Love, Light and Coffee Blog

New song released in time for CMV Awareness Month and CDC’s weekly disease

 

As a songwriter, I was inspired to capture the voice of my friend Lisa Saunders whose experience impacted her to such an extent that sharing it became a natural part of her evolution and becoming. Instead of allowing it to level her, she rose to meet it and bore into the need to understand how it is that she contracted a virus that had she known how to prevent, she would not have given birth to a virtually helpless child that died from her last seizure at age 16. Instead of slipping into the role of victim for this horrendous fate, she continues to find ways to celebrate and honor her daughter.

Lisa  has galvanized a movement to enact legislation to compel childcare providers to be informed of and screened for the risk factors that she was so innocently and unnecessarily exposed to. She wants to shout to the world how she wishes she had known that as a mother of a toddler and caretaker of young children, she was at the highest risk for contracting CMV (cytomegalovirus), the #1 birth defects virus more common than fetal alcohol syndrome, with effects similar to that of the now notorious Zika. Had she known that there were extra yet simple precautions to take, things would have been, at the risk of understatement, quite different.

The song will be featured on WNTH News 8 next week and used to help carry the story, the message and the heart of the experience and the need to make changes. To be a part of this woman’s mission is an honor…

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Some singing this spring ….

For those who have been asking where and when I’ll be singing, I’ve got some updates. As the dust settles from my move I’ve been dusting off my songs and decided to showcase some of the work I’ve done to help others. Originally “Something to Sing About” was planned to help the platform for CMV awareness through my new song “Had I Known”.  This is scheduled as an event on Wednesday May 9 at the Mystic/Noank Library.  It features not only Lisa Saunders, local author and CMV awareness activist, but I’m happy to announce that Cindy Sheridan Murphy will also be there to share her story of how the song and book “Each Moment We’re Alive” morphed into her non profit organization to support cancer survivors and their loved ones. It’s scheduled for 3:30 PM and I plan to play other songs and share the stories behind the songs for adoption, autism, Habitat for Humanity, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, child abuse, post 9/11, and some of the more fun ones as well. In honor of Mother’s Day I plan to sing “Sweetest Heart”, celebrating my beloved Mom who I lost almost 5 years ago. I hope to mix in some of the fun ones like my Connecticut Song from the perspective of a transplanted New Yorker and a favorite of many, “Conscious Cowboy”. Saturday May 12, I’ll be launching the March of Dimes walk by singing the National Anthem. Another new development is that Lori Diamond and Fred Abatelli will be joining me to perform for an event sponsored by Each Moment We’re Alive in West Springfield on June 24. Their music is simply some of the most beautiful around and I am delighted to be partnering with them again. Any opportunity to hear them is a treat.  Hope to see some old and new friends soon … In springtime especially, there’s always something to sing about ….

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Memorializing Earth Day

April 22, 2007 the day My Dad returned to the Earth he loved and revered for all its mysterious ways, the ways he learned to build and create and connect in the largest ways possible … remembering him with love ….

 

 

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Something to Sing About

Inspiration is such an amazing phenomenon. Thinking back to when I first met my friend Lisa, it’s hard to imagine her not having brought her story of CMV into the conversation. It’s not so much that it defines her, as how the experience impacted her to such an extent that sharing it became a natural part of her evolution and becoming. Instead of allowing it to level her, she rose to meet it and bore into the need to understand how it is that she contracted a virus that had she known how to prevent, she would not have given birth to a virtually helpless child that died from her last seizure at age 16. Instead of slipping into the role of victim for this horrendous fate, she continues to find ways to celebrate and honor her daughter.

Lisa Saunders has galvanized a movement to enact legislation to compel childcare providers to be informed of and screened for the risk factors that she was so innocently and unnecessarily exposed to. She wants to shout to the world how she wishes she had known that as a mother of a toddler and caretaker of young children, she was at the highest risk for contracting CMV (cytomegalovirus), the #1 birth defects virus more common than fetal alcohol syndrome, with effects similar to that of the now notorious Zika. Had she known that there were extra yet simple precautions to take, things would have been, at the risk of understatement, quite different.

My affection for Lisa grew with my admiration, and largely because of it. She has published over ten books, created the Lisa Saunders Show (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NW5C1TZ2CI0) as a vehicle to support local causes, and began a Nice Girl Club to tap into the joy and resource of a community of like-minded women for which the only actual requirement is to be, well, “nice.” To recycle her experience into one of a mission to educate and help prevent this happening to others, well I for one was compelled to capture it.

I write songs from that precious heart space so that each new song becomes a gift to behold and share. My art form and passion is to take an experience and weave it into lyrics and melody to help carry a sentiment or message in a way that articles and talks alone cannot. So when I sat down at my piano I was delighted that what came through was “Had I Known (About CMV) ”, a song for Lisa’s daughter Elizabeth. Sad of course, yet hopeful. Hopeful in the way that life etches us to pave the way for others to improve our humanity, and bring about the changes that our personal experience is most capable of evoking.

My enthusiasm for this creation has become contagious. Together with some of the most magnificent musicians I know volunteering their talents to record this song, we are giving it wings to shine as what I like to think of as a musical beacon. Lisa’s mom was moved to donate funds to defray the cost of the recording process and we’re well on our way to having a platform to share the song in time for CMV Awareness month in June. May 9, Lisa will join me for a presentation of “Something to Sing About”, the title of my memoir in process and a presentation of songs written from various sources of inspiration. Lisa will be sharing the story behind her new book “Help Childcare Providers Fight CMV,” and I will share other songs that give meaning to having something to sing about.

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New Life!

Speaking of miracles …. over 30 years ago I marveled over the birth of this baby’s mom, my first niece.  So in a world of turmoil, we make room for the amazing grace of new life, the hope and purity and innocence that defies the threats of destruction, the audacious attempts at world dominance …. for a moment in time we can stop and appreciate the sheer wonder of what Wayne Dyer used to say, “a simple drop of protoplasm” …. As we say in the old country, mazel tov to all who celebrate her entry to this world, and the courage to believe in the growth of humanity and all that we can hope for wrapped in a bundle of love, for in love we sow the seeds of change and tranquility ….

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Happy Birthday Melody and Martin !!

“I say to you today, my friends, that in spite of the difficulties and frustrations of the moment, I STILL HAVE A DREAM” ~ Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. …. Each year I come to appreciate more fully how profoundly magnificent Dr. King was. And what a gift it is to celebrate the birth of my child and my motherhood journey on the same day we remember this remarkable man. In his honor I humbly invoke so many of his prolific prayers.  I’d like to add the wish that my daughter reach her personal dream of being part of the team to solve the proverbial autism puzzle. And that we may collectively work toward Martin’s vision for humanity ~ that we “come to see a society at peace with itself, a society that can live with its conscience.” And a special call to loved ones ~ that we will come to see with compassion, that that which might look like indifference from some who are intensely devoted to attaining a goal, is the best way they know how to reach for a seemingly impossible dream ….

 

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On the doorpost of a new year ….

I wanted to mark the beginning of the new year with a ritual to honor my new home with an ancient tradition of affixing a mezuzah to the doorpost.  I’m grateful to the old and new friends and neighbors who were able to join me in welcoming the new year and my new dwelling.  As I turn the proverbial page and start a new chapter in my life, I am deeply grateful to feel grounded in a home surrounded by beauty and peace.  I’ve worked so hard to get to this place, and I am starting to exhale and form my next steps. Thank you to all who have been patient and supportive during this challenging transition.  I share here the ritual with thanks to Rabbi Rayzl for so many of the words and blessings …

As I affix this mezuzah I also affix and affirm a new life in a new home. May it always be firmly based on truth. May this home be a reflection of inner truth and may it be a place of hospitality extended with love and sincerity … In this setting of the mezuzah upon this doorpost ~ may this threshold become a sacred passage and this home, a sanctuary, blessed by Spirit … With a mezuzah, whenever entering or leaving this house, may we be confronted with the Spirit of God, and with the reminder of that abiding love, may we awaken from our lethargy … May we be aware that nothing in this world endures forever except the knowledge of this rock of the world … May the door of this home be wide enough to receive those who hunger for love or are lonely for friendship … May it welcome those who have cares to unburden, thanks to express, hopes to nurture … May this door be too high to admit complacency, selfishness and harshness … May its threshold be no stumbling block to young feet … And may this be the doorway to a rich and meaningful life  …
Wishing all a rich and meaningful year …. Amen to the end of 2017 !
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Auld Lang Chai

      Auld Lang Syne

 

Tonight traditionally we sing of days gone by, thanks to the Scottish poem over 200 years old set to an equally olden folk song, as many reflect upon memories of the past, looking forward with hope for tomorrow and the new year.  Personally and universally 2017 was a year of enormous challenges and I sing tonight with passion for all that has gone by, for all that’s been lost, that’s worth remembering.  I sing for what I stand to gain by being honest with myself about what is for my highest good, and believing as I always have, that that is what’s best for the planet and those around me. Although it may not always seem like it, when aiming for a path of truth the highest choices will always be what makes our heart sing, even if it has to bleed for a while ….. and so I sing with all the hope in my heart that ’18 as a symbol of life will be the year of earth shattering changes for the better. May 2018 be good to you, may it bring peace, joy, healing and what makes your heart sing …. Happy New Year !

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JOY HEALS ~ celebrating a non-turkey day with a new mantra

This post is about celebrating, not focused on eating birds. Most people I know do, and I love the many carnivores in my life. Instead I reflect on gratitude and how the fruits of that experience are far more fulfilling than I imagine eating turkey alone could ever be. These angel cards capture the tools I have been sharpening, and not necessarily in that order.  By embracing truth and gratitude, I can continue to carry the courage needed to find joy in a world so often bereft. There are many today whose hearts cannot fully engage in our nation’s celebration, trying to recover from any number of man/woman-made and natural disasters of late. I won’t dwell on the floods, wildfires and shootings, but many do need to be cared about on this day as fully as those we may break bread with. I watch in awe as black Friday becomes grey Thursday and so on …. and I marvel at how we go on and make our lives work within traditions that continue to modify to fit the mores of an elastic society. In this ever maddening sea of humanity, the nugget of truth I see, despite all the insanity, is still joy, our birthright;  and gratitude our greatest means to that end. I wish for the courage to bring love and compassion and joy to all we know, and healing for those who need it … with all the traditions that have made their way through the decades, Thanksgiving is for gratitude, and may this reminder be taken in the best possible spirit …..

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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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