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There are hundreds of refugee children stranded in NYC right now.

There are hundreds of refugee children stranded in NYC right now.

photo credit: @MarkLevineNYC on Twitter

Ever since the news of immigrant families being separated at the borders - children taken from their parents and parents from their children - has permeated the headlines, we have been consumed with these stories.

As owners of a business that serves families, but more importantly, as parents, we have tried to understand, if possible, on even the smallest level, what these refugee families seeking asylum must be going through. We have tried to visualize our own families at a border crossing being torn from each other and our reactions to that sudden and brutal separation.  But this exercise only lasts 10 - 15 seconds because it is unimaginable for a sustained length of time. If the mere thought of having our children taken from us (and them being further separated from each other) with no way to be in touch and no information of where they are or how they are doing is too much to tolerate - what can the reality possibly be like? 

A friend forwarded us a newsletter from New York City Council Member, Mark Levine. His office was collecting donations (clothes, diapers, toys) for the children stranded in NYC – many of them completely alone and thousands of miles away from their parents or from anyone they know. We started looking to his office for updates. The response to their original call for material donations was incredible. They are now in the next stage of assistance. We are passing on this information for those who are also looking for a way to support the children.

Needed most now -- financial donations for the non-profits that are currently caring for the children.  

Contributions to one of the organizations providing legal and social service support to these children…
The Northern Manhattan Coalition for Immigrant Rights: offering legal defense for families seeking asylum or facing deportation

The Legal Aid Society: providing deportation defense and other immigration legal services to unaccompanied minors, adults with children, and other vulnerable individuals

The Safe Passage Project: an immigrant legal services program for unaccompanied minors and refugee children separated from their parents.

The Door: providing unaccompanied adolescent migrants in NYC with housing and other social services

Kids in Need of Defense: works to ensure no child appears in immigration court without an attorney.

The New York Immigration Coalition: advocating for immigrant rights in NYC and nationally.

Make the Road New York: a grassroots immigrant advocacy organization that’s been deeply engaged in fighting against the family separation policy.

Volunteer opportunities
There are volunteer opportunities to help sort the original call for donations. 
You can sign up for a volunteer shift here.

The foster agencies are all in need of financial contributions, Spanish-speaking foster parents, and a limited number of general volunteers (for security reasons and to protect the safety of the children, the organizations need time to vet foster parents and volunteers, as such, responses may take some time). For information on how you can help each individual organization see:


Why Every Parent Needs More Headspace & Meditation

The mother of a 6-month-old baby rushes to the kitchen as soon as her daughter falls asleep so she can mash organic avocado into the BPA free glass bowl she just bought. You know the kind; the one promising to seal in nutrients. As her breastmilk seems to be dwindling with each passing day, making her feel insecure and insufficient, she feels she has to provide supplemental nutrition where she can. She stops briefly to read 4 lines of an article about what she’s “supposed” to do when, alas, nap time is over and it’s back to parenthood. As she picks up her bundle of magic, she realizes she’s yet to brush her teeth.

The mother of a 6-year-old child rushes home from the office to do “homework” with her first grader wondering if all little boys swing from the headboard while they are reading. The human brain can absorb vocabulary while upside down, can’t it? Is he the only one who doesn’t read chapter books yet? Is she the only mom trying to squeeze the love of an entire afternoon into a few precious, tired hours before bed?

The mother of a 16-year-old teenager watches her daughter walk out of the house to go to a birthday party wearing a half shirt. Is it okay if she suggests something with more coverage or does it means she’s sexualizing what is simply a fashion trend?  She swallows her inner disapproval with a smile that says: “I love you no matter what,” only to receive a comment about how much homework is on deck for the next day…that of course after the ride to soccer and then the drive to lacrosse in another state. Her over-scheduled brain will still figure out how her daughter will fit piano and cello practice in before the big recital. “Oh, and I forgot…Mom, can you set your alarm for 6am? I need you to quiz me in science.”

Every phase of parenthood is both blissfully fulfilling and (if you’re all in) utterly exhausting. You love and you love, and you give and you give, but some days you wonder, where did I go?  Is there a pause button I can press in the struggle to find myself?

Enter meditation.

Meditation carries the answers to so many issues facing parents and yet many of us are too busy to slow down, let alone sit in silence for 10-15 minutes. There are lots of ways to get started and workshops to explore but the simplest way is right in your back pocket…on your smartphone. My absolutely favorite app is called Headspace. Headspace is ideal for new meditators or for busy parents because it’s an app that makes it all accessible. You don’t have to sit cross-legged. You don’t have to practice yoga. You don’t have to be versed in Buddhist philosophy.  You just have to commit to taking 10 minutes for yourself, every single day.

Headspace’s incredibly varied theme packs range from managing anxiety or stress, to finding productivity or happiness. Whether you are looking to be more productive in your days or heal childhood wounds, meditation has a (different) answer for each one of us. I absolutely love my job but I am so busy these days I sometimes zone out mid-conversation at work, only to realize it’s just my mind trying to take a nap. I am immersed in the exciting uptick of a growing national franchise, our super fun kids’ music program songs for seeds, and I am all in. Every day, I get to talk to women who want to work for themselves after having a baby and I savor the moments watching them succeed as new business owners. But being all into it at work sometimes means being all out of it in life. I’ve been so frenetic lately that I found myself making lists of things I needed to do in my mind while talking to someone! Meditation has taught me to how to come back into myself and get fully present. To focus. The results have been obvious (to me). I have many friends who also seem to crave meditation and they ask how I can possibly fit it into my hour-to-hour work days. I invite them to simply try Andy’s soothing and knowledgeable voice on Headspace for just 10 days, 10 minutes a day, and check back with me. Every single time I hear words of positive change…and in such a short window of time.  

Meditation offers a safe space for each of us to start a conversation with ourselves, however afraid we might be to have it.  What parent doesn’t long for the time to explore the musings in the mind and simply observe them, without judgement? Meditation can be exactly that “pause button” we crave as busy parents.

In that pause, we can learn many lessons that support not only our parenting journey but all of our relationships.

Meditation teaches us about letting go.
Meditation helps us internalize letting go which may be the most difficult task of a loving parent: letting your infant sleep on their own, letting your toddler explore their boundaries, letting your young child lose or fail, letting your teenager individuate, letting your young adult enter the great big world. Meditation is a practice that supports our efforts to relinquish control and simply celebrate the various roads our children will travel.

Meditation teaches us to be comfortable in uncertainty. 
After 12 years of working with families I have not met a parent who isn’t racked with uncertainty. How do I potty train my strong-willed child?  How come my kid won’t eat anything that’s green? Can I get my child into the best preschool? What should I do if my child doesn’t make the soccer team? What should I say when my teenager admits she’s been drinking? What do I do if my child is moving in a direction I didn’t expect? We long for answers but the truth is that life simply unfolds. Meditation teaches us to sit with the uncertainty until we get to the moment when we need to act. And when we do, we respond in a calmer and more centered way.

Meditation teaches us to be fully present.
In these incredible tech-heavy times, I see too many parents on their phones while their child is talking to them, and too many kids with their face in their devices when they should be having face to face conversations. Meditation encourages us to step out of what we are doing and get into the present moment. There is no guilt in being swallowed by your inbox (I am) or working all day only to miss your child’s dinner and bath. But in those 30 rushed minutes before bed, meditation teaches us how to make those fleeting minutes the most present time you can spend with your child. I always tell parents it’s the quality of time you spend with your child, not the quantity. Meditation supports that line of thinking and the benefits are endless.

Meditation teaches us to be more empathetic and really see through the lens of our child. 
My babies are now teenagers and I have a deep well of empathy for their experiences.  But when I’m stretched thin or overly exhausted, I can easily forget that my way isn’t the only way. Meditation teaches us to be more sensitive to their needs, even if they aren’t meeting ours. The best part of this gift is its translation into every other relationship in life.

Meditation actually makes us less tired and more patient.
If I could capture the number one thing parents have told me over the last decade at apple seeds, it very often comes back to, “I need more sleep.” Babies keep us up all night because they need us and teenagers keep us up all night because they don’t need us. It seems counter-intuitive but taking just 10 or 20 minutes out of your day to meditate actually adds to how much you get done in that day. Your level of patience goes up and you complete more tasks in a less frenetic way. Meditation can improve your sleep which makes us less agitated. I used to pop a pill to fall back to sleep and now I just reach for Headspace. Headspace is the healthiest (and cheapest) cure for insomnia on the market.

Meditation is one of the greatest gifts we can give to our children. 
We spend so much time and money on our kids and I often wonder if the greatest gift we could ever give to them is actually free. In this crazy world, as more and more screens dominate our children’s minds, teaching them to meditate and be present or mindful is a gift they will carry throughout their lives. Not many other things we give our kids can compare. Meditation can teach a child to step out of their mind and observe their thoughts, helping them manage natural anxieties, increase their level of empathy, and help them navigate the throes of life.

Someone once told me that I should take note of how I feel immediately after doing something. If it doesn’t feel positive, then I should stop. If it does, then I should seek more. I keep seeking meditation because it always shows up. It’s like a daily morning date with my mind, and a safe space to explore questions where I’m still longing for answers. It’s a way for me to find separation from issues that can overtake me and allow new ideas to flow in. It’s a way for me to start my day more centered and grounded, ready to parent with calmer energy, and ready to walk into my office and face anything that comes.

Perhaps most importantly, meditation is a way for me to let go of things I hold on to and internalize the deep appreciation for every single ounce of what I’ve got.  What busy parent doesn’t need that reminder?

Alison Berna is one of our four co-founders of apple seeds and songs for seeds, and is also the mother of twins Maddie and Sydney, and son Jack.  


Radical Generosity - #celebratewomen

On May 10th we attended the New York Women’s Foundation annual Celebrating Women Breakfast, with deep thanks to our friend Randi Zinn, author, mindfulness and wellness expert, and founder of of Beyond Mom and the podcast 'On Air with Beyond Mom'. Beyond Mom is harnessing a movement of women who are taking back their right to self-love, self-care and community as a pathway to fulfillment. 

Our minds were blown by the collective power of the over 2000 women gathered on the 6th floor of the Marriott Marquis in Times Square. The positive energy towards change and the unanimous desire for activism was palpable. We are still unpacking the depth of the inspirational words spoken by some of the strongest female leaders of our time including Dr. KimberlĂ© Crenshaw, Tarana Burke and Lorie A. Slutsky, President of The New York Community Trust.

Our highlight was hearing stories by the founder of the #metoo movement, Tarana Burke. Tarana has spent 12 long years fighting for resources to support the healing path of girls and women affected by sexual violence. The New York Women’s Foundation uses the tag line 'Radical Generosity' so how fitting that they should  announce the launch of a fund seeded with a $1 million grant to Tarana and her #metoo movement. We hope that many others will follow. We're sorry it’s taken us so long to catch up to you Tarana. We are here by your side and stand firmly in support of every woman’s right to feel safe and supported at home, in the workplace and in all areas of their lives.

Please visit 
www.nywf.org for more information and to show your support to women who are making differences both big and small in race relations and gender parity...adding value to the most relevant and important discourse of our time. 


5 Steps to Help Women Find Their Path of Vitality

Author Virginia Woolf said, "For most of history, Anonymous was a woman."

Not anymore.  

In honor of International Women’s Day, the global medical technology company BD (Becton Dickinson), invited my older sister Karen, my younger sister Jill, and me to speak about being an entrepreneur to a workplace full of diverse, curious and compassionate people. One of my professional and personal mentors, Gary Cohen, led the charge (in between changing people’s lives and making a difference in this world) and he moderated our panel with his usual warmth and humor.  


As working mothers, we spoke about seeing work and life as something to blend, rather than fighting the natural tension in the struggle for “balance."  As business owners, we spoke about filling the gap we saw in our respective fields -- taking risks and overcoming the challenges that inevitably get in the way when creating something new. 

Making a pivot in your life, particularly in your career, is no easy feat. But I talk to too many people who don’t seem satisfied in their jobs, don’t spend enough time with their kids, or don’t focus on caring for themselves. Somehow, this is especially true for women. We get busy and in the blur of it all, it’s easy to lose sight of what makes us really happy.  

The path to your authentic self is not linear. But if you slow down, your inner voices will insist you listen until you ultimately make the changes that lead you to your true vitality.

This process is clearer for me when I break it down into 5 steps to help follow your authentic path, either professionally or personally. 

First, you have to do the work. Listen quietly. Don’t ignore the nudge inside. What pulls at you in the spaces of things? What did you want to do when you grew up? Who did you want to be? Are you doing any of it?  Once you uncover that true passion — personal or professional - write it down. Commit to trying it now. 

Second, know your responsibilities. Just because you finally uncovered what you really want to do doesn’t mean you just up and do it. I want to climb mountains so that I can handstand on a summit every weekend, but I have three kids and a quickly growing franchise business…that passion serves no one but me. Understand how your own personal desires or new professional goals fit into your current life, and then align them with those responsibilities.  

Third, find your allies. The naysayers will be the first to show up. They will tell you you’re crazy or they will doubt any attempt to quit your job or write your book or run that marathon. Ignore them. Keep moving until you find the friends and family that support your goals, and who are willing to talk through those opportunities with you. You want to spend your time with people who build you up, not tear you down. 

Fourth, don’t let perfect be the enemy of good. It’s easier to wait until you get it exactly right, than it is to take a risk. I find that my women friends all too often strive for perfection or wait until the “perfect moment” to write that book or start their business idea or resurface a favorite hobby. We are waiting for the perfect time and the perfect place and the perfect manifestation of what it is we want to do. But good enough works too. And it’s a start. We forget that if it’s messy, you can go back and try again and again and again….until it works. 

Fifth and finally, develop the resiliency tool kit you will need in order to help you keep going when you begin to doubt the path you finally found. Now that you’re on your way to fulfilling your personal passion or your professional goal, you will inevitably come up against all kinds of stopping blocks. Self doubt. Doubt from your spouse. Doubt from your friends or colleagues at work. Not enough time. Not enough money. Not enough energy.

Building resilience take introspection. Whenever I doubt my often crazy (fun) path, I envision myself as a older woman in the final days of my life. Did I live the life I wanted to live? Did I live with passion and purpose? Did I prioritize the things that filled me up - like my kids, my passions, my true self? What was the story I wanted to tell with my life? Did I tell it?  

Each time you ask yourself these questions, it will help to realign you right back into your most vital space and your authentic self naturally emerges - at home, at work, and in all aspects of your life. 

I speak to so many new mothers who have a baby and then want to make a change. There is a common thread between these and our current songs for seeds franchise owners.  They want flexibility of their time, they want to work hard but with meaning, they want to blend that work with their children and they want to make an impact in their communities. I am grateful every day that I get to do this kind of work and meet so many women on this same path.  I find that once they begin to work for themselves and take that risk, they uncover a new way of being, and they are filled up with the satisfaction of being in charge of their own time and spending more time with their kids. 

My sisters and I started three very different businesses. Yet what we have in common was our desire to go to bed at night satisfied with who we are as people and to be in control of our own time. We all agree that living with purpose and pursuing your passion is paramount to everything. We all three somehow know that when we are happy, our kids are happy. We all three have strong business partners to help us stay on the path when we begin to doubt. And we all three know that we have each other when we need it.  

When thinking about making a change - personal or professional - the most difficult decision is to ACT. But if you’re on the path to happiness, you’ll know it. And when you find it, I promise the world conspires to meet you.