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!

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.

 

The push and pull of parenting.

By | 2018-04-07T23:19:17-04:00 February 4th, 2017|anxiety, anxiety disorder, anxiety relief, brotherhood, brothers, childhood, children, co-parenting, family, friends, friendship, gratitude, Life, mental health, mind/body, motherhood, parenthood, parenting, stress, stress relief, teenager, teenagers, teens, therapy|

The push and pull of parenting starts immediately upon birth as your infant is pulled from a dark cocoon of safety and pushed into the light of the world. We coo and cuddle and marvel at their perfect little fingers and toes and those plump cheeks and their smell and even at the impressive size of their poops! Yes, you know what I’m talking about, don’t deny it! Then what? Well, then we start pushing them to fall asleep on their own and that’s usually when the first heart-pull happens. Any parent who has done sleep training with their infant can tell you how painful it is to listen to their baby scream their head off until at last they pass out from sheer exhaustion. It seems cruel, hell, it is cruel to all parties involved, but the lesson is that if we don’t push them to self-soothe, then they will never be able to fend for themselves. I don’t know if this is true, but I can tell you that I’ve gone on some dates with men who clearly still have apron strings attached to mommy. Scientific data right there.

Next on the “push list” is the simple act of your baby reaching milestones like crawling and walking and eating solids. Nothing is as gross as going to your “mommy & me” class and having to defend why your kid isn’t up to peas yet, while all the others are chowing down on homemade organic sustainable kabocha (whatever the hell that is.) So we push, because somewhere on the parenting journey someone thought competition was a good idea. The best part of this stage is when you find the other parents that are like you and you “pull” apart from the wacky ones. You join your parent gang because they don’t see anything wrong with your cleaning off the pacifier that just fell on the ground by actually sticking it in your mouth to get rid of any potential germs. My peeps! I love that I am actually still really close to several of my old gang members. ‘Sup guys?

Now for some more pulling. Pulling them out of the playground for example, after they’ve thrown sand in some kid’s well-deserving face and you’re trying to show that you’re disappointed when inside you’re beaming with pride that your kid stuck up for themselves. Ice cream! Pulling them out of the store where some evil manager decides that a ride-on sesame street car is a great way to torture parents. Your kid is freaking out and won’t leave and you and Dad are pulling and then pushing, no, shoving him in to his carseat as he strong arms and stiffens like a California Redwood. I feel you, we’ve all been there.

Then there’s the normal push and pull that happens in the middle. The pushing to eat more veggies, the pulling the crumpled homework out of the backpack, the pushing to take a shower, the pulling of dirty socks from in between the couch cushions. That’s all the physical stuff, it’s the emotional stuff that’s really hard. You push your kid to say hi to a kid he doesn’t know so that maybe he’ll make some new friends. You pull your kid in close when he suffers his first heartbreak because the girl he liked decided she wanted to go to the dance with someone else. You push your kid to try out for the basketball team, and then pull him in for the victory dance when he makes it!

This is all pretty basic parenting, but sometimes it isn’t all that basic, or normal, or average, and sometimes it’s pretty freaking hard. As we push and pull our kids, we feel the push and the pull a thousand times more, it all just happens to our hearts so no one really sees, but man do we feel it. I’m usually pretty good at keeping my shit together when one of my kids is going through something tough, but it’s not easy. There’s that constant inner turmoil I experience, do I push or do I pull? There’s moments when I have to call on alter-egos like John Madden, when I need to do the gruff football coach yell of “Get out there and do it! Don’t be a wuss! You’ve got this”! Then there’s my Mother Teresa (a nickname I earned from one of my early parenting gang members) and that’s when I open my arms and cradle my baby and tell them everything is going to be ok. Two very different parenting styles, but both incredibly effective, and both so vital to getting through this parenting journey.

I will continue to push and pull my kids, and sometimes I will even apologize for making the wrong choice, pushing when I should have pulled or pulling when I should have pushed. The end game is that my kids will be the ones pushing me around when I’m old and frail and pulling me close when I need them most.

Am I pulling them close or pushing them away?

Stay well.

Totem Tamers wishes all who celebrate Rosh Hashanah, a sweet new year!

By | 2018-04-07T23:19:21-04:00 October 2nd, 2016|anxiety, anxiety disorder, anxiety relief, childhood, children, church, family, food, gratitude, holiday, inspiration, prayer, religion, stress, stress relief|

This is one of the good holidays in the Jewish religion, not that any are bad per se, but this is definitely a happy one. I am not religious, I am spiritual, but I guess I would call myself a “food-Jew”, because I actually really like gefilte fish, and I make great rugelach. I actually wrote about my rugelach in an old blog post, feel free to go back to it here https://totemtamers.com/religion-in-a-rolling-pin/. You can read about my rolling pin that was handed down, that is easily a hundred years old. That’s my religion. Or you can just marvel at this season’s rugelach waiting to be demolished over the next week!

My grandma in my heart and my heart in my dough!

My grandma in my heart and my heart in my dough!

Yes, that’s a butter heart that appeared in the dough as I was making this batch of rugelach!

This is rugelach before...

This is rugelach before…

This is rugelach after...

This is rugelach after…

I always make specialty flavors, which is definitely a departure from how my grandmother taught me, but I know she would be impressed!

There's Whitman's sampler, and then Selma's Sampler!

There’s Whitman’s sampler, and then Selma’s Sampler!

So yummy, and you should smell my house!! I don’t care what religion you choose, or don’t choose for that matter, just be kind and share sweetness! Who wants?

Stay well.

Remembering…..

By | 2018-04-07T23:19:23-04:00 September 11th, 2016|anxiety, anxiety disorder, anxiety relief, childhood, children, family, friends, friendship, Liberty, Life, loss, marriage, mind/body, motherhood, nyc, parenthood, parenting|

This is a hard day. A traumatic day. A painful day. A somber day. It is also a good day. A special day. A birth day. A memorable day.

I watch the news feed on my Facebook. I see “always remember” and “never forget” over and over and over again. I see names of people I never knew etched on a wall. I see names of people I used to know but now only linked through the virtual wonder of the internet. I see people posting baby pics celebrating birthdays of their children born on this fateful date. I remember.

Just days before the terrorist attack in New York City on 9/11/2001, I was visiting the city for my college roommate’s wedding and we went up to the observation deck of the Empire State building and marveled at the height of the towers. It was windy but clear, and we were all glad to be together celebrating our friends and our friendship. That’s what I try to remember on this day. My oldest, and at that point only son, pushing a bubble-blowing lawn mower down the aisle and rocking a tuxedo at the wedding the next day, I remember that.

Tuxedo, Tyke, Tower, Totem

Tuxedo, Tyke, Tower, Totem

This photo, along with others from that day, hangs on my wall. I also remember being back in Florida on 9/11 and the phone ringing off the hook and just staring at the TV all day in tears, not comprehending what had happened. That’s a harder memory to recall. My son, now one of three, stands at almost 6’1, the other two inching up behind him. They are my towers now and living our lives every day is done in honor of all those that perished on that fateful day, and for those who have died since, as a result of their efforts to help on that day. We remember not because we want to, but because we have to. My two older ones are old enough that they go out and about New York City on their own. I struggled letting them do that today, but we have to live and they don’t need to be crippled by fear of the unknown, but I will not rest until they are safely at home with me. My heart goes out to those who will truly never rest again.

I remember.

I remember.

Stay well.

Music is the stuff of life!

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

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.

Meet the Parents!!!

By | 2018-04-07T23:19:31-04:00 April 23rd, 2016|anxiety, anxiety disorder, anxiety relief, childhood, children, family, Life, love, motherhood, parenthood, parenting, stress, stress relief, teenager, teenagers, teens, totems, Uncategorized|

My son has a girlfriend. MY SON HAS A GIRLFRIEND!!!!!!!! Yeah, ok, he’s 16, 6ft tall, looks and acts even older and yeah, ok, he’s a good kid. And now he has a girlfriend. He had a girlfriend once before, like for a minute in 8th grade, and she broke his little heart. He wrote a beautiful song about it and still sings it occasionally. I hate her. She hurt my boy. I saw her not too long ago on the street and my mama bear was all catty and mean (in my head, don’t worry) and I judgy-judged her because she hurt my boy. Now there’s another young lady on the horizon, and my boy’s heart is even bigger than it was three years ago. She’s coming over today so I can meet her. I’ve been wanting to meet her for weeks now, but my son said he wasn’t ready, and she wasn’t ready, and it was clear he was nervous and he said she was nervous. If they only knew how nervous I am, too. I want to make a good impression just as I’m sure she wants to impress me. I’m sure she’s changed her outfits three times already. I’m sure she’ll put less lipstick and eye-shadow on as well. Hey, I’m going to take a shower, so you know this is a big deal. Thing is, I don’t want her to be any different than she is with my son. He’s googly-eyed for her. I want to see why. I want to meet her authentic self, her true self, her sarcastic self (that’s one of the characteristics my son said he really likes about her). I will be her champion all the way, unless there comes a time when my boy gets hurt, then she best get in line for the judgy-judging Mama Bear, because I will find her. Until then, it’s all about innocent until proven guilty. It’s all about the “talk”. Yep, the s-e-x, one. Truth is, I’m a rock star when it comes to awkward conversations so we’re good. We’ve already had lots of talks, my son and I, and now we’ve added consent to the topics of importance. I stress to him, that no matter he wants to do, he must ask if it’s ok, then ask again, and then double-check that. I also had the conversation with him about making sure they practice safe sex. Now I know they aren’t having sex……yet. They might be though, and I want to make sure he’s prepared, not only with condoms, but with all the necessary mental prep he might need. Truth is, I would rather he didn’t have sex, at least not for a while, and I told him there are at least 300 things they could do that don’t risk making a baby. I encouraged him to try all 300 before they move on to the good old in and out. Ya know?! He seemed receptive and admitted out loud that he wasn’t ready for a baby. Whew!! Because I’m not ready to be a grandma, and I’m certainly not ready to let my baby go. Not yet anyway.

Stay well.

I’ll surely have my Totems nearby to grab if my nerves get the better of me and I start acting like a silly embarrassing mom. If you need a Totem for those just-in-case moments, visit our store www.totemtamers.com/shop, and get one today!

 

 

baby boy

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!

Sometimes being apart together is where the beauty is!

By | 2018-04-07T23:21:43-04:00 March 26th, 2016|anxiety, anxiety disorder, anxiety relief, apartment, brotherhood, brothers, childhood, children, family, Life, love, motherhood, parenthood, parenting, siblings, teenager, teenagers, teens, Uncategorized|

I’m sitting in my teeny office on a lazy Saturday morning. I’m checking in on the baby eaglets on the DCEagles Cam (I’m obsessed), I’m enjoying a second cup of coffee (sssshhh, don’t tell my GP), and I’m keeping myself “hidden” so I can enjoy the symphony of my children in the living room. You might already know that I have three boys, 16 going on 20 (he lives for independence), 13 going on tomorrow (he lives for the moment), and 9 going on 40 (he lives to tell everyone how it is). They are all so uniquely different, but those times they come together are the most amazing ones. Currently, the three of them are in the living room watching some wacky-sounding video and cracking up. I’m talking belly-aching, sore cheek, tear-inducing laughter. The temptation to go in and investigate, participate, and celebrate, is so strong, but I know that my presence will only alter the experience and change the vibe. So I sit here apart, but as together as I could ever want to be. Sure we have whole family moments where we all giggle, sometimes to the point of falling over, and those are awesome, but hearing my boys enjoy each other is what makes me whole. The three of them will (hopefully) be together long after I’m gone, and what gives me peace in that morbid thinking, is that they will all able to comfort each other and make each other laugh. These are the moments that build their relationships and the best place for me to be is not with them. Consider that the next time you hear your kids from the other room and the desire to join them hits you, give them the space to add the mortar to their foundation without you telling them where to lay every brick!

three boys and a fountain

I was tempted to go in and snap a new picture of the boys, but I know they would not have wanted that, so here’s an oldie but goodie from the Lincoln Center fountain!

Apart, but together, is actually pretty special.

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.

A muslim-american, african-american, and caucasian-american all walk into my house….

By | 2018-04-07T23:21:47-04:00 January 18th, 2016|activist, anxiety, anxiety disorder, anxiety relief, childhood, civil rights, Equality, family, friends, friendship, holiday, inspiration, Liberty, Life, mental health, parenthood, parenting, racism, religion, stress, stress relief, Uncategorized|

and THAT my friends is part of Dr. King’s dream. This is just a cross-sampling of the kids that come over to hang out and play video games with my kids. And it’s awesome, because in those moments, it’s only about whose player has better stats or who has annihilated more zombies. There’s no question of religion or race, it’s just kids being kids, and that has to be attributed to all the work Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., fought for and ultimately died for. On this day, when we get a break from school, many get a break from work, maybe we will have a nice brunch or go to a movie, take a moment to acknowledge that we have indeed come very far. Then take another moment and consider how far we still have to go. Thank you Dr. King, for your dream, for sharing it, and for inspiring many to be better human beings.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

Be the dream!

Stay well.

Happy You Near!!!

By | 2018-04-07T23:21:48-04:00 December 31st, 2015|animals, anxiety, childhood, family, Life, mental health, parenting, stress, stress relief, Uncategorized|

You did it!! We did it!! I did it!!! Made it to the end of another year, the beginning of a new one. There are so many sentimental posts floating around about the hard years that were had, looking forward to easier times ahead, and I get it, I really do, if you’ve ever read my blog, you know I know sentimental. Right now, though, that’s not what I’m feeling. I’m feeling motivated, inspired, eager, and excited for every possibility. I don’t want to look back, I was already there! As great as some of it might have been, as awful as some of it might have been, I don’t want to do it again, I want something new and shiny! I want better than it was, for me, for my kids, for my family, for my neighbors, and for goodness sakes, for my country. We can do better, always, and if for some reason you don’t think you can, all you need to do is try! Trying is better than not doing anything at all, so it counts! Go right ahead, wish everyone a happy new year, but keep in mind the wish for a happier YOU near.

Totem reflection!

Totem reflection!

Take a moment to look at YOU and see who YOU are, and don’t walk away until you are committed to YOU! Mirrors serve to remind us that even if we can’t see ourselves, we are reflected in others, so make sure you’re a worthy mirror. Happy and healthy new You, and new year!

Stay well.