Archives for November 2010


Domestic Violence

is a crime that has to occur under the cover of darkness.  It is not only a nocturnal activity, but a secret activity.

In the light of day, it makes no sense and it becomes truly unforgivable.  In the cover of darkness, it is part of the craziness of the night, not so for daylight hours.  Uncover the madness, talk about it, take it out of the secret closet.  It is real, it is wrong and it will stop. Now.


Thanksgiving, Cooking and Change

Whoever said that cooking is a “burden” that women have carried for millennium has not ever been to my home during the holidays.  At some point in my life time, cooking probably was a burden.  The daily grind, particularly when raising kids, can be extremely challenging.  What makes it most difficult, at least for me, is dreaming up new and creative dishes on a daily basis.  That’s probably one reason why I like Thanksgiving so much, the menu is set in stone and for the most part, so are the recipes.

All of that tradition has helped us through all of the change we’ve been weathering for the last several years.  You can do all sorts of new and daring things if you know that you can go home and eat turkey in November, every November, forever and ever:]  Anyway, back to our home, our kitchen, during the holidays:  Tuesday night at the grocery store, Rhea tells me “I’ve got a new recipe for green bean casserole, it’s on my iphone, it is from Rick’s mom and there’s no cheddar cheese, Mom, we’re buying American cheese.”  Me, “What, how can that be, why are you changing?  American cheese, who uses American cheese on a casserole?”  In my head I say to myself, okay, my 30 year old daughter’s husband wants to be included in some way to this long standing tradition.  I can’t argue about this, I can’t have my feelings hurt, this is their Thanksgiving too.  Besides, my family kind-of crowds things.  My family will run right over what people want if it doesn’t fit how we do things.  Okay – so different green bean casserole recipe – we try something new.  Later at the grocery store, I say: “Rhea, I think we’re too late, the store is out of frozen green beans.”   “Mom, why are you being like that, the french cut green beans are right here.”  “Okay baby.” and off we go to check out with all of our ingredients for Thursday’s feast.

My son-in-law also wants to contribute to cooking by frying the turkey.  Whoa, this is a big change, another big change!  Alright, alright.  We’ll make stove top stuffing, literally and figuratively.  My daughter’s townhouse  is a very comfy place, it is two story and we all take off our shoes when we get into the front door.  My 18 month old grandson Jaxsun loves to try on shoes, and looky here, by the front door is a dozen pairs of shoes!  You can imagine what happens to all of those pairs of shoes in the course of a day…

So here we are Thanksgiving morning and because we have so much to say to each other and because I travel to be with my daughters, their sons and the fathers of their sons – we start slowly.  We move towards the kitchen slowly, and of course, breakfast and lunch becomes one meal and we feed the babies and we talk some more.  Finally the cooking begins, the kitchen is only 3 feet wide and there are shoes scattered the length of the floor (we know why).  The babies have slept by now, so there is no chance of continued slumber.   Rhea’s husband is working on the deep fryer, which is out back, while Jaxsun’s father gathers things for us that we need in the kitchen – and of course, chases Jaxsun back and forth through the house.   Rhea says “who makes the potatoes?”  Jo says “I do, I always do.”  In the way that my memory will not retain specifics, but will retain a feeling, I think, yes Johanna is responsible for flavor, which is why she always makes the gravy too.   The three of us are in the kitchen, each of us with a piece of the meal to make.  Rhea has decided to set a nice table for her first at home Thanksgiving meal.  There is much to do.  As I prep for the crescent rolls, Rhea begins her green bean casserole recipe, I have finished boiling the red potatoes, so Johanna starts on the mashing.

I pull the baked sweet potatoes from the oven, Rhea says: “Mom, you said they were going with marshmallows on top.”  I was thinking of just putting the marshmallows on top of the plain baked sweet potatoes, well why not?  Everything else is changing, why not the sweet potatoes?  Jo says “Mom let me make some reduced sugar for the sweet potatoes.”  “What is reduced sugar, Jo?”  “Mom! I’ll just cook and mix some sugar and butter for a sweet potato glaze.”  Rhea’s husband is now in the kitchen with the video camera, so now there are four of us and a baby in a 3 foot wide room with shoes all over the floor, “Jaxun!”

So now Rhea gets upset because the green bean casserole recipe calls for canned green beans and I have to ask “who uses canned green beans for anything?” and everyone ignores me – for good reason – I can be very righteous about food and nutrition.  Rhea “whines” that she cannot translate our frozen green beans into canned green beans, Jo soothingly takes the frozen green beans out of the freezer to show Rhea the size and to tell her that the casserole will be alright.  In the mean time Johanna makes the gravy with self rising flour, which makes it “poufy” and difficult to stir.  Now it is my turn to sooth, though Johanna is expert at fixing.  Rhea calls her the Macgyver of food and the kitchen.  Give Johanna a few tools and she can make a meal out of anything!

There was something special about this Thanksgiving.  I think it had to do with the shared responsibility for the meal.  I think it had to do with the light heartedness of the participants and the intimacy of our relationships.  It didn’t hurt to have funny cuddly babies around too.  Change can be good.  And really, the recipes can be different too.  There really is nothing boring about cooking, by the way, you just need people to add flavor, that’s all.


Intimacy: My Understanding

Baby Intimacy

Baby Intimacy

There is something scary about intimacy for most people.  This idea really came into focus this week after spending the holiday with my daughters.  Rhea and I are discussing marriages and how some of them are close, two people who want to be together and some marriages, not so close, husband and wife, who spend a lot of time apart with very little discomfort to either party.  I’ve encountered this idea before, both in my own marriage and in my observations of other marriages.  It’s not the wanting to spend time together, so much as that there is something different about a marriage where two people want to spend time together and won’t consider separate vacations.  There is a different kind of intimacy evident in these two very different marriages.

I’ve always thought of intimacy in couple terms because that is the place where it is the most obvious.  Lately though I’ve come to associate it with babies.  The reason I see intimacy with babies is because babies invite instant intimacy into their world, and that is at least partly the explanation for everyone’s love of babies.  There is no contrivance with infants, they are all of who they are immediately and presently.  Because of this, adults can truly be who they are.  This allows adults to act very silly with children because of the immediacy of the moment with babies and children.  This behavioral freedom is often a relief for people.  You can see the sternest individuals acting goo-goo with babies and it is a natural phenomena.  The other characteristic of babies and children is their dependency on others for everything.  They need to be carried and when they need comfort, they need to be hugged.  Touch is an important part of any intimate relationship and is also a visible indicator for true intimacy.

If you watch a mother and child in an intensely emotional event, you will be peeking into a very intimate relationship.  Their language is often complete, not limited to the verbal but encompassing facial expressions and body language, what can be more intimate than that?  To know another is to know that a turn of their body means forgiveness, anger or frustration.  These are the things that parent and child know about each other.Yeah!

So here is why I am thinking about it this week:  my daughters and I who are normally separated by geography have spent the last week together for the Thanksgiving holiday.  I am used to them having a lot of friends and I am even used to the idea that their friends often envy them their parental relationship.  I could never understand or articulate why.  This week, I realized why my daughters and I are somewhat special – at least to our friends.  We have a deeply and profoundly intimate relationship with each other.  There is a love cocoon wrapped around us that is almost visible to anyone who is physically close to us.

I’ve heard people characterize us as “very close”, or “very tight”.  In my own words, it is simply lovingly intimate.  Here is what is true about us: we always tell the truth passionately and intensely – and if by chance there is an event to lie about, it is ridiculously easy to get at the truth.  We are comfortable with everything about each other, including all of the weaknesses that make us human.  We share being women and there is nothing about that – that can make us uncomfortable.  Not to say that we are never uncomfortable with each other, but to say that we are willing to be uncomfortable with each other, if that’s what it takes. 

This intimacy is palpable.  Everyone can see it, it is obvious.  It is clear in the way that our heads are close together when talking, it’s clear by what we say to each other and it is clear by our lack of embarrassment.  Johanna says to me as I walk out of her work (a crowded bar) “I love you mommy” and I say to here “I love you baby.”  Neither one of us aware or caring about the rest of the universe.  We need each other, we need to talk to each other and reassure each other and no one and nothing is as important as that.  That’s intimacy – the conscious involvement with another, the knowledge that the other is not perfect and the perfect love of the other in spite of the human condition.  Other people can see it and feel it and identify it. 

While it’s scary going into this level of intimacy, it is wonderful being in this level of intimacy.  That is why babies are the safest, they will not judge or regard you, they will simply experience you.  Gaining intimacy with a partner is infinitely more difficult because it involves opening yourself up to another’s evaluation of yourself.  Intimacy includes a depth of knowledge that reveals all of your vulnerabilities and weaknesses.  Are you willing to give all of that to someone, anyone?  Are you brave enough to love at that level?  Intimacy is an unspoken expression of love.  It means that you mean so much to me, that I am aware of your moods, your body language and your expressions, I will also stand close to you when you whisper, sooth you when you don’t feel well and cheer for you, no matter what.  That’s an intense commitment.  Given how good my intimate relationships feel, I would say that all of that investment, all of that commitment and the intense closeness is worth the effort.


Comments I Don’t Need to Hear

I am a really focused person who is also hard of hearing.  It doesn’t surprise me when my daughters tell me I have missed something.  In the practice of therapy, I often work with people about the concept of creating their own universe.  I will often tell my clients that there are thousands of worlds out there and that they are free to pick which world they want to live in.  The world I live in is a “nice” world.

Johanna is a bartender in a pricey downtown dinner club.  It is my last night in Norfolk so I agree to go have drinks and hors d’oeuvres with my other daughter Rhea at Jo’s work.  Johanna has worked at this club for a while and so the staff are very friendly to us.  The bar is packed; we wait a few minutes for a seat and end up next to friends of Johanna’s for a little while.  This is a how I learn what a “pub crawl” is.  Customers give a generous donation (which goes to charity) to get a plastic bracelet and then proceed to drink in as many downtown establishments as possible in one evening.  It’s fascinating how many ways and means folks can dream up as an excuse to drink themselves silly.

I am used to getting a lot of attention when I am with my daughters, they are both beautiful and today is the same as any other, lots of folks stare.  We came for Johanna and the hors d’oeurvres which are 1/2 off Monday through Friday:)  Well Rhea is pregnant, but not obviously so, and for some darn reason, my weight has been stable for months.  We splurge on onion rings, fried shrimp, french fries and salad.   It was all delicious with exotic sauces and we had a lovely time.  We focus on each other and on the fabulous food and soon it is time to go.  As we leave Rhea says “Mom those women sitting next to us were obnoxious.”  I say, “Really?”  I didn’t hear anything except at some point, one of the women made a comment about not eating at all that day.  “Rhea, what did they say that was obnoxious?”  Normally, I just don’t notice other people and normally, I will not expend the energy it takes to judge them, but apparently these women had plenty of spare time and energy.  Rhea said “Mom, didn’t you hear they were making comments about what we were eating, they said it had a lot of cholesterol, and were questioning how we could eat french fries and onion rings.”  I was stunned by my daughter’s statement, the women she was referring to were all “women of a certain age” all women with spreading middle sections and all women who should know better.  If they knew that my daughter was pregnant they would have been urging her to eat anything – and of course – they had no way to know what my health is.  Why do people make derogatory comments into this world without factual information?  I am aware that fried food has cholesteral – who in America is not aware of this fact?  Why criticize our splurge?

Back to making your own world – and creating the experience that you wish within it: it can be done!  Even though normally I miss derogatory comments, sometimes those comments do make it into my awareness – and they will get no attention in my world.  That’s probably a good thing, because if my daughter had reported those comments at the time they were being made, I would have answered promptly with a few comments of my own.


Babies Sleeping

Why do we wait for hours for the babies to go to sleep and then once they sleep, poke them every 10 minutes to make sure they are breathing?


SWOT for Me

Strategic Planning is a function for every savvy business that wants to survive into the future.  Of course “nowadays” it’s called SOAR – Strength, Opportunities, Aspirations and Results, while the old framework for a strategic plan was Strength, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats(SWOT).  Pundits want us to believe that one framework is better than the other.  I disagree, both professionally and personally.  Here is the deal: every time you sit down to have a talk about the future, you are engaging in clarification of goals.  Every time you do that, you place a direction into your mind and the minds of those that you engage in planning with.  Setting that direction into place is a lot like how we use our value system.  On a daily basis, we do not think about our values, like -not stealing- we just do not steal, because we have set that value into our mind as a way of life.  By setting a value into our mind, we direct all of our future daily activity with that value.

For me, both professionally and personally, that is the function of strategic planning.  I want to engage in conversations with everyone who will be affected by a strategic plan.  There are several reasons for this, one is to get all of the feedback necessary for a thoughtful analysis, another is to ensure that all involved will be part of the new plan.  I want to guide not only my future actions, but I want my team’s future actions guided by goals.

I don’t need fancy words, nor do I need a business administration structure.  What I need is the following:  a clear picture of what I want to create in my future.  I need to understand, not from my perspective – but from many perspectives – what strengths I can apply to the challenges that may thwart the accomplishment of my goals.  I need to have long and deep discussions with anyone who is involved in my goals.  These discussions will create the buy- in and support that I need to help me accomplish goals.  These discussions also help clarify the direction that we all wish to travel in. 

From a business management perspective, guess what?  It’s same-same.  We identify our goals, we talk about them loudly and often.  We create discussions around those goals and we carefully analyze everything that will affect those goals.  From my perspective it is not a document, nor an essay, it is an ongoing discussion.  Words and thoughts create reality, so the process of strategic planning is just as important as the strategic plan itself.


Strength in a Woman, Beauty in a Man

And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.

Anais Nin
US (French-born) author & diarist (1903 – 1977)


Who Knew?

Falling in love could be so complicated.  I mean the real kind of –all of me to you, all of you to me– kind of love, that is the complicated type, because it involves your entire world.  Secret love affairs, married affairs, friends with benefits – none of these types of love even come close to the complexity of having a real love affair and then actually falling in love.  So you think all of your moments must be close to this person, and you want to talk with this person when they are not there.

If you are profoundly independent, this can be a culture shock.  There is something about love which makes one dependent on another.  There is something about falling in love and choosing a relationship with that person that makes your entire universe shift into something new and in some cases profoundly incongruent.  If you are used to doing as you wish and making all of your decisions based upon singular goals (goals that are always about you), then “another” can be a very big change.

There is also the dance of dominance, which certainly takes place in every relationship, and is exquisitely slow in a new relationship.  If you are naturally a dominant person and your loved one is also, then an unusually large chore can be made out of the question of control.

Depending on another is a vulnerability deeply felt by me.  After years of nurturing myself, I now wish to hear him care for me.  It’s very important to me that he listens to my rendition of my day, it is very important to me that he cares about how hungry I am, it is very important to me that he wants to keep me warm at night.  I now need that = dependence.

This kind of love requires life changes, self changes, other changes.  It is not a bundle of singularly easy changes.  This kind of love requires a look into your family, a look into your self, a look into your body, a look into your mind and all of your plans and goals.

When you are young; you are more able to choose the romance of the moment, you do not hold others lives in your hands, responsibilities are limited to what you have created in a limited time.  When you are young you are more capable of allowing love to carry all of the moments, and decisions can be made based on your love.  While age may not sway you, the realities of the life you have built, certainly will.  Your children, your grand children and even your work can sway you.  Who you are is so much more defined, your beliefs and your thoughts will often have a period after them and not a question mark.

When you come to love at my age, you may think that you can get away with just loving – and of course you cannot.  If you fall in love, you must bring it all to the table.  You must include your kids, you must include your grandchildren, and your history is part of the fabric of your new relationship.  You may have family habits, traditions and skeletons in the closet, and now you must examine each of these things, because you are no longer one who is fiercely independent, but now you are two and each has all of the above and more.



That they will not extend unemployment benefits for two million unemployed Americans, unless President Obama will discuss tax cuts for the “investing class”, the wealthy.   Did the whole United States miss that?  It was on the news?