Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Pendulum Swings

Cruising through the TV channels yesterday after work, I noticed that Dr. Phil was doing a show featuring "helicopter parents." The question he asked was: Do we, as parents, let our children have no freedom at all, or do we stand back and let them do everything on their own?

The answer, in my opinion, is neither. You have to walk a fine line between the two. If you let your child have no rules, no boundaries at all, they grow up thinking that they have to follow no rules at all -- either that of adults or of society. That's not a realistic expectation. If you go the other extreme, however, you run the risk of having a child become secretive to hide the "forbidden" behaviors you've driven them into. That's the reason why we have the stereotype of the preacher's daughter -- denied all the fun and taboo things in life, so they rebel and are (a lot of the time) the wildest kids around. Now, for all my preacher friends out there, I'm not talking about YOUR kids. :)

Dr. Phil also had a mother on who has taken a lot of flack in the press recently -- a mother who let her 9 year old son find his way home, alone, from Bloomingdale's. Now, some key points of this particular story (for those of you who don't know of it and live under a rock, or something) are: the child had ASKED to do this sort of activity for a while; the parents discussed it beforehand, and decided it was feasible; the child was not *abandoned* -- he had a city map, a subway Metro card, and $20. As an aside, I would be interested to know whether or not he had a cell phone with him in case of emergency, but we're not told if he has one or not. The mother took the boy to Bloomingdale's, and the child had to find his way home from there. The parents looked at his abilities, and decided that this was something that thought that not only he was CAPABLE of doing, but also SHOULD do so that he would be better able to navigate the city and find his way around.

The mother has gotten bushels of hate mail, saying she's the 'worst Mom in America.' Why would you think she was a terrible mother for giving her child the freedom to explore and learn how to do things on his own? If you never let a child out of your sight, they'll either grow up terribly repressed and run like hell the moment they get any freedom at all, or they will be so stunted as to not know how to deal with other people and with any obstacles that life throws at them. I'm not saying that you should take your kid from East Podunk, Missouri and drop them off in the big city with a ten spot and a map -- that would be completely irresponsible.

What we're talking about here is letting children have some freedoms within reason. How many of you played outside all day when you were younger? People my age ought to remember playing outside without parental supervision -- I remember my mother telling me that I had to be home either by the time the street lights came on, or when she called us for dinner. I was a bookworm as a child (still am, really) and my mother would take away my books and send me outside as *punishment!* I had to go out and find something to do. Ride my bike, go to the playground, find a friend... We've gotten so scared of horrible things happening to our kids that we can't IMAGINE sending them outside all day long. There's something very sad about that. No one wants their kids to be hurt, abducted, or worse, God forbid, but we can't wrap them in Bubble Wrap and closet them away forever. If we never let anything happen to them, nothing will ever happen to them. And, not only will they be totally unprepared to take on obstacles when they're older, they'll also be too frightened to take on new tasks and expect us to bail them out should the slightest thing go wrong.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Conversation At The Dinner Table

We were eating dinner last night, when I spied an empty shoe box in the corner. JF had gotten new shoes over the weekend, and I was curious to know how they were working out for him.

Me: Oh, yeah. How are your new shoes? Are you getting them all broken in?

JF: They're fine. What's "broken" is my back, not my shoes.

(JF has spent the last several weeks toting endless numbers of computers around old historical buildings which have no elevators, only cramped stairwells.)

Me: Ooh. Sorry about that. (Grimaces in empathetic pain...)

JF: Yeah, I keep asking for a new spine but you haven't gotten me one yet.

Me: Don't you know -- there's a shortage on them right now, what with the political scene and the banking world the way it is. Seems like everyone's looking for a new spine.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Just Gone

Like jo(e) has extra kids, we have extra cats. We've often joked within our family that Offspring is a cat herder -- they just flock to her. Everywhere we go, cats find her, seek her out, and befriend her. And Offspring never met a cat she didn't immediately take to.

We have our actual cat, Lotus, whom we adopted when Offspring was a little over two years old. Then came the extras. Offspring was small, maybe about four when the first extra started showing up. He was this humongous gray cat who was lovable like a teddy bear. Offspring, in her childlike wisdom, named him Grady.

Grady weighed about 25 pounds, but none of it was fat. He was all muscle, and loved to hunt. We marveled at the time we watched him chase some poor hapless creature up the small tree in the neighbor's yard. The blue jays -- who are very territorial -- chased him all over the yard one afternoon, angry because he was too near their area. Grady was obviously just humoring them until he wearied of the game. The blue jays swooped down on him one too many times; two followed him into a nearby bush, but only one came out.

Grady always presented himself when you opened the front door in the mornings, twining around your ankles in search of pettings and food. Our main computer sits in our living room beside the picture window, and he would climb up and stare in at you with baleful eyes, for those pettings and food. He had a sissy-sounding meow for such a large cat.

We figured he'd been someone's pet at some point, since he was neutered, and seemed healthy. He wore no tags; had no collar. He roamed the neighborhood, charming all the residents. We were not the only house that laid a food bowl out for him, and our other extra who joined him a year or so later.

About two months ago, we noticed that Grady had a lump on his left shoulder, right where the leg socket meets the feline torso. At first, we thought it was just a clump of matted fur from where he'd gotten brushed with some pine sap that had hardened. We didn't give it much thought. But, as time went by, that lump got larger. It didn't seem to distress him -- he didn't howl when you touched it, and it didn't seem to pain him or interfere with his walking. We debated on what to do about it. We couldn't afford a trip to the vet. We could probably barely afford it if one of us got sick, much less an expensive vet's bill. The last time we took him to the vet it ended up costing us $580 that we didn't have then, and are still paying off.

By the middle of August, though... that lump was so large that it WAS affecting his walking, and he began squealing when you tried to hold him, something he'd never done before. We began to despair a little more every time we saw him.

We agonized over what to do. Do we put ourselves into further debt, and take him to the vet? Do we try and find a local animal hospital to take him as a charity case? Should we try the local, no-kill rescue group? Do we take him to the Humane Society, who, despite the name, will surely euthanize him? JF cried for days, the hurt for this lovable animal taken in as if it were his own pain. I tried researching animal rescue groups, but there were none near enough, and no one out there who wanted a sick animal for nothing in return. JF called the no-kill place time and time again, begging them to get Grady some help. They hemmed and hawed, but eventually gave him some lip service about "checking with the director" and never called again.

One morning, when Offspring and I went out to some function, JF tearfully, finally bundled Grady up in a towel and drove him to Animal Control. The vets there thought for sure that the lump was some kind of tumor, most likely cancerous. Whatever it was, they said, it wasn't good. You know it's not good when they go get everyone else in the building to come look at it. They took pity on JF, seeing the obvious distress the poor man was in, telling him they'd take care of him. They took our name and phone number, assuring him they'd call. They never did. Grady was just gone.

I step to the front door often, expecting to see him sunning himself on our porch. He's not there. I hear a noise from the picture window, and get a little leap in my heart, thinking he's back. It's not him. It's never him. Passing by the pet aisle at the grocery store, my hands automatically go toward the bag of food I bought for him for so many years. It's like he was never there; he's just gone.

JF beats himself up still, calling himself a monster. I try to reason with him, knowing there's nothing that I can say that will really make it all right. He tortures himself, talking about how Grady howled and tried to run from him -- this sweet animal who never ran from us before. How he looked at him, as JF drove him away from his home. We all cry. We explain to Offspring why we felt we had to take him. The words sound hollow even as I say them. It still hurts, and I still hope to see him sauntering across the street. I don't suppose I'll ever stop hoping that one day, he'll come home, even though my head knows he won't.

I miss you, Grady, every day. I'm so sorry, boy. We wanted so much to help you, but we just couldn't. Love wasn't enough.

Offspring with Grady in happier times.

Friday, September 12, 2008

The Stepford Republicans

As most of you know, I'm rather fond of crafting. When I'm not posting pseudonymously, I am an independent salesperson for a specific company* which is a great source of inspiration, education, and a great big hole in my pocketbook. I truly do love a lot of the things that have come my way since I've started stamping and creating, and I've been lucky enough to share my passion with lots of great people.

I went to a meeting the other day, with a lot of other consultants. The purpose was to discuss our new product lines, and a chance to get together and craft some as well. The ladies were talking about a project that would have normally taken a lot longer to put together, but was greatly assisted by a new die cut machine that we're selling. The hostess mentioned that she cut out all of the elements and assembled them all while watching Sarah Palin at the RNC. Most of the other ladies began to gush about how much they just LOVED her, and wasn't she just fabulous?!


Tense moment. Luckily, I was looking through a catalog, and no one was paying me any attention anyway. Good thing I wasn't making eye contact, or I could have been swept away by the pod people.

You know, I have no qualms with a woman as Vice President. Heck, I was even prepared to vote of Hilary Clinton to run the entire shebang (though it would have killed me a little inside to do so...) but Sarah Palin? No, thank you. She does not get my vote just because she has a vagina.

I know people are very polarized by things like abortion, money, capital punishment, and politics. It is not my wish that I offend anyone with my opinion, but I am allowed to have one. And Sarah Palin is not anyone I really want running this country.

She's anti-gay, anti-gay marriage, pro-gun, pro-life, and as far from green as the color spectrum allows. Let's not even talk about the state of education in Alaska, and never mind the lack of experience in running either a town or a state, much less the whole shootin' match.

John McCain, sadly, will win some people over to his side with Palin as a running mate. I just won't be one of them.

*If any of you are interested in this sort of stuff, you can email me for info and/or the company website.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Just Living

I'm here, though I don't have much worthy to post. (Except the stuff I *can't* post about, like the temper-tantrum, spoiled rotten kid I have this year....)

*Offspring has settled in to seventh grade -- it's hard to believe that she's already in seventh grade -- and seems to be enjoying seeing her friends, if not overjoyed at the idea of being back at school.

*Juggling Freak is ass-deep in alligators at work, which is necessitating long days and excessive crankiness from people who wish (and can't get) his services. It also makes him stumblingly tired. Poor guy... I just try to provide him with foot rubs to make it all better.

*I have a lot of craft projects to take pictures of and post, but I keep forgetting to do that.

*Why in blue blazes do middle schoolers need so many fricking binders and composition books?!? And what genius decided my daughter's school did NOT need lockers, meaning that they have to tote 20-pound bookbags around?


Offspring Moment Of The Day: I was talking with her after school the other day, discussing her classes, and how she likes her teachers... all that sort of jazz... She was telling me about her French class, and I mentioned that I could help her with pronunciation, if she needed it. She mumbled, "Yeah...", clearly just responding, and not really *hearing* me. Then, light dawned -- "Hey! Yeah! You *can * help me!" The other shoe dropped, and she remembered that French was my language in school.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Hoppin' Mad

As we all know, you must now have credit checks and give your firstborn up if you want to fill your car up with gas. Since my daily commute to work is five minutes *with* traffic, I haven't had to spend much money on said detestable fossil fuel since early June.

Anyway.... ever since gas prices got freakin' ridiculous, I have kept an eye peeled for a "deal" on gas. I was glad then, to see that the little convenience store around the corner from my house had a "deal" yesterday.

The posted price for regular unleaded was $3.54. While this isn't the $.99 cents I'd love it to be, it's a heck of a lot better than the $4.08 (I think) that we got up to at the high point of the insanity.

I pulled in to gas up. I pushed the button for the REGULAR UNLEADED because I *never* buy premium (you have to pony up the credit check, some DNA, the kid, an arm AND an ovary for premium) and started the pump.

I happened to be looking in the direction of the LCD screen, so I noticed that the display went from zero to almost a dollar and a half immediately. The pump had flipped to premium! I was already pumping, and I needed gas, so I kept going. When I printed out my receipt, I realized that they'd pulled the classic bait and switch -- they lured me in with the low price and then they set the pumps to automatically switch to premium. Nice, huh?

I plan on complaining as soon as I can a.) find someone who gives a damn, and b.) find out who you report this sort of thing to in my area.

Damned price gougers! Made me so mad....