Music is the stuff of life!

By | 2018-04-07T23:19:25+00:00 August 6th, 2016|animals, anxiety, anxiety disorder, anxiety relief, art, artists, children, classic rock, co-parenting, creativity, Life, Music, nyc, rock and roll, rock n roll|

In the last few weeks I have had the pleasure of witnessing , in one form or another, each of my three kids doing something they love. Rocking!! Music has always been a big part of our family life and has always been something we loved to share. Well, ok maybe not all of the music, but most of it. I don’t expect to be going to a Slipknot concert anytime soon, and my youngest son would sooner eat a tub of mushy green beans than be subjected to any Counting Crows! Either way, there’s always music happening wherever we are. Whether it’s my little one banging out a rhythm on the couch while watching TV, my middle listening to a guitar solo so he can emulate it later, my oldest thumping out a bass line while I’m trying to have a conversation with him, or me singing Broadway tunes while I do the dishes! There are some moments that are beyond priceless, when we all sing a line together, or I hear my boys harmonizing on a tune, then I threaten to get out the Tambourine and rent a tour bus! C’mon get happy!! I can see it, I really can!! Ok fine, it’s not about me, it’s about how in the last few weeks, my kids have taken this gift, this love of music, and individuated from each other and created their own space. My oldest hit a rock band camp for a couple weeks (shout out to NYC Guitar School), where they basically put a band together on Monday and less than two weeks later “Stay Hydrated” is jamming on the stage at a local bar!

"Stay Hydrated"!

“Stay Hydrated”!

You’ll have to forgive the photos, they’re all kind of lame but I was seeing through tears anyway so the blurriness is fitting!! The show was super fun and the lights and the smoke machine was a dream realized for my teenager. Up next is my middle, who is attending a weekday sleep away camp (shout out to Campus Kids!), where he excitedly called to tell me he and his pal were going to perform in the talent show. Even though I couldn’t be there to hear them do “How to save a life” by The Fray, the camp is awesome about posting pictures! I did crop out the pal because I didn’t ask permission to post (even though I’m sure I would have gotten it.)

My middle "saving a life"

My middle “saving a life”

Last but certainly not least, my youngest kid had such a good time watching his oldest brother on stage, he decided he was going to rock band camp, too!! So off he strutted with his drumsticks (given to him by a highly regarded NYC drummer) and had an unbelievable experience with his band called “Gus”! Kids ages 8-11 and they managed tunes by AC/DC and Foo Fighters!

Keeping the beat!

Keeping the beat!

There is nothing as magical as watching your child doing something they love and I am thankful that they each have found something that they can share with each other while maintaining their individuality! Music just happens to be what works in my family, in terms of bringing us all together. Maybe for yours it’s baseball, or geocaching. Whatever it is, find something that you can all enjoy together and you will make a lifetime of wonderful memories. Me? I’m off to get that tambourine!!

Totems in tune!

Totems in tune!

Stay well.

If anxiety keeps you off the stage, maybe you should get a Totem!! Visit our store to find your calm https://totemtamers.com/shop!

On the midnight train to NYC! (Woo, woo!)

By | 2018-04-07T23:19:25+00:00 July 30th, 2016|activist, anxiety, anxiety disorder, anxiety relief, civil rights, Creative, creativity, elections, Equality, friends, friendship, gratitude, inspiration, Life, motivation, nyc, poetry, politics, sharing, stories, story, storytelling, strangers, travel, Uncategorized, voting|

There I was on Tuesday, dropping everything because a dear friend called to say she had secured me entry to that evenings proceedings of the Democratic National Convention. I try not to get too political in this space because we are all entitled to our own opinions, (except of course for those voting for the Cheetoh-man).

Chilly train station

Amtrak station welcome!

I’ve never been to Philly, and I had been warned by my friends already at the convention that it was insanely busy with people, protests, street closures, etc.. I have a friend that lives in Philly and he was patient enough to text-guide me through my visit. (Thanks RC!) I navigated the subway system with the confidence of a New Yorker and only had to ask a few people for directions along the way. That’s not where my anxiety was, my anxiety lay well ahead of me when it was time to turn back and head home. A midnight train from Philly to Penn Station. A <ahem> young lady traveling on her own. I pushed those thoughts out of my mind and made my way to the convention, which was electrifying and inspiring! Yes,I got a picture of me with the unbelievable Senator from New Jersey, Cory Booker! Yes, I got a picture of me with the Vice Presidential nominee and Senator from Virginia, Tim Kaine! Yes, I met Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy who was brave enough to lead the moving and powerful sit-in regarding gun control a couple months back. Yes, I was still going to end up in Penn Station in NYC at 2 o’clock in the morning.

Credentials, train ticket, and Totems. Oh my!

Credentials, train ticket, and Totems. Oh my!

Fast forward and I get to hear the end of President Clinton’s speech (the first Clinton president) and I run out to make my train! I get to the station in plenty of time, but there’s still the issue of getting home from Penn Station. I figure I’ll find someone to talk to and see if they’re heading uptown and maybe we can share a cab. If that doesn’t work, thankfully I have a night owl friend who will gladly sit on the phone with me while I navigate my way home. (Thanks PR!) I board the train and I confirm for a gentleman that this is the train to NYC and I find a seat.  That same gentleman comes down the aisle and asks if the seat next to me is available, which it is, so he sits down. Then I oh so casually say “it would be great if you were heading uptown, because then we could go up together.” Not only does he say he is going uptown and that we can take the subway, but he even offers to get off the train and walk me home. Wow, this man was raised right!! I thank him and explain that once off the train I’m really only a block away so I’ll be fine, and I have my phone friend, of course. We introduce ourselves, he’s Paul and he was in Philadelphia because his son had just moved there and he was helping him with his apartment. We chatted a bit, Paul snoozed, I read my book. The trip to New York was pretty fast! We chatted some more and I learned that Paul came to New York years ago to pursue acting and through a series of fortunate events found himself a Librarian for the New York Public Library! That’s a big deal by the way. Paul also happens to be a writer and is clearly brilliant. I tell him that I write as well and we have a sort of meeting of creative minds, talking about the things we’ve done, the things we’d like to still do and in a way we push and inspire each other to keep going. Paul likes to quote famous creatives from Pablo Picasso to Georgia O’keefe. I smile and tell Paul that someday, people will be quoting him. Turns out I have the honor to be among the first to quote him, from a poem he sent me the morning after our journey. Paul wrote that “our chance meeting was a poem waiting to be written”, and I now hold that as a mantra for every chance meeting to come. Here’s the whole poem for you to enjoy!

 An Amtrak Ride To New York From Philadelphia 

at 12:A M On A Tuesday Morning

(To Julie @ Totem Tamers)

Chance meetings can reveal

the color of one’s eyes

if you take the time to look;

chance meetings can be a

conversation in which you

hear yourself in another person’s voice;

chance meetings can be pleasant

as homemade lemonade

on the front porch of a sunny day

Our chance meeting was a poem

waiting to be written, a time to

wrap ourselves in the shared

moments of what we already know –

how else can we change the world?

An Amtrak journey and a subway ride

uptown to 72nd street offered

the usual perspectives

on renown habits of the world;

nothing much has changed

It is better to practice caution

when a woman is coming home

in the peculiar darkness

of New York sorrows

aware and alone

Still, we made our way to wherever

We had to go, asking questions of ourselves

asking questions of tendered days –

one day, and if We meet again

We should compare answers

But, never accept things as they are

when We know how things should be –

How should We live within the days of our lives?

 

Stay well.

Happy 4th of July from Totem Tamers!

By | 2018-04-07T23:19:27+00:00 July 4th, 2016|anxiety, anxiety disorder, anxiety relief, bears, civil rights, Liberty, Life, military, mind/body, nyc, soccer|

I was lucky enough to enjoy a soccer game with my kids and dear friends yesterday at Yankee Stadium, which feels American in and of itself. There were peanuts and popcorn and lots of rah-rah’s! It also happened to be Military Appreciation Day at the NYCFC (New York City Football Club) game, so we were blissfully serenaded with our national anthem by the Sergeants Choir which was just awesome.

Bear waits for the flag!

Bear waits for the flag!

There were many members of the military on the field and it was heartwarming to watch the entire stadium rise to their feet even before the announcer asked everyone to rise.

Bear watches as the flag unfurls!

Bear watches as the flag unfurls!

This was definitely a beautifully choreographed scene and then it took an interesting turn, this was no ordinary flag!

American flag of America!

American flag of America!

The flag is in the shape of the United States of America!!! Never seen that one before and it was awesomely patriotic!

Celebrate safely my Totem Tamers friends, and marvel at the world we live in and keep those who are suffering and struggling and living in fear in your thoughts and prayers. We fought for independence but we are dependent on each other to stay safe.

Stay well.

It only takes a second…..

By | 2018-04-07T23:19:29+00:00 May 4th, 2016|anxiety, anxiety disorder, anxiety relief, bears, birds, bulldogs, charity, gratitude, inspiration, Life, mental health, mind/body, motivation, nyc, office, Owls, prevention, relationships, sharks, social media, strangers, totems|

There I was heading out of a building, when I noticed a woman also heading towards the exit. It was one of those double door situations where you actually had to exit twice, ok? So I held open the first door for her and let her exit first, me following out behind her. Nothing. Not a smile. Not a nod. Nothing. She reached the second exit door ahead of me and pushed through it. I, being younger, more agile and way prettier (that’s important), was right behind her and loudly said “Thank you” as exited I the still opened door. I suspect if I hadn’t been fast enough, she would have let the door slam in my face. She didn’t even blink at my “thank you” which made me even more annoyed. Sure, I can have compassion and think that maybe she was just having a bad day, but seriously, it only takes a second! Thank you! Please! One second. I timed it!!! It’s true!!

So I don’t care if you are having a really crappy day, you assuredly have one second to be courteous to another human being. Try it!! Oh, and give it as a gift. Meaning don’t be attached to their response, as you may not get a “Thank you” or a “You’re welcome” but at least you’ll walk away knowing you’re not an a*@hole!

Stay well.

Totems say BE NICE!!!

Totems say BE NICE!!!

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.

Paris in our hearts and on our minds.

By | 2018-04-07T23:21:54+00:00 November 14th, 2015|anxiety, anxiety disorder, anxiety relief, brothers, death, family, gun violence, hate crime, Liberty, Life, loss, military, nyc, parenthood, parenting, politics, prayer, soccer, totems, travel, Uncategorized, victim|

We wake up to a new day, the sun shining in New York City, a chilly wind providing shivers and reminders that winter is around the corner. Those shivers hardly distinguishable from the ones I’ve experienced since last night while following the tragic, and horrific attacks that took place in Paris. I can only consume the news in small doses, and find that watching it is even too much, so I periodically check Facebook and Twitter for the latest little tidbits. It is just so overwhelming. Some people need to know every detail and not miss any news update, because that’s helpful to them, but not me. A friend’s status update on Facebook  helped me find the words I wanted to share this morning. She was contemplating having the conversations with her children about what was happening in Paris, understanding that her older child would be able to process more info than her younger child. This made me consider how I would talk to my children as well. I know there will be lots of counselors and authorities out there giving their tips and suggestions, and they will all surely be helpful in some way or another. Please know that I am not a psychologist, or a social worker, or some “lettered” authority, I am a parent, and that gives me a voice for my experiences, and gratitude for a forum to share them. This is not about advice, this is not about right or wrong, this is about one person’s process, mine. My youngest (9) is sitting in the other room now, blissfully unaware and playing some game on his computer. I will go to him and plainly give him the facts about what happened in Paris, because opening that communication is more important than protecting him from reality, no matter how horrible. “Honey, I want to tell you what happened in Paris yesterday because you will probably be hearing a lot about it over the next couple days.  There was an attack, and many people were injured and killed by some very angry and very bad people.” That’s how the conversation will start, and then I will take his lead while guiding him along the way. He may ask tons of questions, he may also choose to go right back to watching silly YouTube videos, and that’s perfectly ok. I am all about honesty and being very straightforward with my kids, because I have found that the imagination can color way more horrifying pictures than the truth can. That being said, my almost 16 year old will be able to handle a whole lot more information than my little one, and even my middle one, and he’ll discover it on his own on the internet. So with him, the conversation will surely be different and maybe even more philosophical, but again, he may not want to go into all the details, but I will reassure that I am here to talk if he needs to. The bottom line is giving your children permission to ask questions, and giving yourself permission to being ok with not having the answers. Also, not being afraid to be open with them, even if it is about your own fears. Because sure I’m scared, and that’s reasonable, but I have faith that the people we charge to protect and serve us will do everything they can to protect us, and that’s how I go about my days. That’s what I will share with my children as I pray for their innocence to last just a little bit longer, and as I pray for the people of Paris and the rest of the world while we mourn right along with them.

Praying for Peace in Paris

Praying for Peace in Paris

Stay well.

My kind of immigration reform!

By | 2018-04-07T23:21:56+00:00 September 27th, 2015|anxiety, anxiety relief, ballet, children, immigration, Life, nyc, parenting, stress, stress relief|

This is not intended to be a political statement, but it is kind of difficult to talk about immigrants and immigration without it turning into some kind of my side/your side discussion. This is just me and my observation of the world around me, and occasionally I witness moments that are truly special and act as  a reminder of how lucky we are to live where we live and have the opportunities we have. The Pope was just in New York and the energy in the city was frenetic but happy, and it was cool to hear this holy man’s messages of peace and acceptance. The Pope talked about immigration and immigrants, and sent the message “Never be ashamed,” to the immigrants in this country. This rang through my head as I watched an adorable young Asian girl and most likely her father, head towards me on the sidewalk. They were animated as they walked, the little girl’s hair wound tightly in a bun, probably on her way to ballet class. When they passed by me, I overheard a piece of their conservation that kept me smiling all morning. The father, in a very thick Asian accent, was repeating the word “professional.” He was clearly struggling to get the pronunciation right, and his daughter continued to smile and encourage him, while she restated the word in perfect English. Professional. Think about that image for a minute, and write the narrative with me. Clearly immigrants from some Asian country, this little girl is lucky enough to have the gift of at least two languages, her native one, and now English, as well. She is using that gift to help her father, take command of the English language, just like she has. That’s what this land of opportunity is all about! It’s not about building walls and keeping people away, it’s about breaking down barriers so we can all learn from each other! Next time you’re on a street corner, take a moment and listen to all the languages that pass you by. Find gratitude that we live in a country where people can be celebrated and supported for their differences, and not punished for sounding or looking different. Find gratitude that we live in a country where so many only dream of getting to one day, and applaud the many who have managed to make it here and call the United States home.  
Sidewalk Talk and Totems!

Kenkode Imasu.

If you would like to talk to a Totem, they understand all languages, visit our store  www.totemtamers.com/store!