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Dear Abby and Dirty Laundry

When my father-in-law died in 2001, a family that had been fractured for as long as I had been a part of it fell completely apart.  Those of you who are close to my family know the story of the incidents that took place surrounding the passing of my father-in-law Custy.  If you don’t know the sordid details, suffice it to say, it was the ugliest of times.

I woke up this morning to find two things that brought me back to the time of Custy’s death.  The first one was a lengthy diatribe against my husband from his only niece, in which she used all the foul language she could muster to beseech my husband to make up with his brothers, completely disregarding the things that transpired around the time of the funeral.  She publicly aired some of the family’s dirtiest laundry, using Facebook as the forum to spread a message of misunderstood hate.

The second thing I learned was that Dear Abby had died.

Why does Dear Abby bring me back to that horrible time in my family history?  It seemed that with all that transpired involving my brothers-in-law at the time Custy died, I found myself at the end of my rope.  I had never experienced anything like this in my own family, and the behavior to which I was a witness was so deplorable, I spent days trying to examine my own part in the fiasco, trying to determine what blame should be placed on my shoulders.

I sat down one night, in tears, and wrote everything out that had happened, and I sent the note off to Dear Abby.  In my mind, she wasn’t someone who could help, but she was the anonymous face in the crowd to whom I felt I could spill the story and alleviate my guilt.  So I did.

About a week later, my phone rang.  Jim answered it, and the woman on the other end asked to speak to me.  He handed me the phone, and a voice identified herself as Pauline Phillips.  I didn’t know who Pauline Phillips was, and I didn’t recognize the voice, but when the voice spoke the words, “I’m Dear Abby, and I received your letter”, it all began to register.

The kind, gentle voice explained that she understood exactly what was going on in my family, and she proceeded to tell me that I would be positively shocked at how frequently what happened in my home also happened in other homes.  She told me that my husband and I did everything we should have done in the circumstance we found ourselves in, and she wanted me to know that, but she couldn’t publish my letter.  She said the amount of dysfunction in the letter was so dramatic that people would think she had made it up!  What’s more, she said that my letter was one of the most powerful she’d ever read, and because of how it was written, people would automatically conclude it was fiction, even though she knew all too well how frequently other families faced what we faced.

I felt relief that day, hearing the words of this wise and honest woman clearing my conscience.  There was kindness in her voice, sympathy in her words, and knowledge in her heart.  She restored peace to my home with that phone call, even though we would deal with the repercussions of those heartbreaking events for many months – no, many years – to come.

Thank you, Mrs. Phillips, for getting me to the place I needed to be at that time.  I know her column was read by millions around the world, but her voice and her message will stay with me all of my days.

“Fear less; hope more. Eat less; chew more. Talk less; say more. Hate less; love more.”  Abigail VanBuren (Pauline Phillips)

Gun Violence. Gun Control. Makes Your Head Spin.

Oh, Samuel L. Jackson, you are a wise man.

When the Newtown, CT shooting occurred, I was away from my children.  The shooting impacted me, but I was busy, celebrating with friends, and had the Happiest Place on Earth surrounding me to cushion the effect.

My kids were in the car at the airport when I came home, and it was all I could do to hold it together until I got home.  Silent tears streamed down my face, and silent prayers were recited in my head.  They were prayers of thanks that my own children were safe, prayers of comfort for the victims of the tragedy, and prayers of hope that the rest of us would find answers to why we keep killing each other.

And there, in the words of Samuel L. Jackson is the answer.

I watched the Roadrunner growing up and must admit that I never felt compelled to drop an anvil on anyone’s head.  We were allowed to watch the Three Stooges routinely beat each other up, and yet my fingers never found themselves in the eyes of any of my sisters.  I understand that with video games, television shows, movies, and the internet, kids today are exposed to more acts of violence than we ever were as kids, but where is our responsibility in all of this?  Where are the moms telling the kids, “If I ever see you do anything like this, I will beat your ass so you won’t sit down until you’re married!”  Why do we not teach our kids to value life, respect people, respect property?

I don’t know if stricter gun control laws are going to do much to change our society.  Stricter kid control laws might be a better way to go.

The Biggest Baby Step I Could Take

I write a lot.  Sometimes, I scribble stuff in the back of my notebooks at school while I should be paying attention to the cognitive advancements in a toddler mind.  Occasionally, I write at home when I’m supposed to be folding laundry or doing dishes.  I used to keep a notebook handy in my car, and if I got stuck in a car line at school or waiting for an activity to end, I’d write something.

This is the year that I’m going to leave my comfort zone.  I’ve written something that I plan to send to some publishers and see where it ends up.  I’ve been sitting on it for, gulp, 16 years, and it’s time to dust it off, clean it up, and put it to work.  It’s a children’s book, so I expect a slew of rejection due in part to the overwhelming amount of competition, but with the strength to face the criticism, I’m moving forward.

Who knows?  If this doesn’t kill me, maybe I’ll find time to write that great American novel I told my senior high school year book I would.  In the words of my all time favorite Disney character, “It is time.”

Christmas at Walt Disney World – What We Love, What We Love Less

The smell of Christmas ham may still be wafting through the house, and you may still be walking past those last three Christmas cookies that no one really likes, tempting you to break your New Year’s resolution to lose weight.  So why on earth am I talking about Christmas at Walt Disney World already?

If you’re a DVC owner, you probably know why.  We are already coming up on the 11 month booking window for next Christmas, and if you want the resort preferences you want, you’ve got to book early!

For those who are always on the fence about whether or not to book their Walt Disney World vacation during the busiest time of the year, here are the reasons why we do.

Christmas Dinner at Artist Point – The Wilderness Lodge location just screams Christmas.  The rustic lodge with the roaring fireplace and the giant Christmas tree make this a natural choice for the holiday.  The cozy, warm feeling of Artist Point is as close to Christmas dinner at home with family – if your family lived in a Norman Rockwell painting – as you’re going to get.  The food is delicious (is it wrong that my mouth is still watering over the pork belly and corn and crab salad I had?), and the location ideal.  It’s a perfect Christmas meal.

The Decorations – Remember the year that you had all that free time at Christmas after the shopping, wrapping, baking, cooking and cleaning, so you decided to deck every hall in your house with boughs of holly, elegant wreaths, themed Christmas trees, and giant gingerbread houses?  Yeah, me neither.  But guess what?  You’ll have all of that at Walt Disney World!  Wreaths and garlands dripping with ornaments, trees that soar towards massive ceilings, and life sized carousels and gingerbread houses can be found in every corner of the resorts.  The best part?  You won’t get sap in your hair setting the tree up, and you don’t have to vacuum all the pine needles out of the carpet.

The Lights – I wish I could say that our house is like the Griswold Family Christmas, where the dad wants so many lights on the house you can see it from outer space.  It’s not.  My husband is the king of understated Christmas lights.  We usually have a battery operated candle in each window, but the batteries usually die by December 4th, and they don’t usually get replaced until the following year, when my husband decides it’s cheaper to throw the lights out than replace the batteries, and the whole process begins again.  Any other lights are usually put out by the kids and I, and I gotta tell ya, if it’s cold, I’m darn near tempted to dump the light box into the bushes, plug in the first plug I find, and pray it’s on a string of lights that actually works.

The Osborne Spectacle of the Dancing Lights is the ultimate holiday light display.  Snow, music, and millions of lights makes it more festive than I could ever dream at home!  No matter how ambitious I am with my own lights, there’s just nothing that compares with the amazing display.  You just want to walk down the street hugging people.  Seriously.

Candlelight Processional – If you are lacking Christmas spirit at home, you will surely find it here.  This is a narrated story of the birth of Christ, read by a celebrity narrator, with the accompaniment of a brilliant choir and amazing orchestra.  There is nothing better to do on Christmas eve than to enjoy a wonderful family meal, followed by the Candlelight Processional, followed by Illuminations.  It’s another hug everyone experience.

So, I’ve convinced you to be on the phone with me later this week to make your reservations for Christmas, right?

Well, yeah, there are a few things we don’t love about Christmas at Walt Disney World.  It is crowded.  You can expect lines for attractions to top 90 minutes or more.  There is some stress trying to get dining reservations and the room you want at the resort you’d like.  And it’s really tough to pack a family’s worth of Christmas presents and decorations in your carry on bags for the plane.

But honestly, some of our best family vacations are the ones we’ve spent at Walt Disney World at Christmas.  We make it our annual holiday destination.

Alan From Holman – Doesn’t Play Well With Others – If They’re Girls

As lots of you know, we recently bought a new car.  I hate new car shopping for a lot of reasons.  First of all, I’m not a “shopper”, I’m a buyer.  I want to go to a store, make a rash decision, and pay for said decision.

But most of all, I hate car salesmen.  My apologies in advance to all of the upstanding, honest, and non-smarmy car dealers who are reading this.  I have always felt that they talk down to me, and I’m not exactly a very commanding figure, so I’m easy to bulldoze.

Today, though, Alan the salesman went too far.

We got a call a week ago from Alan saying they didn’t have the title to the car we traded in, despite the fact that we gave it to them.  He suggested that if it couldn’t be found, we’d have to give them $95 so they could get a copy.

Yeah.  No.  Not doin’ it.  I handed you a piece of paper, you nickel and dimed me to death on a car, and I will be damned if I fork over another $95 because you lost that piece of paper.  Not my fault.  Alan told me we could have the weekend to look for it, and despite being told we had nothing to look for, he ended the phone call with the assumption that I’d cave in and pay the money.

In the immortal words of my favorite comedian, John Pinette, I say nay nay.

So today, good old Alan calls back.  Jim answers the phone, but because he is sitting next to me, I hear Alan claim that they don’t have the paperwork they need, and even though Jim repeatedly tells him it was in the packet of papers that I painstakingly put together, Alan is still pushing for that $95.  So I took the phone.

I tell Alan exactly what Jim told him, only in a girl voice, which immediately causes Alan to adopt a condescending attitude.  After I told him we were not paying to replace the paper that they lost, this is what Alan said to me:

“Obviously, we have a misunderstanding, so let me talk a little slower for you.”

Oh. No. He. Didn’t.

But yes, he did.

The creepy ass condescending jerk then told me, when I questioned his questioning my intelligence, that I was yelling at him.

Dude doesn’t know what yelling is.  Yet.

Oh, but he is sending someone to my house with the papers for me to sign so they can send their check in and replace the title they lost.

So – Holman in Maple Shade?  You might want to have Alan avoid dealing with women.  He doesn’t know what to do with the smart ones.