Windows of Hope

Yesterday I needed to hear some voices of hope, so I listened to Michelle Obama’s new podcast with President Barack Obama. They talked about how they were raised during the “it takes a village” mindset when everyone watched out for everyone else’s kids and we all had each other’s backs. They suggested that this is a worthy paradigm to help our country get back on its feet and move forward again. Examples discussed included all of us wearing masks to help end this pandemic, and everyone casting their votes for the next administration.

Listening to the Obamas got me thinking about what else gives me hope during this pandemic; the amazing bravery of the essential workers on our front lines day in and day out who are saving lives, those working to provide our essential needs, and those keeping us safe. I am encouraged by the peaceful protestors affecting change in the Black Lives Matter movement, including the artists creating beautiful murals, street, and sidewalk creations I’ve seen on my pandemic walks. Tybre Faw, the little boy who read the poem, “Invictus” at the late congressman, John Lewis’s memorial was a memorable moment for me that inspires courage in the face of the fight against bigotry.  And while I was sad for our country’s loss, and the loss of so many milestones for our youth as a result of Coronavirus – including proms and graduations, I am in awe of how our young people acclimated to on-line and bubble environments during the shelter-in-place mandate. I see hope in the strength and perseverance of this generation of children who have endured so much change and loss.

Today I was cleaning my kitchen and chuckled when I looked up at the window and a 2019 calendar was taped there. Each year I put our holiday cards up on the windows that frame our kitchen table. I would have normally taken them down by now, but when the pandemic hit, I decided to leave them up and missed the old calendar. I like that the cards with photos of my extended family and friends are “with us” at the kitchen table each day. I am reminded of what the Obamas discussed; I’ve got a wonderful support system of family and friends that have my back. And while 2019 is long since past, I remain steadfast and hopeful for happier times ahead.

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Connecting during Coronavirus

I am an extrovert. I enjoy speaking with people, and I’m generally a friendly person. Most of the time when I’m walking past someone, unless they’re looking down or seem unapproachable, I will smile and say hello.

Walking in the park today was weird. It’s a bizarre time; this COVID19 virus has everyone behaving strangely. I’m not even myself. I want to be out in the community getting exercise and smiling at people in solidarity while I pass them or compliment their beautiful dogs. I tried to do that today but it felt awkward. Even if someone did look at me, they immediately looked down or away.

No one wants to smile, let alone communicate to strangers in such a scary time. We’re told to “social distance” due to the deadly virus, however that’s a misnomer if you’re connecting on social media. What we’re all really doing is physical distancing. We’re trying to stay at least six feet away from each other since that’s what we’ve been instructed to do in order to stay safe.

On Friday we were told that we should all be wearing protective face covers when we go out. Before then, only the sick were instructed to wear masks, and personal protective equipment (PPEs) was reserved for frontline personnel. The governor came on TV to say that all of us should be covering our faces when we go out now, but that N95 masks need to be reserved for those who are essential workers and taking care of the sick. The problem is, there are not enough. There isn’t enough N95 masks and there are not enough gowns. There isn’t enough personal protective equipment, and there are not enough ventilators to help the sick stay alive. Anxieties are high.

I am fortunate to be in Breathe for Change wellness champion and yoga teacher training right now which is doubling as my self-care. But I’m worried about the caregivers; those who are helping the physically and mentally ill. I spoke to a school counselor friend who said she feels like a hypocrite for counseling when her own anxieties are sky high. I feel for all of the essential workers right now because the people that are helping to take care of everyone are becoming marginalized themselves.

This virus sucks. I’m trying, we’re all trying to stay sane and rise above it to stay safe and healthy. I have my family close and I draw on our togetherness for strength. And I do yoga, take walks, cuddle with my dogs, and meditate. We need to breathe in peace and breathe out love for the world to heal. And we need to stay connected. Social media is huge right now; I am so thankful for my online communities.

Since the Coronavirus made us start sheltering in place on 3/17/2020 in California, I’ve become a champion at attending on-line meetings. I’m an extrovert who thrives on connection. I’m grateful to have my Facebook and Instagram page with family, friends and community groups that I was previously connected with, and now so thankful to be able to connect via zoom with my church family, yoga families, PTSA board, and writing communities. Physical distancing, yes. Social distancing, no.

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Frampton Comes Alive and so does Bonham

Peter Frampton was a much-loved performer back in the 70s. It was the first of July in 1976 when he came to Colt Park in Hartford and nearly didn’t perform after falling off the stage during rehearsal. But he rallied and it turned out to be a great show. “Frampton Comes Alive” became one of the most frequently played records on every station that year (shout out to WPLR), and a record collection staple.

The band that started my record collection was Led Zeppelin, after I had seen them perform at the Montreal Forum in ’69 (and again in ’77 at Madison Square Garden). And while Frampton’s looks and locks were nearly up to par with Robert Plant’s and his songs incredibly likable, his music didn’t take me to the heights of Led Zeppelin. And that summer, Physical Graffiti was still the album on the top of my record pile.

So when I bought tickets early this year to see Frampton’s Finale tour on 10/12/19, it wasn’t necessarily because I wanted to see Frampton go out with a bang, but maybe more so that Jason Bonham was his opening act. Bonham is the son of the Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham who inherited his father’s drumming chops; he tours under the name JBLZE or “Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Evening”.

Before the show, my cousin and I met for dinner a few miles from the venue and for the first time we Uber’d our way to the concert. It turned out to be a good way to avoid the long lines of traffic coming in and out of the venue. And though I thought I would have come out of there saying that Frampton was my favorite part of the show, I would have to tell you otherwise. Bonham’s drumming was flawless and his setlist perfect, beginning with Immigrant Song and ending with Stairway to Heaven. My favorite number however was Kashmir, of which I captured a little clip.

That’s not to say that Frampton didn’t put on a great show. In fact, I was just as impressed with his guitar playing as I was with Bonham’s drumming. It was just that I think people wanted to hear more from the days of old instead of only the six tunes that everyone knows, like his opener What’s Happening that you can see on my YouTube channel. In fact, I didn’t mind that he added some blues songs to his setlist and I especially enjoyed his version of Hoagy Carmichael’s Georgia on My Mind. I’m always grateful when I get to see a live performance, and appreciate when I get to share it with family and/or friends.

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I’ve never owned one Rolling Stones album. And that’s pretty amazing, considering I began my record collection at only 10 years old (with Led Zeppelin II). I do remember a “Jumping Jack Flash” in my pile of 45s, but how I went without owning the legendary “Sticky Fingers” record is beyond me. But their music was so prevalent at the time that you couldn’t help but hear it, as I did as a faithful WPLR FM Radio listener…nod to the late great Stoneman, Marcia Simon, and Smith & Barber.

Typically, I prefer to be present and not distracted at a concert so I can enjoy the show. However, when hubby and I went to see the legends at Levi’s Stadium—their No Filter show in Santa Clara had been postponed from May due to Jagger’s heart surgery—I made it a game to write down as many songs as I could. I video’ed a few of my favorites as well.  I especially enjoyed Honky Tonk Woman, since I vividly remember the first time I heard the song; blasting so loud out of the basement of the house next door when we lived in Quebec, Canada, that my 8 year old ears thought it was live; the coolest song I’d ever heard!

HONKY TONK WOMAN – Performed at Levi’s Stadium on 8/18/19

So here you have it…the Set List from last night’s show:

Jumpin’ Jack Flash
Tumblin’ Dice
Out of Control
Rocks Off
You Can’t Always Get What You Want
Sweet Virginia*
Let it Bleed
Sympathy for the Devil
Honky Tonk Woman
You Got the Silver*
Before they Make me Run*
Miss You
Midnight Rambler
Paint it Black
Brown Sugar
Start Me Up
Gimmie Shelter

The asterisks next to 3 songs, are the ones we had to look up. And truth be told, if we hadn’t watched the Stone’s Netflix Documentary “Ole, Ole, Ole! A Trip Across Latin America” the night before, I wouldn’t have known the name of “Out of Control.” And here’s a fun fact that I just heard on the morning news. The 49ers (who own Levi’s Stadium) actually negotiated with the city of Santa Clara to let the band play an hour past the 10pm city curfew; apparently this has never been done before. I’m glad I got to see the Rolling Stones with my husband in what will most likely be the last tour for this iconic band. #grateful #rollingstones #levistadium

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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 too well. Consequently, I was thrilled when Dad invited me to a concert. And so it was, that my father and I had our own evening with John Denver. I’ll never forget that April 16th, 1975 at the New Haven Coliseum. There were so many songs the singer crooned that we sang along to… memorable ones like: 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

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 only wearing yoga pants to accommodate my expanding middle. And to justify my limited wardrobe, I told myself that I was no different than many moms who gained ten pounds of pregnancy weight. The problem with that was, ten pounds 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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