In His Honor - View From the Snow Globe - Widow of Toy Inventor Finishes Husband's Last Creation

RuportRuport Nancy and John FrankWhen the inventor of the Walking, Talking Elmo doll, John Frank, learned he had colon cancer just seven months after marrying the love of his life, the 59-year-old was devastated. His wife, Nancy Rupert, said, “He was an athlete, ‘Mr. Healthy Guy,’ so it really did a number on his self-esteem—as well as his body. “

The newlyweds couldn’t believe they had waited all their lives to find each other, and now cancer threatened to separate them so quickly. A second marriage for both, they had met on Match.com when Nancy was 53 and John, 58. Nancy said, “We fell madly in love.”

Faced with this life-threatening news, the Connecticut couple went shopping for a book that would convey, in laymen’s terms, how to cope with cancer—but couldn’t find one to their liking. “So,” Nancy said, “John decided to write one himself.”

And write it he did—well, at least a manuscript. He was primarily known as the illustrator and geophysicist who invented the inside mechanism of the Walking, Talking Elmo doll, winning him the Mattel Invention Award in 1998. But now, with Nancy at his side, John used his talents to honestly and accurately record his immediate thoughts as they faced his cancer together.

Formerly working in the medical field as an Army surgeon’s assistant during the Vietnam War, John now faced life’s hardest lessons as the patient. He begins his story:

I’m perched upon an examination table in a small, windowless exam room decorated with a framed seaside print and a short magazine stack that I imagine hardly ever gets touched. Who searches Good Housekeeping for recipes while awaiting the kind of news that gets delivered here?

“Brownies to Die For?” “Death by Chocolate?” No, thanks.

My wife Nancy sits to my side…we have to lean and stretch to hold hands...Her touch somehow helps to soften what I expect. She’s with me, her grip says, though I am really on my own…

His journey though chemotherapy is soul-baring and sprinkled with laugh-out-loud moments. All the while, you are treated to his memories as a Jewish kid growing up on Long Island in a dysfunctional family.

Snow globeJohn concludes his story with insights gained from inside the “snow globe,” the foggy place where all cancer patients go when undergoing chemotherapy. He wrote, “I will be my own advocate, researching. But I will also be more appreciative, and more loving. Nancy, my ever-optimistic lifter-of-spirits, becomes an increasing joy to me with every next day...I feel blessed, and want her to know it…”

Nancy, a teacher and an actress, says she’s not a writer, but she very eloquently takes us to John’s deathbed in the epilogue. After two more rounds of chemotherapy were tried with different chemical cocktails, John was put in touch with a hospice nurse and sent home to die. In less than two weeks, he was gone, passing away on May 13, 2007, at the age of 60.

Nancy writes, “When John died, I was there looking into his eyes and assuring him I would be alright.” Before his body was removed, family and friends gathered around the couple’s bed. “We smiled and told stories and laughed at John’s past antics, and as we spoke, a smile came to John’s now relaxed face.”

Although Nancy’s friends were concerned about her sleeping in the bed where John drew his last breath, Nancy said,” I knew if I didn’t sleep there it would be all the more difficult returning to it later on. It was a long, lonely night, but I was happy in an acquiescent and tranquil sort of way, knowing that John was with God, no longer in pain. There was absolutely no doubt in my mind that I would see him again. The thought brought me great consolation, comfort and joy.”

At John’s funeral, Nancy displayed his art work, inventions including Walking, Talking Elmo, and other memorabilia, so that everyone would see the many facets of his life. But Nancy had one more facet of John she wanted to share. “I knew I had to get his book, his last legacy, into print and out to the public. Not only would it encourage those struggling with cancer, but it would also showcase his undiscovered wit and writing talent … but where to begin?”

Nancy believes God showed her the way—through friends, family, and strangers who cared. “It was really quite remarkable! Those people, those puzzle pieces, neatly fit one after another until I was holding John’s finished book, View From the Snow Globe: A Journey in Cancer and Chemo, in my hands.

The process from manuscript to book began when Nancy was invited to attend a Southeastern Connecticut Association of Publishers and Authors meeting. The speaker was a publisher whose humor and enthusiasm made her realize he was just right to handle John’s manuscript. The publisher, in turn, suggested his editor of choice for John’s book—a man who not only “got” John’s humor, but was also raised on Long Island. Oddly enough, his name was also John. Nancy said, “I immediately saw a kindred spirit between my John and this new John.”

The “new John,” John W. Geida, stated, “Although never having met or spoken with John, I consider him to be a close friend. A bond developed between us due to his humor, skillful narrative, and the courageous, optimistic attitude he exhibited in playing the cards he’d been dealt.”

Nancy knew exactly where to go for the cover design—to her “insanely talented friend,” Scott Gordley. “He and John were best friends and shared the same zany creativity both in art and in the literary world. He used John’s own paints to design the cover. I feel he definitely nailed the concept to a tee!”

Nancy believes her husband’s book has something for everyone. “Anyone who is facing a physical challenge will find solace and encouragement by reading it. John’s story is also a ‘faith walk.’ He went from being a non-practicing Jew to becoming a baptized Christian at the age of 57. And of course, it’s a love story.”

Six months after John’s death, a pink and gray stone was placed on his grave with this inscription:

John H. Frank
1946-2007
Writer, Artist, Toy Inventor, Loving Husband and Friend

Anyone who reads John’s book will also become his friend—and Nancy’s.
For more information about Nancy, John, or their book, visit: www.viewfromthesnowglobe.com

Ask Jane - A Year of Firsts

2015New Years Eve is very different the first year that it is celebrated without a spouse to kiss at midnight. It is a sharp demarcation of the past from the future. Everyone is in party mode while someone who has lost a spouse might feel sad and empty inside. A party may not feel right. People may cajole you to attend a gathering, but you are not in the mood. Perhaps a different kind of gathering is in order this year. For example, you could call someone who understands, and make plans to watch a movie together and order a pizza.

The year will continue to bring with it many “firsts”. The first year after a loss is the most difficult one. Emotional wounds are fresh, and you are still adjusting to life without your spouse. The first year after a loss is full of “anniversaries”. By that I don’t mean only the day you were married, but the anniversaries of many things that you did together, places you went, your spouse’ birthday, and all the holiday traditions that you shared throughout the year.

Anniversaries pertaining to your loss mark the first time you go through each of those significant days without your spouse. Memories are easily triggered, and suddenly a wave of grief comes along. Emotions are very close to the surface. Almost anything familiar can remind you of how things were.

For example, visiting a restaurant with a family member or friend can evoke memories of a time that you shared a wonderful lunch with your spouse. You may remember exactly when it was, where you sat, and what you wore. Perhaps it was to celebrate a special occasion, and the memory is painful.

You may find yourself dreading special days, and avoiding everyday places you need to go. There will be a first time since your spouse died that you run into people you know, and all of them will want to express their condolences, making you feel obligated to talk about it even though you don’t want to. Each new encounter since your loss will remind you that you are now a widow/er. Try to remember that even though these encounters are painful, the people offering the condolences are well-intentioned. Think of a short but polite response such as, “I’m a little better, thanks for asking.”

There is simply no way to avoid going through the first year. Therefore, I suggest that you expect the anniversaries of special occasions or holidays to come up and throw you off course. Each first will come and go; it won’t last forever. In anticipation, plan to spend those special days with a supportive friend. Your companion or activity helps you to focus your mind elsewhere. Before you know it, the day you dreaded will be over.

Besides, the first time every holiday comes around, there are other kinds of firsts you will experience. The first night you sleep in your bed alone. The first time you go somewhere by yourself. The first time you spend time with your family as a widow/er. The first time you take a vacation without your spouse. Even the first time you sit at the dinner table alone. The actual anniversary of your spouse’ death may be the most difficult first day of the year. The sadness feels unbearable.

ask jane headerJust being alone for the first time may be something totally foreign to you. You may not know what to do with yourself. You may feel terribly lonely, yet not want to burden others with your needs, so you don’t reach out. In reality, you feel much more isolated than you really are. The world is full of caring people, but you may not know how to connect with them. You may think that no one could possibly understand how you feel. Of course, there are many other widows and widowers out there who do understand. The question is where, and how to find them. I strongly recommend a widow/ers’ support group. My own mother was connected with one through the hospital after my father died, and she said the group saved her life. That was a convincing testimonial for her group. If you are looking for a group, the hospital chaplain is often the contact person. You might also find one through Hospice or through a faith community.

Keep in mind that every feeling you have is temporary, and therefore will have an end point. Your grief will not last forever. Every wave of grief will have a beginning point and an end point. Focus on getting through the immediate feelings by talking to a friend or counselor, or by relaxing in a comfy chair with a good book, a warm blanket, your pet, and a hot cup of tea. Be good to yourself. Be gentle with yourself. Do some slow, deep breathing. Distract your mind by reading or watching a movie. I believe that journaling is particularly helpful during tough times, because the feelings you may otherwise not be able to express are now down on paper, and off your mind for the moment. Every few months, you may want to reread your journal to see how your feelings have changed as time has gone by, and how far you have come in adjusting to change. You’ll be surprised at the progress you have made.

Each successive year, the holidays and anniversaries will get less difficult. Your grief will not last forever, but your love may, and that is what you have to hold on to. Loving your late spouse is a constant, and a beautiful legacy to your marriage. Love lives on beyond the grave.

Change is not only normal, it is inevitable. Unfortunately, widowhood is part of the normal course of most people’s lives, and you, like other widow/ers, will eventually adjust to this new stage of life. Being in the company of others who share your interests is also helpful. Join a club, your senior center, or get involved in local activities. Try to focus on the present, not always the past. Accept the support that is offered to you.

You can do this, and you don’t have to do it alone.

Questions in regard to life and family issues may be submitted to Jane at Pathfinder Magazine at widowedpathfinder.com/contacts/questions-to-jane-milardo, and she will make every attempt to respond to as many as possible in her column, Ask Jane.

Health & Wellness - Are You Sad or Is It SAD?

Seasons

Moods, emotions, ups and downs are always a challenge in life; the question is, are they temperamental variances or biochemical changes due to the cycle of the seasons? Sometimes the winter blues aren’t just the winter blues.

So many circumstances can bring on mood changes. A situation that pushes you emotionally to your limit—trauma, loss, chronic pain, sustained guilt, or unresolved emotional issues—can bring on a feeling of imbalance or instability. First, become aware of your moods. It’s easy to just ignore feelings, deny them or even maintain a state of numbness, but the first step to healing is real self-awareness. Agitation, daily depression, hopelessness, loss of interest, insomnia, appetite changes, difficulty concentrating, and suicidal thoughts are symptoms of major depression. If these feelings last more than two weeks, you need medical evaluation to assess whether the depression is clinical or situational, and whether it requires medication, counseling, or both.

Depression can run in families. If you have relatives with depression, that predisposition increases the odds that you will, too. If you’ve ever experienced depression in the past, you’re more likely to experience a recurrence. You may deny the depression because of the stigma that still hovers over it, or because you hope you’ll get through it on your own, but this can lead to long-term anguish for you and your loved ones.

If you notice that your symptoms appear in the autumn and resolve when spring arrives, you may have SAD, sometimes called winter depression or Seasonal Affective Disorder. The symptoms are different from those of major depression and include irritability, low energy, heavy feeling, oversleeping, overeating (especially carbs), weight gain, problems getting along with others, and feeling overly sensitive to criticism. These symptoms are not present except during these particular times of the year (There are some who experience Summer Seasonal Affective Disorder, but the majority of episodes happen in the colder months because of shorter days and less ambient lighting).

Research shows that at least 12 million people experience SAD each year, and a small percent actually require hospitalization. In other words, this is more than just the winter blues. Traditional treatments include phototherapy (light therapy) psychotherapy, and medications. Integrative treatments including acupuncture, yoga, meditation, guided imagery, massage therapy, and craniosacral therapy as well as many other modalities are becoming increasingly popular and accepted.

The reasons for Seasonal Affective Disorder are still being researched. Your circadian rhythm, or biological clock, may become disrupted in the winter because of the reduced level of sunlight; this can also cause a drop in serotonin levels, one of the many neurotransmitters that allow your brain to work smoothly. Melatonin levels, the chemical that affects sleep, may also become disturbed, leading to insomnia and depression.

So besides moving closer to the equator (sun and fun), being very mindful of your emotions and addressing them as they arise is the best approach to recognizing SAD. It really is important to seek help and begin treatment before the symptoms become too severe. Suicidal thoughts, social withdrawal, work problems or substance abuse might begin to intensify if SAD remains untreated. See a primary care provider, a psychiatrist or a counselor to address the problem and receive the help you might need.

According to the Mayo Clinic, light therapy is very effective. You sit a few feet from a special light therapy box so that you’re exposed to bright light. Light therapy mimics natural outdoor light and appears to cause a change in brain chemicals linked to mood. Light therapy is one of the first-line treatments for fall-onset SAD. It generally starts working in a few days to two weeks with few side effects. Research on light therapy is limited, but it appears to be effective for most people in relieving SAD symptoms.

Pharmacotherapy is also helpful in that it actually allows your brain to produce the proper amount of serotonin so that you begin to feel like yourself again. An SSRI (Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor) works in the first dose, but patients don’t usually feel an effect for at least two weeks. Examples of these medications, among others, include Lexapro, Prozac, Paxil, and Zoloft. If you are already on one of these medications and are still experiencing symptoms, speak to your prescriber to possibly increase the dose, add another medication, or change the prescription entirely.

Counseling with the right person can bring great relief as you learn a variety of skills to begin healthy ways of coping, changing negative thoughts and behaviors that may be making you feel worse, and managing stress.

Lifestyle changes can be very helpful as well. Make your environment sunnier and brighter. Sit outside or close to bright windows. Take walks. Dress up warmly and eat lunch out in the sun. Exercising regularly and especially going outside within the first couple of hours after waking up are easy helpful habits to develop.
Alternative medicine routes, although not supported by the FDA, are also options, but you should certainly notify your healthcare provider about any additional supplements you take. Omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D supplements, probiotics, St John’s Wort, and Sam-E all claim to help mild depression symptoms. They also may or may not combine with other medications you are taking, so be sure to review them with your local pharmacist or prescriber to be sure there won’t be any untoward drug interactions.

The bottom line is, taking care of yourself on every level will always lead to the healthiest results. Self-awareness, rest, relaxation, playtime (some grownups ask “What’s that?”), eating right, limited alcohol, meditation, and socialization are all practices that will help, whether you are sad or have SAD.

If you feel you or someone you know is experiencing this, it’s time to intervene and seek treatment. We all deserve to feel a sense of happiness and peace, so doing whatever it takes to get through difficult times in a healthy way is the best proactive choice we can make. Read more about depression and Seasonal Affective Disorder at http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/seasonal-affective-disorder/basics/definition/con-20021047

Amy G Martin, APRN, RhD is a Nurse Practitioner and Doctor of RoHun Transpersonal Psychotherapy with over three decades of clinical experience. She is the owner of, Center for Healing Therapies, a Holistic Wellness and Education Center www.centerforhealingtherapies.com located in Waterford, Connecticut. She is available for consultations by phone, email or Skype. Call 860-443-0800 or email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

By Amy G. Martin, APRN, RhD

Finance - New England Winter Fun On a Budget

Igloo buildIgloo buildThe winter months can be a time when folks just don’t want to leave the house. It can be very enticing to curl up by the fire with some hot cocoa and a good book, or pop in a movie and hunker down for an old fashioned New England wintry day at home. But if that doesn’t sound so appealing to your adventuresome spirit there are many winter festivals throughout New England. If your wallets are still recovering from the holidays, let one of these super fun, economical events thaw your frozen spirits.

The 25th Annual Chester Winter Carnivale takes place February 15 in Chester, Connecticut. The Chester Merchants Group works tirelessly to create what event chair Leslie Strauss calls, “a free day for kids of all ages.” There will be ice carving competitions with sculpture artists from throughout New England, sidewalk vendors and sales by local merchants. Restaurants will have specials as well as festival vendors with Kettle corn, brick oven pizza, hot dogs and cotton candy. Hundreds of balloons will be given out while face painting takes place and street entertainers perform magic, juggling, storytelling and more.

There are fees for food but the rest of the event is free, free, free and many folks know about it because thousands attend this southern New England celebration of winter. It is held in conjunction with the 15th annual Chilly Chili Cook-Off, put on by the Chester Hose Company firehouse. It is a steamy competition between fire companies, and a dozen or more local restaurants. Guests are invited to sample about 15 different mouth- watering chilis for $5, and vote on their favorites. The chili cook-off begins at 11a.m. and ends around 1 p.m., raising funds for the Chester Hose Company each year. Chili co-chair Kim Tiezzi estimates that about 900 people pass through the cook-off, and vote for their favorites. Trophies are awarded for Best Table Decoration, Best Fire Department Chili, People’s Choice and Most Unique.

Igloo BuildSalem So Sweet photo credit Cherese Crowley“We love it because it shows the community supporting our fire department,” said Kim. “It’s a huge event because it’s winter and people have cabin fever. It’s great and it’s inexpensive.”

Although there is plenty of fun to be had throughout the village, the highlight for many people is the Antique Tractor Parade featuring 50-100 antique tractors, the number varying depending on the weather. The tractor parade began about 12 years ago, according to lifetime Chester resident Jeff Foggitt.

“It was just an idea between folks around the coffee shop, as an added attraction to the carnival. It’s not organized at all and anyone from Chester who can fire up their antique tractor just shows up by 2:00.”

About half of the tractors are decorated for the holiday and the rest just show off their historic beauty. Jeff estimates about 80 percent of them are from Chester, and were in active use on farms in the area in the 40’s and 50’s. It’s important to him that they keep it local, reflecting classic New England nostalgia. “It’s a huge draw. The numbers have increased ten- fold from what they used to be,” says Jeff. “We used to attract hundreds and now there are thousands. It just represents small town New England. There is historic value and the kids love it. The parade honors the heritage of small town farming. And these antique tractors last forever.”

The parade starts at North Quarter Park on Main Street and ends about a mile away at the Old Town Meetinghouse. Tractors can be viewed early as they line up. There are plenty of area parking lots available and more shuttle buses than ever this year. For more information visit www.facebook.com/chesterctwintercarnivale.

Salem So Sweet photo credit Cherese CrowleyFire and Ice Festival credit Stephanie SeacordFurther north in New Hampshire, the Portsmouth Chamber of Commerce is celebrating its 2nd Annual Fire and Ice Festival February 12-16. Along with specials being offered in shops and restaurants, there are plenty of unique fire and ice events that include performing arts, family fun and evening entertainment.

“By far, the most popular event last year was the dog sled ride,” says event coordinator Caitlyn Hassett. “You can go up into the White Mountains and ride into the wilderness but this is a great opportunity to bring this experience right into Portsmouth.”

The rides are being offered during the festival on Sunday and Monday, 10a.m.-2 p.m. and are $25 per sled, which can fit varied numbers of children or adults depending on their size. The experience is provided by Seal Cove Journeys and will take place at Puddle Dock Pond on the grounds of Strawbery Banke, a living history museum. The dog sled rides sold out last year and tickets will be available in advance on line. “We are hoping for plenty of snow by Presidents Day weekend,” says Caitlyn optimistically. Hearth Cooking demonstrations at the museum are on Saturday, February 14, and tickets are $65/person. A new outdoor ice skating rink, also at Puddle Dock Pond will be open for folks to enjoy this classic New England winter activity that is $5 for kids and $7 for adults.

At The Player’s Ring Theater, Patrick Dorow will provide free music all day long to coincide with the Dog Sled rides. Folks can enjoy a hot beverage while they wait their turn, or stop by when they get back from their adventure to warm up.

Sliding Hill at Biddeford WinterfestNot ready to warm up just yet? Ice sculptures will be sprinkled all over town including several right at the Portsmouth Gas Light Company which is the ending location for the Fire and Ice Bar Crawl and Cocktail Competition. An experience with a dichotomy of fire pits and ice bars, for $15 patrons can cruise six area restaurants and bars for a sample size Fire and Ice cocktail, voting at the end for their favorite. On Friday night the third floor of the Gas Light Company heats up with an all male review called Men in Motion. Adults only please and tickets are $15.

The Seacoast Repertory Theater will be playing winter themed films throughout the day on Saturday and this event is free. The Music Hall will host a Friday Jazz Night and a comedy show will take place at the Historic Theater.

“There is something going on all the time for all ages,” says Caitlyn. “Whether it’s dog sledding, ice skating, jazz night or comedy, it covers the whole spectrum.”
For more information and an updated schedule of events visit www.portsmouthchamber.org/fireandice.

Next door in Vermont an unusual event takes place on February 14th from 10:30 a.m.-2:00 p.m. when folks of all ages gather together to learn the art of igloo building at the Montshire Museum of Science in Norwich. Igloo expert Dr. Bert Yankielun, author of, How to Build an Igloo and Other Snow Shelters, will teach the basics of building an igloo, “strong enough to support the weight of a polar bear,” and he will be on hand to reveal some tricks of the trade.

The Montshire Igloo Build was named the #1 Way to Winter Fun by Yankee Magazine in 2009, and was named a Top 10 Winter Event by the Vermont Chamber of Commerce again this year, according to museum director of marketing and communications, Beth Krusi. This time- tested event has been going on for more than two decades, she estimates, and attracts people of all ages.

“I think the attraction is that you’re actually building something. Everyone has heard about igloos, and are fascinated by them in one way or another, so to actually get to construct one …well, that’s pretty darn cool. You feel like you’re doing something very much like the native people in the north would do. And what makes it unique is having Bert Yankielun there.”

There is a sense of camaraderie and working together as people work for an hour or two and take a break and others take over. It’s pretty cold that time of year, so warming up in between could be essential to the process. If people come by themselves, they are sure to team up with others.

“Part of the fun is working together. It doesn’t need to be a solo activity,” says Beth. “Everyone is engaged (in the activity) and that makes it really, really fun.”

Beth advises warm winter clothing and boots, as well as bringing a picnic lunch. The 100 acres of museum grounds are open for trail walks, and snowshoes are available on a first come, first served basis. There is a covered pavilion with picnic tables or picnics may be enjoyed inside in the Porter Community Room, next to the Museum galleries, where there are more than 125 different hands- on exhibits that will engage curious minds of all ages. From January 24 through April 5, the Montshire will be hosting an exhibition from the Smithsonian Institution called Farmers, Warriors, Builders: the Hidden Life of Ants.

Admission to the museum is $14 for adults and $11 for children 2-17, and free for members and children under the age of 2.. The Igloo Build is free with museum admission. For more information visit www.montshire.org.

The 4th Annual Biddeford WinterFest takes place February 6-8, in southern Maine and for those hearty New Englanders, it’s all about community. Sponsored by the City of Biddeford and various community groups, this year’s event will be different from those in the past that featured ski and snowboarding competitions.
“This year it’s more of a community based festival,” said event organizer John Maxson. “In the dead of winter it’s a time for community to come together when there’s really not a lot going on.”

On Friday folks can enjoy dog sled races, a D.J. cranking out some tunes, and one unique feature you can’t miss. Three thousand yards of snow is hauled into town creating a sliding hill that goes right down the street next to City Hall. The sliding hill is open to kids from 1-100. Non-profit groups will make hearty culinary offerings available throughout the weekend. On Saturday, there will be pony rides, games for kids, a snow miniature golf, and a snow shoe course. A Cardboard Sled Race and competition will be held and prizes awarded for best creative design and team costumes. Comedian Juston McKinney, who has appeared twice on the Tonight Show, will perform at City Theater. On Sunday, enjoy the timeless winter activity of ice skating at the Westbrook Skating Rink with free admission and pizza before taking in one last plunge down the sliding hill. Visit www.biddefordmaine.org for updated info and events schedule.

In Massachusetts, the 13th Annual Salem’s So Sweet Chocolate and Ice Sculpture Festival, takes place February 6-15, kicking off the weeklong festivities with a Chocolate and Wine Tasting event, at Colonial Hall at Rockafellas. Thirteen or more restaurants donate to the chocolate and wine tasting event making special creations with a chocolate twist. Tickets are $25 and attract a standing room only crowd of several hundred people each year. More than a dozen spectacular sponsored ice sculptures will be located at various businesses all around town beginning on Feb. 7th. Last year the weather cooperated and the sculptures were enjoyed all week long. For a buck or two, (free for kids) the Salem Trolley is offering rides to help folks get around to see the ice sculptures and view the many events created by more than 60 restaurants and retailers for the week long celebration. In store promotions, chocolate samplings and special menu offerings continue the chocolate theme and a stop by the candy store’s chocolate fondue fountain is something no lover of this decadent confection will want to miss.
The event is sponsored by three non-profit organizations: Salem Main Streets, the Salem Chamber of Commerce and Destination Salem. Proceeds from the event are put back into next year’s festival and ultimately back into the community.

“It’s meant to be an opportunity to bring people downtown during the colder months. The idea was, if people are doing any shopping or buying things this might inspire them to do it locally. I think it’s a success because people are so excited to get out of the house. They miss getting to see each other and stroll around and this is a chance to do that….a chance to celebrate.” For a map, specific details and schedule of events visit www.Salem.org.

In New England’s smallest state is one of New England’s biggest winterfests. The 27th Annual Newport Winter Festival - Winter Latitudes, Tropical Attitudes, takes place February 13-22 throughout Newport County. Festival buttons can be purchased for $10 and offers discounts and free admission to many of the 150 activities and events that are part of this seaside festival.

Pineapples Restaurant at the Hyatt Regency Newport Hotel and Spa on Goat Island is converted to Polar Pineapples when an ice bar is constructed, and in addition to special cocktails for the event, they are offering free hot chocolate in the Five33 Lounge when you show your festival button. A martini contest takes place at the Barking Crab on the 18th, and ice sculpting demonstrations take place on the 14th at Long Wharf Mall, when sculptures create magnificent works of art which will be on display until they melt. For sculpting of another kind, plan to attend Festival Day at Easton’s Beach for a wintry sand sculpture competition, polar plunge and old fashioned block hunt on the 22nd.

But not everyone embraces southern New England winter, and for those folks, opportunities to warm up are plentiful. Check out the 20th Annual Samuel Adams Chili Cook-Off on the 14th at Newport Harbor Hotel. Or the annual Best Hot Drink Contest sponsored by Kahlua on Feb. 18, or the 5th Annual Chicken Wing Cook-Off at the Hyatt Hotel on the 21st.

Want to just sit back and be entertained? Check out the Jimmy Buffet Tribute Band – Changes in Latitudes on the 21st or a comedy show featuring Kevin Meaney and Kerri Louise on the 20th. An Illusionquest performed by professional illusionist David Garrity takes place on the 13th and on the 15th Annual “Live Jazz for Kids” happens at Green Vale Vineyards on the 19th. Want to make your own entertainment? Check out the Newport Grand Karaoke Championship on the 18th. In previous years there have been lighthouse and seal tours, train and helicopter rides, historical events, horseback riding on the beach, and so much more. Check out a full schedule of details, events and activities during this 10 day funfest at www.newportevents.com/winterfest , as new information is being added regularly.

There’s no question that winter fun is plentiful and available in all shapes and sizes throughout New England. It’s not hard to feel a sense of nostalgia for traditional activities like skating, sledding and shopping the quaint villages of the northeast. But for the adventure seeker there is plenty to do as well. Whether your adventurous spirit leads you to dog sledding, igloo building or an all male review, there is sure plenty to choose from. While communities open wide their hearts with a budget friendly welcome, bundle up, venture outdoors for a little adventure, and experience New England at its warm and friendly finest.

Note from the Editor: Please tell us about events in your area that would be fun for our readers. Send ideas to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Spirituality - Tai Chi - A Practice For Peaceful Rejuvenation

Tai ChiTai ChiAfter dancing with her husband, Dean, for 40 years, Alice Crook turned to tai chi when he became ill. The two first met at a Big Band Dance hall in the 1950’s, introduced by friends. It was music that brought them together, and music that consoled her when Dean lost his battle with cancer in 2004. This time it was the soothing, meditative music that often accompanies the practice of Tai Chi, rather than the toe tapping sounds of Tommy Dorsey, Louis Armstrong or the Glenn Miller Orchestra. The tradition of dance continues. “Our daughters dance, one is a Zumba instructor, and our grandchildren dance. I guess we’re a dancing family.”

Tai Chi is an ancient Chinese form of exercise or meditation that is graceful, slow moving and intentional with a deep focus, gentle stretching, and concentration on the breath. It requires no equipment and this spiritual practice has been celebrated for its many health benefits. Its attributes are many, not the least of which are greater balance and flexibility, increased stamina, and decreased levels of stress and anxiety. There has been evidence that tai chi helps improve sleep, improves cholesterol levels and lowers high blood pressure among other things, as reported in Harvard Women’s Health Watch. (http://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletters/Harvard_Womens_Health_Watch/2009/May/The-health-benefits-of-tai-chi)

So it might come as no surprise that Alice decided to find a tai chi class after her husband became ill. She has been taking weekly classes at the Westerly, Rhode Island Senior Center for more than 12 years with instructor Gary Donovan.

Tai ChiTai Chi“I was already familiar with tai chi and I knew it was something I could look forward to,” said Alice. “I found it calming and comfortable. It really helped me a lot. For the first year after Dean died I looked forward to it as a respite. It briefly put my grief on hold for a bit. The music is very soothing to me. The gentle movement, the listening…is like flowing with the universe. It made me feel like one with the universe. I liked that it seemed spiritual in some way.”

She found it helpful when she was dealing the stresses and uncontrollable nature of her husband’s illness. And the controlled movement of tai chi was something she could control. After he passed away, that movement to music continued to nurture her. She tried other tai chi classes over the years that didn’t play music, but it was always in Gary’s class where she felt most at home.

“After an hour I feel rejuvenated and relaxed, relaxed as well at energized.” And Alice isn’t the only one. Tai chi classes are popular, often available through community centers, complementary healing programs, yoga centers and especially senior centers. They tend to be very affordable when offered through community services. The Westerly Senior Center offers the class twice a week and participants must be a member ($30/year), and then each class is $1.50. Not bad for all that health and well-being.

Tai ChiTai ChiGary has been practicing tai chi for 22 years. A second back injury with debilitating pain and anguish prompted him to seek alternative healing therapies. He came across a flyer for Eagles Quest Tai Chi and began his first tai chi practice with David Chandler, hoping to avoid surgery. “Chi” is energy or life force and through this practice he not only healed his back but found that it helped with other challenges as well. He took classes for eight years.

“There are ways to enhance the quality of life and the length of our lives,” said Gary. “Deep breathing is a core practice, of the Eastern understanding of ourselves and the world around us. Breath is life.”

When he felt ready for a change from his work in a hectic environment, his wife Jan suggested he become a tai chi instructor because he loved the practice so much.

“I took her advice. She is a source of inspiration for me.”

Gary pursued further training and certification at Omega Institute for Holistic Studies in Rhinebeck, New York. He has pursued both Western and traditional Eastern certifications. At 64 years old in what he calls semi-retirement, he continues teaching 11 classes, mostly at senior centers around southeastern Connecticut. Although open to men and women, the classes are predominantly attended by women. Gary speculates why.

“More women take time to care for themselves, take time to nourish themselves. Most men…they think they are fine and have everything together. Women are the nourishers in the family while men are the protectors. When women no longer have the responsibility of family and home, they want to fulfill their own aspirations. They begin to think about nourishing themselves, actualizing their potential, becoming healthier. But we are all in fact vulnerable to the difficulties of life itself…aging, illness, and accidents.”

There is no doubt tai chi can benefit men and women and the benefits are many. In addition to promoting health, the tai chi practice in a group setting has a socialization aspect. Groups come together, often over time and get to know each other and sometimes establish a bond. There is a sense of connecting with others in a spiritual way. In a day that might feel empty there is reason to be, and a purpose. Class begins with warm up exercises for a practice that requires no previous skill set. Instrumental music sets the tone and Gary’s deep inviting voice slows the busyness of the day, as he invites the group into one movement after another, gentle stretching, opening the energy pathways within, becoming conscious of each breath. He refers to the breathing as an internal massage. “Imagine lungs expanding.” This meditative practice can be done indoors or out and many people practice at home.

“Every day is a treasure. Every breath is a gift,” said Gary. “It is important to choose wisely how we spend that time. Yesterday is to learn from, but today is the one that is important. Tai chi helps me to remember to be aware of myself, and to make changes that will make me feel better. It gives me more control of being able to relax in stressful situations. We can control things within us but maybe not in the world.”

Featured Widow/er - Roni Meyer Survives Loss - Remembering, Writing, Spirituality, & Loving

Roni MeyerWhen Roni Meyer saw her husband Ken and 13 year old son Jeremy off on their Poughkeepsie, New York hiking expedition, she never imagined how much her life was about to change. It was 1994. One moment her family was a harmonious whole, and then it wasn’t. She received a phone call. The gravel had given way under Ken’s feet on a cliff and he fell, landing next to Jeremy. He died instantly.

“I saw him. I was shocked, frozen, like a glacier,” recalls Roni of her arrival at the hospital. “You lose your best friend, confidant and you’re all alone. It felt horrible, frightening.”

She became a transcendentalist, which was the beginning of a spiritual way of being for her. “I see beauty and love in nature, the water, rain, trees, insects and animals. I love those things. The earth is very holy. I’m very spiritual but not very religious. I always thought of myself as a spiritualist but not a believer in God. But I believe in Spirit in nature. And I believe in love. That’s what it’s all about.”

As an English teacher at South Kingstown High School in Rhode Island for 28 years, she was all about the written word. She read voraciously about people who had experienced loss, and was particularly influenced by C.S. Lewis and his words, “Grief is like the sky- it covers everything.” “He knew the truth,” said Roni. “My world went from, ”is” to “was.” State of being verbs became everything.”

The first year after Ken’s accident, she describes herself as frozen and then thawing as she began to write, a process that really helped her to get through the most difficult of times. She wrote an allegory, making Ken a mountain and she was a butterfly. Their relationship continued in a literary way. Even in her writing she didn’t want him to be a memory. After six months, her father told her to “just get over it.”

“I wanted him to be real. I fought to keep him in the present. Even today, I can’t let go of him all the way.” Ken taught chemistry at University of Rhode Island and was researching the different genetic codes in DNA using lasers. “He was intelligent and a woman’s man,” said Roni. “He was raised by women and by a gentle grandfather. He was gentle, loving and understanding, and he understood women.”

Roni went through a lot within two years after Ken died. Her daughter, Michelle, was diagnosed with stage four Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, and her son Jeremy nearly died of a staff infection.

“This showed me how our quality of life can change. It was a powerful lesson. I never wanted to get married again. But I realized I needed someone to hold me in the night. I decided I didn’t want to do this life alone. ”

Her resolve never to remarry was broken when Richard Medeiros came into her life. They married in 2004 and she believes that her wonderful first marriage of 23 years has taught her how to have a wonderful second marriage. She appreciates the friendship and companionship of her new marriage and the joyful things she and Richard share together.

But her decision to remarry was also a decision to survive. One of the best things she admits doing for herself was finding a grief counselor. She had spent a good deal of time taking care of her children after the loss of their father; she thought getting married would give her kids permission not to worry about her.

Two years after Ken died, in 1996 she wrote a renewal of their wedding vows and she realized she had finally accepted his death. “It is a piece I’m really proud of. He would have loved it. It shows how much I loved him. We cherished each other. And I miss him every day.”
Writing in the most painful of moments, she has written mostly poetry, one allegory, and a children’s book about fairies intended for her granddaughter.

“The pain made me write. It was a way to release the pain so it wouldn’t be stored in my body. Pain paralyzes you.”

Roni, who is 65 now, is no longer paralyzed. She does admit to still trying to find herself and to find meaning in her retirement. Today, some 20 years after Ken’s passing, Roni has taken her survival instinct and is thriving. She enjoys friends and family, traveling and continues writing, not to publish, but for the joy of it. She works together with her grandchildren on books that create lasting memories of their time together. She particularly enjoys writing poetry that comes from the heart and pours out in its own time.

“I love poetry because it’s so concise, succinct. It cuts to the truth. Not too wordy but very, very freeing.”
About grieving, Roni believes there is no right or wrong way. “Each individual needs to feel okay with who they are, and how they handle their own story. Life is too wonderful and should be filled with love.”

 

 

I Promise 

by Roni Meyer-Force
June 12, 1996 

Today I come to your grave
To renew our wedding vows,
On this 12th day of June,
Our 25th wedding anniversary:

I promise to taste your lips
when I drink the cool water.

I promise to see your face
when I see the rising sun.

I promise to hear your voice
when I listen to the cardinal’s call.

I promise to smell your hands
when I sit beside burning wood.

I promise to know your intellect
when I see a stretching mountaintop.

I seal these vows with a taste
of cool water. I know that after 
my final heartbeat, we will again 
be in the same dimension:

As one with the water,
the wind,
the sun, 
the cardinal, 
the wood,
and the stretching mountaintop.

 

Expressive Arts - Collage Helps the Pieces Come Together

Roberta RookColleen RussellCollage is a creative art form that uses a variety of materials. Whether they are called Soul Collage™, vision boards, or some other inviting moniker, the process can be used to make sense of a life that sometimes doesn’t. It can bring us back to our kindergarten roots when we got lost in our own little world, using scissors and glue to piece together images, words, shapes and colors that resonated with our elementary hearts. That process, of bringing together on paper, that which speaks to us in a powerful way, can also resonate with our questioning hearts as we get older.

At the Chesapeake Life Center at Hospice of the Chesapeake, in Largo, Maryland, bereavement program coordinator Roberta Rook offers a monthly Soul Collage™ grief support group. Different from a traditional talking support group, participants create a series of collages to visually journal their grief process.

“Soul Collage™ is highly individual,” said Roberta, who is also a Soul Collage™ facilitator and trainer. “One woman said it’s helpful and appealing to her because she didn’t have the words to describe how she was feeling after her husband died. The images gave her a way to express what she was feeling.”

The Soul Collage™ process, (www.soulcollage.com) is an intuitive collage process developed by Seena Frost in the late 1980’s, but differs from other collage in that participants make cards that invite an intuitive exploration of one particular aspect of life. Continued work with this process can create a deck filled with insight and wisdom about our deepest selves.

“Soul Collage™ is not static. The collages are small and are meant to be used on a continuous basis,” said Roberta. “It’s a visual journaling process. There are a lot of ways it can help. Soul Collage™ can help commemorate a loved one; it can help examine your own grief; and examine re-entry into a new life. I give out guidelines and basic info about what Soul Collage™ is, but the more intuitive the better. Beyond that the only theme is we all have experienced loss.”

Sometimes in bereavement groups, she will offer a single collage experience, inviting participants to create something honoring a lost loved one or an aspect of that relationship. In ongoing programs, the group examines feelings and the grief process more in depth. But either way, participants walk away with a little piece of art they have created that resonates with them in a deep way. The cards are portable and can be placed on a home altar or carried with them. Reflection on the cards can bring about meaning that changes over time. And for people who are intimidated by any artistic endeavor, just think back to kindergarten and how much fun it was to wield some glue and scissors in your hands. Drawing from innate wisdom, we can be led to just the right symbols, pictures and words we need to make this process useful in entering into our grief and shaping the life to come.

Colleen Russell (www.Quest4Wholeness.com) considers herself a midwife for the soul and Soul Collage™ is a part of her life and practice. After being no stranger to poverty, as a single mom with a 12 year old son, she somehow put herself through college and climbed the proverbial corporate ladder. A leadership program taught her to set goals and “put legs” under dreams. One dream was to be married and when she was 30 her dream came true when she met Dennis who was 42. In less than a year they were married. It was a fast romance but not a fairy tale one. Life challenged them both as they worked to learn how to be together, how to be open to love, and the transition from being alone to being in partnership. They were married five years and just reshaping their lives as a busy corporate couple, about to enter the empty nest part of their lives, when tragedy struck. While on a holiday skiing vacation Dennis had a heart attack and died. He was 47 years old.

Soul CollageKatie McDonald“Nothing could have prepared me for that kind of loss,” said Colleen. “The dream was gone. I wasn’t expecting death to come knocking on my door.”

She feels fortunate that she had just begun to see a counselor and had intended on doing some deeper work and now she had the opportunity.

“I was really fortunate that God or some higher power put this woman in my path. She helped me with grief and finding my true self. I started journaling my grief experience. I wanted to know why this hurt so much.”

Colleen was being challenged to let go on many levels. She did some journaling and began collecting collage images in a conscious way, as a path to express her feelings.

“It just hurt. There were no words. The images brought journaling to a deeper place. My journal was a gift of beauty that came out of that situation. Any time you can take what’s inside of you and get it out in a creative way, it facilitates the healing process. I gave up my career. I was no longer a wife, an employee or a mother in the same way. I questioned who I was and where I was going. I asked, “What gives my life meaning?” Without all these identities, who am I? I needed to take time to find myself.”

She put all her possessions in storage and traveled to Iona, Scotland, and to Ireland, the land of her ancestors. While traveling, she took classes in expressive arts, and creativity became a healing process for her. She pursued a master’s degree in Trans Personal Psychology and learned a lot about the spiritual journey to wholeness.

“Tragedy and loss can help bring us into a fuller expression of ourselves,” said Colleen. “One way is through the arts. The arts can heal what needs to be healed and reveal what wants to come out.”

In 2008 she became a Soul Collage™ facilitator and found it to be a powerful and playful tool to discover your true inner self. And the beauty, she points out, is that no one needs to be an artist to do collage. All you need are scissors, glue and images that come in your mailbox every day.

“In doing collage the whole creative process begins to awaken something deeper.”

Katie McDonald, a Rhode Island holistic nutrition and wellness coach, (www.bnourished.com) found that to be true as well. More than a decade ago, Katie spent all her time involved with motherhood and corporate America. She also suffered from a litany of physical problems, not the least of which was ulcerative colitis. She transformed herself and her life and is no longer a part of the corporate culture but instead helps to transform others. One of the many tools she offers her clients is a collage process she calls vision boards, a process she knows the benefits of first hand.

“Vision boards enable us to have a place and space beyond what we thought might have been,” says Katie. “In moving on in Act Two, it allows us to pause, slow down and ask the question, what do I really want? It moves us out of our head and into our heart, not from a grief place but from a hopeful place. We ask, “What are those unspoken dreams and wishes?” A vision board is a place to put those.”

Unlike the deck of small cards made in Soul Collage™, Vision Boards can be whatever you want them to be. Katie points out that mindfulness is what is important regardless of what you call it. The process is still cutting or tearing and gluing or pasting images, photos, words and ideas that resonate within us. There is intentionality to collage work in its mindfulness, but also an intuitiveness that calls for letting go.

“I think the best remedy for any change is to slow down your life for a minute. To say, for the next hour I’m just going to play, use my hands, use my imagination, access my heart and create time and space for dreaming.”

The vision board process gives permission (if we need it) to play or to do nothing, to sit and think, and to ponder on our real desires and where we want to go in life. We find that we will think differently, in light of significant changes that have occurred. We rarely take time for this kind of creativity and the healing that can accompany it.

Katie suggests approaching vision boards by getting quiet. Still your mind, bypass your brain. And look for images that make your heart sing and your spirit dance; for images that make you feel alive.

“This process is a way to uncover those unspoken wishes,” says Katie. “We can look back on them and wonder, wow, where did that come from? How does this inspire me? How will this affect my choices moving forward?”

This practice is so effective that she brings it into corporate settings. She offers vision board workshops as well as home parties where several friends will gather in someone’s home for a vision board party. The greatest challenge people new to the process face is if they were traumatized in art class and are certain they don’t have a creative bone in their body. She attempts to dispel the myth.

“It’s not really a creative process other than creating a life that is your greatest work of art. The greatest art we will ever create is the life and legacy that we leave behind. Vision boards show us that it’s totally legitimate to dream again and to be able to craft a life on your own terms. This is a natural evolution of healing. Allow the images to surround you. There is wisdom in them. Make copies and keep them nearby. Consider what the messages are within it and allow yourself to recognize them. Vision boards offer a window to a world we don’t spend enough time in.”

Poetry - SANCHO PANZA

Daffodil flowers narcissus

I’m tired of windmill flowers that waft listlessly over barren ground.
I want daffodils that dance down rivers pulsating with light.

Hands that bloom uncontrollably from trees and mountain ranges.
Tongues that explode from windows and doors unhinged.

These pinwheel blossoms do nothing but distract me
from vibrancy’s inner cord. Let me pull this string

and reattach myself to this makeshift world
without pressed edges, pleats that order

Joshua Lewisthe random swell of life. I’m tired
of windmill flowers.
Give me tiger lilies instead.

Josh is enjoying life after his dissertation. In between preparing for classes, he writes poetry and short fiction. His work has been published in the Patterson Literary Review, the Edison Literary Review, the Washington College Review, and in 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.

By Joshua Lewis

Books-Movies - Author Finds Humor In Poor Widow Me

Carol ScibelliCarol ScibelliCarol Scibelli has been writing and performing comedy for thirty years, so it is no surprise that her book is helping widows and widowers everywhere deal with their grief, one laugh at a time. With a poignant honesty and understanding that could only be appreciated by those who have been there, Carol shares humorous anecdotes of the time following her husband Jimmy’s unexpected death in 2006.

They met in junior high school, went to the prom together and were high school sweethearts. After graduating from Jamaica High School in Queens, NY, they both went on to college and four years later, they married. They lived in Merrick, NY, raised two kids, and in March , 2006 , Jimmy was diagnosed with Burkitt’s Lymphoma. One month later he was gone. He was only 56 years old.

It all seemed surreal. Carol’s friends encouraged her to write about what she was feeling, so she began the Poor Widow Me blog (http://poorwidowme.blogspot.com) not long after he passed.

“I wrote the blog to help me remember certain things. I had lots of feelings going on and it helped me to focus on one at a time. My feelings were all over the place. This was the first time I lost my husband, something you can never prepare for. Writing helped me understand what I was feeling. Time helped too.”

It was there that she learned to express how she was feeling and through identifying it, found some sort of release. She logged in accounts of her journey that she thought were significant and later decided to put those memories into a book. She released Poor Widow Me – Moments of feeling & dealing & finding the funny along the way in 2011 with Pigeon Press Books, hoping to capture the very, very important moments from her blog, in a comprehensive way that would make them available to others going through similar loss. She later launched a new blog called Widow Bits (http://carolscibelli.com/blog) to promote the book.

Poor Widow MeShe remembers a particular turning point when she attended a bereavement group. Not wanting to make eye contact with anyone, she kept her head down and in doing so, noticed that everyone wore ugly shoes. She knew that she was headed back to reality. But not a reality she had ever planned on. Carol and Jimmy were married 33 years. In her writing, she articulates the things that people think but do not say in times of grief. She shares both the unfathomable things that people do and say as they try to “help.” as well as the many “ah ha” moments that filled her days. “I’m wired to be funny,” says Carol. And she is, despite her great loss. And in doing this she gives others permission, an invitation, to laugh too. Even her title comes from a Carol Burnett skit she was fond of as a teenager where Burnett looks into a mirror and says, “Poor widow me.”

“It has a nice ring to it,” says Carol.

She shares how she often sat on the bedroom closet floor, comforted by the feeling of being surrounded by Jimmy’s clothes. She would talk to him, and as much as she wanted him to, he did not talk back. But it did give her a safe and personal space to be with him even after he was gone.

In January, 2014, in the wake of Hurricane Sandy’s aftermath, she walked around her Merrick neighborhood where she had lived so many years and raised her family, and realized she was the only single person there.

“I went into the city a lot, three or four times a week. So I sold our house and moved to Manhattan. I don’t have a bit of regret.”

She lives there now with her second love, a Yorkie/Maltese mix called Tony Baloney who came into her life a year and a half after Jimmy died. “We slept together and that was it!”

A year after Tony made his appearance Carol dabbled with Match.com, an internet dating site, and started dating a little. She realized she was attracted to men who looked like Jimmy. It wasn’t really time yet. She did meet one man whom she struggled to call boyfriend after some time, and eventually let him go. She calls him “M.” But M is back in her life now in a long distance relationship. There are complications with getting married again, both finances and family, so she doesn’t really think marriage is in the cards for her. The things she misses most about Jimmy are things she finds in M.

“I loved making him laugh. The way his eyes crinkled up and sparkled before he lost control. And after a night of being with other people we would come back and talk about it. I miss making him happy.”

She values time shared with M, as well as her time alone as a single person, not having to answer to anyone. She values that although M’s looks and personality are very different than Jimmy’s, he does make her laugh.

“Funny is very important to me, and I love making people laugh, says Carol who admits that humor played a tremendous role in helping her deal with her grief. “Not just being funny but being an optimistic person. Not saying, “why me?” I lost my husband, not my whole village (referring to the tsunamis, hurricanes and other natural disasters on the news). A positive attitude is everything. Everyone can’t be funny, but anyone can be positive.”

For a little bit of grief relief, visit http://carolscibelli.com or www.Amazon.com to order Poor Widow Me

Nutrition - Be Good To Yourself – Weight Loss Resolutions and Solutions for the New Year

CalendarScaleBe good to yourself. It is January, and the holiday parties are over. With snow on the ground, and winter in full force, it is a good time to turn inward. Consider using this time to resolve to focus on you and to find your way to better health.

Rejoice in the lifelong health benefits and longevity that come from weight loss; forget about exactly how many pounds you need to lose but focus on something you would really like to do if you were a few pounds lighter. Smaller, short-term weight loss goals are much easier to achieve.

Losing weight becomes easy when you invest your energy in making positive healthy changes for yourself. It’s easy to set a weight loss goal but most important to have a plan on how to get there.

One way to get started is to set a goal that is ”specific, measurable, realistic and trackable.” You’ll see progress toward if you simply walk for 20 minutes 3 times a week, and add an extra serving each day of fruits and vegetables. Healthy lifestyle changes do not happen at once, but gradual changes in what and how much you eat, when you eat it and how much you exercise will help you to lose weight over time.

By focusing on changes you can easily make part of your every day lifestyle, you will be able to sustain them for the long haul.

Next, start working out at home, or become a member of a gym where you feel comfortable. Try to start on January 1, but it is never too late! Try to develop you plan and have it enacted by mid-January. Pick some classes, find a trainer, and have a friend join you.

Have a friend hold you accountable. The resolution that goes, “I can do it all, eat better, lose weight and start exercising,” can be difficult to achieve! Initially, focus on one or two areas. For example, start to eat a healthy breakfast every day. The second focus might be to team up with a friend, relative or personal trainer who will make sure you stick to the plan. It is much easier to go to the gym twice a week if you know a friend is waiting for you.

The Five Diet Solutions

These are the top five diet solutions that I have found to be successful:

BreakfastEat Breakfast

It’s a great start to the day and helps to keep you from feeling hungry later in the morning. Oatmeal with lower fat milks, with some added fruits such raspberries, strawberries, blueberries or a sprinkling of nuts such as almonds is winter warming and fiber rich way to start the day. Can also double up as a healthy snack after a visit to the gym.

Fill up on homemade soups

These are absolutely the best lower calorie choice for a midday or evening, meal. Choose some fresh or frozen vegetables such as butternut squash, spinach, kale, or tinned green beans, and start being creative! Also they are much lower in salt than canned store bought varieties.

Try out a new healthy casserole recipe

One pot is easiest to make and can be used for a couple of days during the week to save time in the kitchen. Double up on vegetables on your plate.

teaFeeling hungry?

Try a hot refreshing drink instead of a snack. Green tea and flavored herbal teas are calorie free and have health giving anti oxidants. They are both warming and comforting.

Leave the temptations

Leave the temptations, ice cream, cookies, candy, chips and snacks at the grocery store. Give away any Holiday goodies that might still be in your kitchen cupboard!

Here are some new healthy recipes for you to try:

SoupSpiced Winter Squash Soup

(this is one of my favorite soups!)

INGREDIENTS

2 lbs of butter nut squash, peeled seeded and cut into 1 inch cubes
½ large onion chopped finely
1-tablespoon mild curry powder or 1 tsp. curry paste
2 tbs olive oil
4 cups chicken broth
Low fat Greek yogurt or sour cream to garnish

DIRECTIONS

1. Take a large stove top casserole dish and add 2 tbs olive oil.
2. Add the chopped onion and butternut squash and sauté over low heat until the squash is soft and slightly browned. About 10-15 minutes.
3. Add 4 cups of broth cover and cook on low until the squash is thoroughly cooked and soft.
4. Turn off heat and use hand held blender to pulse the squash once the soup has cooled slightly. Add extra broth if needed.
5. Add curry spice gradually and adjust to taste.
Serve hot with a dessert spoon of low fat Greek yogurt.

SoupBean Soup with Greens
This hearty vegetarian soup can be made with any type of canned beans, which you may have in your cupboard. If you wish, add some chopped, cooked chicken breast for a complete meal in one.

INGREDIENTS

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup chopped onion, ½ cup chopped celery, ½ cup chopped carrot
2 garlic cloves (peeled and crushed)
4 cups vegetable broth
7 cups stemmed, chopped kale, about 1 bunch of greens
1 (15 ounce) can no-added-salt cannellini beans, rinsed drained and divided
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 tsp. fresh Rosemary or other fresh herb of your choice

DIRECTIONS

1. Heat a large stove top casserole dish over medium high heat. Add olive oil, onion, carrot and sauté for about 5 minutes until tender.

2. Stir in crushed garlic; cook 1 minute.

3. Stir in 3 cups of vegetable broth and kale or other greens. Bring to the boil, reduce heat and simmer for 3-5 minutes until the greens are completely tender.

4. Place half of cannellini beans and remaining 1 cup of vegetable broth in a food processor or blender, process until smooth. This will give a nice thick and creamy taste to the soup. Add the pureed bean mixture, remaining cannellini beans, black beans and pepper to the soup. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes. Stir in red wine vinegar and fresh herbs.

Vegetable Gratin

(This photo comes to us courtesy of Sainsbury’s Live Well for Less October 2014)

GratinINGREDIENTS

2 tablespoons canola oil
1 oz. plain flour
12 oz. 2% lower fat milk
1½ oz. grated mature or sharp cheddar cheese
1 oz grated Parmesan cheese or equivalent
1 tsp wholegrain mustard
7 oz parsnips, peeled, halved and sliced on the diagonal
7 oz carrots, peeled halved and sliced on the diagonal
8 oz. cooked beets, cut into wedges
2 leeks, trimmed and thinly sliced
4 oz. Breadcrumbs

DIRECTIONS

1. Preheat oven to 400º F, 350º F for fan-assisted oven.

2. Make the cheese sauce. Heat the canola oil and stir in the flour. Cook for one minute before whisking in the milk, a little at a time. Bring to the boil and simmer for 2 minutes before stirring in ¾ cheese, ¾ Parmesan and the mustard.

3. As you cook the sauce, put the parsnips and carrots in a large pan to boil for 8 minutes, adding 1 of the sliced leeks for the last 3 minutes. Drain and tip into a baking dish. Scatter over the beet wedges, and then cover with the cheese sauce.

4. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs over the gratin, along with the remaining finely chopped leek and cheese. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes until golden and lightly browned at the edges.

Mistakes - Are You In A Toxic Relationship?

Are You In A Toxic Relationship?Heart BrokeAfter the end of a long-term marriage or relationship, naturally there is a sense of loneliness and uncertainty about the future. You are used to having someone around to keep you company, to help you with unfamiliar household chores, to help with the kids, and to contribute financially. Because these are real needs, it is easy to accept the companionship and help of another when it is offered. For the same reason, it’s also easy to rush into a new relationship to fill the void and to alleviate the fears of being alone.

Let’s be honest. It’s also easy to fall into a new relationship quickly because someone pays attention to you when you are lonely, compliments you when you have been questioning whether you are still attractive, or is just plain very attractive themself. You may feel sexually attracted to that person, and think about how nice it would be just to be touched again, to have someone hold you, kiss you, make love to you. The initial attraction to a potential partner can be powerful, even irresistible!

dreamstime l 27174048As you consider beginning a new relationship, it’s best to be cautious at first. There are many factors that can sour a relationship that are not obvious at the beginning. Romantic love is an initial state of emotional and physical attraction that can completely cloud your judgment. When we are in a state of romantic love, we are using our emotional mind, not our rational mind. Our emotional mind tells us that this person is attractive, kind, helpful, loyal, the perfect person, the one you have been waiting for all this time, the person who can fill your life with happiness and security! It’s easy to believe this, despite any real long-term knowledge of the other person. For example, we don’t yet know what they’re like to live with, or what their personal values or family issues might be. There may be other things that we may consider important. You can be sure the other person is on their best behavior when you first fall in love, because they want to win you over.

Under the spell of romantic love, you want to ignore the small signs that something may be wrong. He wants to drink every time you go out together, but you think, “He’s not an alcoholic”, or “Now that he’s with me, he’ll stop”. She may have emotional tirades, but you think, “Now that she’s with me, she’ll be happy and this won’t happen.” He immediately wants to move in with you, even though he doesn’t have a job, but you think, “Soon he’ll get one, and we’ll be financially secure”. She has you working like hired help around her home, but you think, “Once we get all the work done, we’ll have time to relax and do things together.” He gets angry and pushes, slaps, or hits you, and later apologizes, and you think “He is really sorry and it will never happen again.” She insists you take her to the most expensive places, buy her expensive jewelry and clothes, and gets irritable if you suggest something less expensive, but you think, “Well, she is a classy woman and I like to be seen with her.” He makes no effort to get to know your children, or insists you parent a different way, but you think, “When we’re together, they will develop a friendship with each other, and we’ll find a way to compromise and co-parent.” He promises to take you out Friday night, then never calls and is unreachable the whole weekend. When you finally reach him, he says that he was called away on urgent business, and you accept this explanation despite the obvious lack of courtesy, but you think, “His business is very important, and I shouldn’t be so selfish.”

In other words, as the saying goes, love is blind. You refuse to see what is in front of your eyes. For the most part, what you see is what you get. The signs of a toxic relationship are there, even before the romance wears off, but you ignore, minimize, or rationalize the problems you see. You enter into a relationship expecting that you can “change” or “help” the other. That is usually a bad place to start. If the other person has a problem that is causing arguments or preoccupying much of your time together, something is wrong. You need to ask yourself, “What’s in it for me?” That is not a selfish statement; it is a rational one. Truly, why should you even consider entering into a relationship that is not bringing you happiness from the very beginning?

As a relationship progresses, and now you have become sexually involved, perhaps you have moved in together. Time goes by, and the day-to-day realities of life become more your focus. The romantic love has subsided into a partnership that is practical as well as loving. By the way, that is supposed to happen. It doesn’t mean your relationship is flawed. People don’t change after you marry them or move in with them. If you are now seeing things that you hadn’t noticed before, it may be that you just didn’t see it, or they manipulated you by trying to appear as something they were not.

Let’s take, for example, the man who disappears on the weekends and always has an excuse for not letting you know, or responding to you calls. Perhaps he hides his phone from you as well. He leaves early or works late without notice. In reality, these are sign that this may be a man who has another woman somewhere whom he sees before or after work, or on the weekends, or he may be married. You don’t want to believe it, but the signs are all around you.

How about the woman who has emotional tirades toward you, then insists it was your fault. Everything is an argument, and you’re always wrong. You’re not sure what you’ve done, but you resolve to do better and you apologize. If every discussion turns into an argument, there is clearly a communication problem for some reason, and it needs to be resolved if you plan to live with her the rest of your life. Being miserable in the relationship is not an option.

Violence in a relationship is never acceptable under any circumstances, and should not be tolerated. Both men and women can be violent, but let me absolutely clear about one thing; violence is ALWAYS the responsibility of the person who is violent. No one can “make” someone else behave violently. It is almost always a choice the perpetrator of violence makes, unless they are mentally ill. Violence includes, hitting, punching, slapping, pushing, or forced sex acts. There are more indirect forms of violence which include throwing things, breaking things, or punching holes in walls. But the message is one of intimidation. Not allowing you to leave a room, threatening, or holding a weapon are all serious signs that you could actually be in danger. At the core of all violence is the desire to have power over and control the other person. But let me be clear; power, control, and violence are never the victim’s fault, and the victim should not be judged. The person with the biggest problem is always the perpetrator. This is not love; it is a toxic and dangerous relationship. Being under the influence of a substance at the time is not an excuse. If you are not sure whether you are being abused or controlled, consult a domestic violence counselor.

If you recognize yourself or your potential partner in this article, it’s time to rethink the relationship. No love is worth sacrificing your happiness, let alone your personal safety for. Contact a professional who can help guide you, and don’t be afraid to choose yourself first.

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