Monday, January 31, 2011

Sleepless Nights—by Jamie Levine

As I sit and write this, I’m bleary-eyed and desperately craving sleep, having survived on less than four hours of slumber for the past two nights in a row. I thought my days of staying out until 2 a.m. were long gone once I gave birth to Jayda...but then I met Library Guy. For my birthday weekend, we had the rare pleasure of spending two weekend nights in a row together, and because time flies when I’m with him—and it's hard for me to break away to go home when we’re together—that meant two late nights for me...sandwiched between Jayda's typical 6 a.m. wake ups. I'm not sure how I made it through both an activity-filled Saturday and Sunday with my daughter, but I did…and my exhaustion was worth it. I'm tired. So tired. But I also feel a step closer to my guy.

An important part of our time together this weekend entailed bridging both of our worlds a bit more. Friday night, Library Guy and I had cocktails for the first time with a good friend of mine and her husband, and Saturday night, Library Guy took me to a dinner party hosted by one of his good friends. Both nights were comfortable and easy...and we both left very good impressions with the people whom we met. At the very least, our friends saw how happy we are together, and, after four intense months of dating, we are. The other day, on our "anniversary," Library Guy texted me: "Four months and we still like each other a lot. What a concept—for both of us." It's true. And for me, the most amazing part of this all is that I never get tired of seeing him.

I’ve never dated anyone whom I wanted to see all the time; not as a lust-driven teenager nor as a commitment-craving woman. I’ve always needed plenty of me-time, as well as time with my friends. Or maybe it just never felt “right” for me to expect to see someone so often; as I’ve written before, most of my past relationships were with commitment-phobes, and I was trained never to wear my heart on my sleeve. But now, though I’m certainly not blowing off my gal-pals or my school and work obligations—nor my daughter, who remains my #1 priority—I find myself spending every spare moment I have with Library Guy. Is this healthy? I’m not sure. Does it mean he’s “the one?” It’s too soon to tell…isn’t it? Again, I’m not sure. All I know is that it sure feels good. Especially since the feeling is mutual. The other day, when I jokingly told Library Guy to take care of a frivolous chore “in his spare time,” he responded, “I spend all of my spare time with you.” Good answer. And worth my sacrifice of sleep. As the saying goes, “I can sleep when I’m dead.” And right now, I may be tired, but I’m living my life to the fullest…and it sure feels right.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Passing of Aaron R. Roland by Cyma Shapiro

Aaron was my father-in-law.  Aaron died last month; last week, we held a Memorial Service for him.
I’m writing this blog post in memory of him.  I’m writing this to honor and acknowledge my husband’s grief; the loss for my four children; the pain in my heart. I’m also writing this because I want a few simple moments to reflect on Aaron R. Roland.
As a devout Baptist/Methodist, Bud and his wife, Sarah, welcomed me, a Jew, into their lives with open arms; much of the rest of the family did not. They also graciously accepted when their only son, my husband, later converted to Judaism. There was no discussion and no repercussions.
Aaron was a product of his environment – grew up in coal-mining country, struggled to get his high school degree, and left to serve in the war. He and his wife lived in company housing for most of their lives – just happy that they could provide a stable environment for their two children. And while Aaron was not at all a model father or husband, his overtures to us went far to show the man he truly was and gave inkling to the goodness, realness and pureness that my husband surely is. I waited a long time to find my husband – a gem of a man. The real deal. And, while not cut from the same cloth as the rest of his extended family, those important, admirable traits were very much part of his DNA.  And, that DNA came from his father.
When I became older, I started reading the obituary section of our local newspaper. Sometimes, I would even read the obituaries in the New York Times.  Nearly every time I’d read about someone’s life and legacy I’d think that I would have loved to have met them, or that their life was so fascinating that I hoped the people around them knew of their intricacies and life-achievements before they passed on.  It always felt sad to learn about them in death; many times I thought I would have loved to have spent time with them in life. I’d also think about how many people we pass by and dismiss simply as one or two-dimensional entities – innumerable fleeting images in our daily lives - only to realize that all of them are three-dimensional and most of them had great life stories to tell.  Many of us would often learn about them after their passing – through obituaries and memorials; often we’d wish we’d known these things when they were alive.
But, here is the simple message: all of these people had a purpose on this earth. All of them did many great things large and small. And, all of them had touched many lives along the way. And, then they were gone.
So, although “Bud/Pop-Pop” was a gunner in the Korean War, and a 25-year employee for the Philadelphia Electric Company, his life might have gone unnoticed were it not to for his three greatest acts: serving his country; his acceptance of my husband and I; and the legacy he left behind.
I have cried many times in the last few weeks.  He will be sorely missed.

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Saturday, January 29, 2011

Prepared for the Worst by Maureen Eich VanWalleghan

Disaster is on my mind...for a whole variety of reasons. Last semester, I was a practicum supervisor for a grad student who was facilitating a reading and discussion workshop on women’s holocaust memoirs. This semester my regular memoir writing workshop that I teach at the local library began with a guest speaker who had self-published a memoir he had translated of his mother’s, which covered the German occupation in Belarus during World War II. And of late, the PSAs about “making a plan” in case of an emergency have all coalesced into “what if” scenarios that could make a great action thriller, except that now I’m a mom and keeping my kid safe seems real and important and worth considering.

As a single woman, I have lived through two major disasters (been touched indirectly by another) and had my home gutted by a fire. When the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake rocked the San Francisco (and the greater Bay Area) I was living on Potrero Hill. I had been at work when the quake hit. We were singing happy birthday to a fellow colleague when the building began shaking. The quake lasted long enough to realize it was an earthquake, get undercover and wait while the shaking continued. I drove home and lay in darkness and silence listening to far-off sirens. Even though Potrero Hill is on the other side of the City from where the main devastation in the Marina occurred, it was an intense experience. Especially, being cut off by phone from connecting with my family who lived a few hours away in the Central Valley. So great was my urge to get out of the San Francisco that the next day I remember packing a milk crate of important personal things and making the drive out of the city back up to Petaluma where I was going to college. My plan was to crash with friends for a few days and then go and see my family. Driving was possible and so the illusion of safety seems possible.

Fast forward 12 years—I am living in a city again, but this city was New York City and I was teaching high school in Brooklyn when those planes hit the towers. This time I had a room full of students, some who had family who worked in the towers and I was responsible for maintaining calm and order while we were in lock down until midday. We had no news when we were released and as I headed home there was a girl, whom I recognized as the friend of one of my students, coming out of the subway. She had never ridden the subway alone and her friend had been picked up by a parent. I pretended that I rode the same train, but a few stops farther than her and so sat with her till her stop. I got off myself in Williamsburg and looked toward the towers and could only see the great billow of smoke and ash. I didn’t know the towers had fallen until I got home. Once home I lay in bed again and again no phone calls could get out though one friend was able to call me and I asked that she phone my family and let them know I was okay. Many people thought that I still lived a few blocks from the towers, where I used to have my art gallery on Franklin Street. For the first time, I felt the distance of living on another coast far from my family. This time I couldn’t drive home. In fact going home...flying to California was a big deal. Often I imagine that if 9/11 hadn’t occurred, I would probably still live in New York. That moment changed everything for me and so many others.

Disasters continue to happen: Katrina and the Gulf oil spill just to name a few. Making “a plan” seems important, imperative even. Having my home gutted in December of 1990—twenty years ago now—still is a presence when I open a box of journals and the smoke smell hits my nostrils. Things happen...and now I have this baby, this child that depends on me and the decisions I make. I am not one to live in fear, but preparedness is on my mind. My husband and I have started discussing what an emergency plan looks like and what we should have on hand. Thinking about the worst and then thinking about my daughter, somehow I feel like I would be neglectful if didn’t plan for a possible disaster...

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Friday, January 28, 2011

GUEST BLOG POST: Leap Into Something New by Karyn Scott

What happens when a stay-at-home mom with two young children discovers a struggling rock singer at a party and thinks, “What if I could turn him into the next big American rock star?” Sounds like a crazy idea, and it was, but this is what happened when I heard a band named Alpha Rev play at a backyard party four years ago.

As an overwhelmed mom with two pre-schoolers in tow, I had no clue about the music business. I was a 39-year-old former attorney who had never played an instrument or seen a mixing board—and yet managing this band felt like what I was meant to do. At the time in 2006, Alpha Rev was only one of thousands of talented bands that called Austin home. The band’s lead singer and writer, Casey McPherson, was mostly living out of his beat-up car and I had no idea how to download songs to an iPod (we were an unlikely pair to say the least). I should point out that managing a rock band was nowhere near my comfort zone. In fact, most of my friends would point out that I’m the kind of person that considers making lasagna without burning it quite daring.

As I contemplated helping the band, I wondered if it was possible to become more daring after having children, instead of less? Still, it is one thing to go back to a responsible career, but quite another to find your passion in life. What was it about finding a struggling wanna-be rock star that made me want to find mine?

Casey McPherson was scruffy from top to bottom and didn’t exactly drip with star quality when he walked into a room, but when I heard him sing, I knew he had a special gift. Some crazy inner voice told me, “the world should hear him … and you should help.” That voice got louder when I learned from a band member that Casey’s father and brother had both committed suicide. Music was his way of coping, he explained. As it was mine… throughout my life, music had provided the constant soundtrack to all my joys and sadness. Even though I had no experience in the business, I had always been passionate about great music. I soon learned that in the Internet age, passion sometimes goes further than experience.

A few months later, I would become his manager and would start my own record label, Flyer Records (a name I coined with the idea that I would “throw it out there and see if it flies”). I never imagined how monumental this task would be, as I travelled with the band throughout the United States hoping to get them discovered—and find a reliable babysitter. Looking back, I was, a middle-aged mom with a temperamental computer and two rowdy kids hanging off my legs as I tried to make “office space” seem official in the laundry room. Yet, despite all odds, I succeeded: after flying across the country in 2007 for a New York City showcase that was the almost-magical musical culmination of our efforts, Alpha Rev got offered a deal with Disney juggernaut Hollywood Records. It was everything we dreamed of… but I soon began to question whether I had really been chasing Casey’s dreams, instead of my own.

This realization led me to start Kids in a New Groove (K.I.N.G.), a nonprofit mentoring organization that provides free private music lessons for kids in foster care. As Alpha Rev scored a top 10 hit video on the nationally televised VH1 countdown in June, 2010, and their catchy song “New Morning” became one of the most popular rock songs in America, my heart pulled me toward these kids who saw music lessons as their only hope. By the end of 2010, I had doubled the size of our program, and was amazed at the healing benefits music was bringing to children who are frequently shut out from the arts. I thought having a hand in a hit song would be exciting, but it paled in comparison to seeing the joy music can bring to foster kids.

Starting a new business helped me discover the power of an everyday mom to make a difference in the world by seizing a dream, no matter how crazy. While moms might be more conservative in their decision-making, we have to remember that motherhood is a leap of faith too; when I hug my kids at the end of each day, I know that journey was worth it. Finding your passion isn’t that different—sometimes you have to close your eyes and jump to find the right opportunity. Just as with having kids, you can’t plot out every hard day, every blind curve in the road. In retrospect, if I hadn’t decided to manage Alpha Rev, I wouldn’t be changing the lives of American foster kids.

It’s a New Year . . . what’s your leap?

To find out more about Kids in a New Groove, please visit  You can see Alpha Rev as a special guest on tour in 2011 with Bon Jovi; Alpha Rev's new record "New Morning" is available on itunes.

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Everything 'n Nothing by Robin Gorman Newman

I suggested some time back to Marc that it would be nice if he and Seth spent quality father-son time, just the two of them.  Life is so busy, and sometimes they seem like ships that pass in the night.  I wasn't implying  they go away. I thought just spending a dedicated afternoon together would be great.

To my surprise, Marc took it a step further and suggested they visit Great Wolf Lodge for two nights.  I thought it was a terrific idea, for more than one reason. 

We both knew that Seth would love it, and knowing that tax season is coming up and Marc will be missing in action for months working round the clock, time was of the essence for the two of them. Not to mention for me ....the weekend was to be my last hurrah, so to speak, before being consumed with motherhood when Marc works Saturdays.

With all this in mind, I was excited for them and looking forward to "me" time.  On the introspective side, I was hoping my alone time might lead to some self-discovery.  It's not often there is quiet in the house, and I can hear my own thoughts. On the flipside, I wanted to have fun.  While I had things in mind, I made no specific plans. My goal was to see what came up for me.  To live in the moment and make spontaneous, unscheduled choices. To be true to myself and trust my gut in terms of what I did or didn't want to do.

What I found was that I wanted to do everything 'n nothing

A friend said I should bust loose and let my hair down.  Go out on the town.

My single party days are long behind me.  And, sometimes that feels like another lifetime ago.  So, that would have been a fun option.  But, I wasn't being pulled in that direction.

Friday night, I went out locally with a mom friend to see Black Swan, which really spooked both of us.  In particular, it wasn't a great choice since it made me uncomfortable sleeping in the house alone, especially since there is a dangerous predator in my town.  So, to say I was unnerved, is an understatement.  We went out to eat afterwards, though the movie had left us with little appetite.

Saturday, I chose to chill with my cockatiel for part of the time.  Ordered in my fav food...Indian. Watched countless movies on cable. And, for some reason, for which I was grateful, the spirit moved me to do clearing in the house, especially in my bedroom and office.  So, I tackled a bunch of piles and files, feeling like I barely scratched the de-cluttering surface, but I made a dent that felt good.

Sunday, Marc and Seth came home early afternoon.  I had taken myself to see The Fighter, which I enjoyed, and we all had dinner out.

It was interesting the reaction I got from friends when I shared with them that I was a free agent for the weekend.  Shock and envy ranked high.  I could hear the wheels turning in their minds in terms of how they might spend "me" time.

The experience took me back to living in my parents house when many a weekend was spent relaxing in my room and deciding what to do for the weekend.  Life was simple.  I didn't own a home.  I wasn't a mom.  I didn't have pets.  Other than commuting to work in the city on a daily basis, going out with friends, dating, hitting the gym, going on vacation, life felt very safe and under control.  Sure, my future was uncertain, since I was not as yet married, and I yearned to know how my love life would ultimately play out, but I wasn't racing the clock, as I often feel I am now.

When Marc and Seth came home, I was grateful for their presence in my life.  There is something to be said for distance making the heart grow fonder.

It's so easy to fall into pragmatic roles in a family.  We each have tasks we undertake on a daily basis.  But, we're people with passions not just mommy or daddy machines programmed for peak parental performance.

So, allow yourself some "me" time if you're able.  Ask for it if you need to.  Offer it to your partner or spouse in return.

Think back to the person you were before parenthood.  She is still with you.....perhaps yearning to emerge.  Let her out.  It's an interesting exercise.  How does it make you feel about the present?  What do you want or what can you incorporate into your life as it exists today that you've been missing?

Get quiet.

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Thursday, January 27, 2011

Snowy Day...Week 33 by Liimu

I've never been the type of mom that gets all down and dirty playing with her girls. In fact, I'm SO not that mom, my girls know to always give me the role of "the queen who lays in the lounge chair and watches her princesses play." but something about snow brings out the hands-on mom in me.

When we woke up yesterday to full-blown snowfall, I knew we had a situation on our hands. When it took me 35 minutes to make the normally 5-minute drive to my daughter's day care, I knew the situation was serious. When, more than an hour later, I arrived at the elementary school my two older daughters attend to find that NONE of the buses had yet arrived, I knew it was time to take the situation into my own hands. I packed those girls up and brought them right home again.

School didn't dismiss until 2 pm yesterday, but we had a ball. I got a lot of work done, yet somehow, we also managed to make princess cupcakes and play Wii. And today, in addition to reading time, watching American Idol and playing Just Dance 2 for long enough to break a decent sweat (not long, I have to admit), we are just about to finish decorating fairy cupcakes.

Add to that the fact that I have also attended several meetings (virtually, of course), turned in several key deliverables and send enough e-mails to make everyone else in my work sphere feel like they're the ones who are slacking off, and I pretty much feel like I've got it going on. OK, granted, at week 33, I have gained the same amount of weight I gained with my last pregnancy all totaled, but still...I am ROCKIN' this whole balancing act of motherhood and working. At least, for today I am. Tomorrow could be a whole different story.

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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The New Journey - By Cara Potapshyn Meyers

As a sequel to my former two blogs, I continue with my issue of divorce, but in a much more positive way. From the comments from last week’s blog, as well as some very meaningful advice from my therapist and even my Rabbi, I’ve begun what we are referring to as my “New Journey.”

This all started when I sat with my therapist and began to lambaste my husband about the new things he is doing (such as going skiing), with my son. I ranted and raved that I used to ski, but gave it up because my husband had no interest in it. My therapist then explained to me what she terms, “The Journey.”

As she described it, many people go through different “Journeys” during their lifetimes. Some couples are able to manage going through these journeys together. Other couples end up apart, because their personal journeys conflict for some reason and the couple is unable to merge their journeys together. She was essentially saying that my husband and I have grown apart in certain ways. And although I was willing to try to “merge” our different interests, he was not. She said that for some reason, he doesn’t want to include you on his new path in life. He wants something different. And he wants to do it alone or only include our son.

As painful as it was to hear this, I had to admit that my husband and I had been pursuing interests that neither one of us would have wanted to participate in. I no more would want to participate in an all day bike-a-thon than he would want to learn about theology. Our paths were already diverging.

My Rabbi, coincidentally, also used the word “journey” when I was discussing my current state of mind. She also felt that sometimes two people come together and have common interests and goals, only to find out that they have literally grown out of each other. And she reiterated that my husband already has started to move on and that I needed to try to do the same as well. Walking around with bitterness and resentment regarding a situation I can and never will be able to change is counter productive, at the least. I need to move on also.

My only lingering question to both my therapist and Rabbi was, “But what about my son? He is an innocent victim in all of this.” They both eluded that he would have to form his own “journey” through all of this. And if he needed counseling to help him do that, I would provide it.

So, here I am embarking on my New Journey. To be quite honest, I don’t even know what that is or where I am going. Except for taking a new class in theology, not much has changed in my life. Except for one really important thing:  My son has needed to go to bed much earlier the past couple of weeks because he is now sleeping longer than his usual 8 hours. Once we turn out the lights, he asks to hold my hand or arm as he drifts off. At first I was annoyed that I had to spend that extra time doing “nothing.” But I heard my therapist’s voice in the back of my head saying, “He is regressing a little. He’s clinging because he needs you.” So I decided to take the time I now use to help him fall asleep and utilize it towards something I used to do religiously, but found I was unable to fit it in at all in my chaotic life: Meditate. I sit on the floor, next to my son’s bed, as he holds my hand with his little one, and I clear my mind and breathe long, deep, slow breaths. And I realized a couple days ago that I was beginning my New Journey! I was starting to meditate again! And hopefully this will work its way into other facets of my life. Eventually my new path will be filled with new endeavors, new people and new goals. And I will have my son to share what I find interesting in my journey.

Amidst the worldly comings and goings, observe how endings become beginnings
~ Tao Te Ching ~

I couldn’t have said it more eloquently myself.

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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

A Mother's -- by Laura Houston

My ad would read like this: "SAHM in lower west 70s seeks like-minded, liberal, smart, slightly crazy mother with adorable child 18-24 months old (preferably female) for play dates, cocktails, recipe and book exchanges. Must be nurturing but tough."

Everyone talks about the loneliness and alienation of motherhood, but motherhood presents three particular challenges when it comes to finding meaningful, mutual relationships: 1.) You have to bond with the “mother friend,” 2.) Your children have to get along, 3.) You have to bond with your friend’s child/children. All three of these planets must come into alignment in order for a rapport to successfully develop.

Here in New York City it’s not easy to connect with other moms. This is a Type-A city where everyone is always in a neurotic hurry and lives are full. After living here for a year, I was sure I would never find the right “one.” Or any “one” for that matter. Stuck in baby jail, it seemed impossible to meet the mom who is at once a careful, conscientious and casual parent. I had given up hope that I would meet a mom who got my sarcastic sense of humor and shared my loves of reading, gardening, food, and music.

Then it happened. It was just like in the movies. On one of the last nice days of fall when the sun barely had the energy to hover above the high rises that line Central Park West, I met them. Dave, the boys and I were in one of the open park spaces of Central Park, and my husband collected a big pile of leaves for Lyle and Wyatt. Suddenly this adorable little girl dressed in pink with a dog hat ran through the pile laughing deliriously. She was precious, and I lived vicariously through her joy. At first, I didn’t pay much attention to the mother ensconced in a sleeping bag coat hovering close by.

But then out of politeness I had to speak to the mom. The conversation was easy. As fate would have it, Nicole was also from the Northwest. British Columbia. What’s not to love about Canadians? They’re a fun-loving people with a great sense of humor and the ability to amuse themselves through the darkest of winters. How else do you explain the Gopher Hole Museum in Torrington, Alberta? It’s one of my favorite attractions. And my insta-friend acknowledged within minutes of our first meeting that you can’t get a good cup of coffee in this town. I felt the same way. We are Northwest coffee snobs.

We talked until the sky could barely hold on to the last light of autumn. My husband had wandered off with one of the twins, and I was half watching the other who kept falling down the hill with Sonia while I chatted with Nicole. When darkness descended, we exchanged phone numbers with the intention of having a play date.

We didn’t get together for a few weeks, but we exchanged texts of intent. Then the week before Christmas we ran into each other at another playground. I was so happy to see her again I hugged her. Then I hugged Sonia. Then I felt silly because my hugs were strong, intensive, airport hugs. Not really appropriate in New York for new acquaintances. Neither Nicole nor Sonia seemed to care. They just wanted to play. We talked again for another hour while our kids amused themselves in the bitter cold.

Then the play dates happened. The conversation between us never stopped although it was always interrupted. It was like dating only better because I didn’t have to worry about whether or not to have sex at the end. I only had to focus on scheduling another play date.

Ah. Now just a few weeks later it is as if we have been friends for years. I know the sordid details about her family. She knows about mine. We agree we are married to the best men ever and still they annoy the hell out of us. We love Pinot Noir, fresh foods, cooking, and she has three times referenced obscure novels that I have cherished since high school. Better still Nicole is a great mom. She adores her daughter. She finds time to balance the work (she is very successful at her career) with her motherhood. She’s practically everything I want to be, but there is no envy. Just appreciation.

Oh. And she brought me this special peanut butter that my boys will eat by the jar-full when I complained about their lack of appetite. So I gave her my precious Potage cookbook.

It’s a relief, really, to find someone who engages me so much. When my boys see Nicole, they hug her. They stand in front of her and chant their chant of joy, and they jump up and down. They fight for a position on her lap. It feels as if Nicole and I have been close friends for years. And she comes with a bonus: her daughter. I love Sonia. I think about that precious, precocious child often throughout my day, and sometimes I even have dreams about her. I miss her after two days.

Then there are the funny things that come with a new friendship. Nicole has a job. A big job. So I have to remind myself not to text her every five minutes or send pictures of Lyle covered in the peanut butter. When I’m out in the city, I sometimes see things Sonia or Nicole would love, and I want to buy them. But I don’t. I don’t because I am the mother of twins, I am too tired, and I don’t want to carry anything I don’t have to. Plus, it would be weird to do so.

But I know none of that matters. Regardless of our good fortune in life Nicole and I value people and not things. We know we will do better by our children to help them through the negotiations of hitting and biting, and teaching them to share things rather than just giving them things. And we’ll do better by each other to save our time and energy for conversations, support, humor, and play dates that last well into happy hour.

Good friends are everything to good mothers. They’re just so damn hard to find. I’m both ecstatic and relieved to have finally found a match.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Change Is Good—by Jamie Levine

Because my birthday occurs exactly one month into the new year—on February 1st—I always consider that to be the start of my new year. Especially since I’m birthday obsessed—and celebrate my birthday like crazy—and up until this year, I’ve never been a fan of New Year’s Eve or any of the fuss related to the changing of the calendar. That said, as my 41st birthday approaches (8 more days!), I’ve been doing a bit of reflecting, and I feel as though a lot of change is brewing.

For one thing, my daughter’s been growing and thriving so much lately—and becoming so independent. She’s zipping her own zippers, pouring her own milk, and insisting on doing everything “by myself.” Best of all, she just started sleeping in a “big girl” bed—in her brand-new bedroom—by herself. Sure, she’s been getting up a few times every night to get me to come back to her room with her to cuddle for a few minutes before she falls back asleep (and she still whines before bedtime, “I don’t want to sleep by myself, Mommy! I want to sleep with you!”), but for the most part, she’s doing great, and I’m so proud of her. But my feelings are also bittersweet: Jayda’s growing up—and so quickly!—and I know that someday in the not-so-distant-future I’ll bemoan the fact that “my baby doesn’t need me anymore!”

Along with my birthday, my final semester of speech-language pathology classes (before grad school) starts next week, too. And while I know I’ll likely be a stressed-out-lunatic once I face my first exams, right now, I’m feeling pretty Zen about it all. Over the past few weeks, I’ve been observing a Speech Pathologist-friend of mine at work at an elementary school, and things are coming together for me. I understand much of what my friend does with her students, enjoy talking to her about her lesson plans, and can actually picture myself doing what she's doing a few years down the road; everything suddenly feels “right.” I think this is going to be a good semester for me; I’m excited about most of my classes and think I finally know how to manage the work (or should I say stress?) required for them, and that will be a big change for me—a positive one.

Then, there’s Library Guy. Last year, I threw myself a 40th birthday party—and it was wonderful—because I celebrated with my family and my fabulous female friends. It was an incredibly happy night—and birthday—for me. But now that I have Library Guy by my side, things can only get better. I’ve lived the last few years feeling very full and complete—without ever realizing what I was missing by not having a loving man in my life to share everything with. I’m not expecting this to be the best birthday I've ever had because of Library Guy, but I am expecting it to be a telling year. From the beginning, I've had so much fun with Library Guy, but I’m finally being honest with myself (and with him) and admitting that I’m no longer in this just for the fun; I take “us” pretty seriously now, and time will tell if we’re truly right for each other.

But for better or for worse, on my own or in a serious relationship, I’m looking forward to this upcoming year. Change is good—and my life sure is changing. Last week, the company that laid me off two years ago (after my 10 years of service) announced another round of layoffs—shocking dozens of unsuspecting people—and reminding me of how blessed I am to be living far away from my past corporate life—and on my way to a better career. I'm focused and committed to a new future. I’m also learning to love again, and to appreciate both motherhood and womanhood, and not just one in lieu of the other. I know it’s going to be an eventful year.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

I’m Coming Back In… Cyma Shapiro

A few weeks ago, I wrote that I was not enjoying being a mother. My children were grappling with issues, our lives had become complicated; we had also experienced a few tragedies. All of this compounded my feeling that without a happy home, life had just become…well…just too hard.
I’m happy to say that, in our therapist’s terms, I’m “coming back in” to our lives. Things are ironing themselves out (as they often do), and I’m now aware that time is passing and I must keep pace.
I’ve often written that for me, being a midlife mother brings a razor-sharp awareness that life will not go on forever. I never recognized this; at midlife, and with children, I most certainly do.
It’s SO easy to forget about the good, small things that happen daily as children grow. It’s SO easy to get mired in daily problems and yearly concerns. It’s SO easy to feel like the issues of today will still be the issues of tomorrow; our children’s angst will continue on into infinity, etc. etc.
The truth is that they grow and, hopefully, we grow (up) too!
Today, I will remind myself again of how happy I am to be a midlife mother; how happy I am to be sharing my life with my children; how happy I am for the people they are becoming.
Here’s my deal: Exercise, exercise, exercise. Pray, pray, pray. Meditate, meditate, meditate.
I try sooooooo hard to keep it all together.

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Saturday, January 22, 2011

My Bad by Sharon O'Donnell

Last week I wrote about getting my 16-year-old son ready to take the SAT and how frustrating of a process that is. And I have to admit as I've been taking him back and forth to his SAT prep course every Saturday and Sunday since mid-November and going through "Sentence Error" and "Sentence Completion" questions with him until I see little ovals with A, B, C, D, and No Error written in them in my sleep, I've been thinking how I get to do it all over again when my fourth grader is a junior in high school -- and I know from experience how quickly that time will pass.

I've also had another episode of mother guilt recently. Yes, I was the one who instigated the SAT prep course, the one who's been working with my son on sample questions and urging him to work on his Power Vocab program on the computer, so he would be ready for the test day - which is today. I'd signed him up for the SAT back in November, way before the deadline for the January test. Everything was in order, and I'd prepared my son the best I could. I felt good that things had all fallen into place: the test prep course went well, his recent exams had gone well, and he even had time to study exclusively for the SAT two days prior to the test because the semester was over and there was a two-day break. I'd applied for and received extended time for my son to complete the SAT, due to some diagnosed processing problems he has. His eligibility letter for that, his photo ID, his calculator, his number 2 pencils -- all of it was ready to go in a packet for him.

All I had to do next was to print out his admission ticket from the all-powerful College Board (feel free to bow down if you want). So late Thursday night when I printed it out, imagine my shock when I looked at the date for the test and said "March 12" not "January 22". Holy crap. How did that happen? However it happened, it was obviously my fault because I was the one who registered him for the test. Then a vague recollection came to me -- a vision of myself sitting at the computer and thinking "Well, if he finishes the prep course the week before the test in January, he might need some more time to practice what he'd learned" and then signing him up for the March date, thinking I had time to go back and change the date if needed. Of course, after that, I forgot all about it.

During the prep course, my son made gains on the practice SATs each of the four times they were given. He was building momentum and I was glad that he'd be taking the test immediately after the course ended so it would be all fresh in his mind.
Correction -- I THOUGHT he'd be taking the test immediately after the end of the course in January. For some reason, I'd completely blacked out the fact that I'd registered him for March.

Thus, I spent a sleepless night Thursday, thinking about how I'd sabotaged my own carefully laid out SAT plan and that my son would be doomed now that he couldn't take the test he'd been studying for so diligently and without complaint (well, most of the time). Mother guilt set in. It was as they say, my bad.
Then I spent all day Friday emailing and calling various testing centers in the area to try to find space for my son to take the test as a Standby test-taker. I even called -- dare I say it -- The College Board itself -- to see which testing centers in our area had space available for unregistered test-takers who also needed extended time. Someone there actually answered the phone and turned out to be pretty nice. Suffice it to say that after pleading and begging and telling people how badly I felt about my mistake possibly hurting my son, someone at another nearby high school took pity on me. It took his calling the testing administrator at her home, and the whole issue wasn't resolved until 6:30 the night before the test -- but alas, it was resolved.

He's taking the SAT as I type this. My husband and I dropped him off as I gave him last minute advice like "Make sure you use at least once semi-colon in your essay and to use good word choice". (Notice I did not give him advice for the math section as that is definitely not my department). As I watched him walk through the door, strains of the Hallelujah Chorus began in my mind. My mother guilt melted away, though I'm sure it will return at some other time in the near future. Now if only my son can make it through those incredibly long reading passages with vocab words that would give Daniel Webster pause, we'll be okay. Hallelujah indeed.

Friday, January 21, 2011


(photo credit: Carol Rosegg)

It's one of those shows that most of my friends thought I had seen already, being the theatre fan that I am.  But, somehow, Avenue Q, escaped me.

This week, I enjoyed a somewhat rare girl's night out, and went to see this long-running Off-Broadway Tony-Award winning hit.

Full of belly laughs, puppet sex ( heard me), talented perfomers and catchy tunes, Avenue Q proved why it has staying power.

It tells the story of a recent college grad named PRINCETON who moves into a shabby apartment all the way out on Avenue Q. There, he meets KATE (the "monster" girl next door), LUCY (the slut), ROD (the gay Republican), TREKKIE (the pervert) and other colorful types who help PRINCETON finally discover his purpose in life.  And would you believe the building's superintendent is Gary Coleman?!? (Yes, that Gary Coleman (may he rest in peace.)

The cast does admirable double-duty, since most perform with the adorable puppets and even assume multiple roles....voices....personnas.  No easy feat....try holding a puppet on your hand/arm for over two hours.  But, they tough it out with aplomb, and the laughs are infectious.

Adults enjoy Avenue Q, but you may wonder if it's appropriate for kids. Avenue Q is not suitable for  young children because it blatantly addresses issues like sex, drinking, and surfing the web for porn. Teens would likely think it's cool.  But, as a parent, it's up to your discretion.

Check out:  With the code AQBLOG12, get tickets as low as $55! (Valid through 5/26/11)  The code may be used at, or on the phone or at the box office.  Avenue Q is playng at New World Stages, 340 West 50th Street (between 8-9 avenues) in NYC.

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A Quickie by Robin Gorman Newman

Sometimes a quickie is as good as it gets…..and it’s better than nothing.  And, I don't mean in the way you're thinking, though the notion certainly applies.

Whether a foot massage...

Phone chat with a close friend...

Overnight escape...

High intensity run...

Romp in the hay...

It can all feel pretty good, even if fleeting.  And, sometimes as multi-tasking moms, we have to be grateful for what we can squeeze in.

This topic arose for me this week when a friend emailed on Monday that she'd love to chat, and Seth was off from school (Martin Luther King Day), so I had no time for  much of anything other than engaging him.

My friend is single (no kids), so her time is always her own.  And, while she wrote that she understood, I felt she had a strong need to connect.

So, as I finally got out of the head to the gym.....with Seth in tow...I decided to give my friend a call (on speaker cell phone) from the car.  I started off the chat by saying I was calling for a "quickie."  We could have gone on for hours, as we have done in the past, time-permitting.  But, that wasn't about to happen now so I wanted to let her know upfront.  It was good to hear her voice, at the very least. And, she got to share what was on her mind, so I was glad to be there.

It's so easy to feel that we can't do something because our schedule just doesn't permit.  And, then we feel bored or deprived or drained...or any multitude of not-positive emotions.  But, does it have to be that way?  Isn't something better than nothing?  OK....maybe not everything (a whole chocolate bar is better than a bite), but, it's something to consider.  It might satiate you more than you'd expect.

While I often yearn for a vacation, sometimes just an overnight someplace you enjoy can be rejuvenating.

Getting to the gym isn't always viable, but fitness experts will say that high intensity 10 minutes sprints can be beneficial.

Having a 60 minute foot massage, my favorite, is always a treat.  But, if I can't find the time, I'll go for a 30 minute session, or entice my husband to give me one....which would likely be around three minutes, but I'll take it.

My point is that we don't always have to think BIG.  Life is full and busy.....but you can find pockets of joy and carve out time for things that bring you pleasure....even if it's just for mere moments.  Our bodies and minds have muscle memory, so the positive vibes can last and remind you of what you're entitled to want and create in your life, even if caught up in the daily throes of demanding parenting.

This is a "quickie" blog, as it's been one of those weeks, but you get my gist. 

Take a look at your week ahead, and make a vow to work in some "quickie" ME time.  You'll be all the better for it, as will your family.

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Thursday, January 20, 2011

Happy New last! (Week 32) Liimu

Man, I feel like I am finally able to exhale after the holidays. Today is my daughter Amelia's seventh birthday. We started today off with the celebratory donuts that have become a tradition. I didn't realize how much of a tradition until my daughters told me last night that they were VERY excited for the donuts that were coming. I was like, "What donuts?" And they said, "The donuts we get every time it's someone's birthday." Guess it's a tradition now!

Anyhoo, back to the whole Happy New Year thing. Last week, I think I talked about how frustrated I had been with how much illness was ripping through the house. Honestly, I couldn't even come up for air long enough to appreciate the fact that we had made it through the holidays. Yep, I said it. I feel like I hold my breath from October 31 through Jan 1 because of all the temptations to CONSUME - to consume food, to consume alcohol, to consume products in stores. It just feels so great when it's over and it all goes back to normal. I know, I know...some of you out there are saying, maybe you need to get in touch with the spirit of the holidays... And maybe I do, but I'm just being honest here.

So, I managed to make it through with fairly little damage to our finances, or to my whole pregnancy weight gain goal (which is just to keep it to somewhere around my average weight gain from the past three pregnancies), but I couldn't really stop to enjoy it because I was caught in such a whirlwind of everyone getting sick, then better, then sick again. And, in the midst of all that, I had this client who supposedly wanted to renew my contract with them but to do so was involving so much back and forth, so much negotiating, I was barely sleeping from the stress of it all.

Well, that ended yesterday and everyone is healthy and HAPPY NEW YEAR!!! I have just the amount of work I really want, and clients who really value and appreciate my contributions and even a little time to actually prepare for this new baby who's coming (whether we're ready or not) in less than 8 weeks!!!

So, yes, I'm happy. I'm blissfully happy. Happy, happy, happy. Life is back to normal, and for the record, my normal life is nothing short of extraordinary.

Enjoy your Thursday, everyone!


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

What is “Better?” - By Cara Potapshyn Meyers

“BETTER” - of superior suitability, advisability, desirability, acceptableness, preferable”
I must admit that I was humbled by the number of concerned and genuine written and verbal comments my blog elicited last week. However, as true as all of the comments were, the essence that I took away from all of them was that my life would eventually “get better.” So I began to ponder both my life and the term, “better.” I came up with a list of questions that will sound bitter, and angry, and sarcastic because...well...I AM feeling bitter, angry and sarcastic. So, for those of you who truly had my best intentions in mind, and I sincerely appreciated all of them, please see past the bitter feelings and reflect on these questions:

Is “better” having my son ripped from his family unit and having to share time between two parents?

Is “better” being a single Mom to a child with multiple learning disabilities, and having to be the primary caretaker?

Is “better” having a child learn to deal with two different parenting styles, one of which is completely against his nature?

Is “better” having to pay a divorce lawyer almost $2000 of what was going to be my son’s college money just to fill out stupid, inane, paperwork when my child could have perhaps put that money into 2 college classes later in life?

Is “better” having one of your two pets, both of which your child adores, practically taken away because that pet favors the other parent?

Is “better” having to deal with stress related illnesses just about every single day, watching your own body become feeble and frail in the process?

Is “better” having a child have to share holidays, vacations and birthdays between each parent?

Is “better” attending a special event of your child’s, standing on the opposite side of the room from your former spouse, having as little communication as feasibly possible with that spouse, cheering on your child, hugging and kissing him for doing so well, and then having both parents leave in separate cars?

Is “better” not only not knowing what to say to friends when they inquire about the impending divorce? And is “better” having a child wonder what the heck is going on in their family but barely able to comprehend, let alone ask appropriate questions about what the heck is going on, because you don’t even know yourself? 

Is “better” having to linger in this “lifestyle” until your child goes off to college, which will roughly be 10 years from now?

After contemplating the smattering of questions I exemplified, can anyone honestly tell me that my life will get “better?” I seriously doubt so. Although I am open to being receptive to comments to the contrary.

I made a conscious decision to have a child and build a family. I looked forward to having a loving spouse, who would be there for this family during good times and in bad. I may never know just what went awry. But what I am experiencing and will be experiencing is far from “better.” And it’s a damn shame, especially for my child. Because out of us all, he’s the one who deserves “better.”

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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

GUEST BLOG POST - Inviting Your Child's Anger In by Fran Walfish, Psy.D.

It’s happened to all of us. Your child melts down in a huge fit of anger and you don’t know what to do. If it happens in public, on top of your frustration you feel embarrassed and humiliated. You could instinctively lash back in anger, collapse into tears, or temporarily abandon your child by walking away for a few moments. What few parents know how to do is turn the anger into a positive. But, I have good news. I can help.

Over the years, I have seen many angry children in my office and have come up with a simple strategy that works. I call it 3-D Parenting. 3-D Parenting has three components: Discard the Defensive, Demonstrate Empathy with Words, and Directive Discipline with Boundaries. The main objective is for parents to become comfortable tolerating their child’s expression of direct anger.

Many parents find it hard to bear their kids powerful fury. But, staying connected during trying times creates stronger parent-child pathways and also requires tolerance. By employing these three key strategies, you will help your son or daughter stay open with you when they are filled with rage. 3-D Parenting also promotes respectful, friendly, courteous behavior in parents as examples, and in their children of any age. What more could you ask for?

So what are these three key strategies? I can best explain by telling you about a mom and her son that I treat in my office. At eight, Bobby is the oldest of three children. He is a very nice boy who continually sets his own emotional needs behind the needs of others. Also, as the oldest, his mother has higher expectations of him. Additionally, Bobby has a younger sibling with special needs and the youngest in this family just turned two.

When I first met Bobby I encountered a well-mannered, shy boy who found it hard to tell his mom anything critical, or to complain. He was angry because he felt he did not get enough of his mom’s attention; she was consumed with caring for the child with special needs and running after a toddler. While Bobby was not the type to have a meltdown, inside he really was one angry little boy who was on the brink of a huge explosion.

The good news is that Bobby’s mom, Gail, was pliable and open to coaching. Not all parents are. But Gail very much wanted to do the right thing and already felt her own guilt about not giving Bobby the same level of attention that she gave her other children. One of the first things Bobby said to Gail when we all sat down together was “I want some special time with you.”

I found it quite interesting that Gail’s initial response was to say, “But don’t you remember? We did that on Thursday.” Her response was an attempt to qualify in her mind and in Bobby’s eyes that she was a good mom, and it touches on the basic foundation for any parent: you must be self-aware. Being self-aware is a basic premise for parenting and I discuss this in depth in my book, The Self-Aware Parent (Palgrave).

The importance of self-awareness is this: If you are not aware of your internal thoughts and feelings as a parent, or of the specific buttons that trigger angry responses in you, any parenting model you try will backfire. So rather than thinking ahead and talking themself through angry times with the best interests of their child at the forefront of their mind, the unaware parent jumps to reactions imprinted into them by early life relationships with their own parents. This could include angry words in response to a child who screams, or tears of frustration when your child has a temper tantrum.

Gail was not yet a self-aware parent and her desire for validation showed this. Gail did not realize that Bobby was angry because he did not receive one-on-one attention every day. When I confronted her on this, Gail did not collapse into an emotional heap or abandon Bobby in a time out, but she did become defensive. Interestingly enough, discarding the defensive is the first of the three key steps in 3-D Parenting.

Discarding your defensive feelings and behavior creates an open environment from which you will parent. Most parents want to be liked (as well as loved) by their child, but as a parent, you should understand that your child will sometimes be angry at you––especially when you ask him to stop a behavior or do something he would rather not do. Claiming himself as a separate being with individual wants is a necessary part of your child’s development, and as you know, children sometimes do this with anger.

For many parents, acting without being defensive is a new way of functioning; it is a very different framework of belief. But it is important, because your child needs to feel accepted and embraced at all times, including when they feel and express their anger.

My first goal for you as a parent is for you to honestly examine how you act when your child is angry, and see if you have tendencies toward defensive behavior. Most of us do, myself included, and it is important to let that go. Steps two and three will give you better options to replace your defensiveness with.

Step two, demonstrating empathy with words, simply means narrating your child’s angry feelings back to them. It is a reflective listening and talking skill that allows you to explore your child’s anger with your eyes and ears, and then say it back with empathy.

For example, in the midst of a tantrum many parents refuse to accept their child’s opposition, and ignore it by turning away until the child is ready to behave. As a result, your child may think his or her feelings are not valid. Instead, acknowledge that you understand your child is upset by narrating verbally what your child is feeling. So rather than becoming defensive, you say with warmth, “I see you are angry with me, and I’m the kind of mom who really wants to hear about it right to my face. Tell me about why you are mad at me.”

I cannot stress how important the empathy part of this step is. For instance, with a young child you might say, “Mommy sees you are angry that you can’t have more play time with your red truck. You want more play time, but now it’s time for your bath and you got mad at Mommy. It’s hard to stop when you want more.” Being a container for your child’s anger will help him view you as a person he can confide in. It also establishes your place as a stable figure, one who will not attack, run, judge, blame, or collapse when the going gets rough. This is very important to convey to your child as he grows and faces larger issues.

Another key aspect here is that no resolution is required. All that is needed is that you hear your child. That in itself is reparative. All your son or daughter wants is to be understood and validated.

The final step is directive discipline with boundaries. Talking through a situation, as we did in step two, allows your child to feel heard. However, once he understands that you acknowledge and accept his displeasure, you must set the boundary and follow-through by taking action and directing your child toward his responsibility––and your command.

In this case, simply walk him into the bathroom and help him into the tub. It is not necessary to indulge him with other toys to compensate for his struggle in leaving the red truck behind. If your very young child becomes totally out of control, you can sit on the floor Indian style, with your child sitting down and wrapped in your arms in front of you, facing away, until the tantrum is over.

In my practice I work with many sophisticated parents just like you. But, what is most lacking is the lasting ingredient of motoring your child through his or her responsibility. You can talk all day long, but if you do not take the step of making sure that your child completes his responsibility, then you might as well talk to a brick wall.

Without directive discipline your angry child is likely to ignore you. He will think of you as a nice, but limp and ineffectual mom or dad. Instead, once you set a boundary, enforce it. Optimal parents also take a deep breath and think before speaking, so the boundary they set is appropriate and significant, but short in duration to motivate your child to keep trying.

It takes some practice, but you can learn to direct your child’s anger with clarity, kindness, empathy, and firmness. “I know how hard it is to leave your video to go take a bath so I’m going to help you. Here we go.”

In putting it all together it is good to remember a few things:

1. Your child is always allowed to be angry.

2. Be empathetic toward your child at how hard this moment is for him or her, for the angry feelings that are expressed are very real.

3. Follow through with praise for successfully completing this “hard-to-do” task.

It is possible that in praising your child, she might come back with something to the effect of “You made me.” Your response could then be, “Well, I helped you. And one day soon you’ll be able to do this all on your own.” These words give your child supportive confidence to work through her anger by herself.

Remember Bobby and Gail? I taught Gail these ideas to help them through their mild crisis. Specifically, I suggested that:

1. Gail encourage Bobby to complain to her directly. She needs to be self-aware enough to know that Bobby’s angry complaints are not attacks on her. Instead, they are situational and he needs to vent. “I know how frustrated you feel when you don’t understand your homework assignment. Why don’t you try your best and after snack time we’ll look at it together.”

2. Bobby should be able to go to his mom anytime and say he needs individual time with her. Gail then should follow up on that need, if not right then, at a designated and specified time that same day. “Mommy is busy making dinner right now, but after dinner you and I can walk around the block, hold hands, and be together while Daddy watches your brother and sister.”

3. Gail and Bobby should have a standing once a week date to go roller skating (an activity Bobby loves). Nothing should get in the way of this weekly activity and this should be alone time with just Gail and Bobby, and without his siblings.

4. Gail should ask Bobby at least once daily: “How are things for you?” Because Bobby accommodates and does not want to burden his mom, he does not share his angry feelings easily. He needs to be encouraged.

5. Bobby cannot pummel his brother or sister as a way to vent his anger. If he does, play time is automatically over for Bobby for the next three hours. It is important to structure discipline as stinging, but short lived. That way your child will be motivated to try again to achieve.

Few of us were reared with parents who said, “Come on, give it to me. I want to hear what you’re really feeling,” but that is a lot of what today’s parenting should be about. Add empathetic narration and boundaries with follow-through, and most of your work is done.

I realize it is a lot to remember. But the more you practice it, the sooner acknowledging your child’s anger will become second nature to you; and the faster your family will become happy, connected, and strong. My empathetic narration to you is, “I know you can do it.”

Dr. Fran Walfish is the top leading child and family psychotherapist and author in Beverly Hills, California. In addition to her thriving private practice, Dr. Walfish was on clinical staff in the Department of Child Psychiatry at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center for 15 years. She was a school psychologist and recently completed her 4 year term as Chair of the Board of The Early Childhood Parenting Center founded at Cedars-Sinai, Los Angeles.

Dr. Walfish is a regular expert contributor to Parents magazine,, NBC Nightly News with Brian Wiliams, The Dr. Phil Show, Parenting magazine,,  Family Circle magazine, Woman's Day magazine, etc.  Visit her website  Dr. Fran's current book, The Self-Aware Parent: Resolving Conflict and Building A Better Bond with Your Child, is represented by William Morris Endeavor Entertainment and published by Palgrave Macmillan. William Morris Endeavor and Lake Paradise Entertainment are collaborating with Dr. Walfish to produce a television series offering her therapeutic guidance and help to families in America.

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Wastebook for Mothers -- by Laura Houston

My favorite cartoon shows a woman playing with her two children alone on a New York playground. The caption says: “The last Facebook holdout.” It makes me chuckle and it makes me a little ashamed all at once. I have a love/hate relationship with the site. I love having my news and interests streamed to me in one place, so I don’t have to surf my favorite sites to see if there is anything interesting on them. I also love the discounts I receive for activities around the city.

Then there are the things I hate about Face book – all of which I have done myself: the inane posts, the baby spam, relentlessly posting all of the quotidian things we do over the course of 24 hours. I abhor reading those things. I don’t care what people are eating for breakfast, that they have a bad head cold (Is there ever a good one?), or that they are standing inline to watch the Backstreet Boys reunion show. But the main reason I hate Facebook is because of the time I spend on it. It sucks me in. I watch one John Stewart clip and then another and then another. I watch videos from the 80s when I was in high school. I read reviews of shows and concerts I will never go see.

I originally joined Facebook because as a writer I thought it would be fun to read the witty comments of my comrades. I originally set about to have no more than 20 friends, and all of them were writers, readers, artists, good friends, and some family sprinkled in there, too. Now I have 250 friends, and I don’t really know or remember most of them from various jobs or schools. And here it is two years later and most of my original 20 friends are no longer on Facebook. If they are, they rarely post.

It’s a bummer. I miss their wit. When I asked a few of them why they no longer come to the site, they said: “Because Wastebook is a time suck, and the novelty is over.” They are tired of the insidious posts and the self-promotion of friends and family. They hate the check-ins and the challenges to re-post certain posts or you suck. They hate how self-absorbed it makes people.

This is true. Facebook is a great venue for saying, “Look at me! Look at me!” I certainly use it to promote things like this blog. And I use it to share pictures of my boys with friends and family. But I figure posting on Facebook is better than clogging up people’s inboxes with big files. The site makes it easy to track down someone’s new email address, etc., and it makes organizing a night out with friends a snap. It’s also fun to try to be entertaining or to make someone laugh about something ridiculous.

According to several studies I found on the Internet, the average person spends anywhere from five to seven hours a month on the site. I’ll bet it’s even more for mothers. I know at nap time I open my laptop and start browsing everything from friends’ status updates to news updates, and checking out the links and updates of my “likes.” And I read what my “mom friends” are posting, and they post a lot during the day in order to have some sort of adult connection. Most mothers have to be averaging at least an hour on Facebook a day.

One hour a day. That’s 30 hours a month. That’s almost a workweek in time. When I added that up, I was mortified. I used to spend much more of my time reading and writing before Facebook. I picked up the phone and called people before Facebook. I emailed my friends more often rather than posting three sentences about how I am doing.

Recently I noticed the people I most want to stay in touch with don’t post anymore. Let’s face it: they’re too cool for Facebook. They’re busy living their lives instead of posting status updates for all to see. They’re in a coffee shop reading a book instead of sitting in their Lazyboy scanning a newsfeed. They write emails and send cards and letters instead of “poking” people to see if they are OK. And most importantly, they meet their friends face to face for conversations and company rather than connecting to them virtually.

I want to be the mom in that cartoon. I want to be out living my life with my sons and enjoying the playground rather than sitting in my living room trying to connect to people via a web site. I want my boys to see me reading books instead of laptops. So I’m going semi-dark on Facebook. I am going to try to spend the time I used to spend on it doing more creative endeavors. Pretty soon, I hope to accomplish what my other 20 writer/artist friends have accomplished: immersing myself in purely creative endeavors. Finishing that novel. Getting that children’s book out the door and to an agent. Creating something that means something.

As isolating as motherhood can be, I’ll bet we could all benefit from going out and experiencing life in the real world rather than on the World Wide Web.

Monday, January 17, 2011

JAMIE LEVINE’S SHOW REVIEW: John Tartaglia's ImaginOcean

This past weekend, my daughter and I and our good friends were fortunate enough to enjoy a matinee performance of ImaginOcean, a magical underwater musical that’s been making a splash off-Broadway. The brainchild of Tony and Emmy Award nominee John Tartaglia, a “Sesame Street” alumnus who portrayed Princeton/Rod in the original cast of Avenue Q, ImaginOcean is a one-of-a-kind black-light puppet show that’s full of surprises and special effects.

This 50-minute family show—which is just the right length for young children with short attention spans like my daughter—centers around three brightly-colored talking fish who, through the magic of black light puppetry, convincingly “swim” across the stage. Dorsel is the scaredy-cat of the group, Bubbles is the imaginative one, and Tank is the muscle; when these friends discover a treasure map together, they set off on a journey to find three clues and seek their fortune. Along the way, they encounter dancing jellyfish, a wise seahorse, and a goofy octopus, who help them face their fears and teach them about the true bonds of friendship.

Fairly forgettable musical numbers are weaved throughout the production, but more memorable is the message of the show, and the magic of the 3-D puppetry. With glow-in-the-dark bubbles bursting from the ceiling (and my daughter and her friend laughingly grabbing for them), compelling characters who talked to the audience and engaged the kids, and the fishes’ final discovery that friendship is the greatest treasure of all, this lively family adventure is full of clever insight and interactive fun.

Our kids left the show wearing friendship bracelets that touted “Ocean Friends Forever” and smiles on their faces—which is to say that our afternoon outing went swimmingly well.

ImaginOcean plays at New World Stages, 340 West 50th Street, New York, NY

Wednesday: 11:00 AM and 2:00 PM
Saturday: 11:00 AM, 2:00 PM, 4:30 PM
Sunday: 12 Noon and 3:00 PM

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Puzzle and Key…to Life! By Cyma Shapiro

Here’s a puzzle for you:

You gaze into your eyes, breathe heavily, and scan your body.
Are you jogging around the block for the first time, meditating or about to have sex?
You become elated, joyful, and sometimes bored and uncaring. You often come up against your edge. Are you struggling in your marriage, engaging with your children or dealing with something else?
Give up? You are dealing with something else, and that “else” is YOU!

According to Sally Kempton’s latest (and greatest) book, Meditation for the Love of It: Enjoying Your Own Deepest Experience, you…can find your best…you… by being with…you!

A 370-page tribute to the experience, Kempton, a writer, author and master teacher of meditation and Tantric wisdom, believes that whatever shows up comes out of Consciousness and ultimately, love.  She also believes that this is the true key to happiness, peace and self-love; a path to reducing stress and clearing the mind. 

Kempton takes great pains to guide the reader toward greater peace and enjoyment with the following tips:
  • Stop worrying about technique
  • If your relationship to this becomes troublesome, or more ‘edgy,’ this only requires more patience.
  • Be creative, play
  • Pay attention to the energy that emerges with the experience. Treat it with tenderness.
Finally, Kempton proposes this: the key to going deep in meditation is wanting to… go deep. The more you crave it, the easier it is to meditate. Kind of like being with your children…or…being with your partner!

This book is a ‘how-to’ of everything meditation – suggestions for body positions and practice techniques; various mantras; tips for how to address the mind, emotional and physical blocks, and the heart.  Kempton envelopes the entire experience and gently exhorts, you, the reader to simply (try to) follow.

As a seeker who is always looking for methods to greater harmony, wholeness and peace, meditation is one of the many methods I employ in my daily practice. Without practices, daily life often becomes too much of a burden with its (many) external variables, and with unexpected internal strife. As older mothers, we’ve got our hands full with younger children, older parents, aging bodies and profound life changes. Without anchors, we sail adrift.

Self-love is probably the greatest gift we can give ourselves and one of the greatest traits we can pass down to our children. In this case, it’s self-care without the sexy! Kempton’s Meditation for the Love of It can be one more tool for us to use on our path to wholeness.

Sally Kempton has been practicing and teaching since the early 1970’s. Sally is an acknowledged master teacher of meditation, subtle energy and Tantric wisdom. Her students include leading teachers of yoga and meditation from around the world. Sally teaches at Kripalu Yoga Center in Lenox, MA, Esalen, in CA, and leads retreats and workshops internationally.  She also writes the popular “Wisdom” column for Yoga Journal. Visit Sally @

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