Keeping It Real: Relapse

Friday, July 11, 2014

Relapse. That's what they call it when you have an addiction, right? But I admit that it kind of makes me cringe to call it an addiction. Sugar addiction. It sounds faddish, new age-y, just another way to sell diet books and diet plans. 

In fact, sugar meets all the criteria for an addictive substance: 
• It stimulates release of neurotransmitters in the brain, such as dopamine and serotonin, in a manner similar to alcohol, cocaine, and other drugs of abuse.
• People eat it compulsively, despite negative consequences and the intention to stop.
• With continued use, people develop a tolerance to its effects.
• Heavy sugar consumers have trouble functioning without it.
• When consumption ceases, withdrawal symptoms occur.                                                         Source:
 There are cookies and other junky snacks in my house right now. A friend brought them over the kids yesterday, for our playdate. I thought that I could have one delicious mini chocolate chip cookie but I was really, really wrong. Not only could I not have just one, I went on a small rampage and ate some other crap, too. I could feel myself being subsumed by the craving. It's unreal. I don't know how to describe it but those of you with addictions understand what I mean.
After my first post about my problem, my sister sent me a Kindle copy of Taking the Leap: Freeing Ourselves from Old Habits and Fears by Pema Chödrön. I'm still reading the book but she advises "learning to be with the itch."
Pausing is very helpful in this process. It creates a momentary contrast between being completely self-absorbed and being awake and present. You just stop for a few seconds, breathe deep, and move on. You don't want to make it into a project. Chögyam Trungpa used to refer to this as the gap. You pause and allow there to be a gap in whatever you're doing. 

I did pause and the first time, it worked. But after a week of two kids who miss their friends and being in school, who were at each other's throats and being extremely physical with each other, my nerves were shot and frazzled, pausing did not work. I failed to identify the feeling that was driving my compulsion.

I reminded myself that I was supposed to care, then came that small, niggling thought that always creeps in when I do that:

What if I don't care?
But I do care, don't I? I mean, I'm supposed to care. I've convinced myself that I do. And I think I really do care but caring is not enough, apparently. So how do I move beyond caring to acting with intent? I need resources to answer that question. If you have any to offer, please leave it in the comments!

{Affiliate links within.} 

This is The Story of a Happy Marriage (or How a Book Club Was Born).

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Way back in May, which seems like forever ago now, back when the kids were still in school, back when days were warm and nights were cool, you get my drift... Way back in May, I was in the library with my friend Rachel and our kids. I spied a book on a bookcase across the room and decided I wanted to read it. I'd heard of the book before, and I was definitely judging this book by its cover, knowing nothing about it. I decided on the spot to have a summer book club for us moms who were staring down a long summer with the kids in town. That evening, I sent out an email to a group of friends who I thought would be down with a book club and who would be in town most of the summer.  Every single lady said yes, god bless 'em. This book club would be on!

The book: This Is The Story of a Happy Marriage, by Ann Patchett. I had no idea what the book was about but I trusted my instincts. It turned out to be a collection of personal essays, wonderful personal essays, maybe the best I've ever read. Before the book was even done, I knew I'd re-read it. I did have some pangs of worry though because these personal essays were also essays about writing, and I wasn't sure if the ladies in my group would be down that. I guess I had thought the essays would be about marriage and parenting and being a woman, and all that good stuff. First of all, Patchett has no children so there are no essays about motherhood, though she does write about her consternation towards people who assume that she is using her dog as sublimation for a baby.
Being a childless woman of childbearing age, I am a walking target for people's concerned analysis. No one looks at a single man with a Labrador retriever and says. "Will you look at the way he throws the tennis ball to that dog? Now there's a guy who wants to have a son." A dog, after all, is man's best friend, a comrade, a pal. But give a dog to a woman and people will say she is sublimating. If she says that she, in fact, doesn't want children, they will nod understandingly and say, "You just wait." For the record, I do not speak to my dog in baby talk, nor when calling to her do I say, "Come to Mama." 
Her derision and annoyance come through so well, and with humor, too. I fell in love with this voice throughout the book. Each and every essay was a pleasure to read, and as someone who is still trying to master the art of the personal essay, the lessons were bountiful. In fact, if I were still teaching, these essays would form the cornerstone of a curriculum on the personal essay (along with the other master,  Philip Lopate, of course.)
Art stands on the shoulders of craft, which means that to get to the art you must master the craft. If you want to write, practice writing. Practice it for hours a day, not to come up with a story you can publish, but because you long to learn how to write well, because there is something that you alone can say. Write the story, learn from it, put it away, write another story. Think of a sink pipe filled with sticky sediment. The only way to get clean water is to force a small ocean through the tap. Most of us are full up with bad stories, boring stories, self-indulgent stories, searing works of unendurable melodrama We must get all of them out of system in order to find the good stories that may or may not exist in the freshwater underneath. 
Besides the wonderful, writerly advice, Patchett's essays give us an glimpse into worlds we don't see, sometimes risking an unpopular viewpoint. In The Wall, Patchett writes about trying out for the Los Angeles Police Academy, in the aftermath of the Rodney King riots. Patchett's father was a captain in the LAPD, and retired before the riots. Her experience with the officers of the LAPD stands in stark contrast with the media portrayal of the force following the beating of Rodney King, his trial and the riots. In this essay, she strives to put a face on an oft-villanized group. While she does not attempt to excuse or apologize for the officers that beat Rodney King, she does want to reclaim her hard-working father's honor and who can fault a daughter for that?
I am proud of my father. I am proud of his life's work. For a brief time I saw how difficult it would be to be a police officer in the city of Los Angeles, how easy it would be to fail at the job, as so many have failed. My father succeeded. He served his city well. I wanted to make a note of that.  
One of my favorite essays in the collection comes at the end. The Mercies is a story about the nuns that taught Patchett as a child. First of all, as a non-Catholic, I was fascinated by this personal peek into the lives of nuns! I was also thoroughly heartwarmed by the evolving nature of the lifelong relationship between teacher and student.  I am still close with a few of my own students (a student I had as a freshman just finished grad school! Holy heck...) and I felt the story deeply, knowingly, appreciatively. And it is in this story that Patchett reveals a surprising secret that she only alludes to in an earlier essay. But I'm not going to tell you. Sorry! No spoilers here...

I also want to add that I finished this book in under a week. That's rare these days, and I attribute that to the fact that I read it while on a week-long camping trip in Maine. With no house to clean or laundry to fold, and no social media distraction, there was not much left to do but read, which was my intention, of course, when I decided to leave my phone, dead, in the car for most of the week.  (Let's not discuss the fact that I really should just try harder to resist the temptation, regardless of the state of my phone or the location of my various devices. Thanks.)

Out of respect for Patchett, I am not including my Amazon affiliate link here. I bought my copy at my local independent bookseller and I urge you to do the same. Full disclosure: Though I have an Amazon affiliate account, I do usually buy my books at my local bookstore. Now you know my dirty secret. 

First To Read: The Most Dangerous Book

Thursday, July 3, 2014

I must confess that I've never read Ulysses. A Portrait of the Artist, definitely, though the memory of that book is long gone, and I should probably re-read it now that I'm well out of the overwhelming haze of college years. But I do love books about books! They are the best possible combination of research, history ands storytelling. The Most Dangerous Book, by Kevin Birmingham, has this combination down pat.  There are so many fascinating story lines in this book-- Joyce's writing process, the history of censorship in America and Europe, the rise of the radical left, Joyce's physical ailments, the story of Sylvia Beach, the contents of Ulysses itself. It is very easy for a book about a book to be dry and boring, just straight reporting but this book goes beyond research to tell a story. Of course, the danger for the reader is remembering the storyteller, having not been present, will take some creative license, and is, after all, telling a story. It's like ethnography, but without the credibility. You just have to trust that the writer is staying close to the spirit of the true story, based on primary and secondary documents. When the story is well-told, it is easy to believe the writer was there, and is sharing a first-hand account of the events that unfolded. Kevin Birmingham has convinced this reader! I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and thought it was very well-paced, despite the enormous amount of information and detail Birmingham has given his readers. Never have I understood so clearly the context within which a book exists-- sometimes a book is never just a book, and the history of Ulysses is a history of the death of the Victorian age and the birth of a radical awakening, both in America and Europe.

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Ask Away Friday with A Cookie Before Dinner!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Hooray, hooray, hooray for the all new #AskAwayFriday! Get to know the new hosts and  grab the new logo! Be sure to check out the new Facebook page “AskAwayFriday” for a great place to meet up and send out a #BuddyRequest if you need a partner to swap with! And always feel free to contact me here or anywhere if you want to swap with me.
What is #AskAwayFriday? Well… 
#AskAwayFriday was created by the amazing Penny from Real Housewife of Caroline County as a place for us to connect with other bloggers by asking them ten questions to really get to know them. The sky is the limit with the questions you ask!

Tamara from Tamara Like Camera,
Christy from Uplifting Families,

Amber from Bold Fit Mom

I'm back again for my second-ever Ask Away Friday but I'm not actually here! I'm up in Maine, camping and offline for the week, so leave me lots of comments to respond to when I get back. This week, I'm swapping questions with NJ of A Cookie Before Dinner. NJ is another friend from the Valley, who I met through our mutual friends in Northampton. NJ is the mom of two adorable kids, Malone and Lola. (Fans of NJ will remember that NJ and I were in a race to the finish to see who would deliver her baby first. Me and Micah won, but not for lack of trying on NJ's part!) Besides being a good friend, I admire NJ for her ballsy way of getting things done. NJ is NOT shy about asking for what she wants, and she almost always gets it. That's the way to do it, folks! She has some excellent questions for me this week and I had fun going through my photos for this post. In fact, it made me miss Flickr, which I've neglected in favor of Facebook and Instagram. *sigh* 

Here are my responses to her questions, and be sure to head over to A Cookie Before Dinner to read her answers to my questions! 

1. I know that Stella, Alice, and Micah are all named for family members. Tell us their name stories!

My father with Micah, during his bris, where he recieved his Hebrew names. 

In the Jewish faith, children are typically named after the deceased, so all of my children are named after my grandparents. Alice’s middle name is Ann, after my paternal grandmother and she also has her Hebrew name, Chana, meaning compassionate or gracious. Stella is named after my maternal grandmother, whom I never met. She passed away when my mother was 17. Her name was Shirley, so Stella has the S in her English name for that, and her Hebrew name is Shir-Li, which means “I have a song.”  Micah is named after both my grandfathers, both of whom passed away in the same summer, the same year I became pregnant with Micah. Their names were Michael and Solomon, and his Hebrew name is Meyer Shlomo. Meyer means “light” and Shlomo means “God’s Peace.” I love that my children’s names are imbued with everything that I hope for them now and in the future, while also honoring our past.

2. How did you and Henry meet? 


Some photos from those early days, before marriage and kids. 

We actually met on Flickr! You can read our story here, written by Henry but here are some of my favorite parts of the story:
“Anyway, things were going nice and smooth until I got stuck doing some emergency work whilst having brunch with her on this, our first meetup, which began at the SoHo Apple Store then bled over to some cool pub in the area. She hung on. Cool!Weird things began happening to me. The universe was talking to me. While walking on Lafayette Street heading to the Triple Five Soul store, we had walked right past an ex-girlfriend!Wow!”

“We have the most smashing dinner and find our way to a friend’s bar in the East Village for some after dinner cocktails. That’s it! I couldn’t contain myself. We were getting closer. No doubt. I reached over an gingerly placed that kiss on her. I had been waiting to do that for oh so long. Finally! “

3. I cried as I read your post about Alice and kindergarten. I loved seeing her growth through the year in your story. Has there been a common theme of growth this year for her? 

This year has been all about learning to deal with conflicts with friends. Alice is a NICE girl and goes out of her way to include other kids in her play, and is sometimes too nice to stand up for herself until she gets frustrated and gets upset, so her teacher worked with her this year on helping her resolve conflicts with friends who were making a lot of demands and conditions on her attention. I'm curious to see what'll happen in the Fall after a summer apart from her friends.

4. I know your family loves to camp! We're considering take a short trek this summer ourselves. Do you have any advice for camping with an infant?

Camping at DAR in Goshen, MA. Stella is five months old and Alice is 2. 

It is so fun to camp with the whole family. It is not relaxing, per se, but being out in the woods does demand a little looseness and flexibility, and some shedding of routine. That said, as long as you are car camping, you might as well bring along some comforts of home! My number one advice for camping with infant or a pre-walker is bring a pack and play and/or an exersaucer. It’s nice to be able to put the baby down without worrying about the baby eating bugs and crawling near the fire pit. Bring the baby’s crib companions. A little familiarity goes a long way in helping with bedtime in a strange place with strange noises. Don’t stress over getting the baby to bed at her usual time. Sitting around the campfire as the sun goes down, with the baby on your lap listening to the lulls of conversation can be pretty relaxing! Take advantage of the campground’s offerings--if there is a creek to play in, go play in it. If there is a hiking trail suitable for kids, go hike it. Keep the kids active and busy, and they’ll be happy and tired at the end of the day. Most of all, just have fun.

5. In your post about your writing process, you talked about becoming braver in your writing. Since then, you've written about a hot button issue and talked about being fat. Has anything changed now that you're putting "more" of yourself out there for the world to see? 

I’m feeling a little more fearless because I’ve gotten such positive feedback. I’m looking forward to exploring some of these issues a little more deeply and branching out into other areas, like maybe my marriage but we’ll see! But it's really a case of just jumping in feet first and getting over some fear.

6. Give us an update on how your 2014 word of the year, FOCUS, is going. 

To be quite honest, I had to go back and re-read that blog post! Oops. Anyway, I do think I have gotten better at trying to focus on one task at a time, and to be less tied to devices and social media. When this post is published, I’ll be in the middle of a week-long camping trip in Maine. I plan to leave my iPad and computer at home, and to keep my phone turned off and in the car for the duration of the trip, with the exception of a day trip to Portland. I’m a little nervous and excited about that aspect of my trip, and I’m sure I’ll have lots of insights to share when I get back! I’m also focusing on reading more and being online less. This also means that I am spending more time on housework because it is hard for me to sit and read when I know there is a pile of laundry to be folded or dinner to be prepped!

7. You and I both belong to the online book club, From Left To Write. What has been your favorite book you've read for it? Why do you love it so much? 


This is not an easy question! Happier at Home was a book I really enjoyed. I devoured it in days because I love her message of creating spaces that will make being at home enjoyable. We live in a tiny house, and with three kids, I’m often motivated to get out of the house but that comes at a price because it means our living spaces are neglected. In the winter, I basically hibernate, so it’s even more important then to make sure home is a place where I’m happy to be, even when it feels like we’re bursting at the seams and we’re in the throes of cabin fever.

8. In November, I gave you the Sunshine Award and asked you to describe your ideal day. You said that your ideal day was one where you could accomplish everything on your mental to-do list. Has this changed? If so, what does your ideal day look like now? 

Ha. This is another one that I had to go back and look for! I think accomplishing stuff on my mental to-do list still makes an ideal day for me, but my daily to-do list has gotten much shorter, out of necessity. I’m happy if I can get a load of laundry done, dishes washed and dinner on the table. I’ve also made it a point to accomplish one big project a week, like packing up outgrown clothes or scrubbing the kitchen floor, so I feel pretty good when I can get that done.

9. What is one thing Stella and Alice fight about? 

One thing? Ha ha. Oof. They fight about the stupidest, smallest stuff. It seems that way, anyway, on the surface but when I look deeper, I know that they are really fighting a kind of turf war, looking for a way to control outcomes. It doesn’t make it any less annoying but it does change the way I deal with their conflicts and helps me to decide whether I need to let them work it out or if I need to intervene. I usually intervene if I feel like there is not a fair fight going on or if one girl is being disrespectful of the other’s space.

10. What does the summer look like for your crew? 

Tamara asked me last week what our summer travel plans are but I can answer this question a little differently. Summer looks wide-open, for the most part. Outside of our travel plans, we have no set plans. The general routine is to hang out at home in the mornings, or go to the library, then go swimming in the afternoons before dinner time. Sometimes, we go swimming closer to ddinner time and just have a late dinner. I’d like to take a few day trips, and fulfill Stella’s wish to go on a “car-boat,” (ferry) so our options are the Staten Island ferry, the Governor’s Island ferry or the Newburgh-Beacon ferry, two of which don’t actually involve putting a car on the ferry but I don’t think she’ll care! I also have a summer bucket list that includes going to the Red Rooster Drive-In in Brewster, NY and taking the kids to Lake Minnewaska in New Paltz, as well as to Storm King in Newburgh, NY but I won't stress if that stuff doesn't happen. I'm perfectly content to spend the summer at the library and the lake!

Okay, you guys. Wish me luck on our week-long camping trip...we've never gone for more than a weekend! You can look forward to a post about family car camping, for sure. And if you haven't checked it out, read the latest installment in my interview series A Blessing and A Curse, in which I interview mothers with disabilities or medical conditions.

A Blessing and A Curse, No. 2: Mothering with Type 1 Diabetes

Monday, June 23, 2014

In this second installment of the interview series, it is my pleasure to welcome Cheryl, who I met on Facebook through our mutual friend Justine of Full Belly Sisters. Though I initially intended to focus on physical disabilities, I decided to expand my scope after learning that Cheryl has Type 1 Diabetes. Managing a medical condition in the midst of the busy work of parenting is a significant challenge, and maybe more so than a physical disability! 

Cheryl, with her husband Brandon and sons, Brett, Ian and yet-to-be-born Troy

I am a 33 year old wife to my husband Brandon and mom of three wonderful boys- Brett (6), Ian (3) and Troy (6 weeks). We live in Valencia, California which is about 40 miles north of Los Angeles.  Being a full-time mom is my favorite job, but I do share it with my full-time working job at Medtronic Diabetes.  Medtronic is the manufacturer of the insulin pump (more to come on that later). I am a training and education specialist which means I work to develop programs that educate physicians on the insulin pump and continuous glucose monitoring.  When I am not at the office,  I am often at a ballfield, park, or activity with my rambunctious boys.  However, I do love to sneak away for a mani/pedi and a glass of wine with my fabulous girlfriends or steal a moment with my DVR to watch bad reality tv.

What is Type 1 Diabetes?

For people without diabetes, their bodies regulate blood sugar through the work of insulin, which is a hormone secreted from the pancreas.  For people living with Type 1 Diabetes our bodies no longer produce insulin and we must take it by injection, or in my case, via insulin pump.

On Pregnancy and Managing Type 1 Diabetes

I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes when I was five years old and while my diabetes hasn't caused me any physical limitations, (although diabetes can offer these for others) there is a unique dynamic to parenting with a medical condition.  This starts from the moment I find out I am pregnant.  It is imperative that I stay in perfect condition while pregnant to ensure that my baby develops correctly and has a healthy environment in which to dwell.  This is where the stress begins- which definitely feels funny to say because we moms know that is the tip of the iceberg and you will spend the rest of your life worrying about them- so I will say "added" stress.  I wear an insulin pump and have since I was 21.  I was hesitant to go on a pump and the only thing that really sealed it for me was being told that if I ever wanted to have babies I should definitely be on one, so now it was time to put that to the test.  I also wear a continuous glucose sensor as well and together these two devices make managing diabetes through pregnancy easier.  Wearing a pump and sensor does mean that I have two "sites" on my body; one is where my pump is infusing insulin into my body throughout the day and another where the sensor is detecting my glucose and sending that data over to the pump every five minutes.  My pump has a 23 inch thin tubing that connects it to my body. While I would never describe either as a "physical" disability because the control that I have with these two devices is amazing, there is a physical component to wearing a medical device externally.  

Balancing Parenting and Self-Care

The other side to all of this is my diet and exercise.  I do have to watch what I eat normally, but wearing a pump makes this much easier.  However when I am pregnant, I need to be extra careful, making sure to keep my diet in check so that my blood sugars remain in perfect control.

Whew! So now, I have had 3 successful pregnancies and delivered 3 healthy boys.  And this fortune is not lost on me because not so long ago it was difficult for women with Type 1 Diabetes to have children, but my team of doctors who see me CONSTANTLY have helped make these boys possible.  Being a mom means your kids come first and a big struggle is that they often do which means “where does mom fit in?”  Having diabetes means I have to check my blood sugars, eat when I need to, and I do at times have potentially scary low blood sugars.  But in the world of mommyhood sometimes these things are missed or I have to tell my boys that I need to take a break or eat a snack when perhaps I have just told them "nothing else till dinner."  As a matter of fact it happened today, I made mac and cheese for my three year old and then needed to nurse my newborn.  Lo and behold, I forgot to eat and we ran errands.  I came home starving and ate (read: inhaled) some of the leftover mac and cheese.  Then Troy needed to be fed.  Long story short, I forgot to give myself the insulin I needed for the food I ate and upon dinner time I discovered that my blood sugars were way too high.  

Confronting the Risks

There are two tough parts to having diabetes. One is that in mothering, one tends to put themselves last and with diabetes, you really have to put yourself first.  What good are you as a mom if you are not healthy? There are several long term complications of diabetes- blindness, renal failure, loss of circulation- and those are scary things.  If you don't manage your diabetes well, these are a very real reality.  

Another is that diabetes is on the rise- both Type 1 and Type 2.  Type 1 is described as autoimmune, usually called Juvenile Diabetes because most develop it before the age of 25.  This makes up 10% of the population of people with diabetes.  Type 2, or adult onset, makes up the other 90% and is the type more people are familiar with.  Type 2 has a genetic component but it also triggered by poor diet and not maintaining a healthy weight.  It's very common for my kids to hear that someone’s grandparent died of diabetes, or that they had to have a limb amputated as a result of diabetes, and this can be scary for them.  They also ask if they will get diabetes (my children have a less than 5% chance of developing diabetes).  It's a tough thing to teach young kids about when there is a lot of negative media coverage around diabetes.

Understanding and Empathy

A huge positive is how normal they think it is!  I love that they know about my pump and understand why I wear it.  I feel like that makes them more understanding of other people’s medical conditions.  I use it as a teaching tool all the time.  When they ask about someone’s wheelchair for example, I will tell them "just like mommy has her pump, they need their wheelchair to make them feel better."  They usually say "oh, ok" and it seems to really make sense to them.  Recently in my sons’ youth group one of the mothers had a daughter diagnosed with Type 1 and she had come to talk to me.  She was understandably upset and my son saw her start to cry.  He came up and I explained the situation. With the most genuine smile he said "it's ok, we have diabetes in our family and my mommy wears her pump and is super healthy!"  It was so sweet and I loved that he acknowledged the positives in it.  

The new big brothers!

The Burden of Diabetes and Stealing Cookies

I do find that as my sons get older I get concerned from time to time about them developing diabetes.  When they are sick or acting funny,  I have been known to take out my glucometer and check their blood sugars.  My six year old now cries when he is sick because I am likely to poke him.  I also know as they get older I will have to teach them further about the disease and more of the scarier parts that could, even though I work hard to prevent them, happen to me.  I know they will learn more about it, or hear negative, ignorant comments such as "your mom has diabetes because she is fat," or something to that extent.  While I have never had a low enough glucose  that I have not been able to treat it, it can happen.  I know of so many stories of kids having to call 911 for their parents with hypoglycemia and that is such an awful thought.  No parent wants to be a burden on their child, but having a medical condition makes me worry about that even more.

Right now the biggest struggle is hiding in the pantry, sneaking something sweet because my blood sugars are low and being caught.  Then comes the "No fair, why do you get a cookie and not me?!"  Now my blood sugars are low AND I am battling with a six year old over the "fairness" of a cookie!  

Thank you to Cheryl for her participation.  I learned so much about Type 1 Diabetes from this interview. If you'd like to know more about Type 1 and Type 1 Diabetes, here is some more information from the American Diabetes Association.  

For the first installment in this series, in which I interviewed my friend Candace about being a deaf mother, go here:

If you'd like to be interviewed for this series, just leave your contact info in the comments. Thanks! 

Ask Away Friday with Tamara Like Camera!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Hooray, hooray, hooray for the all new #AskAwayFriday! Get to know the new hosts and  grab the new logo! Be sure to check out the new Facebook page “AskAwayFriday” for a great place to meet up and send out a #BuddyRequest if you need a partner to swap with! And always feel free to contact me here or anywhere if you want to swap with me.
What is #AskAwayFriday? Well… 
#AskAwayFriday was created by the amazing Penny from Real Housewife of Caroline County as a place for us to connect with other bloggers by asking them ten questions to really get to know them. The sky is the limit with the questions you ask!

Tamara from Tamara Like Camera,
Christy from Uplifting Families,
Amber from Bold Fit Mom

Folks, I am thrilled to be doing Ask Away Friday. This is my first go at it, after months of reading other #AAF posts and really digging the questions and answers. I decided it's finally time to jump on the bandwagon and today, I am paired with one of my all-time favorite bloggers who also happens to be one of my all-time favorite people that I know offline. I first met Tamara through our mutual friend NJ. As a new transplant to Western Mass, I felt that this Jersey girl spoke my downstate language. Her daughter Scarlet made quite the impression on Alice back then. We had a meet-up at the awesome Eric Carle Children's Book Museum in Amherst, and though it was three years ago (or more?!), Alice still talks about "that girl Scarlet that we met at the museum who has the curly hair." In any case, I am pretty sure, in the #AAF circle and on the Internet at large, Tamara needs no introduction! But in case you've been living under a virtual rock, check out her blog, which I read religiously because she is an amazing storyteller, both with her words and her photographs.

You can read Tamara's answers to my questions here and below are my answers to her questions! Happy reading! 

1. What do you miss most about Western Mass? Oh, jeez. I don’t know where to begin. The thing I miss most is how quickly everyone jumps in to help a mama out, and how laid back the social life is. I like that it isn’t always about going out to have fun but just staying in and hanging out. I also really miss driving all the back roads and taking the long way home but luckily, we have settled into a town where I can do the same thing! I made some great friendships in the valley, so thank goodness for Facebook, though it will never substitute for the real thing.

2. I know you have more success with me at getting your kids to eat balanced meals. What's a meal or dish recipe that your whole family will eat?  Oy! I have to say, I’m having much less success lately. It really ebbs and flows but I find that any meal involving fish, rice and beans or chicken will be met with universal approval from all three kids. I just checked my blog to see if I have a recipe for rice and beans but I don’t! Here’s two that I’ve been using lately, both made in a pressure cooker, which is the greatest invention ever: (I omit the ham hock)  and

3. What's something you have always wanted to do that you have yet to accomplish? Mmh… I feel like I have a list in my head and of course, I’m having the darndest time pulling it up! Well, I was just talking to my  mom last week about how I want to go to New Zealand. One of my favorite writers is Janet Frame and she was from New Zealand. Also, it just sounds like an amazing place!

4. I remember reading and loving your "how we met" story with Henry. What was the  first date you went on? What do you remember noticing about him that made you know you wanted to marry him..or at least have a relationship? Our first official date was at Tribeca Grill, an upscale restaurant owned by Robert DeNiro. I was really excited to go there and… I dragged my little sister along! She was in town visiting me, and I didn’t want to go alone. We were celebrating Henry’s birthday, so I made a layer cake for him and brought it to the restaurant. The frosting was a mess by the time I got out of the cab. The kitchen staff was incredibly gracious and fixed the frosting! They stored it in the fridge until it was time for us to surprise Henry with it. He was really touched by the gesture and might’ve shed a tear or two because no one had ever made him a homemade cake before, which seemed incredibly sad to me! After dinner, we went to a bar where his friend was bartending (and yes, my underage sister came along… don’t tell). We had our first kiss at the bar, after a few drinks. I think I just felt that he was really sweet and so different from any other guy I had dated, especially my ex-boyfriend, with whom I had recently broken up. Also, I met Henry right around the same time I met this other guy, and felt drawn to Henry over the other guy, who was nice but not right.

5. Got this one from Diz Mommy - When people meet you for the first time, what are they surprised to learn? You know what? I have no idea! I had to crowd-source this question for an answer! My friend Bain said it was that fact that my family gets along and functions better than most "traditional" families, even though we have an unconventional family dynamic. In fact, long before the TV show ever came on the air, my friend Suzanne used to say that I had the ultra-modern family, with a gay mom, two stepmoms, half-siblings and step-siblings. My friend Sandi says that she is still amazed how well I speak for having been born deaf. She's right-- it's a frequent observation from new people in my life! She also said she would've guessed that I was Latina. To those Puerto Rican girls in a bar bathroom who told me that there was no way I could be Puerto Rican, I say: Take That! But seriously, it's my olive skin tone and nutso curly hair that throws people off, I think, plus the fact that I have my Puerto Rican husband's last name.

6. I ask this a lot but I really like it for you: What profession would you most like to try for a day? And what profession would you most hate to try? I would really like to be a librarian for a day, or forever. I think I would be good at it but I can’t go back to school right now, or ever, probably. *sadface* I definitely would not want to try a job that involves touching people or being around bodily fluids. Blech.

7. Do you have any plans to travel this spring (what's left of it) and summer? Well, we already took a camping trip over Memorial Day weekend with my sister, her family and her friends, and my friends. It was a lot of fun. Next up is a week-long camping trip in Maine. We’ve never gone camping for more than a weekend with the kids and I really don’t know how it will go. We’re staying at a family campground so there will be plenty for us to do, and some more modern conveniences that don’t come with regular car camping. After that, we are headed to the Cape for two weeks at the end of July and beginning of August. I am really excited about this. Henry is joining us for the second week so I will have to drive there alone, with the kids. The long drive makes me a little nervous but I think I can do it. I also have plans to take a solo trip with the girls to Lake Ontario, to visit a friend who has a lake cottage up there, and of course, I would really like to make it up to the Valley! Someone up there needs to have a party and invite me so that I have an excuse to go...

8. What's the last great book you read and what did you love about it? I need a recommendation from a fellow reader/writer! Oh, the pressure!!! It’s actually been awhile since I read a super great book but here are three that I really loved in the past year:

9. Can I ask you your own question..because I love it. What cancelled TV show would you bring back from your childhood? Tough one!! But I’m going to nerd out here and say that I would love for Ghostwriter and Square One to come back for my own kids to watch. Do you remember those shows? I thought they were awesome and would watch them every day after school!

10. Which fairy tale character do you (or did you as a child) most associate with? I have to confess, I was not and still am not into fairy tales! My knowledge is woefully inadequate in this area, despite having two girls that are a little princess crazy. Can I pick a contemporary fairy tale character? I really love the Paper Bag princess and I think I am more like her than any other character! I have to thank my friend Sue for introducing me to this character when she gave my girls a copy of this book.

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