Sunday, December 23, 2012

Dear Newtown

To the people of Newtown,

Yesterday I had the privilege of joining runners from Roxbury who came together at the suggestion of Brian Vanderheiden to visit your town for a brief moment and pay our respects. He also wished to raise money from the run to benefit the Sandy Hook Elementary School Fund.

Many of us are confused about how we can help you. We have been asked to contribute money to a number of organizations working with outreach. We have been asked to make snowflakes for the school so the sweet and amazing children torn up by what happened in their school can return to a winter wonderland. (By the way, there will not be enough trees in the world to supply the outpouring of snowflakes coming your way.) 

These are concrete ways you have given us to show our love and support to you, Newtown. Thank you.

And I’m so sorry.

As you know, those of us not living in your beautiful town torn up by this horrific violence and left in its wake with impenetrable grief are so desperate to show our love and support. We understand you’ve been deluged by the media that has, too often, seen your town as more of an opportunistic story line than a town filled with real people experiencing real sorrow. The last thing anyone wants to do is contribute to your pain that has now come in the form of traffic frustration and an overflow of teddy bears now polluting your area (over 100,00 teddy bears arriving to a town of less than 30,000 people). We have read Sandy Scheibel Schill’s plea on Patch to please help by staying away. I think we can all relate to your need for privacy and quiet during this most unimaginably painful time.

Understanding that need, when Roxbury Races began organizing a memorial run into Newtown to quietly pay our respects, I balked. A number of us here in West Hartford wrestled with the invasive aspect of coming to your town. Some thought it might provide an uplifting moment for all of you. Others felt it inappropriate. Potentially, even our feelings about how to help your town could become divisive and the opposite of helpful.

After Newtown officials approved the journey and after talking with friends in Newtown, I decided to join the Roxbury runners who assured me our imprint would be insignificant, but the gesture very positive. We were instructed to park out of town and to enter only a small area very quietly. Thankfully, our runners carried little more than their racing and aching hearts into your town and I say thankfully because when I arrived at the memorial in the center of Sandy Hook, I was horrified.

I stood before the piles of cards and flowers and stuffed animals and notes – some inappropriately political – and my gut reaction was to flee. As we crossed the street towards the memorial as a group, we immediately clogged the four-way intersection where the state trooper stood repeating himself, “Please move to the side. Traffic needs to come through. Please move to the side.”

Standing with my daughter, I held her hand and cried. How unfair and brutal to have people streaming into your town, wanting to “do something” and then showing up with messages of their own pain, their own struggle with what has happened to your town. For a moment, I was ashamed for having contributed to this ongoing frustration. I thought about the over $5,000 Brian had received in donations,  which ameliorated my feelings of helplessness, but money cannot bring your loved ones back.

I looked across the street, desperate to become invisible at that moment, and saw my husband waving me back out of town, “Let’s go!” he yelled. “It’s not right that we’re here.”

I pulled my daughter’s hand and, without strolling by the hordes of sentiments in the forms of broken-stemmed flowers and teddy bears muddied by time and weather, we left the scene and met our friends, John and Margo, in the Demitasse Café. There, I was immediately struck by the generosity of the restaurant owners who insisted on giving us our coffees free of charge, apparently only charging the media. It felt counter-intuitive and, actually, wrong to have you, Newtown, treating ME to coffee when I was there for you. All that did was reinforce in me this sense that your town is that special.

After sitting with John and Margo, I felt blessed to have come to your town even for a moment. You are special, Newtown. I heard the story about how during Friday’s moment of silence, 28 – not 26 – bells tolled throughout the town. 

This made me cry because it is inspiring to see how a town responds to such tragedy. You inspire me every day. The unthinkable has happened in your town and you are moving through it with grace. 

We are all waking up each morning, still, with that perpetual ache in our hearts knowing it is but a speck compared to the enormous pain you are walking around with. In spite of that, you are not only walking around, but showing the world your generosity and spirit.

You are inspiring all of us with your strength, Newtown.

I only met John and Margo for the first time yesterday, although we’ve been “friends” for a while. I will never forget being in your town and hugging two of your loving townspeople who took the time to lift me from the pain you're all suffering. That seems to be who you are, Newtown. 

I am here for you. I will knit scarves and cut snowflakes and pray. And I will stay away until I am invited back in a helpful way.

Our hearts are bound forever.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Finding the Light in Dark Times

Just a day ago, I was staring up at the sky in the middle of the night, hoping to see a shooting star during the Geminides meteor shower. As if the sky held some kind of power to lift me from the quagmire of my everyday. As if that shooting star could pull me from the doldrums and into Life’s Mystery that is magical and open to possibility. I stared and didn’t see one. Twice, I sat out on my deck in the middle of the dark night and waited. Nothing.

And then when I least expected it, on a run with friends, a star fell right in front of us and we all screamed with excitement. It was a joyous moment. A gift.

That was about 4 hours before I would read about the Newtown shooting. I contemplated the word “shooting” and felt sad and ashamed by the folly of my quest to see a "shooting" star. Such a tragic turn of events darkened everything and even the stars felt silly and lost their light.

Today I am wrestling with the concept of darkness all over again. How could something like this happen? No one’s mind can wrap around such a senseless act of violence perpetrated against our most innocent. Debilitated by sadness and rage, I am scouring my soul for some light. Instead, I sit in the wake of the wreckage of one man’s insane moment and feel only the pain of the families who lost loved ones and just cry and cry.

I suppose in these dark moments, I still look for the stars that fall unexpectedly out of the sky.

For me, the stars are the people and their stories. In dark times like this, I cling to stories of people helping other people and suppose that it is here where I find that flicker of light.  

It is the teacher heroically protecting and loving her students, kissing them and telling each one that she loved them, fearing those would be the last words they heard. The light is the state trooper, my brother-in-law, who was a first responder who helped the survivors and heroically helped young children exit the school. The light is friends hugging other friends and opening up their hearts, crying with honesty, pretense gone forever. The light is the awe I feel reading Facebook messages back and forth from a couple in Newtown to their friends in Uganda. This couple gives so much of their time helping people in a country torn up by violence and war. On this day, the Ugandan friends are sending heaven prayers for their Newtown friends torn up by violence.

          Okello Sheikh We in uganda we appreciate ur effort towords the sitation stil we are togather with u in prayer
Margo Deselin Woodall Thank you, Okello Sheikh. You know more than most people in the world what this kind of suffering is like. We appreciate your thoughts and prayers.

The light is my children asking how we can help the Newtown families. It is the witnessing of people organizing community events so that we can do what comes most naturally for us during these dark times – gather and hold each other up with a hope we can’t see, but collectively desire desperately. 

So maybe I am staring up again at a dark sky.  

And maybe that unexpected light is the human spirit.

Let’s keep that flicker alive for the sake of our Newtown friends.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Raising Money & Other Things

“How much for the Barbies?” a woman hunched over with age asked as she picked up the plastic doll, fiddling with its hair. Our first customer.

“I don’t know,” I said. “A dollar?”

“I’ll give you fifty cents.”

“Great,” I replied.

We held the tag sale with the dual purpose of cleaning out our basement and raising money for Hurricane Sandy victims so the concept of haggling didn’t play into either scenario. I’d take what people offered.

“Do you have any Barbies with long sleeves?” she asked as she tugged on the doll’s dress.

I looked at the dolls lined up on the blanket, so relieved they had any clothes on, remembering how the girls loved to bring them into the bathtub. Naked Barbie indelibly marked on their little girl brains. My thoughts veered to Valeria Lukyanova, the human Barbie who splattered the news all week.

I reminded the woman that Barbie wasn’t known for her modesty. “It’s not like they have Burka Barbie or anything,” I joked.

The woman looked up at me, “Don’t laugh,” she said. “There’s a market for it, you know.” I stopped and considered the market for Burka Barbie. Sounded more like an oxymoron than anything that would end up on the shelves at Toys R Us, but surely Muslim women are curvy and attractive underneath their layers so why not?? Maybe there is a market for it.

“We must have a coat for her somewhere,” I said. "I mean, the woman must get cold."

Josie and I rifled through the toy bins and found a white one with a leopard fur lapel. “Would that do?”

“Oh yes! Perfect,” she said as she grabbed the coat from us and yanked it onto the naked doll. “Do you have anything else?”

Sure enough, we did. We found a nice Western style shirt and a pink sweater. “I’m buying these dolls for an Orthodox Jewish family,” she explained. “This is why I need them to have their arms covered.”

I pictured Burka Barbie next to the Orthdox Jewish Barbie on the shelf. Thoughts drifted to Israel and Hamas fighting. Before I got lost in the warring stereotyping of Muslims and Jews, I went back to outfitting the “blonde bimbo”.

After about fifteen minutes, the woman left with a nice bag of modestly dressed Barbies and we earned about $5.00 for Hurricane Sandy victims. Josie, Frankie and I high-fived one another. This might be fun.

Our next customer was a minister at a church in Hartford. He saw the tag sale sign and came looking to get toys for his church. He works primarily with people who had been drug-addicted and were getting a new start in life. The toys would be for the children of these people. We encouraged him to just take whatever he thought people could use. And he did. We were happy to see the Madeline dollhouse that the girls had loved over the years find a new home even though I felt a pang in my heart as he carted it away.

The man smiled and waved as he left, “The Lord rewardeth those who give. God bless you all.”

“God bless you, too,” we shouted.

Our loot dwindling and only $5 in the coffers, we waited for our next customers. A neighbor visited, looking for books for her boys. I had no idea our children’s book library was so gender-biased! Where were all those DK books, the ones with the dinosaurs that my girls never opened?? After taking the only non-girl-centric books we had, she donated $10.

During the post-lunch lull, I sat amidst all the stuff: furniture we’d collected over the years, household items we’d never used; games; toys; junk.

It looked like our house had vomited onto our front lawn.

Setting up for the tag sale that morning, Bea couldn’t get away from the house fast enough. She was mortified. “See ya, Mom! Off to the football game!”

Tim, too, struggled with the idea of a tag sale, preferring instead to just toss everything in a dumpster. I said, “Who cares what people think? If people want the stuff, they can take it. If not, we’ll dump it. At least I’ll know we tried.”

Tag sales are strange. You do feel a bit exposed as people you don’t know come to your house and look through your junk for their treasure. But I had no idea how beautifully strange this tag sale would be.

There was the man who bought the three stuffed animals for his cats. Said they fight and hiss at each other too much. He was hoping the stuffed dogs would distract them because he gets so annoyed by their fighting. I told him that only the television stops my kids from hissing at each other.

He explained that he saw the tag sale sign on his way home from bringing his neighbor to work, which he says he’s been stuck doing now for four years and doesn’t know why. “Every day, I bring her to work.”


“I don’t know, but I do.”

Then there was the family who just moved here from Kansas. Mom and three boys. So lovely. Her oldest played soccer with the kids on our front lawn for about 30 minutes. Nate was his name. Loved meeting them.

Cannot forget when the beat-up van with one duct tape window pulled up and out popped a smallish, Spanish-speaking man with a bright smile. After an abundance of misunderstanding, I remembered him as the same man who had taken a bike we’d put out onto the curb a few years ago. It was so nice to see him again. He loved the bike with the baby seat on it. Then he said he gave it to his neighbor who also enjoyed it. At least, that’s what I thought he said.

He looked around and decided to take the metal furniture. I think he was going to sell it for metal scrap. Again, I wasn’t sure.

He asked, “How much?”

I explained about it being a donation. He tossed all the change he had in his pocket into our donation jar and loaded up his van with the furniture.

And, of course, I will not forget the guy who bought our gold mirror. He asked if I could please get it to reflect back to him someone who wasn’t ugly or old. He joked about how people said he looked like Tyrone Power. "I tell them Tryone Power is dead! And then they say to me, ‘You look dead!'"

Disappointed that when he looks in the mirror he has no idea who’s looking back at him, he asked me to change the glass. We laughed and he handed me $5 for the mirror. He also prayed over our house and for those living inside of it and for Israel to win the war.

In the end, this tag sale raised about $82 for the Hurricane Sandy victims, but more importantly, it raised a level of awareness in my family that people in general are very curious and wonderful.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Halloween Is A Dumb Holiday!

Someone has to say it.

Or am I just jaded and angry because I have lost my little girls to Teenager Halloween?

I never really liked Halloween. It was always tradition so I went along with tradition. But now that the kids are getting older, Halloween is intolerable.

I admit having enjoyed sewing their toddler costumes and watching my girls glow under the light of the carved pumpkin we’d gutted for decoration and seeds. I even bought the Halloween accoutrements; my favorite being the witch’s hand bowl that will grab yours as you dig in for your treat. Yes, those were good times except for the Halloween hangovers filled with exhaustion, sore throats and runny noses, all biological consequences of deluging your body with sugar.

Today, sugar is the least of my worries.

You’d think I would be upset about our material world gone crazy obsessive about making money to the point of convincing people we must now string orange lights around our houses.  A commercial nightmare, Target has eight aisles filled with sugar and Chinese plastic. Also, who is splaying their bushes with that white cotton?  One might assume that Halloween stuff, having quadrupled its volume of sales in a year (don't quote me on that), is what’s irritating me.

But that’s not it.  People can string lights. That’s fine. I’m a capitalist sympathizer. No worries. What does bug me though is when I walk through the store and see young moms tossing bags of candy into their carts and reaching for the fairy costume as their daughters beg for the purple one. It is then that my heart breaks. I want to pull those moms aside and say, “Enjoy this while you can! Take lots of pictures! Hold your babies at night!”

I stand there and want to yell, “Yeah, you just wait. That Little Mermaid grows a rack and – overnight – turns into iParty’s sex object. Your cute little kitties become all grown-up and fodder for gawking men. What was sweet and pumpkin just turns all slutty and scary.” I want to scream in the middle of Target. “You just wait!”

Long gone are the simple hayrides where we curled up under a blanket with a full moon overhead, and a possible sheeted ghost flying from the tree branches. In Teenager Halloween, it is a full-blown chainsaw massacre with the damsel’s boobs hanging out of her frightened chest as she traipses across the theme park donning her fishnets. Now she holds a knife dripping with fake blood repeating to herself, “I didn’t mean to kill her.” She follows your babies onto the roller coaster with her eyes glazed over, “I didn’t mean to kill her.” She’s probably got a “handle” of vodka stashed in her car. “I didn’t mean to kill her.” This is Teenager Halloween.

I shudder and go to my happy place where they are still begging to dress up like Hermione from Harry Potter and visit Grandma.

Lately, I’m lost looking at pictures of the Halloweens I thought I hated. I miss those days. At dinner, I beg the girls to carve the pumpkin with me. No time. Too much homework. I ask if I can sew something. Nah, I’ll just grab something at iParty. Do you want to go buy candy with me? Silence.

“Sure, Mom. I’ll go with you. You’re not buying pencils this year, are you?”

“No, I’ll get all the chocolate you want,” I say.

I’ll take the Halloween hangover.

(Photo credit: Lifted from Google images)

Friday, August 31, 2012

Nourishing Our Children with Good Food Messages

School is back in session and the kids are gearing up to learn. As parents, let’s take this as an opportunity to learn something, too. Let’s think about we’re teaching our children about health, nutrition and body image. Our children will reflect back to us what we teach them and I’m here to say that it’s not always good.

The childhood obesity rates have been slowly rising and public health experts have officially pushed the panic button. A world strewn with processed foods is now being condemned and shamed – and, possibly, taxed. The pendulum of eating fast foods and gaining weight is shifting towards being “healthy” and everyone is desperately trying to define what that means exactly. As we scramble to reverse the obesity trend, too many mixed messages are being impressed onto our children’s minds.

Everyone seems confused, but, for children, we must pay particular attention to these messages.

My daughter was informed that it’s OK to bring a corn muffin to school as a snack, but not a small bag of potato chips. Kids are now starting to talk about food like they’re experts, regurgitating the latest nutrition factoid they hear at home or on the news.

“Corn is fine because it’s a vegetable, doofus,” says one of the kids at school.

“But my mommy says corn muffins are like cake and cake is fattening,” says the other child. “And my mommy is always trying to lose weight.”

It’s bad enough that the Twinkie-taxing people are fighting with the food libertarians in the adult world, but now we’ve got a whole generation of kids confused about what to put into their bodies.

The implications? For the fearful child, a serious eating disorder could be lurking in her future. There are new ones popping up every day with kids being afraid to eat now. Food is “fattening” or “bad for me” or “dangerous”.

We have a generation of children in need of nourishing words about food – not confusing and negative ones. This means focusing on the whole and unprocessed foods, putting them at the center of our kids’ lives and teaching them where food comes from, how it grows, its strengthening values. However, it also means allowing them to enjoy foods that might be processed or “fattening” so as not to instill fear at such a young age.

Our goal should be to empower our children with knowledge and discernment, not to scare them or teach them to be judgmental towards others who like to eat six cupcakes for lunch.

“Well, it seems the corn muffin ingredients look an awful lot like what we see here on the Betty Crocker cake mix,” we could say. “I suppose potato chips could be considered a vegetable like the corn muffin because potatoes are a vegetable, too, no?” These words might be a good place to start.

Then it is important to empower them. “What do you think?”

Rather than have the kids fighting over the virtues of a corn muffin or the potato chips, just have your child toss the apple in the backpack.

Most importantly, teach them to think for themselves. Empower them with knowledge and the ability to discern the crazy messages being tossed around.

This might mean doing it for ourselves first.

Friday, June 29, 2012

A Midlife Tween

They say midlife is a second adolescence. I don't know -- something about unresolved emotional issues resurfacing at this special time of life. Perhaps it's watching your children go through their stuff that just shakes up your own deep-seated debris. Or we've got this new chance to make it all right again? Or perhaps it's hitting that other side of the bell curve of life. We're born. We travel up to our peak age, which is probably around 35, and then we start going downhill until we're aged and in diapers again.

If I had to put myself on that spectrum, I would be just sliding down on that other side where I do seem to mirror adolescence. My teeth are all crooked again. I seem to be having emotional growth spurts. I'm revisiting feelings where I look in the mirror as my body changes and I say, "Who's that?" All not unlike adolescence.

It's a time of change and it's an important one.

So, symbolic of this midlife time, I decided to embrace (literally) this change of life time and get my teeth fixed. Broken molars from mismatched jawbones run in my family and I wanted to avoid a dental catastrophe in five years so I took the plunge.

And now I look like an adolescent girl with crow's feet!

In six months, I'll have my jaw broken and re-aligned so that I can finally chew and talk without pain.

Sexy I might not look, but as a wise woman of midlife, I understand more and more that sexy is less about how we look and more about how I feel.

I am very grateful to Dr. Elena-Lee Ritoli, a high school friend, actually, who is helping put my Humpty Dumpty teeth back together again. I didn't realize how BAD they were until she put these things on my teeth. Whoa.

I get the feeling I am going to find a lot of spirit in middle age and beyond.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Wrong Direction

One Direction started their US tour at Mohegan Sun last night. Two of my three girls had tickets to attend, thanks to a friend whose name shall remain a secret. You see? Only the spoiled and privileged were able to get tickets to this concert. You either had to know someone or be willing to plunk down (at one point) $900 per ticket. That’s how crazy people were for this show and I probably should have known that that craziness would have set the precedent for a nutty night.

It all started with Josie, Frankie and their cousin, Abby, all dressed in their homemade t-shirts ready to go. We go to Bea’s Hall-Conard (town rivals) lax game first. I glance over and see the girls, sitting in the bleachers, so excited for their evening with Zayn, Harry, Niall, Liam and Louis, each girl with their boy’s name scribbled in fabric paint on the back of their t-shirt.

Tim arrives to the tied game and we watch as Hall pulls ahead at the tail end of the second half. At some point, we decide to take two cars down to Mohegan. I declare that I will “follow him.”

As we're leaving the game, excitement building, the clock ticking, I get nabbed by the police for "rolling through the stop sign" at the 3-way there. Shaken, I blame Tim whom I am "following". He has pulled over to the side right in front of me, waiting, probably laughing at me for getting a ticket. I tell the officer that I am sorry, that I was following my husband, that we are trying to get to a concert. The police officer says, "Yeah, well, HE rolled right through it, too." And then he calls for back up. 

I listen as the officer screeches to the other officer in total disgust, "Yeah, they're husband and wife, on their way to a concert!"

So, now Tim and I are sitting on the side of the road, feeling like criminals, with all the Hall and Conard parents driving by. We each have a flashing police car behind us and we're getting tickets. Parents are waving as they're driving by. Yes, can you imagine?

Then Tim calls me. My first thought is that my blue tooth was stolen out of the Target parking lot a month ago and I haven’t replaced it, yet, so please don’t call me. Or, if I put you on speaker, please don’t say anything inappropriate.

"I can't believe he gave me a ticket. I wouldn't have gotten ticket if I hadn't waited for you." Yes, that's true. But, sweet husband waited for me and got nailed as well. $260 later, we are joking that in all of marriage history, this probably has never happened before. Humiliated and mad we're paying town of West Hartford $260, we try to joke about it. 

With traffic congestion, timing, the rain ... we BARELY get the girls there by the 7:30 start, but we do. They have to throw the posters away that they spent an entire Saturday evening making and they walk in. Bea, who has given her ticket to her cousin (who believes one of the band boys might be her soul mate), and her friend, Morgan, come to dinner with Tim and me. We try to make it fun for her, compensating for her sacrificial gesture for her cousin, but the whole time, she is saying, "So, when are we going to find a way to get into this concert??"

HUH? I thought you were OK being the big-girl sacrificing cousin.

"Really?? They’re sold out. You saw the crazy mob by the sales booth. You really want to try??"

"Definitely. Let's just see."

"But there's no way," I start to say. As soon as the words come out of my mouth, I think of my friend, Lizzy, so positive all the time, who told me that afternoon that she would ask the universe to send tickets so that Bea and her friend could go after having made such a nice sacrifice for her cousin. "Sally, I will ask that the universe just send you tickets out of nowhere!" She is too cute. Trying to keep Lizzy’s optimism, we leave the restaurant and stroll over to the lobby area.

The crowd had dwindled. A few hopeful souls were mingling around waiting to hear if there are any tickets left. Suddenly, there are piercing screams coming form 5 girls, crying, because they just got the last tickets. So happy for them.

We walk around to the other side. There's a guy there holding two tickets. "Do you want these?" He looks right at me.

"Excuse me?" I say.

A bit scruffy looking, he looks more like a tired dad than a drug dealer. "Yeah, I upgraded my daughter's seats and I have these tickets. I paid $55 each, but you can have them for $50 for both of them. Thing is... you need to get my bag that I left in the arena."

Well, Mother Theresa herself could approach Tim and he wouldn't trust her. Jesus could appear with His hand held out and Tim would question His motivation. Tim doesn't buy this guy's story. "No, I don't think we're interested."

Bea and I are both aghast. "What?? I'm interested."

"Seriously, I'm legit. True story. It's just that I don't want to go back in there and have them validate the ticket again if I'm not going to stay. I'm serious." To me, he looks very sincere, like a guy who dragged his desperate girls down to the arena. He looks exhausted, as if he'd been up all night trying to give his kids an experience to remember. "You don't have to pay me until they're in."

I say, "YES!" He hands Bea his "claim ticket," she comes out with his bag filled with ONE DIRECTION paraphernalia, they walk into the arena, I hand him the $50 and it's done. GREAT! Now all kids are in there. Fun for them.

The deafening screams from inside the arena could be heard throughout the entire casino. Who is this band? People everywhere are asking. Literally thousands of histrionic girls ages 12-15 emotionally gushing for these British boys. I start to giggle because I think of Lizzy. This man, literally, came out of nowhere so I smile thinking of the God wink that we sometimes get. Tim smiles, too. We both reflect for a bit too long -- standing in the lobby -- how he trusts no one. He joked that it was his New Britain upbringing. :)

We walk around the smoke-filled venue watching zombies in front of slot machines, feeling the collective addictive pain of humanity. It really is sad to watch people zoned out in front of the slots.

Then the concert ends. The parents -- who have all, it seems, given their tickets they SHOULD be using to chaperone these young girls, to other young girls -- are all waiting in a crowd with bated breath for their little ones to come out. We're right in there trying to find the girls. Of course, Bea comes out responsibly with Morgan. She's exhausted from the game. She hasn't showered. Her stomach is gurgling from a mix of Mohegan buffet food. "Corn muffins and spring rolls don't really digest well together," she says. 

"You're fine. Look for your sisters!" I yell at her over the crowd of frantic parents.

Suddenly, the mass of young girls pours out, some crying, some screaming, everyone on a phone trying to connect with their parents. I look. I wait. I watch. No Josie. No Frankie. No Abby. I text and call Josie. No response. I start to panic. We wait still.

After 30 minutes, the crowd has all exited. We are standing alone, waiting. No Josie, Frankie or Abby. The phone rings. It's Josie. "We're lost," she screams into the phone. "I can't tell where we are."

We find security and they point us to another exit on the other side of the arena. We tell her, "Stay right there. We'll come to you."

Tim, Morgan, Bea and I are now sprinting through the casino, looking for the other entrance. At this point, we don't care that Bea and Morgan aren't of the legal age for gambling as we run by the black jack tables. As we turn the corner, we see 3 exhausted girls slumped against the wall, weary from all the excitement. I pull Josie up and hug her. "Mom it was awesome, but I'm so thirsty and I can't hear anything."

Frankie says, "Am I talking too loud? I can't hear myself."

They are deaf now, and dehydrated.

Tired and sore, we make our way through the crowds towards the parking garage and Josie stops. "Mom!" she yells as she's patting down her shorts and jacket. "Mom, I can't find your camera." I gave her my tiny Elph to bring into the concert.

Bea wails, "NO!! I feel sick and I smell. I just want to go home."

Tim says, "I'll wait here with them. Go back with Josie to see if you can find it." Of course you’ll wait there and send me off and running in my too-tight shoes, strangling my feet from walking around the casino all night.

So we do. We sprint back through the masses of people, weaving in and out. I feel my blistered feet yelling through the too-tight shoes. I have Josie's neon pink sweatshirt in sight as she is determined to find this camera. As I'm running, a woman knocks my cell phone right out of my hand and it smashes to the ground, the cover, split in two, flies off under the stampede of shoes. I scramble to the floor and find my phone, but don’t bother looking for the protective cover now smashed by the crowds. I pick it up and see Josie's pink blur getting further away in the distance. I follow her with my eyes. She is running towards the spot at which they were sitting. I watch as she bends down and lifts up her arm holding the camera in her hand. It was still sitting right on the spot where she was sitting. Emotional catastrophe averted.

We run back to where Tim, Bea, Morgan, Frankie and Abby are, Bea rolling her eyes, but relieved to see Josie holding the camera and we head towards the parking garage… behind what feels like a mass exodus of exhausted and starving cattle.

As we moo our way to the elevator, I suggest the stairs. Worse than the elevator, we choose to wait for the lift to the fourth floor. My feet are thanking me.

Another half an hour in concert traffic and we’re finally cruising along the highway -- Tim driving Abby home to Southington with Josie and Frankie, me heading to West Hartford with Bea and Morgan. I get home around midnight. The phone rings at 12:30. It's Tim. I yell, “Where are you?”

Tim says, “Are you sitting down?”

I sit down.

“I just got a speeding ticket for going 63 in a 45. $206.”

I just start to laugh. An exhausted, kind of maniacal laugh, but a laugh nonetheless. 

Then I think, “Universe, STOP SENDING THE TICKETS!!”

Thursday, March 8, 2012

A Time to be Fat

There is a time to be fat. Yes, fat does not mean bad.

Being a fat baby does not make you destined for Weight Watchers as an adult. My fatter babies were calmer and, generally, more satiated, sleeping longer hours at a stretch. So please don’t anyone freak out about their cherub-looking infants. When you’re cleaning the dirt that gets trapped inside the rolls on those luscious legs, it’s all good.

Here’s another time when being fat is good. Right after you’ve had a baby. Hey, Hollywood, guess what? Our goddess bodies are here for a reason and here it is. Our babies need our goddess bodies. Why? Because having that extra layer of fat is helping us do what only goddesses can do. Make milk. Yes, we have this extraordinary capacity to manufacture food for the helpless infant, desperately dependent on what we can provide. If you’re fortunate enough to have this personal experience of breastfeeding a baby, you understand the inextricable link and connection between you and your little one. She is dependent on you to give her everything she needs. Comfort, connection and food. I don’t know about you, but nestling with a bony mommy doesn’t conjure up cozy images for me. Soft and round are God’s gift to women. The babies – and the world – could use a little more soft.

If a woman only takes a month to get her pre-pregnancy body back, rather than look at how remarkable she is, I feel sad inside. All that time she’s spending in the gym might be better spent letting that baby nestle. Don’t get me wrong. Mom needs time, too, and we’re all better mommies if we get our workouts in, but so soon? Let the worry about getting your body back to tip-top shape go for that snap-of-a-finger time. Babies are only helpless and dependent on us for 18-25 years. ☺

Seriously though. They’re only tiny once. Let them enjoy your gift of soft and round, which scientists have proven, is their building block for trust and security throughout their lives.

This is not to the exclusion of men who also provide that warm and loving affection to our babies, but sorry guys -- only our boobs make milk.

Another time to be fat, which most middle-aged women resist, is middle-age. Ironically, our bodies are making a last-ditch effort to store what we need so that, as we enter into our elder years, we have reserves. It’s a survival tactic of the human life cycle. Most of us resist it with ferocity, dieting, joining the gym, even signing up for our first marathon (love that!). However you respond to what seems like inevitable weight gain in your 40s and 50s, know that nature is just trying to prepare you for growing old. When the body ages, it grows more susceptible to disease and decay. Nature just wants to protect you by preserving what you got now, even storing more for tougher times. Picture all those cans of food and water bottles in the basement. Save now for a later time. The later time is old age.

OK. None of this is an excuse to eat Oreos while laying on the couch with your baby in the crook of your arm or to prevent you from soaking with sweat at the gym when you’re 55. We all know that too much fat is just too much. We need a balance.

This is just a reminder to be gentle with yourself.

As the culture continues to wage its war on obesity, with its arsenal of strategies to lose weight, let’s not put a fear of fat into our children’s minds.

Fat has a purpose.

(Very happy to see this, too.

Baby photo lifted from Google (

Sunday, January 1, 2012

A New Year Living Each Moment

These are not my words, but they are words that inspire me. My resolution is to resolve to be human.

From The Four Agreements, by Miguel Ruiz.

Be Impeccable with Your Word

Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.

Impeccable means “without sin” and a sin is something you do or believe that goes against yourself. It means not speaking against yourself, to yourself or to others. It means not rejecting yourself. To be impeccable means to take responsibility for yourself, to not participate in “the blame game.”

Regarding the word, the rules of “action-reaction” apply. What you put out energetically will return to you. Proper use of the word creates proper use of energy, putting out love and gratitude perpetuates the same in the universe. The converse is also true.

Impeccability starts at home. Be impeccable with yourself and that will reflect in your life and your relationships with others. This agreement can help change thousands of other agreements, especially ones that create fear instead of love.

Don't Take Anything Personally

Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won't be the victim of needless suffering.

We take things personally when we agree with what others have said. If we didn't agree, the things that others say would not affect us emotionally. If we did not care about what others think about us, their words or behavior could not affect us.

Even if someone yells at you, gossips about you, harms you or yours, it still is not about you! Their actions and words are based on what they believe in their personal dream.

Our personal “Book of Law” and belief system makes us feel safe. When people have beliefs that are different from our own, we get scared, defend ourselves, and impose our point of view on others. If someone gets angry with us it is because our belief system is challenging their belief system and they get scared. They need to defend their point of view. Why become angry, create conflict, and expend energy arguing when you are aware of this?

Don't Make Assumptions

Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness, and drama. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life.

When we make assumptions it is because we believe we know what others are thinking and feeling. We believe we know their point of view, their dream. We forget that our beliefs are just our point of view based on our belief system and personal experiences and have nothing to do with what others think and feel.

We make the assumption that everybody judges us, abuses us, victimizes us, and blames us the way we do ourselves. As a result we reject ourselves before others have the chance to reject us. When we think this way, it becomes difficult to be ourselves in the world.

Take action and be clear to others about what you want or do not want; do not gossip and make assumptions about things others tell you. Respect other points of view and avoid arguing just to be right. Respect yourself and be honest with yourself. Stop expecting the people around you to know what is in your head.
These are not my words, but words that inspire me. From The Four Agreements.

Always Do Your Best

Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse, and regret.

Doing your best means enjoying the action without expecting a reward. The pleasure comes from doing what you like in life and having fun, not from how much you get paid. Enjoy the path traveled and the destination will take care of itself.

Living in the moment and releasing the past helps us to do the best we can in the moment. It allows us to be fully alive right now, enjoying what is present, not worrying about the past or the future.

Have patience with yourself. Take action. Practice forgiveness. If you do your best always, transformation will happen as a matter of course.