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.

Zann Cannon Goff a boy who moved too often to make friends is sinking roots all over SF

Zann Cannon Goff a boy who moved too often to make friends is now sinking roots all over SFZann Cannon Goff is a talented landscaper whose first word was “flower” and who went through many incarnations before getting where he was meant to be. With a boyhood that was sometimes isolated for geographical reasons as well as emotional and often migratory.

His mother was a child of the 60s, who raised him as a single parent, told him he could be anything he wanted to be, and moved so many times that Zann went to five different schools in the first grade alone so his young life was, although filled with his mother’s love, without deep roots. Making friends was a challenge.

Zann talks about spending childhood days in the woods when there were no other children to keep him company, and about being on his own as a fifth-grader when his mother was ill. He talks with appreciation about myriad creative jobs he held and why he decided to go back to school after having early on decided against college, about finding direction, using his talents and getting a degree in math. He found his father after a 33-year separation and forged a bond that is a tribute to family affection, trumping huge differences in lifestyle and sexual orientation. Listening to Zann talk about his life is a good lesson in the value of courage, love, gratitude, honesty and a very good sense of humor as the sum of the parts that add up to a beautifully integrated whole.

As far as his love letters, there are, of course, so many possibilities all worth hearing about. As it happens, Zann used to write letters often. Hopefully he will do some more.

There is some real poetic justice in seeing that Zann’s first word did hold a promise of a wonderful adulthood. He is now sinking roots. Literally.

Zann Cannon Goff a boy who moved too often to make friends is now sinking roots all over SF

Writer Persis Karim weaves the threads of a complicated family history

Persis Karim

Persis Karim

Persis Karim is a poet, writer and professor of literature and creative writing at San Jose State University. She was born and raised in California, but was profoundly influenced by her immigrant parents and their respective biographies. Her mother was born and raised in France and immigrated after World War II. Her father was a French-born Iranian who lived in France during World War I and returned as a child to Iran where he was raised until he immigrated to the US.  Karim describes their complex stories of immigration and the ways they were effected by the experiences of living through uncertain times in both France and Iran, and their desire to seek out “another story” in the United States.  Persis’s family history is a complicated that reflects immense resilience, humility, diligence, and a vision for looking beyond the borders of “home” to discover themselves.

Two of her books, Tremors: New Fiction by Iranian American Writers and Let Me Tell You Where I’ve Been: New Writing by Women of the Iranian Diaspora offer beautiful essays and poetry that reflect what it means to be far from one’s origins. Her love letter? A memoir that will be an homage to her father whose life enabled hers. This is a compelling life story best heard told by Persis in her own voice.

Nancy Ballard’s rooms that rock for chemo

Nancy with her newborn grandson, the start of a new life for more than her own family

Nancy with her newborn grandson, the start of a new life for more than her own family

Botanical illustrator Nancy Ballard is a serious painter, a writer with one published book under her belt, and enough other things as wife, mother and grandmother to keep her full-time busy. You would think, as did her husband, that she is too busy for another full-time project. But, no. Not at all. She is, in addition to everything else, a miracle worker with brilliant organizational skills and a limitless vision.

Three years ago, as a precautionary measure, she went to the doctor for a medically small visit and left with her life drastically changed. Her life and the lives of countless cancer patients. When, quite by chance, she saw the chemotherapy rooms for the first time, she knew there was a better way to deliver treatment than a drab, sad room with crumbling plaster and nail holes where pictures had once hung. Although happy to donate a piece of her art, Nancy knew that people needed better surroundings to benefit fully from treatment, and that a piece of art alone would make no difference. These rooms needed to be renovated physically and in spirit, so Nancy set about to do just that.

With an astounding energy, compassion and artistic sensibility, she is changing hospitals across the United States and far beyond its borders.So far 800,000 patients a year and still growing.

To listen to her talk about the creation of Rooms That Rock for Chemo and how she got an indomitable team together is to see what one person can do to change the world. Nancy’s zest is dizzying, her stamina enviable, her enthusiasm contagious and her results life-changing for both patients and medical practitioners. Her love letter? Guaranteed to bring joy and tears.

David Zimmerman an actor who teaches an unusual mix of students

David Zimmerman actor and acting teacher

David Zimmerman actor and acting teacher

David Zimmerman is an excellent and experienced actor, a fabulous singer who steals a scene  and, watch out, your heart. He is overloaded with talent, charm, stage presence, and two other qualities that tip the balance on how he spends his professional time. Those two qualities are love and generosity in heaping amounts.

It seems that David is having far too good a time to keep acting all to himself so in addition to life on stage and in front of the camera, he teaches acting to classes populated by a wide variety of students, some of whom are working actors and others who are on the way, some of whom have no physical limitations and some of whom do.

No matter, ability is ability and not restricted by physical barriers. His school is staffed with actors you know, all of whom share David’s passion to share the craft. Listen to David talk about how he came to include in his classes people with widely varied capacities, including autism, Down’s Syndrome, cerebral palsy, paralysis, hearing and visual limitations.

David’s journey is a powerful reminder of what we share and how to magnify talent. He talks about his philosophy, his students, and briefly about his own life threatening moment that he conquered.

You can hear the joy and his capacity for intimacy in the very sound of his voice, a voice that welcomes others not just into his sphere but into trustable friendship. His love letter? Unusual, gripping and filled with gratitude.

David on the Red Carpet

David on the Red Carpet

David Zimmerman and advocate Jamie Brewer photo by Michael Hansel

David Zimmerman and advocate Jamie Brewer photo by Michael Hansel

This season of joy and giving is a good time to ask how happiness thinks

Rabbi Peretz Mochkin a Giants'  fa

Rabbi Peretz Mochkin

This is the season for merry this and happy that, wishing each other joy and bringing happiness to all. But, where do you find that happiness to share? How do you get a hold of it. You have to own something to be able to give it to others, yes? Perhaps someone besides the world of merchandising can give us a better clue as to how to find what brings actually happiness.

Rabbi Peretz Mochkin, a truly joyful man, talks about how happiness thinks. Maybe we have to get a grasp on that before we understand where happiness lives so we can get enough to keep for ourselves and to pass on to others. The gift of actual happiness and the skill of finding it may be the best gift of all. To you and to everyone you know. Not a gift for just this season but a gift to last a lifetime.

Rabbi Mochkin and the Friendship Circle

Rabbi Mochkin and the Friendship Circle