Finding Comfort in “The Middle Place”

middle-placeDay 1 at the beach and I just finished my first book: The Middle Placeby Kelly Corrigan. While the book has been on my to-read list for a while, the universe obviously decided my emotions needed a workout. On the heels of Father’s Day, I ended up starting and finishing this memoir of Corrigan’s growing up with a gregarious and loving father woven together with stories of her own battle with breast cancer years later.

Not exactly light beach reading, you are thinking. I must have made quite the incongruous picture: lounging on a blue and red striped beach chair soaking up the beautiful, sunny day with my feet buried in the sand –while tears streamed down my face and dark sunglasses shielded my red-rimmed eyes.

I won’t share more of the plot other than to say that, for every tear shed, there were twice as many laugh-out-load moments. And gulps of recognition while reading Corrigan’s poignant descriptions of her inner thoughts and emotions, including her ongoing desire to be the apple of her father’s eye. Corrigan’s storytelling is full of vivid details, making me feel like I have a front-row seat to the Corrigan family’s life story. 

Fifteen years ago, I spent my last Father’s Day with my own father, Robert Lincoln Rock. On that June day in 1994, I knew he would succumb to cancer in the not-too-distant future. But, knowing intellectually and knowing in your heart are two different things. While I understood the poor prognosis for pancreatic cancer, I remained in a (un?)healthy state of denial.

I have no memory of that last Father’s Day. I don’t remember spending extra time picking out a card to send. I have no idea what we talked about when I called to wish him a Happy Father’s Day. (Surely, I called him, right?) Did my brothers, who also lived in Florida, take him out that day? Oh, no. Wait … at that point in the summer, my dad was up in Boston with his wife, who was battling her own form of cancer and seeking treatment at a top cancer hospital. I will never know if I took advantage of that last opportunity to honor my father.

Kelly Corrigan is a highly skilled author and I admire her breezy, yet honest writing style. But, most of all, I envy her ability to recall the small, seemingly unremarkable details of life. If I had such recall, I could wrap myself up in those detailed memories and take some comfort.

Anyone else read The Middle Place?

The Worst Mom in America

free-range-cover131On the eve of Mother’s Day, I’m ironically thinking about what makes the “worst mom in America.”  Was it the Scarsdale, NY mom who dropped her 10 and 12 year old daughters off on the corner in White Plains because they wouldn’t stop arguing?  Is it me, who jokingly (well, half jokingly) said to a co-worker that a perfect Mother’s Day would be to be all by myself?

Or is it the NYC mom, who truly has been pegged as the worst mom in America by the media?  This is a mom who put her 9 year old on a subway, with a transit card, subway map, $20 and lots of quarters so he could find his way home by himself – something her child was begging her to do.  The woman, Lenore Skenazy,  a journalist who wrote a piece on giving her son this independence for the NY Sun, was immediately besieged by calls from the press for interviews (first up, The Today Show) as well as many angry letters and emails.  The overwhelming reaction was that Lenore was acting in an entirely irresponsible way, especially in today’s dangerous world.  

First up, I don’t think today’s world is any more dangerous than it was 50 years ago – the good old days when kids did have the freedom to take off on their bikes and explore their surroundings for all of a day if they so chose.  We only think it is more dangerous, because with 24 hour news on a bazillion channels – we have to hear about every miserable detail that occurs at any possible moment.  There are not any  more sex offenders out there today than there were in 1950, we just know exactly where they live now.

It’s always hard to know when the right time is to give our children a little more freedom.  So much of it is dependent on the child.  Some are mature beyond their years, others are not.  Perhaps not every 9 year old should be given the freedom to ride the NYC subways alone, but it was clear that this mom thought her son was ready.  As Lenore says, “Mostly, the world is safe.  Mostly, people are good.  To emphasize the opposite is to live in the world of tabloid TV.  A world filled with worst -case scenarios, not the world we actually live in, which is factually, statistically, and luckily for us, one of the safest periods for children in the history of the world.”

We live in a day where many parents try to control their children’s every move, and this is basically because we want to keep them safe.  But we also have to push ourselves to allow our children to find a level of independence at the right times.  It is in those situations that they learn so much, and their confidence grows.  And, it’s not a comfortable place to be as a parent.  I remember the first time when my then 7th grader asked if he could take the city bus from the bus stop near school downtown to the skate park.  It caused great hesitation on my part – but he was going with a good friend, and I gave the go ahead.   And now I know my son has the confidence and know-how to figure out the city’s busing system – something that I have never done myself.

It’s those children that have been protected at every turn who I worry about the most.  So I support Lenore’s actions.  I think we all know our kids best, and know when they are ready to take a major step forward.  We just have to have the trust and faith in them to allow them to do so.  What do you think?  Is Lenore the worst mom?  You can check out Lenore’s website Free Range Kids – and also look for her new book of the same title, just published.

 

Happy Mother’s Day

To all you Wise Women Moms out there, this is your weekend to put yourself first. Start by nominating yourself (and any other great Moms you know) as Mother of the Year.  Just go to this site – and drop your name in – send to your friends, send to your Mom.  It’s always nice to have fun and get a little recognition!

I came across a quote today from George Eliot, another favorite writer of mine.  I loved the simple message of this quote – and how it epitiomizes the special quality of being a mother or a good friend:

Oh, the comfort, the inexpressible comfort
of feeling safe with a person,
having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words,
but pouring them all out, just as they are,
chaff and grain together,
certain that a faithful hand will take and sift them,
keep what is worth keeping,
and with a breath of kindness blow the rest away.” 

A Passion for Jewelry

img_0607A week before Mother’s Day, I just wanted to salute two Moms who are pursuing their passion to design jewelry. Both “corporate” women, one has left the corporate world to pursue her passion full time, the other continues to work full time and pursue her passion on the side. Both have their own distinct style – and both offer refreshingly unique, fun pieces. 

Beyond their obvious talent, I applaud their pursuit of their passion more than anything – so many of us are always thinking “I wish I could find the time to do …”  I’ve decided the reality is that there will never be the time, nor the perfect time, and if it is something you truly enjoy, you just have to figure out how to make it happen.  

So beyond my pure admiration of their talents and pursuit of happiness, Mother’s Day is around the corner – and you may want to check out exactly what they have to offer.

The first is CM Design. Check out Camille’s website to see her pieces. Camille uses tumble polished and satin finished sterling and silver plate wire as solo pieces or embellished with unique and beautful focal point beads of hand-blown Venetian and Murano glass, natural stone, hand painted ceramic, resin and vintage acrylic.   

The second designer is Pam.  It is Pam’s work that I have pictured here, as she has not had the time to develop a website yet. Her business is called Beadazzled, and you can reach Pam at 203-968-2811 or on her cell at 203-912-1250.  Pam works with sterling silver, swarovski crystal, borosilicate glass and semi precious stones. 

Support these two Wise Women when you’re thinking about your Mom, aunt, daughter, special friend or yourself!  img_0617

 

 

 

 

Remembering Natasha Richardson

nat3I was shocked and saddened to turn on my computer tonight (Wednesday) and learn that Natasha Richardson had died as a result of a ski accident on Monday.  

First, for whatever the reason, I’ve always been drawn to her.  She always seemed like such a nice, normal, down to earth woman.  A woman with a very easy, kind smile.  And of course her refined British accent always perfectly complemented the whole picture.  I particularly loved her in The Parent Trap, although she was one of the grande dames of the stage.

I’ve been closely following the story – as her death resulted from a ski accident.  And as my family skis nearly every weekend, I’m always gripped with fear when I hear these stories.  My first assumption was that she must have hit a tree.  But then I read her fall occurred during a skiing lesson, on a beginner’s trail.  She seemed relatively OK after her fall.  Despite flying her down to NY, I assumed she was most likely recuperating, on her way back to normal.  

So you wake up one morning and decide to take a beginner’s ski lesson while your husband is working in Montreal.  You end up dead.  An event that didn’t seem to be in the realm of possibility.

This is only another reminder that we need to enjoy each and everyday.  All my thoughts and prayers go out to Natasha’s family as they try to sort out this untimely tragedy.

Thanks to the Wise Women of Maine

dsc_0419-clam-shellThere’s a group of women and one man that regularly take a water aerobics class together at the local YMCA in Ellsworth, Maine.  That one man is my Dad.  And despite the fact that I have never met any of those women, I am very grateful to them.

My parents “retired” to Maine about four years ago.  Unfortunately, this move coincided with a decline in my mother’s health, which means Dad has had to take on a lot – and is playing the role of primary caregiver. Because my mother’s condition is debilitating, she cannot partake in most run of the mill activities.  She barely has the energy to walk from the house to the car.  This certainly has placed limits on their ability to get involved in their new community.

Luckily Dad is a “renaissance man,” and has many talents and hobbies – which is part of his salvation. He has always been a good cook, he loves to garden, he’s a talented artist, and he’s also an accomplished woodworker.  But nothing makes me smile more than envisioning him in the pool with his group of lady friends – who I’m sure pay him a great deal of attention.  They have certainly brought him into their circle – and they even go out monthly for lunch to celebrate each other’s birthdays.  Yes, I think my Dad has become one of the girls.

Dad in turn has given friendly gifts to some of them – he has a talent for painting people’s homes on quahaug shells (large clam shells found in Maine) – they are really beautiful, and I have a nice collection of these shells in my house – paintings of my home as well as other scenic Maine vistas.  As I spoke with him the other day, the UPS truck was leaving his house after delivering a box of Godiva truffles as a thank you from one of these friends.

So I know that even though Dad gets a chuckle himself out of this circle of friends, I know he appreciates their friendship a great deal.  And I certainly appreciate these gals of Maine, who have welcomed a big bear of a guy into their little circle.  It reminds us that we can make connections and gain support in all sorts of places.  Thank you oh Wise Women of Maine!

Wise Women Big Bucks Giveaway: The Winner Is…

christmas-presentWe wise women are a generous and eclectic bunch!

For the Wise Women Big Bucks Giveaway, we nominated a wide range of charities focusing on medical concerns (treatment, research, family support), children issues, domestic violence, literacy, nature, and the mentoring of women. Thanks to all who submitted nominations. You helped educate us and raise the profile of your nonprofit.

With all these worthy entries, thank goodness we elected to select a “winner” randomly. The recipient of this year’s Wise Women Big Bucks Giveaway is … (drum roll, please) …

Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation nominated by Lori and Stacy.

As promised, Wise Women Coffee Chat will make an initial $100 donation to the foundation. But, we’d like to donate a lot more (see below).

Ten years ago, twin sisters Kathy Guisti and Karen Andrews formed the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation (MMRF) after Kathy was diagnosed with the blood cancer (cancer of the plasma cell, more accurately). MMRF’s mission is to urgently and aggressively fund research that will lead to the development of new treatments for multiple myeloma.

And, in only a decade, MMRF has achieved impressive results. MMRF was instrumental in supporting four new treatments in four years, improvements in 5- and 10-year survival rates and an increase in life expectancy from 4 to almost 7 years. Wow! To learn more about the foundation’s ground-breaking efforts, read this January 2008 article from The New Yorker.

Now, the donation drive needs to kick into high gear.

We want as many people as possible to leave a comment below to support or give a shout out to MMRF. We will donate $1 for every comment through December 31, 2008. We encourage you to pass along the link http://wisewomencoffeechat.com/2008/12/wise-women-big-bucks-giveaway-the-winner-is/ to your friends, family and colleagues and ask them to leave comments. The pledge is good for up to 200 comments (1 comment per person), and it would be a shame to “leave money on the table” by not hitting that ceiling.

Comments can be as simple as you want (“Thanks, MMRF!) and even posted under the name “anonymous.” We want to make it easy for those of you who are regular readers, but haven’t ventured into commenting yet. And, of course, easy for all of you who are stopping by because you’re MMRF supporters. Welcome!mmrf-founders

It is clear that Kathy and Karen are wise women, wise women with a passionate cause! Take 30 seconds to support their passion. Leave a comment and help fund the development of new treatment for this oft-overlooked, yet fatal disease.


In Thanks of Wise Women

friendshipMy last attempt to creatively give thanks on Thanksgiving took place almost 10 years ago. I had everyone in the family (include visiting in-laws) write down something they were thankful for; I then baked those slips of paper into Pillsbury crescent rolls. The Thanksgiving-version of fortune cookies.

As we sat down at dinner, we each grabbed a roll, broke it open, and read out loud what appeared on the paper. Or, tried to read. Unfortunately, I gave people a red-felt tip pen to express their sentiments, and, during the course of baking, the ink smeared and made most of the words illegible. It still makes me laugh to remember how people struggled to decipher the handwriting. We finally gave up and recounted what we wrote from memory.

Suffice to say, I never tried anything like that again. I’ve come to accept that, when it comes to crafty/creative stuff, I’m great at ideas, abysmal at execution. I’ve learned that the best way for me to express my gratitude is to simply say “Thank you.” So, here goes …

In addition to being Thanksgiving, this Thursday marks the 6-month anniversary of Anne and I taking this blog “public” and inviting you to share in our regular online coffee chat. As I reflect over the last six months, I realize that I really am thankful to have this group of women (and men) in my life. I love the fact that the blog is a way to stay connected to old friends and make new ones. I appreciate the wise, witty and, yes, creative, things people have to share. I’m grateful to the handful of people who regularly leave comments. But, I also love knowing there are another 50-60 of you who just drop by to get your “Wise Women” fix.

I am thankful that this blog is a thread that connects me to each and every one of you. On behalf of Anne and myself, thank you for being part of our Wise Women community!

Mad Moms vs. Motrin

baby-carrierHave you heard about the brouhaha over the pain reliever Motrin’s recent advertising campaign? Motrin targeted baby-toting moms who suffer from back and shoulder pain by placing ads like the one below:

“Wearing your baby is in fashion. There’s the front baby carrier, back carrier, sling, shwing and the pouch. Holding your baby so close is supposed to make them cry less. But what about me? I think I cry more. Carriers put a ton of strain on your back and shoulders. But I’ll put up with the pain because it’s a good pain, a worthy pain. And it totally makes me look like an official mom, so if I look tired and crazy, people will know why.”

From what I read in the blogopshere, moms believed that Motrin’s opening line “Wearing your baby is in fashion” was demeaning. They objected to being told they could look “crazy.” They maintained that a properly-fitting carrier results in no pain and, in fact, wearing a baby carrier is an enjoyable way to bond with babies, not a burdensome chore. They flooded the makers of Motrin (McNeil-PPC, Inc) with complaints and threatened boycott. Hell hath nor fury like a mad (and probably sleep-deprived) mom!

So, the company pulled the advertisements. And apologized on Motrin.com:

Nov 20th

So…it’s been almost 4 days since I apologized here for our Motrin advertising. What an unbelievable 4 days it’s been. Believe me when I say we’ve been taking our own headache medicine here lately!

Btw – if you’re confused by this – we removed our Motrin ad campaign from the marketplace on Sunday because we realized through your feedback that we had missed the mark and insulted many moms. We didn’t mean to…but we did. We’ve been able to get most of the ads out of circulation, but those in magazines will, unfortunately, be out there for a while.

We are listening to you, and we know that’s the best place to start as we move ahead. More to come on that.

In the end, we have been reminded of age-old lessons that are tried and true:

When you make a mistake – own up to it, and say you’re sorry.

Learn from that mistake.

That’s all… for now.

Sincerely,

Kathy Widmer
VP Marketing
McNeil Consumer Healthcare

Now, the ads did not offend me in the least, and I was taken aback by the uproar. Yet, I don’t have a problem with the moms’ reaction. In fact, I detest when others characterize a protesting group as being “overly sensitive.” Or, roll their eyes and complain that we’re a country that is forever yielding to “political correctness.”

Clearly, McNeil miscalculated when it designed this campaign. There were probably women like me sitting around the conference table as the idea was bandied about, having no clue that the campaign would ignite a firestorm of anger. Instead of wooing their target market, the company pissed them off. Mistake. Big marketing mistake.

And the women who were offended by the ads have every right to speak up. In this country that celebrates free speech and a free-market economy, raising a ruckus and voting with our pocketbooks is the American way.

But, my favorite part of this whole saga is one line in the apology note:

“When you make a mistake, own up to it and say you’re sorry. Learn from that mistake.”

How refreshing! I just may go and stock up on Motrin to show my support for a company that can say, “Oops. We screwed up. Sorry.”

What’s your take on the commotion?

One Woman’s Ingenuity and Creativity

A few weeks back, Elaine blogged about different ways to go green. (Click HERE to read her blog).  Stacy, one of our faithful commenters, shared a number of different ways she “recycles” – which has included turning many different objects into works of art.  Clearly she is an artist, as even if I could conceive of some of what she has done, I don’t think I could successfully execute it.  One of my favorite things that she does is buys old pairs of ice skates (white girl’s pairs are particularly charming) at tag sales, paints a winter scene on them, and then hangs the pair on the front door in lieu of a holiday wreath.

So I must ask, what would you do with an old kitchen sink if you found it out in the woods?  Well Stacy found a sink, and turned it into a garden bench with a beautiful mosaic design.  Here are the steps – and the pictures marking the progress of this creation:

1.  Find an old sink.  Turn it upside down – and it obviously (not) has the potential to be a bench:  tn-81 

2.  Get some old plywood to create a back, and place PVC piping, cut in half along it to create a design:  tn

3.  Put PVC piping on the lower front as well, and make arm rests out of wood, with a half of a PVC pipe to make rounded arms. Then cover with a mesh wire.

tn-2

4.  Mix up some cement, and cover the sink, plywood and piping to create a smooth surface:

tn-1

5.  Then Stacy used old plates/china that she had collected from tag sales and made a mosaic design:

tn-3tn-7tn-6tn-4

 It truly is an amazing creation!  And believe me, Stacy has no shortage of ideas.  If I could ever have the vision for this, I would then have no idea where to begin.  Stacy, this could be another calling for you if you ever decide to switch gears!

Every calling is great when greatly pursued.
Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

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