Rituals & Spirituality

How My Dad Taught Me to be a Dad

Nicholas D'Ambra's dad IVI’m not an expert at being a Dad, but I learned a lot from my own father, who happened to be the best. He wasn’t perfect. He definitely made mistakes. However, he made those mistakes seem like integral threads in the blanket of parenting.

He always put his family first. Like his father before him, my Dad worked hellishly long hours to provide for his family. I couldn’t list five things he ever purchased for himself. He would often go without, so his kids could go with.

He always made time for his children. At the end of a 14-hour day, he would help coach my Little League team. I would wait for him to come home in summertime at the top of our block, sitting on a wall. He smiled whenever he saw me there. I would get into the car and drive the short distance home where he would grab something to eat on our way to practice. [Read More…]

Taking Back Mother’s Day

Ode to Mom

I am the youngest of eight children. I was born in 1963, a bygone era of large families and stay-at-home moms.  My mother had eight children within 13 years with a few miscarriages thrown in for good pregnancy measure.

We are Irish Catholics with no sense of rhythm and therefore yearly pregnancies were the norm.

While I remember us celebrating Mother’s Day as adult children, I have no recollection of what that day looked like for her when we were all young.  I know that Mothers Day existed, because Woodrow Wilson signed the proclamation in 1914 declaring it a day of honor for mothers. [Read More…]

Is Mother’s Day Just Another (Obligatory) Hallmark Holiday?

Nicholas' mom II remember reading somewhere that a stay-at-home mom’s salary hangs somewhere around $112,000 a year. This includes overtime, which… lets’ face it…it should. The hourly average comes out at .25 below $18 per hour. Where we live, we pay a good sitter $15 per hour, so that hourly rate is, if anything, low (insert wide-eye emoticon here).

The two things we do not value enough in this country are stay-at-home parents (I’m including Dads here, because times have changed, people!) and teachers. It’s ironic, really, because as Americans, we want to be the best in all things and we value family so very much.

And if we value family so much, then why are moms… and dads who stay at home so under-valued/under-appreciated? [Read More…]

By |May 2nd, 2015|Categories: Commentary, Daily Living, Gay Fathers, Rituals & Spirituality|Tags: , |0 Comments

The Power of One – A Gift to Yourself

Valentine's Day - Huff PostTwo year’s ago, in my Huffington Post Valentine’s Day essay, “The Power of One,” I wrote about how important Valentine’s Day is and how I start thinking about the upcoming holiday soon after the last holiday ends!  I explained how I spend several months formulating who I’ll send cards to and who I’ll call/see/meet simply to say “I love you” and express my thanks and gratitude for being in my life.

How, in the weeks leading up to it, I’ll buy V-Day boxer shorts (once cotton, now solid silk) for my now fully-grown stepchildren (and their partners); the largest Reese’s chocolate heart I can find and heart pajamas for my husband; a heart necklace and/or bracelet for my young daughter and the proverbial stuffed animal with heart for my rapidly growing elementary school son (who, at this point, is finding this very unsettling). [Read More…]

By |February 13th, 2015|Categories: Commentary, Daily Living, Rituals & Spirituality|Tags: , |0 Comments

Valentine’s Day: The Power of One Helps Make a Whole

It’s hard to explain my (utter) fascination with Valentine’s Day. On the therapist’s couch, this near-obsession has been explained away as a move to fill an unfilled heart, a response to a loveless childhood and a push to find my own heart — all true, but not a fully convincing argument for those accustomed to my ongoing madness.

Each year, I ruminate about the next holiday… well… after the holiday ends. Like my young daughter’s obsession with her next birthday, I begin formulating how I’ll spend the day, who I’ll send cards to and who I’ll call/see/meet to say “I love you” and express my thanks.

In the weeks leading up to it, I’ll buy V-Day boxer shorts (once cotton, now solid silk) for my now fully-grown stepchildren; the largest Reese’s chocolate heart I can find and heart pajamas for my husband; a heart necklace and/or bracelet for my young daughter and the proverbial stuffed animal with heart for my rapidly growing elementary school son (who, at this point, is finding this a bit unsettling). [Read More…]

By |February 12th, 2015|Categories: Commentary, Daily Living, Rituals & Spirituality|Tags: , |0 Comments

The Heart’s Memory Lives On

Lori Pelikan's V-Day card IOn my kitchen counter there sits a small basket. In the basket, there is a small, folded-up piece of notebook paper. I have kept this note for 36 years. It is yellowed and slightly torn at the corners, but I haven’t been able to throw it out. It has a very special Valentine’s Day message to me.

I remember the grade school days of giving Valentine’s Day cards to all of my classmates. My mother would drive me to the store and I would painstakingly pick out the perfect box of Valentine’s Day cards for my friends. After handing them out in class, I can clearly see myself breathlessly waiting to open the cards from my friends, especially the boys. Somehow my girlfriends and I could always figure out which boy liked us. [Read More…]

Skipping Valentine’s Day Forever (A Love Story)

Nicholas son in winterWhen I was little, my Dad would come home every Valentine’s Day with his arms over flowing with sweets and treats from our local Douglas Drug store. I can imagine him standing in a long line with other men who were last minute shopping.

My Dad wasn’t a last minute shopper, this was just how he did it, every single year.  The gifts he carried weren’t just for my Mom, but for me and my sister as well. There were always chocolates for us and sometimes a toy or stuffed animal.  My mom annually received a large heart-shaped box of chocolates and roses.

Years later, I carried on with the tradition. I bought similar gifts for that special person I was dating. I also purchased various chocolates and heart shaped items for my single friends so they wouldn’t feel left out. Then, when I met my husband-to-be, it all changed. Valentine’s Day was no longer that special day to espouse love and present gifts. It was just another day, no special than any other. It saddened me to think it was over. [Read More…]

The Spirit That Counts

When we were young, we approached the holidays with anticipation because we “knew” they contained magic. We believed in a world of open-ended possibilities.

But then we grew up, and we moved further and further away from such things and, sadly, from our natural, spiritual, way of being. As adults, too often we allow the expectations of others (parents, religious leaders, teachers, family, friends) to be placed upon us, along with the associated guilt, if we do not live up to them. For many, the holidays have become nothing more than pressure-filled weeks chocked full of check lists and coping mechanisms. And now, deep down, we feel that we have lost something and we don’t know what it is. [Read More…]

All I Want for Christmas Is (Watching and Raising) My Little Girl

Michelle eisler's kid IIIn November, my daughter went through the Target wish catalogue and slowly chose one or two things she wanted, and then she got on a roll and started putting stickers beside almost everything.  She asked if she could help decorate the house for Christmas, and to keep my sanity I sent her to help my husband put up a garland on our railing.

The tree was mostly done when she came back to help me, and I gave her some snowflakes to spread around randomly on the tree, she again stared off slowly. A few minutes later, I was finding snowflakes bunched on the same branches and all in a concentrated tiny section. The perfectionist in me twitched as I asked her if she could see anything she could change up and she replied ‘no’ with a big smile.

This year, I am seeing life through the eyes of my 5 year old.  I am continuing to educate myself to try to provide her with what she needs as she takes big leaps on her journey. [Read More…]

The Miracle of The (Multicultural) Holidays

Chanukah - ChristmasThis year I set up our Christmas tree and for the first time, I also put out my menorahs or as I’ve learned they are really called, Hanukkiahs.  I’m not Jewish and neither is my husband, but my kids are as they were born to a Jewish woman who was our traditional surrogate named Jessica, or fondly referred to as “Chava.”

We have blended our families and together we make up a large and diverse group of individuals – both in tradition and in heritage. But, in the end we are simply family.  And, during the holiday season no matter what traditions you follow, family, love and sweet fellowship are at the center of it all.

Since the beginning of our surrogacy journey, the connection between our future kids and Jessica, her family and her cultural and religious lineage were of the utmost importance to me.  I gratefully made it my job as their mom to teach my kids the traditions and beliefs that are practiced on all sides of their family.  Not just Christmas but also Hanukah, which is why I bought Hanukah candles while we were waiting for our photos with Santa.

[Read More…]

Featured In