Remembering Uncle George…

Why the lyrics to Sir With Love are going through my head “how do you thank someone who took you from”(you know the rest) – I don’t know. That’s a lie I do know, another one of the few remaining people in my life that was there from my day one has passed — Uncle George.

My uncle was special to me in so many ways, I might as well tell everyone who’s left to hear (or read) I used to bite his toes when I was a baby. He and my aunt Madeline lived upstairs in my grandparents farm house while we lived down stairs until I was five or six. Then we were neighbors for a bunch of years after that. He would take me for rides in his pickup truck, go to the milk stores, talk baseball how he loved the Red Sox. When my father was sick with cancer he’d visit almost every morning for coffee. Yeah he was that kind of guy…

Brat, is what he’d call us, with the sparkle of his beautiful hazel eyes he was the ultimate teaser, joker and had the best laugh, he was the BRAT and we all loved that about him…

Time is an illusion one moment you’re twenty something and all the people you grew up loving are there and you think they’ll always be there – Then you blink and your fifty-something and there are fewer and fewer left and more are on the other side than here. Well today this side’s great loss is the other sides gain and I’m all out of uncles, at least they saved me the best for last…

Excuse my incoherent ramblings but  grief does that to you, it sneaks up shakes you and you go from past to present to future, from uncontrollable sobbing to laughter – A blubbering idiot. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Richard Bach said it best in Jonathan Livingston Seagull, “Heaven isn’t a place or a time, because place and time are so very meaningless. Heaven is being perfect.” Uncle George you’re now perfect… Until we meet again…



Bliss in Surrender

I’ve been meditating on and off since the early 1980’s – Which is when I started martial arts and discovered Eastern philosophy. There were times I’d meditate daily for ten to fifteen minutes at a specific time of day, then there wasn’t any meditating for months at a time. I never give up meditating it gets lost in my scheduling priorities. However I always return to the practice, usually after being overwhelmed by the aforementioned schedule!

Returning to practicing meditation isn’t like getting back on a bike after not riding for a while — Its more like returning to running or weight training–Requiring reconditioning not just of the body but of the mind and spirit as well.

Since my visit to Kripalu yoga and retreat center this past August, I’ve been meditating regularly and with more intention. I’ve been less structured with my scheduling for example; everyday at 5am for ten minutes, has now become everyday when time permits for a minimum of five minutes. This subtle shift has allowed me to be more at peace and centered with my practice and it has given me the freedom and confidence to go deeper. Which is why on most not all Sundays I do a 29 minute guided mediation off an Ap called Insight Timer, the meditation is called “Befriending and Opening to Life” and is lead by Tara Brach. It was during this meditation that I discovered “Bliss in Surrender.”

While sitting on two throw pillows trying to keep my mind from focusing on my tight aching back, I gave in to the breath,smiling heart and centering OM — Focused now on my intentions of Joy and Peace I allowed my self to surrender into the meditation. Suddenly or not (there really is no sense of time in bliss) I felt no body, no floor, no room!! I had a sense of being in this kind of space before and I believe this is how it felt before the first breath at birth, the way it feels every time you surrender to sleep, or to anesthesia and my guess how it feels before the last breath. This isn’t a hallucination, or a drug induced state it is a perfect state of bliss where you feel like you’re being held by God!

I don’t know if this is Nirvana or if I imagined it? My only wish is that I can visit it again and be aware of it longer. I do know it will only happen if I surrender to it…




These past weeks from September 15th until today have been filled with a multitude of life lessons, which I will surely write about, but not today.

Today is about Christmases – My Christmases, past and present. I feel the need to share these memories, observations and thoughts on why this Virginia still believes in Christmas and yes in Santa Clause. First let me state that  I dislike the overt commercialism; starting the “Season” in July (I watch QVC), Black Friday’s, stores opening on Thanksgiving, Cyber Monday’s and the endless emails on how it is my last chance to get free shipping and 50% off anything and everything!

My first Christmas memory takes place around 1961 in the living room of the farm house, I remember a little tin oven and dolls, my baby brother in some sort of walker contraption taking balls off the tree. My early Christmases were lovely.  My mother would bake and bake and bake – Family visited on the eve, there would be It’s a Wonderful Life and White Christmas on the TV (my father and I would sing We’ll follow the old man (Last act from White Christmas). When we were very young my brother and I wanted everyone to go home so we could go to bed and wait for Santa. Christmas morning started with me waking up my brother then our parents. We weren’t rich in wealth but it didn’t matter there was always one big present each, a game to share, coloring books, crayons, chocolate coin candy and love.

Our parents loved the holidays my mother at eighty-one still retains a child like joy when picking out and putting up her Christmas tree. My mother’s nativity scene was her mother’s and the figurers are large averaging 12 inches. The nativity stable was built by my father, and the chips on the figurines are from yours truly who sat in the middle of the scene at age 4. One day it will be mine and I will remember my mother like she remembers hers with every piece that’s put into place. My father has been gone for twenty-five Christmases but I still remember how he loved being with his family and how he and his brother Danny got us to all go caroling with a portable record player in tow. My father taught me how to crack walnuts without using a nut cracker. Mind you it wasn’t always perfect, mom liked things just so and dad liked to party but it all turned out good in the end.

Going to Catholic school there would always be a bazar, where we could buy presents for our parents my mother still has a Madonna and Child figurine I gave her. The nuns would hand out these small caroling books and we’d sing in class how I’d love those songs (still do). I’d go home and mom would have Mario Lanza’s record on the stereo (her favorite). Mom would also play Bing Crosby and sing along with the records, I remember her singing in the car, we’d all sing!

When I was in high school there were Christmas concerts with the band – To this day I love instrumental Christmas music because of those days. I remember caroling with friends and enjoying Italian Christmas cookies from my friend Mary’s dad ( my favorite) Sal has passed but my mother has his recipe and I remember him every year.

I remember Christmas time at Newport Hospital School of Nursing our Christmas Bazar (I still have ornaments we made to sell). One Christmas my friend Michelle gathered a few of us together to buy and decorate a tree for an elderly gentleman who had no family. It was this Christmas that I learned what real giving was all about and is why my business adopts a family or two every year.

After leaving school to embark on a nursing career there were work parties and ornament exchanges. Karate Christmas parties and finding the right gift for our instructor.

Yes, those were wonderful Christmases! Time changes everything – My father has passed as well as my grandparents, most aunts, uncles and now my cousins. There are very few people at my mom’s at Christmas and none on Christmas Eve – My brother and his family are across the country. I live alone, so my tree searching, decorating, singing ect… is also done on my own. Believe me, I’m not writing this because I feel sorry for myself. I’m very grateful for those past Christmases just as I’m grateful for the present.

When I decorate, I get to recall all of those wonderful times. I have two Santa music globes one was given to me by students about twenty years ago another was my aunt Lucy’s originally a gift from me. I have a tiny bear tea set given to me by the first student I ever taught. There is an ornament from my best friend in high school, my best friend in nursing school, many from former students, one that resembles a Springer Spaniel of mine named Eliza, there are ornaments from the Black Forest in Germany I bought while vacationing there, an ornament shaped like a key with 1993(the year I bought my condo) that was given to me by a co-worker. I have snowmen salt and pepper shakers that were given to me by one of my first black belts who’s life ended too soon.

Christmas becomes a time warp for me. All the spirits of Christmases long ago are with me, with every song I hear, every card I read, ( I save Christmas cards and have many from family members who’ve passed). The lights and the tree give me a sense of calm, but it is my small Nativity with only Jesus, Mary and Joseph that ground me to the reason of the season. I’m not very religious or devout but I do believe in the reason of the season.

Which is why I will continue to celebrate and honor those who’ve passed by keeping their memories alive, my cousin Rita passed this year from MS. Her mother,(my aunt Virginia) made fudge and gave it away every year – When my aunt stopped Rita took over the tradition. After Rita entered a nursing home, I started making the fudge. I know she will be with me this year when I make it.

This Christmas will be one to remember, because they all are, and all will be remembered. I will enjoy every precious moment with my mom and John. I will live vicariously the youthful Christmas of my karate grandchildren. I will watch White Christmas and sing We’ll follow the old man. I will cherish every Christmas card I receive, and send love and good wishes to the ones I write. I will enjoy baking cookies more than ever because my mixer was an early Christmas gift from my mother. I will drop a $1.00 in all the Salvation Army kettles I come across. I do pray for peace on earth good will toward men and yes Virginia still believes in Santa Clause.

Merry Christmas Everyone






A Note For My Absence

I’ve been absent from the blogosphere due to a few blips in the preverbal road, some work related others personal. My biggest revelations from this time have been; Being mentally tough means (to me) taking big things and chunking them into smaller pieces making them easier to take — For example; eight weeks of an insane schedule of activities, can be viewed as one activity at a time. Lack of staffing might be seen as a creative scheduling challenge or an opportunity to mentor someone new into the role. A health concern should be followed through one step at a time without assuming any kind of outcome. I know this all seems to be a bit obscure without all the actual details of what’s happened, but it’s a safe bet anyone reading this has been or is in that kind of space right now. Where everything is happening at once when all the aspects of your life are on a collision course with your sanity…

My advice is old and simple be present take one moment at a time and know there is light at the end of the tunnel, and with time, faith and mental toughness you’ll arrive better for it.



Make Me Smile

The song Make Me Smile by Chicago will always bring me back to the 70’s, football and fall. It was one of the songs we played in our high school band and for some reason it popped into my head during my walk this morning. The thought of the song actually made me smile. Which inspired me to focus on what other things in my walk that would make me smile.

Here in no particular order is what made me smile, a cat crossing the road, a neighborhood park with swings, a road sign that read slow children at play (you hardly see those signs anymore), the American Flag flying from a pole, front porches, the sound of rustling leaves, the changing leaves, the angle of the sunlight and how it intensifies all the colors of fall, the sound of wind chymes, the feel of the cool air, geese flying in formation and the feeling of gratitude and the sensation of lightness I was getting just by noticing and smiling…

That’s what made me smile, now what makes you Smile?



The Art of No Thing

One month since my Kripalu retreat and ninety-five percent through with Pema Chodron’s Living Beautifully with Uncertanity and Change.  I find myself making significant strides in exiting from the “Rat Race” and entering the “Humane” race — I’ve maintained my early morning meditation and spiritual reading before jumping into the craziness of the world wide web. I’m sticking pretty close to getting to bed before 10:30. I rarely listen to the radio in the car anymore, and watch less television. I try to allow negative emotions only the 90 seconds they are recognized by the brain and then let them go. I’ve been pretty successful in avoiding the drama of others and I’m learning that doing nothing is a difficult practice.

The Art of No Thing is realizing that we don’t need to be productive twenty hours of the day, that reading, napping, walking or just sitting in silence are important “Tasks”. We need to rest the mind, body and spirit, not just through sleep, but in the practice of mindful rest.

This weekend I was practicing being present while picking black berries with my stepfather and reviewing all the vegetables in his garden. Spotting a hummingbird with my mother, while we did dishes together. Listening to an elderly neighbor relive her recent vacation while I carried her groceries. Watching my cats sleep. Not much of a weekend by the standards of many, no big journey, no adventure or entertainment — Just a lot of No Thing special. But it was all precious.

I have nothing to recommend. 


Free as a bird

Free as a bird



The universe as I see it is a giant mirror that reflex what ever we choose to see. For example happy people generally see good in life while the grumps of the world focus on what’s wrong (or their view of what’s wrong). Which is why when I practice being grateful for what ever pops into my life, like the 11cents I just found in the washer, the universe will offer more for me to be grateful — It may be 12 cents, a beautiful day, purrs from my cats or an unexpected email or phone call from a friend. 

I know it all sounds pollyanna and you’re probably thinking yeah but what happens when the “poop fairy” appears and life isn’t so great? First “Life is always great” the fact that we are here is a miracle. Secondly when challenges or “poop happens” it is an opportunity to learn and grow. This is why we are here. Life isn’t supposed to be perfect and wonderful all the time its just supposed to “BE” so why not be grateful?

That’s my 11cents worth, cheers,


Retreat To Advance

I’ve been away for a week or so — Vacation/retreat.

Summer is a mix of chaos and joy. The chaos is the lack of structure in my work schedule and the joy is I’m warm and outdoors! The season flies by one moment we’re celebrating our traditional July 4th holiday, then blink and it is Labor Day. Because this season is so chaotic I usually plan my summer break on the third week of August. So that’s where I’ve been on vacation, not just physically away but a nice long mental break as well.

I went on a Yoga R and R retreat at Kripalu in western Massachusetts. What an amazing experience I won’t bore you with the details, but I came away a sense of calm and grounding that I haven’t experienced for a long time. One of the things I took away was that the brain only recognizes an emotion for 90 seconds after that it is our own doing that allows for that emotion to continue. So now when I’m upset or angry I just give in for 90 seconds then move on. Perhaps the biggest change was being comfortable with silence and now — I haven’t worn a watch in over a week, I’ve watched little to no television, and have only used my smart phone sparingly. However the biggest teching down was keeping my lap top off for a week — No video games, You Tube, Facebook and yes blogging. The result of all these changes, I sleep better, read more, notice more, listen better, appreciate more and for one week time slowed a little.

I’ve advanced from a retreat,



Yesterday Once More

Old friendships are one of my favorite tonics, even if you haven’t seen each other for a long while you pick up as if it was yesterday once more. Which makes me wonder why do we let so much time pass? Why don’t we make more of an effort to stay in touch? Life has a way of catching us in the day to day –Then the days become week, months and before you know it years.

Call a friend, don’t wait.



Give your time, your money,your heart and soul. We all have something to give and you’ll always get more than you gave! Such were the events of today; I’m sure most of you reading this have seen or heard of the ice bucket challenge for ALS. I have a friend who lost her husband to the disease — Anne asked for donations to ALS charities for her 50th birthday. I took her request to my students and their families and raffled off the privilege dump a bucket of ice over their instructor of choice. Tonight was the night we collected $220.00 in donations and my business matched that for a total of $440.00.

Anne got her birthday wish, we donated to great causes, children learned about ALS, my staff and I got an ice bath and we all felt the blessing of giving.