Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Brenda Frese's Positive Thinking

When you are raising a family it is easy to get caught up in working too hard to provide for them.  Most people want to improve their family's quality of life and it's natural to want to give your family the material things in life that can bring excitement and joy to them.  But in the end, they are just things.  Things can't hold your hand, tell you they love you or bring you inner peace.

In the daily process of making a living, I try to put the brakes on myself and ask myself why I am working so hard.  Our families need the income we are providing but our families also need us.  Finding a balance between the two is key.  If we don't remind ourselves on our own, sometimes something else will.  In the midst of all that hard work and tight scheduling, something can happen to a member of your family that brings everything into focus; immediately strengthening your priorities.

This is what happened to Brenda Frese, the head coach for the University of Maryland's women's basketball team.  I don't read the sports section of the newspaper as much as I do other sections of the paper, but this time a story about Brenda Frese jumped out for me and I read it from beginning to end.  Frese has coached at Maryland for 10 years, won the Women's NCAA championship in 2006 and is married with two little boys.  In her 2008-2009 season at Maryland, Frese also won the ACC Championship-the women's first since 1989.

I found her family's story to be so inspirational and I hope you do to!!  Good luck Tyler and keep up the good fight!  The Frese/Thomas family is in our prayers.  This link will take you to the Washington Post story:

Tuesday, February 28, 2012


Dear Readers,

Please send me your positive energy.  I need it bad.

February can be a tough month.  Thank goodness it is so short.  I have been spending the past couple of days coughing, sneezing and constantly blowing my nose, drinking tea and existing on soup.  I have to say that this morning I feel a little better but the cough is still there. 
We haven't had a severe winter; in fact it never really felt that winter settled in for any long period of time.  I know this winter was considered mild and while we had some flurries here and there, no real snowstorms ever developed.  I have a feeling that one of the reasons lots of people have colds and coughs is because it gets cold for a day or two and then it gets warm for a day or two.  No one knows what to wear for work or play and that reminds me of another thing I am really tired of: my winter clothes.

I'm done with the coat and the scarf and the boots and the gloves.  I just want to open the door and go outside without any layers of clothing. 

I heard on the news this morning that today's sunset is at 6 pm and I am taking this as a good sign that spring is on its way and winter may finally be coming to an end.  I can hardly wait for the warm weather!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Meryl Streep

When Hollywood hands out its little gold statuettes tomorrow night, we'll find out how The Academy voted on the nomination of Meryl Streep and her empathetic performance in the role of Margaret Thatcher as a politician and a wife.  The story is primarily about a British woman attaining so much power in the 1980's that she became Britian's first woman prime minister.

But the movie is also a love story and a reminder that no matter how high the government position you are elected to, no matter how much money you make, no matter how much privilege surrounds you, human beings are all the same when it comes to losing a loved one.  The same pain, confusion, and shock from a loss hits a Prime Minister as hard as it hits a painter.  Grief is a great equalizer.

Even Margaret Thatcher, the former Prime Minister of England and subject of the Oscar-nominated film, "The Iron Lady," searches for meaning in the midst of her grief.

Surprisingly, "The Iron Lady," shows us an elderly Margaret Thatcher preparing to eat breakfast with her husband, Denis.  She is talking to him about the usual things husbands and wives talk about in the morning.  The camera shows Margaret Thatcher talking about the price of milk as she starts to eat her soft boiled egg and then the camera shows Denis on the other side of the table folding his newspaper, conversing with his wife.  We think it's a routine scene about a husband and wife having breakfast but then Thatcher's assistant enters the kitchen and we see that Margaret Thatcher is sitting at the table alone and she has been talking out loud to herself.

There is a place set on the other side of the table where Denis would be sitting were he alive.  But for Margaret, Denis is still very much alive in her imagination and she "sees" him as she has every day of her married life.  That is when we bond with her as a human being, when the person of Margaret Thatcher is revealed. 

We feel the same jumble of emotions that anyone would feel were we in her position of adjusting to life without her loved one.  Her husband may be gone but she still talks to him because she feels his presence and it doesn't seem strange to her to talk to him even though he is no longer physically present.  Lots of people do this and it's perfectly normal.

"There should be no stigma...It's about life.  It's about the truth," Meryl Streep said in a television interview discussing the personal scenes where she depicts Thatcher as an 86-year-old widow.

Then there is that moment in the movie when Margaret is being urged by others to get rid of Denis' clothes and his other belongings.  We expect that Margaret Thatcher, who appears to be ice cold and steely strong in her public life, will also handle the death of her beloved husband in the same stoic manner.  But we would be so wrong.

Denis's clothes are hanging in the closet, his pillow is right next to hers and his golf clubs are leaning against the bedroom wall as though he just came through the door and placed them there.  As Margaret goes through Denis' things, she relives the memories of the highs and lows of their life together.

"The decision to let go of your husband's things after he's gone is a very hard thing," said Meryl Streep in an interview with the Daily Mail.  "These decisions you make in your personal life are as profound as any decision about the Falklands.  Everything counts.  In a big ambitious life, everything counts."

Friday, February 24, 2012

Go Green Tea

I write today in support of tea power; specifically the healing power of green tea.

I usually start the day with two cups of regular hot tea (Red Rose, Lipton, Tetley) and then sometimes will have another in the afternoon at work.  I'm not a coffee drinker and haven't been since I stopped smoking decades ago.  I like the way coffee smells but it has to have a lot of hot milk and turn into a cappuccino before I will drink it.  Coffee ice cream is also very delicious but that's another post.

Earlier in the week, I wrote about a book I have been reading, "Anti-Cancer: A New Way of Life," by David Servan-Schreiber, MD, Ph.D., which has made me look at my diet differently and make small changes based on the medical and scientific information in this book.  One piece of information revealed in this book is that green tea contains antioxidants, which is great news, and if I drink two to three cups of green tea a day I will be boosting my immune system in a major and beneficial way.

Doctors have been saying for a long time that the single best way to stay healthy is to strengthen your immune system.  As I get older, I am trying to do what I can to stay as healthy as possible and a strong immune system aggressively fights diseases ranging from common colds to arthritis and cancer.

Enter the drinking of more green tea on a daily basis.  It's a small change but I feel it all contributes to a positive health picture because good nutrition affects all areas of your life. Until I read this book, I had no idea that green tea contains a substance that the whole pharmaceutical industry today is researching in order to manufacture it: catechins.  (This part is going to get a little scientific but if I don't include this information you might not be persuaded about the healthy effects of drinking green tea.) 

Basically, catechins go through your body searching for free radicals that can damage DNA and contribute to cancer and atherosclerosis.  One of these catechins, epigallocatechin gallate, or EGCG, is "one of the most powerful nutritional molecules against the formation of new blood vessels by cancerous cells," writes Servan-Schreiber.

After two or three cups of green tea, ECGC is in your blood and spreading through your body by using your capillary vessels.  According to Servan-Schreiber, "ECEG settles on the surface of each cell and blocks the switches (the "receptors") whose function is to set off the signal that allows the penetration of neighboring tissue by foreign cells, such as cancer cells"

Is that cool or what?

I don't expect that green tea is going to make up for the years of bad processed food that I used to eat without thinking of the health consequences but we all have to start from where we are and today's goal is to get strong and stay healthy.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Author Jeffrey Zaslow

Please read this story about author Jeffrey Zaslow that recently ran in the New York Times.  What an interesting and inspiring man!  He sounds like he had an incredible gift for living in the moment.

Well - Tara Parker-Pope on Health

February 13, 2012, 5:37 pm

Life’s Frailty, and the Gestures That Go a Long Way

Jeffrey Zaslow by Eden Zaslow

Several years ago, my friend Jeffrey Zaslow sent me a chapter from a book he was writing about lifelong friendships among a group of women from Ames, Iowa. It was a powerful story about love and loss that moved me to tears.

With the draft pages still in my hands, I sat down with my daughter, a second-grader at the time, to talk about the importance of friendship. We talked about her girlfriends, why occasional fights didn’t matter and why she should always treasure her friends. It was a sweet moment, and I was grateful to Jeff for inspiring the conversation through his writing.

Later, I called him to tell him how much that single chapter had meant to my daughter and me. How, I asked him, had he managed to inject himself into this circle of women he had only recently met and so accurately depict the power of female friendship?

“I have a wife and three daughters,” he said, laughing, without missing a beat. “I’m quite comfortable being outnumbered by women.”

I thought about our conversation this weekend when I learned the terrible news that Jeff had died in a car accident on snowy roads on his way to his Detroit-area home, returning from a book-signing event in northern Michigan. “The Girls From Ames” became a best seller, and remains my favorite among the books he wrote. But many people know Jeff as co-author of “The Last Lecture,” with the Carnegie Mellon professor Randy Pausch, who delivered that now famous lecture after learning he had pancreatic cancer.

Mr. Zaslow was also co-author of memoirs with Gabrielle Giffords, the congresswoman from Arizona who was recovering from a gunshot wound to the head, and Chesley B. Sullenberger III, the pilot who safely ditched a damaged airliner on the Hudson River in 2009. Despite the disparate subject matter, Mr. Zaslow noted that much of his writing centered on the theme of love, commitment and living in the moment.

“We don’t know what moment in our lives we’re going to be judged on; that’s true for all of us,” he said at a TED talk last year, explaining what he had learned from Captain Sullenberger. “We’ve got to be honorable, be moral; we’ve got to work our hardest.”

Despite his success as a memoir co-author, Jeff’s true labor of love was his latest book, “The Magic Room: A Story About the Love We Wish for Our Daughters.” Dedicated to his daughters, the book focused on a bridal shop in Fowler, Mich., as a way to tell a story of parents’ hopes and dreams.

Mr. Zaslow’s role as a father was a common theme in his work, one he loved to talk about. Once when a boy canceled plans to take his daughter to a homecoming dance, Mr. Zaslow said he thought to himself, “What can I do for my sad daughter?” He decided to embarrass the boy in front of millions by writing a Wall Street Journal column about the lessons parents should be teaching their sons.

“The lesson of the story — and of that night — is to teach your sons to be chivalrous, and your daughters not to take it,” he said in a 2009 interview. “My daughter was not thrilled. And the boy was not thrilled. But you know what? The next time you want to take my daughter to the dance, follow through.”

Jeff often said he honed his skills for listening and offering advice during a stint as an advice columnist, a role he won in a contest to replace Ann Landers. During his many public talks, Jeff told the story of a favorite letter from a man who wanted his girlfriend, Julie, to undergo breast augmentation.

“Julie deserves someone who loves her for who she is, not how she looks in a sweater,” Jeff wrote in his reply. “If you can’t do that for her, she won’t need implants anyway because she will already have a big boob in her life. You.”

In every conversation I had with Jeff and in much of his writing, he talked about how much he had learned about the frailty of life and the importance of never leaving important words unsaid.

At his TED talk last November, Jeff told the audience about a column of his that focused on the words “I love you.” It appeared two days before Valentine’s Day in 2004, and led with the story of a judge in Maywood, Ill., who often told his children that he loved them. One day in 1995, as his 18-year-old daughter was leaving the house, the judge called out to his daughter. “Kristin, remember I love you,” he said.

“I love you too, Dad,” the girl replied. That day, Kristin was killed in a car accident. It was a story that resonated with Jeff, and one he took to heart, always saying “I love you” to his wife and daughters before saying goodbye or hanging up the phone.

“All of us should say ‘I love you’ to the people we care about,” Jeff said. “We should do it because you never know. I got about 1,000 e-mails from readers saying they were going to tell their children they loved them.

“What I like about my job is sometimes I’m just writing about the obvious. By doing that, you can touch a lot of people and tell them things that will change their lives, even if it’s something simple.”

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Ash Wednesday

I hope everyone had a blast yesterday at whatever Mardi Gras event you might have attended for today is Ash Wednesday.  You might have let the good times roll too much and are feeling  some pain and discomfort today from too much alcohol, food or lack of sleep but the good news is that you can offer it up as your lenten penance.

OMG, doesn't that sound like something a Catholic school nun would have told you?

For those of you who are not Catholic, today is Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, a season of fasting and self-denial.  You'll be able to tell who the Catholics are today because we are the ones walking around looking like we might have been playing around in an ashtray and mistakenly put the ashes on our foreheads.  We have ashes pressed on our foreheads in the sign of the cross by a priest at the beginning of Lent to remind us that eventually we will all die and turn into ashes -- ashes to ashes, dust to dust -- and Jesus is our salvation.

Lent is a time of reflection and penance in preparation for Christ's Resurrection on Easter Sunday.  Usually people give up something they really like a lot for Lent but you can also choose to work on something about yourself that needs improvement.  In my case, the list of things that could be improved is endless!

Over this past weekend, I was visiting my son in New York and he was talking about either giving up chocolate for Lent or doing something that would require personal improvement.  I, of course, hadn't thought about Lent at all and I was surprised he was even thinking of Lent.  Or maybe he brought it up to let me think he was doing something for Lent.  Anyway, he said wasn't sure what he was going to do and asked me what I had planned.

I told him that when I was in school I always gave up candy.  The idea of going 40 days without anything sweet always seemed impossible.  But then some relative told me that there was some new Catholic rule and on the Sundays in Lent we were now allowed to do or eat the thing that we had committed to as a Lenten goal and that kindof blew the lid off Lent for me.  Lent didn't seem so dark and punishing when I knew I only had to go from Sunday to Sunday.

Lent also brings back lots of childhood memories.  If you went to Catholic school then you will probably also remember how you thought that the weekly Stations of the Cross would go on forever in a hot church filled with children and teachers, the smell of tuna and egg salad sandwiches in your classroom told you it was Friday since meat was not allowed to be eaten on that day, fasting and saying the rosary for hours on numb knees and "might" boxes to save money for the poor.

I have no idea what my son decided to do for Lent but I know for me it's harder to work on a personal flaw than give something up.  During this year's Lent I will be working on patience.  This year's flaws were a toss up between not cursing and patience and patience won.  If you think that sounds easy then you should try driving in the DC metropolitan area during morning or evening rush hour.  Patience is totally a virtue that is not found in any driver.

But I'm hoping for the best and wishing everyone good luck in whatever they decide to do for Lent!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012


Photo by Lee Gant

Four people I know very well are bravely fighting cancer.  Currently, each person has a different kind of cancer and each person is in a different stage of treatment.  Through them, I have become more intimately aware of fighting this horrendous disease and I have learned a tremendous amount about developing resilience from them.  

Two of the four people recommended a book to me, "Anti-Cancer A New Way of Life," by David Servan-Schreiber, MD, PhD.  Servan-Schreiber is a scientist and a doctor who was diagnosed with brain cancer seventeen years ago and is currently in remission.  Before I opened the book, I was grabbed by the following fact printed on the book's cover: "All of us have cancer cells in our bodies.  But not all of us will develop cancer."  It blew me away to think that we are all walking around with cancer cells inside of us that could be waiting for some sort of a trigger.  Talk about refocusing your health priorities!

I am not a cancer patient but I don't need to be diagnosed to restructure my diet or pursue smarter ways of managing stress and achieving a more relaxed approach to life.  Servan-Schreiber's book is empowering.  It is chock full of nutritional and medical information and I have started incorporating small changes in an effort to be preventative.  Not that every meal has to be a series of conscious health choices but knowing that sugar contributes to cancer sometimes helps to make chocolate less appealing to me.  Notice I said sometimes.

The best parts of the book to me are Servan-Schreiber's intimate insights into himself, the power of friendship and the "music of life."  Feelings of helplessness and isolation can delay healing and block our immune systems from becoming stronger; a network of close friends or family can motivate us to fight and survive an illness.  I believe we are here to help each other but there is no getting around those times of crystal clear clarity when you know it's you and you alone left to face a disease or a loss.  That's when trust and mental toughness kick in.

Forced to confront an initial diagnosis of cancer and then a relapse, here is Servan-Schreiber revealing his vulnerability:

"I remember having one of those fleeting incidents, the kind that lead us to sense the frailty of life and the miracle of our connection to our fellow mortals.  It was a tiny thing -- a brief encounter in a parking lot on the eve of my first operation.  From the outside it would seem trifling, but to me it took on a particular significance.

Anna and I had driven to New York, and I'd parked in the hospital lot.  I was standing there, breathing the fresh air during those final few minutes of freedom before admission, tests, and the operating room.  I noticed an elderly woman who was obviously on her way home after a hospital stay.  She was alone, carrying a bag and walking with crutches.  Unaided, she couldn't manage to get into her car.  I stared at her, surprised that they had let her leave in that state.  She noticed me, and I saw in her look that she wasn't expecting anything of me.  Nothing.  We were in New York, after all, where it's everyone for himself.  I felt drawn toward her by a surprising momentum that sprang from my situation as a fellow patient.

This wasn't compassion, it was a gut feeling of fraternity.  I felt close to this woman, made of the same fabric as this person who needed help and wasn't asking for any.  I put her bag in the trunk, backed her car out of its space, then helped her while she settled into the driver's seat.  I shut her door with a smile.  For those few minutes, she hadn't been alone.  I was happy to perform this tiny service.  In fact, she was the one who did me a favor by needing me exactly at that instant. 

It gave me a chance to feel that we were part of the same human condition.  We made that gift to each other.  I can still see her eyes, in which I had awakened a sort of confidence in others, a sense that life could be trusted if it put in her path -- as it just had -- the help she needed when she needed it.  We hardly spoke to each other, but I am sure she shared with me the sense of a precious connection.  That encounter warmed my heart.  We, the vulnerable, could help each other and smile. 

I went into surgery in peace."

Friday, February 17, 2012

Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda

We've all played this game, the game of "woulda, shoulda, coulda" and no one ever wins.

If you weren't with your loved one when their death occurred, you are now probably thinking about all of the things that would be different if you had been there.  You're thinking about how your present life might be very different if you had been with your loved one at their time of death. You might even think you could have prevented it from happening.  "I could have done more, " "If only I had gone for a visit earlier/later in the day," "I should have stayed with him/her and not gone on my trip," "Why didn't I encourage her/him to fight the illness/disease more?"

I played that game for months after my husband died and then I finally came to the realization that I really was doing everything, and I mean everything, that I could to keep my husband healthy.  It was not a sudden thought that hit me instantly.  It was more of a gradual understanding of the cumulative effect of the things I was doing and what was happening to him medically.

You never have control over the other person's situation and you can't beat yourself up over your inability to own it.  You will feel guilty for awhile but you should only let yourself feel that way for a short amount of time.  Set a date and tell yourself you're going to start working on letting it go.  You have to tell yourself -- because it's true -- that whatever you were doing at the time was the right thing to be doing at that moment.  Otherwise, you wouldn't have been doing it.  You are only letting "woulda, shoulda, coulda" roll around in brain because you are able to exercise the knowledge of hindsight.  Now, looking back, it is so easy to say, "I should have done it another way." 

But would you really have done it another way?  Probably not.  You have to make peace with it and let it go.

More importantly, your loved one wouldn't want you to feel like this.  If you said something to your loved one that you regret, that is very human and very understandable.  To rid yourself of those regrets, you can always go to a place where you feel close to that person and have a "talk" with them to tell them you're sorry about what you said or you could write them a note explaining why you said what you did and how you would never have said those words had you known they would be the last words spoken to them. 

I am lucky.  I have no regrets about my last words to my husband and that gives me some peace.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Free Your Mind

When life throws unexpected changes at you and all the cards seem to have been thrown in the air, it could be an opportunity for growth.  Initially, it may not feel like a chance for something good to happen, but with time, something unexpected may reveal itself. 

Once you start to feel as though you can manage your feelings, then you can move forward to try something different: volunteer, paint, or play music.  Research has shown that attitude towards oneself and the world is the key to managing stress.  Here is an exercise that I found that might help you change your outlook on the world and yourself.

50 Questions That Will Free Your Mind
By Marc and Angel Hack Light

Questions to Change Your Mind

These questions have no right or wrong answers.
Because sometimes asking the right questions is the answer.
  1. How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you are?
  2. Which is worse, failing or never trying?
  3. If life is so short, why do we do so many things we don’t like and like so many things we don’t do?
  4. When it’s all said and done, will you have said more than you’ve done?
  5. What is the one thing you’d most like to change about the world?
  6. If happiness was the national currency, what kind of work would make you rich?
  7. Are you doing what you believe in, or are you settling for what you are doing?
  8. If the average human life span was 40 years, how would you live your life differently?
  9. To what degree have you actually controlled the course your life has taken?
  10. Are you more worried about doing things right, or doing the right things?
  11. You’re having lunch with three people you respect and admire.  They all start criticizing a close friend of yours, not knowing she is your friend.  The criticism is distasteful and unjustified.  What do you do?
  12. If you could offer a newborn child only one piece of advice, what would it be?
  13. Would you break the law to save a loved one?
  14. Have you ever seen insanity where you later saw creativity?
  15. What’s something you know you do differently than most people?
  16. How come the things that make you happy don’t make everyone happy?
  17. What one thing have you not done that you really want to do?  What's holding you back?
  18. Are you holding onto something you need to let go of?
  19. If you had to move to a state or country besides the one you currently live in, where would you move and why?
  20. Do you push the elevator button more than once?  Do you really believe it makes the elevator faster?
  21. Would you rather be a worried genius or a joyful simpleton?
  22. Why are you, you?
  23. Have you been the kind of friend you want as a friend?
  24. Which is worse, when a good friend moves away, or losing touch with a good friend who lives right near you?
  25. What are you most grateful for?
  26. Would you rather lose all of your old memories, or never be able to make new ones?
  27. Is is possible to know the truth without challenging it first?
  28. Has your greatest fear ever come true?
  29. Do you remember that time 5 years ago when you were extremely upset?  Does it really matter now?
  30. What is your happiest childhood memory?  What makes it so special?
  31. At what time in your recent past have you felt most passionate and alive?
  32. If not now, then when?
  33. If you haven’t achieved it yet, what do you have to lose?
  34. Have you ever been with someone, said nothing, and walked away feeling like you just had the best conversation ever?
  35. Why do religions that support love cause so many wars?
  36. Is it possible to know, without a doubt, what is good and what is evil?
  37. If you just won a million dollars, would you quit your job?
  38. Would you rather have less work to do, or more work you actually enjoy doing?
  39. Do you feel like you’ve lived this day a hundred times before?
  40. When was the last time you marched into the dark with only the soft glow of an idea you strongly believed in?
  41. If you knew that everyone you know was going to die tomorrow, who would you visit today?
  42. Would you be willing to reduce your life expectancy by 10 years to become extremely attractive or famous?
  43. What is the difference between being alive and truly living?
  44. When is it time to stop calculating risk and rewards, and just go ahead and do what you know is right?
  45. If we learn from our mistakes, why are we always so afraid to make a mistake?
  46. What would you do differently if you knew nobody would judge you?
  47. When was the last time you noticed the sound of your own breathing?
  48. What do you love?  Have any of your recent actions openly expressed this love?
  49. In 5 years from now, Will you remember what you did yesterday?  What about the day before that?  Or the day before that?
  50. Decisions are being made right now.  The question is:  Are you making them for yourself, or are you letting others make them for you?

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Take Good Care Of My Heart

Courtesy of United States Postal Service

Decades ago, the presidents of florist, chocolate and card companies must have been having a long liquid lunch and launched the ingenious idea of a fun holiday called Valentine's Day.

Valentine's Day happens to be one of those holidays that has never been a big deal to me because it always feels forced.  I don't want someone to give me chocolates, flowers or a card because they feel they have to do what everyone else is doing.  It means a lot more to me when the person I'm romantically involved with comes up with the idea of flowers, chocolates or a card all on their own, not because the calendar says February 14th.

That said, I understand that today is a sweet day, dedicated to romance and full of cupids and hearts.  It's a day for those in love to go out of their way and show the person they love how much they care about them.  Loves truly does make the world go round so embrace your Valentine and also embrace your memories, good and bad.

Allow yourself to remember the happy times, when you were crazy in love and couldn't bear to be apart, not even for one second, and allow yourself to laugh.  If memories bring about sadness, then allow yourself to cry.  Life is precious and acceptance is essential in overcoming a loss.  Your heart may feeling as though it's splitting but it eventually will mend and be good as new for the next love of your life.  Right now it feels as though you will never love anyone else ever again but you will!

Happy Valentine's Day! Take it away Whitney:

Take Good Care of My Heart
Lyrics by Whitney Houston

Time can pass so slowly, when you feel so all alone
Love can strike like lightning, when you find your heart a home
I've seen it in the movies, read about it in a book
I've never feel it, but your touch was all it took

Take good care of my heart
Take good care of my heart
Baby you're the first to take it
You're the only one who can break it
I love you more than I should
But it keeps me feeling so good
I've waited for your love for ever
You're the one to take good care of my heart

Come and make you're magic, til you have me hypnotised
If we get any closer, I'll be drowning in your eyes
You're the one I needed most, when my love was on the line
I'm so glad you gave me yours, when I gave you mine

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Whitney Houston

Whitney Houston & her daughter, Bobbi Kristina

Whenever I hear Whitney Houston's version of the song, "I'm Every Woman," I feel better.

It has everything to do with the way Whitney Houston's fabulous voice sounds when she sings this song.  It's not exactly about the lyrics, it's more about the melody and where she takes it.  Even though Chaka Khan recorded the originial version of the song and I loved it, Whitney Houston brought something extra to "I'm Every Woman" that can't be described.  Chaka is definitely funky but Whitney is powerful.

Over and over as her colleagues in the music industry were asked today to comment on Whitney Houston's sudden and tragic death on Saturday, February 11, the answer would be, "That voice." or "What a voice."  It's so true.

We can never know the pressures and insecurities that brought her to drugs but recently, after her divorce from bad boy hip hop star Bobby Brown, she seemed determined to rehab herself and get her life back on track.  We were all rooting for her and wanted her to come back to being her old amazing self.

But that was not to be even as she arrived last week in Los Angeles to attend the Grammy awards and wrapped up her latest acting and singing project in the soon-to-be released movie, "Sparkle." 

Oh Whitney, 48 years was not enough!  You will be missed but I will always remember you this way:

Friday, February 10, 2012

Audrey Hepburn

Dear Friends,
We made it to Friday so let's have some fun!
Here's a quote from the talented and classy actress, Audrey Hepburn:
“I believe in pink."

" I believe that laughing is the best calorie burner."

I believe in kissing, kissing a lot.
I believe in being strong when everything seems to be going wrong.
I believe that happy girls are the prettiest girls.
  I believe that tomorrow is another day and I believe in miracles.”

                                                                                      ~ Audrey Hepburn

Thursday, February 9, 2012

SWF Seeks Replacement Husband

“It’s kind of fun,” my colleague was saying. “You write a profile and post a picture and guys email you if they are interested.”

“Wow” I managed, trying not to sound shocked that my demure colleague engaged in such activities.

“Sounds easy enough… Has anyone emailed you?” I queried.

“I was emailing this one guy and then we went on a date,” she said. “But I haven’t heard from him since.” She was trying to sound light hearted, but I could hear her disappointment.

“That must be a problem…” I trailed off.

“You should try it,” she cheered. “You’ll have a million guys writing you.”

After months of prowling the man-site anonymously, I resolved to write a profile about myself. Artistic? Creative? Smart? Insane? Everything I wrote sounded ridiculous. Tall, attractive (?), sexy (?), 9/11 widow, mother of two, hasn’t dated in eighteen years, seeks handsome rich prince who loves kids and is not afraid of a ghostly dead husband in the closet…

My choices of photos were limited due to the fact that I was the photographer in the family. There was the coy one, with my baby daughter and my grandmother, both of whom I would have to crop delicately out of the picture. And there was the demure photo, posing smartly for a corporate newsletter in a turtleneck.
But where were all my sexy shots? I sneaked glances at the other women’s profiles, to see what I was up against. Even the 50-year old women looked sexier than I could ever imagine being. I settled on the coy-girl-next-door-with-cropped-out-baby-and-grandma-shot.

I posted my profile and photo to the website and then waited for some kind of response. Almost immediately, I got a few “winks,” one from an elderly looking gentleman claiming to be 44; one from a man showing his nude torso wearing his firemen’s boots and suspenders, and one from an orange-tanned jock with no neck.

Deciding to take matters into my own hands, I browsed the site as though I were in a giant man superstore: Nice eyes, but too pudgy; funny profile, but too short; great in every way but a smoker; tall and handsome, but doesn’t want kids; wonderfully intellectual, but weird bulbous nose; sincere, but can’t spell.

My eyes were beginning to glaze over when one man caught my eye. Widowed architect, loves to garden, lives in Manhattan… I spent two weeks working up the nerve to write him an email. What to say? Hello fellow widow person. Isn’t this a strange club to belong to? I am absolutely terrified of dating, and still love my dead husband, but would you consider going out with me?

Finally, I wrote him: Hi! (Trying to sound upbeat). Loved your profile (Flattering the ego). I like to garden too (Showing common interests). I look forward to hearing from you (positive, yet non-committal). Regards, Abby.

I waited for a response. And waited. And waited. I am still waiting. It was humiliating. I retreated from the man-site to lick my wounds. My worst fears of being “un-datable” were being realized. Now I was the one who was too tall, too widowed, too many kids, too unsexy, too something.

I had to admit that I was lonely for companionship, plus my kids begged me regularly to have a “new” daddy. I think though, that my biggest motivator towards rushing fate was my determination not to waste a moment of my life. If Arron’s death had taught me anything it was that there wasn’t time to sit around waiting for life to happen to me. I resolved to push fate along by making the effort to get myself out into the world by whatever means necessary, no matter how painful it might prove to be.

My palms were sweaty as I maneuvered the car into a space near the coffee shop where I was to meet my … dare I say it … date. I sat and breathed for a few minutes staring at my hands on the wheel, trying not to panic. Oh God! The wedding ring! I had forgotten to remove it. What to do? Stuff it in my purse? My bra? I stared down at my hands admiring the chunky gold band on my left ring finger. It seemed to cling adoringly to my hand. I slid it up my finger and the shiny white skin that was revealed seemed to cower like a snail without its shell. I hesitated. I pulled the ring all the way off and held it in my hand. I had forgotten how heavy it was. I slipped it onto my right hand ring finger, struggling to push it over my knuckle. I held my hands out to survey the effect of this transition. Both hands felt strange and backwards, like they weren’t my hands at all. They seemed sad and alone — the hands of a single woman.

I wiped a tear from my eye. “I’m sorry Fab.” I had betrayed my husband Arron’s (Fabbo to me) love with my bold, impulsive move. I had done it unceremoniously, sitting in a car. No music, no pomp, no kisses, no smiles. Just a cold, grey New Jersey December sky to accompany my small ceremony. I recalled another in-car ring ceremony.

Arron’s wedding ring had been his father’s pinky ring, which though beautiful with his father’s initials embossed into its pink gold, had proved to be problematic as a wedding ring over the years, given that he wore the ring on his left pinky finger.  I had always wanted him to have a regular ring finger wedding ring, but had deferred to his wishes when we were married, knowing the sentimentality he held for his father’s ring since his father’s death when Arron was 17.

Arron and I had sat in this same car on a warm and sunny Saturday with the kids strapped into their car seats in the back. We had waited while Arron dashed out to the jewelers and came back clutching a small blue velvet box. He opened it and held the bright, shiny ring, which we had chosen together up in the sunlight, ready to slip it onto his hand. “Shouldn’t there be a little ceremony, or something?” I had said.

“OK. Here.” He handed me the ring. It was a lovely gold band, strong and simple.

I slid it slowly onto his ring finger, smiling at him and then kissing him gently when it was in place. He held up his hand and we were both pleased with the effect. I loved Arron’s hands – strong, creative, sensitive, loving. The ring was beautiful and I felt proud being bound to him by it.

That simple little ceremony felt like an instant renewal of our love, something secret between just the two of us. I still have his father’s pinky ring, which I will someday give to our son. Arron died wearing his new wedding band.

Now, staring at my own hands, grey in the dim light of the mid-winter morning, I mourned him once more. “It’s just coffee,” I told myself.  I hoped that my first-ever blind date would not notice the glaring whiteness of my loss, wouldn’t see my hand shake as I held my teacup. I hoped my voice wouldn’t crack when I answered the inevitable question,… ”So, how did he die?”

I touched my thumb to my ring once again for reassurance as I opened the coffee shop door.

Special thanks to Abigail Carter, author of “The Alchemy of Loss: A Young Widow’s Transformation” for sharing this piece with Hello Grief.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Aloha! 2012 Philadelphia Flower Show

If it's February it means people are ready for a change in the seasons.  The promise of spring is close at hand but not close enough.  It hasn't been a terribly cold or snowy winter but the blahs have set in and it's time to get out and see some color.

If you're experiencing cabin fever then sign up for Sibley Hospital's day trip to The Philadelphia Flower Show, the world's largest indoor flower show, on Wednesday, March 7.  The 2012 Philadelphia International Flower Show theme is the exotic "Islands of Aloha."

Visitors will be able to enter through a giant wave of orchids and towering waterfalls and also have a chance to participate in a traditional Hawaiian luau, featuring hula dancing, music and chants.  Expert gardeners will also be giving talks and offering advice about gardening basics and design.

Travel Itinerary -- Wednesday, March 7, 2012

8:00 am             Bus departs from Sibley Hospital
11:00 am           Arrive at Philadelphia Flower Show
                         Free time to enjoy the flower show & lunch on your own
4:00 pm             Depart for Washington, DC
7:30 pm             Arrive at Sibley Hospital

Cost per person: $79 (includes ticket to the show, transportation, tolls taxes and all gratuities).

Please call Kim Grizzel at Eyre Tour & Travel for reservations at 1-800-321-3973 ext. 3224

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Life According to Winnie the Pooh

“What day is it,?" asked Pooh.
"It's today," squeaked Piglet.
"My favorite day," said Pooh.”

I have a soft spot in my heart for Winnie the Pooh and all of his friends in the Hundred-Acre Wood.  It reminds me of a more innocent time when my son was a child and he would sit in my lap or his father's lap and we would read Winnie the Pooh aloud to him.  I'm going to date myself now, but we also had Winnie the Pooh tapes to pop in the VCR (no CD's then) and watching Pooh and especially Tigger together as a family is a wonderful memory.

I write about my old friend Winnie the Pooh because the above dialogue from A.A. Milne, the author of the Winnie the Pooh books, reminds me that simple is better.  When I begin to think of all the things I need to solve or accomplish, putting myself on the proverbial human hamster wheel, Winnie reminds me to stop.  Oh, bother! Oh, bother is right!

Problems need solutions and work needs to get done but Winnie reminds me that I don't need to think about ALL of it at the same time.  When you are alone in raising a child, taking care of a house, and working full-time, it it easy to fall into the trap of trying to do everything at once because you can't hand things off to a spouse or a mate.  I take a deep breath and calm my mind.  Today I will do my best to finish the most important things and then I'll move on to the next round of responsibilities.  That's all I can do.

Whether Winnie ate too much honey, or couldn't sleep, he always knew he could count on his friends to get him through the difficulties that came his way.  Don't laugh at Winnie's philosophy towards life.  There is a sweet wisdom to his musings and Winnie reminds me that every day is special and not to be rushed.  Every day is an opportunity to spend time with family and friends, to learn something new or move closer to solving a bothersome dilemma.

If you find yourself alone in the Hundred Acre Wood, don't despair.  Reach out to others.  Find people you trust and with whom you feel comfortable.  Take the next small step.  We don't always understand why something sad has happened to us but we must choose to be hopeful.  Life can get better.   

Monday, February 6, 2012

Giants Victory

Ron Antonelli/New York Daily News

Part of healing and jumping back into the regular routine of life is finding something to care about.  It can be anything in the whole universe and you can change it anytime you want.

Yesterday, for me, it was the New York Giants and their 21-17 victory over the New England Patriots.

The Super Bowl party I attended was loose and friendly in the beginning of the game but it became a little more tense in the fourth quarter as the clock ticked away and the game looked like it would be decided by one or two key plays.  Giants fans were definitely in the minority at the party but I was committed.  I have written in previous posts about how my husband was a hard core fan and I truly thought the Giants were the better team.

It was a fantastic game, hard fought and well played.  In their second Super Bowl matchup in five seasons, Eli Manning and the Giants triumphed over Tom Brady and the Patriots, with Ahmad Bradshaw scoring a touchdown in the closing minute of the fourth quarter that pushed the Giants to a victory.

This might be a stretch but I do get the take away lesson of watching the determination of two teams playing against each other in a Super Bowl game and the laser focus of athletes.  Their competition can be infectious in a good way because they are digging down to find the best within themselves even when the odds may be against them.  For us, such energy can serve to jump start our desire to move forward and help us with the daily acts of coping and rebuilding while dealing with the unexpected changes in our lives.

The small decisions do build upon themselves and in turn, gives us hope and resilience.  Thanks, Eli!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Love Peace & Soul -- Don Cornelius

Soul Train was something you got right away or you didn't.

If you had to explain why you watched it, then you knew Soul Train's appeal had escaped the other person.

From the get go, the very first time I watched Soul Train I was hooked.  Every Saturday morning I would turn it on, turn it up, watch it and dance.  How else was a white girl gonna stay on top of the latest dance moves?  News stories say that Soul Train was a black American Bandstand but really we all know that Soul Train was so much more.  American Bandstand was predictable and Soul Train never was.

Don Cornelius, Soul Train's conductor, was soooo smooth and soooo cool.  His voice was distinctive, sortof Barry Whiteish, and he always dressed in a sharp suit and tie.  When I first saw the breaking news that he had been found dead, I immediately went to Google to find out more.  Los Angeles police said Cornelius died in California of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.  It was incredibly sad to think of him being by himself in such a desperate state of mind.

Soul Train was Cornelius' concept and with $400 and a lot of funk, he lined up the advertising dollars, hosted the show and changed television programming in a mighty, mighty way.  Every week the hottest black entertainers were featured: Aretha Franklin, Michael Jackson, Marvin Gaye and The O'Jays, among others.  From 1971 to 2006, Cornelius produced more than 1,000 syndicated Soul Train episodes.

But the best part of the show was the line dance!!  This is when the dancers would form two lines and leave the middle open so that one or two dancers could sashay, shimmy, twirl, kick, jump or just plain get down and dance their way towards the camera.  And the dancer's outfits consisted of unitards, halter tops, shorts and lots of sequins and fringe.  My friends and I were talking about the show's line dance yesterday and we unanimously agreed that when we watched the line dance we all pretended we were on the show and we all knew how we would dance down the line if given the chance.

This morning I listened to people call in to WHUR and talk about how infectious the line dance is and how the line dance eventually happens at all kinds of parties and family reunions.  Soul Train and Don Cornelius are icons that will never be forgotten.  As my friend LeVette would say: Soul Train, you were the

Love, Peace and Soul to you, Don Cornelius and as you would say on every Soul Train episode, "Bet your last money, it's all gonna be a stone gas, honey!"

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Fordham Hoops

Let's file this post under "Things That Make Me Happy."

My son is in his senior year at Fordham University's Lincoln Center campus.  I'm posting this picture, currently on display on West Side Highway and 134th Street, just to show support!  Go Rams!!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Dogs Are Making A Difference for Veterans

Dogs are perceived as completely nonjudgemental and therefore are incredible stress reducers.  Research shows that people who are facing a stressful situation or coming out of a traumatic combat event have lower heart rates, blood pressure and anxiety levels when they are with a dog.

Now NBC News has aired a wonderful story about an 89-year-old U.S. veteran who has raised millions of dollars to train dogs to help the more than 40,000 service men and women returning from Iraq and Afghanistan make the transition to civilian life.  Please click on this link and watch the story (the puppies are too cute!):