Saturday, July 28, 2012

Temporarily Off The Grid -- Vacation

Go Go's Album Cover Featuring the hit song "Vacation"

All I ever wanted
Had to get away. . .

Vacation lyrics by: Kathy Valentine/Charlotte Caffey/Jane Wiedlin

Having been in the workforce for decades, I am familiar with watching people work themselves sick.  Literally.

I believe in hard work but I also believe in vacations. . . BIG TIME!  You can't work hard unless you take breaks and allow yourself some healing and recharging space.  Vacations aren't luxuries.  They are very necessary for helping you live longer.  Even if you don't go anywhere, you deserve unscheduled time away from the office and at least an at-home Staycation, enjoying relaxation in your home with lots of sleeping in, having lunch or dinner with friends and family, reading, gardening or exercising.

But you cannot play chicken in the office with your fellow colleagues and see who works the longest day and who can go the longest without a vacation.  Eventually the consequences of that behavior will catch up with you.

Here's one of many reasons why:  when researchers from the State University of New York at Oswego recently released a survey it conducted of 12,000 men ages 35-57, they found that those who didn't take at least one week long vacation per year boosted their risk of dying from heart disease by 30% during the course of the nine-year study (please see link to study below).

I am going on vacation today and as much as love my readers and Cry, Laugh, Heal, I need to take a break and enjoy some down time at the beach with my son and my friends.  My intention is to post a few times while at the beach but I'm not sure. . .and I hope you understand!

Here's the link to the MSNBC story about the study concerning work and stress:

Friday, July 27, 2012

The Stepping Stones

I like the hopeful tone of this short story a lot and I hope you do too.

It captures what life is about and I really believe that step by step, little by little, we can help each other through the ups and downs of life.  Then you can turn around and help another person:

The Stepping Stones
By Barbara Williams

Come, take my hand.  The road is long.  And we must travel by stepping stones.  No, you're not alone: I'll go with you.  I know the road well, I"ve been there.

Don't fear the darkness, I'll be with you.  We must take one step at a time, but remember, we have to stop for awhile.  It's a long way to the other side and there are many obstacles.  We have many stones to cross, and some are bigger than others.

Shock, denial and anger to start, then comes guilt, despair and loneliness.  It's a hard road to travel, but it must be done.  It's the only way to reach the other side.

Come, slip your hand in mine.  What?  Oh, yes.  It is strong.  I've held many hands like yours.

Mine was once small and weak, like yours because you see, once I had to hold someone else's hand in order to take the first step.

Oops you stumbled!  Go ahead and cry.  Don't be ashamed, I understand.  Let's wait here awhile and get your breath.  When you're stronger, we'll go on. . .One step at a time. . . There's no need to hurry.  Say, it's nice to hear you laugh.

Yes, I agree the memories you shared are good.  Look, we're halfway there now; I can see the other side.  It looks so warm and sunny.

Have you noticed?  We're nearing the last stone, and you're standing alone!  And look at your hand. . . You've let go of mine.  We've reached the other side, look back.  Someone is standing there.

He is alone and wants to cross the stepping stones.  I'd better go, he needs my help.  What?  Are you sure?  Why yes, go ahead, I'll wait.  You know the way, You've been there.  Yes, I agree, it's your turn my friend. . . to help someone else cross the stepping stones.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

24 Hours

Sometimes rebuilding your life is just plain hard.  Today's choices are not the choices I want and, try as I might, I can't steer things to go in the direction I want.

This post is not about whining.  That would be unproductive.  Instead, this post is about how I still need to work on being patient.  Life is about grabbing opportunities but then it is about dealing with what it feels like when the opporunity doesn't work out the way you planned.  It's about the twists and turns of life and how I need to get better at accepting and working through stuff I don't want.  I try to stay positive and I try to break situations down so that I am not overwhelmed but honestly there are just times when life is terribly frustrating.

And that's all there is too it.

I need to prioritize and keep in mind what is really important: namely good health.  I cannot stress myself out about things that remind me of another time; a time when I was a wife, a time when I didn't have to take care of everything myself.

Backyard Garden By Kino

Today I did reach out to others for help and that made things a bit better but I wanted to talk longer and I couldn't since work was on my desk and needed to be finished. Needless to say, I couldn't wait to get home and put the day behind me.

Then just as I reached the front door of my house, ready to close the door on the day's events, I opened the storm door and surprise, surprise...two unexpected gifts awaited me: a great friend had left a bag of plump juicy tomatoes from her garden (so yummy for dinner!!) and a bag of books to read!!

Bahama Mama...Jump Back Jack...You just never know....

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Reach For The Stars

Every great dream begins with a dreamer.

Always remember, you have within you

 the strength, the patience, and the passion to

reach for the stars to change the world

~ Harriet Tubman

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Sally Ride

Sally Ride

"What's it like to be in space?"  "Is it scary?"  Is it cold?"  "Do you have trouble sleeping?"

These are the first sentences from a wonderful book that astronaut Sally Ride wrote in 1986 with her childhood friend, Dr. Susan Oakie, who once was a medical reporter for The Washington Post

Everyone always has tons of questions about what it feels like to be in space and Ride and Oakie's book, titled To Space & Back, was written to give children a sense of what it feels like to circle the Earth, experience being weightless and even how you go to the bathroom in space. 

Ride, 61, will always be remembered for being the first American woman to travel into outer space, and sadly she died yesterday after a 17-month battle with pancreatic cancer.

"When I was growing up (in Los Angeles), I was always fascinated by the planets, stars and galaxies, but I never thought about becoming an astronaut," Ride writes.  "I studied math and science in high school, and then I spent my years in college learning physics -- the study of the laws of nature and the universe.  Just as I was finishing my education, NASA, the United States space agency, began looking for scientists who wanted to become astronauts.  Suddenly I knew that I wanted a chance to see the earth and stars from outer space.  I sent my application to NASA, and after a series of tests and interviews, I was chosen to be an astronaut."

Ride makes the process of becoming an woman astronaut seem so simple and straightforward but we know it wasn't; especially for a woman competing in the macho male world of jet pilots.  Ride was a capsule communicator on two space shuttle flights and also helped design the robot arm that was used in the Space Shuttle for scientific experiments and other projects that involved placing satellites into orbit or pulling satellites out of orbit.

How many little girls Ride may have inspired to follow her in the fields of space, science and math, we'll never know.  But she did something no other woman had done before and that's a remarkable distinction.  NASA's space program no longer exists today due to budgetary cuts and two unthinkable Space Shuttle explosions but when the space program operated at it's peak, it was incredibly exciting and people like Sally Ride made us think anything was possible.

"All adventures -- especially into new territory -- are scary, and there has always been an element of danger in space flight.  I wanted to be an astronaut because I thought it would be a challenging opportunity," Ride says in To Space & Back.

"It was; it was also an experience that I shall never forget."

Monday, July 23, 2012

Foxhole People

There are people in my life that I call  my "foxhole people."

These are the family and friends that I would want next to me were I fighting a "war" involving a personal crisis and I found that I needed support to get through my "combat situation."  I know that these people would instantly jump into the foxhole with me and they would stay with me through thick and thin until it was over.

It doesn't matter who these people are, what matters to me is that I know the people who would do this for me and that I would do the same for them.

I know that you also have at least one or two people like this in your life.  You may not call them "foxhole people" but they are people who have your back and you have theirs.

These people share certain traits.  Obviously, they're committed to you and me and they care about us.  But I think it would also be fair to say that these people are emotionally resilient.

According to Joan Borysenko, PhD, and a noted lecturer on health and spirituality, emotionally resilient people believe there is a higher purpose for even the most painful event.  That doesn't mean that they think it's good to have problems, it's more about the ability they have to see that something positive can come out of a negative event.

Think about this idea.  When something bad happens in your life, is it the end of the world for you? What is your usual response to emotional stress?  Do you immediately think the worst?  Emotionally resilient people do recognize that even though things may initially look and feel bad, some good can come from even the most traumatic events.  Resilience can be developed within yourself.  If you actively want to become more resilient, it is possible.

Borysenko is a former cancer cell biologist at Harvard Medical School and she is author of Minding The Body, Mending The Mind and A Woman's Book of Life.  She has spent decades studying emotional resilience and here is a short synopisis of her journey:

"When my dad killed himself in 1975, I felt not only grief but also terrible guilt.  As a cancer biologist, I felt I should have done a better job of helping him endure the difficult treatment process he was undergoing.

But I refused to give into despair.  I told myself that if I could help even one other family avert such a tragedy, my father's death would have meaning. 

I quit my job at the lab and retrained as a behavioral medicine specialist.  Then I founded a mind/body clinic at one of Harvard Medical School's teaching hospitals, beginning a new career helping patients and their families cope physically and spiritually with life-threatening illnesses."

Borysenko also recounts that a friend of hers also went through something similiar when her son died in a car accident.  To survive the incredible pain of losing her son, her friend forced herself to think about other families and what she could do or how she could give something positive in her son's memory.  She now volunteers as a support group facilitator, giving emotional support to other parents who have suffered the tragedy of losing a child.

It is the meaning that we give to awful events in our life that allows us to endure the deep pain and come out on the other side of it a stronger, more resilient person.  While we cannot control what happens to us, we can work on our response to those events.

Friday, July 20, 2012

10 Things To Make You Happier @ Home

Courtesy of Coastal Living

Do you make your bed every day?

Don't worry.  I don't either.  I know this sounds like a silly question but apparently if you do make your bed every day you are off and running to a better, more organized, happier day. 

I probably should smooth out the sheets and blanket and actually make my bed but I really don't think it's that important.  My mother is a fanatic about making my parents bed every day and one day in what I thought was a casual conversation (rookie mistake!) I dropped the bomb that I don't make my bed every day.  She didn't say it but I could tell from the look on her face that she thought she had failed as a mother.

Oh well....I guess I'm a loser in the home department.  Which brings me to this wonderful list that Apartment Therapy's Jackie Ashton recently put together to make you feel more comfortable about the state of things in your home.  They are simple, easy peasy ideas.

If you are like me, I am always looking around the house and thinking about how something would be better if I changed it or painted it or even fixed it!

The list is called 10 Simple Things To Make You Happier At Home and I will be focusing on a combination of things starting this weekend.  Here you go and have fun with it:

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Work Can Be Rewarding

Work itself is the reward.  If I choose challenging work it will pay me back with interest.  At least I'll be interested even if nobody else is.  And this attempt for excellence is what sustains the most well lived and satisfying, successful lives.

                                                  ~ Meryl Streep

I am a big believer in working hard.  Besides getting a lot accomplished, working hard makes you challenge your brain and your talents to the best of your ability.  Dirty things become clean and disorganized piles of papers and clothes become organized.  Working hard can also give your mind something else to think about when you are processing your grief.

When my husband died a number of years ago, I continued to work outside the home because I needed to support myself and my son and it also kept me moving forward.  It brought structure into my daily routine at a time when most other things were constantly changing.  There were times when it was jarring; especially when it was time to leave work and go home.  For a split second while walking to my car, I would always think about calling my husband to tell him I was leaving and then I would remember that he was no longer here.

But work continued to be cathartic for me during that time and I was very happy to have it.  Given the ups and downs of the economy in the past several years, I'm still thankful to have a job.  I know there are some people who take their work to an extreme and lose themselves in it after they have experienced the loss of a loved one.  This is easy to do because you don't want to think about what is really going on in your life and constantly working helps you block the pain.  For my son's sake, I was careful to make sure I didn't go that way.

That said, it's important to do something you really love or something that makes you feel as though you are always learning something new.  I have a job where I work in an office downtown and I am paid to do that work.  But I am not paid to write this blog.  I write this blog because I enjoy it and because I need to write it.  I started Cry, Laugh, Heal in December 2010 to help people become more comfortable talking about grief and how you can rebuild your life after losing a loved one. 

People can tell if you approach your work with a certain amount of pride or if you could care less about what you do. I hope you can tell how much I love my readers and how much thought I put into trying to help others who are also on a grief journey.  I never want anyone to feel as though they are alone or that there is no hope for the future.  There is always hope!!!!!!!

Whether your work is mental, physical or a combination of both, it can feel so good to put in a hard day's work.  Once in awhile I do wonder what it would be like if I didn't have to work.  Of course, it would be great, but I would still need to find something meaningful to do.  I know I would still write Cry, Laugh Heal.

As the wise and wonderful Meryl Streep says, work can be a reward in itself especially when you achieve that "good tired" feeling.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Secret of Life

I find it is important for my inner woman to make quiet time for myself.  The inner woman is all about achieving personal peace and developing emotional resilience.

For me, the road to personal peace is found when I seek to quiet my mind and spirit.  Usually ten to fifteen minutes every day is enough for me to gather my thoughts and try to figure out  my daily goal; or at least try and figure out what direction I think I would like for my day to take.  Sometimes my goal is serious, such as finishing a project at work, and sometimes my goal is silly, such as trying to see if I can go without cursing for one hour.  You may think I'm kidding but I'm not!

Every day we are bombarded with different messages from the internet, television, radio and the telephone and our brains are basically tied up being information traffic cops telling us what to pay attention to and what to ignore.  You can't go from one activity to the next or try to do multiple activies and not begin to feel the effects of that constant switching.

No wonder we feel stressed.  We need to take a break.  We need to take out regular time during the day to soothe our minds.  There's nothing wrong with doing something mindless once in a while, right?  Isn't that what Star and People magazine are for?

Seriously, our inner voices are trying to tell us what we need to do to refresh and restore our inner selves but we need to create quiet to hear it.  How do you tune in to your inner self?

The Secret of Life
Author Unknown

As the Lord God was creating the world
he called upon his archangels.
The Lord asked his archangels to help
him decide where to put the Secret of Life.

"Bury it in the ground," one angel replied.
"Put it on the bottom of the sea," said another.
"Hide it in the mountains," another suggested.

The Lord replied, "If I see to do any of those
only a few will find the Secret of Life.
The Secret of Life must be accessible to

One angel replied, "I know: put it in each
man's heart.
Nobody will think to look there."
"Yes!" said the Lord.  "Within each man's heart."
And so it was --
The SECRET TO LIFE lies within all of us.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Pip -- Beautiful Goodbye (Cover)

If you watched NBC's The Voice this past season, then I'm sure you are familiar with the amazing singing talents of Pip.

Pip, short for Phillip, was a finalist on The Voice and Adam Levine, lead vocalist for the Grammy-award winning pop rock band, Maroon 5, was Pip's coach during the prime time competition program.

Pip is a native of Marietta, Georgia and he is my cousin's son.  Our family loved watching him break out and perform on national TV and voted for Pip on every episode.  We wish him all the best and look forward to the next exciting chapter in his very promising career.  To keep us updated, one of my other cousins just posted online this new YouTube video of Pip performing one of Maroon 5's huge hits, Beautiful Goodbye, that Pip says is a tribute to Adam Levine.

Please listen to the soulful and healing sounds of Pip's voice:

Monday, July 16, 2012

A Young Boy's Healing Message

Johnny Karlinchak and his neighbor, Elissa Myers
Photo by Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post

When I want to help myself, I do something for someone else.  So does Johnny Karlinchak.

When I'm busy and totally involved in helping someone else, I forget about what is happenng to me. I feel as though I am building good karma for myself and that I am part of something bigger.  Granted, when you are in the throes of grieving, this might not be one of the first thoughts that enters your head, but in trying to feel better about your life, being selfless brings you positive energy and can give you structure and direction at a time when you feel very confused and lost.

Research from Mental Health America indicates that those who consistently help other people experience less depression, greater calm, fewer pains and better health.  They may even live longer.  Helping others has actually been shown to reduce stress.

And that means that eight-year-old Johnny Karlinchak is one mellow dude.

The Washington Post reported yesterday that when the recent summer storms hit the metropolitan Washington, DC area, many were left without power or worse.  The worse in Johnny's neighborhood was that a tree fell on the house of his neighbor and good friend, Elissa Myers.

Johnny never thought twice about what needed to be done for Mrs. Myers and he jumped into action to help her as best he could.  Please read this link to the touching Washington Post story:

Friday, July 13, 2012

Keep it Simple -- John Wooden

I have no shame.  I look for inspiration any place I can get it.  This time I found it in a sports book.

A guy in my office had this book sitting on his desk titled, "Wooden."  Hmmm, I thought, this name sounds familiar but I couldn't place it.  I opened the book and started reading about Coach John Wooden and his historic UCLA basketball dynasty winning 10 NCAA championships in 12 years, including 88 straight games.

I sortof remember hearing my Dad talk about John Wooden and as I paged through the book I realized this is a guy who definitely knows something about motivation, so I decided to find out more about John Wooden and how he was able to get all these big guys to listen to him and win so many games.

John Wooden, who was 99 when he died in 2010, was raised on a small farm in south-central Indiana and he says in the book that the lessons he learned from his parents served him extremely well on and off the basketball court.  His priorities were steadfast: family, faith and friends.

John Wooden's book is now a go-to source of strength for me.  Yes, he was a basketball coach and many of his thoughts are directed to male athletes, but I still draw from the essence of what he is saying.  He is definitely an old school straight shooter but that's not easy to find these days and you can't argue with the results of his philosophy. 

Here is one of my favorites in a book that is chock full of John Wooden's wise observations about life.  I find this one in particular helps me keep things in perspective and move forward when I find that I am dealing with a particularly stressful situation:

Make Each Day Your Masterpiece

When I was teaching basketball, I urged my players to try their hardest to improve on that very day, to make that practice a masterpiece.

Too often we get distracted by what is outside our control.  You can't do anything about yesterday.  The door to the past has been shut and the key thrown away.  You can do nothing about tomorrow.  It is yet to come.  However, tomorrow is in large part determined by what you do today.  So make today a masterpiece.  You have control over that.

This rule is even more important in life than basketball.  You have to apply yourself each day to become a little better.  By applying yourself to the task of becoming a little better each and every day over a period of time, you will become a lot better.  Only then will you be able to approach being the best you can be.  It begins by trying to make every day count and knowing you can never make up for a lost day.

If a player appeared to be taking it easy in practice, I told him, "Don't think you can make up for it by working twice as hard tomorrow.  If you have it within your power to work twice as hard, why aren't you doing it now?"

If you sincerely try to do your best to make each day a masterpiece, angels can do no better. 

Thursday, July 12, 2012

ER Awakening

I feel very lucky to have good health and after spending four hours in an emergency room Tuesday evening, I have renewed my commitment to doing all I can to preserve it.

My Dad had an urgent eye incident and he needed immediate medical attention so we drove to one of the local hospitals here in Washington, DC and waited for a diagnosis.  You can debate the pros and cons of Obama's health care bill until the cows come home but it all falls away when you are in an emergency room.  Or maybe it's that the harsh reality of health care in the United State becomes very clear.

Insurance or not, there are priorities in an emergency room and chronic and extreme cases always come first: gun shot victims, people in car accidents, anything that looks like it may be fatal.  I think the people who work in emergency rooms are incredible.  Doctors, nurses, police, medical support staff are all running around busy with the purpose of trying to fix people and get them back in some kind of working order.  These people must be wired differently because I have no idea how they find the stamina to do this kind of work day in and day out. 

I'm sure there is a system in the emergency room for the rest of us who are urgent but not looking like we fall into the fatal category.  I just couldn't figure it out.  I know it was based on the idea of triage but that's about all I could figure out.  After you have been waiting for while, your sense of time becomes skewed and you realize that the word "shortly" as in "the doctor will be with you shortly," is a relative term.

I guess this is my long way of saying that health is more than not having a disease; more than not being injured.  If you are lucky enough to not have an ongoing health condition, then please become a participant in your own health.  Make good choices about diet, exercise and rest.  Also pursue activities that make you happy and bring you peace and good mental health.

You can participate in your healing and find a good solid healthy way of life for yourself.  You know your stress points and cravings better than anyone else.  There are things you can change.  Try to become proactive.  I have found that the more I take control of my health, the better I feel. 

Start today.  Google "GOOD HEALTH" and see what pops up.  Look at what you eat.  Take a ten minute walk.  Call a friend.

My Dad is home now and I thank the doctors and nurses who helped figure out and diagnose his eye problem.  They were wonderful!!

But I won't forget the ER and the dynamics of being there.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

God Bless The Child

Children are not small adults who can basically raise themselves.  Children can be resilient but only to a point.

Being the oldest of six children, having 35 first cousins and also being a mother has taught me that children are much smarter than we ever give them credit for, but that doesn't mean that they understand all that is happening to them in their homes, schools or in the world at large. Their bodies, brains and emotions are still developing and they need all the love and guidance we can give them.

I am a big believer in honesty when talking to children but also in making sure that the information I give them is age appropriate. While the airwaves may carry images and words for all of us to see and hear, that doesn't mean all should see and hear it. Even as an adult there is stuff out there that I don't watch or listen to because I don't want it in my brain. It's not that I can't handle it, I just don't want it.

These days, children get bombarded with information they're not ready for and they don't have much choice about what they see and hear because the adults in charge of television, movies, radio and other electronic gizmos have gotten greedy and want it all to remain pretty much uncensored so they can continue to have access to what they want.

This is all the more reason for children to feel that they can trust and believe in at least one adult in their lives.  When faced with stress and trauma, especially the emotional trauma of losing someone they love, they need to know there are adults out there who have their backs. Their little hearts can only take so much and that's why talking and listening to a child is crucial during a bereavement period.

I know my son did not want to talk about his father's death at all but I had to slowly get him to let his feelings out.  He had to feel safe about talking openly and honestly about his good days and bad, his sadness, fear, disappointment, anger and even his hopes.  It took time for this to happen and it's still an ongoing process.

If you're not sure what to do or say to a child who is having a difficult time dealing with the loss of a loved one, here is a helpful story from Hello Grief, a website ( that "addresses grief head-on, with real people providing real-life opinions, and sharing real-life stories":

Having Good Conversations With Your Kids
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.
  • Monday, July 9, 2012

    Gaining Personal Power

    One of the many trees that uprooted after Washington, DC storms

    Over the past several weeks, my neighborhood has lost electrical power several times for varying periods of time.

    Maybe you've read about the very sudden and very strong storms that recently have hit the Washington, DC area.  It's been very scary and frustrating.  We are still recovering from the last storm that hit over a week ago: some people in Bethesda and Rockville, Maryland are still without power and have been without power for over a week.  Pretty unbelievable right? 

    You should read the news stories and tweets about PEPCO, the area's local utility.  PEPCO was recently listed by Business Insider as the number one "most hated company in America."  Oh yeah, by the way, PEPCO has proposed a 5% rate increase for the District of Columbia and a 4% increase for the state of Maryland.  Definitely no love there!

    It's a funny thing about losing power in your house.  For some reason it doesn't really hit you at first what you can and can't do.  For example, when I first lost power, my thoughts immediately went to this: "I should go on the computer and report this to PEPCO."  And then I thought about cooking something in the microwave.  DUH!! How can I go on the computer or use the microwave when I don't have any electricity?

    The first storm was so powerful it blew my cable box out.  I didn't have television for 7 days.  I missed watching TV mostly in the morning when I wanted information about traffic jams and the weather before I went out the door to work.  But I also found that when I didn't have TV, that I spent my evenings more productively. 

    I admit there are times when I just automatically turn on the TV.  It's just a bad habit.  The power outage made me rethink what I was doing.  No power, no TV.

    Instead of mindlessly lounging in front of the TV after work, I was doing a lot more reading, organizing around the house, talking to my neighbors and yardwork that I had put off.  I listened to the radio for news but only when I needed to.  It wasn't blabbling for hours at a time.

    I recentered myself and I felt I was more engaged with my daily routine.  I found I had more creative and had quiet time.  Quiet time is so important because it allows you to untangle your thoughts. A frantic mind is what causes stress.

    Watching television is passive and I think I was turning on the TV after working all day because I didn't want to think anymore.  Does that make sense?  I thought TV was helping me relax but it really wasn't. 

    The heat wave in DC is going to continue for awhile this summer and I do expect to lose power again because that's the nature of the service we get from PEPCO.  But the next time the lights go out and I grab the rechargable flashlight and candles, I won't worry about what program I'm missing on TV because I wasn't watching it.

    Friday, July 6, 2012

    Grab Your Opportunity

    "When someone says 'Opportunity only knocks once,' what in the world are they thinking?

    Opportunity exists virtually everywhere you look."

    ~ Richard Carlson

    Thursday, July 5, 2012

    Nuns On The Bus

    Nuns on The Bus

    Independence of thought and action is what we celebrated yesterday on the Fourth of July and in keeping with that theme, I can't think of a more unique group of Americans who just finished traveling the country expressing their independent thoughts than the "Nuns on the Bus."

    In case you missed this campaign that held its final rally yesterday, the Nuns on the Bus are a group of Catholic nuns who started a  two-week, 2,700 mile tour of the United States on June 18 to speak out against the Republican federal budget proposal put forth by Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin which the nuns say favors wealthy Americans at the expense of poor families.

    Led by Sister Simone Campbell, the nuns visited shelters, food pantries and community centers as wells as congressional offices to bring attention to social justice issues and  get the public to join them in their protest the House Republican budget.  Ryan has defended his budget cuts by saying the cuts were influenced by his Catholic faith.

    "Many politicians offer deeply flawed theological justifications for the federal budget," Campbell said.  "They ought to get some theological help."

    These days it is a bit unusual to even see a nun.  Nuns today are on society's frontlines.  If you do see a nun, she is usually in a school or a hospital, assisting in ways to strengthen her community.  When I was growing up there were lots of nuns and all of my friends and myself briefly thought about becoming a nun and then quickly abandoned the idea.

    You would think that the Vatican would be pleased with their work for the common good but instead the Vatican recently issued a report criticizing their involvement in social justice issues and concluded that the nuns should be spending more time on preventing abortions and same-sex marriage.

    Hmmmmmmm............My point about the nuns is that they are not afraid to speak up for themselves and give their point of view.

    Coping with grief can involve many courses of action and your point of view on renewing your life is also important.  There is no exact timetable for how you handle your grief.  But you are in the process of rebuilding your life because it has drastically changed.

    In experiencing the rebuilding of your life without your loved one, you are forging a new independence and it can sometimes be frightening.  Take life one day at a time and if you are starting to feel helpless, then reach out to someone you trust.

    You are trying to redefine who you are because you lost the role that you had when your loved one was still alive and that can take time.

    How should you spend that time?  Perhaps take some inspiration from the nuns and offer a helping hand to someone in need, and in offering assistance and support, you are also helping yourself by jumping back into life.

    Wednesday, July 4, 2012

    Happy 4th of July!

    Happy Birthday America!

    Today we celebrate Freedom, Democracy and Liberty all wrapped up and delivered in the most patriotic manner possible: parades, dressing up in red, white and blue, cookouts and fireworks!  Isn't that what makes America great?

    Hopefully, you don't have to work today and you can relax and enjoy the company of family and friends on this holiday marking the signing of the Declaration of Independence that formally announced the colonies' break from British rule.

    Today we also give our heartfelt thanks to our U.S. armed forces and their families who protect and die for our freedoms.  Thank you for your many sacrifices.

    Have a festive and safe 4th of July!!

    Tuesday, July 3, 2012


    I recently became familiar with the term YOLO.  My son used it in his graduation speech and I had to sheepishly ask him afterwards what it meant.  "Mom, you know, it means 'You Only  Live Once'!"  Of course I know the phrase, "You Only Live Once" and have heard it at least a million times, but I don't think of it as YOLO.

    It's hard to stay on top of the latest in lingo.  Everywhere I turn, I either hear or see someone saying YOLO or it's stamped on T-shirt's or painted and written as graffiti on walls and sidewalks.

    The rapper Drake started the trend earlier this year when YOLO was used as a lyric in a song called "The Motto," in which Drake sings, "You Only Live Once.  That's the motto baby, YOLO."

    I guess every generation has its own catch phrase expressing appreciation for the wondrous gift of life and that every day is the chance to go for it.

    It reminds me of the phrase (and I'm going to date myself here) "Today is the first day of the rest of your life" that was popular in the '70's.  I can clearly see the black and white poster in my friend's dorm room that was an enlarged picture of a guy walking along the shore with his back to the camera and this phrase is printed above in the clouds.

    When you lose a loved one there may be many times when you don't even want a new day to begin.  You want time to go backwards to when your loved one was with you.  You may not want to live, but your loved one wouldn't want you to approach life in that way.  Your loved one would probably want you to appreciate the time you have instead of vegging in bed and escaping life.

    We wish that our loved ones could still talk to us.  Wouldn't that be fantastic?  But they can't and even though you may feel their spiritual presence they can't communicate by having a conversation with you.  But I bet if they could, they would tell you to make the most of the time you have and remind you that. . . . . . . .   YOLO!

    Monday, July 2, 2012

    Niall Coti-Sears' Bravery

    Niall Coti-Sears
    Courtesy of Fox 5 News

    Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.  Niall Coti-Sears is one of the reasons we Americans have the freedom to exercise this philosophy.

    As we prepare to celebrate the Fourth of July this week and buy the fireworks, heat up the grill and make the potato salad, let us pause and remember the bravery of one young man who heroically fought overseas for his country and who makes our patriotic celebration possible.

    Lance Cpl. Niall Coti-Sears, 23, was killed in Helmand province, Afghanistan, two weeks ago while conducting combat operations, according to the Department of Defense.

    American military families can never be given enough credit and thanks for the sacrifice and hardship they experience as their loved ones travel thousands of miles away and put their lives on the line every day so that we can have freedom and democracy in the United States of America.

    Stories about the war in Afghanistan and details of battles and body counts are written about in newspapers and broadcast on air but the majority of us have become numb to the constant reports and hardly pay attention.  We forget that America is still fighting a war in Afghanistan until the tragic reality hits home.

    War is not something that happens to someone else's kids -- it happens to the young men and woman who live in our community.  It happens to men and women who went to school with our children and to the families you see in church or in the grocery store every week.

    A couple of summers ago I was introduced to Niall Coti-Sears at a friend's Fourth of July party and we all stood around while he talked about how he had just joined the Marines.  Niall went to school with the son of one of my best friends and I remember looking at him while he talked with the group about how much he loved the Marines and thought to myself, "Oh my God, he's so young."

    William Coti, 81, a retired Marine colonel who served in Korea and Vietnam, is Niall's grandfather.  William Coti told The Washington Post that Niall's patrol was ambushed and that Niall died of wounds received in the attack.

    My heart and prayers go out to his mother, Susan Coti, for I will never imagine the depth of what it feels like to travel to Dover Air Force Base to claim your son's body.  But I also offer my humble thank you for having a son so brave, so heroic that he fought and gave up his life for the United States in Afghanistan.

    This link will take you to the story that Fox 5 News aired on Niall Coti-Sears: