Thursday, January 28, 2010

Sorry About the Blog

My email inbox often contains messages with tips about successful blogging. I wish I had time to read all of them. Those I do read, consistently note the importance of consistency in posting. Apparently, I have a failure of a blog. No matter how hard I try, I can’t be consistent.

I’m afraid I’m stretched far too thin and simply don’t have time to keep up the posting. It’s not like when I was a weekly newspaper columnist in the San Francisco Bay Area and someone actually paid me to express my feelings on any number of subjects.

I wonder, do newspaper columnists still exist or has everyone turned to blogging?

Anyway, as a sometimes blogger and an active novelist who is just beginning to see the light at the end of the manuscript, I’m living in another world while I work. If I worked in a vacuum tube the new novel would have been completed by my first self-imposed deadline; however, I work in a home. It’s an active home filled with kids, laundry, dirty dishes, a chihuahua who prefers to poop inside on chilly winter days, occasional houseguests, a calendar filled with car pools, soccer games and volleyball tournaments, and a business telephone line that won’t stop ringing. Unfortunately, most of the calls are from solicitors wanting me to buy something rather than customers who want to buy something from me.

Does ANYONE know how to get these people to stop calling? Every DO NOT CALL list or method of getting the computers to throw out my number has failed. I really don’t want to be rude when there’s an actual human on the other end of the phone who’s just trying to do his job, but damn it! I’m just trying to do my job too.

Because of distractions and time limitations, blogging has had to take a backseat to my real jobs. Blogging for me, and most likely for many writers, is like exercise or training. And I think it’s easy to neglect exercise when our lives become too hectic. (I haven’t been on the Elliptical since Monday!) Writing a novel, on the other hand, is more like running a marathon. Let me put it this way: when I run an eight-minute mile I feel really good about myself; however, if I manage to write eight pages in a day, I’m ecstatic. Some days, I settle for a single page and remind myself how difficult it can be.

Now, given I’ve already responded to 23 emails this morning, taken three calls and responded to two voicemails, AND I’ve managed to whine my way through another blog, it’s time to go back to my Irish Twins. I’m really dying to find out what the younger one is going to do next.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Twelve at Twelve on January 12

Today is January 12, 2010 and if you live in Tucson, wherever you happen to be at 12 noon, city officials are asking that you stop, look around, and collect whatever trash you see . . . for twelve minutes.

There's no sign-up involved, no report required, just an eye for litter, two hands for collection, and a trash bag.

I have my own beautification project this morning—a hair appointment—which could have me sitting in the stylist's chair at 12 noon. If so, I promise to sweep up my follicles. If I'm finished, I'll be the blonder, more perfectly coiffed woman picking up the stuff I usually run past during my morning workout.

Twelve minutes at Twelve Noon Today. Let's help keep Tucson beautiful.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Cash for Cookies

With one exception, I have a problem with turning our children into door-to-door vendors. There’s something about putting them on a par with Fuller Brush and Encyclopedia salesmen—not to mention the Jehovah Witnesses—that feels wrong.

Over the years my kids have been asked to sell everything from magazine subscriptions and wrapping paper to holiday poinsettia plants. I wouldn’t let them sell the subscriptions; however, with the poinsettias, we had a choice of donating a mandatory $200 to the soccer club instead of having them go door-to-door, so my principles took a backseat. We sent them only to trusted houses in the neighborhood and after four years in this club, built up a clientele.

The other exception I make when it comes to selling things door-to-door is for the Girl Scouts. I’ve ordered Girl Scout cookies from my front doorstep for as many years as I can remember. There’s something irresistible about not only the cookies themselves, but also about the polite little girl in uniform doing her job for her troop and her organization.

Well, now even that experience has been tainted.

Yesterday, the sweetest little girl you can imagine rang the bell. Accompanied by her daddy and her big brother, she asked us if we were interested in buying her cookies. My daughters flew to the front door to put in their bids for Lemon Chalet Cremes, Thin Mints and Tagalongs. (I could order a case of Tagalongs for this household and it would never be enough.) We soon learned that our little neighborhood Girl Scout only had one box of Tagalongs available, because as it turns out, the Girl Scouts are no longer taking orders. We could only buy the boxes she had on the wagon parked next to her. And there was more:

“We’re only accepting cash for cookies this year,” said the daddy. “It’s because last year the Girl Scouts took in over $200,000 in bad checks.”

Two-HUNDRED-thousand? That’s a horrifyingly large number. I remember reading last year that Girl Scout cookie sales were down by some 20%, and the economy was to blame. But to couple that with $200,000 in losses? I haven’t been able to verify this number, so I can’t say for certain it’s fact; however, obviously something big enough and bad enough caused the organization to drastically change its cookie sale technique.

I purchased four boxes and came up with the cash, including three dollars worth of quarters. If I could have placed an order and ultimately written a check, this little Girl Scout would have made far more money from our craving for Tagalongs.

I realize times are tough and as a business owner, I understand what it means to deal with the occasional bounced check. In fact, I’m dealing with a sizable one right now, and it’s taking far too much time and causing a lot of frustration. It galls me no end that someone has the nerve to pay for a product with fake money and then act surprised and appalled when the case gets filed first with the police and then with the district attorney. Pay attention: Writing a bad check is an illegal act.


I wonder if the Girl Scouts are going to take additional steps to teach their scouts the hard realities of modern day business. They’ve set the bar for successful door-to-door sales. Now they need to teach the girls about dealing with the criminals who make their cookies crumble. Perhaps it won’t be too long before they add a BOUNCED check badge to their lineup.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

A Lousy Textcuse for Communication

At the risk of invading my children’s privacy, I can’t let this one slide. Breaking up with someone by text—be it a best friend or a boyfriend—is bullshit. It’s weak. It’s bad form. It’s pathetic, lazy and, well stupid. And SOB if it didn’t happen to my kids not once but twice this week.

Text messaging, or texting, has its place and I have used it to communicate more than I ever thought I would. Usually, however, it’s about meeting times and places and sharing sports scores with those who couldn’t make it to the game. I’ve even learned to let punctuation slide and use shorthand on words like “2” and “ur” and “k.”

It’s especially handy for communicating phone numbers or for contacting your nephew across the country to have him supply the punch line for a joke you just couldn’t quite get right.

Texting is handier than email and certainly briefer than a conversation. It has its positive place in communication technology. But to use it to break up with someone?

That’s just bullshit.

I think we’ve all had occasion to make a phone call knowing it was more likely we’d face an answering machine rather than have a conversation; however, that’s usually for things like regrets to a basket, botox, candle, clothing, jewelry, taser or Tupperware party. Email has been another outlet and I, for one, check my email in-box far more than my voicemail. These have become not only handier but also accepted forms of communication. After all, not all of us are equal when it comes to social communication skills. And really, these days, who has the time for a conversation?

But are we really ready to completely dump the art of conversation when it comes to our personal relationships? 

Our kids sure seem to think so.

At first I thought it was funny that junior high kids who claimed to be “going out,” did so by having a strictly texting relationship. They didn’t go bowling, bike-riding or to the movies. As far as I could tell, they didn’t even talk to one another. Instead, they texted—even when they were in the same room. They “went out” by texting and they “broke up” by texting.

In high school, however, the relationship/s appeared to mature a bit. There was little texting and a lot of time spent together, albeit primarily in group settings. Come to think of it, I remember hearing a few complaints that the ultimate bad breakup boy in this story was pretty lame about responding to texts and therefore, he rarely showed up to the movies or to the parties. I started to think some time ago that he wasn’t a very good boyfriend. And he sure proved it last night when he finally figured out how to use the text messaging function on his phone.

My daughter will be fine and she rebounded very quickly. In fact, over breakfast this morning it was she who used the word “weak” to describe the text breakup. I, on the other hand, could only come up with a few annoying clichés such as “you have to kiss a few frogs before you find your prince;” and “there’s a lot of fish in the ocean . . .” And, of course, I pointed out how stupid it was for him to send the text on a Wednesday when he had to face her in school the next day. If he had any brains he’d have waited til Friday to drop the breakup bomb.

On our ride to school I reminded her that the best response—maybe even the best revenge—was to continue to be excellent. She not only can rely on herself, but also on some pretty great friends to help remind her how truly excellent she is. Hopefully, she’ll learn from the experience and soon forget about the boyfriend and his rude breakup method. After all, the poor dope didn’t know a good thing when it was in front of him having a real conversation or when it was spelled out in text messaging.

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Monday, January 04, 2010

A Daughter’s Tears

We did the right thing last night by demanding the Wii turned off, rooms cleaned, and new semester notebooks and next-day’s outfits be readied by ten p.m. We did the right thing by waking them at nine yesterday and demanding they get ready and go to Sunday school. We believed it would soften the blow of the six a.m. wake-up call on Monday morning after two weeks off of regular school. Certain aspects of parenting aren’t too difficult to figure out.

And then there are other aspects.

We’d said our goodnights by ten, climbed in bed and turned on a DVD—one definitely inappropriate for kids, but one I soon learned our teenager had already seen at least four times. Twenty minutes into it, there was a soft knock on the door. We hit the pause button. Without a doubt, we knew the knock had come from our younger, more innocent daughter. What we didn’t expect, however, was to see her tears and hear her say, “I can’t sleep because I’m nervous about going to school tomorrow.”

She spent most of her break playing with her sister and then also with a good friend when she returned from an out-of-town Christmas visit with extended family. Throughout the break, our daughter was joyful and fun, seemingly without care. And then she received a bizarre and hurtful text. It was from another friend, who told her she no longer wanted to be “best friends,” and didn’t want to hang out with her at school anymore. In spite of having other friends, it broke our daughter’s heart and, truly, there was nothing we could do to fix it.

Why? Because we didn’t want to climb aboard the “Drama Triangle.”


The Drama Triangle, also known as “the Victim Triangle,” the “Emotional Triangle,” and even the “Blame Machine,” was introduced by Dr. Stephen Karpman in 1968. (It is also called the “Karpman Triangle.”) It’s a toxic social behavior dyanamic involving three roles: The Perpetrator; The Victim; and The Rescuer.

The key word/role in this triangle is VICTIM. The Victim is at the bottom of the triangle, and according to Karpman, is the anchor of the dynamic. The Victim fuels the energy, and in spite of where a person enters the triangle in any given situation, victimization spins the triangle, and each person involved can and will do time in the position of Victim.

Briefly, the roles are defined as follows:

The Victim places blame and looks for someone to pity her, rescue her, or take responsibility for her.

The Perpetrator attacks the Victim as a means of retaliation, believing she has a good reason behind her actions. Her attack makes her feel powerful.

The Rescuer is the self-proclaimed “good guy.” She feels better about herself for believing she’s saving the day and often takes pride in helping others while failing to take care of herself. Meanwhile, not only does she foster dependency, she often ends up feeling resentful when the Victim fails to thank her, thus becoming a victim of the Victim.

And round and round they go, spinning from point to point to point. It’s a bumpy, uncomfortable ride.


Last night’s tears could have easily cajoled me into the Rescuer role, a natural place for any woman, particularly a mother. I’m very familiar with that place on the triangle, not only in situations within my own family, but also with other relationships in my life. But thanks to a timely conversation with a friend at church yesterday, also a mother and a student of psychology, she pointed me in the direction that helped me to avoid the Drama Triangle. She mentioned the Karpman Triangle by name, and reminded me of the power one has to first recognize behavior patterns and then to make the right choices to avoid toxic or unproductive outcomes.

This morning I collected a pile of tissues as big as a snowman’s head from my daughter’s nightstand and tossed them in the trash. Then I drew the Triangle diagram and asked her to point out her role. Naturally, she pointed to “Victim.”  Over waffles I explained the roles as best as I could and then we talked about her learning to take responsibility and believing in the ability to take care of herself. I told my beautiful daughter that she had the POWER to escape the cycle. “Whenever we fail to take responsibility for ourselves, we end up on the triangle,” I said, quoting material I had found on the Internet after speaking with my friend. If the girls at school starting teasing her about her hair, her size or accusing her of things she didn't do, she had a choice to make in how she was going to respond. With tears? Or with strength of character.

Finally, I gave her a slip of paper and asked her to put it in her pocket. “You always have a choice,” it read. I suggested she take it out and read it anytime during the day if she started to feel like a victim of adolescent girl behavior at school.

Then I put her on the bus and prayed to the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost. God, I hope I helped her.

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