Category Archives: Inspiration

Stories that help us feel or do.

Olympic Moment ©

Will Jones’s Olympic Moment

olympicWhat was your Olympic moment?  I don’t mean the day you went for the gold, although you may have had one of those, but the day you watched an Olympic event, either in person or on TV, and it changed your life?

Mine happened as a pre-teen watching the Rome Olympics on TV in 1960.  Imperial Bodyguard Abebe Bikila, a last minute addition to the Ethiopian Olympic team, won the marathon in record time…in his bare feet.  It was the first Olympic Gold Medal ever won by a Sub-Saharan athlete.  I watched the race on my parents’ newly purchased Zenith color console.

The 1960 marathon started and ended at the Arch of Constantine, next to the Colosseum.  In a spectacular and mesmerizing display of romance and artistry, the last few miles of the race were run in the dark with only occasional spotlights to illuminate the course.  Bikila, tall and graceful in red shorts and green singlet, the Ethiopian colors, out sprinted his lone challenger to the finish line and through the Arch, the lights of the Colosseum behind him.  Bikila became my hero and I vowed to someday run a marathon and win a medal of my own.

Bikila won the marathon again at the Tokyo Olympics in 1964.  In 1969 he was paralyzed in an accident while driving the Volkswagen Bug given to him by Haile Selassie for his Olympic conquests.  The accident occurred when he swerved to avoid student protesters on the streets of Addis Ababa. He died of complications in 1973. He was only 41.

On December 18, 1983, I ran my first marathon, finishing in three hours and twenty-six minutes.  I dedicated my training and race to my pregnant wife, my soon-to-be-born son, and my inspiration, the great Olympian, Abebe Bikila.  A few months later I was fortunate to be in the Los Angeles Colosseum when Joan Benoit won the first women’s Olympic Marathon.  The temperature was in the 90’s but I remember getting the chills as she entered the stadium and circled the track to the finish line, tens of thousands of fans on their feet cheering as she passed.

What was your Olympic moment?  BOBB and I would love to know.

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Weary Wonder Woman Withers ©

Wonder Woman, aka, Malati Marlene Shinazy 
wonder woman
Last week, BOBB’s publisher, my sister, wrote about our family’s long line of Wonder Women. She started with our great great grandmother who emigrated from Paris to San Francisco during the Gold Rush.
When Sister acknowledged she couldn’t juggle everything on her over-full plate, I was not unhappy.  Why?  I’ve always seen her as perfect and me as… well, not.
For background on this sibling-disorder, read my “Botox© To The Rescue” story:
I tentatively decided to take this opportunity to gloat a bit.
Here’s a partial history of this Wonder Woman’s accomplishments:
After college, I worked as my husband’s research assistant while he obtained his Ph.D. “So what’s the big deal?  Women do this all the time.”
Here’s the Big Deal: This 5th generation San Franciscan had to move to Philadelphia, schlepping my first-born.  Besides helping my husband, I found and furnished a home for us.  I sourced, purchased and renovated houses for a fledgling rental portfolio.  And, every winter I slipped and fell, sending my first-born air bound. Did the same when baby #2 arrived.
Just before Dad completed his degree, I began working full time and started grad school.  Picture this:
·         Working full time
·         Raising two smart, articulate, wild kids
·         Being a great business partner to my husband
·         Acting as general contractor for our rentals
·         Totally renovating our new home: built in 1911, 4,000 square feet, 3-stories
·         Staying up until 4:00 am to write research papers.  And…pregnant with baby #3!
Flash Forward
Returning to CA, Wonder Woman started a successful consulting and training company so she could be Super Mom.  I worked client meetings around driving kids to three different schools, ballet lessons, violin lessons, guitar lessons, soccer practice, soccer games, and camp.
When I wasn’t being taxi-mother, I was flying to client sites like Panama, as the US Government was turning over the canal to the Panamanian Government.
Flash Forward to Now
After a few years of working 13-hour days in corporate America, I am currently:
·         Re-launching the consulting business in another part of the state
·         Treasurer of the local Lions Club (service club)
·         Dating 25% of the non-incarcerated single men within a 50-mile radius…not as much fun as it sounds.
·         Working out regularly to keep myself fit and vain
·         Writing clever stories for BOBB
·         Administering thyroid medication to the cat twice daily
·         Conducting seasonal maintenance on my rental in the mountains
·         Skype-ing my “almost launched kids” at all hours
Yes, Sister, this Wonder Woman is on a roll.    
Until Yesterday:  I missed my Lion’s Club Treasurer Report deadline.  I slept straight through the morning alarm and was embarrassing late for a breakfast date.  And my right wrist started aching.
·         I seem to be unable to meet my commitments
·         I seem to be overly tired
·         I seem to be developing repetitive motion disorder

It seems this Wonder Woman is weary, too.
I take it all back, Sister.  We need a vacation and cortisone shot for my wrist.
photo by Arne Hendriks
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Wonder Woman ©

Wonder Woman, aka, Shinazy

wonder womanBummer . . . I thought I was Wonder Woman.

I come from a long line of Wonder Women, so of course I have this picture of myself.
The first Wonder Woman in my family was my great, great, grandmother, Julie Robinet.  As a single-young gal, she sailed to San Francisco from France.  She spoke no English; she knew no one.  She only knew there was opportunity in the post gold-rush-boom town and she was going to seize it.  A few years later, she was able to purchase acreage just outside the city limits.
Her daughters were born on that property.  As young adults, they built – hammered and nailed — a two-story Craftsman style home.  They were two French lady-farmers living among Portuguese ranchers.  One of the daughters, my great-grandmother Julia Chaine, was a single parent, raising two daughters because she had banished their rowdy Irish father.  She instilled in her girls the same Wonder Woman spirit she gained from her mom.
Pauline (Gigs) Shinazy, the eldest daughter, my grandmother, was a Renaissance Wonder Woman.  She knew she was invincible and could conquer anything she encountered.  She was an accomplished painter until my father accidentally burned down her studio.  So, instead of crying she became a Studio Potter, making all the family’s dishes and vases until her hands worn out.  She made my poodle skirts from drapery material – thank you, Scarlet O’Hara.  Gigs made jewelry, faceted gems, grew prize-winning dahlias, canned fruit, camped in the desert, rode horses.  She explored various religions as they entered the mainstream.  When she converted to Judaism, she went to Israel during the Six-Day War and broke her arm taking pictures of Russian tanks that “…weren’t there!”  
Like her mother told her, she told me, “You can do anything, be any one.”  So, I decided that I, too, would be a Wonder Woman.
But, unlike the comics, sometimes Wonder Woman needs to reassess her conquering strategy. 
wonder womanCan I really continue to fight evil forces, improve my Amazonian martial arts skills, be a supportive partner, run a business, hold my breath in Space, volunteer, write for BOBB, train for my last marathon, stop bullets with my bracelets, climb Half Dome, learn to scuba…?
Yes, Wonder Women are endowed with extraordinary strength, speed, and stamina but …
Yesterday, this WW had to make a decision — something had to be postponed.  It was a hard choice and I’m still a bit sad, but it was the right choice to make.  And I know I’ll feel better, soon.
Ok, I’ll be satisfied to be wonder woman . . . for a while.  Hey, I think it’s time for my Lasso of Truth lesson.
photo by rdeetz and illustration by Joshua Otero
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Encounter In The Park ©

In the park with Bob Deason

parkLast winter, I met a friend in the park every morning at 7 to go for a walk.  It is good exercise, and it is just a good way to start the day.  However, it was usually pretty cold.  Now I don’t mean New England winter cold, but it was almost always right around freezing. 

One morning when I got to the park, there was a woman in a sleeping bag on one of the park benches.  She had a number of parcels pulled in around her, as if everything that she had left in the world was right there.  I felt the usual “There but for the Grace of God go I” moment.  Then my friend arrived, we went on our walk, and the woman in the park was forgotten . . . until the next day.  We were there bright and early, and so was she, curled up in a ball to preserve body heat.  It was clear that she was staying . . . at least until someone moved her.

There she was, right in front of me each day, so it was no longer a chance encounter with someone who reminded me of unpleasant realities.  I had to make a choice to either do something, or treat her as one of the “invisibles.” It really was no choice.  I had to do something, but what was the best thing to do?  I want to help, but I really don’t want to get involved.  I could call the welfare office to get her some help, but is that what she would want?  I finally decided on the direct approach.  The next morning I brought a cup of hot coffee and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and left them next to her with the words, “This is for you.” She nodded but said nothing.  We repeated this pattern for the next 2 days, and then she was gone.

Her absence left me wondering where she had gone, and also forced me to examine my own motives.  Did I do what I did out of true compassion, or just to try and make myself feel better?  I certainly did feel better each morning that I left her a modest breakfast, and I lost that feeling when she moved on.  I just hope that what I did helped her make it through a few days, and that she has somehow found her way to a better place.

photo by Bob Deason

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Natural Freedom ©

A Story by Malati Marlene Shinazy

I’ve been watching babies, toddlers, and preschool kids a lot lately.  With nice weather, they appear outside with their moms, everywhere, like naturally free wildflowers do in in  the springtime fields.

Nine months ago, a young family moved in next door: Mama Bear, Pappa Bear and Four Baby Bears, all under the age of nine.  Although I knew they were there, and saw them on their way to school and karate practice, they were relatively silent and invisible all winter and spring.

This past weekend, the weather started a sustained hot-spell.  Dad spent most of one afternoon installing a canopy, splashing pool and swings set.  As soon as the installations were complete, as though on cue …  out of the house emerged two screeching and laughing daughters, a slightly quieter son, the mom and baby.

For the rest of the weekend,  the kids played in the backyard, chatting, chortling and throwing water at each other. This was natural freedom at its most joyful expression.  Occasional spongy balls, towels or flip-flops would find their way over the fence into my backyard.  The kids didn’t hesitate to shout my name as loudly and as prolonged as necessary to get my attention…  Hey, they were just exhibiting their rights of natural freedom…. They even transformed the three syllables of my first name into multiple singsong melodies … distinct songs, same intentions:

  • They enjoyed  playing sound games singing my name
  • They really did  want me to get the ball back to their side of the world

For the first time in years, the neighborhood was truly alive with a natural freedom of speech.  The kids engaged each other in and out of the pool, on and off the swing set… supervised only through the wall of windows along the back of their home.  No adults interfered with their play. No adults limited their voices. No adults put restrictions on their volume. … They were free and full of energy, life force and creativity.

As I listened to the little kids wind down toward bedtime, two thoughts came to mind:

FirstThought: “I finally got the meaning to a Jim Morrison poem:

“The most important kind of freedom is to be what you really are  … That kind of freedom can’t be granted. Nobody can win it for you.”

Second Thought:  Last week, like a mad cheerleader, I easily coaxed 500 high school students, parents, teachers and school administrators alike to stand on the hard bleachers and “shake their booties” half way through the insufferably long, boring High School Scholarship Awards Event (see previous BOBB story, High School Scholarship Night.

Something totally out of the norm for these sorts of rituals occurred… We all laughed and  played with the natural freedom of the little kids next door.

photo by shinazy

Cooking With Nemesis ©

A Story by Malati Marlene Shinazy­­­­

Growing up, it seemed most adults were accomplished cooks.  Great meals and great cooks were abundant in my family.

My mother was sufficiently committed to cooking that my father built her a kitchen cupboard to house a fifty-gallon rice storage drum.

My Grand Father (see, Grand Father’s Little Girl), whose career path included being Chief Chef on merchant ships, consistently served me works of art for breakfast:  Cantaloupe skillfully separated from the rind, magically converted into a serving dish.

The most talented chef, however, was my maternal uncle Tony, who worked at a prestigious restaurant on San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf.  Watching him prepare holiday dinners was like watching a master conductor at the New York Philharmonic.

In college, the unspoken agreement was: my roommates cooked; I was responsible for the cleanup.

Alas, the goddess Nemesis entered my life when I married.  My husband, a kitchen alchemist, created nutritious and visual lovely family meals seemingly out of nothing…  To contrast, my pancakes looked horrifically asymmetrical, no resemblance to the cookbook images.  These amorphously shaped blobs of dough were followed by similarly shaped cookies, biscuits, crab cakes, etc.

The first and only time I attempted to make mashed potatoes for Thanksgiving dinner, I misread the cookbook and boiled too many potatoes.  Uncle Tony rescued me.  Even then, it took two gallons of milk to turn my clumps of potato cement into something resembling mashed potatoes … expecting them to be creamy would have required divine intervention.

Nemesis had indeed incurred her revenge.  I became a defeated cook and retreated from the theatre of the kitchen.

Fortunately, my young children enjoyed helping me prepare the four dinner items I knew how to assemble: tacos, mac & cheese, steamed broccoli, spinach salad.  As they matured, they each in turn became masters and I, the sous chef.  Balance was restored to the world.

As my last child left for college, I developed compensatory tactics for nourishing myself:  Non-fat plain yogurt and fresh fruit for breakfast, an ethnic restaurant for lunch, salads and the occasional sautéed tofu sandwich for dinner.

I learned how to scramble an egg because frying anything over-easy was beyond my skill set.

I think I’m sufficiently healed from the post-traumatic stress of my early cooking attempts, so I’ve decided to overcome this personal deficit and take tentative steps toward using, rather than just storing, the pots, pans, bowls, measuring spoons and whisks I own.

But first, a final offering to Nemesis… Recently, for a potluck party, I purchased a one-of-a-kind artist-signed cheese plate, Brie Mons Sire, a baguette and organic black raspberry preserves for guests to assemble.

Perhaps Nemesis has tired of her assault, will accept my humble gift, and allow me to join the world of the cooking.

photo by ndrwfgg

WISDOM Wednesday: The Hippie Elite©

A story by Malati Marlene Shinazy


I am among a select group of people who happened to graduate high school in and around San Francisco — and then attend one of theUniversity of California campuses in the northern part of the state — during a pivotal point in early Baby Boomer history. Those of us who attended UC Berkeley, UC Davis or UC Santa Cruz, had little idea we were at the epicenter of a time, space and energy vortex for an entire sub-generation. Unknowingly, we were theHippie Elite.

The oldest of boomers already graduated with their Bachelor-of-Something degrees and were deep into social/political movements or getting jobs or going to grad school.  Many of them were either fighting in the Vietnam War or fighting against the Vietnam War.

We were naïve but not neophytes to the massive social changes going on.  We made our statements from the position of uncomplicated and relatively protected lives. Half of our women friends burned their bras.  The other half didn’t wear them.  And, we all registered to vote, the moment we turned 18.

The City became an integral part of our higher education.  We’d hang out in The Haight just to have fun.  We were the ones who followed the first two Timothy Leary tenets, eschewing the third. We didn’t Drop Out.

Back at school, we attended lectures outside, stretched out on blankets, wrote research papers and made it to the Dean’s List.  We also celebrated the conception of Earth Day, became vegetarians and started recycling in earnest.  We chatted with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (the founder of Transcendental Mediation), Hare Krishna devotees and members of the Black Panthers – all were on campus often.

We hitchhiked to Altamont, the West Coast version of Woodstock, and back to school again.  Many of us drove from campus to San Francisco on weekends to attend concerts at The Fillmore Auditorium, Winterland, or Avalon Ballroom.  We saw every band Bill Graham booked including:

  • The Grateful Dead
  • Jefferson Airplane
  • Santana
  • Janis Joplin
  • Jimi Hendrix
  • The Doors

During school breaks, some of us hitchhiked alone throughout Mexico and Central America without incident.  We felt safe; hitchhiking was just another accepted mode of transport.  Plus, we met other solo travelers, mostly Europeans, and learned first-hand about the cultures of the countries we visited. Riding hot, crowed busses with people and chickens for hours on end was just part of the journey.

Upon writing this story, I realize that being a member of the Hippie Elite is not about “our glory days.”  Living at that particular intersection of time and space was rich and full. It contributed to our adult worldviews and launched us into lives of continual discovery, expansion and personal responsibility. It contributed to the quality of how we express ourselves now as business people, doctors, attorneys, and parents. By a whim of birth date and location, we, the Hippie Elite were fortunate.

photo by teamstickergiant

How to Live a Long & Healthy Life ©

Living a long life with Shinazy


My family is long-lived.  There’s my great-grandmothers who lived into their 90’s, their daughters lived well into their 80’s.  My mom and aunt already passed the 80s mid-point.  I’ve known all of them and I know what they did to keep tapping their toes.

When the ladies in my family ate, they ate real food.  Veggie gardens were in some corner of their yards producing food with blemishes and insect bites, arriving on the table misshapened.  The families only ate food that was locally grown and in season, we were so ahead of the Slow Food trend … but everyone was back then.  Instead of sweeping expanses of water-devouring-seldom-used-but-adds-curb-appeal lawns there were fruit trees.  These trees produced avocados, apricots, figs; I have no memory of purchasing fruit in little plastic square green baskets.
Gigs and Nana baked cookies and cakes using butter.  They fried chicken in the bacon fat that was stored in a can from having bacon ‘n eggs for breakfast almost every morning.  (Sometimes the ‘chicken’ had four drumsticks because it really was a rabbit raised by Buster, my grandfather.)  The cream used for coffee came from the thick stuff on the top of the milk bottle.  Had soymilk been invented yet?  These are my memories of real food.
I also remember rugs hanging in the back yard being beaten until every crumb succumbed and dropped to the ground.  Instead of manually beating my carpet, I have a self-propelled vacuum cleaner; so I go to the gym to ‘work-out’ in order to keep in shape.  The grand ladies in my family saw the sun rise and finished working after it set.  Me, I get my aerobic fitness from running nowhere in particular . . . would they understand this?  When I cook with my cast iron fry pan, I’m impressed that my relatives moved this chuck of metal from burner to burner as if it was as lightweight as stainless steel. 
Although I take no pharmaceuticals, I do consume a pile of herbs and vitamins: D3 for bones because I work inside without sunshine, glucosamine to keep my joints lubed, stuff for my brain, other stuff for other things, and CoQ10 …why am I taking this one?  Snake Oil was around 100 years ago, are all these pretty pills today’s snake oil?  Maybe, but I’m unwilling to stop my pill popping ways.
lifeI think family lived well given the era and resources available.  I think I do, too.  So, for me, the secret to living a long and healthy life is to do what I think will help and when the health advice trend changes, go with the flow . . . over a life time it means a moderate intake of everything. 
As I write this story, I realized there was one other major factor in their lives . . . they lived life with a sense of purpose . . . I can do that.
photos by dhaun and shinazy
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WISDOM Wednesday: California Springs

This story written by Malati Marlene Shinazy
     It’s still snowing somewhere in the United States.  It’s still dark in Finland.  In Northern California, however it is Spring.
     Natives of Northern California understand that we have two major seasons:  The Rainy Season and the Dry Season.
     The Rainy Season is divided into
·         Winter (super cold, windy, and torrential rain), and
·         Spring (less cold, sometimes windy, sometimes balmy, and sometimes rainy)
It begins to feel like The Dry Season sometime between April and May, depending on how long the rain sticks around.
     This year, we skipped the Winter half of the Rainy Season and went right into a California Spring…  For me, this is the most glorious time of year.  It’s the time when life is reborn, and all senses are refreshed.
     When I lived in the Sierra Foothills, pastures were filled with offspring calves, born in November, bouncing around and through the winter-worn fences before the ranchers could repair them.  “Cow on the road,” was the most common police call.  On our way to work, we knew to slow around turns because those calves were very likely on their way to – well, nowhere, really; they were just enjoying themselves.
     The cows that didn’t calf in November were gathered together in multiple acre maternity pastures, so wranglers could check on them every few hours.  I once watched for an hour-and-a-half while a cow birthed her calf, then licked it repeatedly until it was able to stand on spindly legs.  What a joy.
     Calves are born in the Spring … But frogs are reborn!  Almost overnight, a cacophony of frog-song emerges from every pond, lake, stream and riverbed.  They too travel through, or rather under, fences, and can often be found on doorsteps or in back yards.  Some species grow so big, so fast, that the Sierra Nevada town of Angels Camp has annual frog jumping contests.  Mark Twain’s short story, “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County” was inspired by these events. 
     My daily spring descent from rangeland, calves and frogs into California’s Central Valley always left me in awe.  As I’d come off the hills, in front of me was a sea of blooming almond trees.  For about 1-1/2 weeks, I was treated to the sweet aroma of almond blossoms, orchards spread ahead as far as I could see in any direction.
     As the hills turn almost chartreuse green and the valleys pink and white, closer to the coast, mustard volunteers sprout up in every untended field.  These meadows of bright golden flowers are nearly blinding.  But they provide one of my most pleasurable memories of California Spring: 
Walking to the center of a field with my young son.  When we found just the right spot, we’d bask in the still cool sunlight, chewing on slightly spicy mustard stocks until we were revitalized.
     Year after year, California Spring renews my spirit.
photo by mfortini & shinazy

WISDOM Wednesday: Helpful Horoscopes

A Story by Malati Marlene Shinazy
Nancy and Ronald Regan knew there were specific astrological elements they needed to consider before they could make appointments, sign laws, run for president, etc. Before they scheduled the Geneva Summit to talk to the Russians, they made sure it was going to happen at an astrologically auspicious time.
Have you ever had a horoscope that wasn’t exactly, spot-on accurate?
Me either. They always seem to fit enough that I can claim, “Yes, indeed; it was just like that, yesterday.”
But I’m not sure I have Reaganesque confidence that my life is fatalistic — left in the hands of forces ruled by exalted planets, the degree of favorable or difficult aspects, strong angular houses, or succedent or cadent houses, or the relationship between my ascendant and the mid-heaven at the moment of my birth.
Still, on occasion, before my birthday I check my horoscope to make sure I’m ready for whatever it is that’s going to happen the next year.
Ready or Not, Here It Comes.
But, because I’m a Sagittarius, with a Sagittarius rising and moon in Scorpio, every year is projected to be a fabulous year. That, I’m ready for, happy for, believe in….
“Yes, indeed, it’s going to be another great year; my chart says so.”
But I’ve got a nagging question. Why was my astrological chart so reticent during the horrible years, the years when:
1.    My boyfriend left me, or
2.    I got laid off from my job, or
3.    I rear-end an old lady driving a Cadillac, or
4.    The hose from my washing machine burst, thereby flooding the laundry room, guest bathroom and living room – only then to have a gushing interior river follow the laws of gravity down through the heating ducts, across the insulation and into the furnace, causing an electrical short that nearly burned the house down?
My goodness, having some kind of astrological portent would have been helpful on any one of those year.
Had I any indication at all I could have:
1.    Minimized my heartbreak by ditching the boyfriend before he dumped me
2.    Minimized my precipitous plummet into near-poverty by getting a second and third job before losing the first one… Or perhaps replacing the ditched boyfriend with a “Sugar Daddy”
3.    Minimized my obscene out-of-pocket expense in that rear-ender by reducing my auto insurance deductible… or at least learned the fine art of hit-and-run
4.    Sold the house before the hose burst!
I’d be right by the Regan’s astrological side if a horoscope had given me a real “Heads Up, Get Ready, Girl” – so I could side-step or at least buffer some of those challenging years. 
I’d really be a believer if my horoscope instructed me to move my S&P 500 stocks into gold 18 months before I needed to!
I’m ready to believe.  I want to believe.  I want to follow Nancy Regan’s carefully planned timetable for ensuring world peace.  But someone needs to figure out how to adjust the sextile, quadrant, and decan to tell me something other than,
“Hey, you’re a Sag. You always have a great year. Happy Birthday.”
photo by Vectorportal