Baby Or Bust: My Time Is Running Out

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Dear Sugar Radio is a weekly podcast from member station WBUR. Hosts Steve Almond and Cheryl Strayed offer “radical empathy” and advice on everything from relationships and parenthood to dealing with drug problems or anxiety.

Here’s today’s dilemma. A 38-year-old woman is in a relationship with a 24-year-old man. Despite the large age gap, everything is going well — she says they have “real, serious, beautiful love” for each other.

But she’s always wanted to be a mother, and worries that time is running out to have a child. Her boyfriend says he’s not ready for fatherhood. She’s now faced with two choices that seem to be mutually exclusive: Stay with her boyfriend, or break up and have a child on her own.


Dear Sugars,

I am in quite a jam. Two years ago, at the age of 36, I met a young man of 22. Yes, that’s a 14-year age gap.

Three weeks after that first encounter, we traveled to Mexico, spent the following three months living in L.A. (both of us completely broke, I should add), and then moved back to our home of New York City and into our first apartment together.

Over these years together, we have grown to truly appreciate each other’s differences, adore and applaud each other’s ideas and successes, and work through our challenges in a respectful, kind and loving manner. We’re the envy of our friends, and our families are thrilled to see how happy we make each other.

Our love is unwavering, honest, reciprocal and exciting. He’s exceptional at understanding and supporting my 38-year-old needs, and I am patient and understanding toward his.

But with this big, safe, secure love, has come a desire to finally become a mother. I’ve always looked forward to having children. A nurturer at heart, I assumed I’d be a young mom, but after a tumultuous and co-dependent 10-year relationship that lasted through my 20s, motherhood never felt right.

Now it does. And it’s well and truly time for me. The thing is, it’s not time for him.

Now, almost 25 years young, my guy is still searching for his dream job. He’s still finding himself, exploring friendships and discovering the hardships and treasures of life. In other words, he’s busy being a young man.

I’m in an emotional quandary, because I don’t want to rush the issue of parenthood with him, but thanks to biology, I don’t have a choice.

I am a successful writer and creative director and have, in the past two years, saved a large sum of money — enough to buy an apartment and ensure security for the next couple of years. So financially speaking, we are good. I’m also in excellent health. I’m remarkably young-looking for my age, highly energetic and fit as a fiddle.

I don’t want my boyfriend to feel pressure or obligation, and I don’t want him to have to give up his goals and dreams. But the truth is, he will never earn as much as I do, nor reach my level of career success.

If I were single, without a doubt in my mind, I’d find a way to have a child immediately, whether through sperm donation or a friend. But I’m in real, serious, beautiful love with this person, and he is in real, serious, beautiful love with me.

We’ve had a couple of tense but adult conversations about it, and he’s firmly but kindly stated his feelings against fatherhood for the unforeseeable future. He’s just not ready.

At almost 39, I don’t have time to wait for him to come around. Freezing eggs isn’t an option for me either, because time-wise, I just don’t want to get any older before I become a first-time mother.

Aside from just going ahead and falling pregnant without his full approval, I really don’t know what to do. What would YOU do?

Signed,

Age Doesn’t Matter Until It Does

Steve Almond: This is tough. Biologically, she’s quite realistic in saying, this is an experience I want to have now, not later. And if that’s the case, Age Doesn’t Matter Until It Does, then you have what sounds like a fairly stark choice. Do you want the experience of having a child and being a mom, or do you want this love?

Cheryl Strayed: I think she should go to the sperm bank and get pregnant. Age Doesn’t Matter Until It Does, I think if you’re so clear that you want to be a mother, you should become a mother. I also completely get why your partner doesn’t want to be a father at 25, but I think it’s part of his obligation to you as a partner to not stand in the way of you fulfilling one of the biggest desires in your life.

Steve: I would further interrogate the question of whether being in a secure, loving relationship feels crucial to the mixture. The reality of getting pregnant is something that I think she has to be ready to do on her own.

Cheryl: She says, “If I were single, without a doubt in my mind, I’d find a way to have a child immediately.” We know for sure that she wants to become a mother, and if that’s the case, her relationship has to fall around that. Maybe it means she and her boyfriend break up, or maybe they stay together in some fashion. There are all these different scenarios. But the one scenario that will be true is the one that she wants the most, which is that she has a baby.

Not every relationship, even if it’s a great one, is fit for the long haul. I think we often forget to think about romantic love in such practical terms. Maybe you have to say, this relationship was wonderful, and now it has to end so I can live the life I want to live and you can live the life you want, too. That’s not a failure. It can be painful, but it’s usually more painful not to make those choices.

You can get more advice from the Sugars each week on Dear Sugar Radio from WBUR. Listen to the full episode to hear from more people with disagreements over whether to have kids.

Have a question for the Sugars? Email dearsugarradio@gmail.comand it may be answered on a future episode.

You can also listen to Dear Sugar Radio on iTunes, Stitcher or your favorite podcast app.

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In Syria, At Least 39 Killed In Explosion As Evacuations Stall

At least 39 were killed following a car bomb attack on buses carrying evacuees from government-held towns in Syria. An evacuation deal had stalled and the buses were stranded for some 30 hours prior to the attack.

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At least 39 people are dead after a car bomb exploded near a convoy carrying evacuees from besieged areas of Syria, human rights groups and Syrian media report.

NPR’s Alison Meuse tells our Newscast unit, the convoy had been transporting residents of government-held towns in accordance with a “reciprocal agreement” between Syrian and rebel forces:

“They were residents of two besieged Shia minority villages, who’d been besieged by rebels for years. They were evacuating under a deal contingent on residents of two pro-rebel towns being allowed to evacuate.”

The Associated Press describes the aftermath of the blast, occurring in the Rashideen area, which is a rebel-controlled district outside Aleppo. According to the news service, state television aired images of buses “charred” and “gutted” by the blast and bodies lying near the site of the attack.

The Syrian government said the car had been supposedly carrying aid to the evacuees, while rebels claim the car was stationary and had been parked near the stalled convoy.

No group has claimed responsibility for the attack.

The convoy, which was supposed to move into the nearby Idlib province, had been stalled for some 30 hours.

The BBC adds that according to the “Four Towns” deal, some 30,000 people were planned to be relocated, but nearly 7,000 people — on both sides of the conflict — have been stranded since Friday:

“The complex choreography of this exchange has been attempted before on a smaller scale, reports Sebastian Usher, the BBC’s Arab affairs editor. There must now be concern over whether it can continue at all, he adds. …

“Rebels say Damascus breached the terms of the deal, accusing the government of trying to bring out more loyalist fighters than agreed.”

Allison further points out that the deal has been controversial and subject to accusations of forcing demographic change.

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The Internet Is Gratified: 'April The Giraffe' Gives Birth On Popular Livestream

Animal Adventure ParkYouTube

For a large portion of the Internet, patience has finally paid off.

April, a giraffe at a New York state zoo, gave birth Saturday on a widely-and-intensely-watched live stream.

According to The Associated Press, at least 1.2 million people watched the event on Animal Adventure Park’s YouTube page.

Buzzfeed News has isolated the exact moment of birth and it can be viewed below. Warning: like most live mammal births, it’s kind of messy.

Shortly thereafter, the newborn calf took its first steps.

OMG April the Giraffe has given birth 🎉 pic.twitter.com/xiZYU90pIY

— BuzzFeed News (@BuzzFeedNews) April 15, 2017

The feed was launched in February and quickly picked up an intense following of viewers hoping to catch the first glimpses of a baby giraffe. In between the cam’s launch and payoff, an apparel line sprang up dedicated to the pregnant April, as well as a GoFundMe page to shower the zoo with funds to care for calf when it arrived.

But in February, viewers were left briefly in the dark after the video was flagged for “nudity and sexual content.” The shutdown didn’t last long, however, and fervent April watchers were once again allowed their favorite Beckettian pastime.

Though details of the calf are scarce, the Associated Press notes, newborn giraffes typically weigh around 150 pounds and are about 6 feet at birth.

The news service adds that the zoo plans on a naming contest.

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North Korea Rolls Out Missiles During Founder's Birthday Celebrations

During a Saturday parade commemorating its founder’s birthday, North Korea rolled out what appeared to be new intercontinental ballistic missiles. The country has been warned against having such weapons.

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Amid the fanfare and regalia of its founder’s birthday celebrations, North Korea rolled out what appeared to be new missiles – a brazen display as the country ratchets up its rhetoric against efforts to curb its weapons programs.

The missiles were among one element of a massive, militaristic parade to mark the 1912 birthday of the regime’s founder, Kim Il Sung. Common among the annual holiday are the shows of uniformity and Maoist-inflected ideology that were on display during the Saturday parade, including parcels of tanks and ordnance and goose-stepping processions.

Founder Kim Il Sung’s birthday is usually commemorated by displays of military fanfare and the nation’s ordnance.

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Wong Maye-E/AP

Decked in black, Kim Jong Un, silently watched the ceremonies to commemorate his grandfather in the nation’s capital city, Pyongyang.

This year, however, the holiday also showcased what appeared to be long-range and submarine-based missiles: weapons the country has long been warned against possessing. As NPR’s Rob Schmitz tells our newscast unit:

“Military analysts paid close attention to two new types of intercontinental ballistic missiles enclosed in canister launchers mounted on the backs of trucks – none of which had been displayed before.

“Though analysts questioned what was inside the missile shells, they said the appearance of a submarine-launched ballistic missile shows North Korea is progressing with its plan to launch missiles from anywhere in the sea.”

And on the same day, a top North Korean official offered a warning to the U.S., accusing president Trump of “creating a war situation.”

“We will respond to an all-out war with an all-out war and a nuclear war with our style of a nuclear attack,” said Choe Ryong Hae as translated by the BBC.

“We are ready to hit back with nuclear attacks of our own style against any nuclear attacks,” Choe said Saturday.

The North has been increasingly challenging the U.S. in rhetoric following ambiguouslanguage from the Trump administration as well as the recent missile strike against Syrian government forces. The North views the strike as telegraphing what the Trump administration’s plans are for its regime.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was reportedly silent during the marking of his grandfather’s, the nation’s founder, birthday. A top official, however, accused Donald Trump of “creating a war situation”on Saturday.

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The Associated Press furthers notes that in a statement Friday, North Korea’s military drew parallels to past U.S. actions against Iraq and Libya.

“It will be the largest of miscalculations if the United States treats us like Iraq and Libya, which are living out miserable fates as victims of aggression, and Syria, which didn’t respond immediately even after it was attacked,” said a Friday statement by the general staff of the North Korean army, according to the official Korean Central News Agency.

Moreover, the North has taken the recent deployment of a U.S. naval strike group to the region as grounds for its continued testing of nuclear and missile weapons technologies.

As NPR’s Merrit Kennedy reported earlier this week, the regime said it would “hold the U.S. wholly accountable for the catastrophic consequences to be entailed by its outrageous actions.”

“We never beg for peace but we will take the toughest counteraction against the provocateurs in order to defend ourselves by powerful force of arms and keep to the road chosen by ourselves,” read a statement quoted by Merrit.

Meanwhile, Vice President Pence will travel Sunday to South Korea. Pence is scheduled to begin a ten-day Asia trip

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Eurovision Again Struck By Controversy As Russia Says It Won't Broadcast

Workers prepare for the 2017 Eurovision Song Contest at the International Exhibition Center in Kiev on April 11, 2017.

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Since the conclusion of 2016’s competition last May, the Eurovision Song Contest has been mired in controversies both practical and political — but mostly a combination of the two.

The most recent came Friday when, as the Associated Press reports, Russia announced that it would forego broadcasting this year’s competition. Hours later the country followed up, saying its pick to compete this year, 27-year-old singer Yuliya Samoylova, would instead compete next year in whichever country wins. (The winner each year then hosts the next year’s event.) The announcement amounts to a digging-in of the heels after a tumultuous year.

The country set to host this year’s Eurovision is Ukraine, which won last year thanks to its singer Jamala and her song “1944,” which many took to be a direct reference to the annexation of Crimea by Russia two years earlier. Eurovision’s rules dictate the contest avoid politics, but Jamala maintained the song was entirely personal, and the judges allowed it. (At least, it was strictly personal until Ukraine was crowned — afterward, Jamala told The Guardian: “Of course it’s about 2014 as well.”)

Predictably, the situation raised Russia’s hackles, and tensions have flared ever since.

As Morning Edition reported last month, Russia’s Samoylova had planned to compete with her song “Flame Is Burning” — but she was banned from Ukraine because of a 2015 performance in Crimea, to which she had traveled without entering the territory through Ukraine’s mainland. Ukrainian officials offered the pale olive branch of allowing her to perform remotely from Moscow, which Russia refused. Russia then said it would not broadcast this year’s contest.

This comes after 21 employees of Ukraine’s public broadcasting organization resigned in protest earlier this year. They took issue with the appropriation of funds away from the country’s public broadcaster — money meant to help tilt it away from being an oligarchic bullhorn, as The Economist reported — toward the execution of this year’s Eurovision.

Eurovision — which has been held since 1956 — had always been controversial, but mostly just for being so over-the-top. As Elisabeth Vincentelli wrote for The Believer in 2006:

Terry Wogan, who’s been commentating the annual live event for the BBC since 1971, once mused, “Is it a subtle pageant of postmodern irony? Is it a monumental piece of kitsch? Is it just a load of old plasticene?” It’s actually all of the above, with a few key elements Wogan somehow overlooked: nation-building ideals, behind-the-scenes drama, inane choreographies, conspiracy theories, costumes from outer space (or at the very least, outer Croatia), and of course songs that veer from blisteringly stupid to blisteringly brilliant and, just as often, hit both extremes. The ESC may well be the greatest invention in pop-music history.

It’s difficult to squint one’s eyes hard enough to see the below, last year’s winning performance, as schmaltzy kitsch. In a political climate as charged as many have seen in their lifetimes, maybe there’s little room left for cultural cotton candy.

The winning entry of Eurovision 2016.

YouTube

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Mazanec: A Czech Easter Tradition Fighting To Survive In The U.S.

On the weekend of April 8, the Czech Embassy in Washington, D.C., made mazanec as part of an Easter celebration.

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Courtesy of the Czech Embassy

Stick the word “bread” behind my last name on a Google search. Go ahead. Do it.

What you’ll find is a Czech food tradition rooted in Easter: a Czech Easter bread.

Mazanec is a sweet bread with rum-soaked raisins and dried fruit and topped with slivered almonds. It’s round with a cross on top, to represent Christ. And it is eaten throughout the Holy Week.

My dad remembers making it in the small, hot kitchen of his childhood home in Miami. He and his five siblings would help their mother, and while the dough rose, they pocketed fistfuls ofraisins and almonds from the counter. He says they ate mazanec as breakfast on Easter morning or as a dessert, with butter or raspberry or apricot jam.

Pavla Velickinova, the head of the public diplomacy department at the Embassy of the Czech Republic in Washington, D.C., says mazanec is one of the oldest documented Easter foods in Czech history. It comes from the expression, “mazat,” which means to anoint, she says. This is why it’s baked on White Saturday, the day that reminds Czechs of the last rites of Christ.

This tradition of making mazanec as an Easter treat dates back to the 15th century, says Karen Von Kunes, a professor of Slavic language and literature at Yale University.

But even before that, she says, people across Europe baked this kind of bread around springtime. “In Europe, it was a custom to celebrate spring with making this … type of pastry,” she says.

Some of those traditions are still alive in other European countries. Take England’s hot cross buns for example, as well as Greece’s tsoureki.

Von Kunes says back then, mostfamilies would bake it during Easter. Poor families, who couldn’t afford the sugar, raisins and almonds, would bake a single mazanec without those ingredients and share it among themselves. Wealthier families would make one for each family member.

Growing up in the Czech Republic, Kristyna Montano says she remembers always buying the bread from stores. Every Czech bakery, big and small, sells mazanec during this holiday, she says. And her mother, who lives in the Czech city of Brno, has already been enjoying mazanec she bought earlier this week.

Slices of mazanec made at home by Kristyna Montano, a Czech American now living in California.

Courtesy of Kristyna Montano

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Courtesy of Kristyna Montano

But Montano herself now lives in Redding, Calif., where she can’t find it in a store. So, these days, she makes the bread herself. She eats it as a breakfast food all weekwith butter on top and hot cocoa on the side.

Montano recently posted a video of her making mazanec on her personal food blog, where she regularly posts Czech recipes.While she works with her own recipe, which she has finessed over the yeas, others who make mazanec use recipes passed down to them by their parents. My dad uses a recipe from the cookbook given to him by his father.

Nancy Vesecky, the owner of Vesecky’s, a Czech bakery in Berwyn, Ill., uses the same recipe that was brought to Ellis Island by her husband’s grandfather. Vesecky says she doesn’t know of other bakeries that sell the bread. But for the Czechs and Czech descendants who come to her shop, she says it’s something they like to buy.

“A lot of people — it’s a tradition for them,” she says. “A lot of people like it. They put it in their Easter baskets, and they go [to church], and they have them blessed.”

Cecilia Rokusek, a Czech descendant who lives in the town of Davie, Fla., remembers coming home from the Good Friday church service as a child and having two rituals: coloring Easter eggs and making mazanec. And then it was a treat she ate for every meal continuing into the next week, sometimes in the form of French toast, if there were leftovers.

It’s not a difficult recipe, she says, but you have to dedicate time to it.

Rokusek starts the prep for mazanec with soaking the raisins in rum. Then she kneads the dough and covers it with a tea towel and sets it aside. The next is boiling a pot of water on the stove and placing the pot in the lower rack of the oven, without switching the oven on. She then places the bowl of dough in the top rack of the oven, and lets it rise with the heat from the the pot of hot water below.

Once the dough rises, she takes it out of the oven, kneads it some more and places it back inside the oven, with a fresh pot of boiling water underneath it. The dough rises again. She kneads it some more, then places it back in the oven, and repeats this two to three times.

Making mazanec is clearly not for the lazy or for people running short of time. And that’s a big reason why the tradition is struggling to stay alive in the U.S., says Rokusek. “I think time is a big, big, big issue right now. Everybody is working and they don’t spend half a day in the kitchen baking.”

Still, she says it’s important to share the recipe with future generations of Czech Americans. “I think it’s important to … keep the tradition,” she says, “so that it doesn’t get lost, even though you may not do it every year.”

Even my father, who went to buy ingredients for the bread Friday morning, doesn’t make the bread every Easter. With a busy family, he hasn’t always had the time. And most years, our Easter treats are the ears of chocolate bunnies and jelly beans.

But he has made sure I know my last name is more than just a name; it’s a celebration of Easter time, which is all the better with good food. And you can bet mazanec will make its way to my stomach this Easter, even if it takes us half a day to bake it.


Cecilia Mazanec is a digital news intern at NPR. She is finishing up her undergraduate studies at the University of Florida.

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Fresh Air Weekend: Revisiting Jonestown; 'Better Call Saul'; Comic Sasheer Zamata

A 2010 memorial service for the Jonestown massacre in Oakland, Calif., featured photographs of the victims.

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Eric Risberg/AP

Fresh Air Weekend highlights some of the best interviews and reviews from past weeks, and new program elements specially paced for weekends. Our weekend show emphasizes interviews with writers, filmmakers, actors and musicians, and often includes excerpts from live in-studio concerts. This week:

Nearly 40 Years Later, Jonestown Offers A Lesson In Demagoguery: In 1978, more than 900 followers of the Rev. Jim Jones committed mass suicide in Guyana. In his new book, The Road to Jonestown, journalist Jeff Guinn details how Jones captivated so many.

‘Better Call Saul’ Launches Its 3rd Season, Still The Best Drama Series On TV: The Breaking Bad spinoff returns Monday, telling more of the origin story of lawyer Jimmy McGill (aka Saul Goodman).Critic David Bianculli says the series “more than stands on its own.”

To Get To ‘SNL,’ Comic Sasheer Zamata ‘Followed The Fun’: Zamata says her path from beginner to working comic happened in the best possible way: “I just followed the things I was really interested in, and it turned out to be what I needed to do.”

You can listen to the original interviews here:

Nearly 40 Years Later, Jonestown Offers A Lesson In Demagoguery

‘Better Call Saul’ Launches Its 3rd Season, Still The Best Drama Series On TV

To Get To ‘SNL,’ Comic Sasheer Zamata ‘Followed The Fun’

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