Trying to raise big fish in a small pond

Unlike my own childhood, where vacations were a yearly thing, my children have been on only two vacations. We just returned from number two. Now don’t get me wrong, I didn’t grow up gallivanting off to the tropics or ski resorts. My mom and dad dragged us all over the United States in a station wagon with a pop up camper chained to the back, a camper they borrowed money from their parents to buy. We ate canned food and roasted marshmallows. A stop at the Waffle House was a big deal. Red Lobster was living large. If we stayed in a hotel, my dad always took a picture of the bathroom stating, “Look at these big, clean restrooms!” He was in awe of the luxury at the Holiday Inn. The idea of free donuts at the continental breakfast blew his fucking mind. These are my favorite memories. Mt. Rushmore was okay. Glaciers? Pretty cool. But learning how to love life is what I really took away from our travels. And this is why I sometimes feel sad that I can’t afford to take my children on regular vacations.

Yet I can’t say my children are deprived because we don’t take them on trips. Our life is good. We have enough. We do not, however, have a whole bunch of extra. Vacations require extra. I like to think we are a typical American family, whatever the hell that means. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce Bureau of Economic Analysis, the annual average wage salary/ disbursements per job in America in 2012 was $48, 301. I won’t tell you how much our family earns, but I will say that we are well above average, and yet we don’t have the kind of extra necessary for vacations. Now I know that for some of you, this 48K seems like chump change, hardly a living wage at all, but for others, it seems like a windfall of cash! I guess that’s why the concept of average is so misleading. Average? I know what it means, but still it’s so odd. And it confuses my kids sometimes. They do want to go on vacations. They really want to go to fucking Disney World and they won’t shut up about it.

Sigh.

Recently, I was in the car with my kiddos and we got talking about money, and this led to a conversation about vacations. Why don’t we go on vacation? My kids wonder why, if we are above average in income, we aren’t able to do more, have more, etc.? I told them not to be fooled by averages. I used the average age of the people in the car as an example. I did the math and asked them if they felt the average age of 21 truly represented those of us in the car, (age 43, 13 and 9). Obviously they said no. They want to go to Disney World, they want to see the ocean, but at this time in our lives, a few days in a rented beach house in Michigan is more our speed and in keeping with our budget. But someday, I promised, we will go to Disney World, I would show them the ocean, we will work harder on making time and saving money for vacations. I promised. They promised to help me remember. Such nice kids…..

This is called foreshadowing. Hmmm....and the scene is set.
This is called foreshadowing. Hmmm….and the scene is set.

A few weeks later, we packed up the mini-van and headed to Union Pier, Michigan to stay in a lovely house on the beach. The last trip we took as a family was in 2007, so it’s been a while. We swam, made S’mores, did some paddle boarding, built sand castles and buried each other in the sand. We relaxed and ate a ton and laughed until we cried. I woke up early each day and sat on the beach with coffee and a book, soaking in the beauty, totally in awe of my good fortune. My father modeled this behavior for me. He taught me to see the miracle and beauty in everything, to realize just how unbelievably cool everything is if you keep it in perspective. In Michigan, we enjoyed good food and good times with good friends! I know my kids had a blast, but I also know it wasn’t Disney World level fun. At least not for them. The lake wasn’t the ocean. They weren’t complaining, I did what I promised and we were on vacation of sorts, but still it’s hard for them to understand and they wonder when we will take a “real” vacation.” So I told them the story of the Big Fish. I told how their grandpa was much like the character in the film.

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My father was a big fish. On the evening of his wake, the line of visitors wrapped around the funeral home and out the door. My mother, brother and I greeted people for hours and hours, listening to stories about my father. He had moments with people. Many moments. No matter where my father was, he saw the magic in every experience. He raved about flavored potato chips as wildly as a world-class steak dinner he had with business associates at pricey restaurants, and celebrated my base hit off a tee as enthusiastically as the 1980 Miracle on Ice Olympic hockey victory. It was all the same to him. He was just so grateful!

He loved the ocean, but he was just as in awe of the pond near our home when it froze over. To him, every bit of life was exciting and he devoured every second. He made moments into vacations by seeing the mundane seem miraculous. He was a big fish who taught me make swimming in the smallest of ponds a sensational experience. Instead of being lured to the surface to take the big, juicy bait on a shiny hook, my dad taught me how to go deep, to explore the unknown and find a lasting source of nourishment. I tried to explain to my children, that we were on a real vacation. As real as Disney, as real as the ocean, as real as the trips they hear about their friends taking, that it’s all how they perceive their circumstances.

My little fish
My little fish

My kids love hearing about the grandpa they didn’t know. And as we watched the sun set over the lake, they were mesmerized, sitting next to me in the sand. They had previously been jumping into the waves as they crashed loudly into the shore, leaping and shrieking with joy. I promised them again that someday we would go to Disney and see that we would swim in the ocean together. They nodded, but stayed silent and snuggled up with me. Neither one asked when we would see Mickey Mouse or say they wished we were somewhere smelling the salty ocean breeze. Maybe I’m delusional, but they seemed content. Hell, they seemed happy! I am grateful for that moment. I am hoping that no matter what the future brings, no matter where we go and what we see, that our moment on the beach will help them grow into big fish like their grandpa. That kind of nourishment is something money can’t buy, the ability to see awesome in the average, miracles in every moment.

But I can’t believe I fucking promised to take them to Disney World…..

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Here fishy fishy......
Here fishy fishy……

I think the royal baby should be called Thor

The royal vagina has birthed a wee baby! I think Will and Kate should consider the name Thor. It’s robust and regal and powerful.

Ah, but as usual, the haters are all, “Who cares what they name the baby? and “What’s the big deal? Women do it every day?”  Whatever jerk wads. I, on the other hand am all “Yee Haw! A healthy baby!” and “Are you kidding you assholes? Babies are wonderful and special and should always be celebrated so shut your holes!” As a mother, I say – HIP HIP HOORAY – for the Duke and Duchess, not because they are swanky pants royals, but because being a parent rocks and as a fellow human being and parent myself, I know what’s in store for them and it’s an experience like no other! Like the POTUS said in his congratulatory message, “We wish them all the blessings and happiness parenthood brings!” That is what I wish for the new parents. I wish this for all new parents.

But now I’m just waiting for the additional asshattery of people getting back to talking more about how William is going bald. Because having a full head of hair makes someone a better father, because that shit matters. Oh, but most of all, the time and effort that will go into talking about how wonderful, or not wonderful, Kate looks after having the baby is going to make me screamy!

For God’s sake people, she spent nine months growing a human being inside her BODY, part of the time she suffered severe nausea in the form of hyperemesis gravidarum, and she is over 30. She is a woman who did a very womanly thing yet don’t cha just KNOW the media is going to hyper-focus on how fast she loses “the baby weight?”

WHY?

Well, because our society is still, unfortunately, shallow and stupid and once again ignoring how cool the miracle of childbirth actually is! It’s so freaking exciting! How is it that every time a healthy babe is born to a celebrity, or regular schulb like me, jerk-loads focus on how quickly we shrink back to our “normal size” instead of celebrating the strength and dedication it takes to grow a person inside your body and the miracle that it even happens at all? It’s pathetic. Oh, and please define normal, because after becoming a mother for the first time, nothing is every normal again.

Just being pregnant is a mind bogging experience. People who claim otherwise have either not experienced pregnancy or have, I’m sure, experienced something exponentially more mind boggling, like alien abduction complete with anal probing while zipping through space at the speed of light. In nine short months, the pregnant body grows and changes and makes all kinds of awesome as it grows a human being. Now that is what people should be focusing on. A healthy baby boy was born to a loving couple. He was wanted and will be well cared for (understatement of the year).

When I was pregnant with my first child, my doctor told me to toss my copy of What to Expect When You are Expecting in the trash and pick up The Girlfriend’s Guide to Pregnancy. Best advice ever. Hate me for this, but when I became pregnant, I was a size 4 and because I was a naive newbie, I bought a few pair of size 10 jeans, thinking that would be as big as I would get. It wasn’t denial causing this raging delusion. Nope. It was lack of context and experience. I just didn’t know.

Clueless pregnant Nikki before darkness set in.
Clueless pregnant Nikki before darkness set in.

Once I laid eyes on my son for the first time, I didn’t give a rip-shit about what size jeans I fit in anymore. It was immediate, the overwhelming sense of responsibility and love I felt for him. I would trade my size 4 ass for a size 50 if it meant my child would be healthy and happy. However, I was thinking a lot about my aching baby hole, and my enormous, red, milk leaking, bursting forth with strange looking lumps and marks BOOBS! It annoyed me when people commented on how good I looked and how fast I lost the baby weight.

Well, let me tell you – cracked nipples, mastitis, a colicky baby with chronic ear infections and suicidal post partum depression tends to melt the weight right off a new mom. Along with every ounce of weight I gained during pregnancy, I also lost many pounds of muscle mass and my motherfucking mind. I’d give anything to have kept the weight and my mind intact, but instead, I lost both things. The weight and my mind did eventually return and I wouldn’t trade a pound off my dimpled ass for one minute of the despair I felt post baby birthing. No way. Not even an ounce!

Articles like this one CLICK HERE (my friend and fellow blogger Dave from Dad All Day sent my way, because he knew I’d bust out the big bitchface guns about it) make me stabby. My depression wasn’t related to self-esteem issues or discomfort with having gained a bunch of weight, but damn if this kind of shit doesn’t slice through the psyche of vulnerable new moms, struggling to come to terms with the fact that all the weight they gain isn’t just the person they grew. Nope. And holy mother of GOD, the isolation in the early days! I remember sitting at home with sore lady parts, (others can relate to this or they had a C-section scar that hurt like a bitch) all caught up in the insane feeding and diapering schedule of my newborn, wondering how I would make it through the next five minutes. Worrying about losing baby weight can, and often does make it hard to celebrate the miracle of our bodies. It shouldn’t, but sometimes it does.

This needs to stop. Right fucking now.

It is the job of these celebrity women to be in shape and camera ready. They will all tell you that it’s ball busting, never-ending hard work to not only resist cravings during pregnancy, when their hormones are going ape-shit, but also that the demands of being a new mother along with the pressure to slim down are frustrating and stressful and downright torturous!

Kate Hudson, celebrity royalty admitted this –

“I devoted six hours a day to a vigorous workout regime,” she told Star magazine. “I would do 45 or 55 minutes of cardio then an hour of Pilates or yoga, three times a day.”

SIX HOURS A DAY?

Yeah, because it’s her goddamn job! She’s rich and famous and has help – lots of it. And I’m just guessing that she would be among the first to sit a non-celeb new mom down and give her a big, fat, juicy hug and tell her to enjoy her baby and not to worry about losing baby weight because the most important thing is the health and well being of the two of them and then salivate over the baked goods everyone seems to bring after the birth of a baby, even though they are worried that the mom’s ass will stay fat.

RIDICULOUS.

So I’d just like to take this opportunity to tell media and everyone else who is drinking the “hey why don’t we talk about superficial nonsense and put extra pressure on an already stressed out mother by focusing on her weight” Kool-Aid, to stop it. Shut your gob. Shhh… and stop it right now!

And if you aren’t one of the morons engaging in the asshattery of conversation about baby weight, you still need to shhh….the baby is sleeping.

P.S. If they don’t name the baby Thor, I hope they name him Hawk. Hawk is a bad-ass name for a prince.

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With great power comes great responsibility (and mildly narcissistic rantings about whiny bitches)

People often ask me why I raise money for other charities and organizations instead of creating my own. And lately some have asked why I’m not as funny as I used to be

ARE YOU KIDDING ME?

I’m fucking hilarious. Shut your holes, haters.

Anyway, do you know how hard it is to run a 501C-3? No? Well it’s a shit-storm of rules and work and papers and just NO. Create my own thing? GAH! I’d rather eat the puke at every meal for a week. Besides, there are so many organizations raising cash and awareness for causes that I care about.

So that is why I choose to lend my voice to others, hoping that what I can contribute by turning MWDAS readers on to them helps keep whatever they got going on afloat. Uncle Ben told Peter Parker this…

“With great power comes great responsibility.”

Deep. And despite the raging narcissistic undertones suggested by my use of the Spiderman quote, according to my therapist, I’m too self-deprecating and not nearly narcissistic enough to NEED my name on a charity and far too lazy to make it a reality even if I was.

BITCH is always right.

Whatevs….

Oh but I do so wish (read using a British accent) people would stop whining about how I used to be funnier and asking why can’t I go back to just being hilarious? Dumbasses obviously are new to the MWDAS show. Things evolve, an although I have always been the share type and plugged into using the social media to raise awareness and funds, making sure to weave in healthy psychology and heartfelt motherfucking shit into my blog posts, it seems that some would prefer that is all I do is rant and swear and try to be hilarious all the time and cut out the serious, and these people whine excessively about it.

More whatevs…whiners.

There has been a huge – and I mean MEGA-MASSIVE- explosion of mommy blogs in the years since I started this gig in 2008. Let the newbie bewbies write about butt wiping, asshole husbands, bitches at carpool and make time to tweet no less than 5 but no more than 10 times a day about how clean #shitremovinglaundrymiraclesoap gets their laundry. I ain’t interested. I find it quite un-fun to write top ten lists day after day about parenting or researching Google keywords so that whatever I post will go viral and please people. I’d rather write about whatever the hell I want to write about and if it’s funny and includes stuff about parenting, swell.

If it’s not, well that’s just the way the ball sacks bounce and swing sometimes, so you just have to duck and shut up because all the wailing in the world isn’t going to change things. I tell my kids that all the time and for the most part, they shut their pie holes after one of two hot cups of shut the fuck up from momma. Do I really have to tell grown ups to stop whining and to avoid saying anything if they can’t say nice things?

Obviously I do.

But first I want to continue my un-funny and disappointing streak and take the opportunity to thank the people who donated generously to the 2013 Little Friends Step Up For Autism Walk and give them the shout outs I promised when blogging and begging for donations. I do so want to brag (British again please) about you and the power WE have as a social media group. Because of YOU guys, Team Tommy Kistler was among the top five fundraisers this year! To see how much ass we kicked, click HERE!

PUT THAT IN YOUR WHINY  BUTT PIPE AND SMOKE IT!

First of all, I’d like to thank Ally, and her son Logan, from The Crumb Diaries for making and auctioning off slombies. Want to know how much they went for? Do you?

Well take a fucking look at this! Click HERE to see the auction results.

FIVE HUNDRED DOLLA MAKE ME HOLLA! Thank you Logan and Al!

And so, I am asking you, begging you really, to check out the websites and whatnot that generously gave honoring Team Tommy Kistler and The Little Friends Center for Autism in Naperville. I do not endore the views or products personally and I say this so you can’t blame me if your genitals explode as a result of your support for these people and their stuff. I don’t think it will, but I make no promises and tell no lies (this is a lie).
Doowit.

These blogs – Oh yes, yeah baby. Click right on them, tickle those keys. Oh god yes…. that feels so good! Seriously though. Please? Thanks

The Crumb Diaries
Three words – Funny as fuck. Seriously this blog is off the chain. Slombie makers, loving family. It’s tits, yo! I AM ADDICTED TO THIS BLOG.

Red Vines and Red Wine
Awesome educator and autism advocate and proud mom of three kids one who has autism, one who went bald to raise awareness about pediatric cancer and one who draws magical things that will blow your mind. Blow. Your. Mind.

It Builds Character
Life, family, career, community and home. The whole package. This lady nails it and has the heartiest heart of gold and grammar skills I’ve ever known and seen and felt. She also has a nice butt. Word!

Dribbles and Grits
Mad-hattery that occasionally enlightens on a mysteriously profoundish level with a focus on momming and dadding, which is another way of saying a place to procrastinate doing the dishes. Her words, which I think are perfect!

Find My Eyes
Find My Eyes is a blog written by a SAHD dad raising a six-year-old boy with an autism spectrum disorder. Jordan, the author, has a sweet sugar momma wife and a toddler – the entire family has red hair. Oh the ginger-tasticness!

The Thinking Moms Revolution
Incredibly intense and passionate collection of moms, sharing stories about their personal experience with autism. They wrote a book. Buy it by clicking HERE!

Squeaky Clean Soaps – Andi Burkholder
Squeaky Clean Soaps is a small, handmade custom soap company creating fun, functional favors, gift and everyday soaps and spa items. Eliminate the goody bag and give them something they can really use: SOAP!

Jeremy Roadruck, A.K.A.Jeremy R, the Kung Fu Guy
n international #1 best selling book on Amazon, Your Best Child Ever: Is This Game Worth Winning gives parents a new way to look at action and interaction with children of all ages (husbands and wives, too!). Imagine your children coming to you, looking for ways to contribute to household chores, being more helpful and respectful to each other, and being responsible – all with minimal input or guidance from you! And, the book comes with a money back guarantee – how rare is that? Buy his book by clicking HERE or HERE for Kindle.

Hi-ya, Sifu Jeremy!

And last, but certainly not least – check this Lutimax business out!

LUTIMAX – Stephanie Cameron
Lutimax™ Pediatric Powder is a patented/proprietary formula that is an all-natural powder supplement typically given to children from the ages of 2 and up. Lutimax Pediatric Powder has clinically shown to help improve the quality of life in children. It can help with speech improvement, emotional attachment, cognitive functions, coordination, behavior outbursts, attention span, intimacy, interaction, and comprehension. DISCOUNT CODE FOR MWDAS READERS – SUFA20.

Thanks to donors Heather Kash from St. Baldricks, Melanie Impastato, Karen Knepper, Andrea Henry, Carrie Stokes, Heather McNamera, Jack Kane Kyla Wood, Renee Nordgren, Susan Chiofolo, Jennifer Newport, Penny Roach, and Vickie Saenz-Brown. Thank you for proving how good and kind the world can be.

Finally, please take the time to find all these beayooooootiful and generous souls (including me) on Facebook and Twitter and if you don’t like the way I’m blending the serious and funny, well…feel free to go fuck yourself you whiny bitch. Thankyouverymuch.

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10K Training – A Truly Scary Story

Liars can fib about just about anything and everything, but they can’t be dishonest about whether or not they have actually trained for a run, especially in the light of day when they are at the actual starting line in the blistering hot sun, two seconds away from starting a race. I am a poet, and I know it, but that’s not the point I’m trying to make. My point? Training for a 5K, 10K, half marathon or a marathon isn’t something you can fake. You must do it, and by you, I mean me, and I am doing it because I said I would. DAMMIT! I meant what I said, and I said what I meant, and son of a fuck-nut, a runner HAS to be faithful 100%. And this sort of sucks right now, because it’s hotter outside than a thousand of Satan’s meat farts.

The heat tried to trick me into being a fibber mcgee yesterday.

Fucker.

I woke up bright and early and knew that I should get my run done, but did I get right to it? I did not. I picked up a book, hoping to escape the heat by dissolving into the story, putting off the four miles I needed to run until later in the day. I sat there lying to myself, and for just a moment, myself believed the lie. I was as likely to run later as I was to poop out a baby monkey named Kriss Kross, you know what I’m sayin’?

Run later? Pfffthh….as if!

Put the book down and get your ass up, I said to myself. Runners in training can’t deny or lie. I hate you, you evil masochist, I said back to myself. Hate you more, liar with your pants on fire, myself said back. Myself then told me to quit being a sissy bitch and to remember the reason for running in the hot as hell season. I walked outside fighting with myself all cuckoo-like. It wasn’t just toasty, it was burnt toast toasty, but I had no choice. Run I must! The ZOOMA Chicago Women’s Race is on August 10th. I have committed to running the 10K, AND I am a guest speaker, AND dammit – I have only a few more weeks to train! There’s no lying in running, but there is crying if you don’t do the work. Lots of fucking crying.

Why am I doing this, I asked myself for the 100th time?

Well, because I said I would, and I want to, and I meant what I said and I said what I meant, and if I don’t do the work at 100%, then I will disappoint not only the people who I committed to, but I will have to live with myself and myself doesn’t like bullshitcal fucktards who don’t follow through.

Are you wondering why I am doing this if I’m in misery? Well, I’m not really miserable. All this running is making Nikki feel strong like bull, and my buns are turning into steel motherfuckers! But the main reason I’m doing it to raise money and awareness for charitable organizations. I also want to set a good example for my children and last, but certainly not least, I honestly needed a reason to get back to running on the regular because when I run, I am less of a bitchface. And let’s be honest, there is no better way to do this than to be accountable to a higher truth.

So off I trotted, into the inferno, cursing myself for stalling, because holy balls, Satan must have eaten the entire cow! It was beefy beef with extra beef on beef bread with boiling beef gravy hot! But I was quickly distracted from the heat when I heard a horn honk, and someone yelled something I couldn’t make out, but I could see the 26.2 sticker on the back of the car and an arm sticking out the window giving me a thumbs-up.

If you got a car I do! I'll stick to the 10K, m'kay?
If you got a car I do! I’ll stick to the 10K, m’kay?

Damn, it was just what my self needed! I told myself that if that beep-beep lady could do 26.2 miles, I could surely run the four I needed to crank out in order to stay current on my 10K training schedule. Satan’s prime rib toots brought me back to reality, but I kept running. One mile in, I saw a toddler sitting in the shade, waiting for his mom to fill up his kiddie pool. He said, “Hello sweaty, running lady! Have a nice day!” I was already half melted at the time, but that adorable greeting turned me into a puddle of goo for just a second. And then it hit me – the kid looked exactly like this (minus the book) –

Awww.....him sew kewte!
Awww…..him sew kewte!

It scared me stupid, you know, because Pet Sematary is a frightening story to read and the movie really brought the terrifying tale to life. It was another distraction, but not a good one, like seeing Ryan Reynolds sunbathing naked would have been. But it was hot and Satan was farting on me, so I’m sure even Ryan would look like this to me –

Sexy, angry, possessed Ryan. Would I keep running? Probably not.
Sexy, angry, possessed Ryan. Would I keep running? Probably not.

But the happy toddler seemed menacing. I blame the heat –

Him want to kill me with him's sharp toy! Him do!
Him want to kill you with him’s sharp toy! Him do!

Yikes. Although I knew the little fella wasn’t going to start chasing me and try to chop up my achilles tendons with a box cutter, I picked up the pace just in case. Toddlers can’t be trusted, even if they don’t have sharp objects and they aren’t chasing you. The little shits turn on a dime. I decided to think about good things, to distract myself from thinking about the sweat burning my eyeballs. I had to get my mind right so I could get my run done before I went blind or insane. I was, however, wishing the kid would chase me with a little fan like this –

Can you get me some water too, kid? Nikki's parched from Satan's farts!
Can you get me some water too, kid? Nikki’s parched from Satan’s farts!

GOOD THINGS, good things, gooooood things, Nikki think about some good things…..

My awesome sports bra was keeping my eyes safe from floppy tit punches.

(Run, Nikki, Run!)

Gage, the homicidal child from Pet Sematary, is not real and not chasing me.

(Run, Nikki, Run!)

But that toddler? Real.

(Look behind you, Nikki!)

“Gage,” the friendly lawn toddler was not chasing me with a box cutter.

(I knew that, but I checked just to be safe)

My heart and body are strong from training. I could outrun the little fucker if he was chasing me with a sharp object.

(Slow down, woman. Think about why you are doing this)

Donna’s Good Things – The charity I am running to raise money for, is real. Donna was real. Keeping her memory alive is important. She can no longer run in the sun, but other kids with cancer still have a chance and if I can help in some way, I must!

So for those of you asking how it’s going, well, I’m not whining and wimping out, and I’m trying to be positive and loyal. I’ve made a commitment and although Satan is a carnivore who blasts raging hot flaming, white-hot meat farts all throughout the Midwest summers, I realize that those farts are stinky lies, trying to stop me from being honest. I will run from them!

I will do this. I said I would and I meant what I said. I am doing this 100%.

So if you want to run this race, you only have a month to get your sorry ass in shape, and that’s no lie. You can’t fake your way through a 10K. Register by clicking HERE if you are a masochist and want to join me in hell, running until your flanks foam and your ass chafes. The official charity partner for the ZOOMA Women’s Racing Company is called Every Mother Counts. Check them out please, as they are another very good thing.

If you are merely a sadist, you can make a donation to Donna’s Good Things, letting them know that Moms Who Drink And Swear sent you. This is THE way I’d appreciate you showing your support for Donna’s family and their efforts to keep her memory alive and help others. Yes, I’m doing this for me, but I am also running for Donna and every other person who has been touched by pediatric cancer. Another truth: raising awareness and fundraising for pediatric cancer helps me live my life in a more authentic and grateful way.

 

Donna Quirke Hornick July 20, 2005 - October 19, 2009.
Donna Quirke Hornick July 20, 2005 – October 19, 2009.

 

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My Sweet Spot in Chicago

When I am driving into the city of Chicago from what my city dwelling friends call, “Knepper-tucky,” or “Rural route where the hell am I,” my breath hitches at the first glimpse of the Chicago skyline. The familiar buildings such as the Sears Tower, (don’t tell me to call it that other name because I won’t) the John Hancock and the red CNA insurance building never fail to trigger a flood of powerful emotions and memories. The images, sounds, smells and tastes of the city have played an important role in my life. I am not a person who picks favorites. As a matter of fact, you’d have better luck asking me to give birth to twin kittens than to get me to pick a favorite food, color, song or movie, but I do have a favorite place in the great city of Chicago.

My favorite place isn’t so specific or exciting. When people visit Chicago for the first time, it’s not a destination typically found on the must-see lists for tourists, but it should be. And it’s also not a place that’s even on the radar of most locals, because it’s not an official place at all! I couldn’t even tell you exactly where it is.

My favorite place in Chicago is just outside of the Adler Planetarium, a sweet little spot near the Henry Moore Sculpture and like I said before, I really couldn’t tell you exactly how to find, but you’d know it if you did.

You just would!

It’s THE place for me and I think that if you were to go there and stand very still on a clear summer day, you would agree that it’s extraordinary because you can see the entire city skyline and lakefront from this very spot. But who knows? You might not feel the magic or understand what makes it my favorite place in the whole entire city. After all, a person can take an elevator to the top of the Sears Tower, (remember, I’m not calling it the other name so shut it) and see every last bit of the lakefront and skyline from way up high!

But it’s not the same. At least not for me it isn’t.

I remember the first time I stood there in the sweet spot, that place that has become a sacred space for me, gazing out at Lake Michigan, soaking up the sun. I was 18 years old, and for the first time, I felt terrible and wonderful, frightened and empowered, all in the same moment. I remember whispering to myself, “This is magnificent!”

And it was.

The view was absolutely dazzling, the dramatic skyline was so impressive and distinctive; I could hardly breathe. Yet I knew so many ugly truths about the city and the world at large. Stories filled with violence, grief, and pain; and for the first time in my life, I could no longer feign innocence about the harsh realities of life or keep them at bay. It struck me that that since my last visit to the planetarium, I had become a grown up. It felt like the little girl who wanted to blast off into space to see the rings of Saturn up close was a figment of my imagination. I had experienced loss and sadness in my short life, but nothing like two years leading up to my 18th birthday. I was seeing the world through the eyes of woman on the verge of adulthood, acutely aware that heartbreak, pain, evil and loss were inevitable. Chicago was beautiful that day, but I had recently learned that real life wasn’t all hearts and flowers and happy endings. I didn’t realize I was sobbing until a stranger approached me.

Was I hurt? Did I need help? I couldn’t speak.

I was hurt and I did need help, but I knew that the pain would pass and there really wasn’t anything she could do for me. Growing up is hard and letting go of childhood innocence is especially hard when that childhood has been safe and cheerful, something anyone would want to hold onto. I watched the waves of Lake Michigan crash into the rocks, and I remember thinking although the woman couldn’t help me in the long run, she was my port in the storm. And really at that point, any port in the storm would do, because I was a wreck! So I clung to her and cried a bit longer.

At the time, I fancied myself something of a philosopher, an Anais Nin type, all deep and sexy. I was wrestling with the same issues, questions and thoughts as most young adults, trying to find answers in the lyrics of songs, words of a poem or adventures of the fictional characters in the books I was always burying myself in. I was far from content, struggling to understand and get along with my parents, looking for love, building and breaking friendships and figure out what the hell to do with my life.

Once I stopped crying, the lovely lady released me from her grip and went on her way. I plopped down on the ground to catch my breath, and couldn’t believe I had fallen apart. How could I be so dark and twisty on such a glorious day? I found myself searching for something, anything to comfort me and ease me out of the intensity of the moment. I remembered these words from Anais Nin

“We don’t see things as they are. We see things as we are.”

On that remarkably beautiful day, standing in my sweet spot, reality bit me. No matter how much I wanted to turn back the clock, to un-see and un-know so many things, it just wasn’t going to happen and I would damn well have to figure out how the hell I was going to cope with that reality. I’d love to tell you that I figured it out that day, but that would be a bullshit happy ending. I still haven’t figured it out, but I can tell you that I’m making a little progress.

Every day I am making progress.

On a bright and cloudless summer day, you will find that if you stand in that beloved and sacred space, you can see the entire city skyline and lakefront for miles! It’s an impressive and overwhelming sight to behold! And as the years pass, it only gets more so, as new landmarks pop up, decorating the landscape and marking time. Today, as a middle age woman, I am able to see the beauty in the beast of the big city, somehow managing to balance the happy with the heartache. That spot, the sweet, sweet spot, has been my go-to destination when I need to get some perspective and it always will be. It is, hands down, my very favorite place in the entire city, maybe even the entire world. Again, the words of Anais Nin describe how this came to be –

“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”

So that, my friends, is the why the sweet spot somewhere just behind the sundial sculpture outside the Adler Planetarium is MY favorite place in Chicago.

Go there! Find the spot. You won’t be sorry.

Go find your own extraordinary sweet spot! Doowit!
Go find your own extraordinary sweet spot! Doowit!

Safe Kids, Smart Parents: What Every Parent Needs to Know to Keep Their Children Safe

If you were to ask one hundred parents what their greatest hope is with regard to their children, I’m willing to bet that they would all say they want their children to be happy and safe. Safe kids are happy kids. Smart parents take steps to make sure they do everything in their power to keep their children safe. But as parents, we can do everything “right” and still find that our kids make bad choices or by no fault of their own, find themselves in dangerous situations. And that is why I am writing about the book Safe Kids, Smart Parents: What Parents Need to Know to Keep Their Children Safe.

I could give you hundreds of examples of smart parents that did their due diligence, educating their children about good touch and bad touch, listening to the “uh-oh” feeling, internet safety, etc., yet still their children were hurt or even killed. It’s the worst part of being a parent, isn’t it? The reality that something could happen to your child; something violent, horrible and too scary to even think about, let alone discuss, especially with children.

So how do we talk to our kids about safety?

Another parent overheard me talking to my daughter about safety, a quick review, before leaving her at camp for the first time, and she said, “Don’t you think you are scaring her?”

I wanted to kick out her kneecaps and tell her to suck a duck’s dork, but I did not.

Instead I said, “Do you think it would be scarier for her to learn about safety from her mother, who loves her, or to be a vulnerable know nothing, increasing her chances for being kidnapped and locked up for years being sexually molested by a drug addict or raped by a trusted adult who is supposed to keep her safe?”

It was so quiet, you could have heard a mouse fart!

Maybe that was harsh, but life is harsh sometimes, isn’t it? The world is full of wonderful and kind people who would never think to hurt a child, but unfortunately there are people, sick and evil people, who truly are just looking for the opportunity to do unthinkable, terrible things to children. I dislike talking with my children about these things, but it’s necessary. When I speak to them about safety, I do it in a way that speaks to their developmental age and I use language that they can understand.

I’d rather hit myself in the head with a hammer, repeatedly, than continue to address safety with my children, because when I do talk to them about safety, I have to actually acknowledge the reality that something could happen to them, even if they know all the rules and do all the right things. But I know that taking time to discuss these things with them increases their chances of being safe, especially in risky, scary situations where they need to do some quick thinking. If they know what to do, they will do it!

So when I was asked to read and review the new book, Safe Kids, Smart Parents: What Parents Need to Know to Keep Their Children Safe, I jumped at the chance to do so, knowing that I would be able to tell you all about it and do a book giveaway. This book is a fantastic resource for professionals and parents. As a professional who has worked with many abused children, I’ve seen what these injuries do to children and families. The memories of my time as a mental health professional, hearing stories and seeing the aftermath of these traumas will haunt me for the rest of my days.

Although the subject matter is difficult, the book itself is an easy read. After an emotional forward by Terry Probyn, the mother of Jaycee Dugard, the authors provide a through chapter with directions on how to use the book. If I could jump up and down and scream and bang trash can lids while running up and down your street screaming, “PLEASE READ THIS BOOK AND USE IT TO TALK TO YOUR CHILDREN ABOUT SAFETY NO MATTER HOW HARD IT IS,” I would. The section in the book called The Safe Kid Kit, is, in my humble yet knowledgeable opinion, pure genius. It is, without question, one of the best resources available for parents and professionals alike, and believe me, I have read and everything I can possibly get my hands on with regard to children and safety. I can’t say enough about what a great tool this is for parents who don’t know how to initiate these difficult discussions with their children.

Ever heard the old saying, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure?” TRUTH! I know how hard it is to have difficult conversations with children. Before I had my own wee kids, I spend considerable time with children whose parents didn’t provide them with information, not because they didn’t want to, but because they didn’t even realize they needed to!

Do not let this be you.

I hope you will all engage in a helpful and supportive dialogue about safety with each other by commenting on this blog and on my Facebook  and Twitter pages. We can help each other and in doing so, increase the chance that our kids will make safe choices when faced with risky and/or dangerous situations, because trust me – they will. Please share or tweet a link to this blog. I will choose a winner for the giveaway randomly (meaning that I will close my eyes and use my dog’s paw to select the winner). I will also send the winner a copy of my book, because it’s just not right for me to ignore the opportunity for shameless self-promotion and to provide some comic relief for you after reading about a difficult topic.

* I was asked by the publisher if I would give this book a look-see. Aside from being given a book for myself and a book to giveaway, I was not compensated for this post.*

Safe Kids, Smart Parents: What Every Parent Needs to Know to Keep Their Children Safe

If you were to ask one hundred parents what their greatest hope is with regard to their children, I’m willing to bet that they would all say they want their children to be happy and safe. Safe kids are happy kids. Smart parents take steps to make sure they do everything in their power to keep their children safe. But as parents, we can do everything “right” and still find that our kids make bad choices or by no fault of their own, find themselves in dangerous situations. And that is why I am writing about the book Safe Kids, Smart Parents: What Parents Need to Know to Keep Their Children Safe.

I could give you hundreds of examples of smart parents that did their due diligence, educating their children about good touch and bad touch, listening to the “uh-oh” feeling, internet safety, etc., yet still their children were hurt or even killed. It’s the worst part of being a parent, isn’t it? The reality that something could happen to your child; something violent, horrible and too scary to even think about, let alone discuss, especially with children.

So how do we talk to our kids about safety?

Another parent overheard me talking to my daughter about safety, a quick review, before leaving her at camp for the first time, and she said, “Don’t you think you are scaring her?”

I wanted to kick out her kneecaps and tell her to suck a duck’s dork, but I did not.

Instead I said, “Do you think it would be scarier for her to learn about safety from her mother, who loves her, or to be a vulnerable know nothing, increasing her chances for being kidnapped and locked up for years being sexually molested by a drug addict or raped by a trusted adult who is supposed to keep her safe?”

It was so quiet, you could have heard a mouse fart!

Maybe that was harsh, but life is harsh sometimes, isn’t it? The world is full of wonderful and kind people who would never think to hurt a child, but unfortunately there are people, sick and evil people, who truly are just looking for the opportunity to do unthinkable, terrible things to children. I dislike talking with my children about these things, but it’s necessary. When I speak to them about safety, I do it in a way that speaks to their developmental age and I use language that they can understand.

I’d rather hit myself in the head with a hammer, repeatedly, than continue to address safety with my children, because when I do talk to them about safety, I have to actually acknowledge the reality that something could happen to them, even if they know all the rules and do all the right things. But I know that taking time to discuss these things with them increases their chances of being safe, especially in risky, scary situations where they need to do some quick thinking. If they know what to do, they will do it!

So when I was asked to read and review the new book, Safe Kids, Smart Parents: What Parents Need to Know to Keep Their Children Safe, I jumped at the chance to do so, knowing that I would be able to tell you all about it and do a book giveaway. This book is a fantastic resource for professionals and parents. As a professional who has worked with many abused children, I’ve seen what these injuries do to children and families. The memories of my time as a mental health professional, hearing stories and seeing the aftermath of these traumas will haunt me for the rest of my days.

Although the subject matter is difficult, the book itself is an easy read. After an emotional forward by Terry Probyn, the mother of Jaycee Dugard, the authors provide a through chapter with directions on how to use the book. If I could jump up and down and scream and bang trash can lids while running up and down your street screaming, “PLEASE READ THIS BOOK AND USE IT TO TALK TO YOUR CHILDREN ABOUT SAFETY NO MATTER HOW HARD IT IS,” I would. The section in the book called The Safe Kid Kit, is, in my humble yet knowledgeable opinion, pure genius. It is, without question, one of the best resources available for parents and professionals alike, and believe me, I have read and everything I can possibly get my hands on with regard to children and safety. I can’t say enough about what a great tool this is for parents who don’t know how to initiate these difficult discussions with their children.

Ever heard the old saying, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure?” TRUTH! I know how hard it is to have difficult conversations with children. Before I had my own wee kids, I spend considerable time with children whose parents didn’t provide them with information, not because they didn’t want to, but because they didn’t even realize they needed to!

Do not let this be you.

I hope you will all engage in a helpful and supportive dialogue about safety with each other by commenting on this blog and on my Facebook  and Twitter pages. We can help each other and in doing so, increase the chance that our kids will make safe choices when faced with risky and/or dangerous situations, because trust me – they will. Please share or tweet a link to this blog. I will choose a winner for the giveaway randomly (meaning that I will close my eyes and use my dog’s paw to select the winner). I will also send the winner a copy of my book, because it’s just not right for me to ignore the opportunity for shameless self-promotion and to provide some comic relief for you after reading about a difficult topic.

* I was asked by the publisher if I would give this book a look-see. Aside from being given a book for myself and a book to giveaway, I was not compensated for this post.*

Guess what fellas? Farts are not f**king foreplay!

Farts are almost always funny. I say almost, because sometimes farts make me mad instead of glad. Most of the time, farts make me feel giggly, relaxed and peaceful. Nothing gets me right like a powerful purging of poisonous gas after a weekend of summer festival binge eating or overdosing on veggies and ranch dip at a cookout, however sometimes farts make me furious and frustrated. They remind me that I’m getting old and although I cannot believe I’m actually admitting this, I confess that farts no longer hold the power to amuse me the way they used to. I’ll explain.

I am 43 years old and have been married for almost 20 years. I know, the idea that someone put up with my idiocy for that long is comical, but miraculously someone has, and continues to do so. I find it weird, but I have come to understand something about marriage that can only be understood by a person who has been in a committed relationship for a decade or so and that something is this – farts can help and hurt a relationship. Farts are powerful! Not because are they are a flammable gas or because some farts have been clocked at a speed of 10 feet per second either!

I’m sure you are like – WOW – and also thinking WTF? WHERE IS SHE GOING WITH THIS? I’m getting to that!

In his new book (click the word ‘book’ to check it out) chronicling his adventures in parenting, Drew Magary shares an emotional story about the day he and his wife learned that their seven weeks premature firstborn child suffered from intestinal malrotation, and had only a hot second to process the idea he might not survive a dangerous surgery to correct the problem. As they hugged and sobbed, desperately clinging to each other, grieving the frightening news, his wife cut a fart.

You read that right. SHE FARTED.

The tears turned into laughter and they found a way to endure the hellish nightmare together. Now that’s an example of funny and fabulous flatulence – first-rate farty-fart funny. That fart had the power to heal. (By the way, the little guy survived “having his intestines tossed.” He is happy and healthy, a typical a-hole kid, cherished by his parents, and can fart just like any other kid thankyouverymuch)

And now I’m just going to tell you why farts make me angry. Not just a little angry, but cartoon character with steam coming out of my ears angry.  This didn’t used to be the case, but the wisdom I’ve gained in my 43 years resulted in a fart epiphany! Much like f-bombs and other things deemed socially inappropriate, there is a time and a place for farts, because farts really are powerful! And that time and place really needs to be considered by couples in a long-term relationship if they hope to maintain any sort of sex appeal for each other. After awhile, a couple has to work a bit harder to turn each other on, because time simply sucks dry the old stand by sexy stuff like perky boobs and a chiseled jawline, and replaces them with stuff saddle bags, beer bellies, and noses that have an inch (or six) of curly gray hair hanging out of them.

I shit you not when I say that I really don’t want to be downwind when my husband cuts the cheese, at least not when he does it on purpose for a laugh, and I certainly don’t get turned on when he says, “Pull my finger,” and blows a big one. I admit that I sometimes I find it funny though. I used to always find it funny, but after over 20 years together, that funny has lost some power. Like I said earlier – time and place. I know I’m not alone in feeling this way. Girls talk…

Come on, Dad! You can do better than that.
Come on, Dad! You can do better than that.

Anyway, over the years, I have attempted to avoid having my husband hear me having what Bella Swan would call “a human moment,” (I can work a Twilight reference into anything. Anything. It’s a gift really…) and I have done my best to keep up my appearance (without surgery or other chemical enhancements aside from the one time I tried Botox and spent three months looking  like David Spade’s character when he got caught masturbating in the movie Tommy Boy) despite the inevitable and typical age and life related appearance changers suck as extra weight, wrinkles, scars, stretch marks, etc.

I can’t stop time from stealing my youth and I understand that stinky-poo farts are just an inevitable consequence of being a living, breathing human, but I don’t have to like these things or flaunt them; especially the farty-fart part! I cherish the miracle of my body, the way it’s built to take in and expel nourishment a certain way. It fascinates me that food looks so good before I put it in to my body, and then so god awful horrible when it comes out. Ah, but that, my friends, is life, and life is good. It’s precious and fragile, not to be taken for granted, much like romantic relationships. And I do not take my romance for granted.

For years I’ve read articles giving tips for a happy and healthy marriage and I have heard couples speak about the importance of keeping a relationship fresh. Well, farts aren’t fresh. Farts are rotten. They are funny sometimes, that I can’t deny, but they aren’t sexy. And so I’ve come to the conclusion that really the only thing I can control with regard to keeping things fresh, aside from regular bathing, wearing a good support bra and using ten gallons of moisturizer a week, is to smell as good as I possibly can around my husband, and that’s not going to happen if I rip out farts and act like the sound and smell is an aphrodisiac. Not like I did this before I came to this earth shattering insight about farts, but still, I now realize that I’ve got to hold on tight to whatever I can with regard to keeping up my sex appeal and one thing I can hold tight, are my butt cheeks.

You read that right. I’M NOT GOING TO FART PUBLICLY.

I can hold my old lady butt cheeks together, clinching them and shuffling as I get out of bed or leave the room to rip the rotten if the need arises, and god knows it will. I’m only human you know. I told my husband he needs to do the same and before he could argue about how inconvenient that would be, I reminded him that I’m not the only girl that doesn’t want to put up with that kind of yucky stinky butt stuff! “I mean, think about it,” I told him, “at this point, if we were to split up and he found some chicky-poo and got re-married, at our age, there would be a very good chance that she’d probably been married before, or at least in a long term relationship, and grew tired to pulling that guy’s finger as an attempt at foreplay, so why not just stay with me and stop the stink and spark the sexy!”

The look on his face was hysterical. Really, if I’d shit out a kitten right then and there, it would have surprised him less. It was funnier than the funniest fart I’ve ever heard and in 43 years, you know I’ve heard a LOT of farts.

Anyway, I’ll let you know how it goes. Maybe.

We don't believe you. Find this image at The Oatmeal.com. Buy the greeting card too. Rad.
We don’t believe you. Find this image at The Oatmeal.com. Buy the greeting card too. Rad.

*This is not a sponsored post. I received no compensation aside from an early copy of Drew’s book, which I really enjoyed, because compared to him, I sound polite and adorable and downright fucking saintly, and that stops those dumb-shit Westboro Baptist people from picketing in front of my crib, ya know?*

Good Luck Charlie does good for the LGBT community

It’s been quite awhile since I’ve written anything that had the potential to bring out the ignorant, over-sensitive, butt-hurt, internet troll, shit-talkers, and every once in a while, a girl just needs a little rumble so here goes a little something-something! BRAVO to the writers of the Disney channel series, Good Luck Charlie!

The popular (and in my opinion hilarious) show, Good Luck Charlie, will be introducing a family that has two mommies. That’s right ladies and gentlemen, (and ignorant, over-sensitive, butt-hurt ,internet troll, argumentative, shit talkers) Disney – known for creating a world of fantasy is stepping boldly into reality.

Yes, reality.

Educated and open-minded people know that homosexuality isn’t simply a lifestyle choice, that our sexual preferences are as much a part of our biological make-up as the color of our eyes or the size of our bones. But unfortunately, the world is still stocked with ignorant, stubborn and delusional people who don’t understand this at all, people who can’t tolerate anything that they don’t understand or agree with.

I would never insist that people agree anything that is simply wrong and dangerous, things that would injure other people mentally, physically or spiritually. But sexuality is so much a part of all of us, no matter what gender we are attracted to, or what our specific turn-ons might be. But I must say that when people continue to deny the reality that homosexual, bi-sexual, transexual or transgendered people don’t deserve the rights and respect that heterosexual people have always taken for granted, I find myself judging them and saying to myself, “Self…why do people choose to entertain their bat shit crazy and ignorant opinions and attitudes towards things they don’t understand and why don’t they pull their heads out of their asses and get with the reality that being LGBT isn’t wrong or bad or a sin, that being LGBT is merely a state of being like any other?” Myself wishes I knew the answer to that question.

Just this week, my husband, son and myself were watched episodes of two of our favorite shows. First we watched the deliciously different world portrayed on Defiance, (Syfy channel) and then hunkered down for an action packed episode of Teen Wolf (MTV). Both episodes contained love scenes between two women and in my opinion, (oh that again?) each show portrayed the relationships authentically and tastefully, just as they would with a heterosexual couple.

My husband and I are among the educated and open-minded people who believe in equal rights for all people and that there is no wrong way to love another person. Love is love, but the world we grew up in didn’t embrace this reality, so for us, the on-screen portrayal of homosexual relationships is something very different than we are used to. Not bad, just different. And we both agreed that the relationship on Defiance in particular was not only exceptionally hot, but also so well done. The developing relationship between the alien woman, Stahma, and the human woman, Kenya, is fascinating, not because it is an alien/human relationship or a lesbian relationship, but because it is a passionate and extremely emotionally charged relationship between two very complex beings. So cool! But I digress.

My point here is that my son didn’t comment on the nature of the sexual relationships at all aside from discussion about the general storyline of both shows. I realized that his reality has always included the concept that love is love, no matter what gender combination is expressing that love in a relationship. He gets it because it’s all he has even known. I’m so glad he lives in a time where people are finally starting to get it.

FINALLY!

Personally, I can’t wait until it isn’t big news to hear about a new show, movie or book featuring homosexual, bi-sexual, transsexual or transgendered people. It’s big news now of course, and it should be, because for so long, any deviation from the status quo with regard to sexuality has been a source of conflict and debate with regard to how these differences are portrayed on screen. The good news is that now days, how they should be portrayed is how they are being portrayed and how romantic relationships actually are in real life – authentic, loving, passionate, respectful, loyal and real relationships between real human beings.

Bravo!

And so I say this – Good Luck to Good Luck Charlie and to all the brave storytellers who are bringing real life to surface, including and embracing differences, in hopes that the children of tomorrow will learn and grow from the mistakes of the past and create a better world for everyone. Until then, as Teddy sings to her little sister, Charlie,

“Hang In There Baby, Things Are Crazy But I Know Your Futures Bright
Hang In There Baby There’s No Maybe Everything Turns Out Alright
Sure Life Is Up And Down But Trust Me It Comes Back Around
Your Gonna Love Who You Turn Out To Be…..HANG IN THERE, BABY!”

I am Tony Soprano and so are you

I just want you to know that if you don’t hear from me for a while, it’s probably because I’m dead. I’m not afraid to die, but I don’t want to. Not yet. I’ve got so many things I still want to do! But people my age DO die ya know? It happens everyday. It happened yesterday, dammit. James Gandolfini is dead.

Dead. Dead. Dead.

And that sucks.

Sucks. Sucks. SUCKS!

I am James Gandolfini and so are you. And that truth is freaking me O.U.T.

People expect me to be funny and deliver zingers and one-liners because that’s what I did for years while building up a nice following of “fans” on Facebook. But really, in my opinion, by being a fan of Moms Who Drink And Swear, you are actually being fans of yourselves.

Yeah, you are.

Because what I have said in the past is simply what parents have been saying and thinking and feeling forever and a day. We are all the same deep down, it’s just that some of us won’t or can’t admit it, but those of us that do enjoy a smart ass quip about family life brings us together, lifting us out of the isolation and despair that is an inevitable part of being a human who is raising another human. It’s also true that for so many of us, being a parent often means putting the health and well being of our children first and neglecting ourselves, which is one of the reasons we do find ourselves so physically, emotionally and spiritually drained. Our lives lack balance, so we seek a source of solace, safety and sanity to help us level out. But often that is only temporary and we go back to old patterns of self neglect.

And that is bad.

Bad. Bad. Bad.

If you were a fan of The Sopranos and found yourself alternately loving and hating the character of Tony Soprano, feeling connected to his primal urges, impulsivity, fear, anger, passion and pain, you were not alone. It’s normal to do this, and quite frankly much easier to let someone else do the emotional work, to lead the way, set the tone and establish the boundaries. This is how we humans find our way – we learn by watching others.

It’s adorable when our children walk around with their tiny feet in your shoes, right? Haven’t we all whipped out the camera to snap a quick picture of this image? And then we move along with our day, having captured a memory and experienced the joy of seeing a miracle without realizing it. Our children will someday “fill our shoes.”

When our kids imitate us, it means they are really seeing us! They are watching and learning about how to live life from the moment they wake up until their heads hit the pillow that night and when they dream, their minds pick and choose the most important information to sock away for future use. The relationship between parents and small children is not that different than that of real people and fictional characters, be it on the screen or in a storybook.

What do you think your kids are learning about life from watching you? What did you learn from watching Tony Soprano struggle on screen for years and then hearing that the man who brought his character to life had suddenly died, leaving behind a wife and two children?

I can only speak for myself when I say that what I learn by watching others is that I need to continue to strive for balance in my life. BALANCE. For years, my mother kept a poem hung on our refrigerator about finding balance in life, seeking that sacred and safe space, so difficult to so many of us to reach. I’m sure I read the poem a hundred times, and although I didn’t memorize it word for word, I did absorb and integrate the message into my life. A life that is unbalanced is a tough life to live. So I try. And I live day to day, embracing the gray areas of life, because that is where I find peace of mind, forgiveness for my own imperfections and hope for my future. Finding balance is a marathon, not a sprint.

James Gandolfini was a man who was no different than any of us. He was just trying to live and find balance in his life. Professionally and personally, he seemed to be doing just that, yet based on the circumstances of his death, there was one area where he had yet to find the safe place, the balanced place – his physical health.

Obviously I didn’t know James Gandolfini personally, but I knew him in the way that people just know each other, because we really are all the same in the most important way – we are finite. Our time is limited and although how we as individuals live and believe during this time may be a source of disagreement and conflict, it would be ridiculous to argue that in doing so, our goals are different. They aren’t. We all just want to be happy, to be loved and love, to feel safe and comfortable. This goal cannot be achieved without some semblance of balance.

So in memory of James Gandolfini and in honor of your own fragile life, get to work finding balance. Watch, listen, learn and live! But as you are doing so, strive to be your own number one. Take care of yourself, every part of you, the best you can. You deserve it and only you can do this for yourself. Take the first step today. I wish I had the old poem from my mom’s fridge, because it was brilliant and inspiring. But I don’t and she can’t find the goddamn thing, so today I’ll leave you with the wise words spoken by the infamous Tony Soprano, hoping you will make today the first day of the rest of your balanced life –

“All due respect, you got no f—–‘ idea what it’s like to be Number One. Every decision you make affects every facet of every other f—–‘ thing. It’s too much to deal with almost. And in the end you’re completely alone with it all.”

Rest in peace, Mr. Gandolfini.