Please be a Bad Mother

On August 18th of this year, a 15-year old girl went missing from her home in Elgin, SC.  Gabbie Swainson was last seen by her mother.  She was safe in her own bed with her cell phone in her hand when her mother left to go to work at approximately 4:00 am.  When Gabbie’s mother came home from work, her daughter was gone.

Gabbie Swainson

She was a good girl, a cheerleader, an honor student and not the type of 15-year old girl who might run away from home and not answer repeated calls to her cell phone.  It was quickly determined that she was abducted.  As the story was broadcast on local news stations, all mothers of young teenage girls held them a little closer and prayed for Gabbie’s safe return.  I remember becoming physically ill one morning on my way to the airport because I had just left my own daughter at home at 6:30 am.  From that moment on, I didn’t leave Tink alone.

Young teenage girls were scared.  I remember trying to reassure Tink by telling her that in most of these situations the abductor is someone who knows the family and has access to the home.  I explained to her that we didn’t have that situation in our family and we talked through all the people who had keys to our home and what to do if adult friends show up unannounced at her school or at home.

Very quickly a “friend of the family” was labeled as a person of interest and then as a suspect.  The local sheriff gave multiple news conferences and each time he was asked if there was any relationship between the suspect and Gabbie’s mother, the answer was always “he’s just a family friend.”  I felt somewhat relieved and pointed out to Tink that my prediction was correct.

Groups gathered to show support and people assisted the police in searching for Gabbie.  Tink even attended a cheerleader rally to “Bring Gabbie Home” because Gabbie was a cheerleader at her high school.  I prayed for Gabbie’s safe return but I also fervently prayed for her mother.  I couldn’t imagine her horror.  After 3 weeks, my prayers changed.  If Gabbie couldn’t come home, could she please not be suffering anymore.

Gabbie – an outgoing 15-year old cheerleader

When the news finally broke that the main suspect, Freddie Grant, was a person with whom Gabbie’s mother had once had a romantic relationship, that he had spent the night in the home on more than one occasion, and that he possessed a key to the home, many people were outraged.

I remember a conversation with the mother of one of Tink’s friends:  “I knew something was off with that woman at the memorial service.  There weren’t nearly enough tears for me!  And now she says that man had a key to her home and spent the night there?  No, there’s something wrong with that woman and she did something to her daughter!”

Now the lack of tears did not spark suspicion in me.  When Tink was 9 years old, she wandered off during our vacation at Disney World.  I had methodically searched every stall in the bathroom before I went to the front desk and reported my daughter missing.  I’ll never forget that young man’s words on the phone, “I have an actual missing child”.  My husband was frantic and panicked.  My outward appearance was eerily calm as I described what Tink was wearing and retrieved a picture from my wallet.  I was in the process of spelling out her name and ours when she came wheeling around the corner in her heelies.  (shoes with wheels that were extremely popular at the time)  I ran, grabbed Tink and made sure she was safe and unharmed.  Then I promptly fell apart.  I didn’t have to be strong anymore because I’d found my daughter.  So I don’t blame Gabbie’s mom for not crying enough at the Memorial Service.  She was trying to be strong.

I said that people were outraged.  Really, we were relieved.  Because now we could point our self-righteous fingers at Gabbie’s mother and say, “You are a bad mother.  You did things I would never do and that is why this happened to you.”  But the entire time we are also secretly thinking, “Therefore, it can’t happen to me.”

As of today, Gabbie is still missing.  Duct tape with her blood on it was found in the home of the suspect, Freddie Grant.  Most of us assume that Gabbie is deceased.  Almost everyone except, of course, Gabbie’s mother.  I don’t believe Gabbie’s mother did anything wrong.  I believe she was a single woman who had a relationship with a man whom she thought was safe to have around her daughter.  I think she would give her life and soul to go back in time and never allow Freddie Grant on her property much less near her family.  I believe she is a good mother.  And that’s extremely hard to do.  Not because she wasn’t a good mother to Gabbie, but because if something this horrific can happen to a good mother and her family, then it can happen to me and my family.

Please say a prayer to bring Gabbie home.  We all need Gabbie to come home.  Her mother needs her to come home.

(Click here for an interview with Gabbie’s Mother)

Mr. Congeniality?

A correlation between Nascar, the Presidential Election and Miss America!

As I sit in my hotel room tonight, awaiting the results of this election, I suddenly find myself feeling bad.  Because one of these guys is going to lose.  “Well Angry, isn’t that the point?”  Yes, I suppose.  But I can’t help but feel the same way I did last November when I watched the final Sprint Cup Nascar race of the season.  The battle was between Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards and I told many of my redneck Nascar friends that no matter who won, I couldn’t be disappointed because these were my two favorite drivers!  I forgot that if one of my two favorite drivers won, then one of them also lost.

Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards ….
they couldn’t share?

Don’t get me wrong, these aren’t my two favorite Presidential candidates.  I don’t think that either President Obama or Governor Romney are evil, but I also don’t think that either one is a savior.  I guess that puts me in the minority.  I truly believe that each one of them is convinced that he can do a better job than the other and that he is “right”.  I have no disillusions that any politician is altruistic, but I believe that they all begin with good intentions in mind.  It’s up to us to make sure they stay focused once they get into office.

He could wear the sash, get some flowers, it would be nice ….

Anyway, when we find out the winner of this election, even if  it is the candidate I voted for, I’ll be feeling a little bit sad for the “Other Guy”.  Instead of calling him the loser, I say we give the non-winner the title of Mr. Congeniality!  It works for the Miss America pageant.  With this title, the candidate who doesn’t win will understand that he’s less attractive than the other guy but with some really good talents that can be used elsewhere.  Hmm . . . I guess it’s too late to suggest that maybe we should have two Mr. Congenialities?

The results from Dixville Notch, N.H., Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012. After 43 seconds of voting, President Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney were tied.
Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/obama-romney-tie-new-hampshire-village-dixville-notch-article-1.1197360#ixzz2BUbgvCwf

This is the kind of poppycock I come up with when I’m in a hotel room with no episode of NCIS on TV.

Can’t We All Just Get Along?

Thank goodness.  Tomorrow is the day we’ve all been waiting for:  Election Day.  You may think I’m eager to exercise my right to vote and play my role in shaping our future or anxious to know who will be the Leader of the Free Will for the next 4 years.  Nope!  I’m excited about Election Day because afterwards, I get my Facebook back!

“Where did your Facebook go?” you may be wondering.  I’m glad you asked.  Facebook is still there, but for the last several months it’s been taken over by Left Wing Radicals . . . and Right Wing Extremists.  My politically charged up friends have been busy posting  insane clips from strange websites in misguided attempts to persuade others of their beliefs.  It’s kind of like they joined opposing cults.  Or gangs.

You’ve heard of the Crips? These are the ‘Crats.

I have a handful of level-headed friends who, like me, have decided that Facebook is not the place to begin a political debate.  These folks stick to posting pictures of their kids, of their summer vacation or their lunch.  Earlier this summer the climate on Facebook became so political that I posted this on my Facebook Wall:

I thought it was funny

A friend I will call “Gertrude” didn’t find this post funny.  Gertrude is a person I haven’t seen since the day I graduated from High School.  The very next day after I posted that cartoon on my wall, she began to send out a series of posts with such phrases as, “Well if this offends any of my NON political friends I apologize!”  “I’m SORRY if my right to discuss politics offends you!” and much, much more.  Gertrude normally posts 5-10 times a day so that wasn’t unusual, but it began to be pretty obvious that these posts were aimed at me.  Me?  The person who had purposely avoided making any reference to either political party or any remotely political statements for months?  I sat there stunned for a moment.  Then I got a little . . . Angry.

“Don’t make me angry. You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry”

Gert was a person I didn’t even like in High School!  Why the heck would she be so offended by my frivolity that she felt the need to attack me?  Why would she care?  She was the one who sent me a friend request and now she was calling out my post?  Oh no sister, I exercised that right of passive-aggressive middle age women everywhere:  I hit the “unfriend” button!

I don’t get the radicals.  Being against something doesn’t make you for something.  I’m not talking about the politically passionate.  There’s a difference between radical and passionate.  I would actually enjoy a good long discussion with someone with opposite views than mine.  I would like to hear your reasoning and I would like you to listen to mine.  I think the worst thing that could happen is that one or both of us might learn something.  But just slinging mud and name-calling?  Well, I had my fill of that in high school.

A comic from the other gang, er . . . Party.

So anyway, after today everything will settle down and people will get back to normal.  (As normal as anyone is on Facebook)  To me Facebook has never been a place to discuss politics or religion.  It should be lighthearted, fun, almost a modern-day gossip column if you will.  I want to know who’s going to the big game, who’s going to the movie and how was it, and who sticking to their diet.  That’s about as radical as I get.

By the way, some bloggers, Life with the Top Down and Peg-o-leg, (who are much more talented than I am!) have some very humorous and entertaining views about the upcoming election.  Check out No Room For Lame Excuses for some very interesting election day trivia and All in the Political Family: When Mom and Dad Play Favorites for a look at what it’s like not to be a swing state.

And don’t forget to exercise your right to vote tomorrow!  Remember, if you don’t, you can’t bitch complain on Facebook or your blog for four more years!

Advice for Reacting to a Crisis

A giant, once in a lifetime Super-Storm is approaching the East Coast attacking multiple states with a vengeance.  At work, I am responsible for all of our offices in the East.  I was sitting safe and sound in my South Carolina home last night while this Frankenstorm was headed straight for 9 of my offices in Maryland  . . . and my employees who live there.

I’d checked in on everyone all day to make sure they were prepared, personally and professionally, and that my subordinates had contacted all of their subordinates and that everyone knew exactly what to do.  I’d spoken with our Call Center to advise them that our offices were closed and that we would keep them updated as we learned more.  So once I’d prepared all I could and made sure everyone else was prepared, what did I do?  Wait?  No!  I kept sending emails and texts saying, “Do you still have power?”  “How’s the weather?”  “What’s happening now?”

Seriously I thought that texting, “How’s the weather” to someone in a hurricane would be helpful?  Why did I need to know if they had lost power yet?  Because we knew it was going to go out, it was just a matter of when.  Was I going to send them some of my electricity when theirs went out?  No.  Asking these questions doesn’t make any sense and they aren’t helpful to the people I’m texting OR to me.  Because even if I do know the details of their situation, there’s not a damn thing I can do from way down here in South Carolina!  But when things happen around us over which we have no control, we need to do things that give us the illusion of control.  So on that same thread, here are my suggestions for ways to help in other crises situations:

Southern Baptist church’s cure

If someone is terminally ill, or heaven forbid they die, take food.  Fried chicken and macaroni and cheese is the favorite here in the South.  I’m not sure why fried chicken helps sick or dead people, but I know it works because churches have been doing it for years, especially Baptist churches, and churches wouldn’t continue to do something useless that makes no sense.

If you need to explain something to a deaf person, but you don’t know sign language and they don’t read lips, here’s what helps, talk really, really loud.  Even though they are deaf, yelling at them will help the situation.  Must be the shock waves or something.  Don’t bother getting a pen and paper to communicate.  That’s just crazy talk!

If someone gets hurt doing something you ever told them not to do, that is the exact time to remind them.  My mother was an expert at this.  Once I fell down the wooden, iced over steps outside our back door.  As I lay there on my head trying to figure out if I could still feel my arms and legs, my Mom was at the top of the steps screaming, “I’ve told you a million times to be careful going down these steps!  I knew one day you’d fall and break your neck out here!”  I can speak from experience that my Mom yelling her version of “I told you so” right after I’d fallen down the steps helped a lot.  It helped so much, that now I repeat this same process with my daughter.  I can tell she appreciates it every bit as much as I did when I was her age.  Ah, family traditions . . .

If you are faced with an emotional crisis to which there is no immediate relief, then a good solution is french fries . . . or cheesecake . . . but not both of them together because that’s just fattening.  This is also an acceptable solution to stress.  For instance, during the two week period when I needed to review 32 budgets?  My solution to the overwhelming stress, 13 hour days and 7 day work weeks?  French Fries!  A bonus is that after a couple of weeks of this plan you can also get a new wardrobe to accent your new physique!

Well, there you go!  That’s the Angry Middle Age Woman’s Guide to Survival during a crisis!  No need to thank me, the least I could do was share my words of wisdom with you while I await the results of this storm.  Really, it was the very least I could do.

What’s in Andy’s Drawers?

I’m sure by now you know that Andy Rooney, famed writer on 60 Minutes, passed away on November 4th.  I’ve loved Andy Rooney for a long, long time, but it was a slow courtship.  When I was little, I remember watching the seconds on that darn stop watch tick between segments as I waited for 60 Minutes to go off so whatever show I wanted to watch would come on.  Soon I began to realize that just before the show went off, that funny old guy came on.

After a while, I began to watch for that funny old guy.  Sometimes he was really funny and sometimes he wasn’t.  I noticed that a lot of the times when I didn’t think he was funny, Mom and Dad seemed to think he was especially funny.  I didn’t understand that.  Through my teenage years I certainly didn’t seek Andy Rooney out, but if I happened to be in the room when he was on TV I definitely paid attention.  In my 20’s I didn’t see much 60 Minutes, but began watching it a little more in my 30’s.  My husband and I would try to at least catch the end to see what Andy Rooney was complaining about now.  In recent years, I’ve rarely missed an episode of Andy’s rants.

So when I heard that Andy Rooney was retiring I of course made certain to watch that last broadcast.  I knew I would miss the old bastard.  He so often said what was or had been on my mind.  You know “crap you’ve probably already thought of”.  I wondered what he would do now that he was retired.  It seemed that writing had been his whole life.  I guess it pretty much was.

I watched 60 Minutes last Sunday but at the end, it just wasn’t the same.  I realized just how much I was going to miss America’s favorite curmudgeon.  I thought since it was Friday, that we’d all take a moment to watch one of his broadcasts.  And besides being cute and classic Andy Rooney, we can all chuckle at the title.  We miss you Mr. Rooney!

Why you be so mad?

My friend Katie is a Property Manager of an apartment complex in Texas.  She has a tenant, a young 20-something man we’ll call Kenny, who often has trouble paying his rent.  He’s also an aspiring rapper.  A couple of months ago he dropped off a copy of his latest CD to the office which had 6 songs – all 6 entitled “Why you be so mad?”

Now the last time I paid much attention to a rapper or even knew the words to a rap song it was “The Wild Thing” by Tone Loc in the 80’s.  So I’m not certain, but I think it’s odd that Kenny would record the same song 6 different ways.  I don’t remember 6 different versions of “The Wild Thing.”  According to Katie there was the original song, hip-hop mix, slow-mix, dance mix, romantic mix and then after that I wasn’t really listening anymore.  Romantic mix?  ‘Cause nothing says romance like “Why you be so mad?”!

But I just can’t get over the title and now it’s my new catch phrase.  As often as I can, I say to Katie, “Why you be so mad?”  I’m a middle-aged white woman and I don’t get a chance to speak gangsta often and I take advantage when I can.  Now she’s over it and says, “Angry,” (cause all my close friends call me by my first name) “Angry, it’s not that funny!”  Yes Katie – yes it is!

But that made me start thinking about something, why are young people so angry in general?  You may have read my previous post about the Occupy Movement and my confusion over it, but it’s not just young people today who are angry for no particular reason.  In my days I remember singing “We’re Not Gonna Take It Anymore” by Twisted Sister to the top of my lungs.  It was 1986 and I was 15 years old.  What the hell did I have to be so angry about?  What exactly was I not going to take anymore?  My parents unconditional love and support?  Them feeding me and clothing me and putting a roof over my head?  I know I firmly believed at the time that I was putting up with way too much, but looking back for the life of me I can’t figure out what I was so pissed about.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WT1LXhgXPWs

In 1964, Jack Weinberg said “You can’t trust anyone over 30!”  At that time, he was a 24-year-old graduate student at the Berkeley campus of the University of California.  Now I can’t find proof, but in 1988 my High School Economics Professor said that when Mr. Weinberg turned 31, the same reporter contacted him to ask if he could trust people over 30 now that he was passed that age.  Supposedly, Mr. Weinberg replied “You couldn’t trust those people over 30, and you still can’t trust those people!” 

Jack Weinberg and his friends were fighting for the Free Speech Movement at the Berkeley campus.  Since that day, 20-something year olds everywhere have been raising cain about something.  As I read more and more about Mr. Weinberg’s story, the first thing that stood out to me was that he spent 32 hours in a police car that didn’t move.  How did he go to the bathroom?  I have the same question about these people sleeping in tents for the Occupy Movement.

Another thing that stood out to me was that the anger in the 1960’s was about basic freedoms being denied to a significant portion of our population.  Mr. Weinberg was fighting for the right to Free Speech but the fight was about more than that.  This past August Mr. Weinberg visited the Berkeley campus and said, “The FSM [Free Speech Movement] was successful because it went beyond self-interest. We were concerned with broader issues of right and wrong.”  According to the August 31, 2011 edition of The Berkeley Daily Planet, “Because the issue of civil rights transcended the politics of the local struggle, the FSM won support far beyond the UC campus — with labor, with minorities, with civil libertarians.”

People of Mr. Weinberg’s generation were fighting for the right to speak out about their disagreement with the Vietnam War, segregation of schools, segregation of society in general and enforcement of the right to vote by all United States Citizens not just the white males.  This is some pretty nasty stuff and real reasons that lots of people were angry.

There were some legitimate reasons to be angry in the 60’s, and there’s some legitimate reasons to be angry today, but  I don’t think that recent demonstrations have the same sense of community and direction as the ones in the 60’s.  Today’s youth aren’t doing a very good job of adequately articulating what they are mad about or exactly what they’d like to see change.  A lot of what’s happening now is no more well thought out than me belting out the lyrics of that Twisted Sister song in my bedroom so long ago.  It all just makes me want to ask, “Why you be so mad?”.

Protesting for Dummies

I’m mad for a ton of reasons these days so I think I’m going to protest about it.  I’ve been watching the news and I think I’ve learned how.  It doesn’t really matter what I’m mad about, as long as I scream and yell, throw things and in general wreak havoc.  For instance, I don’t like the fact that I have wrinkles and look my age.  So I think I will go out and throw bottles of makeup at young, pretty people.  That will help my situation right? 

Well, then can someone explain to me why in the hell the students protesting after Joe Paterno was fired as Head Coach at Penn State flipped a news van on it’s side??  I mean the news crew was there covering the fact that the students vehemently opposed his firing, so of all the vehicles in all the world why would you turn THAT one on its side?  If you are really so upset at what occurred, why didn’t you turn over one of the board of trustees’ vehicles?  Not that I’m promoting violence mind you.

What happened at Penn State is horrible and whether you agree or disagree with Paterno’s dismissal one thing is certain, you feel strongly about it.  This is one of those polarizing events like the OJ Simpson trial where strong opinions are almost required.  When I see news coverage of the situation on TV, I am both disgusted and riveted to it like an accident on the side of the road.  But I’m not here to discuss the charges, allegations or even how all these people should be punished.  I’m just here to talk to these college-educated protestors.

So you are mad about the fact that the head coach for the last 46 years has been dismissed for reasons you feel are inadequate.  You attend a protest to demonstrate your point and love for the long time coach.  The news media show up to broadcast your message to tens, maybe hundreds, of thousands of people.  So of course your next step is to turn over their vehicle.  That makes perfect sense: Antagonize the people who are there to help you broadcast your message. 

Now I have no love of the media these days and I honestly believe that the way they slant the news these days negatively affects far too many people including me, but why in the world would you overturn their van?  What was that supposed to accomplish?  Was the Board of Trustees going to suddenly realize their mistake after this display of power and reinstate Joe Paterno?  I’ve been terribly angry in my lifetime, but never once has the thought occurred to me, “Hey, if I turn a car on it’s side things will be better!”  That just makes you look like idiots and then no one takes you seriously.

This story is all over the news now and you can’t turn on the TV or log onto the internet without seeing the latest update.  I want to turn it off and walk away, but I don’t.  I cannot imagine all of those grown men not doing the right thing.  So I guess when you keep that in mind, it’s not that big of a stretch that the students of Penn State didn’t know any better.

You’ll have to excuse me now, I have some make-up to throw.