How to Put a Bad Day in Perspective

What could have been a wonderful Sunday simply wasn’t to be. In fact, it was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.

The morning schedule looked all clear, so I rose early to attack a photo project for a relative. Sitting at my desktop computer at 7 am, I started scrolling through photos to make my selections.

And then, I heard a tree fall – this time not on my home — saw a bright flash and watched the computer screen go dark.

photo (7)It’s not unusual, on this heavily wooded island, for tree branches to fall on power lines. So, three or four times a year, we lose our electricity source – usually for 12 to 18 hours, but sometimes for several days, and once for a full week.

I knew what the day held: no computer power, no internet, no hot water.

I knew it was going to be a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.

I checked the newspaper’s weather report, and noted that the torrential rainfall should continue for several days.

So, the plants I purchased at Home Depot would spend another day in their plastic containers. The weeds would have another week to flourish in the garden. The lawn’s edges would remain ragged.

Walking past the laundry room, I realized that I had forgotten to move the crammed dark load from the washer into the drier. It would remain soaked for another day.

Fortunately, my cell phone was working. So, I texted my oldest son, who is awaiting knee surgery that will derail his college football plans, at least for the near future. I feel terrible for him, as football has served as a wonderful focus for his energy and dreams.

Next, my daughter and I drove to the health club to shower and get ready for our National Charity League chapter’s senior celebration. (While it was a hassle to haul everything to the gym, we do recognize we are fortunate to have somewhere to find warm showers, blow driers and bright lights.)

The luncheon was lovely, I went to a chocolate tasting afterwards, and our family later enjoyed a dinner out together. The day was definitely on an upswing.

Back at home, we settled into the living room, turned on the gas fireplace and read books by candlelight. It actually felt wonderful to unplug for an evening.

And then the call came: news that a young man we know had died suddenly. My heart aches for my son, who was good friends with the guy, as well as for his parents and our community at large.

Images of this young man are vivid in my mind. I can see him at our kitchen table, where he sat for countless meals and discussions about life. Whenever he entered our home, he filled every room with his positive energy, charm and broad smile. He was, as one friend just said, “a big teddy bear.”

Suddenly, the power outage, the rain, the musty clothes and the delayed projects seemed incredibly trivial. This young man will never see another day, and his family will never feel whole again.

My day was just a tough one, and some days are like that. Even in Australia. At least I have the promise of tomorrow.

Linda Williams Rorem, Permission Slips, 5 May 2014
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I Walk in My Mother’s Socks

Note: Permission Slips is grateful to present this guest post by Lisa Bell Pachnos, a Chicago-area native, Northwestern University graduate and mother of three in New Jersey. She wrote this in August 2012, nine months after her mother, Sue Bell, had died. (The photo is of Lisa and Sue.)

Towards the middle of her life, my mother became a fitness freak. Beforehand, when I was a child, she told me that she rarely gave a thought to exercise. “My legs were just there to hold up the rest of my body,” she told me on a day when I had complimented her on the muscles that were now bulging from her calves.

blog - lisa and momOnce she began an exercise regimen, my mother was remarkable in her dedication. She rose before dawn most days and drove herself to the fitness center. Or, on days when she elected to stay at home, she could be found in the basement lifting weights, rolling on an exercise ball, executing complicated lunges or using the elliptical trainer. Even on weekends at Lake Geneva, she worked out with an exercise ball in the living room or took brisk walks around the neighborhood. Amazingly, she could carry on a conversation while in the midst of these exertions.

All of us have a part of ourselves, physically, in which we are disappointed. For my father, it has always been his thighs (a story for another time). For my mother, it was her “tummy.” Try as she might, she could never achieve the six-pack abs that she desired. Years later, it was that awareness of her abdomen that alerted her to the cancer growing inside of her long before it would have been detected by someone less self-aware.

Now, nine months after my mother passed away, I treasure everything that I inherited from her, such as jewelry, clothing, trinkets, and strangely enough, some of her socks. Oddly, it is the socks that I use the most often and that evoke the strongest memories.

Unlike many people, I find summertime extremely challenging. While working from home during the school year has countless benefits, working from home during the summer months creates stress. It’s a constant tug-of-war between the needs of my children and the needs of my workplace. Person time is fleeting at best.

So lately, to carve out that time, I have been donning my mother’s socks and rising during the gray light of dawn. I stride outside in those socks, plus my own sneakers and other clothes, of course, and start walking along our quiet street. Occasionally, I am joined by other two-legged creatures on bikes or on foot. However, I am usually accompanied by critters with four legs or wings.

This quiet time allows me to plan my day, ponder my weaknesses, make notes to myself–which I email to my computer via my phone–and otherwise breathe.

I am grateful for the lessons my mother continues to give to me — even through something as inconsequential as the socks she wore during exercise.

– Lisa Bell Pachnos, for Permission Slips, 28 April 2014
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Heading Home

It started with the realization that my kids’ spring break aligned with my second son’s lacrosse game schedule. We could travel to Ohio for two Saturday games – and even a mid-week one, if we wanted – and spend the rest of the week visiting friends and family nearby.

Using the frequent flier miles and hotel points my husband has accrued through his travel-dependent job, we could enjoy a low-cost, multi-city trip away from home.

However, at some point I realized that “home” was at every stop along the way.

At my son’s college, it’s clear that after a somewhat bumpy year, he is finally acclimated and determined to stay for the duration. His younger brother, following a night in the dorm, seems surprised – and a bit awed: “Everyone knows him, and everyone respects him! His friends say he’s already a legend.”

I know that when my son stays in our house this summer, he will miss his new home.

food carts nycWhen we arrive in NYC, where I lived from ages 21 to 31, I take a deep breath and think, “I’m home.”

My New York home is full of yellow taxis, blaring car horns, crowded, stinky subways, thick accents, food carts, chewy bagels, brusque shopkeepers and honest, straightforward people. Strangers who strike up conversations on the #1 train. A deli owner who complains that his son is slacking on the job. Street performers who pull onlookers into the act.

Home in New York is friends who leave work early and take busses and trains to meet me for a drink. Friends from my first journalism job, my long-surviving book club, my summer rental in Connecticut. Friends who literally watched me grow up, stood beside me all the while and still offer love and support.

A few days later, as we drive to my hometown from O’Hare Airport, I think, “No, this is home.” The familiar yellow-brick bungalows. Super Dawg’s French fries. Dunkin’ Donuts.

My childhood house has belonged to other families for 30 years. My mother’s apartment still does not feel like home. My brother’s house – which once belonged to a high school friend – is a bit more comfortable, but still isn’t home.

Evanston has changed significantly over the years. The Central Street Baskin and Robbins shop, where I learned to scoop ice cream and count change, disappeared long ago. So did Herdrich’s, the Fotomat, Mr. Meyer’s shoe store and Uncle Ed’s grocery.

The Prudential bank, where I established my first account and procured my first set of dishes, is now a Starbucks.Field's clock

Marshall Field’s, where we purchased special clothes that weren’t available in the Sears Catalog, was converted to condos, a restaurant and small shops years ago. Betty’s of Winnetka, where we searched for Cotillion and Prom dresses, is gone.

I walk around as a stranger in a strange land. I don’t bump into people I know. I’m not familiar with most of the restaurants and stores.

And then, my niece leads me to Bennison’s bakery, where I used to buy chocolate donuts and smiley-face cookies on the way to the YMCA for swim team, gymnastics and Y-club meetings.

The donuts and cookies taste the same. The Y still stands.

Early one morning, my oldest and dearest friend – who I met when we were babies – joins me at the hotel for breakfast. Talking with Ann is like putting on a pair of well-worn slippers. They fit just right. They’re comfortable. They know where you’re headed and where you’ve been.

The waiter appears at our table, and smiles in recognition. He’s the same server that has brought my family orange juice during at least 15 annual visits. His warm smile feel like home.

The following day, another wonderful old friend drives in from Chicago for breakfast. As always, we speak openly and honestly about our joys and challenges, our dreams and disappointments. My daughter, fresh out of bed, stops by our table. “Did you know I met your mom when I was your age?” Chris asks Pea. Again, home.

rocks skylineThat afternoon, several family members – both Evanston- and Seattle-based – walk to the lakefront. After an excruciatingly long, cold, snowy winter, the sun has finally made an appearance. Northwestern students cavort in shorts and T-shirts. Birds chir and squirrels scramble for food.

Chicago’s impressive skyline emerges in the south.

We stop at the large rocks that line the coast. The same rocks I had played on as a child, waiting for a turn on the sailboat. The rocks where my friends and I congregated as teens, where I sat with boyfriends and then, years later, watched my own children play.

Some of the rocks bear graffiti affirming couples, announcing feelings, marking occasions. They have been painted and repainted over the years, and yet, still tell the stories of many decades, of the passage of time.

It is then, and there, that I realize my home is not just located in one city; my home is where I feel strong memories and the love of forever friends and family.

– Linda Williams Rorem, 14 April 2014
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Take the Wheel and Drive

Last summer, during the phenomenal BlogHer’13 conference, Lean In‘s Sheryl Sandberg spoke at a breakfast, challenging attendees to think about what they would do if they weren’t afraid…and then do it.

While hundreds of bloggers filled out the large cards found at their tables and stepped into a photo booth to announce their new goals, many of us were too afraid to openly share our fears.

Since that time, though, I have contemplated what changes I would make, or how I would live my life differently, if I had no fear.

I think I’m fairly brave and I have taken some risks in my life, but I have to admit, I have let fear call the shots far too often.

For instance, decades ago I set out to write a novel, and was taking a fiction-writing class at New York University when I met my husband.

Bauer driving 4-10I have filled the past 20 years with reporting, public relations, editing and even technical-writing jobs, even though my husband said he would support my staying home to pen a non-fiction book.

In retrospect, I recognize I kept myself busy with paid work, because I was afraid to fail on my own time.

How about the rest of you?

Given the popularity of Sandberg’s book, as well as a new release from former Today show host Jane Pauley and a moving Bing commercial celebrating brave women, let’s call this the year of living fearlessly.

And, in that vein, I’m going to start my year’s soundtrack with a song by the alternative rock band Incubus.

Several years ago, a friend hosted a graduation party for her college-bound daughter, who I had grown close to through our summer swim and dive club.

Instead of presents, my friend urged party-goers to give her daughter a quote that held special meaning or might guide her through the coming years. After much thought, I decided to transcribe a few lines from the Incubus song “Drive” (1999): “Whatever tomorrow brings ill be there, with open arms and open eyes.”

Those words seemed very appropriate for Brenna, who has a beautiful, positive spirit and definitely greets each day with enthusiasm and an open heart.

However, I later realized the song resonated on another level; it’s about taking control of your own life, of not making choices based on others’ expectations: “Lately I’m beginning to find that when I drive myself, my light is found.”

But perhaps most important, lead singer/ songwriter Brandon Boyd is speaking of courage; of not letting fear dictate how we live our lives:
Sometimes I feel the fear of uncertainty stinging clear,
And I can’t help but ask myself how much I’ll let the fear take the wheel and steer.”

So, this year my goal is to live more courageously, and to stay in the driver’s seat.

I think it’s a valid objective for all of us. Are any fears controlling you?

  • Are you afraid to get out of a difficult relationship, or to give up a dysfunctional friendship? Do you worry about being alone, or about the repercussions of casting out a negative influence?
  • Have you refrained from confronting a friend or relative about something that truly bothers you, for fear of their reaction?
  • Have you stayed in a job too long? Have you stopped growing through your work? Do you dread going to the office each day, or watch the hours tick by slowly?
  • Is it difficult to ask for the promotion or raise you believe you deserve?
  • Are you letting the lack of funds keep you from traveling? Are you waiting for that “perfect time” to see the world?
  • Do you need a push to start over in a new city?
  • Are you afraid to take the necessary steps to give up drinking or smoking, wondering how you’ll live without those crutches?
  • If you need to lose weight or want to get into shape, are you afraid to take that first step with a gym membership?
  • Do you worry that if you are honest with your friends about your struggles, concerns or worries, they will think less of you?

If any of those worries resonate in your life, consider the amazing women who have overcome their own fears to attain goals and reach new heights, several of whom are celebrated in the new Microsoft Bing commercial:

This ode to some of 2013’s bravest women — including Malala Yousafzai, Gabrielle Giffords and Deb Cohen (who danced with her surgical team prior to a double mastectomy) — celebrates “a courageous group of women who have changed the world and shown us all what the human spirit can achieve.”

If they can overcome obstacles and live without fear, what’s stopping you?

Even Jane Pauley has jumped on the “fearless” bandwagon, with a new book that was mentioned in Sunday’s Parade magazine. In Your Life Calling: Reimagining the Rest of Your Life (Simon & Schuster) Pauley shares advice for baby boomers – the youngest of which will turn 50 this year. She advises women to “remain engaged and take risks,” stressing that “Life is scary wonderful. It’s great to learn how resilient you can be.”

Okay, if you haven’t reached mid-life and have no idea who Jane Pauley is, perhaps actress Amy Adams might inspire you. In accepting her Best Actress Golden Globe award last night, Adams thanked her young daughter for “teaching me to accept joy and to let go of fear.”

That’s a great goal for all of us, don’t you think? Here’s to a joyful, fearless 2014.

–       Linda Williams Rorem, 13 Jan. 2014
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Put Up the Lights and Lighten Up

Several years ago, in our pre-blog days, we took a “girlfriend getaway” during the first week of December. Our good friends thought we were crazy:

“How could you leave your families this time of year?”

“You’ll miss all the fun parties!”

“When will you manage the Christmas shopping?”

“Aren’t you too busy to take off work?”

Exactly our point.

While we did tackle some holiday shopping during the trip, without the benefit of frazzled crowds and piped-in Christmas music, we mostly just relaxed. Yes, we did miss a few parties and events, but our friends forgave us. And, somehow, we finished the pressing tasks at work and home in time.

Our great escape had the inverse effect of what our friends had predicted: it made our holidays run (and feel) smoother. Our stress-free break allowed us to enter those final hectic weeks of the year with calm and more open hearts.

We have since, separately, tried to continue the trend. This year we decided it was time for a reunion trip, ostensibly as a writer’s retreat.

Hemingway writer's retreatSo, here we are, sitting in Ketchum, Idaho, coffee shop, gaining inspiration from a larger-than-life photo of Papa Hemingway, But our best inspiration came during lunch on Saturday.

We kicked off our 48-hour retreat with roasted red-pepper soup at the Kneadery, a casual, local favorite, which features moose heads on the wall and a 10-foot stuffed grizzly bear by the door.

REd Hat LadiesOn this particular afternoon, the restaurant also boasted a boisterous tableful of lovely ladies, all wearing decorated red hats and purple coats or sweaters. We were immediately drawn to their laughter and positive energy.

We looked at each other and said simultaneously, “Looks like a great Permission Slip in the making.”

And it was.

“We’re part of the Red Hat Society,” the group’s leader, Poo Wright-Pullium, explained. “Actually, we’re the ‘Potato Heads’ chapter.”

Of course, we wanted to hear more.

“Our purpose is to have fun,” explained Wright-Pulliam. “We meet once a month, with the goal of just taking care of ourselves and not worrying about anyone or anything else.”

The ladies, wrapping up their meal, leaned in to tell us about their chapter and the international society – which we may be the last on the block to learn about.

Apparently the Red Hat Society was formed in 1998 by Sue Ellen Cooper, a Southern California woman of a certain age who was inspired by Jenny Joseph’s 1987 poem, Warning, with the oft-quoted line “When I grow old I shall wear purple/ With a red hat which doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me.”

The society “began as a result of a few woman deciding to greet middle age with verve, humor, and elan,” according to the society’s website. “We believe silliness is the comedy relief of life, and since we are in it together, we might as well join red-gloved hands and go for the gusto together.”

Now incorporating more than 20,000 chapters in the U.S. and 25 other countries, the Red Hat Society is the world’s largest woman’s social group; its members strive only to take life a little more lightly. The society is open to any woman aged 50 and up, while younger gals can attend meetings if they wear lavender clothing, not purple, and pink hats, instead of red ones.

In Ketchum, the lively group we encountered meets monthly for lunch and social activities, such as last weekend’s trek through the area’s holiday bazaars.

Clearly, it is not a sisterhood of the traveling pants, but a community of clashing red hats and purple clothes, geared solely for friendship and fun.

Chapter Queen Wright-Pulliam explained that the Potato Heads have met regularly for some eight years. Many of the members were not acquainted before joining the now tight-knit group. The ladies often pull together between monthly meetings to entertain visiting Red Hat Society members.

During birthday months, members must wear their outfits in reverse – red coats and clothing, and purple hats. That’s one way to keep the celebration going.

On meeting days, the members’ ostentatious red hats and bright purple clothing announce that they are out for fun and fellowship, and that they refuse to take themselves too seriously.

Especially during the holiday season, with unyielding pressures on most of our time, patience and pocketbooks, we could all stand to lighten up a little.

Saturday afternoon, the holiday spirit our new red-hatted friends exuded was contagious. We walked away, across a snow-covered, slippery sidewalk, feeling inspired.

Not only did we remember the value of a “time out” during the so-called “most wonderful time of the year,” but we also took to heart the reminder to relax more and stress less.

Hats off to you, ladies!

–          Carol Lewis Gullsad and Linda Williams Rorem, 9 December 2013
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Surviving the Awkward Teen Years

Many of you found that this week’s post (click here if you missed it) revived memories of those awkward middle school years. A loyal Permission Slips reader tipped us off to a fabulous website (featured on Oprah!) in which adults write about how they maneuvered the awkward teen years and blossomed into their current selves. Participants in this “Awkward Years Project” post photos of their confident adult selves holding portraits from their glasses-, braces-, acne- and/or bad hair-riddled middle school years. It’s definitely worth a look; click here or follow this link: http://awkwardyearsproject.com/

By the way, here’s a lovely shot of me and my very cool older sister, when I was about 12 (note the braces, flip-up sunglasses and certainly dirty hair):

JodLindaFlorida 1971

Pitching Perfection

Most of us remember seventh grade, and few of us remember it fondly.

For me, it involved glasses and braces, two broken arms (within five months), and stringy long hair that suddenly needed more than one wash per week.

Jan Brady, of TV’s “The Brady Bunch,” was my idol, and even she felt awkward about wearing glasses. (She resented her “perfect” older sister, lamenting the attention going towards “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!”)

For others, seventh grade comprised acne, weight gain, lower grades (often due to distraction), clumsiness, social exclusion and even bullying.

No matter how we managed or suffered through that age, most of us recall it as a time where we started comparing ourselves to others, and started setting unrealistic expectations for ourselves. (Note: If you have a child close to that age, consider these great tips from wikihow.com.)

House drawingI love the advice from Ask.com: No one is perfect. If you try to be perfect, there will always be someone who thinks otherwise and will always be disappointed that you are not living up to their expectations. Just be yourself.

At the same time, our children receive mixed messages about perfection from their parents, teachers, coaches, piano teachers and peers. We celebrate their coloring within the lines, dressing themselves without mixing stripes and plaids, scoring goals in micro-soccer and memorizing all their spelling words.

From the get-go, our children feel pressured to work hard in school, excel on the field, dress appropriately – or even fashionably – bathe regularly, avoid cavities and act kindly towards others.

The reality is that few kids will earn 100 percent on every homework assignment and test, bat over .500 or lead the conference in touchdowns, wear wrinkle- and stain-free clothes each day, wake up in time to shower and straighten or braid hair every morning, regularly reply appropriately to nagging teachers, parents or coaches and resist the temptation to snap at friends making mean comments.

As a parent, I want my kids to know that perfection is overrated, and that while it’s important to set high goals for ourselves, “flawless” should stay off the list. I wish they could truly understand that they are “perfect” exactly as created, whether or not that involves near-sightedness, crooked teeth, acne, hyper-activity, math challenges, hand-eye coordination issues, skinny legs (as a boy) or muscular thighs (as a girl).

I want my daughter to know that she is wonderful exactly as-is, and doesn’t need to spend hours each morning straightening her already-curl-free hair, covering up blemishes and wondering if her thighs are too bulky (not at all; she’s a dancer).

I wish my oldest son, who struggled more than a little this past year, could believe that we never asked for perfection, and we didn’t – and still don’t – expect him to act exactly like his siblings or friends.

I wish I had worked harder, when my kids were little, to discuss and celebrate my own flaws and, therefore, give permission for imperfection.

To be clear, I did try to highlight my mistakes when the kids were younger; I would laugh and say, “Oops, Mommy goofed!” or, “I guess they’ll haul me off to BMJ (Bad Mommy Jail) for that one!” However, I’m not convinced that I, or my kids, ever believed I was absolutely at peace with my own imperfections.

I do set high standards for myself and others. I want to appear to have everything under control at all times. I don’t lash out at my friends. My flaws  scream at me from the mirror. I try to hide my hurt and my self-doubt.

Fortunately, I recently happened upon a fascinating book by Brene Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection (Hazelden, 2010). (I missed the boat, but apparently Oprah offered a six-week eCourse related to the book, promising to help participants “move from how you think you’re supposed to be…and embrace who you ARE.”)

In her book, Brown suggests that many of us, subconsciously, set prerequisites for our own happiness and self-worth, with hurdles such as, “I’ll be worthy when I lose twenty pounds…if everyone thinks I’m a good parent…when I make partner…when I can do it all and look like I’m not even trying.”

Brown stresses that we must convince ourselves that we are “Worthy now. Not if. Not when…Right this minute. As is.”

The downside of believing otherwise is, according to Brown, shame. She notes that “shame is all about fear. We’re afraid that people won’t like us if they know the truth about who we are, where we come from, what we believe, how much we’re struggling, or believe it or not, how wonderful we are when soaring.”

Brown states that this resulting shame “is related to violence, aggression, depression, addiction, eating disorders and bullying.”

Perhaps that’s why so many superstars and celebrities who appear “perfect” are hiding cracks beneath the surface. For example, the gymnast Nadia Comaneci, who at age 14 made history earning not just one, but seven perfect 10s in the 1976 Summer Olympics, didn’t think her routines were flawless.  Several decades later, when asked about her winning performances, she noted:  “I never felt they were perfect. They were very good, but I still could have been better.”

Even Marcia Brady (Maureen McCormick) struggled with high ideals for herself. A 2008 article related to the release of McCormick’s memoir, “Here’s the Story: Surviving Marcia Brady and Finding My True Voice,” states that after the show ended, she “spiraled downward into substance abuse and depression as she struggled to reconcile her Marcia Brady image of the girl next door with her private pain.”

I hope today’s teenagers actually listen to the words of pop singer Pink’s  “F**kin’ Perfect” (2010), as she urges, “pretty, pretty please, don’t you ever, ever feel, that you’re less than, less than perfect.” She adds, “Change the voices in your head. Let them like you instead.”

More than a few of us adults could learn from this wisdom, too. I also plan to heed the advice of the esteemed essayist Anna Quindlen, who noted in a commencement speech, “The thing that is really hard, and really amazing, is giving up on being perfect and beginning the work of becoming yourself.” 

–       Linda Williams Rorem, 11 Nov. 2013
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Marriage Isn’t For You

Love this very true advice from a young man’s father. Must read.

Marriage Isn’t For You.

Facebook Dos and Don’ts for Dads

Today’s guest blogger is Toby Suhm, a “super dad” with a super good sense of humor after his daughters tell him what he is allowed to post on Facebook.

Like many parents of teenagers, I struggle to balance my desire to stay relevant in the rapidly evolving world of social media with the feeling of a drowning man – I am having trouble keeping my head above water.  Instagram, Snapchat, Pintrest, Twitter, Viber, Vine… who can possibly keep up? Thankfully, MySpace has fallen by the wayside, so I don’t have to worry about that one anymore.

I recently shared one of my daughter’s athletic competition pictures on my Facebook page. In my comments I mentioned that I was probably violating Facebook Posting Rule #4 by posting the sports picture, but thought the risk was worth it. I got a number of queries –  what are the Facebook Posting Rules?  Simply stated, “The Rules” are  guidelines my daughters have given me to keep from embarrassing them or myself on Facebook. Bear in mind my daughters are 19 and 16 years old; virtually anything I do embarrasses them.suhm family

A year or so ago, they gave me this set of five rules – plus I’m pretty sure, the sixth one implied. The girls tell me they are for my own protection, so I won’t embarrass myself.  I think we all know the real reason for the rules…

  1. Is it longer than one sentence? If so, don’t post. Now I appreciate brevity as much as the next guy, but really, who can communicate anything meaningful in one sentence? Even in a speech renowned for its brevity, Abraham Lincoln needed 10 sentences to deliver the Gettysburg Address. How can I possibly communicate anything in Facebook in one sentence or less?
  2. Is it bragging? If so, don’t post. This one I actually sort of get. Who likes to constantly read posts from people strutting around on-line, thumping their chests and spouting off? On the other hand, isn’t that the whole reason behind Facebook? Look at what interesting things I’m doing! Look at my amazing kids. Isn’t my pet the cutest thing you have ever seen? How do you like these photos of our recent kitchen remodel?
  3. Is it political? If so, don’t post. I claim that I don’t post anything blatantly liberal or conservative, but, rather interesting, thought-provoking, middle-of-the-road essays and editorials that cause one to stop and ponder the issues. My daughters say that’s not possible. Anything remotely political is going to offend at least some of your friends.
  4. Is it about your daughters? If so, do you have their permission? If no, don’t post. Refer to #2 above. The whole reason for Facebook’s existence if you are a parent is to post pictures, newspaper articles, updates and “A” English essays from your kids. I don’t consider it bragging, just keeping family and friends updated on what they’re up to. Besides, if I had to get their permission, I’d never get to post anything.
  5. Are you using the Facebook “check-in” feature from a sporting event, movie theater, restaurant, activity, venue, roadside attraction, monument or anywhere else on planet Earth? If so, don’t check in. This one has always confused me because my daughters, and every person below the age of 30 I know, checks in on Facebook about 25 times a day. But for some reason, if I try to check in from the Seattle Sounders FC vs. LA Galaxy soccer match of the year, I am violating rule #5 and am in the Facebook equivalent of a time-out.
  6. If in doubt, don’t post. It’s always good to a have a blanket, catch-all rule to fall back on.
    Italiano: versione ombreggiata e ingrandita de...

    Italiano: versione ombreggiata e ingrandita del simboletto “like” di FB (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

     

Other than that, I have their approval to post pretty much anything I want on FB.

Toby Suhm November 4, 2013

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If you haven’t already seen this funny list, check out: 17 Reasons Why The Kids Don’t Like Facebook Anymore.

Keeping Out the Ks: Exercising the Mommy Veto

It’s hard to avoid hearing about the Ks. In supermarket checkout lines, their faces, boobs and butts festoon magazine covers, with headlines screaming about sex tapes, cheating, divorces and drugs.

photo-24This “famous for being famous” family has (or had?) a reality show on TV. Talk show hosts joke about the dad’s plastic-looking plastic surgery results, the mom’s pretty much everything, the older girls’ weddings, the days-long marriage and the “directionally” named baby.

Like many Americans, my middle-school-age daughter can’t seem to divert her eyes.

In all fairness, I know precious little about this blended family. I have never seen the reality show and don’t read the tabloids. However, I’ve heard enough to believe that the girls have nothing to offer my daughter, and couldn’t possibly serve as positive role models. So, after Pea quoted the show one too many times, I banned it.

Yes, I exercised the “Mommy Veto.”

We all know that mothers, as top executives of the household, hold this power. It comes in handy when absolute reason won’t work, when a vote has taken place and mom is in the minority or when we just inherently know that a course of action is wrong.

This is also known as the “Because I said so” or “Because I’m the mom” argument.

I have used the veto to negate our family’s democratic process on several occasions (“we all voted and decided the next vacation should be at Disneyland”) and I have employed it to ban plenty of activities, from playing violent video games to attending sleepovers to wearing sweatpants to school.

Keeping out the Ks was a bit harder. Aside from the possibility of watching at someone else’s house, Pea has access to Netflix and YouTube on TVs, computers and even an iPad.

Now, let me take a moment to state that if you have no idea what show or family I am discussing, no worries. I barely know who they are myself.

And, because I don’t want to bolster my reasoning with actual facts, which would require my watching the show, I need to trust my gut and just say no.

I think my daughter – who is still quite sweet and compliant – really has stayed away from the TV program. At least she stopped mentioning the family, primarily because I said she couldn’t even utter the last name in our home or around me.

That “around me” took on new meaning when I found myself in Los Angeles with Pea and her friend Smiley not long ago. Like many visitors to the area, they were on the lookout for stars, and mentioned several they hoped to meet.

photo-23When the “K” name came up, I took advantage of the “teaching moment.” “Honestly, girls, why would you want to see them? They are famous for all the wrong reasons. They don’t actually do anything. They haven’t contributed to society in a positive way.”

The girls tried to argue the girls’ virtues, and, after gaining no ground, took a new tack. “The younger two are okay,” Smiley avowed. “Those girls didn’t ask to be famous. They don’t want to do the show. They volunteer at an animal shelter. Their dad [that Olympian whose last name starts with a J] hates doing the show, too.”

I listened to Smiley and Pea, and replied, “Those ‘J’ girls are about your age, so they should be working on their educations, not out partying. They should do something worthwhile with their lives, and if I see them, I’ll tell them just that.”

Pea was aghast, and screamed, “Mom, you wouldn’t!”

My reply: “Oh, you’d better believe I would. I would have no problem setting those girls straight.”

At this point, while the conversation was all in fun for me, I’m not sure Pea and Smiley thought I was joking.

Which is why they both panicked a bit, the next afternoon, when they spotted a lanky teenage girl walking towards us in Studio City’s quaint shopping district.

“That’s one of the J girls,” Smiley whispered. “I know it is. She’s with her friend [whomever].”

The fact that Pea also recognized the girl, and knew of the friend, set off an internal alarm. I made a mental “We’ll discuss this later” note.

So, yes, there I was, face to face with the celebrity I had banned from my house and my daughter’s vocabulary, the same girl I had promised to “set straight.”

Both Pea and Smiley stopped dead in their tracks, and looked at me quite nervously. “You aren’t going to say anything, are you?” Smiley asked.

“Of course I will,” I challenged. “I’m going to give her the ‘what-what.’ “ Pea was praying, almost visibly, that I was bluffing.

We smiled at the gorgeous girl and her buddy, and watched as they entered the store we had just exited.

After the girls in my charge calmed down, Smiley announced, “I’m going in to ask for a photo. She’s really nice; I’m sure she’ll say yes.”

“If she agrees, I’ll take the photo,” I offered.

“Please, please don’t say anything to her,” Pea begged.

I kept up the charade a little longer. “Maybe I’ll just suggest she get a real job when she’s older.”

Of course, the very sweet-seeming 15-year-old “J girl” agreed to a photo. And, after seeing her up close, all I could utter was,  “Wow, you have amazingly beautiful eyes.”

We’ll see if Pea takes me seriously the next time I make a threat. Meanwhile, the show, the magazines, and both the K and J words remain on the banned list. Why? Because I’m the mom.

–Linda Williams Rorem, 28 Oct. 2013
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