Friday, June 29, 2012

Pleasant Pops

As many times as I have been to the FRESHFARM markets near the White House to treat myself to the real flavors (or the real flava as my friends like to joke) of the farm fresh produce, I have never tried a Pleasant Pop.  Usually I set a certain amount of money to spend on the beautiful seasonal fruits and veggies sold each week by the local farmers and when the money's gone, so am I. 

But today, it was 95 degrees and I didn't go crazy on the tomatoes so I decided to join the line in front of the Pleasant Pop stand and check them out.  I know it's only a pop but part of healing is nourishing yourself with fresh food and an ice pop is better than a cookie.  I know you agree!!

Right away, I knew these pops were not like the heavy sugary orange, cherry and grape popscicles that I grew up on.  Handwritten on the chalkboard in front of the traveling freezer were the following flavors: blueberry pancake, cucumber chile, basil lemonade and strawberry ginger lemonade.

Courtesy of Pleasant Pops
I asked the guy selling the pops which pop was the lowest in calories and he said they all were under 100 calories and mostly in the neighborhood of 75 to 80 calores each.  I ordered a strawberry ginger lemonade which he said that was their most popular flavor.  He told me the flavors change depending on what fruits are in season and since peaches were begining to ripen there may be a peach flavored pop next week.

It tasted delicious, fresh and light and not sugary at all; an adult popscicle.  The strawberry ginger lemonade definitely lived up to its name: it was pleasant and refreshing.

What is Pleasant Pops doing at the FRESHFARM market you may ask?  Just as fruits and vegetables picked in season taste best because they are fresh, so to do the Pleasant Pops.  According to the company's website, Pleasant Pops was started in 2009 and the company partners and buy all of its fruits, herbs and milk from local DC area farmers.  The pops are original creations inspired by paletas, a traditional ice pop from the central Mexican state of Michoacan.

So if you travel to Washington, DC this summer and you need to cool off, catch the flava and check out a farmers market and Pleasant Pops for youself.


Thursday, June 28, 2012

Nora Ephron

Nora Ephron
By Michel Arnaud/Corbis

As the very sad news broke that Nora Ephron had died at the age of 71 from acute myeloid leukemia, it was immediately apparent from reading people's tweets and posted comments that Ephron's death was a tragic surprise and no one wanted to accept the dismal fact that we would no longer be able to look forward to the creation of another amazing, magical piece of work from her.

As Vanity Fair writer David Kamp declared, "...New York without Nora Ephron is just plain wrong."

Her writing was sophisticated yet straightforward and she had a way of cutting through the big boy media noise to insightfully address politics, food, parenting, aging, male/female relationships and the American way of life in general.  She had a zest for life and she never stopped discovering and exploring, talking and collaborating, going for the next project.

I first discovered the multi-talented Nora Ephron back in the '70's when I read her books, "Crazy Salad" and "Scribble Scribble: Notes on the Media."  I immediately loved her smart and funny point of view and I continued to follow her career whether she was writing more books, magazine columns, screenplays or directing movies.

It's hard to pick a favorite of her many movies: Heartburn, Sleepless in Seattle, When Harry Met Sally, You've Got Mail, Silkwood, Julie and Julia but I think I have to go with Heartburn.

Ephron cleverly wrote Heartburn as thinly veiled fiction, telling the tale of her failed marriage to Washington Post reporter Carl Bernstein.  It is a truthful look at falling in love, vulnerability, and resilience.  Bernstein, of the famed Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein Washington Post team which uncovered the Watergate scandal, had an affair with Margaret Jay, the British Ambassador's wife, while he was married to Ephron and she was pregnant with their second child.

Rumors had been floating around Washington, DC about the state of their marriage and people couldn't wait to read Heartburn, which was later made into a movie starring Meryl Streep and Jack Nicholson and was filmed in Washington, DC.

Her friends have written about her generosity and happiness and I think that definitely came through in a lot of her work.  She was the kind of woman you wanted to have as a best friend because you got the sense that you could call her and she would immediately understand what you were talking about and then the two of you would talk about it for hours.

Thank you Nora for being your amazing self!! I think this New York Times piece (including pictures) by Alessandra Stanley captures Nora Ephron best:

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

My Paper Chase

I mentioned in yesterday's post that I've started going through a number of boxes of papers that once belonged to my husband. 

For those of you who have gone through the belongings of a spouse, friend or relative after they died, you know this is not a straightforward process.  Each of these boxes is potentially an emotional minefield because I don't know what's contained in them.  He filled them up and now they are waiting for my attention. 

You might be thinking, "It's just old papers.  What's the big deal?"  Since my husband was a reporter/writer/editor, these papers aren't the same kind of papers you might let pile up on your dining room table and then throw into a box.   I need to read the papers before I decide to throw them away.  These papers could be old stories he wrote or memos he wrote or ideas he jotted down on the fly.  

I'm sure it sounds rather lazy of me that I have let these boxes hang around for eight years and I have yet to go through them.  In a perfect world, I would have already sifted through all of the papers, tossed the ones that don't mean anything and read the ones that mean something and either filed them away or given them to a family member.

But, this being an entirely imperfect world, some of the boxes have been in a closet and some have been under a table in my home office.  I have attempted to go through them many times before but I would always come upon something frustrating g and then had to stop.  Sometimes I would open the boxes up just to remind myself what kind of stuff was inside.  If the papers on top were computer printout of stories from websites or printouts or newspapers from years ago, then I made a lot of progress and started throwing things away.

The hangups usually start when I find bev naps (short for beverage napkins in restaurant speak) with his hand writing on them and I start to read them or just stare at his handwriting or try to figure out why he wrote what he wrote.  Or I find a work email he printed out that is a record of a particularly funny incident or a particularly annoying disagreement he was having with a colleague.

Some of these papers are priceless and some of them are oh-so-painful.

I can hear his voice in my head as I read some of the notes and I have responded to him by saying, "Why did you leave all of this here for me to clean up?  I really don't know what to do with it.  I wish you had thrown it away when you had the chance."

And then, just as I am exasperated by the whole tedious process of it, I'll discover a real nugget of information that I have never seen before and can't wait to share with his children: a yellowed and wrinkled page from the December 8, 1967 Congressional Record showing that one of his stories was inserted by a senator.

I didn't see that one coming at all!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Dr. Seuss

Today is twenty fours hours that has never happened before and won't happen again.

Think about it.  We all have daily commitments and responsibilities but maybe today is the day to take that first step towards doing something you've had on the back burner.

As Dr. Suess says, "You can steer yourself any direction you choose."

Is there a project you've been meaning to start? A person you need to call?  A diet or exercise change you want to introduce into your life?  A support group you've been meaning to attend?

Today we face and embrace the thing we've been putting off and see what it's all about.

For me, I have a number of boxes containing papers that belonged to my husband.  Last night, I pulled out one of the boxes, took a deep breath and just started from the top of the box, one piece of paper by one piece of paper.  I started reading what he left behind. 

I was surprised that some papers were so easy to toss but others I just stared at and they took me back to the date on the paper.  Those papers that took me back were either sad or annoying and that's why I haven't finished going through all of his boxes.

But, I was able to throw away a lot of those papers and that's something I've been meaning to get to for a very long time.

Thanks again to The Silver Pen ( for good thoughts and actions!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Birthday Dude

Today I would like to give a big birthday shout-out to my son who is turning 22 years old!  I am so thankful that you are in my world because you inspire me!!!

Your journey has not been an easy one and I think you've already learned many of life's valuable lessons:  you are truly loved very much by me and many others, be true to yourself and listen to your inner voice, take the high road when you can, but if it's time to get down and dirty then bring it on and face it.  Losing your father at a young age showed you there were many different paths towards healing and you have worked hard to find the right one for you.

I hope you have a birthday that's as special as you are and in honor of your special day I would like to give you the classic poem written in 1895 titled, "If" by British Nobel laureate Rudyard Kipling.

By today's standards, I'm sure you'll think this poem probably has a bit too much of the "stiff upper lip" philosophy but there are guiding principles and philosophies that still hold true centuries later.

By Rudyard Kipling

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too:
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream---and not make dreams your master;
If you can think---and not make thoughts your aim,
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same:.
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build'em up with worn-out tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings,
And never breathe a word about your loss:
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on!"

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings---nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much:
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And---which is more---you'll be a Man, my son!

Friday, June 22, 2012

A Hotel Room of Her Own -- Every Day for 10 Years

Joy Brinker


I think most of us can identify with unexpectedly finding ourselves in a situation when we thought it would be temporary, but then, time passes and it evolves into something else we never thought it would, and then it becomes permanent.

When I first read the headline on this story, I thought: "How could someone live in a hotel for 10 years?"  But then I read the story and I got it.

We say that everyone grieves differently and that we should respect the different ways people deal with their grief, but when we actually see someone who really does forge their own path, a path that is so different from what we know, do we feel comfortable with it?  Usually not.

I give Joy Brinker a lot of credit for moving from New Hampshire to the Washington, DC area to find a new job after her husband died.  Leaving a familiar place after a loss is very hard and maybe she moved because she didn't want to be reminded every day of how her life had changed.  So Joy moved and found herself a new job.

I think Joy was looking for security and stability after her husband died.  In the beginning, she might have told herself that she was going to take this new situation a day at a time.  But then the days turned into months and the months into years.  She found herself on her own and I think she decided she was perfectly happy with the new life she made for herself.  Joy's hotel solution is unusual, but the important thing is that she was able to take care of herself and she was happy.

Here is Joy Brinker's story as published in the Washington Post:

A hotel room of her own — every day for 10 years

By , Published: October 26, 2011

The Washington Post

Joy Brinker certainly tested the limits of the "extended stay" hotel.  Ten years ago -- on August 4, 2001 -- she checked into the TownePlace Suites by Marriott in Falls Church.  Only now is she finally checking out.

On Wednesday, Joy sat in Room 202 in an armchair — about the only piece of furniture that’s actually hers — and tried to explain why anyone would choose to live in a hotel.

It was a gradual decision, Joy said. She was 69 at the time, recently widowed. She’d been living in New Hampshire, but after her husband died she came to Washington to find a federal job. During her job search, she lived at the hotel. Then, after landing a position with HUD, she just decided to stay.

“I wrote that one check, and I knew I was good for that month,” said Joy, a small woman with short, gray hair and piercing eyes.

No electricity bill. No cable bill. No hassle. Plus, complimentary continental breakfast. (She negotiated a rate lower than the $139-a-night price for a two-bedroom suite.)

I’m pretty sure that if I lived in a hotel, I would take advantage of its hotelness. I would regularly leave my suite a mess — bed unmade, clothing strewn, toiletries scattered — confident that all I had to do was hang the “Maid: Please Clean Room” sign on the door.

Joy doesn’t think that way. She made her own bed. And she told the staff that they need clean her room only three times a week.

She’s outlasted six different managers and, in the process, formed strong opinions about the lodging biz.

“I would give a million dollars to manage a property like this for one year,” she said. “No matter where we look, there’s always ways to save a few more pennies.”

For example, she told them that they didn’t need to replace the little bottle of soap in her kitchenette every day with a new bottle. Same with paper towels. “If I have three-quarters of a roll of paper towels, don’t leave me a new roll,” she said.

It should go without saying that Joy is a Platinum Premier member of the Marriott rewards program. She’s lost count of how many points she has, only that she’s given a lot of them to her grandkids.

Ten years in a hotel. Joy has seen countless neighbors come and go, mainly consultants and contract workers. She was here for the last census, when all the current residents were summoned to the lobby to be counted.

As camera crews from local TV interviewed Joy — “Woman lives in hotel for 10 years: Film at 11!” — Don Hott of Certified Packaging & Transport Inc. walked around the suite. Don’s a mover, and he was putting little blue, numbered stickers on things.

There won’t be much to move: some plants, that armchair, Joy’s computer and files, some family photos and clothes. Joy says you don’t need a lot to make a home. You don’t need a pile of possessions or even, it seems, a home.

Joy has had some health problems lately — she’s 79 — and her daughter Christy Winton was in town to drive her to New York state, where Christy lives.

Christy’s place is different from a TownePlace Suites by Marriott. She rents a two-bedroom house on a farm and keeps two horses, a dog, a parakeet, chickens and cats. Christy confided that there’s been a leaky ceiling in the corner of one room for six years.

“There’s no continental breakfast at the Winton Inn,” she joked.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

It's Never Too Late

It is ever too late to acknowledge someone's loss.

Whether it is weeks or months after the loss has occurred, those who are closest to the deceased will always want to hear how that person made a difference in the lives of other people.  It may feel awkward, but it's helpful to those mourning if you can relate a positive memory, a favorite expression or any helpful advice the person once gave to you.

There are times when you hear about someone' s loss many months after it happened and you don't know what to do.  Should I call?  Should I write a note?  Is it rude to send something so late?  Will sending a card or note late upset the family or friends more?  When in doubt, sit down and put your thoughts of shock or sadness in a note.  These days, I believe that a sympathetic email is appropriate because many times we have a person's email address but not their mailing address and it is always better to write than not to write.

The following story from addresses many questions about belated notes and explains that a sincere and personal note can bring a measure of comfort no matter what the timing:

When A Sympathy Note Is Belated
By Robbie Miller Kaplan (posted on

Many people wonder, is it okay to send a belated condolence note? And if it is okay, how late can it be? You may be shocked to learn that many bereaved family members wouldn’t be offended by a belated condolence note.

That surprised me. Several years ago, an acquaintance died while I was on vacation. His warmth and kindness made an impression on me and I wanted to write his wife a sympathy note. Weeks turned into months and I finally wrote the note, almost one year after this death. I always wondered if my very belated note hurt rather than helped.

Not so a bereaved spouse told me. “There really is no such thing as a ‘belated’ sympathy note. That is to say that in my opinion it's better to send it late – no matter how late – than never to send anything at all.” She mentioned that despite everyone’s best efforts to communicate the news of her husband’s death, there were quite a few people who did not learn of his death for many months, even a year or two later. Several years after his death, she received notes from people who had been out of touch. “I was incredibly moved that the senders thought so much of my spouse. They wanted to share how sad the news had made them, and that they were thinking of him and of me.”

Another bereaved spouse mentioned that he was comforted that his wife’s memory was cherished by so many people, even if it took them months, or even years to share their thoughts. He didn't feel it was a problem at all that at least two notes, accompanied by stories and pictures, arrived more than a year later. When it was time for him to respond to the death of a friend’s child, he sent a traditional sympathy card at the time of death but it took him months to put into words what he wanted to say.

Adjusting to a friend or loved one’s death isn't just for the immediate family. It’s not unusual for us to struggle with what we’d like to say so a belated condolence note doesn't necessarily mean we don’t care or didn't get to it. Death can be deeply upsetting and many of us need time to process it and then decide what we’d like our condolence message to convey.

The very act of sending a sympathy note means the deceased and bereaved are in the sender’s thoughts. And as one bereaved family member put it, “It’s never too late to do something kind.”

Robbie Miller Kaplan is an author who writes from a unique perspective as a mother who has lost two children. She has written How to Say It When You Don't Know What to Say, a guide to help readers communicate effectively when those they care about experience loss, now available in three individual volumes: "Illness & Death," "Suicide" and "Miscarriage." Additional titles are available as e-books: "Death of a Child," "Death of a Stillborn or Newborn Baby," "Pet Loss," "Caregiver Responsibilities," "Divorce" and "Job Loss." All titles are in Amazon's Kindle Store.

Simple Summer Pleasures

In yesterday's post, I wrote about being grateful for being able to take taking time off this summer.

That got me thinking about other things that make summer wonderful.  Here are a simple pleasures that I look forward to:

1.  Summer Heat

I know I am in the minority on this one but I love it when it's hot.  I think I'm safe in saying that most people do not like the summer heat in Washington, DC.  BUT I LOVE IT!  If the temperature drops below 70 degrees, I need a sweater or a shawl or a jacket of some sort.  Weather forecasters are predicting that it may reach up in the high 90's this week.  I can't wait!

2.  Blueberries

Every time I go to the grocery store or the farmer's market and I see fresh blueberries, I have to buy some, even if I already have a container at home.  Blueberries are just THE BEST!!  Blueberries are a gift I give myself to help maintain a healthy body and mind.  They are loaded with antioxidants!  Study after study shows that antioxidants -- disease-fightings that occur naturally in bbueberries and many other foods --has that boost the immune system.  They also reduce the risk of health problems -- particularly heart disease and cancer.

3.  Longer Days

Spring forward is right! I love being able to come out of my office building after work and the sun is still shining and the evening is in front you!  Longer days are energizing for me.  You can get so much stuff done.  Neighbors are sitting on their porches when I arrive home from work and I can walk over to their houses to chat and catch up on the latest happenings.  I can work in the yard or I can still go for a walk or a run because the day is longer.  It is a real downer in the winter to leave work, go outside and it's already nighttime. 

4.  Flip Flops

They're easy, breezy and the perfect shoe for summer.  Slide your foot into the flip flop and you're ready to go!  Your feet can breathe instead of being stuffed into a boot or other winter shoe all day long when it's cold.  For work, I like flip flops that are higher because they provide more of a pillow for your feet.  Plus, they make a fun sound!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Summer's Journey

Usually by this time of the year, I have committed to the dates for taking a vacation with my son.  But this year is different.

Now that my son has graduated from college and started his new paying job (love to be able to say paying job), we both are pretty sure that the rest of the summer will be different from other summers.  Since he isn't living at home and his job requires him to work on Saturdays, it's a pretty good bet that our usual August vacation isn't going to happen.

But we are trying hard to make some variation of past vacations happen this year.  So right now there is a lot of negotiation going on about the when and where and that's okay.  Every family reaches this fork in the road when their children don't spend the whole vacation or any vacation time with them and it's not the end of the world.  I knew this day would arrive, I just didn't think about it very much.

For me, it is one more step in building a life that is different from the one that I had when my husband was alive.  Vacations were automatic.  Setting up our annual vacation followed the same timetable every year and it fell into a comfortable pattern.

Now, once again, endings become beginnings and I am learning the value of moving on and doing something different.  It's part of rebuilding your life and when you face it positively, good and unexpected things can happen.

I do believe there is a certain rhythm to life and that certain changes present themselves at certain times.  Life doesn't happen the way we always want it to happen to us but that's life.  It's the beginning of a new chapter, a chapter in which I think staying flexible and having faith is key.

It can be a bit of a tricky place but trying to take one day at a time has always served me well.

Right now, vacation is my priority.  I need a vacation and we'll figure this out.  I don't want to vacate (as in vay-kay, road trip) by myself but I definitely want some time with others at the beach.  It's possible that my son may be able join me for a few days but not the whole week.   Between my wonderful son and my great friends,  I will figure out a some well needed time off from work.

I also remind myself that I am lucky to be able to take a vacation and I am grateful to be in a position to take some time off and relax among people I love.  As Greg Anderson, the founder and president of the American Wellness Project, says, social wellness means more than simply belonging.  It means getting along with others. . . and cultivating caring, supportive relationships. 
Are we there yet?

Monday, June 18, 2012

Daddy's Office Time

From a child's point of view, the place where their parents work can be a place they dislike because it pulls the parent away from them.  Parents spend a lot of time at work and children may feel that they are competing with what goes on in the office.  "If you didn't have to work, you could be with me," is sometimes what a child thinks.

But what if your memories of your parent and their relationship with their work and their office is positive and you can't imagine your parent doing anything else but being in their office?  Your parent may love their job and their passion for their work may inspire you to try to find something that you can be equally passionate about.

Work world is where your parent and other adults are busy working on computers, talking on phones, doing things you don't quite understand but you want to be part of it because your parent loves being in this world.

In honor of Father's Day, this New York Times story captures a little girl's precious memories of her father and playing office so she could become just like him:

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Happy Father's Day!

Yesterday my Dad and I celebrated Father's Day a little early.

My gift to him:  Time

I could have gone to the store and bought him another shirt or another book or another CD.  Or I could have thought ahead and tried to make a present for him which I used to do a lot when I was a child.  One year I wrote a poem to him and cut out pictures of fathers and daughters from a magazine and glued the pictures all around the poem and then bought a frame from the drugstore.

But this year I decided to give him something you can't buy anywhere and that is the gift of time.  My Dad doesn't drive anymore so I picked him up early yesterday morning and we took a road trip to some of his favorite places in southern Maryland.

The weather was beautiful: low humidity, a slight breeze and the sun was shining not too brightly.  We went south to the Chesapeake Bay area and checked out some of the different places that he likes near the water and then drove to Broomes Island for lunch at Stoney's Seafood House (

Stoney's is right on Island Creek in Calvert County and is also home to some of the best crabcakes ever!  It's been there for over 20 years and you can drive there or come up to it by boat.  It's just one of those scenic out-of-the-way places where people slow down and sit and talk and listen to each other while letting their tired spirits gain strength from the area's quiet beauty. 

I didn't hear a cellphone ring the whole time we were there! 

It was a day of letting my dad do the talking about anything he wanted and listening to stories he wanted to re-tell.  It was also a day of just sitting and enjoying time with someone who is the best Dad in the whole world.

Happy Father's Day to my Dad and to all the other Dads out there who work hard to make their children's lives a lot better.

And to those whose Dads are no longer with them today, I hope you have many warm memories of you and your Dad and time well spent together!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Chipotle's Salsa

Photo By Patti Raab

Hey farmer's market fans --

Chipotle was the new vendor yesterday at the farmer's market near the White House.  What is a national chain of restaurants doing at a farmer's market you may ask?  I was wondering too until I got to Chipotle's table.  Chipotle put on a live demonstration showing how easy it is to use summer produce and herbs to make your own fresh salsa.  The store also gave out it's salsa recipe which I have posted below for you to try.

Chipotle, which tries to source organic and local produce when it can, also generously gave out free samples of the freshly made salsa along with some great salty tortilla chips!  Thanks Chipotle!!
It was a beautiful sunny day in the nation's capital and the market was very busy as shoppers sampled and talked with the local farmers about the local varieties of fresh produce that were being sold all along the blocked off area within viewing disctance of the White House.  Office workers and tourists browsed the tables filled with delicious sour cherries, sweet cherries, small cucumbers, yellow squash, salad greens, and vine ripe tomatoes, ready to be chopped, cooked and hastily eaten.  I found some absolutely beautiful tomatoes which I consider the best of the best of summer's home grown treasures.  I'll be eating those right away!

Summer tomatoes are very versatile and when they are as fresh as they are right now and will be for the rest of the summer you can add them to almost any dish and they will amp up the flavor of whatever you're making.  Chopped, roasted or marinated, I never get sick of eating summer tomatoes.

For a great salsa, summer tomatoes are essential. If you've never made fresh salsa before, it's very easy.  Have fun making it and experimenting with different ingredients.  As a starting point, here is Chipotle's salsa recipe which the store gave out today:


6 vine-ripened tomatoes
1/2 a red onion
2 jalapenos
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1/2 teaspoon sugar
sal and pepper to taste

Dice the tomatoes, onions and jalapenos.  Combine all the ingredients and season to taste.

Mangi!! (Italian for "eat")

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Uber Fun

Courtesy of Uber

Earlier this week, I was surprised with the opportunity of using an Uber car to get from a business meeting back to my office.  It was so pleasant and so efficient compared to my usual crazy experience in a Washington, DC taxicab or using the Metro that I wish Uber could be my permanent way of getting around town!

Sometimes part of the healing experience can be when someone does something unexpected and nice for you and you just back and enjoy it.  Besides, I have to share with you how cool Uber is!

If you haven't heard of Uber (, it's a transportation company that dispatches private drivers and cars and you can request an Uber car and driver anywhere at anytime on your iPhone or Android.  No cash changes hands because once you download your app and set up your account, everything, including tips, are charged to your credit card. 

Uber may be more practical for business purposes, but I also could see it being convenient for trips to Dulles Airport or other city trips when you may want to treat yourself.  I'm thinking birthdays, anniversaries or holiday celebrations.

Besides Washington, DC, Uber has been launched and is doing business in Boston, Chicago, New York City, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Toronto, Paris, and Los Angeles, and the company is working on adding many more cities.

My experience with Uber was particularly nice because it was raining.  I could have walked the block to M Street, NW to hail a cab but the generous person I was meeting with told me that I didn't need to go outside and hail a cab.  She could order me an Uber from where she was sitting.  After she made the request for the Uber she showed me the map on her phone and said that the Uber car would arrive in four minutes -- which it did.

A beautiful black Town car pulled up and the driver, who was dressed in a crisp shirt and tie, jumped out of the driver's seat and opened the passenger car door for me.  The inside of the Uber was immaculate and small bottles of water sat there just for the taking.

The driver was quiet, not talking or yelling on his phone like most DC taxidrivers.  He wasn't eating and the radio wasn't blasting music or a talk news station.  He took me right to my address, not somewhere near my address, and again, in the rain, got out of the driver's seat and opened the car door to help me with my papers and bags.

I have a feeling Uber is going to do very well in Washington, DC.  According to a post on Uber's website from Travis (no last name), Uber's Co-founder & CEO, "In DC, we've seen more app opens pre-launch, what we call "eyeballs", than any other city we've gone to."

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

I'm Listening

I have found that when you are talking to children of any age about almost any subject, you should be prepared to hear things that can be so truthful that it can take your breath away.  That's not a bad thing.  I think it's wonderful but not everyone is always ready to hear the unpolished truth. 

That's the beauty and wonder of children: there usually is no filter on their wise thoughts.

In talking to my son about his father's death, I tried to keep our conversations as honest and open as I could.  I felt it was more important for my son to express himself and vent his frustrations than it was to worry about whether his words hurt my feelings.

The conversations were for him, not me.  He needed to have a way to verbalize his thoughts and feelings even if they didn't make sense.  This was about him, a then 13-year-old boy, working through his jumble of emotions instead of ignoring the pain and trying to go on with his life and tamp it down inside himself.

I didn't think it would be constructive to tell my son that we needed to talk about his loss and then make him filter and edit his point of view.  I knew he needed to say what he felt and not what he thought I wanted to hear.  There were times when I was surprised by the rawness of his anger but I couldn't show it.  I figured if I did show my surprise or displeasure while talking to him, then whatever progress we made in communicating would be erased by me revealing what I felt or thought.

 Hello Grief, an insightful support website for children, teens and adults, addresses having serious conversations about a loss with children and offers the following tips which I hope you also find to be helpful:

Having Good Conversations With Your Kids
By Hello Grief (

While children experience the same feelings of despair, sadness, helplessness, anger, anxiety, guilt, confusion and fear that adults do following a loss, they often do not have the maturity and experience to understand, identify and express those feelings.

Communication is key to helping our children understand their grief, and begin addressing it in healthy ways. Without communication, you will not know where your child may have a misunderstanding about how or why the loss occurred. With communication, you will be able to identify areas in which your child is struggling with their grief, and how you can help.

It is important to continue discussing the loss and after affects of the loss (such as moving, remarriage, life milestones), with your children over time.

Below are a few tips to having open, successful communication with your kids about grief and loss at any age:
  • As a parent, understand what your goal is before starting the conversation - why are you wanting to talk to your child? Is there a specific issue you want to discuss? A specific question you want to uncover?
  • Stay on topic – Once you decide on your goal for the conversation, don’t use this time to bring up other “issues” you’ve wanted to address unrelated to the conversation (i.e., homework, house chores, dating, etc).
  • Create a safe environment – Atmosphere can play a huge role in your child’s willingness to open up about how he or she is feeling. Have this discussion in a safe place, away from others who may overhear. Don’t create an intimidating environment, such as starting this conversation in places associated with “getting in trouble.” Having a snack, or doing an activity during which talking is easy could be helpful (such as coloring/drawing, riding in a car, going for a jog, etc).
  • Allow your kids to be able to say whatever they need, any way they want, to during your conversation - This does not mean you have to allow your child to use profanity if you do not typically allow it. Rather, enable your child to say what they need to say without “correcting their story,” should you remember it differently, or have a different opinion. It also means not keeping any topics “off limits” – including the details of the loss, even if it’s difficult for you to discuss. Let them say what they need, and ask the questions they need without limitation.
  • Know that some things are off limits to parents - It’s not you, it’s them. And it’s normal. But, having more frequent safe, and honest conversations with your children will help them build trust and begin to discuss more. Also know that even if your child isn’t saying anything to you, it doesn’t mean they are not benefiting from the conversation. Know they are processing internally. You should also make sure that your child has additional outlets to have the conversations they can’t have with you – such as a counselor, or support group.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Wedding Rings

The summer months bring many celebrations, mostly weddings and graduations, and this summer I have been to both.

Each is  a joyous event where the participants are beginning new futures either as man and wife or hopefully as a careerperson.  But today, weddings are on my mind.  Specifically, the rings and vows you exchange when you get married.

Nothing so publicly represents your marriage to others as wearing a wedding ring.  Whether it's a diamond or a simple gold band, a ring on your left hand symbolizes the emotional commitment you made to another person.  You are telling everyone that your heart and your life belong to someone else.

So what happens to your wedding rings when your spouse/partner dies?  Should you continue to wear your wedding rings?  Or do you take them off?

This is a HUGE issue for widows and widowers.  Technically, you aren't married anymore when your spouse dies but of course you still feel married.   I know lots of widows who continue to wear their wedding rings and would never think of taking them off.  And that's okay.  It's a personal decision and you have to listen to your heart and do what you think is best for you.

In my case, I wore my wedding rings for about two years after my husband's death.  I didn't plan it that way.  It just evolved.  The first year was a year of survival so I really didn't think about my rings.  During the second year, I started playing around with taking my rings off but for some reason it didn't feel right.  

One day, I remember looking down at my hand and staring at those rings and thinking, "I'm not married anymore.  My husband is no longer living.  I don't have a husband."  I slid took them off my finger because I knew it was time to say good-bye to that part of my life.  My finger looked so bare and vulnerable.    As I put them away in a special box, I thought back to our beautiful winter wedding and smiled.

I didn't discuss any of this with my son.  With all that was going on in his life at the time, I honestly never thought he would notice my hands and whether I was wearing rings or not.  But I was wrong.  One day I was turning a light on and he looked at my hand.  "Mom, where are your rings?" he asked me.  There was a slight note of worry in his voice and I think at first he thought that I might have lost them.

"I took them off," I said quietly.  "Daddy's been dead for two years.  I'm not married anymore and it doesn't feel right to be wearing my wedding rings when I don't have a husband."

"But I want you to put them back on," he said. 

"Why?," I said.  "I don't get it.  Why do you care if I have my wedding rings on or not?"

He hesitated.  "Because I think they protect you," he said.  "Please put them back on."

I hugged him and then explained to him that it was going to be okay and that this was the right thing to do.  He kept looking at me like I was making a big mistake but I said he had to trust me.  It was hard at first but now things are turning out to be okay and I've never regretted taking my rings off.

But that's my decision.  It doesn't mean it's the one for you.  You need to do what is comfortable for you.

If you're not ready to take your wedding rings off, then you could move your rings to your right hand, you could wear your rings on a chain around your neck or you could have the rings made into other pieces of jewelry for yourself or your children. 

Or you could just keep wearing your wedding rings for as long as you wish.

There is no right or wrong answer to this question.

Just as everyone finds their own way to mourn the loss of their loved one, so it is also true for wearing your wedding rings.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Sleepless in Seattle

Tom Hanks and Ross Malinger

When I watch the hysterically funny but poignant movie, "Sleepless in Seattle," one of my favorite scenes is when the character played by actress Rita Wilson tries to explain to  the character played by actor Tom Hanks and the other guys gathered round exactly why the incredibly romantic movie "An Affair To Remember" is only truly understood by women.

She starts to repeat dialogue from "An Affair To Remember" and sets up the scenes with Deborah Kerr (is it pronounced "Kerr" or Carr? I never can remember...") and Cary Grant.  Then Rita Wilson starts to cry as she remembers the ending of the movie and the men are just staring at her like she's crazy.  ("Is she always like this?")  Then the characters played by Tom Hanks and Victor Garber start comparing "An Affair to Remember" to "The Dirty Dozen," a men's movie about World War II and then they start crying about some scene involving guns and bombs and Trini Lopez.  It's all very funny!!!!

 The reason my memory was jogged about "Sleepless In Seattle" had to do with a tweet I read last week from Grief Speaks.  Grief Speaks tweets about loss and also is a website ( giving support to children, teens and adults who are coping with grief due to all different type of loss.

The tweet reminded me of something some of us are all too familiar with; the poignant side of "Sleepless in Seattle" when Tom Hanks finds himself in the throes of trying to figure out how to put one foot in front of the other and go on as a newly widowed man and also as a single parent.

The following dialogue from a very different scene in "Sleeepless in Seattle" is right on the money about why it's so hard to let go, to say good-bye, and move forward with your life without that beloved one:

 "Doctor Marcia Fieldstone: People who truly loved once are far more likely to love again. Sam, do you think there's someone out there you could love as much as your wife?

 Sam Baldwin: Well, Dr. Marcia Fieldstone, that's hard to imagine.

Doctor Marcia Fieldstone: What are you going to do?

 Sam Baldwin: Well, I'm gonna get out of bed every morning... breathe in and out all day long. Then, after a while I won't have to remind myself to get out of bed every morning and breathe in and out... and, then after a while, I won't have to think about how I had it great and perfect for a while.

Doctor Marcia Fieldstone: Tell me what was so special about your wife?

Sam Baldwin: Well, how long is your program? Well, it was a million tiny little things that, when you added them all up, they meant we were supposed to be together... and I knew it. I knew it the very first time I touched her. It was like coming home... only to no home I'd ever known... I was just taking her hand to help her out of a car and I knew. It was like... magic."

Friday, June 8, 2012

Re-Shuffle Please

Alex Katz Painting

The amazing thing about grieving is that it blows all the unimportant stuff right out of the water.

It immediately rearranged my priorities and what I once thought was important wasn't anymore.  New stuff appeared at the top of my priorities list after my loss.  Things I thought were important suddenly didn't matter, and other things I didn't seem to have time for before, I now made time to do. 

Life dramatically changed, life tragically changed and everything mixed together and changed its order.  Life re-shuffled.  I now have a different perspective on life because I saw how quickly life can turn itself around and how you shouldn't take anything for granted.  Instead, I know that I need to grab life and go for it!

When life deals you a blow, your first reaction is to withdraw and protect yourself. You want to crawl under the covers, lock the doors and wait for the bad stuff to go away all on its own. But guess what? That doesn't work.

In fact, denial can sometimes make a situation a whole helluva lot worse. I think it gets worse because ignoring a situation allows your thoughts and feelings to build up and build up instead of working through the pain.  I know it's scary but think of working through your grief pain like pulling off a band-aid.  Doesn't it hurt more when you pull the band-aid off slowly?

For me, this is where the joking comes in.  I tend to make jokes when I get overwhelmed by life because it's a great coping mechanism, tension breaker and it allows me to find joy when there doesn't seem to be any. 

I know that's not always the most effective way to deal with a situation, but cracking a joke can make something more manageable and it brings the situation into perspective; as in maybe the situation's not as serious as others think it is.

If I cook something and it doesn't taste right, I try to correct it and if it still doesn't taste right, then I let it go.  If my child comes home with a bad haircut, I'm annoyed, but then I say, "It's only hair"  and then I try to let it go.  Okay, so the grass didn't get mowed today.  I will get to it.  But I really try not to obsess anymore.  Are these truly the most important things in life?  Ten years from is anyone going to care?  I don't think so.

Sometimes you have to re-shuffle your priorities.  

Be open to spontaneity...Be in the moment...Especially today.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Owen Danoff -- Never Been Kissed

Hey there fearless readers,

The weekend is almost here and I wanted to share some gig information about Owen Danoff's appearance on Saturday, June 9 at the State Theatre in Falls Church, Virginia starting at 7pm.

Multi-talented singer songwriter Owen Danoff will be opening for Edwin McCain, who is known to most for his best-selling hit, "I'll Be."  It should be a lot of fun!!  Definitely check it out if you can!!

Please enjoy Owen's new video of  "Never Been Kissed":

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Anti-Cancer Zone

To my family members and friends who are waging the battle of their lives!  You will understand this list of things that cancer cannot do sooooooo much better than we who support you always yet we are not cancer patients.  I say thanks to for putting together this list of positive affirmations!!

While your battle with cancer may sometimes be lonely, we love you very much and want to help you in your courageous fight to go into remission: 

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Earth Angels

Many years ago, one of my aunts generously gave me a book about people's first-hand experiences with angels called Angel Letters by Sophy Burnham.

Burnham previously had written the bestseller, A Book of Angels, which was so popular that hundreds of people wrote to Burnham about their encounters with angels.  Burnham took these letters and with the permission of the writers, published their letters and used people's real names.

"Since finishing A Book of Angels I have come to a personal belief:  that we live surrounded by ghosts, by spirits, not only in our imagination, as metaphors of our past, but also in reality -- our departed loved ones watching us --  also surrounded by superior spiritual beings of great light and magnificance, manifestations of the divine, who want for us poor humans better things that we can possibly imagine," Burnham writes in Angel Letters.

"And I believe that if we leave them alone and present ourselves, like children, in total trust and love and humble gratitude, then they will pour their blessings on us overwhelmingly.  They play with us.  They look after us.  They heal us, touch us, comfort us with invisible warm handss they try to give us what we want."

Here is one of the moving letters from Burnham's book.  This one is written by Mrs. Renee E. Mastalli from Bethesda, Maryland:

"About a year after my beloved husband died, I sat in my living room feeling lost and lonely ot stop weeping.  Suddenly the room was filled with the scent of flowers -- overpowering.  It was in the middle of win.  Just then my phone rang, and it was a friend who wanted to come and visit.  I said that I wasn't very good company today but she came anyway.  As she walked in the door, she said, "the flowers?"  I said, "Millie do you smell them too?"  With that she asked me, "What was Tiller"  I said, "Gardenias."  She then replied, "He is with you and telling you ." With that the scent of flowers disappeared."

Maybe something happened in your life and you felt a spiritual presence.

Maybe it was your angel.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Angels & Faith

Faith is usually defined as having a confident belief in the truth of a person, idea or thing.  Faith is also defined as having a secure belief in God and a trusting acceptance of God's will. 

Hmmmm....trusting acceptance.  For me that is always the part of faith that I am constantly working on.  I have been thinking a lot about faith these days and it's role in my life.  I don't know what the future will bring, but of course  I always hope and pray that it's going to be something good.

And if it's not something good, then I hope and pray that I will have the faith and strength to deal with it.

I have found that my faith has changed as my life has unfolded.  When my son was born, my faith in the future and in the world as a whole was off the charts.  He was a beautiful baby and everything about him worked as it should and my husband and I truly felt blessed as parents.

When my husband died,  I felt as though I was being severely tested and punished.  I couldn't see beyond the next 10 minutes and I had no idea what would happen the next day.  I wasn't even sure that that I wanted the next day to arrive.  I had no energy to build or plan a future.  It was all about surviving.

It was during this time that I re-acquainted myself with angels.  From childhood, I have always believed in the existence of angels and their power to inspire and protect us.  Maybe it has something to do with the Catholic notion of everyone having a guardian angel that God gives to you when you are born and your guardian angel watches over you until you die.

There have been times in my life when my guardian angel has worked overtime and I have definitely felt as though she has yanked me out of some dicey situations.  It's too bad she hasn't had the ability to sometimes put masking tape over my mouth because that would have been equally as helpful!  I am not alone in my faith about angels.  I asked a guy that I work with about angels and he quickly replied that he knows for sure that he has a couple of guardian angels dedicated to watching over him!

Joking aside, I do believe that God has a plan for all of us and that angels watch over us and do their best to keep us on the straight and narrow.

Have you ever felt the presence of an angel in your life?

Friday, June 1, 2012

A June Morning


Memories Look At Me

By Tomas Transtromer

A June morning, too soon to wake,

too late to fall asleep again.

I must go out -- the greenery is dense

with memories, they follow me with their gaze.

They can't be seen, they merge completely into

the background, true chameleons.

They are so close that I can hear them breathe

though the birdsong is deafening.