"Wish You Were Here"

By | 2014-01-31T09:06:13+00:00 January 31st, 2014|Life|

Not a day goes by that I don’t think about my brother. He’s been gone for ten years now, and even though the pain of his death is lessened somewhat, the pain of missing him will always linger. It’s tough, because when Jonathan is top of mind, it’s because I am talking about his heroin overdose. Talking about the policy changes taking place across the country that might have saved his life, if they had been around ten years ago. Essentially talking about something sad and difficult and painful. You try to remember the good times, but they seem so long ago. Well, yesterday I was blessed with an opportunity to thank someone who helped provide some of my favorite memories of time spent with my brother. I was 15, Jonathan was 17, he would grab his guitar and we would go sit on the beach and sing. One of our favorite songs to sing together was “Wish You Were Here,” by Pink Floyd. Last night, I got to say thank you to Roger Waters for that song, and for those happy memories of my brother.

Thank you, Roger Waters!

Thank you, Roger Waters!

"…heroes for ghosts."

“A smile from a veil?”

"….heroes for ghosts."

“….heroes for ghosts.”

Mr. Waters was gracious and kind, and I gave him Totem Sets, of course. I told him I was giving him animals in honor of the Floyd album, “Animals.” He got a chuckle out of that one. I’m sure my brother would have laughed, too. He had such a great laugh. How I wish, how I wish he were here.

Stay well.

It's the compassion, stupid.

By | 2014-01-29T17:30:01+00:00 January 29th, 2014|Life|

Ok, I truly dislike the word stupid and I don’t even let my kids use it unless they’re talking about some inanimate object like stupid homework, stupid shower, or stupid vegetables. You get the idea. The point is we don’t call people, stupid, or at least we try very, very, very hard not to. The only leeway you get, and by that I mean, the only leeway I get, is when I am talking about myself. In the last couple days, I have had conversations with several parents who are dealing with some seriously stressful stuff with some of their children. I’m not talking “he’s failing chemistry,” or “she got dumped.” I’m talking some panic-inducing, grey-hair causing, xanax-worthy stuff. I’m good at listening, most of the time. I’m also good at problem-solving, most of the time. I’m also good at not paying attention to the situation at hand because I’m busy trying to figure out a way to help my friend with their problem, as opposed to just “being there.” I must be in some sort of zone of awareness lately because it’s almost like having an out of body experience when the awareness hits. I can hear my friend talking, but at the same time I can sense my brain starting to work on problem-solving for them, and then boom, some other part of my brain holds up a sign that says “It’s the compassion, stupid!” Thank you, President Clinton. I’m listening to some of my dearest friends open up and tell me what’s going on in their lives, and they’re telling me because I care about them and they trust me, and in turn I know I can tell them stuff, too! It’s not about fixing, or opining, or pontificating (and I never do that!) It’s about being there, and offering to be there whenever, for whatever, and however you can be. Reminding your friend that you are not judging, not questioning, but rather supporting the situation they are in, in the best way you can, and most of the time, that’s by keeping your mouth shut! And when I say “you,” I mean, me! I believe it’s a phrase called “active listening”, where someone shares with you, and then you repeat or restate what you’ve heard, so everyone is clear and on the same page. That’s my goal now. I am going to do my best to be an active listener and lead with compassion rather than my mental toolbox of fix-its. Won’t you try too? My apologies to anyone with whom I’ve spoken to or listened to, if I tried too hard to help and not hard enough to just be there.

"ARE YOU LISTENING?"

“ARE YOU LISTENING?”

Stay well.

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

Breaking News: Divorce causes allergic reaction in some parents!

By | 2014-01-28T11:51:57+00:00 January 28th, 2014|Life|

One simple question set me off this morning, but my reaction is not simple at all. As I was making an appointment with the allergist for my son to get tested, I joked about not sending my ex-husband because he would likely be more anxious than my son. The receptionist, not quite hearing my joke, then wanted to clarify that it was ok to let my ex-husband know that my son was going to be seen in their office. I was shocked at the question and then saddened by the realization that this kind of thing happens when some couples split up. The story goes a little like this: Your eyes meet across a crowded room and you know in an instant that you can’t be without her. You fall madly in love with him the minute the puts his hand on the small of your back to guide you through the crowded room. You eventually make the choice to stand in front of your family, god, a toaster, whomever or whatever will witness, and you vow to stay together for better or worse, and you begin your new life together as a married couple. Nice build-up right? For approximately 50% of married couples, this scenario remains throughout the relationship, but for the other 50%, there’s a different outcome. Shhhhh, it starts with a “D”, but don’t say it too loudly or you might break out in hives! Alas, couples separate, they divide assets and visitation, and somewhere in there, they often times forget the first half of their story. After the “D”, the story can look like this: Your eyes meet across a crowded cafeteria at the family event at school. You can barely disguise your resentment, your repulsion, your anger, and your upset. It’s almost like having an allergic reaction at the sight of your ex. What you may forget is that your child is likely watching you, hearing you, and sensing your “allergy.” What you may forget is the innocence of your child who wants nothing but to love both of his parents equally. What you may forget is that your child was borne out of the first half of your story and didn’t ask to be thrown in to the second half. And yes, I know that there are extenuating circumstances in a lot of divorce situations that make it impossible for both parents to be on the same side, but in the majority of “normal” divorces, it’s just ego. I had a friend email me recently to say that “no one does divorce better than you guys.” She’s right, and I am grateful and blessed! I am always glad to hear it. My ex and I work very hard to be a team regardless of our personal conflicts, because our children require that, and in the long run it makes everyone happier and definitely less itchy!

Stay well.

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

No Deeds go unpunished.

By | 2014-01-26T20:05:15+00:00 January 26th, 2014|Life|

I sit here wiping tears from my eyes after watching a segment on 60 Minutes. It was a segment about a father and a son. About mental illness and the failures of our society to help those in need. It wasn’t just any father, it was Virginia State Senator Creigh Deeds, talking about his son, Gus. Senator Deeds’ face bearing the scars from the slashing that preceded his son’s suicide. Senator Deeds’ face showing the tears he cries when he misses his son. Senator Deeds’ face showing the anguish as he thinks about how his son might have been saved if only there had been a bed available in a psychiatric facility the night before the incident. Senator Deeds’ face, showing the tender eyes that his son shared, and the pain of a parent who has lost a child. And still, here he is, sharing his story on national television in the hopes he can help others. The Senator is putting forth legislation in Virginia that will extend the hold time in hospitals for those suffering from mental illness from 6 hours to 24 hours. He also wants to create a database that will show available psychiatric beds in the  state. I hope Senators in other states will follow suit. Sounds reasonable, sounds simple, sounds horrifying to think that if the hospital had held Gus Deeds just a little longer, he might still be alive today.

Va. State Senator Creigh Deeds

Va. State Senator Creigh Deeds

There’s a smile on the face of Senator Deeds and I find that miraculous, I find it heart-breaking and inspirational. Gus Deeds, was a brilliant musician, a “great kid”, according to his dad, and that’s what Senator Deeds wants people to remember when they look at the scars upon his face. That’s what he tells himself, I imagine, just so he can get out of bed every morning. The National Institute of Mental Health offers many resources for those looking for help for themselves or loved ones who suffer from mental illness. My tears are gone now and I am motivated further to talk about the issues that connect so many of us. For myself, my partner, and Totem Tamers, we strive to help those who struggle with anxiety, with simple techniques and without medication, that can be added to any therapeutic situation. Visit our site at www.totemtamers.com to learn more.

Stay well.

Defensiveness makes you de-enemy, of yourself!

By | 2014-01-23T14:43:32+00:00 January 23rd, 2014|Life|

I had a lovely morning. I sat with three other women who are moms, just like me, and self-employed, just like me! We talked about everything from summer camps to skin care, from business to gettin’ down to business. It was great! Everyone has their own experiences and everyone was comfortable sharing. I am always happy to talk about Totem Tamers because it’s my business, and because I know Totem Tamers has the chance to help a lot of people who struggle with anxiety and overwhelming emotions. Totem Tamers is my baby, and I am very protective. Apparently, I am also a little defensive! My therapist will be so proud that I had complete awareness about me when we started to talk about my business. These women had tons of great ideas and suggestions for how to increase Totem Tamers’ popularity and exposure.  Sounds lovely right? So why then was my brain screaming all kinds of different things in my head, like “What do they know about my business? What do I know about running a business? Oh man I haven’t done the right things. Geez, I’m struggling and they’re pointing it out.” You name it and my head was telling me that whatever they were saying was against me and not for me. Now, I know that’s not what they were doing, at all!! They were offering support and wanting to help, but I had to get through all of my defensiveness to see that, and hear what they were saying. We all do this to ourselves pretty regularly and it can be so destructive if we let it be. I could have walked away from this meeting cursing these women and ignoring their advice, but instead I am motivated and inspired! Not only because they had suggestions based on their own experiences starting a business, but because they genuinely believe that Totem Tamers has a greater value to society and want to see it become successful! How awesome is that?! If we spend more time opening ourselves up, rather than shutting ourselves down when we feel discomfort, we will undoubtedly end up feeling supported and not attacked. (And yes, I know, “attacked” is not a feeling.) 😉 Pay attention to what’s happening inside your head when that voice starts to defend against outside forces, and consider if the outside force is not pushing you away, but pushing you to go further, whether in business or in life!

Let your guard down!

Let your guard down!

Stay well.

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

Totem Tamers presents WARRIOR WEDNESDAY!

By | 2014-01-22T10:46:57+00:00 January 22nd, 2014|Life|

RIP WARRIOR Tyler!

RIP WARRIOR Tyler!

Our WARRIOR this week is 8 year old Tyler Doohan. Tyler died in a fire Monday morning in Upstate New York. Tyler is a WARRIOR WEDNESDAY because he died trying to save his disabled Uncle, who was trapped in the fire. Tyler is also our WARRIOR this week because he did save 6 other people, before he went back in to try and help his Uncle. An 8 year old with that much presence of mind is miraculous and it is tragic that someone so selfless and brave would perish before truly living a full life. I can only hope that Tyler’s WARRIOR efforts in saving those 6 people, will lead one of them to do something so great in the future that it will all make sense. Take this opportunity to hug your children. Take this opportunity to make sure you have a working fire extinguisher in your home, that your smoke detectors are working, and that you have a plan for your family in case of a fire. Use this link to find resources and tips for fire safety for you and your family.

Stay well.

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

Variety is the spice of life!

By | 2014-01-19T10:41:09+00:00 January 19th, 2014|Life|

Anxiety can kick in to high gear whenever we are put into an unknown situation, imagine putting yourself into one voluntarily! I often encourage my kids to try new things, whether it be meeting someone new, attempting a sport or instrument, or tasting something exotic. There is nothing more frustrating then someone saying “Oh, I don’t like that,” only to find they have never had it! I had the chance to expose my two younger boys to a new Japanese restaurant, not necessarily exotic because they eat sushi/Japanese regularly, but this place was different. We dropped older brother off at a party, and then set off on our adventure to find this restaurant. We had the address, and we went into what looked like a Japanese restaurant, but with a different name. We were told we were in the wrong place and needed to go to the building next door. Talk about anxiety building, we were cold and hungry, and didn’t know where we were going! Well the building next door was an office building, that was under construction mind you. That didn’t help my little one, who was already frustrated at the journey, who promptly remarked “What, are we going to eat bricks for dinner?” This is going to be fun, I thought! A fairly intimidating security guard directed us to the cinder-block lined stairwell and said, “Go down.” Down two flights of stairs, we descended into the basement and came upon a restaurant out of another world!

Welcome? Yes!

Welcome? Yes!

Deep breaths and a quick order of sake, and we were nestled in a corner. Needless to say we had a marvelous meal and my boys were brave and adventurous, plied with ginger ale, of course. My little one who perked up at the offering of grilled rice balls, ended up eating everything from chicken meatballs to homemade soba noodles. My middle, who is always a good sport, but usually pretty conservative, made the biggest leap! He happily tasted a dish called Onsen Tamago. This was a small bowl that included a barely poached egg, salmon roe, and sea urchin, swirling in a delightfully sweet, but cold broth. I know! So proud. Ok well maybe not at the moment my little one decided to see what would happen if he stuck rice to his face.

Rice Soul Patch!

Rice Soul Patch!

It’s a good thing he’s cute! With that little tale, I hope you are motivated to try something new, and help someone else try something new too! And tell us about it!! Send us a picture with your tale and your Totem to info@totemtamers.com

Stay well.

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

 

Powerful and complete.

By | 2014-01-17T10:39:52+00:00 January 17th, 2014|Life|

That’s the meaning of the name Avonte that I found, when I searched it this morning. People have been searching for Avonte for a while now. 14-year-old Avonte Oquendo, disappeared after casually walking out of his school last October. This poster has been plastered across New York City ever since:

Avonte = Powerful and complete.

Avonte = Powerful and complete.

I wasn’t planning on writing about Avonte today. I was going to write something uplifting, hopeful and inspirational. I don’t know that I can do that now, as reports are coming in that body parts have been found, and they may very well belong to Avonte Oquendo. There is nothing uplifting at that possibility, except that maybe now his family can find some peace, if the body does belong to Avonte. The only hopeful aspect is that it is not Avonte and they can go on hoping he is still alive somewhere. As far as inspiration goes, I am struggling. Avonte is autistic and doesn’t speak, yet there are many photos of him smiling. I can try and eke out some inspiration there. Avonte’s ability to walk out of his school without anyone really noticing is horrible, but maybe, just maybe, it will inspire others to make changes that will help prevent this from happening again. I have a 14-year-old son, he inspires me everyday to be a better person. My heart breaks for Avonte’s mother who hasn’t seen her son in almost four months. She hasn’t been able to kiss him goodnight, or gently wake him in the morning for school. I can’t imagine her pain because it’s just too painful to consider not having my son around to smile at me, to laugh at my silly jokes, to roll his eyes at me when I ask him to walk the dog. Too much pain. We wait now, and watch the news, and we go back and forth with praying it’s not him, but at the same time recognizing if it is Avonte, that the agony of not knowing where he is day in and day out will cease. If it is Avonte, he will be remembered, not just by his family, but by everyone who was touched by his disappearance and by everyone who stared at that innocent look on his face in the poster. That look with the name that means powerful and complete.

Stay well.

Totem Tamers presents WARRIOR WEDNESDAY!

By | 2014-01-15T11:49:02+00:00 January 15th, 2014|Life|

I don’t get a chance to read every news article out there, not even close, but when a subject line hits a nerve, I’m all ears (well eyes, really, because I’m reading, but you know what I mean.) So here I am scrolling through some stories and looking for a WARRIOR, when I see the title of an article, “What not to say to a transgender person.” Having been out on Monday night and meeting a transgender person, I was curious to read what potential gaffe I may have perpetrated. Thankfully, I didn’t screw it up, but it would have been very easy to make some of the mistakes that writer T Cooper highlights in his article. The article was motivated by an episode of The Katie Couric show, when she had two guests that are transgendered. Katie asked the guests about their private parts, and transgendered or not, that was totally uncool! Model Carmen Carrera, and “Orange is the New Black” star Laverne Cox, handled Katie’s discomfort and invasive questioning with grace, therefore making them WARRIOR’s for sure! T Cooper, is a transgender male, so he has a right to speak on the subject, but in truth, T Cooper is also a pretty great writer and an accomplished one at that. He also happens to be married, has kids, and he and his wife are doing something remarkable at WeAreChangers.org. The bottom line of what they are doing is empathy, hoping to open up our eyes so we can try to understand that we are all people, no matter what we do, who we love, what we look like. T Cooper is a WARRIOR, his wife Allison is a WARRIOR, and I can only hope that their efforts will in turn create other WARRIORS!

Laverne Cox from transgenderlawcenter.org

Laverne Cox from transgenderlawcenter.org

Carmen Carrera from newnownext.com

Carmen Carrera from newnownext.com

Stay well.

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

"White Coats" are supposed to be the good guys, right?

By | 2014-01-13T10:10:02+00:00 January 13th, 2014|Life|

"White Coat Syndrome"? You bet! Thanks Nurse Rached!

“White Coat Syndrome”? You bet! Thanks Nurse Rached!

So why is it that so many people react negatively to medical professionals in white coats? There’s even a name for it, “White Coat Syndrome!” Research shows that upwards of 20% of the population suffers from “White Coat Syndrome.” Unfortunately, that translates into a lot of people who don’t seek medical attention because they are too anxious. “White Coat Syndrome” is usually marked by high blood pressure when you’re at the doctor’s office, along with other classic signs of anxiety, like sweating and agitation. The worst part is that when you’re going to see a doctor, the first thing they usually do is take your blood pressure. If you are already anxious, your reading will be higher than normal, and even though intellectually you know that it’s likely due to your anxiety, you still freak out just a little bit more. One of our tenets here at Totem Tamers, is acknowledging your anxiety or fear, or whatever overwhelming emotion you might be experiencing, first and foremost. Being aware of what’s happening, actually gives you the strength and ultimately the choice, to do something about it. It’s the denial of being overwhelmed that can lead to a full-on anxiety attack. That’s also why Totem Tamers gives you three different tools to help with the symptoms you might be experiencing: visualization, sensation, and repetition. Your anxiety isn’t going to disappear, but by following the simple steps, you may find that you have a better handle on your symptoms.

"The doctor will see you now."

“The doctor will see you now.”

This all came up after a conversation with a friend of mine who was concerned about an upcoming doctor’s visit. She talked about her “White Coat Syndrome,” and it made me think of my grandfather, who at 6’4, with a gravely, intimidating voice, was reduced to a  jittery mess at the sight of a doctor. My friend brought her music with her and I reminded her to take deep breaths and she seemed to do ok, and thankfully everything seemed to check out ok, too. If you, or someone you know has a bit of “White Coat Syndrome”, a Totem might just help!

Stay well.

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

It's the thought that counts!

By | 2014-01-12T11:44:29+00:00 January 12th, 2014|Life|

We’ve heard that saying so many times before, and it’s true!! No matter what someone may give you, the mere fact that they have done something for you or with you in mind, is lovely. It’s not about how much money someone spends, sometimes the best gifts cost no money at all! It’s wonderful to receive these kinds of gifts, but even better to give them. My son and his Dad have birthdays a day apart. Of course, this last week was all about my son and celebrating him, but the question of what the boys could give to their Dad for his birthday did come up. My middle son piped up and said “Well, for Father’s Day he always asks for the same thing, peace and quiet.” Thus, a birthday gift idea was born! This was one of those fun gifts that we all got in to and presenting it was the best!

Happy Birthday!

Happy Birthday!

The kids were so excited, and their Dad was really happy and got a good laugh. And now, whenever the kids are acting up and their Dad begs for peace and quiet, they can confidently say, they’ve already given him that!

You don’t need a special occasion to give a thoughtful gift, sometimes a simple note telling someone you’re thinking about them can bring as much joy as an ounce of caviar and a glass of champagne. Ok, almost as much. Wink, wink. Do something thoughtful for someone today!

Stay well.

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

It's Horn-tooting Friday!! Yes, I just made that up.

By | 2014-01-10T11:17:08+00:00 January 10th, 2014|Life|

I’m not a big fan of horn-tooting, that’s just me, but every once in a while I think it’s acceptable. When you do something you believe in, it’s easy to go on about it, whether it’s the WOD, or WW, or TT! I believe in Totem Tamers, which is why I am more than happy to talk about how we can potentially help children and adults handle overwhelming emotions. Of course, it’s much better when other people talk about Totem Tamers! I got two wonderful emails yesterday within a period of twenty minutes, that’s all it takes to get me motivated and jumping and wanting to help more. The first email came from a gentleman who happened to overhear me talking about Totem Tamers at a political function. Next thing I knew he had placed an order online. His email to me yesterday read: “Been meaning to write you – my wife loves the owl totem that I gave to her for Christmas. She brought to work this morning in anticipation of a stressful meeting…”

Success!!

The next email I received was from a grateful Aunt whom I had met at the boutique fair at my kids’ school. This scenario happens regularly, where someone comes over and looks at the Totems and immediately thinks of someone who could benefit. When this woman looked at the Totems, she thought of her nephew and promptly purchased a set as a holiday gift. This was the email I got from her: “Julie- my nephew really loves his and it helps him be less anxious.” (sic) There is nothing better than hearing about someone who has connected with a Totem and is finding some calm in their world.

If you know someone who gets anxious, who is stressed, who just needs a reminder to take a deep breath throughout the day, share the gift of Totem Tamers! www.totemtamers.com/store.

We want to hear from you and your Totem success stories! Pictures are great too! info@totemtamers.com

Stay well.

Totem Tamers presents WARRIOR WEDNESDAY!

By | 2014-01-08T11:52:59+00:00 January 8th, 2014|Life|

This week, our WARRIOR can actually be you! The Governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, has announced that he will move forward with a medical cannabis program in the state. While this is a huge step, The Drug Policy Alliance has been working very hard to get the Compassionate Care Act passed. “The Compassionate Care Act would allow healthcare practitioners to talk to their patients about medical marijuana and allow people with serious illnesses to access a small amount of marijuana to relieve their symptoms. The bill passed the Assembly last year with overwhelming support, but got stuck in the Senate.” So what can you do? What would make you a WARRIOR? Well, you can take action and tell the Governor how you feel about medical marijuana and how you want to help the people who have illnesses with symptoms that can be relieved by using small amounts of medical marijuana. I know! It’s that easy! I’ll even make it easier for you, all you have to do is click on this link, and just sign your name. That will make you a WARRIOR!

Totems Take Action!

Totems Take Action!

Thanks to the Drug Policy Alliance for all your WARRIOR efforts!

Stay well.

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