Re-launched, but still slightly under construction. :-)

Monday, August 03, 2015

Thanks, Obama

Monday, August 03, 2015 By

AUGUSTA, GA. - We're in the Children's Hospital of Georgia, waiting for Emerson's surgery to be completed. The Disney Channel is playing in the waiting room. Emerson's grandfather turns to me and says, "Huh. That actress favors Michelle Obama."

I look: "That IS Michelle Obama."

"Oh. I was wondering how they found an actress who looked so much like her."

Saturday, August 01, 2015

Kids are weird

Saturday, August 01, 2015 By

Emerson: "My stomach hurts."


Emerson: "Owwwww! Jackson! That hurt! Geeez, you punched my arm!"

Jackson: "Yeah, but does your stomach hurt?"

Emerson: ".... no...?"

Jackson: "Okay, you're welcome."

Emerson: "Huh. That's interesting."

Jackson: "Yeah."

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Cinderella's slippers too small for the ball - and she's too big for her britches

Wednesday, July 15, 2015 By

AUGUSTA, GA - As Emerson gets older, she gets more opinionated about what she wears. I've never been a chevron-dress-and-hair-bow kind of mom. I'd rather she DID get dirty while playing. I don't want to give her any reason not to enjoy her childhood. Even so, as she grows, she has very specific opinions, and I'm usually fine with her doing whatever she wants, so long as it's age/temperature/functionally appropriate. But this morning was a trial.

Emerson wanted to wear short black booties with her capri jeans and sparkly dog t-shirt. It did not go, and within some rather expansive parameters, I do not care about that. But the booties have short little-girl heels, so she feels pretty and grown-up when she wears them.

"Em, I don't think those shoes are the best choice. Don't you want a pair you can run around in?"

"I like these boots."

"I know. But they're not really for playing. Do they even still fit?"

"We don't even have a playground at this camp. We're inside all day."

"I bet you run around in the fellowship hall."

"Mom. They're fine. Really."

[disapproving look] "...okay."

We got in the car and I had further second thoughts. "Em, do you want to grab a pair of shoes to put in your bag just in case you need them?"

"Mom, it's ffiiiiiiiiiiiiiiine-uh! Let's just GO!"

I side-eye her, but it is Friday and I am Picking My Battles. "Okay."

She curls up on the front seat with my phone and her headphones, listening to Tobuscus and Markiplier on Spotify. I try to engage her in a rousing sing-a-long to "Bohemian Rhapsody," to no avail. She just frowns and scootches away from me. Sigh. Fine. I can sing it by myself. ALL THE PARTS.

We get to the church and she grumbles her way out of the car.

"Em, honey... what's wrong?"




Aw, hell, naw.

I fold her into a hug that she returns by standing stick straight, arms at her side, face turned defiantly away from me. It was so awkwardly hilarious that I grin and held it a few extra awkward moments. But she knows better than to pull away or I'll do my Hunchback of Notre Dame impression behind her all the way inside, no matter who is watching. I have no shame.

I bent down in front of her and asked in Monster Voice, "Emmie sad?"

I saw the corner of her mouth twitch.

"Emmie mad?"


"Monstah Emmie mad at Mommie Monstah?"

"No-uhhh!" she whined. But failed to hide a grin.

"Monstah Mommie sowwy. Monstah Mommie lub Emmie Monstah." I gently bit her forehead. For those who aren't familiar with the sociology of monsters, that's a Monster Kiss.

She giggled and then sighed. "Emmie Monstah angry at... Emmie."

"Why Emmie Monstah haz a angry?"

She dropped Monster Voice. "Because these boots are really hurting my feet! And I didn't even listen to you, and now I have to wear them ALL DAY!"

I straightened and took her gently by her shoulders: "There's another pair of shoes in the car."

"No, there's ISN'T," she whined.

I opened the door back up, reached inside, and TADAAAA! Extra pair of shoes.

Monstah Mommy no fool. Monstah Mommy know what happen. Monstah feet very sensitive.

We walked inside, got a couple of band-aids from the office, and put on her socks and shoes.

"Thanks, Mom. You're the best mommy ever."

We hugged and said good-bye in Monster Voice.

And I floated back to my car on a cloud of self-righteousness.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Vampires rising in Augusta

Monday, July 13, 2015 By

Augusta, GA - Emerson and I are driving home when we pass the Shepeard Community Blood Center's Bloodmobile.

"Haha!" she laughs. "Bloodmobile. What is that even for?"

"Homeless vampires," I said. "They have to take the blood to them during the day because they can't go out in the sun.

I don't think she believed me, but I could see the wheels spinning in her head. We didn't talk about it again, but I am dying to see what she cooks up in that awesome little brain of hers.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Research shows tweens' speech patterns are remarkably similar to braying donkeys

Friday, July 10, 2015 By

AUGUSTA, GA - Emerson has three volumes: yelling, yelling louder, and asleep. Her tween vocal stylings really drive home to me why other parebts get their tweens cell phones: to save what little hearing us old folks have left.

One night, she was reading to me from her book of useless and annoying fact lists. Who is the Greek god of fertility and crops? WHO CARES?! (Note to self: speak with this Demeter character about my herb garden). And for those who do care, how many want to to learn it by having it shouted in their right ear while reading before bed? No one. What? ...I said, NO ONE! Here's your ear trumpet, grandma. There's a good chap.

Anyway. One night she was shouting useless facts in my ear at 8:45 p.m., and my repeated gentle reminders were completely ineffectual. I finally snapped.

"Emerson, pleeeaase stop yelling. You are killing me. You sound like Foghorn Leghorn."

She blinked at me. "Who's that?"

Ugh. Can someone tell me where to buy an ear trumpet?

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Doctor Who, Why and How

Tuesday, July 07, 2015 By

AUGUSTA, GA. - C.B. walked into my office.

"So, tell Emerson that I watched like 5 episodes of Doctor Who."


"It's the worst show ever."

"Right?! It's SO BAD."

"I don't understand why it's so popular."

"And it's been on for like FIFTY... YEARS."

"I know. It's ridiculous."

"It is."

"I think the only thing worse is True Blood."



"Okay, no. Get out of my office."

Friday, June 26, 2015

Now hiring out my child for motivational speaking opportunities

Friday, June 26, 2015 By

AUGUSTA, GA. - It had been a long day at work, and it was only just barely after lunch. I was driving Emerson and her BFF, Kayla, back to the university with me, where they'd been and helped and behaved themselves all day. But I'd only gotten 4 hours sleep the night before, and I had needed to be on campus by 6:45 a.m., so I was dragging.

We sat in the air conditioning in the car while I tried to get myself back in gear.




Yeah, no. It wasn't happening.

"Ugh, I need a hype man!" I exclaimed. "I need to get hyped up for the rest of the day."

Emerson sprang forward in the backseat: "You can DO this, mama. Just ONE MORE HOUR. You are SMART. Everybody LIKES you. You are IMPORTANT, and EVERYBODY KNOWS it. You can do this!"

Tony Robbins, look out.

She kept it up as we walked back in the building. By the time we got back to my office, I was grinning and felt great. I'm thinking of renting her out as Ultimate Hype Whoa-man.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

I didn't think I'd ever get remarried, but...

Wednesday, June 24, 2015 By

AUGUSTA, GA. - I'm manning a table with my coworkers, and the sun is in my eyes.

"Ugh, it's burning my face off," I grumble.

"You can move the pop-up banner to block the sun," M. comments.

But I only got four hours of sleep last night, and it's honestly less effort to let my face melt.

"Eh, that would require moving," I joke.

He grins, gets up, and slides it over to block my face from the death rays turning it into Jello: "Is that a subtle hint that I should do it for you?"

"No," I laugh. "I just didn't get enough sleep last night."

"Geez, it's like being married," he chuckles.

The sun is still in my eyes. 

I grin: "Well, then, here's where I tell you you're not good enough."

I move the banner over another foot, then sit back down.

"Yep," he deadpans. "We're officially married."

B. stands up. "See you. I'm going back upstairs."

"Wish I could go with you," M. says.

I give him a faux glare: "But now we have to have an argument. About your mother."

"Well, I wouldn't want to miss that."

Monday, June 15, 2015

On apologies and forgiveness

Monday, June 15, 2015 By

AUGUSTA, GA. - Of all the lessons I try to teach Emerson, I think the most powerful is how to give and to accept apologies and offer forgiveness.

Whether it is for a minor offense ("I'm sorry I dropped that glass.") or a major snafu ("I am sorry I forgot our anniversary."), I try really hard to model and to encourage what it takes to give and accept apologies and try to forgive.

On apologies

Apologies can be a beautiful thing. I'm not talking about the begrudging "SOR-RY!" that you might get from a playground bully when he or she is forced to apologize by a teacher. Or the snarky "Oh, sorry..." you might receive from that adult Regina George wanna-be who always manages to put other people's children down while exalting her own children. Or even the "sorry, sorry" that we mutter as reflex whenever we pass to closely someone on a crowded street.

Sincere apologies are really an amazing human response. With just a few words - that we developed over several millenia (no big deal, right?) and the appropriate non-verbal cues, we have the power to heal other people of actual wounds that we have inflicted. They may not be physical wounds, but they're no less real. Apologies can temper humiliation, lessen grudges, eliminate vengeance, and inspire forgiveness. They can assuage guilt, reduce shame, and improve self-esteem. They can repair a broken relationship, knit a marital rift, and mend a torn friendship.

With that much power, it's no wonder they don't come easily. And it's not surprising that it demands a lot from a person.
  • First, an apology requires a person to have the self-awareness to realize that you have committed an offense against another person. That's a level of self-reflection that a lot of people do not possess.
  • Second, an apology requires a person to take ownership of the wrong and accept the consequences of their behavior.
  • Third, an apology is best served with some kind of restitution - some way to right the wrong that was perpetrated. 
That's a lot. So when someone apologizes, it's important to be gracious. Because every apology requires a certain display of humility. The person apologizing is prostrating themselves before you, to an extent.

But when the quality of your character matters to you, and you care about the people you have hurt, a sincere apology is usually worth it. And sincerity cannot be faked. But many people will try, and it's in your best interests to learn how to recognize a person who is insincere in his or her apology in some way. Perhaps he or she is seeking your approval, but not truly remorseful. Perhaps he or she is simply sorry for getting caught, and not for the behavior. Perhaps they face social pressure to mend the relationship. Perhaps they feel guilty, but are apologizing for themselves, and not for you.

The issue that we often run into is that accepting an apology is expected, once it is offered. Even a mere suggestion of contrition brings to bear a social code wherein the wounded party is required to immediately forgive the offending party.

But what if the apology is insincere? What if the apology is given to regain social status, for example? There are ways to tell.

A person offering an insincere apology will toy with the right words, but ultimately insist on including the wounded party in the blame. It is sociopathic behavior, but if the person you're dealing with was fixed with a strong moral center, he or she likely wouldn't have done something for which an apology is necessary. He or she will:

  • Remind you of your supposed moral responsibility to accept his or her apology.
  • Will accuse you of similar behavior to deflect from their offense, or find a reason to blame you in some way.
  • Will be dishonest in relating the facts of the offense leading up to the apology.
  • Will express sympathy and concern for you, but not regret or remorse for the wrong.
  • Will talk more about their own situation to garner sympathy for themselves, break down your barrier to forgiveness and manipulate you into their good graces or control again.
So how do you know if an apology is sincere? Well, you can carry around the checklists above, but that's not very practical. In general, if you feel worse after an apology, it's probably not sincere. And you have to accept that the person speaking to you is not actually sorry, and there is nothing you can do to change that. What you have to do is decide if this person is worthy of being in your life. How big was the offense? What were the motivations behind it? How likely is it to happen again? Is this a first offense or a repeating pattern? And only you can answer those questions.

On forgiveness 

How important is it to forgive someone for an offense?

Forgiveness is central to the Christian tradition, and therefore it's a common theme in American culture. The Bible has a lot to say on the subject, but forgiveness is generally defined as an act of mercy and grace on the part of the wronged. It is interesting to note that English translations lack the nuance of the original languages - Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic - and there are scholars who differ on the translation of the word.

From a secular standpoint, most people turn to the seeming wisdom of Hannah Arendt. In "The Human Condition," she argued that forgiveness is a necessary achievement. That the opposite of forgiveness is punishment: Without forgiveness, we would be forever "confined to one single deed from which we could never recover; we would remain the victims of its consequences forever, not unlike the sorcerer's apprentice who lacked the magic formula to break the spell."

I'm not a religious or philosophical leader. Yet I say forgiveness is ideal, but unnecessary. It is a choice we make based on who we want to be - and it's important to make the distinction between forgiving someone and trusting someone.

It is possible to forgive someone and choose to trust him or her again.

It is also possible to forgive someone and choose not to trust that person again.

It is possible forgive someone and believe that he or she should still be punished for a crime.

It is also possible to forgive an offense too quickly or too readily - and thus offer forgiveness as in-authentically as any insincere apology, because true forgiveness is a process.

But it is also possible to choose not to forgive someone, and still lead a happy, progressive life. To interact with them in a professional or friendly way. In other words, to choose not to excuse an offender's behavior in any way, but to also refuse to let the offender's behavior dictate your own.

The common wisdom is that people who forgive are healthier and more whole, and that people who do not forgive are angry, bitter and live in the past. But common wisdom can also be terribly wrong. The narrative of necessary forgiveness assumes that an offender's behavior forever dictates the wronged person's behavior and even self-actualization. It assumes a childish game of tit-for-tat, wherein wherein the wronged person spews venom, attempts retribution, or fixates on the wrong or the offender.

And that can sometimes happen. We all know people like that. But that is not the case for all people. There are those who live by moral and ethical guidelines and do not make quid pro quo choices on how to behave towards other people. There exist people who can choose not to forgive an offender, and yet go about their days indifferent to schadenfreude. Those people practice acceptance over forgiveness.

So to accept an apology, or not? To forgive, or not to forgive? That is the question. Except it's really not. The real question is: Who is your offender, and who are you? Who do you want to be?

And only you can answer that.

Friday, May 22, 2015

The best way to welcome new employees

Friday, May 22, 2015 By

AUGUSTA, GA. - Recently, I was using the microwave in a different office. I was not familiar with this machine, and when I pushed the start button ... and the RADIO came on. I spun around looking for the source of the noise, and a professor came out of his office, to see me looking around in the air for the magical surprise radio. Simultaneously, we realized it was coming from the microwave at the same time.

"That's weird," he said. And we both laughed.

AND THEN I SAW IT. The button marked "voice record."

"What the hell does this do?" I asked.

"It probably lets you record a message when so it speaks instead of beeping when your food is done," he said.

So we tried it, but it didn't work that way. We supposed that it is probably a relic of the pre-cell-phone days, when people would leave messages for each other instead of texting.

Knowing the next person to discover this button would be equally surprised, I recorded "DON'T TOUCH THIS BUTTON!"

We have new faculty starting soon. I am looking forward to this.