Monday, February 28, 2011

Back in Good Shape—by Jamie Levine

It’s been five months since I met Library Guy, and only a few weeks since I started questioning our relationship, and feeling insecure about his intentions. Today, on our “anniversary,” all that has changed: I feel like we’re back on track—being honest and appreciative of each other, enjoying every moment together, and, more importantly, I’m feeling incredibly good about myself. Right now, my head—as well as my body—is in pretty good shape.

For the past 15 years or so, I’ve been quite dedicated to working out and eating right. Prior to contemplating single motherhood, I was ridiculously lean and muscular—in the best shape of my life—as the result of spending several hours a day at the gym and eating a super-clean diet. And while I certainly toned down my weight lifting regimen during my pregnancy, I did still manage to work out almost daily—hitting the gym up until the day before Jayda was born. Then, just a few weeks after my C-section, I was back on the stairmill again. Fitting in workouts and avoiding stress-eating wasn’t always easy for me, but I did my best to stay on track. However, I never managed to completely shred my 10 extra pregnancy pounds, somehow found myself sporting a little belly, and started to loathe my body. Then I met Library Guy.

As I’ve articulated here before, Library Guy calms me, completes me, and generally makes me feel very good about myself; he seems to think I’m the most beautiful woman in the world, and constantly showers me with compliments. Thus, falling into a relationship with him unconsciously caused me to make some changes: I started eating a little less and working out a bit more intensely, and over time, I began to fit back into my pre-pregnancy clothes. As our dates have progressed, my wardrobe has multiplied: I’m now able to wear clothes I haven’t worn in years. Having my body confidence back is important to me, and being fit is a crucial part of my identity that I've been desperately missing. For the past several years I’ve felt like a hot, hard-bodied woman trapped in a not-so-sexy mommy mold. Now I’m the fit, confident mother I was meant to be—both inside and out.

During the past few weeks, while I experienced a bout of relationship insecurity, I discovered that the best way for me to fight back was to focus on my body. I ate even more healthfully than usual, and took out my frustration and fears at the gym; I’ve started to get stronger and fitter as a result. And I’ve even started running. I’ve never been a runner, as I have minor knee and ankle injuries that have always held me back, but I’m pushing through those handicaps and have started to log a bit of low mileage in the hopes that I can run outside when the weather improves. It feels good physically and mentally, and I like having a goal for myself. And rather than running away from my past and my pain, by taking care of myself and my muscles again, I feel like I’m running towards something. Something really good. And with my fit body, strong heart, and positive mind, I know I’ll get there.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Just Being a Mother by Cyma Shapiro

When I began my project about new midlife mothers and then began writing about related topics on MotherhoodLater, I was grappling with the truth: about coming into motherhood at a much later age; about my encroaching my middle age; about the “Change of Life” and all that it brings; about reinventing oneself and all that it means, especially having gone past the century mark (sssshhhhh). 

In truth, before this time, I was always racing along trying to be the same – the same as all the other mothers on the playground; the same as all the other mothers at school; the same as so many other mothers I’d see at the grocery school and mall. No matter what I did, I couldn’t seem to be or feel included. That nagging childhood feeling of being the last one to be picked for the (sports) team or having the last birthday in the class (I was nearly always the youngest), or just being plainly different would haunt me daily.

Interestingly enough, many people said that I wore motherhood “well;” that I seemed quite at ease pushing a stroller. In fact, many people said that they liked the way I looked as a new mother. None of this lessened my acute and never-ending feeling of dissimilarity, and being the odd-man-out.

It’s a strange thing this midlife mothering. Most of us don’t feel our age, many of us don’t look our age and nearly all of us want the same thing that many other women want. Only we want it during a different chronological age than much of the rest of the world’s mothers.  The sociological reasons for this are varied and complex: maybe we couldn’t find Mr. (or Mrs.) Right; maybe we were headlong into a successful career or the pursuit of our goals. Maybe, like me, we had a fear of motherhood or commitment or could rationalize away the timeline believing that when and if we were ready, we would nevertheless instantly become mothers. Many of us now know otherwise.

And, so, Plan B emerged – how would we do this without: a partner, natural childbirth, money, support, good health, and on and on.  As midlife mothers, we’ve all had to grapple mightily with our internal and external truths. We’ve also had to grapple with our age - not in theory, but in reality. We all know that our lifetime is short and the amount of time left spent with our children not long enough. All mothers feel this way, but we acutely feel this fundamental truth each and every day of our lives.

But, at the end of the day, we are all just mothers – longing for a family/love/legacy/bonding, and trying to do the best job we possibly can. Perhaps the “time of life” has changed me. I can no longer compete and I really (feel I) am no longer in the same league as so many other mothers. But, this doesn’t matter at all. My goals and desires are just the same as yours and I’m also living it every day with joy, peace, and a very full heart.  I am a midlife mother but, first and foremost, I’m just a mother, too.

Labels: , , ,

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Home Improvement (s) by Sharon O'Donnell

Since we’ve lived in the same house for over 20 years, we’ve had to update and repair things as we go along. It's time for us to do something else: repaint the kitchen cabinets and downstairs bathroom. There's always something, it seems.

The big thing was a family room addition that we did ten years ago right about the time our youngest, Jason, was born. That era of my life I refer to as “Pregnant and Plywood” since I was indeed pregnant with our third son, and a sheet of plywood was the only thing separating our kitchen from the outside for over a month. Fun.

Two years ago, we finally decided it was time to update the foyer since that’s the part of the house that basically everyone sees. In addition to painting our two-story foyer, we desperately needed to replace the wooden banister. For years, there was a child safety gate attached to it, which dug into the banister, making it worn and chipped. Since we were getting a new banister, we decided to go ahead and get hardwood stairs also. I wanted to get a carpet runner for the stairs, but Kevin thought we should see the hardwoods first before deciding. After a few days of work, the project was complete, and the staircase looked great. I still felt I might want a stair runner, but it wasn’t something we had to have right away. I did drop a few hints to Kevin about which colors might look nice, but he liked the hardwood steps better than carpeted ones.

Then it happened. I was working on the computer when I heard a loud noise and turned to see Fenway rolling hard off the bottom step and landing on the floor. He’d fallen down the stairs! I rushed to him and held him, making sure he was all right. Nothing was broken, although he was shaking.What were we thinking? Fenway has long hair, including on his paws; why didn’t we consider the possibility that hardwood steps might pose a danger for him. I felt terrible.

I called Kevin and told him what happened. And yes, he was on the phone with the carpet guys within minutes ordering a stair runner. If they posed a threat to Fenway, then the stairs would have carpet immediately. Of course, it took a few days for our carpet order to arrive and be installed. In the meantime, Fenway would sit at the bottom of the steps and stare up at them, as if they presented an impossible obstacle. Man versus Mt. Everest. Dachshund versus wooden stairs. It was obvious the stairs intimidated him, and it took a whole day before he dared set his paw on them again. If he went up the steps quickly, he would do okay; problem was, with his confidence lacking, sometimes he’d stop halfway up or halfway down and then couldn’t get started again. Someone always tried to be there right by him in case he needed us, yet that wasn’t always possible. There were times I’d find him lying on the middle step, afraid to go up or down. This, of course, would not do. We had to block off the steps with ottomans and chairs, sort of like childproofing. Finally, when the carpet runner was installed on the stairs, Fenway was free once again to go up and down as he pleased.

The most recent home improvement we made was in the winter of 2010 when we remodeled our master bathroom. All I wanted was Kevin to recaulk the shower so mold didn’t show any more. Honest. That’s all I wanted. But somehow it turned into a major renovation complete with tile and a new vanity. Kevin always would get upset with me when I brought up recaulking the shower because he said the caulking he’d already done was the best he could do. And of course, he was determined not to call in a professional.

Much to my surprise, one day after Christmas, Kevin suggested we go look at new shower stalls. Never one to look a gift horse in the mouth or to try to determine the motivation of said gift horse, I said okay. We went to the local Home Depot and picked out a shower stall that we liked; yet, Kevin said he’d like to look around a bit more.

Enter Kevin’s good friend, Chuck, who was visiting from Florida that week. Chuck has a talent for somehow getting Kevin to agree to making major purchases. God, I envy that talent. I don’t know how he does it. The boys and I have both noticed. Chuck suggests ideas he thinks would be good for house, and Kevin will automatically begin to seriously consider it. If I’d come up with the same idea, Kevin would never listen to it. I used to be jealous of Chuck's talent until I realized I could use it to my advantage.We had been planning to have our pipes replaced in our entire house because they were the polybueteran type that was prone to leaking or bursting; however, we hadn’t done it yet because it was rather expensive. It was Chuck who said, hey why not go ahead and remodel your bathroom as long as you’re pulling out the pipes.

Next thing I know, Kevin, Chuck, and I are sitting in a tile shop ordering Italian tile for the floor and shower walls, a glass shower stall, a new vanity with mirror and cabinet, and even a new toilet – the kind with the strong flush that alleviates toilets getting stopped up. Oh Happy Day. No more using the plunger! The tile is gorgeous, but that toilet – it is the crown jewel of the bathroom. The piece de resistance. It’s definitely the most popular thing with the boys we’d bought since buying Fenway.

I love our new bathroom. I feel like I’m in a hotel. As a matter of fact, it took Kevin and me a few weeks to feel comfortable actually being in the bathroom because it was so nice, it didn’t feel like we lived there. The other thing is that remodeling an upstairs master bath means that visitors will never see it, and come on, isn’t showing it off to visitors supposed to be half the point of it? But it’s not like adding on a sunroom and having people over for dinner. You can’t say to dinner guests, “Why don’t we have dessert up in our master bath?” Well, you can, but you would get some very strange looks.

The next thing on my list is to get the guest bathroom updated. As I said above, nobody can really see the nice master bathroom except us, so a guest bathroom update would be nice.

I think it’s time Chuck comes up for another visit.

Labels: , ,

How Do You Measure A Man? by Maureen Eich VanWalleghan

It is not surprising how much men come up in the conversation of mothers. Wanting one, having one, getting rid of one, keeping one all seem to float around in the minds of women.

When I was single I thought a lot about men, the getting of one. Now I’m married and I have spent a fair amount of time thinking about getting rid of one. After six years of married I am finally settled into the difficult work of just staying married. I do love my husband and the best thing I have done so far is manage to stay married. Many times I imagined if I had had more economic security I would have left him pretty quick. After my daughter was born and I had sold my house and had the profits in the bank, on my drive to work I would think “I can keep on driving...I can do anything I want.” Then I would think about my daughter and wonder “do what...start over, find a new man?”

Being married is hard. In my opinion, nothing about it is that great for men or women. I often think that institutionally it is a shackle that both parties suffer under for a variety of reasons. What is the biological imperative for each sex? When looking at more “primitive cultures” both sexes seem more relaxed about their tasks. And isn’t life about tasks: the task of raising children; the task of providing for children.

So much of the language of modern women does a disservice in the area of marriage. “Are we growing together?” “Do we want the same things?” Questions I have finally thrown out the window. So many of my notions about relationships have been informed by a Hollywood vision complete with running sequence and cuddling in bed. Life is not a movie and light romantic comedy is as much a fairy tale as Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty or Snow White. The more one has incorporated the mythical notion about what love looks like, the more one will be unhappy in the context of marriage.

For me, the only question is: “Is this person committed to me?” Of course everyone wants a “committed relationship,” but what I mean by “committed” is: will the man I am married to put up with my s#$@. I have a lot of it. Most women do. Men are rather simple creatures. I don’t mean that in a bad way, but more as a statement of fact. There is not much subterfuge happening for men. They like sex, pleasure and often have a great need to please women. Women on the other hand are complicated hormonal beings that often wield their power recklessly because they don’t know how powerful they really are. My favorite moment in the movie Eat, Pray, Love is when Julia Robert’s character is talking about the issue of fat for women and she explains it doesn’t really matter because when men have a naked woman in their bed they think they’ve won the lottery. Anecdotally I can confirm this, as can most women.

So beyond the fluff of love, how does a woman measure commitment: by the size of a ring, by jewelry given, by flowers, by important moments remembered, by sensitivity, by affection, by any number of female markers? For me, none of that matters. I am finding that the only thing that really counts is this: is the man in the room and still standing after I have hit the rocket launchers and razed our relationship and him as well. Lucky for me, my husband has weathered this many times. To be fair he is no saint and can be a pain in the neck in biggest way and sometimes I really hate him, but I usually am the one with the rocket launcher.

The measure of a man, is just in staying for the fight. The most important thing I have done so far in my relationship is abandon my idea of what I thought a husband should do and actually looked closely at the man I was married to...not my fantasy “Mr. Right” that I carried around in my head as a measuring stick in my dating life. Now that I have invited “Mr. Right” to leave the building, I can see all the ongoing small things that my husband does that make up a very solid and stable life. When I look at this mosaic then I see what a great husband I have even though he doesn’t match my fantasy. In my movie there are no running scenes and try as I might to write in the bedtime cuddling it rarely happens, but my husband has great fire retardant armor, which he manages to put on just before I hit the rocket launchers...lucky for me.

Labels: , , ,

Friday, February 25, 2011

ROBIN'S SHOW REVIEW: Love Loss and What I Wore

Daryl Roth presents Love, Loss, and What I Wore is an intimate collection of stories by Nora Ephron and Delia Ephron based on the book by Ilene Beckerman.  Directed by Karen Carpenter, it features an all-star rotating cast that packs a punch.

I saw it with Alexis Bledel, Nikki Blonsky, Anita Gillette, Judy Gold and  Paulette Washington.  All were really excellent and on their game.  Different styles and voices were projected, and it felt like there was a genuine camaraderie on stage, or at least a shared female take on everything from the little black dress, to challenges finding things in your closet, to gaining weight, losing weight, dressing room nightmares, the bottomless pit in handbags, etc.

Each dressed in black and sat perched on a high chair, and read/performed from a script on a music stand.

Quite a stark and simple, yet well implemented and successful theatrical production.

Crisp, entertaining writing, as you would expect from the Ephrons.

Featured is “Gingy” (the nickname for Beckerman), and other women characters who comment on shoes, prom dresses, name it.  They shed light on fashion trends embodied by celebs like Audrey Hepburn and Madonna.

It's the kinda show that takes you on a trip down your own memory lane of a closets of clothing you've bought and worn (or not worn) over the years...and the things you associate with them or those close to you.  I loved the line "You know you have finally given up when you go to Eileen Fisher.” Made me think of a gal I went to college with who now swears by Fisher clothes.  Am I dating myself?

Though riotious at moments, there are sobering scenarios as well.

Judy Gold, in particular, cracked me up big time with her riotous skit about purses. Totally hysterical!  I've long loved her and have seen her one-woman show that is a blast.

I'm a huge Hairspray fan (the movie), and happen to live in Great Neck, Nikki Blonsky's home town, so I enjoyed seeing her live. Totally open and adorable!

Alexis Bledel, beautiful and seemingly demure, had her funny, poingnant moments as well.  I remember her from the hit television series Gilmore Girls, so it was cool to see her on stage.

Anita Gillette, Broadway veteran, who also served as the show "illustrator" was in fine form as the most senior member of the current cast.

And, Pauletta Washington (wife of Denzel and a talented and versatile performer in her own right), was an absolute hoot!

Funny, intimate and heartfelt, the show runs the gamut of emotions.  It makes for a fun and affecting time out with girlfriends. You'll laugh and have plenty of your own stories to relate afterwards.

See Full Cast and Schedule at:
$59 for Tues and Fri evenings
$45 for Wed, Thur, Sat and Sun evenings
$65 for all matinees
Premium Seats Also Available at $100!

Tues 7pm, Weds 2 and 8pm, Thurs-Fri 8pm, Sat 2 and 8pm, Sun 3pm

1. ONLINE: Visit and enter code LLLSP28
2. BY PHONE: Call 212-947-8844 and mention code LLLSP28
3. IN PERSON: Bring a print-out of this offer to the Westside Theatre Box Office

407 West 43rd Street (between 9th and 10th Avenues)
Box office open Mon-Sun noon- 6pm.

*Expires 3/27/2011. Black out dates may apply. Schedule and cast subject to change. Offer subject to availability. Normal service charges apply to online and phone orders. No exchanges or refunds. All sales are final. Cannot be combined with other offers. Not valid for prior purchases. Limit of 8 tickets per order. Offer may be revoked at any time.

Labels: ,

GUEST BLOG POST: I Want My Children to Succeed by Ilene Val-Essen, Ph.D.

Moms unite around that shared dream.

Imagine the relief moms would feel if they could face their 18-year-old and say: I feel confident that you’re prepared to make decisions that will positively affect the course of your life.

That translates to:

My kid is okay. I did a good job!

Moms always dream big as we live in the trenches. And it’s in the trenches of everyday life that we help realize these big dreams.

Moms know:

• Children can’t learn effective decision-making skills overnight.

• Children need age-appropriate opportunities throughout their lives.

• Children need parents to create and support these opportunities in order to prepare them for independence.

Imagine living in an environment where you are told where you can go and places you must avoid; what you can eat; what friends you can see, and what time to go to bed. Children live much of the time in this kind of restricted world. How powerless they must feel: Everyone else is bigger, older and more imposing. No wonder they are fans of powerful super-heroes! If there’s something children can control—such as what to wear or what to eat for breakfast—they often guard that power jealously. If an adult tries to take that power away, well—that’s a recipe for conflict.

Clearly, parents must make decisions for their children, but we can still support them to steer their own lives as much as possible. We can offer them opportunities to make real decisions as often as is practical.

When toddlers want to exert their mastery by feeding themselves, we provide foods they can manage easily. When children or teens make suggestions for how to spend their time or money, we listen with an open mind and support their ideas when we can.

Yes, I’ll be glad to check out a gymnastics class for you.

For younger children, we can offer choices:

Do you want to wear your blue sweater or your green one?

As children get older, we can seek their input whenever possible:

These are summer camps I’ve researched. Let’s discuss them to see which one sounds most appealing? (vs. Here’s the camp you’re going to.)

When children feel respected, when they’re given choice in their lives, feelings of being powerless diminish; they see themselves as capable rather than as victims. They’re less likely to be angry and rebellious when they’re older. (If that doesn’t motivate us, nothing will!)

When my son was in middle school, he expressed that idea in a way that made me laugh—once I recovered from the shock:

I feel really out of it, Mom. All the kids bad-mouth their parents; they’re on their case all the time. But you’re always so reasonable. I don’t have a reason to rebel.

Think of a child who has felt controlled all of her life. When she approaches the teen years, with more time away from parental supervision, she may release her anger and “get back” at Mom and Dad. Of course, teens rebel and become manipulative for all sorts of reasons; but, their actions are less likely to be extreme when the teen has felt respected and empowered.
Parents often hesitate to trust their children: Finish your homework as soon as you come home. Then you can play. This suggestion may sound reasonable, but we know that children thrive on autonomy and trust. They often tune into their needs better than we do. Finishing work before playing might be best for some children; others might do better by unwinding after school and doing homework a little later.

Of course there are decisions we must make in our children’s interests, whether or not they agree. But more often than we think, it’s possible to give them a real voice in deciding. If a decision turns out badly, our children have an opportunity to learn by experiencing the consequences. And maturity is often the result.

With each decision, children become more capable, more able to make wise choices. Isn’t that what we want for them?

Ilene Val-Essen, Ph.D. is the author of Bring Out the Best in Your Child and Your Self. For the past 30 years, she has worked with families, children and teens as a Marriage and Family Therapist in private practice in Culver City, California. Dr. Val-Essen is also the creator of the Quality Parenting program, which has been translated into several languages. Please visit her website at to learn more about book and work.

Labels: ,

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Week 37...It Happened to Liimu

So, I didn't even think this could happen, but it happened to me. And I just thought I should share my story in case it may happen to anyone else. I had mastitis with my third daughter while breastfeeding. It's basically a fancy term for a breast infection, which is usually transmitted from the baby's mouth to the mom's breast. As a result, getting mastitis when you're not lactating is extremely unlikely. As a result, it wasn't even on my radar as something that might happen to me in these final weeks of pregnancy.

Sunday night, I started having pain in my left breast that radiated out to my armpit and arm, but I didn't think much of it. Who doesn't have breast pain during pregnancy? (If you don't, well hmph. Keep that to yourself so the rest of us don't feel bad.) Anyway, the next morning, I felt like a truck had run over me, but again, thought I was just tired after a bad night's sleep. I tried to go about my day, which included an all-day meeting in New York, but when I started feeling clammy and feverish while driving on the turnpike, it became evident I was going to have to slow down and put my plans on hold. I kept feeling worse and worse, and when I finally took my temp found that it was 101.5. I went back to bed and started having chills and headaches. I thought I had the flu and seriously hadn't made the connection.

It wasn't until I got up later and took a shower and saw the trademark red splotch on my boob. When I went in the shower, I could feel a tender hard spot that radiated heat, and knew from my own experience that I had mastitis. I went online and saw that although rare, it's not unheard of to get it while still pregnant. I called my midwife and she'd never heard of it, nor had anyone in her network of midwives, so she felt it was probably just a clogged milk duct, not anything requiring antibiotics. We both hoped it would resolve on its own.

Although the fever lifted, the pain didn't go away entirely and I still felt that hard spot. To be honest, I started to freak out (my mom is a 30-year breast cancer survivor who was diagnosed at 50 years old and required a double mastectomy as part of her treatment). Perhaps because of this, or simply because it wasn't resolving entirely on its own, my midwife referred me to a breast specialist (the symptoms of inflammatory breast cancer are often similar to mastitis).

They diagnosed me yesterday with not only mastitis, but a full-blown abscess, that required a huge needle to be drained. I am also on antibiotics for the next 10 days. Joy. So, if you guys have breast pain or any unusual symptoms, don't ignore them! Breast infection isn't only something that happens during breastfeeding. Less than three weeks to go, and believe me, I am really looking forward to saying goodbye to the painful side of pregnancy and hello to our newborn son.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Becoming International - By Cara Potapshyn Meyers

A couple of months ago, a flyer was sent home from my son’s school notifying us that International Week would be taking place this past week. I always love to volunteer at my son’s school. Firstly because he is so proud to see me there. Secondly, I like to be a presence in the school and give a little of my time.

For International Week, I chose to volunteer for three days. I was supposed to volunteer at the school’s Book Fair back in November, but I was plagued with pneumonia, so I felt a certain “obligation” to put in more time for this event.

Since we have a very diverse community, families are asked to let the school borrow and display items from their heritage. There were beautiful things from India, Korea, Argentina, England, Japan, China, Israel, Russia, and others. My son also wanted to contribute artifacts for International Week. However he didn’t want to donate anything from our family’s heritage. He wanted to bring in items from Canada.

My husband goes on a yearly trip to Canada and always brings my son a gift, such as a Husky stuffed animal, a hat, miscellaneous Canadian coins, etc. Because my son was so excited to be contributing, he not only wanted to donate items, he wanted to research facts about Canada and have the two of us present them to the class! I totally immersed myself into finding out more about Canada, my son by my side. I was going to make this an educational experience for him and bolster his self-esteem at the same time!

We spent a good part of the weekend researching facts about Canada by goggling “Canada” and “Kids.” A multitude of sites came up. We printed out the old and the new Canadian flags. We found a children’s word search puzzle about Canada that I made multiple copies of for my son’s class. We wrote up a simple list of facts about Canada that would hopefully interest his class for roughly 10 minutes. My son was elated!

Next, I had to get permission from my son’s teacher to do a mini presentation for the class. She responded that she would be delighted!

On Monday, my son carried his entire Husky dog collection, hats, and coins into school. He wanted to bring it directly to the area where items would be put on display, completely by himself.

I began my volunteering on Tuesday. I stationed myself right in front of the Canadian display. I was quite intrigued that the boys came over to admire the Husky dogs more than the girls! And they had many questions about Canada! Thankfully, because of the research I did with my son, I was able to answer most of them, as well as give them additional facts!

The next day, my son’s class was going to visit the International “Museum.” My son was beaming when he saw me! I took some pictures of him to remember his excitement of this day! Again, many boys came over to examine the Huskys. One little boy offered to buy one!

Once the morning classes left, I was allowed to go to my son’s classroom to give our presentation. I had the word search puzzles, the flags, and fact sheets for my son to read to the class and one for me to read as well. 

My son is a born presenter. There was not one flinch of apprehension; not one quiver of fear; not one moment of hesitation in this boy as he presented to his class! I was beyond proud! At seven years old, I remember sitting in the back of the classroom, hoping not to be noticed. If I had to come to the front of the class, I would have been shaking so much, I would have practically fainted. And here was my son, presenting facts and fielding questions from his classmates as if he were a politician!  I couldn’t have been more proud of my son!  I was proud that he took the initiative to take on this multifaceted project. I was proud that he was excited about presenting his finds. I was so proud that he could speak in front of an audience without an inkling of uneasiness! My son may have learning issues, but this kid is going to blow right past these issues and do whatever he wants to do in this world!

My next volunteer project is the school store. I’m curious see how he does as a salesman!

Labels: , , , , , , , ,

Monday, February 21, 2011

Bump in the Head/Bump in the Road—by Jamie Levine

On the Saturday before Valentine’s Day, I was gearing up for a romantic overnight with Library Guy. But before I started primping, I took Jayda to her weekly dance/gymnastics class, and helped her get ready to tumble. As she sat on the floor, removing her socks, I squatted down to help her, grabbed her shoes, and stood up…right into the overhang of the formica front desk counter. BAM! I bashed my head. Hard. Though I didn’t black out or throw up, or even bleed externally, I knew I had done some damage. I spent the rest of Jayda’s class with an ice pack on my head, and suffered from a migraine all afternoon—as well as throughout the evening of my romantic overnight. But I still managed to have an unbelievable 18 hours with Library Guy, and left floating on top of the world…trying to ignore my pain.

My migraine lasted for three days, and my vision became a bit blurry, too. I’m slightly near-sighted and don’t wear my glasses too often, but suddenly I was wearing them all the time. A visit to my eye doctor confirmed that my eyes were not damaged, but he also surmised that the injury had jogged my head so much that my vision, which he had expected to worsen over the next year, was simply deteriorating faster now. It was nothing to worry about, but he did tell me that he expected me to wear my glasses almost all of the time now…and that he planned to bump up my prescription in the next few months.

Four days after my accident, although my migraine was gone, a dull headache and feeling of dizziness still plagued me, so I went to see my internist, who sent me for a CAT Scan. Fortunately, the test came back negative, but my doctor told me I might suffer from a headache for another week or so, since I’d obviously experienced head trauma. Terrific. Suffice to say, I felt miserable…and was a crabby mess. I was tired, achy, dizzy, and feeling very sorry for myself. And, unfortunately, Library Guy didn’t handle it very well. True, he checked up on me, but he didn’t seem to take my discomfort too seriously, and awkwardly told me to “hang in there,” and “cheer up,” while he spewed other platitudes, and seemed unhappy that I “wasn’t myself.” This behavior set me off.

I love being with Library Guy, and I think he’s an amazing guy. But there are a few things he’s been inadvertently doing, or rather issues he’s been avoiding, over the last few months that have been hurting my feelings and making me feel insecure. But, other than rattling off a few sarcastic comments here and there, I’ve never let him know how I really feel. And my head-injury-induced horrible mood, and overly-emotional state made me explode; I finally confronted him with everything that had been building up inside of me—in one long outburst, filled with sobs—and he listened. He didn’t get angry; he didn’t hang up the phone; he didn't even express much shock. But he also didn’t give me the answers I needed. If anything, his lack of emotion and lack of response made me doubt our relationship and the feelings he had for me, because he didn’t say what I wanted him to say. Ultimately, I felt even more insecure for stirring things up, and apologized; he told me not to worry about it, but I did. And I felt a gap between us widen.

The next 24 hours changed me a lot; I was an emotional wreck, internalizing everything that had happened, and foreseeing the demise of our relationship. Sure, I knew in my heart that Library Guy wasn’t going to break up with me simply because of what I had confronted him with, but I started to wonder if maybe we weren’t both in the same place and that maybe he wasn’t taking this relationship as seriously as I am. And as much as I’ve told myself to “just enjoy the ride” and not worry about where things are going (since I never intended to be in a relationship before I finished grad school, and I'm certainly not desperate for a ring on my finger any time soon), I realized that’s not possible for me anymore. I’m in this deep, and if the thought of losing Library Guy now, after less than five months, already breaks my heart, how could I deal with losing him after a year or two? But as we all know, no relationship is guaranteed permanence, and being in one is always a risk. So, getting out now just to save myself some pain isn’t really an option.

The only option I have is to stick it out and make things work—by speaking up more and by remembering who I am: a strong, sexy, smart, secure, amazing woman—with or without a man by side. And thankfully so many of my good friends have reminded me of this and helped me get my mojo back. Library Guy and I have talked a lot more in the last few days, and have slowly reconnected. I’m also letting him absorb everything I’ve told him and waiting to see what he does with it. I do think he’s trying harder to make me happy. I hope he thinks I’m worth the work he’s going to have to do now to keep me feeling secure. Because I am worth it. And I think he is, too. And as the bump on my head continues to heal, I have a feeling in my heart that the bump in our relationship is going to smooth itself out, too. Bumps can cause some pain and they can certainly shake things up, but enduring them—especially with someone special by your side—can sure make a person stronger.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Midlife Mothering And Learning by the Bell Curve By Cyma Shapiro

A funny thing has happened to me during the past few weeks. I’ve made awarenesses that I know are designed to teach me fundamental truths about my life. They look like this:

I’m a very driven person. I know what I like and I go after it; in most cases I get it. Mothering after 45 is one example; and in that case, I was certain I knew what life would be like after that. I was wrong. In fact, I was dead wrong. It has been like this for many other things that have followed: the advent of my next child at age 48; my belief that our friends and social circles would stay the same after children; the belief that it’s possible to become a mother and maintain the same friends, job, house, husband and, most importantly, the rhythm of your previous life.  Let’s see…I believed that my women’s project – examining the underlying beliefs and reasons for choosing motherhood over 40 – would flourish in a particular manner, in a particular timeframe.  It has been successful, but not in the manner I expected.  In reflecting on this all, I now also remember some of my previous beliefs - that the biological clock was mere hyperbole – that one was, perhaps, a tad bit unrealistic. My most recent belief?  That menopause would somehow overlook me.  And, now this - that my launching another blog site for midlife mothers would also allow me to continue writing for MotherhoodLater.  It will not.

While many of you might have seen some of these changes coming, no one is more surprised than me. And, I keep being surprised. I also keep thinking that I have it all in check; that life will turn out the way I expect it to, but, in fact, it doesn’t. Nearly ever. “Expectations,” my husband always says to me, “You have too many expectations.” But in the moment, nothing seems out of my grasp and everything seems doable and easily attainable for my life.  How very wrong I often am.

So here I am at a really sad juncture. MotherhoodLater Founder, Robin, allowed me my voice again; gave me latitude for pursuing my thoughts, goals and dreams. And I took the bull by the horn and went for it all. And, in getting most of it, I now need to let go – of Robin, and of MotherhoodLater. 

This is tough.  Despite the corniness of this, it really does feel like the child leaving her mother; the school-girl going to high school; the young adult getting married. For everything that moves forward, something (or someone) nearly always gets left behind. And, now it’s my dear friend, Robin.

Oh, I’ve no doubt we’ll remain good friends, but that mentoring relationship; that nurturing under the wing so-to-speak is gone. Now, I’m on a ledge alone, much like I imagine she already is.

So, here I go into the unknown. Two more weeks on this site, but I’ve already started saying my “good-byes.” Growing up is SO hard to do…

Labels: , , , , , ,

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Another Awkward Moment by Sharon O'Donnell

As my own children grow up -- with my oldest two now in college and high school -- I sometimes long to hold a baby in my arms again. I know a lot of women with older children feel the same way. Fortunately for me, my niece Kristin had a beautiful baby girl in 2009. She and her husband live about 3 hours away, and they came home last weekend to visit. Their little girl, Kylie, is now 15 months old, and I love that age -- to see her walking around unsteadily and giggling that baby laugh that is probably the best sound in the entire world.

When Kristin and her husband revealed what the baby’s gender would be, there was a bit of chaos in our house. A girl! That was unbelievable news because having a girl is a rare occurrence on my side of the family. Of my parents’ eight grandchildren, Kristin is the only girl, preceded by her brother and followed by six male cousins. Three of those six boys are mine, and the other three belong to my sister, Gail.

So the day we found out it was a girl was quite exciting. My sister Mary (Kristin’s mom) got a phone call from Kristin telling her they found out the baby’s sex. At that very moment, Gail, my mother, and I were also in the room. We waited in great anticipation as Mary talked to Kristin. When Mary turned to us and exclaimed, "It's a girl!", Gail -- my fellow mom of only boys -- and I squealed -- literally squealed. Needless to say, we were all very excited about having a little girl in the family at last.

My youngest, Jason, who was eight then, was especially eager for the baby to arrive. Years earlier when he was four, Jason told me one night he’d made a wish on a star that he would have a little sister. “Ah, sweetheart,” I said, breaking the news to him as gently as I could, “that isn’t going to happen.” I almost added, “Not a snowball’s chance in hell,” but I caught myself.

Kristin and Jason are cousins, but there is a twenty year age gap in between them, due to my older sister having her children rather early in life, and me having my youngest later in life. When we first found out Kristin was expecting, I was assisting two other adults in teaching Jason’s Sunday School class when one of the adults asked students to share something that had happened to them during the past week. Jason’s hand shot up immediately, a huge grin appearing on his face, barely able to contain his enthusiasm. He even made a few of those ‘ooh-ooh’ noises Arnold Horshack used to make on Welcome Back Kotter. “Yes, Jason?” one of the adults responded, smiling, probably expecting a story about a soccer or basketball team victory or a trip to Disney.

“My cousin is pregnant!” Jason shouted. The other two teachers didn’t know quite how to respond. The thing is – people usually assume that an 8-year-old has cousins near his own age or maybe in their teens, and they had obviously made this assumption. They looked awkwardly at me, their eyes wide. “Yes,” I replied quickly, “my niece and her husband announced last weekend they are expecting a baby in November.” I emphasized the word ‘husband’ to get my point across. They breathed a sigh of relief that Jason hadn’t spilled the beans about a delicate family situation.

Yet another awkward moment of being an older mom. Will they never end?

I Wish I Had a Wife by Maureen Eich VanWalleghan

What’s on my mind right now? Julie Powers Schenecker, Andrea Yates, Susan Smith and the approximately 200 other mothers who annually kill their children. As blogger at a website devoted to mothers I keep asking myself “How are the mothers around me doing?” So often I have a sense of loneliness in Mommyville. I stand alone—though with my husband—in bulk of my days as I teach, work on projects, write for this blog and attend to my daughter’s and my family’s needs. I am busy and so the isolation feels less intense, but connecting to other women in the intimate way I once did rarely happens. I know that many women do have mommy friends and this site is a forum for connecting, but the immediate intimacy of being around women is mostly gone from my life.

How have we come so far in the feminist realm of work and yet as women so few of our needs are met? Particularly the need for connection. As I am doing research for a documentary film about the families of murderers I find myself drawn to the stories of mothers who have done the unspeakable. Is there a connection to the lonely existence of mothers and mothers who snap? Many would say no. No one wants to consider their dark place and even if they know it’s there, there is no room for that conversation.

Anthropologically, what is the basic structure that is most conducive to making healthy moms? The conversation is often what makes for happy children. I wager a happy mom makes for happy kids. I know my own experience trying to do little things for myself paid off in the area of self care. At some point when my daughter was little, I realized one thing I really wanted was my old habit of a long shower in the morning. That made me happy. When we moved to Prescott, I fell in love with the bathroom, which was big and carpeted. I used to bring my daughter’s toys in there for her to play with while I took my 20-30 minute shower. Every time I would get into the shower I’d say: “A clean mama is a happy mama...” My daughter says it for me now. I wish there was a similar maxim for all the other needs women have in their lives.

I think the greatest disservice mothers live with is not having a collective family structure that supports the individual woman in the day to day bustle of life. I once read an article about a polygamist relationship where one wife said that she wouldn’t have been able to go to college if it weren’t for the help of the other wives. Kind of a wild thought. My own mother definitely made it possible for me to go to school. When she comes for a visit and to watch my daughter she cleans up and generally does anything she can to help me in my mommy and wifely duties. I know this born of empathy from her own experience as a wife and mother. I am lucky to have her physical support. So many women don’t have that. It is different than childcare in that the familial relationship is easy for me to support emotionally. Thinking of polygamy it’s possible to see how women could support this kind of family structure.

I think my biggest question is this: does the nuclear family really support mothers or is there a pressure cooker situation that most of us survive? Right now I am reading The Mask of Motherhood by Susan Maushart and will shortly reread Naomi Wolf’s Misconceptions. My questions are not new. So how do we as women fundamentally change the structure of our lives to better meet our biological imperative to have babies?

Labels: , ,

Friday, February 18, 2011


(photo credit: Amanda Russell)

When it comes to thrilling audiences with circus stunts, pedigreed circus star, Jamie Adkins, doesn’t need anything high-tech or highfalutin to make jaws drop. In fact, with his self-professed love of “simple circus”, Jamie needs only some slack wire, a couple tall ladders, and an old suit case filled with who knows what to create “a Chaplinesque demonstration of physical comedy that charms while it astonishes (Winnipeg Free Press).”

In his latest production, Circus INcognitus, which runs at The New Victory Theater in NYC through February 27, Jamie stars as a man with something to say, but he can’t quite find the words. By teetering on towering ladders, somersaulting on slack wire and timing perfect pratfalls, he finds unusual and hilarious solutions to overcoming his fear of speaking in public.

I can't say enough about this show.  It is an absolute delight!  Jamie has a way of pulling in the audience, whether it be engaging them in a toss of oranges and grapefruits or simply smiling and looking uncomfortable, yet endearing. Full of laughs and very cool feats, acrobatics, and physical comedy,  it makes for a fun, fast-moving theatrical experience.  I would have welcomed more.

I'm a huge fan of celebrated mimes like Marcel Marceau, and it's been a long time since I've seen someone who immediately brought him to mind (in a good way).  Jamie is a real talent.  Your kids will love him, and you will as well.

“I’ve performed with large ensembles in large productions,” said Jamie, who for years was an integral member of Montréal’s renowned Cirque Éloize. “With my solo work, which is on a much smaller scale and more intimate, I try to be as subtle as possible, and personable, to reach out and make every audience member’s experience a personal one.”

Circus INcognitus stars and is directed by Jamie Adkins. Costume design is by Katrin Leblond, lighting design is by Nicolas Descôteaux, music composition and arrangement is by Lucie Cauchon.

Ticket information
Theater-goers who buy tickets for three or more New Vic shows qualify for free Membership benefits, including a 35-percent savings. Tickets to Circus INcognitus cost $25 (orchestra and front mezzanine), $18 (mezzanine) and $9 (balcony) for Members, and $38 (orchestra and front mezzanine), $28 (rear mezzanine) and $14 (balcony) for Non-members.  Visit

Performance Schedule
Fri Feb 18, 7 pm
Sat Feb 19,12 and 5 pm
Sun Feb 20, 12 and 5 pm
Wed Feb 23, 2 pm
Thurs Feb 24, 7 pm
Fri Feb 25, 7 pm
Sat Feb 26, 12 and 5 pm
Sun Feb 27, 12 and 5 pm

Labels: , , , ,

Family and Friendship by Robin Gorman Newman

I am not a happy camper right now.

I caught the cold from hell....likely from Seth (though it wasn't that bad for him), and we have a wedding this weekend.  I have to get psyched, despite tissues, cough drops, nose spray, and all.

We will be driving four hours to Binghamton, NY for the wedding of a gal I've never met.  It's the daughter of a cousin.  We thought it would be nice to see family we haven't seen in some time, but as it turns out, many aren't going.  And, the older folk, my aunt and uncles, are mostly deceased, so it's kinda bittersweet.  But, we're not gonna cancel.

It's up to the cousins and others in the younger generation to connect, but for whatever reason, I'm not close to my family, whether on my father's or mother's side.   Never have been (except for select aunts/uncles who I miss).  Part of it, I suspect, is because my sister and I are on the younger side compared to many of our cousins (on my dad's side in particular) who could almost have been our parents (if they were young parents).  Not that age should matter, but it puts you in different places in your life and in a position where you can't necessarily relate all that well to each other.

My mom's side is a different story.  She had a major fallout with my favorite aunt at the time (her older sister), and they both passed away never making ammends.  So sad.  Tragic really.  And, as a result, it estranged my sister and I from our cousins.  Not that we had a fight with any of them, but we all drifted apart, given the wrath of our respective mothers.

Family is a tricky thing.  I was watching Piers Morgan on CNN earlier this week, and he was interviewing Janet Jackson.  It was the first time I've heard her speak at length and so candidly.  He probed about her life growing up in a famous "fishbowl" where you're part of a highly celebrated family that when mentioned brings to mind both huge talent and eccentricity (and not necessarily in that order).  What was that like?  Her response was that she didn't know anything different, and that every family, famous or not, has challenges.  I couldn't agree more.

Marc and I thought going to this wedding would be good for Seth.  Being that he is an only child, we have a high consciousness of family and our desire to instill that in Seth.  We make a point of trying to connect him with his cousins, when possible, and to send cards, make calls, etc.  We want him to know that family, beyond us, exists for him..

But, at the end of the day, we can't choose our family.  We can choose our friends.  And, Seth does a good job in that arena.

Just because people are blood-related (and in this case, they're actually not for Seth, since he is adopted), doesn't mean you're going to feel a bond.  And, you certainly don't want to promote one if it doesn't feel welcome or mutual.

Seth has always had friends and been social.  We're gearing up for his 8th birthday party, and there's no shortage of kids coming.  And two nice boys he's been in school with since they were four will be there.  It's very sweet to watch them grow up and remain buddies.

I hope Seth will always have good friends in his court. I feel confident he will.  He's a caring, loving kid who enjoys others, and makes friends easily.  That will serve him well as the years go by.  And, while I also hope that he will stay in touch with cousins, we'll see what the future brings.  He, like my sister and I, is the youngest of his cousins.  But, as long as they're able to play things like Wii together, they stand a good chance. A good game of Mario Bros. knows no age.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Week 36...Never Say Liimu

Two weeks ago today, my mother-in-law went in for open heart surgery. She's been in and out of the ICU ever since. As a result, my family has spent the last two weekends in Delaware, visiting with family and supporting my husband who has been going to the hospital to visit her as much as he can. We've made the best of it, staying at a hotel with an indoor pool so the girls could swim in spare moments. When she became stable last week and was moved to a regular room, my sister-in-law suggested maybe we could take my three daughters to the movies and dinner. My husband decided to come at the last minute, and was so glad he did. We saw what may have been the best movie I have seen in the last 15 years - "Never Say Never."

Yes, that's right. It's the Justin Bieber movie. I didn't have high expectations. I wasn't a huge fan, though I did really secretly like that song, "Baby" and a couple other songs, too. I thought he was just a kid who happened to be able to sing at a fairly young age and managed to gain a following on YouTube that launched his career. Boy, was I wrong. And I have been telling everyone I can think of about just how wrong I was. The movie was riveting, inspiring, and incredibly moving.

It tells so much more of his story than I ever knew – that his mom was a single, teenage mom (his dad left when he was only 10 months old). She was active in the church and he was just around all her church musician friends. It tells of how he became interested in the drums at 4 and started singing seriously by the time he was 8 – he even sang on street corners, and put on a fundraiser to buy a real set of Pearl drums. It told about his uprising on Facebook and how the producer from Usher’s label found him and brought him to LA to tour around the country in a van playing at middle schools and churches and playing acoustic on radio stations until he started tweeting about where he would be and dozens, then hundreds, then thousands of people would come out to see him. And then, getting to meet Usher and doing his album and getting to the point where he was playing Madison Square Garden in like a year’s time and sold it out in 22 minutes. An amazing story – we were all riveted.

My 8-year old, Devon, kept saying during the movie, “I don’t want it to be over…I don’t want it to be over,” My 4-year old, Autumn, cried at the end because she wanted to stay and watch it again, and my 7-year old, Amelia, was crying real tears because she was feeling so much love for him. We were all singing along and the whole movie audience erupted in cheers and applause at the end. An unbelievable experience. I'll say it again, "Never Say Never" was the best movie I have seen in decades. And, it has inspired me to start engaging with my own music career again. Hey, if a 16-year old from Canada can do it, why not a 40-year old mom of three (with one on the way)?

Ok, ok, so there are lots of reasons why not, but hey...Never Say Never, right?

Labels: , , , ,

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Loving Too Much - By Cara Potapshyn Meyers

Is there such a thing as loving someone too much? And if so, where is the line that delineates this?

I ask this because the stress of my pending divorce and my son’s unattended to learning disabilities has gotten me so stressed out, I feel like I am holding on by a thread. When I discussed this stress with my various therapy professionals last week, each one of them replied, “Forget about your son. Focus on yourself.” Forget about my SON?? That’s like asking me to forget to breathe! Every ounce of stress in my life exists because of the love that I have for my son!! I am getting divorced because my husband and I couldn’t see eye-to-eye regarding my son’s learning disabilities, and he just wanted to brush them under the rug while I fought like heck to get my son the services and accommodations he needs and deserves! Is THAT loving too much?

I am stressed out every second I am with my son, trying to manage his behavior, his meltdowns, his rambunctiousness and how it affects not only the two of us but also the environment around us.

I am stressed out every second because every interaction with my son will ultimately hinge on the type and amount of custody I ultimately receive from my divorce because the divorce laws have changed drastically over the past 6 months.

So why are these professionals telling me to “forget” about my son?? If my son were not in the picture, I might or might not be getting divorced. I wouldn’t have any educational challenges to deal with. And if I were divorcing, it would be a piece of cake: This is yours, this is mine, have a nice life. My stress level would be minute compared to what it is now.

Where does that leave me as a Mother? I decided to research this area a little and find out if there is such a thing as loving your child too much. Not in an overindulgent, let your child rule your world type of excess. But fighting for your child and your child’s rights. Being their advocate. Making the best decisions possible type of love. Is there such a thing as too much loving in these areas?

I did a google search on this topic. Many articles focused on overindulging a child with material things or giving in to them too much. I wanted something deeper. I came up with a few provocative articles that go beyond the obvious.

In an article written by Jane Nelsen and Cheryl Erwin, titled, “Is It Really Possible to Love Too Much?," the authors state that, “Divorcing parents may lack knowledge about the effects their actions have on their children. These parents will claim they want custody, ‘Because I love them.’ Parents also love their children too much when they can’t see that they are doing ‘bad’ while claiming to do ‘good.’”

Another article by Rod Smith, titled, “Loving” Children Too Much" brings across some food for thought. He argues that children are loved too much when their wants are habitually placed ahead of the needs of the parents,” (okay, well maybe my own needs are not getting met because I am consumed by my son’s needs?). Smith also states that a child is loved too much when a parent gives up all of their former hobbies and interests and focuses all of their energy on their children,” ( the 20+ parenting books I have at my bedside instead of the novels I used to read, once upon a time?). Looks like we may be getting somewhere.

The third article is a blog written by Aaron Ben-Zee’v in Psychology Today. In this blog, he deduces that, “Even if love were concerned solely with disinterested care for the beloved (and this is not obviously so), there is still the question of what constitutes proper caring. Love is not a merely theoretical attitude; it has profound behavioral implications for our life. And if such behavior becomes improper, then the issue of whether one can love too much might arise.” Improper as in focusing on your loved one’s needs rather than on your own?

Now, I think I get what all of the therapy professionals were trying to elude to: I have completely abandoned my own essential needs - all the way down to eating - to care for and try to be the “best” Mom I can for my son. I wasn’t paying attention when the airline attendant was demonstrating that you need to put on your oxygen mask first before you place it on your child. I know now that I need to focus on taking care of me a little more, otherwise the oxygen will run out and I will be of no service to myself or for caring for my son. There needs to be a shift in priorities.

Now, if I could only let go of my wonderful, amazing little boy in my head for just a little while...

For you see, each day I love you more...
Today more than yesterday and less than tomorrow.
~ Rosemonde Gerard

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Let's Be Honest About Love -- by Laura Houston

I am writing this on Valentine’s Day. This is the day when we are supposed to profess our love for one another. Tradition has it that we go out for dinner, eat candy, give roses, send cards, and now — post our undying love for our boyfriends/girlfriend/spouses/life partners on Facebook.

What a bunch of crap. Proclaiming only the "magic" of marriage or displaying the glowing intimacy of it cheapens it. Mostly because it isn't honest. Marriage is hard. Falling in love is hard. And if it's not, then you're not doing it right. So I must say this because I can't stand the saccharine of the holiday any more: I did not marry the man of my dreams. And here is why I say such a thing: Dave was not the man of my dreams because I did not know guys like Dave existed. When it came to understanding character, values, and intentions, I was naïve and stupid.

It’s like this: if all you ate growing up was fast food, you wouldn’t be able to conceive of what it would be like to taste a gourmet meal. I certainly didn’t. At one point early in my life I made a list of everything I wanted my husband to be, and I found him. My first husband was all of those things. He was a kind man. He fit the bill even down to the last stupid request that he drank Dr. Pepper instead of Coke. Our immature marriage lasted all of three years. But my husband David doesn’t hit anything on that list. He never made it. But not because he failed, but because he surpassed it. He demands a lot of himself, and he demands a lot of us. He's a pain in the ass sometimes because he strives for this excellence.

Here is the thing: my marriage to David is not easy. We married because we believed we could become better people by not turning away from the things life laid in our path. We have survived many challenges together: his long, drawn-out divorce, heartbreak, a long-distance relationship, the death of his father, my outrageous foster kids, infertility, job changes, health issues, moving across the country, the illness of my father, family stresses, legal disputes with neighbors, being the parents of twins. And believe me, during the stresses, we turned on each other more than we should have. And I was a crazy bitch for four years during my infertility treatments. Any man who can survive that, well, he’s not just in love with you….he’s got a big set of balls because those hormone treatments make a person dangerous. And this is why I love him. It’s not because of candy, or flowers, or cuddling on the couch during movies. It's because he can take it. He can take me.

The true moments of love hide in the least expected places. My friend Nicole recently said: “My husband is having a tough time lately. He’s been stressed, surly, grouchy and all around unpleasant to be around. I have to figure out something really nice and special to do for him.” I thought this was refreshing. She’s willing to hold her husband up during a time when he is acting like a jerk. She sees past the ugliness. She’s concerned. She’s not doing something nice for him because he did something nice for her. She loves the guy in a devotional way. She loves him through his darkness.

That’s when love is most powerful.

So on this day for lovers, I am not getting my husband a card or a gift, and I am not making him a fancy dinner. Chances are, I will snap at him sometime in the evening and he will snap back because we will be tired, and we’ll go to bed early and maybe pissed at each other. But I know after all of the stress, exhaustion, and crankiness this relationship is ideal as it is -- even with all of its strife. I know this because I did not marry the man of my dreams. I married the man who helps me achieve them. And it’s one of the hardest things I have ever done.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Modern Family—by Jamie Levine

Years ago, when I made the decision to become a SMC (Single Mother by Choice) and began perusing the profiles of dozens of potential sperm donors, I was clear about one thing: I planned to use an open donor. Like most people, I’d heard plenty of stories about adopted kids who yearned for details about their biological parents, and I wanted to make sure that if my child ever felt like one of those kids, she’d have the information she needed. An open donor is a sperm donor who is open to meeting the children whom his sperm produced, and when my daughter, Jayda, turns 18, she can contact the bank I used, and they will release contact information about her donor to her.

After I gave birth to Jayda, there was an onslaught of media attention directed towards the Donor Sibling Registry (DSR). As the DSR website states, “the focus of the Donor Sibling Registry (DSR) is to assist individuals conceived as a result of sperm, egg, or embryo donation who are seeking to make mutually desired contact with others with whom they share genetic ties.” For most of the members, this means connecting half-siblings (children of the same donor), and some SMCs swear by this site. As a result of this website, Yahoo groups have been created for parents of half-siblings, people travel cross-country for yearly reunions, intense relationships are fostered between half-sibs, and some say their half-siblings share a strong bond and interact with each other much like cousins do. I, for one, have never had any interest in joining the DSR. While my family is quite small, I believe it’s enough for me and Jayda, and our lives are so rich with wonderful friendships that I don’t think Jayda will ever feel like she’s lacking love or companionship. Why would she ever need to know her half-siblings? Of course, if at some point when Jayda is older, she disagrees with me, and wants to find her biological half-sisters and brothers, I’ll be happy to share the DSR’s URL with her; but for now, I see no point in becoming a member and posting on this site.

Last weekend, I was at the home of a SMC friend who is a member of the DSR, and she told me she’d be happy to share her password with me if I ever wanted to peruse the site; I took it. And the other day, I hesitantly logged on and searched for the bank I used, as well as my donor’s number. I then discovered postings from parents of seventeen kids whom Jayda’s donor had sired…most of who were within a year of Jayda’s age! I later found out that my donor is retired (his sperm is no longer available because he’s reached his maximum number of allowed births), but that didn’t make me feel much better. I’m overwhelmed; the postings I found mean that Jayda has more than 17 half-siblings, since not everyone (me for example!) joins the DSR. But what disturbs me is not the fact that all of these children exist…but that all of these children will have the option of contacting the donor when they turn 18. And what if they do? What if dozens of these kids get to the guy before Jayda makes her potential call? Will he still have time for her? Or any interest in meeting her? Will he be able to give her what she needs (assuming she even needs his attention)? I know I did the best I could do, and if I could do things differently, I wouldn’t; I selected what seemed like an amazing donor (and Jayda is, indeed, an amazing kid)—and I made sure that Jayda would be able to meet him if she ever desired—but clearly, sometimes the best-laid plans go awry. And while I know I can’t worry about things that may or may not happen 14 years from now…I do still lament this news. How could I not?