On Compassion: In Honor of my Mom

A couple of years ago I attended an author’s discussion and book signing; it was a high tea held in a lovely garden. The author began by asking her attendees to write down one word that described their mother. My word was compassion. Like Katie Hafner, in her book Mother Daughter Me, my relationship with my mother had gone through some difficult times. As a child, Mom was tender and attentive, but as a teen, our relationship was contentious; I certainly wouldn’t have described her as compassionate.

It wasn’t until I matured and began to understand how our separate selves affected our relationship, would I begin to describe my mother as a compassionate person. While our familial synergy was practical, it was at times dysfunctional. As my own life evolved however, I began to realize the strength of my mother’s virtue. I watched her work valiantly as a nurse, and volunteer many hours mentoring troubled youth. I was awed by how my mother opened her heart to young gang members. Following Ellie’s passing in 1992, a benefit was held in her honor by the Youth at Risk organization. I was amazed at all of the young people who spoke and credited my mother with their transformation.

My own foray in to the non-profit world was cathartic. I had been Mom’s caregiver until her death from colon cancer. Working at the American Cancer Society to advocate for research, education and healing for those enduring the disease and suffering from its ravages, was both humbling and rewarding. I was honoring Mom’s compassionate spirit while serving the greater good.

I continued my work in communications, advocating for women, men and families who had become homeless due to domestic violence, HIV/AIDS, addiction, and/or economic factors. I helped them heal by sharing their stories, or by teaching them how to tell their own stories through poetry and testament. For me it has always been about connecting and validating. Every single person needs to know that they are worthy of life. Which brings me to my next journey.

I spent a year, from June of 2014 to May of 2015 writing a memoir for my master’s degree. During the course of the eleven chapters, I reflected about the daily upbringing of my then 16-year-old daughter, and how my own adolescence affected my parenting. One of the books I read that inspired my writing was Daring Greatly: How the courage to be vulnerable transforms the way we live, love, parent, and lead. Dr. Brené Brown’s work was transformative and put me on a path toward living whole-heartedly.

During the course of my work, two events occurred that fueled me in to action; the passing of Robin Williams by suicide, and an Oscar acceptance speech by Graham Moore that went viral; the Imitation Game screenwriter reflected on his younger self and the triumph of overcoming a difficult adolescence. It was the affect of this passing and revelation that moved me toward a new direction; a commercial aired for the National Suicide Prevention hotline and I was driven to change course.

I am so very grateful that I was given 31 years with my mother and for the many blessings I have in my life now. I honor my Mom and hope to channel her compassion to those in despair in my next journey as a Crisis Counselor. And with that, I leave you with Theodore Roosevelt’s famous quote:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the person who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

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Bittersweet Milestone

With senior year looming, my daughter secured her license just one week before school started. As parents, we weren’t keen on letting her drive that first week, especially knowing the traffic craziness that happens during drop-off and pick-up on those initial days. So I rode shotgun the first few days and monitored her comfort level. Attentive and confident, I thought she did fine. And truth be told, I knew she would fare better if Mom wasn’t in the car, my foot on the imaginary brake and body leaning away from the curb. So on Thursday, after we arrived home from picking up her brother at middle school, our daughter made a case to her Dad and I that she should drive herself on Friday.

“I have to go to work, and Mom has to pick up brother and take the dog to the vet.” She made a good argument, but I had already planned for the school/work/vet shuffle. Eventually, my husband and I acquiesced to her plea.

The next morning, with backpack, work clothes and keys in hand, I followed daughter out to the car. She opened the car door and handed me the newspaper that I had left on the seat; I considered the completed crossword and how it would be the last we wordsmithed together while waiting for my son to emerge from middle school. Only one of us would need to pick him up now. I went around to the back of the car and opened the hatch, retrieving a bottle of suntan spray that could roll around and distract her from the drive.

“You’ll unhook the wallet from the lanyard right?” I asked, foreseeing another possible distraction on her five-mile drive.

“I’ll configure it,” she assured me.

I was certain I heard her thinking just go away Mom, so I made my way toward the front door and loitered there, I even opened the mailbox knowing full well that it was empty. Listening for the sounds…I heard the engine, the car being shifted into drive, and then the brake suppressed to stop it from rolling. Finally, my daughter maneuvered the car out of the driveway and on to the court.

I didn’t expect her to look, but was given a nice surprise when my daughter turned and waved. I watched then, as she turned back to face the road. And my eyes followed the car until it moved out of sight. I took a deep breath and a strong sense of pride enveloped me. Back inside, a text message came through from one of the Moms in our kids’ original playgroup, with a photo of the five 4 year olds. ‘Good luck to all as they begin their senior year! May their test scores be high, the college applications easy, and their new adventure amazing!’ I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Caronhill

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Throwback to Big Bird

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When I finally got to shower this afternoon, I kept thinking about the tiny Golden book I enjoyed reading to the kids when they were little. It was called Big Bird’s Busy Day and it went through a day in the life of one of Sesame Street’s main characters, depicting Big Bird’s important activities.

With all of the activities today, I felt like Big Bird myself. After getting the kids off to school, I went grocery shopping and then came home and made both a homemade dessert-baked chocolate zucchini bread and dinner-my favorite Alton Brown’s Mac n’ Cheese recipe. I ironed a shirt in preparation for Child #2’s honor roll ceremony and hoped he would get time to do his homework between guitar and orthodontist appointments. I was thankful that Child #1 got a ride home from her track meet.

Akin to Big Bird’s “Quiet Time,” I am so very grateful I was able to get a walk and meditation in this morning. My centering activities fuel me so that I can be fully engaged and stay calm throughout the hustle and bustle of the day. More importantly, I am thankful and so very proud of my children for being able to juggle all of their activities with accomplished gusto, especially when an unexpected event gets added to the mix.

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Searchin’ My Soul

dancingbabyI saw the notorious dancing baby in a social media feed this week and was reminded of the legal dramedy Ally McBeal, that ran on t.v. from 1997 through 2002. I always got a kick out of the main character when she boogied around to theme songs along with the baby dancing in the wings, highlighting the tick tock of her biological clock.

As I mentioned in my last blog, there are many tunes that soothe my soul. Penning my memoir can get pretty intense; it’s an emotional roller coaster fraught with extreme peaks and valleys. Sometimes I want to give up, but then I get encouraged when I listen to the lyrics of a tune, like these words written by Sara Bareilles: “And since your history of silence won’t do you any good, did you think it would?/Let your words be anything but empty/Why don’t you tell them the truth?”

The words of “Brave” resonate with me because the essence of my project is to reconcile with my past through my written words, to accept the adolescent experiences full of thorns and scrapes, as part of my life’s journey. Living those events brought me to the place of gratitude where I am today; a life filled with love, enriched by my husband and children, extended family, and friends.

Many songs were danced to throughout the course of the Ally McBeal series, but the show’s main song was called “Searchin’ My Soul” by Vonda Shepard, a theme that has taken precedence this past semester while I’ve worked on my masters project. “One by one, the chains around me unwind/Every day now I feel that I can leave those years behind.”

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Fleetwood Mac Inspires

As I was recently listening to the song Drift Away, the line “Gimmie the beat boys and soothe my soul, I wanna’ get lost in your rock n’ roll and drift away,” inspired an Aha moment. I had been writing about Fleetwood Mac’s “On With the Show” concert I recently experienced, and was attempting to articulate what their music meant to me. I especially enjoyed the concert from an older perspective, and making new memories with my cousin. The timelessness of the band’s musicality was amazing, and no doubt the reunion of all five original members played in to the beauty of their mature, yet immutable performance. Each and every one of their 24 songs, from Dreams to World Turning, was played with a seamless flow of artful inflection. And while many people appreciate the musicality and/or tune of their songs, it’s often the words that resonate with me most.

Back in the 70’s, after my parents divorced, I was going through a difficult time and often escaped in to music via headphones (way too loudJ). The soundtrack of Rumors alluded to Dreams of better days and tomorrows of unbroken Chains. I remember contemplating the complexities of my adolescence when the song “Don’t Stop” became my muse. It inspired a poem that I wrote, part of which ended up as the caption under my senior yearbook photo: Keep lookin’ in the future/instead of living in the past/Make good of what you have/and you’ll make your strange life last.

Looking through old photos, I recently found an especially poignant picture. It was taken during a party at my house that was attended by many of my 9th grade classmates, most of whom I thought were much more popular than me. Though my eyes are closed, I look content in this picture. I was living through some very dark days, but I was extremely happy that night, listening to some very cool tunes and surrounded by so many friends, many of whom I am still connected with today.

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Throwback to 15 years old.

It’s nice to experience the music of a band that turns back the hands of time. For some, the songs of Fleetwood Mac remind us of a time of carefree days. For others it was a time when their music helped lift us to another place. I am in the process of writing a memoir for my Masters in Creative Writing, and I often find that listening to the music of our time provides inspiration; my project is at times, both difficult and cathartic. But the music from artists like Fleetwood Mac and Dobie Gray, always inspires.  Here’s World Turning by Fleetwood Mac.  Enjoy the videoJ

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Gentle Yoga in the Park

What we want out of a yoga class in our twenties is often different than what we require in our fifties. We can’t always hold those difficult poses anymore. So I was looking for something a little easier on my body, a practice that incorporated breath with the poses, and didn’t leave me in pain the next day. I found just what the doctor ordered in a Gentle Yoga class offered at the Cultural Arts Center in Pleasanton, taught by Beth Fox.

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Connecting to the breath with the strap

Beth uses a combination of traditional Hatha Yoga and Iyengar Yoga in her practice. Hatha Yoga uses the breath and asanas, or poses to attain a relaxed state. And Iyengar Yoga supports the achievement of relaxation with the use of props – blocks, bolsters and straps. In the photo on the left, the strap facilitates breath connection to the back. The photo below shows the use of the strap in quad stretches. And below left- how the strap is used to create Hammock Pose.

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Quad Stretch

 

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Hammock Pose

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When Spring turns to Summer, Beth’s class moves outside. Yoga in the Park multiplies the wondrous effects of Beth’s practice with the senses stimulated by the outdoors – like a visit by a hummingbird, or a toddler stopping on her walk to catch the class in child’s pose…or rolling around like happy babies…

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Child’s posing using bolsters

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Happy Baby Pose

 

 

 

 

 

 

Child’s Pose feels fabulous with the support of a bolster-above, as does the use of blocks to support your head in Pigeon Pose – below left.  And finally, below right, we are grateful that Beth incorporates Yogassage in to her classes – a combination of massage and therapeutic yoga bodywork. 

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Yogassage

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Pigeon Pose

 

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Springfield/Money/Loverboy Score Triple Play!

MoneyLoverSpringI never purchased an album featuring any of the performers whose concert I recently attended, but that doesn’t mean I’m not a fan. Most people of my generation have heard at least one song from Loverboy, Eddie Money, and Rick Springfield – musicians popular in the late 70’s and 80’s. And if you don’t know the hit Jessie’s Girl, you might have seen Rick Springfield portray Dr. Noah Drake on General Hospital during the Luke and Laura days. Most women find him attractive, but I’m psyched that Springfield just published a novel called Magnificent Vibration.

Hot factor aside, I was more impressed with Springfield’s humbleness. Musicians and actors typically go to great lengths to keep their fans at bay. And Springfield certainly has some pretty die-hard Rickaholic groupies. So I was pretty impressed when the performer decided to take a foray out into the fan-filled frenzy. There was no runway added to the stage; Springfield actually took his fan’s arms as they guided him across their chairs. It was a very cool Human Touch. You can see here as he comes closer and closer to my cousin and I…

I had seen Eddie Money in 2007 at a show to benefit St. Luke’s LifeWorks, a non-profit for the homeless, where I worked in Stamford, Connecticut. Back then, I appreciated that the “Moneyman” took the time to do a meet and greet after the show and sign merchandise. He did the same at the Thunder Valley Amphitheater, with his philanthropy efforts benefitting wounded veterans. And for a 65-year-old guy, he can still belt out his hits, like Two Tickets to Paradise seen here

The energy was high with the Canadian Band Loverboy’s performance. Who hasn’t sung the words to Everybody’s Workin’ for the Weekend or The Kid is Hot Tonight? And at 100 degrees, it was a hot night for sure, but this Triple Play was totally worth bearing the temp.

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