Thursday, January 28, 2010

They are Children- Not Weapons

Here is the scenario- you fall in love, you get married and you have a child or a few children. You grow apart, things happen and suddenly you “don’t know each other anymore.” You struggle, you fight, you go to therapy if you are actually interested in preserving the marriage- but ultimately you let it go.

I was prompted to give this idea some thought when I was in Village Tea having some warm green tea, working, and a couple of guys came in with a 4-year-old girl. There were a few things wrong with the scene- two gym rats in a tea shop, the little girl was dressed as if for an evening out- if she were- oh, 25. I did a double-take and my heart began to pound.

What was going on here? They went to the counter, placed an order and sat adjacent to me in the “living room setting.” The little girl was quiet and gazed longingly at the play area set up for just this purpose. When she asked if she could go draw, her dad reminded her that her mother would be here momentarily to pick her up. And then there was light.

Seconds later, Mom walked in and nearly burst into tears at the sight of her 4 year old in red nail polish and an animal print outfit with one-and-a-half-inch heels. Her face flushed red and she covered the distance to her daughter in moments.

“She is your daughter, not your girlfriend!” she hissed at her former husband (no rings). He gave his child a perfunctory peck on the cheek and got up to leave. On the way out, I heard him say- “I knew that would piss her off” to his friend.

The mother opened a bag and took out a different pair of shoes (she’s been down this road before) and a brush. The waitress brought the little girl’s snack over (sliced apples and some Nutella) and the mom ordered a pot of tea. I could see she was nearly in tears and my heart clenched.

“Do you like my nails, Mommy?”

“Well, the color is lovely, honey- but it might not be a good color for a little girl. This color is for big girls and we can try it again when your older. How about if, after our tea, we go get our nails painted together?”

Her daughter beamed and they settled in to read a book before the little one went to draw and play while her mother texted furiously.

THE OTHER SIDE OF THE COIN

The week prior, at Starbucks, a man paced and belted back his coffee. He looked at his watch every five seconds and texted intermittently. Finally, he made a call.

“I know you are doing this on purpose. You knew we had tickets to the air show. It started 20 minutes ago. By the way, he called me last night and I know you left him with a sitter so you could go out. Do I need—“

At that moment, the door opened and a little boy burst in and threw himself in his father’s arms nearly knocking him over.

“Are you ready, Dad? Come on, we have to go. We are going to be late!” His dad threw a look at mom, who didn’t even pause on the way to the counter for what looked like a much needed Venti black coffee. Dad scooped up the organic milk, a package of sliced fruit and cheese from the table and headed to the door, his face five shades of rage.

What is going on here? Fighting for your kids is supposed to mean FOR them, not with each other USING them. It saddened me to watch these scenarios play out.

It seems in most divorces there is always the parent so intent upon hurting the other they will use their child as a pawn no matter how much it hurts the child. In the first case- Dad dressed his child up as Jon Benet Ramsey, knowing it would make his wife angry. Now, does it hurt a child to wear red nail polish and high heels? Not right now, and certainly not under the keen watch of her mother- but what happens as the baby gets a little older and it is a constant battle to manage her clothing, hair and tendencies to dress suggestively.

Her mother will take the heat for not allowing it and Dad will become the hero. When she is with Dad, he will allow it. The next thing you know- Dad and fellow gym rat get hammered one night and “friend” wanders into the precocious 13 year old’s bedroom. Now, she might put up a fight, but can Dad hear? Will Dad care?

In the second case, Mom is ready to party- to be on the single scene. She might have overslept, she might have dragged her feet. What matters is, the only person she hurt was her little boy, because he likely missed not only part of the air show, but his precious little time with his dad.

Now, in a typical divorce arrangement the child is awarded to Mom (regardless of her qualifications as a mother) and Dad gets to see the child/ren for dinner one night weekly and every other weekend. I have some recommendations for dads who’d like more time with their child and want to write it into the divorce decree, because as amenable as she is when you part ways (maybe because she is the one who wanted a divorce,) as soon as you start seeing someone or as soon as you reveal you have a girlfriend- she will likely fight you for every minute with your child.

1) If Mom is going out of town or even out for the evening, Dad is to be the first choice as a sitter.

2) If Mom begins dating, there will be no overnight visits unless the child is staying with Dad. If Mom wants an unscheduled overnight visit, Dad is to be notified and allowed to take possession of the child/ren.

The same holds true for Dad- it is a matter of consideration and the more considerate you can be with one another, for the sake of your children, the better. You have no idea the damage that can be done to little children during the course of a divorce, even when your entire focus is their well- being. Disengaging and lavishing yourself with perks and nights out with friends can be at the expense of your child. I know you think you deserve it- you were “wronged,” your self-esteem is hurting, you are depressed. Well, guess what? You don’t get to be depressed and express hurt or anger toward your spouse. You have a child and what that child needs to feel is security and stability during this time.

"Fighting for custody" because you want to hurt your wife or soon to be ex-wife is not right and likely you will not win. It is a fact. A Very Clever Daddy once told me- "In Texas, a woman can have a crack pipe in her mouth and a needle hanging from her arm and she will still get custody." That is WRONG. There are a great number of fathers who are more capable, engaged and loving than the mothers, but sadly, nine of 10 times, the mother is awarded custody. Threatening each other is shameful. If you must hurt one another- find another way.

This world started going to hell on a greased rail when we started putting our own wants before the needs of our children. I say "we" because we are all guilty of doing it from time to time- but it’s not the "time to time" that does the damage- it’s the "all the time." The new way of life for your child.

If you create a toxic environment for your child, they will be poisoned by it and there is virtually no way to stop it.

I am a firm believer people grow and change- but you loved this person once, you believed in them enough to have a child with them. For the sake of your child- hold onto that, if nothing else- and know they love their child and want to be with that child. Do not use your little babies as weapons. If you must call your ex and set up a meeting where you can scream and rant and rave- do it. Do not sleep through Dad’s time (he gets so very little)- do not put your children in a position to pit them against Mom.

When you were married- you delighted in the fact he walked through the door and headed straight for your daughter. Now, you are trying to deny him access to hurt him? SHAME on you. You encouraged her to have children, though she was a severe career woman, she fell in love with staying home with the children but is now forced back into the workplace as a result of the divorce and you are punishing her for it? Belittling her as a mother for not being there for her children? Castigating her for heading out for an evening with friends- SHAME on you. Making yourself into the Disney parent (the one who doesn’t discipline, who showers the child with gifts and trips) just to undermine the efforts of the other parent- SHAME on you.

Bottom line- you had children with this person and the only scars that will likely be eternal are the ones you cause your children. Grow up.

Pass the Anti-Anxiety Meds- It's Time to Talk Budget

Thank you to Gary Donihoo of f8 Studio for this image from The Joule Hotel in Dallas, Texas

OK, Clever Couples, I’m sorry if I’ve left the planning of your wedding on the back burner. Let’s get started and count on at least one post per week to help you along.

Now that our Clever Guys have acquired a ring, adhered to the requisite customs to acquire your hand in marriage, you’ve decided on a city and selected a date- it’s time to get down to the BUDGET.

There is no reason for you not to panic, Clever Guys- you will have more fights about money in this season than you are likely to have in the first five years of marriage. Oh, and the more you fight and withhold money, the less you will score. Is it worth it? No.

Do not have an initial discussion of budget without your mediator, I mean, wedding planner. It is their job to help you keep a cool head when you are searching the house randomly for prescription pills to manage your anxiety. There is no reason for this- we can all stay rational, right?

Wrong.

Know upfront, rational is a loose concept in the planning of a wedding. Why? This is the “most important day of your life.”- It is wrought with expectations, dreams, hopes, and EMOTION. Oh my gosh, there will be times when you look at your future wife and consider renting a small plane- though you don’t know how to fly- taking a few lessons, getting it up high enough to jump out with a parachute on somewhere over Paraguay- never to be seen again.

All parties coming to the table for the budget meeting need to have a dollar amount in mind. It is not the norm anymore for the parents of the bride to handle the entire expense. Feel free to contribute- strike that- determine you will contribute. Make sure he calls his parents to let them know there is a budget meeting if they would like to attend.

Traditionally, the groom’s parents are responsible for the rehearsal dinner- but again, things are changing. As the price to execute a wedding is going up- money is coming in from all branches of the family tree. If they decline to contribute- know they are standing on ceremony and don’t be offended. Unless they are filthy rich. Then, pouting and complaining is totally acceptable (just make sure you do it with your girlfriends- not CLEVER to put your soon to be husband in the middle).

Once the parties have commenced- pass out the Clonazipam and the wine (kidding- kind of) and get started. Everyone give your piece of paper with your contribution to the wedding planner and have her announce the budget to the group.

The Clonazipam will help you to keep that gasp in check- whether it’s a good or bad utterance. For the record, I’m totally kidding about the anti-anxiety medication. I’m just trying to manage your expectations regarding the potential stress.

It might be at this point, you and your fiancé come to terms with the reality of the wedding. You might either have to contribute more to your own budget or scale back considerably your notion of the perfect day.

Either way, the consultant is there to help. Let me tell you just a few ways s/he can be of service. Well connected in the wedding industry, your coordinator will be able to modify the date to maximize a budget that might have come in lower than expected. You must be open to this- there is nothing wrong with getting married on a Friday. I know what you are thinking- no one will be able to come because of work. Let me be clear- if you give your guests six months or more notice and they don’t come to your wedding- they don’t want to.

Another way a coordinator will be able to save you money is to steer you toward vendors who are professional, educated, experienced and well reputed and will give you a fantastic product without charging you for a NAME. It is not uncommon for wedding professionals to achieve celebrated status within their field. Once they do, it is also not uncommon for them to price gouge. We will talk more about that later- but the point is- the consultants know the difference and can guide you well.

There a many ways to acquire your dream wedding dress without paying $10,000. Cakes really are just flour and water. Because your consultant is the insider’s insider- they will help to manage your contracts with each vendor to make certain there are no hidden charges.

Simple advice- take it or leave it. Increase your budget by 30 percent before you begin or you might not make it to the alter for all the fighting. It is critical your expectations are reasonable. With a $60,000 budget, you can NOT spend $15,000 on a dress and $30,000 on décor and lighting unless you don’t care if you have the ceremony and reception in your backyard with Lunchables and punch, photographed with box cameras.

Now that you have a dollar amount- you can count on fighting over how the money is spent. It is important when setting the percentages for your budget that all parties contributing to the budget generate a list of priorities. You can be certain they will vary greatly.

One Clever way to manage the budget is to give yourself plenty of time to pay for it. Having it too quickly can cause major cash crunch related stress.

I have some tips from Mary Frances Hurt of DFW Events- she is So Very Clever. We will move beyond the budget next week. In the meantime, start thinking about what YOU plan to contribute- other than the grace of your presence.

x

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Special Place in Hell

As if to punctuate my post regarding society being desensitized to violence, a woman I went to high school with was murdered this past week. Here is the picture- can you tell me what’s wrong with it? A hard-working mother and wife making a living in a vicious Michigan economy- caring for patients in their own homes. In the evening, someone breaks into the home, kills both Carrie and her charge- steals Carrie’s car, which is found later by the police.

The list of injustices here is long. This waste of space could have picked a house where no one was home. He could have elected to rob the house (let me promise you in Detroit, Mich., no time would have been spent looking for a burglar who tied up two people and robbed the place) and go on his way- take the car. Instead, he turned a home invasion into a double homicide, literally robbing Carrie’s three children of a mother and her husband of a wife. I know no details of the patient for whom Carrie was caring- but I have no doubt there is loss there.

When did life become anything less than sacrosanct? We have an inalienable right to live. When did it become acceptable for someone to take that away from us for NO reason? At what point in that murderer’s life did he decide he had the right to take the life of another human being? How many had he taken before Carrie? Where is the OUTRAGE? This is human life we are talking about here. The one. The only (depending on your views of reincarnation). This is IT.

When I was in high school, a cheerleader from a neighboring town took her dog out for a walk in the wooded area next to her home as she did every morning before school. The last time she was able to do that- an 11-year-old boy who lived next door was lying in wait. He shot her- because he wondered what it would be like. This is a kid who spent most of his time out of school playing violent video games. Turns out he developed some blood lust. He ended her life. If that statement does not OUTRAGE you- you are desensitized to violence.

The very worst thing about the Natalie Holloway thing- other than her parents letting her go to a foreign country without teaching her you never leave a bar ALONE- is the way she died. According to the piece of garbage who “confessed”- he didn’t even know whether she was dead when he dumped her overboard. She could have just been passed out- having consumed so much alcohol she likely would not even have remembered he RAPED her. He didn’t have to kill her. He could have left her on the beach to wake in a pool of her own vomit. Murder? Why did he think that was OK? She was someone’s daughter!

That bastard John Couey who killed Jessica Lunsford- buried her ALIVE. The suffering that innocent little girl endured while gasping for her last breaths. Are you PISSED off yet? If you aren’t, you have a problem.

I have talked before about judgment and that it is wrong. I am not judging these people- I am ANGRY at their audacity. Rob a freaking house if you must because you are too stupid and lazy to be gainfully employed, but do NOT turn it into a homicide. You haven’t the right to deny children a parent or a parent a child, a sister a brother or anything else.

I am not talking about justifiable homicide- the act of protecting one’s self from one of the depraved miscreants above- and I honestly feel sympathy for anyone who is put in the position of having to defend themselves to the death of another- but better them.

Here is a clue- do not let your children watch violence on TV until they are at an age when they can comprehend what they are viewing. Don’t let it imprint upon them at such a young age- don’t allow them to become so accustomed to seeing murder and death it becomes acceptable- because it is NOT. It is not acceptable for the 11-year-old girl and her 15-year-old boyfriend to light her mother on fire in bed in Tampa last month. If they can do the crime, they can do the time. If a child possesses enough motivation to try to light her mother on fire- she is capable enough to be incarcerated.

Why is death so entertaining? "CSI," "CSI: Miami," "CSI: NY," "Law & Order: SVU" (special victims unit- a show devoted to the type of heinous crimes I am describing above), "Law & Order: Criminal Intent" ... at least with Dexter, he is murdering people who perpetrate unspeakable crimes. We need more vigilantes (a carefully constructed network of mothers)- people willing to put to death those who can NOT control their deviant impulses.

I could go ON and ON about how WRONG it is for stories like this to be blips on the local and national news. How wrong it is for someone who confesses to a heinous act against a child to have a trial? Death by firing squad or guaranteed murder in maximum security prison is the only REASONABLE option.

I might have to rethink my preoccupation with serial killers. Though, in all honesty, I am interested in real serial killers not the ones Hollywood creates. It doesn’t mean I’m not ANGRY about their crimes- especially those against children. Actually, those murdering pedophiles are of no interest to me other than my wish for their demise. In fact, I daydream about that special place in hell stoked just for them.

So, to Carrie’s family, my deepest sympathies. To the family of her patient, I am so very sorry for your loss. For my friends from high school grieving Carrie- rely on one another, remember the fun we all had together, and know that her children are resilient but will need support and kindness in the coming years.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Fire Away

I have received tons of questions regarding my “Fire When Ready” post about hot yoga. I want to go ahead and address some of the legitimate concerns. While my first instinct was to say “Go give it a try,” I realized in reading there is some apprehension to try something so foreign.

FANTASTIC. It gives me the opportunity to hit everyone ever the head with the Clever Mission. Do. That’s it. Get out there and Do. Don’t talk about it, don’t think about it- just get started trying new things. It can be intimidating- which was the impetus for the Clever concept. I wanted to give women enough information to try new things without being so intimidated. Enter the male realm with a little knowledge and you can be a tremendous force in any endeavor. I’m really proud of some people I need to mention here.

Tricia- thank you for coming to me for motivation and inspiration in your quest to restore your strength. I’m behind you all the way.

Cindy- you were as opposed to hot yoga as I was opposed to all forms of yoga and after me badgering you for two years- you did it. For those reading- she is now addicted, because it took less than five classes for her to realize the emotional and mental benefits of this practice.

Chad- bravo, you did a fantastic job in your first class and I can’t wait to share more experiences with you as you begin your journey to flexibility.

Marcus- you never cease to shock me with your athletic enthusiasm and prowess. You’re going to excel in yoga quickly. I admire your determination.

So, here are some answers to your concerns:

I recommend you wear as little as possible while feeling comfortable with your body. For women- a tight-fitting breathable tank top and tight-fitting shorts or Capri-length pants would be ideal. The reason I mention the fit is that you spend a fair amount of time with your legs spread and in awkward (literally) positions- you don’t want people seeing more than either of you want them to. Further, baggy clothes can be a distraction and once saturated with moisture can get heavy. You don’t want to have to reach down and hold your pants up while you are trying to concentrate. For men- a fitted tank top and gym shorts or a thigh-length pair of swimming trunks. I swear, if I never see another shirtless dude in a Speedo in yoga, I will consider myself privileged. I don’t like this look at the beach, the pool or the lake- I surely do not want to be trapped in a room with a sweaty guy in a far to brief swimsuit. I will tell both sexes to avoid ankle-length pants because you do have to grab your ankles periodically and grappling with the pant leg can be frustrating and distracting. Do not layer up- you will NOT have a problem “getting a sweat going.”

There seems to be major apprehension about the heat and many people have asked me if you get the same benefit without the heat. My honest answer is no. As I mentioned before, the heat is part of the protective component that lends itself to the “pain-free yoga” concept. Just as you stretch a bit before you run, the heat is a built-in soother for your muscles, helping to prevent you from injuring yourself. The joints respond quickly- easing the tension you might recognize during other work-outs. Now, if you are asking purely from a weight loss perspective- I cannot answer that, but it would be a good question to pose to one of the instructors. I can tell you- your body struggles to maintain its temperature. That translates to greater burning of calories. If you have found even sweating to be a detoxifying experience- you will never feel more detoxified than after a session of hot yoga. The heat and humidity conspire to purge your body of impurities.

Some of you who are approaching yoga as a method by which to lose weight- get to it. I had several people tell me they’d be too embarrassed to do it. I have a solution for your fear. Sunstone has begun to offer an introductory series in which you can learn the postures before you are in a classroom setting. Cindy attended this- found it very informative and gentle and was happy to find there were many experienced yoga devotees in the class looking for a tune-up on their form or some advanced instruction to improve their practice. I highly recommend this- it eliminates the intimidation factor. You're all in it for the same reason- to learn. Additionally, there are ALL body types you can imagine. Obese, eating-disorder thin, glorious dancer’s bodies, sturdy frames, baby weight, pregnant, old, young, bald and hairy (thankfully, I have not ever been near anyone who smells). The beauty here is that it’s a personal practice. I’ve stood next to people I know for 90 minutes and never noticed because I am so focused on my own practice. People don’t judge, they don’t critique, they aren’t looking at you- they don’t have the time, further, they might fall out of a pose. You will recognize immediately Sunstone offers a very supportive, nurturing and gentle atmosphere. The instructors are educated, experienced and keen at noticing when people might need a little adjustment in the pose to improve their form. I promise you- I’ve seen it all- see Speedo above.

As far as weight is concerned- you can’t not lose weight. If you are doing nothing or little right now- it would be impossible for your body to maintain it’s mass and weight as you are investing in the practice of hot yoga. I will not stipulate anything- as each person’s body responds to exercise differently- but imagine eating the way you do now and beginning to practice yoga. You will lose weight. It is a fact. Now, instead of eating more because you are burning so much- you find you eat less. It is advisable you do not eat two hours prior to practicing- and once you finish, you are so energized and exhausted, you tend not to be that hungry. Once you start seeing the benefits of this exercise- you will find yourself making better food choices. After all, why do all this if you are going to head straight for Whataburger after? It’s a personal choice and I will be discussing nutrition again soon so we can address it further then.

What really motivated Cindy was my story about allergy management, as she is plagued as well. I won’t guarantee yoga alleviated my debilitating allergies- but it would be one hell of a coincidence otherwise. I am keeping my fingers crossed for you all. Texas has some of the worst air quality in the country. If anything can help increase your quality of life- shouldn’t you try?

A common fear is flexibility- I see so few people who are truly flexible during class. Natalie is very flexible, but she is working on her strength and balance. There is something for everyone. I have NO flexibility. I battle it during every class, but my core strength increases every day and my balance comes and goes. Sometimes I look like a yogini and sometimes, a Weeble Wobble (if you don’t know what that is- you are YOUNG).

What do you need to bring? Eleven dollars. Ten is for the ten classes for $10 promotion Sunstone offers and the other dollar is for a huge bottle of cold water. They provide the mats, the towel and a locker room for your belongings. You will also be able to shower off following your practice and/or get ready for work.

Oh, and yes, there are a lot of men practicing hot yoga! Dusty, I really see improvements in your flexibility- you’re doing a great job. I can’t wait to see some of my own improvements- I guess that’s why they call it a practice. It’s usually a three-to-one ratio women to men- so don’t feel intimidated. Actually, Clever Guys, this is a great opportunity to meet women- but proceed with caution because most women don’t wear their wedding rings.

If you have more questions check out Sunstone Yoga.

OK, I am looking really forward to this week. I have some great stuff to talk about with you. Would love some more feedback at http://www.blogger.com/www.soveryclever.com I appreciate any feedback, but it’s better for me if you do your reading at the blog site and not on Facebook. I can keep track of the readership better. Thank you all for reading. It’s been really fun and as I’ve said before- “Isn’t fun the best thing to have?”

Warning- tomorrow will not be fun because I am PISSED OFF. Thursday will be dedicated to continuing our wedding planning information. In the meantime, if you want to research and get ready you can find some articles I wrote here.

x

Extract The Extract From The Cabinet

Kids are clever- there is no doubt. Not to be confused with Clever. If you have a clever child, you can bet they will best you at every turn in matters of technology, drugs, alcohol and sex.

I know I have some young readers, so I hesitate to give them ideas here- but I have a feeling most kids already know this and few parents do. Have you ever used lemon extract? To make, let’s say, lemon bars (not me, because I don’t bake or like sugar- but some of you do enjoy both baking and sugar) or lemon blah, blah, blah? Head to your kitchen and look at the bottle or box- what are you looking for? The alcohol content.

It will light your hair on fire- literally. With a poorly managed match or lighter and a bottle of extract- you could light your hair on fire because it is between 83 and 89 percent alcohol. Let me give you some perspective. Beer is generally below six percent (some higher). Champagne hovers at about 12 percent, wine, 12 percent, and hard liquor, 12 percent. Again, these are not hard and fast figures, but I hope you are tracking with me on this.

Lemon, vanilla and some other extracts are almost 180 proof. This is similar to everclear, or grain alcohol, which is about 76 percent alcohol or 151 proof. You remember everclear from college (or maybe you don't because you blacked out) or if you live in Austin- I believe Baby Acapulco’s makes their margaritas with everclear and you are allowed to order only one by restaurant policy.

What is the point to all this, you might wonder? Well, I am glad you asked. A VERY Clever Mommy I know stumbled onto a grocery bag full of bottles of lemon extract during a co-ed party she was hosting for her 17-year-old son. She and her Clever husband quickly consulted the Internet to find a connection between extract and teenagers- as it would take the average baker about 10 life times to use that much extract and she’d never seen her son in the kitchen.

The results were immediate and astounding. According to Urban Dictionary (again, something you should not rely on for ANYTHING other than to figure out what you kids are eating, drinking, smoking, ingesting or experimenting with behind your back) the definition of lemon extract is the strongest alcoholic beverage that an underage person can legally buy. It’s usually sold in 1 oz. bottles for about $4 each, so it’s not at all cheap. However, the alcohol content can be as high as 84% (168 proof), so it’s almost worth it. Also, it burns worse than any other alcoholic beverage going down. Don’t shoot it.

Great advice here. The "good" news is a young child could actually kill themselves for under $4- what a bargain. Or, if someone buys if for them- they can kill themselves for free via alcohol poisoning.

Honestly, I can’t thank the founders of this website enough for being a source of all things unsavory, ill-advised, scandalous, inappropriate, lethal, dangerous, raunchy and disgusting. It warms my soul young children are stumbling onto this site and learning terms like … well, never mind- visit it yourself.

So, Clever Mom then evaluated the guests and realized many of the girls were in fact inebriated- at least two passed out cold (sleeping), one puking (from cramps) and the other shaking uncontrollably (who the hell knows- could have been a drug and alcohol reaction). She confronted her son, he admitted knowledge of the activities, but said he didn’t plan on trying it.

I know a couple of things from being a teenager- saying you weren't going to try it is a lie. Saying you don't know who brought it into the home is a lie. Stipulating you don't know who already consumed or partook in the contraband is a lie. My parents were clear that whomever visited my home was my responsibility. So, if I’d have had knowledge kids were getting messed up on ANYTHING- and didn’t tell my parents- I’d have been toast.

I only had to screw that up once when a girlfriend and I decided to partake in some cherry liquor mixed with diet RC cola, which we enjoyed until we puked and passed out in it- NOT CLEVER. It did me no good to blame it on her for bringing it- I was responsible not only for her, but for my own idiocy. It was a long, boring summer being grounded. Still burns me she didn’t get grounded because she had three older sisters and her parents thought she’d “suffered enough” because we were miserably sick the next day.

The point it- kids are going to find a way to drink- but in this case, it is accessible, potentially very harmful as an entire bottle could kill a child and all the rage. Consider this a heads up for you Clever Parents- and to my lovely Clever Young Ladies- party’s over. Do NOT come home smelling strongly of vanilla, lemon or mint.

I want to applaud the Clever Parents in this scenario because they helped expose a rapidly growing, dangerous trend among children. The situation was handled well and no one died. The parents are still shocked because “These are good kids- from good homes. The girl that brought the bag of extract gets straight A's.”

Here is an alarming statement from a behavior modification therapist with whom I spoke: “The problem is, now it is cool to be bad. There are no reputations to preserve.” So, get with the program, parents. Just because your kid is maintaining a 4.0 GPA or serves as president of the student body doesn’t mean they aren’t engaging in dangerous and subversive behavior.

I wonder what would happen if schools installed video cameras in every classroom so parents could log on to watch their child periodically throughout the day. I bet there would be less behavioral problems at school and more parental accountability. If I had a dime for every time I heard a parent say- “Well, that just doesn’t sound like …”, “Well, he doesn’t act like that at home …” “I have a hard time believing it was my daughter who …” Wake up, parents- your kids live a totally different life at school. They are not necessarily the charming little darlings who delight your friends and family members with their manners and winsome attitudes. Don’t be so quick to assume the teacher “has it in” for your child. These are trained professionals and they have seen it ALL.

I was talking to a preschool teacher the other day and I said- “Can you tell which kids—“ and he finished for me “Are going to jail? Yes.” I laughed heartily because that wasn’t what I was going to ask- I was going to say, “Can you tell the kids who aren’t wired properly?” He laughed and said- “Oh, yeah. We have one kid I have to watch every second because he is sneaky and a little creepy.” Not what one wants to hear about a four year old.

The point is- of course our children are perfect- right? Wrong. They are human. They will make mistakes- but the more clever (cunning and artful) yours is, the more Clever (purposeful and intentional) you need to be as a parent. One wrong move and you could be the parent saying- “He’s a good kid, I don’t understand how this happened …” I just hope it’s not at his funeral or trial.

Ok, Clever Tribe, I am thinking of posting some Clever fiction for download. Chapter by chapter- free to my readers. Let me get some feedback on that. Tomorrow I'll answer some legitimate concerns some people interested in trying hot yoga have. Wednesday I need to scream at the top of my lungs and then on Thursday I have been asked to get my booty in gear on the wedding planning.

If you are planning a wedding or a friend is- you can find some valuable articles written by- you guessed it- ME at this hot link.

Domani-

X

Friday, January 22, 2010

Tone It Down

OK, Clever Tribe- it's pet peeve time. Anyone who knows me knows I have many of them. Here's one. People who are loud. It's not so much that I have sensitive ears- though I do. I am also averse to loud places and loud music (unless I love it) and live music (unless I love it)- it’s really more the fact it's a commentary on who the LOUD person really is.

I find that how loud one laughs or speaks (unless they have a hearing impairment) is in direct proportion to their self-importance. It’s really a simply formula. The louder you speak, the more certain you are everyone else is interested in what you are saying (self-importance). Not just the person to whom you are speaking, but literally everyone- in the room, in the bar, on the plane and my personal favorite- in the elevator.

I find a great deal of time I don’t want to listen to what the person speaking to me is saying, let alone some loud-mouthed dude at the next table prattling on about why he doesn’t consider it “cheating” (we’ve all heard the penetration argument). Further, I rarely find what women speak about when they are together (especially in a group) interesting- so the very last thing I want to hear is five of them speaking over one another- a cacophony of banality and vapidity.

You might be thinking- hmm, she tends to overhear often and comment upon subjects women discuss. TRUE and guess why? They freaking talk too loud. It’s not eavesdropping if you are being pummeled by someone else’s conversation, bitching or complaining.

An obvious extension of my annoyance is the person speaking too loud while they are on their cell phone. First of all, I have no interest in what you are saying- second of all, I am not impressed in the slightest- even if you are name-dropping or know Jerry Jones. Further, in some cases, I honestly believe there is no one on the other end of the line or- if there is-they have slipped into a boredom-induced coma, which is why you feel the need to speak so freaking loud.

Another all-time favorite- and really, it never gets old- the mildly attractive girl who loves to throw her head back and let out a long and offensively loud laugh. It will get attention- you know like the sound of gun fire, watching someone pass out cold or the smell of smoke in a crowded theater. In other words- startled, curious but not intrigued. My favorite part of this scenario is when she looks around to see who is looking. My guess is the only people looking are those who are so bored with the people they're with they are willing to trade down for obnoxious.

If the chick performing this circus act is hot- beware, she probably has a personality disorder and her unending need for attention will swiftly become your problem (are you familiar with the term "hot mess"?) Hot chicks rarely need to solicit attention with a hair toss or laugh that could rival a sonic boom.

The compounding incident here is the group of cackling women in a small space. I get it- girl time, but please realize there are other people in the room who are not interested in what is going on in your group. I'm a big fan of girl time- but when I get together with my girls, I'm there to visit with them not to raise the freaking roof. Don’t get me wrong, it might get a little raucous- it’s been known to happen- but we are not doing it for attention. I’m just asking you be aware and considerate to the other people.

Oh, and it has to be said- everyone recognizes an elevator pitch for what it is.

One last item- if someone does not speak the same language you do, speaking louder does not help them understand what you are saying. Make a note.

I really am not in a bad mood, but heading into the weekend I hope at least those people I encounter will have read this. I’ve got BIG plans for Saturday.

x

Thursday, January 21, 2010

A Top Shelf Goal- Not Margarita


OK, Clever Girls- it’s time to talk hockey again. What good are the rules if you don’t know the terminology? I will soften the blow here by adding a recipe at the bottom and pique your interest with some HOT HOT photos of the Dallas Stars.

Assist- the person who handles the puck prior to the person who actually scores the goal is credited with an assist. Only two people can be credited with assists per goal. Also, a credit given to the friend who helps you acquire a date with a totally hot dude who loves hockey.

Backchecking- when the players rush back to the defending zone when the opposing team is on the attack. This is similar to the last look you give in the mirror to make certain your skirt is not hung up on your panties or you don't have toilet paper hanging from your shoe.

Backhand shot- a shot taken using the back side of the blade of the hockey stick. This is much more exciting than that "compliment" from your mother-in-law.

Blind pass- a pass made from one player to another without looking. Hockey is so intuitive and the best players operate on instinct a great deal of the time. This is evidence of the faith they have their teammates are in position. Not to be confused with the "hail mary" at 1:58 a.m. just before the last guests are kicked out of the bar.

Boarding- hitting a player from behind and shoving them into the boards (walls surrounding the ice). This can go horribly wrong as it did with a cheap boarding incident on Kris Draper of the Red Wings by then Avalanche player Claude Lemeiux. Kris’ face was literally crushed. Different from getting on the plane.

Body checking- using the body to take a player to the ice or into the boards. We all do it- admit it! From a distance, up close- it is impossible not to do the once-over.

Breakaway- one of the most exciting plays in all of hockey and the perfect opportunity for players to showcase their skill. The player with possession of the puck has no defenders between he and the goal- other than the goalie, of course. You will see speed, agility, grace and calculation between the player and the goalie. Also a term that can be used to describe your release from a dismal interaction with the dude you have been trying to avoid all night. Cut it short next time by calling your gynecologist for "results." Hell, just the word gynecologist is enough to have guys squirming.

Check or checking- two methods by which to interrupt the play. With the body or the stick- it is legal to make contact with the play in possession of the puck or the player last to have possession. Yes, this is another name for the bill- which you should not be disinclined to pay occasionally.

Clearing the puck- a defenders method of getting the puck out of their own defending zone and into their attacking zone.

Crease- the blue ice in front of each net. Just get some Botox- everyone is doing it.

Cross bar- the horizontal bar at the top of the net. I know it sounds like football- but it is hockey.

Delayed offsides- when a player enters their attacking zone ahead of the puck without touching it. The call is delayed to see who touches the puck first.

Delayed penalty- if the team not in possession of the puck earns a penalty, the ref will raise his arm to indicate one will be called but does not stop the play until or if the offending team touches the puck.

Drop pass- another fascinating play. The player in possession of the puck literally drops it and another player picks it up.

Empty net goal or empty net- within the final two minutes of a game, the goaltender of the team that is behind might be pulled to allow an extra forward on the ice, thereby increasing the chance of scoring and tying the game. If the opposing team puts the puck in the empty net, it is an empty net goal. Not empty NEST- empty NET.

Five hole- the gap between a goaltender’s legs. I don't think there is a Clever way to turn this phrase.

Goal line- the line in front of the goal the puck must cross completely to be considered a goal.

Hand pass- just like it sounds- this is legal in one’s defensive zone but not in the neutral zone or attacking zone. Not advisable, unless you are on your third date.

Hat trick- three goals in one game. Different from a Gordie Howe Hat trick- one goal, one assist and one fight in one game. Count on Brenden Morrow to be a leader with this honor. This is not when you "jokingly" grab a guys hat from his head only to reveal his male-pattern baldness.

Odd man rush- when the offense enters the attacking zone and outnumbers the defenders in the zone. You seem him coming from a mile away- take yourself out of his path- quickly.

Screened shot- a shot the goalie cannot see due to it being obscured by other players.

Slapshot- other than the famous movie- this is a hard shot with a big set up. You do not want to be in front of it. The one you WANT to give your mother-in-law.

Top shelf- a goal that enters the top portion of the net. Yes, it is also a margarita.

Zamboni- is the huge thing that looks like a truck that prepares the ice for play. Not called a Lebowski.

OK, I have left out any terminology relating to penalties because it is a section all its own. We can put that off for a while because we have plenty of time left in the season. One question- what is up with my RED WINGS? ARRRRG. It should be stated that this is not a comprehensive list of terminology, as I have to leave you with some questions to ask- during commercials or breaks. Guys love to impart knowledge, so ask questions even if you know the answer. Imagine his surprise when you notice a feisty winger has already scored a goal and an assist and you say- "As soon as he whips someone's ass, he will have a Gordie Howe hat trick!"

Anyone hungry? I was craving a Northern classic- stuffed peppers- yum. I thought I would share this recipe- though there are a few twists.


What you need for stuffed peppers

Brown rice

2 large cans of crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce or diced tomatoes. If you can, get the ones that have Italian spices already added- it only helps to enhance the spices you add.

4 large red, yellow, orange or green peppers

Garlic powder

Dried oregano

2 lbs. ground beef- or for a twist on this recipe- ground lamb

Freshly grated parmesan (if you select the ground lamb route- purchase some feta crumbles)

Elective ingredients are- ½ a red onion, finely chopped; four cloves fresh garlic, minced; and 10 leaves of fresh basil, chopped.

OK- it's time to get your hands dirty.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Prepare two cups of brown rice

Place the ground beef in a large mixing bowl- add a generous amount of dried oregano and garlic powder, and a fair amount of salt. Add the cooked brown rice to the bowl and mix well. If you choose to use the elective ingredients- add them now.

Slice off just the top of the peppers- remove the core and clean. Slice off the bottom so as not going quite through the pepper but enough to create an almost flat bottom. Place the peppers upright in a casserole dish.

Place the tomato sauce in a pan. Add a generous amount of oregano, garlic powder and salt. Heat.

Once the sauce is warmed through- put a large spoonful into the bottom of each pepper- fill the peppers the rest of the way with the ground beef mixture. Leave room on the top for another spoon of tomato sauce- sprinkle with parmesan cheese. If you have gone the lamb route- top with feta crumbles instead of parmesan.

Pour a generous amount of the tomato sauce into the bottom of the casserole dish. Put peppers into the oven and bake at 350 for 45 minutes.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Older Women Are Hot- It's A Fact

Good afternoon, Clever Tribe. I attended an event last evening and learned something interesting. I thought I would share it with you because it proves a point I made weeks ago.

In discussions of the Cougar concept- again, recall the Urbandictionary.com definition of a Cougar? It was repellant and not at all flattering to women. I challenged the notion of labeling women- it happens too often. For example- former terms of status offered to women have now been derogated. Master and Mistress of the home- mistress is now a negative term used for a woman. Why is there not a name for the “other man?” We have a mistress- the term used to describe the “other woman,” but where is the male label?

Sir and Madam? We still say sir, but now madam is generally a negative word used to label a woman who runs a brothel or even a “ring” of prostitutes or escorts. Hmmm. Weird. We do, in this case, however, have the alternate terms for a man- pimp- but consider the fact the word madam used to be one of prestige and is no longer.

King and Queen is another great example- king still holds power, queen is a slap in the face to a woman and a slur referring to a flamboyant gay man.

The point to all of this is- why is there a negative word used to describe a woman who is attracted to younger men? Further, why in the definition of the label is there another word used that is also negative- prey.

So- GOOD NEWS. I met a very handsome boy of the tender age 30-ish. We got to talking because his hair is absolutely fabulous and so Bradley Cooper. During our discussion- he made an off-hand acknowledgement of a woman’s attractiveness and I was shocked because she was easily 10 years older than he. I laughed and said- you do realize she is my age- right? He confidently and resolutely told me he was totally into older women. Being so very curious as I am- I inquired.

He told me older women are appealing from a sexual standpoint because they don’t have to be led by the hand and taught anything. They generally are more experienced, eager and find him endlessly attractive (hmmm- this is not an unattractive guy in anyway). I am pretty sure most women would find him attractive- so I wondered what an older woman would do or say to make him feel he was more attractive than, say, a younger woman.

It hit me square in the face. Men are tired of pursuing. It is flattering to be pursued and older women are motivated and confident and done playing games. I am oversimplifying and do not mean “all older women” or “all younger women”- but it is true. With some maturity, we generally dispense with game playing and being coy. A woman in her 40s is likely to get to the heart of the matter. She is not looking for a “husband” or someone to father her children- been there, done that and not looking to go back.

It is a simple equation. A sweet spot for men. Hmmm. A sweet spot for women. Fantastic. I want to thank this VERY CLEVER and handsome boy (man) for enlightening me. Now, we still need a label for this curious set of men who enjoy the sweet spot and I say spot because it generally doesn’t last. Why?

Society has conditioned us to believe we date and then meet someone and get married- have a child or two and that is that. Society is being redefined, however, and while it has long been accepted for an older man to “chase” younger women or even “catch” them and marry them- it’s taking a while for a comfort level to be created for women. I'm not sure why- look at Cleopatra? She married a younger man- granted, it was her brother- but it was common in 69 B.C. So why didn't older women with younger men gain in popularity instead of lose appeal? I have some theories, but they might be a bit controversial. Hmmm.

I must say- these young men are So Very Clever indeed and know to avoid the “never married” and childless older woman- because she might have more in mind than fun and casual interaction. They thrive on divorced women with children who are old enough to be self-sufficient. This allows for more regular- uh, interaction, but no overnighters. It’s brilliant- really. So, I would like to officially request this label of Cougar be reworked. What you are really talking about is a wily, artful and Clever woman who knows what she wants, has the confidence to pursue and isn’t afraid to pursue a man. I have an idea- let’s call them- So Very Clever Women, and those cunning young men- So Very Clever Boys. See, there is no reason to be negative. Geez. So much negativity. It’s tiresome- really.

As a matter of fact- I am calling for a moratorium on negativity for the Clever Tribe. No more. Why? Because if the option is to interpret or approach a situation in one of two ways- the outcome of which is related to your approach- why would you pick negative over positive? You get what you give, and if you consistently give negativity, you will consistently get negativity. Change your tack- you are a vessel capable of such.

I have to leave you with a quote from "Arthur" (easily my favorite movie in history). The context is his future father-in-law, Burt Johnson, has just entered his own library. Arthur, who is on his second fifth of scotch asks if he’d like a drink.

“I don’t drink. No one in my family ever drinks. It impairs your judgment.”

Arthur looks confused for a moment and then says, “I don’t know. I can’t decide.”

Is that the funniest thing ever?

OK, enough from me today. I want to offer a heartfelt thanks to that Bradley Cooperesque boy from the party last night- he truly helped redefine the concept for me. Young men are not being “preyed upon”- they are waiting to be pursued. Another thing he alluded to was that So Very Clever Women like to take charge in the bedroom and how refreshing that was to be “wanted” in such a way. Hmmmm. Tres Sexy.

Oh, and if you are looking for some wedding planning tips in between my wedding planning posts, check me out here. This is a great resource whether or not you live in Dallas.

x

Monday, January 18, 2010

It Must Be Nice to be Perfect

I got to thinking today about the “Policy of Truth” by Depeche Mode. Before we move forward- as friends, you should know, I am a huge fan of this band and have been for so long I might date myself were I to adhere to the policy of truth. The reason I was thinking about this was because I was confronted with two scenarios in the past week where infidelity was at the core. While I was enjoying some tea last week, I overheard the following conversation.

“Well, Dan told me he had an affair.”

“What? Oh my God! Are you OK?”

“Not really.”

“Of course not. Geez. I’m so sorry.”

“Me, too. Now I have to do something.”

“What do you mean?”

“I don’t care. It doesn’t change the fact that I love him and want to be married to him. I suspected he was not faithful for a while- but confronting him seemed like the quickest way to end my marriage- and that is not what I want. So, now he feels like he’s destroyed our marriage and is moving out because he is unworthy of me.”

I had to stop listening there. I get what she is saying. He shifted the burden. He couldn’t handle it anymore- the guilt- and so he shared it with her. All he really did in relieving himself was to burden her.

There is a social psychologist at the University of Minnesota conducting some fascinating work on interpersonal relationships. I encountered her teachings while I was in college and some of her concepts have resonated all this time- and yes, it has been a loooong time. Her name is Ellen Bercheid and she is So Very Clever.

Most notably is the idea that sometimes a close relationship has to go through an upheaval of sorts in order for people to come back together. In some cases it’s an affair, or a death in the family- or even the threat of divorce.

Since we are talking about affairs- I’ll stay focused. In my estimation- in some relationships which have truly grown stagnant- an affair has been the inciting incident waking each other up and forcing them to take inventory of the relationship. Is it worthwhile? Is it salvageable? Do either of them want to salvage it?

Other times an affair can be one person’s way of forcing the hand of their partner. If they know an affair is unforgivable, entering into one, with the intention of “getting caught” or revealing the infidelity is a calculated way to begin the uncoupling process.

I wanted to let the woman above know this likely means he has uncoupled. If he loved his wife and wanted the marriage to stay intact he’d have fallen to his knees and begged forgiveness. If he regretted his actions and came to learn, through such a massive shake-up the value of his family, they’d work together to work through it.

However, instead he is moving out because he feels “unworthy” of her. This sounds made up to me. Heck, he might not even have had an affair- maybe he just “wanted out” and didn’t know how to get out. We discussed before that if someone wants to dissolve your relationship, whether it is a friendship or a partnership or a marriage, you need to exercise dignity and respect. In this case, I think a long talk would be worthwhile before she lets go of her marriage.

She has a right to ask why he had an affair. Frankly, it could enlighten her to some aspects of her “marital conduct”- perhaps she isn’t a good wife or the wife he expected her to be. Granted, it would have been a better idea to communicate such as opposed to having an affair. However, maybe he did communicate it to her. What if he had encouraged her for years to get back into the shape she was in when they married- what if she simply didn’t do it? She always found a reason not to lose the weight. Perhaps he’d been honest with her regarding his sex drive and attraction to her- not only had it diminished physically, but he was feeling hurt and taken for granted because she didn’t feel it necessary to stay appealing for him. Maybe he just wanted to have sex with someone who desired him and looked good to him.

Or, maybe he was panicking the way some do as they reach mid-life- wanted to prove himself attractive to others- still viable and appealing. This is not unusual for either sex- women have mid-life crises as well.

Maybe he cheated because his wife doesn’t champion him anymore, make him feel important and admire his accomplishments. Perhaps they no longer discuss their respective professional endeavors and have grown apart completely- finding comfort and solace in those a work who “understand” them.

Could he have come to learn they have nothing in common? People are dynamic- rarely are they unchanging- so, it is likely individuals will grow and change through out the course of any long-standing relationship. The option is to stay engaged or to invest elsewhere.

If you are married- think about the reality of marriage for a moment- is it better than you expected? Different? Not at all what you signed on for?

If you are not married- what are your expectations for marriage? I highly recommend sharing those as an engaged couple- because as you grow and change- so too will your desires and expectations for yourselves and each other. Further, you might think you know what type of parent you intend to be- and then BOOM- there is a little person and all of the forethought seems irrelevant- subjugated to emotion. This is truly one time when reason is trumped by emotion and it seems, well, reasonable.

The fact is- there are hundreds of reasons people are unfaithful. Another fact is that an affair is not the problem but a symptom of a problem in the marriage. It can be a catalyst to dig into the marriage and do the work you have been avoiding, ignoring or refusing to do. Often, the threat of losing the one you love is what it takes to wake up and be a better wife, mother, husband, father, son or friend.

The other scenario of which I became a part was during a party when a bunch of people I knew were “gossiping” about a woman who wasn’t there. Seems she cheated on her husband. Everyone was willing so indict her on the spot.

“Oh, poor Mark. What he must be going through. I can’t imagine- they have only been married for four years- and with a new baby.”

There was a ton of "tsk-tsking" and it was irritating me. With the crowd I was in- "tsk-tsking" is their way of saying- thank god it’s not me. I asked if anyone had talked to her and they all looked at me like I’d arrived fresh from a leper colony.

I stepped outside and called our friend- Tara.

“I can’t believe you are calling me.”

“Why?”

“Everyone knows.”

“So.”

“So?”

“Are you OK?”

“No.” She dissolved into tears and I waited many long moments while she tried and failed to communicate. I offered to meet her for a glass of wine and she agreed.

During our conversation I learned things about her marriage no one knew. Things she had protected for him and for them as his business and their livelihood would have been affected greatly. It would seem he is extremely mentally ill and has been most of his life. Since she met him, he’d been highly medicated and was not honest about his condition. His family was not honest about it. Her pregnancy in some way derailed him and he’d gone off his medication completely, leaving her to share her home and her life with someone she didn’t know.

For two years she battled with him to get help, to go back on his medication. She saw a therapist herself and researched his illness intently. Having gone off his medication, he could not sustain his job and within a couple of years, they had burned through their entire savings and he’d been put on medical leave. As with many mental conditions- self medication is exactly what the patient orders- so, he began the spiral. She was lonely and afraid for herself and her child. She confident in no one as she tried to maintain the appearance of normalcy.

During a long visit with her father while her husband was in a residential treatment center- she was reunited with her first love. She tried to fight the urge to spend time with him, but the fact was- he seemed safe. As they tend to, one thing led to another. Now, she has decided to stay with her husband as they have a young son and he has promised to remain in treatment and continue his medication.

HOWEVER. Her faith, love and trust has been damaged as well as her respect for him as a man, a husband and a father. She struggled mightily with her infidelity and finally told him. After much thought and with a clearer mind,he determined as long as she abandoned the affair- he would consider it the past. She is not sure she can restore her feelings for her husband- or let go the feelings for her lover.

Now, does this sound like a situation anyone outside the marriage should be judging or commenting on? NO. Again, and I brought it up when we talked about Tiger- it’s really no one else’s business. So, in this case- the abuse and horror Tara had endured for four years is now compounded by her “friends” not only gossiping about her, but judging her and turning on her. Unacceptable.

All that to say this: If one of your friends seems to have done something with which you don't agree- go to them, talk to them. It might turn out you agree with them after all. The measure of the friend you are is the friend you are when things fall apart. Don't be a fair-weather friend. NOT CLEVER.

Ok, are we done with the holidays for a while? Geez. Feel like I never get anything done. We do need to cover some more wedding planning- as the bulk of couples get engaged between November 1 and February 14. I want to make sure you are ready to begin.

I'd like to start an MMA series, discuss kettlebells and check in with the NHL and the NBA. I suppose I should weigh in on yet another steroid controversy and see what is happening with Mike Leach.


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