Dear Kids: Why I Vote (Part 3)

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Over the last few weeks I’ve asked parents around the country a few questions about the upcoming Presidential election. Why do you vote? Why will you be voting on Nov. 6? Why does voting matter? What do you think about the campaign and the candidates? I invited parents to answer those questions in the form of letters to their kids.

Here’s what 10 parents – addressing kids little and big with views patriotic, poignant and political – had to say:

Cynthia Ramnarace

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Dear Mira and Miles,

 

Your father and I have raised you with certain values. You must always wear clean underwear, brush your teeth, say your prayers and finish your homework before you can watch TV. We hope we have equally instilled in you the responsibility to vote. And not just in the popular presidential elections. Every time you are asked to choose who will represent you in government, you have a civic duty to respond to that call. I’d argue that the small races, where only a few hundred people show up, are actually more important to your everyday life than who sits in an Oval Office hundreds of miles away. The city councilman exerts the influence to determine what roads in your neighborhood will be fixed; which schools will get extra funding; which police departments will get the extra beat cops. And he’s much more accessible.

 

If that’s not enough to convince you, consider this: Think about the Americans who have given their lives so you can get an “I Voted!” sticker. Think about people in new democracies who stand in line for hours to get to the ballot box. Think about the people in the world who have no vote, and consider what that means for their lives. Think about how proud that sticker would make them.

 

And remember that I will be calling you on the first Tuesday in November. And you’d better not be home.

 

Love,

Mom 

Cynthia Ramnarace lives in Rockaway Beach, New York, with her husband Sid and her children, Mira, 8, and Miles, 5. She is an independent journalist specializing in health, women’s issues and caregiving. Her work has appeared in O, The Oprah Magazine; AARP Bulletin and American Baby, and online at iVillage.com, Reuters Personal Finance and TheBump.com, among many others.

Michele C. Hollow

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Dear Jordon,

I do talk to you about why we need to vote. Plain and simple, you lose your right to complain if you don’t vote. I took you to the polls on Election Day four years ago, and you come with me for the small elections too – school board and local government. Four years ago you noticed the excitement in the room. I live in a blue community. I know everyone in that room voted for Barack Obama four years ago. One voter even wore a “Support Barack” T-shirt hidden under her jacket.

You had to watch the debates for school. You normally go to bed at 8:30, so staying up is next to impossible for you. You watched the first two debates, and were confused at the President’s performance. You told me you thought Romney looked more presidential, which made me cringe. You got sleepy after 30 minutes, so we put you to bed.

You also thought the vice presidential debates was more interesting, and your take was that Joe Biden did a better job. I did explain that Ryan was not telling the truth and was being vague. I guess as parents, some of us influence our children’s thoughts.

Michele C. Hollow lives in Northern New Jersey with her husband, Steven, and their son, Jordon, 11. All are left-leaning. Steven works as a performer – a professional storyteller and puppeteer. Michele writes the blog, Pet News and Views http://www.petnewsandviews.com
michele@petnewsandviews.com, and contributes travel stories to the New York Daily News and other publications. 

Yehuda Grabie

 

Dear Malka, Yitzchock, Mordechai and Yisroel,

 

I vote because as an American citizen that is the way I can express my opinion in choosing the government officials who I feel are most qualified to serve. I will be voting this November 6 because that is the designated day to choose the President who best represents the future of the United States both domestically and in our foreign policy. I think through the debates, the candidates have expressed their positions on issues concerning the U.S.A. over the next four years, and also clarified their characters.

 

Yehuda Grabie, who lives with his wife in Forest Hills, New York, has four children: Malka Esther, 27, a mother of three; Yitzchok Zvi, 26, comptroller of a cigar accesory company; Mordechai Yosef,  24, a pre-med student conducting stem cell research at Mount Sinai hospital in Manhattan; and Yisroel Yaakov, 20, a pre-med student at Queens College. His wife teaches at Bais Yaakov Academy in Kew Gardens and at Mercy College in Brooklyn. Yehuda is sales manager at M. Grabie Woolen Co. Inc., in New York City.

 

Bob Kirsch

 

Dear Iris and Sam,

 

Voting is a privilege: serfs and slaves and people in the Middle Ages did not have an opportunity to vote; and today not everyone in our country or, in particular, other countries has that opportunity. Voting is a credential: would you accept the opinions on government, healthcare, education and gun control of a person who did not choose to vote? Voting is a force: not only the act of voting but planning to vote, knowing that voting has some importance, discussing our vote with others.

 

Bob Kirsch, who lives with his wife Mary in Ossining, New York, is father of Iris, a high school English teacher in Baltimore who also owns a cooperative coffee shop; and Sam, a businessman in Astoria, New York. Bob is a medical writer.

 

 

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Dear Kids: Why I Vote (Part 2)

 

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Over the last few weeks I’ve asked parents around the country a few questions about the upcoming Presidential election. Why do you vote? Why will you be voting on Nov. 6? Why does voting matter? What do you think about the campaign and the candidates? I invited parents to answer those questions in the form of letters to their kids.

Here’s what 10 parents – addressing kids little and big with views patriotic, poignant and political – had to say:

Barry Kluger

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Dear Erica,

The day we lost you in a car accident, you were months away from your first chance to vote. In your name, I started the Farley-Kluger Initiative to Amend the FMLA (Family And Medical Leave Act) to give time off for people who suffer the same pain your family feels today, and in your name, we are helping others. I am supporting Barack Obama for his commitment to healthcare and also our local Republican Congressman who has vowed to get a bill introduced so your legacy will live on. Your time here has made me a better person. The Talmud says: “He who saves one life is as if he has saved the entire world.”

I love you.

Dad

Barry Kluger, father of Erica, lives in Scottsdale with his wife Hope Kirsch, Erica’s stepmom. They have devoted themselves to pro-social efforts, with Barry serving as President and CEO of The MISS Foundation, a global grief and loss organization (www.missfoundation.org); and Hope, an attorney, serving the special needs and education community. They think of Erica every day and have committed their careers to making sure her memory lives on.  

Alexandra Owens

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Dear Gillian and Catie,

Voting is many things. Sometimes it’s a chore, sometimes a privilege, sometimes a chance to let off some steam. I have felt all of these things at various times in my life. I remember casting my first ballot at 18 as a sophomore in college. I was sad it had to be cast by mail instead of at the local polling place. I’d accompanied my mother to cast her vote many times over the years, and couldn’t wait until it was my turn. I wanted to wait on line (yes, I’m a New Yorker), step inside the curtain, flip the little switches to make my choices, and then pull the lever that made them permanent. (Those old voting machines were so satisfying to use – resounding clicks when you made each choice, and then such a great big “chunk” they made when you pulled the master lever. That was voting!)

So that first ballot was undramatic, just a checkbox on a form and a stamp. But from that point forward I felt a part of the national conversation – a member of “the people,” a person whose opinion counted. I haven’t missed an election since, because to do so would be to give up my voice. This is what it means to be a citizen. Well, voting and paying taxes. I do both proudly and gratefully, and take my place as a citizen of these United States.

Love,

Mom

Alexandra Owens lives in Morris County, New Jersey, with her husband, Michael, and their two daughters, Gillian, 13, and Catie, 10. Alexandra is the executive director of the American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA; www.asja.org).

Frank Cavallero 

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Dear Laura, Jennifer and Kim,

I realize that I will never be able to understand all the issues of a presidential race, nor would I have the time to learn about healthcare, taxes, employment or unemployment, inflation, diplomacy, immigration, the national debt, to name some. Yet, people I know argue these points based upon headlines. I think that most people, unless party loyalists, vote for the person they’d want as a next-door neighbor. For me, that’s Obama.

Frank Cavallaro, who lives in East Meadow, Long Island, is father to three daughters, Laura, Jennifer and Kim , and two grandchildren, Olivia, 8, and Luke, 6. He worked at several advertising agencies but eventually entered the financial services business. After retirement, he started a business of making and fixing things for homeowners.

 

P.S. – Please see part 3 tomorrow. 

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Dear Kids: Why I Vote (Part 2)

 

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Over the last few weeks I’ve asked parents around the country a few questions about the upcoming Presidential election. Why do you vote? Why will you be voting on Nov. 6? Why does voting matter? What do you think about the campaign and the candidates? I invited parents to answer those questions in the form of letters to their kids.

Here’s what 10 parents – addressing kids little and big with views patriotic, poignant and political – had to say:

Barry Kluger

Barry_kluger_photo

Dear Erica,

The day we lost you in a car accident, you were months away from your first chance to vote. In your name, I started the Farley-Kluger Initiative to Amend the FMLA (Family And Medical Leave Act) to give time off for people who suffer the same pain your family feels today, and in your name, we are helping others. I am supporting Barack Obama for his commitment to healthcare and also our local Republican Congressman who has vowed to get a bill introduced so your legacy will live on. Your time here has made me a better person. The Talmud says: “He who saves one life is as if he has saved the entire world.”

I love you.

Dad

Barry Kluger, father of Erica, lives in Scottsdale with his wife Hope Kirsch, Erica’s stepmom. They have devoted themselves to pro-social efforts, with Barry serving as President and CEO of The MISS Foundation, a global grief and loss organization (www.missfoundation.org); and Hope, an attorney, serving the special needs and education community. They think of Erica every day and have committed their careers to making sure her memory lives on.  

Alexandra Owens

Alexandra_owens_photo_new

Dear Gillian and Catie,

Voting is many things. Sometimes it’s a chore, sometimes a privilege, sometimes a chance to let off some steam. I have felt all of these things at various times in my life. I remember casting my first ballot at 18 as a sophomore in college. I was sad it had to be cast by mail instead of at the local polling place. I’d accompanied my mother to cast her vote many times over the years, and couldn’t wait until it was my turn. I wanted to wait on line (yes, I’m a New Yorker), step inside the curtain, flip the little switches to make my choices, and then pull the lever that made them permanent. (Those old voting machines were so satisfying to use – resounding clicks when you made each choice, and then such a great big “chunk” they made when you pulled the master lever. That was voting!)

So that first ballot was undramatic, just a checkbox on a form and a stamp. But from that point forward I felt a part of the national conversation – a member of “the people,” a person whose opinion counted. I haven’t missed an election since, because to do so would be to give up my voice. This is what it means to be a citizen. Well, voting and paying taxes. I do both proudly and gratefully, and take my place as a citizen of these United States.

Love,

Mom

Alexandra Owens lives in Morris County, New Jersey, with her husband, Michael, and their two daughters, Gillian, 13, and Catie, 10. Alexandra is the executive director of the American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA; www.asja.org).

Frank Cavallero 

Frank_cavallero_photo

Dear Laura, Jennifer and Kim,

I realize that I will never be able to understand all the issues of a presidential race, nor would I have the time to learn about healthcare, taxes, employment or unemployment, inflation, diplomacy, immigration, the national debt, to name some. Yet, people I know argue these points based upon headlines. I think that most people, unless party loyalists, vote for the person they’d want as a next-door neighbor. For me, that’s Obama.

Frank Cavallaro, who lives in East Meadow, Long Island, is father to three daughters, Laura, Jennifer and Kim , and two grandchildren, Olivia, 8, and Luke, 6. He worked at several advertising agencies but eventually entered the financial services business. After retirement, he started a business of making and fixing things for homeowners.

 

P.S. – Please see part 3 tomorrow. 

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Dear Kids: Why I Vote

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Over the last few weeks I’ve asked parents around the country a few questions about the upcoming Presidential election. Why do you vote? Why will you be voting on Nov. 6? Why does voting matter? What do you think about the campaign and the candidates? I invited parents to answer those questions in the form of letters to their kids.

Here’s what 10 parents – addressing kids little and big with views patriotic, poignant and political – had to say:

Kenneth Miller

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Dear Kids,

You’ve come along while I’ve voted in the past few elections, but I don’t think I’ve ever explained why I eagerly cast a ballot whenever I have a chance. There are lots of reasons, but here are the two biggies.

Reason 1: I vote because my great-grandparents couldn’t. Back in Russia, our ancestors had no say in how their country was run. If government policies led to unwise military adventures, discrimination against minorities (for example, Jewish people like us), or widespread poverty and famine, the only thing ordinary folks could do about it — short of starting a revolution — was to move somewhere else. My grandparents’ parents came to America with their children, leaving everything they knew behind, because it was a place where people could control their own destiny. The ability to vote was a major part of that. It’s a gift they passed down to me, and I’ll always cherish it.

Reason 2: I vote because I want the world to be a better place for you kids. The people we elect today will make decisions – about the environment, about the economy, about how we relate to other nations – whose consequences will be felt for years to come. When I look at the way pollution is affecting our climate, or at the budget cuts that are hurting our schools, or at the millions of families who’ve suffered through hard times in the past few years, or at the wars that have cost so many lives since you two were babies, I realize how much of a difference voting makes. We can do something about all these problems, but only if we use the power that we’re lucky enough to have as citizens of a free country.

I’ll take you with me when I vote on November 6, and I hope you’ll take your own kids when you grow up.

Love,

Dad

Kenneth Miller lives in Los Angeles with his wife, novelist Julie Ries, and their two children (ages 13 and 9). He is an award-winning journalist who contributes to Reader’s Digest, Discover, Ladies’ Home Journal, among many other national magazines.

Dana Kahn Cooper

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Dear Sam,

I am so proud that you really “get” the Democratic process. Yes, it’s hard to believe that when asking other kids in school who is running for Vice President, you get blank stares – or maybe worse, they say McCain, Palin or Clinton. And the conversation you had with your barber was maybe even more enlightening. You were so curious about his enthusiasm for this year’s election, you asked him if he had seen the debates and who he would be voting for. His reply that he doesn’t really watch that stuff or understand politics, so he is voting for Obama, because he thinks it would be really cool to high-five him,” was maybe even more shocking to you than your classmates’ responses. Too bad you’re only sixteen. You’re obviously better prepared to vote than many others.

Dana Kahn Cooper lives in Monmouth County, New Jersey with her husband David and two sons, Joshua and Sam. Joshua, 20, is a journalism student at West Virginia University; and Sam, 16, is a high school junior and aspiring R&B singer. Dana is a communications specialist and David is an audiologist.

Zelda Baum

Dear Link, Craig and Duffy,

I vote for many reasons. It is a privilege to be able to select the leader of the free world. It’s also my duty as an American. I’m voting for Obama because I believe he has a better view of what is needed in the future for me and my family. Romney is a man who professes to be a self-made man but he isn’t. He comes from big money and he made much more. That is not a sin, but his view of the world is skewed. As a person on Social Security, I don’t want vouchers for Medicare, and I don’t want it for my children. We worked and paid for Medicare and Social Security, and to deny this to elders is unconscionable. I think Obama is more in tune with the middle class, and he is brilliant.

Zelda Baum, who lives in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, was married to Ward Baum for 58 years – he was the love of her life – until his death in 2004. She is the mother of three children, Link, Craig and Margaret (Duffy). She has managed commercial real estate and served as National Executive Director of The National Foundation for Ileitis and Colitis, among other national health associations.

P.S. – Please see part 2 tomorrow.

Dear Kids: Why I Vote

Why_i_vote_image_polling_booth

Over the last few weeks I’ve asked parents around the country a few questions about the upcoming Presidential election. Why do you vote? Why will you be voting on Nov. 6? Why does voting matter? What do you think about the campaign and the candidates? I invited parents to answer those questions in the form of letters to their kids.

Here’s what 10 parents – addressing kids little and big with views patriotic, poignant and political – had to say:

Kenneth Miller

Ken_miller_photo

Dear Kids,

You’ve come along while I’ve voted in the past few elections, but I don’t think I’ve ever explained why I eagerly cast a ballot whenever I have a chance. There are lots of reasons, but here are the two biggies.

Reason 1: I vote because my great-grandparents couldn’t. Back in Russia, our ancestors had no say in how their country was run. If government policies led to unwise military adventures, discrimination against minorities (for example, Jewish people like us), or widespread poverty and famine, the only thing ordinary folks could do about it — short of starting a revolution — was to move somewhere else. My grandparents’ parents came to America with their children, leaving everything they knew behind, because it was a place where people could control their own destiny. The ability to vote was a major part of that. It’s a gift they passed down to me, and I’ll always cherish it.

Reason 2: I vote because I want the world to be a better place for you kids. The people we elect today will make decisions – about the environment, about the economy, about how we relate to other nations – whose consequences will be felt for years to come. When I look at the way pollution is affecting our climate, or at the budget cuts that are hurting our schools, or at the millions of families who’ve suffered through hard times in the past few years, or at the wars that have cost so many lives since you two were babies, I realize how much of a difference voting makes. We can do something about all these problems, but only if we use the power that we’re lucky enough to have as citizens of a free country.

I’ll take you with me when I vote on November 6, and I hope you’ll take your own kids when you grow up.

Love,

Dad

Kenneth Miller lives in Los Angeles with his wife, novelist Julie Ries, and their two children (ages 13 and 9). He is an award-winning journalist who contributes to Reader’s Digest, Discover, Ladies’ Home Journal, among many other national magazines.

 Dana Kahn Cooper

 

Dana_kahn_cooper_photo

Dear Sam,

I am so proud that you really “get” the Democratic process. Yes, it’s hard to believe that when asking other kids in school who is running for Vice President, you get blank stares – or maybe worse, they say McCain, Palin or Clinton. And the conversation you had with your barber was maybe even more enlightening. You were so curious about his enthusiasm for this year’s election, you asked him if he had seen the debates and who he would be voting for. His reply that he doesn’t really watch that stuff or understand politics, so he is voting for Obama, because he thinks it would be really cool to high-five him,” was maybe even more shocking to you than your classmates’ responses. Too bad you’re only sixteen. You’re obviously better prepared to vote than many others.

 

Dana Kahn Cooper lives in Monmouth County, New Jersey with her husband David and two sons, Joshua and Sam. Joshua, 20, is a journalism student at West Virginia University; and Sam, 16, is a high school junior and aspiring R&B singer. Dana is a communications specialist and David is an audiologist.

 

Zelda Baum

Dear Link, Craig and Duffy,

 

I vote for many reasons. It is a privilege to be able to select the leader of the free world. It’s also my duty as an American. I’m voting for Obama because I believe he has a better view of what is needed in the future for me and my family. Romney is a man who professes to be a self-made man but he isn’t. He comes from big money and he made much more. That is not a sin, but his view of the world is skewed. As a person on Social Security, I don’t want vouchers for Medicare, and I don’t want it for my children. We worked and paid for Medicare and Social Security, and to deny this to elders is unconscionable. I think Obama is more in tune with the middle class, and he is brilliant.

 

Zelda Baum, who lives in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, was married to Ward Baum for 58 years – he was the love of her life – until his death in 2004. She is the mother of three children, Link, Craig and Margaret (Duffy).  She has managed commercial real estate and served as National Executive Director of The National Foundation for Ileitis and Colitis, among other national health associations.

 

P.S. – Please see part 2 tomorrow.

Guest columnist Michelle Collins: Why Staying Healthy Is Staying Happy (Part 3)

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Michelle Collins lives with her husband Matt and daughters, Jacqueline, age 11, and Michaela, age 6, in Westchester County, New York. She is certified as an American Council on Exercise (ACE) personal fitness trainer and owner of Fit and Happier, a fitness service specializing in one-on-one and small-group home-based training for women. Learn more at www.fitandhappier.com or find a certified fitness professional near you at www.acefitness.org and enter your zip code under ACE GetFit.

 

Dear Jacqueline and Michaela,

After your births, my mission expanded. I would present a model for you to follow that made fitness less than a choice to make than the norm. That’s turned out to be difficult. New mothers face heavy time demands. I occasionally strained to carve out the time to exercise and prepare healthy food.

But I soon learned that there was nothing selfish about taking care of myself. I ate a wide array of proteins, whole grains, and fruits and vegetables in proper portions, the better to benefit from a variety of vitamins, minerals and nutrients. All our meals and snacks involve lean protein (lean beef, pork, poultry, fish, eggs and legumes); whole grains (minimally processed and as close as possible to fresh from the farm), whole fruits and vegetables, all prepared with or containing small amounts of healthy fats such as olive, canola or nut oils.

Exercise should be varied, too: it’s best to combine cardio, strength and flexibility training. I do a cardiovascular workout four days a week — a 30-minute jog one day, for example, with a 30-minute step routine on another and a 60-minute power walk on yet another. I also do interval training that brings into play a stationary bike and rowing macine. On other days, I use free weights and do Pilates-style strength training. Exercise boosted my stamina, relieved stress, strengthened me physically and recharged me body and soul, all of which has contributed to shaping me into a better mother.

You are fortunate to live in a time and place where you will have far more choices available to you than most women in the world, and more than women before you. Whether you choose to be full-time mothers, powerful career women, or throw yourselves into a cause that barely pays the bills, please take my word for this much: You should balance your life’s calling with your dedication to fitness. It’s important. You’ll be at your healthiest in all your endeavors. You’ll also be happier. A better recipe for a successful life I’m hard-pressed to imagine.

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Guest columnist Michelle Collins: Why Staying Healthy Is Staying Happy (Part 2)

 

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Michelle Collins lives with her husband Matt and daughters, Jacqueline, age 11, and Michaela, age 6, in Westchester County, New York. She is certified as an American Council on Exercise (ACE) personal fitness trainer and owner of Fit and Happier, a fitness service specializing in one-on-one and small-group home-based training for women. Learn more at www.fitandhappier.com or find a certified fitness professional near you at www.acefitness.org and enter your zip code under ACE GetFit.

 

Dear Jacqueline and Michaela,

As the latest scientific studies show, being sedentary is much worse than being overweight. People of normal weight who lead sedentary lives are at higher risk for cardiovascular disease, for example, than people who are 10 to 20 pounds overweight but stay active. Unless they engage in resistance training, most women will gain weight in their 40s and 50s because natural hormonal changes lead to muscle loss which slows their metabolisms.

Because of her sedentary lifestyle combined with her weight gain, then, my Mom developed high blood pressure and diabetes. She faced other, equally serious challenges that compounded these issues. First, she lacked the knowledge to take proper care of herself in the face of these two diseases. Second, she was saddled with an inability to make her own health a high enough priority. Third, she had an old-fashioned belief in what a proper lady should do when it came to her family obligations, and stuck by her traditions.

The consequences of these factors turned out to be severe. My mother’s high glucose levels (her diabetes), despite insulin injections, led to nerve damage, causing numbness and pain particularly in her feet and creating balance problems. That forced her to grow even more sedentary and put on still more weight. That in turn brought about knee problems, fallen arches, various infections in the legs and, finally, a diagnosis of heart disease in the bargain. In short, she lost control of her health, and set in motion a snowball effect that has now put her in a wheelchair.

I was young when all this began — in my teens when my mother was diagnosed with high blood pressure, and in my early 20s when her diabetes was discovered. And even though I was always thin, my mother’s health problems served as a real wake-up call for me. I realized I might have inherited the genes that would predispose me to the same “gateway” diseases. I also learned these diseases are largely preventable.

Eventually, I made it my mission to avoid the same fate as my mother. I adopted a balanced diet involving whole foods and reasonable portion sizes. Even more important, I began exercising regularly. My goal: to be fit (as opposed to either skinny or even necessarily athletic). Fitness, to me, is a state of mind and a way of life, an avenue by which to achieve and maintain physical, emotional and cognitive health, not to mention an all-around higher quality to life itself.

After you were both born, of course, it became even more important for me to maintain that balance.

P.S. – Please see part 3 tomorrow.

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Guest Columnist Michelle Collins: Why Staying Healthy Is Staying Happy

Michelle_collins_headshot

 

Michelle Collins lives with her husband Matt and daughters, Jacqueline age 11 and Michaela age 6, in Westchester County, NY. She is certified as an American Council on Exercise (ACE) personal fitness trainer and owner of Fit and Happier, a fitness service specializing in one-on-one and small-group home-based training for women. Learn more at www.fitandhappier.com or find a certified fitness professional near you at www.acefitness.org and enter your zip code under ACE GetFit.

 

Dear Jacqueline and Michaela,

You may wonder why I walk in the pouring rain to the point where my socks and sneakers grow to twice the weight they were when I left the house. You may wonder, too, why I don well-treaded hiking boots to safely maneuver freshly fallen snow. You may even wonder why I ask you to busy yourselves quietly for an hour while unfamiliar women come to the house to be taught “how to exercise.”

 

Well, it may surprise you to learn that my behavior has nothing to do with the pursuit of an ideal body type, an addiction to exercise or a super-competitive spirit within me. The truth is, I’m driven by a much healthier goal. But to understand that you need to know a little more about our family — and our nation’s history. So here goes.

My Mom, your Memere, was born in 1934, in the midst of the Great Depression, and raised during World War II, when scarcity and back-breaking labor were the norm. As the country recovered, great advances were made and prosperity returned. Thanks to everything from the combustible engine and assembly-line manufacturing to more efficient heavy farm equipment and the interstate highway system — farmers could plant and harvest more crops with less manpower and food could be transported relatively easily and quickly. That meant affordable food was abundantly available to the average family.

 

Unlike today, women were expected primarily to tend to their homes. It was considered unladylike to play sports or even to sweat. Eventually, a cultural revolution would liberate women from this single-minded expectation, enabling them to compete in the workplace, even in careers that men once dominated. But that revolution happened long after Memere married and had three children in rural Massachusetts.

My father, a k a Pepere, needed our one car to drive to and from his job. That ruled out working outside the home for Memere. She focused on the one job she could have: becoming a mother (at which she happened to be awesome, by the way) and keeping a clean, orderly home. By today’s standards, she worked physically hard to do this job well.

 

Then, emerging as if overnight, along came cheaper home appliances and inexpensive, highly processed foods. As a result, she was able to get a lot of household chores done in a fraction of the time and effort that it had taken her mother. Now faced with a novel concept — downtime or leisure — she picked up sewing. It was a thrifty hobby, certainly worth doing, and she was great at it. But it’s also a highly sedentary hobby. Over time, like many in her generation, she ate more and moved less.

On top of that, almost everything she did, including her sewing, she did for others. She constantly mended our school clothes and my dad’s work clothes. She made dresses for me, quilts for baby gifts, even outfits for my Barbie dolls. She also crafted items to donate to school and church fundraisers. Only rarely would she make clothes for herself.

And so it was that as my Mom entered her 40s and then her 50s, she gained weight.

P.S. – Please see part 2 tomorrow.

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Guest Columnist Mary O’Donohue: The Boy We Lost But Will Always Have (part 3)

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Mary O’Donohue and her husband Jim live with their son Connor, a teen, and daughter, Grace, a ‘tween, in suburban Chicago. Mary is author of When You Say “Thank You,” Mean It, a month-by-month guide that provides parents with practical tools to raise children with extraordinary character. Her career in television production has included work on The Today Show, Meet The Press, and The Oprah Winfrey Show, among other programs. She donates a portion of her income to charities benefitting families and education, and can be reached atwww.maryodonohue.com

Dear Sean,          

You are the little boy I would have had between Connor and Grace. You would have been almost 13 now. I had a miscarriage and lost you when Connor was a toddler. I believe I’ll see you one day. In the meantime, you know I love you because I tell you all the time. And the funny thing is, I know of all my three children, you would have been the most mischievous. I just feel that in your spirit. And I miss you.

I always knew I would have three children, and I’m so grateful for all of you. Motherhood has been the greatest gift I’ve ever received. Even with the heartache, even with the exhaustion, even with the feeling of being overwhelmed at times. Because you, my sweet children, are so worth it. And there are no words to express my gratitude. So I will say only this: God bless you.

I love you always, always, always,

Mom

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Guest Columnist Mary O’Donohue: The Nightmare That Turned Out To Be A Sign Of Grace To Come

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Mary O’Donohue and her husband Jim live with their son Connor, a teen, and daughter, Grace, a ‘tween, in suburban Chicago. Mary is author ofa month-by-month guide that provides parents with practical tools to raise children with extraordinary character. Her career in television production has included work on The Today Show, Meet The Press, and The Oprah Winfrey Show, among other programs. She donates a portion of her income to charities benefitting families and education, and can be reached atwww.maryodonohue.com

My sweet daughter Grace,

Long before you were born, I had a nightmare. I was kneeling in front of a locked door and you were on the other side. I knew you needed me, but I couldn’t get to you. I kept telling you not to worry. I promised I would find a way to get you out. But I couldn’t open the door. And then I woke up.

For as long as I can remember, I have wanted three children, and I always knew I would have a daughter. But the nightmare seemed to be a sign telling me that it wouldn’t be so easy to get to you. As it turns out, it wasn’t easy at all. You, my child, were in China. The other side of the world. But that wasn’t going to stop me and daddy and Connor from getting to you and bringing you home. You were and always have been my girl. My Gracie.

So after almost two years of paperwork and praying and waiting, we finally got “The Call.” You were our daughter. I remember that exact moment when the phone rang. Connor was five years old, and he didn’t know what to think when I was jumping up and down and crying at the same time. That’s when I told him about “the happy cry.” So he jumped up and down and cried, too, while we called daddy. Eight weeks later, I held you in my arms for the first time. You were 10 months old and it felt like I had finally woken up from that nightmare and opened the door between us.

In those first few weeks in China, we all had the privilege of starting to get to know you. On that first night, some of the other seven babies who had just met their new families cried for hours. A few of the babies even shut down and didn’t cry at all. Apparently, these were the two reactions most often seen in the first few days.

But not from you, Grace.

You were smiling at us.

And giggling.

And enjoying your bottle.

And clapping.

And snuggling.

From the first minute. Extraordinary. And you clung to me for three days without letting go. You even slept on me! But I didn’t mind.

I didn’t want to let you go either.

Once we got home, you adjusted quickly. And we had six months while I wasn’t working to just hang out together and play every day. I loved that time with just the two of us while Connor was in kindergarten. It went by too fast.

One of the things I have always loved about you is that you are fiercely independent. One of your first sentences was “I do by self!” You are also incredibly smart and resourceful. I have always admired your ability to figure things out on your own, and the way you help me figure things out. Your insight is remarkable and you are the most adaptable person I’ve ever met. What did I do without you?

I love spending girl time with you. Going for walks or bike rides, chatting over lunch – we always have fun together. You’re compassionate, outgoing, and incredibly joyful. You love your collie dog, fashion, and Barbies. Wait, scratch the Barbies. That was over last week. Now you’re into a boy band called One Direction. Slow down, Gracie!

I feel so incredibly blessed to be your mom. You’re an amazing girl and I know you will grow up to be an extraordinary woman. I am so deeply proud of you Grace.

I love you always, always, always,

Mom

P.S. – Please see part 3 tomorrow.

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Guest Columnist Mary O’Donohue: From A Love Of Learning Blossoms An Extraordinary Young Man

 

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Mary O’Donohue and her husband Jim live with their son Connor, a teen, and their daughter, Grace, a ‘tween, in suburban Chicago. Mary is author of When You Say “Thank You,” Mean It, a month-by-month guide that provides parents with practical tools to raise children with extraordinary character. Her career in television production has included work on The Today Show, Meet The Press, and The Oprah Winfrey Show, among other programs. She donates a portion of her income to charities benefitting families and education, and can be reached at www.maryodonohue.com

Dear Connor,

When I first became a mom, some friends of mine asked me how my life had changed. All I could say was that before I had you, I breathed air. Once you came along, I breathed joy.

I loved the way you used to look at me when you were a baby, and I checked on you in the middle of the night, accidentally waking you. You would look up with those blue eyes and smile at me and then go right back to sleep. And I would stand there for a long time just looking at you and feeling so blessed and overwhelmed with love. Corny, I know. But true.

One of the things I love about you is that you love to learn. Dad and I have been reading to you since you were about three months old. By the time you were two, you would insist I read the same book over and over again. Seven times was usually my limit! I remember the day you sat on the floor with Dr. Seuss’ “Hop on Pop” and said out loud, “Hop. Pop. We like to hop. We like to hop on top of Pop.” You were 2 ½ at the time, so I rationalized that you couldn’t be reading. You must have memorized it! Well, by the time you were three, there was no doubt. You were reading. And through the years I’ve lost count of the nights I’ve gone in your room to make sure your lights are off, only to find you asleep with an open book in your arms.

Connor, I love your sense of humor, and your kindness, honesty, and courage. Everyone has challenges and strengths in life, and you have faced your challenges with determination, and embraced your strengths with passion. I admire your talent and creativity and I look forward to seeing you blossom as a filmmaker. I respect the wonderful child you have been and the extraordinary young man you are becoming. I’m so deeply proud of you.

I love you always, always, always.

Mom

P.S. – Please see part 2 tomorrow.

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Guest Columnist Michael Durand: Your Grandmother, Grand And Strong

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Michael Durand, father of Matthew, age 24, and Adam, age 20, lives with his wife, Marlene (age classified) , a crazed Labrador retriever, and two insouciant cats in Pelham Manor, New York. A long-time health care marketing communications professional — he founded Porter Novelli’s global health care practice — he is currently an independent health care marketing consultant. In his spare time he is a struggling competitive rower and runner and enjoys reading about foreign intrigue, politics and history.

Dear Adam and Matthew,                                                

Your grandmother passed away 18 months ago.  Though you only got to see her once a year, I know you were close to her – that, despite her nagging and “friendly advice.” Here’s the eulogy I gave at her funeral; I hope it gives you a sense of her inner strength, resolve and values that you carry forth.

The words etched on the state capitol in Sacramento are “Bring me men to match my mountains.” If you forget the semi-sexist peccadillo, bring me people to match my mountains is a good description of my mother’s journey from small towns in Western Colorado and Wyoming to San Francisco and Redwood City, where she spent three-fourths of her 96 years on this earth.

Of course she wasn’t physically grand like the Sierras or her beloved Rocky Mountains. But nonetheless she was in many, many ways both grand and strong. Grand in her concern and love for her friends and her family, which were her anchors and the center of her life. How she doted over her grandchildren Matthew and Adam and how her voice rekindled when talking to the kids. Grand in her faith and love of her church – St. Peter’s – where she remained active both as a parishioner and as a volunteer for nearly 65 years. And grand in her keen mind.  At 96 she still played bridge every week – and played pretty well…far better than I will ever be able to play.

Her strength was on display in many ways. That she lived in her own well maintained home until well past 90. Of course she would insist I mention how many years ago she was rescued from a burning cruise ship off Alaska, hoisted from the “inferno” by a Coast Guard helicopter. Our very own Kate Winslet. But more important, her strength unfolded as she raised her immediate family – my brother and I, largely alone, instilling in us both values about treating others with respect and wisdom about the world around us.  

My mother saw the 20th century unfold and eclipse; and a new century born. She described for me how folks still rode horses when she was young and worried over polio and whooping cough. But in her later years, she marveled over the Worldwide Web, or as she called it, “The Intercom.”

But if we pull back the camera lens, my mom was a example of what Tom Brokaw called, “the greatest generation.”   A generation incubated in the Great Depression, a generation coming of age in the Second World War, then turning to the tough and mundane job of raising kids and raising a nation. And we all have to admit, they did a darn good job of it.  

A thousand of the greatest generation are passing away every day, I am told. Passing on, but leaving an indelible impact on us all, especially their children and grandchildren. To all of them of the greatest generation, and especially to my mother, we tip our hats and lift our glasses. They were and they are all people to match the mountains of the West.

Dispatches: Why Parenthood May Be A Laughing Matter

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Just because parenthood is a serious business is no reason to take it too seriously – especially if, as two aspiring parents recently found out, you have yet to actually have any kids.

Ross Hyzer, a stand-up comedian recently married, wrote a letter to his unborn child, to be read on his or her 25th birthday. Marriage, he says, moved him to devote more time to wondering what the future might bring. Ross opens with some jokes, but soon turns semi-serious, and – “life being as fragile and fickle as it is” – puts forward seven pointers, including “Avoid the Internet” and “Be Nice To Goths.” In conclusion, he apologizes. “I’m sorry the world is so weird. Your mother and I tried to make things better, with our flash mobs and yoga parties and retweets, but nothing seemed to work.” http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ross-hyzer/parenting-advice_b_1465811.html

A woman who chose to remain anonymous wrote a letter warning her future children about her ultra-competitive mother. Specifically, she cautions her kids against ever getting competitive with her, least of all in anything physical. “Trust me on this one, kids,” she writes, “she is feisty and never, ever backs down.” She then gives some examples of recent encounters with her mother that, thanks to her “firecracker personality,” turned into confrontations. One incident involved ice cubes as an improbable instrument of revenge. So, the mother-to-be says, “no racing, arm wrestling, no anything under any circumstances, even if she’s in a wheelchair.” http://huntingforbliss.wordpress.com/2012/05/31/letters-to-my-hypothetical-children-part-2/