These Are The Days

Smart ~ Writer ~ Mom

Category: These Are The Days (page 1 of 20)

This Is Us (Or, The Very Best Show on TV Right Now)

I don’t mean to judge you but if you didn’t watch This Is Us last season and you’re not planning to watch it this season, I’m pretty sure we can no longer be friends. It truly is the very best show on TV and I am so not exaggerating.

The characters are human and complicated and real. And the actors that play them are filled with a talent that makes me want to crawl into the TV every week and just hang out with them. The one-hour show is over way too quickly each week. Why do we need commercials? Can’t we just swim in sixty straight minutes of exceptional storytelling and not worry about advertising revenue?

Although it’s hard to pick a favorite storyline, mine is Sterling K. Brown’s portrayal of Randall.  I love Kevin, Kate, Rebecca and Jack, but there are so many things with Randall’s character that just make my heart ache. Most significantly, it’s the transracial adoption storyline. Bravo to the writers and the actors for tackling this topic and allowing it to play out on the national stage in all its messiness and beauty.

I have tremendous respect and admiration for the way in which this show and this character have opened a conversation about what it means to be adopted. There is, of course, no one answer or one simple definition of what it means to be an adoptee, a birthparent, or an adopted parent – but I give them a lot of credit for making this a central part of their story. I simply adored the storyline last season of Randall finding his biological father. Although I admit I was hesitant at first.  Birthparents (mothers in particular) are not often shown in the best light. But as Randall’s story unfolds I found myself feeling right alongside him as he moved through a range of emotions … from anger and bitterness to curiosity and longing, and finally, to hope.

Hope for reconciliation and hope for a relationship.

Not to spoil too many facets of the story, but there was indeed a beautiful relationship that grew between these two characters. Questions were answered. Some, harder than others. And forgiveness.

And forgiveness. Oh the forgiveness that eventually flowed from the heartbreak was so moving.

The relationship between Randall and William was significant. And I think the writers and the actors told their story brilliantly, through layer after layer of discoveries and pain and finally, connection and love. But it’s the relationship between Randall and Rebecca that affected me the most and about which I have the greatest curiosity.

One scene last season left me absolutely breathless. It was the scene where Randall returns to his mother’s house for the first time in weeks. He had discovered a secret that she had kept from him all these years and he was angry. He rings the doorbell of her home and you expect him to fly into a rage. But he doesn’t. He’s still angry, but instead of indulging that anger, he turns toward forgiveness. Slowly at first, and then all at once – like falling in love, as author John Green described in The Fault In Our Stars.

In the words he speaks, he gives his mother an inkling of hope that all is not lost. It wasn’t at all what I was expecting to hear and as such, I was instantly overcome with sobbing tears.

this is us It was a brilliantly-written scene and Sterling K. Brown played it magnificently.

From that scene and really from this whole show, I’m coming to realize just how sensitive I am to the notion of forgiveness. And I’m realizing how much I may need it – both to give and to receive.

Television, like theatre and movies and all art really, has the power to do so much good.  I believe this show is doing a lot of good. I cannot wait for This Is Us to resume next week. It’s been a long summer and I’m ready.

If you haven’t watched This Is Us, there’s still time I think. Perhaps On-Demand or something? Regardless, get to it. You will not regret becoming consumed by this extraordinary show.

On This Day

A friend is hurting today. Well, to be honest, she’s been hurting every day for the last five months because today is one of those marker days. Not necessarily an anniversary or a milestone day, but a day you remember. You know the kind. It’s like the date that new couples celebrate as their three-month-a-versary. Or when parents identify their toddler as “21 months old.” When something significant happens we mark the date as a reference point in our minds and on the calendar.

Today isn’t a happy day for my friend. Five months ago, she lost her little girl in a senseless accident that ripped her world out from under her feet. She’s still finding her footing, but I imagine she’s a little less steady than she was before.

I can’t imagine the loss of a child. Just thinking about her loss makes my heart ache and my eyes tear up. Truth be told, I never met her daughter. My friend and I met through work and although I did meet her son, I moved away in 2012 before her daughter was born. We remained connected over the years and I watched her beautiful family grow through Facebook pictures. The ones she shared before the accident and the ones she shares now, after. Those must be the hardest of all.

When the “On This Day” appears on my Facebook timeline I often think of my friend. As I look back at what I was posting last year or the year before and I make a mental note of how much my own family has changed and grown, I think of her. I think of what it must be like for her to see these images of her daughter – smiling, happy, learning to crawl and then walk – and how incredibly painful it all must be to remember the happy times while carrying so much grief and sadness.

Today, she shared a picture on her timeline from this day last year. Of happier times. She wrote, “well, we survived five months without her…”


Her before pictures were so wonderfully ordinary. Just like what you or I would share. Snaps of a happy kiddo visiting her dad at work or playing with her big brother or making silly faces at Mommy. And then one day the world falls apart and these memories land on one side of the fault line that was the tragedy. And everything after is overshadowed with sadness, grief. As if the memory knows there’s something missing.

Soon after I saw her post, I saw a blog by Anna, a writer and blogger I follow online. We aren’t friends, but she is the friend of a dear friend of mine. She, too, lost her child unexpectedly on a random rainy day six years ago. Before her son’s death, she shared stories of love and family life on her blog. But after he died, her blog became the place where she bravely shared painful stories of loss and grief. Her post today talked about the befores and the afters and how it never really gets easier after such a searing loss. She offered a bit of hope that after doesn’t mean over.

I’m thinking of my friend today and every day. I wish things were different. I wish that her little girl was still here with her. I wish I could take away her grief. I wish I lived closer so I could give her a hug. But more than anything though, I wish her the peace of someday knowing that, as Anna says, “after is different. After is often hard. But after doesn’t mean over.”

So-Called Pregnancy Centers: A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

I am extremely skeptical of so-called pregnancy centers like A Door of Hope, a center close to where I live, and one of a number of such facilities nationwide.

Pregnancy centers like these do not have medically trained staff on site.

This. Is. An. Important. Point.

They are a religiously-funded and supported Christian organization with an agenda. I am a Christian and I would no more trust them to perform an ultrasound or a pregnancy test or pregnancy counseling on me than I would my local Starbucks. And while I appreciate that their website says they’ll “refer you to resources” if abortion is something a person is considering, I find that hard to believe (but I’m certainly open to anyone who can prove me wrong.)

In my opinion, it would be better if Door of Hope and other “pregnancy centers” like these used their religious donations and funding to offer free birth control or at the very least free condoms; free community classes on STDs and sex health; and outreach to schools to talk to young girls and boys about the physical and emotional sides of sex (more than just biological sex ed); and, to promote safe sex, encourage healthy choices, and lower the risk of unintended pregnancy and STDs.

Knowledge is power.

If they would just be upfront about their intentions that would be fine. “We are a Christian organization – not medically-trained professionals. We are pro-life and we are here to see you through your pregnancy.” Or something like that.

But of course, their intent is not to provide pregnancy services; it is to coerce women in crisis to not choose abortion and find Jesus through classes like:
“Making an Informed Decision About Religion”
“Who is Jesus?” and
“Seeing Yourself Through God’s Eyes”

These are real classes, y’all. Not at your local church as you might anticipate, but at the local crisis pregnancy center.

One question: what if the woman in crisis is Jewish? Sikh? Hindi? Or Muslim? Are the services offered contingent upon the woman’s conversion to Christianity? Eesh.

In exchange for attending these “classes,” the pregnant woman receives credits to be used for diapers, baby clothes, car seats, etc. That sounds a bit like bribery to me. Attend our classes, promise not to abort, and we’ll give you free things for your baby. Yikes. Will Door of Hope be there when the baby is 2? 6? 13? What if the baby has severe medical needs? Just how long is the door of hope open? Just curious.

I’m realizing that centers like these really trigger a nerve with me.  I am still sorting out everything, but I think it’s safe to say these things trigger me because of the inherent intent to deceive. After all, who benefits from centers like these? Is it the young women? Well, surely some women have benefited from talking to a complete stranger about an unexpected pregnancy. But again, these are not people with any kind of counseling or medical training so really they’re just operating as surrogate confidants.

So who else benefits? The pro-life movement? Well, perhaps. After all, many of these centers are set-up purposefully near Planned Parenthood clinics so from a political standpoint, I suppose it looks good to those on the pro-life side.

But the entity that really benefits the most is the church, and specifically the people that work in these centers. They get to congratulate themselves on how they’re doing the work of Jesus and helping to save lives when in fact they’re doing nothing of the sort. Proselytizing isn’t part of a regular ob-gyn exam, last I checked.

I abhor centers like these that are deceptive and manipulative – especially those that operate under the guise of religion. Perhaps A Door of Hope is an oasis for some women, but to me, it’s nothing more than a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

(Note: I wrote a shorter version of this post on a private Facebook group, from which I will probably will be asked to leave! Seriously, my community is quite conservative and my voice tends to get lost there sometimes. So I decided to share it here, too.)

A Mother’s Day From a Few Years Back

It had always been my dream to be involved with Disney somehow. In the 1990s, I was living that dream and if I’m being perfectly honest, I often felt guilty for how happy I was. Does a birthmother really deserve to experience happiness again? I ask that question not with some sort of false humility. I ask it with total sincerity. Did the fact that I worked at the happiest place on earth mean that I no longer felt sad? Not *could* I or *should* I feel sad because surely I did; but rather, was I sending the message that I had somehow neatly compartmentalized all that had transpired and it was no longer a big deal? That I no longer grieved the loss? That I was somehow turning my back on this part of my life story and living in some fantasy world?

For years, I danced between two realities – the reality that I was indeed happy and thriving and proving to myself that I wasn’t bad, that I could, in fact, be good, as Alanis says. And the reality of knowing I was a birthmother and that any happiness I experienced or exuded might be construed as being dismissive or reductive of the magnitude of what I’d done. It was a tricky dance that I orchestrated day by day – don’t be too happy, people might wonder if you’re just heartless. Don’t go to parties and drink or have sex because that will just perpetuate the myth that you’re a slut. Don’t make waves, don’t push the boundaries of what’s allowed and don’t tarnish your reputation because you might be fired. Transferred. Sent away.

In short, working at Disney allowed me to reclaim myself without the pressure of answering to – or putting on a show for – anyone.

One of my absolute favorite jobs at Disney was as a Guest Relations hostess at the Disney-MGM Studios. I was working “the window,” a small building just outside the park where guests come to get Disney information. Every day at the window was different and sometimes the guest situations were difficult to resolve. There were plenty of scammers illegally selling and reselling tickets so we had to keep our guard up.

One spring morning, a family approached my window. They had long, yellow tickets which may have been the old five or seven-day park hopper tickets. As the mom told her story, I noticed there were six people in her family, but she only had five tickets.

She tried her best to piece it all together.

Ticket … lost … had them yesterday at the Magic Kingdom … searched the hotel … no receipt … bought tickets through a travel agent … cost $1000 for all the tickets … can’t afford to buy another …

The mother was frantic because she was the one that had lost the ticket. Back then, Disney required guests to sign their names on their individual ticket. Hers was the one that was missing.

Guest Relations employees were empowered to resolve most situations on our own. But when a large amount of money was in question (more than $50 or so), a supervisor was required.

I connected with that mom in that moment. Not sure what it was about her story or her family, but I believed her 1000%. I asked her to wait a moment and I went to the back office to tell my supervisor that I wanted to re-issue her ticket, at a “loss” of about $200 to our department. No receipt or proof of purchase. No theft report from the police. Nothing other than this woman’s word. But I pleaded to my supervisor on her behalf, and to my surprise, he said, “Well, if you believe her, then do it. You have my support.”

The next few moments were among my fondest as a Disney cast member.

I told the woman I’d be happy to re-issue her ticket. She was completely overwhelmed. Her family was ecstatic. I handed her the new ticket, which she promptly signed. And then she grabbed both my hands, looked at me with tear-filled eyes and said, “Thank you and Happy Mother’s Day.”

In fact, it was indeed Mother’s Day. I moved through that day as I had many previous Mother’s Days, carrying the secret that I too was a mother. Not a parenting mother, but a mother just the same.

Clearly, this woman didn’t know if I was a mother, but she said I had the heart of a mother.


I signaled to her to hold on one moment, quickly closed my window and met her outside in the queue line. She hugged me tightly and we cried. But it was the good kind of cry.

She was the first person to ever say “Happy Mother’s Day” to me. And I will always remember it.

A Mug Full of Love and Dreams

(Foreword: I may have implied on Twitter that a portion of this post would be written in French, or ‘en francais.’
And then I realized how truly awful and rusty my French is. And so, at the 
end I have a lovely French quote. C’est la vie!)

Twenty-five years ago this week I missed out on an opportunity that could have changed the trajectory of my life. I’ve always felt a little bit resentful of how the whole thing turned out, but I’ve come to realize how very different my life would have unfolded had circumstances been different.

In 1991, I moved to Orlando to work for Disney. I was full of dreams and felt sure that this is where I needed to be. I had worked as a tour guide at the Backstage Studio Tour the previous year on Disney’s College Program and when I returned in the fall of 1991, I became a ticket seller at the DisneyMGM Studios Main Entrance.

After a handful of Guest Relations (customer service) people were fired for theft, a Tickets supervisor noticed my I speak French button and he quickly moved me over to Guest Relations to replace one of the fired employees. Speaking a foreign language wasn’t a requirement to work in Guest Relations, but with millions of visitors from all around the world, it was helpful. So it was the luck of the draw. My French had come in handy.

I loved studying French in high school and I became enamored with France. My teacher was amazing and she taught us more than just the nuances of the language. We learned about the culture, literature, art, traditions, music, and food that make France such a wonder. Now, at Disney, it had been a few years since I’d studied French and I was a bit rusty. Thankfully, as a Guest Relations hostess, I was always able to cobble together enough words and sentences to help French-speaking guests find Mickey Mouse or the bus back to their hclose-up-1839974_1920otel.

I was in love with all things French and of course all things Disney, so when “EuroDisney”, as it was called then, was set to open just east of Paris in April 1992, I was on a mission to somehow be a part of it.

I applied and interviewed for an intern-type position open to all Disney cast members. If accepted, I’d be living in dorm-style housing and participate in a work-study opportunity as part of the opening crew. I was hopeful I would get in….and sure enough, I was selected.

Over the moon excited, I hit the local library and started brushing up on my broken French. Details were still coming together so I was told to hold tight while the paperwork was being finalized and the actual program was planned and set in motion. I was also told to get my passport up to date just in case it was a “go.”


Isn’t this castle awesome? It’s Sleeping Beauty castle at Disneyland Paris and it’s one of my favorites.

As I waited for more of an official word, another opportunity to go to France arose. This time it was through Guest Relations. Disney was looking for tour guides to work the grand opening event – basically, a huge press conference and media tour. Although I’d only worked in Guest Relations for little over a year at that point, one of my supervisors put my name in the hat for consideration. The fact that I spoke French made me a shoe-in. Luck of the draw again! I told my supervisors that I had applied for and been accepted to the program that was still being assembled, but they told me not to worry. One way or another, I’d be going to Paris!

And then it all started to unravel…

I got my passport. And I also heard from the special program manager, who called me in for a meeting. This should have clued me in that something was weird because I was just an hourly cast member. What could she possibly want with me? Turns out, she was the daughter-in-law to a man that had worked closely with Walt Disney back in the day. He had also served as the President of the Walt Disney Company for a while. His daughter-in-law was well-known throughout the company, although many surmised her position was more in title only rather than based on any competency. I swear that’s not my bitterness talking; that was truly the word on the street.

Anyway, I met with this lovely woman who proceeded to barrage me with questions I was unprepared for. Looking back, I can see a slight resemblance to Cinderella’s wicked stepmother…

Wicked Stepmother: Are you committed to going on this program with my team?
Me: Yes.
Wicked Stepmother: Then you can imagine my surprise to learn that you have also accepted a position to go with the Guest Relations group? (her eyes narrow, the room darkens, and flames erupt in the background)
Me: (stammering) Well….I,
WS: You can’t do both.
Me: Yes, I know but you see I told my supervisors and –
WS: You have breached your commitment with our group and as a result, we’ve revoked your visa as of yesterday.
Me: What?? How can you –
WS: You will not be going to EuroDisney with my group. And if I have my way, you won’t be going to EuroDisney with ANY group.

OMG. What a bitch, right?

I was floored.

I left the Team Disney corporate offices defeated, with my head hung low. I climbed back into my 1989 red Hyundai Excel and cried all the way back to work. I confided my disappointment in one other Guest Relations co-worker and friend. He listened and let me cry on his super handsome but gay shoulder. (dammit).

And then the other shoe dropped.

I didn’t have enough seniority in Guest Relations to make the cut, so I would not be going to France as part of the press event tour either.

I was crushed.

At 21 years old, I thought for sure I’d just screwed up my entire life. You see, if I had gone to France, my intention was to stay for longer than the assignment. I wanted to work at EuroDisney and live and travel in the French countryside. I wanted to get a Eurrail pass and backpack through the continent. I wanted to shop in French farmers markets, see castles, buy fresh flowers, drink French wine, read books along the Seine, and fall in love at the top of the Eiffel Tower.

None of those things happened, of course. And I mourned my so-called lost life for awhile. But then a few years later I traveled to France with some friends and we had a ball. I worked many jobs at Disney and met many wonderful people, including my husband. Life went on and was wonderful and exciting and adventure-filled.

If I had gone to Paris in 1992 and stayed, I would have missed out on meeting and knowing so many amazing people here in Delaware, in New Jersey, and especially in Syracuse.

Life is full of so many different opportunities. Some we say yes to and others we say no. And sometimes the decision is made for us. It’s interesting to travel back in your life and see how everything strings together. How your life has progressed and bobbed and weaved with the flow.

However circumstances unfold, they’re all stitches on our life’s tapestry. While we’re busy stitching on one side, all we have to do is flip it over to see the beauty of the life we’ve created. I like my tapestry. And I adore the people in my life. Those that I see every day and those that are far but always close in my heart.

20170412_152339Footnote: Many of my friends and co-workers went to Paris for the grand opening and I loved hearing their stories. And that sexy gay friend of mine? Well. He was unbelievably kind and thoughtful. He brought me back some grand opening souvenirs and a EuroDisney mug, which I still have. He gave me a big hug and said I was with him in spirit and he thought of me when he first entered the park. How sweet was that?

Second footnote: No clue what happened to the wicked stepmother. I don’t wish her any ill will, but the next time she travels, I sort of hope her passport is expired.


Il n’est rien de reel que le reve et l’amour.
(Nothing is real but dreams and love) – de Noailles

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