Happy You Near!!!

By | 2018-04-07T23:21:48-04:00 December 31st, 2015|animals, anxiety, childhood, family, Life, mental health, parenting, stress, stress relief, Uncategorized|

You did it!! We did it!! I did it!!! Made it to the end of another year, the beginning of a new one. There are so many sentimental posts floating around about the hard years that were had, looking forward to easier times ahead, and I get it, I really do, if you’ve ever read my blog, you know I know sentimental. Right now, though, that’s not what I’m feeling. I’m feeling motivated, inspired, eager, and excited for every possibility. I don’t want to look back, I was already there! As great as some of it might have been, as awful as some of it might have been, I don’t want to do it again, I want something new and shiny! I want better than it was, for me, for my kids, for my family, for my neighbors, and for goodness sakes, for my country. We can do better, always, and if for some reason you don’t think you can, all you need to do is try! Trying is better than not doing anything at all, so it counts! Go right ahead, wish everyone a happy new year, but keep in mind the wish for a happier YOU near.

Totem reflection!

Totem reflection!

Take a moment to look at YOU and see who YOU are, and don’t walk away until you are committed to YOU! Mirrors serve to remind us that even if we can’t see ourselves, we are reflected in others, so make sure you’re a worthy mirror. Happy and healthy new You, and new year!

Stay well.


The question isn’t “What presents did you get”, but rather, “What presence do you have?”

By | 2018-04-07T23:21:49-04:00 December 27th, 2015|anxiety, childhood, family, Life, mental health, parenting, stress, stress relief, Uncategorized|

I keep hearing and even asking people what gifts they got for the holidays, because it’s fun to see people light up about the trinkets a loved one gave them, and then I like to ask what gifts they gave to other people, because that’s fun to hear about, too! Intermingled with all the lovely tales of unwrapped and surprise gifts, missing directions and vital pieces to anticipated toys and games, were also hints of sadness and heartbreak and frustration. This is what got me thinking about presence as opposed to presents. Having a presence in someone’s life in times of struggle (and in times of happiness) is a gift, and all it costs is a little time. Like when I got a message from a friend who is securely locked inside his “closet” for fear of being disowned by his parents, and I was able to give him love and support and guidance.  Like the moment I was hugging a neighbor on the sidewalk on Christmas because it’s the first one she’s spending without her mother, who passed away a month ago. Then, later still on Christmas, happily sharing with my own mother, the heartbreaking, yet rewarding gift of serving Christmas dinner at a homeless shelter, where our presence was felt not only by the folks eating dinner, but by the staff who got a little break from serving while we were there.

Christmas dinner at shelter

Hairnets are cool!

The list goes on and on, and even in it’s underlying sadness, those moments of presence might have offered a gift of peace, even just for a breath or two, and all it required was time. I am grateful to hold this presence in many people’s lives, and that is my present, one that gives and receives simultaneously. So as you go through your holiday loot and slowly start to put away the decorations, think back not only on the presents you got and gave, but on the presence that you always have.

Stay well.

R2-D2 made me cry.

By | 2018-04-07T23:21:49-04:00 December 23rd, 2015|anxiety, childhood, family, Life, mental health, parenting, stress, stress relief, Uncategorized|

Don’t worry, you won’t find any spoilers here from the new Star Wars movie. By now, you’ve probably heard all sorts of things, and some of them may be true. I will say that people were getting really worked up about all the potential spoilers out there, with one guy getting arrested for threatening to shoot someone over leaked information. Personally, I had an experience that really ticked me off. A comic strip appeared in The Daily News before the movie premiered, giving away one of the biggest spoilers. I was shocked, although I didn’t have the energy to complain, there was a HuffPo article about it! The article does contain a link to the offending comic strip, if you really want to see it. Anyway, I finally went to see the movie yesterday, it was the last part of my middle son’s birthday celebration. It was my three boys, my ex-husband, and me, all ready for the IMAX 3-D experience, and I don’t know who was more excited!

Star Wars

There we all were with our silly glasses on, in a packed theater, with a bunch of really excited geeks and nerds! (Oh yeah, and Chris Rock, not sure which category he fits into.) When the opening credits began and that iconic John Williams score sang out, I was immediately 8 years old again. The theater started clapping and hooting and hollering, it was awesome! We were instantly transported to a galaxy far, far away, and for the next two hours everyone was transfixed! There are new characters that we connected with right away, one of them being the newest droid in the crop, BB-8, a cuter more compact version of R2-D2. BB-8, wheeled his way into everyone’s hearts from his first beep beep boop boop, but he wasn’t R2. There are old characters in the film as well, and we all know Han and Leia are back, and even space creatures are familiar, like General Akbar, and there was comfort in that. And yes, it was cool to see Han and Leia doing their thing, and the nostalgia was there, but it was the moment R2-D2 came onscreen, that I became a bit unglued. Suddenly tears are streaming down my face, and this was a happy scene! I was perplexed at first, but then I realized in that one moment, my whole childhood came rushing back! All the afternoons spent with my pal A.J., playing with his massive Millennium Falcon built out of Legos, imagining that I understood R2, and that the droid, not only understood me, but was my friend and my protector. Seeing the droid onscreen reminded me of some of the happier, more simple times of my childhood, and now I was sharing that with my own children, and that’s when I recognized they were tears of happiness on my face. My kids will remember seeing this film, just like I remember my dad taking me to see “The Empire Strikes Back” with my brother, when I was a little girl. It’s amazing how different generations can share love for the same characters and story, so many years later. Thank you JJ Abrams for bringing it back the right way, and thank you George Lucas for letting him!  May the Force be with us all!

Stay well.

Gratitude before my eyes.

By | 2018-04-07T23:21:50-04:00 December 16th, 2015|anxiety, anxiety disorder, anxiety relief, art, beach, creativity, depression, earth, gratitude, inspiration, meditation, mental health, ocean, stress, stress relief, therapy, totems, Uncategorized, weather|

Natural beauty!

Natural beauty!

I took this picture a couple weeks ago and just came across it again. It takes my breath away now, just as it did when I snapped the shot. I remember standing there and feeling so grateful for the picturesque view and in that moment finding peace. Since that picture was taken, there have been plenty of moments that haven’t been peaceful, and I don’t mean the global tragedies that we’ve witnessed recently, but on the smaller more manageable scale of my life. Thankfully nothing terribly dramatic has happened, just the hustle and bustle of the every day that pulls me away from those moments of peace. When the picture popped up on my screen, it gave me pause because the reaction was to actually stop what I was doing (searching for a picture of one of my kids) and take in the view again. What a powerful tool that I didn’t know I had! This picture will find a place on my computer desktop now, so I can be reminded regularly to take a pause and find gratitude. Thankfully there is beauty all around us and in the simplest things, we just have to give ourselves permission to experience it and know that our busy, hectic lives will still be there waiting for us two minutes later. The gift is that we get to come back to the chaos with a renewed energy and appreciation for what we have. It’s the renewed energy that helped motivate me to share this with you! Enjoy the picture, or better yet, look for the beauty around you in this moment and capture it for your own gratitude! If you like, and I know I would, please share it with me at julie@totemtamers.com!

Stay well.

Building blocks of humanity.

By | 2018-04-07T23:21:51-04:00 December 11th, 2015|anxiety, anxiety disorder, anxiety relief, apartment, childhood, children, earth, inspiration, Life, meditation, mental health, mind/body, motherhood, motivation, parenthood, parenting, stories, story, storytelling, Uncategorized|

I’m very blessed to be able to walk around New York City, where even in a place brimming with people, I can revel in the solitude that throngs can offer. I was at a holiday party the other night where the view out the window was the scene stealer of the night.

As I stood there during this event, plenty of people around me socializing and being festive, I was captivated with the outside world. With all the tiny little windows before me in this tiny stretch of Manhattan. What was happening inside those homes? What were those people experiencing at this same moment? This “deep thinking” continued the next day during a conversation with my 9 year old as we walked around. He’s at a stage where he is questioning everything, which is wonderful, but can also be a tad overwhelming, at times. He looked at me with his gorgeous brown eyes and asked “What if we are just ants in someone else’s bigger world?” Wow, profundity from the mouths of babes. There are plenty of ways I could have answered this question, but I chose to go with the method that allows for all possibilities, and I simply responded with, “What if?” This spurred the conversation further to considering that maybe we were fish in someone’s fish bowl and natural disasters are a result of someone bumping into the bowl that rests on a table in the living room. I was moved that my son experienced this existential questioning with hope as opposed to fear. We were going deep, I tell you!! Deeper still, as I look into the tiny windows in the buildings that surround me, is the notion that we have no idea what might be going on in someone’s life. We have no idea what happiness, what sorrow, what fear, what excitement might be brimming in someone’s doorway. So even though we might just be ants in someone else’s bigger world, or fish in a fishbowl in some well decorated living room, we are all in it together and the possibilities don’t have to be scary but can be filled with the same hope reflected in my son’s eyes.

Stay well.

The day the music died…..again.

By | 2018-04-07T23:21:51-04:00 December 4th, 2015|addiction, anxiety, anxiety disorder, anxiety relief, brotherhood, brothers, childhood, children, classic rock, creativity, death, drug use, drugs, family, harm reduction, heroin, loss, Music, overdose, overdose prevention, parenthood, parenting, prevention, rock and roll, rock n roll, stress, stress relief, Uncategorized|

Score another one for the Demons as we wake up today to the news that former lead singer of Stone Temple Pilots, Scott Weiland, was found dead on a tour bus yesterday. This one is devastating, well they’re all devastating really, but this one hits closer to home. We are a musical family, there’s always music happening in one form or another, whether it’s my two older boys jamming in their room, or my little one tapping out a rhythm or humming a tune. Stone Temple Pilots has been a band my kids have enjoyed a lot lately, plucking out acoustic versions, even my son and I harmonizing on some songs occasionally. Telling them this morning was hard, especially for my older one. It reminds me of when I had to tell them that Cory Montieth, of Glee, had passed away. That one wasn’t easy for my middle son, who was a big Glee fan. I talk about my brother often, he lost to the Demons as well, and as hard as it is to talk about him, it’s important. So this morning when I told my boys about Weiland, I could only offer them my hope that Weiland’s death, like my brother’s, like Monteith’s, would somehow help them make better choices in their lives. I could only feel the frustration that the life-saving drug Naloxone, invented by my step-dad, isn’t more widely available and easily accessible. So I talk about it, and I talk about it some more, and hope that people will be shocked to hear that overdose deaths topped deaths from car accidents in 2013, because that is shocking and a lot of those deaths, likely preventable.

Scott Weiland earlier this year. wrkr.com

Scott Weiland earlier this year. wrkr.com

This image of Weiland gives me shivers because I see my sons in it, and my brother, who also played guitar and sang and loved Stone Temple Pilots. This image gives me shivers because it’s another ghost added to the horror story of drug users who couldn’t be saved. This image gives me shivers because until we realize that the “War on Drugs” has only created casualty after casualty, we will continue to lose more and more beautiful people, like Scott Weiland. I hope he finds peace and that the Demons are satisfied, for at least a little while.

Stay well.

PS:If you are a drug user, or know someone who is, and you would like access to an overdose prevention kit, email me at julie@totetmtamers.com

There’s more to #givingTuesday than cash!

By | 2018-04-07T23:21:52-04:00 December 1st, 2015|anxiety, anxiety disorder, anxiety relief, brotherhood, brothers, charity, childhood, children, donation, education, family, friends, friendship, gift, gifts, gratitude, holiday, inspiration, Life, motherhood, motivation, parenthood, parenting, strangers, stress, stress relief, totems|

First, there was Black Friday, then Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday, and now, Giving Tuesday. All of these “days” are centered around money. Black Friday has everything on super sale after Thanksgiving, so you’re encouraged to buy, buy, buy. Small Business Saturday is all about supporting small businesses (duh), so buy, buy, buy! Cyber Monday means you can sit in your PJ’s and what else? Buy, buy, buy! Now we come to Giving Tuesday, which encourages you to take any money you might have leftover and donate, donate, donate. It’s a grand idea and there are countless worthy organizations that need support by way of donations. I know I have several that I support year-round, but there may be a new one or two that I help out this year. (If you’re looking for some ideas, shoot me an email at julie@totemtamers.com, and I’ll happily share some needy organizations with you!) Over the last couple days though, something occurred to me, there is plenty of giving that doesn’t actually require spending! You can certainly give time, like my family did on Thanksgiving when we served dinner at a homeless shelter run by The Doe Fund.

Aren't hairnets awesome?

Aren’t hairnets awesome?

Giving can be as simple as a smile to a neighbor, or an extra hug to your kids. I had a birthday over the weekend and so many people gave me time and well wishes that it moved me to tears. Giving feels good and it works in both directions! The giver and the receiver end up rewarded, and there’s no better gift than that! So, if you have some spare change and/or a cause near and dear, go ahead and make a donation. If you don’t have money to spare, that’s ok, because you definitely have spirit and good will in abundance, and that’s free! Use it! I think you’re awesome and you will too, when you give.

Stay well.