I Will Never Forget

screen-shot-2016-09-11-at-8-16-23-pmIt has been fifteen years since the attacks of September 11th. For some it feels like a lifetime ago. For others, like it was just yesterday. And for some of us, it’s a mixture of both. No matter which category you fall into, it was a horrible tragedy. It was an awful day. It’s a day I will never forget.

The first reports on the news were of a “small plane” crashing into one of the Towers. I called my dad, who was safely at home in Brooklyn. I remember noting it was such a beautiful day, with clear blue skies. How could anyone not see the Twin Towers, even from a small aircraft? My dad, big conspiracy theorist, said, “We are under attack.” I rolled my eyes. I have since apologized for that.

My brother worked directly across the street at One Liberty Plaza. I managed to get him on the phone, and described to him what was being reported on television. The people in his office had no idea what was happening. I could hear panic and chaos of sorts in the background. He rushed me off the phone. He was heading to the designated meeting place on his floor to hear from whoever was in charge about what they were going to do. “I’ll call you back,” he said. That was the last time I spoke with him for several hours.   He and a friend from the office got on the last ferry that left Manhattan for Staten Island. Life jackets were handed out as people boarded. There was no certainty that they would make it to the Staten Island side. I finally heard from my brother when he arrived back home, with no keys. He had to break into his own house. My story has a happy ending. Far too many others do not.

Each year on September 11th, I remember those frightening moments. I remember being afraid. I remember being afraid that my brother was dead. I remember tremendous acts of kindness amongst our fellow citizens. The gentleman that escaped on the ferry with my brother is a diabetic. He had no supplies with him. My brother took him to a local CVS where they gave him an interim supply without a charge. The pharmacist, refusing the money, said something like, “Be safe and God bless America.” I remember schools in our area “adopting” local firehouses and police precincts, sending them little notes and treats to thank them for protecting us, for being the ones to run into the buildings while “we” were the ones running out. I remember. I remember lots of insignificant things and lots of big details. But I remember.

Lily, age six, saw me crying this morning. She wanted to know why I was upset. Using very basic facts, I explained to her about the attacks of September 11th, that many people died. Her generation may acknowledge this day in history, but they will not remember feeling the pain and sadness that my generation does. This thought made me even sadder. When I asked my daughter, who attends school n Ivy League college, how September 11th was being remember where she was, she reported “nothing I know of is happening on campus today.” This made me angry.

My cousin, Lisa, teaches the second grade. She is able to incorporate the significance of this day in her second grade classroom. She gives her students a brief summary of what happened, obviously limiting graphic details. She then uses it as an opportunity to talk about heroes. Her students talk about who the heroes are in their city. They then write about who their hero is and why. This is perfect, in my eyes. There were many stories of heroic acts both before and after the Towers actually fell. These stories touched me, inspired me. This is the story of September 11th I prefer to remember. Bravo, Lisa, for helping second graders understand that.

Some day, and I fear that day is coming all too soon, September 11th will be that day on the calendar that people have a vague understanding of. It will be that day that’s kind of important because of some terrorist attack. Very few will remember that a plane also struck the Pentagon that day or that passengers on another plane taken over by terrorists lost their lives trying to take it back over Pennsylvania. I’ve barely mentioned that part of September 11th in this post. As someone who lived through it, albeit from the safety of being on Staten Island and watching on television, it is important to me that the next generation, and generations after that, understand what it felt like to be “there.” I want them to understand what it felt like to think that my brother was dead. I want them to understand what it felt like for the people of missing loved ones who worked at the Towers; what they felt not knowing if their loved one was alive or confirmed dead. I want them to understand what it felt like for someone to have a loved one whose remains have never been recovered. I want them to understand what it felt like to be the partner, parent, or child of a first responder, who knew their loved one was running towards that disaster while everyone else was running away.

I am hopeful that because of television, the internet, and social media, this day will retain at least some of its significance. I was so full of emotion about this particular aspect of September 11th today. That’s when I realized that I am one of those people who has an almost complete disregard for the commemoration of other tragic events that have already occurred: wars, mass shootings, other terror attacks. I was overcome with guilt. There are people in Aurora and Columbine, Colorado who feel the way I do about their movie theater and high school mass shootings dates. How could I have been disrespectful without even realizing it? I was not personally affected by those events. I wasn’t a parent who lost a child at Columbine High School or a loved one at the midnight showing of “The Dark Knight.” To those people, whose lives have been touched by these and other horrific tragedies, I apologize for not remembering you or acknowledging your pain on those significant dates. This feeling of guilt also made me realize that it is the responsibility of those who were affected by the tragedy to keep the significance alive. This is why I tell my story to my children every year. I hope that they will tell their children, when they ask why September 11th is important, my story about my brother. That is why I wrote this post. I will never forget.

Why I Also Celebrate the First Day of School

My unknownlast two posts were about how difficult dropping off at pre-school and college (and everything in between) can be. Today I sat to write about the somewhat well known mom ritual of celebrating, amongst ourselves, the day the kids go back to school.

For my family, summers are meant to be relaxing. Students and teachers are “off.”   Summers are laid back. No school schedules. All after-school activities are on hiatus. In my house, summer means sleeping late and staying up late – for adults and kids. It means dinners aren’t often planned until the last minute and leftover macaroni and cheese is an acceptable breakfast. It means we are almost always available for impromptu get-togethers and parties. It means everyday can be pajama day. It all sounds pretty good, no? Well, hang on a second. This can also translate into a boredom disaster. We are used to a constant buzz of activity in my house. We run from school to dance or karate or soccer. My six year old will often say, “Where are we going now?” as she jumps in the car, as she’s just used to being in the car often. The lack of routine in the summer can be too long. The truth is, I had looked forward to the down time of summer. I was ready for school to be over in June. I was ready for “laid back and chill.” And so were my daughters. Kids need that break as much as we do.   We had no family vacations planned. Lily didn’t want to go to camp and I didn’t want to get up early to take her so I didn’t fight her on it. Sam is sixteen, so she had plans of her own. The result of all of this purposeful lack of planning was a gloriously relaxing July. My cousin was in town from Florida. I was able to plan lots of family and grown up time for us. It was beautiful. Then August hit. Boredom set in. Lily was in need of stimulation and she made that painfully obvious. I arranged play dates with friends and special shopping excursions. Her sisters even took her out “Pokemon-ing.”   And while it was still very difficult for me to leave my oldest at college for her junior year, I am now I’m ready for the hustle and bustle of the new school year. Continue reading

For My First Baby

As we drive off to your junior year at college…..

Allie,

As I sat down to write this post, I thought I would be writing about how dropping your daughter off at college, even for the third year in a row, is just as gut-wrenching as the first day of pre-school drop off. And it most certainly is. I’m feeling as broken hearted now as I did that first day I dropped you off at pre-school – and then also kindergarten and high school.

Then I started thinking… I’m a very sensitive woman, as you are. I feel things, good and bad, very deeply. Other people like us do exist. So I’m probably not totally off my rocker for feeling this way.   I know you know I’m proud of you, and not just of your noteworthy accomplishments (of which there are many). I’m proud of the woman that you have become. You are intelligent, caring, nurturing, considerate, empathetic, giving, courageous, humorous, kind, affectionate, forgiving, and brave. You are an inspiration to me in so many ways. The way you handle yourself, how humble you are, how you always hold your head high. You are the bravest woman I have ever known, without a doubt. You proved this to me, and the world, when you were only six years old. Continue reading

The First Day of School

My cousin is dScreen Shot 2016-08-23 at 8.12.16 AMropping her only child off at school today for the very first time.  I dedicate this post to her, and to moms everywhere who are bringing their little ones to school for the very first time xoxo.

 

Chris,

I know how nervous and overwhelmed with emotion you are right now.  Dropping your daughter off at school for the first time is a milestone – and a nightmare.

I could tell you that you’ll be upset but it won’t be that bad.  I could tell you the you won’t be thinking about her every minute of your day.  I could tell you that you won’t have the urge to call school, “just to check on her,” over a thousand times today.  But I’d be lying.

The first drop off is gut-wrenching.  It feels like your heart is being ripped out of your chest.  You will doubt every decision you have made – from the choice of the school all the way down to her first day outfit.  You will doubt yourself as a mother, asking yourself these questions, and many more, repeatedly:

  • How could I just hand my daughter off to TOTAL STRANGERS?
  • What if she gets hurt? Will they know how to calm her down?
  • What if she has to go the bathroom but is afraid to talk to the teacher and has an accident?
  • What if there’s an asshole bully in her class and he/she hurts her?

I wish I could take all these fears and anxieties away from you.  I’ve lived this scenarios three times over.  And the bottom line is this: IT’S HARD.  But hard is not bad, it’s just, well, hard.  There’s no away around it, only through it.  You’re experiencing another “rite of passage.” This is another step on your motherhood journey, a journey that you and Emma will walk together.  You will guide her on this journey.  But, sometimes, she will guide you.  She will help you discover strengths you didn’t know you had.  You will feel a love so deep that you think it’s the most it could ever be – and then it will grow even deeper.  She will teach you more about life than you can even fathom at this moment.

So the best advice I can pass on to you is to allow yourself to feel a sense of gratification today.  You grew this life in your body.  You taught her how to eat food with utensils, how to “go potty,” how to say please and thank you, and I know you taught her how to stand up for herself (old school Brooklyn style). YOU gave her all the skills she will need to succeed in school.  Be proud of the job you’ve done!

There will be tears, hers and yours.  But you will make it through.  I wish I could be there with you, to offer more support than this simple letter.  Just know that if I could be there, I’d be walking behind you with a box of tissues – and a big pitcher of sangria. 🙂

You will ROCK the first day drop off.  I know it.

Love you to the moon and back.

Love,
Anj

Kate Looked Great – Why Do We Care???

Screen Shot 2015-05-07 at 3.04.10 PM Her Royal Highness, Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, gave birth to a little girl, Charlotte Elizabeth Diana, this past Saturday.  Surely you know this, as there has been little else talked about since the royal baby’s birth and official naming. Much attention has been paid to the fact that Kate left the hospital so soon after giving birth (a mere 12 hours), and looking like a movie star.  I’ve been reading and sifting through the social media buzz, trying to digest  it all and make sense of it for myself.  So here’s my two cents on the issue…..

First of all, it is possible to give birth and be a functioning human being immediately afterwards.  Now before you start sending me hate mail, let me say that my previous statement is predicated upon the birth being a natural, vaginal delivery without complications and interventions. Laura Kaplan Stanley writes in her book, Unassisted Childbirth, about how in many primitive cultures, women give birth mostly on their own, in fields and then put their baby in a sling and continue about their work.  She talks specifically about a friend witnessing this in Korea in the 1960’s.  So let’s not go on and on about how extraordinary Kate is.  She’s a woman, clearly in excellent health and well looked after.  She gave birth to healthy baby girl and left the hospital the same day.  Fact, not fiction.  Reality, not myth.

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Princess Charlotte Elizabeth Diana

Secondly, there has been a lot of talk about how Kate arrived at the hospital at 6am and gave birth at 8:34am.  Such a short labor has been called “virtually unheard of.”  Well, umm sorry, wrong again – on two counts.  Very short labors are, indeed, quite possible (though admittedly not the norm).  In addition, who is to say that Kate rushed to the hospital when she had her first labor pain?  Many media outlets have commented that Kate’s desire was to have a home birth.  If that is true, and there is no reason to believe it’s not, perhaps Kate faced opposition to the idea.  Perhaps, as a result, Kate decided to labor for as long as possible in her own home, and only arrived at the hospital when the delivery was close at hand.

Screen Shot 2015-05-07 at 3.04.46 PMFinally, if I had a team of people working with me and behind me on almost every aspect of my life, I could have looked like a rock star leaving the hospital, too.  According to the Telegraph, Kate’s personal hairdresser arrived pulling a suitcase full of styling supplies to help Kate become presentable.  Did she have a make-up artist do her make-up?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  Having had her make-up done professionally so many times before, I’m sure has provided Kate with some skills in doing it herself.  The silk Jenny Packham shift dress Kate wore as she exited the Lindo Wing was slimming yet also revealed a very natural and normal looking post-baby “pooch” at her midsection.  I highly doubt she was wearing Spanx or had a tummy tuck.

Those of you who have not had a natural, vaginal birth, without complications or interventions, may (somewhat understandably) find all of this hard to grasp, since your own experiences are so different from what we are assuming (keyword there: assuming) Kate experienced.  Maybe I wouldn’t believe it myself if something similar hadn’t happened to me.

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Shortly after Sam’s arrival at SIUH

I gave birth to Sam on Christmas Eve, 1999.  I, too, had wanted a home birth, in the water, but my husband was not comfortable with the idea.  Our compromise was the use of a midwife, not an obstetrician, at Staten Island University Hospital, and that (assuming there were no other issues) I would give birth in the bathtub of the now non-existent birthing suite.  I felt my first labor pain somewhere around 3 am.  I labored for a while in my own shower – long enough to use up all the hot water in the hot water tank.  Jon and I waited for my mother or brother to arrive to stay with Allie, then 3.5 years old, so that we could head to the hospital and bring Sam into the world.  This took much longer than anticipated.  I fought the urge to push as I knelt down on pillows on my living room floor, my head down and my ass in the air.  I had read in a Bradley book that this position can slow down the process, at least temporarily.  When my brother finally showed up, Jon and I headed to the hospital, arriving just before 5am.  I was fully dilated and effaced.  My water had not yet broken, which is probably the only thing that prevented Sam from being born in my living room or in the car.   I got into a lukewarm bathtub and started pushing shortly thereafter.  Sam was born in the water.  I held her on my chest at 5:43am.  I stood up in the bathtub and walked, by myself, from the tub into the bedroom and lay down, unassisted.  I had no IV, no monitors, no episiotomy.  I nursed Sam in the bed and drifted into sleep, my husband next to me, and Allie, my mom and  other relatives in the ante-room chatting about as the sun came up.  I asked to be released from the hospital as soon as possible.  My midwife recommended that I stay for 8 hours.  I had to wait for the pediatrician to arrive to examine Sam and give the okay anyway.  It was Christmas Eve, so this took a little longer than usual.  I sent Jon and Allie off to have Christmas Eve dinner, as usual, at my mother-in-law’s.  My dad and brother went to my aunt’s house, also as usual.  My mom stayed behind and brought Sam and I home around 8pm in relative quiet.  Jon and Allie returned home a short time afterwards.  Sam slept in the crib we had set up “side-car style,” up against our bed.  I woke the next morning and opened Christmas gifts with Allie and her new sister.  We all got dressed and headed to my mom’s for our annual Christmas Day celebration.  Was I tired? Of course! I laid on the couch and in my mom’s bed when I felt the need and we ended the evening early so that I could return to my own bed.  While my body may have had a physiological “need” to be at rest for a period of time following Sam’s birth, the thought of being home with Sam and away from such an important and joyful celebration would have broken my heart and possibly my spirit.  I could not bear the thought of it.  It was MY CHOICE to be part of the celebration, in whatever limited way I could.  I left the hospital the same day for a few reasons: I wanted to be in my own bed (I was seriously uncomfortable in the hospital).  It was Christmas Eve.  I had another little girl who I wanted to get home to quickly and I wanted as little disruption to her life as possible.  I was not sick.  Sam was not sick.  She was a healthy 8 pounds 3 ounces and 20.5 inches in length.  I delivered at 38.5 weeks.  There was no medical reason for me to stay.  Now, did I look like the tall bombshell that Kate did, with my hair and make-up done, in a custom made outfit, as I left the hospital? Absolutely not! But I could have if I had had a team of hair stylists and make-up artists helping me out. And I suspect my “pooch” was larger than Kate’s.  But everything about me, past and present, is larger than Kate’s 🙂  My point in detailing one of my three birth experiences is that Kate’s situation is not really out of the ordinary, as the media is portraying it. Perhaps the only extraordinary thing about her experience is that most of us aren’t greeted by throngs of paparazzi as we head home with our newborns.

What I would like to know is, really, why are we so fixated on this? If Kate came out of the hospital looking like a complete wreck, and – heaven forbid – fat, “we” would be criticizing her and fat shaming her.  Yet, she came out looking amazing.  So, instead of being happy for her, and celebrating the birth of another royal baby, or simply another human being, we call her a possible fraud and discuss how unlikely and improbable her experience was.  Seriously???  She couldn’t possibly win.  I made my own choices and decisions regarding the birth of all three of my girls, each time incorporating the experience of the previous birth(s) into the decision making process.  Kate clearly did the same.  All of our experience are unique to ourselves.  No two births are the same.  We all face choices at each crossroad or intersection.  Why is it such a big deal that Kate faced these same challenges and made her own choices and decisions? She didn’t consult any of us.  It is, after all, her body, and, therefore, none of our business.

How To Fake A Life on Facebook

It happened mostly by accident. I found myself traveling the same weekend that one of the world’s most eligible bachelors was tying the knot.  As a joke, when I “checked in” at the airport on Facebook I quipped that I was on my way to Venice for the big event #clooneywedding2014.  Before I knew it, my inside joke to my cousin, Christine, whom I was visiting in Florida, took on a life of its own.  Each place I visited throughout the weekend, I tagged myself in various locations in and around Venice, Italy.  Christine and I were careful to take photos of ourselves with generic and benign backgrounds.  I googled the name of restaurants and canals and checked myself in there, despite being over 5,000 miles away.  Thanks to the paparazzi and our celebrity-hungry voyeuristic society, the internet quickly turned up several pics of the happy couple and wedding weekend scenes that I was able to lift and blur in order to make it appear that 1) I was really there, and 2) I took the picture myself.

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Blurred to look like a tourist shot

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Original Photo

What was the point of all of this subterfuge?

Generic Venice gondola photo

Generic Venice gondola photo

Well, it was a HUGE amount of fun – especially when it became obvious that so many of my Facebook friends really believed I was there.  But mostly this was a social experiment turned lesson.  My mother always said, “Believe nothing that you hear and only half of what you see.”  Turns out she was right, and a bit ahead of her time, as she said that some 30 years ago.  For all of us who often look longingly at the perfect and happy lives and travels of others on Facebook or any other number of social networks, STOP IT.  Don’t be so gullible, don’t even begin to entertain it as it reality.  As the evidence proves, it’s way too easy to fake it.

Photo actually taken at brunch at Oceans 234, Deerfield Beach

Photo actually taken at brunch at Oceans 234, Deerfield Beach

To my Facebook friends, my sincerest apologies for the deception.  To my cousin Christine, thanks for an amazing weekend, albeit state-side, and for helping me have so much fun in Florida and Italy simultaneously.  Special shout out to the places in Florida that I actually patronized: Sicilian Oven (Coral Springs location – FANTASTIC!), Tavolino Della Notte (best sangria EVER), YOLO (because hey, yolo!), Bull Market (which is WAY more than just a few blocks from YOLO), and Oceans 234 (get the Oceans Breeze Bloody Mary, you won’t be disappointed).

What I Want For Mother’s Day

In honor of Mother’s Day and for moms everywhere….. My thoughts about Mother’s Day have not changed in a year’s time. It is still the highest salaried position in the world – the payment is pure love!

one well read mom

Creative Mother’s Day breakfast
I’ve seen a lot of links on Facebook lately to blogs that are poking fun at what mother’s do and what us moms really want for Mother’s Day this year. Things like getting the kids out of our hair, wanting time alone with our girlfriends, “good jewelry,” etc. And while these blogs, I hope, were written to be comical and are somewhat tongue-in-cheek, I thought I would write something about what being a mom really means to me.


Almost 17 years ago, my life was changed on a really hot day in June when I gave birth to my first baby, a girl. One day my life was just as I expected it, and the next day it was nothing I even recognized, as a 7 pound 2 ounce little peanut was suddenly in control of all I did, said, and thought. She also inexplicably had…

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