Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Homeless During A Hurricane

Jose Andres
Jose Andres is an internationally recognized celebrity chef who owns and operates several restaurants in the Washington, DC metropolitan area: Jaleo, Zaytinya and Oyamel.  It doesn't matter which one you choose, all of them serve delicious and innovative menus.  Personally, I love Oyamel and my son loves Jaleo.
Andres, born in Spain, is a busy, busy guy running his critically acclaimed and commercially successful business ventures but he also cares about his community and finds time to give back.
This weekend, as news reports forecast the arrival of Hurricane Sandy's on the East Coast, Andres rolled up his sleeves and worked the food line at DC Central Kitchen, prepping and coordinating meals for the city's homeless population, which has an even harder time finding food during a hurricane.

DC Central Kitchen is an inspiring and vital organization located in the city that offers job training to homeless men and women, giving them hope and a different set of life skills so that they can get become independent.  For over 25 years, DC Central Kitchen has been fighting hunger and today it also provides thousands of healthy, locally sourced school meals to low-income DC Public School students every day.

As Hurricane Sandy gathered speed, and wind and rain swirled around the nation's capital, Andres, who is a chair emiritus of DC Central Kitchen, joined other trained DC Central Kitchen workers to cook and organize meals make sure the homeless could continue to be fed for a number of days in case the power went out.
Andres is a food enthusiast which means that while he enjoys the creation of fantastic Spanish and Mexican cuisine he also doesn't like to see food go to waste and is generous in sharing his time and resources with others who are less fortunate.

We are lucky to have Andres and the DC Central Kitchen in our community!
Here's the link to The Washington Post story about Jose Andres and DC Central Kitchen:

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Home Sweet Home

Yesterday was a well needed luxury: a whole day spent at home.
I have not had one of those days for months and I really needed it.  A day to catch my breath and try to put things back in place.  A day with no schedule.  A day of waiting for Hurricane Sandy to slam into the East Coast so I didn't feel bad about staying inside and tending to my nest. 
Recently, there has been so many medical developments going on in my family that my time has been spent on more important things.  As a result, the house is definitely what you might politely call disheveled.  I am not complaining; just explaining that I am one of those people who believe that house chores will always be there, but the people that you care about will not.
So while the wind and rain swirled around my neighborhood, I found it was the perfect time to go through the many mini piles of papers that have been sitting on the dining room table.

In the middle of one pile of magazines and opened mail I had yet to file, I came across an old Parade magazine I had saved because it had an excerpt from a new book written by Anna Quindlen.  Quindlen is a best selling author and won a Pulitzer Prize in 1992 for her New York Times column, Public and Private.  Quindlen's new book is titled, Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake.  I love Anna Quindlen because she is a beautiful and insightful writer and is always able to wisely put her finger on the core meaning of many of life's common yet bewildering situations.
In this case, Quindlen addresses stuff.  You know, the common stuff that surrounds us; the stuff that keeps piling up.  As in Americans' need for stuff and how material goods innocently creep into your house and then one day you discover you are buried under an emormous amount of things you really no longer want.
How timely that I should find this story as I am trying to get rid of stuff in my own house!!  There's a message here for me and as the holidays approach, I know I've got to get rid of things that I don't use.  If you aren't familiar with Quindlen's work, please allow me to share some of her sage advice from Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake:
--"At some point desire and need became untethered in our lives, and shopping became a competitive sport.  It was generally agreed in our family that my grandmother Quindlen was a world-class shopper, but for her, there was always an object to the hunt: a Hitchcock chair, a pair of Naturalizer pumps.  Sometimes I feel as though credit cards have helped us concentrate on quantity, not quality.  Plastic is magical, as though the bill will never come due."
--Statisticians say our houses are almost twice as large, on average, as they were 40 years ago, but we all understand that that doesn't mean the people inside are any more content.  Now that I'm nearing 60, I understand the truth about possessions, that they mean or prove or solve nothing. Stuff is not salvation."

--"There was a period when I believed stuff meant something. I thought that if you had matching side chairs and a sofa that harmonized and some beautiful lamps to light them, you would have a home, that elegance signaled happiness.  I fooled myself into thinking House Beautiful should be subtitled Life Wonderful.

Amen, Anna!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Oh Sandy -- Please Be Kind

Let's see...Hurricane Sandy, with all her power and threatening ability to destroy most of everything in her path, is currently working her way up the East Coast ready to hit land somewhere in the metropolitan DC area or thereabouts.
The federal government has announced it is shut down for Monday and so is Amtrak, most of the  schools in DC, Maryland and northern Virginia and Metro bus and rail service.
Everyone I know has gone to the grocery store, filled up their gas tanks, cleaned out their gutters and stairwells and is bracing for one horrific storm.  My son is being evacated from Yorktown, Va to Richmond and also a friend who lives in Bethany Beach, Delaware is being evacuated inland to safer ground.
No one is quite sure what to expect but it looks like it's going to be bad.  Rain is falling right now, not too hard but it is steady.  Based on my experience with other hurricanes coming through this area, I would say it's a sure bet that we lose power.  A survey recently showed that PEPCO is thought to be one of the worst utility company ever in the DC metropolitan area and has been rated as the most hated companies because of its poor service and willingness to raise rates.  So my low expectations say that being without power is will probably be days not hours.
Please stay safe everyone!

Friday, October 26, 2012

It's Not What You Think

To show you how little I knew about loss, I thought that the first year after my husband's death was going to be the hardest time that I would ever have to experience.  My thinking was something along the lines of  "If I can get the first year under my belt, then each year after that will become easier to handle."  Right?

Guess what? Not. Always. True.

Grief is always full of surprises and just when you think you have it under control, you don't.

The first year was so raw with emotion for me and such a blur of just getting through the 365 days of it, that the whole idea of my husband's death, the finality of it, didn't really and truly sink in at all. I thought about it, cried about it, read about it and even went to a support group for it but it still was a concept that danced all over the place and didn't settle in.

But the second year was different.  For me, the second year was harder than the first because it painfully confirmed for me over and over again that he wasn't coming back.  Ever.  That this was it and it's not like he's gone on a very long trip.  And then the second year also forced me to stop playing all those mind games with myself and face up to my new life. 

But what happened to me may not happen to you.

I know it sounds like a cliche, but it's still so true: everyone has their own grief journey to travel and no two journeys are the same.  There is no right way or wrong way to grieve.  There is only your way.

I'm not making this up.  It's really true.  Your reactions and experience with grief may be very different from mine and it's totally okay and normal.  It's normal because our relationships are different, our experiences are different, our emotional DNA is different, our religious beliefs are different and our expectations from life and the person we lost are different.

Unfortunately, no one prepares us for those differences. We may watch someone we know experience grief and we think that person's experience will be ours too.  But that isn't always the case.  I lost a husband.  Someone else may have tragically experienced the death of a child or a wife or a friend or a parent.

As much as we may want one and search for one, life does not provide us with a guide book on how we should grieve.  We all process pain and loss differently. 

We grieve because we love.  It is because we love that we grieve.  We care and we emotionally connect to other people and when that person is taken away, it is a shock that can take a long time to process.  On the surface, you are handling things, you take care of daily responsibilities and you go through life automatically.
But underneath, you may be a mess.

By the third and fourth year of grief, you think it's going to be so much better and sometimes it is.  I have two friends, they live in completely different cities, they don't know each other, they are different ages and both have lost spouses.  The woman has children and grandchildren and lost her husband suddenly in a tragic car accident.  The man has no children and nursed his wife through a lengthy illness until she died.
Both have told me they are surprised by the fact that they continue to grieve during their fourth year of loss.  They are active, positive people trying to change and rebuild their lives because both of them socialize, take classes and work.  They meet a lot of people but nothing has ever clicked.

So they forge forward, as I and others do, together, trusting that time will heal us as we journey to renewal and new opportunities.

It's what we know and we keep doing it until it gets better. 

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Bring On The Margaritas

Courtesy of Coastal Living

It's almost Halloween yet yesterday's temperature here in Washington, DC hit 80 degrees.

It is so hard to stay at my desk and work at the computer when I would rather go outside and take advantage of the incredible weather.  It's so hard not to leave my office and jump in the car and drive to the beach and enjoy the warmth of the sun and the sand between my bare toes.

Flip flops, T-shirts and shorts, don't give up hope.  I am not packing you away yet!!

Beach On!!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Finding Support


Re-reading my first Cry, Laugh Heal post from 2010 for Monday's edition brought all the crazy grieving feelings back to me: exhaustion, numbness, raw emotions, the scary future and sometimes even laughter!

But it also reminded how great my support group was during that time and how it gave me hope and helped me feel that life really would get better even though my husband died.  As I met with my small group twice a month, some sessions were upsetting and some were comforting but eventually I felt less alone and stronger about myself and my murky future.

There's a very good reason why they are called support groups: they are set-up to give that extra boost of support needed to help you handle a life crisis and the people in the group have been in your situation.
The philosophy of most support groups is this: we have been there, we know how you feel, and you can lean on us until you feel stronger.  Whether it's grief, alcoholism, drug abuse or any other condition where people reach out for help, those who have experienced it are part of the group and lend a helping hand by giving back to those trying to figure out how to deal with their crisis and the more experienced people pass along how life can be lived in a different way.
For me, that was the secret weapon of my support group.  The leaders of my group had lost spouses, raised children, and rebuilt their lives.  I had no idea how they had done it but I was there hanging on to every word, reading every bit of material and drawing all of the strength that I could from them because I told myself that if they could do it then so could I.
We were bound by our common loss and our discussions, which usually lasted for about two hours, were supportive and healing.  People in my group were newly widowed and had the opportunity to talk about all the issues surrounding their spouse's death, things that they didn't feel comfortable discussing with even their family or friends.  The getting it out, the expression of emotion truly was a huge help.
I remember at my first meeting I was nervous because I didn't know what to expect.  We went around the table and introduced ourselves and I thought I would be fine until it came to telling why we were there.  I started to cry and couldn't stop.  But it was okay.  Everyone was quiet and waited for me.  I finally got through my story and when I was finished there was such understanding.  It was so reassuring to me!!!!
I could only belong to my support group for two years and while this support group worked me, joining a support group may not be for everyone.  Many people prefer the privacy of one-on-one talks and that is wonderful too.  I tried one-on-one chats for a few months until I was ready to join my support group.  A wonderful and compassionate woman from the support group would regularly call me on the phone and we would talk for about an hour.  I can't tell you how helpful it was to have that support!  Having someone listen and then having her tell me what she did after her husband died was such a gift.  To this day, I treasure those conversations.
You are not alone and you don't need to bear your loss all by yourself.  I found my support group at the local hospital but you could also ask your family doctor or a trusted friend.
Please don't be afraid to take the first step.  There are lots of helping hands waiting for you!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Peace Is The Way

By Alan Nordstrom

“There is no way to peace; peace is the way,”
Wise Gandhi said, by which I think he meant
We have to be that which we seek, and play
The role we would become with clear intent.
For as I think and act so shall I be,
And so the world around me shall become:
If violently, then war shall vanquish me;
If lovingly, then peace shall still the drum.
It’s in our hands and hearts and minds to choose
The manner we live by, day after day:
Shall it be marching boots or dancing shoes,
Aggression or compassion? Pick the way,
Not where to go, but who and how to be:
To live in anger—or serenity.

Monday, October 22, 2012

The Big 300


Today marks my 300th post.

It's a personal milestone and truly a huge deal for me.  Big thanks go out to all of my family (especially my son, Ryan, who is my biggest blog cheerleader), friends and readers out there in the internet world who read Cry, Laugh, Heal.   You give me more than you know and I read and respond to all of the great feedback I receive!  And I hope to receive lots more feedback as I continue to write about the incredibly silly, sometimes sad and mostly spontaneous events that happen to me on my new journey as a widow and single mother.

I thought it would be appropriate to go back to the beginning, to the very first post I wrote launching Cry, Laugh Heal in December 2010.  This post is special to me because I had no idea what I was doing -- not that I really know now what I am doing -- but back then I really had no idea where Cry, Laugh Heal was going and what the reaction to it would be.  I just decided to jump in and try it and see what would happen.
When I read that first post today, I see a different person, a person still yearning to go backwards to the time when my husband was alive and well.  I still feel that way sometimes but now the feeling comes less frequently and not as strong as it did then. 

I definitely still feel passionately about changing the way people think about grief and trying to help people as they try to rebuild their lives after the loss of a loved one.  That's the reason I started Cry, Laugh, Heal: to open up the subject of grief and it's resulting resilience.  Grief is a natural reaction to a loved one's death and eventually it will happen to you whether you like it or not.  It doesn't help anyone when we make grief a taboo topic.

Everyone's grief journey is unique and certainly full of ups and downs.  I have found that for most people, the passage of time tends to lessen the waves of pain and eventually, the loss becomes less raw and more manageable.  One day, after many years, I had what is called a light bulb moment and finally realized that my husband would never want me or our son to be miserable.  I can't tell you how or why it happened, but it finally clicked in my brain that he would have wanted us to heal and find happiness.

To my great surprise, I have discovered that an inner strength does slowly build with the taking of each day as it comes to me.

I hope you enjoy reading my first post:

Clothes To You

December 23, 2010 

With the today's launch of Cry, Laugh, Heal, I’ll start by sharing an unexpected moment that helped me cope with my husband’s death.

Grieving can take you down some unpredictable paths -- sometimes revealing humor where you least expect it.

I learned the importance of having a sense of humor early in life while growing up in a large Irish Catholic family. If you couldn’t laugh at yourself, then someone else would imitate you until you did. So laughing and making jokes about life’s bumps in the road was part of my DNA, an integral part of my spirit, and it served me well until my husband died.

Suddenly, I found myself in this new role of being a middle-aged widow and single mother and I felt as though I was outside of myself performing some sort of high-wire act. On the one hand I was trying to move forward and support my young son, while on the other hand I was completely numb. As much as my family and friends supported me, I felt as if no one really got my “spin cycle” of emotions and what I was trying to handle.

I decided I needed to find others who had also lost loved ones and talk to them about how they managed to put the pieces back together and go on with their lives. I started going to group support sessions at Sibley Hospital’s bereavement group called Widowed Persons Outreach (WPO) and it was there that I found the emotional resources and freedom to talk about ALL the issues surrounding my husband’s death -- even the things that sound really irreverent and crazy to other people.

Talking about the emptiness, the surreal feelings, the memories and the loss of future memories was exhausting but therapeutic. But the best thing that came out of these emotional dialogues was that I unexpectedly rediscovered my sense of humor.

We were talking about what happens when you have buried your loved one yet their belongings – their clothes, their food, their books, most of what they owned – is still all around you. I jumped into the discussion and began talking about what happened to me one day when I was in the house all by myself. That particular day, I really felt like I was falling apart and all I wanted was some kind of contact with my husband.

I opened my cell phone, walked around the room and stared at it, thinking there actually was the possibility that something might happen -- a ring, a text, a signal of some sort from my husband. I know it sounds strange but when you are in the throes of deep grief and your loss is so raw, you are just hurting and not being logical.

I closed my eyes and imagined that he was hugging me. Then I opened the hall closet and took one of his tweed jackets off the hanger. I put it on and of course I immediately felt better. I smelled him in that precious jacket and I imagined his arms around me. I was comforted and torn up at the same time.

As I talked about this experience to my group, I said to the husky man sitting across from me, “Trying on his clothes really made me feel a lot better. Haven’t you ever done the same thing?”

Without missing a beat, he said with a completely straight face, “I gotta tell you. I have never, ever once thought about wearing my wife’s clothes.”

I totally burst out laughing. Something about the serious expression on his face, his delivery and the mental picture of this big guy in a small pastel sweater made me laugh so hard I couldn’t get my breath. And everyone else started laughing too so I knew that we had hit on something close to people’s hearts.

It was then that I knew life was going to be a little softer. Nothing was going to be great or wonderful; just slightly more bearable. For a long time, I didn’t think it was okay to laugh. I wasn’t supposed to be enjoying myself and besides, nothing was funny to me anyway.

There is a very thin line between crying and laughing. Many times you find yourself doing one of them and all of a sudden you are doing the other. But a good cry or a good laugh can make you feel as if a huge weight has been lifted and that’s what this blog is here to do.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Baby Angels

I have written previously about angels and particularly about a book my aunt gave me titled, Angel Letters," by Sophy Burnham.  From time to time, I read this book because I find it comforting and it puts life into perspective for me.
There are a number of stories that I tend to re-read when I am stressed or confused about life and this short story is one in particular that always takes my breath away:
In April 1990 Sophy Burnham was being interviewed about her book on WOR-Radio in New York.  She was being interviewed by Gil Gross and as they took calls and discussed the subject of angels, Gross told the following story about a young couple who had one little girl and a new baby:
"The little girl wanted to be left alone with the baby, but the parents were afraid.  They had heard of jealous children hitting new siblings, and they didn't want the baby hurt.
     'No, no,' they said.  And, 'Not yet.'
And also: 'Why do you want to be with him?  What are you going to do?'
     'Nothing.  I just want to be with him.'
She begged for days.  She was so insistent that the parents finally agreed.  There was an intercom in the baby's room.  They decided that they could listen, and if the baby cried, if the little girl hit the baby, they could rush into the room and snatch the infant up.  So, the little girl went in, approached the crib.  Alone.  She came up to the newborn baby, and over the intercom they heard her whisper:

     'Tell me about God.  I'm forgetting.' "

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Your Invaluable Health

You are very lucky if you are in good health. 

Good health gives you freedom of choice and the ability to live your life a certain way.  Good health is invaluable and easily taken for granted...until you don't have it anymore.
When you take care of your body you feel happier, healthier and empowered.  Everything you eat has a direct impact on your body, mind and spirit.  I know no one wants to believe that but it's true.  I found out for myself, ten years ago when I became very ill and was hospitalized for a week.  I changed my diet in a big way and the way I look at food and am healthier now.  If you do nothing else please do this:  clear the processed stuff out of your kitchen and throw it away for good!

Health is totally in the front of my brain today because a family member will be undergoing lung surgery and we are all praying that it is successful. 



Positive Thoughts.

This is real...Please take care of yourself.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Gangnam Style

I'm taking a break today and enjoying the popularity of "Gangnam Style."
"Gangnam Style" makes me laugh and laughing helps you cope with life.  Laughter is very powerful medicine and I try to use humor as much as possible to get through the ordinary hassles and crises I face.   

Courtesy of The Levo League, I saw the above picture yesterday posted on its Facebook page and had to share it!  The man pictured in the blue tuxedo jacket is South Korean rapper Psy.  I didn't even know rap existed in South Korea but there you go!
The "Gangnam Style" song and video are a hoot and I bet you've seen Psy's dance moves imitated by everyone from Britney Spears to the Royal Thai Navy.  If this somehow got past you, then please Google the hit song and check out the popular video on YouTube where it has been viewed over 470 million times.
Basically, "Gangnam Style" is poking fun at people who are trying hard to be something they are not.  Gangnam is a district in Seoul, Korea where people are wealthy and supposedly hip.  According to Wikipedia, Psy likened the Gangnam District to Beverly Hills, California, and said in an interview that he intended a twisted sense of humor by claiming himself to be "Gangnam Style" when everything about the song, dance, looks, and the music video is far from being high class.
The Levo League, which is an online social and recruiting network based in New York City, offers a wide variety of multi-media career resources to young women and it took the "Gangnam Style" themes one step further to make the point that being confident is positive and one of the essentials in building a career.

It's just pure fun!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Compassion at 12th Street Irish Pub

A Bar at the Folies Bergere
By Edouard Manet
Besides making drinks, bartenders do a lot of listening.
Many times when people go to a bar, they are looking for someone to talk to, someone who will listen to their troubles and sympathize with what has happened to them.
In our fast-paced world, finding someone who will sit and absorb our words is so helpful and comforting.  Listening is a powerful thing.
Someone is pouring out their problems to you and in the telling of the problem, they are working through what has happened to them.  The retelling and retelling may go on but eventually the person may work through it for themselves what they need to do next.  Or maybe not. 
I'm not suggesting that you go to a bar to drown your troubles, but I saw this interesting piece of information and thought I would pass it along because it comes from someone who has probabably heard it all, yet he understands the human psyche and feels deep compassion.

From a bartender's point of view, this is how comforting works.  In the October 2012 Oprah magazine, Jimmy Vecere, a bartender at the 12th Street Irish Pub in Philadelphia, gives us his sage advice:
"We're a block from a hospital, so in my 31 years here I've met many people who've just received bad news.  If you see someone in distress, don't hesitate to talk to them.  Once you've heard their story, sometimes all you have to say is, 'I'll be thinking of you.'  Your words are more powerful than you think."

Monday, October 15, 2012

Pizza With The President

President Barack Obama delivers pizzas to my son (on the phone)
and other hardworking field organizers

Whether you are a Democrat or a Republican, getting a chance to meet the President of the United States is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Yesterday my son and I were part of  an amazing event and it still feels surreal.

We were in Gloucester, VA going door-to-door to get out the vote for the Obama campaign when my son, who is a field organizer, received a call to quickly come to Williamsburg.  We knew President Obama was in Williamsburg preparing for Tuesday's debate with Republican nominee Mitt Romney so we figured that there was a very good possibility that President Obama had decided to stop by the Williamsburg office and do a meet-and greet with campaign staff.

We arrived in Williamsburg ahead of the President's motocade but Secret Service and the advance team were already on the scene.  It's was just as you would image: Black Escalades, sunglasses, earpieces, walkie talkies and security wands.  There were about 50 people standing outside, a mixture of Obama volunteers and supporters and the advance team waived my son into the building as I was told to wait outside.  One lady I talked to was there because she just stopped by to pick up an Obama sign for her yard.  Talk about perfect timing!

For security purposes, the rest of us were told we couldn't be in front of the building when the President arrived so we had to wait behind the building.  The Secret Service then told us when President Obama was in the building that we could come back to the entrance and form a line so that we could shake hands with the President before he departed.  While we waited, the Secret Service made sure everyone understood the ground rules: don't put anything in the President's face, keep your hands out of your pockets, and don't ask the President to sign anything.
There was a definite buzz of excitement and anticipation in the air and we all kept rearranging our hair and our clothes when suddenly that very familiar voice shouted, "Hello everybody!" and there he was, the President of the United States up close and personal.  Everbody started clapping and whooping and taking pictures.  My first impression was that he is taller and thinner than you would think.
Obama was relaxed in talking to each person, asking them their names, where they were from and took particular interest in the few children that were in line.  I just couldn't believe I was going to meet Barack Obama in a few minutes.  It was truly surreal.  I wanted time to slow down because he was getting ready to talk to me and I didn't know what to say.  Talk about the debate? No.  Say something about the election?  No.  Tell him he should gain a little weight and have a few more greasy burgers from Ray's Hell Burger, one of his favorites? Definitely No.
"What's your name?" the President asked me with a big smile.
I smiled back, told him my name and somehow managed to say, "Mr. President it is truly an honor to meet you and thank you for all of your hard work."  I put my hand out because I thought he would shake it, but then he put his arms out and hugged me!  OMG!! And then he was on to the next person.  It was over so fast!
The woman next to me was a riot because she didn't even wait for the President to talk to her.  She put her arms out and hugged him immediately and giggled as she said, "I love you!"  Obama laughed too and then he said, "I love you back!"
We weren't allowed to move until the President was back in his car so I watched as he continued to make his way down the line and talk to each person.  You would have no idea that this was a person under a tremendous amount of pressure.  On the surface, it could have been a regular Sunday afternoon social event, just hanging out and chatting about life.
But we all knew it was more than that.

Friday, October 12, 2012

It's In The Bag

Truly, it is the little surprises in life that make a difference!

Kindness can arrive at any time.
Or maybe it's just that my standard for smiling is different.  What brings a smile to my face might bring only a shrug to another person.  But I'm going to go with the spontaneous and positive happenings that I find around me!  It's all about the smooth and healing ride of life.
I know that negative energy is lurking out there, waiting to nab me, but I am pushing it away because yesterday in Washington, DC it was a beauuuuuuutiful day.  Not a cloud in the sky and the air was clean and crisp.  Oh to play hookey from work.
I walked to the farmer's market down the street from my office and saw that fall produce had arrived, full of fresh and nutritious possibilities: leeks, kale, pumpkins and an amazing variety of squashes and beautiful apples.  I love the Honeycrisp apples and they were at the top of my shopping list.  I had forgotten how tasty they were until I ate a few over the weekend.  That tart/sweet taste of the Honeycrisp is addictive.  I needed more!
When I reached the cash register, I had an armful of juicy apples and as I placed them on the scale, the guy behind the table asked me if I wanted a bag.  In DC, and now in Maryland, the bag thing is a big deal.  Maryland has actually taken it further than DC.  Most stores now charge you 5 cents for a plastic bag so I try to always have one with me.  It sounds like a small thing but it isn't. 
The money from buying the bag goes to cleaning up the neighboring rivers and I'm all for that.  But sometimes I get caught off guard like I did last week when I didn't have a bag with me.  I had just bought some dress slacks at Macy's and wanted to continue shopping at other stores in the Mall so I paid the 5 cents for the plastic bag.  I'm sorry but it just feels weird paying for something we used to get for free.
Anywho, I'm at the farmer's market and I hand the guy my recycled paper bag (with handles) and he accidentally rips it.  Rut Ro!  So he gives me a plastic bag which he doesn't charge me for and I'm gathering up my stuff to leave.  As I turn around, this young girl come up to me and pleasantly says, "This is for you." Well lookey loo, it's a new navy blue bag that says FRESHFARM MARKETS, just like the one pictured above.

"How nice of you!  You don't have to do that," I told her. 

"No, no," she said.  "It's okay.  Please take it." 

And I did.  With a big smile.

Now it's my turn to pass it on!


Thursday, October 11, 2012

Thought Of The Day

To me, this picture captures a feeling of freedom.  The freedom of possibility, the freedom of creativity.  It's warm outside, not hot hot, and the windows are down; Janis Joplin's great whiskey voice is singing, "Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose. . ."
When I see those VW wagons driving down the highway, I am reminded of the 1960's and the sometimes excellent adventures of being a teenager.  It was fun but I don't think I would want to go back and relive those times.  Maybe you feel differently. . .

Today I look at the passage of time very differently.  Every day is an opportunity to try to do something  alittle differently or work on something about yourself that you are trying to improve.  It can be something small like adding another minute to your exercises or not cursing for 24 hours (that would be me) or something big like calling someone you haven't talked to in a long time or visiting an ill person who may be in the hospital.
Either way, it's your day.  Grab it and go!!!!!!!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Car Man To The Rescue

Checking Your Air Pressure

I am going to get right to the point today:  Thank you, Thank you, Thank you to the man at the BP gas station last night who helped me with the air pressure in my tires.
I was driving home from work last night and suddenly a menancing light came on in the dashboard.  This is what the symbol looked like:

Don't you hate it when that happens?  Plus, I was really in a panic because I didn't know what the light meant.  Was it something big?  Something small?  What the Hell?

I pulled over to the side of the road and quickly prayed that the problem was something small and inexpensive.  Once I read the car manuel and found the symbol, I discovered that it came on because the air pressure in  my tires was low.

Thank God it wasn't something bigger like the transmission or an engine belt.
You're probably thinking I should have kept driving and gone home.  After all, it was only the air pressure in my tires but I couldn't do that.  The warning light would be a constant reminder to me that something was wrong and eventually I would have to deal with it so I might as well do it now.  I found myself mentally talking to my husband because when he was alive he used to know all about the cars.  Oh well. . .

I pulled into the first gas station and asked the guy behind the counter if someone could check the pressure on my car tires.  "Nope," he said, "Gotta come back tomorrow.  Nobody's here right now and I'm not going to do it because I'm busy working this cash register."  Great.

On my way back to my car I noticed that this gas station charged one dollar, that's right, one dollar, for air coming out of the air pump.  What a rip-off!  By the way, when did gas stations start charging for air?

Back in my car, I am searching for another gas station.  BINGO!!  The next one not only has free air but Mr. Car Rescue Man is there kneeling on the pavement next to his car checking his own air pressure.  He didn't work for the gas station and he kindly checked and rechecked the air pressure in my tires until all four were correct!!!!!!  What an angel!!
Thank you again Mr. Car Rescue Man!!  You are the best and the world needs more guys exactly like you!!!!  Thank you so much!!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Grounded To The Ground

Staying Grounded
Have you seen that television commercial where the couple is test driving a new car in the desert and then later someone off camera asks them why they liked it?

The man says something about wheel rims on the tires and the way the car felt when he was driving it and then the woman says more good stuff about the car and ends the commercial by saying it felt "grounded to the ground."  The guy off camera can't believe she has expressed herself this way and he repeats "grounded to the ground" as though it were a question and then she laughs while saying the phrase again.

It's not just the words "grounded to the ground" that crack me up but it's also the way that she says it.

It's funny and at the same time the phrase strikes a chord with me these days.  Most people do want to feel as though they are "grounded to the ground."  Stability and reliability are good things.  It's reassuring to know that certain things will work or happen at certain times.  And that you can count on certain people to be there for you when times are tough.
It's very unsettling when you feel as though parts of your life that you can't control are flying in whatever direction they want.  You start to wonder what will happen next because you didn't anticipate these events AT ALL!  I can't be more specific because other people would prefer that I not go on and on about it in my blog.  But I am trying to take my own advice about slowing down, taking a deep breath, and keeping life's unexpected events in perspective.

I have nothing against spontaneity but lately there have been too many health surprises in our family and I now find myself wishing for consistently healthy days for everyone I know.  While writing this post, I am drinking a cup of hot herbal tea and channeling good, peaceful and calming thoughts.  Yes, I have been praying too and that helps to destress my thoughts and feelings.  Knowing that I am not alone in this huge.
So I continue to mentally sort through my emotions, talk, talk, talk to friends and family and share all of this with you my wonderful readers which definitely helps me feel more "grounded to the ground."
Thanks for being here today!!

Monday, October 8, 2012

A Sweet Smile

Photo By Sam Costanza

When I first saw this story I thought it was about a guy driving a cab in New York City who just liked to give candy to his customers for fun.

But the story is more than that.

This quirky story is really about coming to terms with a loss in your life and how this man, who drives a cab in New York City, found a way to rebuild his life and make it less painful by bringing a smile to others.  It certainly is a unique way of dealing with grief.

Wouldn't you love to be lucky enough to find youself in his cab?

This cabbie just wants to make your day sweeter

NYC Candy Cab driver gives out free candy


"Candy cabbie" Mansoor Khalid gives passengers as much candy as they want.
Now that’s one sweet ride.

Taxi driver Mansoor Khalid is on a one-man mission to cheer up New Yorkers with a daily dose of candy.

“The New York life is not the easy life,” Khalid, 36, told the Daily News. “People are depressed. I see a lot of people stressed sitting back there."

Khalid is no stranger to stress. He dubbed his taxi the NYC Candy Cab after his 2-year-old son died in April from a long battle with heart disease.

“I learned a lot of things,” he said of the trauma of losing his child, who underwent two heart transplants and lost a kidney before he passed away. "Life is too short."

Khalid, who moved to New York from Pakistan in 1993 and has been driving a cab since 1997, had already seen the impact of small acts of generosity. During the two years he spent in the hospital with his son, he routinely brought coffee and desserts to the doctors and nurses when he got off his shift at 1 a.m.

"They got so happy when in the middle of the night I gave every person coffee," he said. “I was so nice to them and they were so nice to me.”

After his son died, Khalid decided to bring his routine to the people he interacted with every day in his cab.

Photo By Sam Costanza

  Khalid said he was inspired to do something sweet after the death of his 2-year-old son.

“I was very depressed, losing my little boy," he said. "Somehow, God gave me this idea. Now (I'm) chit-chatting and time is flying by!”

Though he doesn’t eat much candy himself — “Skittles, only” — Khalid offers a wide variety of sweets, and has started cataloguing his collection on Instagram. Fans can also follow him on Twitter (@CandyCabNYC), and he may even start a blog for his growing following.

One such fan was thrilled to discover the cab on a late night out last weekend, and quickly spread the word about him through social media.

“We all started freaking out,” said David Weiner, 27. “You don’t see piles of candy like that in adulthood. It’s just one of those things that reminds you you’re in New York and anything can happen.”

And Khalid’s unusual project has the full support of the city.

"We encourage drivers to go the extra mile in the name of customer service, and Mr. Khalid certainly does this," said Taxi and Limousine Commission boss David Yassky. "We appreciate the loyalty he inspires in his passengers."

Loyalty isn’t the goal, considering that Khalid responds to every hail, candy or no candy. His mission is to spread warmth.

"It’s a little thing,” he said, “but people get happy.”

Friday, October 5, 2012

A Dose of Kindness

Visiting people who are sick is one of the kindest acts we can ever practice.  Sitting and talking, holding their hand and listening seem so simple to the healthy but those things are so essential in helping the ill know that they matter, that they are not forgotten even though they are no longer able to independently move around.
Bringing about a smile or laughter through a funny story is just as important as any medicine prescribed by a doctor.  Laughter, in particular, is a powerful distraction from pain and illness.
One of my sisters and her husband are compassionately taking care of his elderly parents.  Both parents have been diagnosed with advanced stages of cancer and my sister and her husband are trying to make this time with them as comfortable as possible.
My sister's in-laws live in the same retirement community as our parents and while visiting with our parents this past weekend, my sister said it would be great if I could also stop by and also see her in-laws.  I did pop by for a visit with only her mother-in-law because her father-in-law was resting.  But the time spent catching up with her mother-in-law was unexpectedly funny.
I must admit I was a little anxious about visiting her mother-in-law because I didn't know if she was in a lot of pain or if she was even aware of her surroundings but she surprised me.
But during my visit I found a talented woman who had raised three children and was diagnosed with advanced cancer less than a year ago sitting in her family room making jokes about herself and her children, talking in an accent to make some of her stories more amusing and thoroughly enjoying herself.  It was wonderful to see that she still wanted to know what was going on in everyone's lives and having such a positive attitude about life.
While we watched the Ryder Cup on television and she made comments about the golfers, there was no negativity about her or her husband's medical situation.  She was living the moment and enjoying her time with the people around her.
I know that she is not always in such great spirits or health as she was during my visit but she takes advantage of when she feels good.  It can be difficult to see people when they are ill and it may be something we would rather not do but if we were ill wouldn't we want people to come and socialize with us? Wouldn't we want people to care about us?
The visit reminded me that even though I may feel awkward around someone who is ill it shouldn't stop me from trying to comfort someone else.  Life is about giving of yourself and lending a helping hand.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

The Voice's Pip -- Update

Pip and Carson Daly

Following your passion can be exciting, healing, scary and a lot of hard work.

My cousin, Gina, recently posted this video of her nephew, Pip, and it updates his fans about what Pip is doing folllowing his appearance last season on NBC's prime-time hit show "The Voice".

It's a fun, behind-the-scenes look at a very talented young man putting his music out there and building his career.  Take a look and listen:

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Aren't You Over It Yet?

I am Catholic but I often find strength and wisdom in the teachings of other religions.  We're all here in the same boat and we're all here to get along, so why not reach out and see what we can learn from each other?

With that thought in mind, I am sharing a short insightful piece that a friend gave to me.   It is written by a rabbi and I found his thoughts to be very comforting.  I hope you do too:

Getting Over It
By Rabbi Earl A. Grollman

My wife died fourteen months ago.  Even though I don't feel as bad as when she first died, I'm still in terrible pain.  My friends ask me, "Don't you think it's time you're over it?"  How do I know when I've finished grieving?
Grief is not a weakness or an illness, even though some may treat you as though you were sick.  "Getting over" the death of a loved one is not like "getting over" a cold, a broken bone or an allergy.  There is no time limit, quick fix, or an easy cure.  Grief is a continuing, slow, consuming process -- a physical, spiritual, and emotional response to agonizing separation.
Even with the passage of time, sadness does not completely disappear.  There will be moments when you feel like your old self, as well as low periods, especially during holidays and anniversaries.
Here are some encouraging signs that you are effectively dealing with grief:
--Your body doesn't hurt so much.  You feel a little less discomfort and a little more peace.  Memories are recalled with more pleasure than pain.
--You care how you dress and look.  You enjoy some old interests, activities and hobbies.  You cope more effectively with other problems in your life.
--You are able to envision and plan future events with a degree of exciting anticipation.
--You think more of possibility rather than impossibility.
--You invite family and friends to be with you.  You reach out to others.  You commemorate holidays without feeling guilty for enjoying the day.
--You delight in keeping the room temperature at 65 degrees when your loved one always wanted it to be at 74 degrees.
--You accept your grief, your fears, your aloneness and say, "I miss her/him so much but I have to go on living."
"Getting over" the death of someone you care deeply about doesn't mean that you will be the same person you were before the loss.  It doesn't mean that you've forgotten the person who died.
You don't get over it.  You just continue to go through it.  A widower who understands this message said eloquently: "I am less because she is no more.  But I am more because she was part of my life."

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

A Grandfather's Last Letter

Grandfathers and Grandchildren Learn From Each Other

Many people have good intentions when it comes to writing down their thoughts and feelings about their loved ones.  But then, unfortunately, something happens and they never get to it.  Letting those who are special to you know exactly how you feel about them on paper (in a positive way) is an incredible gift.  Without such a note or letter you are left to either guess at how the person felt about you or you can go on your memory, which depending on your age, could be fuzzy. 
Now along comes James K. Flanagan and he shows us all how to do it.
God bless James K. Flanagan for he knew how to put more happiness into the lives of his grandchildren by leaving them with a one-of-a-kind treasure.  I saw this story yesterday in the Huffington Post and right away was amazed by what Flanagan wrote to his five grandchildren a few months before he died. 
I can't pick out the most important pieces of wisdom Flanagan listed for they all are important for different reasons.  Outstanding job Mr. Flanagan.  I think you covered everything!!!

James K. Flanagan: A Grandfather's Last Letter To His Grandkids

On Sept. 3, 2012, James K. Flanagan of West Long Branch, N.J., died unexpectedly of a heart attack. He wrote this letter to his five grandchildren just months earlier and it is reprinted here with the permission of his daughter Rachel Creighton.

Dear Ryan, Conor, Brendan, Charlie, and Mary Catherine,

My wise and thoughtful daughter Rachel urged me to write down some advice for you, the important things that I have learned about life. I am beginning this on 8 April 2012, the eve of my 72nd birthday.

1. Each one of you is a wonderful gift of God both to your family and to all the world. Remember it always, especially when the cold winds of doubt and discouragement fall upon your life.

2. Be not afraid . . . of anyone or of anything when it comes to living your life most fully. Pursue your hopes and your dreams no matter how difficult or "different" they may seem to others. Far too many people don't do what they want or should do because of what they imagine others may think or say. Remember, if they don't bring you chicken soup when you're sick or stand by you when you're in trouble, they don't matter. Avoid those sour-souled pessimists who listen to your dreams then say, "Yeah, but what if . . ." The heck with "what if. . ." Do it! The worst thing in life is to look back and say: "I would have; I could have; I should have." Take risks, make mistakes.

3. Everyone in the world is just an ordinary person. Some people may wear fancy hats or have big titles or (temporarily) have power and want you to think they are above the rest. Don't believe them. They have the same doubts, fears, and hopes; they eat, drink, sleep, and fart like everyone else. Question authority always but be wise and careful about the way you do it.

4. Make a Life List of all those things you want to do: travel to places; learn a skill; master a language; meet someone special. Make it long and do some things from it every year. Don't say "I'll do it tomorrow" (or next month or next year). That is the surest way to fail to do something. There is no tomorrow, and there is no "right" time to begin something except now.

5. Practice the Irish proverb: Moi an olge agus tiocfaidh sí "Praise the child and she will flourish."

6. Be kind and go out of your way to help people -- especially the weak, the fearful, and children. Everyone is carrying a special sorrow, and they need our compassion.

7. Don't join the military or any organization that trains you to kill. War is evil. All wars are started by old men who force or fool young men to hate and to kill each other. The old men survive, and, just as they started the war with pen and paper, they end it the same way. So many good and innocent people die. If wars are so good and noble, why aren't those leaders who start wars right up there fighting?

8. Read books, as many as you can. They are a wonderful source of delight, wisdom, and inspiration. They need no batteries or connections, and they can go anywhere.

9. Be truthful.

10. Travel: always but especially when you are young. Don't wait until you have "enough" money or until everything is "just right." That never happens. Get your passport today.

11. Pick your job or profession because you love to do it. Sure, there will be some things hard about it, but a job must be a joy. Beware of taking a job for money alone -- it will cripple your soul.

12. Don't yell. It never works, and it hurts both yourself and others. Every time I have yelled, I have failed.

13. Always keep promises to children. Don't say "we'll see" when you mean "no." Children expect the truth; give it to them with love and kindness.

14. Never tell anyone you love them when you don't.

15. Live in harmony with Nature: go into the outdoors, woods, mountains, sea, desert. It's important for your soul.

16. Visit Ireland. It's where the soul of our family was born -- especially the West: Roscommon, Clare, and Kerry.

17. Hug people you love. Tell them how much they mean to you now; don't wait until it's too late.

18. Be grateful. There is an Irish saying: "This is a day in our lives, and it will not come again." Live every day with this in mind.

As was written in his obituary, James K. Flanagan "was proudly liberal and fought unyieldingly for the underdog. He was an accomplished author, poet, and seanchai -- Irish storyteller; he reveled in recounting the joy of growing up Catholic in Jersey City and his adventures in the Adirondack Mountains and on the Western coast of Ireland. His greatest love was spending time with his family, most of all his five grandchildren" Ryan (11); Conor (10); Brendan (9); Charles (8); and Mary Catherine (5)."