Snowboard Strength and Reflection

Me Boarding at Okemo Mountain

Me Boarding at Okemo Mountain Yesterday was a very very long day. Not bad, but long.

I took a few days off for the first time in a long time and we spent the weekend with friends at Okemo Mountain in Vermont. It was the first time my girls were on skis and I was uncharacteristically nervous that it would be a disaster. I spent unconscionable hours prepping, buying snow gear, talking to them about ski school, venting to friends and my SoulCycle riders. Snow, cold, wet, wind, a 5 hour ride in the car, heavy equipment, thick layers of clothing, lots of factors that could have made it absolutely miserable instead of the proverbial slopeside fun. Too much was riding on this first trip and the usual laid back, calm mama that I am turned into a bit of a neurotic mess. Skiing/Snowboarding is just too important! It's part of the fabric from which I am made. It has shaped who I am. It brings me (and has always) unadulterated happiness. Talk about chakra opening;)

I grew up taking regular family ski trips and have the fondest, most visceral, memories of those times. I so badly want my kids to have similar experiences, vacations that keep us fit as a family, challenging and adventurous times together. I've been preaching about the importance of starting early for years...this was the time to call my own bluff.

I've been skiing since I was 3 and switched to a board when I was 13. I love almost nothing more than the fresh mountain air, cruising down the slopes, feeling the wind, speed, freedom. It is part of who I am. I crave it. I'm pretty sure I NEED it.

For a handful of years, we skipped the ski trips for warmer climes. Through pregnancies and infant years it all seemed like too much work, arguably too dangerous. We are now though back in a groove. Finally feeling family life (not babyhood) and exploring more . This one was an amazing adventure.

Richie and Avital Skiing Together

Turns out both my kids LOVED ski school. They went with their respective best friends and were such damn big girls about it! Avital, my 6yr old, even spent a morning skiing with Richie. She loved it and I love that she loved it. She was brave and strong and I'm a seriously proud mama. Bar's teacher said she was pretty badass about it all too. No crying, totally got up on her skis, skated a bit, AND I spied her walking in to ski school from their first run and she even has a swagger to her walk. It was so freakin awesome to see.

Bar's Snowy Swagger

The first morning we went out on the slopes took a bit to get everyone settled. Rentals, ski school check in, lift tickets, all that jazz. So us adults took a bit of time to get up on the mountain. Once up, the first run of the season over (always a bit wobbly), we were cruising. It's such a special thing to share with Richie. That feeling of freedom, adventure, open air, nature and the world at your fingertips (well, mitten tips).

A calm and invigoration come over me, at the same time, an excitement and nothing else is like it. Happiness.

But here's the thing, at 33 years old, I felt stronger on my board than ever! My body was capable of so much more, so much earlier in my ride than in the past. I'm pretty sure I'm in the best shape of my life and the prospect of getting stronger and better is exciting. What more can I do, without fear, full of possibility!

I was carving and cruising faster than I ever have on my second run and it felt amazing!! So here's to strength, in your body, as a family, building healthy strong bodies to let us explore this gorgeous world more confidently! Cheers you guys.

Us and Francesca on the lift

Life. Is. Good.

The world is your oyster.

The New Me, On a Tough Day

IMG_4595

IMG_4595 I spent a good part of my day thinking of what I was going to write here at the end of it. I remember having some good ideas. I had some good ideas! Yet, in this moment, I cannot remember any of them. It seems impossible to sum it up. Or even just say something meaningful. With so many possible things to say, that I know, that I feel, that are true...few seem appropriate now.

So I'll tell the facts, as they were, as they are: today was Jonny's unveiling. It is hard to comprehend that it's been a year since he died. It's still hard to comprehend the fact of it at all.

Nonetheless, I was fine. I got up early. Drank some coffee. Taught two SoulCycle classes. Ate some food. Packed us bags. And brought my kids to the mall. That's where my grandmother watched them while we went to the cemetery. We were late. As usual. And got to the grave site to find so so many people already there. We walked up. Said our awkward, loaded hellos. And I was feeling ok. Aware that all week I was avoiding, but holding it together: OKAY. And I believed it. Though knew the break was coming.

And for some reason, still, I was surprised when it happened. Strange how that it. How it sneaks up on you. It was when I actually noticed the family headstone. And then the footstone. Jonny's. Immediately I chocked up. Tears welled. But I swallowed it back. And then the rabbi started the ceremony. And again I was fine. But then the cantor started to sing. And the beauty in her voice was poignant. And I cried. And Richie cried. And it was there all over again. The realness. The weight. The truth.

But the ceremony went on. And the day went on. And we all got through it. Lighter than a year ago. In some ways scarier, since we weren't in the state of shock. But also easier, because we are stronger now. WE ARE STRONGER NOW.

And that is what Jonny Kessner gave us. A softness because he was a softee and always made it his business to bring light and laughter to a situation. But a strength too. A strength that I think none of us knew we were capable of . I certainly didn't.

On this earth, Jonny was the sweetest and silliest little brother. For all the things he taught me in the time we spent together, there are infinite things he's taught me since he's left us.

Now, I take bigger leaps, risks, opportunities. I am not afraid of living my life. I am not afraid of what people think. There is just no time... I push myself harder, farther than I ever would have. I stretch myself to the limits and know pride in what I find. I see the positive. I choose the positive. I try to motivate. I always share my energy. I always keep it real. I always keep it positive. There is no other way to live.

The new me is one I think Jonny would have liked a lot.

Brain Food

This is my gorgeous, smart, sweet-as-hell friend Shira Burstein:

Shira Burstein
Shira Burstein

Actually, she is my sister's friend, for many many years (I've posted a picture of the two of them from many moons ago at the bottom of this post;)). We have considered her family for a very long time now and I am so proud of the woman she has grown up to become. She wrote me this article and I wanted to share it with you because, well, I love her ideas and insight. So few people connect what we put in our bodies with how they work! Here's a bit of her story and how she figured it out...and quick!

Recently, during a particularly stressful day I found myself grabbing for my 'go to' large frozen pizza and a Ben and Jerrys' pint of Coffee Heath Bar Crunch. I had been so 'good' so healthy and clean in my diet and the way I treat my body...so what was going on? Human beings don't always eat because we are hungry.  We eat for a variety of reasons.  Food can be the tangential encounter to the entire gamut of emotional experiences.  We can eat when we are stressed, lonely, afraid, bored or even use it as a celebration.  The problem with using food as an emotional bandage is that it doesn't solve anything. For me, seeing the bottom of that ice cream container really didn't solve a thing!  In fact the aftermath of the moment caused me to feel guilty and angry leading into unrelenting self-disparagement. I imagine I'm not the only one who has had this experience. The proverbial 'icing on the cake' then turns into another round of emotional eating creating an even bigger problem.  The question remains how do we stop this conundrum? How do I stop it and how do I address the connection eating has with mental wellness when my own clients bring these issues up in my professional life as a therapist?

All of us use food from time to time as a source for either comfort or celebration.  It is when food becomes our 'go to' tool <like my nightmareish  dairy and carb binge>  for coping that we are create  a multifaceted problem.  The foods that we go to for comfort are usually deleterious to our health.  Either loaded with sugar, refined carbohydrates or loaded with saturated fats.  These foods trigger a part of our brain that is linked to addictive behavior. Pringles, didn't re-invent the wheel when they came up with the slogan, "Once you pop, you can't stop!" In fact it should be looked at as a Surgeon General Warning both for our bodies and our minds. There have been multiple studies that have shown that sugar and saturated fats are just as addictive as cocaine. In fact, I find them to be even more dangerous because they are all around us and so easily accessible.

So what is the solution? I started thinking about my training in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. CBT talks about changing maladaptive thoughts in order to change our affect and behavior. The use of helping people challenge and replace the tendency to magnify negatives, engage in self-defeating thoughts and distortions. These distortions can be about who we are and what we are capable, or deserving of for example. CBT looks to replace these negative thoughts with more realistic, mindful and positive thoughts, leading then to positive behavioral choices.

Perhaps we need to recognize the potential danger inherent in these foods and work to extinguish the habituated response that is often triggered first by the emotional catalyst.

If I find myself searching in the pantry or the refrigerator at the first sign of being upset, angry, lonely, tired, anxious  I try and ask myself what is truly underlying on an emotional level?  The more frequently I use food as an emotional salve the stronger that behavior becomes and the more unclear I will be as to what the costs and benefits are of using food in place of using my intellect or self-awareness. Maybe the answer is to find alternative thoughts about the food we put inside our body so that we can fully address emotional triggers and not put ourselves in a dangerous cycle. Food is such a powerful part of our lives. It can be the impetus for ill health both physically and emotionally, or it can be the source of vitality and power. The choice is yours as to how you want to deal with it. What are some ways or techniques that you find helpful when you find yourself parked in the pantry or refrigerator?

Shira Burstein, LCSW

Psychotherapist

www.shirabursteintherapy.com

Liza and Shira
Liza and Shira

Confessions and Transgressions. Perfection is Overrated.

Me and Brooklyn

Me and Brooklyn As many of you know, this year has been particularly challenging for me in so many ways for so many reasons. Making sense of it, finding a silver lining, is easier some days than others. That said, I would not change who I have become for anything.

I believe the best lessons are learned hard. It's just a little speckle of the truth of life. I am not the person I was before we left Brooklyn. And yet here I am again. With new eyes and new energy.

Once upon a time, I spent so much time trying to do everything perfectly. Perfectly according to my moral compass that is. The world was black and white. Strong lines were drawn. And I always made the right choices.

But here's what this last year and a half has taught me: life needs to be lived for the day. So I've softened my edges a bit, been making bolder choices, drinking coffee;) I have a job. I am back in Brooklyn. I am more actively engaged in my kids' daily activities. I push my limits. Am growing my collection of tattoos. And I've blurred the rules of my veganism.

I want to be more fun. So I choose to be. I laugh more, get home later, order in more. I write when I feel like it, not when I set myself a calendar. I take more classes. Wear wilder clothing. Dance on my bike.

Here are some silly things that I found in a ridiculous email that perfectly reflect how I am feeling these days...enjoy!!!:

Be ThankfulSome people...It's better...

More Posting...Coming Soon

Upstate

Hey. Lots of you have been asking if and when I'm going to get back to regular posting.

I am.  I promise.

It feels strange to go from posting about Jonny to posting about vegan muffins.  It feels strange to go back to anything normal.

That said, we've been really busy.  Apple picking, visiting friends upstate, SoulCycling, Halloween prep, new tattoos, cooking, baking, crafting, decorating the house, and, and, and...

I have some great recipes to share with you guys and I'll get those up here soon.

Meanwhile, here are some pics of us doing our thing, getting back to life.  It is a struggle lots of days to be honest, but I'm finding that I squeeze my kids tighter and that feels good.  We belly laugh more.  Even if there is sadness in between...  The good is better...

UpstateFresh Apple MuffinsMe and KillaKammFresh InkHome Goods Shopping with friendsPearl JamKiddosMe and My AliBar's BirthdayBirthday Pancakes

What To Expect Article

Hey you guys, I know I owe you all more posts.  I've been taking my time with it...  Seems tough to post on anything other than Jonny right now.

That said, life has been going on.  I have tons of recipes to share with you guys, anecdotes, lessons learned through my journeys in the school system realm.

I've also been doing some writing around the blogosphere!  This was published today.  So check me out over at What To Expect.

WhatToExpectArticle

xoxo

He Would Be 24 Today

Balloons

Balloons Today is Jonny's birthday.  I planned on blogging at the end of the day.  But now the end of the day has come and I'm still too foggy to write.

This was one of the hardest days.  All the other "big" days were days we memorialized him.  Recognized his death, his life...  But today just feels like a day he was supposed to be here.  And he's not.

Yesterday, lots of people, people who love Jonny, gathered at my in-laws' house.  Among other things, we wrote notes on some balloons and sent them into the sky.  It was a special moment...

 

A Week of "Normal"

Spending Time With Avi

Spending Time With Avi All day I planned on writing a blog post.  As I promised so many of you I would.  Tomorrow will be a week from Jonny's 1 month memorial service.

Last Sunday was a hard day for all of us.  A reality hit.  Time to make an effort to get back to real life.  Without Jonny...

I spent the week doing standard issue, day to day things.  Bussing the kids to their schools and other programs, SoulCycling, Ikea for the house, I stencil painted our powder room, visited with my college roommate in from out of town and with another close friend in from out of the country, cooked a few dinners with my favorite fall flavors (kabocha squash, cinnamon, apples, adzuki beans, chestnuts), did some training with my new pup, I spent a lot of time with my kids, I spent some time with my mom, school shopped for the girls, I even went to a concert with Richie and a bunch of Jonny's friends...  I was busy.  And sad.  But it was in the background.

This morning we woke up and everyone was sick (except for me).  Runny noses, sneezing...  Our plans for the day were all nixed.  My in-laws came and spent the day.  And they were having a tough one.  Everyday is different.  Some days you just can't kick the bad feelings.  Today they couldn't.

Now, after a long day, I sit here, awkwardly typing, over a sick baby lying on my chest.  I find myself contorting my body every time she stirs to get her comfortable.  That's what you do for your children I guess.  You sacrifice your comfort for theirs.  Because that brings you happiness.  To see their comfort.  Even at your own expense.  It's something I learned early in the baby game.  I'd find myself sleeping mangled to nurse my baby through the night only to wake up with a cricked neck, but a happy baby.  I found myself most hours of the day in the rocking chair, nursing, rocking, staying still so they could sleep.  I remember in those early days always having to pee, but never wanting to disrupt them while they were sleeping on me!  It felt like my forever dilemma.

And here I am now.  Tears brimming for the loss of my baby brother-in-law, stuck in this spot in my bed under my sick and snoring baby, and all I know is that my pain is deep, but I cannot imagine what my mother and father-in-law are going through.

So, from this anchored spot, I'm sending them as much love and support as I can and praying that they can find a way to get to a place where they can experience the pure love between them and the rest of their children and grandchildren and allow that to heal them.

Tragedy and Truth

Today my chest feels tight.  All day.  Yesterday was the 30th day since Jonny died.  Today we had a ceremony at the cemetery.  My father-in-law spoke, some of his friends read poetry, others played music.

It was a gorgeous day.  Everyone hung around for a while.  It was painful.  And sad.  And perfect.

I think I was really anxious about it.  Though I was unaware.  I've kept so busy.  People in and out of my house all day.  Running around picking up and dropping off at school.  Setting up our new home.  Back at SoulCycle.  Blogging.  Organizing.  Doing.  It feels as if there is not a free second in the day.  I am late for everything always.  And I am forever going straight from one thing to another.  Presumably I'm doing this subconsciously.  There is just no time to think.

Because whenever I do, I realize.  It's real.  It's surreal.  It's unbelievable.  All I could think today at the cemetery is: I can't believe that this is actually what we are doing right now.  I cannot believe this is our life.  I don't believe this is our reality.  But it is...

And in my weakness.  In my mourning.  In my state of unknowing...not understanding...I've come into this new strength.  I am more capable.  Stronger on my bike.  Getting more done in my days.

Because the is an unfortunate, acute understanding of how precious life is when you've lived such tragedy.

My dad used to tell a story about a man who lived in a small home with his wife and 4 children and 2 dogs.  They had a cow and a goat and 10 chickens out back.  He went to his rabbi and said: Rabbi, I just can't handle it.  My home is so small.  Six of us share two bedrooms.  The dogs sleep at our feet and bark in the mornings.  The rooster wakes us all at the crack of dawn.  There is so much work to be done with the animals every day.  My wife and I are exhausted.  The rabbi tells him to bring the chickens into the house. They can live in the kitchen.  The man does not understand.  He listens diligently though.  The next week he comes in and says: The rooster is even louder inside the house.  The chickens are shitting all over my kitchen.  There is no room for us to move around while we prepare our meals.  The rabbi shakes his head in understanding and tells the man to bring the goat into his home.  He can live in the room with the children.  The man is very confused, but does as he is told.  The next week, distraught, disheveled, he comes to the rabbi: I cannot stand it.  The goat has eaten up all the sheets in the children's room.  He is moving on to their pajamas.  My wife spends her days mending clothing in between cooking and cleaning and tending to the animals.  We cannot live another day like this.  The rabbi nods and tells him he understands.  Now bring in the cow he says.  There is no room! the man replies.  There is always room.  Find some, the rabbi replies.  So the man clears out space in his entryway and brings the cow in.  Now the cow is mooing all night since he is uncomfortable.  None of them sleep.  Everyone is miserable.  The next week the man comes in with bags under his eyes, crying: Please rabbi, please.  We cannot live like this another minute!  What are you doing to us?!  Why are you punishing us?!!!  The rabbi smirks.  He tells the man to move all the animals out.  Back to their respective living spaces.  The man runs home and does so immediately.  Just a few short days later, the man come back to the rabbi, practically kissing his feet.  Thank you thank you.  My home feels enormous.  We are so happy to have all the space and fresh air.  My children are happy, my wife is relaxed, we are sleeping through the night.

Is is true that in order to see the beauty, some of us need to experience the darkness?

I don't want to believe that exclusively, but there is no question, that though I saw beauty before, I appreciate it so much more.  This tragedy has opened doors for me.  Shown me some light.  Made me believe.  Love deeper.  See truth.

There is so much good in this world.  It is only my fault if I do not seek it out, appreciate it, live it.