Happy New Year? The choice is yours!

By | 2013-12-31T12:37:28-04:00 December 31st, 2013|Life|

As people begin posting their year long retrospectives, it is wonderful to hear how grateful they are for all the “good” things that have happened, as well as how humbled they are by all the “bad” things that have happened. I can join in the chorus and say “Yay, I had some pretty cool things happen to me this year,” and “Boo-hoo, I had some not so good things happen, too.” For some reason though, that doesn’t feel right to me. Sure, things happened to me, but in this moment of my retrospection, I realize that they didn’t happen to me because I stood still and waited. Experiences of life happened because I encouraged them to happen by participating and making choices. Sure, some of them were really shitty choices, but some of them were freaking awesome!! And you know what? I made them!!! I decided to go left instead of right. I chose to stay home instead of go out. I made the choice to eat that jelly donut. I will always choose to sing loudly while I clean the dishes, even if my neighbors can hear me. I made so many choices over the last year, but the bottom line is that I will now make the choice not to second guess my choices, but rather stand by them no matter the outcome. I will take responsibility for my choices of course. I will apologize if a choice I make upsets someone. I will revel in it, if a choice I make brings me, or others happiness. I will choose to try and surround myself with people who take responsibility for their choices as well. I will strive to learn from all my choices good and bad, but the best thing of all, is that I will continue to be grateful for the chance to make those choices.

My wish is for all to have a happy and healthy year ahead, but mostly, for all to continue to have and make choices, no matter what they may be.

Happy Choice-making!!

Happy Choice-making!!

Stay well.

To learn more about Totem Tamers, please visit our site at www.totemtamers.com.

Who doesn't love a holiday baby story?

By | 2013-12-27T11:17:52-04:00 December 27th, 2013|Life|

Ok, well there might be that one crotchety person who isn’t interested in the miracle of life, but we make room and still and toss crumbs of smiles when we can. I, on the other hand, love a good baby story, especially when it’s one of those dramatic tales of delivery on a subway platform, in a taxi, or on the interstate! It’s incredible what the body is capable of doing in times of emergency, whether you’re the one in labor, or the person delivering a baby for the first time. Imagine my complete wonderment, when I was reading my morning paper (with my Totems, of course) and came face to face with a childhood friend! Oh my, what’s Roger doing in the paper? What do you know?! Roger and his wife are the subject of one of those awesome baby stories!

And baby girl makes five!

And baby girl makes five!

Growing up, Roger was friend’s with my brother, but being only a couple years older we all knew each other and occasionally hung out. We hadn’t seen each other basically since we were kids, but a couple years ago as I was heading into the subway station, I heard someone call out my name. You know that feeling when you turn and see someone you know you know, and that feeling of warmth and comfort comes over you? Well, there was Roger smiling at me, reminding me of better times from my childhood. Now he’s smiling again as the story of his baby girl’s entrance into this world makes the news! Here’s the story that hit locally and was picked up nationally!

http://abclocal.go.com/wabc/story?section=news%2Flocal%2Flong_island&id=9371830

Congratulations old friend, and welcome to the world Alexandra, fortunate enough to have four older brothers to protect her as she grows! Looking forward to getting our families together soon.

Stay well.

To learn more about Totem Tamers, please visit our site at www.totemtamers.com.

Merry Christmas!

By | 2013-12-25T12:15:38-04:00 December 25th, 2013|Uncategorized|

Wishing everyone who celebrates a wonderful Christmas! For those that don’t celebrate, have a wonderful Wednesday!

20131225-120628.jpg
Standing in Grand Central Terminal to remember Mama Doe! www.doe.org Now off to serve Christmas dinner to a couple hundred people who are just trying to make a new start in life. Giving, more than receiving, is for me, the true meaning of the holiday season.

Stay well.

To learn more about Totem Tamers, please visit our site at https://totemtamers.com

Christmas traditions, what are yours?

By | 2013-12-24T10:29:43-04:00 December 24th, 2013|Life|

I ran into a friend last night who was all excited about his family’s Christmas Eve plans. They were doing it full-on Italian style! The way he described it was a lot of seafood and eating all night. Sounds perfect to me! I know there are lots of different traditions out there and Totem Tamers would certainly love to have you share yours! I know another family has a Swedish Christmas eve with lots of Swedish goodies, while an Irish family I know will make traditional Christmas Pudding. Then there’s the British family who will undoubtedly, and deliciously cover something in bacon and stick it in the oven. Half of my family is in upstate New York where they will participate in a bittersweet Eve as they celebrate the life of the family matriarch and chow on the traditional fried rice. My other half of the family (pretty much all born Jewish, by the way) will be exchanging gifts around a Christmas tree for the first time ever. Could it be a new tradition in the making? Maybe!!

Give the gift of calm at www.totemtamers.com!

The Totems have their traditions as well! Bear will make sure everyone is tucked in just right. Owl will keep watch through the night. Bulldog will try hard not to slobber on the gifts and Shark will guard the milk and cookies! Merry Christmas Eve to all!

Stay well.

To learn more about Totem Tamers, please visit our site at www.totemtamers.com. Send pictures of your Totems and Traditions to info@totemtamers.com.

When it rains…it pours.

By | 2013-12-21T12:22:28-04:00 December 21st, 2013|Life|

I posted about the holiday season yesterday, and how we can be overwhelmed quite easily with everything it brings, especially in New York City. However, I didn’t always spend Christmas in New York City, there were many years that were spent in Syracuse with the in-laws, before my divorce. Changes after a divorce are inevitable, but one change that hasn’t gotten easier is missing Christmas in Syracuse. So many relatives would appear, that even after years of visits, I still didn’t know most of them. We knew exactly what the plan was when we went for the holiday, Christmas eve was always spent at Grandma B’s. That was awesome because you knew that the traditional fried rice and deli platter would be there and that someone would bring some sort of meat dish made from something that had been hunted, and that there would be tons of kids running around having a blast, even though they only got to see each other once or twice a year. And then there would be Grandma B, great-grandma to my kids, holding court at not even five-feet-tall, checking in with the kids to make sure they were good and fed.

Grandma B with just some of the great-grandchildren!

Grandma B with some of the great-grandchildren!

 

Grandma B passed away early this morning at 102 years old, and Christmas had already been changed for me, now it will never be the same. Oh the family will still gather of course, and still eat fried rice and sausage bread, but the void will never be filled by this matriarch who brought 14 children into this world and miraculously raised them in a modest house with one bathroom! Grandma B was a firecracker and would regularly have us in tears of laughter when her teeny little voice would come out with some obvious truth that no one was brave enough to utter. She’s off now to be reunited with Grampa B and there is much comfort in the thought of them together again.

Grandma and Grandpa B, together again.

Grandma and Grandpa B, together again.

Telling my kids this morning was heartbreaking because they are still dealing with the loss of their Grandpa, but as we hear regularly, kids are resilient. There were tears for sure, but also smiles, remembering how they each practically towered over Great-grandma. They will head to Syracuse tomorrow to be with family and celebrate Great-grandma B’s life, and Christmas will happen in Syracuse and my heart will be there with them all.

Stay well.

Holiday time is filled with joy and cheer as well as anxiety and fear!

By | 2013-12-20T13:31:34-04:00 December 20th, 2013|Life|

Christmas trees, decorations, ornaments alike, typically elicit happy feelings, but for some people it can be a difficult time. Living in New York City is wonderful, and even more so around the holidays because it’s beautiful! However, if I have to head in to any major touristy area, all should be warned that I am more Grinch than jolly St. Nick! I become filled with rage in Times Square for example, if I am making my way down the street and a family is walking four or five across the sidewalk looking at sites, and therefore preventing anyone from going around them. I lose my s*$t when trying to transfer from one subway to another and people are tying to figure out where they are going therefore guaranteeing I miss my train! So just two examples and we’ve covered, anger, frustration, anxiety, fear, and the list goes on and on. I witnessed a woman in the post office today go completely berserk on an employee who should be congratulated for not letting this woman have it, she was so rude. It helped me be extra polite and calm though, when it was finally my turn. I will continue to remind myself regularly to take deep breaths and not to hit anyone (I’m not a violent person, never have been, but every once in a while….J.K.!) The holidays are also a common time for people to get depressed and melancholy, so keep an eye out for each other and check in with each other as well. And of course, there are wonderful aspects of the holidays too, so make sure you take the time to enjoy the lights, the smells, and the sounds (except for the folks on the corner ringing the bell over and over and over again, don’t enjoy that, make a donation of course, but don’t encourage the bells!) Do your best to smile as you walk around, but keep your eyes open for wayward tourists!

Totems and Tree!

Totems and Tree!

One of the things I love are all the fun art pieces that come home around the holidays, this was done my second grader and he was so proud of his cut out tree!! The art and my Totems are just some ways to help keep me calm, what tricks do you have?

Stay well.

To learn more about Totem Tamers, please visit our site at www.totemtamers.com.

Totem Tamers presents WARRIOR WEDNESDAY!

By | 2013-12-18T09:48:40-04:00 December 18th, 2013|Life|

We just love when celebrities go public with their struggles because it helps decrease the stigma attached to the struggles and opens up a dialogue that might not have been there before! We’ve heard from some of the biggest stars in the last year contending with depression, addiction, and other mental health challenges. Now we’re hearing from one of my all-time favorites….who you gonna call? Dan Aykroyd! This week’s WARRIOR WEDNESDAY is an incredibly talented and funny guy, who also happens to have Asperger’s Syndrome!

Dan Aykroyd is a WARRIOR! (Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)

Dan Aykroyd is a WARRIOR!
(Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)

Thank you to the Child Mind Institute for highlighting the story and so many others related to mental heath. Thank you to Mr. Aykroyd for having the courage to share his story and affirm that sometimes a diagnosis can be a prescription towards success! Not only a Ghostbuster, but a WARRIOR!

Stay well.

To learn more about Totem Tamers, please visit our site at www.totemtamers.com.

You say to-may-to, I say to-mah-to, let's call the whole thing grief.

By | 2013-12-17T14:46:44-04:00 December 17th, 2013|Life|

There is no right or wrong way to grieve, as long as you actually grieve. This last week plus since my stepfather Jack passed away, I have been noticing how people grieve, from myself to my children, from my mother, to friends and neighbors. Everyone has their “thing.” People have been asking how my kids are doing and I will tell you that they are thankfully doing ok. It was amazing to watch how they processed the news of Grandpa’s death differently. My oldest son is a well of emotion, and he’s not afraid to show it or share it. My middle son is the stoic one, offering a calm yet strong, broad shoulder to rest on. My youngest boy finds comfort in sharing and couldn’t wait to get to school the day after the funeral to tell everyone what had happened.  I am finding comfort in writing, of course, but I also find it in tangible items. My stepdad hadn’t been moving around too well in the months before he passed, so a big, beautiful lounger had been purchased so he could sit comfortably or recline if necessary. When I would stop by for a visit, Jack, was in that chair. It was a reflex to look for Jack in the chair whenever I walked passed the library. Last week, I climbed in to that chair because it helped me feel close to him. It was big and soft and enveloping, and it made me feel sad yet safe all at the same time. However, others were not comforted by Jack’s chair, in fact, just the opposite. My mom, along with urging from many others, couldn’t wait to remove it  because it served as too painful a memory. I understand that, and it’s a perfect example of how we all grieve differently. That chair will find a new home in my home, and in the process will help me grieve my way, and my mom, grieve her way.

Jack's chair.

Jack’s chair.

Stay well.

To learn more about Totem Tamers, please visit our site at www.totemtamers.com.

Death is a funny thing. *EDITED

By | 2013-12-13T13:37:26-04:00 December 13th, 2013|Life|

I don’t mean “funny ha-ha”, or “funny like a clown” funny, I mean funny strange. (And if you want to see one of the most tense scenes about funny, click here, but not now, preferable after you finish reading.) Different cultures have different customs and different people have different ways of coping during the grieving process. I’m coping by writing, it’s helpful to get words out, it’s helpful to think “out loud” when there are so many thoughts scrambling inside my head. Writing about my stepfather’s death this week was necessary for my coping, my healing, my expression of my loss. My stepdad’s funeral was Tuesday. It was beautiful, as funerals go, in terms of all the people sharing their feelings and showing their support by being present. I held it together through most of the service except when family members and friends who spoke were overcome with emotion and then I would crack. It was when my ex-husband, who showed up out of his love and concern for his children, and for his respect of me, my mother and my stepfather, when he and my mom embraced and broke down, I allowed myself to lose it for a moment. However, sitting with my mom on one side of me and my three boys on the other, I didn’t know who to comfort first. My mom had just lost her husband, and partner of 20 years, and my kids just lost their Grandpa. Writing that last sentence, I am struck by the thought of “who was there to comfort me?” Well, some dear friends were at the service and came to shiva (it’s a Jewish thing), and even though I may not have been able to spend a lot of time with them, I know they were there and that means the world to me. There were some new friends who showed up at the funeral and at the house, and that has more meaning than I think even they know. Then of course, there were friends who didn’t show, for whatever reason, and I will process what that means, eventually. *I do realize (and it was kindly pointed out,) that just because people didn’t, or couldn’t show up, doesn’t mean they don’t care or love me. I also realize that my honesty may shake some people but I have to believe that it doesn’t damage the relationship but instead makes it stronger. Over the years my mother would talk occasionally about my brother’s funeral and it came up again this week, she would say “I may not remember everyone who was there, but I certainly remember who wasn’t.” It’s a funny thing isn’t it? The goodness of those who are present can sometimes be overshadowed by the lack of those who are not present. I say sometimes because I will do my best not to let that happen here, and I am encouraged by the goodness of so many, while still allowing myself to feel the disappointment in others. I don’t write this out because I want to punish, nor do I want apologies or excuses. I write this out because I am coping, I am grieving, and one day soon I hope, I will find the funny. Not the funny strange, but the funny ha-ha, the funny like a clown, the funny that my stepfather was and will be remembered for.

Stay well.

To learn more about Totem Tamers, please visit our site at www.totemtamers.com.

How do I say goodbye to a man who not only changed my world, but the whole world?

By | 2013-12-09T10:40:26-04:00 December 9th, 2013|Life|

There is never an easy way to say goodbye to someone you love, especially someone as remarkable as my stepdad, Dr. Jack Fishman, who passed away this weekend. Jack was like a father to me, after having lost my own father at a very young age. I used to tease Jack that he treated me just like one of his own children by making sure I was always ok and taken care of, by loving my children, and by yelling at me for just about anything. I would yell back and then we would laugh. That was love. That was Jack. Jack was filled with charm, filled with compassion, filled with brilliance, filled with enough cantankerousness to overflow the Hudson, it’s what made him special. Always humble and never wanting to really talk about his breakthroughs in scientific research, Jack Fishman, managed to change the world for the better, and forever. Jack is a legend in the medical world. Mention the drug that he invented, Naloxone, and any doctor or nurse or studied medical professional will know it. Naloxone is an opiate antagonist, which is a really fancy way of saying that it will reverse the effects of opiates in the system in the case of an overdose. Naloxone has saved countless lives across the globe and there is a push now to make the drug widely available and easily accessible to everyone, not just medical professionals. That’s why saying goodbye to Jack is almost impossible because he will be remembered every time Naloxone is used, which is every day. Jack had become fairly quiet in the last few months and any conversation with him was usually short but always meaningful. He never missed a chance to tell me how wonderful my mom was, and how beautiful she is, and how much he loved her. One of our last talks was quintessential Jack. He was going on about my mom and said to me “Your mother is so good.” I replied with “I know, but what about me?” And he smiled and said “You’re getting good.” That was Jack, and that is why I loved him and will miss him every day.

Jack

Stay well.

The best birthday present I got this year was a gift I gave to myself!

By | 2013-12-07T09:07:43-04:00 December 7th, 2013|Life|

I am a good gift giver. No, scratch that, I am a great gift giver. (No matter what you think about those chartreuse, fuzzy socks!) Here’s the rub, I don’t receive gifts very well. It actually gives me great anxiety to receive gifts,  because of a combination of things, but a big part of it is guilt. I know it’s crazy right and don’t even ask me to explain it, but I’m working on it with my therapist! We/I made huge progress though, because I was able to gift myself something that I had wanted for years and it wasn’t cheap! Oh, and it hurt like hell! I went and got my first tattoo! I have to say “first” because apparently everyone says you start with one tattoo and ultimately go for more. Not thinking about any other ink than the one I have right now because it’s freaking awesome! I have been researching for years, some might say obsessing, to the point that I was stopping people on the street to ask what tattoo shop they used, etc.. I knew if I was ever going to put something on my body permanently, it would have to incorporate my children. I also had to consider where it would go and what it would look like. That’s a lot to consider when you are making a forever decision! I knew for sure I wanted the kids’ initials. I knew I wanted it to look like a piece of jewelry. I knew I wanted it to be seen and not covered up, but able to be covered up if necessary. All I needed was the artist, and when I walked in to Three Kings Tattoo, he was presented to me as if out of a dream. See, I love butterflies. My Facebook profile picture is usually a butterfly, they are just magical to me. And this artist, Adam J. Machin, is decorated with tattoos of butterflies, beautiful ones on his neck and on his hands, and I knew he was the one for me. When people ask me who designed my tattoo, I tell them it was my vision and Adam’s artistry. A bit of a departure from his usual work and he was excited to do it, which made me excited to go through with it, finally.

Step 1: shaving my arm.

Step 1: shaving my arm.

Step 2 is typically applying the stencil, but I don’t want to show you that because it will give it all away!!

Step 3 of course, is hold on to your hat because this is going to hurt in a way that no one could ever possibly manage to describe but once you’ve started you just can’t stop so you find a way to deal with it and even zen out a bit especially to the incredible music playing by Timbre Tambre while your dear friend sits in a chair in case you need her and you slowly fall head over heels for the tattooed man who is tattooing your arm as though he were your doctor, therapist, or bartender.

Step 3: Isn't he dreamy?

Step 3: Isn’t he dreamy?

Of course I had a Totem with me to help keep me calm, and to oversee the whole process!

Totem Tends Tattoo! Gettin' closer!

Totem Tends Tattoo! Gettin’ closer!

Then finally, after three hours of intricate, delicate, and brilliant artwork, we were finished.

Tattoo me!

Tattoo me!

Here is a stitched shot so you can see the whole shebang!

Happy Birthday to me!

Happy Birthday to me!

I love it, I really do. Even my kids are psyched about it and my older son actually made me show it off to a guy at the music store that had a full tattoo sleeve and then some! My boy was proud! I was proud of myself for being able to commit to something that I had wanted for so long but never quite had the courage to give myself. Go me! It doesn’t mean this is for everyone, and I explained to my kids that I didn’t make this decision lightly and they’ve known for years that I’ve wanted a tattoo so they understand! What it does mean however, is that those moments where you want to do something for yourself and just yourself,f and you end up not doing it because of whatever song is singing in your head, change the tune! Know that you deserve it,  and that you are worthy of it, and no one should you make you feel otherwise!

Stay well.

To learn more about Totem Tamers, please visit our site at www.totemtamers.com.

 

 

Totem Tamers presents WARRIOR WEDNESDAY!

By | 2013-12-04T12:59:52-04:00 December 4th, 2013|Life, Uncategorized|

Last week I posted about working on a Sunday morning and how it didn’t matter, knowing that I was doing something special. Well the work I did last week, paid off earlier this week at an incredible event at NewYork-Presbyterian/Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital. Our WARRIORS this week (and every for that matter,) are the incredible people who work so hard in this hospital (and all hospitals) to comfort the children and families dealing with very difficult experiences.

Tree Lighting at Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital

Tree Lighting 

It’s hard to think about anything but the fun parts of the holiday season, the shopping, the gift giving and receiving, the parties, the treats, etc.. It’s hard to think about families that have to deal with challenges and heartache, like a sick child in the hospital during the holidays.  This past Monday, the staff, along with a very generous donor, created a holiday party for all of the sick kids and their families. It was hard to maintain my composure when one by one children were wheeled in, some of them connected to more ports and IV’s than you can imagine. Watching the kids light up at the sight of the huge tree, or the awesome crafts at the tables, or hearing the accapella group Voices of Gotham sing holiday songs, made it worthwhile.

Holiday crafts!

Holiday crafts!

Voices of Gotham!

Voices of Gotham!

But of course the feel good moments didn’t end there, because I still haven’t told you why Totem Tamers was there! The incredibly generous sponsors of this event learned about Totem Tamers and decided that this was the perfect gift to give to the children and their families to help them cope with their hospital stays and/or visits.  Every patient and their siblings at the holiday party was able to pick out a Totem Set of their choice. One sweet boy was there to visit his brother who was unable to leave his room to attend the event, he was clutching his little stuffed puppy as his mom encouraged him to check out the Totems. I knew he would choose Bulldog for himself, but he was more excited to be able to pick Shark for his older brother who was upstairs waiting for him. And there were many more….

Happy Holidays!

Happy Holidays!

The WARRIORS that I met that day ranged from nurses, to doctors, to Child Life Specialists, whose job it is to provide support to the patients and their families while in and even out of the hospital. I also met the volunteer coordinator who talked to me about the need for volunteers, especially in a children’s hospital where families can’t always be there with the children at all times. If you want to know more about volunteer opportunities at, visit www.nyp.org/volunteer and you can become a WARRIOR, too!

Stay well.

To learn more about Totem Tamers, please visit our site at www.totemtamers.com.