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Are You Enough? All-Female Band The Mrs. Answers The Question All Moms Ask

Friday, February 20th, 2015

As I looked in the mirror this morning, I couldn’t help but smile. “Whatever you’re doing, KEEP IT UP,” read my hot pink sticker, courtesy of the all-female pop rock band The Mrs. If you haven’t heard of The Mrs. you need to. Their mission, put simply, is to make everyone feel good about themselves through their music.

The beginnings of the band began six years ago, when Mrs. founder, Andra Liemandt, started to learn the drums—since her daughter was learning piano. But Liemandt wanted to start playing music with other moms, so she, her friend Jenny Mason, and some other moms started gathering to play covers and rock out. Think band club in lieu of book club. The club took a more serious dive into the music business when Liemandt realized the songs she and her daughters were listening to didn’t apply to her life as a woman, a mom, and a wife. “I was in the car with my kids singing “Call Me Maybe” for two hours and I was like I would love to have a song that’s super fun that my kids could rock out to in the back seat, but that related to something more about my life today,” said Liemandt. “We want to write about motherhood, relationships, friendships, growin’ up, and trials and errors of life,” Mason explained. “The real stuff but that has a fun beat.”

When I first heard the premise, I was skeptical. Could a song about female empowerment or motherhood actually sound cool? Once I listened to their EP “Enough” and met The Mrs. I knew the answer. Yes. The power pop chart about how I (and you and all women) am enough without any alteration has basically been stuck in my head for ten days—in a good way. “It’s become an epidemic for women,” said Liemandt of the constant feeling of not living up to impossibly high standards. With “Enough,” the goal is to start a cycle of positivity and support to end the cycle of negativity.

But it’s not just through music that The Mrs. is spreading their mantra. You may have heard of the band’s Magic Mirror Project without knowing who was behind it. They created an interactive mirror that tells lookers to rate how they feel (on a scale of WOOF to I’m Enough) and when the negativity inevitably comes out, the mirror builds you up. While the very first mirror-gazers received customized experiences (with video thank-yous from family and friends) the mirror is now on tour for anyone to look into and receive messages of love.

Mason explained that even kids, especially insecure teenagers, need the support the mirror offers. “We need to feed them [with these messages] so they can feel strong and know that they’re gonna wake up tomorrow and know that The Mirror told them ‘I’m an awesome person, I’m an awesome friend.’”

But don’t worry if you can’t make it to the mirror’s current home. Download the app! Not only will your mirror recite messages of support, you can cultivate your own personal network. On a day you feel like a “Hot Mess,” the mirror notifies your network so they can Pile On and send Enoughies—real messages from those you love lending the helping hand you need.

While the message of “I’m Enough” has exploded, The Mrs. has not abandoned their musical roots. They’re set to release their first album this coming fall and they continue to write new songs and perform around their home state of Texas. “We are today’s woman,” said Liembart. “We are married, realized women who live complex lives. So we want to write music that relates to our lives.”

For all you mamas, there may finally be a soundtrack to your life.

Ruthie Fierberg is an editorial assistant at Parents. Though she does not have children of her own, she’s practically been raising kids since her first babysitting job at age 11. She is our resident theater aficionado and can be found constantly running around New York City to find the best new show, the most awesome dance party, or the hottest Bikram yoga studio. Follow her on on Twitter @RuthiesATrain.

Photograph: Jenny Mason, Ruthie Fierberg, Jennifer Zavaleta, Andra Liemandt

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Revealed! The Secret to a Long, Happy Marriage

Friday, January 9th, 2015

My parents have been married for 28 years. Before my grandfather passed away, he and my Grandma were married for 57. Seriously. I remember their 50th anniversary celebration, standing there in awe thinking, They’ve been married for a lifetime. How do people stay married for that long?

Clearly, I’m not the only one to wonder. Dr. Karl Pillemer, a gerontologist and Professor of Human Development at Cornell University, began the Marriage Advice Project, conducting research to answer the burning questions of love and marriage. He spoke to 700 retirees in America with an average marriage longevity of 43 years. Yesterday, his answer: 30 Lessons for Loving: Advice from the Wisest Americans on Love, Relationships, and Marriage, hit bookshelves across the U.S.

We’ve heard the tried-and-true tidbits before: set aside a date night once you have kids, try new things in the bedroom to stoke the fire, don’t go to bed mad. Is this really the key to the unsolved mystery?

While some of Pillemer’s wisest Americans did offer up similar pillow phrases (Know how to apologize; Respect each other; Forgiveness. No revenge. No pay-backs) others offered up some new tokens: LEAVE YOUR PARENTS OUT OF IT! You are starting something new, not doing a remake of an old film.

Words to live by.

The marriage veterans that Pillemer interviewed also emphasize the importance of a mutual respect and the work that goes into a fulfilling relationship. Not to mention the idea that committing to someone who is a lot like you in the first place with similar core values (not opposites attract) will take you far. Noted. (Also according to the gurus, we should be wary of anyone who your friends and family don’t like. Again, noted.)

Even in an era of constant innovation and change, what makes a long and (keyword) happy marriage is something we can learn from the legacy of our elders.

“When you hold somebody’s hands in the movies, it’s really a thrill no matter what age you are,” gushed one woman. “You know that when your husband puts his hand right next to yours you say ‘Oh G-d everything is just great.’” Here’s to hoping everything will be just great.

Sex After Baby: Tips for an Active Sex Life
Sex After Baby: Tips for an Active Sex Life
Sex After Baby: Tips for an Active Sex Life

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Photograph: Emma and Lester Pahuskin (Z”L)

Ruthie Fierberg is an editorial assistant at Parents. Though she does not have children of her own, she’s practically been raising kids since her first babysitting job at age 11. She is our resident theater aficionado and can be found constantly running around New York City to find the best new show, the most awesome dance party, or the hottest Bikram yoga studio. Follow her on on Twitter @RuthiesATrain.

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This Mama Makes a Big Difference

Friday, December 19th, 2014

A few weeks ago, I was researching young moms doing cool things for a project here at Parents. So when I reached out on Facebook to crowdsource who of my friends knew an inspiring mom, I was surprised to hear from my cousin Sally Shatzkes.

A drama therapist and mom of four, I had no idea that Sally runs a program called Witness Theater. It uses drama therapy as a way for Holocaust survivors to share their stories and connect with community members as they listen and respond to those accounts. Not gonna lie, I didn’t know much about drama therapy. It’s a way to learn solutions through action, not just reflection. So if I had a fight with my mom, two participants can act out that argument and I learn from an outside perspective what went wrong, how I was really feeling, how she was really feeling, and how a different response can change the ending. Often done in groups, there is an inherent sense of camaraderie.

As a young Jewish woman, the importance of the Holocaust is ingrained in me. I know survivors. Every time I visit a Holocaust museum, I cannot tear myself away from the video interviews of individual stories. Listening and hearing is the key to never forgetting. Yet, it’s not lost on me that in a few years the last generation of survivors will be gone.

Witness Theater first began in Israel 15 years ago (under the name Edut), and landed on the radar of Selfhelp Community Services Inc. about seven years ago. As the largest provider of services to Holocaust survivors in North America, Selfhelp wanted to bring a sister program to the United States. Three years ago, in partnership with Selfhelp Community Services, Witness Theater debuted at the Yeshiva of Flatbush in Brooklyn, New York under Sally’s tutelage. This year’s program is a collaboration of Selfhelp, UJA-Federation of New York, Yeshiva of Flatbush, SAR High School in Riverdale, New York and The Jewish Community Center in Manhattan. As a result of the expansion, Sally serves as the Drama Therapy Coordinator for the three locations.

From September to Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day) high school seniors at Flatbush meet weekly with a group of local survivors,served by Selfhelp, to learn and interpret their stories, culminating in a performance of stories on Yom HaShoah. “In Witness Theater, the stories are so emotional and difficult and deep and traumatizing. There are no words to respond,” Sally explains. Hence, the approach of drama therapy. “When there are no words, you can respond with actions, you can respond visually, you can respond with role play.” For example, when a survivor shared a heavy story, Sally realized that the key emotion in the story was fear. So she asked her students to create a human sculpture of fear—whatever that meant to them. As the structure came to life, the survivor said, “That’s how I looked and that’s the way my mother was holding me.”

“We’re not only going to tell your story, we’re going to become your story,” says Sally. That connection breeds healing for these survivors and understanding for a generation that will be responsible for telling their stories.

I believe that the key to preventing a repeat of history is to keep that history fresh, not only in the minds of Jews, but in the minds of us all. Witness Theater is a therapeutic way to preserve memory and keep us all honest.

Get more interesting news and helpful tips from Parents here!

Are you a working mom like Sally? Find some tips below:

Working Moms: Best Tips
Working Moms: Best Tips
Working Moms: Best Tips

Photograph: Courtesy Sally Shatzkes

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Should Nestle Be Allowed to Partner With Girl Scouts USA? One Mom Says No.

Friday, November 7th, 2014

The holidays are coming up, the most wonderful time of the year. But I know many people who might disagree. For them, the most wonderful time of the year is not in the winter. It’s Girl Scout Cookie season. Seriously, I know people who wait all year to stock up on their Thin Mints, to get their hands on Tagalongs, and munch on their Samoas—or Peanut Butter Patties and Caramel Delights, #wheresourcreativity. Well, Nestle realized people clamor for these flavors and so they decided to partner with Girl Scouts USA and infuse their famous Nesquik drink with Girl-Scout-cookie flavors for a limited time.

But one mom thinks that this pairing is not in the honorable spirit of the Scouts. Monica Serratos, mother of two, has started a petition on Change.org for Girl Scouts to end the partnership. In her eyes, Girl Scouts should be promoting healthy habits and a drink with 48 grams of sugar per bottle is not in line with that ideal. According to ABC News, a Nestle spokesperson said the beverage made with the adult consumer in mind. But Serratos is not convinced given the drink’s mascot is a furry brown bunny. She believes that endorsements like these contribute to the growing childhood obesity epidemic in this country.

To date, over 6,000 people have signed the petition following the beat of Serratos’ drum. The Girl Scouts have responded, so far, with silence.

Serratos also objects generally to the Girl Scouts’ use of cookie and candy sales in general, though there is no official call to end these on the petition. The Girl Scout website emphasizes that their cookies should be a snack or special treat.

I was a Girl Scout as a kid and my favorite part of year was the annual cookie sale. Ironically, I wasn’t a huge cookie person. I just loved the competition to prove how many boxes I could sell. But there was no doubt I sold to adults and families who LOVED the chocolate-y goodness of their Girl Scout sweets. I had friends who sold cookies but were not allowed ANY sugar in their diets. I had friends who were allowed to eat Twinkies after school.

Yet Serratos’ call to action raises an interesting question: Should organizations like Girl Scouts be allowed to promote sugary drinks and snacks to children, be it through cookie drives or Nestle partnerships? Should it be left to parents to decide if and how often their children indulge in these products?

Sound off in the comments below!

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Fruit Nachos
Fruit Nachos
Fruit Nachos

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How Evangeline Lilly Taught Me to Accept the Ugly Parts of Life

Tuesday, October 28th, 2014

Last week I had the privilege of interviewing Evangeline Lilly for Parents. She’s written a new children’s book series called The Squickerwonkers. (I just LOVE that name. Silly. Sinister. Boom.) Her book is creepy-looking—think a slightly gentler Tim Burton.

In preparation for the interview, I read up on Lilly’s firm belief that there is value in sharing the scary and ugly parts of life with little readers. She feels we shouldn’t shield children from stories and images that might be spooky. In fact, she thinks this sheltering has led to a huge problem in our society’s younger generations:

I look around and I see a lot of young people who are very entitled and who are very confused when life isn’t perfect—when life throws difficult things at them. They don’t know how to deal with them. They sort of feel like “Excuse me this isn’t supposed to be happening to me.” Especially if they’ve done nothing wrong. There’s this idea that somehow if I’ve lived a good life then only good things will happen to me, and I think that often comes from some of the messaging we receive as children from our stories. But that’s really not life. 

Read the full interview here.

When she puts it like that, I have to agree. Growing up, it really was hard for me to understand why bad things happen to good people. Even today, I try my best to put good out into the world and I sort of expect good to come back to me. Yet when a roadblock pops up, my first thought is often “This isn’t fair! I’m a good person! The universe should know that!” Life is not always fair or trouble-free.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying I’m going to stop being nice or that anyone should stop acting with kindness. We should behave well with the hope of good things coming back, but with the knowledge that sometimes life isn’t always fair. Struggles come along.

Moreover, it’s important to understand that people have faults and sometimes we can be the victims of others’ flawed behavior. Lilly brought up the example that sometimes the kid who is minding his own business is the one picked on in the sandbox. How does a kid come to understand that? Children (and adults, for that matter) can begin to makes sense of these situations by accepting that people are not perfect. There are ugly traits in each of us. Sometimes being picked on is just a manifestation of someone else’s flaw. It may have nothing to do with us. But it’s our job to do our best to grapple with those characteristics and accept people (and ourselves) for who we are. We need to push for the ideal, while accepting the reality. Life isn’t always fair, but just as is true with our stories, there are always lessons to learn and that is what makes life so exciting to live.

How Not to Raise a Bully
How Not to Raise a Bully
How Not to Raise a Bully

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Photograph: The Squickerwonkers cover art

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