” meant. Vi, one of the restaurant staff told me it means “precious,” a romantic homage to her bosses wife.

SInce immigrating to the United States, the Le-Nguyen family have embraced American culture while staying true to their Vietnamese roots.
They want their customers to know that they infuse their meals with only the freshest ingredients, make their sauces and broths from scratch and take the time
and make a great effort to make sure their food is pure and flavorful which means no artificial ingredients or MSG.
WIth an emphasis on healthy eating, they are committed to using herbs and spices high in antioxidants including, turmeric, ginger, cloves, lemongrass, and garlic, to name a few.

When it comes to preparing traditional Vietnamese food it is governed by the Asian principles of Wu Xing (the five elements). The Vietnamese are well known for balancing five taste elements such as spice, sour, bitter, salt and sweet.
Each of these elements correlate with five organs in the body: gall bladder, small intestine, large intestine, stomach and bladder. Generally speaking cooks try to include five nutrients: powder, water, minerals, protein and fat as well as five colors: white, green,
yellow, red and black in their dishes. The end result are dishes that are balanced and colorful and attractive to the five senses: sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch.

Over the years Vietnamese dishes in Southern Vietnam have been influenced by Southern Chinese immigrants and the French colonists.

The food servers at LeQuy are very attentive and friendly. They have an elaborate menu selection including gluten free and vegetarian options. There is a cozy little bar that is ideal for people who are dining alone or don’t care to wait for a table. They also provide catering services and have a banquet hall in the back for special events.

In closing, don’t let the old fixtures, furniture, the blue checkerboard curtains and the American Diner-type atmosphere take away from it’s authenticity! Embrace the casual ambience. Its part of its charm, and the hassle free parking is a plus.

Photo Credit for last photo of baskets of fresh ingredients: Freedom Asia Website

 

Experiential Dining at Mynt Leaf Asian Cuisine Proves to Be a Feast for the Senses

“The foods of Southeast Asia are some of the most distinctive and flavorful dishes in the world…” —Landess Kearns, HuffPost

I received an email today from a woman named June, who I see at various yoga classes now and again at our health club. She, her husband George and a group of friends are going to a concert this coming weekend at the Mountain Winery Amphitheater and she wanted to dine at a restaurant I had told her about—before the show—but couldn’t recall the name. 
“It’s Mynt Leaf Cuisine in Saratoga,”I wrote back, “that specializes in an exotic blend of Asian Fusion dishes.” 
Cecile and I have become regular patrons over the last few years and had dinner there last Saturday with Cecile’s Mahjong friends Lori and Marleen and their husbands Rob and Mark who have also become fans.

When you enter Mynt Leaf there is a golden bronze-like Buddha image in a meditative state superimposed on a red and white painted lattice design at the top of the wall near the ceiling. Many people associate a meditating Buddha with peace and tranquility and incorporate images and statues in their homes, gardens and place of business in an effort to create that state of being for themselves and for their customers. Even for those who know little about Buddhism the Buddha image has become a universal symbol that reminds people to be mindful, and aspire to go with the flow in times of stress.

From the artistic point of view, the walls and surfaces are laden with Thai artwork and statues, canopies of colorful fabric hanging from the ceiling, ornate vases of flowers, yellow and beige accent curtains, crimson and burnt sienna pillows that adorn dark wooden benches and chairs, black napkins with red and gold decorative jewel-like napkin rings and silverware that glistens in low ambient lighting making for a pleasing and comfortable dining experience. It is an experiential feast of the senses to be sure.

The 3D Golden elephant menus are filled with a huge selection of imaginative tantalizing dishes for the most descriminating palates, with a wide variety of vegetarian options suited to the spice level of your choosing. We began our meal by sharing Thai style Chicken Satay with peanut sauce and cucumber salad, Garlic Noodles with New York Steak, green beans, my favorite Yellow Curry with grilled salmon, carrots, potatoes and onion, and Crispy Trout as you can see is standing erect in our friends plate.
"Hmmm, rather phallic looking," someone said to break the silence as we were all gawking at it trying to figure out what it was. I guess the chef took some bizarre artistic culinary license.

Other reasons to dine at the Mynt Leaf, are the attentive service, reasonable prices, low noise level—quiet enough to carry on conversation, fabulous “people watching,” and last but not least their “Bring Your Own Beer or Wine Policy” with a twist—no pesky, wasteful corkage fees. 

P.S. Kudos to our friend Lori for taking a week out of her summer to volunteer to help the people of Puerto Rico recover from Hurricane Maria.

Managing to Get By with a Little Help From our Friends & a Broader View of Life's Challenges

“Man plans, and God Laughs.”

—Old Yiddish proverb

It has been a challenging two weeks. Despite our best-laid plans, Cecile and I had to cancel our much anticipated three week tour of Bolivia, Machu Picchu and the Galapagos Islands with our friends, the Byes. But, as they say, life goes on.

We are blessed to live in a rich supportive, multi-cultural community, and we wouldn’t have it any other way. I bumped into an Iranian American friend at Courtside Bay Club. I shared with him the personal issues that forced us to cancel our trip. We then went on to talk about the twin-engine Cessna airplane that recently took a sudden nose-dive and crashed into a parking lot in Santa Ana, CA. Five people died, including an Iranian woman in her early 60s who was a beloved mentor to our friends son. Suddenly, the personal challenges and setbacks Cecile and I were experiencing paled in comparison.

I went to get a haircut at “Happy Cuts” and was assigned to a gentle soul and good-humored Vietnamese American hair stylist named Kim. She asked if I travel much? I spared her the details about having to cancel our trip and spoke about our travels to South East Asia including Vietnam earlier in the year during the Vietnamese New Year (TET). Like the much beloved late Anthony Bourdain, we love Vietnam and the Vietnamese people.

Later in the afternoon, I bumped into our next door neighbor, Vladimir, a retired engineer with a passion for furniture restoration. I asked him for some advice on repairing a picture frame that had fallen off our wall. Vladimir is a native of Moscow who has lived at Rinconada Hills with his wife Lucy for 20 years. He meticulously fixed the frame in his garage with the skill of a surgeon. 

After a delicious nap, Cecile and I were among the honored guests of our friend's Ruth and Stan for the Friday Jewish Sabbath (Shabbat) meal at their Almaden Valley home. Many of those present were transplants from the East Coast like myself. Though the Bay Area will always be our home there is nothing like exchanging the colorful New York and New Jersey tales of my childhood with those who can more readily appreciate it.

It has been said that hospitality is simply an opportunity to show love and care. Stan and his gracious, vivacious and charming wife Ruth express that in spades. Forever generous with her praises, I have never heard Ruth have a bad word to say about anyone among her large network of friends and our mutual acquaintances. She is always the light and life of the party and derives a great deal of joy in sharing the attibutes of her friends at any given gathering.

Shabbat begins as sunset approaches with the lighting of the candles and a blessing over a special braided bread called Challah that is broken into pieces and passed around for everyone to share. Though it is not a tradition I grew up with, I gratefully embrace it as my own. Our good friend and neighbor Mark Brodsky originally from Long Island, chanted the Hebrew prayer with a deep voice and rhythmic cadence, something he always enjoys doing when the opportunity presents itself. 

This ancient ritual, is symbolic of giving thanks to the creator for the food we are fortunate to eat and the mechanism by which the raw grain from the blessed earth is used to make the bread that finds its way to the table of most Jewish households around the world. 

We ate our main meal under the night’s sky. Ruth made her signature brisket (delish…), along with asparagus, salad, miniature potato pancakes, followed by an assortment of cookies, and apple pie for dessert. The conversations flowed as easily as the assortment of wines being offered. No one gets through life without scars, without “tsuris” which in Yiddish means aggravating trouble, and that includes everyone we broke bread with at our table.

Ruth’s favorite quote in this regard is that “Everything will be okay in the end. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end.” Though attributed to John Lennon, it has descended from an old Indian proverb. Its first contemporary use was by Portuguese writer, Fernando Sabino. It means one should be happy because everything is never going to be completely the way we want it to be unless it is the end, so accept the fact that life is always filled with flaws and enjoy the moment. We all have personal setbacks, losses of loved ones, illnesses or accidents, broken hearts and at times tortured minds by events beyond our control. On the other hand, life can provide us with unanticipated good fortune.


 

Biking on the Los Gatos Trails to San Jose Airport & Watching the Planes Come In

“Life is like a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving.”
—Albert Einstein

I was invited to take our Sondor's E-Bikes on the road for an extended ride by my good friend Jimi Hunter.
Our 27 mile round trip journey began meeting in front of Courtside Bay Club where we are members. We crossed the street and entered the grounds of Netflix Headquarters and Campus, making our way to a little unknown pathway in the back that exits onto the Los Gatos Creek Trail heading toward Campbell. There are nicely paved trails on each side of the creek that loop around the ponds which were still abundantly full due to the winter rains. We continued on the main trail on the west bank until the overcrossing at Campbell Park. We then took the southern segment of the LG Trail that ends in San Jose where we had to navigate some city traffic for a short time until we picked up the trail again further downstream. The City of San Jose is working to connect the trail to the Guadalupe River Trail in Downtown San Jose.

Jimi pointed to a number of homeless encampments under the overpasses. I felt a bit of sadness, wondering what led to their misfortune. Before I knew it we were at our planned destination: the outer grounds of San Jose Airport where the planes appearing bigger than life were preparing to land. It was such a rush to witness the Southwest Airline jet seen in the photo come so close overhead. 

We bumped into a couple of dudes who admired our bikes. After giving them a tutorial on the features of the bike Jimi offered them to take his for a spin. Jimi’s a generous spirit that way. I am still gun shy after letting a friend ride my new shiny red Vespa motor scooter when I was 15. He crashed it—damaging the front end in the process. One guy accepted Jimi's offer and he returned elated, thanking him for the opportunity.

We then made a pit stop at a convenience store for water and an energy bar and headed home. Along the way we saw reservoirs, a community of geese munching on the bright green grass with the LG foothills in the back drop.

I took a delicious nap that left me refreshed. I was concerned that my body would be aching the next day and was pleasantly surprised that I worried for naught. I felt great!

Ecstatic Flower Blossoms & Stalking the Elegant Great Egret for a Winning Photo Shot

“Flowers are sweet. They have short beautific lives. They offer much pleasure. There is nothing in the world that can be said against them. Sad, isn’t it, that all they can kiss is the air. Yes, yes! We are the lucky ones.” —Mary Oliver

Cecile and I passed this Royal Blue Hydarangeas on the walking trails with the blue green pond in the backdrop near our townhome. These classic flowers—first discovered in Japan—coalesce together to form a signature globe-shaped head resembling pompoms. They symbolizes heartfelt emotions, used to express gratitude to others for our being understood. 

The Great Egret visits us from time to time. They boast a showy brilliant white plummage and are found around the world. I have sighted them in Asia, Canada, Africa and Australia. Locally, we have seen them at Shoreline and Vasona Lake. They have long black legs and feet, long graceful necks and straight, pointed, yellow bills.

I discovered this one wading patiently in the shallow water of the pond stalking fish. I watched it stab and grab a tiny fish into its mouth. Egrets also prey on reptiles, amphibians and small mammals. I was doing a bit of stalking myself—for that perfect photograph. I managed some nice closeups but was hoping to capture it in front of the waterfall.

Well, I got my wish. Feeling I got just a little too close, the egret took off in flight. I not only managed to get a photo of it landing, but when it reached the opposite shore it began moving toward and then in front of the waterfall. Bingo! I had my “money shot.” Now that is what I call a happy accident or was it the power of my intention in operation? When they fly, their neck draws back in to an S-shaped curve. 

Their feathers are stunning. Sadly, these elegant birds were hunted to near extinction towards the 19th century.
Their feathers were used to make hats. Following conservation efforts, their numbers grew well into the 20 century. The Great Egret was chosen as the symbol of the Audubon Society, the environmental organization that was formed to protect birds.

The glorious Tropical Canna Lily has bright large yellow-orange blooms and exotic multi-colored striated foliage. They symbolize magnificent beauty, brilliance of truth and sacredness. It is native to southern Africa. Canna Lilies are also known as the tantalizing water dragon and trumpet lily, though in fact it is not even a lily. It was misnamed by a famous Swedish botanist, Carolus Linnaaeus, and was later corrected by German Koch, a German botanist.

Last but not least is the red Epiphyllum Cactus Flowers (Jungle Cactus). Epiphyllums can be found in Mexico, the Carribbean and through Central America and South America. Hybrids like this one, are commonly referred to as “Orchid Cacti” due to their luminous blossoms resembling tropical orchids. They are hardy and easy to grow. I was first introduced to the Empiphyllum by my next door neighbor, Howard who hybridizes them. He has one growing in a pot and in a long planter on our neighboring patio wall. We get to enjoy them during their short blooming period. They take your breath away.

 

Friends, Family, Fireworks and the "Fountain of Youth" on the 4th of July

Cecile and I began our day with a 7:30 AM walk up and around the top of hillside and down and around the picturesque lake where we live. 
Shortly later, I went to Courtside Bay Club, where I was cheerfully greeted front desk staff members, Haley and Greg in their 4th of July flag decorated hair.
I swam and spent several hours relaxing by the pool, doing some contemplative reading, cross-word puzzles and watching an Aqua-Fit class get underway on this mild, sunny, breezy California day.

With all the political rancor, division and negative news from the Cable News outlets bombarding us daily, the 4th of July
was a perfect day to relax, taking time to be with friends and family, being thankful to those who fought for our freedom while remembering those—known and unknown beings—whose freedoms haven’t come so easy.

I walked over from the adult lap and exercise pool to the family pool on the other side of the club, chatted with a friend and sat and watched the overflowing fountain
with the blue umbrella top as seen in the photo. Metaphorically speaking, it reminded me of the mythical “Fountain of Youth,” a spring that restores the youth of anyone who drinks and bathes in its waters. Explorers of old were looking for a physical location written about in fantasy and fables. The metaphor has been lost in translation. It is not a physical place of course, but rather a metaphysical place that when awakened regenerates the physical being while elevating our consciousness. In this case it is a different kind of freedom, one not dependent on circumstances or events happening outside of ourselves. 

After taking a late afternoon nap we went to a 4th of July dinner party on the tiled patio of our friend’s Mark and Marleen’s hill-top home that overlooks the Valley. Strategically, it was the perfect place to socialize with friends and witness the colorful fireworks display with friends and our son Jason and Alex. The energetic and patriotic marching music of John Philip Sousa was playing in the backdrop reminding me when Jason and I played the clarinet and saxophone respectively for the Saratoga Community Band back in the day.

On the week of this 4th of July and going forward:

May all Beings be Peaceful
May all Beings be Happy.
May all Beings be Healthy
May all Beings be Safe
May all Beings be Free

Celebrating at our Friend’s Sophie & Bernie Weinzimmer’s 70th Birthdays at Castillo’s Hillside Shire Winery

The guest invitation set the theme for the evening: Blast from the Past: "Dear Dudes and Dudettes, Turn the big 70. Bell bottoms and tie dyes would be fun threads to wear.” Over 50 friends and family members were in attendance for the funky evening that included the birthday couple’s beloved children and precious grandchildren. 

Sophie and Bernie join celebrities like Billy Crystal, James Taylor Stevie Nicks, Ozzie Osborn, Alice Cooper and Steve Tyler to name a few who have or are celebrating the BIG 70 this year. Can you dig it?

Dear Sophie and Bernie, in the words of Richard Gere, …”We are always the same age inside. Know that you are the perfect age. Each year is special and precious, you can only live it once. Do not regret growing older, it’s a privilege denied to many.” 

Thanks for inviting us to share your special milestone. The setting was enchanting, tranquil and serene. I had a moment to reflect and meditate at the whimsical pond and we were graced with a beautiful sunset.

May you live everyday like it’s your birthday!

Peace Out!