Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Everyone's Got a Hot Button—And Mine's George Clooney

Everyone's Got a Hot Button—And Mine's George Clooney

Recently a friend and I took our daughters to Atlanta, mecca of the spiritual disciplines of eating and shopping.  One morning my friend woke our exhausted teenagers, coaxing them to life by hinting about our day’s agenda.

She woke her daughter. “Lizaaaaa, C. P. Kaaaaaay!!”  (California Pizza Kitchen)  

She woke my daughter whispering “Sweetieeeeeee,  H & Mmmmmm!!”  (The cheap-clothes-for-cheap-girls store in every city but Memphis).  Seriously—my daughter isn’t cheap, but she’s all about a nice five-inch platform.

Motivating kids to move more than their texting fingers requires finding their hot buttons.  

One summer, my daughter refused to wear rubber bands on her braces.  If I couldn’t persuade her, she’d be the only metal-mouthed girl in her college sorority that could open a beer bottle with her teeth.  Except if you go to Ole Miss—almost ALL the sorority girls can do that.

I made a monthly chart and suggested giving her a dollar for each day she wore the rubber bands.  Thirty dollars could score her five or six cool tops at H & M online.  No luck.  Charts only work for Super Nanny because she’s a delicate mix of Rachel Ray and Kim Jong-un. 

So I did what any veteran mom would do whose creativity petered out after “Tinkle Targets” during her son’s potty training phase.  Bribe her.  


It couldn’t be any old bribe—but an Instagram-worthy, braggable asset.  I sought the advice of Shannon, a frazzled friend with seven kids.  I figured she had to be creative to find ways to keep her husband away from her ‘til, um. . . forever.

“What does she like to do?” Shannon asked wisely.

“Shop online at HootchieFashion.com, text, start major physics projects at midnight before they’re due, not clean her room, and drag mounds of trash and clothes out of her car and leave them in our yard in full view of the judgey HOA president,” I said.

“No.  What is her enticement to negotiate?  Has she been asking for anything lately?”


“Well, she is quite the Belieber and wants to meet J.B., but he probably can’t talk right now with his foot stuck so far in his mouth.  Um. . . she wants me to stop stalking George Clooney on her laptop when mine’s dead, Usher and Shakira to tweet her back, and an iPhone.”

“That’s it!” she said.  “An iPhone is doable, and the swag factor is substantial.” 

Hmmm, my daughter’s old flip phone WAS broken.  It was basically useless because all it could do was make calls.  Perfect.  I was ready to negotiate like Tiger Woods in divorce court.

I presented her with the rubber band/iPhone proposition, and her braces were off in three weeks.

Now my struggle is cajoling her to wear her retainer.  I think it’s time for another bribe.  Although, “bribe” is such an ugly word.


I prefer “extortion.”  That sounds like I should be wearing a black dress and sunglasses, holding a martini and a briefcase full of money, waiting to meet an international man of intrigue.  And he would be swarthy and dressed in black too and . . . wait.  This isn’t the appropriate time to bring up my virtual vignettes with George Clooney.  

Maybe my creativity didn’t dry up during the “Tinkle Targets” phase after all. 

Saturday, April 27, 2013

3 No-brainer Rules for Customer Service

3 No-brainer Rules for Customer Service

It’s unusual to find a company with great customer service.  When I find one, I’m very loyal.

In the past, I might have gone all Tonya Harding on a few mechanics with poor customer skills.  But for the record, since I now have a writing outlet, it was NOT me who “opened up a can” on the bartender at Applebee’s last week because he wouldn’t extend happy hour by three minutes.  

Here are my Customer Service delights and nightmares:

When Pottery Barn Kids delivered my bedroom furniture, they left a single red rose on the dresser with a note that read,  “We really appreciate your business.”  It doesn’t take much to buy me.

My sprinkler guy is great.  He gives me home-made jam every Christmas, and he arrives speedy quick when my son breaks the sprinkler heads by running over them with the lawn tractor.

I’ve also rented a couple of limos on occasion.  If we exceeded the time limit by thirty minutes, the smart drivers didn’t charge us for it.  Limo companies don’t need billboards.  Just make the middle-aged moms happy because guess what?  We know thousands of friends whose kids will have proms next year.  For all that advertising, he should be paying ME.

Next we have the plankton in the scumbucket of Crabby Patty customer service.  


Let’s talk technology—Big Gangnam Warehouse Style. The remote control to our home theater system needed reprogramming.  I’m not gonna name names, but the telephone customer service at “Crest Cry” had me searching my kitchen for the cameras from Punk’d.  

I was exasperated with their “Freak Squad,”  and I complained to the heads of Customer Service, Double Agents Lucy and Ethel, to no avail.  

I fantasized about tying Secret Agent Cody to my barstool and demonstrating the merits of my Cutco collection.  If the knife cuts through pennies, it can handle a pocket protector and a few nerdy vital organs.  

Which leads me to my most recent customer service nightmare.  I’m planning a big party, and I hired a professional to print formal invitations.  (Note:  She charged me a $175 “design fee” which is NOT applied to the price of the order).  

The invitations resembled a Tiffany’s box, and my design included a small paper square glued on the front displaying, “Tiffany & Co.”  No big deal, right?  She delivered the invitations promptly.

The next week, I stuffed the envelopes and noticed half the glued-on squares were not straight—unless you were pretty drunk.  I emailed her a picture of an extremely crooked one and assumed she’d fix the bad ones.  Here’s the good part.  This is what she said:

“I’m sorry you were not happy with the invitations.  I took a lot of time and care putting the squares on.” (while I was high).  “They were NOT CROOKED WHEN I LEFT THEM WITH YOU.” (when I was also high).  

Wait.  Is she implying that I moved the squares?  

It’s one thing to screw up and admit you’re wrong.  I mean, stuff happens, and if you fix it, I’ll probably come back.  Seeing the picture, she couldn’t deny they were crooked.   So she blamed ME? 

Finally, there are three concrete rules of customer service: Treat customers the way you’d want to be treated.  A rose now and then would be nice.  And don’t rankle a writer.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Throw 'Em Out of the Nest and Have a Glass of Wine

Throw 'Em Out of the Nest and Have a Glass of Wine

I just love Oprah.  

I think she’d like me more than Gayle, her moocher friend and juice box girl.

Oprah’s ground-breaking magazine is like Cosmopolitan to moms who are tired of all Cosmo’s advice such as “7 Ways to Raise the ‘Bar’ in Bed: (You Won’t Believe It!)” 

O’s headlines pull me in with “7 Reasons You Are So Messed Up” and “Me! 10 Ways I’m So Much Better Than You!”  The articles include questionnaires from psychology experts to help me determine my strengths and weaknesses.  But I don’t need a questionnaire to tell me I’ve lost my mind and I’m too sensitive.  My husband tells me every day. 

Sometimes an “expert’s” ideas are so ridiculous I have to call time out.  For example, Oprah featured an article by a “helicopter” mom who realized her 17-year-old son didn’t know how to make pasta or do laundry.  She gave him a crash course in Home-ec before college because she didn’t want to “unleash a spoiled princeling into the world.”

I agree most boys don’t even know how to find the milk in the fridge.  And sometimes we’d like to slap the entitlement attitude out of them (however slapping doesn’t work, not that I’ve ever tried that).  But it doesn’t bother me a bit to unleash a princeling into the world.  

Why?  Because some McDonald’s manager will push Little Lord Fauntleroy with his pastel Polos in the mud speedy quick in the real world.  The Justin Bieber mentality will end as soon as his boss asks him to clean the fryer and actually expects him to clean the fryer.

I think Mommy Weirdest wasted her time showing her son how to poach things and make pie crusts.  I mean, no one poaches in real life.  And why can’t he just buy Mrs. Smith’s pies like normal people?   If I were her, I’d just send him out to shoot hoops in the driveway and go have a glass of wine.  

I say throw him out of the nest and he’ll fly.  He doesn’t need to be taught how to fly first.  That’s just redundant. 

When he moves out, he’ll discover that “food fairies” hardly ever come and replenish the Mountain Dew anymore, and most importantly, Uncrustables are just expensive, teeny PBJ sandwiches that almost any college kid can make if he Googles ehow.com.  

Thinking it through, having a husband who cooks wouldn’t be such a bad idea.  I’d just let him take over the kitchen. That way I can go to Bobbie Jean’s and play bunco while he makes pies and poaches his little heart out. 

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

College Goodbyes

College Goodbyes

My oldest child is starting college this week, and my husband and I will drive him thirteen hours to school to help him get settled in his dorm.  Saying goodbye will be one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.

A mother’s life is full of teaching and guiding, and it’s full of letting go too.  It’s full of late nights spent rocking babies, praying they’ll survive the confusion and temptations of adolescence without needing intervention or therapy.  

And before you know it, teenagers are born who pull and strain against the walls of a cocoon which has held them in its sacred embrace since they were just a snuggle in their mothers’ hearts.  And as they pull away, we must helplessly watch as they cry into their pillows or endure the consequences of bad judgement.   

I’m not very good at letting go.  During my son’s first weeks of preschool, I hugged him and had to walk away as he sat crying on the floor.  Leaving him there to navigate on his own stretched my mommy muscles to a new breaking point.  And I piled on a few more pounds of guilt that squeezed my stomach into a gnawing angst.  

Sometimes letting go meant pushing my son forward.  When he was six on the first day of flag football practice, he didn’t know anyone and was reluctant to get out of the car.  

He sat with his cleats barely touching the floorboard and pleaded, “Mom, I don’t want to go.  Don’t make me go.”

“It’ll be ok, son.  I promise.”

If it had been my choice, I wouldn’t have made him go.  But he needed his share of dirt and sweat and the August sun.   

When he turned fifteen I thought I might be doing something wrong.  He hardly talked to me or looked up from his computer when I said goodnight.  I often walked away and wistfully reminisced about how my little boy used to fly at me, smothering me with hugs and kisses.  

Yes, I know all kids turn quiet during the teenage years.  But he’ll never know how the younger and prettier and more energetic me poured myself into him until there was hardly any of me left to go around.  But all teenagers forget, and mothers are just annoying.  Please go away.  

Through the years, my son and I danced to an unpredictable song, faltering and side-stepping whenever the tempo changed without warning.  As soon as I memorized the pattern of dipping and twirling, the song switched directions and I had to adapt.  At times I was sure-footed, and other times I was scared to death.  We were making up the dance as we went.   

We swayed together, and sometimes I released his hand and watched as he experimented with unsteady steps of his own.

Mom, I want to ride my bike to Michael’s alone.  

Will you just drop me off at the movie this time?  

Can I get my driver’s license on my birthday?  

I’d like to visit that college in Florida.  

With every milestone, he was becoming.  And so was I.

In a few days, his dad and I will hand him a credit card and most importantly, the Xbox, and leave him to find his wings.  In an awkward moment I’ll stand before him trying to translate the mystery of a mother’s love into the language of a teenage boy.

I want to tell him how very much I love him and why this parting is so difficult for me.  I want to explain to him that he, my first-born, holds a cherished place in my world because it was his kicks that made me tremble with awe when I felt the very first flutter of life inside me.  

He’s the one who carved the mommy into my body and soul and planted in me the purest, fiercest love in the world.  A consuming love that ignited my heart, eventually singeing the corners, causing his needy mother to pull back from the pain of it and to stop being so clingy and involved.

This goodbye hug will be hard because in an instant, he will be five again, a snaggle-toothed testament to sandboxes and green army men.  I’ll kiss his cheek and breathe in memories of new crayons and lunch milk and jitters on his first day of kindergarten—the initial step of a journey that would lead him to this point.

At the crux of where raw meets real, I’ll look up into his eyes and this time I will be the one saying, “I don’t want to go.”  

And my grown-up son, eager to explore and uncover the future inside him, will reassure me.  

“It’s my turn, Mom.  It’ll be OK.  I promise.”

I’ll manage a proud smile, thankful for our amazing journey together.  Then I will commit my son into his Creator’s hands and whisper a prayer that God would take my hand more tightly as my son’s hand falls from mine.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Acceptance Speech for Sports Mom of the Year

Acceptance Speech for Sports Mom of the Year

Ladies and Gentlemen, coaches, trainers, orthopedists, x-ray technicians, the guys who created the Maps app on my phone, and my therapist, Kendall Jackson:  I humbly thank you for this honor.


Thank you for acknowledging my efforts to keep this soccer team at an elite level.  Having our eight-year-old girls play against thirteen-year-olds is the best way to prevail in this wonderful sport, as long as they don’t give in to namby-pamby excuses like “strained” hamstrings and torn ACL’s and such.  Remember excuses are like sweaty shin guards—everybody’s got ‘em and they all stink.  

I’ve always encouraged Coach Nigel to enter us in tournaments that would help our girls be seen by the highest caliber Brazilian boarding schools and the top South American Soccer Clubs—like the infamously ruthless women’s team “La Liga de No Zapatos, No Servicios,” which translated means the “League of No Blood, No Foul.”  


I’m amazed at the exceptional soccer knowledge I’ve brought to the team without ever having played.  Actually, I’ve instigated several dynamic changes in our game.

For example, you know when our players throw themselves violently and unprovoked to the ground inside the opponent’s 18-yard box as if they were blatantly fouled?  That was ME.  And our signature “Limp and Shuffle” technique to waste time retrieving the ball from out-of-bounds when our team is ahead?  Yep.  Me too. 


From Atlanta to Indianapolis I’ve proudly hauled my heated stadium seat with my daughters’ numbers on the back and my blanket in the team’s colors, wrote things such as “Go Home, Crybabies” and “Massacre on the Mississippi” on my car windows, brought thermoses of “hot chocolate” for ADULTS ONLY, while wearing my t-shirt that says “We don’t enjoy just beating you to the ground, we want to get a trophy for it too.”  

Pinterest - Ann Holt via Darcy    and Money.cnn.com
In that same vein, I have done everything in my power to encourage aggressive, possibly heavy-handed tactics to make our opponents feel like humiliated, incompetent, demoralized shells of human sluggards.

On our travels, I have been committed to helping our team achieve its full potential.  I have even sacrificed sleep, dutifully socializing in the hotel lobbies with other parents until the wee hours in order to build team cohesiveness.  I’m proud to serve any way I can.

I have driven back and forth from Atlanta to Nashville four times in one weekend so my daughter could play in basketball and soccer games so as not to disappoint her coaches and ruin her chances of being named (in both sports) four-time “All-Region Best of Preps, MVP of the Mid-Southeastern Conference of small schools beginning with S.”  Then she can score a full ride to Piney Ridge Junior College of the Saved, which figures out to be almost as much as I’ll pay for our team fees this year.

Finally, thank you to my wonderful orthopedists who work us in immediately if my daughter gets injured to determine if she can play through the pain on Advil and a good wrapping job or if she’ll do more injury to it by playing.  Sometimes I can even have her back before the game ends.

Maybe I’m getting soft, but I’m not sure I want my daughter attending a Brazilian boarding school anymore.  I’d have to write on my car windows in Portuguese. That’s too bad because I’m really good at Spanish.  Mucho garcias!  Adidas!