Category: love

Can I get some paid maternity leave with those roses?

Kudos! Well thought and appropriately feisty exasperation on unrealistic parenting expectations in America.

what begins with m

Today is not mother’s day, but it’s my mother’s day because tomorrow I will be working a long call. I will not see E awake at all unless I accidentally on purpose wake her up when I get home which, *blush*, I have done more than once. Before I had a baby, Mother’s Day seemed like a forced over-sentimental construct. Now it is more important to me than Christmas (ok, I’m Jewish), Hannukah (ok, that’s not really an important holiday for Jews), or my own birthday (as an adult, birthdays are kind of eh). It’s the holiday we mamas EARN! Cause being a mom is amazing but it is a shit-ton of work, and the most arduous work is done in the years that the child won’t even remember, so bring on the chocolates! Excuse the profanity, but this Mother’s Day I’m feeling a little feisty. Why am I am…

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Divorce Care Package

I was asked to help Huffington Post kick off a new series called Divorce Care Package. (I don’t know how to embed a slideshow, so I’ve only include the intro below; the full piece is online ).


 

What helped HuffPost Divorce blogger Penney Berryman move past her divorce? Her neighbor’s mushroom and sausage pizza, tough love self-help books, and avoiding romantic comedies at all costs. Below, Berryman shares all of her divorce life savers, but first, she has a word of advice: Never stop believing in love.

“I still believe in love and marriage, in romance and better things ahead,” Berryman told us. “Exhibit A: A photo of my boyfriend and I in the Bahamas, February 2013:”

Aw!

“Holy Crap This is Good” Pumpkin Bread

This pumpkin bread earned me the following unsolicited tweet from my boyfriend: “You can all stop making pumpkin bread now, @penneysage just won. Holy crap this is good.”

Combining recipes from My Baking Addiction and Allrecipe’s  with a desire to make the bread a tad bit healthier so I could feel better about eating multiple servings a day, I may have stumbled upon the perfect pumpkin bread:

Ingredients:

1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin puree
4 eggs
1/3  cup vegetable oil (I used peanut oil)
2/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
2/3 cup water
2 tsps pure vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups sugar
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsps baking soda
1 1/2 tsps kosher salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp + ground ginger
1 TBS butter (optional)

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease two 8.5 x 4 x 2.5 inch loaf pans. Or, since I only own one loaf pan I substituted a second glass pie pan. This was perhaps the best decision I made all day. Not only did the pie pan version cook faster, but there were no burned edges or a raw center that sometimes happens with loaf breads. It’s like a cross between cornbread and gingerbread and pumpkin pie. {Pause for a moment and take that in.}

2. In the bowl of a stand mixer or in a large bowl with an electric mixer, combine pumpkin, eggs, oil, water, vanilla, applesauce and sugar until well blended.

3. Add all the dry ingredients, layering in the order listed, then mix until just blended. Pour batter into the prepared pans. It will be a thin batter; don’t worry.

5. Bake in preheated oven. For the circular pie pan, bake ~45 minutes. For the loaf, bake 60-70 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean and the center doesn’t jiggle. As soon as the bread emerges from the oven, melt 1/2 TBS butter over the top.

I’ll likely enjoy this toasted and topped with cream cheese in the morning, but whipped cream or ice cream or butter would rock too. Perhaps I’ll have another wedge with tea a a night cap.

4 Books to Read if you Have Ovaries

Every female has her flavor of womanhood, her ‘brand’ of femininity. There’s no one right way to be a modern woman, but we make
decisions that serve us and enslave us – for better and for worse.

After my first year of college I posed a question to my older sis that had been vexing me: “What does it mean that I like to cook and bake and play hostess? I like my room to be in order. Does that make me a bad feminist?” My wise older sister paused, replying, “No, it doesn’t mean that at all. Feminism is about choices. You absolutely can enjoy cooking and cleaning and keeping order. Feminism just means you no longer have to do those things just because you’re a girl.”

In addition to my older sister, the following four books indelibly influenced my thinking about what it means to be a woman. In different ways, they cut through societal expectations and lift the veil of structural inequality and power imbalances. But these books don’t pummel you over the head with femi-nazi rhetoric; they serve up thought-provoking ideas with humor, insights, stories from their lives and examples through their characters.

1)  Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough, by Lori Gottlieb
Because pleated pants have nothing to do with whether he will clean up kid vomit.

Before you pick this book up know that it’s written from the perspective of a 40+ educated, single mom looking for a husband. Also, it’s not nearly as inflammatory as the title wants you to believe. Even if you don’t want marriage and a family–or don’t know if you do–this book is surprisingly insightful about women in the dating game. Taking advice from life coaches, matchmakers, friends, pop culture, and dating services, Gottlieb provides a reality check for those still waiting for a man that meets every criteria on their list of ‘ideal husband traits.’

The point: whether he wears sport socks with sandals, is balding or stands three inches shorter than you—these ‘faults’ say nothing about his quality of character or quality of life partner. I’d rename the book “Dating Smarter, not Harder – since it’s about getting everything you NEED, which may not be everything you WANT. Read this when you’re tired of meeting men at bars.

“What matters is finding the perfect partner – not the perfect person. It’s not about lowering your standards – it’s about maturing and having reasonable expectations. There’s a difference between what makes for a good boyfriend and what makes for a good husband.”

2) The Second Shift: Working Families and the Revolution at Home, by Arlie Hochschild
Because running a household is work, and like any good business, the load must be negotiated and shared.

The first class I stepped into for my undergraduate education was “Sociology of the Family,” and this book served as required reading. It changed my world. Have you ever wondered why women send all the family Christmas cards and buy the birthday presents? Why Pinterest is angled at weddings and hairstyle and entertaining children? Why dads “mean fun, but moms mean business?” (Yes, that’s a quote from Honey I Shrunk the Kids).

As Hochschild points out through her work with couples and families, if you add the time it takes to do a paid job plus housework and childcare, women work roughly 15 hours longer each week than men. Over a year, they work an extra month of 24 hour days. Most women work one shift at the office and a “second shift” at home. This book isn’t about man-bashing, though; it explores the assumptions we make about who is supposed to do what in relationships. Read this when you set up a joint household.

“A twenty-six-year-old legal secretary, the mother of two and married to a businessman, said, “[My husband] empties the garbage occasionally and sweeps. That’s all. He does no cooking, no washing, no anything else. How do I feel? Furious. If our marriage ends, it will be on this issue.””
3) The Edible Woman, by Margaret Atwood
Because your worth isn’t determined by anyone but yourself.

While pouring out my heart to a dear friend, herself divorced and pursuing a rewarding new relationship, she recommended this book. Already a fan of Atwood’s from The Handmaid’s Tale and Year of the Flood, I was open. Atwood is largely known for the female protagonists who represent “every woman” struggling with victimization and marginalization by gender and politics.  Or, as a friend recently phrased it, “Atwood’s a pretty hard-core feminist and all-around kick-ass person.”

In The Edible Woman, a young woman gets engaged and finds that she’s unable to eat. She grows increasingly concerned that consuming food mirrors how her fiancé is consuming her identity. This book pre-dates eating disorders and the feminist movement, which makes it ring even more authentically. The plot is less of the point than how Atwood handles a young woman facing the loss of her individuality into coupledom. This isn’t a book about spiritual enlightenment or quick solutions; it’s a book to make you think. Read this when you have time to mull on it, perhaps with a glass of wine and a piece of cake.

“You’ve been trying to destroy me, haven’t you,” she said. “You’ve been trying to assimilate me. But I’ve made you a substitute, something you’ll like much better. This is what you really wanted all along, isn’t it? I’ll get you a fork,” she added.”

4) How to Be a Woman, by Caitlin Moran
Because life is too short to feel guilty about not being a perfect woman. Let’s get real.

Caitlin Moran is wicked funny and painfully, awkwardly truthful in this book. Rather than harp on the theoretical implications of modern feminism, Moran skips the arguments and says simply, “Feminism is having a vagina and wanting to be in charge of it.” Ding ding!

She manages to address the horrors of childbirth and the joys of parenting, the conundrum of naming of vaginas, and the unnecessary discomfort of women hiring domestic help – all with a deft hand and abundant use of italics. As an added bonus, you’ll learn a fair amount of confounding British slang.  A girlfriend gave me this book, and I continue to pass it forward. I wonder what amazingness would occur if every girl received this book on her 15th birthday? We could all save ourselves so much time, effort and angst! Read this book now, then give it away.

“No one has ever claimed for a moment that childless men have missed out on a vital aspect of their existence, and were the poorer, and crippled by it. Da Vinci, Van Gough, Newton, Faraday, Plato, Aquinas, Beethoven, Handel, Kant, Hume, Jesus. They all seem to have managed [childlessness] quite well.”

What books influenced your thinking about what it is to be a modern female?

Shut Your Pie Hole: What Not To Say To A Divorcee

Thanks to the Huffington Post for publishing this piece!

When I found myself divorced before thirty, I assumed that my family and friends — many of whom are, shall we say, experienced divorcees — would offer wisdom and insight into managing this life-altering event. I was wrong. Their hearts may have been in the right place, but what came out of their mouths? Oye, it left me reeling sometimes. Do yourself and your newly divorced friend a favor — swallow your tongue and resist the urge to spout off any of these placating phrases:

“At least you don’t have children.” Gosh, Pollyanna, that does make me feel better, thanks! You see, since I don’t have any, this doesn’t actually mean anything. It’s pulled from your list of “what to tell your divorcing friend” before you stop to think. Is the pain for me supposed to be any less because I don’t have kids?

“That is just like what (insert name of your ex here) did to me!” Empathizing is a great strength — and a weakness. Folks, reign it in when I start talking about my divorce. This is not a chance for you to tell your story; it’s a chance for me to talk about myself, to process out loud, for you to nod and offer uh-huhs and mmms and the occasional interjection of a female power phrase perhaps. But I do not want to hear and I do not care one iota about your divorce story, unless I’ve asked you to tell me something specific. In which case I’ve only asked so I can further talk about me.

“You’re young and pretty; you won’t have any trouble finding someone.”
Hot damn! Well I best go find me a man right now then! That will fix everything.

“Everything happens for a reason.” So does going to the bathroom but no one seems to think about the meaning of that too deeply. I am not going to be the cancer patient who says, “I am so grateful I got cancer since it really changed my life.” Really? You think I should be accepting this with peace and grace? Get over your new age fake Zen and feel the hurt with me. I will choose to learn from this rather than be conquered by it, but it’s not because the Almighty is teaching me a lesson. P.S. I don’t have to be chipper.

“Good riddance to that (insert derogatory adjective of choice).” That description may be true, but psst… I married him. I chose him. I loved him. You may be able to shake him off like a piece of lint, but I have the wedding albums and the rings, the photos and the china. He will not disappear with the insertion of your insult, and neither will my heartache.

“Take him for all he’s got!” or “Don’t get mad, get everything!” This plot line is best reserved for movies. I don’t need his money, and I don’t want to beg him or communicate with him any longer than necessary. Why would I want to be tied to someone who clearly wants to be far, far away from me? This doesn’t make me less of a feminist or more of a doormat. I’m capable on my own.

“You’re better off without him” or “You don’t want to be with someone like that.”
In time I will feel this way too. But right now you have the luxury of being on that side of the chasm and seeing me in a rose-tinted glow of future empowerment. On this side where I live, however, I feel lost and rejected and dumped. Don’t add to my misery by making me feel bad about missing my ex-husband.

“Good thing you didn’t buy a house yet.” Because that was really my first concern. Why was it yours? Honestly, I’d love to have a house right about now, so no, it is not necessarily a good thing.

“Was the sex good? I mean, you weren’t having any problems in that area were you?” WTF?! I wish I could say someone didn’t actually ask me this question. As if the embarrassment isn’t enough, you’re insinuating that somehow our sex life is part of our marriage dissolution. So you’re saying that a man’ s sexual dissatisfaction is justifiable reason for breaking a lifetime promise? Ugh. This is an archaic and patriarchal comment intended to fault women and excuse men’s bad behavior.

“He’ll regret this someday.” Maybe. Maybe not. He should, but he probably won’t. I wouldn’t know about it if he does anyway, so this entire statement is obsolete.

“What do you think would have happened if … (insert alternate life choice here)?”
I have no crystal ball, no telepathy, no time machine, just me and my ability to act on what I know. Nothing useful comes of asking this question. Ponder privately if you must, but since neither of us can change the past, we’re just going to have to look forward. I need you to look forward with me.

“It’s such a shame; just when your life was getting started, it all crumbles.”
It’s not a shame, it’s a shitfest. And my life was well underway before this mess, thankyouverymuch. I am still a functioning adult with friends and a job and car, and a (sort of) sweet cat and pretty apartment. My life is not over. By the way, the phrase “It’s a shame” applies to flat cakes, overdone turkeys, a smudged manicure, or a run in your pantyhose. “It’s a shame” does not apply to my divorce.

“Have you heard from him? What happens next?” My divorce may be a delectable rumor morsel, but this question is like asking an unemployed friend if she’s found a job yet. If she has a new job, you’ll know — because she’ll tell you. If she hasn’t found a job, she doesn’t want to talk about it. Your probing questions are salt in a wound we never expected to have nor know how to heal.

“What’s (ex’s name) up to these days?” This is breaking the rules. I am allowed to talk about him. You are not. I can ask questions aloud about his whereabouts and lovers, tell you the same sob story multiple times and psychoanalyze his family. You do not get that right, because asking about his status means that you care or are interested, both of which I’m working quite hard not to be. Go Facebook stalk him yourself.

“So how are you, really?” (Accompanied by a probing gaze and furrowed brow) This question catches me off guard, usually because it’s asked at inappropriate moments like in the office hallway, during a quiet moment in book club, or when I bump into you riding the Metro. Yes, I know what you’re asking but I do not know why you expect me to suddenly open up — right here, right now. I cannot wear my emotions on my sleeve and blabber every time I’m asked, or I would never survive. Let me keep my defenses up in public, please. If you really want to know, ask me out to dinner or coffee; show me you care about me.

When I shared an early draft of this list with my family – both chosen and given – they felt ashamed and insufficient, horrified by their insensitivity. They apologized and backpedaled, and I realized an important point: they were doing their best, muddling through just like me. If you’re not sure what to say, just remember Thumper’s quote, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all.”

Your Friend is Getting Divorced. 12 Helpful Things You Can Do

Update 8.13.12 – The Huffington Post published this piece!

I started drafting this during my divorce as a response to well-intentioned friends who kept asking what they could do for me. I was at a loss as how to reply (make me not hurt? speed up time? buy me a house far away?) and started jotting down moments when I felt loved or special or smiled – and the list grew. While no one can remove the pain, they can ease it.  Here are 12 things people did that actually helped:

1. Sent me flowers at the office – from the family dog.
Not only was this just the cutest idea, but the flowers were perky and colorful. And since they were from a dog I had a story to tell that didn’t involve me talking about the soon-to-be ex-hubby. Looking at them on my desk gave me a smile.

2. Included me in family traditions and meals.
Even if it was out of pity, I appreciated it. It made me feel wanted and like good company, and forced me to talk to people rather than (only) eat boxes of mac ‘n cheese on the floor. These outings often meant I didn’t have to cook for one. (Don’t underestimate how awful cooking alone becomes compared to the ritual of cooking with someone else).  This is one of the best gifts to give someone feeling lonely—the gift of inclusion.

3. Promised to introduce me to any eligible, worthy single men they knew.
This was important because I needed the hope. And a reason to wear eyeliner and care if I flossed. This led to some very interesting blind dates, as well as some lessons in love and even a few great guy friends. I didn’t always say yes to the offers, but I’m glad for the ones I did.

4. Cried with me.
Friends cried WITH me because I was sad. This was so unexpected and unexperienced that I was deeply touched. I remember sobbing in my friend’s driveway, then looking and seeing her eyes brimming with tears. Someone cared enough to hurt alongside me — which made me feel valuable at a time when I felt like utter shit. Kudos to those dear allies who held me, fed me and let me bawl on their couches, beds, floors, driveways, sidewalks, office chairs, shoulders, cars…

5. Let me give back to them.
It’s hard to feel needy and lonely and stuck in a dark cloud all the time. I wanted opportunities to give back to those who welcomed me while I was a mess. I did this by babysitting, making meals, volunteering to help set up parties, running interference at their uncomfortable family gatherings, recommending hair products or salons, listening, cat-sitting — anything that allowed me to offer a small gesture of gratitude in return for all the support I received.

6. Ignored the ‘judgment’ button and pushed down the “human” button.
I may have turned pink when I shared my walk(s) of shame, but the truest friends didn’t tsk-tsk or lecture. They asked with a smirk, “Was it good?” and “Is that a new shirt?” It is MY life and I have responsibility for it. Support the sometimes questionable decisions, and also let us vent about the disappointments – even if you saw them coming. Now is not the time to opine on the scientific validity of psychotherapy when you know we’re going 3x a week.

7. Allowed me to NOT talk about the divorce.
On occasion I wanted to listen to other people’s lives to get out of my own head. Sometimes I needed to NOT talk about the dissolution of my marriage so I could pretend to feel normal, and not solely identified as “the friend going through a divorce.” Don’t worry about complaining about your life, stress, jobs, and amusing moments. I want to hear about your struggles and realize that your life isn’t perfect either. Just try not to one-up us on horrible divorce stories.

8. Complimented me.
One of the lasting pains of divorce is the feeling of utter rejection from someone who vowed to love me for life. Combating the pervasive question of “What is wrong with me that made them leave?” is not a simple or quick process. I made lists of nice things people said to me during the day just to focus on positive interactions. Here’s to Caribou coffee guy saying my nose stud was cute, and to jealous colleague sending me a nice email, and to the creepy video man saying my shoes and suit were nice, and to the old men at the bar saying that I looked like a movie star, and the drunk concert hipster who said my hair was awesome. There can never be too many compliments in the world, and since your friend is feeling particularly unloved, your words bolster them. Be the person they add to their list of ‘nice moments today.’

9. Took care of me when I was weary to the bone.
There is so much emotional effort involved in divorce and maintaining sanity. The transition from a twosome to a single is tiring. All the time. And suddenly we don’t have a person to make soup or bring us kleenex or lay our head on, which doubles the misery. When I got sick after drinking too much, a kind boy held my hair, cleaned me up, and texted my sis that I was fine. When I was grouchy at work, a girl dragged me to yoga and loaned me an outfit. When I was too tired to leave home, no one make fun of me. When I fell on the ice, a colleague bought me a bar of chocolate. When I called bawling from a restaurant, a darling lady told me to taxi over – and then fed me buttered toast while I sniffled on her couch, wrapped in a Snuggie. The thing is, your friend IS capable and independent and doesn’t need a man or a woman to complete them. But sometimes they forget.

10. Offered to beat up my ex.
I adored this offer. And I loved that it came mostly from boys – including my dad. (Okay, so maybe my dad drafted an entire assassination plan, which I only recently learned about…), but the point is this sentiment warmed my heart. It still does.

11. Accompanied me to difficult, divorce-related events.
The day my soon-to-be ex was moving out, I thought I could handle seeing him and his sister pack up “his” pile. When that delusion quickly vanished in a pool of tears I called a friend. We made pizza at her place while I waited for the “all finished” text. Then she asked if I wanted her to come inside and see the place together. I would never have thought to ask, but it was exactly what I wanted – a steady hand to see the condo for the first time stripped bare—just how my heart felt. I was terrified at what I’d find, and she bolstered my spirits by walking around with me.

12. Agreed to hare-brained ideas.
Look, I knew you didn’t want to go clubbing; you were tired, stressed, had a family/child/pet waiting for you and a mountain of dirty laundry to tackle. Yes, you gave up sake bombs years ago and certainly don’t have any flag football skills to speak of. But when I needed to try new activities, I had friends who said yes. They were game! They were willing to step outside their comfort zones to prioritize time with me while I spread my tender, new wings in the social and dating arenas.  Say yes when your divorcing friend asks you to try something. At the least, it’ll make for an entertaining story.

Let your humanity shine: listen, compliment, be thoughtful, respond sincerely to your friend’s needs and withhold judgment. And give chocolate, lots and lots of chocolate.

3 Unrelated, Thought-Provoking Articles

In no particular order:

1. How to Ditch Happily-Ever-After and Build Your Own Romantic Narrative. Courtesy of Good, a site that routinely posts articles and perspectives that challenge or intrigue me. This article made me a little uncomfortable, but in a good way. An excerpt: “Though society’s stock romantic narratives and rigid gender roles may seem like childish stories you grow out of with age and experience, I’ve noticed that the older I get, the more they attempt to exert their influence over my life. My peers and I—out of the dorm room but not yet into a mortgage—have found ourselves squirming under the slow suck of societal pressure, which encourages us all to settle down and get married already, or else acquire our dozen cats and our witching license and shut ourselves in forever. Intellectually, we know that these narratives can be sexist, boring, and alienating. But emotionally, they can be clarifying, simple, and temporarily satisfying…”

2. No Money in a Dirty Kitchen: The Repercussions of NYC’s Restaurant Grading System. Huge fist pumps for this one from The Atlantic. “After almost two years of the program, the earliest quantifiable returns are coming in and the mayor couldn’t be more pleased. Salmonella cases are down 14 percent and diner satisfaction is sky high.” Score one for public health! I have no sympathy for restaurant owners. If you do your job right there’s no fine and no illness. Of course the inspections are random, that’s the point! Yes, you get fined to incentivize following protocol – because sticks work better than carrots.

3. Is Everything I Do Actually Killing Me? Thanks to Lifehacker, at least I’m not the only cynic who asks this question. What’s the point of not heating food in plastic, avoiding sucralose, or skipping carcinogenic tasty BBQ since I’m gonna get cancer or have a heart attack anyway?

Okay, I lied – there are actually 4 articles stuck in my brain today:

4. Aurora Tragedy Shines Spotlight On Medical Schools.I’m not familiar with this site, Popehat, but I am intimately acquainted with the medical school system, and health care system. Several friends whom I respect – and who are caring doctors – reposted this piece which made me take a look. I don’t think there’s a causal relationship between psychopaths and medical students, but I agree that we should pause and examine the type of people that medicine accepts and produces. We assume that soldiers who face death and killing and high stress return from deployments with a very different outlook on life. Why are doctors so different? Maybe the medical environment is more sterile, but hierarchy is absolute, death is part of every day, the powerful overule the powerless, people lose their humanity and become faceless cases. And don’t forget the infamous doctor as god complex.