Unlikely Plaything

Kids can be so cute, can’t they? The way they have endless curiosity about everything they see; their exuberance over new experiences that we have grown jaded to and take for granted; the wide-eyed openness to everything the world has to offer regardless of how taboo, odd, or grotesque. They’re simply amazing.

Take this video of a little girl traipsing around her front yard playing lovingly with a dead squirrel:

If it were a doll or a stuff animal or a photo of a family member I’d be letting all sorts off oohs and awwws escape my mouth. The only thing holding me back from sharing in her happiness is that it’s a freakin’ dead squirrel! Mouth agape, eyes rolled back in its head, limbs hanging heavy, neck slack, this squirrel is deader than dead. And recently dead. As in their dog just killed the poor thing. So of course, why not let the kid play with it. It’s the natural order of things, right?

I don’t wag my finger at the girl, though. She’s so young, she obviously doesn’t understand what her newest toy actually signifies. I’m more angered at the parents. The Dad who saw this as the perfect opportunity to grab a camera and film his daughter being so oblivious that it’s “cute” and the Mom who can only stand there, hands on her hips and smirk on her face, looking at the camera with an inner monologue that screams, “Don’t kids just do the darndest things!?” What is wrong with these parents?

You don’t have to agree with me, but in my opinion the Gods that be (or whoever you want to name) just gave them an absolutely perfect teaching opportunity about oh, I don’t know, empathy, compassion maybe, life being a sacred thing, and they squandered it. This could have been a prime moment to impress upon their child a lesson about the sanctity of life, the inevitability of death, and the respect that we can show the dearly departed. But no. What do they do instead? They mock the animal that tragically lost its life (in the jaws of the family dog no less…not even a natural death) and turn what could be a window into the frailty of life into playtime. The little girl sees the squirrel as a toy (again, not blaming her for this because she’s too young to know any different) and the parents just go along with this little show, encouraging it even — with the Dad calling the dog into his video masterpiece so he could introduce “the killer and the killed.”

I could also go off about the fact that his kid is rubbing a dead carcass all over her naked chest and the obvious health implications of that. I’m not saying that the squirrel definitely has fleas or a virus or a disease or whatever, but until I’m 100% certain a wild animal corpse isn’t going to pass along some transmittable illness, I wouldn’t want my kid laying a finger on it let alone using it for playtime. But I’ll let the other YouTube comments harp on that point.

My main concern centers around this one question: Where is the empathy? Clearly not with the parents and because of what they are either knowingly or unknowingly passing on, the kid has none either. What message does this send to their child? Sure, it’s all fun and games for now, but I wonder what they’ll do when she drags home a dead dog to play with.

Eternal Love

Everyone knows I’m a bit strange when it comes to love stories.  I’m drawn to the “odd” ones you find in horror movies or action flicks…yet I also feel a kinship to those told through tales like Pride & Prejudice and The Notebook.  That doesn’t mean I’m going to like every chick flick out there though…there aren’t too many chick flicks I do like actually.  For a while now I’ve been seriously crushing on Ava and Boyd from Justified and hoping their relationship survives the season finale. If you don’t watch the show, suffice it to say they’re not your average couple. They’re more along the lines of a criminally hardcore Bonnie and Clyde. As I said, I’m a bit off. That’s okay. I embrace my weirdness.

But back here in the real world, who doesn’t want eternal love? It does exist. I’ve seen it. My parents for one. They’ve been married just shy of forever and while they bicker, they still hold hands to cross the parking lot. I’ve also seen it with my grandparents who met later in life (it was a second marriage for my Grandmother whose first husband, my Mom’s father, died in the mines), but most definitely married for love. My Grandfather had his hands full with my Grandmother (she was a spitfire and then some) and he loved her all the more for it. I don’t think there’s anything he wouldn’t have done for her.

And then I came across this article today, just in time for Valentine’s Day.  I’m sure the newspaper planned it that way on purpose. A feel good story for Valentine’s.  But truly, it is indeed inspiring.  For here are the stories of individuals whose love is so strong that it withstands all odds – for even when their better half is lost within themselves so deeply that they cannot remember the shared love, the lives intertwined, or even their own names – the devotion never wavers. Alzheimer’s Disease is a horrendous illness.  It invades your mind; it steals your memories. But the men profiled in this editorial are not willing to let go of their wives to the likes of Alzheimer’s, because while their spouses may not remember, they do.  If that’s not eternal love, I don’t know what is.

Affair of the Snowflakes

Although not animal related, this entry could kinda sorta be considered a rant. Do you ever read an article or news story that, while having nothing whatsoever to do with you, annoys you to no end anyway? That’s what happened to me the other day. I just mentally couldn’t let it go. So. Lucky you.

This should sort of go without saying, but my point of view is that someone who’s married really has no way to justify an affair. That may sound like common sense to many of you, but it’s not quite so cut and dry to a lot of others out there. I read this article yesterday about one woman’s dainty traipse through infidelity and couldn’t help but think to myself: “Well, isn’t that just lovely.” That’s a nice way of putting it anyhow. Remember, my New Year’s resolution was to try to be a better person (rein in the road rage and the like) so I’m trying my best to censor my evil thoughts.

In reality, I’ve essentially picked apart most everything this woman spouts off about and have pretty much an opposite view of how this whole marriage, commitment, and faithfulness thing should work.

The one sentence in particular that got to me was when she wrote, “I think that there are times, such as when your marriage is essentially over, and you are just in limbo mentally and emotionally, when a relationship that begins with an affair can end in a happy relationship.” Maybe it can. She might be right. I just personally believe that there should never be any overlap and thus never any way of really proving if that is true or not.

Your vows aren’t just something you say while you wait for the reception to start – they’re something you’re supposed to take seriously. And if your feelings change for whatever reason, no matter who is to “blame,” then you cut ties first before you move on to the next partner. It’s having a little thing called integrity and respect.

In my opinion someone in a troubled marriage should 1) try to fix the marriage somehow be it counseling, time apart, whatever, before 2) officially (a.k.a. legally) separating or divorcing prior to courting new romantic partners. Never should the twain meet.

Another thing that got to me about this piece was the very sly mention of her ex-husband’s substance abuse. “We failed at marriage in just about every way possible, all leading up to me saying “enough is enough” when it came to his substance abuse and… in the end… my falling in love with another man.” I’m sure a few steps were skipped in those literary leaps, but it sounds to me like his addiction was apparently enough rationale for an affair yet not quite bad enough to pack up the kids (who shouldn’t be around drugs) and move to a safer place. So she did what she needed to do to console herself – falling into the arms of another man, but her kids’ needs were secondary? Right. I see how that works.

She brings up many times in the article the age-old dilemma of if you can trust someone when you know they’ve cheated before. Can you trust a cheater? Well, according to her, she and her new man are “different.” They’re the exception to the rule. They’re unique. They’re the ultimate snowflakes. All other cheaters, yeah, you might have to worry about them, but not this woman and her side piece. They’re the real deal. It reminds me of the Seinfeld episode “The Deal” where Jerry starts sleeping with Elaine and he’s explaining to George that he and Elaine figured out the whole “friends with benefits” thing.

Jerry: Well, we’ve tried to arrange a situation where we’ll be able to do this once in a while and still remain friends.
George: (maniacal laughing)
Jerry: What?
George: Where are you living? Are you here?  Are you on this planet? It’s impossible. It can’t be done. Thousands of years people have been trying to have their cake and eat it too. So all of a sudden the two of you are going to come along and do it. Where do you get the ego?

So where does this woman get the ego to think she and “40” are the cheaters that have broken the mold? I’d bet dollars to donuts that most couples that began their relationship through infidelity thought to themselves or even went so far as to tell each other the exact same things. “I’ll never cheat again.” “This is the person I was meant to be with.” “I just needed to get that out of my system.”

There’s absolutely nothing unique about how she found herself in the middle of an affair, so why should the aftermath be anything above average either? Maybe they’ll make it, but I’d sure love to see the statistics on how many of these relationships have the partner cheating with someone else in the future and if so, how quickly.  And if they do make it, all I have to say is, they deserve each other. Is that harsh? Well, maybe my New Year’s resolution isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, but there you go.

Frankly, I find it a little sad that she’s straining so hard to get people on her team. Why do I say this do you ask?  Well…today I found yet another article she wrote about the same affair – although this time she took a different tack in her subsequent explanations.  In this one, she speaks to her marriage “being over,” how she was the only working on it for too many years and how it drove her into an emotional (and then physical) affair…blah blah blah. Really, for two people who are sooo different, the reasons for their affair have simply been done to death.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not judging her for having the affair. She’s an adult and can do whatever the heck she wants.  I’m judging her for trying to rationalize it. To justify something that has such ramifications to others around you seems amazingly selfish to me. How did her affair affect her kids? Not to mention what is she teaching them?  How about her ex (we don’t get much back story on him)? An affair doesn’t just touch two people. It has a massive ripple effect that she seems completely oblivious about.

So my advice, readers, is to cheat if you want to. I’m not your mom. Live your life. I simply ask that you own it. Have the balls to step up and say, yeah I cheated because I just felt like being selfish and putting my needs above those of my family. At least be honest and above-board about it.  Oh wait

Happy Birthday to Me (Or Ode to a Favorite Daughter)

Yesterday (Tuesday) was my birthday, and I spent it in the very enjoyable company of my daughter, Sarah.

Sarah is 15 years old. Yep, she’s in those…gasp...teenage years where they are all supposed to be sullen, shutting out their parents or siblings and spending all their time texting on their smartphones, full of teenage angst.

Well, I’m here to tell you that not all teenagers are like that.

I’m quite proud to say that Sarah enjoys my company and likes spending time with me as much as I like spending time with her. We’re weird like that.  I guess it’s because we have so much in common – we always have had.

We share a love of…wait for it…Marvel Comics.  I know. Big shock to those of you who follow this blog.  In fact, I think Sarah loves them more than I do. She knows the backstories of the comics better than I do. She goes for the misunderstood anti-hero more than the hero, like Bucky Barnes (in The Winter Soldier) and Deadpool – I think because it’s the empathy and compassion in her coming out along with the badass side of her. A great combo if you ask me. Then again, Loki’s my favorite so I guess I’m somewhat of a bad influence.

We love going to the movies together and chowing down on popcorn and drinking pop – the whole movie experience. We go every chance we get. Big Hero Six, Guardians of the Galaxy, Avengers, we love them all.

Sarah is smart (as a matter of fact she is extremely smart, she’s college material already — she’ll start dual enrollment next school year), but more than that, and much more importantly, she’s a good person.

Sarah is tolerant of all people. Well, she’s intolerant sometimes, a lot of times actually – she’s intolerant of those who would belittle someone for their looks, their race, their mental capacity, their gender orientation, or things of that nature. She has a very short temper in that regard. She despises stupidity and ignorance and human cruelty and conservative mindsets. Like me, she hates hunting and animal cruelty in all forms.

She hates the abuse of authority by our government and our police when it manifests itself, but having said that, she also respects the ideals behind our government and our police force – what these institutions are supposed to be.

On top of this, she has an amazing sarcastic and witty sense of humor. It usually comes out in her writing. Not sure where she gets that from.

I was thinking of all this today while I was spending time with my daughter.

I thought of all those parents out there – hopefully not as many as I think there are – that don’t want to spend any time with their kids, or worse, want to spend time with their kids but their kids don’t want to spend time with them. (Think Harry Chapin’s “Cat’s in the Cradle” – what a sad song that is.)

Do the teenage years have to be so bad and stressful for teens and parents alike?

Can some of this stress be alleviated by finding things in common with your kids from a very young age and maintaining those traditions – playing chess or Scrabble after a sit-down dinner every night, sharing comic books, going to the movies every weekend… talking frankly about the world and its dangers…philosophy, books, and common interests?

Of course I know I’m lucky with Sarah… as a parent I certainly helped in her development but she also has evolved into a good kid on her own!

Have a talk with your kids today, why don’t you? Better yet…buy them a Deadpool or Captain America comic book!

 

My wish for you this Christmas

Many of us will return to our childhood homes to celebrate the holidays or at the very least will be surrounded by aunts, uncles, grandparents, and countless cousins — some of whom we haven’t seen since last Christmas.  I always envision these gatherings as being somewhat reminiscent of the movie National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, a disparate group of individuals thrown together through a random gene pool and forced to celebrate holidays for life.

Of course if you’re like many families, you always have to keep a sharp eye out for flare-ups throughout the evening due to in-fighting; made worse by close quarters, chit-chat with other family members, and the old reliable: alcohol. Cousin Elle isn’t speaking to Aunt Ida because of something that happened 20 years ago but no-one quite remembers what happened except it had something to do with a silver set or perhaps a dog or maybe it was a chicken. Uncle Bill, oh good grief, don’t even get him started on the JFK conspiracy because he’ll never shut up (and he gets quite irate at no one in particular so therefore everyone) and you’d think that something like that just wouldn’t come up in conversation but somehow it always does. It’s uncanny really.

Then of course you have Aunt Joan who lets her children do everything (the word no doesn’t seem to be in her vocabulary) and her polar opposite Cousin Bette who doesn’t let her child do anything. Poor Cousin Bette ends up heavy sighing a lot (very melodramatically I might add) as Aunt Joan’s children run mad circles around the house in full-on manic mode. I have to give Bette credit though, the “Sweetie, you shouldn’t do that,” she uses to correct Joan’s children as they’re climbing the bookcase is a lot nicer than the admonishment that would be falling off the tip of my tongue.

Uncle Larry? Well, he knows everything, so if you want to know something just ask. Or don’t. He’ll probably tell you anyway. Really loudly. More than once. He likes to repeat things. In case you didn’t get it the first time.

Ahhh…family. Just because you’re family doesn’t automatically mean you’re going to get along. I think in some respects family can drive us crazier than anyone else. They’re talented like that. Especially during the holidays.

So.  Here’s hoping we all survive our holiday get-togethers with our families….or at the very least let there be copious amounts of alcohol to help us through with a sense of humor.  Or bail money. That’ll work too.

I swear…

Have you seen the prices of movies these days? I mean, have you seen them?  I suppose there are some places in the country where you can get into a matinee pretty inexpensively…but where I live that is not the case.  A matinee ticket costs $10.  A matinee!

That doesn’t sound expensive to you? Well, factor in the cost of a drink and some buttered popcorn – must haves for the movie-going experience with your daughter, let’s say, and all of a sudden you’re spending more than the GDP of many small countries.

In 2015 and 2016 there are a ton of movies coming out – especially Marvel Comic movies which happen to be our personal favorites – like another Avengers, Ant Man, Doctor Strange, and another Captain America….not to mention Deadpool (YAY!!), Woman in Black 2, Kingsman: The Secret Service, Jurassic World, Suicide Squad, and X-Men Apocalypse. The list just goes on and on.

I want to see them all, but I’m shuddering at the cost and 2015 isn’t even here yet!

Last night, my kids and I were sitting around talking about such things as the Marvel Universe and trying to figure out a way for us to afford to go to all of these movies.  We had what seemed like a brilliant idea – we’d start a slush fund of some sort so we’d have money saved up for when the movies came out.

But just how would we fund this slush fund?

We adjourned and went our separate ways promising to think about it… as I was leaving the room my eye caught sight of a cat in a precarious position in a spot where it knew damn well it didn’t belong. Without thinking (as so often happens), I let loose a loud verbal assault on said cat that included a few choice unprintable words (my mother reads this blog after all).

And a somewhat sarcastic, somewhat serious light bulb went off above my head.

“A ha!” I said. “How about a Swear Jar? Every time one of us swears, a dollar goes into the Swear Jar. By the time Avengers Age of Ultron is released, we’ll have a tidy sum.”

I have to admit that the language in our house is less than nice and sometimes…just sometimes…sounds like a sailor’s convention (if there ever were such things).

Of course my kids laughed but they too immediately saw the pure genius behind this plan, because, after all, they do live here and therefore know that if walls could talk…well…ours would definitely be censored.

Our celebration over this clever fundraising idea was short lived however once reality reared its ugly head.  I mean, let’s face it, when all is said and done, given the frequency with which we’d be paying, we’d just end up having to borrow money from the swear jar to pay the swear jar.

Needless to say, we’re working on a new plan.