Featured Widow/er - Mary Buell Volk Discovers Poetry In The Clouds

Mary Buell VolkMary Buell VolkMary Buell Volk discovered poetry in a most unusual way, while flying over clouds in an airplane and thinking about her husband John. They met when Mary was attending Emmanuel College in Boston and John was a Yale grad working in the area. They dated, and Mary says, “He went off to find himself in Colorado, where he became a carpenter. It was 1969 and people did things like that.” They kept in touch through Christmas cards and saw each other occasionally, maintaining a friendship.

She married Patrick Sullivan at 24 and John even attended her wedding. She had two boys and divorced 10 years later staying in the Connecticut area. John stayed in touch and when Mary’s mom passed away in 1990, John was there for her, and their relationship was rekindled. Six months later they were engaged and nine months later they married. He was 45 and she was 41. Once her boys finished high school and were off to college, the couple decided to relocate to the south shore of Boston for a fresh start. They bought a home just five houses from the beach. Three months later John was diagnosed with Lymphoma, and after six months of intense chemotherapy he was in remission. They enjoyed one good year together before he was diagnosed with Leukemia. In 2001 she lost her best friend, just one month shy of their 10th anniversary.

Mary was left in their new town with no close friends or family and was devastated. She chose to stay there, continuing her work for the Chancellor of the University of Massachusetts, Boston. “I just kind of put one foot in front of the other,” says Mary. “I thought that way every morning.” Her son kept encouraging her to move back to Connecticut. She stayed in Massachusetts another three years. “One morning I got up, I said, ‘I’m going to move back to Connecticut.’ It was time.” She thought about where she would move to, and considered the Connecticut shoreline. 

With thoughts about getting a job, she decided to sell her house, and put it on the market. Doors began to open. Her house sold in 24 hours for twice what she paid for it. With a bit of a cushion, she didn’t need to worry about a job just yet. Familiar with the university setting, Mary applied on line to Yale, John’s alma mater. She decided on Old Saybrook for her new home and she moved there in 2004. A week later Yale University offered her a position that was part time and seasonal during the academic year, as senior administrative assistant in the Design Department at the Yale School of Drama. She is still there 11 years later. It was a perfect fit.

John & MaryJohn & MaryPoetry came into her life in 2006. She had been flying in a plane and saw clouds beneath her. “I thought now I’m above the clouds and sort of in Heaven territory. I was thinking to myself, ‘Well John, I still don’t see you. Where are you?’ I assumed everyone who lost their significant other has a particular mystery that gnaws at them. My mystery was that I couldn’t figure out how someone who could be so present, could be gone? I think this has to do with what you believe spiritually. I’ve never resolved where I am faith-wise. I pretty much lost faith when he died. That was my nagging question. I could never figure out where he was. How could his soul be completely gone? I still felt he was with me somehow.”

Her practical side and her creative side were at odds over this. Looking down at the clouds, she thought, “You are not here either.” When her flight landed, she felt a need to start writing the phrase, “looking down on clouds, you are not here either.” She started writing and a poem emerged. It was titled, Thoughts of John, Five Years Later. It was 2006 and she was still wondering where he was. Somehow that first poem opened something up within her and poems began to flow. She wrote a lot about grief at that time.

“Poetry became an avenue to express what I was feeling and I realize now I was working through my grief. It’s a funny combination of expressing yourself like you are with a counselor or therapist, but you are by yourself, so I think you can be more honest. Somehow those things deepest inside you can come out when you are by yourself.”

Her friend Carin Roaldset invited her to a poetry workshop being offered in Old Saybrook. “I loved it,” she says. It was held at an art gallery on Main Street and the instructor told them to choose a piece of art and write a poem about it. She suggested Mary consider sharing her poetry in Cadeceus, an annual publication, that at the time was affiliated with Yale but is no longer in print. Thoughts of John was published as well as others she wrote three years after. She read the work of other poets and continued to write realizing that her words and expressing what she was feeling could benefit others. She submitted to other poetry journals and her poetry has since won awards and recognition over the past five years.

She met Pat O’Brien who was a member of the Guilford Poet’s Guild. That group was closed to new members so they decided to start a group in Old Saybrook. Gray Jacobik who is a well- known poet in Connecticut became a part of the initial group of three. They called it the Connecticut River Poets, and the group blossomed within a few years, gathering once a month to write, share and critique their poetry. There are now 14 members. “The idea is to get the person to write the best poem they can write,” says Mary.

The group is involved in other projects as well including being the unofficial Poets in Residence for the Florence Griswold Museum. They have three different exhibits each year and the group goes in at the beginning of each exhibit and individually, they each select a work of art that moves them and they write a poem about it. The poems are showcased in a binder for the public to read as they view the art. Poetry readings are scheduled as well. They invite the Guilford Poets Guild to be a part of this.

Last year a new tradition began where for the winter exhibit, the group has invited the Creative Writing class of Old Saybrook High School to participate in this project, choosing a piece of art from the exhibit and writing about it. Susan Murphy is their teacher, and the group works with her, including helping develop the poetry in the classroom setting.

“This is exciting because we feel like we are passing on a legacy. There is a Greek term for writing poetry to art called ekphrastic poetry. And that’s what I did at that first poetry workshop I took,” says Mary. “You try to find a point of view into that work of art. It’s fun.”

David & MaryDavid & MaryMary remarried three years ago to David Cohen after meeting him on eHarmony.com, a dating website. They emailed and fell in love, with David commuting every weekend from Windsor, CT for three years just to be with her. And it was after they met that a book of her poetry evolved.

“I tried to work through the initial grief and it was almost chronological,” says Mary. “It was very dark in the beginning and slowly comes to life a little bit.” The book is a collaborative effort between Mary and photographer Carin Roaldset. It is rich in metaphor and rich in local imagery from in and around Old Saybrook. The theme of ekphrastic poetry continues to stay with her and she can see that process taking place even in her book, where photography meets poetry and the two art forms compliment each other beautifully.

A poem titled Alaska, is Mary’s favorite and what she considers her best work. She had a graduation trip to Alaska scheduled with her 22 year old son Danny at a time when John was not doing well. Naturally she was reluctant to leave him and when she returned he was much worse. She struggled with the idea of having left him and missing that time together. Danny had been with her through it all and that trip strengthened their bond. The book is titled Here After. “Here I am after John’s death. From darkness to light. There is a lot about hope,” says Mary. She still hasn’t figured out where John is, but realizes he is not in a place, but has influenced her life in his passing.

“Somehow he is with me. This has strengthened me as a woman. The things I did after he died kind of amaze me now. Buying and selling a home, starting a new job and being successful at it. I learned I can be alone and be okay alone. And I realized that there are one of two ways you can go. You can slip down to staying in grief, or you have enough resiliency in you, that you can rise again. I had it inside me, a desire to live life fully again. I think you have to have that, and then I think you need to nourish it. A friend kept telling me, ‘It’s going to keep getting better. It won’t always be like this. It will keep getting better.’” And it has.

To obtain a copy of Here After, contact Mary Buell Volk at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


Thoughts of John, Five Years Later

By Mary Buell Volk

Looking down on clouds
Heaven is not there

It is not upwards
Or sideways either

No ghost sightings
No whispered secrets
No invisible touch on my breathing body

I still do not know where you are.

Were you the seagull on Martha’s Vineyard
Standing unnaturally near
Keeping watch?

The seal swimming so close to shore
He seemed to embody a mission?

Were you stretching across your ocean grave
Toward the heavy laden earth
Reluctantly but lovingly
To stave off my despair?

I have seen you in Duke’s eyes.
In purple myrtle that grows and spreads
In nebulous fog banks
In startling lighting shards

Now I feel you are sometimes in sounds.

The hollow echoing of woodpecker racket
Soft rain clatter in early morning
The lilt of a voice beyond words
In heart aching melodies

You are gliding quietly
Beyond memory held by mortal earth

You are with Jeannie, gardening
In Danny’s laugh
With Mike’s impending fatherhood
In Katherine’s tears

But perhaps you are here
When you purposefully are not.

You leave me alone.

To struggle
Test boldness
Reach for clarity
Beg for honesty

You try my strength to be brave
Urge me to open windows
Grab onto the light
And slip the bonds of regret

You hide in hearts not always mindful
In subtle ways you have transformed us
Passing from our place in time
To the next
And the next after that

Certainly you are here as we open our arms
To new life in the fullness of June

Our brand new being
Shaped in some unobvious way
By sweet remnants of your lingering light


In Their Honor – There Are Many Ways to Memorialize a Loved One

When someone we love dies, we want to keep his or her memory alive. We want to do something to honor that life. If the person died of a disease, we can do something meaningful by setting up a memorial fund to further research for a cure. If our loved one had a particular passion, we can continue the person’s life work by setting up a charitable non-profit. There are also simpler, more intimate ways to continue to remember someone dear to our hearts that don’t take a lot of planning or financing. Honoring the person’s memory gives a sense of purpose to a profound loss, and as a result, it will aid in your own healing process.

Here are some suggestions of what you can do to carry on a loved one’s legacy.

Establish a High School Scholarship Fund

This is a great way to help students with a financial need to pursue a higher education in a favorite subject or activity of the deceased: music, art, science, etc. If their passion was sports, you can establish an athletic scholarship in their memory.

Give an Annual Donation in His or Her Memory

Choose a charitable organization that’s doing work that was especially meaningful to your loved one.

Plant a Tree

Watching a sapling grow and flourish will encourage happy, healing, life-affirming memories of the person.

Memorial GardenMemorial GardenCreate a Memorial Garden

Fill it with your—and your loved one’s—favorite plants and flowers. Install a plaque in the garden with their name on it and perhaps a few lines of a favorite poem.

Light a candle

Gazing into the glowing flame can help you visualize the deceased and bring up fond memories. It is a Jewish tradition to light a special candle that burns for 24 hours on the Yahrzeit (yearly anniversary) of a loved one’s death.

Propose a Toast or Say a Blessing in Their Honor

At holidays or any special occasions when family and friends are gathered around the table, pause and reflect on the person whose presence, although not physical, can be felt on a spiritual level.

Make a Keepsake Box

Gather poems, pictures, and other items that remind you of your loved one and place them in a special box that you can open and reflect on the contents whenever you feel the desire.

Construct a Photo Collage

This is a visual way to chronicle the person’s life. Hang it in your home to inspire family and friends to share their stories of the deceased at different times and places during their lifetime.

Keep Memories Alive Through Storytelling

Write down or record favorite stories/funny anecdotes about the person that can be passed down through the generations, keeping his or her eternal spirit alive.

Find a Place in Nature to Reminisce

Visit the gravesite, memorial site, a woodland preserve or beach—anyplace where you feel especially close to your loved one and present in the moment without distractions.

Make a Musical Connection

Listening to music is an emotional, sensory experience that brings up memories and helps us do our grief work. Made a mixed tape or CD of songs that remind you of your loved one or organize a benefit concert in your community in their honor.

Complete a Project Your Loved One Was Working On

This could be anything from refinishing a table, installing a fountain in a garden, or organizing all the stuff in the basement. Enlist friends and family to help and make it an adventure.

Support a Cause that Had Significance for Your Loved One

Organize a charity walk or run, a bake sale or special event and donate proceeds to a charity or non-profit that the deceased had been involved in—or continue his or her volunteer work in the organization.

Creative Expression

Paint a picture, create a collage or craft project, make a piece of jewelry, compose a piece of music, or write a story in his or her honor. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Expressing yourself through the arts is also a healing process for you.

Establish an Anniversary Ritual

Whether it’s saying a prayer, lighting a candle, reading a poem, or taking a walk in a special place, rituals can offer solace on a day that may elicit both joy and sorrow, and as the years go by, serve as a marker of how far you’ve come in your grief journey.

Humor - Poor Widow Me | I’m Not Lazy – I’m Resolved

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My pattern used to be I’d abandon my New Year’s resolutions by February. I’d rebuff myself, feeling as useless as pants at a nudist colony until I discovered a cool way to curb my self-disgust. I’d make the last entry to my resolution list “break all the others.” Clever, eh? Ha to all the teachers who claimed, “Carol is not living up to her potential.”

I am no longer interested in spouting resolutions. I used to worry, what will become of me if I don’t build an ark for a rainy day, switch my closet from summer to winter by November 1st and delete the dead person from my contact list at their funeral.

2016Now, being sixty-something I am more protective of my time. I don’t devote even an hour doing things I don’t want to do with people I don’t want to do them with. Maybe this is the result of losing my husband smack in the middle of our marriage. Our 33 years could have been 66. We each would have been 88...not that extraordinary.

Time passing makes me think of me passing so why waste it trying to live up to my ridiculous expectations? Why shouldn’t every day be a day of comfort food?

Speaking of eating, you won’t see me at dinner or lunch with boring, unfunny or dumb people. If you can’t make me laugh and you’re not picking up the check you’d better be able to do the Heimlich maneuver.

I’m not running for office and my career is what it is. I don’t have to pretend to be pals with people to qualify for my number one vice, Netflix.

If I’m 30 pages into a book and I notice I’ve read the same sentence fourteen times, it goes into the “never finishing it and I don’t care” pile.

If Type A personality is the most zealous, I am way down on the alphabet and I am fine with that. Often in the evening I lay on the couch half sleeping and I need to reward myself with a cookie to entice me to make that long voyage to the bedroom. Luckily, the kitchen is on the way.

As I sleepwalk to my bed I smile. I am doing exactly what I want to be doing – nothing, unless you count brushing my teeth to dig out the chocolate chips.

Wait. Writing this I’m realizing that I have made resolutions. They’re just easy to follow like the directions on a Jell-O box.

Happy New Year!

Poetry - Soul’s Longing For Itself

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You who are so good at listening 
what good is listening if you don’t
listen to me

how else will you know that I long to 
leap across the high desert sky
float upon the ocean’s blue breasts
dig my toes into the warm sands 
of our childhood once again

you who are so good at loving 
what good is loving if you don’t 
love me

how else will you know that I long to 
gaze at the flower moon until I see our reflection
tell you my dreams of memory and loss
lie down upon this holy earth and be held 
in her embrace

Sarah Ragsdaleyou who are so good at grieving 
what good is grieving if you don’t 
grieve for me

how else will you know that I long to 
walk towards the horizon hand in hand
breathe the wild jasmine into a bloom in our heart
listen to the song of the nightingale 
sing us Awake

Sarah lives in South County, Rhode Island where she studies creative writing with Grace Farrell at the Carolina Fiber & Fiction Center. She is also a founding member of Telling Tales: Writers & Illustrators of Children’s Books. Her soon-to-be published children's book, Lucy's Lopsided Web, has been selected to carry the imprimatur of The Octagon House Press.

Ask Jane - Do You Have Complicated Grief?

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The loss of a loved one is a universal experience, but one that causes pervasive sadness that is distinct from the sadness caused by other issues such as loss of a job, financial loss, or loss of a home. Grief is a normal kind of sadness, one that doesn’t mean there is something wrong with you. It’s a life passage that most of us go through, process and eventually heal from. That’s why it’s not considered a mental disorder by the mental health community. 

Let me make a clear distinction between Grief and Major Depression, which is a serious mental health problem that requires treatment. Both Grief and Major Depression involve deep sadness and social isolation from the activities of normal life. However, Grief also involves a sense of loss and isolation that comes in waves, alternating with positive memories of the deceased. In Major Depression, the sadness is constant and unrelenting, and the thoughts are almost always negative. In Grief, the person usually feels the same level of self-esteem that they had prior to the loss, whereas in Major Depression the person feels a sense of guilt and worthlessness. (www.MayoClinic.org) (DSM-5).

In normal Grief, the bereaved will experience pain and loss for at least two months, sometimes up to a year or more, after which they begin to accept the reality of what has happened, between the waves of sadness. It’s important that the bereaved not internalize the pain, but instead, let themselves cry, experience it and express their Grief. In normal Grief, the bereaved will eventually begin to adjust to the changes in their life as a result of the loss, and start to socialize again. Life will be changed, but it will go on, and there will be hope again.

Grief becomes complicated when the feelings do not resolve in reasonable time, and the sadness doesn’t come in waves, but is instead persistent and unrelenting. That constant state of loss and sadness interferes with healing. Complicated Grief can occur when the bereaved was very dependent on the deceased, and doesn’t know how to go on and perform many of the tasks of daily life that were performed by the deceased. It also is likely to occur if the bereaved has no support system, if the deceased is their child, if the bereaved has a history of Major Depression or if they are not resilient and adaptable to change.

The symptoms of Complicated Grief include a continued sense of mourning, persistent thoughts of the deceased and continued reminders of them, a sense that one cannot go on without them, bitterness, detachment, longing and pining for the deceased, continued focus on the loss to the exclusion of normal activities, lack of acceptance of the loss, a feeling of meaninglessness of life, a feeling of wishing you could join the bereaved (which is not suicidal thinking), irritability, and an inability to remember the positive things about the deceased and your life together. The bottom line is, if Grief has begun to interfere with your everyday life to the point where you are unable to function, you may have Complicated Grief.

If you think you have Complicated Grief, I recommend you talk to a Grief Counselor or therapist who works with Grief and loss. There are clearly times and circumstances under which Grief can become an issue which requires intervention by a mental health professional. If you have symptoms such as unrelenting depressed mood, inability to sleep, irritability, lack of energy, lack of appetite or too much appetite, lack of caring about things you normally would care about, lack of attention to your hygiene or personal appearance, feelings of guilt and worthlessness, you may have Major Depression, which requires treatment from a mental health professional. If you or someone you love show symptoms such as those above, don’t try to diagnose yourself or someone else; leave that to the professionals.

Fotolia 35217988 Subscription Monthly XXLIf you start to think about suicide and consider ways to kill yourself, it’s crucial that you be evaluated by a psychiatric professional immediately. Go to the emergency room, or call 911 for immediate help. Most people who consider suicide really want the pain to stop, and can be helped if a mental health professional intervenes right away to help them relieve the pain, either by talk therapy, medication, or possibly hospitalization, and they are likely to want to live. That’s why immediate intervention is necessary when there is any suicidal thinking at all. There is also a National Suicide Hotline, which is 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255).

People with Complicated Grief may abuse substances to relieve their pain, may be more susceptible to physical illness or exacerbation of a chronic condition they already have, and may experience Major Depression, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, constant worries and unrealistic fears, problems with sleep, and trouble functioning in the normal activities of life.

The Center For Complicated Grief at the Columbia School of Social Work has a lovely, alternative way of viewing Grief. They see it as a form of love, and want to help the bereaved honor those feelings. They suggest seeking the support of others who have had the same experience, and gentle focus on self-care as one heals.

If the death was the result of suicide, it’s a traumatic form of Complicated Grief that cannot be understood by those who have not been through it. There is a mix of powerful feelings that include profound grieving, disbelief, shock, numbness, anger, guilt and self-blame (“what if I had done this, or not done that, I should have known”, etc.), and a lack of closure, especially if the deceased didn’t leave a suicide note. People who don’t understand tend to say insensitive things, such as, “You’re young. You can always get married again.” That’s why, in the case of suicide, the bereaved should seek out the support of a group specific to Survivors of Suicide, and a therapist or Grief counselor who has expertise in this area.

I’d like to remind you that Grief itself is a normal experience which doesn’t necessarily require medical treatment or therapy. However, someone with Complicated Grief ought to talk to a Grief counselor and join a bereavement group; whereas, someone with Major Depression needs to see a professional therapist for treatment. Again, don’t try to diagnose yourself or someone else. Get yourself or your loved one to a professional for evaluation of the problem, and make a plan to address it. It’s not necessary in this day and age to suffer needlessly. Don’t bottle up your feelings and suffer in silence. There is support, there are people out there who understand, there is treatment and lots of help available. There is most definitely hope. You can get better. Start today. There is hope.

• www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/complicated-grief/basics/definition/con-20032765?reDate=14122015
• complicatedgrief.org/
• socialwork.columbia.edu/research/research-programs-projects/center-complicated-grief
• www.suicide.org/support-groups/connecticut-suicide-support-groups.html
• www.survivorsofsuicide.com/
• brianshealinghearts.org/

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

Nutrition - Four One-Dish Dinner Ideas

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What’s to cook for dinner in January? 

The perfect thing to warm you up on a winter’s day is some comfort food! Even better is something that can be cooked in one dish, pot, pan or slow cooker. Just after the holiday season too, its nice to be inspired by some tasty but healthier choices. If you are cooking just for yourself don’t be put off by the larger quantities. A tasty soup prepared in a slow cooker can be put into batches for the week ahead or popped in the freezer for a ready to go meal!

I have had fun looking at all the creative and delicious ways that dinner can be cooked in one dish, skillet, Dutch oven, pot, pan or slow cooker. So these recipes are ready for you to cook up something delicious all in one go!

And only one pan to wash up!

potato skilletChili-Lime Chicken and Sweet Potato Skillet
(Adapted from Sweet Peas and Saffron)
Serves 4-6


2 large chicken breasts cut into 1 inch cubes
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large sweet potato cut into 1/2 inch cubes approx. 4 cups
2 bell peppers sliced or diced
1/2 red onion diced
2 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 cup chicken stock
Grated zest from one lime
1 can black beans spicy, drained
Fresh cilantro leaves to garnish
Salt and pepper to season to taste
Lime wedges to garnish and a squeeze of lime juice


1. In a large skillet or pan, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. Add the chicken, and brown (approximately 6 minutes).
2. Remove the chicken and place on one side. Add one more tablespoon of olive oil to the pan. Add the sweet potato and cook for 10-12 minutes until gently browned. This gives a nice look to the finished dish.
3. Add the bell peppers, red onion, red pepper flakes, cumin, salt and pepper and cook until just soft. Return the chicken to the pan add the stock; stir until everything is well combined.
4. Cover and cook for another 10 minutes or so, stirring once or twice. Chicken and sweet potatoes should be cooked.
5. Add the black beans, grated lime zest and cook until heated through. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Garnish with fresh coriander and lime slices.

cauliflower soupCauliflower, Leek and Cheddar Soup
(Recipe and photo courtesy of Cabot)
Makes 2 large or 4 small servings


1 tablespoon olive oil
2 leeks sliced (use white part of the leek)
1 small head of cauliflower cut into florets about 9 ounces
3 cups of lower sodium vegetable broth
5 ounces sharp cheddar shredded
Black Pepper to taste
Handful of chopped chives to garnish (optional)


1. In a Dutch Casserole heat the olive oil and sauté leeks for 5-8 minutes until slightly browned.
2. Add cauliflower florets and broth, cover and let it simmer for 20-25 minutes until softened.
3. Allow to cool slightly and blend with a hand held blender to a velvety consistency.
4. Bring it back to a simmer and then add cheese letting it melt slowly. Once melted, taste and adjust seasonings as needed. Add a little extra broth to adjust the thickness if you wish. Garnish with chives just before serving.

This is a great recipe for Sundays in winter – a simple and easy roast that cooks in one pan. Leftovers make the perfect Monday meal or simply put in single portions and freeze.

One Pan Roast Tenderloin with Apple and Roasted Winter Vegetables
Serves 4


1 1.5 lb. pork tenderloin
3 carrots & 3 medium parsnips peeled and chopped length ways
1 medium red onion coarsely sliced
1 medium apple coarsely chopped
2 cloves garlic thinly sliced
8 baby potatoes quartered
1 tbs. fresh chopped herbs or dried herbs if you don’t have any in the house
1 tsp. apple cider vinegar
1 tsp. olive oil
2 tbs. white wine
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tbsp. brown sugar
2 tsp. Paprika
1/2 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. garlic power
1/2 tsp. black pepper
2 tbsp. applesauce
1 tbsp. brown sugar
1 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1 tsp. Dijon mustard


1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
2. Prepare the rub, cover the surface of the pork lightly with 1 tsp. olive oil then rub on the dry mixture.
3. Place the pork loin in the center of a 9 by 13 baking dish; fat side down.
4. In a large bowl, toss the carrots, parsnips and other vegetables with the cider vinegar, olive oil, salt pepper and white wine. Arrange in the baking dish around the sides of the pork. Cover the dish lightly with tin foil.
5. Roast pork and vegetables for 30 minutes, remove foil then flip the tenderloin over.
6. Mix the glaze ingredients; baste pork with most of the sauce and cook on for another 10-20 minutes until cooked, check temperature with meat probe 145 degrees F. Vegetables should be lightly browned.
7. Remove from oven, baste pork with the remaining sauce and allow to rest for 5 minutes before serving.

This is an Indian inspired recipe easy to cook along in the slow cooker during a winter’s day to give a healthy and filling vegetarian dish. Give it a try!

dahlSlow Cooker Dahl
(Adapted from Holy Cow! vegan recipes)


1 cup red lentils
1 medium onion finely chopped
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tsp. ginger
1/2 tsp. turmeric
1/2 cup tomato puree
4 packed cups of greens – kale or spinach
4 cups of vegetable stock
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup chopped coriander
A few drops of lemon juice


1. Soak the lentils in enough water to cover them by an inch.
2. Put the crockpot on a high setting and once it is quite hot add the onions, garlic and ginger along with a couple of tablespoons of water.
3. Season with salt and pepper; cook until onions are translucent about 10 minutes. Put the lid on to hold the temperature and speed up cooking.
4. Add the greens and the tomato puree and mix well. Add the turmeric. Stir.
5. Drain the lentils and add them to the onions and greens and stir to mix well. Add 4 cups of vegetable stock and mix thoroughly.
6. Put the lid on the crockpot. Cook for about 3 hours on a high setting. If the mixture starts to dry add another 1-2 cups of vegetable stock. Cooking times will also vary depending on the size of crockpot.
7. When the lentils are thoroughly cooked and are at a thick soup like consistency stir well, taste and add any extra seasoning.
8. Squeeze on a few drops of lemon juice and garnish with some fresh chopped coriander.

Entertainment - The Widow’s Guide to Sex & Dating – Comedic Novel About Next Chapter in Young Widow’s Life


Carole Radziwill (photo credit Anna Gunselman)Carole Radziwill (photo credit Anna Gunselman)The title of Carole Radziwill’s first novel, The Widow’s Guide to Sex & Dating may seem a little off-putting to those who know Radziwill as a three-time Emmy award-winning journalist, who spent more than a decade reporting for ABC News from around the world, including the front lines of Afghanistan.

And if you’ve read her moving New York Times bestselling memoir, What Remains, about her husband, Anthony Radziwill, an ABC News producer of Polish royalty, who died in 1999 when she was just 34 years old, you also may scratch your head.

But 15 years later, Radziwill has moved on in her grief journey to a place where she can see both the pathos and humor in life, and has written a quick-paced, engaging novel about Claire Byrne, an attractive and offbeat 34-year old New Yorker married to Charles Byrne, a renowned sexologist, who is charming and interesting, but unfaithful, believing that love and sex are mutually exclusive.

In a bizarre accident, Charlie is suddenly struck dead on the sidewalk by a falling Giacometti statue and over the course of a year, the grieving Claire goes on a binge of bad choices and dating misadventures before discovering true love for the first time.

In the following interview, Radziwill talks about her new novel and what she’s learned from her own experiences about the unpredictability of life.

Q. When/how did you make the leap into fiction from your memoir What Remains to this darkly comedic novel?

A. I thought about it before I wrote the memoir. I had just started dating, I was still at ABC News, and was thinking about leaving—around the time I came back from Afghanistan. I was telling a bunch of girlfriends silly dating stories and they said, “You should write these down, it would be a funny book.” Yeah, right (I thought), a novel about life after death. I was still in the throes of grieving, not in a funny place of mind. I realized I actually wanted to write my own story. And honestly, I thought I’d write my life story as a novel. I’m a very private person. I hadn’t written about my marriage or famous in-laws. But it became clear, the story was so nuts, it didn’t seem believable. And the threshold for believability in fiction has to be higher than in a memoir. In a memoir readers will take a leap of faith with a writer because (their story) really happened. Whereas, if you write (a memoir) as fiction, it’s too weird to be true. Many years later I went back to writing the novel.

Q. How is Claire based on you and how is she different?

A. Certainly my experience was completely different than Claire’s. I did that on purpose. But I knew she’d be based on my own experience. I knew she wasn’t going to be a messy widow—and get into drugs and alcohol. She was me when I started writing it. She’s much more self aware, pragmatic, and practical than I was. Yet she did get a little of my neurotic tendencies. When you’re writing a novel, you can give your characters the things you wished you said, but didn’t think of until you were in the cab after dinner. You get to write the happy ending that maybe you didn’t get.

Q. How about Charlie? Why a renowned sexologist as Claire’s husband?

A. I didn’t want a comparison between Claire and me, and my husband and the husband in the book. I wanted him to be the complete opposite of Anthony: egomaniacal, narcissistic. I’m not sure where the sexologist came to be—maybe my own kind of interest in all things sexual. Some of Charlie is me, too. Those perverse, weird, analytical aspects of Charlie are actually really me.

Q. Charlie didn’t die in the most ordinary of circumstances. He was struck dead on the sidewalk by a famous sculpture. Why did you choose such a bizarre death?

A. Claire’s husband can’t die from cancer because that’s not funny. I had read A Shocking Accident by Graham Greene that’s set in Italy. A man was killed when a pig fell out of a window. The modern version of that is in New York things fall out of the sky all the time—air conditioners and cranes. I thought I’d turn the pig into an expensive Giacometti statue, and then make it a fake. I thought that was even funnier.

Q. Your background is in serious international reporting, and this novel deals with somber themes, of grief and emotional pain, but is also very funny. Are you naturally funny?

A. In year three, after my husband died, I found my sense of humor. It was more lifesaving then going to therapy, the year I took Wellbutrin. I don’t know if I was always naturally funny. I was a pretty serious kid and young adult with a serious job, doing serious stuff. It was finding the laughter and ridiculousness of life that really saved me. My husband was very funny. I think he left that for me.

Q. Claire learns and grows from her experience. She reinvents herself after hitting a lot of bumps along the way. Was that important to you that your main character didn’t stay stuck in grief, but moved on and found a greater love, had a second chance at life?

A. It was important. It wasn’t like my novel had to have a happy ending. But it was important for me to have her discover who she is and what she wants out of life. She was the moon in her relationships, and in the end, she realizes she wants to be the star, and I wanted her to be the star.

Q. Speaking of stars, you’re starring in Bravo’s The Real Housewives of New York City. How did that happen?

A. I was at a point in my life, when I was (asked to be on the show) and I said, “I don’t know. Sure.” Sometimes you just have to say yes to what the universe puts in front of you, even if it seems counterintuitive, unproductive. I live my life and see where it goes… Life isn’t short, it’s sooo long, and to have a successful life, you have to have a lot of experiences, both good and bad, and the richer your life will be.

The Widow’s Guide to Sex & Dating (St. Martin’s Griffin Press) by Carole Radziwill is $15.99, softcover.

This article is reprinted with permission from The Day.

Travel - 5 Reasons To Take A Staycation Vacation

Mystic Seaport, CT (Patricia Ann Chaffee)

Horse drawn sleigh at Allegra Farm.Horse drawn sleigh at Allegra Farm.Staycations are vacations taken at home or in nearby towns, villages, or even neighboring states. And I’m not talking about arm chair travelers as that’s a vacation of a whole other kind. I’m talking about venturing out to enjoy our surroundings that are as close as our back yards or as far as a few hours drive. The term “staycations” has only been around a decade or so and became big when gas prices were high, and folks wanted an economical escape. Today, it’s easy enough to go online and book a trip to the Bahamas in midwinter, but why? When there is so much to see and do right in Connecticut and beyond. These days, with work and life schedules as insanely jam packed as they are, it’s essential to take time off, make time for these accessible adventures, and staycations are a great way to go. Here are five reasons to embrace your staycation vacation.

1. It’s financially wise and supports local economy

Sometimes lack of time and resources keep us close to home, but it’s there that the treasures lay. Connecticut is chock full of natural beauty, abundant history, artistic expression, relaxing retreats and family fun. There are so many places to see that we never get to enjoy from within our office cubicles or living room couch. It is cost effective to enjoy these local experiences because you don’t have the travel expense of going far. It also helps our local economy and gives us greater appreciation of the places, the culture, food, and unique offerings in your own state, when we dare to seek them out.

Tourism is thriving in Connecticut as a $14 billion dollar industry that employs 80,000 people, which equates to more than five percent of all jobs in the state, according to the Connecticut Office of Tourism.

“One of the great things about living in Connecticut is getting to enjoy all four seasons,” said tourism program and communications manager, Meagan Occhiogrosso. “People think they need to leave the state to do something fun. But that’s not true. There is a certain kind of charm in Connecticut.”

She points out that visiting a spa resort like The Spa at Norwich Inn, is a great winter activity and something you can do alone or with a friend. At The Saybrook Point Inn and Spa they have a coveted lighthouse suite that sits at the mouth of the Connecticut River. There is no shortage of museums to visit as well as breweries to tour, award winning restaurants, cozy Bed & Breakfasts and captivating casinos.

Stacy LytwynStacy Lytwyn2. Approach your adventure with a sense of mystery and wonder

“If you feel stuck or get the winter blues, get into the car and just drive,” said author of Consummate Connecticut – Day Trips with Panache, Stacy Lytwyn. Planning a driving tour around the state can be a real adventure when you open yourself to the endless possibilities that may be around each corner. “Even if you only travel for a cup of java and a blueberry muffin at a local coffee shop,” she says, “One little trip can make that 190 degree turn for a better day. One of my favorite adages that I, myself live by is, ‘move a muscle, change a thought.’” So if winter doldrums are plaguing you, now is the time for a staycation.

Stacy gives presentations around the state about “Day Trips for Healing and Wellness.” “It really shows the benefit of investing in ‘experiences’ not just ‘things,’” she says. “Things are certainly important, but let me tell you, whether it is at the beginning, middle or end of life, every ‘thing’ pales next to human connection. I’m always trying to push people to go, travel, learn, explore and live, really live...for in the end, as you get older, if you have matured in a healthy way, you know you cannot beat the clock, but you sure can pack in those precious moments.”

About traveling alone, Stacy offers some insight: “If you can’t have an awesome time with yourself, then you are not going to have a good time with anyone else. Period. I learned firsthand more than five decades ago how one day trip can morph positive change into the rest of your life. I was in my early twenties, and suffering from a lot of internal anguish. One day feeling very alone with a head of negative self-talk, I decided to take a ride from Fairfield (CT) to Coventry. A young journalist at the time, I had been fascinated by the health benefits of fresh herbs. Back then, Caprilands, a 69-acre herb farm, was so synonymous with Coventry that I kept calling that particular northeast corner of the state ‘Caprilands, Connecticut.’ Once there, I connected with nature and solitude. I connected with the famous herbalist Adelma Grenier Simmons, who passed away in 1997. Most of all this experience connected me with myself and sparked curiosity and renewed my hope, which inspired a journey in living a life centered around positive thought and action.

“All these decades later my solo trips continue to gift me with so many things – from inner healing to meeting all kinds of people on my travels. I love to take my time and savor each moment.”

3. Consider the healing potential

Stacy considers winter a healing time, and has an appreciation for beaches and the shoreline during this chilly off season. A walk in nature of any kind is always a refreshing and rejuvenating experience even in mid- winter. But the beaches off season hold a special energy and sometimes special surprises as we walk along the shores. The Meigs Point Nature Center at Hammonasset State Park in Madison is open year round and word has it, seals can occasionally be found lounging in the sand. Imagine the serendipitous experience of meandering along a beach on a winter’s day, to find a seal in your path. It’s those kinds of experience that remind us that anything is possible and staying local means stress free travel.

If beaches don’t appeal to you there are plenty of parks inland with hiking trails. The Litchfield Hills is home to Wisdom House Retreat and Conference Center and if getting away for some peace and quiet sounds good, that’s the place to do it. You can sign up for one of their many programs, bring your journal or art supplies or just go to enjoy the silence. Try out their drum circle program. This is your time and it’s all about you and what feels good and right. Sometimes it is the act of getting out of the house and into new space that can transform us.

4. Embrace tradition and the arts

Ice skating and sledding are favorite pastimes that harken back to simpler times. If a Courier and Ives activity is your idea of fun, check out a horse drawn sleigh ride at Allegra Farms in East Haddam. It is the largest authentic livery stable in Connecticut. Follow it up with a stop at a local cafè for hot chocolate and it just might not get better than that. Going on the hunt for a one of a kind item at antique shops around the state can be great fun, especially in the northeast, Quiet Corner. If being out in nature isn’t your thing, the arts in every conceivable form manifest itself throughout the state at museums, art galleries, open studios, theatre and venue’s like The Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center in Old Saybrook and the Goodspeed Opera House in East Haddam. Fairs and festivals indoors and out, run all year round and if history is your passion, a stop at Mystic Seaport is never a disappointment.

5. Sometimes it’s just about plain old fun

The Connecticut Science Center will appeal to the kid in all of us while Coco Key Water Resort and Convention Center in Waterbury is a full fledged resort offering family friendly fun. There are cruises on the Connecticut River February through October at Connecticut River Expeditions. If lions and tigers and bears sound fun, check out the Beardsley Zoo in Bridgeport where they have 300 animals and a year round carousel. And lastly, if you have a truly adventurous spirit, head on over to Powder Ridge Mountain Park and Resort for skiing, snowboarding or snow tubing.

There is so much to see and do in Connecticut, whether you are looking to curl up at a B&B with a good book, scale mountains, traverse zip lines, wander deserted beaches, shop til you drop, or take in a show. It’s as simple as making the decision to treat yourself to a staycation vacation. Open a map, close your eyes and point a finger. Wherever you are in Connecticut a staycation is just outside your door.

“It’s when you don’t want to go anywhere that you really need to,” said Stacy. “In a very turbulent world it’s nice to know I can still go to the Goodspeed Opera House for a production.”

Consummate Connecticut is available on Amazon at: Consummate Connecticut: Day Trips with Panache.

Staycation Resources:

CT Office of Tourism: www.ct.gov/cct/cwp/view.asp?a=3948&q=464698

Home - Voluntary Simplicity Leads to Intentional Living

Wanda UrbanskaWanda UrbanskaFor many folks, the phrase “voluntary simplicity” conjures up images of Henry David Thoreau living the simple life on Walden Pond. With a reverence for nature and seeking time to write as well as to distance himself from people, he lived in a one room cabin in Concord, Massachusetts for just over two years, from 1845 to 1847. His cabin had a single bed, a writing desk, a fireplace and a couple chairs for visitors, the ultimate simple living. Today, our idea of simple living might include a few more things.

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately,” he wrote in Walden, “to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”

This thought of reaching the end of life only to realize we have not lived fully, is a sad proposition, prompting many of us these days, to embrace various levels of voluntary simplicity. To live with greater consciousness and intention means living deliberately in all aspects of our lives.

While many admire Thoreau for his choice to live deliberately in the woods, writing about his adventure in Walden which was first published in 1854, many contemporary writers have continued to expand on the benefits of voluntary simplicity. This has created a resurgence of interest in getting in touch with what is really important in life and the freedom that comes with that discovery. Simple living means different things to different people and each of us need to decide for ourselves what that means and what steps bring us closer to living more intentionally. For many people a major life change can spark just such an interest.

Author Wanda Urbanska has published nine books including The Heart of Simple Living: 7 Paths to a Better Life. She has been enlightening people about simple living since 2004 when she brought Simple Living with Wanda Urbanska to public television. It was the first national series advocating simpler living and ran for four years on PBS stations across America. Her shows can still be viewed today on Hulu.com and she is as delightfully humble, authentic and down to earth as she appears on PBS. Today, she is living simply in Raleigh, North Carolina, and although she has stepped away from simple living advocacy in a national way, to take on work as President of the Jan Karski Educational Foundation, she says simple living is in her DNA.

My definition of simple living

“My definition of simple living is, if it is a tabletop it stands on four legs: environmental stewardship, thoughtful consumption, community involvement and financial responsibility,” says Wanda. “These four main areas are interlinked. Environmental stewardship to me is at the heart of simple living because you are concerned with your impact on the planet and being mindful of your footprint. People feel like it is too big an issue to make a difference, but it’s better to take some small step.”

Something as simple as a birdbath can have an impact. There are multiple and overlapping benefits to simple living that can be as small as organizing your home, balancing your work and home life, becoming more frugal, or being more conscious about what you bring into your home. Thoughtful consumption is connected to environmental stewardship. It is really thinking about what you buy before you buy it.

“Buy used if you can. Buy locally if you can. Sometimes that means paying more for things. Establish a relationship with providers,” she advises.

Wanda recently gave her mechanic a copy of her latest book. “I know he will be looking out for my best interest. When we interact it’s a point of pleasure. We have a wonderful relationship, not just a monetary interaction.” This is community building. Community involvement is about making connections with people and developing relationships. It is about creating community in that moment as well as longer term communities that are established with neighbors, co-workers, etc. That’s a part of simple living. Community is one thing that may have been neglected when a loved one has been ill. Reestablishing bonds of friendship and community are important as a part of simplifying life, but also in finding much needed support in the wake of loss.

The fourth leg of the table is financial responsibility. Wanda chooses to drive an older model car and so she finds herself going to her mechanic more often. Transportation choices have multiple and overlapping benefits whether taking public transportation, purchasing smaller cars, or used cars.

“I really think that Americans are understanding that possessions possess you,” she says. “More is not better. Our culture is moving into more of a sharing economy rather than an individualistic one. We begin to realize, ‘I don’t need all this stuff to be happy.’ We are seeking a better understanding of what is meaningful. People are on a quest for meaning.”

The Europeanization of American life

“I call it the Europeanization of American life. And what I mean by that is, the simple living I advocated in my book and show is not moving to a teepee but taking what we have in modern life and tweaking it, making spaces smaller, not using shopping for recreation, etc. I love the word ‘Lagom,’ it’s a Swedish word for ‘enough.’ I am impressed with the Scandinavian and Polish cultures with regard to a way of living with smaller spaces and fewer things,” Wanda says.

It seems that we need to develop a better understanding of what is enough. And in doing so, we tap into what is meaningful in life and a way of living that is conscious of the earth, of each other, balanced, non-consumeristic, and just plain simpler. Wanda has found herself in a transitional sort of place that calls her to tap into those simple living roots and honor not only the changes in her life, but the opportunity the changes present.

Over the past several months, Wanda has dealt with the loss of a pet, a broken engagement, caring for an aging mother, cleaning out her home and relocating her Mom hours away, and moving herself to smaller space.

“I had been planning a life with a partner and suddenly find myself without a partner and alone,” she says. Her Mom, Marie had been living with her in a property they purchased together in 2010. They shared dinner every night, but had their own private living spaces. Now Marie is hours away. “We miss each other terribly,” says Wanda. The cat she had for 13 years was given away when she got engaged, because her fiance’ was adamant that he didn’t wants pets. And Wanda is now living in Marie’s little old cottage on the three unit property moving from 1800 square feet to 800. She has no regrets about the relationship, although she does regret losing her cat.

“This new situation and letting go of past realities is giving me an opportunity to live in a laboratory of simple living. To try to bring into play the principles and mechanisms that I believe are transformative,” she says.

Henry David Thoreau’s cabin on Walden Pond.Henry David Thoreau’s cabin on Walden Pond.Right-size your living situation

“I feel like I’ve right-sized my living situation. People really resist this for a lot of reasons. Downsizing and letting go of precious possessions can be daunting. But it represents the opportunity to recreate your life.” (Wanda admits that her organizational skills still need to be tweaked as she temporarily misplaced her notes for this interview.) “I’m actually living the way I’m advocating, smaller, greener. These new changes in my life have sad elements but it also represents a chance to re-charge my life on my terms, doing things my way, setting up a life that embodies the principles of simple living.” One small thing she does is saving organic waste and burying it in her backyard for compost, and recycling, a practice her fiancè had no interest in.

“There is a sense of freedom in being able to embrace what is true for me. It’s exciting. There is liberation in being able to steer your own ship. Especially if you are doing it in such a way that aligns yourself with your own core values. It forces you to dig deeper (to recognize what those values might be).

“The take away for a widow/er is, even if they loved the person deeply, they were still part of a couple. As such there were two people making decisions. Now is an opportunity to focus on your philosophy and how you want to live.”

Wanda is a passionate advocate for living in smaller spaces. “The tiny house movement is very much a reflection of the change in societal values and the re-evaluation of our consumer society. People are saying, ‘We don’t need all this stuff.’ The stuff owns us rather than us owning it. It forces us to be thoughtful about every item that comes into your space.”

Curate your life

Marie is a clutterbug and she keeps things forever. So when it came time for her to move, Wanda curated her life, going mindfully and sensitively through each item. “You can’t assume loved ones will want these things when you’re gone. You are doing them a favor to curate your life. Think about every single thing that comes into your life. Ask yourself, ‘Do you want it? Do you need it?’ If not, pass it on to someone else who might. It was a great joy for me to donate a mountain of books when I moved. Then we gave about 600 books away to local library from Marie’s collection acquired as a retired professor, reader and writer. I’m happy that someone might want it and can raise money for local libraries.”

Voluntary simplicity is not about living on the cheap, or living an impoverished existence. It is about being mindful about how we want to live our life, and making choices that bring us greater fulfillment, greater authenticity and more meaning. Consider how you spend your time, your resources, your energy and if what you discover leaves you longing for something more, consider making life just a little more simple and a lot more meaningful.

The Heart of Simple Living: 7 Paths to a Better Life by Wanda Urbanska can be found on Amazon at: The Heart of Simple Living: 7 Paths to a Better Life

Spirituality - Sound Healer Creates Good Vibrations

Robert Austin trained to be a cook and worked his way up to being a corporate chef of a hotel chain, and later for the banking industry, preparing delectable food for dignitaries from places like Europe, the Caribbean, and Central America. His food created nothing but good vibrations as he satiated the palate of many fortunate enough to taste his culinary creations. But while living and working in Miami, Florida he sensed a calling to trade his mixing and salad bowls, in for Crystal and Tibetan singing bowls and a sound healer was born. He had accomplished everything he wanted to as a chef and it was time to move on.

Robert AustinRobert AustinHe switched coasts and moved from Miami on the east coast, to Englewood on the Gulf of Mexico with an eye on a new life. “It was a different coast. I could become anything I wanted,” says Robert. “It was more serene, less populated and people were more respectful of the environment.” He became a Reiki master and while on this journey within, this place of new enlightenment, he attended his first crystal bowl concert at a local “new age” store.

“I was mesmerized. My eyes were popping out of my head as I listened to the sounds of beautiful, spiritual, angelic energies.”

Robert incorporated crystal bowl meditation into his Reiki practice. Reiki is a Japanese technique for stress reduction and relaxation that promotes healing and is administered through laying on of hands and is based on the idea that a “life force energy” flows through us, according to www.Reiki.org. The sounds created by the crystal bowls complemented his healing practice in a non-invasive but powerful way.

“The high vibrations of the crystal bowls will clear any kind of negative energy of a person,” says Robert. “Crystal bowls can relax you and release the stress. People can release stress and release pain. It’s truly amazing. Crystal bowls are like an angelic energy. It’s like the angels are all around you.” Robert began with a set of seven crystal bowls representing the seven chakras and his collection grew into what he calls a “family of bowls.” He adds, “They all have personalities. You must find your own bowl spirit.”

One experience he offers people is to put their feet in an 18" crystal bowl filled with Styrofoam peanuts while he plays the front of the bowl with a suede mallet. His 96 year old mother often plays with him at concerts, when he goes to assisted living facilities and rehabilitation centers. He plays outdoors in community parks, yoga centers and other places conducive to the experience. Pain can be released during a concert and often works well when he places a bowl directly on the body. The vibrations go deep into the organs, muscles, etc.

Robert Austin performing crystal bowl therapy.Robert Austin performing crystal bowl therapy.Tibetan brass bowls are also used in a similar way in his practice and time and again he has seen healing take place through these vibrational healing modalities. The intention of the bowls is to put the body back in harmony. Through listening and integrating the sound into your body, the vibrations help to harmonize the whole person.

“The power of the mind is very potent. When dealing with stagnant energy, like arthritis it’s not necessarily a life sentence. There are things you can do. You can break up that stagnant energy from carpel tunnel, fibromyalgia, Raynaud’s Disease. You can release that pain,” he says.

The crystal bowls were designed for the computer industry back in 1969-1970. The bowls are made of a quartz powder that is fused together not unlike the glass making process. One of the most common is the frosted crystal bowl that has a translucent appearance and is played with a rubber or suede mallet. The bowls have all different notes relating to the seven chakras or energy fields of the body, the root chakra, sacral, solar plexis, heart, throat, third eye and crown chakras, and range in size from 6-28 inches.

“The bowls can also be used with meditation, (yoga or chanting.) There is a spirit being in the bowl whether you want to believe it or not,” says Robert. “It’s almost like a spiritual friend. The bowl is there to help. Crystal bowls clear the auric energy. It goes into the body via a concert, meditation, or resting on the body. Vibrations from Tibetan brass bowls go very deep into the body and are made from precious metals of mother earth. They can effect change creating a subtle sound massage.”

In March Robert attended the 9th Annual Physicians Round Table Conference in Orlando as an alternative healing method that is increasingly being recognized as a valued therapy. This is the fourth year he has been invited to participate in that conference.

Robert with his mother, Jennie Starseed.Robert with his mother, Jennie Starseed.a Tibetan brass singing bowl.a Tibetan brass singing bowl.Dr. Mitchell Gaynor is a board certified medical oncologist and clinical assistant professor of medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York. Dr. Gaynor also served as the medical director and director of medical oncology at the Weill Cornell Center for Complementary and Integrative Medicine and has published several books including Sounds of Healing: A Physician Reveals the Therapeutic Power of Sound, Voice, and Music (Broadway Books 1999) and The Healing Power of Sound (Shambhala 2002). Since 1991 Dr. Gaynor has been using complementary healing modalities such as chant, music, meditation and crystal bowls along with traditional medical practices with reported remarkable results lending scientific credibility to the healing power of sound.

When Robert was 16 years old a spirit medium told him he would one day heal people with his hands. With a self-taught, spirit led, 15 year journey toward the power of sound healing, Robert performs bowl concerts along the east coast, often paired with yoga or meditation. With nothing but good vibrations, his bowl concerts involve playing 40-50 bowls, 15 crystal bowls, Tibetan bowls, an Australian didgeridoo, rain sticks and gongs, all played as an offering to heal and put bodies back into their natural harmonious balance.

“They (the bowls) can also be used to honor someone who has passed,” says Robert. “There is so much that the bowls can do. You go on to a journey to listen to your body. We can use the power of the mind to heal ourselves. We have to let go of negative experiences and enjoy positive experiences in life. We can choose to be happy or sad. We can envision healing and release pain and stress. Sound can heal the body or heal a broken heart.”

For more information about Robert Austin visit www.crystalbowlsoundhealer.com and to view one of his concerts visit www.youtube.com/watch?v=aKqXEI4bJNs#t=48.

Expressive Arts - Is It Possible That Paint Can Get Us Unstuck? It Sure Is...

There are so many times in life when we feel stuck, unable to move forward, hurt, angry, abandoned, or fearful. We can be stuck because of childhood or even adult trauma, by relationships gone sour, by ill health, financial worries, loss of a loved one or even something as simple as an unkind word from someone we look up to. It doesn’t take much on this journey we call life, to paralyze us or at the very least, keep us from living the abundantly fruitful lives we are called to. When we find ourselves in that place of inertia and unable to move forward, we may be unable to make decisions, unable to try new experiences, even unable to breathe, eat or sleep. We may even be unaware that we are in that place or that it is effecting how we live each day.

Aviva GoldAviva GoldBuddhist teacher and author Pema Chödrön writes, “To be fully alive, fully human, and completely awake is to be continually thrown out of the nest.” 

If the nest is the status quo, it can feel more comfortable to stay there than to venture out, but we have lives to live and places to be. Fear of the unknown can keep us in one spot, and whether it’s a good one or not, it may be a comfortable one. Indecision is in fact a decision to allow others to choose for us, to allow circumstances to choose for us. This is one way to approach life. But when we choose to live life fully, we empower ourselves with the gift of an authentic, bountiful and blessed life.

Painting from the Source (PFTS) is one creative process that can open us up to that authentic life we want and need. Developed more than 35 years ago, by internationally recognized artist, author and teacher Aviva Gold, PFTS is an intuitive painting process that allows for discovery and discernment of our deepest questions, our darkest desires and an awareness of our most authentic selves.

“What’s interesting about this process is that it meets you where you are and gives you what you need,” says Aviva, who calls herself an art medicine woman. “A lot of people who are stuck, don’t even want to get unstuck. It is a way to connect with your spirit energy that will give you what you want and need in that moment. The process is a way of tapping into a deeper spiritual place I call the Source; A way of moving energy like a form of prayer.”

The process is as simple as showing up at the paper with no agenda and allowing whatever is to be, to be. It is very much a process of allowing. We tend to want to control things and when life feels out of control we are at a loss. This process can open us up to discover, transform, reveal and nudge us out of that place of being stuck. This happens when we show up at the page empty, with no preconceived notions and just allow the experience to happen. On her website, www.Paintingfromthesource.com she writes, “PFTS is a painting workshop or retreat, where a group of people paint, share, move, vocalize, and create ritual together for healing, renewal, radical play and artful learning.”

I facilitate a monthly Sacred Source Painting program at a local church on Connecticut’s shoreline, that grew out of Aviva’s PFTS process. Beginning with kindergarten grade tempera paint, an assortment of brushes and large sheets of 18x24 inch heavy art paper, people with no artistic background who were certain they, “couldn’t draw a straight line,” now celebrate themselves as artists. We are all artists, but we don’t all know it. We use paper plates for palettes; hang plastic on the wall to protect it, and paint in total silence, allowing spirit to be the only voice (once we silence that inner critic). When one sheet of paper isn’t enough it may grow to two or three sheets. When we think we are done we can challenge ourselves to use a tiny brush, or paint with our non-dominant hand which helps us to let go. We give ourselves permission to paint badly, as if we are going to burn it, so self-consciousness doesn’t interfere with the process. And most importantly we know that there is absolutely no wrong way to do this. You can’t fail. There are no mistakes. It’s about the experience with no specific goal in mind. After we paint, we share something about our experience of the process.

In Aviva’s programs that she offers around the world, they may last as long as three days or even a week, while participants work on one painting that grows and grows, sometimes into beyond life size works. She recently moved to Arizona where she is creating a Source Retreat venue where people can go to experience programs with her first hand. While those programs are small group centered, the PFTS process can be done in the privacy of your own home. If there is reluctance to share your creative genius with others, that’s okay and if you don’t have safe people who will support your practice, it’s even advisable not to share your work too readily. Be careful who you share this kind of work with so you aren’t shut down at the gate before you even walk through it.
“When you approach anything with reverence…it energizes the self,” says Aviva. “Just showing up, shows that you are caring enough about yourself. There is movement and that really is enough.”

This is not a religious experience but it is a spiritual one as artists connect with their source for guidance. Aviva admits that more women than men attend her programs and she has a theory about this. “Women are more comfortable with the unknown. Men are much more logic based.” And there really is no logic to how putting paint on paper can open us up, free us and reveal things about ourselves that we didn’t know, and even transform us. Being stuck is so fear based. And expressing our creativity through the PFTS process as well as other means, can really help us generate movement.

A story is told about a woman who kept having reoccurring dreams about a bull. It was terrifying and that bull just kept showing up in her dreams, sometimes chasing her and sometimes just being an unwelcome presence. She shared this with a friend who was a very wise nun, who offered her counsel. The nun invited her to close her eyes and confront the bull in her mind. Naturally the woman was very reluctant to do this. But she humored her friend. She took a few deep breaths, closed her eyes and envisioned the bull she kept seeing in her dreams. She could feel fear rising. But she stood there confronting that bull and when she did the bull disappeared and never returned again.

That’s what we can do when we show up at that blank piece of paper. We can allow what needs to come out, confront it and let go of fear that often binds us. As an invitation to push ourselves out of the comfort of our nest, this opportunity to create, is but one form of expressive art that invites us into a deeper connection with our authentic self. We are all artists and when we can tap into our source, that life giving energy, the possibilities are endless.

“This (PFTS) process is based on the assumption that there is energy in the universe that wants us to heal,” says Aviva. “This taps into a place within, where we can heal, but we have to be willing to go deep and paint anything. Painting from the Source is a form of prayer that’s also play with miraculous possibilities,” says Aviva. To get a taste of the PFTS process, check out this video: youtube.com/watch?v=nQjFExiACsA&feature=youtu.be. A DVD and book are available at www.Paintingfromthesource.com.

Hobby - Fall In Love With Bridge

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An excellent late in life hobby is duplicate bridge. If you do not know how to play bridge, many bridge clubs offer guidance and lessons or can get a teacher for you.

bridge2Playing duplicate bridge in clubs is a good place to make new friends It is not unusual that bridge partners start dating and sometimes marriages have resulted. Playing bridge requires concentration, which is also good for maintaining a healthy brain. In duplicate bridge, unlike social bridge, the partners you play against play the same cards you played.

To get started, you should find your closest bridge club by looking in the yellow pages or contacting the American Contract Bridge League (ACBL). Their website is www.acbl.org.

Once you find your local club, the director will usually be able to obtain a partner for you. After you finish playing a hand, the cards are placed in metal card holders and passed to the next table to be played again. This process continues until all the players have played the same cards. Your score depends upon how well you did compared to the other partners who played the same cards. Thus, skill is more important in duplicate than in social bridge where good results usually reflect possession of better cards.

Once you start playing, it would be wise to do some reading. A good book for beginners would be Bridge for Dummies by Eddie Kantar. That and other books can be purchased directly from Barclay Bridge Supplies (1-800-274-2221). Your local bookstore may also have the books or will be able to order them for you.

Dick Avazian of Suffern, New York, was a Bridge Life Master, President of National Field Service Corporation, and author of Surviving Loss: The Woodcutter’s Tale. He passed away from cancer on July 14, 2015, before this article was published. He played Bridge until the end – even from his hospital bed.

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