Saturday, August 31, 2013

Seamus Heaney

Seamus Heaney, a celebrated and grand Irish poet who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1995, sadly died yesterday in a hospital in Dublin at the age of 74. 

Irish Poet And Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney
To say that Heaney had a way with words is an understatement.  His powerful verse transported readers around the world to Ireland and sometimes to its rural landscape and the grind of its daily responsibilities.  To me, his phrasing always felt magical and lyrical no matter what subject he addressed. 

As a tribute to Heaney's great talents, here is Digging, one of my favorite poems that Heaney wrote in 1966.  Every time I read it, I feel as though I am right there with him in the bogs, smelling the wet dirt and watching as turf is cut for fuel.

Cutting Turf In Ireland

By Seamus Heaney 1939–2013
Between my finger and my thumb   
The squat pen rests; snug as a gun.
Under my window, a clean rasping sound   
When the spade sinks into gravelly ground:   
My father, digging. I look down
Till his straining rump among the flowerbeds   
Bends low, comes up twenty years away   
Stooping in rhythm through potato drills   
Where he was digging.
The coarse boot nestled on the lug, the shaft   
Against the inside knee was levered firmly.
He rooted out tall tops, buried the bright edge deep
To scatter new potatoes that we picked,
Loving their cool hardness in our hands.
By God, the old man could handle a spade.   
Just like his old man.
My grandfather cut more turf in a day
Than any other man on Toner’s bog.
Once I carried him milk in a bottle
Corked sloppily with paper. He straightened up
To drink it, then fell to right away
Nicking and slicing neatly, heaving sods
Over his shoulder, going down and down
For the good turf. Digging.
The cold smell of potato mould, the squelch and slap
Of soggy peat, the curt cuts of an edge
Through living roots awaken in my head.
But I’ve no spade to follow men like them.
Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests.
I’ll dig with it.
Seamus Heaney, "Digging" from Death of a Naturalist. Copyright 1966 by Seamus Heaney. Reprinted with the permission of Farrar, Straus & Giroux, LLC.
Source: Death of a Naturalist (1966)

Friday, August 30, 2013

Tossing My Plastics

Staying healthy is job one for me.
Every healthy tip that I can incorporate into my life is just one more thing that may keep me out of the doctor's office as far as I am concerned.  I try to eat foods that are as fresh as possible, exercise whenever I can and verbalize my stress so that it doesn't remain bottled up inside me and cause some kind of sickness.

Recently I added a new health concern to my wellness list: avoiding plastics and/or preservatives.

For years I used to bring frozen food products (read Lean Cuisine) to the office and microwave my lunch until a couple of colleagues took me aside and told me that microwaving plastic and food was a no-no because of a substance called parabens which is contained in the plastic.  Needless to say, I haven't done any food and plastic microwaving since then.

Now, I have just found out (maybe you already know this) that parabens are also contained in lots of products that I use all the time: lip balm, toothpaste, make-up, moisturizers, hair care products, sunscreen and deodorant.  The US Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has called parabens the most widely used preservatives in the United States and that's alarming because initial scientific evidence showed that parabens could not be absorbed by the human body but now scientific tests are showing that it can be.

Previous studies on animals and in the laboratory have shown that parabens can mimic the actions of the hormone estrogen.  That has raised a lot of red flags because estrogen is known to fuel some types of breast cancer.

I think it would be difficult if not impossible to completely stay away from parabens but being aware of the products that contain parabens  can give you control over how much parabens exposure you receive.  Since knowledge is power, read the labels of what you are buying and look for the following words because each of these is a variation of parabens:
    • benzylparaben
    • butylparaben
    • ethylparaben
    • methylparaben
    • propylparaben
    • p-hydroxybenzoic acid

I am writing about parabens and our health today because whether you are grieving or going through stressful times, it is important that you take care of yourself.  You are in charge and are just as important as the other person you may be taking care of and, as a widowed person, your health is just as important as a person who may be married or in a long-term relationship.

I am with you in needing to constantly remind myself to do the following: making sure to eat a healthy meal at least once a day, getting enough sleep (even napping during the day), avoiding added stress, choosing to be among people who offer comfort and support rather than those who may sap our energy, physically exercising, like taking a walk, and being open and accepting about our special needs.

Good health is priceless!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Sea of Turquoise

Today is about tranquility,
the quality of being calm.
Enter a sea of turquoise. . .
And take a deep breath
And exhale. . .
You could do it all here: cry, laugh and heal!

Photo Courtesy of House of Turquoise

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

50th Anniversary of March on Washington

"Our goal was not to gain power.  It was to heal a torn-up community."
~ Diane Judith Nash, a civil rights leader
Marching for your human rights and dignity is healing.  It is an act of restoring faith in yourself and your community. 

Marching is also rewarding for the human spirit and good for the human soul.  Standing up for your rights confirms for you that you are not alone in your feelings; that others share your thoughts and emotions.

Peacefully marching, holding protest signs and delivering passionate speeches gives rise to feelings of respect for those who are declaring, "We will not take it any more."
When people feel the continued effects of economic and political oppression, eventually they will push back against those efforts, and that is what happened 50 years ago today when over 250,000 people, black and white, from civil rights, labor and religious groups marched to steps of the Lincoln Memorial in the nation's capital to end racism in America.
The highlight of The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom was the "I Have A Dream" speech, a historic and inspirational speech delivered by American clergyman and civil rights activist, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. His stirring and passionate remarks were a defining moment for the civil rights movement and will be remembered for all time.  
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Photo Courtesy of
The March on Washington is credited with helping to pass two groundbreaking pieces of legislation: the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Today in the nation's capital, President Barack Obama, will deliver remarks about the state of racial harmony America in the same place where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke.  Joining Obama will also be Presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter who will also address the expected thousands of marchers who stand  and remain committed to continuing to realize the dream of a Black America that is economically and racially equal.
Let us pause and remember the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr:
"I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
I have a dream today.
I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; one day right there in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.
I have a dream today."

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

My Baby Doesn't Want This Letter

You can file the following under silly, sad, ridiculous or just plain ole unnecessary and inefficient.
I came home from work yesterday and, as I usually do, picked up the mail from the door slot and started going through it.  Monday's mail is usually thin and this time it was no exception.  A few real estate solicitation cards, a catalogue and even a letter from a friend.

But there was also a curious piece of mail addressed to my husband.  My husband who died nine years ago.  My husband whose name I would think at this point would show up on business records as deceased.
So I opened it up to see what this letter was all about.  A refinancing company, who I must say is really out of it, was writing to inform my husband that he was pre-approved for refinancing our house and the company even assigned him a case ID number.  Hilarious right?
I thought the best part of the letter was when the company said that my husband was one of the lucky ones to receive this pre-approval status for refinancing because the company had done a careful review of his financial records and it showed that his credit was in great shape.
I guess so since he has no debt since he hasn't spent any money in the last nine years . . . at least none that I know about!
Thanks CashCall, Inc. and thanks to your Mortgage Division for giving me a giggle today!
You just never know what the mail will bring you, do you?

Monday, August 26, 2013

A New Place To Live

Good Morning Fantastic Readers!

This past weekend was interesting and productive and I hope yours was too!  The weekends just fly by wayyyyy too quickly don't they? 
Part of my weekend was spent visiting a family member.  In the course of my visit, I could tell we were going to fall into our usual conversational trap of going over the same ground that we have covered many times before.  You know what I mean, right?  The person brings up a certain subject and you know what they're going to say and you try to change their mind or at least get your point across to them.

It's pretty similar to a tire that is stuck in the mud and just spins round and round.  I didn't plan on it, but over the weekend I decided to try a different way of talking to this person because we weren't getting anywhere with the old way.
I know this person has been under a lot of stress and is feeling confused.  I felt like the best thing to do was to sit and listen and focus on what was being said without any reaction from me.  I decided to take myself out of the conversational equation because my point of view didn't really serve any purpose.

Instead, I wanted to try and create a healing zone; a place of safety where this person's thoughts and feelings could be shared without the possibility of an argument.
It wasn't a particularly honest conversation but it did allow this person to talk about their feelings and I think that was a healthy and healing thing.
For me, healing is finding a new place to live.
Not a physical place such as a new house or an apartment but a new place to mentally live.

Healing is finding the place within myself where I try to find quiet and sometimes vulnerability.  A place where I level with myself and tell myself that I can do better.  To be honest with myself and stop making excuses about my reactions to things that annoy or frustrate me.  I can control the volume of my voice and I can control the words that come out of my mouth when I'm talking to someone.
Healing is saying to myself that it's time to change.  When I find that my usual way of doing something or my usual reaction to something isn't working then it's time to go somewhere new and find a better way to act.
New ways of talking about our emotions can sometimes be scary, but new can also be refreshing because you don't have to lug your old emotional baggage with you; you can lock it up and leave it behind.
I'd love to know how you deal with breaking old habits and how you discover news ways of communicating.  Let me know if you have some tips that can break the behavioral logjam and let the conversations flow towards a healing place.
You can comment below or you can also comment on my Facebook page!

Thank you!!!!!!!!!!

Friday, August 23, 2013

Sweet Days of Summer

Summer songs are special because they evoke all that is supremely wonderful about the sizzling season of summertime.
When I hear songs that became popular during many of the summers of my today and also of my young adult past, I am instantly transported back to driving in my car with the windows down and the summer air mixing with my hair.  T-shirt, cutoffs, flip flops.  It's all about the essence of summer.

I recently was reminded of the special nature of summer songs when I was at a local farmer's market and "Summer Breeze", that oldie but goodie by Seals & Crofts, was nicely delivered through the outdoor speakers for all to enjoy.
As you probably suspected, summer is my favorite time of the year and I hold on to every hot second of it.  For now, I am ignoring the school ads and other signals that Fall is getting ready to transition into our calendars.
Instead, I am focusing instead on the sweet, sweet, oh so sweet days of summer. . . .

Easy. Breezy. Mellow. Smooth.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

News That Inspires

I don't know about you, but when I read newspapers, magazine or books, I am always looking for stories about people who have overcome a tragedy or some other kind of obstacle in their lives.
I am always amazed when I read about how someone who has experienced the death of a loved one or another kind of personal crisis then manages in the midst of this personal pain to find reserves of inner strength to work through their conflicting feelings and move forward to pursue something positive.  The same is true of someone whose life seems full of things going wrong yet somehow works through those obstacles and turns their life into something constructive.
In reading about someone else's story, no matter what the situation, I find that something clicks within me and I am reminded that I am not alone in my healing journey.  Life hands you choices that you don't expect and frankly don't like at all.

But life then also shows you that others have burdens or baggage, if you will, and I am inspired by people from all walks of life who expose their human and vulnerable side to the world and aren't afraid to recount what has happened to them and how that sadness affected their world but they decided to rise above it.

I love sharing these stories with you, my fantastic readers, and I hope you find them inspirational too!  I know I can't do it alone and I when I read about how other people handled their tragedies, I say to myself that if this person moved forward with their life then I can do it too!

This particular story that I read recently in The Washington Post is very uplifting to me.  It concerns a mother named Annette Weller and her daughter, Lauren Weller Sidorowicz, who sadly lost her valiant battle with bone cancer in 2011.  One day during Lauren's eight year stay at the pediatric unit of the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center, a pediatric cancer psychologist dropped off some colored markers and told Annette that she could draw on her daughter's window if she wanted.

Photo Courtesy of The Washington Post
The human spirit can be resilient in its ability to take a wide range of feelings and thoughts and channel them in a therapeutic way through drawing, painting, writing, singing or even sewing that can lead to a healing of broken heart.

Please read this touching story about Annette and Lauren and how Annette now uses her art to help others:

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Two True Friends

Knowing that I have at least one person in my corner, always supporting me as a true friend, makes life feel less scary and full of many more possibilities.

I can almost bear anything if I know my friends are holding my hands and understanding what I am trying to do and say.

Friends for life, friends until the very end, this is the unique gift that Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe gave to each other.

"Just Kids" is a beautifully, beautifully written memoir by Smith.  You may know of Patti Smith from her infamous Horses album and also from her magical poetry.  In "Just Kids," Smith's writing is intimate and she instantly makes you feel a part of her life.  She takes us back to her childhood when she first met Robert Mapplethorpe and then continues with their close friendship as young adults which then evolves into a romantic relationship and then goes back again to a friendship in the last years of Mapplethorpe's life.

Mapplethorpe became an infamous photographer who triggered a highly charged public dialogue in the 1970s and 1980's about the public funding of controversial works of art.  Mapplethorpe's stark black and white photographs included celebrities, flowers but it was his explicit photographs of nude men that caused a furor in the art world.

"Just Kids" is also about New York City in the late 1960's and 1970's when Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe were literally starving artists sleeping in parks and doorsteps and then living in the hip Chelsea Hotel, hanging out with Andy Warhol's entourage while Smith and Mapplethorpe experimented and developed their counterculture lifestyles and artistic talents.
I write about "Just Kids" not because of  the sensational nature of Mapplethorpe's photography but for the touching human story of their unusual friendship and for the kindness and constant support they each showed to the other during good times and bad. In particular, Smith's compassion to Mapplethorpe as he lay dying of AIDS is particularly poignant.

Thankfully, Smith comforts us in "Just Kids" by sharing a few pieces of her crystalline poetry.  Here is one of my favorites:

Wild Leaves
By Patti Smith
Wild leaves are falling
Falling to the ground
Every leaf a moment
A light upon the crown
That we'll all be wearing
In a time unbound
And Wild leaves are falling
Falling to the ground
Every word that's spoken
Every word decreed
Every spell that's broken
Every golden deed
All the parts we're playing
Binding as the reed
And wild leaves are falling
Wild wild leaves
The spirits that are mentioned
The myths that have been shorn
Everything we've been through
And the colors worn
Every chasm entered
Every story wound
And wild leaves are falling
Falling to the ground
As the campfire's burning
As the fire ignites
All the moments turning
In the stormy bright
Well enough the churning'
Well enough believe
The coming and the going
Wild wild leaves

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Jesus Tweets

There is definitely an art to tweeting.  The ability to say something precise and succinct in 140 characters or less is not an easy thing to master.  I still have a lot to learn about tweeting but I have to say that I do enjoy it!  I don't find tweeting to be shallow or a waste of time.  I think it's a matter of letting extraneous words fall by the wayside and getting right to your point.

Thousand of tweets ago, when my son helped me open my account, I first stared at the computer screen and thought, "What should I say?"  But you can't think about it too much.  You just have to do it.  Some funny, silly and informational tweets just roll off my fingers but others are a bit more of an effort because of what I want to say about something more important such as health, nutrition, grieving or healing.

I think people take to Twitter and find it so appealing because it lends itself to almost any subject.  Anyone can tweet and I think most people do.  Although until yesterday when I read a short Vanity Fair item on tweeting, I never thought about Jesus tweeting. 
But the idea of Jesus tweeting just strikes me as hilarious.
Picturing Jesus  hanging out in his robes with his Smartphone, intently looking at the screen while his thumbs are flying across the keypad is something that lends itself to a lot of humorous possibilities.  Think about it.  The internet is a global platform!  Would Jesus re-tweet anything that the Apostles or Mary Magdalene might put out there?
Who knows?  After all, as Jesus would say, "Goodness comes from within."  OMG, that's only 17 characters!  It's so tight yet there's room for much more to say! 
Don't forget about hashtags too!

You know Jesus would be great at that too!  What would he pick as a hashtag to "Goodness comes from within"?   Let's see. . . #Pure? #Christian? No, I think he would go with #MyMotherSaysSo!

Vanity Fair
August 16, 2013

What Would Jesus Tweet? A World-Civ Guide to the Succinct

Twitter doesn’t really need defending. Like any medium of communication—e-mail, blogs, newspapers, books, talking, yelling—it’s as good or bad as the people using it and the ideas being expressed. But that said, I find it irritating that the 140-character limit has become easy shorthand for the alleged shallowness of contemporary culture, a digital analog (haha) to Andy Warhol’s 15 minutes of fame. Or, as PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel recently put it: “We need to think about the future for more than just 140 characters or 15 minutes at a time if we want to make real long-term progress.” In a similar vein, a friend and respected colleague of mine recently declared that seeking wisdom and insight on Twitter is a fool’s errand; that she wrote this on Twitter itself speaks to a growing school of self-loathing Tweeters, at least on my feed.

Contra Thiel, some thinkers might actually be better off sticking to 140 characters—right off the bat, Peggy Noonan, Leon Weiseltier, and Naomi Wolf come to mind—while my friend’s tweet made me curious about just how much insight and wisdom you can cram into 140 characters. Turns out, it worked great for Jesus, Descartes, Shakespeare, Emily Dickinson, Martin Luther King Jr., Fran Lebowitz, and Donald Rumsfeld.
A 140-character digest of Western culture:
I think, therefore I am. (24)
It’s funny because it’s true. (29)
I am large; I contain multitudes. (33)
Neither a borrower nor a lender be. (35)
Eighty percent of success is showing up. (40)
Let he who is without sin cast the first stone. (47)
The vice-presidency isn’t worth a pitcher of warm piss. (55)
Parting is all we know of heaven, and all we need of hell. (58)
It’s not the size of the ship; it’s the motion of the ocean. (60)
Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise. (68)
Government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem. (73)
The opposite of talking isn’t listening. The opposite of talking is waiting. (76)
Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country. (79)
What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. (83)
I look to a day when people will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. (113)
It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. (112)
It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife. (117)
There is not a Black America and a White America and Latino America and Asian America; there’s the United States of America. (124)
There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns. (123)
You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you can’t fool all the people all the time. (130)

Monday, August 19, 2013

A New Week

I am with you my dear readers as we begin a new week together!!!!

I hope your weekend was full of exciting adventures and laughter and love and family and friends.

Mine seemed to zip by in a blink.

While I have many things that I want to tell you about, I ran out of time to sit down and put them in complete thoughts and sentences.

There is definitely more to come but today I leave you with the below thought since change and more change seems to be the theme of my life these days:

The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it,
move with it,
and join the dance
                         ~Alan Watts


Friday, August 16, 2013

Friday Jammin'

We made it guys!!  It's Friday!!
And it's the summer!! So let's jam and enjoy as we roll into the weekend!!
I love, love this song, "Take Back The Night," because is has a funky, old school sound that gets you movin' and groovin'.  Dancing always makes me feel better about life and moving forward and I bet the same things happens for you too, right?
Plus the video is filmed in my favorite city!!!!!

Chrysler Building in New York City

I dare you to sit in your chair and watch the whole video.  Hope you like it too!!

Take it away Justin. . .

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Hair's To You

Today I am giving a huge shout-out and a huge hug to a person I know who has just finished an intense round of chemo treatments and is dealing with the loss of their hair.
This person is showing so much courage and positive thinking in their intense and aggressive fight with cancer.  This person also happens to be the third person I have known to lose their hair during chemo and I totally get why this stage is so traumatic: hair loss makes the cancer obvious and visible to others.
From talking to these people about experiencing their hair loss, the first instinct is denial.  Each person tells themselves it will not happen to them and then they want to hold on to every strand of hair they have.  Our society happens to see hair as health.  In fact, lots of hair is equivalent to good health and vitality.
So when your hair starts to fall out in clumps from chemotherapy, most people, men and women alike, want to start wearing a wig.  The women's wigs are really nice but the men's wigs have a really long way to go in looking like real hair.  Instead, I think the men should go for it and just shave their heads.  It's a very Steve Harvey/Bruce Willis look (Harvey and Willis are not cancer patients just to clarify) and I think most women think it's sexy.

Steve Harvey
Bruce Willis
Plus there is something empowering about taking the initiative to decide to shave your head when your hair is falling out or when you are facing cancer in general.  This exceptional person I am thinking of today now just takes his hat off and shows you right away what is going on and then continues to talk about the positive things he is doing while receiving treatments.
Chemotherapy drugs are super powerful medications that attack rapidly growing cancer cells.  Unfortunately, these same drugs also attack other rapidly growing cells in your body, particularly those in your hair roots.
But the good news is that hair loss is temporary.  It's going to grow back, no doubt about that.  It may be a different color and it may be a different texture, but it will be hair and it will be yours.
Of course it is easy for me to say what looks good because I am not a cancer patient and am not experiencing the turmoil of cancer's life and death decisions.  I have the luxury of standing back and saying this is what I would do if I were losing my hair.  If it were actually happening to me, I probably would feel distraught and very scared.
And so I salute all cancer patients who are in the hair loss phase of their treatment.  May you continue to be brave, strong and resilient in your battle for wellness. 
We are with you!  

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Healing Through Lavender

Mother Nature is one smart cookie.
She has given us natural remedies for anxiety, stress and other ailments but instead we choose to try and manufacture something that we think will be better.  Something that is usually full of chemicals and ends up causing environmental problems or making us sick.
Enter the healing herb of lavender, which is a beautiful and hardy perennial.
I discovered the healing benefits of lavender a little over a year ago and can't say enough about it.  Smelling lavender immediately calms me.  While on vacation recently in Bethany Beach, DE, I went to the local farmer's market, as I usually do, in search of a lavender vender who was there last year as well as farm fresh tomatoes and corn on the cob. 
As I entered the parking lot full of shoppers and tents and tables, I immediately spied a table full of natural products from Lavender Fields, a 5-acre lavender farm in Delaware (  I haven't visited the farm in Milton, Delaware but would love to do so.  Lavender Fields is a farm and a cottage store where 37 varieties of lavender are grown that is open from May to November.  One day I intend to check it out.
Lavender Fields located in Milton, Delaware
 I loved smelling many of the wonderful lavender products and ended up buying three types of hand made lavender soaps and a small glass vial of lavender oil which I sometimes put on my temples, my wrists and behind my ears to relieve tension or stress.
Studies show, and I have found out for myself, that the scent of lavender lowers your heart rate and blood pressure, putting you in a relaxed state.  Here are a few other ideas for taking advantage of lavender's healing and health properties:
--use a few drops of lavender oil into your bath water to soak and relax;
--use on burns and bites to relieve itch and pain;
--apply to skin to repel mosquitoes and other insects;
--sprinkle a few drops on a cotton ball by your pillow to help you sleep.

Lavender has been with us since Biblical times yet even today, in our fast-paced world, Mother Nature continues to take care us with the most natural and organic healers.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

A Generous Heart

I saw this letter yesterday and it reminded me that a new school year will be starting soon.  With the beginning of a new school year, perhaps teachers and student will be dealing with conflicting emotions about losses or illnesses that happened over the summer.
When a friend or an acquaintance is grieving from the loss of a loved one, it is natural to want to reach out and make them feel better.  One of the greatest gifts we can give is listening.  Even if you don't know what to say, we can always listen; listen as the person talks to you about their story of loss.  This is not a small thing.  Everyone needs to acknowledge what has happened to them in their own words.

But what should we do if we don't know the person very well?
They might be someone we work with or someone we see every day or maybe only once in a while.  In this instance, the letter I read concerned a teacher.  Teachers are in professional situations and they may not want or feel comfortable talking to the parents of the children they teach about their loss.

But still you want to show compassion. 

The following letter about acknowledging a teacher's recent loss was sent to Carolyn Hax, a writer and advice columnist for The Washington Post.  Below is the insightful guidance Carolyn Hax gave recently to a mother who wanted to help her daughter's teacher and ease her pain just a bit.

Photo Courtesy of New York Times

Dear Carolyn:

     My daughter is in the third grade, and her teacher lost her mother last week.  I'd like to know what we, as parents, should be doing right now for the teacher.  Sure, send a card and flowers.  But, we're not close friends or family, so I don't know what her day-to-day needs are.  I asked the school if I should come volunteer  a couple of days next week, but they don't even know if she 'll be back by then.  Do you have any suggestions?


Dear Anonymous:

My main suggestion is not to overdo it.  When people are grieving, they often use work as their place to be normal, to escape being The Person Who's Grieving.  Even expressing condolences can affect people's composure when they'd rather stay on even professional keel.*

You have a generous heart, and the offer to volunteer in the classroom is a good one that you can re-make when the teacher is back, ideally through the school and not through the teacher herself.  Having your daughter make/write the card would also be swell -- just keep your involvement to the kind that the teacher can respond/react to in private.

*Since things are never easy. . .  some people are terribly offended when no one says anything about their recent loss.  That's why it's so important to acknowledge the loss in some way if you haven't been asked not to.  Just, again, err on the side of discretion in professional situations.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Tweeting A Mother's Life

Over 340 million tweets are sent and read each day.
In the midst of all those competing thoughts, messages and trending topics, Scott Simon posted a large number of tweets late last month that broke through the rush of chatter and caught the attention of  a large part of Twitter's world wide audience.
Simon, National Public Radio's Weekend Edition Saturday host, was sitting beside his mother's hospital bed and relaying intimate, tender and immediate thoughts about his precious time with his mother in the last days of her life.

I can't imagine having the clarity of mind to tweet while you are taking care of a loved one who is dying but I am thankful that Scott Simon did.  The immediacy of his tweets and the strength and love in each of Scott's tweets took my breath away.  Mortality is a touchy subject that scares yet enlightens us.
In turn, I think Scott Simon's tweets courageously shared such a heartbreaking yet basic human experience that the tweets must have made others stop and think about the loved ones in their lives who may be ill or have already died.

I wish Scott Simon grace and peace as he and his family mourn and cope with the loss of his mother.  It would be so much easier if there was a guidebook or a magic formula presented to us after a loss.  How reassuring it would be to know that if we followed or did certain things that ultimately all would be right with our world once again.  But life doesn't work that way.

Losing someone you love and learning to live without them is a roller coaster of a journey we all must eventually take and no matter how much love and support we have and how much time passes by, we have to learn to look within ourselves and figure out for ourselves the best way to heal and rebuild our lives.
Here are some of the compelling posts that Scott Simon sent live about his mother to his more than one million followers:


And here is the link to the Washington Post story about Simon Scott and his remarkable tweets:

Friday, August 9, 2013

The Selling of The Washington Post

There are some stories that I never expected to read in my lifetime.
The selling of The Washington Post is one of them.  When I saw the first tweet about this surprising event, I thought I had read it too fast and read the words completely wrong.  I had to go back and read it again a few times before I understood that it was a real story.
I just never in a million years thought the Graham family would sell the newspaper that they have owned for decades and generations.  To those of us who live here in Washington, DC, the Grahams are The Washington Post.
People are saying and writing that change is good and that selling The Washington Post to founder Jeff Bezos for $250 million means that the paper will survive and ultimately, thrive and grow.
I sure hope so.  I was in sixth or seventh grade when I first started reading The Washington Post.  It was the first newspaper I ever read on a daily basis and even today I continue to have it delivered to my house.  For 20 years, my late husband reported and wrote for The Washington Post and we talked a lot about the crazy, fascinating and annoying things that routinely happened in the newsroom.  The newspaper felt as if it was a part of our family.
But whether I like it or not, families change just as many other things in life.  Change is part of life and that's all there is to it.  While the news of The Washington Post being sold is sad and it brought back lots of memories about my husband and the time he spent diligently and creatively working there, no one knows what the next chapter is for The Washington Post.
Sometimes as we pass through sad times or even painful times we move into unexpected events, events that we never thought would happen; events that turn out to be positive and good.  But those good things would never have visited us unless we had the pain first and so whatever happens after the pain sometimes feels bittersweet.
I hope Jeff Bezos knows the tremendous power of what he bought and treats it with respect.  We as a community at large are hungry for daily independently reported and written information about what is going on around the globe.

Who knows if The Washington Post will even exist a year from now but I really hope that it stays around because opening the front door every morning to read what has been thrown onto my front lawn is a critical tool for understanding and dialogue and it will always pique my curiosity.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Within The Morning Light

I am an early riser.  I find the morning to be peaceful and so quiet.  I use my morning time to collect my thoughts about what I think is going to happen during that particular day and pray for other things that I hope will happen.
So the morning is when a lot happens for me.  With my trusty cups of hot tea, I appreciate the solitude of the wee early hours of the day.  Quiet allows me to think and to breathe and pull myself together.
I am always writing down blog ideas and collecting different points of view on the subjects of resilience, rebuilding a new life and grief but the morning is usually when I actually post my thoughts.  I try to write whenever I get the chance so I don't lose my ideas, but that is sometimes difficult because I also have a full time job that I work during the day.
You may not be a morning person but perhaps you find quiet for yourself at other times of the day.  Try to spend some quiet time with your thoughts.
Short periods of time spent in solitude can be a good thing.

By Garnett Ann Schultz
The sighing wind so slowly passed
Across the rolling seas,
It climbed the hill and came to rest
Among the stately trees,
Each nodding flower nestled there
Within the morning light,
Protected by the still of dawn
As darkness crept from sight.
The golden sun came stealing through
And lingered on the breeze,
As nature loaned an added charm,
A gentle little tease,
The dew that sparkled on the grass
The quiet, oh, so dear,
Within the tender arms of Spring
A peacefulness and cheer.
No sound within the forest glade
But that of singing birds,
A music sweet upon the air-
No human voice is heard,
Just Mother Nature lingers there
A carefree, happy mood,
The world in quietness supreme
God's wondrous solitude.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Carl Hiaason

If you are looking for a book that will take you to a wickedly funny place and make you laugh out loud, then I highly recommend Carl Hiaasen's new book, Bad Monkey, to you.

I just finished reading it while on vacation at the beach last week and I loved it!  I can't tell you how many times I was sitting in my beach chair with my book while my friends were talking and catching up with each other.  There I was, face stuck in the book, reading Bad Monkey and literally bursting out laughing at the smart, flip and hysterical dialogue.  Truly great stuff! 

Come on.  Admit it.  You can't always read heavy, informational, historical books that you know will keep you up to date about what is happening in this crazy world of ours.  Sometimes you just have to read something for the pure unadulterated fun of it because laughing helps you de-stress and triggers positive emotions.  Laughing is definitely an energy and mood booster!  I usually experience my best laughs when I am relaxed.  Things just aren't that funny when you are tense, twisted and closed up.
Carl Hiaasen's gift to us as readers is that he always manages to create fabulous characters in all of his books and they always end up in a lot of wacky situations.  Given that Hiaasen writes a column for The Miami Herald, I have a feeling that he probably knows some of these people he writes about or has taken bits and pieces of different people's personalities he comes in contact with as a reporter and thankfully creates new people in his fabulous fiction.
I don't want to reveal the places in the book where I couldn't stop laughing because you really need to know the plot and the characters of Bad Monkey and allow them to cook together for a number of chapters before it truly becomes funny.  However, just to give you a flavor of Hiaasen's satire, here's a short excerpt involving the main character, Andrew Yancy, and Yancy's love interest, Rosa:
"Rosa looked irresistible as she walked up Yancy's front steps, but he was in too much discomfort to make a move, even after she changed into a devastating sundress.
While she inspected the knot on his skull, he said, "Know what?  We'd make a great crime-solving duo."
"How much have you had to drink?"
"Have mercy, woman.  I ran out of Advil."
"Well, I don't sleep with drunken guys.  Period."
Yancy sighed.  "So many rules."
She took notice of the shotgun propped in a corner, and Yancy told her restaurant inspections could be dangerous.  She informed him that for dinner she was doing blackened grouper with mashed sweet potatoes and a grilled Caesar, and that he was going to finish every bite or never see her again.
"I also stopped in Key Largo and got some homemade carrot cake," she said.
"From where?"
"What's the difference?"
"Rosa, you don't understand.  I see all the health reports.  I know the dirt on every kitchen."
She ordered him to be quiet while she sewed up his gnawed butt cheek.  To take his mind off the intimate unpleasantries, Yancy told the story of how he was conceived during side of one of Abbey Road.
"You mean side two," Rosa said.  "The medley."
"No, side one.  According to my mom, the big moment happened during Maxwell's Silver Hammer."
"It's all starting to make sense," said Rosa.
Besides Hiaasen's dry and snappy dialogue, Bad Monkey takes us on some unpredictable trips through Florida, where Hiaasen was born and raised, and also to the Bahamas where "everyting is jahmmin'."
Bad Monkey is a everything I wanted it to be: a great read and a fun, wonderful escape!

Carl Hiaasen never disappoints.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

What Day Is It?


Isn’t it a great word?

Although it’s a verb, the word vacation doesn’t evoke action to me.  When I hear the word vacation I think about the air being let out of a balloon.  Or exhaling slowly.

I am in vacation right now and I feel blessed to be having one.  I am off-schedule, under the radar and very much unplugged, living in an alternate universe of sleeping in, eating and reading books whenever I want and not knowing what time it is.

Or even what day it is.  I haven't turned on the television in days.  What a surprise it was to log on to the internet and discover today is the first day of August!  

I work hard and enjoy working hard but at a certain point everyone needs to take a break from their daily routine and enjoy themselves.

As one of my friends said as we set up everything on the beach, “I didn’t think I needed a vacation until I got here.  Now I realize how much I needed one!”

Even writing this post is a stretch for me because my brain is resisting complete thoughts.

I hope everyone has the opportunity this summer to rest, relax and refresh!!

You deserve it!