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Thursday, September 5, 2013

Tweaking (not twerking) a New Version of Yourself

Things have been a little less than wonderful lately, and I haven't exactly been graceful about it. Job and money stress have gotten the best of me. Thankfully I have a saint of a boyfriend who's listened to me, hugged me when I've been crying and not fled.

And, thank goodness I have a writing partner who reminded me of some very important realities. Like telling myself and others that I'm cloaked in failure and a loser were not exactly going to help me, and darn it, aren't true.

My fake sister, is a smart cookie. She pointed out that for each of us our default setting is optimism. We're both people who believe in what we are doing and are hard wired for happiness. I just forgot it for a minute. Okay, more than a minute.

The metaphorical kick in the pants turned it around. Everything is the same - I'm still looking for more work, and my bank account isn't too flush, but what changed is my attitude about it. I remembered that like attracts like and if I want good things that's what I need to focus on. When you're throwing around words like "failure," and "loser," and "broke" they impact your actions and view of the world. It also impacts how the world sees you.

"The Secret" gave kind of a bad rap to the law of attraction, and it's a shame because there is a great deal of truth to it. Think of going through your day with a smile versus a grimace and  see what comes your way.

It's not always easy to stay on the path. That's where a good friend/fake sister come in handy. It's easy to get discouraged. Life can be very hard. We can't control everything, but we can control what we say to ourselves and our reaction to adversity. Sure we're going to go through times when we feel like everything is falling apart, we're human. But if we're really lucky we have people around us who love us enough to remind us, it's all okay. And it's only going to get better.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Everyone Needs A Buddy

I was talking to my writing partner the other day about relationships because, well, we always have to talk before we get down to working.Susan and I are fake sisters in a fake advice column... yeah, it's kind of complicated. I love having a buddy to write with because most of my writing projects and hours are spent  alone. It is a joy to have someone wonderful to bounce things off of and inspire me to be better than I am alone.

As we were discussing the book we're working on we knew we wanted a chapter on relationships. She said before she got married someone said to her that marriage should be a sanctuary. "Everyone needs a buddy," she said.

That stuck with me. She's right. We do all need a buddy.

Since my divorce, 15 years ago, I have spent much of that time on my own without a special buddy.For a long time I didn't want anyone, I was all good being alone. I was never all alone, I had my kids, mom, brother, but not a guy. None of the men I dated felt like they were my buddy, that special person who is there for whatever comes up. I didn't always like it, but like Gretchen trying to make "fetch" happen in "Mean Girls," you can't make someone into a buddy if they're not into it.

I should back up here and define what I mean by buddy. In this instance what I mean is that person who's there for you through thick and thin. That person, who when you throw yourself on your bed in tears, the result of a mix of hormones and  overwhelm, clutching your cat (this is a purely hypothetical by the way and totally did not happen last night) hugs you, and tells you everything is going to be okay.A buddy.

Having a buddy doesn't fix everything, but it makes life a little bit easier and comfortable. It took me a long time to find someone buddy-worthy, and I like it. He signs up for things like accompanying me to a work-related cocktail party I know he'd rather miss, but he knows I'm shy and hate going alone. A true buddy does that. And I'm his buddy too... I'm in the audience at many events he's playing at and there to listen and give a good bucking up when needed. Buddies.

There's nothing that tells me that I need a husband, or that I need to be a wife, but I do need a buddy. I went without one for a very long time and now that I have it, I see how vital it is. Independence is great. I'm glad I spent a lot of time on my own, but after rescuing myself for many years, it's good to have back up. We all need backup. We all need a buddy.

Monday, July 22, 2013

On Being a Fatherless Daughter

Last night I watched "Oprah's Lifeclass" on Daddyless Daughters. As I watched and listened to these women talk about what it was like for them to grow up without a father I realized I have never had a friend who had the same experience I did. I've had friends whose dad's died when they were kids, but it's different when your dad leaves and has little to nothing to do with you for your entire life.

My father left when I was in second grade. No one said anything, he was just gone. My mother, brother and I moved, she went back to teaching and no one talked about it. I thought he was on a long business trip until one day I heard the word "divorce" when my mom was talking on the phone.

For a while he came to visit, but after a while it stopped. In high school I began to visit him once in a while, but it was never good. He'd drink too much. and he was so critical it was hardly satisfying. My father, in his brief forays into my life was obsessed with what I looked like. As long as I was thin and pretty I was lovable.
When daughters don't have a father they don't have a man who has set the standard for how they should be treated and what to expect from a man. We don't have a yardstick and inner confidence to know what we deserve so we don't always make good choices.

Girls like me who grew up without a father often either build walls and not let anyone in, or so desperate to be loved we settle for much less than we deserve. I have done both.

I married very young because I desperately wanted to create the safety of the family I never had. I worried my husband would leave and held on so tight he had no choice but to leave. And that was when I began to grow up and heal.

When the worst thing you think could happen to you - again - happens and you survive, it is empowering. When I was married I suffered from a debilitating panic disorder, when my marriage ended I got better. I think I thought if I was helpless he wouldn't leave, but he did. I let go of that because I no longer needed it.

I can't say I've been stellar in all my choices in relationships since my divorce. I am a natural born fixer, and a pleaser. It's easy for women like me to tolerate behaviors we shouldn't because it's hard to ask for what we need, because if you're not perfect they will leave. That's hard to say. So I will say it again. I have spent my life worrying that if I'm not perfect I will be left.

But the great thing is, you can heal, you can change, and you can make better choices. After years of not speaking up, of being treated in ways that were not worthy of just how wonderful I am, I made a conscious decision to choose differently. And when I redefined what I wanted and needed, I changed, and I chose differently.

When my father died almost six years ago I had not seen him in 30 years. We exchanged some letters and phone calls in his later years, and I was able to forgive him. That said, I didn't want to see him, and I am at peace with my choice.

I debated long and hard about whether to post this, almost deleted it, but in the end decided that it's important for woman, especially mid-lifers like me, who maybe grew up feeling like alone in this to know, you're not alone. And just because you didn't have a dad doesn't mean you're not lovable or worthy. As soon as you can really get that, and love yourself you will be able to let a man (or woman) get close to you and really love you and not build walls or worry all the time that they're going to leave too, because you will know that you are whole and wonderful. No matter who comes or goes, you are perfectly perfect, just as you are.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Stop Trying To Be A Manic Pixie Dream Girl And Be Your Own Muse

So I am more than a bit past the age of being a manic pixie dream girl. Those girls who are unfailingly cute and whimsical. But I cop to being a girly girl who sometimes trades in the currency of  being pleasing and adorable. Not easy to admit.

This morning I read this piece by Laurie Penny about having been a MPDG and had to admit to many of the traits myself. Mostly what stopped me in my tracks was this:

Men grow up expecting to be the hero of their own story. Women grow up expecting to be the supporting actress in somebody else's.

I had to admit to this.This is me. I came of age during the onset of the women's movement, but somehow I still find myself playing small.

See, the thing is, I have a super power. Want to know what it is? I see the potential in people and their dreams. I can see the company they want to start being hugely successful, the book they want to write being a best seller, and the cookies they make - the next Mrs. Field's! This has its upside, I am a great friend and cheerleader. I will back you one-hundred and fifty-percent. My weakness however has been when I do this with men. The more I champion their potential, the less I embrace my own.

This trope has led me to thinking if I loved a man enough he could become everything he is meant to be, he will be successful, be healthy, stop his self-destructive habits and, I had to face this reality - take care of me so i don't have to think about my own potential.

I have spent many years trying to fix men who I thought needed me. Whether it was to become more emotionally available, more open, more loving, to stop using alcohol and drugs to escape their pain...if I was doing my job well, they would be healed.  And we would be happy.

But the thing was, like so many women (and men too I am sure) I used them as a distraction from embracing my own power, always a little too afraid to really go after what I wanted and playing way too small for myself, but never for them. They would have the big career, the best-selling books, the muti-million dollar company, not me. It has always been too scary to go after what I want, it was safer to focus on them and their dreams instead of my own.

Now however, I am starting to think, why not me?

My only value isn't in being adorable and loving and working hard to please someone else. My value is far deeper and richer than my face and pleasing nature. At mid-life I feel like I am finally willing to stand up for myself and declare - I want more for myself, and I deserve it. I have worked very hard and it's time for me to take a deep breath and step into the light.

Maybe I will make more than the guy I am with, and that's okay. And maybe I will not let what I want take a back seat to his dreams, and maybe I will finally begin to see my own potential, just like I've always seen everyone elses. 

I am learning. I have now picked a guy who doesn't need to be fixed, and encourages me to swing for the fences. He never diminishes my dreams, and I am not making his my own. We are each others cheerleaders and champions, not an excuse to not do what we need to do for ourselves.

Perhaps I am finally ready to step into being the leading lady of my life rather than a supporting character in everyone elses . In some ways it feels a little late and I am angry at myself for it taking so long to stop being scared and giving all my best cheerleading away to others rather than encouraging myself.  But better late than never. It could be that the best relationship I could ever dream of is with myself, that person with all the potential I just happened to have forgotten about.


Sunday, June 30, 2013

In A Mommy War Nobody Wins

One of my pet peeves is how terrible women can be to each other. Almost nowhere is it more apparent than how we compete as mothers. From eying the lunches the other mom's make and what they are wearing, we judge, we snark and beat ourselves up for never being enough.

Headlines scream, "Body after baby!" and we look on  in awe as celebrities, seemingly overnight, are back in the minus-sized jeans looking rested and blissful. Occasionally a celeb will come forward and share their stories of post-baby depression, but for the most part we expect to pop babies out and snap back into shape pronto. And that is only the beginning. After that it is off to the races.

Through my own children's school years I witnessed women competing over getting to be room mother for their child's class, making the best costumes for Halloween and cupcakes for birthday parties. There was a never-ending gauntlet to run and never win. I endlessly compared myself to mothers I thought were doing it better, doing more and looking beautiful while doing it. I truly felt like I was never enough.

And this was before mommy blogs and Pinterest. In many ways I was lucky, my children, now all young adults, came of age in a somewhat less competitive time. The world pre-Internet was smaller and less intimidating. Now, there is no escaping how you're falling short. It's right there on your friend's Facebook pages, in the crafts you've pinned, and on the cover of US Magazine. You're not throwing a Game of Thrones themed party for your 12-year-old, and you're certainly not a millionaire mom-preneur rocking size 2 jeans while balancing a baby on one hip, and your vegan-friendly, uber-chic designer bag on the other. And as they grow the platforms for competition only gets worse.

I have been on both sides of the mommy war lines. Two of my children were super successful in high school, my daughter went to Wellesley College, and her brother had a great academic scholarship to Northeastern University. Both graduated and are self-sufficient and doing great, interesting, creative things with their lives.

My oldest son didn't go to college. He became a heroin addict. It's hard to feel like you've won the mom war when your child becomes a junkie. I learned the hard way to know who your real friends are, and how toxic and hurtful judgment can be.

I've had to admit to myself that had I only had my two younger children it would have been easy to judge other parents whose children dropped out of school, or had addiction issues. When faced with the issue myself I was humbled. I now knew there were no guarantees of perfect children, no matter what sugar-free, additive free cereal you bought them.

Parenting is hard, and it's also a bit of a crap shoot. Most of us are truly trying our best, even if it doesn't look that way to you. At a certain point we eventually realize (hopefully) that we have little control over what choices our kids make.  We can guide them as best we can, love them and be there to help find a different school, heal after a loss, or heaven forbid, find a rehab center.

What we really need is support, and perspective. We need to know in the long-run, baby Isabelle walking at nine months doesn't meant she's going to be more successful that Coco who is taking her own sweet time. And we need to be kind to each other, which starts with being kinder to ourselves.

Of course I blamed myself when my son was an addict. But it wasn't my fault, anymore than my daughter going to the same college as Hilary Clinton was my achievement. I also can't take credit for my son's long-term sobriety either, but I can be proud of the fact that I never gave up on any of them.

We need to stop being a culture of compare and contrast. Our insides will never compare to the outsides we see staring back from the magazine racks, or the moms we really don't know who we see at gymnastics. The next time you find yourself resenting the woman in front of you getting coffee because she looks so pulled together while you've got on yoga pants and tank top, take a minute to realize she's got her stuff too, and she may be thinking, "wow, I wish I had her thighs, I never go to the gym, I suck." We are all in it together. Stop judging what everyone else is doing, and most of all stop judging yourself.


Sunday, May 26, 2013

I Want A Boyfriend, Not a Husband

Yesterday I read a beautiful piece in the Modern Love section of the New York Times by the incredible Augusten Burroughs about his recent marriage to his boyfriend. It is long overdue that anyone who wants to get married should be able to do so. I am thrilled that finally it has become legal for all who desire to make that commitment. I however am not one of those people.

I was married, Once. For twenty years. When I got married, at 20, I was thrilled. The marriage produced three incredible chidren and it was good, until it wasn't.

I believe marriage is wonderful for those who wish to do it, and think it's certainly desirable for those who have children. The security of knowing mom and dad are married is important. But for me, post-small child raising, it is not something I need or want.

The thing is, at this point in my life, I don't want a husband. I like having a boyfriend and want to keep it that way.

I like that we choose to be together. And if we decide to not be together it is between us and not dueling lawyers. I like that he still romances me and puts effort into our relationship. I like that he takes me to dinner and movies. I like planning a nice dinner to make for him and making an effort to look pretty. I like that I still want to shave my legs every day and look nice for him. I like not taking each other for granted. I like treating each other with kindness - no sniping allowed. My boyfriend doesn't snap at me. If he did, he wouldn't be my boyfriend anymore. And I don't nag him. We treat each other with kindness.

He is someone who is there for me, I know would do anything for me, and vice versa. But I think that marriage changes a relationship when it goes from a choice to a given. Knowing that person is legally obligated to be there changes it. I think marriage can be (but doesn't have to be) a bit of a buzz kill.

The thing is, marriage brings no guarantee of fidelity, love or kindness within the relationship. I often think that once you know your freedom is gone it makes it less appealing than being there by choice, not legality.

I like being free to make my own (often poor) financial choices, shopping choices (see bad financial choices) and doing what I want. Of course I factor in my boyfriend and am, I think, a considerate and thoughtful partner, as is he. We just don't tell each other what to do. Within our commitment to one another is an inherent freedom to pursue our own interests, friendships and work, but within that we treat each other with respect and thoughtfulness.

On a recent night out as we walked down Commercial St in Provincetown, MA he looked down at my feet and purely out of curiosity asked, "Is that a different pair of boots?"  To which I smiled and replied, "Yes, and that is why I'm never getting married again."  He looked confused. I went on to explain, when you're married you often need to defend purchases, explaining why you own three different pairs of black boots, need another guitar or whatever you decide you want or need. My money, my rules. His money, his rules. Problem solved.

I am so happy that Augusten Burroughs, and so many people are thrilled to be married. I fully expect backlash for this and for people to expound on all the positives and practicalities that being legally married brings. To those I say, good for you! Mazel Tov and all wonderful blessings to you! But I plan to stay happily loving the person I am with in un-wedded bliss. Having a boyfriend works for me. Having a husband didn't.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

On Being a Better Chooser

I am endlessly fascinated by relationships. Why we love who we do, why we're attracted to who we are, and why we often keep making the same bad choices over and over again.

We could explore the science of attraction - there are endless scientific theories involving pheromones, hormones and our screwed up childhoods, but at a certain point we need to realize - we have a choice. As Maya Angelou says, "When you know better, you do better." Well, one can only hope.

I have a history of being a bad chooser. I don't mean I've been in abusive relationships, but I've put up with things I probably shouldn't have. I allowed myself to be marginalized and not a priority, and excused the behavior even when it hurt. Badly.

When I read this post today, citing 10 Red Flags to be aware of, I wondered why we so often overlook those flags waving in our face instead choosing to see what we want, and not what is true?

There are lots of reasons - fear of being alone, (better to be alone than wish you were) thinking people will change (they don't) and here's a biggie - not thinking we deserve more.

When it comes to romantic relationship all too often we think that it's all about is that dreamy, swoony falling in love part. That phase where even if your beloved said they hated kittens and bunnies you'd think it was adorable. But the thing is, that's not love. That's infatuation. It's lust. And it never lasts. Nor should it - if we were on the drunken high all the time we'd never get anything done.

"Love is a temporary madness, it erupts like volcanoes and then subsides. And when it subsides, you have to make a decision. You have to work out whether your roots have so entwined together that it is inconceivable that you should ever part. Because this is what love is. Love is not breathlessness, it is not excitement, it is not the promulgation of promises of eternal passion, it is not the desire to mate every second minute of the day, it is not lying awake at night imagining that he is kissing every cranny of your body. No, don't blush, I am telling you some truths. That is just being "in love," which any fool can do. Love itself is what is left over when being in love has burned away, and this is both an art and a fortunate accident."  Louis de Bernières

Love is more than dreamily looking into someone's eyes, and thinking everything they do is wonderful. It's more than candlelight dinners and flowers. It is caring about someone, really caring about them.

Real love is:
Being there. Not just for the good stuff, but everything else too.
Being able to put someone else first
Knowing not every moment of every day is going to super
Giving each other permission to be yourselves
Knowing you can never make someone else happy, that's their job
Not needing to control someone else
Being secure enough in what you have that you can be okay with that person having a life beyond you
Knowing you can't fix anyone else, but showing up to listen and be supportive
Not wanting or needing to change the other person
Realizing that as important (and fun) as sex is, it's just a part of a relationship, not the basis for having it. (That's a whole other thing that is not really about love.)
Being able to say how you feel without fear of a sigh and an eye roll. Ugh, the worst!
Being heard and seen.
Being honest, even when it's hard.

I could go on and on, but you get the drift...Real love isn't a scene in "You've Got Mail," or "The Holiday." It's less stilettos and more Uggs. Not that you can't dress it up and make it pretty. But it's real, and it's juicy and if you're lucky enough to find it, really, really special.

Chances are no one is going to show up in your driveway with a boombox or on your steps with large cards declaring their love for you. Be glad. That's not real. The guy who shows up with soup when you're sick? He's the keeper.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

I've Been Tagged!

I was very excited to be “tagged” by one of my favorite authors, Jill Smolinski . in "The Next Big Thing Blog Hop."The fact that she even knows who the heck I am is amazing to me.

I first became acquainted with Jill when I interviewed her for a story about her book, “The Next Thing on My List.” I adored the book which I found moving, smart, funny and so well written, and lobbied hard to get to be the writer from my paper to interview her. She did not disappoint. She is as charming and funny as her book, and was incredibly generous to a fledgling author – me!

 I of course then read her first book, “Flip Flopped” as well. I love her work so much I couldn’t wait for another book to come out. Like some hybrid stalker/fan I kept searching for a new title and was thrilled when “Objects of My Affection” was published. As a single mom who has dealt with the addiction issues of a son, I so related to the incredible Lucy Bloom. Jill’s characters are so well drawn, and her stories read as real, funny and incredibly entertaining.

But, enough about the fabulous Ms. Smolinski, let me tell you a little about me and my next book! You can find my first book, “The Best Worst Year” at Amazon, Barnes and Noble and iTunes!

1: What is the working title of your work in progress?
“Being Good”
2: Where did the idea come from for the book?
It actually came from a bumper sticker! I was driving behind a car one day with a sticker that said, “Be Good. Don’t Be Bad.” I got thinking – can you be a good person, do something bad and still be a good person?
3: What genre does your book come under?
Contemporary Women’s Fiction. I am a huge fan of the aforementioned Jill Smolinski, Emily Giffin, Claire Cook, Nora Ephron…if I could have a shred of their successes I’d be thrilled.
4: Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
Hmmm…I would love to see perhaps Jennifer Lopez and George Clooney rekindle their amazing chemistry in “Out of Sight.”
5: What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Claire Eldridge is the classic good girl who has never done anything wrong, until she meets Chris Murdock, a married man who sweeps her off her feet and into a relationship she knows is wrong, but can’t resist.
6: Is your book self-published, published by an independent publisher, or represented by an agency?
I have an agent at Trident Media, and my first book, “The Best Worst Year” was published though their new ebook division. We are just beginning the process of showing “Being Good,” to publishers.
7: How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
Six months. I am a freelance journalist, so during the day I write about fashion, pop culture, entertainment and some news for several publications on Cape Cod where I live, and write fiction most evenings. I have a very patient and understanding boyfriend.
8: What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
I feel so strange daring to compare myself to anyone. If I dare to compare my book to any it would be “Something Borrowed,” by Emily Giffin, one of my favorite books by a favorite author.
9: Who or what inspired you to write this book?
I have experienced a lot of things that have taught me that life is not black and white. I love exploring the boundaries of what is considered good, or right. I think we all have times when we make choices that might not be considered “good,” but I don’t believe that makes us bad people.
10: What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
“Being Good” is about infidelity. I saw while writing and discussing it with friends that people have very strong opinions about people who participate in infidelity. I wanted to try to create a character that women would like and relate to, but see if it was possible for them to still like her when she makes a bad choice.

Now on to the two authors I’m tagging:

Jenny Gardiner is an incredibly witty and gifted writer.  Jenny is prolific and after a long day of writing gives me something to look forward to when I crawl into bed. Some of Gardiner's titles include, “Slim to None,” “Anywhere But Here,” and “Where the Heart Is.”

Judy Mollen Walters has written a beautiful and moving debut novel about the heartbreak of infertility with “Child of Mine.” A thoughtful and insightful writer, Mollen Walters delivers a book that truly shows the anguish of wanting nothing more than to become a mother.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Ever Feel Like You're The Bridesmaid and Never The Bride?

As someone who is single and self-employed I sometimes get very scared about what I'm doing. It's risky. There's no certainty in being a writer, it's actually the exact opposite.

Most of the time I manage to keep a good attitude/deny the realities of my life's precariousness, but once in a while it all comes crashing down. Last night was one of those nights. I kept feeling like I wanted to cry, and it wasn't until a phone conversation with my boyfriend that I was finally able to put my finger on it - I was feeling that I keep working my bottom off, doing everything I can to further my career, and it doesn't ever seem to take hold.. Hence, always the bridesmaid never the bride feeling

All of us have been there - we see contemporaries surpass us and don't understand why - we're doing everything right, right? I have just completed my second novel, I have a great agent at a big-time NYC literary agency, I am on the radio weekly, I have regular newspaper columns, but I am always the Rhoda and never the Mary.

This morning when I woke up I checked my email and found a blog post about facing your fears.that so resonated with me it made me want to write this.

The author, Mastin Kipp talked about saying yes to your dreams even in the face of fear. He has talked before about losing everything before it all came together, and keeping on even in the face of what looked like utter defeat.

Even as I tearfully went to sleep last night I reminded myself that it's often when things look impossible that doors open, or at least a window gets cracked a bit. What I believe, even when I am sitting on my bed surrounded by snotty tissues, is that you HAVE to follow your dreams, even when, especially when they seem impossible to achieve. If forging a path was easy, or becoming a successful author, everyone would do it.

I've overcome a lot in my life - debilitating panic attacks, divorce, a son's drug addiction, losing my parents, breakups and setbacks, and I have learned invaluable lessons from every one of those hurdles. This is just another opportunity to grow, learn and stand firm in my achieve everything I dream of.

Life isn't easy, but this is our one chance to do what we love with everything we've got. And if it's not coming together the way we hope right when we want it to, we can't give up. We have to believe there is a bigger plan and that behind the scenes things are happening that we don't even realize.

I will always periodically fall apart and wonder what the hell I'm doing. But hopefully I get a little farther down the path each time, a little closer to the dream, and a little smarter as well. No matter what, I love what I do and what it ends up looking like is what its supposed to be. But that doesn't mean I'm not going to fight tooth and nail to get closer to my self-imposed goal every single day. It's how I'm built!

Monday, March 4, 2013

On Class and Status

Class and status  aren't things I have thought a lot about since I became an adult, but as a child it was different. When I came across this article today it got me thinking.

My parents divorced when I was very young, and my mom, needing a way to support my older brother and I, took a teaching job at a small private school. Due to her employment, we received scholarships and were able to attend a school that normally would have certainly been beyond our means.

At a young age I noticed things about my classmates that were small and subtle, but showed me that my family was different. For one thing, I didn't have a dad coming home from his law office or factory he owned, my dad wasn't coming home at all. We ate dinner at 5:30, not 7, like these upper middle class families did, and we didn't take vacations. While they jetted off to ski in Switzerland or to swim in the Caribbean, I was, at best, in for a two hour car ride to my grandmother's house in Western Massachusetts.

We wore uniforms, so the competition for clothes was removed, but still, I knew our lives were very different. They had bigger homes, drove Volvos and Saabs (the cars of old money) and we had a Buick. Even at eight I saw these things.

We were not poor, but money was tight. My mom tutored all summer to make ends meet, but she still managed to buy us a house, clothe us and we never went hungry. She was a good child of the Depression.. She was frugal, but we never went without what we truly needed. Without any real assistance from my father she raised us, all alone.

I hadn't thought much about class of late until a year ago when I met the man I am currently in a relationship with, He grew up in a working class family, and when he met me he joked that I am the first WASP he'd dated,. I never thought about being WASP'y. Having been raised by a single working mom I never felt at all privileged. In my mind, his upbringing and mine were the same. But I see in many ways they weren't. I did have certain advantages that he did not. My grandparents had raised my parents with certain advantages and attitudes about education and success, and I now see I was raised to believe I could do and be anything. I get it that because of my WASP'y upbringing I do believe I can create the life I want and am positive that with hard work and a little luck, I can make most anything happen. My advantage just might be optimism..

My mom looked a lot like Kate Hepburn (which is why I used this photo). We are a tall, lanky, blue-eyed family. We certainly look the part of WASPs. But the thing is, you can't tell everything about anyone from outward appearances. That's the thing about class and status - it's a pretty superficial way to judge people. Once you scratch the surface we're all a lot more alike than we might think.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Women, Competition, and Hating on Each Other

I woke up this morning to hear about the latest war in girl-on-girl world. Get your mind out of the gutter, I'm not talking about "Girl on girl"... this is about how horrible women can be to each other. And now every guy's eyes turn away from this post. Good... they wouldn't get this anyway.

Yesterday, E!News corespondent, Guilana Rancic committed the horrible crime of saying she puts her husband first, ahead of their son. Now I've got the feeling little Duke Ranic is not languishing in his fancy crib unattended to and abandoned. I am sure he is adored and well cared for. Rancic just committed the cardinal sin of saying she loves her husband and makes that relationship a priority, Hmmm,... another woman got in a lot of hot water a few years ago for doing the same thing.

Award winning writer, Ayelet Waldman penned a piece that caused a huge uproar amongst other moms when she wrote that she loved her husband, author Michael Chabon, more than she loved her children. It sparked a debate that pitted woman against woman and caused yet another chasm amongst my gender.

I have always considered myself a woman's woman. I adore my women friends. I cannot imagine a life without my friends. I love the man in my life, but I need the company of women as well. I just can't get how awful we can be to one another. From mean girls as teens (and oh yeah, I know from experience it does not end at high school graduation) to mom's in the PTA judging you it never seems to stop. But why?

I have a theory: We're hard on each other because we're hard on ourselves. I think that women are so hard on themselves that anyone who seems to be doing anything better, and God forbid, look better doing it, has to be knocked down a peg or two. We assume that the mom who looks good when dropping her kids off in the morning is a "bitch" and if, as Rancic found out, she appears to have an active sex life and fulfilling relationship with her husband, she's a bad mother.

We all judge. We couldn't make it through the day without some judgements, but we don't have to be so hard on one another. Men are not nearly as hard on each other as we are. We should be supporting and encouraging each other, not tearing each other apart. We need each other. Being a mom is hard, whether you stay at home, work outside the home, are single or married. Being a woman is delightful. I wouldn't be a guy for anything in the world. For me the clothes alone make it a no brainer.

Let's make a commitment to stop judging one another so harshly and stop comparing ourselves to one another. There's always going to be someone who is younger, prettier, thinner,has nicer clothes and better hair. So? Does that somehow make you any less than who you are? No! I think the best way to solve the girl on girl hate is to just start loving yourself. Just as you are.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Letting Go That Never Stops

This morning a friend of mine posted this video on Facebook. I spend way too much time watching strange videos like this:
But this video about moms was different. Out of the blue, on a normal, dreary, Wednesday morning, I found myself crying.

As I watched these moms rousing their sleepy children, giving them breakfast, and getting them on their way, I was struck by a cascade of feelings I haven't been aware of for a long time - I miss my kids. And more than that, I miss caring for them.

I became a mom at a very young age and kind of grew up with them. I have spent all of my adult life being a mom, and while I obviously still am, it is not the same.

My children are now 34, 29 and 27, and they are doing what they're supposed to be doing - successfully and happily living their lives on their own and away from me. I console myself by saying this is how parenting is supposed to work - they are together and happy and don't need me the way they once did. This is good. I know it's good. I keep telling myself it's good. But if it's so good, why does it sometimes feel so bad?

We all like to feel needed, and as a mom I am no different. I sometimes really miss the day to day life with them, and all that family time. So now I fill that need by caring for them when they come home to visit, making sure I bake the cookies, make the eggs, (Dylan) the chicken, stuffing and broccoli, (Ben) and have the rice and kimchi (Emma) that makes them feel like they're home. It doesn't happen as often as I'd like, so I try to appreciate every second when it does.

As much as I love being a writer, and do embrace the freedom I now have to spend my days working on my career goals, nothing, absolutely nothing will ever mean as much to me as raising and loving my kids. It's the hardest thing I've ever done, but I would not have missed it for anything.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Staying or Going?

I've been following this book, "The Normal Bar"for weeks now. I am fascinated by relationships, enough so that my next novel, "Being Good" is about an affair.

What is "normal" for one is probably not for another. I have deal breakers that would probably make others laugh, and things that bother others might seem inconsequential to me. Such is the nature of humans.

I was reading an excerpt from the book last night and went to sleep thinking about what makes relationships work or end. I probably would have been more successful trying to crack cold fusion I suspect.

One of the gifts of divorce I have found is that I know I will never settle for, "this is as good as it gets." If it's not working, and no amount of tender loving care is making it work, I won't stay. I have raised my children, I have no reason to stay in a relationship that isn't fulfilling and happy. I'm willing to work, but if work overpowers joy - no thank you.

Life is way too short to stay when it's not working, and sadly few of us have the skills to do either well.. Especially the leaving...Here's something from my book about how hard it is to go:

             With each step it all became so much clearer to Claire. Rarely does anyone make a graceful exit from a relationship. We are ham-fisted and awkward because it’s too hard to say, “I’m not happy. I need to go.” So we do stupid things like cheat, become terrible partners and pray for the other person to do what we are too scared or weak to. We want them to end it, or, in the absence of that out, we step outside the bounds of marriage and do something we know is most likely unforgivable.

            Most people are not brave enough to actually calculate their exit, they bumble into it, often breaking things too badly to repair them. We are not a terribly sophisticated lot when it comes to things like ending a marriage. Without a conscious awareness many marriages just die of neglect and human frailty.

All the years I've spent on my own, in and out of various relationships has taught me some important things. Whether that translates into being successful in my present relationship only time will tell. but there are a few things that I think are important to remember:

Treat the person you love as kindly as you do others

Be patient. Don't say the first thing that crosses your mind. Use that self-edit button liberally

Affection goes a long way to foster closeness. If you're not kissing, hugging and having sex it's awfully hard to feel intimate and connected.

Have a sense of humor. Even in the worst of times you can find something to laugh about.

Talk to each other. It amazes me how little time some couples spend actually talking to one another.

Take time on your own to be by yourself and with friends without your partner. No one person can fulfill every part of you. Keeping your own identity brings freshness and energy to your relationship.

As I said, I would have a better chance of solving one of physics biggest conundrums than cracking what makes things work or not between people who love each other, or once did. It's probably one of the hardest things we do. I just know I refuse to let it be miserable. I'll go to the mattresses trying to make something work, but hopefully will always maintain enough sense of self to know when it's not.