Letter to My Daughters: Real and Imagined

Let’s get this over with — Ack!!! I was compelled to write this letter to my daughters in response to this…

First of all, Susan Patton – Princeton grad….Is this really your big, meaning-of-life lesson you wish to impart to your imaginary daughters?

At your core, you know that there are other things that you need that nobody is addressing. A lifelong friend is one of them. Finding the right man to marry is another.

Seriously, that’s what she said. Read it for yourselves.

Advice for the young women of Princeton: the daughters I never had.

For most of you, the cornerstone of your future and happiness will be inextricably linked to the man you marry, and you will never again have this concentration of men who are worthy of you.

No, no, no, a thousand times no. And to those agreeing with her in the comments – ptooey.

I realize I should just dismiss this silly missive for what it is. One woman’s narrow-minded, clouded point-of-view, aimed at a very limited audience, of which, I am not a member.

Except, I have daughters, real and imagined, and I would be remiss if I let this one slide. If anything it gives me chance to impart my own thoughts on life and marriage.

Misinterpretation

Mrs. P. offers up a cautionary tale and advice to the young ladies of her alma mater based on questions asked after a business conference.

Questions she has interpreted to mean, that though Princeton grads are savvy, and smart enough for ivy league educations, they aren’t up to the task of procuring spouses. At least not once they’ve left the confines of their university.

That’s her supposition – young women are clueless as to how to find suitable men to marry once they graduate and join the work force. Women, presumably intellectually able to lead corporations? That, and women’s happiness and self-fulfillment is dependent on marrying “worthy” men. She advises they cull them from the collegiate pool before they’re snatched up by lessor women, you know, those outside the Princeton gene pool. Mothers, hide your sons.

They Wanted Assurance

Susan Patton’s letter was prompted by the Q&A that happened after the morning session of the Women and Leadership Conference. Comments and questions that were asked after all questions relating to the actual reason for being there, were answered.

Imagine these young women, students—who after having had a full load of intellectually stimulating speeches, and conversations — got personal querying their elders about life, friendships and making it all work.

Ma’am, where did you get the idea these question subsumed the importance of all that had transpired previous to those questions? Your letter implies their main interest in participating in the conference was mining you for dating advise. Did anyone actually say “Darn, too bad we had to listen to all that business and leadership tripe when all we really want to know was how to bag a husband?”

She couldn’t imagine these ivy-league educated, future leaders – generations away from her own college experience – were merely wondering how to manage their personal and professional lives?

Letter To My Daughters

Dear Eva, and Lillian, my darling daughters, and to all the other daughters I treat as if they are my own. I want you to read this woman’s letter and promise me you will never, ever let this kind of backwards-ass thinking define who you are. Or your idea of who ivy league women are. She, are not they.

It is plainly wrong to imagine you will find happiness and self-fulfillment through another. The major flaw in this thinking is, what happens if you don’t find a husband, or don’t want a husband, or he leaves you – who are you then?

The Only Life Lesson You Need.

Here it is, my big life lesson for you — self-fulfillment and happiness comes from defining your values, and ideals and living by those principles.

That’s it.

The Purpose of College

You are going to college to obtain an education. To explore worlds bigger than the one you currently reside, and expand the possibilities of who you are, and who you thought you could be. Hopefully, you will develop relationships with all manner of people, of all sexes, peers, and professors, and they will enrich your life, as you will theirs. If you can, travel and get to know the world through others eyes.

Marriage

The purpose of developing intimate relationships isn’t so you will find happiness or self-fulfillment through them. It is to support one another in the pursuit of personal fulfillment and happiness. A pursuit not dependent on the other but facilitated by it.

Find the person whose values, and ideals align with yours. Find the person who encourages you to pursue being the best person you can be for your own edification, not for theirs. And you in turn, be that partner.

If there is anything we have learned over the last few months, it is that other people’s marriages are not based on or defined by ours.

Ideally, and I’m hopeful it will be a legally sanctified choice for all, the definition of marriage is for the partners to define.

The current reality is — women have more decisions and choices to make trying to balance the physical and mental challenges of “having it all.”  I agree that it is mythologized to the point that women often end up feeling unfulfilled. Mrs. P’s answer to that reality is wrong headed, and counter productive.

Successful Relationships

My friends and I, those who have “worthy” husbands, stable, kind, involved partners, we still struggle with self-actualization. Because no matter the state of those relationships – it is not our partners who define us. Nor is it the roles we play in others lives, such as mother, daughter, friend.

The choices we make based on our own values, and morals, being true to these internalized motivations are what lead us to satisfaction and happiness.

The problem with defining yourself by others, is that people change, those relationships evolve, even dissolve — and when they do, who are you then?

If you are always you, you adapt, and respond. Above all, you are always true to you.

Now go out there and make good choices!

Favorites: Children’s Music That Won’t Make Your Ears Bleed

As a former childcare provider, and a mother of two, I am well acquainted with the kind of children’s music that will make your ears bleed and possibly send you running from the room seeking refuge in a closet.

No, I’ve never actually hidden in a closet but only because I was required by law to remain present. But really it’s because I do not relinquish control to preschoolers. Alas, not everyone is as stalwart as I, and sometimes one finds ones self listening to the same sickening children’s verses over and over and over again.

If there was one piece of wisdom, one hard and fast rule for raising children I’d like to impart, and possibly save your sanity through the early parenting years, it is this—

Do Not Give Up Control Of Anything To Your Children.

They have poor decision making skills, crave repetition, and don’t give a crap about what you like or don’t like—especially when you are trapped with them in the car, train or airplane.

That is not say choices are not offered, but far too many parents give their children control over every aspect of their lives. They have become a culture of caterers. Eff-that. Embrace boundaries, and set limits.

Music You Can Listen To Over and Over Again-But Not More Than Three Times.

Today topic is children’s music that won’t make your ears bleed. I’ve recommended and bought my fair share of these recording for other parents and they continue to be favorites. Also they make great gifts for baby showers, birthdays and holidays, especially when you don’t know the recipient very well or don’t have children of your own.

We all have different taste in music, you don’t need to like my choices but they give the gist of what I’m getting at. Music from your own collection you find yourself singing along to that is appropriate for little ones ears is what your looking for. They like it when you participate.

You just can plug in any of my recommendation into Pandora and see what else pops up, evaluate according to your personal tolerance for mariachi, flutes, and banjoes.

We were really mean parents and refused to listen to certain children’s music (Rafi and any KidBop music). These are the albums we liked to sing along with and didn’t make us want to drive into trees on three hour road trips.

Children’s genre:

Rhinocerus Tap by Sandra Boynton

A Wonderful Life by Jessica Harper

40 Winks by Jessica Harper

Ralph’s World by Ralph’s World

At the Bottom of the Sea by Ralph’s World

• Strangely enough the girls developed eclectic taste favoring adult fare over most children’s pablum by the time they were five (subversive parenting skills!)

Adult Easy Listening:

Classic Julie-Classic Broadway by Julie Andrews

Nature Boy by Aaron Neville

Ultimate Manilow by Barry Manilow

The Best Of Ray Charles

Heart Shaped World by Chris Isaak

Eventually, you will be able to incorporate your full music library. That will be just about the time they develop a liking for your least favorite music on earth (Enya) and you’ll be grateful for ipods and earplugs—the hell with their hearing. You’ll be long gone by the time they go deaf.

 

And for those of you who noticed-yes, I did follow a post on rape culture, with one about children’s music. There’s just no making any sense of this thing.

 

 

100 Things I Love (and social media isn’t one of them)

I trolled the web for years skirting around the fringes of engagement. My first encounter, more than 16 years ago, was on a gardenweb portal. I inadvertently offended someone—unlike now when I do it on purpose, and I was genuinely horrified they’d mistook my inference for something mean spirited and lambasted me personally to the nth degree. I refrained from commenting on any site for years afterward.

I believe that encounter was one of many moments that niggled at my self-esteem and pushed me to go to college, the last straw being the inability to write a retort to an editorial in the local paper. If you’re really bored, happen to be snowed-in and have already perused the entire wikipedia, you could read about my trials and tribulations in my culminating study, which I’ve posted under Books (it’s a pdf).

My, my, how times have changed.

Now, I have to stop myself from writing too much on other blogger’s comment sections. Yes, it’s nice to have your post recognized by your readers but leaving comments longer than the original post—that’s just rude.

I’ve learned to restrain myself, but I am often inspired by what other bloggers are discussing and wish to keep the conversation going.  Lucky, for me I have my own blog.

Today, I pay homage to Brenda and Chris.

Certain ladies have a knack for touching on things that either, I too have been ruminating on. Like Chris Dean’s post How to Fail at World Media Domination, which I am exemplifying, or identify with—like Brenda Moguez post about Drama—that old attention hog, and how she refocused her mind by setting it to task on a list, 100 Things I Love.

Naturally, I had to put everything else on hold and write out my own list.

100 Things I Love

  1. The smell of spring rain on warm pavement.
  2. The sound of wind whipping through the trees.
  3. Birds fluttering outside the dining room window.
  4. Patterns in nature.
  5. Peonies, herbaceous and tree.
  6. Gazing into a baby’s eyes.
  7. My husband’s hands
  8. Also the crinkles around his eyes when he smiles.
  9. Daughter Lillian’s hearty laugh.
  10. Daughter Eva’s creativity.
  11. Pam’s colossal chocolate chip cookies.
  12. Brunch, in all its iterations.
  13. When all my friends sleepover and we eat and drink all weekend.
  14. Martha’s Vineyard with BF and family.
  15. Unexpected friendships.
  16. My orange bedside lamps.
  17. Finding the correct word that exactly expresses what I’m trying to convey.
  18. Books, that’s a given, I can’t narrow it down any further.
  19. The learning process, which allows stretching my mind, imagination and boundaries.
  20. Craftsmanship. I used to be a jeweler/lapidary and respect the talent it takes to master handiwork.
  21. The aesthetics of my habitat—not materialism but how form and function influences us.
  22. A properly set table—china, silverware, linen. Get it out and use it.
  23. Evening, when there are clouds stretching across the sky and they appear dark with linger light-blue sky behind them.
  24. Typography as art.
  25. People who aren’t afraid to act the fool to entertain their children. I will sing in the supermarket.
  26. Selflessness, just because you can.
  27. Vases filled with flowers the girls cut from our own garden.
  28. Libraries.
  29. Fabric.
  30. Paper, especially handmade.
  31. Sharp scissors, knives, Exacto blades, chisels.
  32. The right tool for the right job (don’t drink O.J. from my mug)
  33. The incredulous remarks from my daughter’s friends (You can make whipped cream?)
  34. Growing food. The incredulous remarks from my contractor’s son (You grow carrots? Purple ones—mind-blown twice!)
  35. Long, hot, steamy showers.
  36. Maine, coastal or lakeside.
  37. Pearls. Big South Sea mothers I’ll never be able to afford. Check any Sotheby’s catalog.
  38. Seedlings. Really, that tiny little seed will produce a family’s worth of tomatoes.
  39. Witnessing kindness.
  40. Baked ham with scalloped potatoes.
  41. My in-laws. Never take for granted the genuine gift it is to marry into a loving, smart, funny family.
  42. Cocktails. The whole process of making them, sipping them, pairing them with the right appetizer, the correct glass.
  43. Those who persevere. Despite, odds, discouragement, and setbacks, I admire the courage it takes to own ones convictions.
  44. Red flannel sheets.
  45. Modern medicine. It gets a bad rap, sometimes deservedly, but as I’ve benefited from its progress, I owe it one.
  46. My neighbors. I’ve lucked out, not only by having a supportive, loving family, but with best neighbors you could hope for. I want to grow old with them.
  47. Salt.
  48. Chocolate. Malted. Frappes.
  49. New England. We have it all— beaches, mountains, theater, universities, museums, grand cities, country towns, fall foliage, maple syrup season, fine dining, clam shacks, easy access to NYC, and Montreal, etc, etc, etc.
  50. Antique stores. Rummaging through junk to find a treasure (kind of like editing!)
  51. Thanksgiving. The ritual of passing into winter with a feast of what you’ve harvested, surrounded by family and friends, acknowledging the bounty in our lives.
  52. I do not posses any musical ability so I adore being around musicians, especially at home, everyone joining in to create a joyful noise.
  53. When I’ve been helpful in anyway. Almost nothing, makes me happier.
  54. Observing children discover something new. I once brought a hosta plant I’d dug from garden into my preschool class. I plunked it down on the table—worms, beetles, dirt and all for the kids to explore. Best day ever.
  55. People who enjoy their jobs no matter what they are doing.
  56. Belonging to a CSA.
  57. Sidewalks, granite curbs, trees, that collectively evoke a feeling of belonging and home.
  58. Graph paper.
  59. Hand lettering. I wish I had a picture of the door to my former lapidary shop that had my company name hand lettered on it.
  60. Access to nearly every and any type of music.
  61. The ability to laugh at ones self.
  62. Baby shoes—they’re so tiny and cute!
  63. Blueberry picking, then eating them by the fist-full for weeks. Strawberries and raspberries too.
  64. Pulling out those blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries from the freezer in January.
  65. Cuddling on the couch with my daughters, watching a foreign movie that is unexpectedly good.
  66. Red wine, juicy, ripe, fruity, not to dry.
  67. Led Zeppelin
  68. Immersion in someone else’s creative work. I could be viewing their paintings, or listening to a concert, or even witnessing their work being created, like a glass blower.
  69. A photo of Eva on Crane’s Beach, Ipswich where she is stomping through the surf, swishing her hair side to side.
  70. A photo of Eva reaching in to touch Lillian’s cheek while still in the bassinet at the hospital. Their first connection.
  71. A photo of Lillian in the tub (In a fire, those three photos I’d grab off the wall.)
  72. Meteorology. Fair warning saves lives.
  73. TED Talks
  74. Beads.
  75. Calligraphy
  76. A man wearing cologne. I will break my neck someday snapping my head around to follow a sweet smelling man.
  77. Risotto
  78. Old-fashioned musky roses.
  79. Planning. Goes with the graph paper. I obsessively design and redesign everything from the master bath to the herb beds.
  80. Jeez, are you still reading this?
  81. Fog. Okay, it’s dangerous to drive in but I have fond memories of a foggy night with my husband early in our relationship.
  82. Sitting on my front porch during a storm.
  83. Gas fireplace. All the ambiance without the smoke.
  84. Roasted asparagus.
  85. Heirloom tomatoes, fresh buffalo mozzarella, and basil drizzled with balsamic vinegar.
  86. Blood orange gelto
  87. Watching children try to catch frog, fireflies or grasshoppers.
  88. Stained glass.
  89. Fine wood furniture.
  90. Museums of all type.
  91. Sharing in another’s culture.
  92. Architecture.
  93. The idea that I could still learn to do anything I put my mind to.
  94. Meeting and getting to know other writers.
  95. Board games. Let’s play! Scrabble, Dominion, Blokus…
  96. Screened porches with bead board and garden views.
  97. Swimming in a heated pool.
  98. My girl’s art works.
  99. Dark chocolate butter creams.
  100. Bamboo

It’s interesting how setting your mind to a task frees your imagination. I noticed when I’d finished this list that I already had the plot forming for the next chapter I was working on. I think the list served as a primer. Often it is recommended to writers that they prime the pump so to speak by free writing for ten minutes to alert your mind as to what you want it to do. It turned out to be a very useful exercise.

Social Media Failure

As for social media, I like to tweet occasionally but won’t follow people who don’t engage with others. People who are just tweeting about their books are nothing more than ads, a complete waste of my time. I’m not saying don’t ever mention your work, but timed pitches spamming my feed every two hours get an automatic block.

I’m on Facebook, but have always considered it a family place though I’ve added some on my writer friends. It’s not been a very satisfy way to engage. Maybe mixing of business with family and friends, the public you and private you are too at odds to work effectively.

I do like Pinterest, mainly because there is little personally engagement and I don’t use it for anything other than a fun way to curate what I find interesting.

Tumblr started out as a place for me post the odd poem, short fiction or essay. But I found I enjoyed reblogging there too so it has become a mix of original work and curated interests.

Other than that I can’t be bothered. I’m a novelist not a blogger, or copywriter, or marketer. Everything that is not novel related is just a distraction from my real work. I guess I better get back to it.

 

 

 

Aging as Gracefully as I Can

My birthday was the 19th and we celebrated this past weekend with the usually two-day feast. Every year my closest friends come to stay in my little house for the weekend and we eat, drink and are very merry. This year, I was in desperate need of their company and to be reminded of how much love and laughter there is in my life. I’m aging as gracefully as I can, but this year smacked into 49 pretty hard.

Over the last month or so, I’ve been struggling with depression. I don’t talk about it much, as any of my pals can attest — I’m not much into revealing my deepest feelings. Rather, I retreat, disappearing into myself, a submersion too easily accomplished when the women I’m closest to are far away and I too blithely disregard the warning signs and become engulfed.

Most of the time, though depression always haunts my psyche, I’m an upbeat and positive force, who, having learned in my teens not to feed the black beast lurking in my heart, doesn’t allow herself to wallow in bed, play morose musical interludes, or deny the despairing feelings. So when I got called out by an online friend who’d noticed I’d gone missing, I was grateful. I’d slipped, and worse, I hid it from the few who could help me.

Depression is a self-immolator, desiccating ones spirit. Being noticed, being acknowledge is usually all it takes to pull me out of the embers. Smothered by illumination, the depression abates and I can once again laugh and toss off the occasional blues.

Being noticed, I’ve found, treats many ills from misbehaving children to the downtrodden. It may not be a cure all but it is often catalyst enough to solidify our existence and that is deeply meaningful to those who sometimes feel invisible.

From The “Are You Fucking Kidding Me?” File

Oh Darn! I almost made it a month with a political diatribe.

Expounding on the idiotic and outrageous behavior of an alarming number of Republican party members is getting to be pretty hackneyed so I’m just posting this under the “Are you fucking kidding me?” heading. Giving you the benefit-of-doubt for being as morally indignant as I am by their conduct.

excerpt via Huffington Report

A Republican lawmaker in New Mexico introduced a bill on Wednesday that would legally require victims of rape to carry their pregnancies to term in order to use the fetus as evidence for a sexual assault trial.

House Bill 206, introduced by state Rep. Cathrynn Brown (R), would charge a rape victim who ended her pregnancy with a third-degree felony for “tampering with evidence.”

“Tampering with evidence shall include procuring or facilitating an abortion, or compelling or coercing another to obtain an abortion, of a fetus that is the result of criminal sexual penetration or incest with the intent to destroy evidence of the crime,” the bill says.

Third-degree felonies in New Mexico carry a sentence of up to three years in prison.

Pat Davis of ProgressNow New Mexico, a progressive nonprofit opposing the bill, called it “blatantly unconstitutional” on Thursday.

“The bill turns victims of rape and incest into felons and forces them to become incubators of evidence for the state,” he said. “According to Republican philosophy, victims who are ‘legitimately raped’ will now have to carry the fetus to term in order to prove their case.“

The bill is unlikely to pass, as Democrats have a majority in both chambers of New Mexico’s state legislature.

That they throw in “The bill is unlikely to pass…” makes me queasy because this means in some alternate universe the idea that it would be passable is plausible.