Archive for August, 2009

Honoring The Kennedys

My mother was a big fan of the Kennedy family who were popular in the way that rock stars were. The charisma of John F. Kennedy and his family lead them to their being called the figurative designation of Camelot. This name was credited by Jacqueline Kennedy in view of John’s affection for the musical. Jacqueline Kennedy was admired for her style and elegance and I vividly remember my mother trying to mimic her wardrobe in her own closet. Even though my mother wasn’t much into politics, like many other Americans, she was swept away by the family’s allure and charisma.

I will also never forget that dismal day, November 22, 1963. I was in the third grade and the principal’s voice came on the loud speaker and told us that we should stand up behind our chairs because he had an important piece of news. “I’m very sad to report that our beloved President Kennedy has just been assassinated in Dallas, Texas.” The word ‘assassinated’ became part of my vocabulary that week, It was one of our ten spelling words and echoed repeatedly all week long on the black and white television perched on the small table in our living room. Our weekend writing assignment was to write an essay titled, “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country,” in honor of Kennedy’s words spoken at his inaugural address.

Yesterday I watched Ted Kennedy’s Memorial Service, this time on a colored television but with similar feelings of admiration. As a grown woman, I now have a better understanding of the important mark some people make on our country’s history and how their legacy will live on. Ted Kennedy served forty years of his life in the senate, and after watching highlights from his speeches and interactions throughout those years, one can clearly see how much fun he must have been to work with; how his strong sense of humor lightened up some very tenuous moments. During these difficult economic times, this could be a lesson to us. Let’s lighten up, be thankful for the good things and remember to make the most of our sense of humor!

Rest in peace, Ted Kennedy.

The Universal Rhythm of Music

My family has always believed all birthdays are a cause for celebration, but this past weekend was a special celebration in honor of my father-in-law’s 85th. There were close to seventy adoring people. After the events of the past month, I was delighted to have something positive to celebrate.

I cherish my father-in-law and there is not much I would not do to honor him, the family patriarch who for years has filled our family with his love, generosity and wisdom. This year’s celebration was particularly important in view of his recent diagnosis with Parkinson’s Disease. We have all grown accustomed to watching him sit uncharacteristically quiet during our family meals and discussions. Through his occasional questions, we know he is paying attention, but his interaction has been severely hampered since the onset of his disease.

The highlight of the evening was the presence of two Hungarian musicians, a violinist and guitar player. I watched as my father-in-law was transported by the music to his childhood growing up in Komarno. When the musicians arrived he sat watching in shock and then stood up, and began singing and dancing in the living room of his grandiose Toronto apartment to each melody and song played. It was as if he went into a blissful trance. I don’t remember him dancing like that since my wedding in 1977 where he swung me around the dance floor. We mostly watched in awe, but a few of us took the opportunity to get up and dance with him one by one. I was amazed by the way the  music took him out of his cocoon and brought so much joy to this eventful day.

At the airport I picked up the magazine, A Scientific Mind and there was an article very apt to the situation encountered at my father-in-law’s party. The article was entitled, “Why Music Moves Us.”  It discussed how music was the universal language. The neurologist Oliver Sacks in his recent book, Musicophilia, says, “Music seems to be the most direct form of emotional communication.”

As the mother of a son who is a musician I have seen the power of music and how it  can sway the human spirit. For years music has been shown to improve both mental and physical well-being. In the elderly it has been shown to decrease anxiety and agitation. So now, I am suggesting to my beloved mother-in-law to push self-medication with music, even if it means hiring musicians once a month for a live personal concert. There is nothing to lose, but so much to gain and Oliver Sacks professes, “Music is the most direct and mysterious way of conveying and evoking feelings. It is a way of connecting one consciousness to another. I think the nearest thing to telepathy is making music together.”

Quote of the Week

"A writer uses a journal to try out the new step in front of the mirror."

~Mary Gordon

About Me

I am a memoirist, essayist, poet and teacher whose passion is keeping a notebook. My notebook is my muse and my alter ego. It contains personal snippets of my life and observations from the world around me. Diarist Anaïs Nin has been a great source of inspiration for me. My hobbies include writing, writing and more writing, but when I have extra time, I enjoy reading, walking, hiking, yoga, working out, cooking and hanging out with my family and Maltese Poodle, Spunky. In order not to become ensconced by the glare of my computer screen, I also teach in the UCLA Extension Writers' Program and in various conferences and festivals around the country. My pleasure comes from sharing my joy of journaling with professional writers and anyone interested in writing.

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