Category Archives: friendship

Live on video: talkin’ about The Buddha & the Bitch

Video talk on The Buddha & the Bitch

Greetings from Gurgaon, India! With two days to prep for this Facebook Live talk (sponsored by Indic Book Club and Indic Academy), Rashma and I did it.
Saturday 26 May over 400 viewers watched/listened to our first presentation and video book launch.

I am so proud that we’ve come this far! The Buddha & the Bitch has been five years in the making, starting with Google chats across the world. Well, I won’t attempt to share the story here because our book tells it all. Do know that there’s a trip to South India involved–Pondicherry, Mahabalipurma, Auroville, and more. Our sub-title describes it more: 2 Women 2 Worlds 1 Practice. That practice is writing, a passion we share.

I am visiting greater New Delhi from Cincinnati, Ohio to help promote the newly released book with the co-author Rashma N. Kalsie. NOTE: If you live in or near New Delhi, we will be at Habitat Centre 4 June 7pm along with Prof. Bharat Gupt moderating. Come hear us!

Together 30 years! — against all odds

Congratulations to Carolyn and Crystal! These friends left Cincinnati decades ago to build a place in the country outside Athens, Ohio. Their relationship survived harsh winters, racism (Crystal is black), homophobia, two children, and lots of animals. My good friend Victoria and I drove there Saturday night for their celebration.

Even though they’d been emailed that we were planning to attend, it was worth the drive to see Carolyn’s face light up when she saw me. We shared a great hug and pulled back to look at one another: although we were both over a decade older, our faces were the same (funny how that is). She and Crystal looked great; you would never know they’re in their fifties.

The dinner was gourmet potluck, outstanding. Too bad I ended up with a queasy stomach and couldn’t enjoy it all more. I may have overdone with the grande latte on the way in. Vic and I had some good conversation with a woman sitting at the same table — it turned out she is Crystal’s massage therapist. We watched the giant slide show on the wall of Carolyn and Crystal through the years. There were one or two of me from the DINAH lesbian magazine years when I worked on this journalistic labor of love with Carolyn.

Then people began dancing. Vic and I knew later that we should have got up to dance to Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” because we are so picky about our first dance among strangers! But we didn’t and then the dance numbers were not so much to our liking. I drank Diet Coke, hoping my stomach would settle. It did but then we two old ladies felt we’d better hit the road for the return trip to Cincinnati.

The sadness of saying goodbye was eased because we are so psyched to go back and reminisce when it’s not so wild! We may even bring the videorecorder and capture Carolyn and Crystal tales for the Ohio Lesbian Archives.

Until then, our 24 hour whirlwind trip is a sweet memory.

my adopted grandfather / poem 103

I took Mr G. for same day surgery this afternoon, a cystoscopy — again. He was going to have ‘burned out’ more of the tumor in his bladder if it had grown back. Sadly, it had. His doctor said it was an aggressive kind of cancer. Mr. G. was taken to a hospital to spend a night since he lives alone and was not permitted to return home alone after anesthesia. I will bring him home from the hospital tomorrow.

I only know this man from delivering meals to him for two years. Since I’ve known him, his wife has died. I’ve met his Pennsylvania son and his wife. We’ve talked music, politics (we disagree), and health. He is 87 and in good health otherwise. He is kind. He is also a good conversationalist and listener, a rare blend. I can learn a lot from him. I seem to have adopted him as a grandfather.


You had told the nurse I was your social worker.
Yes, I am but it wouldn’t fly in court. The nurse laughed.
I proclaimed I am your neighbor and friend.

3 gay guys & an ex / poem 98

Last night I had a great night out with one of my best friends, Vic. Her buddy from childhood was in town and we were going to join B & A, an older gay couple who live in Mt. Adams.

How nice — the conversation and camaraderie! We caught up over appetizers, then walked over to Teak Thai, one of the best restaurants in Cincinnati. We continued our conversation which roamed from food, same sex marriage, Michael Jackson, college students, Catholicism, and world travel. We returned to their amazing house and sat on their balcony, overlooking the Ohio River and Kentucky. By then it was 9:00ish and the lights looked magical, twinkling over Mt. Adams and across Northern Kentucky. There was also a full moon. Our usually hot summer weather had scaled down to just the 80s so it felt great to relax, continuing our wide-ranging conversation. Finally, Vic, the designated driver and the only one who had to get up early for work the following day, signaled it was time to leave.


how rare to be among
such widely read and well-traveled guys!
I treasure our stimulating connection.

my new creative associate friend / poem 83

We actually began communicating through Facebook. We had an acquaintance in common who we both admired. Bev wrote how much she was enjoying reading my blog. She said she liked how I wrote. Now these are perhaps the sweetest words a writer can hear. Then one time she invited me to come to her place to talk about an idea she had. We realized we were neighbors!
The idea she had didn’t appeal to me but a different project grew out of our initial meeting and getting to know one another. I hate to be so mysterious but I am somewhat superstitious about telling all before the idea is too far along. Suffice it to say, it has something to do with Maria’s and my trip to India. Seems Bev has a skill of recognizing creative projects, organizing them, and convincing others to work as a team. As far as I’m concerned, any one of these skills is special and being able to weave together all three puts one in the Goddess Chamber of Commerce!

So today I stopped by her place to check in. It was damned hot and when we got to her deck, I noticed a pool. I put my legs in to cool off. Before long, we had both changed into bathing suits and jumped in. There we were, doing our meeting relaxing in her pool. Our conversation flowed effortlessly from the project to writing to her health to health care changes needed in the U.S. We also covered music, the court system, Florida, and nature. We laugh and feel free to say just about anything. Did I mention? I hardly know her. This was only the third time we had hung out together.

I drove home with a smile on my face, looking forward to our next visit. Yes, Bev is a creative associate but she is already much more. Seems to me we have the beginning of a friendship as well.


a creative project
meshes our spirits well,
I call this friendship

reliving India: poem 77

Maria came over to my house for the first time. She needed me to burn a cd of her writing and a resume to apply for an artist residency. She also wanted another dvd of our India trip. We were part of a small group that went in March 2008. We had been strangers before the trip halfway around the world. We are now friends.

So after lunch on the back deck where she admired the creek and woods, she asked to pop the dvd in and watch it. I had taken hundreds of her photographs and learned how to make a movie from the images. I added Donna DeLory’s “Ganapati Om” as background music. It has always been one of my favorite chants. Ganapati is another name for Ganesh or Ganesha. This lovable elephant headed god is the one to invoke at the beginning of a project or event (or trip). He is the remover of obstacles.


Oh, Elephant headed One,
bless Maria’s project for she is a wonderful artist
and thank you for bringing India to me.

the 20 minute friend / poem 70

I took a guest to the Siddha Yoga Meditation Center tonight. ‘B,’ as I shall call her, is a friend of a friend but we had never met until I pulled up at her condo to give her a ride. Since our Center is small, the host/mc that evening said “I notice someone new. Welcome! Are you a friend of Phebe?” B’s answer: “for about twenty minutes.” This was the length of our ride across town. I chuckled then and later told her how clever her answer was.


how many minutes does it take to make a friend?
there are those times you feel it right away.
the first glimpse of you startled me — you resembled my mother.

Indian spices, the 50th poem (of the magical number 108)

Today I accompanied my friend Veena to Columbus to do a favor for her daughter at Ohio State. Although we had cds to play, we didn’t get to any on the drive up. We talked at length, catching up with our longer stories — too long to slip in a quick phone call or after satsang at the meditation center.

We stopped to shop at the Jeffersonville Outlet stores. I bought a badly needed pair of jeans and a cool pair of casual, almost gym shoes. We shared a latte for the ride home.

Then she fed me dinner. Wonderful homemade Indian food. She walked me through the preparation. I especially loved the little round metal open containers filled with spices unique to Indian food. I knew what some of them were; she helped me with the rest.


notice the spices roll around on your tongue.
at first not too hot, then as taste travels to the back,
the heat flushes all your karma clean (if only it were that simple)

my 2 father figures . . . & poem #40

I ended up spending the afternoon with Mr. G. He is an 87 year old man I deliver meals to once a week. Mr. G is always appreciative and pauses at his front door to chat. His wife died last year and his two sons live out of state. At some point, I started carrying the bag of food into his kitchen and talking to him while he unpacked it. Every now and then, I’d linger and chat with him.

So when he told me he was urinating blood and had an appointment for a cystoscopy, I offered to give him a ride. What was to be a few hours turned out to be more complicated. After the CAT scan, he waited to be called in for the procedure. After he was prepped, they buzzed me in. The doctor said they’d found what was likely a tumor in Mr. G’s bladder. He looked so vulnerable sitting there in his gown with a bag of solution linked to his vein. Later I joined him in recovery and we were informed that, due to the catheter and the fact that he lived alone, Mr. G would be staying overnight at a hospital. I reassured him that I’d go to the hospital the next afternoon and bring him back home. My nice deed turned into a family affair.

Then there is Prem. This Indian man is my personal Deepak Chopra. When we saw each other at a New Year’s Eve gathering, I warned him not to shake my hand, it was cold from driving over without gloves. He gently cupped my hands in his and warmed them. He is so kind. We reconnected over the weekend at Veena’s home. While the other two men went to pick up pizza, he stayed behind with the women. Prem and I talked of retirement, how to schedule our own time, prioritize what is important. What did I do with my time? What is important to you? Please tell me, he insisted. Our conversation seemed intimate even with his wife and Veena drifting to and from the kitchen table. I wished it could have lasted longer.


in sickness and in health,
those who are so different
can connect in kindness

happy mother’s day to all of our mothers / poem 39

How I spent my mother’s day:

Chanting the Guru Gita at the Siddha Yoga Meditation Center / shopping at Trader Joe’s / taking a long afternoon nap / visiting my dear friend Vic Ramstetter while she recuperates from knee replacement surgery at her mother’s. I couldn’t wish my mother ‘Mother’s Day’ because she passed away two years ago. Still, I intuitively sent a few messages along the lines of ‘You know I’m thinking of you . . . wherever you are.’

Someone on Twitter mentioned about remembering our Spiritual Mothers as well. First I would have to include Grandma Katie. Katie (Katherine Rentschler) Drees adopted my mother from the Children’s Home after her biological mother had died. Even through her stern Germanic demeanor, I knew she loved me. Sometimes I say I had two mothers. I was grandma’s favorite. With five kids, my own mother had her hands full.

Other spiritual mothers include Gurumayi, certainly; no matter that she is younger than I. I’ll also name Veena Kedia who is my other half of the Seva Coordinating Team at the local meditation center. Although Amma (Amritanandamayima) is not my guru, this Hugging Saint is everyone’s mother as she gives us each our moment in her lap. My friendly ex, Janice Uhlman, is always there for me especially when I have tears. I would be remiss to not remember a few teachers along the way who mentored me.

In my head I am hearing a chant I believe comes from Libana: “The Earth is our Mother, we must take care of Her.” You may refer to Her as Gaia or Demeter or the 1,001 names of Goddesses from many diverse cultures. Whichever name you prefer, listen to the tune, believe the chant: it is true and it’s almost too late. That one word ‘almost’ gives us an opportunity whether we take it by eating lower on the food chain, composting, growing our own herbs and vegetables, recycling, driving less — we know what to do. Now in the name of The Mother we must do it.


In the name of the Mother
we look at nature around us
and pray to do our share