Tuesday, November 30, 2010

no sleep til brooklyn!

2. Walk the Brooklyn Bridge. - DONE!

So many, many moons ago, my friend Shannon was visiting me in Baltimore.  She's the one who inspired me to start my own 30 Before 30 project. She was telling me about hers, and one of the items on her list was to walk the Brooklyn Bridge.  Of course I immediately said, I wanna do that with you!!  Sadira, my sisters Neda and Tessa and I had walked a tiny bit of the bridge when we visited NYC last January, but never did I walk the whole thing.  

And so it was decided.  I was going to copy Shannon's idea of a 30 Before 30 and we were going to walk the Brooklyn Bridge together.  With her in East Connecticut, and me in Baltimore, it was a great (and fun!) midway point for us.

We planned on the day after Thanksgiving. No, we didn't think about the traffic, or the Black Friday crowds. (Neither of which were really that bad, at all). We just thought it was a day we both had off of work.  Works for us.

So last Friday Shannon and her fiance Joe, and me and my sister Neda met in Manhattan, and made our way to the bridge, STAT.  They were calling for rain all day, but when we arrived, the skies were grey, but clear.  We lucked out and stayed dry all day.

Here are some pics from our trek:

Shannon and I before.

Shannon and Joe

Neda and me

From the center of the bridge

Looking back at NYC

We made it!

Time to walk back!

It's such a cool view, I just had to include one more shot....

The walk to Brooklyn took much longer than the walk back...most likely because of the frequent photo op stops.  It didn't matter though, we were among friends and having fun.  Of course I had to entertain everyone with a little bit of this...and this...not to mention this.  Oh, and Shannon had the privilege of learning about this.  Neda and I were happy to serenade her all day. :)  I'm not sure if she was so happy being serenaded though...hmm. ;)

All in all it was a great day, and always awesome to catch up with a dear friend.  Not to mention there is something so magical about NYC during the holidays.  I mean really, can anything truly beat this?:
If that doesn't put you in the spirit, I don't know what will! :)

Oh! And one more thing...call it a little shred of serendipity.  I will turn 30 and conclude this project on June 21st, and Shannon will do the same 3 days later on the 24th.  How cool was it, when I saw our bus' number that day...the bus that took Neda and I roundtrip:

Perfect! :)

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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

pumpkin pie anyone?

3. Write a letter to a friend every week for one year. - IN PROGRESS

On March 9, 2007 I went to a doctor's appointment that changed my life.  I learned that I was--in fact--pregnant (I somehow thought that the 5 pregnancy tests I had taken two nights before were "wrong").  I came back to work around lunchtime, my head spinning.  It was a Friday, and after all of the excitement of the week I could no longer concentrate.  I am planner.  And I had not planned this, one of the biggest events of my life!  Suddenly I needed to learn everything I could about pregnancy and babies.

I did what any rational person in my position would do.  I consulted the Internet.

After typing in "www.pregnancy.com," I was re-routed to Babycenter.  I read everything I could get my hands on, what to eat, what not to eat, what vitamins to take, what activities to avoid, what was safe, how to sleep, what to read, how much water to drink...EVERYTHING.  You name it, I read about it, desperate to learn everything I could about what was happening and about to happen.

One day, about a month or so into the pregnancy adventure I found message boards on Babycenter.  I found a group of women who were all due in November 2007, like me.  I could read along about what they were experiencing, what their doctors were saying, anything and everything.  No topic was off limits.

But I found this November 2007 board to be intimidating.  There were literally hundreds and HUNDREDS of women posting to the site and I just couldn't keep up.  So I started following a smaller board--moms due between November 7th and November 15th.  With my due date of November 11th, I fit right in.  The group was called "the Pumpkin Pies" (all birth week groups had cute seasonal names.  We still have no idea who came up with them).  I started following these ladies and soon got to "know" them, purely based on their posts.  I looked forward to reading about their pregnancies, and I got to know each of their stories.

Then in May I was preparing for a flight from Baltimore to Hawaii.  This was going to be the longest flight I ever took, and my first flight during pregnancy.  Up until that point I had not posted to the Pumpkin Pies, but I was curious to see if any of them had any tips or experience with flying during pregnancy.  So I posted.

And thus began the beginning of beautiful friendships!

From that point on, I became a regular poster, posting to the group on a daily basis.  We updated one another on how we were feeling, discussed our doctor appointments and birth plans, share name choices, and spilled the beans if we found out the gender of our babies before birth.  

I once joked to a fellow Pumpkin Pie, "it's funny that I've never met you in person, yet I know more about your cervix than your husband does." Haha!  Eww....

While the Pumpkin Pies are a group of women from all over the country, there were a number of Pumpkin Pies that lived in and around the DC area.  They started getting together for lunch once a month.  Realizing I was only in Baltimore, just 45 minutes or so away, they started inviting me to come along.  The first month I was a little too freaked out to attend---I mean, these are people I don't even know, from the INTERNET!! They could be serial killers!!  

The next month I realized how ridiculous I was being--especially considering I had seen picture evidence with all of their pregnant belly proof--and wanted to attend, but I broke my foot. (Seven months pregnant with a broken foot is no fun!)  The following month I had a Ravens game the same day as the meet up.

Which brought us to October.

The final meet-up, with all of us in our NINTH month of pregnancy.  I decided there was no better to time to meet my message board friends in person.  We decided on Mexican food (to induce labor!) I was the last to arrive (duh, I'm always late...) and when I walked in and sat down I remember someone saying, "do you need us to introduce ourselves?"  I looked around and realized, no I don't!  I knew who everyone was.  I was among friends.

We had a wonderful lunch and snapped a couple photos.  Six VERY pregnant women all in the same spot is a quite a sight!  Then we said our goodbyes and planned to have a playdate after the babies arrived.  Little did we know one baby would arrive the very next day!

Since that day we stayed close.  We usually plan on once a month meetings, though sometimes we'll get together to go to a children's museum, or a pumpkin farm, or a cupcake date. :)  We've been through the sleepless newborn nights together, the excitement of baby's first steps, and the craziness of toddlerhood.  They are an awesome sounding board to discuss not just babies and motherhood, but life in general.  When I talk about my "Pumpkin Pie friends," my family and friends know exactly who I'm talking about...and even know most of the babies by name.

They are awesome.

Here are some photos of the babies together as they've gotten bigger.  You can click on any photo to make it larger.

We even held our first East Coast National Pie Conference just before the babies' first birthdays.  A fun weekend spent in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, where we were joined by other Pumpkin Pies from New York, Pennsylvania, Georgia and even Idaho!

Not to be outdone, the very next year we held East Coast National Pie Conference Part Two---but kept it local, in the MD/VA/DC area.  Pumpkin Pie mamas and babies from New York and Ohio came and stayed the weekend!

I don't think any of us will forget our "Mamas Night Out" last May...Lindsey even flew in from Georgia and Lisa took the train down from Connecticut. :)

Now THAT'S dedication to Girls Night Out!

And so it only seemed fitting to include some of these awesome ladies on my 30 Before 30.  I only wish I could write a letter to each and every one of the Pies.  I have a feeling this won't be the last time I reference the Pumpkin Pies in this blog...

But for now, I'll stick with the local Pies.  The ladies I have the pleasure to see at least once a month.  I've written letters to them, one per week, over the past several weeks. This past Saturday we celebrated the kids' birthdays all together as a group.  I decided to mail all of the letters out this week, at the same time.  The birth of our children is what brought us together, so it seemed appropriate to celebrate my friendships with them during the same time we celebrated our babies' birthdays.

I'll share a few sentences from each letter to the DC Pie Mommies....in alphabetical order... :)

"I think your dedication to your children and your family is admirable.  There's no doubt that Dacia and Timmy will grow up knowing that they are very loved.  Come to think of it, I think that's true for all of the kids in our group...we're a pretty kick ass group of mommies. Just keep being the best mom and person that you are already being.  Things always end up the way they're supposed to."

"It's so funny to me, because when I remember back to my first "in-person" meeting with the whole group, I remember thinking to myself that you and I would have the least in common.  I don't know why I thought that, probably because you seemed to have it all together and I was a hot mess back then, but fast-forward to three years later and that couldn't be further from the truth.  You have a fantastic daughter in Ellie, a girl after my own heart with her love of princesses and nighttime costume changes!"

"I so vividly remember the day late in my pregnancy when I found out Sadira was breech and a C-section would need to be scheduled.  I cannot tell you how helpful you were to me.  It may not have seemed like a lot to you at the time, but when you took the time to write to me and send along all your advice and tips, it helped me TREMENDOUSLY."

"I still remember when you came to the first meetup and I was so jealous of Eva's luxurious locks while Sadira was still sportin' the peach fuzz, haha! I didn't know then what great friends we'd become, but I'm so glad you joined our group because it just wouldn't be the same without you.  Who would I plan evenings of chocolate and wine with?!?"

"One time when I was having a particularly exhausting day you wrote to me and said, 'I'll tell you a secret, though.  While I don't envy how hard your day-to-day must be, I sometimes am really jealous of the special relationship you and Sadie have now, and always will have.'  I wrote those words down because they meant so much to me that day, and they still do."

"I'm especially grateful for our friendship, and I know that whatever the situation may be I can always talk to you openly and candidly.  I can't tell you how much I appreciate that.  You, TJ and the boys have become such good friends to Sadira and I, and we truly love your family so much.  Thank you for always welcoming us into your home, time and time again."

Celebrating DC Pies first birthday.

Celebrating DC Pies second birthday.

Celebrating DC Pies third birthday!!!

"I love that we came together as friends, and now our children are friends.  I love that Sadira has a group of friends that she's literally known since birth!!  I hope that no matter where life takes us, we will be able to continue our friendships and theirs.

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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

over the edge, part two

 1. Conquer a fear - DONE!!!!!!!!

So recently I was invited to go down to Silo Point for a planning meeting with the folks from Gaudenzia.  They wanted to get rolling on their fundraiser for next year and wanted the input of some of the people who had taken part in the event.  I was lucky that they asked me to come along, and of course I said yes.

The meeting obviously had a purpose--planning next year's event; however I'm not going to divulge any of that information just yet, as I've been sworn to secrecy.  Well, not really, but it's not my news to tell and it's in the very first few baby stages of planning, so there's lots of work left for Rene to do. ;)

The trip down did, however, give me the opportunity to revisit the spot where I cried like a little baby and faced my fear.  I'm not gonna lie, when Rene and I turned the corner and I saw all 23 stories of Silo Point standing there, I felt my PTSD kick in juuuust a little bit.  My pulse quickened and I found myself looking up higher and higher...and remembering that just two months ago I was hanging by a rope off the side of that building.


The meeting was held in the beautiful Sky Lounge on the 19th floor.  My prize for being the top fundraiser is exclusive use of the Sky Lounge for up to 6 hours.  I'm thinking birthday party, as it would be a great way to cap off this 30 Before 30 project, but will see...if the Ravens do well in the playoffs, I might just be hosting a Superbowl party!

I mean seriously, how gorgeous is this place?!

Being up there also reminded me of the way I felt on the day of the rappel.  Being around all of the folks from Gaudenzia reminded me of why I chose to participate in this fundraiser in the first place.  I remembered that there was more I wanted to say about my experience, but at the time that I blogged about it the first time, I could only write about the events of the day.  I had to process my thoughts a bit longer to be able to fully explain what I gained from this experience.  I didn't want to do it an injustice and gloss over it, but I also don't want to forget.

And so here we are.

So when I flashback to the beginning of the day, when my mom, Sadira and I were attending the brief presentation about the work Gaudenzia does, I remember Gadi (Rene's boss) speaking about a graduate of the Gaudenzia program.  This particular graduate was there to speak about his experience in recovery.  Apparently he now works as an intake coordinator, and helps others in the same way he was helped when he first came for treatment.

I remember Gadi specifically saying, "he understands the fear our incoming patients feel in starting a treatment program, because he's been there himself.  He knows what to say to our patients when they first arrive, scared and unsure of themselves."

As I stood there, in fear of the rappel, scared and unsure of myself, I thought about how entering recovery really is a form of conquering a fear.  For addicts, the very thing that can save their life can be the most terrifying.

That's when I heard those words for Gaudenzia's philosophy..."We are here because there is no refuge, finally, from ourselves..." I tried to hold on to them, to etch them into my brain, because somehow I knew they'd come back to help me later in the day.

As we arrived to the top, and prepared to take that fateful step over the edge, I remember thinking, "there is no way I can do this.  I came, I saw, I will not conquer.  I raised $2,235.00, that's good enough. Why do I need to conquer a fear?  Why do I need to rappel down this building?" 

The answer, of course, is because I promised myself I would.  And now I have a team of people who love me cheering me on from the ground.  And countless friends and family who contributed to help me achieve this goal.  And all the well wishes from friends saying, "good luck! I know you can do this!"

And then I had Nick, hanging on the side of the building with me.

And then I had Caleb with the green eyes, telling me he knows I'm scared but he will walk me through this.  I can do this, I just need to listen to him.

And all of a sudden I thought...this must be one tiny shred of what it feels like to take the first step into recovery.  To have a demon you want to slay--something that's holding you back from being the best person that you can be---and having all of the friends and family support, not to mention the professionals there to lend a hand and help you take baby steps when you doubt yourself the most.  To do something that in the very beginning seems absolutely IMPOSSIBLE.

And all of the sudden the title, "Over the Edge for Recovery" had much, much more meaning to me.

And that's when I started channelling my Aunt Gabby.  I will do this for her, because she was unable to do it for herself.  And I will be terrified, but I will be successful.  I will not let fear get the best of me.

As I first started down the building, I felt out of control of my body. Standing on the side of that building and then leaning back from 23 stories up in the air, trusting only on the ropes to support me, I couldn't control myself.  The shaking, the tears, the shortness of breath--I couldn't stop it...but I also couldn't let it stop me.  I had no idea what I was doing, and with the exception of Nick, my family and friends were far, far below me.  I was alone in this, and the only thing I could do was to trust the professionals.  To put all of my faith in Caleb and believe him when he told me that he would help me get through this. 

I thought about patients who first go into treatment, and the physical agony of detox as it had been explained to me by patients I had worked with in the past.  I thought about how alone and scared they probably felt.  I thought about how their bodies were fighting against them in a way much much more agonizing that mine was. I thought about how important it was for them to stick it out...to trust in the professionals who are trying to help them...and to remain committed to this, the most physically painful part of the recovery process.

And so I remained committed.  When all I wanted to do was jump back over to the safety of the balcony, I chose to remain on the ledge.

When I finally started the descent down to the 19th floor landing, I kept listening to Caleb until my own voice in my head took over...reminding me of Gaudenzia's philosophy, and coaching myself even though I was still scared shitless.

I am doing this for a cause bigger than my fear.
Give into the fear, but do not let it stop you.
I am doing this for a cause bigger than my fear.

I'm not gonna lie, when my feet hit the ground on the 19th floor I was flooded with relief.  I remember looking into the Sky Lounge and thinking, "there are elevators in there.  I did the 4 highest stories...do I really need to do 19 more?"

Of course this is why they were rushing along to get me suited back up.  Nick was right, if you're gonna go Over the Edge, you have to do the whole thing.  You can't think of the 19th floor as your escape route.

It reminded me of patients I spoke to when I was a care coordinator.  Patients who had just finished their detox and were convinced they were "cured."  There's was no need to continue treatment, the substances were out of their system and in their eyes, they were good to go.  But that's not how recovery works.  Sure you may no longer be chemically dependant, but you haven't learned how to function in a sober world.  Especially when you go right back into the environment where you used to use in the first place.  I remember talking to one particularly patient on the phone, years ago.  He was one of our "frequent fliers" and had gone through detox so many times that I was surprised he was still alive.  I desperately tried to get him to commit to a rehabilitation program, or even an outpatient program, but he would refuse all aftercare time and time again.  He would get clean and then immediately escape the rest of the treatment process, only to show up on my case log again a few weeks or months later.

He escaped the treatment process.  He wouldn't stay committed to the cause.  He took the elevator down from the 19th floor.

The entire treatment process is a tricky one, which is why we never say someone is "cured."   They are "in treatment," "in recovery," or "sober."   Just like a cancer survivor says they are "in remission."  You have to constantly be proactive in sticking to the program, to maintain your health, and to save your own life.

So I couldn't consider this a conquering of my fear if I had only rappelled 4 stories.  There were still 19 stories left to go.  So over the edge I went, again.

As I rappelled down those 19 stories it felt like an eternity.  It felt like I was going as slow as molasses and that I'd never make it to the safety of the ground below.  As I mention in my previous post there came a point where everything around me quieted.  I was no longer being coached on what to do, I was coaching myself.  I was going through the process myself, as frightening as it was.  I took the reins and became an active participant in the process.  I was starting to gain a tiny bit of control.  I coached myself in my head:

Everyone believes in you, just believe in yourself.

I am doing for a cause bigger than my fear.
I am doing this to help those who cannot help themselves.
I am doing this for all of the Gabbys out there.
You can do this.
I am doing this to conquer my fear.
I am doing this for a cause bigger than my fear.

When I got to the point where there was only 50 feet or so left to rappel, I glanced down and saw my family and friends, cheering and waving.  I was so close to making it.  I was in control.  I was in the homestretch, and I KNEW I was going to make it.  I was scared, but I was going to be victorious.  I KNEW I was going to conquer my fear.

My feet hitting the ground was the second best feeling.  Only second to hugging my supporters and crying my eyes out.  In that moment I felt like a champion.  The endorphin rush was insane, and I wanted to hug and hold onto every person I saw.

The parallels between this experience and the recovery process are crazy to me.  While I know committing to recovery is much, much more difficult that rappelling down 23 stories, both are about conquering a goal which was previously thought to be impossible.  I've spoken to so many addicts who are convinced that there is no way treatment and recovery could work for them.  They are hopeless and helpless.  The fear of going through the process is overwhelming, just as my fear of rappelling down that building was overwhelming. 

It's programs like Gaudenzia's that help people down the building, helping them to conquer their fears and live fearlessly in a way they may not think is even possible.

When I look back at the video of the rappel the entire process took about 10 minutes.  TEN MINUTES.  I cannot tell you enough about how conquering this fear has changed my outlook and it happened in TEN MINUTES.  Ten minutes to conquer my fear.  Ten minutes to achieve a goal in my Aunt's honor, when she couldn't take all of the steps down the building to do it for herself.

And now when I drive past that building every day on my way to and from work I no longer feel scared, I feel VICTORIOUS.

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Friday, November 12, 2010


On November 7th, 2007, I got to see your face for the first time.

And like a flash of lightening, time has raced past us.

And now my sweet baby girl is three.

 Sadira Gabrielle, you bring so much joy to our family.  I cannot imagine life without you, my precious girl. 

Happy 3rd Birthday!

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Tuesday, November 2, 2010

a season of thanks

5. Make a once a month donation to an organization that could use it - In progress

Last week I had the opportunity to volunteer at the MD Food Bank with some co-workers of mine and it was AWESOME!  Not only was only being at work for half a day pretty awesome, but helping to pack up food boxes that will help feed over 6,500 Maryland families was fantastic!  As we left I asked the volunteer coordinator for her card, because I really want to go back and do more.  I left feeling like I need to do more.

Our assembly line :)

We stacked 10 of these bad boys.

I think I missed my calling.  I was a phenom with the tape gun!!

So I've been thinking about it a bunch, trying to determine what I can do during the season of thanks to help out some folks who are just not as fortunate as me.  And the more I thought about the MD food bank, the more I wanted to do something THERE.  So I searched around on their website, and found this gem of a contest, and knew it was for me. 

And I signed up!!!!

So I'm hosting my own virtual food drive.  The cool thing is, those who want to donate just go online, select the type of food they want to donate, purchase it at the wholesale price (yay!) and the donation automatically goes to the MD Food Bank!  Of course there are some pretty sweet perks in there for a Ravens' fan like me. :)

The Food Bank offers this "pre-typed" letter for all team captains (which would be me) to share with their friends and family, so I'll just share mine here:

Join my team and help me get in the game!

If I can recruit you and others to purchase the most food in dollars (not pounds), I could be the Ravens Honorary Captain at the Ravens/Buccaneers game on November 28! Will you put me on the 50-yard line at the M&T Stadium for the coin toss?

Here’s how it works: go to www.mdfoodbank.org/ravens and purchase wholesale food. At checkout, type in my team name, "Nasrene Mirjafary," to help increase my team’s amount raised. Not only will you help me win the Ravens Honorary Captain Experience, your name will be entered into a raffle for two tickets to the same game on November 28, 2010.

If you’d rather create your own team you can register at www.mdfoodbank.org/register .
If our team raises the most in food purchases we’ll make me the Ravens Honorary Captain.

There’s not much time to act, this food drive runs from now through 5:00 p.m. on Wednesday, November 24, 2010.

Let’s move the chains to end zone and help the Maryland Food Bank win the fight against hunger! Make a donation today and help me get in the game!!

How awesome is that???
So if you're looking for an opportunity to GIVE a little in this season of thanks and giving, please consider donating to my virtual food drive.  For just $10.50 the Maryland Food Bank can feed 1 hungry Marylander for a WEEK!!
(I wish I knew their secret, I could vastly cut down on my grocery bills...)
And just for the record, I realize the perks for being the winning team are AWESOME, but I also know that this contest has already been going on for several weeks, so winning is really not my motivation here.  I really just wanted to find an easy way to do something proactive for an organization I wanted to support.
I also plan on coordinating a volunteer day in December for a group to go to the Food Bank with me and prepare boxes for their Food for the Holidays food drive.  I'd be looking for a group of between 10-20 people to join me and we'd go on either a Saturday morning from 8:30-12 or a Wednesday evening from 5:30-8.  If you are interested please let me know by leaving me a comment on this blog or emailing me at Adoptacat@hotmail.com
THANKS!!!!  And donate to my food drive!!!!!! :)
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