Friday, July 12, 2013

Want To Take A Road Trip? Not With Me, You Don't.

Last week, our 4th plans included a short vacay to Florida to spend time with friends. Because I’m completely neurotic, planning a trip to, well, anywhere, induces massive amount of anxiety. Getting in the car or on the plane is fine—it’s the lead-up that puts me around the bend. However, my ridiculous neuroses are not on the menu for this post. What I’d like to tell you about is the black cloud of weird shit that follows me around. This trip is the best example I can give you.

We planned to leave early Thursday AM to hopefully avoid the worst of the traffic on I-95. Wednesday night, I got a stomach ache, which never happens. I awoke the next morning well before my alarm clock, not because I didn’t feel well, but because I was drenched in sweat. I went to fiddle with the thermostat, which was reading at 82 degrees… at 5 AM. The night before, things were at a perfectly comfortable 75. My tinkering resulted in nothing. Lots and lots of nothing. AC had died.

Okay. Not a huge deal (the upside of renting) – let’s just finish packing and get the hell out of here became the new plan. This went okay until the sun came all the way up. And the real sweating started. And then I had to operate on my daughter’s ingrown toenail while sweat was dripping off my nose and running down my back and she was jumping around and DEAR GAWD are we ready yet?! I have never been so glad to get into a vehicle in my entire life.

The trip down was relatively uneventful and later I came to the conclusion that I had no idea what was in my bag because of my haste to escape the sweat box that my house quickly had become, but no matter—we were easy breezy, chilling poolside.  Day two of our time, I decide to throw a line in the water and see what I could catch. True to my redneck roots, I decided a hot dog was good enough bait for me and sure enough, about 10 minutes later, I landed a small catfish.



And then the clear blue sky opened up and rained on me. The rain was super brief, so back to the dock and went to try again.

Lost a couple of hot dog pieces, but five minutes or so into this, damn if I didn’t catch the same fish. I could tell by the bleeding hole in his face from the first time in case you were wondering. Because this one was super hooked, my husband and I had a little difficulty removing the tackle. So I stepped on it. Bear in mind that I am smart enough to have been wearing shoes, yet I did wonder briefly about the pressure point on the bottom of my foot. We finally got the fish off the hook only to realize that he was now stuck to the bottom of my shoe (via his dorsal spike thingy). So now there was a fish, stuck, to, my, shoe. And because it was a catfish, grabbing with my hand was entirely out of the question. So there I was, standing on a dock at an amazing place, next to a gorgeous piece of the Intracoastal Waterway, with a nasty-ass beat-up catfish attached to my flip-flop, shaking my leg trying to make it fall off into the water. Perfect.

As an aside, my good Southern friends may recall Bill Engvall’s routine about the dorkfish. This fool was a dead ringer. Just go YouTube it—it will become perfectly clear. Another aside: we tried multiple times to buy boiled peanuts while in Palm Coast to no avail. Finally caught the peanut guy, got our goodies, and settled in to have a snack. They were terrible. Inedible, really.

The next day was fun—we had an extended manatee sighting, as a group of them lingered near the dock for well over an hour or so. Sunday morning we loaded up and headed home. Things went fine until just past Savannah, where traffic ground to a halt. We both jumped on various social media sites trying to find out what was up, and basically came up with “traffic is bad on 95N”. We proceeded to crawl the stretch of road between Savannah and civilization and then somewhere around Hardeeville, my normally laid-back and easygoing husband lost his mind and started driving like a madman. This, of course, prompted an argument about my side-seat driving and his drive-seat driving that was going nowhere good. I decided to cool my jets and took a sip of water. At the exact same time, my husband said something completely ridiculous/hilarious about a car next to us. The water went everywhere it shouldn’t, places including—but not limited to—my nose, the floor of the truck, my lap, and the dashboard.

The choking then triggered ye olde gag reflex and I puked. In my lap. Twice. After having eaten chocolate and while my daughter shrieked, “EWWW! EW! EW!!!” from the back seat. My husband power slid to a stop on the side of the road, where I jumped out and tried to regain control of my faculties and my stomach.

I realized that I had a dress packed in the top of a bag in the bed of the truck, so I grabbed it and proceeded to flash about a thousand people cruising through lower South Carolina while I tried to change into it without getting vomit onto it from the original clothes. We started off again only to realize that the rear tires of the truck were spinning in the extremely soft shoulder of the road, thanks to the bazillion inches of rain we’ve gotten. Got out of that, stopped for boiled peanuts near Jacksonboro (that were terrible), finally pulled into the driveway, and began unloading the truck.

Pulled out the fishing rods and husband’s is broken. It is six months old and expensive. Mine is 16 years old and was cheap. And not broken.

And this, folks, is why I take pills. This. Right. Here. Anyone else live this way? Wanna form a support group?

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Friday, June 28, 2013

Apparently I'm A Hot Mess

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about my time at the Grit anniversary party. The next afternoon, Grit had some fun pics up from the get together and I enjoyed looking through until I saw the one I'm in. Aside: yes, you are allowed to end a sentence in a preposition. I know, I was just as shocked as you are right now.  Anyway, when I got to that pic, my first thought was, "Dear GAWD why hasn't someone talked to me about my hair?! Holy crap that stuff is a mess." And while we all are our own worst critic, last weekend I got another dose of reality.

Last weekend, my daughter and her friend wanted to hang out, and I wanted to get out and stretch my legs some, so we decided on a stroll near the Battery etc. About ten minutes into our walk, a clap of thunder rang out so loud that I'm pretty sure I levitated and may have peed my pants a little too. We raced back to the car and reworked our plan. The girls, who are both 11, decided that we needed to go to King Street and window shop. We started at Forever 21, which blows my mind with the sheer quantity of stuff that is in there. Made our way down King to a few random places and eventually ended up back at Charleston Place. Wanting to cool off a little, we meandered through there too.

Here is where things went south. The girls decided somewhere along the line that they were going to "style" me and were playing this game in several of the places we went into on King. I heard whispered pieces of conversation from my daughter about how "she never buys anything, she thinks she doesn't look good in anything, she doesn't like to shop" etc which stung a little but were passed off rather easily, as she is in the throes of tween-dom and lives and dies by TV shows like What Not to Wear, Fashion Star, etc, so I didn't give it much thought.

This game continued as we went into a store in Charleston Place that is actually one of my favorites. Another aside: I have to dress business casual all week long and I have horrific arthritis in my feet. Typically on the weekends I have on little to no makeup and exercise clothes. This past Sunday was no exception to this pattern, and I was planning on a fair amount of walking, so you can imagine what I looked like. Pony tail, hat, workout shorts, sneakers, a v-neck tee and minimal makeup. The very nice salesperson greeted us and asked if she could help, and I told her about what the girls were up to and that we were just poking around. She persisted a little, and then asks me, "Soooo...would you say your style is uhh, (looks at my now sweaty and rumpled ensemble) casual?"

Ouch.

So then, because I'm me, I then felt the need to explain that Ihavetodressupallweekcasualontheweekends blah blah blah etc. Then I bolted. By the time we got home, the girls had decided that they were going to give each other makeovers (which means painting on ridiculous amounts of makeup) on each other and then they were going to share giving me one too. Awesome. They were extremely impressed with my collection of eye shadow which was cool because they are getting to the age where nothing that an adult does is cool any more. And it really was kind of fun watching them slap on the war paint but I was a little worried about the safety of my eyes given the way they were wielding the make up brushes. Yet we all emerged unscathed and looking somewhat reasonable. I thought I was off the hook until they broke into my closet.

Then the whispering cranked up again.
My daughter's friend: she has SO much clothes! My daughter: yeah, but she never wears any of it. She wears the same five dresses all the time. Friend: why? Daughter: same reasons that she never buys anything. My mom never really does anything with herself.

Double ouch. Like, a lot.

I kind of understand what she was saying but I kind of don't. I thought I did my hair (apparently not according to that damn picture) and I know I put on makeup. I do wear my summer dresses constantly because I am hot natured and am an outside sales rep, which means lots of in and out of the car. During the summer that can get, well, gross, if you don't take care with the wardrobe so I aim for as cool as possible. Plus I'm not super charged up about fashion in the first place, and my hair is challenging - thick, long, wavy/curly/coarse. I'm also not made of money, but I want to look nice and be cute and all that.

Not sure how to bridge this gap because it does appear that I'm not exactly knocking 'em dead, but I also am not interested in spending tons of time and dollars on my appearance. Where is the line between those things? Anyone? I need input and suggestions! Shopping secrets? Is my give a damn busted? I don't know...help me, anyone, everyone who knows about this!

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Saturday, June 22, 2013

I'm Turning Into Ouiser Boudreaux


If you have ever had the pleasure of seeing "Papa" Futch perform with the Blue Dogs (above) at Rockin' on the Point, you will know exactly what I'm talking about. He leads into the song with a monologue about waiting for your tomatoes to ripen that's adorable. The Dogs covered "Home Grown Tomatoes" on their Soul Dog Food album and it remains one of my favorite tunes, kitschy as it is.

Why? Because I am completely in love with tomatoes. I am quite fond of the Blue Dogs, too, but tomatoes are pretty much my favorite thing to eat, period. I take growing them quite seriously and basically threw a hissy fit when all the rain we've had lately threatened my heirloom crop that has been doing so well.

When I first started trying to grow them, I asked everyone I knew  how to be good at it. One of the funniest things I heard from a long-time gardener was that everyone who successfully grows tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, and such generally runs into a point during the summer where they have given away produce to all their neighbors, family, and friends, and yet the veggies keep on coming. When I asked what the solution was, she stated, "Well, generally I just sneak onto the porch, drop the veggies off and then run." Sounds like a plan to me, I thought. You feel free to just drop that right off at my place.

Thinking she was exaggerating, I didn't really understand what she meant until the first summer after I got married. My father-in-law made us an awesome garden and the cucumbers were prolific. We made pickles. Lots and lots and lots of pickles. We ate cucumbers constantly. The tomatoes, though, were harder to get rid of. Apparently there are some poor misguided souls who don't like tomatoes. And I just honestly don't even know what to say about that. And by the end of the summer, I was indeed about to start knocking on doors and running away.


Tomato growing in the South is an art, and by some accounts, not even an option. In the movie Steel Magnolias, Ouiser (right) tries to give Clairee tomatoes. When Clairee protests about the number in the bag, Ouiser states she doesn't even like them, so someone else has to eat them. The conversation that ensues is the God's honest truth and I have actually heard several variations of it in real life.

Anelle: "Then why do you grow them?"
Ouiser: "Because I'm an old Southern woman and we're supposed to wear funny looking hats and ugly clothes and grow vegetables in the dirt. Don't ask me those questions. I don't know why, I don't make the rules!"


About a year ago, I stated that the perfect tomato sandwich would be my last meal  if I were able to chose. I stand by that assessment wholeheartedly. Some of my other favorite ways to enjoy this amazing food (besides the perfect sandwich) is in a tomato pie or in caprese.

So tell me: Do you grow tomatoes? Do you have secrets you'll divulge? What's your favorite way to eat them?

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Thursday, May 9, 2013

Signs, Signs, Everywhere Are Signs

Recently, my on again/off again blog momentum has given me lots of things to think about. I began coming to the conclusion that maybe it was just time to hang it up, because the stress of worrying about not blogging regularly was making me unhappy. I have for a while wanted to get out of the mommy/parenting niche, mostly because my kids are getting older and I don't want to potentially embarrass them. More than they probably already are. Plus, I am finding myself drawn to exploring other topics and don't know how to keep the same blog going in a bunch of directions and not seem chaotic. And since chaos is about my least favorite thing ever, the conclusion that I came to was that I just need to let the whole thing go.

So I decided that I would announce my departure to all tens of you who still are interested. Then my insecurities flared up and started whispering about how absolutely no one would care and WHY do you think your navel gazing tendencies would interest anyone etc. Let me tell you, being inside my head is just not good for anyone involved. I don't really recommend it. How self-absorbed ARE you, Rebeccah? Seriously. Gah.  See? Not good.

But.

Then it was yesterday. And in not one, not two, but three different places things like this happened:

"You fail only if you stop writing." ~ Ray Bradbury Beth Duke
's post. She is a lovely southern fiction author who is currently stumped on her next book adventure.

Then this from my Internet soul sister Glennon at Momastery:
"Dismiss the voices of perfection and competition. They are loud but quite unenlightened. They’d have you waste your entire life."

And finally this from my literary hero Cheryl Strayed:
"Going through a drawer I found the submissions/applications log I've kept off and on over the years. Just in case you think it's all been roses I'd like to report that Yaddo rejected me (as recently as 2011). McDowell rejected me. Hedgebrook rejected me twice. The Georgia Review rejected me and Ploughshares rejected me and Tin House rejected me, as did about twenty other journals and magazines. Both The Sun and The Missouri Review rejected me before I appeared in their pages. Literary Arts declined to give me a fellowship three times before I won one. I've applied for an NEA five times and it's always been a no. Harper's magazine never even bothered to reply. I say it all the time but I'll say it again: keep on writing. Never give up. Rejection is part of a writer's life. Then, now, always."

Hmm. I begin thinking to myself that maybe, just maybe, these are signs that I am heading down the wrong path by wanting to pull the plug on my blog. Which, by the way, is OLD in internet years. I am an online granny at the ripe old age of 7. This is both good and bad because I see others who have huge, thriving blog communities that have been doing this for two or three years and I think, what the hell. I am considered by most to be a decent writer with an honest and compassionate "voice", so why them and not me? I don't really know. What I want/ed most for this blog is to be a community. I am not worried about making a living on it. I just want to talk with people and share ideas and information. And yes, sometimes talk about our feelings and big important life things. Oh, and books too. Especially books.

But that hasn't happened. And I cannot really figure out why. And that is partially what brought me to the place where I was at the beginning of this post. And last night when I went to sleep, this was all very heavy on my mind. But here is the dream I had, and this is a big deal to me, because I rarely remember my dreams at all, let alone dream in color. 

I'm on my way to feed the horses at LEARN and I have stopped to have something to eat at some random place. The server is at the table next to me and when I look over at her, it is Glennon. I of course react ridiculously and immediately crush her tiny self with a huge hug and insist that she leaves her waitress job to come with me to feed and pet the horses. So, we go do that and the day is beautiful and we have a wonderful time. On our way out, she takes a phone call and says, "oh, my friend Jenny The Bloggess wants to meet you." At this point I woke myself up because my dream car driving was getting a little unsafe due to my level of hysterical excitement. 

Now. I'm no shrink but I awoke pretty sure my subconscious is all, "Awwww hail no you big sissy! Sit. Your. Punk. Ass. Down. And. Write. Something. NOW." Yes, I do believe I will. 
Thank you, Yesterday, it was just what I needed.



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Saturday, April 6, 2013

Would The Real Charleston Please Stand Up?


One blazing August some years back, I began my career as a student at the University Of South Carolina in Columbia. I knew barely anyone, as a very large proportion of my friends had stayed in Charleston to attend CofC. So I began trying to get to know the other girls on my dorm floor. Everyone was pretty nice for the most part, but one person really seemed to just flat-out dislike me. I found this confusing, and finally asked someone else what this person’s problem was. Her reply?  “Oh, she thinks that you are stuck-up because you are from Charleston.”  Me: “What are you talking about?!  She doesn’t even know me!”

Y'all. I grew up in the suburbs of West Ashley in a regular neighborhood of brick ranch homes. My dad worked for the railroad. My mom was a homemaker. I went to a public high school that just happened to have a fancy name. There is nothing about my upbringing or temperament that would make someone concur that I am stuck up in any way. However, this young lady’s perception seemed to be that everyone from Charleston was some kind of rich snob, when nothing could be further from the truth. Sure, there is an elite here—but show me a city where there isn't one, really?


Recently, I have been paying closer attention to the general public’s perception of Charleston, especially given all the accolades the city has received in the last year or so. Charleston truly is beautiful beyond belief, has an amazing food culture, vast historical significance, and is located in an amazing little spot on the planet. But it seems that many people’s perception is that Charleston is only the historic district on the peninsula and that we all live lives of idyll bliss whilst sipping mint juleps on the veranda. (Not that I would turn that down given the opportunity.)
  Here is another example. Our friends over at Charleston City Paper recently held a photography contest. The issue that followed the contest had some comments that people had written regarding the outcome. I’m summarizing here, but one person basically made the statement that he thought it was supposed to be about Charleston, and all those pictures were from the suburbs. The eewwww was implied.

Newsflash bro, Charleston city limits include some suburbs. Yes, some of those places look like Anywhere USA, but they belong too, verandas notwithstanding. To be perfectly fair, the first non-native Charleston residents actually lived in West Ashley before building on a swamp that we now call downtown.


To be perfectly honest, I think I have to put more than a little bit of blame for this on the media. The idea of this Charleston versus the one where so many of us live is kind of weird, if you ask me. Yes, some of our residents do live like that but others, like almost everyone I know, live in various levels of suburban hell and sometimes shop at Food Lion.  And some of us even own plantations, which brings me to my last example, one that I heard about only yesterday. Apparently, there is going to be a new reality show on Bravo called "Southern Charm." Here is the description of the show, from Bravo’s website.

"The notoriously closed society of Charleston, South Carolina unlocks the gates of their centuries-old plantation homes for a real-life look at how modern-day Southern aristocracy lives. Get charmed by the social scene which is bound by tradition and ostentation unlike any other culture in America, through a group of the city’s most charismatic gentlemen and their Southern belle equals."

Okaaaaaay.

Local Thomas Ravenel is going to be on the show. People have all kinds of opinions about this guy but I don’t know him. I have never met him, so I’m not going to offer an opinion about him as a person. But again, the romanticized image of Charleston (and so many other places in the South) as perpetuated by the media is really more what I’m trying to get my head around. Beautiful, historic and amazing Charleston also has suburbs. And crime and poverty and bland strip malls and even brick ranch houses. Instead, there seems to be only two sides of Southern life portrayed—the Honey Boo Boo and "Myrtle Manor" category and the Gone With The Wind and "Southern Charm" niche. These are both very real things—they are just not ALL the things… Charleston is way more interesting than that.

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Saturday, March 30, 2013

Gardening For Dummies. Where We Talk About What NOT To Do.

We are once again, trying to have a small summer garden. Last year went pretty okay - we had several varieties of tomatoes, yard long green beans (yes, that is a thing), and peppers that were too hot to eat. Despite my best efforts to kill everything, a large portion of it survived and came to fruition.

I made several mistakes with this garden though, so it is only by sheer dumb luck that we got anything at all. It is both a blessing and a curse to be "goal oriented" rather than "process oriented". I will leave it to you to decide which one of these things you think I might be.

Firstly, I added fertilizer to the already fertilized soil we bought, apparently subscribing to the "if a little is good, a lot must be better" school of thought. This resulted in yellow plants about three days after putting them in. With lots of theatrical cursing and sighing, we pulled everything out, dug out the bulk of the dirt, added straight topsoil, mixed it up again, and crossed our fingers. Miraculously, the little seedlings managed to survive, returned back to their lovely shades of green and started growing again.

Undaunted by my first error in judgement, my next trick was to try to use organic methods to control pests. Noticing some bugs on my now well established and thriving plants, I took to the ol innerweb to find some good home remedies in order to avoid using pesticide. One of the first things I ran across was to use liquid soap and water as a spray repellent. I can do that, I thought to myself, of course not taking the time to read the entire data set. Grabbing the Dawn dish detergent from the kitchen, I mixed up my concoction and proceed to drown all the plants in the mixture. Walked away from this feeling quite smug. Two days later, the plants looked like someone had been hovering nearby with a blow torch. Apparently dish detergent, while indeed liquid, is definitely not the same thing as liquid soap.

This misstep required a fair amount of dedication to rectify. But at this point I was invested, dammit. And my obstinate natured self wasn't going down without a fight. It took about three weeks of serious babying, but once again, the unlucky plants that we brought to our house managed to survive. We picked off the dying leaves, but not too many at once, we added mulch to help them fight the hot South Carolina sun, we I even considered doing some sort of ancient earth goddess dance. Fortunately, nature turned out to be more resilient than I am destructive, so they made it. 

I did learn some stuff throughout all of this. One, the yellow pear tomato may very well be the most delicious food in the world. Two, be sure to plant enough of the same plant so that you have yields that can feed more than just one person, especially if you are a family of four. Three, do not plant purple jalapenos unless you like insanely hot food. (they are a gorgeous plant though - all red and green and purple) Four, don't be a dumbass like me and get all cray-cray with the chemicals. Do some real research or ask someone who actually has had a successful garden.  Five, everyone should try the yard long pole beans. Delicious, prolific growers that are basically idiot proof, which is why they not only survived but thrived whilst climbing our humble chain link fence.

Anyway, we begin again today. Here is where we have gotten so far:
I think the wrecked plane in the background is a fair indicator, don't you?
Stay tuned. :-)


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Monday, March 25, 2013

5 Things I'd Like to Never Hear Again

Banning words, like banning books, has a distinctly Big Brother kind of feel. However, the world may very well become a more harmonious place if we could agree to never touch on the following talking points again. Put a fork in them, they are done.

I present to you a list of words and phrases I would personally like to never, ever hear again.

"Mommy Wars"
Listen, one of the best pieces of advice I got upon becoming a parent went like this: "Don't start none, won't be none." No, no, that's not right. It was Will Smith who said that in a movie, I think. The good advice actually went like this: "If you don't make it a thing, it won't be a thing." Basically, if you don't make a huge deal of every little boo boo, or lose your mind when baby bites you, typically the intrigue of repeating said behavior will diminish. Hopefully. This is not a fail-proof plan obviously, but it does have a large amount of merit.

Similarly, someone needs to tell everyone and anyone to STOP IT with this whole "Mommy Wars" thing (originally referring to the stay-at-home vs. working-mom sets, and has evolved to included a whole array of parenting choices). Stirring the pot does nothing to help. If people would quit pointing out the so-called Mommy Wars and writing about the Mommy Wars and inflaming the Mommy Wars then maybe, just maybe, the Mommy Wars would at least reach some kind of detente, if not cease to exist entirely.

Because here's the thing: as long as your kid is mostly healthy, mostly happy, and mostly well taken care of, I'm not going to worry about what you are doing. Breast, bottle, work outside the home, work from home, work in the home, helicopter, free range, etc. This whole country needs a big dose of Mind Your Own Business, and I think women would do themselves a serious favor to knock off the nitpicking of each other. How about we do our personal best and leave our noses where it belongs—on our own faces and not in our neighbors' houses.

"Super Mom"
Y'all, super mom is super tired. There are indeed those among us who are capable of having a fabulous career making loads of money, keeping a spotless house, shuttling children around to various activities, parenting perfectly 'round the clock without losing their tempers, enjoying wine night with our girlfriends, keeping a hard-core workout regimen, and also have regular dates/smoking hot sex with our significant others. These people may also very well be heavily medicated. Or not. They may actually just be that bad ass.

Personally, I am not. I am good at doing one or two, maybe three, things well at a time. My main focus over the last decade has been my family, so I'm a little—no, a lot—behind in the career department. And while I did indeed achieve laundry end game last weekend, now it is stacked up all over my bedroom. And I fell asleep in my son's bed last night at 8:45, so you can do the math on the smoking sexy time department. The point is, by holding up these Super Mom examples of how it should be, it makes a lot of us feel like Loser Mom, even when we are doing the best we can and would take a bullet for our loved ones any day of the week and twice on Sundays. I'd like to go back to just being Mom, if that's all the same to everyone.

"Having it All"
I'm not sure it is truly possible to have all of anything. You can be the wealthiest person in the whole world, but you do not have ALL the money. I hoard chocolate at my desk, but I don't have all of it. Working on that...shhh. And maybe the Super Moms from above do have it all, but I have to think that there is a price paid somewhere, which means that you do not truly have it all, because you paid some of it away.

Which brings me to another good piece of advice I got a long time ago: you can have anything you want, as long as you are willing to pay for it. One way or another, life will extract a price somehow, somewhere, for the choices we make. This is just how it is. This whole "having it all" thing was a great idea in theory, when women were fighting their way out of the kitchen and into the workplace. Then we GOT it all and some of us are now completely crazy because we are pulled in 10,000 directions at a time. I may be speaking for myself, but I don't want it all. I just want some of it. All is a lot, and for some us, also kinda unattainable. So can we not do that anymore? It's wearing me out.

"Real" Women
Unless my high school biology lessons have let me down, the last time I checked, anyone with two X chromosomes qualifies as a real woman. Some people with a Y chromosome may also, but that is a different blog post entirely, so we are just gonna stick with the traditional female for now. Real women have curves, right? Well, at my current size 10, I have a little bit of curves. But I've also been a size four hard body from playing three different sports and riding horses. Am I any less a real woman when I'm skinny? I don't think so.

This whole categorizing of women being "real" or not is just stupid. People, women included, come in so many different shapes, sizes, colors, skin tones, hair colors, etc., and we spend so much time teaching our kids how "everyone is different" and "you are special" and "variety is the spice of life" and so forth, so why do we want to narrow down the definition of a woman? I realize that the real woman thing is in large part a backlash to certain ideals that have caused a fair amount of damage to the at large perception of women. But again, I don't like broad definitions of people, so I'm just going to aim for having a healthy respect for the body I have and trying to take care of it better so that it will take care of me. I'm a real woman, no matter what size or shape I am.

"Oh, I Could Never..."
Saving my personal favorite for last... This one makes my blood actually, literally boil. The reason I know this is because there is real steam coming from my ears when this one gets used on me. "Oh, I could NEVER leave Johnny at day care." "Oh, I could NEVER bottle feed." "Oh, I could NEVER travel for work while my kids are at home." Et cetera. Ad nauseam. The reason this one chaps my ass so badly is because the implied judgment is astonishing.

Here's the deal. Yes, you could EVER if you had to. You could EVER if you chose to, for whatever reason. You could EVER if it is the decision that works best for you and your loved ones. This one doesn't just apply to parenting and motherhood, by the way. It works in so many areas of life. Think about it: If you say it, please don't do that anymore. It makes the recipient feel like crap and also want to knock your lights out. The first time someone dropped that gem on me, I was 10 weeks post partum with a broken leg/ankle and dreading leaving my baby at daycare. While I wished I had had the wherewithal to come back with some withering reply, all I did was cry for three days, because I didn't already feel bad enough. So, thanks for that, friend.

I don't need to point out the big picture here, but as a self-proclaimed word nerd, I feel compelled to write some kind of conclusion. So here it goes: how about we all mind our own business unless there is a critical reason to butt in, try not to judge others for having a difference of opinion, appearance, life, career, choices, etc and be nice to each other. The end.

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Friday, January 25, 2013

He's The REAL Deal

When I first met Robert Clifford, he was a senior in high school. A gifted musician, Robert played all manner of instruments, but primarily rocked the piano. He was also the top of his class, popular, athletic and handsome. Also one of the nicest people I'd ever met. And just when you think it doesn't get much better than all of that, then he goes to medical school to become a doctor.

Fast forward twenty some years, and now "Dr. Robert" is my children's pediatrician. We began going to his practice, Coastal Pediatric Associates, when we moved to the West Ashley area of Charleston about 6 years ago, and he has been an instrumental part of our strategy for managing Will's learning challenges, as well as being an awesome all-around pediatrician. Not only can I count on him to be a good doctor to my children, he is always generous with his "talk time" with me as well, always considering my opinions and feelings when it comes to the care of our children.

Many local moms take their children to Coastal, and many local moms like Dr. Clifford just as much as I do. What many local moms may not realize is that Dr. Clifford is also the only doctor some children in the world ever seen. Period. In conjunction with an organization called Remember, Dr. Clifford leads medical teams on outreach missions around the world, targeting areas where medical services available to children and families are virtually non-existent or out of reach due to lack of resources.

Now, while all of us locals know what a good guy he is, it was so exciting to hear that he was recently nominated for a REAL award. (Don't worry - I didn't know what it meant at first either.) The REAL awards are a global awards program created by Save The Children and the Frontline Health Workers Coalition to develop greater respect and appreciation for health workers and the lifesaving care they provide globally, as well as in the United States.

It's just so exciting to me that while people from all over the country were nominated and while I'm sure they are all very deserving folks, someone who I am proud to call my friend and my doctor, and a local Charlestonian won! This award is made possible by some names you might recognize, like, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, GlaxoSmith Kline, Medtronic Foundation, Merck Company Foundation and Time Magazine, just to name a few. Yesterday, Dr. Clifford was presented with a symbolic boarding pass for the awards ceremony held in Washington, DC this April. Not only will the actual awards be given, the recipients will have a chance to advocate on Capitol Hill on behalf of health care providers around the world.



While the award itself is extremely exciting and a huge honor, Dr. Clifford took a moment to remind us why he and other health care workers go on these trips, saying, "It's such an incredible blessing to be able to work with colleagues who think that even though it's hard, even though we're tired, there's a greater purpose out there. This is especially true in poorer countries where there are children who have never even seen a doctor, let alone what a doctor is or have the resources to get health care."

And there you go, folks. I probably need to stop this blogging stuff and go make my kid's appointments. Waaaay in advance. In all seriousness, I'd like to extend my warmest congratulations to Dr. Robert Clifford - he truly is the real deal.

PS. Some of you Charleston peeps may recognize the lovely lady on the far right...our own Joan Perry of Charleston Daily Photo! She actually wrote the nomination that got all this going. Thanks Joan!

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Wednesday, January 23, 2013

When The Shoe Comes Off, You Know He Means Business

My son has some challenges in the sensory department. As he grows, some of these, like noise tolerance have improved, but one that remains in full force is his intolerance for unpleasant touch sensations. This would include things like, say, going to the dentist. As a three year old, Will became a legend at the ENT for his complete and terrible beat down he put on the recovery room after having his tonsils out. To be fair, I gave them warning that he was going to wake up fast, and he was going to also be temporarily possessed by a demon, but I don't think they took me seriously. Big mistake.

As I was sitting in the waiting room, the door flies open and a very excited staff member calls out, "Mrs. Connelly! Can you please come back?!" I hurried through the door and was momentarily stopped in my tracks by the scene. Will had ripped out his IV, was fighting the nurse tooth and nail, screaming bloody murder and had also kicked one of his shoes across the room. Inconsolable is a nice way of putting it. In need of an exorcism is probably more accurate. He was given some pain medicine in his nose (OUCH) and settled down a little bit once he cursed everyone out in toddler language.

A few minutes later, the nurse needed to use suction in his mouth so that he didn't have to swallow or spit saliva with his raw now tonsil-less throat. "Open wide and let's use Mr. Thirsty", she says, placing the suction in his mouth. "HOOOOWWWWLLLL!!! RAAAWWWWERRRRRRR!!!!!!! I HATE MR THIRSTY!!!" he shrieks at her in reply and then proceeds to bite the tube so hard it breaks. Next, the other shoe flies across the room and it is at that moment that I realize that the shoe is his tell. A tell is a poker term - it means a clue, based on behavior or demeanor. Will apparently likes to take off his shoes before he goes to the mattresses.

Yesterday, Will had to have a tooth extracted. He has had multiple procedures because he doesn't have the best teeth in the world so even though his dentist is one of my best friends who babies him shamelessly and happens to be a well regarded and experienced pediatric specialist, he still goes buck wild. There was screaming, crying, telling everyone off, flailing, grabbing and so forth. The worst part about this is that he has the metabolism of an ox, so sedation meds are somewhat negligible. We have tried all kinds of combinations of things to help him be comfortable and relaxed, but to not much avail. He just goes nuts. And just like at the ENT, I knew things were about get crazy when, yep, you guessed it - the shoes came off.

It's frustrating and upsetting because it is so hard to know what he can or cannot help. At one point yesterday, I did pop him on the hand because he was starting to swat at my friend and her assistant, and I was absolutely not going to tolerate that. I feel so bad for him, but then I'm really aggravated too. I think to myself, "you are too old to be acting like this!" but then he softly says things like "I hated today. It was terrible." while I'm tucking him into bed last night and my heart breaks for him. All I could do is tell him that I hated it too, that I was so sorry he was that upset and that I hoped he understood that even though it was really unpleasant, we were doing what we had to in order to help him have a healthy mouth.
I don't know if anyone else who might read this has a child with similar issues, but if so, I'd love to hear from you. I hate how we both feel after one of these ordeals, and I'm worried he is not going to be manageable for a whole lot longer. I mean, the odds of me being able to wrangle a teen aged boy who is flailing at the dentist is pretty unlikely. It would be great to get some suggestions for medical/dental procedures if anyone has any. In the meantime, I'm just going to keep an eye on those shoes and hope for the best.


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Friday, January 18, 2013

Stranger Danger and My Kids Were Unprepared

Earlier this week, I picked up my children from the library, which is their bus stop on the days they actually ride the bus. This particular branch is a stop for multiple schools and lots of kids wait for their rides for short periods of time. They do homework, read, chat with each other, play games etc while they are there. The librarians don't babysit or anything, but they do keep an eye out.

Normally, everything is fine. Earlier this week though, it wasn't. I got stuck in major traffic and instead of sitting for the usual 15-20 minutes, the kids were there almost an hour. I don't know if this made a difference or not, but by the time I got there, the herd of students had almost completely thinned out. Anyway, while they were gathering up their things and getting ready to go, Cecilia says, "some weird guy came up to my friend and was laughing all crazy." "Wow. Really", I asked. "Is everything okay?" She assured me that it was all fine and we went on about our way.

About an hour or so later, I got a text from the friend's mother and apparently the situation was much more involved than that. Through the course of some text messages and a phone conversation more details emerged. Not only did this person approach the friend, he also was hugging him around the shoulders and trying to get him to convince the concerned librarian that he was the friend's Sunday school teacher. He was immediately told to go to a different part of the library, as no one was buying this story. The friend told his mother about this (she was in the same traffic and we basically just missed each other) and she went back to the library to confront the person who became belligerent and the librarian called the police. Weird guy fled.

Once I got these details, we immediately sat our kids down to talk with them further about what happened. Through the course of my conversation with friend's mom, we are fairly certain that this individual is a mentally ill or disabled adult, which would explain the odd behavior, weird story etc. What became glaringly apparent however, is that even though we have talked to our children lots of times about never going somewhere with a stranger, shouting that this person is not my mommy, how to look for an adult that will help you, etc., they had no idea what to do when something completely off the wall and potentially very dangerous can happen.

The conversation really got interesting when Cecilia began talking about how kids are told to mind the adults, not talk back and cooperate with authority and so she didn't know what to do. Not only did this incident scare the absolute hell out of us, but it also revealed a serious gap in the safety section of our parenting strategy. It was good though, in hindsight. No lecture or conversation could have ever made the same kind of impact as a scary situation that ended up being only a scary situation for a few minutes, with no harm done. We talked to them about it being their right to stand up for themselves to anyone who was making them feel uncomfortable, even if it turns out that they are incorrect. They seemed to understand that we would much rather them make a mistake in judgement than let something ride that would endanger them.

We also made sure to clarify that this was no one's fault - that none of the kids were to blame for not knowing what to do in response to the situation. In all our conversations about strangers etc., it never occurred to us to talk to them about a situation like this. We also showed them this video, about a girl who escaped an attempted kidnapping in Walmart. Not the exact same scenario, but the child in this situation was kicking and screaming for all she was worth - defending herself. The would be kidnapper gave up, fled and was subsequently arrested. Hopefully the combination of the conversation, the experience and the visual aid will drive home the point.

I 'm sharing this post because this particular kind of scenario was not one that ever crossed my mind, and if sharing it can help even one other parent protect their child, it will be a meaningful thing. I am also so thankful for the communication among parents - it reminds me of the meerkat colonies - one starts signaling danger and they all get the message. Long story short, please reiterate to your children their right to defend themselves and that if something feels even a little bit wrong or off, it's because it probably is.



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Tuesday, January 15, 2013

I'm Back From Hiatus, And It Ain't Pretty

Hi there, remember me? It apparently has been almost a month since I posted last. Christmas was pretty much the usual insanity, I contracted the plague for New Year's and then the kids went back to school. All in all, just the status quo.
I wish I had something interesting to write about but I'm kinda not in the groove at the moment, and to be honest, I've done a bunch of reading and thinking and a little, okay maybe a lot of crying too. I think the reason I haven't wanted to write is because so much of what's going on in my head is very raw - feelings are pretty jacked up at the moment, and I don't like blogging that turns into emotional vomit. Plus, when my feelings are all over the place, organizing my thoughts in a way that makes sense to readers is a real challenge and I always delete the draft because I feel like it sounds crazy.

However, recently, I've been reading Daring Greatly by Brene Brown and am starting to feel like she has been spying on me, if you know what I mean. Even as I type this, I am thinking, "You have turned into SUCH a cliche. Approaching middle age, reading self help books...gah." Anyway. So, one of the things that Brene says we need to do to live "wholeheartedly" is tell our personal story with bravery and no spin. Since I seem to find it difficult to articulate how I feel and what I think about feelings in sentence form, I did what I can and made a kind of list. Bear in mind that I am totally cognizant of the fact that my perspective may be a little off.

So, here are the things that I tell almost no one, the stuff I hide:
  • I was abused, physically and emotionally, by my father until my parents separated when I was in high school. My dad was/is an alcoholic (sort of I guess who knows) and a certified crazy person. Very unpredictable and volatile, which meant I was always watching him to see how I should act. The fallout of that is that now I watch everyone to see how I "should" act, just in case they might get mad and hurt me. I am now estranged from him entirely, and not having a good dad is a huge hole in my life.
  • While I am typically smiling and laughing in public and socially, that is very often a front. Behind the scenes, I am horribly lonely, very disappointed in myself for my lack of professional success/personal growth/appearance and am flat broke - none of which actually help you feel better about yourself.
  • I get my feelings hurt easily. I also have an inner mean girl that picks on me relentlessly and she is a hateful bitch. I don't really know why I care what people would say to or think about me, because I can promise you that I have already said or thought worse to myself.
  • I have a huge heart and feel empathy to a fault. I always think that I would be a great rich person because I would help everyone I could. It also makes me kind of a sucker, and very often I feel like an emotional vending machine, always willing to lend an ear and be supportive, but with not much outlet for me to have the same.
  • I believe in God, and consider myself a Christian, but have so many questions, doubts and things I don't agree with that I have no idea what I am. I love church though, and then I feel bad about that too, like I'm using God to feel comfort in His house.
  • I am scared that I will die having never experienced anything amazing, with the exception of my children. I would probably commit a felony if it meant being able to travel some. 
  • I spend way too much time on the phone and online, mostly because of wanting interaction with other people. Then I observe people interacting with each other and it makes me feel worse. Can anyone say circular?
  • I'm terrified that my daughter will turn out like me. We are a lot alike, and I see her heading down the same path I did. Good at lots of things, excellent at nothing. This is when I really pull out the self hate because I think if I could afford additional instruction in this that or the other thing, she might actually have a chance at being really good at something. But I can't, so she probably won't. Awesome.
  • I have a very nasty temper when crossed. I have said and done some things in the heat of anger that I really, really regret. I have two speeds of dealing with conflict - complete avoidance or total insanity.
I don't know if this is exactly what she meant, but it's as good a starting place as any, I guess. Maybe I'll list some positives another time to try to balance the UGHHHH factor of this post. I don't know if this will be off putting to people who read this, but I just need somewhere to lay out the ugly stuff, and not just the funny and good humored writing. I hope that you guys will come back again - I promise that this is not the start of a trend or anything. I think that naming what scares and hurts you takes it's power away, and I for one am sick of feeling like this. If it takes a million self help books, a miracle or a wonder pill, I'll get there one day. Another positive is that I generally don't give up, so there is always hope for better.

If you want, you are welcome to share things you don't normally tell anyone either. Your "secret" is safe here, I promise. I sincerely appreciate everyone who comes here and reads - it means a lot to me. Thank you.

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