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Bad Bosses

Posted on August 20, 2010. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , |

Before I started my writing career, I worked in an educational institution – a place where I worked for an entire division. They often asked me to do things outside of my job duties, and truth be told, I often didn’t mind. But when one asked me to write an admissions essay for entry into a master’s degree program at a university, I decided enough was enough – especially after the individual was accepted for admission based on an essay I wrote about social justice. After “earning” a master’s degree, that person became my boss. Among other reasons, most of them petty and designed specifically to point out that I was not the boss and this person was (a power trip), I quit. Anyone without a degree of any kind who can write an essay getting someone into a master’s degree program is obviously talented enough that they don’t have to be treated poorly by a bad boss. Susan Johnston featured my story in an AOL article: Bad Bosses: Five Ways Your Boss Bugs You – And How to Respond. Read it here http://jobs.aol.com/articles/2010/08/19/bad-bosses/ and leave a comment about your own bad boss experiences. Believe me, it feels good to stick up for yourself! Thanks, Susan, for sharing my story and the other bad boss stories. It’s nice to know that we are not alone, and that there is something people can do about it if they have a boss from hell.

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Excerpt from Caution: Children Should Come With Warning Labels

Posted on August 2, 2010. Filed under: Uncategorized |

 

Here is an excerpt from Caution: Children Should Come With Warning Labels! You can get it at www.UrbanEdgePublishing.com or at Amazon.com!

Chapter 10

CAUTION

GPS Locator Recommended

They didn’t have GPS systems when our kids were small, but I believe they are probably one of the best investments a parent can make.

A child locator. It’s an ingenious idea. Had it been around back then, I’m sure our life spans would be ten, maybe twenty, years longer. As it stands, a palm reader might be suggesting last rites if they saw our lifelines.

Before I go any further, please understand that I’m not talking about lost children. Just misplaced ones.

How do you misplace a child? Ask any mother who’s let her child out of the seat of a shopping cart in a department store. While he plays hide and seek in the racks of clothes, you’re frantically searching for him—until you hear him giggle.

“Come out of there right now.”

Giggle.

“I mean it. Get over here right now.”

Giggle again.

“I’m not fooling around. Get out of there and come over here this instant.”

Get out of there and come over here this instant.”

Oh, no. Not the ‘say-everything-I-say’ game.

“Don’t start that.”

Don’t start that.” Giggle.

Now, this is something children are born with. The uncanny ability to make their mothers look and act like fools in department stores. Think about it. What would you think of a harried, frantic woman who’s scolding a rack of clothes? Oh, and the really smart ones crawl under the racks and move around from one rack to another. So, while you’re yelling at one rack, the word-for-word playback of everything you said is coming from another.

You can’t win at either game, the “catch me if you can” or “repeat everything you say” games. It’s like the no means yes and yes means no game. They’re setting you up for a fall.  Don’t fall for it. My advice is to prevent it from getting started at all, the same way you should prevent your children from singing ”The Song That Never Ends,” which probably was the reason they introduced Prozac.

We’ve always tried to keep a close eye on our kids, especially when they’re outside. Our GPS locater was a bicycle. It wasn’t seeing the bike—it was hearing it. Squeaky wheels drive some people batty, but they’re worth their weight in gold to any parent who wants to know where their child is. My husband WD-40’s everything in sight, but he knows better than to grease, oil, lube or spray a squeaky bike.

Sam was five. We were the youngest family in a block of older family homes; most of our neighbors were grandparents. Two houses down lived our aunt and uncle, and Mr. and Mrs. Johns lived right next door. Sam soon became the neighborhood granddaughter.

“Mom.”

“Mom.”

Mooommm!

“What, Sam?”

“I’m going to Aunt Mar-Mar’s. She’s on her porch.”

“Okay. Take your bike.”

Then, she squeaked her way down the sidewalk.

Not long after, I heard her squeak her way back. As the squeak became louder, I waited for her to come flying through the front door.

No Sam.

Where’d she go?

Those instincts kicked in—you know, the ones that result from things being too quiet.

We went up and down the street calling her name over and over. No Sam. Her bike was in front of our house, but she was nowhere to be found. We panicked, like any parent would do. My husband started knocking on doors and told me to go home and call 911. We’d actually misplaced our child.

He called a few minutes later. He’d found Sam. She was right next door, sitting in Mr. and Mrs. Johns’ kitchen, eating a cookie. It seems that she was on a quest to repeat Trick or Treat and was going door to door asking her neighbor grandparents for candy.

Now, I knew where the candy came from. For the last couple weeks, she’d been coming out of her room eating a variety of different fruit snacks, candy bars, and lollipops. I knew I hadn’t purchased them.

“Where’d you get that?”

Smug look. No response, not even a giggle.

We were baffled. It got to the point where we’d try to follow her when she went in her room to see if we could find out where she kept her stash. She knew what we were up to, so she’d forego the candy until we left.

She’s 22 and still won’t tell us where she’d hid her loot.

Sam’s not the only child we misplaced. One time, Meridith went to a friend’s house, and when we went to get her, she wasn’t there. We were 30 seconds from calling 911 when we found her petting puppies in a neighbor’s back yard.

Then, there was Heather. She was in kindergarten at the time. My husband had taken a day off work to try to get a few things done, and I went to work. As usual, Bonnie, her babysitter, put Heather on the bus in the morning and had a snack ready on the table for her when she got home from school.

But, she didn’t return.

Bonnie caught a couple kids who rode the same bus and asked them where Heather was. They didn’t know.

 Well, was she even on the bus? They didn’t know.

So, Bonnie called me at work. Maybe one of us had picked Heather up at school and forgot to call her.

Not me. So, I called home to check with my husband. No answer. As a last resort, I called to see if he was with his mom and finally found him.

“Do you have Heather?”

“No. Why would I have Heather?”

Panic. Big panic. This time, we didn’t know where we’d lost her. Was it at school? Did she get off at the wrong stop? Where was she and how long had she been gone?

Bonnie called the school. My husband jumped in the truck, intending to retrace the bus route. The school radioed the bus driver. I was told to stay put. The forces were at work, and somebody needed to man the command station.

Just sit and wait. It was the hardest thing I’d ever done.

My husband called. Any word?

No.

The school called to alert me that my daughter was missing.

Thank you, I already knew that. Inwardly, I wanted to lash out at them and ask them how they lost my baby, but that would have to wait. Finding her was the first order of business.

After what seemed like an eternity, Bonnie called. Her voice was shaking, and she was talking so fast I could barely understand what she said.

“They found her. She’s on the bus, and they’ll bring her home as soon as they drop off the rest of the kids.”

It appeared Heather had taken a little nap and slept right through when the bus driver let the kids off at her stop.  When she got home, she accused the bus driver of forgetting to drop her off.

One of our neighbors had a little boy who was an adventurer. “Josh” was a social butterfly, riding his bike and playing with friends all the time. He was about 7 or 8 and knew what time to be home every day and was never allowed to stay out after dark.

It was dark. It was after 8:00 when I heard a knock on our door. I opened it to find a policeman in full uniform.

“Ma’am, I’m just letting you know that one of the children in your neighborhood is missing. We’ll be searching the neighborhood, so don’t be alarmed if you see flashlights in your back yard.”

Of course, I did what everyone else did and went outside to find out what was going on. At the end of the block were squad cars, fire trucks, and ambulances, all with their lights flashing. It was a somber moment, realizing that this was the real thing.

All the neighbors got together and joined in the search. We were about a half hour into it when we heard the applause. They’d found him.

Or, rather, he found them.

It seems that Josh was invited to go to the Dairy Queen with his friend and their family. They told him to call and see if it was okay with his mom. He said he did.

But he didn’t.

And, of course, when they’d checked to see if Josh was at the friend’s house, nobody was home.

After waiting in a very long line for their ice cream, they decided they’d enjoy it at the park and let the boys play for a while. While they were there, they got wind that a boy was missing in our neighborhood. They panicked, wondering who it could be, and gathered their things and rushed home to find out.

Josh ran the couple houses home, barreling into the front door, and yelled, “Mooommm! Guess what! A little boy’s lost!”

His mom’s life span is now shorter than mine.


 

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Flesh-Colored Sweatpants

Posted on July 24, 2010. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , |

Ah, the 80’s. An unmemorable time in the world of fashion. I spent a large part of them in maternity clothes with stretch panels. My husband, on the other hand, spent more time than he should have in his own elastic waistband pants – flesh-colored sweatpants.

Did you know that they even made them? Once you get past the fact that they did, indeed, make sweatpants that match the skintone, one must ask another question: Why? Why did anyone make them, and even more importantly, why would anyone buy, or heaven forbid, wear them?

Those questions became increasingly important to me as my husband grew from the meat and potatoes meals he so dearly loves. And the case of his fashion faux pas grew into a major fashion crisis, which frankly, should have gotten him arrested. Wearing flesh-colored sweatpants isn’t a crime, but when they become skin tight, oh, there’s a high risk of being charged with indecent exposure.

Truly, they gave spandex a good name.

He wore them a lot. A lot. To the softball park, and in the bar. Yep, the sewn-in crease, skin tight, ‘bell-bottom,’ show every bulge, every bulge, sweatpants were like the sisterhood of the traveling pants. They went everywhere. But nobody would have shared them; he was the only one who seemed not to notice that they were, uh, let us say rather revealing.

His sister saw him at the softball field. Uncomfortable moment. Umm, don’t you think those pants should retire?

I rounded the corner coming home from work. Driving up to the house, I noticed him shirtless and pushing the lawn mower back and forth across the yard, flaunting his… oh my God, is he naked? He’s naked! I thought, nearly panicking and looking around to see if anyone else was outside. Then, sudden relief, good grief, he’s wearing those pants. Those friggin pants.

It was time. The pants went into the laundry. But mysteriously, they never came out.

He still asks for them, his second skin. They’re still yet to be found.

And I buy his clothes now. He owes me, big time.

And now new concerns are popping up. Caught him giving fashion advice to our 17-year-old daughter last week. Intervention time.

I’d love to hear your fashion faux pas stories – bring em on!

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Two Strikes Too Many

Posted on July 16, 2010. Filed under: Uncategorized |

My last two posts have been about me being on strike. Mom on Strike. Well, this self-imposed protest is now done. Two strikes in one house is two too many.

Yesterday, my husband’s union voted on the proposed three-year contract with the chemical company where he works. For the first time in 30 years, the union voted against the contract.

Well, before the Union voted to strike, the company locked them out. Locked the gates. Locked out. You can’t come in, grab your lunch. Done.

So, there’s a picket line at the front gate, protesting the lockout and the proposed contract. And nobody knows when renegotiations will take place. Nobody’s getting a paycheck, either.

I’m the main breadwinner for the indeterminate future, and it’s going to be a tight pinch. We’re all going to have to pitch in, which means that I have to do everything I can in my job as a ghostwriter, copywriter, and editor, as well as in my role as a mom and wife, to hold us together until this passes. So, my self-imposed strike has come to an abrupt end to make room for my husband’s involuntary one. The news that their dad isn’t working did more to shape the girls up than anytime I took off, anyway.

You can help by purchasing a copy of my book, Caution: Children Should Come With Warning Labels, available at UrbanEdgePublishing.com, Amazon, and is new at BarnesandNoble.com.

Thanks everyone, and I’ll keep you updated on the strike situation that’s invaded our house!

Caution: Children Should Come With Warning Labels

Urban Edge Publishing:  http://www.urbanedgepublishing.com/inc/sdetail/160

Amazon.com:  http://www.amazon.com/Caution-Children-Should-Warning-Labels/dp/0981532691/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1234889371&sr=1-5

Barnes and Noble:  http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Caution/Patti-McKenna/e/9780981532691/?itm=2

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Mom on Strike! Day 2

Posted on July 12, 2010. Filed under: Uncategorized |

Well, the kids slacked off yesterday, til their dad invited Gramma over for dinner.

That put the fear of God in them, dishes done, living room picked up.

Now, let’s see what happens without Gramma. It’s only Monday…

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Mom on Strike!

Posted on July 11, 2010. Filed under: Uncategorized |

 

MOM ON STRIKE!

Protesting heavy workload, long hours, no wages, lack of help, and laziness.

After 25 years of being a mom, cook, maid, the finder of everything lost or missing, laundress, and referree, I’ve gone on strike. For the first time, I get to see how it feels to lay around and do nothing (essentially, I get to see how it feels to be my kids), and the girls get to see how it feels to be me.

Will it work? We’ll see.

I went on strike yesterday – after spending half a day cleaning, scrubbing, doing laundry and trimming the bushes.

Friday night, the youngest two wanted money to go to the movies – again. Money doesn’t grow on trees, but apparently, the girls think we’re an ATM that automatically replenishes itself. They got the $, all we asked was that they pick up the tin bucket of fingernail polish, cotton balls, blankets, pillows, water bottles, and pop cans in the living room. Seriously, it looked like a manicure campground in there.

We came home to a campground that could have been condemned. Their excuse:  We weren’t done with it yet.  Oh, but you did have time (and money) to go to the movies.

So, I cleaned Saturday. While I do have eyes in the back of my head, I also have the gift of foresight. I can hear it now: Don’t blame us, the house looked like this when you went on strike. So, I dripped sweat all over myself and the house while cleaning it. Then, I mopped up the sweat.  Here’s how it’s going:

Daughter #4: “Mom, what’s for dinner?”

Me:  “I don’t know. What are you making?”

#4:  “Not funny.”

Me:  “I didn’t think so, either. Seriously, what are you making?”

#4:  “I guess I could make a frozen pizza. We have a supreme in the freezer.”

Me:  “Yuck. I don’t like that. Why don’t you ever make anything good?”

#4:  “Not funny. “

Me:  “I didn’t think so, either. I’m huuunnngrry!”

#4: “Well, I’m making a frozen pizza since you won’t cook.”

Me:  “Make enough for your sisters.”

This morning, I woke to an empty dishwasher (I emptied it yesterday) and a sink half full of dishes. Wonder how long they’ll sit there before somebody notices them?

Screaming and hollering don’t get me anywhere. If you can’t beat em, join em, I say. So I’m on strike and am gonna live the good life. I’m planting my butt in a lawn chair and am gonna be 16, too.  Wonder where I can find an ATM as good as the one the girls had…

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Turning Winners into Losers

Posted on June 4, 2010. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , |

I’ve long believed that some took the 1980’s children’s self-esteem movement too far. And I’ve just been validated.

In youth sports, I agree with the mercy rule, whereby the winner is declared when the winning team is so many points ahead of the losing team. But, I never agreed with the school philosophies that refused to keep score so that no one team would win, while another lost.

But, a Canadian soccer league has taken the self-esteem movement to new heights, reopening my eyes to the damage that a good idea over-implemented can cause. The National Post printed an article that announces a new rule for 4 to 18 year olds, stating that any team who wins by more than five points loses. Literally, if a team is up by 6 points, they are automatically declared the loser of the match and the win belongs to the loser.  This rule replaces their former five run mercy rule.

By overprotecting the self-esteem of one group, the league has decided to lower the self esteem of those who play well. What’s wrong with the mercy rule? Why did it have to be changed to such an extreme that winners became losers?  Since when do we reward those who underperform or come in second by penalizing those who played their best?

In my opinion, turning winners into losers discourages children from trying. When you reward the losing team by giving them the winning team’s trophy, you’re teaching them that they don’t have to try. When you punish the winning team by making them relinquish their title, you teach them that trying too hard is a bad thing.

Competition can be healthy and a positive part of growing up. It can make our kids stronger and more motivated. It can also teach them that losing isn’t always bad and winning isn’t always easy. It’s time we stop discouraging our children to do their personal best by giving them a trophy that wasn’t earned. Someday they’re going to grow up and not know how to lose or win gracefully. Someday, they’re not going to know how to compete in the real world.

There are other ways to raise a child’s self-esteem. Lowering expectations is not one of them.

What’s your opinion?

Link to article on National Post:  http://news.nationalpost.com/2010/06/01/win-a-soccer-game-by-more-than-five-points-and-you-lose-ottawa-league-says/?preview=true&preview_id=7652&preview_nonce=e6fa056a34

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The ACT and Teen Stress

Posted on May 14, 2010. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , |

Our 17 year old daughter, a junior in high school, just took the ACT test. For an entire week prior to the test, she walked, talked, and breathed the ACT. “Mom, this is the most important test I’ll ever take. It determines my entire future.”

Who says teen life isn’t stressful? Imposing so much pressure on the score of one single test would be enough to send us all over the edge, and juniors in high school are no exception. 

What did I do? I told her not to worry. That’s right. The teachers were putting enough pressure on the kids to perform well on the test. There was plenty of that to go around, so I chose to create balance. “Don’t worry. If you don’t do well the first time, you can always take it again.” I also reminded her that stress usually creates lower scores, not higher ones (and I gave her a pretty good breakfast as a special treat on testing day).

Here’s a revised version of an article I wrote when I applied as a writer for Examiner.com this morning (Cross your fingers that I get the gig):

Mastering tests is one of the biggest academic challenges some high school students face. Among them are traditional subjects like algebra, biology, English, and foreign languages, but one of the most important tests teenagers take is the ACT. This college entrance exam is also one of the most stressful tests they will ever take in their high school career.

A student’s ACT score is a significant factor in being accepted by the college of their choice, and for some, the degree, program or trade they wish to enter. For this reason, a great deal of self-imposed importance is placed on the ACT by high school juniors. Teens are aware that their score on this one test will greatly impact their future. Factor in the daily reminders and pressures imposed by six different teachers every day for a week prior to the test, and it’s not surprising that these college entrance exams produce high anxiety levels on students.

To help teenagers deal with this stress and anxiety, teachers and parents should work together to prepare students for the exam, while reducing other pressures and promoting relaxation exercises. Introducing different study techniques can also reduce stress by making learning and studying a fun and cooperative exercise. For example, high school students might participate in a study group which holds mock “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?” games, using ACT review questions in the game. This would make the review an enjoyable one, and as a bonus, it could help some retain the information better. 

Parents should also encourage relaxation, time away from studying, physical exercise, and good eating habits. By eating healthy foods, teens will eliminate sugar highs (and subsequent crashes) and walk into the testing room without caffeine-induced jitters. A strong dose of encouragement will also provide them with some much-needed support.

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PROM 2010

Posted on May 3, 2010. Filed under: Uncategorized |

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Good Fences Make Good Neighbors

Posted on April 27, 2010. Filed under: Uncategorized |

I love kids – mine especially. But in the last year, I’ve had a growing problem with the kids next door. Not that there’s anything wrong with the kids themselves – I guess my problem is with the lack of supervision the kids are given.

Ranging in age from first grade down to two, the family has three children. Their backyard is fenced in. Yet, the kids aren’t.

A few weeks ago, sitting in my office in the lower level of a tri-level house, I heard something outside the window, which sits about two feet directly behind my head. I turned around to find a face staring at me at eye level, nose pressed against the pane. Before it registered who this was, or that it was even a child, I gasped from the startle. Before I could react at all, the little boy slammed his hand against the window. POW!

Now, you have to realize how quickly all of this happened. My immediate reaction to the POW and the fact that someone was on the opposite side of the window was to duck. Yep, my instincts screamed for me to take cover – the first thing that came to mind was that I was being shot at (by a two year old – I know, dumb). But it was startling.

Once I realized who it was, I came out from under my cover and told the child to go home.

In telling my husband about it, he recanted his experience the day before. While driving home, he turned the corner on the street in the subdivision where we live. A truck was ahead of him, which slowed to a crawl. Before he knew it, they were at a dead stop. In the street in front of the truck was the two year old, this time on a little trike. Smack in the middle of the street and not moving. After a few minutes, the oldest child ran out to the street and pulled him back into their driveway. No where was a parent to be found.

Last weekend, I went outside to light the grill and one of their five miniature dobermans was standing in our backyard. He started barking at me and charged toward me. That didn’t surprise me because the dogs have roamed the neighborhood and the streets for a year. I’m surprised one of them hasn’t been hit by a car yet.

Last night, I went out to light the grill and saw a pair of boxing gloves in our yard, each sitting six or eight feet  away from each other – one by the tree, one by the pool. The neighbor’s shed was wide open and toys galore were spilled out of its door. Obviously, they decided to take their fun into my yard, as well.

The boxing gloves are now mine. They will be missed, because they’re nice gloves – adult gloves – and probably belong to their father.

Good fences make good neighbors. They have a fence. It’s not working. I shouldn’t have to worry about children peering in the window at me. We shouldn’t have to stop in the street because a child isn’t being watched. I shouldn’t be barked at and threatened by another family’s pet when I’m in my own yard. And there’s no reason at all for me to be picking up other people’s belongings in my backyard.

So it now looks like we have to get a fence. Not to keep our children and dog where they belong, but to keep our neighbor’s kids out of where they don’t belong.  Good fences might indeed make good neighbors, but only if it’s a good fence and parents make sure it’s working.

I didn’t want to be this kind of neighbor. I didn’t want them to be, either.

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