Category Archives: parenting

Katie deserves Oscar nom for five-year run as Mrs Tom Cruise


English: Cropped image of Tom Cruise and Katie...

I feel a little bad for Tom Cruise getting served with divorce papers only a few days before turning 50.  Especially, since, according to tabloid headlines, he was completely blindsided by it.  Only days earlier he and Katie were holding hands walking around the streets of Iceland.

Apparently the reality of being married to Tom did not live up to Katie’s teen-age fantasy of marrying one of the most famous movie stars of our generation.    But the breakup may have less to do with Tom as husband and father than of his adherence to the practice of Scientology.   We don’t know that, but let’s look at the facts, such as they are.  Which is to say we have no idea what we are talking about.  The facts as we know them are pure speculation based on what we read in the tabloids.

We do know for a fact that Katie managed to stay in for 5 years.  I have to wonder how long she had been thinking about calling it quits?  Her father had time to hatch and carry out a plan that involved firing all the help who might have made her exit “problematic” (the Scientology police?) and replace them with people loyal to Katie.  That had to take a few months to put together!  And whose idea was it?   Did it start with her, or did her parents pull a sort of intervention to get her to admit she wanted out?

One tabloid headline suggested Katie was not the happy-go-lucky young woman her parents knew she had been 5 years earlier and they apparently blamed marriage to Tom for her emotional decline.  That her exit from the marriage required the staff to be replaced seems like a move out of the textbook on how to de-program people caught up in religious cults.   Not that I am suggesting Scientology is a cult.  I am not suggesting this, but certain entire countries in Europe have, more or less officially, suggested it.  Such as France.  Not that we are naming names.

The Cruises rented a home in Pittsburgh this past year while Tom was filming Ghost Protocol, and were photographed in various locations enjoying some good times as a family.  Tom took Suri ice skating.  The whole family went shopping for fresh produce at a local farm market.  The three of them are some of the most genetically lucky people I know in the good looks department.  The perfect family.   So full of hope.

But the question lingering in my mind is, when did Katie know she had to get out?  Five years isn’t that long.  She needed at least a year to pull off the legal stuff with her dad, get a place to live, change her cell number, and schedule the moving van.  So that’s year four.  She would have to admit to herself it was over way before that — but even once she got that gut feeling she probably didn’t say the words out loud until around year 3.

My guess is she knew it was over before she got pregnant with Suri (mid-way through year one) and once she had her daughter it just got complicated.

A Google search of the number of years women stay in a marriage after they have decided to divorce was no help at all — even Google Scholar didn’t have an answer to that question.  If anyone knows the SEO terms for this concept, I’d be obliged if you’d send me the keywords or the links to the articles!

What I did learn from my search was that 90 percent of women who think about divorce never go through with getting one.  And if you have been married at least 10 years, you are nearly 70 percent more likely to stay married to that person.   If you want the link to those stats, you can Google it.

Huffington Post has an entire department devoted to the topic of divorce.  Check out the comments there to this question posed to readers.  Complete this sentence: “The moment I knew (my marriage was over) … ”  If you needed any more evidence of man’s inhumanity to man — and I am speaking, of course, in the inclusive voice here — you will find it in those responses!   As one might expect, infidelity was a frequent cause but in other stories there were actually weapons involved!  The saddest cases were those involving people who were seriously ill and their spouses reacted with callous indifference.

My point is, even the fairy-tale marriage isn’t guaranteed to succeed.  Remember these famous marriages that everyone said would last forever?  John and Elizabeth Edwards.  Al and Tipper Gore.   Michael Jackson and Lisa Marie Presley…

Lest you think I have forgotten that most tragic and fractured fairy-tale couple of our time  — Prince Charles and Lady Diana — I say, well duh.  But should we not look beyond our love and devotion to Diana and consider that the fairy-tale-come-true was really Camilla’s eventual marriage to Charles?  No. We should not.  Even if it probably is.

At long last, we come to the moral of the story, which is that neither wealth, good looks, great teeth, being able to fit into a size 3 dress, diamond tiaras, fame, or a particular faith — whether orthodox or un — guarantees a successful run at marriage.

My parents recently celebrated seventy years of marriage.  Seven-O.  They are 90 and 93 years old.  I never heard them say an angry word to one another.  My dad always gave my mom a peck on the lips and a hug when he came home from work.  Then he sat down in his arm-chair until supper with the newspaper, after which he returned to his chair and read the paper and watched TV until bedtime.  He changed the oil in his cars, kept them polished, mowed the lawn, and paid the bills.  Mom fixed the meals and kept the house, only working outside the home a few years when things were tight.   They would be lost without each other.   When asked how they lasted this long they just shrug.  Something about mutual respect and never considering the alternative.

So if you have been in a successful relationship for longer than 10 years, hang in there.  It’s nothing to sneeze at.  Don’t screw it up.  You are our role models.

And we need more role models.  Like Bill and Hillary Clinton.  Seriously.  If a relationship so publicly violated as that between Hillary and Bill Clinton can survive, there is hope for us all.

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Filed under celebrity, Family, parenting, Pittsburgh, Relationships, Religion, satire, Society, Women

Warning: Cleaning out your old room leads to mood swings


My sister and I recently went through my old room in our parents’ home to get a head start on the inevitable.    It made my mom upset because she thought we were throwing away things that were important to her.  We were re-arranging her life and now she wouldn’t know where to find things.

Our parents – now in their early nineties – want to stay in their own home forever.  I don’t blame them.  It’s been paid for since 1988.  A small ranch in a suburb on a corner lot with a beautifully landscaped property, now a bit neglected, lined in the back by prolific blueberry shrubs.  The small garden plot there grew lush with my farmer dad’s careful tending to his interesting varieties of tomatoes, cucumbers, and potatoes.  Deer hop over the fence for snacks. Numerous species of birds come to dine at the old picnic table that she faithfully refreshes with their favorite seed.  Who would want to trade that in for a tiny apartment or a hospital bed? Soon there will be no choice.

We sat on the edge of the bed, opening one dresser or desk drawer at a time, to see what could be tossed and what to keep.  Most of the time we clucked to each other over why in the world anyone would save so many greeting cards!  Most of them had nothing but a signature at the bottom, no personal sentiment whatsoever.  Nothing special about the illustrations either. 

The rare card with a hand-written note we saved, just because it might spark a memory for mom when most other pieces of her past were lost to her. Anything with my dad’s signature was a keeper – he is a man of few words, the textbook definition of “stoic” and not given to demonstrations of emotion.  But he always greeted her with a kiss and a hug when he got home from work and never said an angry or hurtful word to her in our presence in their 69 years and counting of marriage.  So a valentine from dad with just his name on it – that’s worth keeping.  

A few cards signed “Mom B” we also kept.  Granny lived in our home the last seven years of her life following a stroke and gradually passed into a world of her own.  She was not kind to her fourth child of five during the last few years. She called her “that woman.”  She favored my dad.  That must have hurt my mom terribly but she didn’t let it stop her from being her caregiver.  They say toward the end Granny would talk about how her daddy was going to come pick her up any day now.  And eventually, He did.

The volume of cards now reduced to a minimum, we moved into the realm of piles of old photos, baggies of safety pins, boxes of buttons, bits of ribbon and envelopes full of interesting looking cancelled stamps torn from envelopes.  The usual stuff.

If the cards and photos made us a bit sentimental, the melancholy mood was broken with our most unusual discovery of the day.  I took out a box from one of the drawers and as soon as I opened the lid I burst into laughter.  I looked up to heaven as if to say, WHAT in the WORLD?  Taking the item in my hand I held it up so my sister, who looked very puzzled, could see what all the fuss was about.  We nearly fell off the bed laughing. What I discovered there was the most ridiculous item I could imagine anyone ever saving.  For, nestled in a cardboard jewelry box on a cotton pillow, was my plastic dental retainer from when I was TWELVE.   Finding this ancient artifact of my lost youth struck me as so hilarious that I even called my mom in to let her join in the joke.  We all three had a good time wondering how – not to mention WHY — it had managed to be saved all those years.  

To save or toss?  That is the question. 

There’s only one answer that makes sense to me.  Some day my kids will have to sift through my things (poor souls – but its the only way I have to get back at them for all the years I picked up their stuff!), and they will get a good laugh out of their old mom’s surprises I plan to hide around the house. Maybe I’ll create an elaborate treasure hunt for them that leads them to believe a major item of worth is waiting if they solve the riddle!  They’ll think it was senility or at the very least an evil plot to drive them crazy.  But the motive will have been simply to give them a little laughter while they cope with the sad business of saying goodbye.

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Filed under Family, getting old, Humor, Kids, Nostalgia, parenting, Relationships, Society

Mommas don’t let your babies grow up to play football


When a 26 year old NFL player died, his mother was approached to donate his brain to research concussions in football players.  What the medical researchers found was shocking.  Read my take on the article by following the link.

Mommas don’t let your babies grow up to play football.

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Filed under Family, getting old, Kids, parenting, Pittsburgh, Society, Uncategorized

Discover Ryuu World: New Anime-style trading card game for people on the autism spectrum


If your child needs help developing stronger social skills, there is a new tool for teachers and parents that looks and feels just like the trading card games Yu-Gi-Oh! and Pokemon.  

Discover the world of Ryuu!

Ryuu means dragon and the playing card game is based on a fantasy world filled with dragons that hatch from eggs and evolve into higher levels (sound familiar?).  But there are some dragons who are not fitting in with the rest of the Ryuu world.  They are hindered by dark forces and helped by light forces.  The game helps players identify emotions and talk about barriers within themselves and in the world around them that are keeping them from fitting in.

The game was developed with the help of Pittsburgh autism expert Rebecca Klaw, MS, MEd.   According to her web site Autism Services by Klaw, the card game is intended to be used by parents, teachers and therapists in “supporting the development of social skills in children and teens with high functioning autism and Aspergers.  These aids use Cognitive Behavioral Therapy strategies, tailored for individuals on the autism spectrum, in a popular, creative and normalizing format.”  

The Ryuu web site includes a video introduction and you can order the products online for a reasonable cost.  Products include the card deck, an online downloadable game, a CD about the world of Ryuu, rub-on tatoos, stickers and a poster, as well as resources for teachers and parents.

Rebecca Klaw has worked since 1988 as a consultant, trainer and advocate for children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and their families.

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Filed under Kids, parenting, teens

Bristol Palin’s pregnancy took Sarah by surprise


Sarah Palin reveals to Barbara Walters in an upcoming TV interview that she didn’t know her daughter Bristol was having sex with her boyfriend until she learned about the pregnancy. The headline on the Comcast re-post of the AP article calls this a “bombshell” in promoting Walters’ upcoming interview for ABC.   For most parents with teenagers – boys or girls – this news would generally be a bombshell.  But not knowing your daughter is sexually active is not surprising, it happens all the time.

Teens are especially adept at the art of deception. Teens are also especially hormone-enriched beings with very little capacity to hold them at bay. And yet many of them do. So there is hope.

Some of these teens are fortunate to have parents who are able to speak to them openly and honestly about puberty and sexuality and birth control. Other parents believe that to bring it up at all risks sanctioning the behavior.

Families who have a strong religious faith may have trouble believing that a child is making choices that go against what they have been taught. Your child could be the leader of the youth Bible study, with perfect attendance from the day they were born, but when the hormones kick in, all bets are off.   (Moral hipocrisy is no respecter of persons: I know people who were introduced to drugs by the pastor’s kids in the church parking lot!)

There are warning signs if you are paying attention.  My guess is that Sarah was too distracted to notice — she was getting noticed by the big boys in the Republican party and she had to keep Alaska safe from the Russians who were visible just over the horizon.   And where was daddy Todd in his daughter’s life?   Both parents share the blame for being out of touch.

Here are a few of the warning signs that your daughter is sexually active:  Has she started to wear a “friendship ring?” Is she staying out later than her curfew? Does she ever go out with just the girls anymore, or is her social life confined to her boyfriend? Is she dressing a little sexier than she has before?  Is her boyfriend spending the night at your house on a regular basis?

One major warning sign would be if your daughter and her boyfriend are a little too comfortable being physically affectionate around you. If you catch them in a passionate embrace in your home, do not walk away embarrassed and give them their “privacy.” If you find yourself in this situation, the best thing to do is to make your presence known, (just a little “a-hem” will do) tell them that you are not comfortable with this much intimacy, and politely send the boy (or girl) home.

Once the dust settles from the fallout of you taking control of the situation for them, you can tell your teen that you will not be talking with them any further about it right now. You need time to consider what you are going to do and say. You also need to consult with your spouse so everyone is on the same page.

When you have your emotions in check and a plan that is realistic, both parents should sit down with their teen and open up about the relationship. Don’t be shy. Pry away. Because this is not about the morality of  “premarital sex.” It’s about the possibility of creating another life, and the potential of contracting a sexually transmitted disease. Make it clear to them that you have no intention of being the babysitter for their child while they go to school or work.

What are your parental choices here? You could have the talk and put no further restrictions on their relationship (not advised). You could restrict their dating to family outings and hanging out at your house. You could suggest that if they tell you a lie about where they will be on a date, that the truth squad will be doing random checks about their location.

Of course you are going to be called mean, unfair, horrible, and that you are making their lives a living hell because they will be a laughing-stock among their friends whose parents trust them and let them do whatever they want to do. Suck it up!  It’s just the circle of life — remember when you were their age.

Many a parent who wanted to believe their teen was mature enough to handle their hormones has been on the receiving end of the “I’m pregnant.” bombshell.  Have the talk early and often, expanding upon the details as your child is ready for more information.   An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, especially when the lack of prevention could result in 8 pounds of bouncing baby grandchild.

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