An essay I wrote – about traveling with a child with a seizure disorder – is going to be included in the staged reading , Healing Voices, held at Enlow Hall at Kean University on Friday, April 12th at 7pm.  The script is arranged and directed by John Pietrowski, Artistic Director of Writer’s Theatre of New Jersey, and is compiled of prose,  poetry, and scenes written by people who are in caretaking positions.

With my current work in drama therapy and as a playwright,  this project is meaningful to me as it highlights the healing power of sharing our stories, both for the writer and the audience.  Many of us find ourselves in caretaking roles at some point in our lives, and this event honors that experience. 

Healing Voices On Stage: Caregivers Stories is a theatrical project weaving together stories about the experience of being a caregiver – whether it’s taking care of a loved one who is seriously ill, working professionally with patients at a healthcare facility, or going through the transition of becoming the caretaker of a parent. Unlike most plays, this script is based on the writing of people who have lived these experiences. This program is a partnership between the Alliance, Premiere Stages at Kean University, and Writers Theatre of New Jersey.

For reservations call (908) 737-4077 or email

Holiday Spirit

I was at my desk deeply absorbed in a project, when a sulfur-like smell seeped through the cracks in the floor.  I sniffed the rest of the house and everything seemed fine.  Until two hours later, when I was sitting in the living room talking with my family and the smell interrupted our conversation.  My husband went down to check the basement and promptly let out a few expletives and screamed, “Turn off the heat!” Flames had overtaken the furnace… “Do not turn the heat back on until we have this fixed,” warned the heating and plumbing guy.  “Your furnace is cracked and just missed exploding.”
Yes, I know we are so reliant on our electronics and appliances.  We all complain how we go nuts when our cell phone or tablet dies, or when we have no way to get plugged in.  But we are thrown into a much more primal tizzy, awaking our deepest survival instincts, when our basic needs – dependent on modern mechanics – are not met.  While it wasn’t icy out, it was cold.  We took our kids to a hotel that evening.  I spent the entire night tossing and turning, worrying about how I would fulfill my work deadline that coming Tuesday, the same day the new, very costly furnace would be installed.

There were about twelve hours of self absorbed stress and feelings of overwhelm, and then it happened.  The outpouring of help and concern from our friends, got through to me.   The frantic survival instinct melted into deep feelings of peace.  “Take our space heater,” “Why don’t you all spend the night,” “Anything you need,”  “Dinner, a warm bed.”  We stayed up in people’s kitchens, sipping wine, eating left-overs, lighting Hanukkah lights with their extended families.  We were homeless, and yet more connected than I had felt in weeks.  The need for survival brought out people’s deepest truth – their love and altruism.We are a disconnected society, connected mostly through our devices, computers, tweets.  But when the real need for community surfaces, it’s amazing to find it is still there.  So, let’s make it a goal to find that humanity in ourselves even when there is no power outage or mechanical crisis.  Holiday time is as good as any to start looking for ways to help others, apart from just buying them gifts:

  •  Drop off home baked cookies to someone who doesn’t even expect a gift from you
  •  Lend a space heater
  •  Help a friend clean their clutter
  •  Invite over a family going through a hard time
  •  Build a fire and have friends over for donuts
  •  Send a personal email or letter catching up with an old friend, rather than just a generic holiday card.

Linger just a little longer, sharing a friendly nod, or a smile over a glass of cider.

The Protagonist of Your Life

Imagine standing on one side of a room.  On the other side is a table with a glass of water.  Inside that water is the answer to happiness.  All you have to do is walk across the room and drink the water.  It would be nice, wouldn’t it?  Now imagine that between you and the water is, say a fiery dragon guarding the water, enemies throwing torches at you.  This time, if you get to actually drink the water, you are not just happy, but a hero.

These obstacles are the elements of drama.  These are the elements of life.  We like to believe that we can just walk across the room and get the water.  That getting what we want should be pretty straightforward.  When it’s not, we often get overwhelmed, confused, stuck, paralyzed.  We blame ourselves, as we lose sight of the glass of water.   But if you get past the dragon, or slay the dragon, or tame the dragon, you have a deeper, more lasting sense of happiness and pride.  You are the hero.  It is amazing how many people don’t even know what their glass of water is anymore.  What will make them happy.  It’s amazing how many people know what their dragon is, harp on it, stare at it, tremble at it, but never find a way to get by it.

But, when we watch a play or a film or read a book, we, more often than not, know better than the main character.  We know what they want or need.  We see what’s standing in the way, and we even know, much of the time, what they need to do to overcome their obstacles, “Why doesn’t he just tell her?”  Why isn’t she honest with herself?” “Why doesn’t she just do what she really wants to do!”  We become experts at the dissection of the human psyche.   So why not strive for this clarity in our own lives?  We don’t need to go to a movie or read a novel to get it right.  This is our life, not a dress rehearsal.  We can use the same elements of enjoying a good story, to unravel our intentions and gain insight and perspective.  We can come to view our lives as stories that we can create.  We can become conscious, quite quickly, of our desires, what makes us happy, what is standing in our way, and how to address these obstacles.

There are elements of our lives, certain situations, our temperaments, people in our life,  that we can’t change.  Sometimes, it is the very glass of water that changes.  After going through a transition in our lives, we often cling to what we think will make us happy, what we were striving for when our lives were different.  With changing circumstances come changing intentions and goals.  But the story we choose to write, within these parameters, becomes our very own unique creation.  It can be tempered with beauty.  It can be full of heroism and pride.  Despite what comes our way, we can make peace with our obstacles, tame our dragons, and sip from our own personal glass of happiness.

Six Essential Strategies for Gaining Clarity in Your Career

How is your job satisfaction? Are you frustrated, down in the dumps, or feeling stuck? You’re not alone. As time goes by, sometimes roles morph into something we didn’t sign up for. For others, responsibilities don’t keep up with skill sets. When complacency, annoyance or anger sets in, not only does it make the days drag on, but sometimes we change into a person we never wanted to be.

Career or job confusion can be draining. It can distract you from other areas of your life. Women often talk to their friends about it and then find they stop for fear of sounding like a broken record and pushing away their social support. With the ever changing responsibilities and priorities in their lives, women are especially susceptible to becoming confused about their career.

Some common causes of career confusion are:

  1. You chose a career path based on what your parents or people in your life thought you “should” do or what gave you security, but you find that you aren’t really being true to the purpose or passion within you.
  2.     .The career you have has been fulfilling, but you find yourself in your 30s and questioning whether your situation will be fulfilling for the years to come.  You may actually hear the “biological clock” ticking and wonder if your male colleagues are feeling the confusion and pressure you are experiencing.
  3.    .  You like what you do, but you find the politics of your work environment draining, and you’re not sure it makes your job worthwhile. Also, you might not be compensated fairly or given the job title you deserve, and this is making you doubt your line of work.
  4.    .  You are returning to work after time home with a baby or young children, and you don’t think your previous career will offer enough work life/balance for you to attend to your new priorities at home.
  5.       You are reentering the workforce as your kids leave for college, and you worry that your job skills won’t measure up in the current job market. You’re considering classes but don’t know which direction to go.

When discussing these issues with clients,  here are some things I urge them to consider:

  1.       Become very clear about what your mission is, what type of work gives you a sense of purpose.  Write about it, talk to friends, or work with a coach or counselor. Don’t jump to a new path without first making sure that it fits you well. Once you become clear, it will help you evaluate your current job so you can see if it actually does falls under these parameters, or it will help direct you in a new way.
  2.       Lookat your life holistically. It is okay to admit that what served you in the past no longer serves your needs. You may be called upon to take care of people in your life, so try to find work that energizes rather than exhausts you.
  3.      Before deciding on a new career, do your research and test the waters! This will reduce some of the fear associated with new areas and possible dream jobs.
  4.       Don’t let the need for training scare you away. There are often ways to get the skills or training you need without going back to school full time.
  5.    .  Assert yourself! If it turns out you are in the right setting, but your needs just aren’t being met by your boss or colleagues, make sure your voice is heard. You won’t know if this is the right job for you until your needs or demands are clearly articulated.
  6.       If your current job isn’t offering the flexibility you need for the best work/life balance, consider looking for a new company with more flexibility or opportunities to work from home. Or consider working for yourself.

The most important thing I can emphasize to clients is to value yourself and the gifts you have to offer. If you find yourself confused about your career and you feel stuck or discouraged, this is an ideal time to work with a coach who can support you in defining and addressing the underlying issues.