Friday, December 30, 2011

Destinations Unknown

I’m considering running to the hills the first time I hear “New Year’s Resolution.” I’m a non-believer of the New Year’s Resolution, or NYR, as I’ve never really known anyone who succeeded in completing a resolution. If you’re out there somewhere, my hat’s off to you. I myself have never achieved the NYR. Oh, I’ve made plenty of them, but they never seemed to happen within the year I make them.

The year I resolved to go to Spain and actually had my passport renewed, our son arrived. Spain hit the back burner but that’s okay. My son is more vibrant than Catalonia's sky, and maybe I can make the trip with both my children one day. I won’t count the years, yes, plural, that I vowed to lose weight. The last time I made that resolution I spent five months of the year on steroids. Bet ya can’t guess what that does to a waist line. I’ve vowed to get my house in order, only to realize that’s impossible with a teen and a toddler. I promised to write more, only to discover Facebook. I promised to quit smoking only to get scared enough to stop nowhere near the New Year. Honestly, I think resolutions are a great concept, but the reality is that we resolve to do something when we are finally committed to reach a goal.

For some, the NYR is a possible target, for others, a pipe dream, for me? I’m going to try something new. I think that this year I’m going to work on waking up every day (beats the alternative) with a decent attitude. I’m going to try to be the best me I can and to make decisions based on what is best for me and my family. When I fall down or fall short (and you can bet I will), I promise not to beat myself up and that I will treat myself as my friends treat me. Oh they’ll tell me when I mess up, but they lift me up and get me back on the road, loving unconditionally. It’s not so much a resolution that I’m working on, as it is a way of life. May we all find what we need, appreciate what we have, travel the unknown enjoying the destination, and may we all have a very Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Christmas Past, or Present?

I’m not standing in judgment, I just don’t understand.  Yesterday I went for a drive and the sad sight of a lone Christmas tree, stripped of its decorations and lights, lay abandoned on the side of the road. It was only one day after Christmas. I understand that some trees are a bona-fide fire hazard by the 26th, and they need to be removed for the sake of safety alone. Some people are going out of town and don’t want to deal with the removal after their return. There are many good reasons to take the decorations down early, but every year? What I’m talking about are the “serial-day-after-Christmas-decoration- removal-individuals.” They take the decorations down immediately because “Christmas is over.”

‘Cuse me? Oy vey! It doesn’t matter what faith you come from, believe in, or don’t believe in, but if you “participate” or believe, why short change the event? For me there is nothing sadder than celebrating because everyone else does, or giving just because of the gifts. It’s a lack of perspective that gets me. Christmas is more than just one day. Sure, if we’re going to be accurate, the birth of Christ wasn’t even December 25th, but that is the day chosen to celebrate the anniversary of Christ’s birth, and it’s also called the “Christmas Season.” The wise men didn’t arrive five minutes after the birth with presents, it took a few days, hence Little Christmas, or Epiphany, which falls on January 6th. I could go on and on, but the point is, have we really become so commercial that we believe Christmas is only one day?

When you get right down to it, we decorate for ourselves because it makes us feel good to see that special glow, the twinkling of lights and the bright reds and greens in the middle of winter. The manger scene reminds us, as does the star or angel atop the Christmas tree, and sometimes it’s good to be reminded of what is important. To celebrate Christmas I guess you really don’t need the decorations at all, and yet there is a part of me that thinks putting away the manger and the lights the day after Christmas would be like taking down a menorah after the second day of Chanukah.

Friday, December 23, 2011

We Three Kings of the Household Are

Quiz for you, because I know everyone who isn't a teacher or student is missing school:
What are my most frequently repeated four words over the holidays?

A) Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays
B) Do you gift wrap?
C) Oh, you shouldn't have!
D) I'm NOT your maid!

For every Mom out there who chose D...we have a winner! Unfortunately, I have no gifts other than a chuckle at the shared experience. I started tinkering in my mind (dangerous, always) with the lyrics to We Three Kings of the Household last holiday season.

It helps with my sanity when I insert humor where I could insert anger. And really something about the holidays lend themselves to such intense emotions. We miss ones who are no longer with us, and we miss the relatives that we can't be with. We see commercials which promise the perfect holiday experience if we shop at their store, brew their coffee, buy their overpriced car...suddenly we'll have perfectly coiffed families in matching pajamas who, well, you get the picture already...

The reality is that I have little red balls on the floor where the cat, Elvis, managed to unstring part of the garland on the fake tree. Getting the teens out of bed isn't a long as I don't try to. And hubby actually told me that he and the boys prefer our home to going to a resort. All their electronics are here and they think it's very comfortable. To which I shot back with, "Well, I've always found locations that offer meal, laundry and concierge service to be quite enjoyable, too so I can see why you three love it here." See why a woman who can't hold a tune, hums her own song??

And yet, I took a bunch of old movies and had them converted to DVD's for my parents for their Christmas present this year. Of course there were Christmases from my childhood. As my parents and I sat there watching them,  they could remember buying the toy bazooka that my older brother got from the PX at Fort Bragg and my adorable robe came from Belk's. My baby brother and his son could trade places in a time travel scenario and no one would be able to tell who was who. Christmases of times past are perfectly preserved and so precious. I don't remember the arguments or frustrations, but I remember the excitement, the thrill, the food, and the love.

So in a few minutes, I'll start my chicken for my version of Momma's homemade chicken salad. Oh, and I need to let the sticks of butter start coming to room temperature for the cookies. And while all of that is going on, how about some homemade french toast, and the laundry room is right here so I might as well start a load of clothes...because no matter what the frustrations are - family, family, love, love...Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Over the River, and Through the Woods to Wal Mart

It's 4 in the morning...and why do I start off sounding like a country music song? Well, because it's the holidays and here I sit finishing off another trip to the relatives. I can't help but wonder if Prince William and his Duchess will have some of the following conversations this Christmas:
"Please can we leave? Why can't your family ever buy a NEW piece of furniture? These 400 year old beds are killing my back. And just what am I supposed to buy for your grandmother? The woman has EVERYTHING. And can you tell your stepmother to stop glaring at me. I did NOT steal the tiara she wanted. I can't help it if your grandmother likes me better."
Or maybe the Prince will have his say:
"What do you mean I have to share a bathroom? If we go to my family's house, no one has to share a bathroom. Does your father really think I'm going to help out the family business? I've got enough problems with my own family business. Has he noticed the mess my father made of things?"

Hubby and I and the teen sons have been to both sides of the family so far. Not an easy task since three states are involved- the one we live in, and the two different ones they live in. So far the trips have involved sick relatives (his father, my mother and father), whiny teenagers (yes, the world revolves around you, my darlings), the realization that the transmission was messing up on my one year old car, juggling the logistics of high school marching band commitments, and our 20th anniversary was in there somewhere.

On our anniversary (which was the day before Thanksgiving), we traveled to relatives. Therefore our possibilities for celebration were somewhat limited. As the evening progressed, I found myself walking through the Wal Mart parking lot. At that point, my somewhat warped sense of humor once again surfaced, and the following conversation truly did take place:
Me (in a thick Southern drawl, my only truly good mimicking skill): "Honeeee, you sure 'nuff know how to treat a girl right on her anniversary. So far I've been to the Applebee's, the nursing home, and now I get to go to Wal Mart. I feel truly blessed."
Hubby: (in a similar drawl) "We're honorin' our heritage, babee."

Of course, we both cracked up, and now we have a new tag line. See I figured out years ago what I needed to get me through the holidays, so here's my list:

Girlfriends (it's ever so much better to share your complaints with like minded individuals)
Sense of humor (while sharing, find the humor in the adventure)
Enjoy the holiday treats
And don't say yes if you don't WANT to do it (see Martha Stewart Don't Live Here No More, I don't decorate or do it unless I want to - that's been a hard lesson to learn and absorb - still sorta a work in progress)

So how do you cope with the holidays? Got someone you call or text? A favorite treat? 'Cause it's awful hard to sleep on these 400 year old beds...

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Naughty or Nice?

Christmas is the time of cheer and merriment. This past Saturday we stood and watched our town's Christmas parade, patiently waiting for our daughter's float to pass by us. She was number 83, a long way at the back, and I was suffering from the-morning-after-the-night-before syndrome. The noise of the parade's vehicles was louder than a sonic boom, or so it felt. It was fun, even in my delicate state. As the parade unfolded, I did however get somewhat perplexed. Never before in my life would I have thought I would see high school marching bands and toddler gymnasts marching and tumbling in between, wait for it, two Adam and Eve (let's get naughty) vans and one huge jail, complete with external toilet, advertising bail bonds. I think naughty and nice really did meet on our tarmac this year, and I am not sure I agree, but that is Christmas.

With this said, I got to thinking. I wrote in the new issue of 4Gaby about seasonal memories (, Evelyn wrote a great version of We Three Kings of Orient Are ( and they both gave me a good idea. Let's be naughty ourselves and create a new version of the twelve Days of Christmas.

The original, if you recall, counts down the twelve days by listing gifts by the true love (a partridge in a pear tree, two turtle doves, three French hens, four colly birds, five gold rings, six geese a laying, seven swans a swimming, eight maids a milking, nine ladies dancing, and ten drummers drumming). So let's base ours on some of the more debatable gifts given to ourselves.

I will start with the first day and then I am looking to you, dear readers, to follow. Let's see if we can fill our song by Friday. Don't be shy and don't worry if someone else fills a slot you wanted, just tell us anyway. 



Thursday, December 8, 2011

I'm Taking my Lumps as They Come

By Sheilah

Sitting in the Presby Medical Tower uptown Charlotte, waiting to be called in for my re-do of the mammogram, or whatever it is they plan to do to me today. I haven’t the faintest idea, just got the dreaded call back after my mammogram last week: “The doctors haven’t finished reading your results, but we need you to come in.” No recourse, no but I have fibrocystic (aka lumpy naturally) breasts, I don’t have a family history, blah blah blah. They don’t care.

Only had to wait a week for my appointment, and then find the darn place in uptown. It just happens to be the hospital next to the cancer center. Great. No deodorant—that’s the only preparation they tell you. No messing up our machines is how I read that instruction. So here I sit, slightly malodorous, in this onerous duty of responding to doctors. Wondering why oh why did I schedule such a gram during holiday time. Also had my yearly cardiologist appointment last week, and they called back too. At least I think that one is a normal call back to interpret the same ole results.

I’m not too afraid, but you never know, this much I do know. This time they will send the doctor right in. Staring at the ceiling with the one can light in the room shining on my face, the monitor beside me, I recall the many ceilings I’ve faced. Too many tests, too many misdiagnoses. Another reason not to worry. A quick ultrasound reveals a big empty cyst, nothing to worry about. “Do you all validate parking?” There’s nothing else to say. Thank you. The teardrop-shaped cyst says something, something like, nobody deserves this, and yet design intent overcomes us.

Yes, hormonal changes that come with aging can change your fibrocystic breasts. Same time next year (well, I think I’ll push it to January). So I’ll take my breasts, lumps and all and cherish them and get the heck out of here. I wish you the same luck: a boring mammogram, an empty cyst, a tear that never drops. God bless us all with more health than we suspect.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

No Running in the Biltmore House

By Sheilah

Another year, another volunteer for anything and everything. Just got back from the all-day field trip to the Biltmore House. Rain, fog, 4 hours on the interstate. Oh joy. The kids were little charms, but I wasn’t. They had to be. The tour guide kept them, kept us all, in line. In a strict line, bellying up to the velvet rope so the other visitors with their lovely ear buds and self-guided tour could linger, listen, maybe even learn something in a leisurely way. Not us, no, we were ushered through with a 30-second spiel on each room and then outta there. Why not let the boys linger and lovingly stare at the library’s ceiling with its nudes? It was some great art, and they would have learned something I bet. And I want to hear more about the secret rooms; better yet, let us tour them. I mean at $40 bucks a pop plus the gas and time and multi coffees, give me a second here.

Too much to ask. It’s a public school field trip, on chartered buses, and there is no time. Rules rules rules. I hear in the old days parents packed their paneled wagons with as many kids could stack on top of each other and drove them across county lines without fear of liability. Imagine that. Probably stuffed them full of homemade goodies chock full of nuts and other allergens, and no epi pin in sight. The horror. Now the rules, since 9/11 I hear, mean a bus must be chartered, for insurance sake, if the trip is long. And no parents may ride, and no parents may follow the bus closely, and no parents can bring snacks, and no parents can enjoy it at all.

I’m sorry, but I had to work late last night, and 4-5 hours of sleep will kill a person easily. Charles Kuralt. Diane Sawyer’s probably next. It’s been established that too few hours of sleep will do you in. And it’s not good on field trip days when you can’t just jump in the car in your pjs and deposit son at school. No, you must shower and drive 2 hours, avoiding the 2 charter buses at all times. Through the rain and fog, up the mountain. Smile. You’re not a room mom this year, but you look like one.

Last year’s trip to the zoo was more fun. Let’s face it, I always get 4 boys to keep track of, because I have a son. And 4 boys is a zoo. So add 4 boys to a zoo, and you really get something resembling a moo-moo here and a moo-moo there. By mid-day through that trip, I’d put my hand up to one kid, as in, “Speak to the hand.” I was afraid I’d say something snotty. He deserved it. But at least they ran and lingered and enjoyed themselves. Why in the world take four classes of 4th graders to an enclosed mansion? America’s castle? What were they thinking? You can’t run, touch, ask questions, raise your hand, eat, or potty. It’s kind of like work. We were so hot and tired and hungry that Dylan and I kind of propped each other up through the two-hour tour that lead us nowhere. No pictures allowed either.

Needless to say, the bus trip was the best part for him. The seats were plush, the snacks available, the movies running, the friend beside him, the toilet working. A toilet in a bus--I mean that really is something.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

I Can’t Hear You. Nah, nah, nah, nah, nah!

by Mary Alford-Carman

I’m pretty sure that at some time, my children and husband will need therapy because of me. At this particular date, I’d love for them to start their therapy now because they are driving ME crazy. I’m beginning to wonder if I’m actually physically present in their lives as I never seem to be heard, and my viewpoints are ignored. I must be invisible, or suffering from delusions of some kind. I thought I was a person with experience and an education, but all evidence points towards the invisible theory. 

Case in point: How many times must you tell a teen to clean their room, study, or take out the trash before they actually hear you? In our household it appears the answer is 760 times over a period of (at least) a week. Sure, I can understand that teens are basically aliens who have taken over a child’s body until they hit 26 or 27, but I always hoped there would be times when you could actually connect with them. This appears to be my delusion number two. 

Delusion number three: My husband will hear me, actually hear me and listen! You know what I’m talking about. There are those moments when seeking your advice, you give it only to find out that the guy the down the street, or any guy for that matter, trumps your years of experience and education. I do have to admit to gloating when their advice turns out to be completely wrong and I was right in the first place. Gloat, honey I do a happy dance, its call the “I Told You So!” (Honestly, I can be soooo obnoxious.) It’s hard to be humble when your offerings aren’t taken because of a Y chromosome. He’s not chauvinist, he just doesn’t get it, bless his heart.

 There are days that I question why I bothered with college. The moment I left the “working world” and made the decision to stay at home to be a full-time Mom to my children, I suddenly got dummied down. I have been told that this is my perception of myself. To that I say (forgive me), bite me! I can’t begin to count the times that the reaction to what I do has been met with “Oh. Isn’t that nice,” or some other condescending reaction. It sometimes feels just like that in my own home and quite frankly, that stinks.  I figure that if they can’t hear me, I don’t have to do the million and six things that I do for them on a daily basis. Now that’s being invisible. Do you think they’ll notice, or is that delusion number four?

Friday, November 25, 2011

He Who Knows Best

As a kid, I always read a favorite Sunday newspaper column. People would write in with etiquette problems and a colorful columnist would give her honest but hilarious advice on the action you should or should not take. Some of it was tongue in cheek, some of it was plain naughty, and some was, to a certain extent, permissible. Oh how I wish I could have had her advice a short while ago. A situation occurred, unexpectedly, during an evening with friends.

Maybe I am simple, or maybe I am just too nice but what is it about people who feel they have to try to make themselves look bigger, better, or more knowledgeable than their guests. Perhaps the need to do this is driven by some complex personality issue they possess, but how should one respond to it?

Let's take my situation, where the host was being a total moron and in all honestly, very rude. Should I have put it down to their ignorance or bad breeding? Should I have considered the complexity of that person's small mind? Alternatively, should I have entered into battle and as we say in England, taken them down a peg or two? This is the very advice I would have sought from the said columnist above had she been sitting next to me at the time. Alas, life just does not work that way, and I had to face it alone with glass in hand and one of those smiles on my face. You know, the smile that says, "You are a bloody idiot, but I am going to sit here and look like an idiot myself in order to make you feel better." It was sad, just sad.

On this particular occasion, the individual was trying to show their superior knowledge about the realms of grapes, aka wine. We had bought a bottle to the event and yes, it wasn't the best, but it was decent enough, and drinkable. Apparently, not so drinkable for our host, who decided to take it upon themselves to, as they said, take my husband and I to a "higher level" and expose us to a grape experience that only people with finer tastes enjoy. It was on the tip of my tongue to say, "Honey, I have drank more expensive, finer wines than you have had hot dinners," but I didn't and my husband knew the best thing to do was just step outside and take a break. Of course, I sat there swilling the liquid in my mouth looking suitable impressed, but inside I was seething. How arrogant is it to assume that you are better than the next person is? How ignorant is it to assume that you have experienced more than the next person has? And, how ghastly is it to assume you are more knowledgeable that the next person is?

I always grew up knowing a common fact that one who has money and is used to it will not show off, one who is intellectually gifted and feels comfortable with it will not put you down, and one who has experience or expertise will not boast about it. Apparently, some people didn't get the memo!

I endured this put down for a couple of hours, one insult after another, moving on from wine to cheese, and all based upon making the host's status elevated. Wonderful!

Unfortunately, I came home and vented, loudly, to some friends, who had witnessed the scene. I aggressively opened a bottle of not-so-cheap wine and drank it straight down. I did not even take a minute to enjoy its flavor. It could have been vinegar, I didn't care, but unfortunately my head cares today, and it is not giving me a break. My brain is thumping at my temples as if saying, "Who is the idiot now?"

Is this sweet revenge for my awful thoughts -- maybe? Perhaps I should ask the host who knows the most!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Bah, Humbug...Let's Ban a Few Things....

I'm just not a big fan of the holidays. There I said it. I could do without all the guilt and pressure. Nobody is ever satisfied. Either you spent too much or not enough, it's not the right color or size, or they wonder just how you could possibly have missed the hints they've dropped for the last six months - and that's just how I feel about my gifts. Who knows what others are thinking about what they get. 
I think there are too many expectations placed on women during the holidays, and I don't see where that has improved over the last few decades  centuries. We do the baking, cooking, cleaning, shopping, wrapping, organizing, and we write the obnoxiously upbeat Christmas letter leaving out just how much the sales clerks, and our families have frayed our last nerves.
So as we all start to prepare for the gauntlet of holidays extraordinaire, I would like to ban the following:

All holiday themed commercials - is there anything worse than the beautifully decorated home and the missing son/daughter at the door while the parents cry beautifully? I just love being made to cry. We all know the holidays do NOT make anyone overly sensitive and emotional so let's remind everyone out there what their holidays are missing, while also reminding us to buy a turkey. How about the incredible luxury vehicle in the driveway with that over sized bow that I've never found at Target? While hubby stands there beaming over the gift he's given - oh, bite me. Yes, indeedy, every woman I know gets gifts like that. It helps make up for the ones we buy ourselves, wrap ourselves and pretend to be surprised. 

Black Friday - good grief! I've never met a crock pot or video game worth getting up that early for (or is it staying up that late, I can never figure that out). Maybe it's just me, but I'm only a fan of big crowds at football games. The mall scares the dickens out of me. I tried it - I think a lot of the people I saw could scare Seal Team Six.

Christmas Letters - honestly, nobody believes Little Precious is that perfect. I tried those, too. It was harder trying to strike the right note of condescension masked with humility than making my way through Target on Black Friday. 

Martha Stewart - that food, that decorating - I'm more interested in buying her daughter's book about her - now that tell all sounds delicious.

I could and will come up with more...there's just so much to enjoy about the holiday about you??

Friday, November 18, 2011


This week I learned a new word. It literally stopped me in my tracks on Tuesday morning. The word in question, Obesogenic, is not even in the dictionary. This word, used as a description of the American population today on National Public Radio (a favorite of mine), was introduced during a program with a panel of experts discussing the current worldwide diabetes epidemic. The numbers were astounding; with a projected one in ten adults having diabetes by 2030. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) looked even further into the future and projected a shocking one in three Americans will have diabetes by 2050. A real threat to people, but we do have some control of our destiny. A large proportion of diabetes sufferers have type two diabetes caused by obesity. .

Now, before you denounce me for writing this, I am not reproaching anyone who is overweight and I know that there are those who suffer from obesity due to legitimate illnesses but we have to open our eyes and look around us. For the most part, in any shopping center, you can observe more overweight children than I have ever seen in my life, but those children are the adults of 2030!

Two simple things, education and leading by example, can go a very long way to help children and adults alike to fight this problem, but it seems many are keeping their eyes closed to it..

Let us first take us, the parents. We strive to keep our children safe, help them grown strong and healthy, yet how many of us have whisked them through a drive through one too many times and feed them food full of fat, just because it is quicker or easier for our schedule? I will hold my hand up to that, shame on me! Of course a drive through occasionally is perfectly fine, but there are too many out there who use this as their staple diet.

I hear all the time that it is cheaper to eat convenience food than go to the supermarket, especially for the lower income bracket. However, a visit once a week, to the local farmers market will fill your fridge with local fruit and vegetables for not more than the cost of a family meal in a fast food restaurant.

Additionally, there is the question of physical activity. Ok, so not everyone can afford to join a gym, but walking is free and the kids love it! Making health a fun part of life will have a long lasting effect on our children and, if we are lucky, undo some of the damage we have already done to ourselves.

That brings me on to education, where the objective is to pass academic subjects with, it seems, no consideration as to if you are healthy or not. When I was a kid in England, we did Physical Education as a full part of our curriculum. It was not an add on once-a-week class or one semester of the school year, it was all year come rain or shine. We would change into gym clothes and play games such as football, netball, and basketball. We would run or do athletics. We were active and we loved it.

We had cooking and nutrition classes and believe me, if you tried to cheat as I did once, well let's just say if you did the crime you paid with time. I did and I got detention for sneaking in a packet cake mix.

Moving on quickly, don't want to dwell on my misdemeanors, let's talk about school lunches? They used to be nutritious, if not that appealing at times. Sodas and candy were not allowed. Never in a month of Sundays, as we say in England, would you have found Chick-fil-A or a gooey, saturated fat infested pizza on the menu. No, sorry but I am astonished that this is the reality in our schools. Yes, there are healthy options there, but come on, kids are kids, which one do you think they will choose?

Do we need to make a stand and voice for a change? I think we do! I think we should advocate helping educate our children, from every angle, to ensure that they grow up to become healthy adults. The national campaign is the driving force, but we are the army that can make it happen. Let's kick this self driven diabetes in its big butt (sorry couldn't help it) and ensure our kids have a long, healthy future.

Without this, our children are destined to become the quoted statistics of 2050.


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

My Bully Pulpit

By Sheilah

Sometimes the class bully doesn’t look the part. Sometimes he’s the little guy with glasses and a nonstop tongue. Sometimes he’s the annoying one who won’t stop talking, who gets in your face blabbing, who pokes and prods and is like a rash that spreads its contagion. Dylan’s class has one. He’s the guy last year that I heard about all the time, how everyone avoided him, and my response was to be nice to him because no one else was. Wrong move.

This year, the little guy still lacks impulse control, a closed mouth. The problem kid gets sent to the principal’s office all the time for something, won’t stop talking back or stating his case to the teacher. When he’s gone, Dylan says the teacher tells the class to remove themselves from the situation. My thinking was it’s beyond that--that “the Situation” needs to be removed.

So one day the Situation threw some punches at Dylan on the playground, and Dylan threw a foot back where it hurts, according to my son. So I talked to the teacher. I told her I wanted them separated, and she said they are, that the other kid (aka the Situation) has “issues.” But, get this, she said they’ve been playing together all year, that they wrestle, that sometimes it gets out of hand. She said she was going to talk to them this morning about what punishment they could come up with in lieu of going to the principal’s office for the playground incident in which they both were at fault. I said, huh, oh, I forgot that I have to take what kids say with a grain of salt.

Ironically enough, I was telling Dylan on the way to school that same day that one day he’d be in the principal’s office, and then how would he act? I suggested that he be calm, courteous, answer questions, and then shut up—and accept the punishment quietly. I said his behavior screams louder than his words. They were not sent together to the principal for that offense; they just had to agree to keep their hands off each other.  

The next day, according to the gospel of Dylan, the Situation kicks him under the lunch table, and Dylan tells on him. Then Dylan says he got shoved into the Situation in line (guess the teacher failed to separate them in line order), and he gets told on. I said enough of this--you’re like squabbling siblings. And it definitely takes two to tango, regardless of the Situation’s “issues.” I told Dylan I didn’t want to hear about tattling again, and that it was his job to ignore, move, etc. You can’t have it both ways—you can’t play together and then when it gets rough go tell on him, expecting it  always to be the Situation’s fault.

I suggested he spy in his little mind’s eye the Situation with a diaper on, imagine him as a little pestering brother who needs to be ignored. Dylan has to be the mature one and rise above it. I realize that as an only child Dylan hasn’t had a chance to learn the important skills of negotiation, neglect, avoidance, and rivalry resolution that others do—or the sneaky things to do to piss your sibling off where it hurts—like crossing out her David Cassidy poster, which I’ve been known to do. He liked the image of imagining the Situation in diapers. It’s been a week and I haven’t heard a tattle tale-ing tale yet, so maybe the brothers are working it out.

Chalk one up for something I was taught many years ago: Imagine the man you resent with a head wound, visualize him with a bandaged head—because he truly is a sick person (as we all are, to some degree or another). It helps you see your brother in a different light, and sometimes your brother’s head wound really is bleeding, and sometimes his diaper is full.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

A Jolt to Joe, Heard Round the World

There are four of us, thus the name. But of the four, I’m the sports freak. And because I watch and follow football, particularly college football, I’ve been dismayed at the news as it has come out of Penn State regarding an alleged pedophile. There are so many angles to this story – did he, didn’t he, what is alleged, who knew what, what is your duty by law, what is your moral duty – but as the mother of two teenage boys, I find two very simple answers – NEVER HURT A CHILD, and REPORT IT IF YOU SEE IT.

Our sons have been active in the following: Boy Scouts, school band, marching band, tee ball, cross country, church youth group, field trips, and class trips. Every single one of these has had male chaperones. Every single one of these has had “opportunities.” Last year I went through three background checks in the space of a month. One for church so I could teach Sunday School and chaperone, one for school so I could ride the activity bus and go on overnight field trips, and one for Boy Scouts since I am on the parents’ council and help with the scout board of reviews. I passed each check with flying colors since speeding tickets were not the issue. And the reality is that there are pedophiles out there who would pass the same background checks, no problem—because they haven’t been caught yet.

I believe the reason this story has resonated so deeply with so many of us is it hits hard at one of our deepest fears – the inability to protect our children. We can institute background checks, and put measures in place such as the Boy Scouts requirement that I always have another leader present and never be left alone with any Scout other than my own son, and still we fail. The Penn State story illustrates that we can fail miserably, and lives have been irrevocably ruined as a result.

So much of what is written has focused on Penn State, its coaches and administrators. They are an easier target in some ways than the pedophile himself, and his “charity.” We often don’t know how to address evil, but we love to address stupidity, and while the coaches and administrators may be intelligent, their actions and inaction belied that intelligence.

I would expect any adult who saw something that made them question how someone was acting toward any child to have the, yes, I AM going to say it, the BALLS to stand up and say something. I don’t really care why or where your legal obligation falls.

Why can’t we recognize right and wrong anymore and just stand up for it? What has happened to make us so incapable? Have we become so afraid of each other that we walk away rather than become involved? How can we prevent this in the future?

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Thank God I'm Not Really a Nurse, But I Play One at Home

By Sheilah

Born into a family of nurses, I was supposed to be one. Actually, a doctor. Dad sent me into the operating room observation area to watch some surgeries when I was in high school, and the blood, the gore, the cutting of the head open did not bother me in the least. I sat there eating my deliciously refreshing Junior Mints and enjoyed the show. But neither did it fascinate me. Still, for some odd reason I signed up for pre-med in college, first time around. Maybe everyone does? Delusions of grandeur, or living daddy’s dream, or trying to make up for being a wild child? Regardless, I dropped out after two semesters, and never made it back for several years. And I knew what I wanted then; actually, I knew what I wanted after reading Harriet the Spy.

But the medical jargon and discussions seeped into my brain, my genes, my overly attendant attitude for the sick, or the overly diagnosing what’s wrong with you, hoping you are sick. It didn’t come out until I was a mother, and then, woo doggie, did it come out. I kept a feeding and poop diary on my son from day 1, which I would never recommend. It gets you obsessed with, well, poop. That came back to haunt me this week. After not worrying about issues involving bowels for years, my almost 9-year-old got constipated. I got suppositories, raisins, raisinets, yogurt-coated raisins, prunes, apple juice, cod liver oil pills, kid laxatives, adult laxatives, carrots, peaches, ad nauseum.

The water probably did the trick.

So enough with the nursing. I don’t like me as a nurse. I am not a patient person, in more ways than one. I would have made an excellent doctor.

What did you think you were supposed to be when you grew up? Are you glad it didn’t happen?

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

What to Do?

Play dates, schools, sports, and just about any other situations where children interact, are a battlefield. Oh, who am I kidding! Let's just admit, dealing with children, at times, sucks. A battlefield is an understatement; it is more like going into a combat zone, holding nothing more than piece of paper that says, "Parent in Charge."

So what do you do if a child, other than your own, behaves badly in your presence?

Do you tell them off / correct them yourself?

Should you tell their parents?

Should you keep quiet - it is not your business after all?

Do you do all of the above?

Perhaps you have an alternative solution of your own, but one thing is common to all of us. The route you take will depend upon the deed done. I, for one, do not tell other people's children off, I suppose it is just my thing. However, I do rely on the adults to take charge and deal with the situation, if it is severe enough to warrant it.

So, then the question to be asked is, "What does severe enough mean to you?" This is also a minefield, which has many possible answers, depending upon your own view.

There is no rulebook, apart from the laws enforced by the police. Should be easy, should it not? No, I am afraid to say that it is far from easy.

I have found that some parents have a magical view of their children. They are adamant their offspring are always the innocent party, even when proven guilty. To be honest, they would make perfect defense attorneys, and I for one am fed up with battling this issue. They defend with great passion; they throw metaphorical stones at their opponent's imaginary glass houses. They fight a great fight, scrambling to keep the reputation of their children intact, no matter what has occurred.

Quite right, you may say. Parents are their children's advocate after all. However, I think it is also our duty, as parents, to act responsibly and to show children how to deal with their mistakes in a grown-up approach. We need to show them how to take responsibility for their actions and understand the consequences, not jump in and have the attitude, 'he who shouts loudest wins.' I have found perfectly lovely people turn into monstrous beings over their children.

This week a group of children did something wrong at my house. Some facts I know as I witnessed it, some I didn't. A couple of them helped to try to minimize the damage that the others had done, but for the main perpetrators, they ran away. I suspect hoping that I would not report it to their parents.

I am not a squealer, but I could not over look this. Respectfully, I felt, I inquired as to the names of the children and I sent emails to the parents of those who helped and those who I suspected were in the wrong. What ensued was very shocking. My neighborhood became a hive of busy bee parents, ringing, mailing, and scoring points over the other's children.

In the end, with my patience worn thin, and regretting reporting the incident, I posted on Facebook my view. I did not intend on a war, I was just informing parents of an action that really needed attention. I would expect someone to do that for me if it was my child. No one was rude; in fact, they were all perfectly nice. However, being NICE and being NICE FOR AN ULTERIOR MOTIVE are two different things.

The misdemeanor, in the chaos, seemed forgotten. The focus had moved, and I hoped that my post would bring those parents involved back to reality. We are all on the same side, we are not enemies, we are comrade in arms, bringing up our children, hopefully to be decent human beings.

Following is my post. It may not win me any favors, but I sincerely hope it was the right thing to do.

"Ok, going to stick my neck out here and hope for the best. If a child does something wrong (including my own) I would want to hear about it .This is not war! Couldn't we just tell them the lesson to be learned, even if it wasn't them, but part of the group they happen to be in? Sorry but it had to be said!"

What would you have done? I would love to hear, maybe we can learn from each other. You know, parents sticking together for the greater good!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Sometimes No One Can Hear You Scream

Halloween; it’s a time for shivers and chills, ghosts and ghouls, and stories of things that go bump in the night. When I wrote “Someone to Watch Over Me,” it brought back fun memories and questioned what one believes about the unknown. Funny thing, life is full of the unknown and things that make you want to scream.

Imagine, if you will, that your Alma Mater, where you made friends, grew into an adult and realized your life’s ambition, was altered into something unknown. Imagine that the name of your school has been changed and no longer exists on paper, but only in memory. Imagine that seven out of the 17 possible majors that once existed were cut completely, including the one that gave you purpose. Imagine that almost all of the full time teaching staff were offered buyouts, some were fired, and others, forced into retirement. What would the outcome be to students because of this?

What would you do if you were told that lack of money was the cause for these changes while an outrageous salary was paid to the new president? Imagine that the school also had a 40 million dollar endowment with increasing enrollment every year. What if you are a parent of a child at this college and your child’s major is no more? What if you are paying for your child to attend other schools to complete the major while still paying tuition to the one? How would you like it if you were told about only some of the changes by way of a press conference? In other words, news at 11, hope you catch the broadcast.

In the court of public opinion and of the media, protests at Peace College in Raleigh, North Carolina, have been portrayed as anger by the Alumnae for letting boys into a once all girl school. How simple, how neat. So many facts were left out of the media that it is almost shameful. Ironically, one of the members on the board of trustees is a news director at a prominent radio station and a correspondent for the local paper. Funny how the media failed to report that the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools had found Peace non-compliant on 26 standards of the schools review due to not notifying the SACS of the impending changes. Things that make you go hmmmmmmm. The media has helped to fuel the story that “it’s about the guys,” but the reality is: it’s about the lies. (A slogan I take from a very creative Peace woman.)

Because of the manipulation of the facts by the media and those in charge at Peace, many have accused the Alumnae of Peace as being bitter, reverse chauvinistic, angry Southern belles. Well shut my mouth. Judging without facts and believing one source without looking into a situation is all too easy. When something means a great deal to you, you delve into the issue to find out all you can. It’s what responsible individuals normally do, isn’t it? Go ahead; imagine this happened at your school. Makes you want to scream, doesn’t it?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Television is Harmful to Your Ummm.....

In the interest of full disclosure I have to admit I am in the throes of second hand television as I write this blog. So if my interest is umm, distracted then maybe it's because....oh, wait, the weather is back...wait, need to write the blog, where was I?? 

There's an article out now that researchers have determined that secondhand television is harmful to a child's development. Secondhand Television - Aren't We Just Awful Parents? - my title, not the paper's, discusses how even the television on in the background is distracting and can harm a child's language development. Get a freakin' grip people. I readily admit that I nursed my infants to the lovely tunes of college football for the one, and college basketball for the other. Yet I don't feel like their exposure to our television interests, while being fed in a warm, clean (and I might add well decorated if I say so myself, and I'm the only one who has to like it) home hurt my little dickens. Certainly based on their vocabulary (one told me he had never felt hate for me as most teenagers do, he has felt "disdain") I don't feel like they've suffered.

We are one of those households that tends towards the television on rather than off, especially during sports seasons - which are all of 'em. We also read books (The Help - we discussed what it was like for me growing up and the bigotry that existed then and now) and share music (Red Hot Chili Peppers - love 'em). We talk about what we are watching and much to the dismay of my 13 year old, he doesn't get to watch "Breaking Bad". I watched it - not appropriate for him - don't really care what others are getting to do. The teen sons and I do watch the "Walking Dead" together - love us some zombies. 

What hurts kids is not being interested in them and their interests (good grief, I've heard enough about Master Chief - he's a Halo video game character - to write my own treatise on the guy). That's what hurts language development not to mention CHARACTER development.

What hurts kids is going hungry, being bullied, getting hit by the ones who "love" them (see Dawn's essay, The Painful Truth - it will break your heart). 

Can we please focus on more important issues with kids? Now, I've gotta run, the traffic is coming up next...

Friday, October 21, 2011

Buttus Interruptus

Has it ever taken you a half an hour to peel a potato? Some days (no matter how well you plan the schedule), are just teeming with interruptions. Thursday was one of those days. I could have been in the middle of brain surgery and it wouldn’t have phased a soul. Either the phone rang or the cry of “MOM!” screeched in my ears. The first couple of times it happens I generally try to go with the flow and keep my cool. “Why yes this is the Carman household and no, I don’t have need for cremation information at this time.” Telemarketers, don’t ya just love them? Then the catastrophe of the mechanical pencil had to be dealt with. Upon suggesting that a regular pencil be sharpened instead of going to the store to buy more lead for the mechanical one, I was greeted with the obligatory teen-aged rolling of the eyes. So when Evelyn wrote “Buzzer Butt Meets the Universe,” in our October issue of, I felt the comfort one feels when realizing they are not alone.

The interruptions don’t have to be when I am planning to sit down (although instead of “Buzzer Butt” I’ve come to lovingly refer to those moments as Buttus Interruptus); they can come in the middle of those projects that need your undivided attention. Anyone can relate to this. You’re at work in the middle of the monthly report and the crazy wig three cubicles down has to sit and tell you about her newest cat’s hair ball, that just happened to be the size of Cincinnati. Oh yes, I’ve had that happen. Projects involving glue guns also require concentration. I was using the hot glue gun to try to fix a toy soldier when the dog grabbed child number two’s sock. Child number one and two were yelling for Mom, while the dog decided that the best place to hide was under Mom’s legs. Let’s just say that the toy soldier really looked good stuck to the window and my “buttus” landed on the dog, dislodging the sock. Even in moments of interruption, things tend to work out.

I look at it this way, sure the potatoes needed to be peeled for the Irish stew I was making for dinner last night, but schedules don’t recognize when people need you. (Even if you think they don’t.) I can forgo the telemarketers and the eye rolling, but there are times when the phone needs to be answered because a friend needs you, or your child really, really does need a hug. The dog? I don’t worry about her so much now. She tends to go in any direction other than the one I’m in!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Random, Random, Random

So I got up at 5:00 this morning to write my blog. All excited, I already knew what I was gonna write about (which does not always happen). What is that saying about "best laid plans"? Yep, the one by Robert Burns about going astray. First, I couldn't remember the password to the blog. Not unusual, I mean there's only 50 million passwords anymore, but sadly apparently my cheat sheet was wrong, too. Then I couldn't get the email to show up allowing me back in (and yes, I kept checking my spam filter.) The day was going downhill fast and normally it's sorta nice if the sun rises first before that happens. To add insult to injury it's not like I could turn into the sound and fury when nobody else was awake yet except the cat. So finally I finesse my way in (oh, ok, I hit a back button and the sonofa...err, pc filled in a correct password which incidentally, I STILL don't know what it really is), and I start writing.

That's when I realize that I have an essay and not a blog on my hands. The good is that I needed something for November's issue of The bad is - now I need a topic for the freakin' blog.

So with that said - here's a blog on nothing but random observations that I hope will make you smile or laugh. Please feel free to add to the list!

Colin Firth - yummmm

Mocha coffees - almost as yummy as Colin, more necessary and available in the morning.

Sense of humor - completely necessary when dealing with technology, conference realignment or car pool.

Conference realignment - led by men, and they say women are indecisive???

Politicians - the ultimate comedians.

Teenagers - so much smarter than me, I'll never be able to catch up.

Fall - beautiful until you realize how many deciduous trees are in your yard.

Grounding a teenager - necessary when those trees start losing their leaves. Somebody's gotta clean 'em up, and you can always find something a teenager shouldn't have done.

Twitter - full of twits and some really funny people. But I don't follow you back if you tweet in a foreign language. I can barely translate my teens.

Pink Floyd - new only to my teens.

Reality TV - what?? Don't y'all have your own families to look at? If not, then just go to Wal Mart - multitasking, ya know.

Mother's Little Helper - now I understand.

Y'all got anymore??

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Boys Will Be Boys, If You Let Them

By Sheilah

The latest dirt bike is powerful, faster than a speeding bullet. My little 9-year-old Superman flew by me in practice, and I said it was scary, because it was. But my husband told me to be careful what words I choose--as if I could implant scary in Dylan’s brain. He’s the one driving it for God’s sake. Come on, I gave into the whole dirt bike racing thing, as if I’d ever had a say. I allow my only son to race a speeding vehicle through the woods, dodging trees and other kids, and even cheer him on. A sport where you have to don helmet, goggles, chest protector, knee-high boots, gloves, special shirts and pants. There are no seatbelts. I have to watch this, but I can’t say it’s scary?

I beg to differ. I submitted because, gasp, I know that I don’t always know what’s best, for you or for me. Yes, life has taught me that. Mother does not always know best. I am not a boy, and do not have the childhood experiences to know what boys need. I didn’t even know what girls need. There’s only one in our household who literally wears the cup, and it’s not me.

Dylan has been taught to defend himself because his Daddy was the small child beaten up on. He has been taught to read because I love reading. He has been taught to play baseball because I believe in being a part of the team. He has been taught to do his homework diligently because both parents believe in having a brain. He has been taught to mind his manners, to be nice, to be a responsible member of society. He has been taught to not lie, steal or cheat. He has been taught love. He has been taught to be careful, because we are fragile.

And he has been taught to ride like the wind, because he is free.

Sometimes father knows best, but you didn’t hear it from me.

Monday, October 10, 2011

You’re Just Gonna Win Sometimes, Get Over It

 By Sheilah

My morning meditation said this: "Can you accept anger, joy, hardship, love, success and failure as part of our common lot?" Yes, I think I eventually accept them all. But come on, success, really? Don’t we all accept that well? What’s so hard about that? So success is just part of our common lot as garden variety human beings? What a concept. We are destined to succeed? Huh. No more thinking we are something special, that by pulling up our bootstraps we will have the world by the tail, we will win fame and fortune and whip this world into place, ourselves at the center. No, it’s just part of the plan. Sometimes you succeed. Get used to it. Get over it.

If you’re old enough, you know that often we fail. That one gets easier to accept as you age. No more I’ll be a millionaire by the time I’m 30. No, you probably won’t. Even if you practice Steve Jobs’ seven secrets (no longer secret since last week’s “20/20”), you’re no Steve Jobs. So we naturally adjust our expectations of the world, and of ourselves. No more of the too harsh judgments on life, others or ourselves. Give everyone and ourselves a break, because we’ve aged long enough to know life breaks in your hands.

And what about when you meet with success? Do you think you deserved it, earned it, captured it by force of will? Did God destine you alone for it? Are you special? Hmmm. My reading suggests that we are destined for success (define as you will). I do believe in being positive, in going for what you want so long as you do no harm, in perseverance, and I especially believe in what I learn in the doing. I suspect the glory and wonder of reaching for a goal is the human spirit's capacity to hope, to defy all contrariness. 

Success--it’s just part of the plan, man. That’s a delicious idea to me, an infusion for a dreary gray Monday morning when a grande nonfat mocha won't do a thing for my restlessness. Yes, I'll take that challenge and try to believe that success is just another piece of the humanity berry pie. Sometimes there’s a cherry on top, sometimes it’s day old, sometimes it’s crow, sometimes humble pie. Sometimes success is just what's left. The roulette wheel of fortune can leave you spinning. Just don’t read too much into it. I don’t want to steal your thunder, but sometimes you’re just gonna win, no matter how hard you try.  

Then you spin again.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Three Apples

On Wednesday, October 5, 2011, every news organization was reporting of the death of Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple and the mastermind behind the iPod, iTunes, iPad and iPhones. The President of the United States even commented on his death saying “The world has lost a visionary, and there may be no greater tribute to Steve’s success than the fact that much of the world learned of his passing on a device he invented.”  My own husband told me about Steve Jobs passing away after he read it on his iPhone.

I’m one of those people that I consider “technically challenged.” I don’t care much for a lot of what modern technology has brought us. I don’t like to talk on the phone while I drive, while I’m shopping or while I’m trying on clothes in a store. There have been several times when I’ve said “Pardon me?” to the lady in the next dressing room because I thought she was speaking to me, when she was on her cell phone. Some of the technology leaves me feeling intruded upon. There are nonsensical text messages that for some reason, others expect me to answer immediately, regardless of the fact that I’m elbow deep in dish detergent. That said, I’d still be lost without these modern conveniences.

My iPod is my therapy, my juke box, and my entire collection of what soothes or moves me. I have the iPod Classic and it has 160 GB, that means that I have room for up to 40,000 songs, 200 videos or 25,000 photos. Hmmm, maybe I’m learning about all this technology anyway. At night, when I head to bed, I grab our iPad and either read myself to sleep, or watch something on Netflix. When I had surgery to remove a tumor last year, the iPad saved me from the never ending mundane of the hospital bed. I think I watched around 25 episodes of “The Tudors” and found myself lost in a world of magnificent costumes and bloody Henry the Eight’s lust. With that iPad, I wasn’t in an institutional grey-white room with alarms and 5am interns barging in on the little sleep I got. The iPad saved my sanity during that period of time.

I didn’t know Mr. Jobs. There are many reports that, where he excelled as an innovator and visionary in technology, he had short comings in dealing with the people around him. In spite of that, he did more for many, making the information hiway hand held, giving us music on the go that could fit in a small pocket, phones that help one navigate through life, and showed us that a dream could become a vision for the masses. No, I didn’t know Mr. Jobs, but I can walk into a room and tell you who is benefiting from his vision. I saw a quote on Facebook the other day (on the iPad, of course), that said “There have been three apples that have changed the world. Eve’s, Newton’s, and Steve Jobs’.” With that, Goodnight Mr. Jobs, and I thank you.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Travelling, Gaby Style.

Two years ago I invited three of my best friends to come with me and celebrate my 50th birthday. While they were (and yeah, still are) very dear to me, they had never met each other. I was a little worried as to whether or not they would get along, but with mature (of the mind) ladies, I should have left my concerns at the curb. Who would have thought that two years later the four of us would be celebrating our one year anniversary of  The journey from that day forward has been nothing short of wondrous.

We weathered each other through death, illness, insecurities, child-rearing guilt, and gut-wrenching worry. We’ve reached goals we never would have dreamed, held each other’s hands and lifted each other up, all without expecting anything in return. Friendship, golden and solid was the gift we gave each other, unexpected. On a moment’s notice we can pick up the phone and call each other with anything from questions on graphics to begging for sanity. We’ve Skyped and griped, discovering that at our tender age technology can be our friend, even when we’ve (okay, mostly me) been dragged, kicking and virtually screaming into Twitter, Facebook, and now Google +.  There is no age limit on learning or supporting one another. As we head down the road on the double-decker bus for our second year, I can’t help but wonder what will be next. We’re growing, learning, and understanding what a sisterhood can be, all the while bringing to the table our own uniqueness.   

Thank you all for letting us share with you, for allowing us into your homes and offices, and for helping us to grow. Your support is our success. What more could four women ask for? Well, you know me, I can always think of something!