Friday, February 28, 2014

HuffPost Live Interview - Three-Year-Olds are Assholes

I had the pleasure of being on HuffPost Live today. I had a blast, but next time I'm doing my hair before I go on TV.


Thursday, February 27, 2014

Guest Post - "Settled Relaxation and Bliss" and other Salient Quotes for a Woman Tickling 30

This post is from Kristen McConnell over at Soft Science Notes. Here's more about Kristen:
I’m a nurse and a mother who has recently started a new chapter. After living with my parents for a few years as a single mother working full-time in an ICU, I recently got married and moved with my daughter to Brooklyn to live with my husband. Right now I’m spending most of my time trying to learn in earnest how to be a homemaker and a wife, and taking care of my daughter who is 5 and has special needs, including severe apraxia of speech.

A couple days ago as I crawled searchingly through the mountain of mail that grows in a corner of my apartment I came across a Christmas card from a friend of my husband's that I hadn't seen. This friend (old, wise, childless) had written that after the exciting changes my husband and I encountered in 2013 (we got married, moved in together for the first time, and he became a stepfather to my daughter) he hoped 2014 would be a year of settled relaxation and bliss for us.

I simultaneously scoffed, chortled, and rolled my eyes --- yeah, right! --- before pausing to appreciate the kind sentiment and consider its possibility. Settled relaxation and bliss.  The words stayed in the front of my mind, along with a few more that have recently left an impression…

I overheard one woman say to another, leaving the McDonald's on the corner of my block, "I do what I'm supposed to do as a parent. You got a roof, you got food. The extras is just that: extras." This time I sneered a snobby sneer before realizing that her words required me to do some reflecting. I'm a nurse but I'm taking a break from working: I am a novice at the all mommy, all the time lifestyle of a stay-at-home mother, and I won't do it for long enough to stop being a novice.

My wardrobe (standard order mommy hoodie with yogurt smears and pockets filled with dirty tissues), inbox (kindergarten update! special needs group update! speech therapy bill!), and brain are completely dominated by the lovely young person in my life. I'm slightly surprised at how quickly caring for her has pushed other concerns and interests to the outskirts of my brain, and I think I may need to put some effort into hanging onto them before they vanish altogether.

And, as I rapidly close in on the 30 year mark, I keep thinking about sitting with my ex-boyfriend, during college, on his parent's back porch, talking with his sister who had recently turned 30. She was in a sharing state of mind, and she told us: "30 FUCKING ROCKS." She explained that one's twenties are a time of stressing out, not knowing what's going on, not having your shit together. At 30, all of that magically falls away and you emerge as an adult who knows what's up and how to deal.

This is another head scratcher. I don't know if a sense of settled constancy, of having arrived, is something I'll achieve soon, or ever. But I remember that when I was younger I wanted most of all to be someone who did a lot of different things in life, and I seem to be doing alright on that. I know how lucky I am. Perhaps I'll relax into the bliss of of knowing that next year will be different, and the year after that, too.

To learn more about Kristen visit her blog here

You can also follow her on Facebook

Or on Twitter @KristenLiuMcC

Today, I Believe in Myself

I've spent my entire life telling myself I was a bad person. My inner dialogue has been primarily self-critical. The negative voice in my head was over-powering.

"You can't do this. You're not good at that."
"Give up."
"You're a bad person."
"Nobody loves you."

It hurt me to listen to that voice. I can be quite loud. Sometimes I feel like it's shouting at me.

My father suggested that I should give the voice a name and tell it that it's not welcome. I feel like giving it a name gives it more power.

I realized that I can never get rid of the overwhelming negative thoughts in my head, however I can redirect them. I can tell them to pack their bags and get on an airplane. I can tell them that there's a flight leaving for the North Pole and they'd better hurry because the plane is boarding.

That being said, something magical has happened to me. I woke up and that negative voice was gone.

Today, I believe in myself.

Today, I believe that I can.

Today, I'm aware of my talents.

Today, I know who I am and I like myself.

Today, big things are possible.

I used to believe that people that were confident had big egos. I realize now that it's possible to love yourself without appearing egotistical.

The same way that I've believed in other people for my entire life, I now believe in me, because I'm pretty awesome.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

An Open Letter to Jessica Davis

There is a ridiculous trend on the Internet where people write "open letters" to people and companies. Every time I see one I get a little nauseated.

But this time, I think it calls for an open letter. This occasion is a special one. One of my best friends on the Internet is having surgery tomorrow. Her name is Jessica Davis.

Jessica is having surgery tomorrow for her bone disorder, M.H.E.

I will miss her until she's back in effect writing her brains out.

So without further ado, I present to you an open letter to Jessica Davis:

Dear Jessica Davis,

What will I do without you texting me every hour? I will miss the cat stickers.

I'll feel despondent when I don't see a message asking me every hour or two if I've read your novel. I will miss feeling guilty that I'm only on page two of your book. But I won't be on page two for long. Now that you're going to be having surgery tomorrow, I will need something to remind me of you. So, what I will do while you're under anesthesia is…read your book. I know you'll be proud.

And even though I'm only on page two because my kids won't leave me alone for five minutes to read it, I already love it. I love your writing. I'm glad that you scheduled posts to go up on The Fevered Pen because then I won't have to miss you…too much.

I wish Bane (your dog) had a phone so he could call me and tell me how you were doing after surgery.

But the truth is, I know you're going to be okay. You're a brave one. You have done this 13 times or so. You're a pro. It doesn't make it easy, but I'm here for you girl.

So here's a cat sticker for the road.

I love you girl. Kick surgery's ass!


Sarah Blythe Fader

Morgan: Happy Pink Shirt Day! Bullies, Take This!

It's Pink Shirt Day today, which means it is also anti-bullying day. I was bullied in the 8th grade. I made friends with a girl named Morgan. She lived on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. I thought it was wonderful going to her house. She had a Swatch phone which you could talk into from two sides. Her apartment was huge and she was very wealthy. At first I liked hanging out with her and going to her house. But then, she made me feel badly about myself.

Morgan, Alex and I used to hang out together. We were a trio. One day, things started to change. I noticed that Morgan was talking to Alex about me behind my back. I didn't know what she was saying but I knew it wasn't good. Other classmates told me that Morgan was gossiping about me. I felt uncomfortable with the situation, but I was unsure how to handle it.

I was 13 years-old at the time. I was scared. I felt vulnerable, but I didn't know who to turn to for help. At the time, I had tickets to a Mariah Carey concert. I was supposed to go with Morgan and I believe Alex as well. I can't remember the details. All I know is that I cancelled the plans. I told Morgan and Alex individually:

"I don't want to be your friend anymore. We can just be acquaintances."

To this day, I regret telling Alex this. The reason was, she was innocent. It was all Morgan's doing. But I didn't find this out until later in life.

So, with the information that I no longer wanted to be her friend, Morgan made it her mission to make everyone in my 8th grade class hate me. She tortured me verbally. She made me afraid to come to school and see her face. I remember one day, I was sitting in English class, and Morgan was sitting in the seat behind me. She was repeatedly kicking my foot. All of a sudden I couldn't stand it anymore.

"Get the fuck off my foot." I said to her
"What did you say?" She asked incredulously.

My poor English teacher was alarmed by the whole thing and sent me to the principal's office.

Another time, Morgan was making fun of me, and I caught her in the hallway. So I smacked her in the face. I was tired of being verbally abused by her.

Finally, I reached out for help. I asked my brother if he could defend me against this girl. My brother drove a 79 Oldsmobile at the time. He drove to my middle school one day and picked up me and my friends. We spotted Morgan and her crew walking down the street. My brother shouted out the window at her:
"Morgan is a hoe bag! Honk if you see a hoe bag!"
With that he honked the car horn.

I will never forget that day. My brother was tired of seeing me being abused and he came to my rescue. I will love him forever for that.

Still, each day, I would come to school with severe anxiety attacks. I was afraid to run into my bully, my abuser.

The only good thing about my conflict with Morgan was that it allowed me to become best friends with Mint. She and I bonded after I rejected Morgan from my life.

Also, a miracle happened in 2013. Alex and I reconnected and confirmed the fact that Morgan was indeed crazy and abusive. We rekindled our friendship and bonded over the crazy shit that we went through at 13.

When I reflect upon my experience being bullied by Morgan, I remember how scared I was. I thought it would never end. I believed she would always be torturing me. I was convinced that I would never get away from her. My world was so small at 13 and this bully was such a large part of it.

I feel for children today who are being bullied because it is less overt. Much of it happens over the Internet. It's more insidious and harder to figure out that a child needs help. But trust me, they do...need our help.

If you are dealing with a Morgan out there, hang in. Tell someone that you're being bullied. Don't hold it inside like I did. You are strong, you are powerful, you are brave and those who love you will listen.

Toby Klinger Does My Makeup and I Feel Beautiful

For my entire life I've struggled with feeling attractive. I went through a serious awkward phase in junior high school. I looked around at the popular girls and wondered "why can't I look like them?" As a 12 year-old I wanted to be beautiful. 22 years later, and I still struggle with the same thing. I want to feel beautiful, yet I don't sometimes.

Part of it (for me) is that after I had children, my body changed. I gained 10 pounds and I don't feel the same way about myself.

Enter Toby Klinger. I've known Toby since we were 15 years old and went to F.H. LaGuardia High School of Music and Art & Performing Arts. I was a drama major and she was an art major.

We kept in touch through the land of Facebook.

One day, I was feeling yucky about myself. I remembered that Toby was a makeup artist extraordinaire. I knew that she'd done makeup for celebrities and fashion shows and was making a solid living as a makeup artist in NYC. I reached out to her and asked if I could hire her to do my makeup.

Now let me back the bus up. I have never worn makeup on any consistent basis in my life. I may have dabbled in the occasional liquid eyeliner for fun. But I basically have no idea what I'm doing with the stuff and I'm sort of afraid to try it because I don't want to look like the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.

However, I was curious to try.

Toby came over on Saturday morning with her suitcase of supplies. She entered my messy house with love and patience. She even brought stickers for Samara. We talked and laughed and reminisced about the past. She was a true professional yet a joy to be with. Well, she is a double Libra. You have to love her.

Finally, she made me look like this:

Toby, thank you for making me look and feel beautiful. I didn't know this was possible. You are a talented artist and a beautiful person inside and out. xoxo

For more information on Toby Klinger Makeup, click here. 

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Guest Post - Don’t Ask Me Why I Don’t Match My Kids

Sarah Carmichael is the mother in a kick-ass Canadian family comprised of her husband, her soon-to-be six year old son, and her two year old daughter. She works as an independent contractor and has been blogging at since 2006. As far as she’s concerned, it’s all a matter of perspective.

“How did she come to you?” she said as she twirled my two year old’s curls around her finger. “Do you foster her?” Before she could blink, my daughter was out of her reach and perched on my hip. “She’s mine.” I said. “I gave birth to her.” Perhaps the curls threw her - or maybe it was how the brown of her skin contrasted with the stark whiteness of mine. Maybe it was both. I didn’t ask. I didn’t want to know.

Upon seeing the differences between me and my daughter, this woman assumed that she was not of my body. Did it not cross her mind that my husband could be black? Did she not know that brown babies can come out of white mothers? Had she never seen an interracial family before? Why wasn’t black father her assumption before white foster mother? So many questions.

The woman is a friend of people I know and they tried to answer some of my questions and rationalize her assumption – her only exposure to non-white kids has been through friends who foster. What? No. She has never met my husband or seen a photo of him. So what? She didn’t realize you had kids. Blatantly untrue; she and I had met before. I didn’t want excuses. I didn’t want anyone to explain away the assumptions made about my family and my kids. I didn’t care about intentions. I was hurt and I was sad. I was angry, but I was also thankful my daughter was too young to understand the implications of what was said.

The brief encounter revealed much more about that woman than it did about my family. Those ten little words, posed without hesitation, told me a story. I’m sure her intentions were not malicious, but that doesn’t change anything. I’m also sure other people wonder about my relationship to my kids – maybe not in the diverse city in which we live, but perhaps in more homogenous communities like the one I grew up in. Of course the assumption stung, but it bothered me more that she felt entitled to ask – to expose her bias and scrutiny of us. It’s not anyone else’s business and we don’t owe anyone an explanation. The truth is, it doesn’t matter how my baby came to me. 

I’d like to say this was an isolated incident, but it’s just one example of many. In fact, that same week, the exact same question was posed to me about my daughter.  That time, the woman at least had the decency to not tug on my child’s curls. I had some family members around me that time, though, and after a stunned silence, her grandmother responded with “she looks just like her daddy and he’s an awesome father.” Subtle, but to the point. I guess that last part was intended to shatter any stereotypes the woman may have consumed about black men being bad or absent fathers. After a quick “Oh, of course! Of course.” the woman turned and walked away.

Encounters like these stick with me. I remember the strangers who touch my children’s hair, patting it like they can’t figure out why it doesn’t lie flat on their heads, or tugging it to watch it spring back. I remember questions about their paternity “Is the father Latino? No? He looks like he has Latin in him.” Or the insistence that my kids aren’t mine when I’m out with anyone who isn’t white “Those are your kids?” followed by “Are you sure they aren’t hers?” It gets old and at some point in the not too distant future, my kids will be fielding these questions on their own.

If you see a family that falls outside of your experience or expectations – a family that doesn’t fit into a neat little box - keep your questions to yourself. If we want you to know about us, we’ll tell you. The other day, I asked my five year old son what makes a family. His answer was simply love. That is all you need to know.

The Gay Dad Project

Throughout my time living online I've met some truly inspirational people. One of those people is Erin Best Margolin. Erin has a business partner named Amie Shea. Erin and Amie have something in common, both of their fathers are gay. Together they founded The Gay Dad Project, an organization that supports teenagers and adults who have fathers that have come out of the closet.

When I read about this project, I was taken aback at how brave these women were. It takes tremendous strength to share your story about something this sensitive with the world. These women (in my mind) are heroes.

Erin took the time to answer some of my questions about The Gay Dad Project. Here's what she had to say:

What is The Gay Dad Project? 
The Gay Dad Project is a blog & website ( and a safe space for teens and adult children who have had a parent come out of the closet. We welcome others' stories and we also have a private Facebook group for the "kids" to share experiences or ask for help if they need it.

How did you and Amie meet? 
Amie and I met through a mutual friend who also has a gay dad. So we have similar backgrounds in that regard and have a lot in common. We met on-line at first, and then we met in real life in Oakland, California (where Amie lives) in 2012.

 When you found out your dad was gay, how did you react?
 It was an emotional roller coaster. His announcement was a complete surprise to all of us (especially my mom-- she and my dad had just celebrated their 20th wedding anniversary). I was a sophomore in high school and it was 1991. Not the best time for that, as you can imagine. I know we still have a long way to go as far as LGBTQ issues, but the early 90's were not a time when I could just go to school and chit chat with my friends about my dad and his new boyfriend. I began seeing a therapist and that really helped.

What do you hope to achieve as your ultimate goal? 
We hope to launch another crowd finding campaign and get some grants. More funds will allow us to interview more "kids" and families for our documentary, which is in progress. We also need assistance from a small film crew with editing the footage. So in a nutshell, we want the finished product to be a bit more polished and consequently we need professional help. Neither Amie nor I have any background with filmmaking or documentaries.

What advice would you give to a teenager who just found out that his/her father was gay?
 I'd tell anyone to hang on. Hold on. No matter what, your dad or your parent is still your parent. Some things may change, i.e. the family dynamic, but it doesn't mean the world will end. I'd also suggest some wonderful books, memoirs by Alysia Abbott and Victoria Loustalot, to name a few. Keeping a journal is helpful, and if you can find (and afford) a therapist, do it.

Where can we learn more about The Gay Dad Project?
 Check out our website (, follow us on Twitter (@gaydadproject):, and "Like" our Facebook page: We're also on Instagram (@gaydadproject): You can email me anytime at erin (at) gaydadproject (dot) org.

Here's more from Erin and Amie and their dads:

Monday, February 24, 2014

Subway Chess - Racial Profiling on The Subway

I have a confession to make: I racially profile people on the subway. Now, before you start judging me and call me a horribly racist person, hear me out.

When I'm on the N train headed into Manhattan, I'm often tired as a mother of two young children. Usually, it's crowded so I do whatever it takes to strategize in order to get a seat on the train. Here's what goes through my mind: Canal Street is coming up. It's likely that an Asian person who is currently sitting down will get off the train at Canal Street. The reason being that Canal Street is the center of Chinatown and one of these people could possibly be heading to this predominantly Asian neighborhood.

So (and this is going to sound awful admitting this) I stand near an Asian person that I think may be getting off the train at Canal Street. I hold the pole and carefully (not too obviously) look at them and see if they are holding their bag or if they look like they might be getting ready to exit the train so I can quickly take their seat.

Let me clarify something, this has very little to do with the fact that this person is Asian. The only reason that I do this is to get a seat. I have many friends who are from varying Asian backgrounds and I love them all.

Getting a seat on the train in New York City requires animalistic instincts. We are no longer complex human beings once those MTA doors open to let us on the train. We are reduced to our primal urges. One of the first animal instincts that exists is survival.

For me, part of surviving on the train is resting my tired body and soul. I'm going to do whatever it takes to be able to ease my weary bones.

I have been ashamed that I do this for quite some time, until the other day when I confessed this to a friend of mine (Tamara) at a party. Tamara started laughing when I told her this story and said:
"Are you kidding me? I do that too!"

Now, it doesn't make it right. It just means that this is a thing that some New Yorkers do on the train.

It doesn't stop with Canal Street though. Let's take the A train for example. I was discussing this with a Black friend of mine. She said:
"Let's be real here, if you're a White person on the A train after Broadway Junction, you are either lost or you're going to Rockaway Beach."

Subway racial profiling is a reality. But (for me) it's all about getting a seat on the train.

I know from experience that the White businessmen are going to get off the two train at Wall Street and I am pretty much guaranteed a seat. So my best bet is to stand and hold the pole next to a White dude holding a briefcase in his lap and assess what the likelihood is that he will get off the train soon.

What I'm saying here is that racial profiling on the subway in New York exists. Does that make it right? Of course it doesn't make it right!

What would be even worse is if you got angry that you judged wrong and the person who you thought was getting off the train at Canal Street or Broadway Junction stayed on. That would be wrong.

I cannot be the only person who thinks this way. But, again, I feel a sense of shame for thinking it. It's not right and it's a sign that there is something wrong in our society.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Being Sensitive is a Gift

My whole life I've been told things like "you're too intense" or "you're so dramatic" or even "I can't handle you."

These words were spoken to me "you need to learn to modulate your emotions."

I was left wondering what that even meant when I heard it. But the truth is, as I said, I've heard it my entire life. People seem to believe that emotions are scary and when I express anything that feels like an emotion often I've frightened people.

I'm not a scary person, I promise you. I am, however, a sensitive person.

When I was a little girl and I would cry, my mom would hold me and say "It's okay Saree, you're very sensitive. You're an artist. Artists are sensitive." She would speak into my ear while she stroked my hair.

"I hate it." I would say. "I wish I wasn't sensitive. I wish I was like everyone else."
"But it's wonderful to be sensitive." My mother would tell me. "It's a gift. Not everyone feels like you. Cherish it."

I wanted to believe her so badly, but I was so overcome with emotion most of the time that I felt the exact opposite. I felt ruled by my own sadness, anger, guilt and so on. I wasn't able to predict when I would cry or when I would scream.

It did, however, make me an excellent writer from a very young age. I was able to transmit all those overwhelming feelings from my heart onto paper. The other thing that helped me with being a sensitive person as a teenager was acting.

When I attended F.H. LaGuardia High School of Music and Art & Performing Arts, I was able to put all my emotions into The Diary Anne Frank or The Rose Tattoo. I now had a perfect excuse to be as emotional as I wanted to be and was actually praised for my emotional expression. This was something new and exciting. Rather than being told to stop feeling, I was encouraged to keep feeling, feel more, in fact.

Still after I entered the "real world" and realized that not everybody is an artist, writer or actor, I found myself in the same predicament. Every time I would express genuine emotions I would be shamed. I've even lost friendships because my "friend" didn't understand the way that I expressed myself.

This year of my life, when I turned 34, I had an epiphany. I mysteriously turned a corner and I no longer feel ruled by my sensitivity. In fact, quite the opposite. I do feel (finally) as my mom has been trying to tell me all along that being a sensitive person is actually an asset to me.

I am sensitive so I feel my emotions deeply. This makes me a great writer. It makes me a great actor. It also makes me a wonderful listener. It allows me to be there for my friends. Being a sensitive person is a gift. It's nothing to be ashamed or afraid of. Quite the contrary, it is something to take tremendous pride in.

Sensitivity is (above all things) unappreciated by our world. The sensitives are a rare breed of people. If you are a sensitive person, own it. Use your sensitivity to create beautiful things. And if people do not understand you, it's okay. YOU understand YOU. That's what's important. Value your gift and appreciate that not everyone is able to feel so deeply. But you can.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Marilyn - Sensitivity is a Gift

I met a woman named Marilyn yesterday. She was a 78 year-old Aquarius and she changed my life.

I went to visit a good friend of mine. Marilyn was her neighbor. We sat in her apartment while she smoked a cigarette and listened to me cry.

I cried about how hard it is to be a sensitive person. I cried at the thought that my mother was the only person who truly ever loved me. She nurtured me from the time I was in utero and she continues to care for me. I told Marilyn that I have no doubt if it wasn't for my incredible mother, I would not be here on this earth today. Tears streamed down my face.

I sat there, telling her about the hurt. How I want to be understood. How I want others to give me support, care, love and all the things I give to them.

Marilyn's answer was simple. She took a drag of her cigarette and looked at me.
"You cannot love anyone until you love yourself and G-d."

I stared into her deep eyes as she sat back in her arm chair. I could see the wisdom in her eyes penetrating.

"You have to lead with love." She said.
"But I'm so angry." I said "I'm so hurt. How can I love? I don't have anything left to give."
"That's when you pray to G-d." Marilyn said. "G-d is always there for you."

I told her about my moods. I often snap at the people I love. Something sets me off, and I get angry and say hurtful things that I don't mean.

"You must learn to breathe in that moment." She said, her eyes transfixed on my eyes. She was with me steady. "You can learn to control your emotions if you ride the waves."

I listened and I cried. I knew she was right.

"You are so blessed and so lucky to have a mother who loved you as much as your mother did. Be grateful for that." Marilyn said.

I breathed. I breathed again.

I thanked Marilyn for her words and her kindness. She gave me two books to take home with me. I will read those books.

Reflecting upon my experience with Marilyn, I realized that we are all flawed. Every person on this planet has something they are struggling with. We all have our challenges. I am an incredibly sensitive person. I finally recognize that my sensitivity is not a detriment to my life. It is a gift. It needs to be nurtured, respected and honed.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

My Kids Watch "Too Much" TV

My kids watch too much TV. There I said it. What are you going to do about it? Tell me it's rotting their brains, right?

This is a picture of my daughter watching TV. She's also moving around because she's three and she doesn't sit still for more than approximately two minutes at a time. Also she's an Aquarius.

Back to the original point. My kids watch a lot of TV. But it's not necessarily a bad thing. My daughter learned her entire alphabet from watching Super Why on PBS Kids.

My son learned an unimaginable amount of information from Blue's Clues when he was two and three years of age. TV is not the devil. It can be useful.

But I still feel as if I have to justify why my children are watching all this television. People shame parents who use TV as a baby sitter. Well, I'm here to tell you the truth:

TV is a pretty good babysitter sometimes.

Sometimes, I have to make dinner. So, I do what I have to do. I turn on My Little Pony and let my children watch it so that they're not running into the kitchen every two seconds and asking for something.

Other times, I need to fill out job applications on the computer. That requires a certain amount of focus. So I might let my kids watch The Fantastic Mr. Fox.

There may be another occasion where I've taken my kids to the park all day, they took a nap, they're up but I need a mental break. So I do what I need to do to keep myself sane, I turn on an episode of Jake and The NeverLand Pirates.

So they're watching television. That's okay. They don't need to play with wooden blocks and talk to me all day long. We interact much of the day. It's okay that they're watching a screen. It's not going to kill them.

When I was a child growing up in the 1980s and 90s, I watched so much TV. I can't even begin to name all the shows I watched. Okay, I'll name a few. Growing Pains, The Cosby Show, Animaniacs, Batman The Animated Series, Tiny Toons, Gummie Bears. There were so many of them.

I loved Saturday morning cartoons!

I can recall several occasions when my mom was working (from home as a writer) and needed some time to do her thing. So guess what I did? I watched TV.

I'm 34 now, and my brain works just fine. TV didn't psychologically damage or scar me.  I also ate a lot of red dye number three. Doritos were my best friend as was Pepsi and other junk food. Once again, I'm a fully functioning adult despite all the chemicals I ate as a seven-year-old.

So if you're kids are watching TV right now because you need a break, I have two words for you: LET THEM! It's okay. Stop feeling guilty. We all need a break sometimes, and TV is a perfectly acceptable way to give yourself that breathing time.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Stop Calling Assertive Women Bitches

My daughter is three-years-old. She's scared of absolutely nothing and no one. She's wild, free, daring and a fire cracker. I love her spirit.

I see her. I truly see who she is at this young age. She's a force to be reckoned with. She's a strong little girl. One day, she will grow up to be a strong young woman. I can't wait to see that evolution take place.

Right now, however, her strength is interpreted various ways by society. Often people will refer to my daughter as "bossy," "demanding," "wild" or worse "a brat."

I'll tell you what my daughter is, she's assertive. She knows what she wants and she is not afraid (even at the young age of three) to get it. That's a skill to be proud of. That's a quality that needs to be nurtured and honed. This aspect of her personality should not be dulled, it should be harnessed and used for good.

My girl is a born leader. When people come up to me on the street and remark that my child is "wild," I often come back at them and say "that's okay, one day she's going to be the C.E.O of a large corporation. You just watch."

This view of powerful women being "bossy" starts at a young age. When I was a little girl, I believed the way to get others to like me was to be nice. I shouldn't be confrontational. I certainly should avoid hurting other people's feelings. Additionally, it would be wrong to express anger, because that would make me look "crazy" or "wild." The brainwashing from society starts young.

As an adult woman, whenever I've had the guts to express myself or stand up for what I believe in, I've blatantly been called "crazy" or a "bitch" or other pejorative terms for merely confidently expressing my opinion. Assertiveness is an asset. Assertive women are often mistaken for being "bossy bitches."

When a man asserts himself, society calls him a go-getter. People are impressed when a man stands up for himself or achieves his goals because we have been conditioned to believe that it is acceptable for men to be assertive. Women, on the other hand, are supposed to smile and be nice.

If a woman displays outward assertiveness, she is called "a bitch." Assertive women are not bitches. We're powerful, we're strong, we've got something to say and we're not afraid to say it.

The next time someone calls you a bitch, what they're really saying to you is "I am intimidated by the fact that you have a strong opinion and I'm not sure how to handle your confidence."

Back to my little daughter. I will continue to encourage her to be vocal about her opinions. I will tell her that her voice matters. I will encourage her to speak up, even when it seems like nobody is listening. Her voice is strong and it needs to be heard.

Stop calling assertive women bitches, and start calling them brave. Start referring to them as go-getters. Most importantly hear what they have to say.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

The Year I Lost My Mind

In 2011 I lost my mind. After I had Samara, I remember sitting in a hospital bed hysterically crying. When she would cry, I would cry. It hurt to nurse her. Every time I placed her on my breast to nurse I felt my uterus contracting and I yelped in pain like a puppy that had its paw stepped on.

I told my brother in the hospital when he visited "I don't know how I'm going to do this. I'm scared."
"Don't worry," he assured me, "mom and dad will help you if you need them to." His words reassured me, but I was still scared. I was afraid to be a mother of two. I'd had Ari for almost three years and he was my one and only. I doted on him, I read to him, we painted colorful watercolor works of art together and we went out to eat muffins and juice frequently.

But now things were going to change. I had a new little person to take care of and add to our family. I had a little girl. She was beautiful and squishy and pink and I loved her immediately. However, I had no idea how I could love two human beings equally.

So I tried to be the best mother I could be. I did not stop. I went to the library with an infant and a three year old, I went to the playground with an infant and a three year-old, I went everywhere with an infant and a three-year-old.

One day, when my friend Lisa came to visit, I randomly touched my face and felt a hard bump on my cheek. I couldn't figure out what the bump could be. I obsessively touched it. I couldn't leave this strange bump alone. The next day, I looked in the mirror and the bump was red and swollen. I went to the hospital emergency room with my soul sister and friend Donna. An overworked and annoyed resident diagnosed by bump as folliculitis and sent me home with antibiotics.

The very next day, my bump was so large and red that I couldn't open my right eye. I went back to the hospital and demanded they admit me. They listened. I was started on a course of IV antibiotics and the doctors told me that they would have to drain the mass on my face. I was so scared.

A doctor performed the drainage procedure at bedside and then continued me on IV antibiotics. I was told I had to stay in the hospital. An attending physician came in and gave me some other infuriating news.

"I would recommend that you stop breast feeding." Said the doctor "The antibiotic we want to give you is not safe while you are breastfeeding."
"No." I responded plainly "I want you to give me an antibiotic that is safe for nursing. There are plenty of them."

He grumbled and conceded with my request. I also demanded that I speak to the lactation consultant. I asked the hospital  for a breast pump so that I could continue to feed my four month old daughter. Samara was four months when I was hospitalized for a staph infection.

I missed her every day (of the five days) I was in that hospital. I had my friends and family coming to the hospital to do "milk runs" so my baby could continue to eat.

After what seemed eternity, I was released and returned home. But I had surgical packing in my wound on my face, so a visiting nurse had to come to my house every day to change the packing and tend to my wound.

After being on antibiotics for a prolonged period of time, my body began to have a strange reaction. My doctor changed medications while my wound was mending to expedite healing time.

One evening while I was laying in bed, I had an intense burning sensation in the back of my head. It was so pervasive that I couldn't sleep. My heart began to race with fear. I couldn't fall asleep and I knew something was wrong with my body.

After a sleepless night I called my doctor. "Stop taking the medication immediately." He said definitively. He put me back on the previous antibiotic I was taking. Unfortunately, the burning sensation in the back of my head persisted and I called my doctor back to ask what I should do.

"That's not normal." Said my doctor. "You should see a neurologist. At the sound of the word "neurologist" I had trouble breathing. I started to have a panic attack. He seemed to be saying that something was wrong with my brain.

"What do you think it is?" I asked him.
"Hard to say," he replied. "But you should get evaluated."
"What could it be?" I persisted.
"Could be Lupus, could be Lyme disease." He said flippantly.

Now I was really panicked. I was convinced that I was dying. I called my brother on the phone.
"Jonathan, the doctor said that I might have Lupus or Lyme Disease!" I said unable to control my breath.
"Sarah, I can't believe a doctor would say such a stupid thing. I'm sure you don't have either of those things."
"He wants me to see a neurologist."
"Don't worry, I'll find you a good one." He said confidently.

My brother found me a neurologist affiliated with NYU hospital to see. I was so nervous to go through the myriad of tests to find out what could potentially be wrong with me and I was still convinced that I had days to live and probably had a brian tumor, Lupus or Lyme disease.

Because I still had the burning sensation in my head and continuous muscle spasms throughout my neck and back I had persistent insomnia. For two weeks of my life in 2011 I slept 1-3 hours per night and I could not figure out the cause.

I saw two neurologists, a man and a woman. The man was lovely and accommodating, he was the one my brother recommended. The woman was okay but condescending at times.

The neurologists suspected that the cause of my pain was probably musculoskeletal but said they would humor me by going through a battery of tests including a brain and cervical spine MRI.

I was still convinced that I was dying and they were going to miss whatever was causing my impending demise.

During the two weeks that I didn't sleep, I hallucinated. I saw a floating face as I was in a hypnopompic state. I managed to fall asleep for 5-10 minutes and upon waking I saw (with my eyes closed) a man's floating face. So now, not only was I dying but I was also going completely insane.

I called the neurologist in a panic. What was happening to me?
"Lack of sleep causes hallucinations." Said the female neurologist. "Sarah, you have got to calm down. This is just anxiety." She said.

I was infuriated. Just anxiety? It may have been "just anxiety" but this level of anxiety was causing me severe pain and now hallucinations. I was terrified.

I had disturbing intrusive thoughts during this period of time. I thought "if I don't sleep soon I just want to die." "I can't live like this anymore." But I had no medical professional to turn to for help because everyone thought I was crazy.

Also, I was still convinced that I was going to die, just in case you forgot that part.

Every time I called the neurologist to complain about symptoms the female neurologist would tell me that I was anxious and that I had to be patient while testing was taking place.

The brain and cervical spine MRI revealed nothing significant and confirmed that I wasn't dying. There was a blip on the brain MRI that the female neurologist identified as "an incidental finding." When I asked her what that meant she said:
"Oh, everyone's brain is different and this is something that makes your brain unique from other people's brains. We don't know what it is, but we know it's not dangerous. It's not a tumor or anything."
This did not reassure me. I was still convinced that my demise was imminent.

In the end, it was decided by Western medicine that my pain were a combination of mental and physical symptoms all leading back to anxiety and depression. So I made a very hard decision to go back on antidepressants. I had been off of them throughout pregnancy and nursing, but I decided that my sanity was worth more than any of this anguish.

In conjunction with taking antidepressants I went to intensive acupuncture and physical therapy to rehabilitate my neck and back for four months.

The thing that struck me about this year of my life was how I was treated by the medical profession as a person dealing with anxiety plus a mysterious medical condition. I was told repeatedly that I was nut case. I was told to stop calling the doctor. I was called crazy under all this subtext. I was discouraged for reaching out for help. This is not the way that patients with mental illness should be treated. We are humans. We are not defined by our diagnoses.

Please share my story if you believe that people with mental illness should be treated with respect when interacting with doctors.

Stay Brony My Friends #69 - Sarah Fader

Thanks to the land of Twitter I was introduced to Dusty Katt and Screwball, two awesome bronies who run the show Stay Brony My Friends. Dusty asked if Ari and I would like to be on SBMF. I asked Ari and he excitedly said yes! Here's our interview where I talk about 80's cartoons, My Little Pony (of course), bullying, my love for Neil Gaiman, Daria and much much more. Dusty asked me prior to the show what charity I would like the bronies to raise money for. Ari and I chose the Coalition for The Homeless. His response was "we're on it!" I love this dude!

One heads up, my voice is loud because I'm a theater actress so prepare your volume for that. Thank you Dusty and Screwball for having me. I had an awesome time!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Three-year-olds are Assholes

I have two children. Before I had kids, everyone warned me about the terrible twos. Watch out, when your kid turns two they become wild and uncontrollable. All they say is "no" to everything and good luck, because that year is going to suck big time.

Well, I am here to tell you that "everyone" was wrong. Two-year-olds are challenging, but they are no where near as hard to deal with as three-year-olds.

I can tell you (from experience) having now dealt with two three-year-olds in my house, that they are undeniably the hardest humans on the face of the planet to negotiate with. The reason is, they don't give a fuck!

My daughter is three. No matter what I tell her to do she does not fucking care. For example, I could tell her to put her pants on. She will insist that she is absolutely not (under any circumstances) wearing those pants because they are blue. "I want pink pants!" She will shout. I explain to her that there are no clean pink pants. I open the drawers and show her that they do not contain pink pants. She doesn't fucking care. She still wants the pink pants that do not exist.

This morning, she got out of bed, took a cup from the kitchen, one of those expensive Preserve recycled cups and threw it in the toilet. I gritted my teeth and explained to her that she wasn't to do that again. She just smiled. So I put her in time out sheepishly.

And it's not just her, Ari acted the same way at three. He was oppositional, didn't care what I told him to do, he wanted to do the opposite. In fact, I blocked out a lot of his defiant behavior because I think I was traumatized by how I had absolutely no control over him.

I thought, maybe my kids are just challenging me. Maybe I'm a shitty parent. But no, it's not just me. This is a worldwide epidemic. All three-year-olds do this to their parents. Something happens to children when they turn three where they become...assholes.

I'm sorry, there's no other way to put it. They do whatever they want to do and they do not care if you tell them not to do it. In fact, if you tell them to stop throwing M&Ms at the cat, they will throw more M&Ms at the cat with increasing velocity and greater intention to hit the cat in the face.

Thankfully, they don't stay assholes for a long time. Their asshole behavior only lasts for one year. When they turn four gradually they become slightly easier to negotiate with and begin to respond to bribery. So there is hope.

If you are dealing with an asshole now, just take a deep breath and realize that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. This too shall 12 months.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The Bronies, Ari and I Raise Money For The Coalition For The Homeless

It's cold here in New York City. More than cold, it is brick out there. Some of us are in more dire situations than others. There are human beings who have no place to live. They are freezing, they are hungry and they need our help.

Thanks to Stay Brony My Friends and its wonderful community  we are all working together to raise money for The Coaliton For The Homeless Let's all work together for this important cause and help those of us that are not as fortunate. Thank you to Dusty and Screwball for this important effort on the homeless community's behalf.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Henry The Cat and….Wait Do I Know You?


Once upon a time there was a woman who worked as a professional cat sitter and dog walker. One day, she took on a cat sitting client on the Upper East Side of Manhattan to watch two cats. The woman who hired her to cat sit paid her $200 up front. A couple of days later the woman called the cat sitter and said "I need to cancel your services because I can't afford them." Unfortunately, the cat sitter had already used the money to pay her bills and she told the woman this.

The woman then relented and told the cat sitter that she would go ahead and use her services. The woman then went on to ask the cat sitter if she knew anyone would want to adopt one or both of her cats. The cat sitter naively offered to foster one of her cats who will now be referred to as Henry. Henry was an adorable gray cat with a white goatee.

The cat sitter went on to post an ad on craigslist asking if anyone was interested in adopting Henry. She received a reply from a lovely couple who lived in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. The couple immediately loved Henry and asked if they could adopt him into their family. There was only one catch, they were going out of town for a month. They asked if the cat sitter would be willing to care for Henry while they were gone. The cat sitter said, of course she would. And she did…watch Henry.

She never heard from the nice married couple again, but occasionally she would think about Henry and Jenny and she thinks his name may have been Mark (the husband) but can remember.

* * *

February 2014.

I was on my way to school today with Ari and Samara. We were rushing and I was cursing under my breath. We got to school and there was a lovely woman behind us walking up the stairs.
"I'm sorry, it's one of those mornings." I apologized to the woman.

We got up the steps and the woman smiled at me. I immediately recognized her face.
"Wait a second, did you…have a cat named Henry?"
"Yes!" She exclaimed.
"Are you Jenny?"
"I'm Sarah! I cat sat for you a million years ago."
"Oh my G-d! How funny."
"It's so great to see you again. How is Henry?"
"Oh, he passed away recently, but my daughter loved him."
"I'm so sorry to hear that."
"Let's keep in touch, here's my phone number."
"Great, let's do."

New York is funny.

Sarah Fader (Who Me?) On the Huffington Post Blog

Hi everyone out there! Thank you for reading. Without you, none of this would have happened. But what is "this" I speak of? For the past month I've started blogging regularly for The Huffington Post!

It's been such a wonderful experience, and I am so grateful for this opportunity. If you'd like to read the articles I've written for the HuffPost blog, you can click here to get a full list of them. 

Thank you for reading, and feel free to leave comments. I do my best to respond to every comment. 

Sunday, February 9, 2014

In New York City, Preschool Tuition = College Tuition

My daughter just turned three. She has a January birthday. I work as a substitute teacher and I thought it would be great for her to have some socialization and attend preschool. So I started researching pre-schools in Brooklyn.

The most affordable preschool I could find was $1100 a month for five days a week 8am-4pm. Yes, you read correctly, over a grand a month. For $1100 in New York City you could rent a studio apartment in Ditmas Park or a one bedroom place in Clinton Hill.

Something is wrong with this picture. Let's take it a step further. If you multiply $1100 by 12 months, you have the annual tuition for a "reasonably priced" preschool: $13,200 per year. Now, visit the website for the State University of New York - Albany. Annual tuition to attend SUNY Albany is $10,366.

In New York City, it costs more to let a three-year-old socialize with other three-year-olds then it does to educate a college student. This is mind blowing. And it's not only about the cost. Let's say that I was able to pay $1100 a month to put my daughter in preschool, there's a wait list to get her in. Nursery schools are as coveted as some of the most prestigious liberal arts colleges.

For example, my three-year-old daughter is currently on the wait list of at least three different pre-schools because there are no available slots for her. Should a place open up, these schools are more than happy to take my $1100-$1400 per month to teach my daughter how to share and build with blocks.

Something has got to change. I understand that to keep society working properly, we (as parents) need to engage in at least part-time (if not full-time work) however, charging what is comparable to a college tuition to educate toddlers is completely absurd.

The question is, what do we do about this problem? I have chosen to primarily work from home and on the days that I'm substitute teaching, my family watches my daughter. Other parents living and working in New York City do not have this option. Most parents work full-time and are forced to place their children in daycare or pre-school that is exorbitantly priced.

I will continue to avoid sending my little girl to pre-school for the next year. In 2015, she will attend Universal Pre-K which is free through New York City.

Friday, February 7, 2014

The 10 Most Common Facebook Statuses

I'll admit it, I'm completely and utterly addicted to Facebook. I love keeping up with what my friends in other places around the world are doing and it's easy to do this by logging in and checking out what people are up to.

I've noticed some common recurring themes since becoming a Facebook aficionado. Here's are the 10 most common Facebook statuses that you will come across:

1. Inspirational quote.

Sometimes these are truly thought provoking and inspiring. Other times they are so cheesy you want to bang your head against the computer screen.

2. Passive Aggressive "feel sorry for me" status.

"I'm all alone and my friends forgot about me. Feel sorry for me internet."

3. Bragging.

"I just got a $75,000 a year job. I'm awesome, yo. I got my teeth whitened and I look like Cindy Crawford"

4. Pretending Facebook is Craig's List.

"I'm looking for a roommate. Does anyone want this desk? Who wants to adopt my dog?"

5. Random brain dump status.

"I want a cheese sandwich. What does the president actually do? Coffee is great!"

6. The "I love you man" status.

"I just want to take a moment to let you guys know that I love you! You're wonderful."
Sometimes these are from highly intoxicated individuals.

7. Someone is dying or in the hospital.
Sad. :(

8. Complaining/ranting status.

"My life sucks and this is why." 

9. Calling someone out. Usually an ex-boyfriend/girlfriend/husband.

If the person is truly daring, they will tag the called out individual in the status.

10. Emoticons.

Enough said.

I just want to take the time to let you know that you guys are awesome. Just kidding! By the way, I'm guilty of posting all of these statuses. Happy Facebooking guys!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Managing Anxiety By Whatever Means Necessary

When I shared my story about living with panic disorder, I received so much positive feedback from people coping with various forms of mental illnesses. It was a wonderful feeling to be connected with others who have gone through similar trials in life.

There's something else that needs to be addressed here: each person has to find their own way to manage anxiety. For me, a combination of cognitive behavior therapy, medication and daily meditation are the tools that help me to cope with panic disorder.

These things may not work for you. Every person is different. I choose to take medication, but that doesn't mean I'm saying that people who don't take medicine are wrong. Taking psychiatric medication may not work for everyone. To each his own.

If you feel that changing your diet helps you, then by all means do that. Some people benefit exclusively from talk therapy and choose not to take medication. Whatever works for you and helps you to be able to manage your anxiety and depression is what you should do.

There is no magic bullet. There is no miraculous solution that cures anxiety. However, there are studied therapy techniques that do help.

Do what you feel is right. If you want to take medicine, by all means see a psychiatrist and find a medication that works. Maybe you find that an intensive yoga practice and exercise helps you to keep anxiety at bay.  If you want to work with a holistic doctor or naturopath, do it.

Society, let's stop telling people how to manage their mental illness and instead support them on their journeys to find their way.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

The Boy on The D Train

Today I took the kids out to breakfast. When we were on our way home from getting muffins, Samara and Ari ran off and started climbing the steps of every brownstone on our block. Finally, I'd had enough so I used my scary stern voice and told them to come hold my hand "right now" or they weren't going to watch Despicable Me two. 

Ari obeyed, ran up to me and grabbed my hand. Samara, however, continued to run amuck laughing. I knew I had to do something or we weren't getting home anytime soon, so I grabbed her hand and tried to walk down the street with her.

She started wailing "I don't wanna hold your hand! No no no!" But I ignored the tantrum and kept a firm grip on her tiny but stubborn hand.

She continued to scream and then proceeded to sit down in the middle of the sidewalk. So I repeatedly sat up up straight and took her hand as she continued to scream and kept on walking with gritted teeth. I could feel my body tighten up internally as this was happening. My my jaw was clenched in frustration. 

After what seemed like eternity, we arrived home and she was still screaming. I handed the kids off to Wil and went back out to catch the train. I was on my way to get my eyebrows done for my impending job interview.

On the D train I heard the sounds of a tiny voice screaming and crying "I want to get off! Next stop! Next stop!" It was a boy who looked about Ari's age. The mom was attempting to comfort him. 

All of a sudden I felt my heart clench up. I felt for this child. I felt for his mother, who had far more patience than I did with Samara 10 minutes ago.

I approached the pair and said to the little boy "It looks like you want to get off the train. What stop do you get off at?" 
"Canal Street!" He cried. 
"Oh, well that's coming up soon. If you look out the window I bet you can see Canal street when the train goes outside."

He stopped crying for a moment and sniffed a couple of times. The mom smiled at me. 
"How old is he?" I asked.
"Six, but he's special." She said. It looked as if English wasn't her first language. What I believe she meant was that her son had special needs.
"My son is five and he still acts like that sometimes."
"Thank you." said the mom looking directly into my eyes,

With that, I left them alone and went back to my seat. But my mood had completely changed. I understood how Samara must have felt in that moment. Confused, angry, scared, and out of control.

Meeting that mother and child on the train was meant to teach me something. I'm not sure quite what that is yet. 

One thing that occured to me was that sometimes it's easier to be sympathetic towards other people's children because you don't see and deal when them every day like you do your own.

Another thought that came to mind was I need to be aware of my frustration levels when parenting my kids and try to be more understanding of their emotional needs. But it's hard in that moment where you are exhausted and just want your kid to stop crying.

I'm not a perfect parent. No one is.  But today, my eyes were opened by how I could be present for my child.