Friday, December 31, 2010

Lifted from my New Blog...

It's been a crappy week. I started a new blog to help make myself feel better. Here is the entry I just posted there:

My grandmother passed away this morning. She was 90, suffering from dementia and her health had declined rapidly in the last few months. She lived in a nursing home in the Bronx and when I got the call, I wrestled with whether or not I could possibly make it down to the nursing home and back before the craziness that is rush hour in New York City on New Year's Eve hit. After meeting with the funeral director, it won't happen and I feel incredibly guilty about it. Then I found this which made me feel a little better:

"Though no one can go back and make a brand new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending."
~ Carl Bard

Best wishes for a happy, healthy and prosperous 2011 :-)

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Kwanzaa Time

While many are winding down from the hustle and bustle of Christmas, some of us are preparing for another celebration: Kwanzaa. Although it has been appearing more and more on calendars these last few years, many people still don't quite know what the celebration is about.

Kwanzaa is a cultural - not a religious - celebration started in 1966 by California State University professor Dr. Maulana Karenga as a way to combat the negativity and dissension caused in the African American community as a result of the Watts riots. The word Kwanzaa is from the Swahili phrase "matunda ya kwanza" which means "first fruits of the harvest." Dr. Karenga added the last "a" to distinguish it from the African custom that celebrates the time before the beginning of the dry season. It was meant to be a way for Americans of African descent to create our own customs while learning a little about African customs as well. And like the harvest festival, Kwanzaa was designed to be a time to celebrate.

Kwanzaa begins the day after Christmas each year and lasts for seven days, ending on January 1. Each night, a red, black or green candle is lit and a different principle is emphasized. Today is Umoja, which means unity. It applies to our families, our communities, our nation and our world. Tonight, we will light a black candle in our kinara (wooden candle holder). Tomorrow is Kujichagulia, which means self-determination - the right to decide who we are, what we will become and what we will create for ourselves. Tomorrow night, we will light a red candle.

The third Kwanzaa principle is Ujima, which means collective work and responsibility. This means we should build and nurture our communities and work together to solve common difficulties. On the third night, we light a green candle.

The fourth principle is Ujamaa or cooperative economics. The principle encompasses the need to maintain our own stores, businesses and organizations by shopping in our neighborhood groceries and utilizing our area agencies. On the fourth night, we light another red candle.

The fifth Kwanzaa principle is Nia, which means purpose. Taking care of ourselves, those around us and our communities can help fulfill the purpose of making our world as great as it can be. On the fifth night, we light the second green candle.

The sixth principle is Kuumba or creativity. As the emphasis for the celebration has little to do with commercialism, hand-made or educational gifts are exchanged - many of which are made during the sixth day of Kwanzaa. On the sixth night, we light the final red candle.

The final principle is Imani, which means faith. To me, it translates to mean that heart-felt knowledge that things will work out exactly the way they are meant to. It also means acknowledging the faith of our ancestors and having faith in those who will follow us along the path. On the last night, we light the final green candle.

This year on New Year's Day, my family will host our second Kwanzaa karamu, or feast. Family and friends will gather to eat, talk, sing, dance and laugh. We will pour a libation to honor those who have passed on and enjoy each other's company. Many on our guest list have never even heard of Kwanzaa before, much less actually celebrated it. It will be a very memorable time, I'm sure.

To learn more about Kwanzaa, click here. Harambe! (let's all pull together) - and Happy Kwanzaa!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Black Friday Electronic Deals


It's been a while since I suited up and headed out in the pre-dawn hours on the day after Thanksgiving to Christmas shop, but in these tough economic times, saving a buck or two is uber important.

I found some great info on the electronic deals on tap for Black Friday via a "Consumer Reports" blog and thought I'd share my find with you here.
Happy shopping!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

As Election Day Approacheth...

Not sure about you, but I'm a little afraid to turn on the TV or visit my own mailbox these days. The political ads are taking over...

In the tri-state area, there are not only ads about the two gubernatorial candidates but about the US senate and various state representative races. We also have NJ and Connecticut ads, too. Almost every other TV commercial and/or piece of mail that arrives is about why we should or shouldn't vote a particular way. It's quite overwhelming...

But it doesn't end there. Between the political analysts who have already got the US House won by the Republicans and the pundits spouting off about what the American people want, I'm seriously about ready to scream.

My 17-yr-old son seems to be feeling the pressure, too. He asked me today if once he turns 18 next year, he will HAVE TO vote - meaning will anyone really force him to head to the polling place and make some choices. It's just too confusing, he said. Hard to know what anyone will do once they get into office, true, but once I reminded him that he's only two generations removed from living in an era where folks who looked like he does were denied the right to register, he resigned himself to vote as soon as he's able to do so.

So, whether you plan on marking your paper ballot for the donkeys or the elephants, do get out and cast your ballot. Don't prove the pundits, radicals and nay-sayers talking about low turnout - particularly among African-Americans - right. Use your voice on Tuesday - or you'll have no right to complain on Wednesday.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Call That Probably Shouldn't Have Been Made


Remember back in October 1991, when Supreme Court Justice nominee Clarence Thomas was on blast via congressional hearings for alleged sexual harassment in the workplace? One of his accusers, Anita Hill, gave some very descriptive and vivid testimony about things Thomas said and did when he was her supervisor at the U.S. Department of Education and the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission years before. The hearings ended, Thomas was confirmed by a vote of 52-48 and Anita Hill faded into obscurity to all but her Brandeis University law students. But, thankfully, the conversation - and eventual litigation - about workplace sexual harassment had begun.

Cut to October 2010, when Thomas' wife, Virginia, called Hill and left a voicemail requesting an apology. Hill kept the message for two weeks (because she said she initially thought it was a joke) before calling campus police who eventually called the FBI to report it. Hill said there would be no apology coming because as she put it "I testified truthfully about my experience and I stand by that testimony."

My advice to Ginni: Just. Let. It. Go.

Believe what you want to believe about your hubby. Think Anita Hill is the worse thing since the Bubonic Plague - who cares? But seriously - it's been 19 years already. It's time to move on.

And really - on what planet is it OK to call up someone that you passed on life's vector almost two decades ago to have them offer restitution for what happened way back then? Did you discuss it with your husband or act on your own? What would you have done if Anita would have actually answered?

Pinch yourself already. It wasn't a dream and it's time to wake the heck up.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Hello Bethel Woods!

I've lived in the area for a lot of years but before this weekend, my only involvement with Bethel Woods Center for the Arts was passing the Woodstock exit on the NYS Thruway.

But Saturday, I actually got off at the exit en route to a Pat Benatar and REO Speed Wagon Concert (which was great, BTW! I really, really miss the 80s!) - and OMG, what a beautiful, beautiful place! Lush, rolling hills, acres of space, tons of gorgeous trees - quite blissful, actually. The suburbanite in me might miss having a supermarket within a few minutes drive, but I could totally live there, I think.

With an amazing ampitheater there are still lots of events scheduled for the late summer and early fall, including concerts, museum events and programs the whole family can enjoy ("Yo Gabba Gabba" performed last week and the Jonas Brothers were there last summer). Not to far from most spots in the Hudson Valley, a visit to Bethel Woods is well worth the trip!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Child Support Enforcement Sucks

Be forewarned: This is a rant. Let me preface this by adding that my child does not read this blog, so I can give details he doesn't know or need to know about.

This might sound horrible, but I've been happily divorced for 10 years now. The filing process started in July 1999, but due to some lost paperwork via the Orange County Sheriff's Department (namely, proof that my ex had been served with the divorce decree), the marriage wasn't legally dissolved until January of 2001. For those of you that have never been through a divorce in New York state when there are children from the union, before the specifics about the division of assets and property can be handled, child custody and support has to be settled via family court. The amount of child support to be paid by the non-custodial parent is determined by his or her income. In our case, because we only had one child, my ex was ordered to pay 17% of his income a month for child support, which came to $624 a month. He was also ordered to keep health insurance for our son.

Three years later, when going to have my son's asthma prescription filled at the pharmacy, I found out his insurance had been canceled. Child support for that month also never arrived. My employer did not offer health insurance for family members so I quickly enrolled my son in the state Child Health Plus program, but it took six weeks before the application was approved and he had insurance again. Counting the two weeks he was without insurance before I found out, it was two months total that he had absolutely no coverage. Thank goodness it didn't happen, but if my child would have had an asthma attack, a broken bone or even a deep cut requiring stitches during those two months, I would have been in a world of financial hurt.

Two months of calls to the county Child Support Enforcement Unit (who, at the time, only took calls between 9am and 10:30am daily) netted no information about the missing child support, other than the fact that my ex - whose wages were being garnished for child support - was no longer employed by the same company. Their suggestion was to file paperwork in Family Court for a support violation. That meant a drive to Goshen during the workday, filling out the paperwork, having my ex served with the paperwork, waiting on a court date then taking another half-day off from work to appear before a support magistrate.

So I did all that. The court date was two months down the road and when we arrived, we were told to come back again two months after that. By then, child support hadn't been received in almost seven months.

To make a very long story short, this went on for over two years. At one of the hearings, I finally found out that my ex had been fired from his job allegedly for an injury which also kept him from finding gainful employment. At that hearing, his support obligation was reduced to $50 a month - the minimum amount allowed in the state. He was over $9,000 in arrears by that point, though.

But I also found out he was eligible to collect state disability, and since my son was under 18, he was also entitled to collect. So, another half-day off from work was needed to go down to the Social Security office and file the necessary paperwork to have that begin. That amount was $360 a month - a little more than half of what used to come in for support.

Our final trip back to support court was under a new magistrate (the one who had reduced my ex to the state minimum had thankfully retired) - who promptly ordered my ex to pay 17% of what he was receiving from disability to fulfill his support obligation - a total of $150 per month. About six months ago, a cost of living adjustment (COLA) was granted, bringing the total amount my ex now actually pays out of pocket in monthly support to $170. That's a whopping $42.50 a week.

Cut to August 2010. Because of his non-payment history, I always check the state website to see if/when the payment was posted. It is due before the fifth of each month and the state is required by law to forward the payment within 48 hours of receiving it. So by August 10, when it still hadn't been received - although it had been posted on August 4 - I discovered I had to wait 10 days before I could notify the support collection unit that the payment never made it to our mailbox. On August 14, I called to find out I had to wait 10 BUSINESS DAYS before I could report the missing check. I called back on August 18 to be told that, even though my mail had been delivered for the day, I still had to wait until 12am August 19 before I could report the missing payment. When I called back the next morning, I was told that the "stop payment" form would be mailed to me the following day and should arrive within five business days. Emailing or faxing it was not an option. Nope, I'm not kidding.

Fortunately, I did receive it yesterday, but getting it back meant I had to put a stamp on an envelope and mail it back - a process that could take another five days or so. Hopefully, the check - now almost a month late - will be re-issued by the end of next week.

In these tough economic times, it doesn't seem like too outlandish a scenario to think that some custodial parent might actually need that money for food, back-to-school shopping or whatever else little Junior or Suzy may have to have. The idea that it would take so long to even be able to report a missing check is unbelievable. Why is nobody protesting or complaining about that?

Yep - child support enforcement and collection absolutely suck...

Friday, August 20, 2010

And So It Begins...

In the mail a few days ago was a letter addressed to both me and my son. He'll be 17 on the second day of the school year (his final year in high school), but I wasn't quite prepared for what was inside: information about scheduling an appointment for his senior portraits/graduation photos.

I guess my denial should be over, but it isn't. Sure he's taken SATs, been to a few "college nights" at his high school and has begun earnestly looking at which schools to apply to and visit, but I still can't believe he will be a high school senior in a few weeks. Wasn't he just in a onesie and chomping on a pacifier?!?

Not only are the college visits on the horizon, but applications, auditions (he plans on majoring in performing arts), FASAF forms, scholarship and grant perusals, senior prom and all that stuff is, too. It will be a very exciting year for him, of course - but an expensive one for me as a tuition deposit for whichever school we settle on will be due in 11 short months!

A few of my friends are going through the process of packing their eldest children's stuff and driving them off to college. Many of them are excited for their kids - especially when they think of their own college days. Some of them are happily planning on converting their child's bedroom into a study or sewing room and one is publicly celebrating the fact that she will finally have her car back. But all of them are experiencing the tugging at the heart strings when they realize their "babies" have grown up and are moving out.

A year from now, that will be me. I know there will be tears and confetti as well.

So let's get this party started...

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Are You Kidding?!?

On a martial arts forum for women, an article about the body of actress Christina Hendricks (from "Mad Men") was just posted. In a nutshell, the article touted her curvacious, size 14 body as being the ideal for women around the globe.

I say the author of the article and everyone quoted in it should really get a hobby as they obviously have too much time on their hands.

The article features the same picture of Hendricks as I have here, standing there smiling for the camera. I'd be willing to bet that how the photo was going to be used was not what she was thinking about when she saddled up to the lens and smiled. The women I know don't really have a burning desire to be the standard "ideal" when it comes to how their body parts are arranged. That just seems like too much freaking pressure to me.

For years there has been backlash towards the rail-thin models that walk the runways of the world and appear in fashion ads. No woman really looks like that, the critics say (which obviously ain't true) and we shouldn't be "promoting" them as the ideal standards of beauty. But I'm sure the models see their roles as a way to keep roof overhead and pay their bills. See, they aren't the ones waving their bony arms and telling the world to look exactly like them. And if it is the young, impressionable tweens and teens we're worried about warping, blame to their parents for tossing them Vogue or Cosmo in the first place.

I see it like this: there is only so much about the body you were born to have that you can control. Of course you can eat right and exercise, but the length of your legs, the size of your hips (I'm talking bone structure here, folks) or the shape of your torso aren't things that can be changed, really. Accept that and move on. I'm not suggesting we all eat ourselves into comas (because that's just not healthy), but opening up a magazine and comparing your body to the bodies of every woman in it isn't healthy, either.

So, really - when there are so many other things to concern ourselves with, is this what women are really obsessing about?

Friday, July 2, 2010

My Life as a Summer Camp Counselor


The current state of the economy and the idea that I will be paying tuition at some institution of higher learning or another for my child in 14 short months has forced me to find gainful employment outside of the magazine, freelancing and teaching this summer. Yes, dear friends, I'm working as a counselor at a summer camp.

If you've never had the pleasure, let me tell you - it can be both one of the most trying and the most rewarding gigs ever (so they tell me, anyway; I haven't see much of the "rewarding" part, just the "trying" end of things)...

So if you are a parent whose only experience with summer camp before sending your kids was going to one 30 years ago, here are some things you should know:

1. Your kids are going to CAMP - not the daggone Mojave Desert. They do not need enough food for a small army or 10 water bottles. Trust me - they can't possible eat and drink all that in 7-8 hours, although they think they can and may actually try.

2. Encourage your child to do things for him/herself. That includes carrying oversized backpacks and lunch boxes from the car to the sign-in spot each day. Because when you're not around, they expect me to do it instead - and I'm. Just. Not.

3. If your child cannot carry, lift, pull, push or snap it by him/herself, leave it at home. This applies to complicated zippered clothing, jumbo coolers and the afore-mentioned gargantuan back packs with three changes of clothing and enough snacks to feed an entire day care center for a week (see #1 above).

4. And while we're on the subject of food, please be mindful of the garbage you are packing for your kids and just...don't. Know that if you give Jane a bag of chocolate chip cookies and explicit directions to only eat them after lunch, she's gonna gobble them down before 10am. Don't want an obese kid with health issues? Start by giving that kid something better to choose from than a 6-foot "fruit" roll up and a "juice" box that has absolutely no juice in it.

5. Your child will undoubtedly have a disagreement with another camper at some point during the summer. Just know that, even if he/she insists that the other kid started it, chances are your child was not totally innocent. If you think he/she is, I'll bet you $100 bucks you're wrong.

6. If your child cannot tie his/her shoes, swallow your pride and buy Junior some sneakers with Velcro. Flopping shoe laces are very much a safety issue when there are about 30 other pairs of feet that can trip over them, but it also drives counselors mad to have to tie 60 little light-up sneakers 15 times a day. I'm not kidding.

7. Teach your kid the basics of "please" and "thank you" if you would. Nothing spells "no home training" faster than having Little Suzie stick a yogart cup in your face while saying "Open this!"

8. Lots of thought went into planning the activities scheduled. Not participating is rude (can't tell you how many times I hear "But I don't wanna _________!" each day) , disruptive ('cause someone's gotta watch your kid while he isn't with the rest of the group) and a flat out waste of my time and your money. Think about it: he/she could stay at home and do nothing and it would cost you absolutely nothing, too, right?

9. Follow the camp guidelines on what to dress your child in. If swimming is part of the camp schedule, have them wear a swim suit under their clothes so an extra 15 minutes won't need to be alloted so your child to find his/her stuff, make a way to the changing room, get the swim suit on, then put all the clothes they took off somewhere they can find them when it's time to change back. And if closed-toed shoes are required, don't let them wear flip flops! Nobody can really run and play in flip flops, no matter how cute they may look. Seriously, it just can't be done.

10. If you don't want to clutter up your fridge door with yet another piece of "art" by your budding genius, that's too damn bad. Today, a mom asked a counselor to hold the slightly wet 4th of July flag painting her child had done until Tuesday (the next day of camp - which is after the 4th, BTW) because she'd borrowed her sister's Bentley and didn't want to risk getting "anything" in/on it. You don't hafta take it home, but you've got to take it out of the arts and crafts room or there won't be an ounce of space left to work on anything else for the whole summer. Our space is limited. Handle your business.

It's only been a week, so I'm sure I'll come up with more as the summer progresses. Seriously, moms - an ounce of prevention really does go a long way. I'm just sayin'...

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Rocky Road That is Life

Ever have one of those days or a rough week? I've had that kind of month...

The wheels on the bus that is my life are rolling along fine, I guess. Several of my friends, on the other hand, have had broken axles and busted rims because when the road turned left, they didn't.

Sometimes, you can look down the road a piece and see a huge pothole or cliff ahead, and although you try to warn those on the road about the pending danger, they either can't see it, won't heed it or swear that it isn't that bad. If watching them struggle with the aftermath and fallout isn't one of the most painful things in the world, I don't know what is...

But time is a miraculous equalizer, though. And it may take a while to get there, but eventually, everything works out like it is supposed to, I guess. But it takes a firm commitment to staying the (healing) course and making an ernest effort to learn from the those twists, turns and potholes.

May the peace and blessings of the universe be with those who are struggling with heartache or dealing with loss!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

The "Hit" Is On


Ever been hit on by a person you have no interest in "in that way"? I'm not talking about subtle eye contact and a flirty smile - but full on "wanna get a room?" stuff a la Harry Burns to Sally Albright (Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan) in "When Harry Met Sally." It always makes me uncomfy, but I never quite know what the heck to do with it...

Last weekend while playing designated driver to a tipsy friend, I ran into a guy I knew from high school. Actually, he is the brother of a woman from my graduating class, but he is still someone I accepted a friend request from on Face Book way back when I first signed on. Hadn't seen him in easily 20 years and, although he was sober, he gave me "the look" (y'know, the full body once over that makes you feel like you need cryptonite clothing and a shower) and commented too many times in the course of 10 minutes about how great I looked. Then dude wanted to get a picture of just the two of us! Mind you, he's a full foot shorter than I am and his head came about to my bra line so guess where his face would have been in the photo? Did I mention he did NOT look like he did in high school at all? What?!?

Problem was I didn't want to be rude and blow him off in a way that would make it necessary for me to leave in a hurry (remember, I was "wing man" for my not-so-sober friend), so I kept deflecting his innnuendos in the hopes that he'd just give up and go the heck away. Didn't work and eventually we did hafta leave, but not because of anything I said to ward him off...

Today, I was propositioned by a friend from high school via Face Book IM. He said he'd had a crush on me in sixth grade (ummm...like, 25 years ago). Again, I deflected - with humor - but just couldn't say "not interested" because I didn't want to hurt his feelings. Didn't mislead at all, but, still. I ended up texting a friend for some quick one liners I could use. My "let 'em down easy" game needs some serious help, it seems...

How do YOU handle unwanted advances?

Monday, June 7, 2010

Seriously?!?


In my spare time, I teach as an adjunct at two Hudson Valley colleges. My grades for both of the classes I taught this past semester were due on May 18. Today, I got an email from the mother of one of my students asking me to change the F he earned to a D. Her argument was that the F could keep him from graduating in December and starting the job he already has lined up for the following month.

Yep - you read that right: I got an email from a 22-year-old student's mother asking for a grade change.

The email that preceded hers was from the student's advisor. He basically asked me way I hadn't gotten back to the student about his grade. Mind you, the student emailed me this afternoon at 1:30pm - the third email since grades came out I'd received from him about the F; the advisor's email came at 3pm. I politely sent the student, his advisor and his mom the same email outlining that the grade was earned (I didn't "give him anything) because 1. the student missed two of his five media assignments (which were worth 50% of the final grade), 2. he made no effort to do the extra-credit or make-up work offered and 3. he totally bombed his final exam by earning the lowest grade in the class.

I'm totally shocked that he had his mommy write me. I'm stunned that he had no idea he was about to fail even though I warned him when I re-sent the missing assignments and extra credit a week before the final exam that he would do just that unless he got the work in. Someone should really tell him and his mom that in college, students do their work or suffer the consequences without having mom rush in and try to save the day.

Not even sure what else to say about that...

Friday, June 4, 2010

Updated Content on the Website (Finally!)


A crazy travel and teaching schedule had me busier than I would have liked this past semester - too busy to actually post new articles and calendar information for a while. But now the semester is over, summer is here and brand spankin' new content is waiting for you to read it over at tricountywoman.com.

Enjoy ;-)

Monday, May 3, 2010

My Ex IS an Idiot...


This is stuff I really couldn't say anywhere else as it involves my ex husband. Not that I care what HE thinks; I just don't want my son to see this and know that I, too, am thinking all the things he said aloud over the weekend.

Friday night was the "one night only" production of the first of my actor/dancer son's final performances for the school year. "Dancing With the Teachers" was not only a take on TV's "Dancing With the Stars" (the students teach their high school instructors to dance) - it was my son's choreography debut.

He and four classmates had been rehearsing like fiends for the past few months. His English teacher, Mrs. D, was right there with them learning the complicated steps, transitions and jumps. Gentleman that he is, my son even choreographed a solo for Mrs. D so she could be rightfully featured (she's only 28, very young looking and has only been teaching at the school for a year so not everyone knows she's actually a teacher). They danced to the Ting Tings' "That's Not My Name" - a pop song with an infectious beat. The song was remixed and shorter than the original version, but I'm sure I spent the entire three minutes + of the performance with my mouth open in amazement. Yes, it was that good!

At first I thought I was a little biased, but the applause said otherwise. Lots of folks came over to me as I was leaving the auditorium to tell me how great a dancer my boy is. Of course I had to tell him that he choreographed the routine as well. It was hard for me not to smile as sincere praise flowed from their lips. OMG - they saw it, too!

Pity that his dad wasn't there to see it. When my son spoke with his father the day before, dad assured him that the entire family - dad, step-mom, step-sister and younger brothers - would make it down from Monticello (a measly 40 minutes away) for the show. A few hours before the curtain rose, his step-sister texted him to say they wouldn't make it because - get this - my ex thought it was "too long a trip JUST to see my son move across the stage for a few minutes." Yeah - according to her, the chucklehead I use to be married to actually said that. Even worse, he didn't have the decency to call my son and tell him they weren't going to make it - the text was how he found out. But wait - it gets better...

Yesterday, my ex called - not to apologize for missing the show, but to complain that my son is "so busy" that he can't seem to make it to Monticello for any of the events and activities they host during the summer - including a July family cookout (my son has gone to a martial arts camp the second week of July for the past five years which is when they break out the grill) and a joint birthday party for him and his two half-brothers at the end of August (when we are in Lake George as the last summer celebration before school starts again; been going since before the youngest half-sibling was even born). "Well, I'm just going to stop inviting you for things then, because you can't ever come anyway," his dad said. No joke.

This conversation took place when my son was in his room. He came out, promptly declared that his father was a "total idiot" and disappeared into the bathroom. I'm guessing he went in there to wipe away the tears.

After he calmed down a bit, he told me that he doesn't get how his dad seemingly has no idea that his son is a 16-yr-old junior in high school with a life and loads of activities. In the four years since dad moved to Monticello, he's missed lots of important things, like karate black belt promotions last May and all but one piano recital/performance. My son got bitten by the acting/dance bug as a freshman and his father has only made one play (last year's final project for his drama class). In 2009, he laid eyes on his dad all of three times. My son did spend his spring break with his father this year, but he later told me he knew he probably wouldn't see him again until at least the summer - if then. There's another play next Friday and, although he mentioned the time and place to dad last week, my son is kinda doubtful that father will bother to show. Unfortunately, this has become the norm he's come to expect.

I, of course, am seething. It's not even that I think his dad should channel me and be at every play, concert, karate event or track meet, but ONE would be nice. He's missing some pretty important events in the life of his kid - things he will never be able to re-do. In 16 short months, his child will be heading off to somebody's institution of higher education - and there's no guarantee that it will be on this coast or even in this state. Is dad's plan to wait until the boy can drive to him before he attempts to establish a relationship or what?!?

I can't really say all that to my child, though - but I will say this: my ex better start praying for a sunny graduation day for the class of 2011 post haste. Not sure if he knows it (nor do I care), but if it rains and the event is postponed to the following day, it will be moved indoors and each graduate will only get two tickets for family. Call me evil, but dad is not on the short list - and no, I don't feel guilty about that in the least. My son will only be on stage to get his diploma for a few seconds so, afterall...

I almost feel sorry for the poor schmuck because he has absolutely no idea what a great kid he's missing. Almost...

Monday, March 15, 2010

Flintstone No More!

I guess I've stepped out of the stone ages, so to speak, as I just created a Twitter page. I'm following Venus Williams, Lance Armstrong and Ellen DeGeneres so far, along with the Library of Congress, Consumer Reports and Sesame Street (LOL). I've only tweeted about my newly broken toe (happened Saturday while sparring), but I can see how easy it will be to get totally overwhelmed by the number of tweets received. Three folks are following me already and I have no idea who they are...

Do you tweet? Hit me up at twitter@tricountywoman.com...

Monday, March 8, 2010

Chelsea King and Amber Dubois


Violence against women is usually ugly and senseless, but when young women are victims, it feels even uglier.

Chelsea King was a senior at a San Diego-area high school who innocently went for a run at a local park after school. Amber Dubois was a 15-year-old who was last seen by her family as she left to walk to school one morning over a year ago. Neither girl ever returned home. Chelsea's body was found late last week in a shallow grave not far from where she'd parked her car before her run. Amber's remains were found yesterday.

Right now, convicted sex offender John Albert Gardner III is the prime suspect in Chelsea's murder. Police aren't saying yet if he can be connected to Amber's death, but, since girls were similar in body build and disappeared in similar ways, the speculation abounds.

It's more than a little scary that any child could leave for school one morning and never return. It truly is a parents' worst nightmare (and the main reason I didn't watch "The Lovely Bones" when it hit the cinemas - although the novel was amazing)...

So what do we need to do?

I'm a martial artist and much of my training talks about two things: AVOIDANCE - as in getting out of dodge the moment it seems like a situation could go south - and AWARENESS - as in knowing what is going on around you. Perhaps Chelsea and Amber might have been even more aware than they were had they not have been accosted doing something they did on a regular (and obviously felt safe doing). Maybe prevention has as much to do with how our children - particularly our girls - are socialized than anything else.

The reality is that little girls are encouraged to go with the flow, not make a scene, not be argumentative all while being compassionate/helpful to others in need. For so many, these traits have led to awful outcomes; evil doers who prey on women often play on these characteristics to gain their unsuspecting victims' trust. Remember bad guy Buffalo Bill in the movie "Silence of the Lambs" who convinced his last victim to help him load a couch into his van before abducting her? Serial killer Ted Bundy even walked with a limp to garner sympathy from women before he solicited their 'help." Our need to be helpful can be harmful, it seems.

Everyone - adult and child alike - should learn to trust their gut instincts. If a situation or conversation doesn't feel right, it probably isn't. But too often, we women talk ourselves out of thinking someone might be out to do us harm. Not saying that was the case with Chelsea or Amber, but I truly don't want it to be the case for you.

And remember not to be passive if you ever do find yourself being accosted. According to a 1998 FBI criminal victimization survey, 62% of women who screamed, 81% of women who tried to run away and 68% of women who used some type of physical force were able to escape from their attackers. Doing SOMEthing - be it yelling, running away or hitting back - nets better odds than doing nothing. Tell your daughters, sisters, nieces and neighbors, too.

It's not enough to just pray that Chelsea and Amber will be the last girls who never return home from school. Talking to our kids about what to do if they are ever approached might be even more effective.

Monday, February 15, 2010

My Barbie Meltdown


In my mind's eye, my cousin, Courtney, will always be a little girl. She's in her late 20's now and has a daughter of her own (Skye), so I guess I should get over that...

Anyway, last weekend was her daughter's 5th birthday party. You can't show up to a five-year-old's birthday party empty-handed, so after karate, I hit the stores to find the little lady a gift. Her mom said Barbie dolls were her daughter's newest obsession and my bee-line to the toy department where I promptly found about four shelves of Babies. Trouble was most of them were dressed in skimpy little outfits that only covered about 60 percent of their little plastic bodies. What ever happened to Astronaut or Ph.D. Barbie? There was one "I Wanna Be..." Barbie, but Mattel's idea of what a vet wears (pink pantyhose, a teeny little smock covered with dogs and a head full of big hair) and mine were totally different, I found.

The other issue was that the selection of brown Barbies was pretty slim. Only two Barbies came in shades of brown: one was 1970's Barbie who donned an afro and a red sequined dress (a little girl in the aisle with us thought it was Oprah, LOL); the other was "Candy Barbie" who was dressed in a little pink and blue teddy and carried a fake ice cream cone for some reason. But 1970's Barbie was $35 (!!), which eliminated her from the running with a quickness. I really wanted to get "Happy Birthday Barbie" but they all had straight blond hair and blue eyes. Like me, Skye has not-that-straight black hair and brown eyes. Maybe that sounds a little silly, but when I was her age, all my dolls were blond with blue eyes. I just wanted to make sure I gave little Skye more of a choice than I had.

I must have agonized over which doll to buy for a good 15 minutes or so. When I finally settled on half-naked "Candy Barbie," part of my feminist self died a little, I think. SIGH...

Friday, February 12, 2010

Mom's Crib Notes


Ever wish you could somehow just flash forward and give your children all the information in life they'll ever need to know? I know it's not possible, but I wish it was sometimes.

What prompted this latest desire? My son will have a real date this weekend. I'm talking dinner and a movie, flowers - all that. I'm wondering if it's too late for a crash refresher course in chivalry. Should I spend these last few hours before the big event reminding him about holding doors and letting her order first?

I've watched my son eat meals for 16 years now and it often ain't pretty. Just a few minutes ago, he grabbed a piece of pizza from the counter, shoved a paper towel underneath it and munched on it while he proceeded to tell me about his day. I know I taught him how to use silverware and napkins, but will he use them when he's sitting across the table from a young lady? I can only hope so...

It's really cute, actually. But still, I wish I could use some Jedi mind trick to pour all the information about teenage girls he needs to know into his head or give him a cheat sheet or something...

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Tragedy in Newburgh


Last week, a knife fight in the streets ended with one young man - Levi, a 17-year-old who used to train at my karate dojo - dead. Sadly, he was stabbed by a 13-year old.

Anytime a child dies it is a tragedy, but it somehow hits a little harder when you know him or her. But because he hadn't trained with us in so long, until I found a photo from a karate promotion I'd taken three years ago with Levi kneeling with the group (he's pictured above, second from the left on the bottom), I had no idea that I did know him.

I guess the real tragedy is that a young man - a student who was also someone's son, brother and father - is gone. Rest in peace, Levi, rest in peace.

Proceed With Caution, Please...

So, yeah, there are a lot of males who have behaved badly and are being called to the carpet for their past actions. Hats off to the women...