Monday, November 30, 2009

The True Gifts This Season

I had drinks on Friday with a very Clever professor from K State, and in our discussions I realized the articulation of Clever has become much broader than I had originally intended. I believe this to be a good thing and have very much enjoyed the readers driving the content- HOWEVER, there is still a concept here, and it is VAST at the same time as it is SIMPLE.

Those who are Clever are willing to learn, to grow, to experience, to stretch, expand and broaden their interest base to enrich the flavor and texture of who they are. In doing so, several amazing things tend to happen. Suddenly, you have new and exciting topics to discuss with others- not just on dates, but with your parents, your business associates and those you meet in social situations. You find you have interesting hobbies that put you square in the path of others who share them, you gain confidence in how you approach others and find you converse more skillfully. Best of all- you learn the value of making an effort.

Clever is about making an effort. If you want to meet men- get off your ass and start going to places men go, do things men like to do, learn about the aspects of life men find interesting and worthwhile, become conversant in their leisure pursuits. But don’t be false. If you try something and you don’t like it- don’t do it or pretend to like it. Internalize the experience and respect the fact others might enjoy it and like discussing it.

If you want be a better father- get off your ass and start talking to people, asking questions and looking your children in the eye when you engage with them. When they tell you they are bored- because they are- instead of saying- “Go …” say, “Let’s …” All they really want is your time- vote with TIME and you will BE a great father.

If you want to deepen the relationship with your father- get to KNOW him. One of the greatest honors in this life is to be known- so KNOW. Ask him questions- find out how the life he has lived shaped him- don’t forget, it also shaped you- literally. Do some research ahead of time. If he was in the Korean war, do some reading. Ask poignant questions, not- “What was being in the war like?” That is the same as saying “How are you?” It is a platitude and it lets the other person know you don’t really want to hear the REAL answer. Because let’s be honest- isn’t the answer to “What was being in the war like?” “It freaking sucked” -?

If you want to meet some new people- DO something. I will continue to caution myself against telling you to STOP doing things (unless it’s STOP being a spoiled, indulged, selfish, self-centered, egotistical, hateful, abusive person) because Clever is about starting to DO.

Strike up conversations- ask questions of others- do not prattle endlessly about yourself. It’s called a conversation because there are logical turn slots- I say something and then you say something relevant in some way to what I said- until an obvious segue - which should NOT be in the form of interrupting the other person or redirecting the focus to yourself - presents itself to switch topics.

As we enter the holiday season- we will all be confronted with endless social opportunities- so let’s get talking! Let’s do a little research and put ourselves in the right place at the right time to ask that shamelessly handsome guy from PR whether Toby Gerhart has a chance at the Heisman (the answer is no)- because you overheard him say he went to Stanford.

Have purpose. Be intentional. Be Clever. Today and Every. Single. Day.

Have an important interview or evaluation coming up at the end of the year? Find out every single thing you can about the person conducting it and get busy. Oh, they attended Virginia Tech? Ask what a Hokie is. It’s their mascot- which isn’t really an answer to the question- but the term was used in a spirit chant written in 1896 by O.M. Stall and it goes like this- FYI (more information than nine of 10 need):

Hoki, Hoki, Hoki, Hy.

Techs, Techs, V.P.I.

Sola-Rex, Sola-Rah.

Rae, Ri, V.P.I.

So, it’s not really a bird as the physical representation would suggest- but a word.

The point is- be active. Begin any situation knowing what you want to achieve. If you attend a Scotch tasting- a goal might be to learn enough to talk to your brother and share his favorite drink, which might lead to more conversations.

Brushing up on hockey might spur a desire to learn more, to attend a game- to buy a couple tickets and invite the impossibly dashing friend of a friend whom you overheard expressing close to rabid interest in the NY Rangers.

If your mother likes to cook and never ventures out to enjoy the meal- take a cooking class and ask her to teach you a few of her recipes. KNOW and it might lead to being KNOWN.

Can you imagine going on a second date with a man, you text him you are pulling into the valet and when you arrive there is a perfectly chilled dirty martini with three blue cheese-stuffed olives because he REMEMBERED you telling him it was your favorite drink? Granted, he is probably trying to get you hammered- totally kidding. He listened to you. Isn’t that lovely? He invested time in your happiness and comfort. So much more romantic than a glass of Champagne because he can’t remember what you drank last time and doesn’t every girl LOVE Champagne? The answer is no, and prosecco is not Champagne just because there are bubbles- bubbles do not a Champagne make. We will get into the difference between Champagne and methode champenoise at another time.

This leads me to the point I wanted to make. It ties in again with gift-giving- 'tis the season. I received a gift the other day- it was via iTunes from a friend from college. We’ve known each other for 20 years and had not talked until finding one another on Facebook. Ours was a friendship I cherished but was robbed of by time, space and coming of age. The gift was the new solo album by Dave Gahan, lead singer of Depeche Mode. My first thought was not that I had received the gift of music, but that he remembered my preoccupation with Depeche Mode and it wasn’t something we’d talked about recently.

I realized true gifts are being listened to, being heard, being loved, being known, being appreciated, being recognized, being championed, being supported, having your hand held, having someone walk through something with you, being admired, being respected, being adored, being cherished, being held, being kissed, being complimented and just BEING.

If any of the above sound like gifts you would like to receive, then make a list of those to whom you plan to give them.

I heard a shocking and ugly statistic today- Americans spend an average of $450 billion dollars a year on Christmas and it would only take $10 billion to provide clean potable water to everyone in the world. Is this the new death by consumption?

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Is a Purse too Much to Ask For?

As I took advantage of some down time today, Colt McCoy came to mind. Not only does he have one of the coolest quarterback names of all time, but he is officially one of the most sensational quarterbacks to every play ball. A true play maker- Clever, versatile, a scrambler, quick thinking and confident- oh and the very best thing about Colt? Humility. It seems not to be the norm in sports these days- which is sad. I have two high hopes for Colt moving forward: 1) Heisman 2) he remains the man of character his is today when he plays on Sundays.

There has to be a way to regain the love of the game … as I begin a modest proposal even more outlandish than that of Jonathan Swift, I realize there is an entity more powerful than the law in the way of such a suggestion. The union. Because there is no fan’s union, I must put forth an impassioned plea for reason, for sensibility, for a purse. I’m not referring to Gucci, Fendi, Louis Vuitton or even the coveted Chanel, but a financial reward for winning a competition. True, some sports – golf, tennis, boxing and others with independent contestants - play according to a purse, but the bulk of team sports? Not a chance. Purse or no purse, all athletes are fortunate we have moved beyond competitions where life itself was the recognition of victory and defeat meant death.

I know I am not alone in my frustration at finding out a much anticipated game was “blacked out”- a punishment to fans who are not able to afford to attend said game- or, if the team is lucky- unable to acquire a ticket due to the infrequency at which they come available. Or, feet on coffee table, beer in hand, wings from Hooters at the ready only to be informed my favorite player is “injured” again or has been given the weekend off due to “exhaustion.” I myself am a little tired … of all the whining, crying, pouting and complaining being done by those who play a game for what amounts to more money per year than the average American FAMILY will ever make in a lifetime. Again. To play a game. This shameful lack of humility in many over shadows the vast humility of players like- Grant Hill, Warrick Dunn, Brenden Morrow, Steve Yzerman and Peyton Manning- and yes, I am aware there are many, many more.

It started as a beloved hobby and parlayed into a career. I bet the guy stocking hammers at the hardware store started doing such work because he enjoyed it and turned it into a way to support his family. We should all be so lucky. So why don’t the bulk of professional athletes feel lucky? Honored? Humbled to be living in this great nation, loved and supported by legions of fans unable to bring their families to witness games they grew up cherishing?

What if there was a deadline for season ticket sales, at the end of which all of the money allocated for salaries was given to a commission? The commission, with money collected from every team in the league, would create one of two scenarios: a) each game in the regular season would have a purse, and each purse put forth for the victorious team would be the same; the winning team would have to disperse the monies equally between all team members and coaching staff; the losing team would get nothing, or b) same winner’s regulations as cited above. The losing team would earn a purse not greater than one quarter the amount of the winner’s purse and dispersion of monies would be the same as for the winner. In both scenarios, all contracts would include the acceptance of random and regular drug testing. Violations would result in immediate termination of the contract and no further monies owed to the player in violation, eliminating the need to involve Congress and waste taxpayer money to “investigate.”

Play-offs would work in the exact manner, with the larger purses offered for the more critical games and the players trying to earn money instead of earn bonuses. As ticket sales drive the championship games, there will be plenty of money for the players who have learned to work together and take direction from their owners and coaching staff. Without guaranteed contracts, any player found in violation of the code of ethics or conduct would lose their right to play if so deemed by coaching staff, management and owners. It’s all about incentive alignment and consequences. Radical, I know.

This scenario would ensure the players lucky enough to call themselves professional athletes would train hard and attend each practice and game with the intention of vanquishing their opponents. They would play with the ferocity of men who have a Bentley payment coming.

Knowing purses in advance would allow the players and coaches to budget (gasp!) for the season. This is a better deal for coaches because it levels the playing field - no more abuse from players who think they run the team. Coaches would no longer have to accept embarrassing or egregious behavior, as they will make more money and once again sit in a position of authority.

This change would breathe vitality back into the game, restoring the concept of heart, drive, reward, winners and losers. Players who shine as fan favorites would still be forced to share their salary with the supporting cast. After all, what good is the best wide out in the history of the game if the snap is fumbled nine of ten times because there isn’t money left to trickle down to the rest of the team? Prove your worth each week and the big endorsements will then rain down upon you. Let the huge corporations, and not the fans, assume the burden of huge bonuses.

Gone would be the entitlement, because there would be no king’s ransom offered to kids who are fresh out of college and who have never played a professional game. With every coach and player making the same amount of money, the total of which would be driven by season ticket sales, there might be some fan appreciation and, dare I say it, respect for officials.

How did we get here? Supply and demand. Greed. Only so many players of the caliber necessary to win. Winning drives sales, sales create revenue, revenue is generated and dispersed at the expense of the fans. I understand some teams have waiting lists for years, but most teams do not. The Yankees might want to lower the price of those $1,250 luxury seats in order to get them filled. Lower cost, higher value. Clever. We’ve put up with higher cost and lower value for too long.

Train. Play. Win. Lose. It’s that easy.

Obviously this is simplistic- but I also think we should have a national lottery to drive down the deficit. Ok, Clever Tribe- I am radio silent tomorrow. I'll be back on Monday and very much looking forward to hearing from Clever Kate and my Clever K-State Contingent. I also want to talk about Hooters. Not the ones on your body- the restaurant. I must be hungry- I think that is the second time they have come up in one post. Hmmm.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Your Soon to be Wife's New Best Friend- The Wedding Planner

If, once all aforementioned matters have been resolved, you find you are of sound mind and body, ready to proceed, and prepared financially and emotionally to endure the planning of a wedding, you must acknowledge there is a business of weddings and it is called just that because it is a $19-billion-a-year industry. It is critical to insist on hiring a wedding planner or consultant. Why? Because the right wedding planner will serve as your advocate and, if you’re lucky, become your fiancee’s best friend throughout the planning process, which will take some of the heat off of you. Translation: more time for you to hang with the guys while she is embroiled in “the wedding.”

Further, a reputable consultant essentially has the Ph.D. in wedding planning you both lack, which means they will save you money and prevent you from being taken advantage of by unscrupulous wedding professionals. Every business has undesirables.

I advise you both to make a list of priorities for the wedding, a Top 10 if you will, in order of importance. Of course your lists will be totally different, but don’t expect having the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders show up as entertainment to fly. The point is this - if the planner knows what each of your priorities are, he or she can manage the budget to satisfy you both. Translation: less fighting and she might not kick the front windshield of your car out from the inside.

This list needs to be generated before sitting down with parents or a planner, so that everyone has a clear articulation of the requests you have for what ultimately (despite the expectations of others) is the most special day of your lives. Come to the table with a rough guest list, potential venues for ceremony and/ or reception and an approximation of the amount you can expend for the celebration.

Do NOT let the church coordinator or the catering manager of the reception site talk you out of hiring a wedding consultant. The responsibilities of the church coordinator extend to making certain you neither burn the place to the ground or allow your photographer to fire off a flash during the ceremony. She will not make sure the groom's man who ripped out the seat of his trousers gets them sewn up prior to heading into the sanctuary or make sure the limo arrives to transport you to the reception after the blessed nuptials. Once you arrive at the reception, the catering manager's focus is the food, beverage and service- they are not going to care if your mother and mother-in-law have been offered an episode on Jerry Springer for the WWF style smackdown they had during the cocktail hour. YOU need help- you just don't know it yet.

A consultant is not an expense that can be left off the budget. Cut anywhere else you need to- except here. Hell, I'd ride a freaking Vespa to the reception instead of showing up in limo as long as I could ensure someone was there to makes sure my DJ doesn't call me by the wrong name in front of 500 of my closest friends.

Here is a hint- if you want to appear not to be a miserly tight ass, do a little research and find a few names of consultants, call them and make appointments for you both to attend. Make them all on the same day and plan a lovely dinner together in or out to make a final decision on who will be spending more time with your fiancee in the next year than you will. Brides to be assume the "wedding planner" will be the biggest fight next to "budget"- so circumvent that- INSIST on it. You will definitely score after dinner that night.

Take heart- this is going to be an ass-kicking on a scale you can not fathom- you need an advocate and a team of professionals. Respect them, take care of them (Seriously, do not piss off your photographer prior to your event- you would not believe how easy it is for them to take pictures where you look like you walked into a chemical plant at the wrong time), show your appreciation in the form of a gratuity (generally cash, but a gift for the consultant is not unusual and no you can not get it at the airport) and most of all- trust them to guide you.

Ok, Clever Guys- I hope you are still stuffed like a Thanksgiving turkey and considering a repeat of yesterday's finest. Have a fantastic weekend. Colt for Heisman.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Do We Really Need a Wedding Consultant?

In a word- YES.

A good, professional wedding consultant should save you their fee and more in the process of planning and executing your event. How so? A reputable consultant has the Ph.D. you lack in pulling together a wedding- they know all the vendors and their long relationships with them will likely yield monetary consideration to their favorite clients. They have a list longer than Santa’s of ways to save and tricks of the trade. I advise you of one thing in this process- deal only with well-known, highly regarded professionals.

They call it a wedding industry because it is a $19 billion-a-year business. From invitations to gowns to cakes- the industry is thriving. While this is good news for the experienced and educated vendors- that money is blood in the water for unethical, amoral and shady amateurs who prey on those who are looking for a "deal." The market is flooded with such people. Just because they make a camera in a cardboard box doesn't mean photography is easy. Just because you own an oven doesn't mean you can bake a wedding cake. Just because you have nice handwriting doesn't mean you are calligrapher. The stories of couples taken advantage of by unscrupulous purveyors is endless. With a top-notch consultant in your corner- you needn't fear any such disasters.

I cannot tell you the number of times I have heard- “Well, my cousin is going to plan the event.” That bride went down the aisle barefoot because her shoes were lost and 28 guests went without entrees. “My boss', brother’s, best friend is a 'wedding' photographer.” The “photographer” showed up at the wedding with one camera, which was set wrong, and all of the images were so underexposed they could not be salvaged. “We found a guy to do the video for $400- why would I pay someone $4,000?” Because that dude took the deposit and blew off the wedding entirely. “There is a little bakery by my house and they really want to do the cake for me.” This one ended up on the floor (having melted) before the bride and groom could cut it. “We don’t need alcohol- no one in our family drinks.” Well, the guests do and they ended up at the bar watching football during the whole reception then left early to go out. “We booked our own band, they play at the bar down the street.” Guess what? The “band” got a better offer than the handshake deal the groom struck and bailed on the couple three days prior to the event. “Anyone can play music, we don’t need a $3,000 DJ. I found someone for $300.” You can imagine how excited the couple was when the DJ showed up in his Jiffy Lube uniform with an iPod and docking station to play music for 200 people. Oh, and he didn’t have a microphone to announce the couple's entrance, to handle a blessing or to use during toasting. Do you get the picture?

You have a job. It is what you went to school or trained to do- you do it well. What you know very little about is not only how to plan a wedding but how to fit it in with your current career, perhaps children and an all-consuming love. Hand it over to someone who knows the drill and you will breathe and sleep easier.

I’ve had brides forget to plan a rehearsal dinner, end up not having a seat for their mother-in-law at the reception, not comply with church rules on floral and have to disassemble it right before the ceremony, fighting between family, and weddings canceled because of budget issues between the bride and groom (this likely was a good thing). So, your wedding planner will act as go-between for you and family members, your fiancĂ© and your vendors. They will manage your contracts. They will help you to establish a reasonable budget and stick to it, and help you with every single detail along the way.

Because they do this for a living you can count on them being full of unique ideas for floral and design, to know the benefits and proper placement of lighting, the flow of the day, how to navigate high-pressure, emotional situations, and to be your voice on the wedding day. You will need only to figure out how to get from the beginning of the aisle to the end of it.

If there is a way to save money- your consultant will know it. How do you select a consultant? Ask friends whom you trust- if the friend is a nut or somone from whom you wouldn’t take a recommendation for a Chinese restaurant, don’t ask for the name of one of the most important vendors involved in your wedding. Look in magazines, which have to be purchased. Why? Anyone can place a cheap ad in a local rag. Ads in newsstand magazines cost considerably more and some of them require advertisers be established businesses, with a business address, a tax ID number, something to indicate legitimacy. The last thing you want to do is hire some dude who does drywall all week and takes pictures at weddings one day on the weekend.

Interview at least three consultants. In this case, personality is as important as their credentials and references. You need to like this person, as they are likely going to spend more time with you in the next six months to a year than your fiancĂ©. It’s best you trust them and enjoy their company. Further, the better your working relationship is, the harder they will work to save you money- and yes, a gratuity is expected.

Make sure you pick a reasonable pricing structure, as there are many options. Some charge by the hour- not a good idea. You will not believe how quickly you end up racking up a bill for services. Some offer packages from day of coordination (getting you down the aisle) to full event production and design. Speak candidly and openly to your consultant about this. If you are an attorney, work 75 hours a week and have two kids- the chances of you being able to dedicate a reasonable amount of time to the process are slim. Pick a pricing option that takes into account your lack of time. Another popular option is to pay the planner a percentage of the budget. This is a flat fee, so you will know what it is ahead of time. But, you need to know how much of the consultant’s time you are going to get for that fee.

Make sure the consultant you hire is the one who will be working with you throughout the planning, going to meetings with you and attending your wedding. Know whether they will be sending assistants and how many and to what events. Be certain you have a departure time for your planner and what tasks they will be taking care of at the end of the evening- those gifts don’t get to your house magically, the candy bar doesn’t get broken down by itself. The striking of the floral and lighting needs to be coordinated while you are taking a little bathie post-reception, sharing a glass of bubbly and gushing about your perfect day with your husband (HUSBAND!)

It is difficult to not consider a planner an added and unnecessary fee. After all, you are really organized and multi-task well. That isn’t the point. You know NOTHING about planning a wedding. As an attorney, would you take on a murder trial if you had never tried a case? No. Why would you try to plan an event entirely out of the realm of your expertise?

Abhor your soon to be sister-in-law and will strangle her if she considers speaking to you at the wedding? Tell your planner to manage the situation. Your estranged mother grabs the microphone at the rehearsal dinner and starts off like this- “Marriages come and go ... ," your consultant will have that mic out her hand before she can say- “My daughter is a gold digger,” which of course you are not. Forgot your garter? Your consultant will have an assistant on hand to fetch one. Need a few more bottles of champagne for that pre-wedding getting-ready party? You know who to ask. Clever Couples don’t leave anything to chance on one of the most important days of their lives. Why spend all the time and money only to have things fall apart on the big day?

If you want more information regarding the myriad responsibilities of a planner- buy "Donnie Brown Weddings," a fabulous new book on the market, featuring one of my best friends. See his site linked to the right of this post.

OK- tomorrow is the big day for Thanks. If you are heading out to enjoy dinner with friends and family members, please do not forget to pick up a host/ess gift. A simple bottle of wine, a dessert (you can never have too much pie- right?), an appetizer, a loaf of fresh bread. Neiman Marcus has 36 petit fours for $35.00, decorated sugar cookies for $35.00, tins of yummy signature chocolate chip cookies for $12.00, candied popcorn and a host of other fantastic holiday treats.

You will not hear from me tomorrow. This Clever Girl will be in the kitchen from sun up to sun down creating comfort foods for some of my very favorite people.


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

It Takes Great Courage to Love

OK, Clever Tribe- this comment could not go unaddressed so I am posting it along with my response for a simple reason. Being Clever has nothing to do with age, marital status or socio-economics- it truly means to be quick to understand and apply ideas. In order to do so, we must THINK about what we are doing before we do it. There must be intention and purpose in our actions and our words. Clever is a simple concept and it defies limits and boundaries.


When does a child cease to be a child and become a son or daughter? Is it at the age of reason, at puberty or at the legal age of consent? 
When does the nurturing responsibility of the parent become lesser and the responsibility of the 'child' become greater? 

To be a parent of an adult is far more difficult than the role of a parent to a child. With a child, a parent can shape and mold many of the child's ideals, skills and behavior. That same parent maintains the responsibility of nurturing that adult offspring, but must do so with greater tact and skill to avoid conflict. 

I have three children 23-31 in age, two boys and one girl. Each of my children have totally different personalities and talents, and I love each of them equally. My sons 23 and 26 are both very independent and want to lead their own lives, but have no problem visiting with loads of laundry and healthy appetites. My daughter at 31 is married and has two children (my only grandchildren). Of course our parenting skills are totally different and I have made the mistake of 'suggesting' things to my daughter which seem to be met with resistance of not outright hostility.

While I DO NOT consider myself an old lady I do realize that a generation in today's world is a chasm as far as social values and attitudes are concerned. If I see something wrong, isn't it my responsibility as a parent of an adult child to make my feeling known, or should I just keep my mouth shut and let her learn through failure?

While having lunch with a dear and trusted girlfriend a few weeks back, my friend brought up a quote from a neighbor friend that really touched a nerve. It goes "When children are young, they step on your feet ... when they are older, they step on your heart."
Being the Clever Girl that you appear to be, how would you prevent an adult child from stepping on your heart?



What a lovely and heartfelt note with which to start my day. I must open by saying- it is part of the loving process to open our hearts to potential hurt. What you have to evaluate before you let the pain begin is the intentionality of the hurt. 
Are your children trying to hurt you? Likely no- because you sound like a conscientious and Clever Mommy. So, give some thought to the root of what is causing you pain. It is the nature of boys to move away and begin lives of their own and often the "expectation" the girl will remain closer to her family. So, exactly conforming to that paradigm, you find yourself immersed to some degree with your daughter and her children. It is only natural there will be some flexing of muscles with your daughter.

Often times it takes only a mother stepping back and watching to realize she has influenced her daughter's life more than she believed, and in that- her parenting. So, if you can resist the urge to jump in with both feet- she might surprise you. However- if you are left in charge of the grandchildren- you need to manager your daughter's expectations and those of her children by making clear each home has its own rules and they will all need to respect them. I must say, however, if your daughter or her husband are engaged in behavior or parenting that jeopardizes the health and well-being of their children beyond raising spoiled, unpleasant, entitled brats you can barely stand to be around- you need to step in and if necessary bring help.

Each generation has been certain the next is heading to hell on a greased rail and some how- we've survived. Age has nothing to do with an appreciation for manners, respect and traditional social roles. As you look back- there have always been the people who eventually pull it together and create a productive life and those who do not. While sometimes it is impossible to see, I don't know that the percentage is racing toward hell on a skateboard,
I have an observation which might help. At some point children need to realize their parents are people and they make and will continue to make mistakes- BUT, that nine out of 10 times, they did their best. The only decision that needs to be made after they have secured their first job is whether their parents are people they would want in their lives if they weren't related.
In my case- the answer is a resounding yes. My parents are my best friends- my trusted advisors. Do I always like what they have to say? NO! But they have earned my trust as parents, friends and wise people. Can my mother get on my nerves? Yes, but we fight like friends- with respect and consideration (unless it's over the last beer and then it is on like the crack of dawn- haha).
Children are abusive because you allow it, but also because they trust you to be there for them anyway.

How do you break old records and establish patterns of respect moving forward? Put your foot down. They might get mad, stomp out- not let you do their laundry, feed them or babysit for a while- but you are mom and they are powerless to walk away.

As far as your sons are concerned? Live it up- because when they meet their Clever Girl- someone else will be feeding them and doing their laundry and the hurt will be born of perceived abandonment instead of feeling unappreciated and used.
For your first set of questions? I think I answered part of that above in that procuring the first job- when they become financially independent is when your role as parent begins to change, hopefully to that of friend.
It all comes down to purse strings- for lack of a better term. If you are paying the way- your word is law to a certain degree. If you've already created an environment of respect and open communication, purse strings don't feel as constraining to them.

Work on managing your expectations- knowing potential flash points going in can help mitigate your response. For example- every time I tell my mom I am coming home- she tries to tell me which airport to fly into. It starts an argument immediately and we get in a fight. Now- when I tell her I am coming home- I say, I will be flying into "x" because "y," I've already put a flight on hold so you or Dad need to pick me up "x,y,z." It's helped a lot for me to anticipate her response and to have already prepared for it.
For you it might be your daughter showing up to "allow" you time with her kids. She brings you five pages of notes as to how to parent as if you aren't one. Nod, smile and when she walks out the door- stuff the kids full of sugar and demand their respect. When she blows her top- tell her to find another sitter!

I have met too many people who are afraid of their children. Afraid to discipline because their children might not like them- uh, no. That isn’t how it works. It is your OBLIGATION to set limits and boundaries for your children- if you don’t, who will? Have you ever been around someone who doesn’t understand boundaries- it is a real ass-kicking. The discipline takes a different shape when your children are adults- this is when you refuse to be a punching bag. If your daughter doesn’t appreciate you- or you feel hurt and used- establish some boundaries with her and you WILL get her attention. Let her know how much you love her and how proud you are of her, but do not fight her. These are her children. You got to parent your three- now it’s her turn. If she is doing a bad job, let her realize that on her own and be there to counsel her when she turns to you with respect and contrition.

Thank you for inspiring me! Clever Girls- I will cover whether to hire a wedding consultant- because I know it’s the next question on the list. We are going to take a break from college football, but we still need to discuss basketball penalties and then (insert leitmotif for doom here) HOCKEY!!!!!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Clever Guys Contribution to the Date? ZERO

Once you have produced a ring, acquired the “Yes! Oh, god! Yes!” - tears and all, followed by hours and hours of phone calls to loved ones, you might find the next question to be “When?” Make a mental note now: The questions and the pointless left-hand gestures to show off the ring never end. Oh, and if she isn’t showing off the ring, you stepped in it, so make sure you tell her it’s OK for her to select something more to her liking.

If you are one of the rare men who actually asked a woman to marry him with no intention of moving forward, tap the brakes. Engagement will only stave off the desire for a wedding for so long. We know what you are thinking. “We live together so we are basically married already, right?” No deals, dude. Do not pop the question if you 1) have no intention of moving forward at all or 2) are not prepared to enter into the planning of the wedding. She will view a proposal as implied consent for her to move forward, and consider yourself warned - the speed at which she may do so is not dissimilar to a Ferarri Enzo’s impressive zero to 60.

The date will need to be established before you can go any further with the planning. While she may ask you when you would like to get married, you will be married on a) the date she has been dreaming of since she was 8-years-old, when the breeze is the perfect, temperate 76 degrees or b) the date of one of the countless anniversaries you have failed to commit to memory thus far, the good news being two of those are about to be combined.

Your fantasy date of choice is the one where the Pats won their first Super Bowl under the leadership of Tom Brady. Or your birthday - you have no trouble remembering that. The number one date to avoid is her parents’ anniversary, which would mean you would likely spend anniversaries with them. Now, the rational mind finds this could be a blessing. The elder male will have taken enough abuse over the years to “plan” lovely evenings out and would then be obligated to include you and your wife, relieving you of the pressure to not only remember, but to plan and likely to pay for a celebration of your wedding day. BUT! There is a flip side to every seemingly “perfect” situation. Imagine being compared to her perfect father all night, every anniversary, or being chided for not planning and paying for the celebration for four.

For extra points, suggest the date you met (she will remember right away, don’t worry), or the date of your first date (also catalogued by her), if she is emotionally tied to a certain date, you can hope it falls on anything but a Saturday, which would offer you deep discounts from wedding professionals.

As Saturdays are premium evenings, getting married on a Friday (we can spend the whole weekend with our family members and friends before leaving on our fabulous honeymoon- not hung over) or a Sunday (boring but inexpensive) will be vastly less expensive. Weddings taking place in January and February can likely be planned for markedly less that those in May, June and October.

The important thing to remember here is that you will get married on the day she selects and do so with great enthusiasm.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Do You Want the Over or Under- On the House Guest? Depends on the House Guest- Right?

OK, Clever girls- and you are So Very Clever- why would I find this statement made by Ann Bowden, wife of Bobby Bowden, head coach of Florida State University football team, offensive?

“They need US more than WE need them,” she reported to USA Today recently.

Any guesses? First of all- NOT CLEVER to say WE. Last I checked, she was NOT, in fact, part of the coaching staff of FSU. Now, perhaps she is saying WE as in she is part of a marriage- true- but it is not appropriate for her to make unilateral statements regarding his job. Sanctioned by him or not- it shows little grace. How about instead, if you must speak on behalf of your husband, “I think Bobby has proven himself as a leader of not only the team here at Florida State, but also in the community. It will be interesting to see how things take shape moving forward.” Clever.

The point being- a lot of fans and former supporters are feeling he’s overstayed his welcome. This leads to an interesting thought I had today- why do so many people do just that- overstay their welcome? Perhaps they simply don’t realize they are doing do so. Likely, expectations are not managed ahead of time. Fof example- here is our three-year contract, you are up for renegotiation at that point. We are seeing one another but there are no strings, ties, commitments or obligations- we must choose each other every day and when we stop, that is the end. And then there is the house guest.

One way to manage the house guest is to invite them for a finite amount of time. Don’t issue forth the “Mi casa es su casa” platitude and then get pissed off when they stay longer than you had hoped. Don’t pretend they are welcome and then be critical of them when they leave- that is hypocritical and unattractive. Manage the situation beforehand. Make certain parameters are set prior to the stay.

Clever house guests arrive with a gift. Could be small, just an acknowledgement- a jar of specialty mustard or the fresh tortillas they loved last time they visited. Know exactly how long you were invited to stay and do not use the home of your hosts as a landing pad while you hang out with others in town or do your own thing. Unless the host/ess makes clear this is what they intend. If they don’t invite you to join them for dinner and activities- make your own plans and invite them to join. You really should not be staying with people with whom you are uncomfortable staying. In-laws do not count- there is a good chance you will NEVER feel comfortable.

Unless your host/ess begs and pleads for you to stay longer, and you have been having such a wonderful time you don’t want to leave, leave on time. Make certain the rooms you were enjoying are in as good or better shape than when you arrived. Simply put, no toothpaste globs in the sink, ask whether you should strip the bed or make it on the last day, tidy up and make sure all of the used towels are in one area. Don’t forget to send some type of a thank you note, and it is a lovely gesture to pick up the check, buy some wine or purchase a little gift while you are in town to leave in the room you stayed upon your departure.

What I really wanted to cover is the relational situation. Why would you stay somewhere you are unwanted and not appreciated? There are many indicators of this state in a relationship. If a guy is not returning your call, it’s because he doesn’t want to- he’s not interested. Clever Girls can take a hint- even a subtle one. We have so much self-respect, he won’t even get the opportunity to not return our call twice before he is going to have to be the next person to establish contact.

If he hasn’t e-mailed you back- stop. If he excludes you from conversation beyond a point where you feel comfortable, walk away and either find another friend to talk to at the party, meet someone new or catch a cab home. You are far too valuable to be minimized. Demand respect at every turn and you will get it.

If there is any question of his character- if you find yourself making excuses for his behavior, his behavior while consuming or over-consuming alcohol- or how he treats you in public or private- you need to walk away.

Do not issue ultimatums. Why? Because if he gives in to the “s--- or get off the pot” threat by offering you a ring- can the proposal be trusted as his heart’s desire? NO. He did it to pacify you, and a time will soon come when he resents you for pushing him into marriage. What’s next, getting pregnant accidentally? A Clever girl knows when she is not wanted or appreciated. There are far too many men waiting to acknowledge you and treat you the way you deserve to be treated.

If you feel you have to snoop or spy on him- perhaps it’s time to walk away. While it is likely your own insecurity- or some insecurity created by a man in the past- it is not right to snoop. You wouldn’t like it. Oh, and I know- you aren’t doing anything wrong- right? Well, it is still patently unacceptable to snoop through his computer or phone. You simply must trust if he doesn’t want to be with you, he will tell you. If he doesn’t, there should be signs you are missing. If not, he is truly a cad, and when you find out he is not faithful, it is totally OK to slap him in the face- in private. I personally find dudes or women who put GPS on the cars of their spouses or phones or install spyware on their computers repellant. How gross is that? NOT Clever.

Stop and think about what you are doing. What does it say about you that you need to do that? If your spouse is having an affair- ask yourself why that could be? When you are pointing one finger at someone- keep in mind the other three are pointing right back at you. This is all completely irrelevant if you are the perfect wife and mother and he is “unhappy” blah, blah, blah- but no matter what he is feeling, you married him- something must be going wrong in the marriage. Don’t throw the marriage out with the affair- unless you want out, too. Perhaps you should ask him why he was driven to the arms of another woman and whether your marriage is repairable. If not, time to move on to a more appreciative audience.

Don’t think I am underestimating the pain and suffering this will cause- but do you really want to beg and plead with him to stay with you “for the children?” What are the chances- if he agrees to do so- he will not continue his extramarital affair or begin another? The fact is, there is a reason this is happening. If you can get to the root of that- and if he is interested in salvaging the marriage- make an informed decision as to whether that is what you want. You do have a choice.

Now, about Bowden and Weis- can I throw in Rich Rodriguez for consideration on this? Geez. OK, we are in a holding pattern. The Heisman is determined on December 5. Ingram has a shot- a legitimate shot- and I am torn to shreds. He is from my hometown- how cool would that be? Flint hasn’t had much to be happy about, especially since several locations of Angelo’s closed. Colt- he is my sentimental number one, but the pageantry associated with Tebow securing a second would be pretty impressive. They are all going to play on Sunday, but one of them will have one or two of the statues celebrating them as the best college football player of the year. What an honor.

For the record, I will not even CONSIDER Toby Gerhart of Stanford. You can’t come into the race a week before and win this thing. If you can … I’ll have to denounce the process. While I understand the Heisman is to represent a season- it seems impossible to me that Colt McCoy’s body of work as a quarterback would not be considered. In four years as a starting quarterback, he has won 43 games. It’s impressive. I WANT Colt for Heisman. Is it too much to ask?

OK, Clever tribe- we are back to the wedding thing next week. Tips for Clever girls regarding whether to hire a consultant and tips for Clever guys on how gracefully you are going to accept the date she selects for your wedding. Can NOT wait.

Friday, November 20, 2009

I'm Thinking About Driving the Net- How's Your Defense Look?

It’s Friday, Clever Girls and you know what that means- perhaps the most hated word in the entire female lexicon: sports. Not just sports- basketball. In an earlier post, we didn’t discuss terminology you will undoubtedly hear while watching a game. I will impart the important terms so you can feel part of the equation.

Hey- stop rolling your eyes, I have good news. I am not going to hit you with another full sport- HOCKEY- for at least two weeks, and let me tell you- the energy here is going to be palpable. It is my favorite. I can’t wait! Oh, and I have plenty of eye candy for you as a reward for your diligence here.

The first word I want to discuss is DRIBBLE- because it is critical to almost all movement of the ball in basketball. We all know what it looks like and we’ve all probably done it- we push the ball to the ground with our hand, let it bounce back up to our hand- repeat. A player who is holding the ball and NOT dribbling it must keep one foot firmly affixed to the floor- it is called the PIVOT FOOT. When they want to move with the ball, they must dribble it. The dribbling ends when the ball is “stolen” by another player, the dribbler touches it with both hands (you are not allowed to dribble with two hands- it’s called a DOUBE DRIBBLE- didn’t Peter, in the Fudge series by Judy Blume have a turtle named DRIBBLE? And didn’t Fudge eat it? OK, focus ...) or if the ball rests in one hand of the dribbler.

Now, back to the beginning.

ALLEY-OOP: That long ball- high in the air toward the basket where a team mate jumps up and dunks it into the basket for two points. This is when basketball is its most dynamic. On this play, the one who threw the ball gets an ASSIST.

ASSIST: The player who throws or passes the ball to the person who ends up putting it in the basket. They assist in the scoring.

BASKET INTERFERENCE: Also called GOALTENDING. If you hate geometry as much as I do, this will be a tough one. Imagine there is a space the size of the basket that extends further up toward the sky than anyone- even Rashid Wallace can reach. You are not allowed to get in that space as a defender when the ball is in movement.

BLOCKED SHOT: It’s pretty clear- a defensive player interrupts a shot.

BREAKAWAY: I am heartened by the fact some of these terms are similar to hockey terms. This is where it gets exciting again- when a defensive player steals the ball from an offensive player and drives his own net. You often see these gorgeous leaping baskets- long and balletic. It really is something to behold. I love the break away. See? I LOVE basketball.

BRICK: I am only including this term because it’s funny and I like to use it in reference to a really poorly executed concept or compliment. This is an unattractive or clumsy shot that bounces off the backboard or rim.

DUNK: When the ball is placed into the basket with force. Not shooting from a distance, but driving the basket and putting it in.

FAST BREAK: Similar to a break away, but is when a defensive player rebounds the ball and advances quickly toward his own basket.

LAY-UP: The offensive player dribbles his way toward the net and shoots a ball, which bounces off the backboard and into the net.

MAN-TO-MAN: A form of defense where each player is responsible for covering an offensive player.

PASS: The movement of the ball from one player to another.

POST: The area outside the lane near the basket.

REBOUND: Taking possession of a missed shot.

TRAVELING: As we discussed earlier, you can not advance the ball without dribbling unless you are shooting or passing. So, you can not take more than two steps without dribbling or you are traveling.

TURNOVER: Like any other game, this refers to a loss in possession- turning possession over to the other team.

OK, those are the terms, and I am not going to hold your hand here. We covered a lot in the other basketball posts- so, if you are curious what the lane is, where the end line or side lines are- the shot clocks, the positions- you need to look back in the archives. CLEVER Girls do their research. If you are dating someone who LOVES basketball, you had better get a jump on all this.

The only thing left to cover is penalties. We can do that next Friday, and do not worry, we are not running out of time. There are easily 585,000 more NBA games before the season ends. In the meantime- listen, learn and enjoy. If you simply can NOT do that- make plans with the girls and do not begrudge him this time- he WANTS to watch the game. What is the freaking problem? If you can not find SOMETHING to do while he is watching the game, you are not CLEVER at all- cease reading this blog. There are things called books- read one.

I promised a recipe for game day and this one is sooooooo yummy and easy.


Boar’s Head shaved turkey breast

Pita bread- I prefer whole wheat, but you can get white

Sliced low-fat Swiss cheese


Green cabbage

Low-fat feta cheese

Good Seasons Italian dressing ( I make it with way more red wine vinegar than oil and I use Enove heart-healthy oil)

Green onions

Shred the cabbage with a sharp knife and place in a very large bowl. Slice green onions using the entire onion except each end. Add to cabbage. Add entire container of feta. Add as much of the Italian dressing as to create a slaw of the moisture you’d prefer. For this dish, I like it pretty wet as it serves as a dressing. Cover. Chill. Shake several times to break up the feta and thoroughly blend the ingredients.

When you are ready to serve- fill the pita with a slice of Swiss, some turkey and slaw. YUMMMMM

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Coupons? Do You See the Line Behind You?

I was in the grocery store the other day, in a hurry as usual, and it was a mad house. Clogging the line in front of me was a woman with a daughter who appeared to be about 5. They were carefully (too carefully) handing over coupons to the cashier. I was not certain what was going on or why she thought it was a great idea to give her daughter an economics lesson when the store was filled to capacity, so I, along with several other annoyed shoppers, switched lines.

I didn’t think another thing about it until I left my home to get the mail and the same woman was walking with her daughter, who was pulling a wagon. I nodded and glanced into the wagon. I was shocked to see it halfway filled with canned goods and staple items.

“Pardon me?” I said, surprising myself. The mom turned around with a lovely smile and said, “Yes?”

“I saw you, earlier, at Tom Thumb. Do you live in the area?”

“We live at the end, in the cul-de-sac. Moved in about a month ago. I’m Nancy and this is my daughter, Jensen.” Nancy offered her hand and, after which, Jensen did the same.

“What a wonderful name, Jensen.”

“Thank you,” she squeaked. I was surprised by the pitch of her voice for a 5-year-old.

“How are you?”

“I’m fine, thank you,” she chirped. Taken aback by her manners, I looked to her mother.

“How old is Jensen?”

“She just turned 3.”

“Three?” I questioned with shock. The little angel was standing halfway up my ribcage and I am not a short person. I knew adults who didn't say thank you when complimented or shake hands.

“Her father is tall.” Nancy said and urged her daughter along.

“What are you girls doing today?” I had to know what the canned goods were about.

“Oh, we are picking up a canned good from each house on our street every Sunday between now and Thanksgiving.”

“Wer'e taking it to the bank,” Jensen beamed.

“The food bank, sweetheart.”

“The food bank.” Jensen corrected herself.

“We put little flyers on the doors a couple weeks ago- just asking people to put one out if they wanted to donate. I'm realizing we get a lot of stuff on the doors in this neighborhood and most people probably threw them away. I haven’t met too many people here yet, so we are just doing what we can.”

Jensen grabbed my hand and took me to the back of her wagon, where there was a sign that said- Kids Can Care. I was so immediately overwhelmed by the scene unfolding around me I did an awkward cough to cover up something- it came out strangled from my tight throat. Tears began to sting my eyes. I was feeling so many different emotions at one time. I couldn’t process any of them.

“Wow,” I uttered. It was a filler, I admit it, but what do you say?

“During the week, we collect the coupons that come in the mail and on Sunday mornings we go and purchase the most nutritious items. Jensen has a 10 dollar allowance for shopping that day. After we do the trip down the street, we take all of our donations over to the food bank.” She wasn’t bragging. She wasn’t pious, nor was she proud. Her statements were so matter of fact it made my throat tighter.

“The food bank is where people who can’t afford to go to Tom Thumb grocery shop,” Jensen said, smiling. She let go of my hand, picked up her wagon handle and started on her way.

“Wait! I need to get my canned good. Can I get a few to make up for the weeks I missed?” Jensen nodded enthusiastically- it was obvious she was very proud.

The emotions I felt were complex. First, as I rummaged through my pantry looking for beans, because they are high in protein and fiber, I wondered why I wasn’t donating to the food bank. The image of Nancy and Jensen in line, managing her little monies and coupons, at the age of 3, so she could donate food to those who couldn’t afford to buy it right now, for what ever reason, made me feel like a heel. I was impatient and selfish in that line. Foot tapping, doing the pee-pee dance, even though I didn’t have to pee.

I was embarrassed they lived in my neighborhood, half a block away and I didn’t know them, know they had moved in or taken the time to read the flyer they’d left. I was heartened by Nancy’s efforts in a community by which she did not yet feel embraced and still jumped right in to support. And then there was Jensen. When I moved to place my cans of beans in the wagon, she asked that she be able to do it for me. I noticed right away, the items in the wagon were a great source of pride for her. She was filling that wagon- and pulling it. Her hands were being put to the plow. She was making a way for others.

I told Nancy I would remind all of the neighbors to put their canned goods out and invited her to lunch this next week. I’ve already called everyone I know in the neighborhood, which has yet to embrace me after 11 years, and invited them to welcome Nancy.

As I watched them walk- never did Nancy try to help Jensen as she struggled with her load. I figured they’d had that discussion before and Jensen knew if she needed help, she would ask for it. There was so much pride on that little girl’s face- it made me hurt a bit.

Why aren’t we all doing what Nancy is doing- hell, what Jensen is doing? We vote with time- not just money. I am sure Nancy could write a check each week if her conscience required her to contribute- but she knows there is no lesson in that for her daughter, who will inherit this world.

At that moment I wanted nothing more than to pound on the doors when I saw Jensen walk up and come back looking a little defeated with her empty hands held out as she shrugged, but it wasn’t my battle to fight. I could and should not save Jensen from disappointment- it is an important lesson for her, part of the process.

As the cold wind blew about me, I was pretty certain Nancy shielded Jensen from very little. Though the lessons of fear, anger, frustration and disappointment are hard to witness in children- they must be experienced. If children are not exposed to a full range of emotions early in life and repetitively- they will never learn how to cope. Every parent wants to laugh it away, protect their child from whatever in the world is threatening to disappoint or sadden, but they would only serve to deny them life skills. This Clever mommy is raising a little girl who will be so very clever.

Jensen is learning to be intentional- to act, to contribute with time and energy. Jensen has purpose- to be a part of the world around her, to help, to nourish, to ease the suffering of others. I know no other 3-year-old like her ... but I’d like to.

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