Books That Celebrate Diversity

I’m the mom of two very different-looking children. My 5-year-old daughter has pale, porcelain skin, big blue eyes and straight blonde hair. My 1-year-old son is the color of espresso and boasts a Teeny Weeny Afro of tight, perfect ringlets.

As a transracial family in a predominantly white community, my children attract their fair share of questions and comments. I take very seriously the importance of educating and empowering my kids about their differences, helping them to recognize and celebrate what makes them unique and giving them the tools to deal with these situations as they grow. One of my favorite ways to create an open dialogue as we explore together is by reading children’s books that focus on diversity. Here are some of our favorites (and please visit my blog for reviews of more children’s titles that celebrate multiculturalism and adoption!):

1. All the Colors of the Earth by Sheila Hamanaka: This beautiful book has simple text and rich illustrations that celebrate children from all backgrounds and ethnicities, pointing out that love comes in many colors and forms.

Continue reading

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Minimum Self-Care Requirements – An Excerpt from The Life Organizer

Life OrganizerBetween surviving and leading a fully humming creative life lies the middle ground of determining your minimum requirements for self-care, a duded-up way of saying what you absolutely must have to stay in touch with your center.

Basic needs, or minimum requirements, are different for each woman, although getting enough sleep, moving our bodies, eating fresh food, being touched, and connecting to something larger than ourselves show up pretty consistently on women’s lists — but again, not on everybody’s.

It can be easy to discount the importance of these basics, because getting enough alone time or napping when you are tired just doesn’t sound as sexy as realizing some fabulous dream. Yet without these basics, the dreams don’t come true, or you can’t sustain them when they do, or, most tragically, it turns out that you are following not your dreams but rather a script about what you should do. Continue reading

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Excerpts from The Zen of Midlife Mothering – Valerie Gillies

Valerie's essayRipe

by Valerie Gillies

Here I am, sitting at the computer trying to write something coherent, while inches away my thirteen year old is melting down at the prospect of the first day of school tomorrow…

I am breathing. Deeply. Slowly. Trying to plant myself in a solid place as the door slams and the tornado comes and goes from my room. I refuse to be swept away…

Outdoors, it is a stunning evening. There are actual, real life pumpkins in my otherwise barren vegetable garden. While I rued the loss of my tomatoes and chard to deer, the vines crept around, secretly fruiting under enormous leaves. Those big, beautiful pumpkins are now turning orange…

My life is ripe. I have gone enough distance to know that the unpleasant noise and distraction of this evening is merely that. And if I can wait it out for a very short while, the chaos will give birth to opportunity…

Autumn is the season when I re-set my life. To my children, as with my earlier self, transitions are accompanied by more fear and anxiety than hope and anticipation. Without my noticing exactly when, the scales have tipped in the opposite direction. I now find times of change to be the easiest in which to do things differently—sort out, discard, clean up, and begin…


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The Great Craigslist Hunt


The hub-sand and I were proud of ourselves for not falling for what we viewed as the toddler-bed fiasco: the idea that when your baby outgrows his crib, you must buy him a cute, junior-size bed. A year or so later, your child’s head begins to press against the edge of that little rocket ship, Dora Explorer cupcake, or Thomas engine, a sign that it’s time to purchase a standard twin-size bed. Continue reading

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Perspectives in (Being) Happy

Pharrell-Williams-Happy-2013-1200x1200My new favorite song is Pharrell Williams “Happy.”  I always feel so empowered and well, pretty darn happy when I hear it.  I especially love the videos that he posted on his website – there is usually one person placed in a public location, like Union Station, and then, the song starts.

Soon, a person begins to move with the beat, slowly at first, sort of shy about it since they are in a public place then pretty soon the music overtakes them and they dance, clap their hands and kick their feet appearing to not give a damn what anyone thinks and completely oblivious to those around them. 

I love this and feel like I am starting to embrace this attitude now the older I get. Continue reading

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Spring Cleaning

spring cleaning - Lori StrobelIt’s Spring! Alleluia!

I know it’s here because I have heard the peepers at night proclaiming their joy from being stuck in the frozen tundra.

The stillness has suddenly been broken by birds singing in the early morning. There have also been sightings of color to break the barren landscape with the arrival of a crocus or daffodil.

Finally, the smell of spring whiffs past my nose in the form of that indistinguishable first spring rain smell, which is a heady, glorious scent. It is the time for new beginnings. Now is the time to spring ahead with new opportunities as the season changes, too. Continue reading

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GEMS for Working Moms

Is your life an endless cycle, revolving around work and taking care of the kids? If so, you’re not alone. In a recent study by the Families and Work Institute, ½ of American women say they don’t have enough time to spend on themselves and for the activities they enjoy. We all know that saying ‘yes’ to more responsibility can make us feel safer with the boss and help us avoid conflict in the family. But too often ‘yes’ is our default mode with just about everything. Continue reading

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New Celebrity Dads – Over 50 (A Commentary)

12th child - Christopher - born to 73-year-old Charlie Chaplin (considered the oldest celebrity dad)

12th child – Christopher – born to 73-year-old Charlie Chaplin (considered the oldest celebrity dad)

I recently read an article about older celebrity fathers:!slide=2483379

The subject seems to repel and attract people with equal measure. As a new older dad, here are my thoughts about this:

On one hand, I chuckle quietly and say good for them.  Finding love with a beautiful woman at any age is a blessing.  On the other hand, I’m jealous that they have such beautiful wives—not that they have children.

Why should we be concerned about this group of actors using their wealth and fame to spread their seed(s)?  Perhaps they have really good genes?  They are certainly not the first males to use their wealth, power and prestige to father children with younger women.  Increased longevity raises the possibility of older fathers.  It’s inevitable and not really unusual. Continue reading

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Alan and Jennifer’s Journey Toward Adoption

I always knew that I wanted to be a mother, but at age 34 with a diagnosis of PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome) and not yet married, that dream was still out of sight. 

I knew that getting pregnant would involve some medical intervention, but I didn’t think too much about it because I was not ready to be a mother.  When I met my future husband, Alan, we both knew that children would be part of our future.   One year later I was married and one step closer to the whole fairy tale.

From the time I learned I had PCOS, at age 28, I knew that getting pregnant would require some medical help.  Alan and I talked about our family options even before we were married.  Adoption was always on the table, but I felt that I needed to at least try to get pregnant.  I found a great fertility specialist and enthusiastically started treatments.  Continue reading

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Your Answers: “Is Being a Mother the Most Defining Role a Woman Can Have?”


“For years I was on the outside looking in, watching friends juggling their time, wiping little noses and strapping small folk into car seats. I felt for them. sometimes, wondered if they felt they’d lost their sense of who they were – the marketing director, the linguistics expert, the party girl, the intrepid explorer, the physiotherapist. Some seemed to get low craving a previous existence, looking wistfully out over the tiny crockery piled high in the kitchen sink or chatting late at night about how they didn’t feel very “me” any more. Now, I’m part of the club, I’m one of them, only I feel that I’ve found the missing part of me, the piece that makes me truly ‘me.’

I’m a mother and I cherish, relish and grasp every moment. I want to shout it from the rooftops and leap for joy every time I hear the sound of little feet dashing down the corridor towards me. Every night time, “Mummy” warms my heart, whatever the time.  I am me: Ellie, writer, researcher, marketer, Springsteen fan and most importantly and above all else, MOTHER. And it’s the absolute heart of who I am.” – Ellie Stoneley


“Before becoming a mother, at age 39, I would have said “no.” I would have been wrong. As my ‘mama bear’ self immerges, the defining elements as to why I am where I am have come into vivid view. Passion and purpose are now braided together. Engagement in efforts to make a profound difference for my children now and in the future, is what drives me – not professional achievement or career status.” – Maureen O’Neill-Davis


“The most defining role a woman can have is that of being fully, unabashedly herself. Motherhood can facilitate that, but many other painful and important roles can, as well. I think there are very few women in modern society who own their true nature, their desires and their right to be who they are, prior to reaching middle age. I have often compared being a mother with being in a pressure cooker: it puts the lid on and turns up the heat on any “issues” we struggle with as women. The demands on our time and energy – and the deep love that gives those demands meaning and importance – force us either to become more whole and more wholly ourselves or to fragment into a shell of a being.

However, I think there are multiple experiences that can do this for us, but motherhood will do it faster and with terrible thoroughness.” -Lora Freeman Williams


It depends what you mean as “mother.” I’ve met mothers who care more for themselves than their children.  And, I’ve met non-mothers, at least biologically, who are teachers or day care providers, and who take the children in their care to heart as if they were their own.  

For me, motherhood has definitely been a defining role in the heart space.  It is through the unconditional love that I have for my children, that I’ve been able to share more love with the world.”Wendy Sue Noah


“It depends on each person’s values they place on motherhood. I think it is ONE of the MANY defining roles a woman can have! For me, it is a role I am proud of, and which I am daily trying to improve on! The results and the great benefits are the relationships I have with my children, and the people they are and become.” – Karen Du Toit


“I would not say “the most defining role a woman can have” because I think that is up to the woman and parent.  However, for myself, I feel it is THE most important.”Monique Faison Ross


“Being a mother is who I am now.  Prior to becoming a mother to the outside world, I was a photographer, a professional, a dog rescuer, a woman.  Now, today, people’s perceptions start by viewing me as a woman with children first, not a woman who is a “successful photographer,” etc.  I would expect no less and would want no more.”DeAnna Scott


“Absolutely not. In fact, if “defining” equates at all to “most difficult,” then, I think being a partner/spouse tops the list (whatever your gender). Being a mother develops or highlights certain positive aspects of a woman — empathy, patience, self-sacrifice, humor, creativity — but all of these life skills can be fostered and are necessary in other relationships besides that of mother/child. In addition, motherhood can make being a woman quite difficult, especially for those of us who had many years of relative “freedom” before becoming parents.” -Joely Johnson Mork


“For most of us, our previous lives well-defined us – a life filled with ‘things’ – professional awards, a string of boyfriends (before marriage), a fancy car, nice clothes, travel. In my own case, when my own longing for a family (with a desire to nurture and a true willingness to give love) became the end goal, motherhood became my true focus and my passion.  Once achieved, it defined me – not only as someone now named ‘Mommy,’ but, also as someone who had attained the most fantastic golden achievement – designed solely for my heart and soul.  In the end, I felt like I’d won an award which would last a lifetime.

Although some women ‘fall into’ motherhood, for most women over 40, the ‘falling’ becomes, in the end, into ourselves.  And, it defines us, forever.” – Cyma Shapiro


 “I hesitate to say that “motherhood is the most defining role” is true for every woman. I think there are a lot of things that define the experience itself for each of us. Does a woman who gives birth after rape embrace motherhood the way someone who has longed for a child for years does?

It is very much my most defining role thus far. But, the farther along I get on this journey, the more I wonder if that will still be true when my girl is out on her own somewhere and I’m doing….something else. Motherhood was a part of me before I was a mother. I don’t know how to express it exactly, but I always felt it was what I would be good at. I wish I’d had three more kids but it wasn’t in the cards.

But maybe when this chapter ends, and I’m through with the part where parenting is my all-consuming existence, I’ll be redefined. Then, that new definition will be the most profound (one) for me.” – Michelle Fitzpatrick


“The role for a woman is one she defines for herself. It varies for each woman, and it could even vary by the moment. Past experiences as a child, student, worker, and friend shapes us as the person we will be and want to be. This is what I tell my daughters. They have the will to be whatever they want; however, whatever role is chosen comes with sacrifice.

For me, I would have to say I do define my life as being a mother; one with many working components. It is a role that is my fortunate choice and proudest achievement. This role did come with sacrifice since I choose to not take a fast track to a career. As my life has evolved, I have been lucky to carry with me many different roles that represent me as the sum of all my parts and that allow me my choices.

What I bring to my personal label of being a mother are etchings from the past, a current illustration of the present, and an idea for the unfolding future for the woman I choose to be.” - Lori Pelikan Strobel

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