Think we've hit bottom? The weather's better, Madoff's in jail, banks are posting gains. We seem somehow clearer.

We woke today to headlines that an Air Force One jet buzzed over Manhattan on a photo junket - we went wild, angry hens in the hen house! Fly-by airliners over Ground Zero? It is unacceptable, we all know it. We are still a terrified City, you cannot fool around with people so recently wounded. Following expressed ire from the President and a(nother) frank, mea culpa from the White House, we feel vindicated for our anxious reaction. The hens have set themselves back to roost, still clucking sideways and backwards about the unthinkable line that was crossed.

We seem clearer about our boundaries as we begin to trust that we're part of the process. We elected someone who aspires to govern by transparency and we're starting to see what that means. So many of our boundaries have been crossed, now we can re-establish them, for better. They're listening.

But with all that, it's not over. John and I are in a holding pattern, waiting for word on potential opportunities that each passing day seem more like figments of our imagination. Last week two more big jobs were lost in my loose circle of people. Upon hearing, I stood by one friend, with no real encouragement, just empathy. Just these words: "OK, so let's get started..."

I just got a call from a friend in another state, she herself in a good job, her husband as well. But in her town a thousand miles away, the continuing fallout of this thing is at a boil, just as it is around here. She called to ask me what to say, how to be empathetic as more and more people came home with pink slips. She knows from being a passenger on my ride that there are right ways to approach it and not so right. Let's take a minute to record what feels best, when we reach the gates of The New Now, how do we want to be welcomed?

  • Meet it head on. Call it what it is, it is a terrible state of being. "If you've reached this point in your career and have not suffered job loss, you're just waiting in line". There is no stigma; when you play, you pay. This is not unique.

  • Pay gigantic compliments to the one who's lost the job. John and I both appreciate the many affirmations of who he is and how good he is at what he does. Loss of identity is as big as loss of paycheck; don't let us forget we are still who we always were, but better, stronger, with "more texture".

  • Take us out. For a walk, coffee, lunch or dinner. Get us out of our skin. One unemployed friend said that his wife is so much better after she's been with friends. Let her set the pace, but don't avoid the circumstance. This is not something we can or are trying to forget, it's part of our life and we want company in the coping.

  • Offer gifts. Great music, scented candles, articles and books. Give things you'd like to receive if you were experiencing the dark of the vacuum. Take a look at The New Now post about the Sanity Salon (2/9/09) for ideas. We have to hold onto our style; liken it to the first trimester of pregnancy when you felt horrific and style has gone out the window. I used to tell my sister during her pregnancy: "Accessorize!"
  • Don't get scared. If you're willing, we will take you along for this ride, but be warned: we will proclaim our emotions. We'll say things we mean (and those things will change regularly), we'll say things to get a rise (misery loves company). Empathy for those in the eye of the storm is a great exercise in passive listening.

This is a post begging for comments. Please click below and offer your suggestions. Again, my mantra, WE ARE ONLY AS GOOD AS THE SUM OF OUR PARTS.



Back in November I wrote in my calendar on this day: Are you still breathing? I am, but I still feel pretty sick most evenings when it's time to feed my people. So in that vein, here's the next in the series of WHAT CAN I FEED THEM recipes -

This is a real crowd-pleaser, and though it sounds precious, it won't break the bank. Most of the ingredients are already under your roof, and if they aren't you'll use them up the next 3 times you make this fabulous recipe.


What you need to feed 4:

3 lbs baby-back pork ribs
1/4 Worcestershire sauce
2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp brown sugar
1/4 c sour cream
1 Tbsp prepared horseradish
2 tsp apple cider vinegar
1/2 head napa cabbage, shredded with a knife
2 Granny Smith apples cut into strips
a bunch of scallions, sliced

Heat the grill. Season the ribs with salt and pepper. Place on the grill, cover it and cook 20-25 minutes, turning often , until cooked through and tender.

In a small bowl, combine the worcestershire, mustard, brown sugar and baste the ribs during their last 5 minutes of cooking.

In a large salad bowl, whisk the sour cream, horseradish and vinegar, 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper. Toss in cabbage, apples and scallions.

Cut the ribs apart and heap them on a serving platter. Serve horseradish with bread next to it.

* Inspired by a Real Simple recipe



This one's a tribute, off the subject or condition that one must be in crisis to be needy. Or to be fulfilled. In the New York Times Health section today, Tara Parker-Pope published an article about the overarching healing power of friendship.

I read the article this morning and, cynically, wrote it off as simplistic. Interesting anecdotes. Stories of women seeking solace in childhood friendships to cope through divorce or Cancer diagnosis; A 10-year study showing that older people with larger circles of friends were 22% less likely to die during the study period than those with fewer friends. And if there's no other justification for being friendly, Pope reported that studies show that the risk of obesity is some 60% higher among folks whose friends gain weight. Strength in numbers. The power of the Tribe....

Then, funny how this works, I heard the quiet strains of a long-forgotten song about just this power, the power of friends to heal friends, and Pope's article took on the mighty proportion it deserves. Listen to Joni Mitchell's song "Ladies of the Canyon" http://www.rhapsody.com/joni-mitchell/ladies-of-the-canyon--1970. It takes you behind an easel with Trina who "wears her wampum beads", then it sits you down with Annie who "may make some brownies today". Without you even sipping a cup of almond tea or hearing an inside story, "Ladies of the Canyon" brings you into the heart of what it is to be a woman among friends.

I was afforded this great privilege over the weekend, offered entry into a family of women who have become to one another what flesh and blood can never be. In a place just like Joni's Canyon, a place of "empty halls and beveled mirrors, sailing seas and climbing banyons". The time and place were gifts, but above all, what a privilege to be "welcomed in" (as Joni says it) to a tradition set well before I arrived.

Parker-Pope's Times article is a powerful and substantiated statement about what even those with the great fortune of a Tribe may take for granted. She writes:

"Last year, researchers studied 34 students at the University of Virginia, taking them to the base of a steep hill and fitting them with a weighted backpack. They were then asked to estimate the steepness of the hill. Some participants stood next to friends during the exercise, while others were alone.

The students who stood with friends gave lower estimates of the steepness of the hill. And the longer the friends had known each other, the less steep the hill appeared. "



Parenting moments, they're stories we need to tell. There's some kind of unspoken mechanism between us parents, in that when we tell our parenting stories we purge them, and let them go - we do this with friends and strangers alike. There's an element of forgiveness that comes when we confess. Telling my parenting stories is the closest I come to understanding the power of a Catholic's Confession of Sins.

This small post is a wide acknowledgement of the terribly misguided parenting decision I made on Tuesday, when all I was trying to do was get John's attention.

As always, I've boiled it down to two kinds of people. I do this in every situation or scenario, it's a most convenient scything of any experience. In the New Now, the first kind of person is he who falls into a minor and, we hope, short-lived depression when he loses his job. The other kind tries to maintain a constant (!) and healthy (!) flow of communication about feelings, while remaining ebullient (!) and fun loving (!). Guess who's who?

So John's been laid a little fallow in his drag of a mood, trudging through the last couple of weeks, including Spring's early moments, Easter's traditional festivities. There've been people everywhere, and that's the problem. EVERYWHERE, we've had a revolving door (see "second kind of person" above). John's and my communications, over the last week or so, have gotten more and more caveperson-like, he has headed inward and I've sought solace by creating a carnival(!*!*!*!)

The parenting moment? After attempts at getting through to my husband, in a festive (!), fun-loving (!) way, to absolutely no avail, I decided to take a Type A personality's standard route to honesty, I employed Shock and Awe and announced over lunch to my 3 young children and 2 even younger nieces - with John as a witness - that WE COULD NOT CONTINUE THIS WAY, OUR MARRIAGE JUST COULDN'T TAKE IT, HE HAD TO TAKE IT ON THE ROAD... You can plug in the rest.

Oh yes, I got John's attention. Eldest child left the house in inconsolable tears, middle one positioned himself between his sputtering parents pleading for us to "hug", youngest cried out that she loved us both. Nieces sat without appetite, eyes like saucers (I have since told their parents that I'd help with the therapy bills.)

Did I mean what I said? Not remotely! I love John and I am toally committed, just a mite annoyed at his self-indulgent moodiness. I am Type A, that's for sure, but it is high time I realized that my Type A communication strategies don't necessarily speak to the audience.

We've made up, nobody's scared about where they'll be sleeping tonight. I made absolutely NO point, I bombed. Thanks for listening, I feel forgiven.



Fancy meeting you, here in this Age of Austerity. Publications from the New York Times to Lucky Magazine are commenting about the required as well as the elected mantle of frugality. Do a search on the Times' website and you'll come up with "Consumed: Haute Frugality" and "Austere Times? Perfect!" Apparently, all articles I'll have to read. Lucky, the shopping rag, is beside itself (and the self of its advertisers) with online features such as "This Entire Site is Under $30". eBay and H&M are plastered all over it. A friend's mother, age 70 and independantly wealthy, self-identifies as "only a corner away from bag lady". This new era is playing heavily on our conscience. Even those fully employed with healthy savings are taking on the Great Depression Challenge. Seems we're all game.

I have mixed feelings about the common experience of austerity. Maybe some sense of ownership over the New Now? I know we are not unique - out of jobs and anxious about our future. But when I read about New York City apartment owners taking in boarders when they're still making great salaries, or hear the tense fear and anxiety on the other end of the phone as a friend talks about her husband not getting paid his bonus on time, I want to scream "J-O-B, people!" as I stab wildly with two thumbs at my own chest.

But remember 9-11? No matter where you lived or how you voted, you were changed by living it. Everyone has a story, a reason (fact or fiction) the attacks changed our life. Similarly, John and I will always tell our shock and terror story which began with having the door closed behind him by his boss and the HR professional who axed him. And others will have their narrative about the New Now.

OK - so maybe I am trying to own the New Now, a little. I confess - and here are two points that set me straight (for the moment). The first one, the sanity check that doesn't even require a trip to Africa or India. Last week an article was published in the Times called "Keeping It Secret as the Family Car Becomes a Home" http://www.nytimes.com/2006/04/02/us/02cars.html?_r=1&scp=9&sq=homeless&st=cse. Ian Urbana writes "As with all homeless people, finding food, warmth and a place to clean up is a constant struggle. But for those who live in their cars, remaining inconspicuous is its own challenge, and though living this way is illegal in most places, experts and advocates believe it is a growing trend." I'm feeling deprived because John and I haven't been on a date since November. Larry Chaney of Erie, PA passes his time over a single cup of coffee in a local diner and plays "mindlessly" with a ring of keys to mask the fact that he has no door to unlock.

For the second slap-me point, read Judith Warner's blog "Domestic Disturbances", her post entitled "Families to Care About" http://warner.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/03/19/families-to-care-about/#more-219. Warner toggles between joining me in my desire to make this economic crisis a wake-up call for "yummy mummies" who have sadly had to cut their nanny staff. I read the post with relish, thinking Warner was leading to a conclusion that would damn the mummy while we damn her banker spouse. Instead - egg in face - Warner goes another direction, saying that "this is a classic blue collar recession. Fully half the jobs that have been lost so far have been in construction and manufacturing. Only 5.1 percent of job losses have been in finance and insurance — the kinds of careers that support the opt-out lifestyle." So it's not about the millionaire or the mummy at all. Snap out of it, sister! Those who are really in crisis are the same who have triple-jobbed while passing their spouses in the hallway. Shame on me for forgetting that I rest soundly in that white-collar 5%.

This is all about the reminder that - still - we need to create an economy that supports women and men who have never had it easy. We need flexible hours and borderless employers who see working from home as a win-win. We need childcare that will help fill our schools with richly textured kindergartners. (Maria Montessori fashioned her early childhood institutes for poor children in early 20th century Italy, not rich suburbanite tikes.) Women are contributing hugely to digging us out of this crisis (82% of those who've sought unemployment in the last 8 months are men). Time to remind ourselves what kind of quest we've been on to support them, and continue the fight.