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To the children who were abused at Penn State

Dear young men,

I don’t know your name or your face, and I likely never will. I don’t know if you will ever read this. I hope that you do, not because I wrote it, but because I think you need to read or hear it.

The individuals in the organization where your abuse occurred failed to do the right thing. They might have done it out of fear, or shame, or greed or a broken moral compass. The men who directly abused you are sick, and the abuse that occurred because of something wrong with them.

I have not been abused in my life, but I know a few personally who have been. I also read alot, have worked with people for most of my professional life, and watched a lot of Oprah. So, from what I observe, surviving this abuse can make a lot of things happen. Perhaps you will not trust people as much. This makes sense, but please try not to give up entirely on trusting other people. Because that will hurt you even more.

You might feel like there was something about you that made them abuse you. The abuse was about their weakness and sickness, and not about something wrong with you.

You might feel like no one cared, that the world is a cold, callous place. I could understand that.  That is why I wanted to write this letter. To let you know that there are people who care about people, and care when people get hurt, even if they don’t know them.

I am certainly not alone. The story of the abuse spread quickly. A few columnists tried to justify it, and apparently a group of people lost their perspective about what was important. The football program at this university brought a lot of joy, pride and money to people. But don’t ever think that is more important than your own safety and well being. There are a few things that I am sure of, and one of them is that if someone argued that the football program was too important, they are wrong.

This story touched a lot of people, probably for  different reasons. It touched me, because I am a parent of two kids, and also because I was once a child.

If you ever have felt very alone, please know that there are many people out there that care about what happened to you.

Even more than the punishment of the adults in this program that chose to do the wrong thing,  I wish for you healing, and a return to feeling safe and to being safe.

Yours truly,

 

MPB

 
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Posted by on November 13, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

Another one of those 99% things..

Imagine I am holding up one of the white pieces of paper with writing on it..a solemn expression on my face.  Here is what it would say, except I cannot seem to be concise enough to fit it on one 8 1/2 x 11.

” People think because I support OWS, want decreased corporation influence over our political process, and increased corporate responsibility and think people aren’t getting a fair shake, that I  don’t like rich people. Not true. I know rich people, and I like them just fine. Truth be told, I come from a fairly privelaged background myself.  I did work hard ( I’ve had a job since I was 15..white castle, country clubs, working in group homes, and then my profession as a speech pathologist.)  My parents, both educators, paid for me to go to college.  My dad tells me the two degrees I got (B.S. and M.A. from a state university cost just over $50,000 in the early 90s) I had a job offer  with full benefits before I even finished grad school; I’ve been in the 28% tax bracket for most of my adult life.

I attend elementary, middle school and high school in one of the top rated school districts in my area. I had mostly good teachers, and  most of my friends had parents with solidly middle class incomes, and their parents were college educated. I worried very little about safety in school and in my neighborhood. I have never gone hungry a day in my life. All of my siblings have college educations, and its highly likely all of their children (my nieces and nephews) will as well.

I would say a good part of my parents financial and educational success came from hard work. They did work hard. But they’d also agree that they have had their share of good fortune, support and opportunity.

So, you’d think I would buy the following folklore hook , line and sinker:

“People who have money have money because they worked hard and deserve it, and poor people are poor because they don’t work hard enough or make bad choices”

But, I don’t. Because there is no story that is that easy. While I am certain there are many wealthy people who got to their station in life by hard work, grit and drive, I seriously doubt they did it on that alone. They likely had access to safe and good schools, didn’t succumb to diseases of poverty, and had a social network of people who weren’t living in poverty that helped them along, with advice, connections and support. You see, while my grandparents started off poor, my grandfather and his family benefited greatly from the GI Bill. No one told people in my family that they could not go somewhere, not apply for a job, or attend a school because of the color of their skin, or the sound of their name, or because of the religion they were. That’s in the past, some will say. Move on. HMMM… Yet, how easy is it to pass on opportunity and wealth to your children and grandchildren if you’ve had trouble getting it for yourself?

Certainly, after working in the inner city, I have seen plenty of people make bad choices, embody a sense of the world owing them something, but  I also saw plenty of people who bore the scars of substandard education and housing, institutionalized and covert racism and prejudice, and a lack of access to health care ..and if you’ve seen someone with poorly managed diseases, you see that it becomes a cascade effect of more conditions, treaments, and lost productivity that can be almost impossible to bounce back from.

My parents are math teachers, but I didn’t really pick up the “knack for math” myself. So, those who think OWS is about a lack of focus and ambition, their equation looks something like this.

HARD WORK + PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY + MOTIVATION= SUCCESS

POVERTY OR MONEY PROBLEMS = BAD CHOICES + LAZINESS+ SENSE OF ENTITLEMENT

but I think that equation uses the math that we learn in elementary school. I would imagine the equation is a little more complicated in most cases. Like middle school or high school level math.

Because of health issues (and , yes, some unwise choices during the housing bubble) my family has had significant financial strain. But we had access to a lot of help. For that, I am grateful.  Don’t worry, my husband and I have paid for our unwise choices, don’t worry, we didn’t get off “scot free.” I can tell you with no uncertainty, that if you have a child with health problems you are a whole new kind of financially vulnerable: it can affect your employment, and health care bills are rising, while wages are not.

So, if someone with advantages like me can struggle so much, how is someone without them supposed to lift themselves up from their bootstraps, “grow up” and get a job?

If the middle class has tightened their belts and has less money, who exactly is going to “stimulate” the economy ?

Remember, we’re the 99%…here is that pesky math again. If you want us 99% ( I believe thats a majority)  to keep the economy going, then don’t make it so hard  for us to get by.

I am Marcia, a suburban mom of 2.  I am the 99%.

Unless you are a billionaire, you are , too.

 
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Posted by on November 3, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

What I’ve learned about life from adoption

Things I have learned about life since I adopted my daughter:

1) A Lakota Indian saying translates into ” We are all related.”

I am more connected to the world at large, because by committing legally, spiritually, and psychologically to parenting through adoption, I see the other.people as part of a larger, human family. By adopted the biological child of another man or woman, she became a part of our smaller family. When we waited to adopt, as many who choose the path of adoption, we filled out forms ad nauseam, took a deep breath , we opened our hearts wide and thought “Is there a child out there for us, that needs us as parents?”

2) Biology is not everything, nor is it “nothing.” 

I can never know what it is like to be adopted, as I was raised by the same parents I was born to. But if we look at all the families that contain only blood relatives, we know that biological connection is , by no means, a guarantee of a closely knit, or deeply connected family.

I can attest, as I know many others can, that a biological connection is not required to feel the deep, life and world-changing love that I have felt as a mother. Even people who don’t adopt a child develop lasting, deep and permanent relationships with people with whom they share no biological connection. Think of life long friendships, partners and spouses, and families blended after divorce.  Adoption has always been a part of history.

However, not having a biological connection to those in your family is not something to “forget about.”  Biological relatives, especially a birth mother, can share with a child medical, ethnic/racial, genetic information. They can also share their feelings about the adoption of the child..the sense of loss and pain. Though this is emotionally complicated, a child can know that the adoption was not about them being unwanted.  As many of us who were born to and raised by the same parents, a biological connection is no guarantee of a closer bond,  a harmonious relationship,  or freedom from conflict or disagreement. I believe , from reading and my own observation, that lack of access to information about your biological family leaves a void and sense of loss for people. In addition, an adoptee loses out on something social scientists call “genetic mirroring”..be able to see physical similarities in other people.  I believe some people feel this loss more strongly than others. Adoptive families are real families. Acknowledging biological connection is not a sign of disrespect to the adoptive family.

 

3. Take nothing in life for granted

Generally, when one speaks of entitlement, it has a negative connotation. But there are some things in life that we do **cosmical-ly* feel entitled to : safety, food, stable home life, that later in life we will have children if we want them  When I realized that getting pregnant was not going to be a given for me, I naturally turned to adoption. (That will take me to #4)  Becoming a parent is a part of life’s plan for most people. Many people don’t end up doing that, by choice or chance. When it is something that comes so easily to some (even unwanted)  and not to others, it is a loss to be dealt with. I really think grieving fertility is a complex process. Even though I was never one to go ga-ga over babies and pregnancy, there came a time when my arms REALLY did ache for a child. The idea of my husband not being a dad seemed like a total waste.

I made a list of reasons why I wanted to be a parent: someone to share my life with, etc. etc. Of the many reasons I came up with, only about 4-5 required me to give birth to the child I parented.

 

4. Adoption is about finding families for children, not finding children for families.

Based on some of the marketing you see, you’d think otherwise. Though many of us (NOT ALL, though!) come to adoption after having difficulty having a biological child, children are not placed for adoption so that we can have kids. Adoption is complex, and becoming a parent is the byproduct of a choice that is a loss for both expectant mother and child. Adoption has been a part of the human culture since the beginning of time, although attitudes towards it have changed throughout the years. As long as there is war, poverty, imperfect choices, there will be adoption.

That doesn’t mean adoptive families are wrong, or ill-gotten. It just means adoption is a reflection on an imperfect world.

 

5.  I must teach my children to own their stories

While I feel that allowing a space and place for my daughter to express her feeling about adoption, I don’t want the sadness and grief to define her life. Like many adoptive parents, I have read and listened to the stories of adoptees, adoptive parents and birth parents that have come before us. The ones who have chosen to acknowledge and deal with their feelings, both positive and negative, and then go on to embrace life with a richer understanding of the complexity of life…that is the dream I have for my children.

6. Adoption does not cure infertility.

As someone who has navigated the terrain of infertility and adoption, friends will often ask me if I can talk to their friend who is going through something similar. 95% of the time, I am happy to do this, because there were people who were willing to do it for us.

One thing I did learn, and it surprised me, is that feelings of loss about infertility resurfaced when we became parents through adoption.  It wasn’t huge, but it would take me by surprise at different moments, like when  someone would ask “Who does your daughter look like more? You or your husband?”  Being of the open book variety, I sometimes gave people more information than they were probably asking for..i.e. our baby joined our family through adoption, etc etc

**The month after our daughter turned 1, we discovered we were pregnant. Our son, the little brother, was born 7 months later, ushering in a time of medical problems and joy. That is another post for another day.

 

I came across these questions on Adoptive Families.com  My answers are in italics, under madre41596. For those unfamiliar with the term ,’closed-era’ refers to a time when adopted children were not permitted access to information about their adoption or their birth families. The records were sealed, and depending on the state you lived in, you could not access them, even to obtain vital medical information.  This really a civil rights violation, in my eyes, as it withholds information vital to identity formation (what ethnicity am I? Are there any hereditary conditions in my birth family I should be aware of?)

Closed-era adoptee asks open adoption questions

July 19, 2011

closed adoption and open adoptionPeople raised with shame and secrecy  in closed adoptions sometimes find it difficult to imagine the alternative of open adoption. My friend JoAnne has posed the following questions to me, some that I can answer and some that I can’t.

I invite any and all of you who blog about open adoption to chime in on any question(s) you choose. Leave your linky below by August 31 so that others can come visit your answers.

1. Can the adoptive parents really go back on their word after the adoption has been finalized and do whatever they please in regard to updates and pictures?

Madre41596:

I agree that to not honor a commitment is unkind and dishonest to the birth family.  Also consider the impact it would have on your child. How would they feel knowing that you promised something to their birth family, and then failed to  honor that commitment? 

My advice to those considering adoption, be careful about what you promise. If it feels overwhelming to you to agree to what an expectant mother is asking, then rethink whether you are in the right situation. Also, give them the benefit of the doubt, and share your concerns. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Be cautious in what you commit to during the first years, at this is a busy, demanding time. Be willing to work, or re-evaluate things when you hit bumps. I think its important for prospective adoptive parents to realize that THERE IS an additional layer of responsibility in adoptive parenting.

I also think expectant mothers and family need to be prepared to honor commitments. Often the pain of reminders leads some to drop off, but it can be very distressing for adoptive parents to lose contact with their child’s birth family. If they have cultivated a relationship, it feels like a loss, or there may be concern about the birth family, or their feelings.

Not all open adoption relationships end up the same way. For us, it has been natural for us to have a relationship with our daughter’s birth mother and family. We really enjoy it and genuinely care about them. But it does require work and patience.

Adoption professionals would  do a great service for those involved to not sugar coat open adoption as problem-free, either. As an adoptive mom, I have dealt with painful feelings stemming from seeing my daughter with her birth mom and family, and I know the reverse is true as well. This doesn’t mean that the choice to have openness of some kind is wrong.

2. Who is the go-between for communication with most Open Adoptions: the case worker, the placing agency, or the lawyer handling the adoption?

Our particular agency did not work out very well in this regard. The different workers we dealt with had differing ideas of what “open adoption” meant, and how it should go. I also believe some of them gave lip service to the concept of open adoption, but actually did not feel comfortable with it. When I approached one professional about an upsetting early meeting, she suggested that I drastically reduce the contact right away, without discussion.

However, this was not true of other adoption professionals we dealt with. As our daughters birth mother lived several hours away, her birth parent counseling was contracted out to an agency near her. This agency turned out to be a resource for us, and helped us deal with some emotional and logistical issues that honored our child, the adoptive and birth families.

3. What are the advantages and disadvantages for each of the above contact persons?

Madre41596:

I also have no experiences with lawyers, etc. We chose to have no “intermediary” for our relationship. However, other adoptive parents I have met have used to agency to send pictures and letters. We used an agency. I recommend that for many reasons. I have no experience with private adoptions. I don’t think that is a path I would take.

4. How can case workers be involved in Open Adoption as well if DHS are already so understaffed and the budgets are maxed out for the thousands of forgotten children lost in the system?

We did not work with foster care, but I do have a close friend who adopted her 3 children from foster care, and also has gone on to foster  other children. I think it went by a worker by worker basis whether they developed a rapport with the family where honest, open exchange about the best interests of the child could actually happen.  I think its imperative to acknowledge that many children taken into foster care come from chaotic, abusive, or unsafe situations. Openness can be a psychological minefield and delicate balance. However, my sense is that the tide is shifting slightly to acknowledging the benefits of contact with the birth family.  I think training and boundaries for foster families and birth families is crucial. I have personally seen first hand the biological mother of one of my friend’s foster children blame ONLY the system, the foster family for the separation, when in fact,  this is far from the truth.

Another caveat I have: the openness does not have to mean the birth parents, specifically. Often grandparents and aunts/uncle, siblings who could not be caregivers wish to maintain a relationship with a child. I think a child knowing that its not about being “unwanted” but about people not being able to care for them is extremely important.

5. Is there an incentive such as money for the adoption agency to be still involved indirectly and indefinitely for an Open Adoption? Does it cost the prospective adoptive parents more money upfront for it to be an open adoption?

Madre41596: Per the letter of the law, there should not be. It was made clear to us that all financial assistance needed to go through the agency. This is to ensure that no “bribes” or promises are made to influence an expectant mothers decision. Overall, I think this protects the interests of both expectant parents and prospective adoptive parents, who are both under a lot of emotional/psychological stress, and might be vulnerable to coercive situations.  In a perfect world, people act honorably, and my own impression is that they do. But sometimes things go wrong.

6. If the contract is legally binding, what happens to the adoptive parents if they don’t follow through? Is there really any legal recourse for both parties that are clearly spelled out?

I can’t speak knowledgeably about legal repercussions in these situations. One of the philosophical strains regarding legally binding agreements is that it does not allow for evolving situations and relationships. Some argue that a legal document would negatively impact the tone and dynamic of an open adoption.

7. What deters the birth parents from coming to your house unannounced?

Madre 41596: I always hesitate to speak in terms of “all birth mothers” for they are individuals. However, I think many birth mothers choose parents outside their geographic area so that they can have some distance from the situation and the difficult emotions, even if they intend and plan for communication and visits.

I know Lifetime-esque movies and media stories have portrayed birth parents “stalking” the adoptive families, but I believe that to be a stereotype and myth perpetuated by low incidence situations.

In the seven years since my daughter’s birth, I have never felt an invasion of privacy. Were there difficult to understand emotions in the early years? Yes.

I, , my daughter’s birth family to be intertwined with ours, and thus our extended family. It doesn’t fit into a traditional family tree. I even hold members in that family who I have never met in a special place in my heart because they are a part of my daughters biological ancestry. I think I see a similar affection in families have adopted a child from another country. Because knowledge of birth families is often scarce in those situations, a yearning for knowledge and connection to the country of the child’s birth is often there.

I now consider members of my daughter’s birth family my friends, which is something that may or may not happen in other adoptions. I often have more contact with them than members of my family of origin. I think we all know that our relationships with family members can vary in-depth, harmony.. and evolve over time.

One of the things that I appreciate about my daughter’s birth mother is how she affirms our daughter’s place in our family , we as her parents. She was born to H. and D., and that will never change. Likewise, we are the parents who are raising her, passing on our traditions, values, knowledge, gifts, life experiences , just as we would to a child born to us. My daughter needs to know that her place in our family is forever, unconditional.

8. Do you know if there are any court cases where it’s obvious that there are loopholes in Open Adoption that need to be addressed?

Only through word of mouth, second-hand, have I heard or read about where some individuals felt the presence of the prospective adoptive parents in the delivery room (though invited) felt coercive. Some have argued that the “waiting period” should be longer. This would result in more children placed in transitional foster care, which people can evaluate for themselves. However, despite the fact that the prospective adoptive parents seem like the one on the receiving end of the all the blessing, it is a very difficult psychological place to be to not know if they child you are caring for and planning will become a part of your family. Prospective adoptive parents face an issue with “entitlement”–while no one should feel absolutely entitled to a child not yet born, when the decision has been made part of the bonding/attachment process involves coming to terms with your “entitlement” as a parent.

I mean in no way to minimize the pain and loss a birth family feels before, during and after adoption. But I don’t feel qualified to represent that POV.  A could place to visit is http://www.birthmombuds.com

9. Just like there are issues with closed adoptions and we have the outspoken activists’, etc., are there any Open Adoption opponents or vice versa that are working to be the voice for the birth mothers as well as the adoptive children and their best interests?

Madre 41596: In the vast amount of reading I have done in books and internet, I think some birth parents need to others (adoptive families, adoption professionals, the public) to know that the openness does not away all the pain of the adoption decison/process.

10. When is the adoptee old enough to choose if they want contact or not? What if they are the ones who want to break off ties with the bio parents?

madre41596: The whole open adoption parenting thing, like parenting itself, comes with no guarantees.  Through a mix of research and spiritual reflection, I believe that knowledge and some sort of relationship with the birth family is the best route to go. There is less wondering..less secrecy. I really question the previous conventional wisdom that a child would wait until they are a young adult to go and search for birth family, by themselves. Why would I want my child to not know things that could help in forming a more accurate and healthy identity as they grow? Why would I want them to navigate that emotional terrain by themselves?

I know of adult adoptees who felt they would be betraying their parents by searching, and wait until they die to do so. I can understand the emotions of fear of rejection by the adoptive family, but I feel like waiting would be like living waiting for the other shoe to drop.

As for breaking off ties, well, that’s hard one. I would prefer to think of someone needing distance or time. But I suppose there are situations that are too difficult to navigate for some. I don’t personally know of any.

Honestly, I have had several friends and co-workers over the years who were adoptive parents. None of them had the degree of openness we did, if any at all. One of my closest friends doesn’t agree with my philosophy. But our decision has been thought through thoroughly.

 
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Posted by on August 6, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

Tags: , , ,

Don’t call me “Grandma?”

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/12/fashion/noticed-who-are-you-calling-grandma.html?smid=fb-nytimes&WT.mc_id=ST-SM-E-FB-SM-LIN-WAY-051211-NYT-NA&WT.mc_ev=click

Boy, I haven’t had such a strong reaction to someone’s silliness since Gwyneth Paltrows life as a working mom post.  Ironically, at the heart of the article is her mother, actress Blythe Danner.

I expect I am not alone in my reaction. Soon, I predict, there will be “clarification” or a retraction, or more context given to the quotes in the article. The media, especially of late, is often guilty of sensationalizing something..so people will pay attention and do what I am doing: reacting.

I don’t know if this is a phenomenom specific to highly image conscious communities and industries like Hollywood. I’d like to think so. I have never met a man or woman who weren’t tickle to be called Grandma or Grandpa, or some form there of.

Gwyneth Paltrow states her mom is “young and hip.” Seriously, how COOL is that, really? Should we care, or want, our parents to be hip?  I don’t. I’d like to think there will be a day when we don’t care about those things, and actually value our age, our life experience, our wisdom.

Sometimes I think I disappoint my daughter with my fashion choices. I favor natural tones like brown, olive for shoes and jackets. I don’t wear a lot of makeup and my jewelery is usually artisan, not glittery or glam.  Make no mistake, I get a kick out of her smile when she sees me wearing something that , in her estimation, is “fun.” (For instance, I peace sign sweashirt I have had for years, that I did not get at Justice.)

But seriously, at almost 41, how could I respect myself if I wore clothes that pleased my 7 year old daughter all them time? I would modeling to her the very things I want to teach her not to do: being too slavish to trends and opinions of others, to sacrifice comfort for fashion (they can and do co-exist), to betray your own sense of style, beauty and aesthetic.

I want the women who come before me, and the women who come after me to feel joy in each stage of our lives. Each stage has such rich, wonderful experiences..mingled with some pain or loss..but they were all meant to be lived, and not stayed in forever.

I personally will feel blessed beyond measure when and if I am someone’s Grandmother. That will mean for me, my kids made it to adulthood, and will be experiencing the intense love and responsibility I feel. Plus..isn’t there a bumper sticker somewhere out there about “If I had known being a grandparent was so great, I would’ve skipped the kids altogether?”

 
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Posted by on May 13, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

Why I think Michele Obama is awesome

Long before I actually cast my vote for Barack Obama as POTUS, I liked Michele Obama. I have long had an interest and admiration for First Ladies (on both sides of the political aisle.)

I think public persona- wise , Michele had a lot of new ground to cover. She is in her 40’s, has worked outside the home, has young children, was of my generation (Gen X-ers I guess, I am in my early 40’s)  She brought out some unique cultural viewpoints..being a woman of color, being a woman of color from an upper middle class family, being athletic, being tall, being her.

I think if Michele Obama were my neighbor we could be friends, but she might intimidate me.  I mean she has accomplished a lot, in a lot of areas. Plus, she might give me the stink eye if she  saw me sneaking up to 7-11. I have a weight problem.

The platforms she has chosen to shed her light on shouldn’t be controversial: more exercise, better food for kids. But when you mess with people’s food, its bound to ruffle feathers. Then, military families..what happens when the soldiers come home?  I am a Speech Pathologist who has worked in neurorehab/head injury, and the collateral effects of a brain injury include changes in cognition, emotional regulation, behavior, depression, and vulnerability to substance abuse. If we are to say we support the troops, we must be doing so even when the sequelae of their injuries are not in neat and tidy packages, and the progress is slow, or the disabilities permanent.

I know Michele (may I?) has some built-in critics..first those who didn’t vote for Barack Obama. Then, there are the racial issues **..people who , from a geographical, cultural, generational standpoint have a really hard time seeing a family of color in a position of such prominence. Then, there are those who think she is too confident, too opinionated.

Superficially, I like that Michele is really tall..and has big feet and owns it. As a tall girl, its nice to see. Her fashion choices (I know, this shouldn’t matter) are accessible, modern but classic, and relatively unpretentious. I love seeing her develop in her public speaking skills and interviews.

I think all  First Ladies have a tough road to walk–their fashion, their behavior, their words are criticized and scrutinized. There is an enormous amount of sacrifice in being in this position. But like the women who have come before her, she is making her own difference.

** I don’t think all of the Obama’s critics are racist. They oppose B.O> on the basis of their views, political actions, personas. But I still think there is a large faction of people who can deal with the other-ism of the Obamas.. I remember watching the Oprah Winfrey Show interview with President and First Lady Obama, and thinking, here are 3 of the most powerful and influential people in our country..and they are all black. There are people who must have a hard time wrapping their brain around it.

 
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Posted by on April 29, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

mild torture, Gwyneth Paltrow & friends style

I am a fan of Gwyneth Paltrow’s work as an actress/performer.

I loved her in Emma, Shakespeare in Love and The Royal Tenenbaums, and her guest star appearances on Glee.  She was interviewed on Inside the Actors Studio, and she seemed funny and insightful.

She has a blog called GOOP . I don’t know who her intended audience is, but I imagine many of the subscribers are middle and working class women they like me, who find her work and style interesting.  On that premise, I can’t really understand this one entry in her blog (www.goop.com.newsletter.112/en)  and what exactly, she and her guest blogging friends really expected as a reaction from readers.

Her blog has had some great articles on charitable organizations, organizations for literacy, education,  some humor, a really great entry on Post Partum Depression. The ones where she provides links for $90 organic toddler clothes I tend to skip.

I don’t want to give any impression that I think I know her as a person. ( I doubt you were thinking that, its just a disclaimer if I sound a little snarky at times) I am only familiar with some of her work, and tidbits of her public persona.

The blog post is about balancing being a working woman and a mom. I shared the link to this blog entry a few months back on an area parenting yahoo group I’m on. The membership is diverse in ethnicity, educational level, socioeconomics. But I remember one member (who has a PhD in something, I remember it in her signature line) said “This made me throw up in my mouth a little.”

Enjoy.

A Day in the Life …

One of our readers emailed GOOP about “finding a good balance between having a career and being a mom,” which got me thinking about the other extremely busy working mothers I know and what their days might be like. I asked Juliet de Baubigny, a venture capitalist I met (it’s no wonder this woman is so freakin’ successful—spreadsheets for family packing … wow!), and fashion designer Stella McCartney to send in a day in their lives to see how they do the mothers’ special—everything all at once. I learned a lot and got some good tips from these ladies. And, because some of you have asked what one of my days looks like, I’ve included a random one of my more manic days from last November.

Love,

gp

Thanks gp, It is a tough thing, managing a career and a family. I look forward to learning  how others manage it. I haven’t heard of these other ladies, but I know who Stella McCartney is. We have a lot in common: Her dad is a Beatle, and she works as a fashion designer. My dad is a retired math teacher, and I am a speech therapist.

Juliet de Baubigny’s day on September 16th, 2010:

Busy, fun, fulfilled, happy and often manic! As a full-time working mother, wife, mother to two children (ages 6 and 3 1/2) and, as my husband will tell you, someone who likes to “do it all,” every day is a constant juggle and quest to create more time. I am a Partner at Kleiner Perkins, Caufield & Byers, a venture capital firm based in Menlo Park, California. I balance this with my work as a board member of Product (RED), the organization started by Bono and Bobby Shriver to help fight HIV/AIDs in women and children in sub-Saharan Africa. I’m also on the board of Trustees of the Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco and actively involved in the Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital in Palo Alto, California.(Wow! That is a lot to juggle, I know how you feel. I am the co-leader of my daughters girls scout troop,and her school just got done doing a Little Caesars pizza kit fundraiser. Do you think those are worthwhile, or do you just do the cookie dough ones? Needless to say, I lead a busy life. Here are some things that have worked for me, which I wanted to share, in the hope that they may be helpful.

My day:

I’m an early bird—so I try to seize “Juliet time” first thing in the morning. I get up between 5:30am – 6am and quickly scan my email. Then my priority is exercise. If I can work out each day, I’m a really happy person. And let’s face it, if you are getting up on a cold morning in the dark it had better be fun. I’ve found that having a trainer come to my house on a Monday really motivates me—she’s knocking at the front door so going back to sleep is NOT an option (Another tip: getting up early gives a better chance of getting an eliptical  without the numbers on the buttons off, and close enough to the t.v.. to read the closed captioning.) This way, my body clock adjusts after the weekend and I’m more inclined to commit to workouts each day during the week. I’m currently obsessed with the Tracy Anderson Method and do the Perfect Design DVD three times a week. I even take the DVD traveling!  On cardio days, I use the elliptical or spin bike for 30 minutes (including lots of sprints). I bring my iPad and use the Flipboard app to curate my social media (Facebook, Twitter and categories that are important to me: business, technology, style, design, fashion). The iPad is a lifesaver for me: in 30 minutes, I have read everything that I need to start my day! (Don’t you find you get disctracted and start reading the Huffingpost and then go on ebay, or etsy?)

Breakfast: super important and always super-rushed with the pressure of everyone being out of the door at 7:45am. I really make a point of sitting down with my children—even if it’s for 15 minutes. A great time saver is to make steel cut oatmeal, put it in a ceramic bread loaf pan and slice it each morning, add a drizzle of maple syrup, milk and 45 seconds in the microwave—healthy breakfast in seconds and I can make it last over 3 – 4 days! (Seriously?) In the summer, I start the day with a protein smoothie, which can be made in minutes (a handful of organic berries, a large scoop of Greek yogurt, a squirt of flaxseed oil, 2 scoops of protein powder, organic pomegranate or cranberry juice and blend). If I’m really in a rush I have a Shaklee vanilla shake. I always try to take the Shaklee multivitamin strip + iron, which comes pre-packaged, to save time. This way breakfast takes a few minutes to make and I have the time to talk to my children about their day. (I actually use quick breakfasts like these, too. Diet Coke and Luna Bars have the right blend of carbonation, natural and artificial sweeteners.)

Hair: A great time saver is to have a weekly blow out. This means that you don’t need to wash your hair each day—the time that you save with a blow out can save you minutes in the morning.

Makeup: I was given an amazing present of a makeup lesson with Wallet Lubrich. (You know someone named Wallet?) She taught me how to do my daily makeup in 5 minutes. No joke, I can dress, do my make up and be out the door in 15 minutes. (Here’s a great tip: use lipstick for your blush. Its last longer, I haven’t worn eye make up in 10 years.)
I always make a point of doing the school run in the morning. It’s a really important moment in my day. This fall, my children started at the same school, which is such a time saver for me. Our 15 minute drive together is treasured time and I really feel that we all start our day on the right foot.

My Day: Is a blur from the minute that I arrive in the office but that’s how I like it. I have the benefit of an amazing assistant, without whom I could not make it happen (Thank you, thank you, Diane). My day is packed back-to-back from the moment that I arrive until the moment that I leave. When I’m driving to a meeting, I bring a call list with me so that I can quickly return calls. On a Friday afternoon, I’m given the list of outstanding calls/topics/decisions that I need to make over the weekend. I carve out key moments during the weekend to do emails and return calls. During other windows, I turn my Blackberry off so that I can focus 100% on my children and my husband.

6pm – 7:30pm is family time, as many nights of the week as I can make it. Conference calls happen before or after that window, same for email. Giving 100% attention and quality time to my children is key, particularly when I’ve been out at work all day.

Bed: By 10:30—if I can!

Sunday nights: Always, always family dinner. It’s super fun now that the children are older. We do everything together—we plan the menu, often going to the farmer’s market the day before, prepare the food, set the table, cook together and clean up. It’s our ritual. After the children are in bed, I print out the family calendar for the week. It has all the activities and schedule, and I put it in on the board in the kitchen so that everyone knows who is where and where they are supposed to be!

Juliet’s top 10 time savers:

  1. The power of the list: My great friend, Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, (Hey! I have a Facebook account. Two different people have told me my son looks like Mark Zuckerburg)shared with me a great tip, when we were both on maternity leave after the birth of our first child, to create key spreadsheets to help manage your home life; for example, travel check list (clothes, toys that each family member needs to bring with them for travel. Believe me, my children are very grateful after I managed to forget their underwear on two consecutive family holidays!). I also find it invaluable when I’m packing for a business trip at midnight! Other lists include grocery staples, birthday lists, monthly household task lists. I file them all in a binder and keep in the kitchen where anyone can access them. It saves a ton of time and money. Note—do not try to give a list to your husband, the reaction is not quite so positive!
  2. Aggregate all your medical appointments: Another time saver is to try to do all your standard appointments on one day or one afternoon. For example, September is back-to-school time for us all and I plan an afternoon to take my children to the doctor, dentist, and hair. I do the same for myself in January. That way, I can get it all out of the way in one afternoon and ensure that the appointments really happen!
  3. Plan ahead for birthdays, holidays: I’m afraid that I’m one of those people that really does try to plan ahead. It saves me from too many moments of last-minute panic! I sit down in October and pull together my gift list for the holidays. I buy hostess gifts and presents for the children’s teachers well ahead of time. I love One Kings Lane so much that I got Kleiner Perkins, Caulfield & Byers to invest in it. It’s my main stop for beautiful products for the home and have my wish list throughout the year that I can stockpile. Use this time as a moment to support initiatives or causes that are important to you. For me, I buy products from Product (RED) like Starbucks gift cards, Caroline Bucci bracelets, Nike laces, and Apple Nanos. My other great gift is a donation in someone’s’ name to Donors Choose—all the monies go to a wish list of teachers in public schools.  I keep the gifts in transparent plastic tubs and then wrap in groupings, tagged with a sticky label that indicates the content of the gift.  I have an accordion file that is filled with birthday cards labeled by category: child birthday, adult birthday, Valentines Day, Halloween etc. That way, I can always have a card at the ready to send (or…use the Facebook reminders and just post on their wall.)
  4. Condense your appointments: find a great salon that understands time pressure and can accommodate your schedule. I have a great salon near me that I can go to at the end of the day to have a facial, manicure and pedicure at the same time.  I’m in and out in 70 minutes. Not relaxing but efficient. Same for other appointments. I have acupuncture at 9.30pm at night. It’s a wonderful end of the day.
  5. Shop for clothes at key moments during the year: While some of my friends may be surprised at this, I cannot stand to shop. I don’t like it, I don’t have the patience for it and it’s not fun. But, I love clothes and fashion so it’s a problem. My solution: make a wish list at key moments in the year—mine are fall and spring. I plan my key pieces, order, and then I can forget about it for 6 months. Also, find a great alteration person. Twice a year, I meet with her, review my clothes, sort out my closet, plan key looks for travel, weekend, evenings, and holiday. That way, I can dress, pack and travel in seconds. It’s worth the investment of time upfront.
  6. Curate your own web: find a list of sites that really help your life. For me, it’s Net-A-Porter and Kirna Zabete for all my shopping, ideas on how to style clothes and hours of fun. Note, try to avoid shopping when your husband is looking over your shoulder—”you are not really going to check out all of those clothes in your basket, are you?”  Amazon.com—for everything from books, beauty products, night diapers, to household products—love, love Amazon Prime! Zappos for all my childrens’ shoes. Zazzle—for great t-shirts for kids’ sports teams, stamps for holidays and cool customized products. Vivre for amazing gifts for friends, and my husband. GOOP, which is my digital “girlfriend,” and covers all of my lifestyle needs. Indagare for travel, Chasing Fireflies for childrens’ Halloween costumes, Oriental Trading Company for childrens’ parties, Crew Cuts and Papo d’Anjo for my childrens’ clothes.
  7. “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.”: One of my partners gave me a great tip for time management. At the end of each week, I review my calendar and look at the following categories: Work: did I spend my time in the right places, right meetings, impacting the highest upside situations? Home: did I have dinner with my children at least 3 times during the week? Did I read to them at least 5 times in a seven day period? My Husband: Did we have at least one dinner on our own or with great friends? Did we find time to take a walk/run/bike ride together? Monthly: did I see my girlfriends for dinner? Daily: having a really good laugh about something!  Good data to collect. (Also: Did you let your kids play video games for half an hour while you went in the bathroom and read? I don’t like to do this more than 6 of 7 days a week.)
  8. Bring your notebook everywhere: I have a black Moleskin notebook that I bring to each meeting. At the end of the day I go through it with a highlighter and mark open action items. Some get transferred onto my outlook task list. Most I try to get done at the end of each day.
  9. Adapt to what works for you: I work full-time, so I can’t attend the afterschool classes or as many moments in the classroom as I would like to, but I still want to be involved. So I organize one or two key moments during the school year to have the class over for a project—that way my children see me interacting as “Mummy” and I can connect with their friends and mothers. Things that worked for us: co-hosting a Valentine’s party for the girls in my daughter’s class, doing a Halloween cookie decorating party with my son’s preschool class. (Okay, I must ask. You’re a partner in this company. Why don’t you just say “long lunch today!!” and go be the recess mom once a month. Or paint your nails during one of the conference calls to free up time.)
  10. Get your girlfriends together: I can’t see my girlfriends as much as I would like and I really need that girl time. Also, your girlfriends are the ones that give you great timesaving tips, keep you grounded and make you laugh. I try to organize a girls’ night once a quarter and do something really fun together. It’s also a great way to introduce amazing women. For example, my friend Olivia Chantecaille came to visit and we had a makeup party—lots of champagne, makeup lessons and laughs. I did the same for Philip Lim and had a trunk show with my friends. But often we’ll just have a potluck supper and a glass of wine. Nothing fancy but super fun!
    1. Hike in the Redwoods with my family on the weekends.
    2. Find a great TV show to watch with your husband—for us, Mad Men on Sunday night
    3. Go to a concert/art exhibition regularly—went to see Sheryl Crow with a girlfriend last night—she rocked! I’m excited to see the opening of the new Impressionist show at the de Young Museum in San Francisco on September 25th.
    4. Discover and find what inspires and grounds you. For me, the work of the ONE campaign and Product (RED) has given me such an inspirational education in the work of the Global Fund to fight AIDS, TB and Malaria.
    5. Taking the time to give big, long hugs to each member of your family each day and tell them how much you love them.
    6. Getting 7 hours of uninterrupted sleep a night!
  11. Things that make my life really amazing:

    Note: Klipboard and Zazzle.com are also Kleiner Perkins investments.

On a wintry day in November 2010 a very pregnant (with her 4th child!) Stella McCartney wrote:

Woke up, was not fun, I am tired!  Bailey, my daughter, on the monitor saying, ‘Mummy I need a poo’! I tried to talk her out of it as it was so early.  She eventually forgot her half-hearted excuse to get me up and started singing to herself. Bailey is 3.  I made my way upstairs, and got Miller, my oldest son, and her up and into my bed for a cuddle. My husband, Alasdhair, is away on work, which is rare as we both hate leaving the monkeys.  Miller is 5. We go down and have breakfast, cereal, toast, eggs, the lot! The kids eat so well in the morning … Good start to the day. I go upstairs and get Beckett, our youngest at 2 and obsessed with getting dressed, so each morning he says he wants to choose his trousers before I even get my kiss or cuddle. He can take over designing for my brand when he is big! Get the other kids dressed and scooter them down the street. Miller goes to school and Bailey to nursery.  As I’m so busy during the day, the mornings are concentrated kid time so I make sure to spend the morning with my kids, making breakfast and getting them out of bed before our nanny, Jennie, gets to our house to look after Beckett.  They are going to visit my sister’s boy Sam and look at the barge boats on Little Venice canal. Wish I was going with them.

I go into the office, where my day can turn into a flurry of meetings, as there are always a lot of projects and collaborations on.  I try to cram as much in as possible so that I can spend the mornings and evenings with my family.  My first meeting is with my shop architects and store planner. We are discussing possible stores in the States, their locations, how we design them and how they should function.  Las Vegas is our next store, so we’re attacking that today. The meeting is brief as I have four people outside the glass wall making gestures that I have to go to my next meeting. I stay out of scheduling for the most part and let my team get me from a to b.

Next I have a YSL beauty meeting. It’s hard-core, and there’s tons to do. They have come over from Paris and we have an agenda from hell. Some of it is top secret so all GOOP readers will have to hold their breath, I am afraid.  Some bits, though, are for your ears. We are working on new bottle design and outer packaging for the Stella Sheer fragrance.  It had some more work to be done but in principle was ok. We talked about the Mother’s Day set … Blah blah blah.

My day has already started getting late.   I am behind, so I decide to do my next meeting in the car on the way to Covent Garden’s adidas offices. Artist Dinos Chapman is my taxi date.  We have worked together a lot; he did a giant fuzzy felt backdrop for my show two years ago and did my advertising campaign too with Kate Moss and Ryan McGinley.  We are working on another project, and he thinks I am a dweeebo for having to do work on wheels, but at least we got it done!

I arrive at adidas, it’s a big day for me there as today I am showing the British Olympic Association my Team GB London 2012 concept. I am the creative director for adidas’s team GB for the Olympics and the Paralympics. It’s major and I am so excited! It is honestly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I have a strong concept and today was about showing the BOA my direction. They were really positive … It is totally just the starting points so just the very, very beginning concepts, but it’s just to give an idea. I do some press photos and video, which I hate, and head back to collect Miller.

Home sweet home … I hang with the kids, read books, we all talk about our day—they are full of all the energy I wish I had.  I head off to parents evening at Miller’s school. Reading all his books is so amazing. They are so brilliant and some are so funny! He is doing well. I think he is a star. I head back home and put the monkeys to bed. They are all in pajamas. We sit on the bed and read, and I demand my usual cuddles. Jen leaves at 6:30, so I try my best to juggle the three monkeys and keep them all in one piece till bed time. Then get ready for dinner, head off to meet Gwyneth, mother of all GOOPs!

(I don’t have many things to add here.  But I must ask: Does your dad ever sing your kids songs? That must be AWESOME!!! My husband has a brother Andrew…we sing the lyrics “We’re so sorry , Uncle Andrew..” with our noses plugged. The kids think its hilarious.)

Gwyneth’s day on November 4th, 2010:

When I got downstairs this morning at the crack of whenever, the coffee machine said “ERROR 8” and wouldn’t let me make the cup I had been dreaming about. This begs the question: is it odd to dream yourself to sleep thinking about the next morning’s coffee?  (Not at all.) Not a good beginning. Got Apple all fed and dressed in her uniform and ready to go but no sign nor sight of Moses at 8 am and we have to be out of the house by 8:20. I went up to arouse the little man from slumber and he quite happily got up and crawled into my arms. We got downstairs and I made him a quick breakfast of eggs and toast followed by a spoonful of lemon flavored flax oil that I try to remember to give them both every morning. Getting everyone into the car on time was a challenge; we’re going through a phase where no one seems to be responding to me (“Time to put on your shoes” … No response.) (I hear you on the not listening. Sometimes, you just have to yell. But not too much, or it starts to sound all the same to them. ) It is the school Christmas toy drive deadline today so before jumping into the car, we pack up and finish decorating the shoe boxes with toys, toothbrushes, hats, scarves, books, etc, for the school Christmas toy drive. Once the kids really understand that the toys go to children around the world who will not be as fortunate as they are this year, they very sweetly take trips to the playroom adding their own toys and books to the boxes. Somehow managed to get to school just as the old-fashioned bell rang. Moses was a bit teary today so I hung around and watched him through the window. Periodically he would check to make sure I was still there. When all was well I dodged off as fast as possible but was still late to the 9 am workout. Did dance aerobics for 45 minutes then all of the butt lifts and the like. Rushed upstairs to have a shower, doing my post workout stretch while the conditioner was doing its magic on my hair to combine activities/save time. Dressed quickly and rushed downstairs. On a less manic day, this would be my couple of hours in the office to work on GOOP, come up with ideas, write/edit and go over scheduling, travel, whatever else I have going but I have no time so I just pop the old cabeza in to see if there are any deadlines or fires that need putting out. When I am given the all clear I rush out the door, headed to rehearse with a band to prepare for the Country Music Awards which are just a week away.  I’ve never performed live before so I’m preparing for this as if it were the Superbowl, which, in it’s own way, it is. I’ve been having voice lessons with my teacher, Carrie Grant, every day and rehearsing with an amazing London-based band. This will be my fourth and shortest rehearsal of the week, as the day is so full, but I am excited to get in there and see everyone. Had to do my vocal exercises/warmups in the car, sooo not a good look. Fellow drivers looked on a bit bewildered. ( I think it was that they were driving next to Gwyneth Paltrow) Rehearsed with the band from 11:30 to 12:30 and then scooted back out to the car and had kind of a big interview on the phone while trying to subtly check/reply to well-overdue email. Got home and had a fitting with super stylist Elizabeth Saltzman for the upcoming Nashville trip (what to wear, what to wear?) from 1-2. This is my 4th out of 5 fittings for this trip. We tried on a myriad of dresses and outfits, and I had b.o. by the end of it from wrestling with all of those dresses. I have six looks I need to choose for the trip; there’s the radio press conference upon arrival, the red carpet for the Country Strong premier, press interviews, a Sony Music VIP dinner, the red carpet for the CMA’s and the outfit for my performance! We manage to finalize all of the looks for the (very nerve wracking) trip. ( I have to ask..WHAT do if you’re having PMS and going to one of these things? Don’t you just want to stay home and eat nachos in front of the t.v. Made with multi grain tortillas and chevre cheese, of course) At 2 pm I head into my office with a nice cup of tea for two hours of phone interviews. I am doing lots of these this week, but today’s session is only two hours. I call country radio station after country radio station speaking to some of the nicest and friendliest DJ’s on the planet. Thursday is the one day of the week that I do not pick my kids up after school. They go straight to an activity and I am able to really maximize work stuff. I always feel a bit guilty (obviously) about it, but it means I can focus fully on them when they get home instead of trying to do two things at once. At 4pm, my weekly owners’ and managers’ call takes place for the Tracy Anderson Method with our brilliant CEO Stephanie Stahl taking the lead. I basically listen and try to learn. Kiddies burst through the door and play in my office while I finish up, just drawing and hanging out and of course playing Plants vs Zombies on the iPad, their obsession that I have to limit like crazy! What up, gamers. Then downstairs to make cupcakes for tomorrow’s bake sale. It is ‘Bonfire night’ in the UK tomorrow and the bake sale is to celebrate and to raise money for charity. We decide on vanilla cupcakes with pink icing and green icing (from Tate’s Bakeshop cookbook with the icing from American Desserts cookbook).( A recipe for cupcakes?) At 6:30 pm we all get in the bath and it’s hair washing night for the kids (every other night—never popular). Then back downstairs to check on cupcakes and have a visit from an auntie and uncle. The kids indulge in a super sugary cupcake before bed but I don’t feel too bad because they had a brown rice stir fry for dinner with baked sweet potato on the side. It’s all about balance! My night to lay with Mosey so I tuck Apple in, say a prayer and go into Mosey’s room for a story, foot massage and quiet time. As soon as all was quiet, I rushed downstairs to grab a blazer and some blush and flung myself in the car for girls night. Lovely dinner and great conversation. 11:29 pm now, exhausted and ready to do it all again tomorrow!

Gwyneth’s time saving tips:

  1. Schedule your time well. When I know what I am doing from hour to hour I get more done. Write it all in the day’s calendar, what you want to accomplish and in what time frame.
  2. Focus on the task at hand. Be thorough.
  3. I cook a lot, especially on the weekends, so I like to plan a rough menu for the whole weekend and get the food in on Friday. Obviously stores and websites that deliver make this a dream. In London I use Ocado. Also James Knight, my favorite fishmonger,( Hey! I know the term fishmonger. My husbands grandmother took us to one when we visited her in Scotland. Back in the states its still called a person who sells fish, or guy at the market.) will deliver. Having all of the ingredients means I’m prepared even when I don’t think I am.
  4. I always lay the kids uniforms and school things out the night before once they are asleep. When it’s quiet I can check the “kid list” for show and tell items to bring in, consent forms, ballet kit, etc, so that the morning is less of a scramble.
  5. The school run is a great time to return calls (in whichever direction that the kids are not in the car) so don’t forget your hands-free device. (Hey!! You’ve been on Oprah. Didn’t you take her pledge not to use the cell phone while driving? The literature says the risks are as high with hands free devices, Just sayin’)


 
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Posted by on April 14, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Writing about your own children

How can a person go about blogging about their life experiences, and NOT write about their kids? This is a true dilemma for me, because being a mother is the role in my life that, by virtues of kids needing to be taken care of, takes THE center stage in my life.

I have long been a “my heart my sleeve” wearer. I tend to be an open book, often over-sharing details of my life ( I only discover this after the fact.) I am drawn to people and their stories, and often feel a connection to other people quickly. Since becoming a parent, I have taken a much different look at people who write publicly about their children’s lives and personality. I don’t know how I would feel if this had happened to me as a child.

So, as I set out to write a blog based on my world view, and life experiences, I making a commitment to myself and my kids to tread gently on using their life stories in my blogging hobby. I will refer to them occasionally as LL and Hopper. My journey to parenthood was paved with experiences that have been at times painful, amazing, and interesting. We adopted our daughter at birth, and our son was the result of a very surprise and unplanned pregnancy that quickly became medically complicated. As for my husband, who is far more private than me, I make the same pledge. He should know, though, having met him at 19 and married him at 23 and my companion on my journey for most of my adult life, he will be mentioned here and there. His name will be Thor. or Angus. I haven’t decided yet.

(My siblings will be Louis, Mary Jane and Simon. I issue the same pledge to respect your privacy, though I am doubtful they will be reading this.)

 
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Posted by on April 11, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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