Sunday, January 28, 2007

Déjà Vu

Sometimes I wonder whether I'm too sensitive, too easily annoyed, or just too quick to exaggerate my Mom's quirks. The blog helps-- having everything documented provides evidence that it's not me... she really does harp on the same things over and over again. In one set of phone calls just over twelve hours apart, my mother showed how true to form she could be.

Saturday night, circa 11pm, she leaves the following message on my voice-mail:
"It's almost 11pm on a Saturday night! Why are you unavailable to take my call??"

I'll let the unworthy-of-a-response nature of that question sink in on its own, but I will actively point out that she leaves variations of this message all the time!

This morning I returned her call. To her credit, she did not ask me whether I've applied to Google. (Although earlier in the week, when I called to wish my father a happy birthday, she asked whether I'd received the magazine and whether it made me see things differently. I said, "no, I still see that Google does not have openings for foreign policy analysts. When they do, feel free to send me the supporting literature.")

She did say, "well, I've been reading up on nutrition, and I do have to tell you, it's very healthy to drink coffee..." [suppression of inner screaming on the other end of the line, little do I know it's about to get worse]..."coffee has all the [sic] anti-oxygens. And you have to get out and be in the sun, without sunblock, just for a few minutes every day, especially in the morning."

For those of you who are new to my mom stories, she has been lecturing me about coffee and sun for years. This is actually an improvement because there's tacit acknowledgment on her part that we've had the conversation before. Just like I'm not going to apply to Google, I'm not going to start drinking coffee regularly (I do drink it occasionally when I'm especially unlikely to stay awake otherwise). And the irony, for lack of a better term, of the whole sun discussion is that I agree with my mother-- I do not buy in to the 'sunblock 24/7, all seasons' hype. I don't usually wear sunblock. I wear sunblock when I need to wear sunblock-- when it's the middle of the day, when I'm in the tropics, or when I'm out in the sun for more than half an hour. And each and every time I apply sunblock under one or more of those circumstances in my mother's presence, I get a lecture about how sunblock is unnecessary. After many years, I'm getting just a little wary of my mother's coffee-and-sunlight routine... and even warier of the non-stop, unsolicited nutritional lectures.

Anyway, upon sharing her new ideas about coffee and sunlight, she moved on to update me about her dishwasher saga, and asked me if I'd heard of PayPal. This is also great-- it happens with movies, books, and now financial services. When I lived in Boston, I used PayPal to pay my rent, and I'd told my mother about it several times because she'd mentioned situations in which it would have been useful to her. Perhaps her belief that I'd benefit from unrelenting repetition is projection: she doesn't hear anything the first ten times, and assumes I don't, either.

Anyway, in describing her discovery of PayPal, she mentioned their generous money market rate; I told her Amtrust Direct is actually better... which launched me into the saga of my Citibank (which is a nightmare)/TD Ameritrade (which is wonderful) adventure of the last week. In relating the saga, I used the words, "the mutual funds that I'd bought." These words led to near-hyperventilating and fainting on the other end of the line, and I cut short a lecture on how mutual funds are too slow-growth (I don't think I even had to say, 'slow growth is better than a 60% loss!' which was the result of her management of my previous IRA account).

Then the icing on the cake... I don't think I've yet shared this element of the repertoire because it hasn't been around long enough, but here it is:

Mom: Do you have any plans?
A.: I'm going to a bridal shower.
Mom: Oh, I mean do you have any travel plans? Are you going anywhere?
A.: No. I wouldn't be "going anywhere" and not tell you if I knew.
Mom: Where's the bridal shower? [this is a regular occurrence... always asking where things are... and I usually ask why it matters because it's not like she has any understanding of DC neighborhoods, but I thought this one was well-known enough that I would actually answer.
A.: In Capitol Hill.
Mom: Oh, is that a neighborhood?
A.: It is. [I'm going to guess that she just didn't hear me or recognize the name, and that probably was the case... but my point remains: if Capitol Hill doesn't immediately ring a bell, why is she always asking me about things in every other DC neighborhood or suburb that she hasn't heard of?]

Anyway, off to get ready for the shower (I enjoy these things about as much as I enjoyed getting stitches)... hope everyone's having a good weekend!

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

I Love AirTran

For the record, I have been hit and kicked by someone else's child, while his father, in the next seat over, flipped through his sky mall catalog.

Worcester Telegram & Gazette
Article published Jan 21, 2007
Jan 21, 2007

3-year-old unnerves airline

Girl taken off flight for crying too much

Dianne Williamson

Meet Elly Kulesza, Terror Toddler.

In her finer moments—mainly when she’s on land — 3-year-old Elly is an adorable and sweet-mannered child, a blue-eyed charmer who likes to dance and harbors a particular fondness for Thomas the Tank Engine.

“She’s a typical 3-year-old,” said her mother, Julie Kulesza of 7 Primrose St. in Worcester. “She has her moments like all 3-year-olds, but she’s not like one of those ‘Nanny 911’ children you see on TV.”

Elly’s dad, Gerald Kulesza, is a full-time EMT in Boston who also attends nursing school full time, and he did so well last semester that Elly’s mom surprised her husband with a trip to Florida to visit his parents, who live in Bonita Springs. So on Jan. 11, the family flew from Logan Airport to Fort Meyers on AirTran Airways, and even though it was Elly’s first plane trip she behaved like a dream and spent most of the flight coloring in her coloring book and watching movies on a portable DVD player.

“She was great,” her mom remembered. “When we made our descent into Florida we could see the water and she shouted, ‘Look, mommy, there’s the beach where we go swimming,’ and everyone laughed.”

Yes, it was a heartwarming moment for all concerned, and the trip was great, too. The family swam and went sightseeing, and on Jan 14 they drove back to the airport for the return trip home. They checked their luggage — a suitcase and a car seat. As they waited for their flight to be called, Elly contentedly munched on a bag of Cheetos and watched out the window as the planes took off and landed.

Then came … The Boarding. Suddenly and without warning, angelic little Elly morphed into every parents’ nightmare.

Her mom thinks it may have been because of the ear surgery Elly underwent earlier this month, and perhaps her memory of the discomfort and ear pressure she endured during the plane’s descent into Florida. For whatever reason, when they got on the plane, Elly started to cry and wouldn’t stop. Nor would she sit down — she plopped herself down on the floor in front of her seat and proceeded to throw a temper tantrum.

“I was trying to console her and the stewardess came over and said, ‘Did you buy that seat for her?’ remembers Ms. Kulesza, 31, who is four months pregnant. “I said yes, and she told me my daughter needs to sit in it. I told her I was trying.”

Moments later, an AirTran Airways employee armed with a walkie-talkie addressed Mr. Kulesza.

“Sir, you need to get her under control,” she said.

“We’re trying,” Mr. Kulesza noted.

The passengers, meanwhile, were quite understanding and one of them offered the toddler a lollipop, which she rejected. Then the walkie-talkie woman returned to the Kuleszas’ aisle and displayed the raw tact and diplomacy of Donald Trump.

“Sir, you need to get off the plane,” she announced.

“What?” a stunned Mr. Kulesza asked. “Are you serious?”

“Sir, you need to get off the plane now.”

They got off the plane, while their luggage and car seat flew on to Boston. In the terminal they were directed to an AirTran supervisor, who told the couple that the stewardess was uncomfortable “because you have an unruly child who struck a woman on board.”

Mr. Kulesza was incredulous. “That was her mother,” he explained. “She hit her on the arm. Lady, this is a 3-year-old child we’re talking about.”

“Sir, we don’t differentiate between 3 and 33,” the AirTran supervisor replied. Mr. Kulesza said the woman proceeded to lecture him about child discipline, and how she would never tolerate her children behaving in such a manner, at which point Mr. Kulesza said, “You really need to stop talking now.”

The couple were also told that, since they had been ejected from the plane, they were banned from flying with AirTran for 24 hours. So they were forced to return to Bonita Springs for the night, and Mr. Kulesza missed a 16-hour work shift, and the next day they returned to the airport and can surely be forgiven if they fed their daughter enough Children’s Benadryl to fell a stallion. I exaggerate, perhaps, but it’s certainly what I would have done. In any case, Elly slept through the return flight home.

The incident has sparked varied responses from those who heard the story. While many people — mostly parents — sympathize with the Kuleszas, others are less inclined. For example, when I related the tale to an unnamed colleague and asked if he had ever heard of an airline bouncing a child from a flight he said, “No, but I’m all for it. Couldn’t they have checked her with the baggage?”

This colleague, as it happens, has no kids.

AirTran, meanwhile, has apparently had a change of heart. After the airline received a phone call Thursday from yours truly, an AirTran customer service rep called the Kuleszas, apologized profusely for the incident and refunded them the $595 cost of their tickets.

“We do believe the situation could have been handled differently,” said AirTran spokeswoman Judy Graham-Weaver. “We will use this case as a means to train our agents on dealing with this type of situation on our flights … While there are FAA regulations that mandate all passengers have to be securely fastened in their seat belts before a plane can depart, we need to work with our customers in situations like this to help them — and that is what we will focus on.”

Ms. Kulesza is appreciative of the response, but believes she could have calmed her daughter down, if given the chance.

“It wasn’t like she had a bomb strapped to her waist,” she noted.

AirTran also extended another offer to the Kuleszas — free airline tickets to the destination of their choosing. The offer has been declined.

“I said I appreciated it, but I told them not to bother,” Ms. Kulesza said. “We won’t ever be flying with that airline again.”

Contact Dianne Williamson by e-mail at

Order the Telegram & Gazette, delivered daily to your home or office! Copyright 2007 Worcester Telegram & Gazette Corp.

Friday, January 19, 2007

School buses, public enemy in the top ten

Do you know what I hate almost as much as children on planes and the parents who do nothing while they scream and kick other passengers?

Not children in saunas and the parents who bring them in there and let them jump around and shake locker keys while others are trying to wind down...

Not children in restaurants and the parents who let them run around and knock people over...

Children who get on and off school buses, and the parents that take their sweet time walking up to the bus while that school bus is blocking miles of traffic... even though they could have been standing on the sidewalk the whole time.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

I got a care package!

I just got a care package in the mail from my parents!

I thought it odd, since my mother never sends anything in the mail. She hates finding my address. She hates going to the post office. She's made excuses to not forward letters from friends.

The care package contained this month's issue of Fortune magazine.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Other craziness

Okay, my friend Gina's sister-in-law is completely insane. The manipulativeness, perverse logic, abject rudeness, etc. displayed in the following exchange is thankfully many times beyond anything I've ever observed or hope to observe in my own family relationships. I share the following exchange at her suggestion/with her permission:

From: Rich
Sent: Tuesday, December 26, 2006 11:24 PM

Subject: Ryan's 7th Birthday Celebration

Hi Everyone,

We talked to Ryan about his birthday party. He wants to go to Friendly's, so we are inviting all of you to Friendly's for dinner (our treat) on Saturday, January 6 at 5:30pm. The address of this location is: 7134 Ritchie Highway, Glen Burnie (just north of 8th Avenue).

Please RSVP by January 5 if you plan on attending.

Hope to see you there!


Bonnie and Rich


Sorry Rich,

We just got back from Vegas early yesterday morning. We have a prior commitment for that exact time on Saturday at a friend's house in Frederick.

the times could be worked out so we could do both but this is a head on collision!

Hope Ryan enjoys his birthday! I will drop off his present sometime when it's convenient for you.




I really did not want to do this, but I did not feel I had a choice after the repeated rudeness you have shown me and my family.

I do not think it was appropriate for you to mail my son a check (gift card) for his birthday. Mailing a gift was stated

(sarcastically) as a last alternative. It clearly did not require any time or thought on your part.

I also do not think mailing him a gift card was at all appropriate as he still does not have a gift and we still do not have extra time to go out and get him anything.

If you were truly sorry for not attending his birthday party, which was done after you'd made a rather big deal about taking two weeks'

to see your wife's relatives, I would think you would invite us over and spend some time with your nephew. Ryan needs some attention and the sense that he's loved, much more so than any actual gift. That is what he needs, not money; he has plenty of money and toys. No one at this point believes that you are sorry for not attending his party; since you and your wife both know when his birthday is and could predict when his party would be, I'm pretty sure that this gathering with your friends was scheduled to coincide with Ryan's party in the same way that the last trip to Nevada was carefully planned to coincide with my 35th birthday party.

If you miss a scheduled outing or party with our family, it is not your right to expect me to host your family. I am appalled that you have invited yourself over twice within three weeks because I apparently am expected to make it up to you for you missing a family function.

If I agree to host your family for an event that you missed that is a great priviledge as we are so crazy busy. This past December, I was asked by Gina on almost no notice to host your family when I called her to tell her about Linda's baby so that we could apparently make it up to you for you going to Nevada, which I understand was scheduled for nearly a year at a family gathering I was not invited to at your house last Christmas. Though we already had over plans that day back-to-back that had already been scheduled, a dinner with my mother-in-law, we took it on and I spent six hours preparing the house, food, etc. You and your wife, in turn, showed up over a half an hour late, explaining your tardiness by stating that you were late at the mall buying my children's gifts complaining about the long lines at the mall. To add to this rudeness, your wife repeatedly yelled that she needed to go after having been over for only an

hour. After having invested all that time in getting the house

ready, oddly enough I felt that I deserved a two hour visit.

Rich and I have our hands full dealing with our son's special needs.

I am very busy this time of year between Rich's birthday, our anniversary, a baptism I'm in, and Valentine's Day; to boot, Rich is going away at the end of this month and I have a backlog of house projects that have been waiting for months. I am always busy taking care of the latest crisis with the school, day care, etc. If you haven't noticed, with notable exceptions, I do not have family gatherings at my house anymore because it causes us too much stress.

I think it's fair to expect that if you miss an outing that you invite us over. That is the courteous thing to do. I do not feel that you have recently shown my family even basic courtesy. When I miss an family outing such as when we miss Christmas because we go to Florida, we always invite the family over and that has been the rule for other missed outings. Obviously, though, it's better not to miss a family function if you can help it or to send a representative. I am sure that you could have sent someone to Glen Burnie for Ryan's party if it really concerned you. I can't count the number of times I have split up my family so that we could attend multiple functions.

The late birthday cards that you send every year just underscore what's already abundantly clear: that our family is not the priority in your life.




I usually choose to brush off some of the hurtful things you say, with the intent of keeping peace and forgiveness -- we all make mistakes and nobody is perfect. But I have more and more begun to feel like my family is under attack, and I can no longer just take this without saying something.

Believe me, there is a lot I could say. I could drag up many things from the past. But I am only going to say a few things.

All of our children have special needs in some way. We were not late coming to your house in December -- you had suggested we come at three, and I said 3:30 would be better for us because Tristan takes a nap in the afternoon, and you said that was okay. Tristan usually sleeps from around 2-4:30, but in order to get to your house by 3:30, I put him down at 1 that day and woke him up at 3. We never said we were late because we were at the mall just before we came -- we had gone to the mall in the morning. We did not intend for you to "host" us in any formal way. We would have had you here if that had been more convenient for you, but based on our conversation at the time we all agreed on going to your house, since we were coming down that way anyway to visit your parents. I then insisted on us leaving by 5, 5:15 because Tristan was nearing his breakdown point. If you remember, we carried him out of your house while he was in the middle of a tantrum. There were too many things he wanted to touch and play with at your house that he wasn't allowed to, and, as I'm sure you understand, there's only so much of constant "no-ing" that a toddler can take before he breaks down. I always think about my child first in any social situation.

You have not had a party for Ryan in a while, so we didn't assume there would be one this year, but in any case we had already replied to our friends who had invited us back in November to their party on that same date and time. Andy asked if there was a day he or we could come by to drop off Ryan's gift, and he was told you were very busy. That is why I mailed Ryan's card -- because I wasn't sure when we were going to find a mutual time to get together and I didn't want it to be any later than it already was. I always mail gifts to my sister's kids for their birthdays, it obviously not being convenient for me to drive up to NJ to see them, so I did not consider that to be rude. I'm sorry that you thought it was.

We are all busy, we are all stressed, we are all tired, and I could list all the things we have to do as well. Andy and I don't exactly have "extra" time, either, especially not time when we are both in the same place at the same time, due to our overlapping work schedules. Shopping for toys is not something I can easily do with Tristan in tow, and plus I don't always have an idea of what I should buy. A gift card would allow Ryan to pick out something specific that he wants. But I'm sorry that you found this gift unacceptable.

You are right that your family is not "the priority" in Andy's life -- his own family is.

Personally, having ridiculous, blame-and-explain exchanges like this goes against who I am and the way I was raised. I don't enjoy any of this, and I have shed my share of tears over the years I've been with Andy because of things you have said and done. It seems the best thing for me and my family is to therefore avoid exchanges with you as much as possible. But I am sorry. I'm sorry it has to be this way. I am sorry that the times we have come to parties was not enough to be appreciated, and I'm sorry that the things we have done with good intentions have not been received the way they were meant. I'm sorry that Andy and I have felt like we have to walk on eggshells around you over all of these years. I'm sorry that, for whatever reason, you feel the need to make us feel bad about ourselves or to feel bad for you. And I'm sorry that I couldn't have kept all of this to myself and lived peacefully with it for the rest of our lives. But I am only human.



My comments, as IMed to Gina in reaction:

me: omg I don't even know where to start.
1. when someone gives you a gift, say thank you
2. the right thing to do is honor the first invitation you receive
3. what a bitch!
4. good for you for being assertive and not taking her crap, and for absolving yourself of the expectation that you'd have to deal with her in the future
5. "your wife"???
6. if Tristan is every throwing a tantrum in my house, please, please take him outside. I will not hold it against you.
7. How dare she criticize Andy for spending the holidays with your side of the family
Gina: I'm not sure if she just refuses to use my name, or if she is trying to emphasize the fact that I am somehow his responsibility or something like that...
me: 8. Isn't she constantly bitching at Ryan? Yet she goes on about how he needs attention and affection?
Again, I have to say, when someone sends you a gift or gift card, you say "thank you." Period
9. how rude and tacky is it to say, "we have plenty of money,"
especially, "your gift is worthless to us because we have plenty of money"!
10. who's the "no one" that believes you're not sorry for attending the party?
11. you could predict when his party would be?
12. "I'm pretty sure that this gathering with your friends was scheduled to coincide with Ryan's party in the same way that the last trip to Nevada was carefully planned to coincide with my 35th birthday party."
WTF? Is she on crack? Does she think SO HIGHLY of herself that she actually thinks you schedule trips and other people's parties around her?
13. "invited yourself over"? they're family.
Gina: Exactly! Yes, we sat around thinking about how to schedule our last trip to Nevada (in October 2003, btw) to coincide with her "35th b-day"
Gina: I didn't mention that, in fact, we scheduled that last trip to fall on my mother's birthday, since it was a year after my dad died and we thought it would be good for her to be away at that time.
me: it's a privilege for her to agree to host you???
Gina: And Bonnie has "invited herself" over our house before as well, like if they happen to be in the area, and I've never said I had a problem with that.
me: I've invited myself over to your house when I've had flights out of BWI, and I'm not a blood relative.
14. I'm glad to hear she's very busy because of valentine's day.
send a representative?
send a representative?
what is this, an official delegation?
me: I think it IS really wrong to berate someone for sending a gift
16. it's not only unfair, but also very unhealthy to berate you for spending time with your part of the family
Gina: And I didn't think there was any obligation for me to invite people over my house in exchange if I can't attend their party. When the next event comes up, if I have a party and they can come, great. If not, then whatever.
She has done that before -- berated us because she thought the "graduation" gift we gave her was too cheap.
me: ...most horrified at the "how dare you send a gift card, we have no time to spend it"
Gina: This was, by the way, her graduation from night school for her second bachelor's degree.
Meanwhile, she didn't even attend Andy's first college graduation, saying she couldn't get off from work (he graduated from College Park, it's not like she had to make a trip)
Gina: My neighbor, who was at the party, left early because she couldn't take Bonnie any more. Later my neighbor discretely asked who Bonnie was, and once I intimated that she has issues, my neighbor just started going off about her. To this day, she still brings her up with horror in her voice.
me: plus, say for a minute she was right. I'm not saying she is. but for the sake of argument, let's say andy and his wife are not devoted enough to his side of the family.
how much more effective would it have been to say, "hey andy, you probably don't see it this way, but some of the actions you've taken recently have hurt me. I miss you and would like to see more of you, so would Ryan. Maybe we could all make an effort to get together more...I'm really busy, as I imagine you are too. let's think of some low-maintenance way we could get together that would work for everyone."
me: that's something I try to explain to my mother, too-- if she wants results, it's best to point out to the other person that something could be done differently, rather than berate and blame.
Gina: When we've gone over their house with Tristan, especially last year, she would glare at him with a scowl on her face, like he was a germ in her house. Then, she banished Tristan from the living room, forcing me to stay with him in the family room while everyone else went to open up gifts in the living room. That was just completely rude.
After that, I said I wasn't going over there again, but of course we have.
Gina: Thinking about her wanting to spend more time with "the family": for Thanksgiving, she was with Richard's side of the family, and wrote a long disparaging email to her parents (which she forwarded to Andy to show that she "hadn't been invited" to their parents' house for Thanksgiving -- what it actually showed was that she's a bitch and looking for ways to be insulted. That's a whole other email exchange.)
Gina: Anyway, she complained that she "hadn't been invited" to her own parents' house for Thanksgiving, when in fact they thought that Bonnie had said they had other plans, which they did -- they were going to her mother-in-law's. But Bonnie still had to be insulted that she wasn't "invited."
Gina: Plus, she obviously doesn't have a problem not being with the family when it is convenient for her. She has conveniently been absent from holidays recently.
But somehow when we choose to go away, we're supposed to "make it up" to people?

Anyway, you get the point. This is so egregiously obnoxious that it has to be shared. I hope you're as indignant about it as I am.

Follow up: Andy's response


I see that you did not read OUR reply to your email.

It was OUR decision to mail Ryan's gift. Our reasoning, if you must know, was that this would have to do, since I asked you nicely on the phone when I might drop by and give something to Ryan, and you replied to me with a scowl that you were really busy and Richard was going to be out of town and Valentine's day is coming up.

Then we get this rant from you below. I guess you do not realize it, but when you scowl at someone or give them attitude, it does not make that person (blood relative or not) want to be around you. You have also said some crappy things below, which I would like to ignore but which Gina has trouble ignoring.

So here it is: if you want us to get along better, please try to be a little more civil.


ps. When Tristan is at your house, we would appreciate it if he is not confined to certain rooms & his every motion scrutinized as long as we are watching him (which we always do). Also, it would be a lot easier on him if Ryan's old toys that Ryan does not want him to touch were not in full view to tempt him. Tristan is a 2 year old boy. Restraint is not in his vocabulary yet. And NO, he does not have ADHD that we know of--he is a little boy and his behavior is pretty typical of that demographic.