On May 2nd, I logged onto my Facebook page and the first post I saw was by someone I know in Louisville, who was also a friend of my friend, Sug.   I didn’t understand it at first, “Godspeed to my friend, Sug…”.  As I read on, it was clear: Sug had just died.

The sensation was as if I had been punched in the stomach.  “How could this be?” I thought.  I had just received an email from her in January – she made no mention of an illness.  Could this have been an accident?

Quickly, I went to her page and sure enough, her step-son, Richard had posted that after only six weeks of knowing she was ill, she died at home of stomach cancer.  It was very quick – she only found out that the tumor was inoperable on April 23rd.

Images of her flooded my mind.  A beauty who once was first runner-up to Miss America, I met her years ago when I was a buyer at Saks Fifth Avenue.  I remember receiving a call – would I come in to see the Regina Porter blouse line?  I would and did — and walked into the showroom soon after to be greeted by a beautiful woman who seemed genuinely happy to see me.  “Genuine” is the operative word in that sentence – as a buyer for a famous store, many that I met were trying hard to get me to buy their line – there was no room for graciousness or true generosity of spirit.  And yet – here they were.  I warmed to her instantly.  She was “Lee” then – she had given up her Southern name to blend into the hard-core life of the fashion world in New York City.

We “took” immediately.  I looked forward to going to the showroom because I knew I would be at home in her presence.  Soon, she invited me to join their weekly after-work yoga class in the showroom.  I liked all the women there, but Lee was something special.  We started a friendship outside of work.  Looking back on it now, it’s hard for me to imagine there was a time before when we were not friends – much like having children and not being able to remember what life was like before they were born – that’s how it was for us.

We shared everything – and soon, that was a life history together as well as stories from our past.

Lee was older than I and didn’t have children.  I was just recently married and having children was just about all I could think of.   We both got pregnant around the same time – we were so excited that we would both be going through this episode in our lives at the same time.  What previously lived as a budding friendship quickly turned into a bond so strong, you’d have thought we were sisters.

Lee lost her baby first – after only a few months.  In that time, I had come to find out that she had wanted children all along but, after years of trying, had finally given up.  This pregnancy had been what she thought would be her only shot at motherhood.  She was 38 and not too many women were having babies that late in life in those days.

I went through my entire pregnancy and, on my due date on May 20th in 1978, gave birth to a stillborn baby girl.  To say that it was a terrible time for me…  Well, it was a terrible time for me.  Lee came to see me in the hospital.  She was the only friend I allowed to come.   My husband, my mother and father — and Lee.

I became obsessed with trying to get pregnant again.  Lee seemed to have given up hope for another chance for herself, but she was in my corner from the start, comforting me every month when the evidence would show up, yet again — I was not pregnant.

Many months later that year, she asked me to lunch at the museum.  We loved spending time together away from the bustle of the garment district, where people thought nothing of coming to the table while we were eating to ask if I would come see their lines.  It was more fun to be somewhere elegant and pretty, far from the crowds.

Midway through lunch, Lee told me she was pregnant again.  As happy as I was for her, there was also a pang of such jealousy that I couldn’t believe myself!  She looked at me apprehensively – and I could see that she was worried about my reaction to her news.  In that moment, the jealousy was gone.  I reached across the table,  “It’s OK, Lee.  Yes, I wish I was pregnant, too.  I’m not.  I will be soon.  And today?  Today we celebrate YOU!”

Three months later, I was pregnant again.  Lee was far enough along that we both stopped worrying for her and now, we could be pregnant together!  What could be better?  Our children would grow up together, laugh and play together…  What dreams we had!

That Spring, the four of us, Lee and I, and her husband, Ronnie, and my husband, Fred, spent weekends on their boat, the “Sug-a-Lee” in City Island, a little area over the bridge in the Bronx that was like being in the Hamptons while in New York City.  I asked her about the name of the boat – “Oh, that’s the name I grew up with.”

Our bellies were bursting – Lee was so thin that she never gained much weight.  Me?  Say the word “pregnant” around me and I gain 20 pounds.  We were about the same size even though she was three months further along than I was.  Here we were, these two pregnant, happy women on the boat, laying around, sharing what we’d do together when our babies were born.

One night, I got a call really late – so late, I was in bed already.  It was Lee.   In what I thought was an eerily calm voice, she told me that she had miscarried at home, suddenly and unexpectedly, and wanted me to know – and wanted me to come.

The next day, I visited her at their townhouse.  She sat in bed and told me the story.  She cried, I cried.  I felt my belly protruding into the space, like the elephant in the room that it was.  Still, I had lost a baby the year before and I knew what a ripping, emotional pain that was.  Lee was far enough along that the  baby’s kicking and the extra pillows were already real for her.

In a short time, she was back at work.  She told me that she was not thinking about getting pregnant again.

At the end of my 6th month, I found out my baby was in trouble.  I was RH negative and, while there shouldn’t have been a problem because I had the injections the year before to prevent the antibodies from forming from the first baby, my tests were coming back with a result that indicated that the baby was already affected.  I wound up having an intra-uterine transfusion, already a risky procedure – and, one month later, my baby was born.  He – Josh — had 7 exchange transfusions in the first few days to keep him alive and he remained in neo-natal intensive care for 8-1/2 weeks.

The day after Josh was born, Lee wanted to come see me.  I assured her that she didn’t have to – it had only been a few months since she’d lost hers.  I remembered how painful it had been for me the year before to even look at a baby, let alone walk past the nursery in a hospital to see rows of clear plastic cribs holding blue and pink swaddled newborns.   She insisted.  That afternoon, in she came – with tears rolling down her cheeks, bearing a bouquet of flowers and a box of chocolates for me.  She knew how much I loved chocolate.

I didn’t see much of her in the next few months.  I understood.  I had a different life now – one that included a baby and nursing and sleepless nights and trying to be “executive, wife, mother.”  Lee had reconciled herself to not having children – we didn’t talk about it again.

We were still good friends – we just saw each other less frequently.  It seems like a short time afterwards – but, it was four years – she called to tell me that she was leaving New York and didn’t know when she’d be back.  She seemed removed somehow, as if she was holding something back.  No, she said, her mother was having an operation and she was going to stay with her until she recovered.

A month later, I received a six page letter saying that she and her husband were divorcing, she was in Florida and raising the water level with her tears, and she didn’t know what would happen but she thought that she probably wasn’t coming back to New York.  She was going to go live in Kentucky when she could pull herself together enough to face people.  That turned out to be awhile.  She thanked me for being a good friend and being the one who was there for her when she lost the baby.  She would never forget that.  She signed it, “Take care of your fellows and much love to you, Lee”.

I cried for a week.

We visited her in Florida where she told me the whole story of the demise of her marriage.   Shortly afterwards, she did move to Kentucky and that’s where she stayed.  We kept in touch and I saw her when she came to New York to work for Karl Lagerfeld or one of the other fashion designers.    She was always a classy, beautiful lady, so the designers loved having her for market weeks to sell and show the clothes.  My own marriage was dissolving, so no trips to Kentucky for me.

She signed her letters “Lee” for a long time – and then she started to sign off as “Sug”.  On the phone once, I asked her about it.  “That’s what they call me here,” she said, “Call me whatever you want as long as you call me ‘friend’.”

After awhile, Lee fell in love again.  His name was Dan Schusterman.  She called me, all excited, to tell me she was getting married and would I come?  I would and did – but without Fred.  Marriage was over for me as it was beginning for her.

I flew to Kentucky and it was a whirlwind three-day wedding on the hottest weekend of the year.  Heat or no heat, no one ever looked more beautiful than Lee.. Uh, I mean “Sug”.  That went on all weekend.  No one in Louisville called her “Lee”.   Sug Schusterman was born.

She went on to become one of the most beloved people in all of Louisville.  She fell in love with the Louisville Deaf Oral School when she visited the school and was present when a child was able to hear for the first time.  In that moment, she became the school’s champion, raising millions of dollars on its behalf.

That’s when she became a mother.  Those children were her children.

I could go on about all the fabulous things she did for the people of Louisville and all the lives she touched.  She came alive there in a different way than the way she was in New York City.  I used to visit her and, for a time, there were still 2 and 3 hour phone calls between us.  Our lives were different and the times between phone calls and visits became longer and longer.

She sent me a card last Fall and the picture reminded me of one of the Christmases I spent with her in Louisville.  I emailed her to tell her that and how much I missed her.  She wrote back in January, “I remember that Christmas – it was fun times, wasn’t it?”

She didn’t know she was sick then.

That was the last time I heard from her.

I went to the funeral in Louisville three weeks ago.  The Sug they talked about was a Matriarch of Louisville – and someone I knew and loved, for sure.  The Lee I’m mourning is the one who taught me how to make pies in her townhouse kitchen in New York City, the one who cried in my arms in her bed that Spring day in 1979, the one who ignored her own pain and walked past that nursery full of newborn babies to visit me after losing her own, and the one who told me to buy my Burberry trench coat 2 sizes bigger than I needed so it would look slouchy and chic.  That is the size I am today so I guess I’ll have to get another one.

Then again, maybe I won’t.   There are some things that can never be replaced.

Good-bye, Sug.  I will love you forever…

Deliciously yours in the Grace and Beauty of it all,  Linda

The magnificent Sug Schusterman.

http://www.voice-tribune.com/news/celebrating-sug-schusterman/  This is an article written shortly after Sug’s death, celebrating her life.  This article is a beautiful tribute to the woman she blossomed into in Louisville. written by her friend and society page columnist, Carla Sue Broecker.

The title of this post is from James Taylor’s song, “Fire and Rain”:

“I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen rain   I’ve seen sunny days that I thought would never end    I’ve seen lonely times when I could not find a friend    But I always thought that I’d see you again”

© Linda Ruocco and “Spiritual Chocolate”, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Linda Ruocco and ”Spiritual Chocolate”  with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.  Thank you.

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It’s Valentine’s Day!  And that makes it the three-year anniversary of this blog.  So, first, I want to say, I love YOU and thank you for coming and reading my “stuff” these last three years.  In that time, “Spiritual Chocolate” has had 11,498 visitors, as of just now!  You all are the best!

Last year I wrote that I was creating an amazing year of growth and productivity for myself.  And, yes, it happened – but, not in the way I thought it would.  In fact, it’s been a rough year – personally and professionally.  I crawled all the way out on the skinny branches where I could hear the crack, crack, cracking of the twigs as my life fell apart.

The skinny branches…  That’s where the fruit is, right?

So, yes, my ex-husband got married, creating a roller-coaster ride of emotions for me for the entire year – AND, my son came back to New York after three years of working for Target in Minneapolis.  It’s so yummy to have him home in NYC!

I had a falling away with some of the dearest people in my life…. AND, I reconnected with my old friend, Tommy, with whom I hadn’t been in contact for fifteen years – and now we are partners in an entertainment business, working on projects in film and television.  Mmmm, Mmmm, good!

For every ending, there’s been a beginning – for every sadness, a joy.   For every time I’ve been down on my knees in pain and sadness,  there’s been an even greater moment of excitement for something new.

Each sad event had me reaching out of my comfort zone and deep into my heart to find the strength, courage, and persistence to find another way.  That’s where the growth is.

Each glorious moment reminded me that when things seem to go away, leaving an empty space inside, God finds a way to fill us up once again.  That’s where the Love is.

I am grateful for everything that’s happened to me this year.  Without the sadness, I wouldn’t have learned.  Without the Joy, I wouldn’t have renewed my heart.  And, without all of you reading these posts and writing me emails – telling me about your heartbreaks, your brother who’s like my son, your child who’s like my father, I wouldn’t get it so profoundly that we are the same after all – we really are all One.

I am profoundly grateful to you.  Yes, YOU….  My funny Valentines….

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Deliciously yours in the Love it all is,  Linda

“My Funny Valentine, Sweet comic Valentine, You make me smile with my heart…   Your looks are laughable, unphotographable, yet you’re my favorite work of art…”     from “My Funny Valentine”  by Lorenz Hart and Richard Rodgers

© Linda Ruocco and “Spiritual Chocolate”, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Linda Ruocco and ”Spiritual Chocolate”  with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.  Thank you.

It’s that time of year when we all are trying to live up to our New Year’s resolutions.  How are you doing?  Are you still on target? Or, after only two weeks, are you back to old familiar habits and ways of being, those resolutions already forgotten, those promises and dreams for 2012 already driven away by cynicism and doubt and “Oh, what the hell? This chocolate cake is just too good to pass up…”

I sat in church last week, listening to my favorite priest, Monsignor Stern, give his homily on just this very topic.   I didn’t want to hear it as I don’t believe in New Year’s resolutions – I’ve never known one person in my life who has ever lived up to them, including myself.

But, what he said was different and new enough to resonate with me – he said, “Instead of thinking of a New Year’s resolution, think instead of a ‘mid-life course adjustment’.”  He gave examples, but none of them fit for me as much as that phrase made me think of the film I had watched the night before, “Jaws”.

There’s a part in the movie when they’ve got the barrels on the Great White shark and they’re trying to run along side of him.  The Captain, Quint, is out on the farthest part of the bow with the harpoon laying in his arms like a baby, yelling adjustments up to Matt Hooper, the marine biologist, who is steering the boat:  “Five degrees starboard!” and then a few moments later, “I said, five degrees starboard, Hooper!”  Quint wanted to be sure the huge shark didn’t get away from them.

And, so it is with our dreams, our goals, our intentions.  Do we simply say, “I’m going on a diet this year?” or do we set an intention to look and feel great twenty pounds thinner and watch and correct when we are running off course?  What are the dreams that you gave up on a long time ago?  Do you now say, “It’s too late?”

Don’t let your dreams get away from you.  Watch and adjust…   Keep pace with that huge prize…

Never give up.  Make that mid-life adjustment and full-steam ahead!  Okay, so maybe I’ll never be a prima ballerina, but I love dancing of any kind.  Am I doing that?  No.  So, time for a mid-life adjustment.  I’m not going to jump right into the Argentine Tango because I know I won’t stick it out.  But, I can start with Zumba fitness classes and get the feeling of the rhythm back again, feel the beat of the drums, hum along to the music – and I’m there!  I’m dancing!  Yay, Me!

There’s an old saying, “Change one part of your life and you change your whole life.”  That’s because life is holistic – the way you go into a swimming pool is the way you do all of life.  You just need to change one little thing and your whole life will change as a result – and then keep making those “five degree starboard” adjustments.

I remember that my father took up the guitar when he was in his 50’s.  We all made fun of him, but he kept at it.  He loved music – he used to listen to opera all the time.  He knew he would never be an opera singer, but he could pick up a guitar and take lessons and participate in life.

I never appreciated that lesson from my father when I was younger, but I sure do appreciate it now.  Life is growth.  Death is stagnation.  You can only dance when you’re dancing…

Five degrees starboard, Mates!  Happy New Year!

Deliciously yours in the Grand Opening Number of it All, Linda

The title is from a quote by Werner Erhard:

“You can only dance when you’re dancing. You can’t dance ‘by the numbers.’ You can’t dance when you’re checking to see if you’re dancing. You can’t dance when you’re comparing your movement to your ideal. In order to dance, you have to dance. That’s what freedom is. That’s who you are!”

© Linda Ruocco and “Spiritual Chocolate”, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Linda Ruocco and ”Spiritual Chocolate”  with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.  Thank you.

I received an extraordinary Christmas gift yesterday.  One I never thought I’d see in my lifetime – one I asked for when I was five years old.

First, let me tell you that there is a little 14 year-old ballerina staying with me for this Christmas season.  Her name is Juliet Doherty.  She’s staying here with her Mom because she plays the part of Clara in the Nutcracker segment of the Radio City Music Hall Spectacular with the Rockettes.

Juliet is an angel – a beautiful, yet sweet face; a charming, happy countenance – and her dancing…   Ah, her dancing….  She has the perfect ballerina’s body and she has an extension up the side of her head!  When she’s on stage, she lights up the 6000 seat theatre at the Music Hall!

She’s here with her mother, Krista.   I’ve watched her over these last few months, stretching, standing in her toe shoes that her mom just stitched the ribbons onto, working two to five shows a day – with her always smiling face and her always charming manner.

One night, I was watching her Mom work on the new pointe shoes she got for the show – a little brighter pink than what she had been wearing for practice.  All of a sudden, a story from my childhood rose up within me like tears.   I told them:

I took ballet when I was very little.  I loved it.  I must have been  good at it because I remember the teacher telling my mother that I should go on to pointe classes.  I would need toe shoes, of course, instead of the ballet flats with the elastic across the front that I had been wearing.  I wanted pointe shoes badly, but my mother said that we probably couldn’t afford them so not to get my hopes up.

My grandmother came over a few nights later and I started dancing for her in my pink leotard and my ballet flats.  I didn’t say anything about what the teacher said, so I don’t know how my grandmother knew.  Perhaps she didn’t — perhaps it was just a coincidence.  She said, “Oh, Linda, that is so beautiful!  You should have real ballerina shoes.  I’m going to get you some toe shoes!  Pretty pink ballerina toe shoes, just for you!”

I was so excited, I could barely contain myself.  I didn’t ask when, but if she said so, then she would, right?   She would get them, I was sure of it.

The next time she came to visit, I looked at both of her hands for a bag or a box.  Nothing.  She didn’t say anything either.   I was not a bold child – I would never have said, “Grandma, where are the pointe shoes you promised me?”

Every time my Grandmother came – for a long time – I looked to see if she was carrying a bag or a box that might have my pointe shoes.  No.  Not ever.  There never were any pointe shoes.

I finally gave up looking.  I finally gave up ballet.

I’d almost forgotten this story if it wasn’t for watching Krista stitch the bright pink ribbon onto the bright pink pointe shoes that would grace the stage at Radio City Music Hall.  It made me remember that I gave up on a dream a long time ago.

How easily dreams are crushed when we are small!

Yesterday, Krista and Juliet came home from seeing the rest of their family — all in town for Christmas.  Juliet gave me a  Christmas bag with bright red paper peeking out the top.  “Merry Christmas!” she said.

I looked inside and saw a pair of bright pink toe shoes, autographed by Juliet.  It says, “Linda, a pair of pretty pink pointe shoes just for you.”  I couldn’t believe it!  I finally got my toe shoes!

It’s almost 60 years later and still I feel the excitement of having my own pair of pointe shoes!  I can’t wear them, of course.  They’re Juliet’s size 4 – and I’m not a size 4 anything anymore.

I have them on a shelf by my computer.  As I looked at them today, I made a pact with myself that I would never give up on a dream again.  I still have many dreams and sometimes I tell myself that perhaps it is too late.

No, it’s never too late.  If I can finally get my pointe shoes, I can write a book, I can have my Tuscan farmhouse, I can have the love of my dreams.  I’m not giving up.

Juliet gave me the greatest of gifts – the gift of a dream come true…

Deliciously yours in the Hopes and Dreams of it All, Linda

Here is Juliet Doherty, en pointe.  She is even more beautiful in person than she is here.  Thank you, Juliet, for a very special gift!

 

 

 

 

 

 

© Linda Ruocco and “Spiritual Chocolate”, 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Linda Ruocco and ”Spiritual Chocolate”  with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.  Thank you.

“The new, hot color is orange!” my son announced at lunch one day two weeks ago.  He then gave examples of how a touch of orange – as a wool cap, perhaps, or a puffy vest, could be the perfect accessory to an otherwise understated,  but elegant, “bella figura.”

I wanted to howl  with laughter!  As someone who spent many years in the fashion business and bored my buyers to tears with my latest proclamation on the “new, hot color”, I remember when my own conversation was all about orange and what that would mean to the fashion business (without which color, of course, the next season would be a disaster!).

There have been many years between these two conversations.  Josh was barely out of swaddling clothes when I made my mad and crazy platform for orange as THE color that everyone had to have.

It was in Paris in, I want to say, 1982.  After having spent a week in Florence in a hotel room on the floor in a virtual sea of rolled-up yarn swatches from which I was trying to create the following Fall’s color pallet —  even to crawling around and looking under the bed for just the right swatches of color that I was certain I had seen somewhere, but currently were hidden from view.  “I have it!” I cry, gleefully holding aloft a  little ball of orange yarn and proclaiming it the bread and wine of the following season.   Sing Hallelujah, my children!

It didn’t stop there.  We arrived in Paris and hopped in a cab to go to dinner.  I started  again on how orange had to be just so — not too red, not too yellow, but just as right as Goldilocks’ porridge.  I remember holding my hands in front of me, palms up, fingers curled as if I were Uma Thurman receiving the Hattori Hanzo sword in “Kill Bill 1”, grasping and receiving at the same time – “Can you see it?  Can you see this perfect orange in sweaters, in jackets, in handbags, as a belt wrapped around a gray cashmere dress?”

I stopped for a moment and looked up from  my hands.  My two buyers, Meryl and Joe, were looking at me in either rapt attention or appalled concern for my well-being.  Either way, in that moment, I burst out laughing.  “Hey, Guys!  It’s just a color!  What AM I going on about?  This is not the solution for world peace!”   They looked at me, stunned, and then they, too, burst into laughter at my intensity about of all things –  orange!

We had a great dinner – that’s hard not to do in Paris – and came back to the Meurice Hotel.  We came to my room to call New York about a problem that needed resolving, knowing that it was 6 hours earlier in New York and we would be able to find one of the assistants, Paul, still at work.

As we opened the door to my room, we were struck by drapes in orange, a bedspread in orange and bolster pillows in orange.  Everywhere we looked, we saw orange!

It was playtime:  Meryl ran to the drapes and pulled one around herself, Grecian style — while Joe pulled the cover off the bed and wrapped it around himself so that he looked  like an orange Lawrence of Arabia.  We laughed ‘til our sides hurt, even as we made the call to New York and got Paul on the phone.  The poor  kid! – a hard-working assistant buyer, trying hard to please as his Vice President and two of his buyers were howling with laughter and parading around the room making speeches about orange!

Now I sit here at lunch listening to my darling son tell me that I have to understand how important orange is.  As the memory of Meryl and Joe decked out in my orange room décor runs through my mind, I try to listen seriously and intently to his important pronouncement –  without chuckling.   It is hard.

I’ve just returned from Christmas shopping for Josh – and while I cannot say here what one of his presents is because I don’t want to give it away – I have just scoured the city for the perfect gift with just the exact amount of orange in it to satisfy my Ralph Lauren-loving, sartorially resplendent son.  I was even able to have it wrapped with orange ribbon!

I shake my head at my silliness…

Still, there is something about this that moves my heart – that he is so his own person – and so his mother’s son…

Deliciously yours in the Oneness of it All, Linda

NOTE:  The dress in the thumbnail above is Bottega Veneta, 2010.  Divine!

© Linda Ruocco and “Spiritual Chocolate”, 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Linda Ruocco and “Spiritual Chocolate”  with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.  Thank you.

“As the Parade goes by…”

November 27, 2011

As of two weeks ago, I had no plans for Thanksgiving.  What I always do when that happens is to turn it over to God – “I’m counting on you to come up with the right place for me to be to enjoy your bounty in just the right way,” and I let it go.  He always comes through.

This year was no different.  A few days after I said my prayer, my new/old friend Tommy called me, “What are you doing for Thanksgiving?” he said.  “Nothing,” I replied.  He immediately invited me to join him with his cousin and his very close friend at a Thanksgiving luncheon at the New York Athletic club – not too shabby, the oldest and most prestigious club in the city, if not the world.

Tommy had a request.  “You know, I’ve never been to the Thanksgiving Parade.  Don’t you know someone who lives along the parade route where we can go for a half hour and watch some balloons?”  I have to admit that I was instantly entranced at the possibility, “Yes, wouldn’t that be great?”   I hadn’t been to the parade since Josh was little — and my own growing up years in New York always included sitting on a blanket, curbside on Central Park West, from 8AM on the morning of Thanksgiving day to watch those floats and balloons and bands go marching by, each of the four of us taking turns sitting on my father’s shoulders for an even better look.  I think he loved it as much as we did.  We went every year until I was 10.

Tommy looked up the parade route on the Internet and found that it passed right by 59th Street and Seventh Avenue, the corner on which sat the NYAC.  We agreed to meet at 11AM and see what we could see.

I couldn’t wait.  And, when I did arrive, Tommy was already there, having scoped out the best viewing spot – and Boy! Was it worth it!  Just as I took my position among the crowd, I could see Kermit the Frog turning onto Central Park South and heading towards us.  I was as excited as all the kids atop adult shoulders around me, “Look, Daddy, look! – there’s Kermit!  Kermit the Frog!”  He was huge and green and rubbery and legs and arms gangly hanging down while waving in the air – and, there I was, “Look, Tommy, look! – there’s Kermit!  Kermit the Frog!”

The balloons kept coming – I spotted the blue Smurf from far away and was dancing up and down until he turned onto Seventh Avenue and I could get my picture and my excitement in sync.

Oh, My God!  How lucky I am to be here!  I feel the hot tears on my chilled face – it only takes a few big balloons, Santa on a float, and the happy faces of children all around me to remind me that I am so very, very blessed;  so very, very thankful.

Once Santa and his reindeer passed by, the parade was over – at 59th and Seventh, anyway.  It still had another 25 blocks or so to go to get to Macy’s and the closing ceremonies; but, for me, the parade had worked its magic, the child had emerged, and I was back again to simpler times, arms wrapped around my siblings or holding my father’s hand in the crowd.

I smiled at a child on her father’s shoulders.  She smiled back at me.  It was an innocent moment.  I thought, “I know what that feels like, to be so safe, to experience something so magical.”  It’s all mixed up together:  balloons, turkey, brothers and sister, cold weather, the smell of my father, hanging onto his hat or his chin or anything else of him I could grab, Mom cooking at home, someplace to belong.

The parade disappeared from view and Tommy and I walked into the club and met his friends and we had a glorious Thanksgiving repast.  We held hands and said a prayer and each of us said what we were thankful for.

It was a wonderful day, better than anything I could have dreamed up on my own.

God works his magic, I tell you – if only we let him.

I am so grateful.

Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Deliciously yours in the Bounty of it All,  Linda

“If the only prayer you ever say in your whole life is ‘thank you,’ that would suffice.”   Meister Eckhart, theologian, philosopher, and mystic.

NOTE:  I took the picture of Kermit that appears in the header (I’ve put it here now that the header has changed):  Yes, he was that close! 

And here’s my picture of Smurf:

© Linda Ruocco and “Spiritual Chocolate”, 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Linda Ruocco and “Spiritual Chocolate”  with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.  Thank you.

“A Hero lies in you…”

November 5, 2011

It’s been a rough year – one of the toughest of my life.

Almost everything in my life has been in breakdown. It started right before the beginning of the year when I found out my ex-husband was getting married – the getting married part wasn’t the breakdown, it was the realizing how bonded I was to him so that his getting married really threw me. He thought it wouldn’t make a difference. I realized I didn’t want to be talking to someone else’s husband almost every day – even if he used to be mine.

Then my business took a nose-dive and deals I was counting on never came through – that was more than a “Whoops!” – it was, “What do I do now? Where do I go now?”

Need I go on? You’ve all been there – when it seems like nothing you do is right and it seems like you are really on the outside looking into a life that you know you should be living, but it occurs as “Well, now, how do I generate today after that THING that happened yesterday…?”

It’s what happens after that makes the difference: Every day for almost a year now, I’ve awakened in the morning to nightmares and that awful voice we all have, saying “Well, you blew it …” That’s when I create my day, the way I learned how to do, first with Transcendental Meditation, which I’ve been doing for 37 years, then with tools I learned from “A Course in Miracles” and Landmark Education. I’m really clear that we create our lives – whatever is there is a reflection of the way we’re thinking – and when all is going wrong, instead of looking out there, I know to look IN HERE!

Thankfully, every breakdown can lead to a breakthrough – and, so, for every right hook that’s thrown me sprawing on the mat, I’ve been able to get that breakthrough in my heart, where it matters – and pick myself back up with a new context for my life. Every day.

It’s not easy, but it sure is worth it.

Yes, having my ex-husband get married was life altering – and good thing!   We were too bonded together. I’ve wondered for years why I wasn’t interested in being in another relationship, and that knock-down last December helped me realize why – I had no space for anyone else in my life because Fred was too much in it!

As for career, I’ve been coaching people for years – if what you’re doing isn’t bliss for you, find out what is and do it.  Trouble is – I wasn’t taking my own advice.

Soooo….  I started my book proposal in May and finished it on October 6th – the deadline to have it into Hay House to be considered for a publishing contract. I’ve wanted to tell my story for years and kept putting it off in the name of making money. Those deals falling through were my “kick in the pants” to make me say, “Time to take on what I love, what I know I’m here for…”

I don’t think I would have finished the book proposal if I’d been making a lot of money last Spring – what’s that expression? “Change does not from comfort come.” I knew the Universe wouldn’t support me unless I was doing my heart’s desire – and writing is that for me.

The message in all of this is – pick yourself up and do what you love. No complaints, no gossip, be happy every day no matter what happens – there are blessings in everything and everybody, even if you don’t like what they’re doing right now. There are blessings everywhere — right inside the lessons.  That’s what it is to live in Grace.

I know that the place to stay centered is in me – in my heart, in my faith, in my love. I’ve created myself as “unoffendable” and I live by that – most of the time.  I know that people are just doing what they’re doing and it doesn’t mean anything about me.   And, spiritually?   It doesn’t mean anything about them either!  REALLY.    They’re just trying to survive in their own way.   It doesn’t mean anything.  AND, we make it mean something, right?  And, what we make it mean is never good about us. That voice inside my head never says, “Oh, Linda!  You are simply divine!”   (Although, I AM!)   It reminds me of Julia Roberts in “Pretty Woman” when she says, “The bad stuff is easier to believe. Ever notice that?”

Ever notice that?

I think about who I would have to be “being” for the bad stuff not to mean anything – and it turns out, if I can remember that I’m part of God and God is part of me, then I could be Being Holiness. And, when I come from Being Holiness and I think, “If I were being holiness, how would I see this situation?  How would I see this person?”   Try it.   What comes up is always compassion – and that’s what I want to live from all the time.

A hero lies in me.   And in you.  We get to choose whether to find that strength and compassion and love deep within — in the face of no agreement — or not.

Deliciously yours in the Courage of it All,  Linda

“And then a hero comes along

With the strength to carry on

And you cast your fears aside

And you know you can survive

So when you feel like hope is gone

Look inside you and be strong

And you’ll finally see the truth

That a hero lies in you.”      From “Hero” by Mariah Carey

© Linda Ruocco and “Spiritual Chocolate”, 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Linda Ruocco and ”Spiritual Chocolate”  with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.  Thank you.

I don’t buy dresses that zip up the back anymore.  I haven’t for a long time — exactly how long?  I do know that — 17 years, 6 months, 26 days.  It’s been that long since my then-husband moved out of the apartment we shared together and into his own place.

I was too wrapped up in a relationship with a man who was so unsuited to me that I often wonder if his sole purpose was to distract me from my crumbling marriage to a man I still loved so that, when my husband left, I  wouldn’t notice.  It worked for a while.

Fred, my former husband, was the steady hand holding my arm as I walked the tightrope of my life, the vigilant guide that turned down the heat on the pot-boiling-over that was my mind, the brave hero  there to rescue this damsel in distress, whether it was my upset over being a catholic mother trying to train her Jewish son for his Bar Mitzvah, or the quiet reassurance on those days that being in the fashion business was not the glamorous career everyone thought it would be.

We had husband and wife moments like everyone else  — and, none more annoying — and touching — as his checking on me as I would spend forever getting ready to go out.

“How much longer will you be?” he said, standing in the doorway of my bathroom as I applied my mascara, my head up close to the mirror, lips parted in concentration, right arm out to the side as I carefully colored one lash at a time.  “Not too long,” I said between lashes, “Five more minutes.”  I didn’t have my dress on yet, my shoes were strewn about the floor, my hair still had a couple of rollers on the top.  “Just five more minutes, Fred!”  He shook his head and walked away.

This would have happened once or twice or even three times more before I was ready to don my dress and shoes and we could walk out the door to our event.

Ah, my dress.  I’d step into it and slither it up over my hips.   I’d reach my hands behind me and start the zipper up as far as I could with my own hands.  Then…

“Fred!” It was a call out.  “Fred?”  It was a question.  He’d come into the room and I could always tell he liked what I had on – his fretful face would transform to a look of wide-eyed appreciation.  I’d turn so my back was to him, sweep my hair to the side.   “Honey, would you zip me up?”  I could feel him come up behind me, almost too close to do the task at hand.  He put his hands on the back of my dress, sliding down to find the zipper tab and slowly pull it up to the top.  I’d always turn around and reward him with a kiss, “Thanks, Honey!”

After he moved out – I guess it was some months later – I was getting ready to go to a party.  I put on my make-up with no sweet spectator at the door, no one to hurry me along, no one to shake his head in exasperation.  I thought I would like having this time to myself.  Instead, there was a twinge of lonliness – an anticipation of someone who loved me, albeit impatiently, nudging me on.  I looked towards the door – there was no one there.

I slipped on my dress, a sexy, red beaded short dress with a zipper up the back.  I reached behind and zipped up the dress as far as I could on my own – and then I turned in dismay – how was I going to get this dress zipped up by myself?

I tried wild contortions and yoga poses, but nothing worked –  I never could get my hands to meet behind me.

I gave up and sat down on my bed.  While it had already been weeks since he left,  that was the moment I realized he was gone for good.  I put my face in my hands and cried until my make-up was ruined and I was so late for my party that it would have been embarrassing to show up at all.

I slipped out of my dress and hung it on the hanger from which it had come, the curve of the top still sitting in the hook on my closet  door.  It was the last time I would ever  wear  that dress, a dress I had worn for Fred on several occasions, a dress that he had zipped up for me each time.

I washed my mascara-streaked face and didn’t call my friends to say I was not coming.  It didn’t escape me that no one called to see where I was.  Fred was the only one who ever waited on my presence – vigilantly, annoyingly, impatiently, lovingly.

I miss that about him.

17 years, 6 months, and 26 days later and I still miss that about him.

Yes, it’s the big, angry outbursts that signify a marriage  has ended, but it the missing of those endearing and intimate ordinary moments between a man and a woman in which you know that something amazing is gone for good.

Deliciously yours in the Memory of it All, Linda

“The way you wear your hat;
The way you sip your tea;
The memory of all that.
No, no, they can’t take that away from me.

The way your smile just beams;
The way you sing off key;
The way you haunt my dreams.
No, no, they can’t take that away from me.

We may never, never meet again
On on the bumpy road to love.
Still I’ll always, always keep the memory of

The way you hold your knife;
The way we danced ’til three;
The way you’ve changed my life.
No, no, they can’t take that away from me”  by  Ira Gershwin

© Linda Ruocco and “Spiritual Chocolate”, 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Linda Ruocco and ”Spiritual Chocolate”  with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.  Thank you.

I was excited to read Dayna Macy’s new book, “Ravenous: A Food Lover’s Journey from Obsession to Freedom”,  because it is a memoir and not a “diet book.”   After reading a few self-help books on weight loss, like Marianne Williamson’s, “A Course in Weight Loss” and Geneen Roth’s “Women, Food, and God,” (both of which I loved!),  it intrigued me that someone would write a personal story of what she eats and why and what she did about it.

Dayna Macy titled her three sections with compelling names:  Part 1 is “Seduction”, in which she writes about the foods that arouse her desires: “Sausage,” “Cheese,” “Chocolate,” “Olives,” and “Squash.”  Squash?  Yes, squash – this chapter seems to be more about the pleasure of food than the food itself.  Or, perhaps, more about the man who is cooking the food than the food itself – charged with longing and eroticism, this chapter makes it is easy to see why we women confuse food with intimacy.  Hunger is often not distinguished for us in terms of what we are hungry for.  And so, we eat when we can’t or don’t love.

Part II is titled, “Communion,” with chapters called, “Farm,” “Forage,” “Feast,” “Patience,” “Slaughter,” and “Home” – the connections with food that create the insatiable – or almost insatiable — bond with those foods we love.   The hardest chapter for me to read in this section (in fact, in the entire book) was the one on meat, entitled  “Slaughter.”  While I am not a vegetarian and I don’t have any desire to be one, Dayna’s telling of her visit to a humane “abattoir” – a slaughterhouse – took me up close and personal to what it is behind the scenes of being a meat-eater: an animal has to die for me to have my steak and eat it, too.

Indeed, this chapter is about the humane slaughter of cows, which, we all know (or, should know by now) is not the way most of the cattle that supplies our meat are killed.  Although she does not take us on a visit to the farms that do not practice the humane slaughter of cattle, the background conversation is that method as a contrast to this visit to the more humane facility.  She describes the process in detail:  calves one at a time, hidden from the view of the animals behind it, stunned to brain-deadness and then killed.  Behind her visceral description is what she doesn’t discuss — the even more disturbing vision of cows crowded together in a killing chute, fear racing through their bodies as they see the animal in front of them die.  She doesn’t describe that directly, but the way she describes this killing is as a contrast to that killing.  While the unspoken contrast is not on the page, it is left in your mind.

After that chapter, I had to take a break.  Her descriptions are so detailed, I had to put the book down for awhile.  It was time to think about my responsibility in how I choose my food.  Can I live with even the humane description?  I don’t know.

Part III is called, “Transformation.”  The chapter titles are, “No Food,” “The Yoga of Food,” “The Practice of Food,” “The Offering of Food,” – all very spiritual chapters in the sense that eating and food require being honest with oneself and present to the actual act of eating —  and the last chapter of the book is on “Oranges.”  This is my favorite chapter, partly because of her luscious descriptions: “Oranges are among my favorite fruits.  I love how the juice squirts out when you bite into a section and how they can be both sweet and sour and taste like the sun,” and partly because it is clear, in the end, that she has no answers for herself or for me – or for anyone, in fact.

There are no answers.

This is a book about the courage to be honest about one’s appetites – all of them – and the way we use those appetites to protect ourselves, to hide our pain – mostly from ourselves – and, finally, to find a way to use the very wounds that we seek to hide to take us on a journey that will lead to loving ourselves.

Deliciously yours in the Sweetness of it All,  Linda

“Weight can be gained or lost.  Our judgments about our bodies are much harder to lose.  I see that my body is strong.  It lets me do things both beautiful and practical.  I am grateful to have found a practice that is helping me find balance and lose weight.  But the scale is a witness to my journey, not the measure of my worth.  It is with gratitude and humility that I am learning to take care of my body, because it is the embodiment of my spirit and the vehicle with which I make my way through this complicated, magnificent world.”         Dayna Macy, “Ravenous: a food lover’s journey from obsession to freedom.”

Here is the link to Hay House Book Club Radio, a discussion of “Ravenous” which will air this Friday, August 19th:

http://www.hayhouseradio.com/show_details.php?show_id=235&episode_type=0

Here is the link to “Ravenous” at Barnes and Noble:

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/ravenous-dayna-macy/1100319096?ean=9781401926915&itm=1&usri=ravenous%2bby%2bdayna%2bmacy

And, the link to Amazon.com:

http://www.amazon.com/Ravenous-Lovers-Journey-Obsession-Freedom/dp/1401926916/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1297878475&sr=1-1

Disclosure:  I received Dayna Macy’s book, “Ravenous:  a food lover’s journey from obsession to freedom”  for free from Hay House Publishing.

© Linda Ruocco and “Spiritual Chocolate”, 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Linda Ruocco and ”Spiritual Chocolate”  with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.  Thank you.

I look into his eyes.  Rather, I dive into his eyes – deep, dark pools, out of proportion to his head, really – totally open and staring at me, looking at me as if I am the only person in the universe.  It’s as if he has never really seen me before, has never seen who I really am.

I have spent hours – days, even – staring at him as he lay on his side sleeping — and surely he has looked at me before.  Looking is different than seeing.

I know that I love him, that I will always love him.   More…  I know that I can never not love him.

I want to give myself to him – I never give that a second thought.

I have told myself, for months now, that I want this.  But, before this moment, I had no idea – really – what that meant.  Other people have told me about this kind of love, but I’ve never felt it before.  I’ve always been wary of love, scared to give my love without any conditions.

He’s changed that.

Now, there is certainty.  I thought there would be a moment when I would get to decide: “Ok, I’ll take the risk”.   It wasn’t like that at all.   One minute, it wasn’t there and the next minute, it was all there.   I couldn’t have stopped it if I wanted to.

I am laughing – what a silly conversation with myself – not wanting to love him like this?  Not even an option.  And, in that “no option,” there is freedom.

I touch his skin.  He doesn’t flinch or blink or acknowledge it in any way. He keeps looking at me, and I lean over and kiss his forehead, his cheek, his ear.   I am full of him.

I whisper, “I love you”.

He’s looking at me.  I know he loves me.  I have no doubts.

Again I whisper, “I love you.  I love you more than anything in the world.”   There, I say it.  I declare it – for him, for all the world –  and for me.  The commitment I’ve always wanted to make is right there for me to step into.  I have no choice.  I don’t want a choice.  If there is one, the choice is between loving him and loving him.  There is nothing else.

I drop my gaze for a moment as I let it travel over his body – his perfect body, with his perfect hands and his perfect fingers.  He touches my finger as I reach for his hand.  That is enough for him.  He holds on firmly – not so tight that it is desperate, but not lightly either.  A touch that says, “You and I are together”.

I look up again into his eyes to find them still looking at me.  I melt into him even more, if that is even possible. How could it be possible to love him even more than I loved him just a few seconds before?  As I dive deeper into my love, each moment brings some new layer, some new richness and, with it, even more freedom.

I could stay this way forever.

“Mrs. Feuer?”

I look up.  The nurse stands there, not wanting to interrupt.

It is time.  I know it and she knows I know it.  I don’t want this to end.

“Mrs. Feuer, he has to go back into his incubator.”

I look back down at him.  I don’t want to give him up, but I also know that she’s helped me steal a few moments.   The neo-natal intensive care unit doesn’t allow you to hold them until they are 4 pounds.  I don’t want her to get in trouble.

One more look, one more hug, one more declaration: “I am your Mommy. I love you.  I will never leave you, ever.  I’m right here.”

He’s still looking at me.  Even as I lift him and lay him in her arms, he tracks my face.   She turns and puts him back into his incubator.  I don’t move.  I feel like my heart has just been ripped out of my body.  Is this what it is to be a mother?

I watch as she takes the blanket off his skinny little body and lays him inside his warm, see-through egg-like compartment.  She hooks his tubes back up to their machines.   When she is finished, she closes the incubator and walks away.  The tears are rolling down her cheeks.  She doesn’t want me to see, but I do.

I get up from the stool and walk over and look down at him.  He is still looking at me, but with the glass between us, it seems less intimate.  It wasn’t so long ago that we were one body.  Now,  I am here and he is in there.  We are only inches apart.  Still…

I put my hand in through the hole in the side of the incubator and touch his hand.  Again, he grabs on.  I bring my head near to the hole and I whisper through the opening:

“I love you, Joshua.”

He just looks at me.

Deliciously, deliciously yours,  Linda

This is my son, Josh Feuer, with me on Mother’s Day this past May.  He’s 31, healthy, brilliant, wonderful — and I’m still loving him more and more each day!

He was born an RH baby at 32 weeks and spent the first 8-1/2 weeks of his life in neonatal intensive care, after 6 exchange transfusions to save his life.

This photo was taken at the Cervantes statue near NYU in lower Manhattan.

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