What we should have been thinking about this Father’s Day weekend

What we should have been thinking about this Father’s Day weekend

I spent Father’s Day weekend doing what I have done for 16 of the last 22 Father’s Day weekends: getting away to the East End of Long Island and running the Shelter Island 10k. I’ve written about it here, and here.  This year was a little different. Instead of using the weekend as an escape, it was a relaxing weekend of quality time with my boyfriend.

I was pleasantly surprised when he agreed to come to New York and give up spending the day with his kids (they’re adults, but still, spending time with them, I know, is very important to him). Since I will be officially an Illinois resident in a few weeks I’m not sure what will happen to this tradition in future years, so I was grateful that he chose to come along. I truly enjoyed sharing it with him.

It was my parents that introduced me to the East End as a child and we spent our summers in Montauk and Shelter Island. These places remain special to me because of the memories they hold. This weekend involved lots of reminiscing and probably way too many stories that began, “when I was a kid…” If he ever got tired of them, he never said so.

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The beach in Montauk with my Dad. 1971.

I had an incredible childhood. I always knew unconditional love from my parents. These were my adoptive parents, and I have always felt blessed for the life I was given with them. I wrote about my early years in My Story: Part 1. What I didn’t include in that story, however was how I had anxiety attacks (that at times made me really sick) every time I was separated from my parents…until I was a teenager! It is not uncommon for adopted children to experience separation anxiety.

“Today, we realize that this separation is traumatic for both the mother and the child, and we recognize that early experiences have a disproportionately large impact on the structure of the brain.

“When an infant or child is separated from his or her birthmother, it is undeniably a traumatic event. All of the once-familiar sights, sounds and sensations are gone, and the infant is placed in a dangerous situation — dangerous that is, perceived by the infant. The only part of the brain that is fully developed at birth is the brain stem that regulates the sympathetic nervous system, that is, the fight, flight or freeze response. The parasympathetic ability to self-soothe isn’t available and baby needs his or her familiar mom to act as the soothing agent to help with self-regulation but she’s not there. Events that happen age 0-3 are encoded as implicit memories and become embodied because they place before language develops.”

– Johnson, L. 2013. “10 Things Adoptees Want You to Know,” Huffington Post.

I lived in institutional care for my first two years. It was wonderful care, in a convent, with a nun  that loved me and continued to be a positive part of my life – as well as my daughter’s – until her death in 2009.  There was nothing negative at all about my adoption experience, and yet, I was still affected by being separated from my (biological) mother.

I have worked for social service agencies who were part of the foster care system. One had a Family Preservation program whose goal was to keep families in tack. These were parents at risk of losing their children due to abuse, neglect, illegal drug habits and other criminal activities. They used an evidence-based model that showed rehabilitating parents and giving them the tools they needed to succeed as parents, was in the best interest of the children. The goal is to keep kids out of foster care.

So why am I talking about all of this? Think about it. Think about when you were a kid. Can you imagine being separated from your parents? What about now, as a parent? How would you feel about being separated from your child? Can you imagine for a moment what it would be like for your child? Think about it. Really think about it! Then read about what is going on in this country and tell me you don’t care.

Start here: “Here’s what’s happening with immigrant children at the U.S. border, policy wise” USA Today.  This is the most non-partisan view on what’s happening that I could find. I don’t want to hear, “But Obama…” At this point, I  don’t care who you voted for or why you voted for them. What’s happening at this very moment has to stop before we contribute any further to the PTSD of these children. If you’re not part of the solution, you are part of the problem.

Please act! If you don’t think this is okay, make your voice heard. Do something. Start by calling your Representative. Use this number to be connected to his or her office: 1-855-660-1185. Here are some additional ideas: “Seizing Children From Parents at the Border Is Immoral. Here’s What We Can Do About It.” New York Times.

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The Beach in Montauk. June 2018.
Law of Attraction

Law of Attraction

June is an interesting month. No real surprise that I would be making this big transition in June. While the school calendar naturally makes this a transitional month for a lot of people, for me, it’s the month I was married (25 years ago), and it’s the month my mother died (6 years ago).

Eleven years ago this month, I walked into this house for the first time. At that time, we knew living here was a stretch for us financially, but I loved the childhood that I had in Northwest Bergen County (New Jersey). I wanted the same for my daughter. We struggled over the summer to figure out a way to make it happen. We figured it out and we were able to purchase the house in September.

We agreed that we would do what we needed to do to stay here until our daughter was able to reap all the benefits that the school system had to offer. We focused on June 2018. High School graduation so far away. That’s when we’d downsize.

A lot has changed, but here I am fulfilling that vision from so long ago. The “Congratulations Graduate” sign is out front with the “Under Contract” sign. And more importantly, everything I needed to achieve to get to this month, I achieved. Much of it was from hard work and being focused, but much of it too was because I held on to that vision.

I’ve talked about the important role “visualization” can play in big races. Visualizing your journey along the course, visualizing a strong finish, the time on the clock as you cross the finish line, can all create actual positive results. The same holds true for life. Holding onto the vision of what you want it to be and trusting in the Universe to deliver does actually work. It’s called manifesting, also known as the Law of Attraction.

“The Law of Attraction is the belief that by focusing on positive or negative thoughts people can bring positive or negative experiences into their life. The belief is based on the idea that people and their thoughts are both made from “pure energy”, and that through the process of ‘like energy attracting like energy’ a person can improve his own health, wealth, and personal relationships.” (Wikipedia)

So funny story…almost two years ago my boyfriend mentioned a school out in Chicago that would be perfect for my daughter. I told him that I had to just hope she was doing her research and would find it on her own. I didn’t want to appear to be pushing her, and she’s certainly not the kind of kid that responds well to pushing. I did secretly think to myself, “Wow. How cool would that be?!” I allowed myself to create a vision of us all living in the same city – Chicago!

Five months after that conversation, my daughter told me that she found a school in Chicago that would be perfect! It was January and I suggested we go see the school as soon as possible and booked a quick trip to tour the school in February. She had been to Lollapalooza out there that past summer – but what’s not to like about Chicago in summer? She loved the school – even in winter in Chicago! She applied. She was accepted. And that’s where she’ll be going. No pushing from mom. We will all be in Chicago. Just like the vision I created for myself almost two years ago.

When I think back I realized I’ve manifested a lot of things in my life. My career directing fundraising events, the better job I needed to afford this house, my current coaching business, my relationship, and even smaller things like being accepted on my first attempt at the NYC Marathon lottery, or even a great parking space at the mall during the holidays.  Sounds silly, but it works.

Have you ever dreamed of something and made it so? If you’d like to experiment, here’s a handy guide The Huffington Post put out late last year: “7 Steps to Manifest Anything You Want.” I will also add that having a coach can really help. A coach will hold onto that vision for you and not let it slip away. I attribute a good part of the focus I need for this  transition to having a coach.  A coach who also believes in the Law of Attraction.

So, try it. Let me know how it goes. Believe in yourself. You have the power within yourself to make your vision a reality. Focus on the positive. June is a great month for that. I still don’t have everything worked out. I’m just maintaining a vision of what I want my life in Chicago to be. And I know I will be able to make it happen, Stay tuned.

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Sunrise over Chicago. May 2018.

 

Suicide is not selfish

Suicide is not selfish

Another one of those weeks where I wrote about something, and then just as I was about to hit “publish” felt I needed to talk about something else…

The news of Kate Spade’s death from suicide this week has everyone talking about suicide. This is a good thing. Although everyone on social media has an opinion and many of those opinions add to the stigma surrounding mental illness.

If you haven’t been there, you don’t really know.

I often hear people describe suicide as a selfish act.  It’s not. That’s victim blaming.  It’s not selfishness in the least. It’s mental illness. It’s the effect of chemical imbalances and trauma and the inability to cope with stress. It’s when stress and anxiety become unbearable. In my late husband’s mind, taking his own life was putting his family out of the misery he felt his disease was causing.

As I’ve made peace with his suicide, I realize it was actually one of the most courageous things he ever did in his life. For him, it was the only way to make things right for himself and us. He was in a very dark place. In his mind that was literal. On a particularly sunny day, he told me he could not feel the sun. Unless we have experienced real depression, we simply can’t understand what that place is like. Staying positive, smiling, thinking happy thoughts aren’t prescriptions that work for someone with real depression. Thinking that they are adds to the stigma. More victim blaming.

I participated in my town’s Relay for Life benefitting the American Cancer Society last week. I was celebrated as a survivor. I was called a “Hero of Hope.” I’m a little uncomfortable with the “hero” title, but I am glad my cancer experience can be inspiring to others in the fight to eradicate cancer. “Victims” of cancer are celebrated, not blamed for their disease or the pain their disease (or death) may inflict on family members.  Experiencing any life-threatening illness simply sucks – for the person diagnosed and their family and friends as well. We need to evolve to include mental illness among the life-threatening illnesses we find acceptable to talk about – and yes, to celebrate the survival of it’s victims.

Had my late husband not felt that mental illness made him weak or “less of a man” he may have been able to use his courage to get professional help. We need to end the stigma and let people know it’s okay not to be okay. So  yes, please talk about suicide. Be curious. Ask questions. Do your research. Understand that no one is to blame. Only then can we begin to find healing.

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Relay for Life. Ramsey, New Jersey. June 2018.

If you are having thoughts of suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (TALK) or go to SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources for a list of additional resources.

Traditions and transitions mark the start of summer

Traditions and transitions mark the start of summer

Last Memorial Day, I talked about 5 great Memorial Day weekend races, and said, “some creative time on your travel apps could get you on the starting line for one each day.” While I didn’t quite do that, I did fulfill my desire to do the Soldier Field 10 Mile again…and continue my Ridgewood Run tradition for one more year. Read more

2018 Chicago Spring Half Marathon Reviewed

2018 Chicago Spring Half Marathon Reviewed

Sunday was the Chicago Spring Half Marathon (and 10k). “Spring” is a relevant term. According to the official race results, the temperature at race time was 59 degrees. They lie. According to my Garmin, it was 46 degrees. While I was running, the wind chill felt closer to 28.

So, I learned a really important lesson about running in Chicago. Even if the calendar says “May,” pack gloves and a hat, and arm warmers, and maybe even rethink shorts and a singlet as being appropriate spring running attire.  All that said, and factoring in that I was 3 weeks post marathon and didn’t do much training in between (and that personally, I had a tough race as a result), it was a nice event. Read more