Category Archives: parent

My Mother’s 60th Birthday

Today my mother would have turned 60. Even though she’s been gone for 8 years, I still feel like our relationship is complicated, as most Mother-Daughter dynamics are. All her motherly wisdom is in me but she’s gone – so it’s hard to figure out how/when/what to think about her.

A lot has happened in her absence. I graduated college. I had my first big heartbreak. I was sidetracked in my career for a while but now I’m a full-time writer. I fell in love.

My brother became a chef. Then he started a family and met his soul mate, Lindsay, who has become like a sister, I think. I’ve never had a sister so I don’t really know what I’m talking about. I’m happily still learning the ropes.

Our family expanded, and still has this great loss to deal with.

Eight years have gone by and what does that mean? What I’ve discovered is that it means you’re left with a ton of choices. The really annoying kind of choices where you have to consciously decide to either rise above or sink below.

One decision is: how will I remember her? Will I push her out of my mind so it’s ALMOST like it didn’t happen? Will I try my hardest not to think about “it” so that if ever I do think about it I immediately change the channel?


Will I listen and try to find meaning in the universe around me? Will I make time to be filled with wonder and marvel at how spectacular life can be? Even though existence is rather peculiar.

It’s drudgery. It’s ecstasy. It’s exhausting. It’s magnificent. It’s cruel… it’s kind. And you don’t have control over what happens. You only really decide your outlook — how hard you’ll fight, how brave you’ll be, how generous, how empathetic, how honest, how happy…

I go back and forth — dance a little on each side because the challenges teach me and remind me to be grateful for all of the good.

Last night was one of the moments where I got to experience some of the wonder. I was handed a little inspiration to say all that I want to say today.

Last night, for a reason I cannot explain, I decided to re-watch Spanglish (Thank you, Netflix). I had forgotten how much of that movie is about mothers and daughters. At the end, the mother asks her daughter, “Is what you want in life to be very different from me?” Isn’t that the question we daughters all ask about our mothers? The difference being that if my mother said THAT to me, I’d realize how foolish a question it is, because I’d be honored to be like her.

Side note: Every year I donate blood on my mom’s birthday. If you are thinking that I am telling you that to say, “Hey I’m better than you” then you’re correct. I’m hoping that guilt turns into action. Donate blood today. There are a lot of stats about why it’s good but my favorite is that most premature babies need transfusions. That could be you saving a little baby’s life… today!



Filed under Be Grateful, gratitude, grief, Lauren Muscarella, loss, mother, parent, Volunteer

We Change the World Every Day

We are an ambitious people. We all have big, lofty goals. Building the foundation and working toward those goals is daunting. Nelson Mandela is famous for saying, “It always seems impossible until it’s done.”

This jewelry was made at the first Trauma to Art in-person workshop. It will be on sale with other t2a creations at the Karenna Maraj studio in Cushing Squaure, Belmont, Mass. soon! Email me for details.

While that struggle gives our lives meaning, it’s also important to acknowledge the impact of our day-to-day actions. What we eat. The words we use. How we treat one another. These things influence the world around us.

My mother’s food soapbox is a great example. In my household she led the charge when it came to healthy eating. As a result I am totally obnoxious about food. A snob. A nudge. It’s embarrassing at times. Then I look at the good that has come from my (painful) lectures. Those friends forced against their will to listen to me talk about processed food and aspartame and leafy greens actually changed their eating habits.

I can think of three change leaders off the top of my head: My best friend Caitlin. My college roommate Sana. My former boyfriend Jesse. And I know the list goes on from there. I also know their actions persist meaning they are affecting change as I write this Friday night blog post. Everyone thinks on a grand scale. Even me. I want to create pervasive American cultural traditions to remember the people we’ve lost and help the grieving. Goals are good but seeing the small picture should not be undervalued or underserved.

As a society we are quick to acknowledge and reward those with big dreams, which we should. In addition to that maybe could start to value kindness, gratitude, laughter, music, art, friendship, family, love, respect, empathy, forgiveness, acceptance… the list could go on forever. I’ll let my mother handle the rest: Alice Law – definition after the jump.

Much love,

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Filed under Classic Mama Alice, giving thanks, gratitude, grief, Lauren Muscarella, loss, mother, parent, positive tradition

Do People Change?

Do people change?

Do people change?

Whether people can actually change is up for hot debate. Some psychology professionals insist that lifestyle changes can inspire behavioral change. For instance someone might lose weight to prepare for a new work environment filled with fit colleagues.

Others claim that change occurs after major life events—childbirth, divorce, death of a loved one. Studies have shown major life events change our value systems resulting in new behaviors. Then of course in 1967 psychiatrists Holmes and Rahe came up with the “Life Change Units” chart to estimate how major life events can affect our health.

Academics aside, my father, an authority on several aspects of life, says that people can change over time but their personalities remain the same. My dad said as a boy my brother assembled his blocks with the keen precision of an artisan. Three decades later he’s a meticulous remodeler. And as a bald tyke I loved sparkly, lacy dresses and socializing with the whole neighborhood. True to form today my closet is packed with girlie accoutrement and strangers are merely friends I haven’t met yet.

My dad said whether people change or not, it’s more important to sympathize with another person’s feelings especially when they’re not the same as your own. Papa Joe sited my mother’s birthday as the perfect example. As he tells it, he always remembered to get my mother a nice gift. However on her 50th birthday my mother was disappointed to find my father hadn’t planned anything special. My dad’s hands flung out to his sides, index fingers up to the sky as he emphasized, “Your mother let me know she was upset.”

Change or no change, accept others. That’s straight from Papa Joe, who admitted with a chuckle, “I was married over 30 years and you’d think I’d know to book a weekend in Rockport for me and your mother. Like most people I’d like to think I’m smarter than I actually am.”

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Filed under Brother Mike, Classic Mama Alice, father, giving thanks, gratitude, grief, Lauren Muscarella, loss, mother, parent

Trauma to Art’s First Workshop: A Peace Sign

Peace sign to all my readers, who are the greatest and the best in the whole wide world! Tribute. 😉

When I was making my first Communion my mother and I traveled far and wide to find the right dress. We were both being really picky. Looking back since I was six I’m going to imagine we split that burden 65-35.

As the date approached, I started getting nervous I would never find the right one. One middle weekday I hopped into the front seat of our burgundy Toyota Camry. My mother had a big box wrapped in a pink (my favorite) bow! I opened up the precious package with big bug eyes. There it was. THE ONE. Sleek. Sophisticated. A lot of the other ones we’d seen had been too over the top or too cheap looking. This one said “Future Executive.”

I don’t think I ever felt I deserved to be that Future Executive until today because success to me has always been making sure my family and friends were proud of me. Tonight I will have my first Trauma to Art workshop. Trauma to Art is a work of art and a labor of love dedicated to the life my mother gave me.

I want to thank you for your readership, your insight, your guidance, your inspiration, your encouragement, your love, your time, your patience, and your generosity. Keep up the good work and I will do my very best to do the same. Let’s change this world together.

After the event we’ll post fun pictures and videos, oh, and I’ll tell you how it went!

Have a great night!

Much love,

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Filed under Classic Mama Alice, Discoveries, for fun, giving thanks, gratitude, grief, Lauren Muscarella, mother, parent, positive tradition, Trauma to Art (T2A)

The History of Father’s Day

Happy Father’s Day! Today I want to do three things: 1. Spread the Father’s Day love. 2. Share the history of Father’s Day with you. 3. Spend the day with the best father in the whole wide world. (Ok, I’m biased.)

Cake for my dad.

Cake for my father from Quebrada Baking Company in Arlington, Mass.

The History

One forward-thinking daughter Mrs. Grace Golden Clayton started Father’s Day in Fairmont, West Virginia on July 5, 1908 to remember her recently deceased father and the 210 fathers who died in the Monongah Mining disaster on December 6, 1907. Clayton chose July 5 because it was the Sunday nearest to her father’s birthday.

A Father’s Day Timeline:

1908: The first father’s day is celebrated in Fairmont, West Virginia.
1910: Sonora Dodd from Spokane invents her own celebration of Father’s Day inspired by Mother’s day.
1913: A bill to accord national recognition of the holiday is introduced in Congress.
1916: President Woodrow Wilson wants to declare Father’s day a national holiday, but Congress resists fearing commercialization.
1957: Maine Senator Margaret Chase Smith writes a proposal accusing Congress of ignoring fathers for 40 years while honoring mothers, thus “[singling] out just one of our two parents”.
1966: President Lyndon B. Johnson issues the first presidential proclamation honoring fathers, designating the third Sunday in June as Father’s Day.
1972: President Richard Nixon signs Father’s day into law.
1972: One attendant to Nixon’s proclamation of Father’s Day starts to recover Clayton’s legacy.
Today: Fairmont, West Virginia is promoted as the “Home of the First Father’s Day Service”.

Enjoy the day! Leave me a note and tell me how you celebrate the day. I love hearing about family traditions.


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Filed under father, for fun, giving thanks, gratitude, holidays, Lauren Muscarella, mother, parent, positive tradition

Dare To Be Unpopular

Growing up there was a food rule in our house. We could pick two foods we didn’t like. After that we ate what Mama Alice and Papa Joe decided. This menu included some great foods like pesto and some undesirables ones like overdone, unseasoned broccoli and salt-free lentil soup.

My father’s response when we reminisced the other day was, “You could have salted the lentil soup yourself. It was an available condiment.” Then he motioned like he was extending an imaginary saltshaker to me and said, “Here. Have a ball for yourself.” (Aside: Have a ball for yourself is a Papa Joe signature expression.)

For most of my childhood we were meat-free with an occasional fish or poultry guest appearance. My mother made everything from scratch including some scrumptious soy burgers and tasty hummus, tabouleh feasts. This choice made my parents unpopular at home rarely and unpopular in the outside world constantly. They were bona fide weirdos. No meat? Blasphemy. No sugar? When I say freak you say show.

My Dinner

Some yummy homemade hummus aka my dinner tonight.

I watched my mother combat her in-laws, her friends, my friends’ parents, the know-it-all passerby, and her children. (Aside: Mostly we were on board but have you heard of these things called Pop Tarts? When I was 8 I wanted some of THAT!)

Unpopularity is not synonymous with isolation or segregation. Conversely it isn’t a license to feel superior. My mother struck a balance of holding onto her ideals while graciously accepting others’ right to disagree. She never pushed her ideas on anyone and she never asked for permission.

My parents’ decision by association made me unpopular. Those times spent arguing on the schoolyard about Jello containing animal bones prepared me for a lifetime of daring to be unpopular. At the same time her choice never prevented me from doing something I wanted to do. It just meant that when I was doing it I couldn’t eat until my mommy brought my tofu hot dogs to the party.

I’m so grateful my mother cared enough to bring me my ‘weird’ food. The older I get the more I see how valuable an experience that was. Daring to be unpopular empowers you to live a life you truly love. You are free to be yourself. Based on my experience and some informal independent research it doesn’t hurt to have a good sense of humor and pureness of heart.


Ok maybe now that 60 percent of the population is overweight and health food is all the rage my parents are entitled to a giant “I told you so.” However, humility is a virtue Mama Alice valued dearly.


Filed under Classic Mama Alice, Lauren Muscarella, mother, parent

Cinderella Ate My Daughter: A Must-Read

As a kid my mother thought it was very important that I have a vanity set.  She wanted one as a girl but her Depression-era parents refused. The room she shared with her older sister was oppressively decorated in drab shades of brown. At night I would dream of time traveling to 1960 to sow her a flowery bedspread and adorn her room with the beautiful, albeit girlie, things she generously gave me.

Cinderella Ate My Daughter is a must-read for anyone who wants to contribute to the new wave of genuine female empowerment to come. Click this image to find out more about CAMD.

With this is mind, I checked out Cinderella Ate My Daughter by Peggy Orenstein from the library. I cracked open the book prepared to defend my femininity, my extensive childhood Barbie collection and my favorite Disney princess Cinderella. I knew Peggy and I would agree that Cinderella is not a role model. God only knows what the Prince did in part two. Traveled too much for work? Didn’t support her new cupcake business? Fathered a child with the housekeeper? Then Peggy taught me being a little girl today is a lot more complicated than warded off delusions of a Prince embodying fulfillment.

I was riveted to learn about the complexity of raising a girl in a Web world saturated with sophisticated and ruthless marketers. Reading it felt like a portal into my mother’s brain. Some of the same things my mother wanted for me, Peggy wanted for her daughter: to find a giving life partner, to pursue a fulfilling career, to develop a healthy relationship with sex and sexuality.

My mother made mothering look so effortless. It hadn’t occurred to me that she may have been just like Peggy agonizing between censoring poor quality toys and media that send the wrong message about femininity and the right level of exposure needed to cultivate independent opinions. A deluge of memories from my childhood came back. The Make Your Own Book she gave me for Christmas rather than the blond doll with the bright pink bow. I flashed back to sitting in our den at age 7 listening to her read me the biographies of Sandra Day O’Connor, Martina Navratilova and Golda Meir.

Lady Gaga

'Be a leader, be someone that is kind, audacious and helps to push the boundaries of love. Be a friend to someone that is bullied. If there is a girl in your class that never gets talked to and that is always walking by herself, be cooler than anybody else. Go sit beside her and know that you are a part of the globalization of love around the world.' - Lady Gaga in Metro

I wrote about eight versions of this blog post trying to find the right way to express my gratitude to Peggy for her contribution to our gender as well as my gratitude for inspiring me to explore my relationship with my mother. Then Lady Gaga helped me figure it all out.

Out of creative frustration I hopped on the T headed to the Museum of Fine Arts. As usual I was collecting trash in the train car. In addition to gum wrappers and Dunkin’ Donuts cups (yuck!), I was picking up a ton of copies of Metro, Boston’s free commuter paper. On Tuesday Lady Gaga served as editor-in-chief. Her haunting, makeup-drenched eyes kept staring at me. Finally I relented to peruse its contents.

Lady Gaga, active proponent for social justice and human rights, was quoted as saying, “Push the idea of what a role model can be. Sometimes the most unassuming characters are the best role models.” In CAMD Peggy explored the topic of role models from Hillary Clinton to Barbie to Hannah Montana. But Lady Gaga’s words resolved my dilemma. Perhaps showing my gratitude means cultivating my relationships with dignified women, striving to be an admirable role model myself, and embodying what I want for the future of my gender.

Oh, and saying thank you.

Thank you, Peggy Orenstein. You’ve inspired me to become a greater and more active proponent for genuine female empowerment. The world is a much better place with your book in it.


Filed under giving thanks, gratitude, Lauren Muscarella, mother, parent