‘Tis the Season to be Jolly? The Most Wonderful and Stressful Time of the Year!

“Christmas is most truly Christmas when we celebrate it by giving the light of love to those who need it most.”

Ruth Carter Stapleton

The holiday season is here and for many the most wonderful time of the year can also be the most stressful.  While some are busy with office parties and social gatherings, others are dealing with grief, loneliness and anxiety.  The holidays, as they say, mark time spent with loved ones. So how then can we cope when a loved one has passed away?

Yesterday, I was watching the action-thriller movie, Lucy, starring Scarlett Johansson whose character develops superhuman abilities when a drug is absorbed into her system.  One of my favorite scenes is one in which Lucy is in a high-speed car ride with Pierre Del Rio (a police captain).  Del Rio comments, “I’d rather be late than dead.”  To which Lucy replies, “We never really die.”

I smiled to myself when I heard this line because my years of research definitely tell me that this is fact not fiction.  Yet during the holidays I find myself missing my loved ones and feeling a little down just like so many others. Grief and sadness are deeply personal and we all experience them in our own way.  It’s important to acknowledge how we feel—however that may be—and remember that it’s okay.  We can’t force ourselves to feel one way or the other just because the holidays are among us.

So if you’re feeling a little down and wondering how to make it through the holiday season, here are a few helpful tips:

  1. Remember that your loved one would want you to be happy.  So many simply feel guilty being happy as they go through all the merriments.  But remember our loved ones are always with us and want us to be happy.
  2. Find different ways to honor your loved ones.  One of the many ways I honor my loved ones is by lighting candles for them.  I also talk to them as if they were still here (because they are!)  There are obviously many other ways to remember our loved ones (write a letter, play a favorite song, visit a treasured place, make a favorite meal, hang an ornament in their memory, etc.) 
  3. Try to set realistic goals for yourself and learn how to say, “No.”  You don’t have to do everything and go everywhere.  If you’re up to going to a party, then go.  If not, lay on the couch with your favorite blanket and watch a movie.  Don’t try to do too much. Do whatever is most important to you and skip the rest. 
  4. If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed, take a breather.  Listen to your body and get some rest. Your health comes first.
  5. Be mindful of your blessings.  During our most stressful times, it is hard to remember that things could always be worse.  No matter what, there is always something to be grateful for. 

A few years ago, a friend I hadn’t heard from in quite some time called me on New Year’s Eve.  I was both happy and pleasantly surprised to hear his voice on the other end.  “Josie,” he told me, “the holidays are a time for reaching out to family and friends.  I just wanted to wish you a Happy New Year and let you know that I’m thinking of you.”   I can’t even begin to tell you how much his simple act of kindness meant to me. There is nothing quite like the gift of knowing you matter to someone else.

As I’ve aged over the years, I’ve realized more and more how much material gifts are overrated.  With each year I live, I understand that it is more about the love I am fortunate enough to give.  As Mother Theresa once said, “It’s not how much we give but how much love we put into giving.”

Be Kind; Change the World

“Unexpected kindness is the most powerful, least costly, and most underrated agent of human change.”

Bob Kerrey

We should never underestimate the power of a simple act of kindness.  If we all do our part by practicing a random act of kindness once in a while, together those parts will have the power to brighten someone’s day and perhaps even change the world. 

Sadly, my father is suffering from advanced glaucoma, a condition that involves damage to the optic nerve and one of the leading causes of blindness for people over 60 years of age.  His vision is extremely impaired and he now requires assistance to get around.  On Friday, my mother asked me to take my father to the store.  Once there, I wondered how I was going to push a cart around and also hold onto my father’s hand.

Image by Anna Tarazevich/Pexels

I decided the best option was to hold my dad’s hand with my left hand and then push and maneuver my full cart with my right hand.  As someone who has cerebral palsy, I’d be lying if I said this wasn’t difficult for me but I was managing.  As I held tightly onto my dad’s hand, I filled my cart and slowly made my way over to the checkout line.  Grateful to finally leave the store, I led him out while also trying to steer my cart.

Suddenly, a woman appeared on my father’s right side totally startling me.  I looked over at her shocked as she grabbed my father’s arm.  I wanted to say something when I saw her but literally couldn’t speak from the surprise of it all.  But I’m sure my expression said it all as she simply looked at me and said, “I’m going to help you.  You push the cart to your car and I’ll take care of him.”

Once again, I was rendered speechless as I stared misty-eyed at this woman with a beautiful soul.  I did not see her in the store and honestly had no idea where she came from.  After a good few seconds of saying nothing, I managed to say softly, “Thank you. . . Thank you so much.”  She simply nodded and dutifully followed behind me as I pushed the cart to my car.   Once there, she stood waiting with my father while I put everything in my trunk.  When I was done, I walked over to take my father’s arm from hers as a couple of tears escaped my eyes.

I wasn’t sure if my father really understood what was going on because he did not say anything.  As I took his arm, I looked up at her saying, “Thank you very much for your kindness.” Then looking at my dad I said, “Dad, this nice woman helped you.”  At that point, he looked to his right and said obviously surprised, “Oh, thank you very much.  You see; there are nice people.”

At that point, I wanted to reply that there certainly were nice people in this world but I couldn’t speak as I could not long control my tears. The stranger, noticing my tears, simply smiled at me and said, “You’re very welcome.”  She then walked away as I helped my dad into my car.

My father had no idea I was crying as we drove.  It has been very difficult for me and my family to watch my father go through this.  Of course, it has been especially hard on my mother. No one wants to see someone they love suffer.  However, this woman’s small random act of kindness changed my day and lifted my spirit.  In that brief moment, I was reminded that despite all the pain in this world, there is far more beauty.  Despite the hate, there is far more love. And despite the intolerance, there is far more kindness.

World Kindness Day which is observed yearly on November 13 was started in 1998 as part of the World Kindness Movement. Although I do not know her name, I will be thinking of her.  I walked into that store with my father feeling saddened and overwhelmed but I left feeling a little lighter and a lot more grateful. 

They say an act of kindness always creates a ripple effect.  I hope this story will inspire you to pay it forward.  You just might make someone’s day.

Protecting Yourself Against Identity Theft

“The police can’t protect consumers. People need to be more aware and educated about identity theft. You need to be a little bit wiser, a little bit smarter and there’s nothing wrong with being skeptical. We live in a time when if you make it easy for someone to steal from you, someone will.”

Frank Abagnale

Identity Theft occurs when someone uses your personal information to steal from you and impersonate you.  The FTC received 4.8 million identity fraud and theft reports in 2020—up 45 percent from those received in 2019.  If you think it won’t happen to you, think again.

Last night my husband John received a notice on his cell phone saying that his phone number was being transferred to another provider.  If he didn’t authorize this transfer, he was told to call our wireless provider immediately.  When he did, the recording said to call back at 8 a.m. this morning.  Needless to say, we were up passed 3 a.m. calling our local police department, credit card providers, etc.  Today, as I sit here writing this my bank accounts and credit cards have been put on hold as we attempt to fix this mess and get my husband’s cell phone number back. 

Truthfully, this is the second time someone has hacked John’s cell phone account.  When it happened the first time he was assured that steps were taken to secure the account.  Well, it wasn’t!  I find myself scratching my head because I always thought we were careful and one step ahead of the game.  Now I know that just being careful is not enough.

These identity thieves seem to be getting cleverer by the minute.  Recently, my website provider was hacked and I received fake emails for at least three months offering website design services.  I also received a phone call from someone months ago claiming that my account was hacked and asking for my credit card information for identification purposes.  Luckily, I didn’t fall for any of it but as I sit here feeling violated and upset, I realize I need to do a better job of protecting both me and my family’s identities.

So how do we do that?  Here ae some tips on how to prevent identity fraud:

  1. Change Your Passwords Often.  This includes everything from your phone, online banking, Amazon or any social media accounts. And, whenever possible, use two-factor identification.
  2. Don’t Share Private Information. As an author and public figure, it is hard to practice privacy. However, it is important to remember not to share any unnecessary information on social media.  Use precaution when sharing information.  As an example, if you share information like your pet’s name and also have the same name as an answer to one of your security questions, CHANGE IT!
  3. Take steps to make sure your Wi-Fi is secure.  Make sure you use antivirus software such as Norton and McAfee.
  4. Pay close attention to noted hacks and gaps in security.  This week Apple sent out a notice warning people about recent hacks.
  5. Guard your social security number, bank account numbers, credit cards, etc.  I know this seems to be simple common sense but you’d be surprised how easily we can unknowingly share sensitive information. If someone asks for your social security number for verification, ask why it is necessary.
  6. Be aware.  Scammers can watch your fingers as you type in your password, they can also take pictures of your credit card with a smart phone without your knowledge. 
  7. Be careful what you click on.  Think twice before you click on a link.  Unfortunately, you can unknowingly install malicious software on your computer which will provide criminals to account numbers and a host of other private details.

It’s not fair that we should have to worry about things like this; I know.  But sadly there are companies overseas with one job:  figuring out how to steal private information and our hard-earned money.

Years ago, I had the opportunity to meet Frank Abagnale whose quote is highlighted at the beginning. Abagnale was the subject of Steven Spielberg’s film, “Catch Me if You Can,” starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hanks.  Abagnale spoke at a conference in which he described how he impersonated a doctor, a pilot, a lawyer and an attorney between the mid-1960’s and the early 1970’s.  He also described how he cashed bad checks all over the country. 

As I listened to his powerful speech that day, I honestly couldn’t understand how something like that could possibly happen.  Looking back, I realize how naive I was.  My husband and I have learned a hard lesson and are now looking into paying for identity theft protection. In the end, the best defense is to stay informed and check your accounts often.  I truly hope that this blog will help some of you avoid the nightmare my husband and I experienced yet again.

Stress Too Much for Simone Biles

“So it’s OK sometimes to even sit out the big competitions to focus on yourself, because it shows how strong of a competitor and person that you really are, rather than just battle through it.”

Simone Biles
Simone Biles after pulling out of the Olympic Summer Games on July 27, 2021.  Photo by Robert Deutsch of USA TODAY Sports.

Simone Biles shocked the world when she unexpectedly withdrew in the middle of Tuesday’s gymnastic meet stating mental health issues. She has since faced both criticism and praise.  British broadcaster Piers Morgan slammed Biles on Twitter saying there was nothing heroic about quitting and claimed that she let both her teammates and country down. Michael Phelps, who won a record 23 gold medals and has been open about his own mental health struggles, supported Biles’ decision.

While I understand we may not know the whole story, I personally think Piers Morgan is out of line.  I give Biles a lot of credit for doing what she did.  I can’t even imagine the stress and pressure she must have been feeling.  Yes, it is unfortunate that she may have compromised the opportunity for gold for herself as well as the U.S. woman’s gymnastics team.  However, no one knows what something is truly like without first going through it.  Although she is widely considered the world’s best female gymnast, she is also human and feels stress just like the rest of us.  Biles’ departure is a reminder to all of us of just what stress is capable of doing.

It is important to spot the warning signs of stress before it’s too late.  Too much stress can cause you to make irrational decisions and may make it difficult to get though the day. Signs of excessive stress are:

  1. Depression, anger  and anxiety
  2. Insomnia or too much sleeping
  3. Lack of concentration
  4. Irritability or anger
  5. Increased heart rate or blood pressure
  6. Pain, headaches or digestive issues
  7. Lack of sex drive, missed menstrual periods, and fatigue
  8. Decrease in social interaction
  9. Overeating or drug use

Stress is, of course, a natural reaction to our body’s ability to deal with our everyday demands like work, school, bills, the death of a loved one, etc.  We never know how a stressful situation will affect us and we have no right to judge someone else for the way they chose to deal with their own.

According WebMD.com, there are several ways to help manage stress.  For instance, it is important to exercise, practice deep breathing, eat well, get some rest, talk to someone, and take a break when needed.  It sounds to me like Biles did what was best and necessary for her wellbeing and for that I continue to applaud her. 

Simone, you are still the greatest.  Everything will be OK and we are all rallying behind you. 

The opinions of the Piers Morgan’s of the world not withstanding, the vast majority understand that “winning” goes far beyond Olympic victories and Biles’ courageous actions to protect her health above all else truly exemplifies this. 


Why is Losing Weight so Hard?

“Well done is better than well said.”

Benjamin Franklin

My daughter Erica is a licensed personal trainer and quite a fitness fanatic. When I complain to her about my inability to lose weight, she is quick to remind me how easy the road to weight loss can be.  “Mom,” she tells me, “you just have to consume less calories than you burn on a daily basis.”

She may be right, but at my age it’s not that simple. As we age, our hormones change and we lose muscle.  When we lose muscle, it is harder to burn the calories we are consuming.  The loss of muscle also causes a slower metabolism which causes the body to retain more fat.

We all know stress is never a good thing but did you know it can also cause weight gain?  Increased stress leads to the release of a hormone known as cortisol in the body which can trigger a “flight or fight” response.  When this happens, unnecessary cortisol can be stored as fat cell deposits.

About 12 years ago, I participated in the Nutrisystem weight loss program and lost about 30 pounds relatively easily.  A few years ago, I tried the same diet but this time the scale wouldn’t budge. The fact is our bodies are forever changing both physically and mentally.  What worked for me then is not guaranteed to work for me now. 

It may be tougher to lose the weight as we get older but it’s not impossible.  Thankfully, it is easier to lose weight during the summer than any other time of the year.  Namely, the warmer weather and longer days encourages more physical activity.  People are genuinely in a better mood and the hot weather can also suppress your appetite.  And let’s not forget, we are also sweating more.

 So as summer quickly approaches, here are some tips to help you stay slim:


  • 1.      EAT MORE PROTEIN:  This tip is one my daughter Erica follows religiously.  Eat more protein (especially in the morning).  Protein helps to reduce the hunger hormone (ghrelin) and helps you feel fuller.
  • 2.      GET MORE SLEEP:  Studies have shown that people who don’t get the recommended 7 to 8 hours of sleep are more likely to gain weight.
  • 3.      EXERCISE REGULARLY:  Yes, I know there are only so many hours in the day.  But, as they say, where there’s a will, there’s a way.  Go for a brisk walk before work or take the stairs in lieu of the elevator, if possible.  According to the American College of Sports Medicine, over 250 minutes of exercise per week or about 35 minutes per day is necessary to achieve significant weight loss.
  • 4.      BE MINDFUL:  Simply put, you can’t lose the weight if you’re not paying attention to your eating habits. Pay attention to your meal choices and what you are putting in your refrigerator.  If you don’t buy unhealthy snacks, you’ll be less likely to indulge in them.
  • 5.      EAT MORE FIBER AND LESS SUGAR:  Eating adequate amounts of fiber helps to maintain bowel health.  Whenever possible, reach for whole grain or brown rice instead of white.  Eat healthy snacks like nuts or fruit instead of things like potato chips and candy.  Drink more water and less beverages containing sugar.
  • 6.      REDUCE STRESS AND SMILE MORE: As I mentioned earlier, unnecessary stress can lead to unnecessary fat being stored in the body.  Pay attention to your stress levels and practice relaxation techniques like meditation and walking.  


Luckily for us, laughter actually burns calories and can help to tame the belly fat.   So while it’s important to be mindful of what you put in your body, it’s also important to remember to smile.

 There are truthfully no quick fixes when it comes to weight loss.  But you can’t fix what you don’t first acknowledge.  Pay attention to your body and do what works for you. 

Dr. Bruce Greyson Chronicles 50 Years of NDE Research

There is growing evidence that spreading awareness of near-death experiences and their implications not only can influence other people for the better, but is doing so.

Bruce Greyson, M.D.

Dr. Bruce Greyson was a young doctor just one month into his psychiatric training when something strange happened.  One day he was eating spaghetti in the hospital cafeteria when the pager on his belt suddenly went off startling him.  Dropping his fork, he noticed a stain from the tomato sauce on his tie.  Quickly dabbing his tie, he went over to a phone and dialed the number on his pager.

A young student (Holly) had overdosed and was in the ER.  Her roommate was waiting to talk to him.  With no time to change, Dr. Greyson grabbed a white lab coat attempting to hide the stain and headed over to the ER where he found Holly, a first-year student at the university, unconscious on a gurney. 

Since Holly was unresponsive, he left the ER and made his way over to Susan (her roommate) who was waiting in the family lounge at the end of the hall.  While there, he sat down with Susan wanting to know everything that had transpired. After spending some time talking to her, Dr. Greyson went back to see Holly but found that she was still out cold.

The next morning, he walked into Holly’s room in the intensive care unit.  Although she was still groggy, she was now awake.  Walking up to her, Dr. Greyson introduced himself but was not prepared for what came next.  With slurred speech, Holly looked at Dr. Greyson and replied, “I know who you are.  I remember you from last night.” (After, St. Martin’s Essentials/Page 5)

Shockingly, Holly went on to tell Dr. Greyson that she saw him talking to her roommate in the family lounge.  But how could this be? 

Dr. Greyson is a professor emeritus of psychiatry and neurobehavioral sciences at the University of Virginia School of Medicine.  In his best-selling book, After, Dr. Greyson explains how this incident confused him because there was absolutely no way Holly could have seen or heard what was going on in the other room while she was on the gurney in the ER.

After asking Holly if someone had told her about his conversation, she quickly replied that no one had told her anything but said she had instead seen him.  “You were wearing a striped tie that had a red stain on it,” she said.

“What?”  Dr. Greyson was barely able to form words due to his continued surprise.  But Holly quickly repeated that she had seen him wearing a tie with a red stain on it. The hair, Dr. Greyson writes stood up on the back of his neck.  Back then, he assumed what Holly was claiming to have taken place was clearly impossible and reasoned there had to be some other way to explain this experience. In fact, he thought it must have been some sort of trick.

Never able to forget this encounter with Holly, Dr. Greyson later began to study such phenomena which were coined near-death experiences (NDEs) by Dr. Raymond Moody.  Over the years, he has studied and collected hundreds and hundreds of stories just like Holly’s.  As it turned out, there was no trickery involved and these NDEs are quite common.  About 10 to 20 percent who come close death report these experiences.

As I’ve often said, sometimes the unexpected leads us exactly where we are meant to be.  For some 50 years. Dr. Greyson has published numerous academic articles about near-death phenomena and he is also the co-founder of the International Association for Near-Death Studies (IANDS).  He served as editor of the Journal of Near-Death Studies and has received many awards for his medical research.

Personally, I’ve been studying metaphysical phenomena such as NDEs for over 15 years now.  During that time, I’ve had the privilege of knowing and meeting many incredible people and fellow researchers.  Dr. Bruce Greyson is one of them.  His knowledge and expertise is both impressive and unmatched, but what I admire most is his unwavering kindness and support. 

When my daughter Erica was trying to decide on a college, he took the time to meet with me and her at the University of Virginia.  Over the years, he answered many of my questions and is featured in my book, A Call from Heaven. Dr. Greyson truly cares about his work and his research has helped to spread awareness of NDEs in unprecedented ways.

In his exceptional book, he discusses the many lessons his NDE research has taught him.  They are:

  1. NDEs are common and can happen to anyone.
  2. NDEs are normal and happen during exceptional circumstances.
  3. NDEs typically lead to profound and long-lasting aftereffects.
  4. NDEs reduce the fear of death.
  5. NDEs lead experiencers to live more fully in the present moment.
  6. NDEs raise questions about the relationship between minds and brains, and
  7. NDEs raise questions about the continuation of consciousness after death.

Interestingly, Dr. Greyson notes people from different cultures and different religions report these near-death experiences.  It makes no difference he writes, “whether or not they believe in them.” (Page 92) He also found that the accounts have not become “more blissful” over time.  In fact, he noted there were no differences between what he was told by NDErs in the 1980s and what he was told decades later.   “This suggests that experiencers’ memories of their NDEs are reliable.” (Page 94)

During his many years of research, Dr. Greyson has found that 90 percent of the cases he has studied reported feelings of peace during their NDE.  Almost three-fourths, he writes, reported feelings of joy or bliss, two-thirds reported a feeling of unity or oneness and three-fourths described an encounter with a loving being of light.

Despite the supernatural nature of NDEs, some claim there is a medical or scientific explanation. The dying brain hypothesis proposes that these phenomena are simply hallucinatory and occur as cells begin to die in the brain.  Others contend that lack of oxygen to the brain can cause these experiences.  The problem, however, is that these theories continue to fall short when it comes to explaining the many facets and aftereffects of NDEs.  For example, why are NDEs so consistent, why do many experiencers claim to leave their body, and also why do so many claim to encounter deceased loved ones? In one experience told to me at the beginning of my research, a man named Phil was hit by a car when he was a young boy.  During his NDE, he described being told “to look at Jimmy’s face.” 

Phil shared the experience in my book, Visits to Heaven.  “There was no pain, no fear whatsoever; I felt nothing but peace and warmth all around me.  There was what I would describe as a soft glow around me.  I also felt that if I looked at Jimmy, I could never go back.  I believe Jimmy and my other relations who had crossed over were trying to help make my transition to the Other Side an easier one.”

Phil was just five years old at the time and had no idea who Jimmy even was.  After a long recovery, Phil finally took the opportunity to ask his mother who Jimmy was.  As it turns out, Jimmy was his mother’s cousin who had been killed just two months before.

As I said earlier, these theories continue to fall short.  Hallucinations are typically fearful and confusing not peaceful and comforting.  They are also psychotic and nonrealistic not consistent and coherent.  It is also important to remember that many NDEs are spiritually transformative and have lasting aftereffects. 

Over the past 50 years, Dr. Greyson has tried to understand how Holly was accurately able to describe that spaghetti stain on his tie and in so doing has accumulated well-contextualized analysis and knowledgeable research.  His findings are brilliantly presented in this book.  In Chapter 19, Dr. Greyson writes, “Experiences like NDEs seem to me to involve both the physical brain and the nonphysical mind.  We can choose to focus on the physical brain and explore chemical and electrical changes associated with NDEs. Or we can focus on the nonphysical mind and explore feelings of peace and love; out of body perceptions, and encounters with deceased loved ones.  Both aspects—the physical and the nonphysical—are there, and we can see either one by changing our focus.  We can look at NDEs as a function of the physical brain or as a function of the nonphysical mind—but neither of those perspectives by itself provides a complete description of the experience.” (Pages 209-210)

True, neither one of these two perspectives—physical and nonphysical—can stand alone. But I truly believe that it is in studying the nonphysical world that science will finally come to understand the physical world.

For information about Dr. Bruce Greyson and his book, please visit https://www.brucegreyson.com/

Things I Would Say to a Younger Me

“The soul becomes dyed with the color of its thoughts.”

Marcus Aurelius

Life is a beautiful learning experience.  Looking back over my own life, there are so many things I would tell my younger self.  Back then I didn’t have the wisdom to stop and listen because I was too busy moving on to the next thing.  I obviously can’t go back in time but, if I could, here are some things I would say to my younger self.

  • Walk your own walk.

Growing up with a disability known as cerebral palsy, this has a double and personal meaning to me.  I can remember being so self-conscious of my gait when I was a kid.  I hated to look at myself in the mirror because I would see an imperfect little girl who wore leg braces and walked with a limp.  I was so consumed with trying to fit in that I often lost myself somewhere in the process. 

If I could do it all again, I would wouldn’t shy away from looking at myself in the mirror.  I’m proud of everything that I have been able to accomplish in my life.  And none of it would have been possible without first learning how to walk with leg braces. 

This is your life and these are your lessons.  Don’t ever apologize for being you. 

  • Make time for memories.

As I get older, I treasure the memories more and more.  The younger version of me never thought much about the memories in the making.  For instance, my Godmother Lucy was my second Mom and we used to spend countless hours on her Victorian porch passing time and just enjoying each other’s company.

The older I got, the less time I made to sit on that beautiful old porch.  My young mind never realized how precious those times really were. How I wish I could sit next to my godmother on that porch again.  Simple yet so precious.

Make time for the things that truly matter.  Have a party for no reason.  Go on those road trips or family vacations.  Spend time with your friends.  Someday you will wish you had done more.

  • Stay true to yourself.

I’ve learned the hard way that you teach people how to treat you.  In life people know what they can get away with.  I wish I had spent more time saying no instead of trying to please others.  Many times over the years, I lost myself in the midst of trying to please someone else. 

People may not agree with the path you’ve chosen in life but it’s your path not theirs.  Follow your heart and make your own decisions.  You will make some mistakes and you will learn your own lessons. 

  • Slow down.  

We are all so busy running from one thing to the next.   A recent survey noted that most Americans have less than a half hour of free time.  It has become increasingly difficult to balance our personal and work schedules.   

            Ironically, during these unprecedented times, it has become more and more important to   recognize the value of living in the moment and taking the time to appreciate the simple        things.   If you’re constantly rushing to the next moment, you won’t appreciate the     one that you’re in.

  • Love and laugh often.

Earlier this month, my wonderful Aunt Rosina passed away.  She would have been 98 years old this coming June.  She was an incredible soul who never took anything for granted.  One thing that I will remember most about her is her contagious smile. 

We were at a family wedding once when I asked her to tell me what her secret was to a long life.  She looked at me and quickly responded in Italian, “Ridere e bere vino.” (Laugh and drink wine). 

Never take the opportunity to love and receive love for granted.  As you age, you will learn that nothing is more important or more priceless. 

  • You are enough. 

Never let anyone else determine your self-worth or tell you that you’re not good enough.  Never let anyone determine the direction you should go in.  Set your own sails.  Write your own book. 

Looking back, I wish I didn’t take so many things personally.  I realize that I drove myself crazy over those things that really in hindsight meant so little.  It will pass. Embrace change for it may unknowingly be a blessing in disguise.

Don’t worry so much about what others think.  Watch your own thoughts.  In the end, as the Buddha once wisely said, “What we think, we become.”

Although these are some of the things I would have liked to have told my younger self, I honestly don’t know if I would have listened back then.  But then again, wisdom comes from experience, not age.  As the saying goes, we live and learn.


I am happy to announce that my book Divine Visits has just been re-released under a new imprint, Infinite Hearts Press, LLC.  Albert Einstein once said, “There are two ways to live your life.  One is as though nothing is a miracle.  The other is as though everything is a miracle.”  As I say in my book, I prefer the latter.

Divine Visits highlights incredible divine interventions and angelic encounters from around the world.  Heaven is not only real but always within our reach.  For more information, please visit: Divine Visits: Varga, Josie: 9781736299005: Amazon.com: Books

Below is an excerpt taken from the book in which I describe an incredible divine intervention of my own. 

Beyond Words

As I often say, there are no coincidences in life; there are only “Godincidences.”  Nearing the completion of this book, I experienced my own profound divine visit.  As I write these words, I am overcome with emotion just thinking about it.  And although the experience is beyond words, I will do my best to describe what happened. 

In March 2012 I had an appointment for my annual mammogram.  Shortly after I was told that I needed to go back for another scan.  Typically, this does not alarm me as I have dense breasts and, therefore, very often have to go back for a second mammogram or ultrasound.  This time, however, they needed to take another look at the left side of my breasts. 

Since I was traveling, I could not make an appointment until two weeks later which brought me back for a screening on Monday, April 9th—a day that I will remember vividly for the rest of my life.  When I arrived, I was first given another mammogram by one of the x-ray technicians on staff.  Afterwards I was told that the doctor wanted me to have an ultrasound. At this point I must admit I was concerned but not alarmed.

As the second technician scanned my breasts, I noticed that she paid special attention to one area on the left side.   After she spent several minutes examining the scans of my breasts, she looked at me and said, “I’ll be right back.  I have to go talk to the doctor.”  As she left the room leaving me alone with my thoughts, I sensed that I was in trouble and definitely did not have a good feeling.  My body literally began to shake from head to toe.

Not knowing what else to do, I decided to ask God if everything was going to be okay.  I was hoping that my gut instincts were wrong so I asked telepathically, Is everything okay?  Unexpectedly and shockingly, I clearly heard a voice in my mind say, No!  You can just imagine how shaken I was. At this point, I thought maybe I had imagined it and asked again, Is everything okay?  Again, I unmistakably heard back, No!

Honestly, I wanted to run out of that room. I was startled, confused, scared, etc.  There I was lying on a table, topless in a dimly lit room alone.  Not knowing what else to do, I cried out to God for help.  I was so distraught that I cannot remember my exact words but it went something like this:  Well, God, if it’s not OK, you have to fix this.  I can’t leave yet.  I’m doing so much right now.  I need to finish my book.  Lord, I want to be there for my children.  Then holding back tears, I thought of my Godmother Lucy.  Let me pause here and give you a little description of my beautiful, wonderful Godmother Lucy LoBrace. 

Lucy was the type of person that always put everyone before herself.  She did everything she could to help everyone else and never thought much about her own needs.  She never married and worked as a seamstress for several years at a company in Elizabeth, New Jersey.  Since she had no children, I was her self-proclaimed daughter and I proudly called her my second mom.  We passed many hours together as I grew up, going shopping downtown, having sleepovers, or just passing time lounging on her big Victorian porch.  As we both grew older, the bond we shared grew stronger and I cherished the times I got to spend with Lucy.

I could go on and on talking about what a wonderful person she was, but what’s important here is that she had more faith in God than anyone I have ever known.  Despite many hardships in her life and through the untimely death of many of her close family members, she held on to her faith. She strongly believed in the power of prayer and kept a shrine of saint medallions in her room.  St. Jude, St. Joseph, and St. Theresa. She had them all.  She also faithfully said many daily novenas to various saints and when she was physically able, always attended mass on Sundays. 

Through the years I would always tell her, “Lucy if there’s anyone who is going to get to heaven, it’s you.  Put in a good word for me when you get there.”  She would always just smile at me and chuckle.  I would also tell her to make sure that she gave me a sign to let me know that everything was okay when she crossed over.  Lucy unexpectedly passed on February 22, 2010 from an apparent heart attack.  Although I was shocked and saddened by the news, I had no doubt whatsoever that she was in a much better place and was now happy to be with her loved ones once again.  In fact, she has let me know in many ways that she is still with me.  I will share one example here before I get back to that day in the radiology room. 

Often when I’m at my desk writing, I go onto You Tube and put in a song that I can listen to as I write.  Recently, I was really missing my Godmother Lucy and put “My Melody of Love” in the search field.  For those of you who may not know, this was a popular song by singer Bobby Vinton in the 70s. 

When I was young, my godmother gave me a Mickey Mouse record player.  It was white with Mickey Mouse on the cover and the needle was actually Mickey’s arm.  I loved it and it brought me many hours of enjoyment.  One day, Lucy came over with the 45 of “My Melody of Love” and the two of us had such a great time doing the polka and singing to this Bobby Vinton hit. 

So on this day as I sat there missing my godmother, I wanted to hear this song that had special meaning to both of us.  As the song played via You Tube, the tears began to flow.  Suddenly I yelled out as if she was within earshot, “Lucy, are you here?  Do you remember this?  Bobby Vinton?  “My Melody of Love?”  I then cried for several more minutes before going back to my work.

The following week, my husband John asked me if my daughter Lia told me about the dream she had involving my godmother.  When I told him that she hadn’t, he told me to ask her what happened.  When I did, Lia seemed confused and flustered.  She told me that she had had a dream about “Grandma Lucy” (this is what my two daughters called Lucy) but was confused by it.  I told her to just tell me what happened and this is what she said:

Mommy, Grandma Lucy walked up to this box and opened it.

When she opened it, there was this thing going round and round and there was a little stick sticking up.

I stood there open mouthed.  My daughter Lia unknowingly just gave me a huge validation.  I realized that Lia was, of course, describing a record player but Lia was ten years old.  So in this age of CD’s and MP3 players, she had no idea of what she was seeing.  She is not familiar with LPs and 45s.  She is not familiar with record players.  So why, then, did she dream of my Godmother and a record player?  This was Lucy’s way of letting me know that she did remember.  Yes, she was there and yes, she did remember “My Melody of Love.”

By the way, I showed my daughter pictures of record players and she confirmed that this was indeed what she had seen.  But why would my Godmother Lucy visit my daughter in a dream and not me?  This is what is called a third-party sign.  Think about it for a moment.  Obviously, it is more validating for my Godmother Lucy to go to my daughter Lia and not me.  I may have thought I was having the dream simply because I had asked Lucy if she was there with me.  However, hearing this message from Lia (a third party who had no knowledge of what happened) was a far stronger and convincing validation.

As I said earlier, Lucy has given me many signs or visits from heaven as I like to call them such as the one I just described above, but everything pales in comparison to what happened that day as I waited for the technician to return.  Again, I had cried out to God telepathically for help and then thought of my godmother.  So I decided to make a second plea for help to Lucy.

“Lucy,” I pleaded.  “If I’ve ever needed you to be here for me, it’s now.  Please, Lucy, help me!” 

And then it happened.  Within mere seconds I saw a bright, white orb descend from the ceiling directly above me.  I stared at it in utter astonishment and thought, I must be imagining things. I closed my eyes and opened them again, but it was still there.  The white was very bright, and it was not transparent.  In other words, I could not see through this orb which looked to be about 4 inches long and just three inches wide.  The orb was perfectly round but had rays of light protruding out of it. 

No doubt something very divine was taking place.  I lay there mesmerized by this beautiful, breathtaking vision and watched as it slowly descended toward me.  A smile warmed my face, and I completely calmed down.  When the orb came to about four inches above my chest, it then slowly moved to my right and stopped. 

At this point, I communicated with this divine presence telepathically saying, “It’s okay. I’m not afraid; come to me,” and reached out my hand to it.  When I did, the orb slowly turned a beautiful, vibrant purple.  For lack of a better description, the orb looked to be alive with energy and vibration. A small dot of purple formed in the center and then became bigger and bigger until it encompassed most of the white changing color right before my eyes.  As though I was in a trance, I lay there awestruck watching what was unfolding before me, feeling totally at peace and content.  Then…the technician suddenly opened the door.  My heart skipped a beat as she broke my trance, and the magnificent orb quickly disappeared leaving me wishing that the technician had given me more time to take in this divine visit. 

As she took more scans of my breasts, my mind and my heart were elsewhere as I replayed what had just happened to me over and over again in my mind.  I wondered how I was going to explain to my family and friends what had just happened to me.  I even wondered if they would believe me but then quickly decided that it didn’t matter who believed and who did not believe. I knew what happened, and that’s all that mattered. But as I drove home that day, I couldn’t help but wonder what it all meant.  Was it God?  Was it my Godmother Lucy?  Was I being told that everything was going to be okay?  Or was I being told that it was my time but not to worry?  ‘And why had the orb turned purple?  What did this all mean?

When my husband returned home from work later that day, I told him what happened as he looked at me dumbfounded by my words. “That is amazing!” he said.  “That is a once in a lifetime experience.  Just incredible!  What a blessing!” 

Yes, it was a blessing but I couldn’t help but ponder why it happened.  Who came to me and why?  As an author and researcher of the afterlife and the paranormal, I certainly had no qualms about what I saw.  It was clearly an orb which is how spirit energy often manifests in photographs.  But there is a big difference between seeing an orb in a photo and seeing one in person while totally awake! There is also a big difference between being visited by spirits or deceased loved ones during your dream state and actually seeing them with your own eyes. 

Two days later I answered the phone to find my gynecologist on the other end.  “Josephine, there is something on your left side.  There is something there that shouldn’t be there.  I want you to have a biopsy as soon as possible.  Don’t wait.” 

I could clearly hear the panic in his voice.  He referred me to a breast cancer specialist and told me to make an appointment.  Everything goes blank from that moment on because I was so stunned that I couldn’t hear the rest of my doctor’s words.  I do remember hanging up the phone and crying.  I had been through this all before when I was diagnosed with melanoma in 2000.  I got the same call.  I heard the same panic.  All those painful memories came rushing back.  Only now I had two beautiful young daughters to worry about. 

Why?  Why would this happen to me in the midst of everything that I am trying to do to get the word out about God, the power of prayer, the afterlife, universal consciousness, etc.  Mostly, however, I kept thinking about my kids.  As I’ve said in my books many times, I am not afraid to die.  This body is just a garment we wear in order to be able to experience life on this earth.  When we crossover, we change our outfit.  We go back to being spirit which is and always will be our true essence.  Because I know this, it is definitely easier for me when I lose a loved one but it’s definitely not easy.  It hurts.  It really hurts.  I am only human so I long for that physical contact just like everyone else.

Two days later I attended an engagement party for my neighbor’s daughter.  In all honesty, I did not want to go because I was upset and worried, but I didn’t want to cancel at the last minute either.  So my husband and I put on a happy face and tried to make the best of it.  It was a beautiful affair, and I ended up sitting next to my neighbor and friend Janet, who is a breast cancer survivor.  I hadn’t planned on talking about my predicament but decided to ask Janet for her advice. 

After I told her about my hectic week, she looked at me surprisingly and said, “It’s you!”  I had no idea what she was talking about, but she went on to explain that she had had a vivid dream.  In the dream, she was told that someone was going to be coming to her for help.  “Josie,” she said, “It’s you.  You are the one that I am supposed to help!”  WOW!  I looked at her both astonished and grateful as I knew someone was looking after me on the Other Side.  Janet went on to tell me that what made this even more astonishing was that she usually never remembers her dreams.  But she had no doubt she was meant to remember this one.

The following week, I went to see the breast specialist who examined me and set up an appointment for a biopsy.  While I waited for the day of the biopsy, I tried to keep myself busy with writing this book.  One day as I was going over one of the chapters, I froze when I came to Lori’s response to one of my questions.  Lori, who is a gifted psychic medium, wrote, “We humans are made up of matter, and matter is energy.  Energy can neither be created, nor can it be destroyed.  When we die, the energy is still there and takes a new form.  If you were to see it, you would see hazy smoke or orbs of light.”  I read this and reread this.  “….you would see hazy smoke or orbs of light.” 

I then wrote to Lori telling her what had happened to me at the imaging center.  In response, she wrote, “When you called on your godmother to be with you, she was.  You pulled down a wall, and invited a loved one in.  You were open, and she presented to you.”  I was just stunned as I read her words.  So it really was my Godmother Lucy!  Lori also went on to explain that the reason the orb changed colors is because when I reached out to it, my energy fused with my godmother’s energy, thereby creating the color purple. 

Lori concluded, “You have love on your side.”  I can’t tell you how much her comforting words meant to me.  I have a wonderful group on Facebook based on my book Visits from Heaven.* I have told the bereaved countless times that their loved ones are just a thought a way.  “When we think of our loved ones, we bring them to us.  If you need help, just ask.  They can be of more help to us from the Other Side than they were when they were on this Earth.”  I have said these words so many times and now I experienced the truth of my very own words.

I was desperate for help.  I cried out to God.  I asked my Godmother Lucy for help.  Within seconds, she manifested before me in the form of an orb.  She was always there for me and still is.  Only now, Lucy is in spirit. 

A few days later, I had the biopsy and the stressful wait for the results began.  The biopsy was performed on Tuesday, April 24.  Two days later my phone rang early in the morning.  It was the breast imaging doctor on the line.  “It is benign,” he said.  “I just read the report and had to call you.  I am surprised.  I thought it was cancer.”  He went on to say how it had looked like cancer to him but I don’t remember his exact words because my happy sobs kept interrupting him.

“No, I’m telling you this because you should be happy,” he quickly added trying to calm me.  I remember uttering something like, “I know. Thank you.”  How was I going to explain what had happened in that room to this doctor?  How was I going to tell him that I believed my fate was changed in that very room when the orb appeared before me?  I hung up the phone and continued sobbing in my husband John’s arms. 

The doctor’s honesty confirmed what I had been feeling all along and what I was told that day.  Remember, I had asked God telepathically, Is everything okay? And I clearly heard back in my mind, No!  I asked this same question twice and twice, I heard, No!  Why would I hear back, No, if everything was alright?  Why would I hear this if it wasn’t cancer?  Why would I hear this if it was originally benign?

Fast forward another week and I was in my gynecologist/obstetrician’s office for my annual exam.  We talked about the biopsy, and since I have a close relationship with my ob-gyn, I decided to tell him what had transpired that day at the diagnostic center.  I also told him that I knew it didn’t look good because the imaging doctor had told me he thought it was cancer.

My doctor then admitted that this is what was reported to him.  “Listen, I don’t know what happened here,” he told me.  “Let’s just be happy with the results.” He went on to say that he often hears stories such as mine and that there were things in life we just can’t explain. 

While I agree that there are some things in life that we just can’t explain, I don’t believe that this experience is one of them. I know what happened to me that day in that room was a divine intervention.  I also know that the power of prayer played a huge part in my good fortune.  Many family and friends were praying for me, including rosary groups.  I was saying daily novenas to the Blessed Mother, Saint Peregrine and Padre Pio.  In fact, the day after I was told that I needed to have a biopsy, I was in my room praying to my Godmother Lucy.  A few minutes later I went into my drawer looking for a prayer card she had given me.  I found the card along with a note from my godmother.  In it, I found a small medal depicting the Blessed Mother.  As I read the note, I was stunned when I came to the last paragraph.  In it, she wrote, “Pin this medal on your bra.  It’s blessed.” 

Rereading the note, I stared in disbelief.  “Pin this medal on your bra. It’s blessed.”  My Godmother once again came to me with a message of her presence at the most opportune time.  I said a prayer of thanks and then took the medal and pinned it to the left side of my bra.  That same night, I called my friend, Ray Skop, a faith healer in Jersey City, New Jersey, who has been at the helm of several miracles.  (We will talk more about Ray a little later in this book).  

So while many factors played a part in my positive outcome and I cannot possibly exempt anything while expressing my thanks, I can say that it all began with the divine visit that I received in that room at the diagnostic radiology center.  I can also say it began with my desperate cry for help and hence the appearance and miracle of that incredible orb. 

My life hasn’t been the same since.  I am a new person.  The sky is bluer.  The grass is greener.  Everything radiates with love and energy.  When I called Toni DiBernardo whose divine visit I described in the previous chapter and who assisted me in putting this book together, she excitedly exclaimed, “I know exactly what you mean, Josie.  I call these God Shots.  Everything looks more beautiful than it did before.” I smiled in agreement feeling and sharing in her excitement.  I wasn’t alone in my new-found way of looking at the world.  While Toni prefers to call it God Shots, I like to think of it more as soul impressions for I no longer see with my eyes; I see with my soul.  And while mere words don’t begin to describe the magnificence of what I experienced that day, at least I have given you a glimpse. 

*For more information about the Visits from Heaven Facebook Group or to join, please visit: https://www.facebook.com/groups/VisitsFromHeaven.OpenGroup or https://www.facebook.com/groups/VisitsFromHeaven.ClosedGroup.

Will the GameStop?

Whoever thought that a still struggling video game company could see its shares go up over 400 percent in one short week? How is it possible that a company that may still go out of business ends up being one of the stock markets biggest winners?

The short answer is the members of WallStreetBets (also known as WSB), a popular group made up of basically amateur stock traders on Reddit, said so! Hedge fund managers are scratching their heads because they never saw this coming. The drive pushed a stock worth less than $20 at the beginning of this year to close to $485.00 this week. So what exactly happened?

COVID-19 continues to keep people away from visiting retail outlets. As a result, most people are buying their video games online leaving stores like GameStop in dire straits. Recognizing this, institutional investors made GameStop one of their many short sales. Short selling occurs when investors bet that a company is going to fail. The more the stock falls, the more money they make. If, however, the opposite occurs and the stock rises investors are forced to buy in order to cover their short holdings.

Hedge funds are investment companies that pool together money from wealthy individuals. So, simply put, a group of amateur investors took on these wealthy hedge fund giants and won by simply outsmarting them. GameStop was one the most shorted companies, others include AMC Theatres, Nokia, Bed Bath & Beyond and BlackBerry. The move by WSB was said to be made because they were tired of the power grab by big financial institutions who they believe have always controlled the market by, for example, having inside information on initial public offerings, etc.

Adding to last week’s frenzy was a move by Robinhood—an easy-to-use investment app—to temporarily restrict the trading of certain stocks, including GameStop. The move by Robinhood drew sharp criticism from lawmakers, its users and the public at large who argued that the company was favoring big financial corporations over small investors.

Many investors have been worried about how this move by WSB will affect the market as a whole. For the long term, we are likely to see sweeping changes and regulations when it comes to hedge funds and private investment firms. Perhaps, this was a long time coming and just maybe small time investors like myself will be able to see some gains. Companies like Robinhood should not be allowed to suddenly restrict stock and in essence control the flow of the market.

Eventually, the shares of GameStop will stop climbing and things will settle down. And, perhaps, GameStop will still go out of business. At this point, nobody knows. But one thing is for sure an online chat room with a popular meme has gotten the attention of financial giants and regulars alike.

Some Lessons Learned from 2020

Circumstances do not make a man, they reveal him.”

Wayne Dyer

Yes, I know we all want to put 2020 behind us.  It’s certainly been one like no other.  In November 2019, after months of physical therapy for a misdiagnosed shoulder injury, I had surgery to remove a huge calcium growth on my right rotator cuff.  The X-ray technician who filmed my shoulder months earlier had missed it and so did the doctor.

It’s fair to say I had high hopes for 2020 as I looked forward to putting 2019 behind me.  At that time, I certainly didn’t think 2020 could be any worse but, as we all know, it was.  Nothing could have prepared us for the challenges and doom and gloom of COVID-19.  But before we put 2020 to rest, I must admit it wasn’t a total bust.  In the midst of our greatest challenges, we also find our greatest strengths and learn our most valuable lessons.  Here in no particular order are some of my personal takeaways from 2020.

  1. What We Appreciate, Appreciates.  If we focus on what’s lacking in our life, our unhappiness and need for more will only grow.  But if we focus on what we already have in our life, we will find contentment with what we already have.  If we focus, instead, on what we don’t have, we’ll always be looking for more.  Nothing will ever be enough.
  2. The Simple Things Are Not So Simple. In March 2020, I found myself at the local supermarket bright and early at 6:00 a.m. My mission was a modest one . . . to buy toilet paper.  But as I combed the aisles looking quite disheveled having just rolled out of bed, I realized that the shelves were completely bare of paper products.  No toilet paper, napkins, paper towels, tissues—nothing! After visiting quite a few stores with no luck, I ended up paying a fortune for toilet paper on Amazon. It’s a good way to learn that the basic things in life are really not basic.  In 2020, the simple things I never thought about became my focal point while the more elaborate things fell to the wayside. 
  3. Never Take Anything for Granted.  I know I’m not alone when I say 2020 taught me a hard lesson on not taking things for granted in life.  We all do it.  Our daily routines become so habitual that we don’t take the time to think about them.  Instead, we take these things for granted and move on to still more things.  Ironically, these very things we so often take for granted are what often matter the most.
  4. Feel How You Feel.  Pay attention to your feelings; they are there for a reason. This year had me feeling completely burnt out.  Between my health issues, my family and all the mental stresses that came with COVID-19, I was pushed to the edge at times. I realized that I just couldn’t do it all and that’s OK.  Admittedly, I felt guilty at first.  But I couldn’t truly heal without putting myself first for a change.
  5. Touch is Essential.  Rick Springfield was right, “We all need the human touch.”  The year 2020 taught me the hard way that human touch is a fundamental human need.  Never before have I ever appreciated a kiss or a warm embrace more than I did this year.  Never before have I valued my time with my family and friends more than I do now. 
  6. Change is Unavoidable. Many things in our life appear to be permanent so we convince ourselves that they are.  We don’t give these things a second thought.  Unfortunately, this permanence is just an illusion.  Everything around us—our relationships, our circumstances, our feelings, our needs, etc.—is constantly changing.  We all know this but we often don’t pay much attention to it—until something like 2020 forces us to.
  7. Stay True to Yourself.   This year had me suffering some kind of an identity crisis as I struggled with not being able to keep up with my work, my books and all the other things that I identify with.  But that’s just it.  All those things are just things.  The real me is much more than that and is very much still me.
  8. Cherish the Moment.  Nothing is ever really guaranteed and the only thing we ever really have is right now.  Put another way, five seconds ago is the past and five seconds from now will be the future.  The past is no more and the future may never happen. So, again, the only thing we only know or have for sure is the present moment.
  9. Be Still.  Just breathe. When was the last time you watched the sunset or got up early to watch the sunrise?  When was the last time you took the time to meditate and quiet your mind?  When was the last time you took the time to appreciate the beauty of a rose or the sound of ocean waves crashing along the shoreline?  In July 2020, I had to have surgery and I’m still recovering.  As I said earlier, both 2019 and 2020 dealt me some hard blows.  But through it all, I tried never to lose sight of the value of the moment.  After my surgery in July, I spent a long time laying in the lounge chair in my backyard.  Honestly, it offered me the best way to lay down without feeling too much pain.  And it also offered me many opportunities to just be still with my thoughts and appreciate the incredible beauty of the sunset.   And, AAH, the moon!  Did you know the more you focus on its glittering glow, the brighter and more beautiful it becomes?

Try it.  I promise you your eyes will never see anything so stunning.  We can’t see the things we don’t choose to look at.  As the late Wayne Dyer once said, “With everything that has happened to you, you can either feel sorry for yourself or treat what has happened as a gift. Everything is either an opportunity to grow or an obstacle to keep you from growing. You get to choose.”

No, we didn’t have a choice in the difficulties dealt to us with COVID-19.  But we can use the lessons learned from our many challenges in 2020 to grow and thrive in 2021.  Remember, what we appreciate, appreciates.  Our reaction is always our choice.

Happy New Year!  Perhaps the many hardships of 2020 will plant seeds of gratitude and become the milestones to a joyful and treasured 2021.