May 172017
 

lilacs in bloomIt was the second Sunday in May, a lifetime ago. I had developed solid relationships with many of the women in the locked facility so, standing in front of the entire patient community, I sensed the need. And, as was the habit of most women in mandatory addiction treatment, they were prepared for disappointment.

“Good morning ladies. Before we start, I need to get something off my chest.” I rarely addressed the group this way. I had their attention.

“I have concluded that, despite any evidence to the contrary, Mothers’ Day was invented by a man. After all, no woman could be oblivious enough to come up with something so powerful it makes us feel like inadequate mothers AND crappy daughters at the same time.”

...so powerful we feel like lousy mothers AND crappy daughters at the same time. Click To Tweet

About a hundred women let go of the tense, collective breath that hung heavy over us all. Some nodded. Some giggled. Almost everyone in the room relaxed: they were neither going to have to pretend to feel wonderful nor would they be expected to spill their guts about painful experiences on this Mothers’ Day.

And, although it has been some years since I consulted to that facility, I think of those women every Mothers’ Day, especially when I’m on social media. This year, in addition to addicts in treatment, I thought about many other women.

How cruel is the social media environment for women who have lost a portion, if not all, of their motherness through miscarriage, illness, accident, addiction, or other tragedy? Do those who care for them ignore their grief and loss? Or, still worse, try to fix it by offering well-intended faux-comfort pearls like “everything happens for a reason,” or “they’re probably better off.”person with face in hand

And what about parent-child pairs who are burdened by separation: incarceration, institutionalization, some adoptions, homelessness, violence, or the foster care system? Or those who are denied legal protection for their families simply because they are gay?

Do they offer well-intended faux-comfort pearls like “everything happens for a reason”? Click To Tweet

Although there are facts to contradict my initial statements, I’m convinced that Anna Jarvis, the holiday’s founder, would approve of my rant.

I’m not anti-Mothers’ Day — like most people, I’ve participated in wonderful celebrations and some awful ones. What I *am* opposed to is making things harder for people who already struggle. Or exclusions that border on exile. And extreme insensitivity. Are women who choose childlessness the selfish, driven stereotypes often portrayed in our media? Or, are they simply people who exercised choice about how to allocate the time allotted on the planet? Unfortunately, it’s tempting to point to exceptional contributions that have birthed movements or nurtured companies. Why unfortunate? A woman does not have to be an outlier to validate her choices.

At some point this Mothers’ Day I thought about the women who hoped their children’s demons (violence, poverty, health) would take enough of a day off to allow a casual coffee date or an upbeat phone call. I thought about adult women who no longer have wonderful mothers… and the adult survivors of abuse. Both can turn to total shut-down mode to make a cheerful-sounding call, a brave form of denial to keep them safe.

And how should we honor those who became mothers through rape or incest? What must any of those women be feeling on this, the largest of commercial high holy days? How does a woman manage the intricate mental and emotional gymnastics linking violence and violation to an innocent child? Does she have to go a little bit crazy in that process?

How should we best honor those who became mothers through rape or incest? Click To Tweet

During the first half of May, there is little evidence that such people exist. Many of us have drunk the commercial cool-aide and vigorously post our parental highlight reels for our friends, fans, and followers.

I can’t help wondering what Anna Jarvis would have done with social media. Back in the early 1900’s, she spent three years and a lot of her own money lobbying for a holiday honoring mothers and their contribution to society.

And, soon after that happened? She dedicated much of the rest of her life and her wealth trying to stop the commercial juggernaut. A Jarvis researcher tells us she thinks Miss Anna would be pleased for the holiday’s popularity… and equally horrified by the associated commercialism. (By the way, she was reportedly equally appalled by charities that tried to leverage the day.)

Several years ago, many of our family members collaborated in a decision to cut holiday stress. We replaced obligatory gift-buying with experiences and the occasional spontaneous “I thought you’d love this” gift. And while we sometimes choose to go against another tide and skip certain holiday travel nightmare scenarios, somehow we’re all finding more ways and times and places to connect. More “Hi, how are things?” phone calls.

I love being a mother and a mentor and a grandma and an auntie, but it may be time to stop the madness. Whether we consider connections to our mothers or those from our own children, what’s so special about the second Sunday in May? How can we better honor one another on other days?

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Andrea Patten’s first book, What Kids Need to Succeed: Four Foundations of Adult Achievement, was written with all parents in mind. Her most recent release is The Inner Critic Advantage: Making Peace With the Noise in Your Head.  Both are available on Amazon.

 

 May 17, 2017  Posted by  Parenting, Self care, Thinking 8 Responses »
Apr 222017
 

There’s nothing like a change of scene to wake up curiosity and creativity. We recently had the opportunity to travel to south Florida to catch up with a family member and, together, did a bit of exploring. Familiar with our love of art and innovation, she whisked us off to Wynwood where the vibe is as friendly and colorful as the wall-to-wall street art. I can’t imagine anyone spending time there without thinking about creativity and where it fits in their lives. Here are some favorite thoughts on the topic.

 

Creativity is not just for artists. It’s for businesspeople looking for a new way to close a sale; it’s for engineers trying to solve a problem; it’s for parents who want their children to see the world in more than one way. ~Twyla Tharp

Creativity is not just for artists. Click To Tweet

Art knows no prejudice, art knows no boundaries, art doesn’t really have judgment in its purest form. So just go, just go. ~ K. D. Lang

Creativity comes from a conflict of ideas. ~ Donatella Versace

I want art to make me think. In order to do that, it may piss me off, or make me uncomfortable. That promotes awareness and change, or at least some discussion. ~ Pink

Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things. ~ Steve Jobs

Creativity is just connecting things. Click To Tweet

 

 

Any time women come together with a collective intention, it’s a powerful thing. Whether it’s sitting down making a quilt, in a kitchen preparing a meal, in a club reading the same book, or around the table playing cards, or planning a birthday party, when women come together with a collective intention, magic happens. ~ Phylicia Rashad

 

When you live under the power of terror and segregation, you can’t ever start a work of art. ~ Jeanne Moreau

 

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Terrorized by your Inner Editor? Inner Critic Kicking your butt? If you’re looking for an answer be sure to check out The Inner Critic Advantage: Making Peace With the Noise in Your Head by Andrea Patten. (On Amazon. Or ask at your local indie bookstore.)

 April 22, 2017  Posted by  Inner Critic, Thinking 9 Responses »
Apr 172017
 

Today I’m happy to feature my talented friend and neighbor, Florida author Nancy Blanton. Her award-winning historical novels are set primarily in 17th century Ireland and her latest, The Prince of Glencurragh, (published in July 2016) has already won three awards and is a finalist for two others. I put on my interviewer hat to share about Nancy Blanton and her latest release.

I put on my interviewer hat to tell you about @NancyBlanton and the Prince. Click To Tweet

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Picture of Nancy Blanton with my husband.

Author Nancy Blanton and  a different prince.

Nancy, what made you decide to focus on historical fiction?

It is what I love to read. I like to learn as I read, and I feel my time is well-spent. Recently I posted about my favorite book, the first historical novel I read: Gone with the Wind. I learned so much about America’s Civil War and its aftermath. I was fascinated and hooked. Many writers avoid historical fiction because it requires so much research, but for me, that’s the best part. It’s a treasure hunt to discover the details that will bring history to life.

Why did you choose 17th century Ireland?

My father emphasized our Irish heritage when I was growing up. We heard the music, sang the songs, wore the green, marched in the parade—all that. Our family toured Ireland when I was 15, and he sent me to Ireland for a summer study during my junior year in college. That I would want to write about it seems only natural. But when I started researching, I realized books about the 16th and 18th centuries were prominent, but not so much the 17th. A study for the Historical Novel Society found that the 17th century ranks 7th among time periods readers are most likely to choose when buying a book. This surprised me because it’s an exciting time of sweeping change: the Irish clan system is overtaken by the English plantation system and Cromwell led his bloody march. I saw a niche for myself and made it my mission to illuminate this period.

Most novels set out to explore a question. What question did you have in mind when writing The Prince of Glencurragh?

In 17th century Ireland, many hopes and dreams were destroyed, so I was asking, “Is it possible to reclaim a dream once it is lost to the mists of memory?” In this book, a young Irishman faces seemingly insurmountable obstacles to achieve his father’s dream of a castle and estate called Glencurragh.

Dreams are sometimes fulfilled in ways we do not expect. Click To Tweet

The premise is interesting on two levels. First, everyone has awakened from a dream so beautiful they want to hold onto it, but the longer they are awake the faster it recedes. And second, many of us have seen the sacrifices our parents made and then tried to live their dream for them, only to realize later that it doesn’t satisfy. And dreams are sometimes fulfilled in ways we had not expected.

What themes does the book address?

In many ways, this book is about friendship, the relationship between best friends from childhood. The story is narrated by Faolan’s best friend Aengus O’Daly. I have some very deep and lasting friendships of this kind, and those relationships informed this story in ways I didn’t realize until the end. I am deeply grateful to my friends for that.

This story is also about hope. In great difficulty, when you have no power to change a painful circumstance, hope — the most human part of us — is what we rely on to get through.

What will readers find most appealing about this book?

This book captivates readers right away because it is fast-paced and rich with interesting historical detail. The 17th century is rife with conflict, disaster, invention and change.

The story also is relevant because it focuses on issues we still face today, such as the oppression of ethnic groups and women, the struggle for survival and the struggle to achieve one’s dream. It is also a very personal struggle that most of us can relate to. Faolán is tested, just as anyone is who aspires to a goal. You want this thing, and it seems the mountain grows suddenly higher, the road more rugged, forcing you to show just how much you’re willing to fight for what you want.

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The Prince of Glencurragh by Nancy Blanton, is available in e-book, softcover, and hardcover on amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com and from other online booksellers.

 

Apr 142017
 

Once upon a time, I got frustrated with waiting too long and paying too much… so I figured out how to build my own website. And, while I can’t always make it do exactly what I want it to? Most days I come pretty close.

Once upon a time, I got frustrated with waiting too long and paying too much... Click To Tweet

The other day I got to help a fellow author launch his blog and, through more trial and error than I had hoped for, we got it up and running. Apparently, if I’m going to remember how to do these things, I’m going to have to use some of the skills more often.

The other thing that complicates this particular learning curve? App developers keep making things better and, generally speaking, this is a good thing… except when I only know one way to do something and the ability to update it has expired. Pfft.

This point was driven home earlier this week when I realized that only my old parenting posts were working their way over to my Facebook page. I guess that’s OK… but I’ve been writing about other topics and wanted to share those posts, too.

Long story short? Evidently, it worked. So, instead of the usual “test post” I decided to celebrate with a picture taken at our former home in New Hampshire. I’m not sure my friend Nancy believed me when I told her we used to live “smack in the middle of nowhere.”

I decided to celebrate with a photo taken from our former home... smack in the middle of nowhere! Click To Tweet

Please enjoy a post celebrating the serenity I feel every time something technical goes well. And providing photographic evidence for my friend the meticulous researcher and award-winning author? That’s just a bonus.

 April 14, 2017  Posted by  Fun & Inspiration, Social Media Comments Off on Celebrating Serenity
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