The importance of being in the moment, even if the moment is hard

Not sure what is going on but for the past few weeks, I’ve experienced a lack of energy and motivation that I haven’t seen in a while. Maybe the high of ending a bad relationship is over. Maybe now that the distraction is over I have to focus on me. Or maybe I’m just tired from the intense holiday season that has begun in the store. Perhaps it’s the fact that Christy would have turned 47 today.

Whatever it is, it is kicking my ass. I’m not feeling right, eating right, or making any healthy decisions for myself. I would even go as far as to say I’m a little depressed. Every day I wake up needing more sleep. My heart feels heavy throughout the day but not for the whole day. I am experiencing a weird sense of sadness that isn’t overwhelming, but it is dampening any motivation I have for eating well and exercising. I don’t want to run. I can’t even get motivated to do it. I’m just blah.

I do have a few stresses in my life that could be affecting me like my kids, financial insecurity, and work related stuff. But what I’m puzzled with is how much motivation I am losing daily. This isn’t like me at all.

I’m still happy that I ended that relationship. Not a day goes by where I don’t come into my apartment thrilled that it is just myself and Liz living there. Every morning I wake up in the middle of my bed happy that I don’t have to deal with anyone else other than my children. I love it. I have absolutely no regrets for ending a five year constant battle between myself and someone who was unable to hold themselves accountable for anything. When I do get sad, I think about that and instantly my chest feels lighter.

The other emotion I am experiencing is anger. Anger that this person never held themselves accountable for anything and everything was always someone else’s fault. Everyone else was stupid or didn’t know how to drive, or were just assholes. It was like being with a child 24/7.

I lost relationships, friends, and jobs. I didn’t want to go to gatherings or events for fear of having to deal with that persons issues in public. I would either go alone or not at all. When I didn’t go, I missed out on being with family and friends I don’t normally see. I didn’t say goodbye to someone who meant a lot to me when I was a teenager because I didn’t want to deal with other people staring or wondering what the hell was going on. It was very isolating. No one wants drama and I was nothing but a terrible LifeTime movie. I am so grateful I closed that chapter this last July. No regrets at all, but there is so much anger. The person I thought I loved never existed. At the end, I had no idea who this person was. It was unbelievably frustrating and I knew I couldn’t say anything at home because there was the game of “Who Can Yell Louder” which is always fun in an apartment building.

It’s over now. I’m so grateful that it is but some mornings I wake up feeling down. I look in the mirror and see an obese woman trying to look like she is in her 30s. I tell myself I won’t eat sugar and then it’s in my coffee. I say things to myself like “Omg you look like a moose today” or “Can you just stop eating crap for five minutes?” I’m pretty mean to myself, and I worry that I will never get back to where I was or want to be. Hopelessness comes in waves and then recedes to a point where I can get up and go about my day.

It doesn’t stay at an intense level because I am able to remind myself that things are better and this will pass. My heart knows that this is just one moment in my life. There have been many episodes like this, some more intense than others, but all have passed giving way to some incredible times in my life. Even in this period of whatever this is, I had an amazing thanksgiving with my father’s side of the family, I’ve had some amazing laughs with great people at work, and I am able to make ends meet in spite of myself. This past weekend My girls and I attended my cousins bar mitzvah and we had a blast!

I know this is just a moment in my life and that it will pass. A few months from now I will be able to look back on this moment and say “Wow. You got through that and then some.” I know things change so I am hanging in there.

I appreciate everyone who is around me who make me laugh, connect with me, and are just there. Thanks guys, I’ll be all right. I feel better already.


Free Range Parenting: a few words.

The topic at my inaugural PTA meeting was the car line in front of Nathaniel Morton Elementary School. A topic that I find very interesting since it is my driveway that is usually blocked by the endless row of cars that never move. The initiative is to keep the cars moving up so that the kids can get out and into school quickly, freeing up the line. I wondered out loud (possible mistake number one) why parents weren’t letting the kids out down the street towards my house. One mom guffawed at this preposterous notion of forcing her child to walk up to the doors a total of 50 feet. “Excuse me but I did not feel comfortable letting my child out to walk all the way up Lincoln Street from the dental office because God only knows what could happen.”

News to me that I live in a bad neighborhood! I mean, the dental office!

The mom next to me commented “I’m afraid of allowing my child to play in the yard alone in front of my house.” I held my breath as I looked at her, because if I took a breath something really crazy was going to come out of my mouth. I said “Oh my God, really?” Oops.

Is this what we have become? Parents so crippled by fear that we can’t even allow our children to play anywhere out of our sight? Or in this woman’s case- in her sight but outside? How is all of this anxiety affecting our children? These same parents who are terrified that someone may take their child while walking on the sidewalk of Lincoln Street are also the ones sitting in the driver’s seat on their phones not even interacting with the kids trapped in the back seat. It’s unreal to watch.

So….let me get this straight- it’s ok for you to trap the kids in the back seat, not talk to them or pay any attention to them instead of allowing them to get out and play in front of the school with the other kids? There are plenty of adults and other parents, myself included who watch them before the doors open at 8:50. The kids need to get their energy out, why not let them? They NEED to get away from us for a hot minute. It’s ok, it’s normal and HEALTHY.

In case you were wondering,  I am speaking 100% from my own experience parenting. This does not end well. Being anxious that something could happen for that brief split second we don’t have eyes on them affects them. They know that Something Bad may happen to them. They know that YOU, the one they trust with their lives, are concerned that something may happen to them. They live in this possible reality throughout their educational life until they graduate from high school. After graduation, the expectation is for them to leave home and be successful in college, including being on their own.

How can we expect children to magically be able to be on their own at 18 when we never gave them the chance until that moment to do so? I am not exaggerating. I talk with parents throughout the various activities and I cannot believe the percentage of parents who cannot get out of their kids’ asses. I just heard about a parent that is suing the school that didn’t accept her son onto the junior varsity soccer team. 

Life is hard. I have to prep my kids for it. I give my kids sharp knives when they ask me to cut an apple. I let them figure it out with bandaids in hand just in case. On days that I have to be in Hingham before 9:30 AM, I tell them that I have to be at work on time so I am relying on them to go through the doors when they open. They do every single time I ask. I let them go in the backyard, where there are no cameras, and play by themselves. I trust them to make the right decision. It’s amazing what happens to their self confidence when you do this.

Am I crazy? 

Here’s my reason: because when I gave in to that fear and was up my oldest daughter’s ass, she never learned how to deal with the stress and anxiety life can bring. I made my issues her issues. I tried to handle it for her since I didn’t want her to suffer like I did. Today, she struggles and maybe my parenting didn’t bring it on, but I sure as hell know that it didn’t help it.

We had Chinese food this past Sunday night for my birthday dinner. Addie opened her fortune cookie and read “Courage grows from suffering.” She looked at me and her dad. “I don’t want to suffer.” Who does, I thought. But the reality is that suffering in some form allows the soul to grow. Experiencing fear and walking through it teaches an invaluable lesson and isn’t that what parenting is all about? It’s my job to raise my children to be highly functional adults who are good people. I take that very seriously, which is why I learned from my mistakes and embrace what I like to call “Free Range Parenting.”

Yes, I will allow Addie to ride her bike without me on the street. Yes, my girls can play in the backyard and the front yard while I am in the kitchen doing dishes. I refuse to allow fear to change how I instill values onto my children. People say to me “It’s the how the world is today.” Is it? Does it have to be this way? What if the harm we are doing to our kids is worse than what we fear will happen? I refuse to believe that I have to accept that the world is this awful place that may take my child away from me when I am not looking. Maybe this thinking is made possible because I do have a child that could be taken from me even while I am looking. Having a child with a chronic illness changes priorities. I don’t worry about unseen demons as much as I worry about her not having a life that was lived the best way possible. I know in my gut that I am doing everything I can to enrich and ensure my girls are enjoying the best life. I know Chris feels that way too.

We only get one shot with these kids. We live with this reality every day. I’d rather make my best effort and not allow fear to make decisions for me, the cost of my children’s development is more important.

Family, Sobriety, Yoga, spiritualilty

True friendship has no limitations.

IMG_0946 Today, I am looking forward to being available for a good friend. This person is someone I have known since high school. We used to party together. I remember (vaguely) one time when her friend carried me out of a house because my legs failed to work after smoking way too much pot and drinking. Before graduation, we had a falling out, but then years later we became close again when our daughters were little. Eventually, the high price tag living in Massachusetts was too much so she and her family moved to Maine while I moved on with my life with its many curveballs. In spite of not seeing her in person, I always enjoyed seeing her updates on Facebook so in that sense we stayed connected.

Melissa was the one who saw her post about losing her dad and told me about it. I only go on Facebook about once a day and for a limited amount of time so I missed it. I reached out via Messenger to let her know how sorry I was. I didn’t expect her to respond, but she did. I knew in that second what I needed to do.

This friend was available for me when I lost my best friend, Christy. She was there at the train station when I was too shocked to drive home. She was there when I went to a meeting later that night and watched my daughter for me so I could try to get support. She was there when I relapsed and drank after 7 years of sobriety because I couldn’t handle the pain of losing the closest person to me. She was there when I lost my job, and again when I started my life over again.

I wasn’t a great friend back then. I took more than what I gave back. I still do that sometimes, and it’s something I work on every day. I don’t want to be selfish in my relationships with people. I feel it in my soul when I have shorted someone. I don’t like it and the awareness holds me accountable. I meditated on how I could best help this person who had given me so much during one of the hardest times in my life.

Meditation is something that has become an integral part of my routine. My latest obsession is following the teachings of Ram Dass, who reminds me of my dad. He looks a lot like my dad, with his Ashkenazic Jewish look and smile. I love listening to his older talks because his sense of humor was similar to my father’s as well – self-deprecating and full of intelligence. The topics he speaks on stress on the importance of seeing the whole picture and how being present in the moment is essential to that picture. Letting go of judgement, of how others perceive you, and understanding that there is a realm of possibility outside of what the 5 senses tell you have been life changing for me.

I can’t get enough of his talks and philosophy of loving the soul. It has brought me to a place of acceptance that no amount of reading a certain page in a certain text would ever have gotten me (12 step reference). I am able to step back and let people be who they are without taking it personally. It also allowed me to move past the awkwardness of not having talked to Kelly in years and reach out to let her know I am here for her regardless.

Recently, I have made an effort to focus on being available for the people I have in my life right now at this moment. My life means nothing without the people I care about in it. I want to be there for those who went out of their way for me. Like my friend Kelly, was for me on March 27, 2000 as I stepped off the train trying to process the fact that I would never see my best friend alive again. Kelly and I haven’t talked in years like we used to, but that all disappeared when she responded to my message in great pain. I recognize that pain. I had the same pain when my father died unexpectedly almost two years ago. It knocks you off of your feet, and in my case, onto a couch for 18 months.

Kelly and I sat at the same table at Prom and danced together. We went to the Senior Dinner Dance together. She made me laugh and became my friend in spite of my many faults. We even got into a huge fight that lasted a whole summer and we worked it out before I went off to college. Ten years later, she rushed to my side without me asking. Now it’s my turn to be there for her and for that, I am grateful. #classof1990

Boston Children's Hospital, Family, HLHS

The moment you take when you have to catch your breath…

Last night after dinner, Izzie and her dad were sitting on the couch having an ice pop. Addie’s latest obsession is NCIS, which was playing on the TV. After a few minutes, Izzie looks up at her dad and says “I wish I had a whole heart like the rest of you.” Chris was stunned and tried to see what caused her to say that. She said nothing else and went back to eating her dessert.

He told me about the exchange when he got back from the store. I had come by to put the girls to bed after my yoga class which gave him the opportunity to run out. Neither one of us knew what we could say to her to make her feel better. In all honesty, what can we say? The fact is she has one and a half atria, reconstructed aortic arch, and a single ventricle keeping her alive. The other side will never grow, a left ventricle will not magically appear. I am not looking forward to when she starts learning about the human body and realizes exactly how different hers is from her classmates.

It was inevitable that sooner or later, Isabelle would learn that she was different. We knew this. We thought we were prepared for it but last night shows me that we are definitely not. I don’t want to tell this sweet girl that she will never be fast, she will never be able to keep up with her sister, and that someday her heart will give out. I don’t want to have to tell her that someday she will wait for another to die so she could have a new heart because hers will fail.

Chris doesn’t want her to feel like we don’t love her how she is, so he feels like he can’t acknowledge that we also wish she had a whole heart too. We do wish she had a whole heart. He felt, and I agree, that she needed to hear that we loved her even with half a heart, and that we always will. It must have satisfied the inquiry since she didn’t mention it again.

After he told me the story, I sat on the couch struggling to catch my breath. That moment reminded me of the day after we found out there was something wrong with her heart. I woke up wishing it was all a nightmare that I could wake up from. I wanted the day to be like the one before, starting with great hope and joy. We went to Boston Children’s that day and met Dr. Levine who would tell me that my baby would need three open heart surgeries and that she had a 80% chance of surviving.

I remember asking her is she felt that it was worth it. I remember asking what if we did all of this, and it still failed. I wondered if I could do this to an infant – our child. I still can remember her expression as she said to me “You are asking me if it is worth it to have your child. I cannot answer that questions. Only you can make that decision.”

We did go through with the sequence, the doctor’s visits, the tests, the x-rays, the blood draws, the various studies. We watched her literally fight her way to existence, and then cheered her on as she began to thrive. It was not easy going through the feeding struggles, the worrying about being around other children who could get her sick, her color changes that were so alarming in the beginning. Her growing fear of the doctor’s office contributed to our burden and we would have to mentally prepare for her screams before every IV, every blood draw.

Izzie is becoming more aware that she has half of a heart. It is devastating to watch,  but wow- the strength it took for her to get to this moment is something we will never have. She truly enjoys every day to the fullest and has taught us to do the same. Every day is a gift that we are so grateful for. And I mean we- myself, her dad, her sisters Addie and Liz, my partner Melissa, her grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins….the list of people she has impacted is endless. We are so blessed to have her smile, giggles, and hugs as part of our daily life. If anything, that is what I want her to be sure of. That no matter what she will have to go through in the future, she will be surrounded by all of us. Half a heart and all.

I’ll keep writing about this as more is revealed as she becomes more aware. It’s worth archiving in case other families run into this same issue. I’m sure they have, and more will join us in this part of the journey as our children grow up.

Please consider donating to our Team Izzie’s Hope for the Walk for Boston Children’s Hospital. They are working very hard on finding a solution for kids like her and they are the reason why she is thriving today. Without the care she received from before she was born, I know we would not be where we are now. Thank you! 


Family, Sobriety, Work (or lack thereof)

Getting Off the Couch via the Mop Bucket.

Tonight as I washed the dishes, I noticed that my kitchen floor was dirty. I dried the plates and set them down onto the kitchen table. The dish rack had already become a modern art sculpture of drying bowls, pans and glasses so the table was the next logical choice. Placing the mop bucket into the sink, I reached under the sink to get the Meyer’s cleaner. One of the cats was pondering whether to jump onto the table, saw me staring at him and decided the chair was a better place for him.

The scent of rosemary and lemon filled the air. Our hot water heater is on the fritz so I filled the bucket carefully. I have no desire to waste any hot water. Karma could come in the form of an icy shower in the morning so the ratio of detergent to water must be precise.I grab the mop and place it headfirst into the cloud of lemony-rosemary bubbles. There is a rustling of paper bags behind me. The other cat decided that watching me mop the floor could be entertaining.

The dishes are done. Coffee is all set for the morning. I bring the mop over to the blobs of mud that magically appeared on the floor this afternoon. I glance at the clock. 10:40 PM. I have to get up early tomorrow for an appointment in Waltham. What the hell am I doing mopping the floor this late? I stopped. Wait a sec. I’m mopping. I’m actually cleaning.

So why is this a big deal? Shouldn’t people always keep their kitchen floors and counters clean? Well, yeah. They should! Especially when they have children, one of which has a compromised system. This entire week I have been either straightening the cellar out, re-arranging the living room, and getting rid of clutter. Last week, I spent my days binge-watching ‘Grace and Frankie’, ‘Victoria’, and documentaries about food production in the US while laying on the couch.

For the past 18+ months, I have been laying on the couch barely doing anything that was not essential. Screw that- I missed essential shit too. The blanket on top of me made me feel cozy and I would be there for as long and often as possible. I napped, ate my meals, scrolled through Facebook, and occasionally socially interacted on the couch. I didn’t clean. I didn’t go out. I stopped going to the meetings that ultimately saved my life 18 years ago.

I just laid there and waited for it to end. 

October 6, 2016 my father passed away unexpectedly. I didn’t expect him to die. I thought I had more time. He was supposed to have met my younger two children. They were supposed to hear his jokes and stories about how silly their mother was when she was their age. I would have that chance for us to be together.

I have been grieving that chance since October 6, 2016. As complicated and difficult our relationship was, I held onto hope that I would always have that chance of being with him. There was always that chance that once again I feel that connection with the man I called ‘Dad’. That chance disappeared that Saturday morning when I heard my sister softly tell me in a shocked whisper that he was gone.

I had my moments of tears during the days after his death. I figured that since we didn’t have the best relationship, I wouldn’t grieve like my sister. I was right about one thing. I wouldn’t grieve like her. I have been grieving like me. My way of grieving is laying on the couch, eating bags of Smartfood, and watching Netflix to oblivion.  Here is the moment my sobriety had prepared me for, and I choose to do the opposite of what I needed. My choice was based on what I wanted, and what I wanted was to be on the couch.

As I mopped the kitchen floor tonight, I realized that I was beginning to care about little things again. I made healthy dinners for myself and Melissa to have during the week. I cleaned and straightened up Liz’s bedroom. I made room in the cellar for the clutter I had upstairs, but I also made sure I wasn’t replacing clutter with more clutter. I threw things away. Even my old AppleCare policy from 2007.

This past October, I started a new job – coincidentally on October 6th. I traded my Whole Foods apron for a navy blue shirt and jeans. My confidence began to grow as I learned how to channel my passion for all things Apple. In January, I purchased an Applewatch. I include this in my progression because it was the activity rings that gave me incentive to keep moving. I like seeing that I haven’t been laying on the couch all day.

I wrung the mop out and placed the empty bucket by the baker’s rack in my kitchen. The floor is mud-free. I am tired, but happy. It’s happening. This fog of great sadness and loss is beginning to lift. I can feel myself breathe easier. My heart doesn’t hurt as much about what could have been or what should have been. It was how it was supposed to be. My father meant the world to me. He didn’t always meet my expectations, but I was proud to have his last name, proud to be part of his family, and most of all- grateful that we had some incredible memories that will live in my heart forever.

Whole Foods, Work (or lack thereof)

An Insta-observation.

For the past three months I have been working at the Whole Foods Market in Hingham. Derby Street attracts a certain clientele including those who have educated themselves in good nutrition and overall wellness. Besides the typical affluent stereotypes, I see many who are honestly trying to feed their families and themselves better food. Lately however, a new type of shopper has silently risen in the midst of lululemon yoga pants crowd. This new type of client has the potential to impact the way we buy our food in a huge way. They are The Instacart shopper.

It has been described to me as “similar to Uber, but for groceries.” When these personal shoppers first began to appear in my aisle, they would verbally identify themselves as ‘Instacart’ and I would need to input a PLU to indicate this transaction was a specific one. When I asked the Shopper what the job entailed, she explained to me that she received orders from customers to shop at various stores, and then she would deliver them the groceries. I turned to look at our store’s personal shopper and delivery person. “You mean you do what our shopper does?” I admit there was a little snarkiness behind the comment since I wanted our person to get the increased business. I figured both Instacart and the Shopper got a piece of the order. I was right.

Yesterday afternoon a woman came through my line with an Instacart lanyard on. I typed in the Instacart PLU number and began to process the order. As I scanned each item through, I began to smell cigarettes. I haven’t detected this odor with many customers so it is unusual to smell it at Whole Foods. Even the Team Members who do smoke make sure the scent doesn’t stay on them or in their clothes while at the register.

I continued to scan the order through and saw a non-dairy dessert that was being purchased. Sometimes, if I see something a customer buys and know we have something that is both similar and better-tasting, I recommend that product to them to try. It’s a part of my job that I enjoy- discussing and recommending different products to our customers that I love. It allows me to relate my personal experiences with the food and to connect with the customer. I bent forward to say something and realized quickly that this shopper wasn’t really my customer. I also realized that she was the source of the Ashtray odor.

According to the company website, “Instacart is building the best way for people anywhere in the world to shop for groceries. Every day, we solve incredibly hard problems to create an experience for our customers that is absolutely magical.”

Magical? I didn’t realize that part of the magical experience includes unwashed, stinky cigarette hands touching organic produce. It made me shudder thinking that this person had been touching this other person’s food. I certainly would not have wanted her to touch food that I was spending money on.

Here is how the magic happens (according to Instacart website):

  1. Customer shops on Instacart from local stores’ inventory
  2. Expert shopper picks order
  3. (provides) Finishing touches on order
  4. Delivery to homes, offices, everywhere!

Nope. No stinky, unwashed, cigarette fingers included in the above.

Every day more states, cities and towns are added to the growing list of locations where Instacart is available. My concern with this lies with the growing disconnect between the consumer and the products. Stores are going out of business in record numbers because ‘convenience’ is outweighing the experience of hands-on shopping.

One reason why I think our store is so popular, is that people come for the experience. They get to taste, touch, and ask questions about products they are interested in purchasing. We chat with them as they move through our lines and bag according to their specifications and/or needs. We assist them in placing the groceries in their car if they need an extra pair of hands. We provide ice in case there are cold items that need to be kept cold.

Humans are still social beings. Our drive to interact with each other has not lessened because we have found more ways to shop ‘efficiently’. We still need to connect with each other, and studies show that people tend to live longer when they have consistent contact with others. Sure, having your groceries delivered is a nice convenience but there is something to be said for doing your own shopping in person. Plus, you know where your hands have been.

Boston Children's Hospital, Family, HLHS, Sobriety

Keeping it in the day.

In 2012, I became acquainted with the Schultz family through Mike’s blog ‘Echo of Hope’. The description of hospital life with a great sense of humor added in lifted my spirits during our hospitalizations. You can imagine how excited I was to see the Schultz name on my trip to the patient family kitchen. I introduced myself to a weirded out Mike, and mentioned how much I appreciated his writing. His posts gave a sense of validation to the crazy unpredictable life we were having. I wanted to thank him personally for lifting up my spirits. I also met Ari on that day.

For the past 4 years, I have been following their journey, praying for their journey to get easier like ours did. Isabelle had her last open heart surgery in the Fontan sequence and was doing very well. When we got home after 7 days inpatient, she instantly wanted to ride her bike. Congenital Heart Disease was not going to keep her down and she has been that way since. Her Dad and I are grateful that she has been able to grow and thrive in ways we could not have imagined.

We wish everyone could have this outcome like we have. But that isn’t reality unfortunately. Not everyone has the experiences we have had with her being so active, and staying out of the hospital with the exception of a dehydration episode. Every day, I thank God for blessing her with good function for that day. I am aware that things can change without warning.

When you have a child with a condition like Isabelle or Ari, you find yourself between having hope for the future, and keeping expectations in the day. When I start thinking about Izzie’s future, there is a voice that reminds me that moment may not come and to enjoy what is happening right now. I want to believe that she will grow up and follow her sisters’ paths through school and other life events. But that voice is still there, and whispers in my ear to hold on to what is happening now, for that future may not come to fruition.

I hate being dramatic like this, but in the wake of Ari’s unexpected passing I can’t help but feel an indescribable sorrow for Mike and Erica and all of their hopes for Ari. They had just started to let themselves think about the future, and the unexpected happens. Their son was given a second chance with a new heart, and that still wasn’t enough to save him. I hope people understand my frustration or response when I am asked “So if Izzie gets a transplant, she’ll be ok, right?”

No. She may not be okay. We will always have to be on our toes regardless of how pink her lips are at the moment. We will always have to stay vigilant, check her saturation levels and worry about how hydrated she is. We will always be cautious when talking about the future. I am even reluctant to talk about her 5th birthday, which is a huge milestone for HLHS kids because it means her survival rate improves dramatically. We aren’t there yet.

There is no finish line to this race, and we are forced to remember that every time we see another family struck by the merciless heart of CHDs. All we have is right now, and that needs to be enough.

Please remember the Schultz family as they walk through this immensely difficult time. I cannot imagine how awful this is for them and for their children.