My Bubbie 

My Bubbie was the toughest lady I knew. The quintessential “Working Girl”, she was always polished, put together, and professional. I remember visiting her at the fine jewelry counter of Jordan Marsh and admiring how everyone knew her and respected her tastes and opinions.  
She was my model for an outspoken woman. She taught me how to stand up for myself and have strong opinions. She was incredibly loyal and held her loved one’s to the highest of standards. She ran her household, and the rest of us, even Zayde had to follow her rules. And she thought we were all wonderful, absolutely perfect in our own way.
She taught me everything about being Jewish, not the religious piece but the cultural piece. How to love the food (the stuff only we could like): the borscht, and the salmon croquettes, the chopped liver, the herring, and the tongue (even the tongue). How to act like a mensch, how to put your family first, and how to have pride for your community.
I’m a lot like her. Not that I would have loved to admit it when I was younger; but I am. She was the original “tough broad,” a feminist before there were feminists. And every time I express my opinion, I’ll think of her.
Bub loved fiercely, and many of you were witness to this. I remember during my “vegetarian” phase she never neglected to let me know how annoyed she was by my big grandiose statement. She thought it was foolish and that I’d surely waste away. And, yet, every family meal and every time I came to visit,she had a big dish of kashi and varnishkes waiting for me. She wasn’t going to agree with me, but she certainly wasn’t going to let me starve. She loved me too much. 
But, when we finally gave her great-grandkids she had no problem sharing how she felt about them. Now she had no problem telling everyone about her heart. Xavier, Brielle, Jalen and Tahlia she told you every day how much she loved you, and how absolutely beautiful she thought you were. And in the last few years as her memory began to fade there was one thing that she never forgot. She remembered how much she loved each of us and told us all the time. 

Why We Still Run

IMG_2433This year marks the 5th Annual Get Your Rear in Gear Race in Boston, and it marks the 5th year that the Bum Rushers are running in honor of Ed. That means that we’re celebrating the 5th year of being cancer free.  And that’s a wonderful thing!

A lot has happened in five years.  Days of fun and adventure and laughs.  And, none of that could have happened if it wasn’t for amazing medical care, tremendous screening devices, and a fair amount of luck.  Most importantly, we would not have had these five years, if Ed wasn’t dogmatic in his insistence that something was wrong with his body.  Colon cancer is often diagnosed too late; Ed would not take his symptoms lightly.  His diligence saved his life.

Every year we run the Get Your Rear in Gear – 5K, we raise awareness about colon cancer and we share our story.  With early diagnoses, colon cancer is treatable and curable.  The Boston Race raises funds for preventative and diagnostic care in our communities; so that no one has to suffer with this horrible disease.

We hope that you can join us this year on our team The Bum Rushers; or donate funds to our team and this important cause.  The race is on September 19th this year on Carson Beach in Southie.  Please join us!!  http://events.getyourrearingear.com/site/TR/2015Boston/General?team_id=29652&pg=team&fr_id=2741

Love,
Carrie, Edward, Xavier, & Jalen

Of note:

1) This year the race is much earlier in the season; we promise no snow this year.
2) Xavier and I will be running together again this year, we’re shooting for sub-30 minutes (the more you give the harder he’ll run)
3) Having won the trophy for “most funds raised” last year, Ed is shooting for a racing medal this year; the more of you that cheer him on, the faster he’ll run!

AMENDED: Dear Sons (What I Really Want for Mother’s Day)

One year later, and I love my boys more than ever.  And yet, again, I fear that they might miss the boat on Mother’s Day.  So to reiterate, and to amend, here’s what I really want for Mother’s Day

10334360_10202709480073133_776496951207363595_n (1)Dear Sons,

I love you sweet boys oh so very much.  And, although I’m sure, your father will force you to make a lovely half-assed card featuring monsters and lasers and a fair amount of poop, and your teacher will make you paint a frame and put a blurry picture of yourself in it, there are other things I want for Mother’s Day.  And, if you can’t pull that off, I kinda’ want a Magic Bullet (smoothies are hot right now).

Jalen made me a card more than a week ago that he poured his little heart into.  He said it was a pre-Mother’s Day Card and it had a girl and a bear walking into the sunset, hand-in-hand.  Every day I appreciate my empathetic, thoughtful son.  Someone had to take after me.

My mother bought me my Magic Bullet, because she knows what it means to be a mother, and she knows that sometimes people don’t give you what you ask for.  And she knows that if a mother actually, specifically asks for something, she probably wants it very, very badly.

Last Mother’s Day, the boys worked very hard on making me a jewelry box and a necklace out of Lego’s and we went to the Arboreteum to see the lilacs, and it was a perfect day.  

Now onto the things I want this year…

  • I would like to spend one day in the car without you arguing about what you want to talk about.  You might actually have a pleasant conversation if you could just stop fighting about whether talking about Pokemon is annoying or not. (hint:  it is)

We’ve improved immensely on this front. But, now I have a new request.  Stop trying to piss each other off.  Stop pushing each other’s buttons.  Stop trying your damnedest to make the other one lose it.  The only one that’ll lose will be you (not an empty threat, I swear) 

  • You could admit that you actually love playing outside.  That you love baseball and soccer and playing at the playground.  That you’d prefer to be active then to sit in front of a screen rotting your brain.

After the worst winter on record, we’re finally enjoying the outside, breathing fresh air, and being active.  And this is why we live in New England, so that we can appreciate the weather when it’s great.

  • About those screens.  They are not that important.  They are not worth your anger, and your frustration and your general whiny-ness when you don’t get to play.  Playing electronics are not, and will never be, a priority in this family.  Give it up!

The games are harder, more violent, and generally cooler, but somehow the boys have finally, mostly, realized their screen limits.  And, they’ve finally wrapped their heads around the fact that I couldn’t give two Donkey Kongs about these games; leave that to their father.

  • In fact, please learn, that you will never get your way by whining.  You are 9 and 6.  We have never given in to your whining.  We never will.  It is not a functional way to communicate with us.  You will not win that fight.

Entitlement, Lack of Gratitude, and General Moodiness have taken the place of whiny.  I miss whiny…  

I would love for one day for someone  to say, “Thank you, Mom.” “We appreciate the effort that you expend on making us happy.” “What do you do what you want to do today?”  

  • Put your shoes on. Now.
  • For the love of god, clean yourself!  You are boys.  You smell.  You must shower, and brush your teeth, and comb your hair.

and pick out your own clothes, and tie your shoes, and clean up your room.  It stinks!

  • Ask your father.  He is sitting right next to you.  Watching hockey.  Do you not see him?  Do you have to walk up the stairs, storm into the bathroom, and ask me for apple juice?  Do you?

In fact, don’t even bother asking your father.  Get it yourself you lazy bums!

  • Now means NOW.

Really, I’m not screwing around.  I MEAN NOW!

  • We have a routine.  We do the same thing every single morning.  You need socks everyday; you need your backpack everyday; you need to strap in everyday.  Why can you not understand that?  And don’t ask me what we have.  We “have” the same things we always “have”.
  • Enough with the sarcasm.  I know you “learned it from watching me,” but my sarcasm is warranted, acceptable, and witty.  Yours is annoying.

Try to be less annoying.  I get that you’re developing your persona and playing with being a young man, but for the love of god, stop trying so hard.  You have plenty of time to grow into yourself and become a charming teenager, don’t rush it!!

  • You are not bored.  You keep saying that word.  I do not think that word means what you think it means.
  • Keep your hands off of each other.  I know you need to be close to each other and the hours of passing each other in the halls is torture, but STOP TOUCHING EACH OTHER.
  • About that…. I know that it’s cool to say that your brother’s a pain. I know it’s not cool to spend every free moment at each other’s side.  I know that you don’t want to admit that your brother is your best friend.  But, he is.  And, he likely always will be.  Please stop saying you hate your brother.  You don’t.
  • Please take pictures with me.  Moms aren’t in enough pictures, moms always miss out on the photos.  Please let me have pictures with my sons; even if they’re goofy.

Thank you for becoming my selfie buddies.  Thanks for squashing together so that we all fit into the frame and hold on to our memories.

  • Never stop holding my hand.  Never grow to big to cuddle with your mom.  Just love me unconditionally; I promise to do the same.

Thanks for letting our relationship grow and change and develop as you do.  Thanks for watching movies with me and cuddling on the couch and playing in the snow with me.  You can grow as big as you’ll like but you’ll always be my little boys.

The New Normal

FullSizeRenderThis winter in Boston has been a challenge.  No, let’s be honest, it’s been a shit storm.  Driving through the city, past ten foot snow mounds and down two lane street that are now one and wrestling your way into ice covered parking spaces, you learn one thing very quickly.  You need to turn into the skid.  It’s the first thing they teach you about winter driving.  As counter-intuitive as it seems, as scary as it sounds, as much as you want to throw on your breaks: You turn into the skid.

The analogy is obvious.  You can’t fight the inevitable.  When the world fights against you, it’s okay to turn into the wind and let it take you where it may.  These last few months have challenged me to put this philosophy into practice nearly every day.  Once we hit 8 feet of snow in thirty days, and my car disappeared into the snow piles, and it started to take me more than an hour to travel four miles to work, it forced me to start leaning into the curve.

So, it’ll take more than an hour to make it across town; pack a big cup of coffee and some snacks for the ride.  So, there’s no parking on the streets; bundle up and walk to the errands.  So, it’s too hard to get out to shop and eat and and socialize, take the opportunity to save some money for the inevitable battery that I’ll have to purchase for the buried car.

Now I know that it seems easy for me.  The storms have unquestionable hit some harder than others.  I know that there has been lots of lost wages, and poor revenue, and property damage.  But, for better or worse, that’s still the new normal.  I can’t see the utility in complaining about it, announcing your misery, playing the “who has it worse” game.  The best we can do is look at our new reality and figure it out.  Make a new plan.  Turn into the skid.

It’s not just the weather.  So many people who I love have had a hard winter.  Friends have had set-backs, and illnesses, and life altering surprises.  But, what can you do?  Except for to define your new normal. I still struggle with this everyday.

My life is miles away from where I saw it two years ago.  But, if I had spent even one moment fighting against the changes and railing against the inevitable.  I wouldn’t be where I am today.  The reason I continue to be successful, is not because of actual success, but because of my ability to continually redefine my expectations and my reality. It’s about choosing what you’d like your life to look like and then adjusting it accordingly.  It’s about committing to your priorities and making adjustments as life sees fit.  My priorities are family, happiness, and time.

And, it hasn’t been easy to stick to my guns this winter.  Not when it’s been so dark, and everything takes so long, and we’re all stuck in the house in tight spaces under the most unpleasant circumstances.  It’s been a challenge to make the most of it.  But, I continue to work towards the ideal.  To find some quiet time to read with the boys.  To get outside and embrace the epic snow.  To smile and laugh and find the joy in the smallest of triumphs.  To keep on defining the new normal and accepting the twists and turns as they come. FullSizeRender-1

Stay Gold, Ponyboy. (Teaching our Boys to Read and Write)

IMG_1094Boys don’t like to read.  Watch the messages that they’re given.  Boys play sports, and wrestle, and play video games.  Girls read; just look at the early reader chapter books:  Judy Moody, Ivy and Bean, & Junie B. Jones.  When X was in first grade, we got a scolding by his teacher, because the books he read (Harry Potter, Captain Underpants, and Percy Jackson) were too violent for six year olds.  When I asked her what else he should read, she didn’t have an answer for me.

X is a reader.  He laps up books; can’t get enough of them.  He reads big, fat, complex books without pictures.  And, we can’t keep up with him.  We could have worse problems (as the librarian often tells us)  but it’s not easy to manage the content of his reading.  Because, given the option, his interests lie in the violent, unrealistic world of mythology and fantasy.  And, he refuses to read anything else.  Piles of books will go unread as he reads and rereads the same Percy Jackson book.

So, I took The Outsiders out from the library.  The book that changed my pre-teen years.  The book that I couldn’t put down, that I sat and cried through as I reached the end before school in Ms. Collins 4th grade classroom.  The book that taught me about empathy, and compassion, and how words can be beautiful.

And it sat there, at the foot of the stairs, for weeks.  Finally, I brought it to X’s room and said, “Listen, this book is important to me.  And, it’s violent and intense, and you can watch the movie when you’re done, and just try the first chapter.”  He begrudgingly closed the graphic novel he was reading, and said that he’d give it a try.

An hour later, I snuck upstairs and he was still reading under his covers well past his bedtime.  He was already leaving the drive-in, and I realized that I had to clarify some things.   I had to show him what a madras shirt looked like, and tell him they were “soshes” not “socks” and that things were going to happen that we’d need to discuss.

Two days later, he stuffed it in his bag to “finish it at school” and I felt like I had to warn him that I bawled at my desk when I was ten.  He left it at home.  The next day he asked me who my favorite character was.  And I asked him: what role each character took in the book; what would have changed if Johnny didn’t have the knife; what did people think about Greasers, was it true;  what did Johnny mean when he told Pony to “stay gold”.

And we talked about the power of writing.  Why it was important for Pony to write down his story.  And how writing can be a powerful, healing experience.

I hope Xavier never forgets these lessons, and he carries his love of reading throughout his life.  When things get hard, or scary, or confusing he can turn to the written word for knowledge and comfort.  That he can always see the sunsets, and that he always stays gold.

Are My Sons Sexist? Now what?

1016542_10203669089862778_501968467938076736_nI first noticed it this summer.  While watching American Ninja Warrior, the boys consistently rooted for the women competitors to fall and didn’t believe that a woman could ever complete the very physical obstacle course.  I ignored it, knowing that, eventually, a competitor would prove them wrong.  When she did, and she roared in celebration, the youngest said that she was rude and obnoxious, despite the fact that the men in the competition crowed all the time.  Uh oh!

Then, while watching an interview with a female politician, I told the boys to pay attention as she “might be our next president.”  They laughed.  Laughed, because, “Mom, a woman can’t be president.”  Oh no!

Finally, the last straw.  In a conversation about their grandparents, both boys fervently believed that their grandfather was “much smarter” than their grandmother.  Maybe they valued practical knowledge over book smarts, or they responded to the authoritative way in which my father states his beliefs.  Or, maybe, we have a problem.

Hmmm…  Let’s try this experiment…. “Boys, who’s smarter?  Mom or Dad?”  Without missing a beat, with barely a pause, they both said, in unison, “Dad.  Of course.”  Well. There it is.  Because, while I have no desire to besmirch my very bright husband, I have no idea why the kids would think he’s smarter than me. I write, I read, we help with homework equally, we solve problems together.  The kids watch me work often, and have seen me be honored for my professional endeavors.  I rarely ask my husband to do something I can manage.  And, we generally eschew the traditional gender roles in our household.

Now what? I’ve written a lot about being a Mom of Boys.  I think hard about the responsibility of raising young men in this world.  I’m conscious of the things we say and do, and the messages that the boys receive.  And yet, the sexism still seeped in.

Media is a huge part of it.  How do you counteract the Brains vs. Babes episode of Wipeout?  And, how do you fight the basic conceit of Big Bang Theory; smart boy loves hot girl?  And cartoons, and graphic novels, and Disney, and princesses, and princesses, and princesses?  And maybe, subconsciously, there’s tons of messages that they receive at home and at school and in the world.

Sexism is everywhere.  Misogyny is everywhere.  How do we fight it?  I need to look harder for images of equality, and I need to share those images with my friends and with the school and with my community.  And, I need to continue being a role model to the boys, I need to continue to walk the walk. I need to show them, often, that girls can do anything boys can do.

Most importantly, I need to continue the dialogue, and I need to ask my husband, and my father and the men in my life to do the same.  It’s so important for all of us to point out inequality in the world and name it.  We need to help the kids see how the messages we see are often untrue.  We need to continually remind all the little boys and girls that gender does not determine worth.

How to Love a Cancer Survivor

561471_4120740171826_1729181518_nIn 2009 my husband was diagnosed with colon cancer.  Five years later, he’s cured, healthy, cancer-free.  And yet, he will always, forever, be a cancer survivor; and we will always forever be a survivor family.  The side effects will always be there, and that feeling of mortality will never go away.  Over the years we have learned to live with this new life with a fair amount of adjustment and a lot of patience on all accounts.  Every cancer is different, every survivor is different, but I think we can share a few things about loving a cancer survivor.

It’s Not Your Cancer:  I know that cancer effects your whole family, and we attack it as a team, but at the end of the day… this is not your disease.  There’s been countless times when I’ve watched Ed pop open another beer or order a burger and fries and I know that there’s no way that’s a good idea.  There are moments when I’ve wanted to chime in, make a suggestion, tell him to suck it up or take it easy.  And yet, I keep my mouth shut.

Because it’s not my cancer, they’re not my symptoms, it’s not my health.  I’m not the one that lost a foot of my colon.  I’m not the one that needs to monitor my food, and schedule my day, and deal with the discomfort.  It’s been a struggle for Ed to live a normal life with no health problems for 30+ years and then wake up from surgery with a host of chronic side effects and health problems.  I can have empathy, I can try to put myself in Ed’s shoes.  But, at the end of the day, I’ll never know how he feels.  My concern is appreciated, I think.  My advice, maybe not so much.  And sometimes, the survivor just wants things to be normal again.  To ignore the discomfort and the ramifications of making poor decisions.

That is, unquestionably, unequivocally, their decision to make.  You will never know what it feels like to live in their skin.  Your job as a partner is to be there for the journey to hang in there and love them unconditionally.

Things Will Never Be the Same:  The cancer is gone, all the scans are negative, it seems like a distant memory, and yet things will never be the same.  And, it’s not just the side effects, the ones that can be chronic and life-altering.  It’s the way things are just different then they were before. How a stomach bug can become a much bigger thing.  How the fear of reoccurrance is always there.  How you hold onto health differently then you did before.

So, You Might as Well Laugh About It:  For us, humor has been everything.  Empathy is huge, it’s important to try to picture yourself in their shoes.  But, it’s also important to have some levity; to realize the fact that things could be so much worse.  We try to laugh as much as possible, to lighten the mood, to make a joke about it.  The kids are in on the act.  They understand that dad was sick, and now he’s not, but his gas really stinks sometimes.  It just is what it is, we might as well laugh about it, it’s vastly better than the alternative.

And, Celebrate Life:  The fact is, Ed’s still with us.  We’re lucky and grateful and so blessed that he caught his cancer early and has amazing preventative care.  We’re lucky that the kids will be screened early and we’ll pay close attention to their health.  And, we hope that others can get the same quality care.

That’s why we started The Get Your Rear in Gear 5K three years ago.  We decided that we wanted to celebrate life, raise awareness, collect money for the cause.  My brother brought the Get Your Rear in Gear 5K to Boston to celebrate Ed’s health and every year more and more people join us to celebrate their loved ones.

And this year, we’ll celebrate again, on November 8th in South Boston, with our friends and family and hundreds of other people.  Please join us if you can or please donate to the cause (The Bum Rushers).  Please join us in celebrating Ed’s rear for another year!!!

http://events.getyourrearingear.com/site/TR/Boston2/General?team_id=14832&pg=team&fr_id=2000