The Rockwood Files: The Anniversary Voucher

rockwood files colorBy Gwen Rockwood, newspaper columnist and mama of 3

On my wedding anniversary, the man who made vows to love, honor and cherish me all the days of his life called my cell phone.

“Hey, honey,” he said.

“Are you still at the airport?”

“Yeah, and I’m not going to make it home in time for us to go out for dinner tonight,” he said.

“Bad weather in Chicago?” I asked.

american-airlines-planeNot exactly.”

“Is something wrong with the plane?”

“No, the plane is taking off right now.”

“Then why aren’t you going to be here?”

“Well, the flight was overbooked. And the flight attendant asked for a volunteer to get off the plane and take a later flight, but no one was volunteering because it’s Friday night and everybody wants to get home.”

“And…?”

“And then she started offering a travel voucher for 100 dollars, then 200, then 300… She got all the way up to 500 dollars.”

“Are you trying to tell me that you’re not going to be here for our anniversary dinner because you took a travel voucher instead?”

“I did,” he said. “And the flight attendant was so grateful that I volunteered that she bumped it up the travel voucher to 600 dollars.” The uneasy tone in his voice told me he was nervous about selling out to American Airlines on the night of our anniversary.

I paused for a moment, realizing that the steak dinner I’d been looking forward to was about to turn into a frozen pizza with the kids. Then I said something full of the kind of real-life practicality that comes along with 16 years of marriage and mortgages and kids: “They gave you six hundred dollars? SCORE! Where should we go when we use it?”

We spent the next few minutes deciding how to use the travel voucher while I texted the babysitter and asked if she could come watch the kids the following night instead. By the time Tom came home dragging his suitcase behind him, there were stale pizza crusts on the kitchen counter and the kids and I had fallen asleep while watching reruns of Shark Tank.

If this had happened on the night of our first wedding anniversary, I probably would have passively-aggressively told Tom I was “fine” and then spent the next hour alone in a weepy heap on the sofa, tormented by how he could do such an awful thing to me on our anniversary. Then I would have worked up a full steam of righteous anger and expressed it over a week’s worth of icy cold shoulders and stink eye.

I still had a lot to learn in Year One. We both did. But now we have a few years of “for better or worse” under our belts, and life has a way of teaching you which things to get upset over and which ones just don’t rise to the level of “big deal.”

There are lots of great things about marriage but one of the best is the sense of calm you get as the years go by. Your happiness doesn’t hinge on a missed dinner appointment or a disagreement. You have the reassurance that your commitment is more durable than that. Of course, that doesn’t mean we don’t get frustrated with each other and sometimes even downright mad. It just means we have the sense that, even in those times, it’ll be okay. And that’s a blessing.

We finally decided what to do with that 600-dollar travel voucher. After the holiday chaos ends, we’re using it to take our oldest son to see the sights in Washington, D.C. to celebrate his 13th birthday. See how we turned a missed anniversary dinner into an awesome birthday gift? And while we’re there, we’re definitely getting that steak dinner.

gwen rockwoodGwen Rockwood is a mom to three great kids, wife to one cool guy, a newspaper columnist and co-owner of nwaMotherlode.com. To read previously published installments of The Rockwood Files, click here. To check out Gwen’s book, “Reporting Live from the Laundry Pile: The Rockwood Files Collection,” click HERE.

Photo credit: Lisa Mac Photography

The Rockwood Files: On Moms and Managers

rockwood files colorBy Gwen Rockwood, newspaper columnist and mama of 3

About this time of year, I sympathize with store managers. Although I’ve never worked in retail during the holiday rush, I have worked as a mother for nearly 13 years now. Moms and managers need the same skill sets to survive the weeks leading up to Christmas.

Crowd control: From now until the last after-Christmas sale ends, store managers have to deal with lots of extra people — many of whom act like hyperactive children when they’re drunk on deep discounts and high on the possibility of getting the last copy of this year’s must-have video game.

Moms also understand what it’s like when the house is full of extra people. Someone is always in somebody else’s way and the bathroom is constantly running out of toilet paper. We’re like air traffic controllers trying to figure out seating and sleeping arrangements and how to keep people moving in an orderly fashion.

christmas decorPresentation: Go to any store during the holiday season and you’ll know exactly what the store manager and his or her staff have been doing — stocking shelves, folding sweaters and filling displays. As soon as another delivery truck shows up, items must be emptied, sorted and put out for purchase and — because it’s the holidays — everything needs to look amazing. We shoppers expect a little more razzle-dazzle in December.

If anyone can relate to the pressure of a good presentation, it’s a mom. Some women started working on Christmas decorations before the Thanksgiving turkey ever went into the oven. As much as we may love it, holiday decor has become a beast. What used to be the simple act of putting up a Christmas tree has morphed into a day-long ordeal. Not only is there the Christmas tree, there’s also the table centerpieces, the ceramic knick-knacks, the outdoor lights, the wreath, the Elf on the Shelf, the holiday plates and cups, and the list goes on.

Conflict resolution: It’s almost a given that at some point during the weeks leading up to Christmas, you’ll either say or hear the following phrase when you’re out shopping: “I need to talk to your store manager.” Those are probably the most hated eight words in the English language for managers. Because when somebody says it, it’s not because they want to tell the manager about what a pleasant experience they’ve just had. It’s because they’re mad — really mad, and they want to gripe about it.

Moms can relate because, for the most part, we are ignored by the crowds of people in our house until there’s a problem to solve. That’s when we’re expected to step in and referee the fight or diffuse the tension. Inevitably, a house full of people at a Christmas gathering will include at least one uncle saying something inappropriate and one sister-in-law passing judgment on a third cousin. It’s bound to happen, and it’s usually up to the mom to smooth things over.

Overtime: As much as store managers try to staff up for the holiday rush, there’s never enough people to cover the long shifts during Black Friday and December. And getting a day off from work is about as rare as a sighting of the indomitable snowman.

Moms also work a lot of overtime because we need to deck the halls, cook the food, buy the gifts, wrap the presents, attend the parties, pack for trips and visit the relatives. We practically sleep-walk through the last half of December because managing all the merriment has already worn us out.

The moral of this story? The “most wonderful time of the year” is also an intensely busy one for many of us. Extra patience and kindness is perhaps one of the best gifts you can give. So remember to share a little “peace on Earth” with your town’s store managers — and be sweet to your mama, too.

gwen rockwoodGwen Rockwood is a mom to three great kids, wife to one cool guy, a newspaper columnist and co-owner of nwaMotherlode.com. To read previously published installments of The Rockwood Files, click here. To check out Gwen’s book, “Reporting Live from the Laundry Pile: The Rockwood Files Collection,” click HERE.

Photo credit: Lisa Mac Photography

Life with Ladybug: Why I don’t want a DVR

By Shannon Magsam

flashMy daughter and I weren’t home on Tuesday night, so we didn’t get to watch the mid-season finale of our show, The Flash.

But we can’t plan our lives around when Barry Allen will be running super fast and saving citizens of Central City at 7 p.m. on Tuesday nights on the CW, can we? Or maybe we can.

A DVR would help, my friends keep telling me.

Yep, it’s true: I don’t have a DVR.

And I admit I feel kinda backward not having one.

But the truth is I secretly like watching shows in “real time” when I know tons of other people are watching, too. It’s a collective social experience. It reminds me of when my family would gather around the TV to watch one of just a handful of shows a week, because we only had three stations and you watched when they came on – or you missed them.

On Sunday nights when I was a kid, we’d watch the Magical World of Disney movie. My mom always cooked amazing dinners, but on Sunday nights she and my dad would have steak and the kids would have frozen pizza on TV trays. All was right with the world when I was eating frozen pizza with my siblings while watching the newest Disney movie.

And here’s another plus about watching a TV show in “real time”: No Spoilers. You don’t have to worry about someone telling you how it ended the next day at work or school.

I remember when I was about 8 and the movie Black Beauty was going to be shown on television. We didn’t have a color TV, but my favorite book was Black Beauty and I couldn’t wait to see it. My mom decided she HAD to get a color TV so I could watch it. I can still remember playing in the big box the TV came in that day and the amazing movie in vivid color that night. It felt cool knowing so many people across the country were seeing the same amazing images as me RIGHT THEN.

wizard of ozRemember when the Wizard of Oz came on once a year and it was an EVENT? You didn’t miss it. Same thing with the Sound of Music around the holidays. We don’t have those kinds of gather-round-the-TV moments these days and it’s a little sad to me.

The closest we’ve come is live musicals The Sound of Music (with Carrie Underwood) and, most recently, Peter Pan.

There’s another (in my opinion, very compelling) reason not to have a DVR: I don’t want to have a backlog of shows to watch. It’s just too  much pressure to have all those characters just “waiting” for me to watch them. I don’t need that!

Now, there are obviously a few reasons a DVR would be great. I could watch The Flash episode I missed (although I’m sure we’ll be able to find in on the CW) and I could skip commercials.

I always hated sitting through those tampon commercials with my dad while we watched a TV show together as a family. And these days, the commercials are WAY more embarrassing, like the one for “E.D.”. “…ask your doctor if you’re healthy enough for sexual activity.” So you have a question now, almost 13-year-old daughter?

For now, as much as I’d love to skip the commercials, I think I’ll hold off on getting that DVR. If I miss a show, it will be my loss as it was back in the day. Or I’ll figure out a way to be home when it comes on the first time.

So if I say I need to rush home — quick as a flash! –to watch “my show”? Don’t DVR judge me.

shan, blue dress, circleShannon Magsam is co-founder of nwaMotherlode.com and nwaMomProm.com. She’s married to an awesome newspaper guy and they have a fun-loving, artsy tween who loves watching tv with them and drawing cats. If you have a question for Shannon, send it to mamas@nwamotherlode.com or leave a comment here.

Get The Rockwood Files delivered via email

Hi mamas! If you’re like me, you use your email inbox a LOT. When there’s something I want to keep up with, I usually have it sent to me via email because rockwood files photo logoI’m more likely to see it there, versus remembering to go out to a website to look it up.

So I’m expanding the list of people who receive my newspaper column (The Rockwood Files) via email. It’s a good way to make sure you don’t miss an article and, if you like it, it’s easy to hit the forward button and share it with a friend or post a link on Facebook.

When you sign up to receive the column via email, you’ll get five weeks worth of bonus columns called The Funny Papers, each one delivered on a Friday so you can start the weekend with a good laugh.

Click HERE if you’d like to receive The Rockwood Files free via email and get the bonus material. (And rest assured, your email address is safe and will never be misused.)

Once you click the link, look for the green sign-up box on the right-hand side of the page and enter your first name and email address. Fast and simple! Thanks!

funny pages header

 

The Rockwood Files: Aspiring to try

rockwood files colorBy Gwen Rockwood, newspaper columnist and mama of 3

I got my first real job 19 years ago by replying to a classified ad that asked for resumes from “aspiring journalists.” Fresh out of college with an English degree and absolutely no idea what to do with it, I didn’t know if I was qualified to be a journalist. But I did know I was “aspiring” for something — even though I wasn’t clear on what. So I took my resume down to the newspaper office and dropped it off.

A few days later, I got a call from the executive editor, which made me feel fancy and grown-up. I put on a dress I imagined a business woman might wear and went to the interview. I don’t remember much of what he asked or how I answered. I was crazy nervous and kept telling myself that if I accidentally said something grammatically incorrect, I’d blow the whole interview.

The only part I remember was when he told me the job would be mostly administrative — that I’d be typing in school lunch menus, wedding announcements and obituaries and that I’d answer the phone a lot and take messages. Did I still want the job? After all, I’d graduated college with honors and the job didn’t pay much.

broom-Broom_icon.svgI looked around the newsroom, full of reporters, editors and photographers who were rushing around, typing and talking loudly over the sound of too many ringing phones. The only thing I knew for sure was that they were paid to work with words. And in that moment, that’s all I wanted. So I said something dramatic and desperate: “I will sweep the floors in this place if it means I get to work with words.”

To this day, I don’t know if he hired me because of that line or in spite of it or because he really needed somebody to type in those wordy wedding announcements. I like to believe it was a “God thing.”

After more than a year as the assistant, that same editor sent me downtown one afternoon in late November to write a story about the city’s holiday decorations and activities. It was a tiny story but I felt like he’d just handed me the assignment of a lifetime. I walked around the town square worried sick that I wouldn’t describe things just right. I clutched my little tape recorder and forced myself out of a shy-girl shell so I could interview the man who drove the decorated horse-drawn carriage. I remember playing the tape back later that night as I sat in the newsroom, groaning because I could barely hear the man’s comments over the loud jingle bells and the clip-clop of the horse’s hooves on pavement.

I turned in the story on time and the next day I had my first newspaper byline. It was a start — an exciting, imperfect, nerve-wracking start. A few months after that, I was writing and editing business stories and, eventually, I talked that same editor into giving me a chance to write a column — this column. I’ve been blessed with so many business and creative adventures since then, and I couldn’t have imagined any of them the day I answered that classified ad.

It reminds me that often one brave or desperate attempt can lead to something special. Harper Lee, who wrote To Kill a Mockingbird, started out writing plane tickets as an agent for Eastern Airlines. Alexander Graham Bell set out to make something that would help his deaf wife communicate better, and he ended up inventing the telephone.

So here’s to all of us who aspire to try, who find a way to make something from nothing. It’s not an easy thing to do, and it would feel so much safer not to risk it. But here’s hoping we never forget that life is always — always — worth a try.

gwen rockwoodGwen Rockwood is a mom to three great kids, wife to one cool guy, a newspaper columnist and co-owner of nwaMotherlode.com. To read previously published installments of The Rockwood Files, click here. To check out Gwen’s new book, “Reporting Live from the Laundry Pile: The Rockwood Files Collection,” click HERE.

Photo credit: Lisa Mac Photography

Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required Email Address * First Name Last Name
Advertisement