Friday, July 29, 2011

Inspiration For The Day!

By Dawn Tolson

As January 1st comes and goes with a big bang each year, it is a certain fact that you will never know what the coming 365 days will hold for you. Who would have known that this year would have been my year to have the fortunate opportunity to participate in so many inspirational seminars? After so many years of stay-at-home-boredom, oops, sorry, meant to say MUMMYDOM, my diary has been full of school schedules, band concerts, dance rehearsals, and other time-demanding tasks that have left really no time for anything else than a zombie at night in front of the TV.
Once again, this week I find myself on another one of those tasks as I am currently sitting on the 26th floor of a luxurious Boca Raton hotel accompanying my daughter whilst she attends an International Talent Show. We arrived last Tuesday and are here for a week. A whole week of mummy be-here-for-me time! This extracurricular activity trumps most when it comes to time and money! Nevertheless, it was her dream, so I could not deny her. At the young age of 12, she is already a natural beauty. She turns heads everywhere she goes. I have had to adjust to the attention she receives. I am getting used to it as much as any caring and protective parent can.
However, as I write this my eyes are heavy and my head is spinning. Today has been filled with a wealth of information that has been imparted upon the eager young delegation and to us, the parents.
The whole convention has been filled with workshops and seminars led by leading industry professionals. We have seen runway coaches that have appeared on America’s Next Top Model, agents recruiting for the markets in Asia, New York, and Los Angles, authors, photographers, singing and acting coaches, everyone but the Queen so to speak (well maybe one or two but that is another story!). However, today, one person stood out like no other. He is an older gentleman, a seasoned Shakespearean actor and tutor at an esteemed acting school in New York.
His message was simple but oh so effective. The seminar was called “The Three P’s Of Becoming an Actor”. Those “P’s” were not pertaining to Playing, Performing, or Pretending but had to do with three other simple rules that quite honestly every child, no let me change that, EVERYONE should apply to their lives. With these three simple rules stardom in your own life is a certain outcome.
P 1          Preparation
To be well prepared is key. Learning is an ongoing experience but it takes energy; you need to up your energy levels. He advocated exercising whether that is in the form of physical, or such things as singing. Every actor has to learn how to put his or her own statement on an audition. Transport this notion to normal life and what do you get? You get the message to make yourself an Individual. Something that is lost currently in our multimedia, digitally enhanced world. Preparation is also about epiphanies. The time to discover you, embrace it, prepare for it and apply it.
P 2          Passion
Yes, we all can imagine some hunky movie star in a passionate embrace of a beautiful maiden, but, no, this is not the idea here. It is about doing what you are passionate about. How many of us adults ended up in a career we don’t even care about? How did that happen? Were we afraid of falling back, worried that we could not do what we truly wanted to do? Go back to P1 and did we prepare ourselves, did we have the epiphany? I will leave you to answer that question. This simple statement he made says it all, “Follow your heart and you will be a happy person.”

P3           Persistence
NEVER GIVE UP!!!! He related the story of Anthony Hopkins, once an ever-perpetual understudy and a drunk who would have killed himself before giving up his passion. He persisted relentlessly, took control of his addiction, and forged forward to achieve his goal. How many of our children dart from one activity to another because they feel they are not good enough? Take my son for instance. He wanted to play the flute and after a growth spurt, his hands were so large that he had difficulty on the keys, but when the Band Tutor tried to change him to a “larger” instrument, he directly refused. I was proud of him and he went on to do two more years with the flute. His determination to carry on playing was his passion. This was not the same scenario with his baseball!
So I guess my message today is this: DON'T make life too complicated, find what speaks to your heart, live it as if it was a stage, you are the leading role, follow your passion, and don’t ever give up!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

When I Was Your Age…..

During a big thunder-boomer Monday evening, my daughter started to complain when the satellite when out that there was nothing to watch on TV. Well dang. The TV shouldn’t even be on during a storm but I told her to grab the iPad and see what was on Net-Flix, and it got me thinking. We’ve all received, at one time or another, the e-mails and Facebook posting that talk about what we did without when we were kids and how we made it just fine. I used to wonder what I would tell my children that I did without. I certainly thought I had everything I needed to get by growing up: a radio, later a stereo, a bike to ride up to the corner store, a yard to play in and friends to be with, but until today I never really thought about how different our children’s lives are with the technology that is available.

Go ahead, think back. Did you have over three hundred friends that you could contact on a daily basis when you were 13 and NOT tie up the phone line forever? Could you text with the speed of a seal on steroids to your parents to come pick you up because band practice had ended early? Could you play a game with a “friend” a continent away, exploding worlds and conquering armies? Were you able to, with the stroke of a computer key, get the new song you just heard without leaving home? Geez, between iPads, iPhones, and iPods I’m not sure if I-Matter! What’s a mom to do?

I turn off the TV and send them outside and we hike through the woods when it’s cool and autumn is in the air. We go to the pool and swim until we’re so exhausted we could vanish into quiet slumber before we hit the sheets, but it’s hard to get them out.  How much is too much? What do we do to ensure they get out and get going and actually live a life instead of a virtual one? Activities help and getting them involved in drama, sports and other venues, but it gets harder every day. I’m not so sure what future e-mails will say when our children are grown. At the risk of sounding like my Mama, what have they possibly done without?

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Case of the Disappearing Dead Presidents

by Sheilah Zimpel

In the spirit of the debt-reduction talks going on between Congress and the president and on behalf of a nation driven by conspicuous consumerism, full disclosure is in order: My debts are heavy, and for many bipartisan reasons. I have been both taxed to death and have not received the protection of jobless benefits. So they’re all to blame, me, especially.

Lived outside my means I have—that’s the Yoda-like inspiration I receive intuitively upon meditating on my dilemma. The simple answer is usually correct. I’m affected by the collapse of the overblown housing industry as well, and I can’t begin to understand who’s to blame for that one. Our once inflated house value now has fallen below what we paid for it 6 years ago. That’s a fairly recent development that adds to my already burgeoning problem—a release valve (value) taken away. I can no longer sell, make a bundle of profit, and be free of debt. In the good ole days, you could sit in a house, ride its value to the sky, then sell it and be sitting pretty for a long while.

Not that it matters in my day-to-day debt reality show—unless I wanted or needed to move. And then I’d either have to default or pay someone to take it off my hands.

No, the real crux was the choice to stay home to raise my son and by so doing to become a one-income household 9 years ago. A right and necessary choice, one I still feel so grateful for. Adding more debt to our woes of what we owe by my new student loan was another nail. So we kind of sealed our fate and it snowballed out of control. The money tree quivered in the wake.

When I finally found a paying job 14 months ago, at a part-time temp’s salary (I’ve been made a permanent part timer along the line, something I was told just yesterday), I made a plan, well, the way I make plans, which is not so much. So it hasn’t worked as aggressively as it might have in a more effective planner’s Excel spreadsheet. I don’t Excel (but I do Magic Eye). My simple plan was to pay down debt. But life got in the way of the numbers, which wouldn’t stay confined to what I labeled them in the sterile rows and columns and black and whiteness. Home improvements, car repairs, vacations, etc., took their share, and I let them. I was just lucky to have the funds for them.

I’ve paid down a ton, but it still seems a drop in the bucket. The attack of the killer spreadsheet seems two sheets to the wind at times. It does feel really good to write PAID OFF SUCKER!!! in the row, and it also serves as a reminder to make good choices and not spend wastefully. So the debt, like a growth on my back, is screaming to be lanced, and I’m listening, trying to learn some fiscal responsibility--finally with some extra means to do it, albeit slowly. It feels more rewarding when you can’t have instant gratification, for buying and for paying the bought off; it will take time, and I’ll learn some new good habits. That’s what I like to tell myself anyway.

I never had this issue in my pre-child world with two nice incomes and increasing home values. My new financial plan is realistic, not rigid (because as a friend says, we’d only sabotage that), and like any new habit be it diet or exercise or studying, it requires reminders, perseverance, a buy-in at the cellular level, honesty, openmindedness and willingness. It’s not a headstrong I’m gonna take control of this and fix it today assault--that never works for me. I’m just not that powerful. I like to think it’s the definition of maturity: living with unresolved things.

It’s also the decision to face reality and not stick my head in the sand. Paying the piper, the devil wants his due, I owe I owe so off to work I go—money is a problem so many suffer from nowadays because of layoffs and other crises—mine can seem a high-class problem because we’re healthy, employed, happy, have enough. But those Benjamins deserve a square look in the face. And I’m not gonna blink first.

Have you struggled with money debt? Did you stare down the dead presidents’ faces? What worked, what didn’t? I could use some advice. I want to lose some debt, not my head, and definitely not the battle.

Monday, July 18, 2011

24 Years and Who's Counting?

By Sheilah 

My husband thought it was 23, but I know different. The friend who said Happy 23rd wedding anniversary got misinformation, from Dave. So I replied to my well-wisher, That’s a long time between men. And I meant it.

It’s actually been 26 years since we started dating. I was a pup of 19 and he a man of the world at 26, with a long road ahead of us. And we’ve been confused for years—was it July 6 or 7 that we got married? A niece’s birthday is on the 7th, so we think it was the 6th, of course we were married before she was born, so who really knows barring looking for the certificate. I saw that niece come into this world, which scared me from childbirth for 15 years. From which I can only conclude that it’s best to not see what’s coming, in so many ways.

It was a Justice of the Peace wedding in Hot Springs, Arkansas, because the courthouse was closed that July Fourth weekend in Eureka Springs. That holiday we drove from Austin, Texas, to his ten year high school reunion in Rogers, Arkansas. We lived in Austin a mere 9 months before returning to Raleigh.

Married at 21 and I wasn’t even pregnant—isn’t that kind of unheard of? The first years were hard, but somehow we stayed, put each other through school, split up once for a few months. We followed our travel bliss dreams, made homes, built a dream home, gave it up for the surprise conception of a better dream, one we hadn’t even thought of. A child was born.

How silly we’d been to forget to start a family when we were young. I’m so grateful that God interceded on that one. Our lives would never be the same, and that’s a good thing. I believe we’d be old fuddie duddies like our childless neighbors by now, chasing damn kids out of their woods and being generally grumpy curmudgeons, old before their time.

There are many gifts from having a long-term partner--life is easier when you have backup--but the greatest is a growing love demonstrated by a crazy 8-year-old boy who looks like a mini Dave. He is the love of our life, begat by love, and a miraculous proof that there is a God. Having children when you’re supposedly too old for it is humbling—seeing you both change into the easy clothes of parents, becoming so full of love you’d like to burst, rocks your world as it’s meant to. I wouldn’t change a thing. My husband is still hot at 52, still the best man I know, smarter than I ever thought, and I respect him for the old school things he knows like fixing cars and building houses, even for his Midwestern sense of humor. He is a fricking fabulous father to our son. He was just what I needed, and still what I want.

So happy 24th, 23rd, 26th, or however you count ‘em in old dog years.

Friday, July 15, 2011

I'd Like Some Testosterone, To Go.

Writing about the Mommy Club experience in Exit, Stage Right got my wheels turning and made we ponder why some women are so, well, mean. Some days it's enough to make me wish I were a man. Yep, you read that right. I had the very good fortune to work at a company with a large group of men and one very lovely lady. What I learned about men while working there amazed me.

The men gossiped, but they did it out in the open, right in front of the person they were talking about. "Hey Ted, heard you and the Mrs. are having trouble, that true?" Wow! The female gossips I've met have never given the person they were gossiping about the chance to refute or clarify a situation. In the course of a day there were differing opinions on everything from work ethic to sports, to how to properly set up a household budget and keep the family happy, and not one man got angry, stormed off or stopped talking to another. Gulp. Can you imagine? There were some moments when arguments were heated, but at the end of the day it was "Nite Ted, see ya in the morning." 

I have this silly idea (since we're all women and we know the heavy loads we carry in our society) that we could support each other with the nurturing instinct that so many of us have in spades. We could disagree, but not judge because we differ. No name calling, no back-biting, and none of this "I'm better than her because..." caca. Oh Utopia! We women wear so many hats (yeah, yeah, I know the men do too, but I'm talking women here), professional, mother, sister, friend, Girl Friday, care-giver, housekeeper, social co-coordinator, and so on. With all we do it's a dirty rotten shame that some women can't stand in one area together without an episode of “The Real Housewives of New Jersey” breaking out.  I'm thinking the solution might just be that we just need a little more testosterone in our diets.

How do you handle situations with "mean" women?
Have you ever maliciously gossiped about someone knowing it would hurt them?
Ever felt like you were back in high school all over again?
Let the debate begin.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Masking the Grief

When Evelyn and I get together, as we did this past weekend to celebrate her birthday, we can hit fifty different subjects within an hour. I’m talking female domination (does that exist anywhere?), to world peace, Presidential hopefuls, taxes, college tuition and of course, our children and families. We know each other as well as sisters, having known each other since preschool age. Although our histories are separate, they have been shared for four decades. No one knows us better with the exception of our Mothers. Being with her soothes my grey cells. I can let my hair down and let loose with my opinions, and I can feel what I feel and let it show. I don’t have to wear a mask.

July is an up and down month for me, I celebrate the gift of my best friend within that month, but I also mark the anniversary of my Mama’s death. She died July 5, 1998 in my living room from complications of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, or COPD for short. I had brought her to my home that morning from my sister’s home. The plan was to give my sister a break from care-giving and I welcomed the opportunity to do so, not just to help my sister, but because I love my Mama and she gave me so much. But just like Mama, she had other plans, and other places to go.

At nine o’clock that evening, just as “Touched by an Angel” (a popular TV show in the 90’s) was going off the air with its signature dove flying off into a sapphire blue sky, Mama flew away home. My husband called 911 while I administered CPR. The rest is a blur. Emergency Medical Techs surrounded me and took over while my not quite one-year-old daughter slept unaware upstairs. I had phone calls to make to my two sisters and my brother. My husband’s parents came over to lend their support, pitch in with our daughter if needed, and above all, to surround us with the grace that only love can give. So I don’t care much to be in my living room on any given July Fifth, and when I wake up on that morning it’s like some hateful mechanism goes off in my being, squeezing my heart and reminding me of what I’ve lost.

A few weeks after the funeral I was told I shouldn’t grieve, a year later I was asked why I dwelled on it so, and the years have rolled by with comments, meant to bring comfort, but judging. “You need to get on with your life.” Life has gone on. My daughter will be fourteen this year, my shadow and junior lady, and I have a beautiful blue-eyed son who wasn’t even a glimmer when my Mama died. I do what I need to do, I laugh, I work, I help with homework, drive endless miles for the children’s activities, I do not dwell on my Mother’s passing, but I cannot forget it or act as if the loss means nothing. Such a tremendous part of my strength comes from my Mama. My love of music, my gut instincts (which Mama had in spades) my fierce watchfulness over my children and my appreciation for friends are just a tip of what Mama gave to me by example. She was my truest friend, my most righteous defender, and my biggest critic. She breathed for me and for every one of her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. I do not dwell on her loss, but I miss her like a phantom limb, once a part of me, now apart.

While I was with “Girlfriend” (Evelyn’s term of endearment for both of us) we talked about Evelyn’s Momma, who lost her own mother three years ago. Evelyn’s Momma had her own Momma for seventy-seven, and she misses her every day. She still wants to call her to brag, or just talk, after seventy-seven years. I figure that if Evelyn’s Momma feels that way, I’m justified as well. Evelyn knows what I’m talking about; her essay "Miss NonCongeniality" in our July 4gaby issue pretty much hit home. I can’t pretend not to feel what I feel AND make “chitty chat.” If you see me a little red-eyed, or catch me listening to Sarah McLachlan’s “I Will Remember You” in the month of July, don’t worry. I’m getting on with my life, I’m too busy not to, but I won’t wear a mask to make others comfortable. My Mama always told me to be myself.

(And just because I'm being myself, don't forget to check out my other blog, Losing Mary at Thank you.)

Friday, July 8, 2011

Monday, Monday, Monday...

My cake...21 years ago...
Yes, I am fully cognizant (thank God) of the fact that I am posting a blog titled, "Monday, Monday, Monday..." on a Friday. But Monday is my birthday and it’s funny how your focus heads straight to a birthday no matter what your age. When we're young we're so excited for the day - another year older, more possibilities, more responsibility, more permission, presents and my personal favorite always - cake. As we get older we realize that less responsibility would be nice, I don't really need your permission, less presents would mean fewer bills, and I find myself searching for a low carb birthday cake that tastes good (good luck with that).

Hubby is a bit of a party pooper when it comes to birthdays (ours, not the kids), something he will readily admit. He just doesn't see the need for a celebration. I, however, have often pointed out to him that I would prefer to party like its 1999, which coincidentally coincides with my having a good figure, and no gray hair. So thank goodness, Mary is coming to celebrate my birthday a couple of days early. There's something to be said for someone in your life that you can hear the opening chord of a song and start laughing together (I should really tell y'all the story of "American Pie" by Don McLean some time). We will kick back tonight the way you do with people that you are completely comfortable with – and that you will never haggle over an inheritance with. We will laugh until tears roll down our faces, talk until we drive hubby back to his man cave, and completely, completely be Mary and Evelyn, not wife, Momma, chauffeur… and it will be glorious!

A very wise woman once said that if you have just a few true friends in your life, then you are blessed. I am blessed that her daughter is one of my true friends. I had another kick me in the gut day this week sorta like what I referenced in my essay, “Miss NonCongeniality”. But I got through it… with a little help from my friends. As we get older those kick me in the gut days can happen pretty fast and furious, but the kick back days, they really, really help. So if you’re around tonight and you wanna see some serious kick back going on, stop in. My house will be the one with the music blaring and the raucous laughter by two women who do NOT look our age, and we dang sure won’t be acting it…tonight. 

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Baby, You're A Firework...Please Not....

Once upon a time, July 4th was one of my most favoritest holidays of the year. I'm a summer baby, it comes exactly one week before my birthday, there are no pesky presents to buy, great food, and who doesn't love fireworks... um, that would be ME! Oh, I used to adore fireworks, but that would be before I moved to a state with slack fireworks laws.

Here's what has happened since last Thursday:
"Quick, bring the dog in. They've started shooting off the fireworks. Wait, where's the cat? Move the food so he doesn't eat all the hot dogs again. We currently have 12 buns and three hot dogs left from the dogs last trip inside. Have you tried turning up your music to sleep? Yes, I know you have to work tomorrow. I am not in charge of the universe despite appearances to the contrary."

Every year we get to listen to people shooting off fireworks on all sides of us. Now it would be one thing if we had purchased a home next to the fairgrounds. But we live in a neighborhood. And it's not just July 4th that gets the action. Memorial Day (yes, because the loss of soldiers should be commemorated by fireworks), Labor Day (celebrating the use of your hard earned money), Christmas (frankincense, myrrh, and fireworks), New Years (thank goodness you lived to see a new one with all your limbs intact) and various dates which I can only assume coincide with birthdays, good report cards, the squirrels leaving your plants alone...

I realize I sound like a party pooper, but for those of us who simply don't have the overwhelming desire to hear them at 1 AM, is it really so much to ask that one weekend night be assigned to the task (sorta thinking like Halloween - a designated date/time)? Surely there's a better way! Thoughts? Am I completely off track and out of step?

Friday, July 1, 2011

The Ramblings of a Woman Trying to Make a Happy List

On Tuesday, I was fired up about making my ‘Happy List’. Yes, I was going to conquer the paper, become queen of my own destiny, start making a mental foundation for me to stand on, but what happened – well, life got in the way!
My life gets more like a cheesy soap opera with every passing day (which incidentally my daughter has asked if we could start following one -- as if there is not enough drama in her life already!). The only thing is, I am not wearing Versace, I don’t have the hunky husband who earns a million after tax, and brings me flowers home every night (yes, I know it is only because they are having an affair), and I am real, every bit of me. I have no extra silicone padding on my chest or extra filler in my lips, I'm just plain old me.
So what happened – crap, lol (just proving I have a modern sense of humor).
Upon my enthusiastic return from the West Coast, (Santa Barbara, I love you! Can I marry you? Is that legal?), I get mail from an old friend, which sent me into a tizzy. Reminding me of why I am where I am today. Cold sweats ran through my body but I suppose it could have been worse, they could have been hot flushes. My brain started to race, and I was hooked. Like a fish, being reeled in, I needed to fill in the blanks of the missing soap opera. The only thing is now I, sort of, wish I hadn’t. The past is written and it cannot be changed so why stay locked in it? I think it’s called morbid curiosity. Morbid – ha – oh yes, definitely the right description.
My happy list is even harder to write after this encounter. The past has gotten in the way once again. I realized I still have a lot of unfinished business to deal with, but what comes first, the chicken or the egg? Do I go through a type of painful re-birth of myself, hacking away at the old demons in order to be a stronger me or do I plop an existing egg on the floor and crack it open? What a mess and the blooming happy book doesn’t give me the answer or I haven’t got to that chapter yet!
But wait, that is it. My light bulb just went on. Life is not a book to follow. It can be re-written but the originals are still out there in indelible ink and no amount of erasing can get rid of it. My guru book is right after all (phew), your happy list evolves with you, it changes as your life changes, as you meet your goals, or not as the case may be. I suddenly feel a bit better with my dilemma, but that happy list is still unwritten. 
So here is how my list is going to start:
What makes me happy?
1. To not be afraid of the past.
2 To like who I am.
4.TBA   …………………………and so on! 

Now I just have to figure out how to achieve this – life is an ever-decreasing circle I think!