Where is my sun?

By | 2018-04-07T23:19:26+00:00 July 8th, 2016|anxiety, anxiety disorder, anxiety relief, civil rights, Creative, creativity, death, depression, gun violence, inspiration, Liberty, Life, loss, love, mental health, mind/body, poetry, racism, sadness|

darkness and the sun

Looking for my sun….

 

Where is my sun?

Woke up and it was gone

Clouded by a rain of ammo and tears

Shrouded by sadness and awash in fears

 

Darkness is here but not the dark of night

it is the dark that suffocates the power of light

I am searching in vain to understand what’s become

to understand why I can’t see my sun

 

I am not wise to how this all started

I only know I am broken hearted

my brothers and sisters demanding justice be done

all of us waiting for the light of the sun

 

The list is too long of those we have lost

we claim we want freedom but look at the cost

Two sides against each other but no one has won

as we stand in the dark longing for the sun

 

There can be no more death, no more blood spatter

and yes it is clear that all lives matter

now more than ever we have to stand as one

now more than ever we need the light of the sun

 

Where is my sun?

Woke up and it was gone

clouded by a rain of ammo and tears

shrouded by sadness and awash in fears

 

As I wait for the chance to feel the warmth again

I choose to shine my love on others from within

My right to bear my arms that I use to hug all and one

my right to laugh and smile and be my own sun.

 

Stay well.

T(each) his own!

By | 2018-04-07T23:21:42+00:00 April 15th, 2016|addiction, anger management, animals, anxiety, anxiety disorder, anxiety relief, brotherhood, brothers, bulldogs, childhood, children, creativity, death, drug use, drugs, education, family, harm reduction, health, heroin, Life, loss, mental health, mind/body, motherhood, overdose, overdose prevention, parenthood, parenting, prevention, school, sharing, stress, stress relief|

I am fortunate that I get to pick up my youngest kid from school most days. I love the look on his face when he sees me, it’s like an instant heart-warmer. I am also grateful that I can connect with other parents and check in with his teacher when necessary. There are those moments though, that I have to hold my breath. You know the ones I mean, when your child comes up to you and says “Mom, the teacher needs to see you.” Breathe. I always ask my children, and I highly recommend this technique for you, what they think the teacher might want to talk to me about. Sometimes they know, and they tell me right away, and other times, they don’t. Either way it helps me determine potential guilt or innocence. Yesterday afternoon, my sweet boy greets me at pickup and tells me the teacher needs to talk to me. I ask my question, and he has no clue why she wants to talk to me, and I believe him. Finally, most of the kids get dismissed and I approach the teacher. She’s magical by the way and engages children like I have never seen. A smile crosses her face as she sees me, but I can tell that it’s a heavy smile, like we are definitely going to talk about something of substance related to my child. She tells me she wanted to give me a heads up about the stuff my son is working on in class for their poetry unit. Immediate relief washes over me, because I actually already know what my son is working on because he told me. He’s writing poetry about addiction, substance use, overdose, overdose prevention, and family. My son is 9. I smile back at the teacher because I realize that she’s likely telling me because the poetry books will be revealed to all at an upcoming publishing party for the class that includes parents. I reassure her that this subject matter is regular conversation in my house, and that if she had any questions or need for clarification I would be happy to oblige. I did have a moment where I was concerned that it might be too much for the other kids and their parents, but that concern quickly turned into gumption and hope that my son being this open will spur his friends to ask questions and maybe even their parents to ask questions. It’s all about the conversation, and that my 9 year old is talking about Naloxone, “a life saving drug that his grampa made to help people who use drugs”, is miraculous. It’s also heartbreaking.

poetry and lyrics

My kid asked me for a journal the other day which is how I know about the poetry unit in class. He’s calling it a lyric book. He wrote his first poem and it’s called “Quit”. There’s a line in it about my brother who died of a heroin overdose a few years before my son was born. He refers to my brother as “the uncle he never had.” He also uses my regular statement of my brother’s death hopefully saving him from the same fate. I told him how beautiful the poem was and thanked him for sharing it with me. He seemed proud of himself and was eager to write more. This is how I know how important these conversations are with my kids, and how important it is to keep the lines of communication open. I am grateful that my son’s teacher didn’t freak out and didn’t tell him that he couldn’t write about this topic, instead she marveled at his depth and encouraged him along, and let me know what I can expect at the upcoming publishing party. I’m not too worried, I’m pretty good in a crowd, and who knows, maybe I’ll bring my overdose prevention kit for show and tell!

Stay well.

If you have questions, Harm Reduction Coalition and Drug Policy Alliance are wonderful resources. Feel free to email me, too: julie@totemtamers.com!

#NationalNappingDay

By | 2018-04-07T23:21:44+00:00 March 14th, 2016|bears, brothers, bulldogs, childhood, children, creativity, dogs, Life, sleep, Uncategorized|

Not writing much because I haven’t officially celebrated this most perfect day yet, and my best napping partners await!!

Napping boy and dog

 

With Daylight Savings time in full effect, a nap may be just what the interweb ordered! I will frequently announce that I’m taking a “disco nap” which means under a half hour for me, and just enough of a boost to get me to the disco (more likely the kitchen to make dinner, but you get the point!) Apparently reducing blood pressure, enhancing productivity and reducing stress happen to be bonuses to taking a nap, not that I need anymore motivation but at least this gives it purpose.

So what are you waiting for? Take a nap!!!

Stay well.

Totems are great napping partners, too. If you don’t have one, get one!! Just head over to our store, link at the top!

 

Inspiration from animation!!

By | 2018-04-07T23:21:46+00:00 February 9th, 2016|acting, animals, anxiety, anxiety disorder, anxiety relief, bears, bulldogs, children, creativity, Dreams, friends, friendship, gratitude, inspiration, Kung Fu, Owls, Panda Bear, parenthood, sharks, stress, stress relief, totems, Uncategorized|

The kids had a day off yesterday in celebration of the Chinese New Year, so we did what most of our neighbors did, and we took in a movie. Kung Fu Panda 3! Even my 16-yr-old woke up to go because he had been wanting to see it, so you know that means it was a big deal. What I didn’t expect, was getting blasted with a burst of inspiration within the first 15 minutes of the film, that was a bonus to the popcorn. If you don’t know anything about this trilogy, I will sum it up for you fairly easily, a panda with little self-esteem becomes the Dragon Warrior, the fiercest fighter in the realm. The panda, Po, struggles to believe that he is meant to be the Dragon Warrior, but through perseverance, training, and support from his friends and his master (beautifully portrayed by Dustin Hoffman), Po finds his way. This struggle is a theme throughout each film, and you can’t help but cheer for Po and the process undergoes to come out on top. It’s a kid flick, so I’m not ruining it for you when I tell you there’s a happy ending, always, but it doesn’t come without it’s drama and challenges. The drama and challenges were present bright and early in the third installment to this film series. A villain, the scariest of all villains, is coming for Po, and once again, Po is convinced that he can’t win, let alone even fight the villain. This is where the wise Master Shifu delivers the line that had me buzzing through the entire film. As Po continues to say he can’t, Master Shifu advises “If you only do what you can, then you will only ever be who you are now.” Wait….what? I repeated it to myself again, “If you only do what you can, then you will only ever be who you are now.” I interpreted this as, if we don’t try new things, then we will never grow as people, we will just stay the same. Even though sometimes staying the same is ok, don’t you want to be more than just the same? I do!! I have lots of ideas, and dreams, and hopes, but I am an expert at placing obstacles in front of me, so those ideas, dreams and hopes never get realized. Well, I’m writing this out in a public forum to let you know that I am going to make every effort to do something I currently can’t (or won’t, haven’t, am in fear of, etc.) and create a new level of me! I’m not sure what it will be since I have so many desires, but in a way, that just makes it easier for me to keep trying. Who will join me? Let’s keep doing what we can, but then lets also do whatever we can to try and do something we can’t!

totems and panda

Kung Fu Totems!

Stay well.

If you don’t have a Totem yet, make sure to visit our store and get yours today!

 

Just call me “blockhead”!

By | 2018-04-07T23:21:46+00:00 February 3rd, 2016|anxiety, anxiety disorder, anxiety relief, art, artists, Creative, creativity, Design, inspiration, Life, mental health, politics, sharing, stories, story, storytelling, stress, stress relief, totems, Uncategorized|

There it is, mocking me once again, that blank page. I swear it’s even laughing at me, through text shorthand of course, you know, the “Lol’s” and the “LMFAO’s”. I can’t write! I’ve wanted to, I’ve even contemplated some topics, more than once, and when it comes down to it, I just can’t seem to frame enough to get it on the page. Oh, there’s been plenty to talk about for sure, from parenting frustrations, to societal wins, to politics….wait a minute, no politics. Please! Regardless, I’m never the one that people refer to as “quiet”, or “lacking opinion”, or “subtle” for that matter, I’ve always got something to say, except for those moments when I can’t seem to say a freaking thing! Then it hit me, that’s what I have to write about! I am struggling with writing. I remember when my therapist/guru/kirtan leader, who I refer to as “Chai-ma” (she makes amazing chai), suggested a book called The Artist’s Way. I dutifully went out and got the book, because Chai-ma has never steered me wrong (thank you again for “Outlander“). I still haven’t gotten through The Artist’s Way, but that has nothing to do with the book and more to do with me and my incredible gift of placing obstacles in front of my personal growth and progress, but I did manage to get through a very important part of the book! The part that suggests you write every day, no matter what, even if you have nothing to write about. It’s an important, although difficult exercise, because you have to flex the muscles even when they may not be working properly. I needed that reminder today. Therefore, you’ll have to forgive this Seinfeldian post (a post about nothing, get it?) while I work through my block and get back to the regularly scheduled program where I hope to enlighten, inspire, motivate, and who knows, maybe even surprise! I recommend getting The Artist’s Way, even if just to serve as a coaster for the time being, because at some point, you (me) may pick it up and actually take advantage of the suggestions within to help feed the creative soul that we all have to nurture. For now, the Totems are doing their part, and nudging me that I have to do mine.

Artists and Totems

I would certainly appreciate hearing from the lot of you creative types out there, and I know you’re out there! What tricks, tips, suggestions, might you impart to someone experiencing “blockhead” syndrome? TIA!

Stay well.

Thankfully my Totems help keep me calm (even if they don’t help keep me from judging myself), I’m sure they could help you, too! Get one today!

Gratitude before my eyes.

By | 2018-04-07T23:21:50+00:00 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.

The day the music died…..again.

By | 2018-04-07T23:21:51+00:00 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

Small Business Saturday!

By | 2018-04-07T23:21:52+00:00 November 28th, 2015|accessories, animals, anxiety, anxiety disorder, anxiety relief, bears, birds of prey, bulldogs, children, creativity, dogs, friendship, gift, gifts, holiday, labor, Life, mental health, mind/body, Owls, parenting, shopping, stress, stress relief, totems|

Shop a small business like Totem Tamers!

Shop a small business like Totem Tamers!

Today is Small Business Saturday, where you are encouraged to shop at small businesses because they are the foundation of our society! Small business.com is a website that has tons of resources available for anyone who wants to start a business, or who has already started a business and needs support. A small business is exactly how Totem Tamers identifies! Do you know how we got started?  It’s a simple story really, my middle son was experiencing anxiety attacks, and I was struggling with how to help him. I reconnected with my friend (and now business partner) Daniel, who was suffering panic attacks. In the span of a couple emails, Daniel and I realized we wanted, no, we needed to help others who were surely struggling with the same issues. With Daniel’s incredible artistry, and my words, Totem Tamers was created! Pocket-sized bronze animal totems, a beautifully illustrated guidebook, and simple steps that are accessible by all, and a small business is born. We can both attest to how Totems have helped our families, but we have also heard from many others who have been helped as well! Have a look at our original four Totems, and keep checking back as more Totems are added!

Totems

Shopping small businesses should happen every day, not just one day of the year, so shop wherever you see the Shop Small sign, and shop often!

Stay well.

Theater of the absurd.

By | 2018-04-07T23:21:54+00:00 November 18th, 2015|animals, anxiety, anxiety disorder, anxiety relief, artists, broadway, broadway musical, brotherhood, brothers, childhood, children, creativity, family, Life, lions, mental health, motherhood, musical theater, nyc, parenthood, parenting, stress, stress relief, Uncategorized|

IMG_4071 (1)

Cue lights. A hush falls over the audience. The first actor takes position on the stage and the first note is heard, crashing like a wave over all of us: “Ahhhhh-segon-ya babba-di sebabba” or whatever it is Rafiki calls out in the dramatic opening of The Lion King on Broadway. No matter, it’s beautiful, and the african jungle comes to life before your eyes in the middle of Times Square. The opening of the show still chokes me up because it’s so exquisite and masterful, and not many shows have an elephant move so gracefully through a theater. I’ve given you the show setting, now picture me sitting with my three boys, who, living in NYC, are lucky enough to experience the theater on a regular basis. My three boys understand that the actors spend hour upon hour rehearsing, and then hours putting their makeup on, that the least they can do is wear clean socks to a show! (I do try for the occasional collared shirt, too.) My kids have been going to theater since they were fairly young, and respect for the actors on stage was something instilled from their very first show. My two older ones have seen The Lion King before, and they were super excited for their younger brother to experience the magic. Back in the theater, gazelles are prancing across the stage, birds flying above, the elephant makes its way through the house, and it starts, “Where Simba?” “Is that Simba?” “Mommy! Mommy! Mommy! Where Simba?” These are not the sounds of animal calls deep in the african jungle, these are the sounds of the unrestrained 3 year old in row L, orchestra left. I took a deep breath and thought, he’s just excited, he can’t wait to see his pal Simba, he’ll calm down once the dialogue starts. Right? WRONG! When the little boy wasn’t talking, even trying to be quiet with what I will refer to as “whisper-screaming”, he was bouncing in his seat. That meant bouncing on the not one booster seat, but two booster seats that propped him up right in front of my kid (my boys switched seats so my youngest could see.) I am incredibly tolerant, and generally very patient, and I tried very hard to remind myself that theater, especially family theater, is a wonderful blessing to enjoy. I realized that getting angry and complaining wouldn’t help, because we were surrounded. There were chatty little kids everywhere!!!! Even the website for the show has an FAQ that reads:

Does my child need a ticket? Is there a minimum age requirement to attend the show?

All guests require a ticket, regardless of age. We recommend that children be at least six years old to attend a performance of THE LION KING.

For younger children, consider one of these exciting Disney touring productions: Disney On Ice or Disney Live.

Which is why I decided I would take to the internet with this simple theater primer for families.

  1. Do NOT bring children under 6 years old (probably even under 8 years old) to a Broadway show where other patrons have spent well in to the hundreds to escape into some other world, and not to be assaulted with your child’s pleas of “pee-pee”  and “soda”, “Now, MOMMY!”
  2. If you do bring a child, make sure that they are prepared to sit for an hour and a half at a clip without making any noise, other than the appreciative clapping after every number. Maybe even a respectful hoot and holler.
  3. If your child normally goes to bed at 7pm, for goodness sakes, DON’T bring them to an 8pm show and expect them to behave!
  4. Consider buying a less expensive seat, perhaps in the mezzanine, so that if your child is struggling to sit still (and it’s a struggle for most under 8), you won’t feel terrible having to leave midway through the show, out of respect for everyone else in the theater!
  5. Start with shorter theater experiences. New Victory Theater has great children’s programming and is perfect introduction to the wonder of acting.
  6. Be respectful of others around you, and hey, even apologize for what you know is distracting and detracting from the experience.

I could go on and on with rules and such, but I won’t. I will add the suggestion that family shows should consider offering those with youngsters a special section, so that other theater goers can choose their seats accordingly. FAR, FAR, AWAY! Hey, aren’t matinees tailor-made for the family set?

Stay well.

Start now! @kateneckel

By | 2018-04-07T23:21:59+00:00 August 13th, 2015|art, childhood, creativity, Life, parenting|

Great advice for all of us to follow?! “Start now” were words of motivation for Kate Neckel, someone I knew in high school, when she penned her newly released “creativity journal”! I had the pleasure of seeing her again after a bazillion years (that’s like a long time), at her book launch last night and I couldn’t be more excited for her and what she’s accomplished!

Bulldog checking out Kate's book!

Bulldog checking out Kate’s book!

The beauty of Kate Neckel’s art and book, is that it’s accessible and that seems to be just what Kate wants! In Kate’s words, “It’s not about turning into anything or perfecting something. It’s about being yourself and feeling free to draw on the walls or knock them down. Become who you are. Start now.” I love the part about drawing on the walls or knocking them down! As children, we are encouraged to stay within the lines when we draw, Kate’s book reminds us that the lines are only where we put them. I remember being called in to school years ago, to talk to my oldest son’s teacher because he wasn’t listening. The teacher gave the example of having asked the class to draw a vista that included a house or something like that. My son drew a house. It was a nice house. His grass however, wasn’t green and his sky was most definitely not blue. According to the teacher, this was incorrect. I simply asked “Why?” That conversation didn’t go well…for the teacher. I encourage my children to express themselves in a way that is authentic to their nature and not disrespectful or inappropriate to others. There’s room for creativity and there’s room for everyone’s voices to be heard. As Kate says “Embrace your truth…Be vulnerable.” Kate is vulnerable everywhere in her book as she inspires and motivates with her words and pictures. I am vulnerable every time I publish a post in this blog. That vulnerability feeds my creative, as I am sure it does Kate’s, and other artists. We all have it, and we owe it to ourselves to use it to motivate others. And we should all…Start now!

Thanks for the inspiration, Kate!

Thanks for the inspiration, Kate!

Stay well.

Totems can help inspire and motivate, and they certainly help you through tough situations, so get one today by clicking on any of the Totems on the page!

Great minds think alike! Thank you #WSJ and #NYU!

By | 2018-04-07T23:22:44+00:00 March 4th, 2015|creativity, Life, office, stress, stress relief, work|

Ok, so I’m showing a little ego here, but that’s only because when my business partner and I created Totem Tamers with the goal of helping people maintain focus and composure during difficult times, we knew we were on to something! We have seen that validation take shape in many ways, from the people who have purchased Totems and reported back how incredible they have been in helping them, to articles that show up in publications across the country. You know you’re doing something worthwhile when the Wall Street Journal publishes an article about a study from New York University, that focuses on handheld objects and their power to spark ideas and reduce anxiety!  Thanks to Sue Shellenbarger, for writing the article that focuses on research being conducted out of NYU’s Polytechnic School of Engineering, and how manipulating objects while at your work desk may help you “improve focus, ease stress and think more creatively”!

Totems always by my side, at work and always!

Totems always by my side, at work and always!

If you ever needed a reason to get a Totem, now you have it in black and white, or pixelated, or however you read your paper! Don’t take my word for it, trust the Wall Street Journal and NYU, and I guess you should read the article as well! If you want to stay focused, spark creativity and reduce your anxiety all with the help of a Totem, just click on any of the Totems on the side of the page and get yours today!

Stay well.