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Grandma Jane Meets Oprah – Part II: Score One for Ageism

December 26th, 2010 by Melinda Blau

This post, a continuation of Jane Fonda’s recent appearance on Oprah, was also inspired by a recent happening in my own life.  A few days ago, I wrote an essay about writing that included this phrase:  “As my 41-year-old daughter pointed out…” Two early readers–one a man in his sixties, the other a woman in her late forties–thought I should I take it out. Whether they realized it or not, they were suggesting a kind of psychological airbrushing to make it less obvious that I am not young. Read the rest of this entry »

Grandma Jane Meets Oprah, Part I: “Growing Up Every Day”

December 23rd, 2010 by Melinda Blau

Oprah hosted Jane Fonda today–what a pair.  Jane, ever the chameleon has run through Barbarella, Hanoi Jane, Jane the serial wife, workout Jane, and now introducing….Grandma Jane.   And then there’s Oprah, who is one of the most visible and powerful woman on the cultural landscape.  She has few peers; Jane is one of them.

But this post is about Grandma Jane (although I don’t think she’s called “Grandma”)–Jane in a new phase of life.  I, who went kicking and screaming into this phase, can relate.  It’s a time that comes too soon, a passage, if you will, that whispers in your ear, “No matter what you see in the mirror, you’re the older generation now.”   But, at the same time, it’s also a time that brings unparalleled moments of love and delight. Read the rest of this entry »

Elizabeth Edwards’ Secret Weapon

December 8th, 2010 by Melinda Blau

Elizabeth Edwards walked that fine feminist line between being a generous, caring, supportive individual and, at the same time, not taking s – – t from anyone.   She had a secret weapon–better yet, a suit of armor.  I met her at a book-signing of Saving Graces, which came out in 2006 when I was researching my book. Her subtitle–Finding Solace and Strength from Friends and Strangers–says it all.  This was a woman who cried with a stranger she met in a ladies’ room, who appreciated the checkout guy and the mailman, who shared her grief with strangers on the Internet.  In short, she appreciated, depended upon, and sought out the empathy of others.   Even more important, she knew how vital it was to return the favor.   The September evening  I met her,  I had arranged a brief hello with her publicist, explaining that I wanted to interview her because, whether she had used the term or not, her book was mostly about consequential strangers.  I was first to approach the podium after her talk.

I stood there at first as a journalist and had planned to tell her a little about my project.  But as I handed her a book to sign, I blurted out that my family had just suffered a terrible tragedy.  My great nephew, my sister’s first grandson, had drowned in her pool. At 14, he was already an amazing and versatile athlete, so no one realized he was in trouble.  (Later, we would learn he had a heart condition and that no one could have saved him anyway.) I told her I wanted to give her book to his parents. “So could you please inscribe it to Heidi and Louis?”

“”Oh, dear, I’m so sorry.  When did this happen?” she asked, acting as if no one else was in the room.  It wasn’t fake empathy.   In that moment, I could feel–and her eyes confirmed–that she truly cared and felt my pain. Read the rest of this entry »

Four Reasons to Thank Everyone in Your Life

November 23rd, 2010 by Melinda Blau

Thanksgiving is a time to be with loved ones and to reflect on all the caring and support we have in our lives.   But what about people who aren’t in the room but who share slices of your life and who have contributed, in great and small ways, to the fabric of your life–your consequential strangers? Read the rest of this entry »

The Making of “The Relationship Revolution:

September 17th, 2010 by Melinda Blau

This entry, initially posted on my Consequential Strangers blog, has been slightly adapted for Mother U.

A week ago, “The Relationship Revolution,” the lead story in the September/October issue of The Psychotherapy Networker , was finally published (online and IRL).  The piece has been in the works for nine months, because the story kept changing.  Tech is moving so fast that trying to capture it is like taking an action shot on a slow shutter speed.  Also, my editor, fairly new to the Internet and social media when we first talked, kept changing his vision of where he wanted the article to take readers.  “Up the mountain” was how he kept putting it. Read the rest of this entry »

Remembering Mom in the New Year

September 8th, 2010 by Melinda Blau

L’shana tova–Happy New Year.  Even if you’re not Jewish, fall is a reminder of the cycles of life and of milestones. Each new school year is, in fact, a “new” year. You look at your children or grandchildren with fresh eyes as they trot off to school. There’s no denying the passage of time.

For those of us whose mothers are no longer with us, the fall can bring sadness as well.   In the last 37 years, I can’t count the times have I said to myself, I wish my mother were here to see…Jen walk down the aisle,  Jen becoming a mother, my eldest grandson reading, his little brother going off to kindergarten, and the littlest one lurching across the floor like Frankenstein as he takes his first tentative steps and falls into my arms.   I want to believe that she still “sees” us, but my heart aches nonetheless.   Earlier today, as I sprinkled salt, garlic, onion power, pepper, and paprika on a five-pound slab of raw meat–brisket, vot den?–my mother was with me.

That’s the theme of our newest offering on The Buzz, a sweet piece by Esther Mizrachi Moritz, Keeping My Mother’s Spirit Alive that begins…

Directly after my mother’s funeral in February of 2009, a crowd of people filled my parents’ tiny Brooklyn living room.  I made a beeline for the freezer.  Heart pounding, I opened it, hoping to find some sambusak. I was obsessed with the idea of bringing home my mother’s Middle-Eastern delicacies to my children, Alexis and Jesse, then 13 and 16.

Moritz shares how she’s learned to sustain memories of her colorful mother, a woman of Latin American and Egyptian descent.  We hear often enough that death is part of life, but most of us feel as cheated and alone nonetheless.  I was only 29 when my mother died. Jen was four; Jeremy, only six months at the time, never knew her.   Moritz was 48 and her children considerably older.  But it’s always “too soon” to lose your mother.

When I hear a woman complain about her mother, I often say “At least you still have one!”  So, ladies, whether you’re annoyed about the fact that Mom meddles in your business or that she insists you do things her way or perhaps that you now have to take care of her, take a deep breath.   Try to find some moments to cherish and freeze them in your mind.  I guarantee, you’ll want them one day.

Mother to Daughter: I know more than you realize

September 4th, 2010 by Melinda Blau

Over the five years we worked together on our three “Baby Whisperer” books, the late Tracy Hogg and I often marveled at the fact that so many modern mothers had stacks of parenting books on their night tables, went to parenting classes, consulted the Internet and various child-rearing sites when they were confused or worried–but overlooked an important, and often better,  resource:  their own mothers.   Some worried that their mother’s advice might be “out of date.”   (Admittedly, we don’t know how to close that damn stroller, but babies haven’t been similarly modernized!)  Others feared that if they turned to their mothers for advice, they would somehow open the door to endless intrusions.  Still others felt as if asking Mom was a sign of their own incompetence.

Of course, mother/daughter collaborations run the gamut, from women who don’t feel they can function without their mothers to those who believe that Mom has nothing to offer.   In “My Mother, the Parenting Expert,” our latest addition to The Buzz, psychologist Mindy Greenstein, author of the upcoming memoir, The House on Crash Corner, was solidly in the latter category when her son was born.  Daughter of a Holocaust survivor, she had spent most of her childhood fending for herself–and struggling to understand her mother and to be understood.  She couldn’t imagine calling on her mother for anything.  But as is often the case when a young woman joins the Motherhood Union, circumstances forced her to take a second look.

Could You Live With Your Mother/Daughter…Again?

September 4th, 2010 by Melinda Blau

New on the Buzz this week, You Can Go Home Again— Moving in with Mom, in which social psychologist Susan Newman explores what happens when three generations live under one roof.   It’s certainly not the standard living arrangement–only 4% of households, or 3.9 million families, qualified in 2001 when the Census Bureau first began tracking this phenomenon.  But that figure has increased–among other reasons, because of the economy.  A 2009 report by Peter D. Hart Research Associates noted that  more than a third of workers under age 34 are living with their parents:  “The deterioration of young workers’ economic situation in those 10 years is alarming.”

Although the report doesn’t break it down this way, it seems that many of these “boomerang kids,” as Mary Quigley calls them on her Mothering 21 blog, are unmarried and/or childless twentysomethings who have flown the coop and come back again.  But others are probably a bit older, married, and may even have kids of their own.   Three-generation households can also be the byproduct of a divorce, illness (parents’ or child’s), and other types of crises that call for what some might view as desperate measures.  Indeed, according to a Pew Research Center analysis entitled, “The Return of the Multigenerational Family,” as of 2008, a record 49 million Americans, or 16.1% of the total U.S. population, lived in a family household that contained at least two adult generations or a grandparent and at least one other generation.

But even if you don’t actually live with your mother/daughter, Newman has some good advice for all of us.   As she explains:

There’s a shift in power—or should be. Ideally, parenting becomes a cooperative effort, with adult children in the leading role.

That’s good advice for all of us!

Be back soon, and in the meantime….

July 11th, 2010 by Melinda Blau

Sorry, readers (or reader, as the case may be).

I’m on deadline and although I have lots of ideas for this blog, lots of things I want to say, I won’t be back until August.

In the meantime, I’d like to share with you two video that should make you at least smile. The first one might actually make you giggle.

Mother to Daughter: What kind of car did you rent?

June 25th, 2010 by Melinda Blau

…and other minutiae that interests me about my daughter’s life.

Am I too invested?  I don’t think so.  That’s how lots of mothers of my generation relate to their  daughters: as  chums.

So when she takes a family vacation, we text.  She lets me know she arrived safely, and I ask, “Why kind of car did  you rent?” Read the rest of this entry »