Saturday, April 5, 2014

Mentally Ill People Are Not Crazy- The Stigma Continues

Recently I was contacted by an NYU journalism student to be in a documentary about debunking mental illness stigma. She found my piece on Fighting Against the Stigma of Mental Illness on The Huffington Post . I was thrilled that she found me, and told her I would be honored to be a part of this piece.

Living with panic disorder, I've encountered a lot of misunderstanding from the general public. It's hard enough to explain to friends and family what it means to have an anxiety attack let alone people who don't know you from a hole in the wall.

Case in point, I was consulting with an attorney the other day and I had to address my mental health history.
"I don't know what kind of mental health problems you actually have." The attorney said quite seriously looking me dead in the eye.
"I'm a neurotic Jew from New York." I responded confidently. "They're not serious. I manage depression and anxiety. I'm in therapy and I take antidepressants. I work as a substitute teacher and professional writer. I'm functioning just fine."

As soon a person hears that you have mental health issues, they automatically assume that those issues are serious. It doesn't matter if you're in appropriate treatment. The stigma surrounding mental illness is so pervasive that the public continues to generalize and characterize those of us managing these issues well as "crazy."

I have a problem with the word "crazy." It's a derogatory word. Crazy is defined as "mentally deranged." That sounds pejorative to me. Yet this word is used flippantly in the society to describe behavior that is undesirable. For example, if I'm having a disagreement with a friend and she disagrees with my point of view, a common colloquialism would be for her to say "you're crazy!"

Let's deconstruct what she's saying here:
"You're mentally deranged."

By all intents and purpose, if I disagree with my friend, I'm "mentally deranged, especially as manifested in a wild or aggressive way." I stole that from the dictionary. But you get the point. Next time you have an argument with your friend, how about saying "I disagree with you," instead of referring to an individual as mentally deranged.

Stigma surrounding mentally ill individuals is still out there, and we need to fight it with all our might.
I'm excited to participate in this documentary so that I can share my story and spread the word that mentally ill persons are not crazy, we're just people like everyone else.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Dear Stranger On the Train Who Disciplined My Child

Dear Stranger On the Train Who Disciplined My Child,

Hi! We've never met before. I was on the 4 train on the way home from Manhattan with my two kids and their best friend. My kids and their friend Jonathan were fighting over the window seat. They all wanted to look out the window into the darkness. I know, it's funny right? Why would you want to look out a dark window? But, you know, kids. They fight over things we don't understand sometimes.

Anyhow, you took the time out of your train ride to say:
"Ari should give his sister a turn. Not Jonathan."
And you didn't say it once. You kept saying it over and over again while shaking your head.

I'm not sure why you're telling me this. I'm not entirely sure why you feel it's your responsibility or business to tell me this. I'm also (frankly) not entirely sure of your intention. I could speculate some potential things you may have been thinking:

  • You honestly thought you were helping me with parenting
  • You thought you knew better than I did 
  • You wanted to seem like an authoritative figure to your friend who was with you and to the entire train car
  • You were annoyed that my kids were being loud and wanted to comment on it
The truth is I have no idea why you were doing it, but I can tell you how it made me feel:

When you repeatedly told me that my kids should take turns and refused to stop, I felt frustrated. You see, I was already have a difficult time managing this problematic behavior. I was repeatedly telling my kids and their friend to take turns, and they were being resistant.

I felt like what I was doing wasn't working. I felt badly about myself as a parent. I questioned my parenting skills, and your shouting at me made me feel worse. 

Unsolicited advice is tricky. Sometimes, we don't know what to do as parents. There are times when I welcome feedback from other people who have done this before and might know better than I do. However, your manner of communicating the "advice" made me feel demeaned and incompetent, even though I'm not.

I said:
"Thank you for your advice, but these are my kids." And with that, I wanted you to stop talking to me. 

It is my hope that if you choose to bestow your "words of wisdom" on another unsuspecting soul on the 4 train, that you will think about the way you're communicating before you open your mouth. Think about the fact that the mother you're criticizing is overwhelmed and probably feeling like somewhat of a failure. So your criticism (although maybe meant to be helpful) is coming across as judgmental.

I hope you get to your destination safely and don't loose your Metrocard while judging someone.


Thursday, April 3, 2014

Changes - I May Have to Say Goodbye to Online

My life is in the process of a major change right now. The frustrating thing is, I can't talk about why. I'm an open and honest person; honest to a fault. Sometimes I'll actually hold my tongue and not say anything to a person because I know if I say what I'm thinking it will be overly honest and probably alarm them.

Back to my life. My life is in flux. It's possible that I won't be able to continue blogging. This makes me incredibly sad. I don't want this to be the end of my life on the Internet. I enjoy sharing my stories. Believe me when I say it's not up to me. I don't want to stop sharing my stories with you. But I've been told by mysterious outside forces (that I can't get into right now) that it may be the best idea to stop sharing my stories online.

Writing is my form of therapy. I go to real therapy too, once a week, but this place…this is my place. I don't want to give it up. I know the couches, the crevices, the dark rooms and the light ones. I know this place because it is my home. I've lived here since 2009. When I moved in it had no furniture, but I built it all. I gathered the wood and I made benches and a bed to sleep in. I painted the walls and put pictures on them. Slowly but surely this blog began to feel like me. It began to be my real home on online.

I love it here. Sometimes, I laugh a lot here. Those are fun days in the house. And sometimes I cry and let it all out. Other times I scream into a pillow to express frustration, and then there are days that I don't know what to say so I write posts like these.

This is a different kind of post. An outside force is attempting to silence my voice. And I don't know if i have the capability to stop that voice. I don't know if I have the armor to put on and fight it. I'm a fighter for sure. I've fought against many unjust causes in my 34 years on this earth. But, I don't know how to take this one on.

I'm not being dramatic here. I'm not writing this so you can tell me how wonderful I am. I am writing this because I honestly feel like my life online might be coming to a close and I'm saddened about it.
Maybe it won't. Maybe I'll figure out a way around this. 

So if I abruptly disappear from the Internet, I love you guys. I'll keep writing always, it'll just be privately. I hope none of this happens. 

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Dear Person I Offended

Dear Person I Offended,

You will probably never read this letter, because we are no longer connected through the world of social media. I'm going to say these things anyway because I feel them. I wrote about my past. My past is something that haunts me. I feel things deeply. I use this space to express them. Sometimes they're not pretty things. They are my reality. I told a story: that story involved you. I'm sorry if the way that I told the story offended you.

I am hurt by the way that you treated me in the past. I tried to tell you many times, but you ignored my attempts to express my feelings. I honor your feelings. I am willing to hear them, however, you do not feel the same about mine.

You called me offensive.
You said that I was nasty towards you.
I'm sorry you feel that way.
I feel badly that my truth and my words impacted you like that.
It was not my intention to hurt you.
It was my intention to tell my side of a story.

I am open to hearing your side.

But when you reached out to me to tell me how you felt, I was scared. I freaked out. I told you I couldn't talk about it. There are extremely scary things that I'm dealing with in my life at the moment. There are harsh life challenges that require my 100 percent focus. My family needs me more than anything.

You say you were upset by my words, and your response was to call me names.

I want to make something clear to you, I did not call you names in what I wrote. I expressed genuine emotions. You may disagree or feel that I'm telling the story wrong, and you are entitled to you opinion, but please allow me to have mine.

Again, I apologize for any anger, pain, hurt and other emotions that I may have ignited in you. But I do not apologize for telling my story.

I wish you all the best.

My Little Pony at Build-A-Bear Workshop

Sometimes fun things happen when I check my email. Here's an example: I got a message the other day from Amy at Build-A-Bear asking if the kids and I would like to come on down to the local store and meet My Little Pony Rarity and the Cutie Mark Crusaders, Build-A-Bear style.* I immediately said yes, and asked if the kids could bring their best buddy Jonathan with. Amy graciously said of course and off we went to the workshop!

We knew that we were there to meet the Cutie Mark Crusaders, but as soon as entered the store, Ari ran straight for his trusty friend Rainbow Dash:

Samara, naturally went for Pinkie Pie:

Part of the process of Build-A-Bear is that you get to watch your toy get filled up with stuffing. It's extremely exciting!

After the ponies were filled up, they looked like this:

Samara and Pinkie Pie and are tired :)

Here's the obligatory group shot:

My best buddy Jen and I and the kids and…there's my mom! Hi Mom!

Oh! And I almost forgot guys! Here's a Scootaloo!

Damn we had fun! So if you're pony fan, head on down to Build-A-Bear and check out the Cutie Mark Crusaders!

*Sometimes companies and email and ask me to do wonderful things that I'm grateful for. All opinions expressed are my own. Also I like you.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Guest Post: Ferber 2.0 By David de Souza

As parents, we all want the same thing. We want parenting to be just a little easier… and we want to sleep in. Technically that's two things, but we will revisit sleeping-in later… after the kids are in college.

Back to a little easier. We all know how rare it is for both parents to pull equal weight. Far too often, one caregiver gets stuck with the lion’s share, and most of the time, that’s mom. It’s also mom who gets them up in the morning, it’s mom who feeds them, and it's mom who deals with the meltdowns.

Certainly, dad jumps in when he can, but when things go south, mom is the one everyone runs to… including dad. The problem is so widespread that every issue of Parents Magazine and its ilk has an article or two on “How to Get Dad to Do His Share.” A sea of ink offers advice from therapists, life coaches, and even Gwyneth Paltrow (pre-conscious uncoupling). All suggest different solutions; meditation DVDs, family meetings and even a gluten-free diet are the supposed keys to a healthy, equal parenting household. They’re not.

Oddly, it was in another section in those same magazines that I found the real solution: the Ferber Method. That's right, the secret is simple…
let dad cry it out.

Now, bear with me. I know Dr. Ferber had children in mind when he wrote Solve Your Child's Sleep Problems, but what I propose is Ferber 2.0: The Dad Edition.

Yes, mom, all it takes is some tough love and my Ferber 2.0 (patent pending) to give you a break and strengthen dad’s bond with the kids. Best of all, there are only four simple steps to follow…

1. Daddy Bye-Bye Routine
Ferber 1.0 has the “Baby Bedtime” routine; Ferber 2.0 has the “Daddy Bye-Bye” routine. The “Daddy Bye-Bye” starts with mom giving dad an easy-to-follow list. And moms don’t assume dads know what they’re doing. We don’t. Run through the list with him. Now, he may interrupt you with "I know this," or my favorite, "Stop worrying, I’ll be fine.” Ignore his lies and keep on with the program.

Remember your list is not just a how-to guide; it’s an anchor dad can cling to when things get crazy. When the kids are crying for mommy, dad can say, “I know you want mommy, she always knows what to do. Hey, let’s check mom’s list and see what we should do.” Then he will paw at the list like a Cro-Magnon installing a Combi car seat, before throwing it out and plopping the kids down to watch “Wonder Pets.” (At least that’s what I did.)  

2.  Leave!
Just like in Ferber 1.0, this is the most important part of the method. Mom has to leave. If mom stays in the house, the kids will look to her for help, and not dad. “I can hide in my office,” you say. It won’t work…the same kid who can’t smell his own poop can sniff out mom like a zombie looking for fresh brains. Before you know it, mom will be on the floor covered in drool while dad is upstairs playing Xbox. (At least that’s what I did.)

While the ultimate goal is for mom to be in the house and still have dad take the lead, in the beginning, mom has to leave. I still recall when my wife left me alone with the kids for the first time. In fact, I recall it every Thursday with Doctor Spielvogel, during our weekly primal scream sessions. The kids screamed “mommy” for 30 minutes until we did a room-by-room, “NCIS”-worthy search of the property. (“Kitchen – clear!” “Living room – clear!” “Bathroom – clear!”) It was only after I produced incontrovertible proof that mommy had left the house (empty driveway) that they calmed down.

Moms, I know it’s hard to leave, especially when you can still hear “Please, mommy, please, don’t go!” Realize that ten minutes after you leave, your husbands will calm down. Just remember: they will be fine.

3. Check-In
Ferber 1.0 has the parent checking-in when they hear the child crying. If you’ve been following my steps then by now you have left the house, so let’s assume they are crying, because they will be. Should you start to feel anxious or want an update, feel free to text or call – from the bar – er, the Starbucks.

4. Stop Checking-In
Ferber 1.0 recommends that each night, parents should increase the amount of time between check-ins. The same goes for Ferber 2.0. Each time dad is alone with the kids, mom will able check-in less. Moms, following these steps is the key to walking confidently out the door, knowing that after your diligent training, the heartbroken darlings will learn to self-soothe… and so will the children.

The author of this post is not a certified family psychologist, pediatrician, life coach or cat herder. Any guarantees for the safety and security of your home are purely theoretical. This method works best when paired with a kitchen full of junk food and a Netflix subscription.

David is a father of three. He’s raising his kids with love and sarcasm. Mostly sarcasm. He spends his days working as a digital producer and writer and his nights testing the patience of his lovely wife. Follow him on Twitter @deSouza_palooza 

Sunday, March 30, 2014

The Writing Process Blog Hop

I find it hilarious when people ask me what my writing process is. The reason is that I have no process. I think of ideas while walking down the street, sitting on the toilet, talking to a friend and generally being a human being. If an idea comes to me I have to write it down right away. Whoa, I just used write and right in the same sentence. That was unexpected. 

When my Internet best friend Jessica Davis included me in this blog hop about the writing process, I was really excited because I love to talk about myself, I mean writing. I also love to read other writers. Thanks Jess, you're amazing! 

Here's how I write stuff. 

What am I working on right now?

I'm working on two books at the moment. One is a book version of my viral Huffington post article 3-Year-Olds are Assholes. I'm working on this project with a co-author, Byron Hamel, a long time friend and fellow blogger at Trauma Dad.  We're in the process of submitting the manuscript to various agents. 

The second manuscript I'm writing is my memoir about living with panic disorder and depression. You know you all want to read that one. Here's some excerpts from that on HuffPost 

How does my work differ from others of it’s genre?

3-Year-Olds are Assholes is a unique humor book because it's sarcastic and heart-warming all in one. It encourages parents that they are not alone. That's a first for a humorous parenting books as far as I'm concerned.

Panic - my memoir is different from any mental health-based memoir in that it is brutally honest about dark themes yet hysterically funny at times. That's not something one sees often in a Sylvia Plath-like book.

Why Do I Write What I Do?

I don't know how to answer this question. I write because I have to. Without writing, I don't know if I would even be alive anymore.

How does my writing process work?

It just does. I think of ideas and I stop whatever I'm doing if humanly possible to write. Writing is part of my being. I can't exist without it. I am what I write. I reach into the confines of my soul and spill my guts onto paper. 

For a complete list of people who are involved in this blog hop click here to Jess' post because honestly, I'm a lazy ass mother fucker. 

Byron and Jen, if you feel like doing this, it's fun.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Irrationally Inappropriate Overly Honest Responses to Children

Sometimes your kids ask you questions that are completely reasonable bearing in mind that they are (in fact) small humans that are inquisitive and learning about the world. I try my best to be patient with these questions and answer with appropriate responses. But sometimes, the internal monologue in my head is not so nice.

Here are some examples of questions my kids have asked me that make my head want to fucking explode.

1. "Mommy, what's your name?"
All right, I understand you've only been on this planet for three years, but you've known me literally the entire time you've been here. Are you fucking kidding me with this one? It's mommy, okay? Or, if you want to get all technical, it's Sarah. But we've gone over this shit several times.

2. "Mommy, he hit me."
Yes, my kids fight. Usually I'll tell the one who has been hit to say "I don't like that." or "Please stop." But again, in the confines of my brain what I'm really thinking is "You turn around and tell your brother to stop being an asshole."

3. "What's that?"
Yes, we love to identify objects in this house. Labeling is how children learn. But I have told you what the light switch was 400 times. At this rate, you're never going to keep a job, and I'm going to have to support your ass until your 40 and living in my basement. By the way, I'm not paying your student loans.

4. "Where are we going?"
Whoa! I thought I was bad with directions. Do I need to buy you a personal GPS? We have gone over this 30 times. We are going to the playground. You know the playground, we've been there before. This should be old hat for you.

5. "Mommy, where are my pants?"
There's this thing called a dresser where clothes live. If you investigate this piece of furniture further, I can guarantee you will find exactly what you're looking for. While we're at it, "where's my free time?" "What happened to my bank account?" and "Will I ever get to have sex uninterrupted again?"

6. Why?
Shut the fuck up.

For all you parents out there who are losing your minds with the repetitive nature of children's questions…I have no consolation for you, because it just keeps going. My mind is broken, but not as broken as my wallet.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Riding The Subway in NYC is a Trip in More Ways Than One

I'm a native New Yorker. I was born in 1979 and raised on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. I grew up taking the 1 train at 86th Street. I started religiously riding the train when I was 12-years-old and haven't stopped since.

Over the years, the subway has changed a great deal, but there are some annoyances that we come across as New Yorkers that remain timeless. Today, I'd like to address some of the things that make taking the subway…interesting.

When I get on the train during rush hour I am praying for a seat. I know this isn't likely, but I'm still hopeful nonetheless. So when I see a man sitting in a yellow seat on the train with his backpack sitting next to him in an adjoining seat, I have feelings of primal rage surge through my body. Your backpack does not need to sit down. Dude, look around for a pregnant woman and give that seat your backpack is in to her.

Here's another charming thing I've come across on the train. When the doors open, that's a physical cue for the people on the train to step aside and let the new passengers enter the train. However, what actually happens is that people stand there looking pissed off that there are new folks getting on "their train."

Then there's the guy who leans against the train doors with his gigantic headphones on so he can't hear you when you're attempting to ask him to move out of the way because your stop is coming up. You're afraid to ask him to move because he looks angry to begin with. So you sheepishly walk over to another set of doors to try to get off the train peacefully.

Of course let's not forget about the panhandlers, who come in a variety of forms. There's the teenagers enter the train selling candy for their basketball team. I just want to clarify something: there is no basketball team. We're onto you.

Speaking of people looking to make money on the subway, there are some entertaining ones. There are some bad ass break dancers who frequent the D train. The only trouble is, sometimes you don't feel like listening to their music and no matter how loud your headphones are turned up, you can't block out the sound of their jam while they're jumping on the ceiling of the train.

Finally, my least favorite occurrence on the train. New York City in the summer time is brutal. You're waiting underground on the hot stinky subway platform sweating your balls off (or your ovaries whatever the case may be) and when the train arrives, you're psyched! Finally, some relief! There's an air-conditioned car with your name on it. And look! There are seats.

The doors open and you get onto the train. Suddenly, your heart sinks. Not only is the air-conditioning broken on the train, but there is an intolerable urine smell emanating from the corner of the train where a homeless man is perched with 5000 bottles of recyclables that he's ready to turn in to a supermarket for cash.

Some things never change in New York City, and these pet peeves of the subway remain timeless.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Compulsively Contacting Friends

Anyone who knows me can attest to this part of my personality: I compulsively contact people I'm close to. It's annoying, I'm sure, to the people I'm doing it to. It's my way of showing the people that I love that I care about them. Not only do I want them to know that I love them, but I don't want them to forget about me.

You might be wondering how this plays out. If I feel close to you, I may text message you periodically throughout the day. It won't be about important life things. It will mostly be silly things that pop into my brain that I just cannot wait to tell you, because I love you and I think you'll appreciate them.

Thankfully, I have enough sense to do this to people who get me. If I did this to people who I wasn't close to they would undoubtedly think I was crazy.

I've wondered if my compulsive contacting of friends is related to ADHD. I think it might be. It certainly seems to be behavioral in nature.

Thank goodness for modern technology though. In the late 1990's and early 2000s this quality of mine was extremely embarrassing because I would call my friends at insanely early hours because I just had to tell them something. The friend in question receiving the 8am phone call would be tired but amused. They would also remind me that it was 8am and they weren't up yet, because at that time none of my friends had children.

Now with the advent of social media, it's much easier to send my friends random shit and the chances of them getting pissed off is lessened. The reason is that they can check their messages at their leisure.

The other thing that's happened is that I've found other people who do the same thing! I don't feel crazy anymore. Jess, you know you do this too. We periodically send cat stickers to each other on Facebook at random intervals during the day.

Still, it does make me feel uncomfortable when I'm compelled to contact a friend for no apparent reason. I worry about the person getting annoyed from too much contact. I worry about what they're thinking about me in their mind.

The truth is, if they love me they'll understand that this is just my way of showing them that I love them.

Do you compulsively contact your friends?

Monday, March 24, 2014

Forgive Thyself

Forgive thyself.
For you are all you've got.
Sure, you have family and friends.
Yes, they love you.
But…people are moody. And one day your friend may get mad at you. But, guess what? You're still here.

You make mistakes. Sure you do. After all, you're human.
You hurt people with your words.
You hurt people with your actions.
That's okay. We all do it. We're human beings and we are flawed.
That's what makes us humans.
If we were perfect we'd be mannequins or robots.
But even then my friends, even then…there is no perfect.

Mannequins are made of plastic and plastic can melt or break.
Robots are made of metal and they can malfunction.

You sure are lucky to be a human.
Even though it's hard sometimes.
It feels badly when you hurt another person.
It feels awful when you make what your deem to be a "mistake."

But in actuality, there are no mistakes.
We are here to trip and fall.
We are on this planet to skin our proverbial knees.
Humans are on this earth to fail and fail and fail until we succeed one day.

Our knees may be bloody by then, but nevertheless success has been achieved.

I support your failures.
They are one step closer to success.
I come back to the original concept.
Forgive thyself.
You're good.
You're a good human.
And that's worth everything.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

A Morning Ghost Story- Half and Half

I awoke suddenly. I shot up in my bed. It was morning. I couldn't be sure of the time. Six, maybe six thirty. I knew it was early. I curled my toes underneath the blanket. I breathed in and out slowly. I watched as my chest rose up and down. I felt the warmth of the down comforter on my body. I was immersed in it. I was in a cocoon.

As I put one foot on the floor, the other foot followed. I crept like a cat burglar to the kitchen. Tip toe, tip toe, one foot after the other. I entered the kitchen. I began to salivate. There it was: a black shiny beacon of hope.

I spotted it! The refrigerator and (more importantly) the freezer. I opened the freezer and took out the canister of tiny wondrous brown granules. I approached the glistening dark knight of salvation otherwise known as Mr. Coffee. I placed the filter into it's head. I carefully poured the granules into the filter and pressed the glowing blue button.

The sounds of hot delicious liquid gold streaming through the filter could be heard from the heavens. As soon as the brown liquid courage was ready to be consumed, I eagerly grabbed my favorite mug that simply had the letter "S" on it. I poured the glorious beverage into my ceramic partner in crime with a smile on my face and love in my heart.

My hand reached without thinking for the refrigerator door. As it opened, I knew exactly what I was looking for. There it sat waiting for me. It was short and portly in a brown and white container. It said "half and half."

I grabbed it without thinking. Just as I felt the container in my hand, I realized that something was very wrong. The short fat container was light as a feather. I began to shake with fear. My coffee was ready for its fiancé. But it had been stood up at the altar.

My grasp on the portly container loosened. The empty half and half container fell to the kitchen floor.

I stood there staring at the black liquid in my ceramic friend feeling empty inside.

There's a hole in my heart that can only be filled by half and half.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Fight or Flight

Sleep. I'm asleep.
Deep down dark in dream country.
I'm wading through black water, which is quickly becoming thicker.
It morphs from water to a pudding-like consistency. I'm trying to walk through it, but I can't move my legs well. I'm stuck.

See. Then I see it. It's got green glowing eyes. It's a big black amorphous creature. It's behind me. It wants my blood. It can smell me. I smell like food. It lives in this black water or pudding whatever it is. It's comfortable here. I don't know this place. But I've got to get through. I've got to keep going. I have no choice. If I don't keep moving, this thing will get me.

Feel. I can feel my heart racing in my chest. It's trapped in a tiny cage, trying to escape. My heart wants out. But it can't jump.

Jump. I'm startled by a sound. I can't tell where it's coming from.

Run. I want to run away, but I'm trapped. Trapped in a black gelatinous existence.

Trouble. The trouble is, I know it's coming after me.

Sweat. I begin to sweat. I can feel the droplets on my face first. Slowly they drip down my forehead onto my neck. I'm breathing heavily and heart wants out of my chest. It's bursting. My breath is shallow. I know it's close.

Push. I can push through the blackness. I can get away. I'm drenched in sweat from the exertion. My whole body hurts.

Hurt. I hurt. I hurt all over. I'll get through this. I'll get away.

Eyes. I can see its eyes. They're glowing. They know all about me.

Teeth. The black monster opens its mouth and reveals sharp fangs. It is hungry and I am food. I will get away. I will escape.

Escape. My leg muscles are burning. I'm trying to run, but I'm standing still.

Still. Stillness. I breathe. In and out. In and out. I'm here.

I'm still here.

Here. All I can do is be here in this moment.

Moment. It's just one moment. It's scary, but it won't last forever. I can out run the fear. I may be alone, but I am strong.

Strong. Strength is knowing when you're weak and still moving forward.

Forward. I will keep moving. I will not stop.




Don't think.

Be strong.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

You are Not Broken

You are not broken.
No matter what he says to you.
You are whole.
You are strong.
Hold on.
Even if it feels like no one is listening.
Despite the fact that it may appear like you are alone, you are not alone.
You are loved.
Even if it's just you who loves you. That's enough for now.
You're beautiful, even if he says you're ugly.
You're strong, though he tells you you're weak.
You're steady and stable, even though he tells you that you're crazy.
It's not crazy to believe in being treated better.
It's not insane to love yourself.
You are you.
He is him.
You're not going to change him.
But you can make your life better.
You can stand up and say, I will not tolerate this.
You are able to voice the word "No."
You can create a new life for yourself.
The world needs you.
You need you.
Don't give up.
It's going to be okay.
I'm holding you.
I'm embracing you.
Because I am you.

Monday, March 17, 2014

The Well

I was living underground in a dark well. It was dark and cold down there. I was starving. I tried to remember the last time I ate, but it escaped me. I learned to ignore the sounds of my stomach rumbling. There was no point in imagining food. There hadn't been any in seven years. I couldn't figure out how I was still alive.

I spent my days staring into the darkness of the well walls. If I stared long enough shapes would form out of them. I focused and unfocused my eyes. I saw squares and circles and triangles. They were everywhere.

One thought stayed with me. I would never leave this place. It was home. I tried to recall how I got here, but my mind was blank. So I just stared.


One day, I took a chance and instead of looking straight ahead, I turned my glance upward. Then I saw it. It was a sharp prism of light emanating from outside of the well. All at once I heard a thump! There it was: a rope clinging to the side of the dark well wall.

Was it real?
Should I touch it?

My hands quivered in fear. I was shaking from lack of sleep and nourishment.

But I took a chance. I reached out my hand and I grabbed that rope with my remaining strength; strength that I didn't even realize I had. I clung to the rope and pulled myself upward with all my might. I was exhausted.

I didn't know if I would ever reach that stream of light. But I would die trying.

I pulled and pulled. Sweat streamed down my face and skeletal body.

All at once, I reached the apex. The prism of light expanded and encompassed my whole body. I fell to the ground gasping for breath. I looked over and saw it. There it was, your hand.

It was you.
You gave me that rope.
You believed in me.
You allowed me to save myself.

I took your hand as tears streamed down my face and two words escaped my lips:

"Thank you."

Trolls Should Take Philosophy Courses

The Internet is a funny place. I had a lot of fun writing 3-Year-Olds are Assholes. I knew from the moment I began to write this piece the varying reactions I was going to receive. I had a sense that some people would understand the satirical nature of the piece. I had a sense that there were other parents out there who shared my dry sense of humor. I also knew that other folks would be offended by the piece. Some of them wouldn't read past the title with the word "asshole" in it and then write me an email telling me that I (myself) was an asshole. True story.

What I didn't anticipate were the reaction blogs. There have been quite a few people who have had strong emotional reactions to the piece. These individuals took the time write about their own feelings about my article in blog posts. On the one hand, I think this is great! I'm glad that people are having strong reactions and the article is making people think. However, what I take issue with in some of these pieces is the way that the writer attacks my character. There's a few of these articles where the writer pokes fun at my sensitivity. I'm not sure what that has to do with the original article.

I was a philosophy major college. I know all about deconstructing arguments. I love a good debate. The nature of poking holes in another person's argument should be based entirely on their argument, not emotional and/or physical characteristics of the person. Imagine Socrates is having an argument with a Greek citizen and attempting to show him about the importance of knowledge. The man who he's arguing then turns around and says:
"Socrates, you're enormously fat!"

What? That has nothing to do with the importance of knowledge. What the hell is this guy talking about?

That's what I've found some of these people are doing to me. They're not making critical compelling arguments. They're just going below the belt and trying to get shock value.

I suppose they're not trying to make compelling arguments. Their goal is to emotionally punch me in the stomach. It works man. I fall for it a lot of the time.

I just think it would be more effective, and I might even consider their point of view rather than dismissing it immediately, if they employed a logical argument to critique my writing. I would certainly be open to that. I enjoy a good debate.

So a word to the trolls, take a logic course. Logically sound arguments are a lot more fun to argue with than emotionally charged ones.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Sleeping With NYC

Sara Meghdari is a photographer from Iran living in NYC. Over the past year, she's been working on a unique photo project. It's called "Sleeping With NYC."  The project involves spending a night with New York natives and photographing them while they fall asleep. I was introduced to Sara through my wonderful friend Alex who is also a visual artist.

Alex asked if I would be interested in participating Sara's project. I said I would love to. So Sara and I came up with a date and she came over to my place to photograph my nighttime routine. Her photographs came out beautifully. At first I thought, how will I fall asleep while she's photographing me? But the sound of the clicking camera put me right to bed.

Here are some other examples of her work below. She's quite talented.

For more information on Sara's art click here.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

I Guess I Have ADHD

I guess I have ADHD. I hate labels. I don't like stigmas that follow with labels. But the truth is I have it. Yesterday, I was supposed to help my friend Trish with a transcript. I tried to transcribe for hours. Of course it didn't help that my kids were running around being kids during this process. But, that's not really an excuse. You see, one of the advantages of having ADHD is that I can hyper-focus. That means, ironically, I can zoom in on one particular task and the house could possibly be burning down, but I wouldn't notice because I'm writing a novel.

Anyway…I tried to transcribe this audio file for Trish, but I couldn't focus for more than one minute at time. I would go on Facebook, I would write a blog post, I would do anything I possibly could to run away from the work I was supposed to be doing, because it hurt my brain to stay focused on the task. It was painful to me.

What ended up happening was I was late giving her the transcript, and it was incomplete. I felt awful. I told as her much. She was upset with me and justifiably so. She wrote me saying as much. I replied to her email and told her that I had no excuse. I should have focused better. I explained to her that this is a constant issue that I struggle with. I often have trouble managing deadlines and keeping organized.

She called me up and she said:
"Sarah, I've always been straight with you right?"
"Yeah, you have."
"I think this sounds like ADHD. It's going to be difficult for you to hold a job with these symptoms. I'm worried about you."
I felt my throat tighten and I wanted to cry because I knew what she was saying was true. She was being a supportive friend and trying to help. I know, and I have known for some time, that I have ADHD. I have tremendous difficulty focusing. I have trouble with interrupting people and blurting out the first thing that comes into my head. It's embarrassing sometimes. And I feel ashamed. But the people who love me, understand that I'm not doing it on purpose to be rude. It's the way my brain is wired.

There are pros and cons to having ADHD:

  • Hyper-focusing - Pro: I can zoom in on a task and get it done. Con:  I am completely unaware of everything else around me and it could result in me forgetting that I left the stove on. 
  • Multi-tasking - Pro: I'm sure getting a lot of things done right now at the same time! Con: Except I'm not getting the important stuff done, but my cellphone screen is really clean. 
  • Quick Thinker - Pro: I'm sharp and have many creative thoughts at the same time Con- What is going on in my brain? Racing thoughts abound. 
I've decided to try natural supplements to combat my ADHD symptoms. I've had luck with this stuff in the past  But if that doesn't work, I may have to consider medication.

Do you have ADHD? How do you deal with it?

Friday, March 14, 2014

Anxiety is My Professor

If I wasn't anxious, my heart wouldn't race all the time.
If I didn't have panic disorder, my natural state would not be fight or flight.
I could be one of those people who just gets up in the morning, showers, eats breakfasts and leaves the house.
That could happen.
If I didn't wake up in a cold sweat feeling like I might be dying, perhaps I'd get more done.
The truth is, these things don't happen to me now that I'm taking anti-depressants.
In my brain's natural state, my neurotransmitters keep firing and don't know when to stop.
The result is that I constant feel threatened.
The consequence to this chemical imbalance is that I'm convinced that my death is imminent even though there is no empirical evidence to support this. However, I'm an intelligent college-educated person, so I will come up with "data" that support this by consulting the Internet or reaching into the confines of my brain. I have a lot of knowledge in there. I should be able to diagnose myself. I'm not a doctor, but I know a lot of doctors.

There have been many days when I woke up and didn't want to get out of bed.
Not because I was tired.
But because I was afraid of what my body was doing.
I was terrified to feel the uncontrollable racing heart.
I was scared to feel so nauseated that I either couldn't eat at all, or I would vomit.
If I did vomit, it would take me at least 30 minutes to recover from the trauma of having no control over my body. And then I would have to calm myself down enough to be able to function.

Anxiety is a serious life altering condition. It is something that needs treatment.

I've learned a lot from coping with panic disorder. I've learned to be patient with myself. When I seem to have no control over my body or mind, I ride the waves. I imagine myself immersed in the ocean. I wait for the wave of panic to wash over me and then I ride it. It's just me. There's no surf board to hold me up. I'm in the water by myself. I'm waiting for the panic wave to come, and when it does, I am ready for it. I'm gonna roll with it. I'm not going to fight it anymore.

I used to fight it. I confess. I did. I used to resent having panic. Now I know that if it comes, I can handle it. It will be extremely uncomfortable and it will seem as if I have no control, but it's an illusion. I'm just riding the wave. Waiting for the current to calm down. I can do this.

Anxiety is my life professor. It has taught me to not only be patient with myself but to be empathetic of other people's mental health conditions. If I didn't have panic disorder, I know I wouldn't be as empathetic a person as I am. I try my best to understand people and help them. I know that this is due to what I've been through.

No one can tell you who you are. No one can know your story more than you can. But you can share your story with others to help them feel less alone.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Dear Sallie Mae

Dear Sallie Mae,

I would like to thank you for lending me a massive amount of money so that I could get a higher education. I wouldn't trade my time at New York University's Gallatin School for anything. It was an incomparable education where I learned a great deal about Plato, Kant, and Nietzsche. I'm aware that choosing philosophy as a major wasn't going to make me into a business tycoon, but nevertheless I chose to pursue what I had a passion for.

Four years passed and I was out of school and ready to find a job. My 20s were a time of exploration. I tried out different jobs including publishing, banking, and teaching just to name a few. It was not an easy time by any means. But, then again, there is a distinct lack of career guidance offered to American high school students and even less vocational advice provided to undergraduate college students.

Anyway, now I'm in my 30s and I finally figured out what I want to do with my life. I'm working as a professional writer and raising two children. Now, as you may be aware, writers don't make a lot of money. In fact, many of us are starving artists. I'm not saying that my career choice is your fault. I'm just telling you about my life so that we can get on the same page.

Writing doesn't pay the bills; this we know. So, in addition to my side gig of working as a substitute teacher, I am also sending out resumes to a variety of companies in the hopes of securing full-time employment. However, as you may be aware, the American economy is rough right now. There are no jobs. I am competing with people in their 20s for entry level positions that I am over-qualified for. It's disheartening to say the least.

At this point, I'm willing to take just about any job. I would totally work in a grocery store. However, Trader Joe's refuses to hire me because I can't work nights. I have to take care of my children too.

The point is I'm trying, I really am. But I'm having difficulty putting food on the table and paying my bills.

So when you refuse to accept the fact that I cannot pay you $220 per month, it's frustrating to me. When you offer no alternative options and simply demand that I pay you, I am at a loss for words. You see, I'm seriously considering applying for food stamps. With that in mind, do you think it's reasonable for you to ask me for $220 a month?

Listen, it was great when you offered me the interest only option. I could handle paying $123 a month. But then you abruptly took that payment plan away without notifying me. That's unprofessional and foolish.

So, I'm sorry I called one of your supervisors an asshole. But he kept demanding money that I clearly do not have. He wasn't hearing me and I was frustrated. I told him I was considering going down and applying for government assistance and he simply told me that this was a debt I had to pay. So I asked him if he had kids. He replied:
"Ma'am, I don't want to get into my personal life."

Well, he was certainly interested in my personal financial life. He kept asking if there was any way I could pay your company. He wanted to know all about my family and how much I paid for every single one of my expenses. I think that's pretty personal.

So thanks for nothing Sallie Mae.

I hope someone reports you to the Better Business Bureau.

Sarah Fader

I Was Sexually Harassed at Hunter College

In 2007 I began a counseling degree at Hunter College. I was excited to share my empathy and good listening skills with others. I was quickly accepted into a work study program where I was then placed into a residential treatment facility as a vocational rehabilitation counselor.

The facility was well-known and respected in the community of substance abuse treatment. I had a supervisor at Hunter College who monitored my progress at work working with real life addicts who were recovered and looking to re-enter the workforce.

At first, things were great. I was wonderful at my job. I got along great with my office mate, Tara (also a Hunter Student) and my clients found my insight into their mental health issues valuable. I loved what I did and coming to work was a joy.

Slowly, things started to change. Tara (who was a great support to me) went out on maternity leave. I had my office to myself and my supervisor felt freer to (shall we say) be who he was. He began to make inappropriate comments to me about my wardrobe.

One day, I wore a work appropriate dress. He called me into his office.
"Can I talk to you for a second?" He asked.
"Sure." I replied, thinking nothing of it.
"Your boobs are popping out all over the place." He said to me flippantly. "You can't wear things like that to work. You'll excite the clients."
My jaw dropped. I couldn't believe what I was hearing. He felt it was appropriate and acceptable to speak his employee like that.

Similar and even more racy comments were made to me. I felt afraid to report the incident to Human Resources, because I was scared to lose my job. The job that was paying my tuition.

So I didn't say anything. I lived in fear.

One day, after being harassed continually for weeks, I finally reported it to my the head of the facility. I told him about feeling violated. He responded:
"Sometimes, when you stop using drugs, your clothes fit tighter. Maybe that's what he (my boss) is reacting to."

So the head of the facility thought I was an ex-addict and a slut. Great, I thought.

I decided I'd better report the incident to my Hunter College supervisor. One day, when I was sitting down with her, I told her about the repeated inappropriate comments. I told her I felt awful coming to work every day but didn't want to lose my placement.
"Oh, that's just the way he is," She said. "He's being playful. Don't pay attention to it."

I felt alone. My job and the university had abandoned me.

During my time at the residential facility I become pregnant. My boyfriend and I were excited. I went out on maternity leave with the plan that I would switch jobs after the three months was up.

I secured a job at an outpatient facility. I gave a few references for the facility to check. One day, I went up to Hunter College to check in with my supervisor. I was told that the rehab counseling team was meeting. I had the unfortunate timing of hearing the tail end of their meeting.
"What are we going to do about Sarah?" One of the team said.
"Bill called over and told the outpatient facility that she reported him for sexual harassment."

Bill (not my supervisor's real name) had called over to my new job and told the company that I reported him for sexual harassment.

As soon as the team exited their meeting I confronted my supervisor at Hunter:
"I just want to let you know that I heard what you said about me in the meeting."
"Shit! You weren't supposed to hear that." She replied

I felt (once again) all alone and confused.

The outpatient facility hired me anyway, but they treated me like I was a whistle blower. They were afraid of me. I was supposed to have a male supervisor, but that was quickly changed to a female one.

I was discouraged. I was heartbroken. I quit my job abruptly and dropped out of the program. I felt unsupported and let down by the university that was supposed to protect me.

Five years later, I attempted to return to the program at Hunter to finish my degree. I was told that there was a grant waiting for me. My tuition would be taken care of. All of a sudden, the university's dean informed me that my credits were expired and there was nothing he could do to help.

I explained that there were extenuating circumstances. I had been sexually harassed by my boss. He said that he was "sympathetic" to my situation but there was nothing he could do to help.

I find this whole series of events to be baffling and devastating. I went through emotional hell and upheaval during my graduate education. I should be able to finish my degree. Hunter College needs to account for what happened to me and make it right. I will not stop until I get my M.S.ed.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014


I am a highly sensitive person. I've been like this ever since I was a child. I remember being a little girl in elementary school, probably around six or seven-years-old. If I close my eyes I can go back to that time. Then, I feel it. My throat muscles tighten. There's a lump lodged in my throat.

I'm small and I'm trying hard not to let the tears fall out. I want to cry. I can't even remember the reason why I want to cry. It could be because another kid said something mean about me. I am shy. I don't want to reveal my true feelings to anyone. They won't understand me. They won't know what goes on in my head or in my apartment. 

I won't cry. If I wait long enough the lump will go away. Just breathe little girl. It won't be there forever. Hold on baby. It's going to be okay. I miss my Mommy. She understands me. There's no one in this school who knows who I am inside. I don't wanna be here. I wanna go home. I'm a freak. I'm not like anyone else here. No one will ever treat me with kindness. They'll all laugh at me and tell me I'm strange. They make fun of what I have for lunch because it looks weird. I'm weird. I'm not normal. I'm not normal. I'm not normal. I'm not normal. I want to be normal.

When I was eight-years-old I had acid reflux. It was stress-related. I would get anxious around other kids and I'd feel the bile rise from my stomach into my throat. I asked my mom what it was. I was afraid I might be dying.
"Don't worry honey. That's called a water flush. It'll go away. Just drink some seltzer."

Then there was the time that I accidentally touched glue and then touched my mouth. I told my dad I thought I might die from eating the glue.
The glue is going to kill me. I'm a horrible person. How could I do this to myself? 

These intrusive thoughts continued from my entire childhood and into adolescence and I lived with the shame that I was different from everyone else. I thought about death and dying a lot. I thought:
If I make this basket in the hoop, then I'll live after the age of 21, if I miss the basket then I'm going to die. 
I missed the basket. I'm still alive.

When I turned 15 I met a boy. I fell in love with him. I told him everything. I didn't hold back. I wanted him to love me for my freakish self. I told him my scary intrusive thoughts. I told him about being abnormal. I told him I thought I might be bisexual because I liked my friend Kristen. He loved me for a while and then decided that I was completely insane.

I told him if he broke up with me I thought I might die. He interpreted that to mean that if he dumped me I would kill myself. That's not what I meant, but I succeeded in freaking us both out. So he stayed with me because he was afraid I was going to slit my wrists. I never had any intention of killing myself. I just felt dead inside due to an undiagnosed chemical imbalance. I had panic disorder and clinical depression and I was drowning in a sea of "I hate myself and no one understands me."

When this boy and I broke up, I did die. A piece of my soul died. I told him everything about who I was inside. I told him my deepest darkest fears and he didn't want to be with me. He rejected the totality of who I was as a person. I was broken and dead and I didn't want to exist. I floated above my body and watched myself living, but I was a corpse.

To this day, I cannot reveal who I am entirely to people. I am terrified that they will kill me the way that he did. And when I make the mistake of being brutally honest with someone about how much I love them, they rip my heart out and throw it into a sea full of sharks to have for dinner. My chest is empty and I hurt. I hurt for days, weeks, months, years, centuries.

I own my sensitivity. I own that I feel intensely. It takes a lot for me to reveal my feelings to you. So if you are privileged enough to hear that I love you deeply, please accept it and don't run away from me. It hurts more than you can possibly understand.

How to Use Twitter Effectively

I constantly joke about the fact that for years I thought Twitter was silly and only celebrities used it. After much deliberation, I joined Twitter in 2010. I taught myself how to use it. It wasn't terribly hard. That's the problem I initially had with it in the first place. It seemed overly simple. You just talk to random folks? That's it? What's the point of this thing?

After a couple of months, I had the Twitter thing down and I knew how to operate it. I'm here to tell you that Twitter has real value not only for Bloggers, but also for companies and individuals.

The main thing you need to realize about Twitter is that it's like a giant party. There are so many folks at this party and you need to sit down, grab a drink and talk to folks that "get you." Some of them will ignore you, and some of them will think you're pretty awesome and want to get to know you better.

Here's my short list of things to do on Twitter to use it effectively:

1. Follow people
It sounds ridiculous, but it's true. When I started using Twitter, I didn't have any followers. So I searched in the search for for the word "mom." I started following all the people that had mom in their user name. It's important to find your niche in Twitter land. You may be wondering, what is a niche on Twitter? Here's an example: my niche is parenting, and more specially, moms. I tend to follow fellow mom bloggers. I started with the ladies, and then when I felt I had a substantial amount of mom blogger followers, I moved on to following dads. A word of caution: don't follow too many people or Twitter will get suspicious and stop letting you follow people. Start with 50 people. Choose 50 folks you think you have something in common with and follow them. Choose a mix of people that have a lot of followers i.e 20K and a moderate amount of followers i.e 1000-2000.

2. Talk to people
Once you've followed people that are in your niche, talk to them. Look at the things they're posting and chat with them about them. In short, tweet them!  It's very important to talk to your followers. First, this makes them aware of your existence and secondly, it allows you the opportunity to form relationships. This is where my psychology background comes in handy. I make friends with folks by commenting on their content FIRST. Don't ask anyone to read your stuff until you've read or commented on theirs. It's just polite and common sense.

3. RT things
If you like what someone tweeted, RT it. They are aware that you're doing it and it makes them pay attention to you.

4. Use Hashtags
I know hashtags are ridiculous, but use them. So, for example, if you write a post about being a mom, use the hashtag #parenting. If you write a post about baseball use the hashtags #baseball and #sports. The use of hashtags calls attention to your post. You might be wondering how that happens. People on the internet are generally bored, so they're searching for things to read about. They will search under the ''discover" box on Twitter for topics. If you find your tweet by searching #baseball, that's great!

5. Thank people for following you in a personal way
When someone follows me on Twitter I always thank them. "Thanks for following." But I don't stop there, I then ask "How did you hear about me?" That opens up a dialogue and invites that person to tell you about their particular interests.

6. Have Fun
Don't just post random blog entries. Post thoughts that pop into your brain. My dear friend Jenni Chiu once described Twitter as a garbage disposal for her brain. She's right. I often will post things that I think are funny or emotional in order to share with my audience that I too am human. I'm not just trying to market myself.

I hope you enjoyed your Twitter tutorial. Now go out there and tweet your butt off! 

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Guest Post: If You Give a Dad a Schedule By Jessica Davis

Many of you have read the popular children's book If You Give a Mouse a Cookie  which has such poignant lines as "if you give a mouse a cookie, he's going to ask for a glass of milk." The story then unfolds and the mouse becomes more and more annoying and demanding.

My dear friend and Blogger Jessica Davis has created a parody of this classic children's tale. It's called: If You Give a Dad a Schedule.

I present you with: If You Give a Dad a Schedule

If you give a dad the schedule
He'll throw it out the window
When he throws it out the window, he'll ignore the basket of clean clothes that needs to be put away
When he ignores the basket of clean clothes that needs to be put away…
He'll dress the kids in dirty clothes.
When he dresses the kids in dirty clothes, he'll shrug and take them outside to play in the mud
When he takes them outside to play in the mud...
They'll start eating the mud.
When the kids start eating the mud, he'll realize he hasn't fed them real food yet and they might develop PICA.
When he realizes he hasn't fed them read food yet, and they may be developing PICA, he'll bring them inside and give them a bath using only baby wipes.
When he gives them a “bath” using only baby wipes, he'll miss half the mud and they’ll be dirty as hell.
When he misses half the mud, and the kids are dirty as hell, the kids will see the mud and demand chocolate pudding for breakfast.
But, since he threw the schedule out the window and he has no idea what to feed them for breakfast…
He'll give them pudding for breakfast.
When he gives the kids pudding for breakfast, he’ll realize how useful the schedule was.

Jessica Davis lives in Ontario, Canada. She is a mother to two young boys, and lives with a rare chronic pain disorder called Multiple Hereditary Exostoses. She’s been writing online for
almost a decade. She blogs at The Fevered Pen. Follow her on Facebook here and most recently, an AUTHOR PAGE. You should follow all of the above for amazing life changing writings. Jessica is also extremely sarcastic, but nevertheless still wants you to follow her blog and Facebook pages. Hugs and kisses!

I Use My iPhone to Cope With the Stress of Parenting

I have a confession to make: I use my iPhone to cope with the stress of parenting.

I'm not proud of it, I can tell you that much.

Here's what usually goes down: one or both of my kids is losing their shit. I attempt to calm them down and soothe whatever their needs happen to be at the time. I try the tried and true list of hungry, angry, lonely or tired. However, none of those things appear to be the problem or if they are the problem my kid(s) don't want to admit that they are.

 I want to refrain from losing my shit, because I can't control the situation and feel like a parental failure, so I bust out my phone and check Facebook. I take out my iPhone and look at the news. I text a friend of mine "my kid is going nuts and I'm gonna lose it. Arg! Frustration!"

I think the reason that I do this (revert to obsessively checking the phone) is that the level of emotional intensity I'm surrounded by is so high that it's extremely uncomfortable. I need to distract myself from this highly charged emotional environment so I disassociate and look at my phone.

I'm sure I'm not the only parent who does this. In fact, the other day I was in a restaurant with my son and I looked over at totally caught another mother looking at her phone while her kid was throwing a tantrum.

Sometimes, we don't know what to do as parents and so we zone out as a defense mechanism. I know for me, I'm surrounded by an incredibly uncomfortable feeling that I'm failing my child and hence I look to this neutral device that is in the back pocket of my jeans chilling, waiting for me to click on it.

So, how do I stop this iPhone obsessive behavior? I think it's about staying in the moment, no matter how uncomfortable that might feel for me. Yes, my child is upset, yes I've tried unsuccessfully to calm them down, and no, none of my efforts have worked. And you know what, that's okay, because I tried.

I'm not a failure if my kid is having a tantrum. Kids have tantrums. We try our best to handle them as parents, but all else fails, the tantrum will eventually pass. My kid will cry, he will scream and he will realize that life is challenging and he cannot get what he wants in that particular moment.

Most importantly, I need to forgive myself. I can't solve every problem. I can try my best to be emotionally present for my children, but ultimately, they are who they are as individuals.

The next time I feel like taking out my phone in a moment of panic, I'm going to try breathing instead.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

So You Want to Be a Blogger

"I want to start a blog." Said my friend. Said three of my friends. Said 10 of my friends.

I've heard this sentiment many times.
"How can I do it?"

Now, I'm no social media guru, but I do know the things that have worked for me. Here's my short list of helpful tips for those interested in starting a blog.

1. Pick a name that represents who you are and what you want to communicate.
Don't make it too complicated to remember because most people don't have the attention span for long ass names. My best friend Mint and I chose Old School/New School Mom for me because it represented who I am as a person. But this choice took us over an hour. We hashed out different options and made lists.

2. Chose a platform
There are quite a few blogging platform options. WordPress is popular choice because it's pretty and you can custom design your site. For the layman who is just starting out and isn't so tech savvy, I would recommend Blogger. The advantage to using a site like Blogger is that it's connected to Google and you can use your Gmail to log in. If you want to get serious, go with WordPress though. Then there are other things like Tumblr and Square Space  Personally, I find Tumblr confusing. I have many friends that love Square Space though. It's a great platform.

3.  Create a Blog Facebook Page and a Twitter Account
A majority of social media success is based on networking. You want your readers to be able to reach out to you and say "hey, I loved your post." You also want potential brands to be able to contact you and pay you to write for them. Having a Facebook and Twitter is a great way for those people to stay in touch with you. People make fun of Twitter all the time. I did for years. But now, I'm a convert. Twitter is an excellent marketing tool. I've met some truly valuable connections on there.

4. Read and comment on other bloggers post
Let's face it, people love to be heard. If you scratch my back I'll scratch yours. When you comment on someone's post, they are now aware of your Internet existence. They can click on your website and now they are compelled to read what you wrote.

5. Make friends online
This is crucial. You need to find people you relate to on the land of the Internet and talk to them. They will be your allies and advocates. I personally love these people:  Jenni Chiu, Jessica Bern, Liza Hippler, Jessica Davis, Byron Hamel, Sarah Carmichael, Julie Provost Erin Best Margolin and more. I could go on.

6. Don't give up
That's it! Don't give up. Be persistent. Ask for advice from other bloggers. If no one comments on your post, it's okay. Keep going. 90 percent of blogging is perseverance.

Good luck to you all and send me your blogs!

Saturday, March 8, 2014

I Will Not Apologize For Who I Am

I had an epiphany this morning. My entire life I've been overly concerned about what other people think of me. Do they like me? Am I a nice person? Those are the thoughts that continually flow through my mind. It can be overwhelming sometimes to constantly want to be liked and validated by other people.

I am, however, reaching a point in my life where I'm beginning to feel differently about myself in relation to other people.

There have been many occasions in my 34 years on this planet where I've apologized to people. I often feel like I'm apologizing.

"I'm sorry your feelings are hurt."
"I'm sorry you feel that way."
"I'm sorry *insert reason here."

However, I'm becoming exhausted from the idea that most things are my fault, because they're actually not. I don't need to apologize for everything.

Yes, there are genuine occasions where someone's feelings do get hurt and that warrants an apology. But what about my feelings? I don't want to forgot those too. For years, I've prioritized other people's feelings over my own. I'm done with that.

I will apologize for an action I've done that has hurt or angered a person I care about, however, I will not apologize for who I am. 

There's a huge distinction here. You can be remorseful for hurting someone's feelings, but don't take that personally. Do not infer that there's something wrong with you or your character because another person is offended by your words or actions.

We all offend each other. It's the nature of being human. But let's celebrate the fact that we're different. We're unique.

I felt so strongly about my realization, that I created a tee-shirt. Are you with me?

I will not apologize for who I am, which you can buy here if you want. 

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

I'm a Nice Person and There's No Catch

I'm a nice person. That's it. I could probably end this post right then and there. Except there's more to say here. I like helping people. It makes me happy to help others. I suppose you could look at it in a selfish way. It makes me feel good about myself to do good deeds for others. So if you want to characterize that as self-motivated go right ahead.

That doesn't make me less nice.

Often times, when I compliment someone for no reason, or I do a good deed for another person they find it confusing and don't know how to process it.

When I was on my way to be interviewed by The Huffington Post the other day, I noticed this woman on the subway. Her coat was beautiful. So I said:
"Excuse me, I really like your coat."
"Oh, thank you so much!" She replied. Then her face changed. "You must not be from New York." She said with a frown. I knew what she was getting at. She said it because she wasn't used to interacting with nice people. New Yorkers have a reputation for being abrupt and rude.

"Actually," I corrected her, "I am from New York. I'm just a nice person. We still exist in the world you know?" She and I shared a laugh together. Then we started chatting. I broke the ice with her and it turned out she had raised three kids in the city. So we bonded over the fact that we were both mothers.

Still, I came away from this interaction with a funny feeling. I was put off by the fact that this woman wasn't used to people being nice to her. It made me think about the culture of New York City. Have New Yorkers become so jaded that they actually think something is wrong when someone is nice? I think so.

That appears to be the case.

I think it's wonderful to be kind. I believe in kindness for no reason. If you can make someone smile just because, then do it. If I have something that you need, I'm gonna give it to you. I have no problem with that. I love to be generous because it makes me happy and it makes you happy.

So the next time I do something nice for you, don't look at me with a confused face. Just say "Thank you Sarah," or "Thank you Fader." Lots of people call me Fader. And let's call it a day. You don't owe me anything. I wanted to do that nice thing for you because that's my way of telling you you're pretty awesome.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Three Year Olds Are Assholes- The Positive Reframe - By K. Cozzo, School Psychologist

K. Cozzo is a School Psychologist, Aspiring Writer, and temporary SAHM on the brink of insanity due to temporary SAHM status

Saturday morning, a comrade-in-arms (aka fellow parent of a preschooler) sent me the link to the Huff Post Parents blog post entitled ‘”Three-Year-Olds are A**holes.”  My initial reaction was, “Daaamn straight,” and upon reading the entry, I found it to be every bit as hilarious, honest, and accurate as expected.

Truth is, it’s been a long winter on the East Coast, and “snow” is the dirtiest of four-letter words. There’ve been too many weekends where by Sunday night, my house has been trashed and my patience trampled by a crabby little creature literally climbing the walls in a paint-stained purple princess dress, worn over her pajamas, both of which she’s refused to take off since morning.

Tonight, with another day of snow (aka house arrest) looming, I’m weary before it even arrives. But instead of dreading or fearing what lies ahead, I find myself harkening back to my introductory counseling class in grad school. I remember a lesson on the “positive reframe” technique and being given an exercise where we were forced to turn negative adjectives/qualities into positives. So, in the hopes of starting tomorrow with a more optimistic outlook and renewed patience, I’m going to (temporarily) forget that “three-year-olds are a**holes” through the following analysis: Three-Year-Olds – the Positive Reframe.

(I’m pretty confident the following list of tendencies applies to the vast majority of three-year-olds out there, but for the record… yes dear daughter, I’m talking about you.)

Terrible Toddler Tendency #1: You may be dressed like a sweet princess, but you’re a wicked little drama queen. By seven-thirty AM, I’ve lost count of the varied crises that have compelled you to drop to your knees and scream to the heavens in utter despair, disbelief, and/or fury. On this particular morning, the antics were incited by the dumping of your Jelly Belly jelly bean dispenser. You know the one – the Jelly Belly jelly bean dispenser you’ve been told on countless occasions that you’re not allowed to touch. But you didn’t listen, or maybe you just didn’t care, and proceeded to dump approximately 6,482 jelly beans all over the kitchen floor.  The highlight was the subsequent mourning period, during which you wailed “Jelly beans! My jelly beans!” on repeat for a solid twenty minutes. (Interesting side note – while I’m quite certain you could be heard in every house on the circle, somehow, miraculously, your father heard nothing.  A story for a whole ‘nother time.)

Positive Reframe: You are passionate! I should commend you for that. There’s no denying that you care, about big things, and about things as small as, well, jelly beans. I hope you always care. I hope daily occurrences always inspire passion in you, and that you are never reduced to merely going through the motions. It’s good to care, and it’s good to feel. It sure seems to take a lot of energy, all that wailing, but at least no one can ever accuse you of apathy.

Terrible Toddler Tendency #2: Good Lord, you are bossy. I never realized when I had you that I’d committed to several years of indentured servitude. Yet by the time you take your nap, I’ve been “commanded” to fetch you drinks (heaven forbid they’re delivered in the wrong cup), cue up the appropriate princess DVD, pour a refill of breakfast cereal, find baby Teds, your beloved (filthy) teddy bear, refold a blanket that I’d folded improperly, turn up the volume on said princess DVD (because you can’t hear it over your rapid-fire demands), and maybe wipe your bum a few times. While nursing your brother. (Not only are you bossy, you’re usually pretty rude about it, too. Like yesterday, when you were reminded to say “please,” and you informed me that it would be the LAST day you’d be saying “please,” because my constant reminders about it were “annoying.”)

Positive Reframe: You know… I see some natural leadership abilities in you! I’m not too terribly concerned that, being a woman, you’ll have any difficulty scaling the professional ladder. I feel confident in your future at the head of industry, or possibly as the dictator of a small European principality. Tempered, I’m certain your ability to “delegate responsibility” and demand immediate results from “those you manage” will take you quite far in life.

Terrible Toddler Tendency #3: Impatient much? Believe it or not, I am not deaf, and I heard your request to “come HERE!”the first forty times you barked it at me. You don’t need to get louder, or more adamant, or say it forty more times. You seem oblivious of the fact that I have only one pair of hands, and that often times these days they are tending to a person who’s been on this planet less than 75 days. Being that often times I have to wait until late afternoon to even take a shower, I feel I’ve become a shining example of patience myself. It clearly isn’t rubbing off on you.

Positive Reframe: You are eager.  Eager for me to join you at the delicious picnic you’ve assembled using every food item from the 195-piece set (thank you, Uncle Tommy). Eager to have me admire the beauty of the fourteenth picture you’ve just painted in a fervent state. Eager to have me read the Nemo story for the seventh time from the Disney anthology, because you still enjoy it THAT much. Mostly, you are eager to interact with me, to have me share your excitement, beauty, and joy, and to use our imaginations together. And when I phrase it that way, I have to ask… can I really complain?

Terrible Toddler Tendency #4: You’re appallingly argumentative, and you talk back like a surly sixteen-year-old, which, ironically enough, is how old you think you are. You always have an excuse, a reason, a counterpoint, an exception to the rule, which you feel the need to share in a most belligerent manner. You have a total inability to accept “no” as the final answer. You believe your way is the best way, even when it results in the yogurt container spilling all over the coffee table, the paint ruining the princess dress, or the chair falling backward with you narrowly escaping banging your noggin against the wall. No one knows better than you do, and you’re not really going to entertain the idea that they might.

Positive Reframe:  What conviction! How fierce! No man will ever push YOU around. You have a voice, and you’re going to use it. On top of that, you have a tremendous grasp of the English language, and your ability to share your thoughts and feelings is somewhat awesome. I know better than to take this for granted. At my “day job,” I work with children who can’t articulate their words, or lack the receptive or expressive capacity to share experiences with others. No matter how loud, verbose, argumentative, or chatty you are, your power of language should not be taken for granted. I know better.

Terrible Toddler Tendency #5: You are careless. You leave your crap, I mean, priceless treasures, everywhere. You rarely (never) pick them up. You step on your favorite crown and then tantrum because your foot hurts (you refuse socks these days, even in subzero temperatures) and because your favorite crown is now broken. Food is spilled. Food is in your hair. Drinks topple. Puzzle pieces never make it back to their boxes, and now poor Sofia the First will forever be missing one arm. Daddy nearly suffered a black eye during bedtime hugs. To put it bluntly, you’re a hot mess.

Positive Reframe: You are care-less. You float through most days with nary a care, and kudos to you for that. Most days I have too many stressors, anxieties, and items on my perpetual to-do list to keep straight, and the definition of carefree is somewhat lost on me. Thank you for modeling the lost art of care-less-ness. One day, maybe I’ll try to be care-less with you.

Terrible Toddler Tendency #6: You have the short-term memory of a mosquito. I’ve asked you to put your coat on three times now. I’ve reminded you to pick up the Legos seven times. I’ve told you to stop bopping the dog on the head with your inflatable hammer thirty-two times. Yet each and every time, you look up as if you’re hearing the instruction for the very first time… and then promptly go back to forgetting it again.  You’ve passed hearing tests, but somehow, you miss every word I say. Except for “lollipop.”

Positive Reframe: You have the short-term memory of a mosquito. So you never hold a grudge. There have been several times today when you could have viewed mommy as unnecessarily dramatic, bossy, impatient, argumentative, needling, bossy, boring, or even mean. Yet at the end of the day, your attitude toward me has not soured at all. You’re still offering smiles, seeking hugs, and scooting closer to cuddle on the couch. My wrongs do not seem to amass throughout the day, leaving you impatient with me by bedtime. You love me just as much as ever and continue to clamor for my company when I am admittedly a bit eager to take a break from yours. And you know what’s really wonderful about you? It doesn’t take a positive reframe list for you to feel that way. It seems that your heart is set to automatic positive reframe.

So yeah, maybe three-year-olds sometimes act like a**holes.  Maybe sometimes they act dramatic, bossy, impatient, argumentative, careless, and forgetful. But at heart, three-year-olds are passionate, independent-minded, eager, strong-willed, care-less, and most importantly, forgiving.  Because I’m not so perfect either.

With that in mind, it’s time for bed, because I definitely need to rest up. Here’s to a fun-filled snow day with my girl.*

*followed by a glass of Pinot at bedtime

I'm Traumatized From Getting My Children Ready in The Morning

It's 5:45am and I hear the creak of my daughter's bedroom door open. Her sound machine is still on. I can hear the fake rain sound emanating from the distance. Then I hear the thumping of her little feet hit the floor. She runs directly into my bedroom and proclaims:

"Good morning mama!" 

I groggily rub my eyes and muster up a semi-comprehensible response:
"Good morning my love." I muster back. But what I really want to say is "Oh my G-d it's so fucking early. Couldn't you have slept one more hour/"

But I don't. 

I get up and go into the kitchen with her. I microwave some frozen pancakes and she eats them readily. All the while I am praying that my son sleeps a little bit longer. He's not a morning person, so there is that. 

After I give her the pancakes I put my coffee mug in the microwave for three minutes to get the water hot enough for the French Press. During this time I'm continually anticipating my daughter's impatience and eventual descent from her chair and down the hall toward the living room. 

I'm thinking in my mind I hope she sits there just two minutes longer so I can have my coffee.

While she's chowing down on pancakes I'm furiously taking all my vitamins because I'm old. While I'm shoving supplements in my mouth I'm also gathering frozen fruit and vegetables and attempting to make a smoothie in my blender. 

At the sound of the blender doing it's thing, my son wakes up. 
"I wanna watch something!" He proclaims, meaning he's trying to get out of sitting at the breakfast table and wants to watch TV. 

"You can't watch TV until you eat breakfast."

We argue about this for about five minutes until he sulks and sits at the table and eats Cheerios without milk. The alternate scenario here is that I forget he hates milk in his cereal and I put it in the bowl, he freaks out, and I give the milk version to my non-picky eater sitting across the table.

Once everyone eats they all run away from me towards the living room and turn the TV on. 

"You guys can't watch TV until you get dressed." 

There's a lot of whining and protesting. My son then starts negotiating and telling me that he will actually die if he's not allowed to watch TV. As if this is actually possible. I explain to him that no one has ever died from lack of television. There are no medical studies documenting this, although it might be a rare condition that we're not aware of yet. But, nevertheless, he should still put his pants on.

He finally agrees to put clothes on. But that's when things get intense. 
"I can't find any pants!"
"Look in your drawer."
"There are no pants!"
"If I come in there and find pants, I'm going to be really upset."
"Mommy, help."
"Okay fine."

I go into his room, open the drawer and locate a pair of pants within 2.5 seconds. 
"See? Pants."
"I don't like those pants. I want my green pants."
"Those are dirty. I'm doing laundry tonight."
"I want them."
"Well you can wear them tomorrow. We're late now, you need to put these pants on."
"Either you put these pants on, or I put them on you."
"If you don't listen to me you're not watching TV tonight."

He decides that TV is worth the sacrifice of putting the pants on. Meanwhile, while this argument is going on, my daughter is chasing the cat down the hall and if and when she catches this poor feline she is pulling the creature's tail. 
"Stop pulling the cat's tail! That hurts her."
"Okay." She says with a sigh.

While I'm discipling my kid for animal cruelty, my son has taken his pants off in protest.
"Remember what I said about TV?"
"Put your pants back on."
*Crickets again.

"Okay, I'm going to get dressed. By the time I have my clothes on, your pants along with the rest of your clothes are going to be on."

I cannot believe I still have pajamas on. But I do.

I get my clothes on all the while praying that he'll be ready to go while I'm doing my thing. Meanwhile, my daughter has taken all the Dixie Cups out of the bathroom cabinet and is throwing them one by one into the toilet.

"Stop doing that! Grandpa is going to be mad." I tell her. "You're going to time out."
I put her in time out. 

At this point I've managed to put clothes on miraculously. I find my son and thankfully he's mostly dressed aside from the one snow boot that he cannot manage to find. We search high and low and eventually find it underneath the couch. 
"I'm good at finding things." He proclaims.

He's good to go. But my daughter has now run away from me and I can't find her anywhere. Finally I locate her. She's underneath my bed. 

"We gotta go! Let's put your coat on."

I put her coat on and we are ready to get out the door. But I might need a time out myself.