Finding My Mother in San Miguel de Allende

Only weeks after her mother’s passing, Laurie Gilberg Vander Velde traveled to San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, on a previously scheduled vacation. San Miguel was also the place where twenty-four years earlier her mother had sought refuge from grief and Laurie finds memories of her mother everywhere.

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Scents of the Past

Smell is one of the most powerful senses. One whiff of a familiar scent can invoke a form of time travel. When Debbie Wilson opened a present containing her mother’s favorite perfume, she didn't know that its scent would transport her back to her childhood. But it did. Suddenly, she was eight years old again wrapped in her mother's love and comfort. 

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Bereavement Abroad: When the unthinkable happens and you're not there.

Ellen Barone awakened in Medellin, Colombia, to the news that her dad, who lived in Utah, had fallen and broken his hip and hand. Soon afterward, he was cleared for immediate hip surgery, and from there, things escalatedand deterioratedquickly.

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A Funeral in the Philippines

by BJ Stolbov

Maria Natividad Pascua Olivar has died.  Nanay Mary (Mother Mary), as she was known, was 76 years old.  Her husband, Ruben Olivar died suddenly 36 years ago, leaving Nanay a single mother with six young children.  Her eldest, Rowell, died when he was hit by a car at 6 years old.  Her next eldest, Ronaldo died suddenly of a heart attack 9 months ago at the age of 50.  With her four surviving children, two daughters and two sons, all now in the 40’s, around her bed, and after a long sickness, a confluence of incurable old-age illnesses, Nanay Mary breathed her last.  She died peacefully.

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The Risks of Time Travel in Santa Fe

by Elyn Aviva

We punched in the entry code on the keypad on the side of the looming concrete storage building, opened the door, and walked down the empty, darkened corridors to our numbered unit. We unlocked the roll-up metal door and pushed it up, revealing a colorful hodgepodge of items stacked along the walls and piled on metal shelving units in the center. We were entering a mysterious domain, a mixture of refuse dump and Treasure Island. 

This was the stuff we had left behind six years ago in Santa Fe, New Mexico, when my husband, Gary, and I moved to Spain. Now that were happily settled as expats in Girona, Catalonia, Spain, the time had come to clear out the storage unit. No more excuses.

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My Father's Syria

Growing up in a suburb of Washington, D.C., I knew only bits and pieces of my dad’s life in the years before he became my dad.

I knew that both sides of our family came from an orthodox Jewish community in Syria (we ate delicacies like fried kibbehs, stuffed grape leaves and baba ghanoush, long before these foods hit the mainstream, and men sang Arabic songs at the Passover seder).

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My Head Trip

I used to be an extrovert.

Now, I consider myself an introvert with some extrovert added to the mix. I have a hearing loss. One ear is deaf and the other partially deaf. I feel like I have an invisible veil separating me from others. 

Two years ago, after struggling to hear with friends, travelers, servers, family, salespeople,I checked into getting hearing aids. Each time, I felt frustration as technicians told me: “they should work.” They did not work for me. It began a path towards partial isolation and frustration.

I visited specialists at Kaiser, my medical group After test results, my doctor said, “You have a brain tumor which has damaged your auditory nerve."

“Hearing aids won’t help.”

“What?” My mind raced to thoughts of my grandfather who died of brain cancer. The doctor continued, “Good news: it is not cancer. Bad news: Permanent hearing loss with residual symptoms.”


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INSIDE EGYPT: Can We Choose Which Blood to Grieve?

EDITOR'S NOTE: This is a continuation of an ongoing series of insights and dispatches from Egyptian contributor Manal S. Kelig, a devoted mother, wife, tour operator, and peace promoter living in Cairo, Egypt. Our hearts go out to Manal and the people of Egypt during this difficult period.

by Manal S. Kelig

For the past 2 years Egyptians found themselves regularly facing heart-breaking choices!

When the revolution took place on 25 Jan 2011, I was not in a status to rejoice or condemn. Just one day earlier my late father had to undergo a serious operation as he was diagnosed with colon cancer.

Celebrations in Tahrir Square after Omar Soliman's statement that concerns Mubarak's resignation. February 11, 2011 via Wikipedia CCL

For the next two weeks we were having our own stressful events where the hospital we were in was attacked by thugs. Doctors and nurses could not come to work. Medical supplies were not delivered to the hospital. As we ran out of options and danger continued, we were forced to check out of the hospital with my father in this critical condition and have him home nursed by my sister who has no medical background except her amateur medical readings. As his condition declined, taking my father to a chemo session was over 7 hours ordeal in Cairo traffic that was continuously blocked by demonstrations and sit-ins. In April 2011 my father passed away.

While our lives were made hard due to the unstable political conditions, and as I had some friends celebrate the revolution and others dam it, I realized no matter what I have gone through I will not point fingers at any of them and blame them on what we had to face.

Our family like many others was a casual victim of the events. When we were attacked in the hospital we were not defending a cause, or chose to go in a confrontation. It was just our fate.

I knew very well many other Egyptians in different ways would be in that position in the coming period.

A New Egypt with No Leader

For the past 12 years I have regularly said in my lectures, “ No one knows what will happen when Mubarak dies, but I can predict there will be no wide acceptance of his son to take over and the different opposition parties will make sure it does not happen, but hopefully without violence. “

Then came the 2011 revolution, and like the other uprisings in Arab countries, it was driven by the dissatisfaction and anger of a new generation who formed over 60 % of Egypt’s population.

But the energy of 2011's revolutionaries was squashed by the power and organization of the already established forces in Egypt, particularly the earlier Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, the 80 years old Moslem Brotherhood movement and some remnants of the Mubarak regime.

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The Trip I Didn’t Take

I have been kidnapped in Spain, abandoned in Japan, lost in Thailand, confronted by fleeing refugees in Hungary, frozen in Denmark, and awed by the kindness and caring of people with whom I had no common language. In my travels I have dealt with strikes, thunderstorms, ice, and tornados. Yet the trip I didn’t take, which involved no outer danger, no worries about the elements or travel arrangements or passports, turned out to be the most difficult trip of all—an inner voyage, to a place inside myself, a journey I had avoided for most of my life.

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Song for Phil Spector

by Judy D. Fox

While growing up, my parents traveled between Los Angeles and Nashville three and four times a year. Living in rented houses or apartments, the four of us kids weren’t allowed to have any toys or possessions that wouldn’t fit in the car. Our clothing and bedding would be tied up in sheets and placed in the back seat and trunk of our car. The oldest child, I would often climb up into the back window. There, I would listen to the hum of the engine, make up songs and watch the sky for UFO’s. These things helped take my mind away from the thoughts of emptiness.

notes on a wire

One Friday afternoon in late spring of ‘58 in Echo Park, California - at age seven - I was babysitting my younger brother and sister in my father’s sedan while my parents shopped. We were parked behind the Pioneer Market on Sunset Boulevard. As usual I sang songs to pass the time.

On the playground that school year I learned some clapping songs. (For example, a sailor went to sea, sea, sea, etc.) As I made up the lyrics, my mind was on the cute, blonde-haired boy who recently moved next door. Even though he hadn’t shown any interest in me, I had developed a big crush. So, as thoughts of him crept into my clapping rhythms, these words emerged:

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Here Comes Sandy

by Connie Hand

Living in southern Florida, on a barrier island, I thought “Here we go again” when I heard in late October that tropical depression Sandy was heading to Florida and might be a major hurricane. I was worried.  

I remembered how all of us had weathered the devastation and emotional trauma we suffered after hurricanes Frances on September 5 , 2004 and Jeanne on September 26, 2004. These events were almost unprecedented as they struck the same spot of Martin County, Florida, just weeks apart. I felt overwhelmed and fearful. My nerves were raw. I wondered if  I would have a home to return to.

When we were  allowed back on the island, we all pulled together and plowed through each day. We had no power, it was hot and humid, there were  no food supplies, except what you had stocked, and people got around in canoes for several days because of the flooding. 

Then the following year, in October, we were warned of another event called Wilma. I prayed it wouldn’t be as severe as the last two. We were evacuated and waited. Nerves were stretched thin. I remember it felt like days of waiting and holding my breath. 

Wilma came barreling our way on October 19, 2005. She caused extensive damage. There was flooding, roads were washed out, we had no power,  and homes and condos destroyed. After a period of total disbelief, I picked myself up and we all helped each other  again as best we could,  even though we felt vulnerable and fragile. We volunteered for clean-up. I felt more empowered each time I helped someone. There were many with much bigger problems than I. I knew that I was fortunate. We rebuilt and moved on.

So here it was October 22nd, 2012.  We started to hear reports of a possible hurricane. I cried as I watched the news about islands that Sandy crashed into and devastated. I readied my condo and brought in supplies. Everyone I spoke to was anxious and worn out after several days of listening to the weather channel.       


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