Friday, January 30, 2009

Podcast: Mojo Mom and Pundit Mom

What a week! The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act was the first major legislation signed by President Obama. My friend Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner was in the Oval Office representing during the signing. Way to go! This law is a major victory, even though it's just one step on the road to truly ensuring equal pay for equal work.

My guest Joanne Bamberger, author of the fantastic blog Pundit Mom, and I talked a lot about these issues in today's new Mojo Mom Podcast:

Amy and Sheryl are still empathizing with today's kids and their challenges with technology, as they grow up in a world where they have to "look good" online as well as real life. A recent Facebook experiment got Amy and Sheryl thinking about these issues.

Then one of our favorite bloggers stops by, Joanne Bamberger, aka Pundit Mom. Amy and Joanne have a lot to talk about with President Obama's first week in office, including his first major act, signing the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act into law.

By the way, we hope you'll listen to the podcast to find out how you can enter our next iPod Nano giveaway, to happen February 1 and at least once more before the new edition of Mojo Mom comes out on April 7. Enter now and you'll be eligible for all our upcoming giveaways.

Listen to the podcast now:

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Thursday, January 29, 2009

So many brain/decision books

Here's a trendlet I have noticed lately--brain books about how we make decisions.

It reads like a cultural prescription for a cure to our country's GW Bush ("The Decider") hangover.

How We Decide by Jonah Lerher caught my eye because it has three different flavors of ice cream cones on the cover, and I have found that is a deeply ingrained example of "choice"--it just keeps coming up as an example. (Which also explains to me why the concept of "choice" is a weak label for really important things such as reproductive rights; but that's a full post for another day).

People who bought How We Decide could also choose from Blunder: Why Smart People Make Bad Decisions, Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions, The Drunkard's Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives, Sway: The Irrestistible Pull of Irrational Behavior, and Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness.

Are we a people in search of certainty, or what? And is this the new self-help?

In this genre (tangentially related, at least) the book I am most likely to actually read is Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers: The Story of Success, which I have heard is entertaining, if anecdotal.

Hmmm, I've got that Ph. D. in Neuroscience. How can I spin Mojo Mom as a brain-based decision-making book...? There is a chapter on "Reclaiming Your Mind Space."

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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Is elder care more difficult than child care?

I am at an interesting place on my life path right now. My daughter is nine, and I feel that I am standing on a little hill that allows me to see all the way back to the day she was born, while also being able to look ahead to the day she grows up and leaves home.

My parents are in their later sixties and two of my grandparents are still living, in their nineties.

When elder care issues arise, they can come on quickly, forcefully, and unexpectedly. I have heard elder care described as "the joker in the middle-class deck of cards." I urge you to talk about elder care planning with your own parents, to lessen the impact of a crisis.

We urgently need to grapple with these issues as a society. I truly feel that as the Baby Boomers age, we'll either find a way to deal with these issues in a sustainable way, or else it has the potential to crush us economically, emotionally, and spiritually.

Here are some factors that make elder care more challenging in many ways than child care.

It can turn the child-parent relationship on its head, which feels bad.

When you are a parent raising children, it's natural to be the one in charge. When you become an adult child trying to help your parents, that dynamic can get reversed to some extent, whether you want it to or not, which feels really bad. And the generational layers really get stacked up. At age 40 you may be a mother and a daughter. At age 65 you may be a grandmother....and still also a daughter with primary caregiving responsibilities.

It's expensive.

Long-term care in the Raleigh area costs an average of $180 a day, or $65,700 a year. That's like having multiple kids in college at once (and by the way, this need might arrive just as your kids are going to college).

It can arise as a crisis.

Earlier this month I listened to a panel of adult children talk about caregiving, and they all had stories that went something like this. "My mother was living on her own, and that worked well for a while, and then one day...." Any number of crises arose and the children had to put their lives on hold to figure out what came next. I am a big proponent of planning head for these situations, but the truth is that no matter what, if your parent has a crisis, it will feel like a crisis to you, too. But the magnitude of the crisis can be lessened by having a care plan in place ahead of time--for instance, getting elders settled in a retirement community to make friends while they are healthy, and for you to have a wide and deep support network of your own.

When a crisis occurs, whether it's health related, job loss, financial meltdown, or divorce, your parents may suddenly need a lot of care, time and energy. I have come around to the point of view that women should try their best to develop a career amidst caregiving concerns, whether it's children or parents, because these issues never really go away. If you are waiting for a perfectly calm time in your life to arise before you go back to work, that time may never come.

It could last longer than raising kids.

Your kids are likely to be out of the house in about twenty years. Your parents' elder years could stretch for 30 or 40 years. That's why their life situation absolutely needs to become sustainable. Unfortunately, our current ideas about retirement don't really account for thirty years of post-employment living. So people will need to work longer and save more. Not an easy thing in this current financial crisis when retirement savings have been slashed.

It's not optional.

Neither is raising kids, in a global sense. But everyone has parents, whether they see themselves as caregivers or not. In the long run, the fact that caregiving is not optional is potentially a good thing, because it means that we'll all have to deal with family caregiving, which means it might finally get some public policy attention. The bad news: the work of caregiving still falls mainly on the women in the family.

It brings up old family issues again.

Finally, it's one of those ironic life lessons to see that old issues you thought you had come to terms with suddenly make a comeback. For me it's been my parents' divorce. They've been divorced for 25 years and I made peace with that long ago. But now that they are reaching retirement, both single again and newly trying to co-exist in the greater Triangle area, I feel like "It's baaaaaaack!" The logistical and financial issues of divorce have come to light again. For one thing, they know they're not both coming to live with me (which means that pratically speaking, neither of them is coming to live with me). A married couple can enter retirement living together for much less than two singles. So for my parents, if they needed skilled care and didn't have long-term care insurance, it could cost a total of more than $130,000 a year. Also, divorced women who were "displaced homemakers" may find that their Social Security payments are a lot less than their ex-husbands'. Women are likely to live longer yet often have less Social Security and pension benefits.

So thankfully, each of them now has them long-term care insurance. When that was accomplished recently, that I immediately felt a weight lifted slightly off my shoulders. (Did I mention that I am an only child? The buck stops here in all sorts of ways.)

I wish I could wrap up with an uplifting life lesson, but the truth is that I really have not come to terms with all of this yet. I have been pretty immune to feeling Mommy Guilt, but I feel crushing daughter guilt at times. Of course I love my parents and I am really fortunate to have them living nearby--that's a good thing. But the crises wear me down, they can't be timed or planned. The crises piled on in the last six months. Last fall my Dad needed me, my Mom needed me, I was finishing my book, and I was recovering from my unplanned appendectomy. And yes, my husband and child needed me, too, even as they took really good care of me.

I am sad that the easy time is over, and I didn't even recognize the easy time when it was happening. (It all depends on the definition of easy, too.) This new phase of my life feels like it has many off-ramps that lead to depression. I can see how people let themselves go in middle age, losing their mojo once again, preferring to be distracted and numb, and I am determined not to let that happen. I want to enjoy my life and the time my family has together, as much as possible.

This is probably the most downbeat blog post I've ever written, but I wanted to be honest with you and not sugar-coat it. I am in the midst of the maelstrom and haven't found my firm footing yet. Your thoughtful replies and perspectives are most welcome....

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Friday, January 23, 2009

Mojo Mom and Kidpower North Carolina

Mojo Mom author Amy Tiemann brings Kidpower self-defense training to North Carolina

Last spring I began to ask myself "What's next?" after Mojo Mom. I was hoping to get a book deal for a revised edition, which has worked out miraculously well so far, but I still wanted to peek over the horizon to start something new.

The answer was that I still hope there will be a ton of writing in my life, and much more to do as "Mojo Mom," but I also felt a calling to bring child safety and self-defense training to my community. Before I was Mojo Mom, I started an endeavor I called Spark Seminars, in which I taught self-defense strategies to parents, which they would then pass along to their kids. The kernel I started with was knowing that if parents could become their children's most powerful safety advocates, a lifelong discussion and culture of safety awareness would develop within families. I wrote my own curriculum, based on my years working with teenagers teaching psychology, and studying about influence, coercion, and other principals of social psychology. I knew that all too often, the weapon used by abusers to get us to let our guard down was our own "niceness," and that kids needed to develop awareness and boundary-setting skills, as well as physical self-defense skills. Parents needed to learn how to identify situations that needed extra scrutiny, as well as how to think about issues such as how to choose a babysitter or school for their children.

I really enjoyed teaching these parent seminars, but back in 2002, the time was not right in my life for this project. I thought I was creating a teaching job, but it came along a marketing and outreach job that I wasn't prepared to do. So I put that on hold and wrote the original Mojo Mom.

But like all true callings, the cause of child safety and abuse prevention came back into my life. I decided that instead of working alone, it was time to team up with Kidpower, an internationally-respected safety non-profit I knew of from my time living in California. Kidpower has an excellent Everyday Safety kids' curriculum as well as physical self-defense training and adult education.

Kidpower was started by a Mom in 1989, and since then the training has reached over a million people worldwide. Kidpower is both solid and constantly innovating, revising their training every year to make it even better. That's the kind of organization I was eager to team up with!

So for the past two years, I've been working in trips to California to do Kidpower instructor training. I've taught practice classes, and recruited a co-teacher here at home. I spent another week at training this month, and now we are really ready to launch Kidpower North Carolina.

The great thing about Kidpower is that we're teaching life skills, giving kids the tools and confidence they need to move safely in the world. Our training is always positive, success-based, and age-appropriate. To me, Kidpower is the antidote to "helicopter parenting." Most parents weren't taught safety skills themselves, much less how to teach these skills to their kids. So no wonder we don't always know how to let our kids go when the time comes. That's a gap in parent education that I want to fill with meaningful information. (Similar to what I did with Mojo Mom, which I thought of as writing the "missing manual to motherhood," so there's a theme developing that connects these projects!)

We will be offering a winter series of public Kidpower workshops over the next month. Starting January 31 and running through March, on Saturday afternoons we'll be offering a Parent-Child Workshop for kids grade 1-3, then grades 4-6, then a Teenpower class, and finally in March, a Parent Education night. The Parent Education seminar addresses issues that are relevant to parenting kids of all ages. I will be personally teaching each of these workshops.

So if you are in the Raleigh-Durham area, I'd love to have you join us for a training! Check out our schedule, and you can reach me through if you need more information.

You can also see photos I posted from this month's Kidpower instructor training at our brand-new Kidpower North Carolina Facebook page.

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Thursday, January 22, 2009

Mojo Mom Podcast--it's a New Year!

Sheryl and I got together to create our first Mojo Mom Podcast episode of 2009. We reflected on Inauguration Day, then talked about developments related to the upcoming release of Mojo Mom and our work within our Mojo Advisory Circle.

I really enjoyed this conversation, and it revealed the breadth and depth of what the connections between the ten women of our Mojo Advisory Circle have meant to us. This spring, I'll be writing a new Mojo Mom Party Kit session as a guide to help you form your own Mojo Circle, which functions as a collaborative roundtable board of directors for each person in the group.

Listen in to find out how this group has enhanced our lives.

Listen to the podcast now:

In related news, Mojo Advisory Circle members Kella Hatcher and Maryanne Perrin, the dynamic duo who run Balancing Professionals, are leading a Career On-Ramping Workshop at Meredith College on February 18th. I highly recommend their training. Visit the Balancing Professionals website for event details.

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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Yes We Did!

It's an amazing day to be an American.  Truly, the beginning of a new era.  In celebration of President Obama's inauguration, I wanted to repost the Yes We Can video.  During the election, the electrifying spread of this video was an early sign of good things to come!

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Monday, January 19, 2009

Revolutionary Road and Mojo Mom

When I saw the movie previews for Revolutionary Road, I thought "why would anyone want to see that?" It just looked so depressing, and I didn't really see the point of it. But then I heard that the source novel was fiercely loved by a cadre of die-hard fans, so I thought I'd better read it.

I also came across of the most impassioned and articulate blog pieces I've ever encountered about why the movie did not live up to the novel, which really got me interested. So, to Michael Tully, I thought you'd like to hear that you got me hooked on your Favorite Book Ever.

You can read my review of Revolutionary Road (the book), and I'll add a little more here. This was the first time I've ever linked to my own book inside an review (and I've written more than 80 reviews). I hesitated to do so because it looks self-promotional, but Revolutionary Road makes the case for Mojo Mom in a big way. The 1950's were stifling for men and women, but men had more ways out. In the novel, Frank Wheeler can start to find some satisfaction in the job he once mocked. This may be seen as a cop-out but I thought it was a legitimate path. Unfortunately, his wish to abandon their heady plan to move their family to Paris crushes his wife April's only chance to escape her current life. She was suffocating as a suburban housewife and mother of two.

The novel is complicated, just like life. Frank is given a motivation that can be seen as noble as well as self-serving. There is a lot in the novel about what it means to be a man, and ultimately there is a ton of ego involved. When April becomes pregnant with their third child, Frank doesn't want another baby either, but he can't stand the emasculating idea that she would not proudly accept the pregnancy.

The novel stands out as an honest portrayal of middle-class American family life in the 1950's, before The Feminine Mystique, the technological revolution, the social activism of the 1960's, and Roe v. Wade. The book is ultimately about disappointment, that gap between their youthful expectations and the reality for the Wheelers, where they feel middle-aged and painted into a corner by 30. They couldn't know that they were on the precipice of a major social revolution--one that had its own problems, but was much more interesting than their post-War suburban prison. The novel was written in 1961, which speaks to author Richard Yates' prescient thoughts about American life. The things he wanted to change ultimately did change a lot in the 1960's.

(Spoiler alert for the movie review to follow--reveals an aspect of the story's ending.)

I highly recommend the novel. The movie version doesn't stand as well on its own because it is trying to portray a story that is so much on the interior, it's hard to show cinematically. Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio give fine performances (especially Winslet). The major problem with their pairing is that they make such a fantastic couple that it's hard to believe that April and Frank really don't love each other. What doomed this young husband and wife--was it immaturity, depression, egocentrism, or a mistake in judgment from day one? I'm still working it out. As a reader who admired the novel, I knew how it had to end, but as an eternally-romantic moviegoer I was sad to see that Leo and Kate didn't get a happily ever after.

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Two MLK quotes

Today's Quote-a-Day entry comes from Dr. Martin Luther King.

And I wanted to post another quote from Dr. King, which raises an important issue that we can hope that our new President Barack Obama will address:

Philanthropy is commendable, but it must not cause the philanthropist to overlook the circumstances of economic injustice which make philanthropy necessary.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

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Friday, January 16, 2009

While I was away...

I was a business travelin' Mojo Mom for the last week. I'll tell you more about why I was in California in a separate post, but first I wanted to talk about the experience of being away.

When my daughter was younger and I almost never had any time away from home, I relished a short trip once in a while. But now I travel more, and while it's true that I go away for important and enjoyable events, the glow has worn off business travel at this point. I had to get up at 4:30 am to head to the airport and Michael woke up, too. I said "I really don't feel like going right now," and he said "Now you know how I feel." He has traveled extensively over the years--we celebrated last year when his schedule calmed down and he lost his Platinum Premiere status on United. But to be honest, I hardly ever looked at the travel from his point of view. I was too busy keeping the balls in the air at home.

He did a fantastic job this week as primary parent while I was away. I really missed my family. It felt like I was stepping into an alternate universe to be so far away for that long. And when I came back, I found out that something had changed while I was away: my daughter now wants to put herself to bed without reading stories together. I knew this day would come but I didn't know it would happen so abruptly. So after reading out loud so many books, Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, Little House on the Prairie, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Books of Ember, and all the rest, here we are, stopped right in the middle of Charlotte's Web, and my independent girl says "I'm too old for that."

She has been reading on her own for a long time now but I enjoyed our special times reading together in the evening. This is a major Mom nostalgia milestone for me as she grows up. I won't push the issue but I am keeping the door open. I wonder if she'll change her mind....stay tuned.

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Thursday, January 15, 2009

Obamicon yourself!

I've been away for a week and I have so much to catch up on...

...but right now I am having way too much fun with the website.

What would you look like on the iconic Shepard Fairey Obama poster, and what would your tag line say?

You gotta try it!

Monday, January 12, 2009


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Thursday, January 08, 2009

Check out the new Mojo Mom Quote-a-Day Widget!

I am very happy to announce that we've revamped and updated for 2009, to reflect the upcoming release of the new edition of Mojo Mom: Nurturing Your Self While Raising a Family from Gotham Books on April 7th.

I wanted to create something new just for the web site, so I designed my very first widget! The Mojo Mom Quote-a-Day Widget will provide a tidbit of inspiration each day as we count down to my book release. So drumroll, please, here it is!

We've even made it easy to embed as a post on your own blog. I know I love having something quick and fun to share with you, and I hope you will, too.

I came up with the widget concept and personally selected the quotes from my collection of favorites. I hope you'll enjoy a moment of reflection by checking it out each day. I can promise you that some of my blog readers are even quoted in the widget itself!

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Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Opportunity to move Fair Pay NOW

Hi Mojo Mom readers: I am having a very busy day, and this important message came in from MomsRising, so I am going to repost it here--


How cool would it be for Fair Pay to be one of the first things that that President-Elect Obama signs into law? It could actually happen!

We just heard that the House is set to vote on the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and the Paycheck Fairness Act this week, and the Senate could vote as early as next week! Turns out that while the economic security package is tied up in negotiations, there is a rare window of unscheduled open time to pass long-needed bills. Congress is thinking action…and thanks to the incredible advocacy of MomsRising members and our aligned partners over the past year, Congress is thinking fair pay!

Tell Congress to not to miss this open window to pass Fair Pay!

After you send your letter, forward this email to your friends so they can contact Congress too! Especially during these tough economic times, women need equal pay for equal work to ensure self-sufficiency and dignity.

Background about this issue: The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and the Paycheck Fairness Act are important steps to making sure that women are paid what they are worth. These pieces of legislation would make it easier for women to recover lost wages from bosses who discriminate and by requiring the federal government to be more proactive in preventing and battling wage discrimination.

The Paycheck Fairness Act would improve protections for workers under the Equal Pay Act of 1963 by allowing individuals to better fight pay discrimination, strengthening penalties for violation, compelling employers to explain wage gaps, and developing training for women and girls about salary negotiation.

Though they had strong support in the House, both of these bills were held up in the Senate. But the tide is turning and Fair Pay is a priority in this economic crisis. Together, we can pass these bills that will provide women the tools they need to gain equal pay for equal work.

Congress is meeting this week to vote on this bill, and the Senate could take it up as early as next week. And it's not a moment too soon--believe it or not, a recent study found that pay discrimination costs the average women $434,000 over a forty year period of time.1 Now, more than ever, women and families need the economic security brought by Fair Pay for equal work.

Tell Congress to pass Fair Pay today!

Thank you for all you've done to fight for Fair Pay -- we're in the home stretch now.

--Katie, Kristin, Joan, and the Team

P.S. If you haven't seen the video of Batgirl fighting for fair pay yet, be sure to check it out. [Note from Amy: Yes, we have been fighting this battle since the 1960's!]

P.P.S. Innovative win-win solutions to work and family issues are more accessible than most of us realize. This weekend The New York Times highlighted one such innovative opportunity: babies at work!

For more information: Lifetime Losses: The Career Wage Gap

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Monday, January 05, 2009

My mind is buzzing this New Year

Happy New Year everyone! As a Mom, I had a great holiday break. Today is our first day of school so it feels like the first normal day of the New Year. Fortunately, I like my work, so "normal" is a good thing.

We have big plans a-brewing at At the end of this week we'll start counting down the days to the April 7 release of the new edition of Mojo Mom. Stay tuned for more details coming soon....

As far as New Year's Resolutions go, I want to recommend a book we should all read or re-read: The Lifelong Activist by Hillary Rettig. Being a Mom is a lot like being an artist or activist, and Rettig helps us creative types avoid burnout and act effectively. Activists run into many of the self-sacrifice issue that really affect Moms, so I could insert the word "Mom" into much of Rettig's advice, and it made perfect sense. Highly recommended.

My mind is buzzing today, so I'll go off on one more tangent: Heba Salama, a successful contestant from The Biggest Loser, lives in my area and she was featured in today's Raleigh News & Observer, rocking some hot jeans. She is now size 10 and weighs a healthy 150 pounds. She started at 294 pounds in early 2008 and she and her husband wanted to get healthy before starting a family. I mention that because not only does she look great, and so ebullient, but how many of us are sitting here feeling "not skinny enough" at 150 pounds, instead of appreciating what we have? My resolution is to be kind to my body this year, to treat it well. I try to exercise each day, but if I get out of my routine, the most important thing is to do what I can, little by little, not worrying that I have failed if I miss a day.

How can you be kinder to yourself in 2009?

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