Helicopter Mom

Once upon a time in a far, far away land called Suburbia USA was a mom who wanted nothing more than for her children to succeed.  She brazenly confronted their teachers, yelled at their coaches, and incessantly hovered over her children, hence earning her the magnificent title of “HELICOPTER MOM”.

Generational demographer Neil Howe wrote that helicopter parenting is the parenting style Baby Boomer parents use in raising Millennial children.  In the bestselling book, Between Parent & Teenager, one teen complained,

  “Mother hovers over me like a helicopter….”

 When I first read that commentary the title of a Todd Rundgren song fluidly swept across my mind Hello…It’s me. That bold and blaring label slapped me across the face.  I was one of those moms.

Was wanting my kids to be successful wrong?  I don’t think so.  What was wrong was that I thought they needed me to make that happen.

Wikipedia: helicopter parents attempt to “ensure their children are on a path to success by paving it for them.”  

I was obsessed with my kid’s lives.  Perhaps it was because I had reached an age where I didn’t think I had a life of my own?  Maybe that’s why I tried so hard to make them need me.  I would have shoved my kids back into the womb if it had been an option.  So instead, I stayed on top of them every second of every day. 

Technology was my greatest tool. The celebrated birth of the cell phone was my best friend, my constant companion.  A University of Georgia professor refers to cell phones as "the world's longest umbilical cord". That’s a perfect analogy.

“Where are you?”……”Who are you with?”….. “Did you do this?  Did you do that?”….”When are you coming home?”.   “Why haven’t you called me?”   I called my kids at least five times a day. Looking back, I could have easily been called a stalker, which ranks just a little higher (or lower) than a helicopter parent.

Thankfully there are lots of things I don’t do anymore.  I’ve replaced many of my old habits with healthy new ones such as setting up boundaries. Boundaries keep me safe.  Boundaries keep me healthy.  Boundaries keep my blood pressure low. But I have not given up hovering. I’m good at it.  I only claim to have stopped doing it to my kids. The players have changed and so has the landscape.

Long before substance use disorder came slithering into my house like a poisonous viper, I spent ridiculous amounts of time hovering over things that I thought were important.  Maybe they were somewhat important at the time but nothing else mattered once that rollercoaster ride of addiction broke loose. Now, it was all about survival.

The past few years, I’ve spent a lot of time hovering over the illness of addiction and the beauty of recovery. It is a terrain I never imagined I would be flying over. I hover over my friends and many others who have lost a child to this illness. I hover over the people on social media groups that long for support or need a caring word or prayer. We’re all here, anyone who has lived through it, hovering and waiting to help.

Being a “has been” helicopter parent to my children has its pros and cons. Without those hovering skills I so carefully honed all those years ago, I could never have navigated my way through my son’s substance use disorder. Please read that sentence again.  I didn’t try to navigate my son.  I learned how to navigate myself.

I don’t mind being compared to a helicopter. Most of the people in the trenches of this ugly battle have the powerful characteristics of the almighty copter, the R-4.  Have you ever heard of it? It’s the one used primarily for search and rescue missions.

At one time, my cousin John was part of a reconnaissance company in the army; he shared a story with me about a particular type of search and rescue mission. The visual comparisons of these missions to what so many parents do every day on this addiction battlefield is striking.

STABO is a term used when a copter hovers on a rescue mission and multiple rope lines are dropped down to the people below. The rescuers dangle together as a team, with their arms and legs intertwined. They are able to swiftly rescue many people at a time while still hovering, without landing.

I’m envisioning parents, support groups, strangers banding together with strength in meetings, the fellowships and parenting groups. Tens of thousands of parents are searching for one another on private social media groups, for support groups, for sober living, for treatment centers, for information!!!!!!!  We are all searching for answers while on the hunt for recovery. We are intertwined searching and rescuing each other as we try to rescue one another’s children from the deadly grasp of addiction. 

Those rescue lines are our new umbilical cord. We drop a rescue line to our children if they are drowning in the dark tumultuous sea of substance use disorder.  But it is essential to remember that we cannot jump in to try and save them. If we did, who would hold the ropes? We would all end up drowning. We can only pray that they want to save themselves and grab on to that line as tight as they can. We have to stay strong in order to support their journey upward.

I spent a lot of time searching for my son in the early days of this disease. Now, I still spend endless hours on the computer searching, gathering, reading and educating myself on addiction and recovery. With new information and options appearing every day, this task of searching never ends.

I knew I could never “rescue” my son.  It took me a while to figure out that the only one I could rescue was myself.

To all of you stealth fighter helicopter parents, remember to take care of yourselves while navigating this turbulent tumultuous flight. Even the strongest and toughest helicopter can vibrate so much that it will shake itself apart. 

Helicopter parents are described as“stealth fighter parents who strike without warning and vigorously in the event of serious issues.”

 I read that EVERY FOUR MINUTES we are losing a child to the disease of addiction.  I’m pretty sure that encompasses the characteristics of a serious issue.

Once upon a time is right now.  Every minute counts.  This is not a fairy tale.  This is reality.

 

If you are in need of support, compassion and information please visit the public page of a wonderful organization for whom I wrote this blog post for.  This is the link to their public page where you can find private groups to join.  

 https://www.facebook.com/groups/TAPUAlliance/

 

Anita Devlin

 

Co-author of S.O.B.E.R.*  …… available on amazon

www.anitadevlin.com

http://speakersforchange.org/anita-devlin

 

My Daughter My Self

I haven’t paid attention to my blog in a very long time since all I seem to do lately is write about addiction all day every day.  I’ve been neglecting so many parts of my life that are evolving around me spinning faster and faster as I get older and older.  I preach constantly to mothers about how important self-care is and that we must do things for ourselves that make us feel good without feeling guilty about doing them.  It’s easy to talk about but sometimes it’s not so easy to do.  I recently was consumed with helping people who in the end didn’t really want help.  I ended up working harder on their “stuff” than they did and this put me right back in to that dark co dependent state of mind where I ended up being really sick.  Again.  Physically, emotionally and spiritually.  It didn’t take my sons addiction for me to fully understand what co-dependency was.  It took a few mothers who pushed me back in to being “that” kind of woman which made me finally realize what it actually means.  Whatever and however it happened, it was really bad.  Everyone who cares about me saw it happening but knowing how stubborn I am they let me ride the unhealthy wave until I crashed and burned all on my own.  And now…….I finally get it.  And now I know that I will hopefully never ever go back to that place again no matter how angry someone gets with me for not participating in their own sickness.

Once I started to come out of this mess, I shed the anger, amped up the good karma and jumped in the car with my husband Michael embarking on a mid life cross- country trip. Never once looking in the rearview mirror, never feeling guilty and totally focused on the final destination to my happy place.  The place I don’t get to be very often because I’m a big baby and hate to fly.  I’m not afraid of something happening, I just don’t like being squished in between hundreds of strangers knowing that there is no escape.  Claustrophobia has crept in to my dna make up along with other new and uncomfortable feelings as I get older.  I wasn’t sure how this 5 day journey would turn out being with only my husband and wondering what the hell we would talk about for 5 days straight all alone in the car.  I prepared for the trip with lots of downloaded podcasts and an awesome playlist mixing his Allman brothers, Grateful Dead music with my Adele and Pink songs intertwined.  The journey turned out to be epic.  From the truck stop diners in Kansas to the Bellagio in Vegas.  From staying with and dining with my best friends kids in Colorado to driving through the most majestic sites that you’d never experience through a little window on a plane, to meeting amazing people (and dogs) at every stop along the way.  What a great way to experience America.  And doing it with my best friend, my husband, was one of the happiest times we’ve had in a long time.  It doesn’t matter after being married for so long if you have nothing to talk about.  All that mattered was that we were together and I was on my way to my happy place.  I was on my way to spend time with my daughter Alex. 

Alex.  My daughter.  My self.

Maybe if she lived closer to me and we saw each other all the time, I wouldn’t have the opportunity to actually “see” her for who she has become. It’s difficult with the time difference and the fact that I am asleep before she even gets out of work everyday to talk as much as I’d like to.  This is the reason I drop a call no matter who it’s with if her number pops up on her way to work.  I could be on with the Publishers Clearing House guy saying he was on his way over with balloons and a check and I would still hang up to talk to my daughter.  Okay maybe not him but everyone else, yes.  I walk down the city streets and see mothers and daughters together and I cry.  I hear them fighting with each other at the table next to me at dinner and I cry.  It’s quite the unexplainable phenomenon happening to me. The older I get, the more I want to be with my daughter.  Don’t get me wrong.  I looove my son and I loooove my husband but this relationship is comparable to none.

I knew from when she was a little girl, and convinced that she was Dorothy, that one day she would find her way to OZ.  When she beat up a little boy in elementary school for pulling her hair, I felt secure knowing that through life, she would take shit from no one.  When she was sad, I was sad but when she smiled my world was a happy place. I watched her graduate and go to a college that wasn’t her first choice.  She knew where she wanted to be and had a plan so she worked as hard as she could and transferred to that school the following September.  She was in Boston and was a car ride away, which was more than awesome.  I can remember moving her in to her Boston apartment and when I drove away I was a little jealous.  I admit it. I felt as if I was leaving a little bit of my younger self behind in that brownstone and driving an older version of myself back to a home that was going to be very quiet with her gone.

I can also remember the day she told us that she was doing an internship in California and that she wanted to move to the west coast.  I knew I couldn’t be mad at her and could only be mad at myself for being afraid to fly.  I can only recall a few other times when I felt as sad as I did that day.  But how could I be mad at her? She knew what she wanted to do and no one was going to stop her.

She was just like me.

Our time together in California was filled with epic mother daughter time.  Perhaps it wouldn’t be that way if we lived in the same city. Maybe its because I knew our time together was limited and therefor steered clear of any arguments.  We threw out most of her furniture and redid her apartment.  She took me on a wine tasting safari in Malibu and we hung out with an awesome giraffe. We were up all night one time worrying about the baby coyote that was crying for its mother. ( I snuck out looking for it when she fell asleep of course.) We spent lots of time with family and friends and made new memories.  I bought her a keurig and some new mugs so we could sit together in the morning having our coffee while solving life’s problems.  It’s times like this when life crisscrosses over and a daughter becomes your best girlfriend.

This is when I would look at her and see myself.  This is when I would look at her, really look at her and see my own mother. Although my mother passed away when Alex was only 6 years old, the bond between them was stronger than anything I had ever seen.  I would watch her now, every day getting ready for work as she would pick out something of my mothers to wear. Whether it was a silk scarf or a ring or a bracelet, she always has something of my moms with her and on her.  This is something that I have never done but have started to do since I’ve returned home.

My mother      my self     my daughter   

My daughter is tough but sweet and as smart and loyal as a lab.  She has always known what she wants and doesn’t take no for an answer.  She is the greatest friend that anyone could ever ask for and I am so lucky that she is my girl.  She is thoughtful and funny and takes good care of her mind body and soul.  She did not get that from me.  She’s learned that on her own and now she’s teaching me things that I never took the time to figure out for myself.  She has watched me for a long time but now I am watching her and I don’t even think she knows it.

She stuck by her brother through his addiction and guides me now through his recovery.  She has so much clarity at times when my actions are clouded by emotions and has the good sense to set me straight.  She was neglected through those years by me when I was so focused on my sons illness but told me on this trip something that made my heart explode.  She told me that from all the bad that happened, much good came out it.  Besides her brother’s recovery, the way I parent has totally changed for the better.  I don’t tell her what to do anymore.  I just listen.  I don’t try to fix anything for her either. I let her figure it out.

Our children are watching us. Life throws many struggles in our paths and we cant fix a problem for our children every time they have one. The greatest gift we can give them is to teach them to struggle well.  I know my daughter can struggle on her own now.  I’ve watched her do it and have seen her end up on the other side of that struggle.  I’m so proud of who she is and can’t wait to see where she goes on this journey through life.

She is becoming me and I am becoming more like her.

Facing my fears one at a time now. My fear of flying is not as great as the thought of not being to see my son or daughter whenever I want to.  This is why I threw my car on a flatbed and got on a plane last week to fly home.  I’ll wait another few years to do that cross-country drive again for fun. But there’s no way I’m waiting that long to wake up and have coffee with my little girl ever again.

I love you Alex.  Always be true to yourself because you are worth it.

 

P.S.  I’m still waiting for my car

Ya Gotta Believe!

When I was in high school I can remember in almost every class asking myself “When am I ever going to use this information in real life?” So during math, science and history, I completely tuned out. So much so, that my father loved saying that I graduated “Summa Cum Lucky”. Today, 40 years later, he would be proud to know that one of the greatest joys in my life is reading a really good history book. On the upside for me, is that reading history is now... is like reading mysteries that have yet to be unfurled! They have introduced me to human beings who inspire, amaze and astound me. Believe me... no one is more surprised than me that my favorite author is David McCullough. He has authored, “John Adams”, “Truman”, “Benjamin Franklin”, “The Wright Brothers” and a host of others. These men stand as a great example of the importance that character, conviction and courage played in shaping the history of the world.

All of these men had to possess certain qualities in order to achieve their goals. The most apparent to me was their perseverance. All of these men were creating something, that in the history of world, had never existed before. Steve Jobs may have transformed the telephone into a cell phone that takes pictures, videos, speaks to us and may one day do our laundry... but... Alexander Graham Bell came up with the original idea. He is the one that thought he could create an instrument that people could speak into and communicate with someone else in another place. General Electric may have perfected the light bulb but...it was Thomas Edison who came up with the idea and invented it. Ben Franklin set out to see if he could harness electricity, before the word was even in existence. The Wright Brothers tried for years to build a machine that would fly in the air, they didn’t know how, but they believed it could be done, and so they spent years bringing the “fly machine” into existence. In all of these cases these men failed over and over again. Many of their peers not only doubted them, but also thought of them as idiots for wasting their time chasing a ridiculous dream. These were brave men, as they had the courage of their convictions.

How did they do it? Through perseverance, and that is what changed the world. you examine it, there, just under perseverance... is belief. First they had the idea,then believe it could be done, then figured out how to do it, all the while they had to learn not to give up. You need to believe first, then persevere to accomplish that which you believe in. That is the lesson to be learned from history. Even President Calvin Coolidge said:

Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan Press On! has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.

If there is something you feel you are meant to do, or invent, or discover, or share, and you believe in it, then simply “press on”. The key is all in the believing. Back in 1969 the slogan for the New York Mets was “Ya Gotta Believe”. Once you know it, then pursue it, and never, never give up. Remember it can not simply be something you would want, or like, it’s not even a wish, or hope. It is something that you KNOW you can accomplish and could devote all your time and energy to, even in some cases, your entire life.

When reading “The Wright Brothers” the lesson was that these two men KNEW without a question in their minds, without the slightest doubt, that man could build a machine that could fly. Once they knew that, then all they had to do was figure out how to do it. They studied birds for years, they worked day and night, they failed time after time after time, but each time they failed they learned something new. If they hadn’t believed in what they were doing they would have eventually said to themselves, “Well I guess it can’t be done”. But they didn’t, and that made all the difference. What kept them going was their unshakable belief in what they were doing. They knew it could be done and wouldn’t give up until they figured out how.

Thomas Edison tried over 1,000 time to invent the light bulb. When a reporter asked “How did it feel to fail 1,000 times?” Edison replied, “I didn’t fail 1,000 times.The light bulb was an invention with 1,000 steps.” As my mother would often say “When you lose, don’t lose the lesson” and these men didn’t, it’s how they succeeded... by failing.

So if you’re afraid to fail, you’ll never have an opportunity to succeed. Let your mantra be “You gotta believe” for that is the foundation of all else. If you believe you can be a writer, or lose 30 pounds, open your own business, buy a house, or chase a dream, know your success all balances on the depth of your belief in your ability to achieve it. The great Winston Churchill wisely said “Success is not final, and failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” Go ahead, find out what you believe about yourself. Make your goals, find your courage and then go after it... elbows, knees, and teeth!

 

By Nancy Witter

nancywitter.com

A Painful Loss

In life, the loss of someone you love is difficult and causes an indescribable emotion and a reality all of us must face.  It’s been a few months since my dad passed and I can only describe the loss as a feeling of sadness and heaviness from head to toe. Little did I know the loss of a parent would be so intense and debilitating?   My heart was broken and a piece of my soul became irreplaceable. I understand death is apart of living life; however, it’s a difficult emotion to wrap your mind around.  I believe, the degree and depth of the loss varies greatly from individual to individual, from relationship to relationship.  Fortunately, I had a wonderful and close relationship with my Dad; therefore the void is one I had never imagined.  He was my confidant, hero, and a man who encouraged peace and love throughout my life.   My dad never completed high school; nonetheless, became a successful entrepreneur who provided more than adequately for his family.   He worked hard and strived to do his best everyday; and expected nothing less from his family.  He clearly taught me the value of working diligently and striving to do my best.  I discovered that having a positive attitude is a gift we can give ourselves everyday and has the power to turn a struggling day into one that is filled with gratitude. Everyday I attempt to fill my mind with phrases and meaningful mantras to empower my day. I didn’t always have an optimistic attitude but have worked non-stop in pursuing one. My dad worried about everything and everyone.  He seldom shared his worries when I was growing up; but during his last few years of life, he shared some of his concerns.  I assured him all would work out.  He never stopped worrying; it was just who he was.  

My Dad was a man of integrity, strength and courage. There was never a job to challenging he didn't attempt to accomplish - a quality I have depended upon during my battle against breast cancer.  He never gave up on anyone, not me, my husband, especially not my children.  It didn’t matter how many difficult choices we faced as a family, he was there with an open heart, and an honesty and truth that was steadfast.  His love was there, strong and free of criticism. How easy it would have been to judge, but this kind and patient man never criticized any of us and forgave unconditionally.  He continued to provide encouragement and love as we moved into the next chapter of our lives.  In those days, he shared his worries only occasionally.  Needless to say, my Dad was a tremendous part of our everyday lives. If he wasn't making chicken cutlets deda's were the best, building fences with Scott, planting flowers with mom, or strolling his grandchildren, he wasn’t living life.  His grandchildren were his sunshine, each and every day; we were all truly blessed.

My Dad reassured me that I was a wonderful daughter, sensitive and kind.  Towards the end of his life, I knew he was not well and decided to spend extra time with him. Through our many conversations, he expressed how he wished he could do for me now.  I took his hand and looked into his eyes and replied, you have done for me all my life and it is my time to be there for you.   My Dad lived a life of strength and courage, of which I was familiar.  He showed me how to be fearless and strong.  I ask myself, what will I do without him? I will be strong and fearless and allow his memory to thrive in my heart and soul.  I believe my father’s legacy of love and kindness, patience and understanding and forgiveness and compassion will live forever in my heart and in those who have known him. 


By: Janet Muller

www.yogabyjanet.com

Why I Run

My reasons for running have changed over the years from a desire for fitness, to compete in races, and to decompress from the mental weariness that came with being the mother of an addict. Now I run to cope with and to overcome the despair from the death of my only child to a drug overdose

My only child was found dead in his apartment on Feb 12, 2014.

He was only 26.

 

I run for those who have lost their lives to addiction.

I run for those who continue to struggle.

I run for addiction awareness and prevention.

 

I run for those who believe it could not happen to their family.

Running brings life back to me through body, mind, and spirit. As I listen to my breathing and my footsteps, running reminds me that I am strong, that I have purpose, that the world is still beautiful, and that life really is a gift in spite of the grief and sorrow.

I run to remember my beautiful boy before addiction caught him in its ugly snare. Grief has been my greatest teacher. It has taught me to pay attention, to remember that each moment is sacred and may be the last, to love the gift of life and to practice gratitude.

If God had whispered in my ear moments before the nurse placed my newborn baby boy into my arms, "there will be much heartache on the road ahead and you can only have him for 26 years...do you still want him?" My reply would have been a swift and resounding “Yes”.

Eric was 16 years old when he hurt his back playing high school football. When he was in pain from standing so long at the neighborhood restaurant he worked at, his boss gave him the painkiller oxycontin.  He told him to take them because they would make him feel better and to keep on working. He gave Eric those pills for quite some time.   A drug addict was born and the living nightmare began.

Eric would lie. He would steal. He would do whatever he could to get the drugs he needed. He became someone I no longer recognized. I cried, begged, enabled, threatened, screamed and used tough love. I became addicted to his addiction.

How I managed to keep my job was a miracle. How my new husband came into my life and actually stayed is a miracle. How I didn't have a breakdown is a miracle. I kept it all hidden from friends and family for many years because of the awful stigma associated with addicts.

I was still trying to protect my son. I would have given my life for him.

I run to feel alive ………… as I leave tiny bits of grief on the road behind me.
— Kimberly Griner Heinz


Now that you’ve read her story would you please take a moment and click on the link below to vote to get Kimberly on the cover of this magazine to spread the word and raise awareness.  A click on a link is so powerful.

Thank you all.

- Anita Devlin


Runner's World Cover Search

Dad's Day

With Father's day approaching this weekend, I can’t help but pause often in the next few days to remember.  My own beloved Dad, passed on 16 years already, still makes me smile when I think of him.  Strength, courage, kindness, faithfulness, hard working. . . all those qualities aptly describe, but his sense of  humor and ability to make a simple thing fun is what I enjoy reflecting back upon at this point in my life.

I've never bought into the sentiment which says "we don't need a single day to remember our parents; we should do it everyday", and "that kind of holiday is just a money maker for the greeting card companies and sales pitches".  I still believe that taking the time on those designated days to actively remember and honor the Moms and Dads who were our lifelines growing up, is a simple way to say thank you again and again.  In reality, not more than a day goes by when I don't consciously or unconsciously think of both of my parents.  Busy lives . . . we all live in a crazy busy world.  But just knowing that even during my most stressful and difficult situations, asking myself WWMD, or WWDD, is still comforting and healing most all the time.  There is a huge part of them both in my heart and I carry their wisdom and grace, along with the warm memories of the unconditional love they shared with me . . . it's always there, even though they aren't.

Funny how some things just jolt you back to a moment, a place, an experience so randomly.  But then again maybe it's not really all so random . . . 

My Dad always had his binoculars at the beach. Whether he was fishing, walking or (rarely) sitting with my mom and us kids, he had those binocs hanging around his neck, waiting for a sight of something big coming along on the horizon. A huge barge, a liner from another country, a sailboat that caught his interest. He'd watch carefully to determine whether the boat was going to turn north towards Boston, or, continue west and enter the Cape Cod Canal.  When that precise moment of direction determination was established, I can still hear his voice; "ok kids let's go" and we'd all five pile into the station wagon to make the seven mile drive down 6A to the Canal, hoping to make it in time to watch whatever it was pass right by us.  The moment when he’d check to the left to see if it had already passed, and the relief when he could see it approaching through the canal entrance on the right instead.  Shipmates waving to all the bystanders, flags blowing, spray flying onto us.  It was a good memory.

I haven't done the "catch-the-ship-run" in probably 50 years, but last summer I did.  I don't really know why, but in remembrance of my Dad, when I saw that gorgeous 3 masted sailboat flying westward across the horizon, and I determined it was entering the canal, I jumped in my car and took that ride again.  It was exciting actually, to remember doing it then, and to be doing it again.  I made it there just in time.  Just as the schooner was entering the long pass of the canal.  That moment I felt like my dad was right by my side once again.  Happy.  

So for all those random moments that happen throughout the year, when it's not even Father's Day, I say: Hi Dad.  Love you. Thank you.  And because it's your special day Sunday . . . Happy Father's Day.  I'll be there to remember.


By: Alicia Chimento

http://aliciachimentodesign.com

The Good Old Buddy Horse

I live near Belmont Park Racetrack in Floral Park, New York. It is where the last leg of the
Triple Crown is run. Since I live close to the racetrack I go more than I would if I lived
anywhere else. My favorite part is the pageantry before the race is run. The Racetrack Bugle
Page playing “Call to Post”, the excitement when you see the magnificent thoroughbreds come up through the tunnel out onto the track, and jockeys wearing their dynamic colored “Jockey Silks”. But of all the racetrack traditions my favorite is that of the “buddy horse” or escort horse, walking the thoroughbreds to the starting gate.


The job of the buddy horse is to keep the thoroughbreds calm by keeping them company as they make their way to the gate. They also serve by giving comfort and confidence to their
magnificent buddy. The thoroughbred looks at his buddy and thinks “Boy I am so much better
than this guy, I could beat him in any race!” And if that helps the thoroughbred win his race,
then the buddy horse is glad to oblige. After all, he’s just happy he isn’t the one that has to run, he just has to be a buddy… to the one that has to run.


The biggest difference between the buddy horse and the thoroughbred, isn’t breeding, it’s
purpose, you see in the same race they each have a different purpose. So it would be a mistake for the buddy horse to compare himself to the thoroughbred, or to try to run his race. There is great lesson to be learned from the simply buddy horse. That is, that we should never compare ourselves to others. If we do we will either become unnecessarily insecure, or unjustifiably confident, depending on who we compare ourselves to. Whenever I wanted to feel good about myself I would go to a Weight Watchers meeting and compare myself to the heaviest person there. Then I would feel like a super model, until I walked outside and bumped into someone in a size six, then I thought “Oh boy I gotta get myself to a Weight Watchers meeting”!


Once we know who we are, and learn to run our own race, we get that much closer to self-acceptance. Self-acceptance is how we feel when we do our best, know our strengths, and accept our shortcoming with humor and grace. The buddy horse accepts who he is, and is happy to make the thoroughbred feel like a winner. He knows he’s not in competition with him, he’s happy to be who he is. It takes a lot confidence and generosity to do that. !
Sometimes in our lives we are the thoroughbred, and other times we are the buddy horse. As for me, I like it best when I’m the buddy horse. I love helping my friends to calm down and relax, it’s easy for me because I’m better at doing nothing than any of them could ever be. My friends are smart, hard working, achievers. I’m happy to be their greatest fan and biggest cheerleader. Pour them wine when they need it, and do nothing but watch bad TV when necessary.


I remember after my niece’s wedding, my sister who had been working on all cylinders for
weeks, finally sat down on her couch. It was midday and we had just completed a thousand post wedding errands. As we sat on the couch for a minute, I turned the TV on and did a little channel surfing as we “vegged out”. I came across the show “Snapped” a show about women who kill their husbands after they totally snapped! I asked her if she had ever watched the show and she told me she never had. So we ended up watching a “Snapped” marathon. Next to murderous, psychotic women we both felt like perfect, loving, saintly wives, and entitled to spoil ourselves.


After watching hours of non-stop mind numbing TV, eating pizza and drinking wine, she said
“Oh my God, I have never felt more relaxed in my life.” I said “That’s because I’m your buddy
horse, and if I can help you do nothing once in awhile then I’ve done my job. I’m happy as long
as you’re the one running the race… and I’m just the one walking you out to the gate!

Whenever I’m a buddy horse, I feel like a triple crown winner!

 

By Nancy Witter

nancywitter.com

Fearlessness Lives in Each of Us

The one-year anniversary of my son’s sobriety is approaching and my heart is filled with joy and gratitude.  I have remained by his side through the many ups and downs of his addiction and never imagined my life would be filled with such despair and darkness as it was during those years.  I have learned a multitude of knowledge of the do’s and don’ts in the world of addiction.  I understand I did not cause it, I could not change it, nor could I have cured it.  My son’s drug addiction became a family’s journey; we were all powerless.  I held onto hope as much as I held onto fear.  My world was overwhelmed but I never gave up on him.  With that said, I was by his side with each and every attempt to detox and there were several. One relapse led into another.  During his detox, he was restless and agitated, sweaty with chills, and trembled with nausea.  He expressed that his bones and muscles ached with pain.  I encouraged him to be strong and courageous and that it would get better.  Little did I know, and only because he shared them, did I hear of the mental demons of drug addition.  I knew he wanted this more than he wanted to live.  For one afternoon, he came home from a physically hard day of work, and expressed he could no longer go on like this. I was not surprised, and for a moment I felt relief, yet deep inside I was overwhelmed with anxiety for I knew it was going to be a battle. A challenging battle greater than being bullied by his high school peers, or failing out of college.  Perhaps an even greater challenge than dealing with his mom’s breast cancer diagnosis and chemotherapy, or dealing with the death of a dear friend 6 months later.  As for me, I became a sponge that wanted to learn as much as I could in the hopes I could help my son. On the other hand, I was filled with a scary notion of what others would think of my family and if they would judge us.  I observed his life spiraling out of control, as we all lived in the chaos of drug addiction.  I realized it was a beast that was beyond anyone’s control. 

Cognitively, I understood I was powerless over the situation; however, my motherly instincts continued to prompt me to find a way through this chaos. There had to be a solution, how was I ever going to fix it.  I felt alone and continued to explore options to help in his battle against this deadly disease. I was losing my son, how did this happen? I wanted to take on the challenge myself and I desperately wanted my kind and spirited boy back in my life not this monster that lived in his body. Although I was filled with fear and anxiety, I had no choice but to jump into a journey I knew very little about. Talk about fear? It’s a difficult task to let go of this kind of fear. Through experience, I have learned “fear” is a dangerous and crippling emotion and choices based on fear are deceptive.  How often are one’s choices made out of “fear” and anxiety of the unknown? What are their outcomes? Needless to say, there were arrests, followed by late night police call’s, a multitude of lies followed by denial.  The chaos prevailed and spread like an infection spreads throughout your body, until March 22, 2014, he had an awakening.

As parents, we feel the desire to fix, change, take on, and control as part of our responsibility in raising our children. Although we have these undeniable feelings, the bottom line is we don’t have power over the choices our young adults find themselves making. We simply don’t.  We do however, have the responsibility to teach and guide them values and morals appropriate in living a true and honest life.  We can only hope those values will impact and influence their choices.  

So on this day, I wish him one more day of sobriety followed by one more day of sobriety, followed by one more day of sobriety.  May his life be filled day by day with a sense of peace and solitude, and an inner calmness that brings clarity.  He has taught me many things, one of which is fearlessness.  I am fearless. “God help me be fearless”, continues to be a favorite mantra. I have learned to leave the old worn out stories behind and have developed an awareness that is indescribable in living life.  I have strengthened my ability to forgive and accept, to love unconditionally and to live an authentic life, honest and true. Now on this day, he celebrates one year and his desire to change his life one day at a time.  I am very proud of the person he has become; a man of integrity, responsibility and commitment, and someone who is kind and loving and who thinks of others before himself. 

From my heart to yours.

 

By: Janet Muller

www.yogabyjanet.com

 

Friends For Life

Nancy Joyce.jpg

Back in September of 1959 as I entered Marian High School in Framingham, MA I would have never imagined that 56 years later I would still be friends with people I was about to meet.

This Catholic High School was new.  It had opened its doors only three years earlier making my class, the Class of '63, the one which would make it whole.  MHS now housed four complete grades and, as is the case with most freshmen, the 180 of us who entered those holy portals were quite intimidated, not so much by the 4 floors of endless corridors or even by the stern demeanor of the habited nuns, but by the fact that we were the newbies, the lowest of the underclassmen.  We quickly realized we needed to bond to survive. This was not an easy goal to accomplish.

Many of us had found ourselves here by virtue of having attended various Catholic elementary schools in the area and were, although familiar with the Sisters of Saint Joseph, still quite impressed and intimidated by them.  No longer did we have Sister Mary Wonderful who had often coddled us through our first eight  years.  These nuns really meant business.  They even had names that prompted curiosity and awe:  Dennisita, Vincentius, Johnessa, Aquinas.  They were strict, demanded respect, and taught us everything we needed to know to get into some of the best colleges in the country.  

In an effort to organize us we were given home rooms according to the alphabet.  Since Joyce was my last name I was grouped with those H through Mers or middle of the pack kids.  This would not have necessarily been a bad thing, but since we were not trusted to change classes (the Sisters came to us) we were always together, rarely getting to mingle with those ABCers or XYZers.  Lunch, non-academic classes and after school sports, clubs and activities afforded us the opportunity to mingle and, being a relatively small group, we quickly overcame the stigma of alphabet.  In fact, we became close.

Sports were a huge unifying force.  We had great hockey, football and basketball teams which we enthusiastically supported.  We also had great parties after such events which brought us even closer in a more social way.  As we matured and began to cross those alphabetically imposed lines we spent many a night dancing in the knotty pine rec rooms of some brave parents. 

We also experienced an horrific tragedy which unified us in a way we would have gladly omitted. In our Junior year four students were in a fatal car accident.  Two extremely well known and unanimously loved kids lost their lives.  Attending funerals and sobbing together as teens is a reality slap in the face that unfortunately binds those affected in an emotionally unforgettable way.

We made the usual wonderful memories with proms, plays, championships, dating and friendships.  In fact, twelve members of our class found their love connections at Marian and married after all going separate ways to college.  We began having post graduate reunions, many of them.  They were all very well attended and immensely enjoyed.

In 2013 we met for our Fiftieth Reunion!  Of course, our numbers were fewer.  We had lost over twenty classmates and lost track of many more.  Those of us who attended felt closer than ever.  Our connections were instantly renewed.  We didn't waste time with boring banter.

Conversations were deeper. We spent three wonderful days reminiscing, dancing, eating, drinking and talking incessantly and longingly.  We laughed at ourselves and the foibles of aging.  We vowed to keep in touch, to do this reunion thing more often now.

Three weeks ago ten of us had a mini-reunion at the homes of alumni living in Williamsburg, VA.  This was truly special.  This was a realization of what it means to be life-long friends.  Our talks became even more intimate than at the larger events.  Differences of opinions were energetically aired on the subjects of relationships, change in religious and political perspectives, marriage, grandparenthood and death.  The deaths of parents, siblings, close friends and fellow members of the Class of '63 were inevitably followed by beautiful stories of those we had lost.

Two of my dearest friends were part of this warm gathering. It was dramatically brought home to me that in this fast-paced, disposable world it is love and friendship that keeps us warm, whole, stable, together.  We three all now live in different states and are at three very different places in our lives, but we have stayed close.  Through visits, phone calls, social media and trips to celebrate those "wonderful" birthdays that end in zeroes we maintain what I now consider a very sacred connection.  Another  such celebration is planned for the Fall, one that begins with the number 7!  How can this be?  It was just 1959!

By Nancy Joyce

Fix It or Leave It?

My parents have significantly aged over the past 3 years, specifically my Dad who at the age of 89 has been in good health and functioning well.  He is an active man, whether cooking, gardening, grocery shopping, driving my mom to and from places, or the handy man for his children, until he had his first fall and broke 7 ribs in February, 2013. His first stroke followed in November and his second one in December 2014.  With support and encouragement, he managed to pick himself up and return to a fairly normal life.  Although it was a bit more challenging than he revealed; I knew this was the aging process and I felt a downhill spiraling was imminent.  I continued to advice him to slow down and avoid multi tasking.  I encouraged him to listen and pay attention to what his body was telling him. 

 Unfortunately, his second stroke left him unable to speak and was one of the scariest times in my life.  I waited patiently and prayed he would regain his speech and overcome another physical hurdle.  Through months of prayer, positive mantras, speech therapy, physical and occupational therapy, he was blessed to regain his speech. Driving again became his goal and motivation; and in my mind, it was the last thing I thought he was physically and mentally capable of doing.  Despite the fact, I expressed his driving was not a good idea; I had no power to fix or control the situation.  Lucky for him, he was granted his license by the skin of his teeth.  I knew it meant a lot for my parents to maintain their independence, so now, my advice was drive minimally, avoid night time driving and rainy days, and be grateful God gave you this opportunity again.  Letting go of the need to fix, or change a person’s choices has been an on-going lesson for me.  I have struggled with this in the past with my children.  I wanted to shield them from life’s inevitable disappointments; and as parents, we enable and try desperately to control their decisions and their outcomes.  Often times their choices become not only their consequences but ours as well.  My husband and I finally came to the conclusion, our children needed to take ownership for their lives and only then would they realize they needed to make different choices.  Once we let go of the control to fix, our attitude changed, our fear lessened and we began to provide a support system that encouraged accountability, independence and unconditional love.  No one likes to see anyone fail, let alone our loved ones. And so it is, I must let my parents live the life they choose, love them unconditional and be there for support.  

 As many know, dealing with and watching our parents age can be a challenging time and change becomes inevitable.  It is heartbreaking to watch my parents live a life they are not good at living.  I can only imagine how difficult it is for them to transition into a different kind of life style.  I begged my Dad to slow down further.   Needless to say, there was another “accident” a fall that left my Dad with 7 more broken ribs, a broken humorous bone and 10 stitches in his finger.  After three long months of rehab, he has arrived home. Although he needs assistance, he is home and making progress.

 Why do we feel as individuals we must try to “fix” other peoples lives?  Why do we feel responsible for their choices?  Over the years, I have realized we are not capable of fixing other people’s lives.  It simply does not work and adds stress and anxiety into everyone’s life.  I believe the only person one can fix is oneself. Whether it is having the desire to fix our parents life, husbands, children, friends, employees, co-workers, the real fixing comes within each one of us.  We all need to make our own mistakes, learn to live with disappointment and frustration, and allow ourselves the privilege of learning strategies to navigate through the tough times and tough individuals we meet in life.  It’s never one fix but a continuous process of self-reflection that has the power to influence and change our relationships.   While parents, friends and loved ones are there to support and provide love and guidance, the true desire, effort and determination comes from within. I need to continue on my path of letting go of all that is out of my control and find the courage to heal and forgive so I can live my best life. 

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The Circle

Every once in awhile as I’m working, I'll catch what I consider Joni Mitchell's signature song on Pandora . . . The Circle Game. 1970. Ladies of the Canyon. Whenever I hear it, I'm thankful for her prescient lyrics, because it seems that no matter what stage of life I'm in, it always resonates. Today, at 70, Joni continues to develop her talents, as she walks around her own circle of life. New Boxed Set: Love Has Many Faces; A Quartet, A Ballet Waiting to Be Danced. New dreams. 

In my teens, the world was easier to grasp. Go to college, find a job, fall in love, marry; everything seemed so much simpler. "Promises of someday" made dreams seem not only hopeful, but attainable. And when things didn't go right, hey, there was always time to right them. New dreams, new promises.

When my children were young the lyrics made me a little sad; the way Joni described the passage of time in her own life made me wish I could keep all three of my daughters small forever, although I knew it couldn't happen. Cartwheels do turn to carwheels very, very quickly, but when you're in that stage of life, you're too busy to notice how fast those years fly by. 

Fast forward a few decades (ahem), and life is still full of the ups, the downs, the questions, the answers. At this stage, for me anyway, transition to a new path is fraught with decisions. Scary decisions. As a painter, should I stay on course, and continue doing what has made me happy for the last 20 years, or switch gears and try something new? When is staying safe important, and when is it time to make a change? As a freelance textile designer back in the 70's, it was a different world. A world when art was created only by hand. No computer generated art. No programs to learn. No files to create. And no one to see your work unless it was door-to door. All that's changed. Not to mention the hoards of younger, talented and more technically advanced artists who get it all. Understandably, it comes easy because technology has been their world for years. A bit daunting to try to catch up and get with the program. But . . . if life is a circle, then what the heck? Yes. A new venture is still exciting, and still fills me with hope. Eternal optimist I guess. Or just dumb enough not to know what I don't know. 

We're captive on the carousel of time. 

We can't return we can only look 

Behind from where we came 

And go round and round and round 

In the circle game.

 

Moving On. Growing Up. Looking Ahead.  All good.   Thanks Joni…..

 

 

By: Alicia Chimento

http://aliciachimentodesign.com

Eva Mozes Kor, a Survivor of Auschwitz with a Message of Ethics, Peace and Forgiveness

I am a mother, a daughter, a sister, a photographer and an artist.  I am also a clinical research professional.  While the creative part of my life is what I most frequently share publicly, I have always been very passionate about the work I have been involved in, since 1988, to bring new and better medical treatments to patients.  My responsibilities have always included protection of human subjects in clinical trials.  This is a legal responsibility, and very importantly, an ethical responsibility.  

Throughout my career, I have taught my colleagues the laws, regulations, guidance and industry standards that govern our work with human subjects.  In seeking out the history of various regulations I found a transcript of a speech given by Eva Mozes Kor to medical school students.  For years I incorporated Eva’s story and message into my presentations on the subject as it related to the Nuremberg Code as well as current laws.  With each session, people particularly responded to Eva’s message and asked to know more.  

You see, Eva is a survivor of the Holocaust who, at the age of 10, with her twin sister Miriam, was separated from the rest of the family who were all murdered, and was studied as a human “guinea pig” by Josef Mengele at Auschwitz. Subjected to horrific conditions and experiments, Eva and Miriam managed to survive the atrocities. They were photographed upon liberation leading the line of children who were imprisoned with them.

Many decades later, Eva related her experience to the work we do as clinical researchers.  She explained that: 

“Scientists must respect the wishes of the subjects…scientists should try to put themselves in the place of the subject and see how they would feel…scientists must never detach themselves from the humans they serve.”  Eva Mozes Kor, The Mengele Twins and Human Experimentation: A Personal Account, 1992

After years of telling her story to hundreds of people, I tried to find Eva.  Sure enough, I found her online and living in Indiana, and I invited her to my company.  She replied immediately, and within a month she came to speak to hundreds of researchers at Amgen!  The next year, I connected Eva to the Association for Clinical Research Professionals (ACRP) as key note speaker addressing thousands.  Though I expected to cry the entire time, Eva had us all in tears AND laughter.  Many people lined up to meet and thank Eva, and she graciously took the time to greet each one.

While her list of achievements is long, I want to note a few of the extraordinary things that Eva has done.  She founded the organization CANDLES (an acronym for "Children of Auschwitz Nazi Deadly Lab Experiments Survivors"), through which she located 122 other living Mengele twins.  She also founded CANDLES Holocaust Museum and Education Center in her hometown of Terre Haute, Indiana, to educate the public about eugenics, the Holocaust, and the power of forgiveness.  

Why forgiveness?  Eva FORGAVE Dr Mengele and the Nazis.  Shocking as it sounds, Eva describes how she came to do this and why she advocates for forgiveness.

An important part of Eva’s efforts has been to bear witness to the holocaust and find others who would step forward with testimony of what was done.  Eva found, interviewed and later also invited Dr. Hans Münch, a Nazi doctor who worked at Auschwitz, to document on the 50th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, her forgiveness of the Nazis, and Dr. Münch’s testimony that the gas chambers existed and were used to kill thousands.

“In my desperate effort to find a meaningful “thank you” gift for Dr. Münch I searched the stores, and my heart, for many months. Then the idea of a Forgiveness letter came to my mind. I knew it would be a meaningful gift, but it became a gift to myself as well, because I realized I was NOT a hopeless, powerless victim. When I asked a friend to check my spelling, she challenged me to forgive Dr. Mengele too. At first I was adamant that I could never forgive Dr Mengele but then I realised I had the power now…the power to forgive. It was my right to use it. No one could take it away.” Eva Mozes Kor

Eva Mozes Kor has spoken to countless schools, organizations and institutions, and has a message that is relevant for us all.  She has authored books and tirelessly speaks, teaches and travels to tell her story, to advocate for forgiveness, and even to peacefully protest on behalf of others, such as those in Darfur, who are now suffering under genocide throughout the world.  Each year in June, Eva leads an educational tour to Auschwitz…perhaps you will join her?

You may have seen Eva, now 81 years old, in the news recently.  In January 2015, she attended the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz by the Soviets.  Wolf Blitzer featured her on CNN in the powerful Holocaust documentary VOICE OF AUSCHWITZ.  HBO is currently airing the film NIGHT WILL FALL, narrated by Helena Bonham Carter, directed by André Singer (executive producer of “The Act of Killing”) and produced by Sally Angel and Brett Ratner (the “Rush Hour” series, “X Men: The Last Stand,” “Hercules”), including horrific raw footage and scenes from the 1945 documentary, insights from survivors, the soldiers who liberated them and including interviews with the filmmakers Bernstein (who later founded Granada Television), Alfred Hitchcock and director Billy Wilder.  I especially recommend seeing her award winning documentary FORGIVING DOCTOR MENGELE.  

What I treasure about Eva is that she is a mother, a wife, a daughter, a sister, a real estate agent, and a survivor…and that she tirelessly gives testimony to her experience and advocates for peace and forgiveness.  Hers is a message of hope and encouragement that I carry with me.  Her declaration at Auschwitz, twenty years ago, is a genuine hope for every person and for the world:

“Here in Auschwitz, I hope in some small way to send the world a message of forgiveness, amessage of peace, a message of hope, a message of healing. No more wars...no more experiments without informed consent...no more gas chambers...no more bombs...no more hatred...no more killing...no more Auschwitzes." Eva Mozes Kor

In May 2015 I will meet Eva again when she brings her message to Agility Clinical and hundreds more of our colleagues in clinical research.  I am thankful already for how she will touch our lives and influence our work.  I can’t wait to give her a big hug…and to take another picture with her!

 

http://www.candlesholocaustmuseum.org/

By Karin Lindberg Freda

Late Onset Waterworks

At some point in my 68th year I started crying.  It's been a year since then and I'm still blubbering.  I chock it up to age and nostalgia. 

Age and nostalgia combined can be a powerful force.  It can bring you to tears in an instant, or put a huge smile on your face for days.  Even the smiles, however, are soaked in tears lately.

Many things will set the waterworks in motion.  A sappy commercial is as powerful as an old photo.  When watching the Budweiser Clydesdales return an adorable puppy to its owner elicits the same reaction as viewing the innocence you see in yourself in your First Holy Communion photo or a snapshot of your best friend, now long deceased, you know you have a problem.  When the last minute Patriots Super Bowl win sets off your waterworks as quickly as a news broadcast of a terrible tragedy, you need to wonder.

The juxtaposition of happy and sad constantly producing the same spurts of saline has me concerned. 

It borders on public safety when a favorite song suddenly surrounds you from the car radio and you remember dancing to it with your first "true" love and your eyes fill up so much that you could use, not only the wipers, but the windshield fluid as well to cleanse the flow.  Compare that to the same gushing of tears that result after hearing of a friend's debilitating illness or the loss of a loved one.  I would expect these experiences would bring forth different responses. It would seem that the common denominator, tears, brought on by overwhelming emotion and exacerbated by the nostalgia that aging brings is quite a compelling combination.

Little kids are the worst tear-producing offenders.  My new best friend and 5 year-old great nephew, Aidan, is constantly hugging me and telling me he loves me.  This isn't just when I give him a special treat.  He's just a very loving kid who very often is given to spontaneous outbursts of affection.  I become a puddle.  He asks why I'm crying and I try not to scar him into never expressing love for fear of sending the recipient of his affection into depression.  I tell him that I'm old and that old people often cry when they're happy.  He doesn't understand and keeps telling me he loves me and not to be sad.  Of course, this only intensifies the flood.

Memories are also culprits.  Good memories and awful ones are equally egregious.  A wonderful walk down memory lane with a dear friend recalling a time that meant so much to both of you becomes doubly wonderful when viewed through the lens of a long life.  Equally, a traumatic memory again shared with a loved one reprints on both souls a second scar.  Both experiences bring forth tears, but tears of two very different calibers.  I don't know why, but I'm grateful for both varieties.  They each produce a catharsis that seems to cleanse and comfort.

Reconnecting with family and old friends seems to bring out the worst tsunami of the eyes.   I recently spent a week with my sister and brother and their families.  Forget it.  Everything from a simple hug to late night reminiscences to accepting the adulthood of my niece and nephews had me tearing up.

All this makes me cautious for an upcoming trip to see a group of very dear, longtime friends.  Will I need tons of tissues and bottles of red-eye reducer or will I be able to simply bask in the wonderful waters of sentimentality and, when the welling up organically begins, simply let it happen as a consequence of love, beautiful memories and the warmth of friendship?  I shall let you know, if I can do so without crying.

 

By Nancy Joyce

A Passionate Life

Often times people move through life unaware of what excites them only to find they are living a life of misery, struggle and frustration.  Discovering passion in life is a gift you give to yourself and to others. Are you aware of the gifts or talents you possess and are you able to share them to inspire others?

I believe everyone has unique talents that make them who they are.  Once one  begins to discover the talents and gifts that motivate and fuel their personal life, I  am convinced one will find purpose and meaning to their life.  To this day, I tell my children to explore that which motivates and energizes them, and what fuels their desire to learn.  There within that knowing, they will find happiness and success.  I have discovered that finding space in one’s day is a helpful tool in exploring new passions, or rediscovering old ones.  Being present and passionate about how you live your life is a much different feeling than moving through life with little or no purpose.  Should one continue to struggle? Is it time to create space and explore what fuels desire and excitement?  Is it time to step out of your comfort zone?   I often wonder if people truly believe they can’t choose how they want to live.  Choice is a freedom we are given as US citizens and determine and guide us into the life we live. Those choices can either enrich and empower or destroy and diminish the self.  I would much rather create a life I am enthusiastic about, a life that inspires me and radiates with peace and happiness.  I do believe, however, that it takes being present, fearless, vulnerable, courageous, and open to change to create a happy life. Not to say, there won’t be times that are out of one’s control, situations inherent in life that require hard work and determination to navigate through; but those times of struggle and turmoil are opportunities for growth and change.  Perhaps materialism, ingrained in the 21st century American culture, has darkened one’s ability to notice what fuels their fire, or has sucked the enthusiasm out of life.  Is it possible one is too busy to notice?

Teaching yoga classes and working individually with clients is what I was meant to do with my life. It is a gift that I can share with others, one that brings joy and happiness to my life and to those around me.  There is nothing better than seeing a student progress in a pose or come out of one that may not be available at that moment, or observing the collective dance of effort and concentration from each yogi.  When a student hugs me and takes a moment to express gratitude it fuels my passion and makes my heart sing.  When I first came in contact with Sandy Samberg in yoga class, I knew she was someone special.  Sandy is the President of a non-profit organization, SoleRyder’s who provide service to women fighting cancer. As a breast cancer survivor, I wanted to be involved, not just with anything, but with something I am passionate about.  Months later, Sandy found the perfect fit and I became a client coordinator for The Wig Exchange program developed in 2013. I not only am able to provide high quality wigs, but also emotional support from someone who has been there.  The personal connections I have made with people are indescribable feelings.

Finding passion in my life has brought me happiness, peace and success! If you are not at that point in life yet do not be afraid but continue to explore and listen to your heart.  Do not give up or allow fear of the unknown to hold you back; embrace fear and use it for empowerment.  I indulge in life’s blessings by surrounding myself with people who are kind, honest, and true.  I love to be inspired as much as I love to inspire.  Passion is contagious, so surround oneself with people who are enthusiastic about what they do and live a life they love.

By: Janet Muller

www.yogabyjanet.com

A Shell in the Sand

Visiting my family on Cape Cod in January always seems to come at the right moment and I am blessed to have the opportunity to be able to go. I try and take a trip by myself even in the cold winter months when Cape Cod returns to its natural splendor, free of traffic jams and wondering tourists. The air feels different and there is a feeling of “home” that consumes me. Standing on the beach in 30-degree weather and staring out into the ocean feels very different, almost meditative. It gives me a sense of renewal.  I take a deep breath and try to remember these waters in the summer months, alive with family fun and beachcombers. I hear seagulls off in the distance, boat horns as they signal their arrival. 

I notice a seashell that once housed a small tenant, empty and cold now filled with sand and dried seaweed. He has moved on to a bigger home ready to take on the world in a different way. He has grown. The shell is like a mother and the creature is of a child. The shell becomes too small for him and he is ready to break free.

I look at my life as it is now as I grow older and I find myself feeling a sense of peace.  I used to think that I am not fulfilled unless I am contributing to society and working full time. But as our boys grew older, I found that the past few years were a pinnacle time for me to be present more in their lives as many questions arise and new challenges are presented to them everyday. Don't get me wrong, they ask their dad questions too and have a different relationship, but there's something to be said about boys and their mothers. There is a bond that is like no other. 

Mothers of boys only understand this; it's special and overwhelming. Even though they grow up and throw piercing teenage stares, they also develop a “leaning toward dad” phase, which is normal for their development. As my father would say, 

"They will come back, they always do." 

I remember watching my brother when he was younger; bring our mother a cup of coffee to my parent’s bedroom. He was so very careful so it wouldn't spill. He wouldn’t reappear for close to 15 minutes and I knew they had been having their morning chats. I was a teenage back then and I thought he was just trying to get on her good side. I am very close to my brother now, more than when he was a teenager, and as I grew older I realized they had an unbelievable bond that couldn’t be broken. It was their “thing” and I didn't understand it. When my mother passed away, it was the hardest moment in my life, my entire family's lives’. My brother told that story at her funeral and he, along with all of us, expressed a wave of unbelievable emotion. 

As I walked slowly off the beach, the sand crunched beneath my sneakers. The wind was whipping sand around as it stung my face. My shadow is following me and my mother is walking with me. She is a part of me, in my face, in my heart and she has taught me to be who I am. I am blessed to have boys with good hearts and gentle souls. I am grateful to have special “things” that we share as mother and sons. I know it won’t last forever. My shell has become too small for them. They are breaking free. 

Confident. 

I am at peace.


By Susan Grady

Full of Grace

Nancy Joyce.jpg

I've been thinking about Grace this week.  Not the spiritual kind, although there is certainly much to be said about that.  I was thinking about my mother, Grace Elizabeth Murphy Joyce. Her birthday is January 15th.  She would have been 96 had she not died at the relatively young age of 64.  It hit me recently that I have now exceeded my mother's age by 5 years. Funny thing about the perspective of the young.  I was 38 when she passed away and I remember thinking she was old.  Not anymore.

My mother and I were close.  I was the oldest of her four children and she would often confide in me.  Looking back, I think she also enjoyed living vicariously through me.  She begged me for details after every social gathering I ever attended.  Whatever self-confidence I achieved I attribute to her.  When I would come home after a party or game or dance she would ask, "So, who did you see who you liked better than yourself?"  I would always laugh and proceed to tell her who said what, who wore what, and who was dating whom.  It didn't occur to me until I was much older that she was trying to boost my emerging and awkward teenage ego and also let me know how much she loved me.  

Grace was appropriately named.  I recently checked Webster's definition of the word.  Many of the synonyms described her beautifully:  full of kindness, gentleness, benevolence, mercy. Of course, these qualities were very evident in her interactions with her family.  She hugged us, encouraged us, imbued us with her love of education and, most importantly, helped us believe in ourselves and who we could become.  She did all this with grace, loving us unconditionally. 

This virtue called grace also carried over into her profession.  Grace was an R.N. and spent her whole career in the Maternity Ward.  She loved helping new mothers and they loved her.  They would request her for all their subsequent babies and she gained quite a wonderful reputation.  On many occasions her four kids would hear raves from her patients who were often our friends' mothers or neighborhood moms or, as we aged, our friends.  It made us all so proud to have a mom that so many people thought so highly of.

In our large extended family my mother was the go-to gal for all the aunts when any of the 17 cousins had a fever or rash or injury, no matter how insignificant.  With sincere concern she would calmly and professionally give expert advice.  Almost without exception, the following day she’d receive a heartfelt thank you with a report of a much improved patient.    

Naturally, as is the case with all of us in this condition called humanness, Grace battled demons.  Some she defeated.  Some defeated her.  That does not matter here.  Ultimately, she is remembered by all who knew her well as the epitome of her name.

On your birthday week, Mom, I send you back some of the love you so generously poured out on all of us.  I aspire to your GRACEfullness.

 

By Nancy Joyce

Girlfriends Walk

Walking yesterday in the sub freezing cold gave me a chance to think without distraction . . . it was too cold to take off my non-iphone gloves and check an incoming text, too cold to keep checking my pace, and too cold to use headphones because my head was wrapped in a fur trapper hat which kept moving with the wind and knocking out the earphones. So I just walked with my brand new hiking boots (yay) through the snow for about 2 miles. It was of nice to just “be” and walk, and not have to check devices or talk to myself about what needs to be done later or tomorrow. I thought maybe I should use this precious alone time to reflect on the some of the good friends that make me happy. Those I am grateful for. Not a bad thing to do as the New Year rolls in.

I started thinking about a close friend of 40+years who had texted me a few minutes before. I was so relieved that she had come through a major health issue and was on her way to recovery. Then the friend who, when we get together for our monthly coffee catch-ups about family and life, makes us both feel like we've solved the problems of the world. . . HA! The friend and former business partner who although I don’t see as much as I’d like to, always has a smile, a funny joke and a spiritual connection to share. Another friend who although is close in heart, is far in distance. It was a simple exercise in gratitude I guess. Having the good blessing of sharing and knowing and experiencing life's challenges with people who really understand. 

Girlfriends. 

Having a few minutes to really appreciate the time we have shared. I have always believed that God sends people into our lives for a very good reason. He gifts us with the people He knows we need. Sometimes it's companionship. Sometimes it's pure joy. Sometimes it's strength. 

When I think of a friend who has given me unending support & practical resources during a very, very difficult time, I think of Anita Devlin. Upbeat, informative, loving, caring, creative, strong, smart, funny, honest; what else can I say? How about author, filmmaker, mother, spokesperson? All these qualities make Anita the blessing she is to me as a friend, but to all people whose lives she has touched through her work for the Caron Foundation, her impact is immeasurable. Her work on their behalf is meant to be shared, so if you know of someone who needs some hope through the difficult process of addiction for a family member or loved one, please pass along this site to them....www.anitadevlin.com. Anita is there to help. That's her middle name.

The years fly by, and as this month begins, I want to wish my friend Anita the Happiest of Birthdays and all the joys of this coming New Year. Emily Dickinson is known to have said, "We turn not older with years, but newer each day." So true, especially for you dear Anita. Enjoy the next 365 day trip around the sun!

By: Alicia Chimento

http://aliciachimentodesign.com

Communicate For Healing

Communication is one of the most important disciplines to practice each and everyday. We communicate our thoughts and feelings through spoken or written word. Our words make us who we are and consequently impact the quality of our relationships. Lack of communication is the misuse of words and can initiate confrontation. Good communicators recognize the need to express their feelings in a way that does not diminish the other person. 

There are seven chakras of the body; the word chakra comes from Sanskrit meaning “wheel” designating energy centers in the body. Each chakra directly corresponds to different parts of the body. Chakra study is a holistic approach to living a healthy and balanced life. When each chakra is functioning normally, each will be open, spinning clockwise, and in balance. Often times this energy gets blocked or is not in balance, spinning out of control. When this happens, it leads not only to physical dysfunctions but also emotional, intellectual, and spiritual issues.

The throat (fifth chakra) relates to all forms of communication: self-expression, thought, speech and writing. The throat is where anger, frustration and disappointment are stored. When this chakra is out of sorts one holds back feelings, is timid and quiet, and has difficulty expressing their thoughts. Physical symptoms can range from sore throat, earaches, skin irritations, and back pain. 

I am someone who does not like confrontation and I avoid it at all costs. I try to let go of the fear, distrust and misconceptions perceived. When necessary, I put my best effort forward and try to find a way to communicate my feelings in a respectful manner, hoping my intentions are understood and acknowledged. I grew up in an environment that expressed emotions through eating or not at all. Whether happy, depressed, frustrated, or anxious, I was taught that the remedy was to indulge in food or ignore it for fear it may cause conflict. I was not taught how to communicate effectively and was not given the opportunity to express my feelings. 

As I get older and am more able to love and accept myself, I am able to communicate my feelings more effectively and less reactively. Being raised in a very reactive family, having the discipline to refrain and listen is a challenge to say the least. I use my ability to speak the truth with respect. I am getting better at recognizing the times that I need to communicate and the times I need to be patient and practice letting go. 

I challenge you to take an insightful look at your everyday thoughts and behaviors, your choice of words, and how you express them. Will you be surprised at how these revelations reflect and represent the life you live? Challenge yourself to aim true by communicating with words that echo honesty and respect, love and kindness.

By: Janet Muller

www.yogabyjanet.com

                                   

Growing Up Irish Catholic

Joyce, Murphy, Carney and O'Brien are the last names of my 4 grandparents, all born in Ireland.  Needless to say, I inherited many of the stereotypical traits, habits and influences one might expect from such a heritage.

Cuisine, and I use the term loosely, consisted of lots of potatoes (boiled, baked, mashed, frozen-fried & home fries), meatloaf, creamed peas and tuna, canned corn, and the requisite Friday night fish sticks, all dripping with butter.  My brother Kevin always said that food was simply the vehicle by which he obtained his salt and butter intake. Salt was the only thing that even resembled a spice in our house.  There wasn't even a pepper shaker! Herbs were two neighborhood dads.

School sandwiches had no jelly. Peanut butter and butter or sugar and butter on Wonder white were the delights d'jour.  Once in a while we were treated to bologna and butter.  The bologna was packaged in a plastic dome.  Actual deli meats were unheard of. I never tasted salami until college when I finally met an Italian.  Pasta was called American 

Chop Suey and was created by pouring Campbell's tomato soup over elbow macaroni and a pound of ground beef, the elbows far outweighing the beef.  Cheerios were breakfast fare or an occasional pancake dripping with (you guessed it) butter. 

Twelve years of Catholic school education were spent with the Sisters of Saint Joseph. I like to say I graduated from Our Lady of Perpetual Guilt!  In church, where we spent half our academic life, nuns with cricket clickers chirped directions.  One click/sit, two/kneel and three/stand. I have been afraid of crickets since second grade.

Learning the difference between a venial and mortal sin via a white chalk drawing of a milk bottle on the blackboard was traumatic. The bottle symbolized your soul, all pure and white.  If Sister Mary Knuckle Rapper wiped away several small circles, you had committed a venial sin.  However, if the entire inside of the bottle was suddenly wiped to black, you were doomed to eternal hell fire!

Marching single file to the bathroom required an aspiration contest pitting boys against girls.  Aspirations are very short exclamations of belief or petition such as, "Holy Mary, Mother of God" or "My Jesus, mercy." Once back in the classroom each student honestly told the number they had silently prayed and  Sister Mary (they all had Mary middle names) Rosary Beads would declare a winner by announcing that we had freed a total of 829 souls from Purgatory with our silent pleas to God, so it didn't matter who won.  Competition didn't matter, except when it came to buying babies.  That's right.  We bought African babies during Lent.  Don't ask.

Catholicism played an enormous role. There were Latin Mass every day during Lent, May Processions to honor the BVM, Christmas pageants & hymns and, most dreaded of all, the weekly trip to the confessional. Oh yes, the contrite "Bless me Father for I have sinned," followed by a very formulaic recitation of sins committed infused fear into even the most angelic. I now don't know why.  As a 10 year old there's not much to say after "I disobeyed my parents 4 times this week and I had mean thoughts."  Five Our Fathers and five Hail Marys later our tremendous guilt was somewhat alleviated until the whole anxiety ridden ritual loomed again the following week.

On the Joyce side, my father's family, I am the oldest of 17 cousins. Our families were quite intertwined.  There were endless sleep-overs, birthday parties, First Holy Communions and Confirmations to celebrate and, best of all, visits to Grammy's house.  One or two of us at a time were summoned to pick blueberries and stay the night with Nora Carney Joyce, a short, chubby mother of 7 and grandmother of 21 who spoke with a beautiful brogue, always wore an apron and thick stockings knotted at her knees, and who loved each one of us as if we were the only grandchild she had.  The fresh picked berries ended up in one of her infamous, sparsely fruited pies causing my brother to ask, "Who got the blueberry this time?"  She was a disaster of a cook.  All 17 of us were guilty of hiding portions of her greasy beef stew, runny eggs, dry muffins or ubiquitous caraway-filled Irish soda bread in the silverware drawer of the kitchen table.  That would necessitate a next day call to our mothers who would pretend to scold us, but who secretly didn't blame us. One time when Grampy asked for his favorite dessert, strawberry shortcake, she had run out of cake. She used a hot dog roll instead and piled on the frozen strawberries and squirt whipped cream.  He loved it.  

The memories are plentiful and precious, the traumatic having been soothed by years.  I view it all now as a composite of who I am, and am infinitely grateful for it all.

By Nancy Joyce

We Still Have A Dream

Protests in Ferguson, Los Angeles, New York, Abuja, Mexico City, Chicago, Pittsburgh,Tampa, Hong Kong, London, New Orleans, Guerrero...around the world in communities large and small, people of every age, race, sex, creed, use their voices and resources to call for justice, equality, freedom, action...

In reading the news of China's president announcing that artists, filmmakers, and TV staff will be sent to live and work in rural villages so that they will “form a correct view of art and create more masterpieces,” I want to share the story of a friend I once had.

I had the privilege of studying at Shanghai Teachers University in 1985 while I attended Rutgers University.  One of the Chinese friends I met there was an English student, top of her class and she had read every English book in the university library...not because she was a great reader, though she was brilliant, but because so few books were made available for fear of and out of disdain for western influence.  My friend's English name was "Judy."  

Judy, her father and brother were also Christians who worshiped privately and at great risk, given that faith in any religion (Buddhist, Confucianism, Christian) was considered illegal.

The last I heard from her (shortly after I returned home) she had been asked to join the Communist Youth. Such an invitation was to be considered an honor and could bring great opportunity; but to join she would have to renounce her faith in anything other than communism.  

She refused.

She and I were still teenagers, not yet 20. The strength of her conviction, her refusal, and the cost she would pay inspired me and devastated me at the same time. I sunk into a depression for quite some time after I returned to the US. I was unable to reconcile the tremendous difference in our circumstances, opportunities, and the seeming randomness that I should have so much freedom - just because of where I was born.

Judy was "sent to the countryside to teach." Had she denied her faith and joined the communist youth she likely could have gone to graduate school, possibly even abroad. These were the things she dreamed of doing.

I never heard from her again.  

I attempted to contact her through the school in Shanghai.  They told me that they no longer had records for students from that time.

As imperfect as our nation may be, I can never take lightly the freedoms we do have.  

The protests remind me of this.  With peaceful and driven protest comes a surge of hope. 

 

We must use our voices and resources to call out injustice. 

We must still have dreams of freedom, equality, justice and returned daughters and sons.

We must claim joy with every opportunity we're given. 

It is our privilege.  

It is our obligation.

❤️

Karin Lindberg Freda

Lin Bai Qi