Friday, March 30, 2012

I don't do mornings

It's no surprise to family or friends that the cartoon character Garfield and I share a common trait -- we don't do mornings.

I was so bad growing up that my mom used to bring me breakfast in bed until Dad decided she was spoiling me and started waking me up by yanking the cover as hard as he could, which inevitably would unroll me onto the floor. Not pleasant, but I was certainly awake.

Today, I don't have my mom living with me to bring me my breakfast and provide a slow, gentle wakeup, nor my dad to force me out of bed. Instead, I have my own free will. If you've ever studied the Bible, you know the dilemma that lies within that.

I've been trying for a year to get up around 5:45 so I can be ready by the time the kids wake up. I even have visions of them bounding down the stairs to the smell of bacon frying and sitting down at a perfectly set table. In my mind, I see a nice vase of fresh flowers on the table because, of course, I had time to go out and clip a few from my rose bed. In my imagination, I forget that the dog ate my rose bushes, thorns and all. I see only the thrill of being the early bird catching the proverbial worm. Alas, another time change has rolled around and that has proven to be but a dream.

I have tried every trick that I know to reach my goal. I've announced to my family numerous times that I'm going to get up early. Sometimes I even tell the kids, "I'll probably be gone to work way before you get up. I'll leave you some homemade biscuits on the counter."

"Right, see you in the morning, Mom," they say. I think it was the homemade biscuit part that gave me away.

I moved my alarm clock across the room thinking that would get me out of bed. It does -- for about 30 seconds -- and then I jump right back in it. In order to compensate for this routine, I set my clock 30 minutes earlier. The end result? I sleep an hour later.

Next, I decided I needed to go to bed earlier. As soon as I tucked the kids into bed at 9, I'd come downstairs and announce dramatically to my husband, "I'm going to bed now because you know I have to get up really early in the morning. In fact, I'll probably be gone by the time you get up. I'll leave some biscuits out."

To which, he replied, "See you in the morning."

And, he did, minus the biscuits.

Obviously, losing an hour recently did not help me on my quest to become an early riser. What's worse is I can't figure out how to change the time in my car. I rush around tossing pop tarts to the kids and searching for my missing heel and signing last minute permission slips, until I finally slide behind the wheel and there the clock sits -- mocking me. A mere week ago, I would have been early.

So, as I sit typing this column at 10:45 p.m., I have finally concluded: I am not a morning person. Perhaps, as Garfield put it, I would be -- if it started at noon.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Face to face with the iphone

Face to face with the iPhoneI recently had lunch with my eldest child, who is now, choke, a grown woman. She was telling me all about college life and her new home when she leaned in close and whispered, "I have a landline now."

"Well, it's nothing to be ashamed of," I said.

But, to a child who has grown up surrounded by technology, I guess it is. I'm sure by the time my other two children reach her age, landlines will be close to obsolete. Frankly, I'm not sure why we even have one. The only calls we seem to get are from politicians and annoying non-profits. Not to seem heartless, but non-profits would be much better off soliciting for money through the mail instead of calling during dinner, early morning and dozens of times in between.

At one point, I got so frustrated with a certain non-profit that has "hope" in its name that I told the person on the other end of the line, "There's no hope in my ever giving you any money!"

But I digress. In the next few days I will be the owner of one of the most important pieces of technology out there -- the iPhone. Yes, I know it's old news, and I'm already behind the curve. I know this because I don't have one. I don't think people who own them realize how they act with them. Most people I know who have one rarely take it out of their hands. In fact, I've often wondered if they've become one with it, kind of like Doc Ock and his metal arms in Spiderman.

Obviously, there is something wonderful and addicting about this coveted piece of technology, and I want to be a part of it. I realized that I was missing out not long ago when I went on a girls' night out. There was a lull in conversation, and I looked up, and every single person (sans moi, of course) was on her iPhone, smiling and giggling like they were sharing some sort of inside joke. Not to be left out, I picked up my dinosaur of a phone and pretended to type in some sort of message. At least now I know how to text. When I first got it last year, I pulled it out at work, poised my fingers over the tiny keyboard and asked my manager, who just so happened to be walking by, "How do you type on this?" Her polite response was, "I think you use your thumbs."

Ooooh, you use the thumbs.

Now, I'm about to dive headfirst into the world of Apple in which I'm sure to make a fool of myself (again). My younger daughter recently asked my permission to mention me in a paper she was working on for school. Since I write about them in my column, I figured there was only one answer to this, "Sure, but I want to read it first!"

Her main idea was basically how smart technology leads to poorer communication. Her example? Moi.

Her paper went something like this: "Even though my mom is a specialist in communication, she can barely operate her phone ..."

Sigh. Well, at least I didn't raise a liar.

I did agree with her thesis, however. Nowadays, we text, email, facebook, instant message, but do we really talk? Although I'm about to jump on the bandwagon, I can't help but wonder if a better idea is for us to all put down our phones and give face to face a try.

There's definitely hope for that.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Leigh or Lady Gaga

I've spent several hours prepping for one of the biggest interviews of my life. I've fretted over what to say and what to wear, and prayed that I wouldn't do anything embarrassing -- to my son.

Yes, it's his friend who will be conducting the interview. I'm the special guest this week for the school news program, and I don't think I've ever been more nervous. And my son's not helping.

"We had a writer come work with us in our classroom all this week," he said.

"Oh, a writer like me?"

"No, a real book writer."


"I bet she doesn't write a weekly column," my husband said, helpfully.

"Yes," I agreed. "I'd like to see her come up with a topic each week. That reminds me, I need to come up with a topic this week!"

"She gave us some seashells," my son said.

Well, darn, I can't compete with that, I thought.

When I first informed my son that I had been approached about doing an interview for his local school news, he said, "That's quite an honor for you, mom," and he was right. I'm thrilled to have been asked to participate. I realize it's not a competition, but I think every parent wants her kids to think she has the best job. Or, in some cases, to just acknowledge that she has a job.

I took a test in kindergarten once, and afterward I remember the teachers calling my mother in to discuss.

"She's a bright child, but she missed this question," my teacher said.

"What was it?" mother asked.

"Well, we kept asking her what you did, and she said 'nothing' every time."

My mom, you see, was a stay-at-home mom at the time.

"Couldn't you have said that I vacuum and sew and cook and take care of you and your sister?" I remember her asking on the way home.

She's right. I should have said she had the hardest job in the world. Anyone who's ever met me will agree -- living with me is not easy!

Recently, my son questioned me about what I was going to say when I got on camera.
"I thought I'd tell them about the corporate communication work that I do in Atlanta and the executives I work with and ..."

"Mom, I think most people just care about what you write in the paper. I wouldn't even mention the other stuff."

"OK, son. Tell me about some of the other visitors."

"Well, we had one lady who sold medicine?"

"Medicine?" I asked.

"Yeah, you wouldn't really want to say that she sold 'drugs.'"

"Ah, a pharmacist. Who else?"

"Well, we had another man who used to be a principal. He was so funny. He made all of us laugh so hard; we could hardly ask any questions."

"What did he do?"

"When we asked what he would be if he had to choose another career, he jumped up, pulled on a toboggan and yelled, 'A downhill skier!' and acted like he was skiing," said my son, laughing so hard at the thought he had tears in his eyes.

Great! Humor, spontaneity. I can't compete with that, I thought.

"Well, don't expect me to do that," I said.

"You'll do fine, Mama," he said. "Just be yourself."

And, in the words of that certain former principal -- whom I confronted about being too funny and showing the rest of us up -- if that doesn't work, "Just pull out your wig and tell them you're Lady Gaga!"

I'll let you know which persona I choose.

Birthday buffet

My birthday was earlier this week, and my son declared he knew the perfect place to take to me. It just so happened to be his favorite place, the place he and his dad and sister frequent when I'm out of town. I won't name the place, but I will say it's a food trough, I mean, a buffet.

Now, usually my preference when I go out to eat is to have my meal served to me, but seeing his excitement, I said there's no other place I'd rather go. It also meant the sweat pants I had on would be perfectly suitable to wear.

The parking lot was starting to fill as we arrived, so we hustled inside to beat the crowd. One thing I learned, and that is a 600-pound man can hustle when he smells food. I know because we pulled up beside one and got out of our cars at the same time. My son wanted to try to outrun him, but I told him there was no way I was going to get in between that man and the buffet line.

Once inside, I eyed the food frenzy that was taking place at the numerous buffets with skepticism and vowed to myself that I would eat healthily despite the mounds of fried okra and macaroni and cheese that surrounded me.

"They have seafood that's grilled to order," my son said, his mouth watering.

"OK, show me where I go to order it," I said.

We put our drinks on our table, and my son shouted, "Let's eat!"

I quickly followed him so he could show me the ropes.

We made it as far as the plates. He grabbed his and then whisked away to fill it up.

"Where are you going? The seafood line is right here," my husband said.

"I was following our son. He said he'd point me in the right direction."

Later, when I playfully scolded him for leaving me, he said, "I did point you in the right direction. I showed you where the plates were."

I finished my healthy meal and sent my daughter, despite the fact that I wasn't hungry, to fetch more. After all, when in Rome ...

As we enjoyed our second round, my son said, "Today, I'm concentrating on birds."

"What do you mean?" I asked, thinking he was perhaps developing a new interest.

"Fried chicken, barbeque chicken, turkey, chicken livers ..."

"You mean you are concentrating on eating birds," his sister said in a droll tone.

The other thing I learned is, never sit directly across from the dessert bar. I don't care how much you pride yourself on being able to resist sweet temptations, an open dessert bar is just asking for trouble, especially when one can justify eating it because it's one's birthday. So, in that vein, I sampled not one, not two, not three, not four, but five, yes, five desserts.

"It's best not to count," my daughter wisely said.

And she was right. Because when I say "sampled," what I really mean is "inhaled."

I had not even planned on eating any. I went back for salad, but somehow ended up with a piece of fudge on my plate. Let's just say iceberg lettuce with no dressing doesn't taste very good when it's put side by side with fudge.

The rest of the sweet treats were my son's idea. Boy, do I like how he thinks.

An hour later, we waddled out, a few pounds heavier, and, for me, a year older.

"I knew you'd like it, Mom," he said, and I did.

So much so that I promised to go back -- next year.