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October 2011

Trick, No Treat

Images-1Seriously? I write this from our friends' house, where we are staying until power is restored to our own. At least we got out. There was a large tree blocking the driveway, but a tree guy buzz sawed enough away so we could get a car through. Then we got to the end of the street, where another enormous tree had taken out all the wires.

Con Ed (our power company) is saying we may have power by Wednesday night, which is a bit of a problem because The Weatherman and I are leaving on a trip out Wednesday midday, and we need to do such things as set the alarm, let alone pack, tie up a lot of work projects, and do all the other stuff associated with being away for awhile.

This is not my snowman. I'm not feeling that lighthearted. We got more than a foot of deep wet snow. School is closed. In October. This is way wrong. 


Book Jackets and Blurbs

MamasBoyMyth_JKIt now seems like ages ago since I wrote the The Mama's Boy Myth.  And we are still months from publication. (March 15 is the official pub date.) But there is a surprising amount of book-related work that goes on all the time. 

Yesterday I finished edited the book jacket copy. I wasn't crazy about what the publisher had written and they asked me to take a crack at it. You'd think if you could write a book, writing a book jacket would be a breeze. But it's very different - you are basically summarizing two years of work into two paragraphs, and write it in a compelling way that will make folks who pick up the book want to buy it. 

Then there's the whole business of securing "blurbs" that will appear on the back of the jacket. This is trying, because while many people have said they would be delighted to review the book, it takes forever for them to respond. So you don't want to push it (what if they actually hate the book and don't want to tell you) but you also want to stay on top of it (one terrific and highly supportive person misplaced the book two chapters in). 

In other news, its The Boy's birthday today. He has to be at work at 6:45 a.m., so while The Weatherman has already spoken to him, I will wait until this evening. I certainly remember his actual birth day.


ImagesIt turns out that Boston is surprisingly easy to navigate and I had a great weekend up there.

First, meeting with the folks at the Jean Baker Miller Training Insitute went very well. The research they have been doing for years is very relevant to my book.

 I learned a lot when I was there, including more about Relational-Cultural theory, as well as about some new work on neuroscience that reveals we are actually wired for connection. They would like to collaborate with me in the future. And most of all, they were an extremely nice and very smart group of people.

I also became a mini-expert on the "T" - that's what they call the subway - and visited places I had never seen. Being with The Boy was heaven. We almost always have a great time together and this was no exception. We had a number of adventures,including a wild bus ride (try to avoid actual travel with The Boy - he is cursed) and watching a regatta on the Charles River.

Probably my favorite spot was the Harvard Book Store. I could just move into that place. It's enormous, beautifully laid out and incredibly inviting. We had so much fun checking out the different sections, discussing books we had and hadn't read, checking out book jackets (I'm thinking about the copy on mine), etc. etc. Yes, we are nerds, but we are proud.



Boston Bound

UnknownA good deal of the academic work that has been done on the subject of mothers and sons comes out of the greater Boston area. When I was researching the book, I came across a program called the "Mothers-Sons Project," which was based at the Jean Baker Miller Training Insitute at Wellseley College. It took place in the 1990s, and it was among the first times academics began to really question the prevailing "wisdom" about how mothers should interact with their boys.

I interviewed one of the women who ran this program several times on the phone, and she was incredibly generous in sharing her research and insights. Well, tomorrow I am meeting her for dinner up at Wellesely and I'm really excited. It's like a blind date, except we already spent hours talking to each other.

We are hoping to do some kind of collaboration around the book and the topic of mothers and sons in the future. Icing on the cake - I get to have dinner with The Boy on Saturday night.

Now I just have to figure out how to navigate Boston. The city is a mystery to me, and those traffic circles really scare me. (What? Me scared driving? Now there's a novelty....)

A Mother-Son Story

DRAGON-articleLargeEmily Rapp, a professor of creative writing in New Mexico, wrote this piece in the NYT about her son, Ronan. Ronan has Tay-Sachs, a rare genetic disorder that will likely kill him by his third birthday. This meditation on parenting a child with such a limited future is one of the most moving and heartbreaking pieces I've read. Next time you get irritated with your child, revisit this. Rapp's use of the term "Dragon Mom" was a stunning rebuke to the "Tiger Mom" label - fiercely cherishing your child  for who he is in this moment, instead of driving him in the pursuit of future accomplishments.  

The Conundrum of Physical Therapy

ImagesAfter two different people told me I was limping I finally decided to see an orthopedist. I have long had "dodgy" hips. They ache, I sometimes get shooting pains, and whether I work out  or rest, it seems to make no difference.

But The Weatherman and I are leaving for  a long-planned hiking trip in two weeks, where we will average 8-10 miles of walking/climbing a day. I really don't want to miss a minute of it, because the scenery will be spectacular. Anyway, the doctor said I have "hip impingment" - tendonitis in the hip. So I have started a regiment of physical therapy, three times a week, and hope I will have some moderate improvement before I leave.

So here's the thing - my co-pay is $40 a visit. And all that seems to happen is that they put a heating pad on my hip, and then I do some stretches, and then they put ice on it. I do the same thing at home twice a day. If the co-pay is $40, how much is the actual visit? It seems so....simple and not medical.

I would say it was a racket, except that my hip is already feeling a little better. Of course that could be because I am no longer at the gym doing squats and lunges and all that stuff. Now I can worry instead that my hip won't hurt but I'll be hopelessly out-of-shape for the hiking.

OK, I have officially used up my whining quota for the week. I promise.


Dr. Pepper Introduces "Manly" Diet Drink

Article-0-0E513A0800000578-158_634x266Oh, come on. In order to make guys feel like they are not wusses for buying a 10-calorie soda, Dr. Pepper has actually launched a marketing campaign that says the diet drink is "not for women." Sold in gunmetal grey containers, the packaging will be decorated with  silver bullets. The commercials will feature such manly activities as guys battling snakes and shooting lasers - two skill sets which never fail to come in handy in this day and age."Hey ladies!" one of the guys in an ad says, "Enjoying the film? Of course not. Because this is our movie and our soda." He makes this observation while trying to pour the soda into a glass during a bumpy ATV ride. Which kind of says it all.

The Road To Manhood

Images Bill Bennett, the Conservative pundit and former Secretary of Education under President Reagan, has written a book on manhood and masculinity. Titled "The Book of Man," Bennett decries what he believes is happening to masculinity in our culture. "Maculinity is diminished, sometimes even punished, ridiculed, made fun of, yes it is," he says in a video promoting his book. "We can not expect little boys to act like little girls, and the fact that we are trying to blend the two, create this non-gender sexuality, is a violation both of human nature and God's law."

Oh, where to start? Who is perpetrating this large societal attack on boys and men? Certainly not mothers of sons, who adore their boys, and - in questioning some traditional definitions of masculinity - are simply trying to raise stronger, more resiliant guys. Yes, stronger - not in a domineering, gun-brandishing way (Bennett bemoans the fact that some little boys aren't allowed to play with toy guns) but in a way that equips them with emotional intelligence they need to navigate in today's world, where brute strength and dominance is less valued in the workplace than cooperation and teamwork. 

According to Bennett, there are many "masculine qualities worth having - qualities like intellect, courage, decisiveness." Gee, I could have sworn those were human qualities, and that I value intellect, courage and decisveness in my daughter and in myself, as well as in my son and husband. 


Mother-Son Quote of the Week

Images "Fifty-four years of love and tenderness and crossness and devotion and unswerving loyalty. Without her I could only have achieved a quarter of what I have achieved, not only in terms of success and career, but in terms of personal happiness. We have quarrelled, often violently over the years, but she has never stood between me and my life, never tried to hold me too tightly, always let me go free. For a woman of her strength of character this was truly remarkable...There was no fear in her except for me. She was a great woman to whom I owe the whole of my life."

-Noel Coward (1899-1973)

Another Steve Jobs Post

Unknown-1 Just spent nearly an hour reading various tributes to Steve Jobs. A fascinating man, I mused, but with little connection to my life. Until I realized I was reading the obituaries on my MacBook Pro. While listening to music on my Ipod. At the same time, I was charging my Ipad. I bought my first MacIntosh in 1988.

I especially enjoyed reading from Steve Jobs quotes, but here is my favorite, from a graduation speech he gave at Stanford:

"Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma, which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of other's opinions drown out your inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary."


Two Lower Manhattans

Unknown-1 Was downtown over the weekend, and was struck by the contrast between the Unknown Occupy Wall Street protest and the 9/11 Memorial. They are within several blocks of each other. The protesters were loud, there were signs about "Nazi Bankers," drum beats and a crazy kind of disorganized unity. Just two blocks away were people trying to get into the 9/11 Memorial, which has been sold out since it opened. NYC cops were everywhere - around the protesters, around the site, and of course, in the names inscribed on the memorial walls.

I remember when that downtown area was desolate - now it was packed with people, businesses, loss, gain, vendors hawking "I Love New York" t-shirts, not far from people who were homeless, unemployed and outraged. It was intense, and then -from the perch of my brother's art studio on the 47th floor of 7 World Trade Center - surreal. 


Mother-Son Competition

Hasbro-forces-scrabulous-to-cut-off-online-scrabble-service Do moms and sons compete? Sure, we think about boys and their dads trying to one-up each other on the playing field, or sons who try to top their fathers professionally. But our image of mothers and sons is one in which the mother is simply proud of her son's accomplishments, and maybe even basks in them vicariously, as if they are a reflection of her parenting.

Well....I am, of course, very proud of both my son and daughter, both who they are and how they lead their lives. But I am a deeply competitive person. Not in terms of accomplishments - obiviously I don't think anything they do takes away from me (just the opposite) and I want the very best for them. No, it is in terms of games. I like to win and don't much like to lose.

As The Boy was growing up, he slowly but surely eclipsed me in every sport. By the time he was six feet tall and - in sports like tennis, ambidextrous - it was all over but the crying for me. He didn't just beat me. He dominated. Creamed. Humiliated.

There was only one competition in which I was pretty consistently victorius - word games.  I held onto this edge for years. But now The Boy is into "Words With Friends," a game which is pretty much like Scrabble. It's played online, so even though he is up in Boston and I'm in New York, we have several matches going at once. And he is killing me. The score is not even close.

Well this is too much for my fragile ego to take. So on Saturday, I was at a fundraiser and there was a silent auction. I passed the "dinner for four" at a fancy local restaurant and the sports memorbilia, and went straight for the sign-up sheet that had the Scrabble water bottle next to it. I "won" an hour and a half lesson with a junior Scrabble champ (she's 15 years old) who promises to sharpen my strategy and improve my game.

I'm not proud. But I am determined.