The color of love!

By | 2018-04-07T23:19:09-04:00 February 14th, 2018|anxiety, anxiety disorder, anxiety relief, art, Creative, creativity, gratitude, holiday, inspiration, love, mental health, mind/body, motivation, nyc, stories, story, storytelling, stress, stress relief, totems|

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:

green heart

Green is for love!

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.

Stay well.

Parenting by headphone?

By | 2018-04-07T23:19:10-04:00 September 24th, 2017|accessories, anger management, animals, anxiety, anxiety disorder, anxiety relief, bears, bird lovers, birds, birds of prey, bulldogs, cardinals, cars, childhood, children, family, Life, mental health, mind/body, motherhood, motivation, nyc, ocean creatures, Owls, parenthood, parenting, pets, sharks, single parents, stories, story, storytelling, strangers, stress, stress relief|

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.

Headphone parenting?

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!

Stay well.

I am ready for Snow!!!

By | 2018-04-07T23:19:23-04:00 September 22nd, 2016|anxiety, anxiety disorder, anxiety relief, art, artists, friends, friendship, inspiration, Life, mental health, mind/body, snow, stories, story, storytelling, stress relief, teenager, teenagers, teens|

The Snow Queen to be technical, “Stealing Snow”, to be exact. I am often humbled by the people I get to meet, and even more so when I get to hang out with them and celebrate their awesomeness!! I did that this week when author Danielle Paige, launched her new series “Stealing Snow”, at Books of Wonder in New York City!

The Totems are excited to get reading!

The Totems are excited to get reading!

I was psyched to be there to help celebrate the launch, mostly because Danielle deserves it, and a teeny bit because maybe now she’ll be able to hang out more since the writing is done! I know, I know, the writing is never done, but one of these days!!

So cute signing books for tons of fans (including me) who came out to celebrate!

So cute signing books for tons of fans (including me) who came out to celebrate!

There were plenty of writers in the room at the book launch, some published, and some hoping to be published. It was wonderful to hear their questions, and Danielle’s answers about the process, the inspiration, and the motivation to write. There is definitely some (probably a lot) anxiety that goes in to writing, and creating in general, because there’s always the concern for how it will be received. That’s likely the biggest obstacle for me! I am always in total awe of artists who can manage a work from start to finish, whether it’s a book, a painting, a song, a dance, whatever. I’m good at the starting, but the finishing somehow tends to allude me, so that Danielle is now kicking off her second series is just incredible and inspiring. Danielle’s first series, a fantastic retelling of The Wizard of Oz, solidified her as a New York Times Bestselling Author, and there’s no doubt that “Stealing Snow“, a retelling of The Snow Queen, will have her maintaining that honor.

Witches abound!

Witches abound!

Witches abound!

Witches abound!

Witches abound!

Witches abound!

Witches abound!

Witches abound!

Some gorgeous illustrations of some of the characters to be found inside “Stealing Snow”! If you’re into fairy tales with a twist, then I highly recommend all of Danielle’s books, but definitely get right in to “Stealing Snow”! I can’t wait to get into some Snow myself!! And maybe, just maybe, I can put some of the anxiety aside, and find a way to finish something. Oh wait!! I just did! The end. 😉

Congratulations Danielle!!

Stay well.

Owl and Penguin pop at the launch!

Owl and Penguin pop at the launch!

 

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

By | 2018-04-07T23:19:25-04:00 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.

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.

You say you want a Revolution?

By | 2018-04-07T23:21:46-04:00 February 12th, 2016|addiction, adoption, AIDS, animals, anxiety, anxiety disorder, anxiety relief, brothers, drug use, drugs, family, gratitude, harm reduction, heroin, HIV, inspiration, Life, mental health, overdose, overdose prevention, recovery, sharing, story, strangers, stress, stress relief|

How about a Gary Revolution? That’s who I ended up in conversation with earlier this week while out walking my dog, and it’s stayed with me ever since. At first glance, Gary, also known as the Brooklyn Cowboy, seemed like a shady character. He was shuffling along with one shoe on, the other shoe in his hand, along with some newspapers and such. He wore a hat that covered most of his overly greasy hair, and the handful of teeth in his mouth that were visible, didn’t look like they’d be hanging around much longer. Normally, I might just give a nod and keep walking, but something made me slow down when Gary hollered to me. He said something about family and before I could answer, my pooch was saying hello. Dogs are great at sniffing out creepers, and my dog is super protective of me, so I know if he sensed anything “off”, he wouldn’t be wagging his tail looking for a petting.

Do you pass my sniff test?

Do you pass my sniff test?

We talked about the dog for a minute and then I asked Gary why he wasn’t wearing his shoe. He mentioned that his toe was hurting him, and with that the chat began. We walked down the block and within those 200 feet, Gary was telling me he has been sober for years and I was telling him I lost my brother to a drug overdose. He mentioned helping people in recovery, and I mentioned my work with overdose prevention. Common ground. We went on like this for a while, sharing our stories. Gary talked about being hospitalized and I asked if it was due to Hepatitis C. He looked at me incredulously and said “Hep C? Hardly! I have the full deal, the whole HIV/AIDS.” I was practically speechless, but I managed to utter a “holy s#*t”! Ever the ladies man, Gary quickly followed up with “I look good, don’t I?” Which frankly, for having HIV/AIDS as long as he has, he did look remarkably ok. He owed his health to his twin cousins who are doctors, he said. We talked a little more and it was clear Gary had a story to tell, and all I could do was urge him to write it and wish him well. Gary has told a little of his story to HIV Positive Magazine, and you can read it here.

Gary called me an angel during that conversation and with tears in his eyes he went on his way. I don’t know about an angel, but I do know that I might not normally have stopped to talk to this disheveled, gritty guy, but I am glad I did. A moment of humanity for me, and a chance for Gary to tell someone else his hopes and dreams.

Gary Revolution

Gary Revolution

So if you see Gary shuffling along, give him a “what’s up”, and you’ll feel good by making him feel good. For that matter, if you see anyone that looks like they could use a smile even, go ahead, it’s free and the return is amazing!

Stay well.

Just call me “blockhead”!

By | 2018-04-07T23:21:46-04:00 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!

Building blocks of humanity.

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

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

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

Stay well.

No, thank you!

By | 2018-04-07T23:21:59-04:00 August 23rd, 2015|friendship, gratitude, Life, stories, story, storytelling, the moth|

These last ten days have been the longest I have gone without writing a piece in a very long time. Doesn’t mean I haven’t considered writing, but somehow, it just didn’t happen. In some ways, I’ll take it as an indication that my brain wasn’t overloaded with it’s typical madness edging to get out of me and onto the screen. In other ways, I’ll take it as an indication that my brain needed a bit of a break from always looking for inspiration, material, fodder, and content. And let me tell you, my world is consistently filled with all of the above and then some. I mean, I got stories. You need stories? I got em! Here’s the funny thing, I have a friend who is a Storyteller, like, for real, that’s why I capitalized the word. He’s been on The Moth, he hosts weekly storytelling events, he’s a great storyteller, and he’s great at getting other people to tell their stories. Well, great at getting everyone but me, and I like telling stories, but something stops me from getting up on the stage and sharing. Sure, most of his shows are like the unrated version of every dirty movie you’ve ever seen, but hey, I’m single, I have stories. (Not that being single is a prerequisite for a good dirty story. Just sayin’.) Maybe one of these days I’ll get up there, but at the moment, my bully pulpit is perfectly perched on the porch of my mom’s house.

Grateful view....

Grateful view….

And that perch is where the theme for today’s post comes in, gratitude. I’m blessed, lucky, fortunate, whatever you want to call it, bottom line is, I am grateful. That gratitude gives me a little room to be generous of spirit with other people, I guess. Yes, even people who aren’t grateful, people who are spiteful, angry, depressed, limited, damaged, and wounded, along with a host of other colorful adjectives. Sure it’s exhausting trying to reach these people but I don’t know how to do it any other way. I think I see parts of myself in them and it scares the crap out of me, so I try to extend myself in the hopes of making their loads a little lighter, and in the process, lightening my own. I think that’s what gratitude is, ultimately. Let’s check the definition:

grat·i·tude
ˈɡradəˌt(y)o͞od/
noun
  1. the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.

What do you know? I was right! The key to gratitude isn’t just being thankful, but it’s the readiness to acknowledge and return kindness. So that’s where I sit, grateful for all the hardships I’ve endured, the blessings I have welcomed, the life I am granted on a daily basis, and in return, I will continue to ready myself with kindness for all who cross my path. So it’s not just a simple “Thank you,” it’s a “No, thank YOU!” And, thank you, for allowing me (and my cooky brain) a place to perch our gratitude!

Stay well.

I find it helps to have a Totem handy when I encounter those souls who have not yet achieved gratitude. Whether the Totem is to keep me calm, or to knock them on the head, it’s still a good thing to have at the ready.(Totem Tamers does not condone knocking anyone on the head with a Totem.)  So, if you need a Totem, click on any of the Totems on the side of the page and get one today!