The Imperfect Blogger

“If we had to say what writing is,
we would have to define it essentially as an act of courage.”
~ Cynthia Ozick

It can be a curse to have a thin skin. For a writer, it is deadly. If you need to be liked by all the people all of the time, writing is impossible. Too often I find myself wrestling with my need to be liked and my need to write honestly.

In The Courage To Write, Ralph Keyes says, “If you’re not scared, you’re not writing.” Lately I’ve been scared to death, afraid of exposing too much of my private life and afraid of hurting people through my writing. The result has been a big fat case of writer’s block, not what Keyes had in mind.

To do a decent job blogging you’ve got to take the risk to put yourself out there. To be a good psychologist, you give people hope by saying, “Yes, I’ve been there,” disclosing just enough of your story to connect with theirs, while keeping good boundaries. I’m a psychologist blogger so I try to do both, walking the tight rope without ever betraying my patients’ confidence or privacy.

That doesn’t mean I haven’t hurt people in the process, family and friends in particular. When that happens I wish someone would just shoot me with a tranquilizer gun like they used on the elephants in Wild Kingdom. The guilt is that overwhelming. Anyone who writes publicly about life (and isn’t a complete narcissistic jerk) knows what I’m talking about.

Personal apologies will be made to those I know I’ve hurt with the hope of forgiveness and if not that, understanding, and if not that, an agreement to live and let live. To say I will never hurt anyone ever again would be an empty promise because I am human and a writer and I can’t stop being either.

Now I get what Keyes was saying. He may as well say, “If you’re not scared, you’re not living,” or “If you’re not scared, you’re not in love.” The shame isn’t in being scared. It’s in letting the fear stop you.

This video by Therese Borchard, of Beyond Blue, helped me get off the writer’s block, see my way through the guilt and start writing again.


Self-Esteem & The Great Weight Debate: Acceptance v. Diet

Fat Here's the thing. There are people out there who hate their body. A lot of overweight people judge themselves in a way they would never judge any one else. Every ounce of their self-esteem is wrapped up in what the scale says. Success or failure is measured by pounds lost and gained from day to day, week to week, month to month. At its worst, this way of thinking can lead to a serious life-threatening eating disorder.  But even at its best, self-esteem/weight dependency is not good.

Yes, I struggle with being overweight, but I try not to hate myself for it. I am grateful for my body. It's worked hard to keep me healthy over the years through all my relapses and dealings with chronic illness. God made us the stewards of the earth, the animals and our bodies. It's my responsibility love and care for these gifts, in sickness and in health.

When I saw this article about the acceptance movement in the New York Times recently I was intrigued. Acceptance has a nice sound. It reminded me of the Love Yourself Thin approach to weight loss which I strongly advocate. However, a few paragraphs into the article I was struggling with enough cognitive dissonance to make my head ache. What did it mean? It was confusing. Mandy Katz, the author of the article Tossing Out the Diet and Embracing the Fat says, 

"This movement — a loose alliance of therapists, scientists and others —
holds that all people, “even” fat people, can eat whatever they want
and, in the process, improve their physical and mental health
and stabilize their weight. The aim is to behave as if you have reached
your “goal weight” and to act on ambitions postponed while trying to
become thin, everything from buying new clothes to changing careers.
Regular exercise should be for fun, not for slimming."

See? Which is it? Eat whatever I want or behave as if I reached my goal weight? Because those two things are different. If I were to behave as if I were at my goal weight I couldn't eat whatever I want. And exercise? If I waited for exercise to be fun, hell would be well on its way to freezing over.

On the other hand… I totally agree with living life to its fullest now. Wear clothes for the body you have now. You look really good now! Don't postpone dreams until we reach our goal weight. Go for that promotion now!

self-esteem needs nurturing as much as our bodies do. When we make
loving ourselves conditional, like, "I will be so happy after I lose 30
pounds," it's like holding our self-esteem hostage

If the Acceptance Movement is about loving ourselves for who we are today, unconditionally, body and soul, and caring for ourselves responsibly AND reasonably, then you can count me in!

Today is the first day of the rest of my life and eating like I've reached my goal weight.

Photo courtesy of billy_martin5 via Photobucket

Listner Commentary on Walter Cronkite & Tim Russert

Hd-logoLast week the news director of our local NPR affiliate, WBFO-FM 88.7, invited me to record my essay  paying tribute to two great newsmen: Walter Cronkite and Tim Russert.
To listen to the broadcast click here.  

The Most Trusted Man In America

Amazingly that statement was
not Madison Avenue hype when it came to Walter Cronkite. Today if
someone said that about Katie Couric or Brian Williams it would be a
stretch. A trusted voice in America, sure. THE trusted person in
America? Not so much.

Walter Cronkite really was above the
rest and it wasn't by accident. He was what his PR said he was;
professional, fair, intelligent, balanced, objective, respected.

A reader of my blog, pointed out that Tim Russert may
have come closest to filling Cronkite's shoes. One was taken from us in
the prime of life, the other in it's fullness and yet there are
similarities. Western New Yorkers take pride in Tim Russert, not just
because he was born and bred here, but because what you saw was what
you got and what you got was a class act.

Both were hard
working professional who respected the responsibilities of the fourth
estate, delivering the news and by doing so keeping our government
accountable. And somehow they appeared to keep their egos in line by
remembering their roots and their humanity.

Cronkite and
Russert helped define professionalism, not just for journalists, but
for professionals of all stripes. Can you imagine Walter Cronkite
loudly interrupting a guest the way Bill O'Reilly does? Or Tim Russert
lecture viewers with a condescending smirk the way Keith Olbermann
does? No way. They were both straight up guys who treated you like
grown ups and believed that the unpolished facts were all you needed to
develop your own opinion.

Like so pitifully few in television journalism today, they earned our respect and trust and rarely let us down.

To me Cronkite was of my father's generation. Russert was of mine.

Russert probably watched Cronkite as a kid. Didn't we all? Those of us
born in the late 40's and 50's, yes, I'm talking about baby boomers
here, we all grew up with Cronkite in our living rooms, as dependable
as bed time at 8 and baths on Saturdays. I imagine Russert did too.

Back in the day, television united us no matter where we lived. The
Beatles on the Ed Sullivan show, watching Roger and Hammerstein's
Cinderella (the one with Leslie Ann Warren) or the first episode of
Roots. I grew up in Kansas. You may have grown up in Manhattan,
Virginia, California or South Buffalo, it doesn't matter. If you're of
a certain age, we have these common memories, the sounds of them, the
sights, the emotions.

One of my earliest memories is watching
President Kennedy speak about the missile standoff with Cuba. I don't
know how old I was. I just remember sitting on the floor between the TV
and where my parents sat. They looked like solemn giants. I had no idea
what was going on — just that it was serious. A year later it was
Kennedy's assassination, the funeral and tears. Throughout all of it
was Walter Cronkite's comforting voice. His dispassion was not
perceived as unfeeling. I don't know how he pulled it off. Training?
Character? Belief in the principle of objectivity in reporting? He was
all that rolled into one with a good dose of hard work and compassion.

Tim Russert, did well living up to these principles, but being from a
different era and more interviewer than straight on reporter, he could
sometimes revel a bit too much in the gotcha-aren't I clever' moment.
But we're not all perfect. Not even Cronkite, although it's harder for
me to see his faults through the haze of nostalgia.

You've got
to hand it to both of them. They worked as hard as three people,
believed in what they did as a public service and obviously loved their
jobs. When you see the clips of Cronkite reporting on the moon landing
laughing like a kid, or Tim Russert holding up his white board with
that twinkle in his eyes, they were both clearly saying

"I'm the luckiest guy in the world."

It’s Never Too Late: The Second Act of Our Lives

We all have an action packed second act in our lives if we have the courage to step into the spotlight and take action. That's the message that comes out loud and clear from Carolyn Howard-Johnson, writer and teacher. In her interview with Lea Schizas, also an award winning writer. Carolyn says:

"… I read that,
those who live until they are fifty in these times may very likely see
their hundredth year. That meant that I might have another entire
lifetime before me–plenty of time to do whatever I wanted. In fact,
it’s my belief that women in their 50s might have more time for their
second life because they won’t have to spend the first twenty years
preparing for adulthood."

Isn't that inspiring? Read the entire interview at Life Begins At Sixty–Carolyn Howard-Johnson

And for more about the exploring the second act of life you might enjoy:

Inventing the Rest of Our Lives: Women in Second Adulthood by Suzanne Braun Levine

Leap What Will We Do with the Rest of Our Lives? by Sarah Davidson

3 Tips If You’re Pregnant & You Have Chronic Illness:

Sarah_mahoney_200bw I had just finished talking with Sarah Mahoney, a writer whose work appears regularly in such publications as AARP The Magazine, Family Circle, and Good Housekeeping. She was writing an article about what it is like to raise kids while coping with a chronic illness for Parents Magazine, (September 2010, Mommy Isn't Feeling Well Today). She was looking for a psychologist's point of view and wasn't aware that I also reared my kids while handling the chronic illness end of things. A scheduled twenty minute interview stretched to thirty and we could have gone on, there is so much to talk about this subject.

This conversation took me back to when my doctors finally gave me the green light to have kids. I was in my late thirties and as we with chronic illness like to say, except for the disease I was perfectly healthy.

Tip #1 Try to Find a Maternal-Fetal Medicine Specialist

One of the first things to consider was who would be my OB-GYN. Choosing a doctor, as we know, can be tricky. What I needed was a board certified Maternal-Fetal Medicine specialist. That's an obstetric doctor who specializes in high risk pregnancies. Dr. Margaret McDonnell fit the bill and she was wonderful. Once I knew I was in good hands medically, my husband and I got to work and bida-bing-bida-boom, I was pregnant.

Nine months later my son was born. That pregnancy went so well, I worked full time to the day before he was born, on his due date! Seven pounds, eleven ounces. Perfect.

A year or so later, all systems were still Go!  We got pregnant again. My son's pregnancy and birth went so well we became complacent. It seems nuts in retrospect, but I was in a cloud of denial. High risk? Not me! I continued working even when Margaret told me to take it easy. She didn't like how my blood pressure looked. To me 'taking it easy' meant working six hours a day instead of eight. Margaret meant start maternity leave NOW but she didn't say that explicitly and I didn't ask her to define 'take it easy.' This mis-communication still haunts me.

Tip #2  Make sure your communication with your doctor is clear!

Five months pregnant I was barely showing. Many people at work still didn't know I was expecting my second child. The amniocentesis test reported a healthy baby girl. I was in heaven!

Then I started getting sick. It wasn't the usual morning sickness. It felt like the flu and it wouldn't go away. Finally I called Margaret who told me to go to the hospital right away and to bring a toothbrush, code for "you're spending the night." Still in denial-land, I was shocked. My son was in daycare and my husband at work.

Bottom line I was admitted and ordered on complete bed rest. At 25 weeks gestation, the baby was in distress, low amniotic fluid, and something was up with my kidneys.

My husband and I were completely surprised by this turn of events. Not good.

Tip #3  Have contingency plans and back ups to your back ups.

We have no family within shouting distance. Thank God we have the best friends in the world who at the last minute took care of my son while John ran from work, to the house, to the hospital. A few days later my in-laws arrived from New Jersey. The fact that they dropped everything and flew to our rescue when they are change-averse and hate to fly, will forever keep them in my heart.

Learn from our mistake. Planning better would have saved us a lot of stress and last minute scrambling.

Blessedly this story has a very happy ending although we didn't know that for a while. My daughter was born at 28 weeks, crying like little kitten, which meant she could breathe on her own. Weighing in at one pound, thirteen ounces, she was whisked away to the neonatology ICU. My kidneys recovered shortly after she was born and I was discharged. My daughter came home three months later. We watched her like a hawk for two years. Today she's a healthy, hearty, fourteen year old.

Life’s Lessons

A friend of mine sent me this through email:

"Subject: FW: Life Lessons

I thought I would share this with you all. This was written by a 90 year old columnist named Regina Brett of The Plain Dealer, Cleveland, Ohio."

I read all the life lessons, smiled, chuckled and nodded in agreement and recognition at most of them. Then I googled Regina Brett to learn more and there was a photo of a young woman (my age!) not a wise old 90 year old. I guess Regina gets that a lot. She is a working, very serious journalist, and finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. You can click here to read her original article.

And here are the life lessons. My favorite is #32 or maybe it's #23…

1. Life isn't fair, but it's still good.

2. When in doubt, just take the next small step.

3. Life is too short to waste time hating anyone…

4. Your job won't take care of you when you are sick.
     Your friends and parents will. Stay in touch.

5. Pay off your credit cards every month.

6. You don't have to win every argument. Agree to disagree.

7. Cry with someone. It's more healing than crying alone.

8. It's OK to get angry with God. He can take it.

9. Save for retirement starting with your first pay check.

10. When it comes to chocolate, resistance is futile.

11. Make peace with your past so it won't screw up the present.

12. It's OK to let your children see you cry.

13. Don't compare your life to others. You have no idea what their journey is all about.

14. If a relationship has to be a secret, you shouldn't be in it.

15. Everything can change in the blink of an eye. But don't worry; God never blinks.

16. Take a deep breath. It calms the mind.

17. Get rid of anything that isn't useful, beautiful or joyful.

18. Whatever doesn't kill you really does make you stronger.

19. It's never too late to have a happy childhood.
      But the second one is up to you and no one else.

20. When it comes to going after what you love in life, don't take no for an answer.

21. Burn the candles, use the nice sheets, wear the fancy lingerie. Don't save it for a special occasion. Today is special.

22. Over prepare, then go with the flow.

23. Be eccentric now. Don't wait for old age to wear purple.

24. The most important sex organ is the brain.

25. No one is in charge of your happiness but you.

26. Frame every so-called disaster with these words 'In five years, will this matter?'

27. Always choose life.

28. Forgive everyone and everything.

29. What other people think of you is none of your business.

30. Time heals almost everything. Give it time.

31. However good or bad a situation is, it will change.

32. Don't take yourself so seriously. No one else does.

33. Believe in miracles.

34. God loves you because of who God is,
       not because of anything you did or didn't do.

35. Don't audit life. Show up and make the most of it now.

36. Growing old beats the alternative — dying young.

37. Your children get only one childhood.

38. All that truly matters in the end is that you loved.

39. Get outside every day. Miracles are waiting everywhere.

40. If we all threw our problems in a pile and saw
      everyone else's, we'd grab ours back.

41. Envy is a waste of time. You al
ready have all you need.

42. The best is yet to come.

43. No matter how you feel, get up, dress up and show up.

44. Yield.

45. Life isn't tied with a bow, but it's still a gift.

46. Blood isn't thicker than water.  Some of the BEST families aren't blood related.

      Surround yourself with people that LOVE you.

A Sampling of My Most Popular Posts


Once in a while we should indulge in a sweet treat and take a look at what’s worked well in the the past.  Here is a sampling of posts from this blog and others I’ve contributed to, that hit a nerve with readers. Enjoy and please let me know what you think, and what you’d like to hear about more. Comment, comment, comment!

Photo courtesy of Pacifist via Flickr

The Significance of Walter Cronkite

Walter-cronkite2jpg-215x300 The Most Trusted Man In America.

Amazingly that statement was not Madison Avenue hype. Today if someone said that about Katie Couric or Brian Williams it would be a stretch. A trusted voice in America, sure. THE trusted voice in America? Not so much.

Walter Cronkite really was above the rest and it wasn't by accident. He was what his PR said he was; professional, fair, intelligent, balanced, objective, respected. Trusted.

Like so pitifully few do today, he earned our trust and never let us down.

My family growing up was a CBS family.  Whose wasn't? My Mom watched her soaps on CBS every day and my Dad watched
Walter nightly. He was my Dad's age. He sort of reminded me of my Dad. My five year old self  could imagine curling up in his lap to read "Little Bear."

He defined professionalism, not just for journalists, but for professionals of all stripes. Can you imagine Walter Cronkite interrupting someone the way Bill O'Reilly
does all the time? Or lecture viewers with a smirk the way Keith
Olbermann does? No way. Walter was a straight up guy. He treated you like an adult and believed that the unpolished facts was all you needed to develop your own opinion.

Back in the day, television united us no matter where we lived. The Beatles on the Ed Sullivan show, watching Roger and Hammerstein's Cinderella (the one with Leslie Ann Warren) or the first episode of Roots. I grew up in Kansas. You may have grown up in Manhattan, Virginia, California or South Buffalo, it doesn't matter. If you're of a certain age we have these common memories, the sounds, the sights, the emotions.

One of my earliest memories is watching President Kennedy speak about the missile standoff with Cuba. My parents looked so solemn. I had no idea what was going on just that it was serious. Later it was Kennedy's assassination, the funeral and tears.  Throughout all of it was Walter Cronkite's comforting baritone. His dispassion was not perceived as unfeeling. The message came through as if from a very concerned mentor whose head governed his heart, but you always knew he had a heart. I don't know how he pulled it off. Training? Character? Belief in the principle of objectivity in reporting? He was all that rolled into one with a dose of hard work and compassion for his fellow humans.

Then there was 'And That's The Way It Was' a show for kids or I thought it was. Maybe it wasn't. Maybe Walter thought adults could use a little history lesson to keep from making dumb mistakes in the present. The angle was Walter Cronkite reporting historical events as if they were taking place today. It was hilarious and informative at the same time; Walter interviewed the engineer who designed the pyramids, with just the teeniest bit of a twinkle in his eye.

My kids have no idea what I'm talking about.

"He was a class act and it’s a sad day because he is gone."

~Kara Swisher of Boomtown

Best Response To Unsolicited Advice? Shut Up!

Too bad you can't say it out loud.

From the day we are born we are bombarded with unsolicited advice. You know, the kind of advice that you never asked for but people are compelled to give you anyway.

Most of it is good and today it is called parenting. By the time we become parents ourselves you'd think we'd outgrown being told how to do stuff, especially if we didn't ask for guidance in the first place. There appears to be a latency period for most of us, between graduating from college and getting married. But then, especially when we get pregnant and have kids the season opens all over again on 'who asked you?' advice.

I will never forget this. Thirteen years ago I was in Wegman's with my five month old daughter. For a mother of an infant, going to the supermarket is the highlight of the week, like going to Disneyland, the Taj Mahal and Vegas all at once. I was enjoying my expedition with the baby swaddled in her baby seat strapped onto the shopping cart. We were strolling down the exotic crackers aisle like it was the Champs Elysees, when a complete stranger sidled up to me and poked a finger at Vanessa. She said, "That baby should not be out in public! She'll get pneumonia!"

It was May.

This is what I couldn't do:

  • Slap her.
  • Tell her to shut up and mind her own bees wax.
  • Say, "Yeah? Well, you're ugly and you smell bad."

What I could do:

  • Graciously (through gritted teeth) thank her for her advice.
  • Assure her that even though she was tiny, this baby was hearty and fine.
  • Get away from her as quickly as possible.
  • After getting away, roll eyes in sockets & mutter hind-sight zingers.
  • Ask God for patience and forgiveness, for the old crone & for me.
  • Let it roll of my back & get back to enjoying the day with my baby.

A lot of new Moms and Dads get this business. The Moms on Momversation had a funny and 'oh so true' take on this topic. Check it out.

First World Problems

 Vacation re-entry can be rough sometimes. First the annoyance of modern day air travel is enough to wipe out any acquired vacation serenity. My husband, John, couldn’t suppress ‘moo’ noises as we lined up in a crowded jet way waiting to board our plane. Usually I manage to take a 'don't sweat the small stuff' attitude to life's little inconveniences, but this recent return to "reality” was a challenge.

First, we got home very late on a Friday night, rumpled and sticky, to discover we had no hot water.

Then the kids zeroed in on our nine-year old television, looking forward to shaking off the remnants of jet fatigue with a South Park episode or two… and it wouldn’t turn on. It just stayed stubbornly black while the stand-by light blinked at us in an alien code.

Soon after that, I heard my daughter let out a groan. "I can't get online!" The internet was out. Becoming a Luddite suddenly had a significant appeal.

least the phones worked so my kids could text or even *gasp* call their
friends instead of updating their status on Facebook, and my husband could get
online at work. I had been off-line for two weeks so a few more days
didn’t bother me.

At 2AM, after three hours of trying to get our household appliances to come back to life, we gave up and prepared to go to bed. God was having his little laugh and we were too tired to mind that much. Water was warmed up on the stove (the gas was still working) and carted up to the tub like in the old days. There’s something luxurious about taking a bath that way rather than taking a mindlessly quick shower.

The television was missed the least. On vacation we watched no television, just the occasional movie on DVD.  Instead, we played lots of games – Scrabble, gin rummy, gang solitaire, ping pong. We listened to music, read and talked. It was nice.

So back at home rather than get stressed out, we relaxed with the confidence that these little annoyances were really first world problems that weren't going to kill us and would be fixed soon enough.

Until the next day, when John’s car didn’t start.

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