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


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!!!

Patience: Lessons from the Zen Baby

IMG_1935We’re all fast folk.  We walk fast, always have somewhere to go, we keep to our tight schedule.  But not my youngest.  He moves at his own speed.  He loves quietness, silent reflection, lazy days.  And, he drives us crazy.  No matter where we go, we’re always ten steps ahead of him, saying, “Come on J. Come on J.  Come on J”  Sometimes we call him “little legs”.  Sometimes we lose our patience.

But, J doesn’t care.  He just goes at his own speed.  Observes his surroundings.  Reserves his energy.  Sets his pace.

Last week we went to the zoo.  We go to the zoo often, sometimes just stopping to see the flamingos and then move on.  The kids have been going to the zoo since they were infants, and they know it like the back of their hand.  Know what they need to see.  Know the quickest way to get places.  We can do the whole zoo in less than an hour.  Time us!

But not this time.  We had nowhere else to go, no one else to see, no appointments, no schedule.  So, we made the promise to go at J’s speed.  First, we climbed the gorilla statue, then went to the playground, stopped at the bathroom, got an ice cream, climbed the tower, looked for the giraffes.  “Hey, J, are we ever going to see the animals today?”  Sure.  First the red panda, stopped to feed the ducks, saw the cows, noticed how ugly the camels are.  Practiced our jumping, sat in the old jeep, got some water.  “Hey, J, we ever going to see the lion, the tigers, the gorillas”  Sure.  But first, let walk this way.

By the time we got to the Tropical Forest, where the animals are active and funny and always moving, J needed to sit.  “But, J, the lemurs are right there, and the tamarins, and the gorillas, and the hippo is right around the corner”  No mom, let’s sit in the little theater with the fish tank.  Okay, let’s sit and look at the little fish tank.  Let’s sit and relax and rest for a while.  Sigh.

But, then, behind the glass of the fish tank (the fish tank we’ve run by a thousand times, the fish tank that’s lame, the fish tank that’s boring) we see something moving.  We look carefully, we hold our breathe, we get really quiet, and we see the most amazing thing.  The pygmy hippo.  Kicking his legs and swimming by.  Diving down.  Rolling on his back.  Putting on a show.  All this time, and we never knew that the hippos played in that water.  Unbelievable.  J looks at us and says, “Hmmm.  Guess that’s why it’s called Hippo Theater.”


In Defense of Bostonians

IMG_1558This isn’t about our accents, and not how about everything’s “wicked”.  I’m not going to pahk my cah anywhere, or talk about the curse of the bambino.  This about what truly makes the most maligned of people some of the best folk I know:

A Bostonian will always let a jogger cross the street, away from the cross walk, against the light:  We know that you’re in a groove, that you’re making good time, that if you stop you might not get going again.  So, we let you cross.  No matter what.  And if you’re pushing a stroller…  I’ve seen people come to a dead stop, in the middle of rush hour, on the JFK rotary, just to let a mom with a jogging stroller cross.  And they give me a “thumbs up” and a smile too.

Morning meeting?  A Bostonian comes with a Dunkin for him and one for you too:  Nothing’s worse than an early morning meeting in the middle of a rough winter.  But when your appointment walks in, with two steaming regulars in his hands, you know the day’s gonna’ be okay.  When my car was in the shop and I begged the girl down the street for a ride to my new job, she called that morning and asked what I wanted from Dunkins.  We’ve been best friends since.

A Bostonian will tell you where you stand: People say we’re rude.  It’s not really true.  Sure, we don’t have five minute conversations with strangers on the T, and we’re not likely to say more than “thank you” to the lady at Shaw’s, but we’re not rude.  We’re just real.  You’re a busy person, and I am too, and we both got things we have to do, so I’m not going to bother you with a “hello, how are you today, nice weather we’re having, plans this weekend, how about them sox”.

But, when the time allows, and the moment’s right, we have no problem making conversation.  And, we’ll tell you how it is.  We’ll never smile and give you a back handed complement, we’ll never blow smoke up your arse.  You’ll know if we like you, and what we think, and how we feel.  And you can be sure of that.

A Bostonian Can Let Their Hair Down:  We know how to dress in Boston.  Trim and proper and perfectly buttoned up.  But, come the weekend, we know how to loosen up. There’s nowhere else where you can wear your slippers while walking down Broadway, in your sweatpants and your Sox T.  We even have our own official uniform: the Southie Tuxedo.  As long as your sweatsuit top matches your bottom, you’re dressed for a formal event (swear to god, I’ve attended weddings where this was acceptable).

We don’t try too hard.  We are who we are, very rarely do we try to keep up with the jones or worry about being seen. That culture just doesn’t exist in Boston.  There’s no pretense, no rules, you can just be you, in all your lazy, sloppy glory.

A Bostonian is Loyal:  A friend who’s a Bostonian is a friend for life.  No questions asked, not exceptions given.  If you went to elementary school with me, I will support whatever you do.  If you live down the block, I’ll share my leftovers with you.  If your son plays baseball with mine, your kid is my responsibility too.

We love our city.  More than anyone else I know.  No matter where you go in this world, a Bostonian is always from Boston, and will defend our city to the death.  We really do love that dirty water.  And all you have to do is spend a day in Boston to love it too.

This is a lifetime commitment, a way of being.  Bostonians don’t quit on you.  From our baseball team (there it is), to your biggest challenges, we’ll put our rally caps on and fight right by your side.

You Can Have a Beer With a Bostonian, Any Bostonian:  Walk into any bar in Boston, at any time, and there’s someone to have a beer with.  Someone to tell you a story, someone to shoot the shit with.  And this guy, knows another guy, who knows a guy, who knows your neighbor.  There are no class lines in a Boston bar, everyone’s your friend, everyone’s your brother, and everyone’s ready for one more round.

A Bostonian Still has a Bit of a Rebel in Them:  We have a loose understanding of the rules, and are a little flexible with the way things are supposed to be.  Just watch us bang a U-ey in the middle of Mass Ave, or double park all the way up-and-down Newbury.  And Boston is the only place I know where you can take a legal left turn on red (5 points if you know where it is).

And it means that we’re a bit more resourceful, and a bit more reasonable, and a bit sharper than you think.

A Bostonian is Not a New Yorker: ‘Nuff said.

I got a lot of input on this one.  Asked a lot of people what they thought.  Thank you!



Where were you when… (one year later)

IMG_1043Today I’m reposting my post from April 15th, 2013.  

It’s been a long year, full of so many amazing moments for myself, my family, and for my city.  And yet, as we come upon the anniversary of the Boston Marathon Bombings, I find myself struggling with the stories and the memories.  I remember that I didn’t cry.  There was so much coverage, it was so overwhelming, but I didn’t cry.  Until that one day, a week after the bombing when a little story on facebook caught me as I was drying off from my shower.  

And now, a year later, I find that I’m crying all the time.  I cried when I saw an old friend in a photo essay of the bombing victims.  I cried when I saw my neighbors interviewed as they run for the little Dorchester boy who died.  I cry for all the people who’s lives will never be the same.  And, I cry for the pride I feel for this city that I love so very much.

Today I was working in my yard when the bombs exploded two miles from my house.  I said to my eight year old.  Listen, pay attention, because some day someone will ask you where you were when the sounds of birds and spring were overcome by the sounds of sirens and helicopters.

On September 11th, I was in the Brockton High School cafeteria watching the coverage on the little TV in the corner with Kevin standing over my back shoulder strong and sturdy.

For Oklahoma City, I was in my apartment on Main St. in Worcester.  Looking forward to parties and Spree Day and all the celebration that should come with graduation.

For the shuttle explosion, I was in 7th grade, watching the coverage from Mr. Collin’s classroom.

But, then, on the day Ed asked me to marry him, I was sitting in EVOO eating molten chocolate cake on a pool of toasted marshmallow.

The day of our wedding was grey and misty, but the skies opened just long enough to take that perfect picture with my beloved Boston in the background.

When I found out I was pregnant, I drove to my husband, working at the house on Fuller Street, to show him the pink lines on the pregnancy test.

The day I went into labor I said to my Brookline spinning class, “Ladies, that’s it I won’t be seeing you for a few weeks.”

Let’s remember the good times as carefully and clearly as we remember the horrid.  Let’s hold onto the best of memories and let go of  the worst.  Let’s not let those who bargain in fear and hatred win.

My Journey to PTO

964781_10151645999592372_1093456753_oIt’s no secret that I hated school.  I hated everything about it.  The schedule, the homework, the socializing with classmates.  Especially the socializing with classmates.  So, it was no surprise, when Xavier started school, that I had no interest in playing the “mommy game.”   I avoided the drop off and pick up, the hanging outside of school, the gathering at Starbucks once the kids were gone.  I was too busy for the bake sales, showed up just as school performances were starting and ran out just as they ended, and was always working during meetings or mixer events.  I avoided volunteering and planning and socializing with the moms who could make the time for these endeavors.

And then, I became a mom who could make the time for these endeavors.  When I left my job, Xavier changed schools mid-year and I was desperate to make sure that his transition went as smoothly as possible.  I knew, from experience, that the best way to help my kids fit in was to meet the parents, and try to fit in myself.  I needed to figure out how this new school worked, what I needed to know, who made the decisions.  So, I found myself, on a wednesday night, when I’d much rather be throwing back a beer on my couch, sitting on little chairs in the science classroom attending my first PTO meeting.

I met good people that night, I learned important things, I let people know that we were a family that was here for the long haul.  And, I got involved.  For one of the first times in my academic career, I joined in.  It was awkward.  It was uncomfortable.  As welcoming as the new school was, it was hard to not know anything and anyone; to not fit in.  But, I kept at it.  I volunteered, I showed up, I helped out.

I like to think that we got lucky.  That we got placed at a school with an active group of parents, who worked together, who were committed, and who loved their school.  That, what we’ve found at Xavier’s school, is unique and special, and something to be appreciated.

The parents at RCIS are an amazing group of people.  Five years ago, the school was scheduled to close because of budget cuts, but the parents banded together to convince the school department to keep our little school open.  One of the oldest schools in Boston, just a little single-stream K-5 on a little one-way street in Dorchester.  But this school has soul, and fortitude, and grit.  When we needed a new playground, the parents fought with the school department and applied for grants and entered contests.  Last year, their effort paid off with a commitment from the school department, a grant from the NFL, and a visit from the Patriots.  We have a new older-kid playground, a beautiful mural, and beautiful garden beds in the front of the school.  All because of the effort of this amazing group of parents.

I’m proud to say that I’m a part of these efforts now.  I’m the Class Mom and I bake for Teacher Appreciation Days and I’m (somehow) the Chair for this year’s fundraiser.  I love giving back to this amazing little school.  I love my new friends on the playground.  I love sharing with them the highs and lows of parenting.  I love watching their children grow and mature.  I love fighting with them for what is right for our children and our community.  And, I can’t wait to see what we’ll do next.

In Defense of Winter

553445_10201879651327933_966316419_nFor all you folk who threaten to move South every winter.  For all you folk who forget how to drive the second snow begins to fly.  For all you folk who sit with their teeth chattering without a hat or gloves.  Why I like winter, and why you kinda’ like it too.

1. Hats and Mittens and Scarfs – Accessories are the best.  And there are no accessories in the summer.  Nothing is better than a new hat or buying that new pair of gloves that you absolutely need.  Scarfs are amazing!  The bigger the better, wearing them all day is fabulous, tucking your chin into your scarf as you sit at your computer makes you think better, or at least look cuter.

2. Hot Coffee, Chai, and Cocoa – No one wants to drink coffee when it’s 90 degrees out.  But wrapping your fingers around a hot cuppa’ is one of the best feelings ever.

3. Brown liquor – Ooooohhhhh Bourbon….  How I love you.  And how fancy do you look at the bar with the dark drink in your hand.

4. Boots – I ache for my boots in the summer.  I have a love affair with my boots.  I lament the first warm day when the boots go into the back of the closet.  I feel bad for you if you never have the chance to open up a new box of big hulking boots.  The bigger the better: rated for -40, waterproof, filled with high tech materials, with fur and rubber and leather, and stuffing.  Love ’em!

5. Knitting – Your hands feel warmer when you knit.  I love the feeling of rolling up a new ball of yarn and embarking upon a new project.  I love watching the pattern develop, and the calm monotony of knitting and purling.  And, I love the joy of sharing a finished product.

6.  Winter Workouts – I hate sweat.  Sweat is gross.  When you work out in the winter, you don’t have to worry about sweat.  And, everything becomes a workout.  Shoveling the snow, climbing up a hill with a sled, trekking across a snowy field.  A whole new world of activity is opened up in the winter.

7.  Cuddling – The feeling of piling up under a warm blanket, with legs all askew is pure heaven.  And, to have my active, grown up boys, want to sit on my lap and sidle up to my side is so good for my soul.

8. Layers – If one shirt is good.  Four shirts are better.  Tweed, and tights, and socks, and thermals and cashmere and leather.  All fabulous and incredible when all put together.  And the ritual of pulling off the layers bit by bit as your body defrosts is one of the bests things about warming up.

9.  Lower Expectations – When the weather is warm you feel like you need to “do” stuff.  In the winter it’s enough to get out of bed, go to the supermarket, defrost your windshield.  Everything’s a major accomplishment, and no one’s afraid to crow to their friends about how they salted their walk today.  Amazing!  You are a ROCK STAR!

10.  A Fresh Layer of Snow – There is no better feeling than waking up, looking out the window, and seeing that fresh layer of snow.  You’re immediately a kid again.  That first moment, before you think about the ice on the roads, and shoveling out your spot.  That first moment of newness and freshness and innocence in beautiful.

11. Sledding – Sledding is fun.  Sledding is really, really fun.  And, you forget the feeling of flying down a hill, turning into the curve, going further than anyone else.  Sledding is always a win.

12. That First Warm Day – You need the cold to appreciate the warm.  The joy of that first warm day, when you can sit on the lawn, next to that lingering pile of snow…. aaaaaahhhh.  The pride at knowing you made it through one more winter.  The day you unwrap those pasty, sun-starved legs and let them warm under the rays.  Pure joy.