Thoughts from a 10.5 Mile Jog:

Mile 1: My legs are so sore from the last run so just try to do that loop in reverse but it’s ok if you don’t make it that far.

Mile 2: Oh hey! My quads are loosening up and I’m a whole minute per mile faster! Sweet!

Mile 3: Maybe I can just add a mile to the last run. Nothing too crazy. Don’t be a hero. Take a right here.

Mile 4: Well, I made it this far. Might as well keep going. Run, Forest, run!

Mile 5: Where the sidewalk ends, the adventure begins…that would be an awesome & inspirational quote. You heard it here first.

Mile 6: I totally forgot to put on glide. Can I just run with my hands on my hips the rest of the way? I must look so odd. Maybe lip balm will help instead. Hey! It does!!!! And now I’m minty fresh!

Mile 7: I’ve never been so happy to see a port-o-potty.

Mile 8: The only way to get away from the mosquitoes is to run faster and like Phoebe. Oh look! A turtle!

Mile 9: Hello? Yes-I’m-running-but-now’s-a-good-time-to-walk-so-I-can-talk-for-a-bit…

Mile 10: Is that my mailman? Bet I can beat him back to my house.

Mile 10.5: Saturday. Same time, same pace?

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To Do

Dawn glanced at her to do list, laced up her shoes, filled her water bottles, slid them into her fanny pack, and turned on her running apps, heart rate monitor, music, and headed out the door.

This wasn’t the first time she laced up in the last 2 months. In fact, for the last 8 weeks Dawn had been getting dressed to run almost daily, yet something always stopped her, needing her attention, allowing her to put it off another day.

“Not today. Today has to be the day,” she thought as she began jogging away from her house, “You have less than 3 weeks to get your ass in gear for the half. All you need to do is finish. Next year you can work on breaking records. Just go.”

Her modest goal for the day was a 5k but after taking a 2 month hiatus from running, she wasn’t sure how it would go down. The last 2 months swam around her head as she listed all the reasons she hadn’t run:

  • An old knee injury that had flared up after a fall and possible mild concussion while on vacation
  • Back to school
  • Chairing a very involved fundraiser
  • Running the school store once a week
  • Putting together the school directory
  • Getting the house in order after a summer away
  • Dealing with the NJ Board of Education who was trying to revoke her teaching license
  • Needing yet another new attorney after learning through a google search that her previous lawyer had been disbarred…

“No more excuses. Just run. You need this. For the race. For the kids. To get back in shape. To prove to yourself that you can. For the peace of mind and clarity running brings you. For you. Just go.”

And so she did.

Dawn let her music rhythmically carry her through the first 2 miles. Her pace was slow but she kept running, dragging her extra 50 pounds of stress and laziness behind her, step by step. “Just go.”

During the next 2 miles her back straightened and she held her head high, taking in deep cleansing breaths and exhaling, allowing the wind to blow away her doubts. “Just go.”

Her phone started to notify her about her volunteer duties and current events as she pounded uphill towards her descent home.

Ding: who is opening the school store this week?

Ding: what will this vote mean towards midterm elections?

Ding: the fundraiser is doing well but not as good as last year

Ding: we finally have your file from the previous attorney and got an extension on the response to the Board of Ed

Ding: pay the bills

Ding: what will this vote mean for women and for our future

Ding: how are we on volunteers for the fundraising event

Ding: call you probation officer even though you’ve completed your probation but your phone seems to ignore your monthly request to delete this notification forever so you don’t really need to call him but here’s a reminder to when you did…

“Just go,” Dawn pushed on, ignoring the rest of her world, for just a brief moment in time.

And so she went…for 7 miles of peaceful selfishness so she could get back to her world to tackle the rest of her to do list, already feeling refreshed and accomplished for the day…

Book of Life

September 12, 2018

Dawn’s day started like any other: alarm clock blaring, hitting snooze an extra time, and slowly stumbling out of bed and into the shower before the kids and sun rose.

When Dawn stepped out of the shower she heard the faint beep of a smoke detector battery nearing its end.

“Great,” she sighed, as she wrapped her hair in a towel and went to investigate. She climbed onto her bed and gingerly stepped into the nightstand thinking, “Please don’t fall. Please don’t fall,” as she reached up to try to pull the detector out.

“Super. It’s stuck,” she thought as the nightstand wobbled a bit. “This is all I need. To fall and knock myself out so that the children will find me dead on the floor with a smoke detector in my hand, naked with nothing but a towel wrapped around my head. This is not how I planned to begin the 10 days of repentance.”

After finally unhooking the smoke detector and removing the battery, she left it on the nightstand and got dressed, making a mental note to have Scott replace it that night.

The rest of the morning, though rushed as usual, went off without a hitch and Dawn was able to get the kids to school on time.

As she drove to her appointment to have her car serviced, a morning dove swooped down. In the milliseconds she watched, she knew the bird would expertly avoid her car.

Unfortunately, the dove didn’t seem to notice her presence and flew head first into Dawn’s windshield. Dawn sadly watched in her rear view mirror as the bird ricocheted over her car and landed on the road behind her.

“This year’s not looking good for forgiveness for me,” Dawn’s thoughts again trailed to the upcoming Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur, “God I hope I make it into the book of life.”

After returning from her service appointment, Dawn went out back to check on her garden. As she walked down the deck stairs, she passed through an unseen web and, allowing her irrational fear of spiders to take hold, tripped down the remaining steps, landing her ass-down on the ground with a twisted ankle, a flash of her life, and looking up to the heavens asking her family members for some understanding as her heart raced with adrenaline.

Dawn hobbled back inside and upstairs to her office. The garden would have to wait. She’d just take it easy, ice her ankle, and finish inputting school directory information and working on the PTO kickoff fundraiser she was chairing. “That way, God forbid I don’t make it to Yom Kippur, at least everything can still go on without me,” Dawn giggled, amused at the absurdity of the day so far.

When it was time to leave for school to pick up the children, Dawn walked into the garage and was overwhelmed by the smell of gasoline. “What the hell?” she thought, as she opened the garage door to allow the vapor to escape.

Now it was starting to get real and Dawn’s earlier amusement turned to fright.

Dawn climbed into her car, put her key in the ignition and stopped.

She flashed back to the fire and everything she and Scott had learned about natural gas, gasoline, flammable ingredients, and ignition after that horrific day. Everything she never sought to know was forever etched in her long term memory.

Dawn now knew that gasoline in liquid form does not ignite, but the vapors do as her unrelenting fear latched on with an unrelinquishing stronghold.

She stepped out of the car, shaking, her stomach inching towards her throat. She walked outside and dialed Scott at work. Her call went straight to voicemail which meant that he was in a meeting. Tears started forming as her eyes burned with fear.

She went back into the garage and sat in her car for what felt like an eternity, trying to convince herself that turning the key would not spark an ignition of flames.

“You can do this. You can do hard things. You will not blow up. You will be ok. Dear God, please let me be ok.” Dawn spoke aloud to herself as she held her breath and turned the key…

July 12, 2013

The kids and I moved back in with my parents in February, 2012, after insurance had denied our claim from the fire.

Jordyn was 3 1/2, Max had just turned 2, and Kennedy was just 3 months old.

I was nervous about how it would all work out. My mother and I haven’t always seen eye to eye. We’re so completely opposite and yet, exactly the same. Seriously, how was this ever going to work?

Mom & Joe got the house ready before we moved in. They got Max an adorable toddler bed. Little drawers were ready for the kids’ clothes. Closets and cabinets were cleaned out: for clothes, for food, for toys…for what little we had, they provided a space and a place.

We pulled into the driveway on a rainy Sunday and began to unload. It was awful. How can I be back here again? How am I supposed to live in my parent’s basement as a married woman with 3 small children? How can I get by without Brian and his rocksteady support during the week? Will Jordyn and Max be alright sleeping 2 floors up from me? Who will help them when nightmares or stomach bugs strike in the dark of night? Will they be ok without Daddy? Will I? Will Kennedy recognize him when he comes “home” on weekends?

It was an adjustment at first. We all needed to get into the rhythm of a new routine. We needed to find the right groove.

The “rules” for Bubbe & Zayde’s needed to change because we weren’t just here for a holiday or a weekend visit. Certain food items needed to be tossed except for really real special occasions. Jumping on and off beds and sliding down the banister would have to be curtailed.

It was frustrating. I felt like there were times I couldn’t parent my own kids the way I wanted. I felt like Mom was over stepping her boundaries and trying to parent for me. I felt like I was being watched and judged. And that I was doing the same. I felt like we were invading and taking over.

I held my breath when Mom reprimanded my children for acting out. I was pissed when she rewarded them with cookies for no reason whatsoever, knowing that once the sugar took effect, bedtime would be a nightmare.

I was relieved when she called to say that I was on my on my own for dinner and bedtime, free to do it all my way. Yet, when the time came, annoyed that she wasn’t there to help.

And exhausted…my goodness, so unbelievably, bone tired, exhausted.

And so was Mom. In addition to working a full day, running an entire agency, she was helping Jordyn and Max at night when they woke in fright at 12, 2, 3 & 5am. And she was getting them dressed and fed in the morning so I could tend to Kennedy. And taking them to school. And helping with the evening routine of dinner, bath, books and bed.

Mom and Joe traveled to the shore on weekends not only to give us our own family space but also to catch up on their own, well needed, rest…

As the year went on, it became easier. There was a fluidity and rhythm that took over. There was an understanding and a sense of comradery and support, both spoken and silent.

Routines became routine. I learned to loosen my reigns and learn from an experienced pro. Mom learned some new school techniques and added them to her expertise. There was patience, understanding, respect, and bonding.

Weekends were spent doing family things together. Time became a valuable treasure. Communication was imperative and open, (and technologically advanced). We learned the true meaning of quality.

Mom and Joe have gotten to see the kids grow up before their eyes. They have seen Kennedy grow through each stage from newborn to toddler. Mom potty trained Max and painted Jordyn’s nails. They garden together, take long walks around the ponds together, feed the horses together, laugh & sing & dance together, play & tickle together, have grown together, and have made so many memories…together.

I am so very glad that during this uncertain time, we have had such an amazing opportunity and incredible experience.

Thank you, Mom & Joe, who helped make your house our home.

Mother’s Log: a week with no kids

July 11, 2018: Day 2 of Solitude

Yesterday’s excursions left me wiped. My whole body is grateful for a day of rest and sleeping in.

So far the only accomplishments of the day are making the bed, making a vegan “chicken tortilla” soup, boiling beets for a beet & goat cheese salad, and taking the girls’ bikes to the shop to have the brakes fixed.

My new sunglasses and flip flops have arrived and I could not love amazon prime any more.

Heading to the beach to read and possibly nap… I have no worries, guilt, nor regrets…

Mother’s Log: A week with no kids

July 10, 2018: Day 1 of complete Solitude

8am: Instead of sleeping in today, I wake at a reasonable hour. It’s odd not having to make breakfast, clean up, or listen to any sibling rivalry, imaginative games, or the echoing crash of the marble run on the stone floor that reverberates in your head like a pin-ball. I thought I might miss all of that. I do not.

8:13am: I finish my coffee and unsweetened cashew milk. (It’s gross but healthier than happiness, I suppose.) I dress and leave the condo without even making my bed. As someone who thrives on organization, this, surprisingly, does not bother me one bit.

8:27am: I head out to the boardwalk on my bike, so far not having a uttered single word to a single soul. I head toward Atlantic City at a decent speed, only using my voice to let others know when I am passing them. Music blasting in one ear and the freedom of not shouting at my kids to stay to the right, pass on the left, and to plan ahead is magnificent.

9:56am: I just got back from the ride. End to end, it was a 17 mile trip. Not quite as long as I had wanted but more than my tailbone and lower pelvic bone were prepared for. They are quite angry with me, as is my non-thigh-gap.

10:03am: Damnit. I really do need to make the bed. And I guess I’ll fold the pile of laundry that’s been sitting in the guest room for 2 days.

10:38am: Spoke with Brian. He’s having a busy day at work and would love it if I came home to surprise him. He keeps asking. It’s cute and annoying at the same time. Either way, it’s not gonna happen. I love him, but I’m really enjoying this solitary.

11:34am: I mount up again and ride another 4 miles to the bay. My ass hates me. So do my feet, because I am wearing flip flops and manage to literally flip one off coming to a stop, therefore using my bare foot to land. See kids? This is why we don’t where flip flops when we ride. Duh.

11:58am: I’m going on a 2 hour solo SUP excursion in the bay. The waivers have all been signed and the young gentleman gives me directions on which way to paddle based on the tide and wind. I am so excited!

I follow his directions and paddle north, watching the wildlife of turtles, small jellyfish, egrets and other marina birds, crabs, and a plethora of jumping minnows during the low tide. It took all of 40 minutes, but I decide to head back.

12:49pm: Unfortunately the tide may be coming back in and the winds have changed so that my efforts are meaningless. I am paddling as hard as I can and am staying in the same place, possibly moving backwards. What. The….

1:46pm: I have been nonstop, hardcore paddling for an hour. The wind is so strong that if I stop, I will be pushed backwards and therefore cry.

I paddle towards the docks where the surf shop kid said it would be easier. The wind and waves knock me into the docks. This is not easier. He is a kid and knows nothing. I paddle back out, attempting to make a beeline for the surf shop, which is now in view. I glance up to see the damn water tower behind the surf shop smiling as it mocks my efforts. I’d like to give it the middle finger but I’m afraid to stop paddling.

Just keep going. You can do hard things. Hopefully you’ll have a 6 pack and toned arms by morning…Dig. Dig. DIIIIG!

2:00pm: My 2 hours is up, and by my calculations it’s going to take me at least another 2 to get in. The buoy in front of me is not getting any closer and the osprey nest to the left of me is still to the left of me.

I see another SUP heading towards me. Shit. It’s the kid from the surf shop paddling out to “rescue” me. Lovely. He approaches my board just as a boat whizzes by, causing me to lose my balance, my sunglasses, and my dignity. I climb back up, fall again, climb back up, and allow the kid to tow me in for a bit. This is not how I expected this to go.

2:17pm: We finally made it back. My whole body now hates me from the day I put it through. I inquire to the surf shop kid how often this happens, thinking it must be often. “Twice a month” he responded, humiliating me even more, “But it’s usually from inexperience, not from Mother Nature, so you’re good,” He tries to make me feel better. It does not work. At. All.

2:21pm: I hop back on the bike and ride the 4 miles back to the condo. Once I arrive safely, I hop down and manage to break my flip flop, which was already in poor condition. I go upstairs, order new sunglasses and flip flops, shower, and decide that relaxing on the beach can wait until tomorrow…I need a nap.

On Daddy’s Shoulders

I watch in awe as you carry our world on your shoulders as if it’s nothing to bear.

You swing them up so gently as their tiny hands clutch to the safety that you provide.

They bounce with delight as I marvel at your strength, ever solid, never waning.

They rest their little legs, take solace in the throne you have provided, and feel like royalty for this moment.

The smiles on your faces brings reassurance that all is alright, everything’s going to be okay, life is still good and sweet and wonderful just the way it is, in this moment.

To the untrained eye, it’s just a ride on daddy’s shoulders. To me, it’s everything that’s right in our world. To our children, it is their world…

May your shoulders always be this strong and may our children know that you will always be there to carry them when they are in need. And please know that you can forever lean on mine for extra strength, courage, and support.

*this poem was originally written on Father’s Day, 2014

Vegan Quinoa Stuffed Peppers with Roasted Red Pepper Ragout

I am not a vegan. However, I have always loved my fruits and veggies and have recently began making the switch to a plant based lifestyle for my own health and for the benefit of the planet. My kids have also been asking for the change so I thought, why not? I’d go into more detailed reasons but that’s not really what this post is about. It’s easy enough to google the information or talk to a nutritionist about it.

Honestly, I’m pretty terrible at it, because baked brie, taco Tuesdays and SUSHI!!!! Plus, most of my easy go-to recipes at home usually involve fish, poultry, or red meat. I’ll also probably never give up real butter, eggs, and the occasional burger or venison if given the option. But if there’s a vegan option on a menu, I like to give it a try. I’m often surprised by the complimentary combinations of vegetables that I would never think to put together nor prepare that way.

I recently enjoyed a weekend away at Woodloch in the Poconos with my whole family, celebrating my step-father’s 70th birthday. The best way I can describe this wonderland is Dirty Dancing. If you ever get the chance, I highly recommend it. Fun for all ages, never a dull moment, activities, entertainment, and adventures abound… Seriously, it was the best!

Each fabulous dinner at Woodloch had a vegan option, so, wanting to expand my palate and my DIY options, I gave it a go.

Deliciously satisfying doesn’t event come close to the amazing dishes! I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to recreate anything remotely close, but after scouring the internet and the awesome cookbook Thug Kitchen, I was actually able to edit recipes as needed and recreate a vegan slice of heaven!

I hope you enjoy this as much as I do! I can’t wait to make it again and play with the recipe for additional variations.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup (tri colored sprouted) quinoa
  • 2 cups vegetable broth plus a little extra for ragout (I make my own but store bought is ok too)
  • 1 onion (diced)
  • 8 cloves garlic (diced and split into 2 equal portions)
  • 2 celery stalks (diced…I like to include the leaves for added flavor)
  • 1 small-medium carrot (peeled and diced)
  • 4 bell peppers (any color)
  • 1 can black beans (drained and rinsed)
  • 1 jar roasted red pepper (drained and blended)
  • 1 can white kidney (cannellini) beans (drained and rinsed)
  • Cooking oil (I use olive or coconut)
  • Salt (I like Himalayan grinders)
  • Red pepper flakes
  • Balsamic glaze (the thicker the better)
  • Arugula, spinach, or green vegetable of your choice. (I used my own home grown arugula… yep…I grew something!!!!)

Materials, gadgets, pots, and all that jazz:

  • 2 pots (if I had to guess I’d say 4 quarts-ish?)
  • Cuisenart or blender (not necessary but super helpful. I have a mini 4 cup and that was plenty)*
  • Measuring cup
  • Pie dish or something that can hold up the stuffed peppers in the oven
  • Knives and cutting board (duh)
  • Spatula/cooking spoon
  • Aluminum foil (just to cover the peppers in the oven)

Directions:

Stuffed Peppers:

  1. Cut off tops of peppers and remove seeds and ribs. Set aside in oiled pie dish for later.
  2. Chop the leftover pepper from the tops
  3. Heat oil (let’s go with 1 tablespoon) in pot and add in the onion and 1/2 of the garlic.
  4. Add a pinch of salt if you desire.
  5. Cook for a few minutes until they begin to brown
  6. Add in celery, carrots, chopped peppers and cook for a few more minutes
  7. Pour in vegetable broth and quinoa and bring to a boil
  8. Once boiling, reduce heat and simmer uncovered until most of the broth is absorbed, stirring occasionally
  9. Turn off heat and gently fold in black beans
  10. Spoon quinoa into peppers to the top
  11. Cover tightly with foil and bake in oven for about an hour at 350 (until peppers are softened)

Ragout:

  1. In other pot, heat oil and add in the rest of the garlic and a pinch of red pepper flakes. Cook a few minutes until browning
  2. Add in roasted red peppers and cannellini beans and simmer for about 10 minutes
  3. Blend the mixture (I poured it into the 4 cup cuisenart) and continue simmering.
  4. Add vegetable broth if needed. Ragout should be creamy (not dry or soupy)

To serve:

  1. Spoon out ragout on plate
  2. Place stuffed pepper on top
  3. Drizzle with balsamic glaze
  4. Serve with arugula or spinach or really any green vegetable
  5. Enjoy!

*It should be noted that I used my cuisenart to dice the onions, the garlic, the carrots, the pepper tops, and blend the ragout never needing to rinse it out as all the flavors enhance one another. I also used the same spatula for stirring.

Accidents: 3.20.13

It was 10:30pm and Dawn had just finished changing Riley and stripping her bed. She was now sleeping in Dawn’s mother’s office after having an accident in bed. Riley was 4 1/2 and had NEVER had an accident since she potty trained herself just 2 months after her second birthday.

Dawn wondered if it was because the sitter forgot to have her go before bed, or because she was too tired from not napping to wake up, or if the fire drill at school today literally scared the piss out of her.

It was a surprise fire drill so although Riley was supposed to get advanced warning, none was given today, for whatever reason. At pick up, Riley’s teacher told Dawn that Riley was terrified but was able to calm down very quickly and was very brave.

Dawn knew that over time and as Riley grew, she would learn to handle her fear and initial shock from that awful sound. But Dawn also knew exactly what she feels because every fucking fire alarm does the same thing to her.

It brought her back to that moment. That goddamned moment…and Dawn relived it…with every blaring wail of an alarm or siren, she was back in the living room of her house grabbing Riley and Harrison and running like hell because something wasn’t right…

So who knows why Riley had an accident Dawn was sure it was just that: an accident. But as a concerned mother, she’ll wonder and worry for the rest of her life…

The Trip: 2.4.16

Dawn and Scott stood in the kitchen, sipping on red wine, both of them still reeling from last week’s court appearance. With the case being kicked back to Esposito, it was definitely going to trial unless a dismissal was handed down from the new judge. This fact had hit them both like a ton of bricks but it was the first time Scott realized that this was not going away and that the worst case scenario was a real possibility.

“How am I going to do this without you? Who will braid Riley’s and Madison’s hair? Who will help the kids with homework? Who will take Harrison to hip hop?” His voice trailed off…

The look on his face spoke volumes as he realized the magnitude of just the daily physical aspect Dawn’s absence would have, not to mention the emotional impact a “guilty” verdict would mean for the children.

“I’m not moving back in with my parents,” Scott sighed, “I’m going to have to hire an au pair. I don’t even know how to do that,” his gaze became distant again, as if lost in a wood…

“I know,” Dawn whispered, tears welling in her eyes, “I know.”

“Well,” Scott snapped to, “I was hoping this would be a celebratory trip at the end of this, but fuck it. Should we just go to Disney World?”

“Well, why not?” Dawn asked, managing a weak smile, “I should get to take the kids to Disney. I should be there for their first time. And unfortunately, we just don’t know if that will happen if we wait.”

The truth was, as excited as Dawn was, Scott’s sudden decision to take such a big family trip on a whim was extraordinarily unlike him. She knew it meant he was scared and preparing for the worst. It meant he had finally been beaten down enough to know what she’s known all along…His overt admittance that his precious system doesn’t work was possibly the worst blow to Dawn’s hope in the past 4 years.

The last time Scott made such a fast financial decision was almost a year ago. He and Dawn were discussing the future and why he saves the way he does.  He was preparing: for the trial, for the kids, for the future… But after living in the basement of his parents home for over 20 months, Dawn had reached her limit.  She calmly explained that it was time to move on in their personal lives, as the case and trial seemed to be stuck like a skipping record, and waiting was no longer an option.  He asked if she new an agent and Dawn made 1 inquiry to her friend and local real estate agent.  That weekend they walked through 5 houses, bid on one, closed and moved in within 6 weeks, thanks to her friend, her in-laws who watched the kids on overtime and helped paint and assemble furniture, and IKEA for being so very affordable that they could actually furnish and decorate an entire house…

Seriously, it took Scott over 5 years to propose, 4 years to buy a new car, and months of mental back and forths to book family vacations.  Scott was a saver, not a spender, so when he booked the vacation, including a top resort hotel, and the flight within days of the conversation and mentioned that they will need to dip into savings, Dawn knew this was the beginning of the end and that she better put on her happy face and enjoy the rides, because after this trip, shit was gonna get bumpy…