Friday, June 28, 2013

Parents Are Human Too

While celebrating my son's birthday recently, he asked me once again what it was like the day he was born.
I think every child likes to reminisce about the day of their birth and what everyone was doing as they were arriving into the world.  His questions about how long I was in labor, what was happening in the hospital and what Daddy was doing were expected.
But that conversation evolved into a bittersweet conversation about his Dad and some of the frustrating health issues he had before his death.  His Dad (my husband) was diabetic and injected insulin.  He was not overweight.  He developed diabetes later in life and controlled his diabetes with pills for a number of years but then was hospitalized with acute pneumonia which caused his sugar levels to go out of control.  Injecting insulin was the only way the doctors could stabilize his sugar count.
Too put it mildly, diabetes and my husband were not a good match at all.  I know of two people who are diabetic and both inject insulin.  They are religious about checking their blood sugar, eating well and exercising on a regular basis.  These were not things my husband did on a regular basis or even wanted to do daily.
His pills would sit on the table, he would go for hours without testing his blood sugar, he would eat desserts and he would drink alcohol.  Don't get me wrong.  I loved my husband desperately but there were times when I felt I was fighting harder for his health than he was.  I will give him credit for the efforts that he did make for short periods of time when he would try to change his habits but then it would become too much and he would let it all slide again.

Our son remembers the arguments about diet and exercise and medicine and I know that this created anxiety.  I don't particularly enjoy answering these questions from my son but I'm also not going to hide the truth from him and run away from the reality of our situation.  Going back in our memories to those times is painful and we truly tried to make things easier for him because we knew he was sick but in the end it wasn't enough.
It is very hard to explain to a child that their parent is not all that they think they are or want them to be.  You want to think and talk only about the good times but that's not life.  We have to learn to take the good with the bad. 

We're all human.  We make mistakes.  Our hearts are in the right place and so are our intentions but we don't always carry through on our goals.  I've had my share of screw-ups but I'm still here so my son can argue with me when he is annoyed or angry at something I've done.  His Dad isn't here and he can't talk to him or confront him with his issues and that creates pain and sometimes anger.

Give yourself and others permission to feel and talk about these conflicted emotions.  In the end, I think it's okay to love someone but still be angry at them for some of the choices they made while they were with you. 

It's their actions that we don't like because our love for the person is still there.  Always.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Road Trip -- Traveling Alone

I was chatting with one of my friends recently and catching up with the happenings in her life.  We hadn't spoken for a few months so there was a lot to talk about.  Her husband died about three years ago and she was telling me about the adjustments and bumps in the road that her new life was presenting for her.
One big issue was vacation.
Sounds great, right?  Easy, right? Just do it, right?
Welllllll, it's not as easy as it sounds if you are still getting used to the idea that you are doing things by yourself.  She had planned where she wanted to go for a vacation.  That was the easy part.  It's the same place that she and her husband used to go every year for vacation so she is very familiar with where she is going.  And she also planned for friends to be there when she arrives. 
But the friends are coming from different cities so she will be traveling to her vacation place by herself.  For the first time.

I have no doubts that she will be able to handle the actual traveling by herself.  She may be a little teary and she might need to stop along the way to collect herself when memories of her and her husband together occassionally pops into her brain but overall I think going on vacation this way will be a good thing for my friend to try this and see how it goes.  I give her a lot of credit for putting herself out there and doing something very different.  She's a trooper!

I know you agree and am wondering what your thoughts are on this kind of situation.  Traveling alone may be a breeze for you. . . or not.  Do you have any tips to share about feeling vulnerable and traveling alone?

Many thanks for your suggestions!!!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

A Dancing Spirit

In a former life, many many years ago, my life's ambition was to be a dancer.
I just loved it and could think of doing nothing else.  So much so that I would take my younger sister and go to the record department in our local five and ten and dance in front of anyone who was there no matter what music was playing.  Hours and hours were spent studying ballet, modern dance, character dancing and just dancing for fun! I attended the Boston Conservatory for a short period of time before I had to drop out to have two operations and rehabilitation on both of my legs.  
Dancing keeps you in great shape but it is not as easy as some people make it look.  If it looks easy to you, then that is a measure of the dancer's talent, discipline and determination to get it right and make it look flawless. 
I write of dancers and dancing today because I still love it and still do it whenever I can.  It makes me feel free and careless and it's just a blast!  It reboots my inner spirit and renews me for whatever is coming up next. 
I never had the opportunity to take Irish dancing but would love to try it out.  I just discovered this video yesterday of two Irish guys who make up a group called Tap Tronic and all I can say is WOWSA!  You will definitely be hearing more about these two dancers.
Check out their cutting-edge technique:

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Special Birthday Wishes

Twenty three years ago today, my magical son was born!

From the bottom of my heart I couldn't love you more!!  You are a joy and a wonder and watching you grow into a young man is and always will be exciting.

I know this past year has been a challenge for you but you have never been one to run away from difficult situations and I know that this coming year holds some good, solid, life-changing news for you!!  I don't know what the good news will be, but I sense it will be delivered to you this year just as sure as I know that you are a special guy!

I am so proud of you and how far you have traveled on your life's journey.  Continue to be true to yourself and follow your passions and you will never stray from making your heart happy!
Happy birthday and best wishes always to you my beloved son for many, many more!!

To close out this loving birthday post, here's a special rockin' greeting to you from The Beatles:


Friday, June 21, 2013


The picture posted on the Facebook page shows a CD leaning against a car dashboard with the following handwritten message written with a Sharpie:  "To KissyFace - From Your Number #1 Fan."
On a different Facebook page, a male friend enthusiastically writes about a recent Washington Nationals baseball game, what the score was and the important plays of the game.  He then ends his post by saying how much he misses his friend.  On the same page, a different friend posts a story that was in that day's newspaper and says, "I know you would like this story.  It's your kind of reporting."

These Facebook pages belong to people who have died but that doesn't matter to the people who knew and loved them best.

They continue to connect with the person's page by posting pictures, comments, messages and stories and continue to do so because it helps them feel connected to their friend or loved one.  It helps them heal. 

These postings represent the sorts of things they would be talking about to this person, if they were still alive.  They continue to post on the person's page because they don't want to let go of the relationship they had with this person and posting on their page almost feels as though the person at some point will actually read it.
The posts are tributes, in a way, to feelings of friendship, memories of good times and the camaraderie of people who share the same sense of humor or the same interests in life.  Those thoughts that immediately pop into your head when you see or hear something you know the other person would love to know about.
You can't help it.  Even now, nine years after my husband's death, when I see something in the newspaper or on television, or I run into a person I haven't seen for awhile, I think to myself, "I've got to tell Tommy."  But then I realize I can't, so sometimes I just say it out loud to myself.
My husband died before Facebook ever came to be so I am not faced with the question of whether to delete his Facebook page or not.  I probably would let it stay up because I think I would find it comforting to log on and read what others have written or write something myself.

 For those who feel it is too painful and want their loved one's Facebook pages gone, here is a helpful story that Liz Crenshaw, NBC Channel 4's consumer reporter did on how to delete a deceased person's Facebook page.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Over You -- Miranda Lambert

Miranda Lambert

We like to think that the people we love will remain with us forever.
No one wants to think of a time or be faced with a time when a loved one gets sick, is in an accident or worse and will no longer be here. 
But unfortunately, sadly and even tragically, life does not work the way we want, as hard as we always try to will it to work our way.
The reason why I am drawn to the haunting song, "Over You," sung here by award-winning country music singer Miranda Lambert, who also co-wrote this song with her husband, Blake Shelton, is the line, "But you went away.  How dare you?  I miss you."
I don't care how many stages of grief you go through and which way you go through them, those words are universal in their sentiment.  I don't think of the words in an angry way; just more of a human plea to the person to come back because it's lonely without them.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Back to Kindergarten

My Dad is the kind of guy who is constantly ripping and cutting articles out of newspapers and magazines and mailing them to people he thinks will appreciate what he has found.  It drives my Mom crazy that he does this before she has even had a chance to read the paper or the magazine.  But after 60 years of marriage, my father continues to clip away in his own little world.

When I saw my Dad this past weekend for Father's Day, he had a column that he had recently cut from a newsletter and he handed it to me and said, "I know you think you're too old to be told anything, but I thought you would enjoy this column.  You've probably already read it but it's the kind of thing that everyone needs to be reminded about.  Just think about it."

I did think about it and my Dad was right.  This column below is a good basic reminder about how to navigate the ups and downs of that magical ride we call life.  For anyone who is sad, confused or frustrated about what is going on in their life right now, this column, which was written almost 25 years ago, may help you reset yourself and start again with a fresh outlook: 
All I Really Need To Know I Learned In Kindergarten
By Robert Fulghum
All I really need to know about how to live and what to do and how to be I learned in kindergarten.  Wisdom was not at the top of the graduate-school mountain, but there in the sandpile at Sunday School.  These are the things I learned:
-- Share everything.
-- Play fair.
-- Don't hit people.
-- Clean up your own mess.
-- Don't take things that aren't yours.
-- Say you're sorry when you hurt somebody.
-- Wash your hands before you eat.
-- Flush.
-- Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.
-- Live a balanced life -- learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some
-- Take a nap every afternoon.
-- When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands and stick together.
-- Be aware of wonder.  Remember the little seed in the styrofoam cup: The roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why but we are all like that.
-- Goldfish and hamsters and white mice and even little seeds in the styrofoam cup--they all die.  So do we.
-- And remember the Dick-and-Jane boks and the first word you learned -- the biggest word of all -- LOOK.
Everything you need to know is in there somewhere.  The Golden Rule and the love and basic sanitation.  Ecology and politics and equality and sane living.
Take any one of those items and extrapolate it inoto sophisticated adult terms and apply it to your family life or your work or your government or your world and it holds true and clear and firm.  Think what a better world it would be if we all -- the whole world -- had cookies and milk bout three o'clock every afternoon and then lay down with our blankies for a nap.  Or if all governments had as a basic policy to always put things back where they found them and to clean up their own mess.
And it is still true -- no matter how old you are -- when you go out into the world, it is best to hold hands and stick together.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Fast & Sweet

Down the street from my office, there once was an organic salad carry-out place, sort of similiar to Chop't but not as inventive.  It went out of business many months ago and I have been watching the empty store to see what kind of business would open up in its place.

My office friends and I have been discussing what we would like to see go in there (Panera got my vote) and we all assumed that the next restaurant would be serving something in the same vein as salads, and if not salads, then something healthy for people to eat.

Wrong! Dunkin Donuts now occupies the once empty space where salad greens and raw veggies were served.  This week they are advertising a breakfast sandwich that uses a doughnut instead of a bun.  My son told me that he actually has eaten one of these sandwiches and they are delicious (figures!) but still it seems so unhealthy to me on so many levels.  Tells me a lot about what's selling in downtown DC, right?

Fast and sweet gets people every time.  Especially when people are working in high-pressure situations.

It's such a rude trick from the food industry: the idea that something sweet or fattening or loaded with carbs can plug up that hole you are desperately feeling or wipe out that anger you are feeling or soothe the hurt feelings that are within your psyche.  Physical reactions to the death of a loved one may include loss of appetite or overeating and sleeplessness so it's perfectly natural that you would reach for the chocolate or the french fries or the glass of wine to comfort your broken heart. 
Don't get me wrong, I completely understand the appeal of these foods because I used to eat them all the time too.  When I used to party my brains out, the next morning I would always want fast food.  While I was eating it, I felt great.  But afterwards, I actually felt worse because I didn't give my body any nutrients to use to process the alcohol in my system or build up my immune system. 
As more and more scientific evidence surfaces every day, there is no escaping the fact that there is a direct connection between health and diet.  People are also finding out for themselves that when they eat fresher, natural foods rather than processed foods (that would be me!), they feel a whole lot better.  Fresher may be a little more pricey than frozen or processed but there should be no doubt about spending the extra money because the quality of your life and the quality of your health are worth the investment.
Whether you're grieving or stressed at work or anxious about your life in general, you are vulnerable and that's when the desire for fast and easy and convenient processed food kicks in.  Once in awhile it is okay to indulge in something unhealthy because otherwise you're going to feel deprived.
But do yourself a big favor.  You and I are not having a craving for broccoli or kale or carrots but it's eating those things that will keep us going strong, strong enough to walk past Dunkin Donuts.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Live and Let Live

Street Sense is a small newspaper which is sold on the streets of Washington, DC by men and women who are working their way out of being homeless.  Some, but not all of the people selling the newspaper, have been to rehabilitation for drugs or alcohol.
These are people working hard to develop resilience in themselves, to bounce back from hard times, and put themselves out there once again to start once again to rebuild their lives.  To me, they are all about the spirit of hope.
The Street Sense vendors are always friendly and easy to talk to.  They easily share their stories and are always optimistic.  And some of them also write for the paper.
In the paper's latest edition, the following short story inspired me about life and the nature of healing and I thought I would share it with you as we begin a new work week.  There's some wisdom in this story below for all of us.
Live and Let Live
By Phillip Black
Street Sense Vendor
When we live and let live, we learn so much from each other.  I've learned that when it comes to hard times and tough situations, most people seem to handle the presure.  And sometimes it makes our lives stronger.  Live and let live.
What I mean most about live and let live is that people live their lives, and most people don't understand why other people do the things we do.  You have to consider other people, because what you do or what I do doesn't make it right.  When we live, we must be the best we can be, so others will follow.
Two months ago, a good friend of mine's mom passed away.  I couldn't attend the funeral, but went to the repass.  What I saw was very surprising.  They were partying, dancing and laughing.  I asked hin, "What are you doing?  Didn't your mom pass away?"  He said, "Yes, but this is what she wanted."  She didn't want us to mourn her death.  She wanted us to celebrate it.  And that's just what they did.  Wow, live and let live.
I also know two people who were neighbors for years, and they would never say hello or speak to each other.  One day, when she saw that someone was breaking inot the other's house, she called the police.  The person was arrested, and everything was ok.  Now they're the best of friends.  It took something bad to happen for them to become friends.  Live and let live.
Living and watching other people live helps us.  The same person we don't speak to is the person that drives the school bus that takes our children to and from school.  Live and let live.
The same job my uncle wouldn't take, someone else did.  And now he's mad at that person for taking the job that he didn't want.  It took awhile for my uncle to come around.  So I said to him, some people learn faster than others.  You have to live and learn at your own pace.  That way you won't be upset when someone moves ahead of you.  Live and let live.
My sister gets upset with me because she said I don't come around anymore.  And so I told her, you're still selling drugs.  That's why I don't come around anymore.  My sister had a pretty rough time in her life.  She always surrounded herself with people who made bad choices.  But now, things are changing for her.  It's not going to happen overnight.  But it's a start.  Live and let live.
Understanding living is living.  And we have to live and let live.  And when we do this, our everyday lives will be so much better.  To all my friends on 11th and F streets, and my friends at Eastern Market, live and let live.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Your Dad Is Here

I see my husband in my son in small ways:  the way he rolls up his long sleeved shirts, the set of his jaw when he is annoyed or determined to do something he really wants to accomplish and the way he plays chicken with his car's gas tank and won't fill it up until it is almost empty.

When I see those traits it is bittersweet: they make me laugh and but they also make me feel a little sad and wistful.    "He is still with us," I think to myself.  My husband had a very strong personality so I am not surprised that I see some of him in our son.  It's just when those quirky things appear, they always have a way of taking me by surprise.
My thoughts today are with fathers and the important role they play in their children's lives.  While my son's father died nine years ago, I appreciate the important role he played in our young son's life and how his influence can still be felt today.
Please read the timely story below which I found on the insightful website, Hello Grief (  The author, Abigail Carter, sweetly reminds us of the importance of Dads everywhere; the ones who are with us today and the ones that we forever hold in our hearts.
Happy Father's Day!
Every Day is Father’s Day
By Abigail Carter
June 8, 2010 

Father’s Day never held much importance for our family until the death of my husband, Arron, father of our two young children.
The day usually began with a childish command for him to stay in bed so he could be the lucky recipient of a sticky tray of burnt pancakes and watery coffee, and be handed a construction paper card with “I lov you dady,” in bright red crayon, or a popsicle stick picture frame with a blurry Polaroid of a proud pre-schooler.
Later in the day, as he jiggled the kids around on the heavy metal lumber cart at Home Depot, I refrained from my usual “step away from the power tools,” and allowed him to run amuck, our list of supplies forgotten in his pocket. For dinner I would make one of his favorites – chicken stew, or if the weather was nice, a steak grilled on the BBQ and a glass of wine after the kids were in bed.
Our first Father’s Day after his death was spent in the company of several other widows on a deserted New Jersey Shore beach watching our children romp around in the waves or play in the sand, wishing we had the ability to play so freely, wishing we could have our old lives back. The male volunteers who grilled hot dogs for lunch just seemed to add salt to our wounds.
The days and weeks afterward were spent in a heightened state of agitation to which we were oblivious – fighting, frustrated, exhausted – until someone pointed out how difficult Father’s Day must have been. Finally able to connect the dots between the day and the aggression that had settled upon my family, the black moods eventually dissipated, at least until the next event that needed to braced for, like one of the kid’s birthdays, or another wedding anniversary. Year two was a repeat of year one, the bracing, the beach, the fatherless kids, the male volunteers, the loneliness, the anger, the exhaustion.
Friends and family, while well-meaning often added to the stress, building the potential heart-break of the day by calling to offer sad Happy Father’s Day wishes, or to offer to take the kids away, thinking that what they needed was to spend time with a man, one that was usually someone else’s father.
There was another year, the year I picked my son up from Pre-K after his class had been busy making presents for their fathers, and when we got into the car, he threw the present at me, something square wrapped in emerald green tissue paper. “Who am I going to give this to?” He yelled. “All the other kids have dads and I don’t!” In one day, with the realization that he was not like all the other kids, he had gone from a sad child to an angry one – anger that eight years later is only beginning to dissipate.
For many widows with children, Father’s Day creeps up and pounces on us. Sometimes we just anticipate it with dread – more glaring evidence of what we have lost. Everyone (not just widows) tries to celebrate the day in some meaningful way, trying to honor that special Dad. Newspapers and television ads are filled with things we are meant to buy, sentiments we are meant to feel. There is so much pressure to ‘honor” our loved one properly, even when they are alive, but no one seems quite sure how to go about doing so.
We have tried a variety of different activities on Father’s Day. Things my husband would have enjoyed: bike rides in the park, planting a shrub in the garden, an IMAX movie downtown, a steak on the BBQ. The day has become less sad, held less meaning as the kids grow and have adapted to their life with only one parent. But with each passing year, Father’s Day becomes less and less volatile.
The kids have almost passed the period in elementary school where presents are being made in class. And if they are, the kids have adapted. Presents have been awarded to grandfathers or other men of importance in their lives at the time. I considered last year a kind of breakthrough when my son, still in elementary school decided to participate in his class’s annual Father’s Day craft project. When the day arrived, he presented his gift to me saying, “since you are pretty much like our dad as well as our mom, this is for you.” It was the compliment of a lifetime, and reminded me how far we had all come.
This year will be our eighth Father’s Day without a father to honor, and again, it will likely be passed with very little fanfare. In other years I have felt guilt for wanting to ignore these events, making up for it by forcing a celebration with trips to the beach, riding bikes, making Mickey Mouse pancakes – pretending that our family was still whole, pretending that my husband could still appreciate these efforts. It was my son who finally reminded me of the pressures I was putting on all of us when he asked, “Why do we always do all this stuff on Father’s Day when we don’t even have a dad?” I thought we had been doing it to remember him, but I realized that really I was doing it because I felt like I had to. My efforts were stressing me out and doing nothing to help us remember Arron, let alone honor him.
Instead of pancakes and bike rides and beach trips one day every June, I realized that all it takes to celebrate Father’s Day is for me to recognize one of my husband’s goofy expressions in our daughter, or his familiar glint of mischief in the eye of our son and laugh saying, “you look just like your father when you do that!”
That way every day is Father’s Day.
* * * *
By guest writer, Abigail Carter. View more of her essays at [2] and learn more about her at [3].

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Fathers & Sons

Today I'm going to visit my Dad and celebrate Father's Day a day early.

My son won't be joining me because he is out of town visiting his girlfriend.  Even if my son were here in town, I would still be emotionally torn on Father's Day.

My Dad is still alive and our family is lucky and blessed to have him. But my son's father, who was also my husband, died nine years ago and the celebration of Father's Day makes me feel guilty and conflicted. Guilty because my father is alive and his isn't.  Conflicted because I want to make my son and my Dad happy about this day but I can't.  I know, I know, life is never fair but I wish my son could have had more time with his father when his father was in better health.
The memories that hold true for my son of his father involves hospitals, doctor's offices, medicine, and constant badgering from me to get his father to do the things he needed to do to stay healthy.  My son was too young at the time of his father's good health to truly remember the Halloween outings, Christmases, beach vacations and other fun times we did have as a family.  There are lots of pictures to remind him, but that's not the same.
I can't change that for my son but I still wish for it.

I've asked him about his feelings when Father's Day arrives and he just quietly says he doesn't like to watch other people with their fathers. That's probably the understatement of the century. He also says that he forgot that this weekend was Father's Day. Right. When he does see fathers and sons together, I know his mind starts to wander and he thinks about how it might have been different for him if his Dad hadn't gotten sick and died when he was 13-years old.
And that makes me feel bad even though I have no way to change the situation.
So full of guilt, I go visit my Dad and hang out with him for awhile and wish I could make things different for my wonderful son who deserves to have his healthy Dad with him today.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Strawberry Fields Forever

Once you have tasted a juicy strawberry, fresh, fresh, fresh from the local farm where it was grown, you will never want to eat another one of those grocery store strawberries (that are white inside) ever again.
For the second week in a row, strawberries were the star yesterday at the FRESH Farm Farmer's Market near the White House.  Beautiful, red, ripe strawberries were lined up in a row just waiting to be bought and eaten. 

Photo Courtesy of FRESH Farm Markets
I bought a huge amount of strawberries last week and so did a friend of mine from the office.  We did the same thing yesterday and it was great to chat up the guy from the farm who brought them to the market. 

Strawberries are great for you and are loaded with Vitamin C.  Also, the strawberry is among the top 20 fruits in antioxident capacity; you gotta love that!  Below is a recipe that was being handed out at the market and I thought I would share it with you:

Crepes With Local Strawberries
Shelley Horne, Home Cook & Farmer's Market Volunteer

3 eggs
3/4 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons butter, melted
butter for skillet

Combine eggs, flour, salt and 1/4 cup milk in medium bowl; beat until smooth.  Beat in melted butter, then remaining milk.  Chill, covered, approximately 1 hour.

Slowly heat a small skillet (7-8 inch) until a drop of water sizzles.  Butter skillet lightly for first few crepes; after that it will be seasoned and crepes will not stick.  Use 2-3 tbsp batter for each crepe.  Pour batter into skillet all at once and swirl pan to coat bottom with a very thin layer.

Cook over medium heat until lightly browned (15-20 seconds); turn and brown other side.  Remove to plate; when cool, stack with foil between each crepe.  (Can be frozen and thawed just beofre using.)  Makes 12-16 crepes.

To serve, fold crepe in half and half again to form a triangle.  Top with sliced, fresh strawberries, then sprinkle with powdered sugar.

The above recipe is a yummy way to eat strawberries but if you're not in the mood to make crepes you can always pretend you are at Wimbledon: just slice the strawberries into a bowl and pour cream over them!


Thursday, June 13, 2013

Embrace Your Journey

"Embrace Your Journey."

You may have wondered why that phrase is listed at the top of my blog underneath the title, "Cry, Laugh, Heal. " 

"Embrace Your Journey" is something called a tagline, a phrase to give you -- my fantastic, wonderful and supportive readers -- a heads up about the things that I'm going to write about.  Things that have helped me to slowly but surely work my way through the loss of my husband, learn to be both mother and father to a young son and develop resilience.  "Embrace Your Journey" helps me to set a tone of strength and acceptance and even humor in the posts that I write for you and it lets you know this is my approach to living life -- no matter what hits the fan.

Embrace Your Journey No Matter Where It Leads
I came to call this phrase my own because I truly believe that I get out of life what I put into it.  Things may happen to me that I cannot control but I can choose how to react to it.  I can stay down for the count or I can choose to get up and try again.  I can choose whether to be positive or negative.  I can choose whether or not to hold on to something that hurt me, something that made me feel bad or something that didn't work out right.  Me.  All by myself in the driver's seat. 

Sounds simple right?  No way.  It is anything but simple.  It took me years of living and making mistakes and talking and support groups and feeling bad and more talking and gaining experience from all of that up and down and turned around rigamarole to get to this somewhat healthy point of view. 

It all hit the fan for me in 2003 when my husband died.  I had no idea what life had in store for me and our young son but I was sure that I was going to do my best to make a good life for us.  At the time, it looked like a dead end.  Truly I felt as if I were free falling off a cliff and who knew what was going to happen next?  But then daily small decisions and small steps built upon themselves and my confidence began to come back.  I actually began to believe that I would heal.  There were a lot of stops and starts, a lot of two steps forward and five backwards.  But eventually it all began to work together and I began to see that day by day life was going to stabilize and get better.

It will never be the life I had before but it is a different life and I am blessed to have what I have.

It is not easy, I will be honest with you about that.  There were times when I completely fell apart and also times when I forced myself to do things I really, really didn't want to do but knew were good for me.

For some reason, the pain made me grow.  The pain made me a better person.  Now isn't that weird?  I would never wish pain on anyone but sometimes you have to feel it to work through it, and when you find yourself on the other side of it, you feel emotionally stronger and confident.  You feel as though you can deal with anything that life might toss your way because you have already lost everything and come back from that deep pain.

The pain made me reshuffle my priorities and now I look at life differently.  I appreciate it more and I also understand how quickly it can change.

Your present journey may not be everything you want it to be, but don't be afraid to work on your journey and embrace it for what it is.  Embrace it for its beauty.  Embrace it for the pain.  Embrace it for the laughs.  Embrace it because it's yours.

Believing is half the battle.  I know you can do it.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Renewing Friendships

Academy of the Holy Cross
Yearbook 1972

Making friends for the world to see
Let the people know you got what you need
           ~ Elton John

Over the weekend, I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to catch up and renew friendships with two women who went to high school with me.

Both women are incredibly talented and very smart: one is an internationally respected sculptor and the other is a retired teacher/photographer. They both look great and we easily fell back into conversation about our lives since high school graduation which was (unbelievably!) many decades ago.
We lost track of each other as our lives went in different directions after high school but to connect again now as adults and tell each other our stories is an interesting and healing process.   I think it's pretty normal to temporarily lose contact with people you went to high school with because your focus on starting a career and a family changes from not having either in high school to wanting both when you graduate from college. 

I think it's fair to say that in your twenties and thirties you are focusing on what is emotionally important to you.  It's not that you forget about the friends you made in high school, because I did think about them and wondered what had happened to them; I think it's more that life calls you to try different things and see different places in the world and you slowly lose track of what is happening to those people you used to see almost every day for four years.

If Facebook or Twitter had been around when we were in high school or college, I think it would have been a no brainer for us to maintain contact.

In my teenage enthusiasm for having a good time, I don't think I paid full attention to what was really going on with people I went to school with.  Looking back now, I see many serious issues that were happening to all of us but we never addressed them unless it reached a crisis point such as your parents getting a divorce.  Today, I understand it a lot better and truly appreciate the strength, wisdom and patience it takes to change and grow after life throws you some curveballs you weren't expecting.

But I digress.  Saturday with my high school friends was all about fun and sharing.  It was about appreciating each other's talents and life experiences and supporting each other as we are right now at this stage of our lives.

In the car on the way to Annapolis, I listened to my friend talk about her love of photography and how she recently started a blog, which of course I found exciting.  I have seen her pictures, and even if I didn't know her, I know I would be drawn to them.  The composition of her photography is thoughtful and when gazing at her pictures your eyes don't want to leave what they are seeing.  She photographs all kinds of beach landscapes, general scenic pictures and pictures of people in spontaneous situations.

Our reunion took place at the Maryland House, in Annapolis, where our other friend's incredible sculptures were on exhibit.  Her art is truly beautiful and inspiring and I learned a lot about how her marble pieces, both large and small, came to be.  It is truly a gift to be with the artist and their art at the same time.  I took some pictures and I will be sharing them in a future post because I want to tell you more about the organic nature of her sculptures.

Later when we went to a restaurant for dinner with others, I sat and listened to my friends and thought about each of us and our winding life journeys and how we ended up coming together.  We each handled challenges yet were resilient and persevered on and found our passions.

Life works in funny ways and when I have days like this, I wouldn't change one bit of it.

Please check out my friends' art in these links below.  I think you're going to love it as much as I do! (photography) (sculpture)

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Life's Garden of Loved Ones

Two tropical storms have moved through the Washington, DC area recently and we are getting more than our usual dose of rain.  Not complaining because I like the rain.  It's good for our gardens and everything feels clean after a good downpour.
This summer I am trying to pay more attention to the plants in my yard which I guess I think of as my garden even though they are not all planted in one contained space.  I planted some lettuce, rosemary and basil along with geraniums and marigolds.  Watching things grow is hopeful!
As you wake-up and embrace today's events, here's a good thought about life's garden of loved ones:

Photo Courtesy of French Essence

"Let us be grateful to
people who make us happy;
they are the charming
gardeners who make our
souls blossom."
          ~ Marcel Proust, French Author


Monday, June 10, 2013

The Uncertain Path of Newtown's Mourning Parents

It is rare for a national newspaper to begin a story on its Sunday front page that then continues to run for five pages of copy and pictures inside the paper and is dedicated to the subject of grief.
But that is just what The Washington Post did yesterday and Eli Saslow, who wrote and reported the devastating story, and Linda Davidson, who photographed the compelling pictures for the story, deserve a standing ovation for bringing much needed attention to what life is now like for the Barden family of Newtown, Connecticut, a family in the throes of raw, searingly painful grief as they try to figure out what to do next since 7-year-old Daniel Barden, the youngest in the Barden family, was shot and killed at his school.
Seven Year Old Daniel Barden
Mark and Jackie Barden's 7-year-old son, Daniel, attended Sandy Hook School Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.  On December 14, 2012, Adam Lanza, 20, fatally shot 20 children, including Daniel Barden, and 6 adults in a mass murder at Sandy Hook Elementary.
Yesterday morning when I went out to the front yard to pick up The Washington Post, I pulled the paper out of it's plastic sleeve and flipped it over to see what was happening on the paper's front page.  I immediately saw the story's headline, "Into The Lonely Quiet," and started reading it as I went up the steps and back into the house.  I was riveted.  I continued to read the story about the Barden family as I found a chair and didn't stop reading it until I reached the last word at the end of the story that is so sad on so many levels.
Please read this insightful story about the Barden family.  My prayers are with them as they try to navigate the tragic loss of their young son, Daniel, pictured above.

Here is the link to The Washington Post story:

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Love Somebody -- Singers From The Voice

Melanie Martinez, Mike Squillante and other singers
 from NBC's The Voice

Hello Saturday!

I've got a lot to do today and only so much time to get it done.

I bet you also have a full plate today too!

So let's pump up the volume and get it going with this new video a friend sent me yesterday featuring the energetic and talented singers from Season 3 of NBC's The Voice singing "Love Somebody" at Rockwood Music Hall in New York City:  Mike Squillante, Melanie Martinez, Bryan Keith, Andriana Louise and Suzanna Choffel:

Thanks guys for the energy!!

Friday, June 7, 2013

A Daily Om

We all need a mental health break, don't we?  I just didn't expect to find one downtown in a city park.

While walking down the street yesterday during lunch hour in the downtown area of the nation's capitol, I spied a large white tent set up across the street in a park known as McPherson Square.  The tent reminded me of one of those large white tents that people use at outdoor wedding receptions.  I could only see the back of the tent so, ever the curious one, I walked over to check it out.

Somebody must be promoting something, I thought, but from the first glance of it, I couldn't tell exactly what.

Turns out it was Mental Health; as in come inside the tent and take a rest from your daily work routine or from whatever is happening to you.

When I got closer to the tent, I could see a rather small blue, yellow and white sign saying "Mental Health Break, Noon to 7 pm, May 6."  Yes, I thought, this looks interesting.  The front of the tent was wide open and inside were low white tables and cushions for seating.  Small groups of people were sitting and standing, talking and reading.  Other tables were set up with free goodies such as blue balls that people could hold and squeeze to relieve stress or anxiety, and there also were water bottles along with green tea for drinking.  There was even a photobooth for quick laughs if you wanted to take silly pictures.
Children Practicing Yoga
Photo Courtesy The Daily Om
Thanks to The Chicago School of Professional Psychology, which was sponsoring the mental health event, people could also take yoga classes outside of the tent for relaxation under a cluster of trees. A few people taking a class that had already started were either sitting on chairs or sitting on mats with their eyes closed and arms stretched out, palms towards the sun.

It looked so un-DC.

Yet it was a unique concept.  Everything went to improving the human experience and community.
Here, a couple of blocks from the White House and The Washington Post, two centers of business that I think most people would associate with stress and hypercompetition, was a place dedicated -- at least for one day -- to finding your inner self and "happy place."
I associate, and I'm sure you do too, a mental health break or a mental health day to calling in sick from work.  We've all done it at least once in our work lives or know someone who's done it. Either you've been working on a project or just putting in too many long days and you need a break.  You're not really sick but you know you're going to get sick if you don't take a much needed break.  Thus, the mental health day.
But this mental health tent was sending a different message from what I could see,  which is: we are all capable of self-care at any time of the day in any place and with some practice, we can learn to  turn down the extraneous volume surrounding us and instead find inner calm and peace.
As author and wellness coach Kris Carr has written, "When you understand your mind you can harness its power to achieve more than you imagined possible.  The space between the noise is where God/dess lives.  There are many answers there.  Don't shy away from visiting."

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Digging Deep

I have previously written about people I know who are fighting the good fight against cancer.  Three of them at this point are in good health while one is gearing up for the fight of his life.
He is getting ready for surgery next week and after that he enters an intense, aggressive program aimed at totally killing this sucker in its tracks.  He has an amazing attitude towards this scary situation and I admire his calm and even demeanor.

Put in the same situation, I know I would not be faring so well and I don't think I would be inspiring anyone with my raw reaction to fighting a cancer within myself.
From talking to my friends, they say that first comes the disbelief that your body is so sick; that your body is basically at war with itself.  Your mind and heart are racing, racing at an incredible pace and you can't catch your breath as you take it all in.  While trying to come to grips with what the doctors are saying, you sometimes detach from reality a bit and feel as though you are outside yourself.  I understand this feeling very well because in the first few months after my husband's death, I definitely was outside myself.  I think it is your mind's way of temporarily buffering you from what's happening and giving you a way to cope.

Facing pain, whether physical, mental or a combination of both, can be isolating.  There is an intense feeling of letting the rest of the world fall away as you focus with laser concentration on what you need to do, have to do, to find wellness.
It is now a time of digging down deep and calling upon God to watch over him.  It is a time of feeling human and vulnerable.  It is a time of pulling out all the stops to give love, support and everything else we as a family can find to throw at him as he faces and fights this dreaded, yet survivable, disease.

Thank you for being here.  Peace.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Unwanted Care

How do you try to take care of someone when they don't want you to?

I'm sure you must know a person you care about and perhaps even love who doesn't want you to help them even though it is obvious that help is very much needed. You understand the frustration right? It's the frustation of no matter how hard you try to offer various kinds of support, you never are able to do the right thing, the thing that will make them happy.

This is what I know I can do: I call on the telephone, I listen, I try to empathize.  I visit as much as I can because nothing beats seeing someone in person.  I offer to run errands.  I bring food so the person won't have to cook and I clean while I'm in their house.

I think listening is the most important thing I can do because everyone knows that the more a person expresses his/her feelings, the better they feel.  There's no point in trying to get them to open up if they're not ready or willing to talk.

Most of all, I try to maintain a calm demeanor.

This is what I don't do: I don't offer suggestions.  I don't offer anything that could be viewed as a solution.  I don't ask too many questions.  I don't intrude into the other person's personal business.  I don't react to negative comments.

It's a constant balancing act but I care about this person so I keep striving to maintain the balance.

And so I keep on trying. . .

And trying. . . and trying.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Congratulations to The Class of 2013!

After (hopefully) fours years of hard, hard work and spending thousands and thousands of dollars on college tuitions, remarks by a notable person -- whether an author, celebrity, scientist, politician or even the First Lady or the President of the United States -- definitely seems in order before degrees are handed out at universities across the nation.
For the parents, relatives and friends of the graduate, and even those of us who have already graduated, whether from a university, a community college or the School of Street Smarts, the commencement speech is also a time to pause and listen; to see whether the speaker can offer us new insights about life.  We can gain new perspectives or get our engines reignited by remarks made in the annual rite of commencement speeches.

The reason I find commencement speeches so capitvating is that they usually reveal something about the speaker that we might not have known before.  Many times, the commencement speaker talks about what they were like as a young person, what they wanted to achieve, what life instead handed them and then what they did with life's surprises.

Oprah Winfrey Speaks At Harvard
Photo Courtesy of David L. Ryan/The Boston Globe
Commencement speeches show us the resilience of the human spirit, for everyone needs resilience in order to move forward.  Some people do graduate from college and go forth into the world and do exactly what they planned to do and that's wonderful!  But I think I not only speak for myself, but also for many, many others, who start out thinking they are going to do one thing when they leave college and then end up doing something very different.
As the Class of 2013 leaves their respective campuses, poised for change, they may find a world very different from what they expected -- or maybe not.

Here are a few of this year's commencement speeches that stood out for me:

Former U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords (who is still recovering from being shot in the head in 2011), Bard College:

"The nation's counting on you to create, to lead, to innovate.  Be bold, be courageous, do your best."

President Barack Obama, Morehouse College:

"We've got no time for excuses.  In today's hyper-connected, hyper competitive world, with millions of young people from China and India and Brazil, many of whom started with a whole lot less than all of you did, all of them entering the global workforce alongside you, nobody is going to give you anything you haven't earned.  Nobody cares how tough your upbringing was.  Nobody cares if you suffered some discrimination.
"Moreover, you have to remember that whatever you've gone through, it pales in comparison to the hardships previous generations endured -- and if they overcame them, you can overcome them, too."

Ben Bernanke, Chairman of the Federal Reserve, Princeton University:

"I'm not going to tell you that money doesn't matter, because you wouldn't believe me anyway. In fact, for too many people around the world, money is literally a life-or-death proposition. But if you are part of the lucky minority with the ability to choose, remember that money is a means, not an end. A career decision based only on money and not on love of the work or a desire to make a difference is a recipe for unhappiness."

Comedian Stephen Colbert, University of Virginia:

"There is no secret society out there that will tap you on the shoulder and show you the way.  The true secret is, your life will not be defined by the society we have left you. . . Every generation must define itself.  If you must find your own path, and we have left you no easy path, then decide now to choose the hard path that leads to the life and the world that you want."

TV host & Multimedia Entrepreneur Oprah Winfrey, Harvard University:

"It doesn't matter how far you might rise, at some point you are bound to stumble.  Because if you're constantly doing what we do, raising the bar. If you're constantly pushing yourself higher, higher, the law of averages, not to mention The Myth of Icarus, predicts that you will at some point fall. And when you do, I want you to know this, remember this: There is no such thing as failure. Failure is just life trying to move us into another direction."

"It's okay to feel bad for a little while.  Give yourself time to mourn what you think you may have lost. But then, here's the key: Learn from every mistake because every experience, encounter, and particularly your mistakes, are there to teach you and force you into being more of who you are."

Here's to the Class of 2013!  Congratulations and Good Luck!!


Monday, June 3, 2013

Slow Dance

I find this poem called Slow Dance to be nourishing for my soul.

It helps me reset and focus my energies and set out once again on this magical journey called life so that I can appreciate the beauty and blessing that are given to me.

Instead of powering through my days and nights, this poem reminds me to get out of the fast lane and slow down and really and truly focus on the wonder around me.

Slow Dance

Have you ever watched kids on a merry-go-round,
or listened to rain slapping the ground?

Ever followed a butterfly's erratic flight,
or gazed at the sun fading into the night?
You better slow down, don't dance so fast,
time is short, the music won't last.
Do you run through each day on the fly,
when you ask "How are you?", do you hear the reply?
When the day is done, do you lie in your bed,
with the next hundred chores running through your head?
You better slow down, don't dance so fast,
time is short, the music won't last.
Ever told your child, we'll do it tomorrow,
and in your haste, not see his sorrow?
Ever lost touch, let a friendship die,
'cause you never had time to call and say hi?
You better slow down, don't dance so fast,
time is short, the music won't last.
When you run so fast to get somewhere,
you miss half the fun of getting there.
When you worry and hurry through your day,
it's like an unopened gift thrown away.
Life isn't a race, so take it slower,
hear the music before your song is over.
                               -- David L. Weatherford (