I grew up in a fundamentalist Christian home, but had inherited the alcoholism gene from my father. For years, I went back and forth from drinking to excess, to periods of hyper religiosity. Both ends of the spectrum were desperate places for me. I had a banking career and then lived/worked in Japan for a year before going to seminary. I still drank in seminary, but my inner life had begun to crack and I knew I needed help. That was over 26 years ago. I have struggled in many ways, but I am more confident than ever that I am loved exactly the way I am.
There is a great fear factor with Alzheimer's, as well as a stigma. People don't want to talk about it or address it. I lost both of my parents to Alzheimer's, and in 2018, my younger sister was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's. The heartbreak and difficulty of this disease is crushing and overwhelming. My family was able to work together to deal with this as best we could and to address the multitude of issues as a team, to the benefit of every one of us. .
My parents survived the Holocaust after escaping Poland by being in a slave labor camp in Siberia. They made their way through Persia into Palestine under false papers. I was born in Palestine, two months prior to the end of WWII, and then survived a war at age three in Israel. At age six we emigrated to the United States and I grew up in a town where there was segregation. I suffered anti-Semitism throughout most of my childhood and into adulthood, even during medical school and while serving in the U.S. Air Force. .
After many years of symptoms manifesting themselves slowly but consistently, our son was diagnosed in his late 20s with rapid cycling bipolar disorder. This presented challenges to him and each member of our family. Working on my understanding as his mother had to be done in concert with being sensitive to and aware of the ever-evolving fears and confusion of his sisters and his dad. This life-long task for all of us is made easier by his courage and his wisdom.
I came to Wilton in 2004 as a 14 year old kid from the south side of Chicago. I’d been given the chance to become an ABC scholar in Wilton, CT and despite my fears and apprehension, I decided to embrace the opportunity. As one of the few black students at Wilton High School, it was very intimidating at first and I questioned whether coming to Wilton was a good idea. My first year was a struggle to say the least. I felt like a kid with no home and I second guessed who I was. Ultimately, dealing with adversity helped me become a stronger person and today I can better face life's challenges.
When I was five years old I was given my first pair of hearing aids. Everyone in school knew that I was hard of hearing and my classmates were not too social with me. In high school I decided to start fresh and not wear the hearing aids. Although this did allow me to become an expert lip-reader, the lack of hearing aids negatively impacted my academic work and social life, which fostered anxiety about interacting with people. Living with a hearing impairment is not easy; sometimes that's all people see if they don’t know me. However, I have learned not let my situation define me and I just started Grad School to become a Library Media Specialist.
After my second try at first grade, I was pushed into special education without being diagnosed with a learning disability. Being segregated from my peers and forced to be in the “slow class” became the scaffolding that defined my self-esteem and my identity. This is the story of my ongoing journey in understanding how I learn, dealing with misconceptions about dyslexia, and coming to terms with the mismanagement of my education.
I was blinded in combat in 1991 while serving in the US Army during Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm. My lack of sight did not stop me from graduating Magna Cum Laude for my B.A. in Social Work; nor has it slowed me down while pursuing a career in government positions and not-for-profit organizations, as well as extensive volunteer work with multiple veterans service organizations. First with a cane and now with a guide dog, I am figuring out how to navigate in a visually-oriented world. It is challenging, but resilience and adaptation make almost anything possible.
Despite being very straightforward, I am often misjudged by my appearance and demeanor. I have fronted a metal band in NYC for over 20 years, but my career and interests revolve around helping others. I am a retired FDNY paramedic and am currently an officiant for non-traditional weddings. As an animal lover, I train therapy dogs and foster near-feral cats for the ASPCA. Ask me anything about how I have faced adversity based on how I look.
I have been a practicing Pagan for over 25 years. I was brought up Christian and found myself spiritually lacking even though I went to church every week. I am a true believer that religion should feed your soul the way a good meal feeds your body. As time went on I found that this was not happening for me with Christianity; that is when my journey as a Pagan began. Many times I am asked if I put curses on people or worship the devil because of the portrayal of witches in movies and on TV. Let’s talk about what Pagans actually believe.
I was diagnosed with ADHD at age 43 and it was the happiest day of my life because it explained so many of the struggles I had experienced since childhood. I couldn't understand how others could simply take in the stride some of the day-to-day business of life that completely overwhelmed me. When I was diagnosed I began medication and my entire life changed. It was such a relief to discover I wasn't crazy, lazy or stupid. Since then I've learned how to manage my ADHD-related weaknesses--and strengths!"
Happiness is a ten-thousand piece puzzle. It takes patience and multiple tries just to fit the parts together. I was able to overcome depression and achieve happiness through small, consistent changes and an awareness of human cognition. I want to show people that it’s possible to beat depression by understanding how the brain works and using that knowledge to hack our natural or developed tendencies and to condition ourselves to happiness.
I attended a planning and zoning meeting for a potential medical marijuana dispensary and was shocked at the public outcry and actually feared for my physical safety. They spoke with so much conviction and such little understanding it was truly a disturbing experience. I realize there is still a strong stigma against Medical Marijuana and I would very much like to dispel the rumors and speak with scientific knowledge and share my patients' positive experiences.
In 2005 I became a special needs parent and my life changed forever, It’s been a lot of hard work and endless days and nights of soul searching, but I can honestly say that I am not only surviving; I am thriving. I have learned to focus on what I have, not on what I don’t; recognized my strengths and asked for help with my weaknesses. Happiness is a choice and I make every effort to choose it whenever possible.
I was hired as an attorney to help enforce the new Civil Rights Act of 1964. I worked in rural counties and was followed by hostile white men who threatened my well-being, slept outside the door of my motel room, and tapped my phone calls. Their efforts to intimidate me were supported by local law enforcement and even the FBI was reluctant to provide protection. For many years afterward, I became frightened when I saw a police officer and struggled when recounting the violence, hatred, fear for self, and general terrible conditions for black families where I worked.
I awoke to harsh voices as two Gestapo officers ripped an antique sword off the wall in the small bedroom where my mother and I had been sleeping. It was the night of November 10, 1938, Kristallnacht, the “night of broken glass” when the Nazis destroyed Jewish businesses, synagogues, and homes in Germany. The Gestapo asked for men to “volunteer” to leave with them, and my cousin bravely raised his hand. None of the adults told me what was happening or what to expect, but 80 years later I still remember that night.
Life in India after college presented me with a traumatic experience followed by complete isolation and no support. I was accepted into an MBA program, but continued to suffer from stress, nightmares and unresolved pain until a friend introduced me to Mantra Meditation. Eventually I found myself with a good job and happily married until we moved to the U.S. Once again, I was isolated, suffered depression and had bouts of suicidal thoughts. So, I returned to meditation which literally saved my life!
I developed an eating disorder in my young adult years. My battle with anorexia seemed insurmountable on most days and overwhelming at best. It was an ominous experience that deeply impacted my family and friends. Finding the right professional treatment team was the first step toward recovery, a path that was neither perfect nor linear with setbacks along the way, but eventually leading to a full recovery.
Kidney failure, pulmonary embolisms, seizures, brain swelling, and lung failure are just some of the medical conditions I experienced during my 54 day medically-induced coma. Two different hospitals did not believe I would make it out alive. Family members were called, meetings with doctors were held, and tough decisions were discussed. Then the unimaginable happened, I woke. Today, less than three years later, I am paddle boarding during the summer months daily, am a member of a rowing team, and am climbing through construction sites for my career.
I've had chronic illness and pain stemming from Lyme Disease since I was twelve, yet I "look healthy". Because I work hard on my mental and emotional health I am a happy person. Both my outward appearance and my demeanor often belie the fact that I have trouble moving, breathing, standing, and working. Let’s talk about living with invisible illnesses and societal norms of “sick people” and “healthy people”.
Society often denies Christians the tolerance it demands be afforded others. When identified as a Christian, I have been accused of being judgmental, hypocritical, insensitive, intolerant and overly opinionated. None of these reflect the teachings of Jesus, nor are they traits of a sincere, true follower. Unfortunately these pre-conceived misconceptions run so strong, that as individuals we are rarely given the opportunity to dispel them. I welcome the opportunity to share my personal, Bible based faith.
All women veterans returning home after their time in active service face a distinct set of difficult challenges; many of them include reconnecting to their families, workplaces and communities. I use a mixture of my love and appreciation for the military training and my faith to survive daily. I’m learning everyday how to navigate the VA healthcare system and civilian society. Whether it was being trained on how getting through food and sleep deprivation, helping fellow battle buddies to ace combat assault courses or promotion boards, to team building and leadership reaction courses, I’m learning to overcome obstacles and win.
Throughout my career as a female officer working in a men’s state correctional facility, I’ve experienced plenty of prejudice. From the outside world, people have looked down on what I do and prefer not to hear about it. It’s considered the dirty arm of the law enforcement branch. From my co-workers in the prison, I’ve frequently heard “that’s why you don’t belong here.” I welcome the opportunity to talk about the obstacles I’ve faced.
I was a businesswoman, mother, active community member. Then, while on my way to a big meeting for work, I got slammed from behind by a driver who was going 70 mph. The catastrophic crash nearly killed me. In an instant, my fast-paced life skidded to a full-stop. In that same instant, I came face-to-face with God.
Six years ago my daughter was diagnosed with Stage 4 Neuroblastoma. Some people focused on me and how I was going to survive it. I was worried about getting my daughter the proper care while keeping our family’s life somewhat normal. After two surgeries, 200 hospital nights, chemotherapy, radiation, immunotherapy and endless amounts of meds and scans, Lyla is now a thriving 11-year-old who loves to play soccer and lacrosse and ski every weekend she can. It’s not courage, but faith, family and friends that get you through it.
Hinduism‘s school of philosophy is uniquely different than many other religions practiced in the U.S. Since it’s hard to grasp the idea of one formless God, Hinduism classifies the unitary God principle into multiple aspects with varied identities, such as the Elephant faced God, Ganesh, the Monkey God, Hanuman, etc. When beginning a new project, praying to Ganesha helps to remove obstacles or if necessary, blocks you from things you shouldn’t be doing. If strength and power is needed, you turn to Hanuman. Join me to learn more about how I worship.