Giving Motherhood a Microphone

It all started with a cheese doodle.

Not just any cheese flavored cheese puff, but an innocent snack handed to a little 15-month-old toddler who had never tasted such a flavor, from her new-ish grandmother. “Who knew that Jamie would walk in the kitchen at that very moment,” explained Cohen. “It has cheese in it! I remember stumbling, so it must be healthy.”

Cohen’s daughter and son-in-law are very specific about the healthy food choices for their daughter Hallie and son Ethan and cheese doodles were definitely not on the menu that day.

The story of the cheese doodle and the dance that happens between adult children, their parents and their children is the subject of an artistic expression that Ellyn Cohen of Piermont will be telling the evening of May 10th. It is no coincidence that the evening is the night before Mother’s Day. In fact audiences in 32 cities across the country will experience well-crafted journeys that celebrate and validate mothering through giving voice to motherhood–in all of its complexity, diversity, and humor.

The funny part here is that Cohen’s children will be attending the event (claiming to be busy was not an option here–aka Mothers Day Gift) where they are in fact the subjects of a very personal, comedic essay and one that will resonate with many of the 450 people in attendance that evening.

Cohen auditioned for “Listen to Your Mother” in March 2014 and was selected as one of 15 cast members, from over 100 participants, to take part in the North Jersey “Listen to Your Mother” performance. The performance will be held at the South Orange Performing Arts Center through the theater company, Midtown Direct Rep, aptly named for the New Jersey transit line on which local residents commute. MDR is comprised of accomplished theater artists and seasoned Broadway veterans who call Maplewood/South Orange their home. Sandy Rustin, Producer/Director for the 2014 “Listen to Your Mother” North Jersey is a founding member of Midtown Direct Rep.

The Listen To Your Mother North Jersey Cast - Ellyn Cohen wearing yellow and purple scarf.

The Listen To Your Mother North Jersey Cast – Ellyn Cohen wearing yellow and purple scarf.

Cohen was raised in Hewlett, NY and received a BS degree in Speech and Dramatics from Syracuse University, and a Master’s degree in Speech Pathology from Teacher’s College. Cohen lived in Atlanta, where her husband, Dr. Daniel Cohen, did his residency in Pediatrics. In 1974, she and her husband moved to Rockland County, where Ellyn worked for 20 + years as a speech pathologist, with a private practice. Ellyn raised two children, Jamie and Evan. In addition to her career in Speech Pathology, she taught Public Speaking and Human Communication at Rockland Community College. Cohen then established Presentation Power!, speech writing and speech coaching. Clients included non- profits, corporate executives, fundraisers, and politicians. She spent three years as Community Liaison for a NYS Assemblyman, five years as Director of Marketing and Public Relations for the JCC of Rockland. She now lives in Piermont and while learning to be retired, read “Inventing the Rest of Our Lives: Women in Second Adulthood,” by Suzanne Braun Levine. This inspired her to start an author series for Rockland Jewish Family Service. Several times/year, RJFS bring authors to the community to speak about psycho/social issues of interest to Baby Boomers.

Listen to Your Mother, founded by Ann Imig, a self described “stay-at-home humorist” has been giving voices to motherhood since 2010 in the form of original readings performed live on-stage by their authors.

Listen to Your Mother aims to support motherhood creatively through artistic expression, and also financially, through contributions to non-profit organizations supporting families in need. The North Jersey show will be donating a 10% of ticket proceeds to NJCW, an Essex County Non-Profit dedicated to helping women and children in need in Essex County.

Happy Mothers Day Ellyn Cohen and to all –this Mother’s Day— remember to listen to your mother.

Listen to Your Mother North Jersey:

RJFS Author’s Series:

With permission Nyack/Piermont Hamlet Hub

Making a Little Indian Food

I have never cooked Indian food in my life but inspired by an Indian cooking class I recently took with a friend, you know who you are, I went to the library (yes, the library) and took out Indian Vegetarian Feast by Anjum Anand, went to our local Indian Market for just the right spices and got to work.

I made Griddled Zucchini Carpaccio, Chickpea Salsa, Pistachio Dressing.
And Tandoori Baby Potatoes With Herb Yogurt.

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Warming Hearts in Rockland

This was an unusually long, cold winter for the northeast, but in Rockland County, Warming Hearts of Rockland’s blankets enveloped some, warming their hearts and their bodies.

Since 2011, two very special women, Cathy DeVisser and Patti Beutel, have worked together with the community to support individuals and their families during difficult times.

When asked how Warming Hearts got started, Patti was very clear highlighting that she and Cathy did not want credit for this project, instead calling it “a grass roots, local community service project.” The women met when their sons attended high school together. Cathy and Patti, a cancer survivor, both wanted to help give back to the community.


Cathy and her family spent a lot of time in emergency rooms with her son who had epilepsy and with her parents who were ill. Her father was a hospice patient at the Joseph Raso Hospice House in New City before he died. Cathy lost her mom to cancer, sitting with her as her mom received treatment. Recently, Cathy lost her son, Tim, to epilepsy. Tim was involved in Warming Hearts and the projects meant a lot to him. “His activities were limited due to his illness, but this was something Tim could do that was meaningful and rewarding,” Cathy remembers.

Cathy recalled the first blanket she ever gave to a patient. “We were spending a lot of time at the hematologist’s office,” she said. “On one day in particular, we were there and there was a woman receiving treatment who felt cold. There were no blankets available in the office for her, so I went out to my car where I always kept a few freshly laundered blankets and I gave her one. That’s when it dawned on me that something as simple as feeling warm could be a great comfort at such a difficult time.”

Warming Hearts of Rockland began with bags distributed to Rockland Hematology and Oncology Center; then Nyack Hospital Oncology Center and, most recently, Good Samaritan’s Oncology and Dialysis Centers. The bags include a new throw blanket, planner, water bottle, puzzle book, pad, pen, tissues, unscented hand cream, lip balm, and a special smooth stone that reads either ‘Hope’ or ‘Strength.’

Since 2011, Warming Hearts of Rockland has delivered over 300 bags and has expanded to include additional community comfort programs. In May, 2012, Cradles of Kindness was started, delivering non-perishable snacks to the Joseph Raso Hospice House. It was late one night when Cathy and her family were visiting with her dad and they were looking for a little something to eat. “We didn’t want an apple, we wanted a cookie or something like that,” said Cathy. That is where the idea came from to create Cradles of Kindness. A bowl of individually wrapped snack items are left at the house for those snack attacks. There is also a bag left in each new resident’s room containing lip balm, hand cream and a single-use, pre-pasted toothbrush.


Warming Hearts of Rockland started by reaching out to people in the community for donations. They have received support from individuals and groups. Last summer, three Girl Scouts earned their Silver Awards by doing a project to benefit Warming Hearts. Students from Clarkstown North and Clarkstown South High Schools as well as Youth for Hospice have been very supportive and collected many items for the project. Ongoing support from individuals and groups is what makes this project run.

The outpouring of community support led to another project, Kindness for Kids. Cathy and Patti continue to spread the love to younger patients by delivering donated comfort items to the Pediatric Emergency Rooms at both Nyack and Good Samaritan Hospitals. “My husband and I were looking for a way to give back to the people who cared so much for my family members when they were in need of emergency care.” Cathy said.
The items for the emergency room are not only for children who are sick and in need of care, but for children who are there with a family member and frightened or uncertain. Now, all of these children can benefit from the comfort items provided by Warming Hearts of Rockland. This project was supported by students from Little Tor Elementary School in New City. The Student Council and the students of Little Tor made up candy bags for patients at Nyack Hospital. The Valentine gift bags were delivered to patients who were spending Valentine’s Day in the Hospital. “The students wanted the patients to feel special and know someone was thinking about them too,” said Cathy.

“Without the community support this project could not continue,” explained Patti.

Cathy and Patti are grateful for all the community support and, as they said numerous times, Warming Hearts of Rockland touches the hearts of many people in the community and it only takes donating one item to make a difference.” “Warming Hearts of Rockland wants to thank you again for all of your support. We hope that everyone will continue to help support these projects that warm the hearts of our friends and neighbors at the most difficult time in their lives.”


If you would like to donate, items may be left in the bin at the United Hospice Office on Stokum Lane in New City during normal business hours. For more information or for other arrangements to make a donation, please email Cathy and Patti at Warming Hearts of Rockland can also be followed on Facebook.

This article was originally written by and for publication in New City Life Magazine. That publication has gone out of business and so we are publishing it here for Warming Hearts.

Careers Seen Through the Lens of Summer Camp

John Gardner wants to be a filmmaker.

He is fascinated with old Saturday Night Live episodes, believes that anything before 2000 was “choppy” and spends hours dissecting each show’s content. “He’s sort of a history buff when it comes to TV shows and movies,” says Gerri, John’s Mom. “Family Guy is also one of his favorites, his and his Dads.”

FOX's "Family Guy" - Season Ten

But John, 14 years old, does not want to be just any filmmaker. “I want to be the next Seth MacFarlane,” he explains. “I want to be equally or more funny than what he’s done.”


John loves humor.

Whether somebody or something is making him laugh or he is the one behind the laughter, he finds it infectious. Seth MacFarlane has made a very nice living making people laugh. His two animated short films; Life of Larry and Larry and Steve led to the development of Hanna-Barbera’s Family Guy in 1997. John didn’t share this trivia, but something tells me if we discussed the show’s legacy, he would have known all the details.

John was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, also called Asperger’s disorder, a form of Autism, that involves delays in the development of many basic skills, most notably the ability to socialize with others, to communicate, and to use imagination.


“John didn’t speak until he was almost four years old,” remembers his Mom Gerri of New City. “Once he was diagnosed, we wished to find a socialization program for him and were told by the school district that the only programs were in Westchester and Bergen Counties. I didn’t really want to drive him that far, John was nine years old and I am a nurse, the closer the better. So my husband and I took it upon ourselves to research programs. One day I just googled Asperger’s socialization programs in Rockland and Jewish Family Services popped up.”


Michele Koenig, LPC, LMFT, Director of Clinical Programs was the first person Gerri met at RJFS. The Gardner’s are not Jewish, but being a non-sectarian community-benefitting agency it did not matter. What mattered for Gerri and her husband (also) John was getting John the services and the tools that he needed to thrive. “Michele was wonderful, “Gerri recalls.


John has been attending a socialization group at Rockland JFS for about five years. When he first started attending there were only seven or eight children, now the group is at least twenty. “He was quiet, at first,” remembers Gerri, “but he is not quiet now, I think he leads the group many times!”

Through the group, the Gardner’s learned about the Total Teen Experience, a summer camp run through RJFS for the last four years beginning this year at the Ramapo College campus (and adding two brand new camps for younger children with Social Deficits). John attended the camp last year and worked in the office of Israel Bonds, as part of the Entrepreneurship Program of the camp, assisting with filing, organization of work, shredding and other office duties. This was a perfect match for John who thrives on organization and tasks which involve putting things in order.


“It was pretty good,” John, admits, “We got a half hour break everyday.”

The on-the-job training is part of the camp “Entrepreneurial Program” and encourages the teens to find their passion. John explained that this would be his last year at the camp because he wants to get an actual “real” job next year. “Camp made me realize that I couldn’t have gotten a job this year, I needed to become more mature.” He admits. “I want to work at the movie theater near my house next year.”

This coming year Campers will run a self-sustaining business on campus. They will interact with other Campers as they create a business plan and implement what they create. Each participant will work all aspects of the business–from market research, creating a product, retail, marketing, budgeting and more.

The camp also offers something called the “Filmmaking Experience”. Frandy Osias-Louis, a recent Dominican College graduate with a degree in psychology worked as a counselor at the Total Teen Experience last year and taught the filmmaking class.


“Everyone is afraid of something,” he explains. “We taught the teens that is ok. The project asked each camper to come up with a weakness that bothers them and maybe hinders them in doing things.” A few weakness examples from last year’s campers were: “I Overthink Things” and “I am Way Too Friendly”.

The film project was entitled “This is Me” and was to show the teens that even a suspected weakness could be turned into a strength.

“My weakness is working out,” John admits, “but this short film taught me to try and overcome my weakness and motivated me to try and work out more.”

“It was a nice segway for John now as a Freshman at Clarkstown South High School,” his mother explains “He is now taking Digital TV at Clarkstown South with Mr. Brown and his love of film continues to grow strong.”

Each camper had their own vignette in the film and joined Osias-Louis in putting the film together. At the end of the camp the film was shown to all campers and parents. “It was so nice,” Gerri recalls, “there was a graduation ceremony and popcorn and snacks were served—it was really touching.”



Rockland Jewish Family Services Summer Camps for Children with Social Deficits located at Ramapo College, 505 Ramapo Valley Road, Mahwah.
Contact Michele Koenig at 845-354-2121 x141 — Facebook at:
Unique Summer Camps/6 Week programs: Camp Kipanga (ages 5-10), Camp Katikati (ages 11-13) and Total Teen Experience (Ages 14-21)