Graduate School during a Pandemic

It was 2019 and I had decided that I wanted to go to graduate school for a master’s degree that had to do with cybersecurity. I looked into a few programs as my work would provide some tuition reimbursement. I chose a Technical MBA in Cybersecurity from Capitol Technical University. The classes, aside from one term, I took one at a time. Each class lasted 8 weeks and was fully remote and asynchronous.

Little did I know that we were about to go into a lockdown — and all travel for work would stop. I was very lucky that my job was not affected too much by all of this as I was already set up to work from home. Also, during the pandemic, my job title and responsibilities changed dramatically. One thing I have learned in life is how to roll with it — change is constant and all I can do is just adapt and learn. I value my job and feel that overall, I am taken care of — and then we got a new manager! The team was somewhat concerned as our new boss was from outside of the company — but we quickly learned this was one of the best things that could have happened! Our new boss is fantastic!

Aside from work and school — Jon and I got vaccinated against COVID-19, moved to a new home, and went on a fantastic vacation where we saw friends we had not seen in years! Now, I’m in the process of writing my last paper for my last class. I feel like I have grown so much in this past two years. Sometimes my days are held together with sheer grit and determination.

So, whatever the future holds — we got this — I hope the world can begin to come back together, to understand that there is much more in common than what separates us. That love and kindness can win over hatred and bigotry.

“Where Is The Love?” -Black Eyed Peas

What’s wrong with the world, mama
People livin’ like they ain’t got no mamas
I think the whole world’s addicted to the drama
Only attracted to things that’ll bring the trauma

Overseas, yeah, we tryna stop terrorism
But we still got terrorists here livin’
In the USA, the big CIA
The Bloods and the Crips and the KKK

But if you only have love for your own race
Then you only leave space to discriminate
And to discriminate only generates hate
And when you hate then you’re bound to get irate, yeah

Madness is what you demonstrate
And that’s exactly how anger works and operates
Man, you gotta have love, this’ll set us straight
Take control of your mind and meditate
Let your soul gravitate to the love, y’all, y’all

People killin’, people dyin’
Children hurtin’, hear them cryin’
Can you practice what you preach?
And would you turn the other cheek?

Father, Father, Father help us
Send some guidance from above
‘Cause people got me, got me questionin’
Where is the love (Love)

Where is the love (The love)?
Where is the love (The love)?
Where is the love, the love, the love?

It just ain’t the same, old ways have changed
New days are strange, is the world insane?
If love and peace is so strong
Why are there pieces of love that don’t belong?

Nations droppin’ bombs
Chemical gases fillin’ lungs of little ones
With ongoin’ sufferin’ as the youth die young
So ask yourself is the lovin’ really gone?
So I could ask myself really what is goin’ wrong
In this world that we livin’ in people keep on givin’ in
Makin’ wrong decisions, only visions of them dividends
Not respectin’ each other, deny thy brother
A war is goin’ on but the reason’s undercover

The truth is kept secret, and swept under the rug
If you never know truth then you never know love
Where’s the love, y’all? Come on (I don’t know)
Where’s the truth, y’all? Come on (I don’t know)
And where’s the love, y’all?

People killin’, people dyin’
Children hurtin’, hear them cryin’
Can you practice what you preach?
And would you turn the other cheek?

Father, Father, Father help us
Send some guidance from above
‘Cause people got me, got me questionin’
Where is the love (Love)?

Where is the love (The love)?
Where is the love (The love)?
Where is the love (The love)?
Where is the love (The love)?
Where is the love (The love)?
Where is the love (The love)?
Where is the love, the love, the love?

I feel the weight of the world on my shoulder
As I’m gettin’ older, y’all, people gets colder
Most of us only care about money makin’
Selfishness got us followin’ the wrong direction

Wrong information always shown by the media
Negative images is the main criteria
Infecting the young minds faster than bacteria
Kids wanna act like what they see in the cinema

Yo’, whatever happened to the values of humanity
Whatever happened to the fairness and equality
Instead of spreading love we’re spreading animosity
Lack of understanding, leading us away from unity

That’s the reason why sometimes I’m feelin’ under
That’s the reason why sometimes I’m feelin’ down
There’s no wonder why sometimes I’m feelin’ under
Gotta keep my faith alive ’til love is found
Now ask yourself

Where is the love?
Where is the love?
Where is the love?
Where is the love?

Father, Father, Father, help us
Send some guidance from above
‘Cause people got me, got me questionin’
Where is the love?

Now, sing with me y’all
One world, one world (We only got)
One world, one world (That’s all we got)
One world, one world
And something’s wrong with it (Yeah)
Something’s wrong with it (Yeah)
Something’s wrong with the wo-wo-world, yeah
We only got
(One world, one world)
That’s all we got
(One world, one world)

Wasting Time

Have you every thought about how many minutes in a day you spend worrying?

How about the number of minutes you spend loving someone?

How many minutes are you putting hate vs. love out into the world?

What if you thought you had all the time in the world – then one day you wake up and your hair is grey and face is wrinkled and time has slipped away from you.

So many people you loved are gone.

The places you lived don’t exist as they once were because time has destroyed buildings and relationships.

How much more time are you going to waste living a life that only spreads hatred and negativity?

How much more of your life will you spend worrying — when you can worry and it’s gonna happen or stay calm and it’s gonna happen.

Hatred has no place here – neither does worry.

So much time wasted.


Lessons in Death

My brother just died after a long battle with Cancer. Fucking Cancer.

Anyone that knew us knew we were polar opposites.
He was Republican – I am a Democrat
He had 4 kids – I have no biological kids
He was aligned to my Mom — I was aligned to my Dad
He watched horror movies — Me — NOPE!!
But we were still brother and sister and toward the end of his life we learned to put away our differences and found appreciation in common ground.

We even took a funny picture at my Dad’s funeral.
“Look Dad, your kids are getting along”

My mother took us all to Disney after my Dad died. It was probably one of the best weeks of my life. Jim and I had time to just hang out together and enjoy food and rides and the company of family.

Its a Small World Ride

Jon and I got married in May. My brother and my humor continued as you can see in the photo below.

My wedding May 27th, 2018.

When I knew his life was coming to an end, I started to text him. I realized there were so many things I didn’t know.
Here are a few out takes from our conversations —

His Favorite Bible Verse
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who calld you out of the darkness into his marvelous light 1 Peter 2:9

I asked him is favorite thing about each of his kids

Jackie – her humor
Jenny – her kindness
Jasmine – her humor
Colin – his thoughtfulness

The last text from him said “Thanks” in response from me texting him “Happy Birthday from the Bahamas”

Two days before he passed I did a Facebook Video call to tell him goodbye. (thank you Kris)
I’m sad I didn’t get to hold his hand or put my hand on his cheek in those final hours — but at least I got to say goodbye.

I know he is in a better place, with those we loved that passed before us.

RIP Jim.

4 Years

Centerbrook Cemetery – Mum’s for the Socci’s

Today marks 4 years since Charley died. His mother always decorated the graves during holiday times. I try my best to get a Mum plant down there in October and something for Christmas. Since Charley died in October it gives me a reason to visit around that time. He’s not buried here as he was cremated and I have held onto his ashes for all these years. When the marker was first placed, I did take a small amount of ashes and bury them right in front of his grave marker. The marker was important to me so there would be a place for people to visit. Today when I arrived I was touched to see that someone still remembers my mother-in-law, Lily.

I decided it was time to let go of the ashes. I knew I wanted to put them in the water, in a place that meant something to him. So after the graveyard, I headed to Hammonasset Beach.

Hammonasset Beach, Madison, CT

Along with the ashes, I had my wedding bouquet and the roses from Charley’s and my Father’s funeral saved in a ziplock bag. I tossed the dried bouquet and flowers into the ocean. There is something so peaceful about “big water” I opened the urn but I couldn’t get the bag out of it! Really Charley, difficult in death like you could be in life? This could just be my fault for waiting for so long to let them go! I was able to pour some ashes onto the sand — but there was more traffic on the beach than I expected so I decided to try to find somewhere a little more private.

At the beach I reserved some of Charley’s ashes and put them in a small urn with my Dad’s ashes — because eventually I want them mixed with mine —

Charley spent a lot of time in Old Saybrook “playing HAM radio” so I got back in the car and drove to Saybrook Point.

Saybrook Point – the final release

In the movies you see these romantic scenes of people releasing ashes…well, let me tell you — when someone around 200lbs is cremated…there are LOTS of ashes! I wasn’t successful in spreading them at the beach so I had about 3/4 left inside of the urn.

It was such a beautiful day — I walked along the point and found this little nook — some of the ashes made it into the air, and the rest landed in the water…I spent some time watching them get washed out into the ocean. I know Charley is at peace…and it felt good to let the ashes go. My life has come so far in these past 4 years. I’m grateful for everything. The difficult times and the joyful times… Amor Fati … love your fate.

The Blondes

Originally posted on Facebook in 2013

Maybe it’s too soon to talk about it.

I held Shammy in my arms as the Vet administered that final shot. She passed very peacefully and we brought her home and buried her with the rest of the pets in the back yard.

I could not help but think of the final moments of my MIL’s life.

She died alone.

We had spent hours and hours with her in hospice. The day she died we had an appointment and then decided to have lunch before going to the hospital. When we got there and walked into the room she was dead. The nurses had turned her not 10 minutes prior.

She was still warm.

We told the nurse who shut the door and let us spend some time with her. I hope Lily was there to meet Shammy when she passed and my blondes are back together again. I’m sorry if this is morbid. But it’s what is on my mind. I think being with someone or a pet a they pass is an honor.

And may everyone pass peacefully.

Lily Strange Socci and Champagne “shammy”

A Star is Born

A Star is Born, what a beautiful story that was all too close to my own. For me the becoming a star was my launch from working in the theater (backstage) to having a very successful career in IT. And, having Charley get so jealous and resentful of me when I got my job at Microsoft. And, my loyalty to him — even through the cruelty, addiction, and his recovery.

The one tiny detail they nailed, and probably went unnoticed, was the dog. The dog was sitting outside of the garage when Bradley Cooper’s character killed himself.

When I found Charley. Lucy and Thelma were laying right next to him. After he was gone, Lucy would sit by the door and watch for him. It was heartbreaking.

I feel it’s important to tell these stories — to not sweep feelings under the rug. I know this kind of story is not what people want to read on a sunny Sunday morning.

It’s made me who I am today…which is someone that stands up and lives her truth. I just wish there was a way for others to get to this place without having to go through this kind of life altering event.

A poem after the loss of my father

My grief lives in little boxes.

I put them up on a shelf

Like gifts to revisit

But the gifts bring pain

Sometimes I can choose when to open them

And other times they are like that surprise that shows up on your doorstep

The unwelcome guest that no matter how many times you tell them you are not interested in what they have to offer…they keep coming back

Some of the gifts are worn, dusty, old

Others still have their shine, their newness, the luster that attracts me to pick them up, examine them, hold onto them for a while.

How much would I love to replace the gift on the shelf with one more cup of coffee

One more late night piano concert

One more story

One more hug or kiss.  One more I love you

How is it we never learn

Never talk about this pain

How much more can my heart take?  How does one continue to live…

Funny how something that has caused me so much pain…I call a gift

My gifts have names


Each one of these lives had impact.  Big or small.  And they will always be remembered in my heart.

Chapter 2.

It was a few months after Charley died and I was visiting Norma in her dorm. She and her friends were messing around on Tinder.

I having been out of the dating game for over 13 years I had no idea what this was… on top of which my main phone was a Windows Phone.

When I got home, I pulled out my old android and started swiping…


Yeah…I know….that face, those guns…along with a really cool profile write up. I messaged him and we got together a week later for drinks and lunch at City Steam Brewery in Hartford.

First Date, April 15th, 2016

We had a great time together. I didn’t know that day that we would get married a few years later. but what I did know was that it felt good…and I had not felt like that for years.

So, while the grieving never really ends…learning that your heart has the ability to expand – to allow new love and new experiences, should be the take away here. And Happiness — is just around the corner waiting if you allow it in.

My first Christmas as a Widow

Originally posted on December 27th, 2015

I could have made various choices on how to spend my Christmas holiday. I decided to spend it mostly alone. I did go to a co-worker’s house for Christmas eve and that was a nice time. Christmas day was quiet. I had been binge watching a series and I watched the last 2 episodes Christmas morning. Around 2pm I decided to go out. I went to see the movie “Joy” and went out to eat…nothing fancy. Just food.

I felt it was just what I needed to do this year. Norma posted a youtube video on her Facebook page that Charley made a few Christmas ago. I looked at a few more of his videos, and had a good cry. When I think of the Charley I miss, I miss who he was at the beginning of our relationship…before things became so twisty and complicated. I believe his is at rest now. He deserves to peace he only had for moments at a time living on this earth.

Charley’s Eulogy

Originally posted on November 14th, 2015

Charley spent his life surrounded by Leo’s.  His mother was a Leo, the mother of his children is a Leo, his daughter is a Leo, I’m a Leo, and we even have a dog named Leo.

Charley was a beautiful, brilliant, and complicated man.  Musician, IT guru, HAM radio operator, star gazer, and photographer.

When Charley shared his music, he was sharing his soul.

Right or wrong he was raised by his mother to believe that his lot in life was to take care of his older brother Joey, who had Down’s syndrome.  I am told he had a very special bond with his brother, his first CD was labeled For Joey.  I believe I saw a glimpse of that when he met my cousin Todd, who also has Down’s syndrome.
He was so tender, so understanding, so gentle.

When Charley was in High School he met Jackie McLean.  He would go to Jackie’s house in Hartford and take private lessons.  He looked to Jackie as a father figure. He continued his music studies at the Hartt School of Music.  Hoping to take his music to the next level, he bought a tiny studio apartment in New York City.  He didn’t stay there…he ended up back in CT.  His brother died, and he knew it was time to make his own life.

Part of that life included meeting Hedy, with whom he had two amazing kids…Alex and Norma.  Alex inherited Charley’s musical talent and Norma inherited his brilliant mind and we are so proud of her for getting accepted to UConn.  Charley wished he could have spent more time with and done more for them.  He loved you both deeply…hold onto that.

The other part of that life included going to IT school and then moving back to NYC.  That is where we met.  We spent over a month and 100 emails back and forth before actually meeting in person. Yes, we were an online dating success story. I will never forget the first time we met, how beautiful and deep his eyes were.  I worked in the theater at the time and used to make dates between shows because I would always have an excuse to leave to go back to work.  On my first date with Charley, I was late getting back to work.  We went on 2 more dates that same week and were inseparable after that.  Because I had my days free for the most part.  I would spend Friday afternoons with him at his job…this is where he introduced me to the world of IT.
We spent the first 3 ½ years of our marriage in that tiny apartment 365 square feet, 1 square foot for every day of the year.
We would have been married for 12 years next Feb…on what would have been his 50th Birthday.

And now I would like to continue with words of his own.  Published in 2009 on his blog.


I’ve posted this before. I keep returning to it – and it never fails to remind me how deep and complex we are. It is so easy to trivialize, to label, to stereotype… and we forget that each of us was once somebody’s child. We’re not cartoons. We’re not liberals and conservatives. Inside each of us lives a child who longs to be understood.

Years ago when I first met my wife, she gave me a copy of a beautiful story.

I was anxious to share everything there was to share about myself – and I wanted her to know everything about me – both the good and the bad.

We spoke about things like regret and we also spoke about forgiveness. We spoke about what it means to lose yourself and lose your way.

I long for a community like the one in this story. I long for love and support of those who remind me when I’ve lost my way and help me find the real me whom I forgot.

How many of us could benefit from hearing our song sung to us when we’ve lost our way? How many of us sometimes need to be reminded who we truly are?

The Song of A Life

When a woman in a certain African tribe knows she is pregnant, she
goes out into the wilderness with a few friends and together they pray and meditate until they hear the song of the child.

They recognize that every soul has its own vibration that expresses
its unique flavor and purpose.

When the women attune to the song, they sing it out loud. Then they
return to the tribe and teach it to everyone else.

When the child is born, the community gathers and sings the child’s
song to him or her. Later, when the child enters education, the village gathers and chants the child’s song.

When the child passes through the initiation to adulthood, the
people again come together and sing. At the time of marriage, the person hears his or her song.

Finally, when the soul is about to pass from this world, the family
and friends gather at the person’s bed, just as they did at their birth,
and they sing the person to the next life.

In the African tribe, there is one other occasion upon which the
villagers sing to the child.

If at any time during his or her life, the person commits a crime or
aberrant social act, the individual is called to the center of the
village and the people in the community form a circle around them.
Then they sing their song to them.

The tribe recognizes that the correction for antisocial behavior is not punishment; it is love and the remembrance of identity. When you recognize your own song, you have no desire or need to do anything that would hurt another.

A friend is someone who knows your song and sings it to you when
you have forgotten it.

Those who love you are not fooled by mistakes you have made or
dark images you hold about yourself.

They remember your beauty when you feel ugly; your wholeness
when you are broken; your innocence when you feel guilty; and your
purpose when you are confused.

You may not have grown up in an African tribe that sings your song
to you at crucial life transitions, but life is always reminding you when you are in tune with yourself and when you are not.

When you feel good, what you are doing matches your song, and
when you feel awful, it doesn’t.
– Author Unknown


Charley had the opportunity to go to The Democratic Republic of Congo when he worked for the International Rescue Committee.  He loved the people he met there and the experience he had.  While he worked at the IRC he attended Columbia University where he earned his Master’s in IT Management.  He used those skills to start his own IT consulting firm when we returned to CT in 2011.

Unfortunately in these last few years in CT Charley lost his way.  Instead of having someone to sing his song, he was met by a chain of events that triggered the deepest and darkest voices that he battled with since he was a child.

He also spoke of how alone he felt, how his family was gone.  His Brother, Father Peter, who he was just starting to have a relationship with again before he passed away, and Mother Lily were gone.  Reminding him that I and his kids were still here failed to console his grief.

So while I am going to miss him, miss listening to him play…at random…a string of songs on the piano.  Or the Bach Cellos suites as a method of practicing his saxophone.

Or seeing how excited he would be over a new QSL card from a new country he contacted via his HAM radio.  How happy he was when he had a good night playing with Other Orchestra in Hartford.  And just sitting out on our deck watching the planes go by and tracking where they were going with an app on our phone and dreaming of the trips we could take when we were old.  …or star gazing at night.

I am going to take peace that he is with all of those he loved that went before him and the struggles of this mortal coil are over.  Charley liked to say that we are all made of stardust.  I swear there is a new bright star in the sky.