I Have Something to Tell You

Raise your hand if you’ve ever had unprotected sex.

I have. Even when I knew better.

Even when I really knew better.

When I was in my early twenties, I was “big sister” to a toddler through The Pediatric AIDS Foundation. She was two. She was chubby, cute and full of life. I loved her. She was HIV positive.

Around the same time, I met a women who would become one of my dearest life long friends. She’d lost her husband to AIDS in the very beginning of the epidemic in the eighties(when the Reagan administration ignored it). I lived in the DC area and cried my eyes out over the AIDS quilt spread out over the National Mall.

The sad fact is, there were times in my twenties when despite being well educated on HIV, I could not muster up enough self-love to protect myself. That’s really the bottom line.

Somehow I dodged a bullet.  

Regan Hofmann was not so lucky. She had unprotected sex with a man she was in a relationship with and contracted HIV. She was diagnosed HIV positive in 1996.

Her riveting memoir, I Have Something to Tell You is about her life post diagnosis and her decision to come forward publicly with her HIV status. Hofmann does an incredible job describing what it is like to live with HIV. Her mission is to rid the world of the stigma associated with HIV, (which actually perpetuates the disease) and to offer those infected with it the same compassion and consideration as those enduring any other illness.   

The only way I know to help with that is to admit it could have just as easily been me. Or perhaps you. Or your siblings. Or your friends.

Or maybe your kids.

Contrary to popular belief, women are especially at risk for contracting HIV these days. Fifty percent of all new HIV infections are among those under twenty-five. But, people over the age of fifty (and perhaps new to the dating scene after long marriages) are among the fastest growing segments of new HIV infection.

 

Hofmann is Editor of Poz magazine. Her blog can be found here.  

I Have Something to Tell You is an important book. Read it, and give it to the people you care about.  

Love.

The Fashion Police

hanna montana

So this is my new favorite t-shirt. I got it at Target. I thought the image was interesting, and it was on sale for just four bucks! Plus, it is the softest cotton I have ever felt. HT is a bit unnerved by the image. He thinks it’s probably some teeny-bopper I have no clue about, and he fears I’m embarrassing myself wearing it.

He’s taken to calling it my “Hannah Montana” shirt.

Did I mention how soft it is?

If loving Hannah Montana is wrong, I don’t want to be right.

Judith and Joy

This is Judith. judith

 This is Joy.

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Joy is from Memphis, Judith lives in Connecticut.

They both are happily married to wonderful men, who respect their interest in the teachings of Abraham, but aren’t passionately immersed in it themselves. Therefore, they like to travel solo to Abraham-Hicks functions. That’s how they met a few years back. They are close friends now, sometimes meeting up, sometimes traveling alone. When one is traveling without the other, the one who stayed home sends a bottle of champagne to the room to greet their friend upon arrival. Aren’t they gorgeous!

Lucky for me, I got to sit at their table a couple of times during my recent cruise. 

One night, the waiters put on a song and dance routine as they served us, and gave us all chef’s hats to wear.   

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No one had more fun than Judith.

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 Except maybe Joy.

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Despite the napkin swinging depicted above, Judith has a very gentle way about her. She’s soft spoken and elegant. She adores her grandchildren and while you are chatting away about seemingly nothing, she says something so profound you’ll think about it for a long time afterward. I love a teacher who doesn’t feel the need to hit you over the head with their wisdom, don’t you? She just goes about the business of changing people’s lives quietly. That’s her. 

Here she is with Eric, another guest at our table. Eric had a wonderful accent, but I never found out where he was from.  judith 3

Here is Joy with a fab woman named Gen. I think this picture is darling. Joy is a former opera singer who still treats her church congregation to Oh Holy Night on Christmas Eve. Gen is another kind of singer. Stay tuned,you’ll learn more about her in the days ahead, pinky swear. 

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Judith and Joy.

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When I grow up, I want to be just like them.

Chloe Knits

Chloe is a 19 year old young woman with Asperger’s. She has a service dog named Indy. Though we’ve never met in person, I feel very connected to her, and her mom Mary, both of whom read this blog. Chloe recently made her local paper for running a knitting group in her community. Congratulations Chloe!

Call me tickled pink!

We interrupt this barrage of cruise related posts to bring you even more fun!

Goal Achieved.

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*Seth doing Superman/Soulja Boy at last night’s school dance.

Back in Jan. I wrote this post. Our kids take a therapeutic dance class. Seth does not really need the “therapeutic” part, but he joins along. Our goal was for Riley to be able to enjoy herself at social gatherings where there would be dancing. To be familiar with the steps, so she could have fun amidst the sensory overload    the loud noises and blinking lights and crowded dance floors of her future. She loves music and dancing, but would become very upset if she couldn’t keep up. Last year she wound up running from the gym screaming.

Here are Riley and Seth doing the Cha Cha slide.  

 
If you liked that, hold on to your hat. Here’s Seth’s Michael Jackson tribute. He didn’t learn these moves in dance class. He just watched a lot of MJ on You Tube.

Annie are you okay? Annie are you okay?

And here we have Seth’s little buddy, who was definitely in a zone… I love this kid. Notice how cool Seth is, despite all his MJ emulating ability, he gives his friend lots of space to be in the light. That’s how my kid rolls.

Riley joined a conga line, and didn’t once get upset, even though she was tired at this point, and even when the kid behind her lost grip and the line broke apart. That kind of thing might have derailed her in the past.

And here we have The Macarena. Watch as Seth gets mauled by the angel in the tiara. She thinks Seth is dreamy, and followed him around, begging for his attention all evening. He was kind, but serious, he had a lot of moves he didn’t want to deny the world and he didn’t have time for romance.

And this is why we pay the big bucks for dance therapy. Joy.

Worth every single penny.

The Piano Bar, Lou Holtz and Me

My boyfriend went to Notre Dame. We were super close for our last year of high school and all through college. Notre Dame was his life. Getting in. Being part of that prestigious institution. He was CRAZY about the football team, and idolized the much revered coach, Lou Holtz.

I went to a state school in upstate NY.

We wrote letters constantly. I got at least two a week from him. He probably got more from me.

It’d have been foolish to do so, but if he’d asked me, I would have married him. I was head over heels. We were way to immature to be that serious. His plans for the future never seemed to include me and it hurt my feelings. I worried maybe he didn’t think I was good enough for him, with his fancy Notre Dame education. I had a lot of inner work ahead of me to do.  

At some point when I was around 21 or 22, I decided I’d rather be alone, than feel lonely inside the relationship. We broke up, both of us heartbroken, but hoping it was for the best.

It was.

Today I am so glad things turned out how they did. If you’ve read this blog for any amount of time, you know I married the right guy. Me and Mr. Notre Dame are in touch very occasionally,via e-mail. It is nice to keep up with him once every year or two. He got married for the second time a couple of years ago and I was very happy for him.

That being said, I cannot help but gloat.

On the cruise, who should I run into in the piano bar than the former Notre Dame football coach Lou Holtz.  

Tentatively, I approached him and said,

“Hello Mr. Holtz. I could make an ex-boyfriend very jealous if I got a photo with you.” 

He smiled and said, “Sure! I’d be glad to!” 

He was wearing a neck brace, (he’d recently had surgery he told me) and he gingerly took it off for the occasion.  

Looking around, he took my camera and handed it to a young man standing nearby, and asked him to take the picture. 

As he put his arm around me for the photo, I stammered, “He went to Notre Dame. The ex-boyfriend.”   
 
Lou Holtz looked at me, all charm, and said, “He must not have been very smart.”
 
I couldn’t believe it! Was he dissing Notre Dame? It seemed unthinkable for him to do so!  
 
Then he grinned and added,  
 
“He let you get away.”  

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I’m sorry to be so petty. We broke up, like, twenty years ago…but to have the ex’s idol call him “not very smart?” 

I’d be lying if I said it didn’t make my day.

Piya

Meet Piya (pronounced, Pia).

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The second night of the trip, she sat down at our dinner table and though we’d been having fun, everything got a bit more fun. She’s lovely, and refined, with a bit of an edge. For instance, zoom in a bit on that elegant necklace she’s wearing. See what I mean? Those silver things are skulls!

Piya and I were both traveling solo, and we wound up hanging out together a lot. The great thing about her is she’s totally independent, so while we enjoyed each other’s company, there was no pressure to buddy up every second. As a person who craves a lot of time to myself, it worked out just great for me. She was born in India, but she’s lived in London a really long time so she has this cool accent, and a slightly raspy voice. She’s one hot little tamale! 

We spent a couple of evenings singing our hearts out in the piano bar.  Then Piya decided to shake things up a bit and went topless. KIDDING! Strapless dress. Ha, ha! Weird camera angle.

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We hung out together on the beach in the Bahamas and visualized the perfect future for me and my family, and the perfect man for her, down to the smallest detail. Circumcised or not? After thoughtful consideration, she has no preference. I had to ask. Just so we’d be clear on what we were attracting for her.

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Like Deb whom I mentioned earlier this week, Piya is a life coach, but her specialty is bankers. She loves coaching. Though I’m not a banker, she spontaneously started coaching me! She could not help herself. She had a million incredible ideas for this blog. Look out world! Here I come!

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I’m going to pretend the dude in the background of this photo is a guardian angel, for all I know, he’s always at my back like that. Saluting my decisions. Let’s name him. Hmm? He…looks…like…a…

Aside, “Riley, pick a boy name. Any boy name.”

“Johnny.”

…Johnny. That’s my angel. Johnny. I like it.

 Anyway, back to Piya.

She is an absolute delight. She even got in Abraham’s “hot seat!”

It was awesome.

I love making new friends. Even really photogenic ones.  

I’ve no doubt we’ll be old friends one day.  

Ed

On the plane ride to Ft. Lauderdale I met the coolest guy. We blabbed like a couple of little girls for hours, talking about everything! What a story he has. He and his partner were either the first, or one of the first (can’t remember) gay couples to adopt a child in our state. Their child went through quite a journey as a little guy to get to them. That child is now a teenager. He is smart, and kind. He is in a gifted program and will be graduating high school with a college degree. This kid is going places! He also has a best friend with Asperger’s, which warms my heart.

I was off to cruise the Caribbean. Ed was on his way to help several children who were up for adoption in Haiti before the earthquake, get to the U.S. to begin their new lives.

I just really liked him.

And then we parted ways.

And I regretted not having taken his picture. I mean, I felt such a connection!

I really did.

Bummer.

But, ask and it is given!

He was on my flight home, in the seat right in front of me! Look at that beautiful smile! IMG_2375

 The Universe never ceases to amaze me.

Rocking the Cello

She loves her cello, but sometimes Riley does not want to practice. It isn’t that she doesn’t want to play, but with autism transitions are especially difficult. Stop doing this to do that?

It is overwhelming to her.

But then, the cello might speak, and say, “Oh Riley. Please take me out of my case. I was so looking forward to playing with you today.”

Okay, I admit it’s me, but she usually responds favorably if  “the cello” makes the request, rather than her mother.

Sometimes when she gets frustrated during practice, and maybe even screams, I grab the cello and rock it like a baby,

“Oh cello. She didn’t mean to scare you. She really loves you and the beautiful sounds you make. She is just frustrated. There, there, cello. It’s all right.”

I rock the cello until she has regained her composure. It’s far more effective than trying to convince her to buck up and keep practicing. If handled this way, she never fails to return to the cello to finish her lesson.

Yesterday morning, the first day back from my trip, she wanted to show me something new the cello could do. She dragged the bow slowly across two low notes,

“The cello can cry,” she said.

I went over and picked up the cello. I rocked it,

“Oh cello. Why are you crying? Are you sad?” I asked.

This time Riley spoke for the cello,

 “I thought you’d never come back.”

Keeping my eyes on the cello in my arms, I continued to sway,

“Oh little cello. I will ALWAYS come back. I love you so much I could never not come back. I promise, I will always come back to you.”

After a moment, Riley reached over with her bow, played two short, much bouncier notes.

“What did the cello say?” I asked.

“It said, ‘Okay.’ “

When cello practice was over, she put it back in its case. She went over to the book shelf, picked up Little Women, got all comfy with blankets and Jingle and waited for me to join her on the couch; our usual routine.

riley jingle LW

Meeting Michael Monroe

Back in December I got an e-mail from Peter Beamish, director of The Secret Behind the Secret (I’m on his mailing list). He sends announcements of new videos he’s released, etc. Either that, or I was looking at Peter’s site, www.aura.ca, I can’t remember which. Regardless, somehow I stumbled upon this video of musician Michael Monroe. He’s got a lot of fans, but I don’t get out much, so I wasn’t familiar with him. His song moved me so much I posted the video on my blog.  

Three months later I’m at dinner, on a cruise ship on the Caribbean with my new friend Piya, and who should sit down at our table? Michael and his beautiful wife Deb.

  

Of course Deb claimed we sat at their table, since it had been the one they’d sat at every night of the cruise thus far!

Aren’t they a gorgeous couple? Deb and I were on the same side of the table and had a really nice conversation. She is a life coach, specializing in helping performers achieve their goals. She gave me some great personal advice I plan on implementing. We talked about my dream of supporting our family financially and how I’ve been writing for a while now, but not really making any money at it. She said I need to start charging for something. Yes, for my writing, but for the time being, for anything. Even if it is charging Todd money for housework, and even if the money gets folded right back into our household. Just to get the money energy moving in me. Just to affirm the value of my services. Interesting notion, aye?  

After dinner, Piya went for a hot stone massage, and Deb and Michael invited me along with them to a cocktail party. There were many people we knew there, and new ones to meet! I had a lovely time.

After that, I ran into them everywhere!

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For more info on Michael’s beautiful and inspiring music go here.

For info on Deb’s coaching services, e-mail mm@michaelmonroe.info.

Life is good.

“Everything is as it should be.”

Amen.

I’m baaaack!

Got in a few hours ago. I had a wonderful time. Two days ago I was swimming and somersaulting, riding the beautiful blue waves pictured above, singing at the top of my lungs out in the ocean because no one could hear me over the crashing water. I’d not been so free since I was a child. So much to write about, but today I will do nothing besides inhale my family. Life is beautiful.

Love.

Love.

Lovingly yours,

MO’N   

Not Back to School Camp

Homeschooling is going really well.

We’re still kind of finding our way, and sometimes fear creeps in, but every time I start to doubt I meet kids who are being homeschooled and, well, I really like them. They are articulate. They are smart. They are well read. They don’t care so much what people think about them. They seem to know who they are. 

We’re not exactly unschoolers, but we’re not strict curriculum enthusiasts either. Our days have lots of flexibility. If we don’t get something done today, ah, well….there is always tomorrow.  

I first saw the video below on The Organic Sister’s blog.

Do I dare hope Riley might go to summer camp at a place like this one day when she is a teen? 

I do. I really do. 

Not Back to School Camp: A Glance Within from Allen Ellis on Vimeo.

Courage is Contagious

We are very much social creatures who model ourselves on one another. Every time you take a step and walk with your fear, you’ll never know the impact. But you can be certain somebody’s watching, and that courage is contagious.

-Frances Moore Lappé, author of Diet for a Small Planet, interviewed in Yes! Magazine, 2004

 

 

A Positively Cool Video

You might already know I’m the stalker fan devoted publicist of young adult author Courtney Sheinmel, but don’t hold that against her. Check out the new video for her latest book, Positively! It was made by a librarian. In my book, (heh-heh, get it? My book) librarians are truly some of the best people on the planet. They’re just so incredibly helpful! I think there should be a Librarian Appreciation Day. Who’s in? 

Courtney, take it away….   

I don’t know why the video fails to mention two certain characters in the book named Riley and Seth, but whatever. It’s still good.

Pardon Me While I Nervously Babble On

Last night I dreamt I let Seth play outside in the snow and then forgot about him and went upstairs and took a nap. Three hours later I remembered him and unlocked the door to find him outside, shivering, crying, practically blue. I undressed him and put him in a lukewarm bath and turns out he was okay. No frostbite. He even forgave me, but I left my baby out in the cold!

So yeah. I’m leaving tomorrow for the Caribbean, and I’m totally fine with it. It’s going to be fantastic. I’m not going to worry one bit.

I’ve made plans to meet up with a group of five others to go out on a sailboat on St. Patty’s day, in St. Thomas, and hopefully I won’t wind up green with seasickness. My sweet pharmacy man has hooked me up with all kinds of anti-nausea meds, so I’ll be fine.

A three hour tour. A three hour tour.

My friend Betsy will be having a birthday celebration one evening on the cruise, so that will be fun.

I’ve hardly ever been away from the kids for this long. I went to a writing workshop in Colorado a few years back and I was gone for a week. It was life changing and incredible, but it was tough. It was camping and it was writing and processing and very productive. I started writing in earnest as a result. It was an experience of a lifetime but I came back exhausted.

This trip is pure fun. Pure luxury. Can you feel it? I’m gonna faint.

I’ll take lots of pictures, but I am not bringing my computer. I repeat, I am not bringing my laptop.

Gulp.

I’ve got some posts lined up for while I’m gone, it will be Full-Soul-Ahead, light. I’ve tried to talk HT into guest posting but he’s not taking the bait.

I am mostly packed. Seth is skipping school in the morning so they can all drive me to the airport. I’ll spend the night in Florida and then Sat. I get on the ship!

Oh, and Riley will be attending her FIRST slumber party while I am away, but I’m fine with it. 

Gulp.

Actually, it could not be a more perfect plan. The b-day girl lives on our street and her mother is a social worker(specializing in kids) who loves Riley and has no qualms about being with her. She is a Girls on the Run coach and Riley knows her well and her girls are precious and loving and sweet. I’ve got the new jammies, and the new sleeping bag ready (Riley insisted her old one was for babies), and the b-day present is set to go.

It’s going be great!
Everything is going to be fine!

HT has it under control!

I’m going to leave you with a song we are learning in choir. Just got the music yesterday and God Bless You Tube for always having a version of every song I ever need to learn. The kids on the video are adorable. Their shirts say, “Child of Song.” I think that might be the name of their choir, and I just love the concept. 

Catch ya’ when I get back my sweets.

Lovingly yours,

MO’N

The Love of My Life

Each day I am gone, the kids will get a bag to open, with a small toy and a love note from their Mommy.

One day last week, during an especially hard moment when Riley had been melting and Todd and I had been short with each other, I turned to him and seethed, “I can’t wait to get on that plane.”

Two days later we stood in the dark, in the kitchen, slow dancing to the love song station on XM radio. He is the one who always switches it from my beloved Oprah to love songs. The children had turned off all the lights in the house and were running  around with flashlights. Moonlight came in from the window. As we did the white guy Jr. High dance sway, I put my head on his shoulder and my throat tightened, 

“How am I going to see the most beautiful sunset, and not turn to you…to see you see it too?”

“I’ll be with you,” he whispered, as his lips pressed the top of my head. “You’ll tell me what it looked like.”

Today I’m in denial I’m even going. Todd will print off the forms I need. Make sure my papers are in order. He takes care of things.

He will take care of our babies.

He will make them breakfast, lunch, dinner. Get their supplements ready. Take Riley to cello. Take them both to dance class. He’ll man up for clay class. He’ll do laundry. He’ll make tacos. He’ll tuck them into bed. He’ll rub essential oils into their feet at night, not because he believes it helps, but because I do.

He will help Riley with her math. He will sit on the floor in Seth’s room to play Lego Space Police, because it is important to our boy.

He will tell me everything is great when I call, even if it isn’t, so I won’t worry.

In three days, he will drive me to the airport, tell me I’m a good mom, and put me on a plane.  

He will be there waiting for me when I get back.

He will be the love of my life,

forever.

E Plus High C

After searching for years, I have finally found a natural (metal free) deodorant I love. Sorry Tom’s of Maine, you just don’t cut it. I’m done with you forever.

E Plus High C is where it’s at. 

No need to thank me for this valuable information. Knowing you smell good and that aluminum isn’t leaching into your system is thanks enough.

Lovingly yours,

MO’N