Tuesday, November 11, 2014

I Can't Tell You What This Is Really About Because It Will Ruin The Ending, But I Guarantee It's Worth The Quick Read

Yesterday I took my first grader to get her hair cut.  While I sat in the spinning chair beside her, with my youngest in my lap, we were treated to way more than the look on my daughter Emilia's face as her long locks fell to the floor.

An elderly woman entered the salon, supported by her granddaughter, who appeared to be in her mid-thirties.  "We are going to a wedding tomorrow", she said, "and my grandmother wants to look beautiful".

The elderly woman said very little, but smiled consistently as the stylist trimmed her snow white hair.  Having supported her physically through the door, the granddaughter now helped her loved one emotionally.  As she spoke tenderly about the nuptials they were about to celebrate, I could not help but be filled with joy for the bride, groom and their families.  At the same time (somewhat selfishly) I was also reminded of my own wedding, which neither of my grandmothers lived to attend.

I was very close with both of my grandmothers.  My maternal grandmother lived across the street from me for most of my childhood and I saw her on a near daily basis.  In fact, my daughter Emilia is named after her.  (For those of you who remember my grandmother as Jeannette, you are correct.  But, that was her middle name.  She went by Jeannette only to differentiate herself because Emilia was a popular name in her German family.)  My paternal grandmother, Angelina, lived in the next town over.  The Italian (read: big) side of my family gathered there every Sunday for pasta, the pool and more pasta.

Unfortunately, I lost both of my grandmothers before our wedding day, although my husband and I were gifted the time to celebrate our engagement with my mother's mom.

Still, as I stared longing at the lovely grandma in the salon, my heart filled with joy for her and those who would be with her this coming weekend.

Once her trim was completed, she smiled gratefully and took those ironic "baby steps" toward the door.  I wished her a wonderful time at the wedding.  She, her granddaughter and the stylist simply smiled back.

Once her client had left, the stylist came to me.

"She isn't going to a wedding", she said.  "She has advanced Alzheimer's and the only way she will allow her hair to be cut is if she believes she is headed to a big event.  Every time it is something new... a wedding, a holiday party, a graduation."

In that moment, I was overcome with so much emotion.  But mostly I was happy for that little old woman, who gets to celebrate momentous occasions over and over again in her mind- even if only for a moment.  While I cannot begin to comprehend how difficult it is to care for someone struggling with this terrible disease, I hope her loved ones can appreciate the beauty of that moment as much as I did.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

What You Should Learn From "The Soup" Calling My Sister A Bad Parent

Today's social media and networking websites challenge us to describe ourselves in a very brief bio, offering a mere couple hundred characters in which to sum up decades of life.  Though nearly an impossible feat, I finally settled upon a few key phrases, choosing to focus on my career as a reality television producer, passion for writing and lifeblood as a mother.  Then, I ran out of characters.  Let's face it.  The rush of today's society can be very limiting in that way.

Still, it was those three descriptions that came to a head yesterday in a way I never expected.

My sister, Jeni Elizabeth, is a very well established personal and network wardrobe stylist in Los Angeles.  She has a nearly impeccable reputation both in her career and her life as a mother and step-mother.  Her ability to balance a strenuous work schedule with a loving home and two very young children is admirable, to say the least.

That's why when Joel McHale and his team at The Soup took a major stab at her parenting skills, it was impossible for me to stay tight-lipped.  Here's how it all went down.

Yesterday morning, the Facebook page for E's television show The Soup teased a clip from the daytime talk show The Real, for which my sister is the Lead Stylist.  In a brief segment featuring fun products, Jeni walked my 8 month old nephew, Tyler, out onto the stage wearing a soft onesie with a mop on the front of it.  When placing him down to crawl, he cried.  Not a shocker.

Within moments, the clip had been viewed thousands of times and hundreds of faceless strangers began lashing out against her.  Later last night when The Soup aired on national television, host Joel McHale's guest, actor Will Arnett, introduced a revolutionary product inspired by my nephew, called "Baby Attached to the End of a Weed Whacker".  At that point she made the decision to temporarily shut down her personal website, which was inundated with terrible insults.

My issue isn't with The Real, The Soup or even Will Arnett.  My greatest concern is that had The Soup let that clip air just two seconds longer, they would have seen this:

As a television producer myself, I could not be more well-versed in the art of editing.  I spent nearly 5 years with The Bachelor, a franchise best known for making people look crazier than they claim to be.  Still for me, this crossed a line.

Though I never met previous Bachelor Juan Pablo Galavis, I was outraged by the remarks he made when asked by a member of the press if a gay man should be The Bachelor.  I immediately found and listened to the raw audio of the interview before jumping to conclusions.  Maybe, just maybe, had the news clip aired a moment longer, the result would have been way different.  (Let's just say in that situation, the media got it right.)

I know better than to believe all that I see on television, see in tabloids or read online.  In fact, I take so much with a grain of salt that I should be concerned about my health.

My only hope, for the next victim's sake, is that everyone else does the same.

Monday, November 3, 2014

I Want To Pass Recipes, Not Anxiety, On To My Daughters

I wasn’t an anxious child.  Or if I was, I certainly don’t remember feeling that way.  I remember having a lot of friends, getting good grades and wanting for (almost) nothing.

I don’t remember having difficulty sleeping or eating.  Like many teenagers, I had some body image issues, but they were not debilitating.  I was happy and carefree, as young children should be.

It wasn’t until right after college that I began to struggle with anxiety.  I was living on my own for the very first time and was very particular about the condition of my apartment.  I kept an insanely regimented workout schedule (like, 5am in the snow, regimented) that was way more about my commitment than my weight loss.  And, admittedly, I was very critical of the decisions made by family and friends with which I didn’t agree.

I will never forget the moment when it all hit me.  I’d had some girl friends over for a viewing party (who knows what show we were watching, but seeing as this was in the late 90’s, we were definitely ahead of the time).  Several pizzas and bottles of cheap wine later, while cleaning up, I noticed a large pool of grease that’d seeped through a cardboard box and onto my table.  That was it.  That was the moment.

Though never in my life having (intentionally) purged, I ran to the bathroom quite sick.  I recollect little else from the night other than feeling the need for a shower, a good cry and a sleep aid.

For some people, sadly, that night may not seem so out of the ordinary.  But for anyone who knew me in high school or college, this is hardly how I believe to be remembered.  More importantly, who gives a shit how anyone else remembered me (or didn’t).  The above may seem miniscule to you, but it was gargantuan to me.  I knew something was wrong.

Thankfully, I had a strong support system around me.  The moment I waved a little white flag, I was encouraged to seek professional help to better understand what was happening.  And I did.

Over the years, I have learned to manage or at least cope with my anxiety.  There are days, of course, that are far more difficult for me than others.  Like with anything, there is an ebb and flow.  For me, it is a part of life.

It should not, however, be a part of life for my daughter.  Goddamnit.

One of the greatest gifts of being a parent is passing the best of one generation, and those before it, on to the next.  Names, traditions and recipes are just a few of the many beautiful things we pass on to our children.  No one wants to think about the other stuff… I know what those things are for my family just as you do for yours, try as we may to hide them.

Then just last night, I saw my daughter holding that very same pizza box.  The situation was entirely different, of course.  But in her eyes I saw myself, looking at the grease stain.

It is hard to describe exactly how I felt in that moment, but it was one of my most vulnerable as a parent thus far.  My heart broke, as guilt set in for the weakness I've potentially passed from my heart and mind onto hers.

But a split second later, I realized that in that weakness, there is a great ability to grow… and grow.

Oh how I look forward to doing that, together.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Why Joan Lunden's People Magazine Cover Makes Me Happy... Then Mad... Then Happy... Then (You Get The Point)

When I was in elementary school, Joan Lunden was the face of Good Morning, America,  and my grandfather was always telling me how much we looked alike.  I never knew how to take that, as there was a big age discrepancy, ultimately I think I enjoyed being compared to someone famous.

But, my grandfather couldn't leave it at that.  At some point in the early 1980's, he felt the need to let Joan know exactly how much she reminded him of his favorite granddaughter.  (OK, I added the favorite part.  What grandkid wouldn't?)

Shortly afterward, I received this in the mail:

Well, not exactly that.  Mine is packed away at my mother's house in a trunk full of memorabilia.  I found this one on the internet (sorry, Beth).  But it was the very same headshot, addressed to me.  Correct spelling, and all.

I've often thought of that photo.  I had yet to complete even one decade of my life, and had no idea where the road would take me.  Had someone told me at the time that I'd become a bit of a journalist myself, I'd have laughed.  It's so true what they say... You really never know.

I certainly never expected this.

And have stopped in my tracks every time I have seen it thus far.  Though, not for the all the reasons you may imagine.

My father was diagnosed with brain cancer when I was in the ninth grade.  I will never forget being told that he had a brain tumor the size of a grapefruit, or the mumble like a parent in Charlie Brown that played in the background afterward.

Very, very long story short, my father battled cancer for just over 3 years.  Ultimately his brain cancer went into his bones, which is a pain I wish onto no one.  He was unconscious on the day I graduated from high school, and died less than a month later.

My father died in 1994.  That was 20 years ago.  Cancer research and treatment have come so far since then that the disease is no longer an immediate death sentence, or a death sentence at all.  And while breast cancer is very different from bone cancer, I cannot help but wonder how my father's prognosis could have changed had he been diagnosed now.  I'm not saying he'd have lived to be a centurion, but I doubt he'd have died before his forty-fifth birthday.  He could have been given some of his life back.  Maybe he'd have met one of his two daughter's husbands... or even a grandchild.

Just maybe.

When I see that photo of Joan, the newer one, I am filled with hope for her.  I am filled with a hope that those battling cancer get to live the rest of their lives, happy and healthy, in honor of those who didn't.  In honor of my Dad.

Friday, September 26, 2014

My 4yo Has Some Powerful Advice For The World

Both of my daughters love to read.  But the youngest, now four and a half, will only read aloud and in private.  I love hearing her little voice and the beautiful stories she creates, but must use my ninja skills in doing so.

Well, I put them to good use yesterday, and couldn't be more proud of the result.  Take a listen...

Monday, September 15, 2014

Why I Hid a Horrific Photo of My Daughter From Facebook (But Posted It Here)

I am not good at accepting constructive criticism, but I do love calling myself out on my own inconsistencies.  I usually view them as growth, as long as they don't both occur within a 24-hour period.  So when my husband and I brought our daughters to get their ears pierced in the end of last week, I knew this post was coming.

It was almost two and a half years ago that my eldest asked me twice within one week if she could get her ears pierced.  This was my post (and inner dialogue) that resulted:

"Now, she has also asked if she can be a waitress when she grows up, if she can take xylophone lessons and if she can go back to her old preschool because the new one doesn’t have naptime, but I didn’t take any of those inquiries seriously, as she asked only once.  I have learned from experience that once she asks twice, I will have an easier time refusing an intravenous Diet Coke drip than I will her requests."

Even more thankful for her "inconsistencies" than I am for my own, I was lucky this request was fleeting.  It was sort of like a supermarket meltdown.  Agonizing and seemingly endless in the moment, but in hindsight, over in a flash.  Phew.

But my second child... she is a whole-nother bag of tricks.  And when she started asking me for "ear holes" four months ago, I knew I wouldn't get off that easy.

I still feel the same way I did in October of 2012.  "It's the idea of making our babies grow up faster than they need to that makes me uncomfortable.  Joking that your baby has diva tendencies is one thing… forcing them upon her is another.  To pierce or not to pierce?  Either way, I feel her slipping away already.  Thank God she’ll need me to help wipe her bum later this afternoon… That’s always a decent reminder that we’ve got a looong way to go."

But, my baby isn't a baby anymore.  She is four and a half, the exact age her sister was at the time of my first post on this subject.  And to say she has a mind of her own is an understatement.  She has a voice, and we heard it.

The photo story that unfolded on my husband's Facebook was adorable.

She was so excited at the start...

Until a bit of fear set in...

But in the end, she was a BIG GIRL!

The problem with this tale, as with many told on Facebook, is that it didn't tell the whole story.  My husband managed to get a photo just as the second piercing when through the lobe, and the sheer TERROR on my daughter's face led me to say/scream that he'd be in huge trouble if he posted the picture.  He didn't.  But in retrospect, I am ok with putting it out there, because I think there is a valuable lesson to be learned.

Sometimes the things we desire most cause us the greatest pain to achieve... but if we overcome, they bring the greatest beauty.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Our Tooth Fairy Doesn't Give "Hundos", But She Gives Big in Other Ways. (Hint: It's Operation X-Mas Time!)

It was an apple, at her Nonna's house.

For weeks, Emilia had wondered where she would be and what she would be eating when her very first tooth came out.  So when it finally happened, after a long but exciting day at a the science museum, we noted all the important details.

Then I took immediately to Facebook, of course, to ask what the going rate for a first tooth is these days. See, months before Emilia's best friend had told the entire Kindergarten about a "hundy" the Tooth Fairy had gifted for her first one. I panicked a little, as my daughter has an incredible memory for a 6 year old, and I was fearful she'd hurt that her Fairy shorted her.  Our fairy doesn't give Benjamins.

A bunch of Facebook chatter (thanks, ladies!) and a trip to the craft store later, I was ready.

(It's all about the pixie dust, People.)

And $10 under the pillow.  Not bad, right?

Problem is, exactly two weeks later, Emilia lost her 2nd tooth (worth only 5 bucks).  And a third is hanging on by a thread. 

Let's face it... Emilia will receive more from the Tooth Fairy in a 4 week period than many children around the world will receive all year.

But, you can help change that.

Several years ago, I began giving two shoeboxes chock full of goodies to Operation Christmas Child, with Samaritan's purse.  I gave one box from each of my two children, that would be gifted to a child that would receive nothing else on Christmas morning.  The boxes are shipped all around the world.

I loved participating in the collection, but wanted to give more.  Once I'd imagined the smile of an ill or poverty-stricken child opening the box, I wanted to give more. And more. But, sadly, I couldn't do it alone.

For the last two years, I have asked my family, friends and readers to help me collect items for Operation Christmas Child.  The deal is... you guys send me the goodies, and I buy the plastic (reusable) shoebox size bins, pack them, wrap them, and pay the $7 donation per box. 

You can send as few or as many items as you'd like.  You can shop at the Dollar Store or Bloomies.  You can send a homemade craft.  You can collect all the soaps and shampoos at hotels you visit throughout the year and them and send them my way.  You can also send items from home that have never been used.  I promise.  I won't judge.

Or, if shopping isn't your bag, you can make a financial contribution.  I save them until the end of packing season, when I pool the donations and fill in the holes of what we need most.  I will also send you a photo of how far I helped your money go.

Whether you help me help others this coming holiday season or choose another outlet is completely up to you.  I only ask one thing.  When you gift your children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, neighbors or friends, please take a moment to think about those that having nothing, but hopefully, hope.

(Then take a couple of those dolla' bills yo, and put 'em to good use.)

Now, some housekeeping.

* Click here to check out Operation Christmas Child.

* Each shoebox I pack will be labeled with the sex of the child and an age range: 2-4, 5-9, 10-14.  I  typically receive the fewest donations for the older children.

* There’s a list of suggested items (and what not to include) on their website.  I have included personal items like soap, toothpaste & toothbrush, shampoo, combs, band aids, socks, underwear, flip flops, sunglasses, clothing and sun hats.  Or something a little more fun like flashcards, toy cars, crayons, stickers, a yo-yo, a jump rope, puzzles, coloring books, sidewalk chalk or a personal holiday card.  The possibilities are endless, and stores like Big Lots are a great resource.

* Please keep in mind that the items must fit in a standard size shoe box, so it is difficult to include large items (like full size basketballs).

* Yes, I can take PayPal donations, and will provide you with a photo of the items "you" purchased.

* If you have a question or would like to donate, please email me directly at KLPM16@gmail.com for address information. Or, I can help you find a local chapter where you can donate on your own.

* Collection Week ENDS on November 24th, so please don’t delay!

2013 Collection