Thankful is as Thankful Does

20 Nov

Do you have gratitude in your life? Is having a grateful attitude part of your daily culture?

I’m not going to lie, sometimes it’s difficult to keep that grounded, positive energy focused, inward or outward.

I’ve been having some of those days recently, myself.  Those days where you just want to stop and say “Are you kidding me, Universe?”

And what happens when we do that? Well, I think a bit a cursing always helps relieve the stress. Like the profanity busts up the air like a prizefighter’s punch or a bitter snake bite.

cursing

 

Once the cursing is over, though, you’re left to your old self again.  You and your situation.

What always helps me is coming from a place of gratitude.  Let’s face it, we all have challenges, I am thankful mine mostly feel better when I shout out a 4-letter expletive.  (Or maybe a few).

Getting to gratitude means first, you must make a visit to humility.

Humility tells us that we are not special.  And we are not.  That should be a relief.

You may be unique, uncommon and unsimilar, but you are not special.

There are thousands and thousands of people just like you, going through the same thing maybe even at the same time.

While you are the center of your own universe, you are not the center of THE universe. Realizing that you are one teeny tiny party of a big machine in motion takes some of the responsibility off your shoulders.

You did not get into the situation alone and you’re not going to get out of it alone. Half of the world has been in or will be in your spot.

The sooner you figure that out, the better off you’ll be. You will feel more connected to the human race and less despondent in the face of your challenges.

Humility lets us forgo judging ourselves in comparison with others, but rather in light of our capabilities.

And with that, and a good dose of compassion, we reach the shores of gratitude.

Robert Emmons, perhaps the world’s leading scientific expert on gratitude, argues that gratitude has two key components, which he describes in a Greater Good essay, “Why Gratitude Is Good.”

Emmons and other researchers see the social dimension as being especially important to gratitude. “I see it as a relationship-strengthening emotion,“ writes Emmons, “because it requires us to see how we’ve been supported and affirmed by other people.”

That is the key element here – recognize “how we’ve been supported and affirmed by other people.

And if the logic follows, we would then, in turn,  support and affirm others.

That’s how the world works.

In light of this, I want to thank my parents, my friends, my teachers, my mentors, my colleagues, my brothers and family, for always supporting and affirming me. For teaching me and for never giving up on me.

In return, I want to, on Give Miami, day and just days away from Thanksgiving, show some support and affirmation for the following friend-related charities.  It is the season to give, and if you are in a position to, you should.  Period.

Gratitude and giving, inspires good in others, and just good, in general.  So let’s do this:

Shell Key West Challenge/Diabetes Research Institute

crystal and the boys

My dear friend of nearly 30 years, Crystal Blaylock Sanchez, and her parents, started the Shell Key West Challenge in 1988.  About 8 years ago,  Matthew Sanchez, Crystal’s oldest son, was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, at the age of five.

Much like myself.

The family decided to use the Shell Key West Challenge to help the Diabetes Research Institute (DRI) continue its efforts to search for a cure through cellular transplant therapy. To date, nearly $475,000 has been contributed to the DRI. For more info and to donate, please visit the Shell Key West Challenge and/or the Diabetes Research Institute

Miami Shores Elementary PTA

Yes, I’m that obnoxious woman who harasses you for money and to volunteer.  Get over it.

MSE book girls 1

I have one kid, I’m going to support her as much as I can.  I support your children, passion projects and interests too, enthusiastically.  Zoe’s school has over 800 students. We have an active PTA comprised of parents, teachers, and administrators working together to ensure our students receive the best possible academic enrichment activities, such as our Spring and Fall Book Exchanges, Halloween Story Time, and Pajama Night Read-a-Long.

The PTA also fundraises to support the 5th Grade Everglades Camping Field Trip, the Science Fair, 5th Grade Graduation, and purchases such as much-needed Physical Education equipment, and supplies for Safety Patrols and Crossing Guards. But we are facing three very pressing expenses affecting our academic excellence that have inspired us to go beyond our previous fundraising efforts.

And we need your help.  Please consider donating and sharing this information at Project Pledge Fund.

Center for the Great Apes

My dear friend Jane (who quite possibly is part ape), found something special in this primate rescue based in Wachula, Florida.  She shared it with me. It is remarkable what these people do.  I double dog dare you to watch one of their videos and not cry and laugh and want to support them as much as possible.

center for

The Center for Great Apes’ mission is to provide a permanent sanctuary for orangutans and chimpanzees who have been rescued or retired from the entertainment industry, from research, or who are no longer wanted as pets. The Center provides care with dignity in a safe, healthy, and enriching environment for great apes in need of lifetime care. The Center for Great Apes is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and all contributions are tax deductible as allowed by law. To donate or for more information, please visit Center For Great Apes here.

Puzzle Peace Now

Started by my friend Kristi Vannatta, Puzzle Peace Now is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that supports families and other organizations in funding the costs associated with raising, educating, and supporting the advancement of children with special needs.

pp_logo

Specifically, the organization works to provide summers of peace and love to special needs families in the form of summer camp scholarships.

Kristi and her husband are parenting a ten-year-old son who was diagnosed with PDD-NOS, or Pervasive Developmental Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified (Autism Spectrum), at age three. They are also parents to a neurotypical boy who is now seven. While Kristi’s family has not “peace” with autism; they will no longer allow the disorder to make this family feel angry, blameful, or shameful.

She has been working hard raising money for local families affected by developmental disorders and raising two wild boys, and we should help.  Read more and donate here at Puzzle Peace Now.

Responsible Charity

Last but certainly not least is Responsible Charity, founded and run by my dear friend Hemley Gonzalez.  Hemley and I shared a best friend, Billy, who died after many years of battling Cancer.  And Hemley was right there with him.

hemley

When Billy transitioned over to wherever he is now (probably somewhere fab), Hemley took a vision quest.  Specifically, a four month backpacking trip through India. On this trip, he experienced firsthand the abuse and horrible conditions which men and woman were subjected to under a worldwide famous charity that collects millions of dollars from its donors but largely mismanages such donations. Disgusted and disappointed by this experience, he began working in the slums where he felt that his efforts were directly, positively and effectively changing the lives of those disadvantaged families they came into contact with.

After returning home, he began a campaign to raise awareness about the issues he first experienced and the challenges the children of the Park Circus face daily and thus Responsible Charity was born. Through a homegrown network of friends, family and volunteers in different regions of the world they are now beginning to gather donations which we can track and report on our website and show exactly the progress and help such funds allow us to administered to those in need.

This humanist charity provides education to children in the slums of India and empowering women and men to overcome poverty. Their work goes beyond education as they deal directly with the families of the children they help and learn more and more about the harsh realities they face while living in poverty each day.

To help, please visit Responsible Charity.

Thank you friends, for emanating good.

Thank you for being the difference.

Thank you, for being you.

Scrabbled Up Scabs

5 Nov

On the outer forearm, of my only child, lies a scrabbled up scab. A harsh indentation on her perfect skin.  A russet reminder of what happens when you don’t, you can’t, you must not listen to your mother.

And I am thankful that this is the only physical reminder of this test of willful tyranny, that is my daughter’s fiercely mandated independence.

Endlessly thankful.

Dialing back to the scariest afternoon on record, thus far, my daughter and I were visiting the ranch where she gets to ride, and wash, and saddle up horses. It is, her favorite place on earth.  She experiences a lot of freedom there because the ranch is self contained. There are few drivers. Most vehicles on the road are golf carts.  As a result, my daughter is allowed to ride her bike to and from the stables.

By herself.

We live in Miami. She is 10 years old. I do not allow her to ride her bike anywhere without supervision.

Riding alone is a big deal.

So on said, scariest afternoon on record, my daughter had been riding on or caring for horses until about 3pm.  She stopped for lunch and then went right back to her cowgirl duties.

This is good. No, this is great.  This teaches her responsibility, commitment and compassion.  It challenges her both physically and mentally and she cannot get enough. She just can’t.

But she was tired.  And I get tired too. Tired of repeating myself. Tired of being both good and bad cop. All the time.  Tired of having to threaten and raise my voice to get someone to hear me.

Sometimes I need to buck up.

 

spurs

We enjoyed an ice cream at the general store and we were ready to return to our room for a little rest before the rodeo that night.  Zoe still had some of her waffle cone of moose tracks ice cream, melting through her fingertips.

She wanted to finish.

I mean, it was a waffle cone of moose tracks ice cream.

I asked her to get her bike and bring it to the golf cart. I would make sure it was buckled into the back seat, so it was safe. And she was safe.

But that wasn’t the plan my daughter had in mind.

As I stood there with golf cart key in hand, she whizzed past me on her bike. “Stop at the cart Zoe!!!!!!!!!!!!!” I screamed.

No, she just shook her head.  She was going to ride it, with the melting moose tracks waffle cone in one hand, all the way to the room.

I turned to face her and then my heart stopped.

She dropped the slippery cone, ran over it with the bike and went flying.

Bang, grumble, crack, screech.

She was splayed out on the parking lot of the general store area. In front of parked cars. On her back, but screaming.

Bike strewn lopsided, but horizontal. Girl the same. Cowboy hat gone awol. Cone crushed beyond recognition.

“Mom!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” screaming.

“ZOE!!!!!!!!!!!!” screaming.

I ran to her, literally hyperventilating with every step.

I threw my things and genuflected as I got down onto the asphalt with my only child.

The one thing I have done right. The one thing I have created and kept alive. Until now.

I felt around her head for blood.

I inspected every inch of her.

Hyperventilating “Why would you do this? (shallow breath) Why wouldn’t you listen to me?(shallow breath)”

I was helpless and she was hurt.

How would I live with this? How would I explain that I allowed this to happen?

I have never been more scared in my life. That is as honest as I can ever be.  I was crippled in fear.

She was scared out of her skin.

Together, we were a novela-worthy scene.

She was scratched up and bruised, bleeding from spots, but not broken.

Nothing was broken.

Thankfully nothing was broken.

Except her spirit and my heart a little.

I put her and the bike in my cart, and went inside for some first aid supplies.   I came out and the girl was crying hysterically.

“I’m sorry I didn’t listen to you! I thought I could get back to the room. I won’t do it again. I’m sorry!”

I am not sure if she was scared more of me, or of what happened. Probably a healthy mix of both.

My words to her were simple and clear “I hope that you never, (shallow breath) ever (shallow breath) feel the way that I felt (shallow breath) five minutes ago. I hope that never (shallow breath) happens to you in your life.”

And that’s the truth.

I never want her to feel like her entire existence has just been vacuumed off the earth. In a second.

I don’t ever want her to feel so tired and frustrated and devastated because her life nearly made a tragic turn, right in front of her eyes.

I never want her to have a preview of loss, so drastic it steals the breath from her lungs.

Never.

I want her to listen.

I want her to not take chances with her life or mine. That is not negotiable.

I want her to learn that responsibility is not given, it is earned.

And the same goes for trust.

respect

I do my very best to teach her and model behavior that emulates that, but sometimes that’s just not enough.

At some point, we have to let them go. Let them ride without helmets and figure this stuff out.

That day was probably the beginning of that journey for us.

We still have scrabbled up scabs, the both of us – hers on her arm, mine on my heart.

In the mean time, we try to heal, and learn and do better next time.

And (thankfully), there will be a next time. I’m sure of it.

 

We #StandWithJetta

28 Oct

Reality check.

“An Ohio mother is speaking out after she says her 10-year-old daughter was bullied at school because she cut her hair short to donate it to charity.”

stand with jetta

 

I just read this news item and I thought, maybe, I had misinterpreted it?   I mean, I know I can read and all, but um, what?!

An Ohio mother is speaking out after she says her 10-year-old daughter was bullied at school because she cut her hair short to donate it to charity.

Fox 45 reported Tuesday that Jetta Fosburg decided on her own to cut 14 inches off of her long blonde hair and donate it to Wigs for Kids, a charity that helps children with cancer and other hair loss issues.

“I have some family members who have cancer so I thought it was the right thing to do,” Jetta told Fox 45.

However, her mother Heidi Fosburg told the station that ever since Jetta cut her hair, “things have not been good.” Fosburg pulled her daughter out of her school, Pathway School of Discovery in Dayton, after she said Jetta was bullied about her short hair.

“They said things like she wants to be a boy, she’s ugly now, a lot of hurtful things,” Fosburg told Fox 45.

Fosburg said she took her concerns to her daughter’s teacher, and filled out a bullying report. Although the school promised to address the issue, she said the bullying continued. She also contacted the principal, who she said told her to “tough it out,” according to Fox 45.

“And (he) told me that he didn’t know of any child that had ever died from words. And that we needed to toughen up and deal with it, and he would deal with it how he saw appropriate, which was obviously not the response we were looking for,” Fosburg told WHIO.

National Heritage Academies, which runs Pathway School of Discovery, told WHIO in a statement that they are investigating the case after a complaint was filed. Read more here.

Dear Jetta and Heidi Fosburg,

Good for you. Good for you for standing up and doing what’s right. Regardless. I wish we had more people like you on the planet.

I have a 10 year-old daughter and I know that it is challenging to be a kid these days.  Individuality is not always as celebrated as we would like or expect.  Often times, being unique means being the odd one out.

Conformity allows for security. If everyone is the same, then no one sticks out. No one challenges beliefs. No one upsets the balance of things. The ones in power to “deal with it how he (saw) appropriate” remain in power.  The ones that don’t fit in, don’t get to make the rules.

Well I have something to say about that.

Conformity is just “yielding to group pressures” (Crutchfield, 1955).  Group pressure, rarely positive, leads to bullying, persuasion, teasing, criticism etc.

My question is: who wants to be a part of a group that bullies and teases? Who makes other people feel small so they can feel big?

Not me.

All the things you’ve experienced since you did exactly what you thought was a noble, honorable thing to do.  Donate your hair to Wigs For Kids.

Just so I’m clear, you were bullied because you donated your beautiful hair to a charity that helps children with cancer and other hair loss issues?

I read that right? Right?

Sorry to belabor the message, but it seems otherworldly unreasonable that you would be bullied and mocked and left unsupported by the school administration, for committing the honorable act of donating your hair.

As a PR person, I offer some free crisis management advice to National Heritage Academies and the Pathway School of Discovery:  Your administrator needs to go.

Now.

He probably needs to go into a line of work that doesn’t require people skills. Pronto.

This is a learning opportunity for everyone. Most of all you.

As an organization, you are looking at instituting a zero tolerance policy with all 80 of your schools, at the very least.

What would happen if one family from every school you operate withdrew in one day because of your insensitivity to this issue? Then again the next day? And the next?

People do not mess around when it comes to the safety and security of their children.  They get all crazy warrior parent.  I know. I’m one of them.

You have a scandal on your hands and it is far from being “handled” as Olivia Pope says.

My professional advice would be to set up college scholarship fund  in Jetta Fosburg’s name, for a student every year who exemplifies the spirit of compassion and tolerance.

Something your organization apparently needs a little extra tutoring on.

As a mom, my personal advice for the children who did the mocking is simple – you know better than that.

Your behavior is disappointing, but you are just kids.

That doesn’t excuse the behavior but you should not be attacked.  Even if you don’t fight fair.

Again, you’re just kids.

That kind of intolerance comes from somewhere, though. You’re learning it from someone or many people.

And for that, I’m sorry. I’m sorry for you. That’s a hard way to live.

It’s probably too late for them, but it’s not too late for you.

Do better.  You deserve better and so does everyone else.

Leading with kindness and compassion is always the way. It is always the path to fulfillment. It is unfortunate that this path is often marred with hardships. It is easier to just fit in.

It’s easier to like the pink princess Barbie dream home.  Easier to like the perfect rather than the imperfect.  I have found that choosing the extraordinary, rather than the plain ole, same ole, has made all the difference in my life.

I am guided by my heart and then my head. My choices are distinctly my own.  It has not always been an easy life, but a life that allows me to know and like who I am.

This is a lesson that most 10 year-old girls do not have to learn until much later in life.

But not you Jetta.

You’re special. You’re unique. You’re you.

And I would be proud if you and my daughter Zoe were friends.

Keep giving them heck Jetta.

We support you. We are proud of you and your mom. We hope that this helps other people in similar situations.

We #StandWithJetta.

 

Moving at Lightning Speed

3 Oct

I can feel you slipping away from that baby girl we brought home from the hospital.

Everything in your appearance marks the passage of time.

Your limbs are sprouting out into long, olive-skinned appendages.  You finger tips summon up to almost the edge of mine, when we measure our hands together. Your hair, as tousled and terse as your heritage demands, is growing like a weed.  Longer hair looks good on you, but I miss those china doll ‘do days too.  Those perfect little Fred Flintstone feet, once just the size of my thumb, have grown almost four sizes in a year.

You’re moving at lighting speed.  I can hardly breathe.

baby zoe

 

I knew the day you were conceived. Some may balk, but I knew.

I tell you this today because as your bold persistence, refusal to be anything but independent, your immutable spirit is something I’m familiar with.

You see, that didn’t just happen.

You share half of my DNA. My genetic code.  We are fighters. Survivors.  Forces to be reckoned with.

When I was pregnant, your father and I went to the specialist to find out if you were a boy or a girl and if you were healthy.  We took a very special sonogram that was recorded onto a video tape.

On that tape, we have about three minutes of you, in utero, pointing your finger like you were trying to tell us all what to do.

And you haven’t stopped.

Neither have I.

It is a classic case of which came first. The chicken or the egg?

I celebrate that moxie that makes you so unique. Moxie is good. You never want to let that go.

I know your moxie is also carefully grounded by your genuine compassion for others.  Your empathy and enthusiasm to support those who need it is remarkable.  Especially for your young age.

That is a good thing.

I am proud of that. I am proud of you.

girl screaming

I know that your emotional nature is deeply rooted in the fact that you care about people and things so much. That you love with all your heart and that you are loyal.  These are great things.

You like rules and order but don’t necessarily want to be reminded of what they are.  I get that.  Structure and boundaries are necessary for success. Knowing what you need in order to achieve success is a brilliant thing. It takes the guess work out.

I see momentary flashes surging through your atmosphere, of what’s coming next.  There are so many changes ahead for you.  And change, is not good or bad, it’s just different.

I see you becoming more independent.  More self-assured. Funnier and more strategic in your communication.  I see you going farther and learning more.  I see smiles and I see tears.  I see confusion and I see contentment.

You have two parents that love you more than anything in the world.  We support you, and co-parent in a way that leaves no gaps.

You are our first priority. Period.

You have a family of uncles, grandparents, cousins and one very big (Canadian) dragon.  You have a wider circle of friends and neighbors and teachers from near and far, that are committed to you.

Deeply.

This is not something I ever want you to take for granted. These are your people, and you are their people.  There must be appreciation and consideration of how powerful that connection is.

You will need to foster this connection as you move forward.

You tend to relationships by being the good friend, daughter, granddaughter, niece, that you are.  Give your time freely.  Listen more than you talk. Be kind. Be there.

Respect yourself and others.

It’s also important, when tending to relationships, to just let go of the ones that don’t want to be a part of your tribe. I know it sounds crazy, but there are people who need to be out on their own.

I don’t understand it, and you won’t either, but just let these people go.  It’s not worth your energy.

These are all good practices as you grow up.

You will need your people as you move along your journey. Even when you’re my age.  Especially then. There is comfort in knowing that someone, has your back.

We are your circle of life. And you are a part of ours.

girl and horse

I see things I cannot protect you from and things you cannot protect me from.  Things you’re going to have to navigate on your own.

Learning opportunities that I wish I could relieve you of, but that’s not how it works kid.

There are no short cuts.

I spend a lot of time reminding you to focus.  And you always want to know “why.”  Well, this is why.

Do one thing at a time.  Enjoy the process.  Don’t speed through it.  There are consequences for moving too fast.  Missing out and creating a mess are the top two.

In just about a week, we will celebrate your 10th birthday.  A decade old.  Double digits.

As I said earlier,  you’re moving at lighting speed.  I can hardly breathe.

I can hear the clack, clack, clacking as we approach that dangerously upward-sloping section of track on this roller coaster of life.

Deeply-inhaled breath held tight, hands on safety bar, seatbelt on.

The anticipation and excitement is palpable.

The ride, unforgettable.

Thank you for being you.

I am so proud and so in love with you.

I can’t wait for the next ten years.

Somewhere in between

29 Sep

So here’s the thing.  Parenting is hard.

Am I right?

I can navigate through most situations with some honest communication with myself and my child.

Most of the time, it’s all “He put his arm on my desk and I told him not to!” kind of stuff but this one is a little trickier.

A little tougher on the heart. Hers and mine.

tough on the heart

And then there’s my tendency to enable.

Good times.

I need your help. Clearly.

October starts the United Way Spirit Month at Zoe’s school. It’s a month full of fundraising opportunities, anchored in pseudo-homecoming type of themes and events.  “Donate a dollar and come to school dressed like your favorite author or celebrity.”  Or the ever entertaining “Crazy Hat Tuesday.”

It’s a lot of fun for the kids, a lot of work for the parents (running around sourcing said “crazy hats”) and it raises a lot of money for United Way.

All mostly good.

Then there’s “Twin/Triplet” Thursday, October 23, 2014.

Zoe’s class has twelve kids in it, with half being girls.

Apparently three girls have hooked up as triplets and two as twins, which leaves my girl, out in the proverbial cold.

Zoe is not a girly girl and she’s not a tomboy. She’s somewhere in between. Figuring out her own unique style as we go.  She’s trying to figure out where she fits in.

Now, these are all nice kids. They are all friends. There is nothing misguided or mean about this pairing. It just doesn’t include my kid.  Which hurts her feelings.

Unintentionally, but it does.

Now, the first response for the enabler in me, who is not buried that deep down, wants to call all the moms and propose that we get 6 shirts for all 6 girls and let them go as sextuplets.

The second response from the enabler in me says I want to call the moms and see if anyone will include Zoe.

The third response from the enabler in me says that I should just take her out of school that day.

None of these answers are right.

I know this.  I really do.

So I talked to Zoe briefly about it and suggested she might talk to the sets of girls and see if they could do something that included her or all of them.

She shook her head and stared down to her feet. “I don’t really want to Mom, it’s ok.”

But it’s clearly not ok. At all.

Do I make a big deal out of it? Do I leave it alone? I am just not exactly sure.

It’s been a long time since I’ve navigated the classroom politics and to be perfectly honest, I don’t even remember the politics I navigated?

I STILL have friends from elementary and high school, all from different social circles. I’m proud of that.

Zoe is the same way – she’s very egalitarian when it comes to friends. That said, it kind of leaves her without a home base. And she’s only in fourth grade.

We need to get this protocol down before middle school because it’s going to be a long road to hoe.

So I look to you dear readers, what would you do in this situation? Any sage advice or experience to share?

Should I go to school with Zoe, dressed as her twin?

Relax, I know, it’s a joke.  My mother and I would go with her as triplets. That sounds more reasonable.

Please shed some light on this crowd sourcers. I need help.

Being an adult

11 Sep

Holy F&**@&# Shiz, I’m 45.

When did this happen?

It is amazing and hard to believe. I was with my mother this week talking about what she calls my “middle age crazy” mind, and she said this.  “I remember being in the hospital with you when you were just a little girl and the doctor said to me ‘You know she might not make it to 30 years old.'”

Seriously.

10407233_10152375527527945_5238998714114014516_n

My first thought was “That must have been really hard for her to hear as a mother.”

I could see the pain and disbelief in her eyes.  I know I would be unapproachable if the same circumstances befell me.

But not her. Not my father. They showed tremendous strength and determination, and still do.

And I hope, in my 45 years, I have learned something from them and my beloved step-parents. I hope that I display that humble fortitude they have shown as parents, as role models and as my greatest supporters.

Further, I hope that I am showing my daughter how to resist being moved or broken, with my actions and ability to rise up.

It is a quality that I work on every day.

And boy, some days are more challenging than others. Some years are more challenging than others!

That’s what is called “Being an adult,” right?

I had the very fortunate circumstance of having breakfast yesterday with my first love, Scott.  We talked and talked about our roles as parents, he with two boys, me with one girl.  The common spots, the tricky spots, but mostly about the love. The love we have for these kids and the exhaustive lives we lead, in order to take the best care possible, of them.

Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, but we always try the best we can.

That’s what we call “Being an adult.”

I did smile when I thought about all the ridiculous time we used to spend together doing ridiculous stuff, when we were teenagers and had ZERO responsibilities. Good times. Silly times.

My heart is full with admiration and appreciation that nearly 30 years later, we are still close, still adore each other and still friends. And a special shout out to his wife, Kevin, who is a remarkable woman (driving the crazy team over there).

Another thing I learned from my parents, how to create and sustain lasting relationships.

I have a lot of friends. Real friends.  Friends who would come rescue you when you have a flat tire in the rain. Friends who celebrate and support. Friends who have stood by me in the weirdest and most wonderful times.  Friends that don’t judge, always joke and want the very, very best for me and my daughter.

And I feel the same about them. Yesterday alone, I spoke with four friends I’ve had for decades. And it was a regular Wednesday. That creases my face with smiles.

I have a committed, supportive, smart (and handsome) man in my life, who I love and who loves me and my daughter, without question. He may not understand us, at all, but he treasures us. We don’t agree on everything and that’s what works.  Plus, I know I’m usually always right (and so does he). We just don’t have to make a big deal out of it.

We communicate. We relate. We appreciate. Together.

That what I call “Being an adult.”

I have work that I enjoy. I am always challenged by and if I’m not, I challenge it.  I can recognize the fact that I work with some amazing people, all with their own set of specialized knowledge and I try to make the most of that.  Further, these are amazing people, each unique in their own right. The only thing they all have in common is that they are wonderful.

And I am the fortunate one, to be able to work with them. From money people to magazine editors to hotel managers the lot of them are colorful and creative and full of class.

Being able to recognize that, rather than being intimidated by it has made all the difference.  I am better because they are good.  I feel that way about my friends, why wouldn’t I about my colleagues? Really embracing that fact, has come with maturity. I used to want to run everything – now I want to learn, I want to be a part of a team that runs stuff. (I’d really like a team to run stuff for me, but that’s another post.)

Understanding that has been a great gift and I thank all of them.

That’s what I call “Being an adult.”

So I sit here, in the 45-ness of it all, trying to grasp what it all means and here’s what I say.  The years have not all been sparkly and filled with hope. This year is one of those. That does not make the difficult times worthless. That makes them even more important. Simply because the challenging years are the ones that teach you the most. In retrospect, there is beauty in the struggle.

Adele doesn’t write songs about how happy she is.  Seriously.

More life = better.  Regardless.  I have several close ones struggling through treatments and diagnosis and subsequent set backs, I want to remind us all that someone with authority once told my mother I would probably not make it to 30 years old.

And yet, here I am.

May resilience and pure grit carry you through to smiles and may gratitude, kindness and tolerance surround you always.

Go on with your adult selves.

 

 

 

 

Obstacle Course

5 Sep

I was riding in the car the other day with my friend and neighbor Kendra, and she hesitated to make a turn. “Sorry, I probably could have gone, but I’m extra cautious when other people in the car.”

Makes perfect sense.

Plus, her delicious, one-year-old baby was in the back seat.  I would be driving about 4 miles an hour, If I were in the driver’s seat.

I told her that she should not worry. I always try to be early, so I’m not rushed.  When I’m rushed, I’m cranky. Things slip. I lose a little control.

It’s not pretty.

It’s all a coping mechanism for keeping impending disaster at bay.

I have a hard time with this.

I have been trying to keep disaster at bay for decades.

I’m on the cusp of turning 45 next week, and for the last 40 years, I have struggled with Type 1 Diabetes.  I am healthy. I take care of myself. I could do better.

But still.

If you had any idea what kind of management I have had to put into my life, to deal with this fact, you’d either fall deep into a coma, or cry.

It’s not fair. It wasn’t fair for a five year old to have to deal with it and it’s not fair for a 45 year old or anyone in between.

My body does not make insulin. At all. The well dried up  just about the time Nixon resigned.

As a result, I have to watch every piece of food, every sip of anything, every bit of sleep, stress, exercise all while balancing on a seemingly endless tightrope.

Am I angry? No.

What I am is a control freak.

I have to be.

It’s hard for me to deal with myself most days. Imagine my daughter, or my partner.

I know it was an issue in my previous relationship and sometimes remains as oily residue between us.

I feel that if I can control the variables, the outcome can be managed.

Except I can’t always control the variables. And even when I try, it doesn’t always work out the way I want it to.

Sometimes I make things harder for myself. And the situation.

I am trying to let some of that control go.  And I’m trying not to be bitter about it.

I’m trying to be better for it.

I have a colleague who sent her daughter off to college last week. Clearly on the precipice of an emotional Armageddon, this mom wrote her daughter the sweetest note and posted it the other day.  I won’t show you everything, but there’s one spot that resonates with me.

“you must be open…but cautious, for there is so much to learn and see and do, yet there will always be someone or something blocking the road and throwing stones at you…Address small problems before they become big, but then let them go quickly before they corrupt your thoughts. The mind is a powerful machine and what we think about, we bring about…so it is imperative we bring about positive thoughts so we can love freely and openly.”

I am trying to model this behavior now, for myself and my daughter.  Deal with things, don’t let your ego take over. Fix what you can fix and look forward, positively.

It is a hard concept to embrace honestly.  It sounds like a new age fortune cookie.  Blah, blah, blah positive vibes, good energy, blah.

I know it does.

But I believe it.

As cynical and sarcastic as I may appear, I believe in the power of positive thinking.  I believe in doing rather than don’t-ing. I believe in the good. In love. In the power that people can bring to each other as a “community.” I have to. It is the only way.

A lot of my acceptance has to do with forgiveness.

Forgiving myself for being human.  I forgive myself for not always doing the best I can. Not always being the best mother, girlfriend, wife, daughter, sister, colleague, friend or person with Type 1 Diabetes.

I let that go.

You do the best you can. You survive.

Moving forward, you know better and hopefully act better.

On the other side, I forgive those I feel have wronged me as a mother, girlfriend, wife, daughter, sister, colleague, friend and person with Type 1 Diabetes.

And there are very few that would even qualify.

I hold no bad energy towards anyone.  I am cautious, but clean in my outlook.

I have lived a long time being controlled, by control.  Being controlled or controlling, and I will not do it any longer.

I remove these obstacles from my life.

I want to live the next 45 years of my life with a smile on my face.

I want to be the best mother, girlfriend, ex-wife, daughter, sister, colleague, friend or person with Type 1 Diabetes, that I can be.

That is the only thing that I can control.

Superstitions, Spin the Bottle and Stevie Wonder

18 Aug

If you have never watched National Geographic’s Brain Games before, do yourself a favor and put it on your record list. My daughter and I watched a recent episode that focused on the topic of Superstition.

Superstition is a big part of our everyday lives, and the same power our brain has to learn language, find meaning in chaos, and hit home runs makes us believe things that have no basis in reality.

Our brains are wired to recognize patterns, even when no pattern exists.

brain wiring

Case in point. My advertising/copywriting 101 teacher always told us to proof read our copy backwards. Start at the end of the document and then read to the beginning. That way, our brains do not recognize the pattern of the language and can pick up misspellings and such.

If we read “I think therefore am” Nine times out of ten, our brains will put a phantom “I” in there because it’s used to seeing that phrase.

When processing the world, our brains are always filling in the blanks. Sometimes they fool us.

My advertising teacher knew it. Maybe she was a witch? I digress.

More times than not, we perceive patterns where there never were any.  Then we call them superstitions.

Our superstitions, are really just habits.  We find comfort in them. We feel we will be safe if we follow these complex patters and repeat over and over again.

Most superstitions can be bottom lined into really just avoiding bad decisions.  Don’t walk under an open ladder (Something might fall on you). Don’t open an umbrella in the house (it’s cumbersome and will no doubt knock something over. Don’t step on a crack or you’ll break your mother’s back? Really?  That one’s weird.  Maybe it just rhymed?

ladder

It’s hard to admit, but I have all kinds of crazy ones.

  • I never put my purse on the floor.
  • I always use the same perfume  “cocktail” (I like to layer).
  • I always use the same soap.
  • I never put shoes on the bed.  (My grandmother is to blame for this one.  She just didn’t want a dirty bed, it’s not that evil will be bestowed upon you.)
  • I always wear the same earrings.
  • If I think of a worst case scenario or a situation where one would normally say “God Forbid” I say “Keynahora” (sp?) The Yiddishism is roughly similar to “knock on wood” and is often spoken to ward off a jinx after praise or good news. I don’t just say it once. I say it three times.  Thank you Christopher Hereford my freshman year boyfriend at Loyola.  He was the only Jew in a Jesuit university. Yep,  I  found him.
  • I write letters and notes to the universe asking for guidance, protection, support, for myself and others. I sign them, date them, fold ‘em up and put them under lit candles.

Why do I do this? It makes me feel, I suppose, like I have some control over things that I have no control over. I hate to not have control. Drives me nuts.

Simple as that.

So I admit, universe, that there are things I have no control over.  I fight it. I really do.  But it’s inevitable.  In my submission to that fact, I guess there’s some relief?

If we spin the bottle with superstition and its root motivator, and lord knows I like a good game of spin the bottle, could we come out of this on the right track?

See if you can follow my logic.  I don’t want bad things to happen.  I want good things to happen.  There is only so much I have control over.  I can control myself (mostly). I get more of what I want when I focus on it.  Therefore I must use what I can control (me) to focus on what I want, in order to achieve it.

The very (non) superstitious writing is on the wall as Stevie Wonder would sing.

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These are my facts, my givens if you will.

How do you get past what’s holding you up? What has you scared enough you’re relying on superstition to deal?

In honor of my newly-retired, math teacher mother, let’s use some geometric proofing skills to solve whatever the problem is.  (I hear her crying proudly in the distance)

  • Make a game plan. Try to figure out how to get from the givens of your situation to the conclusion with a plain English, commonsense argument before you get ahead of yourself.
  • Make a list of your goals, hurdles and opportunities.  Or angles and segments if you’re doing a geometry problem.
  • Look for congruencies , parallel lines and intersections – this is where you problem solve.  I want x but xx and xxx are in my way
  • Use all your givens. Try putting each given down in the statement column and writing another statement that follows from that given, even if you don’t know how it’ll help you.   I always put my goals, hurdles and opportunities out on a big piece of paper and circle them, then I brainstorm and write everything down. Then I connect to the circled concepts they relate to and see what pattern or path (again with the patterns) shows us.  Sometimes it brings together things you never would have thought, because of your aforementioned brain wiring.
  • Check your if-then logic. If I do this, then this will happen…
  • Work backward. If you get stuck, jump to the end of the proof and work back toward the beginning. We talked about doing this earlier. It’s a good practice to sometimes back-into that spot instead of going head first.
  • Think like a computer. Leave emotion out and detail in.  The computer won’t understand you unless every little thing is precisely spelled out. So do it.
  • Do something. Before you give up on a proof, put whatever you understand down on paper. It’s quite remarkable how often putting something on paper triggers another idea, then another, and then another. Life is the same way.  Do something.

Create a new pattern. A new habit. One with more control.  I’m not saying I’m giving up on my tried and true perfume layering in order to have a good day, but I might not rely on just that.

Maybe.

In the meantime, keynahora y’all.

 

You can’t kill Hitler or shag Helen of Troy

14 Aug

Have you ever noticed that Rachel McAdams has the market on “time travel” movies cornered?

I have.

What’s the deal with that?

I watched her second time travel movie “About Time” the other day.  Actually, I’ve seen it a few times.  If you haven’t, be warned, I’m going to give you a spoiler or two.

While this is not a movie review, it’s important to set up the circumstances.  This British movie features  the story of Tim Lake (Domhnall Gleeson), who discovers, at the age of 21, that he can travel in time.

And it’s no big deal.  Really.

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Tim’s father (Bill Nighy –  love him) tells his son that the men in his family have always had the ability to travel through time. (no biggie) Tim can’t change history, but he can change what happens and has happened in his own life. Bill Nighy’s line perfectly describes the parameters: “One major caveat: You can only revisit and revise portions of your own life. Or as Nighy puts it, “You can’t kill Hitler or shag Helen of Troy.” 

Exactly.

As you can imagine, he tries to go back and change things in his past, so that he can improve his future. He finds out that there are ramifications and he has to work within some confines but he figures it out. He finds out that his father has terminal cancer and he goes back and does every day a few times, to maximize his time with his dad. In the end, he understands that it’s important to make the most of every second.

It is a sweet and authentic portrayal of just doing the best you can do given the circumstances that you are given.

It’s also a guidebook on really how hard it can be to live in the moment, how heartbreaking it can be to admit powerlessness to fix others – or to fix fate.

I struggle with not being able to fix things for others. I understand that it’s not my job, but my empathy goes into overdrive.

I’m a pleaser. I want everything and everyone to be awesome. I want no one to suffer. No one. I would wear a cape and crusade if that were socially acceptable.  I am compelled to try to make everything ok.

And that’s just ridiculous.  That is a lot of pressure.

Sometimes I just have to walk away.  Find my Zen. Put some good into the universe and hope it all evens out somehow.

bird 2

I was corresponding with a mentor of mine today, who is going through some pretty heavy medical treatment.  I feel helpless because there’s really nothing for me to do.

So I talk to him. I try to support him from afar.  I try to let him know he’s surrounded by people who are pulling for him.

I told him that this year has brought a bunch of frazzled mess to all of us.  Different degrees of madness and disruption as far as I am concerned.

While I never want to wish away the time, I want the mess to end. Lots of hurdles, it’s a thing, apparently in 2014.

I told him that while I know that doesn’t help his situation any, it might help to know that he is not fighting alone and or alone in the fight.

None of us are.

I told him that I hoped he could approach his days like the guy in About Time – experiencing his days three and four times each. If not more. Just to make sure he got all the juice out of them he could.

I told him that if I could, I would do my time with him over in the same fashion. If I just could.

I’m not writing him off, but as we have been reminded this week especially, time is precious.

The mark that we leave on the world is great and deserves all the energy we can give it.

If we were staging a third time travel movie for Rachel McAdams to appear in as the unknowing wife, our message would be as follows: The awkward and painful parts of  life are essential and unavoidable. Sometimes the bits are ugly and leave you bruised.  You cannot control this.  You can control how you feel about that. How you manage it.  Who you manage it with.

You can’t kill Hitler or shag Helen of Troy but you can make the most of these days you are given. Even the bad ones.

They only come around once.  (even if you’re Rachel McAdams)

This much I know is true.

 

 

 

Restless Rigor in the Nest

28 Jul

There’s a pod of young hawks living on my street. They race through the leafy canopy of mahogany trees, zipping past us overhead. Long necked in flight with short, rounded wings, they resemble something of a flying cross. With rapid wing beats and a short glide, they squeak and squawk, sounding more like an energized dog toy than an avian predator.

hawk

And boy are they predators.

Their proximity brings the circle of life to the forefront, almost daily. I am a witness.

Their raw blood thirst, as a means of survival, is nature at its most rudimentary level.

As I see them circle through the shaded airspace above, I am reminded of that constant struggle we must engage in, in order to stay alive.

It’s eat or be eaten, as the hawks have illustrated.

I can attest to this struggle. I’ve been involved with it, intimately, this year. From illness to obstinacy, depression to divorce, paranoia to pedantic persistence I have either experienced it first hand or been close to someone who has.

Parenting, has also been more of challenge. Daily.  Being nearly 10 years old and all that hormonally entails, is rough. Pair that with the fact that it’s summer and there’s no real routine – we have a restless rigor in the nest.

And I’m tired.

nest

Sometimes, you want to glide. Wings pointed forward to catch the currents of rising air. I just can’t find that current.

When we can’t find our way, we revert to practices and rituals that are familiar. That work for us. The routine brings peace and normalcy to our state of flux.

For now, I listen to the hawks and try to focus on today.

I will set attainable goals and move forward with a smile.

I will tread lightly on my expectations.

I will remember those things that are wonderful and try to focus on the positive.

I will be thankful that I am so, so fortunate in this life.

I will radiate kindness, love and support for those close friends and family who are struggling as well.

I will attempt to be patient, tolerant and calm.

I will put good into the universe.

I will try to not hold onto anger, frustration and negativity.

I will try to fly.

For now.