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)

It’s All Relatives – Christmas Edition

English: Photo of Dr.Oz at the Time 100 Gala.

Image via Wikipedia

This was originally my Thanksgiving post from November 23, 2011.  I haven’t been blogging long enough to truly “re-post” anything but for those of you who might be on the edge of pulling your hair out or those of you who might have missed this early post, here’s a slightly updated version:

In a recent Facebook post, Dr. Oz cautioned readers to beware of the sodium in your holiday foods because they could raise your blood pressure and “negatively affect your health.”  Well, Dr. Oz, it ain’t just Aunt Edna’s Mac n Cheese that’s raising blood pressures at all these family gatherings.  Often times it’s Aunt Edna!  Or Uncle John or Mother-in-law or Sister-in-law . . . come to think of it most of the time it is “Someone-in-law”.

Have you ever heard that verse, “It’s the most, wonderful time of the year” and thought “yeah buddy, you don’t have to spend it with my family!”  If you haven’t then yea for you.  Probably time for you to leave this blog and go find one about how to turn the simple act of wrapping a present into a 4 hour ordeal which includes weaving your own ribbon.  This ain’t that blog.

When you Google “Families and Holidays” the first several results are along the lines of tips to reduce family “burdens” and “stress” around the holidays.  Doesn’t something about that seem off?  Aren’t these supposed to be the people you hold most dear?  Then why do they irritate the living fool out of us?  I remember reading an interesting article 20-25 years ago either in Seventeen or Cosmopolitan magazine.  It was geared more towards romantic relationships but the part that stuck with me was that the reason someone could exasperate you to the point of insanity was simply because they mattered so much to you.  You don’t spend as much time annoyed at someone you don’t care about.   This person (or these people) are so important to you and you love them so very much that every little annoying thing they do can infuriate you.  That explains a lot, but doesn’t exactly warm the heart.

Back when “Home Improvement” with Tim Allen was on, I didn’t watch it regularly but I did see a Christmas episode when one of the kids wanted to go on a ski trip instead of spending the holiday with his family.  Tim Taylor, the Dad, comes home to find him sneaking out while the rest of the family was at church.  Tim says, “Christmas is not about being with people you like, it’s about being with your family!” 

I love that line!  Because the truth is we don’t often like all the members of our family (or our spouse’s family), but they are important to us.  And truthfully, more important than a lot of people we call friends.  It’s hard because most of us spend much more of our time at work with co-workers and bosses and people who “need” us than we do our families these days.  But if I die tomorrow, while I’m sure several people at work will miss me, within a few weeks they will hire someone else to take my place.  My family isn’t going to hire another Mom, Wife, Daughter, Niece or Aunt. 

So, if you are headed home for Christmas, Google all those helpful hints about dealing with family stress and take deep breaths when Aunt Edna comments that your turkey is extra dry this year, or when Uncle John has a little too much holiday wine and starts snoring in front of the TV, or when your mother-in-law corrects your children’s table manners then makes a comment not completely under her breath about “blame it on their mother”.  Put on your rose-colored glasses and maybe invest in a good pair of ear-plugs.  Relax and enjoy the family drama – heck maybe even blog about it.  There are people throughout our country who are all alone this Christmas and they would give anything to be where you are.  There are soldiers in Afghanistan, and places we don’t even know about, who would love to experience the holiday with their irritating, overbearing family.  We have the distinct honor and privilege of being with ours.  And it’s not all bad, there’s Aunt Edna’s Mac n Cheese after all.

Recipe for Mac N Cheese

I’ll be gone for a few days for Christmas but I’m sure I’ll have plenty to blog about when I return.  Merry Christmas to all and to all a Good Night!

Home Alone

Risky Business (soundtrack)

Image via Wikipedia

I get ridiculously excited when I get to be in my own home all by myself.  I don’t know exactly why this is.  I have no desire to run around in my underwear singing “Old Time Rock n Roll” like Tom Cruise in Risky Business.  Nor do I feel the need to pour a glass of wine at 11 am.  I don’t really want to do anything that I can’t do when my husband and daughter are home, but I still get just as excited as a 16-year-old whose parents are going out-of-town for the weekend.

I can’t imagine what it would be like to be home alone for an entire weekend.  No one to ask me where the mayonnaise is (in the refrigerator in the same spot it always is, I didn’t move it to the laundry room), no one to complain to me that her life is over because her favorite jeans weren’t washed overnight (despite the fact that they were under her bed and not in the hamper), no one to consult when I want something to eat – that in itself would be amazing.  Just to eat when I get hungry and not to begin thinking about what we’re going to have for dinner before I’ve finished breakfast.  Dinner could be cereal!  Hmm, I don’t really like cereal – that’s beside the point, the point is it could be cereal.

I usually work from home 2 days a week but I travel the other 3.  At least 3-4 days a month this travel requires an overnight stay.  So it’s not as if I never have a chance to pick my own dinner without considering others tastes or never get to be the only one holding the remote, but there’s something special about being in my own home by myself that’s entirely different from a hotel.  And I rarely get that opportunity.

I think one of the reasons I love the idea of being home by myself is because I can be certain of completing a thought without interruption.  The other day I was working from home and the only other person here was my husband.  I was on the phone so I closed the door to my office.  He wanted (wanted, not needed) a file folder so he just opened the door, came in and grabbed one.  My phone conversation was not ultra personal or private or anything he could not be privy to, but I completely lost my train of thought.  Wouldn’t common sense tell you that if you are the only other person in the house and a door is closed it must mean for you to stay out?  You would think that, but neither my daughter nor my husband see it this way.  I wonder who they think I’m trying to keep out?

keep out sign in nevadaville

Here’s a typical day:  My husband comes in, “Hey do you have a folder?” leaves the room and returns 1 minute later “Hey do you have some paper?” 2 minutes later, “Do you have some paperclips?” OH MY GOD GO TO THE DAMN STORE ALREADY!  but instead I say, “Do you need anything else?”  Him, “Nope, that’s it.”  3 minutes later, “I think I just ought to use staples.”  (I’m thinking “I think I need to beat you about the head and neck with the !&#$% stapler!)  But I say, “Honey, I’m really trying to work.”  Him, “Well I’m not stopping you!”  Me, <Heavy Sigh>

Multitasking is exhausting and I can prove it.  Here’s an article from Partners in Productive Leadership that proves that “our brains are trained to focus on one thing at a time”.  According to this article, when you go from one thing to another, “your brain has to load new information.”  Load?  Like when my computer has to load a website?  Good heavens that can take a lot of time and battery power – I mean energy!  So now I have proof!  It really is exhausting to be around my husband and daughter!

But when I am home alone for more than an hour, I start wondering what they are doing, if they’ve had enough to eat, when are they coming back, what would they want for dinner tomorrow night, etc.  I also notice that it gets terribly quiet in this big ol’ house all alone.  No one needs me, and that’s a lonely feeling.  As much as I love to complain about my family, and all the misery they cause me, I don’t know what in the world I would do without them.  I am willing to give it a try at least once or twice a week for about an hour and a half at a time though.

Dodge Ball

The other day my daughter came home from school and told me that they are going to be playing Dodgeball during a few classes the following week.  My response was something along the lines of “Oh my God why???” 

People usually have one of two responses to Dodgeball – either they fondly remember bashing the crap out of fellow classmates with the ball and winning or, like me, the word strikes terror in your heart.  That the darn ball stung like hell and it didn’t matter that the teacher said “no hitting in the face,” us nerdy, wimpy, short, pale kids always got hit first and always in the face!  I distinctly remembering cowering and begging my teacher not to make me play dodgeball.  Please let me do anything other than this, but no, everyone had to participate.  Never fail, less than 90 seconds into the game the ball would smack me upside my head, usually thrown by that stupid mean boy, Billy Johnson, and I’d be out with a red streak down my face.  If only my teacher had listened I would be sitting down already minus the damn red streak on my face!

It seems that my daughter’s school was participating in a fund-raiser for the American Heart Association by having a dodgeball competition and kids had to pay $5 to participate.  I was even more confused that my daughter actually was willing to pay money to play this horrific, tortuous game.  I would have given twice that much in my day to avoid dodgeball!

Over 14 years ago when I was pregnant and found out I was having a girl, I imagined what my daughter would be like.  She would be incredibly smart, petite and beautiful.  She would love to read and write like me and we would spend hours discussing books together.  We would have so much in common and life would be full of flowers and butterflies.

I often point out to my family and friends that God has a sense of humor.  My daughter IS beautiful and smart but that’s where the similarities between us end.  (like how I gave myself a couple of compliments there but it looked as though I was complimenting my daughter?)  She is also athletic and already taller than me, both of which I admire and envy.  She gets these traits from her father.

This was just the latest example of how different my daughter is from me.  If she didn’t look like a mini-me I would march her down to the hospital and demand a DNA test to prove that she wasn’t switched with my real child.  My daughter has been a gymnast, a cheerleader, wanted to go out for basketball and volleyball and now wants to participate in a non-mandatory game of Dodgeball???  Sometimes I’m convinced that my real child, a teeny pale nerd wearing coke-bottle-bottom glasses, is out there somewhere re-reading War and Peace for extra credit. 

So after Day One of this Dodgeball, my daughter tells me that her team not only won but that she was never hit by the ball and was the last girl standing on her team.  I admit, I was impressed.  On Day Two she tells me what I dreaded.  She was smacked in the face with the ball.  Oh here is something that I can relate to!  I can sympathize with my daughter because this has happened to me!  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not happy that she was hit in the face, but I’m thinking that this is a topic that I know something about.  I can’t help her when she expresses her concern over not getting her back tuck at gymnastics.  Hell, I still don’t even know what a back tuck is!

So I ask, “What did you do?  Did you cry?  I used to cry.”  She says, “No,” shaking her head and getting angry all over again.  (Now that is something she gets from me, her anger!)  “The boys who hit me were kicked off their team for hitting me in the face.  Then I picked up the ball and slammed it into one of their player’s chests and we won the Championship!  Oh, I was the only girl left again.”

I was so proud!  MY child, MY offspring, won the dodgeball championship!  I couldn’t believe it.  Ha!  The only thing better would have been if Billy Johnson’s son had been the boy my daughter hit for the win.  Now that would have been sweet!  Having a daughter who’s different from me is good.  It teaches me all kinds of things every day.  As it turns out, sometimes you are most proud when your children are very different from you and excel in things you never could.  AND . . .  She’s also a big help in the kitchen because she’s tall enough to reach everything in the cabinets!

Holiday Memories, Old and New

When I was a child, the biggest fight of the year between my parents was during the lighting of the Christmas tree.  Usually it was an artificial tree, but in those days it didn’t really matter.  Before any decorating could commence, the lights must be untangled and tested and strung on the tree.  Those were also the days when if one light went out the whole string went out so it was quite a frustrating process that culminated with neither parent speaking to each other and barely to me.  So there I would be, all alone, humming Jingle Bells to myself decorating the tree.  Ahh, holiday memories . . .

Flash forward to the year 2011, the day after Thanksgiving.  My husband decides he needs to tackle the leaves in our yard.  You actually couldn’t see any yard, only leaves.  While hubby was outside clearing leaves, my daughter and I decided to decorate.  Together we carefully opened the attic.  The scariest part for me is straightening out the stairs.  I’m just a little too short for the job so there is always a precarious moment as everything falls into place.  Then I was certain the boxes of decorations would be too heavy, but together, my daughter and I successfully brought everything down, including the tree, although we both laughed about the fact that we’d love to see a video of our efforts because they were quite creative. 

christmas decorations at virtusa

My daughter was in charge of the decorating and I of the cleaning.  I would dust, vacuum or clean the area and she would then decorate it.  She saved the tree for last but by then we were both getting a little tired.  I really wanted the job to be complete, return the empty boxes to the attic and collapse on the couch.  Tink (my daughter’s nickname short for Tinkerbell) began to do what I call “lolly-gag” around, ultimately accomplishing more television watching than tree decorating.  As I was putting up cleaning supplies after scrubbing toilets (note: I wasn’t cleaning them to be decorated, this was just part of a weekly routine) I noticed that she was holding the exact same decorations that she had in her hands several moments ago.  My exhaustion began to get to me and I called out, “Finish up already, that shouldn’t take all day!”  I must have been channeling my mother.

Speaking of my mother, a few months ago I was lamenting to her about Tink’s increasingly smart-alec mouth.  She’s 13 – if you’ve ever been the parent of teenagers you already understand.  My mother said, “Wait until she smarts off and you realize she’s right.  Then you have to figure out how to respond.”  I admit that my first thought was, “You mean there were times when I was a teenager that I was actually right and you knew it?” but even at my age I know better than to say that to my mother.  She might still ground me.

christmas decorations

Back to my story, I scolded Tink about her “lolly-gagging” and she replied, “I am, I am!” short pause, “If you want to help me you can.”  It wasn’t the words she spoke, it was the tone.  An unmistakable challenge to my authority as a mother oozing through them.  Although I realized the truth of what she said, I spouted back, “That’s just the kind of Smart-Alec attitude I won’t tolerate in my house!  No ma’am!”  I hurried into the next room thinking that even if she was right she should know better than to taunt me that way!  I almost starting to tear up.  This really was exactly like my childhood Christmases.

Our mutual moment of irritation soon passed, I finished cleaning the house and she finalized the decorating.  Tink did a beautiful job and I told her as much, complimenting her on some of the details.  Finally we were ready to return the boxes to the attic.

Now we were both feeling a little cocky at this point.  We’d already accomplished the hard part – getting the heavy boxes down from the attic.  At this point we were only returning empty boxes to the attic.  I opened the attic door and then reached up to pull down the stairs.  What happened next is a little fuzzy.  I arrived at that precarious moment and it quickly went from precarious to horrifying.  All I remember is a lot of wooden steps coming at me and Tink hollering repeatedly “Are you ok?  Are you ok??”  I would have thought that the sound of me yelling “Aaaahhhhhh!!!!” would have been the indication that I was not ok.  When the chaotic moment passed I was still standing, I knew I was probably hurt but not entirely sure where.  Tink’s eyes were as wide as saucers and again she asked, “ARE YOU OK?”  This time I shakily replied, “Give me just a moment.”  She hugged me tightly and then . . . we both burst out laughing.  She laughed so hard she collapsed to the floor.

There’s nothing like a near-death experience for producing riotous laughter.  It’s been the sustenance of America’s Funniest Videos for years.  As a matter of fact if we had that “attic attack” on video I’m sure we’d have a chance at the $10,000 prize.  After resting for a few minutes and inspecting my arms and legs for signs of broken bones I came to the conclusion that I was fine.  Together Tink and I loaded the empty boxes into the attic passing back and forth a lot of “be carefuls” and “you got its?”  But the dangerous part was over.  

My arms are black and blue and my right wrist is still swollen, but not a scratch on my face or any nasty bumps on my head.  Nothing that a little time won’t cure.  And together my daughter and I created some new memories.  Years from now as she’s decorating her own tree in her own home with her own children she’ll probably double over with laughter remembering the time I nearly died in a tragic attack of the attic stairs incident.  Ahh, Holiday Memories . . .

One Angry Mother

By now you’ve probably seen or heard about the You Tube video below:  Family Home Destroyed by Avalanche – Children to Blame.  If not check it out now:

There’s no way this really happened.  I cannot believe this mom is that calm.  It seems much more likely that this is some type of ploy like Balloon Boy.  If this is real then I need to know what meds this mom is on and I need a prescription for the same. 

If this happened at my house, my first thought would NOT have been to grab a camera and post it on You Tube for others to enjoy.  I would have locked my children in their room and called 911.  The call would have gone something like this: “Hello, please send a police car, an ambulance and DSS (Department of Social Services) to my house immediately.  2 children’s lives and their mama’s sanity are at stake.  Hurry, I don’t know how strong these bedroom locks are.” 

White Eggs in Carton

Ok, just to put this in perspective let’s assess what happened in my own home last weekend.  My husband went to the grocery store – God bless him – so I wouldn’t have to.  Now when my husband brings in the groceries, he believes that it should be done in one trip whether he bought $10 worth or $110.  So in he comes with 12 bags hanging from his arms and fingertips.  All of a sudden one bag goes SPLAT!  He immediatlely loudly utters an expletive beginning with SHH and ending in IT.  It was of course the bag with the dozen eggs.

Let’s analyse the situation.  It was only 1 dozen eggs and although you heard the cracking they were not loose all over the floor.  All 12 were contained within their foam carton and inside a grocery bag.  Upon further inspection, only 8 of the dozen eggs were cracked.  While I was wailing and gnashing my teeth and expounding on the fact that my husband should completely revise his grocery carrying strategies, he found a container and placed the 8 eggs into it.  (I need to add that he did all this without breaking any yolks.  That’s kind of impressive when you think about it.)  There was no mess for me to clean up, all 12 are still edible and the damn eggs only cost $0.89 to begin with but I was still furious! 

Perhaps I overreacted just a bit to my personal situation, (hell my name is Angry Middle Age Woman after all) but if those eggs were strewn all over my living room and my house destroyed I could not, would not be calm like this mother.  And where the heck did this woman keep her flour anyway?  I know toddlers can get into all kinds of situations in the blnk of an eye, but really?  I mean really??

Maybe I’m just too old.  It would never occur to me that a busted dozen eggs or empty bag of flour could win me a spot on reality TV.  I would just be one angry mother.

Ya’ll put up your flour and carry your eggs carefully this weekend.  See you again on Monday.

It’s All Relatives

Dr. Öz at ServiceNation 2008

In a recent Facebook post, Dr. Oz cautioned readers to beware of the sodium in your holiday foods because they could raise your blood pressure and “negatively affect your health.”  Well, Dr. Oz, it ain’t just Aunt Edna’s Mac n Cheese that’s raising blood pressures at all these family gatherings.  Often times it’s Aunt Edna!  Or Uncle John or Mother-in-law or Sister-in-law . . . come to think of it most of the time it is “Someone-in-law”.

Have you ever heard that verse, “It’s the most, wonderful time of the year” and thought “yeah buddy, you don’t have to spend it with my family!”  If you haven’t then yea for you.  Probably time for you to leave this blog and go find one about how to turn the simple act of wrapping a present into a 4 hour ordeal which includes weaving your own ribbon.  This ain’t that blog.

When you Google “Families and Holidays” the first several results are along the lines of tips to reduce family “burdens” and “stress” around the holidays.  Doesn’t something about that seem off?  Aren’t these supposed to be the people you hold most dear?  Then why do they irritate the living fool out of us?  I remember reading an interesting article 20-25 years ago either in Seventeen or Cosmopolitan magazine.  It was geared more towards romantic relationships but the part that stuck with me the most was that the reason someone could exasperate you to the point of insanity was simply because they mattered so much to you.  You don’t spend as much time annoyed at someone you don’t care about.   This person is so important to you and you love them so very much that every little annoying thing they do can infuriate you.  That explains a lot, but doesn’t exactly warm the heart.

Back when “Home Improvement” with Tim Allen was on, I didn’t watch it regularly but I did see a Christmas episode when one of the kids wanted to go on a ski trip instead of spending the holiday with his family.  Tim Taylor, the Dad, comes home to find him sneaking out while the rest of the family was at church.  Tim says, “Christmas is not about being with people you like, it’s about being with your family!”  (So is Thanksgiving)

I love that line!  Because the truth is we don’t often like all the members of our family (or our spouse’s family), but they are important to us.  And truthfully, more important than a lot of people we call friends.  It’s hard because most of us spend much more of our time at work with co-workers and bosses and people who “need” us than we do our families these days.  But if I die tomorrow, while I’m sure several people at work will miss me, within a few weeks they will hire someone else to take my place.  My family isn’t going to hire another Mom, or daughter or niece or Aunt. 

So, whether you are headed home for Thanksgiving or Christmas, Google all those helpful hints about dealing with family stress and take deep breaths when Aunt Edna comments that your turkey is extra dry this year, or when Uncle John has a little too much holiday wine and starts snoring in front of the TV, or when your mother-in-law corrects your children’s table manners then makes a comment not completely under her breath about “blame it on their mother”.  Put on your rose-colored glasses and maybe invest in a good pair of ear-plugs.  Relax and enjoy the family drama – heck maybe even blog about it.  There are people throughout our country who are all alone this Thanksgiving and they would give anything to be where you are.  There are soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq who would love to experience the holiday with their irritating, overbearing family.  We have the distinct honor and privilege of being with ours.  And it’s not all bad, there’s Aunt Edna’s Mac n Cheese after all.

Recipe for Mac N Cheese

I’ll be away on Thanksgiving Day with family.  I’m sure I’ll have plenty to rant and rave about by Friday.  Take care and Happy Thanksgiving.