Category Archives: Uncategorized

Then Whose Fault Is It?

{Reblogged from my website:}

Just as I was beginning to write my last post, I ran across this article entitled: How to Land your Kid in Therapy. The author, Lori Gottlieb, starts off expressing her relief (as a parent) that parents don’t have to be perfect – that the real goal is to be a “good enough” mother. Then she talks about her experiences as a therapist. She describes how her first clients clearly suffered from having parents who were not emotionally nurturing. Then she begins to describe some other clients:

Imagine a bright, attractive 20-something woman with strong friendships, a close family, and a deep sense of emptiness. She had come in, she told me, because she was “just not happy.” And what was so upsetting, she continued, was that she felt she had nothing to be unhappy about. She reported that she had “awesome” parents, two fabulous siblings, supportive friends, an excellent education, a cool job, good health, and a nice apartment. She had no family history of depression or anxiety. So why did she have trouble sleeping at night? Why was she so indecisive, afraid of making a mistake, unable to trust her instincts and stick to her choices? Why did she feel “less amazing” than her parents had always told her she was? Why did she feel “like there’s this hole inside” her? Why did she describe herself as feeling “adrift”?
The author spends the rest of the article explaining what the parents of her young clients have done wrong to create young adults who “have it all” but are still not happy. Drawing on the most sound psychological theory, she explains how over-protecting your child from disappointment, giving them too many choices, and treating them as if they were “delicate tea cups” puts today’s young people at a disadvantage – and “lands them in therapy.” She describes what parents can do to keep from handicapping their children in this particular way.

It made me laugh. I don’t disagree with her – in the ideal world, parents would know how to provide exactly the right amount of protection balanced with the right amount of laissez-faire. I’m sure there are parents who know when to negotiate and when to stand firm in exactly the right amounts. And maybe their children grow up to be perfectly well-adjusted and happy in all the right ways.

I don’t know any of those parents, or their kids either. Maybe they exist – I just haven’t met them.

But I appreciate a person in their twenties who “has it all” and still feels that something is missing. I don’t think it means there’s something wrong with them – I think they’re on track to discover who they are and their purpose in life. I understand that they may be a bit miserable, but I don’t see any reason to hold their parents accountable for that.

Good grief, in order to be perfect parents – including being just the right kind of flawed – would take some phenomenal perfection. Ridiculous. Some people have trauma-laden pasts to heal from, others may suffer from lack of experience with difficulties – but everybody has problems. Going to therapy is one way to learn how to deal with whatever your struggles are.

Being anxious, depressed, unhappy, bored, or miserable might mean we need to make changes in how we live. It might mean we need to accept some things about how we live, or about the universe. We might need new skills or a new perspective. Maybe our childhoods were traumatic, or maybe they were “too easy.” The question is still not “What’s Wrong With Me?”

And the answer is not, “Well, here’s what my parents did wrong.” Don’t misunderstand me – if you had a traumatic childhood, as many people do, there is healing work that you need to do. If you had parents who thought you were supposed to make them happy, you have healing work to do. And if your life was so easy that you’re a bit spoiled – well, you still have work to do.

I’m pretty sure that we’re all scarred from our childhood, not to mention adolescence. Our parents are only human, and they carry their own scars. Most of them do the best they know how to do. Figuring out where your parents went wrong is not, actually, the goal. It might be a place to visit, a little exploration might help, but that’s not the end of the journey.

So if the question is not, “What’s wrong with me,” or “Where did my parents go wrong?” then what is the question?

Sometimes, just figuring out what the question is takes time and energy. Sometimes, it’s about looking at the things that have happened to us, seeing them with adult eyes and a new perspective. Looking at the rules we’ve learned about how the world works, deciding which rules are fact-based and helpful, which ones aren’t. Figuring out what we feel and where we stand and who we are. Ultimately, the question becomes, “Given all the things that I’ve been through, given the things about my life that I can’t change, given all my goals and dreams and needs, what do I need to do to be ok? Right now, what do I need to do to be ok?

More Airport Adventures

The morning we have to leave Puerto {which we don’t much want to do} I’m talking to the women at the front desk of our hotel, Natalie and that-other-blonde-woman, whose name I don’t know.  One of them says, “You’re leaving today?? Ohhhh, hmmmm, well, you might want to go very soon.”  They exchange looks, nodding seriously.  “Yes, I wouldn’t wait too long.”

“What?  Why?  What? Our plane doesn’t leave til 4…” I am baffled.  Natalie is German and occasionally I have trouble understanding her English, maybe I’ve misunderstood?

“Well, we heard – I don’t know if it’s true or not – we heard they are trying to shut down the airport.  You may not be able to leave if you wait.”  It takes me a minute to process this.  Seriously?  Then – “‘They’ who?” I say.

“The teachers, the teachers are protesting.  Usually they shut down the road to the airport.”  With a shrug, “Then you cannot ride all the way in, you have to walk with your suitcases, but you can still get there.  This time they say they are shutting down the airport and no one will be able to leave.  But I’m not sure.  I heard this, but I don’t know if it’s true or not.  I will tell you when I find out more.”

“Ok, great, that would be helpful,” I say.   I’m trying to decide whether  to panic, and then I shrug too, “I guess if we can’t fly out, we’ll take a bus to Mexico City.  Our plane doesn’t leave there til 9 tomorrow morning.  No point in worrying about it.”

But it feels a bit like I’m in a bad novel, you know?  The kind that makes me anxious because I think they won’t “get out” and bad things will happen and all that.  But here in real life, I’m just not too worried  I go back to our room and pass this information on to Dee, who is also not too worried.  Whatever.

When Conan gets to the hotel, we share this possibility with him, and he says he’ll call his cousin and find out more, but no one really knows.

So we get packed, and load up the car, pick up my daughter from work and have lunch.  Lunch is in a small, non-touristy restaurant near the Mercado- the same restaurant we had lunch in when people were leaving after the wedding in February, so it may become our traditional farewell lunch place.  Paulina, Conan’s mother, insists on paying the tab, which is nice of her.  Lucia is cranky, which may also be a tradition, she was cranky at lunch that day in February, and I remember Holly or somebody taking her out and walking up and down the street with her.

Memorable lunch moment this time – Julia has distracted Lucia with some delicious rice water, and Lucia is playing with the empty glass.   She offers her Mommy some pretend rice water.  Julia “drinks” from the glass, and says “Ahhhh.”

Lucia smiles and asks, “Good?”

Julia, “Yes.  Delicious.”

Just a moment’s pause, and Lucia says, “Say ‘thank you,'” in the Exact Same Tone of gentle prompting that her mother uses.

And what can Julia say but, “Thank you!”

I’m trying to hide my laughter, but omg, I’m cracking up, it’s so perfect.  Timing and tone, Lucia captures pure Julia.

Anyhow.  Lovely lunch.  Then on to the airport.  We take a cab as well as the car – Julia and Lucia and Paulina and I are in the cab, Conan and Dee in the car with the luggage.   Conan asks the cab driver about the protest and the airport, and the driver is reassuring, “O, si,” he’s sure we’ll be able to leave, but we might have to park and walk.

As we get closer to the entrance, there’s a line of traffic.  Some cabs and cars have pulled over, stopped, just sitting on the side of the road.  A couple have turned around and are coming back on the wrong side of the road.  We make our way through them for a bit, and then we can’t go any further.  We get out of the cab, Conan and Dee pull the luggage out of the car.  Fortunately, we’ve crammed our carry-ons into the larger suitcases, so at least we only have two bags and our backpacks.

We can see now ~ It is a protest.  Not a huge protest, and it’s very calm, but there are a bunch of people – kind of like a loose picket line – that we’ll have to pass through, and the gate to the road – a huge metal gate – is closed.  The road is definitely blocked.

So Conan goes to park the car somewhere; the rest of us get the luggage and start walking.  We don’t really have far to go, and I’m relieved to see a small gate on one side of the entrance, with guards on the other side.  As people approach it, they’re opening it and letting some people through.

The guards are armed of course and the protesters aren’t teachers.    “We always just assume it’s the teachers,” Julia says, but it isn’t this time.  Googling it now, I find this story:

9-hour blockade by Popular Revolutionary Front

It is ~ just a little bit scary.  Not dreadfully scary.  Just a little bit.  Ok, the armed guards scare me.  They always do a little bit, even thought they’re super polite.  And the line of people protesting is peaceful, but there’s tension in the air.  Anyhow.   We walk through without any problem.

When we get to the gate, the guard has a list, they ask for our names,  and – good news – Dee and I are on the list.   They open the gate ~~ there’s a van waiting, we won’t even have to walk the rest of the way ~~ we hand our luggage through, they put it on the van ~~  and i realize ~~ we’re going to have to say to good-bye right here, right now.  This is it.   No, oh, wait, no ~~

I turn to Julia ~ she’s looking panicky too ~ holding Lucia, and pregnant, ~~ and I start to say good-by and hug her, only I start crying, and she starts crying, which we had both planned on not doing ~ and Lucia looks worried ~~

and I say to the guard, “Can’t she come back? with us?” and Julia says it in Spanish, and ~~

~~ then the guard says, “Si, yes, si, come on,come on, you can back go too,” and Julia says, “Really?” and her face lights up and  I quit crying.  They assure her, yes, yes, she can go, and she says, “But m’esposo?” and they assure her that he can come too, when he gets here, and then we get on the van and go on up to the airport.


I don’t even quite know why that’s such a big deal, but it was.  We still don’t want to leave, but it’s somehow better saying good-bye after we check in rather than having to let her go right there at the gate in the heat and in the middle of the protest and all.  Paulina waits for Conan and they join us just a few minutes later.

Sadly, we do our good-byes and then Dee and I are on to the next stage of our adventure.

When I look back, it seems a bit surreal.  I wish I had pictures of what it was like, the protesters and the gate and the guards and all, but you know, it was not really a photo op.   I can’t do it justice with words though.  You really had to be there.

And Here We Are!

After the race to make our connecting flight in Houston, I’m sure we can do anything.  Three hours to make the connection in Mexico City feels like sheer luxury.

And it actually is!  We glide through Customs {only one form needs to be filled out again}; our big suitcases are waiting for us at the #16  carousel.   A porter and cart are right there to transport the bags to the re-check-iin place and – best of all – when the attendant there says “Push the button,” Dee pushes and we get the green light!   When you get the green light, they don’t search your luggage.  Last time through, we got the red light, and that always makes me super nervous,  but this time, it’s a piece of cake.  Onward.

We don’t have our boarding passes yet, but the electronic ticket on my iphone gives us access to the train.  Unlike The Link, which runs about once a minute, there’s a five minute wait for the train.  It winds its way across the airport, which is larger than some small cities.  It all feels familiar these days.

Terminal 2. Last security check.  In Mexico, you get to keep your shoes on, which is a treat, and Dee’s shoulder doesn’t set off the metal detector as it sometimes does.   And then we’re there – Gate 75.   Getting through all that in under an hour is a personal record, for sure.

So we eat again — Starbucks salad for me — drink more coffee – and wait.  Finally, finally, it’s time.  Ok, it’s only 2:30 in the afternoon, not so late, but I’ve been up almost 12 hours.

On the shuttle bus to the plane, a group with several adults and a bunch of kids gets on too, the youngest child complaining that he wants to “get on the plane, not a bus!!”  Someone assures him the bus is just for a few minutes, and one of the women musters a cheery smile and says, “It’s an adventure, right?  We’re having an adventure!”  which makes me smile to myself.

The plane is so tiny.  It always makes me feel like it might be powered by batteries and remote control.  You can see the type of plane here, if you’re into that kind of thing:

Sitting behind us are two of the adults from the large group, and a couple of the younger children are across from them.  The flight attendant makes the usual announcement, but then she has to come over to the man behind me to ask him to turn off his electronic device.  He does, grumbling about it a bit, but  when she askes the three-year-old to turn off his ipod, the child explodes in wails of “WHY??? WHY WHY WHY WHY???”

This goes on way too long with some ineffectual attempts to calm him (without ever explaining why.)  He finally subsides a bit when the flight attendant assures him it’s just for a few minutes, but you can still hear him plaintatively asking “Why?”  I’m trying not to have some judgemental and unkind thoughts about the kid and the parents when Dee turns to the adults behind us and says, “Would he like some gum?”

“Oh, thank you so much, I’m sure he would,” says the woman, and the child is distracted and delighted enough with the unexpected treat that he’s smiling again.  The maybe-six-year-old next to him is even more surprised and delighted when Dee offers him gum too, and says, with exquisite politeness, “Thank you so much.”  And when Dee asks them to offer the gum to the other four kids in the party, the whole atmosphere on the plane changes.  Whew.

And we’re off.  YAY!

In almost no time, maybe an hour, we’re landing again, yes, yes, yes — and waiting for the luggage on the conveyor belt in the tiny Puerto Airport, peering around the corner where Lucia and Conan will appear.  And then – then – then — there they are!

I’m not sure how Lucia will react when she sees me, it’s been months since we saw each other off Facetime.   And we’re separated by an invisible line, security guard there to ensure we don’t cross the line.  But she sees me and — I am not making this up — she starts jumping up and down, screaming, “Nonna!  Nonna!”

What’s a Nonna to do – I scream back – “Lucia!!  Lucia!!”

“Nonna!  Nonna!”  Jumping up and down.

“Lucia!  Lucia!!”

And then at last we are free to cross the lline, and she holds up her arms for a big hug.

Here at last.

On the Way to Puerto – November, 2014

Our bags are packed.  We’re ready to go.


Weeks of preparation and suddenly it’s too late for “what have I forgotten now?”  Two 50 lbs suitcases, 2 carry-ons weighing at least 25 pounds each, and two backpacks.  175 pounds to schlep through the airport in Mexico City.  But lots of fun things for Julila and Conan and Lucia at the other end of the trip.

This is the first trip that we’re doing in one day.  Our first plane is scheduled to leave at 6:30 a.m., so we leave the house at 3:45, take the car to Crown Plaza Hotel (which will keep the car for half the price of the airport and shuttle you over.)   It’s 20 degrees outside.  20.  We’re wearing hoodies.

But all goes well and we make it to the airport with enough time for coffee and breakfast.   Which is lovely, because we ony have 50 minutes to change planes in Houston.  50 minutes.  And no, our gate isn’t going to be close.  We’re going from domestic to international.  United Air staff assures me, when I buy the tickets, that even half an hour will be enough time.  Ok.  We’ll see.

The plane from Louisville runs late – we land at 8:15.  Our plane leaves at 8:50.  We ask the flight attendant if we can get a cart to the gate — she says, “No, we don’t do that.”  Ok, we can make it on our own.  From Terminal B to almost the other end of the universe – Terminal E.  Tick, tock, tick, tock.  8:21, waiting for our carry-on luggage.

8:28.  Back packs on, pulling carry-ons behind, moving fast, down the hall, up the escalator, to the left, down the hall, up the escalator – heading for The Link.  8:31.  Tick tock.   Here it comes — jump on The Link and we’re whooshing through the air – Terminal C, Terminal D – oh, yes, D and E are together!  Ok.  We might make it.

8:33 – now for the gate.  But omg, it’ll take forever, no way, no way we’re gonna make it.  We can’t possibly get there in time, not in this lifetme, we’re going to be spending the night here and heading out the next morning.

But WAIT – there’s one of those carts!  We flag the guy down — Gate 21, please!  “Come on,” he says.  And off we go.  We’re going so fast, I can feel the wind in my hair.  Seriously.  Down a hall, turn, down another hall, people leaping out of our path and then – THERE IT IS!!  Gate 21  Going to Mexico City!!

I jump off, while Dee tips our rescuer, and the gate attendant says, “Are you on this plane?  Hurry!  They’re ready to go!!”

So we dash onto the plane, and fight our way back toward our seats — we were not actually the last ones on baord, but there is hardly anywhere to stow our carry-ons and people are jostling each other trying to find space —  but at last — somehow miraculously — we are on and buckled in and ready to go!  Woohoo.  I barely have time to email Julia “made it” before they tell us to put our devices on airplane mode — and we’re off.

Good times ahead.


I just read a terrific article – 5 Lies that Distort Male Sexuality and Hurt Everybody. You can read it here. It really made me think about how things have changed in my lifetime. The author says that conversations about sex with his father never mentioned consent.

The author says:

This absence reinforced another aspect of sexuality that is “normal” within patriarchal masculinity: “Consent means go until they say stop.”

This statement made me realize how much things really are changing.  “Consent means go until they say stop.”   That absolutely is the way things were in my youth – let’s say 40 to 45 years ago.

“How far did you go?  Did he get to second base?  Did you let him go to third base?”

Yes.  We really talked about it like that.  Rather than seeking consent, we played a frigging baseball game.  His goal was to make a home run.  Starting with kissing – so innocuous it didn’t even count as a base, though maybe not on a first date  – he could move to first base (tits,) second base (between the legs – or “down there”) and on to HOME – going all the way.

Of course it wasn’t really that direct, there were degrees of progress.  There was first base over your clothes and first base under your clothes, and so on.  There was “not all the way, but I touched his you-know,” and countless variations of that.

It was also very clear.  His aim was to go all the way, my job was to stop him at the appropriate point.  Defining “appropriate” was up for grabs.  So if I said “no,” in a soft voice, shook my head or pushed his hand away as it slid up under my shirt, it was ok for him to come back and try again a few minutes later.  Too much of that, and we said he was “like an octopus, all hands,” disparagingly, and there probably wouldn’t be another date. Unless he apologized and promised not to act like that again.


It was complicated.  Even if you wanted to “go further,” it was good form to put up some resistance.  To allow yourself to be persuaded to let him touch you *there*.  Or there.  That resistance showed that you really were “a nice girl.”  If you just wanted to enjoy it, and “let him” do it without the proper amount of resistance, then you were clearly a slut, and nothing good would come of that.

Seriously, that’s what it was like.  A sexual world in which his goal was to convince you to do it and your goal was to resist long enough that he’d still respect you.  Ok, that’s an over-simplification on all kinds of levels, but I promise you there was very little of this “enthusiastic consent” stuff that we’re talking about now.  Unless you were engaged, maybe.  Or a slut.  And it was pretty acceptable for a boy to try to convince you to “put out” more than you’d planned.  Not to force you, but to persuade, cajole, beg, and at some point even demand.

That proved you were attractive, and that he liked you.  If you kept dating him, then you were subtly agreeing to continue on this steady path of moving around the bases, and it was up to him to see how far he could go on each date.

I’m not saying that was good, or even ok.  After all, people used to drink and drive back then too.  I am saying that our understanding of how things work and how they’re supposed to work can change radically in a relatively short time.

I love the “enthusiastic consent” framework, and look forward to seeing the impact on relationships that involve sexual attraction.  But I think it’s helpful to remember that this is a change.   We’re creating a new path, and that’s seldom easy.  Worthwhile, important, and powerful, but seldom easy.

A Happy Nonna Moment

So I called my daughter, Julia, the other day, and Lucia was willing to “talk” to me – unusual enough, because phone conversations are not really that much fun for a two year old. Or for the other party, for that matter. Lately, Lucia’s been saying she’s too busy to talk – “Playing,” she says, or “Eating,” as if anyone would understand that she couldn’t be interrupted.

But this time, she readily takes the phone and, with prompting from her mama, tells me that they are “Buying car,” and yes, she goes for a ride in it and yes she likes it. We run out of conversational material, and I say “Ok, sweet pea, you wanna give the phone to your Mommy?”


And I hear a little grunt that sounds like, “No,” and I can hear her mama laughing and taking to someone in the background. So I say, “Ok, well, um, you want me to sing you a song?” and I think maybe I get a grunt of assent, so I do a quick verse or two of Old McDonald and then I hear her Mommy say, “Can I have the phone? Are you through?”

And Lucia says firmly, “No. Talking.”

I’m tickled pink – now I’m the important activity!! So I sing her another song, (not that I can really sing, you know) and her Mommy says, “Can I have the phone now?’ and she says ~

“No. Talking!”

So I sing “Little Bunny Foo-Foo”

and she’s excited ~ I hear her say to her Mommy, “Singing!” ~ and she actually kind of almost sings along!! How cool is that?

Then she’s done and I’m done too, but now I’m looking forward to our next phone call!

Exploring Father’s Day Quotes

Father’s Day, like Mother’s Day, taps into a well of intense feelings.  I can imagine families where those feelings are simple love and appreciation, but for those of us who have some ambivalence about our fathers, it can be a more painful celebration.  I imagine that fathers who have difficult relationships with their children also struggle.

So it’s not surprising that I couldn’t find just one quote to use on Facebook in honor of Father’s Day.  No, I found a bunch of quotes that each capture some aspect of the relationship.

“Dads are like chocolate chip cookies; they may have chips or be totally nutty, but they are sweet and make the world a better place, especially for their children.”
― Hillary Lytle

I love that image of Dad – so much warmth.  It makes me think of the old TV show with Patty Duke – the one where she played both cousins, Patty and Cathy.  Her father was, for me, the epitome of a great father.   Martin Lane.  He was always kind and reasonable.  Sometimes stern, but still loving.  He seemed to hit this perfect medium:

“Fathers…it’s vital to exhibit a thoughtful balance between being a tough as nails disciplinarian and compassionate gentle patriarch to our families. Too much of one devastates relationships and too much of the other emasculates our ability to effectively lead. Our wives and children need the security and assurance of knowing that we can be both tough and tender. One side steel…the other side velvet.
― Jason Versey, A Walk with Prudence

That was the Dad I wanted.   But I liked the idea of this one too:

“I believe that what we become depends on what our fathers teach us at odd moments, when they aren’t trying to teach us. We are formed by little scraps of wisdom.”
― Umberto Eco, Foucault’s Pendulum

I picture some absent-minded professor of a father, intent on his daily work, with his young daughter or son following behind him to catch the pearls of wisdom that he would drop… the occasional story, a proverb here or there…

Yeah, I didn’t quite have that dad either.  My dad was closer to this one:

“Fathers never have exactly the daughters they want because they invent a notion of them that the daughters have to conform to.”
― Simone de Beauvoir, The Woman Destroyed

And of course all of those fathers reflect the archetype of Father more than the reality of most of our Dads. Larger than life – Father as leader and protecter, Father as mediator between the home and the outside world, Father who teaches their sons how to be men, and their daughters how to relate to men.  Not to mention all the shadow sides of those roles.  It’s not surprising that we confuse the archetype of Father with the human reality of Dad, whether’s it’s biological Dad, step-Dad, or an uncle or big brother that takes this role.

“That was when the world wasn’t so big and I could see everywhere. It was when my father was a hero and not a human.”
― Markus Zusak, I Am the Messenger

When I was younger, there was so much angst in my thoughts and feelings about my Dad.  As I’ve gotten older, thank goodness, I am better able to see him as a person who did the best he knew how to do.  But this quote still resonates with me – and for many years, I think it fit me.

“Someone once said that every man is trying to live up to his father’s expectations or make up for their father’s mistakes….”
― Barack Obama, The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream

Certainly, my Dad’s expectations formed much of who I am, whether I strived to live up to them or pushed back against and rejected them.

So when I read Facebook threads about Father’s Day, I’m not surprised by the intensity of feeling the day elicits, or the conflicting ideas that arise.  One friend is concerned about people wishing single moms a “Happy father’s day,” concerned that it shortchanges the actual male fathers out there parenting.  A few people still think biological fathers trump the man who raises you, but others are sure “being there” trumps genetics.  Some folks struggle with defining the roles and titles of a transgender parent.  Another is upset because people treat single dads like they’re special miracles while single moms are looked down on and stigmatized.

I don’t really have an opinion about any of those things – well, I do, but I don’t think my opinions matter when it comes to fathers and their children.  Mostly I think that Fathers Day can be difficult for us in all kinds of ways, and whatever we do to manage it is the right thing to do.  I understand people feeling strongly about it, but at least today, I just don’t think it matters.

If it makes people feel better to recognize their mom as being both mother and father to them, why would I object?  And if your uncle took the father role and you still want to send a card to your biological dad, why not?  If we want to encourage single dads by exaggerating their wonderfulness a bit, I’m ok with that too.  {I am, however, passionately against stigmatizing single mothers.  Just for the record.}

As far as I’m concerned, anyone who has filled the “father” role in your life is worthy of whatever love and appreciation you have for them.

I almost posted this quote today, it says so much to me, in such a lovely understated way:

I got my dad a great father’s day present. He called to say: ‘Ach. Zis present is so good I now think it vas almost vorth having children.
― Johann Hari

That made me laugh, but there is some deep truth there.  Because ultimately, isn’t that what we all want?  To believe that the gifts we bring our father makes him see us as worthwhile?  Ok, so we probably want it to be the gift of our love, or some such intangible thing, and maybe some kids grow up just knowing that already.  But for those of us who don’t, that may still be a goal.

This is a powerful scene about fatherhood from the old sitcom, The Fresh Prince of BelAir.   I’m 57 – no, 58 – years old, and the darn thing still makes me cry.  And makes me appreciate Uncle Phil sooooo much.

“We never get over our fathers, and we’re not required to. (Irish Proverb)”
― Martin Sheen, Along the Way: The Journey of a Father and Son

On the other hand, we can, and do, “get over” the pain of a father who wasn’t there – whether he was physically absent or emotionally withdrawn, abusive or neglectful – we can recover.  Part of that process is separating the person from the archetype.  Part of it is learning from the men around us who are there for us.  And part of it is developing the skill to parent ourselves.

So when I read this…

“The monsters are gone.”
“Really?” Doubtful.
“I killed the monsters. That’s what fathers do.”
― Fiona Wallace

…I don’t feel warm and fuzzy about the person promising to kill the monsters, I am doubtful about that too.  But I remind myself that I’m pretty good at managing some monsters myself.

So I was finishing this blog post today, looking for just the right words to wrap it up, when I see my friend’s latest Facebook post.  And there it is – two simple sentences that pretty much says it all:

“Dad’s Day can be awesome and it can be tough. Sending love to those that need it for a variety of reasons.

~~ Christine Bowman

Exactly.  Thanks, Christine.











Quest for a Quote

Mother’s Day is wonderful for some people and super uncomfortable or downright painful for others.  I have some mixed feelings about it.  I think it’s a Hallmark holiday (even though I know it didn’t start that way.)  But I often struggled to figure out what to do for my Mother on Mother’s Day, and I was dismayed to discover that – even though I think it’s a Hallmark holiday – the ways my kids acknowledged me on Mother’s Day mattered a lot.

For years, there was also my mother-in-law, who needed to be taken into account, and my stepdaughter’s biological mother, and it was a complex and frustrating holiday.  I used to promise myself that once my girls became mothers, I would leave town for the weekend so they could enjoy the day themselves.

So it’s not surprising that I often have trouble finding a quote I really like for my daily Facebook post.  I want to find something that applies to people who have great relationships with their mothers, and those who don’t speak to their mothers. I want it to make sense to the mothers whose kids live with them forever and the mothers of those kids who don’t speak to them.

I want a quote that applies to biological mothers, foster mothers, step-mothers, stay-at-home mothers, career mothers, and the mothers who left.  It has to work for the “you’re like a second mother to me,” mothers, and of course for the men who mothered some of us.  Plus, of course, it has to fit my own socio-political ideas about motherhood.

It is not easy.

Part of the difficulty is that Mother’s Day has become a celebration of the archetype of Mother – the all-loving archetype of warmth, nurturance and creativity, growth and love. Mother Earth – sunshine, gentle rains, crops and harvest. Mother with a baby at her breast – holding, rocking, soothing, nurturing, maybe with a toddler playing contentedly at her feet, an older child doing homework nearby.

This aspect of the archetypes gives us these kinds of quotes:

“I realized when you look at your mother, you are looking at the purest love you will ever know.”
~~ Mitch Albom, For One More Day

Or this one:

“A mother is the truest friend we have, when trials heavy and sudden fall upon us; when adversity takes the place of prosperity; when friends desert us; when trouble thickens around us, still will she cling to us, and endeavor by her kind precepts and counsels to dissipate the clouds of darkness, and cause peace to return to our hearts.”
~~ Washington Irving

Those are far too cloying sweet for me.  Here’s the archetype described through the lens of patriarchy:

“It is a fundamental truth that the responsibilities of motherhood cannot be successfully delegated. No, not to day-care centers, not to schools, not to nurseries, not to babysitters. We become enamored with men’s theories such as the idea of preschool training outside the home for young children. Not only does this put added pressure on the budget, but it places young children in an environment away from mother’s influence Too often the pressure for popularity, on children and teens, places an economic burden on the income of the father, so mother feels she must go to work to satisfy her children’s needs. That decision can be most shortsighted. It is mother’s influence during the crucial formative years that forms a child’s basic character. Home is the place where a child learns faith, feels love, and thereby learns from mother’s loving example to choose righteousness. How vital are mother’s influence and teaching in the home—and how apparent when neglected!”
― Ezra Taft Benson

That quote could be subtitled “Instilling guilt in women who think they should have a career outside of motherhood.”  Clearly, that quote is not going up on my Facebook page!

In response to that patriarchal and limiting view of mother, we get quotes like this:

“I wasn’t put on this earth to be housekeeper to my own child or to anyone else for that matter.”
― Lynn Freed

Or this one:

“And really, how insulting is it that to suggest that the best thing women can do is raise other people to do incredible things? I’m betting some of those women would like to do great things of their own.”
― Jessica Valenti, Why Have Kids?: A New Mom Explores the Truth About Parenting and Happiness

The flip side – the “shadow” side – of the archetype for “mother” is Mother Nature, with her tsunamis and hurricanes, floods and drought.  Mommie Dearest and evil step-mothers are aspects of the archetype.   Some quotes reflect that.

“I’ve spent my whole life trying to get over having had Nikki for a mother, and I have to say that from day one after she died, I liked having a dead mother much more than having an impossible one. ”
~~ Anne Lamott, Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith

Or this one:

“You don’t know what it’s like to grow up with a mother who never said a positive thing in her life, not about her children or the world, who was always suspicious, always tearing you down and splitting your dreams straight down the seams. When my first pen pal, Tomoko, stopped writing me after three letters she was the one who laughed: You think someone’s going to lose life writing to you? Of course I cried; I was eight and I had already planned that Tomoko and her family would adopt me. My mother of course saw clean into the marrow of those dreams, and laughed. I wouldn’t write to you either, she said. She was that kind of mother: who makes you doubt yourself, who would wipe you out if you let her. But I’m not going to pretend either. For a long time I let her say what she wanted about me, and what was worse, for a long time I believed her.”
~~ Junot Díaz, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

Those reflect the shadow side of “mother” as intensely as the cloying sweet ones reflect the all-good mother.  Way too harsh for Mother’s Day. I would be more likely to use this one, which at least recognizes different aspects of “mother.”

“In a child’s eyes, a mother is a goddess. She can be glorious or terrible, benevolent or filled with wrath, but she commands love either way. I am convinced that this is the greatest power in the universe.”

― N.K. Jemisin, The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms


 In real life, moving away from archetypes and polarized aspects of mothers, I find quotes like these, which reflect real people who mother us, who struggle to come to terms with what it means to be “mother.”

“Mom’s eyes held yours for a moment. ‘I don’t like or dislike the kitchen. I cooked because I had to. I had to stay in the kitchen so you could all eat and go to school. How could you only do what you like? There are things you have to do whether you like it or not.’ Mom’s expression asked, What kind of question is that? And then she murmured, ‘If you only do what you like, who’s going to do what you don’t like?”
― Shin Kyung-sook, Please Look After Mom

Or this one:

“But will you not have a house to care for? Meals to cook? Children whining for this or that? Will you have time for the work?” “I’ll make time,” I promised. “The house will not always be so clean, the cooking may be a little hasty, and the whining children will sit on my lap and I’ll sing to them while I work.”
― Gloria Whelan

In real life, we get quotes like this:

“Maybe a mother wasn’t what she seemed to be on the surface.”
― Jodi Picoult, Handle with Care

Or this one:

Maybe it’s just a daughter’s job to piss off her mother.”
― Chuck Palahniuk, Diary

Or – a personal favorite:

“Of course mothers and daughters with strong personalities might see the world from very different points of view.”
― Katherine Howe, The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane

If we’re lucky, we grow into being able to distinguish our mothers from the archetype of mother.  We learn to recognize our own mother’s strengths and failings, and recognize that she was just a person, not really a goddess at all.

Ok, maybe there is a bit of goddess in all of us, but we are mostly human.  And as we find ourselves cast in the role of “mother” we may feel as conflicted as this quote suggests:

“I want to mother the world, I thought. I have so much love.
Then—I have no business being a mother. I am a selfish woman.
Then—I can do this. Millions of women have been mothers.
Then—I feel very alone. I do not know what I’m capable of.”
― Megan Mayhew Bergman, Birds of a Lesser Paradise: Stories


Look Out Mexico…

…here we come.

Found this poem this morning, and it made me smile.

maggie and milly and molly and may
went down to the beach(to play one day)

and maggie discovered a shell that sang
so sweetly she couldn’t remember her troubles,and

milly befriended a stranded star
whose rays five languid fingers were;

and molly was chased by a horrible thing
which raced sideways while blowing bubbles:and

may came home with a smooth round stone
as small as a world and as large as alone.

For whatever we lose(like a you or a me)
it’s always ourselves we find in the sea

E. E. Cummings
Love this part:  may came home with a smooth round stone
                        as small as a world and as large as alone.


It’s All About the Shoes…

My granddaughter has clearly inherited my shoe “thing” – I won’t call it an obsession, that would be excessive, but I do kind of have a shoe thing.  And so does she.

She’s not exclusive or particular about her interest in shoes – she’s just as fascinated with Dee’s shoes


as she is by my (much cuter) selection.  She likes to carry his around and try to put them on – today, she discovered she can get both of her feet in one of his shoes.  It makes walking a little tricky, but that’s beside the point.

She is, however, apparently developing her own ideas on fashion.  I was getting ready for work yesterday morning, wearing these shoes:


when she came running to me, saying, “Oooh, Ooooh,” with great urgency, clutching another shoe in one hand.  By dint of pointing and her favorite monosyllabic word – “uh,” she made it clear that I was to put on the shoe she’d brought me.

Obediently, I did.


We both admired it for a minute – it was, I have to admit, probably a better selection for my outfit.  Unfortunately, I had to explain to Lucia, I haven’t been able to find the match to that shoe for a while, and I can’t wear just one shoe to work, no matter how cute it is.

She accepted the bad news, with only a reproachful glance or two at me.   I hope my shoe selection today meets with more approval.

She is clearly my granddaughter.

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