Thursday, November 18, 2010

Ode to George

George and I met almost 15 years ago when his best friend Mike (who was also his daughter Lisa’s father-in-law) married my mom. We weren’t actually related, but his son-in-law was my new step-brother, so we saw each other often at holidays and family gatherings. George and his wife quickly became part of my extended family, and I was pleased to have them. He was a happy person, always smiling, and had a compliment coming out of his mouth every time he saw me. He spoke to me as if he was my biggest fan, but truthfully, I shrugged it off thinking he was just trying to be nice. I enjoyed being around him, but we never really engaged in deep conversation or spent time one on one. He was 30 years older, so I don’t remember ever labeling him “friend”, nor did I think about him as someone who was in my inner circle. He was defined as Pop’s best buddy and Lisa’s dad. To me, he was just a sweet person who happened upon my life.

It was only about a year ago though that his place in my “circle” changed. It was while I was bedridden for months from a serious illness that I realized how much more of a connection I had with George. During that time my mother would come over or call and fill me in on what was going on in the outside world. “George wants you to know he was asking for you. George called today to see how you were. George wants to know if you are okay. George calls me every day and asks, ‘How is Donna?’” As weeks and months went by, these daily messages meant more and more to me. I had plenty of time to think about life while lying in that bed; about who was there as a friend, and who I could count on. I thought about my prior encounters with George and wondered why he seemed so concerned. Did I affect his life enough for him to really care, or was he just a nice guy trying to be polite? Then I started to think, “Could it be both?”

One of the most beautiful aspects of being human is the connection we can create with other people. When we take advantage of it, we can share great friendship, love, affection, and everything from a gentle touch to a soulful bond. We go in and out of each other’s lives, make contact, and sometimes it is with a BANG, and on other occasions it is just a bump. When we are aware and fully present, we can take and utilize what the person is offering. When we are asleep and not paying much attention at all, we usually miss the beauty and the contribution to our life that each human we meet is giving. George made me think about connecting, about how we exchange energy, and how cavalier I was with his friendship. As I got stronger, my mind became clearer, and I realized he had been offering me a gift all along; the gift of touch. It wasn’t a hand to hand or cheek to cheek contact, it was heart to heart, and it was real. All of those compliments he dished out through the years, all of the warm embraces and questions about my life and kids; they weren’t just small talk and mild gestures. They were coming from a place inside of him that loved people and truly cared. He was a genuine and gentle man, a loving friend who was trying to touch my life, and he was proving it every day of my illness with every phone call he placed.

Months passed, and as I healed, I continued to think of George’s kindness. His actions became a standard I was starting to use to evaluate other’s behavior, including my own, and soon I realized how superficial relationships can be. I decided I needed to adopt his attitude about life, and I made a pledge to go out of my way for others in order to mimic his kind ways. I also vowed to spend quality time with him the next occasion we were brought together. Unfortunately, I would only have a small window of opportunity to make that happen. Just a few months had gone by when I was told George had woken up slurring his words. Days later, surgeons opened his skull only to close him back up and declare he had one month to live. The day Mom called to tell me the sad news, I made her get my step-father on the phone and began to beg, “Please Pop, I have to see him. You have to take me to Flushing. Please arrange it. I really need to make sure I spend time with him before he dies!” Pop didn’t understand my urgency or apparent desperation, but he quickly made the phone calls and within a week, I was having lunch at the diner with him and “the boys” on his first post-surgical outing. Having the guys around made it difficult to speak one on one with him, but I believe we connected on a deeper level. Across the table, for the first time since we met, I allowed myself to feel the full impact of his energy, love, and goodness. I believed in the words he was conveying, and more importantly, I made sure he could feel my genuine concern for him in return.

Over the next two weeks, George underwent an additional brain surgery to try and lengthen his time, but there were complications and he slipped into a coma. Ten days later he died peacefully with his family all around him. I was happy that his ordeal was over. I was happy to have seen him one last time. I was happy to have known him. Closure was forthcoming, but there was a lingering energy that needed to be exchanged. It felt like there was one more message that was going to come through, and I wondered, “What else is left for George to teach me?”

The day of the funeral I woke up not feeling well, but knew I had to go to see him one last time. I left my house in the morning not expecting to experience anything more than sadness and a sharing of support for my step family, but at the church, I couldn’t stop crying. Water was just leaking out of me as if I had broken a pipe in my head, and as I tried to get in touch with the intense emotions, I looked around at all the people sitting near me. My tearful eye scanned the pews at the mourners I never met, to those I knew and cared about, and even to the funeral directors and priest. I realized that no one could possibly know what a profound effect George recently had on my psyche. He went from being an acquaintance I hugged at family gatherings, to a lesson I can embrace for life. A man who held my attention for moments at a time, to a person who captured my awareness and made me re-evaluate how I wanted to live. My heart was fully open and my view of how I wanted to share it changed because of his kind gestures and thoughtfulness.

However, there was more here than tears of gratitude. As the fluid drained, a new message emerged but this time, it wasn’t from George, it was because of George. There was the feeling of shame, of great disappointment in myself for “wasting” years I could have been learning from him and sharing a real connection. There was sorrow for not engaging in more thoughtful conversation and for not recognizing and accepting what he was offering to me. This message was emanating as an intense reaction to his death. Those tears were from regret; not an emotion I find even remotely useful, but it seemed so appropriate at that moment. My reoccurring thought was, “I knew him, but I never knew him. And worse, I never gave to him what he was trying to give to me.”

Funny thing about George is; if you would have asked me years ago to describe him, I would have said, “simple man”, meaning he was uncomplicated. Now, with him gone, I can say the same about the summation of the 81 years he spent here: It’s Simple! Love is not complicated. It doesn’t take more than a smile, a few thoughtful gestures, or a compliment delivered with genuine kindness to create the most positive effect on someone’s life. Now that he is a part of me, I hope to continue the tradition and I will never again take for granted the energy his memory offers. George, if you are listening, I got all your messages, and they finally came through, loud and clear.
XXOO With Love, Donna

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Talk Show with Sandy Hill

Visit Sandy's website to hear a one and a half hour interview with me highlighting all areas of wellness and healing. After visiting her home page, click on the show for September 25. If you can get through it, let me know what you think! D.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Free Doesn't Come Cheap

Two days ago, I passed by a beautiful library in a neighboring town and said to myself, "I wonder how many people still use libraries and if it is worth keeping them open?" Before anyone gets angry with me, it was an innocent question. Going to the libarary has been a part of my life since I was a little girl. Books were like an escape for me, so much so that I built my own library in my house. Up until a few years ago, I was still using my local library 4 or 5 times a week, but since becoming proficient at researching through the internet, I stopped going more than once every 4 or 5 months. Also, I began to utilize book stores so I could sit with a cup of tea while listening to soft music playing in the background. I couldn't help but wonder if others were doing the same. And with all the budget concerns, school cut backs, and tax increases we have been subjected to, I was trying to figure out how we could continue to justify the millions it costs to run these buildings if technology was going to possibly render them obsolete. I love books and I couldn't imagine a world without free access to them, but I also couldn't help asking, "In the future, are books and the buildings they are housed in going to exist?"

I should never be surprised when I get an answer to a question I ask, but the timing of this one was incredible. Next morning as I was looking at the previous day's mail, I saw the familiar yellow paper that my own Oyster Bay Public Library's newsletter is printed on. This time I didn't scan it for 5 seconds before I tossed it. Instead, I actually read it, and was I shocked at what was highlighted on the front page.

*Every day 300,000 Americans get job-seeking help at their public library.
*More public libraries provide free wireless access than Starbucks, Borders, and Barnes & Noble.
*Two thirds of Americans have a library card, and for many youngsters it is the first card in their wallet. (I know it was mine!)
*Every day, 14,700 people attend free library computer classes, a retail value of 2.2 million.
*2.8 million times every month, business owners and employees use public library resources to support their small businesses.
*Every day, Americans borrow 2.1 million DVDs from libraries, more than is borrowed from Netflix.
*Every year, Americans visit the library more than we go to the movies and 6 times more than we attend live sporting events.
*US public libraries circulate as many materials every day as FedEx ships packages worldwide.

I don't know about you, but after reading these remarkable stats, I had an even greater respect for my local library. It also made me want to pay it a visit this week. Yes, "free" access doesn't come cheap, but in this case, it seems Americans are getting their monies worth!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Every Woman Matters

Just a quick note to invite everyone to walk with me on May 16th at Jones Beach for the "Every Woman Matters Event" to earn money for the Katz Women's Center being built on the campus of LIJ/Northshore. As a member and volunteer for the CIC (Commerce in Industry Council) that is raising the additional monies (there was already a substantial gift given by the Katz family) needed to erect this incredible Center, I want to ensure you that your support will be helping more than just the hospital network. There isn't any person I can think of that hasn't been effected by an illness or injury, and when we are in crisis, there is most probably a local NorthShore affiliate that we are going to for treatment and care for ourselves or our family members.

Because I am a wellness advocate and believe wholeheartedly in prevention, I am on a mission to ensure that every person or group I work with is given an opportunity to learn what we all can do to maintain good health in all aspects; physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. But since going through my recent illness, I am more determined than ever to help make this Center a reality. The powers that be at LIJ/Northshore promise it will be a unique and inspiring place where women and their families can learn about and take advantage of all the aspects of healing. Where yoga, guided meditation, acupuncture, herbs, massage, and many forms of complimentary medicine will be conjoined with traditional medicine as methods of treatment.

Never before on LI have we seen a network as large as this take such a complete, body, mind, soul approach to illness. Just imagine being able to opt for acupuncture and aroma therapy instead of a painkiller and having it work just as well! I was told that my healing has been remarkable and my surgeon attributed the quick recovery to a lifestyle filled with yoga, pilates, healthy eating habits, and a positive attitude. (Of course, the great staff at the hospital helped enormously! I was never afraid and was handled with gentle hands every step of the way.) I want to see every patient go through an injury or illness with the same advantages as I had recuperating through mine.

Please join me and all the other supporters, along with KJOY on our first annual walk so we can enlighten, educate, and begin to change the way we view healthcare and the many aspects of self healing. It is time we decided to honor the beautiful bodies we were given. It is time to start a NEW DAY for wellness! D.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Simple things we can do to stay healthy

This year has brought many stress factors to everyone. I don't have to recall them all right? Since times seem more difficult than ever, I want to offer some reminders of what we can do to help ourselves get through it with less stress on the body.

First, we are more prone right now to self medicate our moods with food, particularly simple carbs. This is the worse thing we can do to our bodies, but it is almost a given that we will crave sugar, pasta, bread, and other white stuff now. Instead of reaching for what will make you feel worse, here are a few things I reach for when the going gets tough: instead of a candy bar, try raw coconut and almonds. If you are not diabetic, you can toss in a few Giardelli 60% cocoa morsels. Believe it or not, it tastes like you are eating an Almond Joy! In place of the typical bread or bagel, try ezekiel english muffins (in the freezer section). They make it in cinnamon raisin. Use fresh peanut or almond butter and top it with apple butter (all at Whole Foods) and you will feel full for hours. When ice cream is calling your name, get out your blender and mix a fresh mango with some frozen mango; it makes instant sorbet and believe it or not, mango is incredible for you, has low calories, and no fat.

Need pasta? Try quinoa. It is a seed that mimics a grain but has almost the same amino acid structure as beef! You can make it into a casserole by adding Amy's organic soups (like lentil) or as a side dish with lots of veggies. Sometimes I put in raisins, almonds, sauteed onion and red peppers and it becomes a meal. p.s. Quinoa comes in pasta form as well, spaghetti, elbows, and ditilini.

In the winter, we don't get enough sun. Vitamin D is deficient in almost everyone so try to take it (D 3) and don't worry about overdosing. The recommended daily allowance is too low. Some doctors say to take 5,000 units or more. I have a sun machine in my house that I use all winter long. Expensive, but if you can afford it, it is worth every penny. Go to and check out their offerings. If not, try a full spectrum light bulb for about $14.00. It does help.

Since our internal clocks are off in the winter, you may be reaching for the coffee a bit too much. Try switching to green and herb tea. They are medicinal so read the labels and find ones that will cure your ailments. Many have stress relieving factors. In fact, I can't even drink chamomile tea on a date because I start to yawn and fall asleep at the dinner table! My favorite brand is Yogi, but just look for any organic brand you might find. They are all good.

Omega III. I know you've heard it before, but are you taking it? Fish oil offers the best, but you need a really good fish oil, not one you buy in Costco. It has to be made from fish that are monitored for mercury and also it needs to come from the right part of the fish. I use Market America brand. is my portal if you want to check it out. And finally, B vitamins for stress work really well. Either liquid or sublingual will get into te system more efficiently.

As far as exercise, anyone who knows me, knows I recommend yoga as the BEST form of stress relieving body work you can do. Walking and dancing are also great. By the way, the last two are free so no one has an excuse not to do it. Also, all of these help you to breathe (taking in more oxygen helps with stress and exercise enduces endorphins.) Lastly, drink plenty of purified water (with the minerals left in) and stay away from highly acidic foods, aspartame, and alcohol if you can. All of these throw off your bodies natural alkaline levels, screw with neural connections and hormones and make it harder to deal with stress factors.

Remember the Law of Attraction: What you think and feel is what you bring in so staying positive right now is key. We can't stay positive however if we are in a negative body! Do the little things and they all add up, I promise, and if you need any help, I am an email away! D.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Identity Tip for Facebook

Call me paranoid, but I just want to put out a quick message to Facebook users and their children about putting birthdates on profiles. If you think about it, there is entirely too much info on there and can easily be retrieved by "friends" of friends and sometimes the general public. I know I'm a kill joy, but identity theft is serious, it's on the rise, and it is almost unavoidable in this tech world we live in. Just trying to keep everyone safe! D.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Every Day is the First Day

We all know the quip, "Today is the first day of the rest of your life", but how many of us remember to use it when we need to? Today I beared the cold to start a new routine of walking with my neighbor. Truthfully, it took my commitment to help her get ready (in shape) for her daughter's wedding in Oct. After all, it's cold outside! I can go downstairs to my warm studio anytime I want and dance, do yoga, or bang on my drums for exercise. But I realized that wasn't enough.

Walking was one of the most satisfying forms of exercise for me most of my adult life. I stopped because of my illness last year and have felt the difference in my body and mental state. Although I continue to do other work outs, I was somehow avoiding walking, wanting (mostly needing) to stay close to home. The realization hit me that I may have actually been afraid to leave the house.

I challenge everyone to go past your level of discomfort to do something you may want to start but are afraid of or too busy to do. If wellness is what you want to bring into your daily routine, then walking is a great way to begin your "new life". It brings you out in the World and challenges your body (lungs, heart, breath) and promotes endurance. And it is easy! Anyone can do it in any shape. It is free. You can start at any time (like right now!) and you don't need any special equipment except a decent pair of sneakers.

When I encourage clients to start walking, I tell them to "just tell yourself you are only going to the end of the block and back. If you have to, walk to the mailbox and turn around, just do something to get yourself started." Invariably, we walk to the mailbox and say, "well I am already out here, I might as well go a little further." Then we go to the end of the street, and we say, "Okay, I feel good, let me do a little more." By "tricking" ourselves into thinking we don't have to go too far, we at least start the process. If we begin by saying, "I am going to start walking two miles a day, three times a week" we may put it off till we believe we will have more time. And guess what? We never start!

Today is the first day of the rest of your life. In fact this minute can start a new day. You don't have to wait till next week when your taxes are done, next month after you lose a few pounds, or get through a house project, or whatever reason you can come up with. TODAY, NOW is the best time to start. If you want even more incentive, buy a pedometer (today!) and have a contest with yourself (or a friend or co-worker) and see how many steps/miles you can build up to. It is worth the effort and will lead to more and more energy you can use for all activities. Good luck and let me know how you make out! D.