Posts Tagged ‘motherhood’

When I first met Wendi, she was holding her baby boy. Her smile was like sunshine as she showed me around the property. We had finally moved to Virginia, and when the Bride and I first saw the house, she had been away on a business trip. My soon-to-be landlord was a fabulous designer, she flew all over the country installing the dreams of her famous clients.

Strangely enough on that crystal clear day in Charlottesville, Wendi was in New Jersey.

But at our first look, her husband, wanted us to rent their guest cottage. He knew the Bride was starting at UVA Medical School, and he was psyched about our Duke connection. As he led us through the main house and into the dining room, where an old Dutch master-like portrait of a man with a beard hung over a sideboard, I wasn’t prepared for this revelation.

“There’s a building at Duke University named after my ancestor,” he said pointing up to the painting, “It’s the Allen Building.”

In fact, Bob and the Bride were well acquainted with the Allen Building. Turns out it was named after a good friend of JB Duke in the early 1920s, a man from Warrenton, NC – George Garland Allen. Allen had started out as a bookkeeper for the American Tobacco Company in 1895, working his way up in the Duke organization.

My new landlord’s Great Grandfather, on his Mother’s side, had been known to say it was easier to accumulate his wealth than it was to give it away.

This didn’t stop us from moving our Welsh Corgi along with big Buddha Bear and Bailey Dawg (the Bride’s Lab) into the smaller “cottage” on their property. Wendi welcomed us with open arms, in fact she collected a menagerie of dogs too – from a sublime Great Dane to another ridiculous Corgi! When we finally built our house overlooking the Blue Ridge, Wendi had 2 small boys, and 2 matching Labs.

In contrast to her husband’s Southern lineage, Wendi was a California girl. She didn’t come from money; she had been a nanny in NY and then went to school for design. She built her own business from the ground up, and juggled 2 children with the demands of her world-wide clientele. I remember distinctly when she told me about this woman who would come in and cook you a week’s worth of meals on a Sunday and put them in the freezer.

Aha, so this was how working women who might jet off at a moment’s notice took care of their family. This was before GrubHub.

Wendi would throw great Gatsbyesque parties around their pond behind their home. She sent her boys to the public school and became one of the fiercest football moms around. She loved keeping tabs on the Rocker, and made sure her boys knew all about his band. When the Parlor Mob stopped by on a swing through Virginia, she treated them like royalty. When I became secretary of the local book club, she’d make a point of attending if she was in town.

She was one or two decades younger than most of us; a doctor, a few lawyers, a few teachers, and me, the one who could make an email list-serve. Wendi’s California blonde exuberance would always add the fun component to our gatherings. After her divorce, she started a new business of high-end consignment pop-ups that housed many of the pieces Bob and I couldn’t carry with us to Nashville.

Last month, after saying goodbye to her oldest son, who was heading to Australia for his college semester abroad, Wendi died tragically, she was only 53 years old. That baby, that I first met on her hip, is now in high school. When my old friend and neighbor called to tell me the news, I was shaking. How can this be? Didn’t I just talk with her about our trip to Tulum? Didn’t I just see beautiful pictures on Instagram of her December holiday in Puerto Rico? She’d found a new love, and life was looking good for my friend.

How can a light like that be extinguished? My lovely, vibrant Wendi, how can this happen? I hope you knew how many people loved you. Your outstanding sons are your legacy, your Valentines in football jerseys. Sleep peacefully dear heart.


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The lack of quality, affordable day care is arguably the most significant barrier to full equality for women in the workplace. It makes it more likely that children born in poverty will remain there. That’s why other developed countries made child care a collective responsibility long ago.

Here’s my question, If you were to place a monetary value on child care workers what would it be? We all know how important those first few years are to a child’s developing brain, and yet in this country, child care is anything but valued. Parents must navigate a piecemeal patchwork of semi-regulated private home care and institutional day care franchises or religious, sometimes co-operative pre-schools that in the end may or may not meet their needs. Poor, single-parent, and middle class working parents are hit hardest, because one parent’s salary may all but pay for child care, which means for many couples one will opt to stay home, not to work while their children are young…

You’ll notice I didn’t say the “Mother,” even though the latest US Census Bureau actually counts the Father as a “Child Care Provider” when he stays at home, but if it’s the Mom at home, well, not so much! http://parenting.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/02/08/the-census-bureau-counts-fathers-as-child-care/?_php=true&_type=blogs&_r=0

Presumably it’s our function right, to stay barefoot and pregnant at home raising the kiddos? And this is exactly the problem with our Democracy – we educate our girls, we passed Title IX, we expect women to contribute to the GNP, and yet we still manage to count them as the “designated” parent. It’s easier that way, then we as a country feel no obligation to provide child care!

I used to hate it when people said the Dad was “babysitting,” early feminists had to readjust their language to reflect the changing culture giving women sovereignty over their lives. After all, is the Mom babysitting when she cares for her progeny? No, we are parenting, co-parenting hopefully. Sure nursing Moms have a bit of a heavier load to begin with, but even with modern Dads picking up more of the slack at home, when both parents want of have to work, their options are dismal.

American day care performs abysmally. A 2007 survey by the National Institute of Child Health Development deemed the majority of operations to be “fair” or “poor”—only 10 percent provided high-quality care. Experts recommend a ratio of one caregiver for every three infants between six and 18 months, but just one-third of children are in settings that meet that standard. Depending on the state, some providers may need only minimal or no training in safety, health, or child development. http://www.newrepublic.com/article/112892/hell-american-day-care

And what do we pay these child care workers? Less than $20,000 a year, about the same as a parking lot attendant. Yes, someone who sits in a booth all day watching a small screen and making change is valued about the same in,this,country as someone responsible for our young child’s growth and development. And there are no national qualifications for child care workers, it is a state by state business where a GED will get you in the door.

In every other developed country, in the Big 8, working women and child care are valued. In France for example, the state subsidizes child care. Babies and toddlers can go to a “Creche” that is run by the public health system, while preschoolers can go to the “Ecole Maternelle,” with teachers who are paid the same as the public school teachers because it is part of the public education system. Is it any surprise that 80% of women return to work in France, while here it is around 60%? Even if one parent stays at home, or hires nannies, France gives these parents generous tax breaks.

In Denmark, most men take a three month paternity leave, and no parent pays more than 25% for child care. I know. http://www.theguardian.com/society/2012/feb/18/britain-learn-denmark-childcare-model

And guess where our government does set standards on child care, the military! “More than 98 percent of military child care centers meet standards set by the National Association for the Education of Young Children, compared with only 10 percent of private-sector day cares.” Interesting, I guess the American dream does exist for some women in uniform, so long as you don’t mind where you’ll be stationed or that you may be called to duty in a war zone.

If we as a nation would like to move more people out of poverty, and benefit from the increased taxes and economic development of more women in the workplace, we will have to make universal Pre-K a reality. It’s that simple.

The Love Bug Going to Pre-School

The Love Bug Going to Pre-School




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I got my first hater the other day on Twitter, “Captain so and so” I forgot his made up, cowardly name. The problem was, I was just getting out of the shower, so I made the mistake of favoriting him and actually retweeted because I didn’t have my glasses on; and it never would have occurred to me  that someone might hate me?! Little old me? But hate he did, pasting a link to an article where some Kroger clerks got beat up outside their store. Threatening much?

Why? Because I had the audacity to take a picture of my lox and bagel lunch and post it with the hashtag,

#Groceries Not Guns.

I was thanking Panera Bread for their delish bagel and for instituting a sane gun policy in their stores, ie no open carry please. Leave your ammo at home! Then later I took a picture of my grocery cart at Whole Foods, filled with produce and such and said:IMG_1084

Love @WholeFoods #GroceriesNotGuns too bad @HarrisTeeter n Kroeger     

That’s Twitterspeak for let’s all boycott Kroger and Harris Teeter because they allow open-carry-gun-toting-zealots into their stores and I don’t want to bear witness to such foolishness.  This campaign by Moms Demand Action recently resulted in Target changing its gun policy, and I must admit I feel a little thrill each time I post something; like a revolutionary, I’m proud to join the ranks of Shannon Watts and these moms.

At home in an Indianapolis suburb the morning following the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary, Shannon Watts, a 41-year-old former public relations executive and mother of five, created a Facebook page calling for a march on the nation’s capital: “Change will require action by angry Americans outside of Washington, D.C. Join us—we will need strength in numbers against a resourceful, powerful and intransigent gun lobby.” The seed for Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America—today a national organization backed by nearly 200,000 members and millions of dollars—had been planted. “I started this page because, as a mom, I can no longer sit on the sidelines. I am too sad and too angry,” Watts wrote. “Don’t let anyone tell you we can’t talk about this tragedy now—they said the same after Virginia Tech, Gabby Giffords, and Aurora. The time is now.” http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2014/09/moms-demand-action-guns-madd-shannon-watts-nra

Using social media in a way that MADD could never have dreamed – which one doesn’t belong? –10635909_879992738677881_2827510542402008695_nto change the culture of drunk driving, this movement is winning hearts and minds of people who own guns, and have permits, and store them securely, and would never in a million years carry an AK47 into a grocery store! Pointing out the absurdity of the NRA’s policy is one goal, changing our wild west culture and getting the NRA out of the pockets of lobbyists is another.

It’s about time we women fought back. The Violence Against Women Act celebrated its 20th anniversary yesterday. If you’d like to learn more, this article is for you: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/soraya-chemaly/50-actual-facts-about-dom_b_2193904.html

“Number of U.S. troops killed in Afghanistan and Iraq: 6,614:
Number of women, in the same period, killed as the result of domestic violence in the US: 11,766”

I blocked my hater on Twitter, haters gonna hate. I refuse to be intimidated. Three women a day are killed in this country by an intimate partner. It’s not just the NFL that has a problem. Teach your children well.

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There is a momblogger the Bride turned me onto awhile ago. Her name is Glennon Doyle Melton and her blog is Momastery and her message is a simple one – Enough is Enough. Life is “brutiful” (brutally beautiful) and we are all in it together, a warrior tribe of women online doing the best we can with what life has dealt us.

Momastery is an open window. It’s a place to take a deep breath. It’s a place to drop out and tune in. It’s a place to stop striving, stop competing, stop suspecting, stop hiding. To hear and tell truth. Mother Teresa said, “If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that We Belong to Each Other.” If we find peace here- it’s because we remember.http://momastery.com

So imagine my surprise to see her being interviewed on the Today Show one morning while I was in Nashville. You may have noticed this year, if you still watch TV in the morning, that Today is trying to be less Yesterday by keeping or attracting younger viewers and being more interactive, opening up a Green Room on their set, and imploring the viewer to follow them on Twitter etc.

Now I’m officially a senior citizen, but I remember when the Rocker was in high school and I served on its board that we created a survey on technology. One of the questions we asked was where did our students get their news and they all said online and NOT on TV…that was about 15 years ago. So it’s good that Today is catching up with these Millennials.

Glennon talked about starting out with the typical mommy stuff on her blog until one day she shared a picture of her kitchen. That’s when the negativity started, she received tons of comments about her cluttered and out-of-date kitchen. Judgey, and sometimes mean, but often helpful ways to organize her simple kitchen with its picture covered refrigerator. Doesn’t everybody who ever entered anyone’s kitchen just stand and stare at the pictures hanging by magnets on refrigerators? It’s as if they can take in the soul of that house, that family, by looking at those pictures.

Well Glennon got a little pissed, although she didn’t say that. What she said was this was the exact problem with us! This striving for perfection in motherhood and it just had to stop! Look at her 1960s water faucet at her kitchen sink. Most people in the world cannot get clean, running water coming out of a faucet in their kitchen – it’s all in our own minds. Instead of thinking we have a crappy kitchen sink, we need to change our perspective and be thankful we have running water!

We have to put on new “Perspectacles.”

Anyway, did you ever feel like you were speaking a different language with another English speaker? I’m not talking dialect here, I’m talking Glennon’s Today Show piece which had been filmed earlier, so it was less of an interview and more about her philosophy. The hosts of the Today Show looked a little dumbfounded, gobsmacked in fact. There was a big pause, then they realized they were in fact live and had to say something. So Al Roker made a joke about putting on his “bispectacles” since you know he just turned 60…and then it was cut to commercial.

Glennon Doyle has written a NYT’s best selling book, “Carry On Warrior,” and she has many other social media platforms. She is starting to tour with her inspirational message, and will be in Nashville very soon.  She has done a TEDx talk

and has started a non-profit, “Monkee See – Monkee Do.” She is a phenomenal woman who speaks truth to our sometimes messy and always chaotic world.  10617054_284425955075742_12256534_a

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I found out yesterday that my half-sister Shirley died. My sister Kay called to tell me. It was peaceful enough, she died in her sleep after refusing to be hospitalized for “low sodium.” I asked Bob what that means, and he said basically your system is shutting down. I have absolutely no memories of Shirley; she was 24 years older, she was having a baby at the same time I was born which I guess happened frequently back then. So, just as soon as I was born I became an aunt. She was out of the house long before our Year of Living Dangerously.

Shirley was the Flapper’s first child. The product of a dare, yes my mother married Shirley’s father on a dare. They met at a wedding in PA, and got along so well their friends dared them to get married. She was 16 years old, and I assume that kind of thing happened all the time too – the getting married at 16 part. Gi Closeup 20130505 Web

Before the Flapper’s first husband died, she had a son, Brian. At 21 she was widowed with 2 children. At first I thought their father died in the Great War, later I learned he died of a ruptured appendix, before penicillin was discovered. The Flapper moved to NYC with her sister in order to work, and left her children with their grandmother, my Nana.

And this is when the troubles started with Shirley. After awhile my beautiful mother moved back to PA and caught the eye of a young pharmacist at her street car stop. Enter my father, who promptly married her and insisted on adopting her 2 children…although maybe he didn’t since they never took his name. He raised them just like his own – the 4 who followed, Kay, Mike, Jimmy and then me. I told you this is all third hand knowledge.

The family folk tale is that Shirley never forgave the Flapper for taking her away from Nana, the woman she loved and considered her true mother. Certainly holding a grudge was a time honored tradition in our family. The result of this grudge fest is the eternal rift between Mother and Shirley. Show me a family that hasn’t experienced years of ‘not talking’ between relatives; still this mother/daughter feud was stellar in its length and complexity.

Recently I found out that Shirley contracted TB as a young, new mother. She was sent away to a sanitorium and her baby boy, the one who is my nephew, came to live with the Flapper after her accident. It was while looking through old pictures with Kay that I wondered who the baby was, the one who wasn’t me. The Flapper never told me – which is telling in itself – that after giving me up to foster care, while she was still in the hospital, she ended up caring for my nephew at home. Even Kay has no explanation for how this happened.

I was always told that I was never taken from my foster parents, Nell and Jim, because Mother was afraid of losing another daughter to a grudge fest. I have to think, considering our level of poverty, that we were lucky in avoiding placement in an orphanage, all of us. So maybe it was just the Flapper’s pride, which was fierce, that kept her from placing her first grandson in an orphanage. And even though she was bed-bound, crippled by that drunk driver, she would fight to keep him. Kay was 15, so she not only helped Mother with her physical rehab, she helped care for her younger brothers and her nephew. Without Kay, the middle of this family would not hold.

In this picture Shirley is on the far left, and Kay is on the far right standing. I wasn’t born yet.

Lynn Siblings 20130505 Web

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A poet I’m not. But listening to Maya Angelou read from her latest book, Mom, and Me, and Mom, made me wish I could craft words of poetry. She writes about her “terrible wonderful” mother who shipped her off to her grandmother at the age of 3 after a divorce. http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2013/mar/30/maya-angelou-terrible-wonderful-mother They were reunited when she became a teen, and she learned to love and respect her mother, particularly after becoming a mother herself. I must read this book, because I can identify with being separated from my birth mother, and reuniting later in life. The Flapper let me go to live with her friends, because she was alone, widowed and finally crippled in that car accident, in our Year of Living Dangerously. It’s hard to imagine now, but a woman alone was not expected to work and raise a family in the middle of the 20th Century. There were no social safety nets at the time. If family or friends didn’t step in to help, often children would end up in an orphanage.

Still, Angelou called babies “Technicolor Stars.”

Yesterday I met the latest star in one of the sweetest young families in the Old Dominion. Born at 9 minutes after midnight, not even 24 hours old, MP’s mom asked me if I’d like to hold him. He had golden brown duck fuzz hair, his pink legs were still pulled up into his time-tested fetal position, and his umbilicus announced his newness to the world. He made little baby sounds that only angels can decipher, and his big dimple stamped his face with undeniable cuteness. I fell in love. 7 lbs, 7 oz. He’ll be going home today to meet his big brother and sister, and his grandmother and great grandmother from California. MP’s mom is an outstanding NICU nurse who is working toward her doctorate at UVA. She is a natural with a baby, and the dad is an ER doc who trained with the Bride. Lucky baby.

Between the polar opposite parenting types – the overly-attachment type vs the free ranging type – there is a happy medium. A sweet spot of consideration and caring. I’m thinking our friends could write a book, or a baby blog? How not to worry yourself sick with a newborn and prevent unnecessary food allergies! Believe me, with all the noise out there in parenthood land, a sensible, sane voice would be helpful. My friend Kath, although primarily a food blogger, does a good job with her baby blog. She has been my go-to for researching baby products and baby nutrition. Her son Maze is the same age as the Love Bug.

Welcome home MP! Next stop on your technicolor journey, maybe the Saturday Morning City Market?

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The other night the Bride and Groom had friends over for dinner. Another medical family, with a baby boy just a week older than the Love Bug. You might just say the mamas are nursing buddies too. Together they have figured out how, when and where is a good place to nurse a baby in the Music City. A corner booth in a restaurant – sure; a posh “Mother’s Room” in a fancy store – of course; in the middle of a Halloween party – maybe? I’m amazed watching my daughter juggle all these roles. Wife, new mom and returning to work professional, with a ten week old baby. She has a whole sisterhood of support on this journey, they write text and call with tips on going back to work while continuing to nurse an infant. Not an easy task.

And on the Bride’s first night back from her first hospital shift, our family arrived from Holly Springs, MS to meet the tiny Bug. My sister-in-law truly loves babies, we are sympatico in that way. The Groom was serenading his baby at the end of her first day without Mama – and she was cooing right along. We have another musician in the family – the Rocker, the Bourbon Family and now the Love Bug! Jorja’s daughter (hello, an opera singer), who is about my daughter’s age, is due to have her second baby girl on Christmas Day. The Love Bug was happy to meet her cousins, but fell in love with toddler Antonia.

She told her how much she loves kittens, and tutus and flowers. She demonstrated how to kick your way through a pile of leaves and climb up a dragon at the park. She loves to jump in puddles and dig in the dirt, all with pearls and smiles for her proud GranJorja. Antonia can even take a bow when the occasion allows! I think we have some future Nashville stars coming up.

Nashville rebuilt after the big flood a few years ago. And I know our East Coast communities will too. We are a very resilient bunch. Just saw this on my son’s Facebook page…”sam jeff and I threw a cover band together this morning and we’re playing at porta in like 20 minutes. they have power; food, beers and such. come on down.” Jeff used to play in our garage, Sam is the drummer from Parlor Mob…made me cry just a little as there is so much devastation in Asbury Park. Musicians are the poets of our country. I believe in the Jersey Shore.

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Normally, you would find some smart-alec retort here about politics. Normally, I would try and weave some family story into my opinion, hopefully with a dash of humor or at least a dollop of wit. And don’t get me wrong, I watched a few snippets of both conventions. I loved the nun and the ex-President, and even Mrs Mitt wasn’t too saccharine sweet. But life stopped being normal on August 25th, when I found myself transformed from the Mother-of-the-Bride to the Grandmother.

Nothing really prepares you for this stage in life. Gone are the black shoes and stockings of my Nana from Scranton, PA. I’m not pickling things and storing cans on the shelves leading down to the basement. I still have the sacred memory of Nana taking me to my very first movie – Picnic, starring William Holden and Kim Novak. In 1955 I was 7 years old when this classic was released and Nana told me only big girls are allowed in a movie theatre and that I couldn’t leave my seat and run up and down the aisles. Of course I can’t remember the plot, but something “big” was happening in the grass and I was praised for staying put.

Can you remember your first anything? The first time you rode a real bike, the first kiss? Mine happened on the Kindergarten school bus. A boy named Lloyd, who’s mom was what we called then a “war bride” from London, cornered me and kissed me. i remember feeling somewhat terrified and proud all at the same time. Growing up can be challenging. The simple courage to try something new has prompted Jamie Lee Curtis to write her latest children’s book, “My Brave Year of Firsts.” Curtis said, “I started thinking about how often we ask children to try things, and it brought up to me the bravery of being a kid; for a child, jumping a rope, riding a horse, tying shoes, going to school — all are new activities. But adults don’t naturally choose to do something brave. We’re afraid we’re going to look foolish.”

It’s true. We ask our young children constantly to just try some new food, while we are content to eat the same old thing for breakfast, lunch and dinner. But last night I tried something new, and it was delicious! The Rocker rolled into the Music City with Aunt Cait and made us dinner. We feasted on yummy quinoa cakes with a cranberry curry and yogurt remoulade, all made from scratch! The kale salad on the side was the best I’ve ever tasted. Later we watched the documentary “Babies” and that was illuminating and fun!

The Bride gave her brother his first lesson in diapering. As I watched, I felt true bliss. My baby boy had cooked for his sister and his new niece. Better it couldn’t be.

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