This is the kitchen where we talk about food, life, and recovery—a spiritual path to healing and peace.

You are invited to keep coming back to A Cup of Kindness to share your experience, strength and hope; fears, doubts and insecurities; and to pick up information, inspiration … and have a little fun!

My story
In January 2007, at the age of 51, I joined a 12-step program and began my recovery from food addiction, losing 75 pounds in the process. Read more…

In January 2011, at the age of 55, I began my recovery from a multi-trauma accident, 36 fractures, damaged lungs, and post traumatic stress. Read more…

I am deeply grateful for all the kindnesses, large and small, offered to me in recovery. Here I am... alive… still making progress … still not perfect … finding a new way forward in a growing community of women and men who share a lot in common around food and life.

I hope you'll join me in this kitchen and let me know what's cooking with you.

A Cup of Kindness

Open Heart Project


Morning rhythm

Mom and Dad


Thanks to meditation teacher Susan Piver for the question, “What is your ideal morning routine?”

I’m happy to say that my ideal morning routine is my actual morning routine! See the P.S. below for more about it.

On this morning’s walk, more came to me about my morning routine and what I love about it. It’s the rhythm.

My father, Toby Tate, was a jazz musician, my mother, Myra Starkman Tate, is a classical musician. There was a strong emphasis in our home on rhythm, whether it was practicing music in tempo, eating three healthy meals at the same time every day, or cleaning the house once a week.

There was also chaos and confusion in our lives. My dad was predictably unpredictable in his rages. He self-medicated with alcohol, pot and other drugs… which didn’t seem to help as far as I could tell. Even so, I’m very grateful for the rhythm he gave us and for mellowing in his final years.

As a kid, music was a both balm and a source of tension for me.

Listening to my mother sing was transporting. It was glorious… and still is. It’s a gorgeous voice and her singing is filled with artistry.

Listening to my father play introduced me to mystery. Where did that music come from? He had some deep well of musical genius.

For me, practicing scales and learning technique felt plodding and painful at first. I would grimace every time I heard my dad shout from another room, “Slower!!”

My flute teacher, Carl Tucker. seemed to know that life was rough. I would come to my lesson, work a little on the assigned piece and then he would put it all away and we would sight-read Telemann duets. We would play… with feeling… and I could breathe again.

Over time, with repetition of the fundamentals, I began to see that nothing is ever the same, everything changes, there’s both simplicity and complexity in a single tone. I could invest a phrase with feeling. I could improvise within the rhythm. There was always room to play. Eventually, the music sang through me. I have learned again and again that there is joy and freedom in rhythm.

Pondering rhythm, I have Mozart and Charlie Parker, and Carl Tucker, and my dad Toby Tate of blessed memory with me today.

Love & Light,


P.S. I love my mornings! Miranda-the-labradoodle wakes me with a nose bump at 5am on the dot. I wake, pee, brush my teeth, make one cup of coffee with 2 oz unsweetened soy milk, and then poop. I take the dog for a 20 minute walk, saying the Serenity Prayer as we leave the house, and then just walk and experience Nature. We see bunnies, deer, and our neighborhood fox family. I come home and take three 15-minute sponsee calls. (I’m in a 12-step program for food addiction.) Then I make breakfast for my husband and me. Every morning we each have 2 eggs, 3 oz beans, 6 oz cooked veg, 8 oz salad, and 1/2 oz oil. And so the day begins.

The Word


Ancient Women Handprints


I hear words. Sometimes in response to a question.

Always immediately. No pause. No thinking on my part.

Just an answer. Unequivocal.

I hear words. Sometimes in silence. Unbidden.

The words are neither male nor female, and both male and female.

The words are not loving nor unloving.

The words are without emotion without drama, neither loud, nor soft.

I’m foraging for food. I hear, “This is Valerie looking in the cabinet.” I close the cabinet doors.

Am I safe? “Yes.”

Do I speak? “No.”

Sometimes the Word comes only in vibrations. A tension or a pleasant sensation, a warmth.

Sometimes the Word comes in pulsations. In Quiet Time these pulsations tell me I’m tuning in, like a tuning fork. They go up, down, side to side, spiraling clockwise, then counterclockwise, quick and slow.

Sometimes the Word is a symbol. In the ambulance I experienced a huge set of grey, feathered wings slowly beating above the vehicle. No word. Just wings. Just the Peace that passeth all understanding.

Love & Light,


Photo Notes: This is a photo of a woman’s handprint from an ancient cave painting.

National Geographic says, “Women made most [about 75%] of the oldest-known cave art paintings, suggests a new analysis of ancient handprints. Hand stencils and handprints have been found in caves in Argentina, Africa, Borneo, and Australia. But the most famous examples are from the 12,000- to 40,000-year-old cave paintings in southern France and northern Spain.”


More on loving kindness

Miranda and Valerie


Last night, sitting with a group of sweet friends, my meditation touched on loving kindness. Since it is almost always a challenge for me to direct loving kindness towards my self, this time I started with the being for which I feel unconditional, uninterrupted love — our canine companion Miranda-the-labradoodle.

Tapping into this easy heart-opening love turned out to be a good entree into a meditation on loving kindness towards my self and then to ever-expanding circles of others.

In Kate Lila Wheeler’s talk via Susan Piver‘s Daily Dharma Gathering she suggested following loving kindness to one’s self with loving kindness towards anything that opens our heart, even a plant… or the planet.

My dear friend Jill reminded me of another encouraging message from this talk. Kate said that, even if I’m not feeling particularly loving and kind, at every moment there are  meditators out in the world sending loving kindness to all beings, including me. Perhaps I am receiving loving kindness on some level at all times. Perhaps there are practices that would help me to more consciously and gratefully receive it.

Thanks to a comment from my wonderful friend, Emilia… here’s more on the meditation practice of loving kindness.

Em suggests the chapter on loving kindness and compassion in Phillip Moffitt’s book, “From Emotional Chaos to Clarity: Move from the Chaos of the Reactive Mind to the Clarity of the Responsive Mind.”

Specifically, he describes (at pp. 127-128) certain phrases he developed for a loving kindness meditation, and suggests that you repeat them first for yourself, then for your loved ones and friends, then for teachers, strangers, and enemies, and finally for all sentient beings:

“May I be safe from internal and external harm.

May I have a calm, clear mind and a peaceful, loving heart.

May I be physically strong, healthy, and vital.

May I experience love, joy, wonder, and wisdom in this life, just as it is.”

Nice, yes?

Love & Light,


In Recovery and Loving Kindness




I’m reminded that “in Recovery” is a tender place. It’s a softening. It’s heart opening. It makes me vulnerable… in a good way.

Something I heard at my 12-step meeting for food addicts that got me thinking about this. Our fellow said that when we are in Recovery we should consider that a place of intensive care. I heard this more as a recommendation to pay attention to the focused healing part of intensive care, rather than absorption with the injury or wounds that have taken us there.

Having just listened to Susan Piver‘s Daily Dharma Gathering taught today by  Kate Lila Wheeler, I’m noticing that the meditation practice of loving kindness feels closely aligned with being in Recovery.

In Recovery we work the tools that help us to stay safe and free from harm, inwardly and outwardly. The practice of loving kindness does the same.

We become happier in mind and heart when we are in Recovery. This happens, too, with the practice of loving kindness.

Our bodies are a vehicle for liberation and become healthier and stronger both in Recovery and on the path of loving kindness.

Being in Recovery teaches us we have enough, we do enough, we are enough. Loving kindness practice helps us to live with ease, knowing that we have what we need to support ourselves.

Thanks so much to those lineages of family, loving kindness practitioners, and Recovery fellows who have brought us to life and offered us tools to help us align with our own goodness; and to help us develop a friendly, respectful and mindful relationship with what is arising for us.

May you be safe and protected, inwardly and outwardly.

May you be happy in your mind and heart.

May your body be healthy and strong. And when it’s not healthy and strong, may you be at ease with it, and may it be a vehicle for your liberation.

May you live with ease. May you have what you truly need to support you so that your heart can open.

Love & Light,


Photo: Justine Hand http://www.gardenista.com/posts/diy-ode-to-spring-bouquet