On a Severe Clear Day

Severe Clear: It’s an aviation term used to describe a day so bright and clear with unhindered visibility for miles.

That’s what it was like September 11, 2001. Blue skies. Not a cloud to be seen. The weather was perfect on the northeastern seaboard. A perfect day to travel. To fly.

September 10, Midnight.

The flight back from Southern California was long—especially with two toddlers even if there were four adults between them. The luggage missed the connection. Car seats will show up later on our front lawn. But our friends were waiting at the gate to cart us all home. The last time we will ever be greeted like that in an airport.

September 11

8:30 a.m.

I should have been in the office 30 minutes ago. I’m not running this errand Hoosh asked me to run—the traffic is too choked in the direction I need to go. I turn around and head to work. A perfect day to drive and our brand new minivan is a comfortable ride.

Sometime before 9 a.m.

Booting up my Mac. Getting my stuff settled for the day. Loving the windows in my office that let the bright morning light in. Our maintenance guy Don comes on the loudspeaker to say there was a plane crash at the World Trade Center in New York City. Sometime like that happened in Texas a few weeks ago. Some guy in a Cessna had a heart attack mid-flight and clipped a building. That’s probably what happened. Poor pilot.

Laverne comes by my door looking at me quizzically. Should we check this out? Denise’s office has a TV and we have the keys because she’s not in today. We head down the hallway, unlock her door, and flip on the set to NBC and the Today Show. Katie Couric is reporting and we see an image of the first tower hit billowing plumes of smoke. I can’t tell how big that plane was. Why was a little prop plane flying so high? Katie and Matt Lauer don’t know what’s going on. They are relying on a helicopter flying nearby to tell them something.

9:03 a.m.

Then we gasp and scream at the same time. We just saw a commercial jet slam into the South Tower. This is not an accident, I say. This has to be a terrorist.

Between then and 10 a.m.

We watch in disbelief. Laverne is from New Jersey. She needs to call people. I need to tell someone. I call my parents in California and though it is 6 a.m., I wake them up and tell them to flip the TV on right now.

The towers hold a lot of meaning for our family. We were New Yorkers for a time and those buildings were where we took visiting friends and family. We’d ride the super-fast elevators to the observation deck and stand outside for pictures. Over 100 stories in the sky. Forty-some years later and I still can feel the wind whip through my five-year-old hair.

I call my husband and tell him to find out where his brother is. The brother that works in lower Manhattan. I tell him what happens. He tells me he’s driving and will call him and tell his parents. He says he’s driving by the Pentagon and will be at his office soon.

After 10 a.m.

Everyone is in the office now. We head to an empty room with a much larger TV set up and watch and watch and watch. We see bodies drop to the earth until the cameras stopped showing that. We see people hanging out of windows trying to escape the unbearable heat from burning jet fuel. We see anchors and reporters and people on the street trying to make sense of what is happening.

The camera cuts to images of the Pentagon. It has been hit by another plane. We hear there are more planes hitting buildings. Then no planes hitting buildings. Fighter jets are up and they will shoot planes down if they have to. I call my parents again. We are hearing we need to stay off phone lines because they are getting jammed with the nation trying to call each other. Call people on the planes. Call anyone to tell them they love them. I say I might not be able to call for a while, but we are ok.

We are watching and witnessing and can’t comprehend what we are seeing. And then the South tower implodes. But there are still people in there. They didn’t get out. The firefighters and cops. They could not have made it down the stairs yet!

The clouds of debris and dust and particles of life blow through the streets and people run. Reporters and the cameramen try to go on until they are overpowered by the maelstrom, some knocked to their knees while they attempt to keep doing their jobs.

We are watching a horror film.

And then the second tower comes down. And we know more people have not made it out. Will never make it out.

Parents leave to pick up children from school. We are under no apparent threat a mere 30 minutes from Washington, D.C., but no one knows for sure. Will there be bombings next? Will this severe clear sky today soon be peppered with jets from a foreign nation raining down hell on our peaceful suburbs? It felt like anything could happen.

We find out a plane went down in Pennsylvania. I call my aunt who lives near Pittsburgh to see if it was near her. It wasn’t.

The reporters speculate that this plane was shot down. A plane full of civilians. In the United States of America. Then we hear that was not true. But a plane of civilians is lost.

We hear the President has been flying around in Air Force One and no one will report exactly where he is, for good reason. We all know people working in DC. And we start to hear about the mass evacuations from around the capital and the snipers now seen on the roofs.

My husband is ok. What was bearing down on the Pentagon was in his rearview mirror. But he did not see it.

By 1 p.m. they tell us all to just go home.

1:30 p.m.

The roads are so empty. And the blue sky is so empty. The flight path to Baltimore Washington International Airport crosses my commute home. There is always a Southwest jet in the sky coming in lower and lower on its descent to land. But not that day.

My toddler is napping on a blanket on the floor of our living room when I get home. My mother-in-law has the TV on and now we look at the smoky debris of what was once the World Trade Center twin towers. I see the skeletal remains of the entrance we’d walk into, the place we’d buy our tickets for the observation deck on our sightseeing missions. I watch my daughter sleeping—not quite two years old. What is this world we have brought her into? What will it be for her now? I’m scared.

Hoosh comes home in the afternoon. His brother fled Manhattan on foot—he was not near the towers. He crossed the Brooklyn Bridge and then was able to catch the train to Long Island.


We’ve watched coverage all day and into the night. We’re not sure what the plan is for work the next day. We are in shock. I worry about retaliation against people of Middle-Eastern descent because Hoosh is from Iran. Will this be like 1941 again? As they sift through this horrific terror, will they isolate people from that part of the world into camps as they did with the Japanese? I vow that my Indian self will go wherever he goes, that my family will stay intact. All feelings of security in these United States are gone at the moment. I don’t know how or where we go from here.

In bed, we sometimes hear the din of planes flying overhead. Tonight when I hear one I forget for a moment. Until I remember it’s a fighter jet patrolling DC airspace now.

20 Years Later

In the days and months and years to follow, the pieces came together. We found out who and why. We learned of people we knew or were somewhat connected to who perished that day. An entire family in my neighborhood—on American #77. The brother of a childhood friend who was in one of the towers on his first day of a new job. We heard of the near misses—people who were late to work that day, my sister’s friend who made it out in time. We learned to take our shoes off in airports and ditch our bottles of water before security. We say goodbye to our loved ones at curbs or security.

And in 2011 there was retribution on a compound in Pakistan. But not before 20 years spent on a war that hasn’t delivered a more peaceful world for anyone.

What has changed since? Everything and everyone.

Because of a severe clear day in September.

To Vax is to Live

We were riding high there for a hot moment, weren’t we? Those of us who were vaccinated taking vacations, going to Target without a mask on, breathing a lot easier when outdoors in heat and humidity, eating indoors in restaurants. But Delta, you’ve found a sure and able bodied vehicle on which to ride through the world and continue COVID’s path of destruction. That vehicle? The unvaccinated. Because of these stalwart believers in their immortality, unvaccinated children are now at risk of getting serious ill and then bearing the effects of severe health issues for the remainders of their lives. And others like them will get sick and likely die.

Those of us who got vaxxed may still contract COVID–but we won’t get deathly ill. However, we can pass the virus on to kids and those who are still immune-compromised and they can suffer. And because so many in the anti-vaxxing camp are still under the belief that the vaccine will 1. magnetize you 2. make everyone paralyzed 3. embed your body with a government-planted chip 4. prove to the world that yes, you indeed are mortal, etc., our hospitals are treating COVID patients again, our healthcare workers have really, and I mean, really had it with you all, and yeah, we’re back to masking up of the KN95 variety in Target again.

I have no problem with wearing a mask. Even if its hotter than hell outside, I’ll put a mask on if i’m going to be near anyone. And now that I’m working back in an office again, I will not be lulled into a false sense of normalcy or security just because our building is open again. In the conference room, i’m masking up–even though all my colleagues are vaccinated.

When are the unvaccinated and their ilk going to understand there is no pathway forward without getting vaccinated and wearing masks? You see, many will claim that everything is fine: businesses are opening again, airline travel is back up, Canada is letting us germy Americans over the border. You know, to prove that none of this is/was as serious as the “DEMOCRATS!!!” said it was. But what I think many fail to taking into account is that it is because a vaccination was rushed through and that at this point, at least 50% of Americans have received it that there hasn’t been more death and total economic collapse. Essentially, those who have been smart and unselfish are now carrying the “others” on our backs.

I have a dear friend who is a respiratory therapist. She has been on the front lines since this whole thing began. She has seen patients of every age intubated and eventually die from this virus. For a time the COVID patients dwindled down to nothing and the ICU at her hospital was again used for patients with serious conditions as per pre-COVID days. And now they are back. And 100% of them refused vaccination over these past few months. It doesn’t have to be this way.

I dearly wish the belligerent among us would stop and consider history. Why aren’t we talking about polio, measles, mumps, even rampant chicken pox outbreaks? Because the vaccines created to eradicate the scourge has saved us. “But, those vaccines took years, and this took months, and we don’t even know what it’s going to do???!!!!,” cry the naysayers.

All those vaccines were created to stop a serious problem. No one was sitting in a lab and thinking, “ummm today’s a light day, so maybe I’ll see if I can whip up a little something for Polio.” Scientists and doctors sped the process using the technology they had available and that took more time then it does now. And yes, there were naysayers whining and stomping their feet then, even as once-healthy children were rendered partially paralyzed from polio. In fact, in the 1950s, when it was imperative that teens get vaccinated for it, the numbers were so low the public health community had to harness an idea that has proven the test of time–celebrity endorsement. All they had to do was film Elvis getting his polio vaccine, and the masses followed.

It baffles me that a public health crisis has been hijacked by a band of political folks as proof that one side is trying to harm the other and the the ones resisting it are the true patriots or the ones that are really wiser than the scientists and doctors of the world. But it’s them and their children that are going to keep filling up the hospitals. If the grown ups survive, there is no telling how long it will take to get back to their normal health. And if the younger ones eventually test negative, they are going to carry the marks of this for their lifetimes.

And I’m not even addressing the marginalized communities who distrust the medical system of this country–for good historical reason. But they too are gambling with their lives.

We are all sick and tired of this. Literally. Get Vaxxed!

None of Yo Business

Scrolling through my Instagram feed as I do most mornings, I came across a picture of a 30-something influencer and her daughter smiling for a pic at a beach in Mexico. Said influencer is the mom of four children under the age of 10 (including a set of twins) and her body does not speak of such a thing.

Her blog launched her to the world of fitness apparel design and now she’s running a growing company (IVL Collective, if you’re interested) of premium activewear for women. As such, of course, one would feel that one needs to look the part, she does want to emulate her brand after all. Comments to the photo were, of course, nuts.

You see, for any woman in the know (such as myself), it is pretty obvious this already very slender woman has undergone a tummy tuck. She has been forthright about her breast augmentation years ago and her need for a redo as it is time for one. Side note: breast implants don’t last forever. You do need to get them redone every 10 years or so and report anything that seems not right about them to your doctor immediately. Now back to the story. This woman has also mentioned her want of getting a tummy tuck before. She also works very hard for her body as evidenced by her numerous workout class-related posts.

Anyways, the comments on her picture ran the gamut from women spouting off all the oohs and aahs and general female cheering, as one does, to people calling her out for her tummy tuck and chastising her for 1. Getting one; 2. Not reporting it to all her fans and followers.

And so here I am feeling the need to weigh in. Folks, what women choose to do with their bodies is their ding dang business that can be as private or as public as they want it to be. Each of us may have “rules” about what we are open to in terms of self-improvement, and while the body positivity movement is a good and necessary thing in society today, that must also include a woman’s right to do what she wishes to do to be her best possible self, as she determines. And it’s no one’s business but her own. If other women want to feel envious, disappointed that such results were not achieved “naturally,” judgmental that a woman would go to such lengths instead of accepting what has been dealt them, etc., those are issues that they must deal with for themselves. For the women that seek help through a variety of ways to take control of their bodies and lives to feel great again, more power to them.

Why? I repeat: It’s no one’s business but their own.

As a mother of two good-size babies who had crappy belly skin elasticity, my mid-section was TRASHED after baby #1. Baby #2 neither improved nor further destroyed the mid-section, just gave it a little more of a beating. At the time (22 years ago), no one was talking about diastasis recti and what happens to the abdominal muscles during pregnancy, nor was there any information out there on how to help the problem through proper corrective exercise. Ladies: crunches and sit-ups make it worse, and guess what I did a lot of? Crunches and sit-ups. Now if those muscles did correct themselves and regain their rightful place, there was still the continental road map of the United States with highways and byways etched on my belly thus rendering the skin shot to hell. What that meant is that no amount of exercise and weight loss was going to fix skin that was beyond fixing. And believe me, I tried.

So, after working hard for four solid years after my last baby was born and the baby factory was shuttered, I consulted a plastic surgeon about abdominoplasty. I did that after completing two half-marathons, losing all the baby weight (from both babies, mind you), even trying various creams and rubs—basically doing everything I could physically do to regain a mid-section I could feel good about. The goal was never to wear a bikini again or be able to wear crop tops, etc. I wanted my mid-section to match the rest of the body I consistently worked hard on. My hubby, who had witnessed what I put myself through over the years was in total support. Not that he wanted this wife with tight abs, but said he admired my work ethic and because of that, he felt I deserved to get the results I wanted.

And so I got a tummy tuck over 13 years ago and it is one of the best decisions I’ve made. I’m also so grateful to my husband not just for his support, but for how well he cared for me post-op. He was and still is, my greatest strength.

I chose not to share about this till now because it’s no one’s business. But in the spirit of solidarity with women who choose this route and get all kinds of passive/aggressive comments, or flat-out insults, or feel the need to lie about it for fear of what others think and say about it, I’m being honest about my experience. This is to say, as I will always say for myself and other women: Our bodies, Our choices.

Women, when are we all going to stick up for each other just in the spirit of kindness toward one another? Are we still giving voices to the inner 7th-grade mean girl when we are grown women with educations, careers, marriages, partnerships, and children to raise? Seriously? To those women who feel the need to weigh in with negativity, I say, get a life. To the rest of female-kind just trying to get through with their business, you are heard and seen and cheered for.

Let’s all do more of that.

Do You Have an Exercise Personality?

In the 1980s, there was this actress who is now in her 80s and still getting arrested for protesting things she feels are unjust. Her name is Jane Fonda and while our parents might best know her for Barbarella or being called Hanoi Jane, she’s the one most credited for launching home workouts and an overall fitness craze that has only grown since then.

You can still find her workouts on Amazon Prime, and if you do check them out, you’ll notice some of her moves are still in play today in many group fitness classes. Now if you were down to don shimmery tights, a high cut leotard, and leg warmers, from an aesthetic point of view, her workout might have been right up your alley. But what if you weren’t? In this block of time where anyone who wanted to be bodaciously fit and young-looking subscribed to the aerobics trend and that wasn’t your cup of tea, were you relegated to a life of unfitness?

If you could track the trajectory of fitness trends since the 1980s, you would be well familiar with Reebok Step, Tae Bo, Hip Hop, Body Pump, dance cardio, dance sculpt, Insanity, Tracy Anderson, P-90X, Les Mills, Yoga, Pilates, OrangeTheory, Pure Barre, etc… I could go on. And this list doesn’t include walking, running, swimming, and traditional weight training.

Are we supposed to dip our toes into the pool of all of them? Of course not!

As fitness modalities have become better developed and accessible to the masses, it has become easier and easier to find activities that speak to us—your exercise personality.

A lot of people on the fence about committing to a fitness lifestyle find the idea of physical activity daunting. If you were to believe Instagram or Beach Body informercials it would appear that the path to a better body and greatly improved health involves doing some really hard stuff. Well, it doesn’t.

So, if you feel awful because you dread intense, high-energy workouts and when you have tried them you feel closer to death than anything, that’s ok. Does yoga numb your mind and body to absolute boredom? Do you need burpees and EDM to feel better? That’s cool too.

The point I’m making—and this is gleaned from a lot of years trying many different workouts, earning a personal training certification, and finally understanding that we are wired to do different things—is that each person has unique exercise DNA. The key to reaping all the benefits from a workout plan is to do what you are already hard-wired to do—and feel good about that.

How do you find out your exercise personality? You already know. Think about activities—if you aren’t intrigued, your body might be telling you that isn’t your workout. Even better is if you try something and feel worse for it, or don’t find a connection to it. If that’s the case, move on.

Your workouts should be something you feel good about returning to. They should be something you look forward to doing (for the most part—we all have our days it all sucks). We are lucky to be living in a digital age that has transformed the fitness world. Your greatest asset to finding modalities that are meant for you is YouTube, IG Tv, etc. Look up things. Watch how they are performed. Try something out. See how you feel and how you connect to it.

Most of all, don’t compare yourself to people you know or people you wish you knew on social media. You will get the most out of fitness if it is right for you. Find your unique path forward in the world of movement. At the end of the day, that’s all exercise is: moving your body. So align yourself with the style of movement that makes you feel good and be consistent.

And watch the Olympics this month. I tell you what—nothing is more inspiring to the goal of getting in shape than watching all those badasses tear it up in their particular sport!

You got this!

If you want to hear more about this topic, including the story of my first experience with OrangeTheory, subscribe to my podcast, The WiloPod.

Photo by Jonathan Borba on Unsplash

What About Your Friends?

Most of us grew up seeing our parents with friends of their own. If those friends had kids that you were friends with, so much the better. Sometimes these friends were the people your parents saw from time to time, and other times they were the kind of friends that would be second parents. I personally never game to much thought to the kinds of friends and friend-relationships my parents had. I assumed they were just grown-up versions of the friendships I had–minus sticker collections and crushes on boys in Tiger Beat.

But friendships in adulthood are indeed different. I can only speak from my experience, but here’s what I’ve discovered. From kindergarten until I got together with my husband, the single most important force in my life were my friends and our relationships. Everything that mattered to me was about them–spiritual, social, emotional life–it all centered around my friends. They were the ones I discussed everything with, the ones I laughed with, cried with, and complained to.

Then I met my husband who very quickly became the greatest best friend I could have ever hoped for. Now the innermost workings of my mind and my heart were opened to him. And then there was this very deep and intimate relationship we were developing ourselves. And when we got married and especially when we became parents, priorities shifted.

I think that happens for a lot of us when we got through transitions in young adulthood and moving forward. And it also depends. Maybe a marital relationship doesn’t offer that type of best friendship and the close adult friends of either spouse are still the people to turn to. Perhaps even if your marriage/friendship relationship is incredibly close and fulfilling, you still have great bonds with best friends albeit you don’t see each other with the frequency and spontaneity as before.

Friendships in adulthood flow with the seasons. Often parents of kids the same age find reasons to be close, after all that season of life comes with a lot to bond over. But eventually, kids grow up and even if they are friends, their paths diverge. If the adults had things in common outside of the children, the relationship can grow in this “empty nest” season. But sometimes once the kids are out of the picture, you realize you didn’t have much in common to begin with and the goals and paths ahead are not lining up.

If chic lit and sitcoms are to be believed, all moms are instantly best friends who never compete with each other and are sources of amazing support to all mothers in the friend group. They are endlessly affirming, selfless in the face of their own struggles, have each other’s backs, and are never judgmental of each other and parenting skills or lack thereof.

What a sweet world that would be, huh? Being completely candid here, I have never found that type of camaraderie of women and fellow mothers at any stage of parenthood. The moms in my daughter’s preschoolers weren’t friendly. I was a lot younger than most of them and the fact that my daughter and I have different skin tones led many of them to treat me as if I were her nanny. In elementary school for both my kids, the other moms were cordial, but I didn’t click with them in any meaningful way. Maybe it was a vibe I gave off–I am shy and hate making small talk for the heck of making small talk. I abhorred the birthday parties where I had to stay with my kids for the stilted and waste-of-time conversations I would try to force out with some of the other parents. That sounds horrible, I know. But can any of you relate?

I will say, outside of my own school and work situations, it has been hard to make friends in adulthood. But friendships are still so needed. I’m very fortunate to have a husband who is 100% behind girls nights or weekend trips with a best girlfriend. But with competing work schedules, children in different stages of life than mine, or just disinterest in doing anything outside of their homes and families, I have not had much luck in cultivating adult friendships of my own.

When you are in the heady days of early childhood through your kids leaving for college, your family life is the focus. It was that way for me and I wouldn’t have it any other way. But when they start doing things on their own and you start getting pieces of your life back with surety, what then? Creating meaningful connections are important, but can be tricky. And I don’t know that I have solutions to share as I’m navigating this myself. Now that September will bring a new phase of my life as an empty nester at the ripe old age of 46, I completely see this next season as I time to pursue as many things as I can outside of the home–things that raising children took priority over. And hopefully, adult friendships will blossom because of it.

Keep your eyes out for a podcast on this topic coming soon.

What have your experiences with adult friendships been like? I’d love to hear from you!

Photo by Joel Muniz on Unsplash