Thursday, April 30, 2020

Happy Birthday Grandma Albina!

Today being April 30th, I want to send out birthday wishes up into the Universe wherever my dear Grandma Albina Ricci is residing in eternity!

Grandma Ricci was a wonderful grandmother, sharing so much love, and laughter, and such good food (OH THOSE CREAM PUFFS! OH THAT MINESTRONE!) She also crocheted dozens and dozens of afghans,
one of which is on my bed every night (I share it with Poco!)

Here's a photo of Albina holding hands with her beloved, my Grandfather Angelo Ricci.
This photo was taken in 1922, when Albina was 19. They look awfully happy don’t they?

Unfortunately, Grandpa Angelo’s mother objected to my grandparent's union. Grandma Albina’s family was from Calabria, in southern Italy, while my grandfather's family came from Rome.  Northern Italians tended to look down on Italians from southern regions. 

But my grandparents' love was too strong to be blocked!  So they eloped!

The day that Grandma Ricci passed in 1987, I got word in a phone call from my parents. I remember so distinctly that I was lying on my bed talking with my beloved daughter, Jocelyn, who was only three years old.

After I hung up the phone, I started crying and Jocelyn, ever the caretaker, wanted to know what was making me sad.

"My grandma died today, honey," I said. I placed my hand on the top of her head.

She didn't miss a beat. "Oh, Mommy, that's OK, I'll be your Grandma!"

(Here is a photo of me and Jossy when she is about 12 years old. We were on a school hike.)

As I hugged Jocelyn that morning on the bed, I thought to myself, "she's right - she IS my future and the future of our whole family."

As I think back to that day, I am overwhelmed with feelings of love and gratitude. How lucky I am to have so much family. How lucky I am to now be a Grandma to my precious Ronen and Dani.

And yes, they are our family's future, right in our midst!

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

DOING NOTHING, She is Healing Herself

For the next few days, Leah doesn’t go near the typewriter. She takes long walks of three or four miles, during which she focuses on the blossoming spring trees, the fresh water ponds and the streams tumbling over waterfalls.

She tries not to think about the book. Or her ancestors. 
Instead, she takes photographs of bright golden forsythia, and the many daffodils and hyacinth in bloom. She posts them on Instagram.
She also spends large chunks of time in meditation, focusing on her breathing. Sometimes she consults one of her favorite spiritual books, “The Power of Now,” by Eckhart Tolle.  Sometimes, she opens to a random page and copies down paragraphs like this one on page 116:
“The key is to be in a state of permanent connectedness with your inner body – to feel it at all times. This will rapidly deepen and transform your life. The more consciousness you direct into the inner body, the higher its vibrational frequency becomes, much like a light that grows brighter as you turn up the dimmer switch and so increase the flow of electrons.”
One afternoon, she spends two hours focusing completely on staying in the body, connected to the now. She puts on soft meditation music designed to clear the chakras – the body’s energy nodes. The music is hypnotic.
She jots down the time and then lets herself do nothing but sit on the grey couch and stare out into the meadow. The dog sits in an easy chair in the corner.
When Leah starts to feel anxious, she accepts what she is feeling. She tries to give it no name. She steadies her nerves and focuses completely on feeling calm. She imagines a warm flood of emotion comforting her body. She senses her breath, slowly coming in and inflating her lungs and belly, and then slowly slipping out again. 
Her mind feels as still as the water in the daffodil vase she filled the other day.
The next thing she knows a half an hour has passed. She opens the Tolle book again and copies down another paragraph:
“The end of suffering is the acceptance of pain. Consciously embrace pain…” When you do that, Tolle writes, “a beautiful shift takes place, like a fire.”
She closes the book. She opens one of her old journals, at random, and reads the entry for January 28, 2020, more than four months ago, long before she started writing in Italian.
“How do I tell the story of how I have healed? How can I explain the way Mary’s spirituality has reached into my core? All I need to do is stay in my heart, she says, loving myself in the face of whatever my feelings are.” 
She turns the page. The next day she wrote this entry: “You fear the dead frozen feeling. Wrap up the fear in love and violet flames.”
Leah decides that she will go back to the grey couch. She will repeat what she did the other day, staring into the meadow, feeling her body. 
Before she does that, though, she pulls the clean sheets out of the dryer and sets them down on the unmade bed. She also folds a load of clean dishtowels.
Leah has to pick up Poco at the groomer’s at 2:30. She sets a timer, lights a candle and sits down on the sofa. For the next 35 minutes, she will do nothing at all. Nothing except focus on how her body is feeling in each and every now.
Later, when she checks her phone, a quote has popped up on the screen.  “Poet Adrienne Rich said, ‘We must use what we have to invent what we desire.’”

Monday, April 27, 2020

Digging Up Dark Tales

When she sets out this morning, the sun is shining, there’s a blue sky with no clouds. Leah wears her emerald parka, and warm gloves.
Almost immediately, though, the clouds move in and the breeze stirs up. The thick grey clouds feel like February gloom, not the soft sunny springtime of April.
But Leah continues uphill, moving as quickly as she can. She needs to walk. She wants to peel away the bad feelings when they arise.
She is thinking about the photo her sister texted her yesterday, a torn brown snapshot of her great grandmother, Clementina, holding an old-fashioned purse. A young child sits beside her.

Leah is thinking too about what her sister and her cousin told her when the three of them talked on FaceTime.
Poor Clementina. She died at the age of 56.
And is it any wonder.
The stories. Such sad sad stories about this woman.
Leah stops, takes a sip from her water bottle. Gazes over the wide open acreage. Swivels around to look west. In the distance there are still vestiges of snow on the ski slopes. The mountains have a blue  hue.

Often this is where Leah turns around. But not today. Today she is going the long way around. 
This morning as she woke up, she realized that the frozen feeling was back. “Congelato,” she whispered. “Mi sento congelato.” 
She told her husband: “It’s like I’m numb, completely numb.  I can’t feel anything. And I can’t even think about writing when I feel this way.” 
He reassured her. He said, “You’ll write again, honey, don’t worry.”
As she starts down the farm road that heads west, Leah realizes what’s bothering her. She’s of two minds. She loves writing about her ancestors. But she is feeling haunted by what must have been unbearable heartbreak for her great grandmother. 
She doesn’t want to use her imagination to go down that painful road. She doesn’t want to flesh out the stories she learned from her cousin Pat and her sister Holly. She doesn’t want to begin to relive the agony that Great Grandma Clementina had to endure.
Two trucks come by. A woman passes her going the other way on foot, leading two gigantic dogs. 
Leah takes a right on Prospect Lake Road. She thinks about the fact that she’s written hundreds and hundreds of stories. Many of these stories have been terribly sad. So how is it now she is so reluctant to relate dark tales?
She keeps walking and finally she is back to the narrow country road where she lives. At the corner, a gigantic backhoe is ripping up the earth, digging up rich dark soil. Two huge piles of dirt are getting bigger. 
A new house is going in next door. 
Leah stops a moment and stares at the clawed-up earth.
That’s when it hits her. She’s scared. And maybe a little superstitious.
Her book is about real people – her own family—people who faced devastating sorrow in their lives. How does she tell these stories without absorbing their sadness? 
And what if somehow she stirs up something dark in the present? She cringes at the thought.
As it is, the world is upside down with the pandemic. Is it really the time to be resurrecting old disasters?
She hurries past the ripped-up earth and reaches her driveway. As she gets close to the house, she picks half a dozen daffodils.
Inside, she puts the daffodils in a small glass vase and fills it with water.

She goes into her study, and picks up her journal.
Suddenly she knows what to do.
She will tell the stories in Italian.

Friday, April 24, 2020

Laughter on the Beach

By Kathy Joy
I went to Beach 1 over the weekend for a mental excursion. Keeping a healthy distance from other humans, I watched from my perch on a picnic table. Above the thundering of the waves beating the shoreline, I heard a sound I hadn't heard in some time:
A woman, bent down to scour the sand for beach glass, was suddenly drenched in cold lake water; she’d gotten a little too close to the waves. Her response was a wail of surprised laughter. Through the wind, over the water, like a rescue rope to all our drifting souls, her laughter caught us and pulled us to safety.
I laughed along with her and noticed others looking up from their nature walks, their feet, their buried thoughts and dreams. They joined in the sudden ripple of laughter.
It was music.
It was a sacred pause on a windswept beach, lasting only a moment. But I pocketed that moment like rare blue beach glass, and carried it home with me to be sustained and reminded: shared laughter was our Sunday communion; our imperfect song; our rescue.
May you be surprised and soul-fed by a swell of pure joy today. I hope it bumps into you from unexpected places and knocks you down and jiggles out a sound you need to hear: the release of your own shut-in laughter, finally finding a way out.

Kathy Joy is a Pennsylvania-based author of a four-book series, "Breath of Joy." She writes for the collaborative group, Books for Bonding Hearts, and is a blogger at Coffee With Kathy. 
She began collecting her “everyday celebrations” as pithy little affirmations of life.
When her husband, Roger, died unexpectedly on the family farm, Kathy made a decision to keep writing down her affirmations; they have become deep and abiding declarations of survival.

Kathy, in the wake of her grief, strongly believes her writings are a kaleidoscope of prayers sent into a needy, aching world. Recently she was asked to keep a mini-blog for her coworkers, who are sequestered at home because of the pandemic.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

One hundred years later...

April 22, 2020
ONE HUNDRED YEARS AGO today, on April 22, 1920, 
my maternal grandmother, Michelina Capone, married my grandfather, Claude Rotondo.

These were not wealthy people, but we are told that the wedding celebrations went on for three days. And Michelina did some of the cooking for her own wedding.
Six years later, in March of 1926, Michelina gave birth to my mother, Dena.
Dena’s full name was Clementina Dena,
and she was named
for my great grandmother Clementina Ciucci Capone.
In August 2019, my granddaughter, Dani Guggenheim, was named for her great grandmother, Dena.
So indirectly, Dani was named for her great great great grandmother,
Clementina Capone.
Great Grandma Clementina is pictured here with her grandson, Frankie Cialfi, my mother's cousin.

The name Clementina translates into “mild or merciful or gentle.”  My mother was all those things. It's been almost six years since her passing, and we are all still missing her!
But what a live wire baby Dani is! At eight months old, she is climbing stairs and close to walking, just like her great grandmother, who walked at nine months.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

My Last Photo of Dad

Who knew, on that hot day last August,
the same day Dani arrived in the world
(after only 18 minutes in the hospital)
who knew, as Dad sat there in his hospice bed,

half-way across the state of Massachusetts,
who knew, when I said to him, “Dad, I’m gonna
take your photo now, pretend you’re holding Dani in your arms.”
Who knew that I would be taking the very last photo I
ever took of my Dad.

And who knew when he cradled his arms together
so lovingly, as if he was indeed holding
Dani’s precious little head,
who knew that the two of them would meet in a 
time of poetry, in a STILL POINT
devoid of clocks, in the
forever of now
in a garden of bee balm 
and roses and bleeding heart
and black eyed Susans.

Some day, when both of them are 93
and they sit together in that stunning garden
where they both glow with light,
Dani is as grey haired as Dad,
and they speak of Dina, 
and Dad folds his hand over Dani's
just the way he took my hand
the day he walked me down the aisle,

and Dad says
"My darling Dani, do
you know that you were
named for my
beloved Dina?

We were married for
66 years and oh
that used to seem like
so much time, but
now that I am 93
and you are too
it isn't much time at all."
And then he sets one
hand gently on Dani's head
and he recalls all the cascading
rolls of shiny black hair
that Dina had back on her 
wedding day in 1949.

Dani arrived on August 6, 2020
and Dad passed nine days
later. Now eight months ago,
but wait. Dad is still so
much here in our hearts.
He watches as Dani 
follows, literally, in the
footsteps of her 
great grandmother --
Dina walked at nine months.
At eight months, Dani is
balancing, balancing, a
breath away from standing
on her own. And she is
climbing stairs and 
trying to talk.

And if she could speak,
she would tell us
all about her meeting
her great grandfather
in a photo where she 
lay in his arms, staring
up into his eyes.

And much later, in a poem,

"Letter to My Brand New Granddaughter."

And in that gaze, and in

that embrace and poem,
the generations came
face to face
and collapsed into one time
one place one space
of Infinite LOVE.

Friday, April 17, 2020

Leave Your Fear Here on the Page

Mid-April. Morning. Snow covering the green lawn. Leah gets up and makes coffee and the pot leaks water all over the counter. 
Leah sitting in meditation thinks about her daughter, a nurse practitioner working in an inner city clinic in Boston during the pandemic. Leah feels afraid.
She stops meditating and picks up her journal.
She translates on her phone:
“Leave your fear here on the page.”
Lascia qui la tua paura sulla pagina.
She goes back to meditating. She focuses on love. Suddenly words flood into her mind in Italian. She has no need for the translator:

"Te voglio bene Leah."

I love you Leah.
“Te amo bambina piccola.”
I love you little girl.
“Senti l’amore! Senti l’amore!”
Feel the love! Feel the love!
Parlo l’italiano!
I speak Italian!
Later she checks the phrases in the translator, and they are all correct. She didn’t need help knowing what to say in the language of her ancestors.
She sits down in meditation. She whispers over and over again:
Lascia qui la tua paura sulla pagina.
Later, after she prints out the chapter, she carries the typed page in her hand as she walks slowly up and back in the hallway.
Leave your fear here on the page.
Lascia qui la tua paura sulla pagina.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020


Leah, in her blue bathrobe, wraps herself in her prayer shawl. She puts on the purple hat that her daughter Jocelyn knit for her.

She steps outside. The morning sun is splendid. 
The daffodils are blooming and so is the hyacinth. Her grandfather's irises are growing taller.

It’s too early to plant. But she sticks her hands in the damp dirt and feels the warming soil between her fingers.
She can’t see her grandchildren because of the pandemic. Who knows when it will be safe to do so? Who knows when she can hug them and hold them in her arms?
Suddenly she is crying.  She sobs for several minutes. Then she dries her eyes and blows her nose. She goes into the house and picks up her journal and writes:
I cry. Buckets. Of tears. 
Piango. Secchi. Di lacrima. 
Because I miss the children and love them so much.
Perchè mi mancano i bambini e li amo così tanto.
Then she remembers what Peggy said to her yesterday after she read part of the novel. 
“You keep saying that you really miss seeing your grandchildren. But then you say you feel your mother’s presence all the time. I’m not sure I understand, can you not also feel your grandchildren?”
Leah closes her eyes. Breathes slowly. And deeply. She feels the breath rising into her nostrils. She feels the breath filling up her chest. 
She keeps picturing Ronen and Dani in her mind. She sees their tiny faces. She sees Ronen making his little sister do belly laughs.
Leah imagines the children resting on her bare chest. They rest there. Warm and soft.
Then she folds them into her heart just the way she holds her Mom and Dad.

Friday, April 10, 2020

A Day Has a Hundred Pockets

 “When one has much to put into them, a day has a hundred pockets.”
--Friedrich Nietzche, German philosopher
By Kathy Joy
One of my favorite springtime rituals is finding cool stuff in the pockets of my lighter jackets. On a recent dig, I found: a pack of mints, some loose change, a stone, a doggy waste bag, some old receipts and a grocery list.
That folded-up green bag with paw prints printed on it? 
That tugged at my heart. Recently, I had to say goodbye to my furry companion, Reina.
She was the heartbeat at my feet, and sometimes the "Speedbump" under foot, so there is a particular new meaning to living alone.
The stone is smooth and small – the perfect “worry stone” with a convenient little thumb-sized spot. Smooth stones got that way naturally by running water; or, in our case, by constant churning and tumbling in the lake. When these tossed and flattened survivors come ashore, they are to me as precious as beach glass. 
One smooth stone
in the pocket is a yoga stretch; a deep-breathing exercise; a centering moment; a prayer.
If you go through last year’s pockets, you may find cash. And that’s great! 
If, however, you find a smooth stone, you can cash in on a hundred little pockets of peace.

Kathy Joy is a Pennsylvania-based author of a four-book series, "Breath of Joy." She writes for the collaborative group, Books for Bonding Hearts, and is a blogger at Coffee With Kathy. 
She began collecting her “everyday celebrations” as pithy little affirmations of life.
When her husband, Roger, died unexpectedly on the family farm, Kathy made a decision to keep writing down her affirmations; they have become deep and abiding declarations of survival.
Kathy, in the wake of her grief, strongly believes her writings are a kaleidoscope of prayers sent into a needy, aching world.
Recently, after sequestering employees at home in the wake of COVID-19, Kathy's employer asked her to write a daily "mini-blog of encouragement, to help keep us focused and connected." This post was one of the employees' favorites to date.


Thursday, April 09, 2020

Trust Your Crazy Ideas

It’s Wednesday morning and Leah is staring out into the gray forest.
The grass is greening up. Daffodils are blooming.
Buds are visible on the pear and the peach trees.
Yesterday Leah wrote so easily.
Words, sentences, scenes flowed with practically no effort on her part.
She felt so free describing the little miracles she experiences.
Coincidences. Synchronicities.
What her husband calls “coinkydinkies.”
Today, however, the whole notion that she is writing a novel about these
miracles and
her ancestors
feels absurd. Dangerous.
How many times has she heard herself moaning to her husband,
“I can’t write another novel. How can I do that, when the last one didn’t sell very well?”
She picks up her journal and writes:
“I am feeling very doubtful.”
At that very moment she hears her husband come walking down the hall. He stops outside the closed door of her study and calls out to her:
“I just read your post. I enjoyed it a lot.”
She thanks him. And then she realizes that the reason she’s feeling doubtful about her writing is because this morning a piece called “BREATHING THE GARDEN” is published in the literary blog, Two Drops of Ink.
When she reread the post on-line a few minutes ago, she decided it wasn’t particularly good. And it didn’t belong in the book.
She felt embarrassed. Exposed. She can imagine someone laughing at what she wrote.
She goes back to her journal and writes. “I’ve got to believe in my own writing. These pages I’m writing might never become a novel or a book of any kind but still I have to love it like it’s one of my children.”
She goes to the translator now and brings it up in Italian:
“Devo credere nel mio stesso modo di scrivere. Queste pagine potrebbero no diventare mai un romanzo o un libro di alcun tipo, ma devo comunque amarlo come se fosse uno dei miei figli.”
“I am writing this book on behalf of my family, my ancestors.”
“Sto scrivando questo libro a nome della mia famiglia, I miei antenati.”
She looks up and sees hanging on the wall the small sign that her dear friend Kellie bought for her:
Folli. Folly. Yes, writing books is on one level total folly.
But all she knows is, she can’t help herself. She feels thoroughly swept up in this new writing project.
She glances down to the left on her desk and sees the small handmade sign that her daughter Lindsay made for her many many years before:
“Writing is Nothing More then a Guided Dream,” – Jorge Luis Borges
She goes to the laptop and prints out “BREATHING THE GARDEN” and adds the pages to the giant purple notebook where she is storing PEARLY EVERLASTING.

Sunday, April 05, 2020

No Hard Feelings, Just LOVE!

In these turbulent times, it's more important than ever that LOVE is our number one priority. As my April calendar reads, (thanks to Ram Das and to my sister Holly for buying me this calendar every year):

"Look at the people you don't love and see them as an exercise for you to OPEN YOUR HEART!"

And here are the lyrics to the Avett Brothers' amazing song, "No Hard Feelings."

When my body won't hold me anymore 
And it finally lets me free 
Will I be ready? 
When my feet won't walk another mile 
And my lips give their last kiss goodbye 
Will my hands be steady?
When I lay down my fears 
My hopes and my doubts 
The rings on my fingers 
And the keys to my house 
With no hard feelings
When the sun hangs low in the west 
And the light in my chest 
Won't be kept held at bay any longer 
When the jealousy fades away 
And it's ash and dust for cash and lust 
And it's just hallelujah 
And love in thoughts and love in the words 
Love in the songs they sing in the church 
And no hard feelings
Lord knows they haven't done 
Much good for anyone 

Friday, April 03, 2020


My grandmother Albina Orzo Ricci's family is beginning to speak to me.

The other day,  I went grocery shopping for whole wheat pasta (the shelves were bare because of the  the COVID-19 panic.)

I went to two stores and the only thing I could find was WHOLE WHEAT ORZO.
As I wrote in the Instagram caption, "Maybe my ancestors are trying to speak to me!"

What happened a few days later was just plain astonishing.

My sister Holly texted me and said, "Caw ya gotta follow the ORZO FACEBOOK PAGE. Look at this post."  Holly had written a Facebook message to our cousin Donna Ricci, who lives up in Maine.

Holly wrote: "I can't thank you enough for being the caretaker of all this ORZO family history."

Donna replied: "My hope is that someone in my lifetime will be interested in writing a book about our ORZO family (hint hint Claudia Ricci.)"

I was stunned. How could she possibly know that I've already started writing such a book!

But now I am simply humbled. If I am supposed to play a role in telling the ancestors' story, so be it.

Curiously, the word ancestors in Italian is

antenati. Like antenna.

I haven't been on Facebook in years, but yesterday I put a message on my cousin Donna's wall: "I hope you are patient because it takes a long time to write a book. I can tell you what the name of the book is, however: I've decided to call it PEARLY EVERLASTING: A Joyful Remembrance."

Many times Mary has told me that when in doubt, I should ask the angels and archangels for help. This morning, before meditating, I did that, and I also asked my ancestors' help to write the book. I wrote my plea down in purple and green ink in my journal.

"Chiedo a tutti gli angeli e gli arcangeli e miei antenati e i maestri scesi mi aiuti a scrivere questo libro."

So, Mom, now I hear you saying a word that you must have said a million times to me.



I wrote in my journal:

"Sento la mamma dire che devi aspettare."

"I hear Mom
saying 'You have to wait.'"

For inspiration.

I am happy to wait. It's uncharacteristic of me, but I'm ready to be patient.

After all, Mary says there is no such thing as time, time is always NOW.

The present moment is sacred, she says, a portal to the "Eternal Ever Present Now."

Thursday, April 02, 2020

Gathering Beach Glass

By Kathy Joy

Churned from murky depths
    pummeled, smoothed, victorious
    waiting to be found.

Kathy Joy is a Pennsylvania-based author of a four-book series, "Breath of Joy." She writes for the collaborative group, Books for Bonding Hearts, and is a blogger at Coffee With Kathy.
She began collecting her “everyday celebrations” as pithy little affirmations of life.
When her husband, Roger, died unexpectedly on the family farm, Kathy made a decision to keep writing down her affirmations; they have become deep and abiding declarations of survival.
Kathy, in the wake of her grief, strongly believes her writings are a kaleidoscope of prayers sent into a needy, aching world.
It is her hope that her readers glean the best bits for their own journeys.

Wednesday, April 01, 2020

Dani and Dina Connected by the Divine Universe

A few days ago, I posted a HAPPY BIRTHDAY blogpost to Mom, who would have been 94 on March 30, 2020.

But what came up quite by surprise in my email this morning was an old post written by my daughter Jocelyn on August 14, 2020, on the occasion of her daughter Dani's naming ceremony. Dani was named for my mother Dina. She is an extraordinary child, smiling so much my husband calls her "The Dani Lama."

Here is the post written by Jocelyn Guggenheim, my daughter, and her husband, Evan.

I am humbled by this cosmic connection.

And now, suddenly, the power has gone out. And the file I tried to print called "The Name Game" has gotten stuck in the printer.

Both posts contained the same photo of my mother. But every time I try to post Mom's photo,
I get a blank screen.

Oh, now it works.

I am humbled.

Mom, I'm going to get out of the way and let you feed me the story.

I just walked down the hallway into the living room where my husband is lying on the floor doing his stretches.

I told him what happened and he said, "Yeah, I saw that post by Jocelyn in my email and I wondered why you posted it again."

"I didn't post it again. It just appeared."

As I began writing this post, a black and white bird flew up in front of the window.

I HEAR YOU MOM. I hear you.

I don't know what else to say. Neither does my husband, who through the years has called the synchronous coincidences -- the miracles I experience -- "COINKYDINKIES."

And now I recall that my dad always called my mom "Dinky!"

When I think about what Mary said, there's only one thing I can say.

Thank you Mom for all the love you are showering on me. Thank you!