Tuesday, January 25, 2011


I thought that long ago I had gotten over the fairytale fantasy of Prince Charming, the White Knight, the frog who turns into a prince when kissed, the almighty made-up man who would sweep me off my feet and deliver happiness ever after. I booed those fairytales, shunned them and mocked them as part of my feminist beliefs. I tried to raise my daughter without those fairytales, hoping to present the world to her in a more realistic fashion so that she understood there would not be a quick fix in life nor should she be waiting around for a man to be that.

But now I realize that there is a real-life flipside version of those stories worth paying attention to, and that is kissing the prince only to learn that he is, actually, a mere frog, or, more politely, a mere commoner like me. The element of fantasy involved in forming a love relationship can easily elevate my picture of someone to princehood, proving that, perhaps I am still expecting Prince Charming to show up! And princehood is very hard for someone else to live up to, either in real life or in my fantasy life, especially when he just thought he was showing up as a man. People have advised me that the world of dating involves "kissing a lot of frogs" before one meets the right person, but really, isn't it so much more about seeing that someone is neither frog nor prince, and showing myself as just who I am, neither Barbie nor Rapunzel?

I find Sara Bareilles' take on fairytale endings to be a different but just right take on the subject,maybe not happily ever after, but real. And afterall, that is what we are living: reality.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Tiger Mother, Jewish Mother

I have been interested in much of the discussion going on about Amy Chua's book "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother". Boldly written and even more boldly marketed, the book posits that parenting with greater control is what kids need to be successful.

As the parent of two (now grown) children, I find myself worrying less and less about my parenting skills, yet, of course, still worrying about my kids. I am not a Tiger mother, but rather a Jewish mother. Jewish mothers worry, prod, feed, guilt (as a verb),coddle, kvell, did I say worry?, brag, complain, love, and, like all mothers, do the best we can. The reality is that kids arrive with no user manual, no set of directions, no help desk to call when all hell breaks loose. And so, we turn to books, to the customs in which we were raised, to friends, to classes, to family if we have them.

My generation of professionally successful parents, of professionally successful mothers pioneering our way through worklife balance/glass ceiling issues, is well known for our over-indulgence, for our attempting to give our kids absolutely everything because we could. Was this a good way to parent? Could a dose of Tiger mothering have helped? Maybe.

I love to brag about my kids, and I know I can get obnoxious about it. Like a writer of a Christmas letter, I rarely publicly carry on about their weaknesses or the ways they drive me crazy. Of course they have weaknesses and can drive me extremely crazy. Don't even get me started about this past week and a certain child of mine!

But I believe that even though I did not press them into performance in a Tiger motherish way, I did what I knew how to do, and they have graduated from college and childhood into being capable, independent, focused adults. And even more importantly, they are good people. And that is not exclusive to my Jewish mothering style, nor to any other culture of mothering. Amy Chua's approach is just that - her approach. There is no one way, and if there was, what a boring world it would be!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

No Questions Asked

I have been challenged by a friend to spend the day with him in which we ask each other no questions. I love this idea and am interested/excited/nervous/curious about how the day will unfold. It is a perfect challenge for me, especially in the early stages of knowing someone, as it addresses my core self-challenge: to stay present.

It is easy (for me) to fill in around the present with past, with what-ifs, with coloring in what is not there. Staying present, noticing the signs and signals in a dialog, not having questions to hide behind (or as I sometimes have been known to do, verbally assault with)will be different. The phrase "no questions asked" is one I associate with unconditional love, not with anew friend.

Wish me luck. I can't wait to see where this leads, what the quality of the day will be like, what I will know and how I will know it at day's end.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Do What You Know

There's a practice to which I am becoming more and more of a subscriber, one related to Peter Drucker's famous advice to invest in companies whose products you understand and think are great or Michael Pollan's advice to eat foods whose ingredients you can pronounce. It's pretty simple: do what you know.

I once thought there was a business opportunity to present artful clothing to women "of a certain age", being one myself, being someone steeped in the fashion business throughout my career, being someone who veered off the path of mass-produced clothing, only to be complimented time and again for what I wore. I postponed starting that business several years ago, and now am seeing a variation of it come to life under the auspices of Artful Home. The initial response is encouraging. It is thrilling to see that, indeed, the premise seems to be resonating with other women, that doing what I know is leading to doing something that has some meaning to others.

Businesses start all the time from someone recognizing a perceived need and filling it; this is nothing new. I suppose it is the believing in myself which is the new part.

(Twist-top sweater by Amy Brill at artfulhome.com)

Monday, January 3, 2011

Where's Waldo?

This weekend I went to my beach house, a place which I visit very infrequently ever since my marriage ended for many reasons, among them the fact that I now rent it out. I keep some belongings there in a locked closet, and went through them while I was there, hoping to find perfect cozy clothes for this weekend's stormy weather.

Among the things I found were mittens, several pairs of intricately handmade mittens made by ME several years ago. They really took me back - to a time and a place when I was willing and able to dedicate myself to the concentration and single- minded quietness that knitting requires, to a time when i had a partner to knit for, to a passion that has cooled. I realize that I am pretty far from that state of mind, and wonder what has happened to that Lisa.

Interestingly, a man I dated briefly remarked upon hearing me say that I am a knitter that he couldn't imagine me knitting. I was shocked, insulted almost, as he said that I moved too quickly, and I took it as yet another sign that he just didn't get me. (And a man I was really fond of totally got it, luxuriated in the blankets I had knit and which were strewn across my bed.)

But the funny thing is, once a serial knitter, now I am an intermittent, reluctant knitter. I can't slow down enough. I have difficulty allowing the repetitive movement and zen of knitting to take me over as it once had. I miss that knitter, that Lisa, and don't know quite where she is keeping herself right now. I suspect she will return along with the accompanying calm from the act of knitting itself. But meanwhile, aren’t these mittens fabulous?