vietnam-wallSteve was my first love.  I met him at a high school dance – he went to Keyport High and I was at the new Raritan High School, built for all the new families who had moved to the most Northern part of the Jersey Shore.  He was two years older than I; he was handsome, and sexy, and very, VERY, cool.

I was crazy about him.

We were “serious.”  We talked about getting married, even as he made plans to join the Air Force and I was thinking about what colleges to apply to.  We never gave any thought to how that would work, but we knew we were in love and we knew we wanted to have sex – and people who have sex get married.

There were steamy nights at the drive-in theatre, speaker in the window so we could get the “gist” of the movie in case either of my parents asked what the movie was about.  I’m not sure we heard much of anything.  I don’t recall one film I saw that summer.

He had a car shaped like a cartoon whale – big bulbous head and tiny rear fins — drab green, with a stick shift.  Steve taught me how to drive in that car, and I still remember the grating gears and how the car lurched forward and then back again because I couldn’t quite get the clutch and the gas in sync.  I was persistent — even as Steve sat beside me, hands covering his face with every jolt — and, finally, I got it right.  To this day, I prefer a standard shift to automatic – and I have Steve to thank for that.

Steve picked me up from school the day that John F. Kennedy was assasinated.  He hugged me and then walked me to my side of the car.  We rode home in silence.  When we arrived at my house, I burst into tears and he held me as I cried.  I saw a few tears in his eyes, but he wouldn’t allow them full expression.  He was the man in the relationship — and, in those days, men didn’t cry.

Six months after he graduated from high school, he enlisted in the Air Force.  He told me he wanted to serve his country.  He wanted to do something great.  He didn’t want to wind up “selling stuff,” he said.

He went to boot camp at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas.  He was gone for what felt like forever, but I think was more like six months.  When he came home, we couldn’t wait to be together.  I saw him in his gorgeous blue dress uniform and I all but swooned, I tell you.

But, something was different.  All he could talk about was his career in the Air Force and how he wanted to go to Vietnam – that was the only way to really get ahead, he told me.  I was shocked.  “How can you go to war and maybe get killed when we are going to get married?”  He tried to explain, “This is what I want to do with my life.  I want to serve my country.”

Many of our classmates and neighbors had been drafted and were in South Vietnam – the boy down the street had gotten killed there and everyone knew his parents were devastated.  No one came in or out of that house for weeks.  No one answered their phone.  That boy died, and his parents died their own kind of death right along with him.  They moved away a year later.

No one wanted to go to Vietnam.  It was a scary day in every family when the draft lottery was announced.  I remember that my mother cried tears of  relief when we found out my brother’s number was at the very end – he probably wouldn’t have to go.  The only person I knew who wanted to go to Vietnam was Steve.

At the end of his two-week leave, he was scheduled to be stationed in Hawaii.  I went to Newark airport to see him off with his mother and father and Steve in his beautiful dress blues and cap.  There was a moment when he was walking with his father, ahead of me and his mother, and he was just glorious – everyone turned to look at him, his gorgeous face, his dashing swagger.

I knew I would never see him again.

We wrote all the time.  I ordered college pamphlets from the University of Hawaii – and even applied.  But, as the weeks and months rolled by, the letters grew fewer and further apart.  I got accepted to the University of Hawaii, but closed the letter up right after I read it.  I put it in my drawer and never looked at it again.

We did finally have a letter exchange in which we admitted that this long distance relationship wasn’t working and it would probably be best if we broke it off.   We said that if we still loved each other when he came home, we’d get married.  Even as I wrote it, I knew he wasn’t coming back to Hazlet, New Jersey – and, I also knew that, even if he did, I wouldn’t be there.  My dream to live in New York had already taken hold of me.

A few years later, I heard he’d gotten married and had a baby.  I felt no twinge of regret.  “Good,” I thought.  “That makes it final.”

I went on to college and moved into Manhattan two weeks after I graduated – to work at Bloomingdale’s for the first of two times that I would be there.  My fashion career was launched – I rarely thought about Steve.

I heard he went to Vietnam.  I knew Steve wanted to go, that it was his choice, and he was proud to serve his country by going to war – a war that I thought was wrong, that I marched against in Washington, DC.  Even so, there was something in my heart that smiled, knowing he got what he wanted.

My mother called me one day and told me that Steve had been killed.  It was 1971.  He was 26 years old.

I came home to go to the funeral.  His wife and child were at the funeral home.  His mother and father looked dazed.  I had to remind them who I was – when I did, his mother stood  up and  hugged me.  He was laid out in those beautiful dress blues, looking as handsome as ever.   I remember thinking it was such a waste and what would happen now to his wife, and what about his child?  But, my thoughts and my sadness were still tempered with knowing how much he wanted to be there; he felt it was his destiny, and how many people in life get to die doing what they wanted to do, how they chose to live their life?  There was comfort in that for me.

Years later, my husband, Fred, and I brought Josh to Washington, DC and we visited the Vietnam War Memorial.  I looked up Steve’s name in the big book they have there and found the panel number on which his name is engraved.  The wall is not engraved alphabetically, but chronologically, by date of death.

I walked to the wall and found  the right section:  Panel 2W, Row 81, Stephen C Ruby.  As I ran my fingers over the letters, the tears came – for him and for us.  I realized that people die to protect this country and many of  them really live it as their duty.  And, what there is for us to do is to be grateful.

I do believe there’s got to be a better way than war AND I believe that as long as we’re human, we’ll find ways to continue to be at war, whether it’s in Vietnam or Iraq or Afghanistan or — with our neighbors, or kids in schools.  And, there will always be men and women who will take it on as their life’s work to protect and defend our country.  Steve Ruby was one of those people.

I am grateful that there are human beings that courageous.  I am blessed to live in a country where people would give their lives to keep this country safe.  I’m proud that I knew one of them.

Today is the day we remember the ones who died.  Those aren’t just words:  “The land of the free and the home of the brave….”

Thank you.  Thank you to all who serve.  You have my love and tribute.  Always.

Happy Memorial Day!

Deliciously yours in the Majesty of it All, Linda

STEPHEN CHARLES RUBY is honored on Panel  2W, Row 81 of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC.


© Linda Ruocco and “Spiritual Chocolate”, 2013. 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.

Date of Birth: 10/3/1945
Date of Casualty: 11/29/1971
Home of Record: UNION BEACH
County of Record: MONMOUTH COUNTY
State: NJ
Branch of Service: AIR FORCE
Rank: SSGT
Casualty Country: SOUTH VIETNAM
Casualty Province: QUANG NAM

“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 am among the many who are  mourning for and reflecting on the death — and life — of Senator Ted Kennedy.   This is not a political context at all — it is a reflection on  transformation – in this case, the transformation of the  man himself, revealed in what he has done,  yet given by something deeper.

What occurs for me is that one way that people develop compassion  is to “crash and burn” themselves — to experience their own “dark night of the soul”, to stand on the edge of the abyss,  and then to make a deep inner shift – a choice to be different — in order to take up the charge and lead others into the light…

It would be euphemistic to say that Senator Kennedy had,  on occasion,  exhibited poor judgment in his personal life…  a sadness for him — and for all of us – because of what had gone before.   Why shouldn’t we have hoped for yet another round of greatness from a family for whom greatness was known and from which greatness was expected?

He was a disappointment to all of us….

It seems to me that Ted Kennedy must have made a profound personal choice somewhere in that abyss…  to shift from a man who was simply raised to “do the right thing” – more of an “automatic” behavior” — without necessarily taking on the personal responsibility that goes along with that – to become a man who took a stand for himself and for the world. ..  then took the actions given by that stand — to make a difference for all people…

A shift from having it all be about “me” to having it not be about “me” at all…  or, in this case, “Ted”…

That takes a sense of responsibility, a deep love, a great compassion…

My mother used to tell me that we would all eventually  get knocked to the canvass in life – What will we choose to do when that happens?   Would we stay “knocked down” and forever-after live a life of what “might have been?”  Or would we pull ourselves up, bloodied and broken, from the mat – and take that next shot,  step that next step, and do what is before us to do?   

We all get to choose…

It was, of course, no surprise that he died – it was expected, really…  He had been ill for over a year now…  In a way, he was given a gift…  a gift that his brothers did not get.. the gift of time – to be with family, to die where he wanted to die, with the people he loved around him…   Brain cancer or no… I cannot think of a better way to go…

I saw him once not long ago…  and that fleeting peek into the character of a man revealed to me the thing I most admired about him…  his love for his family —  and his faith…

I ran across the street one Sunday morning to my little chapel of a church for 10:30 Mass.  As I walked to my usual front row seat in the tiny church of only six rows, I glanced to my right and there, in the other front row pew, was Senator Kennedy, his wife, and,  in a wheelchair in the center aisle, his sister.   It would have been rude to stare — and certainly there are other things to pay attention to at Mass, but I managed to steal a few furtive glances…   What I saw was a man whose very being was that of humility and service…  humility before God and service to his sister… solicitous of her every need while deeply given to his own devotion…

I got it on a whole new level that here was a man who had suffered… and perhaps was suffering still  in many ways…  who had raised himself up from that proverbial mat to go forth and live another day in the best way he knew how…  in love, in compassion, in faith… 

As President Obama said at the funeral, Ted Kennedy lived through  “a string of events that would have broken a lesser man…”   Yet, it is  that note that I believe to be the real lesson of Ted Kennedy’s life….   a life that, early on,  was over-shadowed by brothers whose heroic proportions  seemed impossible to surpass — exacerbated by his own failings  that appeared  to seal his fate as the “lesser” brother…     Indeed, a lesser man…                              

And that lesson is — there are no “lesser” men…  there are only men — or women —  who do not get up from the mat … 

We can — if we choose — dig deep for that “divinity” within us  — that well of creation from which we can draw–  and cause ourselves to be reborn out of the ashes of defeat and despair  —  to rise up and step  into what God has given to each and every one of us…

Our own Greatness…..

Maybe we won’t be famous or rich or make a difference for millions of people through life-altering legislation…

AND… as the Talmud says, “If you save one person, you save the world…”

How do we save the world?   Show up, share what we  have, and love them…..  one person at a time….

This is what Ted Kennedy did…

The piece that moved me most during the funeral was when President Obama read the letter that Jackie Kennedy Onassis wrote to Ted Kennedy….  “We are all going to make it because you were always there with your love.”

…that  is the measure of the man…. the measure of us all….

Deliciously yours in the Grandeur of it All, Linda 

“The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places.”     …Ernest Hemingway

“And so our job here on earth, the way we regain our divinity, our sacredness, and our general good-standing is by reconstructing love and creating love out of the broken pieces that we’ve been given.”   …Bruce Springsteen

“If you have made mistakes…there is always another chance for you…you may have a fresh start any moment you choose, for this thing we call ‘failure’ is not the falling down, but the staying down.” … Mary Pickford (1893-1979) Canadian Actress

Note:  For those who have asked, the title of this blog is from Billy Joel’s song, “2000 Years”.

© Linda Ruocco and “Spiritual Chocolate”, 2009. 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 “Spritiual Chocolate”  with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.  Thank you.

chilihotchocolatejpegWe all need a little yummy dollop of something these days – I’ve started turning my television off for the news – if it isn’t the stock market, it’s a plane crash — and Oh, so much sadness for everyone!

What WAS worth watching and listening to over and over again was that Magnificent Miracle on the Hudson and OH, MY HERO!  “Sully” Sullenberger – ain’t he grand?

Speaking of heroes, I’ve been giving a lot of thought lately to relationship… so here goes:

For a long time, I wouldn’t let myself think about finding a soul mate to love because I was holding it that I had already found my soul mate, married him, then divorced him — not that quickly, of course – there WAS a whole lot of spiritual chocolate in there, I tell you!  He was my Hero then and he is my Hero now….    And we’re friends to this day, but not meant to be together anymore — not in this life anyway….

So, who was there for me?

No answer.

I wasn’t concerned.   I thought… “It’s not a high priority for me”;   “I’m great on my own”;   “Whew, I don’t have to answer to anybody”;   and – my favorite – “I’ve got too much to do to make time for a relationship!”

Little by little, it dawned on me that while I knew – or thought I knew – why I wasn’t interested in a relationship – I noticed that no one seemed to be interested in me, either!       Hmmm……

Then, I got it.   I was walking around like, “I met my soul mate already. You’re not him.  So, how would you like to be ‘second-best?’”

Apparently, no one did.

So, I started looking at “soul mate” and what that means.  Is there only one for each of us?

I’m a student of “A Course in Miracles” and the Course says that we’re all One.  A lot of people give a lot of lip service to that, but what exactly does that mean?  If we are “All One” in spirit, then there really is only One of us here, right?  So, why does it seem like there are 6.8 Billion separate people on the planet?

Well, I don’t know if I can answer centuries’ old questions in my sweet little blog, but I do know one thing – for me, anyway…..

On the level of Self, there IS only one of us here…. and that’s where the love is….   All of this “stuff” walkin’ around here is Who we think we are….   and, Boy!!   Aren’t we annoying sometimes?

….and beautiful sometimes, and sweet sometimes, and fearful sometimes, and just trying to stay alive sometimes……

Under it all, we are simply Love and there’s only One and  One means not “me, alone,”  but “we”.   And, every time we get that, and don’t pay attention to the “stuff”, there is something special there, right?

I think that my ex-husband, Fred, and I managed to look past the “stuff” and get to the heart underneath it all – and that’s when we “recognized” our own Self and loved each other with all our hearts.   And that love will never go away.   It looks different now, sure – but it’s there forever.

What I did finally get for myself is that I can do that with anyone!   And everyone!   Well, for relationship purposes, let’s keep that to anyOne….. I just have to be willing to look past the “stuff”.

Everyone is my soul mate!

That doesn’t mean that “my stuff” will fit with everyone else’s “stuff” – and vice versa — we’re still here, after all…..

Being willing and being vulnerable and being loving and being interested….. Sounds pretty great – and pretty scary……

My possibility is being in relationship with all my heart!   He’ll show up – when I show up!

Well, “Sully” is married, so he’s out…..

Here I go, dancing down the street, arms thrown out and scarf blowing in the wind, “I’m holding out for a hero.. A hero ‘til the morning light… He’s got to be strong and he’s got to be soon and he’s got to be larger than life…..”

You are all my heros!!

Deliciously yours in the Glory of it all, Linda

© Linda Ruocco and “Spiritual Chocolate”, 2009. 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 “Spritiual Chocolate”  with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.  Thank you.

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