FROM HURRICANE TO BEST FRIENDS

When my daughters were teenagers and shared the same room they fought so much that I had to move my young son out of his room and give it to one of the girls to keep them from killing one another. The problem? One was extremely neat and the other lived in chaos.

One daughter loved John Denver, Glen Campbell, Mac Davis and horses. The other Billy Idol, the Eagles, Buffalo Springfield and fashion. Two peas of mine living together but definitely not in the same pod. And as a young widowed mother, the last thing I needed was refereeing two teenagers drawing lines in the sand.
 

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Thankfully, we survived those hormonal years…..well….kind of. They got more beautiful and tolerant of their differences, my son moved to Los Angeles and became a rock star and my hair turned white.

My Chaos Aquarian daughter is the same today as she was way back then. She has so many things going on in her life with the children, her job, horse farm and charitable social causes. Her big heart and life is always like a whirling dervish. She thrives with energy and a schedule that would drive me into a straight jacket. When I visit her I am always folding and cleaning and straightening up. Just hearing about her day makes me want to take a nap. Okay. It’s my mishigas, not hers.

The other half of the dueling teenage duo is my creative and very Neat Virgo child. A hard-working flight attendant, she moved from New Jersey to Chicago two years ago and lives in a lovely apartment in the suburbs, not far from the airport.

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She also has remained the same with an astute eye for fashion and decorating. She always has her apartment fixed up beautifully. She is, like her mother, a ‘Rearranger’. What on earth is a ‘Rearranger’ you ask?

(Wikipedia: Rearranger. Inconvenient habit certain females acquire. i.e, constantly moving furniture around.)

More than once my daughters have reminded me, "Mother, when we were kids, don't you remember? We'd walk into the house after school and the furniture would be completely rearranged."

Laughing on the outside, but crying on the inside, because, you know what, they are right. I don't know why, but somehow when I had a lot on my mind, I rearranged the furniture. In the worst of times* I was rearranging the furniture probably about every two months or so, as though that task was going to help me clear out the mishigas in my head. But, it did. It really made me feel good…therapy, at least for awhile.

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Whenever I am starting to write, I rarely begin my day at my desk to write without the beds made, the laundry going, or the dishwasher running. I have to have all those tasks at least started and working before I can actually sit down and concentrate on my real day job.

Watching my daughters grow up into accomplished and compassionate mothers and career women has been well worth those fractious teen years. And it is so true that we all have our own ‘craziness’ going on. All three of us have grown up to become more accepting women. My son has benefited by a successful career trying to explain it all!

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*BEHIND THE MAGIC MIRROR by Sandra Hart

Copyright Sandra Hart 2014. All rights reserved.

Can Music Make You Smarter

For The Love Of Music

As hard as I tried to control them, involuntary tears welled in my eyes in the darkness of the theater. I couldn’t escape from the emotions the music was stirring within me. I closed my eyes and let the music take over my soul. What a night.

The other evening I attended Klezmer Concert that fed my hunger for music and released any stresses that had occurred during the day. It was joyful, plaintive and everything that music does to me, all rolled up together to take me to a better place, if only for 90 minutes. But I know I am not alone in my love of music in all forms.

The influence of music on society can be clearly seen from modern history. Music helped Thomas Jefferson write the Declaration of Independence. When he could not figure out the right wording for a certain part, he would play his violin to help him. The music helped him get the words from his brain onto the paper.

A little known fact about Einstein is that when he was young he did extremely poor in school. His grade school teachers told his parents to take him out of school because he was "too stupid to learn" and it would be a waste of resources for the school to invest time and energy in his education. The school suggested that his parents get Albert an easy, manual labor job as soon as they could.

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His mother didn’t think that Albert was “stupid”. Instead of following the school’s advice, Albert’s parents bought him a violin. Albert became good at the violin. Music was the key that helped Albert Einstein become one of the smartest men who has ever lived. Einstein himself says that the reason he was so smart is because he played the violin. A friend of Einstein, G.J. Withrow, said that the way Einstein figured out his problems and equations was by improvising on the violin.

In general, responses to music are able to be observed, not always through tears filled with emotion like mine last night. It has been proven that music influences humans both in good and bad ways. These effects are instant and long lasting.

Music is thought to link all of the emotional, spiritual, and physical elements of the universe. Music can also be used to change a person’s mood, and has been found to cause like physical responses in many people simultaneously. I have seen both at great music halls and during my son’s rock concerts. Different responses surely, but definitely reaction to what they were hearing.

One cannot deny the power of music. High school students who study music have higher grade point averages that those who don’t. These students also develop faster physically. Student listening skills are also improved through music education. The top three schools in America all place a great emphasis on music and the arts.

Hungary, Japan, and the Netherlands, the top three academic countries in the world, all place a great emphasis on music education and participation in music.

The top engineers from Silicon Valley are all musicians.

In the end we have to leave it to Napoleon to understand the enormous power of music. He summed it up by saying, “Give me control over he who shapes the music of a nation, and I care not who makes the laws” .

Faces Of Miami

I love the series Humans of New York where the photographer takes a candid photo and then interviews the person behind the image. Their stores are absolutely fascinating. How many of our own stories with humans have we missed on a daily basis by having our faces stuck in our iPhones.)

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My Humans Of Miami Story

I was alone except for the tired restaurant worker still dressed in his work clothes sitting at the end of the bench with his head in his hands.

I pulled my straw hat down a little further to keep the hot noonday sun burning through the waving palm fronds off my face. I was waiting for the South Beach jitney to take me up to Lincoln Road where I planned to do some last minute Christmas shopping.

Suddenly this tiny little woman who had hurriedly crossed the street stood looking as though she wasn’t too sure where she wanted to sit, but then quickly plopped down beside me.

“Have you been waiting long?” she asked.

“No, but you know the jitney. It sometimes takes awhile for it to get here,” I replied.

She seemed very sweet, casually dressed, beyond middle-aged with her graying dark hair pulled back in a bun and small frizzy curls in front of her ears were let loose to fly a bit in the air. She looked like she could be someone’s sweet grandmother, I thought she probably was and was taking the bus back to Miami.

“Are you visiting?” I asked.

“No. I live here. My parents immigrated from Cuba when I was three years old. They were trying to escape the Castro regime. So I have lived in the states most of my life. Not always in Florida, because I went to New York to go to college. Then after college I moved to an apartment with some friends in the village and started working in the music business. Then after that we moved to Williamsburg and until I retired, I was involved with a large company that did a lot of the organizing for shows on Broadway. When I retired I moved back down here to Florida to be next to my son. Now I’m a chef for one of the private yachts in the marina here. The owner has a gluten sensitivity so it’s a challenge for me to try to create recipes without any ingredients that have gluten. But I’ve become pretty good at being able to do Cuban dishes and other dishes by substituting gluten-free products into those menus.”

We continued our conversation on the bus until she arrived at her stop. We exchanged business cards and she went on her way. She was such a fascinating woman. I was so wrong and have to claim stupidity in my initial narrow first judgement and impression of her. What I would have missed, not speaking with her! She was a well-educated, smart entrepreneurial woman.

The moral of my encounter is two pronged. Never judge a book by it’s cover and never miss a fascinating encounter by connecting with a fellow human, even if it is at the bus stop. What an interesting human story I would have missed had I not kept my iPhone in my purse.

Copyright Sandra Hart 2014. All rights reserved.

Narcissism

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A Facebook friend of mine recently posted this picture. What this picture says is indicative of our future. We are slowly evolving into non-communication vis-à-vie with one another.

The other day our neighbor’s child was going to dress rehearsal for The Nutcracker ballet. She is playing the lead child, Marie, and had her dark hair pulled smoothly into a bun on top of her head. I told her how beautiful she looked and how excited she must be. She looked up at me briefly and then went back to her cell phone, without even a thank you.

The ensuing ride down the elevator, I chatted with her mother bubbling with excitement and pride while ‘Marie’ kept her nose in her phone. I believe if parents are not careful they will be raising a generation of rude and detached children. Social networking and the Internet will be the way they fill their minds with culture instead of real life and the real experiences around us. I don’t know about you, but to me it’s a very scary scenario. In my opinion, it should be a wake up call for all of us.

The Father Who Might Have Been

(The following is a reprint of an article written about my son and I by Brain And Behavior Research Foundation May 27, 2014.)

Holidays are sometimes very hard for those with depression and other forms of mental illness, so I wanted to share our story again to give hope to families who are in chaos due to mental illness to give them hope that research and cures are our biggest priority. We care about you.

In Schizophrenia’s Wake, a Son Laments the Father Who Might Have Been

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Sandra and Emerson Hart, Professional Actress from “Romper Room” and Grammy-Nominated Singer/Songwriter, Lead Singer of Tonic
Sandra and Emerson Hart

Emerson Hart is a singer-songwriter. In the 1990s, he co-founded the Grammy-nominated rock band Tonic and, as the lead singer, has written hit songs for the band’s multi-platinum albums. Emerson credits his mother, Sandra Hart, an actress and writer, for his love of language and performing, and his late father, Jennings, a singer in his youth, for handing down his musical talent. But Jennings also bequeathed to his son a darker legacy.

The most salient fact of Emerson Hart’s life from earliest childhood, one he kept hidden for years, was his father’s mental illness. Untreated and only belatedly diagnosed as schizophrenia, it manifested itself in abuse and rages that cast a shadow of unrelenting terror over the family, which included Sandra’s two small daughters from an earlier marriage. A decade ago, Emerson began confronting the family “secret” with the release of his first solo album.

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Emerson Hart, singer/songwriter

“I love kids and I wanted to be a father,” he says, “but I felt that if I continued to keep that stuff inside, it would poison my relationship with a child.” (He now has a daughter, Lucienne, age six.) Since he has gone public, many fans tell him, often in tears, that his story is theirs. This is a main reason he and his mother so strongly support the work of the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation—there should be a way to diagnose and treat these illnesses before havoc is wreaked.

The story began in 1968 when “Miss Sandra,” then the Baltimore-area hostess of the children’s television show “Romper Room,” found “the perfect husband.” Jennings, she says, “was handsome and charming, had his own business, lots of friends and a beautiful Irish tenor voice.” He also, she was to learn, had great skill at hiding the symptoms of his illness.

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After Emerson’s birth in 1969, Sandra struggled to keep the family functioning. Then came a night when goaded by inner voices that told him she was unfaithful, Jennings, brandishing a screwdriver, lunged at her. She was somehow able to knock him off balance long enough to grab the children and flee. Arrested and hospitalized, Jennings was finally diagnosed and treated, but as soon as he was released and returned home, he stopped his medications and the violence resumed.

Unable to help him and increasingly concerned for her family’s well-being, Sandra divorced Jennings in 1977. Then, she says, the stalking began. “He stalked and threatened me constantly. I was certain he would kill me.” Instead, in a stranger-than-fiction twist, Jennings was killed, or so it is presumed. In 1980 he vanished without a trace, believed murdered by a jealous husband.

Sandra Hart – “Behind the Magic Mirror”For Sandra, Jennings’ death brought relief, but closure came slowly. Although she married again, happily, and resumed a career as a television and film actress, it took her decades to exorcise the past. She did, finally, by writing about it in the book “Behind the Magic Mirror.” (photo above) (Romper Room fans will recognize the allusion to the show’s “magic mirror.”)

For Emerson, the death brought nightmares. “To this day,” he says, “when I’m under great stress, my father will appear in my sleep, sometimes alive, sometimes dead, smoking a cigarette and staring at me.” Because of the unresolved circumstances of the death, Emerson long feared his father might return. Another “hammer over my head,” as he calls it, was the worry that he would inherit his father’s illness.

Ultimately, however, his deepest feeling is sadness. “If my father had had the right diagnosis and medication early on, if treatment had been possible, with all the good qualities he had going, I know he would have been an awesome father.”

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Love Has Many Faces

The Love Affair

Began when I took you for a rainy afternoon stroll.

When I baked you cookies and let you lick the spoon.

When you threw my hat into the wind because you thought it was funny.

When you brought me daisies on Mother’s Day.

When I could hear your tiny voice singing yourself to sleep.

When I held your fevered body through the night.

It was then I realized that love wears many faces.

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Copyright Sandra Hart 2014. All rights reserved.