Happy Birthday!

AJ BdayToday is my oldest child’s birthday. Adrian Joseph was the first of four miracles God trusted to me. When he arrived he introduced me to the enormity of a mother’s love. He is also the 6’4, 200 pound idiot in my banner picture.

We began our lives together with his utter disregard and lack of respect for the Pill. If that didn’t give me the heads up there was going to be trouble the instantaneous and crippling morning sickness should have. The only thing the child let me keep down was bbq corn chips and then only if I washed them down with grape juice. I lost 20 pounds during that pregnancy and only gained back 19 of it before he was born, weighing 8 pounds. Six of that was head. I was in labor for three, count them three days. The doctor told me I was still hours from delivery, it was time to think about the options and left the room. AJ was born 12 minutes later in a delivery the doctor said reminded him of catching a jet plane at exactly 7:47 PM. I remember that because it was the last appropriate thing he did for 20 years.

By the time he was nine months old he had mastered walking, getting out of his crib and turning a doorknob all with the stealth of an accomplished cat burglar. Out of desperation I installed a hook and eye on the outside of his bedroom door. At ten months he mastered the heretofore unheard of skill of popping said hook by propelling a Little Golden Book up the crack. Things went steadily downhill after that. At three he opened a window and went out taking his one-year-old sister with him. The two of them would still be running if the street weren’t there. They did not have permission to cross.

Meanwhile, he was in no way limited to the Houdini Routine. He was two the day I thought it was naptime. He thought it was time to completely disassemble his little sister’s crib using a dime as a screwdriver. He managed to do this in such a systematic way that I had no idea what he was up to until the entire thing crashed into a pile with a thud that shook the windows. I did a little crashing of my own, into their bedroom and fell into a panicked attempt to extricate her silent and decidedly missing body. Patting my shoulder he said, “Don’t worry, Mommy.” Crossed the room to an empty upside down toy barrel, lifted it and revealed her smiling, contented unsmashed face, making phone calls courtesy of Fisher-Price. No less a sign of things to come but I will save that story for her birthday.

I spent the rest of his childhood trying to convince him to use his powers for good. He concentrated on mastering evil. His resume includes, but is not limited to: demanding an explanation for the role of the penis in baby making at Thanksgiving dinner at Grandma’s house, using his first “real” tools only to take apart his first “real” toolbench, introducing me to internet porn and moving out before high school graduation because he couldn’t face the idea of ever washing another dish.

On the occasion of his twenty-second birthday, he is not only still alive and in one piece, but an actual contributing member of society. A parachute rigger in the United States Army, he frequently jumps out of airplanes, which is right up his alley. He has been twice decorated with the Army Achievement Medal and managed to convince a lovely, thoughtful, kind young woman to marry him. These days my only worries about that boy revolve around her. She is carrying my first grandchild and I did, after all, with malice and forethought curse him with the punishment of having to raise a child who was just like him. I am very, very sorry she had to get drug into this whole mess. When I said that I was to mad to remember there would have to be another woman involved to gestate that six pound head.

I miss you.

I love you, Adrian.


Clarification please

Twenty-three years ago, when I carried my first son, my doctor recommended a glass of wine when I had trouble sleeping. Two years later, the same doctor introduced me to Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and made it clear, failure to comply was child abuse. This is typical of the fun the medical community likes to have with us.

Now they are at it again. Mammograms, no mammograms?! I have no idea what’s right. Just what does a person like me do when the doctors can’t agree? I know for sure that I am not giving up self-examination. The only reason I can imagine they would tell us that is unnecessary is because we are worth more money if we are sick. However there were those two very uncomfortable hours of my life I would like to get back if the no mammogram thing turns out to be valid.

When I was a child, “You’ll put an eye out!” pretty much covered it all. In a pinch, Mom would throw in, “Knock it off before you break something!” or maybe, “You’ll get pneumonia.” This warning was usually followed by a dose of baby aspirin. I was 14 when Mom heard that might kill us and she switched to Tylenol.

In 1993, I took my youngest son for a well baby check. His doctor found an ear infection. The child had no pain and no fever, but I was somehow at fault. After dutifully submitting to his lecture on diligence, I filled the prescription for antibiotics and did my penance, wearing the pink gooey stuff for ten days. I have spent 15 years feeling badly about that one. Then I heard that antibiotics are over prescribed especially for that malady and often lead to a resistance of the medication…yeah, you know who you are, Buddy, and you owe me an apology.

“The doctor said” has been the rule in our house since 1987. I just wish the doctor knew what he was preaching about. Even though “it didn’t kill me” constantly crosses my mind, I make sure the children do as I am told. No eggs over easy, low glycemic meals and no rare meat are a few of the rules that govern their lives. Brushing for three minutes, veggie scrubbing and stalking Ecoli in the kitchen are a family past time. Caffeine is a habit they will have to develop on their own time and the last time my son said “sugar” I washed his mouth out. Using anti bacterial soap of course.

The seventeen-year-old wants a car, but in addition to a vivid recollection of my driving habits in those years, there are published statistics about teenage drivers. The fourteen-year-old recently mugged a neighbor kid for a swig of his Mountain Dew, and 10-year-old Tessa would rather have West Nile and Lyme’s Disease than wear the DEET free repellant I bought. Their stepfather liked refined flour and is beginning to question the famine story I made up when I replaced his potatoes with squash.

My oldest swears I should have spent more time on “you’ll put your eye out”. Chasing his sister through a string of trees with a snowball, he almost did. Failing that (and I did) I have less and less confidence in the information I am relying on. I am no longer worried so much about their health as I am about mine. If I don’t start getting reliable information around here the swine flu may not kill me but my family definitely will.


More news on the economy

I want to make it clear that I adore my husband. He is my second one. I had to survive 13 years with a spectacularly crappy one to get to Joe and he was worth it. It was important to get that out there. You might doubt it when I mention that if the economy doesn’t pick up soon so he can get back to work Joe will be dead and my new address will be Leavenworth.

He has some pretty strong opinions, no volume control and a let’s say an “unique talent” for expressing himself. Don’t ever get him started on conspiracy theories. This is tougher than it sounds as he has plots implicating lawyers, oil companies, the FBI and CIA, maybe the Israelis, rich people in general and definitely Wayne Brady and the Let’s Make A Deal Show. Drew Carey and The Price is Right have not made the list but I have. After trick or treating for 2 hours in the freezing drizzle, I declined to make his supper. That night I could be crazy, I might be mean and I was undoubtedly going to starve him to death. By the way, watch out for those bloodsuckers at The American Red Cross. There’s no way somebody isn’t get rich out of that deal.

Then there are the medical conditions. Anal Glaucoma is when he can’t see his ass doing any work and is more contagious than the Swine Flu. An outbreak of this can and has taken out the entire family in less than thirty seconds. Boxer Bunch means there is no hope of peace until his current objective is achieved. These objectives range from finding the Gettysburg Address online to locating the receipt for a ten-year-old lawn tractor, but outbreaks that are not dealt with promptly result just as certainly in epidemic.

He frequently refers to our ten-year-old as a “butt tumor”. I do not deny that she can be high maintenance especially when the three of us are home alone, but Joe is the hands down winner of the Wearing My Ass as a Hat award. A very handy guy who handles all home repairs, all his projects are the same. He makes a plan, announces his intentions, heads to the job, goes to work for 45 seconds and bellows, “ALEX!” Even if I am up to my elbows executing open-heart surgery, I have been drafted and it’s time to fall in. No idea what a rheostat even is but he lost it and I found it. He built 3 sheds in the back yard. I roofed three sheds in the back yard. He shot and butchered a deer. I learned to make summer sausage. He cooks supper and makes me a cake every year for my birthday and I even have to assist on that one. I really can’t blame him though. I brought it on myself. Should have known better than to hide everything from him when I moved in.


Hit the mute button…PLEASE!

A law firm commercial wants to know if I am tired of being harassed by creditors. No, I am not. I AM tired of being harassed by that commercial. In fact I am tired of being harassed by commercials in general. I do my best to avoid this particular annoyance. I am the Queen of the Mute Button (Joe is too slow on the trigger) and these things are still putting me around the bend.

Pharmaceutical companies are an obvious issue. It seems there is a pill for everything that ails us and it is our right as consumers to hear this directly from them. I heard on the news the other day that our doctors aren’t so thrilled with the responses they get at the office and I don’t blame them. If a person is willing to risk blindness in the quest to grow better eyelashes, they might be better served with the increased risk of suicide that comes with taking the latest anti-depressant.

Car insurance companies had a conference and decided consumers can be swayed by irritating and ridiculous mascots. Joe has a theory that if they drive us batty enough we’ll buy just shut them up. At this point I am batty enough to think we should line up the discount lady, the lizard, Justin Case and the e-cartoons so The General can take them all out, right before we run him over with his own tank.

Then there is the brainiac who decided that women are in love with cleaning products. Probably the same guy who decided we would never notice if they shrunk the size of everything we buy. Really, I have yet to meet the Mom who smiles about using $1.57 worth of paper towels wiping up $3.00 worth of Kool-Aid. I know we are not dumb enough to believe that “moisturizing” dish soap is the best choice for skin care and that air freshener Mom never cleans anything she just lights candles, plugs in a doo-hickie and plays tennis. Where can I sign up for that gig? I do, in all fairness like my vacuum cleaner, but I bet my old mop and feather duster will be ringing my doorbell before I ever dance around the house with it.


Super Genius

supergenius It started when I first got married. The children started to arrive. In a, hopefully, not fruitless attempt to raise solid citizens (they are teenagers and the jury is still out) I quit work to stay home. This created an obvious need for economization. My ex-husband specialized in working on the road and helping other guys fix their toilets, so I was on my own.

Eventually my experiments in mastering every skill known to the “do-it-yourself” junkie became a life choice. I have fixed toilets, faucets, drains, holes in the wall and laid sub floor. I made every Halloween costume the kids have ever worn, change my own tires and do all my own painting. I sew if you count liquid stitch, and cook from scratch. I can’t call a contractor anymore. The last one was a window guy. He did not appreciate what I considered my apprenticeship. He never said a word, but it’s apparent my name made their list, as I had to resort to an alias last time I needed a contractor.

I will try anything to be clever, ingenious and frugal. The 50-year-old windows that the contractor wanted to haul away became collage frames. Also, I discovered I could move an entire dresser down the stairs by leveraging it on my back and sliding down on my backside. This not only did the job, but also inspired my then 4-year old to call me Super Mommy. Contact paper can serve as a new counter top in lieu of new laminate. You can’t really sit much of anything on it, but it does look better. I am not the first person to appreciate the duct tape phenomena and the kids never knew that the bubbles came from dish soap. Did you know that if you are willing to don a respirator and goggles you could make your own carpet cleaner for pennies? The leftover kitchen paint looks good on the picnic table and the 40-year-old can opener I bought for a quarter at a yard sale has served me faithfully for 4 years now.

My current husband (this one is a keeper) recently suggested my ingenuity might be bordering on the “obsessive”. This from a guy who is “reducing his carbon footprint” by setting a New World’s Record for Most Consecutive Uses of the Same Paper Plate. Well, I disagree. I am a super-genius and I have proof. I just saved us seventy-five bucks by repairing a broken paddle bracket on the 15-year-old overhead fan in the kitchen. Admittedly, it took 2 weeks and 4 experiments with tape, rubber bands, super glue and epoxy. I fixed it AND found out what a fan failure can do to a cat.


This is real life people

This is the real live response I got from Direct TV. Please note they are STILL after my account number. Good Grief!

Response (Nerissa Ba. – 100192831) – 11/03/2009 06:40 PM
Dear Ms. Ingram-Sewell,

Thanks for writing.

Difficult service experiences like the one you had are rare and we certainly do not take them lightly. I apologize for the trouble you’ve had. In addition, I have forwarded your comments on to DIRECTV Management for review.

Moving forward, were you able to get an answer to your question? If not, I’d like to resolve the issue for you; please write back and let us know how we can help. Don’t forget to include your account number in your reply, so we can help you quickly.

Again, I apologize for any inconvenience this issue has caused you.


Nerissa B.
Employee ID 100192831
DIRECTV Customer ServiceDear Nerissa,

Thank you so much for your prompt and respectful response. However, I
cannot include my account number…I DON’T HAVE ONE. That was kind of
the whole point. The good news is that my son received no phone calls
today. So I do believe that my issue has been resolved (HALLELUJAH)
but I have to tell you that I wouldn’t get involved with your company
if you guys were paying me. I HATE my cable company, their service
sucks, but this experience has proved to me what I suspected to be
true…companies like yours just collect cash and don’t respect the
people who work so hard to earn that cash.

I thank you personally for your time and consideration. I seriously
doubt that “management” will care about any inconvenience to my
family. After all, they don’t pay particularly good attention to the
consumers who write them checks.

God Bless you and continue to encourage you in the no win job that you
have. Tough job justifying a company like that. I salute YOU but
respectfully maintain…

Anita Ingram-Sewell


Dear Direct TV

Dear Direct TV,

Well, congratulations. I am a 41-year-old mother of nine. I deal with ex spouses, utility companies, doctors, dentists, grocery stores, super stores, banks, cell phone companies, and even my own cable company. Your company without question gets the award for WORST customer service on the planet. Since I am not even a customer I guess the award is for the WORST people skills on the planet.

Six weeks ago my 16-year-old son got a cell phone. He worked hard at his part-time job to earn the money and my respect for this privilege. The phone number he was assigned used to belong to a deadbeat. I know this because he was inundated with collection calls. I called the creditors involved and explained the situation. They all and without exception apologized and corrected the issue. Enter Direct TV. I called once, was on hold for about 2 minutes, apologized to and assured the problem would be corrected. I didn’t get that representative’s name, I didn’t think it was a big deal.

You kept calling. Now since we have no dealings with each other and you certainly didn’t have any dealings with my son, you are not in his network. Your phone calls are costing me money. Not a lot, and that’s not my gripe, but wouldn’t you be ticked at me if I was costing YOU money? I bet you might even call me. So I called you again.

This time I spoke to Shawn. I didn’t hold long and was informed my call would be monitored for quality assurance. Shawn didn’t understand what the problem was but he did assure me that when his Supervisor finished their current task the issue it would be resolved.

This morning, my son’s phone rang in Chemistry class. He had it on vibrate, I asked him to do that in case of emergency. Too bad the teacher was next to him and heard it. He explained it must be a disaster of biblical proportion or I wouldn’t be calling. It was YOU. AGAIN!

So one more evening of my life I got to be on hold with a company I have no dealings with but won’t leave my son alone. I dialed about 5:20. At 5:35 I was still on hold, all the while being assured my business was important to you. No one feels valued, appreciated or assured no matter what your inane recording says. Do you like being lied to?

Katarina took my number and told me I wasn’t a customer, I told her that was exactly the problem. She put me on hold under the guise of waiting for a supervisor. Another 10 minutes of being assured I was important and then she and hung up on me. So mad I could hardly see straight and seriously considering what good spitting would do me I dialed again.

This time I just insisted on a supervisor. I got Porche. She told me I wasn’t a customer, I said that’s the problem and tried to explain. She hung up on me mid-sentence and without regret. I could not have been abusive to her if I wanted to…I didn’t have time.

Wishing I did have an account with you so I could cancel it, I dialed again. Thankfully this time Trisha answered the phone and LISTENED, SYMPATHISED and RESPONDED. Why did it take so long to find an employee at your company who does her job?

Shame on you. What ever happened to companies who respect and appreciate their customers? Not to mention the innocent folks that just get drawn into your shoddy practices on accident. It’s time to hold up your end of the bargain. That $99.99 a month comes with a human being who believes their hard-earned money is worth something. They should. Most folks work hard for their money. What have you done for yours lately?

An apology from someone who has the authority to fix things would be priceless. In the meantime, you owe me $1.12 for cell minutes, two hours of my time and $9.00 for the roast I burned because Katarina promised me a supervisor. I’ll give you a call.


On the Edge

My dad was always on the cutting age of technology. I don’t know if I just didn’t inherit that gene or if Dad scared it out of me, but since anything I have to plug in or turn on scares the hell out of me, I’m positive it’s missing. Out of desperation to get out of the kitchen for my allotted one-hour a day and a very healthy cheap gene I make an exception for my Kitchen-Aid and As Seen On TV vacuum packer. However, the electric scissors Joe bought for me with sympathy for my arthritis, stay on the charger, as I know I will take a finger off.

I was about 12 years old the day Dad lugged home a “personal computer”, a Radio Shack TRS 80, with floppy disks and books on programming. For those of you who are to young to have had the pleasure you can visit this convenient home torture device at the Boston Computer Museum. It wasn’t long until he had “taught” the computer to play chess and Alien Attack and my little brother jumped on that bandwagon. As far as I was concerned, the loony bin could have them both; but before I could dial the men in white coats to drag them off (rotary phone) Dad found out that I needed to type an eighth grade thesis paper. He programmed a typing tutor for me, and enthused about the convenience of word processing. After learning to type (not really, I still look at my fingers) I labored over a twelve page paper on the evolution of the Protestant church. Hours in and only a paragraph from success, the TRS 80 “burped” (I swear that’s what he called it) and swallowed my thesis.

It took me almost 30 years and more of Dad’s misdirected enthusiasm to touch a computer that wasn’t a job requirement. He donated a brand new contraption, now labeled a Gateway. I got enough of a tutorial to email my parents. Dad promptly returned to his home 800 miles away and left me alone with a 10-year-old computer geek. Adrian contributed online pornography to my education, my brother taught me parental controls.

Then there’s Dani. She’s has dedicated our 20 plus years of friendship to figuring out just exactly what I will not to and just exactly how to get me to do it. She tutored me on digital cameras and uploading photographs. That project involved 3 hours on the phone, the Internet, and a USB cable. For once in my computer experience I had found a USE for the whole plugged in mess. No kid picture was to trivial to harass my friends and family with until that yahoo from Yahoo!. Some kid, who probably wasn’t even alive to learn from the Coca-Cola debacle, “new and improved” the photo upload tool. My first instinct was to click the “No thanks, I don’t have the energy to figure it out” button, but shockingly, that wasn’t an option. Now the best they could do was, “Upload failed see below for details”. Below I found, “Upload failed for unknown reason(s)”. Having used the new and unable to locate the improved, I hung up my USB cable and unplugged again.

So here I sit blogging. As usual when I am convinced the whole world has lost their minds I find out I am the one with the issues. So here is to my “little” brother Jeff. I had to put up with more than one “your old” joke but he set this blog up for my birthday and harassed me until I plugged back in. You were right Jeff, I am having a blast with this, but you still smell. Here’s to Kristin, my sister-in-law and brother’s co-conspirator, who gives me tips and answers my questions. I have a few more for you, but I haven’t finished my Blogs for Dummies assignment yet. I’ll call you when I figure out how to ask them. Thanks to Dani, who laughs so hard she shoots beverages out her nose in a spectacular way that contributes to my delinquency. My appreciation goes to everyone who actually reads this insanity and is kind enough to use the euphemism “funny”. Dad, I am finally on the edge with you. Please don’t call the men in white coats.