Jelly Bean Snob

There are many things I’ll admit to out loud. Many things will remain secret inside my bones. This I will say though…I am a jelly bean snob. Let me capitalize that. Jelly Bean Snob. I love the orbs of sugar and I will even eat the licorice flavors (it is all about balance). Some beans are better than others, but it is the Russell Stover jelly bean that will forever hold the most special place in my heart and palette. I was raised by Anne Eastwood who has taught me that the RS is revered, and we know some years impossible to find. I never knew how my obsession with this treat would be passed down to J&J. That was until the other day. Jake Fikar is now a third generation Jelly Bean Snob.

While planning the Easter festivities I asked my Mom if there was anything I could pick up for her or help her with. She replied in an almost panicked voice “I can’t find the jelly beans anywhere. If you could find some that would be great”. I knew this meant that I should release the hounds and begin the search immediately. As I pushed the Amazon app on my phone, I heard her say “Just don’t go through Amazon – I’m not paying those prices”. I was stopping at Walgreens on the way home, so I thought let me look at their website and see if they have stock. Sure, enough the brand popped right up on the website and jumped into my shopping cart. Seven bags. Four for Mom and three for us. The look on Mom’s face when I dropped them off was priceless but the relief I felt oozing from her veins was even better. I brought home my three bags and tucked them at the bottom of the community Easter basket.

The day before Easter Jake came home from King Kullen supermarket with his usual treats for the week. He offered me a few Russell Stover jelly beans. I thanked him profusely. I thought maybe he had tapped into the stash in the basket. No, he told me that he bought his own bag because while he really loved jelly beans from Uncle Giuseppe’s and Stew Leonard’s that Russell Stover jelly beans were amazing and the best he’s ever had. He also said that Easter would never be the same without a bag of his favorites. As I was lying in bed last night recapping my 56th Easter in my head I thought about Jake telling me about his favorite things while his eyes danced. I realized once again how lucky I am that Autism has touched me in ways I never ever thought were possible. All the years I spent falling asleep and screaming on the inside “Why me?” seemed ridiculous now. Instead I now think…Why not me?

The diagnosis and initial recommendations from therapists were shouting at me again. The reminders that this son of ours would likely never make choices of his own or be able to express himself adequately. Brace yourself I was told for this son you had high hopes for would really be very impaired. One therapist went as far to say as to say, “Be prepared for the impaired”. As I’ve talked about many times before, I wore these phrases and advice like weighted blankets and let myself be dragged into a dark pool of depression for a few years. I ate to keep myself cemented down and dull the pain. I smiled at everyone but wanted to die every single night as I laid in bed questioning how life would ever be happy again.

Autism can be limiting. It can be exhausting. It can put you in a position to think just one way and never look up or ahead. As you know from my former blogs and stories, I finally broke free from this thinking. Jake showed me the way. He showed me that life can be rough with Autism but that you can work through it. We all worked together to get through any challenge that was place before us. Any challenge.

The years have flown by. Jake has now celebrated 22 Easters. Each one has been brighter than the last. I look at Jake and how far he has come and realized that life is so much sweeter when I am grateful for everything that has happened in my life. I hope I am passing this outlook on to Jake. I think I am. He is clearly making his own decisions in life. This year the realization came in the form of candy. I am proud to have raised my own Jelly Bean Snob.

Happy Easter and Happy World Autism Day.

Birthday Candles

Yesterday Julia and I were in the middle of one of our epic Target expeditions. Each trip is like a leg of the Amazing Race. We usually split up now so that we can efficiently comb the store for precisely what we are looking for and conquer our mission. We text each other. We call for each other’s location and come to the rescue should someone need an opinion.

While traversing the aisles yesterday I came across an employee entering the trash at one of the end caps. He stopped and excitedly told some shoppers passing by that Monday was his birthday and he would be 59 years old. My inner Kiki cheered for him. I thought way to go buddy!! He was so happy and stood there beaming almost waiting for recognition from these two women. The one woman looked uncomfortable and said “Umm…Wow that’s great.” My smile turned to a frown. Then I heard “Like I care that it’s your birthday you freak” as they walked away laughing. I wanted to vomit. I wanted to take my cart filled with items and ram it into this woman and tell her how evil I thought she was. J wasn’t proud of that reaction. Instead I navigated into an empty area in front of a wall of sunglasses. The tears started flowing and I sobbed.

Did these women know? Did they care? Did they know or care that this person they had just shamed and ridiculed is a human? A person who breathes the same air as you. He may have certain challenges but do you know this? Do you know what his life has been like? How he may have struggled? Do you know how his mom may have felt when she heard others talking about him while she took him shopping or picked him up from the bus stop? Do you know the anguish his mother must have felt raising him the best she could so that he could be a proud store employee and live to at least age 59? My best guess is that the answer is no. No to all of it. We are so quick (me included at times) to judge people and situations. We box people up to what we think they are and leave them there on a shelf with no regard.

My thoughts drifted to my first gift and how he moves about his day despite his disability. He is a proud employee keeping the halls of our local middle school clear. He is an honorary member of our local fire company who knows more about fire service and apparatus than most chiefs in New York State. He’s an amazing son, great brother, talented writer, and the best human you ever want to meet. He has struggled but he has also worked like hell to get where he is today. He is a fighter so I know his future is bright as long as he keeps on pushing and keeping the light on. There will be women and voices like the ignorant shoppers I encountered. Sadly there will be many. Hopefully though he won’t hear them. He will stand tall and be happy with who is is.

My mind drifted back to the happy employee. My wish is that others will see your light and let it burn away the judgement they let fly. I hope your next year and many years ahead are as bright as you are. May each birthday candle in your cake remind you of the light that you bring to this world.

“Intuition is the GPS of the Soul”

I washed my last bite of my Styrofoam tasting Ezekiel bread down with my piping hot black coffee and smiled as I saw the message from my pal and guru Steve. We check in with each other almost every morning during our “Hour of Champions” where we jump into what we call “Early Morning Excellence” – getting our thoughts and mindset in check for the day and quite honestly – for life. Steve and the HOC family he created has given me direction and connections along with a map of how to continue on the road from victim to hero. This morning we said, “Sometimes there is no GPS for what we are going through”. I thought of this as I drove into work. I didn’t need directions this morning because I knew where I was headed. There are other days and time though when I need my GPS to get me to point B – both literally and figuratively.

If you’ve read my past blogs, you know that I was born without a sense of direction. This Kiki model did not come with a built-in compass. I’ve always been in awe of the folks who could be plopped in the middle of a labyrinth and they will emerge victorious. I cannot find my way out of my own house some mornings let alone a complex trip of driving out east on Long Island or shutter the thought of navigating through New York City.

I’ve never been good with “You know where it is – it’s across from the mall. It’s the building on the north side of the park”. You might as well tell me to visit the moon. I’m lost. Clueless even. Years ago, when GPS was invented, I thought “Well yahoo there’s hope for me yet”. Not so fast. I don’t trust the turn by turn instructions even from trusted sources such as OnStar. If the turn says, “Make a left” in 250 feet, I will sometimes make the left at the next light thinking “close enough”. No Kiki, they are giving you almost exact measurements. Follow them. I am guilty of creating my own snafu and deserve the endless wrong turns and feelings of helplessness.

On this morning’s drive in my thought drifts back to my HOC conversation about using our inner GPS. My life’s inner GPS is driven by my gut feelings. They rarely lie. If you have never listened to your gut – I welcome you to do so. Put your ear down to the ground and listen to the vibrations (you don’t really need to do this. Frankly you’ll be run over or your neighbors will talk about you even more than they do now). You do need to pay attention though. There are signs on your journey or road that may or may not be on your GPS. The gut feelings that tell you to go for it or avoid things ahead do not steer you wrong. They keep you on your course and get you where you need to go or meet your goals. This is if you choose to listen or trust them. If your system says turn left or I don’t think this is the right time to take this position – listen. I don’t care how big the signal is. Listen.

What I have learned quickly through using GPS is that it will recalculate for you if you make a wrong turn or leave the planned route. It’s kind of like a do-over when traveling. I realized we have a recalculate option in our lives too. If we veer off our path, we always have the option to jump back on Goal Boulevard. Maybe you won’t take the express route and choose the route with no toll roads (like me some days) but you will get there if you listen to the directions.

When I got to work this morning, I was giggling thinking of the GPS and the many funny stories it has given me throughout the years. See I can find humor in my mistakes and disasters. Sometimes many years after the fact but I can giggle at myself. One year we were traveling in Boston. The TomTom navigation system had just been invented. I don’t think the software was more than 6 months old. We drove over a bridge with two hungry kids in the back seat. We might as well have been in a foreign country because we understood nothing. Nothing looked familiar. I remember glancing at TomTom’s screen, and it was literally spinning. It might as well have stated “Just park the car and go home”. It gave up. We didn’t though…we figured it out and 20 minutes later we were loving life and eating Brick Oven pizza in the oldest Italian restaurant on the East Coast. I knew that if I had just looked at the map ahead of time I would at least have a visual from where we were starting to where we needed to end up. Sometimes planning the Point A to Point B is the simplest form of travel. Use your skills and eventually you can handle any obstacle along the way using your gut as your guide. Having a visual of where I am going and planning for the trip will always help me. Planning for the fuel I take along will also help my gut to survive overthinking or literally help my gut to survive. When racing it’s Gummy Bears and Uncrustables. In the car it’s my vast array of Apple Music Playlists, and in life its my inner circle of incredible personalities guiding me through each day.

The next time you get into your car or an unfamiliar situation, think of the GPS and your gut. Both will get you where you want to go if you have a plan and listen to your turn by turn. Some days there will be traffic and obstacles. Prepare for them! The most important part of all as we travel forward (and maybe upward) is – enjoy your ride.

Double Nickels

So here it is. The second day in August. I turn 55 today. Fifty-flipping-five. I remember sitting in Mr. Dalven’s 6th grade class at Central Boulevard thinking how old I would be in the year 2000 which at the time seemed so science fiction futuristic. Well now here it is 2020 and I’m turning double nickels as they say. Do I feel 55? No way. I feel like I’m 25 in my mind. My body feels 55 some days. Other days it feels like I’m 95 years old but once I take three steps out of bed I’m back in range. I’ve taken an awful lot of time lately to dive into my thoughts and think about how I arrived at this gift of an age.

 I decided that I would share 55 facts about me that you may or may not know. They are shared in no particular order of how they happened.  Some will be serious while others are just random and fun thoughts that pop into my head but always speak the truth. Thank you to everyone who has made an appearance in my life all these years and helped to shape what you are about to read. I may not mention any names specifically but just know that I take every single person that I meet (even if it is once) very seriously. I truly believe you are all placed on my path for a reason.  The universe placed me here and I couldn’t be more thankful for every single day.

  1. I would possibly kill for a well made Rice Krispie Treat. Homemade. These store-bought versions are just tragic.
  2. The movie Sixteen Candles is one my fave parts of the 1980s. I can quote many lines from this movie with conviction and inflection. My cousins know.
  3. I’m fascinated by anything associated with NASA and the space program. I’m into facts and am in awe by the science of it all.
  4. A really yummy French Fry is nothing short of magical. Like my hunt for the perfect cheeseburger, I’m always in search of the French Fry connection. So far All American in Massapequa holds the title of “the best” in the world. The world!
  5. I need to find a really good tap dancing class. I miss my 19 years at Miss Pam’s School of Dance and our annual productions.
  6. I had a huge crush on Donny Osmond growing up. Runner up was Potsie Weber (Anson Williams) from Happy Days. I was able to finally see Donny and Marie in concert one year in Vegas. He sang “The Twelfth of Never” directly to me. I know he did. Just like he did every Friday night when I watched him in my living room on the brown television set on the Berber carpeting.
  7. My favorite ice cream of all time is Breyer’s (and it MUST be Breyer’s) Chocolate, Vanilla, and Strawberry. Bonus points if you know what I put on top of it. Ok I’ll tell you…a splash of milk.
  8. I have no patience for loud talkers.
  9. I want to visit Greece but I’m truly afraid. I’m afraid I’ll never come home.
  10. The older I get the more the texture of chicken bothers me.
  11. Chefs are magicians to me. I watch shows like “Chopped” on rainy Sundays and I’m in awe. I can barely put eggs and flour together and these people know how to whip up entrees from ingredients I can’t even spell.
  12. I could eat a vat of old school Cream of Wheat.
  13. People watching should be an Olympic sport and I’d be a gold medal winner. Put me in a crowd with an iced coffee and I’m golden for hours.
  14. I don’t do well with movies/shows that contain flashbacks or time travel topics. I’m still recovering from “Back to the Future”. Cute actor. Rough topic for me.
  15. The smell of fresh cut Christmas trees sends me into another dimension.
  16. My God.  I still miss my Grandma Flotten as much as I did the first day she went to Heaven. I’m crying hot tears as I type this.
  17. Nora Ephron is my fave writer and the reason I want to finish any writing project I have. I am still mourning her passing in that there will be no new production from her. The final scene of “When Harry Met Sally” should be scratched into my forearm so I can read it all day…every day.  
  18. Billy Crystal is hands down my favorite actor. His timing is everything and his content classic and genuine. The day he created Fernando sent me into a spin. I thought it was beyond brilliant. I wish he knew how many hours of laughs he has brought me.
  19. I miss every square inch of the house I grew up in. I can still smell certain parts of the house..the attic..the basement closet…my playroom under the stairs. I live two houses away from that house now. Every single day I walk by with the dog. I must fight the urge to walk in and sit down.
  20. I never learned to play tennis. Yet.
  21. I love golf. LOVE. I have watched countless golf tourneys both live and on tv. I consider myself a great fan of the sport. I took lessons years back. I literally suck at playing. I think it makes me appreciate the nuance of the game a little more as I’m envious of those who can play well.
  22. A game of musical chairs can send me into a tailspin of anxiety. Always had a problem with a selection of music too. Maybe I’m onto something. Hire the right DJ for a 4 year old birthday party. It will save thousands of dollars in co-pays for therapy sessions well into the adult life.
  23. Removing Pop-Tarts from the foil pouch and loading them into the toaster is the equivalent of disassembling a bomb. I move with stealth precision so as not to spare a crumb of goodness.
  24. Given the perfect dream world where no one gets fat, I could sit with a plastic tub of chocolate frosting and a spoon while watching a movie and be perfectly happy.
  25. There is a list of concerts I wished I’d attended over the years. Some days I hear a song by one of these groups or artist and I will be all melancholy about not being able to go. The Eagles, Queen, and the Police (although I’ve caught Sting a number of times) top my list of coulda, woulda, shouldas.
  26. Food is air to me. I love the art of cooking and what flavors work together. Food trucks excite me and I always dreamed of owning one before they became trendy. I read cookbooks like they are novels. Every single title of “Barefoot Contessa” cookbooks sit in my cabinet. Ina Garten is perhaps perfection in my mind. Each time I make one of her recipes I think that she should call me for a glass of Pinot Grigio so that we can discuss why she used Rosemary instead of Dill in the Roast Chicken.
  27. It is not uncommon to hear me say “I need to invite “so and so” to my house for a BBQ and cocktails. The list is all over the place because of the varied topics that excite or interest me. Somedays I giggle at how passionate I am about a topic and how I’d love to discuss it with said guest. For example…Prospective guest Billy Joel. I ran into him when I was in high school after his very first album came out. I have been fascinated with him ever since. The man is a genius to me. I think a few cocktails with Billy isn’t an unreasonable request. I’ve seen him perform live 13 times and can recount each concert vividly.
  28. Eating Lobster Tails is an event for me. It transports me back to seafood restaurants all over Long Island when I was a kid. The drawn butter. The meat at the end of the teeny-tiny fork. Magic.
  29. Writing is my passion. I love to write but even more I love to watch tv dramas or comedies that are so well written that my bones want to pop out of my body with excitement. I crave that feeling I get when a series speaks to me and never ever leaves my soul. Entourage. The Sopranos. Schitt’s Creek. LA Law. Divorce. Friends. Most recently The Morning Show on Apple TV.
  30. The Business world makes me happy and sparks so many creative ideas. Driving results by motivating people to meet their goals is the reason I studied Management. As I’ve written about in the past, I was inspired by my Dad. He can talk to anyone and everyone. He does it with a genuine heart and makes them feel like they are the only person in the world at that very moment. It’s the way I managed and believe we all should. Understanding people at their core is where we all win.
  31. I cry when I hear about big lottery winners. Real tears. I’m truly happy for these people. They say winning the lottery is rarer than being struck by lightning. I consider those incredible odds.
  32. My memory is photographic. My parents know that for years I could account for what I ordered in each restaurant we visited anywhere in the world. I guess it goes to show you how much I appreciate the dining experience.
  33. Everyone has a reoccurring dream. Don’t you? Mine is that I am walking the hallways of a school holding a schedule and looking into each classroom but I never go in. I’m supposed to but I never do. I keep walking the halls and hearing my name called on the roster.
  34. Being away at college was beyond fun but I lacked the discipline to keep my grades in check. I did very well once I transferred home. This is one reason I am a lunatic with my kids about studying and taking lessons and grades seriously.
  35. Settling or accepting average is something I will never do. I spent years just saying “Whatever” and letting things slide. The minute I found my strength again it was game on. Never surrender. Never give up. Average is not for me. Ask the kids. I say it often.
  36. My parents gave me a transistor radio for my 10th birthday. I can still smell it coming out of the plastic wrapper and box. I played that every day and night until I think it fell apart. I listened to the DJs “hit their mark” before each song. For years I wanted to be an announcer or DJ. I’d fall asleep at night listening to music and talk programs. On clear nights I could pick up radio stations in Chicago and Ohio. I remember thinking that was such a cool connection.
  37. Each day starts with coffee, air pods, an iPad, affirmations, and 2-3 key friends who keep my physical/mental/and spiritual sides aligned and in check. I cannot live without these amazing forces in my life.
  38. Many of you have read about how I became involved in Spartan racing. It has taught me how to train and stay strong. It has also given me a community that has changed me forever. There are people who have become part of my world that without Spartan would never be in Kikiville.
  39. Training is a way of life for me. While I build in rest days to protect my bod I do not feel whole when I am not training.
  40. My kids and I often talk about their school life experience. We laugh when we all hear of their stories that they tell in such great detail. I always share one of my fave memories from elementary school. Lunch was serves on melamine trays. They made such a distinct sound when they hit the ground. If some poor soul dropped the tray, the ENTIRE cafeteria would stand up and cheer. It still makes me snort to this day.
  41. I have two tattoos much to my mother’s disgust. Lol. I got my first one at age 52 and the second at age 54.
  42. The first car I owned was a silver Chevy Camaro. Man I thought I was hot stuff driving that car. I had the whole 80s Long Island girl look going with it. Long acrylic nails painted in a bright fuchsia, leather jacket with shoulder pads, and mile high sprayed hair.
  43. After few too many cocktails on Thanksgiving last year it spilled out that I hate ice cream cake on my birthday. My mother’s face sank. She said “Really?” I said “Don’t assume that because my birthday is in the summer that I like Carvel cake.” It took me 54 years but I confessed. Chipping away at the buried secrets one by one.
  44. I had a birthmark removed from my back when I was 10. It took 50 stitches to sew up. There is a fine scar but it still hurts when it rains. Weird. Fun fact – the doctor’s name was Dr. Karen.
  45. I love that my kids are as patriotic as I am. When the Fikars visited Ft. McHenry for the first time, we took in the movie about the American Flag and the Star Spangled Banner. At the end of the movie, the motorized curtains pulled back and revealed the flag flying over the harbor. All of us gasped at the same time. I’ll never forget our reactions. We had a similar experience when visiting Mt. Vernon in 2018. Small yet powerful trip to George Washington’s home. I was very proud to be a part of his world for a brief period of time.
  46. I truly believe I need to live on the west coast of Florida. I have never been happier than when I am there.
  47. Wish I could open a coaching business to encourage people that it is never too late to start training and take control of your health. Not everyone has to run a Spartan race but you can work like a beast to meet your goals no matter what age you are.
  48. My kids still take my breath away when I talk to them. I am so proud of the adults they have grown into. Talking to them and looking into their souls is more than a gift. Considering the fact I never thought I could have kids, every day with these two is like opening up what you always wanted on Christmas morning.
  49. My fascination with the mafia is well known. I’m told it’s a myth and doesn’t exist. Bullshit. I know it does and it is insanely interesting to me. I live for my trips to Arthur Avenue.
  50. Not buying stock in GAP is a regret. Each season I purchase every single dress they offer. I should be reaping the rewards in my bank account as well as my closet.
  51. One night while stuck in traffic on the way to a Barry Manilow concert (don’t judge me) I called the Nassau Coliseum to tell them of a 45 minute traffic jam on Hempstead Turnpike and that thousands of fans were delayed. I asked that they consider delaying the start time. They did. The power of Kiki.
  52. Sitting with my sister in NYC enjoying a Dirty Martini with 3 Blue Cheese Stuffed Olives is an event.
  53. I am a fiercely loyal friend who will move mountains for you. I hope the key people in my life know and feel this.
  54. Fuzzy/velvety socks in the wintertime make me happy. I light up when I find the “right” pair.
  55. Birthdays are an honor. Each year I am here to celebrate is something I will never take for granted. Thank you for being with me this year and hopefully many more in the future.

No One Likes to Wait

No one likes to wait. It is uncomfortable. Depending on how bad we want something or how much of a hurry we are in – waiting stinks. The line at the supermarket…New York traffic…waiting for Christmas morning…everyone’s list is different, but no one likes to wait. I was scheduled for bloodwork this morning for an upcoming doctor’s appointment. Given my disdain for needles and well, the wait, I left 30 minutes before the lab opened. I had zero coffee in me having observed the strict eight hours fast prior to the test. I ran from my car into the building expecting to hurdle over any senior citizen I found in my path on the way to the lab. I took the stairs two at a time rather than facing a wait at the elevator. Much to my surprise I rounded the corner and found myself FIRST. Victory was mine. The lab techs arrived and reminded me that the lab opened at 7:30 a.m. and it was first come-first served. I relaxed and messaged my friends until the next patient arrived. 

A gentleman greeted me and asked if he was next. His eyes were warm, and he seemed very friendly. As most people know everyone looks familiar to me. I am forever saying “Isn’t that so and so?” I drive people nuts with this. Sorry people. The gentleman sat down and opened his New York Times. I turned to him and said softly “Pardon me…are you Dr. Weiss?” he looked at me over his glasses and said, “Who wants to know?”. I explained that I had been a patient of his for 14 years and he delivered my children. He stood up and said “My dear Karen. How have you been?” The tears flowed, and I instinctively hugged him. 

I had met Dr. Weiss in 1987 as a new patient who was newly engaged. He was a funny man who always took my fear of doctors to heart and made me feel at ease. We talked about many world topics during each visit and he explained whatever was happening with my body as if I was his daughter. He was caring and made me feel like I was his only patient. A year after I was married I explained that we would like to start planning a family. We discussed many different scenarios and were cleared to start planning pregnancy. Months turned into a year with no success. All of our friends were also getting married and starting their same journey. 

Another year went on and it was obvious that nothing was happening in the baby arena. Blood tests were performed. Gynocological exams and procedures were introduced. All tests were negative. There was really no reason as to why we couldn’t conceive. Medications were prescribed, and things started to get tight. My moods dipped as one friend got pregnant…then another…it was starting to wear on me. Dr. Weiss was very reassuring and full of positivity. My dear Karen he would say…God will make you a mommy when the time is right. After another few months I was referred to Dr. Weiss’ best friend, Dr. Avner Herschlag who coincidentally had a very famous daughter named Natalie Portman. We went through two rounds of treatment with Dr. Herschlag. One evening I ended up in the ER with a terrible stomach bug that just would not go away. Well it wouldn’t go away because it wasn’t a virus but a baby. Our dream had finally come true. Dr. Weiss called me at 11 pm that night at home. He was crying and full of congratulations. The next few weeks were wonderful filled with blood tests and sonograms. The baby would be here in December. 

After losing the baby a few months later we returned to Dr. Weiss. My head was in my hands and I sobbed hot tears for what seemed like an eternity. He held my hand said “My dear Karen. I want you to go home. We need to take some time off here”. That we did. We took a trip to the Bahamas that next month to clear our heads. More friends were pregnant. More getting married. It was consuming me. 

A month after our trip we decided to try adoption. We had a phone installed in our guest bedroom for “the call”. We advertised in papers around the country. There was no internet then. It was all me canvassing the library and magazines looking for leads. Finally, we received a call. A mother from Arizona was due to give birth in April. We found a well-known lawyer on Long Island who was confident about the birth mother and said that the “transaction” should run smoothly. All was going well until that phone rang again and the mother coolly told me she had chosen another couple. Turns out in the end that the other couple offered a better “cash” option up front according to our attorney. 

After another year I returned to Dr. Weiss who was thrilled to see me. He knew of a colleague who specialized in IVF and could help us based on my test results. We took the plunge and visited Dr. Richard Bronson. The rest is history as most of you know. Jake was our first “fresh” cycle and Jules our “frozen” cycle. Dr. Weiss held Jake for the first time after birth and said, “Young man – no child will ever be loved more”. Such truth. Months later I heard Dr. Weiss had retired but he literally slipped away from the practice with no explanation. Years later I had heard that the malpractice fees were astronomical, and he decided to retire. 

The door opened, and the lab technician called Dr. Weiss and I in together. He said “My dear Karen I am humbled to have talked with you today. Wishing you love on the rest of your journey.” We hugged again. I may never see him again, but my life today was made complete for I was able to say thank you to a man who made me a mom. The universe placed this angel in front of me today. This was a wait I will never forget. 


Wounded Warriors 2019

The saying “freedom is not free” has always stuck with me in terms that our nation was founded and built by brave men and women who believed in our country so much that they fought to the death to honor our nation. My love for what our military has done for this country is a feeling I hold close to my heart. I am beyond grateful for what millions of courageous people have given me. Yesterday I had the chance to ride with some selfless souls who defend our freedom every day. I have never shared any of my political views nor will I today. I need however to express how moved I was to be an American yesterday and every single day.

Each year there is a Wounded Warrior Soldier Ride here on Long Island. It is held on our gorgeous south shore. Beaches, boats, beautiful homes built into the dunes, and communities of people who showed up to support our wounded warriors who selflessly defend us here and abroad.

The event is a 25 mile bike ride that included some 75 or so wounded warriors and maybe 1250 riders. The streets and highways are closed down for this event. I am no stranger to riding 20-22 miles to the beach so I thought this is a nice way to be involved and say thank you to a group of folks who provide me and my family with every day freedoms which I feel I often take for granted.

I still lack bike confidence so starting out the ride amongst 1250 people was I won’t lie a bit shaky. Some may say comical but the word I’ll use this morning is shaky. We will leave it at that. Once I found my groove and bike moxie I unclenched my jaw and looked around me. We were sailing through Smalltown USA. People were lining the streets cheering. Every mile a fire department had an arch over the roadway with a ginormous American flag and at times water misting on us (did I mention it was 96 degrees?). Bagpipes played. Drums kept cadence. We pedaled on.

During one part of the ride I rode with Patrick who decided he would roller skate the entire event. We chatted. He had served briefly and was injured on his last tour in Afghanistan. His cousin was killed years ago in Iraq. He always rides..or skates in his memory. I choked back tears as I chatted with Patrick and his little crew he had with him.

At the halfway point of the race we rode into a small town that took my breath away. The “Rocky” theme played as we entered town. A woman was holding a flag yelling USA!! I joined her. It felt wonderful!! I was so energized. I passed a gentleman in his Vietnam hat with pins. He had his hand on his heart. I shouted “thank you for everything”. He blew me a kiss and said thank you my dear. More tears. Around the next corner I rode by a whole group of preschoolers outside of their school. All were dressed in red, white, and blue. They were holding flags and singing God Bless America. I nearly fell off my bike. I was moved beyond words.

The last leg of the ride was brutally hot and dry. I lapsed into thought. Our military endures conditions a million times worse every day. I simply cannot imagine what they go through. My mind shifted back to the supporters who were lining the streets. We are all American. No matter what you see on tv these days or what is happening in DC, we are all one. The level of patriotism I experienced yesterday was a gift. I think it’s always been there. Maybe now it’s not as strong as it used to be but it is still there. My goodness it felt good.

The ride wrapped and we welcomed our warriors into the venue with cheers and applause. I wasn’t able to physically say thank you to the group but my thanks is in my heart and how I support what they have done every single day. Freedom is not free but it is alive and kicking in all we do whether we realize it or not.

Coincidence? I Think Not.

Synchronicity takes center stage in my life more often than not lately. Perhaps it always has and I just didn’t pay attention. Yesterday I believe god tapped me on the shoulder and said “watch this” as yesterday’s events unfolded. The universe was about to deliver another amazing show.

Her name was Marsha and she was my sisters oldest and best friend. She was bubbly. She had a laugh that would knock you over. She was witty. Marsha loved her friends and family fiercely in this girl’s opinion. Her two little girls are cute as buttons and her husband is someone who walked into her life and just clicked from the start.

Yesterday we all met to say goodbye to our friend who received staggering news some mere weeks before. Marsha was diagnosed with a rare heart cancer that whisked her off of our stage in Act One.

I left work to attend shiva at Marshy’s home with a quick stop at my fave bakery to pick up a few items for the family. In addition to my selection I decided to buy these gorgeous painted cookie creations that this bakery is known for. I thought Marsha’s princesses should have a treat. Shiva usually doesn’t offer choices for the kids and I wanted them to maybe smile a teensy bit. The bakery gal was lovely and commended me on my cookie choice of unicorns and butterflies. After paying I told the navigation fairies where I wanted to go and off I went.

Driving to Marshy’s I thought about my sister who lost her friend and how she must be feeling. I love my friends with such passion that I cannot imagine losing one of them. My thoughts went to Marsha’s parents and how they will remember what a gorgeous soul they raised. The next thoughts were of Mitchell who just lost his only baby sister in the blink of an eye. Our families were connected with my sister and Marsha and coincidentally Mitch and I having dated in and after college. I was now a block away from the house and I was anxious to see everyone. The navigation fairies slapped me again and dumped me at the wrong house. As you know I can get lost in a paper bag.

It struck me as I entered the house that there were still no tears from me since I received the news on Saturday. The door opened and I was enveloped by Marsha. I felt it. A picture of my friend was right in front of me. She was smiling the way she did – a giant beam with her eyes. I always told her that her smiles came from her eyes. She had an awesome face that drew you in every time. I hugged some very fabulous people on the way to the yard and was watching everyone chat about our girl that was taken way too soon. Marsha’s cousin took my cookies to the girls after I explained that I hope they liked the designs.

I was sitting at the table with my sister and her friends. We were joined by Mitchell who was explaining how he created his eulogy. We were all engaged and laughing. Mitch has a larger than life sense of humor and pulls you in from the first hello. As he’s talking I notice a large butterfly who is literally flying in what seemed like a figure 8 around many of those at the table. Usually butterflies flit briefly and leave. Not this one. If lingered throughout our entire conversation. I thought..that butterfly is Marsha. The cookies. Butterflies. At that very moment I glanced right. On the lawn in the girls play area was…wait for it…a giant inflatable unicorn. I turned white and choked back the tears. Synchronicity. The rest of my visit was fabulous. Brief in nature but reconnecting with old friends and listening to stories of Marsha that warmed my soul.

It was time to resume my routine and drive home. I could see the unicorn as I left the house. I got in the car and sobbed. I finally cried. I was given the gifts of Marsha and Mitchell and all of these beautiful people connected to them. The universe stepped in and gave me unicorns and butterflies to remind me that there are no coincidences. We are all connected for a reason.

Today I’m asking that you hug the ones you love with every ounce of strength you have during Act One and pay attention to the signs that were placed on your stage. Coincidences? I think not.

Happy Tears

I hit the OnStar button and asked for directions home. The directions were delivered to my navigation screen. I gathered my thoughts, checked my mirrors, and eased into the neighborhood traffic. Anyone who knows me knows I absolutely PANIC without knowing where I am going. I shake and sweat when I’m driving and lost.  I took a deep breath and muttered to myself “This was possibly the best party I have ever attended.” That is when the tears started. Then the sobs. Then the hot feeling you get in the back of your throat when you are crying the biggest tears ever. I think I cried for 2.3 miles according to my navigation screen. I looked in the rear view mirror to see myself smiling back. They were happy tears. Tears of joy? I smiled even more at my face in the mirror because I was so happy. The guy next to me at the light probably thought I was some narcissistic loon but screw him – yes, I was happy.

It was nearly 5 p.m. on a Sunday and I was on my way home from a Celebration of Life party for a lifelong friend who we just found out may not be with us much longer. We had a birthday party for her and sang. We ate yummy comfort food and ate all of the cake (which you know for me is out of my food prepping comfort zone). We laughed and took selfies with her and cried when she thanked everyone for coming and asked us to keep her memory alive for her girls forever. It was a sobering afternoon. In typical Kiki fashion, I started to blog in my head. I had to sort it all out. Putting words on the screen is what I do to snap the puzzle pieces in my head back together. What a way to push through emotions and save a $25 co-pay to a therapist that claims they know you but in reality has no clue as to who you really are.

Half way home, my mind is swirling. I am thinking time is not promised. It’s just not. There are no guarantees. The only guarantee is that there is no guarantee.  Then the overthinking and my famous “What if?” scenarios start. What if I don’t get to where I want to be goal wise? What if something happens to me and I haven’t set up Jake’s future plans yet? What if I don’t tell Julia I love her enough? What if I don’t get to develop that show I wanted to write? My mind was in overdrive. I have a friend who taught me to breathe and think. Really think. Three deep breaths in. It was working. I was not going to jump on the victim train and be transported to the land of despair where people throw their hands up and say “I suck. Whoa is me.” No. Instead, I thought of talking to my friend Scott. He had said that morning “Be a warrior.”. The clouds cleared (literally cleared – it had been raining for days). New thoughts were piped in. I took control and thought, we have to make do with what we have right here. Right now.

By 7:30 I was on the couch texting my gym group and waiting for “American Idol” to come on. Decompressing to a guilty pleasure. I looked around the room. Pictures of the kids. Medals. Awards. Pillows. Blankets. My gym headbands. A blown up picture of me jumping fire at my first solo race. I saw my life – the one I created on my own. I am quite sure I am not living the life my parents wanted me to live or expected me to live. I used to struggle with that notion but in the past four years, I have come to realize that I just don’t care. Now understand there is the old me who just followed the path living that life that I believed – past tense – believed I should be living based on what others thought I should be doing. Those days are over. Over.  If people cannot handle it well then that is their business and prerogative.

Sunday was a little wakeup call and hip check sent to remind me that life truly is good. I have to embrace those around me and remember that they are all placed here with purpose to help me live my best life. I think the minute I lose sight of this I will be lost. So I will continue to look in the rearview mirror and smile. Happy tears are welcomed as I follow the navigation on my screen. I will get to where I want to be if I continue to be honest with myself and strong. This courage will allow me to be as my fave author Nora Ephron says “the heroine in my own life, not the victim”. Only then will I have “reached my destination.”


We dropped to the ground for push-ups I said to Shari, “Do you remember wearing that shirt for the first time?” Shari smiled and said, “To this day that day will always be one of my best accomplishments”. We were both beaming and I said “You did it!”. Shari wore her Be1st tank to her first Spartan race in June 2016. As we moved to the next Boot Camp station I was overwhelmed with emotion thinking about Shari and a few others in the gym that day that bring me to tears. Right before we picked up the Battle Ropes I hugged Shari and said “I am so happy to know you girl.” We chatted a little bit more as we slammed those damn ropes and Shari said, “I love what you do. The writing. The workouts.” I simply replied “We do what we have to do….every damn day.” 

It hit me. 

Every.Damn.Day. I get up every single day and wonder what will come my way and I smile. Really, smile. There were days a little under five years ago when my feet would hit the floor and simultaneously I would say “Ugh”. I would slither through the morning routine and out the door to work with a scowl on my face. I was not miserable. I think I was just going through the motions and waiting to climb back into bed and arise for the next morning’s ugh. 

By now, you have been following me and know that so much of me has changed since 2014. The ripple effect of my transformations have turned into a tidal wave in some arenas which have caused an upheaval of sorts. Life changes are coming that I just know will bring a slew of opportunities. Instead of trudging out of bed, I fly to the Keurig (which is now known as “Nancy” since Siri recently changed my Keurig to Kerrigan. See? Little silly things like this make me giggle and look at things differently) and create caffeine gold which perks me up in no time. I come alive in the few hours before I leave for work. I can truly say that I hit the ground running each day. 

There are days when I complain and complain LOUDLY. The traffic is bad. Long Island is turning. No one knows how to drive. I am hungry. I need more coffee. Why does my foot hurt? Damn it, my foot really does hurt. Then I remember….just breathe. Let us take it all in. Think of how lucky you really are. You live on Long Island – still a great place. You are driving to work – be happy you have a career you love. You have food to eat and there is a Starbucks on every corner. I even remind myself that I have feet – some do not. Shut up and breathe Kiki. Let’s tackle this day and slay it. 

Work is forever busy. They say a busy mind will never allow you to truly grow old. If that is the case, I may be walking this earth until I am 127. Not likely but the Kiki math makes it fun to think about. I come home each day to unwind and then change for the gym. It is a nightly ritual. I leave the house and set up my playlist for the 20-minute drive to Westbury. I sing at the top of my lungs. Lately I have been belting out tunes from the Mean Girls Broadway soundtrack. I am getting better actually. I may consider auditioning. You never know. They may need an understudy someday and I’m just the girl for the job. But I digress. 

I pull into the gym and I’m flanked by my circle. We are all part of this crazy world. We have each other. We have made each other strong. We are all raising kids. Survived 9/11. Losing a spouse and trying to raise a family without losing a step. Running marathons. Raising a child with a disability. We are all different yet we are the same. We all have goals, needs, wants, and dreams. My girls and I text about anything from typos in the supermarket to sex to what we would do with the gazillions of Powerball dollars we are going to win one day. I cannot make it through life without my crew. I am humbled by them and their experiences and hardships. I am reminded that we all have struggles but we just keep going. If you stop…you are idle and you will be pushed to the side of the road waiting for repairs. So let’s just keep going. Let’s welcome the world and everything it brings the minute our feet hit the ground. Every. Damn. Day. 



Taking Chances

Finally, she mused 
that human existence 
is as brief as the life of autumn grass, 

So what was there to fear 
from taking chances with your life?

Mo Yan, Red Sorghum

I do my best thinking while blow drying my hair each day. Some people take long drives to contemplate a situation. Some meditate. Some spend hours in a therapist’s office hoping to find clarity. I however ponder life, weigh out my life scenarios, and even make my most important decisions while using a ridiculously large round brush and an 1800-watt hair dryer. 

Often I find myself overthinking a situation (I know this may shock some loyal Kiki followers – insert your snarky laugh here) and weighing in with 8,789 reasons why I should or should not do something. These last few years though I have shed these doubts and bouts with overthinking simply because I realize that life is short. Just do it as the Nike ad suggests. There are a million sayings that can fit this notion of “It’s Now or Never” – hell even Elvis sang about it and made millions with this approach. How did I get here though? 

Years of vulnerability and wanting to feel safe kept me in a very stable bubble. If I kept status quo and average, I would never rock the boat and life would be good. There would be no anxiety. No worry. No reason to get upset because everything was just the way it was supposed to be. 

Or was it? 

Certainly, my fitness journey gave me the confidence I lacked or shoved below sea level for years. I finally surfaced and declared…yes declared that I would no longer accept average in my life. I started to take chances that I never thought possible. Always outgoing I became fearless at work, became a master problem solver with a take no prisoners type attitude, and did not stop until I figured out any problem placed before me. At home, I was now handling situations with the kids with zero worry. Looking forward and not back was much more fulfilling than wallowing in the past and letting my feet remain stuck in the mud. 

Are there days when I am stuck in the war of the “what ifs”? You bet. I was just discussing this the other night and admitted that I sometimes allow the what ifs to rule me. I was reminded that practicing “mindfulness” and dealing with the right here and now would be the key. I am now soaking up as much of this practice as I can. Kiki promise to blog about this in the hopefully near future. Now back to my point about taking chances. 

The fitness thing led to Spartan which led to well…the key to everything I had been looking for even when I did not know I was looking. Every damn thing on that course from the rocks, the mud (that goddamn thigh high mud), obstacles, elevation, the comradery, random conversations, and finally – jumping fire represents life. Each race I have run has taught me more about me than any amount of therapy ever could. There was one race though that stands out as my signature race. I think about it every damn day (and not just when I am drying my hair). Tuxedo 2018. My third time on that mountain. I ran alone. Well, I was not alone – in Spartan, you are never alone. You are with thousands of fellow racers all there with the same purpose. Nevertheless, this day, I ran happy and was so at peace. I emerged from each part of the trail truly renewed. I came up with new mental strategies to prepare myself for the next leg. I was smiling more than I ever did in a race. I was so alive. There are other races when I can feel myself approaching the finish line. You can hear the music from the festival area pumping. You can feel the energy from the crowds and the surge of adrenaline from the last obstacles. But mostly for me…you can smell the fire. I can feel it in my bones. It NEVER signifies the finish for me. It is a symbol of taking chances and a leap of faith. There are some races when I am only physically able to hop over the line of fire. Not this time. I turned the corner to find the final rig obstacle. I nailed it (yay me) and looked ahead at the line of flames and the finish line beyond them. Yes, I could have hopped over as before and race towards the medal. I could have accepted this because it is what I normally did. But no. I train every night (yes every night) to no longer accept average. As my friend, Scott tells me “You must train with the single purpose to reach that finish line”. And so I sprinted. I sprinted as if I was running to catch the last plane off the burning planet. That is when it happened. I lept. Sailed over those flames. I landed with my hands in the air and tears streaming down my cheeks. The medal was soon around my neck and I was at peace. Really…what was to fear from taking chances? 

I will no longer be rooted and stuck in fear of taking chances and stepping outside of my comfort zone. I realize that it will be tough. I will still have days peppered with anxiety but I look back and realize it is a far worse life if I never take these chances. As Mo Yan says…our human existence is as brief as the autumn grass. 

Let go. Leap. Take chances.