In His/Her Honor - Sergio Franchi 20th Annual Memorial Concert

Sergio Franchi

Sergio and EvaSome love never dies. Such is the case with Eva Franchi and her love for Sergio. She has been honoring that love for the past 20 years with the Sergio Franchi Memorial Concert that is being held this year on Saturday, August 23. It all began when Sergio passed away 23 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.”

“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.

Sergio and Eva“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 Americas 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.

Sadly, his life ended in 1990 and the Sergio Franchi Music Foundation was born, to honor and celebrate his life and music. She wonders if this might be the last year of the concert but doesn’t want to look too far into the future. One day she may return to California to be with her family. But for now the legacy of Sergio goes on.

“This year is such a landmark year of the concert,” says Eva. “In my heart I want to make it incredibly special. Sergio will open the concert with his music on the big screen. Let the Music Play is 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.”

Franchi ChapelFranchi driveToday 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.

Proceeds from ticket sales go to the foundation that awards an estimated 16 grants and scholarships each year to young tenors and sopranos who perform during the concert. To date 840 grants and scholarships have been awarded to young talent who go on to perform at places like the Metropolitan Opera House in New York, and in Paris, London and Spain. This year, some of the best talent from past concerts will perform as well. James Valente from the Paris Opera was 19 when he first started at Stonignton and recently opened at the Metropolitan Opera House in Madama Butterfly. Derek Taylor also in Paris now, is coming back as well as Michael Amante who is a popular tenor, the others are classical tenors. In addition there is a 32 piece symphonic orchestra conducted by Jeff Domoto.

“It’s going to be a fantastic show,” says Eva. “Sergio will open the concert through the magic of the big screen and it will be full of grand celebrity surprise. I really feel the magic of the event is that it’s Sergio’s home and his grounds.”

It is a special place for sure 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.”

Franchi gardenFive thousand people are expected to attend this year’s concert on Saturday, August 23 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. This year’s theme is the Great 60’s to celebrate the era Sergio’s career started in America. People are invited to dress in 1960’s attire, 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.

Ask Jane - Angels or Demons?

thinking woman

Have you ever noticed that everyone’s obituary is filled with a list of their loving relatives, education and accomplishments, military service, business or employment success stories and talents? It presents a summary of the wonderful parts of a person’s life. Eulogies also extol the virtues of the deceased, and is given by someone who knew them best or who was closest to them.

But what if, in reality, the deceased was not always wonderful and loving to their family members? It certainly is not appropriate in an obituary or a eulogy to say so. But the truth is, none of us are as wonderful as we are presented to be after death. It is as though upon death, all the family problems, heartache, shame, or hurt the person may have caused their family is somehow magically washed away.

In reality, that is not the case. While most of us love and are loved by our family members, no family is perfect. We all have our family issues, some more significant than others. But it is often difficult to acknowledge negative feelings that persist in regard to the deceased, because to do so can bring shame and guilt upon us.

You may wonder how I dare to still feel angry at the deceased for any unfinished business between us? I must be a terrible person to have loved them but disliked them at the same time. Yes, we can love someone but dislike them, or love them but dislike their behavior. Perhaps the deceased had addictions to alcohol or other drugs which made the family miserable, even terrified at times. Perhaps the deceased was abusive to their spouse, children or others. Perhaps the deceased gambled away the family’s money, or was unfaithful to their spouse. Perhaps the deceased was just a plain old difficult person, hard to live with or talk to without starting an argument.

Any of these issues can leave us feeling angry, guilty, embarrassed, shameful, or otherwise conflicted after the death. That’s all right. Having conflicted feelings about the person who has passed is a normal part of processing grief. Sometimes a surviving family member is angry at the illness or disease that caused the loved ones death. Or perhaps they are angry about years of their own lives spent caring for the loved one, and feel as though their efforts were not appreciated by the deceased or by other family members. A family member may also be angry at the deceased just for dying and leaving them alone, especially if that person didn’t take care of their health. There’s added angst if they didn’t have a will, power of attorney, executor, or life insurance. There are many things that they may have left undone, which then become the problem of the surviving family members.

Whatever the emotional, legal, financial, or other problems left behind by the deceased, it is OK for the living to struggle with a mixture of feelings: love and hate, for example. No, things are not always the way they appear to be in an obituary or eulogy. Only the positive side of the deceased is presented, and sometimes other things are just shoved under the rug. No one is perfect, in life or in death. People are not angels or demons. Therefore the surviving friends and family members of the deceased should not hesitate to express their conflicted feelings to friends or family who will listen, or in a bereavement group. Bereavement groups are not hard to find, and are often held in hospitals and churches.

If you are struggling with conflicted feelings about someone who has died, don’t keep them inside. You cannot heal by pushing feelings back or trying to just forget about them. Begin your own healing process by getting your feelings, good and bad, off your chest among others who probably can identify with your experience. To do so is often a great relief, sometimes even a lifesaver. Start today, and I wish you well in your healing.

Jane V Milardo, LMFT
Marriage and Family Therapist

Health & Wellness - How to Have a Great Doctor’s Appointment

We put some time and care in selecting our doctor. The doctor has spent years in study and practice. When we meet with our doctor, we want to get the most benefit from our time together. As with any other meeting, planning is necessary.

Check out the policies of the practice you plan to visit. Do they accept your insurance? If so, be sure to bring your insurance card. If you won’t be using insurance, ask if there is a discount for prompt payment, or if they have payment plans over time.

Get a notebook to document your questions, the doctor’s answers, and instructions for follow up. Before you leave home, make three lists, and put copies of them in your notebook: medications that you take, your medical history, and your family history. For example:

Medications

Condition

Medication

Dose

Frequency

High blood pressure

Lisinopril

10 mg, orally

Daily

Do you feel that you are tolerating the medications that you are taking? Do you think you might be having any side effects? Is it a financial hardship for you to get the medications? Be sure to report answers to these questions to your doctor.

Past Medical History: If you are beginning care with a new physician, it might be helpful to bring any records from your previous doctor. Include surgeries, infections, cancer, heart disease, orthopedic injuries, chronic conditions, addictions, and any hospitalizations. Include a description of how well you sleep, whether you smoke or use drugs or alcohol, and sexual lifestyle. Describe your nutritional status, whether your weight is stable, and whether you exercise regularly. It will also help your doctor to understand any life changes that you are experiencing now. What tests have you had done in the past 5 years? Include colonoscopy, blood work, eye exams, mammogram or prostate testing, and bone density tests. Include your vaccination history. If you are under the care of other physicians, note their names and the reason.  

Problem

Date 

Treatment

Fractured wrist

December 2012

Surgery -  Dr. Goodman

Family Medical History

Include your biological parents, siblings and children. List their medical problems.


Your Concerns

If you are seeing the doctor because of a certain problem, be prepared to describe the symptoms you are now experiencing. Be as specific as you can be. Include when it started and why you think it started. Is it constant or intermittent? Does it vary throughout the day? What seems to aggravate the condition, and what relieves it? How does it impact your activities of daily living? Does it interrupt your sleep? What have you already tried? Be honest when answering all questions.

Arthur Landry, MD, cardiologist, adds this advice:  “If the patient does not clearly understand the diagnosis, treatment plan, or medications, then the patient should express that clearly to the health care provider. Also, if they are doubtful or confused about their management, they should ask for answers. If they are frustrated with getting clear answers or find they are losing trust in their caregiver, particularly if the condition is serious and not improving, they should not hesitate to obtain another opinion. If they decide to do this and want to continue their care with their current provider, it is recommended that they share this decision with the provider and ask that records be forwarded to the independent consultant with the understanding that a complete report will be sent to the provider from the consultant summarizing his findings and recommendations. This provides an honest and transparent process that is usually well accepted by patient and caregiver.”

If you are seeing the doctor for a routine physical, ask what tests should be done at your age. How often should you get a physical? Ask how you can communicate with the doctor between visits. Does s/he use email, or phone? How will you receive test results? Who covers for the doctor if s/he is off when you are ill? What hospital is the doctor affiliated with?

Though it sounds morbid, it’s a good idea to inform your doctor of your wishes concerning end of life issues. If you have a living will, leave a copy with your doctor. Also provide the name and contact information of the person who has your medical power of attorney. Give the name and contact information of people who can be informed of your medical condition, and who should be called in an emergency.

After the Appointment:

Be sure to schedule and receive all the tests and vaccinations that are ordered. Be sure that you understand the results when they arrive. Follow your doctor’s instructions. If you are unable to do as you’re advised for any reason, report the problem to the doctor. For example, if a medication is not agreeing with you, don’t just stop taking it. There’s usually a substitute medication that will do the trick without the side effect. Along that line, when you fill a prescription for a new medication, you can ask for just 2 or 3 days worth of pills. Then, if you’re tolerating it well, you can fill the rest of the prescription. That strategy saves money if you don’t like the medicine.

Be sure to show respect and appreciation to the office staff, who work under a good deal of pressure to support the medical process. A good relationship with them will make your visits more pleasant.

Finance - The Tax Ramifications of Losing a Spouse

Finance

The tax ramifications of having lost a spouse is just about the last thing we care about, but there are actions you need to take regarding your taxes.

Several kinds of taxes may be due shortly after his or her death. During this emotional time, it’s often worthwhile to employ a tax professional to alert you and the family to important deadlines. You can help the tax professional—and potentially save time and money—if you understand what needs to be done.

Income tax
When someone passes away, his or her tax year ends on the day of death. For single taxpayers whose income is large enough, the executor or appointed personal representative for the estate must file a final income tax return by April 15 following the year of death. This tax return will include any income actually received and deductible expenses actually paid prior to death. As a surviving spouse, you can claim a married, filing jointly status in the year of your spouse’s death and treat your spouse’s tax obligations as your own. Additionally, if you remain unmarried and care for a dependent child, you may be able to claim widow or widower status for two years following the year in which your spouse died. In both cases, this tends to result in lower taxes than if you file as single or head of household. You should meet with your tax professional and have them guide you as to which option makes more sense for you.

Fiduciary income tax
After a person has passed away, his or her estate and or trusts are treated as a taxpayer and you must file IRS Form 1041 annually if the deceased’s gross income exceeds $600. It is prudent to obtain taxpayer identification numbers for each entity as soon as possible after one has passed away and provide the numbers to financial institutions holding the estate or trust assets. In other words, you should be meeting with your Attorney or Tax Advisor shortly after your spouse has passed away to make sure that the proper forms are filed with the IRS. Ideally you want to tie up as many loose ends as quickly as possible and minimize the length of time an estate is in probate or the amount of time it takes to be settled and assets distributed to beneficiaries.

Estate and inheritance taxes
Larger estates may be subject to additional taxes. At the federal level, estates with more than $5.25 million in assets may be exposed to estate taxes unless certain deductions apply. For most married couples, an estate transferred to the surviving spouse is completely sheltered and no estate taxes are due. Others will need to pay federal estate taxes within nine months of the death. Most states also apply an estate tax, an inheritance tax, or both. Keep in mind that tax liabilities are not limited to the state of residency. Potentially, the executor may have to file and pay taxes in several states.

Best advice
Don’t pretend to be an expert on tax or legal matters. It is often worth your money to hire an expert to assist you in either tax preparation of probate related matters. Do not hesitate to hire a CPA or Estate Planning Attorney to assist you during this difficult time. We are all experts in different areas – don’t try to be an expert in an area that is unfamiliar to 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.

Finance Q & A

Q
"Finances are what have me stumped. What do I do with money from life insurance? What parts of my income are taxable (gifts, insurances, social security, etc.)? Is it possible to figure things out without hiring an expert?"

A
Proceeds from life insurance are tax free. So it is always nice to have a windfall that does not have income taxes to it. As to what to do with it? Everyone’s situation is different. Typically a funeral and burial cost several thousands of dollars so life insurance proceeds are always helpful to pay off those expenses as well as other outstanding debts. What to do with the money for the long run however is a question that has a different answer for each person based on their particular financial circumstances.

If you typically like to ‘go it alone’ with your own financial planning but are looking for objective feedback, you may want to seek a ‘fee only’ or ‘fee based’ financial advisor who can work with you on an hourly basis to help answer your questions and point you in the right direction without you feeling like you are being sold a product.

Spirituality - The Labyrinth – An Ancient Form of Walking Meditation and Prayer

Labrinth

Tricia KibbeThe labyrinth is a modern day, yet timeless walking meditation. This ancient path for prayer dates back at least 3000 years, and has been a part of many cultures throughout history. The most recognized is in Chartres Cathedral in France, and its rediscovery in the early 1990’s prompted a resurgence of this spiritual practice. Cross cultural and nondenominational, it welcomes people of all ages, inviting them into a prayerful experience like none other. To walk the labyrinth is a simple yet profound path that represents our spiritual journeys and leads us to our center.

Lauren Artress is widely recognized as being responsible for opening our culture to the value of the labyrinth as a path for prayer since her visit to Chartres Cathedral. The 11 circuit medieval labyrinth there, built in 1201 had remained covered with chairs, but she brought a group of people there, moved the chairs and walked the ancient and long forgotten path. She returned to Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, painted the labyrinth on a canvas, and began sharing it with the public. Various forms of the labyrinth have grown to be an integral part of our culture for those with and without religious affiliations. The labyrinth is for everyone.
They are located across the country and throughout the world, often found at churches, universities, libraries, parks, hospitals, prisons, and even back yards. Labyrinths are recognized for their ability to relieve stress and instill a sense of quiet and balance in our often harried and over scheduled lives. It is particularly useful for those going through hardships of any kind, and people who walk it often report a sense of peace. Others find answers to questions and guidance in different areas of life. Writers and artists find creative inspiration. Others experience God’s presence in a special way as they walk the path and some have experienced healing. There is no right or wrong way and no chance of getting lost, with only one path in and one path out.

Tricia Kibbe is a labyrinth facilitator who trained under Lauren Artress, and is now treasurer of the New England Labyrinth Guild, after serving as president for three years. She tells of her introduction to the labyrinth. “I first walked the labyrinth in 1997 while I was at an Omega retreat in New York City,” said Tricia. “Lauren had a canvas labyrinth and I had no idea what a labyrinth was. I walked it and then and there decided to go to California to train. It was a whole new experience and I got hooked. I’ve worked with the labyrinth ever since.”

1-photo

St Mark labyrinth

The Labyrinth Guild of New England was founded in 2000 and works to educate people about the labyrinth. It now also serves as a resource for organizations. They rent beautiful canvas labyrinths, and provide facilitators while creating various ministries throughout its Lexington, Massachusetts community. They seek to make labyrinths accessible. At the Guild’s website, www.labyrinthguild.org, there is a labyrinth locator that will help people find a labyrinth to walk in their own area. Its mission statement is to help create, “A world in which the labyrinth is widely used as a spiritual tool to nurture and empower peace, harmony, healing, and understanding for ourselves and others, individually and collectively.” For Tricia, healing comes with intention.

“I find the most powerful strategy is to walk with intention. Release and letting go, but there is something about intention that can open up things that you may not have thought about, creating that “ah-ha” moment not otherwise available. For people who have lost a spouse or partner, walking with intention can be very powerful.”

She recommends talking it out beforehand, and writing your intention on an index card, leaving it at the beginning of the walk, or perhaps taking it with you and leaving it at the center. The intention can be whatever you feel comfortable with. Sometimes a word for reflection, randomly chosen, can offer us guidance as we walk. In the case of loss, Tricia suggest bringing a touchstone from your loved one, holding a candle and walking with it to represent the idea of being accompanied by them in spirit.

“The labyrinth opens us up to space in our psyche and emotions that is not normally available,” said Tricia. “That’s why healing is very powerful on the labyrinth. Why? I’m not sure, but I think it creates a sacred container, a sacred space. We don’t spend a lot of time in sacred spaces any more. It creates a new atmosphere of the sacred.”

She points out that because the path is well defined, and we don’t need conscious thought to find our way, we are opened up in some way in that process. The path takes us along as a metaphor for life and the intention moves us forward on that path. This can be particularly useful for those who seek healing in some way.

“Intention is powerful,” she says. “I’ve seen a lot of people transformed, not necessarily at that exact moment. The first walk is always a learning experience. Do it again and again. Come back to it.”

Sometimes the labyrinth can be intimidating and people are hesitant. She recommends beginning with a finger labyrinth. These are made out of a variety of materials like wood, clay, lucite and sometimes just printed on paper. There is even an app you can download to your phone or computer that will allow you to “walk” your choice of labyrinths with your finger. It even has music if you want it. However you do it, as simply as you take a walk in the park, you can walk a labyrinth.

“You bring your life to it, yourself to it, and the labyrinth meets you where you are,” says Tricia. “We don’t take time to slow down. And this is just walking. In those moments there is something about getting to the center, in that sacred space and opening yourself to the Divine. Losing a loved one is a profound experience. To have some kind of acknowledgement of that loss in sacred space is bound to be a healing and sacred time.”

For more information about the labyrinth visit www.Veriditas.com.

Featured Widow/er - Faith Leads Blind Man to Love and New Life

John Urbanski

“I see more clearly and love more fully today than ever before,” says John Urbanski who is legally blind and lost his wife to cancer. He attributes his life experience and his relationship with God to opening his eyes and his heart, to overcome a life filled with challenge and tragedy. 

John was born with Retinitis Pigmentosa, an inherited disease that causes degeneration of the retina, resulting in gradual decline of vision. He wasn’t diagnosed until 1993 when his ophthalmologist noticed a retinal tear and referred him to the Massachusetts Eye & Ear Infirmary. It was there that he met Dr. Eliott Berson, of The Foundation's Research Center, Berman-Gund Laboratory for the Study of Retinal Degenerations at Harvard Medical School. Berson is a pioneer in the field of retinal conditions. John had the opportunity to participate in a clinical trial, but was told that based on the progression of his disease, he could expect to be blind by the age of 30.

“I convinced myself I would halt deterioration and I really believed that I would not lose my eyesight. I did visualization exercises and tried to live a healthy lifestyle.”

John had attended Indiana State University where he earned a Bachelor of Science in Psychology in 1991, and it was there that his relationship with God really developed further. He had a strong devotion to Jesus and to His mother Mary, and attended daily Mass faithfully at St. Joseph University Parish. He attributes his spirituality to solid Roman Catholic roots, a faith tradition instilled in him by his father Ed and particularly by his mother, Mary Urbanski.

While pursuing his Masters degree there, he became involved in a counseling program, and that experience of helping others, prompted him to realize a calling to the priesthood. He stopped his graduate studies and applied to St. Thomas Seminary in Bloomfield, Connecticut. After one semester, he was dismissed by the Archdiocese of Hartford, citing that he could not continue due to his “medical condition”. Upon hearing this upsetting news, he made his way to the Cape Cod area in Massachusetts for a few days respite. He soon found himself serendipitously chatting with Monsignor John Smith, who coincidentally or not, turned out to be the vocation director for the Archdiocese of Fall River. He recommended that John talk with Bishop (now Cardinal) Sean O’Malley. John remembers well what the Cardinal told him during that meeting.

John Urbanski“There is a place for you in the church whether you lose your eyesight today or tomorrow.”
With that, John’s pursuit and passion for a vocation in the priesthood was reignited and he was assigned to the St. Stanislaus Parish in Fall River, MA in January 1995. After living in the rectory with the priest and a seminarian for several months, he came to realize that although he loved the ministry of the priesthood, he didn’t believe he could commit to a lifetime of celibacy. He returned home to Connecticut.

He dated off and on, always looking for love in all the wrong places, but never thought he would get married. But a couple years later, while attending a charismatic prayer group in Manchester, he met Joan Napolatano. He went there in search of emotional healing and Joan was looking for another kind of healing. She had just been diagnosed with a recurrence of non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma after three years in remission.

“She was distraught and devastated,” says John. He describes her as a modelesque blonde who was physically attractive and she caught his attention. “She had poise. But I wasn’t looking for a relationship. Prayer group was out of bounds territory for that. I wasn’t there to date people.”

But they started talking and found an instant connection with the initial draw being their spirituality. They had much in common in how they viewed God as a source of comfort and healing during their trials and tribulations, challenges in life that they both knew too well.

“I completely fell in love, like I never had before. It was the first time I had a real understanding of selflessness. I loved her unconditionally,” admits John, who confesses that he had been somewhat self-centered much of his life. His family didn’t approve of his new found adoration. He was young, and had never been married. She was older, divorced, was unemployed, had two teenage kids, and cancer.

“I loved her regardless of all that,” says John. “I would have done anything to support her. And I knew with every fiber of my being that was where I needed to be. As it was with my belief that my eyesight would not falter, I had the same belief that love would cure cancer.”
John Urbanski

They married in June of 1999. While most of their relationship was spent at Hartford Hospital, they continued to explore every possible alternative therapy in conjunction with traditional medicine. But in December of 2000, after only 18 months of marriage, Joan lost her battle with cancer.

John is a campus minister and religion teacher at East Catholic High School now, following some version of the vocation that led him to explore the priesthood. While continuing to wear his wedding ring, he dated occasionally but admits he never thought he would find another companion for life’s journey. During meditation one day he sensed Joan telling him to finally take his ring off and when he did, he met a new colleague and they became fast friends. They went out for dinners, attended events and their friendship developed into something more.

“I found love again with her. We have a connection. (John prefers not to mention her name). “She exudes spirituality, intelligence, compassion, and inner strength. I expect I might get married again, but there’s no rush,” says John. “I’m open to whatever God has in store. I don’t need marriage to complete me, but I enjoy spiritual companionship.”

Although he is 43 now, long past the age when he was told he would be blind, he can still see. Technically, he is legally blind. He gets around with the help of his friend Lucy, the pet name he has given to his white cane. Various electronic aids help with his vision in other ways. John Urbanski is a perpetual optimist who believes his faith and his unconditional love for Joan has opened his eyes and his heart toward a new way of being and a new way of loving. Despite contemplating marriage again, he continues to wonder what life might have been like if his relationship with Joan had been longer.
“I’ll always wonder, what if?”

Home - Home Safety

This may be the first time in our lives that we are living alone. While living alone offers privacy for some guilty pleasures, like eating chocolate ice cream in bed, it may also present some anxiety. The best way to combat vague anxiety is to list all the potential hazards, and to develop prevention strategies for each. This list might be a good start to making us feel confident about being alone.

Are We Really Alone?
• Make friends with your neighbors. Ask them to keep an eye on your house, and to call you if they have a concern. For example, if I haven’t picked up my newspaper from its box by 10:00 am, and my car is here, I may be having a problem. I would appreciate a call from a neighbor.
• Our neighbor should know our children’s contact information
• Develop a network of friends who will swap driving to such appointments as colonoscopies.
• Consider a medic alert bracelet that will call for help under any scenario.

Fall Prevention Tips
Falls are responsible for many injuries that can take away our independence. There are many strategies that we can use to reduce the risk of falling.
• Remove items that might trip you from walking areas. This includes electrical and phone cords, and oxygen tubing.
• Remove small throw rugs or use non-skid mats to keep them from slipping
• Never stand on a chair, table or other surface on wheels
• Clean up all spills immediately
• Install handrails in the bathroom and railings along the stairs. If you need a cane or walker, use it rather than reaching for furniture.
• Work with a physical therapist or personal trainer to strengthen your balance responses.
• Use a nightlight to guide the trip to the bathroom during the night.

Keep Your Cell Phone with You
• If you have to climb a ladder, say to change the batteries in your smoke detector, place the phone on the floor beside the ladder. If you fall, you’ll be glad to have it.
• In the bathroom, when you are getting in and out of the shower.
• When you go outside, say to get the newspaper or to fill the birdfeeder, in case you slip on ice or wet grass.
• When doing strenuous activity, especially if you have had heart problems.
• When driving alone.

Computer safety
• Use anti-virus software.
• Change your passwords from time to time. Write them down, and keep them in a secure place.
• Do not click on links unless you are sure that they are safe. You may get an email from someone you know, and it tells a bizarre story, and asks you for financial help by clicking on a link. It is probable that your friend’s account has been hacked. Call your friend to confirm that the email is a hoax.
• Never give your personal information in response to a solicitation.
• The IRS and Social Security will never contact you by email.
• Do not tell the world via social media that your house is empty.

Fire Safety
• Have a plan to manage fire in your home. Have escape routes developed.
• Candles are responsible for many fires. If you must light candles, be sure to keep them away from paper, your clothing, or other flammable items. It is safer to use a snuffer than it is to blow out a candle, as blowing can spread a spark. Do not leave a room or fall asleep with candles burning. Have a supply of flashlights with good batteries in case of power outages rather than using candles.
• Do not smoke in bed. Put out cigarettes in proper containers.
• Have fire extinguishers in the kitchen, workshop, and near the computer.
• Have smoke alarms with carbon monoxide detectors. Change the batteries twice a year or according to the directions.
• If you have a fireplace, get the chimney inspected and cleaned every year.
• Do not try to put out a fire yourself. Call 911 from a neighbor’s home if necessary.

Firearms
• If you have firearms, store them safely, especially if children are ever in your home.
• Be sure that you have been well trained in the use and safety of the gun.
• You probably have the gun for the purpose of self-protection. Only pull it out if you intend to use it, because it might otherwise be used against you.
• To deter a home invader, be sure that anyone you let into your home is there for the legitimate provision of a service that you have contracted for. Use good locks on your doors. Consider an electronic surveillance system.

Expressive Arts - Healing Garden calls Norma Zoner to volunteer

Photos by Cindy Barry

Norma Zoner felt like she owed a lot to the Center for Hospice Care Southeast Connecticut. They had cared well for her husband Robert for more than three years before he passed away in 2012. She felt indebted to the organization for care that began long before hospice often gets involved. She wanted to help in some way, but didn’t feel she had the skills that many hospice volunteers possess. Until….she learned about the Healing Garden that was being created at the organization’s Norwich campus. Gardening is her passion and she knew she would have something to offer toward this purposeful endeavor. 

“I have always had a garden since I was a child,” said Norma who grew up on a farm in Pennsylvania. “I wanted to learn all I could about plants and I like to see things grow. “

She married Robert Zoner in 1956 and they traveled a lot during his first three years in the United States Army, followed by a career with the United States Coast Guard, where he was stationed at various lighthouses. They moved around the country including assignments in Virginia, Alaska, California and eventually in Boothbay Harbor, Maine. She found a way to garden in each place. In 1971, Robert was transferred to New Haven, Connecticut. With a five year old son, and tired of living in government housing, they decided to buy a house. He didn’t want to live in the city and found his way to rural Lisbon, where he bought a house without Norma even seeing it. It’s the house she still lives in today.

“It was just what I wanted,” she says. “There was a nice level piece of land and he told me I could do a nice garden here. I’ve had one ever since. “

In 1996 Robert encouraged her to take a Master Gardener Program being offered at the University of Connecticut and she enjoyed every minute of it. She received her Master Gardener Certificate. She was a homemaker and loved cooking and canning the vegetables she grew. She was and continues to be active at the Jewett City Baptist Church where she has served on different boards and committees. She also enjoys sewing.

Norma Zoner Healing GardenNorma Zoner Healing GardenRobert’s health began to decline in 2000, when he experienced a heart attack. He was later diagnosed with Lewy Body Dementia, a disease that has many symptoms similar to Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. In 2009 Norma was grateful that someone suggested she contact hospice and he was under its care for three years.
“Hospice was so wonderful in telling me what was going on. Volunteers came to give me a break so I could go to church or get groceries. The nurses, caregivers and volunteers were really wonderful people.” But after 55 years of marriage she lost her Robert to the long drawn out disease.

After a time, she thought about volunteering but didn’t know how to get involved. “I didn’t have those kinds of skills. I had just been through a lot. I’m not a very good driver. Robert took me everywhere I wanted to go. But when the opportunity came for the healing garden, I said I really wanted to be a part of that. I have a passion for the land, taking care of the land and for seeing things grow.”
She became involved in making the healing garden a reality, planting shrubs, perennials and herbs, as well as learning about new plants.

“I’m so interested in the fact that the designer, Kelly Sisk, wanted to use only organic fertilizer. It does just as good a job or better, and it’s better for the environment. We used fish and seaweed fertilizer and compost.”

Norma’s contribution was to help get the garden growing so that it could be a warm and inviting place for the community.

“The garden will be such a wonderful place for people to go and sit and meditate. It is a calming place, not just for those who have lost a loved one. It is a place to sit and be quiet and enjoy the beauty of the garden. The caregivers, nurses and volunteers are God’s way of showing His love to people.”

The garden design included areas for wild berry, herb, vegetable, perennial, rose, and Zen gardens. The plan has activity space for children, grass area, trees, a flagpole honoring veterans and four pergolas. Benches are arranged to invite reflection upon a waterfall sculpture.

“Our Healing Garden will engage all the senses in a soothing yet rejuvenating natural sanctuary,” reads the project brochure.
The project began with design and planning in August of 2013 and is the result of a nearly complete $100,000 capital campaign according to vice president of philanthropy, Christie Williams. “There are still naming opportunities left in the garden as well as paver stones available for $100.”

With fund raising an ongoing task, and $92,000 of the $100,000 raised, grand opening events are planned for August 15 and 16. At 8 a.m. on Friday, Aug. 15 there will be a traditional ribbon cutting ceremony. Donors to the garden, members of the board, state and local dignitaries have been invited, and there will be guest speakers and a dedication, a blessing of the garden, and refreshments. On Saturday, Aug. 16 from 10 a.m. – 12 p.m. there will be a community open house with live music, arts and crafts, refreshments and tours of the garden.

The Healing Garden is located at 227 Dunham Street, Norwich, Conn.. For more information visit www.hospicesect.org or call (860)848-5699.

Poetry - THE FUGUE OF PRAYERS

moutain flowerBy Joshua Lewis

Blush softly for the wind and its fugue of roses
swaying for the caterpillars clinging to their folds.

I unfold, a valley of possibility.

My fingers touch the chords of life,
and I sing for the first time,

my voice a hallelujah

for everything present. I--the hymn
that can't fail to sound despite the indignities

of mountainous terrain. The uncertainties

of flesh rendered plain by ice and serrated flames.
I am the name writ upon the skin of the sky.

My name is forever, forever the breeze

that bore me. I am the letters of the wind,
the keys that persist despite silence:

that austere mountain that plays

upon our every hope and dream, fear
large and soft, subtle and sweet.

The absence of music personified.

Blush lightly for the breeze
and its coda of rose-tinted words.

Joshua LewisJosh is enjoying life after his dissertation. In between preparing for classes, he writes poetry and short fiction. He has had his work previously published in the Patterson Literary Review, the Edison Literary Review, the Washington College Review, as well as Breaking Ground. His participation in the writing group Triliteral, continues to inspire him to grow as a writer and as an individual. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Books-Movies - Guided Visualizations with Denise Gadreau

Denise Gadreau

Denise Gadreau is an author, artist and photographer whose work speaks to the heart and soul. The most recent of her eight books is Guided Visualizations for a Stress Free Day. It is a companion guide for those needing a five minute reprieve from their day to day stresses, or those trying to get through a challenging time in life. Through her thought provoking words and inspiring images, her book calls the reader to relax, unwind and begin anew.

Gadreau grew up in Dayville, Connecticut and pursued a bachelor of arts in Education at Eastern Connecticut State University with the intention of teaching art. She enjoyed sharing her love of painting with children,teaching in various early childhood education programs throughout the Brooklyn and Willimantic areas for 20 years. Though she loved children, work took then her in another direction. She worked at the career transitions center at Quinebaug Valley Community College in Danielson and later for the Northeastern Connecticut Council of Governments, until her grant funded position ended. She moved to Florida in 1998 to be with a love interest, and worked at the University of Central Florida Daytona Beach. While down south, she started questioning life.

She became a voracious reader, checking books out of the library on religion, spirituality, near death experiences, and other similar topics, and in 2009 she wrote Crystal Meditations, her first book.

“I’ve always been interested in rocks” says Gadreau who had studied geology in college. “I found myself answering questions about life through a blog, and a friend said I should write a book.” So she did. Then she wrote others that were reflections on spirit and nature. “I saw the beauty of the world and realized how we are one.”

Her love of hiking led her to discoveries about life, as she spent time in the natural world, her camera by her side. Between 2009 and 2013 she compiled 8 books that reflect her gifts as a writer and photographer, including one novel that can best be described as a time travel mystery adventure. Her others, like Guided Visualizations for a Stress Free Day lean toward inspirational non-fiction, where she can share her ongoing journey to developing her unique perspective on life.

She publishes through the self- publishing platform of Amazon.com, called CreateSpace and has been happy with the results. “They make it easy for someone wanting to self-publish, and distribution through Ingram makes it available through any bookstore including Amazon.com.”

Guided VisualizationsIn 2010, Gadreau returned to Connecticut where her hiking has allowed continued exploration of numererous state parks and natural treasures over the next three years.

“I had an awareness of nature when I was younger but I became increasingly awakened and more attuned while in Florida. It helped me to understand the divine essence of God,” says Gadreau who considers herself spiritual rather than religious. “I wanted to visit places I’d gone as a child and some places people just told me about. I took pictures wherever I went, mostly in the spring, summer and fall.”

Guided Visualizations for a Stress Free Day has more than 90 full color images, almost all of which were taken in Connecticut with just a few from Rhode Island. This pictorial invitation to some of Connecticut’s most pristine locations, invites the reader into a journey of discovery of nature while the reflections invite settling into one’s self. It is at once, an inward and outward journey. Gadreau writes, “An “ahhhhhh” moment! You have to have one at least once a week!”

Using a Canon digital Powershot SD 600 with a zoom lens, she finds her own “ah haaa” moments. It is not uncommon for her to take 700 photos during one hike. She estimates that out of 100 photographs, perhaps 20 might be good. Her love of photography is likely to have come from her mother, Lorette Gadreau, who was an award winning professional photographer in her day. She suspects she’s learned a little bit from her mom. Her gift of writing comes from a lifelong passion for the written word that began when she was about 10 years old and wrote her first short story. It was a “weird space story.” She is currently working on a sequel to her novel, The Epic Catalog, as well as other inspirational books that will feature her photography.

“I don’t know why I do it. I love all people. I hope to help people see the beauty of the world through my pictures and de-stress. I ask myself, how can I help them feel better about themselves and relax? When we do a kind act for someone it makes the world a better place. I’m looking to make a difference in the world, not to make me a bigger person. But through doing something that helps others, I feel better too.”

Her final invitation in the book is filled with wisdom.
“There are no words, just to be…”

To order Guided Visualizations for a Stress Free Day visit www.Amazon.com or email Denise

Nutrition - Packing the perfect picnic for summer

tortillas

There is nothing nicer than a picnic to enjoy with friends or family on a summers day.

I have put together some easy to prepare picnic recipes for you and your friends to try…

Picnic foods that work best are the ones that are easy to pick up and eat straight from the cooler!

First on my favorites list are Red and Green picnic wraps, which are easy to prepare and sure to be enjoyed.

Ingredients (serves 8) (Adapted from Sainsbury’s) 8 soft flour tortillas

For the green wrap filling 

2 cooked roast chicken breast fillets, skin removed and finely chopped
2oz iceberg lettuce, finely shredded
1oz gherkins, finely chopped
1tbsp mayonnaise
3 tbsp. soured cream
1 tbsp. olive oil juice of ½ lemon
1 avocado, peeled de stoned and cut into strips

To make the green wraps.

Toss the chicken with the lettuce, gherkins, mayonnaise, soured cream, olive oil and lemon juice. Season with a little salt and freshly ground black pepper and mix in the avocado. Spread the mixture on one side of the tortilla. Roll up the wrap, cut in half and secure with a cocktail stick.
Wrap in wax paper, chill and transport in an airtight container.

For the red wraps

Use the same amount of cooked roast chicken and mayonnaise.
Add 2 tomatoes finely chopped, 2 red peppers deseeded and cut finely into strips. Prepare in the same way as the green wraps, refrigerate before serving.

Potato salad

To accompany the chicken wraps you might like to try this New England Potato Salad with Horseradish cheddar.
(Cabot)

Ingredients

2 pounds small red- skinned potatoes, cooked and cut into chunks about 1 1/2 inches each

1 tbsp. plus 1 tsp. cider vinegar
½ cup plain 2% Greek style yoghurt
3 tbsp. mayonnaise
¼ tsp. ground white pepper
4oz horseradish cheddar, or if you prefer extra sharp cheddar shredded
1 cup chopped celery hearts ¼ cup minced red onion
Freshly ground black pepper to taste.
3 tbsp. fresh herbs of your choice, for example, parsley, chive, basil, tarragon or dill.

To make the potato salad

Toss the cooked potatoes in the cider vinegar and refrigerate until chilled about 1 hour.

Whisk the yogurt, mayonnaise together and stir in the shredded cheese until thoroughly mixed. Stir in the celery hearts, onion and herbs. Stir yoghurt mixture into the cooled potatoes and season with ground pepper.

lemonadePicnic Drinks

You can’t plan a picnic without a summer drink. Cool drinks are just the thing to enjoy when dining al fresco, homemade lemonade or iced green tea make a perfect choice. 

Health tip: use less sugar or sweetener to keep the calories in check.

Picnic Dessert- Simple summer Strawberry Cake
This recipe is from Jennifer Segal adapted from Martha Stewart Living 2005.

strawberry cream

One nine-inch cake, 8-10 servings, simply bake and carry. Cut into servings at the picnic.

Ingredients

1 ½ cups all- purpose flour spooned into a measuring cup and leveled off.
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
½ tsp. salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened, plus a little for greasing the pan
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar, divided
1 large egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract
½ cup milk
¾ lb. strawberries hulled and halved

To prepare the cake mix:

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and butter a 9- inch square cake pan or pie dish.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

3. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter and 1 cup of the sugar until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the egg and vanilla and beat on low speed until well combined. Gradually add the flour mixture, alternating with the milk, and beat on low speed until smooth and thick.

4. Transfer the mixture into the prepared pan and smooth with a spatula. Arrange the strawberries on top; cut side down, so that they completely cover the mixture. Sprinkle the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar over the strawberries.

5. Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce the heat to 325 degrees and bake until the cake is lightly golden and tester comes out clean, about an hour. Let the cake cool in the pan on a rack.

Packing your Picnic

Pack the wraps, potato salad, lemonade and cake in sealed containers. Place the containers in a cooler with frozen gel packs. Keep the cooler lid closed as much as possible during the picnic. Do not let the cooler sit for more than two hours outside; if it’s over 90 degrees, for no more than one hour.

Seasonal - Vacation

sun bed and beach

Everyone needs a vacation. There was a time when I thought that vacations were only for the rich, or something that you could do only if all your work was done. Then I read a book called, Sabbath, Finding Rest, Renewal, and Delight in our Busy Lives, by Wayne Muller. It became clear that the Third Commandment, “Keep holy the Sabbath”, was indeed a commandment, not just a suggestion. According to Muller, The Buddists believe that when we act from a place of deep rest, we are more capable of cultivating “right understanding, right action, and right effort. Muller further explains that Sabbath is time consecrated with our attention, our mindfulness, honoring those quiet forces of grace or spirit that sustain and heal us. The term, Sabbath, used broadly, is a practice to find that balance between work and rest so that we may do our work with greater ease and joy. With that in mind, how can vacation be considered superfluous? It is indeed necessary to the care of our emotional and spiritual health.

As a widow/er, you have been through a lot. You’ve been responsible in caring for your family, home, and finances. You need a break from it all to rest and to think clearly. It makes sense to me that our vacation should be very different from what we do every day. If our days are full and hectic and stressed, then vacation should provide rest; it should rejuvenate our creativity; it should lower our blood pressure. If our days are routine and easy, then we can seek more challenges in our vacation.

Though you may agree that we need a respite from our daily routine and stresses, you may find it difficult to vacation alone. If you go back to where you’ve always vacationed, the experience may be bittersweet with memories. It might be a good idea to try something new.

staycation2staycationThe easiest vacations are done right from your home. It’s become a popular strategy, and has developed the name, stay-cation. Even without going far, you can have a true vacation. There are probably places within 50 miles of your home that you’ve always wanted to visit. If you can’t think of any offhand, peruse a regional newspaper or magazine for featured activities. Or check out the local towns’ or Chamber of Commerce websites. Plan well a week of day outings. Your planning will guide you to museums, theaters, shops, and historical sites. Other days, you can hike in state parks or do other active things, like kayaking or snow shoeing, Get tickets to a ball game; see if the stadium offers tours. Visit a nice library in the region, and peruse the magazines. Perhaps try an art class or a cooking class. End the week with a spa day, getting a massage or manicure. If you find a museum that you like, join. They’ll send you information throughout the year about special events. It might grow into a volunteer activity. Arrange to connect with friends on some of the outings.

Just as if you were out of town, refrain from household chores and worry. Avoid phone calls unless they’re from fun people. Maybe even hire someone to clean your house while you are out one day. Eat out as much as possible. This sort of vacation is very satisfying, and is quite affordable.

Once you’ve done this in your own geographic area, you’ll realize that the same strategy could be implemented from a hotel or bed and breakfast anywhere. Have some fun selecting a city or resort area, make a hotel reservation, and then plan day trips there.

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