I’m in the New York Times, for better or worse


If you are coming here because you read the article about blogging about divorce in the New York Times, here is a road map to this blog: The blog is primarily about careers but when my family life relates to that topic, I write about my family.

Here are posts about my divorce:
My first day of marriage counseling July 5, 2007 (183 comments)

Five communications lessons learned in marriage counseling November 28, 2007 (90 comments)

A case study in staying resilient: my divorce February 27, 2008 (116 comments)

Here are posts about other aspects of my family life:
An unexpected lesson about procrastination January 1, 2007 (22 comments)

Five steps to taming materialism, from an accidental expert August 7, 2007 (88 comments)

Blending my kids and my career (not really) June 7, 2007 (45 comments)

I actually feel misquoted in the Times today. For example, I don’t blame my divorce on my son. But I’ve written before that if you talk to the press, you should expect to be misquoted, so this is a dose of my own medicine: Why journalists misquote everyone

If you want to comment to me about the New York Times article, you can do it on this post.

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  1. DW
    DW says:

    I was quoted in the NYT times today and they got my quote wrong, very wrong. I said all the words they printed, but not in succession. They were lots of sentences in between that were left out. Thanks NYT.

    And thank you for sharing a part of your life with us.

  2. Muneerah
    Muneerah says:

    Penelope, you look so cute in the NYT picture! (Is that appropriate? I hope so.) Structurally ugly, you say? Where’d you get that from?? Not true. Although my first thought after ‘Penelope looks so cute’ was ‘Is she hiding her foot fungus with that pose?’

  3. Peg
    Peg says:

    My god, I should be so fat. You look great and I’m glad I read the article, because now I’ve found your blog. Although I’m divorced myself and so interested in that aspect of your blog, I’m also in the middle of a career change and so I’ll be coming back to your blog often.

  4. WA
    WA says:

    I don’t understand why women can be so insecure. You look beautiful and very attractive in your NYT photo. Keep your chin up!

  5. Jerry Matthew
    Jerry Matthew says:

    PT –

    GREAT PICTURE in the NYT! I love it.

    Newspapers, on line or in print, are put out for one main purpose: To sell. Writers may not be given all the space they would like for their articles so what sells is what gets printed. I got the impression the writer was “in a hurry” to tell the story and what was printed doesn’t even come close to the whole story.

    The good and the bad about blogging is once your writing is out there it’s out there – forever. An emotional rant published on a blog is there unless you take it down. Your life can be out there, too, if you so choose. You’ve chosen to share a great deal with us. Thank you for doing that. It makes others (me included) feel a little more brave about opening up parts of our lives usually kept hidden.

    Thank you for being an inspiration to use something so simple as a keyboard to positively affect other people’s lives.

    Keep Writing.

  6. Anna
    Anna says:

    An emotional rant published on a blog is there unless you take it down.

    And even then, it usually isn’t gone. Caching, reader reactions (which may include copy and paste)…
    Once it’s out there, it’s out there. A couple years ago, I found a website that had cached online diaries from websites that had long been defunct. Nothing ever goes away completely once you post it on the internet.

    That being said, wonderful picture, though I found it odd that it had “top billing,” so to speak, but I couldn’t find any reference to you until the second page.

  7. Maggie
    Maggie says:

    A few years ago–when I was a SAHM and watched Oprah religiously–I went on her website and, in the “be on the show” section, sent them an email in response to the question “Does your life look perfect from the outside but isn’t?” or something like that. A few days later the producer called me, telling me they were doing a show about women whose lives looked perfect but really weren’t. It was right when Desperate Housewives just came out so that was the tie-in to that particular show–it was featuring the actresses from that show and real-life women whose lives resembled the fictional ones on the show.

    LONG story short–I ended up on Oprah as a “real-life Desperate Housewife.” The producer and crew followed me around my house and my life, taping for 9 straight hours, which they then condensed into a 3-minute clip. It was exactly like DW says above–they took stuff out of context, spliced sentences together, etc. Not to mention just staged much of it–telling me to say certain things or hold pill bottles or whatever.

    I figured as much going into it, though–I knew they would “Oprah-cize” the whole thing and make me look way worse than I was. I figured nobody I knew would see it anyway because who watches Oprah anyway–most people are at work. Wrong. EVERY person I’ve ever known was either home sick that day or in some other way coincidentally watching Oprah even if they’d never seen it before.

    At any rate–the NYT did misquote you–you once wrote that 80% of couples who have an autistic child end up divorcing–you didn’t say that you feel your son caused your divorce at all. But I digress–the article was crappy anyway.

  8. Jenny
    Jenny says:

    I thought it was shitty they way framed that about your son, too. And you do not look fat in that picture, btw, I saw that you commented that on twitter.

  9. david rees
    david rees says:

    It is interesting to me how anonymous your husband is in all of this. I am not sure we even know his name (not that we need to)

    I think I am a careful and insightful reader and you have managed to obfuscate (to your credit) most of the issues and dynamics of your marriage.

    Then I see you pondering the Meyers Briggs stuff on Twitter. Of all the ways people use it, I have found Meyers Briggs to be most useful in understanding my personal relationships and my work relationships. It has also helped my wife and I understand our significant differences (we joke about our Pirate-Ninja marriage)

    If I was going to have a point here, it would be to tell you to go get David Keirseys book – its a slightly different take on the 16 types and I think NTs will generally find it to be more systematic and coherent and perhaps draw some new conclusions.

    And I liked the Times picture.

  10. Emily
    Emily says:

    Just found your site in the NY Times and just wanted to say I’m so glad — what fantastic career commentary! I’ve spent the past hour reading through old posts and you’ve got such great insights I immediately passed the site on to a friend who is in the middle of a protracted job hunt.

  11. ongrowthtrack
    ongrowthtrack says:

    One must be very careful what one reads and spends time reading. Sadly there are very few national news papers worth reading in the USA, NYT does not even come close (to put it mildly).
    I would spend the pring edition cost on my coffee and time reading and commenting on blogs which make me more effective.

    They do sometimes have great images. Yours was a nice one.

  12. Milena
    Milena says:

    Penelope –

    You are not ugly, in fact, I think you should post more photos of yourself. Ever notice how Oprah graces the cover of every “O” magazine? Whether or not you like that tactic, people like her, her face is a part of her brand…maybe yours should be too.

    Anyways – that article was lame. Clearly your son is not the reason for your divorce, it was stupid for them to word it that way.

    I'm not a psychologist, but I know that kids that grow up in the spotlight or having their parent’s laundry aired don’t have a higher chance of becoming screwed up than parents who keep their problems and/or neuroses hidden from everyone, Stepford style. I’d say it’s equal opportunity.

    My own parents were not perfect, and while they didn't have blogs, they certainly didn't hide their flaws from me. Contrary to the advice in the NYT article, I think it was great parenting. Growing up I knew that if I found myself in a crappy situation, I could go to them for advice about drugs or sex, instead of my idiot grade school cohorts, which is what most kids end up doing, often getting in much more trouble than if the can talk to adults, are treated like adults, and given adult choices. Brazen honesty is a big part of that. Your kids can see a hypocrite and won't respect you. Being honest takes that out of the equation.

  13. Miriam Salpeter
    Miriam Salpeter says:

    It’s a shame that the reporter chose to misquote you in such a divisive way. Most parents would not publicly “blame” their child for a divorce…Makes the article all the more “scandalous.”

    Your point (if you actually said it like this!): "The bloggers who are doing the best are those who are injecting their personal lives." That is so true. If you are brave enough to share information, people will connect on many levels. Hopefully more will be rooting for you than not!

    Miriam Salpeter

  14. J
    J says:

    So I know I’ve read all of your posts about your divorce and you were misrepresented ny the NYT.

    Regarding the picture- I don’t think you look fat but that doesn’t matter much because you do. To try to avoid feeling that way in the future for a seated shot, I would wear a more fitted shirt altogether or an empire type shirt- they tend to be blousy at the stomach and show more cleavage- it helps shape you yet hides any ‘muffin top’ especially for a seated shot. But like i stated before, I think you looked pretty!

  15. Jennifer P.
    Jennifer P. says:

    I have just discovered your blog through the NYT article. I cannot believe your husband told you you were going to a therapist and you wound up in a divorce lawyers office!

    Since I am new to your blog I don’t know if you post much about your son’s Asperger’s. My young cousin suffers from Autism and I am very connected to my aunt’s blog and the community of other moms who blog about their children’s Autism and recovery efforts. I guess my question is why is that not a central theme in your blog as it is obviously such a huge part of any family’s life that have a child diagnosed with ASD particularly because parents are really forced to advocate for their child to make any progress or see signs of recovery.

  16. Missa
    Missa says:

    Penelope, you look great in your photo and are lucky to have worked with a talented photographer that was able to tell a better story about you than the article’s writer! I love how relaxed and at ease you look, and the background complete with funky Christmas-y lights and what I can assume is hand-made kid art is fantastic! It shows what a wonderful home you’ve created.

    (I’ve been reading your blog since I’ve had business-related conversations with Ryan H. and am a huge fan, btw.)

  17. Queercents
    Queercents says:

    Penelope – you shouldn't be so hard on yourself with your looks.

    I have to disagree with Missa about what’s in the background. I'm sending you a gay interior decorator ASAP! The first thing we're nixing is the strand of lights – and unfortunately, we have to move the kid art to the fridge.

    But you look smashing as usual!

  18. K
    K says:

    The NYT quote you cite evidence you were misquoted seems to be inaccurately referenced by you. The quote is that the child’s medical condition (Asperger’s) is difficult for parents (not hard to understand) and “the challenges of raising him helped cause their divorce”. It is hard to imagine that this statement is false in any material sense, in that certainly a child’s medical circumstance will in every case have some impact on the relationship of the parents, and in most cases will have a negative impact as the concern for the well being of the child is going to be paramount to issues in the relationship which will inevitably be put to the side and ignored. Unless you never mentioned the condition of your child, it is hard to see how the NYT statement could be false or misleading. Certainly the quote does not suggest that either parent is laying the divorce at the feet of the child’s medical condition, rather than acknowledging it as a factor. However, I would never want my child to read a statement like that under any circumstances, which raises the question “why would you ever talk to the NYT about this?”

  19. Victoria
    Victoria says:

    You’re also quoted in the Chicago Tribune today, and certainly more in your favor. Your timing on all of this is golden, with all of the controversy surrounding online divorces at the moment.

    Thankfully you’re handling it beautifully. You’re not the crazy lady on Youtube!

  20. Redsy
    Redsy says:

    Hi Penelope,
    I think the issues raised by this article have to do with how we talk about marriage and divorce now that we all have a platform to do so.

    I wrote this up at Babble today….


    I think your discussion of stay at home dads is brilliant!! If more of us were honest about how childrearing and career juggling were ruining our marriages, perhaps we could change these sad outcomes.

  21. Nino
    Nino says:

    It’s true — Don’t rely on any facts you see in the media.

    For the record: The marriage counselor’s office in question shares offices with a divorce mediator and lawyer — for your shopping convenience. Also, I do not in fact believe that “the challenges” of raising our son “helped cause” our divorce. Lastly, we have not been married 15 years — or anywhere close to that number.


  22. Jessica
    Jessica says:

    Penelope –

    I’ve only recently started reading your blog. First for the career info, then I kept coming back because I like your writing style and identify with some of what you write about.

    I was also happy to see you live in Madison. As a fellow local Madisonian, I hope our city becomes “home” for you and your kids. It really is a great place.

    Thanks again for your blog. :)

  23. Master Mind
    Master Mind says:

    Penelope… You need to post more pictures of yourself. You’re hot! I can’t find any pictures anywhere. Post some hot pics of you and I’ll send out an e-mail to my entire contact list to check out your blog. I bet everyone else will agree to do the same. :)

  24. Carla
    Carla says:


    I understand what you are saying. It is a fact that a child with disabilities causes more strain in a marriage. A local organization that provides services for children and adults with disabilities (www.villagelac.org), also provides support for the families for exactly this reason.

    My friend has a son with Asberger’s, and it’s hard. His school experience has ranged from wonderful to an absolute nightmare where she had to take him out for three months. It really depended on how supportive the school and teachers were towards him. If a teacher didn’t understand where some of the over the top reactions were coming from, it could quickly degenerate into a very hostile environment.

  25. Ali
    Ali says:

    You don’t look structurally unattractive in the NYTimes. It’s actually a better picture then the one I saw of your from a few months back when you were launching. Then you looked tired. This time you look good.

  26. Heidi
    Heidi says:

    I think you look great, Penelope!

    As I read that article, I kept thinking to myself, “I can only recall two or three instances where you talked about your divorce.”

    And I hate that they took what you’ve said about your son and printed it out of context.

    I can relate on a very small scale. I was profiled as an “overboader” by the largest paper in my state (nothing big like the NYT or Oprah), and its amazing how people came out of the woodwork to contact me and comment.

  27. quibble
    quibble says:

    I kinda agree with K, in that they didn’t say Penelope “blamed you divorce on your son”. They said just that the difficulty of the situation contributed to the problems in the relationship.

    I can see how a person could misread that, but honestly, that’s all it would be; misreading.

    I think they did kinda make Penelope sound cold, but not at the paragraph where they first mention Penelope’s son. Instead, it was that last paragraph where they perhaps intentionally made Penelope look blunt and insensitive. The way the last paragraph was worded, it was as if Penelope is just kinda assuming kids can take anything and they will be fine later. Like she was saying, “oh well, they’ll probably be fine later.”

    Problem is, that when we speak in a conversation, we aren’t crafting each sentence to say everything we want perfectly. Explaining something via talk, in contrast to writing, is a dynamic situation where people build an understanding gradually through back and forth communication, feedback. So, a problem can occur when someone tries to take a single quote from a conversation, since it doesn’t necessarily really represent the complete idea.

    Anyways, Penelope was just being honest, which is what I like about her blogs. No one should be surprised when someone mentions that raising children is not always easy.

  28. Joselle
    Joselle says:

    Penelope, you’re hot and totally cute. A variation of that picture should be your author pic on the blog and next book–airy, full-body and all smiley. Smart and you look like that means you can wear the preschool mom outfit with no problem on a date. I never want to read the words plastic surgery again! :) Your house is adorable too. I love the lights strung up.

  29. Ginny Vanderlinde
    Ginny Vanderlinde says:

    I also write a blog about my life as a single mom and professional and have off and on been tormented by the experiences related to my very very bitter divorce. My exhusband used my blog against me (with some success) in the recent battle to reduce his child support and child care expenses. I don’t have a lot of time to write in my blog and certainly some entries are better written than others (I’m a former journalist myself). But I will defend until I die the right to say what I please about my ex publicly. I really don’t care if it is embarassing to him. My lawyer wants me to quit, but I refuse. (He says he’s protecting my interests.) Like the others in the NYTimes article, if Elvis doesn’t like it, he can write his own blog.

    Keep it up sisters. There is no possible way to write about our lives without sometimes mentioning the ex. And if the ex is a butt, then the references are not likely to be positive.

  30. sifi
    sifi says:

    As soon as I saw your pic in the NYT I wanted to comment. It is stunning! Please change the one on your blog…it doesn’t even begin to do you justice. Too bad about the NYT; that was a hack piece. Glad you addressed the matter. Best wishes always.

  31. InMadison
    InMadison says:

    Please, are we going to play the “do I look fat” game here? Let’s take ourselves seriously. The argument and constant back and forth is what’s ugly, and keeps women in the same box. You also write so much about image – you knew the photographer was going to be there, you could have had one of your image consulting sessions and not be talking about this. Love the blog, but the Twitter comment disgusts me.

  32. Mark W.
    Mark W. says:

    What’s good about the NYT article? The link to this blog and your photo. Today’s post was necessary to clarify a few things and provide a ‘road map’ – smart thinking. Your photo is one of a true optimist and resiliency and is quite a contrast to Tricia Walsh Smith’s photo.

  33. Aayush
    Aayush says:

    i also saw your article…but not in the NYT…but here in India..in our english daily..THE HINDUSTAN TIMES. You look fine in the photo btw.

  34. John Feier
    John Feier says:

    I don’t like the picture…

    It doesn’t show your face close up enough.

    In any case, in response to the subject of the article, one golden rule seems to be arising out of all this. If you don’t like have any of your dirty laundry hung out for all the world to see, don’t make any dirty laundry.

    But that’s almost impossible as we’re all human and prone to err. So maybe we should be a little bit less sensitive about being “exposed.”

  35. quibble
    quibble says:

    Just ’cause everyone else is commenting about the picture… I thought it was a good picture and Penelope looks above average on the attractiveness scale. But to be honest… your face does appear abnormally circular, almost reminds me of Spot the old 7up mascot. Just joking, don’t be cross, Penelope is still above average in attactiveness

  36. Shefaly
    Shefaly says:

    Amazing if not typical! P writes here about the NYT article and cue comments – in response to the article – on her _looks_ when her main concerns in this post appear to be journalism, boundaries in blogging, and blending the personal and the professional.

    In misquoting you, Penelope, the journalist commits the all too common fallacy of confusing ‘contributory’ with ‘causal’ though purists might note that the use of ‘helped cause’ instead of ’caused’ in that line could be cited in the journalist’s defence.

    At the end of the day, the article addresses imbalance and relative senses of privacy. To the person, who wondered if we even know P’s ex-husband’s name, well, he has posted a comment here clarifying something but yes, to those, who read rather than skim the posts here, his name was already known.

    I wonder if the journalist asked – and if not, why not – about the possible contributory role of Penelope’s blogging about him on the breakdown of the relationship…

  37. Beth B
    Beth B says:

    I am a big fan of your blog so I interested to see the New York Times article. I appreciate you speaking up on divorce, I AGREE that our kids will be joining online discussions so it is a generational thing. My parents got divorced and we felt so isolated, maybe if we had blogs to read that talked about divorce it would have been more comforting.

    I posted on the Silicon Valley Moms Blog my thoughts about divorce blogging – I think it is an important discussion to have. No one has commented on my post yet….Maybe people are still not comfortable talking on this subject… At least YOU inspired me to be brave and get the discussion going…

  38. Maurice
    Maurice says:

    I remeber being told years ago to make sure when being interviewd that you have a recording of the interview.

    Notice how all Politicians have an aide who’s job it is to do this.

  39. Jade Sunshine
    Jade Sunshine says:

    Found you via the NYT article. When I realized my marriage wasn’t working anymore, I started a separate blog at http://jabberwock42.blogspot.com (i had a family blog already). The separate blog was a great way for me to vent / think, and a good way for friends to keep in touch with what was happening in my life.

    I chose to not put in identifying information in my divorce blog, but I can totally see that that is a personal choice.

    I think divorce blogging is fine, with or without information, we do have freedom of speech after all.

    Thanks for a great looking site, going to spend some time looking around,


  40. Bruce
    Bruce says:

    Hey Girl,

    Life is our journey together. “For better or worse” pun intentional.

    We say I do then life comes at us in ways we never dreamed. Crossroads are reached and we chose, Robert frost said it best ” two roads diverge in a yellow would and I chose the one less traveled by and that has made all the difference”

    We are people first, spiritual and emotional and physical all three need to be in balance to achieve are place in the ‘river of life’.

    Your best is yet ahead and now that you are very special in just who you are.

  41. Ken
    Ken says:

    Wow, Penelope.

    I don’t want to reduce myself to one of those guys, but I just did.

    You look fantastic.

  42. editormum
    editormum says:

    Pen, get over the image issues already. Fat? *I* should be so fat. When you have 100 pounds to lose, I’ll consider listening to your body angst. Until then, get over it already. You look fine.

    But yeah, you need some decorating help. What’s with the 1950s Xmas lights? The kid art doesn’t bother me, but it needs some context. :-)

    Okay, trivial stuff out of the way. On to the important bits. Journalists misquote. Law of the jungle. They also don’t always write what they are trying to communicate in the most coherent way. They’re in too much of a hurry.

    So yeah, they kind of misquoted you re: your kid’s Asperger’s and its effects on your marriage. Crummy of them. But I don’t think anyone who’s followed your blog will think that you really blamed the failure of your marriage on the kidlet. This is one of those situations where “those who matter don’t mind, and those who mind, don’t matter.” So don’t worry about it.

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