Motherhood, Marriage and Other Wild Rides

Health, Happiness and the Pursuit of Mommyhood

Is a positive attitude really the best defense? Self esteem as an umbrella May 28, 2010

My husband and I often grumble about the seemingly unrelenting narcissism of Generation Y — those born between 1982 and 2002 also known as the millennials, echo boomers or, fittingly, Generation Me.

In doing so, however, I’m a bit of a hypocrite. While this group has been depicted by employers, professors and earnestly concerned mental-health experts as entitled whiners who have been spoiled by parents who overstoked their self-esteem, teachers who granted undeserved A’s and sports coaches who bestowed trophies on any player who showed up, I too praise my own children at every step. What’s more, I do so because I believe that we are all inherently good, talented, capable and lovable. If we can know that, be wholeheartedly assured of our lovable worth, our lives will indeed be blessed, regardless of outside circumstances. You may call it “knowing the God within” or you may call it irrefutable self worth–whatever your opinion, if you believe you are smart, capable and lovable, you will be happy. And if you are happy, you are successful, by your own definition.

The New York Times posted this incredible story about a consensus has emerged that, psychologically, Generation Y is a generation of basket cases: profoundly narcissistic and deprived of a sense of agency by their anxiously overinvolved parents — in short, a “nation of wimps,” as Hara Estroff Marano, the Psychology Today editor at large, has put it. Below are more excerpts from the story.

Generation Y has its own struggles; the unemployment rate for early 20-somethings is close to 20 percent. Yet despite the fact that the new graduates are in no position to pose conditions for employers, many are increasingly declaring themselves unwilling to work more than 40 hours a week. Graduates are turning down job offers in high numbers — essentially opting to move back home with their parents if the work offered doesn’t match their self-assessed market value.

According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, which every year surveys thousands of college graduates about their job prospects and work attitudes, fully 41 percent of job seekers this year turned down offers — the exact percentage that did so in 2007, when the economy was booming.

“Almost universally they want to find a job that’s not just a job but an expression of their identity, a form of self-fulfillment,” says Jeffrey Jensen Arnett, a Clark University psychology professor who interviewed hundreds of young people across the economic spectrum for his book, “Emerging Adulthood: The Winding Road From the Late Teens Through the Twenties.” (I struggle on this point; We need people who find their zen in jobs ranging from trash collection to insurance adjusting, certainly. However, when I was making more money than I ever have in real estate marketing, I came to a point when I simply had to drop it and pursue my dream of writing. Money isn’t everything—Joy is.)

Interestingly, Generation Y believes “perfect jobs” exist; today’s recent graduates also think they’re good enough to get them. “They see themselves as really well prepared and supremely good candidates for the job market,” says Edwin Koc, director of research for the National Association of Colleges and Employers. “Over 90 percent think they have a perfect résumé. The percentage who think they will have a job in hand three months after graduation is now 57 percent. They’re still supremely confident in themselves.”

When the author interviewed some millennials, many were jobless, others were dissatisfied with their work or graduate-school choices, yet they didn’t blame themselves if life failed to meet their expectations. They didn’t call into question their choices or competencies. It was as if all the cries of “Good job!” they heard as children armed them against the repeated blows of frustration and rejection now coming their way.

They’re extraordinarily optimistic that life will work out for them, believing bright days are ahead and eventually they will find that terrific job. With their seemingly inexhaustible well of positive self-regard, their refusal to have their horizons be defined by the limitations of our era, they just may bear witness to the precise sort of resilience that all parents, educators and pop psychologists now say they view as proof of a successful upbringing.

But, perhaps it wasn’t so much nurturing as environment. Generation Y has grown up in an era of almost unremitting ambient anxiety: school years spent in the shadow of Columbine, 9/11 and, lately, widespread parental job losses. Maybe chronic unease has simply raised this generation’s tolerance level for stress, leaving it uniquely well equipped to deal with uncertainty.

Perhaps unshakable self-esteem really does serve as a buffer to adversity–I know I want my children to have it.


Chapter Two–Done?! Not so fast May 18, 2010

Filed under: Fiction book writing — rjlacko @ 11:45 am

This post chronicles the ongoing saga of one work-from-home freelance writer determined to write her first fiction novel, while raising two rambunctious preschoolers.

It was with a great sense of accomplishment that I completed chapter two. I absolutely loved getting in the mind of Mike Hayden, and introducing his thoughts, some of his history, and his pain from the loss of his beloved Camille.

My main character, Treva, was originally supposed to be Mike’s son, but when I sat down to write the story of a father and his two sons, it felt terribly distant from where I wanted to direct the action, and from my own truth. Why would I leave a woman’s perspective out of something I held so dear? Besides, I want to write the kind of story that I would read! The same goes for my intended audience. Not a day goes by that I don’t consider fondly the readers I hope will enjoy my novel.

My husband has openly admitted that he lost much of his interest in my story when Treva took center stage so I was eager to have him read chapter two, because it is Mike’s chapter, “in a man’s words,” so to speak.

He had a number of constructive criticisms. I listened, with the understanding of the story’s complete outline–some things must happen now so that it makes sense later, and I knew which parts I needed to stick up for and which parts were still ripe for reshaping. A story’s beauty is often found in those little seedlings at the beginning which later bloom when the story is fully revealed.

I’m glad I shared it with him, and he had some helpful feedback which I am implementing today. It is extremely valuable (and of utmost importance) to have your work reviewed by a number of experienced writers and editors–and readers. But one’s own spouse can be a tough audience. Or perhaps it’s the criticism that is difficult to receive. Either way, I don’t want my back patted gratuitously, but I do want him to like it.

I’m discovering also that even the best-laid plans leave room for improvement. Like anyone elbows-deep in a story, I think about my characters throughout the day, while in traffic, or while bathing the kids or running errands. As a result, I’m writing additional scenes, and changing the circumstances of my players to increase drama. Next week, I will reorganize all my chapters to include these new revelations, and speed up the action. I know I need to leave a cushion for more inspiration–who knows what new ideas will spring forward as I continue to write?

I’ve created a new blog dedicated to my journey of writing my fiction novel! You can find it at

Want to read more about my process of writing Chapter Two?

Fiction Writing Chapter Two: Character Name Crisis!

Fiction Novel Writing, Chapter Two Begins!


Timing is everything–getting your preschooler to eat veggies May 16, 2010

It’s been proven that consuming sugar begets the desire for more sugar. Apparently, the same is true for eating veggies!.

Barbara J. Rolls, Helen A. Guthrie Chair of Nutritional Sciences reports, “We have shown that you can use portion size strategically to encourage children and adults to eat more of the foods that are high in nutrients but low in calories.”

Hmm, maybe there should be a plate of raw veggies placed on restaurant tables, instead of that ubiquitous bread basket–aka: tons of high-carb calories.

Barbara Rolls and her Penn State colleaguess served lunch to 51 children at a daycare center on four occasions and measured their vegetable intake. Children were provided with no carrots or  1 ounce, 2 ounces, or 3 ounces of carrots as the first course of their lunch.

The children had 10 minutes to eat the carrots, after which researchers served them pasta, broccoli, unsweetened applesauce and low-fat milk.

They found that when preschool children received no first course of carrots, they consumed nearly 1 ounce of broccoli from the main course.

When the children received 1 ounce of carrots at the start of the meal, their broccoli intake rose by nearly 50 percent compared to having no carrots as a first course. But when the first course was increased to 2 ounces of carrots, average broccoli consumption nearly tripled to about 63 grams — or a third of the recommended vegetable intake for preschool children.

The extra carrots eaten at the start of lunch did not reduce the amount of broccoli eaten in the main course, but added to the total amount of vegetables consumed. The team’s findings appear in the current issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

“We gave the children carrots first without other competing foods,” explained Rolls. “When they are hungry at the start of the meal, it presents us with an opportunity to get them to eat more vegetables.”

According to Maureen Spill, graduate student in nutrition and study co-author, “The great thing about this study is the very clear and easy message for parents and care-givers that while you are preparing dinner, put some vegetables out for your children to snack on while they’re hungry.”

Spill also add, “Parents also need to set an example by eating vegetables while children are young and impressionable.”


Today, Dr. Oz presents his Top 7 Lists that every mom needs! May 13, 2010

On today’s episode of  The Dr. Oz Show (5/13/2010), Dr. Oz will be counting down important, easy-to-remember health information moms need to know.  From alternative treatments to energy boosters to the worst meals in America, Dr. Oz gives his seven incredible lists:

  • 7 Red Flags Your Body is Aging Too Fast
    1. Ring Finger Length – If your ring finger is longer than your index finger, it could be a red flag for women that they are more likely to develop osteoarthritis.
    2. Bra Size – Women who are a size D or larger by age 20 are one and a half times more likely than someone with smaller breasts to develop diabetes.
    3. Back of Your Knees Hurt When Coughing/Sneezing – If the back of your knees hurt during coughing or sneezing, it could indicate that you have deep vein thrombosis.
    4. Jean Size – Adults who have larger abdomens in their 40’s are up to 3 and a half times more likely to develop dementia in their 70’s.
    5. Balance – Poor balance can be a sign of cerebellum deterioration and instability (falling is a common cause of death for the elderly).
    6. Dry Mouth – Dry mouth causes gum and tooth decay which puts you at risk for heart disease.
    7. Crease on Earlobe – A linear earlobe crease is a sign of a potential heart attack.  A loss of elastic fibers causes crease and hardening of arteries.
  • 6 Worst Meals in America
    1. Breakfast Sandwich (Eggs, sausage and cheese, wrapped in a giant pancake. Plus butter, syrup, ketchup) – 973 mg of cholesterol
    2. Chicken Burrito and Chips – Nearly 1,700 Calories.
    3. Fish Encrusted in Parmesan Cheese with Side of Spicy Rice – 3,300 mg of sodium.
    4. Pepperoni and Meatball Pizza – Full pizza approximately 953 grams of fat.
    5. Pasta with Breaded Shrimp – 196 Grams of Carbs.
    6. Ice Cream with Mix-Ins (candy, brownie, sprinkles, sauce) – 1,344 Grams of Sugar.
  • 5 Cures From Around The World
    1. Bitter Melon (Japan) – Used for regulating blood sugar in diabetics.
    2. Noni (Polynesia) – Used to treat respiratory conditions as it lowers inflammation.
    3. Cordyceps (Tibet, China) – Shown to fight cancer by shrinking tumor sizes (particularly with lung or skin cancers).
    4. Elderberry (Austria) – Powerful immune booster for cold and flu.
    5. Durian (Malaysia) – Used as a fever reducer.
  • 4 Libido Booster Super Foods
    1. Ginger
    2. Halibut
    3. Pumpkin Seeds
    4. Asparagus
  • 3 Things To Give You More Energy
    1. Use an astringent
    2. Try one minute of exercise
    3. Increase Magnesium Intake
  • 2 Alternative Treatments
    1. Equine Assisted Therapy – Used to treat anxiety, depression, and even Autism.
    2. Honeybee Therapy – Patients purposely get stung because venom has enzymes that can help reduce pain, especially for arthritis.
  • 1 Supplement Dr. Oz Wants You To Take
    1. Vitamin D – Recommended daily does is 1,000 mg/day.

Life would be wonderful…if it weren’t for the imaginary hardships May 10, 2010

The following is a version of my column which appears in San Clemente Presbyterian’s NEWSBREAK magazine. Editors are welcome to use it as a FREE REPRINT.

Sometimes I don’t need a mirror to see my own reflection. My five-year-old son Joseph is a perfectly capable alternative.

Lately, when my answer to one of his requests is “no” (although I am often guilty of indulging my children), Joseph has begun whining, “You NEVER let me _____!” (Fill in blank with any number of things we DO let him do, but just not that moment.)

I’ve talked with him about it, and I believe he now understands that “not now” does not mean “never,” but in truth, he sees a bigger problem. Joseph perceives himself a victim; what he desires is withheld from him and therefore he is in pain.  I would like to guide him to realize that he’s not suffering imaginary hardships—in fact, his life is pretty sweet!

But is this God’s view of us? Is our Father watching over His children whining about our limitations, descrying ourselves as victims of wrongdoing or lacking in His abundance?

Why do we always feel like we’re getting the short end of the stick?

In many ways, we impose our own imaginary hardships on ourselves. We think we can’t do something because we don’t have the resources, talent, courage, opportunity… gifts God happens to have in abundance.

We must ask ourselves: What am I not letting myself do?

A friend of mine who is the mother of three advised me to practice using positive language with Joseph instead of dead-ending his hopes with the word no. “It makes a world of difference,” she assured me.

True enough. Sometimes the answer to my prayer is “Not now” or “It won’t happen how you imagine it.” But God never says “Never.” It will require repeated assurance to help my child accept that mom and dad are lovingly parenting with his best interests in mind–but how many of us trust our Lord to look out for ours?

We can’t use God’s gifts boldly until we’ve received them. We haven’t received them if we perceive ourselves lacking. My husband and I are responsible for raising a confident child who counts at least one blessing each day, encouraging gratitude for all he–we–have been given. If we know how to give good gifts to our children, how much more will our Father in heaven give good gifts if we ask him! (Matthew 7:11, Luke 11:13)

I’m going to demonstrate letting go of expectations, in an effort to better appreciate when good gifts appear. Blessings don’t always look like we think they should—until we learn to recognize them.

Other NewsBreak Columns:

Closing The Gap Of Longing For Closeness

The Gifts Of Loaves And Fishes

Moving From Worry To Wonder

NewsBreak Column: Losing The Weight Of The Past


Chapter Two: A New voice and some dashed confidence May 7, 2010

This post chronicles the ongoing saga of one work-from-home freelance writer determined to write her first fiction novel, while raising two rambunctious preschoolers.

My second chapter is such a treat to write because I am speaking in Mike Hayden’s mind–the chapter is his narrative.

I guess that’s kind of odd: what do I know about being a man in his mid-50’s? But, I am enjoying it. And as luck would have it, I have access to a handful of experienced “car guys” in their 50s who I’ve earmarked for future interviews.

When I completed my outline for the book I thought I was so prepared–I have notes on what happens in every chapter, so when I sat down to write the actual story, I (foolishly) thought it would “write itself.”

What I quickly discovered is that if my notes suggest Treva went to get groceries, that only opens the larger can of literary worms: was it a fast trip? do the details of what she bought matter? If I mention a particular food item, why, what relevance does it have? Does she run into someone at the grocery store, who? why? How do her food choices indicate her lifestyle as a single person–does she eat well or does she prefer snacky/microwavable stuff. Sheesh! There’s no hiding from detail, and it would be inexcusable to abandon an opportunity to delve deeper into what makes my character tick.

In Chapter 2, Mike walks into his competitor’s building to complete a weekly transaction. That should be it, right? As I had him enter the building (seeing the action from his perspective in my mind’s eye)  it occurred to me all the thoughts and emotions a person has about the stuff owned by someone we envy, and I had to give his impressions, even though he’s been going there for years. This is unexpected material I never made any notes about! I’m pondering and “watching” the action play out in my imagination as much as I am typing it out; actually more imagining goes on than writing, alas.

I’ll warn you now, Mike Hayden’s no saint. But he is a good and loving man with a lot of talents who is doing his best to make choices that benefit the people he loves, although he makes some mistakes along the way.

Learn more about my novel writing process!:


Send some love to a Senior Mom through! May 6, 2010

This Mother’s Day, many lucky moms like me will be eating breakfast in bed, receiving hugs and homemade cards, or perhaps just taking a day of rest from the every duties of managing a household full of busy kids.

Meals on Wheels Association of America (MOWAA)will be working very hard this weekend to ensure a happier holiday for senior moms and grandmothers who will be alone and facing the threat of hunger.

“Right now 1 in 9 seniors in our very own country face the real threat of hunger. These seniors are our mothers and grandmothers and aunts. Many mothers who worked so selflessly to raise their children are now elderly and alone without enough food to eat,” said MOWAA President and CEO Enid Borden. “I hope everyone will join us in our Meals for Moms campaign so that the hidden, hungry, and homebound senior moms are not forgotten this Mother’s Day.”

Did you know that it costs only $7.00 to feed a hungry mom or grandmother? In order to bring a little sunshine to these ladies—and to help make giving a donation easier—MOWAA launched the easy-to-use website which allows users to make secure donations and also  send a virtual flower bouquet to a special mom for this Mother’s Day, or even a homebound senior.

If you have just one minute, please visit the site and create a quick e-card for one of the housebound moms. The volunteers will print your message into a card and include it with a much-needed meal this weekend.

Don’t know what to write? Picture yourself in your senior years: Your children have grown, they may have children of their own, and for whatever reason, you find yourself alone and homebound. A message of love would mean so much, especially when it comes with a delicious meal delivered by a volunteer who has dedicated his or her time and compassion.

Donations raised from this campaign will go into MOWAA’s Meals for Moms Fund to help Meals On Wheels programs across the country feed homebound moms.

To locate a Meals On Wheels program near you, click here.

Good news! On June 7, 2010, Meals for Moms, the Meals On Wheels Association of America’s (MOWAA) reported that the  first annual Mother’s Day Campaign raised over $40,000 for MOWAA’s Mother’s Day Fund and sent over 7,000 messages of hope to hungry and homebound mothers around the country!

The Mother’s Day Fund will be distributed as grants to Meals On Wheels programs around the country to help feed their hungry moms. Our goal is to grow the Mother’s Day Fund to a substantial size that will ultimately allow us to distribute annual grants to Meals On Wheels programs around the country to help feed their hungry moms.