In honor of Randy…

It feels wrong, like my step brother passing is somehow not part of God’s plan. Two teenagers and two youngsters were not supposed to lose their Dad, and neither was his loving wife. Now she is a grieving widow left to raise her 7-year-old twins alone. It feels wrong. Why is it God, that you divert from a plan that seems on track, and for some strange reason take the good ones, the ones that are still so full of life, and it appears their work here on earth is unfinished? Randy had so much more to give.

This is that part of the grieving process that no one can ever be prepared for, that roller coaster of emotions that sends us to the depths and then, after it seems we’ve exhausted all of our tears, we come out fighting mad, angry at a God that’s supposed to be just. It’s hard to call that divine. Then in times of tea and calmness, or in my case, 3am cream-of-brown-sugar-wheatness, you think about the signs… those signs that make you ponder a loss differently. What was it that this person brought to the world? What was it that you can learn from a person who was so good that he, at a time was a Marine who would have done anything to fight for his country?

Yes, he was good, and I honor him through the sign that he left this world on his mother’s birthday. It’s a sign to me that he was leaving his children to be loved in the comfort and safety of their own mothers’ arms, and was going to rest and be with his mother, whom he loved with all his heart. I’m sure he left his children and wife with many wonderful memories that they will cherish, and I hope they feel comforted in knowing how much he loved them. For me, those are memories of a father, son, brother, and friend who had deep respect and love for his family. He graciously shared his Mom with my Dad and me, and I am forever grateful that they helped mold my Dad into a kinder loving person and father.  RIP brother.

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Twenty-five Years Ago Today

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My family and I have lived in California for five years now. This morning while at breakfast, a friend asked me if I would ever go back “home” to Connecticut. No, I told her, because my home is where my family is, my husband and two children (and wherever there is a beach:-). Before I was married however, even if I lived on my own, home was always wherever my mother lived.

I was recently cleaning out our storage area, and came upon two items that my mother treasured. One was a laminated photo of Mom’s 10/9/55 bridal announcement from the Hartford Courant. I am amazed at the lengthy description of her gown: “of Chantilly lace and tulle over satin, styled with a sheer yoke with lace trim and a lace wing collar. The gown was made with tapered sleeves and a bouffant skirt ending in a sweep train. A lace and seed pearl cloche fashioned her headpiece and held in place her veil of fingertip-length French illusion.” The papers certainly don’t make room for such elaborate accounts these days. In any case, Mom looked absolutely gorgeous, and I also treasure that bridal picture.

The other item that I found is the program from Mom’s commencement ceremony. She graduated from St. Joseph’s School of Nursing on Sunday, September 5th at Ten O’clock, 1954. My Uncle Jim, Mom’s eldest brother, recently told me the story of how hard Mom worked to get into nursing school. She would stay up hours after her family had gone to bed, and study by candlelight. In fact, she went back to school later in life for a second degree in Health and Human Services. Mom enjoyed her psychology classes and went from a surgical nurse to an obstetrical nurse (teaching the “Lamaze” method), to a psychiatric nurse. And I was awed when Mom continued her school internships as a volunteer Youth at Risk Mentor and Rape Crisis Counselor.

Mom’s role modeling had a considerable impact on me. Not only did I go back to school for a master’s degree, I worked in numerous agencies advocating for those on a journey of survival. I helped raise awareness about the social issues of homelessness, addiction, domestic violence, rape, and cancer. Today marks 25 years since Mom passed from cancer, and today I honor her life. Miss you Mom…

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“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

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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.

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