Love, Light and Coffee Blog

Luba ~ Reflections on the anniversary of my mother’s passing

Luba

      Sweetest Heart - Debra Alt

When I stop to think about what it means to have lost my Mom four years ago, I start all over again missing the richness of her presence. Her constant gift of compassionate and reliable love was profound in its scope and in the way she was embroidered into so many aspects of my thoughts and highest visions. She was my truest friend in a world where the loyalty of friends ebbs and flows, and sometimes even betrays. She became my friend, or perhaps it’s that we befriended each other, somewhere around the time she defaulted to trusting me to care for my siblings. I was 8 when she taught me how to use metal diaper pins and I began the journey of caring for my sister in many respects, alongside of her.

I don’t remember when she started sharing her thoughts and feelings with me. It was as if we could feel each other on the deepest level, one that deepened or raised in consciousness as we both aged. It did feel as if we grew up together in many ways, as we were only 20 years apart. Our gap in age narrowed the more I was drawn to befriending her closest friends, of which there were quite a few. I was taught the value of sisterhood by the loveliest example. I was attracted to being with her whenever I could when she was hanging out with her friends, as it felt so good to be where others were naturally drawn into her circle of warmth and beautiful Luba-ness.

Luba, Russian for love, a name that always felt like a cherished sound from a part of the world my ancestors were from ~ a mysterious place I knew of only through stereotypes and grainy brown and white photographs.

I wrote my mother a song the year she turned 60 and my daughter had her first birthday. My daughter’s other grandmother turned 75 then as well, I found it sweet that they all shared a birthday month in January. At the time my life was filled with new motherhood and the seeds were planted for my first CD, “A Spirited Mother”. I arranged for her to come to the recording studio with my daughter to sing background vocals on the song. Thanks to that inspired day, her voice is forever digitalized for whenever I long to feel and remember that sweet voice, that sweetest of hearts.

The years after my father died in 2007 were tough as her grief compounded my own, and it accelerated the already natural reversal of parental roles, the ones of caregiver and receiver. My husband at the time had likened our relationship to one told of a mother and daughter in a Nazi death camp, who argued over who should eat the only bit of bread left for any semblance of possibly life saving nutrition. A bit dramatic perhaps, and yet it captured for me the essence of how we cared for each other.

Luba was romantic and she did try dating after a few years in an attempt to fill some of the cavernous gap left by her husband of 53 years. Sadly these varied and sometimes troublesome journeys segued into a relatively rapid decline through a rare blend of leukemia and lymphoma.

She died on her own terms, as she lived most of her life. She was her own person, despite her powerful husband who dominated her world at the same time he aimed to protect her tenderness and strength of character. She chose to die in the room my brother’s family had set up for her to call home whenever she needed a dose of her grandchildren. As we gathered to say our goodbyes, my sister asked her to send us a sign to let us know she was alright on the other side that she was slipping away toward. Unwilling to admit to any belief of the possibility of being able to do that, in sheer exhaustion she acquiesced to my sister’s suggestion of her favorite flower. Since then, sunflowers have not only shown up in inexplicable ways, they’ve become family lore added to the legacy of a woman who has been an exquisite source of life affirming inspiration.

On her tombstone, we had inscribed ~ always a song in her heart ~ and that song keeps my soul singing so much of the time. As I believe it would for anyone fortunate enough to have loved and been loved by Luba, the sweetest heart I’ve ever known.

( Listen to the song linked above)

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My intimate evening with Graham Nash

Last night at the Katherine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center, aka The Kate, Graham shared the stage with Shane Fontayne, whose gorgeous rich and playful lead guitar was matched only by the harmonies that evoked heavenly moments and memories of CSN&Y singing together. They were that good….

Graham was humble and sweet and told a story of time through the songs he chose. He started with Bus Stop, the big Hollies hit. He then proceeded to go through a lifetime discography of songs and chose the ones I knew all the words to, and I did my best not to disturb the guy next to me who I prayed appreciated my combustion of musical experience.

For a guy in his 70’s, I found it endearing that Graham exposed his vulnerabilities and it was an affirmation of my sense that he was a particularly sensitive romantic musician. When he introduced The Sleep Song, he shared that it was written for Joni Mitchell, and it was the first of many references that reminded me of the great love that inspired so much music midst the west coast Laurel Canyon groupings of artists. His first breakup song, I Used to Be a King, the song written the morning of their breakup sung on stage later while he faced Joni in the third row, Simple Man. It has one of my favorite lyrics in a love song, “I just want to hold you, I don’t want to hold you down … ” 

The mono syllable reference to our President came out through his well known political songs like Chicago, Mississippi Burning, and Military Madness which he suggested not only refers to the madness of killing and warfare, but of defunding Planned Parenthood or the head of the EPA being someone who doesn’t believe in climate change.

All this truth and validation and sweetness while singing along to Marakesh Express, Immigration Man, Just a Song Before I Go and so many others. Two full sets with a short intermission, classy and rich. It cannot go unmentioned that it was the first time there was a line for the men’s room and not the ladies! Women know exactly the amazement I am referring to….

The end of the second set had the auditorium of carefully dressed hippies singing along to Our House, Chicago, where one couldn’t help but feel the hope in his heart as we chanted along to the recurring hook of “We can chaaaaange the world, rearraaaange the world …

They ended with “Teach Your Children” which at this point did not require his prompting to sing along. Treated to some new songs from his latest album/CD, “This Path Tonight” it felt that the path of the night was lined with shimmering gold…

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Dreams that you dare to dream really do come true …

Have you ever noticed how much the shape of a baby grand can be likened to a heart, in how it opens for the breath of sound, the slightly off roundness of it …. well here I am sitting behind one of the oldest dreams from my deepest heart of hearts.

After living with a satin ebony upright for about 37 years, through 4 moves between New York and Connecticut, I felt the time was right to trade it in for a change. Thanks to my friend Jeff Fuller, the quintessential musical resource, he introduced me to Brent Evans, the quintessential piano guy! I visited his gloriously growing studio in Madison, and as a vaguely remembered afterthought I asked if he ever got any white pianos. To which he replied that yes in fact he had one, they were rare indeed, seeing one per decade on average, but he just happened to have one that recently came across his ‘desk.’ He said it was in great condition, that it had had only one owner. I arranged to see it when it was shipped from his other studio, and walked in for some reason expecting to see an off white faded wood finish and in fact I received a surprise of a gleaming polished white one which I realized immediately was the one that has been showing up in my dreams for so many years I had almost forgotten about it.

I reflect this morning on all I have done in aiming to stay true to my heart and to support and be in service to what I perceive is the path of all things good and divinely inspired. I am about to step into the light and heart filled path of growing toward what I have always loved and envisioned for myself. The inspiration to play more fluently and as a more aligned expression of my heart is palpable and very much alive, and today I share my gift with openness and passion. My new heart will soon be delivered to that place over the rainbow where dreams really do come true ….

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Talkin’ bout 9/11 and Mother Nature …. One Heart at a Time

At a time of such tremors, I stop to reflect 16 years ago when I was moved to write a spiritual antidote to the unfathomable events captured with the numbers 9/11 which now can evoke a universally visceral reaction.  A song I believed anyone could understand and take comfort from and turn things from obliterating fear to hope.  And now, it seems we are all humbled by the forces of nature as violent as the will of North Korea’s leader in toying with mass destruction.  This photo was taken in the Florida Keys last summer, a spot so beautiful, so vulnerable. I reflect on how we must continue to cultivate our hopes and love through reaching out to help each other, to remind each other of the beauty midst the rubble of destructive forces ~ for it is clamoring around us in every form and how else do we go on if not to find the light within and share it to help illuminate all we cannot understand or control, but yet in some mysterious way those of us who are called must continue to express and act upon.  While we remember, please listen and pray ….

      One Heart at a Time

a song for healing the wounds of violence, inspired by 9/11

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The Connecticut Authors Trail

The Connecticut Authors Trail is a consortium of Eastern Connecticut libraries representing a variety of genres and styles of writing among Connecticut authors.  Last night in New London, I showcased my book and shared stories with a group of people enjoying following the trail throughout the state, a trail that ends September 17 at Mohegan Sun with prize winning showcasing with all the authors together.  Honored to have been asked, our discussion last night led to talk of the role artists of the world, whether they be painters, writers, musicians, creators of anything meant to enhance beauty and quality of life. We spoke of healing, and I could feel hearts opening and I was reminded of why I stay on this path. Because if one person is reminded of who they are in this mysterious realm of life midst the chaos, is sparked to recall that light will always extinguish darkness, then it was a divine mission. Yes, life is complicated and pain is real and often unbearable. And yet something moves us to go on and inspire and love no matter what … I am reminded of one of my favorite authors Anais Nin who saw the personal experience as a macrocosm of the world, that through knowing and reflecting our deepest selves, we were more able to connect with humanity as a whole and grow a consortium of love and healing. Not all will subscribe to this belief, but if you have read this far, then please let me know and help spread the hope of love and creation and expression, that which can never be extinguished, despite the will of those forces that will try … Someone brought out last night that the artists and the press are the first to be attacked and silenced in times of oppression … we simply cannot forget, whether its massive genocide or subtle repression, we must persevere in our efforts to stay in the light … with prayers and blessings ….

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in the beautiful folds of a birthday dress ….

 

There’s something about the beautiful folds of a dress ~ I found this one at an arts fair and I plan to celebrate my birthday in it this year. I’ve been enfolded enveloped, entwined in a process of transition this summer, and I’ve let it take me where it has needed to. I’ve kept up my writing and my book is being birthed every day as I journal the remarkable journey of life, I just realized how journey and journal are the same …. Lots of personal changes in my life that have strengthened and deepened this journey and I feel so grateful for the support of my friends, family, fans and facebook buddies … As I prepare to pack up and find a new home, I also prepare for the honor of being part of the Connecticut Authors Trail where I’ve been asked to represent New London at their Library on the 16th at 6PM. I’m preparing to share stories and songs about the journey, in particular, my book Each Moment We’re Alive. For me the story never gets old and there can never be too many reminders to be grateful for each precious moment of breath. The world around us is so filled with insanity, that those of us in the “fold” of belief in the invincible light and spirit of goodness and love, must continue to cultivate that in whatever ways we can. I believe that the more challenging it gets, the more important it becomes … for all of you who have wished me a happy birthday, would you consider shedding light somewhere for someone today whose road is darkened with despair or pain … with blessings and love ~ Debra Lynn

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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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