All posts filed under: Love+

Fall in love, shrug off that bad date, spend time with family, walk the dog, be a friend

The Mazel Tov Slap: The Jewish Tradition You’ve Probably Never Heard Of

(Graphic: Kat Borosky/TueNight.com, Photo: Niekverlaan/Pixabay.com) When I told my mother I got my period for the very first time, she slapped me across the face and shouted, “Mazel Tov!” It wasn’t a punishment slap — more like the way you’d slap a person who fainted, or something out of the Marx Brothers — and it didn’t feel violent. I don’t remember the moment in great detail, and I don’t remember it as something terrible that happened to me. I mostly remember knowing that it was part of long-standing tradition from shtetl times, passed down from Jewish mother to Jewish daughter, the purpose (supposedly) being to bring the color back to your face (because it’s all draining out through your vagina now!). It’s possible I even knew it was coming, that it was something we discussed in advance — probably with all of my female relatives! — as I eagerly awaited the big day. And yes, I so desperately wanted my period, because at 14, it felt like ALL OF MY FRIENDS had theirs, and I was on …

Why I Keep the Fact That I’m a Muslim to Myself

You wouldn’t know my secret by looking at me. You wouldn’t see me walking down the street and give me that knowing nod of understanding. Because, honestly, you can’t tell that I’m a Muslim. I’m a middle-aged woman (first time I wrote that out… ouch), born and raised in the states. Blond hair, blue eyes and a totally American name. And I don’t cover. There are a few reasons I choose to be anonymous with my religion. I don’t need to talk about my religion or get people to convert to my side. I don’t need to debate the merits of my religion versus another religion or having no religion at all. I know what I believe and I’m firm in my faith. I have no desire to make sure you believe what I believe or to give you some spiel on why I needed to change religions. My husband and I are private people. We don’t share our news with the world. We keep that between us, so it’s reasonable to think that our …

Faith in Boys, Bikes and Wallpaper

I had all kinds of faith when I was a kid. Faith in Christmas presents, in the sweetness and chaos of my brother, in pathological lip-gloss reapplication, in swimming pools, in ketchup all over everything, in my bike. I had faith that my mother would remain fierce and beautiful and my father funny. I had faith that I could be those things if I paid attention. I would cherry-pick and incorporate. Season myself to taste. I would control myself. Everyone thinks they can do this. I didn’t know that then. But I had faith that concentrating really hard was the answer. Sometimes I notice myself being the things that they are, all kinds of things, and their voices are suddenly inside me, finding their way out. I’m surprised every time. Like I’ve belched in public. I have faith it doesn’t show. Did you read that on my face? I’m very good at not showing. I ask all the questions. I have faith that asking all the questions will fill me up. My story and others …

The Art of Being a Flaker

‘Tis the season for accepting invitations to holiday parties and saying yes to merrymaking with friends, family and coworkers. ‘Tis the season for exclamatory declarations: “I’ll be there!” and “Can’t wait!” and “Count me in!” Also, ‘tis the time for emoji-laden last-minute cancellations. Ugh! I’m sorry, but I can’t make it after all. (😞😞😞😞) Unfortunately, I have… Please don’t hate me! 😞😞😞  I won’t be there tonight.😞😞😞  I’m soooooo sorry.😞😞😞 So many sad faces, so little time. But lack of time isn’t my excuse for not showing up when and where I say I will. The fact is, I am a flaker. Flaker \ˈflā-kər\ noun: someone who cancels plans at the last minute, someone who reneges on invitations, someone who doesn’t show up and doesn’t call first, etc. (i.e. I was supposed to go to this party downtown tonight, but my friend Penny is a flaker.) Mind you, my penchant for backing out or pulling up late isn’t relegated to social obligations. Flaking is a true way of life for me. Everyone thinks they’re a …

Cheers to the Ones Who Aren’t Drinking This New Year’s Eve

Krystal and Cristal — it was the tradition my husband and I shared for 15 years. For those unfamiliar, Krystal is a hamburger chain headquartered in Dunwoody, Georgia. And Cristal, well, you know that’s champagne. It’s a purposeful mix of “high-low,” born on our first New Year’s together when, without a reservation, my husband and I grabbed a sackful of Krystal burgers and champagne, December 31, 2001. The tradition evolved in subsequent years. We ate the burgers off Lenox china gifted to us for our wedding, then on a silver tray once at a dinner party, and then the tiny burgers were cut into quarters for our small son. This year, La Croix will be substituted for Cristal. Because this year, I quit drinking for good. It used to be that I would feel sorry for the person who wasn’t drinking. How could I have a New Year’s Eve? How could I have any kind of Friday — or Tuesday for that matter? This year’s toast is not about the things that I have lost. …

Even When Dad Was Dying, We Kept Laughing

I am one of the lucky ones whose parents, through a combination of good genes and good living and good luck, were still around when I was in my 40s. When I thought about losing either one of them, which I did rarely and fleetingly, I pictured myself sobbing next to a hospital bed, drained faces, the gaping abyss that would come with the loss of someone who had loved me unconditionally from my first breath. Then my dad got sick in June this year and died in July. And I realized I’d left out an important facet of the process of losing them: laughter. Admittedly, mine is a family where a quick wit was prized and prodded to higher purpose. A sense of humor was as important growing up in my home as was the ability to work hard, tell the truth and clean the rabbit cage without being nagged to do it. I don’t believe we were special that way; the proprietary humor that can thrive between family members is part of the …

Grief and Gratitude: Knowing Nannie Was Worth the Pain of Losing Her

In early 2007, we sat around my Aunt Mary’s dining room table talking about ways we could celebrate my grandmother’s birthday. Nannie was turning 80, and though she referred to her contemporaries around town as “the old folks,” she in no way considered herself one of them. She’d still have been driving (like a bat outta hell) if her last hip surgery for a degenerative condition hadn’t significantly weakened her pedal-pushing leg. Las Vegas came up. We sipped coffee—my aunt, my mom, my cousin Erica, Nannie and I—as we imagined a glitzy adventure littered with Elvis impersonators, convertible Caddies, big winnings, free booze and overflowing buffets. We envisioned ourselves road-tripping cross-country to party in Vegas. The things we’d do, the people we’d meet. It was even suggested that Wilhelmina might come out of retirement—Wilhelmina being my grandmother’s vagina. Come November, just 45 days before anyone could assess the fire hazard of shoving 80 candles on a cake, my grandmother left this life. That night, I laid down in her bed and slept for close to 24 …

Rings to Remember: The Art of Mourning Jewelry

When I was 10 years old, my parents gave me a copy of Gone With the Wind as a birthday present. While I didn’t understand it all, one of the many things that stuck out in my mind from the book was the concept of mourning. I learned that in Scarlett O’Hara’s world, society had strict rules to follow about behavior and attire after the loss of a family member. In just a few chapters, Scarlett goes from 16-year-old flirt to widow, and, as society dictated, being a widow she wore a long veil and black, eschewing social activities in observance of her loss. While these strict customs have mostly faded, one physical relic that remains from that time is the jewelry. Called mourning jewelry — also referred to as memento mori jewelry — these pieces commemorate the death of a loved one and serve to remind us that death will come for us too. As an antique jewelry enthusiast, I have seen many mourning pieces over the years. While I appreciated them as historical …

The Life and Death of Roses

There is a dead rose in a vase on our dining room table. “It needs more water, Mommy,” says my eight-year-old daughter. “It’s dead,” says my husband, looking up from his breakfast. “What can we do?” asks my daughter. “Throw it out,” says my husband, who goes back to eating. “No, I don’t want it to be dead!” My daughter looks at me pleadingly, and I feel another gentle lecture coming on about life and death and dead flowers being a natural part of the whole process. * * * The first time I realized that there was something dying inside of me was in my mid-40s, in the checkout line at the wine section of my grocery store. When I got up to the counter to pay, I looked up at the attractive young man at the cash register and smiled. Then he called me “Ma’am.” My age was staring me in the face, in the blank look of an attractive, young man who was simply taking my money, unmoved by my smile. I …

Post-Election Do’s and Don’ts: Everyday Tips to Be a Better Human

DO: Engage in conversations, even if they’re difficult. Be mindful of your spending; vote with your dollar. Have coffee or share a meal with someone who you think is different from you. If you see someone being harassed, use your privilege to protect them. Do your own research by reading independent journalists and non-mainstream media. Speak up. Document hate crimes and hate speech. Make an effort to smile at someone; it could turn their day around and make them feel less lonely. Educate yourself on issues of racial justice. Challenge your thinking and behavior. Amplify voices that may not be mainstream. Be mindful in your consumption. Get to know your neighbors. Build your local community. — Suzan Bond and Kia M. Ruiz. Suzan Bond is a Fast Company contributor and the founder of Bet On Yourself, which supports independent internet creators through business, marketing, and branding strategy.  Kia M. Ruiz is a environmental and consumer resource consultant. You can read more of her writing at Bodhibear.net.   DON’T: Assume that you can pick up stakes and move to Canada. Or New Zealand. Or anywhere else. If you’re serious about becoming an expat, form a logical plan and know that …

Teaching Your Children Empathy: 15 Resources for Parents and Guardians

The 2016 presidential election made one thing clear: Empathy is sorely lacking in our society. Empathy, like racism, sexism, prejudice and bigotry, is learned at home. Here is a short list of ways you can teach your child to love, respect and value those who do not look or act like her.  1. Go beyond a play date. It’s easy to look inclusive when meeting at a neutral location but actually take an interest in your child’s ethnically or religiously diverse classmates. Hang out at their home or in their neighborhood and see how they live. More from Urban Moms NYC.  2. Be a good sport. Talk with your children about what a good sportsman looks like. More from KidsHealth.org. 3. Go help someone. The holiday season is around the corner. Invite a neighbor or classmate over for dinner. Deliver meals to boys and girls clubs, senior living facilities, then stay and engage with them. Show your kids how to shine their light on others. More from Volunteer Match. 4. Failure is your friend. It builds character, teaches humility and resilience. Encourage your child to make mistakes. More from Business …

Self Care Tips When You Are Utterly Devastated

  Karrie Myers Taylor is a San Francisco-based “self-care coach” who helps people find the time to eat healthy, get balanced and learn how to take better care of themselves. Here she offers 15 tips to heal our post-election blues. Practice forgiving… yourself: Trump did not become President because you didn’t know enough or didn’t do enough about the presidential campaign.  Learn how to forgive yourself and move on.  Here’s a great book to get you started: How To Forgive Ourselves Totally: Begin Again by Breaking Free from Past Mistakes Turn off negative media: Choose two media sites that you trust and only read those.  Quietly stop following the Facebook feeds of friends and family who are sharing inciting media on their pages. Medicinal baths & body brushes: Take 30 minutes a week to soak in a steaming hot bath to get some clarity.  Add some magnesium flakes and essential oil, and be sure to dry brush your body with a natural fiber dry brush before you step in the tub; it will get rid of all that negative media residue. Set boundaries around what …

How to Throw a Party for Your Pussy

I want to talk about sex. Though my friends will tell you I always want to talk about sex. Anyway, my freshman year in college, I went to a fraternity party and met many people, both male and female, who would go on to become my dear friends. I also met a really good-looking guy who caught my attention; he was shy and yet, once engaged, very direct and smart. I ended up upstairs with him in his loft bed, peeling out of my Norma Kamali snap-front dress with that satisfying pop pop pop, trying not to hit my head on the ceiling as I did so. We laughed a lot, and we had fun. Truth be told, I can’t remember exactly what we did sexually – if we went “all the way” or not – but I am positive we had a lot of fun. The next night, I went back to that same fraternity with my dorm hallmates and circulated around the party. I saw my previous night’s lover across the room, waggled …

How I Evaded a Stalker in Thailand

He was an expert. He played me — all charm and smile — when being played hadn’t occurred to me yet. He sidled up to my breakfast table in the Thai guest house where we were both staying; he asked questions. Before I had had two bites of my banana pancake, he knew where in Thailand I was living and working: the town and the school. Because I told him when he asked me. He was grizzled and rugged, in need of a shave. Australian, he said. He told me his name was Joe, and he didn’t tell me his last name. He was twenty years older than I was; I was 22. I excused myself from breakfast and, inside my rented bamboo hut-on-stilts, changed into shoes I could walk in. I packed my day pack and set out to explore before the sun rose too high. I had been in Thailand four months. On this school holiday, all my buddies had other plans and I decided to travel alone, against the advice of my …

In Praise of Friends That Don’t Last Forever

When I was a girl, I believed wholeheartedly that in order for best friends to be for real, they had to be forever. And I know I’m not alone. Want proof? Just look at any girl’s yearbook. The acronyms may go in and out of vogue, but the sentiment remains: B.F. F. Now that I’m resting solidly in the middle of my 40s, I wonder if there’s any such thing as a “forever” best friend. We all change so much over the course of our lives, I barely recognize the young woman I was in high school, much less the kid whose prized possession was a Donnie and Marie Barbie play set. So why do we believe that the friendships we made back then should survive the dramatic overhauls and upheavals we traverse on the way to adulthood? I’m still in touch with many of my earliest friends; we wish each other happy birthday on Facebook and exchange holiday cards decorated with photos of our children. But we no longer tell each other our deepest …

BFF Love Fest: 7 Pairs of Besties Share What Bonds Them

I met my friend Sarah eight years ago at a conference after-party, years after I thought the world had stopped handing out best friends to grown women. I shut my hand in a heavy restroom door and cut it — badly. She was walking in when the bleeding started and asked me if I needed help. I said yes, and she stayed to assess the situation. We wrapped it up, laughed about it and went back to the table. I don’t remember what happened next, but I know that she has been there, in many ways and to varying degrees, ever since. We all need these kinds of connections: strong, supportive bonds that are key to health, happiness — and also killer brunch and housewarming parties, let’s be honest. Sometimes, a particular human connection is stronger than the rest, and you end up with that person who holds the other side of your virtual heart necklace…and maybe even your internet passwords. You get a best friend. We talked with some pairs of best friends about …

Ghosted and Gone: I May Never Know Why She Left

Let’s call her Jane. Out of respect for her feelings. Even though I haven’t spoken to her in several years, even though it has been almost seven years since we stopped being best friends. Well, I thought we were best friends. Was I wrong? Maybe. We met when we were both editorial assistants at a chic, smart women’s magazine. Obviously, we were both thrilled to be there. She was Ivy League Official, though. I felt intimidated by her legit status. At first, I didn’t like her. I’m sure it was some kind of competitive pheromone exchange that made me instantly bristle and want to turn away from her. But she would pop over from her aisle to mine, plopping down in my visitor chair to chat with me and the other assistant across the aisle. I remember that I always made her laugh, which warmed me up to her. I remember that she was really smart. And wore way too much brown for my taste. I remember a few months later when I told her …

Two Old Friends on Growing Up Black and White in Lincoln, Nebraska

Eric and I grew up three houses apart in a fairly affluent neighborhood in Lincoln, Nebraska. We went to different elementary schools, but beginning in 7th grade our paths crossed more regularly, especially in the summertime when we’d bike together to the pool for endless, unsupervised afternoon swims or play made-up war games (I know, what?) in his backyard. Recently, mired in misery about the state of our country, I set out to hold a conversation with Eric. I wanted to know how he was grappling with America 2016, especially as a father. It turned into a more straightforward interview, frankly, because his answers were so good I just wanted to sit back and listen or, in this case, read over Facebook messenger. Sara: Growing up in Lincoln, Nebraska —  how did your parents talk to you about being black? Eric: In some ways, growing up in an overwhelmingly white town like Lincoln is unique, and in other ways, it’s just like everywhere else. When I was in maybe first or second grade, I remember …

The 8 Types of Girlfriends Every Woman Needs

Most of us have had good girlfriends of many varieties: from the secret-keeping, pinky-swearing grade-school bestie to the friend who answers the midnight call with provisions and bubbly. They’re the bricks on which the houses of our lives are built. My girlfriends mean everything to me. They are the family I have chosen for myself. I aim to give back to them, as much as they give me. There are certain roles each must play in my long-standing tribe of female power, defined by personalities and needs. Sometimes one at a time, sometimes all at once. Here are eight types of BFFs that are crucial to my wellbeing, my sanity and my life. 1. The Sweetheart I once had a friend stay up with me for two days after surgery. She took my temperature every hour on the hour and refused to leave my side until I could hold down food. She was salve for my wounded body and soul, and I’m so grateful that she’s still in my life, always there with a smile …

How a Single Can of Pumpkin Followed Me for Years

It started innocently enough: one simple can of pumpkin. I had graduated from college a few months earlier, put all my worldly possessions in the back of a truck and moved to Chicago to start Grown-Up Life. This Grown-Up Life involved moving in with my boyfriend and two housemates. Each weekday I’d get dressed in one of two mix-and-match Gap suits each morning to go to my temp job du jour. I was playing the part, and I was not giving a stellar performance; there was a constant possibility that my understudy might be called upon in the hopes that she’d pull this off better. Our housemates were old hands at this maturity thing — they were already planning their wedding and saving for a house. They shopped at Budget Grocery, and since they seemed to have adulthood down cold, I figured it must be the responsible place to shop. I have no idea what else I bought, but it was autumn so pumpkin was everywhere. I spotted the can and thought, “Adults do things like baking! If …

My Secret to Dominating the Neighborhood? Pumpkin Bowling

Suburbia, circa 1994. We’d moved out of the New York City right about the time our daughter was to start kindergarten, seeking the bucolic childhood that my husband and I had deluded ourselves that we both had: house in the country; 2+ acre lots; great public schools; supportive, tight-knit community. While we moved back to an area very close to where I’d grown up, it had been a good 10 years since I’d left for college and I no longer had a circle of close friends. Barely 30 and working long hours at a New York City law firm, with my husband traveling all over for his sales job, we wanted a shortcut to meet people (just like us) with whom we could share stories of new parenthood and go for beers and burgers. So, at our 75-year-old realtor’s urging, we joined Newcomers. The Newcomers’ Club was just that: a club (with a small yearly membership fee) for people new to the community. There were mom reading groups, mom social hours, mom’s night out and the occasional …

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40-Odd Years Later, I’m Finally Who I Want to Be — a Man

I got a phone call last week from someone at my endocrinologist’s office. He asked to speak to Jennifer. “This is Jennifer,” I sighed. After a moment of confused silence he said, “I’m sorry, is this Jennifer?” My voice is getting deeper. He wouldn’t have been so confused if he had actually thought about the message he was calling to give me: My new prescription for testosterone was ready to be picked up. The first time I thought I knew who I was, my name was Jennifer and I believed I was a lesbian. I was born in 1971 and came of age before the internet, so give me credit for getting that close to figuring shit out. Back then, there were few words to describe the feelings I was having, and they weren’t used around children. The words themselves were considered too adult. No one on TV admitted to feeling like me, but I found my trail of breadcrumbs. Buddy on Family. Jo on Facts of Life. Martina Navratilova. That cute girl in Dragonslayer …

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You’re Never Too Young to Trust Your Gut (Lessons Learned from Making a Terrible Decision)

If only we could soften the pain of regret by revisiting the source of our angst. If that were so, I’d have gotten over this particular wound decades ago as I’ve thought about my decision at least a thousand times. It seemed so complicated at the time, but the lesson learned — the lesson that stays with me nearly 40 years later — is simple: When something feels wrong, it probably is. At age 17, my life was unraveling. My mother was dying, and my father was undone by the seemingly endless slog of her illness. He did his best to take care of my brother and me, and, in terms of creature comforts, we were fine. But crushed as he was, my father could offer no emotional or logistical support about the decisions I faced as I contemplated college. There were no discussions of which schools might suit me and no campus tours. Whatever research was to be done, I was on my own. I was a good student, and my options were undoubtedly …

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My Rock Bottom Came in a Pretty Dress and Heels

God bless the busted boat that brings us back.” — Jason Isbell, “New South Wales” Here’s what you should know about this do-over: Everything and nothing changed. In my 30s, I had everything I ever thought I wanted. I was a travel editor, catching planes and writing stories about the next great city or restaurant or artisanal cocktail. I had this fancy job, which I’d worked my entire life for, and a family and a home. But while I tweeted images of beach views and carefully plated food, I was also drinking a bottle or more of wine a night. Sometimes I passed out. Sometimes I couldn’t remember things, and I often had unexplainable bruises. By day, dressed in a pink shift dress and gold heels, I gave talks about nimble new media strategies. By night – it was another story. I drank to deal with my anxiety. I drank to deal with my physical limitations. I drank to deal with never “being enough.” I drank to slow my brain when I was enough. I …

We Asked 15 Women of All Ages: What Does Turning “50” Mean?

Fifty is an age and a cultural milestone, marking half a century lived and decades yet to unfold. Here, 15 women who have reached the half-century mark — and those who have years to go — share their thoughts about what this middle age marker means to them. Elisa Camahort Page, 52 Chief Community Officer, She Knows Media @ElisaC “50 means less than I would have thought. It certainly explains the grey streak and the sudden utter understanding about why Nora Ephron complained about her neck. It probably explains fewer fucks to give and more willingness to forgive. But when I’m driving in my car with the radio blasting or giggling about some stupid double entendre that a 12-year-old boy would find amusing or digging in to my eleventy-billionth fruitless internet argument, I’m not sure 50 means much at all. We always learn, and we never learn. I think that’s what being human means.”   Meredith Walker, 47 Founder, Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls, AmySmartGirls.com @meredeetch “I do not think much about eventually turning 50. I am PRO-Aging. …

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It Turns Out Black Does Crack, It Just Starts On The Inside

Let me let you in on a little secret about black: It cracks. Not our faces, if we cleanse and moisturize and exfoliate consistently. Black women’s skin tends not to wrinkle. Our faces can look easily 10 to 20 years younger than our driver’s licenses say we are — if we maintain our health. But that’s the biggest if. Our health is where we black women tend to crack. Our black cracks from the inside out. It cracks under the weight of taking care of everybody but ourselves. It cracks under the pressure of smoothing out our rough edges and filing down our sharp tongues, lest we be tarred and feathered as angry black women for speaking our minds. And it cracks under our need to present our lives to the world as perfect, to counteract all of the negative stereotypes of black women and black families. We crack under the black-love-is-always-a-beautiful-thing pretensions of perfect marriages, children on the fast track to the Ivy League and well-behaved pets with glossy coats and camera-ready smiles. In …

My Dog Became My Jersey Ambassador

When I first moved to my neighborhood in Jersey City, I knew it was something on the edge of “up-and-coming,” kind of like “slowly approaching” or “looking forward, sometimes.” But I figured with the stop before mine on the PATH train improving so quickly, it was just a matter of time. It turned out it would be a lot of time. I moved in as the housing bubble burst, and what had been transitional turned into a standstill. It wasn’t as bad as in unsafe, but it wasn’t good as in somewhere you wanted to explore, either. The only retail options have questionable inventory at best. I mean, these aren’t even dollar stores.These are like stores filled with crap typically found for sale on sidewalk blankets. An indoor yard sale. The dining options are equally lackluster. Technically, we have everything — McDonalds, Burger King, Blimpie, White Castle, Subway — everything you could want in fast food. If it isn’t represented within my ten-block radius, it must be on a lower, less-recognized rung of the value-meal …

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Judging Amy, By Amy

Yesterday, I saw of picture of myself in a sleeveless outfit and realized that my triceps are a disappointment to me. My upper arms look like hotdog buns. As for the outfit – a silky black jumpsuit – I liked it in the store. The saleswoman, fresh out of college, assured me I looked fabulous. But here’s the thing: If you are in your fifties and want to feel chic and slim, do not hang around with women in their twenties. Because no matter how great that jumpsuit looked in the dressing room, it’s no match for an impeccable midriff or the fashion fearlessness that comes with knowing you can throw on a mini dress with a pair of white Adidas and look effortlessly sexy. This was apparent when we hosted a 25th birthday weekend for my son’s girlfriend. Over the course of a day, she and her pals moved through duffel bags full of cute clothes, from clingy yoga pants at breakfast to teeny bikinis at lunch to wispy slip dresses by cocktail time. …

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Improv and Ageism is No Laughing Matter

I’m a lifetime comedy nerd. The kind of middle school girl who knew every line to Steve Martin albums and the 2,000-year-old man routines, adored Robin Williams and had a subscription to Mad magazine. As an adult, I worship professionally funny people, especially women. Sometimes, even I’m funny. For years I’d been pondering the idea of an improv class. I wanted to do something separate from the routine of my real life of being a mom, being a wife, having a full-time job and working monthly shifts at the Park Slope Food Coop. I started investigating classes, in particular the eight-week Improv 101 at the legendary Upright Citizens Brigade training center. Some of my favorite comedians had honed their craft there — not to mention that Amy Poehler is one of the founders. Initially, I only shared my desire with the least judgmental person I know, my therapist. She was very encouraging and helped me finally work up the courage to tell my husband and a select group of friends.  I imagined a range of negative reactions that included …

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My Very Public Online Fling

After my divorce, I was as broken as a tree branch after a storm. Luckily, I found a female comrade — on Twitter of all places — who was healing from her own divorce. Our digital friendship blossomed into a long-distance digital romance. We sent corny notes to each other on instant messenger and kisses over Skype. After a few months of online communication, Cate (not her real name) suggested that we meet in real life. One caveat — she lived in New Zealand. After much thought, I decided to seize the day and off I went to catch my Air New Zealand flight. The exterior of the plane was decorated with characters from The Lord of the Rings movie, which was filmed in New Zealand. Like Frodo Baggins, I was off on an adventure. My trip to New Zealand has all the elements of a Harlequin romance: Cate was beautiful. New Zealand was stunning. The clouds were as white and fluffy as cotton; you wanted to grab a piece from the sky and feel …