Monday, February 27, 2012

The Family That Drives Together...???

This is what hanging out with the family on a Sunday afternoon when everyone has momentarily suspended the insane work ethic and is free to just shoot the breeze gets you: Let’s all go in on a motor home together. Brian can have it for his weeks to the beach in June, Dave and Sheilah can have it for race weekends, Dad can travel to his beloved Branson with whomever he can find to ride shotgun, and Marcia and the girls can take it too. Yes, there’s been too much time wasted at the family compound.

I’ve seen this movie is what I was thinking as the idea bounced about. Brian starred in the Chevy Chase Christmas Vacation film, Dad in Robin Williams’ RV. 

Dad: Well, your sister knows how to drive it—she drove a school bus, and not one of those short ones (insert your own joke here). And Brian, well he can drive anything—you know he drove military supply trucks in South Korea. And Dave hauled boats and tool trailers all his life. 

Here’s where I do NOT mention that I drove those U-Haul trucks cross country, don’t point out Dad’s age, multi-medications, and how he has to have the latest radar-scrambler though he drives a steady 40 mph.

Who wants to spend that much time strapped to a home that’s driving down the road by adults with varied driving ability and then sleep and eat and vacation together too? This is sounding scarier by the minute.

I’ve seen this movie. Someone’s dead carcass would be tied to the top of the thing or upright in the shower. Call me Little Miss Sunshine, but I know how this story ends.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Can We Reform the Reformers?

Here’s the deal. I know I’m about to step on major toes with this one, but for the life of me, I can’t stay my fingers on the keyboard. This past week the House Oversight Government Reform Committee met to discuss whether the Contraceptive Mandate, imposed by the White House, intruded on religious freedom. In answer to this, the first committee panel consisted entirely of male religious figures opposed to not just the policy, but to contraceptives as well. The second panel of five only had two women on the committee, with the same opinions as the first. Sound a bit lop-sided to anyone?

In the first place, yes, there is a separation of Church and State. However, once a Church puts people on a payroll, the church has to take out Federal/State and FICA, at that point, there is no separation. They should also offer comprehensive health coverage for their full-time employees, and coverage is something that is now defined by the government. It’s my own opinion, but logic stays ideology and emotion every time. In the second place, what dang year are we living in that men are deciding what my health care should look like?

Has a man ever had ovarian cancer? Has a man ever been high risk for delivering a child? Has a man ever been told he could never carry a child full term and if he did, he and the baby would be at risk? Quite frankly, it’s up to all of us to exercise our discretion as to how we handle our own bodies and what our beliefs consist of. Our Faith teaches us what is right and wrong, and the minute leaders of Faith go to Congress to tell us what we should be doing by law, is the moment free will disappears. That’s something I believe is strongly upheld by most religious beliefs.

I don’t want my church or a group of men from any faith, whether they believe in contraceptives or not, to dictate to me what I can or can’t do with my body where my health is concerned. That’s my earnest view. I wouldn’t want that to happen anymore than I would want our husbands to dictate what we could and couldn’t wear. Just tell me if my slip is showing, and I’ll be fine.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Driving While Impaired

Being that I am now in the “outside-of-the-home” workforce, I’ve been enjoying my morning drives into work. The silence, without the company of my five-year-old sing-songing, and my teen’s angst driven responses, is like manna from heaven. I can actually complete a thought without feeling as if I’m about to have an aneurysm. I forgot how pleasant commute time can be, until yesterday. I made the mistake of turning on the radio and it seems that when my husband cleaned out the car (a gift better than roses in my book), he accidentally changed my usual station to one of the “talk radio” stations. I froze in the driver’s seat; not a good thing to do on an interstate.

Dr. Laura Schlessinger was on the air, and while I had heard of her, I had thankfully never listened to her. A lady had called in and was lamenting going back into the workforce and how it would affect her children. Dr. Laura’s response went to places that someone with doctor before their name should know better than to go. I tell you, I nearly wreaked the mini-van. The tongue lashing that dear ole Doc gave the lady was so out of the realm of reality that I thought for a moment Jersey Shore had come to radio. The gist of the tirade was, according to Dr. Laura, that moms want too much and because of that our children suffer. We would rather throw money at our children and buy them things than be responsible, and be parents. We find our work more fulfilling than raising our children, we’re selfish and we’re trading motherhood for the material world. Well dang. I tuned out, and I think the caller hung up. Here I was in my second week of work and I already had enough guilt to fill a Cathedral. I was worried about the long daycare hours for my son, not being there for my teen, and then Dr. Laura turned the screw one turn tighter.

I can’t answer for others and I won’t pit the stay-at-home-moms against the work-outside-the-home-moms. There are pitfalls to both and neither is easy. I do know I didn’t go back to work for pedicures and martini lunches, just like I didn’t stay home to eat bon-bons and watch daytime TV. There was a part of me that wondered if Dr. Laura could go shopping on my budget with coupons and keep running in the black. The vision of her pumping gas and keeping the mileage down to stay within budget had me laughing. She wouldn’t understand. Her world is too far removed from the reality of a million households. The things I want to buy my kids? Well, braces, glasses, jeans, medical appointments (even with a co-pay they add up), shoes, and, oh yeah, food. Yeppers, I’m really throwing a lot of material things at my kids.

I do agree with Dr. Laura in one respect; I DO want too much. I want my children healthy. I want them to grow up knowing that while I’d rather be with them, there were other things I had to do FOR them. I want them to know that I will always try to be responsible and take care of them, because I love them beyond all reason.  I want them to understand team work and that we all have to sometimes give up something in order to get what we need, and that having what you need is a blessing. If that’s wanting too much, I stand guilty as charged. I don’t think I’ll be taking anymore rides with Dr. Laura. I like my morning drives too much, and she’s just too dangerous for me and the other drivers around me.  

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Happiness Comes With a Price

For the past few weeks, I have been helping my daughter with a project for school. The project, Victorian England, has proven to be an extremely thought provoking one. Obviously the divide between the rich and the poor was a main topic of discussion, as was the reforms that were introduced to stop child labor, but the one topic I did not expect to deal with was that of the treatment of women.
My daughter began to notice that for the most part middle class and upper class girls were expected to be proper ladies, quiet and unassuming, sitting in the background sipping tea, reading or doing needlepoint. At her tender age of twelve, she still has a very simplistic view on romance and quite rightly so. I could see the excitement in her eyes as she relayed to me how the women find a suitor, how it was not right to meet the man in question alone, and how marriage was an achievement of one's skills.
What she did not see, of course, was that these women were objects, owned by their families and subsequently their husbands. We watched a few period dramas full of romances but I made sure some also had situations such as a young woman trying to elope with the love of her life, saving herself from a lifelong, loveless marriage to a man twenty years her senior, of good social standing and chosen by her father. I was not trying to dispel her image of love or family ties, just trying to let her see that life and love is not always simple. We cannot please others all the time and I wanted her to realize that sometimes doing the wrong thing for the right reasons may be your only course of action even if it seems an impossible task to her.
I have witnessed firsthand how a controlling person can consume another's life, filling it with doubts and fear, questioning their every move, waiting, watching, and always trying to get the upper hand. I have seen how it destroys a person's confidence so much that eventually they do not know how to handle themselves and crumble at the first sight of rejection. I don't want my daughter, or my son for that matter, to grow up thinking that they must do as others want them to do, especially when it comes to love.
Life today is not as rigid and the thought of living in Victorian England seems so antiquated but, if you think about it, how many women and men have you known or have heard of, that have found themselves feeling trapped in a relationship, not knowing which way to turn? I bet my bottom dollar many. Is it still not so that once married we do everything to save a relationship, even if it is to the cost of one's happiness and, heaven forbid, one's health? How many times have you heard the words 'my marriage failed' or 'single parent family' banded around as if it is a prison sentence?
Leaving a relationship for the right reasons is never a failure and being a single parent family is not a sin. It is better for the family to be healthy and happy than live in a fog of despair. We think we have come so far in these last two hundred years, yet feeling trapped in a relationship, due to social stigma or pressure from family and friends, is still prevalent today. I for one am going to help my children, letting them know that they should never feel trapped in any relationship. Freedom is their right.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Better Safe Than Sorry

I find it sadly ironic that the queen (as I consider her) of love songs has died the weekend before Valentines Day. Growing up she was always blasting out of my walkman headphones (yes, I am that old) or my car stereo. Her beautiful, soulful voice would sing words of love that uncannily seemed to reflect my current feelings for my latest romantic endeavor. She was, it seemed, there for me at every twist and turn, and the world loved her. 

Her death, of course, is surrounded in mystery. The press, like hounds chasing a fox, is following the scent of prescription drug abuse and its unfortunate outcome. If you consider this situation, it is not unlike many others that have hit our newspapers over recent years. Too many stars have gone astray. Unfortunately, these sad losses are accredited to their drug addiction because of the stresses and strains of their artistic brilliance or their failure to create long lasting relationships in an ever-demanding world. However, when it boils down to the nitty gritty they all have one thing in common -- Prescription Drugs. 

It was not that long ago that heroin or cocaine were the drugs of the moment, creating huge headlines and selling the papers like hot cakes. The drug barons of South America must be feeling the push right now and for that, I am glad. However, as always, when one door closes another opens. Unfortunately, our healthcare providers are in fact unknowingly becoming our next generation drug barons. With the advancement of medicine has come the advancement of drug availability. The very drugs that are healing us are the very drugs that are providing the path to addiction. This problem is not just one that plagues the rich and famous, it can happen to anyone and it does. 

Two years ago, I broke my back after an unfortunate accident. At the same time my young daughter was going through a breakdown, my marriage was hanging by a thread, and my father was critically ill. So naturally, I was on my last nerve. To combat my feelings of despair my doctor convinced me that an antidepressant would help. After much deliberating, I decided to take the advice and started on a round of prescriptions. Of course, the effects of the drugs did make me calmer, and they helped with my mood, but that is all they did. They masked the stresses of my life, but they did not mend it. I became afraid to stop taking them, knowing that nothing on the other side had changed. As time went on, I started to suffer side effects of the drugs. Insomnia, loss of appetite, and inability to concentrate were becoming a real problem. It was looking like I would need to take further meds to combat the effects of my so called assistance. A spiral was beginning, just like that. 

Luckily, I figured out that this FIX was just that, a band-aid on my life and the wound underneath was still there. It would never heal unless I tackled and addressed the real issues. I was not a depressive; but medically I was treated as one. I could have become one of those statistics, one of those unfortunate people who take more and more pills to cover life, a person, probably like Whitney. I got out of the cycle before it began. I am one of the lucky ones. 

Since my experience, I have spoken with people, mostly women, and discovered that this situation is an all too common one. Women going through motherhood or menopause are given a pick me up to help them, students who are finding it hard to cope away from home are given a medical crutch to lean on, and long term illness sufferers are given a smorgasbord of pills to combat their illness and it's emotional effects. Every one of these people is in danger of becoming an addict, not because they chose to take drugs for recreational use, but because they have received medical treatment.  

I am not saying that doctors are to blame for the world's addiction levels. I know that there are those out there who abuse the system knowingly, but each seed is sown from a so-called medical need. I do believe as medicine advances, quick fixes are becoming the norm, but when medicine leads to the need for more medicine then surely this is not conducive to healing. 

Those stars, like Whitney, who have taken this route have paid the price. It is not the price of fame, but the price of being human, just like you and me. I know that after my lucky escape, I will be more careful about quick fixes in the future and advise anyone to think carefully before considering the option of a pick-me-up solution to your problems.  
Stay safe and healthy!

Friday, February 10, 2012

The System Ain't Just Broke, It Ain't Right

I believe in playing fair. I think most Mom's do. We try hard to teach our kids to play fair, even though we know life doesn't always treat you that way.

Imagine this scenario - you are a hardworking employee in a large company. You've won employee of the year in 2008 and 2009 - the first employee in your division to win it in back to back years, and one of only a few to win it twice. You've received bonuses in the last five out of six years, and you've attracted more customers to your base of operations than any other employee in your division. In fact, you've attracted more customers than all but FORTY out of 120 employees in your company, placing you in the top third of the company for customers. Your company has competitions within the same division and your numbers have looked better than your counterparts in the scorecards the company keeps more often than not. But you've got a very small direct sales region.

Now imagine that there's a fellow employee sitting next to you. He doesn't attract customers to his base of operations. In fact he has very few customers show up. He rarely gets a year end bonus and has NEVER won employee of the year. He's really good in one aspect of the job (let's say round widgets), but not very good in another (let's call it the oblong widgets). Though he does have a large sales region.

Suddenly, employee number two gets promoted OVER YOU to one of THE elite divisions for the purpose of handling the oblong widgets. Why? Well, he's really, really good with the round widgets so of course he deserves to suddenly have more money and the prestige associated with the oblong widget elite, even though the customer base and demands of the position are quite different than the round widget job, and he's not proven that he can properly handle the oblong widget. Also he has that large sales region that management is convinced he'll bring to the table even though he's not done a good job selling oblong widgets to them in the past.

As frustrating as that sounds, what if you've seen several employees get promoted over you? Employees who don't attract customers to their base of operations, but have the POTENTIAL to do so. These employees have a lot of family members, and we all know that every family shares the same interests - uh huh. I can't wait for my brothers to share that love of home decorating, and knitting that I possess.

I grew up a college football fan. I adore the sport. Momma says that from a very young age, I would quietly sit beside Daddy watching. In fact I can't really remember the first game I attended, but I can, without hesitation, tell you it was at East Carolina. Because I am a second generation alum, and I LOVE MY PIRATES.

That is why I am so disgusted with college football and the system. In my scenario, ECU is employee number one. We have won back to back conference championships (employee of the year), we've been to bowl games 5 of the last six years (bonuses), and our attendance at football games is number forty out of 120 schools playing at this level (customers we've attracted to our base of operations). We've also played the other schools and hold series winning records over almost every one who has jumped over us (the scorecard). But we don't have a large television market (sales region) - according to the powers that be. They conveniently ignore that the product on the field can allow you to sell to outside regions.

I've watched with dismay and increasing disgust as other schools have been called to the corrupt system of the BCS (Bowl Championship Series) conferences while my alma mater has been ignored. The BCS is supposed to be the elite football playing schools. It was originally set up to allow those elite schools, and possibly an outsider or two, a chance to play in the elite bowls and have a "national championship" in football. Ain't no way it's working that way. The entire process has become a joke. No school should jump in and be able to start touting its access to the system, when it hasn't proven its ability to compete, and win employee of the year in the group it's already in. And the constant refrain has been - they have a big TV market. Whoopdeedo - I have a ton of cousins. That doesn't mean I need to rent a hall for the family reunion so we can all knit together.

Now I don't begrudge the schools who jumped over me. But I do resent a system which keeps pulling schools in because they have a big, albeit dysfunctional family, and therefore could potentially bring lots of eyes to the television. A family who doesn't attend family events in person (i.e actually GOING TO THE FOOTBALL GAME), is not a family who is suddenly gonna attend the family reunion via teleconference or Skype their way to it. 

A system which rewards your football for the luck of being in a big city is a broken system and broken as all get out. As employee number one, I hold fast to this - 

"Damnation seize my soul if I give you quarters, or take any from you." Edward "Blackbeard" Teach (translation - I will not surrender.)

EAST CAROLINA UNIVERSITY - GO PIRATES (to learn more about ECU, our athletics and our facilities plus some eye opening facts about our television ratings and markets, please take a moment and look at this website which was set up in early 2011)

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

HIC Awards - Sell Me Something in a Good Way

Honestly, I had already planned this blog. See lately, I've noticed a disturbing trend in commercials. Some of them are highly irritating. Think of fingernails on a chalkboard and you get where I'm coming from. Then I realized that my timing is impeccable (highly unusual - but that's another story, and it involved childbirth). After all to many people the Super Bowl is all about the commercials with a little football sprinkled in. Now, I adore my DVR, but because we watch so much sports around this house, we spend a lot of time with live television and hitting the button on the remote while we realize we can't fast forward live TV. 

So I've come up with an award that I've titled the HIC award. HIC stands for Highly Irritating Commercial though I also think it sorta stands for 'somebody in your marketing department had a hiccup for thinking this commercial was a good idea' - shorter version - 'what were you drinking'!!

So with that introduction, here are my nominees:

JC Penney - Screaming - why yes, I love the idea of shopping being promoted to me by a bunch of screaming banshees. Especially since I spent years of my life raising kids, and at least I love those screamers. Soooo, you people miss the part about so many women use shopping to RELAX???? PS - the dropping coupons idea - interesting, JUST DON'T SCREAM AT ME. Inside voices, only, please.

Volkswagen - The barking dogs barking out Star Wars. I'm a big fan of dogs, I can't tell you the last time I had a household that didn't have at least one rescued dog in it. But, I'm not a big fan of barking dogs except when they bark at real danger or somebody trying to sell me something. That commercial gave me a headache worse than some American Idol auditions. The Super Bowl one with the Star Wars bar scene - MUCH BETTER!

Lexus - Y'all really need to step it up. Your commercials are sucky to be specific. The one from the Super Bowl advertising your 2013 GS, umm, it's February of 2012. Let's not wish our life away. How about letting us pay for Christmas of 2011 before you start pushing a 2013 car? You were already in my hall of disgust since I'm awfully tired of seeing beautiful, skinny people get nice shiny cars with humongous red bows for Christmas presents. Some of us just get underwear, slippers, and chocolates. And we're happy for that - sorta.

A quick mention of ones I've liked - M&M's - Brown Shell Candy - if you haven't seen it, find it on YouTube. Doritos had two - The Baby Slinging Grandma, and my personal favorite - The Dog Bribing the Man over Burying the Cat. Loved them. I remember the product, because I enjoyed the commercial - oh, alright, M&M's had me at hello, but still...good commercials. I wasn't trying to fast forward live TV, and isn't that what marketers WANT?

Friday, February 3, 2012

How Goes Your Rose Garden?

By Sheilah

I spent a fortune on my MFA. Then I got a job unrelated to it, though it helped get the job. The job put quite a halt to my writing. I find that reading and editing for 8 hours a night stops me up in the off hours. That’s the story I’ve been telling myself anyway.

I like to make excuses.
I like to not take responsibility.
I am basically lazy.
I don’t know much about perseverance.
I like to blame others and “forces beyond my control,” etc. and so on.
I have a long list of “etc.”
My etceteras have etceteras, and some of them have miscellany and i.e., ad nauseums and ad infinitums.
My to-dos have other tenses.

Glad I got the truth out of the way.

The truth is also this: I am very responsible. I enjoy working; I go to work everyday, never lay out, give my best. I do the housework, too. I get things done. And I do that for so long, you know, just living right, that I get tired. Then I want to know, where’s mine? Didn’t you promise me a rose garden? I don’t know who I’m asking, probably God. I fail to see my garden variety human being-ness, that I already have mine and then some. I have the rewards of work, of a job well done, mothering, partnership, living life.

But at times, sometimes for extended periods of time, things shift inside and I get ungrateful, tired, wanting more. Discouraged. Disappointed. This-is-itness? strikes. At times like these I have to stop short and see what’s up—I don’t have a babysitter so we never go out. The schedule is a fresh hell every week between my works shifts and Dave’s travels. I haven’t taken a night out with friends in months. I’m not exercising, not praying enough, not getting artistic stimulation. I realize I’m not enjoying anything, just getting things done. 

Or I spend hours cleaning out a closet that's been stuffed full for 6 years instead of writing, which brings on about 6 more projects, which then .... Hmmm. 

A whine is a terrible thing to waste. Time for a getaway beginning with a two-hour forage for nothing today. I just let myself go out for no reason at all, turned over rocks, got a $5 coffee, bummed. It was quite enjoyable. Now I have to keep doing such at regular intervals. Duh. It might fill the well to keep the real writing flowing, the stuff that fills my cup to overflowing. Cheers to an artistic well kept full. My rose garden may flourish  again.