Love, Light and Coffee Blog

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 ( 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


      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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