Let’s Band Together


I was 11 years old. I was a cheerleader. It had been a great football game that Saturday afternoon and we were on our way home. I was a happy six grader full of achievements and good friends. I grew up in a Ohio Valley steel town with of all types of immigrants and religions, but I didn’t know prejudice, none of us did. We never thought about our parents bank accounts or status. We were all friends and liked each other because we were classmates, we were neighbors, we were girlfriends.

My emotional slate was clean. Every small dream I had was realized. Every goal I wanted was achieved. I loved my parents. I loved my brother. I loved my friends. I saw no fences and I knew no fences. The meaning of hate and envy was never a part of my life up until ‘THEN.’ And it was when after that football game on Saturday that ‘THEN’ happened and my life changed forever and my perfect childhood world came crashing down around me.

My girlfriends and I used to walk together the few blocks from Roosevelt School to our homes on LaBelle View after the football games together. One by one we would say goodbye as each girl would reach their house until the last cheerleader was left to walk a few blocks to her house. This afternoon was different though as all the girls walked me to my house first. As we were saying the cheerful goodbyes, all of the sudden one of the girls started saying mean things to me. Then a couple of the other girls chimed in while the rest stood silent looking at the sidewalk and their feet.

I think I have permanently blanked out a lot of the conversation, but words like ‘snob’, ‘stuck-up’ remained in my mind, permeated my clean slate and cracked it wide open. The pieces stuck in my throat and I remember having no response other than to turn and walk up the cement steps to our front porch and into the safety of my house.

I was stunned and heartbroken. I remember lying across my bed and crying for hours as though my life had ended. This was the worst thing that ever happened to me in my life since I had been on this planet. I was so humiliated that I couldn’t even share my pain with my parents. I suffered in silence. I felt my life was over.

I am a firm believer that mind and body work together to keep us healthy. So it is of no surprise that a few months after this incident of embarrassment and abandonment by those I thought were my good friends that I became very ill. Diagnosed with rheumatic fever I was bedridden for four months. This was the pendulum swing in my life. I returned to school a shy and introverted girl, never in my teens to recapture the self-esteem that was broken and beaten down by my small group of friends that I loved.

I have since shared my story with several of my close friends and at least two of them have had similar experiences as young girls whose lives have been altered by what we now call ‘bullying.’

It’s amazing, although we’ve matured and most of us have had great achievements on our own since leaving the torturous girls behind in their small dust, the scars remain.

I understand. I really understand every time I read a tragic story of a young person reacting to being bullied. And of course today it’s so much worse because of the cyber bullying that is so easy to do. It is so easy to destroy a teenage psyche because they’re thin and fragile and not yet hardened to the reality of life and have strong self-esteem.

So today I was especially delighted when I discovered that my cousin’s daughter is involved in a program, Lets Band Togetherto help stop bullying.


Lets give peace and civility toward one another a chance.

Copyright Sandra Hart 2014. All rights reserved.

Facebook Friends: I Know You-I Met You Not


It is no hidden fact that social media has changed the world, has changed our lives and how we connect to people. I have been thinking about this lately, and more so after I recently posted a blog regarding Kosovo and my son’s band tour there in 2000.

I know there are people who have hundreds of friends on Facebook, but I am very selective about whom I bring into my inner social circle. I have no strangers within that group, but I do have a few people that are connected to me by others and I also have a few people who I’ve known, or feel that I have met, because the connection through mail, email and then Facebook has been consistent throughout the years.

One Facebook friend in particular I have electronically known for 14 years, but never have met. His name is Bill Putnam, a photographer and journalist whom I first interacted with when he took pictures of and also wrote a very nice article about the band Tonic’s stop at Camp Bondsteel where he was stationed in 2000.

Since the lead singer/songwriter of that band just happens to be my son, Emerson Hart, the friendship began when Bill offered to send me some of the pictures he had taken of Emerson and the band during their visit during their performance at Bondsteel. Ever since that kind gesture, from time to time, I have been in touch with Bill, following him through the various phases of his life and career, both in and out of service for our country.

Bill has evolved from email-sometimes-friend to Facebook friend and has attended a few Tonic Concerts and generously taken pictures he has shared with this Tonic mother.

Electronically throughout the years I have witnessed him grow as a person, evolve, as my own son has done, and always enjoyed his photo journeys. I have invisibility watched him become a very competent photojournalist who is not just satisfied with standing still in his craft, but always experimenting, learning and challenging himself.

From his postings I gather he likes a good beer now and then with friends, loves certain sport teams, has a good sense of family and most of all, has an eye for what we want to see in the world.

Although I may never ever meet Bill Putnam in person, (the percentage chances of that unfortunately probably are pretty high), I feel I already have had that good fortune through his photography and photo posts. Bill is not afraid to tell it like it is. He crosses the lines for us. He is an interesting and talented guy, indeed, who years ago I “met” because he was a kind enough kid to send me some photos of my son in concert at Camp Bondsteel, Kosovo.

PS. You can find out more about my Facebook friend Bill Putnam at http://www.billputnam.net

Copyright Sandra Hart 2014. All Rights Reserved.
Photos Copyright Bill Putnam 2000/2014. All Rights Reserved.





Good Morning Kosovo 2000


In June of 2000 my son, Emerson Hart, and his band Tonic traveled to Kosovo and Bosnia to entertain our American troops. It would be first of many more war zone tours the boys would do in the ensuing years, including going in to Iraq, where Emerson almost was blown away by a mortar that landed near Saddam Hussein’s palace where the band was staying.

During the Kosovo tour our men and women soldiers there were tired, home sick, but always the best audience when any American came over to entertain and spend time with them. The boys always had such a warm greeting whenever they landed at the various camps along the way.

Emerson, whose father served in the Army during the Korean War, has always felt it was a privilege to be able to give back to our troops protecting our freedom. So when I recently discovered a diary post from the Tonic website from June 2000 of the days they spent during that Bosnia tour I thought I would share it with my readers and you Tonic fans. The sad reality is that Fourteen years later the Middle East is still at unrest.

Day 1
7 PM….Dinner at the venue

9 PM….Showtime! The show was great…. these men and women are the best audience ever considering the fact that they’re not allowed to leave the base unless on patrol…and it is a dry base-no alcohol at all. They really made us feel welcome.

11 PM….The deputy mayor of the base presented us with a certificate of appreciation. Then we met with a lot of the soldiers, signed autographs and took many pictures.

1 AM…… Sleep at last!!!

Day 2

8 AM…… Why are we up so early?

9 AM….Breakfast!

11:30 AM…… Flight to Skopje, Macedonia. They have to reroute our flight around Serbia since they will not let us fly in their airspace. The flight takes us over Italy and the Adriatic Sea. A one hour flight now takes three hours….the sites were very beautiful.

2:30 PM…… Arrive Skopje, Macedonia… Wait on the French military installation after the Chanuck helicopter to pick us up to take us to Camp Bondsteel in Kosovo.

3:30 PM…… Helicopter arrives. We find out that the gear had been delayed coming over the border from Germany , so now our helicopter has to sling load the gear in a huge metal compartment. That compartment is then hanging from the bottom of the helicopter as we fly… 16,000 pounds!!!!

3:35 PM…… Flight briefing and Flak jacket and helmet fitting.

3:45 PM….Departure for Bondsteel. As we crossed the border between Macedonia and Kosovo, the escorts put on their Kevlar vests and lock and load their M-50 machine guns.
Emerson gets to ride shotgun next to the pilot and the flight engineer. Jeff rides next to the star board gunner. Dan rides next to the floor opening where there’s a soldier lying down keeping an eye on the cargo below us. Remy looks like he’s going to fall asleep.

4:30 PM….Arrive at camp Bondsteel.

5 PM…… Showers? I don’t think so..Dinner… Again… the food is really good.

6:30 PM…… Major Dillon presents us with coins from the base on behalf of the Brigadier General Sanchez. They even made a concrete star for us and they had us sign!

9 PM… Showtime once again!!!!

11 PM…… After the show we met more soldiers and signed a bunch of autographs. We had to be done by 11:20 so we could get on the chopper back to Skopje, Macedonia.

1120….Board the chopper… Jeff sits shotgun in the cockpit wearing night vision goggles. Emerson sits next to the gunner on the port side of the chopper and Dan sits next to the gunner on the starboard side. Remi has night vision goggles also, sitting in the rear of the chopper next to the open bay door. In flight we saw a house burning with all of the people standing outside watching it burn. Hard to watch.

12 AM…. Arrive Skopje.

12:30 AM….dinner at the Army base.

1:30 AM….Arrive hotel in downtown Skopje … SLEEP!!!!

3:00 AM… Emerson gets awoken by gunfire outside of the hotel. Needless to say, that was frightening!

Day 3

DAY OFF….Dan and some of the crew go into town to see the sights – – – Emerson, Jeff and Remi sleep most of the day – – that night we all go to town for a dinner that was great. The whole place is amazing… It’s weird to think that it was a communist country only nine years ago.

Day 4

10 AM…… Lobby call

11:30 AM…… On the chopper to camp to Montieth. On the flight we saw more destruction and empty houses than on the other flights… It was pretty surreal… Dan sat shotgun, Emerson rides with the gunner again, Remi hides in the middle and Jeff is in the back by the open bay door.

12:15 PM….arrive at camp Monteith. This camp has many more trees and we see locals working on the base, but it is much smaller than the other three camps we visited.

1 PM…… Lunch… Outdoor barbecue… Wow!!!

3 PM….Sound check

5 PM…… Resorting to sitting on the camp bus so we can be in air-conditioning… It’s 105°!!!!

6:30 PM…… Dinner with the crew in the commander of “Big Windy”, the flight crew that is been flying us all over Kosovo in the helicopters. Definitely some of the nicest people we’ve met!!!

8 PM…… Showtime… A lot of the soldiers that were at this particular show where about to leave for home the next day. They had been there for seven months. They were really rowdy and into the show. They were also REALLY ready to go home!!!!

11 PM…..Signing autographs and taking pictures with the soldiers….Are all such great men and women.

12:15 PM….Chopper back to Camp Able Sentry and Macedonia. Jeff gets to sit on the way back of the helicopter dangling his feet off the back. Emerson’s next to the Gunter again, Dan is in the middle and Remi is in the rear. This was the best flight. The pilot really pushed the helicopter to the max… Flew about 35 feet off the tree line. Like a roller coaster ride. Pretty unbelievable.

1:30 AM snack time at the mess hall at Camp Able Sentry.

3 AM….Hotel… Lights out… Sleep!!!

Day 5

Fly to Amsterdam and begin the rest of the European leg of the tour.

This whole trip was such an amazing experience for us. Everyone was so gracious and kind. Playing for the troops was truly amazing and fulfilling. Besides, when do you ever fly in a chopper into a war zone!!!!



Fabulous Fall Front Door Ideas

Fall is here and I am ready for a change to my outdoor decorating, including my front door. Colorful mums and pumpkins, of course. A few winter cabbages tucked here and there. Down comes the lavender and herb wreath and up goes fall brilliance with bright earth colors. My door is ready for her new dress.

Put your hands and mind to use and satisfy your need to create. Here is an easy video that will guide you along the way to your own decorating skills. Don’t know about you, but I am happiest when I am creating or doing something I love.

In just twenty minutes you can make a fall wreath that will make you and everyone who comes through your front door say, ” You made this? Really!”

I usually add more fall leaves and a few fluffy dune grass fluffs that I find easily on the beach. A few small cattails or even to brings in things to come, some holly twigs tucked in between the fall wreath decoration. or small pieces of driftwood, if you are near the shore. It isalways nice to put your own creative stamp on your wreath.

Take a few minutes watch this video and get started this weekend.


Skipping Stones

Some people like to window shop. I never was much into just looking into the windows. As far as I’m concerned, except maybe during the holidays with all the animated windows in New York City, the best part is inside the big swinging doors. Each isle, each floor is an exciting adventure. The noise, the aromas and the colors of all the merchandise – that’s part of the pleasure. Why just look at a package unopened? To me window shoppers are missing the best part.

This is true with life as well. Looking through the windows from the outside without experiencing, seeing and tasting all of the richness and excitement it brings. Not just seeing, but looking at the glass half full instead of half empty. Never failures, but challenges instead. Watching the door close behind you and stepping through to something you know will be even better.

It is said in relationships it is common for opposites to attract. My husband and I are living proof of that old adage. I can honestly say we are as different as night and day. I have lived the past 30 years married to a window shopper. His ability to live the fullness and richness of his 88 years has always been elusive to him. He has never been able to open the doors and step through to see the surprises that are inside, beyond those windows.

Until the day they died my husband’s mother and her brother both confessed that they never had a happy day in their lives. They each had the ability to dwell not on happiness, but on one misery after the other.

I have always been fascinated about whether or not we are born with a proclivity toward being happy, or not. In the book The How of Happiness by Sonya Lyubimirsky, the premise of the book is that we all have a setpoint for happiness. To override a low set point, one needs strong self-discipline. My question is, we are all unique individuals, no two of us are alike, so therefore, perhaps one’s happiness is unique unto themselves. Different set-points.

For instance, my husband’s weekend happiness is walking the dogs in the morning from Chelsea through the West Village and home again, stop and buy bagels on the way home and have coffee and bagels at the house.

On the other hand, that same journey that would bring happiness to me would be to walk the dogs from Chelsea to the Village, find a nice little outdoor coffeehouse sit and have coffee and a croissant, enjoy good conversation, watch the people walking by, and then return back to the apartment after exercise and good food and conversation.

My happiness is not peeping through the windows watching other people have a good time, but opening the door and enjoying the life that is inside those doors.

Now just because his happiness and my happiness have two different meanings, does that mean that his is wrong and mine is right, or mine is wrong and his is the right happiness?

My husband skips stones across the water. I jump in with both feet. He stays dry and I am soaking wet.

Together we have cruised the world four times for a total of 456 days. For me it was the joy of soaking in and absorbing the experiences and cultures of the world. For him it was the happiness of 1,368 gourmet meals aboard ship that were prepaid.

Think about it. In reality, if I forced him to always participate in my happiness he would be miserable.

I understand that because until I started to find and own my definition of happiness within the relationship, I felt denied of what I perceived was my deserved happiness.

It’s not all about him and it’s not all about me, it’s about sometimes window shopping and sometimes opening the doors. Sometimes skipping stones and sometimes jumping in with both feet. It’s about one heart with the left ventricle and the right ventricle beating at different times, yet in sync giving life to the whole.

So I guess what I’m saying is I am happy to fill the half empty glass he sees in life.

Copyright Sandra Hart 2014. All rights reserved. Myartisansway Press



My New York Story


On October 1, tonight, the 55th annual CLEO Awards will be giving Blondie, the iconic punk band singer a CLEO music honorary award. I couldn’t be happier for her or her band.

My oldest daughter was a big fan of Blondie. The music of Blondie echoed from the walls of her bedroom day and night. It was Brett who introduced the rest of us to most of the rock music of the day. According to her now, Blondie’s lyrics were irreverent sometimes and sometimes simple, but at the same time to her future musical ears these lyrics were to represent key moments in rock ‘n roll history with Deborah as a strong female lead. A female icon who really marched to the beat of her own drummer. Deborah Harry opened doors as the first female rap artist with Blondie’s song, Rapture. Deborah Harry represented for young female fans like my daughter, strength in being true to yourself.

I personally first met Deborah Harry in the early 90’s. It is difficult to believe now, but in those days no one would’ve known who she was. I must have walked behind her casual form with her rolling hips, camouflage kakis and graying blonde hair over 100 times. We both lived in the same iconic building in Chelsea and had dogs that needed potty breaks about the same time each day, or stood in line together for our own needs at Slone’s Grocery around the corner.

Now New York is full of faces, some faces famous. but most incognito as we scurry about the streets like ants going on with their own business. When I am in the city I am usually oblivious to faces as I am one of those ants who is running from here to there just taking care of business. All of these impersonal New York moments become a way of life after awhile without our knowing who is standing next to us, or walking by. So it was not until my son pointed her out to me one day that I knew who the rolling hips and graying hair that I had been passing for the past few years belonged to. Deborah Harry of Blondie.

Deborah still had a rather pretty face, but it was obvious by the way she dressed and looked her young rocker days were behind her and she could’ve cared less about her public image.

My husband finally brought us together for our New York minute when she attended a photo exhibit he had in the lobby of our building that I curated. And It was not long after that meeting that Deborah’s life changed dramatically through rediscovery and renewed interest in her band Blondie. The aging woman that I had been passing on the street for years had turned into a glamorous icon reinventing herself to old fans and a new generation that would again discover the music of Blondie.

Deborah Harry , Stevie Nicks of Fleetwood Mac and the ladies of Abba, Agnetha and Frida, are all inspiring examples that life over 50 can even get better with sweeter rewards that only experience and age can bring.
It is never over until it’s really over.

I am so inspired by these women. Knowing their confident ‘I don’t give a damn attitude’ doesn’t have to just be owned by them, it can be ours too. With every gray hair on our heads we have earned it. We have all earned it!

Copyright Sandra Hart 2014. All rights Reserved.