Break Open

I don’t believe anything has the power to break us the way loss does.

It shakes up our bodies, emotions, thinking patterns, belief systems, coping strategies. Our very existence goes through a cleansing. All that we thought we knew and all that is yet to be discovered. The growth that stands between these worlds is mighty, vast, and unnameable.


Once you’ve experienced loss, which everyone has to some degree, you are changed. Forever. Your stuffed rabbit, your dog, your parent, the love of your life.

There is a place deep within where loss resides and discovery marinates.


Some losses go so deep that words seem inadequate. So visceral and primal that there aren’t words, not that describe the scream you suppress or shout, the tears you shed or withhold, the physical symptoms of bellyaches and headaches that manifest from seemingly nowhere.

But…there is the other side, too.


The breaking open of the heart, the shedding of caked mud that has accumulated from the process of life itself, the newness with which we see, the vulnerability that strengthens us enough to be soft, compassionate, and the appreciation – once again – of being alive. Really alive, taking chances, caring less about pleasing others, and more about what fulfills and nourishes you.

It is a mighty transformation – going through, walking on the road with, staying open and available to – loss. Although at first blush we recoil because we recognize the impending pain, look again. There is almost always more than our judgment-prone, untrained-eyes can distinguish.


Pain takes many forms. Who are you as you traverse that path and where will your travels take you?

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From the Gods

Princeton, New Jersey. That’s where I was going to meet my significant other and his children for the Princeton-Colgate football game Saturday afternoon. Princeton, his alma mater, has a loyal former-student in him, who respects, donates, and visits.

I spent Friday driving one and a half hours to visit with my mom’s longest and dear friend, Milly who lives in Concordia, a retirement community close to Princeton. If you’ve read my book you will remember her as the young woman who accompanied my mother to the downtown Brooklyn recruitment center where they both signed up to join the Women’s Army Corps (WACs). They were eighteen. In 1942. My mother passed away in 2010 and Milly is now 92.


My eyes well when she opens her front door and I see her. It’s been years but it could have been yesterday. We embrace and I lay my head on her shoulder. She is the closest thing to my mother next to my memories. She is lucid, but her short term memory is fading. Her long term memory, however, is clear as the periwinkle sky as she regales me with stories of she and my mom sneaking friends (including boys) through the front porch window where my mom, aunt and grandparents lived after everyone was asleep because my grandmother watched my mother ‘like a hawk.’ Or my mom and dad’s first apartment, where the light from the basement window came in just below the ceiling. She tells me that my mother had the place set up, with curtains, by the end of the day. I giggle. My children and friends can attest to the fact that I possess the same trait. She walks slowly and unsteadily and I hold her hand or arm as we make our way down the stairs, to the mailbox, into the car.

We eat lunch in a no-frills, deliciously fresh, seafood place minutes from her home. When we return, we snack on red grapes at her kitchen table and scour the New York Times for movies that interest us, discussing any we’ve already seen. I ask if she has any good soup recipes, she is an exceptional cook, and she rattles off one for chicken soup. From memory.

Milly and Me

Every kitchen and human being ought to experience the sensory magic and healing properties of homemade chicken soup. I admit my bias because I was lucky enough to have a grandmother and a mother who made warm, fill-the-house-with-good-smelling, mouth-water-tasting, nourishing to the point it cures your ills, soup. I was so delighted with the steamy liquid filled with chicken, vegetables and noodles on chilly nights, that the disturbances of my day fell away like molting skin.

Tonight, I use Milly’s soup recipe as a salve for a past I miss viscerally. As the soup ingredients simmer and combine, a familiar smell suffuses my home. I take measured inhales of the aggregate scent, and an ease overtakes me. A home, a smell, a memory for the ages.Homemade Chicken Soup

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Twenty Four Hours

IMG_1771 (1)

I spent the last 24 hours in the city of Manhattan with two longtime friends. I’ve seen one of them sporadically through the decades, and the other one I haven’t seen in decades. But, no matter.

There are qualities of real girlfriends, too subtle for me to comprehend nevermind enumerate, that can make you feel cradled in safety. Not perfect, I never said perfect – I am working hard to give myself distance from this elusory word.

We started in Greenwich Village – my old stomping grounds – both while I attended NYU, and after where I lived alone, then with my boyfriend who turned into my husband, where I had my first two children, where I worked, shopped, and walked to Washington Square Park with a double stroller and a golden retriever. How I loved those days.

We were west of that. Seated at an open-doored cafe for lunch, we later took a cab to the Freedom Tower and 9/11 Memorial, walked through quaint city streets that refused to be subdued or shut down by hate, revenge or fury.

Then dinner and Gloria Estefan’s new play. This was Beth’s idea, and what an idea it was. The play had some kinks (it is still in previews) but blew me away – the talent, the challenges, the accident that could have killed her, and the subtext of an encompassing love story with Emilio.

We stayed at Daphna’s apartment, which made the day homey and comfortable and I got to reconnect with a woman I have much in common with. So ladies, take care of your girlfriends. It gets harder to make them and keep them as we age. Distance, disagreements and life circumstances can pull them from you. And some you must let go of to save your sanity – but the good ones – treat them Water-Lilies33with love and kindness – because you never know when you will need one another.

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A Thoughtful Concept

Relationships – the breath and scope of which send us reeling. Whether that screaming reel moves backward into yesteryear or forward into a future unknown is all about the thoughts we attach to either direction. The ‘uh-oh’s and the’what if”s’. Rampant unchecked thinking pollutes filters.

And relationships.

The word presence is a seductive pill. Does presence offer a peek into a better reality or is it the come-and-go fad of our time?

Life is big and fun and pretty.

Life is big and fun and pretty.

Presence is simple and impossibly difficult (here come those paradoxes again, they nip at my ankles like hungry gremlins). You are in the moment when you are dealing with nothing other than what is happening now. The place, the people, the words, the feelings. Most of us have trouble discerning when we aren’t there because the thoughts that occupy our brains are relentless and hidden in old tapes that drone endlessly. We hardly hear, and less often acknowledge, their background hum over the noisy din of our current ruminations and conversations.

Circumstances require and/or benefit from forward thinking, I don’t believe that planning or thinking ahead is meritless. But the amount of focus we maintain on the journey, in the moments we spend on the way to a place or goal, are golden opportunities we may never have the chance to revisit.

Presence is boosted by thoughtfulness – being thoughtful is hard, if not impossible, when we are in the past or the future. The past cannot be changed (what happened, happened) and the future has not occurred. To be painfully obvious – I’m not speaking about therapeutic and cathartic conversations about the past meant to clear out behaviors that no longer work or apprehensions of the future that stifle us.


I remember the joys of orange-red sunsets from upper New York State hilltops, or purple-pink sunrises from the tiny window of an aircraft flying at 30,000 feet. Or watching the Jets win a football game. Or seeing my children for the first time, or the zillionth time. Or spending time with the man I love. While I’m not always successful at keeping myself in the present or banishing ancient recurring fears or apprehensions that may occur somewhere down the road, I know quite well when I’m in the present. I analyze less compulsively, feel engaged (not trapped), honor my emotions and experience little drama. My goal is to dignify my past, look toward to my future, and keep my present the vivid, ever-changing landscape that it is.

No harm in giving thoughtful presence a try.


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Color and Design

I spent the last four days at the IWWG Summer Conference in Litchfield, Connecticut. So many people, so much talent – raw and polished gems of every color, design, and cut. There were workshops on plot, dialogue, how to read your work aloud, writing toward the whole, collaging motherhood – the list goes on.

People dazzled. They were humble, friendly, willing to mentor, smart. Some of the presenter’s were in their 80’s, sharp as tacks, with life experiences and perspectives that many of us can hope to follow in the footsteps of….

The environment makes you want to give, perhaps because you are being offered so much that it feels right, or because you feel so nourished that you aren’t coming from scarcity, or because it feels fulfilling and substantial. The environment produces a magic that builds on itself. It is a mighty equation when writer’s gather and share their stories.

We sliced through years of pleasant conversation. By reading and writing poems, essays, books, we plopped ourselves into the middle of our existences with individuals – some encountered for the first time – that felt safe. There’s an awe-inspiring quality about the chemistry.

I want my children to remember that all people are not bad. Our rooms had wide open doors, no locks, in which sat our pocketbooks, wallets, computers and jewelry. I must admit I was skeptical. I asked the roommate I drove up with: “Is it okay to just leave our stuff out like this?” “Yeah” she said. “Hmmm,” I murmured under my breath. But I trusted her, and her stuff was in the same vulnerable position as mine.

Here’s the kicker. Nothing was stolen. I, a New Yorker, am floored. These people are (mostly, for me anyway) strangers, how can I be sure that not one amongst them is dishonest? Well, no one was – at least I can say no one stole a thing from our room – door swung wide, open all day long.

My point is that it is our responsibility to find our place in the world. Our love, juice, passion. Or keep looking – and like love, when we find it, we will know.

Happy hunting.

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A Stranger’s Take…

Amazon Review of The Moon To Play With, A Daughter’s Journey…

I recently read Wendy Karasin’s book and was very moved by her account of the pain and loss of her parents intermingled with the happier times with her children. As baby boomers we all face being sandwiched between our aging parents and raising our children. Wendy’s book captured the essence of what many of us have gone through or will go through and the knowledge that we are not alone in the transition between being someone’s child and one day realizing that we no longer are. The book was well written and should be a must read for all baby boomers.
Paula Mishanie Schultz

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The Sharing of Us

I started this blog two years ago, and I wrote a memoir published in April. I have been sharing my words, stories, and feeling, and it has helped me to heal.

Now I ask you, dear readers and inhabitants of the world, to share your stories. Share your stories of loss, survival, healing, and renewal.

The human experience can be a tough one, and I believe that sharing who we are and what we’ve been through, when we are ready and the time is right, can be both cathartic and therapeutic for ourselves and others.

Please use the comment section of this blog: or go to my website:  and share your experiences wherever and whenever you feel comfortable.

Your stories will resonate with some readers, agitate others (perhaps into awareness and/or action), and heal yet others. All serious and authentic shares will be treated with the utmost respect that they deserve.

What or who have you lost? How are you dealing with it? Is there a question you want to ask of others or an insight you would like to share?

Thank you for your bravery. This is not an exercise for the faint of heart or the weak of spirit.

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