Building a Successful Blended Family

Early in July, I had the opportunity to spend time with my niece and nephew in Nova Scotia. This would seem a perfectly ordinary event had this not been our first visit in almost a decade. Distance and the early death of their father, my brother Roy, from a horrible disease, multiple myeloma, had kept us apart. My other brother, who lives in Seattle, facilitated the visit with these two extraordinary relatives, now in their early 20s. Having a very small family separated by a country and a continent away has been lonely and tinged with the sadness that comes from a lack of regular gatherings and missing milestones of each other’s lives. It was the medium of social networking, which brought us together and now keeps us bound. As a member of Facebook, I have been able to track their adventures and communicate in ways that would have been impossible in a different age. It has been wonderful to get to know them again at this stage of their lives, and how proud my brother would have been wi

Less-Expensive Colleges Can Be Rewarding

The thought of attending a community colleges can be given short shrift by those parents who threaten their children with ending up there if they do not keep their grades up in high school. From my own perspective, community colleges measure up and can provide the same education as an elite institution. Lawrence Cremin, president of Columbia University Teachers College, where I earned my doctorate, never forgot his roots at City College of New York in Harlem. He was eager to avoid making judgments based on where a person went to school: it was what they did with their education that mattered. As evidence, he would tell us to find out where Columbia's professors had done their undergraduate work. One would soon see many an esteemed professor began their higher education at either a local or state-funded college. Teaching at Bucks County Community College during the spring semester was so much fun I was sorry when the classes ended. Inclement weather and unruly behavior did not empty

My Teachers, My Memorable Teachers

Teachers have an immense responsibility and impact on the lives of their students. The most dedicated teachers see their profession as a calling, a mission to transform lives. Such teachers plant seeds as experienced gardeners, knowing the fruits of their labor may not come to fruition for decades. These teachers understand how children learn can be likened to the sewing of an elaborate textured patchwork quilt in which mismatched pieces form the whole. Memorable teachers are astute detectives, probing to uncover hidden talents, nurturing potentials and providing the skills necessary for lifelong learning. Teaching is not an easy road and not for the faint of heart. Inspired teachers illuminate the room and are never forgotten. Dr. Randy Pausch is just such a teacher as over two million people have witnessed while viewing his final lecture. This vibrant young professor and father of three preschool children is dying at the young age of 46 from devastating pancreatic cancer and has been

We are All Cool Under the Skin

People that feel good about who they are act accordingly. Self-confidence is not inborn rather it is the result of day-to-day experiences. A person who feels worthwhile will hold their head high and persevere when faced with the challenges inherent in our lives. Healthy self-esteem is confidence and satisfaction in oneself, based on understanding, accepting and liking the person that you are. People with a healthy sense of self are enthusiastic, make friends easily, and are energetic. Those that struggle with a lack of self-esteem constantly compare their life to that of others rather than acknowledging their own individuality. Many social scientists blame low self-esteem for a host of social ills, from poor academic performance, drug abuse, violent crime, to weight problems. “ Fat Land” has become an acronym for citizens of our country where weight problems abound causing a lifetime of poor health and a myriad of psychological problems. Overweight children become overweight adults. Th


I will admit that, having acquired few housekeeping skills in my formative years, I must have been the world’s most inept au pair. Living in Paris during the 1960s changed this dubious distinction. The French family that I worked for was tolerant, if not amused, at my underdeveloped culinary skills and my less than stellar attempts at keeping their apartment immaculate. Rather than giving me walking papers, I was taken under Madame’s wing. She had been kind enough to hire me in the first place, and continued that kindness with lessons on how to be a careful shopper by treating each purchase as if it were solid gold. Madame knew every shopkeeper and vendor at the local open-air market. She was solicitous about each item and would not bring home a piece of fruit or cheese without first giving it a taste. The family lived in a floor-through apartment near the Champs-Elysées, a space belonging to the matriarch, Madame’s mother, who sat down with the entire family every afternoon for a midd


The Reeperbahn is a street in Hamburg St. Pauli district, one of the two centers of Hamburg's nightlife and also the city's red-light district. In German it is also sometimes described as die sündigste Meile (the most sinful mile). My 6 years in Europe began with a trip across the Atlantic on the Yugolinia. a freighter. The cost was $108 to travel between Brooklyn and Casablanca. My companion was a casual friend who  had relatives in Greece where we were headed. At the last minute she told me that they had not responded to her; leaving us without a destination. I remembered a friend from acting class whose husband was accompanying opera singers in East Berlin, and she was more than happy to welcome us to the then divided city. Berlin, was and exciting place to be during volatile years of the early 1960’s. I had arrived penniless and quickly found work as hatcheck girl in the most popular bar and Discotheque in West Berlin the Old Eden Salon. Most everyone that I knew was impov

Meeting on the Rainbow Bridge

 Meeting on The Rainbow Bridge Rainbow Bridge. A fictional bridge that serves as a meeting place for pets who have passed on and their beloved owners. The bridge is small and illuminated by an exquisite sunset. As we move closer we see Mae (Owner) sitting with  Pudgie   (Dog). They are sitting side by side on the edge of the bridge which is low to a silent pond.  Mae's feet dangle as she sits with Pudgie, who joyfully watches her every movement. Characters:  Pudgie: A selfish arrogant Pug dog, that considers herself  better than others of her species-deceased in 1981  Mae: The owner of Pudgie, who owned, loved, and traveled with a dog that was known as ‘the most obnoxious in the world’ for sixteen years Time: Present Place: Outside of the The Rainbow Bridge, where a dog comes to meet his master or mistress and share times past before crossing the bridge. Pudgie (Agitated) Well, where have you been? All of these damn dogs are driving me crazy. The last thing that I want to do

The Living Theater and Bardo Matrix

The Living Theater, popped up in my life during high school when I was apprenticing at the North Jersey Playhouse. My recollection is that some of the actors we worked with might have performed in Many Loves by William Carlos Williams. I do remember getting to know  Ken Brown the author of The Brig, with whom I had heated conversations at Max’s Kansas City. Something about the theater  attracted me but  also kept me away. My arrival in Berlin, came a short time before the Living got there. The company had left the United States for what was to be a long period of wandering, creativity and debauchery.  I was excited that they would be in Berlin and as I remember performing in a small second floor theater something like the place over a laundromat where La MaMa started on 2nd Avenue. With their arrival the Kurfurstendamm was alighted with all kinds of characters. I loved them especially LeRoy (Rain) House and Steven Ben Israel who shared the original script of Frankenstein with me, confi

Small Efforts to Help the People of Haiti

In November, as first discussed in last month’s Parenting Pearls column, I traveled to Haiti as one of a leadership team for the Urban Zen Foundation. As trained integrative therapists (UZITs) our objective was to ascertain whether the techniques that we continue to study and hone would provide some respite, particularly to workers, administration and volunteers at St. Damien’s Hospital, the largest and free pediatric hospital in the country. The results were affirmative and each succeeding team of UZITs has met with success. On arrival at the airport in Port Au Prince, we were met by a driver from St. Damien’s. Jumping into the back of the flat-bed truck we slowly made our way along the crowded one-lane street of the dense city. People everywhere were selling goods from improvised shelters, tents still housed millions displaced by the earthquake, and half-built cinder-block buildings were left untended. Passing the United Nations headquarters in Haiti, we saw barbed-wire encased compo

Living My Dream of Helping People in a Healing Setting

My initial goals as an educator were to work in a hospital or therapeutic setting with allied professionals. Unfortunately, when I completed my doctorate the country was immersed in recession and no such positions were available. Bringing together my resources and bucking up, I opened a learning center where my work included counseling and mentoring, a far cry from the hospital work I had originally intended. Then, at a time in my life when it was possible, I read about the Urban Zen Integrative Therapist program and the circle began to close. I have just returned from an Urban Zen Integrative Therapist leadership trip to Haiti. This was the first of seven trips in the coming months for program mentors and current students to NPH St. Damien Hospital outside of Port-au-Prince. St. Damien Hospital, funded totally by donations and with a mission motivated by the “gospel command to care for the sick and to offset the injustices of poverty and unemployment which make healthcare inaccessible