Wednesday Morning Open Thread

What’s up?

Many thanks to Stephanie Fairyington, a talented writer who pointed out these two pieces that she penned: the first one is at The Progressive, and is about how she is reluctant to marry her girlfriend of three years even though gay marriage is legal in their home state of New York. I am curious if any of you have been with long-time partners who have chosen not to tie the knot? Please do discuss!

The second story is at The Atlantic and also deals with relationships, although this one questions whether romances are really mutual. Again, a good read.

Our fearless executive director at MomsRising.org wrote a poignant piece for the Huffington Post about the controversy around contraceptives today and the history of birth control in this country in general. Also at MomsRising: I just put together my first blog carnival — this one for Black History Month. I am so proud of the stories we are featuring — everything from the personal to the political. I’d appreciate it if you hit that “like” button on the blog carnival itself or any of the posts and shared with your loved ones. Thanks!

Affirmative action is in the news (again), this time, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear a case having to do with the University of Texas. Just to show you how structural racism is, I am wondering where is the outrage and Supreme Court hearing regarding legacy systems, brownie points for knowing the guy who donated to the school library and other boosts in the admissions process?

What else is in the news? What’s up with you?

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Tuesday Open Thread

It’s Tuesday!

Here is a fascinating article on how two young people are navigating love and Asperger’s.

Did you know that Republicans are doing everything in their power to suppress voting among college students? May this stoke anger and unrest and some more Occupy-caliber protests.

In celebrity news, Robert DeNiro became a father for the 6th time at age 68.

Donald Trump: still an egotistical asshat.

Newt Gingrich: just as scummy as your suspected, now with court documents to prove it!

Here is Entertainment Weekly’s Best and Worst of TV 2011. Do you agree? Disagree?

What’s up today? Chat away!

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A Month Away From Your Spouse?

I just read this fascinating review in Slate about an author who spends a month away from her husband every year as a way to maintain their decades-long marriage.

She received a lot of backlash in the comments from people who thought there must be something wrong with her marriage if she considers this normal. But her book, The Secret Lives of Wives, presents some interesting facts. Read on:

As Krasnow writes, the idea that absence makes the heart grow fonder and all that is a cliché. But it is a cliché for a reason: A review of relevant research confirms that there can be positive aspects to time spent apart from a spouse—at least for wives. (Like Krasnow’s book, many of the sociological and psychological studies on the subject focus on separation’s impact on wives, rather than husbands.) This time apart can take many different forms: The studies don’t just talk about couples who take separate vacations or summer jaunts of the sort Krasnow and her husband have enjoyed. Research has shown that women who are married to fishermen and truckers—careers that can separate spouses for weeks or even months—also profit from time alone.

Time spent apart can benefit women by making them more emotionally self-reliant. As a 1980 study from the Journal of Marriage and Family about dual-career couples who live apart pointed out, “Wives are programmed to think of marriage as an intimacy oasis, an emotionally close relationship that will be ‘total.’ “Learning that your marriage doesn’t have to be your emotional ballast can be tremendously empowering.

There is one case where prolonged absences hurt a marriage: the military.

When one member of a military couple is deployed in a war zone. Not surprisingly, a 2010 study from the New England Journal of Medicine showed that the spouses of deployed Army members were more likely to experience depression, anxiety, and sleep disorders than the wives of nondeployed soldiers. As military wife Alison Buckholtz wrote for DoubleX in her “Deployment Diary” series, when every doorbell ringing could bring news of your husband’s death, it’s hard to see any benefit to his absence.

In the prologue to The Secret Lives of Wives, Krasnow says that the most important marital lesson she took from the hundreds of women she spoke to was the importance of maintaining a sense of evolving self, apart from one’s relationship. It’s not that geographic space is the only way of achieving a separate identity—for example, several of the wives said reconnecting with physical pastimes helped them develop their sense of self—but it is a surprisingly effective one. Healthy separation can even inspire the next generation. As Tecla, the military wife, tells Krasnow, she’s glad that she showed her children that it was possible to have adventures even when their father wasn’t around. “Now married with families of their own,” she says, “our daughters have a wonderful sense of independence and never hesitate to go off and have adventures with their own children.”

I do go on the occasional “girls’ weekend”, but usually nothing more than a long weekend. It’s more than enough time to recharge the batteries, and come back to my husband and kids fresh and motivated. A month sounds like a long time, not to mention, not practical for DH and I who both work and must help with child-rearing.

What say you? Do you think there is any truth to Krasnow’s book?

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Quick LOL on my DS

I should wait for the open thread, but I have a long day at work and may not get on later.

DS11 loves “American Chopper”.  Some days I feel like we actually LIVE in that garage!  I hear every detail of every bike they build.   But, here’s the funny quirky, only my DS part:  DS is obsessed with the interpersonal part.  The father and son are fighting, and it’s spread over several episodes, and DS is very bothered by it, worried what will happen to the (adult) son, mad at the father for being so mean…..I love that he picks up on this stuff, I’m sure it bodes well for him as an adult, but it’s also a little funny that it’s the relationships that catch him the most.  He loves the bike-building stuff, but it’s “what is Paul Jr thinking?” that we talk about over breakfast.

FWIW I told him that the shows he’s watching are 2+  years ago.  We could probably go online and find out “what happened” in the father-son fight.  He’s thinking about it, because finding out would mean that the show is less interesting.

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Monday Morning Open Thread

What’s up?

On Friday, the kids and I met with our local Target store manager to hand him a form provided by MoveOn.org letting him know we would not shop at the store as long as Target donated to political campaigns — especially those with whom we virulently disagreed. About 20 of us showed up at the store. He met with us, shook our hands, let us vent away, and promised to present the forms to upper management.

To Target’s credit, it issued an apology and said it would set up a review process for future political donations, according to CBS News. It also had this to say about California’s Proposition 8 and marriage equality:

Target did not, nor has the company ever, knowingly donated to legislation or referendums that aim to undermine equality for all, including Proposition 8 in California. Further, Target’s support of the GLBT community is unwavering, and inclusiveness remains a core value of our company.

That said, I will not shop there until I learn of the outcome of its review process regarding political donations. Corporations are not people who should be allowed to funnel unlimited sums of money to buy elections. Publicly funded campaigns, anyone?

In case you missed it, a bill that is supposed to save nearly 140,000 teaching jobs and provide extra aid in healthcare for poor families during the recession, just passed 61-38 in the Senate, according to UPI.com. Moderate Republicans Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine voted for the bill, overcoming a potential filibuster by the Republicans.

Here is a freaky story in Wired about how violent dreams, especially in males, can predict neurological disorders like Parkinson’s 50 years down the line.

Once again, Laurie Puhn over at the Expecting Words blog had a poignant list of what constitutes a healthy relationship.

Infant mortality is up in Washington D.C., according to the DC Action For Children blog.

Wheat bread surpassed white bread in dollar sales this year, according to the Consumerist.

What else is in the news? What’s up with you?

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Book Review: Falling Apart in One Piece – Stacy Morrison

I finished Falling Apart in One Piece by Stacy Morrison a couple of months ago. I discovered it through her Modern Love essay the Ex-Husband Who Never Left, which left me feeling jealous on one hand and wistful on the other hand. My relationship with my ex isn’t like hers and won’t be. The ongoing conversation I have with myself about this goes like this: “if we did communicate and work that well together, we probably wouldn’t be getting divorced.” Yet, this new relationship that Morrison forges with her ex-husband is the result of her divorce process, one that takes her through her son Zack’s infancy, grief, sadness, and anger to optimism and life with a preschooler.

I’m not one of those people who is obsessed with my own divorce and spends my free time, what little there is after making lunches, supervising homework, washing endless piles of laundry and working full time, talking about divorce & reading divorce memoirs. But now that I do see a wee bit of light a the end of my personal tunnel, I like to have a peek now and then at how other people, usually women, coped and make their ways forward.

Falling Apart in One Piece describes her life with her ex-husband, Chris but she doesn’t focus on the past, the mistakes she, or he, may have made. She uses the passage of time and introspection to acknowledge that “yes, this could be the reason things didn’t work out” but she is focused on getting through.

Morrison chronicles the history of her relationship with Chris, her husband and now ex-husband, which parallels her career in New York publishing, one that culminates with her being named editor-in-chief of Redbook.  It’s impossible to separate the two, they go hand-in-hand during Morrison’s post-college adulthood and working life. Talented and ambitious in a way that her husband was not, Morrison becomes the primary breadwinner. The editor-in-chief position at Redbook appears just as her personal life is falling apart — both her marriage and her newly purchased Brooklyn house. Once she moves in with her husband and newborn son, the house – both roof and basement – leak badly every time it rains. But like many of us, Morrison can’t quit work to deal with her personal problems.

so after a few minutes of giving myself permission to wallow in all that was falling apart, I pulled it back together. I dove headfirst back into the comforting rhythm of meetings to attend, decisions to be made, story ideas to approve, photographs to edit, focusing on bringing my readers the best ideas of what life can be, to inspire in them optimism and comfort. This, in turn, comforted me as well. I have always believed in what I sell, and I sell only what I believe in. And so I spent those long, busy days at work making the magazine more honest and real as well as brighter and happier.

As much as she loves the house, the house must be sold for the divorce. Morrison has to go through an extensive and expensive process of fixing the house, working with plumbers and engineers to find the source of the problems, so that she and her husband can sell the house, split their assets, and finalize their divorce.

The house leaking-marriage ending symbolism struck a strong chord with me. I too got a message that my life was about to change radically, profoundly.  My metaphor was my feet. In the years leading up to my decision to end my marriage my feet started hurting. So much so that in the last year before we separated I could not take any long walks;it was too painful. I became acquainted with the connectivity between feet and calves and knees — a connection I never knew about before. I spent months going to physical therapy learning how to stretch — hello Metaphor Central? I got it! – and strengthen my feet, ankles and calves. I could not walk happily again until I accepted that I had to do these exercises. Message: I had to come first before I could take care of anyone. It’s a lesson I have to repeat a lot.

Even as she figures out how to parent her son Zack alone and with Chris, she discovers that old friendships, even as they endure the divorce, as not the same. On one summer vacation with old friends on Cape Cod finds Morrison with the only toddler amongst babies, the only solo parent amongst couples.

When all of us were together in the house, I felt very self-conscious about Zack’s classic toddler behavior, which didn’t bother me in quite the same way at home. here I felt as if it were unsettling the household’s calm order in a way that wasn’t welcome. We kept bumping into rules that I didn’t have at home and that Zack wasn’t prepared for. On Wednesday, he put surface scratches in a much-loved coffee table when we were playing in the living room with Julia, despite the fact that Tina had put a towel on the table to try to protect it; he took all the toys out of the toy basket at once, spreading them around the playroom, while Tina quietly picked up behind him because Julia played with only one toy at a time….

I kept thinking, I hate being a parent alone. If I just had another person here, this wouldn’t be so hard. I needed someone to help entertain Zack. Someone to help discipline him. Someone to distract him. I wonder when I would stop missing my lost partner. I felt weak and worthless that this was where my brain went, and i cursed myself that free time only created the space for me to feel all my fears, all my loss, still. And I felt even more foolish that I had dared to believe that I could let down my guard, relax, be safe.

When I started this memoir, I worried that because I was the one who made the decision to end my marriage, I would read it on the defensive. Would she condemn me, through her husband’s action, for ending my marriage? I didn’t feel that way at all. When Morrison is this blunt, this honest, about her feelings, I see how similar we humans. I too, live with this burden of parenting alone. As the school year ends, I feel a small sense of relief. My children will be spending more time with their father and while I will miss them desperately, I will also get a break from the routine, to breathe a little more slowly. To relax and feel safe.

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Tuesday Morning Open Thread

What’s up?

The Huffington Post ran good food for thought on why merit pay for teachers is a bad idea. A study by the Economic Policy Institute laid to rest two myths: one is that the private sector overwhelmingly relies on merit-based pay, when only seven percent of workers actually participate in such a system. The other, is the assumption that good teachers are driven by money. The study found that other factors, like, the purpose of the job and autonomy given on the job, were the primary drivers. Anyways, this is a topic we have discussed here before, so this column is definitely worth a read.  

In a 5-4 vote along ideological lines, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled to strike down state laws that lock up juveniles for life without the possibility of parole, if they have not committed a murder, according to the Washington Post.

Good on the Episcopal Church for consecrating its first openly gay woman, according to CNN. In related news: Portugal’s president is about to sign a law legalizing gay marriage, according to BBC News.

I came across a lot of interesting stories for this edition. Here is a Daily Beast article about how women who marry a much older man — or younger man — have an increased risk of death compared to women who marry men their age. The reason is that both these women face added pressures with the age difference. For the younger women, it is the stress that comes with being their husband’s caregiver. For the older women, it is the added pressure of having to look hot to keep up with their younger husbands.

This is sad. Almost 11 years after his mother died of a drug overdose, Tyler Lambert, the 25-year-old son of late Diff’rent Strokes star Dana Plato, committed suicide, according to the New York Daily News. Lambert died of a gunshot wound to the head.

In less macabre news, Sandra Diaz-Twine won Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains. She is the only player to ever win the million dollars twice. So now I must ask you Survivor fans: do you think the right contestant won? As some commenters in the CBS thread pointed out, there are folks who feel that Russell Hantz got robbed the second time. Of course, you all know where I stand. I was rooting for Sandra all along. And, as other commenters pointed out in the CBS thread, part of the game is to get the jury, who you had a hand in voting out, to award you the million dollars. It is not only a physical and strategic game, but a social game, too. Despite all his bullying and “controlling the game,” Russell was never able to sway the jurors, which makes me believe that he is far from the best player. The best villain, yes, but hardly the best player.

Until next season…What are you watching nowadays? What else is in the news? What’s up with you?

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Late-Night Liberty: Marital Bliss Edition

We are approaching Valentine’s Day, which means the love and romance pieces are starting to hit the press. Ladies’ Home Journal had a fun piece, in which the magazine asked experts from therapists to bartenders for their secrets to “an always and forever marriage.”

Unfortunately, I could not find the article online, but here are some of my favorites, or at least ones I had never considered:

The secret of a happy marriage is to only have secrets that, when they’re revealed, will make both people smile. -Gary S. Felton, PH.D., Los Angeles clinical psychologist

Make a rule that the children are not allowed in the bedroom without being invited. My husband and I hung a sign from our doorknob that says, “Mom and dad off duty. Emergencies only! Emergency is fire, flood, a lot of blood!” It’s amazing how seldom we got a knock on the door. -Jeannine Kaiser, author of Cupid’s Playbook: How to Play the Dating Game to Win!….

Some things are better not shared. The secret to staying in love? Separate bathrooms. -Tom and Marilyn Herman of New York City, married nearly 29 years

What would you add to this list? Also, in related news, LHJ’s “Can This Marriage Be Saved?” column was about a couple dealing with the husband’s Asperger’s diagnosis.

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Late-Night Liberty: 5 Things I Wish I Knew

There was a blog post at Expecting Words on the 5 things the writer wished she had known before having children. They were:

  1. Embrace your maternity clothes….
  1. Babies cry….
  1. You will want to kill your husband….
  1. All the time, people will say to you, “Call if you need anything“? Call them….
  1. You are not alone

There were detailed explanations for each. I would have to agree with her with points No. 2 and No. 3. I would also add, “Don’t forget to burp the baby.” My parents pointed it out to me one week after Ari’s birth. Poor baby.

Even though I have three younger siblings, I was still shocked by how much the baby cried at all hours of the day and night. Aren’t babies supposed to sleep? Also, I do not miss those sleep-deprived moments of bickering with DH. Usually, it was over who was doing what or who was doing more. Sleep deprivation is a shock to the system.

But people told me that and I still didn’t believe them. What about you? What are the things you wish you knew before having children?

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Let’s Talk About Sex

Via Salon Broadsheet: While here in the United States we are discussing whether or not sex education should be taught in public schools, in the UK health officials are concerned sex ed does not cover enough ground.

The Centre for HIV and Sexual Health at NHS Sheffield just released a pamphlet for professionals to teach teenagers about the pleasures of sex. For example, the booklet encourages masturbation and teaching students about the functions of different private parts like the clitoris as opposed to just mentioning the vagina.

Health experts quoted in the NHS newsletter say students who are able to have honest and open discussions about sex with adults are most likely to wait and/or use a condom when they do engage.

Natika Halil, director of information at sexual health organisation FPA, adds that sex and relationships education should not just give young people the biological facts about sex, but discuss relationships.

Some faith-based groups are notorious for their opposition to booklets that discuss sex and young people. But Rachel Gardner, a Christian youth worker who is also creative director of the Romance Academy, an organisation that encourages young people to delay sex, says: “We welcome any publication that seeks to encourage open and honest discussion with young people and is both relationship positive as well as sex positive.”

Health officials in the UK are looking for ways to enhance sex education as the country boasts the highest teen pregnancy rate in Europe. Still, the United States has the highest teen pregnancy rate in the industrial world, according to Livestrong.com, and sex education even in the biological sense is inconsistent to non-existent.

What say you about the UK’s tactics to teach teens about sex?

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