Memories of a War Veteran..I have not forgotten

Soldiers TearsI can hardly remember his smell, but I will never forget his smile. Even his face is fading in my memories, but his physical presence has left an inexplicable imprint on my heart. On this day of remembrance and honor for those who served our Country, we often think of those brave souls most who laid down their lives to keep us safe. We memorialize most those fallen soldiers who fought in wars and in countries far away and did not come home alive. Yet we don’t always think of those who came home from war and touched our soil physically complete, but mentally and spiritually deceased. I write about these fallen soldiers because I loved Uncle Bay. His name was Robert Austin but his nick name was “Bay” so we grew up calling him Uncle Bay. He had a beautiful brown-skinned wife, my Aunt Barbara and she loved me as if I were her own daughter. She had a beautiful smile and contagious laugh and she and my mother grew close because they were both married to Austin men who also had a close bond. My father and Uncle Bay were both very charismatic and handsome men and were famous for the trouble they would get into when they would frequent the night clubs and speakeasy’s in Philly and South Jersey. For some reason I also took fondly to Uncle Bay. Maybe it was because I sensed his bravery, maybe because I knew how much my father loved him, or maybe it was because I knew he adored me, but I felt s special bond. I would see him whenever he came to our home or when we visited our grandparent’s and he always gave me a big hug, told me how pretty I was and like my dad would spoil me rotten. I was very young, not quite seven years old when I remember sitting, talking to him and he insisted on giving me a piece of his jewelry. I of course loved jewelry and the idea that he would want me to have what I thought was an expensive piece of jewelry it made me feel so adored. I chose a name bracelet that was not engraved, but had big beautiful silver links and I kept it safely tucked away in a box in my room.

It would be not even a year later that I would be told of my uncle’s passing. My Uncle was a Vietnam War Veteran. He was fortunate to be one of the ones to come home alive, but the person who left never really came home. He was sad, he was depressed, he struggled with the choices he was forced to make at war and never really felt comfortable in his skin when he came home. He was a walking casualty of war. I remember the newspaper article and feeling so angry that his precious life could be ended in a corner bar brawl. I was seven but I wanted to know where it happened and I didn’t feel right until I saw the place myself. I wanted to find someone to blame. I wanted my Uncle Bay back. I couldn’t wrap my head around it; how some strange person could have the right to take the life of a brave soul who served his country so easily and quickly. My uncle wanted to escape from himself and couldn’t wait for my dad to come to the house to pick him up so he went out on his own. My dad never got over the guilt and the anger. I am no longer angry because I understand that back then they often did not diagnose post traumatic stress disorder, nor provided the necessary help, especially to Veterans of color. I understand that Uncle Bay felt the only relief was to provoke someone to take him from this life. I understand that he is in a better place watching over me and my family. I understand that he did not choose to serve in Vietnam. I understand and because of that I have never forgotten.

I love you Uncle Bay. Happy Memorial Day!

It’s all Temporary (Memoirs in a Cast)

Cast Yes, that is my left foot in a cast. A little over three and a half months ago I found myself laying flat on my back in the street after I stepped off of the curb onto a sheet of ice and fractured my Fibula (the smaller bone on the outside of my ankle). I thought it was just a sprain, but fortunately a good friend who is also a Registered Nurse found me in the street and urged me to go to the emergency room for an x-ray. I was devastated when the doctor told me I had suffered a fracture. I spent six weeks in a cast and on crutches, three weeks in an ugly, bulky black boot and now I’ve graduated to an ankle brace and running shoes. Thankfully, I’m making progress and I’ve got two more weeks to go before I am finished my physical therapy. It has been extremely challenging to say the least, especially as a self-employed, independent mother with two fairly young children. I am so thankful that the fracture did not warrant surgery and I am thrilled that I did not fracture the Tibia, which is the larger, weight bearing bone in my lower leg. And although it was extremely uncomfortable, frustrating, inconvenient and sometimes painful, I was also very aware and grateful that this was a temporary condition and that one day I would be walking again.

I felt sad and depressed at times but when those feelings started to rise, I reminded myself that there are millions of people who spend a majority of their lives on crutches, in wheelchairs and walkers. Making a mental gratitude list would pull me right out of my pity party. I must say that I learned quite a few things while I was incapacitated; wisdom that you and I have most likely heard somewhere before, but really came into focus during my recovery period and I felt I needed to share them with you:

  1. Don’t mess with Mother Earth. When there is snow and ice on the ground, put your boots on, even if you are just “running” to the store. Your new cross trainers may have traction, but they are no match for snow, and definitely not when it’s laying on top of a thick patch of ice that you can’t see!
  2. Stop trying to do everything all at once. The day I slipped on ice I felt so motivated. Earlier that morning I had a meeting with my friend and marketing consultant about a new business venture, I volunteered at my daughter’s school, went to a clients office, went food shopping, handled one of my duties as PTG (Parent Teacher Group) Treasurer  and was on my way to squeeze in the rest of my “to do” list before the kids got in from school when I fell. As the sole caregiver for my seven and twelve year old, as well as a self-employed accountant during tax season (not to mention the volunteer positions and other ways I help my community), my plate was overflowing.  I get so exhausted that sometimes I have days when I don’t feel like doing anything at all; then of course my “to do ” list gets backed up and I go into Superwoman mode. A good friend told me just a few days before my fracture, “even Superwoman has to put her cape in the dry cleaners for a few days” but Superwoman didn’t listen. I found out the hard way that when Superwoman is too stubborn to slow down, God sometimes does it for her. I am going to stop volunteering for so many things and am going to selfishly take time more time to focus on what’s most important to me instead of what I do to please others. Lesson learned.
  3. Allowing others to love and care for you is not a sign of weakness. I was overwhelmed by the constant outpouring of love, prayers, text messages, emails, visits and help that I received while I was unable to take care of myself and my children. When you are unable to put any weight on one foot, and are subjected to crutches, it’s impossible to make beds, do laundry, stand at the stove and cook, wash your daughter’s hair, pick up after the kids and even sit down on the side of your child’s bed to give them a kiss goodnight. And since I am used to doing all of that myself, I hadn’t a clue of who, what and where to ask for help. You feel less than a woman because you can’t take care of your children’s needs, you can’t take care of your home and you feel so unattractive add useless. It’s almost depressing, but my reality was that I couldn’t do it and I couldn’t’ let my kids starve because of my pride so I was forced to ask for help. What I found out to my surprise is that my dear friends, my family and even those who were not so close to me were ready and willing to help me and support me in any way that I needed. I felt so loved and appreciated that it was sometimes overwhelming. Today I know just how much I am loved and appreciated.
  4. Your children need to learn how to care for themselves. As a mother, I am so used to doing everything for my children yet  I was now forced to start teaching my children how to take care of the household and hence themselves. I guess I thought that if I did everything they would always need me, not realizing that by doing everything, I am not doing my job as a mother, which is to teach them to be self-sufficient. I taught my son how to scramble eggs, make five minute gits and bake turkey bacon in the oven because I got tired of eating cold cereal for breakfast. To my surprise he loved cooking and loved the science behind it all! He also learned how to load the laundry and dryer. My daughter learned how to wash herself up at night and get herself into bed, and was my legs when I needed anything. My son took over my job of reading her a bedtime story. I was upset that I could no longer walk my daughter to school but she was so proud of the fact that she could get across the street and back on her own. Now that I am able, she doesn’t even want me to walk her to school! A mother’s job is to teach her children how to survive in this world without her. I can now take that off of my “to do” list.
  5. Nothing is more important than your health; don’t take it for granted. I believe that if I hadn’t been getting to the gym on a fairly regular basis, staying active with my kids, eating healthy foods (I gave up fast food a few years ago), keeping my weight down, sacrificing to buy organic foods, practicing meditation and maintaining a healthy spiritual life, this recovery would have taken much longer. I am healthier than I thought. I also decided that I had to put my health first even if others (clients) were frustrated, disappointed, pushy, and lacked compassion, I had to take the time to heal and have faith that my needs would be provided for. If I allowed others’ needs to interfere with healing, I was jeopardizing my business anyway. At my age, the doctors were surprised that I did not need to stay in the cast or boot longer than I did. My physical therapists are amazed at the progress and strength I have in this ankle after just a few weeks of PT.  I am amazed that after almost two months of not driving, being stuck in the house with two kids, still grieving the passing of my father, with limited connection with the outside world, I still maintained my sanity! All because I focused on my healing and put my needs first for a change. Which leads me to the last lesson…
  6. Everything is temporary. One of the most important lessons that I’ve learned from meditation and Buddhist teachings and had to re-learn during this recovery is that everything is temporary. When you are in the midst of a crisis or uncomfortable situation and you feel like you will not last or that it will never end, think of a lightening storm. I remember as a little girl I was taught that instead of just sitting there feeling fear, to count the seconds in between the claps of thunder because the longer the time in between two claps of thunder, the farther away the storm. I would be so focused on counting that it took my mind off of the fear. The storm would move further away and before I realized it, there was no second clap of thunder to count at all, and the storm was over. Even storms pass through. If we remember that things change every single second, then we can focus on what we can do in the moment to enjoy the time and space we have, knowing that even if this moment is difficult we are guaranteed not to be faced with it forever.

When they told me I fractured my ankle, I cried. I couldn’t imagine why God would immobilize me when I had two kids, a household and a business to manage. It seemed so overwhelming and felt like a prison sentence at the time. I imagined at my age that it would take forever for me to get this cast off and get some normalcy in my life. Today as I sit here writing and walking around in my bare feet, I take the time to absorb the lessons I was knocked on my behind to learn. Save your energy on stressing about a situation, because the moments are only temporary. Just let go and allow yourself to embrace the love and joy in the atmosphere because it is there and love is forever.

Happy No Fear , original poetry

New year and I’m ready to release the pain
No more capturing old Polaroid type snapshots of hurt inside the tear- stained crevices in my heart.
The things you said, the regrets and the unspoken daggers thrown at all parts of my body have bruised me enough.
My heart has hardened and I’ve been trying every chemical, oil and homeopathic medicine that I could find
To massage in with fingers worn and paper-thin from
So much kneading
Because I keep needing the love to make its way in
Trying to force myself to love again
Daring them all  to penetrate the walls of plaque hardened around my heart
No longer will I leave my canals open and vulnerable with sun  drenched thighs
Yearning to be touched from within
Because this fight I will win.
I am worthy of a life free of fear
And I deserve to have someone I trust to pull me near
Whisper “I love you” sensual and sincerely in my ear
And not cringe from disbelief

Because it’s a new year
And I’m ready

So goodbye fear


(c) M. Tonita Austin 1/4/14

Back to life…back to reality…

Me and the kids
Me and the kids

Well, today’ it’s back to school for the kids, and getting back to the mindset of prosperity, writing and productive work for me! This year was the first year that I stayed home with the kids for their entire winter break and did not schedule them for day camp at the Y or any other place. I thought that I deserved to have just one day to myself during their ten day break, but intuition told me to just enjoy them. Sometimes when I hear that voice that whispers to me to take time out for them, I can become fearful that I’m getting a message that something may happen to them or me and that is the reason we should cherish this time. But then I realize that sometimes it may just be their subconscious speaking to mine and they just need more mommy time. So, I made sure we had groceries and that the cable bill was paid and made no plans other than to attend a local Kwanzaa celebration and enjoy our family and friends during the holidays. We had a few impromptu yet fulfilling lunch and dinner gatherings with friends, some football, board games, reading, lots of movie time on the couch, a few pajama days and even some days that they were both not feeling well, and recovering. It was the first time that I purposely chose not to try and “use” the time to cram in every library, museum or other extra curricular event that looked exciting and intriguing during the holiday break. They both get so over-worked (in my opinion) at school that I wanted them to just do nothing for a change. Yes we may have put on a pound or two and the kids may be raddled due to the relaxed sleep schedules, but their bodies are healed, they got lots of love, snuggles, family time and cultural enrichment, and most of all a break from the day to day stress of school and extra-curricular activities.

They are not over-scheduled like many suburban kids I know of  these days, but I do try to balance the lack

of gross motor activities in the schools with sports and dance and other physical recreation. Aside from the recreation, they both will be taking Mandarin Chinese this semester on Saturday mornings (my son is in his sixth year, and my daughter wants to do whatever her big brother does), so we have a few commitments but not excessive. I don’t do more than one sport in a season unless it’s swimming lessons, and unless they are with their father for the weekend, or beg me to see the latest Disney movie, we spend Friday and Sunday nights at home. Even energetic and/or brilliant kids need down time too. They need time to relax and release and not worry about time and schedules and assignments. And for this reason Friday nights at our house are sacred. They are almost  always reserved for what the kids refer to as “movie night”. We get early showers, get in our pajamas, pull out the fleece blankets, search for a great family movie, pop some popcorn (or grab a bag from the Wawa) and head to the couch for snuggle time. It’s the most inexpensive way to treat them to a special night and after all of these years it’s still their favorite night of the week. They love it because they get uninterrupted quality time with me and I love it because I know there will soon be a day when Friday nights will be spent with a blanket, myself and a good book because they’ll be at the mall, going to a movie or a party with their friends. So for now, for reasons I don’t necessarily share with them, it’s my favorite night of the week too!



Check outToni’s Room 2013 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog. I started this blog a little over three years ago and I have poured my heart and soul out here. I want to thank all who have taken the time to read, comment or both and I hope that I helped someone by being open and honest with you about my life’s journey. Please feel free to share and subscribe! Thanks again and I wish you a blessed, joyful and prosperous 2014!


Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 2,200 times in 2013. If it were a cable car, it would take about 37 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

My Voyage to India (and not the Republic)!

India Arie, myself and my niece Jazmeen at the Keswick Theatre, Glenside PA
India Arie, myself and my niece Jazmeen at the Keswick Theatre, Glenside PA

Do you ever find yourself in a moment, time and place and think to yourself “how in the world did this happen”, “how did I get here”? If you’re fortunate, it’s a good experience that leads you to ask these questions, and thankfully that was the case this phenomenal evening. Saturday evening, November 23rd at the Keswick Theatre in Glenside, Pa, I found myself frozen in a moment in time, sitting directly in front of four-time grammy-winning artist India Arie;  an amazing woman, singer, musician and songwriter while she joked with her band, her back up singers and her assistants during a private soundcheck. I wanted to pinch myself, I wanted to run up on stage, I wanted to cry but I couldn’t engage my brain to do any of it. I was frozen in disbelief that in a few moments I would have the opportunity to shake the hand of and have a face to face conversation with a woman who I’ve idolized, appreciated and felt a spiritual bond with ever since I first heard her music and lyrics years ago. And most of all I was trying to wrap my head around how this I manifested this opportunity to touch hands and hearts with India Arie.

I connect with most musical artists, not necessarily because of their music, but because my love for words and poetry. I fall in love with their lyrics and become an eternal fan. Teena Marie, Rachelle Ferrell, Pink, Joss Stone, Leela James, Stevie Wonder, Vivian Green, Musiq, Jill Scott, Kem and countless others who touch a place within me with their words first and music second. I think it’s natural for you to want to meet someone who shares their innermost feelings and thoughts with you and causes you to change how you think and feel about others and yourself. I wanted to meet her and I guess I manifested that want for my niece Jazmeen as well.

My father was a songwriter and he didn’t leave us much when he passed this past May, but I knew that I wanted to take some of the money and do something that I normally would not have the opportunity to do. Never did I think “hey, I’ll try to meet a famous person” but my angels knew how to direct my path, and I believe he would have wanted to meet her too. I believe I was on Twitter checking out the latest “tweets” and since I follow Ms. Arie, I saw mention of a VIP pass for her ‘SongVersation’ tour. I clicked on the link which directed me to her website and my mouth dropped. Seriously??!! Did I read this correctly?? They are giving her fans the opportunity to meet her in person? I read the paragraph over and over again, and inhaled deeply, praying that when I clicked on the VIP button that the tickets would not be sold out. I don’t even know if I looked at the price of the ticket…exhale…I was so excited that there were seats left and that they were a few rows from and directly center stage and available. I didn’t even know at the time who I would take with me, but I purchased two and did a quick inhale, exhale again. It was September and the show was two months away, so I had time to decide on a date. I thought, “who in my life did I want to share this special moment with?” A few beloved friends came to mind but it was difficult to decide between all of them. Then I thought “who in my life did I want to pass this blessing on to?”and my niece Jazmeen came to mind. I remember giving ‘Jazz as we lovingly call her, her first India Arie CD because I wanted to share the lyrics with her. I see her traveling down some of the same roads I did over 20 years ago, and wanted to share this extraordinary day with her. I gave her this gift hoping it would expose her to the unique gifts she has to share with this world. But who was really getting the gift? I told her about the concert, but saved the VIP Experience details and surprised her with the part about meeting Ms. Arie in person a few days before the concert. Of course she was excited and it warmed my heart to bring her joy even if only for one night.

We had such an amazing time! I can’t even put into words the overwhelming feeling that came over me walking, arm in arm with my niece, approaching the stage while Ms. Arie sang to a theatre filled with just us 25 or so VIP Experience guests. She waved to us and made us feel as if we were her BFFs sitting in her living room, and all I remember thinking is…how did this happen? How am I worthy? I wanted to take pictures but we were not allowed to take our own photos, which forced me to just be in the moment and I thank you for that Ms. Arie. After the sound-check we lined up for pictures with her, taken by her staff and later displayed on her website and I began to rehearse exactly what I was going to say. I was going to thank her first for being vulnerable and allowing her fans to get close and touch her in the same manner that she touched us. I was going to tell her how much I loved and appreciated her words and music and that I was such a big admirer that when I was pregnant with my daughter that one of my friends joked that I was going to give birth to a little India Arie. I was going to tell her how that baby girl now takes voice lessons, piano lesson and almost cried when I said she couldn’t come to the concert. I wanted to hug her and hand her one of my poems. I wanted to encourage her to keep being authentic. I figured it would only take five minutes and the security guard wouldn’t have to tap me on my shoulder and tell me to keep it moving. I had it all planned out.

And then my chance arrived. I walked up to the backdrop, India Arie smiled, said hello (I think, I was still dazed) put her arm around me, smiled and laughed at my niece and I being silly and all I could say to her was “thank you for doing this…thank you”. She said “no, thank you for being here because without you, there would be no me” – or something close to that;  I was still star-struck and then my mind went blank. I said something to the photographer about making sure she was getting my good side and Ms. Arie laughed out loud and took my vain comment and ran with it. She truly wanted to make sure they got a good picture for me and we laughed about it until it was time for the next set of fans to come. As I shook her hand again I turned to her and said “bless you” and she said “thank you” and I grabbed my ‘India Arie’ tote bag and my autographed poster and floated away.

The succeeding concert was amazing, spiritual, moving, vulnerable, uplifting, tearful, humorous and most importantly an unforgettable bonding experience for my niece and me. November 23, 2013 was day filled with incredibly affirming and cohesive moments that neither of us will ever, ever, ever forget.

How did this happen? Many reasons. I am working on returning to my authentic self, I am ready for a breakthrough and need to “break the shell”, I am pursuing my passion, I am asking the Creator for what I want, I am a compassionate and giving person, I have some powerful ancestors who love me, I followed the voice inside me that said “check your Twitter page” and… I believed that I am worthy of it.


The Courage to Change…

Well it’s the first full week of school and this is the first time in about ten years that I’ve ever had six hours of continuous, uninterrupted time on a weekday (unless of course I was ill or it was a holiday!). As a self-employed professional and full time mother, I spend my time home with my children embracing every beautiful moment with them. I try to teach them values and create experiences for them that they will cherish for a lifetime because I believe our job as parents is not to smother and dis-able them but to equip them with the abilities to survive a life without us. My baby girl started first grade this year and it’s such a beautiful yet difficult transition for me. She is the type of child who is so loving and so full of energy that she requires 110% of your attention. The love you receive in return is so genuine that you don’t resent the time, however exhausting it can be. Last year she wanted me to walk her to the doorway of the school, give her a hug and kiss, was hesitant about even walking into the school and she was only there for a few hours each day! I volunteered in the classroom a minimum of once a week and there was always a sad face when I left even though I would be back there in half an hour to pick her up from school. Needless to say I was concerned about how she would handle a full day of school, desks and eating in the lunchroom. She was so nervous about the first day and worried about it being all new until we walked into the classroom and saw one of her best friends sitting up front. I exhaled a huge sigh of relief, she turned around quickly to say “by Mom!” without even the usual hug and kiss and she quickly disappeared into the fold of children. That Friday she asked if she could walk to school and come home by herself. My mouth dropped and I thought ‘it took my son until second grade to make that request’…am I being one of those smothering moms??

The most difficult lesson about parenting I feel, is learning to let go and I was about to get yet another lesson. Monday morning I grabbed my keys, walked her out the door and down the walkway to the street and she turned around and said “by mom, have a good day” in order to stop me in my tracks. She wanted to walk across the street and off to school without me! I thought she was joking until she turned around, looked at my feet progressing forward and said “I can do it myself”. For a moment I chuckled inside because my mother used to always joke that I came out of the womb saying those exact words. I took a deep breath, smiled, said “OK” and pointed her in the direction of the crossing guard. I let go. Well, okay so I live directly across the street from her elementary school and the crossing guard is practically on my doorstep when she comes out in the morning, but it was still a huge risk for me! 🙂 Today is day two and she didn’t even want me to leave the doorway of our home, but I told her I had to at least come off the porch to make sure the crossing guard was there on the corner, so she allowed me to keep walking. She seems to be handling the transition well, and I am left to sit in quiet with no choice but to meditate on the next step on my life’s journey to joy. I have made so many sacrifices – personal and financial – in order to be the face that my kids see first thing in the morning and coming home from school in the afternoon. I’ve juggled work schedules, lost clients, lost friends, missed a lot of fun parties, workshops and educational opportunities, all  because of my commitment to my children and I wouldn’t have changed a thing. I would do it for any child because they are our future and will one day be making decisions that affect my life. I’ve accepted my role here as their guardian and I’ve felt that way about all children for as long as I can remember. I strongly believe if our children grow up knowing that they are the most important person in the lives of those who have created them, they will be confident, loving beings and will spread that love and compassion to all those that they touch.

And we may just change the world. One courageous child at a time.Change

So Deep, Part Two – Original Poetry

934113_10201098201966040_1503897564_nNever thought I could feel this way
Laying next to you thinking of how we’ll start the day
Feeling your arms falling gently around my waist
Pulling me closer as the depths of our souls embrace
Trying not to wake you as I softly kiss your face
Yearning for your lips and hands to once again take me to a higher place
How did I let you get

so deep

Are you putting something in my water while I sleep
Or is it the electric you inject when you press play, pause and then repeat
I close my eyes and trust you as you sink further into me
My heart cries so joyously for the genuine love that you lay at my feet
Pushing tears out that it no longer wants to keep
So deep

Is this what it feels like to be in love
Rising up with the soul mate sent to you from above

Can’t wait for you to awaken so I can explode
Honey-filled rainbows folded deep inside of my soul

So erotic the words you use to describe your love for me
They replay in my head and I’m so aroused I can’t even sleep


Is love really supposed to feel this way
Entranced yet terrified that it could just as easily go astray
Don’t want to admit how in love I am with you today
So I close my eyes and pray that your love will always stay

So deep

M.Tonita Austin a/k/a Toni Love  7/20/13

I Hope You Dance…

June 15 2013
June 15 2013

This is the first time in my life that I am unable to pick up the phone and wish my dad a Happy Father’s Day. As much as I know and feel his spiritual presence and understand that he is at peace, it still breaks my heart and makes me feel sad and cheated. It is life on life’s terms. It’s grief and loss and there’s no way to get beyond it but to go through it. Some days it feels like a dream, other days like a nightmare. Some days I just want to be held and some days I wish I were on a beach all by myself. Grief comes in waves and it’s unpredictable, and I am so blessed to have people in my life who may not know exactly how I feel but accept and love me at whatever point I am on the grief roller-coaster.

I expected father’s day to be tough but I really thought yesterday would be more emotional than today. Almost ten years ago my youngest brother Joel, founded  Daddy University a support organization for fathers, which  has also produced a popular Daddy Daughter Dance for the past five years. I’ve volunteered every year but almost backed out this year because I thought seeing all of those little girls and grown women arm and arm with their fathers would be too emotional for my tattered heart to manage and I didn’t want to have to touch up my concealer all night. But I didn’t know anyone I could count on at the last minute to fill my shoes. I am also intimately aware of the impact the bond fused by this elegant and rare occasion has on the growth and in some cases healing, of relationships between father and daughter, and I wanted to contribute.

I was so stressed during the day that my head hurt all over and I could feel the tension in my shoulders so intensely that I could hardly turn my neck most of the afternoon. It’s amazing how stress can sneak up and almost paralyze you, forcing you to take notice and counteract. I wanted everything to be perfect for my daughter’s first time going to the dance with her dad, yet my body was screaming “what about me???!”. So I slowed down a bit, stopped stressing about the time and her anxiousness and took a lot of deep breaths. When I checked into the hotel near the Convention Center where the dance was held, I started to relax. Just the beauty of the foyer of the Downtown Philadelphia Marriott Hotel caused you to inhale the energy, beauty and life around you. We both dressed for the occasion and she looked just like an angel! Adding the details of the pearls and glitter lip gloss, I almost felt as if I were helping her get dressed for her wedding. I was so thrilled for her and it kept me from getting sad or thinking about the fact that I would never have the opportunity to attend a daddy daughter dance with my Dad. As the evening went on, I helped out and watched the event unfold. One by one, the caring men, gorgeous gowns and dresses and whispers of “daddy can I have…” danced by me and the air was so full of love and excitement that I was swept up into the energy of it all and not once felt sorry for myself. I had expected to have a full-blown pity party, but the opportunity never presented itself. Several times I looked into the dance to make sure my daughter was enjoying herself. She found her way to me a few times and I encouraged her to go back in, enjoy this time with her Dad and dance the night away. I knew that she, like me, felt the fervor and spent most of the night taking it all in.

People say that the best way to take your mind off of your own troubles is to give of yourself and do something for others and that wisdom really rang true last night. As the only girl, my father and I had a special bond. He spoiled me, called me “pretty girl” and tried to give me anything that I asked for. He loved me and tried his best to show it all of the time. He was proud of the woman I had become and even more proud I think of the Mother that I had come to be. He loved to call me his “one and only” and not once, unless he was in the hospital, did he miss sending me a card for my Birthday, Valentines day, Christmas and even my wedding anniversary. And oh yeah, daddy also LOVED to dance.

To a daughter, a father is the first love in their life, responsible for teaching her how she should be cared for and treated by what will hopefully be the last love in her life.

I feel sorry for the last love in my life because he has a hard act to follow.

Happy Father’s Day daddy! I miss you and hope you are still smiling…and dancing! Love, Neet

Sick and Tired; Confessions of a Reformed Junk Food Junkie


I will be the first to admit that even with my Ivy League and boarding school education, I did not want to believe that fast food could be that bad for you. It’s not that I grew up on it, because McDonald’s was considered a splurge when I was young –  frozen Pathmark beef patties and government cheese was our normal burger fix unless we were lucky enough to be invited to someone’s house for some good old barbecue. My mom taught us early how to drop some frozen fries into the deep fryer and it was as close to McDonald’s and Burger King as we usually got! In boarding school, we had a cafeteria, and at Columbia University, I usually could only afford cereal for lunch or whatever my roommates and I could siphon from the cafeteria during normal dining hours. Fortunately for me, I had a jock boyfriend who loved to cook me steak and eggs for breakfast or we would all meet up at the local diner after hours, so “Mickey Dees” as we affectionately called McDonald’s was not frequented.

As an independent mom, I found myself the past few years relying on the fast food restaurants way too much. It was so easy as we rushed from one after school activity to another to just drive through somebody’s window, order, and shovel it in, in the car on the way to the next place. My kids loved it, and I’m not sure if they were more addicted to the food or the toys. I had a lot less dishes to wash, and could spend more time with the kids, so it seemed like a win-win situation.

I think Facebook can ruin relationships, and a lot of people use it for their own promotion and sometimes vanity, but I can say that the one good thing that has come out of Facebook  for me is exposure to healthier ways of living, thinking and eating. I’ve reconnected with old friends ; some from childhood, some from college and in-between and started reading a lot more about juicing, organic foods, exercise, yoga and meditation. I started to put two and two together. I was getting tired of the same old fried and dyed foods and I saw the scale slowly inching further and further to the right. Each day I vowed to get to the gym, and even with the gym, it hardly nudged. I was always sick and tired and every time I went to my doctor’s my blood pressure was high. She mentioned the words “if it continues to stay at this level we may need to talk about medication”, and my heart stopped. Diabetes and High Blood pressure runs rampant in my family. So far I had escaped the gene and I did not want to succumb to having medication regulate my body if I could help it, so I bought a juicer. And I joined a Facebook group that supported a healthier lifestyle, and I got honest about my eating habits, my exercising (or lack of), and I started to do what they suggested, even if I didn’t believe it. I started replacing my Wawa egg white, sausage, egg and cheese sandwich with a fruit smoothie, and I couldn’t believe the effect on my energy level! I felt instantly energized by the powerful antioxidants and vitamins that I consumed and the pounds started dropping like water rolling down an icicle after the temperature starts to climb.

I stopped having a desire for fast food. If my kids had a taste for burgers and fries, I would make them myself from scratch, add a salad and if they really wanted the latest toy that the fast food chain was offering, I found out that I could purchase it from the store for $1 and everyone would be happy.

This all started last summer. I am now 15 pounds lighter, my blood pressure is back to normal, I am not dragging through the day, and I honestly cannot stomach fast food any more. My FB group told me this would happen – the body will reject what is bad for you, especially if you are feeding it all that it needs – and  I honestly didn’t believe that my french fry addiction would ever be challenged, but it is indeed true. I had an incident recently where this theory was tested. I was STARVING the other night. I had one of those busy days and didn’t get a chance to have dinner before I headed out for a night on the town. By the time the festivities were over, every restaurant was closed except for McDonald’s. I have to honestly say that if I ever get that desperate, I can usually get to a Chick Fil A and have at least real chicken, or a yogurt or carrot-raising salad, but this was the ONLY place open for miles. So I ordered – I figured I’d try to consume the chicken strips since it had no pink slime. All i could smell was the grease, but I dug in, peeling the layers of fried whatever off the top and going in for the meat. After a few bites and a few fries, I literally felt nauseous.

I was starving, and yet I couldn’t take one more bite. I was shocked that my body was turning on me and not just lost its appetite, but was rejecting the food! Luckily I had water and couldn’t wait until the next morning to have a hearty, healthy breakfast!

It really made me think about how important it is to feed my body and soul with good, wholesome things. I can’t say that I eat perfectly all the time, that I do Yoga consistently and sometimes I can go a week before I realize that I need to take time to meditate, but knowing made one big change that extended the days I will have here on this earth, I feel damn good about myself! I still love some fried fish, but I make sure it’s wild, it’s fresh and it’s made slowly, with love and care by ME!

The time is now friends. We don’t get another body in this lifetime. What are you feeding yours?

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