Sunday, September 30, 2012

Fake it until you make it

Although my husband finds this inconceivable, the summer before I entered the eighth grade I decided that I would no longer be shy.

All through elementary school, I had been a quiet girl who hid behind a book, but for the eighth grade, I was going to enter a new school, one where no one knew me or my personality.

It occurred to me at the age of 13 that I could reinvent myself. I didn’t have to be a bookworm with thick glasses. I could be outgoing, friendly, and, dare I say it, popular. I could fake it until I made it.

So, I took off my glasses and went to school. Since I was, in effect, blind without them and unable to distinguish the faces I passed in the hall, I cheerfully greeted everyone. I was no longer a shy girl. Instead, I was a girl who didn’t know a stranger -- literally.

That shy girl still lives inside of me, however. My natural inclination is to avoid things that make me fearful, and people are high on that list. I still have the same fear of rejection or sounding stupid. I fear it right now as I write this column, but I’ve done it anyway.

I read a quote recently by a hero of mine and most girls from the 1980s, Michael J. Fox. He said, “What other people think of me is not my business.”

When I’m expressing my opinion or, sometimes, even dressing for the day, I repeat this. And it helps.

As the years went on, I’ve continued to “fake it until I made it.” My first writing job is a good case in point. I went to the local business expo to allow the kids to sample some candy and pick up a few freebies.

“Why don’t you get a job while you’re there?” my husband teased.

“I believe I will,” I retorted, not amused.

As fate would have it, an editor for a regional magazine was there. My son, who is not shy, began chatting with her, and I suppressed my shy inner self and asked, “Do you need any local writers? I have an English degree.”

“Sure!” she said, and pressed her card into my hand. Days later she called and arranged to meet me.

“Oh, and bring your clips,” she said.

I assured her I would, hung up the phone and immediately googled clips. In case you are wondering, they are writing samples, and I didn’t have any. So, determined to be able to tell my husband that I had, indeed, gotten a job, I searched through our hot attic until I found my old college term papers.

The following Monday, the editor pulled up in her little red sports car looking like she’d just breezed in from New York. I, on the other hand, was on break from my day care job -- and looked it. Yet, I smiled, told her my background and shared the yellow faded papers placed inside a new shiny binder.

She opened it, flipped through the pages and frowned. I prayed she wouldn’t notice that the date was 10 years earlier or the fact that they hadn’t been published. After all, she never said published clips. I also prayed she wouldn’t notice the red ink marks from my professors.

She snapped the binder shut decisively and said, “You got it,” and passed along my first assignment. And, just like that, I was doing something I never thought I would be able to do.

I’ve heard some people say that “faking” has a bad connotation, that it sounds like a negative, and maybe they are right. Maybe there’s another word for doing things that scares one half to death. Oh, yes, there is. It’s called courage, and it resides in all of us. Don’t believe me? Try faking it and see what happens.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Doctors know best

A friend of mine said she took her young daughter to the doctor because she was concerned about her cough. Turns out it was just a cold. She was relieved, of course, but there was a hint of frustration in her voice.

“It’s so hard to know when to bring them in,” she said.

“Don’t worry,” I said, ever the helpful friend. “After spending three hours in the doctor’s office, she’s sure to have caught something more serious.”

(Just teasing – sort of.)

I understood where she was coming from. It’s a fine line between being an overprotective, hypochondriac mom who rushes one’s child to the doctor for a nosebleed or a handful of splinters to the mom who brings her kid in for his well visit only to discover that he has dual ear infections and a bad case of bronchitis.
I have been (and done) both.

When my first child was born, pre-Internet, I used my well-worn copy of “Your Child’s Health” to attempt to diagnose what was going on with her. The online photos may gross me out now, but I can tell you rashes were particularly difficult to interpret based on descriptions alone back then.

My older daughter was somewhere between the age of 4 and 6 when I took her to see a local longtime pediatrician.

“I keep calling her name and telling her to do things, but she doesn’t acknowledge me,” I said. “I think there is something wrong with her ears!”

A sly grin crossed the doctor's face, but he went ahead and performed a hearing test. To my surprise, it was perfectly normal.

That’s when it dawned on me -- something the doctor had already determined but was respectful enough not to dismiss. She wasn’t hard of hearing. She was just ignoring me.

That same doctor had been there earlier when I brought my daughter in for the first time at the age of 15 months. She had what I thought was a tear duct infection since she was 3 months old. I went to various doctors and tried all types of prescription drops and answered endless questions from strangers such as “Why are her eyes watering? Has she been crying?”

It turns out her tear ducts were clogged, and she, my baby, my first baby, needed surgery. Who knew? Thankfully, the doctor did.

I’d like to think now that I’m on my third child, I have a better idea of what requires a doctor’s visit, and maybe I do.

I once brought my son in and told the nurse, “He doesn’t have a fever. He’s not complaining, but every once in a while, he coughs.”

And sure enough, sinus infection.

Of course, I also remember asking the doctor when my son was just 3 months old, “What are those white things on his gums? I’m concerned about those.”

His reply?

“Those are his teeth.”
Who knew?

(Wishing you and your family the best of health during this upcoming flu season and beyond.)

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Carpooling to Cotillion

The best conversations happen in the backseat of carpool, especially carpool to Cotillion. I was never in Cotillion, but heaven knows I could have used it, then and now. My husband outweighs me by 100 and some odd pounds, and I still lead on the dance floor, when I’m not stepping on his feet, that is.

Therefore, I decided to do the right thing and enroll my daughter in it so she can learn all the manners that she doesn’t get taught at home, including proper rising. There is a correct way for a lady to get out of a chair, you know.

As homework, each Cotillion participant must get so many signatures saying they’ve practiced different elements of etiquette. One of them was paying compliments. I waited all day for mine. Would she say I was pretty? Sweet? Smart? Finally, it came.

“Mom, did I tell you that the tea you made is very good?”

That was better than expected. In the South, praising one’s sweet tea is the ultimate compliment.

“Now can you sign my book,” she said.

Giveth and taketh away, I thought, as I signed my name in the “Paying compliments” column.

She was still gathering signatures as I drove her and her friends to Cotillion.

“Be sure to watch me proper rise when I get out the car,” she said, “so you can sign off on it.”

I smiled to myself. We drive an Expedition. I couldn’t wait to see her proper rise out of that.

“I forgot my gloves,” said one of the girls hurrying back into the house to get them.

“Good thing you found them,” my daughter said. “I took mine off last time because they were bothering me, and I had to hold a boy’s hand, and it was sweaty.”

“You mean you touched a boy’s hand without a glove?!” asked her friend.

“Yes, ewww, it was gross,” she said.

At this point, I broke the chauffeur’s code and acknowledged I was listening to their conversation.

“Well, I hope you didn’t say anything,” I said, feeling sorry for the poor nervous fellow.

“No, but I made a facial expression to let him know!”

“I hope we don’t have to close dance,” said another friend.

Again, I, being a mom, could not resist.

“Why, because of the sweat?”

“Mom, you know why - Awkward!”

After a few giggles, the girls debated what kind of punch is served and whether or not they would try any tonight. Soon, we reached our destination.

“Have fun, wear your gloves, and don’t forget to proper rise on the way out,” I said, amidst their laughter.

I drove home in silence, regretting that the drive there had been such a short one. I’m so glad that, despite my busy schedule, I had volunteered to drive carpool that night. Having an opportunity to have a candid talk about boys is very rare. And I must admit that the thought of my little girl growing up made my owns palms a bit sweaty.

(Author’s note: I wrote this column several years ago and held off on publishing for fear of embarrassing my daughter. To be fair – and to instill some good manners – I have since enrolled my son, as he says, “against his will.” This time I’m getting to experience Cotillion from the boy’s point of view. To be fair, I’ll withhold my comments for a few years.)

Thursday, September 13, 2012

And the winner is ...

They like me, they really, really like. Well, my fellow blogger at Mommy Unmuted does, anyway. So much, in fact, she nominated me for the Versatile Blogger award. Thank you so much. I am very honored.

If you get a chance, check out her blog. So often it's hard for me to know when to keep quiet and when to speak up. Tune in to Mommy  Unmuted to find out the things that no universal remote can stop her from saying.

Per the award's instructions, I'm including seven random facts about me.

The idea for Popeye the Sailorman comic strip was created on my grandfather's steamboat on the Coosa River in Rome, Ga.

I'm so frugal that I once cashed in a casino ticket in Vegas for .35.

Spiders do not scare me.

I was gluten-free before gluten-free was cool. (Thank God for Elisabeth Hasselbeck.)

Seeing a zombie is on my bucket list.

My sister was featured twice in Sports Illustrated for weightlifting. I earned a mention - "Their other daughter, Leigh, showed no enthusiam for the sport."

I am a Southern girl, but I've never tried chicken and dumplings.

How the award works:

•If you are nominated, you’ve been awarded the Versatile Blogger award.

•Thank the blogger who nominated you and include a link to their site.

•Copy and paste the award to your blog.

•Share seven random facts about yourself.

•Nominate 15 bloggers that you’ve recently discovered or follow regularly and include a link to their site.

•Let the other bloggers know that you have nominated them.

So, without further ado, I give you my nominations. Each of them brings something unique and refreshing to the blogosphere. All of them have written at least one thing that has made me laugh, cry and/or think. Some I have just discovered, and others I’ve been following for years. I apologize for those I've inadvertantly left off. Hope you enjoy.

Mamas Against Drama

Writing as Jo(e)


Swimming in the Trees

Momalog - Good enough parenting, one day at a time

I miss you when I blink

Sisterhood of the sensible moms

Life your way!

Tea with friends

Oh boy mom

Kid-free living

The good foot


Happy little feet

The Martha Project

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Of a certain age

My dad once said he always felt young until he looked in the mirror.

“It’s weird,” he said, describing how the inside didn’t match the outside.

Now that I’m of a certain age, I agree. It is weird. But, unlike my dad, I’ve noticed a few telltale signs that have given me just a hint that I might be older than I feel. Below is a compilation of a few I’ve noticed and/or observed:

You covet your neighbors’ refrigerator, specifically the stainless steel with the freezer on bottom.

You get excited because you got a text, and you see that it’s from your pharmacy telling you that your prescription is ready. And then you get even more excited.

You’re still waiting on leg warmers to come back in style. Please come back in style.

You have to explain what your slang expressions mean to your kids.

You look forward to your doctor’s appointment.

You begin sentences with “back in 1983 ...”

You occasionally say “car phone” instead of “cell phone.”

You’ve been known to listen for a dial tone on said cell phone.

The interns at work are younger than your daughter.

You stop asking if your outfit makes your butt look big because (a) you know it does, and (b) you don’t care.

When you wake up in the morning, you are truly glad to be alive.

You forget and refer to your deceased loved ones in the present tense.

When you tell people at your high school reunion that you are glad to see them, you mean it.

Your hair dresser is your best friend.

You have socks older than your children.

You pray the kids don’t put you on “What not to wear” because you don’t want to give up your favorite gray sweatshirt with paint on it.

You know how many calories and grams of fat are in 12 almonds.

You have learned to forgive people, including yourself.

You know your limitations, yet it doesn’t stop you.

You value good toilet paper.

You start caring about the weather.

You write thank you notes -- and mail them.

You miss your grandmother’s cooking.

You’ll pay an ungodly amount of money for two ounces of wrinkle cream.

You won’t pay more than $2.50 for a head of lettuce.

You would seriously consider killing for good homemade fudge.

You are genuinely perplexed that your peers look old.

Sports, such as playing tennis or running, become less about winning and more about surviving.

You’ve admitted that your parents were right, but you still would have done it your way.
You realize chewing gum in church won’t damn you to hell. Neither will wearing shorts. Neither will daydreaming during the sermon. God’s OK with all of that. In fact, you realize, he’s pretty cool.

Your purse is a portable medicine cabinet.

Your kids are taller than you, which they think makes them smarter.

You know they never will be because you are older, and if you’re living right, wiser.