Wednesday, June 30, 2010

My Two Cents

This morning on twitter, I was directed to a post by a blogger for our major local newspaper. It was generally offensive, suggesting that people with tattoos are...well..not as good as people without (I'm paraphrasing). She further commented by suggesting that her commenters were not reading her whole post.
I'm not linking to the blog, because I have no interest in promoting its writer or her views. However, it appears that my comment, and those of others who disagree with the blogger, may not be shared - so I wanted to share mine here. Because, well - this is where I share, darn it. :-)

Whether you like tattoos or not, you can’t judge how much meaning one has simply because it isn’t obvious to you. A butterfly, a flower or even a skull might not mean much to you, but it could have a lot of meaning to someone else.

Re Comment #25: Intended or not, your post sounds harsh and judgemental. You’re suggesting that people with tattoos a) were not parented well and b) will have no ability to be effective parents. Not only that – you’re making that assumption based on nothing else other than the fact that they have a tattoo.

That suggests that you make unfair assumptions about people in general, just because they do something you don’t agree with. That’s offensive to just about anyone. Either way, yelling at the commenters is unnecessary. We’re only sharing our opinion – which is exactly what you were doing in the first place, and the point of the blog, isn’t it?

For the record – I have no tattoos. I read your whole post and all the comments here before adding my own. I don’t agree with you – that doesn’t mean I lack education or reading skills. It simply means I can think for myself.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Pretty Girls

Reposted from an earlier entry in another journal.

"All little girls should be told they're pretty." Audrey Hepburn

High School is tough for the best of us. I was never the best of us. I was awkward and shy; I had friends, but I wasn't popular. I didn't have enemies; I basically went unnoticed.

In my junior year of high school, I met "him" - we'll call him "Joe." He was cute, smart, and funny, and he was super nice to me. We became friends, and I really liked him, but I figured he'd never like a girl like me. [I proved this theory senior year when I asked him to homecoming; he turned me down, with some lame excuse about family visiting from out of town.] I resigned myself to the fact that we would just be friends; and we were. We talked in school all the time, we ate lunch together, we talked on the phone at night and on the weekends - we had a great friendship going.

Then, senior prom came. He didn't have a date, and was talking to a good friend of mine in the library one day about who he might ask. She suggested he ask me. His response? "I'd ask Sue, but I want to have fun." Neither of them ever told me about the conversation. What they didn't realize was another friend of mine overheard them talking. It got back to me, and although I never said anything about how hurt I was, Joe eventually found out. He took the coward's way out (in fairness, we were 17) and just stopped talking to me. That hurt so much more than what he had said; that he thought so little of our friendship that he didn't even care enough to try and fix it.

School ended before we ever spoke about what had happened. I went to college; he joined the army. I found out later he'd done so because his life had really veered off track as school wound down. He was drinking and getting in trouble; his grades had slipped, and he didn't graduate on time or get accepted to any colleges. His life plan fell apart; the military helped put it back together.

He came home on leave while I was a freshman in college; he called me and apologized for everything that had happened, and for what he said. He wanted to be friends again; and he'd met someone, and wanted me to meet her because "if he was going to be with someone, it was important that I meet her."

It took a long time, but I finally figured out that Joe was never a coward, and he didn't stop talking to me because our friendship didn't matter. He was ashamed. I was the one friend he had who was actually helping to keep his life on a good track; losing our friendship really hurt him. I had been so focused on how important Joe was to me, because I had a crush, that I never realized how important my friendship was to him.

In the meantime, though, my self-confidence had been shaken. I didn't need that blow at the time; between you and me, I think it probably contributed to some pretty poor choices in terms of men as I got older. As much as I wanted to think I was past the idea of 'needing a guy,' I think the Joe situation actually made me more dependent on that approval.

I developed this tendency to find (and latch onto) guys who were bad news. They all either had problems, or "colorful" pasts; bad boys. Convinced that I could "fix" them and that they would feel lucky to have me, I sought these guys out. They had no idea how to treat a woman, but I was so afraid that no one would pay me attention or want me around. I was happy to put up with awful, abusive treatment in the name of having someone to call "boyfriend."

It took a long time to recognize what I was doing and make changes, to break that pattern. We like to think that high school doesn't matter, that we're able to just leave it behind; but the truth is, those experiences linger; they shape how we look at and do things forever.

We've all been through these awful times; we were all made fun of, beaten up, picked on, called names, etc. If we're lucky, we eventually learn to take those experiences and turn them around; learn and grow from them; use them to figure out who were really are. It took me a long time, and a lot of dysfunctional relationships, to figure out where I went wrong. But I finally realized that as long as I can remind myself how good I am, and how lucky someone is to have me, I don't need anyone else to do that for me. Joe taught me that; and whenever I forget, I remind myself of everything that happened.

So, thanks Joe - you did more for me than you'll probably ever know.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Trusty Sidekick

I was never the popular kid in school. I was never the prettiest or the thinnest. Sometimes, I was the smartest - which at times, can be worse. Somehow, all of my best friends (you know - the girl/girls you're always with, even when you're not) were always tall, thin and beautiful. So, my role, intentionally or not, evolved into: Sidekick.

In order to be a successful sidekick, one must be: Smart, funny and/or sarcastic, quick-witted, completely lacking a competitive gene - and constantly available.

To tell you the truth, I never minded being a sidekick. To me, being there when you're needed, supporting friends through even the craziest schemes and defending a person even when you secretly know she might be wrong are all marks of a good friend. As an adult, I'm even more aware of the importance of not only having good friends, but being a good friend as well.

But even the most patient, understanding and forgiving friend does not like to be taken advantage of. No one wants to feel unappreciated or, worse yet, used. No one wants to be anyone's Plan B - someone who waits at the ready, setting aside their own life and happiness, just in case the 'better' Plan A falls through.

So the most important quality a trusty sidekick needs? Confidence (believe it or not). She needs enough confidence to be able to recognize that line, the one that separates being relied upon and being taken advantage of. It's a fuzzy line; small; and it moves. A lot. She also needs enough confidence to be able to tell the other when the line has been crossed.

A good sidekick also knows that it's easy to take someone for granted. If she is a really good sidekick, she's always there, always ready with an answer. Her support is practically transparent, letting the other shine and take all the credit. Of course it's easy to take that person for granted - but that doesn't make it ok. It's important to feed a friendship, to check in and to improve - the same way you do with your spouse, a significant other, your parents, your boss, or any other important relationship. relationship.
If you're taking someone for granted - stop. Right now. Let them know you're sorry, and that you are going to try not to do it again. And then do just that.

If you're lucky, maybe your sidekick is cool enough to set her own feelings aside, and give you that chance.

Sound of Silence

Why are we so uncomfortable when we're not talking? What is so hard about just sitting, just being? When you're alone, you're not talking. Okay - you might be talking...but no one is answering. [FYI - if someone is answering, you should probably be reading a different blog. ;)]

It seems to me we fill the silence because we're not actually comfortable with ourselves. We don't know how to be alone with our own thoughts, so we can't possibly be with our own thoughts in front of someone else. Or maybe we're using that other person as an excuse; a distraction from having to face the one person we can't deal with - ourself.

I used to feel that way. I would spend so much effort trying to create conversation when meeting new people. I'd even resort to talking about the weather, if necessary. Before going out, I'd actually research random news, just to make sure that I didn't run out of things to talk about.

I thought when I met new people, I should be looking for that person with whom I was always talking and laughing. There would never be a lull in conversation. What I found was that while I was meeting and dating all these people that I couldn't really talk with, I was forced to get to know myself.

Once I knew myself, really knew what it was I wanted and was looking for - I found out the right person isn't necessarily someone with whom I have endless conversation. Turns out, it's someone with whom I can talk about anything, to whom I can say what's on my mind - or with whom I can say nothing at all. We can be quiet, together. We can take a long drive, or hang out in the park, and it's okay if we talk the whole time - and it's ok if don't.

Turns out, sometimes smiles and happiness sound a whole lot like silence.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Follow Me and Everything is All Right....

OK, OK, OK.....#Imaddictedtotwitter! (wait, hashtags don't work in the real world, huh? Oy.)

One of my favorite things about twitter is Follow Friday - once a week, users recommend other users they think are worth a follow. Personally, I love this concept - I get to see who my favorites recommend, and I get to share with others the coolest of the cool tweeps I've met.

But a wise man once said, "Didn't we retire this a year ago? There are better ways to network." He has a point. Just seeing a whole list of user names isn't necessarily going to inspire everyone to drop what they're doing and follow.

Personally, it's worked for me. I have met some of the best tweeps using a Follow Friday lead. I do agree, though, that there's a good way and a better way to participate. I found an article that gives some good tips. Basically, choose who to recommend wisely, and give reasons why others might like to follow. Still confused? Think of it like this: How do you choose which friends to introduce to others? Same idea.

So, what's the big deal with followers, anyway?

In the twitterverse, people are judged largely on how many followers they have. There are even sites you can use to find out your influence on twitter. So, how do you choose who to follow, and how do you get more followers?

There are a million articles (I counted) on these topics. The simple answer - it depends on how you use twitter. Some people are here to promote a business. Others are here to get the word out about their blog. Others mostly follow news or other interests, and others just use it as a way to communicate with (and meet) friends, peers, etc. [Then there are like me, who do all of that.]

Some people get really, REALLY upset when you unfollow. They might even call-out the person who has left their loyal ranks. Why? I'm really not sure. It's not like facebook, where someone has just broken up with you or ended a friendship. It's not personal. As an even wiser man once said, "They follow me, I follow them; it's not a contract."

No matter how you're using it, the best description I have ever heard is that twitter is one giant cocktail party. You move from conversation to conversation; you go back to find some people more than once, others you never see again. No biggie - it's fun, not personal.

Now - follow me here. :-)

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Put 'Em Up

"Courage does not always roar. Sometimes, courage is that quiet voice, that whispers at the end of the day, 'I'll try again tomorrow.'" [Mary Anne Radmacher]

We all have "stuff." Drama that that tries to bring us down. Work, family, friends, relationships, money... the normal.

My job isn't the greatest - it can be stressful and frustrating. My family spends a lot of time questioning my choices. My friends offer helpful "advice" that really sounds more like judgment. Alone, any of these things are totally manageable. But when they pile on all at can make for a very bad day.

Know what I've learned about bad days? They do not go on forever. The best thing you can do is put your head down and work your way through the bad. If you get knocked over, pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and get ready for tomorrow.

When I have trouble doing that, I look at it this way: I've been through worse. If I can make it through that, I can certainly make it through this, too.

No matter how bad today was, tomorrow could be the best day of your life. You just gotta get there.

Santa Claus is a Democrat

"I don't believe in the Republican party or the Democratic party. I just believe in parties." [Samantha Jones, SATC]

I turned 18 in 1992. That was the year that Bill Clinton was running for President against the sitting President, George Bush. I was so proud to be able to vote, and so sure I agreed with Clinton, that I registered as a Democrat. It never even ocurred to me to register as anything else, or not to register with any party at all.

I believed that the Democrats wanted to protect freedom of expression, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, etc. I believed Republicans were all stuffy and conservative and believed only white, rich, Christian men should have any real power. I put the members of the two parties into very distinct boxes: Republicans were conservative and Democrats were liberal.

"God is a Republican and Santa Claus is a Democrat." - Henry Louis Mencken [<-- Yeah, like that.]
I'm pro-choice, in favor of same-sex marriage, I believe marijuana and prostitution should probably be legal, and I don't practice any organized religion. I am anything but conservative. So you can imagine my surprise when I started talking to some Republican friends and found [*gasp*] that Republican doesn't always equate to conservative. I was even more surprised (no - shocked is probably a better word) to find that I actually agree with some of the Republican ideology. For example; welfare. I don't believe in it. Period. (That's the Republican coming out.) Now, the Democrat does yank me back a bit and reminds me that there are deserving people and circumstances under which aid is necessary. OK - but only in those circumstances. There is, afterall, no free lunch.

What about health care reform? Economic bailouts? Nope, not on that page, either. Sorry Democrats, but I really want to keep the health insurance I've spent the last 20 years earning. And I get the point of bailouts...but I really wish you wouldn't be so free with my money. I earned it; they didn't. They need to learn to budget better...just like I did.

I have encountered people who have told me that I have a "sense of entitlement;" that I think I deserve a better home or a better car or a better job. That I'm out of line for spending money on new shoes or a nice dinner when I could donate that money, or use it to take care of someone less fortunate.

Know what? I do like nice things, and I do believe I am entitled to a better home, car and job. Why? I work hard. I have a job I don't like because it pays what I need to maintain the life I want. I pay my bills, I pay my taxes, I save, I donate...and, yes, I spend some on me. Democrats seem to want me to feel bad about that. "You should give more. You should do more." I can't. You took my extra income.

So, thanks Democrats for preserving (so far) a woman's right to choose. And I appreciate the supreme court nominees that might finally put this whole same-sex marriage thing to bed.

But please stop taking my money and then trying to make me feel bad for not giving away what's left. I'm a good person. I'm a good citizen and tax-payer.

My name is Sue; and I [might be] a Republican.

Monday, June 21, 2010


I practically live online. Twitter, facebook and email (text, too!) are my primary methods of communicating and keeping in touch. Some think this makes me crazy, and I've been told that not wanting to chat on the phone for hours on end makes me anti-social

Here's the thing.... Getting online isn't about avoiding people; it's about embracing a new way of engaging others. I communicate online, yes - but I've also met a lot of people online who have turned into truly good friends, dates, business contacts, etc. Face it - the world changes. We can be ready to embrace new ways of participating in life - or prepare to be left out of the loop.

While I'm all for "new" in terms of how and when we communicate, I also believe that some traditional rules should transcend from in-person to online communication.

Etiquette is any conventional requirement pertaining to social behavior. Observing etiquette indicates that one is observing proper conduct as established by, or for, a community or occasion.

Why should the online community be void of the same requirements (courtesy, respect, etc.) as the in person, or conventional, community? It's still a community, a group of people coming together to share.

I submit that any community should have rules, and courtesy and respect seem to be pretty classic, and always appropriate. People have either forgotton, or have simply chosen to ignore, their manners.

At a party, would you turn your back to one person, excluding him from the conversation? No. So why would you @reply to only one person in a twitter thread, when the conversation clearly includes others?

At a family reunion, would you start screaming at a relative, or share your most intimate personal secrets in front of everyone? No. So, don't do it on their facebook wall, where anyone and everyone can read.

When you speak to your coworkers, do you use proper English? Yes. So when you send an email, don't ignore grammar or spelling. Taking the time to "say" something correctly is a sign of respect and it's a better reflection of who you are - just like speaking properly is when you're in person.

I could go on, but you get the idea. I'm simply saying that respect is key in any communication. No one is perfect, but it's important to do your best.

I'm no expert (in anything) but did find some who might be (on this topic, anyway). Linked for reading at your discretion.

Friday, June 18, 2010

The "N Word"

My Dad is a man of few words. Literally - he hardly ever talks. [He assures me I am really his daughter though; DNA is complicated, I guess.]

He was a single dad; he raised me on his own, with help here and there from some awesome women. I would say, and he would probably agree, that he practiced a Mr. Miyagi style of parenting. He taught; but I rarely realized I was learning.

When I was about 8, I had an after-school babysitter who I did not particularly like. She had a sister who I was even less fond of. One day, that sister was yelling at two complete strangers, who happened to be African-American, and referred to them as, "n------."

Later that week, I was watching something on TV with my father, and a woman used the word "negro." I remember looking at my Dad and innocently saying, "I thought it was pronounced..." and then I said "the n-word."

My Dad, who never has an opinion, turned to me with such a hateful look and said, "That is not the right word. That's an awful word. Don't you ever use that word again."

I didn't understand why, but his point was clear: Don't use the word. Not too many years later (maybe two?) my Dad learned that the book "To Kill a Mockingbird" was banned from my school library. So, he bought me a copy and told me to get reading.

I love that book; it's my all-time favorite. I learned a lot - including what "the n-word" had come to mean in our culture, and why my Dad was so adamant that I never use it. So I never have.

I've heard it since. I heard my Grandmother (Dad's mom) use it, and my uncle (Dad's brother) has used it more than once over the years. I've also heard it in songs and in jokes, to which I stop listening and laughing, and won't repeat. I've read it in books, and one time got in trouble at school for refusing to repeat the word while I was reading out loud in class.

I've been told that I should lighten up. That in certain contexts and in certain company, that word is fine. If no one is around to whom it might be directed, it is not even offensive; sometimes, even necessary and funny.

I disagree.

I know the actual definition has nothing to do with race. But that word has been used in a hateful way for so long that, to me, it just sounds like hate. It sounds like a reminder that there have been times and places (and sometimes still are) where treating people with hatred and disrespect was acceptable, for no other reason than their looks.

I don't understand that. I don't think its funny. I do think that anyone who has ever been treated badly should take offense at the idea that it's ever acceptable. That word, and it's connotation, should offend everyone, as far as I'm concerned.

My Dad meant to teach me to never use that word; but I learned so much more. I learned to listen to what others have to say, and to observe and learn before passing judgement. I learned to anticipate how someone might feel or react in a certain situation.

I also learned that people won't always agree - and that's okay. Everyone is entitled to their opinion. So I don't always correct people when they make comments that I think are out of line. It's not my place to judge; that would go against the lesson. It is my place to make sure that I don't participate in hurtful behavior; and if others consider me harsh, judgemental or boring because of that, then I'm sorry.

I'm not perfect. I'm sure I've laughed at things that others might consider offensive. I have certainly made fun of people (I particulary like to laugh at fashion felonies, and I correct spelling and grammar errors, even if only mentally). I can be spoiled, I can be annoying, and I can definitely be high-maintenance.

But one thing I can't do is disappoint my Dad.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Relationship Status: It's Complicated

Dating is pretty straightforward for most. All of the dressing and primping, meeting and dating, friending and unfriending, and setting up and deleting profiles is all in pursuit of one goal. Meeting the love of your life? Finding your soulmate? Living happily ever after? That's sooo 20th century.

The new final frontier of dating: To change your facebook relationship status to "in a relationship." (I really need a sarcasm font.)

Chances are (hopefully) when you met and started dating, both of you either showed your relationship status as "single" or it was hidden altogether. At what point do you change that to "in a relationship?" How will you know? Should you ask? Do you do that linky-thing where your names appear on eachother's profile (John is in a relationship with Mary)?

I looked for a rulebook on this sort of thing. There doesn't seem to be one, but I did find a bunch of horror stories. The main attraction? Someone changes their status to "in a relationship" before the other person is ready. Seems this has caused a lot of fights and/or breakups.

Is the facebook status just the 21st century, passive-aggressive way of telling your significant other that you are ready to be exclusive? Is it a deal-breaker? Does it even matter at all? Based on what I read and heard from my friends, it does to some people. [Incidentally, many of the people to whom this matters are guys. Just sayin'.]

I spent a lot of time talking to a friend recently, who felt that if the relationship isn't announced on facebook (or elsewhere), it isn't really a relationship. But how fair is that? There's no place on facebook to announce who your best friends are. Does that mean that your friendship isn't real?

My friend felt that if someone resists putting it out there on facebook, that suggests they are either hiding something, not committed or embarrassed. Admittedly, none of those are very desirable - but are they really the only possibilities? Couldn't someone simply be private and not looking to give their family and friends a reason to ask a bunch of personal questions? Some people truly don't like the attention.

But everyone needs validation and reassurance sometimes. So, if you're not getting it from the facebook announcement - then where?

My friend had an answer for this, too. Check, recheck and then check again. Leave no i undotted or t uncrossed. No gray areas.

But that also seems a little severe. Again - do you call your bestfriend regularly for a pulse check. "Hey, just thought I'd check and make sure we're still besties." No. [Unless you do. Then, go you!!] But for those of us who don't do that, is our friendship any less valid? At some point, don't you have to step aside and let any relationship just find its own way?

I guess it all comes down to confidence. You have to be sure of yourself, the other person and what you both want. You can get the reassurance you need in whatever way works for you; through talking, through actions; or, I suppose, through your facebook wall.

Training Wheels

"When real people fall down in life, they get right back up, and keep on walking." Carrie Bradshaw, SATC

I was about eight years old when I got my first bike. It was a hand-me-down, but my Uncle painted it, and added silver grips with sparkles and streamers. He added a pretty white seat and a matching basket.

Now it was my bike, and I loved it.

My dad taught me how to ride. I used training wheels at first, but before long, they were off and I was out of the apartment complex where we lived.

Not long after the training wheels came off, I took a bad spill. I was headed downhill, and by the time I got to the bottom, I was going too fast to stop. I hit a curb, and my bike and I landed (separately) in a neighbor's yard. I was hurt and also embarrassed, not only at having fallen, but in crying over it after the fact.

I rarely rode the bike after that.

That's the thing about life. Sometimes we fall, and we hit the ground so hard, it knocks the wind right out of us. Sometimes, the scrapes and cuts sting so much, we can't hold back the tears. Sometimes, we scar, and are then constantly reminded of how much the fall hurt.

The thing is, we have to pick ourselves back up; we can't let the fall decide whether we ride again. We have to remind ourselves that we're in charge. Maybe we can't control whether we fall (accidents do happen, afterall) but we most certainly can control how we react when we do.

It's ok to fail, as long as we don't stop trying. It's also ok to ask for help when we need it. There are all kinds of training wheels in life - such as family and friends - that we can lean on when we're having trouble finding our balance.

Recently, I decided to try and learn how to ride again. Frankly, my decision was largely based on that fact that someone with whom I enjoy spending time likes to bike - making it something we can do together. So, I went out on Saturday and I bought a bike. Nothing fancy, but after a week of research and testing various sizes and styles, I came across one that seemed to fit.

I thought about training wheels. At first, I felt embarrassed, and thought I'd be too self-concious to use them. Then I thought, "Wait, I want to do this, and it needs to be fun so that I stick with it. So what if it looks out of place? The important thing is I'm comfortable and I'm able to enjoy myself, without worrying."

I couldn't get the training wheels right away, though, so I had a choice: I could wait for my training wheels, or I could give it a try without them. By Saturday evening, I was riding around a (different) apartment complex. I wasn't quick, and I wasn't graceful, and I was a little nervous - but I had fun. I proved to myself that I could do it.

Isn't that what training wheels are for? To boost our confidence until we can find it ourselves? So maybe sometimes, the training wheel we need is the motivation to try something new and exciting. Maybe knowing we might fall, but having the courage to try anyway, is the balance we're all looking for.

Friday, June 11, 2010

The (E)X Factor

Relationships can be rewarding and fulfilling. It's wonderful to find someone you can trust and laugh with. Someone who will be there.

So, it makes sense that breakups bite.

I'm not talking about the being single part; that's something you get used to. It's a change, and change can be difficult. But you work through it, and eventually, you move on.

I'm talking about the decision to, and the actual, break up. Depending on the situation, a lot might get {thrown, yelled} said. Maybe you don't mean all of it; maybe you do. Either way - it's out there, and you can't take it back.

But can you forgive? Do you even want to?

In general, people seem to agree that your ex is your ex for a reason; if you could still get along, you'd probably still be in a relationship. [One exception: If there are children involved; then you're friendly for their sake, but nothing more.]

I don't think it's that clear cut. People come into our lives for a reason. Some are meant to stay for a certain amount of time; others, forever. So, what do you do if the person you're breaking up with is meant to be around forever - just not in a romantic way?

You start by forgiving; first him, then yourself. It's part of moving on. If you're meant to be friends, you will be. Maybe you won't be best friends, or each other's first call anymore. Or maybe you will.

Whatever happens, the point is to let the relationship evolve on its own, and not try to make it fit a mold that someone else thinks is "right."

Thursday, June 10, 2010

I Got This

I have joked (ok, semi-joked) over the years about how some of my favorite family traditions are arguing, gossip, secrets, etc. Well, our eating out together is no different. The times, places and occasions might change, but the one tradition we faithfully observe is the awkward moment we all share when the bill arrives.

The players can vary by outing, but the core players are usually my father, my cousin, her husband, and me. We can easily agree on when and where to eat. Sometimes, we even choose similar menu items. But when the bill comes, we're split into two separate camps.

My father and I are of the opinion that you tip well when deserved, and semi-well otherwise; but you always tip as though you might want to visit the restaurant again. In our minds, this means the tip hovers around 20% of the total bill.

Dad and I also think that we should just split the entire bill between the adults who are paying. We don't quibble over things like non-paying kids at the table, heavy bar bills, etc. [Note: Neither my dad nor I drink and neither of us brings non-payors to these events, so if we're not complaining, no one else should be, either.]

My cousin believes the bill should be analyzed and dissected as follows: If her step-children are there, her husband should put in just enough to cover their actual bill. Then she thinks we should split the rest equally - including her bar bill. Our total should include a tip that hovers around the 15% mark. This leaves my dad and me to compensate for the fact that the kids' meals weren't included in the calculation of the tip. Her husband goes along with her, after insisting he be the one to review the bill. [Also worth noting: He has, more than once, miscalcuated the tip and even the total. My dad has a bachelors degree in math and can do the whole thing in his head faster (and more accurately) than I can on my phone's tip calculator.]

I've tried different tactics; If the bill is handed to me, I do the calculation. This earns me the evil eye from my cousin, but she won't dare bring it up in front of my father. If I can, I offer to pay with my credit card, which allows me to control the tip, no matter who does the figuring. I've even gone back to the table after the fact to leave extra money.

But in the end, there's not much I can do. We don't choose our family - we get them, flaws and all. So, I grin and bear it; and I complain here. Thanks for listening.