Thursday, January 19, 2017

Talking To Our Children

On this day before the inauguration, I have decided to share these words I've been sitting on all week. It's been a trying week. A week of emotional and exhausting news. A week where we find ourselves worried about what the future holds, and what tomorrow brings - for our children - most of all.

It's been a week where I reread my own words over and over and found them lacking. And still, a week where I kept speaking. About education. Fear. Grizzly bears (I had to). And Girl Scouts.

It's a week where we should be proudly selling cookies in our area. A week where we should be celebrating the end of an era and the start of a new one in our country. And a week where we should be uplifted in hope.

But it is a week where we will be wrapping things up with a march. Across our country I see friends and loved ones gearing up. With signs. Without. A week where I think - I've got the right people in my life - in so many ways.

And a week where I have friends sitting this one out. And rightfully so. Friends who battle out there every single day. Friends who don't get to 'take a break' because the color of their skin or their traditional and cultural attire does not allow it.

And so, on Saturday, I WILL march. I will not have my daughter with me for this, as I am going with a friend and I would prefer that my husband be with me if she was, too. And she will attend her karate class and an important karate event and continue to learn to recognize her self-worth and her strength as a young woman, and I will explain to her that MY taking a stand and showing my face is enough for this week.

But let me get to the heart of this post - or maybe just to the rest of it - as my heart is surely on my virtual sleeve already with the words I have shared above and throughout my blog.


I didn't make it a point to quote Martin Luther King Jr. on Monday. I didn't have the right words. Instead, I spent some time talking to my daughter and asking what she learned about him in school.

She told me one of her teachers shared pictures of a visit to the place where he did something. Where he was killed? Where he spoke? She didn't truly remember. The most she remembered was a picture of her teacher on someone's motorcycle. And that, obviously, isn't the only thing to remember. *Note: Since then I showed her some pictures related to MLK and she pointed out that the pictures she had seen were from where he was slain.*

So we spoke some more. And I asked her what she knew about him. She knew things. Of course she did. And when we spoke about equality and I asked her if people, everyone, all people, were looked at and treated equally today, my child said three important words.

I hope so.

And I knew what she meant. See, she is a nine-year-old in a diverse school. Where her classmates and teachers don't all look like her.

She is a nine-year-old who rolls her eyes and huffs angrily at what our not-yet-President says about people who are not like him.

I'm not sure if, in that moment, she thought that maybe it was only him. Maybe it was just this one individual who thinks that way. Talks that way. And yet I know that's not what she thinks. Because I know what we have discussed. Being fair. Making sure everyone is treated equally.

We've discussed HB2 and how awful it was. Is.

We've discussed Mexico and the supposed wall.

We've discussed people being arrested because of the color of their skin.

We've discussed fear. Fears she might have. Fears others certainly do.

We've discussed so very much.

And yet. I wonder. Has it been enough?

It hasn't, certainly, because it feels like it will never be enough. And so we discussed more.

We spoke of how we treat others, and how some people do not treat everyone the same.

We spoke of what to do if we witness someone being treated unfairly. And I paused, because my first thought was to tell her to go to an adult she trusts. But what if it is that adult, or another adult doling out the unfair treatment? What then?

She is a nine-year-old. And still, I tried to teach her.

I am not of the belief that they are too young to learn. I AM of the belief that we each know our children and we know the best ways to teach them. But we also must know ourselves and what we believe, what we know, what we want to teach. And what we CAN teach.

I'm of the belief that we need to teach our children about all cultures. That when we attend the school's African Cultural event, and my child dances to music she's learned about in school - with traditional movements she's been taught - that I will watch her eyes light up with laughter and note that she has learned.

But when she asks me to bring in food for the event, and the paperwork says to bring something from your family's culture - I tell her - quite honestly - that when the school has a Jewish Cultural event that I will do just that.

This will not happen, I know. I believe. There are not enough Jewish children in her school to warrant it. That said, at the holiday performances there were songs for Chanukah and Kwanzaa, and not just Christmas. Baby steps. *Note: She has stated that there was one already - I was not aware of this information for we would have definitely have attended, I'm still unsure as to whether or not I believe that it happened, though I do believe my child believes it did.*

So when I say what I said - gosh - this piece is taking a turn, but I hope you're still with me - I am not being sarcastic. I am not looking FOR acknowledgement. I'm trying to explain to her that I don't have recipes that fit the request. I don't know what to bring, because this is not my history being celebrated.

And I explain, though I don't need to, that we're celebrating anyway. Because we celebrate for all and with all. And we invite everyone to celebrate with us.

This parenting gig is a tough one, indeed. A difficult path to journey upon, one that you make up as you go. There is little in the world that is like this. No other role comes without a task-oriented spreadsheet or at the very least a job description.

So I continue. We, as parents, continue. We must. We teach our kids all the things we want them to learn. To respect others. To believe that we can make a difference in the world. To feel with their entire hearts. To listen. To learn. To hear what others are saying.

And I recognize, as a mother, a woman, a friend, that we have so much work to do. And that I'm not currently doing enough of it. I want to do more. I need to do more. But I will not forget that I'm guiding my child. I'm teaching her. Reminding her. And that, in and of itself, is a very huge step to be taking.

Friday, January 13, 2017

How Much Do You Love Yourself?

Some days the world just seems so intense. Emotions are heightened. 

People say things that trigger a thought process we thought we'd escaped from long ago. 

Loving ourselves is an interesting challenge. It's a way of life. It's important for living. So very important. 

It can be a rough go, though. A tough thing to do consistently. Most of the time I think I'm on the right side of it - the side that loves who I am and where I am in my life. I recently posted the following status update on Facebook and thought to myself - wow - I really am there. 

"Sometimes you do your work and you walk away, or hang up the phone, or save the file and you breathe deeply and truly feel like you're meant to be here. In this place. Working with and for these particular people. And you recognize that although sometimes you forget it? This is the work you're meant to do." 

And when I share things like this I recognize how far I've come. I am proud of me - of who I am - of what I do. And I wouldn't change a thing. 

And then, there are days that I think about how much more I could be doing. 

There are so many ways to work towards loving oneself. I have friends who struggle with this. I'm not exempt. 

I admit, as a person, a mother and a social worker, that I've been in therapy. I think anyone who provides this service to others should have had an opportunity to work on themselves by sitting on the so-called other side of the desk. On the couch (I've never had an office with a couch - I think I've been cheated!). Wherever you sit. Try both sides on for yourself. It truly does so much for you as a provider. 

Now, know I'm not judging anyone who has not done this and works in the same field as I do. I just recommend it strongly because even if you feel you have nothing to work on for yourself - your eyes will open so widely to what your own clients feel when you're on the other side of the phone, computer or - yes - desk. 

Therapy is something I worked at for myself many years ago, as I started my journey into social work. It was a time in my life I needed it most. 

A time of insecurities and challenges. A time of words that I absorbed in my brain. Words from friends and people I thought cared about me. Words I held onto and were carved into my soul for a little while. And I needed to process these words with someone who was not impacted by them. With someone who could support me as I found my way through them. 

A good therapist does not tell you what they would do, nor do they tell you what you should do. They listen as you find your way. They guide you through the thought process you might not have found had you had to sit and find it on your own. 

But back to loving yourself. 

Sometimes we go through things that set us back. Or change our lives in such a way that we feel like we're two different people. The person of before, and the person of after. The incident, the change, the challenge, the thing we experience can be positive or negative, or both. 

A friend got me thinking about this topic today and it stemmed from motherhood and antenatal and perinatal mood disorders. 

Motherhood is amazing. Incredible. Powerful. SO beautiful. 

But for many women motherhood leads to a whole source of anxiety-provoking things, intrusive thoughts, depressed moods, and more. And so - we women often feel as though before we were moms we didn't have that same mindset, we were different. And then after we've gone through so much and learned so much, but who are we then? Really? 

Death does this to people, too. Death is - truly and utterly - devastating. 

Losing someone you love and care for, no matter how much they were suffering, no matter their age, no matter how expected or unexpected - it is a horrible thing to live through. As a survivor, we feel like we're missing pieces of ourselves. Who are we now that this person is gone? 

When I lost my father I knew I was still a daughter. My mom is one of the most important people in my life. Of course I'm a daughter. But then I became fatherless. Did that change who I was? Who I am? Yes and no. Of course it did. This was the worst loss I'd ever experienced. 

And yet, I'm still me. The girl he loved with all his heart. Daughter, sister, wife, mother. That's me. No matter who remains around me. And I needed to hold onto that and love myself wholly because of it. 

Because without my own love I would have floundered and not been there for those who needed me. 

Am I different now? After becoming a mom? After losing a parent? Yes. Yes I am. 

But I'm still incredible. I'm still strong. I'm still me. 

And the reminders I give myself happen regularly. 

I remind myself that finding ways to connect my new and updated self with the 'old me' is important. 

The not-so-good things we struggle through sometimes prove to us just how freaking strong we are. Just how amazing we can be as we make our way through this thing called life. 

Do I reflect back to the me of decades ago? Before I was anything more than a daughter and a sister. Before I found the path I wanted to take to provide support to those who need it? Of course I do. 

Those days were fun, challenging, stressful, amazing, and every other adjective you can think of. They were all the things. Each and every one of them. And I don't forget those days. 

But I remember the way I felt when I questioned myself. And though I hate the way I felt, I recognize that I had to be there. I had to feel those things. Without them I would not have made it to where I am today. I wouldn't be me. And there's nobody else I'd rather be. Even with all of my flaws. With all of my shortcomings. With all of the questions I have about who I currently am. I'd not change much of anything. I'd still be me. 

That reminder? Reaching the point in ones life where you're able to say that? Whether it's therapy, age, life, love, loss - whatever it is that gets you there - that's the point in your life you know that you truly do love yourself. 

So think about it. Think about where you are on this journey. And what steps you need to take to get you there if you're not there yet. Because the steps are out there - just waiting for you to take them. They're yours for the taking, as the saying goes. 

So fly - my friend - take the leap! You're SO worth it.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Living With Heartache

Sometimes I forget that this is my space.

I think too much and too hard and forget that I can write whatever I want here.

And so, sometimes I take to social media and share thoughts with friends and then think, oh, I could totally share that with my readers. because I hope that my readers are people like me. people with heart. people who feel pain. people who know and see and believe.

Today I posted on Facebook about the four young lives lost in Israel. The four children. Babies, practically. 20. 20. 22. 20.

What? How? Impossible.

And so I decided to share this here. Because this IS my space and because I will not live in fear of raising my voice. About Israel. About the United States. About anywhere.

Because my heart breaks every time I see another life lost. Why am I choosing to share now? I don't know. Some days I just find myself exhausted from all the pain and I stop. I pause. I don't want to bring more negative news into the virtual world. I want an escape. But there is no real escape. No true escape from it.

As a Jewish woman living in America my heart hurts every time I see a post about anti-semitic graffiti, menorahs turned into swastikas, Jewish places of worship shattered.

But I do not forget the men and women in Israel who live with this every single day. I do not forget the men and women of color in our own country who deal with the same. Those of other religions who I stand with as they live in fear. All of these women and men. I raise my voice - likely not often enough - but sometimes there are just no right words. I look and I think and I hope they will stand with me too if needed.

These days are awful. Horrible. Filled with unrest. And so, for this moment, just a single moment in my day, I choose to look at the light. I choose to try to remember these four lives, lost way too soon, and the light they brought to others in their 20 or so years. BDE. May their memory forever be a blessing to those who knew and loved them.

And may we all see so much less of this kind of senseless violence in the year ahead.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

17 Books You Must Read in 2017

books, reading, fiction, list of recommendations, goodreads, 2017 releases, new authors, Kindle reads, Kindle

Every year I post a list of must-read books for the year ahead. I normally give you twelve amazing sounding books that you are going to want to pre-order and devour immediately. This year I've got seventeen books for you, because 2017 is going to be one heck of a year! So, bookmark this post to review every month, or pre-order these amazing titles today. Any purchases through my site will help me save a few pennies towards my next book purchase. And since you know me as well as you do - you know I need the pennies. Thanks for reading and shopping.

 17 Books You Must Read in 2017

books, reading, fiction, list of recommendations, goodreads, 2017 releases, new authors, Kindle reads, Kindle, Beatriz Williams,
A story that is described as floating between past and present, The Wicked City sounds like an entertaining read. With scenes set in the 1920s in New York City, filled with flappers, a speakeasy and a free-spirited redhead (I mean, come on, I HAVE to read it - right?) it's piqued my interest. A spin on historical fiction that sounds enjoyable and fun, with a touch of mystery to seal the deal.

books, reading, fiction, list of recommendations, goodreads, 2017 releases, new authors, Kindle reads, Kindle, Laurie Frankel
Family secrets are at the heart of This Is How It Always Is. Claude is one of our primary characters. And Claude is a 5-year-old boy, the youngest of his siblings, who enjoys wearing dresses and dreams of being a princess someday. A boy who says he wants to be a girl when he grows up. I'm curious to see how this story plays out and I look forward to seeing the dynamic that Frankel sets up for the entire family.   

books, reading, fiction, list of recommendations, goodreads, 2017 releases, new authors, Kindle reads, Kindle, Kimberla Lawson Roby
Copycat has a bit of a familiar feel to it. It sounds like a movie you've seen or maybe even a book you've read before. Girl makes friend with girl. Girl decides she wants to be like girl. Girl decides she wants to BE girl? Maybe. But there's something that pulls me in anyway. I've never read Lawson Roby's work before - so maybe that's it - interest in an author that's new to me. Either way, it seems like an interesting approach to this type of tale.

books, reading, fiction, list of recommendations, goodreads, 2017 releases, new authors, Kindle reads, Kindle, Sarah Jio
Kailey thinks she has everything. And maybe she does. But one night she's leaving a restaurant after a beautiful meal with her fiancé and approaches a homeless man - only to find that he is - he was - the love of her life. If that's not enough to make you want to read Always? Well, of course there's more, it's just that that's all I'm going to give you. Let's chat next month after we both read the book!

books, reading, fiction, list of recommendations, goodreads, 2017 releases, new authors, Kindle reads, Kindle, Pam Jenoff
Pam Jenoff is well-known in historical fiction circles. And I've heard only amazing things about The Orphan's Tale from friends who have had a chance to read an advance copy. Set during World War II, the main character of Noa is who we follow as she finds herself turning to a traveling circus to hide herself. Becoming friends with Astrid is how she settles in - but things change - impacting both of them way beyond their expectations. 

Colleen Oakley, books, reading, fiction, list of recommendations, goodreads, 2017 releases, new authors, Kindle reads, Kindle
You guys - Colleen Oakley is back and I want to cry - I'm that happy. Before I Go was such an incredible read that I cannot wait to dive into this one. The intro in the description? Jubilee Jenkins has a rare condition: she's allergic to human touch. Right? That's it. That's all I need. She meets someone and how their relationship does or does not develop all hinges on this one sentence. So, Close Enough To Touch is on my must-read list, without a doubt.

Peter Heller, books, reading, fiction, list of recommendations, goodreads, 2017 releases, new authors, Kindle reads, Kindle
I've never read anything by Peter Heller before, but Celine has pulled me in. I can't truly explain why I want to read it - the story itself seems interesting - but not groundbreaking - and still, I want to know more. Celine is a woman on a mission. She finds missing people. And in this story she's on the search for a photographer gone missing. And she's looking because she's been asked to by his daughter, who isn't sure he's really gone, as his body was never found. It seems like the combination of mystery and adventure, with a journey to the great outdoors, and I like it. 

books, reading, fiction, list of recommendations, goodreads, 2017 releases, new authors, Kindle reads, Kindle, Lisa See
I love the cultural side to See's writing. The way she introduces us to things we know nothing about - and does so in a way that pulls together a story of family, relationships, bonds and life. There's a mother-daughter story in The Tea Girl Of Hummingbird Lane, and I, for one, am here for it.

Marie Bostwick, books, reading, fiction, list of recommendations, goodreads, 2017 releases, new authors, Kindle reads, Kindle
A story about the secrets between three sisters, a mother who molded them to be all they could be and then some, and twenty or so years of time gone by. With reflections on dreams of the past, The Promise Sisters find their way back to one another after drifting apart into simple and uninspiring lives. Their mother, Minerva Promise, shares that she essentially created them to succeed, and they did not. Want to know more? Me, too. 

One Perfect Lie, Lisa Scottoline - April 11, 2017
books, reading, fiction, list of recommendations, goodreads, 2017 releases, new authors, Kindle reads, Kindle, Lisa Scottoline
Killer twists. Secret identities. Moms and their sons. A community baseball team. One Perfect Lie is just that. Or is it? Sounds like Chris Brennan (is that his real name? yeah. no.) has plans for the small Pennsylvania town he's moved into, but we have no idea what they are. A secret plan that involves the baseball team? What's with this guy and how much are we going to hate him? Let's read One Perfect Lie together and see. 

Paula Hawkins, books, reading, fiction, list of recommendations, goodreads, 2017 releases, new authors, Kindle reads, Kindle
Paula Hawkins is best known for her debut novel, The Girl On The Train. With Into The Water we appear to be in for another thriller. The water represents the river that runs through the town - a river that has been taking lives. The orphaned teenage girl who just lost her mother to these waters finds herself in the care of her aunt, an aunt who has secrets. Secrets. Memories. The past. The present. It's all in this one. Can't wait to dive in!

The Girl Who Knew Too Much, Amanda Quick - May 9, 2017
books, reading, fiction, list of recommendations, goodreads, 2017 releases, new authors, Kindle reads, Kindle, Amanda Quick
A peek at the drama surrounding Hollywood in the 1930s, in The Woman Who Knew Too Much Quick (author Jayne Ann Krentz), brings us a reporter, Irene, who is searching for the scoop that will get her name recognition - only to find her source at the bottom of a pool. Digging into the drowning gets her closer to the secrets she was hoping to find - and closer to the danger surrounding those involved. 

Camille Di Maio, books, reading, fiction, list of recommendations, goodreads, 2017 releases, new authors, Kindle reads, Kindle
With her first novel this year, Camille Di Maio quickly moved to the top of my list of favorite authors. Before The Rain Falls looks like a beautiful read. The kind that shifts from the story in 'present day' and one of years ago. The story of Della Lee, a woman just released from prison after serving 70 years for the murder of her sister (what!?! I know, right?) and her secrets - I'm already signed on for this one. Plus - isn't the cover just gorgeous? 

The Simplicity of Cider, Amy E. Reichert - May 16, 2017

Amy E. Reichert, books, reading, fiction, list of recommendations, goodreads, 2017 releases, new authors, Kindle reads, Kindle
I'm a big fan of Reichert's books. The Coincidence of Coconut Cake was one of my favorite reads a few years ago. I'd like to tell you to read this book just because Reichert wrote it - but a small intro follows anyway. The Simplicity of Cider is the story of Sanna, a fifth-generation cider maker living on her family's apple orchard, and Isaac, someone with a complex history. I look forward to reading as they connect and can't wait to see how the story unfolds.

The Switch, Joseph Finder - June 13, 2017
Joseph Finder, books, reading, fiction, list of recommendations, goodreads, 2017 releases, new authors, Kindle reads, Kindle
I have not read any of Joseph Finder's books - but the premise of The Switch caught my attention. So I've added him to a list of authors I need to check out. This story is a story of a MacBook mix-up, where a regular 'joe' (or Mike, in this case) ends up with a senator's laptop - and access to loads of secret files. Senator Robbins finds herself fearful of the worst. A play on today's political goings on, The Switch should hold our attention as we try to figure out what will happen next.

The Breakdown, B.A. Paris - June 20, 2017
B.A. Paris, books, reading, fiction, list of recommendations, goodreads, 2017 releases, new authors, Kindle reads, Kindle
Another chilling novel from B.A. Paris? Sign me up. If The Breakdown is anything like Behind Closed Doors it's going to be the kind of book you can't put down until you're done. A murder and some mysteriously silent phone calls leave our main character Cass in a bit of a tizzy - and I, for one, want to know what's going on.

Dan Brown, books, reading, fiction, list of recommendations, goodreads, 2017 releases, new authors, Kindle reads, Kindle
Not much info out about this one except that it's Dan Brown and it's another Robert Langdon story. And if you're into Dan Brown and like his writing? You'll probably want to get this one, too. Origin. It comes out in September - not that any of us want to wait that long. Pre-order today.

For more 2017 book information, you need to read this post:

12 Books To Read in Early 2017

And to catch up on what I've been reading:

The Best Books I Read This Year

And for some fun and funny book recs:

13 Authors Who Will Make You Laugh Out Loud

Monday, January 2, 2017

My Favorite Posts of 2016

2016 has been a heck of a year hasn't it?

Many of us have watched our friends and loved ones struggle, or have experienced struggles of our own. Some of us have had amazing years, but watching the world around us go through changes and the like leave us considering how bad it has been for so many.

So, in this line of thinking, I'm recapping my posts for the year. I'd like to share some of my favorite pieces of writing and fill you in on what's been happening for me.

Now, this year was not as exciting, motivating, - perhaps inspiring, even? - as last year was for me, but that's okay. There have still been high points.


My Favorite Reads of 2016

This one is pretty obvious. I do this kind of post each year, sharing my favorite books with my readers. It's hard to narrow it down - as I normally read about 50-60 books a year - and so I always wind up with more than I expected, but I wrap up the year with a great list of reads for you to sift through.


To My Friends Who Live With Chronic Pain

I wrote this letter to my friends living with chronic pain. It has to be hard, dealing with pain day in and day out. I want you to know that I see you. I see you there, making your way. And I send you strength and spoons.


This is 44

I turned 44 this year. And I shared a little bit about it in my This is 44 post. Reflecting back on the year, looking forward, just - being.



Sometimes it's so hard to figure out what to say when the world seems to be shattering and people's lives are ending and there's not a damned thing you can really DO about all of it. And so, for me? I wrote. 


My Relationship With Fall

Fall leaves me with mixed emotions. Memories of birthdays and Halloweens and first days of school gone by. Thoughts of cooler temps, enjoyable weather and being outside. And then, the loss of my father. I don't love fall the way I used to.


I Have A Voice

I have a voice. And in this world. In these days. Sometimes. All the time. Whenever I can. I try to use it. July was a rough month. As were the months before, and the months after. And so I wrote.


Motherhood: I'm Keepin' It Real

Sometimes you find yourself loving life. Living and parenting at the top of your game. Other times? Not so much. This is me. Keepin' it real about motherhood.


Your Local Food Bank's Most Needed Items

Not a very personal post in March. I didn't write all that much. But I remind you - then, now, every day, every month - the importance of donating to your local food bank. People in need rely on these organizations for their next meal. They rely on us and our donations to fill their family's bellies. Please help if you can.


6 Ways To Manage Parenting Without Losing It

A few reminders from me on how to navigate motherhood (or fatherhood) and find yourself a stronger parent because of it. It's not easy, raising these individuals we call our children, and finding ways to better engage - to better manage our time and our emotions - all of these are helpful. 


Stop and Take Pause

Sometimes you have nothing to share. Nothing to say - nothing to write. And so, you don't. Not for a while. And then, it comes, inspiration, if only enough motivation to give you a boost and encourage you to write something. Anything. This is that reminder. 



I sing my own praises for a moment or two. Yep. I know. But hey, isn't that what blogging is for? What some people think it's entirely about? It's an outlet. A place for our voice to shine. For us to sing from the rooftops - whether it's good or bad news - and so, here I am. Slaying. If only for that moment.


Why I Take So Many Selfies

If you follow me on Instagram you know I am fond of the selfie. I'm a fan. I've shared my share of pictures of myself that I've taken of myself. And yes, sometimes they're good pics. And sometimes they're a version of myself I would normally keep hidden - but hey - it's okay, it's me. It's who I am. And so, I share anyway. This here? This is why.

And a few more January posts because I couldn't pick just one:

So - how was your year? Did you recap this year? I didn't really want to, and then I decided to do it anyway. This is me. This was my 2016. 

And we move forward into this new year, creating new posts, new shares, taking all the new selfies, and just simply being us. Whoever we are. I hope you'll join me in this leg of my journey. I'm still here, hanging by a thread sometimes, feeling amazing on others, and, well, just being me. You do you, friends, and be sure to share with the rest of us to remind us we're all on our own paths at the very same time. 

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