Friday, January 28, 2011

Summer Holiday in my own Backyard

By Dawn Tolson
With the winter firmly here and the snow forecast again and again my thoughts are turning to summer. These cold days leave me longing to feel the warmth of the sun on my skin. If you have read my Brit in a GRITS world column "We're all Going on a Summer Holiday" about my disastrous vacation capers, then you will understand why I feel this. However, for 5 years now we have found our little piece of paradise in the sun, Beaufort, North Carolina.

The small historic town captures my imagination of pirates and times gone by. I walk along the streets imagining my feet are treading probably in the very spot that my countryman Blackbeard had walked. The beaches of Shackleford and Cape Look Out never cease to amaze me, and the crystal-clear waters can stand amongst the best in the world.

So does anyone else out there agree with me, or do you have a rival paradise that I can try?

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Love Hurts

By Dawn Tolson
Love at times really does hurt. We all experience it in one kind or another. Instantly our minds assume that the most hurt or betrayal comes from your partner in life, but think about it who else has hurt you. High school bullies that terrorize you just at that point in life when your very person is being defined, best friends who desert you, or even family that cut you to the bone.
In my January essay, “I am Strong, Invincible,” I was very honest about a particular hurt that happened to me recently. It was difficult to write, but I did and since then it is as if I am a bird released.
Do you feel you can share your stories with us?
Maybe just writing it down can be the therapy you need to move on!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Awkward Rising

 by Mary Alford-Carman

There are times when your children ask questions that you are ill-prepared to answer. My daughter recently asked why some people are unmarried but have children. I took a deep breath and hoped that I handled the question the best way possible. There are so many awkward moments that come up when you’re raising a child, like the night my daughter asked me what “gay” was. My husband was in the next room on the computer, happily typing away, and when he heard her, all went silent. He never joined in the conversation and I knew he would rather leave the explanation to me.

What are some awkward moments you’ve had with your children? How did you handle it? If given the chance, would you change the way you did? I could always use some good advice here!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

When I Say No, I Mean It…I Think.

 By Mary Alford-Carman

Ever wonder how many times you say yes when you mean no? In “Hovering–It Does a Waistline Good,” I wrote that I would try to learn to say no. So far I’m flailing. I’ve said yes to watching a neighbor’s dog, yes to helping at Mother’s Morning Out (which means I won’t get out), and I’ve said yes to working on two projects that I simply don’t have time for. I did say no about going to the Harvest Day lunch at my son’s daycare, and I felt like a heel.

Why do I do this? I’ve found that when I say no, I’m almost immediately asked why I can’t. At my age, do I really need to explain? What is it about women in general that we feel we have to be so accommodating? Why do we feel guilty when we say no, and for heaven’s sake, when we say no, how do we handle the ones who bully us into giving an explanation as to why?

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Bad Enough I Gotta Pay Bills...

So it really sucks to pay bills...right? Can I get an AMEN here? But really, can I go a whole month without having to call somebody and straighten out the bill they sent me? Forget a month, I think if I could go a week it might qualify for some kind of miracle designation. And if I could go a week without getting ready to cuss out some unknown person, sitting in an unknown land, I would probably move up to the top of the list for beatification, and all that. If you read my essay, "I've Been to Korea Three Times Today and the Banana Puddin' was Great", you know that I have elderly parents. I've taken over all their bill paying, checkbook functions, and all of that stuff which of course makes sense since I have that little ole Accounting degree thingy. Just wouldn't make sense to hand that over to my "much handier with a toolbox" brothers, and expect me to fix the handrails or install new locks. But now that I handle two households, the likelihood that I will be put on a hit list by some unknown customer service person has more than doubled. Just this week, I had to straighten out a dental visit for our kids (don't mystery charge me), and an ambulance company (umm, you need to file my Daddy's insurance for his insurance to like, ya know, pay it). Certain truths have emerged:

If they don't itemize - there's a reason for that and you need to find out why. Sometimes they've hidden something in there that you didn't need to pay.

If they insist that they will send you to a collection agency - and it's the first bill you've received - politely tell them to "bite me" and continue to make sure you really owe it.

Never assume that a bill which shows the insurance as being processed was processed properly. If you don't think you should owe that much...there's an incredibly darn good chance you don't, and somebody just messed up processing it. Check the details.

Call for a better deal. If they want to keep your business, they will keep your business.

Do not assume that every bill is legitimate. There are a lot of scams out there that present very authentic looking bills. Don't be afraid to google 'em and shred. It makes great packing material.

Never, never be hesitant to call. And while you're visiting that unknown, foreign land, the one their customer service rep is currently sitting in, eat some banana pudding. The stuff is really, really good and I hear bananas have lots of potassium. Which I also hear is really, really good for blood pressure. All that banana pudding is probably the only thing standing between me and the customer service rep's hit list.

Do you have some stories about wrong bills? Can you keep your cool when they are so screwed up or does it make you want to blow your top? What bills have been the worst (medical, dental, cable, satellite, phone, cell phone...)? Share your stories with us, because believe me I've got plenty to share back!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Competitive Much?

So after reading our lovely guest column ("Game On") by Amy Overbay, all I can think of is, "I resemble that remark." I have been each one of the competitive types she mentions - the Blatantly Competitive Parent, the Negatively Competitive Parent, and the Secretly Competitive Parent at various times in my "professional" parenting career.

See it all depends on the type of competitive mom staring me down as to which one I become. Because like so many players, I rise and fall based on the level of competition I am facing. However through the years, I have been plagued by game related injuries. Those mind numbing hits and tackles you take when you try to brag about your kid only to realize the person you are bragging to is about to bury you with their kids accomplishments. Or when you show your ugly side and comment jealously about the kid who wins everything only to find that a spur of the moment comment which you regret has been used against you ad infinitum. The worst and most humiliating hit was one I took when I bragged about my kid to someone only to find out she had a special needs child and was just hoping he would learn to walk. One of my children has ADHD and I can empathize with a child who doesn't meet "normal", but what I have encountered is nothing compared to some.

I've taken so many hits in fact that I have hung up my cleats more times than Brett Favre. Of course another reason I had to resign from my pro contract is that my sons are teenagers now. When they do have stuff to brag about, I'm usually the last to know. I found out one kid was first chair in his instrument only when I asked the band director if he would get to play in the high school band next year (when he moves up from middle school) and if so, would they still let him play his instrument or ask him to change instruments. Now that was embarrassing, and incredibly funny all at the same time, (and see I managed to brag about it here). I think the fact that I just have no clue means I can't keep pitching with the pros. But I can brag about their humility...right??

How do you handle competitive parents? Does it make you want to start playing the one up game?
Do you brag about your child's accomplishments or just keep them close to your hearts (perhaps still telling grandparents for the reward opportunities)?
Have you ever embarrassed your child?
Have you shown your jealousy of other's children?

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Remembering our Loved Ones While They’re Still Among Us

My essay this month was depressing as hell ("We Finally Saw Our Father"). It’s difficult to write about my Mom’s Alzheimer’s, and about Dad’s life with her. I find little comfort or pat answers in how to deal with such long-suffering grief. I believe God’s in his heaven and all is right with the world, but I wish we didn’t have to deal with the fact of human suffering that seems to have no end. I have to daily accept it and just do what’s in front of me to do. Writing helps—it always offers epiphanies that I get to hold onto, some sense of mercy, makes me see what’s there, like my Dad and his wonderful personality of caregiving surfacing.

How do you deal with failing parents? Do you avoid it or embrace it?
Do you feel sorry for yourself?
Do you take issue with siblings who don’t help?
It took me some time to realize that siblings who don't live nearby may not realize how sick a parent really is, and even if they do, that their relationship with their parent is none of my business. Do you talk about such with your siblings?
What kind of “help” can we really offer?
And where do you find the grace in such a hopeless circumstance?

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Do the Beige or the Purples Have It?

I continued my discussion on bucket lists in this month's "It's on the List" column with a spot-check inventory of stuff I’ll never do again and stuff I will do again. Being beige appears to be a surprise theme. How beige are you? Do you embrace blending in, or do you stand out? Was I too hard on the beige among us? Do you think in purple but walk in beige? What kind of cognitive dissonance does that wreak? Not behaving how I feel has its costs. Have you paid a price for being beige or purple?

How about living in a beige neighborhood? Likes, dislikes? I want to hear from the other side, those who appreciate and revel in the hoods with same-color mailboxes. A friend of mine says “It’s easier to do what everyone else is doing.” Agree?

Would you wear a Snuggie to a football game?
Are you up on all the trends?
Are you a Room Mom?
What was on your list? What’s on your “things to try” list?