Monday, November 18, 2013

At a Loss for Words

It can happen to the most loquacious, the most eloquent of us. Even President Obama searched for words when giving a speech. Due to a staff oversight he didn’t have the prepared speech in front of him. When staff gave the speech to him he smiled and began the delivery.

We have no trouble talking about a good book or movie. Yet some human exchanges have you with wings flapping like a frightened bird whose vocal chords have lost their sound. “I am at a loss for words.” You have been taken by surprise. What can you do when this happens? Sometimes, nothing. If the other person is in the throes of strong emotion directed at you, the best thing to do is breathe deeply and listen, knowing the fury is temporary. When feelings subside it helps to suggest returning at a later time to talk about the issue. “I would like to respond to you right now but I don’t have the words.” Why you lose words might not be immediately obvious. It could be you heard “Shut up”, when you tried to express yourself as a child when things got heated. Or it could be you’re afraid if you begin to talk, the painful truth will come out, not to be retrieved. So time can work in your favor.

If this is a particularly difficult conversation with a boss or an adult child, preparation might give a boost to your confidence. Write it down. Author Isabel Allende encourages writers experiencing a block to “Show up, show up, show up.” When stopped by fear or discomfort, you can rehearse what you want to say in your mind. And then “show up! When blocked by fear spoken words, as with written, can break through; they “show up” when you need them. So what you initially experienced as loss becomes a relationship gain.

This being said, we probably have had those times when a friend is fired up about a particular subject. Be it politics, religion or a life episode that brings back painful memories. As she speaks she becomes more and more excited. What can you say? Not a word; listen. The venting eventually subsides and you tell her you understand how hard this has been for her. Then quietly she says, “Thanks for being here, sorry you had to hear this.” Introduce a neutral topic. Be happy your loss of words paid off in this instance and your advice, quietly given, may just have saved a friendship.

Angela Menghraj

Photo: Plonq (

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The Institute for Older Adults

Retirement can be wonderful time to do all the things we never get around to doing when we are working. Oddly enough, retirees often are in a quandary when faced with time of their own. Being bored is not an option; it is a challenge.

Since its origin in 1875 Isabella has always demonstrated keen interest in community service and outreach. In 1994 the late Edward J. Mc Fadden, CEO of Isabella, established the Institute for Older Adults to give area residents opportunities to be involved in activities that addressed physical, mental and emotional health. Age alone does not define abilities and needs and the programming of the Institute reflects this thinking.

The Institute serves as the umbrella organization for community programs that promote health and wellness. Members of the 50+ Club, one of the programs, have a variety of activities from which to choose. Walking through the grounds in the early morning, one can observe participants in the very popular “Walking Works Wonders” exercises under the guidance of coach Nick Badera.

In October the annual Health Fair attracted over 300 visitors. Many area agencies and hospitals offered an abundance of resource material. Participants availed themselves of blood pressure, glucose, depression and anxiety, podiatric, and peripheral arterial disease screenings. Along with these services, information about finances, transportation, volunteering, and diabetes by the over 50 local agencies attending the Fair provide an abundance of useful material.

The workshops and seminars offered periodically are another source of valuable information. In December a seminar focused on coping with cancer presented by Dr. Marlena Vega—herself a survivor. According to the Institute’ s Coordinator, Marilyn Pacheco, who arranges the various presentations, in this important topic Dr. Vega provided motivating hope to displace the anxiety that can accompany a cancer diagnosis. The seminars offer topics of current interest.

Connecting with people is an important outcome offered by Isabella’s Institute for Older Adults. Whether it be an outing to the Poconos, a conference or the bi-weekly support group, getting together with other people fills the need for positive social interaction from which we all benefit.

For more information contact Marilyn Pacheco at 212-342-9224

Thursday, February 28, 2013

A Literary Venture for Isabella House

Isabella House—situated on the grounds of Isabella Geriatric Center in upper Manhattan—offers independent living for individuals 62 and older. The people who live in Isabella House bring a variety of rich personal experiences and talents to this innovative environment. 

Keeping up with this vital and enterprising community keeps everyone young. One of the attributes of life at Isabella House is a willingness to provide programs and opportunities that meet the ever growing interests of our residents. For example, a number of residents enjoy creative writing classes; some truly committed souls have volunteered to use their literary talents to develop the first Isabella House magazine, titled All in Our Family. It is a new and exciting venture undertaken by four residents who make up the editorial board. They are assisted by Angela Menghraj (Consultant).

Who are the editors?

·         Louise Alexander brings her extensive experience as an educator and nurse. She also produced a community publication, The Beacon Magazine, for the Castle Hill Senior Center in the Bronx.
·         Elaine Grabel is a poet and writer. She has worked in publishing for many years at John Wiley and Sons, and Doubleday. As a judge for the North Eastern Job Corps, Elaine evaluated essays of participants for the annual competition for ten years.  
·         William Hamilton is a former editor of and contributor to the Jane Austen Society of North America Newsletter. He was a teacher in adult education with concentration on writing.
·         Donald Lortie has an extensive background in computer technology. He has participated in a number of writing classes and workshops in Isabella. He also is an essayist with special expertise in scientific topics.

The first thing the board did was to announce the upcoming magazine to House residents, and then solicit contributions from those who enjoy writing. So, in addition to each board member submitting articles, poems and essays, other residents enthusiastically began to contribute their own work. The editorial board will continue to encourage residents to share stories from their lives, their poetry, reflections and anything else that suits their fancy.

Isabella House Magazine will publish its first quarterly issue in the coming weeks. Isabella House residents continue to be engaged in refreshing and life affirming activities in which they use their rich array of talents. After all, there is so much life in individuals of all ages.

Isabella House Magazine will be posted on our Facebook page at and our website when completed. If you have any questions, you may call Angela Menghraj, 212-342-9389.