Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Daily Inspiration

Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome.
~ Booker T. Washington

Simply Put -- Don't Quit!!!!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Feeling down today? Read this and your outlook will change!!!!

We all have probably heard the saying: 

"There but for the Grace of God go I." 

And nothing expresses this truth like the story I read this morning.

We all have problems. We all have struggles and challenges that we face daily. No one is immune to that!

This is what life is sometimes and sometimes it is those challenges that make us who we are, build our character, and mold us into complete human beings!

These issues, be they financial, relationship, emotional, family, work, career, etc., always seem earth-shatteringly important to us and sometimes we allow them to consume our entire existence, ruin our day, interrupt our sleep, and endanger our relationships with our loved ones.

Well, when you read this story below, I would be willing to bet (and HOPE) that all of your (our) issues and problems will pale in comparison to what this family is facing together!

It is almost impossible to even grasp the emotion and heartbreak that must grip this family on a daily/hourly minute to minute basis!

I do not post this to depress anyone - especially on a rainy Monday morning -- but only to asssist us all in WAKING UP and recognizing the true Blessings we have been bestowed -- to be alive, to be healthy, to have people in your lives to love and to be loved by, to have healthy children, to be able to walk, run, - DO ANYTHING we want to do!!!

I hope this story will touch you as it did me this morning -- and realize HOW TRULY BLESSED WE ALL ARE TODAY!

Stay Strong - and pray for this family and especially for the children and the mother's strength and her amazing faith!

 AUBURN — Like she does most every night, Karyn Slomski gathered her young children close to her and read to them — first a story about a day of kindergarten for her 4-year-old daughter, Maggie, then Dr. Seuss for 6-year-old Brendan.

This storytime was different than the rest. It was recorded on video, intended as a living memory.

Slomski hasn’t told her children yet, but she is dying and could have only weeks to live. They know their mother is sick, that something called cancer has ravaged her body over the past four years. But they don’t yet know she will soon be gone.

“I want them to be able to see me when I’m gone, to see us all together as a family,’’ said Slomski, 38, as the videographer prepared for the session. “I wanted something more than pictures, for them to remember me. And to remember how happy we all were.’’
So for 90 minutes in front of the camera, the Slomskis huddled close on the couch in their sunlit living room in Auburn. Karyn Slomski read, laughed and talked with her children, reminisced with her husband, and declared her love for her family and the life they’ve had together.

The videographer, Kate Carter, travels the country to record interviews with the dying as mementos for their loved ones. Carter formed the nonprofit group, LifeChronicles, in 1998 after the death of a close friend with three children. She had worried that other children would lose the memories of their parents, and has now recorded hundreds of videos that chronicle lives nearing their end.

The group provides the videos for free and supports itself through private donations. On this trip, Carter flew across the country on frequent-flier miles donated by a supporter of the program.

“I can’t keep your body alive,’’ Carter told Slomski, who has undergone many rounds of chemotherapy and hormone treatment over the past four years. “But I can keep your memory alive.’’

Slomski, who has advanced breast cancer, approached her social worker at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute about making a video as a way for her husband and children to remember her.

“It’s not talking about death; it’s celebrating our family,’’ she said. “It tears me up that they won’t have a mom, and this is a way I can leave a small piece of me with them.’’

The entire family gathered for the beginning of the interview, with Slomski and her husband, Jeff, telling the children the cameras were simply there to record the family at this point in their lives, like a family photograph.

“They don’t know the next part,’’ she said.

Slomski recently began a new session of chemotherapy in hopes of extending her life, but has been told it only has about a 20 percent chance of success. If it fails, her health will decline rapidly. After receiving the prognosis, she decided it was time to put her affairs in order and record the words and images she wanted to leave behind, for the years to come when Maggie and Brendan’s childhood memories fade.

“It’s been part of our lives for four years, and at some point you get past the tragedy of it all,’’ she said. “Now we have the reality of me not being here.’’

Side by side on the couch, the family reminisced about favorite vacations. Brendan recalled North Carolina — swimming in the waves, playing ping-pong, the visit to Washington, D.C., on the way. Maggie remembered Cape Cod, especially the candy fish and campfire s’mores. As the memories rushed out, Karyn smiled wistfully.

Carter then asked Slomski to describe her children, and what she loved about them most. She told Brendan she loved how he was always smiling, always happy, and he grinned shyly. Maggie was the sweetest girl, kind and an expert with hugs.
“Aw, mommy,’’ she said, patting her mom’s head and draping her arms around her.

As the children flopped and fidgeted, she told them she couldn’t ask for nicer children, and reminded them what she had told them: They could be whatever they wanted to be, and she was incredibly proud of them.

Slomski then sang the children a favorite lullaby, “Que Sera Sera.’’

“When I was young, I fell in love,’’ she sang, her voice strained with emotion. “I asked my sweetheart what lies ahead.’’
She stopped, overcome, and her husband gently comforted her.

After the song, the children went outside with her sister, and Karyn wept.

“The thing is, they never see me cry,’’ she said.

Then she and Jeff recounted how they met, becoming roommates when Karyn answered an ad.

“He opened the door, and I said, ‘Oh no, he’s cute,’ ’’ she recalled with a chuckle. They quickly became inseparable, and before long their friendship became more. He proposed on a weekend in Maine, dropping to one knee in a restaurant after hiding the ring in a dessert.

“Then she spent the next two hours on the phone,’’ he quipped.

They talked about what they loved about one another, what drew them together. Karyn said she loved his mind and passion, his confidence in who he was. Jeff said he loved her spirit, her resilience, and her inner joy. Karyn said she wished that Maggie would find someone as great as her father someday.

Together, they talked about how their children had made their love, and their lives, forever richer.
“I can’t imagine my life without them,’’ she said. “It just would have been … ’’

“Incomplete,’’ he said.

“Incomplete,’’ she agreed. “They got me through these four years. We love each other, but they are the reason we’re here.’’

It was four years ago that doctors delivered the shattering diagnosis — not only that she had cancer but that it had already spread throughout her body. She might live a year or two, but she would never recover. In a horrible instant, the life the couple thought they had was gone.

“All those things we thought we would share together, it wasn’t going to be,’’ she said.
Karyn said she is not afraid to die, and has faith she will be able to look over her family. She feels lucky, she said, for the time they’ve had together.

But she also worries, in a deep way that nearly resembles guilt, about how they will carry on without her.

“I’m just sad they aren’t going to have a mom, and he’s not going to have a wife,’’ she said. “They are going to struggle, and I don’t want them to struggle.’’

She turned to her husband.

“It’s the most amazing gift I have to leave them with you,’’ she said to him. “Truly, it is.’’

“You are inside me, inside the kids, inside so many people,’’ he said, his voice trailing to a whisper.

Just then, the children reappeared. Ducking under a camera cord, they hugged their parents, then darted to the backyard and the swing set, beside two wooden Adirondack chairs turned toward each other.

Stay Strong!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Life is like a Riptide -- Prepare yourself well and survive!

I was informed by a relative that a woman she knew had recently drowned on Long Island as a result of a massive riptide that hit that beach. Despite being a strong swimmer, she succumbed to the currents and sadly she is no longer with us. It is believed that she went back in to save another person who was caught up in the current and was lost as a result.

A rip current, or riptide, is a strong channel of water flowing seaward from near the shore, typically through the surf line.[1] Typical flow is at 0.5 metres per second (1–2 feet per second), and can be as fast as 2.5 metres per second (8 feet per second). They can move to different locations on a beach break, up to tens of metres (a few hundred feet) a day. They can occur at any beach with breaking waves, including the world's oceans, seas, and large lakes.[2]

As an avid beach-goer my whole life, I have felt my share of riptides and my parents were very clear about teaching my siblings and me the proper way to avoid being caught up in one.  As I was imparting the same education on my 9 and 8 year old children in the aftermath of this tragedy, it dawned on me how closely a riptide resembles the struggles in our daily lives!

As defined above, a riptide is a strong powerful current that is normally created near breaking waves and can create a "tow" or "drag" seaward from the shore. It is easy to get caught up in these powerful currents and often times trying to swim against them is fruitless, dangerous, and as we witnesses recently, can be fatal as well.

As I look around at my friends and family, and indeed in my own life, many if not all of us are caught in a massive riptide right now!

A riptide of financial worry, health related worry, relationship strife, loss of loved ones, or a combination of all of these - the Perfect Storm of crisis and anxiety, and for some hopelessness!

As we were taught as children, the only way to avoid getting caught up and harmed by riptides (literal or figurative) is to go with the current temporarily and gently swim sideways away from the perpendicular flow of the current. 

What happens?? 

Eventually the power and force created by the breaking waves and crossing currents diminishes as it gets further away from the shore and you are able to gently pull out of it's drag.  Once you are out of it's pull and old path, you can get back to shore safely!

Well isn't this just plain ole common sense and sage advice for the riptides in our lives right now ??

If we try to struggle and fight and claw our away against the flow and current, we will quickly tire ourselves out and become exhausted, weakened, and ineffective in it's power to drag us where IT wants to go!

That is the Negativity Riptide!   We have to fight, but we have to fight smarter and more effectively to prevail -- flailing and panicking will not do the job!!

The key to beating a riptide (figuratively or literally) is to first RECOGNIZE the powerful current that grabs us and intends to do us harm!  Once we know what is occurring, we can execute what we prepared to do prior to the situation!

Once we recognize that powerful pull of negativity, we must not swim agianst it but ride it out without panicking or losing our composure!  Ride it a bit with the BELIEF that it will quickly lose it's power to pull you out to sea, drown you, or drag you where you do not want to be taken!

As you push aside the negative thoughts and FOCUS on the future - focus on the solutions necessary to get out of whatever predicament you find yourself - the power of the riptide will continue to weaken and finally you will be able to side-step it and swim back to the safety of the shore!

Riptides -- both in the ocean and in our lives - eventually lose their grip on us and disappear!!  It is HOW we react when we first encounter these riptides that determine our futures, the outcome of the situations, and the amount of time it will take us to get back to safety!

We are ALL lifeguards in this riptide world!  We must be vigilant and watch for out for our friends, family and loved ones who may be experiencing a riptide event in their lives!

As lifeguards WE MUST get off the beach and dive into that water with them and help them get through the currents that bombard, trap and threaten them daily!!!

Be the Hasselhoffs and the Pamela Andersons of this beach you oversee!!! 

Look around you -- the beach is open and the currents are fierce and our loved ones NEED us on alert, they NEED us on guard to help them back to the shore!

THIS is why we are here!!!   THIS is what will allow us to forget our own riptides in our lives and help us back to our own shores of safety!

If we let the currents overwhelm us and panic - and do not do what we have learned --- we are in serious trouble!!!

This Perfect Storm - these currents and conditions will pass for all of us! 

Just be ready for them when they hit and patrol your beaches -- and all will be well!!

Stay Strong!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Interesting Concept - and worth exploring in depth!!! Check out italics in RED ~~(Sound familiar??)

Some say the key to happiness is to liberate ourselves from ignorance and get in touch with the preciousness of life. However, the "habit energy," as Thich Nhat Hanh calls it, of our everyday lives is very adept at pulling our attention in multiple directions and making it difficult to realize the many spaces of choice we have to live a meaningful life.

Malcolm Gladwell, in his book "Blink," speaks to how the mind makes a snap decision or interpretation within the first two seconds of an event occurring. For most of us, after that blink effect, autopilot kicks in and carries us into an unintentional unfolding of moments.

I would argue that, as Viktor Frankl says, there are many spaces that occur in our lives between moments of stimulation and moments of reaction where there is power to choose a response. "In that response lies our growth and our freedom." In the unfolding of moments, we have the power to become present, gain clarity, change our minds, change our brains, incline our minds toward the good and even learn how to relate to our difficult feelings differently to realize a freedom from the confines of our habitual thoughts and reactions.

I'm currently writing an upcoming book called "The Now Effect: How this Moment Can Change the Rest of Your Life" (Atria Books, 2011). The premise of this book is based on moving beyond some promised pathway to enlightenment and turning the wheel of mindfulness one step further to learn how to specifically engage the space "between stimulus and response," to gain more clarity and choice in various facets of everyday life. My goal here is to write it in a very practical and accessible way so we move beyond the intellectual game with engaging the now and readers can realize its effects.

I've often told the story of how my father used to visit people on their death bed and one man had a very telling story. He spent his entire life stepping on other people to get to what he perceived to be a man of high value (e.g. power and wealth). Unfortunately there were no people around him at this time. At the end of his life he was forced to stop and reached a moment of clarity. He realized it was about who you love and how you love them and the rest of it never mattered. This man reached this clarity at the end of his life, but it was too late to make use of it.

This is about gaining clarity in our lives about what is really most important right now so we can live life with this intention. We don't have to wait for a 9/11 or a heart attack to recognize that we don't "have to" be a slave to this habit energy of rushing around and distraction. However, without a practical knowing of where these spaces lie, we are destined to be driven by an auto-pilot in our minds as that's just the way things go.

It makes sense. Our brains are designed to handle more and more complex information and as more complex avenues of information has become available (e.g., PDAs, internet, etc.), our brain adapts and we can't help but live in shallow noisy waters and lack a sense of depth of what is most important. It's not really our fault, our brains adapt to handle the complexity of the situation and at times to simply try to avoid pain.

But there is another choice and the only way we can truly realize it is through some kind of intentional practice that brings us here.

Consider this:

As you're reading these words you are living in a space between where you were previously and to where you're about to be.

What is most important for you to be paying attention to in this next moment? Recognize right now that you have a choice onto where you can intentionally place your attention.

As always, please share your thoughts, stories and questions below. Your interaction provides a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.

Adapted from a publication on Mindfulness and Psychotherapy at Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. is Co-author of A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook. You may also find him at

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

In Need of Help? Depressed, Frightened, Anxious, Terrified, in Despair?? Look No Further!!!

"Take not your eyes from the light of this star if you would not be overwhelmed by the waves; if the storms of temptation arise, if you are thrown upon the rocks of affliction, look to the star, invoke Mary.

Are you confounded at the enormity of your sins, are you ashamed at the defilement of your conscience, are you terrified on account of the dreadful judgment, so that you begin to be overpowered by sadness, or even to sink into the abyss of despair, then turn your thoughts to Mary.

Call Upon Mary

In dangers, in doubts, in difficulties,

think of Mary, call upon Mary.

Let not her name depart from your lips,

never suffer it to leave your heart.

And that you may more surely obtain the assistance of her prayer,

neglect not to walk in her footsteps.

With her for guide, you shall never go astray;

while invoking her, you shall never lose heart;

so long as she is in your mind, you are safe from deception;

while she holds your hand, you cannot fall;

under her protection you have nothing to fear;

if she walks before you, you shall not grow weary;

if she shows you favor, you shall reach the goal.

Holy Virgin Mary, you are reigning in glory, with Jesus, your Son.

A Prayer to Our Lady in Time of Trouble

Remember us in our sadness. Look kindly on all who are suffering or fighting against any difficulty.

Have pity on those who are separated from someone they love.

Have pity on the loneliness of our hearts.

Have pity on the weakness of our faith and love.

Have pity on those who are weeping, on those who are praying, on those who are fearful.

Holy Mother, please obtain for all of us hope and peace with justice.


Donald T. Valerio 1931-2010

Donald T. Valerio
Born in Corning, NY on Oct. 27, 1931
Departed on Aug. 1, 2010 and resided in Melrose, MA.

Donald T. Valerio passed away at the Aberjona Nursing Center in Winchester, on August 1, 2010, at the age of 78. Donald was born and raised in Corning NY, graduated from Corning Free Academy and from Morrisville Agricultural School in NY. He was a talented athlete, playing football in high school, college and for a semi-pro football team. Mr. Valerio served in the US Navy during the Korean War as a Navy Seabee. Donald worked as a civil engineer for several construction companies in Boston for over 35 years and the last 10 years of his career for the Department of Revenue. He was a devoted husband & father who cherished the times spent with his family and loved to work around the house doing odd jobs. Donald has been a Melrose resident for the past 50 years. He was a 4th Degree Knight with the K of C in Saugus, enjoyed playing tennis, was a member of the Melrose Men's Tennis Group; where he won several trophies throughout the years and enjoyed playing in the Melrose Men's Softball League. Donald loved walking on the beaches in Rockport, Marblehead & Maine and taking trips back to Corning, NY to visit family and friends. He was beloved husband of 53 years to Antoinette M. "Ann" (Valeri) Valerio. Loving father of Cheryl A. McNevin & her husband Dan of Sayville, NY, Donald T. Valerio Jr. of Wakefield, Joyce M. Hunneman of Melrose, Mark J. Valerio of Newburyport, Jacqueline Valerio of Melrose and Nancy V. Gifford & her husband Frank of Storrs, CT. Brother of Arnold Valerio of NM, Alfred Valerio of India, Anne Pierce, Mary Fowler & Hilda Lando all of NY. Grandfather of Lindsey, Andrew, Ava, Kelley, Jesse & Grant. Also survived by numerous nieces & nephews. Funeral from the Gately Funeral Home, 79 W. Foster St. Melrose, on Thursday, August 5th, at 9AM. A Funeral Mass to celebrate Donald's life will be held in St. Mary's Church, Herbert St. Melrose at 10AM. Relatives & friends invited. Visiting hours Wed. from 4-8PM. Interment in Wyoming Cemetery in Melrose. US Navy Seabee Korean War Veteran. In Lieu of flowers memorial contributions may be made in Donald's name to Alzheimer's Research Association, 311 Arsenal St., Watertown, 02472.

Visitation: Wednesday, Aug. 4, 2010
Service: Thursday, Aug. 5, 2010

Cemetery: Wyoming Cemetery

Donald T. Valerio

VALERIO, Donald T., Of Melrose, August 1, 2010. Beloved husband of Antoinette M. "Ann" (Valeri) Valerio. Loving father of Cheryl A. McNevin & her husband Dan of Sayville, NY, Donald T. Valerio Jr. of Wakefield, Joyce M. Hunneman of Melrose, Mark J. Valerio of Newburyport, Jacqueline Valerio of Melrose and Nancy V. Gifford & her husband Frank of Storrs, CT. Brother of Arnold Valerio of NM, Alfred Valerio of India, Anne Pierce, Mary Fowler & Hilda Lando all of NY. Grandfather of Lindsey, Andrew, Ava, Kelley, Jesse & Grant. Also survived by numerous nieces & nephews. Funeral from the Gately Funeral Home, 79 W. Foster St. MELROSE on Thursday, August 5th, at 9AM. A Funeral Mass to celebrate Donald's life will be held in St. Mary's Church, Herbert St. Melrose at 10AM. Relatives & friends invited. Visiting hours Wed. from 4-8PM. Interment in Wyoming Cemetery in Melrose. US Navy Seabee Korean War Veteran. In Lieu of flowers memorial contributions may be made in Donald's name to Alzheimer's Research Association, 311 Arsenal St., Watertown, 02472. For obituary, direction, to order flowers or sign guest book please visit Gately Funeral Home 781-665-1949