Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas in Dixie*

One of the things I most look forward to at Christmas is taking drives to view, gawk at, rave on, and rat out all the beautiful, creative, original – and sometimes just plain tacky – Christmas decorations folks put up.

I have often looked especially forward to seeing the decorations in the neighborhood where Scott's mother lives. Her neighborhood is one with a yard-of-the-month award and awards for best Christmas decorations. At Christmas, they award first, second, and third prizes as well as an award for the most creative and most original theme and at least one Honorable Mention.

I remember the first time I went home with Scott for Christmas in 1996, I was awed by the house down the street from his mom's with a Twelve Days of Christmas theme. From a single partridge in a pear tree to twelve drummers drumming, every gift in the song is represented by hand-carved and painted plywood figures. It's one of the most complex and elaborate holiday displays I've ever seen. Twelves years later, though, and it's as stale now as it was clever the first time I laid eyes on it.

There haven't been any new and exciting displays of holiday sentiment in my mother-in-law's neighborhood in the last five or six years. One year, there was a rash of folks putting wooden crosses in their yards at Christmas, but I think it only lasted that one year until folks realized the purpose of Christmas is to celebrate Christ's coming into the world rather than to anticipate his departure. Other than that, Scott's mom has been the only one to exhibit any creativity. That was the year she had 7 ft. tall gilded angels blowing trumpets on either side of her walkway. She crafted them out of chicken-wire and spray painted them gold. They were really gorgeous. Everything else was white lights and gold and burgundy ribbon. Very elegant.

Sadly, there have been few holiday displays the last few years that I found worthy of comment or critique.... Until this year, when the glorious elements of Southern pride, Christmas joy, and football fanaticism united in the stroke of genius and gumption that lead to this awesome display:

What else can I say, except, Roll Tide!

*Props to Scott for giving me this title and taking the pictures out in the rain of this testament to all things Alabama for me.

Friday, December 19, 2008

And the Winner Is....

Utah Savage. She's a new reader and from what I can tell after reading a handful of posts, a passionate and intense writer.

Read her post on the act of kindness given to her here.

She will be receiving a delicious (if you like chocolate and hazelnuts, which I do, very much!) Ferrero Rocher Christmas gift set.

By the way, for the sake of acknowledging how I did this (since I've never done a contest before, I used one of the randomizers at

Thanks to those of you who participated. I enjoyed reading each of your stories. It always inspires me to see the goodness that is the root of all our humanity.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Giving It Back to You

I'm extending my deadline. Get me those stories, folks! I need a winner! See my previous post if you don't know what I'm talking about.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Give A Little Bit More

Hopefully this holiday season has all of us thinking about how we can help others. You don't have to make a gratitude box or go to great lengths. Here's a quick, easy, and painless way to do something good for our world.

Ferrero Chocolate has teamed with Share Our Strength, a leading hunger relief organization that helps provide food for 12.6 million American children, to raise money to help provide needy families with food this winter. You can help by visiting Share Something Sweet and sending a free e-card to someone you love. For each card sent, Ferrero will donate $1 to Share Our Strength.

What could be easier?

And to reward you for your good deeds, I am going to be giving away a Ferrero Christmas Tree gift box of chocolates.

Everybody say yum! And now, here's how the contest will work:

1. First, write a post on your blog by Thursday, 12/18 at noon, telling about a good deed someone did for you. Tell us how it made you feel and why you'll never forget that particular act of kindness or generosity.

2. In your post, include a link back to this post and a link to the Share Something Sweet site.

3. Leave a comment on this post letting us know that you've written something.

On Thursday afternoon, I will choose a winner at random from those who leave comments here. I can't guarantee that you will receive your candy before Christmas, but it should get in the mail before the holiday.

I can't wait to read your stories!

Give a Little Bit

And yet again, I slink out of the depths of my chaotic life to greet the world anew. Hello, World!

I've been so excited about something that happened in my life last week and I've been meaning to write about it, but until now, hadn't found the time.

I know I've mentioned my Bunco group before.

We're quite the collection of ladies. Some work outside the home. Some work in the home. Liberal. Conservative. Christian. Jewish. Agnostic. Atheist. Silly. Serious. All mothers and to the one, kind, loving, and supportive.

Every December, we have a holiday party that includes a wine tasting. This year, we decided to add a gift-exchange component. We tossed around the white elephant idea, giving each other items of the as-seen on TV variety, and then darling, brilliant Lucy came up with the idea of gratitude boxes. (Lucy, by the way, is a talented graphic designer. Need a new look for your blog? Notecards? A brochure or logo design? Lucy's your girl and I can put you in touch.)

She saw the idea first on Oprah! If you're looking for an inexpensive gift idea for someone you love, you can't beat this one. The way we did it, each woman brought her own box. Some decorated boxes while others of us simply brought wooden, silver, or other beautiful boxes we already had on hand. Then, over the course of the night, we wrote on cards that Lucy printed for us, one thing we loved about one another. Each compliment was awarded anonymously.

There are 16 (or so) women in our group, so the idea (for us) was that at the end of the night, each of us would have 15 compliments in our gratitude box.

It was so nice to come home and sit down and read the notes and see what my friends like about me. I was surprised, but pleased to learn that someone thinks I make parenting look easy. (She obviously doesn't read this blog!) A few people complimented my smile, a feature I'm frequently self-conscious about, while someone else delighted me with her appreciation of my writing.

Such a lovely, perfect gift, a gift of love and gratitude and nurturing. It's so easy to pass someone by and never tell them what we enjoy about them. This is such an easy way to give that gift and really, who can't use it? It's one gift that definitely won't be exchanged or thrown in a closet and forgotten. Although, it's quite likely it might result in re-gifting.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Wha'Cha Say?

What price are you willing to pay for your sanity?

We clearly see that I will go to some lengths for mine... Pouring the intimate details of my life out onto a platter for anyone who wants to pick them apart; taking anti-depressants and, again, pouring that juicy detail out like some rich morsel I feel compelled to share with friends and strangers alike.

Am I willing, however, to continue spending more money at the grocery store? Sadly, I think I might be.

I am addicted to Publix. I love shopping there. I love the crisp clean, moderny goodness of their package design; the brightly lit and clean expanse of store with wide aisles that all go in the same direction with the center aisles flanked by the produce section in one rear corner and meats in the other. I love how the same employees have worked in the store for years and years and know my name and ask how my boys are doing if they're not with me. I love that Publix employees are always smiling and friendly and a one, from the store manager to the stock clerks. I love that they double coupons and always offer to have someone help you to your car with your groceries. It is hands down my favorite grocery store for everyday, run of the mill shopping.

Several of my friends have encouraged me to shop at Kroger, telling me how much cheaper it is.

I just have one tiny problem. Kroger makes me crazy.

Every single time I shop in a Kroger store, I am enraged to the point of muttering and tears by the time I leave. No joke.

The stores are dirty, dark, and always crowded. They never have enough check out lanes open. The produce is by the door as soon as you walk in and isn't laid out in any sensible way. Produce is often not labeled with a price and they never have the little plastic bags for produce out near the produce. They have the bags in one central location so you have to either remember to go get your bags (and know how many you need) or walk across the department when you need a bag.

There is never anyone at the deli counter when you need help and if you ask anyone where something is, they point. I guess that's really all under the umbrella of employees who don't give a damn whether you shop in their store or not. And that's really my biggest problem. Poor staffing with employees who seem like they all hate their jobs.

Then there's the issue of bad design which is reflected in numerous ways throughout the store. The store does not flow well and always seems crowded. The aisles are not wide enough or long enough and they have foods and other products grouped in weird ways. Diapers and Candy. Cokes and Pet Supplies. I just hate it. And don't get me started on their package design which looks like something from 1985. Yuck. Purple and blue and red? Really? Blech!

I almost forgot! Kroger is also the only store I've ever seen with aisles running in two different directions. Vertically and horizontally! I hate that. It's not only illogical, it's inconvenient to the shoppers using giant shopping carts with wheels that don't easily turn.

I understand that for most people shopping isn't about an aesthetic experience. I know there must be something wrong with me that it matters so much to me. This is also why I prefer Target to Wal-Mart. I have so much garbage in my head that I don't need it when I'm trying to get things done.

I need a clean and easy experience with few distractions when I'm shopping. Also, since going to the grocery might be my big outing for the week, I'd like to keep it a pleasant experience.

Sadly, though, I'd really like to spend less money on groceries. I have a conundrum.

For the moment though, I think my sanity might win. I'll just have to do my best to reduce my grocery expenditures in the clean happy land of Publix.

What say you? What lengths will you go to in order to promote calm and peace in your life?

Monday, November 24, 2008

Pink Pajamas

'Tis the season of giving and Kelli over at Cafe Kel is getting a head start on the fun! Read about how she fell in love with pajamas and find out how you can win a gift certificate to PajamaGram thanks to Miss Kel.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Think For Yourself

Both of my boys have been sick multiple times the last few weeks. Colds. Croup. Stomach bugs. Sore throats. Coughs. You name it, I think they've had it. So, I decided it might be in my best interest, and theirs, to give them Airborne children's lozenges to try and boost their immunity and ward off a few of these things. Doing so, led to a surprising, but apparently much needed lesson in motivating my children and understanding sibling dynamics.

As anyone who has read my blog for any time knows, I am an only child. Managing the sibling relationship is really an interesting experience for me and sometimes my methods are heavy-handed or clumsy, I think, despite always being well-intentioned.

Beckett, being the younger brother, wants to emulate everything his big brother does. It's easy to motivate him or encourage him to do almost anything I want by suggesting to him that his brother is doing it, eating something I need or want Beckett to eat, or that his brother will be where I want him to go. I forget sometimes that it will not work in the reverse fashion. Telling Brendan to do something because his baby brother is doing it works great if Brendan perceives the opportunity to be in his advantage or if it involves eating something he likes already. It's not as effective if he can't see the value of performing said task, i.e. doing what I want him to do doesn't result in getting a treat or surprise of some sort or failure to perform result in being punished.

I have trouble with this. In my mind, if your sibling is doing it, why wouldn't you want to do it? Don't you feel left out? It's the never-ceasing sense of loss only children experience, I think. Unaccustomed to sharing and frequently alone if not lonely, the only child has difficulty imagining not wanting to be included.

So, when I offered Brendan his Airborne after his brother had taken his and he refused it, my natural response was, Well, your brother took his and he liked it.

Now, I admit, I'm not fond of the Why-can't-you-be-more-like-your-brother implications of such a statement. But seriously? Why can't you be more like your brother and just politely take your damned medicine without a fight?

Brendan's response to me was one that I absolutely could not argue with. And let me tell you, it's no fun being out logicked by a five-year old. Yet, I am proud of him for his thoughtfulness in responding.

He said, Mom, it's not like we have the same brain! We don't always like the same things.

Well, duh.

Thanks for the reminder, you wee independent cuss. I respect your sense of self.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Always and Forever

Holy cow! I can't believe it's been a month since I posted.

Anyway.... I wanted to share something with you that I think is a very worthwhile cause but that also gives you something really beautiful by way of your help.

A local author and illustrator created a beautiful new children's book called Always and Everywhere as a means of helping her friend with metastatic breast cancer explain to her kids what was happening. I'm not sure I've ever seen a more beautifully illustrated book.

All the proceeds from the sale will go to help the family move from their multi-level townhome into a ranch style home since the mom can no longer climb stairs.

If you know anyone suffering from cancer who has younger kids, this might be a beautiful thing to share with them to let them know you care.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Temporary Love

Scott played a couple of shows up in Athens a few weeks ago. For those of y'all who don't know, Athens is the Mecca of indie music in the Southeast. He played two shows that week, one at Flicker, the other at Terrapin Beer Co. Both shows were fantastic. He was backed by Athens band The Cleaners. The amazing guitarist is Mark Wenthe. His brother Mike was in Scott's old band, The Snake Oil Salesmen.

This is video is of his newest song, Temporary Love. Hope you enjoy it.

Monday, October 13, 2008


As I've mentioned before, Brendan has an uncanny way of mis-hearing or misstating things that cuts closer to the depth and essence of something than the actual word he intended or the word that is actually used.

One word he used to use and that I allowed to some extent because I loved it was rainbrella.

Several times recently, a new one has cropped up. And it's actually so accurate in its heartbreaking truth that I get teary-eyed every time he says it.

Our neighborhood is situated so that there are several different ways to access the various Interstate highways that intersect nearby. And each of those exits, we are seeing an increase in the homeless as they are pushed out of Downtown Atlanta. Brendan has recently begun to notice them and ask questions. So, Scott and I have both had opportunities to talk to him about homelessness and what that means.

What he has heard instead of home-less is Hope-less.

Mommy, he will ask, how did they get hopeless?

And I am left to explain the heartbreak and tragedies of this world while trying to hold out hope as a shiny, never-fading reality to my own child.

When he asks if we will ever be hopeless, I tell him no because we have a wide and extended family and friends who love us and who would help us if something bad ever happened to us. I tell him that this is why family is important and that he and Beckett will always have one another and they should always help and honor and support one another. I tell him nothing is more important than his family.

I tell him, and I pray that it is true, that when you have family and you love one another and treat each other with respect that you will always have a home. And you will always have hope.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

The Real Slim Shady

For a lot of folks, I'm sure going to a high school reunion is a chance to relive past glories, an opportunity to be hailed as the football hero or gorgeous and popular homecoming queen. When I attended my 20-year reunion a few weeks ago, I saw the possibility of resolution. For me, it was a chance to lay to rest old insecurities and see myself as an equal to the many people whom I thought of as superior to me because of the distinctions of class and clique that plagued my school. I wasn't some miserable slob that everyone mocked or anything. But I never felt as good as everyone else. I never felt like I belonged. I knew I'd never be on the homecoming court or go to cotillion or do any of the things the rich and popular girls did, but I was a smart kid which gave me some good standing. Everyone knew me and although back then I thought everyone hated me or thought they were better than me, most everyone (with a few notable exceptions) was at the very least polite. Still, I really didn't know what to expect at the reunion. I imagined that everyone would fall back into their same little cliques and that I'd hang out with my closest friends the whole night.

Thank God for Facebook. My friend Daryl created a FB group for alumni of our high school and over the course of several weeks before the reunion, several folks from my class found each other. By virtue of space, time, and goodness of the Internet gods, we were able to connect and soon I found myself interacting with people whom I never imagined I had any common ground.

At the reunion I found myself flattered and surprised by how many people remembered me and talked to me. In fact, I was only a little disappointed that people recognized me. I think I've changed dramatically enough that more people should have been surprised, but that's okay.

I didn't exactly get the resolution I was seeking. I got something both better and slightly more disturbing.

I found out that people liked me and I only wish I'd realized it then instead of wasting my time, energy, and emotions thinking no one did. I've also been surprised by the ways in which people remember me and disappointed in myself for not living up to the expectations I had for myself and for not retaining more of the girl I used to be.

My old friend Tim commented after the reunion that he was glad to see I still had "the same zest for life," that I had back then. It was only when I read those words and thought about how – even though I may have thought I was an outcast and felt unloved, unattractive, and unfinished – I still found a way to live my life with joy and verve. I used to be a totally different person.

When did she go away? Is she dead? I think not, but I think I repressed her. I think at some point after college I realized that it was not cool to be happy and to enjoy your life. All the cool kids were darkly cynical and judgmental of those who just wanted to be and to be happy. It seems like everyone I knew had to overanalyze and critique everything and everyone and sadly I let myself fall into that trap. And I got stuck there. And then I got bogged down in the workplace and got married and lost babies and had babies and somewhere along the way forgot all about the real me.

I feel so angry all the time and I rarely express it. But back when I was happy, I let myself be angry if I needed to be. There was balance.

I am so thankful I went to that reunion (I almost didn't.). I felt really proud of my classmates and genuinely happy to see how well they have all turned out. There were at least three moms with 4 kids who homeschool and I am in awe of them. There was an Air Force Lt. Col. with a beautiful wife and two young kids. Lots of teachers and lots of moms just like me. It was really great to see everyone looking so happy and beautiful. And I am grateful to have gotten to see myself in the slightest way as others have seen me, to know that I was liked despite what I thought back then.

I hope I haven't hidden that old me away too long or too deeply. I want to bring her back. I don't know what that will mean to my husband. I don't know if he ever knew me in that way or remembers me that way. I just know I have to find a way to make myself happy again. I can't resign myself to a life of feeling hurt, angry, sad, and inauthentic.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Try a Little Tenderness

Naturally, just as I sit down to write, Beckett bursts into hurt, angry, outraged tears. Brendan denies all knowledge of why.

I want to write. I miss writing. Yet, I have been uninspired. In a funk I can't seem to escape and consumed with Brendan's school issues, work in a field that is really not happening right now, and my self-absorbed-all-consuming thoughts about how to be a better ___________________ (wife/mother/friend/human being/writer/sex kitten/blogger/marketing manager/cook/cleaning lady/chauffeur/music lover/music manager/you name it).

I can't get my head out of .... well, my own fucking head, long enough to write. I have been uninspired and a slave to time despite having lots of interesting things to write about.

In summary, I had my 20-year class reunion, Beckett is speaking a lot!; Brendan may or may not have dyspraxia, and I pretty much continue to hate myself, although I am loving my life more.

If only I were more physically fit, smarter, more courageous, a better writer, more committed to my art, and had a full-time staff to do all the things I have to do (instead of writing), I might be able to stop being so negative. Being more positive is a major, major, major goal of mine and I have been consumed with working it all out before writing again.

Not quite there yet, but on the way.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Okay. I relent. I still hate myself today, but I don't hate anything else. Except the new Kindergarten report cards.


I don't have to look far to figure out where my son is getting his self-esteem issues.

I don't say anything in front of him. Ever. But he says things like "I hate myself." Or, "You don't like me." Or, "I'm stupid."

None of which are true, of course.

Today, though, I look at the pictures my friend Patrick took of my last night and I see my giant, oval-shaped nostrils, stringy hair, fat face, horrible skin, wrinkles. I hate everything about the way I look.

And then, I open Brendan's report card which came home yesterday and the goddamn thing is so fucking complicated that I can' understand it. And I feel stupid as hell. It's called the Georgia Kindergarten Inventory of Developing Skills (GKIDS – I hate fucking cutesy acronyms.) A, B, C, D, F, U, and S make sense and are easy for parents to comprehend as a gauge of where their students are on the scale. This fucking "map" of the "curriculum and student's performance levels for the standard in the areas of English Language Arts, Math and Approaches to Learning." The report card is a grid that includes a description (Georgia Performance Standards Assessed) followed by a number that is the "number of elements included in the standad." This is then followed by another number: "the number of elements of the standard that have been assessed during the year." Then, the grades assigned to each element are: NA (Not Assessed), ND (Not Yet Demonstrated), EM (Emerging), PR (Progressing), MS (Meets Standards), EX (Exceeds Standards), AC (Area of Concern), DE (Developing), CD (Consistently Demonstrating).

Actually writing it out like this helps me understand it a little better, but I still think it's unnecessarily convoluted and pointless and good god, they're measuring these tiny little Kindergarten kids on 22 different areas. Just fucking tell me how he's doing in Math, Language Arts, Social Studies, Science, and PE like the good old days.

I never thought I was closed-minded, but this system sucks. It's designed to make parents feel like teachers know it all and they're idiots so they might as well cede control of their offspring to the public school system.

I seriously hate everything today.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Weight

Sometimes the only way to get moving is simply to pick up one foot and put it in front of another. goes.

The last few weeks have been so full. I feel like I've been jammed into my existence with barely enough room to breathe. Instead of writing, when I've had a free moment I've been trying to find something – prayer, meditation, hypnosis – that can take away the anxiety and stress that keeps me rigid and fearful and blind to the joy of this life.

I miss writing in this way.

I've been writing for work. And I've given a lot of thought to some creative writing that I want to do, although I haven't actually put pen to paper in that regard.

I miss writing in this intimate and meaningful way. I miss sharing the things that are challenging me and shaping me and hurting me and encouraging me.

Like the fact that I am incredibly worried about Brendan and my heart is breaking as I try to figure out how to mother him. He's so challenging right now. Defiant and frustrated and frustrating. He's not loving school. He tries hard and does really well in class. But getting him to do his homework is killing me. Like pulling teeth. For both of us.

His first parent-teacher conference left us shocked and terrified as the teacher suggested he has a fine motor skills delay. She told us how sweet and intelligent he his, but suggested he is falling behind because he lacks the fine motor skills to write and draw as well as the other kids. She suggested that he be evaluated by the school's occupational therapist, but then told me on Friday that the paperwork required is too extensive and that we should have him looked at sooner rather than later. I had already called our pediatrician and scheduled something at the Children's Hospital anyway.

I can't help but worry. I am terrified over what it might mean. Combined with his resistance to doing homework, his lack of interest in reading, and his stubbornness, I am so worried about his ability to live up to his potential, to become or achieve success and happiness in life.

How do you get a kid to enjoy homework? How do you make someone love reading if they don't? What do you do when those behaviors are so foreign to your own beliefs and way of thinking and living that you can't understand it and find a way to motivate your child?

I never imagined myself in this situation. Although it sure seems I've found myself saying that a lot these last few years.

I want the best for my son. If only I knew how to help him achieve it.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Once More with Feeling (Reprise)

I don't know where Jeremy found this quote, but it's too brilliant not to share with as many people as possible.

Check it out...

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Let's Get It Started

Well, hey, y'all.

Wait. Are those crickets I hear? Am I all alone here after abandoning my post lo these many days, nay weeks?

I just haven't been able to get it together to write. I feel mentally fatigued. Lost. Wondering why I write and if I actually have anything of value to say. I was thinking about just walking away.

However, A. has a post on her blog that hit very close to home for me. I feel like I've been treading water in a sea of stress and dismay related to behavior problems (Brendan's and my own) and my inability to balance my part-time job, my duties as a wife and mother, and my desire to have a life that isn't solely consumed by cooking, cleaning, and child rearing. At least this blog gives me an outlet and keeps me connected with like minds – shoot, better minds! – and allows me space to figure out my purpose in this world.

Anyway, despite wondering how I can balance my need and desire to write and remain relatively honest with myself and you all with an apparently growing need not to offend or upset anyone else, I've decided to give this another go. I've thought about taking the blog private so that you'd have to register to read it, but that just seems too depressing. I might then find that no one actually gives a damn. I don't really want to do either of those things... Force readers to register or find out what a pathetic loser I am.

Or I could suck it up and be me, whoever that is.

So, I thought I'd start with a layout change. Unfortunately, I screwed up saving some of my links. If I've left you off my blogroll, please forgive me. I added the blogs whose urls I knew off the top of my head. If yours isn't there, it's because I'm going to need to find the url and add you. It's not that I don't love you to pieces!

Alright. Here we go. Again.

'Night, Y'all.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008


I'm going to geek out on you a little now.

I cried a little last night hearing Michelle Obama speak. She was great.

I admire Hillary Clinton. But, sadly, she isn't what this country wants. This country is still looking for warmth and compassion in its leaders and their spouses. Bill's got that warmth. Hillary has never had it. Whipsmart she may be, however, she does not come across as warm, loving, and someone who could lift this country up in a time of crisis or need (she could be calm, cool, and stable, but that's not always what we want or look for in female leadership). From Eleanor Roosevelt to Jacqueline Kennedy and now Ms. Obama, I think what we're all hoping to find is a National Mommy. Someone who will help pick us up when we fall, remaining calm and strong in a crisis, but showing us her warmth, compassion, and humanity all the while.

I saw all of that, along with a blazing intelligence and passion for doing the right thing, in Michelle Obama last night.

I would be proud to have her as First Lady and to have her husband in office.

I pray that the Hillary delegates will put any bitterness aside for the sake of our country, that we can all unite as Democrats and come together to win the election and make real, substantive change happen in this country and in this world.

I'm excited. For the first time in a long time.

I felt like a kid on Christmas Eve yesterday waiting for the Convention to get under way last night. I was disappointed that we only got an hour of it on TV and had to listen to Katie Couric blathering away over Michelle Obama's brother.

I also have to say, I'm tired of the Kennedy's. They really don't matter any more and I wish they'd quit hauling them out all the time. Ted will be the last Kennedy to make a difference in political life in this country.

Of course, I don't want to get too excited. The last two elections have made me wary of getting my hopes up.

I guess it's just a waiting (and hoping) game at this point.

Friday, August 22, 2008


And so, I rise from the dead.

I've been working. Getting Brendan settled in school. Dealing with hurt feelings. My own hurt feelings. I'm trying to figure out why some people are the way they are.

I found out through my brother-in-law that Scott's dad and stepmom had a "Grandson's Week" where they invited three of their five grandsons to spend the week with them. As you've figured out by now, our sons weren't included. I can understand not including the baby. But why not Brendan?

I sent an e-mail inviting them to attend Grandparent's Day at Brendan's school and when they declined because that's the day they're having some repairs done to their roof and Stepmom has a doctor's appointment, I told them how hurt I was that they didn't include Brendan and that they treat him like they don't love him. They've really broken my heart in a way that I have trouble expressing. The idea that grandparents who are supposed to adore their grandkids and love them absolutely unconditionally aren't able to do so, that they favor certain kids over my sweet, sensitive, bright, funny little boy because he's shy and not a rambunctious, eager child who craves their attention because they ply him with sweets really hurts, angers, and confuses me.

How dare they!

I've tried to have a relationship with them. But of course, they blame us.

Their response was that they haven't gotten to know Brendan because he's so shy and he doesn't try to talk to them when they try to interact with him.

They said the other daughters-in-law and sons just pop in whenever they're passing through. Here's the kicker. Both of Scott's brothers went to college in the town where my in-laws live. They go over for every football game in the fall. One of the brothers lives 30 minutes away. They told me that his wife leaves their kids with them while she goes to get her hair done and that's how they've gotten to know them.

I am really outraged when I think about it.

We live 2 hours away. If we're passing through it's because we're on our way somewhere and don't have time. How is it fair to compare me to my sister-in-law who goes to a salon a mile from their house because her nephew works there and she gets her hair done at a discount? And has free babysitting to boot. AAAAARRRRRGGGGGHHH!

I tried to visit them this summer and they gave me four days out of the month of July that they'd be available. On two of those days, we had out of town guests that we'd been anticipating all summer. Some of Brendan's favorite people in fact.

I tried to go the other two days, but had car trouble and couldn't get there because my car was in the shop. Of course, when I invited them to come here, they said they prefer to see the kids at their own home because kids react differently when they're at their homes and with their parents.

And they had the audacity to tell me that I misinterpreted what they meant when they asked me to leave with Brendan when they threw us out of their house.

I just don't know what to do. How do I get through to these people?

It hurts so much. I don't really care if they hate me, but how could they not love their own grandchild?

So, now you know part of why I haven't been around. I've been licking my wounds and trying to control my rage; not wanting to say anything too wrong. To fuck up by writing something I'd regret. But finding a way to express what I'm feeling. Sadly, writing about it makes me feel it even more strongly.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Sunny Day

This is our last Thursday before school begins and I've managed to fill it to the brim. I've scheduled a double playdate for both Brendan and Beckett today with my friend L. and her two little boys. Her oldest is a year younger than Brendan, but loves him and always wants to play with him at our house. Her baby and Beckett are just a couple of months apart and play very nicely alongside one another. This is the first time all summer we've been able to coordinate our schedules to make getting all six of us together at once possible.

Rising to the occasion (in multiple ways), I awoke at 5:30 so I could bake some Amish Friendship bread and make a fruit salad for snacks. I still need to vacuum and clean our guest bathroom and shower.

This afternoon, I've scheduled a swimming playdate for Brendan with his friend Mark at the neighborhood pool. He has talked about going to Mark's pool constantly since we went there in June.

Yesterday, we went and registered Brendan for Kindergarten. Scott and I were both very, very happy to learn that Brendan ended up in the class with the teacher who is widely regarded as being the best Kindergarten teacher in the school. Yay! I could dance a jig. She seems so smart and kind and organized. I volunteered to be a room mom even though she already had two other volunteers. I will offer my assistance on a "part-time' basis on the two mornings Beckett is at PMO. I am just so thankful he ended up in her class. A bit confused as to why there are so many boys in her class and so few in the other Mrs. S.'s class (each class had like a 3/4 to 1/4 divide between boys and girls), but that's okay. He has a lot of kids in his class that he knew from last year so hopefully that will ease the transition.

It's been yet another busy week. My boss is encouraging me to get my real estate license and I'm not sure that's something I want to do. Despite the fact that I work for a realtor, I feel like most real estate agents are just like Annette Benning's character in American Beauty. And I don't really think that's me. Not so much.


I clearly have nothing witty or profound to say today. Just a random update on the happenings at chez moi.

I hope everyone else has had a great week. I actually do have other stuff to write about, just not enough time! My mother-in-law is coming on Saturday so I'll be getting ready for her. Hopefully, I'll find more time to write later tonight or tomorrow.

Monday, August 4, 2008


I'm filled with links today. No. Not the sausagey kind. Linky goodness to let you know what is going on in this crazy world of ours.

Read this. And when you're done go get your tires filled and schedule a tune-up.

Fat-Bottomed Girls

"Parents want to feed their children healthy meals, but America's chain restaurants are setting parents up to fail," CSPI nutrition policy director Margo G. Wootan said in a statement. "McDonald's, Burger King, KFC, and other chains are conditioning kids to expect burgers, fried chicken, pizza, french fries, macaroni and cheese, and soda in various combination at almost every lunch and dinner."

I'm sorry? I must have misunderstood you, Ms. Wootan. Are you implying that as a parent, I have no control over or responsibility for what my child eats?

For God's sake, people. This is exactly what is wrong with this country. Trust me. I hate on corporate America as much as the next card-carrying liberal. But blaming fast food companies because of the crap our kids eat and their entitled little whining attitudes about what they want to eat goes entirely too far for this mom. And I say all of this as the parent of a child who begs to eat at Mickey D's every chance he gets, who is picky, and whose picky eating habits are a constant worry on me.

I pester, prod, and push my child to eat healthier. And I do indulge him in a trip to McDonald's or Burger King, knowing it's more about the toy than anything else, every once in a while. What I don't do is blame any one else for the way he eats or doesn't eat. I don't blame Kraft or Kellogg's or General Mills or RJR/Nabisco or ConAgra or any of the makers of convenience foods and snacks. If my child doesn't eat well it's because I as his mother and provider of nourishment have in some way failed to bring good foods to him or convince him to eat those good foods.

It's bullshit to say that "...America's chain restaurants have set parents up to fail." God that attitude sickens me.

Anyone who sat through a fourth grade health class or has watched a fucking PSA knows how to feed a child or how to eat healthfully themselves. To blame fast food outlets because people eat there is nuts. There's plenty you can blame them for in terms of the quality of food they provide, but they do what they do and we all know what they do when we choose to walk through their doors or drive up to their drive-thru windows.

No one is to blame for an obese America except Americans themselves who choose to eat poorly, sit on their fat, lazy asses and then blame someone else.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Boys Will Be Boys

This article pretty much confirms my limited experience raising children and highlights one of my biggest fears as the parent of sons.

For all the failings of the educational system over the past several decades to reach out to female students, it appears the ship has turned 180 degrees to the point that boys are being shut out.

I've been reading this research for a few years now... The lack of tactile experiences, the focus on test scores that requires endless sitting still in the classroom, the focus on teaching facts and figures at younger and younger ages while eliminating any experiences that teach the joy of learning, e.g. art, music, group activities.... These are all cited as central to the fact that more and more boys each year are diagnosed with ADD/ADHD when, in fact, they are just being boys.

We are trying to force kids to do things at ages four, five, and six, that their brains are not physically capable of doing. And it's worse on boys because their brains mature more slowly than those of girls.

And it's really easy to turn that all into a big joke, but ultimately, the joke is on us as a society. If we crush the self-esteem of a generation of little boys, tell them there is something wrong with them when they're simply being who and what they are, what kind of men will we produce.

I'm terrified of what this school year will bring.

But, I'm really glad there's research going on in this area and that others are noticing. I'm glad that a mainstream publication like Parenting is talking about it. I just wish it would trickle down to our educators. My fear is, however, that the ability to dose little boys with poison to the point that we zombify them and make things easier for our largely female teachers, is such a temptation that we will never recover.

Monday, July 28, 2008

I'm So Tired

I hate feeling dumb. But boy do I feel dumb today.

For a couple of weeks now I have been totally on edge. Snapping at people. My poor kids and husband included. I've felt edgy, achy, totally discombobulated.

This week, it kind of came to a head. I was feeling anxious about Scott's show. I had to make a decision about a job offer I'd received for a pretty cool job that would pay a fantastic amount of money but require me to go into an office one day a week and force us to hire a nanny and/or housekeeper because I'd need someone to help with Beckett. I walked around in tears or on the verge of tears for a week.

There were a couple of moments where I wondered if I might be having a nervous breakdown.

I was wondering what was up? Why would stuff that I could typically deal with without batting an eyelash push me so close to the edge?

Then, Saturday, it dawned on me.

I haven't had a break since May. Scott and I have gone out alone a couple of times, but most of the times we've had a sitter, it's been because he's playing. Or we've gone out with other people. I've been with the kids constantly except for the two or three times I've hired a sitter to go to a work meeting.

No down time for me since May. Even when Beckett has napped, I still have Brendan.

I love my kids. I love my life. But sometimes... I need some time. A bubble bath. A quiet hour with a book. To go to the bathroom without someone knocking on the door and asking me to come do something that could wait.

So, this morning, I planned to get up at 6:30 and work out. I actually woke up a bit earlier raring to go. I got up, did some Pilates, and only just now has Beckett awoken. Brendan is still asleep.

And I feel great!

Refresed, revived, and ready to go.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Coming Up Roses

I hate Back to School time. Well, I sort of love it. And I sort of hate it. As a student, I loved it. I loved learning and for me, summer was a long, boring, friendless time. I filled the days with reading books, listening to music, and counting down the days until school began again. While my friends were going to visit grandparents in far away places or making sojourns to the beach with their families, I was stuck at home all day while my mom worked.

This summer, we didn't go on vacation. The trip I planned for the boys to see their grandparents was waylaid by car trouble. It has been a long, boring, friendless time for me where I have felt cooped up and lonely. Even the things we've done haven't felt like things I wanted to do, but obligations.

This summer has felt long and exhausting. I haven't had a moment of me time it feels like. I haven't even exercised in months. I haven't had time to think or pray or do anything to rejuvenate my spirit. I feel aimless, hopeless, lonely, sad, confused.

But, I'm somehow not ready for school to begin again. Mostly, just because I don't like the school board deciding that school should go back in the middle of summer.

School starts in our county on August 11. August e-lev-enth! Can you believe that? It stinks for the kids.

We haven't even been on vacation yet.


I hate this frantic, frenetic, stupid, stupid world.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Black River

There are just a few more days to order tickets to Scott Downes Live at Underneath. You can get your tickets here. Remember, too that the ticket price includes beer and wine. It should be a great night of good music in a relaxed and intimate setting.

I know I'm shameless in plugging my husband's music, but I believe he is a gifted and talented songwriter and I want to share his music with as many folks as I can. If you're new here or you've never heard him, you can check him out on his web site. I suggest the live show at Kavarna.

Now, I said I was going to give away two tickets to his show this week and so I shall. If you live in the Atlanta metro area and you're interested in going to the show, visit Scott's site and listen to the song Black River. After you're done, come back here, and post a comment telling me what gets thrown in the water at the end of the song. I will choose one winner at random from the correct answers.

The contest starts now, Monday, 7/21, at 4:15 p.m. and will run through 4:15 p.m. tomorrow, 7/22.

Chimes of Freedom

Scott's cousin Valerie is an amazing woman. She's a gifted artist and one of the most awe-inspiring women near my age that I've ever met. I don't say it lightly when I say that there are some people that have the spark of the Holy Spirit in them and Valerie is on of those people. She has an unusual burden gift in being able to feel and carry the pain of others. It's not just that she can feel their pain, but that she wants to. Her empathy leads her to want to connect with others in this way, to truly experience what someone else felt or is feeling. She's a generous, and deeply beautiful human being.

She recently completed a 2100 mile bike ride that retraced the Underground Railroad from Montgomery, Alabama to Owens Sound in Canada.

You can read about her adventures here.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Chaos and Creation

Another super busy week. I've much to be grateful for, however, and I am delighted to find myself at home, blogging to my heart's content.

Last week I promised you book reviews and reviews you shall have, my friends. Today, I'm going to give you the lowdown on my friend Susan Schanerman's book Play or Pay: 77 Ways to Have Fun or Suffer the Consequences and End Up Paying the Price. But first, these messages... I do have a couple of exciting announcements. I am going to have two contests this week. Atlanta folk, get your babysitter ready. I'm giving away 2 tickets to Scott's show at Underneath next week, July 26th. More on that tomorrow.

And also, next week, I'm going to give away a copy of Anita Renfroe's new stand-up DVD. Again, more later.

Now, about Play or Pay: 77 Ways to Have Fun or Suffer the Consequences and End Up Paying the Price... If you're looking for a reminder that all work and no play makes you dull, dull, dull, in ways more than one, this is an excellent reminder.

Author Susan Schanerman survived polio as a child, but missed out on much of the fun and normal childhood activities of she saw other kids experiencing. As an adult, Susan came to see that much of the distress in her life, as well as the creative blocks in her own life and those of her clients, resulted from an inability to relax, play, and have fun. She points out in the introduction to her book that by adopting a more "play-full" attitude towards life, we can open our creative channels, and improve both our physical and mental health simply by playing and reducing our stress levels.

Play or Pay is short, fun book that you can read by opening it up to any page and finding a suggestion for a way to play. Having a bad day? Feeling stressed out? Pick up the book and open it up. You'll find suggestions like "Make a date with yourself. Take yourself to a favorite spot you haven't been to in ages." Or "Go to a Museum or art gallery. Spend enough time to allow yourself to feel completely inspired. Go home and experiment doing something creative."

It's a simple, but fun and inspiring book that reminds us all to slow down a little, take some time for ourselves, and have fun with this life because we only get this one and we might as well enjoy it.

I've been having fun just imagining myself doing some of the things in the book. I can only imagine the fun I'll have once I start doing some of the things in the book.

If you're curious, you can order your copy at Susan's web site. If you're a creative who's feeling blocked, you might also be interested in reading about her creative coaching services as well.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Rise Up with Fists!

I don't typically do this, but sometimes something feels important enough to share with as many people as possible, so I am republishing a message I received from MOMS Rising, the leading national advocacy organization for women, children, and families.

There are always many worthy issues being upheld by MOMS Rising, but this one in particular enrages me. To see huge corporations profiting at the expense of our children is, to me, one of the most heinous, offensive acts imaginable. Yet, it happens every single day. If that weren't the case, not only would toys, sippy cups, baby bottles, diapers, and the cars we drive not be filled with nasty, carcinogenic, and otherwise deadly toxins, they'd still be made in America. Even more egregious is that our government creates an environment of entitlement for these corporations and manipulates the rules to let them get away with what amounts to murder. Worse yet? Us. We let our government and the mega-corporations that actually run our country get away with it.

We do this, of course, not because we don't care about our health or the health of our children. But because we're tired and lazy. Because it's too hard to care when you're struggling just to survive and when the public relations arms and lobbyists for these companies are spewing disinformation designed to make you think their products are safe and that they're just poor business owners being maligned by the liberal media while they're just trying to make a living.

Yes, it's exhausting getting by day to day and paycheck to paycheck as most Americans live. We shouldn't be asked to take on fighting an uphill, never-ending battle against evil men (and women) who would profit on the health and safety of our families (and their own). But, if we don't fight it, who will? Who cares more about your own children than you do (Yes. God does, but that's not the discussion we're having today.)?

Anyway, here's the information I received from MOMS Rising:

As if the price of gas wasn't bad enough, now Exxon Mobil is aggressively lobbying to defeat our efforts to ban phthalates, a toxic chemical, from kids' toys.

Hundreds of independent, peer-reviewed scientific studies that have been generated since the 1970s link phthalate exposure to serious health effects including reduced testosterone levels, lowered sperm counts, early puberty in girls, and genital defects in baby boys.

Tell Congress not to prioritize Exxon Mobil's profits over our kids' health:

Why is Exxon Mobil using its deep pockets to fight the efforts of moms and dads to ban phthalates from kids' toys? It's simple. Exxon Mobil is one of the world's largest producers of DINP -- the primary plasticizer used to make soft plastic kids toys. Banning phthalates would be bad for Exxon Mobil's business. But I'm not too worried about their profit margin, last year they broke the record for profits earned by a U.S. corporation -- $40.6 billion.[1]

Last month, you sent over 19,000 letters to Congress which helped convince one key undecided member -- Rep. Diana DeGette -- to go on record in support of a ban on toxic phthalates in children's toys. Now we need only two more votes to win passage of this critical measure. Please send letters to the four members of the House Conference Committee who are still undecided.

Let's show Exxon Mobil that they are no match for the moms and dads of this country. Through the efforts of members and our aligned organizations, we are shaking the halls of Congress with our demands for swift action to protect our kids from toxic toys and other children's products. And our leaders are listening. We have achieved a critical moment where the will of people and political actions of our leaders are finally coalescing to create a strong response to toxic toys.

Right now, a House/Senate Conference Committee is meeting to finalize the Consumer Product Safety Commission Reform Act (CPSC) Act which will strengthen our nation's protections against toxic toys. We have a critical window in the next two weeks to add the Feinstein Amendment to the CPSC, restricting the use of six toxic phthalates in children's toys.

Please take a minute to forward this message to your friends and family. The more letters we send to Congress, the more impact we will have. Thanks again for your incredible work to move Congress to finally take action to prevent toxic toys from reaching our children!

Donna, Kristin, Joan, Roz, Katie, Mary, and the Team


P.S. For information about how to reduce your child's exposure to toxic chemicals see,

P.P.S. For more information about phthalates, click here,

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Happy Sunday

Last week was a busy one and I was left with little time to write. It involved car trouble, a show at Chastain Park, work, reading three books which I plan to review for you this week, and Scott's show at Kavarna last night.

Scott was fantastic and the crowd was great. Jim Combs, who is one of the organizers of the Atlanta Songwriter's Series, played first as Sensitive Chaos. Electronic or ambient music isn't something I know a lot about (make that anything), but I really enjoyed what he did. It was really nice and relaxing.

One of the acts dropped out because it was going to be too expensive for him to drive in from North Carolina, so Scott got to play a longer set than he had thought, so he invited our friend Mark Wenthe, from Athens band Dusty Lightswitch to play with him. Mark's an amazing guitarist and he played on the last few songs with Scott adding some nice flavor.

If you're interested, you can download and listen to the show here.

If you're a musician looking for a place to play in the Decatur area, I'd definitely say check out Kavarna. They're great people and the sound in the room is really fantastic. And if you're a fan, this was a great place to listen to live music. They serve up a really interesting variety too.

Eudora June who played after Scott was great. She had a little more of a bluesy feel and I really liked her voice.

So, another week down. A new one beginning. I hope this one proves more productive, lets me have more fun with the kids, and is less tiring. And lets me write more.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Georgia On My Mind

Hey, Georgia Bloggers!

Do you know about the Georgia Bloggers' Carnival? It's hosted and organized each month by Georgia History Teacher on her blog, Georgia On My Mind. Other Georgia Bloggers' sometimes take a stab at hosting the event on their blogs as well. Anyone who lives in Georgia or writes about Georgia is welcome to submit his or her blog to the general blogroll. And if you have a post about something going on in Georgia, Georgia people, places, or fabulous things, you can submit your post to the carnival as well.

I was going to post a cool graphic link, but the HTML is broken and I don't have a clue how to fix it, so...Sorry, y'all! Nothing pretty to look at today. But do go check out all that peachy goodness.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Borrowed Time

A while ago I had mentioned that I wanted to get my life more organized and to have things operate more efficiently. As I am not naturally a systematic thinker, but more a fly by the seat of my pants kind of girl, this has been a struggle.

Two and a half years ago, before I got pregnant with Beckett, I began using the FlyLady routines and that helped me tremendously. As I've said before, though, my morning sickness and first trimester exhaustion knocked me off my routines and I just never got back into it.

For the last week or two, I've been using the Messies Anonymous method. It's similar to FlyLady in terms of de-cluttering your home. In fact, I'm not really sure that there's much difference at all. MA really does focus on folks who might be considered chronically disorganized. But two of the philosophies of the group really have clicked with me and seem to be making a difference in making all the housework required to keep this show on the road a bit easier.

The first rule is kind of obvious to those of you who got the neat gene: Stow as you go. Simple, right? I just always thought why stop what you're doing to put things away when you can come back and do it when you're finished with whatever else you're working on. The problem is that there are too many distractions. Later somehow never comes. I've been following this rule and it's making a ton of difference.

The other rule is If it takes less than 30 seconds to do, go ahead and do it. The same logic applies. Later never comes, so you might as well do it now.

These two philosophies along with their mantra of babysteps are really helping me.

Yesterday, I was able to keep our kitchen and living room clean all day without doing anything major to them. I cooked three meatloaves – one for us, one to freeze, and one for a friend who just had a baby – a large pot of green beans, and homemade mashed potatoes, and made cupcakes, and had everything in the dishwasher or cleaned and put away by 7:30. I got both boys in the tub, and although Beckett didn't make it to bed until 9 p.m., Brendan was in his bed by 8:30.

Scott and I were able to hang out and talk while he played Wii and I worked out for the first time in ages.

My big hang up has been that it takes so long to clean up and get the boys in bed after dinner. Scott doesn't get home until after 7 most nights and he's worn out from his day and has work of his own that needs to get done. I have felt like I was worn out and brain dead by the time I would get dinner on the table, fight with Brendan over eating, get the dishes in the sink, get the boys bathed and in bed. Then I would have to come back to the kitchen to clean, by myself, which is a lonely place to be when your husband is upstairs trying to recover from his long day. I hated it, so many nights, I'd just get everything in the sink, put away the leftovers, and leave everything else 'til morning. Then, I'd wake up behind the gun with a dirty kitchen. And so the cycle would continue.

These last several days of waking to a clean, uncluttered kitchen and living room have been wonderful. I feel much more in control and relaxed. On Saturday, when I woke to a sink full of dishes left from preparing food to take to a party Friday night, I felt de-energized and despondent all day.

I hope I can keep up on this path of getting things done. We'll see. I am definitely a convert to taking care of things as you go along instead of letting it pile up. It seems to be making all the difference.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Pictures of You

My creation
Originally uploaded by belleoftheblogATL
This looked like a lot of fun to me, so I am shamelessly stealing this from Rennratt, who stole it from Wordnerd.

The pictures represent the answers to the following questions*:

1. Your Flickr name:
2. One word that describes you:
3. What you love most in life (my picture here is missing one thing):
4. What you want to be when you grow up:
5. Your favorite dessert:
6. Location of your dream vacation:
7. Your favorite drink:
8. Your celebriity crush:
9. Favorite color:
10. What school you attended (I went for high school for some reason):
11. Favorite food:
12. First name:

Okay. So that was really fun! Even though I did things backwards. But give it a go and let me know when you post yours. I'd love to see your answers.

Here's what you do:
Go to Flickr. Search for the answers to the questions. Choose a picture that best reflects your answer. Fave it. Make the mosaic.

*The questions were originally in the reverse order, but when I made my mosaic, they came out in the opposite order, so I reversed the list when I printed it here.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Knowledge is Power: June's Perfect Post

I know. We mommy bloggers write about being referred to as just a mommy and losing our identities ad infinitum.

A., of A., Woman of Independent Means, one of my favorite daily reads, recently wrote one of the most encouraging posts for other moms I've read in a long time.

She wins my vote for June's Perfect Post. You can check out the entire list at Suburban Turmoil or Petroville.

She may not have intended it as such, but for me, at least, it was a wonderful reminder of the ways being a mom has made me smarter and opened my world to things I wouldn't have known about otherwise.

I don't necessarily consider myself an "expert" in many of these, but I have learned an incredible amount of information that I didn't have before I became a parent in each of these subjects:

pregnancy complications
chromosomal abnormalities (specifically Trisomy XX8)
pregnancy nutrition
fertility awareness method
natural childbirth choices
the dangers of modern medicalized childbirth
postpartum depression
feeding choices
Thomas the Tank Engine
Marvel Comics
educational choices

There are many more things that I've learned as a mom. Most important of all,though, is experiencing the capacity for the heart to grow ever larger to hold all the love that pours in the instant you hold your tiny newborn for the first time.

Thanks, A., for reminding us that although we may feel like we lose a large chunk of our brains, we're actually learning all the while.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Hey Bulldog!

On Friday evening, UGA VI, the beloved University of Georgia mascot, died. A couple of years ago, I had the great privilege of interviewing UGA's owners, Sonny and Cecelia Seiler, for Atlanta Dog Life magazine.

I'm publishing that story here now in honor of UGA. Even if you're not a college sports fan or a Georgia fan, the story of how the UGA tradition came to be is sweet and endearing.

When Cecelia Gunn met Sonny Seiler during the University of Georgia’s annual “Stunt Night”, the two could never have predicted the impact their meeting would have on the university they both so dearly loved.

Wed on a fall Saturday in 1955 in Columbus, Ga., the Seilers celebrated their nuptials by flying to Florida for the Georgia-Florida football game. “Georgia lost and it nearly ruined the honeymoon,” Cecelia reveals.

A few months later, in April 1956, a family friend of Cecelia’s named Frank Heard called the couple and told them he had a wedding gift for them: a solid white English Bulldog puppy. The Seilers accepted the gift, moving him into their cramped apartment. They named the dog UGA – an acronym for the University of Georgia -- at the suggestion of one of Sonny’s law school friends, Billy Young. Sonny recalls that for many months UGA was a gangly pup. “He looked more like a Boxer than a Bulldog.” However, by fall, he had begun to fill out his frame with the classic Bulldog stockiness.

That September, on a lark, the couple took their young pup with them to a pre-game party at the Sigma Chi house where Sonny had been a member. It was the day of Georgia’s first home game that season. Wearing a child-sized t-shirt with an appliquéd letter “G” that Cecelia had made for him, UGA was the hit of the party. He proved so popular that the Seilers decided to take him to the game. According to Sonny, a few sportswriters saw the dog in the stands and soon photographs of the adorable Bulldog pup with the cute clothes and the perfect name made their way into local papers. And so, a family pet was on his way to becoming one of the most recognized and beloved icons in the history of football.

Fifty years later the tradition set in motion that autumn day proves stronger than ever. A brand new documentary called “Damn Good Dog” celebrates the life and accomplishments of the six Bulldogs named UGA, following the history of the Seiler family and their canine companions. Likenesses of UGA abound, from figurines to wall art, stuffed animals to your basic college sweatshirt. Despite whatever your own college affiliation may be, if you live in Georgia, there’s no escaping the presence -- or impact -- of UGA.

But what is life really like for this family dog turned celebrity mascot? If UGA VI, the current University of Georgia mascot, could talk, he’d probably tell you that life is good and being UGA is a pretty good job…if you can get it.

Each of the six Bulldogs from UGA I through UGAVI has been raised and treated as a family pet, living at the Seilers’ home, napping on the couch, playing with first their children and now their grandchildren. Because the dogs are their pets, the Seilers have always been responsible for their care and upkeep, from food to vet bills. And, as UGA's managers, so to speak, they have also always been responsible for getting him to the games, driving from Savannah to Athens for home games and ensuring he’s available to travel with the team to away games.

The Seilers continued to take UGA to games throughout that first fall. Soon, the university’s Sports Information Director, Dan Magill, became aware of the solid white Bulldog. When the time came to make an official selection of a new mascot, Magill recommended to Athletic Director Wally Butts that UGA receive the job. The fact that UGA was a direct descendant of the team’s Rose Bowl mascot from several years prior helped seal the deal. Sonny Seiler, who worked in the Athletic Department ticket office, recalls being called to Butts’s office. “My first thought was ‘What have I done to get fired?’.” When he actually spoke to Coach Butts, Seiler was relieved to find out Butts simply wanted to ask him his thoughts on having his dog become the football team mascot. “I was honored,” Seiler says humbly.

The Seilers took their commitment to the university seriously. When the time came for them to move back to Savannah at the end of Sonny’s third year of law school, Sonny met with Coach Butts to explain how much UGA meant to their family and to suggest that the family be allowed to keep the dog, with the commitment to be at every game. “Our oldest daughter Swann had come along at that point. So I explained to Coach Butts that this dog had become an integral part of our family. I said, ‘He and my little girl are growing up together and I would like to propose that you let us keep him and I promise I will have him at every game.’ Coach Butts just smiled and said, ‘Sounds like a good idea to me, Sonny.’”

From that point on, a succession of Seiler family pets have served as the University of Georgia mascots, sharing in the triumphs and glories, as well as in the more challenging times. Each dog – hand-picked by Cecelia Seiler from pups born of the same bloodline extending back to UGA I – has had his share of accomplishments. UGA I launched the legacy, earning the epithet “Damn Good Dog” when the crowd spontaneously erupted into that chant at his retirement ceremony. UGA II had the briefest tenure, but enjoyed two SEC titles (1966, 1968). UGA III, who served from 1973 until 1980, seems to have brought the team the most success, with two SEC titles (1975, 1980), a National Championship (1980), and the most victories over ranked opponents (12). UGA IV became the first team mascot to attend the Heisman Trophy awards in 1982, when he flew to New York aboard Delta Airlines along with teammate and eventual winner of the award, Herschel Walker.

Yet, it was UGA V who gained the most notoriety of any of the dogs. Although the UGAs have always been beloved icons within the state, symbolizing the gumption and determination of the school’s Bulldog Spirit, UGA V was cast into the national spotlight the day in 1996 he lunged at Auburn running back Robert Baker. On the final play in the first quarter of the game, Baker scored on a six-yard pass that put Auburn ahead. As Baker ran out of bounds into the end zone, UGA V lunged at the player’s groin, standing on his hind legs and straining to reach Baker. According to Charles Seiler, UGA’s handler and the Seilers’ only son, the dog was merely being playful. To Georgia fans and the nation at large who saw the scene replayed over and over again on ESPN and in photographs printed in countless sports pages, the image of UGA going after an Auburn player represented the relentless spirit with which Georgia takes on one of its fiercest rivals every season. The dog’s popularity soared even further when Sports Illustrated named him “America’s Best College Mascot” in April 1997. His appearance playing his dad, UGA IV, in the Clint Eastwood-directed thriller “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil,” also added to his fame.

Still, each dog has been “treated just like a dog at home,” according to Cecelia. And of course, each family member has had his or her own favorite. Oldest daughter Swann grew up with UGA I and recalls that he followed her everywhere. To her, he was “the most loving of all the UGAs.” Mom Cecelia favored IV for his “perfect” looks while proud papa Sonny says that he does not have a favorite. “I loved them all and miss them all. They’re pets and they’re all very dear to me,” he says.

Over the last fifty years the family has loved and been loved by six truly great dogs, each adding his own unique contributions to the UGA legacy. They have stood beside each dog, loving and nurturing them through health crises, like UGA II’s near-death experience with heatstroke following Picture Day and the battle with leukemia that ultimately took his life. UGA III suffered from dry-eye, a condition common among English Bulldogs, and required surgery to place a saliva gland in his eye for tear production. Charles Seiler recalls, “UGA III would cry whenever he smelled food.”

Thanks to the University of Georgia School of Veterinary Medicine and medical advances, each successive UGA has enjoyed better health. Thanks to the Seilers they, like many modern dogs, enjoy the finest in creature comforts. The last several UGAs have enjoyed the comfort of their own air-conditioned doghouses. UGA VI, the reigning mascot, even rides in ease with his own custom-designed luxury golf cart, thanks to EZ-Go Golf Carts. According to Sonny, UGA recognizes the sound of the cart’s engine and starts barking excitedly, ready to go for a ride.

Sonny Seiler vows that his family will carry on the tradition of raising and caring for the school mascot as long as the university welcomes it. The family receives no compensation for its efforts and donates all royalties from UGA’s activities and endorsements to the University of Georgia. In fact, they even buy their own season tickets to football games. Clearly, this is a family truly committed to its dogs and its alma mater.

Long live the Seilers! Long live these Damn Good Dogs!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

William Tell

Remember the mom with the funny song to the tune of the William Tell Overture (or if your memory is like mine The Lone Ranger theme song)?

Well, her name is Anita Renfroe and I just learned she's from right here in the ATL, y'all. She's doing full-time standup now, touring, and she just released a new DVD. Can you imagine, going from la-la-la, I'm a stay-at-home-mom and I write witty little songs about my life and the goofy things my kids do to I'm a full-time, on tour, stand-up comedienne with my own d-buh-d, as my son would say.

Actually, I guess I can imagine that, because I would love for that to happen for Scott's musical career.

Here's some of her new act. (She's being sponsored by LUVS Diapers, who by the way, have a limited-time coupon on their web site for $5 off their diapers. ) I don't know if you recall, but I got some free samples of LUVS quite some time ago and was really pleasantly surprised by them. I actually have to go out of my way to find them since they don't sell them at Publix here, but I may have to. Lately everything leaks on Beckett and those are one of the brands that don't leak on my little chunkamunk. If only they made pull-ups.

Alright, enough! Here's the video:

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Look Out Cleveland

Apropos of nothing, I thought I'd let those of y'all in the ATL know about a couple of my honey's upcoming gigs.

He'll be playing at Kavarna in Decatur/Oakhurst on July 12. This should be a great show. It's part of the Atlanta Songwriters' Showcase and he'll be playing with Jim Combs, Eudora June, and Moses Atwood.

He's also playing at a very new, very cool space called Underneath on July 26. Underneath is a listening room built and run by the guitarist for the band Vortex Park. It's the ideal place for acoustic music... seats 32, professional light and sound, stage. And for the guests, your ticket price includes beer and wine. Oh yeah. Good times, y'all!

Seriously, though, you might not be able to find a more intimate venue in this town short of a friend's living room. If you enjoy good music and you believe in supporting local music, I strongly encourage you to come to this show. You can get your tickets here.

And, my beloved loyal readers, you'll get to meet me! How cool would that be?

Oh yeah! And if you are one of my deeply appreciated and loyal readers and you're not in Atlanta, please pass this on to your music lovin' friends who do reside here and encourage them to come.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Different But the Same

How is it that two children borne of the same parents, with the same essential genetic makeup, can be so very different? Night and day may be a cliché, but if the cliché fits....

This morning in the wee, wee hours, Beckett awoke in tears, gums aching with the pain of sharp new baby teeth poking through their delicate surface. At 2 a.m. I was in his room, giving him Tylenol and a bottle. He had already awoken at 12:15 screaming with what we thought at the time was a nightmare. Scott brought him into our bed where he cuddled sleepily, chewing the tail of his beloved puppy dawg and giving us the sweetest smiles. When he seemed sleepy enough I put him back in his crib and he settled in cuddling his doggie.

Just as I was drifting off while watching Conan interview a stripper bellydancer, I was snapped back to the here and now with more screaming. This time, I went in and just tried stroking his hair and he settled down, until I walked out his door to go back to bed. I thought, "He always puts himself back to sleep, so I'll just let him cry it out and he'll be fine." Ha!

He cried for over 10 min. and I couldn't take it. Even burying my head couldn't help me escape. This is entirely unusual for Beckett who has been an excellent sleeper from day one. So, I ended up, back in Beck's room. This time I brought the big guns. Tylenol. A bottle. And cuddly time.

I lifted him from the crib and we settled in the cozy blue velvet chair in his room where we sit to read before his nap every day. I just cradled him in my arms and stroked his hair and forehead while he smiled sleepily up at me and played with my face. He talked softly to him and massaged his jaw and cheekbones. Before long he was very relaxed and starting to drift off so I put him back into his bed where he settled in peacefully and was asleep almost instantly.

With Brendan, I would have been up until 5 a.m. He would never let me sit and cuddle him and ease him back into sleep. He would have screamed at the top of his lungs the entire time, taking the bottle, but batting away the Tylenol. Instead of sitting quietly and rocking, I would have had to pace the floor until I was ready to drop. Each time he quieted and I would try to sit with him or place him back into his crib, he would start screaming again. And this would repeat until I finally just gave up and put him down on the floor with some toys, lying down beside him, and praying he would wear himself out quickly.

And this went on for three years, more or less.

Why are they so different?

There are many other ways.

By this age, Brendan was playing much more independently. He was taller and thinner. Their interests, too, were very different. Brendan has always noticed details. From the time he was six months old he would look up at the sky and point out airplanes, helicopters, birds, and bugs. He would pick flowers and give them to me and point at any little thing that caught his eye and want us to tell him what it was. And he's still like that today.

Beckett could walk past an airplane parked in the driveway and not notice it I think. He's much more about the experience of things. He's very physical and wants to climb on everything, including you.

I'm just constantly amazed at how different two members of the same family can be, especially siblings. Still, they are alike in one very important way.... They both exhibit a very great capacity to show love and joy. They both love each other very much and have fun together. So for now, their differences don't really matter.

They just fascinate me. And sometimes I wonder if it's that they are so very different or if it's me who's changed.

So, I'd love to know if you see major differences in your children. Are you and your siblings different? How did those differences affect your relationship? Did your parents try to make you or your siblings more like one another or compare you?

Jesus Loves the Little Children

Have I told you all how much I loved going to Vacation Bible School when I was a child?

Well, if I haven't, you should know that going to VBS was the highlight of my summer for several consecutive summers. There were a few years when I went to the one at my church and one at the big new Church of Christ in my hometown. I don't know exactly what it was, but I loved going.

Brendan is going to VBS this week at our church. It's a very different experience than the one I remember, but even better.

At our church it isn't actually called Vacation Bible School. It's called Kaleidoscope.

It's a huge program with probably 200 kids ranging in age from 4 to 12. Each age/class is designated as a different country or ethnic group. The children spend the week learning about their country and how Catholics in that country or that particular group worship God. If Christianity is not the dominant religion in that country, they may briefly touch on the other religions and how they worship God. They learn about the saints from that country. Culture. Food. Art and Music. It's really neat.

Last year – Brendan's first attending – he was a Native American. This year, his class is Ireland. I've loved hearing him tell me about how St. Patrick chased the snakes out of Ireland with his drum; about how a leprechaun has wrecked the classroom every day when the kids have left for snack time; his interpretation of the story about Jesus and Zacchaeus (it involved Zacchaeus stealing everyone's money and Jesus telling him to give it back.).

I don't guess he's going to become Pope overnight or anything, but I love that this experience has him thinking about and relating to God on a level he can understand. The one thing I really dislike about our church is that there is no Sunday School for children who haven't started Kindergarten yet. And I haven't met a 4-year or 5-year old yet who can sit through a homily and get much out of it. So, Kaleidoscope offers a terrific opportunity for the younger kids to connect in a way that makes sense to them.

Of course, Brendan tends to focus on the outrageous aspects of any thing he learns or hears. This week I've had to answer questions about who killed Jesus and why, whether or not St. Patrick was killed, as well as whether or not a leprechaun would wreck Santa's workshop. He also informed me that Santa has a factory, not a workshop.

I can't wait to hear what he comes home with today.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

The Parting Glass

In one of those other lives I would have loved to lead if I hadn't stumbled into this one, I would have been involved in politics somehow. Probably as a reporter. My idols are Molly Ivins, Cokie Roberts, Mark Shields, Al Hunt, Bob Schieffer, James Carville, Paul Begala, and George Stephanopolous. And of course, Tim Russert.

His death saddens me more than I could have imagined the death of someone I didn't know personally could. I literally sat at a traffic light and bawled when I heard on Friday evening that he had died.

Tim Russert took over Meet the Press in 1991, just when I was becoming immersed in politics as an adult. I have always been a news and politics junkie. I remember watching the evening news as a very small child and asking my grandmother questions and listening as the adults around me talked politics. It sure seemed to happen a lot more back then than it does in my life now.

My whole life, politics has mattered to me, but it was when I graduated from college and saw how politics was not just some idealistic belief system that affected other people, but rather, was something that had a direct impact on my life that I really became impassioned.

Russert was there. One of the first pundits I looked to to learn from and hear discussions that didn't dance around a matter, but delved deeply into the essence of whatever the discussion was, whether it was universal health care or war in the Middle East or simply being a decent human being.

I think Tim Russert was probably one of those people who really is just too good for this world. By all accounts he was exactly the kind of guy you would want as your son, your father, your husband, or your pal.

I feel awful for his wife, his son, and of course, his dad. I can't imagine what life would be like after losing someone who clearly had such a big and impactful personality. It's a space that can't be filled.

I think the world is a little less nice knowing that such a good-hearted, joyful, passionate person no longer resides here. But I bet Heaven just got a little smarter.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Going to the Chapel

I don't know a lot of folks getting married or burying themselves deep in their wedding planning these days.

If I did, I would tell them about this new organization I just learned about today: it's called I Do Foundation. With the tagline, Celebrate Generously, I Do Foundation makes it easy for brides and grooms (and their guests) to give to their favorite charity in honor of their wedding day.

Right now, brides and grooms creating bridal registries with Target,, REI, or Linens and Things, can give up to 10% of the purchase price of gifts bought off their registries to the charity of their choice.

How cool is that?!

I understand that giving is supposed to be a sacrifice and should teach us something real about the nature of giving and maybe even ourselves. But I also like it when companies find unique ways of giving that allow us to feel good about shopping with them.

So, if you have friends or families planning their weddings right now, let them know about this easy way to turn their wedding into a gala fundraiser for their favorite charity.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

None of Us are Free

I suspect that if I were receiving a report card today, it would say does not play well with others. And after reflecting on this, I think I've always been this way, to some extent.

I do not like being part of a team. I want to be given a project and told to go at it. If I have to work with someone else, I want them to do their part and let me do mine and for them to keep their mouths shut and not tell me what they think about my work. And I'll do the same.

Now, why am I on about this, you ask? Well, I started a new job. There's the boss, who can give me feedback. That's part of the inherent, unspoken contract between a boss and an employee. There's a tech guy. And there's me... the marketer, the writer.

The tech guy thinks he can criticize my writing. And that pisses me the hell off. Especially when the writing is on a blog.

Ah ha! That was an example of exactly the thing he'd criticize... a sentence fragment.

I'll be more specific. I have a new job as the part-time marketing director for a small company. I am writing a blog on the subject matter of that company. I have worked with the tech guy on the blog because it's on WordPress at his suggestion and I am finding WordPress very user-unfriendly and ugly and it doesn't handle text well, etc. So, I've lots of questions.

Because it's a blog and I'm ghostwriting it, I've tried to find a way to match the conversational tone of my boss and keep it readable. I'm writing about specific subject matter and I need to sound like I know what I'm talking about without being stuffy or pompous. As I've shown here, I think that a blog is a conversation. And I tend to write in a conversational tone, phrasing things as I would say them if I were speaking to friends. I do not write in the formal manner, using all the conventions of correct grammar, as I would were I writing an English paper or an article for a magazine or speaking in front of a group of English professors who weren't also my friends. (You would be shocked at how many of my friends and Scott's are actually English professors.)

In writing this other blog, which has kept me away from here for more than a week, I think, I have used a sentence fragment for effect. I have begun a sentence with And (more than once), also for effect, and I have been soundly called out for those things by Mr. Techy-Smartypants. To my boss!

I met him for the first time yesterday and he gave off a cold and smug vibe that really rubbed me the wrong way. During the meeting, I learned that my boss is hiring another writer who was recommended by this tech guy, who by the way, I now think is a dirty louse for recommending another writer.

My boss says I shouldn't be insulted. He wants me to manage the marketing efforts and not write. But I love writing. LOVE IT. It is the one thing, other than my family and friends, that I am passionate about. Marketing is just something I do. Not what I love... what I wake up thinking about in the middle of the night. I don't compose marketing plans in the shower every day, but I do mentally write... fictional stories, blog posts, love letters to my husband and children, letters to congresspeople, magazine articles.

I know that if I were a better person, a team player, as it were, I'd be egoless about this. I would believe this is what is best for the business and I will be able to focus my efforts on generating great marketing ideas every day if I don't have to write the blog and web content. But I'm not there. I'm not selfless and egoless. I do believe I am a better writer than anyone else my boss will hire. I went to Agnes Freakin' Scott, dammit! No one trains better writers than Agnes Scott.

So, now that we're clear... Dawn doesn't play well with others and thinks she's a better writer than 95% of the people available to be hired as writers and she doesn't like being corrected by know-it-all techies... I feel much better. And I hope you don't think less of me for venting about it. Or for actually having the feelings in the first place. I never claimed to be perfect, right?

I will see letting go of the writing aspects of the job as an opportunity to focus those energies here and on other writing projects and I will try to see focusing on the marketing efforts as my actual job and the building up of those muscles.

Wish me the best.

*Tech dude actually criticized me for writing directly into the blog, as opposed to using a text editor and cutting and pasting. First of all, if WordPress actually came with a built-in spell check it wouldn't matter, and second of all, he must not know who he's talking to. I can only compare it to folks who do crosswords in pencil.

So, y'all, how do you write? Directly into the blog or with a text editor? Do tell, because I think he's insane and presumptuous to believe that I would need to do that.