Archive for August, 2007

LG is a tween — that stage between 10 and 13 when preadolescence (which is harder to decipher than “real” adolescence) rears its smart-mouthed head, and parents are the stupidest they are ever likely to be. It’s hitting Jif and me hard. As a professional, I have coached families through every conceivable developmental stage, I have taught parenting classes, I have taught graduate students how to work with tweens . . . when it comes to my own personal life, though, I’m pretty much up a creek.

Last Friday, I subdued WTF enough to take LG to the orientation for middle school. Once we arrived and got out of the car, she said to me, pretty as you please, “Now, don’t embarrass me.”

Not wanting any trouble, I just said, “OK. What would that entail? How do I make certain I don’t embarrass you?”

“Don’t speak to me.” Alrighty, then.

Of course, she got caught up in the excitement of the moment once we were “oriented,” and she chattered to me about her schedule, and showed me how she CAN open her locker after all, and it wasn’t nearly as hard as her nightmares about it had been, yadda yadda yadda… and I responded enthusiastically.

::tangent::This is the point at which TOO MANY parents would have said, “I thought I wasn’t allowed to talk to you!” and been all huffy, etc. Don’t do that. Forget their tweenisms and let them save face::end tangent::

On Monday, LG rode a bus to school for the first time. The bus stop is only one house away from us. There are work crews all over our street now, which means there are strangers everywhere. So for now, we keep an eye on her as she goes to and waits at the bus stop. On Monday, Jif offered to walk her down to the stop, and after a moment’s hesitation, she agreed that would be good.

Well. That afternoon she told me, “You must NEVER let him come to the bus stop again! He INTRODUCED me to the boy standing there. And he kept TALKING to the boy, like making CONVERSATION. You MUST STOP HIM!”

As the story came out, when they got to the bus stop, Jif sees this 6 foot tall kid, lurking at the middle school bus stop. See, he had missed the orientation where the principal told us about all the shapes and sizes that tweens come in. So, just to make sure this kid belongs there, he says, “Hi, I’m Jif.” And the kid says, “JT.” And Jif says, “Nice to meet you, JT. You’re a big guy for middle school.” And the big guy says, “Yea. I’m in 8th grade.” And Jif says, “This is LG.” That was the crime of the century.

A couple of days later, it was still a topic of conversation. I am always stricken by the lack of social skills in these kids today (my own included), so I asked both of them, “Did, uh, did JT say anything when Daddy introduced you?”

Jif answers, “No.”

“Nothing?” I ask. “Not even a nod, a grunt, a pawing of the ground with his hoof?”

“Oh, now that you mention it, he did paw the ground,” recalls Jif.

But LG corrects her Dad (btw, this is the principle occupation of tweens, correcting everydamnthing parents say), “He nodded and said, ‘hey.'”

“Oh,” I say, very impressed with JT’s superior social graces. “And did you say anything, LG?”

Jif answers, “No. She looked up into the trees. Must have been a squirrel or something up there.”

“LG! Is that true?”

“Yea. I looked in the trees. It was embarrassing!”

Thankfully, LG still has a sense of humor, and every morning this week we have threatened her with Daddy introducing her to someone at the bus stop. She didn’t pick up her room? By gosh, she risks INTRODUCTION! She wants to have a sleepover with her BFF? That will cost her one INTRODUCTION. It’s exploitive parenting. Purely for our own amusement. And that’s just how we roll.

This is the scene on the sidewalk in front of our house every morning since Monday. Today, I captured it for posterity:

the introducer 1
I mean it! Stay here!!!

the introducer 2
Get BACK! I’m not kidding!

the introducer 3
You go back NOW! I’m not going to the bus stop until you get back in that house!


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First, a confession. Since WTF, I have been late more than once on paying bills. I’ve even picked up our phone to discover it was dead. So I called Ver!zon on my cell phone and did an electronic check, and they turned it back on. I know it’s not good, but it’s not high on my list of bad things these days, either. Between the days when my hands don’t write well, and the days when my voice doesn’t work, these things happen.

Just before we went on vacation, I called the company with which we have a small home equity loan, because I can never figure out their bills

::tangent:: if I, who am reasonably intelligent and well-educated, can’t figure out their bills and so have been hit with penalties for paying less than the required amount, imagine what is happening to those less intelligent, less educated, less English-speaking customers of that particular major bank::end tangent::

and I didn’t want to be hit with unexpected charges. So I say to the guy, “Just tell me absolutely everything I have to pay, up to and including the current bill, so that we are entirely squared away and I will not see another late charge on this account.” He told me an amount. I asked again (I believe 3 more times) if this would totally get us up to date. I then asked for the next amount coming due, because I was going on vacation and didn’t want to miss a bill, with stopping the mail, etc. He told me. I added that to what I was paying. Done. Paid up to date, plus a month in advance.

When we arrived home from vacation, that bank was calling us about our late bill. I will spare you the excruciating details, and try to give you the short version. In about 8 phone calls, we have been told that the man I spoke to gave me the wrong amount to pay. We have also been told 8 different amounts that we must pay, by those 8 different people. I am refusing to pay any late charges. They are accruing penalties on the penalties because I am stubborn. I told them that this appears to me suspisciously like they are in the practice of keeping people confused about the amount owed, so that they can continue to make money by penalizing people.

The drama continues. We decided to pay the principal and interest charges, as we would, of course, expect to, but to continue to withhold penalty fees, even if this has to get “legal.” Today I took a call from another person at the bank. Rude doesn’t begin to cover it. Usually, when someone in a quick phone call mispronounces my last name, I let it go. Today, I didn’t.

“Mrs. Fair-KILD?” she says.

“It’s FairCHILD,” I offer, pleasantly enough.

“OK, well, Mrs. Fairkild…”

I interrupt, “Fairchild.”


“Fairchild. CH. C-H sound. Not K sound. Fairchild.”

“Yes, well, you pronounce it your way, I’ll pronounce it mine.”

“WHAT did you say?”

“Different people have different ways of pronouncing different words. I pronounce your name FAIRKILD.”

“Then you pronounce it WRONG.” At this point, I started to laugh, very close to hysterically. I could not believe the conversation I was having. “Yes, people do have different ways of pronouncing words, but are you seriously telling me that you will not pronounce my name the way I say it’s pronounced?”

“Different people pronounce MY name in different ways,” she says.

I’m still laughing. “I’m sure that’s true, but, um, the way YOU pronounce it is the CORRECT way . . . Hey, are you recording this?”

“Yes, I am.”

“Thank God. No one would believe me . . .”

We go on. We finally get to the amount she’s telling me to pay, let’s say $250. And I tell her that since that includes $100 in late charges that I am disputing, I will pay $150, but will withhold the other $100 until we resolve the matter with higher-ups.

And then I say to her something similar to what I said to the man on the phone back in July, “Now, I want to make sure I am paying the amount that gets the account up to date. If I pay $150, that gets my account completely up to date, except for the $100 late fees, is that right?”

“No,” she says. “You owe the $150 current charge, plus you owe $100 in late fees.”

Am I on candid freakin’ cameraphone?

“Yes, as I said, $150 gets me up to date, EXCEPT for the $100, that you will still say I owe — I understand that — but $150 gets us up to date EXCEPT for the $100 late charge that we are disputing? Have I understood you correctly?”

“No. You owe $150, PLUS $100 in late fees. You will not be up to date unless you pay $250.”

“Yes, but I’m asking you, because we’ve had so much trouble getting clear answers, and I understand that we’re being recorded, I just want this recorded clearly. I’m telling you that I will pay $150, now due, and that I understand that that gets us up to date EXCEPT for the $100 late charges. I understand that will still show on the account, while we continue to get this worked out . . . ”

“No, that’s not right. You’ll still owe $100.”

Now I’m not quite as sweet as I normally am, “Yea, that’s what EXCEPT means . . . ”

“I won’t let you put words in my mouth!”

Long pause while I consider what Jesus would do. (Not really, but I did decide, after considerable internal struggle, not to verbally disembowel her.) “No. I wouldn’t want to do that. May I please speak to someone else there?”

“Gladly!” And then she puts me on hold for way too long, and I hang up and call back and get a reasonably reasonable person and pay the $150.

Like I need this crap.

Pay your bills. Don’t let this happen to you.

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When the Miss Teen USA Pageant began the other night, I had to change the channel, against LG’s protests. I couldn’t take it. I couldn’t take the too-short shorts, the too-cheesy dancing . . . the over-sexualization of teenage girls, the whole plasticity of the thing. Today, I see what we missed by changing the channel.

I saw Miss Teen South Carolina on the Today Show this morning, and I must give her props. When you see the video, you will marvel at the fact that she is willing to be seen and to speak in public after this debacle. Bless her heart. She’s not a fool. She’s just an overwhelmed kid. Clearly, she didn’t hear and/or comprehend the question she was asked, about U.S. citizens not being able to locate our country on a map. She had probably anticipated and prepped for a question about South Africa or “D’Iraq.” Like I said, gotta give her props for showing up and trying again. When the morning show people gave her another chance, she said something about that we need more geography education. There you go, kid. Good answer! Good answer!

Of course, my compassion for her public humiliation doesn’t prevent me from laughing at her*, especially when I found this version in which someone has brilliantly added a commentary to the end:

Like, such as, may God have mercy on our souls, U.S. Americans, so that we will be able to build up our future. Thank you.

*If I hadn’t seen that she is willing to laugh at herself, and that she is being a good sport about it, I wouldn’t have made fun of her here. Probably. I think. Maybe.

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Much of yesterday, I was unable to talk, due to WTF-ish tongue and throat trouble. In the late afternoon, as LG was scurrying around preparing her backpack and her fashion ensemble for the first day of middle school today, I pulled her close to me.

“I’m sorry that I’m so grumpy so often these days. And I’m sorry that you have to do so much on your own, to get ready for school. I know you’re doing more than most 11-year-olds have to do. I keep hoping and praying that very soon I’ll be well again and our lives can get back to normal.”

“It’s OK, Mom,” she said brightly. “I don’t remember when you weren’t sick, so this seems normal to me.”

She was trying to be kind and supportive. It went through me like a knife. This is what I have feared. She was 9 1/2 when the fever started, that turned out to be related to kidney stones, the treatment of which is what I believe caused WTF Disease when she was 10. I know she’s telling the truth. Our most vivid childhood memories are from after that age. Her experience of me is now primarily of someone who sits around, doesn’t say much, does even less, and requires a lot of help from her.

I asked her all sorts of questions about, “Remember the time…?” Mostly she didn’t. She didn’t remember all the time I was in her first and second and third grade classrooms. Or in her Brownie troop. Or teaching her Vacation Bible School classes, Sunday School classes. Or her second year of pre-school when the teachers said she really should be in school every day, but I resisted and established “Girl Friday,” when she stayed with me and we did fun things all day every Friday. She doesn’t remember all the years when she and I tagged along on Jif’s business trips to various cities, and we went out on our own, riding the trolleys and buses, visiting the museums and parks, while he attended his meetings. Her experience of us tagging along on his business trips is more like the most recent trip to Virginia Beach, where the most exciting activity I could offer her was snuggling together on the hotel bed and ordering an on-demand movie. She was her Daddy’s date for the dinner cruise while I stayed in and had room service alone.

I hate WTF. Please continue to pray with me that it leaves soon. One way or another. I want my daughter to know me as me. Not as sick me. (Truth be told, I’m forgetting me, too.)

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Sunday Post


“Fresh activity is the only means of overcoming adversity.” — Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Psalm 51:10-12

The following is an encore post:

Back to School

I don’t think I’ve blogged this before. I think I just talked about it in an email conversation with a lovely blogfriend, about this time last year. It’s time to go get your school supplies. It doesn’t matter that you have no school-aged children, or no children of any age, or that you don’t go to school. It’s still back-to-school time. Fresh start time. Take it. Use it. It’s better than New Year’s for a fresh start, because there’s no expectation of romance or resolutions, no pause for regrets. Just a new beginning.

I learned this philosophy a few years back, from an elderly, guitar-playing outdoor preacher at a hotel where we were staying for a final end-of-summer getaway. Part of his sermon was about how every year at this time, he bought himself a marble composition book and the biggest box of crayons he could find. Because he allowed himself a new beginning at back-to-school time, fully expecting to learn and grow in the coming year. Expecting to have something to say that would be worth writing in a notebook, or hearing something someone else said, that would be worth jotting down, to remember. And the crayons . . . you say you don’t color, but couldn’t that be in large part because you don’t have your crayons handy? I’m betting you cannot color in a coloring book or draw a picture with your crayons, and not feel just a little bit better about things. Color is a wonderful gift. 120 colors in a keepsake tin?! Please. My cup runneth over.

Go get your back-to-school supplies. Notebook and crayons required. Anything else that helps you feel back-to-schooly, optional 🙂

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I’m Back

Thanks, everyone, for checking in. We got home late last night. We went to some nice places — Outer Banks, Virginia Beach (a work thing for Jif), then colonial Williamsburg and Jamestown. Unlike our trip to Vermont, when WTF stayed out of my way a lot of the time, it seems like this vacay was WTF’s turn to strut its stuff. I had one and one half good days. Don’t have too much more to say about that. I’ll follow Sharkey’s example and just show the realtor’s pictures of the beach house. It was really quite lovely, and I’m very thankful to my in-laws for making that happen, especially for LG and the cousins. That was where I had my good days.

Then we headed north to Virginia Beach, where the folks were very hospitable. After my swimsuited butt was spotted on the beach, they posted this marquee sign in tribute:

my butt on the beach

Right now, my parts hurt and are uncooperative for further blogging. I’ll be back when I can. xxx

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Sunday Post


“So often we dwell on the things that seem impossible rather than on the things that are possible.

So often we are depressed by what remains to be done and forget to be thankful for all that has been done.” — Marian Wright Edelman

The laundry has been done. So I’m thankful for that. We’re leaving soon. Jif’s parents have rented a beach house and have invited all the sibs, in-laws, grandkids. Truth be told, I don’t feel like going. But I’m giving it my best shot. I imagine once I get there, I’ll do fine. I can sit and feel lousy at the ocean as well as I can in Pretty City. Maybe even better. Be back in about a week. Be kind. xxx

I Thessalonians 5:15-18

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Looking at all the crazy around and within me, I got to thinking today of a client I saw for years who was convinced that she was crazy. She did crazy things, and she lived a crazy life, but she wasn’t crazy. People in her family, in her church, on her job, told her she was crazy. And that fueled her crazy fire and gave her the greenlight to do more and more crazy crap, but it was always by her choice. She just wasn’t crazy.

One day she came in, clearly frightened, and said she thought she was having a nervous breakdown — the dreaded NB. Her mother, father, and aunts had all had NBs when she was a child. She wanted to know how we could tell for sure that she was having a NB.

I knew her quite well by that time. And I said, “You’re not having a nervous breakdown. You can’t. There’s no such thing.”

“Yes, there is! All those people in my family had them! It was awful!”

“Tell me about it. People in my family had them, too. But that was years ago. The nervous breakdown was a luxury mental illness that our parents were allowed, but we’re not. It’s not in the book. You’ll have to pick something else to have.”

She looked at me like I was the one in mid-NB. I picked up the mental health practitioner’s bible, with which she was somewhat familiar, having played crazy for a long time with a lot of different professionals. “It’s not in here. It’s no longer in fashion. You’ll have to have something else.”

As our session went on, I explained that what our ancestors called NBs (and really, I used to think it was just a Southern delicacy, but I’ve since learned that Yankees had them, too) were in fact, explainable by a variety of other diagnoses. Some were withdrawal from drink or drugs. Some were major depressive episodes. Some were panic attacks, or more likely, the onset of a series of panic attacks, which would be enough to scare the hell out of anybody. But as much as we’d like to — and Lord knows, with WTF, there have been times when I would have liked to — we crazy people in 2007 can’t play the NB card.

It’s kind of sad, really. That NB card used to let people off the hook from a lot of life. When life got to be too much. And really, that’s what was happening to my client. Life was a bit too much. She didn’t technically meet the diagnostic criteria for any of the serious disorders in the “bible,” but life was way too much at that moment.

As a somewhat related aside, if I’ve ever said to you, “Stop being crazy!”, that was not professional advice, it was friendly advice. Advice I give to myself, pretty much daily, now. And it really means, “I care about you and I don’t want you to let this thing take you under. I have absolute faith that you can overcome this and take your life back.”

Are you familiar with the NB? Since it’s no longer allowable, can you recommend anything to take its place?

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Well, darned close. The entry by the lovely and talented RzDrms, aka Razz, on the previous post contained the words that were in the original winning headline, which was (drum roll):

Nut Bolts and Screws

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I used to want to be a TV reporter or news producer. I worked at a station for a while, as an intern on the 11 o’clock news, and I really loved it. And of course, those few months of experience some twenty years ago left me highly qualified to critique the performance of any news person I see on TV. And I do. A couple of pet peeves: I want them to stop using the phrase, “gunned down.” Is anyone ever gunned up? Is anyone ever knifed down? Let’s just go with SHOT. And when the shot one dies, can we stop talking about a “senseless” killing? At least until they start doing that segment on the news about all the “sensible” killings. There’s really no need for one without the other.

When I interned years ago, I worked with one of the very best local anchors in the business, Jerry Turner. He was a veteran news man, handsome, sophisticated, larger than life. One evening he issued this challenge to us sycophantic interns, and I’ll pass it on to you. Take the following facts, to be shaped into a newspaper article, and write the shortest and most descriptive, most accurate headline you can:

Ben Allune, a patient in the state psychiatric hospital, escaped from the fenced grounds on Saturday when he leapfrogged over an aide who had bent to tie his shoe. Hours later, Allune entered a home in a nearby neighborhood and raped the occupant. He was later captured and returned to the inpatient facility.

I won the contest. See what you can do. And a disclaimer: the winning headline is not politically correct.

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