Love, Light and Coffee Blog

Celebrating the Ritual and Transition of Graduation!

I admit I had never heard of Bates College until my daughter told me it was on the list of liberal arts schools she was aiming for over 4 years ago. She was accepted into other schools that I would have preferred in terms of perceived opportunities and experience offered, as well as a distance that would be more manageable for visits.

As I sit here reflecting on what my daughter’s four years at Bates has been like, I am flooded with memories and hopes and surprises that fill my heart and soul. I’ve been known to say that she came out of my womb itching to go to college and it seemed to me that all the choices she made growing up were geared and directed toward that singular goal of getting to that magical place she spoke of wistfully, College.

So when it came time to apply and test and visit it was filled with a remarkable aura of intensity. I admit I was disappointed initially with her choice, and that disappointment was reinforced when I first drove through Lewiston, Maine to get to the campus. It was a cloudy day and the area seemed to lack the life I had imagined would surround my only child’s dream destination. Yet as time went on I grew to see the beauty and wisdom in her choice. Bates has esteem and character and warmth that fosters pride and belonging. They took care of her in ways I could never have imagined, and in turn she gave back more than I thought possible.

One of the last weekends of my mother’s life was spent at Bates’ Parent’s weekend in 2013, and during that glorious fall event we shared the joy of seeing her granddaughter begin to blossom and fit into the Bates family. The attention that was paid to offering students the opportunity to explore how they wanted to be in the world seemed extraordinary. I watched my daughter change majors and minors and finally land on the path she has firmly set her sights upon, with a resume I never imagined a college student could accrue. She has already lined up her dream job, which all but promises to deliver her directly to graduate school and the academic research position she covets.

So what this upcoming Commencement Weekend means to me is an opportunity to appreciate the wisdom of my child to find where she belongs in the world and live there to the fullest of her abilities. I’ve always loved rituals, and find them so spiritually meaningful, in that it takes these moments of reflection to build a beautiful cache of gratitude to carry around in our hearts for a lifetime.

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Sweet and Incredible Success Story

A SWEET AND INCREDIBLE SUCCESS STORY It always seemed to me that my daughter came out of my womb itching to go to college. She always had a singular focus on high academic achievement, whether it was the uncanny precision she applied to her middle school social studies projects, or the remarkable resume she has been building.

My daughter was also fortunate to have had a Bubbe who loved her with a devotion I had never witnessed before. I would often find her watching her granddaughter sleep for hours, having long conversations with her before there was a chance the baby could understand. Bubbe also had a passion about her hometown of New Haven and its esteemed University and often spoke of a dream that her only grandchild might one day go to Yale. She would drop coins in her piggy bank and repeat “YALE” as each quarter made its satisfying clinking sound.

These memories make it particularly lovely to share that my daughter has accepted a position at what has been her dream job since the time she announced she wanted to be part of the research team leading the field in improving the lives of individuals with autism and their families. My feisty daughter always had lofty goals, but this one stuck.

Autism was part of our lives as we spent as much time as we could around my nephew Sam, and I believe all the love around him planted a deep seed of desire to make a difference in the lives of those effected by autism. She has been on this track, often foregoing the things that most consider fun and worthwhile, like parties, vacations, hang out or holiday time with friends or family, or anything for that matter outside of academics.

Recently she accepted a position as a Sara S. Sparrow Fellow in Clinical Neuroscience at the renowned Yale Child Study Center, a leading institution for clinical research on autism and related disabilities, with a multidisciplinary approach spanning behavioral neuroscience, neuroimaging, genetics, and treatment. After two years I predict she’ll fly into graduate school and make her mark and change the world through cutting edge research.

For now, I am bursting with joy that my daughter has manifested the path she has dreamed of, and all of her sacrifices and hard work has paid off. She is being welcomed with open arms into the Yale Child Study Center, and it warms my heart to see how excited these respected professionals are to have her join them. Melody often asks if I think her grandparents and her Bubbe would be proud of her. It’s hard to know how to best answer her. Proud seems like an understatement of how they would feel. I know there is so much about this sweet success to celebrate!

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Women Who Care

Last night I had the honor to present at the quarterly meeting of the Lower Connecticut Valley’s chapter of Women Who Care, what I have found to be a most worthy cause, the Terri Brodeur Breast Cancer Foundation. In always looking out for a recipient for proceeds from sales of the book and music of Each Moment We’re Alive, TBBCF caught my attention when I was asked to sing at an event for an inspirational honoree, Aimee Reed. I found her story particularly inspiring as she has been participating in triathlons and actively advocating, despite her treatments and surgery to treat her breast cancer. Since I had just joined Women Who Care, organized by Suzie Woodward of Chester, CT, I started to learn more about TBBCF and was impressed to discover that their business model has held up since their inception in 2006. Their mission is to work at the grass roots level with committed volunteers and the support of sponsors and devote 100%, literally every penny raised, to research. I have not come upon any other organizations to date with the same financial structure. The recipients of the donations are vetted by a Scientific Advisory Council in order to direct funding to recognized institutions in need of support for their ongoing research. It is done in such a way that donors are able to see precisely where and to whom their money is going and how it will be directed. Women Who Care meets quarterly and after vetting submitted organizations that fit the 501C3 criteria, picks three members to present their case for supporting their chosen cause. Last night TBBCF won the most votes after my presentation and I was delighted to advocate for such a heartfelt grassroots non-profit organization in full support of breast cancer research. Women Who Care has chapters throughout the country and its efforts to gather women to learn about and support local causes are simply beautiful.

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“Adios” is a song, so is “Hallelujah”

Christmas Eve was the first time since 1978 that the lunar calendar aligned with the Gregorian one, so that the joy and miracles of Chanukah and Christmas could be commemorated at precisely the same time. I’ve always imagined that the force that birthed the Christian savior was the same one that enabled the singular night’s worth of oil to endure for eight nights of the menorah’s flames. In light of this season and ushering in the new year, I want more than anything to post something beautiful. I learned that a goodbye could be painted beautifully the first time I heard Linda Ronstadt sing Jimmy Webb’s “Adios”, and I wish to say ‘adios’ to many things this year. The months of 2016 have brought immeasurable changes, loss, betrayal and disappointments in the realm of the world as well as my personal life. In these last December evenings illuminated by festive lights, I feel the bittersweetness of this adios. It is my intent that this post focus on the sweetness.

I sat next to my Dad’s army buddy Geno who’s become a cherished member of our family, during a Christmas mass just hours after we lit the Chanukah candles in front of his living room nativity scene. When I listened to a chorus of Hallelujah, I reflected on the meaning of the word, particularly Leonard Cohen’s depiction in his hauntingly beautiful song. I marveled at the praise around me in a cavernous church on the holiest day of the year for devout Christians, and thought of how Cohen spoke of the inspiration behind the song, as a way to “stand with those who clearly see God’s holy broken world for what it is and still find the courage or the heart to praise it.”

I wish to leave you and this tumultuous year with my version of Hallelujah. I know it’s been said to have been overused in art and media, and yet I’ve chosen to record it over my own songs because of the power it carried for me this year. For decades of my life SNL (Saturday Night Live) has been an important source of comedic saving grace. Following election night, when I heard the comedienne who parodied Hillary Clinton sing the song to fill the space of what had become a cocky mocking of an unimaginable presidential candidate, I was riveted and transfixed. As Cohen had died that week, it was a perfect confluence of art, comedy, politics and heartbreak. It was a performance that pulled at the heart strings of those who mourned the passing of Leonard Cohen, and at the same time needed to work their way from gleeful parody to a new reality. Cohen said of the song that it reflects a desire to affirm his faith in life, not in some formal religious way, but with enthusiasm and emotion.

With gratitude to my talented friend Connie Howard for her beautiful harmonies and piano, and for the sweet support of Gretchen Spartz, I offer my own version here to be true to one of my deepest inspirations this year. May the new year inspire us to dig deeper to transform ourselves and the world one heart at a time, to be closer to our highest nature, that of divine truth, compassion and love.

I plan to take a hiatus from social media and other engagements as I focus on writing. I have wanted to write a memoir for as long as I can remember, and now is the right time for me. It’s difficult to be sure to what extent I will work on other things, I just wanted to say goodbye to a year that has in many ways been challenging and at times even devastating personally and otherwise. I admit to having viscerally experienced the new political direction of our country, as have many other progressives I know and love. I am never without hope and yet I am humble in my surrender to the need to rest, reflect, recalibrate, renew, and recreate, to be best able to continue to inspire and cultivate healing.

With love light and blessings,

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Welcoming winter’s quiet

solitary-pathWalking on this path I welcome the quiet of the season. There is holiday rush to gather, gift and celebrate amongst others and that is welcomed too. This winter I need to begin my writing project and I have come to see it requires saying no to many other activities. I will continue to choose those times when I feel my music will enhance and inspire, mostly I need to take a break from putting myself out there via social media and performing and workshopping. I long to get my book going, the memoir I’ve dreamed of writing for decades, waiting for the right time in my life. I have been actively studying the memoir medium to come to understand more fully what makes it so appealing and to assess its worth. Joan Borysenko’s Writing Down the Light and Marge Piercy’s workshop on memoir were both huge inspirations and helped me see the pervasive value of writing the truth from the perspective of enlightening and healing. I’m tuning into humor too, relishing the art of finding light in laughter, taking in the media masters from Tina Fey to some of the brilliance shining on late night television. So I set out to alchemize all I see and continue to learn and care about. Ultimately writing is the way some of us need to roll, by crafting the essence of the life force within us in such a way that it reaches and comforts and inspires and changes the way we look at the world. I hope to continue to blog and submit articles to others’ blogs. I’m open to radio interviews and continued opportunities as I work to balance all I care about saying and doing and writing about. And then there is the giving back in other ways. Volunteering and philanthropy. The political climate has been so divisive that it’s forced many of us to scale back what we say and feel. As tempting and comfortable as it may seem to stay in the woods and be quiet most of the time, we must continue to do our part to have our voices heard, speak out against injustice, no matter how pervasively it invades our fragile system of democracy. Be aware of what is happening enough to not let things get by without a fighting spirit of opposition. I think of the song I love to sing New Years Eve, and the lyric, “it’s still the same old story, a fight for love and glory… ” We must love each other harder and truer, and ourselves in the best way we know to comfort and nourish so that we can evolve to be the change we want in our world. We have to hold onto our visions and be true to ourselves. To thine own self be true is survival for me. In this spirit, I will take my winter break to reassess where I am going next. I am humble in gratitude for all I have been given and all the love shown to me.

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Thanksgiving and Medals of Freedom

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So many of us are fortunate enough to be preparing or eating an abundance of food for traditional gatherings in the name of gratitude.  This photo was taken from the fruits of my garden before the deer figured out they could hop the fence, but I really do want to talk about gratitude and the medals of freedom. I walked into my friend’s house for a visit yesterday and she was watching Obama award the highest civilian honor to 21 Americans prominent culturally through their art, philanthropy, athleticism, science, technological advances, architecture, music and acting. I was riveted because just that morning I was reading the news and feeling sickened by the prospect of our freedom of speech losing its foundational hold in the world as we know it. As a writer I can’t imagine a bigger loss than that essential right that was looking like it was being poked at and threatened in a way I could barely fathom. So it felt like particularly good timing to catch the beautiful ceremony and high spirits of this event. I am grateful for that moment, moved by the grace of our President and the words he used to describe the various aspects of contribution that came from these creative and innovative people. And I realized as I felt the rising emotional and intellectual appreciation in that room, and felt the power of collective creativity, that there will always be hope as long as we can speak, write, sing, build monuments, use our bodies, exercise courage and vision. I am so very grateful that I saw the world and our country through that lens, and I hope to embody that spirit of gratitude at such an important juncture in history. I couldn’t help but wonder what this ceremony might look like next year….So for now let’s be grateful for the efforts and grace of a President who helped us edge forward in ways that can’t always be measured. Grateful for all we do have, that we still have hope and freedom and invincible love …. Happy Thanksgiving !

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Hallelujah

http://www.cnn.com/videos/tv/2016/11/13/snl-opens-post-election-episode-with-hallelujah.cnnmoneyI practically grew up watching SNL and watched it spawn brilliant comedians and get sometimes uncomfortably tasteless. I’ve always loved the political parodies though, and the tenor of liberal thought has irrevocably changed thanks to parodies of the likes of Sarah Palin and most recently Hillary and Trump.  After a week that started with the passing of Leonard Cohen and ended with riots in the street over the President elect, I was more than interested to see how SNL would present the comedic aspect of the week. I was moved and rivoted to hear a brave Kate McKinnon open the segment with Hallelujah, the perfect touch that pulled at the heart strings of those of us who have loved Leonard Cohen and are trying to switch from gleeful parody to a brand new reality.  When asked what the inspiration behind the song was, Leonard Cohen replied, “I wanted to stand with those who clearly see Gods holy broken world for what it is and still find the courage or the heart to praise it. .. ” Finding that crack where the light comes in and to not give up fighting for what’s right!

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now what … ?

sky-at-kripaluAt this moment I am struggling to climb out of this stunned state.  Writing, art, music, has always been my salvation and I believe a huge part of the salvation of humanity. When I took this photo it was a night infused with hope I shared with others gathered for healing and transformation. I know many may not be able to find that now, so I write in hopes that I can etch out a plan to get back there. I don’t need to add to all the reasons we have to feel despair and fear, that is being globally scribed and played out on a world stage of journalists. The challenge is reaching for the other side and the places to find hope. Maybe it would help to remember that in the spectrum of human existence this is a blip of time unfolding.  The degree to which we can impact how it does unfold is where we need to look. This won’t be easy. I call forth the courageous hearts of those who believe in the goodness of man and womankind and struggle as I do this morning to find their way back to hope. This is an inner journey that many may not see or be able to articulate, but it must be scoped out as soon as possible. At times of despair I go to Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning to remember that even the inexplicably darkest nights eventually lead to light. How did Frankl not lose his will to live given what he was forced to withstand, and in fact emerge as a healing force?  Therein lies the clues to moving forward, that place, that crack where the light comes in. And the love. We cannot forget to love each other the best we can and rebuild as if we have just lost an ancient battle, because in so many ways we have. To counter the flourish of forces of hate and bigotry, we must dig deeper as the Viktor Frankl’s, Martin Luther King Jr’s, Barack Obamas of the world have. Stand back and watch how people react to this devastating election result. Pay attention to those who are hanging on to their life raft and are already looking for shores of redemption. Join with them and keep cultivating your art forms, your work of meaning, your love of family, nature, whatever helps you be glad for life. That is the beginning of the road to find the balance of humanity’s love and fear. Fear may appear to triumph, but let’s do our best to not let it win. Based on last night’s election results, giving up is in essence, shortsighted. Calling all artists visionaries and lovers, we need you now more than ever …

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Sharing post by my beloved friend Monica’s daughter

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Today is an important day.  I was not planning on posting something political but these times call for courage and speaking our truths, and when I read what my dear friend Monica’s daughter wrote I felt what better way to remember her than to proudly share what Lindsay Baer has written so thoughtfully, her Mother would be so proud of how she is growing.  So if there is anyone who has not yet decided who to vote for, or Suffragistst close your ears, don’t plan to vote out of dismay, just consider this, the KKK endorses a man because of his racist leanings, dear God this is an election to consider the big picture of humanity …..

Lindsay’s post:

Today we choose between two imperfect candidates.

Hillary Clinton has, at times, displayed puzzling judgement. There are some things that progressives wish were different about her as well as conservatives. But here’s the thing about Hillary: she puts the time in, she does her homework, she is tireless, and she has a decades-long track record of fighting for families, children, and social justice – well predating her political career. She has the stamina, temperament, balance and competency that is required to lead a nation such as ours.

Donald Trump possesses all of the undesirable characteristics that many feel Clinton has – and then some – but supercharged. He is flagrantly dishonest, he has routinely cheated small business owners out of hard-earned pay to prop up his shoddy real estate empire, he has never once in his career or private life looked out for anyone’s interests other than his own.

He hates women, truly, and views them as worth nothing more than his own sexual amusement. He believes that his status as a wealthy man entitles him to use and abuse women, emotionally and sexually, despite their lack of consent. He will be on trial this December for raping a thirteen year old girl. Let that sink in. This is not conjecture. This is the reputation he has earned for himself over decades of public words and actions.

However, his disdain and disrespect transcends women and is directed towards any non-white non-male. He has been sued for racial discrimination, he makes wild mischaracterizations about minorities, he incites violence towards Muslims and non-white communities. He has earned the endorsement of the KKK and many other white-supremacist and hate groups. How comfortable do you feel voting for someone endorsed by the KKK?

He says terrible things about veterans, but worse than that: he does not respect their sacrifice or the severity of war, and cannot be trusted to make decisions on their behalf. John McCain, Colin Powell, and countless other veterans and veteran organizations have warned of the threat a Donald Trump Presidency would undoubtedly bring.

He’s a terrible businessman, has committed countless acts of fraud against his investors and customers, and uses his dishonest profits to pay off judges and lawmakers. This is fact. He has no respect for democracy, no understanding of how our government works, and his understanding of foreign and domestic affairs is sensationally poor. Read transcripts of his answers during the debates regarding ISIS: it is incomprehensible.

What else can be said? He is mean-spirited, incompetent, vain, and obsessed with vengeance. He is intolerant, hateful, and a downright buffoon. He is a disgrace.

Trump’s own campaign has revoked his access to Twitter. How can a man be trusted to lead the country if he cannot be trusted to press Tweet?

So tomorrow, we make a choice. Either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump will become president: there is no third option. What kind of country do you want us to be, and who is best equipped to get us there? A vote for Hillary is a vote for sanity, for competency. A vote for Donald Trump is a vote to watch the world burn. It’s a vote for which there is no redemption. It’s a window into your soul, and it’s an ugly one.

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100% of gross fundraising dollars to Terri Brodeur Foundation

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Recently I’ve learned that The Terri Brodeur Breast Cancer Foundation stands out as an organization that works at the grass roots level with fundraising volunteers that devote 100% of gross fundraising dollars directly to research.  I was asked to be part of celebrating an extraordinary survivor Aimee Reed, as she was honored for her rare courage, bravery, endurance and willingness to help others.  She has blogged her breast cancer journey, and continues to run races and triathlons while working full time assisting those with disabilities.  After learning about the work being done, I decided to donate proceeds from sale of Each Moment We’re Alive to the Foundation.  Come see me at Amarante’s Sea Cliff in New Haven on Saturday as I will be playing through dinner at the Power of Pink benefit, which is part of the Women’s Wisdom and Wellness Expo this weekend.

 

 

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