How You Talk To Your Partner Matters

Halfway through the meal, Richard stopped. “I was writing down everything you said,” Richard confessed. “It was a homework assignment for school.” My first reaction was to PANIC.

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And How Are You Crazy?

Helen Fisher says that couples want to know everything about a potential life partner before they tie the knot. But when I first met my husband, I didn’t care if a closet door was left open. People change. And maybe that’s the point.

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My Mother-In-Law (In-Laws Part II)

BLOG-Coco Chanel2When my mother-in-law was 70 years-old, she frequented nightclubs with red ropes outside. While people a third of her age waited in long lines, in freezing temperatures, bouncers all over New York City ushered her in. Have you been to Lavo? she’d ask my daughter-in-law and my daughter. (She skipped right over me, the one who enjoys author readings and likes to eat dinner by 7pm.)

Any other fabulous places I should go? she wanted to know.

Obviously, my mother-in-law has spunk. But she has grace and wisdom too.

Widowed, she knew enough about herself to know she didn’t want to be alone. She joined an online dating service, attended fundraisers and parties for singles. At one of these events, she met a lovely man from South Africa, and within a few months, they were married. I am not exaggerating when I say he is one of the most pleasant and kind people I know.

Women who know my mother- in- law say she should give classes.

The class might be titled:

Set Your Sights On A Goal And Never (Ever, Ever, Ever) Give Up.

I've learned some important things from my mother-in-law.

  1. Always hold on to the banister when you walk down stairs.
  2. Everything you say to someone registers. Even if they appear to not be listening, it festers in the back of their head, so say what you have to say.

But mostly, I've learned from watching her.

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On Friday nights before Shabbat, Syrian families sometimes gather for what is known as maza, or Syrian appetizers. Maza is a middle eastern tradition and typically, kibbe is served. Kibbe is made of bulgar and is stuffed with spiced chopped meat and deep fried.

 

Image: Monique Haber

There is no telling how far back this tradition goes, centuries I’m sure, but this past summer, in an effort to bring her family together, one of her most important values, she started her own tradition. Wanting to please young and old alike, instead of inviting everyone in her rather large family over for maza (nobody wants to eat fried meat and dough anymore) she invited us for Cookies and Cocktails.

She might be one to do away with kibbe but she definitely hasn’t updated her views on marriage. She thinks everyone should be married. And the sooner the better. So my 24 year-old single daughter is a subject that perplexes her. When my daughter was hesitant to go on a blind date, my mother-in-law told her, “Just go for a drink. What’s the big deal? I would go for a drink with the mailman.”

My mother-in-law is a beautiful woman and she takes good care of herself. Exercise may include a brief walk in high heels, usually the length of 2 department store windows, but she watches what she eats. She is known to eat only half of everything. She eats half a main course, half a cookie, half a muffin.

"But what if it’s a mini muffin?” one of her children challenge. “Then you can have the whole thing.”

But she won’t.

She has her way of thinking.

She’s been travelling a lot lately: South Africa, Israel, Mexico, St. Barthes, Turkey, Spain, Portugal.

But please don't misunderstand. My mother-in-law has had her challenges. Her best quality is her attitude.

The class she should teach: A Positive Mind, A Positive Life.

In-Laws and Creative Living

BLOG-MOTHER IN LAWWe all know those mean mother-in-law jokes: What do you do if you miss your mother in law? Reload, and try again!

My mother in law is well balanced. She has a chip on both shoulders.

Is there a family relationship more burdened?

Tempting fate, I went to the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) with my daughter-in-law, Margo, last week. We went to hear Elizabeth Gilbert speak about her new book, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear.

 

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Margo is pragmatic. She is a nurse and scientifically minded. On our way to BAM, Margo rattled off a list of over 32 things she’d done that day, including errands in Brooklyn and New Jersey, tending to her children, helping with homework, meeting with a painter and just before leaving her house, giving an injection to a pregnant friend.

I, on the other hand, tinkered with a story idea for most of the day.

And to tell you the truth, I was feeling a bit down about that. It is hard to stay home, facing an empty screen and have what appears to be nothing accomplished at the end of the day. Of course, I know this is not really true but Elizabeth Gilbert’s message couldn’t have come at a better time. She assured the creative souls in her audience that we were doing exactly what we were supposed to be doing and she encouraged us to keep at it.

She talked about fairy dust and inspiration but she also talked about hard work and perseverance.

She talked about the voices in her head, how they take up space and how she lets them come alive: The Doubter, The Critic, Fear—and while that process didn’t sound so crazy to me, Margo diagnosed her with multiple personality disorder.

You’re probably wondering why my not necessarily artsy daughter-in-law wanted to hear Elizabeth Gilbert talk about creativity, especially considering she is one of the few people in the world who didn't even read Eat Pray Love. Or see the movie.

This is how it happened.

I was supposed to be going to the BAM with my husband but he forgot and bought tickets to the Giants game.

I invited my daughter but she opted out.

My son, Margo’s husband, was going to the football game with his dad and Margo didn't want to stay home. I promised her a drink after the reading and let’s just say it didn’t take a lot of arm-twisting.

My oldest daughter kept smirking, doubting the whole prospect.

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But she was wrong; because while Margo and I are not exactly alike (I drink vodka, she drinks tequila) we both loved the event, and the hole-in-the-wall bar we found afterwards with live music. Granted, it was a bit awkward when two men started talking to us but we left soon after and found a great restaurant. I know I’m in the right place when there are vegan options on the menu.

It’s not always easy for us to find time to get together much less share intimacies. But that night, we learned new things about each other.

A mother-in-law and her daughter-in-law: loving each other, respecting each other, caring about each other.

Now that’s art.

That’s Big Magic.

Faith

BLOG-FAITHAn Alpha-fetoprotein test indicated there might be a problem with my unborn baby’s health. The good news was that this particular blood test often showed false positives.

The bad news was that the test could be right.

I thought I was the kind of person who’d need to find out if my baby was healthy. I figured I'd have an amniocentesis done and within two weeks, I'd know.

My husband and I went for genetic counseling, a requirement before amniocentesis was preformed at the time, and we learned that our chances for having a sick child were exactly equal to the chance of me having a miscarriage due to the procedure.

Five months in, my stomach the size of a soccer ball, I was already attached to my unborn baby. Wanting it, I decided at the last minute that I could live with whatever my higher power had in store for me but that I couldn’t live with a miscarriage that was my own doing.

The rabbi encouraged me to pray with all my heart as if anything could happen but believe, simultaneously, that everything was going to be okay.

I spent the next twenty weeks of my pregnancy not knowing.

Thankfully, the baby was healthy.

Looking back, I don't how I did that.