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Thursday, December 29, 2011

Why Aren't I Married? Heck If I Know

I've been sitting on this blog post by Tracy McMillan, 'Why You're Not Married," for weeks now, knowing I wanted to write a response, and wondering what it would be.

When I read her post I was perplexed - I'm not a bitch, slut, selfish (I'm the mother of three, it's pretty hard to be selfish and be a decent mom). I'm also not shallow, a liar nor do I think I'm not good enough. I don't think I have any of these (dis)attributes she mentions.

I've been married. Once. For twenty years. Hence the three children. I'm not bitter, angry, scared or still hung up on my ex. I just haven't married again.

So I wonder, (and you may too) why am I not married again? I think the bigger, million dollar question may be, do I want to be? The honest answer is, I don't know.

My friend KC might say it's because I'm a "bad chooser." She might be right. Or it may be that I haven't met the right guy at the right time.

Or, it could be that after having met my first husband at 17, marrying him at 20 and having my first child at 21 I needed to be on my own. But somehow, being on your own in our culture is code for defective.

When my marriage ended I had never been alone. When my last child left for college I was terrified to live alone. I compensated by going back to school, starting a novel, taking on a newspaper internship, joining a writing group and trying to rarely be home. Especially at dinner time. The thing I didn't do was glom on to a guy.

I needed my husband way too much. I never want to do that again. Maybe that's part of the reason I am still single. Perhaps like Liz Gilbert in "Eat Pray Love," there's a bit of a fear of losing that balance that I've found. I didn't venture to Italy, India and Indonesia to find it, but it's been hard-fought for.

Just because I haven't remarried doesn't mean I haven't been in love. I have been. Very much so. I'm just not sure if I need or want marriage to be the end game.

I may not know why I'm not married, or if I ever will be. But what I do know is it's not because there's anything inherently wrong with me. And I'm pretty sure the same could be said about many of the women who read that blog post.

What I do know is that during the time I haven't been married I've raised three kids who are now all amazing adults, I've created a career as a writer, written a novel and built a life that is mostly pretty happy.

Maybe someday a husband will be part of my equation, but I'd rather want that than need it. Of course I want love in my life, most people do. To love and be loved is wonderful. I don't know if I will ever marry again, though someone who can fix things and kill the scary bugs might be kind of nice...

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

To Be Resolute Or Not...

To Be Resolute or Not

In the past couple of days several people have asked me, “Do you make New Year’s Resolutions?” The truth is, no, not really.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a consummate goal setter. I always have something new to achieve, something I’m striving for. I just don’t believe in arbitrary start dates. For me. Maybe they work for you, if so, go for it.

What are some of the ever-shifting goals I’m working on, you might ask? Or maybe you won’t ask, but I’m telling you ten anyway.

1. To be grateful every day. It’s easy to get caught up in what isn’t, I’d like to focus on what is and be okay with it. It doesn’t mean I can’t want more, but being grateful for what I have and who I am is a good place to start.
2. Move my body every day. There’s something that calms me and yet also energizes me in working up a sweat every single day.
3. To love with abandon and never regret it. Loving someone is a gift that you shouldn’t keep to yourself. Tell the people you love how you feel, even if it’s awkward and scary. It’s something you won’t regret. Even if it’s not reciprocated, you will survive. Love is funny that way.
4. Always be true to myself, and never try to be someone else.
5. To realize I am wonderful, just as I am. I don’t need to be thinner, smarter, funnier or better at math to be loved. (this is the hardest goal for me)
6. Never lose my optimism and rose colored glasses. I am teased about my naiveté sometimes, and I don’t care. I’d rather believe in good and everyone’s potential than not.
7. Never stop striving, creating and trying even when it seems impossible. Hope truly does spring eternal.
8. Never stop being excited by life and all it has to offer.
9. Never apologize for the fact that I love adorable things, clothes and shoes. I can be smart, ambitious, talented and still rock a pair of heels and a really cute dress while talking on an iPhone with a panda sticking out of it.
10. Worry less, trust more. Things always work out as they’re supposed to, despite us.

When Alcohol and Drugs No Longer Work

There are a couple of reasons I've been hesitant to write about this topic. Partly because of the anonymous part of AA, and I hate to say, partly because I know a lot of people who are frankly, a little snotty about AA. In the end, I decided that since I'm not mentioning anyone, except my son, whose permission I have to write about, I am not divulging anything I shouldn't. And,though I have experienced a lot of teasing and judgement about AA, I decided I don't care what anyone else thinks, and perhaps those who criticize the loudest could perhaps stand to reevaluate their own relationship with various substances.

I am not an alcoholic or drug addict. I have certainly faced my own challenges, but addiction is not one of them. I have however spent my entire life surrounded by people who are. From my father, to a plethora of relatives, friends and eventually my son, I have witnessed a very ugly side of alcohol and drug use and abuse. Of course there are many who drink responsibly for whom it does not impact their lives or that of their loved ones, but when it turns that corner, AA is an incredible resource for those who chose to take a different path.

This past week I ventured out to where my oldest son lives to see him celebrate four years of sobriety. My younger son, his brother, came with me for the second year in a row. I have only been to four AA meetings in my life having attended each year of my son's sobriety, and each time am moved to tears.

My son celebrates at the rehab center he went to, twice, and I am always humbled by the people fresh out of detoxing getting a 24 hour chip. Often they're very young, looking shell-shocked, sick and like this is the last place they want to be. Often they don't get it yet, they are angry, resentful and not yet willing to take that first step - admitting powerlessness to drugs and alcohol to heart.

It took my son years to get that, and this is where I see the disconnect for people who dub themselves too smart, too cool, too anti-spirituality to buy into the 12 Steps. I've known many people who continue to slowly kill themselves and ravage the lives of those around them because they are way too smart to need AA. I've seen well-educated people in my own family who snub their nose at the folks who read the Big Book and attend meetings, they're too wise for that. Meanwhile they end up destroying their health, careers and lives of the people they supposedly love.

My son, by the admission of his sponsor and the director of this center, was destined for jail, a mental hospital (both of which he spent time in) or death. Toward the end of his run he was living in a moving van with a raccoon, panhandling for drug money. When he went from a psych ward after an overdose, back to rehab, he tells the story of letting go of thinking he was smarter than everyone else and just decided to do whatever they told him.

So, on Christmas that year he shoveled snow. For hours. He studied the Big Book, he listened to people who had come out on the other side and he slowly began to get it.

AA is not a cult, nor it is a group of religious fervents who try to indoctrinate people into their fold. It is a group that is dedicated to helping others overcome an affliction that is controlling their lives. My son said it well that night as he spoke to the group, "Using drugs or alcohol to deal with your emotions is never a good thing." And he's right.

The people I have met through him who are in AA are some of the most amazing people I've ever met. They are open, honest and working to live their lives to the fullest. They are no longer hiding from their feelings and fears, and they know they are never alone. Twenty four hours a day they can call someone who will listen and give them good advice. The most important of which is the solution is never in a bottle or a needle.

My son is now living a life he never could have before. He is an avid rock climber, in the process of starting a business, and getting ready to leave on a five week trip to Bali and Thailand to rock climb with a friend. He overdosed more times than I care to know, and by all rights he should be dead. But he's not, and now he lives his life with more passion and energy than ten others put together. He's no longer living a life where he's dulling his discomfort with drugs and alcohol, and while it's not always easy, he's wide awake and excited by what's next.

We are all so much stronger than we think we are, and we're even stronger when we stand together, supporting each other. Life can be damn hard and scary. Of course it's tempting to turn to something to dull the pain, to lessen the feelings of discomfort, but that's never a good long-term solution. Sooner or later the bill comes due, and how much better it is if you're not facing it alone.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Not Every Present Is A Gift

I have a bit of a history when it comes to Christmas gifts. Both giving and receiving. Some gifts have been really wonderful, like the year I got this amazing doll house that had people with magnets on the bottom that you moved around their super modern house with a long magnetic wand. I loved this toy. My dad and I spent a long time putting it together, well, I was 4, and I doubt I was much help, but I loved it.

When I was five I loved the show "Beany and Cecil." That Christmas I received a stuffed Cecil the sea serpent. He was big, and plush and soft, and even better? He talked! He had one of those pull cords and he would say things like “Hold on Beany, I’m coming!” I only had this precious toy for about an hour before I tripped and spilled milk all over it. After that Cecil’s speech was slurred and his soft, green coat was matted and coarse. He was more like a drunk and degenerate sea serpent from that point on, but being the frugal family we were, we didn’t replace him. I still played with him, but he was just a sad reminder of what could have been.

Two Christmas’s ago I agonized over what to get my then boyfriend for a gift. We’d been dating for a while and I wanted to do something really special for him. Finally, one night it came to me. I was going to take him to his favorite author’s home in Connecticut, in the interest of privacy, let’s call it the Schmark Wayne House. I even found an incredible inn where we could spend a romantic night; it was going to be perfect.

He couldn’t get together ON Christmas, which in hindsight should have been a big clue; somehow his campaigning for how totally awesome Boxing Day was didn’t really cut it. But I was so excited about his present I let it go.

When he came over on Boxing Day, which, by the way if you don’t live in England is just the day after Christmas, I presented him with his gift. I’d printed out the information about the Schmark Wayne House and the super romantic inn. I could barely contain my excitement. I’d never had much money to spend, but that Christmas I was able to splurge and was beyond thrilled to be able to give him a big gift. I presented him with the large envelope I’d decorated. He opened it and then, he just didn’t seem as excited as I thought he would be. My heart sank, but I just smiled and I opened my gifts from him. A picture frame, a T-shirt and a candle. It was then that I began to realize we were not having the same relationship. We broke up a couple of months later never having made that trip. I still have the shirt, the frame and the candle though, so it wasn’t a complete loss. And, I never had to spend the money on the trip, so I got to look generous and not spend a dime.

But, I have to say, the hall of fame of gift disasters happened about seven years ago. I never had much of a relationship with my father. He’d left our family and moved to Maryland when I was about 6. I’ve always wondered if it was the Cecil incident, but since Cecil could barely talk I never got anything out of him. Our contact was spotty at best through the years. He’d grudgingly come to my wedding in 1977, but I hadn’t seen him since. At one point I found out he’d moved to Ireland via a wife I’d never met. He’d me call every few years and ask me how much I weighed. Yes, this is true. And we’d have intellectual banter that was exhausting and usually humiliating since I’d seldom kept up with reading he deemed appropriate. He was a bit of an intellectual snob.

He seemed proud however that I had become a writer, even though I was writing about pop culture and not hard news. In his eyes I was supposed to be thin and pretty, anything I did beyond that was a bonus.

During my adult years it was rare to ever get gifts from him, but after he’d married his third wife – yes, it took three wives, each progressively closer to my age to see him through, he started to sometimes send something.

So when a package arrived that Christmas I was surprised, but touched. I’d sent him some photos of my three kids and myself, sans the 1977 husband, and was trying to do my best to be a good daughter.

I didn’t wait until Christmas to open his package. The day it came I had brought it up to my desk, sat down and opened it. I had to first make it through the copious amount of tape on the shipping envelope, and then made it to the brightly wrapped package, which by its shape and feel I could tell was a book. I was happy, I love books!

I tore open the wrapping paper, and when faced with the back of the book, turned it over. I sat there stunned for a second or two, and then burst out laughing. My father, the man who left when I was little, who was never a part of my life had decided the perfect Christmas gift to give me, his only daughter, was a copy of, “He’s Just Not That Into You.”

Friday, December 16, 2011

Fashion Gifts For the Fashionista on Your List!

When all else fails a gift certificate can be perfect.

Keep receipts in case returns are desired

Keep the gift recipient in the forefront of your mind. Don’t buy skinny jeans for your grandmother who prefers sweat pants, or a Christmas-themed sweater for your hipster daughter.

Size can be hard to assess. So think accessories. Stick to classics and keep it simple. Give a pair of great hoop earrings in the person’s favorite of gold or silver, a beautiful, simple bracelet, or perhaps a clutch that can go with everything.

Everyone loves a soft pashmina. These cozy wraps can be used as stoles, scarves or even a blanket on a plane. Pick a color that compliments the palette you most often see them in. I own about a dozen in all sorts of colors and patterns, almost all gifts from my world traveling daughter, and this time of year wear them almost every day.

Giving local is always a great idea. Small boutiques and jewelry stores are great places to find one-of-a-kind items that are original and unique.

A subscription to a fashion magazine like Elle, InStyle or Vogue can be a gift that is appreciated all year.

Be careful when it comes to lingerie since for the most part it can’t be returned. If you aren’t 100 percent about size or personal preference, a gift certificate to a local shop or online store like can be a great gift for someone special.

Don’t forget the guys! A super-soft cashmere scarf is always great. A very manly leather messenger bag can make carrying his assortment of devices much easier. A pair of leather

Converse Chuck Taylor sneakers are hip, yet far from grungy. And there’s always a cool watch. From super pricey to affordable, you can find something that will suit his style, whether he’s classic or edgy.

Going eco-friendly at shops like Shift in Hyannis is very fashionable and can make both you and the receiver of your gift feel good about what they’re wearing. There’s nothing softer than bamboo, or more comfortable than organic cotton.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Forget About "White Man Privilege," What About Blond Girl Privilege?

I hear women lament all the time about "white man privilege" and how the cards are stacked against us. Yes, in some ways they are. Sadly, women still don't earn as much as men in many occupations, and we are due to size and strength, often more vulnerable. We are more apt to be raped, attacked or otherwise taken advantage of.

But... yes, you knew there was a but coming, didn't you? As women we are much more powerful than we give ourselves credit for.

Over the last week or so I've kept track of how often people are nice to me, go out of their way for me, and do things for me, often completely unbidden. Men don't have that advantage. I've seen this with my own sons - how they are treated one way, and I another. I smile, I make a joke and I'm being given the free cookie. There is power in our gender that I think we don't even realize. In many ways, being less intimidating is better.

I'm not talking damsel in distress and needing to be rescued. Of course there are times all of us (male and female) need a rescue. I'm also not talking about manipulating people. I'm talking being aware of just how powerful you are, and not playing the victim card of thinking you're somehow disadvantaged because you weren't born with a penis.

In general these oft-referenced powerful white males die younger, have more stress-related illnesses, and end up spending their lives toiling in jobs they hate as they keep seeking the almighty dollar, never encouraged by family or society to think outside that restrictive box to follow a passion. It's why as a mother I've encouraged my sons (and daughter) to do just that - to find what they love to do and then create a way to make it their life.

I may not make a six figure income (yet) and I may not make co-workers tremble in fear of my wrath, But I, and other women, harbor a power that only our gender employs and we should never forget that.

I may not be able to wield a sword like Beatirx Kiddoe, and I may not have the money of Warren Buffett, but that doesn't mean I am not strong and yes, powerful. I am. We all are.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Even if You Need Someone - Whatever You Do, Don't!

Last night I read this post on Jezebel, one of my favorite sites. The headline caught my eye, "The 'N' Word For Women is Need and Needy." Now some commenters took umbrage with the headline, but I have to say, it got me to keep reading.

In general I would rather be called almost anything other than "needy." That word connotes the above photo - clingy and desperate, and far from appealing.

But there's a down side to trying to be need free -mostly because it's impossible. We all have needs, the obvious physical ones like for food and shelter, but we also have emotional needs - to be loved, cared for and appreciated.

Sadly, women have been schooled in the never-let-them-think-you-need-them-lest-you-appear-clingy-and-needy mindset. Well, I know I have. As a single woman I find it easier to count on no one, save the close women friends who I know will be there for me if I call out in desperation - and desperation is what it takes.

At this point, the thought of telling a man I need him fills me with angst, dread and makes my palms sweat. I met my former husband when I was 17, moved in with him at 18, married at 20 and had my first child at 21. Over the years I lost myself in that relationship. I didn't know who I was without him, and when he left, when I was 40, I was completely adrift. It took me a long time to find my balance on my own, and now I'm terrified, wondering - how do you keep that sense of self and let yourself need someone? And there's always the terrifying possibility of being disappointed by someone. So it sometimes seems it's easier to just not go there.

Trying to not need anyone is hard. And frankly kind of unnatural. We all have needs, and we all deserve to have them met. And perhaps being in balance with yourself shouldn't always the end goal. Maybe being a little off-balance is good.

Elizabeth Gilbert encountered the same conundrum on her journey in "Eat Pray Love," finally realizing, “To lose balance sometimes for love is part of living a balanced life.”

Perhaps it's time for me, and everyone else who struggles with this push and pull of to need or not to need, to realize that needing someone is good, needing someone means you've opened your heart up and let them in. It doesn't mean you can't still be strong and be yourself. Perhaps what it means is that you get to be even more than you could have been all alone. I think I need to think about that.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Four Years Can Make A Huge Difference

Four years ago today I was in a very different place than I am now.

In the middle of the night on December 7 I received a phone call from a friend of my oldest son telling me they had taken him to an ER. He told me that when he and their other roommate had returned home from an AA meeting, they found my son chopping wood. In the living room. He was unable to communicate with them, and when he moved on to chopping the furniture his roommates trundled him into the car and to the hospital.

This was far from the first emergency phone call I'd received about him. He had been a somewhat functional alcoholic for a long time, but over that year, when he was 27, he had also been battling heroin addiction. This call was the culmination of months of relapses, overdoses and arrests. I had come to sleep with a cordless phone on my pillow. A state of hyper-vigilance left me with a constant knot in my stomach and a sense of dread I couldn't shake. My other children suffered from the attention their crisis-ridden brother took away from them as they attended college and were making far less dangerous choices.

When I spoke to a doctor in the ER he said they were concerned that my son had suffered a psychotic break and that he may either be bi-polar or have schizophrenia. Strangely, drug addiction was a world I had grown to have a certain knowledge of and knew how to navigate. After fighting for my uninsured son to get into a decent detoxes and rehab centers, I'd become savvy about advocating for an addict, and always had hope he could recover. In my mind mental illness didn't offer that same possibility.

By the next day he was doing much better. He was in a locked ward and couldn't have visitors, but his dad, a medical professional, was able to see him. He had overdosed on a cocktail of prescription drugs and over the counter medications,creating a disastrous reaction that had thankfully worn off.

That was the last day he used drugs. As of December 7, he has been clean and sober for four years.

It hasn't been easy. A month after getting clean he awoke to the sober house where he was living surrounded by state police. An outstanding warrant stemming from a possession charge in Colorado brought them to his door. A week in jail for him, and countless hours dealing with lawyers and advocates for him later, and he was out.

Since then there's been no more drama. His commitment to his sobriety is inspiring, as is the help and support he constantly gives to others. He is the embodiment of what recovery can be if you commit to it.

I have always told my son I hit my bottom way before he did. Looking back I do not know how I made it through that time. There are times in life where you just put one foot in front of another. This was one of those. I'm someone who never gives up on people I love, and that determination is rewarded every single time I talk to him and know he's alive. Heroin takes people out fast. There are very few old addicts. I know I am incredibly lucky to have my son. Too many parents aren't so blessed.

Going through this changed me in many ways. I know what's important and what isn't. When you've watched someone you love come close to dying, many times, most everything else pales in comparison.

I would never say I'm glad for this experience, but I am happy to have made it to the other side with a strength and wisdom that is hard earned, and can perhaps help others. That's a pretty good gift to get, and even better to give.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Let's Not Let Our Daughters Grow Up to Be Bella Swan

Last night I went to see, "Breaking Dawn - Part 1," the third movie of four based on the Stephanie Meyer, "Twilight" trilogy.

I've always had a love/hate relationship with this series. Not unlike my relationship with chocolate chip cookies. Yes, they can be yummy going down, but there's always a certain amount of angst and regret involved in their consumption.

As I sat in the dark theater filled with impressionable young girls and women, I winced thinking that Bella could in any way be a role model for them. I always have. Thankfully my own daughter was a fully realized, independent college student when she and I read these books. While we consumed them somewhat guiltily, like the aforementioned cookies, I was never concerned that this strong, independent young woman would ever be anything like Bella Swan, the besotted vampire (and werewolf) lover.

When I came home from the movie and read this spot-on review by Lisa Schwarzbaum in Entertainment Weekly, I realized the discomfort I felt was not mine alone.

She writes:

"Nothing goes right for our resigned heroine. She hates the foot-squishing, wobble-inducing high-heeled pumps urged on her by her stylish vampire sister-in-law-to-be Alice (Ashley Greene) — Alice is the designated wedding planner — but Bella doesn't even know how to put her foot down to demand an alternative. She has incapacitating, panic-attack-sized wedding jitters. (Could she could be panicking because she's ridiculously young to be getting married to a vampire instead of, oh, furthering her education or pursuing a career or finding out what she really wants out of life? Nah, that's just the liberal-elite feminist in me talking.)"

Finally! Someone verbalized what I have felt for years.

Don't get me wrong. I am a died in the wool romantic. I love all things completely girly. I swoon over flowers or a hand offered to help me across a puddle or out of a car. A hand on the small of my back as I walk into a room can make me plotz.

That said, I am not a damsel in distress waiting to be rescued. I have opinions. Strong ones at times. I have my own goals and aspirations beyond landing a man.

No woman should ever want to be subjugated to that of supporting player in their own life. And it's a horrible message to impart to girls. Love is great, love is intoxicatingly awesome, but you should never be defined by anyone, (even if he's really hot) and forget who you are.

And the thing is? At just 18, Bella Swan has spent all her teen years obsessing over two boys - Edward and Jacob. She's never fully developed into her own person. Readers and viewers have no idea who she really is. But much worse than that is, neither does she.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Reality of Reality

When I heard that Kim Kardashian and her husband (of 72 days) had split yesterday, I had just responded to a friend's post on Facebook about the Kardashian family. I don't normally like to write about celebrities very much, contrary to popular belief pop culture doesn't just mean celebrity gossip. If I do write about people (look for a post soon about Mindy Kaling!) it's because they've earned our attention, not because they've made a sex tape and fought with their sisters on basic cable.

I've managed to for the most part miss a lot of Kardashian-centric information, but unless you're living under a rock it's impossible not to know more than you need to about them. And damn it, I resent that! I don't want to know anything about them, and spend even one second wondering what the hell Bruce Jenner did to his face, because you know, at one point he was kind of good looking and remember the '76 Olympics???? Noooooooooooo!!!!!!!!!!!! See? They are like the ear worms of media. They get in your brain and you can't get them out!

I don't watch their reality show on E! or any of its spinoffs, I did not watch the wedding, but somehow, like the Mafia, it dragged me into its poofy, bedazzled, overblown extravaganza of an event. These people were everywhere talking about the beauty, sanctity and sacredness of this day. You could not miss it unless you were on Necker Island with Richard Branson - post-fire.

What I resent is the presentation of this marriage as if it was something real. It's not. It never was. It's as real as "The Bachelor" or "The Real Housewives of...Wherever." These people made millions of dollars duping the public into buying into their franchise.

More than anything I resent that while people will whine and complain and talk about this sham of a marriage, there is a segment of the population that will still believe this is just crazy celebrities being crazy. They will never connect how wrong it is that these clueless money-seeking celebutarts have the right to get married, but for the most part, save a few states, same-sex couples who truly love one another cannot.

Anti-gay marriage folks will say that if we allow gay couples to marry it will ruin the sanctity of marriage. That is far from true. What's causing that is as close to them as the cover of the National Enquirer.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

My Mother, Myself

Three years ago today my mom passed away. Sometimes the loss still feels raw, but when I think back to those days, weeks and even months right after she died,when it was still so new, I know I have come a long way settling into this life without someone I dearly loved.

Like all humans my mother was not perfect. There is a tendency to deify people when they've died that I've never agreed with. I think it diminishes their humanness and gives the rest of us a level of faux perfectionism we can never attain. I prefer to remember my mom as real and flawed - just like me.

My mother did have me beat in a couple of areas that I am always trying to emulate. She was extremely non-judgemental and rarely said anything negative about anyone. Her former colleagues to this day will tell me how she was a pillar of integrity, someone who never bought into workplace gossip and kept her opinions to herself. I don't think of myself as a gossip, but I know I sometimes do vent to a close friend, having a good whine for a moment of two.

I like to think I'm pretty good on not being judgemental. Well, if I'm being completely honest, I can't say that's one-hundred percent true. I do judge people. I judge them on how they treat others, how they treat themselves, and how they impact the people and world around them. So apparently I'm 0 for 2.

I kind of want people to use words like "gracious" to describe me, like they did her,but given my affinity for "that's what she said" jokes and appreciation for expletive laced music, I've got a feeling that's not a word people would use to describe me.

Where I have tried to be different from my mother, in a way I think is positive, is I am much more demonstrative, both verbally and physically. I tell my children I love them every time I talk to them, and I am a much more affectionate person. I think if you love someone you should say it. Often. Partly generational and partly personality, I am a more open person. I like that. I never heard the words "I love you" from my mom until I said them first. At about 20-years-old. The amazing thing was, once that wall came down, she then began to say it all the time.

My mother took up yoga in her late 70s, became a Reiki Master at 80,and never stopped learning. That is something I want to carry on. I want to never stop being curious, to always want to try something new, and just be open to what shows up.

Maybe the trick is to take the strengths we saw in our parents, improve on the weaknesses, and then mix it in with the things that make us, us. "When you know better you do better," Maya Angelou famously said. As a daughter and a mother, my hope is that we all just keep getting better with each generation. I think there's no better tribute than that.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Fear and Dating in Las Vegas (or anywhere for that matter)

Now isn't this what we all want? To be kissed in the rain, in Paris, while also wearing really cute boots?! Were that it was that easy...

I've been talking to my girlfriends about relationships this week. Who am I kidding, we talk about relationships and dating all the time, this week I've just been taking note a bit more.

One friend cracked me up when she said she wanted to start a support group for women who don't choose well. I could be the poster child for this group. Seriously. But I know for a fact I'm not alone.

The common thread is of course is all everyone wants is to be loved and love back, but getting there is fraught with a minefield of opportunities to get your heart broken, embarrass yourself and end up much the worse for wear. But hopefully you come back not just bruised and battered, but wiser for the journey.

I keep thinking I should be better at this by now, but are any of us good at love, or are we all just stumbling in the dark?

I was talking to a friend today about how much I loathe dating and how it makes my stomach hurt. My brother's theory is people don't send themselves on dates, they send ambassadors of themselves. You know, the best behavior - perfect manners, laughing in all the right places. holding your stomach in and being delightful. Then, as time goes on the masks come off and you see who people really are. Often it's disappointing, but once in a rare while, when the constellations align, there is no disappointment. That's when you know you've gotten lucky.

It isn't all about luck, there are some things to remember. If you make it past a cup of coffee and commit to a meal, you might just want to remember these things.

1. Stop thinking anyone is going to rescue you, complete you or make your life idyllic. They won't, and you need to complete yourself. That said, a rescue once in a while is pretty nice.

2. Don't accept anyone loving you any less than you love yourself.

3. It really doesn't matter if he leaves the cap off the toothpaste or she doesn't clean the kitchen the way you would. What matters is, is this a person you would want to be stuck on the side of the road with a flat tire with? Is this someone who is calm, consistent and there for you? Forget the minutiae, it's the big stuff that really matters.

4. Make sure you're with someone who knows what it's like to love someone more than they love themselves. This is where parents have an advantage. We're used to giving, even when we feel like we can't anymore, and putting someone else's needs ahead of our own is a daily practice. The key is finding an equal opportunity giver.

5. Attitude is everything. Through ups and downs and all life throws at you, choosing well means choosing someone you can laugh with, cry with, and know they've got your back. I know I want to spend my life with someone who isn't thrown off by insignificant things, and can handle the big things as well. No one's a rock all the time, but knowing you've got a steady person to navigate the trails with makes life a lot easier.

6. You are not a "magnet" for bad boys or the victim of bitchy, angry women. YOU do the choosing. There's no one to blame. It's up to you to choose better. Stop blaming anyone else for the casting you do for the movie of your life.

When I was talking to a friend today about this topic, she laughed and quoted "thirtysomething," - "Fear, doubt and insecurity are my roommates." Yeah, that trio lives with me too.

The best advice I can give you is this. People will tell you lots of things you might want to hear, but they show you who they are with their behavior. When they show you who they are, believe them.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

In the Waiting Line

As many of you know, I wrote a book. A novel to be exact. And now that I have an agent I am waiting to get word that it will be bought by a publisher and I'll be on my way to holding a copy of my book in my hands, which I must say will be well manicured for the occasion.

I was asked to write a piece for the wonderful Jungle Red Writers blog about what the wait is like, and would love for you to read it!

Deciding at this stage of life, mid-life, to do something so risky is scary. I lie awake some nights thinking I should have taken a different path, a more secure one, but something keeps me going, a drive, ambition and passion for what I do that won't allow me to stop.

I will either end up losing everything, or have the best story to tell when it's my turn to no longer be the journalist interviewing the writer, but the subject of the story instead. I am praying for the latter.

Life, I believe should be lived with passion. To do less than live your dreams is a slap in the face to the gift life is. We need to honor our goals and desires to create the life we were meant to and want to live.

When I was a life coach I worked with my clients on helping them to uncover what it was they wanted their lives to look like. I have tried to do the same with myself, not always so successfully because, well, it's a bit harder to be objective.

As much as I love others in my life, I have to live my life for me. To do otherwise would make me unhappy and make me less in my roles as mom, sister, friend or partner for someone. To be good for others I need to be right with myself.

So, I am bumbling along, perhaps really screwing it up, but I don't have any regrets (yet) because I know for life to be well lived you have to be authentically you. Be true to yourself, I believe, and the rest will work itself out.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Should I Be More Butch? Nah.

I read this very funny column this week by Alexandra Molotkow, about how she's a "failure" at being a woman. She cites problems with her lack of affection for babies, how she can't cook, and how she can't look good all the time while apparently smelling spectacular as well. I was not aware that we were supposed to do that.

My problem, as I see it is I like all the girl stuff WAY too much and maybe need to be less womanly and more like a guy's woman - you know, into sports and power tools. I never want to be thought of as frail or helpless. Though at almost five feet ten I don't think I would ever occur as frail.

After I read that column I started thinking about all the stereotypically womanly stuff I like to do - I sew, knit, bake, cook, crochet, I like makeup, clothes and shoes. I would rather make lunch for the people working in the yard or painting the house than do those things myself.

On the flip side I don't know what the hell a suicide squeeze play is, and pretty much everything about football (even though for four years I went to all of my son's high school games) completely confuses me.

These are not things I'm proud of. Somewhere along the line I missed the lessons on sports, power tools and spitting. That's right, I can't even spit right.

Perhaps it's because I was raised by a single mom and my brother wasn't into sports so I was never exposed. I envy my girlfriends who can talk baseball and know what's going on during a game. I don't want to feel like a sports moron, but apparently I don't care enough to do anything about it. Trying to learn football for me is like when my ex-husband, a very good bridge player would get me to be a fourth when they were short a player. The word "dummy" in those circumstances was quite apt.

I think what I really gleaned from Alexandra's column is that we all seem to wish we were different in some way. I'd like to be better at math and instinctivly know how to unclog a drain. Sadly, neither of those things come naturally to me.

Over time out of necessity I have learned to do some household repairs, but if I were to be perfectly honest, I'd much rather be baking cookies. If that makes me a less well-rounded woman, so be it. If a guy wants to date someone he can watch sports with I'm clearly the wrong choice, but I'll gladly read a book or write one while sitting next to them keeping them company. And I'll even make some brownies.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

The Science of Love

I'm fascinated by what makes people tick. If I hadn't become a writer I think I might have become a therapist. Though I think I'd specialize in happy problems - nothing too serious, which is why it's probably good I'm a writer!

The science of relationships really intrigues me, and it's a code I'd love to crack! Bu thank goodness there are many scientists much better suited than I to do this, so I just read. A lot.

One of my favorite books on the topic is "The Alchemy of Love and Lust," which explains in great detail what happens in our brains and bodies when we love someone. The impact of oxytocin, serotonin and a host of other chemicals that flood our brains when we're in love is real and tangible, unlike lots of other theories when it comes to love.

In a somewhat different vein is Dr. Helen Fisher's, "Why Him? Why Her?" which explains the above illustration of personality types. At the link is another link where you too can take the personality test.

I was not surprised in taking the test to discover I am a "Negotiator." According to Fisher Negotiators are: "Imaginative, idealistic, agreeable and introspective" (you think?!). Negotiators apparently respond to Directors who are: "Analytical, decisive, focused, independent and strategic-minded." When I read that I thought back to the most significant relationships in my life and thought, yeah, she's right.

So why am I interested in all this? Part of it is certainly the science, but I always want to know more about myself, and why I make the choices I do. I think we're all far less interesting than we think we are. I believe we're all pretty simple - we all want to be loved and love. We want to feel supported, cared for and that we're special.

But.. within that it does get a little messy. The path is not a straight one, and the older I get I see that life is far from black and white. As someone who is divorced I certainly don't claim to have all the (or maybe any) answers. I'm just like everyone else - trying to do my best.

What I do know is it's never easy, even if you find that person who feels like your missing puzzle piece. I also know, the older I get the less I feel it needs to be all my way and the more I see it's all about compromise and letting go of your ego.

Which is really easy to say as I sit here writing by myself...

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Your Nest Is Never Really Empty

For the last few weeks my middle child, Ben, has been living part-time at my house on Cape Cod while in between apartments in Cambridge. He's commuted back to Boston for his DJ'ing gigs and to work on his next album a few days a week, but the other days been here.

Now it's moving week and the pile of belongings I've been tripping over for weeks is dwindling as he's begun the daily trips back to Boston to move into his new apartment. No matter how many times I tripped on the duffel bag in the hall I didn't complain (though I did move it a bit farther aside finally) because I knew any "inconvenience" was very short lived. The pleasure of having him here far outweighed any need to feel put out, and I never did.

My children are now all young adults with lives of their own. The chance to get to spend any extended time with any of them is a bonus, a gift at this point. I have been lucky enough since I work from home to be able to finagle time to get coffee, have a conversation and delight in sharing a piece of music he's working on, and to share my work with him. He's been here through ups and downs in trying to sell my book, through oral surgery and been able to be in on his sister's weekly Skype dates from Korea. Ben is a very easy-going guy so it's been well, easy to have him here.

As the time closes I know we each have our own lives to get back to, but I know I will miss seeing him in the mornings and hearing music once again coming from his room. The good thing is though, I do have my own very happy life so I am not a bereft empty-nester. I'm just delighted that once in a while it gets to be a little bit full again.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Just Call Me Kandy Kardashian

I was thinking the other day about how being a Kardashian could enhance my career, and well, my entire ife. The more I thought about it, it seemed like a great idea. And I already have a K sounding name, I only have to change one letter.

If I were a Kardashian my life would be different in many, many ways, and I'm thinking easier and more fun. Here are my all-time top-five ways my life would be better if I became Kandy Kardashian:

1. I'd save money on clothes because there is so little to them. I could probably cut most my clothes in half and get two outfits for the price of one. They're shorter and lower cut, though I might lose any gain with the shoes. While the clothes get smaller and shorter the shoes get higher and pricier.

2. I'd have my pick of NBA or NFL players. Now the downside of this is I am probably old enough to be the mother of most of the players, unless they're old, nearing retirement and riddled with injuries. There is also the unsavory practice of some players texting pictures of their penises to random women. I'd have to get comfortable with that. The upside is there is often lots of fancy jewelry when they get caught.

3. Kris Kardashian would be my mom and make all my decisions for me. She's a bit of a Svengali-mom, but I'd be willing to give up some control for Kardashian bucks.

4. Since I'd be the eldest Kardashian I could open up a whole new area of endorsements. For instance I could take over for Jamie Lee Curtis pushing regularity inducing yogurt on women. Or if we want to work a little bluer, some of those sex enhancing gels aimed at women who need a little oomph. I do however draw the line at any urinary control products or cat food for the sheer implication of spinsterhood.

5. Finally, I'd get to stop feeling like a nerd and be considered hot. Even the least attractive Kardashian is hot - something I'm sure to do with the aforementioned lack of clothing. Maybe by osmosis I'd develop a butt like Kim's and grow lustrous long, dark locks. Or at least then I'd be able to afford the extensions.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Fear and Loathing in the Dentist's Chair

If there is a 12 Step program for fear, I should join. I am loath to admit what a big baby I can be about things that most likely don't bother others, like the dentist. I'm not talking cleanings, I'm talking things more extensive, like root canals, crowns and as I had done yesterday, extractions.

I think part of it is a history of horrible dentists in my childhood. One I swear was one step up the food chain from the Wolfman. He was mean, rough and impatient. And very hairy. So that pretty firmly planted the seed of dentist=unpleasant experiences.

I wasn't thrilled when my new dentist told me that I was going to need to see an oral surgeon (two words you never want to use together) and have a couple of teeth removed. So I did what I'm really good at. I procrastinated for a few weeks. But, knowing I was going to need someone to go with me I could only stall so long while my son Ben was going to be spending some time here. So I bit the bullet and made the appointment.

Until the actual day came I was pretty calm. On the morning of the surgery I meditated, went for a walk and tried to be in a good place. And then I walked in that office, accompanied by Ben and THAT smell hit me. The people in the scrubs, masks around their necks and it all seemed so ...medical and medicinal. My pulse quickened. I filled out forms, signing away my rights if anything terrible happened to me, and answering questions - oh my God, maybe I have a heart problem and I just don't know it! Lung diseases?! I was stunned to see "bronchitis" on there - I had bronchitis last year, what did that mean?! My doctor never told me I now was diseased! Maybe my diseased lungs wouldn't survive this procedure. Of course in that moment I forgot that I walk/run two to three miles several days a week and do another cardio-heavy workout 6 x's a week - my lungs seem just fine. But still...

Finally they called me in. I think I exhausted the doctor before he even began peppering him with questions and making sure he knew about my allergy to barbiturates and sensitivity to epinephrine. Yes, I'm sure he was thinking he'd really drawn the short straw that day and could not wait to knock me out. Which he did quite shortly, but not until I told him I am close to getting a deal on my book and didn't want to die right before my career takes off. I think he just wanted me to shut up at that point.

And the next thing I remember I was in a recovery room. I have no recollection of walking there, if they took embarrassing photos of me, rolled their eyes at me once I was out, or just talked about what a charming gem I seemed to be. I'm hoping for the latter.

My son laughed at my inability to remember anything they were telling me and helped me walk to the car, lest I fall on my butt. I don't remember the ride home either. It's kind of weird. As a born-again substance virgin, I am not used to feeling so out of it. Ben I think found it quite amusing to see his normally lucid mom, under the influence of a veritable smorgasbord of drugs.

Even today I'm not feeling quite like myself - and I've taken nary an Ibuprofen. I'm still a bit spacey and yes, somewhat sore. Hey, in another context this could sound like I had a great time last night!

I am so glad to have this behind me, No more thinking about having to face the music. Well, except apparently now I do need a crown.

Holy crap, this will never be over...

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

How to Become A Best -Selling Author (or at least a published one)

All right, I am going to once again out myself and say, at the moment, I am not a published author (unless of course you count many, many newspaper and magazine articles and columns).

I am an ASPIRING novelist. I have scaled one tall wall by getting an agent, and now the next step is for her to convince a throng of folks at a publishing company that not only is my book a winner, but that I am as well.

Trying to turn yourself into a winner I am seeing is more than a part-time job. It is taking on the effort and hours of full-time unpaid employment. Kind of like being a full-time parent was for me for many, many years. Only this time the only messes I have to clean up are my own.

I am commenting on blogs, writing blogs, on Twitter, (follow me! @candacelhammond) making myself a complete nuisance on Facebook, and just in general thinking about building my "brand" all the time. If I have one true friend left after all this shameless self-promotion I will be eternally grateful and will buy that poor sod a cup of coffee and a cupcake (or piece of pie depending on their preference).

What I find fascinating about this process is that by the very nature of what we do, writers are fairly solitary folks. Yet, we are needing to become increasingly social beings as we try to promote not just our work but ourselves. I have not yet found my comfort level with the "look at me! look at me!" nature of this. Perhaps writers need doppelgangers who are the outgoing glad-handing politician-types we aren't, and they can go and work a crowd while we hide behind our laptops and make things up.

The book, "How I Became a Famous Novelist," I have pictured here is one of my all-time favorites. Steve Hely - a veteran writer of the "Late Show With David Letterman," and now "The Office," where he is also a producer, created a hugely funny, smart and engrossing tale of a man scheming to become a best-selling novelist. It is an incisive look at the world of books and no matter how many times I read it I still laugh.

Being a best selling author isn't easy. In this piece the author outlines the endless effort it truly is. As I read it I wanted to rest my head on my keyboard and weep. But she's right. Lots of people say they want to write a book, some even do. But it takes a whole other level of commitment, luck and a dash of insanity to think you could ever take it to the next level. All that and a knowledge that there's nothing else you'd rather do than sit alone in front of a glowing screen and try to string together groups of words in an entertaining fashion.

The drive to do this sometimes feels like a sickness of sorts. But for those of us who are infected the only treatment is to write, and for that desire I seek no cure.