Coming Of Age


Being an adult is mostly just

going to bed when you don’t want to

and also getting up when you don’t want to.



Happy Back to School Whew!  Grateful to send two sons off to colleges (albeit in opposite directions) and now wondering how to sell a tighter driving radius to my daughter for her own university prospects.  Not that I’ll insist she visits me often–though that can’t possibly be such a bad thing, no?

From Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s Gift From The Sea:

Woman must come of age by herself.  This is the essence of “coming of age”–to learn how to stand alone. She must learn not to depend on another, nor to feel she must prove her strength by competing with another. In the past, she has swung between these two opposite poles of dependent and competition, of Victorianism and Feminism. Both extremes throw her off balance, neither is the center, the true center of being a whole woman. She must become whole. She must, it seems to me, as a prelude to an “two solitudes” relationship, follow the advice of the poet to become “world to oneself for another’s sake.”

In fact, I wonder if both man and woman must not accomplish this heroic feat. Most not man also become world to himself? Must he not also expand the neglected sides of his personality, the art of inward looking that he has seldom had time for in his active outward-going life, the personal relationships which he has not had as much chance to enjoy, the so-called feminine qualities, aesthetic, emotional, cultural and spiritual, which he has been too rushed to fully develop. Perhaps both men and woman in America may hunger, in our material outward, active, masculine culture, for the supposedly feminine qualities of heart, mind and spirit–qualities which are actually nighter masculine not feminine, but simply human qualities that have been neglected.  It is growth along these lines that will make us whole, and will enable the individual to become world to himself.

Click on “Leave a Comment” (top left) to share how being a world unto yourself has meant for you.








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© Sharon Birke

Managing Member, DoubleSmart LLC

201 697 1947

Glamour Portraits of the Goddess in Every Woman

How To Raise An Adult

I think

if I make it to 40,

I can be pretty amazing.

Wendy Wasserstein, Uncommon Women & Others


Wandering Rome with my teen surrounded by magnificent sculptures, I imagine the discipline it took artists to mold hard stone into flowing robes and graceful figures. They give me a measure of comfort realizing that parenting teens requires as much patience and dedication–while remembering to keep our hands tied behind our back.

Why did parenting change from preparing our kids for life to protecting them from life? How has this shift left them unprepared to live life on their own?

Julie Lythcott-Haims sums up the effects of “helicopter parenting” from her observations as a parent and as an academic administrator working with college Freshmen in her book How To Raise An Adult.

The central aim of parenting has evolved to preparing children for success and every act of nurturing gets judged on the basis of whether it will usher a child toward a life of accomplishment or failure. This standard holds our everyday choices hostage to worries for their prosperity and future. As the New York Times article of Heather Hevrilesky puts it, “A child who soaks in the ambient anxiety that surrounds each trivial choice or activity is an anxious child, formed in the hand-wringing, future-focused image of her anxious parents.”

Much as we want to exempt our children from pain and suffering, Julie Lythcott-Haims underlines that learning through experience is the best way humans learn. If we don’t allow our children to suffer the tribulations of life, we are not doing our job of preparing them to be adults. It is necessary to hold our tongue and stay out of their way as they stumble, learn how to pick themselves up and arrive at their own answers.

This book is both pro-parent and pro-child, well researched, easy to read, and full of comforting and practical advice for parents walking the tightrope of being supportive without being controlling. Tough, I know!

Click on “Leave a Comment” (above left) to share what it takes for your to allow your children to figure things out on their own.







Give the women you love the most unique gift

of elegant and timeless portraits

with  a Powerful Goddess portrait session Gift Certificate:

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Sharon Birke

201 697 1947

Glamour Portraits of the Goddess in Every Woman


When In Rome Again

In Italy,

they add work and life

to food and wine.

Robin Leach


Piazza Navona on a rainy day last visit

After last year’s whirlwind mother-daughter holiday (see posts London with teen and Paris Charms with Teen,) the older brothers realized that traveling with mom need not just be an excuse to get their pesky sister out of the house.  This Spring break, Brother #1 has signed up for his turn to go on  a mother-son rendezvous.

Argentina was first choice because he’s interested in tango (and the pretty ladies that go with it,) but that’s too long a schlep from Boston for a week off. He got all excited over Iceland, but I refuse to  be any place colder in March. Where can he hop on an easy flight to get to relatively mild weather, see art, architecture, and engineering marvels everywhere he turns, while avoiding hordes of tourists? Why, Rome in March, of course!

Audio tours

Before you even start packing, let celebrity guide Rick Steves’ audio tours stoke your imagination and enthusiasm.


A few fun things to do in Rome after you’ve covered the basics:

Rent a Ferrari

This IS Italy! Why not?


photo by Conde Nast Traveler

Ostia Antica

Also known as “The better Pompeii,” Ostia Antica is only 30 minutes North of the Colosseum, compared to Pompeii’s 4 hours South. This used to be the bustling commercial port of Rome when the Romans controlled the Mediterranean. Wandering around the ruins today, you’ll see well-preserved remains of ancient brick structures from docks, bakeries, warehouses, apartments, mansions, shopping arcades, baths and sculptures–a peek at Roman lifestyles 2,000 years ago.

And if your travel companions are allergic to museums, a couple of light and lovely options are:

Palazzo Doria Pamphilj

This private mansion off the Piazza Venezia on Via del Corso is also a museum open to the public. An easy walk from the Colosseum past the Typewriter building (aka The Wedding Cake or Il Vittoriano Monument.) I love its rich interiors and their mini version of Versailles’ “Hall of Mirrors.” Listen to the audio guide recorded by a family member of the Doria Pamphilj as you walk through the elegant rooms and art filled halls, pay the extra 5 Euros to tour their more private apartments. Caffe Doria breaks the museum standard fare with its delicious and generous portions for lunch and tea/coffee in old world charm.


photo by Palazzo Doria Pamphilj

Galleria Borghese

Hike up to this mansion of Cardinal Borhese that is now a small museum for lovers of classical paintings and sculpture. Make advance tour reservations, leave your handbag home to avoid one more queue to check it, get there early before the crowds, and take your sweet time  with their audio guide that is not shy about describing  the underhanded ways that wealth and treasures get acquired. Afterwards, you can stroll through the gardens or rent a bicycle wagon in the park surrounding the property.


photo from Google Images

The Galleria Borghese is an easy walk down to Piazza del Popolo with its ancient obelisk and open square. Plenty of restaurant choices along the way as you head down Via del Babuino to the Spanish steps.

Galleria del Cembalo

Between the Spanish steps and the Tiber River at a wing of the Palazzo Borghese, fans of photography can admire exhibits in rooms with ornate high ceilings.


Click on “Leave a Comment” (top left) for your Rome travel tips.


Give the women you love the most unique gift

of elegant and timeless portraits

with  a Powerful Goddess portrait session Gift Certificate:

Buy Now Button with Credit Cards

Sharon Birke

201 697 1947

Glamour Portraits of the Goddess in Every Woman

Eat Your Heart Out



I never worry about diets.

The only carrots that interest me

are the numbers on a diamond.

Mae West


To eat, drink, and truly be merry through the holidays, can we please skirt the topic of weight, workouts and diets at festivities? I do my best by walking away or staying mum when this very popular ho-hum subject comes up. What could happen in 2016 if you chuck the weighing scale, keep active in whatever way is fun for you and just listen to your body–eat natural fresh food when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full?

From Courtney Martin’s book Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters: The Frightening New Normalcy of Hating Your Body:

Sex and food are the two most loaded issues of our time, the Pandora’s box of our culture, universal and forbidden simultaneously. We even use the same language when it comes to both: temptation, pleasure, crave. Just as we are surrounded by advertisements for food that we “shouldn’t” eat, invited to indulge because we deserve it, we are told, in the next thirty-second spot, that we should get back to the gym if we want to work off some guilt and make ourselves worthy of a bikini this summer. Sexual images are all around us, and pornography inaccessible at the touch of a button, but any teenage girl who wants to protect her reputation must exercise absolute restraint, wait for a committed relationship to explore her sexuality, and keep quiet about masturbation.

How can anyone, under these conditions, be expected to know her true desire? How can anyone navigate the dangerous terrain of reputation and expectation on the road toward her authentic sexuality? How can a woman excited about life emerge without hating the body that leads her into temptation?

After publishing The Fat Girl’s Guide to Life, Wendy Shanker traveled the nation doing readings, book signings, and talking to fans. She reflects, “The best lesson I learned touring is that eery woman, no matter how heavy or how skinny, feels fat. When you’re thin, you’re never thin enough.” When I see some hot girl saunter down the street, I used to give her a dirty look, sure that she had a perfect life. Now I know better. I know that she may look different on the outside, but inside she feels the same way I do. Now, instead of a dirty look, I throw a little mini-vibe of compassion her way.”

This is the heart of the matter: A perfect girl can rule just as tyrannically, and a starving daughter can ache just as deeply, inside a thin body. Our dissatisfaction is never, at its deepest, about our bodies. This is why fat women and thin women often experience the world in similar ways. If a thin woman feels inadequate and “thinks fat,” she may endure less hate coming from the outside in than a fat woman but just as much criticism and sadness from the inside out. If a woman of any size is able to stop her negative self-talk and accept herself, she may experience the world with a little peace of mind.

Obsessing over every little thing we put in our mouths takes away our ability to control our own thoughts, our inalienable right to feel good about ourselves regardless of the size of our thighs. It takes away our time, our pleasure, our energy, our vision, our joy. We are not our bodies. Our souls are not our stomachs. Our brains are not our butts.

Click on “Leave a Comment” (above left) to share how well you’ll feed Santa at last. And have the merriest Ho-Ho-Ho!







Give the women you love the most unique gift of elegant and timeless portraits

with a Powerful Goddess portrait session Gift Certificate:

Buy Now Button with Credit Cards

© Sharon Birke

201 697 1947

Glamour Portraits of the Goddess in Every Wife & Mother

Self(ie) Love and Thanks

Wealth hasn’t changed who I am.

My feet are still on the ground.

I’m just wearing better shoes.

Oprah Winfrey


I’ve finally figured out the recipe for the happiest of holidays! First ingredient: Delegate! For Thanksgiving, my teens made one dish each while dinner guests added their family specialty to the buffet. They swear they’d never seen a hostess so relaxed even when the turkey burned–a casualty of computer games distracting the designated chef. I suspect forgoing heels at home had more to do with my cool, for I firmly believe (and note this second ingredient!) stilettos should only be worn to bed.

Looking at the big picture of my year, I spy the third and main ingredient: while “nothing is better than more, except all,” happiness truly depends on our ability to choose gratitude. No one teaches me this as effectively as my stubborn teen who struggles with the concept daily, cringes at hugs, and abhors giving praise. I count him among my great blessings because he reminds me that nobody can take away my power to give myself the love and approval I need.

Fingers and toes run out quickly as I count the small miracles I am thankful for: The very many fun travel adventures and the people I’ve met in my journey, the authors and Powerful Goddesses who have generously shared their wisdom and beauty on this blog, my firstborn thriving at college, he and his sister falling in love with the fun of ballroom dancing, the other son determined to do well on his SAT, the darling husband happy at work, this blog’s fans who always add inspiration and cheerful comments, family and friends who bring laughter and sunshine to our lives, excellent health, teachers who expand our understanding, acceptance and appreciation for who we are, all that what we’ve got, and what we can choose to be.

How about you?  Click on “Leave a Comment” (above left) to share your small miracles.







Give the women you love the most unique gift of elegant and timeless portraits

with a Powerful Goddess portrait session Gift Certificate:

Buy Now Button with Credit Cards

© Sharon Birke

201 697 1947

Glamour Portraits of the Goddess in Every Wife & Mother

To My Younger Self

Youth is the gift of nature,

while age is

a work of art.

Stanislaw Jerzy Lec


As my highschool senior counts the days to flying the nest, I count nuggets of wisdom that might be useful to our younger self in the journey through less than sunny weather. A few favorites from and additions to Andrea Reiser’s list “47 Things I’ve Learned In My 40’s:”

Happiness has different faces. Gratitude is a choice.

Stop comparing your insides to everyone else’s outsides.

Laugh lines are worth it. Don’t waste a day without laughter.

Our body obsessions are invisible to others–until we point them out so Ssssshhh!

Experiences are infinitely more memorable than stuff.

Busy is overrated.

Take one day at a time, one step at a time, one breath at a time.

You can disagree with someone, but it doesn’t mean they’re wrong.

Being right is overrated.

Everything happens for a good reason, no matter how unclear that good reason may be for awhile.

Take a risk and seize the opportunity, it may never present itself again.

And as this Powerful Goddess reminds me “I AM ENOUGH!” to bloom where I’m planted, whatever the age, no matter the weather.

Click on “Leave a Comment” (above left) to add what sees you through.







Give the women you love the most unique gift of elegant and timeless portraits

with a Powerful Goddess portrait session Gift Certificate:

Buy Now Button with Credit Cards

 Sharon Birke

201 697 1947

Glamour Portraits of the Goddess in Every Wife & Mother

Makeup and Make Not

My mother’s idea of

natural childbirth was

giving birth without makeup.

Robin Williams

Comedy Central’s Amy Schumer parodies our beauty standards in this video “Girl, You Don’t Need Makeup.” We’re in on the joke if we admit how compulsively we submit to the judgment of others, particularly to the itinerant male gaze.

“You look better without makeup,” my husband used to tell me as a young bride and I’d stare back at him incredulously. I was blind to his point of view so his compliment bordered on ludicrous.

Having been raised with Western beauty as the ideal, my small eyes were the biggest thing I wished I weren’t born with. Kids with “normal” eyes teased, “Do you see half as much as we do?” My grandmother offered the best use of my first paycheck, “You should have slits done on your eyelids!” Too chicken for a cosmetic procedure my paycheck could not have covered anyhow, I piled on five layers of eye shadow each morning in a futile attempt to make my eyes look wider, bigger, less Asian. Several women in our family wore a similar patch of black eyeliner on the eyelids, mimicking that fold of skin our slanted eyes forgot to have. For most of my youth, no force on earth could have convinced me that almond eyes are beautiful.

Then my kids started rolling in. The second child was enough to make me feel sufficiently outnumbered and spread thin. Only two hands to get two kids dressed, fed and rushed to school? Something had to give! I lay down those makeup brushes in surrender.

Sixteen years later, it is now a mystery how I thought starting the day with heavy makeup was a bright idea. With three teens testing parental boundaries, small eyes see enough for me to handle. And will I swear off makeup completely?  Not likely! What’s the point (and the fun) of being a woman if we didn’t have options, my dear–and plenty of them!

In behalf of those who eschew makeup because they can, this Powerful Goddess glamorously bares it.  She is of that rare breed who firmly believes she is most beautiful without it.  Why, even the blind can see that! Ah-men.

Click on “Leave a Comment” to share how you honor your natural beauty. xoxox






Give the women you love the most unique gift of elegant and timeless portraits

with a Powerful Goddess portrait session Gift Certificate:

Buy Now Button with Credit Cards


 © Sharon Birke

201 697 1947

Glamour Portraits of the Goddess in Every Wife & Mother

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