Dad and grandpa would build a fire while mother and grandma made hot chocolate and cookies. Then we would all snuggle around the TV listening to winter wonderland music occasionally interrupted by the snapping of kindling. The adults held hands as we three girls giggled watching them.
There is still time to bring romance into the season, while the children are dreaming of sugarplums and the adults have disconnected from the cyber world. Set aside moments between now and the New Year to rekindle simple loving with movies, music, and these few naughty but nice tips.
Make some popcorn and watch one of the top romantic holiday films:
“While You Were Sleeping,” with Bill Pullman as the romantic lead, features Sandra Bullock playing with loneliness and love.
“Serendipity,” with Kate Beckinsale and John Cusack, is a department store romance in which they trust fate to reunite them.
“Love Actually” has Hugh Grant as prime minister in a romantic comedy with a simple theme — “Love is everywhere.”
Music always sets a mood. For those following the escapades of “Jane the Virgin,” her fiancé said “I’m sorry” by putting their favorite song on his iPhone and surprising her.
Make playlists of your favorite holiday and love songs. The top songs still include “Winter Wonderland” and “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” along with “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.”
For lovers, the music streaming service Spotify identified “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life” from “Dirty Dancing,” as well as “Bolero” and “Bohemian Rhapsody” as taking top spots.
Now for those naughty and nice tips:
At the next party, pull your special someone into a corner — pretend no one is watching — and kiss generously.
Write a fantasy love list: The two of you should confess your secret desires on paper and then decide which you might both enjoy.
Design an all white bedroom: De-clutter and make a movie set room of white plump pillows, gauze fabrics, unscented candles, red roses and fresh pine-tree greens.
In the world of holiday gift lists, create the ultimate one of love notes and gratitude. Fill a mug or glass jar with Baci candies; each comes wrapped in foil with a love note. Sit them on a table next to a white scroll tied with red ribbons. The scroll should list all the reasons you are grateful for your love. And be sure to add thanks for memorable moments you shared.
Wishing you days overflowing with blessings and joy.
Rita Watson: Bring romance into the holiday season/ Providence Journal link
Rita Watson is a relationship columnist for the Providence Journal andPsychologyToday.com.
The upside down wedding cake chandelier adorned the entrance parlor in Gram and Grandpa’s house on the water. Each year on the first week of December, Grandma would send us to the attic to bring down boxes of Christmas ornaments so she could decide how many new snowflakes to crochet for the tree, which was always under the chandelier. Then she would sigh, “Watch how Papa is going to say, “Annunziata, it’s in everyone’s way.”
By the second week of December, Grandma sent Grandpa and his brothers to cut down a tree so it could “settle” into the parlor. One snowy afternoon we waited for the tree to arrive, but Grandpa pulled the car into the side garage. Then we heard him on the stairs stamping snow from his boots. When Gram opened the door, he said, “Nancy, before we bring in the tree, I have something to say. The tree farm would not allow any cutting down of small trees, just one big tree.”
Gram suspiciously went to the windows to catch a glimpse of what Grandpa’s brothers were bringing into the house. “Mamma Mia,” she cried out. “That tree belongs to ‘Jack and Beanstalk.’ How will it fit under the chandelier?”
As his brothers set to work fitting the tree onto the stand, they moved directly to the semi-circle of window seats. Gram cried out, “No, not there.” But Grandpa surprised and stopped her. “Look. I bought you a beautiful white tree with bubbling candle lights to put on your table in the center of the parlor.”
Before she could say a word, a white tree with attached tiny candlestick lights replaced the vase of flowers. Then Grandpa went under the table to the central floor plug, and with a flip of the switch, colors danced on chandelier crystals.
Grandma was so overwhelmed that she said nothing. Then there came another surprise. Onto the tree that touched the ceiling the men strung white snowball bulbs made by the Sylvania Company. Once plugged in, the snowballs changed into an array of pastel shades. “These are the future,” Grandpa said.
“Nancy, you always tell the children that every problem has a solution. This is our Christmas solution — one tree for you and one for me.” Then he went over to her, pinched her cheeks into a smile, and gave her big kisses.
Grandma grinned saying, “Now, enough kisses, Anthony. I’ll have to get busy crocheting. Our first floor-to-ceiling tree will need twice as many snowflakes.”
Then to us she said, “You see, just when you think your husband never listens, one day you find that he hears you after all. You just need to be patient.”
Rita Esposito Watson, a Providence Journal and PsychologyToday.com columnist, is writing “Italian Kisses: Gram’s Wisdom.”
With just days to go before Thanksgiving, many people are a bundle of nerves. If you are hosting a Thanksgiving meal, the planning alone can be overwhelming. However, by looking forward to the day with gratitude, you can feel happier, strengthen your relationships, and boost your immune system. These are some of the benefits found by researchers with a $5.6-million grant to study gratitude at the University of California, Berkeley and UC Davis.
Thanksgiving often brings out the best and the worst in families. Television sitcoms portray the day with under-cooked turkeys and overheated emotions.
Nonetheless, this may be the time to take advantage of personalities and weave them into a family memoir or just one thankful day. Even if you are dreading the grumpy uncle or the know-it-all aunt, try planting seeds of gratitude before guests arrive. With an email or phone call let them know how grateful you are that they will be joining you. “Gratitude” is a powerful word.
Perhaps ask each person joining you to bring a smile and their favorite gratitude saying written on an index card or a piece of paper: Here are three of my favorites:
“Let us be grateful to people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.” — Marcel Proust.
“For me, every hour is grace. And I feel gratitude in my heart each time I can meet someone and look at his or her smile.” — Elie Wisel.
“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” — John F. Kennedy.
When guests arrive, point them to a gratitude bowl. They can either drop in their favorite quotes or reach into a basket set next to the bowl filled with pens and paper to write something personal for which they are grateful.
The value of this is simple — it immediately deflects the tension that people expect will be generated by difficult relatives. Also at each plate you may wish to add a card with a positive saying, such as: “We are blessed that you are sharing this meal with us today.” Then after dinner, each person can take turns reading the sayings in your gratitude bowl.
For those who are alone, perhaps put on an apron, spend the day at a homeless shelter, and with each plate of food you serve, give thanks.
Rita Watson: How to really feel gratitude and share it/ Nov. 16, 2014
Rita Watson is a relationship columnist for The Journal and PsychologyToday.com.
Published on 25 November 2013
rsing home directors often tout “patient choice.” However, it is unlikely that anyone ever knocked on their doors asking, “May I give up my home and come live here?”
People prefer to age in place. Yet this option can be difficult for caregivers to manage. As such, assisted-living facilities or nursing homes begin to look like attractive alternatives.
Aging is a process and in many instances, with proper oversight, aging in place is a viable choice. Gary Leiter, president of Home Instead Senior Care of Rhode Island, said that many services can help the elderly stay at home. In addition many community agencies provide services to the frail and elderly (if their families can get through the paperwork.)
However, it is important to see that the person at home receives help with bathing, dressing, hydration, toileting, laundry, meal preparation and the ever-critical medication monitoring. Medication mix-ups are one of the more frequent causes of hospital readmissions with the elderly.
Leiter explained that when an elderly person with a medical problem chooses to stay at home there are three levels of care options: non-medical, personal, and skilled.
“Under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) there are incentives to physicians and physician groups to prevent readmissions to the hospital in those first 30 days after a patient is released,” he said. “Now they will be reimbursed for following a patient home often by assigning a primary nurse to visit with the patient or manage the process.”
On a personal level, Leiter related the story of his late mother who was living in New York while he tried to manage her care from a distance.
“When we finally had to admit her to a nursing home, it was for rehab on her last discharge from the hospital,” Leiter said. “She was to be there for approximately six weeks. But when the six weeks were up, my mother finally admitted that she felt unsafe living alone. At the time I brought her to an assisted living center in Rhode Island where I was able to better manage her care plan.
“When my mother was living in New York, over an 18 month period she had seven hospital admissions at an approximate cost of $500,000.”
After bringing her to Rhode Island, she did not have one admission. Her care included a nurse who monitored her vital signs and made immediate adjustments to her medication. The nurse, through Medicare, visited three times a week over nine months at an approximate cost of $16,000.
As for assisted living, a new book by journalist A.C. Thompson, “Life and Death in Assisted Living” reveals that unregulated and unmanaged care can be a dangerous option, and, for those with disabilities, “exploitative.”
At the MacArthur Foundation Research Network on an Aging Society, Dr. John Rowe spoke about designing homes and neighborhoods for an aging population. He said researchers are working to develop a program effective in continuing care retirement — and perhaps extend that model to affordable housing — in which health services for the elderly will be provided at the housing site.
A recent report from a Pew Research survey found that 36 percent of adults were providing unpaid care to relatives or friends. This is up from 27 percent in 2010. Even families who choose the facility care option soon realize the need for overseeing care.
As members of society age — with too few young people to balance out the population — the need for advocacy and quality care becomes critical.
Rita Watson, MPH, is a Journal columnist who received the 2012 MetLife Foundation Journalist in Aging Fellowship through the Gerontological Society of American and New America Media and the 2013 GSA travel grant.
Because she never learned to read in English, Grandma appeared to be uninterested in politics. Nonetheless, politicians frequently stopped by for her Friday night puttanesca, an Italian dish of spaghetti, anchovies, olives and capers. During election season, she made this meal in huge vats. On Saturday, neighbors would stop by to ask her opinions. Little thoughts and gestures from Grandma could set people thinking in a voters’ world that relied more on gossip than facts.
Despite backroom politics — as well as heated discussions at men’s private Italian clubs — women would pry Gram for inside information.
Gram would say, “We never know what goes on behind closed doors.”
And if she did not answer in words, it was never a good sign when she tilted her head, shrugged her shoulders, and threw up her hands.
During one particular race, neighbors pushed her for an answer as to her favorite candidate. She smiled and said, “You know I don’t take sides. They are both good men. They often sit at my table. But only one brings his wife — and even his mother.”
“Ahh, that tells us everything,” they nodded.
After every election, Grandma would receive a large basket of fall fruit and flowers.
Many years later, Gram’s influence was still talked about. When I returned to New Haven from New York, where I had been studying, I became involved in a medical center expansion project. The center, focusing on drug treatment research, was tied up by “not in my backyard” activists.
At a crucial meeting of politicians and physicians, when the mayor arrived — even before we introduced ourselves — he looked at me and said, “Little lady, do you have a family recipe for spaghetti and anchovies from your grandmother Nancy? You look just like her.”
Before answering, he told the story of political puttanesca. “Gentleman, if you were running for office some years back, you simply had to knock on the door of Nancy and Anthony and join the family. There was always room for one more.”
“Our family was another story. We were not in politics back then. We had very little money. But every Friday night, her nonna sent over a pot of spaghetti and anchovies and we feasted.”
Then he raised his eyes to the heavens and said, “Nancy, thank you, we are going to make the new center a reality — the puttanesca center.”
Amid laughter and applause, he turned to me and said, “I have just one request — her recipe.”
The mayor was given the recipe. The center was built. And on that day, years later, Gram’s often repeated words rang true: “Give to others and goodness will come back to you.”
Rita Esposito Watson, a Providence Journal and PsychologyToday.com columnist, is writing, “Italian Kisses: Gram’s Wisdom.”
Rita Watson: Memories of Grandma: Published on 02 November 2014
I first met violinist Jesse Holstein through an auction to support the Providence Athenaeum; he would play at a small musical salon for the highest bidder. I kept raising my hand as the bidding escalated, before joining forces with an Athenaeum board member. Just as the auctioneer finished the words, “Do I hear …,” we raised our hands and won.
Later, our guests, who were mesmerized by Holstein, would describe listening to his string work as “spiritual moments.”
Holstein’s passion, dedication and soul has been reflected in his 13-year association with Community MusicWorks, both as a performer and teacher, to “create an opportunity for professional musicians to build and transform their own urban community.”
CMW was founded in 1997 by Sebastian Ruth. Holstein and Ruth met while members of the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra and became friends. Ruth invited Holstein to join the program that brings bring classical music to urban youngsters through free after-school education and performance programs. Essentially, they wanted to fill a musical void for young people by working and living in the neighborhood with the children and families that they served.
Today, Community MusicWorks is a thriving musical microcosm with more than 100 students. It has received numerous awards and founder Ruth became a 2010 MacArthur Foundation “genius” award recipient.
In his classroom, Holstein has expanded his teaching to bring lessons of mindfulness to students at CMW.
He recently returned from a sabbatical at the Plum Village monastery in the south of France, where Vietnamese Zen Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh is spiritual leader. The monk is internationally respected for his teaching and writing on mindfulness and peace.
Holstein says his teaching brought him to a self-realization that inspired him to pursue the practice of mindfulness.
“It was not an easy time at first,” Holstein said. “I am accustomed to multitasking and running from teaching to rehearsals to concerts and to socializing with families of my students. In France I was expected to do nothing but focus on the moment.”
Q. When you returned you decided to convey mindfulness to music students. How do you do this?
A. I have started to address spirituality with students. We are focusing on spirituality in the preteen group for those who want more depth by learning how music intersects with their lives.
We start each session with five minutes of sitting. One of things we do is to ask students to focus on one thing at a time in their lives, whether it is stretching, skateboarding, playing basketball or doing the dishes. We are trying to teach them to become uni-taskers instead of multi-taskers. If music students can be completely focused for 15 minutes, it is reflected in the quality of their work.
When a student wonders, “Why do I have to practice mindfulness?” the answers are simple. It builds impulse control and helps you connect with something deeper, values.
Q. What is the unique nature of your work in terms of both music and teaching?
A. My teaching has brought me to two different stages of self-realization, first through the CMW philosophy and now because of my experience with mindfulness. I think what distinguishes CMW from other programs, in addition to musical excellence, are the teachers, artists and scholars who comprise our community. In becoming accomplished instrumentalists we are trying to create citizens of the world — whether locally or globally — who are socially responsible. What we want to convey to students is our belief that music is more than just playing well.
We also have learned that what works for one is not for all, an older model from my own high school days. Despite being a creature of habit, I now try to meet the students where they are at. To do this, you need to check the ego at the door. We want to set up students for success and to become intrinsic motivators.
One way we do this is to encourage students to select their own music because, when they do, they are much more likely to open the violin case. They may see a skill in an older student, such as creating a vibrato, and say, “I want to learn that.” Then you let them. Or if they say, “When I try to read music the notes are coming too fast.” We trust the student to go at his or her own pace. We find out what works best for each individual.
Q. How does mindfulness help you when you perform?
A. Although I still get performance anxiety wondering what people are going to think of me, from practicing mindfulness I learned that those thoughts are just passing clouds.
What I see now is that I need to make time for my spiritual practice and breathing. When I get anxious before a performance, now I can say to myself, “These are just thoughts, emotions, old patterns that I’ve been stuck in for a long time.”
Providence violinist finds the spiritual in music / Oct 20, 2014 (GREAT PHOTOS AT THIS LINK.) Rita Watson is a Journal columnist who also writes for PsychologyToday.com.
If you have not as yet come up with a Halloween costume, try becoming a giant smiley face.
In looking at the research on smiles recently, it seems that a particular type of smile, one that lights up the whole face, comes about through a set of facial muscles that may control our joy and destiny. Named for a French researcher, the “Duchenne smile” reveals relationship secrets. Researchers have determined that a smile can predict happiness and divorce, convey love and compatibility between couples, and is happily contagious.
Those of us who grew up with older relatives always reminding us to stand up straight and smile might have inadvertently learned the secret to happiness, good relationships, and less stress. To visualize an image of the Duchenne smile, think of Julia Roberts and Mario Lopez, or the smiley face emoticon. The Duchenne smile uses facial and eye muscles to create that “you light up my life” look.
Looking through yearbook photos, a recent photo-prediction experiment at DePauw University accurately predicted marriage and divorce just based on the smiles. “The Science of Intimate Relationships” reported on couples who were happiest by two simple actions observed on videotapes — those who nodded in agreement as the other spoke and those with Duchenne smiles. It seems that in the act of smiling, you feel better and this sends a signal to the brain called “happiness.”
Consider this: In a study on toothpaste sales, it was found that people were willing to pay more for toothpaste promoted by actors with Duchenne smiles. If such a smile can sell toothpaste, imagine what it might do for your relationship? If your relationship is rocky for the moment, just smiling as you think about the joy you derived in the past will trigger production of the love hormone oxytocin.
Smiles and laughter are contagious, as we learned from studies at the University of Maryland. Try laughing alone in a crowd and within minutes the laughter will spread gleefully and the love will just bubble up and over! If you missed World Smile Day earlier this month, there is still time to promote its slogan: “Do an act of kindness. Help one person smile.”
You can practice the Duchenne smile until it becomes a reality for you. Much like gratitude, if you practice the gratitude you do not necessarily feel — through kind acts — eventually you will find yourself becoming a more grateful person. Try smiling more often at the person you love, watch movies together that make you laugh, and your love life and sex life are sure to reach new levels of compatibility and joy.
Rita Watson: Wear a smile, light up your love life October 19, 2014
Rita Watson is a relationship columnist for The Providence Journal and PsychologyToday.com.
Grandma spoke of “Papa’s pears” with reverence. The fruit trees that lined the walkway to Grandpa’s garden created a canopy that overheard family secrets and stories including our favorite — the pears for newlyweds. Grandma said that in her Italian village when young people married and moved from the farms “to set up house,” her mother would bring them a basket of pears. Since pear trees live for 250 years, these were wishes for a long, happy life together.
In this country, Gram kept up the spirit of tradition. Each fall she lined the pantry with jars for her pears in brandy. She made up a simple mixture of boiled sugar to which she added bay leaves and brandy and then the cored and sliced pears.
Each year at pear time, soft-spoken Gram would raise her voice.
“Anthony, Anthony,” she would call out. “That brother of yours was back in my pantry again. He knew I was making the pears and look at how much brandy he drank. I’m telling you, it’s time to talk with him.”
“Aspetta, my little sweetheart. I bought more brandy just for you.”
Grandpa’s little sweetheart was about 4 feet 10 inches tall and just as wide. They would kiss. She would smile then sigh. “Imagine he drinks the newlyweds’ brandy for their pears of long life.”
Grandma believed “Papa’s pears” were descendents of the Fiorentina pears, which her mother had received as a gift from relatives in Umbria, about three hours from their village in the Avellino region. The Fiorentina pear tree is often depicted in Renaissance paintings.
Since family weddings took place in the summertime, Grandma and Grandpa waited until the fall to visit newlyweds at their home. She packed jars of pears in a large basket and on top of the jars rested a small tray of her biscotti sprinkled with sugar-coated almonds and silver stands of tinsel — a miniature of their wedding tray.
At Italian weddings newlyweds passed a large tray of cookies to guests. The bride always had a drawstring satin pouch swinging from her wrist. When relatives took the cookies, they handed the bride an envelope with cash, saying, “Put this in your bag to help you set up house.”
Immediately after the exchange of cookies and envelopes, Gram nudged Grandpa. On cue, he stood up, lifted his wine glass and began his toast. “Here’s to the bride and the groom. I want you both to look around at all of your family. My wife just reminded me to tell you that marriage is for richer, for poorer. Even on days when you feel poor, remember this moment. Here you have surrounding you the riches of family. Salute.”
Rita Esposito Watson, a Providence Journal and PsychologyToday.com columnist, is writing, “Italian Kisses: Gram’s Wisdom.”
We have all been to parties where we envied those lovey-dovey couples and their public display of affection. And sometimes, in the same room, there was the silent-treatment pair making everyone in their company feel uncomfortable.
Recently, researchers have been highlighting relationships, and one study reveals that givers have a greater chance at happiness than takers. Givers are generous with kisses, kindness and words. On the flip side are the withholders, those who give the cold shoulder to their partners.
The successful principle of giving without expecting anything in return has been studied in business culture —researchers found that givers shared more important information as well as resources, while takers kept it all to themselves — and it applies equally to couples’ relationships.
Now let’s look at those silent treatment couples. Here, studies have shown that that there are harmful consequences when one person in a relationship shuts down. There is no giving; there is just withdrawing. Nonetheless, this is one of the most common ways married couples deal with conflict.
Here are the top 10 secrets to strengthening love provided by relationship experts:
- Say “I love you” in the morning and at night.
- Banish the words, “How many times have I told you?” from your vocabulary.
- Kiss five times a day and enjoy intimacy twice a week.
- Avoid criticism and the silent treatment.
- Be generous with praise and gratitude.
- Stop shouting and playing the blame game.
- Find ways to make each other laugh.
- Respect boundaries — that means no computer snooping.
- Maintain positive illusions.
- Accept responsibility if you are wrong and say so.
- Be forgiving.
In a love relationship, learn the value of “we” to help strengthen connections, says Dr. Karen Skerrett of Northwestern University. The book “Positive Couple Therapy: Using We-Stories to Enhance Resilience,” which Skerrett co-authored, points out that couples who create mutual stories and share them with family and friends develop “a sense of mutuality” that helps foster lifelong love.
Rita Watson, MPH, is a relationship columnist for All About You and writes the “With Love and Gratitude” column for PsychologyToday.com.
Rita Watson: Learning to give can strengthen your love: Published on 24 August 2014
Our grandmother disliked crowds, even those that gathered to honor the saints. When September’s “la festa de San Gennaro” approached — a large Italian street festival of music, games and food — Gram planned a gathering of some 30 relatives for cooking, eating, playing bocce and building sand castles. She said we could not attend the feasts until we were tall enough to see over the heads of the crowd.
The city feast that began in Naples was transported to Italian-American neighborhoods and featured the saint’s statue being carried through the streets. At our house, there was no saint to be lifted onto men’s shoulders, just buckets of sand from under the dock to our front lawn so that we could build our sand village. While the men gathered sand, we went with aunts and cousins to the gardens to pick the last of the escarole, cabbage and kale to make “minestra,” a greens and beans staple for the first September chill.
As Gram and our aunts cooked, Grandpa and the men prepared the bocce court, a patch of soil about 16 feet long by about 8 feet wide. With balls made of metal, the game was like bowling without the pins.
When the sun began to set over the water, Grandpa moved his Victrola (a record player that had to be cranked up) to the side porch so we could listen to Italian music from his 78 RPM records. Then he hung colored Christmas lights over the grape arbor saying: “Eh, bravo. Now it looks like the Italian feast.”
Once we all took our place at the picnic tables, we bowed our heads as he thanked God for family and food. Then Grandma and our aunts came along to place a large frizelle in everyone’s dish. The thick crusty slice of Italian bread seemed lonely until it was smothered by a hefty ladle of “minestra.” Later the tables were cleared for gobs of homemade gelato as Grandpa and the men turned on the Christmas lights over the bocce court. Then they poured themselves wine and raised their glasses, saying “Salute.”
We all moved onto the porch to watch and cheer on the teams. Smiling from her rocker, Gram nodded her head contentedly. Then she said, “If all those people at the city festival knew about this day, they would wish they could be here. If you went to the city, you would have missed all of this. Sometimes you will have wishes that may not come true. Instead of pouting, create a better memory. Look around you. We have colored lights, good food, relatives and music. Today while the city celebrates San Gennaro, we are celebrating the feast of family.”
Published: September 07, 2014 01:00 AM /Special to The Journal/ Rita Watson: Celebrating the feast of family and food
Rita Esposito Watson is a relationship columnist for All About You and PsychologyToday.com. She is writing a book, “Italian Kisses: Gram’s Wisdom.”keep looking »