Friday, August 31, 2012

Summertime Memories OR 1 Bourbon, 1 Scotch & 1 Beer...

Now that summer's over (at least as it pertains to being out of school), I thought I'd take a few minutes to reminisce about the past few months.  Those carefree, lazy days of sipping cold lemonade... okay, okay, who am I kidding?  All of you working parents out there know as well as I do that those Country Time Lemonade commericials, while sweetly nostalgic, are for the most part a load of... fantasy.  We still have to go into the office everyday even when our kids throw their backpacks to the bottom of the stairs, stay up late and sleep in later.  We've got to hire sitters, plan camps, juggle carpools and hope for the best.

But I digress.  Despite the added stress, and screaming hot temperatures these last few months have given us, hopefully you've all made a few summer memories to take with you into the cooler, homework-laden days ahead.  Which brings me back to the liquor that titles this blog post.  One Bourbon. One Scotch. And One Beer (you know the tune).  It's how I describe one of my favorite weekend memories from this summer.  Okay, not all three.  But the bourbon's true enough....

Family friends, floating, swimming, dancing, talking, laughing.  What a fantastic weekend!  I headed down to our family lake house on a Saturday morning to visit with dear friends (family, really) from Atlanta.  We climbed aboard the boat and made our way to the middle of the lake, dropped anchor and jumped in to cool off and splash around.  When I realized I forgot the rafts I'd wanted to lie on, my cousin Maren and I decided we could swim all the way back to the house to get them.  It was about a mile, so we took along a life jacket, just in case.  We made it to the house, climbed out among the muck, mud and seaweed at the dock and ran all the way up the steep steps to the house to grab the rafts (still in their package).  Ran back down the steps, untied one of the kayaks and jumped in, the two of us trying to row, our legs hanging over the side.  Each attempt had us floating in circles, it took us about a 1/4 mile to figure out how to work as a team, "left, right, left, left!" we'd yell, trying to stay in sync, and then we'd dissolve in a fit of laughter that had us turning in another wide circle.  Neither one of us is ever going to make a rowing team, that's for sure.  But I'm thinking we could make an olympic swimming team - we made record time!

That night, we headed down to the stables for an outdoor motown concert.  Hundreds of people hanging out on blankets or in lawn chairs.  As the sun set, and the stars hung low overhead, the music heated up and people left their seats to join the throngs of dancers around the stage.  When the first notes of "My Girl" began, my dad took my hand and we danced. My dad is still my favorite person to slow dance with.  Then Carmen and I moved a few chairs and danced right at our seats to all the oldies. I had a crowd doing the "sprinkler" the "grocery cart" and the "lawn mower" ... at one point we were laughing so hard we fell to the ground (although I think the wine may have had something to do with that).

"So what about the bourbon," you ask?  Ah, well, that came later.  With the cigar.

Your Turn: What's one of your favorite memories from this summer? 

Friday, August 24, 2012

Raising Jackson: School Days and Consequences

It's that time of year again.  Sharpened pencils, pristine notebooks, folders and books with not so much as a crease.  Growing up, I loved this time of year.  Still do.  But with Jack, I know the change isn't easy.  Summers are much more calm around our house.  There are less demands on his time, fewer rules, not as much responsibility.  So, when school starts, and suddenly he's got to get to bed on time, wake up on time, get homework done...well, it's not an easy transition.

Here's a question for ya:  How long does it take to get the first call from a teacher?
Answer: ummm... about 6 hours

Yep, I got a call on the very first day.  This is not to say that Jack is a bad kid.  Quite to the contrary.  He's incredibly dynamic: kind, funny, outgoing, laid back, loves to laugh, stands up for those who can't (or don't) stand up for themselves.  He just doesn't like to be told what to do.  But, hey, that's life, right?  Best get used to it, kid.  I know, I know... but it's not as simple as it sounds.  According to his teacher, Jack was "wound up" in her class that first afternoon.  Unfocused, and distracted the entire class.  For the entire hour.  Hmmm....

When Jack got home after school, I asked him how his day went.  "Fine," (oh, I can just see all you parents nodding your heads right now - you get the same answer, right?).  Jack said "fine" the day a kid pushed him on the bus.  He said "fine" the day he stepped in and protected a classmate from a group of girls who had surrounded her and were teasing and pushing her.
But, as parents, we need to ask deeper questions.  Or ask them in a different way.  I happened to ask Jack that day what he had for lunch.  "Nothing, I wasn't hungry," he shrugged at me.  Hmmm... You ate nothing? I asked.  "Well, I had a Gatorade."  Ah.  Gatorade.  So, he'd had about 14 grams of sugar on an empty stomach. No wonder he was hyper in his afternoon class.

Ask your kids: How have you taken care of yourself today?  If we can teach them to take a look back at their day, evaluate it a little, maybe they will begin to see how their actions affect them in other areas.

But I digress.  It was a rough first couple week.  Jack was quick to anger.  Couldn't find half his uniform for his first outdoor soccer game of the season.  Was so angry that he took a hockey stick to the white, six panel door of his bedroom.  Oh yes, he did.  So... I did what any good parent would do... I removed the door.  I also had his cell phone turned off.  The next day, he punched a hole in the wall of my office.  My first thought was:  I hope he's not getting sick (he used to get like this right before he came down with a flu).  The thought entered and exited my mind within seconds.  The next morning, he started throwing up.  See?  There is usually a cause for their actions.  Doesn't make them right, but it helps to know there is a reason.

Jack will get his phone back when he's purchased the materials and fixed the hole in the wall.  He's planning on doing that after school today.  This punishment is two fold:
1. It fits the crime.
And B. He'll learn how to fix drywall - a good skill for anyone to learn, I think.

Your turn: Please share, won't you? How have you learned to read into your kids' behaviors? And what lessons do you use to teach them?

Friday, August 10, 2012

Everyone's a writer

Stop with me for a moment and look at the all the channels (beyond in-person, of course) we have at our disposal in which to communicate with one another: facebook, twitter, linkedin, foursquare, email, youtube, a phone call, a text, face time, skype, even letters written and sent via snail mail (a lost art, for sure).

With the advent of social media and especially blogs, everyone's a writer.  Everyone has a voice.  I guess that's a good thing.  But you wouldn't become a doctor just because someone gave you an office in which to practice, would you?  You'd need the right experience, the right training, the correct tools.  And even if you do have the latest, greatest tools, you'd have to know the correct way in which to use them, right?  Right.

Companies need writers.  Brands need writers.  Newspapers, magazines, ad agencies... they all need writers.  Which is why authors have editors.  To correct grammar, check spelling and ensure they  "write tight."  Not everyone is a writer, for sure.  But, if you're going to rely on the written form of communication, keep in mind two things:

1. People think/read/see/hear differently.
Case in point: a professor wrote the following sentence on the board:
"Woman without her man is nothing" and asked his class to punctuate it.
Half the class wrote this:
Woman: without her, man is nothing.

The other half wrote:
Woman, without her man, is nothing.


And #2. Grammatical faux pas can create major misunderstandings...


But I digress. Communication is vital.  To relationships. To business. To life. Not everyone is blessed with this ability.  Some excel at verbal communication, some at written, and still others speak volumes with their body language.  But I do believe that most (not all, most) problems are the result of poor communication.  Maybe it's Mars vs. Venus.  Maybe it's just lost in translation.  But if we can realize that, and learn to work with it, instead of fighting it, maybe there'd be a lot fewer fights in the first place.  More understanding.  And that's cool, no?

Happy Writing!