Saturday, November 12, 2016

Just Get Over It?

"He who cannot put his thoughts on ice should not enter into the heat of dispute."
~FriedreichNietzsche,  Human, All Too Human

What a week we have had. We elected a new president in a nailbiter of an election and in the course of the campaign friendships and even families have been destroyed. I've heard of people disowning siblings, parents, even children for not voting their beliefs. And this is on both sides of the ticket.

I have to be honest, I've hidden some of my friends who are adamant Trump supporters from my social media. I would never defriend them if I know they are truly kind, generous and genuinely good people so I do it to save our friendship. I know they have a reason for their decision that I don't understand. Soon I'll bring them back to see pets, kids, and silly memes about wine again.

But I am going to say to those who elected our president that telling a country to "just get over it" is not so easy. You made a decision and elected this man, now show some compassion and understanding for the fears that come along with him.

Understand that LGBT friends fear for their rights and their safety. They now have a vice-president who believes they can be "cured" and a government that is mostly against their very existence. They have a right to worry, be frustrated and upset.

Understand that your Muslim, Latino and African-American friends are at a higher risk of hate crimes against them because of insightful things stated on the campaign trail. Some people, not you, have used this win as a free pass to be violent. This election has given new wings to the KKK among other white supremacy groups. You may not fully be able to appreciate worrying about increased violence to your children because they have a different skin color, accent or religion. So give them your kindness and support until we can find a way to end such hatred.

Understand that sexual assault victims cringe at the things their new president has said and possibly done. Understand how difficult that is as a survivor to watch someone who has spent his life treating women like objects to be judged and used become your leader. Respect their right to feel what they feel.

Understand that some children, not yours but others, do fear him and need extra support to know that they will be safe.

Understand that our new president has destroyed businesses and people's lives on his ladder to "success" and that is personal for them. Put yourself in the shoes of so many who lost everything due to multiple bankruptcies, through no fault of their own. Could you really say, "Well, that's just business?"

I'm not proud of what some people on the Democratic side have done since the election but that's not me. Just as the racism, sexism, and violent bullying is not you.

What we need is time to heal and the best way to do that is through compassion and understanding. This is not a normal election. Maybe, instead of continuing to attack each other, telling everyone to get over it, we could try to understand each other and help each other move forward the best way that we can, together.

The top quote is something I fear about our new president. The fact that his staff had to take away his Twitter account before the election gives me pause as to how he would handle disputes with other countries. So instead of just telling me I shouldn't worry tell me why I shouldn't. Explain to me what you know to be true and I will listen. I might not agree but that's okay. I might just understand something more clearly than I did before.

We can have a conversation. We can be kind and civilized. We can try to see a different point of view even if we may never agree.

Stories of hate and violence are pouring in but I'm also hearing stories of love and compassion, of courage to help someone in need.

We have four years to try to make the best of it. The only way I see it being successful is by promoting peace and understanding over name-calling and violence.

And I do say that to both sides.

"When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace."
~Jimi Hendrix

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Bad Moms

"I used to believe my father about everything but then I had children myself & now I see how much stuff you make up just to keep yourself from going crazy."
~Brian Andreas, Story People: Selected Stories and Drawing from Brian Andreas

Recently a friend and I did the unthinkable. We went to a movie in the middle of the week in the middle of the day. What??? I shit you not. And the perfect movie for two mom's was obviously Bad Moms. It won't get an Oscar but it did get a lot of laughs from the only two people in the theater at 11:45 a.m.

The premise I could completely relate to. A woman's life literally falls apart for awhile and she can no longer be Wonder-Mom so she becomes Barely-Adequate-Mom instead. She gives herself permission to be a bad mom. I did the same while going through my divorce. I stopped volunteering at school and saying yes to every little request from bake sales to chaperoning. I did the dump and run errands during soccer practices or gymnastics practice rather than sit and watch every move my child made. I needed balance. It was no longer life revolving around them but around my needs as well. And at times, I was selfish.

I slowly got back to the occasional volunteer school activity but it had to mean something to that kid. And in not always being there for every minute of their lives, I worked multiple part-time jobs, they learned to be more self-sufficient. My daughter has been packing her lunch since fifth grade. All of my kids do their own laundry and know how to cook. And when we do get quality time together we make it fun and often an adventure because that's what they remember. Not that I missed a few soccer games to maybe catch up with my friends

I know many Wonder-Moms. Those women who never miss a sporting event, recital, or back to school night. Those mom's that rarely do anything not family oriented or even for themselves and I'm  in honest awe of them while simultaneously wanting to smack them around a bit. Mainly because when I speak with older mom's they all tend to say the same thing, "I lost myself for awhile."

I know childhood is fleeting and one day Bobby or Julie won't need you for everything. I also know that when that time comes you want to still have your friends and own personal activities. You have to nurture and grow your own life or you will look around your empty house and wonder who you are. Don't lose yourself. There is no Amber Alert system for that.

"If you want a baby, have a new one. Don't baby the old one."
~Jessamyn West

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Great Words

"You must be careful of the words you use, or the words you allow to be used in your house."
~Maya Angelou

The power of words. They can rip open a heart, tear apart a child, break down a confidence, start a war. It's the language, the words in this election that scare so many of us. The disregard for facts, the lack of information, the idea that flipping a coin could be a valid way to determine if something is true or false.

I just don't understand the following of Mr. Trump and many have tried to explain it to me. I listen and stay calm, I know I won't change their mind and they won't change mine. It's not just the fact that years ago he screwed my grandfather, a man who actually started a business from nothing as an honest businessman, out of millions of dollars by never paying him for the work he did on his casino. My grandfather being one of the countless people he did that to and almost lost his business because of it. That should be enough to hate the guy. But no, there's more. It's everything he says, every day, that terrifies me.

Supporters will say that it's the media and how they spin him. But debates, press conferences, interviews and sound bites always show otherwise. He has the temperament of a toddler who missed their nap, the integrity of a pedophile who just wants you to find his puppy and the honesty of....well.....that same cranky toddler when caught doing something wrong. "I didn't do it! You can't prove it! Why are you so mean to me?" He claims to be smarter than our military and admits to not paying taxes that would support our troops. He holds the fact that he cheated the government as a great accomplishment.

Do we want a president that makes us cringe when he speaks? Do we want our kids to grow up with the value that women are worthless if they aren't a 10? Do we want someone who doesn't care who he insults, what race, gender or religion because he believes he is always above them, better than they are, so he has the right?

I'm not sure how you could vote for him if you are a woman or know a woman, are Muslim or Latino or merely respect other cultures and religions, respect our military, have a sense of decorum in how people should speak to each other, any knowledge of government and world politics to realize what a train wreck of a diplomat and world leader he will be, or believes that just because we have nuclear weapons does not mean we have to use them. I am more terrified of a Trump presidency than I was of Jaws as a kid (and let me tell you-that was fucking scary!)

We are a laughing stock in other countries. We are the people who want to elect a terrible reality star/business man (I'm waiting for him to prove me wrong by showing his taxes) who has no idea what is going on in the world let alone politics. He has shown this in more interviews than can possibly be watched in one sitting without the feeling of sickness one might get after eating rotten eggs.

But he is a great businessman!

Prove it. He has claimed bankruptcy more times than he has been married. He has screwed over so many small businesses without a shred of regret. He has more lawsuits than the entire lifespan of The People's Court. There are many successful businessmen who never left such a trail of failures and unpaid bills. He saves himself by destroying others.

But he's not corrupt, he paid for his own campaign.

Not exactly. He accepted millions from doners and took a loan from himself for the rest. And if you look at the numbers he has barely paid anything on his campaign since he gets constant free press. The one upside to verbally shitting over something every day of the week.

But he cares about us, the working Americans!

Bullshit. He cares about himself. His tax plan is so terrible it puts our country in a mind-numbing debt that he says we can overcome because he is the "king of debt." He name calls, threatens, bullies and insults and never once gives a proposal of how we will be great again besides a wall, his brain and his "great words."

I have yet to hear one.

Our country is not a business nor should it be run like a reality show.  His ability to run our country is about as valid as Trump University. His followers claim there is nothing he can say that would turn them against him. Yet it seems like every day he says something that makes us stare in disbelief that he is a candidate. But everyone has to have that imaginary line that sooner or later he will cross.

Everyone has a line right? Please tell me you have a line. Please?

We are great. We never stopped being great. But with this candidate countries who are our friends and allies will look at us as a joke for their comedians to cash in on. While he runs our country into the ground as he has done with so many things in his life, he will make friends with dictators and insult the rational, upstanding leaders until we become one of those reality shows where the people think they are so smart for being on TV but most of the viewers are laughing at their stupidity.

Maybe Mama June and the guys from Duck Dynasty could get cabinet positions.

"My IQ is one of the highest-and you all know it. Please don't feel so stupid or insecure; it's not your fault."
~Donald Trump

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Civil War Cats

"We are all a little weird. And we like to think that there is always someone weirder. I mean, I'm sure some of you are looking at me and thinking, "Well, at least I'm not as weird as you, " and I'm thinking, "Well, at least I'm not as weird as people in the loony bin," and the people in the loony bin are thinking, "Well, at least I am an orange."
~Jim Gaffigan

My family is weird. We've always been weird but we have honed it, mostly thanks to my husband Dan, to a higher level of weirdness. You may doubt this statement because we try, on most occasions, to present a level of normal while in public, at least within earshot of others, that often proves challenging.

It starts with mixing up a slightly twisted humor sprinkled with sarcasm and adding a dash of inappropriate comments. Throw in some crazy family activities, mini-golf marathons (as in multiple courses in a day), finding the best onion rings in the county (or other counties), possibly getting ordained online at a specific restaurant in Ocean City (it comes with a minister parking pass), playing a version of tennis that you would think was a slap-stick comedy parody but it's just how we roll, or evenings playing board games that often are taken a step too far. Needless to say, we make our own comedy.

We had a free day yesterday so we all went to the barn in York, Lily had a lesson and we had kittens to feed. We then trekked off to The Land of the Little Horses because Dan's business partner told him we had to go. This is the same partner who decided Dan needed a bunny in his office. Yes, Dan now has a literal office bunny. Anyway, it was mostly the land of the obese ponies but of course, we could joke our way through the experience before we grabbed lunch and visited....wait for it....Civil War Tails. Yes, Tails is spelled correctly. Dan heard about it on NPR and decided we had to see this. Two sisters created multiple dioramas of Civil War history with cats.

Sounds too good to be true right? Unfortunately for Lily, they weren't real cats in costume and I was hoping for a taxidermied cat dressed as Lincoln. That was an unfortunate let down. These were tiny cats made out of clay with tiny uniforms riding tiny horses or dead horses or a field of dead cats or, well, you get the idea. And whichever sister was there is passionate about the history and her art (It's good to have passion). We liked her.

As we entered she handed us a paper which is a scavenger hunt. I thought no problem, it would be to find the calico dressed as General Lee. But instead, they were complicated questions about the book-long explanations that accompanied each diorama. Needless to say, we didn't come there to read or learn. It was all about the cats.

So that is the kind of thing we can wrap our weird brains around, mutant horses and clay cats. Later that day in the grocery store a woman told Dan and I we made "such a cute couple" I guess because we were being our usual adorable selves (you may vomit). We spent the next hour coming up with all of the things we could have said to make it awkward.

"We'll tell our mom."

"Thanks, just don't tell our spouses."

"That's great. I picked her from the mail-order catalogue for just that reason."

To name just a few.

So be weird. Be funny. Embrace your crazy. Those of us who have a bit of it tend to gravitate to each other. Because weird loves weird. And life would be a world of normal Civil War dioramas without it.

"I'm very polite by nature, even the voices in my head let each other finish their sentences."
~Graham Parke, Unspent Time

Friday, September 2, 2016

Get Away

"The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page."
~Augustine of Hippo

We just booked our next adventure. We decided, as a family (minus Drew due to his schedule), that we didn't need more stuff this year for Christmas. Instead, we wanted an adventure, somewhere none of us has been, which is difficult when it comes to Dan's past life. So this December we will be off to San Diego, California.

I love that my kids want to see the world. Drew was fortunate to do a European People to People trip in high school. We took them to Amsterdam before Dan sold his house where the guys also spent a few days in other parts of the Netherlands while Lily and I snuck off to Paris. They have been fortunate to have my parents who travel with them separately, Lily just returned from Scotland, or as an extended family to Disney, on cruises, or to island adventures.

My parents felt it was very important for my sister and me to see new parts of the world. When I was young we did it very much on a budget, traveling across the country in my uncle's borrowed RV or simply driving long distances with me vomiting in the back of a station wagon (those weren't my favorite). My first trip to Europe was with a family exchange group. We spent a portion of our time staying with a family in Bath, England and traveled from there. Then, in return, we hosted that family at our home.

Dan and I have cut our expenses for this Christmas present trip. Three out of four plane tickets were purchased with our credit card miles (cost $11 per ticket plus the one we had to buy) and the four-star hotel was the deal of the day on, saving %40. Plus not having to stress about what useless something to put under a tree.....priceless.

One of my best friends just returned from an Ireland trip that was a Groupon. She said it was fantastic. Another friend visited Thailand this summer where if you can do the plane fare everything in the country is dirt cheap. There are so many ways to open up the world to yourself or your children today. Airline credit cards, discount websites, last minute deals and date flexibility can all lead to very affordable but amazing life experiences.

That's what it's about, experiencing life. I'd rather have memories of new places, people, cultures and time with my family than a new gadget, jewelry or fancy phone and thankfully they all feel the same. We don't have a lot of time on this planet, see as much of it as you can.

"I am not the same having seen the moon shine on the other side of the world."
~Mary Anne Radmacher

Wednesday, July 27, 2016


"There is always the question why
And there is always life,
Which doesn't need an answer."
~Dejan Stojanovic


Anyone who has had toddlers can remember the "why" years. Why do dogs bark? Why is the sky blue? Why are you hiding in the bathroom? (Insert 2000 more why questions here)

As a coach, it is one of my favorite questions. When we are struggling with an issue or big decision we sometimes need to take a step back and figure out why it is such a struggle. Why are we scared, confused, intimidated or uncomfortable? How can we change that?

I'm often asked the question of why someone would come to a coach. The possibilities are endless.

Last fall I had a lovely woman in my office to discuss advertising in her publication. She sat down and exclaimed how she didn't understand coaching.

"Do people just come in and start talking?" she asked.

I explained that people usually have a specific issue or goal they are focused on so yes, they tend to come in and start talking.

"That seems so strange to me," she admitted, right before spending the next hour and a half telling me every detail of her life and asking if certain issues could be coachable.

People come in and just start talking. Why?

Because I listen. I listen and think deeply about what it is you are saying and try to find the exact right question to help you discover your answers. Usually, those questions are much more detailed than "why" but sometimes the simplest questions can be the most thought provoking.

Why would people just start talking? Because it's safe. Because I listen. Because they can. Because they need to find the answer. Because.

What is your question?

"There are always answers. We just have to be smart enough."
~John Green, Looking for Alaska

Sunday, July 10, 2016

What's Black and White and Red All Over?

"In this country, American means white. Everybody else has to hyphenate."
~Toni Morrison

I've been avoiding this issue and then a young man I know shamed me for being silent. Because if white people are silent, if we don't speak up with our friends and neighbors, we are guilty by default.

I don't know the details of any of the killings and having a son who is starting the police academy next week I am a true supporter of our men and women in blue. I'm fortunate to have many friends who are exceptional at their job of serving and protecting us.

But there is a problem. And the only way to begin to solve a problem is to admit it. If a restaurant finds out that a very small percent of meat they are serving is causing e coli they can't just shrug and hope nobody dies. They have to find and dispose of anything that could harm the public.

That's not easy with people, I understand that. I have heard of certain police forces around the country adding extensive training on conflict de-escalation. Seems like a valid start.

How did our country get here? We now broadly label large groups of people with vague and damaging statements. In every fraction of a society, there will be the good and the bad. The bad thankfully tend to be such a minuscule part yet we lump them as a whole. All Muslims are terrorists, all Mexicans are criminals, all immigrants are evil, all ________ are ______. The KKK are all white but for some reason, this never translates to all white people are racist. Somehow we get excluded from the lumping. Lucky us.

I am thankful for being born a white girl. My life, I'm sure, has been easier in so many ways. I'm also ashamed. I'm ashamed that our race has behaved in such a way over history that this is still a thing. Racism never had to be a thing. We made it a thing. We did that. And I know we hear all of the time the many ways our society has tried to fix it but we are the ones who broke it.

We obviously aren't doing enough. It's bandaids for broken bones. I actually read an article recently about how today's political dialogue has given an uprise to the KKK. They have new members and new factions and claim to be nonviolent. Shame on us.

What's black and white and red all over? Our country. And the only way to fix it is to tear off the bandaids and do the dirty work of fixing the bones. This is not a black problem, this is OUR problem. Stop pointing fingers at your fellow human beings because they are different from you. Don't be quick to judge someone because they dress, speak, pray, eat, or simply live different from you.

Instead, talk to them. Get to know them. Learn who they truly are. You might gain some compassion, understanding, and appreciation. You might even gain a new friend.

"Achievement has no color."
~Abraham Lincoln

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Rape Culture

"Most men fear getting laughed at or humiliated by a romantic prospect while most women fear rape and death."
~Gavin de Becker, The Gift of Fear: Survival signals that Protect us from Violence

Unless you've been living in a tree you have heard about Brock Turner and the ridiculous sentence he received for raping an unconscious woman behind a dumpster. Let me just start a list of the many things wrong with this story....

1) He only received six months or less with good behavior at a facility he most likely won't be treated to a taste of his own medicine.

2) No good behavior will help his victim heal faster. She will live with this for the rest of her life.

3) He never admitted or apologized for his actions, only admitting to drinking too much. So alcohol makes you a rapist? They should start putting that on the label. WARNING: May cause an urge to sexually assault another human being if you are already an asshole.

4) His father asked for leniency for his son's "20 minutes of action." It's like they were playing ping pong. Dear sir, have you ever been brutalized for 20 minutes? It sounds like a long f*cking time (sorry-blood boiling) even if unconscious your body will feel it later. This clearly shows where this kid learned his respect for women.

5) The above father was also wealthy enough to get the best slimy lawyer who could proceed to put the victim on trial. Is there any wonder so many rapes go unreported?

6) Brock's childhood friend defended him as so sweet and wonderful. Claiming it's not like a woman being abducted and raped. He doesn't deserve a jail sentence. His. Friend. Is. A. Girl!! I'm guessing she hasn't gone bar hopping with him recently.

7) What would have happened if those two brave men had not intervened? And let's remember the fact that one was so upset by what he had witnessed he was in tears. They will also have to heal from this.

The irony of this story is that if he were to have received a few years it still wouldn't have been enough but we never would have seen his face and learned his name. He would have done his time with little news media or recognition. Welcome to the spotlight you little bastard.

My heart goes out to the victim and all victims of such a crime. As someone who has experienced it, I can assure you it does not heal in six months or six years. It is something you carry forever. You survive and most of the time you forget. But it is an invisible scar that never leaves.

I apologize for my harsh words and my anger. This story just hits too close to my heart to not discuss. On the positive side, we are, as a society, having a discussion about campus rape, rape as a crime, victim rights and justice. My hope is that it is not just a discussion.

"But no matter how much evil I see, I think it's important for everyone to understand that there is much more light than darkness."
~Robert Uttaro, To the Survivors

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Fighting Time

"Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should rave and burn at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light."
~Dylan Thomas

It's unknown who said that age is a state of mind over matter. If you don't mind, it doesn't matter. There are pictures on social media comparing two elderly women of the same age. One is usually dancing or doing some sort of crazy exercise and the other is, well, old.

The trick is aging like grandma number one if we are even lucky enough to get that far.

I remember in my 20's thinking people in their 40's were old. Now I'm in my 40's and I'm not sure what that "old" age is anymore. My parents are the most active people I know, always running, biking, swimming, doing pilates, golfing or any number of new things they are probably currently trying that I don't know about. My mother-in-law joined Planet Fitness when one opened near her house and goes every day. She loves the way the big, burly guy at the desk tells her to have a great workout.

I ride horses with some ladies who are ten to twenty years older than me. They hop on giant animals and have them hurl over jumps because they love it and why not? They call themselves (and yes-I am included) Fossils over Fences. Anyone younger than 40 is a Fossil in Training. Horse people are awesome.

I remember watching my grandmother get old. Inactivity and weight gain combined with arthritic knees made it easy to become still. The more you become still the harder it is to move. That's a fact.

So if you look in the mirror and wonder where time went reflect on a few things:

1) You are still here.
2) If you have a functioning body you can try something new or continue your passion.
3) You are so much smarter than a Fossil in Training. Life does that.
4) You know that bucket list we all have? Make a plan. You're not getting any younger.


"Wrinkles should merely indicate where the smiles have been."
~Mark Twain

Monday, May 16, 2016

What if it was Your Child?

"I didn't realize who I was until I stopped being who I wasn't."

The great bathroom debate of 2016. Crazy right?

Everyone has their knickers in a bunch over 0.3% of the population using a facility that correlates to their identity over what is between their legs. The majority of the outrage seems to come from a place of fear and confusion, often stating that it puts others in danger. (There has never been a case of a transgender person attacking another person in a bathroom. The statistic of transgenders being attacked by "regular" people is staggering.)

Personally, I'd be much more concerned about my boys at a Catholic school than going into a bathroom with a transgender gentleman (my apologies to my Catholic friends but you understand the statistical comparison). And my daughter would be safer with a young transgender lady versus a not insubstantial amount of sketchy testosterone-filled teenage boys with entitlement issues.

You know who is most likely to attack another person in a bathroom? Adult males. And I guarantee they will find a way to do it without trying to cross-dress as a disguise.

When I hear people discuss this issue with such blind passion against this already unfairly treated demographic I wish I could make them stop and ask themselves, "What if it were my child? What if my child had gender identity issues? How would I want them treated?"

It's easy to demonize a group you have no contact with or connection to (if you're the demonizing type). But what if, from a very young age, your precious Claire identified herself more as Jack? Or Charlie at age three preferred dresses and eventually ask that you please call her Katie by age six? Would you demonize them? Would you make them feel wrong, weird and dirty? Or would you love them and get them the support they need both inside and outside of the family?

What if it was your child?

In middle school my son befriended a transgender child. He was still going by his given name (born a girl) but he dressed as a boy and acted as such. And he was epically sad. So much so that he tried to take his life. I would find my child crying at night just from the pain he carried for his friend.

Over 40% of transgender people try to take their lives. It's not a frivolous, easy choice. They aren't just getting dolled up for a drag show. They are struggling to be who they are despite how society treats them. So society is going to make a simple human necessity one more way to make their lives harder?

Don't we have more important things to fight?

"But you can only lie about who you are for so long before going crazy."
~Ellen Wittlinger, Parrotfish

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Smudged, Cracked or Shattered

"All parents damage their children. It cannot be helped. Youth, like pristine glass, absorbs the prints of its handlers. Some parents smudge, others crack, a few shatter childhoods completely into jagged little pieces, beyond repair."
~Mitch Albom, The Five People You Meet in Heaven

Damaged children.

As parents, we try our best to be what our kids need. At least, I think, the majority of us do. We make mistakes, say or do the wrong thing and then try to fix it. But we hope to never crack or shatter the people we love the most.

As I sit here this morning I'm taking a break from another day coping with a child fighting severe depression. It's been almost two years of major medical bills, doctors, and tears. This morning he won't get out of bed. I've tried everything including a phone call to his therapist who also tried everything.

I know he's had smudges and cracks in his life. He didn't handle the divorce of his parent's seven years ago well. He had some experiences in junior high that broke his confidence. And then an altercation with his father who justified it as a 'right of passage' that, two years later, remains what my son describes in therapy as one of his worst days.

He also has the genetic makeup to be prone to depression.

What everyone who works with him says is, "he's such a sweet kid." He's in a group therapy program and his best days are when he feels like he has helped someone else. He thanks me for driving him to every appointment, refilling every prescription,  attending every meeting. There is not one thing I do that he forgets to thank me for. He has the biggest heart of anyone I have ever met and that can sometimes add to his sadness.

He described the sadness once as "filling." As if some days he's so filled with sadness he can't hold anything else so he just has to sleep until it's less full. This is one of those days.

But yesterday, in our family meeting with his therapist, I found out that one of my son's favorite things is often our family dinners. He had told his group that it's not uncommon for us to sit for two hours talking about everything and anything, usually motivated by his chatty sister or funny step-father. We have one night a week where activities overlap and dinner is grab-and-go. There are a few nights a month where I am working and just my husband controls the meals. I don't like those nights. I feel like I'm missing out on something.

So the therapist was so impressed with our family dynamic he commented on it several times. Their step-dad and I have a very open and loving relationship with them so conversation is fun and easy.

But my kids haven't always had this dynamic.  When I was married to my ex-husband I worked many nights in an attempt to avoid that person. I tried not to work on nights he would be gone. Family dinners were rare and never relaxed. Eat and disburse was the scenario or they would eat a packed or picked up dinner at my workplace. At the time it was more about my sanity and protecting the kids from what was clearly a disfunctional relationship, not about enjoying each other's company.

We try our best and always think we should try harder. If, as a parent, you don't feel this way I'm guessing you are in a smooth spot (enjoy it while it lasts) or you just don't care enough to worry.

I know so many of you are dealing with your own parenting issues. I often hear about them and it never stops being a bit of a shock to know that everyone seems to have something. No matter how grand our social media persona is we all deal with our own, personal cracks. And just like my son in his group therapy, we should never have to feel alone while trying to glue the pieces back together.

So I guess my idea is to reach out to each other. Don't be afraid or ashamed to talk about the bad stuff as well as the good. You may not only find some comfort for yourself but you may, as my son so likes to do, help someone else in your journey.

"The bond that links your true family is not one of blood, but of respect and joy in each other's life. Rarely do members of one family grow up under the same roof."
~Richard Bach, Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Mermaid Doll

"Dude, I don't want to talk about Lacey's prom shoes. And I'll tell you why: I have this thing that makes me really uninterested in prom shoes. It's called a penis."
~John Green, Paper Towns

So obviously everyone with the above appendage is not unappreciative of prom shoes so don't think that is what this blog is about.

I recently saw a father who posted a picture of his son picking out a lovely mermaid doll get slammed by severe Christian conservatives for letting his child do such an obviously life-threatening and morally apprehensible act.

A mermaid doll. He is five.

It made me think of Ethan when he was little. The playgroup we were in was mostly girls and it never failed that Ethan would hit the dress-up trunk and go for the heels, taffeta and beads. When visiting his cousin he loved her barbies and Polly Pockets so much those things became his Christmas list. He still had a dinosaur fetish and eventual obsession with Rescue Heroes but he could get lost in the make-believe of playing, doing, and being whatever he wanted.

I completely supported him.  The way I convinced his ultra-conservative father to lighten up was by reminding him that we were in the process of adopting a girl so these toys would be passed on when Ethan grew out of them.

My daughter was never against playing with a truck or race car. And even though Drew was all about things with wheels he was also (I thought) my future Broadway star. He could belt out any show tune like Shirley Temple with an adorable smile and twinkle in his eye.

I grew up playing with matchbox cars and Star Wars figures. I did want to be a boy, though. All of my friends early on were boys so if you couldn't find me I was probably at the top of a tree or in the creek letting crayfish pinch my fingers and hang there to impress my guy friends and freak out any girls that might have joined us.

The fact that certain narrow-minded people think gender confusion is "caused" by a thing or a way someone is raised is pathetic, dangerous, and sad. Kids figure out who they are without any help from us. The best thing we can do is give them a full toolbox of their choosing to express themselves. Punishing them for self-discovery is telling them that who they are is wrong. Fine if you're seeing psychotic, animal maiming tendencies but not okay if your five-year-old boy wants the pretty mermaid doll.

Ethan grew out of his love of pearls and heals and now loves soccer and video games. But even if he didn't, even if he loved all those things and still had a need for pretty prom shoes, that would be okay. People shouldn't be put in a box with a label and instructions like a mermaid doll. Kids and even adults should be more like legos, ready to be created and recreated whenever necessary.

There are no directions to be followed. Just ideas, passions, passing fads, obsessions, and discovery of who we are and who we want to be.

Be proud of that person no matter what narrow mind tells you otherwise. They are the ones to feel sorry for. Think of how many fabulously creative, beautiful, talented and smart individuals they will never have the honor of getting to know.

That's what happens when you live in a box. Those twist ties are a bitch as well.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Take Back the Power

"You are the sky. Everything else - it's just the weather."
~Pema Chodron

I recently heard a woman discussing her failing marriage say, "I don't like who he has made me become." That struck a loud chord inside of me.

I don't like who HE has made ME become.

Most of us have someone in our lives who bring out what I will call our worst selves. Personally, I've been in this battle for many years now. Dealing with someone who is supposed to be co-parenting but barely has the time for his children and won't even communicate about basic questions can cause me to fight my own worst self.

But I'm trying to be more enlightened in an attempt to stop always having a twisted feeling in my stomach and a need to once again reason with someone who just will never see it.

I can change me.

As much as I see the benefits of communication, scheduling, being reliable and even available, I can't make someone else see that if they don't want to. I can't make someone be a better parent let alone a better person. All I can do is what I already do. Take care of myself and my family.

To stop giving someone else the power to constantly disappoint you or hurt you may be impossible in its entirety. If it's their operating mode they will find a way. But to accept that it is who they are and there is nothing you can do about it at least puts some power back in your hands. It's not you, it's them.

We can feel sorry for them. In my case for the inability to see how he has made his children feel and the glimpse into a relationship that will forever be minimal at best. But I will try so very hard to no longer make that my problem or my disappointment. My kids have a very nice life provided by myself and their very loving step-dad. If and when, on the rare occasion, they decide to visit their father and it isn't inconvenient for him I will look at it as a much-earned break.

And maybe, if I take back the power, I'll be able to say goodbye to that person I don't always like so much. The one with the twisted stomach and the sharp tongue.

I can change me.

"If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change."
~Wayne Dyer

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Music Therapy

"One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain."
~Bob Marley

We all have a soundtrack of our lives. Certain songs will take us to a moment, a memory, or a feeling. They can randomly come up during an iPod shuffle mode or take us by surprise in the produce department at the grocery store.

We turn to music to dance, to sing, or to mourn. We dissect lyrics and attach them to our current state of mind. We look at favorite artists or bands as old friends who just seem to "get" us.

For some, music is a life force. Their existence depends on it. For others, it's simply an occasional presence that can be enjoyable.

I absolutely depend on music to get me through a workout, motivate me to conquer a project, keep me occupied during long weekly drives or help my tears flow when all I need is a good cry to move on. I can't create it like my husband can except in belting out show tunes when alone. But I feel it. I appreciate what it gives to me.

So for the next random amount of time I'm going to periodically share music that has done one of the above things and I invite you to share as well. We may not have the same taste but you never know what will speak to you and why. Maybe we'll come across our next best therapy song.

Maybe we'll find something else that makes our hearts sing, cry, or conquer.

"And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music."
~Friedrich Nietzsche

Monday, April 4, 2016

Choose Wisely

"Your love story, I don't want to give away the ending, but both you and your lover die."
~Jarod Kintz, Love quotes for the ages. Specifically ages 18-81

What does true love look like?

That was a question I found myself searching for in my failed first marriage. I knew I didn't have it but did anyone else really have it either?

I had a group of eight wonderful women who helped me answer that question. We would meet once a month for a girl's night. My then-husband believed we just bad-mouthed our spouses and so I was being corrupted. But in so many ways the opposite was true. Yes, we weren't all in marital bliss but some of us, as I like to say, chose wisely the first time in legal bondage.

We went to New Jersey for a girl's weekend in early fall eight years ago and what burned in my memory was how each women's homecoming played out. Some simply walked to their door but a few others had a husband and children running out, excited to see them and hear about their weekend, exchanging stories of Dad/kid time adventures.

Then I went home.

My husband was angry and bitter that I had been gone. My kids were sad and relieved that I was back. There were no fun stories and excited chatter. There was only tension and blame. Something was wrong with my picture.

So I started to watch couples, really pay attention to body language and actual language. How do they talk about each other? Do they touch often? Do they smile politely when they share a gaze or does their whole face light up?

I began to see, whether in new relationships or ones spanning decades, what real love looks like. It was possibly the farthest thing from what I had been experiencing for an entire marriage.

I have so many people in my life searching for what they didn't have the first time around. They are much pickier and more selective, being, of course, older and wiser, with a probable laundry list (or novel) about what they want and why. Absolutely no relationship is perfect. There will always be occasional issues, hiccups, pet-peeves, and mistakes. But if you truly love someone that will shine through even during the times you want to use them as a speed bump (only in your mind of course).

If you are one still searching for your perfect mental speed bump take it slow, know your worth, and never settle. Make sure it's full of passion, respect, and most of all, fun. Find that person that makes you swoon with desire but can also make you laugh so hard you pee a little. Once you find him or her you'll know it was worth the wait.

Choose wisely.

"Love is like a virus. It can happen to anybody at any time."
~Maya Angelou

Sunday, March 20, 2016

It's a Facebook World

"If you can't stop thinking about someone's update, that's called 'status cling'."
~Jessica Park, Flat-Out Love

It's a Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and hashtag world and I long for the good old days (insert old fart joke here). I long for the days when I had to call or see my friends to catch up. I long for the days when I only knew things about people because it came up in a conversation.

I miss the time when I didn't know political views unless you had a bumper stick. I actually wish the only news I received was by reading the paper or the 5:00 o'clock show. It's scary to me that relationships can be destroyed by a difference of opinion, overreaction or misreading of written text.

I hate that there is such a thing as cyber-bullying and children as well as adults can be ruined with a keystroke. Face to face bullying is bad enough.

That being said, I love how easy it is to reconnect with people you know all over the world. I love finding out about interesting events and great changes in my community. I benefit from free advertising to get my business noticed. I can have several private groups such as a book club or support group and we can easily plan and discuss ideas.

So I sometimes envy the Amish and their lack of connectivity but declaring to join them is a whole different issue. It's like an abusive relationship with the epitome of laughter, love and benefits only to suddenly be hit in the face with a baseball bat once a day.

I'm curious how others view this society we are becoming. Is it a great new world of growth and progress or are we putting ourselves on a path to small destructions either personally or as a whole?

Could you disconnect?

"Can we go back to using Facebook for what it was originally for - looking up exes to see how fat they got?
~Bill Maher

Friday, March 18, 2016

I'm Not Dead Yet

"I'm not afraid of death; I just don't want to be there when it happens."
~Woody Allen

My family was discussing when we should get tickets to see a certain superhero movie we are all excited about (with a certain female hero most of you know I girl crush on). I warned them that Friday night I have my "I'm not dead yet dinner." My kids were briefly appalled.

Let me explain.

A group of us get together every other month to celebrate the fact that one gorgeous girl is still with us, fighting the good fight against cancer that's taken residence and likes the host too much to move out. She's gracious that way. We, being a group of hilariously funny people (just ask us) adopted this name compliments of the lead class clown (she's a sexy one at that).

If you have taste in comedy it probably makes you think of the Monty Python Holy Grail scene "bring out your dead!" and you get the idea.  "I think I'll go for a walk!"

Really, all of us, every chance we get, should celebrate not being dead. Seriously, every minute is a gift. Every wasted moment, adventure, opportunity, regret is our own fault in the end. We all have an expiration date.

We hold these excursions like gold because one day our group will grow smaller and it's never a given which one of us it will be. Life and death are unpredictable that way.

Cherish your friends, family and most of all yourself. Give the gift of connecting as much as possible with the people you love and the things you enjoy. Don't wait.

You're not dead yet.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Center Dammit!

"Don't just do something. Sit there!"

Becoming centered. I've never found that comes easily to me. Today as I was supposed to be centering a man was giving a lovely speech on finding the calm within. Or so I'm told. I was thinking about why my ex-husband won't answer simple questions concerning the kids and how, if there is a way, I can change that (not likely).

Years ago when I worked at a big gym I took a few yoga classes and hated how easily distracted I became. I never stuck with it. Now that I'm older and so much wiser (cough cough) it should be easier right?

Yes and no.

I've been doing Bikram (think HOT) at a fantastic new studio in Lititz ( I think the heat helps me focus because often I'm concentrating on the human water fountain I've become, when I can next sneak a sip of water, or if I'm struggling because of the half of bottle of wine I drank the night before. Okay, maybe a full bottle. Don't judge me.

So it's going better. But I'd like to find that calm, peace, and meditative state at the end that others seem to accomplish. My brain tends to go right to, "if someone else gets up so will I," and "I wonder if the dog went on the carpet again."

How do you shut out the world? How do you patronus away the Dementors that suck the joy out of your brain and make you stress instead of relaxing?

I'm still working on it. I catch a glimpse of calm on rare occasions.

It could also be that I'm bad at following directions. That's to say I heard them and wasn't making mental to-do lists.

Like pick up wine and pet stain carpet cleaner.


Thursday, February 18, 2016

Don't Judge. Seriously. Don't.

"I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better."
~Maya Angelou

I was looking for a new blog idea and one just called me on the phone.

The conversation:

Friend: "I have to ask you a question and I picked you to call because you won't judge what I'm about to say. Apparently there is an open house tonight at the middle school that I knew nothing about and I just have so much to do I don't really want to go."

Me: "Wait, what? There's an open house tonight?" (Apparently she picked the right person to call.)

Friend: "I think it was in the last newsletter email but I didn't read that one."

Me: "There's a newsletter email? I should probably find out about that."

Yes, I'm that person. I'm that person that you probably can't shock and most likely I've failed in some way worse than you have. I'm not "mother of the year." I strive to be "mother of the minute" a few times a month (as I'm their only mother it's a reasonable goal).

I'm the person who you never have to worry if your house is a mess, if you can't cook, or if you need to pour a cocktail at noon. Pour me one too and let's discuss.

My car is filled with horse hair, goldfish crackers, gloves missing their partner, muddy boots, and a yoga mat I should probably think about airing out. I have multiple junk drawers, boxes of unorganized pictures and a tendency to procrastinate when I need to organize anything. In reality, it's more of a distraction issue. Things that weren't interesting become clearly mind blowing in comparison to organizational bliss.

My riding tack gets an occasional cleaning and my horse at the moment resembles Leonardo DiCaprio in The Revenant (but she's much cuter even if her beard is twice as long. She probably smells better too.)

So my sage advice to such a friend was, "This is our last of three kids. Who are we trying to impress?"

I'm so honored to be THAT person. I hope I am always that person who my friends know will understand anything because, really, I've probably said, done, broken, messed up a kid, a car or (fill in the blank) way worse than they could imagine so let me give you a pep talk about how you're doing a fantastic job!

And I've had my share of being judged. Not a fan.

What are your dirty little secrets? Pour a cocktail and let's compare embarrassing stories. That's what friends are for.

"Never tell a friend 'I told you so'-even when you did."
~Wendy Jean Smith

Saturday, January 30, 2016

The Breakfast Club

".....And these children
That you spit on
as they try to change their worlds
are immune to your consultations.
They are quite aware
of what they are going through...."
~David Bowie

The teenage years. I'm sure every one of us looks back both loving and hating that time of life. It's the most complicated ages, combining a new found freedom mixed with trying to figure out who you want to be as a person.

I've had the truly fantastic opportunity to work with, teach, and now coach some amazing teenagers over the last decade. They are, for the most part, my favorite age group. If you connect with them they will let you into their world and that, in my opinion, is a cool privilege.

But if you happen to be the parent of one of these teenager people you may be watching them struggle with so many issues with little ability to really help them. That is where coaching can be an amazing tool.

Unlike counseling or psychology coaching is for the mentally stable teen just working through time management, college decisions, peer issues or relationship questions as only a few of the multitude of areas a teenager deals with, the most relevant one being just figuring themselves out a bit.

One of my teenage clients recently shared a great story. She was having a bit of a panic attack surrounding an event she was attending. Her mother, trying to calm her down, simply stated, "What would Marilu suggest you try to do?" So she began to think about our discussions and the many ways we've worked on her confidence and self-awareness. She immediately felt better and faced her challenge with grace.

Coaching can be so cool.

Just imagine, as a teenager, having the gift of someone who will listen to you completely, without judgment or opinion, and guide you, center you and acknowledge what a good person you are or how well you are doing when you reach your goals. It's a trusted friend, their best listener and their constant support system.

How might it have helped you both then and maybe now?

Do you know of or are you a teen whose life could truly be altered by coaching? There is an alternative to all day Saturday detention for self-discovery.

"You see us as you want to see us, in the simplest terms, in the most convenient definitions. But what we found out is that each one of us is a brain....and an athlete....and a basket case....a princess....and a criminal. Does that answer your question?"
~The Breakfast Club

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

New Story

"For last year's words belong to last year's language
 And next year's words await another voice.
 And to make an end is to make a beginning."
~T.S. Eliot

January. The month where every gym and diet plan is excessively pushing to get your business. A month when resolutions are made and changes, goals, and motivation drive us. Forbes claims that just 8% of New Years resolutions are accomplished. That sounds about right.

But why even make a resolution? You can change your life on any day, in any month of the year. You can start a new story at any time.

I made a decision last year to essentially practice what I preach. I often try to push my clients to try something new, especially if it's outside of their comfort zone. Trying new things can educate, enlighten, and even empower us at times. We may meet new people, experience a different culture, find a new hobby or skill, or at the very least discover something about ourselves.

One recent change I've made is bikram yoga ( which is hot yoga. I mean HOT. I have a wonderful friend who is the ultimate energizer bunny (except she would carry knitting needles instead of drumsticks). She runs, bikes, takes classes at every gym she can get to and never passes up an opportunity to try something new. She has a friend who just opened an amazing studio that I should surely check out with her.

Why not?

The first class was rough. The second class was better. Every class after that I felt more in tune with what I was doing and more comfortable with the heat. My goal is to gain back the flexibility I had years ago when I taught martial arts. And if you ever thought yoga was too slow or too easy I dare you to join me for a class.

Last year I also took some online classes, finished my book and started training a very large four hooved baby among so many small things I had never experienced. If I can't accomplish my goals how can I expect my clients to have any faith in me? They help me stay motivated every bit as much as I help them.

So write a new story now if you're ready. Fill it with new experiences and adventures. Find things you never even thought of trying. Groupon is a great way to look for such things. Start an instrument, take a class in archery, cooking, art, riding, fencing, knitting, or any of the multitude of things someone can learn how to do. Meet new people and maybe even get to know yourself better.

You might just discover something great.

"New Year - a new chapter, new verse, or just the same old story? Ultimately we write it. The choice is ours."
~Alex Morritt, Impromptu Scribe

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Be Better

"Worry is a misuse of the imagination."
~Dan Zadra

Worry, we all do it. We worry about our family, our bills, our jobs, what our friends think or what we may have said, texted, posted or tweeted that could have been taken the wrong way (and most likely nobody cared). We worry about the future in countless large and small ways.

But the future will come, or it won't, despite our worry.

I hear about worry a lot in my job and it's often a tricky subject.

What are you accomplishing by worrying about (fill in the blank)?

How would it change you to let go and live in the moment?

Because that's what we lose in the worry, the moment, today.

My husband and I just had a similar conversation because he never worried about a future until recently. And I, unfortunately, had too many years living with someone who only worried about the future and never enjoyed the present.

I understand having a concern and following up. Whether it's financial and rethinking some savings ideas or refinancing, or medical and having a regular checkup or trying to eat better and move more. But it's when you play the "What if" game that life becomes about hypothetical scenarios and we lose the ability to enjoy what is tangible now.

So my advice (if you care) for the new year from a Life and Wellness coach is simple.

1) Worrying about what is out of your control is as useful as painting a cat blue. It takes a lot of energy, possibly some pain, and useless in the end. Put that energy instead towards something you want to do now. Try a new hobby or exercise class, plan a future vacation, explore your own hometown, visit friends you've missed or simply read a book.

2) Be better. I mean that in the simplest way. Find a way to be better. Whether it's a better parent, spouse, lover, friend, employee or a basically more decent person, do that. Or it could be a better person to yourself. Take better care of you, be nicer to you, do things that will help you live a more fulfilling life. Discover what you need to do and do that. We make our dreams, goals and desires often so much more complicated than they need to be. In my job, it's all about finding the simplest answer to often overcomplicated questions.

So that is my simple answer for a better 2016:

                                                          Stop worrying and be better.

"I'm reminded of the advice of my neighbor. "Never worry about your heart till it stops beating."
~E.B. White

"Dream as if you will live forever; Live as if you will die today."
~James Dean