A Planter’s Guide to Growing Yourself

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Happy birthday to me! Ok, not really. I’m a month early. But it was during this month (August) that I decided to give myself an early birthday gift – having 100% faith in myself. Make that 200%! And yes, George Michael’s “Faith” has been dancing around in my head.

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As I’ve mentioned in previous blogs, I’ve been reinventing my career so to speak in the past 2 ½ years. And I have to say, there have been many, many potential situations that have almost blossomed. But for one reason or another – they failed to bloom. In the midst of some of the failed planting, I struggled with the whys. Was it the soil? The sun? Over watering? Is my pot too small?

What hit me this month was that none of those situations was the right one. That’s why they didn’t happen. Sure – sometimes it is the soil. The sun. And the wrong sized pot. But sometimes, it’s just the wrong plant.

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I wish I could tell you what exactly hit me this month that lead me to this calm about my life. Maybe it’s simply a culmination of the things I have done during this reinvention over the past couple years. Here are some things that I checked out that I think helped:

  • Listened to the audio book: YOU ARE A BADASS: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life by Jen Sincero (I couldn’t recommend this book enough, it’s amazing. And btw, you ARE a badass!)
  • Took an eight-week online course YOU ARE A BAD ASS with Jen Sincero (she doesn’t host these anymore, unfortunately, but she has since come out with YOU ARE A BADASS AT MAKING MONEY, so go get ‘em – https://jensincero.com/)
  • Attended the annual Mt. Baldy Enlightenment Intensive retreat weekend (Yes, I survived four days without a cell phone and repeatedly answering the question, over and over and over and then over again – “Who am I?” (https://www.facebook.com/MtBaldyEI/)
  • Meditated…and then meditated again
  • Wrote in a daily gratitude journal
  • Purged items from my apartment
  • Drank a lot of wine
  • Drank a lot whiskey
  • Loved on my family and friends
  • Enjoyed my own lil’ family (me, my boyfriend, and dog)
  • Exercised like crazy every day (21 Day Fix) for a few months – got toned as hell (P.S. It took way more than 21 Days)
  • Stopped exercising every day – oops
  • Redid my voiceover demo – TWICE
  • Started narrating audio books
  • Started writing for The Daily Feels!
  • Went on The NSNG Diet (no sugar/no grain) carb-free diet and lost some weight
  • Went to NYC and ate my face off with carbs (hello NYC pizza!)
  • Went back on NSNG-ish
  • Housesat for a few weeks at a friend’s beautiful home with a pool and jacuzzi (a change of scenery can really do you good)

I keep investigating new territories. I also do as much self-care as I can. But I do slip. It’s amazing how many times I catch myself not meditating daily during the times I need it most.

I’m also reminded of the book The Four Agreements and the advice: “DON’T TAKE ANYTHING PERSONALLY.” Ok. That can be a hard one. But you know most things that happen have nothing to do with you. People’s reactions and actions all have to do with what is going on with THEM. Not you.

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I also have been narrating audio books. And I have to say – it’s something that I sort of fell into thanks to my friend’s fiancé’ – Curt. He’s been doing it and was so passionate about it – he got me hooked. I really don’t think I would have gotten into it if it weren’t for him. And suddenly, I’ve found not only do I love narrating, but I’m also pretty good at it. See how these little things can sneak up on you when you’re not paying attention. 😊

Two of the books I’ve been working on also happen to be about life’s struggles. And how it’s not about what happens to you, but how you react to the things that happen to you. And it’s all about your perception of things. If you perceive things positively, guess what, they are positive. If you sit there thinking negative thoughts about everything – then you’re planting yourself in a huge pot of negative soil that will bury you, my friend.

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Obviously, I’ve said YES to a lot of things. And during this time, I’ve also thrown in some NOs. I think the YESes and NOs are equally important. When something or someone stops serving you well, you need to move on. It’s not always easy, but trust me – you are doing your soul a major favor.

If you’re feeling stuck, you also might want to consider purging your apartment/home. It’s not always people who stop serving you well – it’s things! Right now I can think of a few ridiculous things I have in my apartment that have been sitting there for 6 months – or even years – collecting dust: an old computer, a portable air conditioner that doesn’t work, a box for goodwill, and a duvet cover that for some reason is ratty as hell.

To keep this momentum going, I’m giving myself this next month to go through my apartment once again and purge the crap out of it. I even got my boyfriend on board this time. See how I just told you we’re doing this and now we HAVE to do it. Announcing your intentions to the world makes you accountable. That’s a big one, too. When I ran a marathon about 11 years ago (yes, ME!) – the first thing they tell you to do in your training is – TELL EVERYONE YOU’RE RUNNING A MARATHON! Then there’s no going back. You are in it for the long haul. Or 26.2 miles.

So, here’s my official decree:

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I WILL BELIEVE IN MYSELF 200%. I WILL NOT LET FEAR OR SELF-DOUBT ENTER MY MIND. IF IT SNEAKS IN, I WILL SHOW IT THE DOOR IMMEDIATELY. I WILL BELIEVE EVERYTHING IS IN ITS RIGHT PLACE. I AM ON THE RIGHT PATH. BEAUTIFUL THINGS ARE ALREADY ON THEIR WAY TO ME. AND OH YEAH, I’M GONNA PURGE THAT STUFF IN MY APT BY NEXT MONTH!

My best advice for growing a better you:

  • Try new things – say YES
  • Get rid of the people and things that don’t work – say NO
  • Meditate!
  • Decide to only be positive about your life and where you’re headed
  • Find support through family and friends
  • Realize you are on the exact path you should be
  • Make sure you get plenty of water & sun
  • Be kind to yourself!
  • Have a glass of wine!

OK, Daily Feelers. Let’s do this. Let’s spend the next month growing a better you. See you on the other side of purging! Namaste.


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Julie Slater, aka THE LOTUS FLOWER, looooves music. Besides being a musician, you may have heard her DJing on top stations: 92.3 K-Rock in NYC as well as 100.3 The Sound & Alt 98.7 in Los Angeles. She also curated & hosted a new music/indie show called Out on a Limb on 88.5 FM in LA.

When she’s not at concerts, you can usually find her in the kitchen. And she has a slight obsession with deep, dark cabernets & a well-made Old Fashioned. Cheers!

 

What I Learned About The Change of Seasons…

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How do the Seasons change you? Which calendar do you live by? Commercial or Nature’s?

This is an important and interesting question! It can determine your stress and enjoyment levels.  Your attitudes, ideas, and fulfillment for each season. Through this blog, I am revealing my deepest and most heartfelt feelings for each season. I am thankful!

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cow.jpgI am like a season, always changing. My favorite season is soon approaching and I am lost in thought about the true wonders it brings to us. If you’re from the New England or New York area, you know exactly what I’m trying to convey on paper! Northern Falls are brilliant with color and always perform a spectacular showing of their Autumn dress! People travel miles to view Mother Nature’s natural event.

Friedrich Nietzsche once said: “I notice that Autumn is more the season of the soul than of nature.”

How does Autumn change me? I feel the mellowness of the early color change in the leaves. And as they lose their coats of moisture and deepen to bright gold and crimson, I want to dance with them. The air is less heavy to breathe and the scents of Fall travel gracefully.
Perhaps while you’re viewing nature, you’ll want to stop at a farm stand! Our Fall viewings always meant a stop at our favorite stand for pumpkins, apples, cider and, yes, homemade doughnuts!

Even though Fall brings us cooler air, I always feel a deep warmth.  In this transition period while Mother Nature is changing, I, too, am changing!

One particular Fall, my friend Joan and I found an unusual setting. We found Belted Galloways way up in the state of Maine. A feeling of all is at peace; nature, animals and man!
Look for something different or unusual in the season of your life.

“Today I have grown taller from walking with the trees” – Karle Wilson Baker

 

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cowAs soon as ‘turkey day’ is done, everyone’s on the run for the Winter’s season of love and fun!  We are the busiest people on the planet where Christmas is concerned. We’ve become a world of commercial robots! Racing, rushing and still not finding the true meaning of the Winter season!

When Fall’s curtain drops, winter commences her high drama with flurries of commercialism and catchy Christmas tunes. I prefer The Nutcracker suite. It always settles me into the seasons’ mood! It reminds me of what Christmas means to the children of the world. Their wild anticipations, their beliefs, and their dreams.

We lose one hour of daylight and we panic because time is already too short!
I remember a time past when December was a feast time for celebration, giving, receiving, joining with families and just being joyous! Now, it has become a business of buying and selling!

No matter the climate you live in, take this season to slow down, learn to appreciate the joy of being you!

“A frosty attitude maligns the soul but the seasons’ gratitude makes us whole” – F N Fraioli

This winter season is the time when most trees undress and stand tall, dark and bare! However, we have some beautiful Fir trees that keep their color. Some emerald green, others a lighter green tinged with a bluish-white haze. All used for our pleasure to help celebrate our Christmas season. We, too, are standing tall and find the need to come to a halt so we can revamp our ideas towards ourselves and others. We use ornaments to show off the trees. But do we color our minds with grace and beauty? We should be like a magnificent ornament! Just beautiful in everyone’s eyes!

In our NY front yard. The smallest of trees held its weight with all the snow. A still and perfect setting of grace and beauty. Winter’s stillness brings peacefulness to the Soul.

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cowAs the cocoon sheds its covering to reveal the beauty of the butterfly, we, too, throw off our winter garments so we can feel the lightness and warmth of Spring. Our thoughts begin to feel the freedom of new growth and our steps move forward at a faster pace.

We, like the Spring season, have the need to replant new seeds and ideas. As the earth loses her coldness of winter and warms us with the sun, we change, we want to begin anew. The fields of Spring flowers and the brilliance of the cherry blossoms reminds us that we are reborn again.

Antonio Vivaldi’s Four Seasons makes us feel each season and its nature through musical
conversation. Springtime gives us new purposes to begin anew. As the farmer plants last years’ seedlings, we avow to bring fresh ideas to our too accustomed way of life.

Our days are lengthened by the clock. I never understood the need to ‘shorten’ the day as I believe in capturing each moment of sunlight! This, I’m sure falls in the category of commercial purposes.

“Spring is nature’s way of saying let’s party” – Robin Williams

I really didn’t have to travel far to embrace Spring. It awaited me outside my front door with all Its grandeur and magnificence.

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“To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow” – Audrey Hepburn

Summer is a special time. The earth is fully alive and flourishing with nature’s produce. Whether it’s our personal backyard gardens or large fields or farms, we are once again mesmerized by Nature’s yield!

I’d like to personalize the summer season by mentioning my grandparents, Tony and Francesca Corsaro. They were growers of veggies, fruit trees, and a small grape arbor.
From early Spring to late Fall, we spent a great deal of time in the double garden. (Two lots!).  Their tomatoes were their prized possessions. Large, rich, bright red and mouth-watering delicious! Tomatoes for summer salad and winter’s sauce or gravy on pasta. They were true Vegans when it was not fashionable to be so!

Summer brings with it a bombardment of the senses. Colors, tastes, touches, fragrances, and Sounds of the summer wind and, of course, all the memories we shared with family.

“Growth is the only evidence of life” – John Henry Newman

I remember our Ohio Cousins family picnics when we sat in the cornfields when the corn was green! On Sunday’s after Mass, my grandparents would love to just oversee their large garden and enjoy the fruits of their labor.

“The best place to find God is in a garden. You can dig for Him there” – George Bernard Shaw

“To everything, there is a season…………….” Ecclesiastes

Have the seasons of your life changed you?


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Nancy Fraioli is a retired Benefits Asst. from Town/Village of Harrison, NY. She’s alive and well, residing in Sarasota with her daughter and family and enjoying the Floridian lifestyle daily.

Her passions are writing, reading books of philosophy, children’s stories and poetry. Her deep love is living, learning and sharing how faith, meditation, and music guide her daily life. And she loves to lunch with the ladies!

My Uncle Breaks Up with Me for a Woman He Met on Zoosk!

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Chapter 10: Dumped at the Border by my Uncle

As the gorgeous Florida sun beats down on our backs at the hotel bar, we order two Jamaican Me Crazy drinks from our bartender for the week, Jermaine.

He’s making us crazy because he is apparently on Florida time and we are so fucking thirsty for that drink.  The sweat trickles down our foreheads as our mouths water for the lime green concoction.  We are cracking jokes back and forth trying to distract ourselves.  Jermaine lazily looks up at us and asks how long we are married.

We look at each other and immediately break out in deep belly laughs.  I explain to Jermaine that the man standing next to me is my Uncle.  Uncle Jeff.  Jermaine throws us some serious side-eye and then a knowing smirk; I could read his mind.

He then says sarcastically, “Yeah, your ‘Uncle’” So I quickly respond, “YES, my Uncle! I swear!” I quickly add, “He’s not a Sugar Daddy and I am certainly no Gold Digger!”

See my Uncle Jeff is young.  He’s 52 and the youngest of the five brothers and sisters, also known as the five J’s; Jackie, Joyce, Judy, Jimmy and Jeff.  My mom, Joyce, is second in command and she’s 67 years young!

I’ve always admired my Uncle; he’s been more of an older brother than an Uncle. And that took on a whole other level when about five years ago, our lives unraveled entirely.  We came undone.

About four months before the Chupacabra of Joy and I got separated, my Aunt Lorraine, Uncle Jeff’s wife, was rushed to the hospital wherein one innocent evening her entire life, and the life of my Uncle and cousins, transformed entirely.  She was diagnosed with brain cancer and had to get emergency brain surgery to remove the tumors.

She was never the same after that surgery.  At the time, the kids were 12 (Jules) and eight (Livy) and MSP was four.  Ironically, as my Uncle faced unimaginable emotions and decision-making for my Aunt’s health, I met the imminent destruction of my marriage.

These tragedies are not similar in any way, but the timing was ironic.  Devastatingly, my Aunt and Uncle battled this disease for two years until this incurable brain cancer took her life.

During her arduous war with cancer, I traveled back and forth to my Uncle’s house in Westfield, NJ, to help with the kids.  At the time, MSP and I lived on Staten Island, but we spent most weekends there.  Throughout those two terrible years, I witnessed my Aunt and Uncle’s community and friends step up in a big way.  From delivering them meal after meal, every single night for TWO YEARS to visiting her in the hospital and at home.  They made her tea or brushed her hair.  They took the kids to school or rehearsals.  They cried as if they were losing their sister.

It was during this time, as I watched an entire community come together to help my family, I fell in love with Westfield.

My Uncle, Aunt and the kids fought so hard but sadly, the night came when she was starting her journey home.  Jules called and told me to come over immediately.  She was dying.  The time had come to say good-bye.

Thankfully, MSP was with her father so I raced there to be with them (the rare moment when I would feel thankful for the Chupacabra).  That evening I felt the weight (and the gift) of my responsibility.  I made a promise to Aunt Lorraine, that while I could never replace her, I would do everything in my power to be a mother figure for Jules and Livy; and a support system for my Uncle.

There are things in life we dream about, that make it to our goal list, things we expect and plan for…never in my life did I consider that while I gave birth to one child, two more would grow in my heart.

In retrospect, I see this as a blessing inside a horrific curse.  Through our heartbreak, my Uncle and I found a friendship neither of us expected.  While we were falling apart, we found a shoulder that we could lean on and a partner we could count on.

Two months later, I had an epiphany.  Why don’t MSP and I move to Westfield when she goes to Junior High School (she was in 2nd grade at the time)? It came in a flash and I decided to talk to my Uncle and the kids about it.  We all fell in love with the idea of being so close.  I saw a sense of relief in their eyes, I saw the love they felt.

I knew this would be complicated with the Chupacabra of Joy (as is everything with him).  We had a visitation agreement that did not include MSP and me living in Westfield. But I figured that I had time to introduce this idea.

In a twist of fate or the universe supporting this idea, about one week later after that lightbulb went off, the Chupacabra of Joy decided to ask MSP to choose between us (what the fuck is wrong with him!) To determine whether she would live with me five days a week and him every other weekend or vice versa.

First off, this is highly frowned upon by the court and, you know, general morality.  She had just turned seven and was not equipped to choose between her parents.  He recommended that she weigh the pros and cons between us.  She asked him “Daddy, what are pros and cons?”  He tells her to think about the good things and bad things about living with each of us (cue my sheer horror).

I found out about this after I picked up MSP and she says to me, “Mama I choose YOU!”  With a look of confusion, I ask her what she is talking about.  So she tells me about this conversation with her father and it takes everything in me not to fucking scream.  Holding back tears of anger and frustration I said, “that’s wonderful mama, let me talk to Daddy about this.”

After texting the Chupacabra about this matter, he suggests that we meet for dinner to chat about logistics.  We meet at a diner on a Friday night in early December and he makes her tell me her choice again and asks if she is sure, to which she responds, “YES!”  At this point, I’m so happy my anger dissipates.

He says he doesn’t want her to go to school in Staten Island (which by the way is where she was born and where we planned to raise her).  I respond that I will not drive her to school in Brooklyn every day from Staten Island, so I bring up the idea of moving to Westfield.  He supports this idea because the school system is excellent and says, “we need this to happen in a month.”  I respond by saying, “well, let me find a house and move in and then she can move to Westfield in the summer and attend 3rd grade there.”

He commands, “No, we have to rip off the band-aid and do it ASAP.  January 3rd will be the switch or all bets are off.”  His response was a threat because he was surprised by her decision and clearly not happy (but he is never happy so this is par for the course).  Stupidly, I agree and go on the speed path to making this all a reality.  Even though I had developed an agreement that we were negotiating on our own, without a court order, this was a significant error on my part.

But I wanted Westfield and I wanted it bad.  I uprooted my life and worked hard to make it happen!  Moving heaven and earth to buy a house and sell my home in the matter of one month.  Then proceeded to get childcare and work support to ensure that MSP would be well-adjusted.  He ultimately reneged on our agreement and we landed in court that same year.  (I’ll share more on how this impacted our visitation and the epic battle that ensued, a battle that remains unresolved, in a future blog).

Regardless of the immense difficulty with MSP’s father, this was the best decision I’ve ever made.

As time went on, our unique modern family got tighter and more familial.  We traveled together to family events, we argued like a family, we would have spontaneous days at the beach together.  We laughed, cried, hugged hard, had deep talks or were just still, together.  On top of all that goodness, I saw the positive effect on MSP.  She was thriving, even while she struggled with the loss of her own traditional family.

As my Uncle healed, he supported me as much as I did him.  He became a father figure to MSP.  Her cousins by chance, became siblings by choice.  We started traditions like Sunday Dinners and Friday sleepovers. Apple Picking and Asbury Park.  We attended all the kid’s shows, recitals, graduations and events together.

My uncle helped me with the process of buying and renovating my beautiful 1880’s home in Westfield (MSP and I moved in May 2017).  He is a very talented builder and very well connected.  He helped make a painful and scary process much more comfortable (even though the house got finished the day we moved in!).

We taught our children that while tragedy can break you, love can stitch you back together, just in a different form.  We showed them that even after a horrific destructive storm, a double rainbow can appear.

Now five years later, we took our first family vacation together to Marco Island, FL.  We had so much to celebrate, so much to be grateful for…Jules is on his way to college this Fall and Livy is in her second year of middle school as MSP enters the 4th grade.  We have watched these children grow together and now our memories are entirely entwined.  Our family album is filled with beautiful and funny moments we’ve shared over these past five years.

We are celebrating these exciting phases of life on the beach on Marco Island, as we impatiently await our Jamaican Me Crazy drinks.

While at the bar, we start talking about the woman my Uncle started seeing about three months ago.  He waited a very long time to even think about dating as he wanted to be there full force for his kids. Two and a half years after his wife passed, I convinced him to join a couple of dating apps, but he was still struggling with the loss.

He eventually gained the courage to outreach and made some connections.  Interestingly, his first date, turns out to be the real thing! My Uncle shares with me that his relationship is progressing and he’s thinking about introducing her to the kids.

This makes me so very happy…but then I pause and start to process what this means for us.  My partner in crime is replacing me! (How fucking weird is that thought process?)  While I am beyond thrilled, as I was the biggest champion of my Uncle finding someone, I can’t help but feel that the family we created and the relationship we built is coming to an end; more so taking on a new form with new participants.

As he builds his relationship, they will want to have Sunday Dinners together and go on family vacations or have spontaneous Asbury Park beach days. Where do MSP and I fit into that equation now? (God, I sound like a freaking jealous girlfriend!)  I knew this was inevitable…he and I were eventually going to find a partner, but this is truly bittersweet.

And fuck, I also feel a little envious that he goes online for a couple of months and finds someone.  All while I’ve been at this dating thing for five years and haven’t had a relationship that lasted longer than ten months! Alas, the universe works mysteriously, and I am so thrilled that this time, the universe delivered someone who makes him happy.

Of course, I keep this all inside as my heart and mind process the many emotions I am experiencing, both rational and irrational.  I start to feel that maybe Marco Island is an end AND a beginning.  A celebration of surviving and thriving together through our tragedies while we face an unknown and exciting future.  As the saying goes, “change is the only constant.”

I am genuinely grateful for my uncle, and for Jules and Livy.  I feel the tears start to build a little in my eyes as I prepare for the next phase of our lives.

After ten long minutes, Jermaine finally gets us the drinks and I suck it down in three seconds flat.  “Ummm Jermaine, I’ll take another Jamaican Me Crazy.  Make it a double.”


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Cherry Maggiore is the proud single mom of her 9-year-old super-sassy daughter (aka Miss Sassy Pants or MSP) and 15-year-old pug baby (Tiki Barber); in addition to being an award-winning senior marketing executive at NBCUniversal.

Beside her side hustle as the Freak of Nurture, she also started a home design company after being inspired by renovating and designing her 1880’s home in NJ.

This insanely curious and passionate “multi-potentialite” can be found dancing the Argentinan tango, swing and Hustle every Saturday, cooking her family an Italian Sunday dinner, singing and air drumming at concerts or searching for her next adventure.

 

 

 

 

 

 

More than Meets the Name

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What’s the first thing you do when you meet someone new? Maybe you shake their hand or maybe you start with a smile, but somewhere in that ice-breaker conversation, you say, “My name is _______” (Fill in the blank). It’s interesting how all of a sudden you think you know this new person just because they have revealed the label they answer to. It’s also interesting how many people automatically associate characteristics with that new friend just by hearing their name. 

Let’s use my name for example – AnastasiaAnastasia Elizabeth Meininger to be exact. I know its a bit of a mouthful, but I happen to be one of the seemingly few people in the world who loves their name.  It’s wild that there are so few people out there who like their name. To me, your name, your label is what you make of it. Names are so much more than the word people call you. It’s a word that contains your story and who you are, and often times people assume personality traits, or ways of life, just by hearing that one word. 

I asked some of my friends what they thought of, or would think of if they were hearing my name for the first time. What they would think if they just heard “Anastasia,” filtering out all of my real personality traits. Here are a few of their answers:

  • The Disney Princess, or Royalty

In reality, my parents had never even seen the movie Anastasia until way after I was born, and although I would love to think that I’m royal, I rarely ever wear a crown and I’m too loud to be a princess. 

  • Magic/Fantasy

In reality, my life is just as the opposite of a fantasy. But it would sure be nice to live a magical, story-book life, huh? Filled with genies, and spells, and happily-ever-afters. 

  • Bold

In reality, I guess I am bold. However, not in an obnoxious, in-your-face way, but in a more confident, strong way. 

  • Unique 

In reality, well actually I am unique and I love it, because aren’t we all unique? As it says on the wall of my dance studio, “Be yourself because everyone else is already taken.”. What makes the world special is the fact that everyone’s unique. 

  • Diva

In reality, I would say 95% of the time, I’m nothing like the negative connotation of “diva”, but we all get in moods sometimes, right? However, if you look at it as a powerful woman in her field of work, then I sure as heck would love to be that one day. 

  • Russian 

In reality, I’m actually part Greek (as well as Irish, German, and Italian) and the name Anastasia is a big part of Greek culture. My Greek-American Yia Yia (Grandma in Greek), Aphrodite, is Greek Orthodox and on Easter, they say Christos Anesti, which means “Christ has risen.” It’s kind of funny because my mom’s name happens to be Christine.  

Weird how just hearing my name could spark up so many ideas about who I am. If my life was shaped according to that list, I guess that would mean I am a magical Russian princess who likes to speak her mind, stands out in the crowd, and is simultaneously a super diva.  

 None of those notions included the fact that when I watch a movie I literally yell at the characters because I get so into it, or that I spend most of my time at New York Performing Arts Center dancing and singing and acting. None of those ideas have to do with the fact that my absolute favorite subject is science, or that one of my biggest fears is deep water. Those characteristics don’t portray how I love wearing leggings and over-sized sweatshirts, and really hate wearing jeans. They don’t show how I overuse the words “low-key” and “high-key” or how my favorite shoes are my rose gold and white tap shoes. They don’t speak about how I know every single word to the songs from Grease and Hairspray, and love listening to hip hop music as well.  They don’t encompass the true meaning of the word Anastasia, and the weird, loud, neurotic, overthinking, passionate, caring, bubbly, nerdy perfectionist that comes along with it. 

` Everyone has a name attached to the story of who they truly are. Be proud of your name. Be proud of your story. But remember, never assume someone else’s story just because you know their name. 


anasAnastasia Meininger, aka “Offbeat Rhythms”, is a high school student in Westchester County, a suburb of New York City. She lives with her parents and older brother, and her life is filled with her hilarious and loving Italian, Irish, Greek, and German family, as well as her wonderfully crazy, and diverse group of friends.

Anastasia is a normal, yet distinctly unique teenager who loves performing, making people laugh, and even going to school! Her favorite subject is Science, especially Chemistry, and when she’s not studying, you can find her at her dance studio, where she rehearses for her dance competitions, and vocal showcases.

“EVERYONE RELAX. SHE IS TRYING. CAN YOU NOT SEE THAT SHE IS TRYING???!!!”

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I am a mess right now.

Every time a story, like the one I posted below, surfaces on social media, I become emotionally undone. And yet, I am grateful it has gotten the attention it deserves.

This story has been finding its way on social media threads for three years now.  I have seen it before, and perhaps even read it, but the way it affected me this time was different.  I decided it was time to share my emotional un-doing concerning this all-too-familiar subject matter. Fortunately, I now have an outlet (this blog), and my goal is to always be real and use it for good. So here goes it…

During my regular Sunday morning scroll through social, I saw that a dear friend had shared an article that rattled me to the core (please read the short article, posted below, before continuing with this blog).


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September 25, 2015

Kelvin Moon Loh has come to the defense of an autistic child who interrupted his performance of The King and I on Broadway. The boy began screaming loudly when he witnessed an intense whipping scene in the second act. The child’s mother escorted him out of the theater, but that didn’t stop angry patrons from yelling at the boy.

With ticket prices as high as $6,000 for some seats, it’s unsurprising that the audience would be frustrated by the outburst, but Kelvin believes their response was inappropriate.

Kevin shared the following letter addressed to angry viewers and anyone with autism who would still like to see his show,

I am angry and sad.

Just got off stage from today’s matinee and yes, something happened. Someone brought their autistic child to the theater.

That being said- this post won’t go the way you think it will.

You think I will admonish that mother for bringing a child who yelped during a quiet moment in the show. You think I will herald an audience that yelled at this mother for bringing their child to the theater. You think that I will have sympathy for my own company whose performances were disturbed from a foreign sound coming from in front of them.

No.

Instead, I ask you- when did we as theater people, performers and audience members become so concerned with our own experience that we lose compassion for others?

The theater to me has always been a way to examine/dissect the human experience and present it back to ourselves. Today, something very real was happening in the seats and, yes, it interrupted the fantasy that was supposed to be this matinee but ultimately theater is created to bring people together, not just for entertainment, but to enhance our lives when we walk out the door again.

It so happened that during “the whipping scene”, a rather intense moment in the second act, a child was heard yelping in the audience. It sounded like terror. Not more than one week earlier, during the same scene, a young girl in the front row- seemingly not autistic screamed and cried loudly and no one said anything then. How is this any different?

His voice pierced the theater. The audience started to rally against the mother and her child to be removed. I heard murmurs of “why would you bring a child like that to the theater?”. This is wrong. Plainly wrong.

Because what you didn’t see was a mother desperately trying to do just that. But her son was not compliant. What they didn’t see was a mother desperately pleading with her child as he gripped the railing refusing- yelping more out of defiance. I could not look away. I wanted to scream and stop the show and say- “EVERYONE RELAX. SHE IS TRYING. CAN YOU NOT SEE THAT SHE IS TRYING???!!!!” I will gladly do the entire performance over again. Refund any ticket because-

For her to bring her child to the theater is brave. You don’t know what her life is like. Perhaps, they have great days where he can sit still and not make much noise because this is a rare occurrence. Perhaps she chooses to no longer live in fear, and refuses to compromise the experience of her child. Maybe she scouted the aisle seat for a very popular show in case such an episode would occur. She paid the same price to see the show as you did for her family. Her plan, as was yours, was to have an enjoyable afternoon at the theater and slowly her worst fears came true.

I leave you with this- Shows that have special performances for autistic audiences should be commended for their efforts to make theater inclusive for all audiences. I believe like Joseph Papp that theater is created for all people. I stand by that and also for once, I am in a show that is completely FAMILY FRIENDLY. The King and I on Broadway is just that- FAMILY FRIENDLY- and that means entire families- with disabilities or not. Not only for special performances but for all performances. A night at the theater is special on any night you get to go.

And no, I don’t care how much you spent on the tickets.

The post was shared more than 8,000 times. In replies to readers, Mr. Loh wrote that he clearly heard a man who shouted to “get rid of the kid.” When Mr. Loh looked into the audience at the curtain call “and saw three empty seats where I knew they were sitting — I was heartbroken. I was heartbroken to know that she might never know that as a company (I must applaud my cast and crew) we continued the show and we were not bothered. I want her to know that she is a brave and should continue to champion her child. But I will continue to make theater for her. And that is the best I can do for now!”


 

After reading this article, I immediately took to social and shared it (and my .02):

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I was a few paragraphs deep into this article when I felt my blood begin to boil, and then I read this line:

“EVERYONE RELAX. SHE IS TRYING. CAN YOU NOT SEE THAT SHE IS TRYING???!!!”

I put my head in my hands and nodded. Because, folks, this line above, delivered by Mr. Moon Lo, is the battle cry of every parent who has been gifted with an Autistic child.

As I sit here and think through this article, I can say with absolute certainty, there was a tremendous amount of thought and consideration that went into this mom’s decision to take her autistic son to a Broadway show.  I would venture to bet that she had talked herself out of that decision many times before.  On the day she finally clicked “Purchase Tickets”, she still doubted the decision, but she knew deep down that this was something she wanted her son to experience.  This was something he would most likely enjoy, since most children with autism are drawn to music. So, she pushed past her fear and prepared for this day like none other.  When I say ‘prepared’, most of us buy show tickets and forget about them till the day of the event.  Not this mom.  For this mom, ‘prepared’, means so much more.

She purchased those tickets and, from that moment on, worried and planned and prepared both herself and her son for the event.  She and her son most definitely watched the play/movie on TV before deciding to see it live.  Then, she likely read every single review of the show.  Next, she probably went online to check out the seating chart to make sure her seats were near an easy escape (like the actor noted in this article) and probably double-checked the exit and bathroom locations. She likely called the theater to let them know she would be bringing her son with special needs and inquired about any available accommodations.  And I am sure packed in her bag that day was noise-canceling headphones, snacks, iPad, sensory toys, etc.

Like most parents with Autistic children, she most likely went through the schedule with her son every day leading up to the event.  She was prepared. At least, as prepared as a parent with a child with autism could be going into a new environment with unfamiliar sounds, sights, and people.  Despite all that preparation and all her planning, she wasn’t prepared for her son’s outburst during a particular scene. She couldn’t have anticipated his resistance to leaving the show despite her pleas, trying to pry his hands off the rail he gripped so tightly.

I can say from experience that I have felt her humiliation and discomfort. I have felt her shame, her sadness, her anger, her rage, her everything.  The thing is, what saddened me most about this incident is how not a single person in that entire 1,200 seat theater thought to help her.  Instead, they shamed and judged her, not only yelling at the boy but also ridiculing his mother.  Assholes filled the seats of that theatre that day.  Assholes judged a situation they knew nothing about.  Assholes that not only didn’t help, they made the situation that much worse.

But on stage, someone saw the situation differently.  An actor, in character, who saw a struggling child with a mother trying to comfort him.  An actor who saw a mother trying to leave the show with a child who wouldn’t let her.  He saw a mother who embodied more compassion for those assholes trying to watch the show, than they ever considered sharing with her.  King & I actor Kelvin Moon Loh saw it all and stayed in character. But, once the show was done, he needed an outlet, too.  So, he put pen to paper and wrote about what he saw from the stage, what he felt for this child and his mother, and what he wants other human beings (specifically those in attendance that night) to improve upon: being more compassionate to those in need.

I am almost certain that, if you’re a parent of a child with special needs, you have been in this mom’s shoes.  I certainly have.  A year ago, I was at a local Dollar Tree store and my son didn’t want to leave, but we had an appointment to get to.  After explaining to him the schedule for the day, he began to unravel into one of the most frightening meltdowns I ever experienced.  He was flailing and hitting and kicking and biting, wanting to hurt himself– and me in the process.  And there I was, on the sidewalk outside Dollar Tree, wrestling with my son, “trying” to prevent him from harming himself.  As I was struggling to restrain him, I looked up and couldn’t believe what I saw.   We had an audience of seven people standing there, just staring at us.  Some in disbelief, some in disgust, but no one offered to help or asked if I needed something—anything!  That’s when the sad realization sunk in that compassion and helping others in need are human traits on their way to extinction.  Then, there was one woman– there’s always one– who came up to me and asked if I needed help.  I looked at her with no words, and all she said was, “I know baby girl, I know.”

Just one month later, I was the “one” who witnessed a mom, “trying” to calm her aggressive, challenged child at the aquarium.  Kellan and I turned a corner near the Otters, and saw a crowd standing and watching. But they weren’t admiring the Otters. They were watching a Mom, who was “trying” to help her son get through something he was struggling with.  I took Kellan’s hand, pushed through the numb onlookers, bent down near the mom and said, “Tell me what you need me to do?”

She glanced up at me with the same look I had given the woman who approached Kellan and I in front of the Dollar Tree store. Unlike me, she was able to get words out. Four words I will never forget: “I need a hug.”

And there we were, hugging in front of the Otters, as the crowd of Assholes looked on.

Here’s the flat-out truth: I had never come across so many Assholes until I had a child with special needs.

Here’s my plea to whoever is reading this: if you see a mom or a dad with a child who is visibly challenged and struggling, please don’t be one of those Assholes who stand there and stare.  The last thing a parent needs at that moment is an audience.  We would much rather you ignore us and walk on by, than just stand there and stare.  Actually, what we would really like is for you to tap into that compassionate core of yours and ask a simple question: “Is there anything I can do to help?”

Eight simple words that mean the world to those parents “trying” to comfort their child in need.

And to you, Kelvin Moon Loh, thank you.  You see us, you get us, and by sharing this story maybe the other 1200 people in the theatre that night, now do too.


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Janis Gaudelli is The Founder of The Daily Feels.  She started this passion project to reveal the magic behind storytelling, and how truth-based narratives bring people together in the most heart-warming of ways.  Fascinated by soul, depth, intellect, raw truths and rebellion with a cause. Often captivated by the awe of nature: star gazing, moon manifesting, sunset chasing, waves crashing, crickets singing. Fiercely curious about the inner-workings of the human psyche… she professionally studies human behavior for a living.  Forever proud and grateful for being a mom to the force that fuels her life: her 7-year-old son, and greatest professor, Kellan.

Follow Janis and The Daily Feels tribe @:  Facebook & Instagram

Date Your Kids…(Not like “THAT”…Don’t be weird.)

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I had the best date ever last night (and it wasn’t with my husband)! SCANDAL ALERT!!! Oh now, calm down. I’m boring in that arena. Trust me. My days of thinking the movie ‘Wunderlust’ is healthy is sooooo far behind me. The only “other” man in my life will always be my son.

After all, he is THE best thing I ever did. I mean that with all my heart. I love my spouse, and I am very thankful for his partnership. Yes, marriage to me is much more about beings Partners than Lovers. Don’t get me wrong, we are “in love”…but when that cute little boy snuggles up to me on the couch just to sneak in a hug, or strokes my hair when I fall asleep on the couch watching baseball with him, I swoon hardcore. I feel a love that only a mother can explain.

Lately, I’ve been super stressed with work and family stuff. We have been diligent about paying off debt & saving money so we can open our Holistic Market next year, but being responsible is exhausting. We hadn’t been “out” together in months and tensions were high! I didn’t notice that those special moments with my boy I cherished so much were taking the hit. However, my awesome PARTNER did notice. Now, we could have gotten a sitter and had some hubby/wife time, but my sweet Jack Francis saw a better idea.

Saturday morning, I woke up to find two tickets to see Star Wars with the LA Philharmonic playing LIVE. I was confused. Only two? Who was going? Now, when you have two kids and both parents are very social, this usually means one thing. Someone is staying home to babysit. Solo nights out are the norm. It’s just understood. Naturally, I thought this meant he and Ollie were going, but when I learned I got to go I was so excited!!!!

Backstory, as a strong-willed woman and the breadwinner, I’m usually the “enforcer” in our house. Don’t get it twisted. I don’t enjoy this role. However, I married an Artist and I am a Producer so instinctually …he’s ‘the creative’ with the great ideas, and I am ‘the realist’ who figures out how to make it happen (this dynamic is happily shifting in our house as we speak but more about that on the next blog.).  This past dynamic worked for the first 6 years of marriage but in the past 2 years, it’s really covered up some of the things I love most about myself. Long story short, I deserve to be “the fun one” too. He knows how much I have sacrificed in that vein to maintain the growing demands of our young family. Our scale tips more and more back to the middle every day which is HEAVEN and this was his way of encouraging me to get my groove back.

Jack was our “Lyft” to and from the movie. The moment we were on our own, my son and I had a BLAST!! We geeked-out with lightsaber battles, junk food, and good times until we almost dropped. We both fell asleep in the car, practically drooling as our sugar rush faded. It was epic and the best time in a long time.

Point is this…dating your kids is important. When I stood up and started fighting Darth Vader with my lightsaber from my seat, my son’s jaw dropped. “Mom, don’t embarrass us!” He said. But then, he saw a sea of Star Wars fans all joining in and totally got it. I went from “dork” to “trendsetter” in 2 seconds. Winning!!! Ollie realized in that moment that while I will always handle our responsibilities first, I will also make time to let loose. I woke up on Sunday feeling like I gained some of my cool points back. Score one for mom! Thanks to dad! I guess it’s all about moderation and time management, Daily Feelers. May the force be with you!


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JB McCann has worked in “The Biz” for almost a decade, yet she’s somehow managed to keep her feet firmly on the ground. Her altruistic spirit aims to evoke your Inner Phoenix and encourage readers to take the difficult leaps in life, so you can continue to grow.

Visualization

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Picture10                                                       My Vision Board and Bank

In the fall of 2015, I came across a post on Instagram “BALI BLISS GIVEAWAY” and the description read:

“all-expense paid Yoga and Relaxation Retreat in Bali. Two winners receive roundtrip airfare with ground transportation to the small Oceanside Village of Padang Bai. Enjoy a 7-night stay at The Bloo Lagoon Eco-Resort on an Organic Farm, three meals a day, a boat ride with snorkeling excursion, a hiking trip up Mount Agung, twice a day yoga, plenty of free time and a Traditional Balinese Spiritual Water Cleansing Ceremony performed at the Pura Silayukti Temple.”

So, I put it into the universe, I AM WINNING THIS TRIP!

I knew from the moment I read the post, the trip was mine. From the moment I read about the contest I had a “winner’s mentality”. There were three easy ways to enter. A simple SHARE on Instagram which was free. A purchase from a sponsor of Yoga Leggings, and let’s be honest – there is no such thing as too many leggings. That entry was just $66 and then the purchase of a Mala, which was less than $50. I didn’t think, hey for $106 I can have three “chances” to win, I thought – I am literally going on the trip of a lifetime for $106, that’s called THE LAW OF ATTRACTION!

The UNIVERSE is always listening.

As the months passed, leading up to the day of the drawing, I would tell everyone I saw that I was going to Bali. Everyone thought I was crazy but, I read the book The Secret, and I knew how this worked, so I continued to put it out there. Never once doubting my good fortune!

Then it happened, the announcement was made. Two winners…neither were me. Yes, you read it right! I didn’t win…

I was crushed for about 2.5 seconds, then I decided that sulking was not the energy I wanted to put out there about something that gave me so much joy to just visualize. So, I took to Social Media and posted the following,

“Congratulations to the winners of the #BaliBlissGiveaway – enjoy every moment of your trip and I look forward to seeing all of the great pics!”

I tagged the winners and followed their Instagram accounts. I refused to be anything but happy for them and that was that! I knew that although I wasn’t the winner of this particular trip, that didn’t mean I wasn’t meant to go. I put my best self forward and moved on. I continued to use my little “visualization bank” and throw my spare change into it, as I looked forward to using it when the time came!

The Bali Bliss Giveaway was in the past, almost two weeks passed and I was focused on other things…when my phone rang at about 9am from an unknown number. I let it go to voicemail since I was at work. They left a message:

“Hello Dee-Dee, I am contacting you regarding your entry in the Bali Bliss Giveaway. I hope you are sitting. One of the winners had a conflict with the dates of the trip. We held a second drawing and your name was pulled. We need to know if you will be accepting the prize before we make an official announcement, so please contact me back at …. Thank you! Congratulations”…

Well, I let out a scream SO LOUD that my coworkers ran back to see what was happening. I replayed the message again, on speaker, to make sure I heard it right. “Dee-Dee, YOU WON!” Nikki said, hugging me. As I stood there, I was floored. I had accepted the fact that it wasn’t my destiny at that time and then, the Universe DELIVERS!

Just… Like… That…

Just a short three months later, I began my 28-hour journey to Bali that changed my life… There is a lesson in here that is good for everyone. Stay positive. Look for that silver lining because there is absolutely something to be happy about always! My motto: when you feel down – bring someone else UP, that will change your focus, attitude, and energy!

You can read all the books, watch all the movies and see all the pictures, but Bali is best experienced firsthand, in the flesh.

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Flight attendants, stewardesses, captains, pilots etc… are unsung heroes. I have so much respect for the work they put in on these 15+ hour flights.

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I remember what it was like to live without wifi and it didn’t bother me one bit. Nothing like disconnecting to remind you that there is so much going on when you actually look up.

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Despite what I’ve always been told, what I’ve always believed to be, what I have even told others about myself, I absolutely CAN be alone, in silence, without stimulation from anyone or anything. I have a new respect for the term “me-time”.

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Sometimes you just need to have a good cry. Not because you’re sad. Or happy. Or scared. Or troubled. Just because it feels good to cry it out, whatever it is.

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The term “sipping tea” in Bali ACTUALLY means, to sip on the beverage “tea”. Duly noted.

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In accordance with #6, the tea served at the Spiral Spa at the Bloo Lagoon is by far the most delicious tea in the world (I took a survey). I will spend the rest of my life trying to replicate it.

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And to piggyback on that, drinking hot tea in the sun when it’s about 90° F is absolutely acceptable.

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Know this, makeup isn’t designed for the climate in Bali and Mother Nature does her part to make you glow naturally so if I could do it again, I’d leave my makeup home.

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Speaking of leaving things home, I’d also leave behind about 90% of what I packed, some things you find out the hard way. Less clothes, if any, feels best.

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Happiness is watching a new sunrise.

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I love listening to love stories. Everyone has one. No matter what the ending is, a love story is a love story.

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You can learn something from just about anyone if you’re willing to be the student. This trip afforded me so many teachers and lessons that can’t be found in a book.

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Yoga (OFF the mat) counts too.

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Showering outside, when it is hot feels amazing. Add some cool rain and a breeze, you will never want to shower any other way. *looking up ordinances for outdoor showers in my town!

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You can try all you want to help someone find comfort when they’re struggling with separation anxiety, but they are ultimately responsible for letting go and getting on, not you.

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We are all dealing with SOMETHING! SMILE anyway.

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No matter what anyone tells you, trust your gut. Go and see what intrigues you.

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Do not assume because you are open to new things and friends, that everyone is like you, tread lightly, allow others to let you in and don’t force yourself on anyone.

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No matter how many times you SAY the words THANK YOU, when you are so deeply grateful you will continue to seek out ways to say it without words.

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When you see how minimal and simple people are living around the world, without what you consider a BASIC need, something in you changes.

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Everyone has boundaries. (Even the most ridiculous to you can be catastrophic to another!) If you accidentally overstep, just apologize, it doesn’t mean you agree with them, it just means you won’t allow their misery into your paradise.

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Waking up to nature, I can get used to that.

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If you ever get a chance to enjoy a massage in tiny room carved out of the side of a mountain, with nothing between you and the earth, DO IT. It’s intoxicating.

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I still have work to do, but I’m loving my undoing.

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Dee-Dee Kanhai, aka “The Spice of Suburbia”, was a big city girl for 25 years who was transplanted to the Suburbs of Northern New Jersey. This relocation led to her “undoing” and with that, the discovery of her true self. Besides being a wife and mother to a teenage daughter and toy Chihuahua, Dee-Dee works in finance and owns a small Etsy Shop @LoveTheUndoing, where she sells heart-made jewelry, crystals, and other whimsical crafts. Dee-Dee is a student of life, teacher of meditation, practicing yogi and a mystical moon child.

Dee-Dee’s Etsy Shop

 

 

 

 

Travel At Your Own Risk… But Enjoy My Tales of Disaster

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I have traveled a lot domestically for work, and sometimes for pleasure. During those work trips, my co-worker at a former job used to joke that he hated to travel with me because there was always something bad that happened. There was the time when my luggage got lost on the way to a conference, or the time our return flight was canceled and he had to do some smooth talking to get us on another flight that same night.

These fiascos aren’t limited to just work travel though. A decade ago, when I went to the Sundance Film Festival, I accidentally booked my flight a day later than I was supposed to — and didn’t realize until we were on the way to the airport. So, I had to scramble to book a hotel in Salt Lake City (I know, be jealous) for one night because it was cheaper than trying to change my flight.

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When I went to Mexico for a long weekend to celebrate my birthday, during our layover in Miami the plane broke down with engine problems and they had to put us up in the airport Holiday Inn for the night.

Quite frankly, it is amazing that anyone chooses to travel with me. Granted, very few agree to do it a second time.

Well, earlier this month I left to go to Europe for the first time. I’m late with getting started because when I was younger my goal was always to try to travel to all the cities I wanted to see domestically. But then I realized I was missing out and that I could be doing both. If you read my last blog post, however, you know us Millennials are poor, so well, traveling isn’t something I get to do as much as I would like. But for this trip, everything aligned and I embarked to Paris, France with a group of seven friends.

We were traveling at different times, but two of the ladies in the group had the misfortune of getting to travel with me. We took the train from Philadelphia to Newark International Airport because the price was about $500 cheaper, even after factoring in the Amtrak tickets.

So we get to the airport, two of us have already checked in online, to find out the final member of our ménage-a-travel has been bumped from the flight. She’s told to head over to another line and they will rebook her. Oh, and my flight has been delayed an hour.

On the train I killed a bottle of champagne, so none of this affects me too much. I go to keep her company in line and a worker comes over and asks which flight I’m on. I show him my ticket and he says the flight has now been canceled altogether. There are no flights to Paris for the rest of the day.  Now I am starting to freak out like that chimp on Xanax that ate the woman’s face. It’s not like we can just go home for the night.

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It should also be noted that over the last few weeks I developed a patch of eczema on my hand (which has been referred lovingly by friends and coworkers as my hand herpes and my hand AIDS. Can you feel the love?). It’s been self-diagnosed as a result of stress… I webmd’ed it and it’s either that or I have the bubonic plague, whichever…

So, we get to the counter and Janet very calmly starts working her magic to see what is available. My friend Colleen, the one who was initially bumped,  notices that my hand is now bright pink and tells me to go for a walk to calm down.

By the time I came back, St. Janet, as we now refer to her, has found us a flight for all three tonight. It leaves four hours later, and has a layover in London, meaning we get to Paris at 1:30 pm instead of 8:40 am. But we don’t have to sleep in the airport, and anyone who saw the originals ‘Adventures in Babysitting’ and the ordeal Brenda went through sleeping in the bus station knows you don’t want to sleep in a transportation hub.

Once we landed in London, for what was supposed to be less than 90 minutes, we thought our problems were behind us and it was smooth sailing to the land of crepes and cheese. Alas, we boarded the plane and started to taxi out before the captain came on the loudspeaker and announced we needed a replacement computer and more gas. We would be trapped on the plane for another hour before finally taking off.

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A teenager was sat next to me while his mother was a few rows ahead. Rather than using that hour to ask me to switch, she waits until mid-flight during beverage service (aka the least opportune time) to broker a seat exchange.

But we have finally landed in Paris, safely. I have been awake for almost 36 hours because I am completely incapable of sleeping on any mode of transportation. All limbs are intact, though. So, the worst is behind me, right? Fingers crossed.

I promise nothing, but we can hope? At the same time, this all doesn’t bode well for my vacation to Punta Cana in January.


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Padraic Maroney hails from upstate New York, suffering from middle child syndrome.  His writing career began after moving to the Philadelphia suburbs while in high school. He wrote for The Bucks County Courier Times’ Reality section, written by local teenagers, and has the distinction of writing a weekly gossip column for a college newspaper at a school he didn’t even attend! His love of pop culture led him to intern at Teen People, where he met Janis Gaudelli, and realized he could turn being a millennial into a career. Since then he’s alternated between writing and marketing, but always focused on Millennials and everything they bring to the table. Padraic is a lover of shenanigans, 80s music, and the movie “Scream.”

You can follow his additional adventures on Instagram: @padraicjacob

The Seven Gifts

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Seven years ago, to the day, I was lying in a hospital bed, staring straight into the eyes of my brand-new life: Kellan Robert Gaudelli.  A nurse named Alina walked in and said with her thick Russian accent, “How’s my genius boy doing?”

I replied, “He’s good, we were having a staring contest.”

Alina began to take Kellan’s vitals and said to me, “I see many babies, but he is special…genius boy.”

I smiled, thinking about how she probably said that to all the new moms. But, seven years later, I believe she saw something in Kellan that was different, something special and unique.

Kellan turned seven years old a few days ago.  Every year on the night before his birthday I re-read my journals from the previous years [with him]. I watch the YouTube video I made for him a few hours before he entered the world.  And I continue to marvel at how much this little human has taught his 46-year-old mom in seven short years.  You have all heard me refer to him as my greatest professor, and there is no one better equipped for the role.  As a parent, you think you’re the one teaching and instructing your child. But do you ever think about what your child has taught you? I do.  Through this reflection, I’ve come to believe that it is no coincidence that I was gifted with this amazing little boy.  For the past seven years, Kellan has granted me a gift.  These gifts entail all that he has taught me about parenthood, myself, and life.  As he grows older, with each priceless gift, I grow more into my best self.

*40 weeks prego, ready to pop

Today, I story-tell about the seven gifts Kellan has presented me with in each of his magnificent years of life.  I hope this share encourages you to think about what gifts your children have bestowed upon you…I am sure there are many.

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Year 1: The Gift of…

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I am fully aware of how blessed I was to get pregnant as easily as I did at 39 years old, and in the most non-traditional way (Intrauterine insemination) at that.  To then have a healthy pregnancy where I felt great every step of the way isn’t something I took for granted. It was during the first trimester, when Kellan was basically the size of a grape, that my gratitude practice began.  Every day since then, I have kept a gratitude journal, writing each day what I am thankful for.  Cultivating gratitude has been scientifically linked to better health, less anxiety and depression, a higher satisfaction with life, and a greater sense of joy.  What I have found in practicing gratitude, is it amplifies all the good – and who doesn’t want more of that in their life?

Year 2: The Gift of…

Picture9Never underestimate a woman’s intuition.  It truly is a female superpower.  I didn’t activate mine until I became a Mom.  As moms, we are so in tune with our children, and it was around Kellan’s 2nd birthday that I started to identify his difference, when it became clear that his needs were unique and special.  He had missed many of the childhood milestones (walking/talking/pointing).  My motherly instincts kicked in and I started to assemble the arsenal of doctors/therapists/caregivers/diet/etc. that would help him thrive in his own time.  To all the mom’s out there who are second-guessing themselves: don’t.  You know your kid best.  You have the power to give them what they need.  If something doesn’t feel right, activate those magical intuitive superpowers because they’ll never lead you wrong.

Year 3: The Gift of…

Picture9When Kellan turned three, I was awakened to parenting a child with Autism.  Kellan was diagnosed with ASD that year, and I had to learn all there was to know about Autism.  I am a researcher by trade, so I was able to weed through the alarming data and digest only what I needed to know to give Kellan what he required to reach his fullest potential.  I connected with resourceful special needs online communities (Special Moms Network of WestchesterSensory Processing Disorder (SPD) Support, etc. ), I found an incredible tribe of specialists/therapists/advocates, and I surrounded myself with supportive people. The rest was purely Intuition (gift #2).  This year awoke the grizzly within, knowing the challenges/obstacles/barriers Kellan and I would face in this less-than-compassionate, accepting, and aware world.  However, we forged ahead, eyes & heart wide open.

Year 4: The Gift of…

Picture9If you know me, you know they skipped over me when they were handing out patience.  My reservoir of patience is reserved for parenting, and I work hard to increase that supply regularly.  Patience is a fundamental skill that needs to be cultivated when you’re a parent, because kids test it on the daily.  When you’re a parent of a child with special needs…well let’s just say the tests are a bit more difficult and the answers aren’t found in any parenting book. In Kellan’s fourth year, my patience had taken a beaten and I felt like I was failing out of parenting school.   I remember sitting on my bed one day with my head in my hands, short of breath, on the brink of losing my mind.  I took a deep breath, and then another – and I continued doing that for 10 counts.  Deep inhales followed by strong, vocal exhales.  That process not only helped immensely at the time, but it has become my go-to when my reservoir is nearing empty.  When I have little to give. I breathe.  And then I breathe some more.  That breathing has led to a meditation practice (apps i love: headspace/calm/insight timer).  And that my friends, has not only increased my level of patience but lessens the weight when it gets too heavy to carry.  Breathe.

Year 5: The Gift of…

Picture9I have always been strong-minded and decisive.  These are traits of mine that I am most proud of, and they serve a great purpose when it comes to parenting a child with Autism.  My son has specific needs and I will slay dragons to get him what he requires.  It was during this year that I saw the education system fail him (or at least try to):
First, his school informed me that they didn’t have any more room for outside district children, and that I would need to find another school. Here’s the thing: I liked this school.  Kellan liked this school.  So, what does an awoken grizzly mom do in this situation?  She moves.  Kellan and I packed up our lives and moved into that district, just so he could have a spot in his Kindergarten class.
Second, I realized just how on top of your child’s educational development a parent must be.   My goal for Kellan is for one day to be mainstreamed.  I know where Kellan currently belongs, and that is within a structured special ed program.  But I also know where his potential lies, and that is eventually in a mainstream classroom, learning alongside neuro-typical kids.  So, I advocate, and persist, and go to battle not just for what he needs, but also for him to strive and surpass what is expected of him, today and in the future.  I realized in his 5th year, that this gift of determination would come in handy.

Year 6: The Gift of…

Picture9I have always considered myself a kind and thoughtful person but raising a child with special needs increased by empathy towards others.  Kellan has taught me to lead with kindness, and to stand in compassion with those struggling.  This was the year I had to stand in my son’s shoes and peer through his lens, to better understand what he was going through.  It was in this year that Kellan’s anxiety reared its ugly head.  Some days it debilitated him, and I felt that I was to blame (as I spoke about in one of my earlier blogs). I felt like I had handed my struggle with anxiety down to him and the shame was real.  At the time, I hired a well-known special education advocate to help put a plan together at school, and as we were talking one day I expressed my shame to her.  She turned to me and said, “Do you see the love and kindness and compassion you have for your son and others like him?  You need to share some of that with yourself.  You’re not to blame for this.  You need to give yourself a break.  Children with Autism often suffer from anxiety – anything can set it off, but it’s common.  So, please stop beating yourself up and put into place a self-compassion practice.”  Whereas I still closely monitor the ebbs and flows of Kellan’s anxiety, I still reflect back on her thoughtful advice and I no longer go down the rabbit-hole of shame/blame.

Year 7: The Gift of…

Picture9Hey Moms, when are we ever going to learn?  Why do we sacrifice our own wellbeing for a to-do list?  We suffer because of it.  As Kellan’s birthday approached, the seventh gift began to emerge.  As I grow into parenthood, and what It means to be a good mother, I recognize that self-care is non-negotiable.  To be the mom that Kellan is so deserving of, I need to show up more for myself.  With that said, Kellan has become more tolerable and accepting of me, doing me, without him.  I believe he began to understand, as he reaped the rewards of a Mom who was refueled, refreshed and ready to Mom-hard! So, in his 7th year, I’m implementing self-care rituals as part of my daily practice (meditating, exercising, reading, journaling, friend-outings, vacations, etc.), plus I plan a weekly date with me, myself & I.   I used to think that this was selfish, or that I would feel guilty for needing time away from my son, but in this brand-spankin’ new year, I realize that self-care is the life vest that keeps Kellan and I afloat.

So, thank you, Kellan, for giving your Mom such beautiful gifts and allowing her to celebrate the greatest among them: YOU.

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Janis Gaudelli is The Founder of The Daily Feels.  She started this passion project to reveal the magic behind storytelling, and how truth-based narratives bring people together in the most heart-warming of ways.  Fascinated by soul, depth, intellect, raw truths and rebellion with a cause. Often captivated by the awe of nature.  Fiercely curious about the inner-workings of the human psyche, as she professionally studies human behavior for a living.  Forever proud and grateful for being a mom to the force that fuels her life: her 7-year-old son, and greatest professor, Kellan.

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