Saturday, May 21, 2011

From the Streets of Salem; Sometimes the clothes DO make the man

Salem, MA - I remember the day I had one of the most important job interviews probably in my life and the life of my family.
It was in 2006 when I was living in a family shelter with my husband and my youngest daughter. I had the opportunity to put my skills to work and financially to help my family get ahead. What I also remember is the concern I had because my wardrobe was definitely not appropriate to go on a job interview or to go to work each day.
I was blessed with a caseworker who was familiar with the ordeal of homeless people who do attempt to aspire, yet with no clothing and no money to look good they do not have the self esteem to move forward and to better their lives. Several appointments were set up for me to not only give me a makeover on the outside, but to also give me a makeover on the inside too; when someone feels good about themselves then they tend to achieve much more than what even they thought possible.
My first appointment scheduled was at the Dress for Success program (, which helps disadvantaged women gain economic independence by providing attire to help thrive within the workplace and then within their lives. During my initial visit I felt like a queen. 
I was given a choice of high quality donated outfits and accessories.
Once the interview was completed and if I was hired, I would be invited back to choose more donated clothing, accessories and shoes to wear to my new job — until I could afford to purchase my own clothing once I started receiving paychecks.

The next dilemma was my hair. As a potential candidate I needed to look my best and to sell myself. Looking your best is something that even the ancients believed in; grooming and cutting hair is one of the oldest art forms in mankind’s history.

One establishment that works with their clientele in Salem is Wicked Hair Design (, founded in 2010 and owned by Jen Lubas Robito.
One day I walked into the salon feeling drab and in definite need of a lift. I walked out feeling like a new person — a new look on the outside and a new person on the inside. Though Jen does certainly have her overhead to meet with running a business and the need to care for her own family, she worked with me as an individual concerning my finances to ensure that I could afford to get my hair done.

Another local business that helps those in need is Radiance Aveda, owned and operated by Trish Grzela, with locations in Marblehead and in Salem. This salon ( offers specialized consultations and discounts that are posted on their Facebook page. These discounts add up to great savings for those who, like me, are currently counting their change.

 Back in 2006 I did get the job I needed and I was able to move my family back to our hometown of Salem — back to our friends, back to our family, back to my roots where I was born and raised. I often do reflect on the people I have met and though there are days when it seems that the world is dark, I have seen the best in people and the darkness will dissipate. After all, if one person feels good about themselves then they can in turn make someone else feel good as well. 

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Friday, May 6, 2011

Mother's Day Tribute to My Mom and ALL MOMS - Reflections from the Past

Ruth Eleanor Shattuck Eldridge Callahan

My sisters 6 weeks old AND 3 months old
Deceased Guy, Mark, Wayne
Alive Me, Billy(in the crib)
Christopher was not born yet.
The familiar scent of fresh print and glossy pictures of Natalie Jacobson and Chet Curtis attending an event at the French-inspired castle Carcassonne built by Lydia Pinkham in 1929 adorn the pages of old in the Boston Magazine. Pages of old mixed with nostalgic memories of old when as a young girl I devoured the pages of my mother’s magazine. Pages that were worn and pages that were dog-eared. However, they were pages that contained writing and photos that informed, entertained, and allowed my mother an escape, if only brief, from her world of raising 6 children basically on her own. A world that contained the reality of a woman who barely had time for herself, yet occasionally would curl up in bed late at night and relax with her companion the Boston Magazine.

The content was not just glamor and certainly not just glitz, but well-written articles that informed its readers about medical issues, political issues, and even issues that allowed my mom to become a more informed person. As a young girl I honestly did not always understand what I was reading, but when my mother was at work as I held the magazine in my hands it allowed me to be with my “rugged cross” - my mom; a parent that was barely home due to the necessity of needing to support her children. A woman who married my father and over the years I witnessed her love and dreams dissipate, yet I also witnessed her strength getting stronger. Strength gained through the many “empty promises” my dad made to her and to his family, yet the “field of empty promises grew with each passing year.” My mom soon became my greatest role model and she instilled within me that same strength like the cross that stands erect on the hill in the George Bennard’s hymn The Old Rugged Cross.

Many tragic losses have since happened within my family. I look at my now elderly mother in awe and wonder how she copes with the loss of two daughters as infants, the loss of my three oldest brothers; one murdered in 1991, one found alone and dead in his apartment in 2004, and one who committed suicide in 2007. How can a person especially a mother endure what my own mom has endured, yet continue to walk forward? This question resonates in my mind when I look over at my ageing mother with admiration and love.
My Maternal Great-Grand-Parents
Mabel and Leroy Grams and Gramps

An admiration that has taught me as her daughter determination. I am blessed to have all my children with me as well as two handsome grandsons. I may have been homeless several times over the years, I may have had to file bankruptcy twice over the years, I may have survived an abusive first marriage, I may have had to live each day frugally due to financial instability, I may have even lost my three oldest brothers and feel their loss and pain each day, but now as the oldest child instead of the middle child living with two younger brothers each day I, like my mother, move forward and through my writing attempt to not only advocate for others, attempt to use my words to let others know they are never alone. Though at times I felt so alone as a little girl; I was at least comforted falling asleep waiting for my mother to arrive home from work clinging to the images and the words within the dog-eared pages of my mom’s Boston Magazine.
The Future

From the Streets of Salem; Cancer fight hits home

Often when I walk through Salem I am inundated with so many, many memories no matter where I go. The ghosts of the past frequent my life and most of my memories are nostalgic. Just like Scrooge in Charles Dickens’ “Christmas Carol,” everyday I am visited by spirits from the past, the present, and the future when I can at times envision myself as a Salem resident aging over the years.
However, hauntings are certainly a part of my memories; hauntings of loved ones lost, gone at least from our physical realm. Loved ones that are taken from us in many ways and one of the second leading ways is through cancer. The state Health and Human Services estimates, through data that takes more than two to three years to be released, from 2001-2005 there were 67,638 cancer related deaths in Massachusetts. So many losses for families and friends. Losses that are reflected in memorials, tributes, benefits and the heart when we as humans naturally come together for each other during times of sadness and grief.
Uniting is evident in the NSMC Walk for Cancer, which will take place on Sunday morning, June 26. Since 1991 this walk has raised more than $16 million for cancer attracting more than 5,000 participants each year. Funding ensures quality care to North Shore patients and families. Participating in any form either through donating, volunteering, or walking ensures unity of a community with purpose. After the loss of my father to cancer I walked in his memory and was uplifted within my soul. The 2011 walk will include a team that recently lost a wife, a mom, a sister, a niece, a cousin and to many of us in Salem a dear friend — Roseann Grocki.

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Monday, May 2, 2011

The Eagle Will Soar Again

In Memory of September 11, 2001

A black void, emptiness,
as wings of demons descend,
brittle glass shatters innocence
now, hidden concealed revenge.
An eagle in flight sailing
like a mighty god of the sky
a serpent within its talons
the struggle between dark and light.
A Nation's blood splattered, red
pain slices at every soul,
sorrow transcends our reality
amongst the soot and the smoke.
Brothers and Sisters that traveled
into The Valley of Death
may be physically lost, but
their memories are now etched
from the heart of one
into the hearts of two
into the hearts of everyone,
America, God Bless you.
A flag wavers in the breeze,
yet erect like the Rugged Cross
its stars the eyes of this night
crying for a Nation's loss.
White our stolen purity,
Red our mighty valor,
Blue our vigilant Chief
watching the eagle soar.
Wounded the godlike eagle
attempts to once again fly
struggling to reach the Heavens
through the darkness of this night
towards an everlasting communion
a eulogy in red, white, and blue
a spiritual state of unity
America, God Bless you.