I’ll Be Back When I Find My Pants



Hello Readers,

As many of you know we moved from MA to PA last Friday.  You would think after three moves in 18 months, I would be good at this by now.  And you would be wrong.

So, because our garbage disposal backed up, our internet connection works for about 8 minute intervals, and I have yet to find the box that contains my pants…I am taking this week off from blogging.  I will be back next week, fully clothed.  Maybe.



Smash Your Fears

I recently received an email from Cameron Von St. James, asking me to help share his story.  Cameron’s wife, Heather, was diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma -a form of cancer caused by asbestos – when the couple’s daughter Lily was only a few months old.  Heather was 36, and was given 15 months to live.

With the help of the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance, Heather was able to find the right doctors, and eight years ago on February 2, had her lung removed.  In order to cope with their fears, Cameron and Heather named this date Lung Leavin’ Day and celebrate it every year. Heather explains,

Lung Leavin’ Day is about overcoming your fears.  I get together with my family and friends and we write our fears on plates, and then smash them into a fire.

The timing of Cameron’s email – just days before our move from Massachusetts to Pennsylvania – was compelling.   Moving is not cancer – note even close.  But it is scary in it’s own way, sometimes I think more for the parents than the kids.   In the last few weeks, anytime Phil would start to voice his fears about moving, I would shut it down by saying, “Look, we can’t give into that,” or “Let’s just focus on the positive.”  In my delusional Mommy Guilt-gripped mind, I thought I was protecting Emma and Phoebe from our fears. Basically – for anyone who has seen The Lego Movie – I had morphed into Unikitty from Cloud Cuckoo Land: “Stay Positive! Stay Positive!”


If my therapist is reading this right now, he is shaking his head and massaging his temples.

Stuffing my fears is never an effective strategy, yet I continue to find excuses to do it.  I say things like, “We just need to keep it together right now,” or “The kids need us to stay upbeat!”  And yes, if the girls saw me crying into my coffee every morning, they may question my leadership abilities. But even Unikitty from Cloud Cuckoo Land knows that resisting “negative” emotions will eventually catch up with you:


What I love about Heather’s story is how she chooses to live in a place of hope by facing her fears, not denying them. Inspired by Lung Leavin’ Day, Phil and I decided to follow Heather and Cameron’s lead and write down our fears about moving, and then conduct our own plate breaking ritual. My initial list looked something like this:

  • Fear of the girls not liking new school
  • Fear of Phil not feeling fulfilled at work
  • Fear of us losing a sense of adventure as a family
  • Fear of losing current level of closeness in marriage
  • Fear of losing Phil to his “fans.”

The first thing I noticed about this list is my fears are more about other people than myself, which I am sure in its own way is a form of hiding from the real feelings.  The second thing I noticed is that apparently I think I am married to Tom Cruise.  Or maybe David Hasselhoff.

By fans, I mean his “people.”  Phil is from a large family and has had a beer with pretty much everyone in the Philadelphia area. He calls it “The Long Arms of Braun.” Philly is his hometown.  When I was 25, I moved there to be closer to him, because I am from New Jersey, where we are bred to be resilient and adaptable with a slight inferiority complex. When I married him, I often felt like an appendage – an accessory to his former life. Moving to Massachusetts, while sad and challenging at times, was the first thing we had ever done as a couple that was truly ours.  It brought equality to our our marriage.

Love and fear are in this constant tug of war.  I love Philly, and moving back there feels like going home. We have a wonderfully supportive family and amazing friends.  But I also love the independent person I have become, and fear that moving back into our comfort zone will make that person disappear.  

So I guess my real fear was not about losing Phil, but losing myself.  Which seems silly when I say it.  But not scary.

After sharing our fears, we wrote them on plates.  Well, paper plates.  Our plates were already packed.


An while paper plates don’t break, they definitely burn.



The whole experience made me feel lighter.  When I look back at our lists, some of our fears are real – usually the things out of our control.  Other fears are real but manageable; fears that require planning and taking action.

But some fears are just not real.  My fear of losing myself is not real because I am right here.  I can feel my feet on the ground and the computer keys under my fingertips.  The fear of losing myself is an old fear…that I am not brave or smart or independent enough to do something scary, or be my own person.

But I have.  And I am.

But I guess I had to write it down to realize that.

Setting it on fire also helped.

Please support Cameron and Heather in their commitment to raising awareness for mesolthelioma by spreading the word about Lung Leavin’ Day.  You can learn more about Heather’s story here.  

Then, go smash some plates.


Scituate, A Love Story

Dear Scituate,

It was love at first sight.

For days we had been driving, looking for the perfect town to move our family, up and down the coast from Portsmouth to Plymouth.  Newburyport, Marblehead, Hingham, Cohasset – all beautiful in their own way.  Lots of harbors.

“What the hell are we going to do in a harbor?” I asked Phil. “We’re from Philly.”

“There’s one place we didn’t hit.  It’s off the beaten path a bit – Scitu-ate? I’m probably saying that wrong.”  (He was.)

“Ok, sure, we’re here, might as well.”


That ain’t no harbor.  I turned to Phil: “This is it.”  He smiled.  He knows I don’t mess around.

Things moved fast, as they tend to do when you know what you want.  Our courtship was complicated. Sacrifices had to be made before we could make it official.  Like the temporary lodgings we found online – in a house that happened to be on a marsh.


But we did it willingly, because love is blind, and you were worth it.  I braved the late night marsh sounds of a coyote mauling an egret because I knew we could do this, we could make this work.  And then, serendipity stepped in.  We met the right agent who happened to know of a winter rental in a neighborhood overlooking the ocean called Third Cliff.


Phil looked at me and shook his head. After a decade of living in a landlocked state, he knew I was a goner.  I think I was weeping.  “We’ll take it,” he said to our realtor.

Of course, no relationship is perfect.  We had some bumps in the road, like a hurricane

IMG_1012and a blizzard.

IMG_1452IMG_1455But somehow these challenges seemed more like adventures.  They made us feel tough and resilient, like we could roll with anything life threw our way. And for the times when our energy flagged, the right people always seemed to come to our aid.


When I discovered that the big blue house across the street was for sale, I imagined myself living in it.  I saw Phil and I with cocktails on the wrap-around porch after rolling back from the beach, sandy and starving.  I imagined the girls dozing in a hammock, being lulled to sleep by the clang of the ocean buoy.  I actually printed a picture of the house and carried it in my wallet – my own little secret fantasy.

I didn’t think it would actually come true.


But it did – all of it.

The sandy walks home from the beach…


the cocktails


the hammock.


While I hoped it would last forever, I fought back feelings of impermanence.  It all felt too magical to last.  I blamed my fears on my pessimistic set-point, on my leanings toward fatalism – that everything good is just one heartbeat from being taken away.  But in my gut I think I always knew that we wouldn’t last forever.

And that made me pay attention.  For the first time in my life, I was present.  For every sunrise and sunset, for every run on the cliff or walk on the beach,  I was there.  I didn’t want to miss a thing.  When I look back at my photos from this experience, I notice that I am always walking behind.




IMG_1205As a mom, I often find myself behind things: a swing, a stroller, a wobbly kid on a two-wheeler.  Phil likes to lead the charge, but I love to walk behind.  It’s where I can see everyone, where all are accounted for.  I can read their body language – if they are happy or tired or holding something in.  I think mothers prefer the panoramic view.  The big picture.

And in the big picture, our move back to Philadelphia is the right decision.  My instinct was probably right all along – this was a passionate fling, a summer romance, not a long-haul kind of commitment.  But for a blissful 18 months, we found ourselves on your rocky shores.  Why? What did we come here to learn?

You taught us awe.  To have our breath taken away daily by nature.  To truly comprehend the vastness of the ocean and how small we are in comparison.  Hopping from rock to rock on the cliffs became a meditation for me.


Especially when I stumbled upon messages I felt destined to discover:


You taught us that people are good, welcoming, and kind.  I have yet to meet a Masshole. Ok, there was that one.  Our neighbors – loyal like family – kept us from feeling orphaned.  They even attempted to make sailors out of a bunch of Philly landlubbers.


You taught us to be brave.

IMG_2558To try new things.

IMG_1959To take care of each other.


To feel alive.


But mostly, you taught us how to be together.  Just us.  And have that be enough.






Better than enough.

It was here that Phil, Emma, Phoebe and I learned how to depend on each other.  And while we may not always get along, we are all we’ve got.  Moving someplace new is like a Family Immersion Program.  It is exciting and terrifying, and at times, really fucking lonely.  But we road that roller coaster together.  We learned by trial and error when to make someone laugh…


Or give them a hug

IMG_3482Or just leave them the hell alone.

Image 1

You taught us how to be a family.


And for that, a piece of my heart will always belong to you.

Happy Valentine’s Day.


Insomnia: Gettin’ Dumbah Everyday

We are moving in 17 days.  And while our previous move was only 18 months ago, I seemed to have forgotten one of the side effects of moving: Insomnia.  Of which a side effect is forgetfulness.  It’s a vicious cycle.

When I was paralyzed by sleeplessness with our move from Philly to Boston, I sought medical intervention.  I was given a prescription for Ambien…and then blogged about it here.  And, to be honest, I wrote the PG version.  Ambien had other side effects that I will not discuss because my mother-in-law is reading this, but let’s just say Phil really misses the crazy slut alter ego that was Ambien Jessie.  He misses her a lot.

But no matter how tired I am,  I refuse to go the Ambien route.  I can’t take the chance that I will answer an Evite with a 500 word run-on sentence that includes an in-depth analysis of a Scooby-Do episode and my social security number.  Again.

That being said, I have to do something, because I am tired – to the point where I feel like I am losing brain cells.  When I was 21, I went out on a date with a NYC transit cop, who was adorable but not my type.  When I asked him to describe his typical work day, he said in a thick NY accent, “Basically, I just get dumbah.  I get dumbah everyday.”

That’s me.  Gettin’ dumbah everyday.  The evidence:

  •  Emma’s 2nd grade math homework has become too challenging.  (17-8=…..wait…wait…I got this….).
  •  When my mom calls and asks if I received the book she sent me, my response is: “No.  Wait…maybe.  That sounds familiar. Yes, I did.”  The truth?  No idea.
  • Any thing that crosses my path goes in the washer and dryer, including cash, tissues, my iPod, and this wool sweater that is now keeping Phoebe’s American Girl Doll nice and toasty.


  • While I have never been the most organized mom on the block, my current inability to retain basic info has forced me to rely on responsible (and nonjudgmental) friends. I’m the one in blue:


So when drugs are not an option, the only thing left is to examine one’s habits, which is annoying, because I have a lot of bad habits.  But for the sake of this blog, let’s stick with two: Bedtime Ritual and Racing Thoughts.

Bedtime Ritual                                                                                                                     Every parenting book has a section on the importance for bedtime rituals for children:  no screens, calming activities, limit sugar, keep the actual “time” consistent, etc. It dawned on me that while I am the Sleep Warden with my kids, I am a rebellious teen with my own sleep hygiene.

The biggest offender is late night computer use. The kids will be in bed, I will be cleaning up the kitchen and feeling exhausted. Ok good, I think to myself, I am on the right track. Just finish loading the dishwasher and then I’m getting in bed.  But then….something happens.  Suddenly there is a piece of information I simply must have before I can possibly go to sleep, some ridiculous, non-essential tidbit that will then open the Pandora’s Box of nonlinear Google searches.

For example: “How EXACTLY did Yolanda from Real Housewives of Beverly Hills get Lyme’s Disease” leads to…..

  • Research on the 47 species of ticks in California
  • Real estate listings in Malibu
  • The distance from Malibu to Joshua Tree
  • The inspiration behind the U2 album Joshua Tree
  • Is Bono’s real name Bono? (it’s Paul).

When I am satisfied with my groundbreaking findings, I’m all revved up by the evil blue light of the computer and I start vacuuming.  One night Emma had gotten up to go the bathroom, and came downstairs: “Mom? Do normal mothers vacuum at midnight?”

I gave her a look that said, what makes you think I know anything about normal? Then I took her back to bed.  As I was leaving her room, I saw this book sitting on her dresser.

IMG_3953It’s a journal Emma and I write in together a few nights a week as part of her bedtime routine.  I grabbed it before closing the door, and sat on the stairs reading our entries.  This one hit me….


….which brings us to

Racing Thoughts                                                                                                               Little kids resist bedtime because they are scared of: monsters under the bed, the dark, bad dreams.  I resist bedtime because I am scared of: moving, leaving our friends, the ocean, this house that I love, of the kids adjusting to a new school, are they going to need therapy, should we buy them a dog, should we join the Y, I forgot to order Emma’s uniforms…blah blah blah.

So, if my issues are not all that different from a kid’s issues, why not treat it the same way? This week I created my own firmly enforced bedtime ritual:

  1. No computer after 8:30 PM
  2. In bed by 10 PM
  3. Read a novel. (No self-help)
  4. Create a mantra: It’s going to be ok.  None of this is happening right now.  It’s going to be ok.  
  5. And the most important piece of changing one’s habits: Accountability.

Image 1

That’s right.  14 days of good bedtime behavior and mama gets a new pair of jeans.

If none of this works, there’s always the Ambien my mother-in-law slipped in my hand during our last visit, you know, “just in case.”

Just in case I want to go streaking while riding a purple unicorn that smokes cigars.

Time will tell.