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Candidly Yours

The Value of a Vote

November 8, 2016

It was as a very young woman, living without family and under the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos, when I became a patriot.
That experience changed my world view and my life, forever.

There, in Davao city, I learned the value and privilege of voting by secret ballot. (There was no free vote, press, or speech under martial law.)

I have lived, collectively, over 10 years outside the USA and while I miss it, and often prefer life overseas, I remain a patriot.

(Even today, I become emotional when I stand alone, pencil in hand, to cast my ballot.)

This means that no matter who is elected today, the next president will be MY president and I will hope and pray that she or he will be the best president for us all.

So vote thoughtfully.
Vote with pride.
And for those of you who have never truly understood that voting is a right and a privilege not enjoyed by all, vote with gratitude.
But by all means, vote.

Candidly Yours

Cocktail Time! Grief on a fast track

February 26, 2015

If you moved at a steady clip through all five stages of grief, getting to the other side of the loss would probably take a fair amount of time.

In my home, growing up in the ’60s, grief was managed at a faster clip.  The pace went more like from Zero to Cocktails in the time it takes to shake up a frothy whiskey sour.  Or pop a heavy barbiturate called Tuinol.  Or two Tuinols  (Two-Tus). Or slide back a Valium with a daiquiri.

As I mentioned, it was the late ’60s to early ’70s, and that’s just the way we did it.  No school psychologists, no support groups.  No worries.  Just swallow.

My experiences with death began to gather and build from an early age.  A childhood friend, Julian, died around the age of 6 from congenital liver disease which also took all his siblings.  My maternal grandmother unexpectedly dropped dead of a heart attack, I was told, as she waited to check in to the Mayo Clinic for a scheduled face lift — a whopping thirty thousand dollars, cash, stashed in her brazier. My gentle grandfather followed not far behind, and tragically on the day after my brother Nicholas’ birth.  In between these losses, and after, more fatalities landed within my reach.  In elementary school, my friend Morgan O’Brien’s sister, Hopie, was bounced out of the back of a top down convertible as it drove, 5mph, over a speed bump, pre-seatbelt days.  In the fifth grade, my friend Roberta’s mother leapt from the third story of their beautiful Greenwich mansion to her death.

Two years later, when my brother was rounding the last stretch toward his sixth birthday, and my older sister,  Madeleine, was fourteen, we were told one morning that our mother had died.  Suddenly, shockingly and mysteriously.  “Improperly medicated by an intern” we heard.  “Malpractice” was the whisper.  “Suing won’t bring her back to us” lamented our father.  My mother was, I believe, forty-one, but our father changed the dates in the obituary, making her thirty-nine; “under forty” dad said, in deference to a more cordial time when one simply did not reveal a lady’s age.  I was twelve.

I believe that the day I heard the news, or possibly the day after, I just went to school.   During the months after our mother died, my sister and I were handed, and sipped on,  the various sweet cocktails. We took the pills we were given, we played loud sad songs by Simon and Garfunkle, and we spaced out. There were, of course, casseroles for a while, and parties.  Dad dated and he worked and he also drank a lot and played “Always Something There To Remind Me” by Jose Feliciano so loud you couldn’t hear anything else in the house. And he wept out loud and in my arms and told me that he didn’t worry about me as much as the other kids because I was a lot like him so he didn’t need to worry.  And sixteen months later he was remarried.

I remember once, maybe a year later,  drinking a mini green bottle of Rolling Rock on my early morning walk to school, just to see what would happen.  My life long friend and I raided our parents’ medicine cabinets for Valium and barbiturates, which were “in”at the time and handy.  Our older sisters set us up with small, oily black chunks of hashish so thick and gooey they reminded me of  bits of licorice. These we smoked in pipes we fashioned hastily out of aluminum foil.

So it went like that. Death continued to travel through the edges of my life at a slow trot, pulling greedily to steal my remaining grandparents but also quite a few young friends. Virginia (fire); Linda, Daniel and Diane (cancer).  All these deaths were pre-AIDS era.

Given my out-sized experiences with losing loved ones, my familiarity with how to actually sidle up to and embrace the aftermath of loss and all it’s accompanying, changing pain, is astonishingly limited.

When I was in my early twenties and working in the circulation department of the Financial Times of London, my young boss, a Scarsdale girl named Randy Silverman, lost her dad.  She was so astonished by my apparent inability to connect her loss to pain, that she mentioned it to me.  I was just yammering away on her first day back to work after this devastating death in her family, maybe even whining and complaining, as if nothing had occurred. She look at me dead in the eye and said, with a perplexed expression and annoyed tone, “Elizabeth.  Do you understand I just lost my father?” I snapped momentarily into her reality with an “Oh. Sorry.”

I’m much older now, and a mother, and I handle the inevitable losses my family suffers much differently. With my son, we talk about our beloved people and special pets, now gone. We revisit and relive our memories with stories and photos. We check in with each other, without overkill — and certainly without the drugs and alcohol.  We take it bit by bit, knowing that losing someone we so dearly loved has forever  changed our lives and made our world feel less safe simply because they are no longer in it. And we remember also that our lives are fuller for having had the privilege of knowing and loving and remembering them.

Expat Kids

Educating Expat Kids

February 19, 2015

book cover 1

The above photo is of my son as he receives his 9th grade graduation certificate from AIB, an international school in Central America. But we are not from here, we are from the United States of America. For our first six years abroad, there was no so-called “bi-lingual, international” school, so he attended school in a second language, while we did some supplementing with some home-instruction and other methods.

How will you manage your children’s education if you go overseas?
If  you’re a parent considering a move abroad with kids, this is the big question, the thing that nags at that back of your mind in the middle of the night, or holds you back from going, or  stops you altogether from taking the leap.

Perhaps a big move overseas is just  a big dream, or maybe you and your family don’t have a choice about moving. Either way, concerns about how your children will adjust and stay happy is often the source of the most pressing questions parents have when facing this kind of chabge.  Let’s face it. For any caring parent or guardian, a happy kid equals a happy parent.

Before we pulled our son out of the tender third grade to move to rural Panama, I was frantic with just these questions. I had all the worry and little guidance. How in the world was I going to  1. continue with his education and 2. help him assimilate, make friends, learn the language, in other words, keep on being the fanstastic, curious, funny, interested and sweet kid he was?

It wasn’t easy. At the time of our move and for many years, there was not an international school in our little farming town destination. Heck, there wasn’t even a movie theater or a skate park and … we didn’t speak the language. But, step by step, day by day, little by little, I helped my son to continue his education,to  learn the language, to make friends, fit in and fully assimilate into a previously foreign culture, and in a rural, remote area. Take heart! If  we could do it, so can you!

I admit that my back ground in School Psychology & Counseling didn’t hurt — but the truth is, when it comes to parenting — I’m just a regular mom with the same fears, concerns, anxiety, hopes and dreams you have for your treasured child.

Today, my son William, only nine when we began our adventure, is now sixteen. He truly moves easily between the two languages and cultures he embodies and trade-offs notwithstanding, he has enjoyed a happy and full childhood.

Our journey was both difficult and easy. It was an adventure that throughout and ultimately brought us joy and personal growth, as well as collective growth as a family. It was a brave move,  but looking back, I would not change a thing. Was it worth it? Yes. Yes. Yes.

“Moving & Educating Kids Overseas: How one mom helped her child Thrive: is a primer full of tips, suggestions, check lists, sound advice and  ideas for making your overseas journey with your kids fruitful and joyous.

My child thrived and so can yours!

To read the first few chapters FREECLICK HERE.