Love, Light and Coffee Blog

Devotion to a writing life

Devotion is the name of the book by Dani Shapiro that inspired me to spend a weekend at Kripalu to do a workshop with her. After the many rich experiences I’ve had at the wondrous center for yoga and health nestled in the Berkshires, I’ve come to appreciate and choose wisely the time I spend there.  I had known of Dani’s work but hadn’t read it until recently. I was taken by her style and the way she explored her relationship to what devotion meant to her in many respects and the many forms that it takes. One of the most valuable insights I gained from that time is a reminder of how the writing life mirrors meditation in the way that one cultivates awareness of our inner witness. We practiced waking up the witness and sharpening all her senses.

As I embark upon the writing of my next book, I am drawn to finding form and direction from all potential sources of inspiration. Dani’s prompts and guided meditations helped me access the relaxed attention that is such a valuable place to dip into. I dove into the tacking points of my life and the granularity of the details in-between. I was reminded that life’s inevitable sorrows need not be meaningless as I bore into so many of my own to mine the riches to be gained from dancing with the flames of creativity. I looked at different forms and textures of the connective tissue of narrative, and how a reader enters the consciousness of the writer, rather than simply being told a story.

As I build upon the foundation of my book, I wish to engage those interested in the journey itself, in hopes that it will help enrich that which you are drawn to devoting yourself to.

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Beloved Bluebird Blog from Nashville, Tennessee

There’s something magical about Music City. And something epic about The Bluebird Cafe. For those not familiar with this iconic venue, I attended a songwriting workshop there and got to see a couple of shows with the kind of songwriters that spark the highest form of admiration and a healthy amount of envy. Take the guy on the right for example, Allen Shamblin co-writer of “I Can’t Make You Love Me”, made famous after Bonnie Raitt flooded the airwaves with it. It’s a song that oozes a sentiment that I doubt has never been heard before in a hit song. So much fresh inspiration for the craft of songwriting is food for my soul and I was very nourished last weekend.

The guy on the left, Steve Seskin I’ve known for decades and I’ve seen him bring several hundred fans to tears from his heart centric way with lyrics and melody. He co-writes with Shamblin, among many others, and he teaches and gives back in ways that speak to me and my love of healing through songs.

Wonderful story about Steve ~ in 2005 my Dad was in a hospital bed struggling to get to remission from leukemia. One lucid day he promised my Mom when he was out of there, he would take her anywhere in the world she wanted to go. Expecting her to choose an exotic location, to our surprise she said she wanted to go to Nashville Tennessee. Turns out she always loved country music and I told her how it’s so much more than the bluegrass and truckin’ kind of songs some associate the genre with. Then we decided to surprise my mom for her 70th birthday, so early in 2006 we coordinated with our temporarily recovered Dad to surprise her in Nashville. There were 14 of us, kids, spouses, and grandkids. My dad needed a place to take her while we secretly gathered in their hotel room, so I arranged for them to see Steve Seskin’s show at the Bluebird, confident they would love him. We agreed on a time that was approximately after Steve’s first set was expected to end.

As the hour grew later, bleary eyed from the exhaustion of traveling with kids, one by one we were dropping to the beds and couches in an interminable effort to stay awake. When they showed up the surprise quite nearly split my mother’s heart in two. After the excitement died down a bit, we asked what took them so long.  My typically domineering father shrugged his shoulders and said, “there was nothing I could do to get your mother to leave that place knowing there was a whole other set to follow, she said there’s no way I’m missing the end of this show, I want every drop of it!  What a testament to the extraordinary talent and heart centric reach of Steve Seskin’s music.

Steve gathered for his workshop a group of musicians that were equally incredible and I was reminded again how much I deeply love the art form and medium. Steve approaches songwriting with his full being and the results are usually breathtaking. We talked of form, co-writing with others who speak the same heart language, and I was particularly touched when Steve mentioned me in the context of writing songs as a conscious choice to point my pen toward a goal to help others, as one who has found great fulfillment in striving to make a difference in the various arenas that are served by songs to carry messages, encourage fundraising, raise consciousness and awareness. Regardless of the end result of where a song lands, a truly great song is a contribution to our collective humanity, in its ability to lift, inspire and change lives. I rediscovered how a great song’s ability to soften a moment and open a heart to new plateaus can be incredibly healing.

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Sweetest Heart ~ the woman and her song

      Sweetest Heart - Debra Alt



My mother was simply the sweetest heart. I wrote the song for her when she turned 60, 24 years ago today, and I am forever grateful for knowing there is a heart capable of that much sweetness and openheartedness. Please enjoy the song and let me know if you feel the sweetness. And a special treat for those who knew and loved her, she is laughing and singing on this recording at the very end …

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Happy 25th Birthday Melody!

I love that my daughter will always share her birthday with MLK, Jr.  She turned 25 today and I found her a perfect gift. This was what was on the outside and the inside respectively of the pouch I found to go with her new professional tote bag for her upcoming interviews.

My daughter is brilliant, and that’s not just a mama talkin’ she really is unbelievably brilliant. She hasn’t quite figured out how to get to the dry cleaners or the post office, but you know the kind of brilliance I mean. So it’s a celebration of 25 years of a motherhood journey that has kicked my butt and challenged me. And made me as proud as it has made me crazy. And has broken my heart and made it swell with joy and wonder.

It’s fortunate that her birthday is the same as MLK, Jr., it will always reminds me of what’s most important …

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Baby of a New Year ~ What 2018 Has Taught Me

When I saw this picture of my great niece, I knew I found the image for my New Years blog. Using a baby as a symbol for a new year began in 600 B.C with the Greeks. A baby represents rebirth and the story goes that the Baby New Year will grow throughout the year into Father Time. At the end of the year, Father Time will hand over his responsibilities to the next Baby New Year.

Fun facts for sure, and perhaps by now people accustomed to my blogs have noticed that I’m making a concerted effort to keep this light. It’s been a heavy year for many, and a gorgeous baby holding a champagne glass against her innocent lips is one way to balance that out. As this little angel blissfully closes in on the first year of her life, her Great Aunt is reaching into her creativity sack to find something worthwhile to post that has hope without naivety, positivity without obnoxiousness, and something people will want to read and in some small way feel better after having done so.

If you’ve read so far, then perhaps you might be interested in my new take on a new years greeting. Rather than summing up accomplishments and all the things in the world that we need to beware of, I thought I’d wrap my brand of gratitude with what 2018 has taught me.

This year I learned that writing songs with purpose feeds me and challenges me to do my best most important work. I’m reminded that books and stories are a source of salvation and deep comfort, and music is a language I love to paint with and long to continue to practice.

I realized this year that my journey of motherhood requires an ever opening heart and balance of healthy boundaries. That my mom was a soulmate and bedrock of connection that I will probably never replace, but that I can breathe in her spirit and love my daughter as I was loved. That I can conjure my mothers calm and teach from that space where her wisdom remains.

I learned that expressing oneself and speaking ones truth about how we see the world matters, and that I can deepen my trust of how that will unfold.

And that healing as we age is complicated and I’m absolutely committed to attaining the goal of having my lifespan match my health span. And that the Shamanic toolbelt is an incredible resource for helping to actualize that.

I learned that dancing and movement lifts me and makes everything better, and that yoga and meditation continues to be an important fulcrum.

This year I learned that friends sustain me and they come and go and sadly sometimes betray. And that betrayal is something we can survive.

I deduced this year that when the world eventually dissolves into another form without such discordant values, that natural selection will seek out the conscious. And that consciousness is everything, and sometimes nothing at all.

That I am learning to define what it means to be a woman of power and influence with the intention to bear light. And that intention is quite nearly everything.

And finally that it’s time to tell my story and it will be called “Something to Sing About”.

Welcome to another beautiful baby of a new year ~ wishing all a new form of rebirth and a journey of gratitude for Father Time…..

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What a Woman Will Do – A Song

What a woman will do … to grow, to sustain strength, to foster independence and shedding light … Inspired by a desire to weave the emotional threads of a personal journey with that of so many women who resonate with those words, “me too”.

This is a song that I hope will heal and inspire and offer strength and hope to women and men. I am about to embark on a healing journey to study and obtain certification in realms of healing I have always been drawn to. What a woman will do is  whatever it takes to live a fulfilling life that by virtue of its authenticity supports the healing work of our planet. God knows, there is much work to do … please share the song with my blessings …

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Joy – A Poem

Joy – A Poem


joy can be elusive

hiding behind a forest

or thoughts, or mindsets

encrusted with the familiar

it peeks through

like sunlight through

tree limbs, leaves, crackling branches

on a windy day

downpours can drown out its expression

yet it is always behind

the veil of temporal space

joy is in my heart

and lives in the gut, the blood,

the brain cells

buzzing with the energy of eternity

dancing with the flowers

their piercing and luscious scents

it is contagious

and passes through fingertips

and quarter note tones

and spices of flavorful

food for the senses

and bodies and souls

that long for the purist nourishment

that joy alone provides

which reminds me

we must feed our  joy

so it is strong enough

to sustain the hurricanes

and man-made missives of destruction

and grow new limbs and leaves

and more joy

much more …

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New beginnings

     I am moved to greet this season with hopefully post-worthy thoughts and inspirations. I was so taken by this mezuzah I found, that I switched out my original to another doorpost. The tradition of marking the entrances of home with a reminder of the spirit of divine connection and protection, is one I have always embraced. As is the tradition of celebrating this time of year the Judaic tradition considers the anniversary of the creation of the World, a time for the deepest reflection and communion with ones God. Although the calendar date varies each year with the phases of the moon that structure the Jewish calendar, it is always within a month or so of the autumn season when academic calendars and seasonal changes converge.

For the beginning of this new year, and the last part of the Gregorian year 2018, I will continue to prepare for a month long immersion course in Shamanic studies.  As the feather is a beautiful and familiar artifact or talisman of this inquiry, I thought it was  a lovely container and vehicle for the ancient scroll of hebrew writing depicting the prayers one reaches for at the entrance to their home. I don’t know yet how this course of study will impact the next phase of my life, yet I am committed to using this time to deepen my desire and intention to align my purpose in life with the actions I take. I have always been interested in healing and the neuroscience of enlightenment and this course is designed to expand my knowledge and awareness of these mystical elements of life that I crave a higher understanding of and engagement with.

With a few exceptions, I have put my musical endeavors on hold, and plan to return with a renewed vision of how to best share my love of creating music. I hope to complete publication of my book, “Something to Sing About” as a working autobiography (a phrase borrowed from the brilliant Deborah Levy’s, The Cost of Living) deepened by my course excursion. With further study and work I hope that the book will be an offering of inspiration, healing and soul work treasures, with more than a few good stories to tell.

As so many things crumble around us, may all new beginnings fill us with hope and purpose and the sweet joy of life.






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Eulogy for Abraham

Blogging as a public journal is a way to help process many things and grief is no exception. Whenever Abraham ventured out for feline adventures, my heart would grip in fear of losing him. Now my fears have been faced and realized.


18 years ago he was part of a pair of kittens I had gotten for my daughter to help ease the transition of divorce and a new home with the experience of having pets as part of the family. I had done it many times before, but as life’s twists and turns would have it, this was the longest journey I would share with an animal. His sister Sarah became too ill last year to survive my move, which left Abe to accompany me on the journey to my new home and life chapter. (my daughter liked the idea of naming them after Old Testament hero and heroine). He handled it well despite my concerns for the old guy, and after two hours in the new place he acclimated to the repositioned furniture and purred contentedly on my familiar bed and linen. He became more connected to me, following me around the house, staring when I went through the familiar motions of leaving him whether for an evening out or a weekend away. His need for my presence more closely resembled mine for his and the simple comfort of each other’s presence became profoundly lovely as I licked my wounds as gingerly as he licked his paws ……


Maybe only feline aficionados will appreciate his qualities, but I found it endearing and frankly adorable the way his dry food bowl was often topped with hair ties and q-tips. To this day I’d swear the mouse he placed on the bowl one day, as carefully as an anchovy on a salad was a statement. Of what I mused was his way of showing me how valuable he was as the warm furniture of his life started disappearing. Or the time I thought he’d disappeared in the woods of Lyme one winter, when he managed to hibernate quietly in the drawer of a coffee table for well over 2 days. In this last year he still ran excitedly around the house when I’d return from a grocery trip or a day away and jumped up whenever I engaged in his favorite activities involving relative stillness. He’d become a chin rest as he saw me settle to work on my laptop, a lover to cuddle with under the bedside reading lamp, an adjunct to coffee in the morning as he strolled with me to the kitchen for our morning routine of nourishment to begin the day. A willing participant as soon as he heard the timer of the sauna I inherited in my new house, purring at my wet head, delighting in the heat, able to withstand it longer than I ever could, despite his rich fur coat.


Abraham was going out less from our new home and in his new role as main man in my life. When he slipped away into a light and then heavy rain, my grip of fear was mild as he always came back after shorter sojourns. This time I distractedly worried and looked and called as I tried to maintain some equilibrium with my dear friends who visited this past weekend. I heard myself call ” AAAAbrahaaam” familiarly conscious of the tone and trill of my voice that over the years he would always and eventually run to with his sweet eagerness.


My neighbors called me in the early evening when I went out trying to distract myself from the futility of looking for him when he wasn’t ready to return, and I was gripped with anxious hope when they said they found him in a tree. How could he not be okay if he was in a tree, I thought excitedly. I raced home and went to the tree by the neighbor only two doors down to find his body frozen mid-climb with his head wedged in the tree’s crease. The sight of his obviously dead body was horrible and I was wracked with sobs to see my beloved companion in that frozen position. Difficult to say if he had suffered so I tried not to think about what that last dash up the tree was like. A protectively barking dog lived there and I imagined him being on his way back home and taken by surprise and perhaps relatively unaccustomed to climbing at his age.


One neighbor handed me a towel while the other set up a ladder and I trembled at the task of lifting him out. As we do, I tried to think of the peace rather than whatever anguish preceded it, and carried his suddenly heavy body home where we buried him in a grave as deep as middle aged women filled with grief on a brutally hot and humid night could manage.


I will say that he went out of this world as a true cat, literally mid-treeclimb. He lived a full life with me as his human mom trying to balance his protected life with his bouts of adventure. I now begin a familiar process of grieving. Spent a good part of the day cleaning out food and litter, brushes, mats, all the while noticing all the ways his presence was part of the fabric of my life, my thoughts, feelings and considerations. Grief unwinds as a sensation, unwelcome but achingly familiar and part of the ever changing world that must include our losses.


Rest in peace in that mysterious realm of the beloveds we bury, as after 18 years with this guy, I have to believe the spirit of animals merges with that of their human counterparts.


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A “Love of Learning” Angel

This week my daughter’s thesis was officially published, as first author in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders. It’s a huge achievement, a culmination of the most ardent efforts and eschewing of typical lifestyle I have ever seen or could have ever imagined. I recognize her will and discipline from strains of my own, but I dropped out of the study of psychology when the third or fourth graduate course I took, Statistics, helped me realize my left brain was crying out for rescue and my right brain ran over it and quit the first of several things in my life I painfully learned to chalk up for experience.

So I can more than appreciate the tenacity behind this accomplishment. My daughter will often express her gratitude for the model of following your heart’s purpose, something I expressed in my first CD, A Spirited Mother. I am beginning to appreciate that those seeds planted played only a very small part of what my daughter is capable of. We did spend a lot of time with my nephew who is on the spectrum, and our family’s devotion to his well being has been heartening. Today I celebrate the confluence of these experiences mixed with my daughter’s formidible drive, focused and fierce intelligence, and her beautifully simple love of learning.

The “Love of Learning” angel pictured helps make a point I’d like to bring out and ties some things together. As not only do I celebrate this huge milestone, I see an opportunity to share an insight about the angel.You see it was a recent gift from a sister by choice, whose father is a pure embodiment of love, the last remaining of our parents who became lifelong buddies when my dad and he were military policemen in the Korean War. She had never met my daughter before, partially because the commitment Melody has made to herself and her career has kept her from many if not most family gatherings. At the opportunity to finally meet her, this woman chose a gift that captured what she felt was Melody’s essence as she came to understand her through me.

This angel represents the best and brightest parts of my daughter and captures the sweetest most tender part of her, the part I’ve tried to protect and find places for her to realize. It was sometimes disguised as, shall we say, other things, yet it was unmistakable that her passion for learning came from a deeper source than I was aware of. She was mocked in elementary school for her drive that even brought with it strains of anti-semitism when we first moved to the Connecticut shoreline. Her hunger for learning carried us through the journey of finding the right places for her to thrive, and ultimately she found her educational homes with an intuition that seemed to be led by an angelic love of learning. I had my heart set on other colleges, but her laser sharp drive cut through any notions I had of what I thought was best for her.

So the angel gift from my recent houseguests held special meaning on many levels. Here is an opportunity to look more deeply at the people I broke bread with, shared our broken hearts with when we buried our beloved friends and parents together, and grown to love dearly. If I am truly to embrace the spirit of the love of learning, then I must bore into the realization that these loved ones are politically conservative and see the world through a lens and prism that I and many who share my liberal leanings, simply do not understand. Especially now as I am shaking in my boots at the prospect of a Supreme Court perilously close to shifting some deeply important policies that have taken the blood and guts of our culture by storm.

I implored myself to delve to find the common threads below the surface. We spoke of faith and what it means outside of politics, often in the context of the beauty and mystery of nature and the love that sustains more than divides. I dove deeply into my own love of learning to understand how it could be that we would be together by choice, when many liberals would put a hand up against the idea.

So the question I raise is how to build the bridges? How do we begin to heal the deeper wounds of our divided country and our world. As a writer, artist, and a mother bursting with pride, I begin to look at how we can do this, and for now I have set out to let the dialogue begin. In celebrating that my daughter Melody, the most beautiful song I’ve had a hand in creating, is on her way to solving the autism puzzle, I have come to believe that if she can accomplish this from her natural love of learning, then anything is possible if we look at it from the source of all there is … love.

In honor of my daughter’s remarkable achievement, let this be a gentle call to action to pierce the divisive walls with compassion and the will to build on common ground. The “Love of Learning” angel is rooting for us.

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