In His Honor

ForrestA wonderful way to prolong the influence of our late spouse’ life is to carry on with his or her unfinished work. Some people do this in grand scale. It’s common for a senator’s wife to be elected to fill his position, and even heads of state transfer power that way. Most of us don’t have such public positions, but can still act along that line. We simply need to understand his or her passion, and get involved on some level.

My late husband, Joe, came from a farm family in North Carolina. Over the years, the family farm changed hands, and he did not own any part of it. But his childhood memories of summers on the farm shaped his ideas of how life should be. There, he had time with his aunts and uncles, and many cousins. He worked hard, stringing tobacco. He’d also play baseball, and enjoy garden grown food.

Whenever we would go out for a hike, he’d rue that his only regret in life was that he didn’t own any land. Before he became ill, we started taking trips to look for land. After looking for 3 years, it was about two months before he died that we signed the mortgage on 257 acres of young forest in New England. The down payment came from an inheritance from his mother, who had died about ten years before. She had worked as a nurse all her life, and lived very frugally. We felt awkward spending her money on anything frivolous. She was a firm believer in paying off your mortgage as quickly as possible. So that money had sat, waiting for a worthy cause.

Joe’s intention for the land was that we’d cut for lumber in a sustainable fashion every 30 years, so that each generation of his descendants would have some help with their mortgage. He also liked the idea of having land because it offered options for lifestyle. It might be that someone will want to live on the land someday. Perhaps someone will want to farm part of it.

Forester Willum von Loon with son, Ned and granddaughter, Lucy.(Joanne Moore)I love the outdoors, and was quite happy with the purchase. Since his death, I’ve joined groups that provide education about forestry and have attended seminars. The fellow forest owners at these seminars come from all walks of life. They are lifelong learners and are very good company. Then, of course, there are lots of books to read about trees. I rely heavily on a forester, Willum von Loon, for advice. All I really do is walk the land, looking for invasive plants and insects.

Our bit of forest is a good topic of conversation for my sons. It’s a project we all enjoy. I watch the trees grow, which they do pretty much by themselves. But it is a joy to feel Joe’s spirit in those woods, and I feel good that his desires are being carried out. I also really like that my mother’s-in-law influence is also being honored. As with any family project, I anticipate problems over the future generations, and I have work to do in developing a management structure that will keep the land as intended, or that it will be sold without causing conflict among our descendants.

There are lots of small, affordable things that we all can do. You can make a photo album, or transfer those old films to DVD. Sometimes, you can buy a brick at their high school or a town memorial park with their name engraved on it. You could adopt a child through the Christian Children’s Fund, and send monthly payments. Maybe you could donate books on a topic (s)he loved to the public library. Plant a tree. Give a scholarship at her high school or college. Give his tools to a young worker just starting out. Think of one specific thing that you can do that would carry on the work or the passion of your late spouse.

It’s really nice to have a concrete task that represents our respect for the memory. The finiteness of the task allows us, when it’s done, to feel a sense of completion. But even beyond a tangible act, it might be our best tribute to live in a way that would make him or her proud of us. I know that in life, he was happiest when I was happy. So I try to find joy in every day.

Do you know someone who has honored their late spouse in a certain way? We would love to share their story. Contact us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Ask Jane - Family Matters

ask jane headerWhat is a family? If you ask yourself that question, what do you picture? Once upon a time, a family was a mother and father, son and daughter. There may have been a dog and a cat, and they all lived in a house with a white picket fence. That may be the fairy tale stereotype, but it is far from the whole picture of American families.

Today’s family smashes every stereotype. Today, ethnicities blend. There may or may not be two parents, and they may be gay or straight; it could be headed by a single parent, male or female, by an aunt, uncle or grandparent, foster parents, or adoptive parents. The family may have lost a child, or it could be headed by someone who has been divorced or widowed, especially since over half of American marriages end in divorce. Only 49% of households today are headed by married couples. Not all families are biological. Sometimes a church group or other type of group can function as a family, giving its members support.

The truth of the matter is that there is no real norm of what constitutes a family, if there ever was. The one common factor is that they are persons who have made a commitment to care for each other emotionally and financially throughout life, as a unit. It is true that love makes a family.

If you have been widowed or divorced, have you found yourself thinking sadly, “If only we were still a family”? Well, if you have children, siblings, parents, or other committed and loving persons in your life, you ARE a family. Families are not static units, always remaining the same over the years. Families are fluid, always changing and evolving over time. Children grow up, grandchildren are born, and members pass away. People marry and sometimes divorce; others move away or go off to college. In other words, the unit that constitutes the family is an ever-changing one, and it is meant to be that way over the years. If we are open to what our families now look like, and don’t forever hold onto how they used to be, we open ourselves up to the many wondrous possibilities that await us as we travel down new pathways.

Questions in regard to life and family issues may be submitted to Jane at Pathfinder Magazine, and she will make every attempt to respond to as many as possible in her column, Ask Jane.

Health & Wellness - A Long Path to Fitness

BEFORE, with my son Steve (Joanne Moore).BEFORE, with my son Steve (Joanne Moore).AFTER, having followed my exercise and nutrition plan (Joanne Moore).AFTER, having followed my exercise and nutrition plan (Joanne Moore).There were years in my youth when I woke on a summer day, threw on a pair of shorts over a bathing suit and ate a quick breakfast of cereal and juice. I did my chores (this was back when kids did chores) as a matter of routine. As soon as possible, I rode my bike to the beach and swam out to the raft. I floated on my back and recited memorized poetry to the gulls. My friends soon came along, and we played cards and talked about who knows what. By the time I rode my bike the two miles back home, I was tired from the sun and activity. Mom cooked a dinner of meat, potatoes, and vegetables, with a home made dessert most days. Then, after helping with dishes, I would go outside, climb a tree, and read a good book. That routine lasted until I was 16, the magic age of needing a summer job and getting a drivers license. I wasn’t smart enough then to grieve the passing of that glorious summer lifestyle.

What happened to that girl? How did she so willingly let go of the personal freedom of riding a bike around town, thinking that driving a car was a step up? Why can’t the woman she became remember how joyful movement is? Has she completely blocked out the memory of the wind in her hair as she rode downhill, and the feeling of power as she climbed up? How did she come to think that it was her job to work without play breaks?

That girl was me, and by the time my husband died, I was 50# overweight, and it was all I could do just to accomplish all the business of taking care of the estate and the house. My son and his wife announced that I would soon be a grandmother for the first time. I thought ahead to what kind of relationship I wanted with my grandchild. I wanted to ride a bike with her, to ski with her, to swim with her, and even just get up and down off the floor with her. What I saw in this child was a playmate. Once again, it would be socially accepted to be silly and active. Now, one does not become so overweight in a straight line. There were lots of diets that failed along the way. So, initially, I intended simply to get stronger and fit. I joined Anytime Fitness and worked with Axel Mahlke, a personal trainer, twice, to get an exercise program going . I exercised faithfully 4 days a week for 60 minutes each time.

The work-out was 30 minutes on the elliptical machine for aerobics, then light weight lifting, balance and stretching exercises. After 3 months, I had not lost a pound. But I knew, because I have my masters in exercise physiology, that after 12 weeks of exercise that raises my heart rate for at least 20 minutes, my muscle cells developed more capillaries and more mitochondria. The mitochondria are the part of the cell that burn fat for energy.

That chemical reaction requires oxygen, and the increased capillaries provide that oxygen. Now that the physical changes had occurred in the muscle cells, I knew that I was more capable of burning fat. So I met with Rosemary Collins, a registered dietician, and she helped me develop a nutrition plan. Based on my sex, age, and activity level, she prescribed the number of calories that I could take in every day in order to lose one pound a week. She taught me how to use an “ap” on the computer to be sure that my proportion of fat, protein, and carbohydrate were appropriate. I will admit that it was hard, and I was hungry most of the time. But, science was right. I lost one pound a week until I lost all 50 pounds. I went from a size 16 to a size 4. That was 4 years ago, and I’ve kept it off. I have met my goal of skiing, swimming, and playing with now 2 granddaughters. I’ve yet to ride a bike with them, but I have started riding my bike to work in good weather.

I’ve also been able to discontinue medications for blood pressure and cholesterol.

My biggest reward is being able to play. I have a general sense of well being that is joyful, and peaceful, and positive. I encourage anyone who has a sense that there might be a better way to live, to explore a more active lifestyle.

Finance - Why You Need an Advisor Who Will Listen To You

Finance

Family finances can often be an uncomfortable subject. In many homes, it’s not uncommon for one spouse to be more responsible for handling the finances and financial planning, and the other takes no role. If your late spouse handled the finances, then you may be feeling completely overwhelmed with trying to understand, and become expert in, an area that you have no interest in. Let me reassure you—you are not alone. A qualified financial advisor can help, and here’s some guidance in helping you find the right one.

First, you need someone who is willing to listen to you. If you already have a financial advisor, this is an opportunity to reevaluate if he or she is right for you – especially if it was your spouse that was the primary contact with the advisor. You are a unique individual with your own goals, dreams and fears. It is critical that your advisor be just as good as listening as they are talking. When meeting with potential candidates, keep track of how much talking do you get to do, and how much talking they do. It is important that the advisor be “interested,” not just “interesting.” Make sure they listen to you. Make sure you feel that you are important to them. If you aren’t getting this feeling, then you should interview other advisors. Your financial well being is too important to work with someone who doesn’t make you feel like less than a partner. Second, find out how your financial advisor earns a living. It’s one of two ways:

Commission-based advisers sell investments and earn a percentage of those sales from the corporation or company that offers them. This means their choices of investments for you could be more influenced by a third party than your needs or goals.

Fee-based advisers work with you on an an hourly basis as a consultant, giving you advice which is up to you to implement. Or they can manage your investments for a management fee, irrespective if your account balance goes up or down. Their motivation is to keep you happy by providing good service so you keep your account with them. And they’d also prefer to see your account balance grow so that they can earn a larger fee. Thus, generally speaking, the interests of a fee-based adviser are aligned with your own.Let me be very direct about the role of a financial adviser in your life. Your money is your money – not the adviser's money. If you are not comfortable with your adviser for whatever reason, then you should end the relationship and switch to another one. Make sure they listen closely to you, communicate clearly with you, and make you feel like you are being well taken care of.

As a financial adviser for the last 14 years, I have worked with clients at both ends of the spectrum. I’ve met clients who are really interested in their finances and those who have no interest at all. The moments that I have found most personally rewarding are those in which my team has been able to look a widow or widower in the eye and let them know that, financially, they are going to be okay – That financially we are going to take care of everything for them and that their job is to take care of themselves emotionally. I wish you the best of luck in finding that right adviser for you.

Matthew A. Somberg, AIF®, CLTC® is Principal and Founder of Gottfried & Somberg Wealth Management, LLC. He oversees over $225million dollars of total client assets and maintains offices at 340 Hebron Avenue, Glastonbury, CT and 15 Chesterfield Road, East Lyme, CT. Email Matthew at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or visit him at www.gottfriedsomberg.com. Securities and advisory services offered through Commonwealth Financial Network, member FINRA/SIPC, a registered investment adviser. This communication is strictly intended for individuals residing in the states of CA, CO, CT, FL, MA, MD, ME, MI, NC, NH, NJ, NM, NY, OH, RI, SC, TX, VA, VI, and WA. No offers may be made or accepted from any resident outside these states due to various state regulations and registration requirements regarding investment products and services.

Featured Widow/er - Liliane Allegretti embraces life after loss

Liliane and Frank AllegrettiLiliane Allegretti had a wonderful life after she arrived in the United States from Switzerland in 1951. She got married and enjoyed 38 years of wedded bliss before her husband passed away in 1994. Despite this heartbreaking loss, she continues to thrive, throwing herself in to her art, her friends and her family.

Liliane grew up in Geneva, Switzerland and moved to Holyoke, Massachusetts with her parents when she was 18. She spoke no English and did a variety of odd jobs including housecleaning, pumping gas, and doing whatever she could while learning the language. In Switzerland she had been a hairdresser and so she cut hair in Holyoke, MA until a couple of show business folks spotted her singing in French with the United Service Organizations (USO), to soldiers at Westover Air Reserve Base.

They encouraged and sponsored her move to New York City where a brief career in the spotlight was launched. She continued singing in French as well as some modeling gigs, an occasional off Broadway performance role, dancing at the Copacabana and most notably, acting as a stand in double for Marilyn Monroe. Her stage name was Lili Lisande.

As exciting as that was, so was the man she was about to meet. While vacationing at Misquamicut Beach in Rhode Island in 1951, she met Frank Allegretti, bartending at the Andrea Hotel. She was 19 and he was 30. “I couldn’t talk to him, I thought,” said Liliane. “He was a bartender, had gray hair and was too old.” She got over it, learning that he was a school teacher at Waterford High School where he taught industrial arts, and bartending was a short term summer gig. She returned to New York and during another visit to Misquamicut in 1956, found him hanging out with his buddies on the beach.

“There he was, lying on the beach. Ooooooh, the electricity,” remembers Liliane. “That was the end of it, or the beginning. He was a nice fellow, kind of quiet and very good looking. He wanted nothing to do with me when I was in show business. ”

Three months later, on September 22 they were married at the Cathedral of St. Patrick in Norwich and New York became history. Frank had a big Italian family that outnumbered Liliane’s 300 to 11.

“It was tough. They didn’t accept me right away. You know, I was in show business and from Switzerland and didn’t have much family here.” It took a few years for his family to come around which left Frank devastated because his family was such a close knit group. “On his mother’s dying bed she finally said she loved me. We had a wonderful marriage anyway.”

Liliane AllegrettiThe couple settled in Niantic, Conn. and had their first child in 1957 and another in 1958. They bought a house that year and everything was great. Jack and Michelle later gave them four grandchildren. 

“Frank was gentle and nice,” said Liliane. “I loved him. Everybody did. I was very, very much in love with him.”

He proved his love for her when in 1971, while skiing at Powder Ridge Ski Area in Middlefield, Conn., Liliane broke both her legs. It took two years for her to recover and Frank did everything that needed to be done during that difficult time, including caring for the kids who were then 12 and 13 years old. With a hospital bed stationed in their living room and both legs in casts, Liliane needed him for everything. Her mom came to help but Frank took over when he arrived home from teaching by 3. He even constructing a ramp for her wheelchair so she could go out with her friends who would load her into the back of a station wagon. “Frank was fantastic,” said Liliane.

Frank continued teaching, and when she was literally back on her feet, she opened Liliane’s Salon De Coiffure in Niantic village which she ran for 15 years, making use of her cosmetology skills. Frank handled all the books and financial matters.

In the late 1980’s Frank began having signs of prostate cancer that he was reluctant to address and in 1994 he lost the battle. During that time it was Liliane’s chance to take care of him.

“He used to do everything for me,” said Liliane. “Then he got sick and I had to diaper him. One night I had to take him to the hospital at 3:00 a.m. He died 10 days later. We had a great, great marriage.”

What she cherishes most about their marriage was the honesty they shared. “Real honesty. Lots of good love. He was a nice guy and I loved him dearly.”

Liliane still lives in the house they shared together and she has long since sold her hair salon. She continues to “do hair” for friends and family in her home and Frank’s passing opened up new pathways in her life that she hadn’t pursued previously.

“It wasn’t too great but I pulled through,” says Liliane. “I’ve always been a doer. I didn’t even know how to write checks to pay the bills at first, but I took care of things. The kids guided me a bit.”

Somehow Liliane found herself over at the Lyme Art Association taking classes in pastels with award winning pastel artists Joann Ballinger. Seventeen years later she is still there, painting every Friday morning. Landscapes, still lifes, mountain scenes, memories of Switzerland and especially flowers pique her interest.

“I paint whatever catches my eye. That’s my therapy; in fact it’s cheaper than therapy. I love flowers, just love them. I’m in my own little world. I get a good feeling when I paint,” she says. “I’m just so fortunate.”

She has exhibited her work over the years in different venues but has no interest in doing that now, choosing to forgo the sometimes competitive nature of the art world. Liliane says she is the oldest in her class of about 15 students.

Her days that begin at 5 a.m. are filled with activity that always starts with walking 30 minutes, followed by breakfast and tending to any appointments she may have. She often participates in senior center trips, takes in a show at the Goodspeed Opera House or visits with friends. Liliane recognizes the importance of having a support network of friends and family when dealing with loss of a spouse. That was valuable to her when she needed it most. The years have passed and as fit as she is, she does admit to having to call on other help to tend to household maintenance and yard work. As helpful as sharing her life with someone might be these days, she chooses not to date and has no plan to sign up for membership on Match.com any time soon, quite comfortable being on her own.

“I turned 80 last January and I feel pretty good, I must say. I’m busy enough to be content by myself. It’s not selfish; I just don’t feel I need someone to watch TV with“, says Liliane. When a little loneliness sets in, she can pick up the phone and call a friend.

Spirituality - Guidance in the Storm

SpiritualitySpiritual Direction is a sacred companioning that can be helpful as we journey through this life, especially during life changing events that challenge us most. It is an ancient practice that originated in the Roman Catholic tradition and is now practiced widely across all faith traditions. Because of that, it is more spiritual than it is religious, requiring only openness to the belief in a holy something, greater than ourselves. It is an interfaith experience when the central belief is that there is one God whom we all choose to worship differently.

“Finding a spiritual director who is trained and open to meeting a person where they are, and willing to set aside their own image and understanding of God, is important,” says executive director of the Spiritual Life Center, Melina Rudman. “There is one voice of God, spoken through many languages and traditions. No matter who or what we believe, as human beings we have a spirit. Especially in times of grief and challenge, our spirits need tending to.”

It is different than therapy in that there is a spiritual focus as people grapple with unfathomable loss. Finding the right spiritual director can best be explored through recommendations from friends and even interviews to determine if you and the director are a good fit. Spiritual directors in your area can be found through Spiritual Directors International (www.SDIworld.org). They can also be located through retreat centers and places like the Spiritual Life Center in West Hartford, Connecticut. Rudman recommends inquiring about a director’s background, whether or not they are in ongoing formation, and sharing some of your story with them and watching for a reaction.

“Your spiritual director can be with you throughout your journey, listening to the guidance of the voice of the Holy, and helping you tune the ears of your own heart toward that voice,” she says. “You should feel a connection with your director, a sense that your experience of God is respected, especially if you are someone familiar with having mystical experiences.”
In a typical session the director should do far more listening than speaking, and you can expect to be asked guiding, open ended questions. If you want to begin or end your session with prayer a good director should be open to that. And if you find that it’s not working out, don’t hesitate to make a change.

During a time of grieving, we might wonder if that is the best time to begin or even to continue spiritual direction. We may feel mad at God for “taking” our loved one. “Everyone is mad at God at least once in their life. God can take it! Anger in the face of a huge loss is an appropriate response.” says Rudman. “When people are grieving there is often great loneliness and unresolved business. At times like that, God is a container that can hold our grief, loneliness, regrets, anger and pain. Being able to explore those things in the presence of the holy, with someone who holds our story as sacred, offers resolution, comfort, closure and life can be found.”

She says spiritual direction honors grief and that it is part of the human and spiritual experience. “It’s handled tenderly and respectfully. It’s not rushed. Spiritual direction allows you to stay with the grief and move in and out of it. It is a place of acceptance.”

Melina RudmanSociety doesn’t care much for the grieving process and encourages us to get on with it. But spiritual direction is an invitation to take all the time you need. We all grieve differently and there is no right or wrong way. Spiritual direction invites us into relationship with the divine, to explore places we may have found too painful to go. And with the right spiritual director, the process provides a safe and sacred space to make that journey.

Spiritual direction sessions typically last one hour and are scheduled once a month, but during particularly difficult times, sessions may be scheduled more often. Fees vary depending on the director or program and can run $50-70 per session, although many places, including the Spiritual life Center, have a flexible payment policy and do not turn anyone away due to inability to pay.

Rudman arrived at spiritual direction after pursuing a degree in psychology from Baypath College. While attending the Women’s Leadership Institute at Hartford Seminary in 1999 she had a mystical experience of her own that prompted her to explore spiritual direction for the first time. “People were always telling me their stories and coming to me to share their joys and pains. I knew this was a gift for me.”

She received her certificate in spiritual direction from Sacred Heart University in 2002 and later became involved with the Spiritual Life Center serving on its board of directors. She ran the Servant Leadership School at the Franciscan Center for Urban Ministry in Hartford, CT for nine years and joined the staff as executive director of the Spiritual Life Center in August of 2013.

When asked why she chose to be involved with this sacred practice she responded, “I can’t imagine my life without it. I think that for me, it took me beyond religion into relationship. That has healed my life in so many ways.”

The Spiritual Life Center is located at Holy Family Retreat Center, 303 Tunxis Road, West Hartford, Conn. (860)243-2374. Rudman is also the author of Reimagining the Gospels, prayerful wonderings on the life of Jesus of Nazareth, published this past September. It is available at www.Amazon.com.

Home - Nelson Clayton -Your Household Treasures

Nelson Clayton

Thoughts on personal property appraisals

During many life transitions, the value of personal property can come into question. When you begin to wonder if the items that your family loves may have more than sentimental value, consider calling in a trained personal property appraiser. These highly skilled professionals can guide us not only in determining the value of our treasures, but can suggest how we might best liquidate when downsizing or just cleaning out is on our agenda.

Nelson (Ned) Clayton is an experienced appraiser, and his interest comes from his own family history. He has traced his family genealogy back to the mid 1600’s. 800 related families gather in New Jersey annually to reunite, celebrating their family history, and Clayton was a part of it. His home has furniture laced with boyhood memories. Among an eclectic blend of contemporary pieces and antiques, a crazy quilt made by his family in the 1890’s adorns a wall, filled with symbols representing his family. History and family means a lot to this Old Lyme, CT resident so it makes sense that as he neared retirement in 1991, he decided to pursue an art and antiques appraisal certificate program at Long Island University. With lots of inherited items, and family dating back to the American Revolution, Ned and his wife Stephanie pursued training together and the pursuit of education in this field hasn’t stopped.

Clayton is an Accredited Senior Appraiser with the American Society of Appraisers, Inc. and is a graduate of the Winterthur Institute at the Winterthur Museum in Delaware. Prior to retiring, he traveled the world as a banker for Citibank and brings his well- traveled experience to this second career. Despite his many years as a personal property appraiser, he continues to attend educational programs through professional appraisal organizations and museums worldwide, but some of his best learning experiences come from a least likely source. “Every time I go into a house I learn something new,” he says. “If I don’t know or can’t figure out what something is worth, I’ll find someone who does.”

Although he has encountered many unique items over the years, he recognizes his limits as well as the gifts of others, so he calls in specialists as needed, people who specialize in carpet, fine art and jewelry. He can handle everything else himself, including glass, furniture, decorative items, china, silver, collectibles, even vehicles, and he specializes in antiques and decorative arts, especially American antique furniture and silver. Sometimes he is called in to look at one item, a handful of cherished heirlooms or even a whole house, and he is called upon for a variety of reasons. “Everyone has something, but they may not know what to do with it,” says Clayton, who doesn’t deal in antiques himself but can advise his clients in liquidation.

The majority of people who contact him have had some kind of loss in their life or want to protect against loss. Typical reasons to call on a personal property appraiser include estate planning or estate settlement; insurance protection or claims; donations; and divorce.

People may be surprised to hear that the value of an item varies depending on the reason for the valuation. For example if there is the loss of an item that needs to be replaced, and if it was a rare or one of a kind item, it will have a higher value. In an estate scenario where things are likely to be distributed among heirs, one person might want an item and a sibling might want the cash equivalent, so the value will determine the equal share. During divorce, the value is needed for equitable distribution requiring a value that is fair for both parties involved.

The state of the economy factors into values. Since 2008, Clayton has seen significant changes, reducing values in the household marketplace. He also sees generational effects as younger family members have increasingly less interest in items that used to hold significance. “The younger generation doesn’t sit down for dinner anymore so there is no need for silver,” says Clayton. “They don’t want to wind clocks, so old grandfather clocks are no longer wanted or they replace the mechanism so they don’t have to wind it. They aren’t interested in carpets because they want to have hardwood floors. They want pretty, not history. For the first time ever, a new piece of furniture costs more than antiques.”

With estate planning or settlement, decisions need to be made about what do with the things you have. People may choose to keep it, give it to the kids, donate it, or sell the item. The emotional factor is the biggest issue according to Clayton, and one of the hardest things to get over. Clients often believe in the story of an item, and that story may not be more family lore than accurate. “George Washington could only have slept so many places,” he jokes. But once he helps clients to get past the emotional factor, he can assess a piece of furniture for example, by looking at its patina, period and construction.

For folks looking to donate a piece, it is useful to find an institution such as a library, museum, or educational organization with a common purpose aligned with the object. For tax deductible donations, an item may have higher value, especially for items that are rare and will be on display in this setting. Another thing to consider in parting with an item is the location and whether it’s worth it to ship something, as that can sometimes be costly.

It is important to call in an appraiser in several scenarios. For insurance purposes, a documented appraisal of value for expensive items can be crucial in the event of theft or fire. Or in the case of sibling disagreements during estate settlement, he becomes an arbiter. He advises parents to talk with the kids in advance to eliminate disagreements later. Or when folks are downsizing, sometimes preparing a move into extended care facilities, there is much to get rid of because where they are going doesn’t have room for all the things they cherished in their home.

old typewriterWhen considering calling in a professional, it’s important to consider credentials and how much experience they have. Typical scams that folks should be leery about are when an individual will come in, take a look around and throw a number out. “Their main purpose is to get it cheap,” he says. “They run tag sales.” Auction houses are a bit more selective and tend to give a range that they think an item will sell for. They tend to be fairly accurate.
When Clayton goes out to a home he follows up with a thoroughly researched written report of appraised value. He charges by the hour, and what he charges is in no way affected by the value of an item, and if people don’t know where to begin he is happy to come out for a consultation. A consultation involves a walk through, discussion to make a plan as decisions are made about what has emotional or monetary value, and he offers suggestions on how to dispose of the items which may be needed to pay off bills in a situation such as estate liquidation. An appraisal follows.

The thing he likes best about this work is the people he meets and finding things he’s never seen before. His greatest discovery was a desk belonging to an early Connecticut family. He appreciated the value of it because of its history.

Because he enjoyed this interaction with people so much, he has done presentations at Senior Centers where he would bring four items and ask the seniors to value them. The closest guess received a prized. He invited them to bring their own items to try to stump him. Only one audience member was successful, with a lighthouse light lighter that looked like a smudge pot.

Clayton clearly enjoys the work he is doing in his retirement years, bringing insight, education and value to the people who call on him. He enjoys viewing interesting items that always have a story and helping folks determine value and sometimes direction in their lives. And every now and then he gets stumped and reaches into his cadre of research skills and relationships with colleagues to find the answers people need. With a great appreciation for the history of each heirloom, while understanding its sentimental value, he helps clients gain clarity about the true value of each treasured piece.

For more information contact Nelson O. Clayton at (203) 561-8298 or visit www.AppraisalsOfDistinction.com.

Expressive Arts - The healing power of expressive arts

Linda Bradley (Patricia Ann Chaffee)Linda Bradley (Patricia Ann Chaffee)

Many people become familiar with hospice care as they watch their loved ones slip away, moving toward the end of life. And as they grieve that unimaginable loss, hospice might be the last thing they want to hear or read about. But for folks familiar with the Center for Hospice Care Southeast Connecticut, hospice can make a difference long after their loved one has moved on.

The Center for Hospice Care has an Expressive Arts Program that offers opportunities for creative expression for children and adults. Those opportunities enable folks to deal with their grief through remembering, creating, and socializing in an atmosphere that is nonjudgmental, compassionate and supportive. Linda Bradley is the expressive arts therapist and coordinator of the program that has been growing since it began as a pilot in 2010 when she was on staff only 6-8 hours per week. Her hours have tripled, reflecting the success and demand for her program.

“I always felt comfortable with art as a way of expressing the soul, using my art to work through my feelings about grief and death,” said Bradley. “When my Mom died in 1998 I found it therapeutic and very, very helpful to work through my feelings through journaling and art. It became a focus for me to help others in the same way. My dream was to facilitate an expressive arts program that supported individuals in expressing their grief through a variety of creative modalities.”

She was fascinated by expressive arts and the way it can help people deal with what is important in their lives. So with a Masters degree in Fine Arts from the University of Connecticut under her belt, she pursued a Certificate in Advanced Graduate Study in Art Therapy at Springfield College in Massachusetts. She then became a Registered Art Therapist (ATR) after completing her studies in Springfield. Bradley brings that passion for helping people through the arts, to this program at hospice.

No two expressive arts therapy programs are the same. They all draw on mediums that connect with the senses including painting, crafts, music and movement, drawing, journaling, cooking, gardening. The common theme is a creative flow. And each participant approaches it as they need with no right or wrong way, making it ideal for everyone, even those who assert, “I can’t draw a straight line.”

“Everyone is creative,” says Bradley. “We experience creativity in so many different ways. It’s not always studio art. It’s about taking what’s inside and articulating feelings in some tangible way.”

Expressive Arts Alumni Group (l-r): Lou Wasilewski, Barry Rhodes, Penny Gadbois, and Cheryl Thevenet. (Patricia Ann Chaffee)Expressive Arts Alumni Group (l-r): Lou Wasilewski, Barry Rhodes, Penny Gadbois, and Cheryl Thevenet. (Patricia Ann Chaffee)

Children have an easier time accepting their artist within. We adults allow that inner critic to reside on our shoulders offering their two cents about what we’ve done wrong, how inadequate we are, how we’ve hurt others and so much more. But if we can move past the resounding epithets and accusations that go with them in order to get quiet and tap into our authentic, beautiful and ultimately creative nature, we can do something powerful. We can use the process of creating to deal with our grief. 

“Once they get involved, and overcome the anxiety of being in a group, they find a welcome, supportive, environment,” said Bradley. “They can see the benefits. Sometimes they come once and that’s all they need. Others come for the whole six week series and some stay longer”.

Initially participants arrive and their grief is so raw they can barely say their loved one’s name, she says. Through the experience they bond with others in the group, who although each experiences grief in their own way, they have empathy for one another. The program at Center for Hospice Care is somewhat unique according to Bradley in that there are few expressive arts programs like it, that focus on supporting those who are grieving.

Barry Rhodes heard about the program after his wife Diane of 18 years passed away three years ago. His stepdaughter signed him up for a bereavement group, where he was introduced to the expressive arts program. It was there that he painted a picture frame to display a photo of Diane, but he received so much more. “Just being there was helpful,” said Rhodes. “There were others there who knew what loss was like. I liked the people in the group. Personally I don’t get out a lot. Other people, they don’t want to hear about someone’s loss. But in this group, everyone has been through similar difficulties.” He had been working up until last year, as a shipwright at Mystic Seaport where he worked on the restoration of the Charles W. Morgan, the last wooden whaling ship in the world. Since his wife passed away, he has been diagnosed with cancer himself. “It’s not as hard as dealing with my wife’s cancer,” said Rhodes who continues to be a part of an Expressive Arts Alumni Group. They continue to meet weekly to support each other and give back to the organization that has given much to them.

The Expressive Arts Alumni Group is made up of four individuals who had lost loved ones and had gone through the expressive art therapy program. Their latest project is making hand crafted greeting cards for the social workers and staff to use as needed. This sharing with the program is as therapeutic as is the group dynamic and the creative process. “The process of the group is amazing as they moved from being barely able to contain their own grief, to wanting to reach out and help others,” said Bradley about the alumni group that has now been meeting for over two years. “They have become close friends.”

Linda Bradley (Patricia Ann Chaffee)Linda Bradley (Patricia Ann Chaffee)Louisette (Lou) Wasilewski is part of that group. She lost her husband Michael in 2010 after a three year battle with cancer. She remembers one of the first activities she did in Bradley’s program was going through a magazine to search for images and words that resonated with her and reminded her of Michael. She chose pictures of a garden scene because Michael loved flowers. Her collage ended up growing into something like a scrapbook as one thing led to another. She has painted frames and birdhouses, made holiday wreaths, and made a chest for keepsakes. “A lot of things about how we feel can come out of it from black clouds to beautiful flowers,” said Wasilewski. “It kind of helps to take some of the grieving away. And you are with people who are all going through the same thing. We all lost someone we love. Talking with other people puts things in perspective and eventually you can see some light at the end of the tunnel.”

The expressive arts process is helpful because it makes feelings tangible, according to Bradley. Anger, sadness, confusion, anxiety, and indefinable emotions can be worked through by making these tangible things. It is about making memories and about finding comfort. The Memory Scrapbook is one activity that people have found helpful. Participants bring mementos and photos from home and work with a binder filled with pages.

There is an intensity about them when they are sorting photos,” says Bradley. “It takes them back and triggers an opportunity to share treasured memories with others in the group. It is a way to reflect on things about the person they want to remember. And they can go back to it when they want. It is a way to celebrate their life together and the life of the person they’ve lost.”

Using a Grief Inventory, they explore colors, shapes, temperatures, etc. and create an image that allows them to take something as huge and unmanageable as their grief and break it down, so that it is more contained, explains Bradley. In that container they can share with others. They gain self-awareness about what they are experiencing. Defining issues helps in developing coping skills.

“Their whole life has changed because of this loss. They have to learn how to work with all these changes. They find comfort in knowing they are not alone. It is a solitary journey through personal grief but they know they are not alone. They’re not going crazy, they’re grieving; a normal natural process and response to the death of a loved one.”

Expressive Arts Programs are free at the Center for Hospice Care Southeast Connecticut. They are located at 227 Dunham Street, Norwich, CT. Learn more at www.hospicesect.org or visit them at www.facebook.com/hospicesect or call (860)848-5699.

Poetry - April issue 2014

PoetryFor Lindsay
By David Smith

This storm of emotions
washes me clean
till I sparkle with the promise of a sunrise.
The water’s edge at peace in pure light,
till the wind comes and carries me away.

Promises, promises, promises.
Life holds so many.
How many sunrises are you willing to see
knowing they are not limitless?

Are you willing to open your eyes to the ugly
in order to see wonder?
Do you see the beauty in terror,
and in beauty, the terror of losing it?

Are you willing to share a love that is fluid;
that ebbs and flows, awe inspiring
and sometimes roiling and achy?

We own all of our promises.

Look for the sunrise and be cleansed.
Fulfill yourself, and have faith.
For in faith, there is truth and life.

Books-Movies - Mary O’Connor writes about the sweet spots

Mary oConnor

Mary O’Connor has been writing all her life and it wasn’t until she retired about seven years ago, that she decided she wanted to use her gifts to make some contribution to humanity. She found a way to do that with her latest book, Life is Full of Sweet Spots-An Exploration of Joy. And it is just that. O’Connor pulls together personal stories, hers and others from around the country and beyond. Using art and imagery, poems and promise, quotes and concrete advice, along with practical information, she describes her book as a travel guide for those searching for joy. She transforms what she sees out her window in the earth, sea and sky, and the human experience, into an inspiring, practical, often heartwarming path to finding joy in the sweet spots of life. 

So what is a sweet spot? Sweet spots are the extraordinary places and things in life that bring us joy and are often found among the mediocre. This book is an invitation to the journey, an ongoing, life long journey of discovery of that which makes our hearts sing. Place in text box.

When O’Connor set out to write this book, that became a four year project, she had already published a book of poetry titled Dreams of a Wingless Child. She had just retired from a long career that involved great listening skills and a variety of writing skills. She worked as a newspaper reporter and editor and in the field of communications, marketing and publicity as well as serving as the executive director for the Guilford Arts Center just before she retired. For the past seven years she has been offering poetry writing workshops to the inmates at York Correctional Institute.

This optimistic author questioned her own ability to write about joy and soon realized that finding an “expert” on the subject would be difficult. After all, it’s not as if one can major in joy at your local university. She searched on line seeking out people, many of them bloggers, who had overcome challenges in life (like so many of us) and found joy despite their hardships. She followed their blogs to see if they had something worthwhile to say and if what they had to share could be helpful to others who were experiencing difficulties of their own. Most of her contacts were more than happy to be interviewed and share their story.

“I met a lot of nice people doing this book,” says O’Connor. “I really wanted to make a contribution. My poetry book had triggered something in people. People said the poems were bringing them joy. They said, we don’t see things the way you do, looking out your window.”

Sweet SpotsShe wanted her new book to show them how to find joy in nature, through their bodies, hearts and spirits. Life is Full of Sweet Spots is divided into three sections: Drawing on Nature, Tapping Into our Bodies and Stretching Our Minds and Souls. It is much more than just inspiration. It offers practical suggestions on where to go, what to do, and the resources helpful in the process. It is an invitation to discover joy in our everyday life inspired by nature, people and their stories.

In one account Barbara Parsons, a former inmate at York Correctional Institute shares her love of flowers and gardening that helped get her through her sentence at York. When a local newspaper featured Barbara’s experience of joy in sunflowers, O’Connor was impressed. “Barbara said that growing flowers brought her peace and contentment, and that enabled her to experience joy in the unlikeliest of places. It opened her mind to allow other things in. She took writing courses to fill her mind and relieve tension. She tapped into the creative side of her life. There’s a therapeutic benefit to many things in the book,” says O’Connor. “For example if you are busy with something you like, time flies by. It can take a tragedy and offer some relief to an extent.”

Tammy Hendricks was moved to create memorial teddy bears to honor a great nephew who lived only seven hours after birth. Now she makes them for other people who have lost a loved one, using their clothing or favorite blanket. With a background in counseling at a mental health center, she finds that her new avocation continues to help people in a similar way. They often write to her to share information about the person who passed away and she incorporates a sense of that person into the bear. The sense of touch experienced through a teddy bear, is an important piece of experiencing joy despite the pain of grief.

The book is full of people doing interesting things that elicits joy. The hardest part of the project for O’Connor was choosing what stories and how much information to include. It is the kind of book that you pick up and randomly open to see what you might see, rather than sitting and reading it all at once. The nuggets of wisdom are meant to be nurtured and digested over time, then put to use.

“I myself am a naturally optimistic person“, says O’Connor. “ I’m happy to have a talent for writing that I could share. I’m an active person and I was looking for something to do with the skills I have. It gave me a challenge and a way to contribute to life.”

As she began looking for people and places that led to joy, the possibilities were abundant. For that reason another book may be on the horizon. O’Connor lives along the Connecticut shoreline where she is inspired by her natural surroundings and incorporates that into her creative expression both as a writer and as an artist. For now, the author keeps painting, enjoying her own sweet spots and posting photography and thought provoking comments on her blog.

Life is Full of Sweet Spots is available through Amazon.com or visit www.Lifeisfullofsweetspots.com.

Nutrition - Recipe ideas for meals that you might deliver to a friend who is sick

Grown Up Macaroni and Cheese with Butternut Squash (Cabot Creamery)There is nothing nicer than having a neighbor or friend call round with a hot, delicious, ready prepared meal when you are unable to cook!

Having a “friends roster” for meals with each person volunteering to prepare for one night during the week makes for good planning and helps to co- ordinate the week.

Cooking for a friend and then eating together can also be a nice way to keep your friend company, especially if they if they are alone.

There is nothing better than the taste of familiar or comfort foods when feeling out of sorts - so it’s a great idea to chat to you friend to check if they have any particular favorites. Also if they have any special dietary needs which might need a little adjustment to the menu.

I have put together some of my favorite recipes for meals that are easy to prepare. They are also healthy, reheat if needed, travel well and taste good!

Everyone loves a homemade “mac and cheese” this recipe adds the delicious taste of acorn squash….

Grown Up Macaroni and Cheese with Acorn Squash

Serves 6

Ingredients:
4 cups acorn squash, about 1¼ pounds
2 cups macaroni (try using wholegrain for a healthier option)
1 tablespoon plus one teaspoon canola oil, divided
2 shallots, chopped
3 cups 2% milk, divided
1/3 cup all purpose flour
2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary
¼ teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon ground white pepper
6 ounces white sharp cheddar shredded (about 2 cups) 3 tablespoons breadcrumbs (white or whole-wheat)
½ teaspoon paprika

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Coat a 2-quart baking dish with cooking spray.
2. Meanwhile steam or microwave squash until tender, about 10 minutes. Mash half the squash in a small bowl and set aside.
3. Bring a large pot of water to the boil and cook macaroni 2 minutes less than package instructions. Drain and set aside.
4. Heat 1-tablespoon oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add shallot and cook, stirring often until softened and starting to brown 1-3 minutes. Add 2 cups of milk and bring to a simmer. Whisk the remaining 1-cup milk, mustard, rosemary, white pepper and salt in a small bowl until smooth. Whisk in the flour mixture into the simmering milk until it thickens. Remove from the heat.
5. Whisk the cheese into the thickened milk mixture until it is melted. Add the mashed squash and whisk until combined. Stir in the macaroni and the remaining squash. Transfer to the prepared casserole dish.
6. Mix the breadcrumbs with the remaining 1-teaspoon oil. Add the paprika and stir evenly until moist and bright orange. Sprinkle over the macaroni. Transfer to the oven and bake until bubbling and browned on top about 10-15 minutes . Let cool at least 10 minutes before serving.

Serve with green beans, or broccoli.
Can be portioned up into entrée serving dishes if you wish, so there is an extra meal to go in the freezer as well as one for dinner!

Carrot Coriander SoupSoups are always good for light and quick meals – use your favorite recipe, bring out your best chicken noodle or for something a little different try this.

Carrot and Coriander Soup (Sainsbury’s)

Serves 4

Ingredients:

1-tablespoon olive oil
1 onion peeled and finely chopped
Pinch of cumin
Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
2 pints vegetable or chicken stock
1 lb. carrots, peeled and finely chopped
1tablespoon fresh cilantro leaves, finely chopped plus a few sprigs to garnish
Vegetable chips to garnish (optional)

Directions:

1. Heat the oil in a large pan, add the onion and cook for 3-5 minutes until softened.
2. Add the cumin red pepper flakes if desired and cook stirring for a further 1 minute.
3. Add the vegetable stock and carrots and bring to the boil, then simmer for about 15 minutes, or until the carrots are cooked thoroughly.
4. Transfer the soup to a blender and blend until smooth. Stir in the chopped cilantro then ladle into serving container.

Serve hot with warm whole wheat bread.

Pairing a nice fresh salad with a light soup makes a nice combination. Here is one you might like to try which is quick and easy and can also be used as a meal on its own.

YogurtLast but not least everyone likes something sweet to eat!

Fresh Fruit Parfait
This is a parfait that can be eaten any time of day, breakfast or dessert!
It takes just a few minutes to prepare, looks wonderful served in a small glass and is packed full of good nutrition.

Serves one:

Take 2 tablespoons of Greek yogurt (2% fat or fat free for lower calories)
2 tablespoons of fresh fruits, blueberries, raspberries, peach or drained tinned fruits in natural juice
1 tablespoons of granola

Directions:

Place Greek yogurt in glass or cup
Top with fruits of your choice and sprinkle with granola.
Place in fridge.
Tastes delicious for a dessert or snack!

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