Archive for January, 2011

A Shot In The Arm

Actually it was more like three shots in one arm. But as of last Friday, I am officially vaccinated! The first shot was fine. By the second, my arm hurt and the injection was much more noticeable. By the third, when the doctor said, “you might feel a slight burning sensation”, my arm felt like dead lead.

I spent the weekend recuperating between work and chores, relieved to have the fearful process of shots out of the way. I have a prescription for more antibiotic/malaria medication than I have ever had a prescription for anything in my life. Four months of a daily pill with side effects including photo sensitivity (that will be wonderful in Southeast Asia and Kenya; I am going to invest seriously in SPF as high as it goes).

The entire experience is becoming more real with each day and with each frightening item crossed off the list of seemingly endless to do’s in order to leave my life for four months, and to travel to five countries on two separate continents. The other night as I finally unplugged the computer and relaxed, I realized between my work and other obligations I will only have one more Sunday night in my apartment. This realization drove it all home how close this is really getting. I was sad for a moment because this house has been such a wonderful sanctuary for me all of these years and the time seems to be going so fast. But it also made me realize how fast any sense of time can go – a month of travel, a few months in California, a month of volunteering in Africa and before I know it, that too will have slipped through from fear into reality and then to memory and then to part of the fiber that makes me who I am as a person.

There are such floods of feelings to leave your life behind even if it is only for a few months; but then again there are such monsoons of emotions just going through life that we too often don’t notice or give space and time to properly acknowledge. The feeling of fear dissipates and leaves excitement only to be overtaken by the myriad of emotions we can’t imagine. I feel such relief to have completed something that felt so daunting before, and nervous for everything I have yet to experience.

And as each new blast of cold and storm of snow hits the streets of New York (these seem constant in recent days), I remember in one month I will be in a hot, humid, crazy new place, and I might even miss the snow then. Each time this thought bubbles up, it gives me this moment to think that if this isn’t the greatest lesson in “this too shall pass,” I don’t know what is. And asI lose gloves in cabs and buy new pairs, I remind myself to remember this cold for the good and bad, because on a steamy night I might feel the slightest bit of relief in the fact that it is out there. It also has shown me the lesson to take with me along the trip that no matter how daunting or overwhelming not only shall this pass, but I might even be able to put it in context and a time line. This too shall pass and my arm while still slightly bruised, doesn’t hurt the way it did last Saturday when I had to take a taxi home with my groceries, too tired and sore to carry them. My nights in a house I have come to know and rely on will in less than a month slip into memory and a place of recalled dreams. Just as all things in life this too shall pass, it may come back up time and again and I may not be able to quell all my fears with a meditation of snow on one side of the planet and sweltering heat on the other, but it has given me perspective in a way I have never been able to see it so clearly before.




01 2011

The Bees Need You

The bee population is on decline. Since the end of the last century the bee community has been dropping in radical and sad numbers, and can no longer be ignored. Regardless of how you feel about these little wonder creatures they do more for our world and our environment than could ever be rightly credited. Every day you are enjoying the benefits of the bees from the food you eat, to the cotton you wear, to the stunning flowers and trees they pollinate. Plus who doesn’t love HONEY!

They need your help and you can act now to save these incredible workers. It is a complicated decline and one I could never properly convey but please visit these sites to learn more NRDC, The Xerces Society, and Conservation International.

And then take action, get involved TODAY and sign the petition at AVAAZ to help our planet’s friend the humble bumble bee (and all others, no prejudice).

Thanks to Carol Sue for sharing this worthwhile petition, and for loving the planet as much as she loves me!

All buzzed about this,



01 2011

Escaping My Life To Slip Into Another World At The Movies

Life is full; we all know it too well these days. There is work and the things you have to do to get through the daily grind – groceries, cooking, laundry, bills – let’s not get started. We are busy and our calendars look like overstuffed sausages, so sometimes it’s nice to slip away and dive into another world, even if it is only for two hours.

In the past month here are two movies I have escaped away to and wanted to share with you. So find some time, get the popcorn, turn off the phone and give yourself over to these two marvelous films.

SOMEWHERE : This is the newest film by Sofia Coppola. I am a huge Sofia Coppola fan, no matter how sparse time is, I find the space to see her films as soon as I can in a theater. Support artists you love!

The film is a quiet contemplation on so many things – life, loneliness in an ever-growing world of “connection”, the relationships that we have and the way we relate. It is like a poem with less said in dialogue and on the surface than is sumptuously shown in each remarkable shot and image. Sofia Coppola has a way of melding both the insane and mundane and also the organic and natural in a world that it doesn’t always fit in. In her previous film LOST IN TRANSLATION one of my favorite moments is after the night they go out karaoking and on the drive back to the hotel through Tokyo there is a silent shot of the distant full moon juxtaposed to the neon and steel of the modern world. In a similar way in SOMEWHERE there are lingering shots of the a blue sky and remarkable scenes of driving in Southern California going from the city and freeways of LA out along the coast, through trees, and into the golden sun soaked vastness.


THE KINGS SPEECH: A remarkable film that somehow feels fittingly timed with all of the royal wedding craziness that clutters the news. With two phenomenal performances by Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush, the film is both a fantastic character piece and a fantastic story of friendship. It shows that no matter how much our voice is stunted or impeded we can overcome or compensate when we truly have something to say. It is a wonderful story not just of finding a voice but of becoming the person we are meant to be no matter how frightening that is or may seem. It is about the people who help us become who we are and the people who help us find our voice or how to use it.

The King's Speech

We all need to escape sometimes. It is the dark theaters of these two movies and the worlds they brought me to that were well worth the time I carved out to get there. I hope you all find some time in this hectic month and if you are contemplating running away, just run to your multiplex and check out one of these two fantastic films!

Happy Escaping,



01 2011

Gratitude List

There have been many times and vast more reasons these past few years for me to pause and think consciously of the innumerable things I am grateful for. As we start a year that holds so much potential and paths of growth and expansion for me, I thought I would take a moment to reflect on these aspects in my life. So this New Year, instead of making a wish list for the next year or any of  the countless resolutions for 2011, I decided to end 2010 and start this next year and decade with a little project I call the Gratitude List.

Seeing that I am thirty-three years old, I decided to make the list thirty-three items (I know that I could far exceed this number and for that alone I am grateful, but I will not count this as part of the list). Some of the items are categories because I couldn’t count friends or family as each individual person, but please know in my mind and heart I am thinking of each of you and remembering your name in a special and personal way.  Without further hesitation, here is what I have come up with (in no particular order)….

Ra’s Gratitude List

1) Family, of genealogy, choice and up-bringing – Binieks, Colliers (or what little I know of them); the members of my extended family who helped raise me and played integral parts in making me the person I am and continue to shower me with the love and community I relish and rely on.

2) Friends – from those who have known me since I was going to the bathroom in sandboxes; to friends who have known me coast to coast and from the time I wore only dresses; to friendships I have formed and fostered as an adult and as I set out on my life as an individual.

3) Families who have taken me in and accepted me as part of their own family –the Saelis, the Kartowskis, the Mortons, and numerous others.

4) The fabulous people I have had the pleasure to collaborate with and bring projects to fruition and success alongside of.

5) Nature – nothing feeds my soul more than being in the presence of nature. From Central Park, to a deserted island off of Belize, to the woods of Germany surrounded by cows. These moments and places of nature give me a sense of serenity and supreme gratitude for the enormity not just of nature but the universe we live in.

6) Dark Chocolate.

7) The amazing trips I was fortunate enough to take and the places I was able to discover and spend time in this past year – Central America, Japan, Germany, Ashland, OR, and Big Sur, CA.

8) The anticipation, promise, and excitement of the places I will be visiting in 2011 – Southeast Asia, Kenya, Monterey, CA, and who knows what else may be in store beyond that.

9) My health and the health of those I love.

10) Yoga and my practice – I am eternally grateful to my teacher Viviane and the Harlem Center for Healthy Living, who introduced me to my practice. The practice of yoga has done far more than just give me strength and tone, it has deepened my understanding in life and the countless ways practice comes into my evolving existence.

11) My childhood dog Heather.

12) Young people in my life.

13) My apartment for the past four years, my first true independent self created “home”.

14) Classic movies I never tire of no matter how many times I watch them.

15) Kayaking – It’s been a while but I love and miss my time in a kayak.

16) Good Tea.

17) Carbohydrates – pasta, bread, French fries– you are all on my list.

18) Ars Nova and the community of friends and artists they provided me with and continue to give me. It enriches me, enlivens me, and is a home no matter how long it has been since I have entered its doors on West 54th Street.

19) The fact that the Dalai Lama came to Martin’s in 2009 and the experience of seeing him with my mother.

20) Clementines.

21) The snow that allowed me to take the photo that started this post.

22) The gifts I received this year – a shower on the go, a handmade blue scarf that keeps me warm and elicits compliments (including the one that made me pause and think of the idea for The Gratitude List), a monogrammed purple RAvolution water canteen, books, and a beautiful letter from my father.

23) My phone calls with Astrid, distance can never stop friendship from growing.

24) Central Park.

25) Full moons and splendidly starry nights.

26) The wonderful circle of recourses and people willing to help me in the world – from my astrologer Nikki, to friends who are nurses, to people willing to connect me to other people or help me along the roads I set out on.

27) The ocean.

28) Unexpected surprises (no not surprise parties, those freak me out a little). Things like discovering my mother’s paternal grandmother’s last name through dealing with legal matters – Levine. Or a phone call when it isn’t expected or a card or the small and unexpected gifts that just show up and express such kindness and love.

29) My father.

30) My Sister.

31) My mother – Allways.

32) All of you reading this.

33) The chance to greet 2011 with this list in hand.

As with so many things in life it has been a journey to this list, and to create this list felt like looking back fondly on the memories of the passage. It has reminded me of these things in a more concrete way and has given me so many points of recognition in the ways I am fortunate. We each have this fortune regardless of if we can see it or not, the fortune of a full moon was mine on the darkest nights of sorrow as well as in the moments I typed this list.

A great wish for each of you to find many moments to be grateful for in this renewed year.

From a deep place of gratitude,


Photo Credits: Photo # 4 of Dalai Lama & Barbara Collier is by Kathleen Duffy;

Photo # 5 was taken by by Camila Martin


01 2011