Thursday, May 31, 2012

Keegan -- The Opposite of Loneliness

Marina Keegan

Marina Keegan had something to say and she said it extremely well as a writer for the Yale Daily News.

Before graduating from Yale this month, Marina wrote the below column to her classmates, reflecting on her positive college experience, her sense of life's possibilities and the nervousness of going out into the real world and following her dream of being a writer.

As the mother of a recent college graduate, I recognize what she was feeling when she wrote this beautiful column and have heard some of the same thoughts from my son.  Tragically, Keegan's prescient words have become more poignant since the news broke that Keegan died a few days after her May 21st graduation in a car crash on her way to a vacation house on Cape Cod.

Keegan definitely had something to say and her wisdom speaks to all of us:

The Opposite of Loneliness
By Marina Keegan

We don’t have a word for the opposite of loneliness, but if we did, I could say that’s what I want in life. What I’m grateful and thankful to have found at Yale, and what I’m scared of losing when we wake up tomorrow and leave this place.

It’s not quite love and it’s not quite community; it’s just this feeling that there are people, an abundance of people, who are in this together. Who are on your team. When the check is paid and you stay at the table. When it’s four a.m. and no one goes to bed. That night with the guitar. That night we can’t remember. That time we did, we went, we saw, we laughed, we felt. The hats.

Yale is full of tiny circles we pull around ourselves. A cappella groups, sports teams, houses, societies, clubs. These tiny groups that make us feel loved and safe and part of something even on our loneliest nights when we stumble home to our computers — partner-less, tired, awake. We won’t have those next year. We won’t live on the same block as all our friends. We won’t have a bunch of group-texts.

This scares me. More than finding the right job or city or spouse – I’m scared of losing this web we’re in. This elusive, indefinable, opposite of loneliness. This feeling I feel right now.

But let us get one thing straight: the best years of our lives are not behind us. They’re part of us and they are set for repetition as we grow up and move to New York and away from New York and wish we did or didn’t live in New York. I plan on having parties when I’m 30. I plan on having fun when I’m old. Any notion of THE BEST years comes from clich├ęd “should haves...” “if I’d...” “wish I’d...”

Of course, there are things we wished we did: our readings, that boy across the hall. We’re our own hardest critics and it’s easy to let ourselves down. Sleeping too late. Procrastinating. Cutting corners. More than once I’ve looked back on my High School self and thought: how did I do that? How did I work so hard? Our private insecurities follow us and will always follow us.

But the thing is, we’re all like that. Nobody wakes up when they want to. Nobody did all of their reading (except maybe the crazy people who win the prizes…) We have these impossibly high standards and we’ll probably never live up to our perfect fantasies of our future selves. But I feel like that’s okay.

We’re so young. We’re so young. We’re twenty-two years old. We have so much time. There’s this sentiment I sometimes sense, creeping in our collective conscious as we lay alone after a party, or pack up our books when we give in and go out – that it is somehow too late. That others are somehow ahead. More accomplished, more specialized. More on the path to somehow saving the world, somehow creating or inventing or improving. That it’s too late now to BEGIN a beginning and we must settle for continuance, for commencement.

When we came to Yale, there was this sense of possibility. This immense and indefinable potential energy – and it’s easy to feel like that’s slipped away. We never had to choose and suddenly we’ve had to. Some of us have focused ourselves. Some of us know exactly what we want and are on the path to get it; already going to med school, working at the perfect NGO, doing research. To you I say both congratulations and you suck.

For most of us, however, we’re somewhat lost in this sea of liberal arts. Not quite sure what road we’re on and whether we should have taken it. If only I had majored in biology…if only I’d gotten involved in journalism as a freshman…if only I’d thought to apply for this or for that…

What we have to remember is that we can still do anything. We can change our minds. We can start over. Get a post-bac or try writing for the first time. The notion that it’s too late to do anything is comical. It’s hilarious. We’re graduating college. We’re so young. We can’t, we MUST not lose this sense of possibility because in the end, it’s all we have.

In the heart of a winter Friday night my freshman year, I was dazed and confused when I got a call from my friends to meet them at EST EST EST. Dazedly and confusedly, I began trudging to SSS, probably the point on campus farthest away. Remarkably, it wasn’t until I arrived at the door that I questioned how and why exactly my friends were partying in Yale’s administrative building. Of course, they weren’t. But it was cold and my ID somehow worked so I went inside SSS to pull out my phone. It was quiet, the old wood creaking and the snow barely visible outside the stained glass. And I sat down. And I looked up. At this giant room I was in. At this place where thousands of people had sat before me. And alone, at night, in the middle of a New Haven storm, I felt so remarkably, unbelievably safe.

We don’t have a word for the opposite of loneliness, but if we did, I’d say that’s how I feel at Yale. How I feel right now. Here. With all of you. In love, impressed, humbled, scared. And we don’t have to lose that.

We’re in this together, 2012. Let’s make something happen to this world.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Finding Joy

Fear less, hope more;

Whine less, breathe more;

Talk less, say more;

Hate less, love more;

And all good things are yours.


Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Vice President Joe Biden's Grief Journey

Vice President Joe Biden and his wife, Jill, at an event organized by
Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS)

Vice President Joe Biden emotionally extended a helping hand to military families last Friday by sharing how he endured the death of his wife and daughter and revealed that at that time his grief  took him to a place where he understood for the first time how people can consider suicide to be a viable option.

Whether you agree with Biden's politics or not, his remarks were striking and intimate.  Grief and how it feels is not a subject you expect a vice president to speak about publicly.  The death of someone close can be a life-changing experience and when public figures discuss their experiences with grief, it is always a positive thing.  It helps others to know they are not alone in their thoughts and actions and creates a public dialogue about grieving and its emotional journey.

Speaking before an audience of military families who had lost loved ones in combat, Biden talked about the telephone call he received in 1972 informing him that his wife, Neilia, and daughter, Naomi,  had died in a car accident and that his two sons, Hunter and Beau, were also severly injured in the accident with a tractor-trailer. 

With cameras rolling and a full pool of reporters, Biden said, "And just like you guys know by the tone of a phone call -- you just knew, didn't you?  You knew when they walked up the path.  You knew when the call came.  You knew.  You just felt it in your bones something bad had happened.  And I knew.  I don't know how I knew.  But the call said my wife was dead, my daughter was dead, and I wasn't sure how my sons were going to make it."

"For the first time in my life, I understood how someone could consciously decide to commit suicide," Biden intimately recalled.  He explained how it felt to be in depth of despair but also told the families that this feeling is not permanent.

Grief is a natural process, a natural fundemental emotion and it is a process.  People grieve because they are deprived of a loved one and their sense of loss is profound.  But Biden also told them how he found hope and that in their time of bereavement there is still hope for each family even though it may not feel like that today.

"I'm telling you it will come," Biden said.

Here is a link to the short CNN video and story about Biden's remarks:

Monday, May 28, 2012

Memorial Day & Rolling Thunder

Soldiers place American flags in front of the headstones
 at Arlington National Cemetary

Today on Memorial Day, I want to pause and say "Thank you" to all the men and women and their families who make immense sacrifices every day so that we may live free and practice democracy in the United States of America.

Putting your life on the line is the ultimate way of giving back and today's volunteer Army does more than its share because men and women usually do more than one tour of duty.  The physical and mental toll of combat continues after they return home and we as a country don't do a very good job of supporting these brave people and their families.

In the nation's capital, the roar of a half-million motocycles in the city and the surrounding metropolitan area signals the annual Memorial Day weekend arrival of  a veterans group called Rolling Thunder.  Beginning in the 80's, Rolling Thunder travels to Washington, DC on Memorial Day weekend to call attention to America's veterans and prisoners of war (POW).  On the Mall, around the monuments, on the Beltway and in the city's parks, Rolling Thunder is a friendly presence.  Motorcycles, leather and demim are everywhere and people honk their car horns and wave to show support.

I love it when Rolling Thunder is here.  They remind us what Memorial Day is all about.

Today, Rolling Thunder will mark the holiday by holding its' annual motorcycle rally and parade which begins at the Pentagon and end nears the Vietnam Veteran Memorial commonly known as "The Wall" for its simple black granite walls listing the names of those who died fighting for us in Vietnam.

Thank you for your service!  May God continue to bless America!

Friday, May 25, 2012

To market, To market

Photo by katieleekitchen

If it's Thursday, then it must be White House Farmer's Market Day!

Beautiful, juicy strawberries, freshly washed pesticide-free kale and farm grown tomatoes were all lined up on the tables today and looking fabulous.  It's a treat for me to get out of the office and feel the warm welcoming sun on my face as I walk the four blocks to the market, one of the city's many farmer's markets where people can consistently find unlimited and natural nutrients.

Today there was a new vendor.  I didn't see the name of the farm but I believe it was located somewhere in Pennsylvania because the people working the stand were Amish and not surprisingly, the line was long.  The Amish have a well deserved reputation for fresh delicious homemade or homegrown foods.  Today they were grilling what looked like red and yellow peppers and onions to accompany other grilled meats brought in from their farm.

I try to go to the market every week because I have learned over the past few years that eating fresh and raw fruits and vegetables is invaluable for a healthy mind and body.  Nourishment is essential to healing just as plenty of sleep is.  When you are dealing with an emotional crisis, the last thing you need to put in your body is processed foods loaded with chemicals and other stuff you can't pronounce.  You body can't get any energy or re-charge itself off those foods.

Tomatoes and kale were my big purchases for the day and then I walked around to see what the other vendors were offering.  Baby squash, spring onions and lots of varieties of lettuces just picked from the farm were among the popular items for sale.  Then there were other vendors who are not farmers who sell their products featuring local seasonal ingredients and they lend a festive tone to the market: the popscicle man whose pops are made from natural juices, a baker who sells different varieties of breads and a flower person selling bunches of seasonal flowers overflowing in tin can containers.

It's a community happening just a block from the White House and I can't wait to buy more goodies next week!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Fear of Tears

Earlier this week, my son and I were reminiscing about our journey through the college and high school years that occurred immediately after his father's/my husband's death and in the midst of talking we started laughing about a period of time that was once quite painful.

What's up with that?

It surprised us that this happened and I thought I would share this experience with my wonderful readers because it might help someone to know that there is always hope and that things can turn themselves around when you least expect it.  If our conversation helps someone else who has lost a parent or a husband, then that would be great!  After all, we're in this together and if we can extend a helping hand to others, then we can gain strength through sharing and feel less alone. 

My son and I could have taken different paths after our loss, paths that would have been more self-destructive than the ones we are currently on.  I could have lost myself in my work and socialized to the point where my son and I spent little time together.  But I saw that we both were so vulnerable and needed stability.  My son was talking about how angry he was after his dad died.  I said I knew he was angry and that is why I tried to get him to talk about how he felt even if it didn't make any sense.  I just wanted him to talk and vent and to get the anger out of his system so he could move on.  But looking back, I think that's a tall order for a thirteen-year-old boy.

My son said he didn't want to tell me how angry he was because then he would have to explain why he was angry and at the time none of it made sense.  He didn't know why he was angry, he just knew that he was.  He said he wanted to say a lot of negative and mean things all the time about his dad but he didn't want to say them to me because he thought he would hurt my feelings.

I said that I thought that was so ironic that he didn't want to hurt my feelings because he was hurting my feelings in another way that he didn't realize.  I was going through a very teary time of it and my son couldn't stand it when I cried.  Sometimes I cried when I first woke up, sometimes I cried in the car, sometimes I cried in church and sometimes I cried at work.

Crying was my way of grieving and it was helping me.  I couldn't stop the crying.  I had no control over it.  But he couldn't stand it.  Really.  He just hated it.  He had a  sixth sense for when I was going to start and he would just walk away from me or he would say in a very exasperated tone, "Stop crying" or "Oh God, you're going to cry again."  Many times he would turn around from me and say, "Just tell me when you're finished."  It sounds so cold but it wasn't.  We were both trying to find our way out of it and our ways were not compatible.

Now, eight years later, as we talked about this awful time, I started laughing and said to him, "How could you have been so worried about hurting my feelings by telling me mean things about Daddy yet you would abruptly tell me to stop crying?"

He started laughing too and said, "I don't know.  That's how I felt."  We just kept laughing as we talked.  It sounds silly but it felt so good.

There is something about the passage of time coupled with the repetition of working through your loss and pain that eventually puts you in a different place.  The healing definitely does not happen overnight.

But you have to give yourself permission to grieve and to let it wash over you.  Expressing your pain and grief is a necessary and healthy part of being a human being.  I think the pushing through the pain helps to temper the raw emotions involved with a loss and and brings about unexpected healing.

As an old commercial used to say, "We've come a long way, Baby!"

Tuesday, May 22, 2012


I spent the weekend with thousands of dreamers: young men and women who after four years of study and hard work at Fordham University graduated with a degree in their field of study.  Some have jobs and some do not but I would say that all are ready to set the world on fire with their enthusiasm in order to contribute to making the world a better place.

It was a perfectly planned and executed commencement ceremony and I was one proud mama watching my son give his speech as Salutatorian and later accept his diploma.  Singer Tony Bennett and actress Phylicia Rashad also received honorary degrees along with commencement speaker John Brennan, who is President Obama's assistant for Homeland Security & Counterterrorism and Deputy National Security Advisor.  Brennan's speech was truly inspiring but for me the main event was my son.  As the traditional graduation song, "Pomp and Circumstance" began to play and the students walked towards their seats in their caps and gowns, I had a momentary flashback of my son when he was a baby and then as a young child.  What an innocent time!

I am blessed to be here to see this wonderful event finally happen and I thank God for helping my son and me do the work and pay the tuition.  I also want to thank the family members who took time out of their busy schedules to attend the graduation events.  It meant so much to me and my son that you were there to see it all and celebrate with us!  My memory bank and heart are overflowing.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Bella Donna Summer

Talk about someone providing the music of your life.

For me, that would definitely be Donna Summer.

Bad Girls...Hot Stuff...Heaven Knows...On the Radio...Dim All The Lights.

Crank up the jukebox and turn on the disco ball because I can trace boyfriends, Friday night after work blowouts and dancing with my husband to the music of Donna Summer who won five Grammy Awards!  The very last song we played at our wedding reception was "Last Dance."  Summer's music made you feel as though you could dance forever and I think she brought out a little discomania in all of us.

Sadly and too soon, Summer, 63, died yesterday from lung cancer at her home in Florida.

In a 2003 interview with the New York Times, this is what Summer said about her music: "In that period people were in a dance mood.  They wanted to be lifted up, they wanted to have fun, they didn't want to think.  You were coming out of the Vietnam War, the 60's, the protest era, and I was coming out of it as well," she added.  "I think people were just in a different mindset.  When dance music came out with that beat and that movement, it was a switch"

Rest in peace, Donna Summer, for oh my goodness, you were the best!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Reboot Yourself

Kris Carr

Kris Carr is a resource that just keeps on giving.

As an author and wellness coach, Carr has a sassy and down-to-earth style that speaks to me and I find she always helps me reboot my health and wellness priorities whenever I think I am not eating right, exercising enough or stressing my brains out.

As a cancer survivor, Carr draws from her personal experiences and she also draws from the advice of medical and health experts to provide helpful tips on self-care.  I just love her breezy way of explaining the evils of sugar, how to eat well on the run and how to work through those incredible cravings for stuff you know is unhealthy and just chock full of chemicals and fat but taste soooooo good.

In her latest newsletter, Carr takes on the idea of a personal tune-up.  What perfect timing!  I know I am always in need of one.  There is a lot going on in my personal life that others would prefer I not address in my blog and I respect that wish but it has meant that in the last couple of months there is little personal time left over.  I know I am not alone in feeling the crunch of personal and work responsibilities and I see you nodding in agreement. 

 "I don't know about you, but when I'm done with a major project I crave inner and outer tidy time," Carr writes.  "We all do our best when the pressure's on, but sadly self-care often gets the royal flush."  Carr's major project is her latest book, "Crazy Sexy Kitchen."  Here are Carr's fantastic tips:

Inner intentions:

1.  Mindful minutiae.  Rather than making a big production of my spiritual practice and stress management activities, find bite-size calm in the storm.

2. 10-minute workouts a few times per day are enough right now.

3.  Add pineapple to your green juice.  It's a total love-fest!

4.  Cranial sacral transforms my brain.  I've been getting lots of headaches lately and this amazing therapy soothes my noggin'.  It quite literally makes me purr like a cat.

5.  Shallow breathing depletes your health.  Notice your breath, your belly rising; make a conscious effort to take up more space as you (and I ) suck in life-giving, idea-nourishing; love-providing oxygen.

Outer intentions:

1. Clean your desk.  For the love of God, clean your desk.  (I'm speaking to myself...)

2.  Read the deliciously useless young adult book my girlfriend sent.  We share a love of the netherworld and all things supernatural.

3.  Cook (and eat) simply for a week.  Lots of juice, salad, steamed veggies, brown rice, soups, herbal tea, water, water, water.

4.  Spruce up the sheets and get a dark curtain for our bedroom.  We're still in the throws of our massive renovation, so hubby and I are basically sleeping in a tree fort (Not literally.  But let's just say I'm ready to bid farewell to the extremely steep ladder I climb to get to my bed.  And did I mention that our current bedroom is the perfect size if you're a hobbit?)

Nonetheless, sleep is essential.  Enter new organic sheets and total darkness.  When I don't get enough sleeop, my joy comes to a screeching halt.  P.S.  If you have trouble sleeping, magnesium really helps.

5.  And last but not least, I bought a really cool garden book to get a very tiny plot started.  Check it out: "The Gardener's Bible by Edward C. Smith.  This book is so thorough and totally perfect for a newbie like me.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Class of 2012

For the past week or so I have been happily reading the Facebook postings of friends writing about their children's graduations from college.  It's an exciting time for all of my friends and their children and I congratulate all on reaching Diploma Day!

Now this weekend it's my turn and I really can't believe it.  It's feels as though life is on fast forward and I intend to hang on and enjoy the ride.

I am reading the commencement letter outlining Fordham University's May 18 and 19 graduation ceremonies and already I'm feeling a mix of conflicting emotions.  My son is really and truly going to graduate from college.  Wow!  Part of me wonders how this day arrived so quickly and the other part of me says of course it's time for him to graduate.  Part of me is relieved that I don't have to worry about those monthly payments any more (a lot of pasta was eaten to stay in the budget) and the other part will miss traveling to New York City for occasional weekend visits.

It's all part of life's super duper fantastical adventure and I'm just going to roll with it.  I am going to stay in the moment and not think about how wonderful it would be if my son's father were here to see him accept his diploma.  I know he's as proud of our son as I am and I'm sure he has played an important but invisible role in guiding our son to this amazing day.  He will surely be with us in spirit and loving every minute of the graduation ceremony.

The only advice advice I want to pass along to my son and this year's graduates is this: friends and family make your world go round and make sure that whatever you do, you do it with passion.

About ten years ago, Pulitzer Prize winner and bestselling author Anna Quindlen gave the commenment speech at Villanova.  It's no surprise that her speech was superb and every once in while I will take it off my bulletin board and read it for inspiration.  Here a little bit of Quindlen's insightful speech:

"So here's what I wanted to tell you today: get a life.  A real life, not a manic pursuit of the next promotion, the bigger paycheck, the larger house.  Do you think you'd care so very much about those things if you blew an aneurism one afternoon, or found a lump in your breast?"

"Get a life in which you notice the smell of salt water pushing itself on a breeze over Seaside Heights, a life in which you stop and watch how a red-tailed hawk circles over the watergap or the way a baby scowls with concentration when she tries to pick up a Cheerio with her thumb and first finger."

"Get a life in which you are not alone.  Find people you love, and who love you.  And remember that love is nor leisure, it is work."

"Each time you look at your diploma, remember that you are still a student, still learning how to best treasure your connection to others.  Pick up the phone.  Send an email.  Write a letter. Kiss your Mom.  Hug your Dad.

Get a life in which you are generous.  Look around at the azaleas in the suburban neighborhood where you gew up; look at a full moon hanging silver in a black, black sky on a cold night.  And realize that life is the best thing ever, and that you have no business taking it for granted."

Congratulations Class of 2012!!!!

You Did It!!!

Now Show Us What You've Got!!!!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Only One Thing To Say...Thanks

There is a special place in the universe for people who are caregivers.  Good karma follows them wherever they go.  To selflessly make sure that another person is clean, comfortable and safe is a true act of love and respect for another human being. 

If you love the person who happens to be sick, elderly or unfortunately both, you know that they need you.  The simple tasks that you perform for them can test you but it can also be a rewarding experience.

In caregiving, you can lose yourself and become part of something bigger as life unfolds by itself.  You may recall the wonderful memories of this person in happier times and there is beauty in caregiving because the life of the one giving care is as valuable as the life of the one receiving care.    If you are not related to or are a stranger to the person, then it is even more admirable, for the caregiver is performing the essence of  'doing unto others as you would have them do to you.'

I feel that it's never to late to say "thank you" to anyone for anything.  Life is about having no regrets and taking care of someone when they are vulnerable falls into that category of doing something just because it's the right thing to do.  A verbal expression of gratitude is a powerful thing and always appreciated.

The link below will take you to a Los Angeles Times story that is an open letter from a son to his mother thanking her for the incredible acts of kindness that she performed.  Often in life we don't think about what another person has done until life has knocked us around a little bit and we come to realize that kindness should be treasured.  The timing of this son's heartfelt thanks being published on Mother's Day makes his letter even more special, but it could have been written on any day of the year.,0,1527908.column

Monday, May 14, 2012

Georgia O'Keeffe

Petunia by Georgia O'Keeffe

"I decided to start anew,

to strip away

what I had been taught."

-- American Painter Georgia O'Keeffe

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Mom's The Word

Happy Mother's Day to all the mothers out there who have given their love unconditionally, wiped noses and butts, and lost sleep all for their little bundles of joy!  The world is definitely a better place because of mothers!

Motherhood is the adventure of a lifetime and I'm happy to say that I have loved every second of it.  It hasn't always been warm and fuzzy but those are the times when I dug down within myself and tried to do my best.  I am the first to admit that I am not a perfect mother but I try very hard to be a fair, loving and funny mother. 

Being a mother is the hardest job in the world but also a job that I would NEVER think of trading for any other.  The mother-child is bond is an incredibly strong connections that is difficult to break.  With just one look, most mothers can transmit instant support or disapproval to their child.  Sometimes that's not a good thing but then other times it can be a most powerful thing.  Especially when you are a young child and it feels as though no one else is on your side.

I am lucky that my Mom is still with us and I have been spending time with her this weekend doing odd jobs to help her.  I am sorry if your Mom is no longer with you physically, but I hope you feel her in your heart, today and always.

Happy Mother's Day!

Friday, May 11, 2012

DC's Bucket List

Katherine Frey/The Washington Post

Washington, DC is my home and I love it, but it is not a particularly creative city.  The nation's capital has many beautiful monuments and museums but as a city it doesn't go out of it's way to nurture artistic talent even though people who live here and visit here crave public art.

Instead, government is the business of this city and one would sometimes think that the only people who work here are faceless bureaucrats, politicians, and lobbyists who blab on television and telephones or stare at computers screens all day with nothing else on their minds except power, money, and votes.  But underneath all of that rhetoric, beats the heart of a real live community of people who fall in love, develop friendships, raise families, and have dreams, goals and aspirations that they want to realize sometime during their lives.

Proof that people will respond if something different is offered to them came yesterday on the front page of the Washington Post.  In a wonderful story written by Maura Judkis, the private wishes of the citizens of Washington, DC became public art.  A blank billboard-sized chalkboard hanging in front of a construction site near Logan Circle was the starting point.  Only three simple words are displayed at the top: "Before I die..."

Almost immediately people starting picking up the colored pieces of chalk left in a basket and started writing and revealing what is important to them.  Some of the comments included: "Say thank-you everyday." "Inspire people" and "Make people feel loved."  Artist Candy Chang, a 2011 TED fellow, conceived of the idea and first brought it to New Orleans.  Just as it did for the people of New Orleans, the chalk board gave people a reason to stop and think about what they want to do for themselves, their families and their neighborhoods.

Here's the link to the Washington Post story so you can check it for yourself:

Thursday, May 10, 2012

I Heart Piglet

As Piglet, Winnie the Pooh's best friend, would say, "Oh dear, mercy me too.  Pooh does silly things and they turn out right."

I think it would be fair to say that friendship is the small thing that takes up the most room in precious Piglet's heart.

Some of the small things that I hold in my heart are:

* kinds words

              * an encouraging smile

     * an offer of help

            * treasured memories

What are the small things taking up the most room in your heart?

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Maurice Sendak's Night Kitchen

Is there anything more innocent than holding your child in your lap and reading them a book?

The emailed news alert yesterday announcing that Maurice Sendak, 83, had died of a stroke immediately made me think of that cherished time many, many years ago when my wiggly young son would sit in my lap and I would read book after book to him. 

Maurice Sendak will forever be known as the author and illustrator of his signature award-winning children's book, "Where The Wild Things Are," but in our household we knew Maurice Sendak for his other award-winning book, "In The Night Kitchen."

How many times did I read this silly, wonderful book to my son?  Over and over, we would go into  Mickey's dark bedroom and fall through the floor with him into the light of the night kitchen where the fat mustached bakers would mix, chant and stir until they put together a "Mickey cake" which was ready to be cooked in the oven.  But suddenly as the bakers open the oven door, Mickey pokes through the dough and tells the bakers, "I'm not the milk and the milk's not me! I'm Mickey!"

My son loved Sendak's large and topsy turvy drawings of Mickey flying in the kitchen in an airplane he pounded together with dough and also the idea of having cake for breakfast!

Maurice Sendak broke new ground in children's literature for the children in his stories didn't behave themselves and were always in magical worlds that didn't involve adults.  Here is what Maurice Sendak said in an interview about the fan mail he received from children:

"A little boy... sent me a charming card with a little drawing. I loved it. I answer all my children's letters — sometimes very hastily — but this one I lingered over. I sent him a card and I drew a picture of a Wild Thing on it. I wrote, "Dear Jim: I loved your card." Then I got a letter back from his mother and she said, "Jim loved your card so much he ate it." That to me was one of the highest compliments I've ever received. He didn't care that it was an original drawing or anything. He saw it, he loved it, he ate it."

Don't you love it?  Capturing children's imaginations is a tricky business and few authors did it as powerfully as Maurice Sendak!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Sleepless in DC

A deep, restful sleep is truly a gift from Mother Nature.  Uninterrupted sleep recharges your whole system and makes you feel like you can solve anything.  A goodnight's sleep makes me feel like a million bucks and without one, totally bankrupt.

The other night I was reading a book for a long time and wasn't even starting to feel sleepy.  I knew it was after midnight and I was going to pay the next day for being up so late but I just couldn't fall asleep.  I've felt this way before but it was a long time ago.  The wide-awake at night feeling took me back to those blurry times after my husband died and sleep was this strange state that I wanted so bad but it just wouldn't happen.

Or when sleep finally did happen it was at a weird time of the day and not for very long.

Working your way through the loss of a loved one can change your sleeping and/or your eating habits.  It may feel as though you are falling apart but it's your body's way of processing the shock of your loss.  Your loved one was here and now, suddenly, they're not.  That's a lot to handle.  There are times when you want to fall asleep and you just can't get there. Your body may be tired but your brain is in overload and just won't settle down.  There are so many decisions to make and so many emotions coming at you at once that rest is elusive.
Part of my problem was racing thoughts in my brain and the other part of the problem was that I wasn't sleeping in my bed.  I had moved to a different bedroom because my husband had died in his sleep in our bed.  I couldn't go back to our bedroom or our bed for a very long time.  I was sleeping in the guest room on an unfamiliar bed which contributed to my unrest.  Everything was turned upside down at that time and if sleep happened it wasn't like regular sleep.  It was closer to hitting a wall and blacking out.

When I would wake up, it was usually around 4 am, and then I couldn't go back to sleep.  I seemed to always be tired.  When I would first wake up I was unsure of what day it was and then I would try to think about what was going on.  Then all of it would all come rushing back into my brain and I would remember that my husband had died.  Oh s___!  At that point, I was up and dragging myself around the house.

I have no idea how my son put up with me during this time.  It was not unusual for him to walk into a room in the middle of the afternoon or early evening and find me sleeping on the couch or in a chair.  Most of the time he would tap my arm and say, "Mom, it's 7 o'clock.  Let's have dinner."

Eventually I found my way back to my (our) bedroom and my sleep patterns started to follow a more normal routine.  But it took about eight to ten months for me to start sleeping through the night.  I never used sleeping pills or asked my doctor to prescribe any for me but I know of some people who have taken sleeping pills while going through a rocky period and I don't think they found it helpful in the long term.

In this "I needed it yesterday" world, we all try to squeeze one more thing into our day before we go to sleep and if you only did it once in a while then it wouldn't affect how you sleep.  But done on a daily basis, it's just that much harder for your system to settle down and get some rest.

It's a matter of mentally unplugging and finding that peaceful place within yourself.  I promise you, it's there, just waiting for you to slow down, breathe deeply and imagine a soothing place.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Call Me Maybe -- Girls on 9 Edition

Put your shades on and wear something fun today!! It's Musical Monday and the first full week in the Magical Month of May!

It's also almost Summer and when summer is right around the corner, that means it's almost time to bring on the BEACH!

For me, every summer has signature songs and I know this song below will be playing on a lot of iPods at the beach.  The daughter of one of my very good friends made this video and I thought it would be a great way to start the week because it's so upbeat and it'll get you goin' !!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Seize the Freshest of May

Yeah!!! The FRESHFARM Market by the White House opened yesterday for its summer/fall season and the freshest and greenest produce was on its' best behavior sitting in beautiful baskets just begging to be bought, tossed, grilled and eaten.

It's too early in the season for my favorite farm grown tomatoes, but yesterday's vendors showed off plenty of fresh salad greens, asparagus, kale, bean sprouts and other seasonal crops for urban workers to choose from along with coloful freshcut flowers and cookies and breads.

I could feel the beginnings of summer as I walked from my office to the farmer's market: warm sun, the smell of freshly cut grass and tossed mulch and a general feeling of relief in the air that winter is finally behind us, not to be seen for many months.

I love going to the farmer's market because I feel I'm rewarding my body and my inner chickness by eating foods grown from local farms.  I still buy from grocery stores but it's not the same since some of its produce could have been irradiated or waxed in transit. 

It can be a little bit more expensive so I don't buy a whole week's worth of produce but what I do buy is tasty and real.  Most food found at the farmers market is minimally processed, and many of the farmers try to grow the most nutritious produce possible by building their soil's fertility without the use of pesticides.  The fruits and veggies harvested from their soil nourishes those who eat the farm's home grown products, namely me.

Veggies are the name of the game and I am always trying to incorporate more of them into my diet or trying to find a new way to cook the veggies I already find delicious.  Eating raw and organic fresh food brings my body the nutrients it needs to fight stress (ugh!) and aging (hate that!).  Today's mantra is: the more I take care of my body the less I have to worry about getting sick or lying in a hospital.  Caring for your body and its good health is not being selfish; it is responsible and smart.

Farmer's markets are beginning to open everywhere, so please check out the following produce lists.  The  "Clean Fifteen" list put together by the Environmental Working Group is food grown with the least amount of pesticides, ranked from best to not-great:

1. Onion
2. Avocado
3. Sweet corn
4. Pineapple
5. Mango
6. Asparagu
7. Sweet peas
8. Cabbage
10. Eggplant
11. Papaya
13. Broccoli
14. Tomato
15. Sweet potato

The "Dirty Dozen" list, also compiled by the Environmental Working Group, is foods grown with the most pesticides, ranked from worst to less bad:

1. Peach
2. Apple
3. Bell Pepper
4. Celery
5. Nectarine
6. Strawberries
7. Cherries
8. Kale
9. Lettuce
10. Grapes (imported)
11. Carrot
12. Pear

For more information about the lists, log on to EWG's web site at or

Thursday, May 3, 2012


I am always searching for ways to simplify my life and focusing my outlook on the positive.

When I read this quote from Pulitzer Prize winner Tomas Transtromer, the beauty of his message struck me immediately.  May you think of yourself today as a butterfly, flying with your your friends and family, full of the knowledge that you can create meaning out of personal loss.

"The caterpillar feet were gone, the wings unfolded.

One should never lose hope!"

                              --Tomas Transtromer, Memories Look At Me

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

A Mama Hug

I took a quick one-night trip to New York City on Monday to attend a senior awards dinner at Fordham University's Lincoln Center campus.  I was invited by the Dean of Students and was asked not to tell my son that I was coming because my son didn't even know that he was going to receive an award.  My lips were sealed.  There was no way that I was going to miss this event because this is the kind of stuff that parents live for.

This past weekend, my son had called me and asked if I had received anything in the mail about the awards dinner.  No, nothing came, I said.  I was very casual about it and said I  guess he would have to go to the dinner like everyone else to see who ends up with an award.

He never suspected that I had taken off work and traveled to New York just to see him until he got to the table where I was already seated.  I stood up and turned around and he was genuinely so surprised and taken aback to see me.  "MOOOOM," he said enthusiatically.  As those around us watched us hug, my son spontaneously said in a voice louder than I wanted, "Mom, you are such a good liar!"  Yes, I thought to myself, that's just what every mother wants to be known for...her ability to lie...Oh well.

In the spirit of Fordham's Senior Leadership Awards, I'd like to give a big shout out -- WOOOO WOOOO -- and a huge Mama hug to my son who has worked so hard these past four years!  Single parenting can be such a crapshoot but in this case, right now, it's all good!!!!!!!

I am so proud of him and his work ethic.  I have never seen him happier than he was on Monday night.  Fordham was a wonderful and challenging experience for him.  He discovered for himself that you get out of life what you put into it, made a lot of new friends and found his passion which has turned into a paying job after graduation. 

His smile and demeanor was priceless...Isn't that what every parents hopes for?