Posts Tagged ‘marriage and family counselor’

Great Grandma Ada turned 95 this past weekend. Friends and family traveled from California, NJ, NC and Florida just to celebrate our Matriarch’s special day. High Tea was served in the Cafe at Thistle Farms, a recovery program for women who have been trafficked, who suffer from addiction and/or are transitioning from the sex trade industry. Started by an Episcopal woman minister, Thistle Farms is a shining light in Nashville; a leader in providing a safe work/therapy model for survivors and selling their hand made home and body care products. #LoveHeals https://thistlefarms.org/

Ms Ada was radiant throughout, sitting between her second husband of nearly 40 years and her grandson, the Rocker. She said later how she looked out at the mosaic of interesting, accomplished, beautiful people and thought how very lucky she is – musicians, therapists, doctors and lawyers, many she had known for most of their lives. Her home in NJ was a safe and accepting way-station during the 1960s. Your family threw you out? She would provide a bedroom. Planning a trip to Woodstock? No problem, she would send you off in style, in a school bus!

A practicing Marriage and Family therapist, Ada is still available as a consultant. Although she broke her hip last year, her spirit and willingness to listen to your problems is intact and always at the ready. She warned Bob when we married that she will always take MY side! And she meant it… Great Grandpa Hudson has coined her “insatiable,” every person she meets wants to open up to her about their troubles. One day, we were in a Talbots dressing room, and the salesgirl sat down on the floor to pour out her heart. Another marriage saved!

But some marriages are not meant to survive, which is why I was intrigued by this WSJ article, “The Math Behind Successful Relationships.” https://www.wsj.com/articles/how-do-i-love-thee-a-mathematician-counts-the-ways-11549627200?mod=e2tw

Turns out, you can almost predict which marriages will stand the test of time by watching the way couples argue. Leave it to a bunch of statisticians to quantify love:

“Marriages, they found, fell into five categories: validating, volatile, conflict–avoiding, hostile and hostile–detached (a significantly more negative pairing). Only three—validating, volatile and conflict–avoiding—are stable, they write in their book, but a volatile marriage, though passionate, risks dissolving into endless bickering.”  

Not sure I agree with the “conflict-avoiding” one, although my foster parents fell into that category and they were happy for 50+ years. So think about the way you treat conflict in your relationship: sometimes, if Bob and I are bickering, I’ll turn to him and say, “But I thought your sole purpose in life is to make me happy?” Then he smiles, and we reach a compromise. Turns out humor is also a great predictor. Who said something like, “Sex slows, beauty fades, but humor always stays?”

But the fun has got to be mutual. Another sure sign of distress is if one person is laughing while the other is NOT. That’s a sure sign of contempt and a true indicator of divorce.

In other news, it’s a good thing I just replaced my driver’s license, if you know what I mean.

Looking for some couple counseling, just give Ms Ada a call. Happiest Birthday to my mentor in Life and Love! Ada had the courage to leave her first husband and the ability to open her heart to a guy, Great Grandpa Hudson, (the only grandfather my children have ever known), a recovering Baptist preacher from NC; another algorithm you’d never find on Match.com. or Bumble. Here is our beautiful Ada on an Army base in the 1950s. I’ll have to ask her what she thinks of math and marriage.


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Do you believe in fate? Bashert is the Yiddish word for destiny, and since I was just visiting Great Grandma Ada and Hudson, I was the happy recipient of a certain cultural recap (or comeuppance). Acceptance of our fate, our place in this world is the touchstone of religious thought and certain ideologies. Why suffer and struggle? Remember that famous theologian’s prayer; “God grant us the serenity to accept the things I cannot change….”

Well Ada is reading “Fates and Furies,” by Lauren Groff – her book club assigned this book to her. She must report on it at their next meeting and believe me, it’s a long and complicated piece of fiction. Full of sub-plots and interesting characters. The protagonist, Mathilde’s husband Lancelot (Lotto), grows up in Florida – a place someone on our Viking ship said is for “Golfers and Alcoholics” to retire, and he said this lovingly since he was from FL!  I read the book many months ago and suggested she watch this video – https://charlierose.com/videos/23139

The author is writing about love, friendship and marriage. Since Ada has been a marriage counselor most of her adult life, I get why the group picked her! But she hasn’t finished the book yet and I remember how it ends. The long denouement of Mathilde, her tragic backstory, her isolation and abandonment. Should I tell Ada? I kept this to myself, and just told her that Groff is a feminist. An author who is taking us deep inside a woman’s rage. An author who writes in longhand from 5 am to 3 pm every day when she picks up her children from school. What a good husband!

The novel tells the story of Lotto and Mathilde Satterwhite. He is the darling of a prosperous Florida family – “Lotto was special. Golden”. She, an apparent “ice princess”, is the survivor of a past about which her husband has only the fuzziest idea beyond it being “sad and dark”, and above all “blank behind her”. The first half of the book offers Lotto’s view of their life together as he rises from charming but failed actor to celebrated playwright, thanks in no small part to Mathilde’s editorial finesse. The second half reveals that Mathilde has, through implacable willpower, transcended circumstances that read like a hotchpotch of Greek tragedy, fable and detective novel. Much of what Lotto takes for granted in his good fortune, it turns out, is due to Mathilde’s ruthless machination, right down to their marriage itself. She genuinely loves him, but she initially set out to win him for mercenary reasons.  https://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/dec/24/why-the-fates-and-furies-this-years-most-talked-about-novel

Groff tells us that any good marriage must retain an air of mystery. I love that idea, but I could see that Ada wasn’t quite buying it. After all, therapy is about laying your heart out on the rug and trampling all over it, right?

Spending a few days back in NJ, to attend cousin Harriet’s funeral and the shiva calls that are part of this world, I learned more about her life. Harriet, like Mathilde, was slightly mysterious. She once sang on the radio, and she went para-sailing with a grandson at the age of 80! I loved learning new things about her; she and Perry once owned a condo in Boca. Who knew?

But navigating the maddening crowds at Shop Rite and Bob’s family has taught me one thing. You really can’t go home again. My old Queen Anne house on Orchard Street is now a duplex, and the Jewish Center across the street is a Baptist Church. Was it really fate that led Bob to meet me there, in front of my old house, one summer day in 1962?

I’m not a great believer in destiny.

We make our own luck, and if we don’t like where we are, we have the freedom in this country to change it. There is a semi-opaque membrane between our young selves and our future. Some people get stuck along the way. They define themselves as a certain type of person, and they settle into that role. I would not want to look back on my life, and wonder how I got there. IMG_4698


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hr-angels-600x320“I think my guardian angel drinks.” This just popped up on my Facebook feed. It made me smile, not guffaw mind you, but it also made me think of Virginia Woolf’s famous advice to women writers. She instructed us to, “Kill the Angel in the House.”

By the Angel, Woolf meant the female — more specifically, the mother and wife — whose role in life was to be the gracious hostess-cook-and-mender, smoother-over of family tensions, and graceful supporter of the endeavors of husband and (male) children. Woolf had to kill the Angel, she said, because its top priority is self-suppression and conciliation, while to write one has to display “what you think to be the truth…” reblogged from “YeahWriters” on Tumblr

Granted Woolf was raised during the Victorian era, and started writing between the two great wars of the last century; and then there’s that messy part about her suicide at the age of 59 in 1941. When I was younger, I was slightly afraid of reading Woolf, like depression might be catchy and if I wasn’t strong enough… Still I often thought about her dictum to have a room of my own. In particular when I was trying to meet a deadline in the corner of my dining room with the Rocker’s band in the garage before the Bride had to be picked up from field hockey. Oh, and what would we do for supper?

Do women ever work – either inside or outside the home – without all those crazy household and childcare thoughts buzzing around in their heads? You know that men do not have those same thoughts while working; I dare you to find me the man who is wondering about his (insert anything we worry about here – child’s ear infection, dry cleaning, dog’s vet appointment, grocery shopping) while he is at work. When my wise mentor Great Grandma Ada headed off to get her Masters in Marriage and Family Counseling while her boys were still in school, I remember her telling me how she wished she could sit on the porch, like Lucy, her housekeeper/nanny, and snap peas with her youngest. But she had a Wild Heart, she cut her teeth on Betty Friedan, and so she left the Angel in the capable hands of Lucy. Ada was lucky, most women in the 60s didn’t have a surrogate homemaker.

Betty’s bible said, “Men are not the enemy, but the fellow victims. The real enemy is women’s denigration of themselves.”

I find it disheartening that in this day and age the Angel in the House is still so much a part of us. Women are asked interview questions that are never asked of men with families. Even the top CEOs in business will make only 69% of her male counterparts. “Low expectations based on external factors like gender or race, rather than on personal skill sets, are particularly pernicious. Ambition (that Wild Heart) depends on belief in oneself, which requires recognition and reinforcement by others.”

And there’s the rub, the problem that two journalists, Katty Kay and Claire Shipman, tackled in a recent Atlantic article titled, “The Confidence Gap.” http://www.theatlantic.com/features/archive/2014/04/the-confidence-gap/359815/ Why is it most women don’t believe in themselves, or they downplay their promotion by saying they were just lucky; while demonstrating competence, why do we lack confidence? OK, so if you went to Catholic school it was kind of a sin to be too full of yourself. Still, it’s impossible to sum up Kay and Shipman’s research, but let’s just say it’s a combination of nature and nurture.

And the Angel in the House. It’s hard to feel confident when you’re juggling a home with children and a full time job. When women my age were defying their mothers and entering the work force, I often heard them opine, reluctantly for a “wife.” Because they knew beyond all doubt that no one would pick up the slack of laundry, cooking, dishes, cleaning, getting up in the middle of the night with a sick child, nobody. If they wanted something done, they had to ask for it because it just wasn’t in a man’s sphere of thought. “Honey, you’ll be at such and such a place at 5, could you pick up the kid, please?”

This Angel was always in our head. I was taught my guardian angel lived on the tip of a pin, I had no idea it could fly right into my brain! It’s about time we banished her, make her a margarita and bid her “Adieu!”

It was she who bothered me and wasted my time and so tormented me that at last I killed her…And when I came to write I encountered her with the very first words. The shadow of her wings fell on my page; I heard the rustling of her skirts in the room. I turned upon her and caught her by the throat. I did my best to kill her. My excuse, if I were to be had up in a court of law, would be that I acted in self–defence. Had I not killed her she would have killed me. She would have plucked the heart out of my writing. Thus, whenever I felt the shadow of her wing or the radiance of her halo upon my page, I took up the inkpot and flung it at her. She died hard. Her fictitious nature was of great assistance to her. It is far harder to kill a phantom than a reality…Killing the Angel in the House was part of the occupation of a woman writer. Virginia Woolf

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Ada reminded me on our Mexican holiday that a good friend of hers once called her “insatiable.” She’s also referred to herself as a “pot stirrer” in Yiddish, which I think means she likes to keep her spoon in everybody’s pots. It keeps things bubbling and cooking away – a good quality for a marriage and family counselor.

Our first night in Cabo, many of the passengers who were on her flight out of Newark, paid homage to my MIL at the table. She has a knack for meeting people, and coaxing out of them their deepest secrets. I was aware that she tried hard not to engage everyone at the resort, and instead concentrate on her family and friends.

But it’s almost like that show the “Medium,” a Long Island woman who walks into a deli and hears from dead people. She can’t help herself, the Medium’s psychic self invades every aspect of her day. For Ada, her therapist self is so much a part of her identity, it kicks into gear almost immediately. Every person has a story to tell, and she’s an excellent listener.

You can see how this trait is passed down. To Bob who has a third eye and ear, (remember how he spied KERF at the airport?) who is either a great multi-tasker or an incredibly well adjusted adult with ADD. To the Bride, who in preschool was “helping” all her little friends with their art projects; so much so that the teacher asked me to have a talk with her. Maybe it didn’t help that Ada offered a dollar bonus once elementary school started for each check mark on the behavioral side of their report cards…this was for the presumably negative  act of raising your hand too much and talking out of turn. Grandma Ada wanted to encourage such things. Get those pots boiling!

And to my little Love Bug who would sit on the steps in the pool and point her little finger at me, then point it down right next to her and say “Sit!.” Not easily distracted, she is a tiny dictator of the sweetest variety. As we walked in the sand on the beach saying “Ocean” over and over again, I could see another insatiable spirit with her Great Grandmother’s eyes. I fully intend to keep up the tradition of the pot stirrer report card!

Ada says “YES” to life. She is incapable of being satisfied or appeased, the definition of insatiable. She wants to take it all in, experience everything that life has to offer. I had trouble keeping up with her in Cabo. Granted I was under the weather, but even when I’m feeling fine my 90 year old MIL can run, or walk, circles around me. On the day of her birthday party, many of the men went deep sea fishing and came back with a 20ft marlin. The chef at the hotel prepared the delicious fish three ways, along with a Mexican birthday cake.

While the guys and one gal were fishing, the Rocker drove Grandma Ada, Hudson and some of the women, including me, into another town for lunch and sightseeing. We saw the Hotel California, a street festival, and wild horses running in the street. It was an enchanting afternoon. And wouldn’t you know, Ada and Hudson met and immediately befriended a couple from Texas who went to Baylor, Hudson’s alma mater. I’m sure they’ll be visiting them on their next trip to NY.

So when people ask me what’s Ada’s secret, it’s simply this. She continues to be engaged and active, to learn and to love, to keep her spoon moving. She is our treasure.

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