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

Hope

A simple, socially acceptable, four letter word.  Screen Shot 2016-08-12 at 1.50.01 PMI probably use it more times a day (in my head alone) than I realize.  It’s much more powerful than a word like “wish.”  I’ve wished for many things in my life.  As a kid, I wished for tons of stuff: specific Christmas or birthday presents, a puppy, a boy to like me, to get a part in the school play….. This list is endless.  As I matured, I wished for more “practical” things: a passing grade in a difficult class, not getting caught coming home after curfew, not getting carded at the door of the bar. 🙂   But what sets hope apart from wish is that the word wish implies something that is unlikely or unattainable.  I’ve wished that my first husband hadn’t died.  I’ve even wished that he could somehow come back.  I’ve wished that my daughters would never experience the pain of heartbreak, whether from a boy or false friend.  I’ve wished that my parents would not get old and leave this world – and me.  All things that, while perhaps motivated by the greatest of intentions, are unlikely and unrealistic.  Which brings me back to hope.  Hope implies possibility, however small.  That’s why hope is powerful, because at your core, when you hope for something, you believe in the possibility of it becoming a reality.  Here is a list, in no particular order, of some of my greatest hopes:

  1. I hope that good will triumph over evil
  2. I hope that my children will know that I’ve tried my best, always, to be the best mother I knew how to be to them
  3. I hope that my older girls will keep the memory of their father alive for their children and grandchildren
  4. I hope that people learn that running away from a problem only makes it worse, not better
  5. I hope that someday peace will prevail on earth
  6. I hope that feeling true love is something that everyone gets to experience at least once in their lives, and that it is reciprocated
  7. I hope that people understand that their actions can often hurt other people, especially those they love, and that they take great care in avoiding it and making it right when it happens
  8. I hope my children recognize and appreciate the sacrifices that I’ve made for them – and that I’d do it all over again if I had to
  9. I hope my girls realize that who you are on the inside is more important than what other people see on the outside
  10. I hope all girls everywhere realize that obsessing over how much your body weighs is largely a waste of valuable time
  11. I hope that each of us recognizes that we have gifts to share with each other and the world, and that we use them to exact change and help others, in big and little ways
  12. I hope all the people I love know that my love is genuine, and though many of these people are gone from my life, my love for them will always remain
  13. I hope that humanity has the strength and the grace to face and take responsibility for their actions, and the wherewithal to do what is necessary, even when it seems impossible

I hope you’ve enjoyed this post, reader (see what I did there? I added another hope).

What do you hope for?

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.

Screen Shot 2015-05-07 at 3.05.25 PM

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.

sam birth

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.

IMG_0279

Blurred to look like a tourist shot

FullSizeRender

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…

View original post 855 more words

What We Can Learn About Life From Gangster Movies – Part 1: The Godfather

So I’ve been chatting a lot with my cousin, Christine, lately.  She lives in Florida and just had a beautiful baby girl.  It kills me that she is so far from New York right now.  Not only do I want to be able to help her with her little princess (or just help her around the house so she could take care of the baby) but I also miss her camaraderie.  I don’t have any sisters.  Christine is like a sister to me.  We like the same music (mostly) and our brains work in the same crazy kind of way.  We have so much in common that you’d think that we were actually sisters.  One of the things that Christine and I like to do is quote movies to each other.  We usually start it with a Facebook status and then comment back and forth until life summons us back into reality.  We’ve done it recently with My Big Fat Greek Wedding and Silver Linings Playbook to name just two.  Our mutual love of movies got us talking about some of our favorites.  Of course, the genre of “gangster movies” came up.  In my post “21 Things You Might Not Know About Me,” I talked about a memorable time that my dad and I spent watching a marathon of The Godfather trilogy.  Any self-respecting Italian has seen all three.  I quoted the first movie at dinner recently (“Leave the gun.  Take the cannoli.”).  My older girls looked at me as if I were crazy.  That’s when it hit me – they had NEVER seen these classic movies.  I quipped, “All you need to know about life you can learn from three gangster movies: The Godfather, Goodfellas, and A Bronx Tale.”  The girls rolled their eyes at me (as they so often do these days).  As I went to bed that night, I went over the movies in my mind.  It’s true – you can learn a great many life lessons from these movies.  I have watched all three over again recently to make sure I didn’t miss anything.  Here is my list of important life lessons from The Godfather.  Let me know if you agree or disagree – or if I’ve missed anything!

Lesson 1:  It’s Not Always What You Know, But Who You Know

Don Corleone was keenly aware of how important a network of supporters was.  Contacts are key.  The Corleone family used their contacts in the newspapers to help save Michael’s reputation when he killed the police captain and Sollozzo.  You never know when a contact will come in handy, so build and develop your own network of support.

Lesson 2:  Your Word is Your Bond So Live With Integrity

It’s been said that your true integrity is visible to others by your actions when you think that no one is watching.  Your reputation is built over time.  People will view you as trustworthy based on your behavior. No one took this to heart more than Don  Corleone.  He was a man of his word and everyone knew it.  When Don Corleone meets with the heads of the five families, he tells them that he will forgo any retaliation for Sonny’s murder if Michael can be returned to NY from Sicily free from harm.  The heads of the five families know that Don Corleone follows through on what he says.  They take him at his word and Michael comes home.  No harm befalls Michael and none of Don Corleone’s soldiers seek revenge for Sonny.  They respect the Don’s word and follow his commands to the letter.

Lesson 3:  Family is Everything

The Godfather clearly emphasizes the importance of family in the traditional sense.  The movies each open with large, festive family gatherings (the first with Carlo & Connie’s wedding, the second with Anthony’s communion, and the third with the ceremony of Michael’s installment as a Commander of the Order of St. Sebastian).  Don Corleone tells Johnny Fontane, “…..a man who doesn’t spend time with his family can never be a real man.” While we all know people in our own families who do not treat us with kindness and respect, we also know people who are not necessarily family that treat us as such.  What do we say about these people to others?  So-and-so is “like family to me.”  Family does not necessarily require a genetic link.  After all, when you think about it, we are all part of the human family.  The Corleone family was made up of both genetic and non-genetic family members.  And let’s not forget Michael’s scolding to Freddo in Vegas when Freddo took sides with Moe Greene in an argument with Michael – “You’re my older brother and I love you, but don’t ever take sides with anyone against the family again.  Ever.”

Lesson 4:  Self-Sacrifice is An Important Part of Maintaing a Family

The moms out there know this.  We have all canceled plans to stay home with a sick child or help out with an injured parent.  We don’t like it, but we do it.  In the case of helping your parents, it may be the a return of the favor.  For our children, it’s part of the job description of a parent.  Michael Corleone knew this to be true.  He sacrificed the legitimate life he established as a decorated war veteran in order to save the Corleone family and avenge the attempt on his father’s life.  He risked his own life by committing double murder and then spent a period of time in exile in Sicily.  He did so willingly to save his family.

Lesson 5:  ALWAYS Think Before You Act

Regret can be a tough thing to live with.  Since none of us yet possess the ability to turn back time, care needs to be taken when making decisions (big and small) to avoid regrets.  This is how we learn from our mistakes and stop the cycle of repeating them.  There are consequences to each and every decision we make.  These consequences must be examined and evaluated before action is taken.  When Sonny was acting for the Don during Don Corleone’s recovery from the attempt on his life, he often let his emotions get the better of him.  This ultimately cost him his life.  Regardless of the situation, always think before you act.

Lesson 6:  Keep Your Friends Close But Your Enemies Closer

Truth is this is borrowed from Sun Tzu, a Chinese general and military strategist, who wrote the book The Art of War.  But both Michael and Don Corleone knew this to be true.  They knew that keeping your enemies close doesn’t stop them from being enemies.  What it does do, however, is eliminate unexpected attacks.  This is why the Don knew that the person who came to them offering to broker a peace between Barzini and the Corleone family would be the traitor.  You cannot expect to win a battle or a war if you don’t know who you are fighting.

Lesson 7:  When People Show You Who They Are, Believe Them

Said another way, actions speak louder than words.  Look at Carlo, Connie’s husband.  He beat Connie mercilessly on several occasions.  When Sonny found out about it, he should have had him “taken care of” immediately.  Instead, he beats him up and embarrasses Carlo in front of his neighborhood.  It was clear from Carlo’s treatment of Connie that he was a loser.  Even Don Corleone recognized this, which is why he told Tom to “Give him a living, but never discuss the family business with him.”  Sonny’s lack of appropriate response to Carlo ended up costing him is life, as Carlo sold out to the Barzini family and set Sonny up.  Personally, I’m all for second chances.  But always watch what people do – especially when they think no one is looking.  That’s when you’ll see who they really are.

Lesson 8:  Business is Business; It’s Not Personal

In part this lesson is an extension of lesson 5 (ALWAYS Think Before You Act).  It is very important to take emotions out of your decisions.  For example, when you make a decision out of fear, you are acting from a position of weakness, not strength.  The emotion clouds your judgment.  Don Corleone held this truth of keeping emotion out of business, thereby un-personalizing it.  Unfortunately, Michael did not.  In the end, Michael dies alone – no family by his side – as the result of having personal vendettas against anyone who wronged the family.  Perhaps if he followed more closely in his father’s footsteps it could have turned out differently for him.

Lesson 9:  Life Is About Quid Pro Quo

Literally translated from Latin, it means “this for that.”  It means no one does anything for nothing, there is always something expected in return.  When Don Corleone would agree to do a favor for someone, he would respond by saying, “Someday, and that day may never come, I will call upon you to do a service for me…..”  This is, perhaps, an extension of lesson 1 (It’s Not Always What You Know, But Who You Know), as it is a way of developing and maintaining your support network.  It’s okay to give a little, as long as you get a little in return.  At his daughter’s wedding, Don Corleone grants a favor to Amerigo Bonasera, whose daughter is brutally beaten by her boyfriend and his friend, when she refused to have sex with the two young men after having been made to drink whiskey.  Bonasera asks to have these men “taken care of” and Don Corleone, after a scolding about respect, complies.  When Sonny is murdered, Don Corleone calls on Bonasera to do a service for him.  He asks Bonasera to repair the massive damage to Sonny’s body so that there can be an open casket at the wake.  Quid pro quo.

Lesson 10: Know Yourself

Perhaps an extensions of lesson 6 (Keep Your Friends Close, But Your Enemies Closer), Sun Tzu addresses this concept in his discussion of keeping your enemies close.  Knowing your enemy allows you to take on the offensive. Knowing yourself helps  you to stand on the defensive.  When you know what your strengths and weaknesses are, you are better prepared to deal with them.  In addition, you must know your what standards and limits are.  Don Corleone turned down a lucrative deal with Sollozzo to get into the drug business.  He tells the heads of the five families, “It doesn’t make any difference to me what a man does for a living, but your business is a little dangerous.”  He turns down a lot of money because he believes that drugs are a dirty and that he would lose some of his political connections as a result.  

These are the life lessons I have gleaned from The Godfather.  I’d love to hear your thoughts on the subject.  Please comment below or on my Facebook page.