“Memories We Share”

Many of us identify specific periods of our lives with certain albums of the time. For me, one of those Soundtracks is “An Evening with John Denver” – a live album that was released in February of 1975. Even though I had already attended a Led Zeppelin concert by the time I was 8, the folk singer was a favorite. I may have been blasting Rocky Mountain Way in my headphones, but I couldn’t help but sing along to Rocky Mountain High in the car. Who didn’t love Denver’s smooth country-twanged voice, and folksy guitar sound?

In 1975, Denver released his live album “An Evening with John Denver”, and I played it over and over again on the little portable record player in my room… “Talk of Poems and Prayers and Promises, and things that we believe in. How sweet it is to love someone, how right it is to care. How long it’s been since yesterday, what about tomorrow, what about our dreams and all the memories we share?” Such pensive words for a 13 year old!

Mom and Dad had divorced the previous year, and the Sunday thing with Dad wasn’t working to well. Consequently, I was thrilled when he invited me to a concert. And so it was, that Dad and I had our own evening with John Denver. I’ll never forget that April 16th, 1975 at the New Haven Coliseum. There was so many songs the singer crooned that we sang along to… memorable ones include: Grandma’s Feather Bed, Annie’s Song, and My Sweet Lady. Sunshine on my Shoulders still played in my head as I clung to Dad’s hand on the big escalator to the parking lot. I couldn’t fall asleep from all the excitement.

Thank you Dad, for the memories and making the extra effort to be with me on a Wednesday night.

 

 

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In honor of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Song of the Revolution
by Langston Hughes

mlk-marching-selma
Sing me a song of the Revolution
Marching like fire over the world,
Weaving from the earth its bright red banner
For the hands of the masses to unfurl.

Sing me a song of the Revolution
Drowning the past with a thunderous shout:
Filled with the strength of youth and laughter,
And never the echo of a doubt.

O mighty roll of the Revolution,
Ending the centuries of bloody strife,
Ending the tricks of kings and liars,
Big with the laughter of a new life.

Breaking the bonds of the darker races,
Breaking the chains that have held for years,
Breaking the barriers dividing the people,
Smashing the gods of terror and tears,

Cutting, O flame of the Revolution,
Fear from the world like a surgeon’s knife,
So that the children of all creation
Waken, at last, to the joy of life.

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A Fitter Attitude

health-quoteI enjoyed attending group fitness classes when we lived in Connecticut. We joined a gym after moving to California, but I was too busy to go. I was writing my masters thesis, searching for a job, and driving the kids everywhere. Pretty soon I was wearing nothing but yoga pants to accommodate my expanding middle. I told myself that I was no different than many moms who gained ten pounds of pregnancy weight, except ten turned into twenty after baby number two. And you know it’s time to do something when your oldest is starting college!

Christmas came and I received a Fitbit; I began tracking my steps and eating more sensibly: smoothies for breakfast, salads for lunch, and a balanced dinner. I started going to the gym, but when a month went by with no results, I bought a few training sessions. It was during one of those training sessions when a badly formed burpee landed me in the emergency room. My plan was sabotaged; the sprain made me gym-shy and I fell back into my old routine of no routine…and snacking on peanut M&M’s.

Once I healed, it was time to make a fitness plan. Our puppy was 10 months old and pretty well trained when I decided to employ her to help me get fit. So I put the Fitbit back in action and started walking Sammie. There are some pretty good hills in our neighborhood, so our weekday walks are pretty demanding. On Saturdays I committed to a 90 minute yoga class, and on Sundays I do a stability ball DVD with weights. With a routine in place, I finally began getting the Fitbit to light up and vibrate…it’s celebratory action when you’ve achieved a certain amount of steps.

On the nutrition front, I tracked my food using the Weight Watchers app, and gave myself a weight goal. But it wasn’t about the number. I truly just wanted to feel good; I wanted to lose the saggy middle along with the achy back that went with it. I also wanted to fit into the cuter clothes in my closet. I realized I needed to change my mindset. I needed to get rid of the old habits, like snacking on cookies and candy, and create healthy ones. I made sure I filled my 24 ounce water bottle three times a day, and ate fruits like mandarin oranges and peaches between meals. And I kept to my exercise routine. I tracked my meals pretty religiously, but didn’t fret if I went over my points here or there.

Today, I can happily say that the combination of all of these efforts helped me succeed. I’m keeping to my exercise regimen, my low back no longer hurts, and I’m wearing my nice summer clothes. “I feel good at this weight,” I told the Weight Watchers leader when she asked about my goal. Its not about the number! #fitattitude #weightwatchers #fitspiration

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Grieving and Loss – Honoring Your Parents

DadMomGradThe theme on the suicide prevention line over the past couple of Sundays has been grief over the loss of a parent. I keep the Kübler-Ross model in mind, as I convey that everyone grieves differently, and with time, each loss becomes easier to bear. One woman I spoke to was despondent over the tragic loss of her Dad, whom she thought was mistreated at a veteran’s hospital. She had spent all 39 years of her life living with him, and was having a hard time moving through her pain.

I spoke to her from a personal perspective. I too never expected to lose my Dad so suddenly. He was supposed to be there to share in my next milestone, the marriage to my beloved. However, in time I moved beyond the anger and hurt, and became thankful that Augie got to know and love my husband before he passed on.

Losing my mother was a slower, more difficult process, as I watched and cared for Ellie during her final months and days with cancer. We had become quite close as we switched roles; I struggled with her loss for a long time. After the breakup of her marriage and 20 years as a nurse, Mom had gone back to school to pursue a career in counseling. She transformed many lives with her light, first as a mentor for young gang members with Youth at Risk, and then as a sexual assault advocate for numerous women being treated for rape.

MomBeachMy mother exemplified compassion. And I have lit numerous candles in her memory – like today, on what would have been her 82nd birthday. But what has helped me cope most, is to endeavor to bring my mother’s light into the world…and my Dad’s smile, a big-hearted soul who filled a room with his presence. When I received my master’s degree last year, a photo of me fist bumping the air was taken at the very moment I was celebrating them; “This is for you Mom and Dad…this is me honoring your memory.” And I try to evoke my mother every day in my work, helping people in crisis. My parents brought me into this world and it’s on their wings that I continue to sail.

DadnMeAs our conversation progressed, I asked the woman on the crisis line how she might honor her Dad. She began to tell me how she had just been approved for a school loan and she was looking forward to getting her Bachelors in Nursing, and then a Masters degree. As we talked, I could hear her grief evolve, as she realized how proud her father would be. Her sadness began to turn into what I eventually heard as a smile in her voice. She was moving through the stages of grief and ready to shine her light in her Dad’s honor.

Authors Note: Top photo: Celebrating my Associates Degree from Norwalk Community with Mom and Dad, Middle: A happy Mom at Seaside Park, Bottom photo: Bachelors Degree celebration with Dad at Penfield Pavillion.

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Gilmour Gleams with “So long Sin, au revoir Chaos”

GilmourGuitarIt’s kind of cool when something becomes relevant for the second time around, infusing new energy and a positive light in this lifetime, replacing negative associations of old. David Gilmour accomplished this transformation at his March 24th Hollywood Bowl concert, with the combination of new music from Rattle that Lock and classics like Wish You Were Here and Shine on You Crazy Diamond.

Like many of my contemporaries back in the 70’s and 80’s, I listened to a lot of Pink Floyd music with words like “Your lips move but I can’t hear what you say”. The songs reflected a teenage rebellion and helped me escape from the throngs of a difficult family situation. The music was a coping mechanism.

Fast forward to the present, and I’m watching my husband and son jamming on their Fenders, taking turns soloing on Comfortably Numb. I am delighted to be part of this multi-generational experience, as much as I was at Thursday’s concert, complete with David Crosby as the menacing doc singing, “There is no pain, you are receding.”

lazerWhile I enjoyed the softer melodies such as 5am, Faces of Stone, and A Boat Lies Waiting from Rattle that Lock−all masterfully performed by Gilmour, with Crosby harmonizing on a couple, I was equally captivated by the assimilation of the venue into the show. For example, a colossal flow of coins was projected onto three giant columns to accompany the thunderous ca-ching sounds in the Money intro. And then there was the mesmerizing laser show á la The Wall during Run Like Hell. The song came to an astounding climax with an eruption of fireworks from the back of the stage; a total surprise that provoked oohs and ahs en masse.

I am especially thankful that my life partner was with me during this magical, musical adventure. Our concert experience began much earlier in the day when, after our six-hour drive from the Bay Area to Los Angeles, we decided to fill gas. A chance meeting resulted in an 80% off tee shirt deal…souvenirs of an amazing show.

lock

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Embracing the Rain

IMG_5261 (1)I’ve always been a firm believer in meditation as a destresser, and took up the practice while I was writing my masters thesis. After a walk in the park, I would sit on one of the benches and set my timer for 15 minutes; I used meditation as a way to download my thoughts in an effort to make room for the flow of creativity. Post college, I found myself training to become a suicide prevention counselor. The trainers preached “Self Care” often, and so I signed up for a couple of Deepak Chopra’s 21-day meditations…. I like his guided programs, with titles like “Manifesting Grace through Gratitude” that use Sanskrit mantras to help distract one from intrusive thoughts.

When I began working at Tri-Valley Haven, I found myself in training again. This time as a domestic violence/sexual assault advocate. What with the difficult subject matter, the work can be emotionally taxing. “Checking in” with our trainer and practicing self care is strongly suggested here as well. As it happens, meditation came back into my life via my husband; he found a like-minded group that meditates once a week for an hour. With him, I began to appreciate the long sit, and the added  impromptu dinner date after.

I had learned about Spirit Rocks Meditation Center from my sister who lives nearby, so I put myself on their email list. An “Intro to Insight” day-long meditation course came up that worked for me and I signed up for the March 5th event. I was excited to go and practice “Vipassana” or “mindfulness” meditation at the beautiful 412 acre property in Marin, but then considered canceling. The “worst storm of the season” was predicted for that day and I wasn’t thrilled about driving 63 miles in pelting rain. As it happened, there was barely a drizzle when I woke early Saturday so I decided to embark on the journey. It turned into a steady rain in the middle of the drive, so I planned a sleepover with my sister.

I am so happy I made it to Spirit Rocks. The place exudes peacefulness and I felt extremely grateful to be there. While sitting in the chair amidst 150 or so meditation enthusiasts, I learned that “Insight” meditation is slightly different from the standard meditation I was used to. Instead of trying to ignore your thoughts, the idea of Insight is to observe and sit with them, as if you’re an investigator. But my back was bothering me, so I moved from the chair down to the front of the room using my new comfy backjack.

I appreciated being in the direct line of the breeze from a window they opened. And as I went into meditation, the pitter patter of the steady rain on the vents was prominent. The tinkling sound brought me back to 1992 where, in my mother’s bedroom, I sat feeling helpless as she struggled with the pain of cancer. She must have sensed my anxiety because she told me that the sound of the raindrops was peaceful, almost like a symphony. And in the midst of my first meditation sit, I had to swallow a tear.

Then it dawned on me that I could do the same thing that Ellie did, use the rain as a tool to create a sense of peace in my meditation. And later on, in the final sit, a tear of joy quietly fell as I realized I had received a wonderful insight…not only did Ellie ease my own anxiety by calming herself, her empathy shone through…23 years after my mother’s passing, her spirit rocked. She gave me insight on my practice, reminding me to use nature as an aid…the rain as a symphony of peace. ###

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Semi-Colon Moments

At the end of my shift from taking calls at the National Suicide Prevention/Crisis Support Services hotline, I am always torn between keeping the notes I have jotted down to document my calls, or putting them in the shredder. I don’t really need to hold on to the papers, it’s just that I don’t want to forget these semi-colon moments.

semicolon

The Semicolon Project was begun for people who have attempted suicide and/or overcome a difficult struggle in their lives. Many have tattooed themselves with a semi-colon, the grammatical stop and start signifying the strength it took for them to overcome their pain and move on with their lives. It symbolizes the continuation of their story.

On every call I accept, I sympathize with each person and let them know how strong they are for calling the hotline. This allows he or she to feel empowered; that person is reminded that they took control of their lives. And so, in the end, I shred my notes; I am hopeful that a new story has begun in the life of each person with whom I spoke. #suicideprevention #semicolon #endsuicide

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