Below is the breathtaking view from our Swiss Balcony! I’m finally over jet lag and the rush of getting the kids settled in school etc. so I thought today is as good as any day to update the blogging world of my status: finally at home in Switzerland. Home to me is really wherever my family is. All we have from CA is a suitcase each so possessions aren’t what makes a home for me. (I do admit I miss having space to spread out, but since we have barely any stuff there is nothing really to spread–plus it’s way easier to clean a tiny space!) We shipped a 4X5X6 pallet with much needed winter stuff and sundry, which is supposed to arrive in 2 weeks. There have surprisingly only been a few bumps in the road to making Switzerland my new home—the last of which was acquiring a visa. We are now all legal residents here and to celebrate I purchased a demi tarif for each of us which is a ½ price card for the Swiss train system.
Probably the most shocking revelation about Switzerland is that Adderall, which my son needs for severe ADHD, is illegal here. The only alternative is a drug used for narcolepsy and sometimes prescribed off brand to Americans (ADHD I’ve been told is a purely American phenomenon.) All I know is that Adderall has helped by son tremendously for the last 6 years! So far my son’s transition into this Swiss American School has not been without challenges—and that’s with him taking his Adderall—god help his teachers. I’ll reserve my opinion of Swiss medical care once I’m here a year or so and get a real perspective. It’s supposed to be the best in the world which is why I was so shocked about the Adderall. Truth is—if I had known that Adderall was illegal here I never would have come. So just as well that it was a surprise because it’s really going to be a great experience for all of us.
The hardest part of moving ½ way around the world for me is my work and the time difference. Most of my clients are in the US and most of them are in CA, which is a 9hour difference. So my workday starts at 2pm if I’m working on the East Coast and 5pm for my CA business. Traditionally I’m not a night person. My mother can tell you stories of little Jennie putting herself to bed at 7. So I’m literally going to have to alter my circadian rhythm. My husband has been so great to let me sleep in the mornings but most nights I loose steam way too early. I’m not sure yet if my visa will allow me to earn CHF and I really want to continue earning USD anyway. Maybe I can alter my business plan to open up worldwide markets to expats? That might be fun! I’ve moved people all over the world to the US after all so I don’t see why I can’t move US citizens all over the world!
For now Switzerland is officially my home with my family and I’m more and more excited every day about the experience we are giving to our children—not to mention my genius husband who needs constant challenges or his brain will literally atrophy.
In Buddhism we talk about seeking our mission for Kosen Rufu (world peace). I never questioned that my mission was in the United States. Now it appears that my mission is in Switzerland—a place where I do not speak any of the 3 national languages. I have visited once. Seems like a lifetime ago because it was before I met my husband. Summer in the Alps was beautiful! It seemed like every hike involved finding an isolated tavern in the middle of nowhere on some mountain top that served beer. A friend hosted dinner in his parent’s garden and everyone was happy to speak English. Zurich was one of the highlights of that European trip. So when my husband said that he’d like to move out of the country, Switzerland was on the list of places I would say yes to.
As a headhunter myself I can appreciate how it happened. My husband listed his resume with a specialized recruiting group with a note that he would entertain offers outside the US. A couple months ago he got a call from a headhunter—would he consider moving to Switzerland? A handful of skype interviews later and he had a job offer! We literally had 48 hours to decide whether or not we wanted to change our lives forever.
The kids are excited! They both have friends that they will be leaving and my daughter is at a critical stage in High School—but the truth is they are more enthusiastic that I am. I’m glad that my husband and I are able to give them this once in a lifetime experience but I know it will be a hard change for me. I’ve put down roots and made deep connections with people here in Northern California; I own my own business; I love my Buddhist community; I’m accustomed to the convenience of Amazon and 24 hour grocery stores and shopping on Sundays.
The reality is–I’m in a rut. I’ve gotten used to drinking wine every night and watching TV. I stopped going to yoga and haven’t blogged in months. I only have a few more years with my kids before they are off to college and I’ve gotten out of the habit of making nightly family meals—we sit down together once a week or so. Will a dramatic change in geography snap me out of this rut? I’m not sure, but I do know that I’m not hiking up a steep alpine road every day carrying multiple bottles of wine. Also all that walking in the Alps will quickly make me fit.
I have a lot to learn from the Swiss! Their neutrality is something so foreign to me. I have very strong opinions and have an intolerance for conservative dogma. I’ll have to summon my Buddhist Nature and really learn how to dialogue. The United Nations is in Geneva after all where all the notable world peace deals are made. The Swiss also are very serious about their protection. Switzerland is one of the 10 safest places on Earth. The Swiss Guard protect the Pope because they can kick some serious ass! My son also informed me that all of the entry points into Switzerland are rigged to blow and block entrance if there is a risk of invasion—also all large buildings are required to have a bomb shelter. Protection of clean air and water are a given there (unlike in the US where Trump and the new EPA is rolling back air and water protections as I type—I literally threw my phone when I read the news this morning).
Speaking of Trump—he makes it very easy to say yes to Switzerland. Perhaps I can expand my business into Switzerland where I can recruit Bay Area workers to become expats because they too are totally freaked out by Trump. Cost of living is pretty comparable.
So I’m off on a grand adventure—one that will hopefully inspire change and growth. I don’t want to become stagnate and septic with my too comfortable life. As I was explaining to someone this weekend—at my core I am always afraid of everything. But what I like to do with my fear is challenge it. I believe it’s better to have lived and have experiences (even if some of the experiences aren’t positive) than to live with too much caution. My kids thankfully didn’t inherit my fear—they are both lovers of adventure like their father.
I was really despondent after the election—I cried for 2 days and didn’t get more than an hour of sleep. Since I work at home I was also isolated in my despair and only had Facebook to connect with. Then I got a call from a Buddhist friend. “Would you be willing to read the Buddhist study material for the month and respond to it at Saturday’s meeting? It will make you feel better. I promise.” So I stepped up and committed to Saturday’s meeting. Since the election I was having trouble chanting Nam Myoho Renge Kyo with much regularity, which is our primary practice as SGI Buddhists. I know how much chanting and reading inspires me but I was so influenced by the new reality of a Trump Presidency that I couldn’t even do basic things that I know make me feel better. So in preparation for Saturday’s meeting I sat down with the Living Buddhism and began to read the study material in the back of the issue (always my favorite section.) My friend Judy was right. I began to feel better immediately. So I thought I would share some of my Buddhist thoughts about the election, which the study material inspired. Hopefully you will be inspired too.
As Bodhisattvas of the Earth we took a vow in the remote past to share the values of Buddhism and the Lotus Sutra: Peace, Hope, Respect for all People, Inclusiveness, Equality, Humanity, Self Reflection, Self Improvement, Happiness, Standing Up for Justice for all people, and Practice for Others to name a few. This vow to share our ideals (shakubuku) starts in our family and in our community in the realities of this world, which now means in Trump’s America. This Buddhism is a practice of action. Criticism without action is just complaining. I know I complain a lot—mostly on Facebook. How could ½ the country be so misogynistic and racist? I also post a lot about the wave of attacks on Muslims, Latinos, and LGBT that is happening since Trump’s election. But complaining foils fortune—a saying I learned as Young Women’s Division member when I first started practicing Buddhism. So what can I do? What is my action and my response to Trump without moaning about how terrible life is going to be and already is with people feeling like they have permission to behave badly and (as we are now seeing) violently against minorities, immigrants, women and LGBT. My answer is that I need to go back to my vow to pass along the belief of respect for all people.
Funny–I’ve met older people over the years that when I ask them about their kids they say their kids will not speak to them. I admit I immediately judged them—what did they do? Why would grown child make the choice not to talk with her parents unless they really fucked up? Silly me.
I am now in the position that my father will not speak to me. When I call he is unavailable. He never returns my calls. I did receive an email from him that he will speak with me when I stop spreading lies about Trump on Facebook. I recently put my father on a restricted list on facebook so he could only see global posts. He told my mother–who is very much talking with me and at a lost of what my father is doing–that he thought I unfriended him. I took him off the restricted list and he’s still not talking with me. We do exchange emails. He has been spamming me for years with his FOX news conspiratorial theories—sometimes I reply back, which sometimes gets a response back. In our last email exchange he tried to convince me that when Trump was quoted as saying blacks are lazy he meant only do nothing welfare moms. I pointed out his racism and stated that most welfare moms are white. But you get the point of how far apart my father and I are on the political spectrum. Is racism on the political spectrum?
I grew up admiring my father. I thought he could do no wrong until after I was married. Really that’s how long the myth of the invincible, perfect father lasted. Then life happened and I could no longer deny that he was in fact human and imperfect. I got a phone call after my son was born from my mother. Apparently my father makes mistakes just like the rest of us. I forgave him. I see my daughter idealize my husband like I did with my Dad—the 2 of us Daddy’s girls. It is only natural I think for a daughter to love her father like that.
I honestly don’t care how Trump crazy my father is—he’s still family and I love him. Apparently Trump’s reputation is more important to him that a relationship with his daughter.
Yes I’m voting for Hilary. I’m voting for Pro-Choice Supreme Court justices. I’m voting for Equal pay for Women. I’m voting for 4 years of better than Obama! No TPP. Common sense gun reform! Reversal of Citizen’s United. My hope is there will be less innocent blacks killed in the hands of police.
I’m also voting against Trump. Fear creating, xenophobic, anti-Muslim and Mexican, Misogynist, Backed by Putin, North Korea, and white supremacists like David Duke etc—that Donald Trump.
He is an embarrassment.
So yes my father isn’t speaking to me. Yes that’s devastatingly sad. I just hope that when Hillary wins and Congress goes Democratic she doesn’t make Obama’s mistake by not doing anything in those 1st 2 years. Republicans hate you Hillary and if you think they will block you less then they blocked Obama—you’re too optimistic. Republicans will stop you at every second and every chance. So—when you get this 2 year window which I believe is possible in November—do not waste one second of time! We are counting on you!
A few months ago I found out that I have a cholesterol problem. After researching statin medications with side effects such as memory loss and severe muscle pain I decided to talk to my doctor about alternatives. He said that some people’s bodies as they get older just make bad cholesterol (which would mean I would have no choice but to take a statin) and some people have high cholesterol because they consume too much of it (which means I can change my eating pattern to be healthy). So we decided to do an experiment. For 1 month I went on a very strict diet (which I will describe) and then at the end I retook my blood test to see if my cholesterol has reduced. The results were stunning! My CHOL test went from 270 to 200 with healthy at <239 and my LDL went from 161 to 103 with healthy at <159.
Here is what I did to reduce my cholesterol: I eliminated butter and coconut oil and replaced it with olive oil and avocado oil; stopped eating all baked goods; no coffee for me which I didn’t know has bad cholesterol and replaced it with tea; only low fat dairy–cutting out creamy cheese was one of the hardest parts; I took fish oil supplements to elevate my good cholesterol; only egg whites; no shrimp or crab; lots of canned tuna salads; no mayo replacing it with balsamic vinegar; stopped dipping my veggies in ranch dressing and instead used homemade hummus; I never really ate a lot of red meat so it was easy not to touch that for a month; added beans and lentils to my daily diet (beans and lentils attach to bad cholesterol and flush it out of your body); ate more fruits and veggies; I tried oatmeal and discovered that I still hate it; no more nachos; I took sterols supplements (the brand I used is called Cholesterol Off) which has been proven to reduce LDL; I ate a grapefruit a day. One thing that I should have done which is really hard for me is to elevate my heart rate for 1/2 an hour a day.
The day I got my blood test I was so excited to eat something with cholesterol that I binged on cheese and bad Chinese food and ended up getting sick (probably from rancid oil from the cheap Chinese food place). It would be pretty hard for me to live on a strict cholesterol diet so I think I will try moderation minus the Chinese food and retake my blood test in 6 months. In the meantime I will try to go on more hikes and brisk walks throughout the week.
Here is a Spicy Bean Soup Recipe that I posted. I used the leftovers to make bean tacos the next day. Yum!
Here in Northern California we are experiencing a winter of El Nino which means cold rainy days. On days like this I crave warm spicy soup (and a shot of cinnamon whisky if I let my alcoholic self make decisions). Warm Spicy Soup can mean a lot of things but in a family with a daughter who has a very low tolerance for spice and a son that likes a lot of spice, it’s hard to make something both kids will eat. I recently heard from my Dr that I need to work on lowering my cholesterol which means for me eating more beans and less butter and shrimp (crap now I’m craving shrimp with butter noodles!). So on this rainy cold day I decided to make Black Bean Soup (Hubby will make meat to go along with it–since I’m not allowed to cook meat anymore which is another post all together) . Last time I attempted this soup I made it from dried beans and in the end of cooking them all damn day they were still pretty hard (soup fail). So this time I decided to use canned beans. I combed the internet for recipes and decided in the end that I would have to create my own because who better to know my family’s taste than me right?!
I love my dutch oven! I would marry it except that I love rubbing my husbands feet too much to give that up (seriously he has the sexiest feet).
Here’s the recipe I ended up:
Heat Dutch oven and add salt, olive oil, garlic, onion, 2 diced carrots, 2 diced celery ribs, 1 jalapeno, 1 red bell pepper diced. Cook for 5 minutes. Add 1 teaspoon cumin. Cook 2 minutes. Add box of chicken stock, 3 cans of black beans, 1 can diced tomatoes. Cook for 2 hours on simmer. Take 1/2 of the soup and blend and then add back into soup. Here is a pic of the soup once blended.
Serve with avocado, feta (instead of sour cream which I can’t have with my cholesterol), cilantro, and scallions.
I served in bowls my mother-in-law gave to us which I adore.
Add more or less Cumin and Jalapeno for desired spicy-ness.
Every human being encounters challenges and obstacles at some point in the course of a lifetime. There is no escaping birth, old age, sickness and death in addition to the daily challenges we face living a life. The What of our problems are not as important as the How we face them. Buddhism offers a means by which we can challenge our obstacles and even regard problems as a source of benefit.
Right now I’m at a point in my life where I have very few worries. My family is all enjoying good health and I’m not in conflict with a single person in my environment. Sure I have daily annoyances like the car door not latching or resolving not to drink as much alcohol and sticking to my resolution–but all in all I’m enjoying a lot of peace and good fortune in my daily life. Buddhism teaches that by overcoming and addressing our dilemmas including our own shortcomings we can polish our life and train ourselves to respond with optimism to future problems. In fact in a sense, challenges can be welcomed with joy and with a spirit of confidence that you can become a better person because of this difficulty. “The realm of kosen-rufu–in which we see difficulties as peace and comfort, as a badge of honor, and advance while surmounting every obstacle–is the “soil” in which people of truly great character are nurtured and grow.” (Living Buddhism 1/16, page 50) So I should be hoping for some calamity to face? I should open my life to a trial of some sorts? After all we all face problems living a life as a human being. Still I can not bring myself to wish for trouble. Instead I choose to enjoy what there is to enjoy right now in this moment and pray that when a predicament arises I can experience the confidence to confront it head on with a hopeful response. In the meantime while I savor this good fortune, I resolve to strengthen my Buddhist practice and confront with an open mind any shortcomings that I observe. Hopefully I can see my next challenge as a source of benefit that will strengthen and enrich my life rather than reacting with fear or defeat.
Putrid Stagnant Water
“Have faith that is like ceaselessly flowing water. Stagnant water becomes putrid because it stands still. The same is true of our lives: Not advancing is regressing”, said 2nd SGI President Toda.
I’m feeling stagnant. Kids, husband and work are fine—nothing distressing and nothing exciting happening at the moment. But I find myself pouring that glass of wine before evening Gongyo (evening Buddhist prayer) and then some nights blowing it off entirely. I recently started my own company and hired my first employee. Now is the time to challenge myself with work—but I seem to be in a just getting by pattern instead of making a push for new business. My kids are still at the age where I can suggest an activity that they might like. Still I find myself letting them hang out in their rooms rather than going for a hike or into The City to a museum. My husband and I spend too much time watching TV and drinking wine when we could be playing chess or making mad love at every chance we get. My water is stagnant and I’m not propelling myself into my mission (which I’m still trying to figure out). I’m clearly not advancing and so according to Toda I’m regressing. That feels true to me. If I stand in one place and watch the world go by I will be left behind. My company will never be as successful as I would like, my kids will grow up distant, and my husband will find a life more exciting if I continue this inaction. So the cure to stagnant water is to take action toward my happiness–first by doing regular Gongyo and then by challenging that lazy part of me that just wants to drink wine and hang out. I don’t want to live my life on cruise control. I want to inspire my kids and model happiness for them.
I have a week without Hubby and the kids. In the few times that this has happened I’ve been so lonely I’ve cried. This time I celebrate the kids successfully growing up (so far) and 14 years of marriage. After hitting a rocky patch, Hubby and I agreed this last year was the Best Year Ever!
I’m sure there are shelves worth of self-help marriage books about listening to each other and supporting each other in your decisions. This is of course good advice but what saved our marriage was good and often sex.
I’m sure you don’t want the details but if you do just use your imagination, which is what we used in our bedroom.
So this year I’m celebrating 13 years of child rearing (which has produced happy kids–so far), and 14 years of marriage. I plan on cleaning the kids’ rooms, hours of uninterrupted Daimoku, Buddhist meetings at the house, a girls’ night out and plenty of masturbation.