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.

Lessons from a displaced butterfly.

By | 2018-04-07T23:19:12-04:00 August 13th, 2017|accessories, animals, anxiety, anxiety disorder, anxiety relief, cars, civil rights, earth, gratitude, hate crime, immigration, inspiration, Liberty, Life, mental health, musical theater, parenthood, parenting, racism, sadness, strangers, stress relief, teenager, teenagers, teens, victim|

I must confess that it has been difficult to write in the last couple months because of the instability, unrest, fear, ugliness, uncertainty and more, that has been plaguing our great nation. Some might say “that’s the perfect time to write”, while others will say “I totally get it.” I simply continued to remind myself, that I tend to write when the story comes to me, and thankfully today it has. It’s not the story I intended to write about, but sometimes those are the ones that need telling.

I had pulled up to the dorm at Carnegie Mellon University, where my oldest son had just finished a Pre-college Drama program. Everyone had to be packed and out by 2pm, because the incoming students would be arriving shortly. I’m blissful in my “mommy-van” because my baby is coming home. There are lots of happy parents and families milling about, weepy teenagers sad to be leaving their newly made friends and surely sad to be giving up some newly found independence while they are whisked back in to the bosom of their family. A car pulls up behind me on the steep driveway of the dorm, it’s a mom and daughter, picking up a family member, too. I hop out to make sure there’s enough clearance for the trunk to open, and I immediately notice what looks like a big butterfly accessory pinned to the grill of this woman’s car. My first reaction is “Oh wow, another person who loves butterflies, and so much so that she didn’t hesitate pinning one to the front of her vehicle, right near the not-quite-peace-sign looking emblem announcing the make of her car!”

butterfly

Displaced butterfly

I quickly realized it wasn’t an accessory, but an actual butterfly that had gotten caught on the grill at some point during her drive. I walked over to the woman behind the wheel and motioned for her to open her window. With a smile, I told her that the most beautiful butterfly had gotten caught on the front of her car and that I wanted to take a picture of it before I tried to move it. I wasn’t asking permission, but just wanted to make sure she knew what I was doing, but also because I wanted to share my wonder of this creature. At this point, it occurred to me that this was not in fact another butterfly lover, this was a person who could care less about the beauty and delicate nature of such a creature pinned to her fancy schmancy car. You know how I know this? If someone came up to my car window and told me there was a butterfly stuck to my vehicle, I would have jumped out to see it and to see if I could help the butterfly. This woman seemed more annoyed than anything.  I proceeded to take the picture of the butterfly and promptly walked right back to her window and made her look at it, then I told her I was going to try and remove it. Her reaction was formulaic with a “how sad” kind of awwww, and then a tacit approval of my wanting to save the insect.

I wasn’t sure if the butterfly was still alive frankly, but even if it wasn’t, this person didn’t deserve to have such beauty on her vehicle. I gently managed to pry the insect off the car, and moved it to some foliage nearby.

butterfly

Butterfly found

I waited. I watched. At first I thought it was the breeze causing the butterfly’s wings to flutter, but after a moment, it was clear this butterfly was still alive and now safe.

So many different morals I could pull from this event, that lasted all of five minutes mind you, but will surely stay with me for a long time to come. I guess the supremely important lesson, and yes, I use supremely intentionally, is that it is up to us to keep watch for those who are oppressed, and in need of protection and care, and not only must we stand up for those creatures and stand with them, we must make sure that their oppressors are forced to look and see the object of their hate and ignorance. It may not impact their hateful views, but it will at least let them know that we are not afraid and we will not back down.

Hug your loved ones today, and hey, maybe even a stranger (ask permission first, of course.)

Stay well.

 

Yes, we have no bananas!

By | 2018-04-07T23:19:20-04:00 October 25th, 2016|anxiety, anxiety disorder, anxiety relief, apartment, Life, mind/body, nyc, strangers, totems|

We are creatures of habit, aren’t we? There are things that we do every day that we probably don’t even notice we are doing because they have become habitual. Taking shoes off when you come in the house. Hanging the keys by the door. Leaving your socks in the middle of the hallway so your mom has to pick them up. These are things that just happen without even giving them a thought. So when something is out of whack, we notice!! When your favorite takeout place changes their french fry distributor, it’s unsettling. When your iOS platform updates, it can be downright aggravating. And when a resident in your building, whose name you don’t even know, walks out of the building without his banana, you can barely cope?! No, seriously.

Living in New York City, we are sardined together in these big buildings and we can ride an elevator with someone for years and never utter a word, but still, we know them. So one of the residents in my building has a banana thing. He’s gotta be at least 6’4 and lanky, but marathon runner lanky, so he’s super fit. I’m not sure how many times a week I see him because we are on similar schedules. Me, bleary eyed, barely dressed in presentable clothing, being dragged out by my furry four-legged kid at the crack of dawn. Him, impeccably dressed, clearly showered and coiffed, and finishing a banana. Every time I see him. Imagine how I felt the other morning when I noticed the hand that is usually armed with yellow sustenance, was awkwardly placed against his chest as he walked out the building, empty. “Banana Man” had no banana!!! I know at this point you’re thinking I’ve totally lost it, but I assure you I haven’t. Because when I walked in to the lobby and remarked to the doorman that the resident had no banana, the doorman immediately responded “I know, right? He must be missing it.” Maybe we’re all a little nuts, or maybe it’s just that we are creatures of habit? Either way, I like things to be the way they I expect them to be and if they aren’t, I at least want to know why. So next time I see “Banana Man”, if he has no banana, I will boldly inquire!

Irie Banana Totem!

Irie Banana Totem!

Do you have any sort of habit or ritual that you engage in every day? I don’t mean the standard stuff of brushing your teeth, but if when you brush your teeth, you sway back and forth to the tune of Barry Manilow’s feel-good hit “Can’t Smile Without You”, I would love to hear about it!

Stay well.

Cane and able…..

By | 2018-04-07T23:19:22-04:00 September 25th, 2016|accessories, animals, anxiety, anxiety disorder, anxiety relief, childhood, children, gratitude, Life, mind/body, motherhood, motivation, nyc, parenthood, parenting, strangers, stress, stress relief, totems|

I love teachable moments, and if you really think about it, every day we live there is a teachable moment somewhere in there. Whether it’s the time you tried to put the milk away while holding your bowl of Crunchberries filled to the brim, only to have it scatter across the kitchen floor where your dog happily helps you clean it up, or the time you helped that blind person across the street after watching six people walk by and not even offer to help! Sometimes those teachable moments have you in the teaching position, like the one I experienced with one of my kids earlier today. It’s always great to have one on one time no matter how you get it in, so I was glad to be walking with my youngest as I brought him to a friends’ birthday party. He was contently chatting away while we walked down our block. We were approaching a restaurant that has benches out front, and one of the bench regulars was sitting down for her usual respite from the day. She is white-haired and dainty, and the slightest bit feeble, she always a touch of makeup on, and is often smiling while she sings the day away. As we neared her, her cane fell over. She was slowly leaning down trying to retrieve it and I said to my son, please give her a hand with her cane. He quickly bent down and handed it to her. She smiled, revealing several spaces where teeth used to be, and thanked him. He smiled back and we continued on our way. My son looked at me and said “I feel kinda weird now after helping that woman.” I asked where he felt weird, was it in his belly, his chest, or in his head? He said it was sort of in his body and his head. I smiled because I understood and I said, that’s what it feels like to do something nice for someone you don’t know without any expectation. What struck me was that he then said that that was the first time he had done something like that. I laughed a little and explained that he actually does stuff like that all the time, from holding the door open for someone, to waiting for people to get out of the elevator first, to simply saying “please” and “thank you.” The difference I went on to tell him, is that those are examples of common courtesy, but when you go out of your way, even just a teeny bit, to help someone else, that’s true compassion, and it has the capacity to make you feel good all over. Even though I nudged him to help the woman, that’s where the teaching comes, because now the hope is next time he comes upon a person who needs a little compassion, he will know exactly what to do without being told.

What did you teach today? Or better yet, what did you learn?

Stay well.

Teachable Totem!

Teachable Totem!

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.

It only takes a second…..

By | 2018-04-07T23:19:29-04:00 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!!!

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.

There’s more to #givingTuesday than cash!

By | 2018-04-07T23:21:52-04:00 December 1st, 2015|anxiety, anxiety disorder, anxiety relief, brotherhood, brothers, charity, childhood, children, donation, education, family, friends, friendship, gift, gifts, gratitude, holiday, inspiration, Life, motherhood, motivation, parenthood, parenting, strangers, stress, stress relief, totems|

First, there was Black Friday, then Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday, and now, Giving Tuesday. All of these “days” are centered around money. Black Friday has everything on super sale after Thanksgiving, so you’re encouraged to buy, buy, buy. Small Business Saturday is all about supporting small businesses (duh), so buy, buy, buy! Cyber Monday means you can sit in your PJ’s and what else? Buy, buy, buy! Now we come to Giving Tuesday, which encourages you to take any money you might have leftover and donate, donate, donate. It’s a grand idea and there are countless worthy organizations that need support by way of donations. I know I have several that I support year-round, but there may be a new one or two that I help out this year. (If you’re looking for some ideas, shoot me an email at julie@totemtamers.com, and I’ll happily share some needy organizations with you!) Over the last couple days though, something occurred to me, there is plenty of giving that doesn’t actually require spending! You can certainly give time, like my family did on Thanksgiving when we served dinner at a homeless shelter run by The Doe Fund.

Aren't hairnets awesome?

Aren’t hairnets awesome?

Giving can be as simple as a smile to a neighbor, or an extra hug to your kids. I had a birthday over the weekend and so many people gave me time and well wishes that it moved me to tears. Giving feels good and it works in both directions! The giver and the receiver end up rewarded, and there’s no better gift than that! So, if you have some spare change and/or a cause near and dear, go ahead and make a donation. If you don’t have money to spare, that’s ok, because you definitely have spirit and good will in abundance, and that’s free! Use it! I think you’re awesome and you will too, when you give.

Stay well.

#tbt, only about an hour ago, but it counts. Or, what I did with my anger.

By | 2018-04-07T23:22:04-04:00 July 2nd, 2015|anger management, anxiety, Life, strangers, yoga|

There I was, innocently walking along on my way to yoga this morning. It was one of those mornings where I would have much rather stayed in bed a little longer, but I knew that going to class and sweating my patootie (yes, that’s a word) off, would certainly wake me up and ready me for the day ahead. There’s this one intersection in my neighborhood, that no one gets right. From the pedestrians to the cars, there’s always someone in the crosswalk that shouldn’t be. I am cognizant of this every time I cross, whether on foot or on wheels, but I will happily defend my position if I have the right of way. So, back to me blissfully walking with my yoga mat, frozen water bottles, etc., when I approach the intersection and see that I have the right of way, at least according to the little walking man sign!

Clearly my turn to walk!

Clearly my turn to walk!

Well the cabby who almost ran me over, either didn’t see the sign, or more likely, didn’t care. His window was wide open, practically begging for me to yell an obscenity and let him have it, while staking my claim as a pedestrian. But something so strange happened, when I opened my mouth to let out a tirade, nothing came out! It was an anomaly to be sure, because I am never (rarely) at a loss for words, especially colorful ones that have four letters! I continued on in silence, with my anger quickly being replaced by an almost nervous giggle. I didn’t yell. I didn’t give rise to the blood pressure that had bubbled to the surface. I didn’t allow my anger to take over and potentially effect the rest of my morning. Brilliant!! This was big of course, and I spent a portion of yoga contemplating what it might have felt like to give voice to that anger, and guess what, I couldn’t come up with anything positive! Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting bottling up your anger, or not finding some sort of release for it, but I am suggesting it be situational, perhaps. Me yelling at that cab driver for having blatant disregard for pedestrians crossing the street would have accomplished nothing. The cab driver wouldn’t have cared, and might have even gotten mad himself and yelled back at me, or taken it out on his next fare, or worse, might have gotten distracted enough to hit someone or something. Any of those things might have happened, and nowhere in there is the option of the cab driver apologizing to me for almost ruining my morning. What would have happened to me had I yelled? Well, my blood pressure surely would have gone up and stayed up, and that’s not a great thing. My mindset would have been darkened and that’s not a good thing. I might have been further distracted in yoga class, in a negative way, that might have led me to go into a posture improperly and hurt myself. See, nothing positive would have come out of my 15 second explosion, but everything positive came out of my holding on to that 15 seconds. All that being said, what am I really saying? Hold on to your anger when possible, because there can only be positive reactions when you do, and when or if you can’t hold on to it, be swift about it and release it as quickly as you can. Then you can go on looking at silly #tbt pictures of you when you had that mullet in high school. Yeah, I saw them. Hilarious.

Stay well.

Totem Tamers instills the concept of recognizing your emotions, and then you can move through them. That’s the visualization and deep breathing techniques we share in our beautifully illustrated booklet or our handy pocket card. Get yours today when you order a Totem! Just click on the Totem of your choice on the side of the page, and get on with being calm.

It's a jungle out there!

By | 2018-04-07T23:22:40-04:00 April 8th, 2015|anxiety, childhood, children, dinner, Life, parenting, sharing, strangers|

Totems in the wild!

Totems in the wild!

My kids and I were invited to a Passover seder last week, at the home of a dear friend. The kids all know each other and have a great time together, and the adults, well, we’ve known each other so long, we are family. I dropped my kids and went to park the car. As I was walking to our hosts’ home, one of my kids sent a text that read “There are strangers. Yay!” If you didn’t catch it, that was sarcasm. OMG! There was another family invited to Seder! How dare they expose us to completely unknown individuals? What were they thinking? From my perspective, I’m always happy to meet new people, and I baked, so I’m even happier when I get to feed new people! This “stranger” family was absolutely lovely, with their two kids being the same ages as my youngest two. My oldest son clicked well with the stepdad because he’s a music guy, and the mom and I immediately bonded over parenting issues. Sure there were moments of discomfort as we all gathered around the table, but food is an incredible equalizer. The kids giggled at my youngest, who delighted in the attention, as he munched heartily on the parsley. The grownups recited passages from the Seder pamphlet (religiously and affectionately known as the Haggadah), which was sponsored by Maxwell House, of course. We had a nice giggle at that. Food was served and enjoyed and even though it was not a deeply religious event, the spirituality in just coming together and sharing a meal was truly felt. My kids had begged before the evening to make sure that we didn’t stay too long. Five hours later, with plenty of laughs and full bellies, we were all in agreement that it was a lovely evening spent, even with strangers.

Next time you end up in a room or at a gathering with people you don’t know, open your hearts and your minds, and you may just end up making some new friends! There’s that saying that sounds something like “A stranger is just a friend you haven’t met yet!” I like it, and I’m going to try and live by it.

Stay well.

If you’re headed to an event with lots of unknowns, maybe bring a Totem along to help keep you calm. Get one today by clicking on any of the Totems on the side of the page!