Family

A Challenge, are you up to it?

This week, I had the pleasure of hanging out with my Aunt Millie.

Aunt Millie (in red), my mom, my two kids, and me on the day of Little Miss's christening.

Aunt Millie (in red), my mom, my two kids, and me on the day of Little Miss’s christening.

Aunt Millie is my mom’s middle sister. She’s the aunt who never married, who lived with and cared for my grandmother until the day she died. She was the fun aunt.  Growing up, she was the one who got down on her knees and played with us and laughed with us.  She’s my brother’s godmother at baptism and my sponsor for Confirmation.  She is very near and dear to our family.

Sadly, Aunt Millie is succumbing to age.  Now that she lives alone, she’s become a sort of shut-in.  She screens her calls and doesn’t go out.  She’s stopped taking her medication and seeing her doctors. She’s showing signs of dementia, forgetting things from minute to minute.

And she lives in a different state.  With my mom and I being her closest family.

With her health deteriorating, my mom and I have decided that it is time to move her out of her house and into an assisted living facility here in New York.  These last few days I have been touring these facilities with Aunt Millie, showing her the best ones within her price range.  We’ve finally chosen one where she will be best cared for and we believe that she is excited to get started. She knows that she can’t handle her home anymore, she knows that she’s not in the best of health anymore. We believe she is ready to move on and part with her former way of life. And we couldn’t be happier for her.

Watching my beloved aunt go from independent working woman to the forgetful, sweet, simple soul she is now has been so devastating.  My grandmother had dementia before she passed, and it seems as though Aunt Millie is following in her footsteps.  And living alone where your family is over and hour away is scary.  I hold my breath every time I call her, waiting to hear her pick up the phone.  When she doesn’t answer I fret and worry until she calls me back. I wish she was close enough that I could just hop in the car and go to her house. But with my children dependent upon me for everything, it’s near impossible to take a day off.

Where am I going with this, you may ask.  This month the From Left To Write book club is revisiting a past reading, Thrive, by Arianna Huffington.  In it, she issues a challenge to her readers to slow down, unplug, get more sleep or practice yoga or meditation.  Kim, our fearless leader and head book nerd at FLTW is encouraging us to take one of those suggestions and attempt a seven day challenge.

Having already given up Facebook for Lent, I have decided that my challenge will be to take better care of my brain and my memories. Alzheimers.org.uk suggests that dementia may be hereditary, so I want to start taking some steps to keep my brain healthy so that maybe I won’t forget who my children are, or where I am, or when the last time was that I ate when I’m in my 70’s.  Maybe I won’t become like Aunt Millie, alone and maybe afraid because she can’t remember where she is or how she got there.

The Mayo Clinic states that although there is no sure-fire way to prevent dementia, there are some things you can do to help.

  • Keep your mind active.Mentally stimulating activities, such as puzzles and word games, and memory training may delay the onset of dementia and help decrease its effects.
  • Be physically and socially active. Physical activity and social interaction may delay the onset of dementia and reduce its symptoms.
  • Quit smoking. Some studies have shown smoking in middle age and older may increase your risk of dementia and blood vessel (vascular) conditions. Quitting smoking may reduce your risk.
  • Lower your blood pressure. High blood pressure may lead to a higher risk of some types of dementia. More research is needed to determine whether treating high blood pressure may reduce the risk of dementia.
  • Pursue education. People who have spent more time in formal education appear to have a lower incidence of mental decline, even when they have brain abnormalities.

    Researchers believe that education may help your brain develop a strong nerve cell network that compensates for nerve cell damage caused by Alzheimer’s disease.

  • Maintain a healthy diet. Eating a healthy diet is important for many reasons, but a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and omega-3 fatty acids, commonly found in certain fish and nuts, may promote overall health and lower your risk of developing dementia.

So, here I go.  Wish me luck.  I’ll let you know how I do in about 40 years.  And I challenge you to take care of your brain, preserve your memories, and live a long, healthy, and happy life.

In the meantime, I can’t wait to get Aunt Mille into her new place to my family and I can enjoy her company again and maybe, with her finally getting medical care, she’ll come back and we’ll get a glimpse of that wonderful independent woman again.

This is an original ROSCMM post. This post was inspired by Thrive by Arianna Huffington who challenges women unplug and sleep more to create a balanced life. Join From Left to Write on March 19th as we discuss Thrive. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.

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Copyright 2015 Mastermind Mommy

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Categories: Book Club, Family, From Left to Write Book Club | 4 Comments

No More Excuses

This month the from the From Left to Write Book Club is reading Maria Kang’s The No More Excuse Diet. As a member of the book club I have received a copy of this book for free for the purposes of this blog post.  

Maria Kang is the founder of the not for profit Fitness Without Borders and the mom featured in the controversial photo entitled “What’s your excuse?”.  The photo, featuring Kang in her workout gear and smokin hot body and her three children, went viral in 2013.  Many saw her as an inspiration, others saw her as a “fat shamer”, making people feel bad because they don’t look like her.

Personally, I saw it as an inspiration.  If she can do it, why can’t I? What’s my excuse? My excuse is that I am lazy and losing weight is the hardest thing in the world for me.  I love food and I don’t want to stop eating the foods I love.  And exercise is hard.  It’s so much easier being lazy and staying fat.  

But…

In my new place, I have to climb stairs. 

Huff puff. 

I have two kids that need to be everywhere at the same time. 

Huff puff.  Oh, my back! 

I have a very energetic dog who needs exercise or he becomes destructive and annoying. 

Huff puff.  Oh, my back! Oh, my knees! 

I assist my boss at the dance studio with a class of three year olds.

Huff Puff. Oh, my back! Oh my knees! Oh, my feet! 

And then there’s this…



This is the costume that I will wear on stage in front of a couple hundred complete strangers (and a few not so strange) when those three year olds perform their dance for their recital in June.

Now, I know nobody is going to be looking at me.  They’re all going to be looking at those adorable little girls in their sparkly tutus and bright pink bows. And those little girls are the ones they should be looking at.  

But I have to look at me. 

And I don’t like what I see.  

And I intend to do something about it. 

I’m already on my third day of eating under my calorie goal.  The weather hasn’t been nice to me this week, so walking the dog or getting to the gym hasn’t happened yet, but it will. I’ve learned that my body needs to trust that it will be fed consistently so that it won’t go into starvation mode and store fat instead of burn it.  I’ve learned that drinking all that water really wakes you up in the middle of the night.

This time five years ago I was twenty pounds lighter, what the hell happened? How do I get back there? How do I get past that? 



I am NOT making excuses anymore.  

Obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes and thyroid issues all run in my family.  My kids need to see their mommy healthy and finally happy with the way she looks.  And I need to teach them new eating habits and the importance of exercise. 

I need to do this.  They need to learn it from me

So, what’s MY excuse? I don’t have any.  Not anymore.  Thanks Maria Kang. 

This is an original ROSCMM post. This post was written for the From Left to Write Book Club and was inspired by The No Excuses Diet by Maria Kang, a copy of which I received for review purposes. All opinions are that of Jennifer herself unless otherwise noted. Copyright 2015 Mastermind Mommy

Categories: Family, From Left to Write Book Club, Weightloss | Tags: , , , , | 4 Comments

Bigger than the Universe

Scour the internet and you will find a gazillion articles on “Things I want to teach my children before they’re 18” or something similar. The content of these articles range from teaching them to be kind and loving to teaching them how to cook and clean and sew to how to be a good parent and/or spouse.

As I write this, a family in my community is dealing with the loss of their 19 year old son who died in a car accident on New Year’s Day. He was a wonderful young man, an Eagle Scout, a college student, a great friend, brother and son. His death is senseless and tragic. There are no words to describe how this family must be feeling. My sympathies go out to them from the very bottom of my heart.

Last week, I accompanied my son and his Boy Scout troop to the wake where they said their final goodbyes to their brother in scouting. My heart shattered as I watched boy after boy break down at the loss of their friend.

In this post, I’m not going to tell you how to raise your children or what to teach your kids. I know you’re doing the best you can with what you have to work with. God knows, I’m not perfect and I have no right to tell anyone how to walk a straight line, never mind raise their kids.

There is one thing I do want to tell you, though. I am going home tonight and I am going to hug my kids. I am going to kiss my kids. And tickle them. And read to them (well, the little one at least) and yell at them to take their showers and brush their teeth and comb their hair and go to bed because they have school tomorrow. And I am going to make sure that they know that I love them more than they will ever know. More than my own life. And I am going to make sure that they know The Hubs and I are doing the best we can to make sure they have everything they need. As I do every night.

Because raising kids is hard.

But it’s an act of love bigger than the universe.

This is an original ROSCMM post. All opinions are that of Jennifer herself, unless otherwise noted.

Copyright 2015 Mastermind Mommy

Categories: Big Boy, Family, Little Miss | Leave a comment

Careful enough

Meet my grandma.

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She was my mom’s mom and my favorite person in the whole wide world. For the first 15 years of my life, she and my aunt lived in a two family house in Brooklyn. Sundays and holidays were spent at her house. Or she and Auntie would drive to ours in “Lawng Island”.

She was your typical Sicilian grandma, always telling you to eat and pinching your cheeks. And when she got mad, look out!! Wooden spoons were a fearsome weapon in our house.

She died on a sunny summer day in July 2006. We knew it was coming. She’d been diagnosed with dementia and her little body just shut down. My mom was staying with her and Auntie for a week or so before. And my other aunt, Little One, came in from Rhode Island as well. I was working in the pet store my husband and I owned. I was 27. My son was almost 4. I remember parts of the conversation with my mom that morning:

“Well? Anything?” I asked, kind of hopeful that some miracle would happen and Grandma would be well again.
“Not yet, ” my mom replied sounding sad and tired.
“Will you call me? Please? If she goes?”
“We’ll come get you, how’s that?”
“No, Ma. Just call.”
“Ok.”

No sooner had I hung up the phone, than my dad walked in. I can’t really remember, but I think he must have taken the train home from Manhattan, and instead of going straight home, he must have gotten off at the stop by my store.

He put his arm around me and whispered gently in my ear, “She’s gone.”

I remember being angry. Why hadn’t my mom just told me when I was on the phone with her? I had just hung up with her, why didn’t she tell me??

The rest of the day is a blur. I’m not sure how I got home. Or when we’d gone out to New Jersey for the wake and funeral.

A few weeks later, Auntie presented me with a tiny, red, quilted pouch. In it was a thin gold bracelet. I remember Grandma used to wear it on the same wrist as her watch. “Grandma wanted you to have this,” she’d said.

I loved that bracelet. I wore it all the time. And I was so careful with it. Always checking to see where it was. Always making sure that when I took it off, it was in a safe place.

And then I lost it. I woke up one morning and it was gone. It must have snapped and fallen off and I didn’t notice. I retraced my steps. I went back to the warehouse store. I checked the backyard where I’d help put together a pool for my son. I checked my car, my room, everywhere. It was gone.

Grandma’s gone eight years now. I keep this picture in my bedroom and I say good morning to her everyday.

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I am thankful for the time I got to spend with her. But I’m sad Big Boy didn’t get to spend more time with her and Little Miss never got to meet her. I’ve never found the bracelet either. Sorry Grandma, I guess I wasn’t careful enough.

This is an original ROSCMM post. All opinions come for Jennifer herself, unless otherwise noted. This post was inspired by the novel The Mill River Redemption by Darcie Chan, about two estranged sisters who are forced to work together in order to uncover the hidden inheritance by their mother. Join From Left to Write on December 2nd as we discuss The Mill River Redemption and enter to win a copy of the novel. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.

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Categories: Family, From Left to Write Book Club | 3 Comments

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