Woody Weingarten’s Rollercoaster now available to help men survive their wives’ breast cancer

Woody Weingarten author of Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner's breast cancer

Woody Weingarten author of Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner’s breast cancer

Woody Weingarten's Rollercoaster now available to help men survive their wives' breast cancerWoody Weingarten is a survivor of his wife’s breast cancer. From the moment of her diagnosis, she had to struggle through the fear and confusion of what it meant, what to do first, what to do next and what were her options. So did he. Her goal became survival. So did his.

Not so recognized an issue is that for every married woman diagnosed with breast cancer, there is a husband who has to survive it as well. He has to conquer his inexperience and survive his own terror in order to be a strength to her. He needs patience and insight and practical information about cancer, resources, research and treatment options. He needs to be an emotional tower of strength who knows what his wife wants of him. This is a very tall and sad order. And, finding support for men who are not used to being reactive is hard. Hard to ask for help in a time of private anguish, hard even to put the questions into words, and, until now, hard to find the resource.

Now there is help. Woody’s book Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner’s breast cancer is that help. The book began as Woody’s personal journal, but when he saw the information in it, he realized it belonged in the hands of other men who were on this same rollercoaster without assistance. Rollercoaster is a wonderful hybrid geared to guide men through what they may expect. It is a memoir, a love story, a research guide, a blueprint for some realities of chemotherapy and medications. It is emotional support, and on the whole, it is a story of survival and romance.

Woody and his wife Nancy today living and loving

Woody and his wife Nancy today living and loving

Woody talks about his own journey through his wife’s cancer, how he knew what she wanted of him, how she helped him through first her cancer and then his, and how they planned, event by event, for a positive treatment-free future. Woody not only developed the strength to lead his wife to safety but, as the facilitator of Marin Man to Man, to be the safe haven for other men who are facing the same challenge of a wife with breast cancer. His love letter? Many.

Singer Debbie Cucalon once an impersonator has a new show of her own music coming up

Singer Debbie Cucalon once an impersonator has a new show of her own music coming upDebbie Cucalon is a singer, a musician, and a lyricist with any eye for perfection and the ability to get not just to the heart of a song but to the heart of her audience. She has a smooth feel to her, a calm and powerful lilt that sinks right into your core.

Singing it out was always her natural way of speaking and of having a darned good time at it. She grew up the daughter of Panamanian parents in a house always filled with the popular music of two cultures, laughter, joking around and impersonating for the pure fun of it. So it is no surprise that her talent took that form for 10 years.  She has some very interesting things to say about that art and how she personally came to be Liza at parties and Academy Awards evenings all over town.

Debbie Cucalon of endless and surprising incarnations

Debbie Cucalon of endless and surprising incarnations

Now a songwriter and lyricist, she has moved on to do her own music with the goal of increasing happiness. The very sound of her does that. She cannot help herself as she is emotionally connected to displays of love, understands the healing properties of music and has such a good time at it herself that the glee is contagious.

Debbie has been, for over 20 years, a volunteer for Bread and Roses, a nonprofit organization through which she sings to the lovely seniors who no longer have the luxury of getting out and now live at various convalescent homes in the San Francisco Bay Area. She says, “To see the spark in their eyes when they recognize songs from their era, bringing back fond memories, warms my heart every time. I  feel humbled and blessed, being able to  bring joy & laughter to others through music and song that touches their soul. This has been such a large part of my life and touched me beyond measure! ”

Her show Catch the Rhythm of the Night is coming Thursday, April 2nd  a 7:30 dinner show (yummy on all counts) at Angelicas, 863 Main Street, Redwood City, CA.

Debbie photo by Irene Young

Debbie photo by Irene Young

Her love letter? So original and so much fun that I don’t want to be a spoiler here. Just listen to her for the sheer joy and ingenuity of her life, her insights, her memories and this letter that might end up in your hands.  So totally fresh it may you may actually squeal in delight. I did.

Cecile Puretz brings multi-cultural strength to her work in the world of accessibility

Cecil Puretz

Cecil Puretz

Cecile Puretz, a native born San Franciscan, is now working to make The  Contemporary Jewish Museum accessible to all people with disabilities. Yes, this goes interestingly and far beyond ramps, public transportation and ADA requirements to the very art itself. As there are many ways to see, might a musical interpretation of art be a way to share the visual with the visually impaired? What about sense of touch?

Programs that include everyone go a long way to repair the damage of isolation that comes from disability, and to hear Cecile talk about her hopes for museums without exclusion is to see that many disabilities need not be disabling.

Cecile, is the daughter of a Jewish father from New Jersey and a French Catholic mother from a very small medieval village in France. Who Cecile is today is very closely linked to her father’s sensibilities and so much that he taught her about life and compassion. Listen as she offers us a lovely look into her own family, surviving the sadness of her father’s passing, the strengths she got from him, and how certain music is still a message from him.

Her love letter and her own history of writing letters, some mailed and some not? Rather extensive and very interesting.

Actress Geri Jewell with the power of love letters to (and from) Carol Burnett

Geri Jewell, actress, comedienne, in a word, fabulous.

Geri Jewell, actress, comedienne, in a word, fabulous.

Geri Jewell, where to begin? A well-known accomplished actress who is a marvel of communication, success, honesty, wit, insight, courage and so much more. And how aptly named. She does, indeed, carry the glow of a brightly polished gem. How one step led to the next starting at the age of 12 with a Special Ed school visit from the clown Emmet Kelley Jr. is a lesson in paying attention to what you want out of life.

The start of Geri’s success may have been the love letter to Carol Burnett that Geri wrote at the age of 13, but real credit for success goes to Geri’s own courage in writing that letter, so much more than a fan letter. It was filled with Geri’s own hopes of being like Carol Burnett when she grew up. One more thing. Geri said she had cerebral palsy and wanted to know what Ms. Burnett thought. Listen to Geri talk about the letters so filled with admiration and trust and the letters she got back with advice that gave her the encouragement she needed to follow her own heart and sense of purpose, which led, one step to the next to meeting Norman Lear who knew she was funny but was ahead of her time, the role of Cousin Geri on the Facts of Life, and much more.

Geri with lifelong friend Carol Burnett

Geri with lifelong friend Carol Burnett

This is a complicated journey with so many wonderful twists and turns starting with parents who did not coddle her, her surviving Special Ed classes with their pros and cons, the courage it took to take to the stage for the first time when she was terrified but an accidental mistake came to her rescue.

What is the first thing Geri hopes people will see when they see her? Simple, really. She wants them to see the real Geri, the essence. And, that is a gift you are lucky to receive, the real Geri. Best advice here; just listen to this joyful, funny, serious, instructive interlude with Geri Jewell. Delicious.

Mark Povinelli a movie actor with a unique attribute of individuality

Mark Povinelli - photo by David Zimmerman

Mark Povinelli – photo by David Scheinmann

Mark Povinelli is a forceful, smart, emotionally comfortable, and charming man with a wonderful sense of humor and of who he is.  He is a loving husband and father. And, he is an actor you most likely know from his extensive film, television and theater work spanning 20 years.

Even thought there is no standard path to acting, as a man of 3’10” his own journey stands out even a bit more from the usual. He realized this difference meant he was, so to speak, on stage all the time. People always looked at him. His first stage appearance at the age of 7 was a 2nd grade talent show for which his mother dressed him with a blond wig and a lollipop. Yes, of course, Shirley Temple. Could he dance? Could he sing? Maybe, but the draw, he thinks, was something totally different. Performing was an eye opener for Mark who saw that on stage he was in charge of who was looking at him and why. He could make people cry. He could make people laugh. Very powerful realization.

Mark at radio station - photo by Michael Steiner

Mark at radio station – photo by Michael Steiner

Mark talks about his life, his work, what profession he would have chosen had acting not taken hold of him, as well as the drawbacks and advantages of his size as an actor in the film industry. He talks about how he met his wife, his love for his family and why being a father is his real job. What was it like to have been the only little person in his social circle until he went to his first Little People Convention and found that his size did not make him special at all? Listening to him talk is an adventure where great theater and personal generosity intersect.

His love letter? Maybe one to Reese Witherspoon for her role in making him so at ease in doing Water For Elephants. Maybe his brothers? Mark lives in a loving safe world of people who have been important in his life, so it could be to anyone and more than one.

Actress Angela Rockwood is a Push Girl always moving forward

Actress Angela Rockwood is a Push Girl always moving forwardActress, model and producer Angela Rockwood, is an angel indestructible whose young life was interrupted by a horrific car accident as she was driving to LA from San Francisco with her two bridesmaids. The year was 2001. She was 26 years old, had been busy modeling, acting and planning her wedding. The accident, which Angela had seen in a vision 10 years earlier, left her a quadriplegic. To hear her talk about her life, the accident, her step by step path to where she is now, the challenges overcome and her plans for the future is to understand that what you cannot do has nothing to do in reality with what you can do.

Angela is by nature an emotionally generous woman, a cheering section for the well-being and success of her friends and a healer who understands the power love. Her love letter?  Perhaps another one to her ex-husband who is and always will be one of her best friends because she knows that love once felt need never be abandoned.

Yes, life was interrupted, not diminished. Déjà vu, she is now modeling, acting, producing and planning her wedding. Strength precedes her and joy follows in her wake.

When a mother knows a stranger is right for her daughter

When a mother knows a stranger is right for her daughterYou can lead a daughter to water but you can’t make her drink. She has to do that for herself. Here is a story, a real life chick-flick moment, about a very clever loving beautiful and convivial mother of an unmarried adult daughter. Mother has asked to remain anonymous out of respect for her daughter’s privacy, and, curious as we may be, her name does not matter here because it is her spirit that counts. It is her willingness to follow a hunch that may be a guide for mothers who are wishing for a son-in-law.

Just listen to her story for the encouragement you may need to trust in true love surfacing where you may least expect it. She was on a trip to Europe to visit her daughter and early for their dinner date. Because of an earlier severe leg injury, she needed to sit. Threw herself on the mercy of a maître d’ of an elegant but not yet open restaurant. He let her sit at a table in the condition she would surrender for the people who reserved it. Agreed. The young men appeared and this mother saw something. Three cheers for being open to new friendships wherever they may appear.

Actor Andy Arias with a childhood sadness that turned to adult strength and success

Actor Andy Arias with a childhood sadness that turned to adult strength and successActor, comedian and advocate for the disabled, Andy Arias is a busy man with a powerful message. Born with Cerebral Palsy into a turbulent family, bullied as a child for being different, abused by his parents, knowing by the age of 6 that he had to leave home or die, Andy traveled a difficult, painful and dangerous road, but he a powerful protection. He had inner unquenchable strength and the ability to love, which saw him travel from terror to finding his faith, success and leadership. Andy made the best of what he got, and in doing so got the best of himself, the beauty achieved by being his truest self.

To hear Andy talk about life on his own at too early an age, finding his loving foster mother and knowing true darkness before you can appreciate the light, is to understand the basis of his ability to love and to lead others. His love letter? A letter of forgiveness is always a profound gift and a sign of personal power.

Actress Lexi Marman deaf since birth grateful for the path she is taking

Lexi Marman television interview

Lexi Marman television interview

Actress Lexi Marman effervesces whether she is speaking or listening, both of which she does with a joyous intensity. Her indescribable light seems to enter the room even before she does. When she offers the words she lives by, “Don’t let what you can’t do stop you from doing what you can’t do,” you wonder what her “can’t-do” might be. Answer is simple. She does not have a “can’t do.” What she has is a unique difference in the world of acting. Lexi has been deaf since the doctor gave her, at birth, a very wrong dose of a medicine meant to reduce the fever she was born with. She beams that enthusiastic Lexi Marman smile as she wonders aloud what she would say to that doctor today since she knows she is on exactly the path she was meant to take. She is aware that being deaf, that is, being different, may, for her, have had its advantages.

Lexi Marman former Miss Deaf Calfornia

Lexi Marman former Miss Deaf California

To hear her talk about her life, growing up deaf (she did not learn to sign until high school) her remarkable parents, her career (how she got her first job as a child is so her!), her stint as a tour guide for Universal Studios, how she met her husband (yes, love at first sight), her work with the Disability Awareness Foundation (and to see how she personally has been disabled by nothing at all), the baby she is expecting soon is all to bathe in the joy of Lexi Marman.

Her love letters? You won’t be surprised at who will get them, but you will most likely be surprised at the particular sensitivity Lexi has to what is written in handwriting especially her mother’s, and to learn about the stack of them she has from some grateful children. Click and listen. You’ll be glad you did. I know I was.

Joan Gray caregiving to make others feel in charge at their weakest time

Joan Gray caregiving to make others feel in charge at their weakest timeJoan Gray is, in the world of caregiving, a wizard who knows how to strengthen weakened people, how to encourage surrender to her care, when to say “yes” and how to say “no” and all in a way that leaves people feeling in charge of their own lives just at the time they are losing power. Even the terminally ill and bedridden who cannot take care of their own basic needs know they are in safe and capable hands. Joan knows that every day of living is a day that can be filled with joy, peace, family and friends. She is an emotional fortification for families who are not sure how to behave in the face of illness. She is ever ready to give gentle lessons on how to say goodbye at the end of each visit without fearing it as the last goodbye.

Treating the ill as if they have already died serves no one, not the patient, not the family and certainly not Joan who is a life force all her own and is on duty to make people feel better. Because she never loses sight of the accomplishments and talents of her charges, so she is able to use their achievements to help her help them.

Joan was a newlywed when her mother and husband died within five days of each other, so understands firsthand what grief does to people; the misery of it and the process back to life with the living. She talks about her life, her son and daughter-in-law, her gorgeous and talented granddaughter, her work, and what it takes to see people all the way to the end.

Because she knows there is often no good reason for the ill to deny themselves the joy of exploring the world, or to miss family reunions and celebrations, traveling with the frail and ill has become one of her specialties. To listen to her tell her story in her own voice is to understand the compassion, wisdom and cleverness required to take care of those who, for a variety of reasons, cannot, either permanently or temporarily, care for themselves.

Her love letter? Maybe to someone gone, maybe to someone still with us.