So much to say! & plenty of time to say it….

It’s been a helluva adventure. A new world. A new code. New standards. Lots of hand washing and protocol. Each day the CDC or W H O organization updates us with the number of cases and deaths. The numbers are staggering. The fear and unknown anxiety is real. We have never truly experienced a pandemic globally. None of us could predict or see this coming. and BAM! It sure did come. I remain positive. I remain in control of my own behavior. I remain humble and most of all. I have hope. Hope this will cease one day. Hope, this will change our world for the better of mankind. It will reconnect us all in a unexpected way. But, the lesson will connect us all as one. We will have more awareness and compassion for our future. So, I’d say… it’s A long strange trip? I mean, here we are, in the middle of a global pandemic. I never even knew this word – ” Pandemic”. Maybe it’s just me, but, are millenial’s making up new words and shit? A few winters ago. We were in a Polar Vortex. WTF is THAT? Like, I grew up in the 60’s and 70’s. Life appeared simpler. My mom would turn on the local news and pray for the sound of school buses. …The decision was made by a superintendent of the school district. The radio would recite each school closing on repeat, for hours over and over. Of course, we kids would rejoice and my Mom would look sad? Anyway, it was simple back then. We would get up early and wait for the decision. We are expecting 3 feet of snow! Schools will be CLOSED. That was pretty much it. I mean, we were so happy to have a free day and yes! We ALL played in the snow and froze and watched the Brady Bunch reruns. Life was simple. No, we didn’t have the internet yet. DON”T JUDGE ME!
The biggest snowstorm I remember was the blizzard of 1978. We got a few feet the first day and it continued for a few more days. We jumped off our 2nd story deck into like 7 foot drifts of pure snow. My brother Michael got stuck in it for hours and we had to dig him out! Good times. We had snow days. Everyone survived.

Now, we face a pandemic. This world quickly changed. It’s been a few weeks of self isolation, social distancing and watching the numbers. I check in each morning now and read the horror and rising cases. We all read about Wuhan China. We were semi aware. We hadn’t a clue what was to come. Honest. At first, I don’t think a lot of us even thought it would effect the WORLD! Right? Then Italy reports started flowing. The footage and updates were painful to watch and accept. Not enough coverage, beds, supplies, ventilators. Death tolls, rising hourly. All So quick, they are ordered to stay home and not leave their homes and apartments. It was too late. The virus had spread from village to village. Many Italians took to social media and the internet to WARN Us. Beg Us. Confirm to us. This is serious. Do NOT ignore the government warnings. Italy, sadly, opened up our eyes. The US was on alert. But? Was it already too late? Then Spain. I follow this a bit more closely, because, my daughter & her husband live in Madrid. They have been on lockdown for a month. Healthy, Thank God. They are both responsible adults. They are so very far away. She worries that we are at risk. She worries that we will get sick. Many are in a state of anxiety, panic, depression. This is real. I remind my daughter. I’m ok. I do not live in fear my daughter. I’ve already suffered and had my worst/biggest fears happen. I accept this and assure her we are safe. I vow to do my best in staying well and isolated. She is what I live for. I take that serious and pray this too passes with ease. We cancelled our plans to visit Spain in May. I know she is homesick and isolated. How did life get so complicated? It feels apocalyptic in a strange way. I remember watching Sandra Bullock in Bird Box. Very dark film. A premise that the end of the world happened and they are the very few who survived. They must cover their eyes to the light, in order to survive. It involves two small children and I was vested in them! Cool movie and she was amazing in it. When I read that Italy’s death toll reached 9,000 today,(March 27, 2020). I fully realize what has happened. They had no chance to flatten the curve. They were still socializing (children were allowed to socialize in the evenings) due to this socializing, like fire, it spread rapidly. Now, they beg us! they urge everyone to NOT allow your children to play and socialize. I am devastated, concerned and heartbroken for their country. A country I visited last year and fell instantly in love. I can’t wait to return. They live in the moment, organically and simply. I admired that so much when I was travelling through that beautiful country. I text my daughter’s in-laws in Italy. They have been quarantined for 6 weeks already. They reply that they are healthy and well. It’s a miracle no one in their family has gotten sick. They have followed the rules. Stay home. They go to the supermarket once a week with gloves and masks. Smart. I pray for them daily. It is not over in Italy or Spain. The USA, has not even begun to truly embrace the inevitable. Devastating pandemic. A high death toll. I see it is unavoidable. I am trying to do my part. I am taking it all in and slowly breathing out. I accept and continue to think positive. I recite to everyone I know. 87% of people that contract COV 19 virus experience “MILD” symptoms. That’s a pretty high percentage. I focus on recovery and good health. Here is how I attempt to do it.

One of my daily mantras is:

Today, I am healthy. I live in full abundance.

I started to repeat this mantra a few weeks ago, with a meditation teacher I follow. Meditation can seriously help every single person reading this today. Just 5 minutes? 10? whatever you can muster. It’s about the practice. It’s about self love and giving and receiving that daily through meditation. I’ve been meditating for many years. In the beginning, I probably could do a few minutes and feel frustrated. That is normal. It isn’t a instant click. Training ones mind to stop “THINKING” by just taking intentional breaths is life changing. Yes, you heard me LIFE changing. I am not making this shit up. It works. It calms, heals, it boosts your immune system. It increases endorphins, serotonin, you name it. This shit WORKS… and its like FREE! I am a big fan of the Mindful Movement Meditations. Thank you YouTube! I saved a dozen or so to my favorites. I love each and every session with Sarah Raymond. Amazing things can happen if you dedicate a moment to love yourself and take care of your mental health. I promise you. Try it for a week. Pick a 10 minute meditation (on Gratitude, Peace, Forgiveness) etc…give yourself the gift of clearing your mind. I am that confident it will help you during this time of uncertainty. Remember to ask yourself after your first meditation. How do I feel right now? I can’t wait to here your findings!

I wanted to share what my daily routines, rituals, connections are guiding me with love and compassion.

I have always limited my time on social media/ news updates.

Social Media/ News Reports:
I suggest you tune in for updates and then put it aside. Flip it over. The screen can suck you IN people. Don’t bring it to bed! Just, find an organic way to connect to the world. TRUST ME, tomorrow there will be another update and you won’t miss a thing.

I like making lists.

Movies to watch on Netflix. Books to read. Online Courses to take. I am taking FULL advantage of every online course for FREE. Yes, FREE people. I just took a Warrior Goddess webinar with Heather Ash. (Ahhhmazing!) She offered 6 more classes for a minimal donation. I’m stoked.

Writing/journals:

I’ve been writing since I was a young teen. I am finishing up a memoir and studying and gathering knowledge and inspiration for recovery coaching. I write about my childhood. I write about grief. I write about finding joy and purpose and my journey to faith and back to Joy. It’s my absolute super power. You should try it. Buy a pretty journal and write down your feelings, thoughts, anger, dreams a few paragraphs a day. Watch it transform your thinking and your focus.

My other lists are semi boring, mundane, chore/fix it lists:

What needs a cleaning/painting/freshen up? Broken stuff – Things that need repair. My never ending list. My quest to be Marie Kondo/Martha Stewart organized. Serious downsizing. For over a year, I just Keep on de cluttering my “stuff” Oh I need help! Geez Leelee! This stuff keeps me buzzing! It’s a never ending list and I totally get off on organization. I have a ways to go. I have made enormous donations and runs to good will and church donations. It’s easier for me to donate. I like to think someone else can use it.

I am an avid cook and gardener:

I credit my Mama and my Daddy for these gifts. A nature lover, beach, boat, fishing girl and lover of sneaking away for R&R. I’d rate beach houses my very favorite. I’m a serious collector of shells and rocks. I love and adore the east end of Long Island. I like it even better off season. (wink). The South fork is top notch and very pricey and bougie. From the Hamptons to Montauk Point. Absolute pristine beaches for the very Richie folks. I love every town in the Hamptons and I escape there often. But.. my heart speaks to me…and always will. My secret to heaven, my spiritual place is The Northfork. (NoFo) It still has that rural, farming feel with more and more breweries, & wineries and a nautical upscale, peaceful place to hang. After all, I AM an island girl at heart. I chase the seasons out on the east end. The sunflowers and farm stands are amazing. I take the ferry often from Orient Point and I love driving out weekly to gather veggies and flowers. I adore summer festivals and the many vineyards. I discover all the private growers and relish in a new nursery. I support all local farmers and artists and crafters and humanitarians. This is my happy place. My Zen. I indulge in it often.

But alas, now we are staying home, nesting if you will. So my kitchen and my gardens is where you find me. Creating and decorating is my jam. I love to rearrange and repurpose all my beautiful treasures. Recently, I gathered all my favorite stones, gems, goddesses, bhudda’s essential oils and sprays and sage. I set up a corner with all my favorite things. A shrine of gratitude, hope, renewal. I spritz heart chakra around me and say a prayer for healing. it’s in the love of creating food and flower beds. Seriously, I could do it 24/7. I really enjoy challenging myself in the kitchen. For instance: You have a handful of mushrooms, leftover chicken, spinach, cheese…What can I create! My new obsesh is Asian cuisine. It stems from my devotion to the dumpling. I have several Asian grocery stores and I get lost in there for an hour and discover a lot of cool things. A dash of this or that goes a long way in Asian sauce. I scour the internet and find simple, awesome recipes to make at home. Once you stock up on the secret ingredients, you are all set! I have been making some killer dumpling recipes as of late. It takes time to learn by trial and a few errors, but, once you master it, BAM! It makes my head spin. I also bake (something I was determine to master over the last few years) I never waste a banana (or anything really). I enjoy baking a shit ton of desserts and freezing them for give a ways. It makes my heart happy. A warm banana bread to a sad friend….priceless. I fill my life with giving. I found my secret to healing and growing. Lastly, Art. Create. Getting your creative flow on! So, I take my time and sift through my treasures and then I repurpose all my little treasures and create some type of new art. I decorate my yard with love, in memory and with my hippie spirit and decorating passion.

My latest projects: (Don’t judge or Laugh) We may have MONTHS of this stay home rules. I intend on enterprising on them. I may not do every single thing I dream about. But, I’m serious about making a dent in what matters to ME….on the weekend create list….

Rock Painting – (DO NOT laugh at me!)
I find smooth cool rocks around my property. (I happen to have 1000’s of rocks) and I paint them…with inspirational words or quotes. Tutorials and suggestions on Pinterest.

Shells – I make art out of my shell collections. Chimes, beachy scenes, & flower bed d├ęcor. It’s fun to repurpose.

Slate: Stepping Stones/Signs: I have some cool bluestone slates laying around. I did one today for my garden
it says….

~ Let It Shine ~ .

My Mother once taught me about Simple Abundance. It’s not ironic she got sober and once wrote herself a check for 1 million dollars~ pay to “Simple Abundance”. After she died, I found a vintage sign with the same quote. I look at it in my kitchen often. She read the book, and shared it with me a long, long time ago. Perhaps, she knew I would need to learn and understand it one day. Perhaps she was teaching me to just…. Let It Shine…..

Namaste

Leelee

Replacing Fear with Love….

Hello! From Long Island. An island of beauty. An island of state parks & abundance of nature, all surrounded by water. It’s my land. The same island my parents moved us to 60+ years ago. From Brooklyn, New York. They were living the American dream. They told the story many times. My father borrowed 500 dollars from Grandpa Angelo, to put down on a foreclosed home in Huntington Station, New York. On a whim, they decided to move to the suburbs. A big backyard and a pool! I was one years old when we moved from Brooklyn. I would stay with my Nanny for a week or two in the summers in Brooklyn. Good Times. Carefree and light. I loved the vibe of the inner city. In 1962, My Dad was appointed to the NYPD. It was the same year I was born. He often told the story that one day he got on the road to his new job as a Police officer in (where else?) BROOKLYN! He drove 2 hours in traffic to get to the new post and thought he made a terrible mistake! How could I move my family out to the “boonies” the potato fields! And, now travel several hours a day back and forth? Was it all worth it? Somehow, someway, he did it and he never complained. He worked nights and days and a lot of overtime. He loved fixing up the house and mowing the lawn. He made a beautiful vegetable garden and tended to it for hours each week. He loved fishing and coaching sports and camping. He loved planting flowers and rose bushes for my Mom. He loved his life and family. He taught us everything. He took us everywhere. He had very few friends, (you can count true ones on one hand Lisa Marie..he would tell me) IF you’re lucky enough! He loved a good meal, a strong cup of coffee and he loved to grill meat and spend time with his kids. He always worked hard. He was always sweaty and dirty from work. Building something, fixing something, he LOVED it, his life, simple abundance. He was happy and satisfied with life on Long Island. He loved and protected us. He had an extensive career with the NYPD. He retired 20+ years later with many great stories and a Bachelors degree in psychology/sociology. He definitely lived the American Dream. The difference was he appreciated everything he achieved and earned. He took care of everything. He provided. He encouraged and supported us. He was a tough ole bird. A no nonsense, do it my way (the right way) kinda guy. As I became a wife and mother, he became my bestfriend. Gladly, giving me sound advice. He encouraged me and supported me. He valued me, he trusted me. We became close and respected each other so much. We only moved once as a child, to a larger home to accommodate my Grandparents moving in with us. It was well “crowded” but, we were a family, together, supporting one another. When my Dad retired, he bought a bar and saved all his money and moved to Florida with my Mom. They bought a new retirement home in a cul-de-sac. Life seemed perfect….or so we thought. Ten years later, my Mom convinced him to move back to Long Island. She longed to be closer to her children and now Grandchildren. He did it. He wanted her to be happy. For my Dad, Life was simple. He never complicated anything. He had his priorities and his shit together at all times. Who knew I would be so much like him? Who knew his strength and love would carry me, sustain me, heal me through my darkest times. My Dad was the Rock, the epicenter of our family. He died, quickly, at 64 from stage 4 lung cancer. He didn’t even know he had it. He was not ready to cash in… he begged God. He begged the oncologists for just a couple more years. He cherished life. He didn’t get his wish. He only lived 7 months through horrendous Chemo and Radiation treatment, and then he died. Cancer sucks. He was so sick and vulnerable. We never left his side. We all stood in the sunlight, surrounded by each other, holding each other and sadly, watching him die slowly. During the last days he had a spiritual awakening. He was born a Catholic, oddly, he was more an agnostic. He played on the fence about religion and spirituality. He believed in God. He didn’t worship. True fact: In the 80’s, He met the Pope (John Paul) on the steps of city hall. The Pope stopped and gave him a medal and a blessing. I remember that night. He came home with a light in his eyes. He said.. I just met the man who has seen the eyes of God! He was awakened…impressed. That was short lived for him at that time.
When he came home from his last treatment, he was sick. He couldn’t sleep, or eat. The doctors scanned his body and told him the cancer had spread. He should get his affairs in order. He was in shock. I sit in the tiny office with my Mom and watch him beg the doctor. Heart wrenching. I’m so weak Doc, but, if you think I should try another round… he stops my Dad and softly tells him. Tom, No, I don’t recommend another cycle. I recommend you consider hospice and get your affairs in order. Time stops. The clock ticks. We leave. My mother is crying. I am driving them back home. The end is near. He says to my Mom. Are you crying for me or are you crying because I am dying? I don’t remember her answer. We just cried. We all gathered. He wanted us all to be with him. It was late September. His favorite time of year. Cool, breezy spectacular weather. He couldn’t sleep anymore. He would get up at 2, 3 in the morning. Organizing papers. Paying bills, etc. Then he would walk with my Mom. He made/designed and built a magical garden in their new little house. She wanted an oriental garden, Pergola, with a pond and a waterfall…a huge vegetable garden…he built it all, with his hands and heart…just for her. He grew his favorite flower, The Morning Glory vine. He grew them every year. He would pick each color and hold it in his hands. He made her a bouquet every day and he would say… Mitzi.. have you ever seen a more beautiful color in your life? Look at this blue… pink…white…God made these. They are simply perfect beauty. He lived for a week in a spiritual awakening. He called for his son Michael to come home from N. Carolina. He knew his time was near. He was sick, dehydrated, weak, malnourished, sleepless. Yet, he smiled. He stared at my children and held them. He took them on short rides on his ATV and laughed and played catch. We all stood strong, dying right along side him. Our rock. our mentor, our father who protected and loved us every single day of our lives was sick. Nothing Else Mattered. NOTHING. No job, no money, the world stopped and we grieved and loved each other. We were a family. We were all shattered. When my brother Michael arrived. He stood up and walked to the door and he said.. My Hero. Finally, He is here! Shaking and trembling he waited to hug his son. My father died 2 days later. In fact, he waited till his hero arrived and gave him permission to go to Jesus. My brother Michael told him… Daddy, go to Jesus Daddy, I got Mommy, I will take care of her. My brother told me, my Dad in a semi coma, took one breath in and didn’t quite exhale. He passed peacefully with my brother holding him tight. My Mother was taking a bath. It was the greatest loss of our lives. It is over twenty years ago that we lost this great man, husband, father and son. I remember him in the hospital bed watching the coverage of the 9/11 attack. He was such a patriot! He absorbed and purchased time life books of 9/11. He still was well and able enough to support and mentor my youngest brother Anthony, who served as a first responder immediately after the bombings. I am grateful that he was alive and able to help his boy, Tony, his Tiger as he nicknamed him. He served in the US Air Force as a intelligence specialist in Berlin Germany during the Korean war. My oldest brother Thomas was born in a AF hospital in Berlin. He lead a very interesting life on earth. He was raised by a single mother and worked since he was 11 years old. He had a strong opinion about most things. IF you asked for it, be prepared to get a straight forward one. He had an arrogance and a confidence that sometimes made him butt heads, but he was fair and honest and trustworthy. He told us often. No one, I mean NO ONE loves or cares for you like your parents and grandparents and siblings. They are all you have in this harsh, sometimes cruel world. If you are ever in real trouble, we will always be there to help and rescue you. Don’t ever forget that. I never have. I think of him often. I wonder how he would have approached this pandemic/virus state of affairs. I know he would have provided everything he had for his family and neighbors. He would keep us safe. He would protect his little world. Isn’t that interesting? Isn’t that all we really have right Now? Each Other? Nothing else should matter. Stay safe, stay home, be smart, be brave. This too shall pass. Amen.

In loving memory of my father… Thomas Joseph.

with eternal love & abundance

Lisa Marie

Most/Wonderful time of the year…

Many years ago, My parents nailed setting traditions. They were adamant about keeping some of the old traditions that my Mom grew up with and even added a few of their own. It was a glorious, magical time. Christmas Eve dinner & celebrations. We, my mom, grandmother, sister and I prepared for weeks. The shopping and expense were enormous. My parents had five children and lived on a NYPD salary in the 60’s. So my beloved grandmother, Nanny, would come out from Brooklyn and stay for a week and she splurged a lot with all the specialities and extras. She helped to make Christmas special. So we all shopped till we dropped. She would spare no expense. She lived and breathed to spoil and love our family. She didn’t skimp on anything. Every nut, candy, desserts, seven types of fish and 20 pounds of homemade butter cookies, chocolates and honey balls adorned our tables. The fresh Italian meats and cheeses were piled on platters. We prepared the entire day for our family dinner. I remember as a child, the rule was no meat on Christmas Eve. (Only fish and shellfish dishes). A religious rule as per my grandparents. Over the years, and many picky eaters later on, my mother bent that rule for them. It was quite the extravaganza. Truth: I enjoyed every second of it. I had my loving, beautiful, warm Mom, & Daddy, my little Nanny & Pop, and my five siblings. My mom blasted Christmas music all day long. My Dad was in charge of decorating. He spent hours stringing lights outside. He would climb on the roof and hang the Big Santa face. He would string santa and the reindeer taking off our roof. Then he would come inside and hang lights everywhere. My Mom, an artist and crafty gal would spend a month decorating the interiors. Her trees were her pride and joy. She would make wreaths and garland and over the years, she built quite the miniature Christmas village. It was magical and grew each year with a new house. I have a picture somewhere of the magical homemade village set in a mountain that she created. It stood over four stories high and she would nestle each house in the snow covered hills and make her very own village. It was her masterpiece and she loved creating it each year. Every detail was special. Every tree, animals, skaters, and even a moving ski lift to the top of the mountain. She made Christmas magical for all of us.
As our family grew, everyone had a partner or spouse by then, except our baby brother Anthony. We all showed up. We all dressed up, (one year, my mom insisted we wear matching Kaftans!) all of us with armfuls of presents and the world was ours. As the music played, everyone laughing, dancing and partying together. The mood was so warm and there was nowhere else we would rather be. Just together. My grandfather, Poppy, Peter Shannon, would take his once a year, half a shot of blackberry brandy and head to bed early. His sparkling blue eyes and hugs still make me teary. He was a kind, soft soul. We would feast, for hours, we were very blessed, content. We were happy to be together. Another rule was, we had to wait till midnight to open gifts. Once you became a teenager, you could stay up and open with the “adults”. A rite of passage. I think we bent that rule for Anthony, but the poor kid had to wait. You see, the rule was, oldest first. He was patient and he loved being spoiled too!
One year, my Dad decided to pen his thoughts and gratefulness to us. He wrote the first Christmas letter. It was a letter of love, hope and admiration for his wife and children. He would write about milestones and how proud he was of all our accomplishments. Most importantly, always reminding us the meaning and importance of family. The people in this room, he would say, are everything and all I cherish in this harsh world. He would remind us that no matter what, if you needed help, we would all be there for each other. I remember looking up at my Dad and feeling so proud and mostly, loved and cherished. The wonderful thing about the letter, is each of us over the next decades would take a turn and write our own Christmas letter to the family. It turns out, many of my siblings were talented writers and wrote beautiful letters and messages. I of course, a self proclaimed poet/writer, wrote a tear jerker. If I made my parents cry, I knew I was doing good.
As the years flew by, we all married, we had lots of children, we had each other, we had love and family. We had it all. Our grandparents and our parents were alive and well. Our traditions continued, but our shift turned to our children. My family was insane with the presents. My son, Michael was the first born grandchild. That year, I believe we needed a whole bedroom just to stack up his gifts. He was king, he was the first born grandson. Too bad he was only 6 weeks old! They continued to indulge and spoil my son throughout his entire life.
We continued our Christmas Eve tradition for many, many years. Then, well, life happened. My oldest brother Thomas, got married and eventually moved to California. Then, one by one, others moved, divorced and some even remarried. My grandfather passed first, followed by my grandmother. The shift was happening, but, we were still a family. Eventually my brother Michael moved to Charlotte, NC and my sister got remarried and moved to New Jersey. We continued to have our Christmas Eve dinners, however, they became much smaller. A huge factor was relocations and the reality of divorce. When my siblings divorced with children, they all had to share and compromise on certain holidays. That became an issue over the years that none of us had control of. For me, I think the turning point was the death of my father. He died eighteen years ago. Tragically, he was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer and suffered for 6 months in Chemo. He died shortly after his treatments ended. My father, Thomas, he was our rock, and the glue and the center of our family. Our mentor and beloved father left this earth at 64 years of age. It was unexpected and devastated all of us. He was young, he fought, but lost the battle and, sadly, we were never the same. How could we be? My mother moved in with me and we still managed to hang on to some of her traditions. We would hold each other up, grieve and move forward. My mom grieved more than the loss of her husband. She also grieved the traditional Christmas Eve’s she instilled in all of us. We managed and just loved each other and thankful that we had each other. That year, we all chipped in and we surprised my Mom with an engraved pendant necklace with my Dad’s picture engraved on it. I have it on video, she cried and loved that gift so much.
My mom passed away ten years ago. She had many medical issues and sadly, she got sick and suffered for several days in ICU. She was 71 years old. She told me shortly before her death that she had a dream. She said she dreamt that she would join my Dad at 72. I remember being upset and scolding her! I said, thanks for the heads up Mom. Little did we know, she wouldn’t make her 72’nd birthday. I was blessed to have a mother who loved me, my whole entire existence, unconditionally, and now, eternally.
When my Dad died, my brother, Thomas got remarried and offered to host Christmas Eve dinner at his home. He had the biggest house and he wanted to blend the new families together. I remember him telling me, you have to bend and adapt to change. I told him, I don’t think I have to do that, but, eventually I relented, and after my Mother died, I went to his house and joined him and his new family. Tom threw great parties. Generous and loving he was. I learned a few things: Life changes. Nothing remains the same, except the love and the memories we hold deeply in our hearts and mind. I was happy that we celebrated together.
In my life, our family, we, sadly have suffered with many losses. Our entire family was dealt a devastating loss in 2015 when my oldest brother Thomas died at 55. He sadly, tragically ended his own life by suicide. I still go to Christmas Eve at his house, it’s still painful and devastating. Every time I drive down his street, my heart sinks and I miss him terribly. So very young and gone from here. My heart carries a memory of him smiling and throwing elaborate dinners and jetting around the Great South Bay in his new boat. I remember he was a natural comedian and could work a room and have you laughing your ass off. He was quite charming and handsome. His smile and those sparkling, white teeth. I used to tell my friends, he was so charming, he got away with lots of stuff. Tom was loved and admired by many. His friends still tell me, I still can’t believe he is gone. Me too. My brother, Tom, he had a great life, a full life, one that most only dream of. Then in a instant, he exited this life. This world lost a wonderful man. I lost a my big brother. God, I miss him, I miss us. I try and remember when he was well and healthy and happy. He tried to keep some of our family traditions. At least we were together, making memories. His wife and kids and step kids are coping and he should be so proud of all of them. They fundraise now each year in honor of Tom. Each Christmas Eve, I say a few words about Tom and we toast to him. Last year, we lit candles for everyone and lined them up his steps to his house. We still go to his house and I will forever wish he was right beside us again.
This is the hard part. The closing chapter I dread having to share. But, I must, because this is the part that changes everything for me. It isn’t pretty. It’s life changing, life altering for me. In 2016, our family suffered another devastating tragedy. The tragic loss and passing of our son Michael. He had just turned 31. Michael had struggled with addiction for a few years. He became addicted to opiates and that lead to Heroin. He was in and out of a dozen detox centers and treatment facilities and programs. He tried very hard to beat it. He was sick and suffering. He hid his addiction from the world. until, he couldn’t. After a court hearing one day, abruptly, he decided to up and move to Maine, three weeks before Christmas. He went to a sober living home near his girlfriend. He was doing ok. Trying to recover. He made a last minute decision, to visit his grandmother and aunt for Christmas dinner. He took a bus down to New Hampshire. Along the way, tragically, he made a bad decision and relapsed and subsequently he overdosed a few hours later in the guest room, next to his Grandmother’s bedroom, on Christmas Eve. We were not there. My sister in law found him. She held him and she called 911 and then she called me at 9:36 am. It felt like a slow motion horror movie. It wasn’t a movie. I felt like I was dead that morning. A part of you dies when your child dies. Your world instantly changes. My son, Michael died from a heroin/fentynol overdose. I found out later that my brother in law hosted his son and family in the adjoining house hours later. Like it never happened. It is painful to even picture that scene. I thank my sister in law for her strength and for holding my son. I thank my mother in law for loving my son. I am forever sorry that it happened in your home. He was loved and had so much to live for. My son fell in love and had a child. A baby girl he never got to raise. I know he loved her, but addiction blocked him from being a father to her. I know that really effected him and he suffered greatly from losing custody. I saw what addiction can do and take from you and your family. Everyone suffers. The addict suffers the most. So, how could it happen? How could he die on Christmas Eve? were they sure? The police officer got on the phone to confirm that. I gave the phone to my husband. You see, my biggest fear and my worst nightmare was unraveling as I watched the Christmas parade on TV. My beautiful son loved Christmas Eve. He loved it the most. He would often tell me how much he missed all of us being together. How much he missed his grandparents. He loved the food and the family and all his cousins. We all did. I wrote my children a Christmas letter a year before that and read it to our little family around the dining room table. I only wished for him to recover and regain his life back. So, not all dreams come true. Not everyone survives. Life isn’t always “fair” or “blessed”. Change is inevitable. That is a given. Life goes on. Some live longer, some die young. The lessons I learned were not pretty or sugar coated. I just learned how to cope and how I can honor and live the remainder of my life on this earth with dignity and with grace.
I reunited with my granddaughter 3 years ago. She was shy, and quiet. (Not like her Dad at all!) & When I saw her little face, I saw her Dad staring back at me. she resembles her father. She turned out to be quite angelic. She has a sweet, loving heart. She brings instant joy and love. She has ignited my soul in many ways. I love spoiling her and spending time with her. Abruptly, she has moved to Greece last spring. I speak to her on face time. I pray we see her again some day. She will soon be five years old. She is growing and I miss her terribly. If heaven truly exists, I picture my son, her Dad, watching over her and protecting her always. I hope one day she asks me about her Dad. I am prepared to tell her all the stories of Christmas Eve’s past, and show her the family who loved and adored him. I will explain how her great grandmother instilled traditions and how we all were together and celebrated. I hope to reunite with her again soon. Life, so unpredictable, so fleeing. Here is my Christmas wish for all of you this year:
Enjoy each other when you can. Show up for Christmas dinner, & tolerate each other. Be kind to each other. Keep it light and no drama. You have like 364 other days to create drama. So, go out and make memories and traditions with and for your children and grandchildren. Decorate the trees and string a few lights. Drive around and see all the sparkling lights in your town! Attend all the events and tree lightings in your community. Go to Church. Praise God. Please buy a toy for a child who has nothing. Teach your kids to give back. That is what heals me now. I spoiled my own children for 30 years. Now, I enjoy picking a family who is less fortunate and donating to make their Christmas special. I promise you, You won’t regret any of it. You will teach your children a tradition, and perhaps they will continue that with their own. Afterall, isn’t that what Christmas is supposed to be about? Teach them to be kind to one another. Instill a few fun traditions for just you and your family. But….Most of all, remember to tell the ones that you cherish and love the most how much you adore them. Maybe you can even write a letter this year and read it to your family. I know all of those traditions made our holidays special. To my two beautiful children. Always remember, I love you to the moon and back again <3. Always & Forever.... Mamabear <3

Facing the reality and ending the stigma- OPIOD Crisis.

I hope this post finds you. I mean, I hope you read this entire post and it changes your perception of addiction. I hope you absorb the very real, harsh reality of our nations OPIOD epidemic. I am sure you have read seen some news reports? Headlines? Articles? Stories of the increasing epidemic of deaths due to overdose? I am pretty sure if you live in the USA, you’ve read that our nation is addicted and dying, steadily, alarmingly rising year after year. If not, I need to inform you. Let’s start with the Purdue Pharma company that I believe started this crisis. They invented the painkiller drug. They released it to the world. However, admitting and knowing that they withheld crucial information about their pain killing drug OxyContin. Oxycodone. (Painkillers). The Highly addictive Opiod was widely prescribed like “candy” to young kids and adults. The Sackler family – Purdue Pharmaceuticals, the makers of this deadly pill, admitted and confessed to their deadly sins. Yes, this family withheld crucial information and down played how highly addictive these medications were. They have admitted that fact. They knew this! But, kept pushing their painkiller. (Why are they not prosecuted to the full extent of the law?) I ask myself that daily. Fact: The Sackler family confesses and admits that they lied to the reps and pharm companies and medical doctors. They were drug pushers in white coats, a 10 billion dollar family empire was being built on their painkilling drugs. They misrepresented the drug, withheld the crucial TRUTH. If taken repeatedly, it is HIGHLY Addictive. In their greed and indifference to human life, they continually promoted the selling this HIGHLY addictive pain killer as NON addictive. In the lawsuits filed, they now take responsibility for withholding that information. That family single handedly has created our nations deadly opiod epidemic. The Sackler family & Purdue Pharma have filed for bankruptcy, Sept. 2019, due to multiple lawsuits. Here is a recent article;
( https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-09-16/purdue-pharma-seeks-bankruptcy-to-short-circuit-opioid-suits-k0luhox6). They stepped forward and at that time committed to funding treatment and recovery support for the addicted. A Day late? A dollar short? Seriously, Did they have a choice? Do they think that is enough? Will that wipe out the opiod epidemic now? No, the damage is already done. The epidemic doesn’t end because they close their chapter and bankrupt their pharmaceutical company. They stopped producing and selling their pills. Our government demanded that. Thousands of people are already dependent and addicted to opiates for years (some decades). Do you think the epidemic ended there? The reality is tragic. The addiction is so strong and intense. They add synthetic Fentanynol (a drug for terminally ill) to the drugs now. Statistics are 4 out of 5 addicts (pill addicts) go to street drugs, specifically, Heroin, to feed their addiction now. The deaths are staggering. Our country is in crisis. The Sackler family should read this. They should go to the Public NSC exhibit and absorb the reality there. The exhibit is eye opening. They are moving it all over the USA to bring awareness to this nationwide epidemic. Perhaps, the Sackler family can take a trip together and witness this exhibit. Then they should read every name that is entered into that data base. (23,000 DEATHS from opiod abuse and overdose).Please Note*** That number is ONLY the people that are registered, into that database there, in person. It also displays 2 connecting walls that are lined with pills, top to bottom. I stood in the middle and cried. What a single Oxy or Vicodin can lead to…Fact: Opiod deaths have surpassed the number of soldiers killed in Vietnam. Let that sink in.

How do I know all this? Our family was crushed, gutted & destroyed by Opiod addiction. I lost my 31 year old son, Michael to a Heroin/Fentynol overdose in 2016. I didn’t even know he took pills. He barely drank, Mikey was a foodie and a gamer. I still wake up someday’s and think this must be a nightmare??? Not my child? He never even abused drugs as a teen? How did this happen to HIM? Sadly, My healthy, vibrant son fell victim to opiod abuse. He had a work injury and was prescribed Vicodin. That is his story. He probably was quickly cut off by his doctor and could not get anymore refills. He was already (secretly) addicted. Statistics report that taking a prescribed opiate for more than 5 days, can result in some individuals forming a dependency or addiction. That may sound insane to some of us. I am here to tell you, plead to you, it happened to him. Within two years he was robbing, stealing and shooting heroin daily. He became a drug addict and desperate. The pills became scarce and street value skyrocketed to $30-$50 per pill! Quickly, He turned to Heroin. I still cringe at the thought of him shooting drugs. He was so “green”. He had no street smarts, no past drug history…. tragically, within 2 years, my son died from a Heroin/Fentyanol overdose. I slowly watched my son suffer and sink into addiction. Heroin ruled his brain, his world, his entire life. He lost everything. Friends, jobs, his newborn daughter. He sold everything for the drug. Then he stole everything for the drug. Michael hid it all from his family. The shame was far too great for him to deal or admit. When I broke into his room and found needles and a suboxeone script, I collapsed to the ground and howled. I knew that heroin would kill him. I felt it in my soul. We begged him to get help. He was always willing. He spent the last 2 years of his life in and out of multiple treatment centers. My son, tried consistently to get clean. Each time he stayed 28 days, detoxed, got clean, only to relapse over and over again. I watched addiction ravage his brain and body and eventually kill him. The monster was much bigger than us. Opiods have hi- jacked this nation. The addict will do anything to get numb. Until it effects you or your child or family directly you can’t relate. I hope you will never have to watch and witness a slow death from drug abuse. You can’t help but worry.. every single moment…will today be the day? We suffered along with him. I miss that vibrant, gorgeous, funny, healthy boy, every single day of my life. There is a large hole in our family, an empty chair, a life cut way too short by addiction. I rally and volunteer and I speak at jails, treatment centers and volunteer my time at sober homes. I give part of my heart to other addicts that are trying to get clean. I busy myself constantly with community service so I don’t sit and dwell on his tragic death. I say his name and honor the life he lived, before drugs. I found a loving, safe support group. (The beading hearts of Long Island) and I have found 100 other mommies that lost their child the same way. We meet weekly for support and we try and make a difference in our little communities. We call it the group, no one wants to be a member of. It’s every parents nightmare and now many live with guilt and shame and grief. That is the price you pay for such a deep love. I’ve heard that almost every person now knows someone who is struggling, addicted or has died because of an overdose. It has taken over five years for congress to acknowledge this increasing, alarming epidemic. Hundreds of parents banging on the steps of congress for help. We have to BEG our government to take steps, acknowledge insurance parameters and step up and save our sickand addicted nation. There is so much more to do. This is not going “away” anytime soon.

I wanted to share abit about my visit to the NSC exhibit at a mall in Nassau County, Long Island. A Dad, named Avi created this awareness memorial. He too lost his son to an overdose. His son Michael’s story is very similar to mine. We all lost, because of opiate addiction. The exhibit transports and moves and travels across the nation. It costs approx. $75,000 to keep it moving. I can’t put a price on honoring my son’s life. When I stood in the middle of the room of pills (22,000) pills with faces on them, ceiling to floor. I stood there and it hit me hard. My son is a statistic. He too, fell victim to opiod addiction and he died because of it. Avi posts a video. In it he says. I believe my son’s death could have been prevented. His son was readily over prescribed for many years. Doctors didn’t even blink on renewals. I see his point. The sad truth is. The addict lives in shame and guilt. Many live in denial and refuse help. Eventually, it rules their entire brain. It is hard for them to save themselves, to recover. They must save themselves! Lord knows we couldn’t. So awareness and stigma must go. We have to keep fighting. I know, I will never stop. I love my son and couldn’t “save” him, but, there are many others that are still sick and suffering. If you hold compassion in your heart, read about addiction and how it is a disease. I know it is hard for some people to understand it. If it was your kid, I bet you would.

Here is a link to the exhibit. I hope it stops near you someday. Don’t miss it. Support our future generations with Love and Compassion!

https://www.adweek.com/creativity/22000-faces-are-carved-into-pills-on-this-opioid-overdose-memorial/

Thank you for reading today and letting me share my heart and my loss. I don’t live in guilt or shame or seek pity. I am a strong mama bear, fighting for her cub. That’s what he called me… my son Michael…”Mama Bear” I can still hear him lovingly yell that to me. So, in honor of my beloved son Michael. I write this post and my body is filled with grief and loss. As time goes on, I embrace the most important thing of all. LOVE. That love never dies, it endures and it strengthens us all.

Peace

~leelee