Be proud of who you are, always!
love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love
It’s been less than a week since the news of Anthony Bourdain’s suicide. Even writing that doesn’t help it sink in any deeper, part of it is self-protection, because like so many people I just don’t want it to be true. Part of it is because it is so fraught with emotions that it’s truly difficult to process. I can’t even seem to get past what to call him! Let me back up a little and give you the short history.
I’m fortunate to be connected to the Harm Reduction Coalition, an organization that at it’s core seeks to help reduce the harm for drug users and the communities impacted by drug use. That includes overdose prevention, eradicating stigma, reducing HIV and HCV viruses, and so much more. In these efforts, we try not to just “preach to the choir”, but to actually encourage dialogue with those who think they are on the periphery on substance use issues. With the opioid epidemic taking hold, those on the periphery may sadly find themselves smack in the middle at one point or another. We wanted to hold a fundraiser, we wanted to bring in new people that maybe wouldn’t know about Naloxone (the opioid antagonist) or wouldn’t actually hop over to the pharmacy to get Naloxone (blame that damn stigma.) In that vein (see what I did there), we knew we needed to offer more than just the convenience of an overdose prevention kit for a fundraiser, we needed to offer magic! That magic took shape in the lanky 6 foot 4 frame of Anthony Bourdain. See, he represented everyone, he was a former heroin user who knew what it was like to “itch”, he knew what it was like to struggle and work your ass off, and he was now knowing true success. Everyone loved Chef, and he would be perfect! As I will often do, I piped up and said “We can get him.” Everyone thought I was nuts, I’m sure they still do, but son-of-a-bitch if a couple months later we weren’t standing in the lounge at Cafe Tallulah listening to this magic man preach to the choir, new and old!
Mr. Bourdain was awesome at the event. He hung out for an hour and chatted with anyone who was brave enough to approach him. And when he spoke to the crowd, he had our message loud and clear, and trust me, we did not even attempt to coach or ask what he had planned to say, we knew he got it. He signed cookbooks, had a few beers, and when it started to get a little much, he politely headed out the door in to the streets of New York City. That was the last time I saw Tony, and I never would have imagined that 7 months later I would be writing this with the realization that I would never see him again. And you know I was planning a second annual Harm Reduction Happy Hour!
I followed Tony on social media, marveling at his travels, his food choices, his girlfriend, and he seemed like he was doing ok, like he was treading water just fine. You just never know when the cement shoes of depression will finally pull you under for the last time. Yeah, I’m angry. Yeah, I’m asking the same damned questions everyone is asking. How could he do this? How could he leave his daughter? How could someone who was doing so much good for so many people be so unhappy? He was in love, he was in great shape, he was traveling, he was wealthy. I could go on and on, but the truth is, we can never know what demons invaded his brain, and we will never know. I have been thinking about a friend who took his life a few years ago and even though I knew how much pain he was in, it was still hard to understand. I guess I should be grateful that I don’t know that pain. Anthony Bourdain’s passing has hit many people hard and there are still pieces being written and posted today, his impact is incredible and his loss profound.
Plenty of people have assumed his suicide was related to substance use, “he wasn’t really in recovery, he drank all the time”, “well he was an addict”, “he probably started using again and felt guilty”. You name it, people have been saying it and if they aren’t saying it they are thinking it. Recovery isn’t one size fits all, and it can’t be if we want to actually help people. Look, abstinence may be the right size for you depending on your history. Someone else, like Tony, could drink and not slip back in to heroin use. Some are blaming his girlfriend, that she must have broken up with him or cheated on him or whatever. This was not anyone’s fault, this was Tony’s decision and his decision alone.
The bottom line is mental health, taking care of quieting the demons when they start to pull you under, reaching out and checking in on your loved ones who you know have the tendency to go dark at times, doing whatever you can to stay here, where you can love and be loved. The most beautiful part that became known through this remarkable man’s death, and yes I can find beauty, is the countless messages and phone calls I received the day we learned Chef had passed. So many people checking in on me to make sure I was ok, and asking if I needed anything, wanting to connect because they were feeling the sadness, too. I didn’t know Anthony Bourdain, Mr. Bourdain, Tony, Chef, I don’t know if anyone really ever knew him, but for one night in my life he was a friend, an advocate, a champion, and the rock star we all imagined he would be, and I will always be grateful for that. I have been hearing a line from a song from the musical Next to Normal in my head these last few days that I think is important for everyone to have in the back of your head: “You don’t have to be happy at all, to be happy you’re alive.”
Photos courtesy of and protected by Javier Dominguez
Happy Valentine’s Day!! Or #galentinesday, which I hadn’t ever heard of until people started posting about it, and I guess it shows that I never watched the whole television series “Parks and Recreation”. Either way, it’s a fun concept and I’m all about it, but that’s not what inspired me to write today.
What inspired me was a heart, not anyone’s heart, but someone’s heart that ended up discarded on the sidewalk near my house. Now before you get all creeped out, it’s not an actual heart! Sheesh you guys are morbid! Here’s the heart:
I initially walked right by it and then I knew I needed a picture of this green sidewalk heart. Then it got me thinking, why is red the color associated with love? Is it because when we feel love our blood gets pumping? Is it because when we feel love, we feel it in our hearts which are essentially red? I continued to ponder how the color red actually has a lot of negative emotions connected to it, like anger, rage, and danger. Here at Totem Tamers, red is the first step in our visualization process when you’re trying to stave off or recover from an anxiety attack. Red is typically not where someone wants to be, so why then do we associate the color red with something that is supposed to be a good thing? Red on a stop sign, red on a traffic light, that tells you to hold up, back off, stand still, but green, green means go for it, proceed, pass go! That’s what I got when I passed this green sidewalk heart. That my heart is not red, my heart is green and wide open, ready to receive and give love to all who cross my path. So from now on, I will wear green on Valentine’s Day, not red! It’s a revolution I tell you!
Show me your heart is open, show me your green heart, and I’ll show you mine.
What better gift to give than the gift of calm with Totem Tamers!? Totem Tamers is truly honored to be featured on the holiday gift giving guide by fashion maven, Stacy Igel! Igel’s blog provides insight in to the world of fashion and all things fabulous, but also a peek in to her journey creating her brand Boy Meets Girl, and more! Be sure to click on the link to see what Stacy has to say, and check out the clothing and accessories line! Here are some mugs I just had to have!
And if you’re looking for a last minute stocking stuffer, Totems make the perfect gift!
Have a safe and wonderful holiday season!
I hope that whoever you are, whoever you want to be, whoever you want to love and be loved by, that you have the strength and the courage and the support to do just that. At Totem Tamers, we send you all that love and strength and courage, and we see you for all that you are, and all you deserve to be! Keep a Totem in your pocket for any time you feel anxious, and be reminded that you are beautiful and worth it!
I have ended up in tears more than once today. Started as shock and anger this morning when I woke to the news of what happened in Las Vegas. After making sure my loved ones who live there were ok, I had to start my day of waking up the kids, making lunches and walking the dog. I told the kids what happened. I had to. Mostly because I knew they would likely hear about it in school so I didn’t want the to be surprised by the news from anyone other than me. I was very matter of fact, with the little facts that had come in at that point, but it was still hard to do. We have had conversations about gun violence, and gun control recently, because family friends of ours had written and produced an incredible play about this subject, https://www.churchandstatetheplay.com. We all went to see the play and were all moved to tears, because it was all too real. I wrote it about it back then: https://totemtamers.com/heres-one-case-for-no-separation-of-church-state/
And sadly, here we are again. The death toll from the domestic terrorist incident that happened yesterday, which is now the worst mass shooting in US history, keeps climbing. The fear that these people felt last night, will never be erased from their minds. A childhood friend was on the strip last night, and reading his status updates was terrifying, even though I knew he was ok. THIS IS NOT OK!!! None of it. It’s not about your right to own and carry guns, it’s about protecting our fellow humans, and clearly we can’t seem to do that! No civilian should EVER have an automatic weapon. Period. I’m getting angry again, we should all be angry, we should all be doing something to make sure this never happens again.
And while my heart races, and blood pressure rises, and my teeth are clenched together, I hear music in the other room. The piano. My middle boy, the guitar player, is sitting at the piano. I walked out to see and my eyes filled with tears, my throat choked up, because there, creating something that sounded so lovely, there was my son teaching himself chords and seemingly crafting beauty out of nothing. There is my hope. There has to be my hope. We have to make sure our children do not need to live in fear. We have to make sure our children have a country they respect and believe in. We have to make sure our children continue to create and to live and to love. What will you do to make sure?
I was in Vegas a few years ago (my cousins remind me regularly of just how long ago, love you guys), and I found some of the pictures from that visit. A beautiful city bathed in lights, and now we have to bathe them with our light and our love. Viva Las Vegas!
We’ve got attachment parenting, we’ve got authoritarian, authoritative, and permissive, but headphone parenting? That’s got to be the worst and saddest of em all! What is headphone parenting, you ask? On two separate occasions today, as I was taking my four-legged kid for a walk, I saw two parents engaging in what I’m dubbing headphone parenting. The first one was this morning, the sun was freshly warming my face and the sounds of the birds far outweighed the songs of sirens on my street. A cute little girl, maybe 2 or 3 years old at most, cuts through the chirping with her squirming grunts as she really wants out of her stroller. Dad and daughter are stopped on the sidewalk ahead of me. What’s the dad doing? He’s adjusting the headphones in his ears. Yes, both ears. The girl is clearly annoyed, probably because she’s being completely ignored!!!! My heart sank, because I remember the thousands of stroller walks I took with my three kids over the years, and all of the things we used to notice around us, and chat about, even in the gibberish neither of us could understand. Sadly, this trend of headphone parenting is something I’ve been noticing a lot lately, not just with parents, but with the caretakers charged with watching the kids in my neighborhood. More than once have I witnessed a babysitter, headphones stuffed in to each ear, loudly having a conversation with some unknown on the other end of the line. All the while the kid they are supposed to be taking care of sits in silence unnoticed, yet listening to you as you bitch and complain about her parents who asked you to stay late tonight, or your boyfriend who didn’t bring you flowers again, or any other piece of nonsense that you go on and on about, instead of paying attention to the kid, which by the way is what you’re getting paid to do! It’s beyond frustrating to say the least. And I think today, if I was hiring a sitter to take care of my baby, I would insist that headphones not be used and that personal calls are only to be taken in the case of an emergency or at least when the child is napping, and still not with headphones!
Anyway, second walk of the day, and here comes another Dad, with baby strapped in to a harness. So cute, right? The kid had fallen asleep, so it didn’t annoy me as much that the Dad was fully plugged in to both ears, but when you think about how his senses are now diminished because he can’t hear if someone comes up behind him on a bike, skateboard, scooter or whatever, it’s actually kind of scary! When I’m walking, and I’m listening to music or one of several podcasts I enjoy, I almost always have one ear in and one ear out. I want to be as aware of my surroundings as possible, and I’m just looking out for me in those instances. When I’m with my kids, guess what? NO FREAKING HEADPHONES!!! Even if we aren’t talking, or even if they aren’t talking to me (yes, that happens), I give them my attention as best I can!! Oh, and you know what else? They aren’t wearing headphones when we are out and about together, either!
Please don’t tune out your kids, especially at a young age when they need and crave interaction. Yes, I know it can be tedious at times to always point out the doggy coming up the block, or the helicopter flying over head, but it counts, it counts for a lot.
Ok my rant is over for now, but do yourself a favor, if you have kids, check in with them so they know you’re listening, even if they aren’t saying a word!
No, we aren’t selling anxiety, silly! But we are selling Totems that will help with any anxiety you or your kids might be experiencing as they go back to school. You might be saying “Hey, we’ve been back to school for almost a month, you’re a little late!” Well, all kids are different, and I learned this with my own, especially around back to school time. First day, usually a breeze. First week, pretty much unscathed. Second week, the “I don’t want to go to school dance” begins. My kids, all of them, would be fine for the first couple weeks, and then the s*%t would hit the fan. Sometimes it’s the excitement of a new beginning that helps hide the anxiety that kids might be feeling. Sometimes it’s the realization that this is the new normal that kicks the anxiety in to high gear. Either way, Totem Tamers can help. Anxiety typically leaves people overwhelmed and feeling out of control and powerless, more so for children, who struggle verbalizing these feelings. So, we want to make it easier for you and/or your kids, or anyone you know that might benefit from some simple coping techniques, and we are putting our Totems on sale!
Visit our shop at www.totemtamers.com/shop and choose from Owl, Bear, Shark, or Bulldog and empower yourself to find calm when you need it most. Every Totem comes with a super soft microfiber bag (which doubles as an eyeglass lens cleaner), a handy guide card that gives you simple steps on regaining calm, and a beautiful, weighted Totem that feels great in your hand and not too bulky in your pocket! We have an incredibly illustrated booklet available as well, that can be really helpful for children, who might benefit from visuals when trying to explain how they feel. And, if you’re feeling super generous, we can even add a gorgeous natural wood box if you want to give a Totem as a gift! Get on the road to calm, and get your Totem today!
My kids stash Totems in their backpacks, because knowing it’s there is sometimes all they need to know when they’re feeling anxious.
I was fortunate enough to be in Central Park last night with a lovely group of people. We were celebrating a friend’s birthday and the unofficial end of summer. We were laughing, we were eating, there might have been contraband beverages of several varieties, ahem, but we were enjoying each other and the beautiful night. As the sky darkened and we packed up our picnic, one by one, everyone’s eyes turned to the sky. There they were. The beams of light marking the place in the sky where the Twin Towers once stood. There was a momentary silence as we all realized what the lights were for, then realized we were on the eve of a horrific date that will forever be remembered. And then, with much gratitude, the kids starting running around, the crickets started chirping, someone might have spilled said contraband beverage (it might have been me), and the earth kept turning. In no way can the events of September 11, 2001 ever be minimized, but last night, the world was still going, and in that going, I find comfort. The lives lost, the heroes who are still impacted today by the illnesses related to Ground Zero, all of it, it’s unfathomable, but we have to go on, and we do, with the blessings of memories both old and new.
As a former Floridian, my concerns are with all my friends who stayed in their homes to ride out Hurricane Irma, and with those who have fled for safety. I have been watching the coverage nonstop, which is probably not the best idea, as my own anxiety ratchets up. I can only imagine what the folks hunkered down must be experiencing!
Totem Tamers was created to help people through incredibly overwhelming situations, and being in a shelter, or in your home without power, while hurricane force winds and storm surge are lapping at your door, is just one of those situations. When I explain to people the simple concept behind the Totem Tamers technique, it sounds like this: When you’re feeling anxious, see the color Red. Take a deep breath and see the color Green. Exhale and see the color Blue. These basic steps will help you either maintain or regain calm. The deep breathing and visualization is vital to keeping calm, and as you take your deep breaths, breathe in and out through your nose, as breathing in and out through your mouth may actually signal to your nervous system that you should be anxious. Here’s an image of the guide card we include in every Totem Tamer purchase, that helps you through the steps:
Be safe and calm!
Labor Day typically marks the end of summer and back to school for most, but we shouldn’t forget its real meaning!
“Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.”
According to that definition, I think Labor Day is a perfect reason to celebrate anyone in America that works, has worked and eventually will work!!! So Happy Labor Day everyone!
Here are the Totems hard at work today, honoring our country and it’s rich history of labor and the progress that’s marked by all that we have become and continue to become.
I must confess that it has been difficult to write in the last couple months because of the instability, unrest, fear, ugliness, uncertainty and more, that has been plaguing our great nation. Some might say “that’s the perfect time to write”, while others will say “I totally get it.” I simply continued to remind myself, that I tend to write when the story comes to me, and thankfully today it has. It’s not the story I intended to write about, but sometimes those are the ones that need telling.
I had pulled up to the dorm at Carnegie Mellon University, where my oldest son had just finished a Pre-college Drama program. Everyone had to be packed and out by 2pm, because the incoming students would be arriving shortly. I’m blissful in my “mommy-van” because my baby is coming home. There are lots of happy parents and families milling about, weepy teenagers sad to be leaving their newly made friends and surely sad to be giving up some newly found independence while they are whisked back in to the bosom of their family. A car pulls up behind me on the steep driveway of the dorm, it’s a mom and daughter, picking up a family member, too. I hop out to make sure there’s enough clearance for the trunk to open, and I immediately notice what looks like a big butterfly accessory pinned to the grill of this woman’s car. My first reaction is “Oh wow, another person who loves butterflies, and so much so that she didn’t hesitate pinning one to the front of her vehicle, right near the not-quite-peace-sign looking emblem announcing the make of her car!”
I quickly realized it wasn’t an accessory, but an actual butterfly that had gotten caught on the grill at some point during her drive. I walked over to the woman behind the wheel and motioned for her to open her window. With a smile, I told her that the most beautiful butterfly had gotten caught on the front of her car and that I wanted to take a picture of it before I tried to move it. I wasn’t asking permission, but just wanted to make sure she knew what I was doing, but also because I wanted to share my wonder of this creature. At this point, it occurred to me that this was not in fact another butterfly lover, this was a person who could care less about the beauty and delicate nature of such a creature pinned to her fancy schmancy car. You know how I know this? If someone came up to my car window and told me there was a butterfly stuck to my vehicle, I would have jumped out to see it and to see if I could help the butterfly. This woman seemed more annoyed than anything. I proceeded to take the picture of the butterfly and promptly walked right back to her window and made her look at it, then I told her I was going to try and remove it. Her reaction was formulaic with a “how sad” kind of awwww, and then a tacit approval of my wanting to save the insect.
I wasn’t sure if the butterfly was still alive frankly, but even if it wasn’t, this person didn’t deserve to have such beauty on her vehicle. I gently managed to pry the insect off the car, and moved it to some foliage nearby.
I waited. I watched. At first I thought it was the breeze causing the butterfly’s wings to flutter, but after a moment, it was clear this butterfly was still alive and now safe.
So many different morals I could pull from this event, that lasted all of five minutes mind you, but will surely stay with me for a long time to come. I guess the supremely important lesson, and yes, I use supremely intentionally, is that it is up to us to keep watch for those who are oppressed, and in need of protection and care, and not only must we stand up for those creatures and stand with them, we must make sure that their oppressors are forced to look and see the object of their hate and ignorance. It may not impact their hateful views, but it will at least let them know that we are not afraid and we will not back down.
Hug your loved ones today, and hey, maybe even a stranger (ask permission first, of course.)
When I first became a mom, I had lots of ideas about the kind of parent I would be. Organic food was just taking hold, and I was going to make my baby food from scratch! Nothing processed. That was my goal at least. What ended up happening was a combination of prepared and homemade food, and my kid is now 6 feet tall, so I think it was a good mix. Hey, at least I tried!
I was also going to be the kind of mom who didn’t resort to “the magic box” of screens to babysit my kid while I was eating bon-bon’s on the couch! That was my goal at least. Until at two months old, I noticed something wasn’t right with my baby and he couldn’t quite turn his head to the left. An MRI and diagnosis later (torticollis), the only thing that helped exercise my son’s neck and essentially repair this condition, was that darn magic box. My kid is now on his way to a very respected pre-college program, so I think it wasn’t too damaging. Hey, at least I tried!
My 17-year-old and I are heading out on a 6 hour drive to the pre-college I just mentioned. I can’t help but remember when I went to pre-college, ahem, just a few years ago, ahem. It was the summer before senior year in high school, and I wanted, no, I needed to get out of my house, and fortunately for me, Syracuse University still had a couple spots left for their summer program. Next thing I know, I’m on a plane with a duffle bag and my sheer will. The summer at SU changed the trajectory of my life, for all intents and purposes. It was a great summer, and I met some really incredible people and ended up going to, and graduating from Syracuse University. Go Orange!! I can’t help but wonder how my son’s experience this summer at Carnegie Mellon, will shape his future. I am beyond excited for him, and I can’t help but relive the feeling of walking around a college campus for the first time on my own, and how freeing it felt. Then of course, I imagine my son enjoying that same feeling and my eyes fill with tears. My baby is growing up, and the internal wrestling I’m experiencing between the recognition of how much time has passed for me, and how much more time my children have in front of them, is like a steel-cage match between Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant! I’m already exhausted and we haven’t even left yet.
I’m going to be the kind of mom that helps my son unpack his bags and makes sure his clothes are put away. I’ll be the kind of mom that takes care of renting the fridge for the room while giving the speech about cleanliness and not attracting bugs. I’ll be the kind of mom that buys the school sweatshirt because I am damn proud of my son. I’ll also be the kind of mom who won’t cry until she’s well out of sight of her boy. Hey, I’ll at least try.
It’s quiet in my house today, because the kids are with their Dad, at his house. I sent a text wishing a Happy Father’s Day and promptly asked how the little one was doing because he was diagnosed with strep throat yesterday. “Thanks and all good”, was the reply. I’m grateful that even though we are divorced, my children have a Dad who is involved and present and affectionate, and firm with just the right amount of scary. Then I started thinking about my father, who I didn’t see after the age of 11 and he died when I was 13. I miss him, I guess, but I don’t really remember much. I was young, my folks were divorced, and I didn’t spend that much time with him overall. I think I miss the idea of him. Sad. I like to think I inherited his sense of humor and his ability to tell a joke, and he could always captivate with his story-telling abilities. Maybe I got some of that too, but clearly I didn’t inherit any humility. (See? A joke!) I have one wallet-sized photo of my Dad, that’s it. It sits on a shelf next to an ashtray from a family restaurant that bore my last name (a recent gift from a friend, found at a flea market!)
It’s interesting because there are people around who still remember my Dad’s restaurant. A dear friend and I have retold the story several times, of the moment her mom realized that my Dad, was Dan Stampler, from The Steak Joint. She held herself and started to tear up at remembering how her late brother loved the restaurant and went for dinner almost weekly. My friend’s mom later introduced me to another couple, well in to their 70’s, who shared with me that their first date was at my father’s place. “How lovely,” I told them, fighting the melancholy at not having known my Dad when he was in his prime. I’m grateful that even though I have limited memories of my father, that there are many whose memories are punctuated by his presence. Oh, and I do love a good steak!
I’m also grateful that for the last 20 years, my stepdad acted much like a father to me. I used to tell him that he yelled at me just like a father would, he would smile, and then yell “No!” He’s gone now too, and that makes me sad, but thankful for the many memories I have, and that every day his contributions to society punctuate someone else’s memories. And then of course, there’s my mom, who had to be father and mother for most of my childhood. I am grateful for that and her, as well. So I sit in my quiet house, grateful, a bit melancholy, but still able to giggle as I remember a joke my dad used to tell about a “Foo-Foo bird worth a miiiillllion dollars!” If you’re lucky, I’ll tell it to you one day.
So, Happy Father’s Day to all the Dad’s out there, and the Moms who act like father’s sometimes, too!
Didn’t get Dad a gift yet? You can always get him a Totem!! Click on any of the four Totems to your left and order one today!