Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Am I Missing Something?

I am a marketer's dream. I come by it honestly. I inherited it from my parents. My mom likes to buy vacuums and cleaning implements (and has single handedly supported Shark). My dad is a serious junkie. I can't tell you how many infomercial products he's bought. His latest is an electric pressure cooker. He bought it while in the hospital. I guess there wasn't much on late night TV. In his defense, he does use it every week, and hasn't blown up anything yet.

Frequently, my parents will mention a product advertised in an infomercial. And I have to tell them again that I don't watch infomercials. Not because I don't have time, or because I'm above it. But because I'm susceptible. I will become convinced, long before that 30 minutes is up, that I need that product. I don't know what it is, I will need it.

I am a marketer's dream. Years later, I will still associate songs with the product they represented. Commercials for food make me want to cook that or visit that restaurant.

But, there's something I don't get.

Watch this commercial. It's only 30 seconds.

So, am I missing something?

I get the purpose of toilet paper. Obviously. I use toilet paper. Obviously. I even like 2-ply.

But it has nothing to do with why I wear underwear.

Please tell me I'm not the only one who thinks that the purpose of wearing underwear is not because I don't wipe well enough. Even if I were intrigued by the ripples and plushness, this whole premise makes me scratch my head and make this face:

Cottonelle, I'm an easy target. And you totally missed.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Thank you, Sandra Boynton!

The year was 1991.

(Please give me a moment while I sob uncontrollably that 1991 was 25 years ago. Holy crap, where did that go?).

I was a freshman in high school with a big perm and a crush on a Sophomore. I was on a field trip to Boston with Math Club. We were in Quincy Market when I decided that I should probably get a birthday card for my dad, seeing as how it was his birthday and all. I'd already bought myself a Goofy watch at the Disney store. I remember going up to a small booth and spinning the rack of cards around. Then I saw it. The birthday card for my dad. This is what it looked like:

Copyright Sandra Boynton.
The card was a big hit. Like a really big hit. So much so that the next year, on that same trip to Boston, I found the same vendor in Quincy Market and bough another version of that birthday card. Best birthday card ever.

Fast forward a dozen or so years, and I had my first child. My friend Amy gave me some board books for my shower. Included in that was The Going to Bed Book. As my son grew, he loved to be read to, and that was one of his favorites. I can still recite it. "The sun has set, not long ago, and everybody goes below. To take a bath in one big tub, with soap all over, scrub scrub scrub."
Copyright Sandra Boynton
Based on the awesomeness of that book, we slowly expanded my son's library to include many, many Sandra Boynton books. My dad was my son's primary babysitter when I worked. They've had a special bond since my son's birth. He spent just at much time reading these books to my son as I did. His favorite was Hippos Go Berserk.
Copyright Sandra Boynton
We also had one of the Sandra Boynton CD's (Philadelphia Chickens). It was set as a Broadway musical, which really struck a chord with our family. I still have trouble driving through farmland without this song running through my head.

But as children do, my son (and then my daughter) aged past their Boynton phases, though my dad and I have always held her close to our hearts, mostly for the memories with the kids. When we learned that our favorite children's author was also the author of the best birthday card ever, it was like for a moment, the world was perfect.

Fast forward another dozen years. This past year has been difficult for my dad, and this birthday was not guaranteed. So, what I really wanted was to find the Hippo Birdie card. Even 25 years later, everyone in our family remembers it. I had to find this card.

I follow Sandra Boynton on Facebook, and often share her drawings, especially on my author page. I decided to reach out to her to see if there was any way to get a personalized card or something special for my dad. I mean, she has to have a store, right? Does she sell autographed things?

Instead of being directed to her store, Sandra's daughter Darcy reached out to me and offered to send something for my dad for his birthday. I was floored, and then even more so when I received it in the mail. I cried.

How this woman (and her daughter who handles this sort of thing) could be so kind and generous to me--it just blew my mind. She had already impacted our lives in such great ways, and then here she was, doing it again. I've waited weeks for this day to come. My dad's 70th birthday.

I brought down the presents to him. Upon initiating opening the card, without even knowing what the card was, my dad started singing, "Hippo birdie two ewe." I told you, this card had an impact.

 And then when he realized that it was his card. And his new birthday mug.

Then to his personalized book. He kept asking me, "How did you do this? Did you send away for it? Do you know her? How did you do this?"

There's not much my dad needs in life right now, other than quality time with loved ones. Spending time with us makes him happy (I hope). Having some mementos of some of the greatest years of our lives--when the kids were little--is the cake. Having it personalized by someone who played an integral part in shaping it is the best icing ever. Chocolate, in case you're wondering.

And Sandra Boynton does have a place to buy this card (and other things too). You can click here to get the best birthday card ever.

Thanks, Dad for everything, and happy birthday.

And thank you Sandra Boynton for yet again touching our lives.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

A Thank You

There are people in your life who will tear you down. If you're lucky, someone will come along and build you back up.

I was lucky.

I had the same math teacher for grades six through eight. She didn't like me. She didn't hide the fact that she didn't like me. Frankly, I'm sure I was an annoying know-it-all. And math was not my favorite subject. Not that it will come as a shock to anyone who knows me now, but I used to rush through to get it done. In doing so, I tended to make careless mistakes. So, I was not a favorite of my math teacher. But it was, on a day I remember with so much clarity, that she sort of ruined me. She said to me, in front of my whole class that I "would never accomplish anything and would never amount to anything."

Nice thing to tell your student.

Not surprisingly, I lost all confidence in my math ability. Like one needs a reason to be insecure in those early teen years.

Going into high school, after attending the same school from nursery school through eighth grade was intimidating. There were all these other kids. I was no longer a big fish in a little pond. I was a little fish, and totally overwhelmed. I was fortunate though, as my two older brothers had traversed the way a bit. I knew some of the teachers, and they knew of me. That was sort of good and sort of bad (especially when the oldest brother is a class clown and doesn't make the best impression on a humorless teacher). But my brothers were good kids, strong students, and I did have the benefit of the same last name.

I was also a pleaser. I wanted people to think well of me.

Course I Math was intimidating. The teacher was an older gentleman, Mr. Corbeil. He had a reputation for favoring the boys and not the girls. Not what I needed after my previous experience. Especially not when most of my peers in the honors classes had the advantage of taking Course I in eighth grade. I was already behind. Did I mention that I was a bit anal and driven, and had my sights set on being valedictorian, as my brother would be that year? Yeah, my brothers set the bar high, and I wasn't sure I'd be able to make it. Especially not in math.

But, Mr. Corbeil liked me. Despite the fact that I was a girl. Maybe it's because he liked my brothers. Maybe it was just me.

I did well in math that year. And throughout high school.

I was a four year member of Math Club, which, ironically did not really involve math at all. I don't remember what we did, despite being president. Mr. Corbeil was the moderator, which was why I did it.

Early on in our Freshman year, Mr. Corbeil announced that we were his last class and he'd be retiring when we graduated. He and his wife never had kids, but treated us like their kids. Mrs. Corbeil passed away a number of years ago.

Scrolling through Facebook a little while ago, a classmate posted Mr. Corbeil's obituary. I'd often wondered if he was still alive. I should have looked him up. I should have thanked him for believing in me. For giving me back some confidence. For realizing that my other teacher was not correct, and that I would amount to something.

I have a lot of people to thank along my journey. Mr. Corbeil was just one of them.

So, take a moment to thank the people who build you up. To let their words and encouragement be the ones to echo in your brain instead of the negativity. And then, take another moment to do that for someone else. Be someone's Mr. Corbeil.

Mr. Corbeil's Obituary

Saturday, April 2, 2016

I Don't Need a Day #worldautismday

Today is April 2nd. It's World Autism Day.

I shared this on Facebook yesterday:

Facebook was also so kind to remind me that on this day, in years past, I've shared the following:
 And this one too:

I don't need a day to remind me to think about Autism. I don't need to wear blue to be aware of Autism. I live Autism every single day.

Somedays, it's so hard. Other days, it's the easiest thing I've ever done. And I know how very lucky we are. My son is autistic. But he's so much more. Trying to sum him up with that one word is like saying he has blue eyes and expecting you to know everything about him from that one fact. He's entering adolescence, which is going to bring a whole new set of challenges. Especially considering that his body is losing control to hormonal fluctuations while his emotions are still about 3 years behind his chronological age, and he lacks the pragmatic skills to express himself without a whole lot of work on my part.

But he can express himself. And we're working on it. Every day we work on it. Some days are good. Some days are not. Some days the stress of the outside world is almost too much for him.

And we're so lucky. So very lucky. My son is one of the lucky ones. Because yes, he's autistic. But, like I said, he's so much more. He has friends (typical ones). Okay, maybe just one or two friends, but someone he can call for a playdate and they will say yes. He's well liked. He's not thought of as odd. He's in a regular class and is no longer on an IEP. College is in his future. He'll have a career. We have every reason to expect that he'll have a family, if he so desires.

At work, many of my students are not so lucky. Some are non-verbal, or are very limited in their verbal skills. Some are so locked in their own worlds that it's a privilege to be granted entry, even if for a moment. God, what a gift that is to receive, when they let you in. How crushing it is when you see the curtain fall and know you're back on the outside.

I don't need a day to remind me of all the work that parents and teachers and therapists do on behalf of individuals with autism. That is my everyday.

And I don't need a day to remind me of how lucky and how honored I am to know these individuals. I know every single day. Somedays I'm frustrated, and somedays I feel inadequate. But every day I feel and every day I know.


Friday, March 11, 2016

Fighting an Epidemic One Back at a Time

It seems to me that stories of the heroin epidemic are all over the news. From the allowance of every pharmacy in New York state to carry Narcan over the counter to the proposal of a heroin clinic in Ithaca that is staffed by licensed medical personnel (so that addicts can receive medical attention so they don't die while shooting up), the war on heroin is dominating the news coverage. 20/20 is running a special on it tonight, and a few weeks ago, I watched PBS's Frontline special, Chasing Heroin, about the measures being taken in Seattle to combat heroin.

I've never been addicted to drugs. I cannot speak to that. But here's what I keep gleaning from the coverage. Once someone is addicted to heroin, it is very difficult to come clean and stay clean. I'm not convinced that daily methadone is any better.

The other fact I keep hearing. Four out of five heroin addicts started with prescription narcotics. Let me say that again. FOUR OUT OF FIVE started with prescription pills.

Our medical system is broken, and this heroin crisis is a by-product of it. Fragmented, sequestered medical care that looks only at body systems and not the whole person. Physicians who won't refer to other fields, lest they be cut out of the loop financially. Big pharma pushing, encouraging, bribing. Patients get trapped in a downward spiral of doctor's visits, medications, diagnostic imaging.

This post may be biased. I am a physical therapist. I have eight years of college education and passed a state board exam in the field of treating dysfunction. That's what physical therapists do. We treat dysfunction. What is the largest symptom of dysfunction? Pain.

Why do people take narcotics? Pain

What leads to heroin use in 4 out of 5 heroin addicts? Pain pills.

Do we see a correlation here?

Studies have shown that early referral to physical therapy reduces medical costs in terms of follow up diagnostic imaging, spinal injections, and surgeries. If people are feeling better quicker, they will not need to take narcotics. If people are feeling better and do not have to have surgery, they will not need to take narcotics.

I know there is a time and place for prescription pain pills. There are some cases that narcotics are needed, like in post-surgical cases. However, I firmly believe that both the patients and the physicians are to blame in the growing crisis of narcotic addiction. The patients who want a quick fix, that magic pill. Physicians who are too eager to write that script for the quick fix.

What would happen if we shift our thinking when we hurt our backs (or shoulders or knees)? What if instead of visit upon visit to physicians and specialists, we went right to PT? Only 17 states have unrestricted direct access to physical therapy (meaning there is no physician referral/prescription needed). The other 33 states have limited or provisional access. Here's the catch: even though your state may have direct access to physical therapy, your insurance company most likely will still require you to have a physician referral otherwise they won't cover it. Additionally, in many states, physical therapy services are charged as a Specialist fee, which often means higher co-pays, and can be cost prohibitive for patients.

What if instead of relying on a little pill, we took a look at our lifestyles and made changes to make our bodies function better?

You know, going to the physical therapist a few times a week and making lifestyle modifications may seem like a pain in the neck, but as compared to life as a heroin addict, it seems like a no brainer.

I'm not naive enough to think that physical therapy is the cure for the heroin epidemic. It's not that simple. But we have to start somewhere, doing something. Allowing children to buy Narcan OTC so they can save their friends from overdosing is not the answer. We need to look at the root causes, and start there.

So, the next time you are hurting, instead of asking your physician for a prescription for pills, ask him or her if a referral to PT might be a better plan.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Good Timing for #International Women's Day

Sometimes, things work out for a reason. Today, is not only release day for my latest novel, Live For This, but it's International Women's Day. (It's also #NationalPancakeDay, but that has nothing to do with either issue)

If I've said it once, I've said it a million times, and will continue to say that I'd be nowhere without the women in my life. From my mother to my daughter to my best friend Michele (you may notice her name makes it into every book) to the mom's at school to my co-workers to my author friends, I've got a fantastic support system.

It's from these women that I draw inspiration to write my female characters. My resilient women. My characters are flawed, realistic. They're not perfect. Sometimes, they make terrible mistakes. But they get up, put their big girl panties on, and carry on. Much like the women in my real life do. The women that struggle with the balance of career and family and responsibilities, often putting not only their personal lives aside, but their health as well in order to take care of everyone else.

I've got a great support system around me, and out of it has come my sixth novel. Samirah, the main character in Live For This, is not quite as together as some of my other main characters. She's young--only 24, and has had a rough go of it. She puts up walls and defense mechanisms, which turns her into not a very nice person. There's not a lot there that makes her likable. Except, you know she's had a raw deal. Watching her grow, mature, and evolve is emotional, and heartbreaking at times. Like my other characters, she finds her resilience. Not necessarily by choice, but she embraces it none the less.

So, today, on my seventh publishing day, I ask you to celebrate the women in your life. May we all be resilient.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

A Somber Experience

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of chaperoning my son's field trip (which in and of itself is a long story, but I'll save that for another time, as it is not the point of this post). We had a group of about 48 11 and 12 year-olds (sixth graders), and part of the trip was a tour of the 9/11 Memorial in New York City.

One thing that stuck not only me, but the teachers and other chaperones as well is that none of the children were alive when 9/11 happened.

They've always existed in a post-9/11 world.

They don't know know what the NYC skyline looked like with the Twin Towers, and how once they were gone, it created a huge hole.

They don't know what it is like to say good-bye to someone at the airport gate, or greet them there the moment they deplane.

They don't remember the days when bags weren't searched and x-ray scanners weren't the norm. When you didn't have to remove your coat and belt and shoes just to enter a museum.

They've always known the term Al Qaeda. They've always known of Osama Bin Laden and Jihad.

They don't have the memories of that day, knowing exactly where they were and what they were doing. Watching the horrible events unfold, live on CNN.

They don't understand the gravity of the statement, "He worked for Cantor Fitzgerald."

They don't know how eerie it is to see a sky with no air traffic.

They don't know how frightening it is to see a low flying plane.

My personal recollections are in this post, but we all have those stories. The teacher who had a view of the Pentagon from his classroom. The teacher with a classroom full of kids who was summoned to the office because her principal knew her sister lived in the city. The mother who's youngest sister was late for work at her job in the South Tower, arriving just after the first plane crash (she grabbed a friend and high tailed it across the Brooklyn Bridge).

I had four boys with me yesterday. We didn't have time to read every exhibit, so I gave them the quick synopsis. I have to say, I'm proud at the respect and somberness they showed. I still don't know if they got the gravity of the situation. The steel beams, twisted and mangled, crumpled like paper. Seeing the steel arch and how massive it is, and how small it was compared to the rest of the building. The fire truck (Engine 3) with the front end melted off. All 11 members of the Company perished that day. How the phone lines to pretty much all of New York were jammed, so that loved ones could not be contacted. The missing flyers that grew in the days after. The horror of knowing all the emergency personnel mobilizing at the local hospitals would have no survivors to treat. Of knowing that there would be a high casualty count from the plane crashes themselves, but that no one expected the towers to fall.

Of watching people jump out the window.

I don't know if I said the right things yesterday. It's hard to believe it's been almost 15 years. It feels like yesterday.

I feel like I need to take my youngest to the 9/11 Museum and Memorial, when she's a little older. And then I will have no need to go back. I will carry in my mind, and in my heart, the terrible losses of that day until the day I die.

And I will pray that my children will have no such defining event in their lives.