Friday, February 20, 2015

Friday Favorites: February 20

Once up on a time, I dreamed of visiting Italy. And then in 2006, I had the opportunity to take a trip to Rome for a business trip, and it was the best possible way to see the city - we stayed at a hotel overlook St. Peter's cathedral, we had a team-building exercise learning how to make Italian food at a bed and breakfast run by an American expat who had been in Rome for 25 years. On my days off, I roamed the city marveling at the beauty of it all and taking photos like the one above.

I fell in love with Italy, and I hope to go back someday when my son is a little older. And hopefully, he'll grow out of this egg allergy, because it's difficult to find food in Italy that doesn't contain eggs. Although there is gelato... and risotto... and...

I hope that you're staying warm, wherever you are. Enjoy these posts over the weekend!


This sweet post Elaine wrote about her husband melted me this week:
My love

Tonya's ode to her daughter's tiny hands is perfectly beautiful:
My daughter's hands

I totally related to this post from Kirsten about being an older mom. I have friends who were young moms and rocked it; for me, having kids later in life was the best thing that could have happened to me.
Why I like being an older mom

"Kindness glues couples together" - oh, how I love this thought-provoking piece from The Atlantic:
Happily ever after

Speaking of kindness - Galit Breen is releasing a whole book on the subject. I can't wait to read it and share it with my son. Kindness + Action = Compassion
Kindness wins

Lisa wrote this as part of the 1000 voice for compassion event today, and it's lovely.
About Miss Trudy

And speaking of compassion, this sweet young boy has been in my prayers.
Team Gunner


Need a laugh? Wendi has you covered:
The worst children's party games ever

Also, this funny mock babysitter questionnaire from Robyn Welling is entertaining:
10 questions to find out if your babysitter is The One

I was catching up on Nancy Kho's Midlife Mixtape blog (she is a musical-knowledge genius and a very funny mama) and remembered this post she kindly asked me to write for her at the end of 2013. For those of you who don't know me very well, you might be surprised by my musical preferences.
Still in rotation: Bon Jovi

Harry Potter fans, you won't want to miss this one:
Every Snape scene in chronological order tells a new story

An 80s-movie mashup: how could I not love this?
Totally rad 1980s movie mashup


Friday, February 13, 2015

Friday Favorites: The Friday the 13th edition

Happy Friday!

Here are some posts to take you into the weekend.

Taryn's advice on tending to friends in times of grief is well done:
A month from now on Tuesday

This, Wendy's first post at HuffPost parents, is so sweet:
Mama open up your hand

Stephanie Sprenger's essay at Brain, Child is a beautiful testament to the power of love between sisters.
They are not half sisters

A reader of mine sent me this post about her mother, and it's wonderfully entertaining:
My mom, Bob Barker, and the enduring power of dreams

My husband was my rock while I experienced Postpartum Anxiety, and it affected him deeply. This post nailed it: 
Postpartum Depression doesn't just impact moms

If you have a tween or teenager, this is important information:
Dangerous texting terms your child may be using

Because I am so close to my dad, this one hit me in the heart:
The time we get

Carmen Dell'Orefice, 83-year-old supermodel

Great points from K.J. Dell'Antonia on letting kids change... because we all do.
Let children change

We have all made mistakes; this article on mistakes made online and how that affected the rest of their lives is great food for thought.
How one stupid tweet ruined Justine Sacco's life

As a domestic abuse survivor and the friend of two women in the middle of terrible divorces from narcissists, I back this post about 50 Shades of Grey with all of my heart.
A letter to my children about 50 Shades of Grey

And in case you missed it... my contribution to Mom Babble's "Worst Dates" roundup:
Hilarious Date Night Horror Stories


Friday, February 6, 2015

Friday Favorites: February 6, 2015

Happy Friday!  Here's my round-up of my favorite posts this week:

The two words I say to my kids every day
by Kim Bongiorno at Let Me Start By Saying

What my disabled son taught me about disability
by Sarah Watts at the Washington Post

Everybody's got their something
by Brenna Jennings at Suburban Snapshots

In the nursery, where time stands still 
by Liz Faria at Lipstick and Politics

5 things for new moms to give their husbands
by Kirsten Brunner at HuffPost Parents

Even if He Never Speaks, He'll Always Be "My Sunshine"
by Chrissy Kelly at Autism Speaks

The germs are rampant this month. Do you have a sick child at home? Devon Corneal has some tips to stay sane at Real Simple:
16 Clever Ways to Entertain a Child Who's Home Sick

5 lessons my tween taught me about social media
by Tracy Morrison at Sellabit Mum

In case you missed it, my words were featured at the Huffington Post and Everyday Family this week:

Marriage After Kids: The Junk Drawer Effect

Does Kindness Matter? My Grandmother Says Yes

5 Mad Dad Skills

29 Meaningful Pieces Of Advice For New Moms, From Parents Who've Been There (I'm #27)

Have a great weekend, everyone.


Monday, February 2, 2015

Does kindness matter? (My grandmother's legacy of love)

My grandmother kept two freezers full of food at all times; she was a product of the Great Depression, born in 1916. Every time she saw a neighbor, or the garbage man, or the mail carrier, she offered him something from her home. A cookie. A juice box. Perhaps something she made that morning. My grandmother was very social, and she knew everyone in the neighborhood. People were constantly stopping by to see her, gifts in hand, and she always had something in return. She was known and remembered her for her generosity of spirit.

“It’s nice to be nice,” my grandmother used to say on a regular basis.  I heard her, but I thought it was just one of those silly things that grandmothers say. I didn't know it was her mantra.

My mother learned how to be nice from her mother, and the lessons stuck. My mother is an East Coast-born Sicilian with a sharp tongue and a tendency to speak her mind (so now you know where I get it), but she is also known for being someone to count on. She is the first in line to offer help and kindness to anyone who needs it.

In fact, at this writing, for the past two weeks, my mother has been keeping vigil at the bedside of a friend who suffered a double stroke. Nearly every day, she has arrived in the morning and left in the late afternoon, breaking only for lunch at the hospital.

My mother doesn't see this friend often; she didn't know her husband well. But it’s someone who means something to her in her life and has known for many years, and she feels that being there for her is where she needs to be.

It was snowy and cold outside, but I had another appointment and I was out, and I thought I should go and sit with her and her husband and keep him company, she told me when she first heard of her friend’s stroke.

Are you going to go every day? I asked her, after a few days.

Yes, she said. No one should have to sit at the hospital alone. I remember what it was like, all of those times I took you to the hospital. At least you could talk to me.

And so she has. Every day, she greets other visitors and mutual friends, brings old cards and scrapbooks she has saved and reads to her. My mother tells her stories about shared experiences. Just in the last couple of days, her friend has opened her eyes and started to talk again. My mother is there to hear her start over again. She is there to keep her friend's husband company and give him the opportunity to talk to another adult who cares about his wife, too. He has come to depend on her these last couple of weeks, and they are in constant contact, checking on her friend's condition and sharing stories and hope.

My mother has always shown me the way to doing the right thing. She doesn’t shy away from funerals or miscarriages or heart attacks. She brings meals to families who need help. She knows what to say in every situation; and even if she’s not sure, she makes her best effort. 

It’s nice to be nice, she reminds me.

This summer, the father of my high school boyfriend passed away two days before I was scheduled to come home to my parents’ house for vacation. I asked my high school sweetheart’s wife if she would mind if I came to the funeral, because it seemed like the right thing to do for his family. His wife is a lovely, warm person who is not threatened by flames that burned out more than two decades ago. I told my mother I was going, and she said, “We’ll come with you."

Of course they would. There was no hesitation, no "Let me check my schedule" or "I'm not sure if we should go". My parents drove my son and me to the church for the memorial service, and my mother gave the deceased’s new widow a big hug and whispered words in her ear that brought a grateful smile.

And now, I try to emulate this spirit, passing down the line. There are friends with sick children, downtrodden spirits, traveling husbands. There are so many ways to be helpful. Drop off homemade cookies. Or share a book with someone. Or just come and sit. Send a text. Take five minutes to call. If I make half the effort my mother and grandmother made, I am doing something good. It doesn’t have to be a big thing in time or money to mean something big to someone who needs a little help. 

I have seen it come back to me a hundredfold.

Have you ever heard that someone is "too nice"? It's not supposed to be an insult. It should be a compliment. Nice doesn't mean weak. Nice doesn't mean you let people step on you. Nice means that you care. It means that you consider others' feelings. Nice means that you try to make the world a better place.

In the writing world, my guest post at Beyond Your Blog has blown me away with the response. The comments section is overflowing with thank-you-for-the-encouragement notes, and my inbox includes a few hey-I-have-a-question-do-you-mind-helping-me-too messages. It is lovely and encouraging for me to see, too, how women come together and rally around a positive force. If you are as good as your circle of friends, I am in excellent shape, indeed. It doesn’t take much to put a “hey, you can do it!” Out into the world instead of a “this is too hard, so don't bother” message.

Last week, my son was sick and was out of school for more than a week, and no fewer than five friends called or sent texts offering to run errands, get groceries, pick up prescriptions. They have dropped off treats, coloring books, movies to watch, activities to do while at home. They email and call and text and ask me how we’re doing. They have made me feel loved.

It’s nice to be nice. I hear you, Grandma. Loud and clear.And I hope, with all of my heart, that I do your legacy justice... and that my son learns how to be nice, too. 



Saturday, January 24, 2015

All Around the Web Favorites, January 24, 2015


This post has been wildly popular, and I can see why. I love happy endings, even with an unusual path to get there:

More on love as a choice: 


A hilarious comparison between getting kids ready for school and wildlife:

On making new mom friends: 


Putting kids to bed, and the secrets they share:

Jamie is raising a special-needs child, and she is honest about what that has meant for her in this richly narrated post:

The Grown and Flown blog gives me a glimpse into my future as the mother of a boy, and it is both hopeful and wrenching:

Liz McGuire takes beautiful, thoughtful photos in which you can lose yourself:


These tips on helping kids manage anxiety are useful and practical:

This is a fantastic initiative to encourage kids to show more kindness.

* * * 

When it comes to parenting experts, I don't trust anyone more than Deborah Gilboa, aka Doc G. Her book sits on my bedside as a guide, and I know she knows what she is talking about, as the mother of four boys and a family physician.

She is launching an e-learning system called Get the Behavior You Want, and if you're in the market for parenting classes, this would be an excellent choice. It's is a super-flexible (watch it on your own schedule) interactive (with tailored e-workbook) and supported (get the encouragement you need) affordable way of learning to change a behavior in your home. Starts at $24/ course and starts in less than a week. Check her out.


Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The junk drawer effect

I save things.  I save everything.  The TV people are not going to come knocking at my door to film a Hoarders episode, but if it has sentimental value, I save it.  I have relics from the proms I attended; love letters from a sweet sophomore boy when I was in my senior year; tickets from a concert years ago.

I have a junk drawer, like my mother and my mother’s mother before me. It holds Sharpies, balloons, straws and menus from various restaurants, and other items for which there is no category. I also have a junk box sitting on my counter, housing all kinds of things that are perhaps temporary but have no home. Homeless items. I pass it every day, as it sits in plain sight in a heavily-traveled area.

I throw items into the box, making a mental note of where it is so I can find it later. Too often, I either forget that it’s there, or it’s an item so unimportant that by the time I go back to see what’s in the box, I throw it away.

The problem is that the box becomes invisible as I go about my day around it, ignoring it all together or seeing it out of the corner of my eye and saying to myself, “I’ll get around to that box later on.” Every once in a while, I’ll go through the box and decide what I should move to a more permanent home, and what should be thrown away.

My husband does not find my saving strategies amusing, but he tolerates them as a part of who I am. I save and save and save things and if I come across an item that makes me smile or brings to mind a memory that had been long buried, I save it again, reprieved from the fate of the trash can.

In some ways, I can see how a marriage, especially with children in the mix, might be confused with a junk drawer, to become so unnoticed until it’s necessary to de-clutter.  I can see how easy it is to walk by a loved one every day, not truly seeing that person from the inside out.  Without looking into that person’s eyes, and noticing what is going on in his heart. Letting various and sundry fragments of conversations and harsh words land where they may until it has become a tangled-up mess.

There have been many times that I have done this, myself.  Sometimes, it takes seeing someone through the eyes of another to really see. 

A few weeks ago, I made dinner for a friend who was in the middle of a stressful family situation. My husband, son, and I drove to her house, dinner in hand. When we arrived, the children played together, and I unpacked the dinner piece by piece, making myself at home in order to help as much as possible while being the least amount of trouble.

As I prepared the dinner plates, I noticed that my husband was playing with the kids, a big smile on his face.  I noticed that he was talking to my friend, taking interest in her words and sincerely listening to her. I noticed the way he showed the kids how to properly use the tee in the yard, and he picked up the baby out of harm’s way of the preschoolers wielding bats. I could see the smile and relief on my friend’s face as she felt included in our family and felt a little less alone. I could see my husband through the eyes of someone who appreciated his kindness. 

It seemed silly that I hadn’t really looked at him lately, allowing my focus to settle on our disagreements; our financial worries; our squabbles over household duties. I had spent all of my attention on our son, and neglected to offer the same to my husband.

The junk drawer effect:  neglecting to notice what is in front of our faces. Tossing more junk on the pile, until the day we can get around to it.

I cleaned out my junk drawer this week and threw out the things I didn’t need. I rearranged the area and found homes for things that were useful. I gently washed the basket holding a miscellany of items, including half-melted lollipops, and laid it back on the shelf.

As I processed and cleaned and rearranged, I thought of ways I could do this within my marriage. What can I remove? What do we no longer need? How can I better see what is in this drawer?

Marriages crack and bend and break under the strain of everyday family life. Our son is five, and he requires less attention than he did when he was one and two, but it is easy to give him the lion’s share of my attention. For the most part, we are a happy family. However, I can tell when we are not balanced; it’s worth making an extra effort to ensure that my husband and I are giving each other the thoughtfulness we need, too.

I will be more careful about what I toss in the box.

I will tend to it more often, to keep the detritus from overflowing.

I will give this drawer attention, too. It’s not just junk, but things that I need, often.

When I was finished, it all made so much more sense. I don’t want to keep walking by and missing the opportunity to see all that I have.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Arrivederci, 2014

When I wrote my post "The Weight of Motherhood" a few months ago, my most popular post to date, my son was 44 pounds and 44 inches tall. Now he is 48 pounds and 45 inches tall. Slowly, slowly, he is getting bigger, before my eyes. It seems both magical and terrifying that he outgrows his pants overnight. His first loose tooth is still hanging in there, and the grown-up tooth is pushing it out of its way, as if to say, move it, babyhood. Here we come.

It has been a very good year. I've achieved most of the goals I have set, and I have more to set and achieve. But most of all, it's the first full year that I have had the opportunity to pursue my dreams part-time while my son is in preschool. No more babysitters. No more nannies. Just me, my son, and my husband, and we've never been so happy. I don't take it for granted, this opportunity. I am making the best of it, and I have nothing to complain about.

Thank you for reading my work. It means so much to me that you comment and share the words that I write, and I have made some fantastic friends in the process. I know that you like stories about real people, and real life, and I'm going to continue to bring them to you next year. In the meantime, here is a list of highlights of 2014:

1)  My first joint post with Alexandra Rosas of Good Day, Regular People at The Huffington Post. It was Alexandra's first time at HuffPo, and she has taken off like a comet since then. I'm so proud of her.
What Will I Know?

2)  My friend Brian from my hometown in Indiana allowed me to tell his fatherhood story, and it was featured on the HuffPost Good News page. Brave: A Father's Love

3)  Another friend from my childhood, Crystal, gave me her thoughts on motherhood from a black and white perspective, and I was honored to be picked up by the Washington Post's On Parenting blog.
Color blindness isn't helping anything

4)  In July, I stood onstage at the BlogHer annual conference in San Jose in front of hundreds of people and talked about my father's love for me as a Voice of the Year. Jill Smokler from Scary Mommy published The Second Line, with a Kleenex warning.

5)  Postpartum anxiety was a difficult experience, and a primary reason that my husband and I have only one child. Brain, Child published my story, called I Am Enough.

6)  Bon Bon Break syndicated my story about domestic violence, and I am proud to share it, because it brings other women hope. There is a way out, and you are not alone, if you are reading this and recognizing yourself in Why Does She Stay?

7)  My words appeared in two print books:
My Other Ex: Women's true stories of leaving and losing friends
Precipice, Volume 3

8)  In 2013, I was chosen for the cast of Listen To Your Mother, and read my post on going back to work after having a baby. This year, I had the chance to be a co-producer of the Austin show and took the reins from the fabulous Wendi Aarons and Liz McGuire. In 2015, Leigh Ann and I will be back to produce another show; reading and hearing every submission is a gift. 

Thank you for being here with me.

Much love, and best wishes in 2015!


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