Quite a lot has happened on the home front of late—so much, in fact, that I haven’t had a chance to fully process it all, let alone write about it. But on this Thanksgiving Eve, the most important thing I can share with you right now is to tell you that I’m keenly aware of all that I have to be thankful for this year—my husband’s love and the health of my family foremost. I’m writing this from the home I carry with me in my heart, rather than from our physical home. We’ve traveled again this year—to Ohio again this year—and I’ll have more to share with you about that at a later time. For now, I just want to add one more item to the list of things I’m grateful for: Your readership and support. Knowing that you are there, at the other end of the line, as it were, fills me with joy. Because of you, this little blog has grown beyond my wildest imaginings. A Thanksgiving post that I shared with you last year on this site appears today on Better After 50, a weekly online magazine, curated by Felice Shapiro, that was featured in the Boston Globe last month. So thank you, dear readers. Your support, your visits to this site, make a difference. I wish you and your loved ones a very happy, healthy Thanksgiving.
What do bloggers do when they’re not blogging? Do they travel to Antarctica, where Internet connections are spotty? (I’m assuming this is the case. I’ve never been to Antarctica.) Do they assume new identities and start life anew with a clean blackboard slate in the analog world? Do they suffer from blog withdrawal?
In my case, the last statement is true. But there’s a good reason I haven’t been posting.
I’ve been on assignment for the Richmond Times-Dispatch. As a special correspondent for the paper (which is a nice way of saying that I’m a freelancer and therefore not on staff drawing a reliable salary), I’m working on a high-profile feature article. It’s kept me pretty busy, what with research, preparation, and an hour-long interview with my subject last Saturday. I’m now keeping my head down and my fingers on the keyboard, writing and writing. And writing. I expect the article to come out sometime in May, and I’ll post a link on the blog once it’s been published.
In the meantime, I see we’ve now surpassed 18,000 visitors to the Midlife Second Wife. Thanks for reading, y’all!
Finally, a word about something different you might have noticed about the site. There are a couple of banner ads now appearing on the Midlife Second Wife, and here’s why: My blog is part of an exclusive group approved by WordPress to help beta test their new WordAds program. I hope you don’t find the ads too distracting. In fact, I hope you’ll click on them, because if I understand the idea behind AdChoices correctly, this allows you to have a say in the kind of ads you want to see on the web through interest-based advertising.
In the interest of full disclosure (and revealing my self-interest), I earn a little something each time a visitor clicks on an ad on my site. It might not fund a trip to Antarctica, but it could go a long way to helping me fund this blog. And pay the Internet bill.
I’ll be back soon with new articles, new recipes, and—as promised—a link to my article when it comes out. In the meantime, enjoy beautiful weather, wherever you are.
The Midlife Second Wife
Birthdays and anniversaries are big deals with me—always have been, always will be. Maybe it’s because I love cake. John and I met on the 14th of June, deliberately set the 14th for our nuptials 14 months later, and thereafter have marked our monthly wedding anniversary with some sort of modest pomp and circumstance. (When you marry in the second half of your life and know you’re not going to get a shot at the Great Big Golden 5-0, you learn to appreciate each day that you’re given, commemorating the smaller—but no less significant—watersheds. You get more cake that way, too.)
I’m thinking about anniversaries not because John and I are celebrating anything marriage related today (although in a sense, perhaps we are), but because today is the sixth-month anniversary of The Midlife Second Wife.
Six months of blogging bliss. I hope it’s that way for you. Tell me: would you follow me all over again?
As I think back on all of the posts (90!), pictures, and comments (448!), and the thrill at each new follower, I wonder where the time went. In truth, I know that a lot of it went into this digital enterprise, and I’ve loved every minute.
So….let’s celebrate! Since I can’t very well bake a cake and share it with all 296 of you, I’ve done the next best thing. Inspired by the Academy Awards, I’ve pulled the top five posts (as identified by WordPress on New Year’s Eve), to create this poll. Vote carefully. The results will be tabulated by Polldaddy Price Waterhouse and the winners announced by Billy Crystal during the live Oscars telecast. (Just kidding. Steve Martin will do the honors.)
If you stopped by the blog on January 18, you were probably surprised to find it cloaked in black. (If you tried to look anything up on Wikipedia that day, you’d have encountered a similar blackout.) And take a look at the black ribbon in the upper-right corner of TMSW that says “Stop Censorship.” That ribbon will remain there until January 24. Here’s why: The Midlife Second Wife, along with about 13 million others, took a stand this week to protest proposed U.S. legislation that threatens Internet freedom: the Stop Internet Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA).
Let me be clear: Copyright infringement is wrong. Online piracy is wrong. Rogue websites are wrong. But so is censorship, and from what I’ve read on the subject, the two bills that Congress proposed, although well-meaning, would have done far more harm than good. One commentator likened it to taking a sledgehammer to the Internet when what’s needed is a scalpel. There’s got to be a solution, but SOPA and PIPA ain’t it.
David Carr, one of the smartest critics around, covers technology, media, and popular culture for the New York Times. He and his colleague, Jenna Wortham, explain the issues quite well in several articles; I’ve included them for those who want to know more. In “The Danger of an Attack on Piracy Online,” he quoted First Amendment lawyer Lawrence H. Tribe:
Laurence H. Tribe, the noted First Amendment lawyer, said in an open letter on the Web that SOPA would “undermine the openness and free exchange of information at the heart of the Internet. And it would violate the First Amendment.”
One more word about all of this before we return you to your regularly scheduled digest of marital musings, recipes, and midlife meanderings. I have pretty strong political beliefs, and heretofore I’ve tried to keep them out of the blog. That might have been an idealistic, even silly goal. I don’t live in a vacuum and I certainly oughtn’t blog in one. But I also don’t want my views to overwhelm this site; if I wanted to write a political blog I’d have started one. So you can be certain that when I take a stand on something in this venue, as I did this week, it’s for a powerful reason. As a writer living in a free society, I’m painfully aware that there are writers in areas of the world who are not able to express their beliefs for fear of reprisal, prison, or worse.
My blog’s cloak of black on Wednesday is as much a stand in solidarity with them as it is in opposition to SOPA and PIPA.
And now friends, it’s time to cook something.
“The Danger of an Attack on Piracy Online,” David Carr, The New York Times
“How I’m Surviving (Or Trying to) Without Wikipedia at my Fingertips,” David Carr, The New York Times
“A Political Coming of Age for the Tech Industry” Jenna Wortham, The New York Times
Bloggers are certainly a supportive and encouraging group! A compatriot has bestowed another award upon The Midlife Second Wife. “The Versatile Blogger Award” comes to me from a photographer in Minnesota who blogs at From Moments to Memories. My thanks to her for not only visiting and reading TMSW, but also for giving it some lovely emerald-green bling!
There are a few bits of housekeeping that go with accepting this award. In addition to thanking my nominator and linking to her site, I’m to share with you seven things about myself that you might not otherwise know. (Are there things about me that I haven’t already told you on this blog? Yes, gentle reader. There are.)
However. I’m going to save the list of revelations for the end of this article, because by my lights, the best thing about this award is not that I get to tell you more about me (blah-blah-blah-blog), but that I get to blog it forward by giving the award to 15 of my favorites.
I ask you now to imagine me wearing an Atelier Versace gown as I approach the microphone to announce these outstanding nominees and award winners. In no particular order, they are:
Let’s give them a round of applause and a look-see!
And now, as promised, here are Seven Things You Don’t Know About TMSW
(and yes, they’re all true):
1. I was 13 years old before I learned how to ride a bike.
2. I met my first husband in divorce court.
3. I was told once that I had eye cancer.
4. Days later, I was told that I had thyroid cancer.
5. It turns out that I didn’t have eye cancer after all.
6. I did, however, indeed have thyroid cancer, but surgery and a “smart pill” laced with radioactive iodine fixed me up. (No, I don’t glow in the dark.)
7. I will write about these events, and more, in future editions of TMSW.
I’m healthy, I’m married to the love of my life, I’ve got a wonderful son and great stepsons—they’re healthy, too—and I’m spending my days doing what I love: Writing. And cooking. And, it seems, passing around blogging awards like a kid in grade school, handing out cookies on her birthday. All in all, life is good.
I hope that life is good for you, too.
This past week I learned that Ree of ReeknittingwordswithGod chose The Midlife Second Wife as one of five blogs to receive the Liebster Award. The name derives from the German—Liebling means favorite, Liebe means love, Liebste means dearest—hence Liebster, because the award is given to blogs that the recipient loves. The circle of Liebster Blogs is ever-widening, and could very well exist in perpetuity as long as there’s an Internet and bloggers who blog. It’s important to note that bloggers give the award only to blogs with fewer than 200 followers. (It pleases me to report that also this week, the The Midlife Second Wife reached a circulation of 120 e-mail and WordPress subscribers.)
Because the Liebster Award is given by bloggers to bloggers, I consider it a singular honor—we write not only to gain perspective and understanding, but also so that others will read. The award, therefore, strikes me as a real validation of what we do. It’s also a wonderful way for the blogging community to connect, and to share blogs that they themselves love.
There are a few requirements that come with the Liebster Award. Here they are:
I. Show your thanks to the blogger who gave you the award by linking back to them. (Ree, thank you. I’m glad to count you among my readers, and am happy to send people your way.) You can find Ree’s reflections on spirituality and—yes!—knitting, at ReeknittingwordswithGod.
II. Reveal your top five selections for the award and let those bloggers know by leaving a comment on their blog (see below).
III. Post the award on your blog.
Here are my award winners—I hope you’ll enjoy discovering their work:
1. Linda Grashoff – The true name of Linda’s blog is Romancing Reality, and that’s precisely what this painterly photographer does. In the click of a shutter, she finds art in everyday places and captures extraordinary nature scenes that mesmerize.
2. A.B. Westrick – It almost goes without saying that bloggers are writers. But when you find a writer who is a blogger, well, that’s a bonus. If you care at all about the craft of writing, then you owe it to yourself to visit this blog. A.B.’s first book, for young adult readers, is forthcoming from Viking Children’s Books.
3. Radical Amazement – I discovered this blog when it was featured on WordPress’ “Freshly Pressed.” I was, well, impressed. I love the sensibilities here, this is a deeply spiritual blog—but it is the spirituality of a person who is not afraid to state: “I am agnostic with a great deal of faith.” A photographer and a writer, this is a talent I’m glad to have stumbled upon.
4. Author Meg Medina – Another great blog by a writer. Meg is a Latina author, as she says, “of libros for kids of all ages.” Not only will you find humor and insight here, you’ll snag some terrific recipes, too.
5. Aphaeresis – Anne’s blog is about everything under the sun—food, daily life, books, classical music—the quotidian quirkily observed. A true diarist, she writes lyrically, sardonically, intelligently. I love it.
Ree, thanks again for the honor.
The turkey was not ready for his close-up. Never in a million years would I have dreamed that the humble bird from our early Christmas with my husband’s sons would, a year later, appear on thousands of computer screens around the world. How’d this happen? Yesterday, the WordPress editor (aka “story wrangler”) plucked this little blog out of obscurity and plopped it onto the site’s “Freshly Pressed” portal—where all good bloggers go to log in. In roughly 27 hours, more than 4,000 people visited The Midlife Second Wife, and 42 new subscribers signed up. The post that generated all of the activity, “Where’s Home for the Holidays When You’re Divorced or Remarried?” attracted 83 comments and 109 “likes” from bloggers. Gosh. I really wish I’d garnished that turkey.
But this post isn’t about our turkey’s less than glamorous visage, and it’s only tangentially about the blog’s 15-minutes of fame. No, this post is about gratitude. The past 27 hours have been wonderfully overwhelming and deeply humbling. So I hope that you won’t mind if I use this essay to express some well-deserved thanks.
- To my son, who e-mailed me before all of the hubbub began, to tell me that he loved the post. Matthew, I’m sorry, but I’m about to have an “I’m going to embarrass you moment.” I love and admire you more than words can say.
- To my husband, who was the first to comment, who gives me room and space to write, who champions everything that I do, and who—to quote Paul Child, Julia’s husband—”is the butter to my bread and the breath to my life.” John, I love you.
- To my stepsons, whom I love more than they might realize, given the brief time we’ve been flung together and the distance that separates us.
- To the editors at WordPress for incredible support of a late-blooming blogger.
- To all of my friends and family who signed on at the beginning. You are amazing and I love you.
- To every new reader of the blog—all of you who subscribed, felt moved enough by the post to give it your much-appreciated thumbs-up, and decided to follow me on Twitter.
- To everyone who posted their comments in response to the blog’s message. You have no idea how you have warmed my heart. Many of you wrote to express your own painful experiences about the way divorce has torn your family asunder; many described your own ways of dealing with the holidays; one reminded me—and I hope everyone reading—that it’s not only divorce or remarriage that can shunt holiday traditions sidewise. The wars in which our country has been embroiled have done their own damage—in countless cases irreparable—to the family gathering at the dinner table. One of you wrote to express your poignant wish that you had the right to marry, too. So do I.
To each of you who took the time to post a comment, I promise to reply. It will take me some time to do so, but it’s important to me. You have done me a great honor by your response to my writing.
To all of you reading this, I promise to make every effort to be interesting, honest, and useful in what I post here. Your time is valuable; I don’t want you to feel you are wasting it by reading me.
Finally, there’s just one more thing I want to say before I leave you today.
I’ve yet to share on this blog my love of French films. I bring this up now because there’s a wonderful line in one of my favorites—Red, part of Krzysztof Kieslowski‘s trilogy Three Colors. The character portrayed by Irene Jacob says:
Je me sens quelque chose d’important se passe autour de moi. (Don’t be impressed; I had to look this up on Google Translate.)
“I feel something important is happening around me.”
For the past several weeks, I have felt as though something important were happening around me. (I’ve felt this way before, when John and I fell in love … when my child was first placed in my arms.) It’s an incredibly potent feeling—a feeling of great positivity and light. My Thanksgiving wish for each and every one of you is this: that you experience this feeling at least once in your lives.
Happy Thanksgiving. And thank you.
Backstage at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre on Broadway.
Present day. An evening performance of the Ethan Coen/Elaine May/Woody Allen play Relatively Speaking, and immediately afterward.
Marlo Thomas (Award-winning actress, author, producer, and activist); Marci Rich (The Midlife Second Wife); John Rich (The Midlife Second Husband)
A writer and blogger from Richmond, Virginia, learns that an essay she submitted to a contest sponsored on Facebook by Marlo Thomas was selected as a winner. Her prize? Two free tickets to see the actress perform on Broadway in a one-act comedy, George is Dead, written by Elaine May—part of a three-act play called Relatively Speaking. The writer and her husband embark on a whirlwind, 24-hour trip by train to New York City to see the play and, hopefully, meet the actress. Waiting backstage after the performance, the writer reflects on significant moments in her life in which either the actress or the actress’ late father, famed entertainer Danny Thomas, played an off-stage role.
Prologue: The Writer Remembers
It must have been 1960 or 1961. I was five or so. I remember because the dress I’m wearing in the photograph was my favorite dress when I was in kindergarten. The famous entertainer Danny Thomas had come to Cleveland, and I had my picture taken with him for a Cleveland-area newspaper. My father is also in the picture; he’s the one holding me, hoping that I’ll stop crying long enough for the man with the camera to get his picture.
I remember the evening well. My father, George Abookire, had been a regional volunteer for ALSAC, the fundraising organization that Danny Thomas had established to help him realize his dream: a hospital dedicated to children who were suffering from cancer. ALSAC had benefited from the work of volunteers such as my father, who helped raise money for what would become St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. A keynote ALSAC event was taking place at a ballroom in a Cleveland hotel, and the guest of honor was Danny Thomas himself.
I knew who Danny Thomas was; he was revered in our house for several reasons. To begin with, he was a first-generation American born to Lebanese parents, just like my father. Danny Thomas was born in Toledo, Ohio; my father was born just 90 miles east, in Elyria, Ohio. Danny Thomas had married a woman of Sicilian descent; so had my father. There is family lore, possibly apocryphal, that it was a first cousin of Danny’s, Ralph Jacobs (also from Toledo), who had married my father’s first cousin, Renée Mady of Windsor, Canada.
Even more important than these connections was the fact that Danny Thomas’ great success in the entertainment industry—in films, nightclubs, and as the star and producer of his own television shows—brought tremendous pride to the Lebanese community. At a time when minority ethnic and racial groups were not represented on television, Danny Thomas, a man of Lebanese heritage, brought a slice of our culture to millions of homes across America. The importance of this cannot be overstated. This meant everything to a little girl growing up in Elyria, Ohio, who looked different from everyone else because of her thick, dark curly hair; a nose that was decidedly not Anglo-Saxon; and an unpronounceable last name. Danny Thomas’ presence on television validated my ancestral identity. My parents and I adored Make Room for Daddy and watched it religiously; the episodes featuring Danny Williams’ Uncle Tonoose, played by Hans Conried, were especially beloved. Uncle Tonoose reminded me of my grandfather.
There was one small problem.
Like most children, I was highly impressionable, especially when it came to visual images. My first infant memory is of a male relative carrying me in my grandmother’s house; I glimpsed my reflection in the mirror hanging on the wall. So much of what I would later see on television as a child remains as vivid to me now as that first mirror image; they are imprints, effortlessly recalled. A nightmare that I had when I was still a baby forms my second memory. The eye logo employed by CBS turned menacing in my dream. I awoke crying in my crib, frightened and inconsolable.
And so I well remember the little girl who played Linda, Danny Thomas’ daughter in his television show. Like me, she had dark hair. Like me, she had a slightly mischievous spirit. And, like me, she could sometimes exasperate her father to distraction, eliciting a reaction from him that, like the CBS eye, suggested menace: a raised voice, a sprint across a room to chase the little imp.
I had been told that I would be meeting Danny Thomas that evening in Cleveland. And as the evening wore on, I remember growing tired and cranky. It was a school night, and the back of my legs itched from the rough velvet seats on which we’d been sitting for what seemed like hours, waiting for the star to make his entrance. These feelings, then, combined with the growing awareness that this man could very well begin yelling at me as he occasionally yelled at his television daughter, filled me with apprehension.
The room darkened, and a great spotlight appeared. Danny Thomas was entering the ballroom. My father grabbed my hand and ran with me over to the photo op.
“You’re going to have your picture taken with Danny Thomas,” he said, smiling. My reaction surprised him. I started to cry.
My poor father. Poor Danny Thomas. My father tried to comfort me, and Danny Thomas—no doubt disappointed by my tears—nevertheless rose to the occasion and posed, smiling, behind us.
Years later, reading the newspaper clipping, I learned something new. After the picture was taken, I apparently stopped crying, clambered into Danny Thomas’ arms, and gave him a kiss.
Strange phenomena, memories. I don’t remember doing that at all. But it was in the paper, so it must have happened.
To be continued …
Paraphrasing Oscar Wilde: I never travel without my blog. One should always have something sensational to write in the train.
Four a.m. is not the hour I’d pick to start my day. Let’s just say that I’m less a morning person than, oh, a mid-to-late-morning-after-coffee-and-breakfast-and-newspaper person. But how could I possibly complain? Three hours ago, John and I boarded the 7 a.m. train to New York City, solely because something that has only ever occurred in my dreams is really and truly happening. I wrote an essay and submitted it to a Facebook contest sponsored by the actress Marlo Thomas. And I won. Tonight we will pick up my prize: two free tickets at the box office of the Brooks Atkinson Theatre to see Ms. Thomas perform in Elaine May’s play, George is Dead, one-third of Relatively Speaking, a triad of one-act comedies directed by John Turturro.
I planned for our departure with such scrupulous attention to detail as to make a Broadway producer proud. Pet care? Check. Our good friends and neighbors, Jerry and Amy, would watch our dog, Sandy. (Zorro, their Shih-Tzu, is Sandy’s love interest.)
Amy will also feed our cat, Nellie. Clean clothes? Check. I picked up John’s shirts from the laundry and did one last load of laundry. Vehicle transport? Check. I put gas in the car so we could make it to the train station without incident, and printed out our AmTrak confirmation vouchers. Lodging? Check. I printed out the confirmed reservation for our hotel. Nourishment? Check and check. I picked up pastries at Can Can (a cranberry scone for John, a cherry and mascarpone cheese croissant for me) for our train breakfast. At Jean-Jacques Bakery I ordered two roast beef and Havarti cheese sandwiches (sides of fruit and green bean salad) to secure our train-picnic lunch. Coffee? Ah…This required a trip to Target to purchase a thermos. I set up the coffee maker last night. Apparel and necessities? Check. Telecommunications devices and photographic equipment? Check, check, and check. Laptop and iPhone fully-charged (but power cords packed) and ready to go; ditto camera and batteries.
Did I say scrupulous attention to detail? I forgot to pack an extra pair of socks.
We are now stopped for about an hour or so at Union Station in Washington, D.C., and I want to post this while I still have battery power (the electricity apparently gets shut down during layovers).
So here’s to John, who tucked a sweet card into the pile of clothes to be packed and arranged for time off work to accompany me; here’s to Marlo Thomas for her generosity, and her support for writers; here’s to Amy and Jerry (and Sandy and Zorro! and Nellie!); and here’s to old Broadway!
—My thanks to AmTrak for having free wi-fi, and to Can Can for their incredible pastries.
Dear Friends and Followers of The Midlife Second Wife,
The site has just welcomed its 1,500th visitor. I can hardly believe how many of you have peeked in the windows at my home-away-from-home on the Web. To date, here’s a by-the-numbers look at TMSW since its August 24, 2011 launch:
1,500 Total Site Visitors
49 Followers on Twitter (30 since 8/24/11)
44 Friends on Facebook
38 Blog Subscribers (35 by E-mail, 3 by WordPress)
30 Daily Visitors, Overall Average
All of this has got me quite gobsmacked, you know. Thank you from the bottom of my midlife-but-hopefully-healthy heart for reading and supporting The Midlife Second Wife.
Since we’re online, I can’t really propose a toast (well, I suppose I could, but it wouldn’t be as much fun as it would with us gathered in a room, holding flutes of Champagne). What I can do, however, is this:
I herewith announce the formation of The Midlife Second Wives’ Club. All of you who are now following the blog with your subscription, either by e-mail or as a WordPress blogger, are Charter Members of the club. That’s 38 Charter Members.
The Midlife Second Wives’ Club will be limited to 110 Charter Members. Here’s how I arrived at the number: John was 56 when we got married; I was 54. Add 56 and 54 and you get 110. This means that there is still room for 72 more subscribers to become Charter Members.
As you know, membership has its privileges. I cannot predict where The Midlife Second Wife will take us, but should the day come when TMSW merchandise becomes available, Charter Members will receive discounts. A book deal? Charter Members will receive autographed copies. A film? (Yes, I know. I dream big.) If there’s ever a premiere, Charter Members will receive the full red-carpet treatment.
Why? Because you have been with me from the very beginning. You’re my supporters, my posse, my peeps and tweeps. You deserve some perks!
What, you might ask, must I do to become a Charter Member of The Midlife Second Wives’ Club?
So consider this scenario: You’re a Charter Member, but your partner/spouse/best friend is not. You don’t want to attend a movie premiere without him or her, do you? Ask them to join you in subscribing to the blog. (And by subscribing, I mean following. There’s no cost to you.) There’s room for 72 more in the VIP suite, so let them know!
What, you might ask, happens when the 73rd person subscribes to the blog? Are they, and those that follow after, relegated to some dank, subterranean room? You know me. I couldn’t do that. I will devise some secondary level of membership, and a tertiary level, and then whatever level comes after tertiary, to ensure that all followers of The Midlife Second Wife will feel the love. But I cannot in good conscience ignore the first 110. You are, and always will be, my inner circle.
Now go out and encourage your friends and family to follow the blog. And if you’re already liking it on Facebook or following it on Twitter but haven’t signed up here, please do so. I want you at that film premiere!
Thanks and Love,
The Midlife Second Wife