‘Grumpy Coupons’ and good advice

“OK, lean down and just turn your face from side to side — yeah, like that, only don’t drool the toothpaste so much,” my sister said.

I was following her advice on how to brush my teeth the night after my recent shoulder surgery. She’s good, she’s really good. It was working surprisingly well.

I’m right-handed, as many people are, and I’d never even considered using my left hand to brush my teeth or perform many basic necessities.

But there we were, my right arm — my camera arm — was totally numb and royally trussed up, so there was nothing for it but to give the toothbrush a go, southpaw style.

If our 6-foot 2-inch baby brother had been here instead of at home in Phoenix, he’d have laughed his socks off. He is left-handed.

Which reminds me of the time he, too, gave me some excellent advice.

I was going through a heartbreaking divorce. Is there any other kind? After a particularly difficult emotional exchange one weekend, I broke down crying my eyes out. I called my brother and he tried to cheer me up with all the metaphysical reassurances that we’d been raised with, reminding me how Spirit always puts us exactly where we are meant to be and everything ultimately does work out for the highest good of all concerned.

“Oh, I don’t give a damn   about HIS highest good right now!” I blubbered into the phone. “I wish, I wish, I wish I could go to Mexico and hire someone from the Mexican mafia to go beat him up!”

Not my finest moment.

“Oh Ron, you don’t have to go all the way to Mexico to find someone to beat up your almost-ex-husband,” my brother laughed. “I’m pretty sure we could find someone in Fresno.”

I busted up laughing, too.

God bless my family. Their amazingly good humor has saved our collective sanity on many occasions.

And so has the excellent advice we have given one another over the years. I’ll bet you can say the same yourself.

For instance, take the time my daughter gave me some incredibly wise counsel. That kid, she was a light beam growing up and she’s even more remarkable now.

“Mom, did you have a really bad day at work?” she asked me over dinner and homework, which we always conducted simultaneously when she was in high school and working to maintain her 4.0-plus GPA. “Or did I do something to upset you? Because you know how humans are — we think things are about us even when they aren’t. And tonight, you’re being a stressed-out pain!”

I stopped in my tracks, somewhere over by the kitchen sink.

I really loved my job, my career. But yes, some days were highly stressful — just a part of life. I’d probably gotten yelled at by the executive office because a political appointee didn’t like the way her hair looked in a corporate photo shoot I’d done. Who remembers?

I tried not to bring that stuff home and I knew my daughter was under a lot of pressure herself, working hard through the marathon that is the college-prep track of high school.

Busted. Yeah, she had me, grouchy mom. And she didn’t deserve it.

“Listen mom,” she said, looking up from her essay. “The thing is, you’re so nice and sweet all the time. When you get stressed out, you’re not YOU and it’s awful. I have my bad days, too. So how about this for an idea.”

She laid out her advice as follows, and I share it now because I have, literally, saved a bunch of parent-kid relationships by telling them what my genius daughter invented that night, on the spot.

“Mom, let’s call this the ‘Grumpy Coupons’ plan,” she said. “Each day, we both have a maximum of two grumpy coupons we can use. If I’m acting mad or stressed out, you can ask me if I’m upset at you or if it’s not about you and I just need to use a grumpy coupon. Basically, you and I never fight, so chances are good that I will say yes, I just need to use a coupon and you can let it go. I’ll get over it soon enough. You can do the same, use a grumpy coupon if you need it. I’ll stop worrying that you’re mad at me — for nothing, of course — and it will save wear and tear on us.”

Of course. Of course she is perfect and she was right.

The rules, as she explained them, were:

Two grumpy coupons allowed per person, per day. Obviously, for us, it would have to be a majorly bad day for either of us to need them both! But don’t feel bad if you need “all two” of them.

No carryover of coupons. They expire at midnight.

A maximum of 14 grumpy coupons is allowed per week, per person, and this is with the understanding that it would take a bad week of epic proportions to get anywhere near those upper limits of grumpiness.

So even if you never argue with your kids, I highly recommend this fun system for family peace.

We have used her grumpy coupons idea ever since and with beautiful, harmonious results. Take my advice. You can thank me later.

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