Featured Widow/er - Phyllis Lee – Faith, Hope & Love

Phyllis LeePhyllis LeePhyllis & Donald LeePhyllis & Donald LeeIf three words could describe Phyllis Lee, they would be faith, hope and love. These words describe a woman of strength and substance and a journey that few of us might embrace. And yet she is as optimistic and faith filled as ever, believing in the kindness of strangers, the grace of a God she knows all too well, and the possibility of an endless love.

It was “plain old chemistry” that brought Phyllis and Donald Lee together as high school students back in the early 1960’s. Don went off to college and Phyllis went to work as a secretary at age 17. Despite excellent grades in school, she wasn’t encouraged to go to college. Don however, flunked out of college and returned home, his parents insisting that he attend community college and get a job. He and Phyllis reconnected, their “chemistry” still alive and well.

“Besides being cute with an amazing smile, he was very clean-cut...like Richie Cunningham on Happy Days,” says Phyllis. And she really liked that about him. He ended up finishing his degree, but not before they wed in 1967. She worked for IBM and he took a job with Radio Shack, and the talented salesperson moved up in the company. They had their daughter Cari in 1971, bought a home and did the things most young couples would do. They eventually moved to the Boston area in 1979.

Phyllis & Donald LeePhyllis & Donald Lee“It was exciting,” she says. “We had snow for the first time, I heard new accents, the people were conservative and it was all very fast paced, but this is where we put down our roots.”

As a stay at home Mom, Phyllis volunteered in the community with the perspective that, “no one is going to beat a path to your door, you have to put yourself out there.” And she did just that, becoming active members of the First Congregational Church of Hanover. After 10 years in Hanover, Don left the company. They bought a furniture store and sold it 14 years later. During that time, Cari finished college, got married and later moved to Connecticut in 1998.

In 2004 Phyllis expected a good year. They traveled a bit, enjoyed a new grandchild and family was close by. In 2005 a routine eye exam revealed a tear in Don’s retina which resulted in several surgeries. While doing some heavy lifting at church he felt something in his back which brought him to the doctor and alternative therapies to deal with the pain. He was in a wheelchair all the time at that point. An MRI revealed esophageal cancer that had traveled to his back destroying several vertebrae, causing so much pain. Additional surgery resulted in a titanium rod in his back which enabled him to walk.

“He was still my guy with that beautiful smile but he looked frail to me,” says Phyllis. “One day Don said to me, “I think we need to move. I feel a sense of urgency.” And they did, quickly finding a new home in Niantic, Connecticut to be closer to Cari and their three grandchildren in June of 2006. “He was determined and optimistic. He took the train to Mass General for chemo once a week, and often wouldn’t let Phyllis accompany him. “He was always thinking of the other person.’’ One day he had trouble breathing and went to Lawrence and Memorial Hospital. Family and friends came but he hung on. One day in late October, four days before his 60th birthday, Phyllis stood alone in the room looking out the window. “The sky opened up and the sun broke through like a spotlight, a portal, and it was shining on him,” recalls Phyllis. “I knew he had gone while I was looking out the window. If you choose to believe as I do, perhaps that was the moment the angels came for him.”

When he was diagnosed, Phyllis did not feel bitter or angry. She accepted what was happening, and she thinks this was why she was able to more fully appreciate the blessings that happened along the way, instead of being bitter. She focused on all that was good and right rather than what was wrong. They were married almost 40 years.

A short time following Don’s memorial service, Phyllis attended a bereavement support group specifically for the loss of a spouse and how to get through the holidays. It was a six week program and there were seven in the group. “It was heart-wrenching to hear about the different circumstances of loss. You form a bond because of the commonality of that loss,” she says.

Marty HuysmanMarty HuysmanPhyllis Lee & Marty HuysmanPhyllis Lee & Marty HuysmanMarty Huysman was in that group and on the last day of the program, people made a plan to meet for coffee, and three of the group showed up, Phyllis, Marty and one other. During that meeting Phyllis recommended a book of daily meditations called Healing After Loss by Martha Whitmore Hickman. Marty called to thank her after finding it useful himself. His wife Meg had also died of cancer and they were also married about 40 years, just like Don and Phyllis. They agreed to meet for the first walk of many at a park.

“I saw him from a different perspective. He was tall, and wore a camera around his neck. I never saw this side of him in the grief group. And he really listened to me.” He shared his journey of his wife’s death all along the Niantic boardwalk and she shared her story all the way back. They talked a couple more hours, emotions pouring out of them both as they shared childhood wishes and dreams and so much more. They both enjoyed being out where they could appreciate nature and he loved being in the moment, with his camera and a big smile. 

“I know God’s hand was in that,” said Phyllis. “We shared so much on such an intimate level in such a short time, with nothing in common but loss. We weren’t looking for someone or a relationship. We just knew each other was someone we wanted to know better. So we took lots of walks, always finding something to talk about. We connected on a level that enabled us to enjoy each other even more. Every walk the subject of faith always came up. ” He was Catholic, she was Protestant, and most Sundays they went to two churches.

Within a couple of months they knew that they had more than a friendship but Phyllis was scared, hesitant. What would people think? How can all this happen so quickly? What will the kids think? “Despite the trepidation we knew we were falling in love. It was as simple and as complicated as that. We fell in love. New love can be very exciting.”

While they were trying to figure out how to move forward, after being together only three months, Marty was diagnosed with Stage 4 Melanoma. His prognosis was not good. Several surgeries and procedures followed. “I never ever thought about walking away,” says Phyllis. “We were in too deep. We were committed. We chose to leave it in God’s hands. Whatever was coming we were going to meet it together. We talked about wedding plans and looked at rings.”

He talked her into a two week vacation at a boyhood camp he had gone to in the Adirondacks, that was only accessible by canoe. She took her makeup, her poised posture and well-coiffed hair, always looking just so, and decided to embrace the adventure. The two week camping plan became three weeks and it was one of the best times in her whole life.

“I had a talk with God and thanked him for the opportunity. Help me to let go, I prayed. What’s the worse that could happen?” A thunderstorm greeted them the first night and she just prayed that if a big tree would fall on them to “make it quick.”

At Christmas, Marty gave her a scarf with an engagement ring tied to the end. It had four diamonds representing Phyllis and Marty and their previous spouses. She said, “Yes,” without hesitation.

Phyllis LeePhyllis LeeIn August, they took a two week trip to attend a wedding and see family. Marty returned tired, and just before Thanksgiving he was admitted to Yale New Haven Hospital. “Melanoma is really sneaky,” said Phyllis. “The cells can be anywhere in your body and you wouldn’t know. He had a problem with his lungs. She stayed most nights and he was there 17 days as they began chemo. Phyllis went home to change clothes one night, when she got a call that he had stopped breathing. He was on a respirator when she returned and he died the next day, on her birthday, December 10th.

“Still in my heart as I stood over him on the respirator, I had to thank God for the gift of Marty, for the time we had.”

Despite losing two loves, her hope in what might be never dies. She returned to the grief support group. She continues to be open to God’s plan, spending time and traveling with a longtime friend who is a widower.

“I feel like God had a hand in this. I know there’s a plan. It may shift from time to time. My relationship with Marty told me I could know love again. The idea of having a male friend or dating was not so scary this time around, because of my relationship with Marty. I try to be open to the plan regardless of what it is. I’m not always sure if it’s God’s plan or my plan. I’ve loved two men. I’ve watched them die. I’ve lost them. But I’m still here and don’t want to waste this time that God has given me.”

Journal entry 2007 following Don’s passing:

“It was worth it. I will endure this pain and emptiness because I have such wonderful memories seared into my mind that I will never forget what we shared. I would not trade those years, regardless of the uncertainty of duration, for anything.”

In His Honor – Sergio Franchi Memorial Concert Honors 25th Anniversary of His Passing

Sergio and EvaSergio and EvaSergio FranchiSergio FranchiIt’s been 25 years since the late, great Italian romantic tenor, Sergio Franchi passed away. Five thousand adoring fans and admirers are expected to converge upon the Franchi estate in Stonington Connecticut on Saturday, August 29 for the annual Sergio Franchi Memorial Concert. Eva Franchi promises it to be the most spectacular concert ever. “Once again, the sound of music will play over Stonington in memory of the great romantic tenor, marking the 25th anniversary of his passing,” says Eva. David LaMarche from the American Ballet Theatre in New York City will conduct the 32 piece symphonic orchestra. LaMarche is a Westerly, Rhode Island native and welcomes the opportunity to give something back to the area where he grew up, according to Eva.

“Ballet has always been close to the Franchi heart,” says Eva who studied classical ballet herself so many years ago. “Sergio adored the art of ballet. He was a great dancer. Each year we give a scholarship to a great ballet student. They will dance this year at the concert, performing the Eternal Waltz from La Traviata, the music that played the very first time I ever danced with Sergio.”

Some love never dies. Such is the case with Eva Franchi and her love for Sergio. She has been honoring that love for the past 21 years with the memorial concert. It all began when Sergio passed away May 1st, 25 years ago after a battle with cancer, and Eva wanted to create some final farewell to honor him and his beloved music. As she drove through the winding drive of their 240 acre estate in Stonington, Connecticut, she looked out at the sun setting over the expansive fields, and was inspired by the Field of Dreams movie coming out at the time, with the theme “if you build it, they will come.” She decided to do just that.

She came up with the idea to have a concert, thinking that if perhaps 400 people might come to hear his music, it would be a success. She gathered up his address books and sent out invitations to everyone who had touched his life, asking them to come to one last memorial concert. That first year they had three young singers and an orchestra and the traffic to their estate was backed up for miles as people waited to get in. The men were dressed in suits to honor the country subtle elegance Sergio was known for. Instead of the anticipated 400, there were 1500 and according to Eva “the magic has never stopped.”

Sergio and EvaSergio and Eva“He adored this place. He loved the feeling after being on the road traveling, that when he returned home it was like coming home to paradise. I think maybe God knew what was coming in our life. And when Sergio got sick, I said, “that’s okay, we never have to leave the property. I would have given my life to save his life but it just didn’t happen.”

They had resided there since 1978, and it was a place where Sergio and Eva relaxed and enjoyed themselves, surrounded by family and friends. He loved good pasta according to Eva, but was especially enamored with her Hungarian chicken paprika which was his favorite. He was a kind man, building a chapel on to their estate as a surprise for his sister’s wedding. And his was a familiar face at area antique shops where he fed his appreciation of art and his penchant for collecting. “He was truly a renaissance man,” says Eva. On the compound there are several structures where family members live as well as the chapel, museum and Sergio’s antique car collection. But as enchanting as their estate is, it was his music that touched people’s hearts.

“Who would have known that one day, this would become the grounds, the stepping stone for today’s young upcoming artists, singers, tenors and sopranos honoring the magical world of romantic classical music.”

“Before the three tenors, there was Sergio Franchi,” says Eva. “The people’s tenor. People loved Sergio. He traveled to every state in America performing the great Italian classics. When Mario Lanza passed away, Sergio kept that music alive.”

According to Eva, after winning a European music competition, it was Ella Fitzgerald who discovered Sergio, making contacts with RCA Victor, to sign him and bring him to Carnegie Hall in 1962. He was an overnight success. He appeared on the Ed Sullivan show more than 27 times, and did a world tour with Jimmy Durante and became a tap dancer, great story teller and a fabulous entertainer. Giving one man concerts in all of America’s most prestigious concert halls, and performance venues, he was under contract in Las Vegas with the Flamingo Hilton for 28 years of his life. He went on to perform in Do I hear a Waltz on Broadway followed by a role in the movie The Secret of Santa Vittoria with Anthony Quinn. He recorded 29 albums for RCA Victor. But what he loved most as an entertainer was performing his own private concerts. He adored the connection and intimacy he had with his audience.

Franchi ChapelFranchi ChapelFranchi driveFranchi driveSadly, his life ended in 1990 and the Sergio Franchi Music Foundation was born, to honor and celebrate his life and music so that the legacy of Sergio goes on.
Each year, through the magic of the big screen, Sergio comes to life, opening the concert with Let the Music Play, the signature song of the concert.

“The very first time I saw him in 1964 I was at the Coconut Grove in Los Angeles, and I heard his voice off stage. Sergio was opening for Juliette Prowse right after he came to America. He walked on and there was the one, all my life, I ever dreamed of. There he was. Our eyes met and he sang the entire next song, Your Eyes Are the Eyes of a Woman in Love…. to me….the rest is history.” She was 22 years old. They met again years later and married in 1980.

“We had an incredible life here for 10 years. This was our first home together. It was heaven on earth.”

Today Eva is honored by the outpouring of support particularly by the people of Stonington and surrounding areas. She says that Stonington has always been known for artists, poets, and writers but never a singer. Sergio was the first major singer in the area. The Salt Marsh Opera was formed in 2001 and she likes to think that just maybe, the concert planted a seed that helped inspire that. Now Stonington is becoming known for its music as well as the visual and literary arts.
In May of this year Eva Franchi was presented with the Savoy Foundation’s Third Annual Chivalry Award at the Foundation’s annual Spring Event – Festa della Primavera at the Columbus Citizens Foundation in New York City. The Savoy Foundation’s 2015 Chivalry Award was presented to Eva, who for the past 25 years has honored her late husband, and his cultural legacy with a concert series that funds scholarships for up and coming young opera singers. The Savoy Foundation Chivalry Awards are meant to focus greater attention on standards of knightly conduct, which history associates with Europe in the Middle Ages. Even today the word “chivalry” is still synonymous with courtesy, honor and integrity. Honorees are selected in recognition of their outstanding service, generosity and civility in their distinguished careers and their unselfish commitment to public causes and personal dignity, which reflect the noble and ancient chivalric traditions of the Dynastic and Hereditary Orders of the Royal House of Savoy.

Franchi gardenFranchi gardenEva FranchiEva FranchiProceeds from concert ticket sales go to the Sergio Franchi Memorial Foundation that awards grants and scholarships each year to young tenors and sopranos who perform during the concert. The young talent goes on to perform at places like the Metropolitan Opera House in New York, and in Paris, London and Spain. Last year alone, $35,000 was awarded in grants and scholarships to 16 talented young artists.

The Franchi estate is a special place and the enduring love that Eva carries with her for the man of her dreams, lives on in this annual event. What does she miss most about her Sergio?

“Every, every aspect of him,” says Eva. “Every day was a joy. I fell asleep smiling and I woke up smiling. I know it sounds ridiculous but he was so tender. He was a romantic man, strong, sensitive. He cried watching Bambi and would hand me a Kleenex too. I miss his intelligence and his tenderness. I learned something from him every day. He was an artist in so many, many ways. We had a great sense of humor between us. We laughed together. We loved being together. We got along so well. I miss him with all my heart in every way.”

This year’s concert takes place Saturday, August 29 at the Franchi Estate located at 91 Sergio Franchi Drive, Stonington, Conn. Grounds open at 11 a.m. and the concert begins at 2 p.m. sharp. A mass in memory of Sergio will be held in the Memorial Chapel at noon. This year’s theme is “Once Again, The Sound of Music,” featuring Sergio and his performances with Julie Andrews. “Once again, the sound of music will play over Stonington in memory of the great romantic tenor, marking the 25th anniversary of his passing,” says Eva.

People are invited to dress in country elegance, bring their own chairs and a small, elegant romantic picnic. Cold drinks, water and desserts will be available for purchase. Sergio’s home, chapel and antique cars will be open for viewing. Tickets are $45 in advance and $50 at the gate. For more information visit www.sergiofranchi.com, or call (860) 535-9429.

Poetry - BROKEN CUP

BROKEN CUPI’ve forgotten how it broke, the great cause
or the petty cause that cracked the handle
into two pieces and left me without
a cup for morning coffee. In the cabinet,
there were others of white porcelain,
with steeply elegant lines, cups that matched
their saucers. But my cup was Mexican,
squat, and as round as Rivera’s peasant
bent before the wall of callas
he carried on his back, his burden of blossoms.
Hand-painted, my cup was carnival
purple and yellow, flowers that honored earth,
birth, death, geometry, symmetry, riot,
good sex, good coffee, the sun rising hot.
I banished it, broken, to my desk and used it
for paperclips. Now I’ve rescued it, fit
and glued the pieces back together.
Still I’m afraid to lift it, even to wash it by hand
in hot water—it is that fragile.

You brought the cup to me from Puerta Vallarta,
that seaside trip you took to help
your daughter past heartbreak—a little hotel
by the sea, with bougainvillea
and a great deal on cocktails as the sun
rolled its dying splendor onto the Pacific.
I think I was jealous; I was jealous. I hoped
you drank Margaritas and missed me—
more likely Dos Equis with a squirt of lime.
The cup gave me Mexico each morning,
on the cheap. I loved it. I loved it,
it broke, I ignored it, I cast it aside
sounds like a classic, sitcom-bad marriage.
Sounds like the wary caregiver who reads
The 36 Hour Day, heart empty.
Who really wants to know about despair?
I have minimizing friends who tell me
It’s not so bad— just a little accelerated
forgetting, such as we all have these days.
O Ancient of Days, that was once a name
for God, for something so deep within the self,
it’s beyond us. Even so, it is possible,
I want to tell them, to love what is broken.
Possible, urgent, and necessary.

And so for love of thee and me,
I take my broken cup and set it down
before me, on a yellow place mat. I make
toast with ginger jam and real butter,
coffee whose beans have flourished
on a mountain in Peru, I hope near Machu Picchu.
I sit down in my Japanese bathrobe,
in my Navajo beads, with bare feet; I sit
without ire or envy, without fear or despair,
and drink and eat. Slowly. Very slowly,
savoring all I can remember of that first
night we met, the good talk, the dancing
until we were too tired to do anything else
but take the dancing to bed—the miracle
of unintended meeting, the first of what
was to be years of meeting, moments
I hope to remember when I lie down to die,
my beautiful love, your head of unruly hair
and unruly thoughts unraveling
into a silence that will lengthen . . . or may
break off, as this handle did, in two pieces.
Who knows how love will hold, or if we will
ever be all right. Who knows what wrong
tastes like or how much emptiness the cup
will hold as we share it—who knows?

And if it is the cup of suffering,
drink it down—or better, may it pass from you,
and you live easy and go gently
where you will, or where you must. I’ll go
with you, grateful for plum-colored flowers
so close to bruising, coffee, sunlight, earth;
the journeys we took together—and the long one
left us to walk until we lie down near
clear water, shade trees, green pasture.
In that place, there will be nothing unspoken,
nothing forgotten or feared. Day or night,
whatever the hour, it will be all shining,
our whole and broken bodies full of light.

Margaret Gibson - Poet"Broken Cup" is the title poem in Margaret Gibson's 11th book of poems, BROKEN CUP, published by Louisiana State University Press in September 2014. The poems in BROKEN CUP bring a breath-taking eloquence to what Margaret Gibson has called “Traveling the Way of Alzheimer’s” with her poet-husband David McKain. After his initial and tentative diagnosis she wrote no poems for two years; but then poetry returned, and writing became a lightning rod that grounded her and allowed for moving ahead and for transformation. “Poetry,” Gibson has written, “is an animate form. It breathes; it discovers and restores voice. A poem is another way of being present.”

Visit http://www.margaretgibsonpoetry.com. Books by Margaret Gibson are available at www.Amazon.com, and http://lsupress.org.

Humor - Poor Widow Me - It’s Easy to Hang On to His Clothes If You Don’t Need the Hangers!

Poor Widow MeWe widows/widowers save certain items and others we easily toss. It’s as individual and intimate as our marriages were.

My husband used to say, “If it’s a Kodak moment, we don’t need a Kodak.” If that’s true, as long as we still have our memories, maybe the mementos are not that crucial for us to hold on to.

That said, at some point I needed more closet space. My wardrobe was expanding because no one was there to remark, “Do you really need another pair of black pants?”

In the old days, I’d stand naked in our bedroom, one hand pretentiously placed on where my waist used to be and announce to my husband, “Women can never have enough black in our wardrobe!” This was way before Orange is the New Black.

A year and a half had passed since Jimmy died and my daily habit of bringing my morning coffee into our closet to read our horoscopes out loud and babble to him, were down to an average of once a week.

Mostly, my visits weren’t social, anymore. I’d go in and take my clothes out. Period. Sometimes I’d blow a quick kiss and mumble, “Hiya, Jimmy, love ya.” More often, I’d come and go and I didn’t speak to him at all, just like in real life when we were mad at each other.

The day when I was fresh back from Bloomingdales with no room to hang my new outfit convinced me that perhaps I was being much too sentimental holding unto my husband’s clothing and the much-needed hangers they were on. Let’s face it; it’s easy to hang onto stuff when you don’t need the hangers.

Cleaning out the closet to make more room for poor widow me was not as traumatic as I was afraid it would be after my friend told me about memorial quilts, sometimes called memory quilts.

The memory quilt was a wonderful idea because I wasn’t really getting rid of his clothes. I was condensing them into a blanket for snuggling.
I took all of his shirts and pants and even ties, ones that my husband wore most frequently and had them cut into four-inch squares and sewn together with a backing. Voila! A forever quilt!

One of the pockets of the Dockers even had cookie crumbs in it. Yeah, I know, it gives me the chills just to write it. He liked his cookies.
Funny, Jimmy really wasn’t much of a clotheshorse, so that quilt could have been the size of a napkin or a potholder. Okay. Maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration.

I made one for each of the kids. They were thrilled. For an idiotic second, since it was such a magnificent thought and deed, I imagined that that year I could get away with making their “Dad Quilt” their one and only Christmas present.

Who am I kidding? popped into my head. I know better. After the gushing stops and the tears dry next would be ‘What else did you get us, Mom?’

My daughter has her quilt over the back of her couch in her family room and my son has it spread on his bed. I visit him each time I visit them.

I almost made one for myself, but I didn’t. I thought ahead. I wasn’t dating yet, but I knew at some point I would and what if ‘new guy’ sits on my couch next to my late husband’s entire wardrobe?

And, what if ‘new guy’ happens to be wearing the exact same pattern shirt as one of those little squares? The mood would turn along with my stomach.
In my first bereavement group the one and only widower announced to us widows that he “got rid of” his wife’s entire wardrobe the day after her funeral. If ‘stunned’ could make a noise the room sounded stunned.

Collectively, we knew not to be judgmental, but our silence shouted, “What the hell is wrong with you, Mister?”

Cold widower melted right before our eyes, though, as he struggled to express his needs to eliminate all of his bad memories. Her clothes represented the four years that his wife had suffered.

“There was not one blouse or pair of pants that gave me a good sentimental feeling,” he explained.

“When I looked at her orange top it made me sick inside. She was wearing that the first time she sat in her wheelchair and she called her jeans and blue blouse her lucky chemo outfit. Obviously, not so lucky...” His voice trailed off and he had tears in his eyes.

Our leader smirked as if to say, “I told you to wait and hear him out.” I guess she was relieved that she didn’t have to break up a rumble.

The next week nine horny widows brought him in a casserole.

Ask Jane - What To Do With Memorabilia?

Photo of memory boxin memoryNow that the funeral is over, relatives and friends have left, the thank you notes have been sent, and the flowers have wilted, your house may be looking almost normal again, except of course, for the obvious absence of your spouse. Memories of them are everywhere; their clothing, personal possessions, family pictures, and other memorabilia. If you’re able to look it over, you’ll probably find things you never knew were there, or things you’d long since forgotten about; military records, awards, letters, children’s drawings, cards, and things you had no idea your spouse had treasured.

Although you may want to dispose of many things right away, don’t move too quickly, or you may regret it later. You will find that much that has sentimental value, if you can bring yourself to look at it. At the same time, don’t leave it all in exactly the same place as it was when your spouse passed away. That might make grieving even harder.

First of all, remember that you’re not on a time schedule, and no one else can tell you when you should be ready to deal with your late spouse’s possessions. When you feel ready, begin by sorting through all the things that are obviously useless and dispose of them, or donate them to an appropriate charity, eg; clothing to the homeless. While you are sorting, you’ll be find things that evoke fond memories for you. Separate those things that have sentimental value from the rest, to look at later. Waves of grief may sweep over you as you find things from happier times in the past. It’s ok to stop and allow yourself to cry, or to take a break and walk, sit outside, have a cup of tea, take a relaxing bath, or just sit and think. When you’re ready to resume the project, you will.

Flag caseAs time goes on and you slowly look through the sentimental things, you might want to have a balance in your home between things from the present and those from the past. Put up your favorite picture of your late spouse, to honor them and that portion of your life. Other photos could be made into a collage, which can then be framed and serve as a permanent momento of your life together. If your late spouse had a military funeral, the flag that was carefully folded into a triangle and given to you can be placed into a special frame designed for that purpose. You can find them at larger craft shops. Military service is a special achievement, and also deserves a place of honor. You may want to display diplomas and other records of special achievements as well.

Personal momentos, like love notes and letters, should be preserved in a more private way. A nice idea is to decorate a box with attractive fabric, ribbon, sequins, or paper in a way that feels right to you, and represents how you felt about your spouse. This is called a Memory Box. You can also paint a wooden box, and then decorate it, or start with a ready-made Memory Box which can be purchased in arts and crafts stores, or online. Of course, making it yourself is a much more personal process. Then put the love notes and cards in there, close it, perhaps tie it with ribbon like a gift, and put it away in a special place. You can take it out at a later time and read through the contents, as part of processing your grief. If you give yourself a few months to a year before doing so, you might look at them with a different perspective. Meanwhile, they will be safe and sound.

As you go through your memorabilia, you may find things that could have special value to one or more of your children. These things are usually very appreciated when given as gifts, and don’t cost a thing. In this way, you can also pass on memories of your spouse to the next generation as well. If you have grandchildren, they ought to have something by which to remember the grandparent they have lost. If they didn’t know them very well, memories could fade in time and the younger ones might otherwise forget their grandparent. Children like a sense of belonging to a family that has a history, and sharing in the stories from past generations.

If you find records of your late spouse’s parents or grandparents, including dates and places of birth, dates and places of death, ethnic origin, and information about their lives, you may want to think about creating a geneogram; that is, a diagram of the of the geneology of the family starting with your late spouse’s name and your own (including the maiden name) and then listing the grandparents, aunts and uncles, sisters and brothers, cousins, and their children. Include everyone’s spouse if you have the information. Do this for both sides of the family, that is, yours and your late spouse’s. Sometimes geneology forms can be purchased in a gift or craft shop, or you can find models of how to do them online.

Here are some examples; www.familytreetemplates.net, and www.pinterest.com/explore/family-tree-templates. If you need help filling in some of the blanks, websites like Ancestry.com might be helpful. But by far the most accurate information for a geneogram, also known as a family tree, is obtained by asking the oldest members of the family directly. Older people tend to remember their youth better than they remember the present. What you can’t get from an older relative directly, you may find in public records, much of which is now online.

mdcsen595 senators flag display case 5x9 groupDraw it yourself, or get a pre-printed one and fill in the blanks. The genogram can be decorated with a family seal, for example, or scroll-type designs in the corners that make it look official. You may want to find attractive stencils to use as a pattern, and color them in with gold or silver markers. This gives a dignified look to the geneogram. When finished, it’s something that will preserve family records for years to come. As time goes on, the younger ones often don’t remember all this information, but when they look at it, they will see their place in the family, and their relationships to relatives, and it will evoke fond memories and a sense of belonging. It’s a wonderful gift for future generations to cherish.

Often, a geneogram that one thoughtful person took the time to do, turns out to be the ONLY record of information about the older generations that have passed on. It’s all in one place, and the family will treasure it. You may be able to make copies and give them to family members as gifts. A good print shop can usually do this for you.

Some people prefer to organize their memorabilia and photos by scrapbooking. Lovely scrapbook covers and designs are available in craft and hobby stores, as well as supplies to put together your scrapbook. You might like to organize your photos in chronological order, or randomly, in an artistic fashion. There are websites that offer scrapbook supplies and advice, and groups that get together to share scrapbook ideas, and do it together. These groups are sometimes listed in the community section of your local newspaper.

Another way to organize memorabilia such as family photos, videos, or vacation pictures that have been saved on a computer is by backing them up to a DVD. If you are not computer-savvy, there are companies that will do it for you, and they advertise in their local communities. And by the way, many of these companies will also take large numbers of photos and save them to DVDs for you, for surprisingly reasonable fees.

Live in the present, but honor the past. Make sure that your loved ones are not forgotten, and that you can relive fond memories of them whenever you choose. The process of sorting and organizing memorabilia itself can be a helpful way to process grief, and once the projects are done, you’ll find that you’re much more able to let go of the past and accept life as it now is, having preserved your memories securely. There is something cathartic in the process of working with memorabilia. It can help you move on to the next phase of your life, knowing that what went before will never be lost.

If you have questions, email them to me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Parenting - Healing Hope Chests - Building Healing Through Grief

Alexis and Kevin Lariviere build a Healing Hope Chest. (Robert Harrington)Alexis and Kevin Lariviere build a Healing Hope Chest. (Robert Harrington)Co-founders of the Healing Hope Chest project: at work: Robert (Woody) Wilkins, executive director of Dances With Wood; Alexis, Kevin, and Shari Lariviere. (Robert Harrington)Co-founders of the Healing Hope Chest project: at work: Robert (Woody) Wilkins, executive director of Dances With Wood; Alexis, Kevin, and Shari Lariviere. (Robert Harrington)What do we say in our house if someone cries?” asks Shari Lariviere.

“Better out than in!” responds Alexis, 12 and Kevin, 15.

When it comes to understanding the importance of expressing feelings of grief and loss, Shari, a teacher and accredited journey/guided meditation practitioner, has taught her children well. Together, they have created Healing Hope Chest kits to help anyone who is bereaved process their grief.

The project started in December 2012, the day after the tragic Newtown Elementary School shooting. Kevin and Alexis wanted to find a way to help the grief-stricken families, so they set up a little stand they called “The Wake Up Call” in their quiet neighborhood in Madison, Connecticut. They made enormous signs, posted it on Facebook, but never imagined they would raise over $450 in one day selling coffee, hot chocolate, and cookies.

They soon discovered that Newtown had been inundated with assistance and didn’t need more donations.

“We decided to make better use of the money, with that same idea of loss and grief,” Kevin says.

A step-by-step guidebook guides you in making the Hope Chest and also guides you on your grief journey. (Robert Harrington)A step-by-step guidebook guides you in making the Hope Chest and also guides you on your grief journey. (Robert Harrington)“We were going through that same process because our uncle had just passed away, Alexis adds. “We were in that sad phase, and wanted to help people because it’s really hard.”

They brainstormed ideas of what to do and just after New Year’s Eve, the Healing Hope Chest concept came to them in a flash.

For about five years Shari had worked on creative arts and empowerment programs —that Kevin and Alexis participated in—with Woody (Robert) Wilkins, executive director and founder of the nationwide program Dances With Wood (www.danceswithwood.org). Woody has designed and fabricated a variety of creative wood working projects that seriously ill children can build while sitting or lying in a hospital bed, which has proven to foster their healing process.

So, Kevin and Alexis thought, why not create a wood working project for kids and adults who have lost a loved one?

It was important to them that the project was designed for anyone going through grief, loss, and transition.

“It could be for a four-year-old who just lost his guinea pig or a 99-year-old who just lost his spouse,” Kevin points out.

The Healing Hope Chest kits include the fabricated wood pieces and hardware (provided by Woody) for a person to build the Hope Chest, which can then be filled with items that remind the bereaved of their loved one.

Guide to Help the Healing Process

A critical component of the kit is the Healing Hope Chest Guidebook that Shari and her kids wrote together as a team.

An angel (drawn by professional artist friend Sandra Thompson) guides you through the step-by-step process of physically building the chest—and the kit includes the gift of a wooden angel.

“If you want to decorate the box, there’s a planning sheet to plan our what you want to do and tips about decorating,” Kevin says. “So you can pretty much do whatever you want with the box. There’s not a set thing you have to do with it.”

But equally important as the construction of the chest, the angel continues to guide you through the grief journey.

“We created what we feel are powerful exercises that are short and do-able,” Shari says. “We did a lot of digging deep into our own experiences while we were creating this, working together.”

This includes an exercise for identifying and releasing one’s emotions when someone is feeling stuck in their grief; a relaxing guided meditation by Shari; drawing and journaling pages; suggestions for way to honor and cherish your loved one and your memories; and an enormous list of ways to lift one’s spirits, compiled by Kevin and Alexis.

“The iconic number when we started the list was 101, but we ended up with 111,” Shari explains. “It didn’t mean anything to us, but then we looked up the meanings of numbers and the number 111 came up and it said, ‘This is a magic number that means the angels are with you and everything is going to be OK!’”
“This is all stuff you can do when you’re feeling bad and can take your mind off it and relax you,” Kevin says. “The 111 is sort of a symbolic number that’s more spiritual.”

“We want this to be really interactive,” Shari stresses. “Not just a book you use to build the Hope Chest and tuck away. It’s supposed to be a lifelong resource.”
Alexis points out that the process of building the box would particularly appeal to older boys and men.

“They don’t cry because they don’t want people to know they’re hurt,” she says. “They have to be strong. Especially if you’re a father, you don’t want your kids to know you’re not the bravest. This helps any gender—building is fun for anybody, but especially men—they like to build and the building will help them through [their grief].

Shari says they’ve gotten good feedback that the Hope Chests are a useful tool for people experiencing grief and loss and are beginning to market it on a larger scale.

M.A.D.E (Make A Difference Entrepreneurs) wants to feature Kevin and Alexis in their 2015 web interview series. The organization brings together emerging young entrepreneurs, along with the mentorship of successful grown-up entrepreneurs.

“This is our first big exposure, so that’s exciting,” Shari says.

“My kids inspire me and the whole project has made our family even closer because we share something pretty intense,” Shari says. “My husband Dave and I are so proud of them and the fact that they’d give up the time to play and be with their friends to raise funds for a cause that they’re passionate about. Even Griffin (their 4-year-old brother) is talking about the Healing Hope Chest because it’s such a big part of our lives and family.”

You can purchase a Healing Hope Chest Kit for yourself or as a gift for a friend or family member online at www.healinghopechest.com. You will get everything you need to build a beautiful solid wood Healing Hope Chest and also receive an illustrated guidebook to help you on your journey. The cost is $50 plus tax and shipping.

Health & Wellness - Mother Was Right – Stand Up Straight!

Health WellnessWe instinctively size each other up by interpreting body language. A person who enters a room standing tall with a friendly smile is likely to be greeted warmly, even by strangers. A person entering that same room with rounded spine and head down will probably not be greeted at all. Our posture teaches others how to treat us. Does that mean that poor posture can cause loneliness? Well, maybe. And since loneliness one of our major concerns, it is worth looking into. 

What is bad posture and do I have it?

Bad posture is sloppy. Usually it’s rounded in the spine, caused by grief, depression, muscle weakness, laziness, or fatigue. Who wants to reach out and be friends with someone who is sloppy, lazy, and depressed? Honestly, there are people who will, but they are also probably sloppy, lazy, and depressed. “Birds of a feather flock together”.

I don’t mean to sound unsympathetic. I know firsthand that during grieving and its exhaustion, that standing upright is more than is physically possible. I’ve been on walks where I had to sit down because the physical act of walking was too much. Thankfully, that severe stage of grieving does pass, and our energy starts to return to normal. That’s when we want to take a look in the mirror and interrupt that posture before it becomes a habit.

What is good posture and how can I get it?

Good posture is a way of holding oneself so that all body parts are in optimum position for their function. That sounds complicated. Let’s take it step by step.
The plumb line should touch the earlobe, the shoulder, the hip, and the ankle bone.

• Forward head? Do chin tucks
• Rounded spine? Do Is, Ys, and Ts
• Rounded shoulders? Do rows and stretch those pecs
• Arched low back? Strengthen those abs with pelvic tilts and abdominal curls.
• Feet: High arches? Put good shock absorbers in your shoes. Flat feet? Get arch supports

One more thing

One other habit that develops during grieving is a slowed pace of walking. It becomes so natural that we don’t realize it until we’re walking with someone else, and we need to hustle to keep up. When you feel able, try to pick up your pace until you are back to your usual self. Who knows what interesting things lie ahead that we’ll want to explore?

The Rewards

After all that analysis and exercise and speedy walking, a reward is surely well earned. Here’s what you get:

• More friendly connections everywhere you go
• Better breathing, so more oxygen to your body parts
• Better blood flow, so more energy
• More comfortable joints and muscles
• Stronger bones
• More youthful appearance

So stand up tall and walk quickly – Watch the world greet you with a smile!

Check out our video on how to maintain good posture at pathfindermag.com/index.php/pathfinder-news/videos.

Nutrition - Easy Summer Grilling Recipes

What will be new for your grilling season this year? Whether it is experimenting with new ingredients, trying out some new sauces or just enjoying a casual summer outdoor meal with friends; here are some new recipes for you to try.

Sliced Steak Over Black Bean Quinoa Salad

INGREDIENTS

5 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/4 tsp. chipotle chile powder
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 (6 oz) sirloin steaks
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon adobo sauce from canned chipotle chilies in adobo sauce (optional)
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon honey
1 1/2 cups cooked quinoa (follow packet directions)
1 cup black beans rinsed and drained
3/4 cup chopped red bell pepper
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1/4 cup sliced green onions
1 1/2 cups baby spinach leaves
1 oz crumbled feta cheese
1/2 cup ripe peeled avocado sliced

DIRECTIONS

1. Prepare rub for steak: Combine 1 teaspoon oil, 1/4 tsp. salt, chipotle, chile powder and rub evenly over steaks.
2. Prepare dressing for salad: combine remaining 4 tsp. olive oil, remaining tsp. salt , orange juice, red wine vinegar, adobo sauce, cumin and honey in a large bowl with a whisk until blended.
3. Combine quinoa, black beans, bell pepper, cilantro, green onions and spinach in a bowl. Then drizzle dressing and toss to coat. Sprinkle with feta.
4. Heat grill to medium/hot and lightly spray with oil to avoid sticking. Place steak on grill and cook 4 minutes on each side or as you prefer until desired degree of doneness. Remove from grill and slice diagonally with a sharp knife into thin strips.
5. Divide quinoa into 4 shallow serving bowls and top with thinly sliced steak and avocado.

kebab grill skewersWinning Kebab Combinations

Kebabs make a light and healthy addition to any summer menu. Try out some of the following combinations on your friends:

• Shrimp and Fennel with Orange and Red Onion
• Tuna and Cherry Tomatoes
• Lamb and Zucchini
• Beef with Fennel, Tomatoes and Onions
• Swordfish with Lemon and Bay Leaf

Before grilling brush on lightly, olive oil flavored with herbs or garlic. Serve with a tasty home made sauce or pesto.

Herb & Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto

This pesto can be made ahead and refrigerated for up to one week to serve with Kebabs.

INGREDIENTS

tomatoes2-4 sliced large tomatoes and/or cherry tomatoes diced
1 cup coarsely chopped Italian parsley leaves
1/2 cup sliced oil packed sun dried tomatoes
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves
10 sage leaves chopped
1 tsp. fresh thyme
1 tsp. fresh rosemary
Freshly ground black pepper
A sprinkling of red pepper flakes if you like to spice things up!

DIRECTIONS

Blend in food processor or blender until herbs are chopped. Season with pepper and red pepper flakes to taste and refrigerate.

grilled veggiesMediterranean Style Grilled Vegetables

These are one of my absolute favorites for summer – there is no set recipe here. All the fun is in using fresh vegetables from the farm or farmers market and being creative. The secret is to choose vegetables which when tossed lightly in olive oil can be cooked gently in a cooking wire basket on the grill. If you want more of a fire roasted effect with browning cook direct in the basket – otherwise line with foil and spray lightly with canola oil and on medium to low heat.
Great combinations are red, yellow and green bell peppers cut lengthways into slices. Mix with fresh yellow and green zucchini cut into similarly sized amounts.
Toss lightly in olive oil. Cooking time 5-10 minutes, on a medium to low grill heat, stir during cooking.
Current food trends even include lightly grilled Romaine lettuce served with light vinaigrette!

lamb chopsMint and Cumin Spiced Lamb Chops

INGREDIENTS

1 medium onion peeled quartered
1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves
1/2 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
1/2 cup fresh mint leaves
1/2 tablespoon ground cumin
1/2 tablespoon paprika
1 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp garam masala (Indian equivalent of French herbes de Provence or Chinese five-spice powder)
12 small/medium lamb chops or rib chops.

DIRECTIONS

1. Pulse onion, cilantro, parsley, mint, cumin, paprika, allspice, red pepper flakes and garam masala in a food processor until very finely chopped.
2. Place lamb chops in a large dish and rub with spice mixture. Cover and chill at least 2 hours. Prepare grill for medium high heat and oil grate.
3. Grill lamb chops to desired doneness; about 3 -5 minutes each. Rest for 5 minutes before serving. Lamb can be marinated 12 hours ahead.

Fired Strawberries & Cream
(4 Servings)
It’s strawberry season – so why not try something a little different for dessert! Peaches or nectarines work really well in this recipe also.

strawberryINGREDIENTS

1 lb fresh strawberries
4 tablespoons white rum, Cointreau, Kirsch or favorite liquor.
4 tablespoons light muscavado sugar
2 cinnamon sticks, broken into short pieces 8 oz light whipping cream

DIRECTIONS

1. Hull strawberries, cut them in half, and place in a large bowl.
2. Mix the rum, Cointreau or Kirsch with the sugar until the sugar has dissolved then stir it into the strawberries.
3. Make 4 foil parcels using extra thick foil, 12 inches per parcel. Divide the strawberries and juice between them. Add a piece of cinnamon stick to each one; then bring the edges of the foil together and fold the edges together to seal.
4. Place the parcels on the grill on a low heat and cook for 4-5 minutes until heated through.
5. Lift them onto serving plates, open them up and serve with a spoonful of whipped cream.

Food safety tips: The most important grilling accessory is the food thermometer. In addition to taking the guesswork out of cooking the food thermometer helps prevent food poisoning by ensuring your food is cooked to proper temperatures. Look for one designed to use with meat, made of stainless steel with an easy to read dial and shatterproof lens. Recent studies show a link between cancer and charred meats and fish – so avoid cooking meats until they are well done or burnt.

 

Expressive Arts - Drum Circles Do More Than Make Music

Drum CircleJane GossardThere is nothing quite like the sacred thunder created when a group of people gather to beat their bongos, drum their djembes or shake their shekeres. The community drum circle is universal and has been around for eons consisting of hand drums and small percussion instruments. Often accompanied by dancing or chant, it is a soul stirring experience that attracts people like moths to a flame with its mystery and simplicity. No experience is required and the simple act of gathering creates a sense of community that facilitates a unique kind of unspoken communication. The scientific community has proven the benefits of drumming to positively affect conditions related to stress, emotional disorders, hypertension, Alzheimer’s Disease, Parkinson’s, stroke and even cancer. In his studies Dr. Barry Bittman found an increase in cancer killing cells and improved immune systems through drumming.

Jane Gossard got involved in drumming in an unusual way and was not something she was planning on. She found herself playing in her first drum circle with a friend and felt very connected. “It was as if, it was something I had done in another life,” says Jane. “When my husband asked me what I wanted for Christmas I told him a drum, a djembe.” She didn’t think David took her seriously. He was in London a few months before Christmas when he came upon an African Drumming Center about to open and saw some men playing on the sidewalk. He went into a nearby store and found “the one.” “This is Janey’s drum,” he said. They later attended a Kwanzaa Service together and she pointed out the djembe being played as the one she wanted. He played it cool, feigning disinterest. But he surprised her Christmas day and when she saw it; she cried, uncertain of what might lay ahead.

Jane Gossard“That began a process for me. Hearing how he found it and how it made me feel, I knew this was something I was going to have to follow. I was 47 and I’m now 66. I just started following it. Every time an opportunity came up I did it. A catalog came to my house I’d never seen before. I usually throw these things out but I opened it up and Babatunde Olatunji, the granddaddy of African drumming was teaching a workshop at the Kripalu Institute in Western Massachusetts. I went out there and I was blown away. This event turned me into a storyteller and a drummer.”

She started telling her story about her drum and this started what would become nearly two decades of drumming and storytelling. She ended up at her local senior center sharing her story, inviting people to drum with her. She was asked to start a drum circle at the senior center. She had never thought about doing a drum circle. “For me drumming is like prayer,” says Jane who had been mostly drumming alone. So she did the program at the senior center but outgrew the space quickly and moved to the Andover town hall, as all ages appeared to learn more about the drum circle. She called it Drumming for Joy. This went on for several years.

As she began facilitating drum circles, more opportunities arose and she realized all people really needed was a drum. Through a storytelling gig at a church in Andover that closed with a drumming circle, the minister there, reached out to Larry Peacock, the director at Rolling Ridge Retreat and Conference Center (http://www.rollingridge.org) and he asked Jane to offer a drum circle program. That was eight years ago. She continues to offer the monthly program to regulars as well as those on retreat.

Jane GossardShe also offers drum circles at an assisted living facility where she sees people transformed at the touch of a drum. “Drumming is a wonderful thing to do with people who have Alzheimer’s or dementia,” says Jane. “Especially people who are severely in end stage dementia. It was amazing to me, as I walked around with my drum; there were these moments where I could feel the entire room was present to what was going on. It’s also helpful to people who are severely handicapped and come with their caretakers. Their joy is just palpable.” In this setting people who struggle to communicate in any other way, find a way to connect.

She attended a drum circle once, where she heard the analogy that the drum is like a container. It is an instrument of spirit. “In the African tradition the drum holds the spirit of the goat because that’s the skin; holds the spirit of the tree that gave the body of the drum; it holds the spirit of the maker, the person who made the drum; and then it holds your spirit too when you play it. So drumming is inherently a spiritual activity. Whatever you are feeling, the drum will take that and hold it. The drum will take that feeling and channel it to the earth and remove it out of your body. It is a way of expressing joy and a way of connecting with the divine. Also when you are in a drum circle you connect with other people and you connect with yourself. Your own heart and your own body and all the people you are drumming with. It is always wonderful.”

She teaches a few simple rhythms that anyone can do and then they just play for an hour. Fast, slow, loud, soft and nobody is really in charge. Periodically different people take the lead. “This creates a wonderful experience of connecting with other people on a very basic, primal, rhythmic level.” Every circle is unique and Jane invites people to come to the center of the circle bringing their intention or prayer. They end sitting in silence which is very deep after playing for an hour. This is one format for a drum circle but not the only one. Other drum circles stop periodically after jamming where a leader holds a beat and everyone follows doing their own thing wrapping up after a short time. Other facilitators are heavy into teaching specific beats. Teaching styles vary but the outcome is the same.

“So people who are grieving or have suffered a loss, would find in drumming a kind of companionship,” says Jane. “Drumming alone or in a group is a place to take your feelings, your angst, your joy, your memories, and celebrate the person you loved as easily as grieving for them.”

The drum in African tradition is the center of life. They play when people are born and when people have died. Drumming is a bridge to another dimension as there is a sense of a person’s energy taking flight at times, according to Jane. The drum is an instrument of healing with specific rhythms for specific ailments, passing drums down for generations.

“As an instrument of healing it is no accident that after playing, you feel good. When you drum, it puts you in a meditative state, somehow shutting down your mind and opening your heart. It is basically a meditative practice.”

She considers her style, free form drumming and is the way that she first experienced the drumming circle. She just plays. “I love that organic process of just seeing where things go and how they go. It’s a wonderful experience. There is a feeling of deep connection with folks.”

Babatunde’s words used as a beginning or an ending to drumming together:
I am peace
I am light
I am beauty
I am one with my Mother the Earth
I am one with my Father and his creation
I am one with everyone within the reach of my voice.
And in this togetherness,
We ask the Divine Intelligence
To eradicate all negativity
From our hearts
From our minds
And from our actions.
And so be it.

Drumming Information and Resources

(Prepared by Jane Gossard 978-475-8873, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

Books
When the Drummers Were Women, A Spiritual History of Rhythm by Layne Redmond. Three Rivers Press, a division of Crown Publishers, Inc. N.Y., N.Y. ISBN 0-609-80128-7

Drumming at the Edge of Magic, A Journey into the Spirit of Drumming by Mickey Hart with Jay Stevens. HarperCollins Publishers, N.Y., N.Y. ISBN 0-06-250374-X

The Healing Drum, African Wisdom Teachings by Yaya Diallo and Mitchell Hall. Destiny Books, Rochester, Vermont (www.InnerTraditions.com) ISBN 0-89281-256-7
(There is a wonderful CD of him playing healing rhythms which can be ordered with the book, I believe – see 5th CD below)


CDs
Babatunde Olatunji – Drums of Passion: The Beat (and anything else he has done)

Mickey Hart – Drumming at the Edge; Planet Drum

Nurudafina Pili Abena (Nuru) – Ancient Mother, One Spirit, Drum Call, the Big Bang
(website: http://afrocubaweb.com/nuru.html)

Mondobeat, Masters of Percussion, Narada Productions, Inc.

Yaya Diallo – Dombaa Folee, Minianka Medicine Music of Mali. The Relaxation Company. ISBN 1-55961-501-x

Olaibo, African Percussion, Mary Lamenzo (see listing below), Box 126, Warner, NH 03278 (young children love this CD, great for beginners to play along, also great for dancing) (603-456-3272) Send $18.00 includes cost of CD and shipping.

Ashe, Ashe, Ashe (this word means “thank you”)

Entertainment - Healing After Loss – Daily Meditations for Working Through Grief

Martha Whitmore HickmanHealing After LossThis is a story about time and loss and about those who inspire us. It is a look at Healing After Loss – Daily Meditations for Working Through Grief, (Avon Books 1994) by Martha Whitmore Hickman.

As a writer and previously as a reporter, I have had the opportunity to interview more people in the past ten plus years than I can count. I love to hear people’s stories because we all have one, each as interesting as the next. I’ve been interviewing a lot of widows and widowers lately for Pathfinder, and on countless occasions people you’ve read about in other issues, have told me about one book that helped them survive during their most difficult times. It’s not uncommon to hear about different books that people find useful, but to hear the same title repeatedly moving people, was fascinating to me. I had to get a copy and I did. It was Martha Whitmore Hickman’s, Healing After Loss – Daily Meditations for Working Through Grief. I thumbed through it. It’s not really the kind of book that you read like a novel but rather it is to be used serendipitously and randomly, opening to whatever page you are meant to see. It’s also dated if you feel inclined to read it chronologically throughout the year, as there are meditations for each day.

I found it to be a classic for all time. A chunky little book filled to overflowing with wisdom and comfort, encouragement and hope. Not from a superficial, Pollyanna place but from a deeply understanding place. Each little page has thought provoking quotes from brilliant minds like Thomas Merton and Henri Nouwen, May Sarton and Alfred Tennyson, and from texts of the Holy Bible and the Bhagavad Gita and so much more from poets, philosophers, writers. The quote is followed by Martha’s anecdotes and words of wisdom written by someone who clearly understood the meaning of grief. At the bottom of each page is a line or two of affirmation.

The book sat on my desk for some time as I tried to find Martha, hoping to interview her to hear firsthand, what compelled her to write this book, that has had such powerful impact on those who are grieving any loss. The introduction in the book told me that she had lost a 16 year old daughter to a horseback riding accident. I know that was the impetus for much of her writing but I wanted to know more, how in her own pain, she was able to dig down so deep to tap into something within herself that could be such a soothing balm for others.

My research, which I’ve always thought was pretty thorough, kept leading me to dead ends. This prolific, award winning writer of personal essays, fiction and children’s books and even a memoir as recent as 2011 was nowhere to be found. My research continued and I even reached out to her publisher to see if they could connect me. No response. I knew she grew up in Massachusetts and had lived in Tennessee. I learned that she was married to Hoyt Hickman and had children and grandchildren, and by now was in her 80’s.

Then, one day, I stumbled across some new information that led me to an address and phone number in California. I was so excited. I’d found the elusive Martha Whitmore Hickman. By now I’d seen her smiling photo on line and felt like I knew her, between reading her meditations and looking for her on line whenever time allowed. When I write a book review, I try to seek out the author to hear their story, to see what inspires them and why they do what they do. I was finally ready to hear about how this extraordinary little book had come to be. But I’m a busy woman. More time passed as other stories took priority.

Then one snowy Connecticut afternoon I dialed that California number. The phone was disconnected. Hmmm, I thought. And for some reason I can’t explain, I Googled one last time, “Martha Whitmore Hickman obituary,” and there she was. I had finally found her. She’d passed away January 17, 2015, while her book sat on my desk, at the age of 89. Read it. You won’t be disappointed and you’ll likely find a place for it on your bedside table where so many copies find a home. I hope Martha’s Husband has one.

Available on Amazon.com at Healing After Loss: Daily Meditations For Working Through Grief.

Home - Hosting Houseguests - Strategies for Maximizing the Fun and Lowering the Stress

shutterstock 275645720Hosting HouseguestsHosting overnight guests can be stressful – even when you had a spouse to help. But now that you are on your own, the thought of having visitors may seem overwhelming. And if you haven’t defined your new role as sole host, by the time you see their taillights pulling out of your driveway, you’re euphoric. Once you recover from exhaustion, you vow to prepare for guests differently next time.

Getting the best out of a visit

When Pathfinder publisher Joanne Moore was widowed, she wasn’t prepared for the challenges of hosting guests without her co-host. She said, “Not only do I need to do all the preparations myself, but I need to remember all the things that need to be done by myself. It is surprising how many details there are to hosting house guests.”

Joanne discovered that despite the extra challenges, hosting her friends and family meant she had the opportunity to do some things she didn’t like to do alone. “For example, I will ask a guest if they want to get dressed up with me for a symphony concert. Or go for a hike in the woods—or just stand in line with me for an ice cream cone.”

Joanne reminds herself she doesn’t need to change her schedule to revolve around her guests—rather they can wrap their schedule around hers. “Guests need to understand that we have responsibilities and planned activities of our own. They should adapt to our lives. During the early planning stages, it’s okay to say, ‘I’ll be free Thursday evening for dinner, but during the day, I have to work and then go to my aerobics class. Make yourself at home, enjoy the activities described in the sightseeing brochures I’ll leave for you, and I’ll meet you at 6 p.m.’” She also invites her guests to attend her activities. “For example, they can watch my child’s soccer game, or come to church with me.”

Joanne believes that communicating clear guidelines in advance makes the visit enjoyable not only for her guests, but also enjoyable for her. “I often use this opportunity to get help with household chores that require more strength or skill than I have. I try to ask for this help prior to their arrival, so they can plan their time accordingly. For example, my niece’ new husband lifted my kayak for me to stow it away for the winter. It only took a few minutes, but it was a big help to me. I believe that people want to help, but don’t always know what to offer. Guests want to reciprocate a host’s generosity; it helps them when we are specific about what we need.”

If you are a woman, you may not feel as safe as you once did in a house full of guests. Joanne said, “If my guests are bringing along people I don’t know, I sometimes feel more vulnerable. I put a new doorknob on my bedroom, which requires a key to unlock. My valuables are protected if I’m out of the house while guests are present, and I sleep without concern at night.”

Keep it easy

Yvonne Newgent of Maryland, the mother of 10 children who were between the ages of 6-29 when her husband Tom was killed in a plane crash in 2013, isn’t afraid to use her husband’s death to decline some offers for a visit from well-meaning friends and family. “One of the benefits of widowhood is that people (including myself) understand when you say, ‘No.’ We can say, ‘Sorry, but I’m not up for visitors now.’ My kids have named this phenomenon ‘The Dead Dad Pass.’ And it is a very real and useful thing. Therefore, we do not feel euphoric when our guests leave, because we would not have welcomed them if we could not deal with their presence.”

Yvonne said, “Our entertaining is very casual. Usually the guests are my children’s friends and the planning is last minute, more in the ‘sleepover’ category. Things that are important to us are ways to spend time with each other. So, we do a lot in the food category because people can work together on it, such as pizza or cookies from scratch. Otherwise, we eat everyday food or something from the freezer department. We keep a large assortment of games, puzzles, toys, movies, skates, bikes, and other outdoor equipment. We often get a bonfire going in our backyard so we can sit, talk, listen to music, and cook S’mores.”

Planning ahead

When you feel ready for company, there are tasks you can complete in advance to reduce your stress over last minute details. Suggest an itinerary of activities. If you live in a tourist area, some guests may not admit they’re largely interested in sightseeing, so it’s best to prepare in advance because day trips:

a. Give you a break from cooking (especially if they can pack their own picnic meals).
b. Provide a fun way for all of you to reconnect over a shared experience.
c. Gives you a break for a few hours to accomplish your own tasks – or take a nap!

If they offer to take you out for a meal as a thank you for hosting, consider their preferences and budget. You will feel responsible if they don’t like the restaurant you suggest, so it is best to let them choose it from the menus you can be gathering now.

Preparing/purchasing meals in advance will make your visit more enjoyable. Perhaps your spouse shopped for your guests, so here are some basic supplies to purchase:

• Frozen lasagna (a large tray goes a long way, is universally liked and easy!)
• Ham (can be served hot when they arrive and makes great breakfast meat and sandwiches thereafter).
• Anything you can prepare in a crock pot
• Cereal, bread, coffee, eggs
• Peanut butter and jam, canned tuna
• Lettuce, tomato, mayonnaise and mustard
• Easy finger foods like grapes, apples, bananas, oranges, trail mix, cheese and crackers
• Paper plates, cups and flatware to reduce cleanup time – particularly if you plan on picnics; a “sharpie” so you can label paper cups for the day

Basic tasks to check off beforehand:

1. Grocery shopping for guest food.

2. Set out clean sheets, towels and wash cloths.

3. Install nightlight—particularly for guiding to the bathroom.

4. Clean house or hire someone to help.

5. Prepare a “welcome basket” of visitor supplies such as:

• Travel size soaps, shampoos, creams, eye drops, tissues, deodorant, over-the counter painkillers, feminine hygiene products
• Bottled water, snacks for midnight munchies.
• Magazines or newspapers that might feature concerts, art exhibits, lectures.

6. Communicate with your guests before they arrive:

• What is your estimated arrival/departure time?
• I don’t have bedding for all of you. Can you please bring pillows, sleeping bags and some sort of cushioning as I only have hardwood floors?
I have a cat—are you allergic? I have a dog and he may jump in your bed when you aren’t looking—will that be a problem?
• Please park in the street after you unload the car. It is permissible and that way you won’t block me in if I leave earlier than you awake.
• I drink skim milk, even in my coffee, and eat whole-wheat bread, high-fiber cereal and chunky peanut better. Do you need anything else as a basic food supply? I’m happy to pick up the food you enjoy on my next grocery trip.
• I may need to attend to business while you are here. I will prepare some suggestions for sightseeing on your own.

7. Assemble a three-ring binder with clear pocket pages containing:

a. “Welcome Letter”—a sample letter could read something like:

Dear Sally and Jane,

Welcome to my home! Thank you so much for taking the trouble to travel here. In case I’m asleep or at work when you arrive, I’ve tried to answer some basic questions.

Wi-Fi available with password: 123456
Blankets/extra sheets can be found in the white dresser in your guestroom.
Outlets available for your hairdryer/phone can be found under the desk.
Trash cans are available under the kitchen microwave, in the latched cupboard across from the toilet in the main bathroom (where we keep extra toilet paper) and under your desk.
Key to our house is under the plant on the front porch.
Food can be eaten in the kitchen and dining room but I ask you to refrain from eating in your bedroom.
Coffee can be made in my coffee machine in the kitchen. Supplies in bottom draw underneath it.
Dirty dishes can be scraped off (please don’t use garbage disposal), rinsed and placed in dishwasher if available (otherwise leave in sink).
TV remote: press red button marked “All On.” Wait a moment. If TV doesn’t turn on, press “Power” button on top right. I have no idea how to work DVD player, but you can find those remotes plus DVDs in the cabinet under the living room TV.
Shower: I shower in the morning so you can shower any other time.
Trash: can be emptied into the smaller of the trash cans on left side of house. First place your trash in a white kitchen trash bag found in cupboard left of the refrigerator.
Smoking: please smoke outside. There is an ashtray on the front porch.
Pets: please have your dog sleep on the floor rather than the mattress.
Stores: the closest store is Great Groceries, which is a half a mile down the road.
Dirty sheets/towels: When leaving, you may strip the bed and place dirty sheets and towels on top of the washing machine.
Address: in case you want to order food or a cab, here is my address again:

Merry Widow/er
123 Sunshine Lane
Happy Land, Fun State 12345

b. Area maps and restaurant menus
c. Sightseeing brochures picked up from your local visitor center or Chamber of Commerce
e. Suggested sample itinerary
f. Coupons or free passes to local attractions (can often be gotten at the public library)
g. Bus/train schedules and cab phone numbers

The preparation may seem overwhelming. But once it’s done, each future visit will be a breeze! The important thing is to enjoy your guests. Most of them will understand you no longer have the time and energy to lay out the fine china and serve three elegant meals per day. They will just be happy to see you—and if you plan ahead, you will be happy to see them too!

Seasonal - Gerry Grabowski Finds Purpose at the Wickford Art Festival

Gerry GrabowskiGerry GrabowskiFor tens of thousands of people who attend the Wickford Art Festival each year it is a special summer tradition. Festival goers celebrate the healing nature of art wearing the themed sticker they give out free that reads: “art is my therapy.” This is especially true for photographer, Gerry Grabowski who lost her husband suddenly and with no warning in 2012 after 42 years of marriage.

“There was no illness, no sickness. He was just gone… A heart attack. It was totally unexpected,” says Gerry who met Richard on a blind date. They had three children together and have three grandkids with another on the way. The two met in Brooklyn, New York and Richard’s work with IBM brought them from Pennsylvania to Rhode Island 36 years ago. They settled in the North Kingstown area and attended the Wickford Art Festival together for many years, enjoying the diversity of the work from artists that come from all over the country. She misses that experience they shared, after going faithfully every year since they moved to RI.

“Since he passed away its been a struggle because he took care of the whole house,” says Gerry. “We were together for 42 years and suddenly the whole house was totally empty. During the day I could keep myself busy but nights were especially hard. So I got a rescue dog. But I think he rescued me.”

Photography by Gerry Grabowski.Photography by Gerry Grabowski.Photography by Gerry Grabowski.Photography by Gerry Grabowski.Her blue eyed Siberian Husky came from a rescue organization in North Carolina and Gerry was able to pick him up in Maine. “Tundra has me up in the morning and out to walk every day.” But it’s “faith, family and friends” that Gerry attributes to getting her through her most difficult times. As well as the knowledge that he went peacefully (at 70 years of age). She continues to be challenged by regular home maintenance and repairs and making sure there are enough funds to cover taxes and other needs. Gerry retired from a career in nursing right after Richard died. She does some volunteer work at the Phoenix House in Providence, a drug and alcohol rehabilitation organization and serves on the North Kingstown Arts Council. She often donates her work for various purposes, for aesthetic purposes, as well as for fund raising events throughout the community. Her faith is very important to her and Gerry is a devoted parishioner of Saint Bernard Catholic Church in North Kingstown.

“I’ve always loved taking pictures, and then about seven years ago I started taking classes to learn more about it and was selected to be in a juried show of the Wickford Art Association. She continues even today to take classes and seize opportunities to learn more about photography. She appreciates the camaraderie of being with other photographers, sharing ideas and helping each other. She has been a part of many juried shows over the years. “I was so excited (with that first show). It really motivated me.” She is a member of the Wickford Art Association, the North Kingstown Photo Guild and the South County Art Association.

But her passion for improving her photography skills is not limited to Rhode Island. In 2009 she took the first of three trips with Profundo Journey led by two photographers from Rhode Island. That first photography workshop style trip was to the Amalfi Coast of Italy where Gerry says a transformation happened. Between the guidance of the instructors and the scenic natural beauty of the Amalfi coast, Gerry says her photography was elevated to new heights. Subsequent trips to Greece and later Ireland continued to enhance her skills and next October she will travel to Prague. But her favorite place to photograph above all is Wickford and South County, Rhode Island. The attraction …?

“Boating, beaches, sunrises and sunsets. They inspire me. The lighthouses are beautiful. I get up before the sunrise and take some of these pictures. What I see is God’s view. That’s the way I look at it.”

Gerry has been exhibiting work in the Wickford Art Festival for the past four years. It is the only outdoor festival she participates in.

Photography by Gerry Grabowski.Photography by Gerry Grabowski.Photography by Gerry Grabowski.Photography by Gerry Grabowski.“The Wickford Art Festival is just beautiful. It’s usually sunny and people come out in droves and they talk and they look. There’s plenty of food to be had and it’s a family friendly event. There are artists from all over the country exhibiting and it is a wonderful two days.”

“And I’m just thankful I have a hobby to kind of occupy my time, that I can share with other people and that brings me joy, and a dog that can go with it. There’s just so much beauty if people would just look around, stop and smell the roses as they say. Notice the little things, a chipmunk crossing the road, a crocus coming up, to me that’s joy. There’s beauty in life.” Her photography has helped her grieving process on an internal level and she knows that will continue and she looks forward to the upcoming event where she will don a sticker affirming, “art is my therapy.”

This year’s 53rd Wickford Art Festival will take place Saturday, July11 from 10 a.m.–6 p.m. and Sunday, July 12 from 10 a.m.–5 p.m.. More than 200 artists are expected to participate and crowds numbering around 75,000 will pass through the event which has been going on since 1962. It is sponsored by the Wickford Art Association and is one of the longest running outdoor art festivals in New England. Rhode Island is the first state in the nation to make the sale of fine art tax free. Wickford Village is located on Narragansett Bay and is accessible by boat or car at 84 Brown Street, North Kingstown, RI. Admission is free but artists pay a fee to exhibit their work. Proceeds from this annual event supports the WAA’s Annual Scholarship Fund which awards scholarships to talented Rhode Island public high school seniors furthering their studies in the arts, as well as benefiting WAA programs and exhibits. Visit www.wickfordart.org.

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