iDoggieBag…Do You? Life After Kids 5/12/11

What does pet food from China, a cat bite and cancer have in common? Today’s guest, Linda Rheinstein, Founder of iDoggieBag.org is going to connect the dots in her compelling story of survival.  Which begins like this:

“Have you had any recent trauma to the right side of your body?” It is September 6, 2007. I sit in an exam room at Cedars Sinai Medical Center, stunned. I have just been told that I have breast cancer. I look at the doctor and answer,  “Yes.”

That was only the beginning of a 5 year journey that Linda will be sharing with me today and she will also  tell us why she testified in front of the Food and Drug Administration just a few weeks ago, what the “Nipper Alert is” and what she hopes to accomplish with her cause!

So if you didn’t tune in tonight here’s another chance to hear Linda’s amazing journey.

Life After Kids 3/3/11 with Liz H. Kelly

My guest on LifeAfterKids this Thursday (8p ET / 5p PT) is Liz H Kelly, Marketing/Digital Media Professional and Author/Relationship Expert! Find out how she has merged her three passions for entertainment, relationships and digital media into a new career as an national entertainment columnist for the Examiner.

Please join us, and you may chat with us LIVE with your Stickam account. If you don’t have one please go to www.stickam.com to create a FREE account and you can also become a “Friend” of the show too!

Survivor Story: How Do You Define Yourself? Guest Post

Even today, I don’t define myself as a breast cancer survivor. You may never have known that I am one of the many women – one in every eight- who develop breast cancer! I was diagnosed  in August 2005 and completed eight rounds of chemotherapy and thirty-three rounds of radiation by the Spring of 2006. I am sharing this story to help others as they face this challenging time and hopefully, encourage them to help other people in all walks of life to have the strength to meet their own challenges head on.

My breast cancer was diagnosed early during an annual mammogram. I started my screenings at the recommended age of 40. It could have been several more years before I would have been able to “feel” it in a self-examination because at the time it was discovered it was less than 2 cm at the largest side. Surgery was successful, my lymph nodes were clear, recovery was a breeze with breast conserving surgery and of course, being pre-menopausal, the treatment was more intense, that’s when the fun started!

I started my Chemo in late September 2005 and as they will warn you, your hair starts to fall out after the second treatment. As you can see from my photos, I had my hair cut off. We made it a family affair as my son came with me to have my hair cut off so it could be donated to “Locks of Love”. When I got my G.I. Jane buzz, my son compared my shaved head to a “hedgehog” foot scraper. Being able to donate to “Locks of Love” was worth losing my hair over, it’s also something that my brother has done twice – just for the love of it, and as he puts it “for the cancer kids.”
After my second treatment I started scratching my head, and the proof was there, my hand came back with hair, lots of it. I thought I would’ve had a few days but the next morning I woke up and took a shower that lasted on and off over 1.5 hours before giving up and shaving the hairs off and ending with a smooth and bald head.

I decided not to use the prescription to get a wig, I was going to go “au natural” (in my mind, if men can walk around bald, so could I). The following week I was in Seattle for business and I was asked on the way to a business meeting, ‘was I making a fashion statement?’ I laughed and said, ‘if only I could draw my eyebrows on evenly’. That’s what I missed most, my eyelashes and eyebrows. It was sad for me to see the women with scarves and strands of hair, like you see on mummies in the museum, holding on to their “glory” but it was so freeing, to be able to not worry about it. Plus, no hair, means no hair anywhere, six months of not shaving my “legs” was awesome. But that’s me, kids don’t understand that it is not that important, they just don’t want to be stared at or feel different or worse, ugly. Locks of Love is an amazing organization that helps these children, our children, feel confident and happy and help them through this tough time.

Fast forward to today, five years later, I’ve got my hair back (wink) and am sharing my story with you, to encourage you to help the Locks of Love organization with an event that is coming up here in the Los Angeles area. The details are following this post. Please do what you can and make sure your loved ones are screened and do self-tests each month. There are also many programs out there to help you if you cannot pay for a mammogram or for your treatment. Visit sites like Breast Cancer.org, Susan G. Komen or others for support and more information. Just don’t do what I started doing and Google-searching breast cancer. Talk to your doctor or health care provider first. Don’t let it freak you out, face it head on and keep smiling… make a pact with your BFF’s to talk to you every day like mine did and don’t get into a funk…it will pass!
This is a Guest Post by Stephanie Piche CEO/Executive Producer MingleMediaTV

Locks of Love Charity Event
October 6, 2010, 7:30 PM at the SKYBAR on Sunset Blvd. Hollywood, CA

General Admission Tickets available for event. Purchase tickets by clicking here!

Celebrity Poker Tournament, Gift Bags, Silent Auction, Fashion Show, Putting Contest, Live Hair Donations, and cocktails with your most beautiful friends.  This event for Locks of Love in produced in conjunction with Beverly Hills Law Associates, DJ HEM, Contraband Hats, Sweet Wood Golf, Stop Staring Clothing, and Hair by Mr. Randall.

Want to sponsor this event? Please contact: CARing in Stilettos Corp. and call Angelica Leon at 310.691.1141 with any questions.

Following Your Bliss

Follow Your BlissJoseph Campbell’s famous phrase “follow your bliss” has become my personal mantra to remind me that I want to live a life of self-fulfillment and joy.

Do you follow your bliss? With all the extra time on you have now that you don’t have soccer games or homework help duty or extra clothes to wash, there is no excuse not to spend that time on yourself doing something positive and life-affirming.

Many years ago, I learned how to country-western dance and I went from having two-left feet to competing in amateur contests. For several years, it was one of the most “blissful” times of my life, but unfortunately cut short by the disappearance of places to dance, a new job and in the past few year, a very bad back.

Since then I have found other ways to spend my free time and follow my bliss.  Come join me and to get up and dance like no one is watching  no matter how you choose to follow YOUR bliss! Just do it!

Don’t you want to re-ignite your passion for living? It’s really easy and and it doesn’t have to cost a lot of money.  Instead of a bucket list, which conjurs up negative images,  I’ve decided to call it my “bliss list” – things I want to do while I am still healthy and able!

So why not start a list and share it with all of us!

Staying Connected

Perhaps the hardest part of the empty-nest syndrome was, for me, letting go of a routine of brief, but meaningful moments with your children.  Whether it was breakfast on the run, carpooling them to school or an urgent trip to the shopping mall for clothing that they grew out of over night.  You still had a consistent connection and the ability to know what was going on in their lives.

Now, you’re lucky if you get a phone call every few days and even then it’s interrupted by another call that is more important than you.  Certainly you know they need money when they linger on the phone and ask you all about your week, your day and how you are feeling!  In either case, neither is satisfying your parental need to know and feel connected.

How do you navigate the choppy waters of a parent-child connection when they’re on their own?  I have some ideas to share on the next edition of Life After Kids on Mingle Media TV Network!

Son-Shine

Son-ShineI am writing this from the magnificent hilly, enclave of La Jolla, California. It’s less than twenty-four hours since I received the late night subdued, but urgent call for HELP from my eldest son who goes to the U.C. there.  After all, isn’t that what mothers are supposed to do? Drop everything and run to help their children even if they are twenty-two and a senior in college.

So after a fitful night’s sleep, a morning packed with calls to cancel and reschedule several appointments,  a rushed visit to my accountant to do my taxes, I pack a small bag, stop to fill up the tank, and get on my way for the short trek to San Diego.  But L.A. traffic being what it is, it took me almost two hours to go barely ten miles and the trip, which would take two hours, now took almost five hours.  After only going 10 miles in two hours I was so tempted to turn back, my already sore back was throbbing in pain from being in the same position and not being able to switch on cruise control.  It doesn’t quite work at less than five miles per hour. What a mother won’t do for her children!

While it may sound like I am not complaining mind you.  I am not.  I am actually over the moon as it’s really been a long time since my son reached out for my help.  That coupled with unusually quiet panic in his voice, not his usual holier than thou demands, signaled that this was really serious.

As most parents know, your relationship with your child will have many ups and downs and when there is a contentious divorce punctuating those milestones, that road is even rockier.  Our relationship, or lack thereof,  had been sorely tested over the past ten years.  Come to think about it, we haven’t spent more than a few hours together in a single day and barely ever  more than two days in a row, and now I was getting a chance to spend a few days, which in my time frame, is practically a lifetime.

Since he was little, my son always said he wanted to be a lawyer.  I used to joke with him after the divorce and all the lawyer BS he witnessed through the years, didn’t he think there was a better career path for him?  He would not be swayed.  Until last year.  Somehow, he decided to be a writer/filmmaker seemingly out of the blue.  Now I have been in the “biz” for a very long time, and he has certainly been around TV production, location shoots and post-production edit bays  his whole life, but it never seemed to interest him much.  It was my life.  My passion and thankfully I was very good at it and made a good living at it.  But for my boy to say he wanted to do something in that realm was quite astounding.  I guess I never thought of him as the creative type.  He was always the athletic type.  Sinewy and faster than lightning since he was five years old, he was blessed with the body and speed to make him a premiere soccer player which took him through college and was his passion above all else.

As parents we know about lost dreams and failures and missed opportunities.  As parents we try so much to shield our children from same or at least help cushion the blow or ease the pain of those experiences.  Well when my son found out he couldn’t play his last and supposedly best year of college soccer, I think a piece of him died.  I know I mourned the loss of his promise of great success from afar, wondering for him, what it would be like to have that one last final hurrah.  But it was not meant to be and as I believe life hands you the cards you are meant to play, I accepted my son’s fate begrudgingly, with a few tears and with the hope that what will not kill him will make him stronger.

Was it that defining moment of inertia, of accepting that his body wouldn’t do what his mind willed, that made him find his inner voice, his inner muse and allowed him to tap into his creative juices and abandon the life legal?  Whatever it was, it renewed his desire to learn and explore and filmmaking sparked him like a great kick made from 30 yards out.  But I didn’t know much more than he had changed his major.  Like most kids, explaining or details were not their strong suit and our phone calls were perfunctory exercises in formalities.  How are you? Fine.  How are your classes? Fine.  Do you have alot of work? Fine. Communicating with your child from teenager onward is a delicate art form of trying to decipher verbal hieroglyphics on a cave wall without light.  But with that Sunday phone call that was all about to change.

M.me & SonApparently my son was in the middle of a project for class and everyone who was helping him was flaking out – including the actor.  So he needed me to operate the camera while he acted out the rest of his scenario for the five minute project that was already half shot. He obviously could not shoot and act at the same time and he realized that…my boy was growing up!  The good news was by the time I got to San Diego, his actor had changed his mind and was available to shoot that night so my primary function was to help secure some supplies and cater a “crew” dinner for all which included his roommates.  After dinner we got down to business, and I was very conscious of not taking over the project and wanted to let my son do his thing.

To my surprise, he was quite aware of what he wanted to shoot, how he wanted to shoot it and, to my amazement, my “little boy” had a very sophisticated vision for his project.  I wondered, who that man was who took the place of my first born son.  The evening progressed and I was pleased to take his direction, hold a light, fix a make-shift “gel” of colored tissue paper, to suggest an angle shift here and there, and just let him do his thing.  Having never seen the footage already shot, I didn’t know where this was all going, but I trusted he knew and that’s all that mattered.  The shoot was over in a few hours and my son seemed happy with what he got.  But the proof would be in the pudding – how it all cut together and that would be the next step.  Before we went to sleep, he thanked me and told me I was the best “producer” he ever had.  Not one bit of praise in my 25 plus years of working ever meant more to me than that.  I was basking in son-shine.

img_5376I have probably spent thousands of hours in editing rooms but the best time I have ever had was watching my son in his “editing suite” work on his labor of love.  Slowly and surely he progressed scene by scene and I watched enraptured.  He’s really got talent.  This isn’t a fluke or some flight of fancy.  He really knows what he is doing.  Words cannot express how I felt watching him do his thing.  Like his first step or his first word, I witnessed the birth of my son’s creative soul.  It was truly a transcendental moment in time.  What’s more is that he let me in, he invited me in to be a part of this, a part of who he was becoming for the first time in a very long time.  It was my birthday and the editing went on for hours.  I knew what he was going through, weighing every edit like the entire piece depended on it.  Crafting bit by bit his vision, moving toward the perfect conclusion.  I watched and only offered suggestions when asked.  I held his hand with my heart as I watched him toil for hours and hours to make this project just right. God, he’s such a perfectionist, just like me! I smiled inside as years of rift and separation melted away with each edit and each hour.  Yes, he is like me and in a very good way!  My heart grew lighter as the years of lost time with him melted with these new moments of collaboration and communion.

When he was finally done, it was much too late for dinner and a dreamy dessert supporting a solitary birthday candle but it didn’t matter. I had already received the best birthday present money couldn’t buy – magical time spent with my son – bonding in the trenches, discovering our shared passion and sharing the joy of creation.  What a blessing!

P.S. He got an A on the project and after one student compared his work to his idol, Micheal Gondry, he said he almost cried.  When he told me about this, I couldn’t hold back my tears of joy.

Tending My Garden

Stop and Smell the Flowers!I  love my garden!  It has always been my place of refuge and renewal and now as spring has sprung, the energy is palpable as everything is starting to bud and bloom. So today, I took some time to sit in my backyard and surveyed the new palette of colors about to spring forth. The lushness of the green grass, the bursts of magentas, reds, pinks and yellows bursting forth and and thought how my garden had evolved since I first moved into my house three years ago.

Until I injured my back over a year ago, I was the sole CGO – Chief Gardening Officer of a large, but barren backyard I acquired I bought my house.  It was one of the main reasons I fell in love with this property.  I saw the possibilities in this brown patch of earth that was now all mine.  Before I settled in this house, I had to move 7 times in ten years (that’s a story for another time) so I would plant flowers and herbs in containers and take them with me when I left.  After all, these were my creations, living art, as it were, and I could not bear to leave my masterpieces behind for someone else.

Anyway, from the moment I settled in and until my back injury of ’08,  I would always find something to plant all year ’round.  I reveled in trying all sorts of flowers, shrubs and grasses and learned along the way why some varieties made it and some didn’t.  Was it the poor soil that needed enriching, was it the sun – too hot in some areas – too lacking in others, was it what fertilizer I used or was it too much water or not enough.   I would not be discouraged when some plantings wouldn’t take, because there were others that did, or, surprisingly enough some would come back from the dead the next season.

Nature like life is very unpredictable.  So today as I surveyed my pride and joy, I felt that my commitment to experimentation, in the face of failure, had finally paid off.  I felt a hint of sadness since I would not be able to do any planting this year and there are so many more varieties left to be tried.  But, for now, it is not to be.  Instead I have been made to realize, that it’s okay not to do, but to be.  Stop, as they say, and smell the flowers and be satisfied in a job well done.

What is your “garden”?

[Read more…]

Thanks-Giving for Nate, Paul, Seth, Lily & Hilary

This is a very special Thanksgiving for me as I really feel so blessed after a year of trials, tribulations and challenges that life always seems to lob my way. But this year did seem tougher than most. It was rough physically (the challenges of a back that will not cooperate), emotionally (dealing with feeling helpless when one’s body will not cooperate) and financially (getting laid off and insurance company b.s. ’nuff said).

This year also gave me many gifts – the most important is the knowledge that now more than ever I am survivor. Always have been. Always will be. The wisdom to trust and love myself more and unconditionally and to not let anyone or anything make me feel any different. The courage to take flight and follow my bliss and do the dance of life as if no one was watching.
The deep understanding of what is truly important in life and that I have everything I could every want or need because my children are healthy and alive and nothing else would matter if they were not.

So freeing. So empowering. So humbling. So thanks-giving.

However these lessons came through experiencing death big time.  Over the the last the past twelve years or so I have literally lost more than twenty people very close to me – including the biggies: my nana, my step-mother, my father, my aunt, other relatives, extended family members and very close friends.

Death came to my door and kept on knocking and knocking and knocking. When would it ever stop? When would the hurting stop? But as they say, out of the ashes….

Nathan Bruckenthal

In April 2004, about a week before my youngest son’s Bar Mitzvah, I was watching CNN and heard about yet another set casualties of the Iraq War. Never in my wildest imagination would it dawn on me that what CNN was reporting on was the death of my baby cousin, Nate, who was serving his second, reluctant tour of duty and who was due to come home in less than a month.

But the next day my phone rang, and my “middle” sister was sobbing out the words. “Nate is dead!” Oh-my-God. Baby Nate. No. NO. Could it be a mistake? No – it wasn’t! So Surreal. So heartbreaking for all of us who knew and loved him.  Were we to take comfort in the several “historical” firsts that surrounded his death? Nate had the honor to be the first Coast Guardsman since Viet Nam to perish in the line of duty in the firstever suicide boater attack of the Iraq War. I would say that this is one time being first is definitely not a win.

At the age of 24, Nate was the “senior” officer to the two other Navy men (ages 18 and 19) who also died that spring day of April of 2004 protecting an oil-tanker off the coast of Basra. I would think his pregnant wife Pattie, his parents and step-parents, sister, brothers, grandparents and friends would undoubted feel the same way.

And while Nate was decorated posthumously with all sorts of stars and stripes and is a real American hero, I think I would ask if a chestful of metal would  make it easier to accept that his death.  That his passing is a violation of the circle of life -a child should never precede it’s parents, let alone grandparents – and so wrong in so many other ways. When Nate died, his wife Pattie was pregnant and his daughter, Harper Natalie was born November later that year and she will never have a Thanksgiving dinner with her father nor will she ever really know her father in the flesh. Harper will only know him through the stories of her mother and the rest of us. I will make sure she knows how sweet and wonderful her dad was as a child. A fond memory I have is that my mother so adored him and I have a beautiful photo of her glowing while holding him when he was only a few months old. She loved all babies but she had a special place for him. Little did we know, back in 1978, when that photo was taken, she would be dead in a few months, succumbing to cancer too soon, at the young age of forty-six. My nana never got over losing her “baby” either.

Paul Kleidman

Next in  2006, came the devastating loss of my cousin Paul to pancreatic cancer. The amazing thing was that he battled this killer disease for six years – which is unheard of with this kind of cancer – one usually dies in six months of diagnosis- but he lived for six years! We were all pretty sure that Paul was going to be the one to beat pancreatic cancer where it lived. But it wasn’t meant to be.

We were born one week apart, the exact  same year (and no I am not going to reveal what year). As kids, it always bugged him that I was just a measly bit older than he. His mother was the oldest of three daughters, my mom was the youngest. His mother was married for ten years before procreating. My mother was married for about a minute…well not exactly that short, but you get the idea.

It so bothered him that I matured faster and that I grew taller than him around puberty as most girls do. Boys have huge egos and Paul was no exception. While it did bother him, I know he loved me alot. He let me come into his room and he would tell me about sports. Maybe that’s why I am such a good “boy” mommy.

Paul’s comeuppance came as we became adults.  He was always the first one to call me on my birthday  and he loved teasing me and revelled in the fact he was  now younger than I was.

Well he was.  At least for a week.

Oh and when we turned the big 4-0 – boy he milked that one for days.  That gave him such pleasure.

Paul will now be forever young as he succumbed to his illness in July of 2006. I am sure he wouldn’t have minded growing old  (with me always older) with his wife and three daughters and the rest of us.  Now his mother, my Aunt B, gets to spend this Thanksgiving without her eldest son.

Seth Palmer

My cousin Seth was also one of my best friends – our relationship as adults grew into a deep friendship that transcended our kinship and despite the uncomfortable fact I had diapered him as a baby.  Seth was brilliant and accomplished at so many things, piano, Hebrew, French and was at the height of his career, having moved to Philly to work for Comcast.  He was diagnosed with AML leukemia in December of 2007 –  the first month of his relocation –  and just about a year later – he was gone.  He was 39 years young when the ravages of fighting leukemia took him too soon and he left his saint of a mother, brother and the rest of us who adored him. There will be a big gap at our table this holiday and all years to come.

Lily Burk

Gone too soon!

I only met Lily Burk on the radio and TV news.   From all reports, she was a good girl and a good student.  She was running an errand for her mother when she was reported missing and eventually it was found that evil took her from us too soon. She was a stranger  but had attended Oakwood School  in the San Fernando Valley and many of my son’s friends who went there knew her personally.  I didn’t, but I cried like a baby when they reported that this young girl who had gone missing was now found dead. I wanted to puke.  I thought about my sons and what tragedy could potentially befall them.  I couldn’t even fathom losing them to such a violent and senseless end.

She is gone and I mourn her loss with her parents, family and friends who will never again spend Thanksgiving  or any other holiday with this beautiful child who was murdered.  Again my heart grew heavier for yet another baby that left us too soon.


Hilary Kendall-Fix

And as if this cloud of death was not enough,  three weeks ago, I attended the funeral of a nineteen year old girl, Hilary Kendall-Fix – killed in broad daylight in a tragic car crash on the way back to college with two other friend when they were struck down in head-on collision on Highway 46.  The same road that claimed James Dean’s life.

No drugs. No alcohol.  Maybe just bad driving judgment but is that a good enough reason to be taken too soon.  I don’t think so. Why I asked?  But no answer came.

Again she was a friend of a dear friend’s daughter and I didn’t know here very well, but when a child – any child – is taken from us too soon, how can all of us mothers and fathers of the world not for this loss. I went to pay my respects to celebrate her life and indeed it was a beautiful celebration. Her death has made me so appreciate my life.  Thank you Hilary.

At her funeral I was driven to take photos at her gravesite.  As a Jew that taking photos at such a place truly sacreligious, but I have gotten over being that kind of Jew.  So I went with my gut and took a bunch of photos and therein lies the blessing of listening to one’s heart.

Hilary-Kendall FixAs you can see, Hilary was there watching over all of her family and friends telling them she was okay on the other side.

And while her parents were the epitome of grit and grace and many said Hilary didn’t think she would live a long life.

She is not here this Thanksgiving and I am sure her parents, family and friends wish she was.

But, I am  here  this Thanksgiving – giving HUGE thanks  and in total gratitude for what I have and not worrying about what I don’t have.

My business is starting to take off, after a rocky start, but still many bills go unpaid, for now.

My house needs urgent repairs and my stove was home to a pesky rat who lived and died in it, and I cannot afford a new one.  A toaster oven and microwave are doing the trick. Can’t make pasta…but then again don’t need to be eating pasta (blessing in disguise).

Yes, my skin is showing some wrinkles. Yes, my back creaks and cries.  Yes, my knees cry and creak.  Yes, my stomach roars and growls, especially when I don’t eat right.  And, yes, my butt is so wide I can’t even fit into my fat jeans.

But guess what?  I don’t care.  I am here. I am alive. A bit older, a bit worn and definitely wiser.

And I have my “baby” men here with me and my growing brood of furbabies who are always pure love and always available for cuddles.

Alive.

Maybe they should call Mommy and take time to come visit more often.  But I wouldn’t trade places with anyone one of the parents who have lost their babies too soon.

I am so grateful I have them to  love, hug and even argue with – and on this Thanksgiving  and any other day of the year -when others are sorely missed around their families tables .

I have NOTHING to complain about!

I am giving thanks for all that I have – which money or position or power cannot buy.

Six years ago, I was supposed to fly back home to have what we no know was the last Thanksgiving Paul was to share with us.  However, fate intervened  and with going standby – I couldn’t get a flight.  While waiting for the next plane I became terribly hot with a fever and knew that the flu was coming on.

How lucky for Paul and his compromised immune system that I did not get on the plane to N.Y.  Had I made it there, I probably wouldn’t have been able to see him or do much of anything anyway.  So instead, I got the comfort of my own bed to recuperate in and a jolly phone call from all my relatives to cheer me up.

Sometimes we don’t know why things happen the way they do…we have to trust there is a bigger and better plan.  Losing a child is not one of those things I can wrap my head or  myheart around yet. But maybe next year…or maybe never.

I did get to see Paul a month before he died.  We knew it was a matter of time and we laughed,we hugged, I cried.  Paul comforted me.  That’s who he was.

So here are Paul’s words in an email to all his family and friends from Thanksgiving 2003 – it is a prayer I look at when I am down.  It is a prayer of true Thanks-giving.

To my family and friends:Happy Thanksgiving to all.

I hope each and every one of you have a reason to be thankful.

I certainly do….

-an incredible supportive and loving wife

-three terrific and loving daughters

-a family that is always by my side

-friends that are caring

-generous and loyal partners

oh yea, and another year.

Enjoy your holiday as much as we will ours.

With love, paul

Thank you Paul and Seth and Lily and Hilary for showing me how precious life is and how all that matters in life is if you love and are loved but your family and friends.

Are you thankful for what you have and who you are blessed to share it with?