Sunday, June 28, 2009

Sandy's With The Angels

Our oldes doggie, Sandy, is with the angels as of this morning.

I write about our dogs sometimes. We have three, all golden retrievers. Sandy is the oldest, at 13 1/2. She is not a specimen, as my father in law calls purebreds that are truest to their breed. She is more of a field golden - short hair, reddish color, almost like an irish setter in color.

Over the past few years she has begun to have health problems and had been slowing down. She has had several surgeries, to cut out this or that, as well as other treatments. I tell friends, remember, we live in Jersey. It remindes me of the Steve Goodman song, Watching Joey Glow, about a kid that lives near a nuclear reactor - lovely. We live in a great area, no nuclear reactor or chemical plant, but it creeps me out to watch our animals get cancer.

Sandy has always held her own. She has had a number of health problems over the years but was always spritely through it all. In the past few months, however, she had been slowing down. She has always been the alpha dog, and the matriarch of the other dogs. She was loving and gentle. She was born on Christmas Eve, and really has been a special treat and gift to us. She recently allowed our youngest doggie, Janey, to become the alpha. She has passed the baton.

She still made it up the stairs at night to sleep in our room, but finally gave that up a couple of nights ago. The vet has prescribed some pain medication and she had been getting into palliative care. We savored these last days with our girl. One of my friends asked me recently if she was hanging on for us, if we have told her it is okay to go. It really got me thinking.

Our daughter Julia has been away for 6 weeks and just got home a couple of days ago. Sandy loves Jul (all the animals do). I think she was waiting to see Julia. Please send blessings and prayers to our girlie Sandy.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Whatever Works

I love the new Woody Allen movie. My family will tell you, however, that I say this about each of his movies. The theme behind this particular film is - grab a little happiness whenever and wherever you can. Though this isn't my usual philosophy of life, there are many places that my philosophies intersect with Woody Allen's.

Larry David, creator of Seinfeld, is brilliant as Boris, the lead character. Woody has finally found his guy, and a guy of such stature, at least to my liking. They are both understated and right in your face at the same time. Just the name of David's most recent program, Curb Your Enthusiasm, tells it like it is. He is the perfect protagonist.

Though I love all the earlier funny and later instrospective Allen movies, there was something about Whatever Works that just did it for me. Maybe it was just quintessential Woody - 21 year old girl asks 60-something guy to take pity on her and they fall in love. In the real world - what? In Woody's world, this is standard fare.

I always tell people, when discussing the upbringing of our children, that I raised my girls on Disney and Woody Allen. No apologies, just the straight scoop. They also received sacraments in the Catholic Church as kids, but I thought it was important for them to be able to wander the other side of the fence too.

Broadway Danny Rose was a biggie for our family - Acceptance, Forgiveness and Love. How bad can that be? Go see Whatever Works - laugh and be delighted!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Monkey Mind Wins

Today is a monkey mind day for me. I know this is a buddhist term for someone whose mind hops around from branch to branch, maybe stopping long enough to breathe for a second or two, maybe not. It is a bit different than being manic, then again, maybe not. Even though I had been meditating for many, many years, I had never heard the term monkey mind until last year when The College of Westchester sponsored a conference for one of our assocations, APC Colleges, on Lifelong Learning. Our keynote speaker, Dr. Jackson Kytle, author of "To Want To Learn", first referenced it when discussing lifelong learners.

I stumbled across the monkey mind today as I attempted to begin my weekly yoga class....yes...weekly. One hour, all week. Doesn't seem like a lot to sqeak out, right? Today, for the first time, after trying to work though my busy mind and into my body for almost 30 minutes, I decided not to fight it. It just wasn't worth it.

I picked up my mat and walked back to my office and got to work. It's okay, sometimes, to acknowledge what you need. Today my monkey mind needed to win.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Father's Day

We anticipate holidays as the joyous celebrations we hope they will be. Let me start out by saying that I am fortunate to have wonderful siblings and a great dad, my beloved mom (who passed away in 1999 at age 61), an wonderful grandmother, my inspiration (she is now 93), a great husband and two amazing daughters, sisters and brothers in law, nieces and nephews, fantastic cousins, and a father in law who I love dearly. In our many years of marriage (my husband Jim and I celebrated our 28th anniversary recently), we have spent every father's day with my dad.

This year, we decided to spend father's day with Jim's dad, Big Jim (dubbed by my sis Nancy). Big Jim is now 87, and is getting on in years with some of the unfortunate requisite difficulties, but he will always be bigger than life to me.

Big Jim never finished high school because his dad needed him at home and to help bring money into the house. He grew up in Queens and stayed there until he met my husband's mother and married her. He often worked 3 jobs to keep the family house in the black, something my husband will never forget. (My mother-in-law worked too.)

He was always a voracious reader, though in the past few years he has lost interest, we believe due to cognitive difficulties brought on by some type of water on the brain or parkinsons or a combination of things. He was been totally deaf in one ear since an ear infection at the age of 8, and has limited hearing in the other. He manages to hear, when his hearing aid is working, which seems to be less and less lately.

Conversation these days is difficult, but we all do our best, especially Big Jim. He and I always got along well, and have had many good conversations over the years. I miss those times. He and my mother in law Kay would come up from Florida to NJ most summers for two or three weeks to stay. Though it is bittersweet, when my mother in law was diagosed with cancer, they stayed with us for a number of months as she went through her many treatments. When Kay died, he stayed with us for several months again, helping me dig a new garden, and keeping us all in good company. Big Jim knew how to mourn, and tore up the earth instead of himself or us. We missed him terribly when he decided to go back home to Port St. Lucie. He had a wickedly sarcastic sense of humor, and could be counted on to be a wise guy.

When I worked as a counselor in hospice several years ago, I would often converse with people about their loved ones. So often they would say that they felt like their loved one was already gone, even though they were sitting right there. I'm beginning to feel that way about Big Jim, even though I am glad that I can still see him and visit him.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Learning something new

I've been away at a conference learning about a subject I know almost nothing about. I'm learning from scratch. There have been many times that I have been in this situation, starting as an absolute novice and have had to become an expert. It always starts out as a daunting task and then it is revealed - what a great feeling! Usually it takes a lot of hard work, and lots of help from others. I get to know other people and we rely on each other too. I've learned to trust the process to have patience, but to be tenacious.

The clouds are already beginning to part! Hallelujah!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

College time for Juniors - Don't sweat it!

Oh boy - I know so many people whose kids are juniors in high school. The kids are still in junior year mode - working hard, school year winding down, looking forward to the summer, having taken the SATs for the 2nd or 3rd time and not really serious about college yet. Their parents, however, already have that deer in the headlights look in their eyes. Let's not even talk about parents of students who just started college this past fall and the financial situation that created all that extra stress. Yow!

What a difference a year makes. However, it has gone back to the usual stress of where should my child go to school, where will they be accepted, what can I afford, will it be the right fit, etc.

I'm here to tell you that as long as you make those application deadlines, your child will be fine! I have been working with The College of Westchester in White Plains NY for many years. Working in the college "business" for so long really helped me get past the parental anxiety that creeps up on so many folks. Also, I've been through it. One of my daughters received her undergrad degree in May '08 and is now pursuing a masters, and my younger daughter has just finished up her junior year in college, so we know the drill. It can be fun, and good for your relationship, as long as you know that it will all be okay.

College application deadlines truly depend on the school (some have early decision or early application - usually Nov 1 or Nov 15, rolling admissions - they accept application all year, regular application usually Dec 31). Many schools are now offering a test optional policy, which means that they do not require a student to submit SATs or ACTs. Check with the school websites for their policies and deadlines.

And, most importantly, don't sweat it. Your kid is great. You are great. It's all good - really. There is a great school for everyone, and I mean everyone.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Make a plan

I made a plan today. I am going to the Newport Folk Festival with my daughters and my sis. Jenn, my youngest sibling, writes a column called Full Frontal for the Newport Mercury, and she covers all of Newort's festivals. When I was a kid it was a dream of mine to go to the Jazz Festival, the Folk Festival, etc. In the past few years I have been able to fulfill this fond wish. I have to tell you, it may be hot, it may be on an island that has almost no shade, but the music is worth it. Here is the link:
Also, it is great to make a plan. Making a plan can bring you up, help you transcend, give you something to look forward to. It can be a big plan that requires concert tix or moving or changing a job, or it can be a small plan like finding the latest Michael Crichton book at the local library or planning a walk when the weather breaks.

The important thing about a plan is that it makes you happy, doesn't break the bank, and is healthful for you. It should be thoughtful and definitely not detrimental to your wellbeing.

Good luck with your plan!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Nothing like a Saturday morning

photo of Janey and Sandy

I love a Saturday morning. When I was working toward my masters, Saturdays meant time for gathering up my assignments and heading to classes. For years before that I worked on Saturday mornings. The M-F work week was the work week, and still is. Now that I have an almost "normal life", Saturday mornings are precious, and mean working out, hanging with the dogs, trying out new recipies. Cooking can be breathing for me. I love being creative, and enjoying the fruits of my labor. I pick up the guitar or sit at the piano and play.

I open the windows and doors and let the dogs run in and out. I make lists of things to do and dream about future plans and vacation possiblities. I reorganize the pantry and look for fruits and veggies I've managed to misplace during the week and add them into our weekend food plans. I reconnect with friends and family I haven't had a chance to spend time with or talk to. I email chat with buddies.

I love Saturdays.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Vote for Noel!

photo of Noel D'Allacco

How cool is this? Our friend Noel D'Allacco has been chosen as People Magazine's All Stars Among Us, due to her charitable contributions in the community. Noel is founder and president of Operation Prom, a not for profit charity that helps underprivileged teens. She also works with me at The College of Westchester. Please follow the link below, select the Oakland A's, and cast your vote for Noel!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

65th D-Day Anniversary

It was great to be in France on the 65th anniversary of D-Day, Saturday, June 6. It was amazing to me that so many people don’t know what D-Day is. I know this is a new generation, and it is important for us all to heal and move on, but it is also important to remember that there are sometimes tyrants in the world, and that there are also heroes.
My uncle was one of those heroes. He died just a year and a half ago. He was known as Mac, Joe, JR or Alfred, depending on who was addressing him. To me he was Uncle Mac and my godfather, my father’s older brother, Dad's hero and mine.
In the Air Force during WWII, he was a tail gunner shot down over occupied Orbec, France, missing in action while being nursed to health by a local family and reunited with ours, subsequently, by the French Underground. Henri Beaudet, the president of the French underground, and my uncle’s hero and another one of ours, helped our uncle Mac back to freedom, into my Grandfather Joe’s diner and into my Grandmother’s arms.
Coincidentally, or maybe not so coincidentally, Henri passed away just weeks before my uncle. I believe he helped my uncle back home once again. Being in France for D-Day reminded me of my uncle, of Henri, and the many other heroes of WWII and our fortunate way of life.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Some Photos From London and Paris

We have had a great time enjoying London and Paris during our quick trip. Photos so far....
Jim sleuthing in Paris

scene on a Paris boulevard
Julia in a new chapeau on a Paris street
Jim and MB at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London
Julia and a former soldier at the Victoria and Albert Museum

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Its enough to be on your way

It is hard to believe that a song can still reduce me to tears. Have you ever had that happen? I don’t mean just any song, but something has to hit you right. It can be something you hear for the first time and really listen to, whether a lyric or a melody, or even a chord progression or dynamic can do it. It can, of course, be a song you have heard many times before that you associate with a moment in time. I love those. I could write so many stories about these moments recreated by a spin of the song.

Music has that immediate effect on me. I guess that is why I love it so much. Jim and I are travelling today, and he always brings these fancy Bose headphones so he can listen to his i-pod in style. He popped the headphones onto me, and a James Taylor song started playing. It took about 5 seconds for the tears to start. The song reminds me of my mom. James wrote it about his experience around his brother’s death. It is an amazing song just hearing the story alone, but this song always struck a chord in me, and is embedded in my subconscious, just waiting till I heard it again, to bloom again. It is honest, has a sense of humor, but also goes beyond words, as all good music does. “Its enough to be on your way…”. This particular tune is especially nurturing to me as it reminds me that we are perfect at this moment in time, no matter what is going on, that the movement is a movement forward. How great is that? Or as Ina Garten would say, how bad can that be? And then it relates back to that vulnerability that James Taylor so often shows in his lyrics and melodies, so you don’t feel alone.

I was brought back to the present moment, after several minutes of flowing tears, by a rather decent airline breakfast (American Airlines) of cheese blintzes and fresh fruit, and a piping hot cup of tea.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Paranoia Will Destroy Ya

Do you ever creep into the realm of paranoia? I never go off the deep end, but I do play out scenarios in my head that may or may not happen. I know they are just possibilities, but they do affect my mood and color my conversations. A meeting at work, a relationship or conversation with a family member, has already been played out many times before it actually happens.

My colleague Mark calls this borrowing grief, or stirring the pot myself. Isn't that great? Well, not really, right? How often do other people in your life stir the pot for you? Let's not try to add to it ourselves. It may be an old habit. Time to break it, now.

I attempt to calm myself, to imagine exactly the outcome that will be most beneficial to me. Picture it now. Then back up your mind and remember how you got there - what steps you needed to take to get to that positive outcome. Wonderful! Now take the steps.

Outcome positive!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Still looking to us

We arrived in London yesterday night, met our daughter Julia for a late dinner and returned to our hotel, where we popped into the hotel bar for a nightcap. We met an interesting couple, she is Swedish, he is a Scot but they live in Dubai. We began a conversation about politics, and talk turned to our new President. It was amazing to me, during the course of the conversation, that it became clear that the world is still looking to the United States to set the tone for the world. After all that our country has been through - the war, the economic downturn and the massive corporate and political corruption - that the US is still our world's leader.

It made me proud to be an American, but I also shudder to consider the tremendous pressure that President Obama and all of us are under as Americans. It was the same feeling that I think that 1950's men would have had as breadwinner and head of household - responsible for everything, presumed to be all-knowing and strong beyond measure. Remember that program, "Father Knows Best"?
Scary, huh?

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Europe Bound

We have the opportunity to go to London with a little side trip to Paris. I am so thrilled. Last summer my girls and I went to London and Paris, not really knowing anything about either. We wandered around and found our way.
This summer, Julia, our younger daughter, is in London for six weeks taking classes and getting reacquainted with the landscape. We have the opportunity to visit her for a few days. She will travel with us to Paris. Unfortunately our older daughter Jess will not join us (she is in the black dress in photo). We will be staying in St. Germain area in Paris, which we loved last summer. There are so many wonderful places to visit. In London, we'll stay in Kensington, near Julia's dorm. We won't suffer.
More to follow.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The Need for Healing and Restoration

I've had a lot of changes and stress in my life in the past year, and even more in the past month. I'm not complaining; it is just the truth. I'm sure many can relate! As someone who works in the healing professions, you would think that I have a long list of healers with whom I am able to trade sessions. While there are many wonderful healers I work with, I almost never make time for myself.

What does time for myself mean? Taking time to exercise, to breathe and meditate, to write, time for energy work with my friend and colleague Paul Lamb (excellent reiki master, chi gong therapist, reflexologist, massage therapist), regular chiropractic adjustments with my wonderful chiropractor Dr. Eric Santo, occasional chats with my friend and amazing medium and healer Karen Noe, and massage therapy as regularly as I can fit it in!

What is the result? Healing, nurturing and restoration of spirit, physical energy and positive mood. I feel great! My mind is more clear. Pretty good, huh?

It is important for me to work with healers that I trust, which is why I am mentioning their names! In addition, personal growth and self awareness are goals that I prize highly in my healing work.
How can you fit in just a bit of healing and nurturing for yourself today?

Monday, June 1, 2009

Happy Birthday Joe

(photo of my brother in law Brian flanked by Joe and his son Joe)

Happy Birthday, Joe. My brother, Joe's birthday is today, June 1. If you know him, give him a call and wish him a good one! Joe is one of the finest guys I know. He is one of those go-to guys. I know I can call him anytime, for anything. I got a flat tire on the George Washington bridge - I called Joe. Needed someone to talk to a guy and straighten him out when we were in high school - Joe's the man. It has been many years since those days. Joe has kids in elementary school through college. My girls are both in their 20s. But we still laugh about the same stuff and the same phrases crack us up.

There are also many differences between us but those are mostly his many talents and abilities. When we were 15 and 16, respectively, our folks got us voice lessons for Christmas. I took my lesson first. I have a pretty good voice, but not professional. Then I sat back and Joe took his lesson next. He was so amazing that I gave up my lessons and got a reality check about both my talent (okay) and his (abundant and amazing.) He has sung professionally for many years and continues to do so occasionally, when the spirit moves him, usually in a Manhattan club. Joe has always gone by the stage name, Joe Francis, but since the Joe Francis of Girls Gone Wild phase (someone utterly different than my brother), it is hard to find my brother among the unfortunate mess of the other Joe Francis, especially on the web. I'll keep you posted on future events.

A recent article about Joe:
"Born in Connecticut, USA, Joe Francis learned his craft with the Glenn Miller Orchestra and studied voice under such renowned coaches as Vera Mazel and Maria Farnworth. ...Joe's professional singing career began in 1982, when among other engagements he opened for the famed comedian Henny Youngman.His rich and flexible baritone voice led him to tour extensively, performing throughout the US, Europe and Japan, sometimes playing in front of audiences of up to 40,000. In 1986 Joe decided to leave the Glenn Miller Orchestra and concentrate on developing a solo career, immediately earning praise from such celebrities as Jack Jones, Larry Hagman, and Miss Rosemary Clooney...."Joe Francis is that rare breed - a singer with a voice that is good to the ear....Later in the decade Joe was championed in the UK by the Sinatra Music Society.Award-winning producer Ken Barnes (who worked with some of the best, including Peggy Lee, Bing Crosby and Jack Jones) was brought in to work with Joe....Joe just doesn't sing a song he tells a story."...Drawing on the Great American Songbook, Francis has a distinctive intonation and impeccable delivery.Following the success of "Every Step of the Way" Francis enjoyed great success both sides of the Atlantic appearing on BBC Television with the BBC Big Band (conducted by Jack Parnell)....He was such a lyrical saxophonist whose knowledge of songs was staggering" Francis commented at the time. ...With a young family to support Francis kept his regular work to the local vicinity of New York/New Jersey such as gigs with the highly respected Tony Corbiscello orchestra, doing regular stints including New York's prestigious Rainbow Room. ...In late 2004 Francis signed with a new international management team, Damone Management Group, Inc. headed by Perry Damone, son of legendary singer Vic Damone....Recently Francis did a tribute to another Francis, one Francis Albert Sinatra, at the Bardavon Opera House in New York.Then, following a very successful UK tour in early 2005 and a successful new CD release "Easy to Remember", Francis is currently being considered for a leading role in one of UK's top West End musicals. At last, a new CD from Joe Francis, one of the all time great singers…." source