Make a Holiday Resolution to Share Your Traditions!

As 2017 draws to an end and we celebrate our traditional year-end holidays and then the New Year, I want to focus on the need to draw on our commonalities, rather than let our differences tear us apart.   Back in 2010, when I was still living in Brooklyn, I wrote a blog on the importance of sharing traditions to bring us together.  I am posting the blog again – enjoy!

The holidays are a time when entertaining should be considered more than just a yearly obligation – it can really make a difference now and all year long in showing you care enough to share your special seasonal recipes with your friends, family and even your clients. At my Brooklyn food coop, we held our Annual Meeting for our members during Hanukkah and ended it with a reception that included store made latkes from the deli, fresh apple sauce, and holiday cookies from a kosher bakery, along with our regular fresh fruit and vegetable platters and other organic staples. It was an opportunity to spread an appreciation of special recipes, along with goodwill and good cheer.

In Manhattan, event planner Pat Ahaesy and her husband Vince, partners in P&V Enterprises, host an annual Hanamas Party in the same spirit of sharing beloved recipes. The guests love tasting their selection of mixed Hanukkah and Christmas traditions that includes latkes and Swedish meatballs. One of their guests, another event planner, is a gospel singer in a Harlem church, who brings along her sister and some friends, and they are easily convinced to share a medley of beautiful gospel songs.

I now call sharing traditions with clients, as well as friends and family, The Hoppin’ John Agenda, after a southern holiday tradition that my late husband Tim and I started together– sharing a New Year’s Day feast of black-­eyed peas and rice with greens that is called Hoppin’ John with friends and family in LA and San Francisco. This tradition was originally meant to bring prosperity and healthy eating to folks in the Deep South — in Tim’s case, it was Alabama.

Sharing authentic cuisine is an amazing networking idea at any time of year, as I wrote about in an earlier blog that recommended sharing your passions, including food, as a way to network authentically. If you aren’t a cook or just don’t have the time to prepare complicated recipes, consider sharing in other ways. Rosemarie Hester from my Brooklyn writer’s group loves to surprise her sons when they celebrate together with locally grown honey, unusual cheeses and special balsamic vinegars. She includes Christmas caroling in the evening’s agenda, and brings along xeroxed pages with the lyrics. When she visits her son’s girlfriend’s Chinese American family, she brings fig bread or olive bread to complement their lavish banquet of Asian food. Dania Rajendra, a fabulous cook who is also in my writer’s group, added she is always delighted when guests contribute their favorite holiday treat when they visit, even if it is Junior’s Cheesecake (from the famous Brooklyn deli) or cookies from that neighborhood Norwegian Bakery.

So consider this your reminder all year long that those authentic recipes, whether you personally prepare them or not, are really appreciated by your relatives, as well as by friends and clients, who love being included as “family.” Happy Holidays!


Meditating in Paradise

I recently returned reluctantly to Michigan’s often cold and blustery late fall weather  after a week in what felt like paradise – the foothills of the mountains near Tucson Arizona, where it was 80 and sunny every day.  I was attending a six-day Meditation Training led by Pragito Dove, a master who trained at the Osho Multiversity in Pune, India.  I am already certified in laughter meditation and was now adding accreditation in more Meditation techniques.  My goal has been to learn more about how to help others achieve control over  their happiness and health in a world dominated by a flood of stressful news and a lack of sane medical  solutions to the resulting  illnesses.

The fact is we are too often missing life while we create or recreate childhood drama – or suffer the emotional  consequences of living in an often angry world.  In a strange way,  I was lucky.  I grew up with parents from two different cultures and different dramas.  That confused me and worried me as a child.  Who was right?  I loved them both.  Yet it also made me a young Seeker, questioning  life, not just accepting it.

I discovered Meditation in my 20s when my father’s unexpected death and other tragedies left me struggling with deep pain and guilt.  Meditation  gives you techniques like Witnessing the Mind to remind us that we are love, we are divine – it gets rid of all the inner noise telling us otherwise.  Always our goal is to be in the present.  Witnessing the Mind is sitting in silence, watching our thoughts and letting them go.   Living in the present moment is meditation.

Laughter Meditation is especially simple for instantly transforming pain and fear into soothing mirth.  Even faking laughter releases brain chemicals called endorphins in the brain that act as a tranquilizer to calm us down.  You only need a few minutes in the morning to get powerful effects.  And you can use laughter anytime during the day to change your mood.  Try it.  Just laugh for one minute in the morning, followed by one minute of silence.  You are inoculated – and this drug is life-affirming!

For more information on Meditation, I recommend visiting – Pragito Dove’s website.

Runnin’ Down a Dream 2017

I’ve been listening to Tom Petty tributes  this week coming after his sudden death from cardiac arrest just after the conclusion of his 40th Anniversary tour.*  His song “Runnin’ Down a Dream” never fails to trigger days in California spent doing just that in the ’90s, when Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers seemed always at the top of the charts.  Petty’s songs are often called the “soundtrack for our lives” by many generations, including mine.   It really took leaps of faith to keep up with the twists and turns in my career.  I ultimately called those California years “living life ahead of the curve,” since that’s how much you had to leap to keep up with the changes in Silicon Valley then.

Fast-forward: Last year I got involved in a series of BNI (Business Networking International) chapters in Michigan with inspiring entrepreneurs, currently the Business Referrals Chapter in Clinton Township  —  and we are constantly asked to share our business goals.  Mine is to continue those leaps of faith in my life to find the new career paths in both communications and meditation that will keep me energized and productive.

We now live in a time of political division when many newsmakers charge that America’s innovation is losing out to China and other rising countries in the East.  Yet I’ve been  meeting a new generation of inspiring students both in the South as part of the Scholarship program for my late husband Tim Robinson at Samford University’s journalism department in Birmingham, Al – and in Detroit  as an alumna of Wayne State University, with the opportunity to spend time with young Honors College students.   I’m also proud of the soaring ambitions of the most recent high school graduate in my family, my great niece Julia Graham, who will be pursuing photography as a major at the College for Creative Studies on the Wayne State University Campus.  Yes, I believe both in America’s current entrepreneurs and in the next generation.  Dream on and maybe try listening to Tom Petty.

Remembering the beautiful Gloria Tseng

Back in the mid-90s (on the 30th anniversary of the Summer of Love), my late husband, legal journalist Tim Robinson and I moved to San Francisco where we rented an apartment in an elegant townhouse adjoining Golden Gate Park until the end of 2002.  Our landlords were Professor H. Maurice Tseng and his wife Gloria, a manager at Bank of America. Sadly, I got news recently that Gloria had passed away and I wanted to share why her loss weighed so heavily on me, as I remembered her talent for transcending cultures and spreading love.

Gloria was from Guayaquil, Ecuador in South America and had met and married the son of a Chinese diplomat in New York City, where she worked as a Spanish translator and editor for Merck.  The couple moved to San Francisco in 1962 with two small boys – David and Steven – who from birth were immersed in both cultures.  Their father taught Chinese language and literature at a local university, while Gloria graduated from college with a BA in business administration, starting a 30 year career in management at Bank of America — often focused on her bank’s community outreach programs targeting Chinese, Hispanic, and other immigrants.

I was a communications consultant and eagerly invited Gloria — who knew so much about the city and its immigrant communities — to join my networking organization, Women in Business.  It gave us both further opportunities to bond with other business leaders from many backgrounds, as well as create new strategies for advancing women in area businesses.  We often got to laugh together, especially important after the death of her husband about a year after we moved in.

During the years in SF, we shared recipes and cookouts with the Tsengs and their neighbors, as well as gospel music that Tim played on his old Story and Clark upright piano, inspired by Baptist missionaries living next door (I still am in touch with Linda and Eric Bergquist).  I was often back in San Francisco over the years and Gloria insisted that I stay at her home and  cooked delicious ethnic dishes for me.  I will always miss this extraordinary business and community leader, her family and that elegant townhouse that felt like a second home.

Walk the Line –the Redemption of a Prison Song

My father, raised as one of 17 kids on a Canadian farm — a true country boy — was a big fan of America’s country music and one of its brightest stars, Johnny Cash.  I thought of my childhood days growing up in Detroit but also immersed in country culture, as I watched the movie “Walk the Line” again recently, which is based in part on the legendary  singer’s two autobiographies.*  The film details how Cash first forged a bold path in country music in the mid-1950s by focusing on train and prison song folk styles, only to descend into drug addiction, climaxed by a miraculous recovery with the help of June Carter.

The film impressed me because of its honesty about the personal struggles of both Cash and his future wife as they built their careers.  June was divorced shortly after she met Cash and a strong attraction developed between them that she resisted, although they continued to tour together. Cash was trapped in an unhappy marriage, which contributed to his addictive behavior.

The film was most remarkable for its honesty in probing the family scars that led to disastrous marriages for both country stars – scars they had to heal before they could eventually marry and become a force for recovery for others through their music. Cash had idolized his older brother Jack, whose tragic death was blamed on him by an alcoholic father – there had to be a confrontation before Cash could forgive himself.   In addition, while the father eventually was a recovered alcoholic, he continued his dismissal of the importance of a musical career until Cash stood up to him.

June, on the other hand, had felt overshadowed by the talent of an older sister and then caught in the shame of being a single mom in an unforgiving southern culture.   Once they overcame their own challenges and were happily married, the Cashes embraced the idea of redemption for everyone through their music by reaching out to the convicts in Folsom Prison, who were among Cash’s biggest fans.  A live version of Cash’s early hit “Folsom Prison Blues” was recorded among inmates at Folsom State Prison in 1968 and instantly became a #1 hit on the country music charts.  As I can affirm, this redemptive music reached far beyond the South.


*Man in Black (1975) and Cash: The Autobiography (1997)



Detroit’67: The On-going Pain

I grew up in a vibrant Detroit, the proud and thriving automobile capital of the world.  And in 1967, as I studied for my undergraduate degree at Wayne State University in the heart of the city, I had no idea that a raid on a nearby after-hours club that summer would ultimately signal the collapse of many of the city’s neighborhoods and eventually ignite massive white flight.  I thought our country’s involvement in Vietnam would remain the focus of protest that year, not our own angry citizens burning down the inner city.

In 2017, media attention on the 50th anniversary of the Detroit riots, revolution or uprising (depending on who you ask) is forcing residents to reassess what brought on such rage.  The violence lasted five days following the original police raid on July 23 – and Stephen Henderson, the editorial director of the Detroit Free Press, and others are  questioning if the city has really learned the lessons of those violent days. While it is clear that change is coming to some areas of Detroit –focusing for now heavily on the vibrant downtown and some midtown neighborhoods, including around Wayne State University –  many angry black residents still live in neglected areas and continue to question whether their lives will ever improve.

On Sunday the 23rd, I joined college friends to watch the local ABC-TV premiere of the Detroit Free Press documentary on those five days – “12th and Clairmont.”   I found that the focus on the home-made films submitted by those swept up by the violence gave an authentic voice to the complex emotions behind the turmoil and lingering anger. Now a movie is premiering here called “Detroit” by award-winning filmmaker Kathryn Bigelow that details the particularly brutal deaths of three black teenagers in the Algiers Hotel in the course of those five horrific days.  I hope the local Free Press documentary and the nationally distributed film will give Americans a greater understanding of that ominous year in Detroit – and an appreciation for the on-going struggle facing not only the Motor City, but cities across our nation.  Let’s continue to listen to the anger, learn and move forward.

For more information, click on the links below:…/kathryn-bigelow…detroit…/103908230