Tears for Las Vegas and somehow still hopeful for the future.

By | 2018-04-07T23:19:10-04:00 October 2nd, 2017|anxiety, anxiety disorder, anxiety relief, death, gun violence, hate crime, Life, loss, victim|

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!

Stay well.

Vegas in our hearts!

We Remember……

By | 2018-04-07T23:19:11-04:00 September 11th, 2017|anxiety, anxiety disorder, anxiety relief, central park, death, hate crime, inspiration, Liberty, Life, loss, nyc, victim|

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.

We remember.

Stay well.

There is only silence in the Soundgarden today.

By | 2018-04-07T23:19:13-04:00 May 18th, 2017|anxiety, anxiety disorder, anxiety relief, brotherhood, brothers, childhood, children, classic rock, death, depression, drug use, drugs, family, gratitude, grief, inspiration, Life, loss, mental health, mind/body, motherhood, Music, parenthood, parenting, rock and roll, rock n roll, sadness, stress, stress relief, suicide, suicide prevention|

I woke up this morning to the news that singer Chris Cornell had passed away last night. I was, and  continue to be, in total shock. Shock is one of those emotions that encompasses so many feelings, sadness, anger, surprise, confusion, and many others, that all get rolled in to one numbing category, shock. I immediately think of my kids, especially my two older ones, who rocked out with me at the Beacon Theater in 2015, to Chris and his magical voice. I am reminded of the moment Chris brought his daughter on stage to do a beautiful rendition of “Redemption Song” by Bob Marley.

“None but ourselves can free our minds.”

I remember loving that they could perform together, and I related to it because of moments I share with my children, when we are either at a concert together, or home singing and harmonizing with each other.  And now, now I would have to tell my kids that another musician, another rock star, another beautiful voice, has left us. I messaged their Dad because the boys were with him last night, and he decided that it would be best to let them get to school first, rather than upsetting them on their way to school. So I’ve been waiting for the texts that would inevitably come as they found out the news.

My oldest messaged first: “Chris Cornell, 52. I can’t believe it. I’m so angry.” Anger is good, anger is helpful and therapeutic, I still end up in tears because I know how affected he will be. I wait. My middle messages moments later in a group text to his brother, his Dad, and me: A link to the story followed by “This sucks so much. It’s sad.” I do my best to validate both of their feelings and share my own, and then I have to do the job of inspirational leader, which is not easy when you’re hurting, so best I can do is be honest. I write “I want to send you some positive, uplifting, inspirational text right now, but the only thing I can come up with is that I love you so very much and hope you will always be open and find strength in difficult moments and ask for help. Channel the anger and the sadness into creativity and hope. Easier said than done, but we go on.”

Always create together!

My boys, jamming together, creating together, making music together, being…together. They give me hope. They make sad news like this, shock like this, a little easier to manage, partly because I have to keep it together for them, but also because we have each other. I will hug them a little more tightly today, as we all process the passing of Chris Cornell, who impressed us with his vocal range, and his seeming ability to rise above. It’s not clear how he died, and I’m not sure that it really matters, I just find gratitude that he graced us for as long as he did and that he finds peace wherever he may be.

Stay well.

 

Here’s one case for NO separation of “Church & State”!

By | 2018-04-07T23:19:16-04:00 March 14th, 2017|activist, anxiety, anxiety disorder, anxiety relief, broadway, civil rights, Creative, creativity, death, donation, education, elections, family, grief, gun violence, hate crime, inspiration, Life, loss, mental health, motivation, nyc, politics, prayer, relationships, religion, sadness, school|

I don’t talk much about politics in this space, although if you have been a reader of this blog, you can pretty much gauge what side of the dais I would sit on. Don’t worry, this post isn’t going to be about politics….really, well, not really, but sort of, maybe a little bit. This post is going to be about theater, drama, comedy and friendship. I went to theater the other night with a group of friends, to see a play that was written and produced by friends, and it had equal parts comedy and drama. The play is called “Church & State”, and it’s in previews now at New World Stages. While I was watching the play, I was struck with imagery of a heated tennis match, because my emotions were being slammed across the net between laughter, anger, fear and sadness. In less than 90 minutes, I was moved to a point of paralysis. Yes, moved so emotionally, that I couldn’t move physically for a few minutes after it ended, because I was taking it all in and letting it wash over me. I was having varied experiences, mind you. I had just watched a play that someone I know wrote and someone I know produced, and it was good. I mean, not just like “Oh wasn’t that sweet” kinda good, I mean “Holy crap, that was impressive” kinda good. And, the content was just so relevant, and important, and crucial to the current state of affairs of our country and our communities, that I wanted to get up and holler that something needs to be done!!! So here is my holler, GO SEE THIS PLAY!

Powerful new play!

I can tell you that this play is about a lot of things including politics, but also faith, speaking your mind, marriage, community, and death. I can tell you that this play is already making an impact and it hasn’t even opened yet! Politicians and celebrities are not only coming to see it, but some will even be participating in panels throughout the run of the play to further conversation about the controversial subject matter. I guess I’m being a little vague on purpose here, because I want to protect the power of the play and if you go in knowing too much, it might color the way you receive it. Even thinking about the play now, I get choked up! Of course, you can click on the link above and learn a little more about it and what inspired it, or you can take a chance and see something that will undoubtedly leave you thinking, if not shaking just a little bit.

Off my soapbox!

Stay well.

 

Totem Tamers presents WARRIOR WEDNESDAY or Tears for Jacob.

By | 2018-04-07T23:19:21-04:00 October 4th, 2016|anxiety, anxiety disorder, anxiety relief, childhood, children, death, family, friends, friendship, gratitude, grief, gun violence, inspiration, Life, loss, love, mental health, mind/body, motherhood, parenthood, parenting, politics, prayer, sadness, school, teenager, teenagers, teens, victim|

This is not a political post about gun control or mental health treatment (lack thereof), this is not about our current election crisis, or the state of the union, this is a post about a little boy who dreamed of superheroes. This is a post about Jacob Hall.

Fly on Jacob....

Fly on Jacob….

This is about a smile that will now only live on in photos and the hearts of Jacob’s family and friends. This is about a life lost way too soon. 6-year-old Jacob was shot by a teenager last week in South Carolina, and succumbed to his wounds this weekend, you might have heard about the story. Jacob will be laid to rest today in the outfit of his favorite superhero, Batman. Even a replica of the Batmobile will accompany his procession.

Jacob’s parents, who are the WARRIOR’s we honor today, have encouraged mourners to show up in costumes, dressed as their favorite superheroes. Not only to honor Jacob, but in the hopes of not scaring the many children that will attend the funeral to bid  goodbye to the their lost friend.

This isn’t a post about propaganda and polling, this is a post about parents and children, about love and loss, and about making the most of the lives we are granted. I will keep my children close today with my invisible lasso and hope that my cape will keep them safe and all the while I will think of Jacob’s smile and his family’s tears and the unwitting WARRIORS they have become.

Stay well.

Where is my sun?

By | 2018-04-07T23:19:26-04:00 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.

When reality doesn’t feel real…

By | 2018-04-07T23:19:28-04:00 June 5th, 2016|addiction, anxiety, anxiety disorder, anxiety relief, brothers, childhood, children, death, drug use, drugs, family, harm reduction, health, heroin, loss, love, mental health, mind/body, overdose, overdose prevention, parenthood, parenting, prevention, sadness, sharing, siblings, story, storytelling|

My morning started off rather sweetly today. Sure I didn’t sleep well, sure I knew storms were predicted that were going to rain out a school fair I had hoped to attend with my Totems, but that wasn’t going to get me down. I did something I love to do this morning, I baked.

Healthy baking

Homebaked goodness.

That’s my zucchini oatmeal bread with a little twist of chocolate. You can see it’s a hit with my boys as half of one loaf was gone by midday. There’s something about mixing all those ingredients and having it come out into a delicious finished product that is deeply satisfying. The smell in the apartment doesn’t hurt either. I had already been emailing with a friend from the Harm Reduction Coalition about a very informal, and very hush-hush drug education conversation I am going to be having at one of my kids’ schools. Hush-hush because apparently the principal isn’t interested in keeping her student body safe, but that’s clearly for another blog post! In the midst of this emailing, my friend forwarded me a link to an article that is appearing this week in Newsweek magazine. She did this because I’m mentioned in the article, as is my mom, my stepdad, my brother, my stepbrother, her, the head of Drug Policy Alliance, and a young, incredibly aware and caring doctor in Miami, Dr. Hansel Tookes. This article is about my family and the course we have taken since my brother’s heroin overdose almost 13 years ago, and my stepfather’s ironic creation of the drug, naloxone, that could have saved my brother’s life. It’s bizarre to see your story in print, especially when it’s written by someone else, and their spin on it all. I have written about my story many times, just click on the blog page and search anything from overdose prevention, to harm reduction, to heroin, and you can find lots of stories I have written. It’s not the same when you see your own name in print in relation to an event that still makes your breath catch in your throat and your stomach drop out from under you. It’s not the same when someone is retelling the horror that you lived when you showed up at the hospital and witnessed your brother already in a coma because people he was using drugs with were too afraid to call 911 and instead dumped him on the hospital steps. It somehow feels like you’re reading someone else’s story. That’s exactly what my mom said when she called me sobbing this morning after reading the article. It’s a sadness for sure, but there’s also a sense of hope that comes along with it, which is bittersweet because it comes too late for my brother, but it’s not too late for so many others. That’s why so many people have shared the link to the article on Facebook, for example, because there’s power and courage in the telling of our story and there’s much work to be done, and many brave souls doing the work. My brother isn’t here and that’s devastating a lot of the time, but a sweetness happens when I show my mom a picture of one of my boys and she sees a resemblance that is sometimes too overwhelming for me to admit. Yes, my brother’s life ended many years ago, and sometimes it pisses me off that he’s not here for me as a brother should be, that he doesn’t get to enjoy my children and be their uncle as he should be, but I am doing my best to make sure his memory lives on in all that I do to prevent this tragedy from happening again and again, just as I should be.

brother, heroin, overdose

Jonathan in happy times

Stay well.

Ok, fine, let’s talk about the 400 pound gorilla in the room.

By | 2016-05-31T14:50:03-04:00 May 31st, 2016|animals, anxiety, anxiety disorder, anxiety relief, childhood, children, death, family, motherhood, parenthood, parenting|

It’s horrible, it’s sad, it’s tragic, it’s frustrating and angering, and so much more, but it happened, and all of us ranting and raving and searching for blame isn’t going to change what happened. I’m sure by this point, you know I’m talking about Harambe, the beautiful and massive gorilla that was killed the other day to protect a child who had managed to get into the gorilla exhibit. I mean really that’s the point isn’t it? A child’s life was in danger, regardless of how it came to pass, and the only way to protect that child was to kill the majestic beast that threatened (most likely innocently) the child’s life. Took me a couple days to watch the video, but I realized I had to because I needed to understand more of what happened. It only took me a minute to know that there was no other alternative in this situation. You can watch it here if you haven’t seen it, and I can tell you that I gasped several times even knowing how it ended.

There’s no way to tell what Harambe might have done to the child, and many people believe that the gorilla was simply protecting the child from all the uproar of the witnesses. The child did sustain some serious injuries, but is expected to be ok. The child’s parents on the other hand, have to deal with this horror from now on, and that includes all the videos taken, all the comments and judgements hurled (including calls for prosecution), and the death of Harambe.

I can’t  help but be reminded of a moment from my firstborn’s early childhood, that still shakes me to think about. We had just finished one of our mommy and me classes, he was about 18 months old. We were in the foyer of this playspace, me putting my shoes back on and collecting my son’s things as well. There were tons of grownups and children milling about, some from the class that had just ended, and some from the one that was about to begin. Naturally, I turn to gather up my son, and he’s nowhere to be found. I look back inside the playspace thinking he went for the slide one last time, nothing. I looked under the benches thinking he was playing a little hide and seek, nothing. The panic sets in and this is all in the span of a minute. He’s gone. I ask everyone. Did you see a little boy walk out? Have you seen my son? I run out and I don’t see him. I run down the corridor and turn down the alley towards the parking lot where we parked the car, asking people along the way if they had seen a little boy, nothing. In the back of the building, in a deserted parking lot, there stood my little barefooted angel looking at all the cars. No fear whatsoever on his face (this was certainly an indicator to the future), and there I was with a mix of relief and rage. I promise you, in that panic, had someone or something been threatening him, there would not have been a moment’s hesitation, save my son at all cost. I can’t imagine what went through the zoo workers heads having to make that decision to kill “one of their own” to save this boy, but I can imagine what the mother is going through, and I promise you she’s feeling it, but the only thing on her mind at the moment, is that her baby is ok, and that’s what matters in the end.

Stay well.

Sometimes what matters is saying absolutely nothing.

By | 2018-04-07T23:19:29-04:00 May 24th, 2016|animals, anxiety, anxiety disorder, anxiety relief, childhood, children, death, dogs, Life, parenthood, parenting, Uncategorized|

Those who have had the privilege (or curse, everyone has their opinion) of meeting me, know that I like to talk. And talk, and talk, and talk. My kids are often heard exasperating “Mom, do you have to talk to everyone you see on the street?”) I like to talk, and I like to talk to people as much, if not more than I like to talk to myself. When you talk to a lot of people, you get to know a lot of people, and I love that! It is rare that I walk around my neighborhood and I’m not greeted by someone on the street, and it works for me. It keeps me present and it keeps me grounded, and I am grateful for the people who pass through my life every day. I live in a big building on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, which means lots of people to talk to, from my neighbors to the awesome employees of the building. Just like any social situation, you hear things from time to time. Like “neighbor so and so” has a new grandkid, or “neighbor so and so” got engaged, or “neighbor so and so” has a puppy now. And sometimes it’s not great news, like two weeks ago when I heard that one of my neighbors children was killed in an accident. This neighbor is not someone I know well at all, and he isn’t here all the time either, but we’ve had conversations and he likes my dog, so there’s always polite chatting while he gets his dog fix.  I ran into this neighbor a couple days after hearing the news, we ended up in the elevator together and I was with a friend. I simply said “Hi, how are you?” He looked wrecked of course, swollen eyes, slumped over a bit, just clearly having a hard time. He worked up a smile and asked me about my kids, without answering the question. I knew then that he didn’t want to talk about his son, or couldn’t talk about his son. So as best as I could, I pepped up and gave him a quick answer as the elevator let us out of what had become a very tight space. Then I saw him again last week. Again we ended up in the elevator, this time I had my dog (thankfully), and this time we actually walked down the block a clip. The conversation was light and we talked about his dog who is getting up there in age, and about the weather, and nothing else. I watched him walk off on his way to work with his head hung down just enough for me to notice but something others might not sense if they didn’t know what I knew. It was then I realized he didn’t need me to say anything about his devastating loss, he needed me to just be the chatty neighbor with the cute dog that he knows me to be. And in that moment, I was grateful to be just that.

Stay well.

totems

Silence is just as important as talking.

T(each) his own!

By | 2018-04-07T23:21:42-04:00 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!

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

Giving thanks one heartbreak at a time.

By | 2018-04-07T23:21:53-04:00 November 23rd, 2015|cats, childhood, death, Life, loss, mental health, parenting, pets, suicide, suicide prevention|

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite times of year. Partly because of the sweet potato casserole with the marshmallows on top, and partly because everyone comes together to just eat and have a good time and give thanks. When we lived away from family or couldn’t travel, we had a habit of inviting anyone and everyone who didn’t have a place to go, and people always came and always brought interesting additions for the table. Like the year we had a Tofurky, and Japanese food! So fun.

One reason I don’t love Thanksgiving is because it’s so close to my birthday. Everyone just expected that it was ok to combine the two and I never had just a day for me. Maybe that explains why I have a hard time with birthday celebrations for myself, who knows. 14 years ago, my birthday took on a whole other meaning when my sweet Grandma Selma, who was dying from lung cancer and holding on for the birth of my first son, couldn’t hold on anymore, and she passed away on my birthday. Ever my guardian angel, it was bittersweet for sure, but in true Selma fashion, she was making a statement to me that my birthday mattered. I will always be thankful for that parting gift.

This year’s birthday takes another turn, this one truly painful, because someone I cared for tremendously and who shared my birthday, died this past weekend. Larry was too young and too good and so kind and loving, but his suffering was clearly too much for him to take and he found relief in the only way he thought he could, by taking his own life. I am devastated, but thankful he isn’t suffering anymore. I am experiencing a wide range of emotions and likely will be for a while, but I will always try to go to thankfulness, because I knew him and I am forever thankful for that. My whole family knew Larry, because he was also the neighborhood dentist and he treated most of us. Larry was the first to carry Totem Tamers in his office and he always carried Owl in his pocket. Even though he wasn’t a pediatric dentist, he also treated my kids, and I was dreading telling them. I reached out to my therapist for advice. She’s amazing. I spoke to a mom at school who has been brave enough to share her experience with her father’s suicide, in a school workshop for parents. She’s incredible. I also reached out to Imagine, a grief support center in New Jersey. They have Totem Tamers on hand as a tool for anyone who comes in seeking support after losing a loved one, and the people there are just amazing. I was emailed back by both the Founder and Program Director with resources and suggestions on how to tell my kids. I am thankful for all of those who helped.

The last two days have been so difficult trying to hold back the tears before telling the kids, but last night it was time. My ex-husband, who also knew Larry, came over and graciously told the kids because I wasn’t sure I could manage it clearly. He was great. When the kids asked what happened, we told them the truth and explained that sometimes the pain is so much that it seems like death is the only chance for relief. We explained that there are always other options other than suicide. We talked about Larry, and his dog, and his humor and his smile. We let them know that if they wanted to talk more about it, we were here for them. My 8 year old said, “It’s too hard to talk about it because it would take two days.” I asked him why it would take two days and he said “Because there is so much to say.” His big tears crashing down were enough to break my heart, but I am thankful that he too knew Larry, and was clearly affected by Larry’s kindness. It was interesting watching the other two boys react, one in silent tears and the other noting a bit of anger and confusion. Still, I am thankful that their Dad and I could sit together and share their grief and share our tears at this loss. Sadder still, was that when the boys left to go to their Dad’s house last night, it became painfully clear that one of the cats at their Dad’s house was not doing well. Mr. Honey, didn’t make it through the night and the boys had to wake to another loss. Mr. Honey, was a cat that my ex took in, along with another kitty, after a dear friend of ours passed away, years ago. Her kids, are forever thankful that he opened his heart and home. I worry about my kids and all this loss, but I am thankful that their Dad and I can be present and available to them.

There’s a lot of unrest in our nation today as we sit back and contemplate how far we have come or how it is we that we still haven’t come far enough, where people are still characterized by the color of their skin. I am thankful that there has been progress, but not naive enough to recognize that it hasn’t been enough. My dear friend Larry loved a good Prosecco. So this year, on our birthday, I will raise a glass to him, I will raise a glass to all those in pain and hope that they seek help, I will raise a glass to my family, my friends, and my nation, where I still believe hope exists. I am thankful for my voice and the opportunity to use it in this space and can only hope it helps someone else as much as it helps me. Find someone or something to be thankful for, because there’s plenty of hope in that, too.

Stay well.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit the Suicide Prevention Lifeline page or call 1-800-273-8255 24/7.

UPDATE: Larry was so special that he let me believe we had the same birthday, but his was in fact the day before. Hard to fathom that it’s already been a year of missing Larry.