Gucci Loafers, Hurricane Harvey and a Milestone Birthday: And How You Can Help

Like many Americans, I’ve been glued to weather reports since Hurricane Harvey first became a significant threat to Texas. I have family in Texas. I have a small but fierce immediate family and two of them — my sister and my niece — were in the original path of Harvey. My sister isn’t out of woods, living just north of Houston. My niece, in San Antonio, had a soggy weekend but she’s OK. They both have a nice warm place to call home, food on the table, and the comforts of life that many people are accustomed to (a warm bed, clean water, you get it).

I’ll turn 45 in a couple of weeks on September 12. It’s not going to be an easy birthday. My mom’s birthday is September 11. On October 9, we’ll remember my mom one year after she died (milestones are important for the grieving; but we naturally remember her and miss her so much every day). I’m not where I wanted to be in life at 45. I’m curvier than I thought I’d be (granted, that was also back in my eating disorder days). I wanted to be a wife and a mom. I wanted to be taking my kids to soccer practice. I never in a million years thought that wouldn’t happen to me. When my mom was 45 she had four kids. She was also in an incredibly toxic and abusive relationship and we lived paycheck to paycheck. We all have different stories.

My story took me on a wild rollercoaster of a career that has afforded me luxuries I also never dreamed of — no way this could happen to me. My life experiences and extraordinary amount of loss, grief and heartache have made me incredibly accepting of people who struggle. The hate I saw as a child made me realize, as an adult, that you should not settle just to be somewhere you thought you should be. And my career has given me the opportunity to give back and help people in ways I never thought possible. We joke, those of us fortunate enough to enjoy — often in excess — first world luxuries that #thestruggleisreal. You know what? The struggle is so fucking real for so many people… Every. Fucking. Day. I know. That was us.

Wondering where all these crazy disconnected thoughts are going? I’ll get there. Stick with me.  

Last week I treated myself to a pair of ridiculously expensive (by my standards) Gucci loafers for my 45th birthday. It wasn’t an impulse decision. Regardless, I regretted it in the morning. I didn’t return them. I work hard — extremely hard — and it’s OK for me to splurge. I splurge all the time for other people. It’s OK to do nice things for myself, too. This is something I struggle with but am trying to embrace. However, when I woke up and my first thought was “why did I buy those shoes,” I knew then that I have absolutely everything I need and/or want in life. Maybe I’m not where I wanted to be or thought I’d be, but I have a good life. A great life. An incredible life. I’ve had an amazing career that’s still going strong, my annual physical results from last week couldn’t have been better, I have a small but fierce and totally amazing circle of close friends and family, my brother is close to celebrating two years, my first nephew is off to college, my first niece has some fun stuff planned, and my sister can finally relax (shout out to all of my amazing nieces and nephews; I am so very very lucky). I cannot complain.

And now I’ll attempt to tie all of this together.

For my 45th birthday, there is not a single thing I want in life other than to help other people. My original idea was to donate my birthday to the Southern Poverty Law Center, an organization that inspires me and gives me hope. But with all of the devastation in Texas, the closeness I feel to Texas, and my own history of struggles, I’d like to spread the love and also donate my birthday to the good people of Houston. My goal is to raise $4500 and split it between SPLC and the Houston Food Bank. My birthday dream? To be able to donate $4500 to each organization.

So, between Facebook (thanks for making it easy to raise money, Facebook; this one goes to the Houston Food Bank) and this GoFundMe campaign (where I’ll raise money for SPLC), I’m hoping to be able to wake up on my 45th and know that I made a difference. To kick things off, I’ve donated $250 to each fundraising effort. Please join me in giving back to those who need our help. Those who have a different story. Those who have hope, who believe and who love.

Thank you.

so it is and so it goes

Over the last 25+ years, I’ve been introduced as “the Bagliebter’s nanny” and then “Jamie and Michelle’s babysitter” and then “their person” and then “she was a nanny but now she’s a friend” and then “just Erin, it’s hard to explain” – when, frankly, there were times when I should have been “the Bagliebter’s ex-nanny” because of some of my shenanigans. I would have fired myself if I hadn’t fallen in love with that family. Years later, to my utter shock and complete honor, I was Erin, sitting at the siblings table (!!) when the youngest Bagliebter, Jamie, married the wonderful Dan this past July. Yes, I cried.

I also cried, a very ugly cry, yesterday as I sat in temple listening to Jamie and Michelle, along with David’s beloved brothers Will and Gary, pay tribute to their father. I cried in the car on the way to the burial site and I cried as I shoveled dirt onto David’s grave and I’m crying now. At this point it is entirely possible that I’m crying because I just don’t know what else to do.

I am who I am today because of Judy and David. I said that yesterday and a dear friend of theirs said “no, you’re who you are today because of you.” While that is true, Judy and David clearly saw something in me that, back then, I didn’t even see in myself. I moved to Scarsdale to live with them three days shy of my 20th birthday. A teenager! Taking care of two children! Totally nuts to think about that now. Judy is the one who pushed me to go to college and do something with my life. To be a strong independent woman. David inspired in me a sense of adventure and zest for life and living and, most importantly, loving people with my entire soul. I can only hope that I’ve made them both proud.

When you live in someone’s home for six years, you learn a thing or two. I’m lucky to have learned how to be a better person. How to love and be loved. How family dynamics should and can work. How couples should treat each other. How parents should treat their children. How to love life. How to give back to the community. How to tackle challenges and overcome obstacles. And how to do it all with dignity and grace. This family is truly everything to me.

Shortly after David was diagnosed with advanced stage kidney cancer (his second round with cancer) in 2013, I visited him at Sloane Kettering following a surgery. At the time I was having some back problems (which eventually led to spine surgery) that were clearly noticeable. I walked into David’s hospital room – he was sitting in a chair – and before I could even ask how he was he said, “Erin, sit down, are you OK? What’s going on?” That’s just the kind of guy he was. Selfless. Incredible, really, to think back on that memory now. This is just how they are – David, Judy and the girls (aka: my girls even though they’re in their 30s now). Truly amazing humans. Unicorns amongst us normal folks.

At the funeral yesterday, the girls (and David’s brothers) so beautifully captured the essence of David. I know how hard it is to let go of a brother and a father. I can barely give a speech in front of my team without breaking down (OK, I have other people read my speeches now, it’s true). Jamie and Michelle stood in front of a crowded temple and told stories of their dad that made people laugh and cry. They spoke of loyalty and respect and strength and love. They also spoke of their dad’s crazy imagination. David’s passion and creativity truly knew no bounds. His legacy lives on through them. I could not have been more proud than I was at that moment of those two girls. Their grace and presence and such clear illustrations of the love for and admiration of their parents.

The rabbi read from a poem at the service and one of the phrases – so it is, and so it will be – kept replaying in my head throughout the service. It felt so strong and so powerful and so representative of David. One of his brothers mentioned Kurt Vonnegut (or maybe I drew that parallel in my head, it’s all kind of blurry now). One of the most often quoted phrases from his writing – so it goes – immediately came to mind. So much power and meaning in those three words. Shit happens. We deal with it the best we can and we move on. Vonnegut’s obituary in the New York Times read “his novels — 14 in all — were alternate universes, filled with topsy-turvy images and populated by races of his own creation.” It is possible to switch novels with projects and perhaps change the number and you would have David. So smart. So creative. So full of ideas. So full of imagination. Of life. Even when facing death.

Over the last 25 years, every time I saw David there were a couple of things he would always ask me. For the first five years or so, he’d ask me about a nice Jewish guy I dated when I lived in Scarsdale. “How’s Scott?” David asked me about Scott longer than I even dated Scott. Hilarious, really. We finally stopped talking about Scott, though not before many shared eye rolls and giggles with the girls. Next question. “How many tattoos do you have now?” I got my first tattoo when I lived with the family. It was illegal back then. Shocking to nobody that I did it anyway. David’s reaction? “You got a TATTOO?! Erin! Well now you can’t be buried in a Jewish cemetery!” I mean… I’m not sure I could anyway since I’m not Jewish but that was so David. The last time I saw him he looked at the bracelets stacked on my arm and said, “I have a question. [Long pause.] How long does it take you to get dressed in the morning, Erin?”

Last night I went to my favorite tattoo shop in Brooklyn. It took more time to draw and place the tattoo than it did to actually tattoo the design on my arm. And it’s perfect. The words, stacked like a bunch of bracelets running up my arm, written in a one-of-a-kind creative font: so it is and so it goes. David, you were and are so loved and you are already so very missed. I will do my best moving forward to live life the way you did: with passion and love and good vibes only. And I will always, always, love and look out for your three girls. Rest peacefully.


A different kind of Christmas.

To say that this year has been one wild ride is perhaps the biggest understatement of 2016. I’ve seen so many posts lately from people who are desperately searching for ways to make a difference as we start the annual process of looking forward to all the excitement of a new year, new opportunities, new ideas, new resolutions. This year, I know that many Americans, in particular, are looking for ways to heal themselves and support their neighbors, friends, and family in wake of the (arguably largest upset of a) presidential election (in this country’s history). I am one of them.

I didn’t sleep the night my mom died. I was waiting for the call that she had taken her last breath after she decided she had fought enough. A few weeks later I didn’t sleep much the night of the election. I was hoping so hard for a turnaround after initial predictions had Trump winning. Both mornings that followed were a fog. The election results are still foggy. But it was in that fog that I made a decision to do something to help, particularly as I still reeled from the loss of my mom right before the holidays.

Every year I go a bit overboard for Christmas. I love love love buying presents for people. I love nothing more than to make people smile. And at the same time nothing makes me sadder than knowing that so many people go without over the holidays. Every year I try to do what I can to help make a difference – I adopt families, I pay off layaway orders at big box stores… and I make sure that I buy the coolest things I can find for my nieces and nephews (those I’m related to and those I’ve adopted), brother and sister, mom, and others. (I also give to several charities but I do that throughout the year.) I cannot help myself. All of the people that I buy presents for already have gifts under the tree but I still do what I can because it brings me great joy. But this year I’m mixing things up.

This year, while I cannot help everyone, I am making an effort to help as many people as I can. Rather than buy gifts for the people in my life I love so dearly, I am taking all the money I’d usually spend over the holidays (including my own gift, an annual tradition I started years ago) to put together Christmas gift bags for the homeless. Over the next two weekends, my brother and I will scour the streets of the greater NYC area to find the best deals and steals to maximize gifts. We’ll swing by Kmart with the hope that there are a couple of families with toys on layaway so that we can pay them off and imagine the happiness when a sales associate calls the parent(s). On Christmas Eve we’ll pack up bags filled with warm things, food stuffs and toiletries. And then on Christmas Day, we’ll bundle up and roam the city streets to find people who need things more than we do. Then we’ll go hang out with family and friends.

I know there are homeless people who will snub us for doing this. I’m OK with it. I also know that there are people who will appreciate it and maybe we’ll make a few people smile. That, more than anything, is what it’s all about.

Wondering how you can help? If you have a few extra dollars laying around, Venmo me. I’ll send you a receipt with the gifts you purchased. Together, we’ll help more people. Live in the NYC area (and we’re friends IRL because safety first) and want to help stuff or hand out bags? Message me. None of the above? Take a minute today to smile at a stranger. Buy a coffee for the person behind you at Starbucks. Open the door for someone. Let someone with fewer things than you in their shopping cart skip ahead of you. There are so many small things that make a difference. Find one that works for you and make it happen.

Sending you all so much love this holiday season. All the best. xoxo

Photo source.

Tis the season…to be pissed off. And proud. Some words on heroin addiction and the path to recovery.

It’s funny how the holidays work. I know that they’re hard for a lot of people – it’s arguably my least favorite time of year because of the memories and pain that surface – but it never fails that as soon as the decorations come out and the presents are purchased, people are pissed off. They ran out of wrapping paper. Some store is out of some thing their kid really really really wants and they won’t get. They have no idea how in the world they’ll find time to wrap so many presents. I get it. I totally do. I get pissed off when Starbucks forgets to mix skim milk with my eggnog latte and I am forced to drink a full fat drink. The horror! The fucking horror!

But not this year. Bring on the full fat eggnog lattes, baristas. I ain’t mad at ya’. One year ago yesterday I was beside myself with worry over my brother who was MIA after a wild ride with heroin and a band of not-so-savory characters. I was pissed off at the world. My mom’s health was eroding and I was about to lose a second brother to drugs. I’ll never forget when Officer Wilson – who became my favorite person over the prior months while we searched tirelessly to track down my brother – called and said “we found him.” I might have screamed. I don’t remember. I knew Jamie was gone. And Officer Wilson must have sensed that (he knew about Lanny) because he quickly said “he’s OK, he’s in my car.” Then I was pissed off at Jamie.

It was in that moment that I vowed to myself I would do whatever I could to help him. I told him that if he moved here, I would help him. But only if he was serious about getting help and drastically changing his life. My friends and family were understandably split on my decision. So I only talked to friends and family who supported my decision. My mom wasn’t one of them. I know in her heart she wanted him to help get but she had neither the means nor the emotional bandwidth as she had her own battles to fight and she struggled to the very end with the loss of our brother Lanny. I got it. I was pissed about it, but I got it.

I worked tirelessly for five months – calling Jamie’s attorneys, the DA’s office, anyone who would listen and could help. I even talked to some shady characters to try to piece together the puzzle that was such a mystery in my head and so completely foreign to me that I didn’t even know where to start. I read countless articles and books on addiction and recovery. On the criminal justice system. I talked to therapists. I talked to doctors. I talked to his former employers. I visited him as often as I could in North Carolina. I tried to mail packages and cards regularly. (As did my sister, who would send him postcards from all over the country, which he always told me about in the two-minute phone chats we had.) I sent snacks and always tried to send enough to share. I needed Jamie to have hope. Hope for a brighter future. Hope for a life full of love and happiness. Hope was the only thing, in my mind, that would help him recover. I also tried to keep our family together. I’d send updates to Jamie’s family (we’re technically half-siblings), to my mom and sister and to my close circle of friends who were instrumental in helping me maintain my sanity. I kept his friends who asked about him updated. All while trying to help my mom with her continuous stream of health issues. And hold it together at work. One month into 2016 and I was already completely exhausted and not sure how long I could keep it together.

When I offered Jamie a chance to change his life – people, places, things – he didn’t even hesitate. I knew then that he also wanted a better life for himself. With the wheels in motion, we waited. But I didn’t sit idle. In fact, I became such a fixture in the process that Jamie’s attorney called me out in court when Jamie went in front of the judge for the last time. During my visits to Jamie, I would talk to criminal defense attorneys in the hallways of the courthouse. I was fascinated by the stories and by their dedication to helping their clients. I was up close and personal with the system. It was weird, no doubt.

I know the criminal justice system is completely fucked up and there is no other way to describe it. I know a lot of people are in jail for crimes they didn’t commit. I also know that there are people who do belong there. I know that there are people who don’t belong there. I know that people have completely ridiculous and unfair sentences. I was terrified of the outcome but in the end, his sentence was fair and he paid his dues. As he should. But the process over those five long months made me realize just how fucked up the system is… and that? THAT is something to be completely pissed off about.

Jamie came to live with me in April of this year. It was then that we planned for my mom to be here for Thanksgiving. A lot of friends thought that was wrong – that she should have been here sooner – but it was intentional on my part. I wanted her to see him as the person I knew he could be. A son with so much love in his heart for people (and dogs!). A son who is thoughtful and caring and funny. A son who is a pain in the ass sometimes but you can’t be mad at him because he has such a huge heart. Not the son who was controlled by his addictions. So I planned a fun week for all of us around Jamie’s one-year anniversary, which is today.

When Jamie and my sister and I met in Florida last month, to see my mom in the ICU (after catching pneumonia following a fairy common surgery), I knew that was the last time we’d see her. She fortunately knew Jamie was in a good place. She also knew then that she wouldn’t see him again. When my brother hugged her before I took him to the airport she whispered in his ear “I’ll be watching over you” – and I do believe she is doing exactly that. But still? I’m pissed off that she’s not here to celebrate this huge milestone. I’m pissed off that my brother Lanny isn’t here. He’s been gone almost 11 years. I’m still pissed. I’m pissed off at heroin, at all drugs. I’m pissed at the system. I’m pissed off at the powers that be who make it INCREDIBLY hard for people with drug addiction to get the help they truly need to recover. I DGAF, as the kids say, about eggnog lattes and wrapping paper.

But while I’m pissed off at a lot of things, I am SO PROUD. I will admit that I wasn’t sure we’d be celebrating one year today. But my brother surprised me in the best possible way, as he usually does. He worked so very hard, and I know it wasn’t easy, to find his path once he moved here to New Jersey. He went to his first NA meeting the first day he was here and he’s been going nearly every day since. He found an incredible sponsor within a week. And he found an amazing network of friends. He also found an amazing bestie, as we girls like to say, who – together with his sponsor – have been instrumental on this path and I cannot thank them enough. Jamie has done the work and he will continue to do the work. I honestly could not be more proud.

Today makes one year. Jamie will celebrate “in the rooms” (NA-speak) all week. It’s a tremendous milestone. I’ve been to a meeting. It’s the most supportive and loving group I’ve ever been a part of, hands-down. Tonight Jamie and I will celebrate with bacon wrapped onion rings, because why not? Today will pass and he’ll be on his way to 18 months and two years and five years and 10 years. And for as long as he continues on this path, I will continue to be his biggest cheerleader. I will help him. I will push him. I will totally nag him. And I will love him to the moon and back. I will do so knowing that our brother Lanny and our mom are watching over both of us. And they are smiling. Smiling because THIS is the Jamie we know in our hearts. This is the Jamie who we all love so very much. Smiling because he did this. He worked hard to get to where he is and together we are so very, very proud.

I love you, Jamie. Keep fighting the good fight, lil bro. I got you.

Note: While this is only partly my story to tell, I would never share my brother’s story without his permission. I asked him if he’s OK with me posting this. He, without hesitation, said “of course!” I hugged him, told him I love him and am so proud, and then he said, with a huge smile on his face, “I’m off to get my glow-in-the-dark keychain!”

On life and loss. Again.

In the last ten or so years I’ve lost my father, my brother, my best friend, my grandmother, and now my mother. I’m tired. I’m tired of working through grief only to face death again and start the process all over. I’m tired of the usual first year milestones following someone’s passing when all you can feel is a punch in the gut at every holiday or every time you come across an email or a card that’s been tucked away. I’m tired of crying. I’m tired of being sad. I’m tired of putting the people I love in the awkward positon of not knowing what to say to the things that happen in my fucked up life. I’m tired of being tired of all of this.

But, like my mom, I am a fighter. I am strong. And I do not and will not give up.

I am trying to find peace. I am trying to smile. I am trying to tell the people I love that I love them. I am trying to appreciate all of the little things that we so quickly and easily take for granted. I am trying to savor each moment, whether crying or laughing. I am trying to come to terms with being 44 and not having parents. I am trying to imagine how I’ll feel over the next year. I am trying to remember that the one thing I admire most about my mom, which I didn’t appreciate as much as I should have while she was alive, is that she lived each day with an optimism that I have never seen before.

My mom was sick. Really sick. She kept a lot of it to herself. She didn’t want anyone to worry about her. My siblings and I tried to push her on things but as positive as she was, she was equally stubborn. My mom did and said what she wanted, when she wanted. She didn’t have an easy life but she lived her life trying to make the most of every situation. Her optimism, which I often joked was her alternate reality, couldn’t have been more clear than on one of the last days of her life. Her nurse, Ashley, called my siblings together and told us that my mom had signed a DNR order and that she was adamant that there should be no life-saving measures should anything happen to her. I know that my mom knew then she wasn’t long for this world.

Later that morning my sister and I walked into her hospital room and she greeted us with a smile and two thumbs up. We asked how she was doing and she said “I’m good, everything is going to be fine, don’t worry.” We then told her that we knew that wasn’t true and we let her know we talked to Ashley. She then said “last night was terrible.” We spent the next 24 hours at her side and when she needed rest we kept vigil in the ICU waiting room. We left to return home, trying to get out of Florida before Hurricane Matthew. She called us chickens. We told her we’d be back soon even though we didn’t really know what to expect. We told her that we loved her, we knew that she loved us, and that we would be OK. We told her that we supported whatever decision she wanted to make. If she wanted to fight, we would fight with her. If she did not, that was OK too. When she said goodbye to my brother she told him she’d be watching over him. Before we left her bedside, we had a group hug and kissed her through her breathing mask. We knew. We didn’t want to know. But we did. And that is a fucking pain that you cannot even articulate.

We’ll never truly know how much pain our mom was in. We’ll never really know how she felt or, in some cases, the full extent of her illnesses. We knew that she was done fighting when she told Ashley she was ready to go to heaven to be with Lanny. And we know that she loved each us in her own unique way. We also know that she passed peacefully and she will never again struggle to breathe. She will never again be in pain. And we know that we now have another angel watching over us and guiding us through this mystery called life.

Love you mom.

10 years an angel.

Note: Earlier today I was looking for a picture and came across an album from Thanksgiving 2005. And in that album, this pic (and others) stopped me in my tracks. Weird to think back to that time and realize that this was the last picture I would ever take with my brother. Who knew he would die unexpectedly less than five months later. Life. Such a bitch sometimes. Naturally I burst into tears because, well, I’m a crybaby (to know me is to both love me and cry with me). And then I did what I always do when I need to get things off my chest (or in this case my heart): I wrote about all of my feels. So I’m posting this now and am taking a break from social media for a few days, to get past the hump that is April 8. But, as the saying goes, I’ll be back. In the meantime, do me a favor and pour one out on Friday for one of the coolest dudes to ever live, my little bro Lando.

Every year around this time an unexplainable sadness creeps into my life, and this year is no exception. But this year is also different for a lot of reasons. And the sadness is in fact explainable: it’s the sadness of loss and grief.

April 8, 2006 was, hands-down, the worst day of my life. I remember every second of that day like it happened yesterday. Then there are times when it feels so long ago that I wonder if I’ve missed a detail in the day. I wonder if my memory is accurate. I wonder if I’m remembering Lanny’s voice accurately. How he used to answer the phone. What we said when we hung up. I wonder if I remember how tall he was. When I gave him a hug was he a lot taller than me or a little. How his eyes sparkled when he laughed. How sweet and sensitive he was. What a pain in the ass he could be. I wonder about everything. Not a day goes by that I don’t wonder why it had to happen. And that is unfortunately not something I’ll ever be able to answer. If you’ve ever lost someone super close to you, totally unexpectedly, you get this. If you haven’t, count your blessings. And go do so right now.

My brother Lanny died of an accidental drug overdose on April 8, 2006. Tragic. A stupid, stupid mistake. Ten years. I have no fucking idea where the time goes. All I know is that this kind of grief really does not get better with time. I’ve tried to tell myself that it will. Over and over. It does not. When Lanny died, part of me died too. He was celebrating my brother Jamie’s birthday. He was just 25. It rocked me (and my family) to my (our) core. It shocked his friends, all the people who loved him. It was (and is) terrible. I remember when I heard the news. I’d never wish that news – giving it or receiving it – on anyone.

For the last few years, I’ve tried really hard not to think too much about it when this day inevitably rolls around. (If you’ve known me longer than an hour you know it is impossible for me to hide my emotions, good bad or otherwise.) I’ve told myself Lanny would want me – and all of my family – to be happy on Jamie’s birthday. I said those words out loud. Over and over. And I’m sure that they’re true. Lanny was a fun guy who loved life. I’ve tried to do things for Jamie on his birthday to help him get through the day. To make it less painful. To try to celebrate his life and the time we had with Lanny for those 25 years. It has worked to some extent. But this year I won’t be able to celebrate Jamie’s birthday on April 8 – for a variety of reasons I will not go into here – and so that makes this day all the sadder. I’ll see Jamie soon though and for that I am extraordinarily grateful. And next year will be that much better. Only 360-something days to go! Woo.

When I started writing this blog post I intended to write a letter to Lanny. To ask him to watch over me. To watch over Jamie. To send me a sign that he gets this. To be there in spirit always for my family. For all the people who knew and loved him. To know how much he’s missed. And loved. To tell him that he will always ALWAYS ALWAYS be in my heart and in my thoughts, no matter how much time passes. To tell him that I’m going to frame his Joey Harrington jersey (finally) and hang it proudly in my apartment. To tell him that it’s probably time to find a new NFL team to root for because, well, the Lions. And to just be able to tell him anything. But, alas, that is not how my brain works. So instead I wrote this, but I’m OK with it. The outcome is the same – Lanny has been gone for 10 years and even though I haven’t seen him or heard his voice, the love is not lost. Not for a second. Ultimately, that’s what matters. That he will forever have a place in my heart.

And this year I will leave you with this… go now and hug the people you love. Hell, hug the people you just kind of like. Fuck it, hug everyone. Let the little shit go. Be there for each other. Be kind to each other. Don’t sweat the things that don’t matter. And, in the words of my FlyWheel instructor, leave the rest of the day for the rest of the day. Be present. Be in the moment. Be aware. Be brave. Be bold. Be strong. Be happy. Be awesome. Be beautiful. Be you.


Here’s to you, 2016.

This is my year. But don’t worry, it can be your year, too. After all, sharing is caring.

I spent last night in a fairly reflective mood. I was thinking about the things for which I am incredibly thankful… so, yes, I thought for a while. Even though 2015 was a pretty tough year for me, with the future comes hope and for that I am eternally grateful.

I wouldn’t have made it through 2015 without a community of support, but but most notably the amazing team I have the privilege of working with at Cutline. You guys rock. Total badasses. And also my dear girl friends who have been there for me every step of the way. You know who you are and I love you to the moon and back. My family, immediate and extended. But, of course, no post about what I’m thankful for would be complete without a shout out to my two precious fur babies who make every day fun, challenging, and a bit of a mystery. I now truly believe that there is no love like the love of a puppy. It’s crazy and sweet and hilarious and totally unconditional. And that is my wish for 2016…

That my life is crazy and sweet and hilarious and that I am graced with unconditional love, dear friends and family, lots of sunshine and good health. As I kick off 2016, I’ve realized that I already have several things that I’m thankful for on this first day of January.

I have so many amazing friends who accept me for who I am, my crazy included. And who challenge me and inspire me to be better every day. I thank you for always being there for me and I look forward to making so many more memories together in 2016. Love you guys.

My family went through a lot in the last few months but I wanted to give a nod to someone important: my Aunt Shirley, one of the most amazing women you’ll ever meet. So strong and so fierce. And with the most wonderful heart. She’s been there for me every day through an incredibly hard time — no questions asked — and for that I am grateful. I also have a lot of hope that the challenges my family has faced are challenges we will definitely overcome this year. Together, we will conquer it all. No doubt.

To you, Mr. Sass (FYI this is our weekly 12 hour sass-free zone, you’re welcome), thanks for putting up with my crazy in 2015 and for sticking it out. Your You’re awesome and I’m really looking forward to more vodka and caviar-fueled fun. Thank you for being so so cool and for reminding me what’s important in life. And, yes, I’ll tell you this in person, too.

I am privileged to work with incredibly smart people and I am so. seriously. excited. to get back to work on Monday. You know you work with the best crew when you spend part of your vacation wishing you could reach out to tell your colleagues something funny… on the daily… but then have to balance that with trying to set a good example when it comes to disconnecting. (The struggle is real, people.) You guys. I’ve missed you so much these last three weeks!

And now for something new and completely amazing: I met my Big Brothers Big Sisters Little yesterday! She’s smart and curious and talented (she made the coolest sticker for her laptop out of a straw and fingernail polish; color me impressed!) and I’m so very excited and honored to have the opportunity to help make a positive impact in her life. What a wonderful way to kick off the new year, too. I couldn’t be happier!

With that, I wish you a year filled with love, happiness, good health, and lots of sunshine and rainbows. I also wish for you the strength to get through the tough times and the hope that your tomorrow is always better than your today. Go on now and live life fully and fiercely… and don’t forget to sprinkle glitter everywhere you go.

Happy New Year, y’all! Cheers! xoxo

(Photo source.)

On Grief + Love

I’ve been sitting on my couch staring at my laptop for the last three hours. I’ve spent the last 72 hours crying in a way that only someone who has intimately experienced loss or has gone through the various stages of grief can understand. It feels like someone took my heart out of my chest and stomped it to pieces. I have barely slept. I wake up hoping, and at this point praying, that whatever is happening is just a bad dream. It is not. The only way I can explain this is that I am grieving for a love not yet lost.

Out of respect for the families and all of the people involved, I will not share any details publicly about this situation. In a way, this is definitely my story to share. But in another, it is not. It’s also too real, too raw, too painful right now. There are too many questions, not enough answers. I am hoping and praying for a small miracle. I’ve experienced miracles before and I’m remaining hopeful that this situation can and will end well. And I am asking that you do the same. Hope and pray for my family. For everyone involved. For all people who are going through hard times. For humanity. You can never have too much hope.

I’ve spent nearly every waking moment in the last 72 hours – which have now outnumbered moments of sleep – on the phone trying to piece together this story that doesn’t make any sense to me. When I’m not on the phone, my thoughts have consumed me. I now know more about things I never thought I’d need to know about in my life. I might not be able to help in this situation but I’m now trying to figure out how I might be able to apply the things I’ve learned in order to help others. Those who want to be helped. Those who want out of a dark hole. Those who don’t want to live a life that resembles hell on earth. Because I have learned once again that you honestly cannot help people who do not want help. It’s heartbreaking but so true.

I’ve also spent every waking moment in the last 72 hours surrounded – both physically and virtually – by close friends. And that is why I am writing this post. I’ve always had a lot of friends but never have I felt like I’ve had more sisters as friends than I do right now (and this includes my real sister, of course). They have reached out around the clock to check on me. To find out if there’s anything new to report. And they have done so despite the fact that they too are going through different things in their lives. I haven’t even asked how they’re doing. Maybe I have. I can’t remember. I feel like a terrible friend. But this is real friendship. This is sisterhood. And I could not be more grateful to have them in my life. Right now and always. You all know who you are. And I love you to pieces.

This morning I opened a gift from one of these sisters. It’s a compass. At first I was confused. Then I remembered that I was recently in DC and someone gave me directions along the lines of “walk NW through the park” which is funny because I sometimes need to use Google Maps just to get around the block. I told her that her directions would have been perfect if I had a compass. But I knew this wasn’t from her. I read the card and burst into tears. It was the most beautiful note I think I could have read this morning. It was totally what both my heart and my head needed today. To remember the importance of friends. To never forget the things in life that are truly important. And the compass makes perfect sense in so many ways. I will treasure it forever and ever. It is beautiful. Thank you, my dear dear friends. I love you both. To the moon and back.

And to those of you who have reached out because I haven’t posted anything on social media in five days, I love you too. And you’ve made me smile. Clearly I live my life pretty openly. I was recently talking with a friend after reading an article in the New York Times about the number of people who die alone. We both live alone and were wondering how that could happen. It’s tragic. I realized then that there are people I talk to every day and if a day went by and they didn’t hear from me, they’d most definitely send the search team. I didn’t mean to not post in the last five days. I meant to take a day or two off from social media. But then life happened. And there wasn’t anything I could say or post that would articulate how I’ve been feeling in an honest way without alarming everyone. I didn’t realize that my lack of posting would trigger a virtual search team. I am sorry I worried you. You all also know who you are. And you are awesome. I promise you this: I am OK.

I know this post is all over the place. On normal days, I am usually all over the place. I like to think of it as my sparkling effortless charm. But there is a method to the madness. There are a few things that I’ve been thinking about a LOT over the past few days and I wanted to share with the hope that it’ll help someone else.

First, when people are going through a difficult time, don’t ask “are you ok?” It’s highly likely that they are not OK. It’s also highly likely that they will be OK again. It’s a VERY hard question to answer, for the person who is going through the hard time. Nobody wants to say “no, I’m not OK.” And, honestly, how do you, the asker, respond to that anyway? Deep down we know we are OK. We don’t need you to ask. Unless you are a miracle worker. Then, by all means, do your thing. But really, all we need to know is that you’re thinking about us and you are there for us. We’ll be OK. I’ll be OK. I am OK. Having a sad heart is OK. It’s part of life. OK?

Second, smile at people who look like they could use a smile. Smile at people who are smiling back. You really never know what people are going through. And you will 100 percent be grateful to be on the other side of that smile when you need one. Yesterday I hopped on the train, got off in lower Manhattan, and walked around the city aimlessly for three hours. I had sunglasses on but was quietly crying during different parts of my walk. There were people who stared and whispered to their partner. There were people who smiled. You can guess which one made all the difference in the world. I found my inner happiness and smiled back.

And, finally, when all else fails in life, walk into a cupcake shop and order the largest cupcake you can find. Make sure it’s covered in sprinkles, has some shade of pink, and is piled high with frosting. Bonus if it also has filling. Sit by the window, smile at passersby, clear your mind, open your heart. Then reach out to all of the people who are closest to you in life and tell them you love them. Because that is all that matters in life.

My wish for those of you reading this is that you’re surrounded by love this holiday season. That in times of trouble you are able to look for the light. That you don’t experience pain but if you do you’re surrounded by love. That you both give and receive smiles and hugs freely. That you’re able to always see the beauty in life, even when it seems impossible. That you are lucky enough to have the same kind of friends that have been my rock these past few days. And that when life hands you lemons, you turn them into a lemon cupcake. With lots of frosting and sprinkles.


Baxter + Lucy = <3

When I first told close friends I was thinking about getting a second dog, a playmate for Bax Man, my big plans were met with totally mixed reactions:

  • “Are you crazy? That is a LOT of work!”
  • “YES! Do it!”
  • “Did you forget how much work it is to train a puppy? Do you even have time?
  • “OMG! Puppy!”

Needless to say, this is something that I considered carefully for a long time. And there were definitely moments when I was convinced I’d never do it: when Baxter would get sick (what would I do with two sick pups?), in the winter when it’s snowing outside (how could I possibly manage putting on eight booties?), on the weekends when I had big dreams of sleeping in (but then I remembered I never sleep in anyway). I kept looking for reasons NOT to do it. And they all made sense.

But then I started thinking about how awesome it was to have Baxter as a puppy and to watch him grow and turn into such a cool little dog. I thought about how amazing it is to come home – from the gym, from work, from taking the garbage out, from a trip – to so so so much love. And I thought about my long work days where, even if I’m working from home, I can’t pay that much attention to Baxter. And that’s what really tugged at my heartstrings.

If you follow my blog, you know that the introduction of Lucy North to our lives was bittersweet. In hindsight, I’m glad that it happened the way it did. Having Lulu for 48 hours taught me a thing or two about life. Important lessons that are so easily lost in the day-to-day grind. I can now say with 100% certainty that Lucy is, in a word, perfect. And I couldn’t be happier to be the mom of two amazing fur babies.

It’s been an incredible few weeks watching Baxter and Lucy get to know each other. And it’s been beyond fascinating to watch their personalities grow. Lucy has helped Baxter as much as she has helped me. And while she annoys him some days – like when she sits on his head – it’s clear to me that he loves her. I saw that in action this morning when we were all sitting on the couch and I took a ball away from Lucy and put it on the coffee table. Two minutes later, Baxter got off the couch, took the ball off the coffee table and put it on the floor in front of her. I was totally blown away.

They’re both crazy smart but they’re also wildly different. I think that’s what makes them so special as a pair.

  • Baxter is so serious. Lucy is beyond playful.
  • Baxter is very cautious of everything. Lucy is fearless and curious about everything.
  • Baxter is a very picky eater. Lucy will eat anything.
  • Baxter won’t go anywhere near the windows in my apartment. Lucy sticks her head out of the window and sleeps on the windowsill. (In this case, I prefer Baxter’s approach. Eek!)
  • Baxter is graceful. Lucy is a klutz.
  • Baxter walks with a swagger and always has. Lucy walks like she’s had one too many cocktails.
  • Baxter loves his alone time. Lucy prefers to be in the center of the action.
  • Baxter is terrified of the vacuum and always has been. Lucy runs around it barking and jumping.

And the list goes on.

As they’ve learned to love each other, Baxter has definitely emerged as the protective big brother. He looks out for her when we’re outside and, as I’ve learned thanks to my new puppy cam, he also watches her when I’m not at home. It’s adorable and amazing. Right now, as I write this, they’re wrestling on the floor in front of me. Both tails wagging. Both clearly happy. Both where they belong. And my heart is now full and happy.

A tale of two puppies.

It’s been a rough few days. I honestly don’t remember crying this much since my brother Lanny died almost 10 years ago. My eyes are swollen, my heart is broken, and, in some sense, I feel like a failure. But, in a weird twist of fate, I’m also happy and have realized a lot about life in the last four days.

I’d been thinking about getting a puppy for a while and socialized the idea with my closest girlfriends. I’d also been thinking about whether or not I wanted to raise a family, potentially on my own. A human baby. It’s something I’ve been thinking about for a long time. I don’t have many regrets in life but some days I do regret putting my career first and not focusing on myself and building a family, something I’ve always wanted. But, alas, life works out the way it works out, ya’ know? And now I wouldn’t trade Cutline or my career for anything in the world. Between my *real* nieces and nephews and those I’ve claimed as nieces and nephews over the years, I’m a 20-time auntie. And I’ve realized that, in a weird way, that truly completes me.

So with all of that in mind, I decided that I’m not at a point in my life to go the baby route solo (and bless you ladies who make that choice; I bow to you). And because Baxter is approaching five, which is somewhere in the neighborhood of half of his life, I decided that a puppy would be great for Baxter and for me. He’d have a playmate and I’d still have a dog at some point when Baxter is no longer (which, right now, I can’t even begin to think about).

I did some research. Probably not enough. I found a place, I went there, I met Lulu North. I named her in honor of my Grandma North. She was the first puppy I held and she was so sweet and so shy and reminded me so much of Baxter as a puppy that I couldn’t resist her. They told me she was a little underweight. I didn’t care. I took her to their vet, who told me she could potentially have growth issues. I didn’t care.

I got home, totally in love already, and found out that my dear sweet grams, who just celebrated her 94th (and I was lucky enough to be in Michigan with her on that day just a couple of weeks ago) was not doing well. My aunt had sent me an email hours earlier, which I missed. My grams had been in a hospice facility since shortly after her birthday, my incredible aunt by her side every minute of the day. She passed away while I was picking out Lulu. That means something, right? I was crushed. Absolutely crushed. And I was happy to have a puppy who could keep my mind off of my sadness. A tiny puppy with giant floppy ears and the sweetest eyes. But things quickly went south with Lulu.

She refused to eat. She refused to drink. She was only a couple of pounds but, man, was she feisty! I took her to my vet the next day, worried sick because I read everything on the interwebs that said if mini puppies don’t eat every couple of hours they could die. The vet determined she potentially had a stomach blockage and she had low blood sugar. We came up with a plan and she instructed me to take her to the ER if she got worse. She also gave me an unfit for purchase certificate (I’ll get to that in a bit) and told me Lulu would likely require a lot of medical care and she’d probably only be five pounds full-grown (I was originally told 8-9 pounds). I was a little worried but decided I wanted to keep her. I hand-fed Lulu supplements for the next 20 hours around the clock and bought every single thing – in multiple varieties – that I read about and that friends told me that would help puppies eat… dry food, wet food, peanut butter, cottage cheese, Greek yogurt, Parmesan cheese, you name it. None of it worked. She still seemed OK energy-wise but I definitely felt it change. At 5:00 am, less than 48 hours after I brought her home, I rushed her to the ER. I’m not getting into the details here because, well, I can’t. It’s just too sad. Too raw. Too much. For a little tiny baby to be that sick so early in life is just plain sad.

One of the things I learned through this process is that New Jersey is one of several states that has a lemon law for puppies. Any for-profit place that sells puppies (pet stores, brokers, breeders) is required by law to refund or replace a puppy that was deemed unfit for purchase by a veterinarian within the first 14 days of purchase or six months for congenital issues. (I received that within the first 24 hours of taking Lulu into my care. Gutted.) There are many other aspects of the law that really don’t matter at the moment. Yes, Lulu was a lemon. Yes, to bring some levity to the situation, I called her Lululemon once or twice. She hadn’t even learned her name in her short life so she didn’t care.

There’s something about this law that brings on an incredible amount of guilt. I was so heartbroken about the life of Lulu that I wasn’t sure what to do. I was skeptical about getting another puppy. What if this happened again? Am I a total jerk for not grieving enough for Lulu? Should there be more time between the time she left me and when a new puppy arrived? Had I failed with her? Was there something else I should have done? I had so many questions, so much guilt, so much sadness, and also anger because she should have never been sold to me. For better or worse, my heart is simply too big and too fragile to be in this kind of a situation. I was mad.

When I took Lulu to the ER, I left Baxter at home in a rush so I was also worried about him. He’s s champ and was totally fine and I contacted my amazing dog walker (after the sun came up) and she took care of him. But I still felt bad. In hindsight, I think Baxter knew Lulu was sick the minute I brought her home. He wasn’t thrilled about her but he was VERY concerned. I’m sure about me too. Dogs just know. He was up with me and at my side every minute of the 48 hours we had her in our home. And this is a dog who loves his sleep and growls when I move him in bed if it’s during his sleeping hours. He’s an incredible little guy with a heart as big as the world.

After spending hours crying on my friend’s couch, questioning myself and my decisions, and talking to several close friends, I decided to get another puppy instead of a refund. I also decided that I wouldn’t share her publicly until I knew, and my vet certified, that she was healthy. This decision was very bittersweet. But I know in my heart it was the right one. I’m just embarrassed that I was over-excited about Lulu and shared her too soon. I guess that’s the world we live in these days.

Lucy North is five-month-old, nine pound, apricot-colored Zuchon (also called Teddy Bear) puppy. And she is mine. I brought her home, introduced her to Baxter, sighed and cheered when she ate and drank, worried when she wouldn’t pee, read way too many articles on the interwebs again, celebrated when she finally did, and then sat on my couch and bawled my eyes out. For Lulu and for my grandma.

I realized at that moment I hadn’t actually had time to mourn my grandma because I was so stressed about and so focused on Lulu. The sadness that overcame me as I sat on my couch with this ridiculously adorable little puppy staring up at me with giant eyes and a playful soul was overwhelming. Teddy Bears, a mix of Shih-Tzu and Bichon Frisé, were bred to be therapy dogs and have incredible dispositions. So I knew she was the right dog for me and for Baxter (eventually for Baxter anyway; he’s being his usual serious, grumpy self and is living off of treats and love… he’ll come around).

Yesterday my vet certified that I have a healthy puppy and gave me a health certificate saying as much. I’ve never been more excited to hold a piece of paper in my hands. Lucy is playful and hilarious and sweet and caring and lovable. She’s also incredibly smart. She fetches (it’s so funny to watch). She peed once on the floor in a corner and I put pads there and she hasn’t had a single accident since. Though I wouldn’t care if she did. She pees and poos on the pads and if I don’t catch her right after to praise her, she drags the pad to me. It’s adorable. She’s eating and drinking and learning to (clumsily) walk on a leash. She’s sniffing everything in my place over and over. She’s so curious. She sleeps through the night, in her (pink!) crate, and she goes into her crate without argument. And she loves to play. With me and by herself. In a word, she’s perfect.

Baxter has been curious and reserved. But that’s who he is, always. He’s coming around and I think by the weekend he’ll be a Lucy fan. Or at least way closer to one than he is now. He’s been a little more needy, but that’s to be expected. He’s a funny little guy. He has a huge personality and is fiercely protective of me. It’s just been the two of us for his entire life (he’ll be five in January) so, all things considered, he’s handling the introduction of Lucy just fine. They’re opposite in many ways and I think that’s what makes the combination of the two of them so wonderful. One day they’ll be best buds. I just know it.

So back to one of the first things I said: I’m also happy and have realized a lot about life in the last four days. Life is so fragile. We can only do what we can do. We can’t prevent people from dying and we can’t fix things that we can’t fix. Stuff doesn’t matter. People do. Pets do (if you’re a pet person). Life does. I’ve learned this same lesson over and over in the last 10 years but, for some reason, this time it’s different. I think because of the craziness of situation: the end of life (my grandma) and the beginning of life (my Lulu) all converging into one very crappy weekend.

But then along came Lucy. And while I’m still quite sad about my grandma and Lulu, Lucy has brought a lightness to the situation that I can’t explain. And I am so very thankful that she’s in my life.


p.s. I also want to send a huge note of thanks to my dear friends who were there with me, whether physically or virtually, over the last few days. I’m also hugely appreciative of all the support from everyone. Friends near and far, old and new. My colleagues who, wow, are just ridiculously supportive in any situation. And to little Bax Man, who occupies the biggest part of my heart and is truly my little godsend.