For this segment of "What Keeps Couples Together, Apart?", we've heard many conversations with people young and more advanced, married, divorced, living together and separate.  They've known each other lifetimes, and much shorter times.  They found each other, others arranged it for them.. It was by "accident" and "meant to be", a "huge mistake", or "the best of blessings"...

Much of the fairy dust in my imagination of loving happily ever after dissipated with the discussions we had.  Many people stay together for very concrete reasons that may not have anything to do with the heart.  Such as a house, a business, finances, family.  Convenience, companionship, habit and dislike of change were strong factors that kept many couples together, and led them to part.

We began our journey into the private lives of other adults with unconditional love as the theme. Soon we were venturing onto side roads of necessity, proximity, expectations, obligations and responsibilities for the motives of lasting and crashing relationships.  Some of this was disheartening, some awakening and inspirational.  I learned much more about adult American relationships than I ever knew before.

Here are excerpts from the experience.

Amy's essay came unexpectedly after a brief encounter with her in a park.  She wasn't interested in putting down all "the little details", as she puts it, to get to the heart of her matter.
So I left him.  It came to me finally and surely the morning he interrupted me to point out a pelican.  A pair of pelicans  we can see a hundred times a day if we look.  And I figured, if what I'm saying is less interesting than a bird you see all the time, then I'm out of here.

 It had been building up, of course.  I was tired of living his life.  I was tired of the obsequious air I had adopted in the past year of our cohabiting. I was tired of eating healthy, balanced meals every night for dinner.  I was tired of the music of the news channel.  I was feeling myself drifting away from me; of my energies dissipating into the world that was "our" home.  I missed myself. I was getting bored, and I never get bored.

We'd been together about four years.  I've never been married; it hasn't been a priority to me.  He's divorced, and has no desire to go that route again.  So we were on the same page there.  But I have to admit, when friends of ours would call me his "wife", or him my "husband", I wanted to shout, no! Wait! Don't give me that handle without letting me walk down the aisle and my Dad giving me away!  Don't deprive me of that...

I just wasn't used to the compromise required.  I compromised on time and energy.  I became patient, and had days where I didn't stop for a moment.  I smiled and danced and had fun, but my energy wasn't my own anymore.  It was combined and diffused and contorted.  I would have days of intense fatigue for no reason.  I've never had that before.  I would have days of completeness, too, and this is how we grew and loved for those years.  We were open and loving and laughed a lot.

But I wasn't willing to give up myself totally.  My Ego wanted me back.  

In writing this I see how selfish I was, how that morning with the pelican I was feeling insecure and I needed him to reassure me.  I've been in a professional slump and I wanted to pick his brain and hear his intelligence to buoy me and fuel me in the positive direction.  He has always been very encouraging and complimentary. Perhaps it is this very thing, my ego, that I missed and came running back to, that is also bringing me down and telling me I'm not good enough.

So I have to go it alone now; to live the familiar, sweet pain of solitude.  I'll eat french fries for dinner and have a whole pint of Ben and Jerry's for dessert, and not have to share.

  Michelle was eager to meet with us, and talked freely about her life and marriage. She did not feel comfortable writing her story herself, so we did this essay together.

 Michelle has been married for 16 years.  She and Hank were introduced by mutual friends, and dated for a year and a half. They are in their mid-40's, and this is the first marriage for both.   

Michelle is a strong woman; athletic, self-employed and out spoken.  With the pleasure of getting to know her for a few days (Hank didn't join our sessions),  I was surprised and sentimentally appalled to realize they live separate lives; connected only by the roof and finances they share.

Her husband drinks every night, and walls and worlds apart, they live.  He has no desire to quit, and she has no inclination to join his minuscule world.

Michelle has joined a bicycling group, is active in her church, takes classes at the local university. She is generous with her time for various fundraising and volunteer efforts in the community she has adopted.  She is from South America, and confesses that at times she feels alone in the United States. Though she has lived here for almost half her life, there is a cultural gap that gnaws at her serenity.

She and Hank are able to share a respectful, if distant, dimension.  There are times when his words become mean or slurred, and she will retreat to her space in their house, or go out with friends.  But the sense of resignation is palpable.

At this point, Michelle has no desire to go through what she perceives as a hassle or disruption to leave Hank and begin her life anew. 

We met Dinah and George after she answered our article about meeting couples and What Keeps Them Together, Apart?  This octogenarian couple has obvious respect for themselves and the life they share. They were enthusiastic to meet with us and talk about themselves.

Dinah: "I met George 38 years ago, when I was 42.  He was Mr. Right for me from the get go, and it only took me another year to convince him of that!" She laughs.
"Oh, we've both been through a couple of marriages, you know. For me, I was too young at first, but that's what you did back then, where I was from. I had a couple of kids, then my husband left and I just never saw him again.  You just keep going, you know.  Kids these days, they say they have to be happy and comfortable all the time, but we just kept going, you know.  You never stopped to try and figure it out or investigate or analyze things.  You just kept your head up and kept going."

George: "I'm glad for that, that she kept going, 'cause she got to me!" Laughs. "Dinah's been taking care of me for almost 40 years, she keeps me going...My first wife was always unhappy, you know.  Always complaining, always dissatisfied.  When she got sick, I couldn't help but wonder if it had to do with her being mad all the time..."

Dinah:  "They say we create our reality, you know.  When I decided I wouldn't worry or cry about that man leaving me and my two kids, I just got to work, and made a pretty decent life for the three of us.  Then I met my second husband, and he was real good to us. The Lord had other plans, though, and he was taken only five years later. But I can think of that time, and be grateful for what I had."

George: "I never really thought one way or another about getting married again.  My kids were grown and on their own by the time my wife died, and I had my career and some friends."
Dinah: "But the Lord had other plans..."
George: "You or the Lord had other plans..."
Dinah: "Our generation, you know, we've been through the big wars, the depression, you know, so many changes in our lifetimes..."
George: "She's learning the internet!  This woman doesn't stop. I think she keeps me from growing moss..."

Dinah: (Whispering) "It's my stew that keeps him growing..."
George: "Oh yeah, my woman may be seasoned, but she's spicy too!"
Dinah: "So you asked what keeps us together, or apart?  Well, people will run away to be happy, you know, but I think they just may be running with that unhappiness still inside them...maybe it's about staying still and deciding to be OK, you know, to be happy.  And you will be...
George: "I think my little lady is happy when she helps me, and others, to be OK, you know..."
Dinah: "And we talk! Oh Lord, we talk.  Even if he doesn't want to hear it, I can get it off my chest, and it's a clean board again, you know..."
George: "And I know to listen," (whispers) "Or pretend I'm listening..." 
Dinah: "I know when you're pretending, you old galoot, and it doesn't really matter.  Just as long as we're honest with each other.  You know, that's all that really matters.  Just being honest.  We don't have to agree, or even see it in the same language..."  

George:  "My little 'Dinahmite' is a force to be reckoned with, and I'm glad we're on the same side! I'm not switching for nothing."

This adventure into peoples' lives and loves has been illuminating. Each relationship is as unique as every individual; with their personal goals and desires defining them and their lives.  Judgement and comparison play no part.

Whether they stay single, merge as a couple, or change their circumstances, people want to feel good about themselves. Sometimes this takes a third party as counsel, a close friend as perspective, or a slight change which can become significant for happiness.

We'll be continuing with our "What Keep Couples..." series, and welcome insight, wisdom and experience you'd like to impart.   Thanks for joining us.

Always to your Health,

Wendy y Rafi @ ForeverCincuenta.

Control, Audrey Sinead's long-awaited debut album, is a beautifully melodious journey. It is a road trip through the pain of loss to the delight of independence and self discovery. Control  is a soulful compilation of Audrey's flight from grief to joyous expression.

The creative process allows for unexpected emotions and energies to emerge. For Audrey this came about while writing of a painful breakup, and her feelings of regret and remembrance.  This young musician has turned a pivotal experience into a personal triumph of musical artistry. With profound authenticity, Audrey has created music that's graceful and haunting, with lyrics of depth and emotional strength.

Audrey has been around music all her life.  When she was five, she first saw her mom's band perform onstage, and remembers them recording in her living room. She remembers seeing LeeAnn Rimes on television, and she knew then that "this is what I want to do."  She began piano lessons when she was nine, and by ten she was playing the drums and bass guitar. When she was eleven she began writing songs and experimenting with her brother's electric guitar, and at the age of fourteen she was the opening act for her brother's band.

Audrey writes and sings solely from her heart, void of pretense or imitation.  She has been in charge of her musical career from the start, determined to engage her own voice and influence, rather than turn over her talent for someone else to control and direct. "I don't see myself ever doing what anyone else tells me to do."

As an independent young adult, she has been supporting herself for several years, saving up tips and wages from her job at a local coffeehouse to afford recording time. Her goal, as she says, made her "extremely antisocial. All the money I earned I wanted to put into my recording." She's grateful it took as long as it did, to work and record each song.  "It would have been different if I'd done it all at once.  I wouldn't have come to the mental place I'm at now.

"The recording sessions were a fun experience but not an easy experience. There were a lot of bumps along the way.  It was mentally draining to go through, to tap into that emotionally again...my music comes from a very honest place. I'm trying to get it all out there in the most honest way possible. It felt like a really big deal to be recording, a really big moment."

When asked about the ordeal she went through to get to where she is today, she says, "I"m thankful for the loss, that I have this to show for it.  When I'm at my lowest I do my best work.  I just wish I didn't have to go through any of that low, to get to where I am now.  Now that it's done, it's an interesting feeling. I can't wait to do it again."

Audrey cites vulnerability as her biggest challenge.  "I didn't know I'd ever get this far," she says of her first, tangible piece of work. She likes being in control of her music. She has set up her own publishing company, and now is working through the more mundane aspects of the music industry involving contracts, licensing, marketing and promotion. Her manager, Eli of FACT Music Management is based in Chicago, and
"has been showing me veins of the industry I never knew existed."  Audrey is gearing up for a trip to the Windy City for exposure and experience.

"It's been kind of crazy, the little wins, the little goals you reach.  I recorded one song and got great feedback.  Then I recorded another, and another. It's been little successes everyday."

What is next for this intelligent, resourceful woman?
A lot more music!

She'd love to make music and tour with her siblings, Andi and Annie, both full-time college students at the moment, and both talented musicians in their own right. Her mom is living in Scotland now, playing music with her husband, whose parents are professional musicians there.

Audrey has come a long way from the little girl with the acoustic guitar performing in front of a crowd of heavy metal fans.  She still feels more comfortable playing for large audiences than in intimate venues, and it looks like soon she will have her chance. And if you happen to find this bright, creative young woman making your favorite cappuccino, remember where your tips are going...

Visit Audrey @...
Audrey Sinead's debut album
, Control, is available on iTunes, Amazon, and CD Baby.

Genci Xhelaj is a courageous and compassionate person who made the change he wanted to see in the world.  He bravely took a stand for human rights, and led others on a crusade for change. Born in a country ruled by oppression and fear, Genci found his voice to instigate national transformation, and he became a catalyst for Gay and Lesbian rights in Albania. Genci planted the seeds of freedom for gays in his home country, and his reward was personal freedom in the USA.

It was 1994, and two years out of Communist rule for the country of Albania.  Sitting north of Greece and just 45 miles east of Italy across the Strait of Otranto, this mountainous and rugged country of 3 million was emerging from isolation and transforming into a free democracy.  There were people, however, who weren't yet free, who suffered persecution, imprisonment and even death at the hands of the authority. It was illegal to be homosexual in Albania. The sentence was up to ten years in jail; exposure to brutality and heavy labor which often resulted in death.  Employment, housing and other societal rights were restricted. One's family and friends were likewise ostracized and there was constant exposure to shame and inhumanity.
Growing up in the capitol city of Tirana, Genci always felt apart from everyone else. He suffered from diminished self esteem and even attempted suicide several times as a youth. It wasn't until his late twenties that Genci began meeting and befriending others like him, gay men and women who realized they had to form an alliance to fight the tyranny, oppression, and hypocrisy.


At first, the ten friends met covertly, in the hotel where Genci was manager. As the governing horizon was changing, the clandestine club was able to be more open.  After much hesitation, but with the encouragement of supporters, in March of 1994 Genci, published a letter in the Tiranian newspaper, Playboy, about himself and homosexuality.  It was a daring move, both for him to write it, and the newspaper to publish it. Naturally the article received a lot of attention. Amid threats and negative feedback, German activist and politician Volker Beck met with Genci and urged him to form a coalition to establish and protect the rights of Albanian Gays. On March 29, 1994, the Shoqata Gay Albania (Society Gay Albania) was formed, with Genci president.

Shoqata Gay Albania set out to support Albanian gays, impart positive information, dispel lies, and fight inequalities and prejudice. They joined in the education about, and the fight against AIDS. They found advocates, but many stayed away out of fear.

In the spring of 1994 Genci was invited to attend the International AIDS Conference in Budapest.  With the help of the International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA) he and a fellow member obtained visas to leave the country and travel to Hungary on an all-expense paid trip to the conference. 
 The experience buffeted their confidence and established Society Gay Albania within the international gay community. 

But upon returning to Tirana, their work had just begun. They distributed bulletins to all the newspapers, television and radio stations, and as Genci later wrote, "The reaction was overwhelming.  Everyone in the capitol was suddenly discussing the topic and there were the wildest reactions...The newspaper Gazeta Shiqipture called our news 'a courageous step', in particular in view of existing legislation."

Homosexuality was still illegal in Albania, as was the group's meetings and activities. A new penal code proposed reducing the prison sentence from ten to three years, and as Genci states, this "galvanized us into action." It was time to eradicate the criminalization of homosexuality all together. They wrote to over 15 members of the democratic party and other government figures, and appealed for help from the ILGA.  Representative Scott Long
came to Tirana and held talks with parliamentarians.

With pressure from the ILGA and significant influence from the Council of Europe, on January 20, 1995, the Albanian Parliament legalized same-sex relations.  Gay Albania Society had triumphed.

In early 1997, the liberalized economy that had accompanied Democracy fell victim to Ponzi schemes and pyramid investment frauds. Nearly two-thirds of the Albanian population lost their life savings. The government was suspected of profiting and money laundering, and anarchy quickly took hold.

 The Albanian people were left with a sense of personal loss, betrayal by trusted leaders and disillusionment about their new democracy. A Rebellion began in January, and for four months the country was paralyzed with uncontrolled violence. Gangs, formed by escaped prisoners, ruled the streets, students went on hunger strikes, and weapons depots were looted, arming almost every Albanian male over the age of ten with firearms. Over three thousand people were killed. In April, the UN intervened and sent 7,000 troops from Italy to restore order.

It was during this time of chaos that Genci was contacted by the International Gay and Lesbian Alliance. He had been nominated for the Philippa de Souza Award, the top honor given for human rights defenders worldwide. Would Genci come to New York City to accept it?

Genci quickly needed a visa, and the US embassy was closed amid the civil war crisis. It took the political persuasions of Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, the Clinton Administration, and Congressman Barney Frank for Genci to obtain a visa and plane ticket. In Vienna he was detained and questioned about the validity of his visa, but eventually he found himself in New York City, and in the arms of freedom. He was told, "you can't go back.  It will be very dangerous for you," and he knew it.  He applied for political asylum, and in six months received it. 

But Genci payed the price of disconnection.  For seven years he couldn't return to his country, couldn't contact his friends or family. He realized that his voyage to America was not only to receive an award for his selfless act as a libertarian, but also to help him find the life of freedom he had always dreamed of: Freedom to be himself and live the life of his choice, without shame or persecution. 

Genci resolved he could no longer go back. He decided to look forward to a new life in America, to create his own American Dream and live in peace. He embraced the opportunity to work, and within ten years had bought a house, completely paid off the mortgage and brought his family from Albania to live with him. His commitment and reliablity and willingness to do whatever it takes on the job earned him recognition and promotion to manager of Starbucks.  This year, under his leadership, his Starbucks in St. Petersburg won the Excellence in Customer Service Award for all of Florida. This was a proud moment for Genci, as he sets an example of outstanding customer service at his Starbucks daily.

Genci is a possibility thinker.  He is genuinely friendly and creates a welcoming environment for customers and employees.  Everyone is greeted with a smile and a complement. People will come back after years to see him again and share a social moment. He personally sees to each customer.  His generosity extends beyond the green apron.

He'll selflessly help others with anything they need; employment, transportation, personal or professional challenges.  People love to be  around him. He sees the creative potential in his young employees and recognizes and encourages them.  He's wise beyond his years.

The seeds Genci planted over 20 years ago have blossomed  into a proud and thriving community of outspoken free people, with three main organizations focused on gay rights.  This photo is of Xheni Karaj, Executive Director of The Alliance LGBT of Albania, and friends, bicycling in the Capitol during their first International Day Against Homophobia in May, 2013

Albania today is heralded as having the most progressive anti-discrimination laws in Europe.  Their work however, is ongoing. This May,  the Albanian Parliament approved changes to the criminal Code that criminalize crimes of hate and speech based on sexual orientation and gender identity.  The Festival of Diversity, organized just last year, proudly celebrates in the Capitol near where the vice-Minister of Defense was quoted as saying, "Lets beat them up with batons." Today, Albania is one of the fastest changing countries in support of the LGBT community.

Though homophobia still exists in the general public, as Altin Hazizaj, First Ambassador of PINK Embassy states, "The LGBT movement in Albania within such a short time has achieved a lot in terms of changes to laws, policies, and even public perceptions. This shows through cooperation and dialogue with institutions and the general public, we can bring a positive change...Society only benefits  by respecting LGBT rights."(1)

 And they are forever grateful and indebted to Genci Xhelaj, the fearless pioneer who paved the way. 

(1)PINK Embassy
 Photos courtesy of Historia IME, AngelFire, dailykos.com, and stockphoto.

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Two universal motivators first prompted John Pecore to lose weight: fitness and finance.  When the cost of his health insurance "went through the roof,"  he said it was like paying a mortgage every month.  He and his wife, Johnna, looked elsewhere, and found Medi-Share. In order to meet the guidelines for their new insurance, John agreed to work with a health coach.  At age 51, he weighed 280 pounds. He had to lose 50 pounds to qualify.  

John was an athlete in high school and college. He had played football and used to be a runner, so he knew the rigors and discipline of training, and the rewards of being in shape. He had continued with an energetic lifestyle until injuries slowed him down, and his weight went up. He was ready to get active again. This time around, however, he says that being 51 and 280 pounds, running was out of the question. So John started walking.

John adapted to his new plan religiously, and he walked with his shih tzu, Pooka, everyday.  After three weeks, John had built up enough strength to add to his workout regimen.  Some people like to add 5- or 10- pound weights to their routine, but John isn't like some people.  When he sets out to do something, he has to go 110%.  He channeled his military training, and started carrying a 60lb rucksack on his daily walks. Both he and Pooka were losing weight and improving their health. 

But after three months and a 20-pound reduction, John's arch in his foot made it prohibitive for him to continue his routine. As John says, "I knew I was at the end of the road here and needed to make a change," Whether he intended the pun or not, John made a change that was to agree with him.

He took out his 10-year old Schwinn bicycle, and started riding.  At first, he struggled to make it 5 miles.  But being John, he persevered.  He met up with an old friend. John Funk, 72, was a National Cycling Champion and taught John about correct positioning on the bike and how to ride with cadence; a steady, even, pedaling style.

In a couple of months John had worked his way up to an 80-mile round trip ride on his old Schwinn.  "My Schwinn started developing serious problems because I was going faster than it was designed to. I destroyed my hub a couple of times and also destroyed my rear rim." It clearly was time for a new bike, and John invested in a Bianchi Cross Country road bike.

Nine months after John slogged those first 5 miles on his rusty old bike, he crossed the finish line of his first bike rally, the Susan G. Komen Century.  "I started at 8 am, and crossed the finish line at 5 pm.  What a long ride.  Today I can do that in half the time."

Not only is John extending his healthy lifestyle to fundraising endeavors, he has created and maintains a breakfast bicycle group that meets every Saturday for riding and fellowship.  Before he meets his ever-growing group, John sets out early for a faster and longer ride, ultimately clocking 50 miles or more.  

He also rides every other day during the week; about 30 miles each day. Sometimes the cold weather can be a detriment, and, " it can be very difficult to get on the bike when you missed a few days. I have to focus and remember what is was like at 280 pounds. Now being 53, and 230 lbs, going on 54, my bones creak, but the low impact riding has helped me feel younger, physically stronger, (of) sharper mind and spiritual growth, and I can manage difficulties in all areas better."

Those initial motivators of health and saving money have given John a quality of life far beyond his first goals.  His bicycling awards him with adventures, new friends and unforeseen challenges that match his spirited energy. His forthright determination is an inspiration to others who want to ride, overcome injury, get fit, or just make friends.

John is currently planning a bicycling, fishing and camping trip over Memorial weekend.  He's exuberant as he describes the camping equipment and fishing pole (collapsible) for the trip that he found online, and the prospect of having fresh bass cooked over the campfire for dinner.

John has some wise suggestions for those considering bicycling for fitness, fun, and the multitude of other benefits:
  •  Always wear a helmet
  • Always follow rules of the road
  • Always look at the driver to see where they are looking!
  • To help prevent tire punctures, John insists on Kevlar tires, and he uses gatorskin liners
  • Have an experienced rider or professional help you get the right bike for your needs.  The right fit is imperative for comfort and to avoid injury
  • Stretch before and after you ride
  • Don't push yourself beyond your limits, yet know you are getting stronger every day


John still starts out his mornings walking Pooka; it helps them both loosen up, and keeps Pooka in shape too!

John is a Power Quality Engineer and runs his own business "Stormin Protection Inc." He also imports bike jerseys for fellow cyclists at a great discount. To learn more go to: http://www.storminprotection.com

Let us know of your adventures in staying fit, young and healthy! 
Write to us at: forevercincuenta.com

To your health, Wendy y Rafi.

This is a story of hope and strength, of a positive attitude trumping physical limitations and economic downturn.  It shows how  Vinnie Scuderi accepts his disability and works around challenges to live a productive and meaningful life.

If you ask Vinnie these days what his favorite activity is, he'll tell you, with a big smile on his face, "it's swimming at the North Shore Pool." He continues: "How can you not love it? The weather is great, the views are wonderful, people are friendly and you get a breath of fresh air."

At 64, Vinnie speaks proudly of his business as a skilled artisan builder. He has been a professional craftsman for 32 years. He owns and manages "Architectural Specialties, Inc" which specializes in designing and building unique architectural structures, furniture, and stained glass creations for discerning clients of both residential and commercial properties. Until the recession took its tole, Vinnie was constantly engaged in projects, working out of his custom-built shop. Today, he wonders if he'll ever return to the work that he loves.

Vinnie was born with Inherited Spastic Paraplegia, passed down from his father and grandfather. It is a degenerative genetic disorder characterized by progressive stiffness and weakness in the legs. It began with Vinnie when he was in his late 40's. Now he has limited functionality of his legs, getting around with a specially designed tricycle, and crutches. He can also drive a stick-shift car, and uses an electric scooter. "This slowed me down, but it didn't stop me. I have to concentrate more when doing things that I once took for granted and did automatically, like dressing."

His disability has never been a detriment to his work.  His talent and versatility are highly regarded, and he was in constant demand for his unconventional and handsome creations. "People hired me because they wanted something special, so I felt challenged to come up with something cool...I designed projects that I would like.
I complete 75% of the work in my shop, the remaining 25% is on-site installation."

Fresh out of Northern Illinois University with a degree in industrial arts, Vinnie at first intended to teach. He applied to numerous schools in his area.  And in the meantime, "people started asking me to build things for them: doors, windows, furniture, cabinets and metalwork, both utilitarian and ornamental. I learned how to build stained glass windows. It's easy for me to switch materials. I am a very good designer and draftsman." Below are some samples of his work:

Despite his mobility challenges, Vinnie keeps a positive attitude. He remembers the severe limitations his father endured, and feels fortunate for his car and tricycle, his electric scooter and beautiful workshop that he built in the home he shares with Patricia, his wife of 34 years.

And most of all, Vinnie is grateful for the pool. He started swimming years ago when he took his children for swim lessons.  He was busier then, and could only come on weekends. As his work waned Vinnie had more time for the physical therapy that the water provides.Now you can find Vinnie at the pool almost daily (except when it's under 70 degrees F.!) "Being in the pool is a big relief, getting the weight off me.  I'm able to walk without using crutches.  Floating is very comfortable.  Hanging off the sides of the pool and stretching without my feet touching the bottom feels very good." His words convey a sense of joyful freedom.

Vinnie is a wonderful influence to all who know him.  He wonders why others with similar conditions don't take advantage of swimming and the mental and physical stress relief it provides.  He enjoys the social interaction with everyone he meets, and values the opportunity to be outside in an activity that brings him unrestricted movement and independence.  His appreciation is infectious.  Ask Vinnie how the water is on any given day, and his answer will be, "perfect."

He hasn't given up the hope of getting back to the trade that means so much to him. "When I had work I felt very accomplished.  People called me because I have a reputation, and they wanted something special built.  My projects were custom built, usually one-of-a-kind, special circumstances, and sometimes no one else was interested in doing the work because it was too complicated." He even speaks of partnering with his son and daughter, who are now in their twenties. They learned the skills from Vinnie as they worked with him "in the shop" on some projects.

As the economy caused others to limit their discretionary spending, Vinnie has had time for improvements to his own house. "There was no way I was going to put this fancy work in other people's houses and not my own!" Vinnie doesn't let his disability interfere with any aspect of his work, his recreational activities, home improvements or chores.

"My drawings sell me and my work, and being disabled doesn't discourage people from hiring me.  What I can't do, I'm very good at directing people to do. I have a very strong belief in personal and professional creativity and problem solving."

Vinnie's story is an inspiration to others, disabled or not. Follow your dreams, live your life fully, work around any limitations and always keep alive the hope of a new opportunity. For architectural specialties work contact Vinnie at:  vinscud@live.com

We have more inspiring stories in development. If you want to share a story of someone exceptional you know send us an email: wendraf@forevercincuenta.com

We welcome your feedback. Leave us a comment. WW/RE


At 70, retired and searching for a new purpose in his life, Norm Coleman first discovered  baseball legend Ty Cobb. The more he learned about "the best player in the history of the game",  the more he saw a story that had to be told.  Now, almost 7 years and

over 150 performances later, Norm, and Ty, are going stronger than ever, with shows in 2013 slated to entertain baseball 
and history fans across the country.

We met up with Norm one recent, beautiful January day in his hometown of Half Moon Bay, CA. He looks younger and more spry than when I first knew him 6 years ago, during a community theater production of  "Inherit the Wind". Norm attributes his youthful vitality to his passion and purpose of his one-man show. He says the creation of it was "completely accidental, given the fact I had never acted before, except 'Inherit the Wind'." 

It all started when Norm went to the library to check out a book about baseball great Jackie Robinson. On the shelf was also a book about Detroit Tigers champion Ty Cobb.  

Out of natural curiosity, Norm read the Ty Cobb biography. He was hooked.  "As I read a second book, then a third, I got the idea this could make a one-man show. I found him to be fascinating. He had a bad reputation, and my idea from the very beginning was to show the other side of the man. I'd never acted, I'd never written anything. It was a challenge, and I believed I was up for the challenge, I felt confident from the start I could do it. I clearly saw myself performing onstage, somewhere, and that's what happened. The rest is history."

It's hard to believe that Norm didn't have acting experience when I first met him in "Inherit the Wind". He only had a few lines in that show, but when I  heard his voice ring through the theater, I thought, "this man is meant for the stage."

His Ty Cobb project was already underway during that time. Norm would regale me with facts about Cobb, still today one of the greatest baseball players of all time. I was inspired by both men; the controversial and enormously successful baseball player, and the retired, award-winning photographer clearly reinventing himself as a writer, visionary and performer.

Norm had a prescient moment early on his new career path, when, meeting a neighbor, she asked what he did. He replied, "I'm an actor."  This, with nine lines in a community play under his belt, and a rough draft of a one man play!

This neighbor turned out to be Lynn April Statten, a retired Broadway actress, who became Norm's mentor, director, and sometime nemesis as he worked and reworked his project to performance standards. "I was improving with her help.  I learned by trial and error what works and doesn't work."

Norm practiced his show at local open-mike nights and rotary clubs, where he gave 20-minute performances "until it sank in."  Like Ty, Norm practiced tirelessly and transformed his nascent show into 4 acts and  90 minutes of entertaining information, music, and humor. 

Many people who knew of Ty Cobb knew only stories of a surly man.   Norm's performance portrays an intelligent, meticulous ballplayer who approached the game as a science, and practiced and studied every aspect of it to succeed  He embodies Ty Cobb so fully that he is Ty Cobb: Norm's shows conclude with 10-minute question and answer sessions, in which he remains in character, and says he thoroughly enjoys. "People get my passion for the character". 

"I'm a ham," Norm confesses.  "I love entertaining people." He loves telling about the good person Ty Cobb was; his philanthropic contributions to health and education, and how Cobb was able to springboard from utter tragedy at the start of his baseball career to become an unparalleled success, team manager,and millionaire entrepreneur.  He loves it when people come up to him after a show and  say, "I didn't know that about Ty Cobb." And, Norm says, "I never fail to get a standing ovation."

Norm has a natural talent for storytelling. As he says, "for every story I have, there's one behind it."  His love for what he does is evident in his eyes, his tone of voice, his retelling of anecdotes of the trials and triumphs of bringing his dream to fruition.  

Norm is a self-proclaimed minor celebrity in Half Moon Bay, proudly wearing his Detroit Tigers jacket everywhere, almost.  Last fall Norm was involved in a conflict of loyalties when the Tigers were playing the San Francisco Giants in the World Series.  He was getting booed when he rode his bike around town, and graciously hung up the signature jacket during the series. see article. 
Norm, with his intrepid assistant, Clay Beatty, has performed  "Ty Cobb-A One Man Show"  for the Detroit Tigers, at the Ty Cobb Museum in Royston, GA, at the Gerald R. Ford Museum in Grand Rapids, MI, along with many performances throughout the San Francisco Bay Area. He has also performed his two-man show with Steve Folven: "Babe Ruth and Ty Cobb-A Tale of Greatness"  in Boston and New York.

"Coleman knocked my socks off," said Ron Myers of the Detroit Tigers, "He was Ty Cobb."

"It takes a lot of guts to perform a one man play...especially about Baseball...when your audience are astute Historians of the game as the SABR membership are. The play was historically accurate, and well structured, but also performed by a person who is, very apparent by his performance... passionate about his work!" 
-Rick Schabowski, Society of American Baseball Research.

"In this age of steroid abuse and tainted records, the likes of Cobb, Ruth, Aaron, and Williams should be even more revered for playing the game the right way.  Thank you for a great performance and your dedication to bringing this legendary player to life.' - Jim Kratsas of the Gerald R. Ford Museum.

Norm is an inspiration to the Forevercincuenta Community, as well as baseball fans and historians around the globe. He is a model for living a healthy, happy and generous life, giving of himself and his passions.  We are honored to know Norm and privileged to share his story with you.
For more about Norm and Ty, please visit:  

As always, we welcome your feedback, Wendy M Wood & Rafi Escoriaza, http://www.forevercincuenta.com

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On a sunny afternoon bike ride in Snell Isle we encountered a very special person. At first glance we saw a little girl waving to us under a tarp with a lemonade sign. We stopped, and as she offered us a lemonade, a story about caring unfolded. 

This is Callee Rose, an eight-year-old philanthropist and avid bike rider. Last year when Callee realized many kids in her area didn't ride a bike because they didn't have one, she decided to do something about it.  What started out as a class project turned into a sound local movement. 

For Christmas 2011 she managed to donate over 29 bicycles, 9 ride-on toys and 16 helmets to disadvantaged children in her area. Her efforts benefit the ASAP Women and Children's Homeless Shelter, and The Christmas Toy Shoppe.

Callee does this generous feat with the time-honored tradition of a lemonade stand.  She's outside her house weekend afternoons, selling great lemonade (ours was spiked with fresh raspberries) and homemade cookies.  Her sign actually says the lemonade is "free", because all the money collected in her jar goes to her cause. 

Her project and spirit are so strong, it's Callee's goal to donate twice as many bicycles and accessories this holiday season. 
While other eight year olds are out playing, Callee is manning her lemonade stand, finding bike sales, doing  price comparisons, talking with people, and spreading her passion and philosophy that everyone who wants to, should be able to ride. 

What is amazing and inspiring about this little girl is that she has learned the rich gift of giving and the selfless acts involved, and she speaks about it all quite naturally. 

Callee's "I Care" project has transitioned from an individual effort to one of community, which involves many people, starting with family. Her parents, Cindy and Chris Connon provide a strong backbone for this undertaking. Their support is evident every step of the way, including braving the Black Friday crowds on Thanksgiving night to find bike bargains. And thanks to a generous neighbor's donation, Callee will have many more beneficiaries this year. 

Two years of charitable work is only the beginning for Callee. She has even greater plans for next year.
P.S. To Donate online go to: www.asapfamilyservices.org
Ref: Callee's Bikes for Buddies

Note: This is the first social profile article highlighting remarkable people who positively impact our communities.  If you have someone you'd like to celebrate, please send us a letter about them: wendraf@forevercincuenta.com.



The Chinese word "Ting" means to listen with one's mind, heart, eyes, and ears, and we are convinced that undiminished communication is key to a successful relationship.

photo courtesy of: freedigitalphotos.net

In this article we'll share with you what makes our union work. 

We hope to hear from other couples that we may all learn more ways to connect positively with each other.

Love and friendship are the most important elements of our relationship. We have positive regard and mutual respect for one another, and appreciate the importance of dialogue.  Not only when it's good and nice, but as a necessary tool for our growing bond. 

Nonverbal communication is just as important. A flower picked from the garden, holding hands on a walk, a foot rub after a tiring day, a kiss on the neck when one is doing the dishes.  Everything that says "I appreciate you" in a small yet so significant way.

But let's step back a moment. How did we get started? It began with a request for a dance when the band started to play a blues song.  A warm, receptive smile, and suddenly an oasis was created on the crowded dance floor. A few more dances, the exchange of phone numbers, and a subsequent date with a ferry ride and picnic on the Bay...

We easily found common ground with music and dance, sports and food, among many other shared interests.The magic element was that we were ourselves with each other.  Life is too short for bs! And we both knew it. 

Our pasts receded as we were becoming a new Now. Soon another shared love surfaced as we realized we were both ready to travel, go across the country together and see what would be, could be, next...

Fast forward to the present and what keeps our relationship going. We have built our lives together, found a great place to live, with all the details and decisions involved. We planted ourselves in another part of the country, and planted a garden. We found connections with a spiritual community, do volunteer cooking for those less fortunate than us, and are involved with a local, vibrant culture of theater, films, concerts and sporting events.  

Love and dialogue, common interests and projects all help to keep us together; nonetheless there are other very important factors that cement our relationship. 

Our faith and commitments to living a healthy life has brought growth and joy to each of us in areas where we were fractured. Instead of condemnation or criticism, we encourage and enliven. Tears and frustrations are heard, felt, and cathartically replaced with understanding and growth. 

We laugh alot.  This is crucial.  To live with humor, to create, recognize, and foster laughter, is a great gift anyone can give and receive.

Intimacy is another important element that keeps us together.  A warm glance, a little smile, a dance (with or without music), a touch, a snuggle, a wildflower, a kiss. and more... The key is consistency and frequency. We show each other that we care for one another daily.

I am happy to make him breakfast, and I know he'll capture and release that huge palmetto bug that's taken up residence in the bathroom closet. 

Well, after she served me a great country breakfast, complimented with my favorite coffee, how could I resist chasing down and escorting our palmetto friend outdoors.

My fortune cookie's message the other night read, "when you're done changing, you're done."  And I'm so glad to know we'll never be done changing. 

We would love to hear from other couples. Please share your experience in the "comments" section.