Mommy Musings

About Kristine Bruneau

Hi. I'm passionate about writing and inspiring others with storysharing. For more than 20 years, I've made a career from writing and marketing communications. My commentaries, stories, and interviews have appeared in a variety of publications, including "Rochester Magazine," HerRochester.com, "Rochester Democrat and Chronicle," "Rochester Woman Magazine" and "DaKa Magazine." I post fun and insightful lessons to MommyMusingsBlog.com and at Blogs.DemocratAndChronicle.com/Moms. And I'm working on a book inspired by these lessons and their resulting conundrums.

Copywriter Karen LaFauci featured in herRochester.com

Karen LaFauci

Read about extraordinary copywriter and entrepreneur Karen LaFauci who has the “right stuff” to keep her  business running for more than 25 years. As owner and chief copywriter (she’s the only copywriter) of The Write Stuff, Karen believes she wouldn’t be where she is today without her supportive family.

One of my favorite stories from our interview that didn’t make the cut is when Karen admitted to “shooing” daughters Sara and Julia out of her office. “They’d pop in to say “hello” when I was midstream in writing a sentence, which made me crazy!” says Karen. “Now that they’ve reached adulthood, they really “get” it. They respect the fact that both of their parents are entrepreneurs, and they appreciate how much we were there for them when they were young.”

Check out the story on herrochester.com. You can read a few additional life lessons from Karen right here!

Lessons

Karen’s favorite quote is Ghandi’s “Be truthful, gentle, and fearless.” It’s autobiographical as well as inspirational. Here are a few lessons that Karen has to share.

It’s never too late to start a business. “Life’s too short to hate your work,” says Karen. “If you’re deeply passionate about something – don’t be afraid to hang out your shingle.”

On dealing with a difficult client: Not that any of her clients have been difficult, but Karen stresses the importance of handling clients diplomatically, especially in a tenuous situation. She says, “It’s best not to get defensive. Step back, take a deep breath, and listen.”

Write thank you notes! You don’t have to be a writer to write a thoughtful note or letter to someone who’s referred a new client, or handed you an important project. “An e-mail or text just doesn’t cut it,” says Karen. “Believe me, people notice and remember.”

Life’s too short to be unhappy.  Karens says its important to surround yourself with positive people and explore the world around you. One of Karen’s favorite things to do around Rochester is dinner and a movie at The Little with husband Peter, and she loves to take her Mini Cooper on day trips to the Finger Lakes.

Be good to yourself. Savor those rare down times you have in the inevitable cyclical nature of small business. Karen gives herself permission to take an extra yoga class, reconnect with a friend over a leisurely lunch, or catch up on the pile of books on her nightstand. “As a creative person, it’s really important to carve out time to recharge the mind and body.”

Read. Successful writers read everything. Karen regularly reads The Sunday New York Times, and has a tendency to rip out interesting articles to share with family and friends. She also reads lots of books. She recently finished “The Lowland” by Jhumpa Lahiri – her favorite author.  Now she’s into Ann Patchett’s “This is the Story of a Happy Marriage” a collection of short stories on writing.

Look to others for inspiration. “My late mom, Jean Bloom was diagnosed with non-smoker’s cancer of the larynx at age 78. By the time it was detected, she had to undergo a total laryngectomy. She bravely endured the radical surgery – not knowing she’d never speak again – and multiple rounds of intensive radiation. She may have lost her voice, but not her spirit, remaining physically and socially active until her death at 85.”

Thanks for reading. If you like this post, please feel free to share it with your friends or send me a comment. You can also post a comment on my blog or Facebook.

Reflections on loss during a melancholy spring

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All changes, event the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind is a part of ourselves. – Anatole France

The spring I had longed for brought with it a veil of melancholy and new loss. Not only does it mark the first anniversary of my dear friend Karen’s death, but I lost another wonderful friend suddenly on March 17th. St. Patrick’s Day, ironically, was Karen’s favorite “holiday.”

“Don’t be dismayed at good-byes. A farewell is necessary before you can meet again. And meeting again, after moments or lifetime, is certain for those who are friends.” – Richard Bach, “Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah”

What if you don’t get a chance to say good-bye? I said good-bye to Karen because I knew the end was near, but I expected to see Tom and his wife Sarah again. In a matter of minutes, life changed. It’s hard to know what to say to someone who’s just lost their best friend, or husband, or daughter, or sister. It’s also hard to know how to comfort someone who’s just experienced loss.

“I’m sorry,” I said, barely choking out the words and hugged my friend Sarah at the funeral home. It was the best I could do. After that I was lost.

“There comes a time in any true professional’s career, in any good relationship, when it is not about what you know or what you do, it is simply about who you are.” – Daniel M. Meyers, President, Al Sigl Community of Agencies

Dan’s beautiful tribute to Karen last April continues to resonate with me. Karen made a difference with her quiet caring way and generous spirit. She made others care because of who she was; an all-around beautiful person who gave more than she took and died too young.

Like Karen, Tom made an impact on friends, family and colleagues. I remembered Tom’s stories, the firm tone of his voice, the ill-concealed glee in reporting on the misadventures of a mutual friend (both on and off the golf course). I sat with friends and talked about the good times we shared with Tom and captured our stories in a letter. I wrote the letter and gave it to Sarah after the funeral.

I didn’t attend the funeral, but I sent a nice letter saying I approved of it. – Mark Twain

I often turn to books to help me cope with something I’m struggling with. Books on grief, grieving, loss, death, inspiration, fiction, poetry, short stories, the Bible, and many, many more. Books comfort me, and talking about them helps me to understand how connected we are in this world. From time to time someone shares with me an online story or blog post.  My world opens up a bit more, deepening my understanding. Ride in a Good Direction is such a blog. It’s owner, Brett Hoefen, sadly is no longer with us, but his family leaves it on the web for curious souls to find.

Tears are the silent language of grief. – Voltaire

“The way to get through grief is to acknowledge it, let yourself experience it, allow yourself time and permission to accept it and incorporate the experience into your life,” says Janice Putrino, LMSW, Certified Journal Therapist, and founder and director of Writing for Wellness. My friend Janice’s mission is to teach individuals and groups how to use therapeutic writing to achieve wellness of body, mind and spirit. And she’s pretty darn good at it.

Writing through grief can be helpful for many people. There is no set time frame for each stage, yet grief is a process with three stages: shock, acceptance, and resolution. With time and support you can progress through these stages and incorporate the experience into your life. Some journaling techniques include:

  • Springboards – Refer to a list of questions to help you get started writing such as: How has loss changed you? How do you feel about those changes?
  • Unsent letter – Write a letter to a person that won’t be sent, but openly expresses your thoughts and feelings
  • Dialogue – Write both parts of a conversation you might have between you and your loved one
  • Captured moment – Describe in sensory detail a time in your life when you experienced great joy or despair
  • One year from today – What might your life look like one year from today?

 

Writing is not for everyone, says Janice, but “it’s important to find ways to release your emotions and deal with your stress. How you do this will positively impact your physical, mental and emotional wellness or wellbeing.”

I believe in the power of writing and journaling. But I also believe in the power of whacking a tennis ball, taking long walks, practicing yoga, laughing, talking, and celebrating. Celebrating the lives of people who meant so much to us in life is important, but doesn’t make the pain of losing them any easier.

After Karen’s funeral mass, friends and family gathered at her favorite Irish pub Mulconry’s in Fairport, NY and raised a glass in her honor. After Tom’s funeral mass we had lunch at a country club in Dansville, NY. In both cases, it felt like we were celebrating how well they lived their lives.  Collectively and separately, we remembered our friendships,  good times, plenty of stories, and all the little celebrations we shared; forever our treasures.

Sometimes it’s the simplest of words or acts that mean the most.

If you’re looking for something to say to someone who recently experienced loss, or is grieving, say something from your heart. I learned that it doesn’t have to be much more than, “I’m sorry.”

What helps you grieve? What comforted you in your grief?

Thanks for reading. If you like this post, please feel free to share it with your friends or send me a comment. You can also post a comment on my blog or Facebook.

Adios Granada

Pilgrimage to Alhambra

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Aside from fútbol, our visit to Granada, Spain would have been incomplete without touring the spectacular Alhambra. The Alhambra, I learned, is a vast complex of palaces and military fortresses built by Arabian royalty from the 9th through 14th century to establish the Kingdom of Granada. Walking along the corridors and pathways, in the footsteps of rulers from long ago, me and my fellow pilgrims were treated to a visual feast of artisan work or “fairy hands.” Hand-detailed mosaics, geometric tiles, and carved wooden inlays rolled into a series of patios, fountains, courts, and chambers, and made us stop in awe of it all. I think my family’s favorite part of the Alhambra was the Torre de la Vela (watchtower). There we saw one of the most beautiful panoramic views of the Sierra Nevada and city of Granada, including the Albayzin – a maze of narrow, winding streets that hail from Granada’s Medieval Moorish past.

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It’s said that Granada stole the heart of legendary author, Washington Irving. Irving was so enamored and inspired by the Alhambra, where he lived for several months in 1829 that he wrote “Tales of the Alhambra.” Part history, part legend, Irving lived in the middle of an Arabian tale where he cut himself off from every day life to drink in “proud-spirited, romantic Spain; where the old magnificent barbaric spirit still contends against the utilitarianism of modern civilization.” A tribute to Irving can be found along the emerald and stone path ascending to the Alhambra.

Sweet and Savory Streets

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To eat when we were hungry in Granada, we only had to follow our noses. Andalusian cuisine is influenced by the rural and coastal regions. Smells of fresh baked bread, empanadas, and other delicious pastries wafted from open bakery doors. At lunch time, which is around 3 pm, we could smell savory dishes since the Spaniards use lots of olive oil to cook with. Common dishes are fried fish, “pescaito frito.” cold soups like salmorejo, and a mixture of fried eggs, meats and potatoes. I loved Tapas. Whenever you order a wine or cerveza, you get Tapas, or small meals to share with your companions. And, I can’t ever forget about ham. Spanish love ham, especially the cured Serrano Ham. Ham was everywhere; which can make it tough for a vegetarian like me. So, what did I eat? It’s surprisingly easy to stick with a vegetarian diet and I snacked on the most delicious tasting olives I’ve ever eaten. However, I opted to fall off the wagon to sample what our Spanish hosts offered for meals (in moderation, of course). One night led the grown ups to a butcher shop named “Dame Jamon.” Translated it means: Give me ham! When in Spain, I think one should experience it all. Except the pulpo (octopus). I don’t do pulpo. Ah well!

In the Albayzin with a view of the Alhambra.

In the Albayzin with a view of the Alhambra.

Sierra Nevada (photo)
We drove up the winding roads to the Sierra Nevada. Our destination was to tour a professional sports training facility – best in class at 2300 meters.
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Fútbol. Always Fútbol

Team Granada

Team Granada

Aqui! Aqui! The words most often spoken during practice was acqui or here. I observed the Spaniards training to keep the ball, protect the ball, and put pressure on other players. Our boys had very good technical skills and were confident in their ability to play with other boys. Having self confidence seems to go hand-in-hand with keeping up with the intensity of the game. Above all else, the lesson is to have fun.

Malaga Club de Fútbol
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Our two aspiring fútbol players flanked by their Spanish coaches Antonio and David (also American) and Malaga Club de Fútbol head of scout Adrian. Perhaps a good Omen?

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We visited La Roseleda stadium in Malaga for a personal tour. Following that the boys practiced with Malaga’s youth academy team. We ended the evening watching a fútbol game between Malaga and Betis.

Street Fútbol or Pelada
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Amigos

Hanging out on the street. He's the real deal.

Hanging out on the street. He’s the real deal.

Our amigos were always patient and courteous, greeting us by either shaking hands, or kissing on both cheeks. And friends of our friends did the same. We were always greeted hello and said good-bye to when ready to leave. The Spaniards value politeness, and although they might walk right into you, they will apologize. I think most liked it when we attempted to speak Spanish even if it was limited.

Treasured Moments

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James and Noah playing with Antonio and Maca’s son Nacho, who has special needs.

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Drinking coffee on the terrace of our friends apartment was just one of the treasured moments I had in Granada. Words can only help tell pieces of the story of what I experienced in this Andalusian town.

Just as Granada stole Irving’s heart, Granada has stolen my heart. I have seen, felt, smelled, tasted, and touched this beautiful culture, rich with history. Adios Granada. I’ll be back.