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Clearing Leaves: A Story of Hope

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Letter from the editor: When Brian asked if I wanted to publish a story he wrote, I asked what it was about. He sent me to read it and I knew the answer was a resounding yes. I am so proud to share Brian’s story, especially on Thanksgiving, to share his photography and more importantly to know him. May this story help anyone out there who has gone through the same adversity. You are not alone.

Every fall for the past ¼ century I have battled the leaves in my yard in a small suburban NJ town. Hundreds, thousands, millions, maybe closer to trillions? Leaf upon leaf one at time. They once provided shade and even brilliant color bursts before falling to the ground. Some even manage to look good on the ground. At first. Of course, if you don’t rake and bag ALL these leaves, they all end up turning to rotten wet composting leaves, right there on your lawn. So, every year I literally bag hundreds of bags and put them to the curb to be taken away. I have no idea where they go? But they leave? Haha. This process occurs over many different days during the fall, perhaps 4 or 5 times until all the leaves have fallen.

Each time I clear the leaves off the lawn I always admire how clean and clear the lawn looks. I know it will be short lived. I know more leaves will come. But I will clear those as well. In time. Finally, near the end of the fall the last of the leaves have fallen and I finally clear the lawn for one last time for the winter. More will come again next year. I will clear those as well. If I’m lucky. Sometimes I take before and after photos. Keep in mind clearing the entire property takes two days each time. Four times each fall. Some of my neighbors have landscapers that come and clear their leaves. I clear my own, I find it very therapeutic. Besides I love being outdoors and working. 

This fall, “clearing the leaves” took on an entirely new metaphoric meaning for me on a deeply personal level. I realized I have my own leaves on the lawn that is my soul and that from time to time I have to clear those as well. But I have never cleared those? I got 54 years of leaves to clear. Aren’t enough leaf bags in the world. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. First, I got help from close friends who try and teach me to breath and support from loved ones. Then I started writing. Writing down all kinds of things, the good, the bad, the ugly. Somehow as I wrote about some of my personal “leaves” it seemed to make them fade ever so lightly from my soul. I felt if I just keep writing and wrote it all down the leaves might finally be all cleared. I have spent hours, days, writing. And more writing. Then I realized, it took 54 years to get to this point, not going to clear everything overnight. Maybe just a little piece at time? Maybe just keep working through these leaves of my life. 

I have also come to discover that sharing my writing helps to make the leaves fade a lot more. Maybe I don’t need to share it all at once, maybe I should share it in small doses? 

I was abused as child. Abused by neglect. Emotionally abused. Physically abused. Sexually abused. All but the emotional abuse ended abruptly the night I lost three of my sixteen siblings in a tragic house fire. I survived. Wow. Just sharing those few lines ‘leaves’ me shaking. I have known these things for many years. I have been working with a mental health professional for over a ¼ century. Recently, within the last six months, my recovery began in earnest as I moved from acknowledging the abuse to accepting it. This would be the incredibly painful and somehow uplifting point where I went from seeing myself as someone else, from seeing “oh no, that poor kid being abused” to “oh I wait I am that kid.”

I have cried away most of this past summer. It seemed days on end. Cried about things that happened 30 – 40 years ago. Cried about things unrelated to my own abuse but for which I had never allowed myself to grief. The loss of my 3 siblings. The loss of friends and loved ones. Cried about the abuse as well. Lots. I survived. I am thankful for my family and my closest friends that have always been there for me, willing to listen and support. I am finding additional resources to aid in my recovery. This will take some time. Posting this small amount will help. It allows me to shed some of the layers of secrecy that burden me with undue weight. It helps me to release some of the shame and realize that I was just an innocent child. I survived. Thanks for taking a few minutes to read my post. I am certain I will share more of what I have been writing in the future. For today I have cleared enough of my lawn. I survived. Moving now – From Survivor to Thriver. 

Brian Hester is a New York City based freelance photographer covering any nature of event including but not limited to; breaking news, sports, entertainment, fashion, nature and whatever may catch his wandering eye. Since 2011 Brian, has been covering community events and high school sports for North Jersey Media Group and their successor Gannett USA Today. His clients include Rutgers University and Monmouth Athletics. ​You can see more of his work at www.brianbehindthelens.com

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Jose Verdugo: Guardianship/ Conservatorship and What You Need To Know Part 3

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Sabrina E. Morrissey, Credit: Facebook

Just released, Wendy Williams’ guardian has been accused of a scheme to rob her client in a $30 million lawsuit while controlling Wendy Williams’ finances and countless others. The U.S. Sun exclusively revealed that Wendy’s guardian, Sabrina Morrissey, her firm Morrissey & Morrissey LLP, and about 10 other attorneys have been named as defendants in another lawsuit.

If you remember from yesterday’s story these are the same individuals that were and are involved in Errol Rapports mother’s case and Libra Max with her father the artist Peter Max.

The case Morrissey and the attorneys are accused in, is for Jose Verdugo, who had won $5.5 million in a personal injury claim. For more than a decade, the defendants imprisoned Verdugo in a humiliating and oppressive guardianship by manipulating and serially deceiving him, as well as New York Supreme Court and the Appellate Division. The fraudulently-based attorney and guardian fees, plundered Verdugo’s multi-million dollar personal injury recovery.

This case is not an isolated case look for more tomorrow.

 

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Your Inner Dialogue: Positive Affirmations for Addiction Recovery

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Positive affirmations are of help to many people working to recover from an addiction. The uplifting messages, when repeated regularly, train the brain to think positively. They focus on the present and future, providing motivation and inspiration to continue on the road to recovery.

How Affirmations Work

The brain is a malleable organ. Affirmations help take advantage of the brain’s neuroplasticity by repeating positive messages about ourselves or our goals. Each time we verbalise the affirmation, that statement fires along certain neural pathways in support of the affirmed idea or belief. Repeated over and over, affirmations strengthen those supportive pathways until, with enough repetition, the affirmation becomes the default outlook programmed into our brains. As a result, drug rehab programs in texas often make affirmations a priority.

Creating Effective Affirmations

Telling yourself “I no longer crave drugs” likely rings hollow in early recovery. More realistic affirmations like “If a craving comes, I can get through it” set reasonable expectations. Over time, as these affirmations prove true, they can lay the groundwork for more ambitious statements. By starting small with positive, solution-focused affirmations, we can start retraining our brains with helpful messaging. Repeated regularly, effective affirmations help cement the attitudes and behaviours that allow people in recovery to cope with challenges and continue healing.

Integrating Affirmations into Daily Life

To fully benefit from affirmations, they must be put into consistent practice. Simply thinking about them from time to time is not enough for real change. Affirmations should become ingrained into one’s daily routine.

Ways to effectively integrate affirmations include:

Writing Them Down

Writing affirmations by hand helps imprint them into the mind. Keep a running list of affirmations to review regularly. Also, keep individual affirmations in multiple places, such as on sticky notes around the home, the car dashboard, and more. These little reminders help facilitate the repetition of positive phrases throughout the day.

Reciting Them Out Loud

Vocalising the affirmations is powerful too, engaging more of the brain through auditory pathways. Set reminders to repeat affirmations out loud at certain times, such as morning and evening. Doing them in front of a mirror can also help increase effectiveness. Making Them Digital

Digital applications provide another way to practise daily affirmations. Apps will send daily reminders to view inspiring quotes and phrases. Some affirmation apps allow users to select or create their affirmations as well. Viewing these positive messages right on a frequently-checked device helps reinforce them.

Affirmations Take Practice

Keep in mind that integrating affirmations into one’s mindset requires consistency and practice. At first, the concepts expressed may feel silly or untrue. However, with routine use, their effects become cumulatively powerful in supporting continued recovery. Affirmations lay the groundwork for emotional and spiritual growth that sustains people through challenges on their journey.

Affirmations are a simple yet powerful technique that can lead to profound changes for those in addiction recovery. By overriding negative thought patterns and activating motivation centres of the brain, affirmations promote personal growth and healthy decision-making. When consistently integrated into one’s daily routine through written, vocal, and digital practice, affirmations retrain the mind to be more supportive of recovery goals. Maintaining focus each day on positive visions of self-worth, forgiveness, strength, and hope builds the emotional resilience needed for the lifelong journey of recovery. Though challenging at first, committing to regular affirmations lays the groundwork for lasting transformation one phrase at a time.

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Errol Rappaport: Guardianship/ Conservatorship and What You Need To Know Part 2

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Wendy Williams, Peter Max and Errol Rappaport’s mother guardian were all Sabrina Morrissey. Here is one of the horror stories.

New York fashion design team David and Frances Rappaport were married for seventy-two years. They had three sons—Michael, Errol, and Richard—and a spectacular penthouse apartment in a landmark building at 200 Central Park South. A few years before David died, the couple asked Errol to leave his publicist job in Los Angeles and return to New York to care for them. Errol, a Vietnam veteran and trained medic who wears fashionable designer eyeglasses and his graying hair in a ponytail, agreed to return. He moved into the sprawling twenty-fifth floor apartment where his parents had lived for more than four decades. At the pinnacle of their success, the elder Rappaport’s are said to have amassed a fortune of between $9 and $10 million, thanks to the popularity of David’s Italian knitwear line, and the elegant Frances’s famous silk blouses (marketed under the name Francesca of Damon) favored by celebrities like Lucille Ball, Princess Aga Khan, and Manhattan fashion icon Iris Apfel.

In keeping with their Jewish tradition of trusting the first-born son with the family business, brother Michael was groomed to take control. According to court documents uncovered during my research, after small bequeathments to their grandchildren, it was always the elder Rappaport’s plan to split their estate equally between all three brothers.
This video starts at 16 minutes in
After patriarch David died in 2010, the ever-devoted Errol stayed on to care for his mother with help from two trusted healthcare assistants. He was paid $2,500 a month for his services, a payment that attorneys for brother Michael would criticize as “self-dealing.” Michael Rappaport initiated a guardianship petition in September 2011, which resulted in the court assigning a Park Avenue attorney named R. Demarest Duckworth III as guardian ad litem for Frances Rappaport.9 Serious disagreements erupted, as Errol raised pointed questions about how brother Michael had handled his parents’ finances over the years. Court documents show that in the late 1990s Michael had purchased the elder Rappaports’ five-bedroom, five-and-a-half-bathroom lakeside home in New Milford, Connecticut, for $500,000, as part of a tax shelter move. That was $300,000 below the appraised value.
In February 2012 the home Guarding against Guardianship 241 sold for $2 million, and Errol maintains this older brother kept that money for himself instead of using it to care for their mother. In addition, court papers show that Michael had possession of some $450,000 in bearer bonds that he claimed were a “gift” from his father and therefore should not be included in the estate. There was also a question about why this oldest son was charging his parents to rent a home he owned in Florida long after they were too old to travel there. Michael asked the estate to reimburse him for $133,680 in unpaid rent. Guardian
ad litem Duckworth III’s report to the court concluded: “The administration of Decedent’s estate brings to mind Marcellus in Shakespeare’s play Hamlet stating, ‘Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.’”
The GAL’s conclusion was that there was not enough available money to continue to care for Frances Rappaport in the home she so loved. The apartment, appraised at about $3 million, would have to be sold. Michael Rappaport did not respond to my repeated requests for comment. Errol fought against relocating their ninety-five-year-old mother, arguing that as her dementia worsened she should live out her life in familiar surroundings and in full view of her beloved Central Park. The apartment was, as the family liked to describe it, “overlooking God’s television.” During this time, Errol posted poignant videos of his mother on YouTube as they performed the traditional lighting of Saturday evening Shabbat candles and had long conversations during which Frances cried about the possibility of being sent to a nursing home. In one video, Frances is seen sitting at a table overlooking Central Park, with a porcelain mug of tea and a tissue box before her. She asks in a tearful voice, “Errol, would you ever put me in a nursing home?” Off camera her son is heard to say, “Mother, on my life, and on a stack of Jewish bibles, I will never put you in a nursing home.” Even after Errol moves in to comfort her, Frances was not consoled. She relates the story of how a good friend’s daughter has just sent her to a nursing home. “She put her there, and that’s where you go to die,” Frances laments. Errol sits next to her, gives her kisses, and says, “Mother, you are never going to a nursing home. Stop crying. You don’t have to worry at all.” And the old woman simply says, “Thank you.” In another video, the pair discusses where several members of their family have gone to live outside of New York. Frances Rappaport holds her son’s hand, looks intently into his eyes, and says, “I would be alone without you. Errol, you are wonderful. I love you so much.” She refers to him as “my Errol-ah.”
Errol alleged that brother Michael, as executor of the estate, stopped paying the monthly co-op fee of $4,500, and in January 2014 the building 242. We’re Here to Help sued for nonpayment. Errol was served with a notice to vacate the home, and he was forced to leave his mother for the first time in seven years.

Soon the penthouse was listed for sale, and the guardian moved Frances Rappaport out of her cherished Manhattan home of forty-six years and into a small apartment miles away in Queens, New York. Errol, then in his early seventies, said he was left homeless after having exhausted his savings battling his older brother. At his age, he said, he had zero job prospects. “I have to take two different buses to get out to Queens just to visit with my mother, and right now I’m couch surfing with various friends.” Errol said.

Errol and his mother Francesca

He spoke to me in the courthouse hallway during a break in yet another guardianship-related proceeding he was summoned to attend in downtown Manhattan. This proceeding was called to take Errol to task for

posting so many revelatory YouTube videos of his mother. On this day, the judge ordered Errol to remove the videos or face serious contempt of court charges. Many of those videos still remain online. When asked at the time how frequently he is able to see his mother, he said, “I have to call forty-eight hours in advance for approval [of visits] so a paid monitor can be there to supervise, and I can only stay for two hours.” After scheduled appointments to see his mother were canceled at the last minute, Errol became so angry and frustrated at his lack of access to her, he took to pacing outside her Queens apartment building with a large sign that read, “I want my mommy!” The guardian would not relent on the ironfisted visitation policy, and that included nixing a celebration Errol wanted to throw for his mother’s hundredth birthday. “So, I got a hundred people to do short video messages for her birthday,” he said. “That’s all the guardian would allow.”
Frances Rappaport would live another year in near isolation inside that small Queens apartment, far from
her familiar view of Central Park. She died in December 2018 at the age of 101. When contacted in December 2022, Errol Rappaport said his mother’s case continued to linger in New York’s surrogate court, and the remaining $1.4 million estate was still sitting in an escrow account.
I have known Errol Rappaport and his mother for over years twelve years. I often visited and saw a lot of this story first hand. I wrote several articles trying to help. It was also written about in the New York Post.
What you have just read, is in the newly released book by Diane Diamond  “We’re Here to Help: When Guardianship Goes Wrong,” published by Brandeis University Press.
This case is not an isolated case look for more tomorrow.

 

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Wendy Williams: Guardianship/ Conservatorship and What You Need To Know Part 1

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“How did her health deteriorate so quickly, and why isn’t her only child allowed to be by her side?” These are questions being asked by Wendy Williams’ former attorney LaShawn Thomas. Williams, 59, was first placed under guardianship by her bank, Wells Fargo, but the conservatorship has since been moved to attorney Sabrina Morrissey.

Thomas alleges that she had been “threatened with physical and financial harm” if she speeks out about the care Wendy is receiving.


The Lifetime documentary, began shooting in August 2022, shortly after Wendy was forced to move back to New York for the guardianship. Although they allowed the documentary to be shot, Wendy’s guardians went to court two days before the scheduled showing dates, seeking to prohibit the network from airing Where is Wendy Williams? Why?

Wendy Williams is just one of an estimated 1.5 million to to 2 million active adult guardianship cases across the country. This is a massive industry, with guardians controlling an estimated $50 billion in assets and this is just the numbers they are telling us as the precise figures are not known as there is no government entity keeping track of citizens who lose the right to determine their own fate.

“Established in the late 1800s, the guardianship system was designed to assist the most vulnerable citizens: the elderly and the physically or intellectually disabled. While guardianship has been beneficial to many “wards of the court,” this little-understood process can be a judicial rollercoaster from which there is seldom an escape, and which often leads to financial devastation for the ward and their families. Each year, fifty billion dollars belonging to wards are placed under the control of court appointees, an obvious temptation to bad actors who are in a position to control these funds. As investigative journalist Diane Dimond discovers, the number of exploitive and abusive guardianship cases nationwide demands our urgent attention. This book also provides concrete steps that families can take to protect themselves, as guardianship can happen to any one of us at any time” states award-winning investigative journalist Diane Dimond, whose new book “We’re Here to Help: When Guardianship Goes Wrong” is currently making waves.

Guardianship/ Conservatorship harms some of the most vulnerable members of society with little if NO legal recourse. In South Florida, the GuardianshipProgram of Dade County sold at least a dozen homes of “incapacitated” people under their care to one Miami real estate company, Express Homes. These houses were often resold for hundreds of thousands dollars more than the purchase value.

This state-run system, is largely unregulated, ill-understood, and increasingly populated by financially motivated predators. Until recently it was a hush, hush problem until Britney Spears. Thanks to her case a person in the system lose all their civil rights in the process. Currently, there are an estimated 1.5 to 2 million Americans under court control, but precise figures are not known as no government entity keeps track of citizens who have lost the right to determine their own fate.

In these cases they go after people with money, people who live in rent controlled buildings or buildings the landlords want to tear down. Don’t believe me? I will give you cases in NYC that are going on right now.

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Meditation for Beginners: A Step-by-Step Guide to Finding Your Zen

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Meditation for Beginners: A Step-by-Step Guide In our fast-paced, always-connected world, finding moments of tranquility can seem like a Herculean task. Meditation offers a respite, a way to slow down and tune in to the quietness within. If you’re new to meditation, this step-by-step guide is designed to help you start your journey towards inner peace.

Embarking on the journey of meditation can be both enlightening and slightly daunting for beginners. To support your journey and offer more detailed guidance, our blog. It is a valuable resource filled with insights and tips for embracing a mindful lifestyle.

Understanding Meditation

At its essence, meditation is about finding the quiet space within your mind – a refuge that exists beyond the hustle of daily life. It’s not about changing who you are, but learning to understand and accept your thoughts and feelings with a new perspective. This ancient practice, which spans various cultures and millennia, is more than just a technique for relaxation; it’s a pathway to deeper self-awareness and understanding.

Step 1: Set Your Intention

Before diving into meditation, it’s crucial to clarify your purpose. Why are you drawn to meditation? It might be to find peace in a busy life, enhance your concentration, or manage stress and anxiety. Your intention will act as an anchor, keeping your practice focused and meaningful.

Step 2: Find a Quiet Space

Your meditation space doesn’t need to be elaborate. It can be as simple as a comfortable corner in your home, a serene spot in your garden, or even a quiet park bench. The key is consistency. The more you return to this space, the more it becomes a sanctuary for your practice.

Step 3: Get Comfortable

Physical comfort is essential in meditation. Find a position that allows you to be both relaxed and alert. While traditional meditation is often practiced in a seated position with a straight back, it’s important to choose a posture that’s right for you. Some may prefer sitting on a cushion or chair, while others might find lying down more suitable.

Step 4: Set a Time Limit

As a beginner, it’s advisable to start with shorter, manageable sessions. Five to ten minutes is a great starting point. As you develop your practice, you can gradually increase the duration. This helps to build your meditation habit without feeling overwhelmed.

Step 5: Focus on Your Breath

Breathing is a natural anchor to the present moment. Pay attention to the rhythm of your breath, the feel of air entering and exiting your nostrils, or the rise and fall of your chest or abdomen. This focus will serve as your center, helping to calm the mind and bring you back when it wanders.

Step 6: Notice When Your Mind Wanders

A wandering mind is part of the human experience and is natural during meditation. When you notice your thoughts drifting, gently acknowledge them and return your focus to your breath. This practice of returning to your breath builds the muscles of attention and mindfulness.

Step 7: Close with Gratitude

Ending your meditation with a moment of gratitude helps to frame your practice in a positive light. Acknowledge yourself for taking the time to meditate, and recognize the peacefulness and clarity you’ve cultivated. This ritual can create a sense of accomplishment and encourage regular practice.

Incorporating Meditation into Daily Life

Meditation’s true power is realized when its principles are applied to everyday life. Start by integrating brief moments of mindfulness into your day – during your morning routine, on your commute, or before meals. These small practices can significantly enhance your sense of presence and well-being.

Embarking on a meditation journey is a deeply personal and transformative experience. It’s a path of discovery, not just of the practice but of yourself. Remember, there’s no right or wrong way to meditate. The key is to start, continue, and embrace the journey with an open heart and mind. Over time, meditation becomes more than a practice – it transforms into a way of being, bringing serenity and clarity into every aspect of your life.

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