Sunday, September 27, 2009

To Spank or Not To Spank

Here we have a very controversial question, and I don't really understand why. Arizona is right now trying to pass a law to make it illegal to spank your child, which I think is utterly ridiculous. I grew up in a time when spanking was the norm, and I don't see a damn thing wrong with it unless you take it too far! I was one of those hard headed kids. Send me to my room? Everything I own is in there! Ground me? Please. Put me in a corner? Ha! Break out a spanking? Instantaneous and utter respect. I didn't turn out all that bad, either.

I belong to the school that says your rear end, heinie, derriere, butt, whatever you choose to call it, is padded for the express purpose of giving your parents a spot for the application of the palm of their hands. You do not own that particular portion of your anatomical real estate until you move out of the house. Period.

Look, I will be the first one to admit that if I didn't receive a spanking on a particular day, I was either sick, or I was not home. I will also be the first to admit that there are children out there that will never need to be spanked. Those children are devastated by the very idea of displeasing their parents, and a simple talking-to is enough. But a child like me?? Have you ever seen "Bill Cosby: Himself"? His description of his five children as they were growing up was like listening to a recitation of the faults of myself and my brother, and, honestly, every other kid in our neighborhood. All of us got spanked regularly, both publicly and privately, and I can't think of a single one of us that didn't turn out well.

There is a huge difference between spanking your child and beating your child, okay, people? And yes, sometimes a spanking has been called a beating, i.e., "If you don't stop that right now, I am going to beat your behind." A spanking involves the flat of your hand being applied noisily to the padding of your child's hind end, maybe once, maybe several times, depending upon the infraction. That's really it. You never close your fist, you never punch or kick, you don't use a baseball bat or some other ridiculous item capable of inflicting true harm.

Now, you've got all these people nowadays who call CPS on a dime. It happened to us at a WalMart, when my daughter took it into her head to misbehave and really put on a show when her father tried to talk to her. He swatted her butt once and didn't even connect, and this strange woman walked up to us and informed us that she couldn't believe what she had just seen and was a mandatory reporter and was calling CPS to turn us in. I couldn't believe what I had just heard! People: unless you see a clear-cut case of child abuse, do everyone a favor and mind your own damn business. If you see a father twisting his child's arms behind his back, call CPS by all means. If you see a mother beating her child with a bat, feel free to call whom you will! But when you see a parent trying to discipline his or her child, please make the common sense distinction between a swat to the rear and actual child abuse. There are children out there who really do need the help of CPS, and if you are calling because someone spanked their kid, there's another kid out there who needed someone to come save him that is slipping through the cracks because another idiot got involved in someone else's business and tied up the CPS workers with stupidity. Save the CPS calls for the kids who really need help, not the ones who just want their own way and get mad because their parents had the audacity to be parents.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Six years old

That would be my alpha dog, Smoky, who, along with her sister, Bandit, turned six on the 29th of this month. She has been with me since she was seven weeks old, and I don't know what I would do without her!

Smoky is my reincarnation dog. I say that because she is actually Smoky II. She didn't get that name because I gave it to her, but because she chose it.

Let me explain, and if I sound crazy, well, so be it: Smoky I was born in my bedroom back in May 1999. She was the runt of the litter, and the feistiest little thing you ever saw. She would stand her ground and face down the bigger dogs in my house without batting an eye. Just adorable.

One night, I woke up to a keening sound. I turned on the light, and there she was, curled in fetal position up the wall. I mean that her head was on the floor, her hind end up the wall. In her mouth was the electrical cord to my stereo, which was still plugged in. I was terrified when I yanked the plug out of the wall, but she was none the worse for wear. But she was no longer feisty; she became the shyest member of the litter, fearing even the cats. Still, she became my velcro dog. She was the only one who could be walked off-leash, because she would never leave my side. I loved and adored her; who wouldn't?

Four years later, a Chihuahua started a fight with her and her brother Bandit, which resulted in the Chihuahua's death. Animal control was brought in, and the owners demanded the death of my dogs. Two towns away, right after Smoky I and Bandit I were put to sleep, another litter of pups were being born. Seven weeks later, we saw a woman at the convenience store with an adorable puppy, and my other half asked where she had gotten it. We got the number and address of the woman who had bred the puppy, and called. She said she had three pups left. When we arrived at her house, she had two, which we took as an omen that we were meant to have these two dogs. They were christened Lakota and Bandit.

Right from the start, Lakota was a fat, feisty puppy, while Bandit was fat and quiet. Lakota saw the world as a mountain meant to be conquered, and literally climbed over every obstacle. Sure, going around might be easier, but it wasn't as much fun!

As time went on, the pups slowly switched personalities, with Lakota becoming the calm, quiet one, and Bandit becoming hyper and playful. Lakota looked just like Smoky I, except for the fact that it appeared she would be a bigger dog in adulthood, and her coat was a deep, dark chocolate, whereas Smoky I had been jet black. But she had Smoky's habits and ways, and I was beginning to be convinced of her reincarnation when we went to visit my parents and left the pups with friends. My friend's husband called us to let us know that Lakota had been found the night before, curled up in fetal position against the wall, the radio cord in her mouth and chewed. It was eerie.

A little after we got back from the parental visit, Lakota stopped answering to her name altogether. She just flat out ignored it. After about a week, Troy suggested that I try calling her Smoky. I thought that it was a bad idea, but I did it, and she responded on the first try. It has been the only name she will respond to since, so I have no choice but to believe in reincarnation. Troy simply said that there was so much love between the two of us that she couldn't bear to leave me behind. I can't argue with that. It has been five years and eight months since she stopped responding to anything but Smoky. She is still my velcro dog. She is the only one who will sleep in our bed at night, all night. The others will visit, but they won't stay. She is the only one who will be there all night long. Her favorite place, like Smoky I, is right between the two humans in the bed!

When I was pregnant with my first child, she knew it long before I did. If she wanted attention, she used to come and stand with her forepaws on my stomach, but from the second she realized I was pregnant, she would instead distribute her weight by lying down across my stomach, belly to belly. And when my daughter was born, she would be frantic if we took the baby out of the house and out of her sight. She would walk by the baby in her swing, stop the swing long enough to thoroughly clean the baby's cheeks, and wander off on her way. She has been the most loving, patient dog I have ever met in my life, even now when that same daughter is now four and the bane of her existence on some days! I love you, Smoky Bear, and I'm so glad you came back for me!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Some Things Should Never Have to Become Mainstream

When you live in the southwest, it is inevitable that you are going to come into contact with country music. Good or bad, it is what it is, and you will occasionally find that if you listen to the lyrics, whether or not you like country, many of the songs have messages to pass along. Some are the stereotypical "My woman/man left me yesterday, I lost my job, and my dawg ran away", but others have inspirational messages, and still others have sad-but-necessary messages. That's the case of "Alyssa Lies":

My little girl met a new friend just the other day
On the playground at school
Between the tires and the swings
But she came home with tear-filled eyes
And she said to me "Daddy, Alyssa lies."

Well, I just brushed it off at first
'Cause I didn't know how much my little girl had been hurt
Or the things she had seen
I wasn't ready when I said you can tell me
And she said

"Alyssa lies to the classroom
Alyssa lies every day at school
Alyssa lies to the teacher
As she tries
To cover every bruise"

The song goes on, telling the story of how his little girl prays for Alyssa, and he takes her to school, intending to report what his daughter has seen, only to find out that Alyssa is dead, and how his daughter wants to know why this happened.

I listened to the song and its lyrics, and tears just poured down my face. Oh, I know it's a fictional song, at least I hope it is, but I know there are little girls and boys out there in Alyssa's situation that fall through the system's cracks every day. It breaks my heart to know that the problem is so prevalent that it would become the subject of a song that receives so much airtime on the country stations. It saddens me to know that there are women out there who would give anything to have children and can't, for whatever reason, and there are others who can carry a child to term and have no compunction about beating, selling, pimping, drugging, killing that child.

Every time I hear a news story about parents who killed their children, I wonder how it is that they can do it? How can you carry a child for 40 weeks, right under your heart, feel that child move in your stomach, hear that child's heartbeat, give birth to that child, and turn around and kill it? How???

I will not lie: there are times when my daughter drives me absolutely insane. But hurt her? Deliberately? Not a chance in hell. Holler and yell, certainly. Put her in one room and myself in another, definitely. Send her to a friend's house to play so I can have some time to myself, oh yeah. But never hurt her.

I've tried to put myself in the place of those women who have killed their own children, tried to understand what made them do it, but it's impossible for me. My mind just isn't that dark. It's easier for me to understand the terror that their children must have felt.

I can't remember the exact quote, but to paraphrase it, " 'Mother' means 'God' in the eyes of a child." Children look to their parents for protection, guidance, and love. I can't wrap my brain around the concept of fearing for my life when looking at my parents. I can't wrap my brain around the concept of my daughter fearing for her life when looking at me. I can't sympathize or empathize with those parents that harm their kids. They make me want to vomit. Hell, they make me want to be, just for a moment, the type of person who could be a vigilante. It comforts me a bit to know that they won't last long in prison.

How has child abuse become such a huge problem? Is it simply that it has always been this big, but in years past we didn't have the widespread media and communication that we have now, and thus did not see it, or has it really grown so much? Why is it so prevalent now? What can we do to reverse the trend? Children are innocent. There isn't one of them that asked to be here, not one that has a choice in who its parents are. It's our job to take care of them, to love them, to raise them right, to discipline without breaking them, so that when it's their turn to become parents, they can do the same for their own children. Why are so many parents doing exactly the opposite?

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Strongest Woman

The strongest woman...and the scariest!...that I ever knew was my mother, Ora Holder. If I can be half the woman she was, I would be content in my life.

Everything Mom did, she did with elegance and class, even up to and including cussing you out for something you did. I know my friends grew up fearing my mother in the same way one fears whatever god they believe in! I certainly did!

Mom was born on September 21, 1933, to parents that had immigrated to New York from the island of Trinidad. She grew up in Harlem back in its heyday, and met our dad when she went to Hunter College. I used to tease Dad about the lack of romance in his soul: he proposed to her over the phone. No getting down on one knee for him! But she accepted anyway, and they were married on February 23, 1957. They built the house we grew up in back in the sixties, in Westbury, Long Island, New York. She worked as a librarian at the Westbury Public Library until they adopted me, and then my brother a few years later. Then she stayed home with us until I was twelve, and Seth was ten. She went back to the library she loved, but made sure to work only part time right up until she retired years later. She wanted to be home when we got out of school, which was something she was always very involved in. She was class mother more times than I can either count or remember throughout elementary school, for both of us. She went to every event we ever took part in, from Little League and Girl Scouts on. I can't remember anything she ever missed, and she never forgot anyone, either. She might not remember the face of the person I mentioned to her, but she always remembered the name and where she knew them from, even years later. She could even remember the names of the kids I had gone to elementary school with, which was almost eerie. And always asked about the kids that had spent the most time in her house or on her phone. She remembered them all, no matter how long it had been since I had seen so-and-so, and we would often have conversations that began with "Guess who I heard from today?"

Mom was an awesome woman. She could...and often did...wear a caftan to entertain, and it always looked elegant rather than frumpy on her. And Mom never just entertained, she ENTERTAINED. She had different sets of dishes for different types of dinner parties, and she never catered, she always cooked everything herself, even if it meant spending the entire day in the kitchen. No one ever left her table hungry. When finally the reins of Christmas dinner passed to me, I was frantic. Everything had to be perfect, because Mom was coming to my house for dinner! I started the turkey at five in the morning...and I am NOT a morning person...and I can barely remember what else I cooked, there was so much food! And I was so proud when Mom raved about everything, especially her nearly-seven-month-old first grandchild, who she was seeing in the flesh for the first time.

That Christmas of 2005 was one of the hardest ones for me ever to get through with a smile. I knew, the second I saw her, that it was the last Christmas we would ever spend together. Mom had Type II diabetes, and had been on dialysis for years at that point, and that year confided to me that she had had triple bypass surgery when I was having my daughter. It was so hard to see how much she had aged over the previous two years, to see her permanently attached to an oxygen tank, to realize that this woman, who had always had an iron core, could barely walk up the front steps to my house even with assistance. But she never seemed to let it get to her.

I had told her she couldn't leave me. I so was not ready for it. You live your life knowing, at the back of your mind, that if life goes the way it's supposed to, you are going to outlive your parents. But no matter what your mind tells you is logical, you are never, ever ready for it.

It was my other half who finally sat me down and made me face what I had to do. He told me, "You have to tell her that it's okay for her to go. It's not fair for you to hold her here when it's time for her. Even if you're lying, you have to tell her." I didn't want to hear it. I knew he was right, but I didn't want to listen. It was several months before I was finally able to lie convincingly and tell her that I was okay with it.

Mom made it to my place one more time, for her granddaughter's first birthday in June. She was so frail that on both occasions she visited, she could never stay for more than three hours, so we were making plans to take our daughter for a visit to their house so Mom could spend more time with the grandchild she had been asking for for years. We were going to go in August. I thought, well, Mom was just here in June, and traveling with a baby is difficult at best, and we have to make arrangements for the dogs and the cat while we're gone...and Mom sounds much stronger on the phone...we'll go in August.

But in mid-July, 2006, Mom went into the hospital for the last time. We made the fastest arrangements for the animals that we could, and jumped into the car the next morning for the six hour trek to California, where Mom and Dad had moved into a Sun City in 1998. We missed visiting hours that night, so Dad enjoyed his time with the little one, and we went to the hospital the next day.

Mom was in ICU. She had left a "no intubate" order, so she was on forced air and every other piece of life support equipment I'd ever heard of. She was unresponsive, but I just thought she was asleep. Comatose never even occurred to me; I don't know why. Denial, I guess, especially since it was also in my mind that if she saw her granddaughter, she'd snap right out of it and all would be well. She lived for my daughter, after all. She adored her, kissed her picture goodnight every night, and called long distance every other day to hear what her grandchild had done that day. Why shouldn't it work? Bring in the child, and everything would instantly go back to normal.

But the doctor came in and smashed that illusion immediately. He told us that Mom would never be able to get off of the machines again, that she was essentially already gone, and that we had to make a decision. This is not a decision anyone should ever have to make; I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy. But Dad looked at me and asked what I thought, and I was honest: Mom wouldn't want this. Not this. And he agreed.

Troy brought in our daughter, so he and she could say their goodbyes, not that she understood what was going on. Then Dad said his, and I said mine. I told her that she had been the best mother in the world, that I couldn't have had a better one, and that I loved her to no end, and asked her if she heard me. She made a sound then, the only sound she had made since we had been there, so I can only assume...hope...that she did. It was July 21,2006. A bright, sunny, summer day, and the world as I knew it was ending. It should have been raining. Mom was two months shy of her 73rd birthday, and seven months shy of their 50th wedding anniversary.

It has been three years since then, and I still catch myself saying "I've got to call Mom and tell her...oh. Yeah." But I know that my mother, social butterfly that she was, is having a grand old time where she is now, and I know that she visits her granddaughter often. Every now and again, my daughter will stop whatever she's doing and announce "Nana!" She has done this ever since Mom died. And I just tell her, "Tell Nana hello for me, and tell her I love her." Children see better than we do, and I hope that she never outgrows that ability. I will certainly never be the one to tell her that she doesn't see whatever she sees. Just because I can't see Mom doesn't mean she isn't there. Maybe the fact that I can't see her is meant to tell me that I don't need to, but our daughter does. I don't know. But I will miss her for the rest of my life. Rest in peace, Mommy. We love you.

Orabelle Stephanie Holder September 21, 1933 - July 21, 2006

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

House Beautiful...Sort Of!

I have a subscription to House Beautiful. I am endlessly fascinated with design shows and whatnot, and my favorite channel is HGTV. I like their shows because they actually stay within a fairly reasonable budget to make a house or room look great. House Beautiful, by contrast, is utterly ridiculous and amuses me to no end. Yes, sometimes I get some ideas from reading it, but overall, in a world where most people are shopping at Wal Mart, Target, and Ikea, the prices I see in HB are enough to make you choke!

Couple of cases in point from the July 2009 issue: as you flip through the magazine, you will come across a stool with hundreds of balloons tied all over it. Not blown up, of course, just stretched all over the place and tied to each other to keep them in place on the stool. You are never told what the stool itself is made from. The whole thing is absolutely hideous, and sells for $215. Are they serious?? It looks like an idea my preschooler had, and I can rest assured she would have done a better job for less money!

Further on, they do a feature on wastebaskets. Fifty of them. I'm not talking about kitchen garbage cans, I'm talking about the ones that you park next to an office desk or something like that. You never put what I call real garbage in these things. The most these will ever hold is paper, paper clips, and staples, maybe a dead pen or two. Two in particular just about made me swallow my tongue. One is painted to look like a Tole drum, whatever that is, and its cost is $495. No, that is not four dollars and ninety five cents!

The other is solid brass and designed to look like a big tote shopping bag from the departments store, and priced at a whopping $660. They're wastebaskets, for crying out loud. Those prices are higher than my mortgage payment!

And finally, the last amusing feature was on beanbag chairs. Yes, beanbag chairs, only now they've been revamped to be more modern and appeal to the rich with money to throw away. Let's just say they ranged in price from $80 to...drum roll...$2,190! Yes, there were at least two, and possibly three, that broke the $1000 mark. Scary stuff!

I gotta say, even if I had that kind of money, I don't think I'd spend it that way! Especially with kids, who draw on everything or worse. I think I would still have a decent set of furniture, nice decor and what-have-you, but I'd keep the rest of it for vacations, clothes, and toys for my kids that wouldn't give me a heart attack when they got broken!

Cooling Off

This is a question I've posted many times in many places, and to which I've never gotten an answer. I probably won't now, either!

I mentioned earlier...I think...that I live in Arizona. Southern Arizona, at that. This is an area that is hot pretty much nine months out of the year. Compared to the rest of the country, there is almost no rainfall. Water shortages are the norm here. Drought is also normal. That being said, the most popular method of cooling a home in this state is the evaporative, or swamp, cooler. For those not in the know, this is a box with pads on four sides with a pump constantly pumping water to the pads to saturate them. Air is sucked in through those wet pads and expelled into your house. This also means that everything in your house is slightly dampened by all the moisture in the air.

Now, when you start getting temperatures of 85 or better in late March, early April, the coolers start running. By the time "actual" summer arrives, the coolers are on twenty four hours a day, and will remain that way until November or December. Now remember, these pads are being constantly saturated with water. Imagine how much water goes through one cooler per year, then multiply that by at least one million! This, in a chronically water-short state! Yes, using swamp coolers is easier on your electric bill than air conditioning, but in the long run, what is really more expensive?

It gets better: the hottest months of the year, naturally, are July and August, which make up Arizona's "monsoon" season. What this means is that for these two months, the coolers are essentially useless, since they work by putting moisture back into the air. But since the humidity is up due to nearly daily rain, the coolers do nothing.

So now, after all of this, can someone tell me why these damn things are so popular?!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Death of an Icon

Michael Jackson has passed on, at the age of 50. People the world over are lamenting this, but while I grieve for his family, I cannot honestly say that I grieve for him. Yes, he made wonderful music, music that I grew up listening to, just like so many other singers that have passed on. But I also remember having a cousin who, when I was a child, worked at his record label as an executive, and vividly remember her telling the family that he had always made her very uncomfortable when she worked with him. I never forgot that, though at the time I didn't understand it. Years later, though, as his obsession with plastic surgery became obvious, and little by little other alleged acts became media fodder, I found myself understanding her statement more and more. He made me uncomfortable. I don't know what is true and what isn't. I know what one side said, and the other side said. I know that the truth is probably somewhere in between, and will never be known by anyone but the parties directly involved, and whatever deity they believe in.

I remember when Luther Vandross passed. That man, I mourned. That man, I still mourn, every time I hear one of his songs. I don't recall ever seeing anything truly negative about him in the media. Sure, we all, at one time or another, made fun of his weight, calling him "The Kentucky Fried Chicken Eater" back in the day, because he did their commercials, but true negativity, especially on the same scope as Mr. Jackson? Not to my knowledge.

I don't know, really, what to feel about Michael's passing, because I don't know, really, if he was or wasn't the monster the media painted. And that's the best eulogy I can give him: to neither condemn nor to mourn. He knows what he did or did not do, and so does the HNIC wherever he went.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

While We Are On The Subject...

Now it's the teenagers' turn, and their parents. I remember being a teenager. It wasn't that damn long ago, and I am not yet senile. I knew everything. I also knew that if I spread my legs for one of the little boys I went to school with, I was going to be on my own if I got pregnant. My mother made very certain I knew that. And the prospect scared the hell out of me, so my legs stayed closed. I didn't have any serious boyfriends until senior year, because if I wasn't giving it up, the boys weren't interested. Well, you know what? There are worse fates out there than not having a boyfriend. Girls, the boy that wants to get it on with you today is the same boy who will tell you he LOOOOOOOVES you, and turn around as soon as he pulls out and say it to some other girl. You'll be lucky if he waits till tomorrow. At this age, they only want one thing. Period. Keep your damn legs closed. You don't need to have sex. You need to get your education, so that if at some later point in your life after you have gotten that education, you decide you want to be a single mother, you won't need to have a man, and you also won't need to get on welfare. Have some pride in yourself. So your little friends are all knocking the boots with somebody, and you aren't? What a shame. And think how relieved you will be when you don't have to go home and explain to your mother and father that you're pregnant, and the boy that got you that way either doesn't want anything to do with it, or has three other girls also pregnant, or both.

Think about your life. How can you know anything about raising a child to be a responsible adult when you don't know how to be one? A baby isn't something you can just stick in a corner and forget about while you go out and party. Party time ends when the baby arrives, if not sooner. The next twenty years of your life do not belong to you, they belong to that child. That is your job. Your primary job. If you are single and alone, it is not your only job, but it is your most important one. There are no days off. No vacation days. It doesn't matter if you're sick, or you're tired, or just don't want to be bothered. That child still needs to be fed, clothed, changed, bathed. Your entire life revolves around that child. Every dime in your pocket belongs to that child before it belongs to you. And the things that baby needs are not cheap, oh, no, not by a long shot! If you lack an education, more than likely the cost of a playpen alone is most of one week's salary. Diapers, which you will spend a fortune on, will probably run you about $40/month...if you have one child. Do you really think you're ready for the responsibility? Oh, sure, I'm certain there are some girls out there who are naturally maternal and think they're ready for the responsibility. Are you one of them?

Let's not forget the other risks you run in spreading your legs. One of the lightest risks is your loss of a decent reputation. Because if you think the boy that was just between your legs isn't telling his buddies, you've got another think coming. Everyone in your school will know within twenty-four hours or less. If you think that boy thinks better of you or respects you because you let him sleep with you, you've got another think coming. I guarantee, though, he'll respect the girl that told him no.

And then, of course, there's the risk of disease. We can't forget that. There is no cure for AIDS, or syphilis, or herpes. That's baggage you carry with you for life, which, in the case of AIDS, will be fairly short. Longer now than it used to be, but still shorter than it should be. And your child is at risk of getting those diseases too. Do you want to be responsible for ruining your child's life before it's even begun?

Keep your legs closed. Teenage sex is a luxury you can't afford. Always remember the very old saying: "Don't write checks your behind can't cash".

And parents: it is our job to teach our children to keep their legs closed. Not just the girls, but the boys too. Teach them to channel that energy into their studies or some other outlet. It's not for the school and the teachers to do. If you were a teenaged parent, it is for you to pass along how difficult it was for you. Our job is to teach our children to be better than we were. To be more successful--or as successful. To teach them so that they can be better parents themselves. Don't sit there and blame the music they listen to or the television they're watching. You are the ultimate yardstick by which they will measure themselves. Take responsibility for them. If they hate you for it now--and I know I wasn't too fond of my parents as a teenager--they will love you for it later.

MTV Has Lost Its Collective Mind

A friend of mine just told me she saw part of an MTV reality show called "16 and Pregnant". I begged her to tell me she wasn't serious, but unfortunately she was. How can they do this? Is there no one on staff at MTV with children of their own? There is no doubt in my mind that this little girl is keeping this baby because it gets her her fifteen minutes of fame.

This is disgusting by any standards. We have enough teenage pregnancy in this country without glorifying it. Another welfare case on the way. Does this child have any idea whatsoever what she is doing to her own life, much less the life of the child yet to be born? And I would truly give a lot to know what was in the minds of the MTV execs when they picked up this abomination. I can see some of it now. Jackass #1 picks up the phone and calls Jackass #2: "We've got a live one! Photogenic, sixteen, and pregnant! We can ride this pony all the way to the finish line if we can convince her to keep the baby and do a reality show."

Jackass #2 to Jackass #1: "You've just been promoted. What a great idea for a show! Sixteen year old spreads her legs and gets herself pregnant. This is great. This will trump that new drama about the same subject on that other channel, because this one will be real."

And the young female exec, married with two kids of her own, who was the lone voice of dissension, is now clearing out her desk to make way for Jackass #1. And people will watch this show, I guarantee it, which will justify all to the powers that be.

Let me tell you something, MTV: you have sunk further than I would have believed possible. The disgust and contempt I feel for you right now is beyond what mere words can convey. There are women out there who love children, who truly want to be mothers, and can't have them for whatever reason, and a program like this is a slap in the face to every one of them. What you have produced is a travesty. What you have done makes me want to vomit. There is no way that MTV will ever appear on a television screen in my house ever again. What kind of woman, especially one with a daughter of her own, wants that trash viewed by that daughter? Most of us are trying to convince our daughters that sex is something they should reserve for the men they are going to marry. Granted, that may be expecting too much in this day and age, but I will be damned before I encourage my daughter to watch the filth in your programming.

Can I Call Do-Over?

No ranting now. No energy. This has been one of those days. I'm a New Yorker, yeah, but I'm a New Yorker who lives in southern Arizona, which means that at this time of year, the heat saps all energy out of me. Now add in 9 weeks of pregnancy, and you have even less energy than usual.

It was already well into the eighties at eight o'clock this morning; by ten it was in the 90s. The air conditioner had gone on at nine. I don't play. The ridiculous excuse of a cooling system for the rest of the house, the evaporative cooler, has been on continuously since late April. It probably won't be shut off again until November.

No, you never get used to summer in Arizona. I've been here over thirteen years, and I have yet to get used to it.

Like I said, one of those days. The mini-me, my daughter, stayed up until 3 am and wouldn't allow anyone else to sleep either, which plays a large part in the bitchiness of her mother later, especially when the same child was bright eyed and bushy tailed at 7 am, and had no interest in her mother's desire to actually sleep. So I dragged myself up and got her breakfast, and sat her down at the table, while Troy let the dogs back into the house, something I don't generally do until she's done with breakfast. She is the source of all bonus food the dogs receive, and they know it. So they have a tendency to hover around the table, willing her to drop something, which irritates me to no end. You can call them off, but you can't stop them from initiating the Jedi mind trick, not really.

Well, Troy was trying to get out the door to go take a test, and he's roaring through the house because his clothes are in the dryer and he can't make himself breakfast because the kitchen is a mess. Mind you, I had been doing dishes until one am, while he watched a horror movie. So yeah, I hadn't finished with the pots and pans yet. Sue me. The kitchen never seems to ever be fully done, because as soon as I finish the last pot, someone comes in with another dish. It never fails. On a good day, if I'm fast enough, I will get to see the kitchen totally clean, nothing in the sinks, for about an hour before food is once again demanded by some member of my household. I will be honest: dishes are not now, nor have ever been, high on my list of favorite jobs. I would rather vacuum or do laundry. I like to cook, but I don't like the cleanup. I have known one person in my entire life who actually liked doing the dishes. When she lived with me, we cooked constantly, because the more dirty dishes there were, the happier she was.

But I digress. While Troy is complaining about his clothes and the state of the kitchen, one of the Labrador sisters, Bandit, decided to suck down every drop of water in the dog bowl as fast as she could, which resulted, of course, in her tossing her cookies all over the living room. Thank all benevolent gods she was on tile. But because Troy was on his way out the door, that meant that cleaning the mess fell to me, the woman who has all day morning sickness. So I am attempting to clean it while also trying not to add to it, while at the same time I need to convince my four year old daughter that, while I appreciate the gesture, I would really rather she not help with the cleanup process.

Finally, he is out the door and the mess is cleaned up. The dogs are outdoors again to make sure that all the puking is done with. And I am already exhausted, and it is only ten thirty in the morning.

Now, there are those who will read this and say that I am man-bashing, but I assure you this is not the case. I love Troy. But I learned something when we separated once: housework was cut down by two thirds for the entire time he was gone. There was no one tracking dirt through the house. No one getting a new cup for every drink he took. I didn't have to cook three times a day. My daughter was perfectly happy with cereal for breakfast and sandwiches for lunch, as opposed to a four course meal. I swear, even the dogs shed less.

You might ask why it is I don't have Troy help me in the kitchen. Let me tell you why: he never gets the dishes clean, so I wind up having to redo them anyway. And he tosses clean and dirty into a big pile, which doubles the work, because now the clean stuff has to be redone anyway. He is also not allowed to do any laundry but his own, because he does not believe in separating whites from colors. Of course, nothing in this desert remains white for long anyway, but I prefer to give it at least a fighting chance!

My dad, two years ago, brought me a white comforter for my bed. I had a two year old and live in the desert. The comforter has not been white in nearly two years, no matter how often I bleach it. It's more of a grey-brown color now. It's clean, but it ain't white! I'm thinking about tossing it in the washer with some jewel-toned fabric dye. It sure couldn't hurt.

Anyway, the day has proceeded through several arguments with my daughter over what she would and would not do. I won, but it was exhausting. I was a latecomer to motherhood. I was 37 when she was born, and had despaired of ever having a child, since there were two miscarriages before her. It's very hard for me to discipline her. I also now finally understand what my parents meant when they would say "This hurts me more than it hurts you". It breaks my heart to make her cry. But I will be damned if my four year old is going to set the terms of her life in my house.

Normally, she is a good kid. More than that, she's a fantastic kid. Yes, I'm biased, I know, but she really is. When I was a kid, if a day went by that I didn't receive a spanking for something, I was either not at home, or I was sick. In comparison, her spankings average out to about once a week, generally for doing something that could get her hurt. But since learning that she is going to be a big sister, she seems to have lost her little mind, and it hasn't developed enough that she can afford to lose any of it yet. So I'd like to call do-over on this day, and see if we can't get it right the second time around!

If I Can Make It There, I Can Make It Anywhere...

I miss New York. So many people only know what they see on tv about New York, and generally that's the grime, crime, and slime. And there is that aspect of it, but that aspect exists in any big city. Or they've heard about the food. Which is true. I'm sorry, Pizza Hut, but your New Yorker pizza doesn't even come close.

Yes, I miss the food. In other places, people try to recreate the food New York is known for, and they keep failing miserably. One reason is the microwave. If you are going to make a pastrami on rye with mustard, you do not nuke the pastrami!! If you want one of those pretzels the street vendors make, you do not spray the pretzel with water to make the rock salt stick, then put the thing in a microwave! If you're going to do these things, and you want them to taste right, you have to cook them right. Pastrami goes on a grill, the rye bread gets toasted. Pretzels, brush melted butter on them for the rock salt, and put them in a conventional oven! Speed is not of the essence here, taste is!

And the sandwich shops I have run across just don't compare to the old-fashioned Mom and Pop deli. I grew up down the road from Westbury Music Fair, whose name has since changed, and there was a fantastic mom and pop deli nearby. I always went in and ordered roast beef on a roll. No mustard or mayo, just meat and bread, because this place literally packed the meat on. The meat would be closely layered and the stack would stand nearly two inches high. And it was good quality meat! I would take it home, and make three or four sandwiches out of the one...there was just that much meat in it. And it cost me about $4. I dare you to try and get that much sandwich meat out of Subway. You're lucky if you can find the meat in those sandwiches.

But New York isn't just about the food or the crime or the city or the shopping. Television rarely shows a New York beach, unless it's Coney Island. They forget about Jones Beach, where there is...or was...a concert stage (it's been so long since I've been home I don't know if it's still there), the beach that could be reached within 45 minutes from any point on Long Island, usually less. We lived there during the summer. My dad never liked to be on the beach when it was crowded, so we would get there by about seven am. The beach would be empty, but the water was always too cold to swim in at that hour! By the time the water warmed up enough, people would be descending in droves, and Dad was ready to leave. But I loved going anyway.

Also forgotten is the beauty of upstate New York. Everyone forgets that the Catskills and Adirondacks are part of New York State. They remember Niagara Falls, of course, but forget the rest of upstate. It's so green, just covered with forest and woodland. There is actual wildlife, gasp! I remember driving up to Mount Kisko every year with my family. My brother and I were fairly young at the time, so it seemed like the drive took forever, but in reality it couldn't have been more than two or three hours. There was a company there, called Dansk, that Mom liked to get dinnerware and such from. That part of the trip bored us to tears--they didn't sell toys, and Mom and Dad never let us rope them into spending money they didn't feel necessary to spend anyway--but the views were spectacular! And this wasn't even all that far upstate!

Culturally, there is so much New York has to offer, because it's such a huge melting pot of people. Where I am now, in the southwest, there isn't much culture that isn't geared toward the Mexican or Native American cultures; the rest of us are pretty much forgotten, at least here. I miss the cultural celebrations of New York. The West Indian Day Parade, the Puerto Rican Day Parade, the big San Gennaro Feast in Little Italy, Chinese New Year in Chinatown, the Thanksgiving Day Parade that the whole world watches, and yes, even dozens of pow wows during the summer. We do still have Native American tribes in New York! Shinnecock, for one, in Suffolk County on Long Island. Yes, it's on Long Island, not in Long Island.

Of course, there is the shopping that everyone knows about, but there's a lot of shopping only another New Yorker would know about. 125th Street in Harlem, back in the day...I think that stopped or moved just before I left. Canal Street in Manhattan. Graham Avenue (pronounced grah-HAM) in Brooklyn. Jamaica Avenue in Queens. My personal favorite was 125th Street. My mom used to go to art galleries to buy African masks, and would spend a fortune, until she realized that I had a couple of matching pieces that I had bought for a lot less by going to 125th Street! She would call me to find out when I was going again and give me the money to buy her some masks. The vendors used to go to Africa and bring home tons of African art, and they would set up booths on 125th to sell to their own people, ignoring the art galleries altogether, thus eliminating the middle man and the mark up.

The funny thing is, I couldn't wait to get out of New York, years ago. I hated it, was sick of snow, just wanted to go. Now all I want is to go home.

Even funnier still, I went to college with a woman who had done a study of people who left their home states and how they felt about the change. She said the results of the study were that the people who were most loyal to their home state no matter where they lived and usually wound up moving back were people from Oregon, and people from New York. The New Yorkers, she said, were pretty much fanatical. Well, I can't say that isn't true!

Monday, June 22, 2009

A Rant About Education

Do people not read anymore? Especially classics? My daughter bears an Arthurian name...and no, her name will never be used in this blog, there are too many predators out there...and yet every person who hears her name asks me if I named her for some mundane piece of crap. Only one person has ever hit the nail on the head. It amazed me, although maybe it shouldn't have. When I grew up and attended elementary school, there was focus on spelling, focus on sentence structure, focus on writing, focus on reading. I can't say I was thrilled by everything on the reading list: a good bit of Shakespeare bored me to tears. But there were things that I did like, and find myself going back to even now, thirty years later.

Case in point: I dropped out of college, and returned to it some fifteen years later (only to drop out again when I got pregnant, but that's something else again), and for my English class, I had to choose a book and an author about whom to write. I chose James Herriot, as I was a pre-veterinary major. When I was a child, "All Creatures Great and Small" was considered a classic. Even if you hadn't read it--and every child who loved animals had read it, especially the ones who wanted to be veterinarians--you knew what it was. There was even a PBS series made about the book, by the BBC, of course. James Herriot was one of the most popular authors for children at the time. JRR Tolkien, CS Lewis, James knew who he was.

So, no longer owning the books, I went to the local library, and was stunned. Not only did they not have the books, the librarians had never even heard of him! I don't think I would have been as shocked if we were only talking about the younger generation of librarians, but these were people the age of my parents!

This is the point where I realized how spoiled I was. I grew up in a school district where parents were involved, where the teachers focused on what we would need in life, where the library wasn't just another building in town. My mother was a librarian in that library, and she involved my brother and I in it as much as she possibly could. It wasn't hard in my case: I did, and do, love to read. But we grew up in that library. Mom would ask us for suggestions on movies and books and music, and she would put them before the board. As a result, our library generally had the latest in everything, as well as the classics and everything in between.

And parents knew the teachers, made it to every PTA meeting, followed up on the work we did at school, and made sure we knew it. It was an honest case of it taking a village to raise a child.

Our library wasn't huge, certainly not on a scale with the New York Library, with its majestic lions. But we had a children's library in a separate building that in and of itself is one of the biggest children's libraries I have ever seen. And we had educated librarians stocking the shelves, people who genuinely loved what they did; it wasn't just a job to them. They used the library, their children and their children's children. If there was a book about it, they generally made sure there was at least one copy somewhere on those shelves. James Herriot was certainly there. That library was where I discovered him.

It was just as well I had to drive fifty miles to the nearest bookstore to buy the books in order to do my report. I bought almost the entire series, every title they had, and I'm very glad I did. Six years later, I still have the books. They are dogeared now, because I have read them that often, and when she is old enough, my daughter the animal lover will receive her own copies to read. With any luck, she will follow in Mama's footsteps and want to be a vet also, although that isn't as important to me as her happiness is. But I have learned, since that incident, how far our educational system has fallen. When people don't recognize where my daughter's name came from, when books like "All Creatures Great and Small" are unheard of is sad, and it is frightening, to see the route our education is taking.

I pulled my daughter out of preschool. PRESCHOOL!! And why? One of the reasons was the fact that the teachers can't spell! And for crying out loud, they don't even bother to use spell check when sending letters home to parents! If the teacher can't spell, how can s/he teach my child to do so? More and more people are pulling their children from the atypical school and putting them into accredited home school programs, and this is where we are going to place our daughter. Sure, it will tie me to my home more, perhaps, than I would actually like, but I count it as worth it if my daughter graduates with the ability to read, write, and speak her native language of English properly. This is a global world now, people, and our children here in America are already handicapped by our educational system. Children in Germany are doing trigonometry in elementary school, okay? Our children need to be able to compete for careers on a global scale, and they won't be able to do that if they're speaking Ebonics (and as a Black woman, let me tell you how much I loathe that. There is a time and a place, and the workplace is not it!) and can't read, write, and add two plus two. We need to teach them their own language. We need to make their education well rounded--I don't care what DeVry says about their classes, they are not well-rounded. They need history, they need art and music, they need English, the sciences, the maths, they need every advantage we can give them. We need to give them teachers who can actually teach what they need to know. Whether we like it or not, it does take a village to raise a child, and the village they will be playing in is much larger than the one we had. If we don't make them capable of holding their own in this world, as parents, who will?

Reality television

I don't understand the appeal of this genre. I really don't. I hope I'm not the only one that feels this way. I thought the point of turning on the television was to escape from reality for awhile? At least it used to be. I get enough reality in my own life. Why do I need to watch someone else's reality? And let's face it, there is nothing really real about shows like "Survivor". Someone is going to rescue the idiot before he gets dead or maimed or does it to someone else, because no one wants that insurance claim. It's "reality" within a set of parameters.

Okay, shows like "The Deadliest Catch", I get. You're watching the realities of a dangerous job that otherwise you would never get to see. That I understand. "Ghosthunters", I also understand. I don't have to watch them to understand why someone else would. Those shows, I would actually file under educational. "Jon and Kate Plus Eight"? Come on, give me a break. They are not the first people in the world to have a lot of kids. I personally know a couple who were both younger children in families that had, respectively, seventeen and twenty-one children. None of those children had more than three of their own. So Jon and Kate were fortunate--or unfortunate, depending on your point of view--to have eight children. Last time I checked, most women were capable of birthing children, and yes, while it is a miracle each and every time it happens, it really isn't something unique, or the world's population wouldn't be what it is today. And, really, people--maybe they wouldn't have the problems they seem to be having if there weren't cameras shoved in their faces every moment of every damn day.

And the celebrity reality shows? Okay, let's think about something: these are people who live in front of cameras and papparazzi all the time. How "real" do you think they're going to be? Even Ozzy Osbourne, who has apparently ingested so many drugs in his lifetime that he is permanently befuddled, while he amuses me to no end, I'm quite certain he is aware of the cameras! his case, there's a possibility that he isn't...

The point is, the celebrities almost certainly have their on-air personalities on every second that the cameras are on. Reality? I don't think so.

Let's be honest here: how many of us would want to be a reality show, no matter how much we were paid? I wouldn't. How much stress must it be? I would be compelled to watch every word that passed my lips, to be made up at all times, to be dressed to the nth degree every minute, to bite my tongue to bloody ribbons every time my daughter did something, thank you.

And I don't need to watch this crap either. If I want reality, I turn the tv off and go do something with my family. Jon and Kate? Sorry about your problems and your issues, and I hope you guys can work them out to your satisfaction and that of your kids, but they are your problems and your issues, and they should stay that way. Really, if you guys wind up in court, how hard will it be to find an impartial jury, now that the entire world has been privy to your drama?


"Who are you?"

That question always makes me think of old spy movies, where the alleged spy is being interrogated, a bright light in his eyes to block his view of his questioners. It's such a hard question to answer. I could tell you my name is Stacy, but does that tell you anything about who I am? No.

It's not a simple question. People are so many things, all at the same time. I'm a stay at home mom. I'm a dog lover. I'm a big kid. I'm in my forties. I'm a New Yorker. I'm a reader, writer, once-upon-a-time poet, and singer. I'm a friend, I'm a big sister, I'm a daughter, I'm a cousin, I'm a niece, I'm a godmother. There are those who will say I'm a royal bitch, others who will disagree. You see where I'm going with this? So I'm just going to say, my name is Stacy. You will either read my blog...or not...and draw your own conclusions about who I am!