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!