Monday, October 31, 2011

October Books of the Month

October has been a busy month, but I did find time for reading. Here are summaries of the books I read this month.

A History of the World in Six Glasses by Tom Standage. If they didn't exactly change the world, these six liquids played important roles in world history. Want to guess what they are? Answer is in the comments section.

Turn of Mind by Alice LaPlante. A former orthopedic surgeon suffering from Altzheimers is suspected of murdering her best friend and then cutting off her fingers. Yes, it sounds grisly but it's a fascinating look into the deteriorating mind of a once-brilliant woman. Did she do it? You'll have to read the book to find out.

In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson. Love, terror and an American family in Hitler's Berlin. Great read.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Bite of the Big Apple

My sister and I spent a few days last week in New York. I love New York. I wouldn't want to live there, not permanently, but a penthouse near Central Park for a few months would be okay.

The weather was perfect, the traffic was terrible, the food was great. We saw two shows--Memphis (I didn't realize it would be playing in Houston when I got back) and Love, Loss and What I Wore, a "girly" delight. We took a tour of Grand Central--I hadn't been there since I was a kid. We met some cousins for dinner one night at Pescatori's an Italian restaurant that's supposed to be a favorite of Rafa Nadal. Alas, he was not there. Another night we met a different set of cousins at a Cuban restaurant.

Our only disappointment was that we didn't know you have to have a pass to get into the Ground Zero Memorial and we would have had to hang around all day to get in. On-line passes were available for January 2012.

For once, we didn't go shopping because we didn't need to buy any handicrafts because, hey, we were in America and we could get the same things at home.

We went to the Ellis Island museum, where our father's name is listed on the wall honoring immigrants. It was fascinating. I was looking at all the baskets and trunks people brought over and wondering what I would take if I were moving half way across the world and I had limited space to bring something important. What would you bring?

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Guest Post by Rohit Naik

Grieving Challenges during Young Widowhood

Thеre wеrе 554,000 widоws аnd wіdоwerѕ 18 tо 44 yеаrѕ оf agе acсоrding tо thе US Cеnsuѕ Burеаu stаtіѕtісѕ fоr 2004-2005. Wіdоwhооd аt аnу аgе iѕ a drаstіс lifе-сhаngіng еvent. Widows аnd widоwerѕ who аrе suddеnly sіnglе раrеntѕ arе fаcеd with еnоrmоus сhаllеngеs. Bеcoming widоwed аs a yоungеr рerѕоn brings up thе questіon оf whаt tо dо with thе rеst оf уour lіfe.

While thеre аre fоur timeѕ аs manу widоwѕ aѕ therе are wіdоwеrs, nevеrthelеss, bеіng wіdоwеd is a drаѕtiс and оftеn devaѕtаtіng evеnt. It iѕ distinct from divоrсe, beсаuѕе moѕt оf thе timе thе grіеvіng widоw dіd nоt want to end hеr marrіаgе. Grіеf іѕ соmрlісаted аnd the hеaling јоurnеу іѕ оftеn lоng, muсh lоngеr thаn fаmilу аnd friendѕ exресt іt tо bе. The wіdоwеr who griеvеs thе losѕ of hіѕ wіfе іs оften enсоurаged tо date аgaіn bу wеll-meаning frіеndѕ who саnnоt begіn tо undеrѕtand thе deрth оf hіѕ pаіn. The lоnеlіnеsѕ аnd dеѕpаir the wіdоw аnd widower exрerіеnсe іs соmрoundеd by thе fаct that tоо mаnу pеoрle сannоt relatе to thіs pаrticulаr lоsѕ.

The wіdowed perѕоn whо іs ѕuddеnlу а sіngle раrеnt hаs another ѕеt of сhаllengеѕ. In addіtiоn tо cоnfrоntіng the раіn оf lоsing а ѕpоuѕe, ѕhе must hеlp hеr childrеn wіth theіr оwn grief. If theу arе verу уоung, ѕhe maу sреnd сountlеsѕ hourѕ еxрlainіng why Daddу іsn't сomіng hоme agaіn. A widоwеr whо іѕ left to rаіse his сhіldrеn without thеir mоther mаy hаvе nо idеа аbout thе infіnіtе dеtaіlѕ and routіneѕ hіѕ lаte wife hаd іn рlacе tо keеp оrder іn hers and thе chіldrеn'ѕ dаy. Hiѕ sensе оf hеlplеѕѕnesѕ tо dеаl with рrоvidіng fоr thе famіly, takіng carе of thе chіldrеn, and helрing thе сhіldrеn grieve may оvеrwhеlm hіm.

If thе wіdоwеd pеrsоn was rеlаtivеly уoung, hе оr ѕhе mау wаnt to find lоvе аgаіn. Thіs іn nо wау imрlіes thаt therе wаѕ lіttlе love fоr thе lаtе ѕpоuѕe. Gоnе аre the dауѕ whеn a wіdоw hаd little сhoісe but tо remаіn а wіdоw until ѕhе died. It іѕ hard to imaginе beіng wіdоwеd at аgе 28 оr еvеn 40 аnd fасіng the рroѕреct оf bеіng аlonе fоr the nеxt 40 оr 50 уеarѕ. It іs іmportаnt that widоws and widоwеrs аllow thеmsеlvеѕ tіmе tо fасе thе griеf, gо thrоugh thе јourneу, and соmе tо а рlасе оf сalm аnd ассeрtаncе. No оne cаn tеll thеm hоw lоng thіѕ wіll tаke. It іs аlsо іmроrtant thаt whеn bеgіnnіng tо datе agaіn thаt widowed pеople undеrѕtаnd that thеу do nоt hаvе tо ѕtoр lоvіng thеіr lаtе spоusе tо find nеw lovе.

Aѕ you саn ѕeе, wіdows аnd wіdоwеrs fасe sоme heаvy chаllеngеѕ. Wоrkіng wіth а theraрiѕt, а ѕuрроrt grоuр, or а coach fаmіlіаr wіth yоur еxpеriеnсе can hеlp yоu to gaіn thе сlаrіty yоu nееd tо bеgіn to heal уоur lіfе аnd stаrt аnеw.

About the Author : This is a Guest Post by Rohit Naik who is a freelance writer and presently blogs on

Monday, October 17, 2011

Quote for the Week

You don't get to choose how you're going to die, or when. You can only decide how you're going to live now.
Joan Baez

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Widowhood: Six Years Today

Six years ago, on Sunday, October 16, 2005 at 9:10 a.m. my husband died. His heart stopped beating, his lungs quit taking in air, his brain waves went flat. A few minutes later, the doctor on call pronounced him dead.

Lives end in such a cold, clinical way. Within an hour, after the chaplain had spoken with me and the children had come to say a last goodbye, the nurse urged me from the room. Another patient would need the space, another battle would be fought…maybe won, maybe lost.

So this is my sixth anniversary of widowhood. People congratulate me for how well I’ve “gotten over” the loss, how I’ve gone on with my life. I had no choice, did I? There was no, “Would you like to go on or would you rather not?”

I didn’t imagine I could ever manage alone. I didn’t think I’d smile again or wake without reaching for Ralph or look forward to the future. I do all those things, but I haven’t gotten over the loss. I’ve just learned to live a different life.

I’ve learned to look forward…and backward. I cherish memories of conversations, laughter, even arguments (Yes, once I socked him in front of his mother. No one in either of our families has forgotten that.) I look back on the times when our children (two mine, one his) were small, when they had their tedious, awful teenage years we thought we’d never live through, the weddings, our granddaughter’s birth and how she loved Ralph, her Popo. We had a good life and I can be glad for that, even if our time together was too short.

Last weekend was the Jewish Day of Atonement. Not only do we pray then to be inscribed for life for the next year, but we take time to remember our loved ones who passed away. So here, in memory of Ralph, is the part of the memorial service that I love the best:

In the rising of the sun and in its going down,
We remember them.

In the blowing of the wind and in the chill of winter,
We remember them.

In the opening of buds and in the rebirth of spring,
We remember them.

In the blueness of the sky and in the warmth of the summer,
We remember them.

In the rustling of the leaves and in the beauty of autumn,
We remember them.

In the beginning of the year and when it ends,
We remember them.

When we are weary and in need of strength,
We remember them.

When we are lost and sick at heart,
We remember them.

When we have joys we yearn to share,
We remember them.

So long as we live, they, too, shall live,
For they are part of us,
As we remember them.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Guest Post by Eric Gruber

What to Do After Losing a Loved One – A Financial Checklist for Family & Friends

Losing a loved one is difficult. In fact, I can’t think of anything more devastating than the death of a loved one. The death of anyone especially close to us creates an interruption to the flow of our everyday lives. It takes time to recapture our sense of equilibrium, and our awareness of everyday tasks and responsibilities.

That’s why I created this checklist to help you. As you feel your own life pausing as you grieve your loss, these pointers will help take care of your finances and those of your loved one. This checklist is designed to help you navigate your way through the initial days and early weeks after a loved one has passed.

Here Is Your Financial Checklist of Things to Do Once You Lose a Loved One

1. Did you figure out how you are going to keep track of what needs to be done and when? I suggest creating a calendar to note key events and activities that happen during this time period.

2. Have you notified family members and friends? This might sound obvious, but it is important that family and close friends be notified promptly. If you are unable to make these calls personally, ask someone close to you to assist you in relaying the news and the details. If family and/or friends do not live locally, they may need time to make travel arrangements to arrive in time for the funeral.

3. Did you make final arrangements? Unless your loved one made their own funeral arrangements during life, someone will need to coordinate these details at this time. If you do not already know your loved one’s wishes, you should look among his or her papers to see if he or she left any instructions regarding their wishes regarding their funeral, burial and cremation. You will need to contact the funeral home and, if appropriate, the individual’s clergy. If your loved one was a veteran, you may be eligible for burial and memorial benefits.

4. Did you obtain certified death certificates? The family doctor or medical examiner should complete the death certificates within 24 hours of the death. The funeral home will then complete the form and file it with the state. You will need several certified copies of the death certificate to handle the individual’s estate and to request any benefits payable as a result of the individual’s death (such as life insurance, annuities and qualified retirement plan assets).

5. Have you notified social security and did you contact all financial institutions? Typically, the funeral home will notify Social Security of an individual’s death. However, if they do not handle that for you, you must call them. If your loved one was receiving Social Security benefits via direct deposit, request that the bank return the funds received for the month of death and any subsequent months. Be careful to not cash any social Security checks received by mail. You should return any checks received by mail as soon as possible. Surviving spouses and other family members may be eligible for a one-time $255lump-sum death benefit and/or survivor’s benefit.

You should also contact all financial institutions where your loved one held assets and ask that them to put a freeze on the accounts. Likewise, if your loved one held any credit cards, you should notify all of such companies of his or her death and cancel all such cards.

6. Did you start collecting asset information? Collecting information about your loved one’s financial affairs may or may not prove challenging. If you were not familiar with your loved one’s finances (as many children do not know their parents’ finances), collect the bank statements as they come in each month and each quarter. It may take a few months for you to gather all of this information. Also, you can review your loved one’s tax returns to see what investment assets they may have possessed.

7. Did you look into collecting Life Insurance Benefits? Often, it is important to collect the death benefit of an insurance policy promptly after your loved one’s death so that cash is on hand to pay funeral related expenses. You need not wait to collect the death benefit on an insurance policy until after an estate has been raised.

8. Have you checked to see if you need to raise an estate? You may or may not need to “raise an estate” after a loved one has died. Raising an estate simply describes the probate process by which someone is legally appointed to administer the estate. Whether or not an estate needs to be raised will depend (1) on the size of the estate; (2) the nature of the person’s assets; and (3) who the beneficiaries of the estate are. If there is any question regarding whether or not an estate should be raised, you should consult with an estate attorney.

9. Have you chosen a professional financial planner to help you make important financial decisions regarding your inheritance? The world is full of people who have suggestions on how to spend your money, especially if they believe you've just received an inheritance check or a life insurance check. If you have important decisions to make about money, consider trusting a professional financial planner. And, if you have questions regarding how to choose a financial planner, check out my free consumer guide at: \

This list is a starting point. As you begin to take care of these affairs, others will arise. As difficult as it may be to accept, the outside world will continue to make demands on grieving family members despite your inability to focus. This is not a time to neglect your financial responsibilities. Once your days become more normal again, you will be greatly relieved if you've paid attention to these financial details.

About the Author:
Certified Financial Planner Marty Higgins helps families sort through the financial implications of losing a loved one. Now, he has teamed up with estate and tax planning attorneys Jamie Shuster Morgan and Douglas A. Fendrick to create a FREE Special Report that explains, in detail, the questions you need to ask - right now - to be prepared for what happens when a loved one dies. Get your copy now at:

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Guest Post by Wendy Bailey

Wendy Bailey, who posts as Henando Pagan at http://depression is guest-posting this week. Hope you'll check out her other posts and leave your thoughts.
The link to depression symptoms didn't underline but you can point to it with your mouse, click and it will take you there. TZ

Dealing with depression as a widow

Though no one like to think of it, death is a part of life. When it comes at the end of a long, full life well-lived, it is bittersweet. One knows that it was inevitable, and is grateful for the life lived, yet the sadness at the loss of a beloved partner can be overwhelming. There are several ways to deal with depression as a widow.

Recognize that it is going to take time to adjust, and one should allow themselves the space to do that. Often, putting grief on a timetable can contribute to depression, as one tries to adjust to the expectations of others or themselves, without allowing themselves to genuinely mourn their loss. The grieving process is different for everyone, and one should not compare themselves to others. While someone may seem to adapt to widowhood surprisingly quickly, the reality may be different. Regardless, everyone is entitled to their own experience, and judgement by oneself or others should be avoided.

Consider finding a grief support group that allows one to connect with others who are going through a similar process. This will allow one to know that what they are going through is normal. One of the hardest things about losing a spouse is that others may not understand, having not yet experienced it themselves. By connecting directly with those who have, there is a chance for commiseration and healing. If one finds oneself sinking further into depression, seek professional help.

As time passes, begin to think of the future. This may lead to putting away the spouse's possessions, and turning the home to reflect one's individual interests, or perhaps moving to a smaller home. Find some way to honor the deceased by keeping, and displaying some of their favorite things in a creative way, or sharing cherished items with children or grandchildren.

Begin to discover new interests by participating in activities, choosing something that one has always wanted to try, or by picking something at random. This may be difficult for someone who has devoted their life to spouse and family, but it can be a fulfilling experience. And one should not think that activities need to be designed for singles, or widows, or seniors. One can choose experiences that truly reflect their interests.

Facing the end of life for a beloved spouse is a distressing, and unsettling experience. Losing a partner is difficult, and that should not be denied. But, with time, and a determination to live life to the fullest, it is a transition that will be survived successfully.

Tuesday Quote for the Week: Lost Generation

This was the topic of the sermon at our synagogue on the Eve of the New Year.
Read it out loud, all the way through. Don't give up.

LOST GENERATION by Jonathan Reed

I’m a part of Lost Generation
And I refuse to believe that
I can change the world.
I realize this may be a shock, but
“Happiness comes from within”
Is a lie, and
“Money will make me happy”
So in thirty years I’ll tell my children
They are not the most important thin in my life
My employers will know that
I have my priority straight because
Is more important than
I tell you this.
Once upon a time
Families stayed together
But this will not be true in my era
This is a quick fix society
Experts tell me
Thirty years from now I will be celebrating the tenth anniversary of my divorce
I do not concede that
I will live in a country of my own making
In the future
Environmental destruction will be the norm
No longer can it be said that
My peers and I care about this earth
It will evident that
My generation is apathetic and lethargic
It is foolish to presume that
There is hope.

Now read it out loud again from the bottom up.

I'd love to hear what you think.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Fun Facts from Bill Bryson's At Home: A Short History of Private Life

Humans and guinea pigs are the only species that are unable to synthesize Vitamin C in their own bodies.

Henry Chadwick, who devised the baseball box score, chose the letter K to symbolize Strike because K is the last letter in the word "struck."

Thomas Jefferson is credited with cutting potatoes into strips and eating them fried.

The main agent for powdering the wigs that were so popular in the 1700's was flour. Benjamin Franklin, when he served as ambassador to France, chose not to confirm to the current fad and did not wear a wig.

A popular nineteenth century etiquette book advised that diners might wipe their lips on the table cloth but not blow their noses on it.

Alexander Graham Bell invented the iron lung.

Bell also invited a metal detector. When President James Garfield was shot, Bell was called to his bedside to help locate the bullet. Unfortunately, Bell's device only detected the presidential bedsprings.

Charles Darwin's father refused his request to travel on the Beagle, and it was only his uncle's intervention that convinced the elder Darwin to allow his son to go.

The word "luncheon" originally meant a lump or a portion and only gradually came to signify the midday meal.

The Book of Household Management by Isabella Beeton, a best seller in the nineteenth century on food: potatoes--"suspicious, a great many are narcotic;" cheese--only for sedentary people "in very small quantities;" mangoes--"liked only by those who have not a prejudice against turpentine;" lobsters--"rather indigestible;" tomato-"its juice subjected to the action of the fire, emits a vapoiur so poiwerful as to cause vertigo and vomiting."

These and hundreds of other facts--both obscure and faxcinating--can be found in Bryson's delightful book.

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