Archive of ‘Sentiments’ category

Prank Calls: Don’t Hate the Prankster, Hate the Prank


Funny stories about making prank phone calls | The Champagne Supernova

There are many reasons why I didn’t get into a Top-10 law school and prank calling during my undergrad days is one of them.

I mean, seriously, what else did we have to do?

In the true spirit of being a freshman and “how college ought to be,” I lived in the dorms during my first year at the University of Florida.

(For all you Gators, this was Trusler Hall… right across from Hume. It had a Blimpie Sub shop in the common area and it was walking distance to the Reitz Union… where we would use electronic funds from our Gator 1 cards to buy booze at the Baja Tortilla Grill – sorry, Mom and Dad!)

It was 2000 and I was fresh out of high school and equipped with important things like body glitter, butterfly hair clips, an AIM screen name, and was “living on the edge” by downloading music illegally on Napster.

In those days, we didn’t have cell phones, social media, or other distractions.

Each dorm room was equipped with a land line. For whatever (dumb) reason, the University published a “phone book” that included the telephone numbers of each student who was living in on-campus housing.

So if you wanted another student’s phone number and that student lived on campus, all you had to do was look up their name in this phone book and viola! you had it.

Our dorm was quite social and I met some of my best friends there, two of which I still see and speak to regularly.

In lieu of doing responsible things like studying and doing homework, we would often gather around each others’ rooms in our pajamas, get fat from Pokey Stix, and prank call the shizzz out of other people, courtesy of this phone book.

Our pranks were so good that they deserve a regular blog feature. I really wish I could make a living out of prank calling.

One prank stands out in particular.

There was a popular and important player on the school’s football team who regularly frequented the bars. Likely why we never won a National Championship under his watch.

I won’t name names (unless you ask me in person, ‘cuz lawyers never put anything damning in writing, yo!) but let’s just say he was quasi-famous and quite. a. big. deal.

One Tuesday after class when we should have been doing responsible things, an entourage of five other girls and I got this player’s phone number from the college directory and dialed.

Backstory: the evening before, we spotted him out at The Swamp restaurant, a bar that was popular to attend certain nights of the week, Monday being one of them.

Ring, ring, ring.

Hello?

[Imagine the voice of a 1-900 call girl named Krystle:] Hi, is this (name of super important football player?) 

Yes.

Hey… this is really embarrassing but my name is Carly.  I had so much fun with you at the Swamp last night. You made me feel so special and I would love to see you again. 

Long pause.

[Pretending he had a clue on earth who Carly was:] Oh hey Carly! I had a great time with you, too!

Um…. so I don’t normally do these things because I’m not “that kind of girl” but I would love to see you later today so we can get together… can you meet me on the front steps of the Swamp at 6:00?

Note: it was 5:30 p.m. during this call.

Sure!

We were shocked at his response. Clearly, he intended on getting some booty.

Alright, see you soon.

We hung up, high-fived, and then waited a few minutes before cramming into my friend’s Hyundai Elantra.

We drove to a dorm located directly across from The Swamp and then laughed our heads off as we witnessed this player standing on the steps at 6:00 sharp, waiting for some chick to arrive who didn’t even exist.

What a schmo!

He paced back and forth, stared at every single girl who happened to walk by to see if she looked familiar, routinely glanced at his watch with each passing minute, before giving up and leaving maybe 20 minutes later.

[Recall: these were the days before cell phones, so he couldn’t call or text “Carly” to find out her E.T.A.]

To this day, we still laugh when someone brings up this dude’s name. Many would say they can’t blame him, but who would seriously meet some girl they didn’t even remember?

What if she would have shown up to the front steps of The Swamp looking like Mama Fratelli from The Goonies or Pat from SNL? Then what would he have done? Dined with her or peaced out?

We can laugh about this because the answer is likely the latter.

Don’t hate the prankster, hate the prank.

Cheers!

    How to Embrace the “In-Between”


    How to embrace the "in-between" times in your life as a mother | The Champagne Supernova

    In between.

    Haven’t we felt it before? The emotional purgatory of not knowing what we want from our lives?

    Adults are not immune.

    Career women are not immune.

    Mothers and wives are not immune.

    These feelings are real, but what do we do about them? Freak out or embrace the emotions? Do something for just ourselves?

    This is a guest post from my friend, Molly James, who reached out to me about the topic based on her own personal experience. Yes, yes, yes- I thought- as so many women can relate to these feelings but feel shame and not want to acknowledge them.

    Thank you, Molly, for sharing your truth.

    I tend to be a little self conscious. One of those extroverted introverts we hear so much about in our news feeds. I sent my sister a sort of embarrassing photo montage of myself yesterday, and the following text exchange ensued.

    How to embrace the in-between time when you don't feel like enough | The Champagne Supernova

    Knowing nothing of our relationship, you’re probably wondering why you should care whether or not I posted something to social media, why it made my sister so happy, and what the heck was the collection of pictures.

    Let me give you some background.

    Eight years ago, while still just engaged to my husband, I left my job as a Manager of Recruiting for the University of South Florida and opened up a bridal boutique.

    It was my first baby.

    I put my all into that store.

    I knew every detail about every bride who walked through my door or called for an appointment. I pored over the smallest details of the bookkeeping. I memorized every dress, shoe, and accessory in the showroom. I swept the floors, dusted the shelves, took out the trash, and scrubbed the toilets.

    I secretly cried in the storage room when customers were mean.

    I toasted myself with champagne when there was reason to celebrate. I did it all. I felt passionate, driven, and fulfilled.

    Then, I had an actual, human baby.

    Maybe you’ve been there?

    You feel so self-assured as a professional woman, unstoppable and impervious to silly things like maternal instinct.

    I did.

    And then this tiny person came into the world, and all I knew of myself was turned upside down. My entire focus shifted to my child and I couldn’t see anything else.

    For the first year of his life, I barely left the house. I hired an amazing friend to manage the bridal store (thank you, Katie), and most of my passion for those brides and their dresses just vanished into thin air.

    Poof!

    Sorry, ladies.

    And now, Poof! again.

    Where did the time go?

    I sold my store in March of 2017 because I knew it deserved an owner with the passion that I had when I first began. My oldest son is now five and just started “real” school. My youngest is almost three and is attending preschool five days a week. After years of constant togetherness with one child or another, I am suddenly staring several empty hours a day right in the face.

    My house is [sort of] clean, the laundry is done, I’m actually cooking dinner [this is huge], I’ve read stacks and stacks of books, my volunteerism is off the charts, and I’m even working out at the gym.

    The luxury of time sounds like a dream. I have no delusion that there is anything to be pitied here because I know it’s a blessing to have this time of respite. So why am I not thrilled, delighted, ecstatic?

    For one, the life we live requires that I eventually start contributing to our household financially. Beyond that, I feel extremely “between.” So very, very between. Between full-time motherhood and “what’s next”, but what is next?

    If my husband, mother, sisters, and friends have to hear me ask this question one more time, I think they may all go crazy.

    I’m sick of asking it myself.

    I’m almost forty [don’t tell] and I have no idea what I want to be when I grow up. I’ve thought about going back to graduate school, but there are some very real things called bills that need to be paid. The idea of producing zero to very little income while paying grad school tuition for the next few years does not exactly mesh with our household’s economic reality. I’ve dabbled in MLM, but it is so far outside my comfort zone I might as well be selling crack. I scroll through job sites daily, maybe I’ll find something that’s the perfect fit?

    It’s hard to imagine returning to a full time position working for someone else after running my own show for so long.

    Perhaps I should take up day drinking?

    Just kidding, that doesn’t pay the bills either.

    Maybe you’ve been there? Maybe you are there? I have a hunch I’m not alone in this place. I’ve got a feeling there are a lot of mamas out there who can relate.

    Back to that photo montage. It’s embarrassing, so embarrassing [I swear, I own a hair brush].

    I share because I want to tell you it’s okay to be between, it’s more than okay. That’s why my sister loved it, because she loves me and she knows I spend more time than I should feeling like I’m not enough right now. Maybe instead of feeling guilty all the time, those of us in this place should occasionally just let ourselves enjoy it.

    Take a day off from trying to figure out what to do next and, instead, have fun in the moment. The kids aren’t infants, but they still adore us.

    Breathe, and then do something just for you.

    I went to Disney World all by myself and still made it back to the kids in time for carpool. I rode all the rides my kids can’t or won’t ride. I felt self-conscious, like a lonesome weirdo, but I had a smile on my face the entire time. It was delightful.

    It doesn’t have to be a theme park, but maybe one of these days, drop off the kids and go and do something completely random and just for you. 

    How to embrace the in-between time when you don't feel like enough | The Champagne Supernova

    You deserve it, mama!

    Molly Warfel James is a wife and mother of two young boys who lives in Tampa, Florida. In her spare time, she enjoys reading books, enjoying a poolside cocktail with family and friends, and conquering Splash Mountain with reckless abandon. 

    Cheers!

     

     

      The True North: Be Who You Are


      True North:

      North that is calculated by using an imaginary line through the Earth rather than by using a compass: the direction that leads to the North Pole.

      [Merriam-Webster dictionary]

      The direction from any point along a meridian toward the North Pole. Also called: geographic north.

      [The Free Dictionary by Farlex]

      Non-negotiable, since the compass will show where it is, relative from your current position, and it will never change.

      [Urban Dictionary]

      In his 2007 leadership book with the same name, author Bill George describes the True North as the internal compass that guides a person successfully through life. It represents who you are as a human being at your deepest level. It is your orienting point- your fixed point in a spinning world. It helps you stay on track toward authenticity.

      Nobody seems to know or care which way is north these days.

      The last week in the news has been particularly unsettling and my own True North tells me to avoid the television. In the wake of the white supremacy rally in Virginia that left several dead, watching the news and reading the divisive information feeds on social media is disturbing.

      It might be reality, but it doesn’t feel good to see or hear and I’m sick of the negativity. There are plenty of wonderful things going on in the world to choose to listen to.

      What’s sad is this will only get worse. Across the board, we are making gross generalizations about one another, it is damaging, and not one single person can sincerely say the hatred and ugliness, at the core, feels good.

      Not one. (Even the politically extreme military officer who I had to block from my Facebook feed because reading his hateful rhetoric literally made my body hurt.)

      The truth is that we were all created in love and love is our True North.

      Think about it.

      We become unsettled when our thoughts, words, and behavior are inconsistent with love. It is the reason we feel true freedom when we choose to forgive and love someone instead of deciding to hold a grudge against them. It is the reason we experience peace when we choose to let go of anger. Love is the reason we crave a sense of belonging from others.

      We have an inner compass but so many times we ignore it. This manifests itself in so many ways.

      I have both experienced this personally and repeatedly witnessed it in the scope of my career.

      It was the summer of 2015 and Karen, who lived 250 miles away from me, showed up on my doorstep unannounced and sobbing.

      She needed a referral for a bankruptcy lawyer.

      (Karen and I attended law school together, but she got married soon after graduation and never practiced. Likewise, she never formed strong connections with our classmates and, while I am not a bankruptcy attorney, I think I was the closest person Karen could trust for a recommendation.)

      I was shocked and saddened that things were not going well for her family. Judging solely from the life Karen portrayed on social media, I would have assumed everything was not only fine, but significantly above average.

      She and her husband had two beautiful children in private school who were always dressed in gorgeous, expensive clothing. They just returned from a month-long Alaskan cruise. They were members of a fancy country club- the one with a four-year wait list. She preferred the Bergdorf and Barney stores to the Sam Walton ones.

      Shuddering, Karen gently placed her ostrich skin Birkin on top of my kitchen counter and described the slow chain of events that led to her and her husband’s financial pitfall.

      Wasn’t complicated- they just spent and spent and spent. They didn’t care that his once-successful small business was failing because they assumed things would get better and they needed to keep up with the Joneses and the Richardsons and the Smiths and the Goldbergs and…

      It was exhausting.

      They were broke, their credit was shot, they had no savings, and they were renting a house they could barely afford and driving six figure vehicles to maintain an image and there was no turning back.

      They were social hustlers.

      But here’s the interesting thing:

      Karen said she hated it.

      She hated it from the beginning and, as it continued, her hatred for it grew worse. She could have stopped the spending years ago but she didn’t and there was no good reason she didn’t.

      She just didn’t.

      And now her life was a mess.

      She got into the mess because she ignored her True North of loving herself. 

      Abandoned the authenticity for something she candidly acknowledged didn’t even feel good to begin with.

      I love Karen. And I have known so many Karens. I’ve been a Karen- ignoring what my conscience was telling me to do and then paying for it later.

      What is the True North?

      It is the voice that tells us to leave an unhealthy relationship.

      The one that tell us to pick up the phone and make amends with someone who deserves an apology.

      The gesture that pushes us to visit our grandparents on what might be the last time.

      The crummy feeling we get after we’ve yelled at our kids over something stupid.

      The disgusting feeling we get when we watch the news and see strangers driving into other strangers in vans. When we see people rioting and burning things.

      We need to stop ignoring what is bad and start doing what feels good (not what feels good in the “right now,” but instead, what will feel good in the big picture long run.)

      It’s that easy.

      Cheers to being guided by your True North.

       

        Adventures in Lawyering: Being Right


        Photograph from To Kill a Mockingbird from pbs.com

        I got sucked into one of my more notable cases shortly after I finished law school and entered the work force.

        It involved feuding next door neighbors and was venued in Miami-Dade county, which meant I had the treat of riding on planes, staying the night in swanky hotels, and eating at fancy restaurants when I had to travel from Tampa for hearings and other case-related events.

        Both of these neighbors were wealthy beyond comprehension and had money to burn on legal fees and costs.

        We will call them Hatfield and McCoy.

        Hatfield grew up poor and made a ton of money in the phosphate industry in the early 1990s. He was dishonest, generally disliked, and was on his fifth marriage by the time I got involved in the case.

        Hatfield accompanied his wife to her deposition (along with their private chauffeur), and introduced her to the group as “Lydia… my Trophy Wife.”

        (Lydia looked like a Playboy Bunny, so I guess she really was his Trophy Wife.)

        Hatfield only stayed at this home in Miami for two months out of the year and lived in California for the remainder. It was my understanding he also owned property in Martha’s Vineyard.

        McCoy was a lovely man who worked hard his entire life to support his family, started a successful business manufacturing widgets for cellular phones, and acquired enough wealth to put his (unborn) great-grandchildren through college.

        McCoy purchased a lot next to Hatfield’s multi-million dollar home on an exclusive island close to South Beach.

        McCoy demolished the existing home on the property so he could build a new one. There was also some weather-related structural damage to his dock for which he had to take down the old one and start from scratch.

        Every resident on the island needed a dock so they had somewhere to park their luxury yachts.

        McCoy had no interaction with Hatfield until construction on his dock was nearly finished. One day in the middle of summer, Hatfield came out of his house screaming the location of the new dock obstructed his view of the bay.

        McCoy explained that several engineers from the county “vetted” the location of the dock and he received all the necessary permits for constructing it.

        Hatfield disagreed and filed a lawsuit.

        In the lawsuit, Hatfield added claims that McCoy’s mailbox was in the wrong location and that vibrations from pile driving during construction of the new home crossed Hatfield’s property line and created cracks in his olympic-size swimming pool.

        Hatfield never attempted to work out these issues with McCoy as an alternative to suing him- he just wanted to sue.

        He was petty.

        He would never admit his pettiness and “let it go” because he was so fixated on one thing: being right. 

        Hatfield wanted to be right about the location of the dock.

        He wanted to be right about the placement of the mailbox.

        He wanted to be right that the construction of McCoy’s home cracked his swimming pool.

        But how was “being right” going for him when it cost him peace and friendship with his neighbors and tons of money in legal fees?

        Not very well.

        I don’t know Hatfield’s personal background, but I am willing to bet that “being right” cost him his first four marriages.

        It probably cost him business opportunities.

        More than anything, it probably cost him happiness and satisfaction.

        Here was a guy who seemingly had it all: a successful company, plenty of money, a beautiful wife, multi-million dollar homes in three different locations and he still wasn’t happy.

        None of it was enough.

        So he had to fight with his neighbor about dumb things like a dock, a mailbox, and a swimming pool for the sake of being right.

        (Important Note: McCoy ended up winning the lawsuit after a judge agreed that the location of the dock and mailbox were appropriate and the pool cracks existed before the home was built. Basically what everyone knew all along.)

        This incredible scenario triggered some self reflection about how many times I’ve been so concerned in my personal life about “being right” about that I didn’t look at the big picture.

        Guilty.

        It’s stupid.

        How many times have we jumped to conclusions about petty things without investigating all the facts?

        How many times have we bid adieu to people who were “true and blue” friends or family members about something that didn’t really matter in the scheme of things?

        (You gotta look deep deep deep deep down and really admit to yourself that what you were mad about was dumb.)

        How many times have we been upset when someone didn’t meet our unexpressed expectations and so we wrote them off?

        How many times have we been so hell bent about being right about something that we didn’t consider the people we were hurting or alienating?

        It’s time to let it go.

        Thank goodness for job security, but I see this all the time in my profession. People who can’t let go of being right that they will spend years of their lives and tons of money to prove it. I can’t imagine what it’s like to be a divorce lawyer. Oy vey!

        Do you have an issue with dock?

        Let it go.

        What is your mailbox?

        Let it go.

        Cracks in your swimming pool?

        Let them go.

        Look left. Look right. Up and down. Look at the big picture and consider all you have in your life that is going well and focus on that.

        You don’t have to be right about things that really don’t matter. 

        Cheers.

          Adventures in Lawyering Part Deux: Cleanup in the Garden Center


          Funny moments stories about being a lawyer | The Champagne Supernova

          Disclaimer. This story is crude and disgusting. But I just report the facts. 

          Where many attorneys feel they are “too good” to work on the less “sexy” cases like slip and fall matters, I have a confession: They are not beneath me and I love them.

          99% of the time, slip and fall cases don’t involve sad things like death or catastrophic injuries. The person falls down, goes boom, gets back up, hires an attorney three days later, and starts treating with a chiropractor for “soft tissue injuries.”

          Absent complicated health issues or outrageously high medical bills, slip and fall cases usually aren’t stressful and are a nice respite from the fatality, traumatic brain injury, or child molestation cases that are also found in my assignment list.

          So I’ll take ’em with a smile.

          Slip and fall plaintiffs are often “career plaintiffs” who make nice little wads of cash making claims in connection with other accidents including fender benders and other premises liability issues.

          Why work when you can get something for free? (I once had a plaintiff tell me it was foolish for him to work when he received disability benefits and could sit on the couch all day. He was young and fully capable of working a desk job but I guess he had a point…)

          Reading through their medical records is equally hilarious.

          I worked at a law firm that represented a large international retail chain. Most of the cases involving this client involved slip and fall events that happened in the stores.

          One thing I learned is nearly everything is a slip (or trip) and fall hazard and, frankly, it’s just the cost of doing business.

          Grapes.

          Detergent.

          Soft drinks.

          Other human beings. (No joke, I represented this same client in a matter where a plaintiff made a claim against the store for negligent mode of operation after the plaintiff tripped and fell over the store’s employee when the employee was crouched down in an aisle stocking canned goods on a bottom shelf. The plaintiff admitted at her deposition that she wasn’t paying attention to where she was going and that she “just assumed” nobody was next to her in the aisle. A local judge entered Summary Judgment against the plaintiff, and she got a goose egg for her wallet to go with the goose egg that was on her head after she tripped over the employee.)

          I was routinely assigned to the same Southwest Florida location of this retail chain and, because of the large volume of cases, I became friendly with the store’s general manager.

          At the time, I was pregnant with my second daughter and, as he too was in his mid-thirties with young children of his own, we often spent time laughing and sharing “war stories” about having kids.

          We’ll refer to him as Manager Mike.

          One morning I had to meet with Manager Mike to prepare him for a deposition involving… dun dun dun.. a slip and fall case.

          He was late for our meeting and appeared flustered and overwhelmed when he arrived.

          Sorry I’m late. Last Friday was the worst work day of my life and I’ve been playing “catch up” at the store ever since. 

          Worst than the time you discovered a customer committed suicide with a machete in the handicapped stall of the men’s room?

          (This actually happened at this same store.)

          Wayyyyyyyyyyyy worse than that!

          Worse than the time one of your cart retrieval dudes found a dead body in a car in the parking lot that had been there for days baking in the hot July sun?

          (That also happened.)

          Oh girl, even worse than that. 

          Alright, folks.

          It actually was worse.

          Manager Mike went on to tell me that an adult customer had entered the property through the garden center, pulled down her shorts, and defecated on the floor in the middle of an aisle. It happened somewhere between the hibiscus and hydrangeas. A couple minutes later and before the store’s employees had time to realize the shit-uation and do anything about it, another customer came along and slipped and fell in it.

          Apparently, this customer was pushing a shopping cart and was unable to see it on the floor in front of her. She fell and cracked her head on the cement floor.

          The customer was nonresponsive and the employees were worried she sustained a brain injury. Paramedics arrived and there was a huge scene in front of the store trying to get her medical attention.

          After learning of the ordeal, Manager Mike hurriedly went to the store surveillance room to pull video and determine whether the poop-etrator was still in the store.

          Lo and behold, the entire incident in the garden center was captured on video and the woman who did it was shown entering the interior of the store.

          Manager Mike was able to get a general idea about what she looked like and undertook efforts to locate her in the store. After a few minutes, he spotted an older female (but not too old to know better!) pushing a cart and walking next to a younger woman, who appeared to be her daughter. The manager was certain it was her because she had feces streaked down her right leg and it appeared to be crammed into the heel of her Keds-style shoe.

          She didn’t have a care in the world and was busy checking out the picture frames and decorative pillows in the housewares section.

          Manager Mike approached this woman, aggressively tapped her on the shoulder, and when she turned around, said:

          Did you go to the bathroom on the floor in the garden center?

          Her defense was simple.

          Sir. I had to go realllllllllll bad. 

          Well, you should have told an employee what happened so it could be cleaned… now another customer fell in it and is seriously injured. 

          The woman didn’t seem to mind and continued shopping.

          A few things.

          While most normal people can control their bowels, would tell someone if they had an accident, and certainly wouldn’t stick around and shop with dirty clothes and shoes, this woman didn’t give a damn.

          Zero cares.

          I’m not sure whatever transpired from this situation, the health of the customer who fell, or whether she ever initiated a claim against this store for her injuries. The store would have a good defense, given the short amount of time between when the first customer went to the bathroom and when the second customer fell, given Florida’s law about notice in premises liability cases.

          It doesn’t matter much.

          The bottom line is that when you’re having a bad day, just remember it could always be worse.

          You could be the lady who fell.

          Cheers!

            Loose Lips Sink Ships: You Can’t Tell a Kid Anything


            Kids have the biggest mouths and will say the most inappropriate things at the worst times | The Champagne Supernova

            Teachers always seem to have the best stories.

            Laughing through tears, one of my longtime friends, an elementary school teacher, told me about how one of her students provided her with a detailed play-by-play of their family vacation the Monday after Spring Break.

            Gory details the student’s parents would likely die if they knew she had disclosed.

            About how dad got locked out of the rental house in his “tightey-whitey” underwear when he went outside in the morning to get the newspaper.

            About how the student hated applying sunscreen to her mother’s back because of “all her moles that look like Cocoa-Krispie cereal.”

            And about how mom and dad got into an argument during dinner and mom called him a “stupid ass clown” in front of the student and her siblings.

            Really.

            If you don’t want a child to repeat something, don’t say it in front of them.

            Especially when you think they either don’t understand what you’re saying or aren’t paying attention.

            Trust me. I have found through personal experience (the hard way) that kids do understand and they are paying attention.

            When you live under the same roof, this is much easier said than done. I find my husband and I sometimes speak in “code” or text each other if we don’t want to communicate something in front of the kids.

            Which brought back a childhood memory of my own.

            When I was in preschool, we attended a church where one of the other members was recently divorced. The story was especially said because the woman’s husband left her for another woman, which was relatively taboo in the late 1980s. (At least more so than it is now in 2017.) As they had a young child, the former husband essentially abandoned his family and now this woman was struggling to make ends meet by raising their young child as a single mother.

            Fun fact: I have a freakishly good memory about the most random things. Too bad that good memory didn’t extend to academic things like Civil War history, the Pythagorean Theorem, or Latin when I was in high school and college. I digress.

            It is also noteworthy to mention that my mom and this woman were very active in the church together and regularly interacted with each other at Sunday school, in the choir, on Wednesday spaghetti dinner night, and on mission trips.

            Somehow I caught wind of the situation and all I can remember hearing about is that this woman’s husband left her. I was four or five years old and completely unaware of social rules about what one can and cannot acceptably say to another person. I assume I overheard my mother telling this to my father or other people in the house.

            So.

            In a likely act of kindness, my mom invited this woman and her child to spend the afternoon with our family at a local swimming pool. The plan was for them to meet us at our house and then we would head over.

            The woman helped my mom load up our Dodge Caravan with towels, sunscreen, chairs, and rafts. As she was in the process of strapping me into my car seat, I inquired, extremely matter-of-factly:

            My mom said your husband left you. Is that true?

            I could see my mom’s mortified reaction to this question in my peripheral vision. She looked like she wanted to jump into the middle of the street and get hit by oncoming traffic.

            I don’t remember this woman’s response, but my mom later said she handled it with class and went on the rest of the day unfazed, as if I never asked the question.

            Several hours later, I remember my seeing my mom crying. She was horrified that her friend clearly knew we must have been discussing her personal life in the house (hey… it happens… totally get it and we do the same thing in my house! Isn’t there some sort of “household privilege?”) and equally horrified that she had to sit through several hours at the pool with her when she was humiliated and pretending the conversation never happened.

            My mom was also mortified by the reality that she would regularly have to see this woman at church in the future, and feared they would constantly be uncomfortable around each other.

            I know my mom was upset I asked the question, but she also knew I was young and didn’t do it on purpose. She was likely more upset at herself for mentioning this around me.

            Kids!

            The moral of the story: if you don’t want your child to repeat something, then don’t say it in front of them. If you do want them to repeat it, then by all means, say it.

            Because it will happen at the worst possible place and time.

            And while I’m at it, Mom, I’m so sorry!

            Cheers!

             

              How to Talk to God


              MC Hammer A wise philosopher famously sang:

              We got to pray
              Just to make it today
              I said we pray(pray) ah, yeah, pray(pray)
              We got to pray
              Just to make it to pray
              That’s word, we pray.

              Yet so many people don’t want anything to do with prayers. They think they are foreign and reserved for religious fanatics.

              I can see where it’s hard asking for help in the midst of our shame and guilt.

              I’ll go first.

              I’m not perfect. Sometimes (lots of times) I cuss. I have regrets from the past and sometimes wonder if I’m fulfilling my life’s purpose. I might beat myself up over a flabby stomach or eating too much junk food. Or maybe I get snippy with a co-worker who didn’t deserve it. Perhaps I took a bad day at the office out on my husband when I got home. Or I feel like I’m screwing up my kids when I’m not in the mood to read them a book before bedtime. It may be that I lazily slipped Cool Ranch Doritos in their lunchbox instead of an organic, gluten-free granola bar.

              Don’t we all have our days where we are feeling “less-than”?

              Good thing I have a God who I can turn to who will comfort me and help me lay all my troubles aside.

              I can see where having an intimate, trusting relationship with God can be difficult. Especially in these volatile times where so many around the world are fighting in His name.

              There is a belief that God is a punisher to be feared. That He is an intolerant critic who is disappointed in our bad choices and will send us to the fiery furnace on judgment day if we don’t immediately clean up our acts. That He has ordered His followers to be the “sin police” and polarize those who don’t adhere to His commands.

              This belief suggests that God is an ornery old man incapable of forgiveness and compassion.

              How terrifying. It’s understandable why so many people are too afraid of God to love Him and let Him into their lives. I can see why so many are afraid to pray. They don’t want to go there.

              That is not my God. My God epitomizes love and benevolence. He teaches forgiveness and love. He is a genius with a sense of humor. He is inclusive and a good parent who loves all His children the same. He created a set of life tools to direct us toward our best lives and not because he is trying to rob us of a good time. He is a best friend who created the inner depths of our hearts and planted our struggles so we can come to know and trust Him. Which is exactly why He has his own compassionate judgment for each of us that we on earth can’t comprehend. (He is the judge: not us.)

              Nobody who knows me would describe me as a Bible Thumper, but the relationship between me and God is strong and it is real.

              And you see, that’s all he cares about. The relationship. A good one. You and Him. Together. BFFs. 

              I pray several times a day. Here’s how I do it.

              The urge pops into my head and I just go for the gold.

              It ain’t formal and it sure as heck ain’t frilly.

              Sometimes the prayer is five words and other times it is twenty sentences.

              The prayers can be silly.

              Please God, don’t let me murder my husband for leaving wet towels on the floor.

              Dear God, if you cure this hangover I won’t ever drink again. This week. 

              Other times the prayers can be serious.

              Please heal the cancer in my friend’s brain.

              Please Lord, help that father find a new job so he can feed his family.  

              There’s usually no kneeling or hand-folding (although you can certainly do that if you want to.)

              No rosaries or candles.

              No gospel music.

              No priest to confess anything to.

              It doesn’t have to happen in a church or a synagogue or any other traditional place of worship.

              Good prayers can happen anywhere. 

              At your desk when you’re waiting for someone to respond to an e-mail.

              At the gym on the treadmill.

              In the carpool pickup line.

              At grocery check-out.

              In the front office waiting for your doctor’s appointment.

              God doesn’t care. 

              You can be in your bathing suit or your pajamas.

              On a yoga mat in the studio or on a towel at the beach.

              In front of the TV or behind a book.

              Doesn’t matter to God. It just matters that it happens. Come exactly as you are. No formalities and nothing fake. 

              You see, God doesn’t want the fancy, Shakespearean language. He doesn’t want you to feel like you have to dress up.

              He just wants you. 

              After all, he is the One who created you and will be the first to know if there’s any insincere B.S.

              He wants you to go to Him when you have problems and for you to completely trust Him. Even when you are hurt and confused and angry and defeated. (But especially when you are those things.) He wants to give you His peace and His blessings. He wants you to thank Him when you are grateful.

              He wants you to pray however suits your fancy. 

              Just do it however you do you.

              Cheers!

                Life and Focusing on What Matters: The Give a Damn List


                Create a Give a Damn List to help you balance the things and people that really matter | The Champagne Supernova

                We have a limited number of damns in our lives.

                Yet, we somehow end up giving them away on the dumbest, most insignificant things.

                Confession.

                I can be a compulsive damn giver-outer.

                Doling out the damns like Oprah gives away cars.

                You get a damn!

                That other person gets a damn!

                Everyone’s getting a damn!

                People who don’t really matter.

                Things that are stupid.

                Stuff that happened in the past that I can’t control.

                I’ve had it.

                I recently traveled out of town to attend a conference. The main attendees were women like me: moms of young children who were bloggers and authors. All of them were in their mid 30s and the majority were married.

                When we arrived at the conference, we were randomly placed in small groups where we performed team building activities and brainstormed about how to grow our businesses.

                Here’s the problem.

                Despite our ostensible similarities, I really had nothing to talk about with these women. Yes, they were friendly and no, there was no drama, but beyond the casual formalities, I just had nothing. to. talk. to. them. about. (The three-hour time change and my exhaustion didn’t help things. Being forced to be “on” does nothing but perpetuate my pre-existing social awkwardness.)

                Some people you click with and some people you don’t.

                There wasn’t any deep and meaningful clicking.

                Bummer.

                On the plane ride back, my negative thoughts started getting the best of me.

                Why couldn’t I connect with these women?

                Is something wrong with me?  

                I called my close friend and former roommate, Amy. She’s usually the voice of reason.

                Tell the truth, is there something I’m doing wrong?

                No…. and be honest with yourself, do you give a damn about any of these people anyway?

                Silence.

                No.

                No, I don’t.

                Which forced me to consider why I give so many damns.

                In an effort to be proactive, I got out a journal and created a list of people and things I was going to give a damn about in the future.

                A Give a Damn List.

                Moving forward, the list will serve as the Holy Grail of things and people that do and do not matter.

                Things I will make a priority and things I will not.

                That way, when I am wallowing in self-doubt and stress, I can open up the journal and refer to the list.

                If the “trigger” is not on the list, then I’m not going to give a damn.

                (Realistically: I will try really hard to not give a damn. Old habits die hard.)

                When you are trying to figure out what matters in your life, create a Give a Damn List in your journal. This contains a list of things that will be a priority. | The Champagne Supernova

                The journal that contains my personal Give a Damn List.

                Here is my hierarchy of people who get my damns.

                1. God;
                2. My husband and two daughters;
                3. My parents and sister;
                4. Other relatives who are close and super special (e.g. my grandparents);
                5. A group of close friends. Some I have known for twenty years and some I’ve known for only a few years. The type who I love and love me back… amazing friends like the “Ashleys” I wrote about here– the type of friendships where we are there for each other in a bind and can be forthcoming about life’s tribulations; and
                6. My boss. Because bills.

                Then, there was the list of things on my Give a Damn List:

                1. Fostering a close relationship with God;
                2. Marriage/ family time and making memories;
                3. The emotional and academic growth of my children;
                4. Nurturing the relationships of the people listed in 2-5 above; and
                5. The blog work and “work work”.

                That’s it.

                There’s all my damns.

                I don’t have any more damns to give. And here’s the thing. None of us do. 

                Even those damns are damn consuming.

                Anything and anyone else is just icing on the cake or nonsense, depending on the situation. If something does not facilitate the growth and nurturing of someone or something on my Give a Damn List, then I’m not going to stress myself out about it.

                (Important note: this doesn’t mean to be dismissive or unkind to someone or something that is not on the Give a Damn List, it just means you shouldn’t prioritize it and shouldn’t worry too much overthinking about it.)

                Go ahead and make a list for yourself.

                It feels good to write those names down.

                It feels good to write the things down that will be your biggest priorities and then refer back to the list later when you’re feeling frustrated.

                The modern American family is stressed, rushed, and tired. No more. We need to stop spreading ourselves so thin and start worrying about who and what really matters.

                Here’s to giving a damn about the people and things that matter most.

                Here’s to the Give a Damn List.

                Cheers!

                  Life: The Playing Field is Not Equal


                  Life is not always fair and we are not always on equal playing fields | The Champagne Supernova

                  We are not all on equal playing fields.

                  Life isn’t always fair and, for some, it will never be fair.

                  I observed this pretty early.

                  The summer between 7th and 8th grade, my parents moved me and my younger sister from private to public school in my hometown of DeLand, Florida.

                  Speaking from experience, the middle school years can be especially tough for adolescent girls. Probably tougher than high school. Already trying to figure out who I was and navigate my way through the world, I was now faced with starting from scratch at a new school where I didn’t know a soul.

                  I was terrified and didn’t want to be “The New Girl.”

                  The week before school started, I had my parents take me to the local mall so I could find a trendy Yaga t-shirt (which was actually too big) and Vans shoes (that looked ridiculous on my skinny legs) so I had something to wear on the first day that screamed, “I’M COOL. BE MY FRIEND.”

                  The first day of eighth grade was a success, mainly because I met a girl named Michelle in homeroom.

                  Introduced herself, acquainted me to other classmates, and made me feel at home. By lunchtime, we were already exchanging notes in class (we had three together!) and talking about which boys we thought were cute and how we hope we didn’t have to “dress out” in P.E. since it was just the first day.

                  Michelle and I instantly became best friends. We would even sign our notes “BFFLAENMW” which is middle school shorthand for “Best Friends For Life and Eternity No Matter What.”

                  It was the beginning of a serious friendship.

                  Michelle had tons of amazing qualities. She was smart (way smarter than me) and easily caught on to complicated algebraic equations I could never understand, even if I was armed with a fancy calculator.

                  Michelle wanted to be a doctor when she grew up.

                  Not only was she hilarious, but she was also socially gifted and could easily navigate a conversation with a diverse array of groups that included the skaters, jocks, “hicks,” teen moms (yes, we had some), and even the faculty.

                  Everyone knew and liked Michelle.

                  As the school year progressed, I started seeing things that were unusual.

                  One of five children, Michelle’s parents were divorced and her mother had sole custody of all of them. One had special needs. Michelle’s mom had a medical condition that apparently precluded her from working and she was on Disability. Michelle’s dad lived in Ohio but kept in touch.

                  Michelle didn’t have a landline at her house. Her mother couldn’t afford one and these were the days before cellular phones, so if I needed her to call me, she would have to walk to the convenience store near her house and call from a pay phone.

                  She routinely came to school wearing clothes that were either stained or were what she wore the day before.

                  Her shoes had holes in them, exposing her equally-holed socks.

                  While Michelle was open to going to other peoples’ houses (the logistics had to be planned days in advance because of the phone situation), she was guarded about having anyone come home with her.

                  My first glimpse into her housing situation came one day in English when a boy, who happened to be one of her neighbors, embarrassed her in front of the entire class by loudly declaring that her house was “disgusting.”

                  Like a scene from a movie, Michelle literally ran out of the classroom mortified and hysterical.

                  Apparently what her neighbor said had struck a nerve.

                  (I subsequently saw her house when my parents drove her home from school one day. It was a two-story yellow dilapidated wood frame house with a wrap-around front porch littered with trash, clothing, and old furniture. Michelle’s family was poor beyond comprehension. Not long after, the house was condemned by the local government as unfit for human occupancy.)

                  As time went on, Michelle confessed that her mother was mentally and physically abusive. The stains on her clothes were usually remnants of food and beverages Michelle’s mother would sinisterly throw on Michelle and her siblings as they left for school. Through tears, Michelle confided that her mother routinely said unthinkable things to her.

                  I should have had an abortion when I was pregnant with you.

                  You’re garbage, so eat this garbage off the floor.

                  I wish you were dead. 

                  There were many times when Michelle would come to school with bruises and her face would be swollen from crying.

                  Sometimes she would tell the truth about what prompted the tears, and other times she would make excuses.

                  Toward the end of the school year, Michelle moved to Ohio to live with her dad. Though I was broken hearted for losing the other half of my BFFLAENMW, Michelle’s relocation was for the best.

                  Eventually, life got in the way and Michelle and I lost touch.

                  For whatever reason, Michelle returned to live with her mother our junior year of high school. By that time, I had a new group of friends with similar interests and backgrounds as me.

                  While I tried to include Michelle in my established life and friendship circle, it appeared we had too many differences. My friends and I were active in student government, service clubs, honors societies, and preparing for college. Michelle was interested in skipping class and smoking in the school bathrooms.

                  Things changed. We changed.

                  One summer when I was home from college, I took a part time job hostessing at a popular restaurant. To my surprise, Michelle was also working there as a waitress.

                  Like our middle school days, Michelle showed me the ropes and got me acquainted with the staff.

                  I remembered why I had been instantly attracted to her charisma and sense of humor so many years before.

                  As the weeks went on and during work breaks, Michelle and I were able to slowly catch up on happenings of the last few years. She dropped out of high school when she got pregnant following a one-night stand. The State declared her an unfit mother and took the child away. She was arrested on multiple drug-related and prostitution charges (she claimed she was set up). She had been in several abusive relationships and was living with a man two decades her senior in the outskirts of town.

                  She thought she might be pregnant.

                  Michelle still had a lot of animosity over the strained relationship with her mother. The physical and mental abuse never stopped and was driven primarily by her mother’s own self-loathing, which she projected onto her children. All of Michelle’s brothers and sisters had significant emotional and developmental problems.

                  Michelle told me that her mother was addicted to crack cocaine and living in a shed behind a friend’s house.

                  The type of shed someone would use to store things like ladders, paint, and lawn equipment.

                  Michelle was having a hard time and we again lost touch after I returned to college when summer was over.

                  Fast forward fifteen years.

                  My knowledge about Michelle’s whereabouts is limited to Facebook posts and digging around on the Internet.

                  Michelle has had four children taken away from her and has been incarcerated more times than I can count. She’s been hooked on drugs and her once beautiful smile has fallen victim to addictions like nicotine and methamphetamine. According to one family member, Michelle has significant problems with depression and has been Baker Acted multiple times.

                  Michelle was good and smart and kind and ambitious.

                  However.

                  Based on her upbringing, Michelle never stood a chance.

                  There is a school of thought that in America, the land of opportunities, everyone has an equal chance to learn, lead, and to be successful.

                  “All you have to do is work really, really hard and success will naturally come!”

                  A belief that we are all on the same playing field with the same opportunities.

                  It’s not true.

                  We are not all on the same playing field.

                  Kids whose parents are doing drugs and physically abusing them are not on the same playing field as kids who come from a loving, stable household.

                  Kids whose parents mentally torture them are not on the same playing field as kids whose parents are ready and able to provide emotional support.

                  Kids whose parents live in and perpetuate an environment of cyclical poverty are not on the same playing field as kids whose parents provide basic needs such as food, shelter, electricity and clothing. (Let alone the kids of parents who are able to provide the lavish comforts of country clubs, exotic vacations, and prestigious boarding schools.)

                  Kids whose parents don’t care what they are doing and who they were hanging out with are not on the same playing field as kids whose parents observe their friendships and hold them responsible for making wise decisions.

                  Kids whose parents show no interest in academic success are not on the same playing field as kids whose parents help them do their homework and hold them accountable when they earn poor grades.

                  Kids who are emotionally and physically abandoned are not on the same playing field as kids whose parents are exposing them to books, hobbies, and spirituality.

                  The playing fields aren’t always even and this disparity makes a huge difference in the long run.

                  Michelle is proof of that. Based on her upbringing and short of a miracle, she never stood a chance of being the doctor she wanted to be.

                  She never stood a chance at much of anything.

                  All of us know a Michelle. I have known and observed many Michelles, both personally and in my career. If the dice were rolled differently and I was born into a different family, I could have been a Michelle. So could you.

                  Sure, there are always outliers. The people who overcome unimaginable adversity and go on to be contributing members of society.

                  But that is not the norm.

                  In the United States, 21% of all children live below the federal poverty line. Nearly 700,000 are abused annually. More than 8 million children live with at least one parent who’s addicted to alcohol or drugs.

                  Persistently poor children are 13% less likely to finish high school and 43% less likely to complete college as their peers.

                  If you have parents who gave a damn about you and met your basic needs, then you’re lucky.

                  Does this mean that kids who come from families that are intact and financially responsible should be punished for things they cannot control?

                  No.

                  But it does mean that we should want to see disadvantaged kids succeed, even if it means they are receiving assistance or special privileges to push them along the way.

                  It does mean that before we judge someone’s outcome, we should seek to understand the bigger picture of how they got there to begin with.

                  It does mean that we feel sincere compassion and empathy for other peoples’ unfortunate circumstances.

                  Cheers.

                   

                    Crying Uncle: Showing Up and Asking for Help


                    How to Have the Courage to Ask for Help and Seek Therapy | The Champagne Supernova

                    Have you ever had a secret you were ashamed of and didn’t want anyone to ever know?

                    I have.

                    But I don’t care about the secret anymore. It needs to be out in the open. I want it to be okay and for others to do the same thing I did and feel good about it.

                    No more shame.

                    As background, I went through a rough bout with the baby blues following the birth of my oldest daughter in 2012.

                    Crying all the time. Hot flashes. Feeling lonely. Wondering if I was crazy. Becoming a person I didn’t recognize.

                    I called my baby blues The Gremlins and wrote about them here.

                    Once they became a distant memory, I never wanted to see The Gremlins again. Not ever.

                    My second pregnancy started out rough. While I didn’t have the morning sickness that I experienced with my first daughter, I became an insomniac as soon as I  discovered a positive pregnancy test.

                    I never had trouble sleeping before, but I saw a pink “plus” sign and suddenly had to learn to survive on 4-5 hours of sleep.

                    This was on top of caring for a toddler, managing a household, and having a stressful career as an attorney.

                    Now I can see why sleep deprivation is a form of torture.

                    (I continue to struggle with insomnia to this day.)

                    Then came the tipping point.

                    I vividly remember sitting in front of my computer at work, three months pregnant and exhausted from lack of sleep, and making up my mind that while I couldn’t predict whether The Gremlins would creep up on me again, I was going to be prepared if they did.

                    I wasn’t going to die on that mountain.

                    It was time for me to do myself a favor and take control of the situation.

                    I got on the Internet and did some Google searches.

                    “Downtown Tampa” “Family therapy” “Female Therapist.”

                    I kept scrolling down the search engine results page until I arrived at the photograph of a nice middle-aged woman named Ann Witt. The picture was taken outside and I thought she looked welcoming and had a pretty smile. (I completely judged a book by the cover. Thankfully, it worked out.)

                    I called Ann, made an appointment, and saw her twice a month through the duration of my pregnancy.

                    Ann provided me with resources on how to manage stress and respond to hormonal changes. She provided tips on how I could respond to feelings of hopelessness. She helped me create a schedule for after the birth of my daughter that would help me keep my focus off my feelings, if the situation warranted. She gave me the idea of hiring a Mother’s Helper to take the pressure off by assisting with cooking and household chores.

                    I didn’t meet The Gremlins following the birth of my second daughter. I’ll never know whether its because I went to therapy and used what I learned or because I didn’t have the same hormonal surge that I had during the first pregnancy.

                    I’ll never know but it doesn’t matter.

                    Know what?

                    I still go back to Ann every so often for some brain-picking and fine-tuning.

                    In fact, Ann also served as a career coach by encouraging me to start a “Mom Blog” (The Champagne Supernova!) and making a LeaderShift by finding part time employment so I could have more time for my family. I don’t know that either of those would have come to fruition without the nudge.

                    (I still remember when she threw out the idea of a Mom Blog, I thought it was nuts. Until that point, I thought mom bloggers were middle-aged women who lived in America’s Breadbasket sitting around in their pajamas and curlers all day writing about shepherd’s pie and homemade aromatherapy oils. Not me!)

                    The therapy helped. A lot.

                    But here’s the thing.

                    I was scared to tell people I was going to therapy.

                    It even took me a while to tell my own husband.

                    Therapy has a stigma.

                    You’re crazy.

                    Can’t control your own life.

                    Something is wrong with you.

                    You have mental issues.

                    I was ashamed and didn’t want people knowing about it. Even if these people were my close friends and family members. Not because they were not dear to me, but because I told myself lies that I would be perceived as weak and would be rejected.

                    Then came a point where I had the opportunity to share my experience with other people who were going through rough times.

                    Divorce. Death. Anxiety. Depression. Post Traumatic Stress.

                    I told them my story.

                    They called a therapist. They got the help they needed.

                    Look.

                    Life can be brutal.

                    We need to be able to lean in with others without feeling judged.

                    We need to start being vulnerable and we need to start showing up. Nobody wants fake and everyone, deep down, knows who the fake people are. People want real. 

                    Does this mean we need to be Debbie Downer and constantly air the dark sides of our lives on the Internet and real life? No.

                    It does mean that we should create a zone where people show up with each other and are not be afraid to be vulnerable?

                    We need to be able to acknowledge, without shame, that we are experiencing a rough time in our marriage. We need to be able to say that we are having issues with our self-image. We need to be able to be honest about feeling lonely and insecure. We need to be able to talk about not feeling a sense of purpose in our careers. We need to be able to discuss problems we’re having with our children. We need to be able to own up about having poor money management. We need to be able to be honest when we are having difficulty overcoming grief.

                    We need to be able to admit to seeing a freaking therapist.

                    We need to be able to ask each other for help.

                    Sometimes in life, you must unashamedly “Cry Uncle.” And if you do, its perfectly okay. You will still be loved.

                    Courage asks for help. Weakness does nothing.

                    Cheers!

                     

                      1 2 3 7