Monday, March 30, 2015


I cannot believe that I am sitting down at my computer about to write what I'm about to write:

My bright, hilarious, inquisitive, soulful, beautiful eight-year-old daughter says she is fat.

And she's not just saying she's fat. Tonight, she tried to stop eating her dinner, for fear of getting "fatter." She was poking at her "fat" belly as she got into the shower. She told me her skin is "wobbly."

She called herself ugly.

And it was then that I felt my heart crack a little.

Right down the middle.

I want to cry. I want to scream. I want to link arms with Gloria Steinem and set fire to every single "women's fashion" magazine that has ever been printed. I want to take a Sharpie to every magazine cover at the check out at the supermarket and redact all the CRAP on display. I want to RAGE against the bullshit standards that we women are held to EVERY FUCKING DAY OF OUR LIVES.

Because you and I both know what those standards are.

Actually, there's just one standard that really matters: PERFECTION.

And you know what the worst part is? The most horrible part of it all?

We do it to ourselves. 

She's not getting this from the men or the boys in her life. She's getting it from the WOMEN -- and the girls. And they're getting it from their mothers and their sisters. And from the magazines they read and the insipid television shows they watch.

And do you know where else she is getting it from?

She is also getting it from me. I know she is, because she told me so.

But how the hell...?

I don't talk about "fat people" or "skinny people." She doesn't hear me asking my husband if I "look fat in these jeans." I made a deliberate choice, as soon as I knew that I was going to have a girl, that I would not allow her to hear me speak about myself in ways that degrade me -- for my appearance or otherwise. A conscious fucking choice. 

She does not hear me say, "Oh, I couldn't possibly eat that" or, "how many calories are in that?" In fact, she watched me take down an entire, fantastic bacon cheeseburger at one of our favorite local burger joints this weekend. Complete with half an order of garlic parmesan fries.

But then, when we were finished eating, as the server cleared our plates, my daughter heard me say, "I won't eat for a week after that meal."

She heard that.

She also hears the incidental chatter between friends and family: "Did you lose weight? You look great!" Or, "I haven't worked out in a while, and it shows. I need to get back to the gym."

There was also that time at the beach, when my daughter was just five or so, and she told me that my skin was wobbly as we walked back together from the water toward our blanket, and she saw my reaction to that honest observation. I'm sure that made an impression. I know it did, because she told me that, too, tonight.

And that's the problem. The insidious, creeping-vine-like nature of it. Little comments. Little reactions. The implicit understanding of what it is that we value as a culture. Whether it's in my subtle reaction, or when it's on gratuitous display, in all it's glossy, cover-story glory, as we wait patiently in line to purchase some toilet paper and a bag carrots.

It's. Everywhere.

It's in our daily lives, there for all of us to measure ourselves against, and to always come up short.

It's the Perfection Infection.

I was in a meeting recently, with half a dozen or so accomplished, intelligent people. What were we talking about? The potato chips on the table, and how we shouldn't be eating them. A woman whom I respect and admire for her professional accomplishments and strategic mind, brought up that awful quote, attributed to Kate Moss, as she opted not to reach for a handful of chips: "Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels."

It's as damning and demoralizing to hear at 40 as it was at 20.

This garbage we seem to be so invested in, compounded over time, in the porous mind of a young girl, aware of the world around her and curious about her place in it, watching, always watching, for clues and cues about how and who to be -- it's suffocating. And it fucking stinks. It stinks to high heaven like the pile of shit that it is.

This perfection thing? It's a prison for girls and for women.

But here's the rub: we are both the prisoners and the prison guards.

We imprison ourselves with this idea of perfection: of mind, of body, of career, of home and hearth, of motherhood, of fucking shoes and kitchen countertops and selfies and yoga practice and on and on and on and on -- and then we drag the baton across the bars and taunt ourselves. Not enough, we whisper about ourselves and to each other. Not good enough. Not skinny enough. Not fabulous enough. Never, ever enough.

And I'm struggling -- honestly struggling -- with how to address it. How to manage it. How to stop it.

She's a good girl, my Not-So-Little One. I pretty much feel like she's smarter than anyone else in my house.

But this Perfection Infection has taken hold. Tonight, she told me as much. She told me that she is: fat, ugly, big, and stupid.

My child.

The one whom I refer to regularly as "beauty" and "smarty pants" and "angel" has now, somehow, at age eight, begun to devalue herself.

It is our imperative as mothers to change the conversation. 

But before we can change it for our daughters, we must change it for ourselves.

We have the keys.

It's time to set ourselves -- and our daughters -- free.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Forward Motion

(SPOILER ALERT: If you are one of the grandparents of the Not So Little One, please stop reading now, lest you spoil your Christmas surprise.)

While creating this year’s holiday photo books for the Not So Little One’s grandparents (Mom, Dad, I told you to stop reading!), I realized something; as I was carefully sorting images from the past 11 or so months – photos of her hiking, climbing, exploring, and breaking a board in her TaeKwonDo class like a BOSS, I noticed it.

So many of the snapshots of my gorgeous and growing girl are taken from behind. Sure, there are plenty of posed smiles, and spontaneous laughter captured in the moment, digital records for the ensuing decades.

But the real record of my girl in action is one that I am now seeing from the backseat.

I have the pictures to prove it.

That’s the realization.

That as she grows and strives and becomes more and more herself everyday, her momentum is forward, moving at what sometimes seems like the speed of light, into her life, and – in many ways– away from me.

Surely this is the way of nature. And yet, seeing the high-resolution manifestation of this truth laid out before me, well, it got me a little choked up.

It’s striking, really, all of those photos of her forward movement, gathered together. She gazes ahead, finding new trees to climb, new oceans to cross, new challenges to meet. And I find myself – as all mothers do, surely – gazing after her. Guiding yes, but more and more often now from behind.

Today, though, I had a front row seat opportunity to see her in all her 8-year-old glory, forging ahead. Thanks to her wonderful aunt, who also happens to be a children’s librarian, my girl had the chance to participate in a Writers’ Workshop, complete with real, published authors and an appearance by the latest American Girl Doll in the flesh, Samantha.

My Not So Little One was asked to write a book recommendation to share with the audience. And I had the chance to watch her do it, with a full view of her brave and beautiful face. Back straight and eyes shining, she told the group about the book she chose. She was poised and articulate, and it was so precious to see it all happen from that vantage point  -- one where I could watch her smile and succeed as she moved forward.

And happily, I have the pictures to prove it.

Friday, December 13, 2013


December 14, 2012, I saw the words "shooting at Newtown elementary school" creep into my Twitter feed. I was at my desk in my office in Darien, CT, 25 or so miles away from Newtown. My husband grew up in Newtown. His father spent most of his teaching career there. Thoughts racing, my brain dove into the mental gymnastics that result from close proximity to tragedy.

As information trickled out, I saw, like so many others, the Newtown Bee's photo of crying children walking in a line, hand to shoulder, filing out of school.

"At least no one was hurt," a well-meaning co-worker uttered to no one in particular. It was still the early moments, when the depth and breadth of the atrocity were still known only to a relative few.

But I couldn't breathe.


"Elementary school."

The juxtaposition of the words alone was too much for me. But that photo was literally more than I could bear.

Details trickled through, 140 characters at a time. One -- possibly two -- people injured. A teacher wounded.

I walked, on shaking legs, to a meeting, hanging onto every new bit of information, fiercely hoping that the feeling in my gut was nothing more than my overdeveloped anxiety response. But then, I walked into the boardroom and saw the faces of my colleagues -- all of whom have young children -- and I just knew.

I think we all did.

A flood of incomprehensible details followed. 26 people dead. Mostly first graders. Almost immediately, people began using the word "angels" to describe the 20 little children and their teachers who were executed in their school that day.

My own kids -- angels -- both first graders at the time, were 10 miles away from me, in their own school. A flurry of frantic texts flew between me and my husband. He would pick up the kids early from school. I would meet them at home.

And then...what would we say?

We said a lot of things. We tried to be vague. We tried to mitigate the horror. We tried to obfuscate. Mostly, we wanted to be the filters for their information, rather than leaving them to hear about it from some older kids on the bus or at school. I don't remember everything we said. But I do remember making them some promises. We promised them that their school was safe. We promised them that this was an anomaly -- an isolated incident.

We promised them.

But on the eve of this horrible anniversary, I feel like a liar.

Their school isn't safe.

Since the Sandy Hook massacre, there has been -- on average -- a school shooting every two weeks in America.

Read that again: Since the Sandy Hook massacre, there has been -- on average -- a school shooting every two weeks in America. There was one today in Littleton, CO, just a few miles from Columbine.

This is an outrage. It is the mark of an uncivilized, uneducated and unengaged society.

Where are the masses marching on Washington, demanding change?

I know there are pockets of concerned parents and individuals. There are organizations that have sprung up in the wake of loss that follows a tragedy like Newtown.

But there's been no large-scale, collective, galvanized response to this outrageous violence that has become ubiquitous in our schools.

Every two weeks.

What the hell are we waiting for?

There are those who argue that more guns are better. Armed teachers and security professionals will be able to prevent harm, they say. And yet, the United States is the country with the most guns per capita, clocking in at 89 guns to every 100 people. And also, the United States is the country with the most deaths by gun violence.

I'm at a loss as to how to make the math work to support that argument.

Every two weeks.

Our children are NOT safe at school.


We had our first real snow a couple of days ago. My kids were vibrating with excitement. But they had indoor recess that day. Apparently, the school was concerned about the danger of ice on the black top... By the time the kids came home, they were nearly impossible to contain. So, we released them into the yard, and the expanse of untouched snow.

Almost immediately, they lay down, spread their arms, and made snow angels, their laughter echoing.

Those angels are still out there tonight, silent sentinels.

And those angels, they're watching.

They're waiting to see what we do.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The Real ABCs of GMOs

I like to think of myself as an informed consumer, at least when it comes to food. Being a food writer and regular farmers’ market shopper, I’ve been pretty comfortable in that assertion for years. In my family, we buy a lot of organic foods, especially meats, produce and dairy. Our kids have been eating a variety of foods from the beginning: salmon, spinach, hummus, feta cheese and balsamic vinegar are all things they will ask for by name. Deep fried chicken parts never entered into our family’s food equation.

Imagine my surprise when I found out how woefully late I am to the real food party.

The now defunct Connecticut food labeling bill—HB 5117—has been the subject of several of my recent columns. And with each piece I wrote, each interview I conducted, I have had to peel away layers of half-truths and outright lies like the skins of so many genetically modified onions.

I’ve had to get up to speed in a hurry on the topic of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), and have done so with the help of Right to Know CT co-founders Analiese Paik and Tara Cook-Littman, along with Institute for Responsible Technology founder and best-selling author, Jeffrey Smith. Their insight, coupled with my independent research, has shown me just how deeply ingrained GMOs have become in our food supply, and just how far up the proverbial food chain the responsibility for this goes.

I had no choice but to throw my “knowledge” and “expertise” onto the compost pile once I realized that many, many of the foods in my family’s pantry actually contained GMOs. The same GMOs, in fact, that produced frightening results in animal studies, according to a 2009 paper by the American Academy of Environmental Medicine: “Several animal studies indicate serious health risks associated with GM food consumption including infertility, immune dysregulation, accelerated aging, dysregulation of genes associated with cholesterol synthesis, insulin regulation, cell signaling, and protein formation, and changes in the liver, kidney, spleen and gastrointestinal system.”


The ingredients that cause these defects—symptoms that sound more like cheap horror film fodder than FDA sanctioned side-effects—are the same as can be found in the Goldfish snack crackers and frozen edamame I was feeding my children. Realizing this was one of my lowest points to-date as a mom.

My fiancé and I acted swiftly, ridding our pantry of offending items, looking for guidance online about where to shop safely and how to know—really know—the foods we were buying were safe.

But the wisdom of one organic food merchant I interviewed kept coming back to me. “If you want to know about your food,” he said to me, “ask the farmer. If you can’t ask the farmer, you don’t know about your food.”

It’s tough to argue with such simple truth.

And because eating nutritious food holds a place in our family almost as important as telling the truth—indeed, these days it seems the two are inextricable—my fiancé and I sat down to talk to our two five-year-olds about what we were learning.

“There are real foods, and there are fake foods,” I began. “But the fake foods look and taste an awful lot like the real foods. So we have to pay close attention, to make sure we’re eating the real foods. Because those fake foods? They can make people, animals and the Earth very, very sick.”

The kids were understandably shocked and upset to hear that much of what we could and had been buying at our local supermarket was actually toxic—an utterly logical reaction when learning that you’ve been duped into thinking everything is fine, when it’s really not fine at all.

“But why would people do that?” my stepson tried to make sense of what he was hearing. “Why would people make food that can make people sick?”

This is as elementary a question as there is, with regard to the GMO debate. So simple, that even a five-year-old can verbalize it: Why? Why would companies, industry leaders and government agencies knowingly allow this to happen? Why would the people whose job it is to protect the American consumer, people who are paid with American tax dollars (FDA, I’m looking at you), why, with so much riding on their recommendations and rulings, why would they continue to allow known toxins like rBGH and other Monsanto-generated chemical compounds to be fed to the American people without so much as a label? Why won’t they mandate testing? Or labeling? Why won’t they follow the lead of dozens of countries around the globe who have acted, in some small part, in ways that aim to inform and protect their citizens?


I gave my stepson the only answer I had: “Money,” I told him. “Some people think that making lots of money is more important than anything—more important than keeping people or animals or the Earth healthy.”

“But there’s stuff that’s way more important than money,” he said, his brown hair flopping over one eye. “Family,” he and my daughter said in unison.

They couldn’t be more right, of course. It’s an elementary conclusion, after all.

But I’m stumped as two why a couple of five-year-old stepsiblings were able to come to this conclusion with more eloquence and alacrity than government officials and private sector scientists with multiple degrees under their belts.

So, to the elected officials in Hartford, CT; Washington D.C.; and states across our country, my family asks this question of you: Why?

The stakes are so high, and the health of our nation’s children depends on it, so please, frame your answers in terms that even a kindergartener can understand.

Because I know two kindergarteners who are now paying very close attention. 

This post also ran on The Fairfield Green Food Guide.

Monday, May 2, 2011

The Bin Laden Effect

I woke up on the morning of September 12, 2001 in my fiancé’s apartment on the 23rd floor of his building on 39th Street in Manhattan. Neither of us had slept much at all, of course. And after that first foggy moment between sleep and waking when nothing is quite clear, the memory of the madness we were living descended.

We stumbled around his apartment in silence; the chaos in our heads and hearts too noisy to talk over. Reporters on the television we hadn’t turned off the night before were frantically trying to make sense of the nightmare still unfolding all around us.

From his building, we could see—and smell—the black, burning cloud at the tip of the island.

“Nothing is ever going to be the same,” I said to him. “Everything is different now.”

This morning, like millions of others, I woke to the news that Osama bin Laden is dead. Since first hearing the news, I’ve been stumbling through my morning trying to wrap my head around what that actually means, the chatter of reporters once again in the background.

There is undeniable symbolic importance to his death, a final sentence delivered to the Al Qaeda figurehead by a brave group of U.S. special operatives.

An awful lot of people have waited an awfully long time to hear this.

And yet, I can’t help but ruminate on my own words on 9/12. “Nothing is ever going to be the same.”

For so many people, this remains an unalterable truth. And the news of OBL’s death—though admittedly very welcome—doesn’t do much to change our present.

It’s remarkable and terrifying to think about the millions of lives OBL’s atrocities have altered. Because of one man’s evil, the course of human history has been changed.

It isn’t the first time that’s happened. And if history teaches us anything, it will likely not be the last.

I understand the jubilation across the country, even if I don’t share it. Like millions of others, I am glad Osama bin Laden is dead. And I’ve been experiencing my own quiet catharsis this morning.

But there’s still an empty space at bottom of New York City and in the hearts of millions of New Yorkers. Empty chairs at dinner tables won't be filled because of this. Our country is still fighting multiple wars. And OBL’s murderous ideology still lives even as his body sinks to the bottom of the sea.

Today, like the morning of September 12, I have a deeply unsettling feeling.

But this morning, my disquiet comes from the opposite realization:

As much as we wish it had, nothing has changed.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


My headspace has been occupied with Single Mamahood quite a lot recently.

Duh, you say.

Sure, I've been at this Single Mamahood thing for a while now, and I've written about it here. But it's been on my brain more than usual because I've been working on a new book about, duh, Single Mamahood.

But that's not what I want to tell you about right now.

In my Googling escapades masquerading as research for my latest project, I came across something else.


And I apparently came upon this new something on the same day it was officially named a New York Times best seller.

The something is a book called Two Kisses for Maddy: A Memoir of Loss and Love.

The author is Matthew Logelin.

And the story is tragic.

Matthew and Liz met at age 18. They fell in love fast and hard, the way 18-year-olds are prone to do. But, unlike most adolescent love stories, their young relationship actually weathered four years of long-distance negotiations, with Matthew having stayed put in their native Minnesota and Liz having wisely chosen to leave the cold winters behind to pursue her education in a state with a more practical climate: California.

Against ridiculous odds, their love lasted.

No, it blossomed.

No, it fucking transcended.

Fast forward several years, and they were married. Fast forward a few more, and they were pregnant.

Liz's pregnancy, apparently, was difficult, and their baby tried--more than once--to meet the parents too soon.

Finally, on March 24, 2008, it was time for their baby--a girl--to arrive.

When she did, she was tiny, not quite four pounds. But she was a fighter from the first, and she persevered, just like the love her parents had for each other. And now her.

Liz, however, wasn't afforded the same opportunity.

27 hours after baby Madeline was born, without ever having held her daughter, Liz died in the hospital of a pulmonary embolism.

In the space of little more than a day, Matthew became a father and a widower.

And a Single Papa.

I haven't read the book yet, as it just came out. I did, however, spend a good deal of time on Matthew's blog.

What I read there has me thinking.

And feeling.

And yeah, crying a little.

The first line of his book reads, "I am not a writer."

This is a lie.

He is a writer. And he was before he ever published a book. This much is evident on his blog. The fact that he was able to articulate his loss; chronicle his heartache; and translate his raw, confused, and aching emotion into words is only something a writer, however reluctant, could do.

Just open a vein and bleed, indeed.

Of course I'll read the book now. How could I not? I'd say you should, too, except I haven't read it yet. And recommending a book you haven't read seems a little silly.

So, in absence of a book recommendation, let me make a blog recommendation. Spend some time there, get to know Matt, Maddy, and Liz. Chances are, you'll probably end up wanting to read the book.

I definitely do.

Oh, and P.S.

Matt, on the off chance you actually read this, I want to thank you for reminding me--and many hundreds of thousands of others--that Single Parenthood is tough, tragic and tremendously rewarding, no matter your gender, or your circumstances.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Snack Time Snafu

Last week, the Little One and I headed out for a playdate with friends. I told her to pack up the toys she wanted to bring, usually an assortment of microscopic animal figures and their molecule-sized accessories, most of which have a nasty habit of finding their way into my vacuum cleaner.

Diligently and using very good 'listening ears,' she collected her pea-sized possessions. "I'm ready!" she announced proudly, hand on the doorknob. "Mama," she said, her smart little ponytail swinging behind her, "I packed some snacks in my purse."

"Really." Skeptical about her snack selection, I was about to explain that some snacks--like broccoli or hummus or jello--aren't meant to be packed in purses.

"Don't worry," she said, opening the front door. "I put an ice pack in there too, to keep them cold. It's pretty full, but I got it zipped."

My resourceful, thoughtful Little One, packing snacks for our friends--complete with an ice pack--in her black leather Nine West hand-me-down purse from grandma.

After I had my "aww, isn't that sweet" moment, I could have asked for further clarification. And through the crystal clear lens of retrospect, it's plain that I should have. But, we were already running late. And anyway, it's not like she'd pack the leftover ravioli from last night's dinner in her purse, right? A few cheese sticks maybe, and some goldfish, sure. I'd just take a peek inside her purse on arrival.

"Alright, kiddo. Let's move it out."

It's a short ride to our friends' house and Michele Norris was keeping us company on the way, explaining the intricacies of a potential federal government shutdown. A veteran NPR listener since her infancy, I assumed the Little One was as riveted as I.

Until a wail erupted from the back seat.

"What's wrong, baby?" In the rear view mirror, I could see the enormous tears rolling down her already flushed cheeks. "What happened?"

"They broke! Ahhhhhhhh!" Another wail, followed by some hiccups.

"What broke, sweetest?"

"The eggs!" Wail. Hiccup. Snort. Wail.

"Eggs?" I turned around to see her tiny hands holding open a too-big-for-her purse. Inside, several freshly broken eggs were mashed up against an ice pack and smeared all over an assortment of tiny animal critters, at least three dozen hair ties, one of my credit cards and a broken tiara.

"Oh, baby." Don't laugh. She's upset.

"I wanted to bring them a snack and it's broken and everything is egg-y!" Wail, snort, hiccup, etc.

Pushing her little hand into the yolky mess, she scooped out some shell-flecked slime. "Here! I don't want it." She flung the goo toward the front seat.

With egg literally on my face, I tried very, very hard not to let her see me laughing.

Upon arrival at our friends' home, the recent egg-tastrophe was almost immediately forgotten. And fortunately, I was able to clean the purse and many of the things it contained. Though one small prairie dog-like creature--may she rest in peace--couldn't be saved.

The next morning, the egg debacle no more than a slimy memory, I looked in the refrigerator. Guess what I didn't have.


She'd put every single egg we had into that purse of hers. No wonder it was so full. That little prairie dog didn't have a chance.

So, eggs have been added to my shopping list. Presumably, the next time she wants to bring some to a friends' house, she'll at least attempt to transport them in the carton. And speaking of cartons, there's one more little piece to this egg-centric tale to relate: The egg carton she emptied? I found it in our recycling bin.