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September 2011

Have You Fed a Writer Today?

Unknown I almost missed it. It turns out that September is "Be Kind to Writers and Editors Month." Remember, it is not too late to give your favorite writer or editor a meal, a massage or anything else his or her little heart might desire.

When I was a journalist, I used to make merciless fun of these artifical dates, because publicists would always try to wrap a "timely" story around them. An urgent pitch for an article about some obscure disease would land in my inbox, because it was National Some Wierd Thing Awareness Month.

But now I see the error of my ways. This particular cause is terribly important. And only 3 more days to honor the scribbling masses.

To The French Canadian Truck Driver Who Saved Me

Photo Merci, Merci, Merci! Wherever you are this morning I am thinking about the kindness you showed me yesterday. I hope you got your goods delivered and someone was waiting for you at home with a delicious meal and tender loving care.

See these kayaks on top of the car? This is not an action shot. The action photos would have included such highlights as one of the cords holding the boats into place flying off and becoming entangled in the wheel axel. (Another shout out to the elderly farmer on the dirt road in the Adirondacks who helped me get it out.)

Another might have been an hour later, after that cord had been reattached elsewhere (no one can accuse either the farmer or me of being engineers), as the blue kayak was flopping around the top of the car making horrible scratching noises and threatening to go off the side.

The best action shot would have been me driving south on Route 87 in upstate New York, with cars slowing down to drive along side of me, honking, and mouthing "YOU ARE LOSING YOUR BOAT!" through their window. Mind you, I still had several hundred miles to drive, and had a ridiculous image of myself with one arm out the passenger window, trying to hold the damn thing in place.

Finally, the French-Candian trucker, who had a big 18 wheeler and scared the living daylights out of me by boxing me onto the side of the highway, turned out to be a good Samaritan, who finally secured both boats on the roof.  The whole trip ended up taking 7 and a half hours, but I did get home safely, both boats intact. They couldn't clear the garage, but that was the least of my problems.

Thank you, monsier. You are my hero.

Another Study: Mom and Son Closeness Good For Teens

Unknown Boys with lots of conflict with their mothers engage in more delinquent behavior as they get older, says a new study published in the journal Child Development. This is hardly suprising, but the study revealed something else interesting, too: mothers who had good relationships with their romantic partner tended to form closer bonds with their sons that endured through childhood and adolescence. This flies in the face of the stereotype that mothers who are close to their sons are compensating for some lack of emotional support they are getting from their husbands or lovers. (See modern literature, ranging from D.H. Lawrence's "Sons and Lovers" to Jonathan Franzen's "Freedom.")

I'm just sayin'...

Are Men Finished?

Unknown This was the provocative title of a debate My Daughter and I attended last night at NYU. On one side, were Hannah Rosen, a journalist for Slate and The Atlantic, and Dan Abrams, a legal analyst for ABC - who both argued that women are clearly in ascendency in education and in the economy. On the other side were Christina Hoff Sommers, an academic who wrote "The War Against Boys" and David Zinczenko, the editor of Men's Health magazine. Zinczenko maintained that men were doing just fine, thank you, still dominating in politics, brute strength and other areas. Sommers seemed to be admitting that boys and men were struggling, but that it was because the system was rigged against boys and men.

Who won? I can't tell you, since My Daughter had made 8:15 dinner reservations at a neighborhood restaurant, and -being women - we balanced our need to eat with our desire to listen to the entire Q and A period before the vote, and came out on the practical side of food.

But it was a fun evening - Rosen is whip smart; Zinczenko is funny, though highly pleased with himself. I was interested in the debate because I refer to both Rosen and Sommers' work in my book. Part of what I argue is that mothers need to raise sons in ways that will better prepare them for today's world, precisely because boys are struggling in school and men are falling behind in the economy.

As always, SO much fun to spend time with My Daughter, who -upon hearing the title of the lecture - replied, "I'm in." 

Dads and Testosterone

Unknown-1 The flurry still hasn't died down over a report issued last week revealing that men's testosterone levels drop after becoming fathers . Yesterday the Times ran a style piece, quoting guys who say things like, "A study like this implies you are scientifically less manly just when you’d like to think you’ve hit a new plateau of manhood. You’ve spread your seed, so to speak, and joined the ranks of your own father.”

Now, he lamented, “not only are you a dork when you lapse into goo-goo talk, but now you’re less of a man scientifically.”

Well, that's one way to look at it. Another perspective is that it may actually be in men's biological make-up to provide direct care to their children once they are born, i.e. high testosterone to mate; lower to nurture. Having kids doesn't make you a wimp; it's part of growing up and human evolution.

In any event, I love the whole discussion, because part of my book addresses the question of how we define masculinity, so I feel like all these issues are swirling around in the Zeitgist. 


Mold Misery

Unknown The reports are back and the news is not happy. Why is it that I struggle to keep my house plants alive, but my basement seems to be a veritble greenhouse? As I whined earlier, our basement flooded during Hurricane Irene, though moisture has long been a problem down there. Now the situation can only be described as gross (well also perhaps as "disgusting" and "health hazard"). 

Among the charming residents in the basement are: Strachybotrys, Cladosporium, Hyphae, Pencillium/Aspergillus, along with other Ascopores and Basidiospores. The air quality inspector not only suggests immediate remediation, but also that we contact our family doctor about exposure to these molds.

YUCH! Of course, I would like all this to have been ripped out last week, but it is not so simple, as we are dealing with the insurance company (who basically doesn't cover for flooding or mold, but because of a technicality we might get a little $) and also try getting a mold remediator in the Northeast a few weeks after Irene.

Today's whining will now come to a close. If you hear me sniffling or see me taking Tylenol for a headache, it's just a few related symptoms from exposure.

The Book Cover

MamasBoyMyth_JK I don't think I have ever showed you the cover of the book. Here it is, and if all goes well, the back will have all sorts of positive blurbs about what is inside. I wish I could just make them up, as in, "Good Lord! Kate Stone Lombardi is absolutely right about mothers and sons. I got it completely wrong." - Sigmund Freud.

Anyway, early on my editor asked me if I had any thoughts about what the cover would look like, and I had presumed they would put an image of a mother and son on it. No, no, no, wrong, wrong, wrong. Any one image would send a message to a different demographic that this book is not for them. For instance if you put a young mother and son on the front, older mothers might not think the book would be of interest. 

So graphics it is, and I actually really love the look of it.


Images-1 Yesterday was a disspirting day. It began with a long wait for the Mold Man, who was delayed for several hours because so many roads were flooded and parkways closed. When he came, the news was not good. He won't have the toxicology reports on our basement for a few days, but when he had me come down there to talk about his assessment, he made me wear a mask. He has told me to seal off the area and avoid going down there. It was so bad he also tested for mold spores upstairs.

This was followed by a lengthy conversation with the insurance company. Sigh. No one has flood insurance these days, and mold is an entirely different problem, not covered because the words "pollution exclusion" are written into almost every policy. There may be a small amount of hope, for technical reasons I won't go into here, but whatever money is available won't begin to cover the abatement.

I got a little work done in the late afternoon, and then went out in the evening to see "The Help" with my friend Helen. It was still raining when we got out, and pitch black, and as I was walking across the parking lot, my foot caught in a large, rain-filled pothole and I went sprawling down onto the asphalt. It didn't look like the woman in this illustration, because I fell face down.

OW! My knee is a mess, my hands hurt, my shoulder hurts, and whine, whine, whine. I don't live in Iraq, Afghanistan or Somalia or any other dangerous place, no one in my family has a bad diagnosis, etc., etc., but I am feeling very beleagured this morning. I have to drive up to Massachusetts later today for a series of meetings at my former college, and before that I am being interivewed by Parents Magazine. I hope I can pull myself together and sound interesting and upbeat. Big girls don't cry.


The Dog Ate My Homework and Other Blog Excuses...

Stop-making-excuses So many reasons I haven't been blogging as regularly as normal:

1. Travel - First, I was away with my friend Sally, then I was away for the long weekend in upstate New York with The Weatherman, My Daughter and The Boy, and tomorrow I have to leave again for a series of meetings in Williamstown, Mass.

2. Flooding - My house smells like wet dog, the mold in the basement is reaching horror-movie preportions, and what looked like a small remediation project is clearly going to be massive and expensive.

3. Self-consciousness - I didn't tell you that when I met with the marketing and publicity folks at the publishing house, someone commented on the blog. They even commented on the fact that I had referred to the meeting we were having. They didn't say anything critical or negative; simply that they had read it.

This is the blogging connundrum - you write your little heart out, post it, and then it doesn't occur to you that folks are actually reading it. Evidently, it appears on something called THE INTERNET which, it seems, many people have access to. I'm sort of kidding and sort of not about this, because it still comes as a shock to me when someone makes reference to something I've written here.

OK, as I - like hundreds of thousands of others - have chosen to share my life with the greater public, I will now reveal that I must prepare for the arrival of the "Mold Man," who in professional life is referred to as an environmental air quality analyst. 

Is this 2011?

Girls-are-too-pretty-to-do-homework-32029-1314802466-6 In my book, I spend a fair amount of time bemoaning the culture that surrounds boys. But here's a reminder that we have we have not come a long way, baby, for girls. Check out this appalling tee-shirt for sale from JC Penney. Apparently enough people found it offensive enough that it is already off the website. But the "I'm too pretty for homework so my brother has to do it for me" t-shirt, for girls ages 7 to 16, was selling quite a message. The ad copy under shirt read, "Who has time for homework when there's a new Justin Bieber album out? She'll love this tee that's just as cute and sassy as she is." Oh Lord. Where to start?